Tag Archives: dessert

A Continued Journeyman

When last we left our intrepid heroines,their senses had been tantalized by two of their five-course Journeyman meal (with a little, delicious lardo interlude). Tune in now for Journeyman, Part II: The Entree Initiative.

Fish Course

Our next course was the fish (no shells!: bluefish atop salt cod, with sea beans, a muscadet foam, and more of that heavenly lardo. There are people in the world who don’t like bluefish, finding it too oily. I am not one of these people, perhaps because I’ve only ever eaten bluefish in nice restaurants, where they know what to do with this oiliness – basically use it to make the crispiest, most delicious fish skin of all time. The sea beans and cod added a pleasant saltiness to contrast with the sweet muscadet foam and the fatty lardo. I put a little heart next to the lardo in my notes, because I loved it so.

Next, the main course – lamb two ways:
Lamb 2 ways
The two ways the lamb came were braised in barley milk, served atop a little bed of bulgur wheat, and roasted, simply but perfectly. The accompaniments were blackened pistachio puree and autumn olive puree. (Our server helpfully explained that autumn olive is not really an olive, but sort of a berry. I helpfully explained that I was well aware of what an autumn olive is. I fear I have not totally mastered the gentle art of smiling and nodding.) There were also black trumpet mushrooms on the plate, which were pleasantly chewy, but unexciting. Unlike the rest of the dish, which was VERY exciting. The braised lamb was very tender and its little bed tasted, fascinatingly, of almonds. The roast lamb, while it sounds boring, was divine. Tender, cooked to perfection, everything a little lamb should be, and the purees just enhanced it. A lovely fall meal.

Prior to dessert coming, we were informed, a palate cleanser would be served, and after dessert there would be a surprise “thank you.” We asked if we could try the milk punch with dessert, since we’d not selected a dessert wine (it was actually what sounded like a very good vermouth) as part of our beverage pairing. Alas, we were told, the milk punch was nearly gone, but there would be enough for us to sample it. Huzzah!

Palate Cleanser - Greek yogurt ice cream and watermelon gelee
The palate cleanser was delightful, a greek yogurt ice cream atop a watermelon gelee. Watermelon is not the most aggressive flavor, which I suppose is appropriate when cleansing the palate, but it was sweet, which partnered nicely with the tart ice cream and a wee bite of chiffonaded mint.

The milk punch arrived:
Milk Punch!
The beverage fellow was the most enthusiastic I saw him all night when we asked about the process of making the punch (he was perfectly lovely the rest of the night, just a bit soft-spoken. This brought him out of his shell.) For those who don’t know, milk punch is made by combining liquor (traditionally brandy or rum), milk, and citrus. The citrus curdles the milk – you then strain off the solids and are left with a clear, but still creamy, liqueur, which can then be flavored how you like. This one was meant to taste like a root beer float, and the root beer taste was very clear. I smell a project coming.

Desserts

Our dessert proper, the “Three Apples,” came next. That’s a brioche filled with Scotch cream, a caramelized apple with Madeira creme anglaise, and an apple sorbet atop house-made graham cracker crumbs. I think I liked this last the best – it was intensely, purely apple. The others were pleasant, and I liked the smoky Scotch cream, but if I’d had my druthers I’d probably just as soon had another plate of lardo. In the battle between sweet and salty to win my heart, salty takes every round.

That said, our surprise was quite nice, and perhaps just more up my dessert-alley:
Surprise!
Housemade marshmallows, super-dark chocolate brownies, and the teeniest little creme brulees you ever saw! Isn’t it cute? The marshmallow tasted of lemon, and the brownies were barely sweet and intensely fudgy, which love. Since I am not a huge fan of custard, but a GIANT fan of burnt sugar, this was also just about the most perfect helping of creme brulee I can imagine.

All told, Journeyman did not disappoint. It’s definitely not an everyday sort of meal – it’s expensive, and the presentation is all about theater and lingering over your meal. But if you have something, or several somethings, to celebrate, I can’t think of a more intimate and lovely way to so!

Also, they’re working on building an attached bar, called Backbar, to open sometime soon. You better believe I’ll be checking it out!

