Thursday, July 18, 2019

Spaghetti Sciuè Sciuè


Spaghetti Sciuè Sciuè literally translates to Spaghetti Hurry Hurry, and it's pretty much the ultimate summer weeknight pasta dish. The sauce cooks in the same time it takes to boil the pasta, and the flavors are bursting with the essence of summer days, from the juicy cherry or grape tomatoes to the fragrant basil.

The inspiration to make this dish actually began beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris back in May when my mother ordered it at a charming Italian restaurant. It was really the simplest dish imaginable, and yet it blew away everything else we tried on the menu (and everything was delicious!).

Ever since then I've been waiting for tomato season to kick into high gear so I can make it myself. The local cherry tomatoes aren't quite ready, but I definitely plan to make this dish again later this summer when they are. The sauce is also very basil forward, but you can scale back on the herb if you want the tomatoes to shine more on their own.

Spaghetti Sciuè Sciuè
Serves 4

1 pound dry spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
3 pints (about 2 pounds) large cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (don't get the super tiny ones, they aren't as juicy)
Kosher salt
1 cup loosely packed basil, sliced into chiffonade, plus 4 basil sprigs from the top of the stem for garnish

Cook the pasta until al dente in boiling salted water.

Meanwhile in a large, deep skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic and chili flakes. Cook for a couple minutes until very fragrant, but be careful not to overcook, as the garlic can burn. Add the tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of salt, stir and cover, mixing occasionally until the tomatoes have softened and released their juices but are still relatively intact, about 10 minutes. Uncover during the last couple minutes to thicken slightly. If any of the tomato skins slip off, feel free to remove them! It will make eating the dish even more enjoyable. Stir in the basil chiffonade.

Strain the pasta and add it to the tomato mixture. Toss gently until thoroughly mixed, and serve immediately topping with a basil sprig per serving for garnish.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bastille Day Festivities at Ellie's


If you follow me on social media, you would have noticed all last week I shared French recipes in honor of Bastille Day, French independence day, which was on Sunday, July 14th. I have been obsessed with France and French culture since I was a child, so celebrating Bastille Day is something I obviously enjoy doing!

My favorite local French bakery and cafe, Ellie's, recently expanded into a full bistro in new, larger location in downtown Providence. They continue to serve their excellent breads, pastries, and breakfast and lunch offerings, but are now also open for dinner with a sit-down menu, and alcoholic drinks.

For the past couple of years I have joined in on Ellie's Bastille Day festivities which until this year were hosted in their former, smaller location. The party was always free to all, and featured delicious savory and sweet bites, sparkling wine, and live French music.

Team Ellie's

This year they combined the Bastille Day party with a grand opening of their new location. Although the new location had been open for a couple of months, I hadn't been able to visit until now, so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to check out the new digs.

I loved the old charming, cozy location, but I really love the new location as well! It's larger, but still not huge, and features a lot of the same charm. In the center is a beautiful communal table where I would love to host a group dinner someday.

The party was split between the upstairs dining room, and the pastry kitchen in the basement. Here we sampled a couple of sandwiches off their current seasonal lunch menu, Blackbird farms ham, gruyere, cornichons, and Dijon on a croissant, and roasted chicken salad, marinated cucumber, and pea greens on a milk bun.

A spread of pastries and desserts was also featured on the lower level, along with hand-dipped signature French vanilla macarons. We sampled their London Fog Cake, a vanilla cake with lemon curd and Earl Grey buttercream (hallelujah!), their raspberry pistachio cake (also fabulous), the tiramisu cake (shockingly I skipped this one), their delectable Kouign Amann pastries (my absolute favorite), and sample-size chocolate croissants.

We returned upstairs and parked ourselves at the communal table right by the band. Passed hors d'oeuvres included escargots in choux buns, pork terrine with Dijon and cornichons on crostini, Camembert and hot pepper jam crostini, mussels with capers and olive oil, and two varieties of beignets with cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar.

There were some additional sweet treats set up near the bar, however I think these were leftovers from earlier in the day when they were open for breakfast and lunch, and did not appear to be replenished once they were all gone. I managed to snag half a sweet herb and lemon Kouign Amann, and it was excellent.

