Tuesday, January 11, 2011

3 FABULOUS TREATS FROM DESSERTS 4 TODAY

NUTELLA FUDGE BROWNIES


CREAMY ESPRESSO PUDDING


& COCONUT CRÈME CARAMEL


Baking is pure joy. Hands pressed down into soft bread dough, kneading, caressing, stroking, easing my stress and filling my soul with peace and goodness. Watching the dough rise, slowly, the time tiptoeing by, like a mother watching her baby sleep. Thick, creamy batter, measuring, blending, stirring, breathing deeply of the scent of chocolate, redolent of cinnamon and vanilla, earthy and exotic, easing one ingredient into the next. Egg whites whipped and whizzed, thickening like magic before my very eyes until I have a bowl of marshmallow and visions of my childhood dancing in front of my eyes. I take my time, I move through the kitchen, through the afternoon, fingering the pages of cookbook after cookbook until I stumble across just what I am looking for, just what I crave. I pencil my list on a scrap of paper and step out to purchase all that I don’t have, adding each item, each ingredient to what I have pulled from the cupboard. I measure flour and sugar, crack eggs, butter baking pans, taking my time, easing myself into the recipe, attentive to getting each and every step right, savoring the textures and smells and working my way slowly through the preparations. Baking is calming and at the same time exhilarating, it eases stress, slows me down and gives me time to think, letting my mind wander into other worlds, reliving memories or discovering new ideas. But it also excites and energizes me. When I am lagging behind or feeling the pull of boredom or anxiety is slowing me down and clogging my brain, I bake, I create and I come alive again, reinvigorated after a day in the kitchen.


Yes, I take my time when I bake and revel in every dusting of powdered sugar, watching it drift down like snow across a landscape. Or I carefully, slowly drizzle warm, aromatic ganache spooned precisely over the surface of a cake, or sandwich macaron shells together in perfect tandem, like a sweet matchmaker pairing one half with one alike. I plan ahead, or not, as the urge takes me, leaving my computer, my writing, my housework to fend for themselves, alone in this big apartment to while away the morning or afternoon as they see fit. And I concentrate on this activity of creating. And I am content in that I have some here who are happy to find something sweet in the kitchen to eat or to share, proud to carry a tray of this to the office or a tin of that to friends. This gives me as much, if not more pleasure than the bit of time I spend preparing it.

Yet as much as I love baking, sometimes I just don’t have the time. Or the courage. Sometimes it is pouring and I don’t want to look beyond my pantry for ingredients, unwilling to slip on rubber boots, coat and hat to run out and buy what I don’t have. Sometimes I just want it simple and straightforward, easy and with a minimum of fuss, a quick fix to palliate a sudden urge. Once in a while we’ll decide to have guests and there is just too much to organize for me to concoct something complicated and fancy. Or every now and then I have a houseful of young men who adore my pastries, cakes and confections and I just enjoy hearing the oohs and the ahhhs, watching eyes light up and happy faces heading to the kitchen.


And then I met Abby. Sweet as the day is long on a rambling summer day, I got to know her rather quickly, shooting tweets back and forth, happily joking and sharing kindness and information on Facebook. I quickly learned that she had something to do with certain scrumptious Nutella Fudge Brownies that seemed to be making a stunning appearance across the blogosphere… and that got me curious. Sometimes I feel so out of the loop living here on the Old Continent, finding out things, gathering information and news about books and people. Yet getting to know Abby – and who Abby is – was quick, easy and delightful. And then she offered to have her latest cookbook sent to me. Who would say no? And this wonderful little book is genius! And a lifesaver! desserts 4 today is that go-to book when you want something sweet and homemade but have neither the time nor the energy to put into something long and complicated. Each and every one of the 125 mouth-watering recipes has only four ingredients! Yep, four. How easy is that? I passed around this gem of a cookbook to my men and asked them to each choose one. Now, normally I get harrumphs and groans and the book shoved back at me. But for some reason… and I am guessing that it may have had something to do with the gorgeous photos in the book, but they each happily selected one treat that they wanted. And I chose the fourth. Ah, four recipes each with only four ingredients! Sadly, I made only three, JP lost out on his choice of Maple-Glazed Figs with Hazelnut Mascarpone, but don’t worry, that one is coming soon…


As I have a birthday coming up, my mind tends to think in terms of gifts. This lovely little book is the perfect gift for someone who loves to bake but doesn’t always have the time or is usually limited to pantry staples when baking. Or someone who wants to become a baker but may not have the experience yet and needs something simple, easy to follow, easy to understand. Or just anyone that loves baking. Or cookbooks. Or gifts.