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Brioche au Chocolat

A while back I mentioned that I’d picked up the Flour cookbook by Joanne Chang and finally made my own version of my favorite treat from the Flour bakery – the sugar brioche buns. Since then I’ve made many of the items in the cookbook – focaccia:
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sugar cookies:
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even regular brioche:
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But in my heart, I knew that eventually I was going to need to take on a bigger and better challenge: the brioche au chocolat.

Y’see, unlike the sugar brioche buns, in which the main challenge was the brioche dough itself, these little beauties raise the stakes with homemade pastry cream inside. Pastry cream is one of those things that seems deceptively simple, but leaves a lot of room for things to go awry. It’s a rich, vanilla-flavored custard used to, you guessed it, fill pastries. It’s made with eggs, milk, flour, sugar and vanilla, and is cooked over the stove, similarly to real-deal pudding. To me,the issue is that flour – pastry cream, over-cooked, can quickly become grainy. Would I be ready for the task?
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Luckily, J. Chang’s recipes are very well written. If you just do everything PRECISELY THE WAY SHE TELLS YOU TO, you should be just fine. The pastry cream above admittedly looks a little gross, but this is because it is custard. Custard is not the most photogenic member of the food kingdom, kids.

Once I had the brioche dough and the cream ready, the rest of this recipe was relatively pain-free. Spread the cream on the dough:
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Sprinkle with some chopped dark chocolate. I used Taza, of course.
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Fold the pastry over itself into a little envelope of dough:
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Let that puppy grow:
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Bake to a rich mahogany:
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I would NOT recommend this recipe for the dessert-maker in a hurry – the total time from start to finish, what with waiting for brioche to proof and pastry cream to cool, numbers in the days rather than the hours. If you have the time, however, it is totally worth it, and not nearly as scary as it seems.

Orange Line Adventures, Part II!

As promised, the continued saga of our trip to JP and the Scottish delights we encountered there!

After thoroughly enjoying all of the appetizers, it was time to dig into our entrees. For the most part we tried for “traditional” fare, though we made an exception for duck. It is imperative, if you’re dining with me, that you always make exceptions for the duck.

For my own part, however, I went with the sassitch and mash.
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The sassitch refers to a lovely house-made sausage, in this case pork combined with apples and sage (you can see a bit of apple poking out in the photo!), always a fantastic group of flavors. Mash can mean any of a number of mashed vegetables, often turnip or potato, but in this case roasted sweet potato, to play nicely with the fall flavors of the sausage. Finally the kale on the side added a bit of much-needed bitterness to balance all of the sweetness, and the cider-jus, with bacon and duck stock, was to die for. The leftovers made a killer hash the next day, too!

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The beef and ale pie! The ale really brings out all of the flavor of the beef, and the caraway crust was perfectly flaky.

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Hard to see, alas (it was VERY dark!) but this is the fish supper – beer-battered haddock, thick chips, and mushy peas. Fish and chips, but very, very good ones, some of the most tender fish I’ve had outside of home in my life, and the batter was thick and delicious. I’d never had mushy peas before – essentially mashed fresh peas with mint. Very green-tasting, and I liked them, but they were served cold and I think I prefer my veggies of this type hot, as a general rule. Others at the table had no such qualms, however, and they did not go to waste!

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Our duck exception, and it was exceptional! The duck was perfection, crispy outside, still rosy inside, and served with mustard greens, red curry, and some kaffir lime yogurt that makes me want to go back and ask for the recipe.

Now I know that at this point you might be thinking, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HAGGIS?” Fear not, my lovelies, for it was ordered and it was eaten. I didn’t get it as my personal entree because two other folks at the table were getting it and I wanted to make sure we had our culinary bases covered (though I needn’t have worried, two other folks ordered the sassitch!).
Here she is:
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A few words about the Haven’s haggis, before I give my thoughts. First, rather than a sheep’s stomach, they use a beef sausage casing. Secondly, they forgo the pesky, only-recently-legal lungs in the filling,though the heart and kidneys are still present. Finally, they serve it with a Drambuie butter, which maybe the tastiest damned thing that’s happened to butter in many a year. I think I may need to make some of my own to keep around the house and spread on everything.

