Saturday, June 26, 2010

PISTACHIO PAVLOVA

With Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and Vanilla Sauce

ROOT ROOT ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM

"Rugby is a game for barbarians played by gentlemen. Football is a game for gentlemen played by barbarians."
- attributed to Oscar Wilde


Europe is all a-flutter with the World Cup. Day in and day out, television sets, radios and computer screens everywhere are tuned in, news hours are devoted solely and completely to this grandest, loudest of all sports events. From the first coin toss and that first kick heard round the world, every European sits, watches, listens with bated breath, hands clasped, heart pounding. Prayers are interspersed with groans, grunts and choice expletives, the sweet taste of hope mingled with the jarring pungency of despair. Even Wimbledon, that most sacred and royal of tennis tournaments, has been forgotten, washed out, left in the dust of so many free kicks.


Of course we are speaking of the World Cup as in football. No, not American football, rather what Americans refer to as soccer. Now as my family and friends know, we are rugby people. Yes, we prefer rugby to soccer, the Gentlemen’s Sport over the Street Sport. And who doesn’t love watching those muscular men with the great thighs in skin-tight shorts and jerseys running around, clutching each other in wild embrace, hair swinging, weaving in and out as graceful as dancers with the final, beautiful dive chest first onto the green. Whew. Sorry, I sometimes get carried away.

So, where was I? Ah, the World Cup. This rare event has been punctuated by an even rarer event in our household, a visit from a friend who has come to stay. Clare and I sit side by side, day after day watching match after match, eating bowl after bowl of popcorn, sipping birch sap champagne (Sweden’s finest!) and root…root…rooting for the home team.

Nelly Kelly was sure some fan,
She would root just like any man,

Told the (referee) he was wrong,

All along, good and strong.

When the score was just two to two,

Nelly Kelly knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song.


"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,

I don't care if I never get back,

Let me root, root, root for the home team,

If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, (yellow cards and) you're out,
At the old ball game."


- Jack Norworth, 1908, 1927
(slight changes Life’s a Feast)

Truly caught up in the excitement of all of the drama, whipped up into a frenzy of patriotic fervor, Clare and I have spent every single day of her visit dashing between kitchen and living room, baking furiously and shouting at the players, shaking our fists, slapping hands to foreheads. But both she and I have one saving grace when it comes to the World Cup, our double lives: Clare is English and lives in Scandinavia while I am American living in France. We each have a choice of home teams, are swayed by such varied attachments that if one of our teams loses or gets sent home in disgrace we can simply switch our allegiance and still be loyal to a home team. The hullabaloo surrounding the French national football team has been making headlines and the repercussions of a continuous losing streak have been making waves throughout the country for so many years that supporting the Americans has been easy, especially after having watched how less thuggish the USA team has been playing in this World Cup, near perfect examples of sportsmanship and elegant football. Clare, on the other hand, has been vacillating between the English and any Scandinavian team who can gather together eleven blond men in shorts who can kick a ball. Watching England play has been a hair-pulling experience, yet they have indeed pulled through. We each heaved a huge sigh of relief as that first England-USA game ended in a draw, I can tell you that! No girl fighting necessary!


So while we are root…root…rooting for whichever home team feels the most like home (or has the better chance of winning) at the moment, we have been cooking and baking – poor Clare is suffering from food blog syndrome contagion: every waking moment is spent either at the market, the supermarket or in the kitchen cooking and baking when one is not sitting in front of a computer blogging said cooking and baking. In between the bouts of gorging on salty popcorn and nibbling on Swedish Dinkel crackers, we have been craving sweets. It started the day she arrived with a chocolate layer birthday cake (for son Clément) layered with whipped cream and raspberries and topped with chocolate buttercream, and was followed shortly after with luscious, amazing, perfect lemon ice cream (recipes will soon be revealed on Life’s a Feast). And then that time of the month rolled around, the Daring Bakers’ challenge, a multi-layered confection of chocolate, heavy cream, mascarpone and everything sweet.


