Cheese Profile: Taleggio (Plus Recipe)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

-The rosey-orange colored rind makes it easy to identify. Of course, the label helps too.-

The rosy-rinded Taleggio is one of the most known of the stinky cheeses. Yet don't let this cheese's washed rind rondo turn you away; while the smell may be overpowering with a somewhat sweaty, surely surly smell the taste is tangy, meaty, and finishes fruity. This rounded flavor pairs well with caramelized onions, apples, cured meats, and strong mustards.

-It may not look like much, but the flavor and smell is crazy intense.-

The cheese gains its flavor and appearance by being set on wood shelves for six to ten weeks, and washed with a seawater sponge to prevent infection from unwanted molds. Developed in the Valtaleggio region in northern Italy, near Lombardy from where it gets its name Taleggio's addictive flavor has made it one of the most popular semi-soft cheeses worldwide.

While delicious on crusty bread I love it melted into a grilled cheese paired with speck (a juniper-flavored ham with slightly coniferous flavors), and strong mustard.

-Probably one of the tastiest grilled cheeses I've had in a long while.-

Grilled Cheese with Taleggio and Speck

sourdough bread
coarse grain mustard
4 thick slices of speck, diced (optionally, use proscuitto or ham)
6 ounces of Taleggio, sliced and rinds discarded
various mixed greens of your choice
olive oil

1. Lightly spread mustard over slices of bread. Sprinkle in the diced speck and gently layer on the mixed greens. Top with another slice of bread.

2. Lightly grease skillet and place over medium heat. Brush the outside of the sandwiches with olive oil. Place in the skillet and press down using a spatula and cook until crisp and golden. After about a minute flip the sandwich, press and cook for another minute until golden.

3. Cut in half and serve immediately.

-A salty and spicy sandwich with melty cheese.-

Cherry Blossom Marshmallows

Sunday, March 28, 2010

-Marshmallows flavored with sakura blossoms. How can you possibly resist? Answer: You cannot. Lay back and accept your sugary fate.-

This afternoon was happily occupied with a delightful potluck in Northern California hosted by well known food maven and friend Peg Poswall and her husband John whose collection of friends is always eclectic and entertaining. Photographers, wine importers, lawyers, and non-profit grant writers all gather together between the citrus garden and rose garden under a blossom heavy awning overlooking acres of cattle grazing land and natural landscapes.

We were all to bring a dish and a bottle, and when you're cooking for other people who know good food it raises the stakes on your humble potluck dish. As I had been hankering to make marshmallows the last few days I decided this was the perfect time to whip up these puffy little bricks of sweetness. Shockingly easy to make, though difficult to move from bowl to pan as the fluff is easily strung into a sticky spider web of sugar, homemade marshmallows have a wow factor that endears you to people as a talented pastry chef (it'll be our little lie, as white as the marshmallows).

As we toasted our wine and toured the various gardens we worked up an appetite for a little bit of sugar. The real surprise in these marshmallows, a blank canvas for flavor, is the flavor from the sakura, or cherry blossom, extract.

After being inspired by Aran's cherry blossom doughnuts I went on a crazy hunt to find some of the now fabled sakura extract myself. My search was in vain though, it simply cannot be found in the States just yet. Maybe in a few years.

Luckily, Aran's hookup, Chika of She Who Eats, a Japanese food blog, heard my plight and sent me some right away. (I will never cease to be amazed by the kindness of food bloggers and the food community in general as a few days later on my doorstep was a carefully bundled package wrapped in Japanese newspaper.)

The marshmallows were then dredged in a bit of powdered sugar and dusted with an extra little gift Chika sent: powdered pickled cherry blossoms. Floral and salty they offered visual and flavorful counterpoints to the sugar. The marshmallows offered a quaint rosiness that complimented the sunny garden we dined in.

These cherry blossom marshmallows were a well received, flower-scented candy leaving poofs of powdered sugar on happy smiles and dotting our clothes. We brushed off the dust on the sides of our jeans, took another swig of wine, and armed with sugar soon went down to gather colorful eggs from the many resident hens. A simple highlight to a wonderful day.