And so, my thoughts – fantastic. The filling ends up being soft and rich, with the strong flavor of the heart coming through. Served on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes and rutabaga, this was a perfect winter food.

All of this was washed down with a Kelpie Seaweed Ale, a Scottish chocolate ale brewed with bladderwrack seaweed. Think chocolate with a bit of brininess. Tasty, and low-alcohol enough to go well with dinner – plus I really loved the label!
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The great thing about dinner with 9 people is that you almost always have room for dessert, because you’re sharing nearly everything and eating tiny, tapas-like amounts of it all. Even better, if you’re lucky, with 9 people it is totally reasonable to order EVERY DESSERT ON THE MENU and eat the round-robin style. If you have never had such an experience I highly recommend grabbing 8 other people and finding a spot that carries 4-5 dessert options. You will not regret this.
We ate:
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A deep-fried Mars Bar! Way better than any of us had expected it to be, mostly because it was lightly sprinkled with sea salt, which the ladies at the table figured would make nearly any dessert appealing to us, but also because it was all melty and warm inside, and the coating was crisper and tastier than I, for one, was expecting.

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A tart of lemon curd, scented with rosemary smoke. This was the most flamboyant dish, coming as it did with elements that were on fire. You can pretty much always impress with open flame tableside. The taste was also fantastic, however, like a lemon square that had upgraded from the church bake sale and learned to be fancy.

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This is cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert similar to a parfait – layers of fruit, whipped cream, and whiskey are topped with toasted oatmeal. The fruit in ours was, as is seasonally appropriate, cranberries. Valerie, upon enjoying her first spoonful of cranchan, exclaimed “I want to write poetry to this!”

However, the cranachan was soon upstaged by our last dessert, another traditional beauty. Alas, due to the dark, my photo hardly does her justice:
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That is sticky toffee pudding, and that is pure joy on a plate. Imagine a rich, moist sponge cake enrobed in the thickest, darkest toffee sauce possible. The taste is burnt sugar molasses goodness. If you put sea salt on top of it might possibly die right at the table. Upon biting into this, Valerie was moved to say, “If I wanted to write poetry to that, this I want to eat in the back seat of my car!” Her sister, Elise, then summed it up thus: “[Cranachan] is who you take on a nice date, to dinner. Sticky toffee pudding is who you call up after when you didn’t get any.”

Here at Adventures in Food we like to keep it classy.

The waitress, who really was an absolute delight, did us one last favor and took a picture of the whole group:
Hats!
It is painfully obvious who did and did not skip the hat portion of our day, but we love you guys anyway!

A big thank you to the delightful staff of The Haven, who put up with a rotating number of people, our ridiculously early selves, and a very large party with grace and charm. I can’t wait to go back and try their brunch!

Best Brownies Ever

Well, maybe that’s a bit subjective. But I thought they were pretty good, and since other people seemed to like them, I figured I’d share the recipe here!

The other sad truth is that I have lots of other things to write about – weird fruit/vegetables given to me by the intrepid Smalerie, a garden update, and edible flowers! However, I need pictures of these things, or in some cases MORE pictures of them, or a bit more research done than I have time for today, and I really wanted to get a post up! Besides, it seems like forever since I wrote about something other than vegetables, and while I love vegetables (I wouldn’t keep writing about them, otherwise!) I thought it was time for a change.

So, brownies! I will never forget the first time my sister Kate and I made brownies, when we were kids. My mother was away, I think in the hospital, actually, although why that was escapes me. It’s entirely possible she was busy having one of our other sisters, since we have two more. In any case, our Papa was coming over for a visit, and my dad let us “bake” a batch of brownies. In reality, of course, this mostly involved pouring the mix out of a box and stirring all of the ingredients together – we were too young to actually operate the oven. Unfortunately, the timer must not have gone off, and we lost track of time, because when we took the brownies out they were as hard as rocks! We were crushed – what would we serve to Papa now? Luckily, Dad had a solution – he told us they were “dunking brownies” and would go well with a cup of coffee. I’m not sure whether they were actually even edible – if we’d made some sort of chocolate biscotti or just straight up paving stones – but everyone was very polite about them, and it was good enough.

