Friday, September 5, 2014

Vanilla Nutella panna cotta

Let me get the obvious out of the way before you wonder if its audacity or just plain memory loss that work into my explanation of near abandoning my already erratic meet ups with you. It could be that I truly was just out. Not of station. Perhaps of mind. Ahem.. let's not delve too deep into that. But believe when I say the gratitude is deep, for you being the Faithful, checking up this page as regularly as I should have done. I know. It's too deep a shame.

Since also, we've experienced my absenteeism in the past, I understand you should not be met with  my often overdramatized life and the the tidal wave of slack I work in its midst. Neither must you hear the difficulties of powering through twenty DVR episodes, racing time so you make it soon enough to catch at least one of the kids from school. Nope. None of that here.

In spite, the one thing I must bring to your attention, is that, though an actual published page has not been effectuated of recent, a thriving yet-to-be known archive is growing to giant beanstalk levels. Yup. Unfinished and resplendent pagestobe; among which wait for One Right Visual, just maybe a  few decents(?), or lack the Ta-Da opener, sometimes even proper ingredient wording. These chronicles, bereft of one or all of the few mentioned features, are still waiting to see the light of blogger day. Thereby, while I thank you for the patience exercised in staying tuned, know that you will be rewarded, with newer uploads pushing through, albeit in slow motion.

So, for the matter at hand, and before another session of procrastination hits, shall we move on?

Today's subject recipe can easily top the list of Aaahhhmazing (linguistic stress totally intentional) Desserts of All Time. Mainly for the ease in its making, but not withholding its extremely accommodating nature as well.
What is it? Well, one that's wonderfully brilliant, in that it demonstrates how luxe taste can be achieved in less than an hour, requiring very few storage staples, sans all the pesky, numerous steps conventionally requisite of Great Desserts. It's when David Lebowitz goes at length on its overall delightful benefits, you forgo everything and pay attention.

I'm explaining cooked cream that's put into a higher than all perspective, something we should thank the Tuscan region of Italy for. This is panna cotta. A blend of one or many kinds of dairy- cream, milk, could be full, varying percents, skim, a pour/splash of half and half- that are elemental choices enabling for panna cotta to reach a destiny of soft, buttery pudding or thickly luxe like custard formation. These being the dependent variables (vocab results of reviewing my 5th grader for his science test) of the type of white liquid used. Silky mouthfeel, firm to touch and room for the slightest wobble are the dessert's uniform attributes, things that should result 100% of the time, despite any panna cotta recipe you try .

The love of creamy vanilla panna cotta cast glorious dreams of the newest yet(!) update charged with mentals of unadulterated, pure white cream. Then I saw this. My hope rose astronomically. Prior cooking experience telling me that dividing flavors and colors can only intensify the whole deal, making appeal to at least three of my twenty-one  senses.

Myexisting half jar of the world's favorite spreadable candy was not enough, especially since gratifying licks on opening are truly mandatory. So, in sheer glee, I utilized my limit four buy-one/get-one coupon. Life is good when you have multiple kitchen shelves lined with 13 oz. Nutella jars. 

In the quickest, most efficient lessthanfifteen I've ever experienced, my first batch of panna cotta was done and refrigerated. On the 45 minute interval for sturdying the white layer and finishing off half a movie that was tying up my malayalam matinee que, I took on same bowl and single saucepan for my chocolate layer. Heated, stirred and poured over the first, that too finished in a second's breath. It was the wait for finished product that was seemingly unbearable. Clocking in at 1 hour 45 minutes, I encountered the greatest and dreamiest cup of dairy, rich and velvety, perfect center jiggle and oh so pretty.

Panna cotta's fantastic flavor truly does belie its absolute simplicity. Sweet, satisfying and swift reinforced in each and every bite of this two-in-one sequence.

I won't crowd your thoughts with furthers of my experience. I'll let it justify itself. Observe and take notes. The Fine One has much to say.

For the love of vanilla. 
Get creative with your gelatined cream. Here, kitchen towels rolled and purposed for troublefree slants.
Nuts add texture, taste and looks.

(Thanks Pretty Little Crumbs for the inspiration
Vanilla layer~
  • ⅓ c milk
  • 1 envelope or 2 ¼ tsp powdered gelatin
  • 2 ½ c heavy cream
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Nutella layer~
  • ½ c milk
  • 1 envelope powdered or 2 ¼ tsp powdered gelatin
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • ⅓ c sugar
  • ½ c nutella
  • In a bowl, pour in the 1/3 c cold milk for the. Sprinkle gelatin over milk. After a few minutes stir to combine.
  • Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Do not to boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat.
  • Pour the gelatin and milk into the hot cream mixture. Stir to dissolve all the gelatin.
  • Add vanilla and stir.
  • Divide the pudding into oiled or buttered molds, if inverting onto plates; ramekins, or decorative goblets, glass dishes if serving as is.
  • Refrigerate and allow to semi setapproximately 45 minutes to 1 hour before starting on the Nutella layer.
  • Repeat the directions for the vanilla, sprinkling gelatin in 1/2 c milk and heating the cream mixture with sugar. Add in the Nutella to the cream mixture. Once heated and well combined, take off flame.
  • Pour the gelatin/milk into the Nutella cream.
  • Have the Nutella panna cotta cool to the touch before pouring/layering over the now firm vanilla panna cotta.
  • Refrigerate and let set for 2-4 hours before serving.
Makes approximately 8-10 assorted sized servings.