-Sweet, floral goodness. Seriously, this will totally be the rockstar ingredient in the food world in a few years. Put money on it.-

Cherry Blossom Marshmallows
Adapted from Joy of Baking

1 cup cold water
3 - 1/4 ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons of cherry blossom extract
extra powdered sugar for coating
dried cherry blossom flakes (optional)

1. Lightly grease a pan a 13x9x2 inch pan and then line the bottom with parchment paper. Take a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and soft across the bottom and sides of the pan.

2. Place 1/2 cup of water and the gelatin in the bowl of your electric mixer and let set for 15 minutes.

3. Place sugar, 1/2 cup of water, salt, and corn syrup in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan and set to high heat and let it come to a boil. Bring to 245 degrees without stirring, this will take about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. With the balloon whisk attachment turn the mixer on to low and slowly pour in the sugar mixture letting it fall down the side into the gelatin (this is to prevent the hot sugar from flinging out). Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick and stiff, about 10 minutes. Add the extract and beat to combine, about 30 seconds longer.

5. Transfer to the pan. This will be a nightmare as it is sticky as hell. You will get it everywhere. Accept it. Once the bulk is in the prepared ban use a slightly damp offset rubber spatula to smooth and spread out the fluff.

6. Dust the top with some more sifted powdered sugar. Allow to set for 12 hours.

7. Remove the marshmallows and cut them up (scissors are great for this) and dredge each piece in more powdered sugar and the dried cherry blossoms if using. Serve.

-Homemade marshmallows are an easy to make treat that will always wow a crowd. Colorings and flavors can be added to make them unique and personal.-

Cheese Profile: Humboldt Fog

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

-Tastes like way back when.-

This post begins with an apology to mom. Mom, I'm sorry for every single grass stain I ever put in my clothes as a child. Those things can be more stubborn than what my eating habits were during the age I was rubbing in all that green. Verdant evidence that my recesses were, indeed, well spent.

However, at the age of 26 and while soaking a good t-shirt and Express jeans in the sink I have a new found anathema for the laundry drudgery kids must put their parents through. This experience I blame on Mary Keehn, the owner of Cypress Grove Chevre. Yes, Mary, we may never have met before, but you and your Humboldt Fog are to blame for these grass stains.

Now, there are a lot of good goat cheeses out there but Humboldt Fog is generally recognized to be one of America's, if not the entire cheese world's, best. The powder-svelte mouthfeel of this chevre is light and creamy, even somewhat earthy.

A good cheese should reflect its sense of place; where it's grown and nurtured along. The pasture fed goats who roam Humboldt County in Northern California, an area rich in natural growth and sunshine. California's happy cows aren't nearly as happy as Humboldt goats.

The cheese is then aged, and, being flanked by the misting fog and salt of Pacific on one side, and musky, ancient redwoods on the other, the cheese absorbs these flavors. In addition, a fine layer of vegetable ash and salt running through the center and lightly coating the cheese gives it a unique and memorable appearance one might associate with rolling fog across a coastline.

-See? Rolling fog and coastline.-

As I bit into this cheese its cool and pleasant tang reminded me of foggy California mornings before school started. A huge grassy hill, the mountain-like kind most children dream about playing on and conquering as king, ran parallel to the all-purpose field. Those cold mornings with the grass still wet, friends and I would lay straight as logs to the slope and roll downhill screaming with joy as we bounced along at frightening speed. By the time we'd reach the bottom we'd be trying to catch our breath through the fits of laughter. Taking in gulps of air. Rubbing our grass-stained bruises.

This cheese reminds me of that cold, wet air we sucked in so greedily.

Biting into it took me back to easier times when finding a good hill was the best thing ever. As for why my clothes are stained and I hold Miss Keehn accountable?

Well, there happens to be a school with a really big hill by my house...

