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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Traditional French Fluffy Almond Sponge Cake - Financier aux amandes

A financier is another one of those things that I had heard of, but never actually seen or tasted before I made it myself.  I had heard of chefs making financiers, whatever that was, and people made it sound so delicious, but I was skeptical.  I like the nice, moist style of cakes that I would argue that we Americans do better than Europeans.  The European sponge-y style of say, the genoise, or the panetela is just not my thing.  Dry, airy sponge cakes will never be my fancy, no matter how much fat they pack into them.  Financiers, however, are different.  How did I know?  I looked at the ratio of fat to dry ingredients, as well as the absence of egg yolks, which was awesome.  The high percentage of yolks is what creates the dry sponge cake texture that I typically try to avoid in my kitchen.

After looking at a few yummy recipes in my Desserts Festifs cookbook by Sylvie Ait-Alie that I ordered on Amazon France (thank you, global marketplace), I decided that a financier actually looked like the perfect dessert endeavor for my weekend.  I did not, however, opt to use a recipe from this book, as these are fancier cakes that use financiers as the base.  I just wanted to try the basic financier first to ensure that I would like it before I made a more fanciful creation down the road.

After Googling some recipes in French, this is a translation of the recipe I used.  The result was the perfect, dainty little cake with a beautiful golden crust, and an other-worldy soft and fluffy interior.  The texture reminds me more of a moist chiffon cake than a sponge cake, although technique-wise, it is a sponge.  Because of all of the egg whites, there is no need for leavening, and the almond and brown butter provide enough flavor that vanilla is unnecessary.  This cake is characterized by a light almond flavor and a nutty background flavor, thanks to the brown butter.  Simple, easy-to-make, and delightful, this cake is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your next brunch, tea party, or elegant shower.  Take advantage and take it to the next level using a variety cute mini brioche pans, mini loaf pans, or diamond shaped mini loaf pans for added elegance.

Financier aux amandes


50g white AP flour
50g almond flour*
130g powdered sugar

4 egg whites
70g butter

*You can make this yourself using chopped skin-on almonds, chopped blanched almonds, or slivered almonds ground into a uniform flour in the blender, coffee grinder, or food processor.  Simply sift and re-process any chunks that do not pass through the strainer.

1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease pans well with shortening.

2. Chop butter into pieces and melt in a small sauce pot over medium-low to medium heat.  Allow to continue boiling until a light golden brown color is achieved.  Swirl the pan occasionally throughout this process.  If any bits form at the bottom of the pan, be sure to strain them out well.

3. Using a fork or a whisk, blend together the AP flour, almond flour, and powdered sugar.  Set aside.

4. Beat in egg whites with an electric mixer until well-blended.

5. Once butter is browned, allow to cool slightly before using electric mixer to incorporate into batter.

6. Bake cakes for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the edges and cake begins to separate from the sides of pan.  Cake is done once it passes spring test, but you may brown further, if desired.

7. Remove cake from pan immediately after baking and allow to cool.  This is not the type of cake that you want to taste while hot, as it will taste eggy.  This taste will dissipate once the cake has cooled.  Cool completely and enjoy :).

I think next time I will add in some lemon zest and almond flavoring to create a bolder flavor, as the cake already tastes like vanilla.  The cake has a simple tastiness to it, as is.

add some lemon zest, add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, add 1/2 tsp almond extract, add a combination of extracts, drop sliced almonds over the top of each cake before baking, top with sweetened fresh berries before baking

References: --video recipe

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Smoky and Zesty Cameroonian (Central African) Beef Kabobs/ Brochettes a la camerounaises

I love Cameroonian food!  I love the deep, smoky, spunky flavor of the grilled meats with the sweet plantains, the everything!  The blend of ginger, garlic, onion along with tomatoes and hot peppers give Cameroonian food its unforgettable punch.  I have loved it and I have dreamed of recreating the delectable Central African flavors at home from the time I tried this lovely cuisine at the old Roger Miller restaurant that was once in Silver Spring, MD.  I was finally able to get my hands on some great recipes.  Although I searched for good recipes before, to no avail, I never thought to search in French.  Hello!  I had much better luck this time.

Below is one of the first Cameroonian recipes that I tried at home.  It is super easy to make and you can do it with things that you likely already have in your kitchen.  The flavor is deep, smoky, not-too-spicy, and has the perfect bite from the vinegar.  You'd never recognize the cayenne.  The blend of spices creates a delicious flavor that you and your family won't forget!

Cameroonian Beef Kabobs/ Brochettes a la camerounaises
1 lb beef (cut into bite-sized pieces) (use a cut that is good for kabobs)
1 white or vidalia onion
1 TB fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic
2 chopped tomatoes or 1/2 can tomatoes in tomato sauce
1/4c apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 TB oil

1. Blend all marinade ingredients into a homogeneous paste with a mortar and pestle or in the blender.  You do not want any chunks.

2. Pour marinade over meat and allow to marinate under refrigeration for a minimum of three hours, but ideally overnight.

3. Grill along with chopped onion and bell peppers on skewers that have been soaked in water for at least an hour (prevents burning).  Don't forget to brush your veggies with oil so that they cook nicely.  Enjoy :).


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mmm, mmm Delicious Creamed Corn

I absolute love old Southern food.  It makes me feel so comforted.  I feel in touch with my past by cooking the foods of my ancestors.  I can almost see my great grandmother standing over the stove cooking the same dishes for her family.  There is something so intimate about sharing your history through food.  

