Tuesdays With Dorie – Nun’s Beignets

Growing up, I was very close to my mom’s mom. She lived four blocks north of us, and she played an integral role in my life. Almost every Friday night, without fail, my mom and I would go out for dinner with gram, and catch up on the week’s events. Many times we would go to a diner nearby, and other times it was to a family owned pizzeria and Italian restaurant where everything was made from scratch. It was inevitable that, when we went to the Italian joint, our dinner was ended with a plate of zeppole. Gram had celiac’s so she never ate any, but mom and I always enjoyed this powdery, pillowy plate of fried dough. “With extra powdered sugar, please”, I would always ask.
11 years ago last week, my gram passed away. The day we went to clean out gram’s house we ordered pizza to be delivered from our stand by Italian pizzeria and restaurant. When it was delivered, along with it came a brown paper bag, with grease along the bottom. An order of zeppole. The surprise was that we hadn’t ordered any with the pizza. Gram had sent us a treat to ease our sadness! 

While zeppole are not beignets, they come from the same family, in that intersection of cultures that evolved throughout Europe many centuries ago. It was synchronistic that, during the anniversary of my gram’s passing and that mysterious bag of zeppole, our challenge should be Nun’s Beignets. 

It has been a while since I have made them, but they were everything I remembered zeppole to be. Custardy, and sugary, and yummmm. Pure heaven. Beignets have the added Vanilla which is not common to zeppole, but I am pretty sure that is where the differences end. My biggest challenge was moderating the oil temperature in the beginning, which I eventually settled into a rhythm on. Of course these don’t keep, so we did what any self-respecting beignet eater would do… ate them all. With a big cup of coffee. I do not regret that I had no stomach for eating anything else the rest of the day! And of course I was left with such sweet memories of a time gone by. It will not be too long before I make these again! 

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Tuesdays With Dorie – Sunday in Paris Chocolate Cake

I’m back! I was looking at my blog, and it has been 2 months since I blogged anything, and with likely the worst food picture I have ever taken in my life. Technically I did the Coq au Vin challenge for CtBF, but couldn’t find my dslr usb cable (of which a new one just arrived yesterday because I still can’t find it) to upload the pictures. Between the holidays, then travelling for work, then getting sick from travelling for work, and then losing my mojo from work-related things, I’ve been a mess. I also couldn’t find salt cod, and was not inclined to order it. I was also not inclined to buy a financier pan for this. 

Anyway. Here we are. Valentine’s Day. And what would it be without chocolate? All I know is that Easter candy comes next, boy howdy. I made this cake, we each had a slice, and then the rest went into the freezer since we do Paleo during the work week. I am not keen on peanut butter or peanuts (observe: I did not chop peanuts for the top) and was concerned that it would taste strongly of it, but it really was quite mild. 

The temperature gave me fits. I baked it originally on the low end, but it was very underdone when I tested it. I gave it an extra 10 minutes because it was so wet, but wound up then overbaking it ever so slightly. My husband didn’t notice, but I did! 

All in all, it was ok. A good getting-back-to-it recipe, since I clearly needed to shake off the c0bwebs. I am glad to be back with you!

Posted in Baking, Baking Chez Moi | Dorie Greenspan, Dessert | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Ancestry DNA Results

For half my life I have been building my family tree (and have helped many others do the same) and have traced it to the Mayflower and way beyond in some places, and in other places no further back than an arrival in this country. I did the DNA test in hopes of breaking down brick walls in my family tree, and hoped that it would help me figure out what stories were true and which were lies. 

Like the Ancestry commercial, I was raised to believe that Germany, and then England, were my two primary countries of origin, and the records have supported that. I even wore a dirndle for International day in 3rd grade… that is how German I thought I was. To quote the great Clark W Griswold, “If I woke up with my head stapled to the carpet, I wouldn’t be as surprised as I am right now!”

Onward to the results.

So 27% Scandinavian? At first I was very surprised by this, but as I researched this, I found that it is very common for people with deep English ancestry to have Scandinavian dna because of migration patterns. I knew I had some because of my family history research, but I was expecting this to he more like less than 10%

21% Europe West. I thought this would be higher. This encompasses all of my lines that came from Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. I was expecting this to be considerably higher. 

21% Italy/Greece. This was my biggest shocker. I am still not entirely sure where this is coming from, but I suspect it is coming from my Dad. His mom’s family comes from a small town in Zurich, and when I put my raw dna into Gedmatch, I was able to clarify that it is mostly Northern Italian with a little Tuscan and Serbian thrown in for good measure. It is not a huge leap to say that they migrated from one side of the Alps to the other. We have always wondered where the dark hair and olive toned skin comes from, but we will find out for sure when we get his DNA results back. Here is where it is like the commercial: turns out that I am more Italian than I am German, when you consider that the Europe West encompasses many regions. And there is still alot I don’t know about Dad’s family… 

15% Ireland. I am pretty sure that this is coming from the same place as the Scandinavian. When I organize and pivot my DNA (yes, I built a pivot table), Ireland is commonly associated with one particular line of my mom’s family. 

