Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Chocolate Ganache Truffels‘Tis The Season For Treats
I love this time of the holiday season. This is treat season. This is the time when I start planning what treats I am going to make to hand out to the people who mean a lot to me to thank them for services rendered or to thank them for just being a positive part of daily life.

So far my daughter and I have made our traditional Ginger Cookies.  (That first batch is always a sacred ceremony for everyone in my family.) Last weekend we made a batch of addictive and decadent caramels, a King Arthur Flour recipe, to hand out to a teacher who refers to them as holiday gold. We plan to continue the treat making this weekend with some more cookies. Shortbread? Check. Sugar cookies? Check? Gingerbread? Check. But I want to do something else a little special this year.

About 16 years ago I took a chocolate class to learn how to make truffles because I wanted to recreate the gorgeous treats that Joseph Schmidt was producing at that time. I quickly learned that tempering chocolate is no joke. It takes patience, and time, and passion for the art. While I had the passion, I was lacking in the other attributes. But, one of the recipes we made in that class is easy enough for anyone to do. I haven’t made many truffles since then. And, this year I wanted to make those basic ganache truffles. The biggest challenge was finding the recipe.

I have this drawer in my kitchen that holds all of my loose recipes that I have either printed off the internet or were part of a recipe packet from a class. I can’t tell you how many pages are in that drawer—but I can tell you that it is probably time to cull the heard. I can also tell you that the chocolate packet wasn’t in there and I sort of panicked because, after that many years, it’s not like I can call the place and get another one.

The elves took pity on me…I found it! My office is a revolving door of cookbooks and recipes. And, I happened across the chocolate packet while looking through a dessert binder I made after yet another cooking class. Yee Haw!

These truffles are so easy to make and you can choose to flavor them or not. (Adding a little espresso or Chambord liqueur can be a tasty thing)

Chocolate Ganache Truffles
Yields about 25 truffles Read more…

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Mom's Pumpkin Chiffon PieLife of Pie
It’s crazy to think that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. And, while today is a day to stop and give thanks that the political ads are done, it is also a day to start making plans.

For me, Thanksgiving is going to be different this year if for no other reason that I will be hosting it for the first time. It should be an adventure given that we will be a party of 16. Granted, I annually host Christmas Eve for 14 so two more people shouldn’t be that big of a deal and it’s not. The difference is what I will need to cook and if it will all fit in my oven. I expect I will be much like a game of Tetris. As of right now, I have ordered two 18 pound organic turkeys which should be plenty—we’re big on leftovers. However, if there is one area of concern from those who will be seated around the table, it is whether there will be enough pie.

Turkey is generally the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal and it is for us as well but the true star of Thanksgiving in our family is the pie and everyone has their favorite. This year, because we are blending three families for dinner, there is concern that there will not be enough pie and, of course, everyone is worried that their favorite will run out quickly which is why I will probably end up making 4 pies.

My Dad’s favorite is mince pie. This is the pie most likely to have leftovers because he is the only one who eats it but it’s tradition so we gotta have it. In my family of five, it’s all about the pecan pie. If there is no pecan pie there will be rioting in the streets. I’m thinking I will also do an apple pie because, why not? Last but not least, you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. We do pumpkin pie a little differently though.

Growing up my mother always made the pumpkin pie. But, it wasn’t your usual pumpkin pie. Mom made Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. If you have never heard of it, and most people haven’t, pumpkin chiffon is basically a lighter fluffier version. And, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it. Since this is the first Thanksgiving without my Mom, there is no question that her pie will be there….

Mom always made this pie using a traditional pie crust but feel free to use a graham cracker crust if you prefer.

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie  Read more…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup

Mexican Matzo Ball SoupHigh Holiday Spice
When I think about Rosh Hashanah, I immediately think honey cake and brisket—this makes sense being traditional foods to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Those are quickly followed by chicken with pomegranate sauce and of course, fresh warm round challah. (I’ll pass on the Gefilte fish.) These are all foods I love (minus the fish) and one can find a lot of comfort in tradition. But, sometimes it becomes necessary to spice things up.

I ran across an article in the NY Times food section yesterday about a chef, Fany Gerson, who is of Jewish heritage but was raised in Mexico City. This fascinated me because while there are people of Jewish faith in any number of places, I just never put those two things together in my own mind. And, by doing so, my mind is blown. (Apparently, Mexico has one of the largest Jewish populations in Latin America…who knew?)

