Archive | January 2012

Zabaglione

I’m back!  This blog is not gonna be a “one-entry wonder.” Really trying to stick with this one…yes I have created and abandoned blogs in the past, but I’m a changed person, I swear!!

Anyway, onto the post…

ZABAGLIONE!

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INTRO

Zabaglione is one of my favorite Italian desserts.  And as one of Italian extract and a lover of sweets, I’m pretty passionate about my dolci!  I almost always order zabaglione when I’m at an Italian restaurant (unless I get cannoli, which is my most favorite).

For those of you who have never had zabaglione (pronounced zaam-bal-e-yone-aye), it is a light custard flavored with Marsala wine.  It can be made thin, and used as a sauce, sort of like a crème anglaise.  I prefer it as more of a custard/mousse that you can just eat on its own, like with berries, amaretti cookies, or pizelles.  It is also a popular ice cream flavor in South America and you can also find it in gelato shops throughout Italy.

One of my hopes with this blog is that I will use it as motivation for getting me to make things that I love eating but for whatever reason, have never tried to make for myself.  Zabaglione fulfills these requirements, so I figured it would be a great 2nd entry for this blog.

RECIPE

Zabaglione is a pretty basic food.  It isn’t composed of a complex assortment of ingredients.  Nonetheless, there are many different recipes floating around.  There were a few I liked, and a few I didn’t.  For instance, one recipe required brandy.  I don’t have anything against brandy, but I really didn’t feel like I wanted anything getting in the way of the flavor of the Marsala wine.

I ended up combining 2 very similar recipes (one from Simply Recipes and one from The Tasteful Life) to make 1 recipe I could get behind.

Food Stuff You’ll Need:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup Marsala wine
  • Grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped

1. Bring about half (or a little less) a pot of water to a boil.  Once it is boiling, reduce heat to low to bring the water down to a simmer.

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2. Next, get out your eggs and separate the eggs from the yolks.  You can do this a number of ways.  I use a small egg separator made by Pampered Chef.  It looks a lot like this:

All you have to do it crack the egg inside the separator and the egg whites drip out of the sides of the separator.  And if you are worried about what to do with 6 egg whites, you can use them to make amaretti cookies to go with the zabaglione.  If that’s too much work, you can do what I did and cook them up in a pan and have them for dinner!  They are low in calories and high in protein, so they will compliment you fitness regime!

Photobucket Shiny, yellow egg yolks.  There are 6, the last one just broke.

Okay, back to the recipe…

3. Get your lemon and wash it with some soap and water.  It’s just for good measure, you know, to kill any germs that could give you some terrible illness that could land you on an episode of Mystery Diagnosis.  I mean, I’m not a huge germa-phobe, but it’s easy enough to wash a lemon.

Then get your grated and skin that fruit!  Make sure you don’t grate past the white (the pith), because it has no flavor.  And WARNING, it’s a total bitch to get the lemon zest from the grater!!  Ugh, seriously, why hasn’t Pampered Chef invented a device to remove crap from graters??

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4. Place egg yolks, sugar, grated lemon peel, and vanilla extract in a large stainless steel bowl, preferably something that with rest nicely in your pot of water without touching the pot’s bottom.  You don’t want the water to touch the bowl, as it would be too much heat for cooking the custard.

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5. Whisk the custard mixture, making sure that the water does not boil.  This ensures even heating and will prevent the mixture from curdling (which once happened to me when I was making caramel and it was so horrible and depressing I don’t even want to talk about it!!).  Whisking also traps air, helping to create a light and fluffy texture.

In the picture below, you can see the whisked mixture.  I also had to sort of hold the bowl above the pot because the bowl sunk too low when nestled in the pot.  Next time I will for sure use a smaller pot to boil the water, my hand sort of got tired and the steam from the pot was a bit hot.

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5. Continue whisking while gradually adding the Marsala wine.  This is a KEY INGREDIANT, as the Marsala is the prominent flavor of this custard.  And it’s fine for all ages, as what little alcohol content there is cooks off completely in the cooking process.

Photobucket Isn’t that a fine-looking bottle?  I just love the label.

PhotobucketHere is 3/4 cup of the wine.  It is not a pretty as the bottle.

6. Continue whisking for about 10 minutes until mixture triples in volume and gets frothy.  In the picture below, you can see how the wine has darkened the egg mixture, and how it is beginning to froth.

