Monday, September 29, 2008

Melting Moments

Back home I used to make these great cookies called 'Melting Moments'. I am not entirely sure of their origins, but they are very popular in Australia. They are essentially- a flavored butter filling sandwiched between two shortbread cookies. The cookies are very light in color and have a fork indentation on top (kind of like American Peanut Butter Cookies). They are traditionally flavored with lemon or passion fruit. As I had some passion fruit puree at home- I decided to make a batch.

The shortbread is sooooooo easy- a monkey can do it- but alas- the recipe I had was BASIC- and I should have had the warewithall to add Vanilla or Lemon- but I didn't, so I was left with an okay cookie- just not excellent.

The passion fruit filling is great, but as the puree gives the filling so much liquid, you cannot add too much. This is where I think Lemon is the better choice. Zest in the cookies and in the filling would enhance the flavor without making it bland or runny.

Another change for next time would be to make my cookies a little thinner- they are so tender that the two cookies together is harder to eat and thus I end up making a big mess!

Overall though, this cookie is GREAT and reminds me of home- which is more than I can ask for!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Ultimate Banana Cream Pie

As my Boyfriend was approaching his 30th birthday, he mentioned that in lieu of a birthday cake, he would love a Banana Cream Pie. I of course, would happily oblige! Then the slight panic sets in, as I have never made a Banana Cream Pie that I have been truly in love with. They are all good after all (how can it not be?) but not the right balance of flavors and textures that I like to have.

Cream Pies are awesome- they are mostly unheard of in Australia, but my American Born mother would indulge us once or twice a year with one… chocolate, Coconut or Banana…
It was always done from scratch, with a great flaky pie crust, vanilla custard layered with fresh slices of banana, and slathered with a slightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream. They were divine, but I wanted to up the ante!
Marc prefers a graham cracker crust to the pastry crust (ugh- it should be relegated to cheesecakes and key lime pie’s, but it’s his birthday not mine…) so I have a flashback to a delightful dinner at the Bally’s Steakhouse in Vegas, where they serve their Banana Cream Pie in a Crunchy Pecan Crust. Everyone at the table that night LOVED it, so I thought I should give it a shot. I decided a mixture of pecans, Nilla Wafers, sugar and melted butter would do the trick, and boy, was I right. I hate to gloat, but *seriously people*, it was awesome. It was crisp and flavorful; I am already having dreams about a macadamia crust with Coconut Cream Pie, and Hazelnut Crust with a Chocolate Cream Pie… I may never go back to ordinary pie dough………..
As for the filling; while the idea of vanilla custard with bananas sandwiched in between is fine, I wanted actual banana flavored custard, and Gale Gand has just the one.
Top the whole pie off with rum spiked vanilla whipped cream and you have a damn great pie.
The pictures really don’t do it justice (I am still learning about food photography…) but when I served each slice I topped them off with slices of banana to finish the dream!!

The Cooked Crust

Keep in mind that my crust recipe is an approximation. I made it up as I went along. If your crust seems too dry, add more melted butter, or if it seems to wet, add more crushed Nilla wafers and pecans. The sugar, I have realized is not necessary, as the nilla wafers are sweet enough, but it worked for me!

The Banana Pudding

The Finshed Pie

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mario Batali's Gnocchi

I must admit, I love anything from Mario. When I was working in professional kitchens, the one place I really wanted to apprentice was Babbo in New York. Is had not come to fruition, but maybe one day!!! I simply adore his approach to cooking, and if you have never had the opportunity to eat in one of his restaurants, just watch 'Molto Mario' on the Fine living channel to become addicted to italian philosophy. I am half Italian myself. My fathers family is from Calabria, and I grew up with the most amazing italian food courtesy of my Grandmother (she and my Nonno are in my profile picture!).

So I have been dreaming of perfect gnocchi, and Mario is my go to guy, so I opened my Babbo Cookbook and got started. I decided to pair it with a classic basil pesto and some crusted pork milanese.

Well, a few things here... Mario says that the gnocchi will take as much flour as it can, meaning, it will stop absorbing it when it has had enough. If it it humid (which it is), it will take more flour than when on a dry day. The idea is that the more you make it, the more you know what it is supposed to feel like, and you can live without the recipe. As it was my first time, I worked it the best I could, but it did seem to take more flour than was called for in the recipe. But they worked out beautifully!!! Perhaps a little soft, but they didn't fall apart, and in the fragrant basil pesto, they were delish!!!!!!! I will surely be making this again, and can't wait to use up the rest of the dough today for round two!

p.s- the cheesecake is better the next day, as it gets moister, but still not my fave.

The Basil Pesto

The Gnocchi before being cooked

The finished product- Crusted Pork Milanese, Potato Gnocchi in Basil Pesto

Monday, September 8, 2008

Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheescake

Well, here I am- a former pastry student, a former pastry cook and believe it or not, I have never made a cheesecake. I even used to work at a restaurant with Cheesecake right in the name! I have eaten every different kind of cheesecake, lemon, Chocolate, Peanut butter... but truth be told, it is never something I would order off a menu, or have ever felt the need to bake, but it was the first real season football game, and I was cooking a feast! My Boyfriend had always raved about how much he loves cheesecake, so I though, 'Today will be the Day'!!

So I found a recipe I had saved from Bon Appetit from January 2005, and decided to give it a go.

Photo Courtesy of Bon Apetit

Well, truth be told, Marc loved it, as did our friend Jeff, but I wasn't all that fond. I found the toffee 'sauce' on top sets up and was not hard like a toffee, but not soft like caramel sauce. Kind of like melted candies- this didn’t work for my taste. The cheesecake itself was a little dry, if that is even possible. I am someone who loves the creamy texture of no bake cheesecakes, more akin to a cheesy mousse, so that could be why I was not thrilled. The one part I loved was the gingersnap crust- I will definitely be making that part again! The boys did love it though, so I guess I will have to resume my search for MY favorite cheesecake. I will keep you posted!