The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard. I wanted to make a lighter flavored pavlova to offset the rich chocolate flavor of the mousse, so I chose a simple white pavlova in which I folded deep jade green pistachio nuts and added a dash of vanilla. I added cornstarch and vinegar to the meringue recipe as I usually do which gives the meringue a dry, crispy outer shell and a light, airy, marshmellow-like center. The pistachio meringue was perfect; just crispy on the outside without being crumbly or powdery, soft on the inside with the perfect marshmallow center, just chewy without being sticky and it truly melted on the tongue, leaving behind a wonderful delicate nutty taste. The chocolate mousse was creamy, smooth and very rich with an intense, not-too-sweet semisweet chocolate flavor. The Vanilla Sauce, made by folding crème anglaise, mascarpone and lightly whipped cream together, with a splash of nutty, warm Amaretto, was beautiful and the perfect balance with the chocolate mousse.


Thanks to Dawn, Lis and Ivonne for this wonderful event and delicious dessert!


PISTACHIO PAVLOVA with CHOCOLATE MASCARPONE MOUSSE
And a Crème Anglaise Vanilla Sauce

PISTACHIO PAVLOVA

3 large egg whites
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp vinegar (I used cider vinegar though you can use white wine vinegar)
½ tsp vanilla
1 ¾ oz (50 g) shelled pistachio nuts


Grind the pistachio nuts finely but with some small chunks.

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Line one large baking sheet with parchment or oven paper.

In a clean large bowl (I prefer plastic), beat the egg whites on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase mixer speed to high and continue beating until foamy. Gradually add the sugar to the whites as you continue to whip the whites until very stiff peaks hold and the meringue is glossy and moist.


Blend the cornstarch, the vinegar and the vanilla until the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Pour this liquid over the whites and fold together. Add all of the ground pistachios except two tablespoons and fold into the meringue.

To make one large pavlova, trace an 8- or 9-inch (20- to 22 ½ cm) circle onto the parchment and scrape all of the meringue out into the center of the drawn circle. Using the back of a spoon or a metal spatula gently spread the meringue out until you have an even disc. You can make a slight well in the center if you like. For individual pavlovas, draw six or eight 4-inch (10-cm) circles on the parchment and divide the meringue evenly among the circles then gently spread the meringue until even and level. Again, make a slight well in the center of each meringue to hold the mousse. Do not overwork the meringue or it may deflate. Bear in mind the pavlovas spread and puff up a bit so leave a couple of inches between each shell.

If you like, you can hold back some of the meringue and, using a pastry bag and a star tip, pipe stars out onto your lined baking sheet to serve as cookies alongside the mousse.

Sprinkle the remaining chopped or ground pistachios on the surface of the pavlovas.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 250°F (120°C) and bake the pavlovas until the outside is dry and crisp. It should also be dry and crisp on the underside. Do not overcook if you want the pavlovas to be marshmallow-like on the inside as a pavlova should be! If the pavlovas begin to brown too quickly simply cover them loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil. Remove them from the oven to cool on cooling racks.


CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
This is half of the recipe suggested by the Daring Bakers but I found it quite enough

¾ cup (190 ml) heavy cream, chilled
4 ½ oz (125 g) semisweet chocolate (Lindt 70%), chopped
6.6 fluid ounces (195 ml) mascarpone
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 Tbs Amaretto (can be replaced by 1 tsp vanilla)

Place ¼ cup (65 ml) of the heavy cream in a sauce over medium heat. When warm, add the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is just melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. It will thicken slightly.

Place the mascarpone and the remaining cream in a large bowl. Add the nutmeg. Whip on low speed until the mascarpone is loose and smooth. Add the Amaretto and continue to beat on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. Do not overbeat or the mascarpone will break.

Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten, then beat in the remainder until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

CRÈME ANGLAISE (for use in the Vanilla Sauce)
This is half the recipe suggested by the Daring Bakers, but again, I found it to be quite enough

½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
½ Tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
3 Tbs (38 g) sugar

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until they turn pale yellow. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over a medium high heat, bringing the mixture to the boil. Remove from the heat.

Pour about ¼ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly so that you do not end up with scrambled eggs.

Pour the yolk mixture back into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on low.* Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is thick enough to lightly cover the back of the spoon. Do not overcook.

Remove the mixture from the heat and strain into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, 2 hours or overnight.

* If the cream curdles – which may happen if the heat is too high and the cream gets too hot – simply remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a few tablespoons of cold heavy cream. Whisk for a few minutes until it smooths and thickens a bit and then push through the sieve. Chill in the refrigerator over night. It will be thick and smooth enough to use in the Vanilla Sauce.

VANILLA SAUCE (Mascarpone Cream)

Again, this is half the recipe suggested by the Daring Bakers.

