Monday, July 29, 2013

Lemon squares!

Last Saturday I went to the international food fair of my city and it was pretty cool. I sampled foods from all over the globe and was introduced to many new products that are about to hit the markets.


 Oikos was there....

  American barbecue with pulled pork sandwiches was a huge success.


 And even a maple cotton candy tent!!!
For lunch I had a delicious vegetarian empanada from Chile, made with artichokes, heart of palm and cheese that was absolutely fantastic but pretty small. I was still hungry, so I had a vegetarian fajita from Mexico, made with “nopales”, which is a kind of bottled cactus. The “nopales” were grilled with Mexican cheese and served in a corn tortilla with guacamole. Yum yum! In fact it was so yummy that I ordered a second one!

Their guacamole was also incredibly good. Very similar actually to the one I learned from my Mexican friend and that is super simple to make.

Mexican guacamole
Just smash 1 or 2 avocados with a fork. Add lime juice (about ½ a lime to 1 lime), salt to taste, a drizzle of olive oil, finely diced tomatoes, finely diced onions and a hand full of finely chopped cilantro. It’s very nutritious and it goes great with any kind of tacos, fajitas, burritos, quesadillas, tostitos and even chips.

And for desset I had a refreshing passion fruit gelato!
 Many new products were debuting at the fair, from duck foie gras to different kinds of wine and cider. But I was especially interested in a new product called apple syrup from Les produits Pierre-Henri. It’s basically a syrup like maple syrup but entirely made of apples. It tastes really sweet but I was told there is no sugar added and all the sweetness comes from the apples. Imagine that on chicken, on pancakes, on yogurt, ice cream, salad dressing, potatoes, etc…. Can’t wait to see this one out there!

Nothing like good tv after a long day outdoors, and Saturday night was all about one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, “the king of queens”. I watched an episode from the 3rd season that is about Doug’s parents meeting him at the airport during a layover and trying to convince him to sign some important papers but all he really wants are his mom’s lemon squares. I instantly thought: “Now I need lemon squares too” and the next day I woke up early to make them.

I made this yummy recipe from Martha Stewart. I really like Martha’s recipes, they are really good and usually easy to prepare. If you’re also craving lemon squares now, here is how you make them:


For the dough

½ cup butter (soft)

½ cup icing sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 cup flour

For the cream

4 egg yolks

1 can condensed milk

¾ cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)


Using a stand mixer, beat butter and icing sugar until well combined. Add flour and salt and mix until incorporated.

Transfer dough to a 8 inch square pan lined with parchment paper with two wings hanging out to facilitate removing the tart from the pan once baked and cooled.

Press dough down with your fingers and prick it all over with a fork.

Bake dough for 20 minutes in a 350 F oven.

In a bowl, mix well all the ingredients for the cream.

Pour the mixture over dough and bake for another 30 minutes.

Let it cool down completely before cutting the 16 squares. Then leave it in the fridge for 2 hours before serving.

*I didn’t have 4 egg yolks, so I decided to experiment with 2 yolks and 1 whole egg. It worked fine, the result was the same, but it took me longer to bake. Instead of 30 minutes I baked it for 45 minutes and left it in the oven for 10 minutes more with the heat completely off. 

**I also used cold butter for this recipe and it worked just fine. The dough resembled coarse meal and I just pressed down a little and baked it like that.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice cream and Chocolate Ganache

Profiteroles are not hard to make and if you have time you can impress your guests with some beautiful and simple decoration that will make it even more special.

All you have to do is make the dough which is called Pâte à choux and then decide if you want to make the chocolate ganache and homemade vanilla ice cream from scratch or if you will buy chocolate sauce and ice cream in the market.

What do you need to know to make sure you get good results:

1) Always use good quality chocolate, such as Valrhoma, Cacao Barry or Callebaut.
2) Be patient and take your time. You will not get excellent results if you only have half an hour to make this look good.
3) Use good quality ice cream as well if using the industrial version and if making your own, use vanilla bean, it makes a whole lot of difference.
4) You will need pastry bags for this recipe. It's preferable to use plastic disposable bags so there is no bacteria growth accumulation from each use. You don't need to use a tip, but you'll get better results if you use a round tip number 10.
5) If you attempt to make the swan: you will need 2 cornets (mini cones made of parchment paper) and icing sugar for sprinkling onto the wings. To make the cornet just follow the instructions on this website:

I'm giving you the 3 recipes and it's up to you to take the challenge. Here we go.

Start with Pâte à Choux

125 ml water
125 ml milk
100 g butter (in cubes)
5 g salt
5 g sugar
162 g flour (all purpose)
5 eggs (approximately)

1- In a saucepan, add water, milk, butter, salt and sugar. Let it come to a boil and take the pan off the heat.
2- Add flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Back on the heat, keep mixing and pressing the dough into the wall of the pan until it gets dry. It should all come together and not stick to the bottom of the pan anymore. Turn off the heat, pour dough into a bowl and reserve.
3- Break the eggs and mix them with a fork.
4- Pour half the egg mixture into dough and mix well with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.
5- Keep adding the egg mixture, little by little and mixing well until the right consistency.
To check the consistency: run a finger through the dough making a long line. If dough comes together fast, closing the line, it's ready. If not, keep adding egg.
6- Reserve the leftover egg mix for brushing dough before baking (egg wash).
7- Grease 2 big baking trays and a small one.
8- Fill a pastry bag with the batter and use a round tip number 10.
9- Start piping medium balls onto greased tray, leaving about 1 inch of space between them.
10- Keep on doing so until all the batter is used.
You can also make éclairs by piping lines (like the ones I did in the pictures below) and fill them with pastry cream after they are baked and have cooled down.

