Saturday, December 17, 2016

Turrón torró torrone turrone torrão turon or nougat

I know, it's been a long time. But I was making Torrone in the company of dear LuLu (Louise de Carrone, infamous chef, coffee pusher, culinary instructor) via text while making Torrone (she's clearly Italian, so we'll go with the Italian name of this confection.) Visit

"Of course I'll give you the recipe," I say, but on my severely neglected blog. A guy gets busy. So here we go. I've learned to dislike narrative recipe blogs. I'll cut to the chase.

Torrone, Turron, Nougat

Cornstarch for work surface
Edible rice paper (if you've got it, don't sweat it if you don't)
3 large egg whites
1 cup honey
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (powdered)
2 cups shelled pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts...

If you have edible rice paper, place one piece on bottom of 9x13 pan. Reserve the other piece for the top.

I you DON"T have rice paper, knead the nougat in the cornstarch a bit longer to avoid sticking.
  • Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, add the confectioners' sugar and whisk to stiff peaks.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the honey and granulated sugar. Place over medium heat and bring to 315 degrees.
  • Remove pan from heat and stir to bring temperature down to 300 degrees.
  • Back to the egg whites: turn on the mixer. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour honey down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick and sticky.
  • Turn mixer back down and add the nuts.
  • Using an oiled bowl scraper or spatula, "pour" the mixture onto a cornstarch-covered surface. Knead about 5 turns, a couple more if you don't have rice paper.  
  • Stretch and roll into a 9-13 inch pan.
  • Let cool slightly and then cut into 1x1 inch pieces using a chef's knife that you have sprayed with non-stick spray or wiped with a lightly oiled piece of paper towel.
  • Store in an air tight container with parchment between layers for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, November 12, 2015



Taralli are ring shaped Italian snacks, common in southern Italy. A cracker similar in texture to a breadstick or a pretzel, taralli can be sweet or savory. Like Biscotti, Taralli are meant to be dipped, but wine rather than coffee.

There are many variations to the Taralli recipe. Some are made with lard, some with black pepper. Some are coated with toasted chopped almonds before baking. Some Taralli are sweet with lemon zest baked into the dough and sprinkle of sugar after they enjoy the hot water bath. Sounds like heaven to me!
I've been playing with recipes. One recipe, a taralle (singular) that was leavened with yeast and low in fat. The taralle was drier, like a breadstick. The other was a bit more like a biscotti, slightly chewier. No yeast, but enriched with eggs and butter. The informal consensus leaned towards the chewier, richer taralle. The procedure is basically the same, except the yeasted taralli needed some rising time. The ingredients were very different.

Taralli #1

Chewier, richer

Yield: 32 Taralli

3 Tablespoons Fennel Seed (12 g)
4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature (133g)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. sugar (85g)
5 eggs (250 g)
3 Tbsp. white wine (42 g)
1/2 tsp. anise oil (2 g)
5 cups bread flour (or Italian "00" would be nice) (600 g)
1 tsp. kosher salt

Using a rolling pin, or mortar and pestle, crush the fennel seeds.

Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, wine, and anise oil and mix.

With the mixer on low, add the flour, salt and seeds and mix on medium until the dough is smooth, no lumps.

Cover the bowl and allow the dough to relax for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fill a large pan with at least 3" of water and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.

Divide the dough in half, then quarter, then each quarter into 8 small pieces. Once divided, cover the dough with a towel, or a baking dish. The dough dries out quickly.

Take one piece of dough at a time and roll it into a 12" long snake. Pinch the ends together and pull into an oval.

Once one taralle is shaped (you don't need to shape them all at once) place it into the simmering water. It will sink. IN the mean time, shape another taralle, and then another, and then another and add them to the hot-tub. If needed, loosen the taralle from the bottom of the pool with a spatula, and let it rise to the top. Once it has risen, remove it and let it cool down on a towel, or a cooling rack.

Bake the taralli on a parchment lined baking sheet until browned, about 30 minutes.

Cool and eat. I found that as they cooled, the flavor and texture improved. Don't be hasty!