The French-inspired celebration was a hit! The music brought me right back to Paris, and many of the offered delicacies were reminiscent of foods we enjoyed abroad. Most importantly, I was thrilled to visit the new location, directly across from the Providence Performing Arts Center, and plan to return again soon!

Do you celebrate Bastille Day? What are your favorite French dishes? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Steak Tartare


Steak tartare, also known as beef tartare, is a combination of hand-chopped raw beef, finely minced shallot/onion, capers, and cornichons, all tossed in a tangy and acidic Dijon mustard-based dressing. Sometimes egg yolks are included in the dressing, and sometimes they are presented whole atop each serving.

I ordered steak tartare during my recent trip to Paris, and although it wasn't my first taste of the raw delicacy, I was suddenly reminded of how much I enjoy steak tartare and decided to make it upon my return to the States.

There are many recipes for this dish throughout the interwebs, and in essentially every French cookbook. There are of course similarities and some differences, from the type of beef used to the slight variations in how the meat is seasoned. The late great Anthony Bourdain's recipe in the Les Halles Cookbook includes ketchup, anchovies, and Cognac, which I did not see in any other recipe I came across.

After much research I put together my own formula using a more traditional approach. Although some folks use top round or sirloin for their tartare, you're best off using beef tenderloin if you can afford it. My local meat market was selling it for $10.99/lb which I thought was very reasonable for this top cut.

This particular recipe is a bit more acidic than some others, but I really wanted to replicate the highly acidic flavor of the steak tartare I enjoyed at Cafe Blanc in Paris back in May. It definitely packed a punch, and that's what I liked so much about it. It's important to taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking once everything is mixed together, and of course as is the case with any raw preparation of meat, be sure to serve it cold and immediately.

Steak Tartare
Serves 4

1 pound beef tenderloin (I have seen recipes that use sirloin--Anthony Bourdain's does--and top round, but beef tenderloin should be your first choice if it's affordable)
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
A couple shakes of hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the beef in the freezer for about 1 hour until the exterior begins to firm up and form crystals but it's still easily pierced with a knife. This will make it easier to finely hand-chop.

Meanwhile, prep the shallot, capers, cornichons, and parsley in a small bowl, and set aside. In another small bowl whisk together the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, oil, Worcestershire, and hot sauce.

Remove the beef from the freezer, slice it thinly against the grain, then slice into fine strips, and then finally dice into small cubes, about 1/4-inch across. Transfer the beef to a large mixing bowl and gently combine it with the shallot and caper mixture as well as the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, etc.

Divide into 4 equal portions, press each portion into a round cookie cutter on a plate. Remove the ring and serve immediately, preferably with fries and/or toast points, and salad.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Viennoise au Chocolat


During my recent trip to Paris I enjoyed many spectacular pastries and breads. In fact, nearly every morning I visited La Maison d'Isabelle for some morning treats. My first visit to this award-winning bakery in the Latin Quarter consisted of a croissant, a pain aux raisins, and a Viennoise au chocolat, all of which my mom and I shared.

Although I had eaten many of the first two pastries in my life, this was my first time enjoying a Viennoise, or Vienna bread. It's made with enriched dough, shaped like a short baguette with a softer crust, and in this case is studded with chocolate chips.

This recipe is much easier than attempting laminated dough for croissants and the like, and if you are looking to make some homemade French-inspired treats for this upcoming weekend in honor of Bastille Day (one of my favorite holidays!), then this Viennoise au chocolat recipe is for you! It only requires about 1 1/2 to 2 total hours of proofing, and minimal kneading and shaping.

The flavor and texture reminded me slightly of chorek, a beloved Armenian egg bread typically made for Easter. These Viennoises are extra special because of the molten dots of chocolate throughout. They're really quite scrumptious. Bon Appetit!

Viennoise au Chocolat
Makes 4 to 8 depending on size
(Adapted from Une Plume dans la Cuisine)

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
10 grams (3 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
75 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
475 grams (scant 4 cups) all-purpose flour
100 grams (3/4 cup) chocolate chips (I may even increase this amount in the future)
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the milk and cream to 110 degrees F. Be careful not to overheat it or it will kill the yeast. If you accidentally overheat, let cool to 110 degrees. Add the yeast and mix to combine.

