Meringue Cookie Kisses &
Dreaming In Color



I love meringue cookies. They're so light and crunchy and other than the carbs, they are a yummy sweet snack if your on a low fat diet. I make these little treats often but the other night I was thinking of how I could embellish them to look nice for photo's. I'm so happy I dream in color because I dreamt of these swirled pattern designs similar to the lollypops I used to get as a child at Disneyland. You know the ones.. great big suckers coiled into a round shape of brilliantly colored jeweled tones resting on a white lolly stick. Between those and the three foot red licorice rope I felt like I was the luckiest girl at the happiest place on earth!

The next day I was exited to get to the task of coloring meringues. I prepared the meringue as usual except for using two different flavor extracts. As you can see in the pictures, some have a caramel coloring. Those are the meringues flavored with vanilla, and the white ones with pink swirls are flavored with hazelnut extract. I used a large star tip and striped the inside of a few bags with different colored food dyes. Then I filled the bags with the meringue and piped little star shaped kisses.


A little peek from the box!

I had some leftover dipping chocolate from filling some Lorna Doone cookies so I decided to dip the tips of a few meringues. They had such a lovely taste. I had some amaretto on hand and incorporated a little drizzle into the melted chocolate.. it was delightful! We all loved the chocolate and packaged in a cellophane bag and ribbon, they made a lovely little thank you gift!

Ciao and Buon Appetitio!
Laurie

Basic Meringue Cookie Recipe

3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup superfine or castor sugar *
1/4 teaspoon pure hazelnut or vanilla extract

*(if you don't have superfine sugar simply take granulated white sugar and process it for about 30 seconds in a food processor)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees˚ and place the rack in the center of your oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You can form the cookies with a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch star tip, or I often use a plain tip to make the cookies.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the extract.

Note: The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it does not feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.

Before placing the cookies on the cookie sheet, place a little of the meringue on the underside of each corner of the parchment paper. This will prevent the paper from sliding. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) tip. Pipe 2 1/2 inch (6 cm) rounds of meringue in rows on the prepared baking sheet. Alternatively, spoon mounds of meringue, using two spoons, onto the prepared sheets. Sprinkle with a few shaved almonds, if desired.

Bake the meringues for approximately 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, rotating the baking sheet from front to back (about half way through) to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. Turn off the oven, open the door a crack, and leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying overnight.

Amaretto Marble Bundt Cake



I love Marble cakes! They're so pretty and versatile. This wonderful recipe adapted from Sherry Yard's, 'The Secrets of Baking' was a simple and lusciously moist cake and perfect to try with a variation on flavors. With the basic Italian pantry liqueurs on hand it was easy to transform this into a recipe con l'amaretto. Amaretto is a sweet almond flavored liqueur which blends wonderfully with chocolate and the aroma of it is so alluring which is only enhanced more baked along side the white of the cake perfumed with pure bourbon vanilla.

For the icing I chose an Italian Whipped Meringue. Although this cake would be just as wonderful with a simple sugar glaze too for a not so formal affair. * Daisies aren't edible.. just fresh picked from the winter garden! :)

Ingredients
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons Amaretto
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure bourbon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk


Directions
* If you are using a dark colored bundt pan, make sure to reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). This is done because dark colored pans absorb more of the energy coming from the oven walls so the pan becomes hotter and transmits heat faster than light colored pans. Reducing the oven temperature slightly will help compensate for this.


Preheat oven to 350 ˚ and place rack in center of oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick spray, a 10 inch bundt or tube pan.

In a stainless steel bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the semisweet chocolate with the Amaretto. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add beaten eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the pure bourbon vanilla and sour cream.

With the mixer on low speed alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the batter, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

After preparing the batter, pour half of the batter into a separate bowl. Stir the melted chocolate into one half of the batter, mixing well. Place the batter into the prepared pan by alternating spoons of vanilla batter and chocolate batter. Then, with the end of a wooden spoon, gently draw swirls through the batter to marbleize it. Don't over mix or you won't have that wonderful marble affect.

Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature. This cake will keep for a couple of days at room temperature or it can be frozen.

