Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

It this fall after all and what says it better that pumpkin??? We traveled to Vermont last weekend to visit Dylan at Norwich University. Julie met us there from Umass Amherst, while Emilie had to stay home for SATs.
Being on the road means eating out every meal! And we did find some nice local places, one of them the Rochester Cafe and Country Store, on Rte 100. I had scrambled eggs and a toasted Pumpkin Spice Muffin that was just right!!! So now I had to try and make it at home and here is my version!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

4 eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream
3 cups pumpkin puree ( I use canned!)
1 cup dark brown sugar
16 Tbsp (1/2 lb) butter, melted

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I intend to try with whole wheat flour...!will keep you posted)
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp ground ginger
a pinch of ground clove
a pinch of ground white pepper

1 1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the muffin pans with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, mix the first 5 ingredients.
In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients, Add to the wet ingredients until blended. Add the raisins.

Using a 2oz ice cream scoop, scoop the batter in the prepared muffin pans. Bake for about 30 Minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool and enjoy for breakfast, toasted with a bit of butter!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies

These easy and so tasty cookies are perfect for any occasion! I will make them for a bake dale this weekend!

Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup almond flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (I by the cardamom whole and ground it myself for fresher flavor)
a pinch of salt
8 oz butter, softened
1/3 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Assorted jams, preferably seedless

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl. whisk together the flours with the ground cardamon and salt.

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed to blend.
Transfer the dough to a board and knead a few times to form into a ball.

Using a small ice cream scoop, drop the cookie dough onto the prepared sheet pans, about one inch apart. Using your thumb, or the back of a teaspoon, make an indentation in the center of the cookie. Bake for about 10 minutes, until slightly firm.
Pull the cookies from the oven and press again. Fill with the jams and bake for an additional 7 or 8 minutes


Take the cookies out of oven and let cool.


Spiced Cranberry Bunt Cake

This is a nice fall coffee cake, easy to make and stays moist until the end! And very Cape Cod-ish!!!

Spiced Cranberry Bunt Cake


2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups almond flour
2 1/2 tsp  Chinese five-spice, ground
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (unless like me you use salted butter)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark as you prefer
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 tsp orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Butter and flour a Bundt pan. Set aside.

Whisk together the first 8 ingredients to blend. Set aside.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. add both sugars and beat agin until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix well after each addition.
Beat in the vanilla extract, then the yogurt.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and beat until just blended. Fold in the walnuts and cranberries and transfer to prepared Bundt pan.

Bake for about one hour. A pick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.

Unmold on rack and cool completely.

Stir the powdered sugar and 2 tsp of orange juice. mix well. add more juice until consistency of heavy cream is achieved.
Drizzle the icing over the top of the cake. Let stand until icing sets, about half an hour.

Can be made 3 days ahead.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Sourdough Bread

Here we go...Charlotte and Spice is going to be a bit different this time around! I have decided to try and make bread. So chances are you will be following my progress, good or bad, as I go through the process.

For starters, I have decided not to use yeast, but my very own Levain, or Sourdough Starter. This means that it will be at least 6 days before I can even think about the actual bread.

Growing your own starter is nothing more than a chemistry experiment! You mix flour and water, keep it warm and watch the reaction!

A few words of advice...The water you use must not be chlorinated. I used the filtered water from my refrigerator. It must be lukewarm. If too cold, warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds.

The temperature of the room for the starter to grow must be between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

I am now on day 4 and all is well!

Day 1:

Mix 4 oz whole wheat flour with 4 oz flour in a non reactive bowl. I used a glass container.
Cover loosely with plastic film and let rest at a temperature of 68-70F.

Day 2
You will have to feed the starter twice today. Try to feed at regular intervals. 9 am and 9pm seem to work well for me.

For each feeding, discard all but 4 oz starter and add 1/2 cup tepid water and 4oz flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature.

Repeat day 2 for days 3, 4 and 5.

Day 6
You only need to feed your starter once today.
After feeding the starter, let rest at room temperature for about 6 hours.

The starter should be bubbly and should have risen.

You can now keep the starter in the fridge and feed it once a week, letting it rest at room temperature for 6 hours before refrigerating it.

Now that was the easy part!!!

Making the bread however is another story. I have spent the last few weeks studying recipes from all over the web...not two are the same...!
And it takes a lot of can not just decide to bake the bread at the last minute! The starter has to be fed, the bread dough requires several steps, with hours of resting, or proofing, in between.

Patience is key!!!

My first experiment was not really a success.

I fed the starter in the morning and was going to bake the actual bread the next day. So far so good.
I went to work - I was closing the restaurant that day - and at midnight, when I got back, I realized I had to start making the dough. It had to proof overnight. Here I am kneading the dough for at least 10 minutes, shaping the dough and, as instructed, transferring it to a bowl and let to proof.
I went to bed.

