Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hazelnut Torta

One of my favorite breakfasts in Ireland was nutella on toast, it was quick, easy, and on those rainy days when walking to school seemed like a monumental task, and you didn't have time to take a shower because you opted to hit snooze instead of get up and turn on the hot water, and you really really wanted a nice cup of coffee, nutella on toast, all the melty chocolate and hazelunutty goodness could really turn your day around. This is the fancy dinner party version of that, it inspires the same feeling of all being right in the world. My mom picked it out for her mother's day dessert, my dad said he would serve it to the Obama family if they ever came over for dinner (I mean I did see Barack once so we are basically close personal friends and having him and his family over for dinner is totally in the realm of possibility). I just want you to know what you are getting into with this, it's super tasty, uses a whole jar of nutella, has absolutely no flour, half a dozen eggs, and there is heavy cream involved. The recipe can be found here and I will post the American conversion of the ingredients after the pictures so you don't have to drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what gas mark 4 is in fahrenheit or anything like that.

Start by mixing up the butter and nutella, then add the frangelico/rum/water (I used water), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts.

Meanwhile, in your stand mixer, whip up those egg whites (unless you have freakish forearm/wrist stamina and want to do it by hand) until stiff. I may have spaced out just a tiny bit and over beat them by a few seconds, but the cake still turned out lovely.

After the egg whites have been beaten up you do the whole standard shebang where you lighten the chocolate mixture some with a dollop of them and then fold the rest in. Then you pour that mixture into your springform pan and bake it. Ours is nonstick so I didn't do the whole greasing it then lining it with parchment paper step and it was fine. If you are the nervous sort you could always do that step, I personally prefer to skip steps like that and then afterwards when I can't get it out complain loudly about how the damn cake won't come out of the pan, but that's just me.

While it is cooking, or any time really, (you want these to be cool when you use them) toast up your hazelnuts. I could not find whole ones in my grocery store, which I thought would be less aesthetically pleasing and as we all know you eat with your eyes first, but the cake ended up quite pretty anyways.

Then for the fun part, the icing. This pot of heavy cream and chocolate chips turns into a lovely chocolate goo once the chips melt. After that it is just a matter of it cooling some so that it is the right consistency to ice the cake.

Spread a thick layer of icing over the cooled cake.

Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve. Rich, but not too dense, it melts in your mouth.

Hazelnut Torta (from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson)
Here are the American conversions of the ingredients and the recipe can be found here.
For the cake
6 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
14 oz. nutella
1 tablespoon frangelico, rum or water
scant 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
4 oz. buttersweet chocolate, melted

For the topping
4 oz. hazelnuts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon frangelico, rum or water
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chicken Mole for my Mother

I have this FABULOUS cookbook that I got in the bargain books section, Mex Tex by Matt Martinez (note how Matt cleverly switched Tex-Mex around and really made it his own). I bought it because I do, in fact, judge books by their covers, and you have to admit that this one is pretty great, don't you agree? Aside from being able to look at the cover whenever I wish, the recipes are pretty good too (at least the two I have tried) one of which is this chicken mole 'gone simple' as Matt calls it. The mole recipe alone is worth the seven dollars I spent on the book, it is that good. It is so good in fact that it is the meal my mother requested for Mother's day. I always thought mole had chocolate in it, which this one does not, so I did a little research that I will now share with you. According to wikipedia there are many different types of mole and they have all kinds of ingredients, chiles and spices, but also nuts, seeds, bananas, avocado leaves and all sorts of other things. This one doesn't have any bananas but it does have peanut butter, which I found strange until I did my research.

The chicken is poached, and while I find the combination of boiling water and meat gross, I must admit that the chicken stays very moist and the onion, celery and peppers in the water add a nice flavor. You are going to save the water and add it to the sauce later, thus keeping all the flavor in the family so to speak.

While the chicken poaches, combine your spices, it may seem like a lot, but this is where all the flavor comes from and at least you don't have to track down avocado leaves or anything like that.

Once your chicken has cooked through, let it cool enough so you can handle it then shred it. It will look like very boring, ordinary chicken, which it is, for now at least, but the sauce will change all that.

Then start on the sauce, it begins with a basic roux that you let get nice and golden.

Then toss in the spices and peanut butter, and mix it all together to make an aromatic, toasted spice paste. Be sure to stir constantly so it doesn't burn.

Next add the reserved poaching liquid, pouring it through a sieve to get out all the chunks of veggies and any bits that may have come off the chicken during the poaching process. Let it simmer for a few minutes.

Then add the shredded chicken. At this point, Matt only has you cook it for 5 more minutes, but I like to let it go longer, the chicken just soaks up the sauce and the sauce has time to thicken that way. I also add a bit of Wondra to thicken the sauce more.

Look at that juicy goodness!

