Monday, December 21, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies, the classic holiday treat

The cookie, that tasty little morsel baked just for you to enjoy. For me cookies mean two things: Stacy’s favorite treat and holiday cookie parties.
Stacy is a master cookie baker. She makes a dozen chocolate chip or m&m chocolate chip cookies almost every weekend. (I try to sneak one off the baking sheet moments after they come out of the oven to devour while still warm.) Stacy makes the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had, ever. They are the perfect crispy outside and gooey inside with just the right amount of chips. Her cookies bake to just the right thickness so that they are not too thin or crispy or too chewy. They are a confectionary masterpiece.

They key to baking any product well is controlling the temperature and melt rate of the fat in the product. Stacy starts her cookies by tossing a stick of butter into a mixing bowl that sits out in the kitchen to soften for at least two hours. Once soft, the butter is creamed which means it is worked with the back of a soup spoon in the mixing bowl until it is the consistency of mayonnaise. She then mixes the cookie dough adding the chips last. Finally, she forms the dough into balls about half the size of golf balls. Each ball is placed on a baking sheet as she forms them. As each cookie bakes, the butter melts as the other ingredients cook and the ball becomes a disk. Stacy usually makes a half batch of the Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe which can be found on the back of a bag of Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Morsels:

Yield: About 5 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cup Nestle semi-sweet morsels (1 12-oz pkg)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 375
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy (note: Stacy first creams the butter with the back of a soup spoon and then adds in the sugar and vanilla using the spoon to combine. At this point the mixture should be fluffy). Gradually beat in flour mixture (Stacy continues with her spoon). Stir in morsels and nuts (Stacy gently fold in the morsels again with the spoon). Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for two minutes (this is when I snatch my warm treat); remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pomelo Segment with Savory Meringue

The first pomelos of the season are arriving. You know, the dinosaur grapefruit. My favorite treatment of the giant fruit is to make an amuse bouche for a dinner party by segmenting the pomelo and dressing with a dollop of savory meringue and a petal from a pansy flower or a sprig of mint. The components can be prepped well in advance and stored in your fridge until you are ready to assemble the dish. I bought some spoons from Sur La Table specifically for amuse bouche service that I use for this dish. Stacy received a long pressed glass platter that is perfect for 12 servings. It looks spectacular and tastes good too.

Pomelo segments with savory meringue

Yield: 12 small servings

1 Pomelo
1 Pastuerized egg
Pansy petals or mint sprigs for garnish

Segment pomelo, cut each segment in half or thirds, place on towels and chill.
Separate Pasteurized egg and reserve yolk for other purposes (like mayonnaise or ice cream)
Whip the egg white to froth
(Optional: Rub copper bowl with the inside of the pomelo rind to add some acid to the meringue before whipping)add a pinch of salt and pepper whip the white to firm peaks. Chill meringue until ready for use.

To serve, place two segment pieces on a large spoon or small plate refresh meringue and place a small dollop on segments garnish with a pansy petal or sprig of mint.

Egg Safety - Pasture-raised chickens from sustainable farms produce by far the safest eggs. However, there is always a remote chance of bacterial infection, so we Pasteurize the eggs for recipes that call for raw eggs.

How To Pasteurize Raw Eggs

Place the eggs in a pot with cold water. Put the water on medium heat while gently stirring watch as the temperature rises. You don't want the temperature of the water to exceed 150 degrees. To be exact, keep a thermometer probe in the water. When you reach this temperature, keep it. To do so, lower the heat, and watch so the temperature doesn't rise, then keep the eggs in the water for about 3-5 minutes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Meyer Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Cups

The citrus crop is coming on strong now at the Farmer’s Market. We now have our pick of tangerines, oranges, pomelos, grapefruit, and lemons. Stacy and I bought our first pomelo and fifteen more Meyer lemons during our outing to the market Saturday. The market traffic was light this week as folks were driven away by the heavy rains and cold winds. Despite the bad weather, we shopped for a luncheon I am cooking for Stacy and her group at work. In addition to the citrus, I bought fingerling potatoes, cauliflower, and placed an order for hanger steaks that will be ingredients in the six-course I plan to prepare and serve to the party of twelve this coming Wednesday.