I would love to thank Abby and the very kind people at The Taunton Press for allowing me to test, taste and share from Abby’s wonderful and now well-thumbed book desserts 4 today.

All three recipes are from desserts 4 today (Flavorful Desserts with just Four Ingredients) by Abigail Johnson Dodge. (another recipe from Abby will be posted on Life’s a Feast very soon, a recipe she developed for Bon Appetit Magazine.) At the end of each recipe, Abby gives several variations or Switch Ins as well as a suggestion on how to Gussy It Up.


I share with you these three excellent and easy recipes and promise you that this is one cookbook that won’t get forgotten on a bookshelf somewhere. I already have plans to make those figs for JP as well as Maple Cornmeal “Indian” Puddings, Meyer Lemon-Ricotta Panna Cotta, Crushed Raspberry-Mascarpone Whip, Basil Ice Cream… well, you see where this is going?


CREAMY ESPRESSO PUDDING FOR TWO
Instead of making 2 full servings, I chilled this luscious, coffee-lover’s treat in four tiny espresso cups. I so loved this – I got my coffee blast in such a sweet way. Did I really eat all four of them myself?

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used light brown)
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 ¾ tsps fine instant espresso powder
1 ¼ cups half-and-half, divided (I used light cream)


Have ready two 6-oz ramekins ready (or 4 espresso/demi-tasse cups) and space in the refrigerator.

Put the brown sugar, cornstarch and espresso powder in a small saucepan and whisk to blend. Add about ¼ cup of the cream or half-and-half and whisk until the coffee is almost dissolved. Whisk in the remaining half-and-half. Cook, whisking frequently, over medium heat until boiling. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.


Pour the pudding into the ramekins or cups. Cover with plastic wrap (touching the surface). Serve warm or refrigerate until ready to serve or for up to one day.


(Note: I found that these actually improved after one and even two days in the refrigerator.)

NUTELLA FUDGE BROWNIES
There is absolutely nothing to say…

½ cup Nutella spread
1 large egg
5 Tbs all-purpose flour
¼ cup chopped hazelnuts


Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 12-cup mini muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

Put the Nutella and the egg in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and well blended. Add the flour and whisk until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins about ¾ full and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.


Bake until a pick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs, 11 to 12 minutes. Set on a rack to cool completely. Serve (eat) immediately or cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Mine sunk a tad, I don't know why, but they were still fabulous!


COCONUT CRÈME CARAMEL
Clem’s choice, double thumbs up from JP

1 can (13-14 oz) coconut milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 whole large eggs + 1 egg yolk
¼ tsp ground cardamom


Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Have ready four 6-oz ramekins and place them in a shallow baking pan that will comfortably hold the ramekins. Make room in the refrigerator for the 4 ramekins.

Pour the coconut milk into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat (don’t leave it alone because when it comes to a boil it froths up and over) and cook until reduced to 1 ½ cups (actually this only takes a couple of minutes).

Meanwhile, put 1/3 cup of the sugar with 1 tablespoon water into a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling. Increase the heat to medium and boil, without stirring, until the sugar is medium-amber, about 2-3 minutes. Gently swirl the pan to even out the color. Pour the hot caramel evenly into the four ramekins and quickly but carefully swirl each ramekin to cover the bottom with caramel. (The caramel will harden almost immediately when it touches the cool ramekins, so pour and swirl one at a time and rather quickly but don’t worry at all when the caramel solidifies because it will turn back into liquid caramel when baked with the cream.)

