I am so excited today foodies, because after a lot of hard work, DailyAmuseBouche’s facelift is finally complete! I love the new design and I hope you will too- please let me know what you think.
Many exciting new things to come- including a Pinterest page very soon.
Thanks for reading!
In good health,
A small break from Thanksgiving-related posts today to blog about my favorite chocolate cake recipe that I have found myself daydreaming about all day. Seriously, something this good should be illegal (but thank God it’s not). NOM.
Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Butter and flour two 20cm/9inch pans and line bottom with wax paper.
Place chocolate chips and cocoa powder in a bowl, and pour hot coffee over them. Let sit for 1-2 mintues, then whisk until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla extract and set aside.
Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat just until combined. Gently fold in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with chocolate mixture in 2 batches. Fold until just combined.
Divide batter between 2 pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each pan comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then invert and let cool completely on a rack.
* Buttermilk substitute: this is essentially sour milk, so you can use regular low-fat milk and add 1 tsp white vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar. Allow to sit for a few minutes.
** Cake flour substitute: instead of 2 cups cake flour you can use 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup corn starch
Chocolate buttercream frosting
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slllooowwwly sift in the sugar and cocoa in small batches and beat at lowest speed (trust me, you want to do this slowly and gradually or you and your kitchen will be covered in sugar and cocoa dust). Add a tablespoon of heavy cream between batches of sugar/cocoa to help the frosting come together. Once everything is combined, add vanilla extract and beat just until combined.
Once cakes are completely cooled, place one on a cake plate and using a flat spatula spread 1/3 the buttercream on it. Place the second layer of cake on top and cover the side and tops with the remaining icing.
In good health,
I can barely contain my excitement today because THANKSGIVING IS ONLY 10 SLEEPS AWAY!! I have been daydreaming/ agonizing about my menu for a couple of weeks now, but after much back and forth (so many choices!!!) I think I have finally nailed it, and I am beyond excited. Did I mention I’m excited? This year is my biggest guest list yet, so wish me luck! I have been having an internal debate with myself about whether to blog about the menu or keep it a surprise. Last year I didn’t write about my menu until after the big day, but looking back, that was no fun because it meant my ideas weren’t really useful to anyone. So….voilà. I will post some of the actual recipes for these dishes in the next few days, but for now you can already find some of them in previous posts: here’s the recipe for the beet, orange, and fennel salad from earlier this year (but I may play around with the dressing to make it more wintery…stay tuned), the Yorkshire puddings (popovers) from yesterday’s post, tarte tatin from the summer (but I plan to make it more wintery…also stay tuned), and mulled wine from last December. Gobble gobble.
What is on your Thanksgiving menu this year?
In good health,
Last year for Thanksgiving I made Yorkshire puddings (also known as popovers in America), and they were PERFECT, so I thought I’d share the recipe in case any of you wanted to include it in your holiday repertoires. As the name suggests, Yorkshire puddings come from Yorkshire, England, and they are something of a classic accompaniment to pretty much any roast. Let me tell you, these things make the perfect little flaky, light, gravy-soaked pocket- possibly the best starchy side on turkey day in my opinion. Forget bread, you can have that any day!
It turns out the secret to perfect popovers is a very wet batter and a very hot oven. Yesterday I blogged about how to make life easier on Thanksgiving day by making some dishes in advance, but this is unfortunately not one of them- unless you’re ok with eating a soggy doughy blob with your turkey. Popovers are very delicate so make sure to bake them just before you sit down to eat so that they are served hot and fluffy as they are meant to be; ideally they should be the last thing to go into the oven before dinner. This recipe makes 6 medium popovers, but obviously feel free to scale up as needed. However, instead of doubling the quantities of ingredients to make 12, for example, I would suggest making 2 separate batch of 6. I don’t know what it is- but I’ve found that making 6 at a time is somehow better than making one batch of 12. Baking is funny like that.
You will need:
Preheat oven to 230C/ 450F. Grease a 6-cup muffin pan with butter.
