Saturday, December 3, 2011

sugared cranberries & a sparkling treat

I have never claimed to be a "sweets person."

If I was given the option of chocolate or cheese for the rest of my life, I'm goin' with the brie.

This one dessert would make me a sweets person.

When writing a menu for clients a couple months ago, I wanted to play with the idea of an eggnog panna cotta.

Should I make the custard with traditional heavy cream and accentuate with recognizable eggnog spices? Or, could I make it with actual bottled eggnog?

Eggnog, baby. And it's delish.

I ran across this Whole Foods recipe for Eggnog Panna Cotta with Spiced Pears.

I liked the idea of this but...

I always like to make recipes or dish combinations, "my own."
And secondly, I wanted to add some holiday sparkle to the creamy-spiced panna cotta.

Sugared cranberries it is!

Also, for a chocolate-y, spicy and textural addition, I added a dark chocolate wafer for elegance and visual appeal.

Man, this dessert rocks. Seriously.
Go make it now!

That's a Christmas order from Santa
(cookies just get SO humdrum).

Eggnog Panna Cotta with Sugared Cranberries
& Dark Chocolate Crystallized Ginger Wafer

yields 8 servings

1 quart eggnog
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 (1/4 ounce) packets unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
thin-sliced crystallized ginger, for sprinkling

In a medium saucepan, heat eggnog over medium heat until hot and just bubbling. Whisk in cinnamon to hot eggnog mixture to combine. Meanwhile, whisk together 1/3 cup hot water and gelatin in a small bowl until dissolved. Whisk gelatin mixture into eggnog until thoroughly combined.

Remove from heat and pour into eight 4-ounce ramekins. Chill for at least 2 hours, or until set.

Meanwhile, make sugared cranberries. Bring a pot of water to boil and add turbinado sugar to a large bowl. Submerge cranberries into boiling water for 30 seconds then drain immediately. Toss hot cranberries with turbinado sugar then spread out on a sheet pan to cool and allow cranberries to dry out.

Next, chocolate wafers. Add chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl. Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. Microwave chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until melted. Spoon chocolate into eight circle shapes on parchment-lined sheet. Top with crystallized ginger. Refrigerate to harden.

To plate dessert, run a knife along ramekin dishes. Unmold on individual plates then top with sugared cranberries and chocolate coin on the side.

Luscious. Creamy. Sparkling.
Brimming with holiday cheer.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

cookie-crazed & homemade for the holidays

I've been on a cookie-baking hiatus the past week.

Something about baking cookies just makes me feel extremely domestic. Heck, I even made meatloaf & mashed 'taters this weekend. I'm just a regular Susie Homemaker in the making...

My cookie binge began with the announcement of my seasonal Homemade for the Holidays promotion wherein clients can

treat loved ones, friends, family and neighbors with homemade confections from Linguine and Dirty Martinis.

L&DM will create your favorite holiday treats in the comfort of your home: seasonal confections will be prepared, packaged, and elegantly labeled in your home kitchen just in time for holiday cheer!

Treats will be tucked in cellophane bags, mason jars or gift boxes with holiday twine and will feature one-of-a-kind letterpress tags from local Blue Eye Brown Eye.

[photo courtesy of Lauren Essl]

Clients can pick from an array
of menu items in categories including:

[ jams, jellies, compotes
& pickled delights ]

[ candies, chocolates & barks ]

[ sweet & salty baked treats ]

Click here to view complete menu and email me to place your holiday order!

One of my favorite sweets on the holiday menu are these delicate, crumbly and buttery bites perfect for a chilly evening nightcap:

Off-to-Bed Butter Cookies with Fleur de Sel

yields approximately 24 cookies

1.5 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (French sea salt)
1.5 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure extract)
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar

Stir together flour and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter, vanilla, almond and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing, and continue to mix until batter just comes together in clumps. Gather clumps to form a dough, then press dough into a smooth 1 1/4-inch log on a lightly floured work surface. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut chilled loaf crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Brush tops of cookies with cream then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until edges are pale golden, 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on racks.

I also recipe-tested these whimsical "Ranger" cookies just in time for Veterans Day. Ranger Cookies, also known as Cowboy Cookies, are traditionally made with a mixture of pecans, oats, coconut and chocolate chips.

I used a variation of flavor additions from the traditional recipe, but upheld using shortening as the main fat source. Although shortening doesn't have the delicious flavor of butter, it makes cookies very tender.

Ranger Cookies with Bittersweet
& Butterscotch Chips, Oats & Toasted Hazelnuts

yields approximately 24 cookies

1 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line hazelnuts on a sheet pan. Toast for 3-5 minutes until light brown and fragrant.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the shortening, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add oats, bittersweet chocolate, butterscotch and hazelnuts, mix until combined. Spoon cookie mixture onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes (your cookies will look underdone), then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Cheers to holiday cookies! More baking to come...


