Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Orleans Bread Pudding

New Orleans has been on my mind a lot recently.  I had a very brief visit home a few weeks back and am hoping to go again this month for a special event — a professional event so don't jump to any conclusions people.  But, I think about it everyday as I write my book (I don't think I've mentioned my book before, so hey I'm writing a book based on my research!) and decide what I want (or wish I had) for dinner.  

It seems an appropriate time to blog about a nostalgic New Orleans recipe, bread pudding.  And, this bread pudding recipe is special because it is a combined version from both sides of my family tree.  My mom's Western part of the state roots and my dad's old New Orleans upbringing.  My mom finally combined the two and sent a unified, authentic Louisiana recipe. 

New Orleans Bread Pudding 
from my family to yours 

5 cups of 1” cubes of French bread (about half loaf)
4 eggs lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and just warm
1 tablespoon butter to grease baking pan
2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, optional
¼ teaspoon cardamom, optional
½ cup pureed black or golden raisins
¼ whole raisins plus 1 tablespoon brandy
2 tablespoons pure Vanilla extract (and I threw in 2 teaspoons of Arrak in addition to the Vanilla)
4 tablespoons brandy
½ cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease with butter: 9” deep dish pie pan. Soak whole raisins in one tablespoon brandy.
Arrange cubes of bread in tight layers in greased pie pan. For crisper pudding crust, arrange bread crust facing up on top layer. Drop whole raisins over top of bread crumbs. Drop raisin puree over top of bread crumbs, too: it will be sticky. Whisk together: eggs, melted butter, dry spices and sugar. Blend in brandy and flavor extracts. Whisk until well mixed. Pour over bread cubes. Let the egg mixture soak into the cubes. Sprinkle top with chopped pecans. Lower the oven temperature the minute the pie pan is in the oven. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Hard Sauce (my version is thin)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cream (can substitute milk, but sauce will be thinner)
¼ cup bourbon or rum and ¼ cup brandy, or ½ cup all brandy, or ½ cup all whisky
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan on low heat. When sugar dissolves, increase to medium heat. Keep stirring while sauce comes to a boil. Simmer about 5 minutes. Keep warm until serving over pudding.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Might Surprise You

I've read articles professing the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe and tips on how to better your baking.  But you will be as surprised as Monica Geller Bing to learn it's ok to stick with the classics.   

I am referring to the episode of Friends where Phoebe promises Monica her grandmother's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe, only to find the handwritten recipe was lost in a fire.  The gang then spends the rest of the episode painstakingly trying to figure out the recipe — and in the grand tradition of Friends, not going to work.  

Monica is more than a little frustrated when they realize Nes-lay Toul-ouse is not Phoebe's great great great grandmother. The recipe is in fact the standard back of the bag Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

What Monica doesn't know is that this recipe, though simple, is actually the best one.  Because it is the one all others are modeled after. 

That's right.  Nestle Toll House invented the chocolate chip cookie recipe — the one printed on the back of the yellow bag.  

The chocolate chip cookie was an accidental discovery at the Toll House Inn when Nestle chocolate was used in place of Bakers Chocolate for chocolate cookies.  With the increased popularity and chocolate sales, Nestle bought the recipe in the late 1930s from the inn's owner Ruth Wakefield.   In exchange for the recipe,  Wakefield was given a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate chips and the name Toll House on the cookie packaging.  (Source)

In case you ripped your bag, here is one more place on the Internet to find the original chocolate chip cookie recipe ... 

·       2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
·       1 teaspoon baking soda
·       1 teaspoon salt
·       1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
·       3/4 cup granulated sugar
·       3/4 cup packed brown sugar
·       1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·       2 large eggs
·       2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle Chocolate Morsels, semi sweet 

Combine flour, baking soda and salt. 
Cream butter and sugars in mixing bowl, blending in vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. 
Blend in dry mixture. 
Lastly, mix in chocolate chips. 
Drop one inch pieces on slightly greased baking sheet. 
Bake for about 10 minutes (maybe as little as 8) at 375.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bella Notte

Robert likes projects.  He built a bed.  Mastered several video games.  And, fixed up his vintage car.  

Now, he is baking bread.  And each loaf gets more and more delicious. 

When he was in town for July Fourth weekend, we celebrated Oma's birthday with German cuisine one night and turned Robert's bread and Sicilian recipes into a bella notte on another.  America's melting pot in action.

Our meal was super delicious with rosemary bread, vegetarian ravioli and a choice of red sauce and pesto. All from scratch. 

Photos by Robert Giglio

Rosemary Bread 

Robert uses this recipe, but with the following variations.  He added a dash of basil and melted freshly grated parmesan atop the bread during the last few minutes of baking. 

Pesto Sauce 

Blend the following: 
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (2-3 bunches)
¼ cup pine-nuts toasted
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 large clove garlic, quartered
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons lemon

Tomato Sauce  

1 can tomato paste
1.5 cans of water
Leftover eggplant and bell pepper filling (or half the filling recipe below)
Italian seasoning, dry basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic

Simmer for 30 minutes to let flavors blend, stirring.