7% Iberian Peninsula. This is well and truly a shocker. I have an idea of where this comes from, but I will pause on this for a moment so I can tell the story. GedMatch breaks this into several regions within Spain, plus Portugal for good measure.

6% Great Britain. I was expecting these numbers to be reversed with Scandinavian, but it makes sense, now that I have reseached it. 

Trace Regions of 2% NW Russia and 1% Europe East. Not sure whether this is Mom or Dad, but either way I am not surprised. 

So back to the Iberian Peninsula for a moment. Is everyone tucked in for a good story? 

My great grandmother had three girls with, whom I thought was, my Great Grandfather. When my gram was three, they split and the two older girls were sent to live with great-grandfather’s family in NJ, while my gram stayed with her mother in Queens, NY. In recent months, in trying to understand why a family would be split that way, the idea occurred to me that, who I thought was my gr-grandfather might not actually be my bio-great grandfather. And it turns out that I was right. I have no DNA match to that family. So the search begins to fill this new gap in the tree. And this is where I believe the Iberian Peninsula comes from, but again, we will see for sure when my parents get their tests back.

So yeah. I said coming into this that I was not expecting many surprises… that I thought I knew mostly what would show up. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Does this shift things for me? Yeah, it does, and I am super excited to better understand all of this, and of course to figure out who my gr-geandfather actually was! I feel like I have more questions than before, and as some of those answers unfold, I will share them with you! 

If you want to know more about my gedmatch breakdown, let me know in the comments.

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Tuesdays With Dorie – Chocolate Truffles 

This is a particularly simple recipe… really as simple as making a chocolate ganache with a little corn syrup to stabilize, and then adding whatever you like to it (or not).

I added Biscoff to the ganache… not too fine, but enough that you could enjoy some small chunks in the truffles. I then pulverized more Biscoff cookies and rolled the truffles in the crumbs when I was forming them. The more the merrier!

Thr only thing I would do differently is cut the hardened ganache into cubes rather than use a small cookie scoop, as I did. It would make the handling much easier, I think. And I didn’t use plastic gloves, though I might recommend that during the forming phase… unless you want to lick your hands like a 3 year old. Not that I speak from experience or anything… 😇

Another batch will be made; this time with Peppermint, and then rolled in crushed up Ghirardelli Peppermint bark. I think that will be quite delicious! And, they make perfect gifts, though I wish I lived close enough to my friends and family to do so. Oh well. We will have to eat them all over time ourselves. Such a hard knock life. 

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Tuesdays With Dorie -Pfefferneusse

For me, Pfefferneusse are my favorite Christmas cookie. I have a significant amount of German ancestry, and my dad grew up in a German community in NYC. We had three German bakeries nearby that we frequented. I have actually written about Pfefferneusse before, with a recipe for, what I consider to be, the gold standard of Pfefferneusse. They are what I am most familiar with when one would mention the delectable holiday confection.

Needless to say, I have had a number of versions of the cookie… some more like gingerbread, some more like the cookies I have referred to above (made with molasses and anise seed), none as delicate as the version we made for Dorie’s cookies. I have never had a version that didn’t have anise seed in them, and the dough color was so blonde going into the oven, that I worried I had done something wrong. I found the flavor of these to be quite delicate… almost too much so. I used the powdered sugar because, again, that is what I am used to seeing on a Pfefferneusse, but considering how delicate the flavor of these cookies was, I wish I had used the chocolate instead, as I felt like the powdered sugar didn’t really do anything to enhance the flavor.

What did you think, dear reader? 

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Cook the Book Fridays – Grated Carrot Salad

I wound up making only one portion. Or at least one me-sized portion. I do so love a good salad.

Honestly I intended to make enough for me and my hubs for lunch (I am working from home until January), but I was having real problems getting this grated. First, it looks like I must have lost the stem for my grating attachment for my cuisinart, so I took the whole thing out just to have it put it back. Then I was going to just use my box grater, when I was entranced by David’s tales of long curly carrots. I thought, “Ah! I should use my julienne attachment on my mandolin!”, so I used that but my guard kept me from using the whole carrot. I gave up after I had enough for one me-sized serving because I would have had to take PTO for the rest of the day just to get the rest of 1 lb grated.

I liked this salad. I liked the sweetness of the carrots against the lemony vinaigrette. What I really liked was the mouthfeel of the julienned carrots, and the way that it felt when I chewed them. I know that sounds weird, but they were not entirely firm, a little bit soft, with a great bite. And it was surprisingly filling. I would probably make this again… it would go well with roast chicken or grilled meat of any kind. 

If you would like to make this for yourself, you can find the recipe here on Food52. It tells you to add an avocado which the book does not call for, but it is otherwise the same. 