I like to serve it with homemade tortillas (speaking of which, you should all make them, it is super easy and they are delicious. I use the walmart brand flour tortilla mix and just follow the directions on the package).

You can eat these taco style (which is quite messy, what with all the sauce, but delicious) or with the tortilla on the side to mop up all the juices.

Chicken Mole Gone Simple from Mex Tex by Matt Martinez
4 cups water
2 lbs chicken breast
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
pinch of salt
2 T veggie oil
2 T flour
2 T chili powder
2 T creamy peanut butter
1 T roasted sesame seeds
1 t granulated garlic
1 t paprika
1 t cumin
1 t salt
1/2 t sugar

Place chicken, onion, celery, pepper, and salt in a large saucepan; cover with the water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about half an hour, until the chicken is tender. Remove chicken from the broth and let cool then shred, reserve the liquid. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil then add the flour. Stir constantly until the flour turns golden brown, then add the chili powder, peanut butter, sesame seeds, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and sugar. Stir in the reserved broth and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the shredded chicken and simmer for 10 minutes more, at the very least. You can let it go for a half an hour no problem, also you can add some wondra or flour if you want a thicker sauce.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I have a deep and true love of carbs. My mom talks about how having protein for breakfast is so wonderful and filling, but for me, if there is no bread type item involved then it isn't breakfast. Which is where these bagels come in, they are delicious for breakfast, or really any time of day, they also make wonderful sandwiches (especially if you toss them on Georgie and they get nice and toasty and melty). The recipe is one of Nigella's (I love her, if my kitchen had a patron saint it would probably be her with a little bit of Pioneer Woman thrown in for good measure), and while I have done some minor tweaking (for example I replaced some of the regular flour with whole wheat and have tried a few different toppings), I haven't messed about with it much yet, but one day I think I will try to knead various things into the dough and see how it turns out. These bagels aren't difficult to make, but the dough does take some muscle when you are kneading it, so don't get discouraged, just keep working at it, and it will come together eventually, I promise. It is worth all the muscle though, these are nothing like the grocery store bagels, which I now call soulless much to the amusement of my mother.

Start by mixing your dry ingredients together. I replaced 2 1/3 cups white bread flour with whole wheat, but you could leave it all white if you wanted. And I have used all purpose flour in the past, when we didn't have bread flour, and it worked just fine.

Then combine the warm water, oil, and sugar.

Mix the wet stuff with the dry stuff. I always end up adding a bit more water, especially when I use whole wheat flour. The dough looks like a shaggy mess at this point, but it will come together when you knead it.

See? It turned into a lovely, elastic, cohesive ball after about 10 minutes of intensive kneading. You could always knead it in a stand mixer, however, in my mixer the bowl has a tendency to get stuck when you knead dough in it for that long, and I figure it is about the same amount of effort to wrestle the bowl off the stand as it is to knead it by hand. After kneading, let the dough rise.

When it has risen properly, divide it into 3 equal pieces (or as equal as you can get them, which in my case is generally not very).

Then divide each third into five equal pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball, then a rope and then pinch the ends together to make a ring. Make sure to really pinch the ends, the first time I made these I ended up with horseshoe shaped bagels because the ends came unpinched. I lay the ends on top of one another and sort of fold them in half and seal it up as well as I can, which seems to work for me. Let them rest/rise for about 20 minutes.

Next is the poaching step, you just drop the bagels into boiling water, a few at a time.

I actually have no idea what purpose the poaching serves, as far as I can tell, it makes the bagels look funny and lumpy, although I am sure there is more going on than that. Anyways, at this point, after the poaching, I sometimes add toppings, like sesame seeds or poppy seeds or grated cheese, but this time I just wanted plain bagels.

Bake until nice and golden and gorgeous.

Bagels, from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

4 1/3 cup white bread flour, plus more as necessary for kneading
2 1/2 whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 package rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
2 1/4 cups warm water, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons malt or sugar, for poaching the bagels
2-3 baking sheets, greased

Combine flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix the sugar, oil, and water. Make a well in the flour and add the water mixture, mix it all together.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, you want to add as much flour as you can during the kneading process. Form the dough into a ball and put in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for about an hour, it should be well risen and when you poke it with your finger the indent should remain.

Punch the dough down and give it a good knead. Divide it into three pieces. Roll each one into a rope and then cut each rope into five pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then a rope and then pinch the ends together to form a loop.

Let the bagels rise for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile put a large pot of water on to boil. When it boils add the sugar/malt. Preheat the oven to 500. Then when the water is boiling, poach the bagels a few at a time. Boil for about a minute, turning them once.

After poaching put the bagels on the greased baking sheets, add whatever toppings you want, sesame seeds, cheese, whatever you want. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until shiny and golden brown.