-Pairs well with crackers, on a salad, with white wine, and some stain remover.-

Eat Beast Update #11: Hooka-Hooka-Hooka-Bleagh

Sunday, March 21, 2010

That's the name of the sound I hate. I hate it because I know upon the sound of the first "Hooka" the following things:

1) Eat Beast has eaten something that he shouldn't have. Again.

2) That bending on my hands and knees scrubbing the carpet with a damn rag and stain remover is in my immediate future.

While Eat Beast's stomach is admirable in its ability to digest nearly anything, which admittedly is a keen source of entertainment at times as he devours marshmallows and habaneros like great whirlpools sucking down doomed ships at sea along with their wailing crews, some things simply don't agree with him.

Spiders, bits of carpet (though that one is hit or miss), milk caps, and for some reason rice crackers are indigestible to him. Not that he doesn't try. He's a tenacious little puss, and just because that one piece of banana peel didn't stay down, by golly, that doesn't mean the next piece won't. And if the next piece doesn't then maybe the piece he just threw up a few minutes ago will. (But probably not.)

Still, these little errors in feline gastronomic judgment mean for me that I need to be at the ready with cleaning supplies before the rank of bile and tossed up *insert anything ingestible here* destroy my new carpet.

Normally, it's not all that bad. Today, however, was.

To keep Fatzilla out of the trash and pantry I installed childproof locks on most of the kitchen cabinets. As extra security all pantry items not in cans or unopened bags are stored in sealed glass containers to prevent him from getting into them. The trash is pushed to back of the cabinet so he doesn't reach in through the door crack that he can open with his paw, knock over the trash can and then pull out various tasty trash bits to snack on. Seriously, we have the place on lock down. If we don't he snacks on open bags of brown sugar and bacon greased soaked paper towels as if it were his last meal.

-"By the way, I ate the trash again. You're welcome."-

Fatty also knows that he runs the risk of these raids being just that. Not that it stops him. To him the possible reward is totally worth getting in trouble for.

Now, apparently, after a bit of cooking the other night I had forgotten to close the trash cabinet door the whole way. As I sat on the couch typing away at the thesis in an attempt to decipher just how Slow Food's use of religious language could be unwittingly exclusionary I heard the familiar sound.


I turned my head and became alert. I scanned the room and there, under the table, sat the black form of Eat Beast with neck stretched out, shoulders pointed high in two fuzzy peaks, and mouth wide open with tongue out as bile-ready sluice.


A chunky, chartreuse stream poured out over the carpet. Eat Beast then went to standard sitting position, looked and me, then walked off to the other room at a brisk pace in order to evade the scene leaving me to take care of his mess and wish I had decided to get a turtle instead.

Now chunky, chartreuse throw-up made up of chewed up beet ends and the crusty, moldy insides of an old cream cheese wrapper is a bitch to get out of the carpet. It's a bitch of a stain that even when attacked immediately requires plenty of oxy-clean and elbow grease. Scrub it like the you're bastard offspring of Mr. Clean and Cinderella because beets + bile + old cheese = death to your carpet.

Luckily, after a ten minute cleaning session, I was done. The carpet was saved but a faint stain was still visible if you knew to look for it. I gathered I would eventually forget about it and the stain would be out of peripheral sight and out of mind.

My hands smelled awful, a combination of sewage treatment plant and freshly cleaned office building bathroom. I began to wash my hands when just then, from my bedroom...


When Blogs Shift (It's the Whey of Things)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

-You may see and hear a lot more about the above. Photo by Elise Bauer, because I left my camera at a friend's house goddammit.-

I love milk. I really love it.

As a child I never drank soda and I still don't. I drank enough water to stay alive, and juice was never my thing. However, I loved milk. Loved it. I went through gallons of it like I would win a prize. Much to my parents dismay they had to buy three gallons a week just so that they would have some for their breakfast since I drank so much of it.

When it came to cheese it was even worse. I would take down whole blocks of cheddar the way packs of starving wolves devour snow rabbits in the middle of winter. Brie, a slower cheese, the lagger in the herd, was always easy prey. Crackers were my weapon of choice but I was more than happy to use my bare hands in what always became a savory unsavory scene.

