Sunday, July 24, 2011

A sea of Chocolate Pecan Caramel Turtles

Chocolate turtles from A to Z.

You might think these little creatures are hard to make.... not so. Just give yourself time, and you will be pleased with your results. So pleased with your homemade chocolate turtles, they will be gone before you know it. On a side note, I have zero motivation today. I have started seven activities and finished only one... this blog post. I have put in about 7 rows into a knitting project, kind of folded some of the laundry, ate some lettuce for lunch (plus a turtle), started working on some gardening, thought about going to the store and got as far as opening the closet door in hopes of cleaning it. Not happening.

I can't even begin to touch the tragedy that Norway is experiencing. Just makes me want to cry, again and again. It has quite depressed me and probably you. I can't shake this one. I just read the maximum sentencing that the maniac could receive under Norwegian law was 21're kidding me right? Something in the air. My mind keeps visualizing a mass soul migration of beautiful winged creatures. Visions of a beautiful giant bird, made up of the strong spirits hovering over the lake, holding on to each other. The bird, shedding it's own tears for what was robbed from it. Young life, love, happiness and hope. My prayers go out to those who lost their lives, that their souls move on to a better place... together. Prayers of love to all the families who were robbed of their children, parents, husbands and wives. We need more humanity in this world.

It's all in the nuts. Roasted and salted pecans.

On second thought...the caramel does look really good.

Wait a sec....I really think it really is all in the caramel....

Hold on... really it's all in the fine dark chocolate.

Yup... defiantly in the chocolate.

The three together make these amazing sweet and salty pieces of pure deliciousness.

Roasted Pecans
5 cups or 1 pound organic pecan halves
4 TBS organic unsalted butter - Organic Valley or Pastureland
Salt - use a good salt. I used around a heaping teaspoon or half tablespoon of Real Salt

Oven to 300. Melt butter in saucepan. Add nuts. Stir. Add salt while tossing nuts. Toss again. Place on baking sheet. Put in oven. At 15 minutes, toss again, stir or flip with spatula. At thirty minutes take out and let cool. After cool, place into colander and toss again. This will remove any unwanted salt and smaller pieces of nut, nut debris. Arrange nuts in clusters of 4 on parchment paper. About 50 clusters with some nuts left over for decoration.

Caramel Recipe for Turtles
2 TBS Unsalted organic butter
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1/2 cup regular sugar
1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
1 cup organic heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In heavy bottomed sauce pan combine, sugars, corn syrup, butter and cream. On low-medium heat stir until mixture comes to a boil. Increase heat to med-high and cook the caramel mixture, stirring frequently, until thermometer reaches 246 degrees. Take off heat and add vanilla. Stir again and pour into smaller bowl. Let cool a bit, about 2 minutes. Then slowly scoop out caramel at add about 3/4 TBS to each nut cluster. Do not disturb, let cool for at least 30 minutes. I let mine cool over night.

1 lb. of fine dark Chocolate. I used Guittard - Machu-Piccu -Peru - 65% Cacoa - Delicious... not too bitter. Compliments the flavors of the roasted sugars and nuts. Temper your chocolate using your preferred method. Using a tablespoon, spoon on chocolate over the caramel and nut mixture, top with a nut if desired. Let chocolate set up. Store on parchment paper, one layer high. Do not attempt stacking these as they will stick to the turtle below.

Peace, love and more humanity - xoxo Megan
Pretty sure this post was just a cover for my own needs to digest what has happened in Norway. Eating the turtles doesn't help any...they were just a distraction. We really do need more humanity in the world.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Confessions of a Shakespearean Cheesecake

Kiss me Kate!

After feasting all evening on delicious meats, cheeses, salsas, crackers, cakes and various wines, our merry group climbed up the steep wooded hill and stepped into the magical outdoor theater at American Players Theater in Spring Green, Wisconsin. I was there that evening to see Taming of the Shrew with some very dear friends and their family. It was also my daughters first time visiting this amazing theater. I was thrilled to be there with her as she became enchanted with the magic of eating outdoors, wandering musicians, and viewing a Shakespeaean play that was a touch too bawdy and filled with humor that a fourteen year old was just beginning to catch on to. Thirty minutes into the play she finally understood why her Young Shakespeares Players has never done that play before!  

Good friends enjoying the evening....the warmth, the wine, the food...

APT, as we call it around here, is hard to describe. From one road that kisses the Wisconsin river, you turn off onto another road that drops you at the bottom of a hill, dotted with prairie plans, picnic tables, people, silence, woods and peace. Many of us may are accustomed to eating in our backyards, wrapping our neighborhoods in wood smoke from our fires and grills, and conveniently being able to walk back to the kitchen if we have forgotten anything. Eating outdoors in the beautiful setting provided at APT is a delight to the senses. There is no going back if you have forgotten something as many of us are at least an hour from home. You must remember to ice the wine, tablecloths, napkins, candles (for ambiance),  the wine glasses, drinks for the kids, the fine cheeses, salads, meats and of course.... dessert!

I volunteered to bring along a dessert. I was hoping to make one of my layer cakes, dripping with the fruits of the season, when I realized how hot it was going to be and how I did not feel safe driving the cake for an hour. Last time I drove with a layer cake, I lost two layers and had to piece the thing back together uopn arrival, not so cool when you were in charge of the birthday cake! I opted for a lemon ginger cheesecake. Lemon for the color of the sun and the fresh summery taste, and ginger to represent the hot, steamy evening and the sassy play that would follow.

