Posts Tagged ‘DC food blog


Croquembouche. Crisp in the mouth, delicious in the stomach.

Whatever you might say about the French (don’t get my dad started), there’s no denying that they know how to live. Take this traditional dessert, croquembouche, which translates to “crisp in the mouth.” It’s basically a  tower of cream puffs in a web of spun sugar. You crack the sugar with the back of the knife before serving it to your awestruck friends.

Food Network Magazine featured a recipe for making this from scratch in their December issue. They preface the recipe by saying it’s easier than it looks, which usually means it’s not. Sure enough, the recipe goes on for three pages and involves a pastry bag–already too complex for me.

Rather than trying to make cream puffs, you could buy some in the freezer case and do the spun sugar caramel yourself. I’ve included that part of the recipe below.

Full recipe here, courtesy of Food Network:

Caramel recipe to create web of sugar:

3 cups sugar

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 cup water

Directions: Mix the sugar, corn syrup and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Don’t stir. Uncover and boil, swirling the pan, until the syrup turns deep amber, 20 minutes. Immediately dip the bottom of the pan into a bowl of ice water for a few seconds to stop the cooking. Transfer the caramel to a liquid measuring cup and cool just slightly–it should still be hot and liquid.

Draw a seven-inch circle on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Partially dip each puff in the caramel, letting the excess drip off. Arrange the puffs around the circle. (Note: If the caramel hardens, microwave about 45 seconds.) Build the base of puffs, continuing to stack into a tower formation of smaller circles.

To get the “web effect” of spun sugar, dip the tip of a fork into the caramel and quickly wave it in circle around the tower to create a web of caramel strands. Repeat. (Make sure your working surface is covered in parchment paper, because this process can be messy.) Let set. Destroy web before eating. Voila!


Afternoon Tea Chinois. Or, why am I a sucker for anything served on a multi-tiered plate?

In a perfect world, afternoon tea would be served every day. Imagine breaking at 4PM for your daily dose of crustless cucumber sandwiches followed by fresh-from-the-oven pastries. If only. In reality, afternoon tea is more of a special occasion thing–like when you want to take someone out and have hours to linger, without heading to the Melting Pot.

Here’s the spread from the “Afternoon Tea Chinois” at the Willard Intercontinental. Both the decor and the food were inspired by the terra cotta warrior exhibit currently at NatGeo. The Willard offers a good selection of Chinese teas, along with the more traditional standbys like Earl Grey. We had the green passion (fragrant, light) and the oolong tea (bitter, a nice complement to all the sweets).

I was curious to see how they’d do afternoon tea with a Chinese twist. Some places slap a few Mandarin oranges onto lettuce and call it Asian chicken salad. Would the Willard’s interpretation be as simplistic? (Excuse the poorly lit photo.)

Actually, no, but they could have taken it further, especially with the desserts. I enjoyed the finger sandwiches more than the sweet stuff–unusual coming from a sugar addict. The Asian-style chicken salad and Chinese eggplant ones were packed with flavor. A big plus: they offered us seconds on the sandwiches.

The middle tier held two scones per person. While the five-spice scones were pretty bland, the cranberry-orange ones delivered, the crunchy top giving way to a flaky center. They were served with a delicious lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and raspberry and orange marmalades.

Onto the dessert tier. It’s a little sad when the macaroon from the Trader Joe’s freezer case beats your house-made chocolate-hazelnut one. Oh well. The green tea meringues, spiced marshmallows and Chinese fruit petit-fours were also ho-hum. But I gotta give them credit for their Mandarin mousse sitting in an edible white chocolate spoon, if more for presentation than flavor. 

The tea is held in the hotel’s Peacock Alley–proof that this town is really all about spin. We were basically seated in a hallway off the lobby flanked by the corridor to the bathrooms and the doors to a ballroom. Hmm. While Mr X-sXe enjoyed the people-watching opportunities, I was distracted by the chilly draft coming in every time the hotel’s back doors opened (hey, it was 40 degrees today and I was freezing my tokhes off). Thank goodness for the extra sandwiches, which helped redeem my opinion of the Willard’s afternoon tea.


Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”: Holiday episode

Here’s where to find the two desserts that were mentioned on this episode. I’m not an Indian pudding fan (maybe I’ve just never had it done right?), but I do like to bring home a panettone for the holidays. It’s a buttery, eggy Milanese bread with an airy texture, studded with dry fruits. Panettone reminds me of Challah, flavor- and texture-wise. You can find them in grocery stores for about five bucks, and they have a pretty good shelf life. I liked toasting up slices before serving. It’s also a great bread for French toast.

Panettone Milanese-Emporio Rulli

446 Magnolia Avenue

Larkspur, CA 94939

(415) 924-7478

Warm Indian Pudding-The Colonial Inn

48 Monument Square

Concord, MA 01742

(978) 369-9200


Candied bacon ice cream recipe. Just in time for the holidays!

This recipe’s from David Lebovitz, who trained with Lindsey Shere at Chez Panisse, the storied locavore/organic restaurant in San Francisco. I like the way this dude experimented with a bunch of different ways of doing the candied bacon to get it crispy. The texture’s going to be very important, since the last thing you want in a bacon dessert is to be chewing on some gristly piece of pig fat like a stick of Wrigley’s. Check out Lebovitz’s bacon ice cream recipe here:

If you’re juxtaposing bacon with an ingredient that’s already sweet, you could take a shortcut and not bother candying the bacon. When Mr. X-sXe and I made chocolate-covered bacon and bacon Rice Krispy treats for the holidays last year, we stuck with precooked bacon, which has a super crispy texture without the chewy fatty bits. We microwaved the bacon a bit longer than the package directions recommended (but not to the point where it burned), then blotted off any excess fat before crumbling it into our concoctions. Recipe for chocolate-covered bacon here:

Serving bacon treats at the holiday family gathering went over pretty well–even if your friends and family are initially wigged out, they’ll come around to the idea once they taste how the salty, smoky bacon brings out the sweetness of the dessert. It was fun to add some unexpected desserts to the standard pie-and-cookie fare. For a while, we had people guessing at what the chocolate-covered bacon was. A lot of folks mistook it for toffee.

BTW, if you’re up in Rehoboth Beach anytime soon, check out the bacon ice cream at The Ice Cream Store to get an idea of how this recipe will taste.


Dangerously Delicious Pies, coming to DC this month

I can’t wait to try the pies at this place, especially the rhubarb. With all the cupcake joints in this town, it’s about time DC took its pies seriously. Looks like Baked & Wired and Kramer’s better step up their game.

Dangerously Delicious Pies also does savory pies and quiches. The guy who owns this place, Rodney Henry, was on Food Network making his chicken pot pie with Paula Deen. I remember the episode well because the ingredients weren’t exactly healthy (they never are if you want a truly delicious, flaky crust and creamy filling). Dangerous for my cholesterol, indeed, but small price to pay for a good pot pie.

Dangerously Delicious Pies, 1339 H Street, NE, 202-398-7437


Recipes for the holidays: Barefoot Contessa’s gingerbread

The Contessa has never let me down. Her recipes are some of the most flavorful concoctions of all the Food Network stars. And usually pretty simple to make, to boot. Her food inspires such devotion that I once went through the entire database, printing out almost every recipe she’s got on there.

I modified this gingerbread recipe, since I don’t like candied ginger, and Mr. X-sXe doesn’t like raisins. In retrospect, leaving out those two ingredients made the gingerbread less spicy and sweet than you might want it (despite the cup of molasses, it was hard to detect any sweetness). So next time I make this, I’m going to add quite a bit more ground ginger, and probably at least 1/3 cup sugar. Also, instead of the orange glaze, I made the rum whipped cream to go with it (recipe also below).

Don’t worry about the fact that there are no eggs in the recipe. It rose just fine, with a light and fluffy, moist texture. Make sure to smooth out the batter in the pan before baking. Unlike cake batter, this one’s so thick that it doesn’t redistribute evenly in the oven.

***Update, 12/7/09: Read on for more gingerbread recipes I’ve road tested:***

Barefoot Contessa’s Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

  • 1/4 cup dark rum or water
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup minced dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup)

For glaze (optional)

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 by 8-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a small bowl. Mix with your hands until combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth. Drain the raisins and add them and crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

When the cake has cooled, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice and pour it onto the gingerbread, allowing it to drip down the sides. Allow the glaze to set. Cut the gingerbread into 9 squares.

Rum Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar, vanilla and rum. Continue to whip until it forms stiff peaks. Serve cold.