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

spooky pumpkin treat & spiced cream

Lovely October...

windy crisp weather, carved pumpkins, warming spices,
just-zested citrus, luscious cream cheese
and spooky sweets for Halloween.

Yes, sounds like autumn to me.

Celebrate the season with these delish spooky cake creatures simple enough even for the most novice of bakers.

Spooky Pumpkin Orange Cake
with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

yields approximately 15-18 servings

15-ounce can pumpkin
1 Tablespoon orange zest (reserve juice for frosting)
4 eggs
1 and 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9 inch baking pan with foil then spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, orange zest and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth-- do not over mix or cake will become tough. Spread the batter evenly into prepped baking pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes until cooked through. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into rectangles.

To make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, orange juice, vanilla and cinnamon and mix at low speed until combined.

Transfer frosting to a piping bag with a large star tip.

Don't have a piping bag? Fill frosting into a large ziploc bag with a small snip in one corner to "pipe" with.

Pipe 2 rows of 3 star-tipped dots on each cake rectangle.

Finish with two round dark chocolate candies (I found mine in the Central Market bulk section) to act as "spooky eyes."

These guys are actually more cute than spooky but hey, I had to stick with the Halloween theme!

Serve with spiced cider or mulled wine for the perfect after trick-or-treating treat.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

brussels & brown butter

I'm obsessed with brussels sprouts.

Hmm..maybe even more than avocados?
Nah. That's pushing it.

But, I really really like brussels and I could eat 'em like candy.

Not the old fashioned notion of over-boiled sprouts with that gosh-awful olive green color.

But simply roasted, crisp and caramelized. Roasted brussels are ah-may-zing.

Over the years, I've mixed & matched brussels with a few different textural and flavor combos:

...sautéed with pecan butter & orange rind...
...roasted with balsamic syrup & pomegranate...
...broiled with parmesan & chile flakes...

For thanksgiving last year, I paired these delicious green jewels with roasted rutabaga (such a funky root), and an earthy hazelnut brown butter. The flavor combination is rich, silky and elegant-- a perfect autumn snack or holiday table side dish to share.

Roasted Brussels & Rutabaga
with Hazelnut Brown Butter

yields 4 side dish servings

1 pound brussels sprouts, washed, ends trimmed & halved
1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh-cracked pepper, as needed
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
zest of 1 lemon
kosher salt to taste

Begin by peeling the outside skin of the rutabaga by running your knife down all sides of the root to remove thick skin. Slice bulb into 1/2 inch thick disks then dice into cubes. Toss diced rutabaga with halved brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper.

Roast at 400 degrees approximately 45 minutes, tossing once, until caramelized.

Meanwhile, make hazelnut brown butter.

Chop hazelnuts roughly and toast in a pan on medium high heat for approximately 3 minutes until nuts begin to get fragrant. Add butter and a sprinkle of salt to hot pan with nuts (butter will sizzle and bubble), until butter turns a light brown shade. Take off heat immediately so butter will not burn.

Pour hot hazelnut brown butter over roasted vegetables and toss together with a large spoon.

No garnish necessary-- this rustic dish speaks for itself!


Monday, September 26, 2011

a lemon butter-poached dream & pastry cream

I've been so happy to be part of the Market Street Dish! Culinary School team of guest chef instructors. I held my first two classes this past August and September and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

My September Cocktail Party in a Flash! class focused on elegant, seasonal bites perfect for a cocktail party. I also wanted to focus on varying textures so every bite would tickle the tongue.

My first soup recipe totally weirded out my Dad.

First of all, his brow furrowed at the thought of blending together "soggy bread" with water, fruits and vegetables.

Second of all, he detests nuts and told me he was totally not interested in a soup with ground almonds.

I totally changed his mind.

This soup is an interesting combination of green grapes, almonds and cucumbers with fresh tarragon that was featured in the August issue of 360 West, but also features the addition of lemon butter-poached granny smith apples that pay homage to early autumn produce.

White Gazpacho with Lemon-Butter Apples

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 ½ cups white bread, cubed

½ cup blanched and slivered almonds

1 cup granny smith apple, diced

1 t lemon zest

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ c water

2 garlic cloves

3 cups green seedless grapes, washed

1 English cucumber, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon lime zest

Juice of one lime

1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat cream in a small saucepan until just simmering then pour over bread cubes to soak. Let cool.

Melt butter. Add apples and lemon zest. Sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat until tender. Let cool.

Arrange almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast at 400 degrees approximately 5 minutes until golden brown. Let cool.

In a blender, combine cream and soaked bread mixture, almonds, water, garlic and olive oil and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.

Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve soup chilled and ladled in small shooter cups or glasses with sliced grape rounds, fresh tarragon, toasted almonds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

The next course was my play on corn cakes dressed with the addition of sweet bell peppers, end-of-summer squash, salty crumbled pancetta and a fragrant marjoram aioli.