1 recipe Crème Anglaise (above)
¼ cup (65 ml) mascarpone
1 Tbs Amaretto (or 1 tsp vanilla)
¼ cup (65 ml) heavy cream

Slowly whip the mascarpone and the Amaretto into the chilled Crème Anglaise until thick and creamy. Put the cream in a bowl (preferably chilled) and beat with an electric mixer until very soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

VANILLA CAKE with olive oil and maple syrup and low fat to boot!

WHAT’S A GIRL TO DO?


A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.
~James Beard

I have always been hungry. My mother tells of the time when she worriedly rushed me to the pediatrician’s office. Brand new baby, I was still at the tender age of liquid diet yet, as she exclaimed to the doctor “she sucks down bottle after bottle of milk and she cries for more! It isn’t normal! She just won’t stop eating!” He checked me and discovered that I was both normal and healthy and, with a kindly, reassuring smile on his face, merely said to her “Well, she must be hungry. It’s a little early but go ahead and add cereal to her bottles.” Apparently that did the trick. And it was downhill from there.

I have always loved to eat. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and more snacks, PopTarts or cereal, popcorn and cookies, shrimp cocktail or sandwiches of any and all imaginable combinations of ingredients, salads, vegetables, fruit, even school cafeteria lunches, airplane meals and pretty much anything that was placed in front of me, anything that I could grab. From the moment that I was old enough to serve myself, I had my head in the refrigerator looking for something to eat. I was a passionate, avid reader yet I was rarely to be found with a book in my hand if there wasn’t something to eat in the other. I really don’t think that I was hungry all the time, but rather I just wanted to, had to, was compelled to eat. All the time. How I ever got through all of those mornings and afternoons of school without eating is still a mystery to me.


And I am still an eater. Three square meals a day, my husband’s credo, has done much to tame me and has indeed helped me keep my body from ballooning into the Hindenburg (and spontaneously self-combusting). Three meals may be fine (and quite enough) for some but not for this lady. No, I am one of those who needs five meals during the day, peppered with snacks, although I must admit that as I must share three meals with my husband the other two meals take the form of a hearty snack, sometimes sweet, sometimes savory and often alone. I always have a small bag of emergency chocolates in my handbag and the first thing I pack for any car trip, whether an hour or a week, is the picnic basket full of snacks. But I will admit that I have cut down considerably. One is familiar with that old myth of the skinny Frenchwoman? Well, I understand. Her spouse, the Frenchman, adamantly sticks to his traditional breakfast, lunch, dinner and she, daintily smiling, carefully attentive and the perfect gentle mealtime companion, must join him for those long, layered meals. But contrary to popular myth, this épouse – wife of a Frenchman – does not limit her meals to salad nor does she elegantly pick at her tiny portion, pushing it around her plate to give the appearance of eating, all the while counting the calories laid out in front of her. I love eating and although I try and be careful, eat well, healthy and in moderation, I never disdain a good steak tartare with a side of frites, anything in sauce or, well, seconds. But yes, I will admit, that eating alongside my husband has made me a tad less hungry between those meals and somewhat able to control myself the rest of the day.

But his – and following in his footsteps, his sons’ - response to the offer of dessert or a snack is “No, thanks, I’m not hungry.” Hungry? Hungry? Since when does hungry have anything to do with it? A slice of cake, a dish of ice cream, a plate of cookies or something small and creamy is the sweet punctuation at the end of a meal, a soothing, comforting pause in the middle of the afternoon, a reinforcement, a boost of energy halfway between breakfast and lunch. And if it isn’t formally served on a tiny plate with fork or spoon, then I wander into the kitchen each time I pass through the house, swing by the cake plate, the cookie tin and nibble. A sliver here, a mouthful there, it makes me happy and helps me through the day.


Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.
~Voltaire

Now, I don’t have to remind you that summer is here and vacation is on its way. The suitcases are open on the bedroom floor, the airplane tickets are stacked in a neat little pile underneath the passports, Marty is signed up for camp and that swimsuit of mine is staring at me, mocking me, laughing, shaking an imaginary finger! Oh, I had planned on being a bit more careful this last month before our Florida holiday in that lazy beachside town. But how to keep the hand out of the candy drawer? Or keep from baking?