So those were the WORST brownies I’d ever made – though I’ll have to admit they were far from the only duds. For some reason brownies, a very simple bar cookie indeed, eluded me for years. I kept wanting them to taste like my mother’s – she always made them out of a box but they were PERFECT – shiny on the top, with a fudgy center, but since I insisted on NOT using box mix mine kept coming out cakey and frankly, not all that chocolatey – acceptable as a dessert, but not RIGHT. Not BROWNIES.

And then I found this recipe.

Go ahead, click the link – I’ll wait. You’ll see the answer to my dilemma in the note above the recipe.

Oh, what the heck, I’ll quote it for ya:
Cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top “crust” of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate.

My problem all those years, with all of those recipes, is that they had called for actual chocolate!

In addition, I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to under-bake, with brownies. Cooking all the way to done will get you those “dunking” brownies of my youth, or at the very least a dry, unappealing brownie.

Most recently, I adjusted this recipe for a cook-out some fabulous friends threw, adding a few goodies like a tablespoon of instant coffee, for greater richness, and replacing some of the regular cocoa powder with Mexican hot chocolate from Dagoba. Mexican hot chocolate is made with cinnamon and chili powder, so it adds just the right amount of kick – brownies that go to 11! (I just replace those extra 2 tablespoons) Finally, those walnuts are NOT optional in my book – they are necessary to break up the sweetness of brownies!

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That batch was a winner – deep and fudgy and just a tiny bit spicy!

Do any of you have a simple dessert that eludes you? Did you conquer it?

Chocolate Cream Adventures

I’ve been thinking a lot about chocolate cream pie lately, and would like to convince all of you to, as well! But before I do that, have any of you visited Travel, Eat, Love today? Guess who’s the Featured Friday Foodie this week!

Ok, it probably wasn’t too hard to guess. I want to thank Meghan for the chance to yak about myself on her blog. And if you’re coming over here from over there, thank you! I hope you enjoy it!

In the picture of me on Meghan’s blog you can see that I am hilariously about to take a huge bite out of a pumpkin pie, a strange pictorial tradition that my sister Kate and I started for no real reason other than that it amuses us. If you check out my Flickr page you can find scores of pictures of her and me, pretending to lick baked goods. I didn’t say it was a clever joke, but it’s a thing. I bring it up now because that picture is from the housewarming party of Mr. Menace and myself, the theme of which was wine and pie, and while sadly none of them are in that particular picture, it was for that very party that I made my first ever chocolate cream pie.
Chocolate Cream Pie

To be honest, pudding’s not my all-time favorite food, and so I’d never really bothered before. Besides, how interesting can a one-crust, no bake pie really be? But Mr. Menace is a big fan of this pie, and requested it specifically. How could I refuse him? He’s not usually a sweets fanatic, so I know when he asks for something that it must be very special indeed.

And it turns out that chocolate cream pie, while still not my favorite pie to eat (it’s ok, but it just can’t compete with my precious, precious apple), might be my all time favorite pie to make, because making pudding from scratch is ridiculously fun.

I sense your skepticism. Perhaps you’re thinking of things that are considerably more fun than making pudding, and I understand. We all take our joy where we can find it. But for me, watching sugar, eggs, milk and chocolate come together from disparate ingredients into a cohesive whole is magical – particularly when you go from this:
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where the chocolate just won’t blend into the rest of it and you think you’re going to have a weird, gritty failure, to this:
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Smooth, creamy, and making a total mess out of your stove! Amazing!

Since that party I’ve made the pie on occasion, usually for Thanksgiving or by request for an event. Two weeks ago, however, I was suddenly struck by the urge to make one for no real reason other than the thrill of pie baking.

That pie was something of a departure, because I usually use bittersweet chocolate, but having run out, threw in semisweet chips instead. They melted like a dream and the resulting pie, while shockingly sweet, was actually quite good. Slathered in homemade whipped cream and wrapped into a flaky crust, it was the perfect sort of sugarbomb treat for a chilly winter afternoon.
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The semisweet chips have me pondering other alternations I could make to the recipe – almond extract instead of vanilla? Perhaps a Mexican chocolate variation? What effect would different levels of cacao have? I have a feeling that our chocolate cream adventures are only beginning!