Archive for January, 2008

In Honor of the Upcoming World Nutella Day… Chocolate Pizza and Basic Pizza Dough

January 30, 2008

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Did you know, that there is a World Nutella Day? I read about it on Ms. Adventures in Italy, and I had to applaud the initiative. An entire day to celebrate Nutella is only right and proper!

As a child, we were never allowed to have nutella, which resulted in me developing a lifelong addiction to it – so much so, that one of the first things of my own that I bought when I moved into my own apartment, was a giant jar of nutella. Because I polished it off much too quickly, I have since tried to restrict myself to desperate times only. Hence, the appeal of a World Nutella Day.

I’ve had this recipe in my must-try folder for about a year and it seemed to be just the thing for this celebration: chocolate pizza.

Pizza, Nutella, and more chocolate to top it off sounded like my idea of a good time — but while it did not disappoint, it is not quite the dessert it was said to be. In my opinion, it is much better suited for goûter (the snack that most french children take after school, around 4 pm) or maybe even for a decadent breakfast.

It’s very quick and easy to make, I used my go-to basic pizza dough recipe, nutella and subsituted ribboned orange zest for the hazelnuts which gave it a more refreshing taste.

Basic Pizza Dough

Prep Time: 30 min baking time: 15 min

2/3 cup of lukewarm water
1/ Tbsp active dry yeast (amounts to one envelope)
1 Tsp of sugar
2 cups of flour
1/2 Tsp of salt
3 Tbsp of olive oil

baking sheet

In a mixing bowl, mix the water, yeast and sugar together and set aside in a warm place until bubbles form at the surface (5 min)
Add the flour, salt and olive oil to the yeast-preparation and beat with the wirehooks of your handmixer until an elastic dough forms (5 min). You can of course mix the dough by hand, but it will take about 5x longer.
When the dough has come together, roll it into a ball in the mixing bowl, cover with a teatowel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (20 min).
Preheat the oven to 200° and line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
You will have enough dough for either 4 small pizzas, 2 medium sized ones, or one big one. If you are making pizza, proceed to top the rolled out dough with the topping of your choice and bake for about 20 min.

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Chocolate Pizza

Prep Time: 2 min baking time: 22 min

1 Tbsp of melted butter
about 1/4 cup of Nutella or to taste
2 Tbsp white chocolate chunks
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chunks
1 Tbsp of orange zest

baking sheet

When your dough is done and rolled out into the desired size, prick it with a fork and brush the top with the melted butter. Bake it in the oven until golden and baked through – for about 15 min
When the pizza is done, take it out of the oven and spread it with your choice amount of nutella. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks and the orange zest on top. Bake it in the oven for another 2 min, or until all the chocolate has melted. Serve warm.

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Bringing Bunny Back – Rabbit Saddle Stuffed with Dried Fruit

January 28, 2008

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Rabbit doesn’t seem to be very popular anywhere but in France where we are also known to be eating such weird things as frog legs, snails and the other clichéed mouldy cheeses. Anyway, after posting so many sweet recipes, i decided to finally post something savory, and to make sure i had all your attention, I chose to cook a shocker – hence, the bunny.

The taste and smell of rabbit is to me forever linked to the house in Savoy where my grandmother (not the parisienne, obviously!) was born and raised, and where my great uncle and great aunt lived up until their death. This house you see, was a farm. A real farm, with crops, raspberry patches, a chicken coop, a rabbit house, a tractor that could be climbed upon, a well and an outhouse (no indoor bathroom!). It also boasted a real wood-fired cast iron stove that was used to cook and bake everything the farm produced.

Whenever we would come and visit, my great aunt would invariably either serve us a chicken, or a rabbit. Both were ‘readied’ for the meal right before our eyes. My great uncle would hang the rabbit by its leg on top of the ladder that was leaning on the barn and with one smooth gesture, he would skin it. I don’t really remember being grossed out, but it really stuck in my memory and comes back whenever I eat rabbit.

The dessert by the way, was even more invariable: a custard tarte with pink pralines. My mother and my grandmother have both tried to replicate it, but it seems the flavor would always pale in comparison to the one my great aunt made in her old stove. My grandmother gave me a copy of this particular recipe in a book of family recipes that she compiled for our wedding, and I have since sworn to try the recipe as well. But I digress. Back to the bunny…

The recipe comes from the fall issue of ‘Elle à table’, which featured different ways to prepare rabbit saddle (aka bunny back). The one with dried fruits in a honey-ginger-soy marinade caught our eyes, but since the original recipe called for skewers and that is both a bother to prep and a bother to eat, my mother and I decided to roast the saddle as a whole in the oven instead.