Italian Whipped Meringue Frosting

Ingredients
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions
Mix 2/3 cup sugar and water together and bring to a boil until a temperture of 275 is reached on a candy thermometer.
Brush the cystals on the side of the pan down with a pastry brush dipped in cold water as needed.
As the syrup reaches its temperature, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, 2 tabespoons sugar until the whites form soft peaks.
Remove syrup from heat add the syrup in a small stream while continuing to beat the mixture with the electric mixer.
Beat about 3 more minutes. The mixture will form glossy peaks and thicken.
Add the vanilla and mix a bit more.
Frost the cake immediately.


Ciao and Happy Baking Italian Style!
Laurie

Peppers & Pasta
for Presto Pasta Nights


There must be hundreds of ways to prepare pasta and sauces.. at least! So when I read that Theresa from The Food Hunter was hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week, I was ecstatic with the thought of reading all the foodies entries to get even more idea's to add to my recipe box. Today I happened to read Theresa's recipe for the most glorious preparation with a Pork Ragu. Her ingredients are so delicious and I know they must make a very complex and flavorful pasta dish.

We cook with lots of peppers. Peppers and sausage, scaloppini, salads, ratatouille, stuffed peppers, peppers and eggs and peppers and pasta. Even my finicky daughter loves when I roast the peppers to add to a dish. Last night was one of those nights that I needed a presto pasta dish and with peppers, basil and garlic on hand we had a quick and tasty meal. This dish is my entry into this weeks Presto Pasta Nights.


This dish is really easy to prepare. I sliced all my peppers and cooked them in a large pan in olive oil till soft and golden brown. I added kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, a few dashes of hot pepper sauce (no vinegar added), whole peeled garlic cloves and tons of freshly sliced basil. I sauteed till garlic was soft and slightly golden and basil was wilted. I then transfered the pepper mix onto a cutting board and chopped. Added the pepper mix to the cooked pasta and tossed. I added around 1/2 of a cup of the hot water from the pasta pot. *Do not add fresh water. I only add the water from the boiled pasta because it adds flavor and richness from the starch. Presto..simple no? :)

Serve with crusty bread, a salad and your favorite house wine!
Buon Appetito,
Laurie

Rustic Pancetta Corn Chowder


This is a delicious and rustic adaptation to the classic Corn Chowder recipe. For an earthy flavor I added Pancetta and Rosemary Grilled Corn. These preparations lent to a wonderfully floral bouquet and added more layers to the already beautiful aroma of this classic soup.


Rustic Pancetta Corn Chowder Recipe

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves minced garlic
4 oz. Pancetta, chopped
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 Bay leaf
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
4 ears corn
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste
Beurre Manié

Start by heating chicken stock in a large pot. This needs to be hot for when your vegetables and flour are cooked and ready.

Roast fresh ears of corn in foil pouches on grill or in an oven at 450˚. Drizzle with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, pepper and a sprig of rosemary. Tent the foil over the corn to allow space over the top. Prick foil all over for ventilation and smoke enhancement.

Grill on medium, check and turn periodically. Cook till colored all over. The corn does not need to be completely cooked, it will continue cooking in the soup pot.

Meanwhile, brown the Pancetta. Drain well on paper towels, your creamy soup will be oily if you do not drain the pancetta.

In a separate pan melt the butter, add the onions and garlic, cook till soft. When vegetables are cooked toss 1/4 cup of flour over them. This will be the thickening agent for your soup as well as the potatoes. Stir and brown till flour is cooked well and golden. This ensures that you won't have a mealy or grainy texture to your soup.

Add the drained pancetta to your cooked garlic and onions.

Add the hot chicken stock, stirring to incorporate. When well blended add your cream.

Add potatoes and let come to a hard boil. Cook for around fifteen minutes allowing the potatoes to soften and break down.

When corn has been taken off the grill and cool enough to the touch, slice it off the cob.

Add the corn to the soup pot.

Add bay leaf, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. *Do not add salt. As the chowder cooks the flavoring from the pancetta will season your soup. Let cook down for around a half hour. Check your seasonings, add more flavorings as you like or need. Soup is done when corn is aldente and the chowder is creamy. If you feel the texture is not quite as thick as you would like, add a Tablespoon at a time of Beurre Manié. Allow soup to cook for at least five minutes before adding more.



I'm a little out of sorts.. some how, some way, I lost everything on my computer hard drive and it's just gone! I am trying to work with my daughters lap top but it's taking me a while to adjust to a smaller screen and a mouse pad. I can't wait till my hubby gets home this weekend.. my hero!!
Ciao and hugs to you and Buon Appetito my friends!