Vegetarian Ravioli 

Ingredients: (for pasta)
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil (If you do not have enough basil, substitute with spinach, or just use spinach)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  1. Using a food processor, process basil leaves until chopped very fine. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and pulse two or three times, or until combined. Add egg, 1 teaspoon oil, and the water until dough forms a ball shape. If dough seems dry, add a bit more water. Wrap dough in a piece of plastic wrap which has been coated in a few drops of olive oil. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours. (Or freeze for 45 min. or so)
  2. Remove dough from refrigerator, and roll into sheets.  Use ravioli press to layout pasta and add filling.  Lay out another sheet over the filling, secure edges and cut out squares.  If you don't have a press, cut pasta into squares, place a dollop of filling and place another square atop, seeming the edges.  (Feel free to try using animal shapes instead of squares.)    
  3. Cook in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. This should take only a 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta.

Ingredients: (for the filling)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • half eggplant
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Tony's (red pepper)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  1. Saute garlic, cubed eggplant and diced bell pepper. 
  2. Combine in food processor with cheese and extra garlic and seasonings to taste.

A little lesson in Italian 

Robert's last name is very Italian.  It's Giglio.  And though he knows it is supposed to be pronounce like the movie Gigli (Jee-Le-O), he rarely corrects people.  But, at the root of it, he is proud of his Sicilian heritage and what the name Giglio means.  Giglio is Italian for lily. I have to say as a New Orleanian, I am a big fan of his family and Giglio Island's (off the coast of Italy) symbol, the fleur-de-lis.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cinnamon Salted Caramel & Cinnamon Banana Cream Cheese Cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago there was a going away party for my friend Candace, who is leaving DC for sunny California.  A lot of Washingtonians will be missing Candace, but we are all excited for her next step. 

With her favorite flavors in mind, I crafted a cupcake and a couple of icing recipes for her going away BBQ.  All the cupcakes were an original Cinnamon Cupcake recipe, while there was an option of two original boutique icings: Salted Caramel or Banana Cream Cheese.  

So, without further ado ... 

Cinnamon Cupcakes 


·       1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
·       1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
·       1 tablespoon baking powder
·       1/2 teaspoon salt
·       1.5 tablespoon ground cinnamon
·       1/8 tsp nutmeg
·       1/8 tsp clove
·       small pinch of cardamom
·       1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
·       1 1/2 cups brown sugar
·       ¼ cup sugar
·       4 large eggs, room temperature
·       2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
·       1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins. Sift both flours.  Mix flours with baking powder, salt, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and cardamom.

Cream butter and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time. Blend in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture alternating with milk, until combined.

Fill cupcake liners ¾ the way.  Bake around 15 minutes, testing center with toothpick at 10 to see when done.  Allow to cool and add icing … Decide if you want salted caramel or banana cream cheese.

Salted Caramel Icing  

Combine the following ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened  
3 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 T caramel 
3.5 T brown sugar

Apply icing with pastry bag (I use a ziplock) and decorate with one Werther's Candy (that I rolled) and a sprinkle sea salt. 

Banana Cream Cheese Icing  

Combine the following ingredients:

1 cup unsalted cream cheese, softened  
3 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon flavoring extract (vanillla)
sprinkle cinnamon
one mashed banana

Apply icing with pastry bag (I use a ziplock) and decorate with caramelized bananas.

for the caramelized bananas ... 
slice bananas and dip in brown sugar on both sides
heat in frying pan with vegetable oil until brown sugar is gooey and caramelized 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Special Monday Post: Happy Birthday Oma

Today's special Monday Post is not a recipe.  It is a Happy Birthday to my Oma, my inspiration for this blog. She passed away in January and Saturday would have been her 88th birthday.  And, Oma loved her birthday.  

With Oma and my sister on what I believe was her 67th birthday.
She let me keep my pacifier in, because she knew how much I liked it. 

Instead of being sad, we decided to have Bavarian dinner, with a Fourth of July twist, and think fondly of our Oma.  

Andrew, Julie, Robert and I headed to German Gourmet, a German Grocery in northern Virginia. We bought candies Oma gave us as children and supplies for dinner.  Considering the weekend,  we ate Bavarian hot dogs AKA authentic German sausages, mustard and blaukraut on pretzel bread (all from German Gourmet).  We made a "prost" to Oma and had a meal that made us so full, she would be proud.

Our German meal on Oma Day. 

This morning, as I thought about this first birthday, I thought about the things I miss about my Oma like the way her home always smelled of linen, Chanel No. 5, expired lotion and cookie dough.  It was a happy, safe place that always had chocolate and usually ice cream.  When I slept over, there was a special poofy, vintage night gown I wore that made me feel like a princess.  And, when we you laid in the down bedding, you would sink inches into the frame.  She was a truly wonderful Oma.  And I am happy to celebrate her every year on July 6, Oma Day. 

Click here if you would like to cook one of Oma's German recipes.

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