Put the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, the eggs, the yolk and the cardamom in a medium heatproof bowl and whisk to blend. Slowly add the hot coconut milk in a steady stream over the egg mixture while whisking constantly, until all the coconut milk is added and well blended. Pour (or ladle) the cream into the ramekins (it will come up to the top rim). Carefully pour hot water into the baking pan around the ramekins until the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards jiggle when nudged (about 40 minutes). Transfer the pan to a rack and carefully lift out the custards (I used a metal spatula) and place them on a rack or cutting board to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours (unless the husband comes home from work and sees them in the refrigerator and takes one) or for up to 2 days. If they last that long.

To serve, run a small, thin, sharp knife between the custards and the ramekins then quickly invert onto serving plates. Gently shake to loosen.


48 comments:

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Um yeah. Clearly I need a copy of this book. Such great desserts but so easy to make!

Deeba PAB said...

The books on my wish-list, and I am truly happy to have found a twin who adores baking as much as me. Love the choices of da men in your home, and you know my heart went for the espresso pudding. I have a Stollen Dark chocolate Pudding in the oven now...and am thinking I want that creamy espresso. YUM!! Even the Coconut Creme Caramel is genius...who would have thought!! SLURRRRRP!! Gorgeous pictures and beautiful post. Another dessert book worth owning...YUM!!

egbkid said...

Wow, they all look yummy! The Nutella brownies look super easy, i think i am going to have to try making them! :-)

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

Sounds like the cookbook was perfect for you! It is so wonderful to read how you feel about baking; I think it is a common thread between all of us bloggers.
Oh and did I mention that these look too good? Nutella.. :)

Ria Mathew said...

I am so tempted with that Espresso Pudding, Jamie!

Beautiful pictures! I totally loved that book! :)

Happy Cook said...

I love all three but want i want is that Expresso pudding right now.

A Thought For Food said...

This past year has been my time to explore the world of baking... and I have fallen in love (though my body image has gone down the drain).

All of Abby's recipes are fantastic, but these three really shine. Great post!

Loulou in France said...

These all look absolutely delicious! Was just trying to figure out what to make for dessert for friends coming to lunch on Thursday and think the espresso pudding will be perfect. They are serious coffee lovers.
Thank you!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Baking is pure joy! It is such an enjoyable activity and I love to see people's eyes shine when they taste my creations... But like you, I sometimes feel a little lazy.

All three desserts are splendid! A torture to look at without being able to taste them...

cheers,

Rosa

Lick My Spoon said...

Thos look gorgeous.....I don't think I can decide which one is my favourite but I've made the nutella brownies and they are decadent for so little work!

foodwanderings said...

Love Abby;s D4T. It is such a gem!! Made few recipes and meant to make the coconut creme caramel too! Great post! Shulie

Jennifurla said...

I needed something that would not break the bank for a party this weekend, I am so making that pudding

Pavithra said...

Wow I love that book..even I tried that nutella brownies and espresso pudding as well wah..it was scintillating Again I am drooling seeing ur awesome clicks...

lora said...

ooh that espresso pudding looks wonderful. What a great idea for a book. Love it.

Magpie said...

The nutella fudge brownies look so awesome! have to try that! I love nutella ..but then who doesn't! It made an easy quick filling for my Chocolate Nutella Macarons .. so yummy!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Beautifully photographed and, as always, beautifully said! This looks like a book that my girls should have. As you know, we are on top of the stove cooks in our family rather than expert bakers. This is a book that seems to be true to the philosophy of using a few great ingredients well. Thank you....

Do you think the nutella brownies would work even if we didn't use nuts?

Jamie said...

@Lael @ Educated Palate: The nuts on the Nutella Brownies are really extra so these are great even without!

Soma said...

Espresso pudding and Nutella Brownies for me please. my goodness they sound so absolutely delicious.

Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Heaven!!!

vintagemacaroon said...

Those Nutella fudge brownies are just too easy and too good not to make! They look delicious, I'll have to make them to taste them! Love your vintage photos too :)

Nastassia (Let Me Eat Cake) said...

i'm seriously drooling over that coconut creme caramel! all the desserts in fact look amazing!

cooks-books said...

I adore this cookbook. I don't have time for baking, but this book makes me feel (kinda) like a baker. And what a beautiful blog. Your photos are amazing - love your use of black-&-white vintage ones too.