Chicken and Walnuts Encased in Puff Pastry
with a Basil Fontina Cream Sauce

This dish was simply satisfying! Simple because I used ingredients that I had on hand and a frozen puff pastry packet that was waiting to be used. Satisfying because of the "meaty" ingredients including chicken, walnuts, cheese and a rich sauce that was satiny smooth and melded together so well with the hearty recipe ingredients.


Chicken and Walnuts Encased in Puff Pastry
with a Basil Fontina Cream Sauce

Ingredients
2 Cups Chicken cooked and shredded
1 Sheet Puff Pastry (frozen is fine)
15 ~ 1/4 inch slices Fontina Cheese
3/4 Cups Chopped Walnuts
2 Cups Basil Fontina Cream Sauce
Egg Wash ~ 1 Egg yolk mixed with 3 Tbs. Milk

Basil Fontina Cream Sauce
Ingredients
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil Julienned
1-1/2 cups (7 ounces) Fontina cheese, shredded
2 egg yolks

Preparation
To prepare the Béchamel Sauce:
Heat milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Melt butter in another saucepan.
Add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Slowly whisk hot milk into butter flour mixture. Stirring constantly to a smooth texture.
Bring to small boil while continuing to whisk the mixture and slowly reduce the temperature; remove from heat.
Stir in cheese; season with salt, pepper and dash of fresh grated nutmeg. Add julienned basil.
Whisk egg yolks into sauce. This lends to a velvety smooth texture as well as
a brilliant yellow color.

Preheat your oven to 400°.
Dust your work surface with a light sprinkling of flour. Lay out your Pastry dough and lightly roll it out. You should be able to get 15 squares from your pastry by cutting 3 by 5. Place a spoon full of chicken on each square topped with some sauce, a piece of fontina cheese and a couple of walnuts. Moisten the edges with some of the egg wash. Fold the dough up over the ingredients. Make sure your last edge has enough egg wash on it for a good seal. Egg wash the tops of the puffs and place in 400° pre heated oven Bake for 12 - 15 minutes. Pour some of the extra sauce in serving bowls. Place 2 -3 chicken puff in each bowl and serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!
Laurie

Temecula Berry Company and a
Berry Custard Cheese Tart


We really are fortunate in this day and age with import export businesses shipping fresh fruits and vegetables from warm climate zones to our local grocery stores making available to us out of season produce like avocado's, berries and melons throughout the year. But there is nothing like the anticipation of purchasing fresh picked fruit, herbs and vegetables from the farmers markets or going to a local farm for some fun pick your own. This Berry Tart is bursting with freshness and dressed with a mascarpone cheese custard just waiting to be dug into!


Ingredients

Almond Shortbread Tart Shell
1/2 cup almond meal (I use Trader Joes brand)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk

Fruit
1~ ½ cups fresh blueberries
½ cup fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. Creme De Framboise or Amaretto

Cheese Custard
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese (about 3/4 pound) at room temperature
1/2-cup sugar
2 large eggs or 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. Creme De Framboise or Amaretto
½ Tsp. Almond extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preparations

Tart Shell
Butter 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.
Combine almond meal and sugar. Add flour, powdered sugar, and salt, blend well.
Cut in butter with pastry knife or 2 knives in scissor fashion till it appears like course meal. Add egg yolk and blend until moist clumps form.. Knead dough into ball. Transfer 1/4-cup dough to small bowl and reserve for another use. Press remaining dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Pierce bottom all over with fork. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Bake crust uncovered for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely before laying fruit on bottom.


Fruit Filling
Clean the fruit and dry off with towel. Toss with sugar and liqueur, let marinate a few minutes.

Cheese Custard
In a bowl with an electric mixer beat mascarpone with sugar until smooth and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in Creme De Framboise or Amaretto and almond extracts. in flour and salt until combined well.

Preheat Oven to 350°

Put It All Together
Distribute fruit evenly on bottom of tart shell. Pour custard mixture over blueberry raspberry filling. Bake until the custard is set, around 25 minutes. Let Cool and then refrigerate before serving.
Buon Appetito!!
Laurie




Temecula Berry Company is a hidden gem enclosed in a small farming community off of Cantrell, a small dirt road that can easily be missed if not for the "U-Pick Blueberries" sign placed in a most strategic location. Down a fairly steep grade ending at a lush orchard was the most beautiful blueberry farm I had ever seen. I was like a child surprised on Christmas morning to see this hidden treasure I knew nothing about before. First impressions are everything and I was truly impressed with how pristine and manicured the farm was. Much attention and care has gone into cultivating these grounds. A beautiful collage of this families joint venture in the planting and care of these fields is on the opening page of their web site.