Posted in My Paris Kitchen | David Lebovitz, Sides | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Tuesdays With Dorie – Caramel Tart

At this point I have to say that we are a little overstock.com on desserts. Between the cookies and the Chocolate Caramel Tart from CtBF, and this tart… oy!

I also had plans to make three new desserts to take to my sister in law’s for Thanksgiving, but my hubby has come down with an upper respiratory infection AND pink eye in both eyes, so we are going to be be staying home for the big day. I think, in our 13 years of marriage, we have only done Thanksgiving alone once… since it is just the two of us, we are always generously invited to another family member’s home. So, I think it will be fun! I am going to make Ina Garten’s Ham with Mango Chutney glaze, and then our most favorite trappings. I will pick up a crumb cake and a stollen for us to watch the parade with, which was tradition in my home growing up. And I have a delicious Red Schooner on standby (Voyage 3! The new vintage! A Caymus Malbec!).

Anyway, caramel tart. I finally had enough of my very french-baked tart shells. They have just been too dark! I reduced my heat to 375 and only cooked the tart shell for the initial 25 minutes required. I think I could have cut the time a little more, and have been just fine, too. 

The caramel came together quickly and easily, though I wasted two eggs, which had very delicate yolks that broke too easily. I whisked the eggs and sugar in my stand mixer rather than by hand, and then added the caramel sauce in on the lowest setting. The mix came together easily without any foam created. I did have to bake my tart for 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for; the center was entirely too loose, but was perfect after an extra ten minutes in. And of course, followed up with a chill in the fridge.

To serve I made some Chantilly and I think the tart definitely needed it to balance the richness of the caramel. It was definitely delicious though. Such clear caramel flavoring. We really enjoyed it, and I am happy to say that there are plenty of leftovers for Thanksgiving Day. I can say that I would definitely make this again. So simple in its execution and appearance, but so delicious.

Well, to all of my readers, I wish you and yours and Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for this baking and cooking community we have! 

Posted in Baking, Baking Chez Moi | Dorie Greenspan, Dessert | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Cook the Book Friday – Chocolate Dulce de Leche Tart

Man this was delicious. Also, I have never had occasion to make Dulce de Leche before (tl, dr; put a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of simmering water for like 3.5 hours. The end.), and I could have just purchased La Lechera in the store (we have all sorts of things like that being so close to Cuba and the Caribbean), but why go the easy route? I have almost never taken the easy route. Complication helps me remain intellectually stimulated!

Obviously I was not careful about spreading the Dulce de Leche evenly in my tart shell because I was too obsessed with eating the rest of the can of Dulce de Leche. 

My top looks mottled because of the Malden flakes I sprinkled on top… but the salt sprinkled into the crust and on top was a really nice added touch – it really helped to cut the richnesd of this. And that chocolate custard on top! Ummm… it was all so delicious, and my husband described it as the best brownie but not a brownie ever (ok? Not sure about his description but whatever…). ::Heart Eyes::

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Tuesdays With Dorie -Peanut Butter Change-ups

This week the Peanut Butter Cookies. One of my husband’s favorites! Since this week has two challenges (both these and the Chocolate Dulce de Leche tart for CtBF) I didn’t get to have any before my non-paleo days were over (we went to Epcot Food and Wine on Saturday, and I preferred to have a slice of tart over cookies) That, however, did not stop my husband, and said he loves these very much. He loves that they are both crunchy and soft at once!

And of course they were quite easy to make, assembled in between tart steps. 

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Tuesdays With Dorie – Apple Speculoos Crumble

I know… I know. You are probably wondering why I made the Apple Crumble when I have been so clearly craving non-fruity desserts. Well, I always do love a good apple crumble, but mostly I wanted to have the next few weeks uninterruped by fruit! Ha ha!

This was quite simple to make. I thought I had bought fuji apples [or ar least that is what the sign at the markey said], but it turned out that I had bought pink crips instead. They were still delicious. I definitely added more sugar to the apples than was called for, and used raisins as well.

And then! I saw these on the end cap and just couldn’t resist!

Yes, they were all in little packages, which is a bit of a PITA but Santa! I know him! Also, do note that the cookies don’t look quite as Santa-ish as the picture on the package ssas, so i don’t feel too terrible about pulverizing the man in the Red Suit. Or at least I did, in my laziness, put the cookies and the butter into the cuisinart, rather than break them and mush them by hand. 
And the aroma wafting through the air was marvelous! The dessert was delicious, and with all good apple crumbles, served with a scoop of Vanilla Bean Gelato. Yum! The biscoff definitely made this… after all, it is otherwise just baked aapple, right? I really liked this one. And there are still two packages of Santa biscoff left! Yum…

Posted in Baking, Baking Chez Moi | Dorie Greenspan, Dessert | Tagged , | 6 Comments