The Pudding Pledge (Salted Butterscotch Pudding)

Dear Readers,

I invite you to take the following pledge with me.

OK raise your right hand:

I (insert name), being of sound mind, do solemnly swear that I will never buy pudding in a plastic cup or powdered box mix again. I hereby acknowledge that making pudding from scratch is incredibly easy and with very little work I will create something that is far superior in flavor and texture to prepackaged pudding and pudding mixes.

Seriously, once you start making pudding from scratch you will wonder why you ever bought it pre-made before. One of my favorite recipes of all time  is the butterscotch pudding recipe from the no deceased Gourmet Magazine (RIP, may its memory be a blessing to generations of foodies). It’s not overly sweet like butterscotch puddings you may have had in the past; rer it has a deeper, more complex almost caramel like flavor. It’s a tried and true recipe, but after having that amazing experience at Sweet Cheeks in Boston, where they topped their pudding with salted caramel, I decided to attempt a salted version of Gourmet’s butterscotch pudding.

Salted Butterscotch Pudding

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar; tightly packed
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Fleur De Sel
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 Tablespoons SALTED butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In heavy bottomed medium pot whisk together sugar, cornstarch and Fleur De Sel. Then whisk in milk and cream.

Hey, who you calling heavy bottomed!

Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat; whisking frequently. Then boil for one minute; whisking constantly.

You can see and feel the pudding thicken up.

Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.

Pour into storage bowl or container.

Luscious

If you don’t want a skin to form, cover surface of pudding with a piece of buttered wax paper. I’m sort of skin neutral, but went skinless this time.

Skin protection, like SPF for your pudding

Chill until cold; at least 2 hours. Serve with extra Fleur De Sel sprinkled on top. Serves 4.

Extreme close up!

Tip: To determine how much salt to use, taste your butter first. Not all salted butter have the same level of salty-ness. I’d also suggest being conservative with your salt in the actual pudding since you can always sprinkle more in after the fact.

Enjoy!

I Done Gone Strawberry Crazy!

As it is my deeply held belief that strawberries are the greatest food on earth (and likely in the whole universe), I make sure to buy some every single week when they’re in season at the farmer’s market. Yesterday, at my lunchtime visit to the market, I went strawberry cray-zay! I saw those sweet smelling, luscious red, heart shaped globes of amazingness in front of me and instead of buying my usually pint of strawberries I bought a quart!

Much as I love strawberries and will happily eat them every day, as soon as I was back in my office I knew I’d made a mistake. Stupidly I hadn’t even bought rhubarb so that I could make a quick compote. I have a wedding to attend this weekend and so had no intention of baking either. What to do, what to do?

Then sitting on my couch last night watching Bravo’s Top 20 Real Housewives Reunion Moments show PBS it hit me; Strawberry Balsamic Sauce! It’s incredibly easy to make and really versatile. You can drizzle it on vanilla ice cream or scoop it on a simple pork loin. It’s also super simple to cater to your own personal tastes; add more sugar if you like it sweeter (or if your strawberries aren’t that sweet) or more vinegar if you like more of a tang.

Cooking away

Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

  • About 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Throw everything in to a pot and gently boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yes, it’s that simple and so so delicous. If you’re serving it over ice cream or with pound cake I’d suggest grabbing some fresh basil, slicing into chiffonades and sprinkling on top.

Good on pretty much everything

Enjoy!

G is for… Guatemala: Ain’t Nothin’ But a Cheese Thing Baby

¡Hola

Guatemalan Flag

So the Rangers beat the Caps and are now in the Eastern Conference Finals, the final step before the Stanley Cup! Woo-hoo!  If this was football and we were watching th Super Bowl, I’d make my Game Day Chicken Quesadillas, but because Hockey has a championship decided by a series rather than a single game I don’t really have an occasion to cook . I am still making a quesadilla this week however, but it’s a veryvery different kind of quesadilla.

In this country we associate quesadillas with the Mexican version; a flour tortilla stuffed with melted cheese and a variety of other meats and veggies. The literal translation of the word quesadilla though, is actually “cheese thing,” and throughout much of Central America, including Guatemala, a quesadilla is a type of cake with cheese in the batter. 

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Guatemala is a country that I’m sure I’ll visit one day. My good friend Hans (of favorite cakes list fame) is from Guatemala and I’ve already informed him that he has to take me there. His family still lives there and his parents love me… well ok they only met me the one time and probably don’t remember me, but once they meet me again they’ll surely realize that they love me and be thrilled to have me staying with them, right? As a thank you I can even whip this cake up for them.

Guatemalan Quesadilla  is made using Queso Seco or Cotija cheese which is a dry crumbly Mexican cheese. Because I live in a city where I can get pretty much anything, I had no problem getting the Cotija, but if you can’t find any where you live the good people of the internet suggest using 2 parts grated parmesan and 1 part crumbled feta instead. The cheese, which is crazy good and addictive, does have a similarity to both of those cheeses, but also has this bit of sweetness to it. I would make every effort to find the Cotija before resorting to the parm/feta mix. 

Mayan Ruins

I also found in my research that this cake is just as often made with rice flour as it is with wheat. Two out of the five people who actually read this blog (I’m talking to you Erin and Lisa) are gluten free, but I have no other need for rice flour so I made the wheat flour version. If you try this with rice flour, my research suggests you use 1 3/4 cups rice flour in place of the 2 cups of wheat flour and you MUST tell me how it turns out.

Usually sesame seeds are scattered on top of this cake, but I’m seriously allergic to sesame so obviously a no-go. Other than that I believe this is a very authentic recipe.

 Quesadilla Guatemalteca

  • 1 stick of butter softened
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup full fat sour cream
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup crumbled Cotija (Queso Seco) cheese

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9×13 baking dish.

Cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Stir in milk and sour cream.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together over the wet mixture. Stir just until incorporated, do not over mix. Fold in cheese.

Pour in to greased pan and bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes until a cake is very lightly browned and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean

Yields: A LOT!

Of course I started cutting it before I remembered to take a picture

FINAL VERDICT: A- 

OMG this cake is so so good. I am not big on sweet, gooey, frosting heavy desserts; preferring a plainer coffee style cake and that’s exactly what this is. This cake is perfect for a cup of tea (or coffee if you’re a coffee drinker). It’s the type of thing that I could see bringing to a book club or some other afternoon activity that involves people chatting and drinking hot beverages (clearly I’ve never been to a book club). 

The texture of this cake is hard to explain. There’s a bit of texture from the cheese, though you’d never know there was cheese in it if someone didn’t tell you, which gives it a vague resemblance to corn bread yet it is super moist and buttery. I will definitely be making this again at some point. 

Mi Corazon

¡Buen provecho!

This Is the Cake of Our Affliction (and it’s awesome)

For being the “Bread of Our Affliction,” matzah sure is delicious! Here in the northeast (and probably in other areas with a large Jewish population), matzah is beloved by Jews and Gentile’s alike. Really.

Matzah, or ulevened bread is basically a giant delicious cracker that’s good on its own, but it also a great vehicle for almost anything else. I love matzah pizza, for dinner the other night I had matzah brei which is like a matzah and egg scramble and one of my favorite guilty pleasure snacks is honey drizzled on lightly buttered matzah.

This week, like almost every Passover of my life, I’m enjoying a different and unusual matzah treat; Chocolate Covered Matzah Cake.

My good friend Hans actually has a “favorite cakes” list. It’s one of the many things I love about him, but I’m not nearly as dedicated to cake as Hans so I possess no such list. If I had a favorite cakes list though, this would be on it (and probably that Brazilian carrot cake I made a few weeks ago too).

A dear friend of my mother’s, who sadly passed away, was an avid baker who came up with this recipe and it’s been a staple in my family ever since. The original recipe calls for margarine to keep this pareve for those who keep kosher so if that’s a concern for you feel free to substitute the butter. Also, the egg in this recipe doesn’t really get cooked so make sure you’re using fresh, organic, free range eggs.

Chocolate Covered Matzah Cake

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 to 8 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 stick of butter softened
  • 1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg beaters)
  • 6 sheets of matzah
  • Manichewitz wine (or grape juice) for dipping

    Using a shallow baking dish is the easiest way to dip the matzah in wine.

In small sauce pan on medium high heat or microwave melt together sugar, water and chocolate chips. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add butter and egg and stir until smooth.

Dip one sheet of matzah in the wine for about 10 seconds, place on plate or cake platter and pour some of the chocolate mixture to coat.

Repeat with all remaining matzah until cake is completely covered with chocolate.

Refrigerate over night.

The next day the matzah will have softened and the chocolate should have a frosting like consistency.

Slice of Chocolate Covered Matzah Cake. Yum!

ENJOY!

B is for… Brazil: Have Your Cake and Love Yourself Too

Ola!

Brazilian flag

Brazilian women would never eat cake, right? I mean how could they when they are all perfectly manicured, bronzed beauties; cinched and waxed and oiled to perfection within an inch of their lives. Brazilian women can’t eat cake because they might gain an ounce and these women obsess over their appearance and strive for an unattainable level of beauty.

Wrong!

Last July my friend Karen organized an amazing trip to Martha’s Vineyard and for the first time I met her college friend Carla. Carla, originally from Brazil, was down to earth, laid back and loved her beer as much as I do. I liked her right away.

A couple of days in to the trip we were all chatting when Carla mentioned that by and large Brazilian women to have a much healthier body image than there American counterparts. I was confused, I mean everything I’d ever seen in the media told me just the opposite about Brazilian women who were consumed with their looks and a quest for perfection.

When I mentioned this my friend Karen, who had visited Carla in Brazil some years before, said, “Oh that’s not true at all. If you ever want to feel good about yourself as a women go to a beach in Brazil.” Apparently instead of a beaches filled with supermodel wannabes, the beaches of Brazil are filled with women who are skinny and fat, tall and short, old and young confidently striding along the sand, having a good time and loving life!

I’m sexy and I know it! Brazilian Model Fluvia Lacerda

Of course, still harboring a bit of disbelief, I did some Googling which only confirmed what Carla had said. Research paper after research paper and article after article all ended with the same conclusion; Brazilian women of all ages, shapes and sizes have a healthy body image and a great confidence and respect for their bodies.

So if you try this recipe for Bolo de Cenoura com Cobertura de Chocolate (Brazilian Carrot Cake) try channeling some Brazilian spirit and don’t beat yourself up for eating dessert, just cut yourself a sensible slice and enjoy! I promise you, you’ll still be beautiful in the morning.

Bolo de Cenoura com Cobertura de Chocolate

Cake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large carrots, pealed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 pan.

Put eggs, sugar, carrots and oil in a blender or food processor. Blend on high until smooth

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour in the carrot mixture and stir being careful not to over mix.

Pour in to greased pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 Tablespoons butter

Mix all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil.

Boil for 4-5 minutes until mixture thickens (sauce will thicken, but won’t become thick).

Pour hot glaze over warm cake.

Allow cake to cool and enjoy!

Brazilian Bolo de Cenoura com Cobertura de Chocolate         

FINAL VERDICT: A

Oh this is soooo my kind of dessert! This cake is super moist and light and not too sweet and the hint on chocolate is just enough to compliment the cake. It’s also surprisingly buttery, which is odd since there’s no butter in the cake.

If you like frosting heavy, sugary sweet desserts this cake might not be for you, but I loved it and will definitely make it again!

Bom Apetite!