Sift flour and salt into a bowl to remove any clumps. Whisk eggs, butter, and milk until combined, then pour over flour and fold to combine. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (they should be about 1/2 full) and bake for 15 minutes. Then lower oven temperature to 175C/ 350F and bake until golden brown, about 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and unmold onto a rack cooling rack. Quickly puncture the sides with a toothpick to let steam escape so the popovers do not deflate, and serve right away.
In good health,
I have made no secret of the fact that Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year. No, I am not American, so no, it means little more to me than an opportunity to cook a big bird and have a big party, but I love it nonetheless. This will be my fifth year in a row cooking Thanksgiving dinner for at least 12 people, and there is something about the sheer size of the job that I completely relish. As a foodie with a food blog, I think I have already clearly established that I love being in the kitchen, but Thanksgiving is a whole other level. Funnily enough, for me the turkey is the easiest part. I like to brine my turkey, which requires a bit of forward planning, but by the time the bird goes in the oven, I feel my work there is pretty much done; it just needs to sit in the oven for 4-6 hours and you need to keep an eye on it and baste it occasionally, but really, no biggie. The real challenge is how to pull off everything else. With all sorts of ingredients competing for oven, fridge, and counter-top real estate, and a big menu of appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes, breads, and desserts that all need to be ready at the same time, served presentably, and at the appropriate temperature, the fun part is figuring out how to orchestrate all this. The trick, I’ve learned, is to be organized. I mean, it’s never a bad idea to be organized in the kitchen in general, but for day-to-day cooking I find that one can afford to be less disciplined about advance planning…Good planning, however, can make all the difference between a hellish experience in the kitchen come Thanksgiving day, and an enjoyable one.
1. Plan your menu in advance: In the week or two leading up to the holiday, spend an hour thinking of everything you want to serve. There are so many options out there so – I know – this it can be a bit daunting, but leaving the decision until the last minute can make it even more so. Once you figure out the menu, start making a list of everything you need to buy, and get your grocery shopping done ahead of time. There is nothing worse than shopping for ingredients the day of, or even the night before, and realizing that some ingredients you want are out of stock or forgetting something important and wasting precious cooking time going back and forth to the supermarket. Plus, some ingredients (such as your turkey) require advance prep time. Brining a turkey usually takes at least 12 hours, and if you are buying a frozen turkey, it can take up to a week to thaw in your fridge.
2. Learn the joys of mise en place: Before anything so much as sees the inside of an oven, spend an hour or two on Thanksgiving morning preparing all of your ingredients and laying them out on your counter top. Mise en place is a French term that literally means “everything in place,” and it refers to organizing and arranging the ingredients that will be used to prepare a particular meal or dish. This basically means measuring out, washing, chopping, and placing all of your required ingredients in individual bowls, and grouping them in clusters by dish. It also means having all needed equipment, such as spatulas, knives, bowls, food processors, etc on hand, and obviously pre- heating pans and ovens as needed. Having everything mise en place ahead of time in this way means that once you start cooking, you will never need to stop and assemble items, and you can just focus on the cooking process. For a long time I used to think that mise en place was unnecessarily fussy, but I have learned to appreciate it over time, and, trust me, it is worth the effort. Not only will it make you more efficient, which is important given time constraints on Thanksgiving day, but it also means less mess. Yup, less mess, which means less piled-up dishes to clean after the party. After you wash, chop, and measure out everything you will need, you can run the dishwasher, clean the counter tops, and start cooking with a clean slate (literally).
3. Make as many things in advance as you can: Another way to make Thanksgiving day less stressful is to minimize the number of things you have to do on the day of. Pie crust can me made and frozen up to several weeks in advance, cranberry sauce will keep for a few days in your fridge, soups and mashes can be made a day or two beforehand and reheated on the day, and pies and breads can be baked the night before. Check a few dishes off your list early and you will have fewer things to worry about on the big day.
4. Ask your guests to pitch in: Your guests will almost definitely ask you if they can bring anything, so why not take them up on the offer? You can ask someone to bring a salad, a selection of cheeses, or a pie for dessert and voila- one less thing to do yourself.