The meat was delicious and tender, and we served it alongside peppered pears, as the recipe suggested. However, with dried fruit, the honey-bases marinade AND the pears, there was a a slight sweet overkill. Next time, I’ll use fewer dried apricots.
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Rabbit Saddle Stuffed with Dried Fruit

adapted from Elle à table
Prep Time: 15 min roasting time: 40 min

For the stuffed saddle
500 g rabbit saddles
16 dried apricots (I’d use less, 12 maybe?)
8 prunes
For the marinade
4 Tsp sesame (again, 2 Tsp would have been plenty)
1 cm peeled and grated ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauve
4 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp olive oil
For the pears
4 middle sized ripe pears
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 Tbsp butter
mixed pepper, to taste

roasting pan, non-stick pan, twine

Preheat the oven to 190. Lay the saddles back side down on a cutting board and stuff them with the dried fruits. Roll up and bind them shut with twine and lay them in the pan.
Next up, make the marinade by mixing the honey, soy and ginger together. Pour over the saddles and chill while you prep the pears.
Peel and slice the pears. Toss in the lemon juice
Stick the saddles in the oven. You might want to cover them up with a lid or aluminum foil for part of the time (I covered mine for the first 25 min or so) to prevent them from drying out. About 10 min before your rabbit is done, melt the butter in a pan add the pears and cook until translucent. Serve hot.

Chocolate Cake on a not so good day

January 25, 2008

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Phew, has it ever been a while since I posted! My lack of posting is not to be attributed to lack of enthusiasm, far from it: We have been staying with my parents for the last month, and most of the cooking has not been done by me. This means that I couldn’t really post anything salty either even though I had been meaning to do it.
Instead, I would like to share with you the highlight of my not so good day: the gateau au chocolat de Marie.

It is very similar to this cake and I believe also this one. In short, it’s a super rich chocolatey, fudgey, buttery chocolate cake. But but but, before you start whining about caloric values and other health risks involved with the consumption of this cake, let me add that this one also boasts extra vitamin c thanks to the addition of orange zest and orange juice. If that’s not healthy, I don’t know what is! Another selling point for this cake is the fact, that it comes together in 30 min, less time than it takes you to get ready for a dinner party! But beware, thatthe chocolatey goodness is at it’s best after a substantial cooling time, or even on the next day.

The recipe for this chocolate cake comes to me courtesy of my aunt Marie, who gave it to my mother. It was the go-to chocolate cake for years, since it’s easy enough that a kid can do it with hardly any help needed. In fact, when I was in high school I used this cake as a trade in for favors: I never had a drivers license, let alone a car so I traded one chocolate cake for one semester of hitching rides to school with some friends!

My aunt herself, had the recipe from my grandmother, a true parisienne if there ever was one. As a young girl, she was trained at the prestigious Ecole du Cordon Bleu as part of her bourgeois upbringing,where she learned to bake this cake at the Cordon Bleu school, and passed it on to her daughter, and her daughter only. She is rather secretive about her recipe, and was none to pleased when she found out that we (my mother, my sister and I) had been using her recipe as well – from her point of view, recipes are not to be shared. OOOPS, my bad!

My sister suggested that I make this cake in order to cheer me up from my not so good day (involving 2 teething twins and a troublesome toddler amongst other things) and as is to be expected with all things chocolate, it totally worked!

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Gateau au chocolat de Marie

Family Recipe
Prep Time: 8 min baking time: 22 min

200 g butter
200 g dark chocolate
150 g granulated sugar
4 eggs
zest and juice of 1/2 an orange
1 Tbsp flour

25 cm round or square cake tin

Preheat the oven to 190° and line your buttered cake pan with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate together with the zest and juice of 1/2 an orange. Add the butter and sugar and let it melt with the chocolate
With an electric mixer, mix in the eggs one by one (BTW, does anybody else find it super annoying to add eggs one by one when using a handmixer and NOT a kitchenaid? just saying!) and finally fold in the flour.
Pour the mixture evenly into your cake pan and bake for 22 min, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out slightly moist. The sides of the cake will rise more than the middle. Cool in the pan for 5 min before inverting it onto a plate (safer than a cooling rack, which might break the cake at this point) and letting it cool of completely.
The cake is really good on it’s own or with a coffee. But americans will certainly tell you that it’d be even better with a tall glass of cool milk!