Gingerbread recipe here:


Vosges turns Mo’s Bacon Bar into a pancake mix

Vosges has a knack for creating novelty, gourmet chocolate combinations that you actually want to eat again. I’ve yet to try this pancake mix, but I bet it takes chocolate-chip pancakes to a new level. It’s the perfect gift for those who like to alternate between bites of pancake and bites of bacon.

Pancake mix, $12 at


My anaconda don’t want none unless you got Potenza’s buns, hon

Ah, Potenza bakery. Reasonably priced goodies and sandwiches that are way better than any chain. They bake these buns fresh a bunch of times every day. I’m not the type that gets tempted by the smell of Cinnabon wafting through the airport, or by cinnamon buns in general. (They’re usually too rich.) These cherry sticky buns are awesome, though, which is why they made our Best of DC list ($2 each).

potenzanew 001

The first time I tried these, I shared one with a friend. Now I know better. BTW their sandwiches are awesome, too.

Potenza bakery, corner of 15th and H Street right near McPherson Metro.


white-chocolate whoopie pies from scratch

Are whoopie pies technically pies or cake? I feel like they’re basically a cupcake sandwich. This recipe’s from the Sunday magazine of The Washington Post from a local pastry chef, Karen Urie of the Town House restaurant in Chilhowie, VA. (

I figured since the recipe’s from a pastry chef, it’s gotta be good. And it is. I’ve had many a baking failure lately, so I was relieved that these turned out. Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. You probably have all the ingredients (except the buttermilk and white chocolate chips) in your fridge/pantry already. One thing to note was that it was a bit difficult to get the cookies to be perfectly round. An ice cream scoop might help.

Also, I took liberties with the filling, nearly tripling the amount of white chocolate so it would be less buttercreamy, more chocolatey. The second time I made this recipe, I also cut down the butter in the filling to 2.5 sticks. Note that the original recipe is below without my modifications.

I used white chocolate chips from the Whole Foods 365 brand ($3+/bag) and melted them down in the microwave for 45 seconds. They’re decent quality and inexpensive. I waited till the melted chocolate was room temperature before adding to the butter mixture. You don’t need to buy a candy thermometer.

These pies make a great party favor, plus you can make them ahead. They last 4 days in the fridge; 1 month in the freezer.


Karen’s Whoopie Pies

MAKE AHEAD: When individually wrapped and stored in an airtight container, the whoopie pies may be frozen for 1 month.

Makes thirty-three 2 1/2-inch cookie sandwiches


For the cookies

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks

For the filling

  • 16 ounces (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces good-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled to about 93 degrees (best to use some from Biagio Fine Chocolate, with at least 30 percent butterfat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the cookies: Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt on a large sheet of wax paper or parchment paper.

Combine the buttermilk, water and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (preferably using a paddle attachment) or an electric hand-held mixer. Beat on medium speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low; add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating until incorporated between each addition, then alternate additions of the flour and buttermilk mixtures until well combined.

Portion the cookie dough in 2-tablespoon amounts on the prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Make about 66 mounds of equal size. Bake 2 sheets at a time (on the upper and lower oven racks) for about 6 minutes, then rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back; bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cookies are set, but springy to the touch. Ttransfer to wire racks to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the filling: Combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer (preferably with a paddle attachment) or an electric hand-held mixer. Beat on low, then medium-high speed until creamy and smooth. Stop to add the melted, slightly cooled chocolate; beat on low speed until just combined.

To assemble, place a tablespoon or two of the filling on the flat sides of half of the cooled cookies. Press the flat sides of the remaining cookies on top of the filling to make the cookie sandwiches.

Wrap each whoopie pie individually in plastic wrap, then transfer to an airtight container.


Breadwinner’s pumpkin bread/cake

You know how they say you should never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry? Same goes for watching Food Network.

Mr. X-sXe and I were watching a program that featured Breadwinner’s peach bread. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week.  And when it comes to sweets, my resolve is weaker than Hef in a hot tub fulla bunnies. I soon broke down and ordered a couple loaves of the Papa Don’t Peach, along with this Party at My Place Pumpkin Bread.

The peach bread (not pictured) actually wasn’t as good as the pumpkin. It was a bit boring–needed a little something to kick up the flavor. But the pumpkin was perfectly spiced, moist goodness. Ann likened it to “pumpkin cake.” Mr. X-sXe agreed. We had it with a pat of butter. Yum.