The batter of these cakes can get a bit thick but do not despair-- a shot of buttermilk will do the trick if needed. Flip these savory cakes just like pancakes then top (or smother) with the marjoram aioli and deliciously-crisp pancetta.

Sweet Pepper, Corn & Squash Cakes
with Pancetta & a Marjoram Aioli

yields approximately 25 2-inch cakes

4 slices pancetta (approximately ¼ pound)

1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for sautéing vegetables

1.5 cups fresh corn kernels

1 cup zucchini, diced small

1 cup red bell peppers, diced small

1 Tablespoon scallion, sliced thin

1 cup cornmeal

½ cup AP flour

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoons sugar

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

Unsalted butter, to cook cakes

In a sauté pan over medium heat, render pancetta with olive oil until crispy on all sides, approximately 15 minutes. Drain on paper towel. Chop and set aside.

In the same pan, sauté corn, zucchini, bell peppers and scallions, for approximately 10 minutes, adding additional olive oil if needed. Let cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda and sugar. In a large bowl, combine sautéed vegetables, egg and buttermilk. Stir in dry ingredients to wet mixture until just combined.

Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. Melt butter then add scoops of cake batter. Cook on two minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Keep warm while making other corn cakes. Serve hot corn cakes with marjoram aioli and crispy pancetta


1 Tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced

½ cup mayonnaise

Juice of ½ lemon

Fresh-cracked black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Serve a dollop atop corn cakes.

Finally, dessert time.

Growing up in downtown Austin, we always visited a tiny bakery on Burnet Road called Upper Crust Bakery.

My go-to after school snack was always a small carton o' milk and their to-die-for bran muffins.

When my mom and I were tempted for a sweet confection, we split one of their incredible eclairs.

I love the first bite of an eclair.

...buttery & flaky pate a choux dough...

...oozing (not-too-sweet) pastry cream...

...the crunch of it's chocolate shell...


I wanted to create that perfect bite of an eclair in an individual parfait perfect for parties.

For the pate a choux dough, I substituted store-bought puff pastry cut into circles for ease.

For pastry cream, I made a classic pastry cream with vanilla bean paste.

For that signature chocolate crunch, I used chocolate two-ways: espresso ganache & semisweet chocolate chunks.

Top parfaits with toasted hazelnuts for a nutty crunch.

Mini Chocolate Eclair Parfaits with Toasted Hazelnuts

Pastry cream:

yields 1 cup

1 ¼ cups whole milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons AP flour

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Whisk together sugar and egg yolks. Add flour and cornstarch and whisk together to form a paste. Set aside. Meanwhile, simmer milk and vanilla until simmering. Add ¼ of paste mixture into hot milk mixture, whisking quickly to temper. Add remaining paste mixture to tempered milk mixture and whisk constantly, over medium heat until thickened and flour and cornstarch have cooked out, approximately 3-5 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl over an ice bath to cool down. Cover pastry cream with plastic wrap directly over custard so a skin will not form—cool completely.

Espresso ganache:

½ cup heavy cream

½ teaspoon instant espresso coffee

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Bring heavy cream and espresso powder to a simmer over medium high, whisking together to combine. Pour atop chocolate chips in a bowl and stir until combined and glossy. Set aside and let cool.

Remaining components:

1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 1-inch circles

Semisweet chocolate chunks and toasted hazelnuts, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place puff pastry circles on a greased baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden brown, approximately 10 minutes. Let cool.

To assemble parfaits, assemble mini parfait glasses or cups on a serving tray. Layer espresso ganache with pastry rounds, pastry cream and semisweet chocolate chunks. Repeat to reach the tops of cups. Garnish with a pastry round, chocolate chunks, toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of espresso ganache.

The class was a delight to teach! Make sure to check out my upcoming Market Street Cooking Classes in November and December:

Unconventional Side Dishes:

Thursday, November 10

Stray away from the Thanksgiving norm with unique, yet simple, side dishes from Chef Callie Salls of Linguine and Dirty Martinis.

Adorn your holiday table with: Savory Bleu Cheese Cheesecake with a Black Pepper Fig Compote; Roasted Apple & Onion Soup with Toasted Pecans & Sage Oil; Cranberry Relish with Grapefruit Rind, Pomegranate & Mint; Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Rutabaga with Bacon & Hazelnut Brown Butter.

Homemade for the Holidays:

Thursday, December 8th

Treat your friends, families and neighbors to made-from-scratch confections ready in a snap and perfect for holiday gifts!

Guests will learn how to prepare, package and label edible goodies to-go: Spiced Blueberry Jam with Star Anise; Lemon Lime Curd; Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies; Pecorino & Black Pepper Cheese Straws; Dark Chocolate Truffles with Fleur de Sel.