Now that I'm older the obsession had grown. Have you noticed? The cheese profiles are becoming more prolific here, like moldy veins in a wedge of Stilton. I've been gathering information and breaking it down like lactose into lactic acid during the acidification process in cheesemaking.

Want to know how I made that comparison? I've been reading about cheese like a crazy person. "Culture" magazine, The Cheese Chronicles, Cheesemonger, not to mention everything by Janet Fletcher and Max McCalman. I've been devouring the information, not to mention a lot of cheese.

As such, you may notice a small shift in focus at Vanilla Garlic. Not a radical shift, but a shift nonetheless. But then again, that's the normal progrssion of blogs as I see it. This blog started as a restaurant review blog, then it was a cupcake blog, then a story blog, and now? Well, now it's all of those and more, with a bit of extra focus on cheese and everything that concerns cheese.

Is this a smart move? I don't know, but it's a move I need it to be. I love that people come to my blog to be informed and entertained, but before I can write for any of you I have to write for myself. The blog wouldn't be interesting if my own passion and interest wasn't invested in it.

Shifts in blog focuses are normal, but often don't happen enough or when they should. We're always afraid of losing our readers or losing comments. And it's true. You do. You will. I will. But after so long doing the same old thing can get tiring. However, the people who like your style and voice will follow you. At least, that's what I hope. I may lose some readers, but the way I see it I'll also gain new ones.

Furthermore, isn't the chance of exploration, education, entertainment, and enlightenment worth the risk? I think so.

You'll still find the occasional cupcake, a crazy story or two (I'm still an utter gravity well for crazy people), and the random self-reflective post like this one right here. It will just be intersperesed with bits and pieces about cheese as I so discover them.

Anyways, I hope that you don't mind and I hope you enjoy.

I'd love to hear you comments, ideas, and concerns. Not just on the cheese thing, but about the idea of changing the focus of your blog too. What do you think the motivations and consequences are? I think it's a topic not discussed a lot within the blogging community, especially food blogging where we feel we really have to lock ourselves into a niche in order to stand out. What can change do to a blog?

Cheese Profile: Saenkanter

Monday, March 15, 2010

-Saenkanter: A top-tier Gouda.-

Doctor, I swear I've put together better cheese plates before. I know the fact that most of my party guests' innards are more knotted than a preschooler's shoelaces says otherwise, but really, my cheese plate wasn't all that bad.

Yes, the homemade pickles may have caused a small case of botulism or two, but who doesn't take that gamble when eating a pickle? They're the roulette of the food world! And sure that one washed rind cheese may have been a bit off, the smell was epic but when it comes to runny, rank cheeses it's such a fine line between aged and apocalyptic.

But, Doc, seriously, you should have tried the Saenkanter. I mean, dang, can the Dutch make a good aged cow's milk cheese. Seriously, my guests were hitting that cheese so hard that if you pulled them off it you'd be crowned the king of England.

And who can blame them? That butterscotch color is so enticing, and the salty caramel flavor - oh my god - a dessert cheese like no other. Cocksure with the taste of salted caramel, it becomes a bit more cheeky when it's paired with dried blueberries or raisins. It's surprisingly flavorful for a pasteurized cheese, and a premier Gouda if I've ever tasted.

The texture is smooth and quite creamy for a hard cheese. It's nicely broken up by the little protein crystals, like little pin-prick fireworks popping in your mouth giving it a playful mouthfeel.

Well, doctor, when you try something like that, you'll be willing to risk anything else sitting on the cheese plate. Which is kinda why we're here now. I also served a blue cheese. Well, technically, it was a Brie. It was just the color blue. But mold is supposed to be good, right?


-Trust me, you'd eat poison if it was paired with this cheese.-

Ugly Dessert (But I Call Them Honeybucks)

Friday, March 12, 2010

-It ain't the prettiest dress at the prom, but it's everyone's favorite.-

Sadly, not all food is photogenic. Not every vegetable is going to win a beauty pageant, no one will pinch the cheeks a horribly splotchy plantain, and certainly no one is going to gush over these cookie bars of mine. They're dark, mottled cookies. Skinny and flat they're nothing that'll turn your head lustfully at the beach. It's a just-rolled-out-of-bed dessert.

