Musing with Max

Musing with Max

December 29, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past

What a whirlwind! How did that happen? How does it always happen? One minute you have all the time in the world and next thing you know it's all a memory. So here's to the memories:

The decorations:

The nutcrackers:
The visions of sugarplums:
Soft Chocolate Truffles adapted from Renny Darling

1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup butter
1/2 lb. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tbsp Grand Marnier liquor

sifted cocoa, cinnamon sugar, ground nuts (optional)

In the top of a double boiler, heat cream with butter until butter is melted. Add the chocolate chips, salt and vanilla and stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and beat in egg yolks until blended, add sugar and liquor and beat until mixture is smooth. Cover and refrigerate until chocolate has hardened, preferably overnight. Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder on a sheet of waxed paper. When chocolate has hardened take about 1 1/2 tsp and roll into a ball then dust with cocoa powder (or cinnamon sugar, or chopped nuts, or shredded coconut, or whatever you like). Place in bon bon wrappers. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (they freeze beautifully).

Cinnamon-sugar cookie squares adapted from momofuku-milk-bar makes approximately 150 cookies

½ cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup canola oil
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cinnamon sugar, to garnish*
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 11-by-15-inch pan.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together with an electric mixer, beginning with the butter, sugar, oil, eggs, milk and finally the dry ingredients. 

3. Pour into the pan and spread evenly with a metal spatula or knife. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar all over and bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are light brown.

4. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cutting board and cut into bite-size squares.

*To make cinnamon sugar, mix ½ tablespoon of cinnamon for every ¼ cup of sugar.

Mantecaditos con guayaba adapted from The Noshery

about 18 cookies
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup guava paste, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream sugar, shortening and butter in a large bowl. Mix in egg yolk and almond extract.  Blend in the flour a little at a time, until well combined and chunky. Shape a tablespoon of dough into a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Using your thumb press the down on the cookie.  Fill the dimple with about 1 tsp of guava paste.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Transfer to cooling rack.

The mess in the kitchen:
Cuban Christmas Eve Dinner

The coolest Christmas gift

so we can make these

and poor Max being very neglected which only makes him mope and retreat to

or here
or here

or here

or here

holidays can be so stressful, so to all a good night. 

December 20, 2011

Random thoughts from Max

Can you see me?....Really?
what about now?

even now?

How many feet do I have?

is that a squirrel?
can I go play?

can you shut up so I can nap?
Is that my food?
can you shut up so I can nap?

can I go play?

is that a squirrel?

how many feet do I have?

can you see me?

what about now?

even now?



what's he doing here?

December 17, 2011

Apple of my eye

One of my favorite desserts ever in the whole wide world is Tarte Tatin. That beautiful simple french apple tart just makes my mouth water. Making a tarte tatin however has never been anything I've ever attempted. For one there are the sliced apples. Most tarte tatins I've ever had are made with very thinly sliced apples placed in a spiral with the slices overlapping and slicing those apples is no fun, frankly it's downright nerve wracking unless of course you use a mandoline; which I own. I've had one for years, probably 15 years or so, and have used probably a grand total of 5 times for several reasons. What are those you ask, well number one is that I have to climb on the step ladder to get it because it is stored in the cabinet above the refrigerator along with all the other stuff that's used on occasion. Mind you I have no problem climbing on the step ladder to get any of the baking pans, baking sheets, blender, ice cream maker, Italian pasta plates my aunt gave me, etc. The mandoline though is another story, I have to pull it out of the box,  decide which blade will be used, put it together, prepare the area...reason number two, which is most important, I am deathly afraid of it. The thing is a terrifying lethal weapon, there is nothing, nothing, I say NOTHING sharper on this planet than the blade of a mandoline; and you have no choice but to hold whatever food you are slicing right up against it with your non suspecting fingers as you move up and down very quickly to achieve perfectly paper thin slices of whatever. This is an accident waiting to happen...and it has; therefore I try as much as possible to avoid the dreaded thing because as we all know blood seems to come gushing out of our fingers in an alarming amount, I'm not that big so I can't afford the blood loss. The other reason for not making this luscious dessert is that there is dough involved, rolled out dough. Something else that scares the hell out of me. Then last week I took Frank out to dinner at Cafe Monet in Millburn to celebrate his new job (yes, we he are is employed) and he ordered tarte tatin for dessert and proceeded to ooh and aah with every single bite as I stared with envy and longing. And then this week I saw this post from David Lebovitz and he cuts his apples in chunks and I thought: Oh my, no mandoline needed, I can do this! OK, the dough problem is still there but some fears need to be faced head on and this one is nothing when you've circumvented the use of the mandoline.

Tarte Tatin

¾ cup (110 g) flour
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch (2-cm) cubes and chilled
3 tbsp (45 ml) ice-cold water
8 firm, tart baking apples
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp (15 g) butter
½ cup (120 g) packed dark brown sugar

Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor or standing mixer. Add butter and mix until butter is in pea-sized chunks. Stir in water and mix just until dough holds together.

Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. (Dough can be made up to 3 days before using.)

Quarter, peel and core apples. Toss in bowl with lemon juice and set aside. Melt butter in 10-inch (25-cm) cast-iron skillet. Stir in brown sugar and remove from heat.
Arrange apple quarters in pan rounded side down, tightly packing them in overlapping concentric circles. (Really cram them in. They'll cook down, so don't worry.) Cook over medium heat 20-25 min. Do not move or stir apples while cooking, but gently press them down with a spatula as they soften.
While apples are cooking, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Roll dough on lightly floured surface into a 12-inch (30-cm) circle. Drape dough over apples, tucking in the edges, and bake tart on upper rack of oven until golden brown, 35-40 min.
Remove from oven and invert a baking sheet over tart. Carefully flip both skillet and baking sheet simultaneously. Lift off skillet, loosen any apples that may have stuck, and reunite them with the tart.
and voila! not perfection but a step in the right direction, next time I'll cut the pieces smaller, these were really big apples so I needed to go beyond quartering and I should have heeded the instruction to pack them in. The dough had nothing on me!

...oh, and the real apple of my eye? Here he is

wondering what that smell is.