Kulsum@JourneyKitchen said...

The book sounds great! I'm making the nutella fudge brownies right NOW!, coz I'm feeling under the sun and everyone feeling low needs nutella in life. Yeah.

VS said...

Loved loved loved you blog Jamie. Lovely preludes and lovelier recipes.

elra said...

Thanks for sharing the recipe Jaime. I am convinced they are all good, but I am especially and seriously tempted with the coconut creme caramel. Thank you !

SaraOneTribeGourmet said...

I am the one who needs the book..since I lack baking skills! :)
I love all 3 desserts especially the coconut creme caramel..my favorite!

shaz said...

Wow, sounds like a great book, and Jamie, your photos are stunning! Love the bright/ cheery look of them.

Nicole said...

That's so novel, just 4 ingredients. Would be helpful for me since I am also always lugging Roman around to buy whatever I am out of!! Great ideas!

lisaiscooking said...

Wow, four ingredients each is amazing. Sounds like such an interesting book! And, the three desserts you've shown all look scrumptious. I'm really craving espresso pudding now!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Nutella fudge brownies?? You had me at hello :o) And I see you even managed to sneak in a pic of a fluffy kitten there hahaha! Loe the simplicity of all these - my kind of puddings!

Junglefrog said...

Ooo they all look amazing and to do for! Hmmm, but I think I will have to go for the Nutella fudge brownies... Can I order some for may? lol... It just looks amazing and that book sounds like a must-have too!

Anh said...

I don't know Jamie, but that nutella brownie, can I have one piece? Actually, can I have all of them?

Barbara Bakes said...

I should have bought this cookbook when I saw it at Costco the other day. Everything looks fabulous and how wonderful that they are only 4 ingredients!

Barbara said...

Jamie they all look delicious. I love recipes with only a few ingredients.

Nuts about food said...

I love nutella and brownies. And when you read my post (I had not read the second part of yours yet when I wrote mine...you will understand if and when you read mine) you will know exactly how perfect this recipe is for me. Thank you!

MeetaK said...

You treat us with this post! Three for one! The book sounds like the perfect addition to my bookshelf and collection.

You know as you describe baking in this post - I could not help but think of our baking session we had on Skype a while back and the one withthe choc. cake recently It makes me really wish we lived closer. We should be doing this together for real. Commune time!

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

Beautiful desserts that you have done total justice to!

Julia @Mélanger said...

I read your words and I could have written them myself. It's amazing how baking has such an affect on people, isn't it?

Love the look of this book. Great round up of recipes to share!

Dinners annd Dreams said...

Gosh, I'm in trouble. I love nutella, coffee and coconut very very much! I want all three desserts! Right this minuted I'd go for the espresso pudding. I'm itching for my daily dose of caffeine.

Have a great weekend!

Nisrine

Wendy said...

You had me at espresso. Thanks.

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

What a great book, simple and 4 ingredients, but of course I am never one to turn down a Nutella recipe! I so happy to have discovered your beautiful site, it's filled with great writing and wonderful recipes.

Renata said...

I definitely wouldn't know which one to choose... maybe one of each? ;o)

Sanjeeta kk said...

Love all the 3 delectable desserts out there! You are really tempting me to through my diet chart out :)

Jennifurla said...

I used this pudding (slightly altered on my blog) thanks so much! It was a hit.

http://indigosugarspectrum.blogspot.com/2011/01/italian-roast-pudding-with-cookie.html

asiangrrl said...

Man. Those look amazing. I used to bake, once upon a time. This ALMOST tempts me to start again.

Extreme Ice Cream said...

Nutella brownies look amazing! I love anything with Nutella in it! Love your blog! - http://extremeicecream.blogspot.com/

ASAF said...

IS LOOK SO GOOD I WILL TRY IT

♥Sugar♥Plum♥Fairy♥ said...

Hi Jamie, i always see u i Deeba's FB world and i dont know what took me so lonng to get here!
That book sounds FANTASTIC and i jus placed and order for 2 of the Abby's books!
ANd these desserts are sooo wonderful,i must try 'em all and looking forward to lods more deliciousness from u !
Loving all ur clip art , soo cute!!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...