Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas to all

It is thesis crunch time and being tethered to the computer writing up is not making me feel overly festive but there is much to be thankful for. I'll get in a little visiting over the next few days and I still made a bit of time for a little Christmas cake baking.

May Christmas be wonderful wherever you are. Best for everyone this holiday season and into the New Year.

Buon natale!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Caffe Corretto

I have noticed that I have been turning to alcohol a lot (in posts) lately.. and this is another. Also on coffee, the caffe coretto is an Italian tradition. With biscuits after mass and after a celebration meal.. a nicely 'corrected' espresso is always on offer.

Corrected.. not to imply that there was anything wrong with it to begin with, but with the ample supply of wonderful liqueurs now imported, why not?

My Top 5. And in increasing order of the 'degree' of correction.

1) Amaretto - nut (almond) liqueur, wonderful sweetness. Also fantastic on ice.
2) Frangelico - another nut (hazelnut) liqueur, again sweet.. maybe slightly smoother than amaretto but equally as addictive.
3) Sambuca - Typically sweeter than Greek ouzo, this anisette (licorice) liqueur is pungent and a little goes a long way in coffee.
4) Brandy - now we're talking. Cognac makes a more than acceptable substitute but in strong coffee, a great value for money brandy is Vecchia Romagna.. extreme but not o'er the top.
5) Grappa - Hardcore. A good grappa has nuances of a multitude of flavours, believe it or not, from the myriad of grapes it is made from in its homeland. And no, they don't become more apparent the more you imbibe. Subtle as a Shakira video, grappa does grab you, doing the trick in but a few shots. But spend a bit of money, because the cheap stuff will love and leave you, with regrets.


Winter Salad

Here are some of my garden's winter efforts. Radicchio. The salad leaf that bites back. These little jewel coloured lettuces are quite durable and will last for awhile, but I don't want to prolong the inevitable as they will begin to lose their sweetness. In the cellar (or fridge) wrapped in a tea towel, they will keep beautifully until I get the chance to use them. And I do have plans..

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chocolate gelato

I blame the Chocolate blog.. Choca-blog and alot of leftover cream from making wedding pastries. A friend is looking into purchasing an ice cream maker.. many, many things had me thinking about ice cream.

And when I am thinking about ice cream, I am almost always thinking about chocolate..

There is nothing better than delectable rich vanilla, or a fruit fused ice cream, but today, chocolate won out. Starting with melted chocolate (as good a place as any), I used a 70% cocoa solids chocolate (ordered from Callebaut) gently melted over low indirect heat (shown here in a bain Marie). In no time, it is a silken puddle.

Cream and milk is another portion of this ice cream blend.. and making sure it is brought just to a boil is important to set the custard. I poured 500mL of a blend of milk and cream into a saucepan and added the seeds of a whole vanilla bean. The aromas of vanilla infusing into anything makes me weak, but I find enough strength to whisk yolks with sugar until light and lemon coloured.

Once the milk mixture is steaming, I ever so slowly pour it into the eggs whisking all the while.. so as not to make scrambled eggs! This satiny custard is the base of the ice cream and into it goes a sifted measure of cocoa, a tablespoon of just made caramel and a tablespoon or two of liqueur.. my preference being for Frangelico, a sweet hazelnut concoction courtesy of Italian monks. The mixture does need to chill before freezing. As soon as the custard mixture is cool, I use a Cuisinart model (the one with the freezer bowl) to churn.

Partner chocolate ice cream with raspberries or strawberries and a suitably matched liqueur.. a perfect ending to any meal.