In a large bowl whisk together the melted butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and the milk-yeast mixture until smooth. Add the flour in a couple additions, mixing well after each. Knead the dough until it's completely smooth and soft and all the flour is absorbed. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise, preferably in a warm spot, for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until nearly doubled in size.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the dough and knead the chocolate chips into the dough until they are evenly distributed. Divide the dough into 4 or 8 equal pieces. It's easiest to weigh the dough and then divide the weight by the number of pieces you plan to cut, and then cut pieces of that size (my dough was 920 grams, and I divided it into four 230 gram pieces). Shape the pieces of dough into small oblong loaves. Don't make the centers too fat or they won't bake through evenly.

Arrange the mini loaves on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with a towel and let them rise at room temperature for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with the rack in the center of the oven.

Uncover the loaves, brush the tops and sides with the egg wash, then use a sharp knife to cut a few diagonal slashes across the top. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes for smaller loaves, or 10 to 12 minutes for larger loaves until dark golden brown. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. It's best if the chocolate chips are still gooey! You can refresh the loaves in a 350 degree F oven for a few minutes if they are a day or two old.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Grilled Fish Tacos (Disney-Inspired)


Earlier this spring I dined upon mouthwatering fish tacos at the Oasis Bar & Grill at Walt Disney World's Polynesian Village Resort. These were some of the best and most memorable fish tacos I've had, and although I asked how it was made I wasn't able to get an actual recipe, just a few ingredients in the cilantro-lime crema: mayo, cilantro, lime, and spinach.

With basically nothing to go on but my taste buds, I decided to recreate the dish to the best of my ability. I made a similar slaw, similar grilled fish, and a similar sauce, though I'm calling it mayo and not crema, because it's mayo-based.

If you don't have a grill basket for fish, you can carefully cook the fish in a cast-iron pan or on a griddle. I wouldn't recommend grilling small pieces of fish on a regular grill without the grill basket. This may lead to fish tacos in your grill instead of in your mouth. Sad face!! :(

Although they're not identical, they're pretty darn close! These fish tacos are crunchy and flavorful with a nice bit of citrus zing from all the lime. Note that the slaw should be lightly dressed so it doesn't make your tacos soggy, but an extra squeeze of lime over the top goes a long way!

Grilled Fish Tacos
Serves 4 to 6

Cilantro-Lime Mayo:
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup packed baby spinach leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds flaky white fish (such as cod, halibut, or mahimahi), cut into approximately 1-inch-by-4-inch pieces (I yielded 17 pieces)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
One (12-ounce) bag coleslaw mix (combination of green and purple cabbage, and carrots)
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

To Serve:
Small flour tortillas (fajita size, about 6-inch diameter) or corn tortillas (gently heated to soften)
Lime wedges

To make the cilantro-lime mayo: In the bowl of a food processor or blender add the fresh cilantro and spinach. Make sure the leaves are dry; if they are wet they won't mince nicely. Process until the leaves are chopped fine. Add the garlic and blitz again until the garlic is minced. Then add the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste, and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the fish: Combine the spices in a bowl, and sprinkle the spice rub over the pieces of fish. Gently mix until evenly coated. Heat up your grill, and grease the inside of a fish grill basket (you can also lightly brush the pieces of fish with oil on both sides if you are really worried about them sticking). Line the fish pieces inside the grill basket, and grill until cooked through. Remove from the grill, and carefully remove the fish pieces from the grill basket. If any of the pieces have stuck, use a small spatula to remove them gently.

To make the slaw: Meanwhile, whisk together the honey, lime juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil, and adjust seasoning to taste. Toss the dressing with the coleslaw mix and cilantro leaves in a mixing bowl.