5. Don’t cook alone: If you’re going to spend all day cooking, why do it alone? Invite a friend, boyfriend, spouse, sibling, or even a child to help you out. Not only is it nice to have company (great time for a glass of wine and a gossip date, no?) but it really does help to have another pair of hands around when you need them.
Are you as excited as I am for Thanksgiving?!
In good health,
Have you voted yet? As many of you already know, I am not an American citizen and therefore cannot vote today. However, that has obviously not stopped me from being glued to the TV over the past few weeks and months in the lead up to today’s US Presidential Elections, partly to indulge my inner geeky politico (I was a PoliSci major at Stanford) but also because whatever happens today will not only have a big impact on America, but also on the rest of the world. So…if you haven’t voted already, you should definitely go exercise your priviledge to be part of this very important decision (locate your polling place here).
If I could vote today, I would vote for Barack Obama. Four years ago I was an avid fan of his, and although I am considerably less enchanted with him today than I was in 2008 (I think he can afford to take a firmer stance about many topics), I still think the man oozes intelligence and charisma. Not to mention that, in my humble opinion Obama is clearly the better choice BY FAR for America -and for the world at large- than Mitt Romney. I’m sure at this point you are wondering why this polisci geek is talking politics on a food blog, but I may have found at east one very good foodie-endorsed reason why Obama-Biden is the right answer today. So if all else fails, if you are still undecided, confused, or indifferent about which candidate to vote for, consider Bill Clinton’s words from his electrifying DNC speech in September, and vote for the man “who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama.” Yes, my dear foodies, you guessed it: she’s one of us.
Since her husband entered office, First Lady Michelle Obama has become a high-profile spokeswoman for healthy eating and the importance of fitness, launching programs like her “Let’s Move” initiative to fight childhood obesity. In Spring 2009, Michelle launched a garden initiative which included planting a fruit and vegetable garden on the iconic White House South lawn, something that has not been done since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden, to focus public attention on the importance of eating healthy and natural foods. The first Lady has invited school children, scouts, and celebrity chefs alike into her garden to participate in planting and learning, and has published a cookbook, American Grown, to tell “the story of the White House Kitchen Garden and gardens across America.” Sigh, darlings, a lady after our own foodie hearts. Need I say more?
…Because reaaaaaally, people, Anne Romney as First Lady? I don’t think so.
In good health,
* Photo credit: Washington Post
My prolonged absence this time around can be explained by the fact that I have been working on an awesome facelift for the blog…sadly it has been taking longer than expected, but stay tuned. In the meantime I wanted to introduced you to Nutrivise– an great new app developed by one of my best friends from Stanford.
Don’t we all just love it when technology finds little ways to make our hectic, crazy lives just a bit easier? Well if, like me, you sometimes struggle to find healthy meal options during busy days at the office or mad dashes through airports, hotels, and random client locations, you will love Nutrivise. The app is designed to be a “pocket nutritionist” that tells you what and where to eat based on your personalized nutrition needs and health goals. You can select among a number of health goals, such as “build muscle” or “lose weight” and Nutrivise will parse through its database to find suitable meals for you in your vicinity. The app currently covers restaurants in the Bay Area and will eventually expand to include many other locations. You can also search for dishes or cuisines you are craving and the app will find nearby options for you. So if you are an iPhone user living in the Bay Area and interested in testing it out, you can sign up here. Nutrivise also has an awesome blog updated daily with healthy tips and recipes.
In good health,
As I patiently count down the minutes until sunset when I can finally break my long fast, I find that -oddly- one of my preferred ways to pass the time is to think about food. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but somehow, browsing through my favorite recipes or watching Ina on Food Network gives me something to look forward to. My mom keeps telling me off for “torturing myself”, but this really isn’t, as she seems to believe, a torturous, masochistic way to obsess over what I cannot have. The way I think about it is that if my tummy has to stay hungry for a few more hours, at least my eyes can feast on something yummy. Also, being busy in the kitchen – my favorite pastime bar none – is a great way for me to keep myself distracted, because I find it hardest to persevere through my fast when I am idle and bored. Soooo, right now I am salivating over memories of the tarte tatin I made for my friends before going on vacation a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I’d spread the joy. There really isn’t anything better to salivate over in my current low-blood-sugar fasting state than sweet, decadent, caramelized French apple pie.
