Ha ha – have you played any tricks today? I have to check out Google. They always do some crazy things on this holiday. YouTube said it was shutting down for 10 years and then analyzing all videos to pick the funniest one and would reveal it in 2023. Some people actually believed it, based on the comments they received!
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks with Zach home on Spring break and many dinner and birthday parties. Our oldest celebrated his birthday on Friday with friends and today with us. He wanted to cook and just asked me to bring his favorite dessert, Vanilla Pots. A delicious, rich dessert but a little tricky to make and I really could have done a better job on these.
But first I have to tell you about his Friday night party where his friends cooked for him! His brother Zach made some exotic carrots and Zach’s girlfriend, Agata, made my artichoke dip recipe with some of these homemade pita chips I’ve been making recently. For some reason I was still up when they came home at 2:30 am. (I’ll tell you why – I had a straight up martini starting at 6 pm and then promptly fell asleep for 4 hours!!! I guess I was just a wee bit exhausted.) Anyway, Agata was so thrilled that her artichoke dip was such a hit. She couldn’t stop talking about it when they got home. People kept asking what was it, what was in it, putting it on their meat and vegetables, where could they get the recipe and on and on. Bottom line is, she made something that people LOVED and in turn, she felt the love back. All warm and fuzzy. You give it, you attract it.
That’s what it’s all about!
VANILLA POTS de CRÈME – adapted from Mark Bittman at the The New York Times
- serves 6
Mark says, as with all custards, this is best when removed from the heat when the center is still jiggly. It’s a leap of faith, but it’s the only way to get a perfectly creamy interior.
My additional note is to remove the cream from the heat just when tiny bubbles start, as I said, start to form. You do NOT want the cream to scald and certainly not to simmer or boil. If you do, start over because then you have broken the molecules to a degree that you have lost the sweetness and creaminess of the cream.
2 cups heavy cream, light cream, or half-and-half (I always use heavy cream)
2 vanilla beans or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Pour cream into small saucepan. Split vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into cream. Put pod in cream and heat cream until tiny, tiny bubbles start to appear around the edge of the pot. Cover pan, turn off heat and let steep for 15 minutes. If using vanilla extract, just heat cream and let it cool while you proceed.
Beat yolks and sugar together until light. Pour about a quarter of the cream (remove vanilla bean pod) into this mixture, then pour sugar-egg mixture into cream and stir. If you are using vanilla extract, add it now and stir. Pour mixture into six 6-ounce ramekins and place ramekins in a baking dish; fill dish with water halfway up the side of dishes. Cover with foil.
I know I baked these too much – they were in for 28 minutes. Plus I divided them up into seven ramekins as we had seven people so maybe 23 -24 minutes would have been perfect. Mine still tasted great – but could have been even better.
But our aim is to celebrate love every single day! Spread love through great food – and we can help you do that!
Here’s a neat, simple and easy trick. Make a batch of brownies but instead of cutting into rectangles, use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut into hearts. So cute.
These lovely treats are from Tribeca Treats in my neighborhood by my office.
Have a fantastic day!
So we have this wonderful big lovefest tomorrow – Valentine’s Day!! A terrific holiday in my book!
If you don’t have time to make this on the 14th, no matter. Keep the holiday going and make it on the weekend.
I have been making this cake for nearly 20 years now and it is a true winner. It is orgasmic – full of rich chocolate and butter. You can just sink into it, and if you died, it wouldn’t be bad.
Every time I make this cake for a dinner party, guests always either pick at the crumbs on the serving plate or just want another piece. It is rich, rich, rich and totally yummy. And it’s easy to make. Enjoy!
SILKY CHOCOLATE CAKE
-serves 8 – 10
2 sticks plus 2 tbs. (9 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use Scharffen Berger)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, beaten
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Extra butter to butter the pan
Preheat the oven to 350°. Wrap the outside of an 8 or 9 -by-3-inch round springform pan in heavy-duty foil, then generously butter the inside of the pan. Set the springform in a roasting pan.
In a saucepan, combine the butter with the granulated sugar and water and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until smooth and all the chocolate is melted; let cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the eggs until blended. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Pour enough hot (not boiling, but hot) water into the roasting pan to reach one-third of the way up the side of the springform. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top is crusty and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cake cool in the springform on a rack for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and the side of the pan and let the cake cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream with some vanilla. A few fresh raspberries are also a nice addition.
Many of you have asked for the paczki recipe. Now you’ll see what a labor of LOVE it is. These would sure taste great on Christmas morning! The dough is similar to the Polish bread I make for Christmas breakfast. (Agata makes that too.) She was so sweet to take the time to share this recipe, as she is in graduate school, cramming on final papers now.
So a big THANK YOU to Agata!!!
PACZKI (pronounced poonchki)
-2 packs of dry yeast (it’s like 14 grams…I hope I am right, the conversions were annoying. But yes, I used those two small packs you left me in the fridge)
—> put it into a bowl, add a tablespoon of sugar, a pinch of flour and add a bit of warm (important! not cold, not hot) milk. Let’s say, half a cup.
Let it sit to rise a bit. (30 min?)
Then add 8 yokes, 6-7 tablespoons of sugar, 1.5 cup of warm milk again and the tricky part – flour. I don’t have an exact measurement because I always judge for myself if the dough needs more flour. Let’s say, it is important to add gradually and see how the dough looks like. Somewhere between 4 and 5 cups. I also melt 3.5 ounces (almost an entire stick) of butter. I add it when it’s warm, not too hot but again, cannot be cold. And then I use my hands to knead the dough. In case the dough is too watery and sticky – it needs more flour, and if it’s too heavy, it means that there is too much flour but it can be fixed by melting and adding the rest (0.5 oz) of the butter.
Then I let it sit again, wait until rises high (could be up to 2 hours even) and form small doughnuts (it is important to remember that they will puff up when they are waiting to be fried and then when they are fried. So if somebody wants them small, they should be made pretty tiny to begin with).
And then we need, I think, half of the bottle of corn oil, heat it up in a pot. In order to check it if it is hot enough and if we can fry the doughnuts, we can throw in a tiny little piece of dough. When it sizzles – we can start frying them. We fry one side and then turn it. They should not be too dark but also not too light. In order to figure out the right timing, it helps to cut open the first ones up to see if they are done.
When they are done – we put them on a plate lined with paper towel. At the end, we mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and turn the doughnuts in it.
I know, you’re saying what the heck is that? And how do you even say it?
Phonetically, it’s sort of like “poonchki.” It’s Polish for a sweet treat similar to doughnut holes. My mother used to make them, particularly on Shrove Tuesday, before Lent begins. I have not had them in probably 30 years.
Agata, Zach’s girlfriend, is from Poland and she wanted to make them for me as a birthday gift. Her recipe was so light, light, light and DELICIOUS!!!
When my mother made them, I don’t think she used a yeast based dough, whereas Agata did and let the dough rise twice. Rolled in cinnamon and sugar, they were heavenly!
Agata proudly displaying her delicious paczki!!