Friday, February 22, 2013

A New Way to Enjoy Earl Grey - Earl Grey and Blood Orange Shortbread

Shortbread often comes in pairs. Or at least it does when I am making it.  :)

I have been drinking a lot of tea over the last few days, because I have been fighting a cold, and nothing is quite as satisfying as Earl Grey with lemon.  It really is my ultimate tea.... I will admit to having a soft spot for first flush Darjeeling, but Earl Grey is my all time favorite.  It's bright, rich, bold and exotic.  It stands to reason that lemon is an excellent accompaniment to Earl Grey Tea, especially when your ill, since it already contains oil of Bergamot Orange.  It's the perfect pairing, which is why Earl Grey is traditionally served with slices, not a wedge, of lemon to be added at the drinkers discretion and allowed to languidly float upon the sea of "Grey" within the cup. Sometimes, the lemon slices are even spiked with a clove in the center.  But I will refrain from talking about British tea traditions as that would fill several posts.

My favorite brand has got to be the Tao of Tea's Organic Earl Grey, which is the perfect balance of rich Assam and Bergamot oil.  I like their Smoked Earl Grey too, but it doesn't translate as well into one of my most loved winter drinks, the London Fog.  A London Fog, is a delicious concoction made from Earl Grey steeped in steamed milk, with a hint of vanilla syrup.  True, Earl Grey is not normally served with milk, because the Bergamot oil could potentially curdle the milk, but I find it to be a winter time necessity in dreary winter environs, such as the Pacific Northwest.  (and I have never had one curdle on me)  After all, oil of Bergamot is second only to lavender in it's ability to act as a stimulate and anti-depressant, while simultaneously acting as a sedative and relaxant, giving you an overall sense of well being. 

Now that I have expounded upon the liquid wonder that is Earl Grey, lets move on to something more solid...  Shortbread.

Just like ground coffee, ground tea is an excellent addition to Shortbread.  Earl Grey's ability to play well with other flavors in such goodies as Chocolate Truffles and Pots de Creme makes it the perfect candidate for baking.  It also lends itself well to other additions such as vanilla, almond, and a myriad of citrus zests.  Add the zest of a Blood Orange and you have something even more exotic and out of the ordinary.  Have a taste for Lavender?  Try Lady Grey tea with Meyer Lemon zest instead....  (though it really should be called Countess Grey, which is the accepted feminine form of Earl. I'm just sayin)  Black tea not really your thing?  Try Earl Green (Green tea with Bergamot oil) with Tangelo zest.  They are ALL delicious. 

Earl Grey and Blood Orange Shortbread

2 oz (57g)(1/4 cup) Granulated Sugar
4 oz (113g)(8 TB) Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 tsp Earl Grey Tea leaves
zest of 1/2 a Blood Orange (about 3/4 tsp)
6 oz (170g)(1 1/3 cup) AP Flour

Combine Sugar, Butter and Salt in the bowl of your mixer.

Beat until light and fluffy, while you grind the Earl Grey leaves into a powder.

Add the Earl Grey Powder along with the Blood Orange zest, and beat again until everything is combined.

Slowly work in the Flour,

you have a crumbly mixture.....

Turn the dough out onto a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and work into a log with your hands.

Refrigerate the log for 1-2 hours, or until nice and firm.

Preheat the oven to 325F (162C) degrees.
Slice the log into 1/4 inch (6mm) slices.

Place on an AirBake pan or on a regular pan lined with Parchment. (AirBake pans are excellent for shortbread - I always forget that I have them)

Bake for 13-18 minutes, or until the edges just begin to change color.

Move to a rack and allow to cool completely.

Serve with tea of your choice..... (or coffee)

Me?  I double up and enjoy these with a cup of Earl Grey.  :)


Friday, February 15, 2013

Melancholy Mommy - Espresso Shortbread with White Chocolate

Yep, sooner or later you know it had to happen.  Another shortbread recipe.  This one is my mother's fault.  She purchased some shortbread at the grocery store after reading the ingredient list, which seemed to be OK, since if contained Flour, Sugar, Butter and Coffee.  Sounds OK to me too.  BUT (there's that big but again)  They had dipped the shortbread in fake white chocolate, composed of Palm Kernel and Palm oils with some cane juice and ground coffee.