Taralli #2

Yield: 32 taralli

2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
1 cup white wine, warmed to about 100 degrees
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp anise oil
3 1/2 cups flour

Crack the fennel seeds using a rolling pin or a mortar and pestle.

Proof the yeast in the wine until bubbly and slimy. Yes, feel the yeasty wine. It should be smooth and slimy.

Stir in the olive oil, anise oil and salt. Stir to dissolve the salt.

Add most of the flour, not all, but most and combine to make a rough dough.

Using the remaining flour as your "dusting flour" knead the dough until smooth.

Set the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let rest until soft and slightly risen.

Divide the dough in half, then quarter, then each quarter into 8 small pieces. Once divided, cover the dough with a towel, or a baking dish. The dough dries out quickly.

Take one piece of dough at a time and roll it into a 12" long snake. Pinch the ends together and pull into an oval.

Place the shaped taralli onto a lightly oil baking sheet to proof (rise) until nearly doubled, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Fill a large pan with at least 3" of water and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.

Once the taralli have proofed, place them into the simmering water. Don't crowd the pan. They may sink, but will probably float. If needed, loosen the taralle from the bottom of the pool with a spatula, and let it rise to the top. Cook in the simmering water for about a minute. Remove them and let them cool down on a towel, or a cooling rack.

Bake the taralli on a parchment lined baking sheet until browned, about 30 minutes.

Cool and eat. I found that as they cooled, the flavor and texture improved. 

Ready? GO!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015



Take your time, take it easy

I love making croissants; the process, the results... It's an art and a delicacy. When I teach croissant making it's often heard "here's what the recipe says, here's what I do." Dear students, I'm about to clear this up in writing.
18 ounces milk (2 1/4 cups)
27 ounces (by weight) of all purpose flour (1 pound 11 ounces)
2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 pound unsalted butter, COLD, always COLD (plugras is always nice, "more fat")
First we make the detrempe:
  • Heat the milk JUST to body temperature, maybe a little above. It shouldn't feel hot, it can be cooler (cool or cold prolongs the experience, but you may want to do that.)
  • While the milk is heating measure out your flour and add the salt.
  • Once the milk is just perfect, add the yeast and sugar to the milk. Stir to combine. You're starting to feed your yeast, hungry little buggers, they're eager for both the lactose and the sugar. They'll eat and eat and then pass a lot of gas. We want that.
  • Check with your fingers, go ahead, to see that the yeast is dissolved and let it start making bubbles just to make sure it has come alive.
  • Add the milk to the flour mixture and stir just to combine, make sure there are no dry spots of flour in the bowl.
  • Cover this and put it in your refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, but until the next day is even better. You're allowing fermentation, the gluten fibers to relax, and hydration. You're creating FLAVOR!
  • You've now made Detrempe.
A happy detrempe creator
Next, beurrage.
  • Dust your work surface with an ample amount of dusting flour.
  • Pat out your dough into a tall rectangle, say 18-20 inches tall be say 10-12 inches wide.
  • Using a bench scraper or a knife cut shingles of butter about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
  • Place the butter over the bottom 2/3 of the dough.
  • Fold the butterless top part of the dough over the middle third, then turn that over the bottom third. You've now complete a letter fold. Get it? Remember when we used to write letters?
  • Turn the dough so it's a tall rectangle with the folded "binding" on the, say, left side and roll that out so it's a taller rectangle. It'll be at first a bit tricky because of the massive amount of butter. But go forth, carry on, roll in peace. You're about to develop ABS of STEAL!
  • Do another letter fold. Turn the dough so it's tall and proud, you've now completed beurrage. But you're not done.
  • Roll out the dough again into a tall rectangle, do another letter fold.
  • Turn the dough, roll it out again, do another letter fold. By this time your gluten is beginning to feel pissed of. Let it relax. Place the dough, now call a PATON into a gallon size zip-lock bag, put it in the refrigerator and go have a cup of coffee.
  • I let the dough sit and relax for AT LEAST two hours but prefer over night until the next day; flavor people, flavor.