To serve: On each flour tortilla, add a small scoop (tongs are good for this) of slaw, then a piece of fish, and finally a generous drizzle of the cilantro-lime mayo. Serve with lime wedges on the side for extra zing.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

SmokeShack Burger


I have been mildly obsessed with Shake Shack for over a decade. I fell in love with it in New York City, and have enjoyed their delicious food in several other states as the burger chain has expanded (it's actually international now!). When they released a cookbook a couple years ago I knew I had to have it. It's full of mostly stories, but many recipes as well, some of which are considered "close enough" to the original. They can't spill all their secrets, of course.

The SmokeShack is one of my favorite Shake Shack burgers, and it's easy to recreate. I don't follow all the directions to a T, although the original recipe is below in case you prefer to griddle your burger and buns. My burger patties are grilled the old fashioned way, seasoned with a bit more than just salt and pepper (garlic and onion powders add a bit more flavor), and my lightly grilled buns are not potato buns, although I do love a good potato bun!

Regardless to how closely you stick to the original method of prep, this burger is fantastic! The crispy bacon, spicy cherry peppers, gooey cheese, and look-alike ShackSauce really come together to make one hell of a burger, and just in time for your Fourth of July festivities. You're so welcome!

SmokeShack Burger
Makes 4
(From Shake Shack)

4 hamburger potato buns, toasted
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons ShackSauce (recipe follows)
1 pound very cold ground beef, divided into 4 pucks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices American cheese
8 slices double-smoked bacon, cooked, broken in half
8 tablespoons diced pickled red cherry peppers

Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium-low heat until warm. Meanwhile, open the hamburger buns and brush the insides with the melted butter. Place the buns buttered side down on the griddle and toast until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the buns to a plate.

Increase the heat to medium and heat the griddle until hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Evenly season each puck of meat with salt and pepper. Place the pucks on the griddle, seasoned side down. Using a large, sturdy metal spatula, firmly smash each puck into a 1/3-inch-thick round patty. Pressing down the spatula with another stiff spatula helps flatten the burger quickly. Evenly sprinkle the top with more salt and pepper.

Cook the burgers, resisting the urge to move them, until the edges beneath are brown and crisp, and juices on the surface are bubbling hot, about 2 1/2 minutes. Slide one of the spatulas beneath the burger to release it from the griddle and scrape up the caramelized browned crust. Use the other spatula to steady the burger and keep it from sliding. Flip the burgers. Put the cheese on top and cook the burgers 1 minute longer for medium. Cook more or less depending on your preference.

Transfer the burgers to the buns. Spoon the sauce onto the top bun. Add bacon and diced cherry peppers and serve.

Makes about 1/2 cup
(From Shake Shack)

1/2 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon Heinz ketchup (I added a touch more)
1/4 teaspoon kosher dill pickling brine
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Put all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Bellini Pie


Light. Refreshing. Delicate. Creamy. These words perfectly describe this Bellini pie. A dual-layer no-bake filling of peach chiffon and Champagne mousse encompass the flavors of this classic breakfast cocktail within the confines of a flaky, buttery pie crust.

A lesson I learned when making this pie: pay close attention to the size. I inadvertently used a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan instead of a 9 1/2-inch pan. Most pie recipes use 9-inch pans as a standard, so it didn't even occur to me that this recipe would use a larger sized dish.

I made the full quantity of peach chiffon filling and realized it was way too much for the size crust I had pre-baked. I reserved about 1 1/2 cups of this filling, and then scaled down the Champagne mousse to make 2/3 of the amount (using 2 egg yolks instead of 3, and adjusting everything else accordingly). This yielded the perfect amount to finish filling my crust with the second, thinner layer. In the future I would certainly use a larger pie dish, but even with this small hiccup I was very impressed with the results. The pie is delicately sweet, and nicely aerated.

The only other concern I have with this recipe is a matter of technique finishing the Champagne mousse. The recipe instructs to slowly pour the Champagne custard mixture into the beaten cream, whipping on low. This immediately deflates the cream, yielding a liquidy finish. Thanks to the gelatin, the mixture still sets just fine in the fridge, but you lose nearly all of the volume obtained by whipping the cream. My instinct tells me to fold the cream into the custard mixture, and that's what I would try next time to yield a more airy top layer, but it still set, and was delicious despite this potential flaw.

