A.J. - I’ve never been fond of excessively sweet frosted cakes. Cupcakes, layer cakes and the proverbial birthday cake are not the least bit tempting. But a narrow wedge of a simple buttery cake that has been subtly sweetened and gently flavored makes me weak in the knees. Add a dollop of softly whipped cream and loose all control. This French Chocolate Cake is one of those cakes I just can’t resist. It’s not the type of cake you would find in a French patisserie. It’s a cake that a French housewife would bake at home with very little effort. We’ve dressed it up a bit by topping it with the crème Chantilly and a sprinkle of chopped chocolate. Now try that with your tall cold glass of farm fresh milk!
10 ounces plus 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons butter, softened
¾ cup superfine sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, separated
¾ cup cake flour
Pinch of sea salt
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon brandy
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with around of parchment or wax paper. Butter the paper and lightly coat the pan with cocoa powder.
Place a large stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a bain marie or water bath. Add 10 ounces of the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove bowl from top of saucepan, add butter and stir with a whisk until thoroughly blended with chocolate. Whisk in ½ cup of the sugar along with the vanilla extract. Add egg yolks one at a time whisking until blended. Add the flour and salt through a sieve while stirring with a spatula. When the flour is completely incorporated, set mixture aside. Beat egg whites in a large bowl using an electric mixer set a low speed until frothy. Raise speed to medium-high and gradually add the remaining sugar. Continue to beat until egg whites are stiff. Stir about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then thoroughly fold in the remaining. Pour the mixture into the prepared spring form pan, smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool the cake on a rack for 15 minutes then remove the sides of the pan. When the cake is thoroughly cooled invert it to remove the bottom of the spring form pan. Peel away the parchment paper and invert the cake again onto a serving plate.
Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and brandy. Beat with an electric mixer set at high speed until light and fluffy. Spread the cream over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining chopped chocolate.
The extended warm weather we’ve been experiencing brought an unexpected mingling of summer and fall vegetables to my neighborhood farmer’s market last week. We thought we would offer you a recipe to take advantage of the remaining zucchini and eggplant you might still be tempted to purchase before they are gone until next summer.
¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
¼ cup tepid water, plus an additional 3 tablespoons, if needed
Cut zucchini and eggplant into ½-inch thick sticks. Fill a large pot with enough grape seed oil to come half way up the sides (use a deep fryer, if available). Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk the flour, eggs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup water in a medium bowl until well blended. Add enough of the remaining water until the mixture resembles a thin pancake batter. When the oil reaches 350-degrees on a deep-fry thermometer, dip veggies into the batter and fry until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Beth – Eggplants are one of my favorite vegetables. Roasted, mashed or fried, they are always at the top of my list. This year we grew fairy eggplants on our roof. They have the most beautiful bell shaped flowers, which transform into their amazing shapes. Our crop was bountiful lasting late into the fall just like these eggplants.
Bette – We had used this blackboard on a Starbucks shoot we were working on, and we all loved the way it was shooting. It came from my store Archive Home. Check out ourblogand ourEtsy storeto see more.
When AJ told us about ‘Fritti” I wanted to shoot it on the board. I would say that I am always interested in keeping things neutral and having the food bring the color to the shot. This was no exception.
Making pasta by hand is my ultimate labor of love. It is not only my love of the process. It’s an expression of love for those about to receive this unique gift. It would be rather simple to measure the ingredients into a food processor, whirl them for a minute and begin rolling out the dough. The end result would be a very ordinary yet good product. But with a little more effort you can produce pasta that is extraordinary. I’m not at all opposed to thinning and cutting the pasta with the use of a hand-cranked pasta machine. For this post I thought it would be fun to roll out a large thin circle of dough using only a rolling pin. The texture of a hand rolled pasta is slightly more rustic…. just a nicer way of saying uneven in thickness. When the dough is thinned through the steel rollers of a pasta machine it produces a silkier even strand of pasta. I like both textures. It depends how I intend to serve the pasta. If you choose to roll and cut the dough by hand, it is easier to roll up the sheet of dough jellyroll style, then slice with a knife.
2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, parsley, thyme, basil, sage, chives or garlic chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Mound flour on a work surface. Make a well in the center and add eggs, olive oil and salt. Beat the contents of the well with a fork until blended. Stir with the fork gradually incorporating flour into the well. When the mixture becomes thick, begin kneading with your hands. Knead until the dough is tender but no longer sticky to the touch. Reserve the remaining flour. Cover and let dough rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough out using a pasta machine or a long thin rolling pin to about ⅛ inch thick. Use the remaining flour to keep the dough from sticking to the machine or work surface. Allow the dough to dry slightly, then cut into wide strips.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. In the meantime melt the butter in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add ⅔ cup of the heavy cream and stir until blended. Remove from heat. Drop the pasta into boiling water and cook until tender (fresh pasta takes only 1 – 2 minutes). Drain and transfer pasta to the skillet. Return skillet to medium low heat. Add remaining heavy cream, the grated Parmigiano, fresh herbs and black pepper to taste. Toss well and serve immediately.
Beth – I always seem to go back to where I started- trying to capture moments in time. I loved photographing the technique of making homemade pasta dough. The whisking of the eggs and flour, the cutting of the dough and the mess created from this process all visually tell the story.
Kira – The job of being a prop stylist involves a lot of sourcing materials (dishes, flatware, napkins, tabletop surfaces, etc.) And another part of the job is manipulating and arranging all of those elements into an alluring composition for each shot. Sometimes though, unexpected items become props. In this image my role was to take food items, ingredients that AJ brought and used to cook the recipe, and create a scene with them. Food as props.
A.J. – The Italians have a name for the very first harvested vegetables of the season. They call them primizie.Primizie are smaller, sweeter and more tender than those that follow later in the season. Primizie deserve to be served in only the simplest way…..no overcooking……no sauces……accompanied by only simple ingredients.
While at the market shopping for a blog shoot, I couldn’t contain my excitement as I noticed a mound of the tiniest beets tied up in small bunches…….primizie. I grabbed several bunches, dropped them off at the studio and ran back out to a nearby market. I returned with a wedge of cheese and a bag of walnuts. The beets were plunged into a pot of boiling water just long enough to keep them slightly crisp; they were then shocked in ice water. I heated a heavy skillet, added the walnuts and tossed them around until warm and fragrant. A crumbly wedge of raw milk blue cheese produced in Massachusetts, called Great Hill Blue, accompanied the beets, and walnuts. I added a light drizzle of a mildly fruity olive oil. We then peeled back the thin skin of the beets and enjoyed this once-a-season treat.
Beth - This image was quickly put together since our day was nearing its end. I thought instead of lighting it with either strobes or tungsten light, I would move the set near the north facing windows in the studio. The quality of the northern light was so beautiful; there was little I needed to add.