Still, looks aren't everything. There's always inner beauty. You can't judge a book by its cover. And these cookies have a wonderful personality. Rich and fragrant from brown sugar and golden honey. A taste that's earthy with a husky scent from the buckwheat. The texture is dense and slightly sticky; different from any other bar cookies you've had.

Brownies are great and rely on tired and true chocolate. Blondies are delightfully old-fashioned, but old-fashioned is another word for predictable. These flavorful, aromatic, heavy with honey and buckwheat tasty squares of awesome are something else. They may not be a feast for the eyes, but for the mouth they're a banquet.

Serves 9

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), melted
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of buckwheat flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together the butter, sugars, and honey until well combined.

2. Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract until well combined.

3. In a separate bowl sift together the salt, baking powder, and flours. Add to the butter mixture all at once and mix together until just combined.

4. Pour into a lightly greased and floured 8 or 9 inch baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because of the buckwheat and honey it will be very dark and look burnt. Go by the toothpick test and by smell.

5. Cool on a wire rack. The mixture will have risen during baking but will sink during cooling.

Sway of Tequila

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

-Sweet, sweet reposado.-

Back when I was in Mexico I was drinking a lot of tequila. I was on vacation, escaping the reality of the fire, and just trying to enjoy not having responsibilities for seven days. This, along with all drinks being included as part of the vacation, led to me being able to drink a lot of the stuff. Whether it was morning, noon, or after I'd taken some Benadryl and someone still insisted I go drink with him anyways I was putting away tequila like no one's business.

Which is fine. I love tequila. This is a rare notion because so many people develop aversion for it due to hazy twenty-first birthday memories punctuated by the acrid odor of lime and bile.

Yet tequila isn't a flat, one-dimensional liquor. The subtleties in flavor and variety in composition are as varied as any wine or sake. From the species of agave used, to the aging, distilling, and terroir each tequila is distinct. Oak aging imparts flavors of butter like what you find in a smooth Chardonnay. The bolder, harsh flavors of tequila blanco may be preferable for cocktailing, whereas a maple-colored añejo's subtle flavors require your full attention.

Tequila is as complex as any other type of alcohol and therefore should be tasted, compared, and enjoyed just the same. During the tour of the markets in Zihuatenejo I was effervescent at the thought of tequila tasting. I floated down the worn cobblestone streets searching until I found a high end tequila shop.

Tall oak shelves stretched to the ceiling from the terra cotta tiles, and bottles of all designs lined the shelves like a Wonderland dispensary. A sweet smell permeated the air that was redolent of wet stone and pears, so thick it melted on your tongue.

As I and a few fellow bloggers perused the different tequilas a gentleman in fine hemp shirt, slacks, and dapper leather sandals approached us. Soon he swept us away to a small bar counter and proceeded to guide us through a tasting of some of the finest tequilas they had.

One blanco was light with the taste of hay and apples. Next, a heavy bodied añejo whose molasses color matched its wildflower honey taste. Each and every sip was defined and distinct leaving it impossible to simply regard it as as JUST tequila.

However, it was when he poured the Clase Azul that I fell in love. An multi-award winning tequila, this particular reposado possessed little of the smoky flavors that comes from roasting the agave hearts that one expects in all forms of tequila. Rather its strength lied in softer flavors and their almost brutal pronouncement - soft butter flavors washed over and soon were swept away by berries. It finished sweet with the taste of cream. Light and refreshing.

-What? I like pretty things.-

Of course, I would be lying if I didn't say I was enchanted by the decanter. The curvy ceramic shape and design was created by a local artist in Zihuatanejo, and each bottle is hand painted. While you may have put up empty Captain Morgan bottles up in your dorm room as "decor" this decanter has actual artistic and practical value once the reposado was long gone; a characteristic vase or water decanter to sit in a guest bedroom for example.

