Glacial Paris

It snowed here yesterday. Now to say it “snowed” is a bit of an over statement. It appeared to flurry outside my window for about 20 minutes and then it was over. When I walked outside a few hours later (which was a big mistake given how cold it was) I saw barely any snow on the ground. 

Now, even if the snow didn’t stick, it is still FREEEEEZZINGGG here. I don’t think it has really gotten above 30 degrees since last Wednesday. I even heard on the radio this morning they were worried about power outages because of such a strain on the electrical grid. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that that doesn’t happen! It has reached point, where doing just about anything outside is unbearable and I have taken to rushing home after classes to sit next to my unfortunately placed heater. When I walked into the courtyard at school last week, they had heavily salted the ground in preparation for the ice. 

I know, I know, I really shouldn’t complain. Last year in New York was a perpetual winter wonderland, but something about the cold here, and the heating in apartments makes it seem much worse. I have this heater connected to the wall that gets very hot, but somehow doesn’t manage to heat up the whole apartment unless I keep it on for hours. I’ve taken to sleeping with a sweatshirt and a sweater, many pairs of socks, as my tile floor is the worst when it’s cold, and three blankets. It also doesn’t help to hear that it’s been a balmy 60 degrees in New York and North Carolina while I sit here looking at a -10 degree weather forecast (that’s celsius, which always makes it seem that much worse). 

On Friday, we took a school trip to L’Abbaye de Rouyamount, which was a lovely abbey, but given the cold, and general sickness I have been fighting these past few days, I was unable to thoroughly enjoy the tour. All I could think about the entire time was the fact that I could no longer feel my feet in the slightest. It felt liking walking on glass every time I took a step. I think I have some circulation problems in my toes, because that does not seem normal. *One little nifty tid-bit I did learn while I was there – Pink Floyd performed at the abbey in 1971! Probably a pretty epic concert! 

Even though the tour was not very fun, NYU certainly upped their game by way of the meal we were served. As we approached the tables, it was clear this was going to be a fancy meal – there were three different forks to choose from! As I said, I was still feeling pretty sick, so I wasn’t able to eat everything on my plate, a first for me, but it was still a very enjoyable meal! Obviously, the dessert was the only course I was able to eat in its entirety 😉 Whipped goat cheese with a beat mousse and salad: Fleur de sel veal with baby onion mashed potatoes: Sable cookie with a caramel butter tart topping and salted caramel ice cream: 

Salty Blueberry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes, when it’s so hot and humid outside, I get the insane idea that I’d rather stay inside and roast myself in the sweltering kitchen by baking something delicious to eat. That is exactly what happened to me this past weekend, and the result was yummy oatmeal chocolate chip blueberry cookies with a sprinkle of fleur-de-sel on top.

As I’ve said in previous posts, fleur-de-sel is one of my favorite things out there. After these cookies, I think I have decided that it’s now essential that it put it onto everything I make from here on out. It adds the perfect bit of saltiness to a sweet thing like a cookie, without overpower the baked goodness of the chocolate, or in this case, oatmeal with chocolate and berries. The blueberries and chocolate just happened because I’d been given a mixture of the two and they’d been sitting in my fridge for weeks. This seemed like the perfect oppurtunity to use them, especially since I prefer anything over raisins in an oatmeal cookies.

As usual, the gas stove was faulty and I burned a few at the start, but I quickly learned that I needed to lower the heat/reduce baking time. These are a quick and easy oatmeal cookie but are given a sophisticated touch with the fleur-de-sel sprinkled on top. I would love to try different combinations of fruits and chocolates in the future, although blueberries and semi-sweet chocolate chips seem to go together very well.

P.S. – sorry for the horrible photo. I am now convinced that I need a new camera.

SALTY BLUEBERRY CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 6 to 8 oz. mixed dried blueberries and semi-sweet mini chocolate chips or any chocolate fruit combination of your choosing.
  • 1/2 teapoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon or fleur de sel) (for sprinkling on top)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.

2) Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and blueberry/chocolate mixture and mix until well incorporated.

3) Divide dough into 24 equal portions, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about 3/4-inch thickness.

4) Sprinkle a flake or two of sea salt on each cookie

5) Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

Salty Caramel Cake

It is currently 92 degrees at 8 o’clock in the evening! What has this world come to? The heat forecast for tomorrow is 98 with a heat index of 106. I think it’s about time that I make a trip to Iceland. I’m really hoping that I can get to the beach with my cousins this weekend, because when it’s so hot there is nothing better to do then lounge by the pool and walk down to the beach. The heat has also caused my poor herb plants to wilt horribly. I try and water them every evening, but even one night in this heat without h20 and they shrivel up. Oh well. My mint plant, that sits right on my window sill, somehow seems to beat the heat and grows so big that I’m worried about how I’m going to transport it when I move at the end of the summer.