In the morning, I divide the proofed dough in 3 loaves, stretch the doughs, transfer them to floured bowls and back to proof. The loaves did rise, but nothing extravagant...

Time for the oven. I transferred the loaves to sheet pans lined with parchment paper. I do not own the special bread basket that bakers use to bake their breads so i improvised.
As I transferred to loaves, they deflated. Pouf!!
I decided then to let them proof again, hoping they will rise back...well, they did but just a bit.
Never mind...I baked the loaves.

The bread came out shaped like...frisbees.
Taste was ok, texture was ok...but it was not what I had expected.

There is a lot of room for improvement!!!

A couple of months later and many loaves eaten, I can now affirm that I can bake bread!! And a pretty good one too!

I used Clothilde Dessoulier's 1-2-3 method. (author of "Chocolate and Zucchini").

200 grams starter
400 grams water
600 grams flours (75 grams rye, 225 grams whole wheat and 300 grams bread flour)
10 grams salt

The night before I plan on baking the bread, I take the starter out of the fridge, feed it as usual - equal parts starter, water and flour - and leave it out.

In the morning I start the bread by measuring 200 grams of the starter. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 400 grams of luke warm filtered water and 600 grams of flours. With the hook attachment, mix on low speed (2) for about one minute.

Let rest for about 30 minutes.

Now you add the salt. DO NOT FORGET!!! I forgot once and the bread had no taste!

Mix on med-low speed for 7 to 10 minutes. The dough should come off the sides of the bowl.

Cover with a towel and let rest for an hour or two.

After that time has elapsed, fold the dough over itself with a sturdy spoon.

Let rest for another couple of hours. If you have time and remember, repeat this last step once more.

Flour a flat surface and transfer the dough on it. With a bench scraper, pull and fold the dough like a letter, int three. Do this twice.

Oil and flour a souffle dish (round and high). Place the bread in it and cut a cross on the top, with a sharp knife.

Set the oven for 460F, with 2 racks. On the bottom rack, place a dish with water. Place the bread on the top rack.
Start the oven and bake for one hour.
The bread, when turned over, should sound hollow when tapped.

Let cool and rest over night. Enjoy at breakfast with butter and jam, or with cheese and wine!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Clafoutis aux Abricots

A summer dessert, easy and quick to make, that everyone loves! It can be made with virtually any fruit. My favorites are cherry and apricots!

Apricot Clafoutis

8 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp salt
3 lbs apricots, washed, pitted and quartered
Zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar on med-high speed until white and a ribbon forms.
Add the flour, vanilla extract and heavy cream. Mix until well blended, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Butter and sugar a large baking dish.
Spread the fruits on the bottom of the dish. Pour the cream mixture over the fruits. Sprinkle with sugar and small butter pieces.
Bake for about one hour.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


If you are looking for something different for the grill, this is it!!! Keftas are the ultimate ground meat patties on a kebab.
It finds its origins in the Middle East and there are as many different Keftas as there are people! The meats are seasoned with spices and fresh herbs, formed into sausage like patties and skewered. The Chermoula sauce that accompanies the dish is not optional!!!!!
You then grill the kebabs and serve with vegetables and couscous. You can also serve the Keftas in a pita bread, like a sandwich.

The basic prep for all Keftas is roughly the same, so don't hesitate to serve different varieties at once!

Veal Keftas

2 lbs ground veal
1 onion, chopped finely
1/3 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp "Ras-el-Hanout" **
Sal and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. When well combined, form into small links, a bit larger than a sausage.
Run the skewer through the length of the patty. Grill on high heat leaving the lid open, and turning them regularly so they don't burn.

Served with the Chermoula sauce and your favorite sides!

Beef Keftas

3 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 finely chopped mint
1 finely chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp ground all spice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. When well combined, form into small links, a bit larger than a sausage.
Run the skewer through the length of the patty. Grill on high heat leaving the lid open, and turning them regularly so they don't burn.

Served with the Chermoula sauce and your favorite sides!

Chermoula Sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped mint
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp cayenne pepper of Piment d'Espelette

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, ending with the oil. Set aside until ready to use.

The Keftas can be prepared and shaped ahead of time and kept refrigerated until grilling time. Great for company!

** a combination of spices that a store owner would make using the best spices he had in the shop. There is not a definite recipe for it, but some of the spices used are ground cumin, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground coriander seeds, cayenne pepper, all spice, ground cloves.....

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Creamy Spinach

A tasty classic.

Creamy Spinach

3 large bags of fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil

Bechamel Sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup light cream

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 2 min., stirring with a whisk.
Add the milk little by little, whisking continuously. When the sauce has thickened, add the nutmeg and Parmesan cheese.
Set aside.

Cook the spinach:
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the chopped garlic, then the spinach. Cook on medium heat, tossing the spinach leaves so that they cook evenly, 5 to 7 minutes.

Reheat the Bechamel sauce. If it got to thick, use a little light cream to thin it. Pour over the spinach, mix and serve as a side dish.