While I applaud their use of cane juice, I really get annoyed when companies try to pass off Palm Kernel oil and Palm oil as being white chocolate.  (ie. Nestle White Morsels, Guittard "Au Lait" and several "White Chocolate" candy bars like Hershey's Cookies and Cream)  They aren't EVEN close.  White Chocolate, being made from Cocoa Butter, melts in your mouth at 98 degrees (just like regular Chocolate).  Palm Kernel oil doesn't "melt" until about 107F (I use to make soap).  Thus it leaves a greasy feeling in your mouth.  To make a long story short, it's like eating sugar laden Crisco. YUCK!

Needless to say, my mom was a little upset that they had ruined a perfectly good shortbread.  She thought she could power past the fake coating.  Alas, she could not.  I tried one, they were gross.

So I made these especially for her, to lift her from her melancholy state of mind.  Now she's all kinds of happy... and somewhat hyper for that matter.

Espresso Shortbread

1 1/2 tsp Espresso Powder
1 1/2 tsp Hot Water
Pinch of Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
4 oz (8 TB) (113g) Unsalted Butter
2 oz (1/4 cup) (57g) Brown Sugar (you can use Granulated Sugar if you like)
6 oz (1 1/3 cups) (170g) AP Flour

1 1/2 oz REAL White Chocolate
1/8 tsp Espresso Powder

Combine Espresso Powder and Hot Water in a small bowl, stirring with a fork or spoon until dissolved.

the pinch of Cinnamon,

and the Salt, stirring to combine.

Place Butter in the bowl of a mixer along with the Espresso mixture.

Beat until well combined, then add the Brown Sugar.

Continue beating until everything is smooth and creamy looking.

Slowly incorporate the Flour, just until the dough begins to pull together into little clumps.

Turn the crumbly dough out onto a piece of waxed paper and press together into a disk with your hands.

Wrap the disk with the waxed paper, then wrap the whole thing with plastic wrap to retain moisture.

Chill the dough for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325F (162C) degrees and turn the disk out onto a well floured surface and roll to 1/4 inch (6mm) thick.

Using a well floured cutter, cut out shapes.

Move, with a floured spatula, to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 13-18 minutes or until the bottoms are just beginning to color and the shortbread feel firm to the touch in the center.

Move to a cooling rack.

Combine White Chocolate and Espresso powder in a small bowl.

Melt the White Chocolate in the microwave stirring until smooth.
Grab a large paint brush (I find it easier to paint than dip) and paint half the shortbread with espresso chocolate.

Let your imagination run wild......  :)

Allow the chocolate to sit for at least 1 hour to firm up again.

Then box them up and give them to your mother.  :)  Just don't let her eat more than 2 at any given time or you may find her bouncing off the walls.  ;)


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Goin' Green; Spring Green That Is - Gremolata

Well, it's official - 12 days ago Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and spring is on the way.  Or at least, it is suppose to be.  I am beginning to think that Punxsutawney's predictive powers propose no promise of pacifying the North Pacific's propensity for protracting it's piercingly polar presence.  Then again, knowing that nefarious Nor'easter that nailed New England, it's fair to figure that Phil's forest floor forecast is faulty.

But even though it seems that Spring won't "spring" for another six weeks hence, there is no reason that you cannot "taste" springtime on a plate.  I am speaking of the infamous gremolata.  For nothing tastes quite as "green" as gremolata.  OK, Pesto tastes green too, but I have already posted about that.  :)

Gremolata recipes are fairly varied, but it's safe to say that they ALWAYS contain lemon zest.  Without the lemon zest, Gremolata looses it's sunny disposition and tastes more like a rainy day.  Which is sad indeed.  As far as other ingredients are concerned, there is a little more fluidity.  Usually it involves some combination of Garlic, Mint and Parsley; mainly because Gremolata is the key ingredient in Ossobucco alla Milanese (braised veal shank).  Tone down the Mint, or remove it completely, and Gremolata's verdant visage is a welcome addition to seafood and vegetables as well.

I take a little bit more of a pesto route when I make Gremolata and include nuts, pistachios in particular, but they are not necessary.  I do this because Gremolata is devoid of both cheese and olive oil, unlike Pesto Genovese, and the nuts give the "sauce" a little more body and substance without "pesto-izing" it too much.  But that is just my own personal preference.

My newest favorite vehicle for Gremolata conveyance is the Cauliflower "steak".  But as I stated earlier, it is also magically delicious over shrimp and fish.