You can use full fat milk here. I use skim milk to cut some of the richness. If you prefer a thicker full-bodied pudding, swap cream/half and half for the milk.
Crumbled cashews and pistachios in my chocolate layer. To me the bite combined with the silk of spooned cream is unbeatable.
If using sheet gelatin, know that 1 packet powdered gelatin renders .25  ounces which would be around 5-6 sheets.

Today's makeshift studio and Rocky, the tireless food watch (albeit lying down and in wait of a reward). What can I say? He loves his job ;-D
"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalms 16:11 (ESV)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Homemade pastry tarts

I can honestly say that some of my greatest inspiration comes from regular TV watching. It can be mindless or purposeful, gazing at beautiful TV kitchens, complete with raging top chefs, serial marathons, as I watch back-to-backs of my DVR-may-delete shows, not to leave out the joy of cinemaviewing in my first language. It's all inspiring. As I see it, there will be food or glimpses of it, surrounded by interesting people, things, circumstances, that are often influenced or make decisions because of it. Ideas that spring from screen to mouth and then to screen. You will see this occurrence come into play as you read on.

Whilst catching up on the antics of my favorite Master Detective, on BBC's most captivating series of the century( no prizes for guessing), I beg my eyes to rewind the few scenes where crimesolving happens around coffee breaks in quaint cafes. Its super sleuthing at a greater level, when talks of gore and mystery take place over tea and what appear to be, in one episode, scones. It had me thinking in the least, on how well you can enjoy anything with the nice pastry in hand.  And since casebreaking needs to pull upon the combined knowledge of quantum physics, algebraic equation and inductive reasoning, all a fantastic shortcrust requires is a conversion/equivalents calculator and great baking skills. I believe that's a one up.

After that it was a mind summoning, to churn up butter and flour, that too with a glorious fury.

Juniors One and Two were not as captivated as I approached them casually with the "how 'bout scones(?)" idea. "What are they and how do you eat them?" Second One asked. 'The what' was explained. As to how, it was Firstchild's turn as she puts on her "naturally" fake British accent like a pair of shoes, no persuasion needed, the one who believes she could fool the Queen and in her opinion should be walking the streets of London instead of melting in desert regions of Southwest America. Herein, she effortlessly demonstrates her glottal stop, "with jam and clotted cream". An FYI, be not fooled, these two are anti-fancy fascists when it comes to food, and things likewise that demand their jurisdiction. Especially when neither knows what "clotted" means.

They do, however, reach a conclusion on how all this should be meted out, my craving to do pastry, their desire to wheedle something good from the whole deal. And agree they do in unison as wind up toys let free. One. Two. Three. Poptarts. Puhleeze. You see the stress on that last part is because they have forever desired those boxed "treats' of thousandunknowningredients. With the exception of the two times I was bullied and almost gagged, I have always said "no". Again, they try to make the decision for me, convincing Amma of the 10 box sale, and doubled coupons. These two are professionals at this, a wee bit more, and they can see me bend.
It's then that Eureka(!) moment occurs and saves. I boldly declare I can make them a set, maybe two. Further, they could art up their creations, with filling, topping, painting, any which way their heart so deems. No more deprivation. I let go of the whimsy of cream clotted scones, for now it would have to be doubled up tarts.

My enthusiasm was not matched. Faces started to sink, smiles fade. Surely they underestimate their mother's ability to best up a common, much coveted, not to mention, factory churned jam sandwich. I go on to remind, that mine won't be of "unidentified "materials.  They'll be nobler, with pure butter and flour. Super tarts. Yes, that's it. "They'll be super tarts", it's a sorry persuasion, I know, and I got  bare approval, with two half nods.

Pinterest showed me these. And these. And these. I  was sold, but indeterminate as to have this as a next up or wait for what had already progressed, a labor of love that took over three weeks of writing/testing/halting/experimenting/photographing. Do I break in the middle of that to go and bake portable pie?

Intuit told me yes, I had enough jams and spreads for a creative, filling/topping potential. And while my gut was steering this whole dialogue, it's the Today Show food segment where the guest demonstrated how you could totally copycat childhood favorites that substantiated my outcome. Pop tarts were four on the list. Sign, right? Moreover it did take me to the childhood where I actually never tasted them but relived how kids were ranting about the totally aaa-somes, this would be the era Valley Girl became an official language. I was taking it on. Homemade pastry tarts would grace this very page.

Now, we know that one of two outcomes could come about from copycatting such a well known recipe. Either it can go to epic ruins or take to transcendence, bettering off its manufactured, branded counterpart.

My first round did clearly fulfill that utter fail destiny, following most recipes with just butter, sugar, cornstarch, and the wee bit moisture involved. A lot of my findings were based on  flakey shortbread-like crust, which for me turned out way too fragile, a dough without much heft to the body, the rolling of which became painful as I had to peel apart my gluten bandaged countertop. After a few thoroughly flawed attempts, one which saw tears.  When are we ever going to eat these? I went to google again.