All in all, this Bellini pie is a true crowd-pleaser! It's perfect for summer when peaches are ripe and juicy. I love that it's an outside-of-the-box approach to a classic flavor combination. This is definitely my kind of pie!

Bellini Pie
Makes one 9 1/2–inch deep-dish pie
(From The New Pie via food52)

Peach Chiffon:
2/3 cup (155 grams) heavy cream
2 cups (340 grams) peeled peach slices, fresh or thawed frozen
1 tablespoon (9 grams) unflavored powdered gelatin
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 grams) peach schnapps liqueur
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup (133 grams) sugar
Your favorite deep-dish single crust, baked and cooled in a 9 1/2–inch deep-dish pie pan

Champagne Mousse:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (255 grams) Demi-sec Champagne or another sweet sparkling white wine
1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup (174 grams) heavy cream

To make the peach chiffon: In a medium bowl, whip the cream on medium-high speed until it holds stiff peaks, 1 to 3 minutes. Put the whipped cream in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the filling.

In a food processor, puree the sliced peaches until they are smooth. You will need 1 1/3 cups of puree. In a large microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of the peach puree. Set aside to soften for 5 minutes. Microwave the gelatin mixture on high (100%) power for about 30 seconds, stirring every 10 seconds, until the mixture is just bubbling at the edges and the gelatin seems dissolved (it’s hard to tell because the puree is not a clear liquid, but if the puree has begun to bubble at the edges, it should be fine). Add the remaining peach puree to the gelatin mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the salt, lemon juice, and peach schnapps; set aside until the mixture is no longer warm, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from setting prematurely.

While the peach mixture is cooling, bring approximately 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large saucepan. In a large heat-safe bowl (preferably the metal bowl of an electric stand mixer), whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Heat the egg-white mixture over the simmering water until the mixture is quite hot (160°F on an instant-read thermometer) and the sugar is completely dissolved. Beat the hot egg-white mixture on medium-high speed (and with the whisk attachment if using a stand mixer) until it holds soft peaks and has completely cooled (the outside of the bowl should not feel warm), 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the power of your mixer and the temperature of your kitchen.

Fold the whipped egg-white mixture into the peach mixture until it is mostly incorporated. Fold in the cold whipped cream until the mixture is uniform and no white streaks of egg white or whipped cream remain. Transfer the mixture to the cooled pie crust and refrigerate until the mixture is cold and firm, at least 4 hours (or up to overnight).

To make the Champagne mousse: Place 2 tablespoons/28 grams of the Champagne in a small microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and remaining 1 cup/227 grams of the Champagne in a medium saucepan. Over medium-low heat, cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it reaches 160°F on an instant-read thermometer and thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes (the mixture will become foamy). Remove from the heat and continue whisking for about 2 minutes, until it cools slightly.

Microwave the gelatin mixture at high (100%) power, stirring every 5 seconds until it just begins to bubble at the edges and the gelatin is dissolved, about 15 seconds. Whisk the gelatin into the hot Champagne-egg mixture. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, and then set the mixture aside to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from setting.

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer on medium-high to whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks, 1 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the cooled Champagne mixture, whipping on low until no streaks remain. Spread the Champagne mousse over the peach chiffon filling and refrigerate the pie until it is cold and set, about 4 hours (or up to overnight), before serving. (Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.) The pie is best eaten within 2 days.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Capezzoli di Venere (Nipples of Venus)


Amadeus has been one of my favorite movies since childhood. It's not a children's movie by any means, but my entire family has been watching and loving this Academy Award-winning film since it was first released. My sister and I can quote the entire movie by heart! If you haven't seen it, and have an appreciation for classical music and Mozart, definitely check it out. It's an incredible film, although I'm not a huge fan of the director's cut. I prefer the original version which is less available these days, unfortunately.

In one of the scenes from the movie, Mozart's wife Constanze secretly brings a portfolio of Mozart's work to court composer Antonio Salieri so Mozart can be considered for an important job. Salieri, a glutinous Italian who is jealous of Mozart's talent, offers Constanze a refreshment called Capezzoli di Venere, Nipples of Venus. Constanze giggles because their name is incredibly naughty, as is their appearance.