This was also the point in cooking this custard that I began to carefully monitor the heat of the stove.  The water would start to boil, and I’d have to quickly lower the temperature to get it back to a simmer, then the simmer would die and I’d have to boost the temperature again…back and forth, etc etc…

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8. When it reaches the desired consistency, take the bowl of custard out of the water pot.  Continue whisking for a minute or two to prevent sticking.  Set aside for 15 minutes.

PhotobucketThe custard after cooking over the water pot.

9. At this point the zabaglione was about the consistency of a dessert sauce, and if that is what you wanted to have, then you’d stop here.  But I really wanted a proper custardy mousse pudding, so I…

Got a cup of heavy cream/whipping cream and put it in a bowl.

Then I whipped it at top speed with my trusty egg beaters until soft peaks formed.

Note: You MUST stop whipping the cream when it forms these peaks/begins to solidify, if you don’t it will turn into BUTTER.

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10. Add whipped cream to cooled custard and gently fold together.  I emphasize “gently” because you want to ensure your zabaglione retains it’s light and fluffy texture.  The gentle folding motion helps the custard retain air and keeps it from falling flat.

Pictured below, you can see how much lighter in color the custard becomes after the cream has been added.

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11. Now your zabaglione is finished, and you can find some charming dishes in which to serve it to your friends and family!  It looks lovely decorated with fresh berries, and the fruit makes it healthy right?  I also had some pizelles laying about in the cupboard, so I used those for garnish as well.  Didn’t have any amaretti handy…

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With berries in a small carnival glass dish.  OMFG god do I love carnival glass!!

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This one with the pizelle and strawberry sort of looked like a peacock to me, and I tried to put a blueberry

on the strawberry to give it a head, but it didn’t really translated well and I had nothing to make a beak…

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Here is a full shot of the zabaglione in a champagne glass.  Or some type of glass.  I’m terrible at identifying

drinking glasses, all I know is I’ve sipped champagne out of this glass.


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Zabaglione for two!!

CONCLUSION

So this was a big hit!  I loved it and so did my family, who’s reactions while eating I observed.

The texture was very light and smooth.  It wasn’t overly sweet, so even those who don’t have much of a sweet tooth would not be put off by this dessert.  The berries went well with it, and their sweetness was a great compliment.  I can only imagine how great the crunch of an amaretti cookie would taste with it!  The pizelles were a good substitute though.

I would not change anything about this recipe and would certainly make it again.  Perhaps next time I make this I’ll make it with vanilla paste instead of extract though, as you get those lovely specs of vanilla when you use the paste.  Even better…AN ACTUAL VANILLA BEAN!!  OOFFA!  That would be TOO GOOD.

Ciao 4 now!

The Hopeful Hestia

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Chai Spice Cake with Ginger Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

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My chai spice cake!

INTRO

Oh boy, my first entry!  Like my method for teaching myself to cook and bake, I am going to develop my routine for this blog through trial-and-error.  I’m going to organize this entry by breaking into 3 main segments: Intro, Recipe, and Conclusion.  I think it’s pretty straight-forward.

In this intro I will introduce the recipe I will be blogging about: Chai Spice Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting.  This is a recipe that I have wanted to try for some time.  I love masala chai, it is one of my favorite drinks.  I also love cake, so the combo really appealed to me.  I first stumbled upon this recipe on Whisk Kid’s blog.  Her pictures of her cake are amazing.  One day I hope to have pictures just as lovely!

In my recipe research for this endeavor I found a few variations, but I liked Whisk Kid’s version, as it didn’t use pre-spiced tea bags.  Rather her recipe required adding the spices to the tea yourself.  I thought that this would increase the flavor, and I also have all these spices in my pantry anyway.

Lastly, I was given a perfect opportunity to make this cake: my mom’s bunco party!  She was more than happy to have me to be in charge of preparing a dessert for her party, and she also loves chai as much as I do.

RECIPE
Here are the ingredients you will need:

Chai Cake Ingredients
1 1/3 cup skim milk
6 Tbsp loose black tea
15 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp fennel
1/2″ of ginger, peeled and grated
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 c flour
2 c  sugar
2 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter, room temp

  • Place the milk, tea, cardamom, fennel and ginger in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer and let bubble for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes. Strain the flavored milk into a bowl pressing the grounds with a rubber spatula to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and set milk aside to cool.

So basically you begin kind of like you are making chai.  One thing I would urge people attempting this to be aware of is how sensitive milk can be to heat.  Burnt milk is nasty!  So don’t turn the heat up too high, be sure to let it heat slowly and once it’s reached the desired temperature, GET IT OFF THE STOVE ASAP!!!!