My second thought was of the children scurrying through the bushes as they were escorted on a private tour. Happy and curious faces listened and looked as they were watched themselves by the carefully placed scarecrows guarding the vegetation. Berry picking is a fun family event that will give you and your children memories of a most favored outing.

We were greeted by the Mike Graesser, son of Ray, and co-proprietor of the farm. He most graciously answered all of my questions pertaining to the length of time the establishment had been in business and hours of operation for public self picking as well as being shown the fruit stand which is open daily for business. Besides Southern Highbush Blueberries, the Graessers have strawberries and un-processed honey available. Picking buckets and containers are provided for exporting your berries home, all they ask you to bring is a smile! "U-Pick" berry times of operation are Saturday and Sunday from 7am to 7pm. You can also stop by the farm for fresh berries 7 days a week from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. I highly recommend a visit to the Temecula Berry Company, it is definitely on my top ten list of places to visit in Temecula, California!

Temecula Berry Company
39700 Cantrell Rd
Temecula CA 92591
(951) 225-5552



Cost for U-Pick blueberries is $5 per pint with the container included.
Farm Fresh blueberries can also be purchased at the farm by flat.
Prices:
Flat of Blueberries $ 25.00
18 oz container $ 10.00
1lb Strawberries $ 5.00
1lb Raw Honey $ 5.00

RICH SHORTBREAD
with "Coriander Sugar"


Sitting in front of me when I cook is a shelf with a sweet gift from my children, a spice rack with an assortment of 20 spice jars. Half of them are dried herbs and seasonings and the other half are seeds and spices. I occasionally use them but there are a few I have honestly never used in my life. Such the case with coriander. The jar is filled with small round golden tan seeds that I have admired for there mention in the bible, and there leafy counterpart cilantro which I use very often, but that's it! A case study in seeds and spices was born! At first whiff of the seed it really doesn't put out that much aroma, but then I crushed them in my mortar and pestle and WOW.. the fragrance is really quite beautiful. My first impression was citrus but as I continued smelling the sent it reminded me of my assortment of scented geraniums. I couldn't quite pinpoint which one, it was between my lemon scented and the rose scented geraniums and maybe even lemon verbena but not quite that strong.

I was playing with the idea of making a pork roast using the crushed coriander, and I can still totally envision the two together, but I decided to try a baked good. To me, shortbread cookies go so well with floral scents and herbs, like lavender and rose water, so shortbread became my test item.

I went about the recipe by first grinding two tablespoons of coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle and then pulsing the ground seeds with 2 cups of sugar in a food processor. I put the coriander sugar in the refrigerator for a few days. When it was time to use the sugar it took on such a beautiful aroma. This is where I would love to hear comments, I would love to know if any one else has experimented with Coriander, the fragrance was so much like an English Tea blend, perfect for English Shortbread!


The recipe I used for the shortbread cookies is adapted from The Afternoon Tea Book by Michael Smith. It is a rich shortbread cookie utilizing an egg yolk along with the sugar, flour and butter. I also changed it a bit by using half flour and half almond meal.

Ingredients
3/4 cups Flour
3/4 cups blanched Almond Meal
1/2 Sweet Butter cold and cubed
4 Tbs. Coriander Sugar
1 large Egg Yolk, lightly beaten
1-2 Tbs.. raw sugar

Directions
Lightly butter an 8 inch square nonstick baking pan or a 9 inch round pan.
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix the flour and almond meal together. Rub into the butter until sandlike in texture. Toss in 4 tablespoons of sugar, mixing well. With a fork, mix in the yolk to form a rough, dryish paste. Press the mixture evenly into the pan. Prick all over in rows at 1/4 inch intervals.
Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of raw sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until lightly golden brown.
Cut into 1 by 2 inch fingers or diamond shapes while still warm. Leave to cool completely in the pan.
Shortbread stores well in an airtight tin. It also freezes for up to six months.



Hoping you enjoy!
Ciao and Buon Appetito,
Laurie