Salieri describes the treats as Roman chestnuts in brandied sugar. Looking for recipes for Capezzoli di Venere online is an interesting challenge. There doesn't seem to be a single official way to make these confections. I found some recipes that top the white chocolate-covered mounds with pink dots, some that dot the tops with dark chocolate, and yet others that cover the filling with dark chocolate and finish with a white chocolate dot instead. The filling also varies, where some recipes suggest other nuts as opposed to chestnuts. Back in the 1700's, I'm not sure how this dessert would have theoretically been made, so it's all conjecture since online recipes are inconclusive.

I researched various versions and put together the recipe that made the most sense to me. In the movie, the embellishments on top are dark brown, so I decided to stick with dark chocolate to finish my creations.

These Capezzoli di Venere are quite scrumptious! I can't blame Constanze for stealing a second one when Salieri isn't looking. The filling is chocolaty, buttery, and delicately nutty with the warm essence of brandy to tie it all together. I'm not typically a white chocolate fan, but I think it plays an important role to soften the dark chocolate flavor within.

I'm obviously not a candy-maker, and my "Nipples of Venus" may not look quite as smooth and polished as those in the film, but I think they turned out better than expected and they are truly delicious sweets I'd be happy to share with friends and family. If you're a fan of Amadeus, or intrigued to try a decadent dessert with a really fun name, this recipe is for you.

Capezzoli di Venere (Nipples of Venus)
Makes about 30

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
16 ounces whole chestnuts (canned, jarred, packaged--drained if packed in liquid)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

15 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 ounce dark chocolate, chopped

Make a double boiler by setting a heat-proof bowl over a pot filled with about 1 inch of simmering water, so the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Add 8 ounces of dark chocolate to the metal bowl, stirring occasionally until melted. Set the chocolate aside to cool to about room temperature.

Place the chestnuts in a food processor and process until finely chopped/pureed. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the melted chocolate, pureed chestnuts, brandy, and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined. The mixture will likely be relatively soft, so refrigerate it for about 15 minutes or so until it is slightly more firm so you can easily scoop it out, and have it hold its shape.

Line a sheet pan or a couple cafeteria trays with parchment paper. Use a small 1 1/2 tablespoon capacity ice cream scoop (the kind used for scooping cookie dough) to scoop the chocolate/chestnut mixture into small mounds onto the parchment. Refrigerate for at least 15 to 20 minutes or longer, until the balls are firm.

Reserve 1 1/2 ounces of the white chocolate for tempering. Make another double boiler by setting a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Melt the remaining 13 1/2 ounces of white chocolate until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the chocolate reads 105 degrees F. Remove the bowl from the double-boiler, and off the heat stir in the remaining 1 1/2 ounces white chocolate until melted.

Line another sheet pan or a couple cafeteria trays with parchment paper.

This part can get a little messy, so be patient. You'll need a couple of forks and a spoon. Spoon a little white chocolate over one of the forks and hold it suspended over the bowl of chocolate. Place one of the chilled chocolate/chestnut balls onto the white chocolate-covered fork and swirl it around to lightly coat the bottom with white chocolate (it doesn't have to be perfect, but it's better than a totally naked bottom). Then use the spoon to pour white chocolate over the top of the ball as it sits on the fork, making sure to coat the entire surface and sides. Wipe off the excess white chocolate that may be dripping from the bottom of the fork or the edges, so it drips back into the bowl, then use the second fork to very carefully push the white chocolate-coated confection onto the parchment paper-lined pan. Repeat with the remaining chocolates until they are all coated, and let them cool and harden for several minutes at room temperature while you prepare the final decoration.

Melt 1 ounce of dark chocolate and carefully transfer to a small piping bag or sandwich bag. Snip a small opening at one corner and pipe a small dot onto the center of each mound. Cool completely until the chocolate decorations are completely hardened. If it's a warmer day, you may need to pop them into the fridge.

Capezzoli di Venere can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, but should be served at room temperature so the filling softens up a bit before enjoying.


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