Also try your local Indian grocery store as a place to buy your spices!  The prices are usually much better than what you’ll find at the supermarket, and in my experience, they are much fresher.  If you don’t have an Indian grocery store nearby, you might have to order certain things like cardamom pods, online.  

PhotobucketEggs, chai milk mix, eggs in a bowl.

  • In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and 1/3 cup of the chai milk. Set aside.
  • Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

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  • Beat on low to combine, then add the butter and remaining chai milk. Beat on low-speed to blend, then raise speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl often and mixing just to incorporate.

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Top picture is of the wet batter of eggs, milk mixture, vanilla, and butter.

The bottom picture is of the mixture after the dry mixture has been incorporated.

Now, at this stage you will have a nice batter.  If you aren’t afraid of raw eggs, I would advise tasting a tiny bit, just to make sure things taste right.  If the batter tastes bad at this point, there is no reason to bother baking it!  And by tasting it, you can also determine if you should add a bit of salt or more of another spice.

This is also a good time to PREHEAT YOUR OVEN TO 350 DEGREES.

And as you’re going to have to put the batter in your pans soon, you should go and prepare them.  I like to coat them in cooking spray (like Pam or some off-brand) and they I trace a wax-paper circle to insert into the pan (I use a pencil, most pens won’t write well on wax-paper and I don’t want Sharpie ink baked into my food!).  I also coat the wax-paper insert with spray.

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  • Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and bake 26-28 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed in the center. Cool cakes in pans on a rack for ten minutes.

The recipe says cool of 10 minutes, but I really don’t think that’s enough time.  The cake seemed way too fragile.  I let it cool for about 30 minutes before I wrapped it in plastic wrap.

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  • Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to chill.

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interlude: BUTTER PROBLEM!!

So this is a problem I have a lot, I’m sorry to say.  Sometimes I read a recipe, and when I read the butter part, I just skip over the word “softened.”  This is really not okay!!  Fat in a recipe is really important, and sometimes you do not have the flexibility to get it wrong.  Sometimes it is the difference between something tasting “good” vs “really good.”

I made this mistake!  My butter was not room temperature AT ALL, and I wasn’t in the mood to wait 5,000 hours for it to soften.  So I did a lazy thing and nuked it in the microwave.  I hoped things would be okay.  In this case, they were.  But in recipes where butter is meant to be cold, like in pastries, I think you have less flexibility.  Like none.

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Honey Ginger Cream Cheese Icing

This icing is SOOOOOOOOO delicious.  Like, it is not an exaggeration to include all those extra o’s to ‘so.’  The honey and the ginger really complement each other.  The honey adds a great extra flavor to the sweetness, and the ginger adds a nice, sharp, bite.

Also, the original recipe called for 6oz cream cheese and 6 tbsp butter.  I had an 8oz cream cheese container, so I used all of it and adjusted the butter.  It tasted great, so I’d do the same again.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

8 oz cream cheese, room temp
8 tbsp butter, room temp
1/2 c honey
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
3 1/2 c (547 g) confectioners’ sugar

Place all of the ingredients but the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl and beat until combined and lightened. Add half of the sugar and whip to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining sugar, and beat until fully incorporated.

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Assembly

Fill and frost with the Honey-Ginger Cream.  It’s pretty obvious, put icing on the cake and stack the layers.  DUH!!

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CONCLUSION

I made the cake the night before the party, as cake usually tastes better after it has had time to sit for a while.  (Pie is the opposite, it tastes the best the day it is made, I think).

The night of the party, I brought the cake out a few hours before I anticipated it being served.  Allowing the cake to reach room temperature helps to ensure that the flavors are more robust.  Think about it like cheese, so much for flavor is unlocked in room temp cheese, then in cheese still in a refrigerator coma.

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I received a lot of compliments about the cake, but the biggest complement I received was in the form of an order!

Yes, one of my mom’s friends hired me to make her a carrot cake for her bunco party next month!  And she specifically requested that I use the icing I used for this chai cake.  I told you the icing was delicious!

As for my opinion, I wasn’t wowed by the cake.  It was good, but not what I was hoping for.  I thought it was a bit dry, maybe because I screwed the butter up, maybe because I didn’t wrap the cake in plastic wrap right away (but I really thought they were too fragile for that).  Also I didn’t think it was spicy (not hot spicy) enough.  Next time I’d boost the spices, maybe even add cloves.

But it was good enough to not last long.  These leftovers didn’t make it past the weekend!
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Until next time,

The Hopeful Hestia