Anyway, this past weekend, my dad and step-mom came up to New York for a bar-mitzvah in New Jersey. It also happened to be the day after my dad’s birthday, so Friday night we threw a little soiree. It was loads of fun! I’d say we had about 18 people over who all enjoyed little snacks and champagne while enjoying the coolness of the dining room that had been pumped with air conditioning all afternoon. My contribution to the evening was obviously a dessert, but specifically a birthday cake!

I don’t think I can go on much more about how much I loved the BAKED cookbook. It’s quite possibly my favorite thing ever. This cake came straight from those pages. I’d actually eaten this cake before when I went to the bakery itself in Brooklyn and wrote a review about it here, but now was my chance to tackle it myself. This cake is not that difficult in theory to make, but given my teeny kitchen and limited time I had, it obviously turned into a bit of a hassle. I made it in different parts, putting it all together Friday morning. If you have a nice long afternoon, putting it all together at once will probably save you some time and dishes.

It’s an incredibly rich cake that is offset wonderfully by the caramel that is soaked into the layers. I was worried that the caramel was not the right consistency since it look really white and milky and I don’t have a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature in a sauce pan, but the milkiness was just from the sour cream and it turned out fine. I baked the cakes just a bit too long, but I still blame this on the faulty gas ovens. Once it was put all together, it had the perfect chocolaty taste with a hint of caramel throughout the cake and ganache. Of course, the fleur de sel sprinkled on top added the perfect after taste. I think that it was a big hit at the party!

SWEET AND SALTY CAKE

Adapted from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking

INGREDIENTS:

cake:

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 2/3 cups cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla
  • caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • ganache:

    • 1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened but still cool

    DIRECTIONS:

    cake:

    1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with a parchment paper round, butter parchment paper and flour; set aside.

    2) In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, 1 1/4 cups hot water, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.

    3) In another large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

    4) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth and it appears to create strings inside the bowl, about 7 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

    5) Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 18 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely.

    caramel:

    1) Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

    2) Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, mix together cream and salt. Bring cream to a boil and cook until salt has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

    3) When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Carefully add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Whisk in sour cream. Cool, and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

    ganache:

    1) Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

    2) In another small saucepan add cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

    3) When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to rest for 1 minute. Add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Let cool 5 minutes. Place chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and pour caramel sauce over chocolate. Let sit 1 minute before stirring from the center until chocolate is melted.

    4) Attach bowl to electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high until mixture is well combined, thickened, and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.

    assembling cake:

    1) Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate.

    2) Using about 1/4 cup of the caramel, spread a thin layer on the cake, allowing some of the caramel to soak into the cake. Follow the caramel layer with a layer of about 1 cup of the ganache icing. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache icing. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up.

    3) Spread entire cake with remaining ganache icing. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

    Sweet Revenge

    Now I like to think that I’ve tried my fair amount of cupcakes in my time here in New York City, and I’ve even had one from Sweet Revenge before, but something about the cupcake I had there on Friday night was just OUT OF THIS WORLD! My roommate and I had just been to this a small show down in the West Village and we decided upon Sweet Revenge since it was only a few blocks away. For those of you who have not been in New York City the past few days, let me just say that it has been very cold as of late, and Friday night was no exception. It was honestly one of the coldest nights I can recall in recent history. I’d say it was hovering around 5 degrees because of the wind chill. Anyway, enough about the weather. As we entered into Sweet Revenge after our mad dash from outside, we were struck with how sophisticated yet cute it was. With only a about 6 tables, an exposed metal bar, and a small selection of cupcakes, Sweet Revenge is definietly not your childhood bake shop.

    I started with a Fleur de Sel cupcake and my roommate had a Dirty – which was basically all ridiculously dark chocolate. Both of them had a dark chocolate cake which was so moist and delicious, they tasted like they’d just been baked even though it was 10 o’clock at night. I find that often times the cake of cupcakes itself can tend to be a little dry, but this cake was on a whole different level. It was an actual mini cake, instead of a cupcake trying to impersonate a cake. The frosting on mine was a mix of caramel, butter, and the slightest hint of the most delicious salt. As I got to the center, an oozing ball of caramel drizzled down from the inside of the chocolate cake. It was outstanding. The Dirty cupcake has the same cake component, but a dark, rich, and creamy icing that was out of this world. If you are a fan of dark chocolate, this is the one for you. Often times, chocolate icing can become overwhelmed with the taste of butter, but this was all chocolate. It was liking biting into a piece of fudge on top of the most amazing cake ever. On the menu, it even had wine and beer pairings to go with all the different cupcakes they had. I’d say this would be the perfect place to go on a first date 🙂

    All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful trip to the West Village. We saw a very funny play and were treated to the most amazing cupcakes. As we exited the shop, I’d say it was once again about 5 degrees outside and we ended up taking a taxi back to the East Village because it was just SO cold. I’m sure that the next time I find myself on that side of town, I will also be finding myself at the bar of Sweet Revenge.