Entries from February 26th, 2011

Coffeemaking 101

2

26.2.11

These days, I avoid Starbucks. It wasn’t always like that, of course. I mean, there was a time before I learned how to make a cup of coffee. (more…)

Cute Girl Discount, and a Chocolate Tart

2

01.2.11

 

I could probably still drive the route from my parent’s home in Los Angeles to my Santa Barbara beach houses of choice with my eyes closed.  No, I wasn’t allowed to have a car while I was in college in Santa Barbara – that was a strategic move on my parents’ part in bribing me to transfer to UCLA.  So no, I didn’t make that journey very often when school was in session. But during those summers, I found myself clocking out of my waiting job only to hop into my car and blast the CD de jour (CDs — am I dating myself?) for all 75 minutes of the drive, zooming out of that good old parking lot in Calabasas.

I often made the trip late in the week, and extended it through the weekend when I could.  An most of the time, I stopped by a fruit stand on the mountain side of the Pacific Coast Highway in a little community north of Ventura, just nine blocks wide – La Conchita.  The first time I stopped there, it was because of a ginormous (sp?), hokey-pokey sign that read “10 avocados for $1.”

Sold.

I bought some strawberries and limes.  I had never done brunch before then.  You know, the real kind of brunch, where you sit in a California bungalow-type house just 400 yards from the Pacific Ocean.  Even in October, we’d walk around in bikinis and dance around the house, or make soap bubbles that we could stand in.  I was nineteen.  That’s not to say I still don’t do that, because I definitely do – if anything, I spend more time dancing around my house in a bikini as a twenty-three year old than I did when I was in college.  But everything was new back then – cooking, living on our own, and stopping at a road side fruit stand if you wanted to.  Spending a dollar on avocados.  Getting a few extra avocados for free, which would never have happened if my parents were there. We coined the giveaways as part of the “cute girl discount.”

Anyway, there’s a photo of me when I was nineteen – I’m cooking – at my friends’ college beachside house in Isla Vista. The caption is something about my cooking skills, which were unquestionably mediocre. I knew how to cook eggs, which was about it. I even failed a pancake contest once… so embarrassing. I don’t even like pancakes! There was so much to learn. And here I am, dining room-less dinner party queen of Dupont. I don’t think I could ever handle living in Isla Vista again. But damn, those days were fun.

Oh, and before I forget — Sweetsonian has found a beautiful new kitchen on Capitol Hill. I’m moving! And I’ll have more to write about later. In the meantime, here’s the cute-girl-discount that Rachel earned for turning twenty-four: a decadent, bittersweet chocolate tart.

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart
For the crust, adapted from David Leibovitz — which, by the way, you should really read his entry on how he came across the recipe.  It really is spectacular, and is generally how I bake.
6 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 – 2 cups flour (read David’s blog; you will understand)

For the filling:
1/2 cup finely chopped, high quality, bittersweet chocolate
1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
For the glaze:
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1 Tablespoon water

To make the crust, first combine the butter, oil, and water in an oven-proof dish.  Heat the oven at 350 degrees, and bake the ingredients until they begin to boil.  Then, add the salt and flour into your dish.  I added the flour gradually, stirring with a fork, until I could delve my hands into the butter and form the dough myself.  When you think there is enough flour to easily roll out a crust, don’t worry, you’re wrong — it will still stick to everything, even a French rolling pin coated in layers of flour that may or may not still be on my living room floor.  Did I mention I’m moving?  To a kitchen with real counter space?

Anyway, I rolled the dough between two sheets of parchment paper (even wax paper stuck to the dough).  Transfer the crust to your tart pan, press in the sides, and fork holes in the base to prevent it from rising.  Then, line your crust with foil, fill the foil with dry beans of some sort (I used, and wasted, rice).  Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crust is brown.

For the ganache filling, heat the cream until it boils.  Then, pour over the chopped chocolate in a separate bowl.  Let it sit for a few minutes, and then whisk until even.  While still hot, add the butter, and stir until integrated.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, salt, and vanilla.  Temper the eggs by adding just a few spoonfuls of the hot cream mixture — adding too much will scramble your eggs, and result in an ultimate failure.  Once the mixture is a medium chocolate color, you can pour the rest of the chocolate cream in.  Then, fill your tart crust with the ganache.  Place in a centered oven rack, and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven; the center will not be stiff yet, but as it cools, the filling will set.  Let it cool for an hour or two.

For the smooth glaze that makes the tart pretty, heat two tablespoons of cream in a small saucepan.  When it boils, add the remaining chocolate, and stir until dissolved.  Then, combine the corn syrup and water.  When even, pour the glaze over the filling, and feel free to lift and tilt the tart until the glaze covers the entire chocolate surface.  Refrigerate for one hour, and serve with red wine and blackberries.

Anyway, there’s a photo of me when I was nineteen – I’m cooking – at my friends’ college beachside house in Isla Vista. The caption is something about my cooking skills, which were unquestionably mediocre. I knew how to cook eggs, which was about it. I even failed a pancake contest once… so embarrassing. I don’t even like pancakes! There was so much to learn. And here I am, dining room-less dinner party queen of Dupont. I don’t think I could ever handle living in Isla Vista again. But damn, those days were fun.

Oh, and before I forget — Sweetsonian has found a beautiful new kitchen on Capitol Hill. I’m moving! And I’ll have more to write about later. In the meantime, here’s the cute-girl-discount that Rachel earned for turning twenty-four: a decadent, bittersweet chocolate tart.

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart
For the crust, adapted from David Leibovitz — which, by the way, you should really read his entry on how he came across the recipe.  It really is spectacular, and is generally how I bake.
6 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 – 2 cups flour (read David’s blog; you will understand)

For the filling:
1/2 cup finely chopped, high quality, bittersweet chocolate
1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
For the glaze:
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1 Tablespoon water

To make the crust, first combine the butter, oil, and water in an oven-proof dish.  Heat the oven at 350 degrees, and bake the ingredients until they begin to boil.  Then, add the salt and flour into your dish.  I added the flour gradually, stirring with a fork, until I could delve my hands into the butter and form the dough myself.  When you think there is enough flour to easily roll out a crust, don’t worry, you’re wrong — it will still stick to everything, even a French rolling pin coated in layers of flour that may or may not still be on my living room floor.  Did I mention I’m moving?  To a kitchen with real counter space?

Anyway, I rolled the dough between two sheets of parchment paper (even wax paper stuck to the dough).  Transfer the crust to your tart pan, press in the sides, and fork holes in the base to prevent it from rising.  Then, line your crust with foil, fill the foil with dry beans of some sort (I used, and wasted, rice).  Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crust is brown.

For the ganache filling, heat the cream until it boils.  Then, pour over the chopped chocolate in a separate bowl.  Let it sit for a few minutes, and then whisk until even.  While still hot, add the butter, and stir until integrated.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, salt, and vanilla.  Temper the eggs by adding just a few spoonfuls of the hot cream mixture — adding too much will scramble your eggs, and result in an ultimate failure.  Once the mixture is a medium chocolate color, you can pour the rest of the chocolate cream in.  Then, fill your tart crust with the ganache.  Place in a centered oven rack, and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven; the center will not be stiff yet, but as it cools, the filling will set.  Let it cool for an hour or two.

For the smooth glaze that makes the tart pretty, heat two tablespoons of cream in a small saucepan.  When it boils, add the remaining chocolate, and stir until dissolved.  Then, combine the corn syrup and water.  When even, pour the glaze over the filling, and feel free to lift and tilt the tart until the glaze covers the entire chocolate surface.  Refrigerate for one hour, and serve with red wine and blackberries.

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