Well, I have one recipe that may help. 0% fat fromage frais (quark) plays a large part in my desserts. I make my fabulous, creamy, tangy lemon tart with this fat free substitute for cream, and any cake that calls for sour cream or Greek yogurt usually finds itself filling up on the fat free version. I have made a delicious fat-free fruity faux Tiramisu and we’ve enjoyed a fat-free quark mousse. But when we crave cake or when we need something dense and good for breakfast, I turn to this recipe. Made without either, butter, eggs or milk, it gets its goodness and warmth from olive oil and maple syrup. It is extremely easy to put together and just as easy to eat: dense and moist, flavorful enough to eat on its own with a cup of coffee for breakfast or a quick snack, simple enough to be the perfect foil for fresh fruit or fruit coulis (if watching our weight and getting ready for swimsuit season) or ice cream, pudding, or any kind of rich, creamy sauce you like.

It’s even perfect for those husbands (ahem) on low cholesterol diets.


This recipe is featured on the website Maple Syrup World! Visit this site for information on maple syrup as well as great recipes!

VANILLA CAKE with olive oil and maple syrup
From Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil or melted unsalted butter
2 tsps cider vinegar
1 Tbs vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly oil a 9-inch (22/23-cm) cake pan and dust with flour.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk or stir together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together the maple syrup, water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.

Now it is simply a question of pouring the wet ingredients into the dry and blending well either with a whisk or a wooden spoon although I prefer using a whisk. The best method for doing this so you don’t end up with stuff splattered all over your countertop and so you end up with smooth, lump-free batter is to make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour about a quarter or a third of the liquid ingredients into the well. With small, brisk circular movements whisk with just enough of the dry until you have a thick, smooth, lump-free batter, almost a paste, in the center. Add some more of the liquid, pull in a bit more of the dry, and briskly whisk again until, aha! your batter is smooth. Continue until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into your (now) lump-free batter, add any remaining liquid ingredients and give it a go.


Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the cake is set in the center and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. If the cake is undercooked it tends to be more pasty than moist.

Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before turning it out of the pan and letting it cool on a cooling rack.


Friday, June 18, 2010

CINNAMON CHOCOLATE FEATHER PUDDING

FINDING YOUR INNER 16 YEAR OLD


Remember slumber parties? Sleeping bags spread out on the floor of your parents’ den, flashlights creating halos of golden warmth around youthful, innocent faces, silly whispered gossip about cute boys and evil catty gossip about rival girls while nibbling on forbidden snacks smuggled in from the kitchen while the folks watched TV only a few feet away? There was something so gloriously decadent and slightly subversive about a good slumber party, especially once one has reached the so-called age of reason and understanding when innocence is tinged by the naughty and one feels the burden of hovering parents lifted. Childhood slumber parties replaced by teen sleepovers, when the gossip becomes just a little less innocent, the snacks slightly more sinful and the laughter maybe just a tad less virtuous. Those carefree times of our youth spent in pajamas curled up in front of some old B movie or black & white horror flick, giggling, eating popcorn and forgetting all about responsibility and homework until Monday morning rolls around.


Ah, those slumber parties of our youth lost in the past, long ago nights spent with our best girlfriends long exchanged for nights spent with husbands and children. Hours on the phone or lunch out at some sidewalk café just doesn’t take the place of a good slumber party. But are we now too old for the goofiness, the childishness of a sleepover? And what do we do with the husbands?

Food Blogger Connect was the perfect excuse for a small group of otherwise perfectly respectable, well-behaved, responsible women to conjure up their inner 16 year olds and meet up for a wicked weekend! Sophisticated to a tee, leaving grumbling husbands behind (much too easily, one could argue), they swept into London on a carpet of good intentions and met up at their own proverbial Bat Cave, Cook Sister HQ, where shoes were kicked off, hair let down and the good times started to roll! It all began rather innocently with a braai – a South African barbecue – which found charming Nick, rather flustered surrounded by all that giggling womanhood, manning the tongs and firing up the grill. Glasses of rosé in hand, we nibbled on cheese that each of us had brought from our respective countries: France, Germany, Switzerland while waiting for the spicy sausages and the lamb chops to hit our plates. Mmmmm, hungry. Cameras already poised over plates, the food blogger in each of these lovely women pushed their way to the front of the bus. Everything, absolutely everything that would be eaten over the course of this long weekend would be photographed for posterity’s sake.

The Spice Girls do Charlie's Angels

Snarky, Sporty, Saucy and Zesty joined Sweary * in the conservatory for a hearty meal followed, of course, by a plateful of Koeksister! Dense and sweet, these are special South African treats like crullers. The ladies also spilled a load of candy and chocolate out onto the table, treats brought along from their homeland. Gifts were exchanged as was laughter, gossip and good food. And one very Spicy Weekend was kicked off!