paton, abs of steal

  • Remove your paton from the refrigerator, remove it from the bag, it will be filled with air (gas), gently encourage the paton to relieve itself of this gas.
  • With the spine of the letter on one side, roll the dough out into a (you got it) a tall rectangle. Do a letter fold.
  • Turn it and roll it out again. Do a letter fold.
  • Return it to the zip-lock. Return it to the refrigerator. Go for a walk.
Later that day
  • Repeat what you did above. Including the putting back in the refrigerator part.
Rolling, and rolling
The Final Day, ready to make croissants?
  • Put on some nice classical music, Bach is nice. Or French cafe music, but don't put on a beret. That's going too far.
  • Remove your paton from the refrigerator and the zip-lock bag.
  • On a well floured surface, roll your paton out into a 30x20" (total guesstimating here, do I really measure?)
  • Feel the surface of the dough, nice huh?
  • Using a pizza wheel, cut the sheet of pastry into either triangles (for croissant) or rectangles (for "pain au...")

  • To do this NATHAN, (a student who had his on rouge ideas) turn the sheet of dough to "landscape view" (not portrait)
  • Cut the dough in half horizontally across the middle.
  • Mark "A, B, C, D..." by cutting little marks in the dough.
  • To make croissants, cut from A to B, B to C, C to D, check out the diagram:

  • To make "pain au..." for chocolate, or ham and cheese, or... simply cut straight across from say F to F, and G to G...
  • Fill with your favorite fillings, roll and place on a sheet pan with parchment paper or silicone mats leaving plenty of room for your creations to PROOF.
  • To proof your croissants, place them in a warm (NOT HOT, not above 100 degrees) spot covered. You can place a pan of hot TAP water into your cold oven, and keep the croissants in there. Or, place the sheet pan of croissants in a large garbage bag and put them in a warm spot. Proof until the little guys feel like marshmallows, soft but not flabby.
  • Preheat your oven to 380 degrees or so. Egg wash and bake around 20 minutes or until they're nice a brown.

A student egg washing under my discerning eye

  •  Eat and enjoy with coffee
Ready? GO!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tarte Salée, move over quiche

I'll say it, I don't like Quiche. I like scrambled, poached, fried, hard boiled, soft boiled eggs but I don't like quiche. I know, real men love quiche... oh, bad argument. While looking for French recipes for a party I'm feeding, I stumbled on Tarte Salée; basically a quiche but richer, taller, and more French (meaning richer, unabashedly richer).

Next topic, pizza. My favorite dessert pizza is a pear - blue cheese pizza with a drizzle of honey. Combine the pizza with the Tarte, boom. We've arrived.

This recipe serves eight. Don't let the photo frighten you. I made the recipe times 5 to feed a crowd.


Tarte Salée with Ham, Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Pear

Serves 8
I've adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz's recipe found in My Paris Kitchen
Hardware: You'll need a spring-form pan or a deep cake pan.
Crust (Don't be afraid, but if you are, you could... you could... use a store bought pie crust... but this recipe would fill probably two pie crusts and not be as cool. A deep cake pan would work, but I would place some strips of parchment paper in the pan before adding the tart dough, making it easier to lift out of the pan.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz. (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, cut into long strips, rings, or diced
salt and freshly cracked pepper and maybe some Aleppo pepper, or hot pepper flakes
1 large pear, peeled and cut into small cubes. I used a spiral corer and cutter.
1 cup diced roasted ham (or boiled will do)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or if you'd like to cut the fat just a bit, half and half or even not very French milk)
8 oz. cream cheese (Neufchatel will again cut a bit of fat)
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
Chopped chives
  • Combine flour, cornmeal and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or food processor.
  • Add cold, cubed butter and blend to a point where you see crumbles or flakes of butter. Don't over blend.
  • Add the egg and while processor or mixer is running.
  • Dump out contents and pull it together. Create a disc of dough, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. The biggest mistake people make with tart/pie dough is over mixing or letting ingredients become too warm.
  • Roll chilled dough into a large, thin circle and place in pan. Being an enriched dough (egg) you can patch any cracks or holes.
  • Refrigerate while you proceed with the filling.
  • Preheat Oven to 375 F
  • in a Dutch oven or large pot sauté onion with some salt, pepper, and maybe some pepper flakes in the olive oil until softened.
  • Add pears and ham, stir and remove from heat. Allow to cool.
  • In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat cream cheese to softened a bit and then add cream, nutmeg, eggs and yolks until well combined.  
  • Scoop onion, pear, ham mixture into your chilled tart shell.
  • Sprinkle blue cheese on top.
  • Pour egg custard on top.
  • Sprinkle top with chives.
  • If using a spring-form pan, wrap foil around the bottom of the pan before baking to prevent spillage.
  • Bake until top is browned but the filling still jiggles a bit. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.
  • Cool just until the tart firms up a bit.
  • Slice and serve.
As I always recommend, use ingredients that you like and have on hand. Apples instead of pears, bacon instead of ham, parsley instead of chives...
You can also allow the tart to cool, wrap it in foil and then plastic wrap and freeze. Make two, have one in the freezer. To bake a frozen tart:  Don't thaw, simply put it into the cold oven, and then turn up to 375°F. The quiche will thaw with the rising temperature. When your oven has reached the 400, leave your quiche in there for another 25-30 minutes. It will be just perfect.
Tart shell with filling in a spring-form pan