Combine butter, flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like pea-sized chunks. Add the egg yolk and pulse a few times, then add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time and pulse just until the mixture comes together into a ball. You do not need to use all of the water. Avoid over-pulsing. Knead the mixture on a lightly-floured work surface about once or twice until you have a smooth ball. Place ball on a cookie sheet, and using a rolling pin or gently roll the dough out to form about a 30-cm (~12″) circle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
In the meantime, make the filling. Preheat oven to 215 C/425 F. Place a round, non-stick, ovenproof skillet or pan on the hob over high heat (make sure pan doesn’t have any plastic handles that could melt in the oven!!!) Place sugar, apple cider, lemon juice, and vanilla seeds in the pan and stir to combine. Brush the sides of the pan with cold water using a pastry brush to avoid sugar crystallization, and bring mixture to a boil. Occasionally swirl the mixture around the pan to distribute evenly, and cook for about 10 minutes until it is a deep, rich, caramel color. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, 1 knob at a time. It is ok if the mixture starts to bubble up, just make sure to avoid contact with your skin as it will be very hot. When all of the butter has been incorporated, turn heat down to medium and return pan to heat. Arrange the apple halves (rounded side down) in concentric circles in the sugar mixture. You want to do this as neatly as possible so that you have a nice-looking end product. Cook for about 20 more minutes, then remove from heat. Place your chilled pastry on top of the apples, tucking in around the pan edges. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry turns golden. Allow tarte to cool to lukewarm before flipping onto a serving dish. Slice and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (I love French vanilla, which is basically like regular vanilla but made for more egg yolks).
This may just be the perfect summer dessert!
In good health,
* Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell, courtesty of Food Network
Hello foodies! I am finally back from my Turkish vacation and happily several shades darker than my pre-holiday color. Doesn’t a good tan just make everyone look better?!
My thoroughly-tanned self is currently back home in Amman, lazing around the house and salivating about all manner of yummy food that I cannot have for another 3 hours. Last Friday marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan – the Muslim fasting month – which requires abstaining from all food and drink between dawn and dusk. Because the Muslim lunar calendar is slightly shorter than the standard Gregorian calendar, Ramadan shifts back about 11 days every year. As a kid, Ramadan was always a wintery occasion, but over the years it has shifted back far enough that it now arrives smack dab in the middle of summer…which means fasting through hotter temperatures and longer days. Quite the challenge. For me, the most difficult part to handle is the thirst, not the hunger, although I must admit that when the worst of my hunger pangs hit, I do find myself daydreaming about stuffing anything and everything I can think of into my mouth. Funnily enough, when the time to break my fast finally comes (dusk), I usually find that I have very little appetite left after having fasted for ~16 hours. Not the worst problem to have, I suppose. After all, Ramadan is intended to be a month of simplicity and modesty; a time to sympathize with the poor, to purify one’s body, and to tune away from one’s bodily needs and focus on spirituality instead.
Done right, Ramadan is meant to detoxify the body and, by extension, purify the mind and soul. I guess the mechanism by which this happens is similar to the science behind juice fasts (see my previous post here). Since the average human body expends about 70% of its daily energy on digestion, taking a break from eating frees up a lot of spare capacity for our bodies to do other “chores” that it does not always have time to do, like cell renewal and detoxification. Traditionally, Muslims are urged to break their fast with some water and a few dates so as not to shock the body with too much food. Admittedly, I do see a lot of evidence around me that most people do not seize this wonderful opportunity to give their bodies a break, and for many people, Ramadan has sadly become synonymous with over-indulgent fast-breaking feasts…not ideal. But the spirit of the month remains intact, and I must say that Ramadan always manages to conjure up a very special atmosphere here in Amman and throughout much of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Aside from being a very holy month in the religious sense -a month of prayer, spirituality, and thanksgiving- Ramadan has very much become part of the culture as well; a month that revolves around family, food, social get-togethers, and many a long night of very competitive card games.
What religio-cultural holidays do you love most?
In good health,