Cooksister of course!

Carambar! Caramba!

Some highlights of a very Spicy Girly weekend:

- Saucy very excitedly shows up at London City Airport to a text message announcing “Zesty has landed and in need of a very STIFF drink!” and running straight into Zesty’s arms, dancing and screeching like teens, she listens in horror to Zesty’s death-defying experience on the autobahn.

- 4 women (Snarky slept chez elle) sprawled out on an air mattress and sofas or snuggled up in a sofabed or dashing in and out of the kitchen, coffee mug or wine glass in hand depending on the time of day, buzzing between laptop computers perched atop rowing machine and kitchen counter in order to keep the twitterverse alive with our updates and news. Clothes and shoes and chocolate strewn around, stacked on furniture, stepped over on the floor like those good old college dorm days. Spice Sorority anyone? The elegant dance of sharing one bathroom was choreographed to perfection and it was proclaimed that the FBC Spice Girls could easily live together in wonderful, joyous harmony all year round. Has anyone ordered that Tour Bus yet?

Just practicing our FBC presentation speeches!

- Wine, women and song… and chocolate, macarons and a risqué dvd of hot rugbymen in various states of undress, women draped over furniture, swanning between ogling the cute ones and screaming “fast forward!!! Not hot!” while carefully dividing macarons into 4 and tasting, analyzing, judging, commenting. And voting Zesty’s Studmuffin Raspberry Tea Macarons with Dark Chocolate Tachini Ganache filling the best of the evening hands down!

Now what is a slumber party without a few goodies?

One husband slouched on the edge of said sofa nervously flipping a rugby ball in his hands, up down, up down, back and forth, with a grimace on his face as if he was being forced to watch open heart surgery, finally, disgusted, mumbling under his breath, stomping off to bed.

- Why am I the only one that needs coffee and carbs to start my day? One downs an invigorating tall glass of water and grabs a piece of fruit (but they don’t call her Sporty for nothing!) while the other two seem to be able to take it or leave it. Argh! Am total catatonic monster without breaky!

- There’s no plaice like home. Wrong plaice, wrong crowd. Lovely evening planned at the Tate Modern restaurant although some (moi) are a bit astonished at stark, bare, low class diner design look for something meant to be so upscale. Food ordered, spirits high, Spice Girls + one lovely friend + one darling Mowie gathered together for a delicious meal. Three of our sisters are served their lemon sole which looks and tastes mysteriously like inexpensive plaice. Do not try and fool a table of food bloggers, mister! Haggling with the waiter, demanding an explanation, manager finally is pulled out of bed (or wherever he has been hiding) who then explains to a table of I’m guessing bimbos is what he thought? that 1) it is sole, 2) that sole and plaice look very much alike so easily mistaken 3) that he’s had trouble with his suppliers and that 4) he’ll not charge the table for 3 desserts. Sweary, arms crossed, lips pinched tightly together, is slowly fuming, the steam coming out of her ears visible. Snarky who’s head was expected to explode at any moment, is furiously texting husband who is sending back confirmation of the price difference between plaice and sole while Sporty, being the sport that she is, has put on her well-educated, knowledgeable school marm voice and taken the entire situation in hand: “There seems to be some mistake here….no, this is definitely not sole so why are our friends being charged for sole….I’d like to speak to the manager…no, this is not good enough….” She kept her head, sounded very professional and eventually got the job done! And enjoyed every minute of it, a sport to her. We had to calm Sweary and Snarky down and finally did and ended up deciding that we will not eat at the Tate Modern ever again. But I would like to mention that my Cappuccino Panna Cotta was out of this world delicious!


- Shopping: Ladurée, snapping pictures until requested to stop, it is not allowed s'il vous plait! Fortnum & Mason with Mr. Snarky, hands full of brilliant Papoose, scooting joyously around store eating all of the free samples. Sporty snappy pictures of sole (£12 per portion) and plaice (£1.10 per 100 g) to send with her letter of complaint to said Tate Modern, buying and buying, and finding, to my heart’s delight, food coloring paste for macarons! Out on the street, Zesty dashing out into traffic to snap that perfect photo of a double-decker bus!