1 bunch of Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley (none of that soapy tasting curly stuff)
2-3 cloves of Garlic
2 TB Pistachios
Pinch of Kosher Salt
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Zest of whole Lemon

Normally I would break out my mega mezzaluna for something like this, cause I prefer the texture created by hand chopping, but I was in a hurry.  Luckily, Gremolata doesn't emulsify as easily as pesto does, since it contains no Olive oil.  Thus, you can cheat with a food processor and still retain some form of texture.

In the work bowl, add Garlic, Parsley and Pistachios and give it several pulses to break everything down.

Add a pinch of Salt, and pulse again.

Add Lemon Juice, and pulse.

Add Lemon Zest and pulse briefly.

Serve over Cauliflower Steak or Shrimp.


Fear not, my friends, though spring be late,
And Old Man Winter doth fulminate,
Your appetite may yet be sate,
With Springtide greetings on a plate.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Who Comes Up With This Stuff? - Ruby Red Grapefruit Curd

So February is Grapefruit month.  Did you know that?  I didn't know that.  I am really beginning to wonder WHO comes up with the food holidays and celebrations.  I mean, seriously.  Do we need a day set aside to celebrate the Cream Cheese Brownie?  (February 10th)  Especially when there is already a Brownie Day on December 8th.  Did a Cream Cheese Brownie special interest group lobby for their own holiday?  What gives?

February is not only the month to celebrate the deliciousness that is Grapefruit, it's National Potato Lover's month, National Cherry month, National Snack Food month (Oye!) and who could possibly forget that most important meal of the day..... National Hot Breakfast Month.  Me?  I'm stickin' with grapefruit for now.

I LOVE grapefruit.  I think it has gotten a bum rap over the years though.  Most people tend to think of it as something closely akin to "old person diet food".  This just is not true.  Granted the grapefruit available during my youth was your standard "white" grapefruit with it's somewhat bitter back bite.  A flavor that seems somewhat out of place considering that the grapefruit is a natural hybrid of the fairly sweet pomelo and a sweet orange.  But if you find white grapefruit to be way to sour and bitter, try salting it.  As strange as it sounds, salt actually sweetens the fruit.

As I got older the "pink" grapefruit hit the stage with it's much sweeter and less bitter interior.  By the time I was a young adult, the Rio Star ruby red grapefruit had made it's way from Texas to the Pacific NW.  This particular variety is the sweetest of the three and has almost no bitterness whatsoever.

Normally I make curd with a plain white grapefruit, but I re-tooled my recipe and toned down the sugar so I could try a red grapefruit, just to see how it came out.  On the whole, I was fairly impressed.  I will always have a soft spot for White Grapefruit curd, but Ruby Red Curd is delicious as well. (though no quite as "ruby red" as I had hoped)

This is the quick way to make curd.  Normally I would cook it in a double boiler (bain marie) until it coats the back of a spoon, then run my curd through a strainer to remove the zest afterwards.  This time I decided to put on my "devil may care" hat and pick up the pace a little by cooking directly over low flame and whisking constantly.  Since I am going to strain it anyway, why not? 

So in honor of Grapefruit Month, I present to you......

Ruby Red Grapefruit Curd

2/3 cup Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice (About 1 -1 1/2 Grapefruits)
Zest of 1 Ruby Red Grapefruit
1/4 cup (50g) Granulated Sugar (I am a bit of a sour puss so you may want to up it to 1/3 or 1/2 cup)
2 large Egg Yolks
2 large Eggs
Pinch of Kosher Salt
2 TB Unsalted Butter

Zest the grapefruit before juicing.

Squeeze all the juice from the grapefruit.

Filter the juice to ensure you have no pulp or seeds.

Combine the juice with the zest in a small saucepan.

Add Sugar and stir until dissolved.

Add the Yolks, the Egg and a pinch of Salt, whisking well to combine.

Place over low heat and whisk constantly until it begins to thicken. (don't let it boil, or it has gotten too hot)

Remove from the heat and add the butter, whisking until melted and smooth.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer, to remove the zest and any possible egg white lumps.

Cover with plastic wrap on the surface to prevent crusting and refrigerate until ready to consume. (I am kind of bummed that it turned out "yellow", I was kind of expecting a sort of "salmon pink" color, then again, the juice really wasn't all THAT red to start with and my yolks were pretty dark)

Now I just have to figure out what to do with my Grapefruit curd. (Besides simply eating it with a spoon)