Luckily I do not need taming (my husband may beg to differ) and I am not a shrew. For if I did need taming, I would hate to have my husband withhold food from me as dear Petruchio does with Kate during the play.

Lemon Ginger Cheesecake - Adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients for Crust
9 oz. finely ground gingersnap cookies - Trader Joes makes amazing thin gingersnaps
2 TBS Sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

4- 8oz. softened cream cheese - room temp - take out morning of
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temp.
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons

Oven to 325. Grease a 10" springform pan with 2 and 3/4 inch high sides. Double wrap the outside with heavy-duty foil. Blend ground cookies, sugar and ginger in the food processor. Add melted butter and process until moist crumbs form. Press onto the bottom of the pan,1/2 inch up on the sides. Bake 10 minutes, cool, keep over at 325.

Filling prep:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Add in sugar, and eggs, 1 at a time. Scraping bowl and beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream and whipping cream. Add in lemon juice, lemon peel and sift in the powdered ginger.

Pour filling into crust. Place pan on a large rimmed cookie sheet, roasting pan, something with about a 1" lip to it. Place in oven. While in oven, pour hot/boiling water into the pan, 1 inch up the sides. Folks, this works well with a jellyroll pan. Do the water bath, do not fear. If I can you can.  My cheesecake came out with no cracks and was delicious. Put it in the oven for about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Turn off oven and prop door open with wooden spoon. Let cake cool slowly for an hour.

Remove pan from water bath. Remove foil and cool cheesecake completely. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight or for several days. Can be frozen for up to two months. Serve with fresh berries. Delicious.

Kiss me Kate! And a piece of cheesecake please! xoxo Megan

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberry Lemon Curd Cream Cake

Your daughter only turns 14 once. And again she requested what she has requested for the past 10 years... a strawberry, cake like, concoction of sorts. Some things never change. This year we added lemon curd to the cake. Something tart to offset the sweet cake and something to seal in the moisture of those layers. The cake was a delicious reminder of summer time and just how precious our time is with our children. Wow... does time move quickly. It really does feel like yesterday that she was a little thing (god... I must sound lime my mother).

Here is the birthday gal at age 14.Waiting patiently for the adults to finish chattering so she could have cake and open gifts.... some things never change! My daughter is as sweet as they come and quite graceful. She is witty and is quite conscious of things some adults will probably never even realize. Someone said when she was born that she was an old soul. I think that is probably true given that she always seems to see the other side of the coin before it even lands. Yes... I am bragging, but how could I not, I love her!

We were busy the week of her birthday as her younger brother had to have his tonsils out, what a bummer. So our attention was on him most of the week. I was setting my alarm every four hours for the Tylenol. I was cleaning out the popsicle case at our local grocery store, making smoothies and just plain tending to his needs. However, we did make sure to throw Vimala a sweet birthday party!  There she is sharing the fun of the birthday cake and candles with her little cousin.

Kudos to turning 14! Happy Birthday to my girl! We still haven't had the "sleepover" party yet but I am sure I will receive another request for something just as delicious!

The Tiptree Lemon Curd from Wilkin and Sons Ltd was delicious. It was a nice surprise as some lemon curds that are not homemade do taste a bit off and have artificial coloring. I had a smile on my face as I tasted the cake as it really was a wonderful addition to this simple cake.

Strawberry Lemon Curd Cream Cake -

2 cups cake flour
1TBS plus 1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup pluse 2 TBS buttermilk
1TBS vanilla extract
1 stick, or 4 oz. unsalted butter (softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs

2 quarts strawberries, washed, dried and sliced thinly
Pint and a half of heavy whipping cream
Sugar to add to the whipping cream
Lemon Curd - Wilkin and Sons - Tiptree

1) Oven to 350. Butter and flour two 9" cake rounds. Line with parchment paper and butter again. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine milk and vanilla in small bowl.
2) Using electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat about 3 minutes until it resembles wet sand. Make sure to scrape down sides. Beat in flour in 3 turns, alternating with the milk mixture. Scrape bowl if needed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating eggs between additions.
3) Divide batter between cake pans and bake for 30 minutes until you begin to smell cake, you see it pull away from the sides of your pan and a toothpick comes out clean.
4)Let cool for ten minutes. Slide a butter knife around the edge of the pan. Invert onto rack and remove parchment. Let cool completely.
5)Slice both cake layers in half. Take lemon curd and spread a nice layer of curd on top of the first layer of cake. Proceed to layer with strawberries.
6) Whip the first 1/2 pint of cream, adding a bit of sugar. Top the strawberry layer with whipping cream. Repeat until you reach the fourth layer.
7) Whip the pint of cream adding a bit of sugar for a hint of sweetness. Spread crumb coat on entire cake. Chill for 15 minutes. Finish frosting cake with the rest of the whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I find the cake was best the following day. However, it still tastes delicious the day of.

Where were you when you turned 14? I can't remember. 13 and 16 were birthdays I remember but 14.... somehow did not make it into the memory bank. Cake, love and kisses xoxo ~ Megan