I was sold and purchased a bottle then and there. I was proud of my purchase. Other food bloggers soon followed suit, between four of us we were unanimous in our decision. This was a tequila to be proud of and cherished in one's liquor cabinet, saved only for the most honored of guests and as panacea to the worst of days.

Now, I still have a bottle or two of more common tequila in my home, one for mixing, another for more common sipping, but this still sits as the prize possession in my cabinets. For anyone who is still afraid of tequila this is the one that will sway your prejudice and make you take pride in your tequila.

-100% Pure Win-

Have a favorite tequila or tequila story? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Cheese Profile: Rogue River Blue

Saturday, March 6, 2010

-Beware of unseen costs if you're accident prone.-

A good wedge of Rogue River Blue will cost you about $8 initially, but if you accidentally drop a crumb of it into a library book, then promptly forget about it, the replacement fee is extraordinary. That is, unless you're a good liar.

Which I'm not. I'm awful. I get visibly nervous stuttering to the point that would make a speech therapist cry, and my eyes roll so far into the side of my head that they might actually find a plausible fib written on my skull. My parents only had to give me the evil eye to make my will buckle as a child, and as an adult I'm not better.

I gave a sheepish "I don't know," and hoped. The librarian looked at me as her nose crinkled at the offending funk. "What really happened?" she asked, "What tiny creature did you execute in this book to raise such a stink?"

I explained that the stink wasn't always so rank, that before it belonged to one of the most delightfully complex blue cheeses. Heralding from Oregon this handcrafted cheese had a history as rich as its flavor. The raw cow's milk was carefully turned in caves resembling those in Roquefort, France. It was this dedicated method of cheese making that imparted the milk with those naturally occurring molds that embody Rogue River Valley's terroir.

I said that she shouldn't judge a cheese based on a crumb wedged between the dense expounding of Brillat-Savarin, transformed by heat, pressure, and time into a dairy-mold bomb. A week ago this cheese was redolent with the scent of pears and apples as the cheese had been wrapped in grape leaves macerated in pear brandy, imbibing the cheese, making it sweet and drunk.

-Personally, I think leaving a piece of this in the pages of The Physiology of Taste makes perfect sense.-

Breaking it open, the butter-colored cream and blue ripple of mold released new scents of pine and morels which inevitably engulf you and the room it sits in. The smell might be off putting to some, but its convivial taste - spicy at the start and then creamy and whispering of asparagus - is endearing. Paired with honey it's enchanting.

I brought myself back from my cheesey reminiscence. The librarian smiled at me, she, apparently, had a fondness for Oregonzola. She shooed me along and told me not to worry, she understood. And next time, she suggested, I should use a cracker.

The Queen of Hearts and Chocolate Caramel Tarts

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

-While the Queen of Hearts should be leading her kingdom, she's instead baking this. Who could blame her?-

The Queen of Hearts certainly gets a lot of attention. Songs, nursery rhymes, and Disney villains are centered on her royal presence.

It might be because she's the monarch of the most tender of suits. It might be her circus freak appearance what with her lower torso being a twin who was only half absorbed in the womb, and both wearing matching robes and wimples. Maybe her green thumb, and affinity for tiny flowers?

But, personally, I think it's because we adore her fondness of tarts. I submit the following evidence:

The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts all on a summer's day;
The Knave of Hearts he stole the tarts and took them clean away.
The King of Hearts called for the tarts and beat the Knave full sore
The Knave of Hearts brought back the tarts and
vowed he'd steal no more.

To have your hubby kick the heck out of a guy like he's an old soup can because he stole a tart? I dare you to find a greater example of someone's love for good food.

Now, obviously, the Queen was being selfish. Royalty or not she should share her tarts. That's why the Knave stole them, he was hungry and wanted a taste.

And, really, can you blame him?

I mean, look at this tart. Chocolate, caramel, more chocolate, and salt. What's not to love? Who wouldn't steal a piece? I would totally snag a slice of tart if it were just lying around, but I'd be smart to pack a tazer to take down kingy. And if he wasn't around and I had to deal with the Queen proper, well I doubt something like 5000 volts will take her down. After all, this is her tart we're talking about.