I included a palette cleanser course between the cauliflower soufflé course and the grilled hanger steak with sea salt crusted roast fingerling potatoes entrée course. The palette cleanser is Meyer lemon sorbet in lemon cups. I made the sorbet from the fifteen Meyer lemons yesterday and it tastes incredible. The presentation of the sorbet will be in cups made from the shells of the lemons. There are several citrus dishes I serve that use the colorful shell as the cup which makes a charming statement on the plate. To remove any citrus from the shell, cut off the top 1/3 of the fruit and reserve the top to use as the “cap”. Then use a grapefruit spoon or small teaspoon to remove the pulp. This neat trick is accomplished by gently working the spoon between the pith and the pulp in a circular motion around the shell being very careful not to puncture the shell. Usually the pulp will release all except for the bloom end at the bottom. To finish the removal, gently hook the spoon under the pulp and pull from the shell. If some strings are left in the bottom of the shell, use a kitchen shear or paring knife to extract. Then cut a small flat spot on the bottom so the fruit will stand on a plate. Be careful not to open a hole in the bottom of the shell when making this cut. Now you have a shell cup and cap to use as the vessel to serve the dish you make from the pulp. Sometimes I will cut a design in the top lip of the cup for large fruits like oranges. The cup will also resist oven temps for a dessert prep that has cold filling in the cup and a piped meringue on top, sort of like a baked Alaska.

Here’s the recipe for the sorbet.

Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Cups For 8
12 lemons - You'll need one lemon per person plus a few to cut zest from. Make sure the bloom end (not the stem end) has a nice shaped "bump" and try to purchase uniform lemons.
Cut off the top 1/3 of the lemon (stem end) and reserve for the "cap." Hollow out each lemon by using a grapefruit spoon gently working just inside the rind and circling the flesh while being careful not to puncture the lemon. Remove juice and flesh and put it in your juicer. Make a slight shallow cut on the bottom of each lemon shells while being careful not to cut through to the inside of the lemon) This will allow them to sit upright on a plate without falling over.
Freeze the shells at least one hour or overnight. Then fill with sorbet for service. The frozen shell will help keep the sorbet frozen.


1/3 cup lemon zest cut from the extra lemons
1 cup strained fresh-squeezed lemon juice - from lemons used for cups and extra lemons
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vodka (keeps the sorbet from freezing solid)
1 1/2 cups water

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Add lemon zest. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 2 minute. Add the lemon juice and vodka, stir well. Remove from heat, cool completely and strain.

Ice Cream Maker - Transfer mixture to ice cream maker, process according to manufacturer's instructions.

Freezer Method - Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time.

Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Cover and keep frozen.

Makes 8 servings.

Meyer Lemon on Foodista

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Preserving Meyer Lemons

At this time of the year we see the beginnings of the citrus crop signaling that it will soon be winter with long, cold nights and rainy days. One of my favorite ingredients to make using citrus is preserved Meyer lemon rind. The Meyer lemon is a hybrid between a lemon and an orange that came from China. It was widely planted in California until it was understood to cause blight of other citrus crops. Nowadays there is the "improved" Meyer lemon that does not carry the blight. The fruits have delicate skins that will turn a blush of orange if left hanging on the tree long enough. When preserved, the rind is a savory, lightly sour and complex flavor balanced with salt that is used in the curing process. Any recipe that calls for acid and salt will benefit with preserved Meyer lemon rind as a substitute. One of my favorite is lemon-scented cauliflower. Simply mince some preserved Meyer lemon rind then mix with a bit of butter,salt and pepper, and brush onto washed florets. Roast the cauliflower for about 8 to 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. This is an excellent side dish. I also use the cooked cauliflower in savory soufflés.

To preserve Meyer lemons, use a 1/2 liter canning jar. I like the kind with the glass lid and rubber band for sealing. Always sterilize the jar and use a new sterilized band before proceeding. Thinly slice the lemons and toss in a bowl with kosher salt.

Pack into jar and top with lemon juice to within 1/4 inch from the rim. Add three bay leaves and five or six black pepper corns. Wipe the rim with a damp towel and seal the jar. Over the next two weeks, leave the jar on your kitchen counter. Shake the jar every morning and every night. The lemon rind undergoes a lactic fermentation much the same as a kosher dill pickle or sauerkraut. Place finished jar in refrigerator. Preserved Meyer lemons keep at least a year. They also make a nice holiday gift.