Pour the egg custard over the filling

Ready? GO!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

sourdough pancakes

So picture this. It's a cold, grey, snowy morning with promise of more snow over the next couple of days. You don't have to go anywhere. The house is quiet. The only color on this otherwise monochromatic morning is from Maestro Fornaio, the wood fired oven in your backyard. Oh, sorry. Got carried away. Until, until... wait for it. Sourdough pancakes, bacon, coffee!

To make these beauties you'll need a sourdough starter. There are a number of resources explaining how to "capture" the required natural yeast and lactobacillus to build and then maintain your starter. I'll list some of those at the end of this post. But let's say you have a starter, many of my friends currently do. Here's one way to make soft, flavorful, aromatic sourdough pancakes.
Yield: 8-12 pancakes
Our little adventure needs to begin the night before.

You'll need to build up your starter to create at least three of four cups of starter. I like to divide my starter into two containers 1 quart containers. This will give you room for growth and will prevent your starter from becoming too acidic. A highly acidic environment will inhibit yeast activity. So:

  • Weigh your starter.
  • Divide that into two containers.
  • Into each container add 100 grams of white flour and 120 grams of water.
  • Put the lids on the jars and let the little guys hang out over night.

The morning of
  • Weigh out 500 grams of starter into a mixing bowl. Feed the remaining starter for future use, or go ahead and start working on a boule or two.
  • Add to your starter 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use Mediterranean blend)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar or honey or (I use Maple Sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Check the consistency of our batter. If it's a little thin add a bit more flour, a little dry? Add a bit more water.
  • Place the uncovered bowl in your cool oven, turn the oven light on, place a pan of steaming hot water into the oven and let your batter hang out for about an hour. The time will fly. You can get out your toppings, syrups, butter, fry some bacon or some sausage...
  • Heat a griddle, give it a little coat of vegetable oil, a very little coat, I mean like just a thin, thin coat.
  • Pour your pancake rounds on the griddle and cook until you see bubbles on the surface and the edges begin to look dry. Flip cook until those lovelies are finished.
  • Blueberry, banana or apple pancakes? After you have poured your batter onto the griddle, place your fruit du jour in the wet batter on top.
  • If you're not requiring 8-12 pancakes, place the batter in a jar and place in the refrigerator. Use within the next couple of days, or feed with some more fresh starter, allow the batter to warm up and proof again in the nice cozy oven, with the oven light on, and a nice warm water bath next to it.
Want to create your own starter? It'll take a week or so. Here are some resources:
Classic Sourdoughs, revised: A Home Baker's Handbook  by Ed and Jean Wood, Ten Speed Press
Tartine Bread  by Chad Robertson, Chronicle Books
The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Norton & Company
Ready? GO!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Preserved Lemons

Lemons about to be preserved

It's important to always have preserved lemons around. Why? They're great on salad, great in Tagines, great in Paella, great in pasta, heaven with roasted potatoes and olives. You can make a nice spread with preserved lemons by blending them with goat's cheese, or incorporate some into you olive tapenade or basil pesto. A friend is making a Tagine tonight. I gave her my last preserved lemon. I had to. She needs it. I had 9 lemons in my refrigerator. It's a Costco thing. So, I offer you:

6 lemons

2 cups kosher salt

1 stick cinnamon

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3 dried chilies

2 T olive oil


*      Cut lemons in half and juice them.