That's dedication you can appreciate.

Now you've probably seen this particular tart around the Internet. First on Saveur, then on Lottie+Doof, and on Eating-SF, but now you're seeing it here. This one is my tart. Actually, my first tart. Ever.

In my desire to learn more about baking I've been trying new things. This tart is a perfect beginner's tart and though it might look daunting, it isn't. Furthermore, avid tart bakers with more experience will appreciate how simply this tosses together for a real wow-factor at any event, enough to even impress a Queen.

-The obligatory chocolate caramel tart shot. Seriously, go check. If you do this recipe, you have to take this particular photo. It's one of the unsaid rules of food writing.-

Chocolate Caramel Tart
The crust for this recipe comes from Cindy Mushet's The Art and Soul of Baking and served me quite well. The caramel is adapted from Lottie+Doof. The tart recipe as a whole is adapted from Saveur.

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup of sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons of salted butter
2 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Sea salt or kosher salt for garnish

1. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and mix on medium for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the egg yolk and beat well.

2. In another bowl whisk together the flour and cocoa powder. Add to the butter mixture all at once. Then mix in at lowest speed until it just comes together (it will have small and medium clumps). Any more and it will become sticky and difficult to work with.

3. Scrape dough into tart pan. Press into the bottom of the tart and outward using the heel of your palm. Use your fingers to pull the tart up the edge. Chill for an hour in the fridge. Reserve a little bit of dough to patch the shell later if necessary.

4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake tart shell for 15 minutes. Check to see if the dough has cracked, if so patch it with the reserved dough. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on it to ensure it doesn't burn. Cool on wire rack.

5. Make the caramel: In a saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, and water and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until a medium-dark amber color, swirling occasionally. Take off heat and add the cream, butter, and sour cream. Stir together until smooth. Pour into cooled tart shell and let cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge to chill and set.

6. Make the ganache: Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in hot cream; let sit for 1 minute, then stir slowly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour ganache evenly over tart and refrigerate until set, 4–5 hours. Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice, and serve chilled.


-I'd totally smack a Knave if he pilfered this.-


This post extolling the awesomness of this tart was actually written before I found out that Saveur had nominated me for one of their Best Food Blog Awards. I've been nominated amongst some other amazing bloggers for the category of Best Individual Post for the cheese profile on Devil's Gulch.

I do hope you'll all go and vote for me if you feel my post exemplifies the kind of writing you hope to see in a quality food blog. =)

Only You Can Save Girl Scouts (From Monsters)

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Want some Girl Scout Cookies?" piped the girl in the brownie colored vest. Her charcoal black braids were tied tight behind her ears framing a wide grin and hazel eyes.

"Nah, it's okay. I'm good." I had already punished two boxes of Thin Mints yesterday and I didn't think it wise to go for a new personal record. She would have to scout out another cookie-craving person to push her wares on.

"Are you sure? They support the Girl Scouts."

"Obviously, but no, thank you." I put up my hand and began to walk around her.

"What? Well what about for your girlfriend? Boyfriend? Boss? Someone you can buy love from with cookies?" she followed me waving the colorful boxes, her braids bouncing with entrepreneurial fury.

"Uhh, I'm okay. Dang." I pushed past her. Intrigued, but stalwart.

She stopped moving and yelled, "You have to buy these cookies." This was no longer a question, but a command.

"Oh?" I turned around to face my pint sized superior. My eyebrow raised and I smirked, "And why is that?"

"If you don't -" and I shit you not she said this, "- some giant tentacle monster will rip open the sky and devour me. The four dollars in your pocket are the only sacrifice I can offer that will keep me safe."

Quiet pause.

"Damn. Wow. Okay. That's the best reason for a box of cookies ever. Here's four dollars. I'll take some Thin Mints."

"Thank you," she squeaked. She scampered over to her Den Mother then came back with a green box and dollar.

"You know you're going to take over the world someday right?" I noted, turning to go into the market.


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