King Arthur Flour came to my rescue. The one recipe thus far that I'd seen where an egg was used, there be the binder to ward against frailty. Once again, I set up station, this time, to a very successful tune from start to finish. There on my granite layed rolled slabs of powerhouse dough. It withstood much rolling, cutting, rerolling, chilling and all that it was meant to overcome.

And so they baked to perfection. A transcendent buttery crisp outpart inlaid with sweet, melty innards. A  portable pie, done so right.

The two overlaps of thinned crust are outstanding in contrast to the vibrancy of fruit hued filling. That is, if that's what you're desiring. I found that preserves work well as a stand alone plumper, you get the benefit of the sweetness along with significant chunks as well. Strawberry preserves, in specific, bring a jam/shortbread reminiscent pairing. But this is the blueprint where where you could freehand your own flavor composites. Pineapple preserves with a coconut, almond topping. Raspberries with lemon curd. Peach preserves topped cinnamon and brown sugar. NUTELLA. Its whatever can be and must spin your orbit.

Mind you, this toaster tart doesn't have the the near yield of a factory turned pack. But owing to Flaked Golden's superior nature, I assure you, this will not be the end.

No more convincing needed here. These were well worth the unsuccesses and several times my oven generated heat for them. Better yet, horizon looks lofty and promising for the two Resident Pastrypop GazerAddicts, who claim they have reformed and" will never glance at those boxes again".

So shall this mother dream.

 18 cuts which makes 9 tart sandwiches.
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Tasty Toaster Tarts)
For the crust~
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp milk

For the filling~
  • ½ cup any fruit flavored preserves/jam/nutella
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (to seal edges)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsp milk

  • colored jimmies, sugars, nuts, coconut
  • In a food processor or with wire whisk, mix or pulse together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt. Stop and add butter. Pulse together 8-10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Alternatively you could use a fork or pastry blender. 
  • Stir the egg and milk together. Add into the food processor and pulse for an additional 5-8 turns, till it is barely incorporated. Turn dough out on to countertop, with remaining 2 tbsp flour and knead till dough comes just together, but is smooth.
  • Shape the dough into two disks, each  less than 1-inch thick. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 1 day. Once chilled, bring out one disk to flour dusted surface and bring to a semisoft condition, almost  room temperature .
  • Roll out the disk (leaving the other in the fridge)  to a thickness of ⅛ inch, and length/width of 9×12".  Trim off edges. Using a ruler score in thirds lengthwise and widthwise.  Repeat what you did to the first.
  • Recombine, rechill and reroll the dough as and when necessary.  
  • Lightly grease or line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or Silpat.  
  • Place the first set of rectangles on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Spread 1 tablespoon filling evenly over each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch edge free of jam around the perimeter. With your finger or a small pastry brush, run a line of the beaten egg around the jam-free perimeter of each strawberry-covered rectangle. Cover each rectangle with one of the plain (the second set) rectangles and press the edges firmly together to seal. Use the tines of a fork to score the edges over the seal and also prick the tops of the tarts to let out steam. Refrigerate and preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Take chilled tarts out and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, a barely golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Meanwhile whisk the ingredients for the icing together. 
  • Spread cooled tarts with icing and sprinkle with additional toppings.
Advice from K.A. Flour: 
When rolling out the large rectangle, lay a 9×13" sheet pan over the dough as a guide. Sprinkle trimmings with cinnamon sugar and bake them while your tarts set aside to cool.

I actually got 8 per disk, maybe my measuring went off, since I'm not geometrically inclined. Ideally it will yield 9 3×4 rectangles.

Chill, chill, chill. Especially if you work in intrepid heat conditions like I do here. My kitchen, around 7 months of the year is the inferno. Rolling and assembling in quick pace helps as well as placing idle dough into the fridge or freezer at intervals. May lengthen production time, but you will see the results are totally worth this extra bit of effort.

If not using immediately, freeze tarts, until they harden up and store in freezer bags or between sheets of parchment in airtight freezer friendly containers. You can toast them in a toaster oven or bake them as and when needed.
Strawberry jam for one. Nutella for the other. 
Merci beaucoup750 Grammes, the French food magazine, that featured my fish taco recipe and photograph within its very esteemed pages. It was a privilege and honor and I am very much humbled. More so that I couldn't read my own recipe, I'd need a translator to read me the French. No worries, since I wrote the contents, I'm pretty sure it is the grilled version of the my tacos here. Also much gratitude goes to that sweet editor of Gourmandize, Gitanjali Roche, I so appreciate your budge, nudge, push and shove, forcing me out of snail mode, from time to time, so especially in this regard ;-D
Then to you, friends, and readers who thumb, browse and take it all in, I am truly grateful for all your 207, 083 visits. 

To my greatest inspirer, Jesus, my heart, mind and soul be. He is the breather of ideas who puts my  thoughts into words. He resets my focus, purposes my step and brings meaning to everything in my life. It is to Him, my All in All, that I am forever indebted. 

 "It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)