- Traditional fish & chips in a traditional English pub followed by a run through Greenwich market and the noisy, brilliant, look-at-us-aren’t-we-fun Spice Girls talking their lovely way to a free plate of cinnamon churros and chocolate dipping sauce.


- An evening cooking together. Zesty’s fabulous Chicken Curry and Chick Peas & Spinach. Yum! Every girl in her jammies, A-Ha and Duran Duran playing loudly, dancing, singing, twittering, drinking wine and cooking and knowing that we have found true friends and sisters for life. Out of 5 simple food blogs friendships are created, like minds, like souls are brought together.

The Spice Girls are cookin' hot!

Too old? No, I don’t think so. There is indeed a teen still left inside each of us and all it takes is an amazing weekend together to realize this. Yes, we’ve added cooking to the gossip and the naughty dvd’s, the wine drinking is now legal and mostly under control, but the rest was there. All except for the prank phone calls. Maybe next time…

Girl Scout Camp was never like this!

Epilogue:

- Monday: standing for what seemed like hours ;-) listening to Sporty animatedly discuss dates with the date man, Saucy finally, carefully, thoughtfully selects a lovely jar of date mustard to bring back to her man (Grumpy Spice) as a surprise gift. Said jar of date mustard is duly haggled over and finally confiscated by customs agents at London City Airport claiming that it is actually a liquid and cannot be brought aboard the plane. Terrorism by mustard? Mean, evil customs lady stalks away and Saucy, at wit’s end, has nice young agent practically in tears. She finally thanks him for his kind help and tells him to take the date mustard home and enjoy it. She buys two ties for Grumpy instead.

- Later in the week as Grumpy Spice was grumbling about his difficult week, Saucy in all of her sauciness exclaims “Yes, it must have been sad for you to start your week without me!” which leads to Grumpy snorting “yeah, and we didn’t exactly waste a lot of time rushing to answer the phone every time you called!” Ouch! Did he really want me to call him over the weekend?

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent….and the not so innocent!



In honor of a delicious, spicy, chocolate-y weekend with the Spice Girls, I’ve made Cinnamon Chocolate Feather Puddings, otherwise known as Chocolate Pots of Loveliness. This recipe was adapted from the recipe in my wonderful old 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking. The puddings are steamed in a bain-marie in the oven and, eaten warm, they are indeed feather light and gooey with an incredibly rich chocolate flavor though without the bitterness of bittersweet chocolate. It is almost like eating a chocolate bar in meltingly mousse form. Chilled, the puddings sink slightly and become dense and very creamy and it is like eating the most decadent of fudge brownie puddings. And with only 1 tablespoon butter, 1 egg and 1 ½ ounces (42 g) chocolate! For 8 puddings! Not bad and definitely Girl friendly!


I would like to send this to Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey? Monthly Mingle. This month it is hosted by Erin of The Apartment Kitchen who chose the theme Special Sweet Treats. And these puddings are indeed special!


(and another huge thank you to Kerrin & Meeta for sharing their pictures!)

CINNAMON CHOCOLATE FEATHER PUDDINGS
Or Fabulous Potted Little Pots of Chocolate
Serves 8

1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 large egg
1 cup (250 ml) milk *
1 Tbs (15 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ oz (42 g) semisweet chocolate, melted
1 ½ cups (190 g) flour
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbs (7 g) baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla


* milk can be replaced by coffee for mocha puddings, but omit the cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter 8 deep individual ramekins.

Beat the egg until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is thick and creamy.

Add the milk and the melted butter and chocolate to the egg and sugar and beat just to combine.

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together and then stir into the egg/milk mixture until well blended. Stir in the vanilla.

Ladle into the prepared ramekins not more than 2/3 full and cover each dish with a piece of aluminum foil. Place in a large baking pan (I place a folded page of a newspaper in the bottom of the pan which keeps the water from boiling) and carefully fill the pan around the ramekins with hot water to come up about halfway. Bake/steam in the oven for ½ hour.


Carefully remove the ramekins from the pan, uncover and serve immediately for the warm, creamy version. Serve with salted caramel sauce or salted caramel, vanilla, cinnamon or coffee ice cream.

Warm and gooey

These can also be refrigerated and eaten chilled, but they will have sunken slightly and turned into dense, fudgy brownie puddings. Serve these with any of the above or whipped cream and fresh fruit. Or eat as is standing in the door of the refrigerator trying not to look guilty. Or being caught.

Chilled and denser


Decadent, sweet and chocolate-y like the perfect slumber party!


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