Creamed corn is an old-fashioned Southern favorite in every sense.  It uses ingredients easily found locally with simple flavors that pack a huge punch.  It's a amazing what a little bacon grease can do.  I added in the bite of cayenne, and it makes all the difference!  This is not intended to be a sweet creamed corn, although those versions exist too.  This is a smoky creamed corn with a spicy bite in the background, and just enough sugar to enhance the corn flavor, not mask it.

6 ears of corn*
2 TB bacon grease (no subs!)
1/2c  of water **
1/2 - 3/4c milk
1 rounded tsp sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
generous amount of salt and pepper to taste
2 TB flour

*or about 3 cups or less of frozen corn.  No canned!
**If using frozen corn, use water reserved from briefly boiling corn to thaw.


1. Scrape off corn kernels, if using fresh corn.  If using frozen corn, cover corn with water in  a pan and bring to a boil, uncovered.  Boil for 3 minutes to thaw.

2. Heat a pan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, blend together milk, water, flour, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Stir in corn.

3. Once pan is hot, add oil.  Once oil is hot, pour in corn mixture.

4. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring very frequently to prevent sticking or clumping.  If the mixture becomes too thick, simply add additional milk or water.

5. Towards the end of the cooking time, taste and adjust seasoning as appropriate.

6. Serve with another old-fashioned Southern favorite, such as pork chops, fried chicken, pork neck bones, navy bean soup, or anything else your heart may desire.  Yum, yum, yum!

Cuban Style Churros *Churros Cubanos*

Living in Miami, churros were one of those very special iconic treats.  Although churro shops were a dime a dozen, nothing is like a good Cuban churro, the best of which everyone knows is found only at King's Ice Cream on Calle 8.  Go figure.  King's is a Cuban style ice cream spot known more for it's churros than anything else.  I was a sucker for the churros with guava sauce, yum, yum, YUM!

King's is one of those old school spots that has been there since the beginning of time.  As they say is the case in most places in Cuba, they have kept everything original at this Miami mainstay, right down to the churro machine and the water fountain.  King's isn't the prettiest place on the block; in fact, you'd walk right by it without thinking twice, but anyone who lives in Miami knows that it's the place to go in Little Havana for some great churros.

Here's a recipe that I found for traditional Cuban style churros.  This style of churros is nothing like the Mexican version.  They are more airy and have a thinner crisp than their Mexican cousins, much akin to the traditional Spanish churro.  I think they are far superior in texture and, ironically, they contain almost no added fat in the batter.  They're simple, easy-to-make, and absolutely delicious.  Make this easy yet impressively delicious treat for your friends and family, and they're sure to disappear!

Churros cubanos

1c flour
1c water  (some people will use water and half milk)
1/2 tsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
just enough oil for deep frying
granulated sugar for dusting
1 pastry bag or large ziplock with the corner snipped out.
a 1M decorating tip (very cheap and at any craft or baking store)

1. Heat oil over med high heat, 390F, if you have a thermometer.

2.  In a separate pot, place water, butter, and salt in a pot and allow it to  reach a rapid boil.

3. Once water is at a rapid boil, add in all of the flour at once, remove pan from heat and stir mixture briskly with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough is achieved.  The dough will be very thick, so your arms may tire quickly.

4.  Insert tip in piping bag, load it up with dough (not more than 1/2 to 3/4 for optimal control) 

5. Begin piping churros onto a plate in prep for frying.

6.  Once oil is very hot, carefully lift churros off of plate and fry until light golden brown, being sure not to overcrowd pot.

7. Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar and serve immediately.

8. Serve with chunky strawberry glaze or traditional hot chocolate sauce, if desired, or enjoy with just sugar.  Yum!

*Yields about 20 medium length churros, enough for 3or 4 people


Monday, April 1, 2013

Chunky Strawberry Glaze for Cakes and Pastry

Ever go to the supermarket and see that strange, fruitless, "strawberry" glaze near the strawberry section in the produce aisle?  Well, it's weird folks, just weird--looks weird, tastes weird, smells weird.  It's weird.  Anyhow, it's so easy to make your own, so why not!  It's cheap, easy, versatile, and a true crowd pleaser.  Drizzle it over bunt cakes or ice cream, use it as a filling for a layer cake, or even a donut.  You can even use it to top unsweetened plain yogurt for an amazing breakfast or afternoon treat!  Yum, yum, yum!  Well, here it is, homemade strawberry glaze.  Enjoy!

 Chunky Strawberry Glaze


2-1/2c washed and hulled strawberries, mashed with a potato masher
1 c water
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice, lime juice, or 2 tsp cointreau or triple sec (optional)
2 rounded tsp cornstarch
1. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, and being sure to taste for sweetness.

2. In the last few minutes of cooking, add two rounded teaspoons of cornstarch to a mug and whisk in cool water to form a slurry.  Once homogeneous, stir into hot strawberry mixture.  Bring to a boil for a few more minutes.

3. Remove from heat and stir in add in 1/2 cup chopped or sliced strawberries.  The result should be almost like a looser preserves.  When used to top cakes, it cascades just slightly over the sides to create an elegant effect without being too runny.

4. Enjoy this delicious topping over cheesecake, angel food cake, chiffon cake, or any other pastry or cake that could use a fresh fruit kick.

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