She grew up eating the same traditional foods for the holidays but over the years, the recipes were personalized using the flavors of their surroundings. As I read the article my mouth started watering at the description of the foods they would eat. Freshly baked challah with cinnamon and apples? Yes, please. Rugelach with chipotle-laced cherry filling? OMG! I did not see a mention of a cookbook in the article but I hope to God it’s coming soon.

One of my most favorite things, holiday or not, is Matzo Ball soup. I will choose matzo ball soup over chicken noodle any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is why when I saw this recipe, I flipped out. It combines two of my favorites…Matzo and Mexican. How can you go wrong with that? This one is definitely on the menu this weekend. I don’t care if it’s 90 degrees outside…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup
Read more…

Homemade Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Homemade Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies The Way The Cookie Crumbles
Tomorrow is the first day of school for my kids. I am now the mother of two high school freshmen and a seventh grader. None of them are too excited about summer break being over. And, you should have seen their faces when I announced that I will no longer be making their lunches in the morning.

When I was their age I was responsible for making my own lunch. There is no reason that I should continue to make theirs. It’s not a complicated formula: sandwich or whatever main dish they prefer, a piece of fruit, something salty like pretzels, granola bar or yogurt for the mid-morning, and something to drink. No big deal. You would have thought I asked them to sever a limb. In all fairness, the seventh-grader was okay with it but she’s my foodie. She gets to have a daily lunch inspiration. The boys, not so much…

To make it as easy on them as possible, I have stocked the fridge with their usual favorites like sliced turkey and the “good” yogurt. I even caved and got them the bread they really like instead of the usual whole wheat. I am also going to throw them a bone and make some chocolate chip cookies.

My intentions are not totally altruistic. Really, this is just an excuse to continue my search for my ultimate chocolate chip cookie. Honestly, I have never had a bad chocolate chip cookie. They’re all pretty tasty—but I do have a preference. I am 100% team crispy when it comes to chocolate chip. Now, I’m not going to refuse you if you offer me a warm chewy one right out of the oven. But, I really like the kind that are super-thin, super-crispy and taste of lots of butter. If you have ever eaten Tate’s chocolate chips cookies you know how I roll.

For the last few weeks, I have been trying different recipes to find that ultimate perfect one. Sure, I could have just searched for Tate’s cookie recipe on the internet but that would have been way too logical and robbed me of dozens of tasty treats along the way.

Full disclosure I add pecans to all of my chocolate chip cookies regardless if the recipe is team-crispy or team-chewy. This is a hard limit for me. There must be pecans.

This recipe from King Arthur Flours was my families favorite. They don’t really spread—more like a drop cookie. And, while they are crunchy, they are borderline biscotti-like. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great chocolate chip cookie, just not what I was looking for.

Along my chocolate chip journey, I tested the Neiman Marcus (alleged) $250 Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and Dori Greenspan’s World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. And, my two favorites are listed here.  Read more…

French Fruit Tart — A Classic

French Fruit Tart — A ClassicCamp de Cuisine
I’ve written about my daughter and her summer kitchen shenanigans a few times over the past weeks. And, you might be happy to know that things are still going full steam (just ask my dishwasher). Right now, she seems to be in a French pastry phase. While I fully support her curiosity and creativity, I am wondering when she’ll get to the one bowl or less phase….

Though she hasn’t quite reached that Julie & Julia work her way through an entire cookbook level of obsession, she’s pretty close. For Fourth of July, she made Pâte à Choux for red, white and blue cream puffs with raspberry cream and blue sprinkles. That same week, she tackled French Macarons and they turned out way better than any of my attempts. The macarons actually had feet—and anyone who’s watched any of the baking championships knows how important feet are. Thankfully, my sons are her taste testers or there would be no way for my husband or me to fit into our pants.

This week, my kitchen (and the dishwasher) is getting a much-needed break as my teenaged chef de cuisine is attending a summer pastry camp. (Where was this when I was 12?) Yesterday they made a classic French Fruit Tart and I actually learned something new. If you spread a thin layer of semi-sweet or white chocolate on the bottom of the tart shell and then put the pastry cream in, the tart will not get soggy. (My mind is blown.)

These tarts are so versatile and fairly easy to make that you will find it easy to whip one together for any of your summer get-togethers. To make it even easier, I will substitute a good quality vanilla pudding mix like Dr. Oetkers or even Bird’s custard mix instead of making the pastry cream. Feel free to use any combination of ripe summer fruits to finish.

French Fruit Tart — A Classic
Adapted from Sur la Table
Finish the top with the ripest, most luscious seasonal fruit you can find. Summer berries are an obvious choice, but also try slices of nectarines, plums, poached pears, mango, or kiwi, depending upon the season.  Read more…