*      Place a one-inch layer of salt on bottom of a quart-size glass jar.

*      Pack the lemons into the jar.

*      Add remaining salt, lemon juice, garlic, cinnamon sticks, chilies and or...

*      Cover with olive oil, then lid to jar.

*      Leave at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks.


When ready, fleshy part of lemon will have broken down and eaten away by salt.

*      Rinse lemons, scrape out remaining pulp.

*      Preserved rinds can now be used, or packed in olive oil for future use.

*      You may chop into 1/8 inch pieces before packing or chop in food processor.



          6 Servings


1 large head garlic

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. soft goat cheese

1 T. chopped preserved lemons (see below)

1 T. chopped fresh mint

2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley


*      Roast garlic until soft by cutting off top of bulb, drizzling with the olive oil and sprinkling with salt. Wrap loosely in foil and roast in 400 degree oven until soft.

*      Mix all other ingredients together either with a wooden spoon for a rustic spread, or in the food processor.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Boeuf Bourguignon

So, I unintentionally tortured friends recently with photos of a Boeuf Bourguignon that I prepared for a party of 40 people. Okay, as a measure of good will I said I'd post the recipe. Here it is my friends. This recipe is easily multiplied for a large crowd.
Years ago I turned to my hero Julia Child to learn about this epic dish. I've made it my own by taking a couple of measures at the end: defatting the sauce (before adding more fat back in), adding part of the wine at the end (enhances the wine flavor), and I add a bit of gelatin to the sauce. Collagen is present in the connective tissue of meat. It acts as a thickening agent. Thick sauce is my goal. I may be gilding the lily, but the additional gelatin assures a beautiful, silky sauce without changing the flavor of the dish.  
The dish was braised in my wood-fired oven. Very hot at the start (600 degrees F.). I allowed the fire to calm down as the dish continued on its journey. Usually a proponent of "low and slow" cooking I found that high temperature at the beginning contributed to a thick sauce, and nicely caramelized meat. Assuming you don't have a wood fired oven (wait, what?) I've adapted the recipe for a conventional oven.

Addition of wine and beef stock

THE oven


Serves 6


1 Tablespoon olive oil

8 oz. bacon

2.5# beef chuck, cut into cubes

Salt pepper

1 # carrots, diagonally chopped into 1” slice

1 large shallot, sliced

1 head of garlic, chopped

½ c. cognac

1 750 ml. bottle red wine

Beef broth to cover

1 T. (tablespoon) unflavored gelatin

1 T. tomato paste

Fresh thyme

Bay leaf

4 T. butter, room temperature

3 T. flour

1 # pearl onions, sautéed in butter or olive oil, and then tossed with 1 T. balsamic vinegar

1 # mushrooms, quartered and sautéed in butter or olive oil.


For serving

Rustic bread
Mashed potatoes
Chopped parsley and garlic to garnish


  • Toss beef and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  • Heat oil and add bacon. Cook until bacon is lightly browned.
  • Add meat in batches, browning and reserving.
  • After all meat is cooked and removed add carrots and shallot.
  • Cook until liquid is nearly cooked out and shallots are browning.
  • Add garlic.
  • Add cognac and ignite.
  • Add meat and juices back to pot.
  • Add 2 cups of the wine, beef broth, tomato paste, bay, thyme and gelatin.
  • Bring to a boil, cover with foil and a lid and place in 500 degree oven.
  • Braise the meat for 15 minutes and then turn oven temperature down to 300 degrees.
  • Braise for and additional 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • When meat is tender, remove beef and vegetables to a bowl, strain sauce into a fat separator. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted sauce to pot.
  • Add remaining wine and cracked pepper to taste.
  • Simmer briskly.
  • Make a paste with flour and butter and add to pot.
  • Once the stew is thickened all pearl onions and mushrooms.