For the swan's body: Pipe making a drop shape. Start with a ball and pull the bag at the end creating a tail.
For the swan's neck and face: fill a cornet with batter and make a very small whole (about 1 cm in diameter). Pipe a letter S and then a very small drop shape at the beginning of the S, to make the face. (as seen on the first pic). Pipe more than one to make sure you will have at least one good. Bake it separately as it is very small and it will bake faster than the rest of the batter. (Use the small tray for this ones).
You can also pipe any kind of design for extra decorations (as seen on pic below).

11- Brush some of the egg mixture (egg wash) onto piped batter and run a fork (delicately) through the top of the éclairs and for the balls (profiteroles) press fork down delicately on both directions creating a criss cross.
12- Bake at 400F  for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. It really depends on the kind of oven you have, we all know each oven is different, so don't panic if it takes longer. Make sure the inside is completely cooked before taking them out of the oven, don't be afraid of going a little dark on the outside. If you don't cook the inside properly it will be soggy.

Vanilla Ice Cream

250 ml milk
125 ml cream (35%)
60 g sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean

1- Cut in half the vanilla bean and remove all the seeds. Add both the seeds and the stick to a pan with milk and cream.
For better instructions on how to use a vanilla bean go to this link:
2- Add half the sugar to the liquids and let it simmer.
3- Mix well the other half of sugar with the yolks.
4- Pour half the liquid into the yolks and mix well. Pour the yolk mixture back into the pan and keep cooking it, stirring constantly until it reaches 85 degrees Celsius. Or until mixture coats the back of a spoon.
5- Remove the vanilla bean stick and pour the mixture into a bowl inside another bowl filled with ice to stop the cooking process. Let it cool completely.
6- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and voilà, you have delicious vanilla ice cream in about 25 minutes!

Chocolate Ganache

250 g Semi sweet Chocolate (more than 50% cocoa paste)
250 ml Cream (35%)

1- Heat cream to a simmer and pour over chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate) and mix well with a spatula (not a whisk - you don't want to add air and create bubbles) in a circular motion from the center until completely homogeneous.  Set aside.
Keep it in the fridge and reheat it in the microwave for a few seconds whenever you want to use it again.

Directions for assembling the profiteroles

1- Once the balls of dough have cooled down, cut them in half.
2- Add a scoop of ice cream to each ball and put the lid back on.
3- Cover them with chocolate ganache and enjoy.

For the swan: Cut the drop shaped dough into half horizontally. Cut the lid (top part) in half vertically to make the wings. Sprinkle icing sugar onto both wings. Add a scoop of ice cream to the bottom part and place the wings into the ice cream with the tip of the drop following the tail. Then, add the neck and face to the ice cream. Do it on the plate because it might be too fragile to move afterwards.

Monday, July 1, 2013

No-cook Manjar Branco - Coconut Pudding with Red Wine reduction

Today is Canada day and I'm celebrating it with a delicious family dessert. Manjar Branco is a Brazilian variation of the Blancmange (Europe) or the Tembleque (Porto Rico) and it's typically served in Brazil with a sauce made of pitted prunes.

My mom however, makes it with a red wine reduction with sugar, cloves, cinnamon and star anise that is to die for. This pudding has a velvety texture similar to flan, it massages your tongue as you eat it.

Originally Manjar is made with cornstarch and you have to cook it like a custard. This is a no-cook recipe that is ready in literally 5 minutes. By adding gelatin you eliminate cooking time while keeping the same texture and result. While gelatin is setting in the fridge you can make the sauce and it will be ready to eat in about 3 hours or so. It doesn't get easier than that!

* Gelatin is a complicated matter though, believe it or not. First of all, leaf gelatin tastes much better than powdered gelatin, so use it if you can. Second of all, leaf gelatin comes in different types with different weight variations, so make sure you are using the gold ones for this recipe or please make the right adjustments with a gelatin converter online. I normally use the ones from Gelita, which is a German brand. If you find other brands, check how many grams are in one leaf to make sure it will work. Gelita gold is 2g per leaf. In this recipe we use 12 leaves which equals 24g. That is for a 9 inch round bundt cake mold.


Coconut Pudding with Red wine reduction


For the pudding

1 can condensed milk
1 can coconut milk
1 can milk (use the condensed milk can for measuring)
1 can cream - 35% (use the condensed milk can for measuring)
2 packages of powdered gelatin or 12 leaves of gold gelatin

For the sauce

1 bottle of table red wine
1/2 the bottle of water
2 cups of sugar
cloves (about 10 whole cloves), cinnamon sticks (1 or 2) and star anise (about 3)


For the pudding

Using a blender mix condensed milk with coconut milk.
Bloom the gelatin (hydrate it) - if using leaves just submerge them in cold water until soft and squeeze them with your hands. Reserve. If using powdered, just add water (according to package instructions) and wait 5 minutes.
Heat milk up to 50 degrees Celsius, don't boil it. Take it off the heat before adding the gelatin.
Add gelatin to milk and mix well with a whisk until completely dissolved.
Add milk to blender. Add cream.
Blend it all very well.
Pour the mix into a wet mold. Use a wet 9 inch round mold such as a bundt cake mold for this recipe. Silicon and plastic molds work better.
Place the mold in the fridge for at least 2 hours or until completely set.
Unmold it and decorate it as desired. Keep it in the fridge until serving time.

For the sauce

Pour the wine into a sauce pan. Add sugar and spices. Let it boil until it's reduced by half (about 1 hour to 1h and a half) over medium high heat.
Remove from pan and let it cool down until time to serve. Keep it in the fridge in a glass container for conservation.