Creme Fraiche n Mixed Berry Dessert

I remember when ever a recipe called for Crème Fraîche or Fromage Frais, I would just substitute it with fresh cream. For starters I didn’t know the difference between the two and the other, where to source them. In India it’s still impossible to find some, and in HK i didn’t know where to look. Here in Ghana it wasn’t available either just until recently. Thanks to my favourite supermarkets’ imports from Europe, i get lucky sometimes. So when ever I see either of these or Mascarpone I pick up a couple of extra tubs, as I’m not sure when the new stocks will arrive. This also explains my recurring posts with mascarpone and Crème Fraîche :) It’s very addicting this stuff I tell you, n after tasting the real thing I can’t imagine how I used to settle for just fresh cream. It just doesn’t measure up. I wouldn’t dare do it now. So after a little bit of googling and personal experience i give you the difference between the two.

Crème fraîche has a thick, smooth and velvety texture. It is defined as heavy cream which has been cultured in order to give it a very thick consistency and also a slightly tangy flavour. It is also used as a substitute for sour cream at times. When it has matured, crème fraîche becomes heavily texture and has a nutty taste, which is slightly sour. This sour taste is a result of culturing pasteurized cream with a special species of bacteria. As the name suggests, it originated in France. In its country of origin, namely in France, it was not pasteurized and therefore contained the bacteria which was a necessary ingredient in the preparation of crème fraîche. The content of butterfat in crème fraîche is usually 30 per cent, but it is variable. <!–[if !vml]–><!–[endif]–>

Fromage Frais on the other hand originated from Belgium. The name literally means “fresh cheese”. But unlike cheese, the curds are not allowed to solidify, but are stirred, giving fromage frais a texture similar to that of yogurt. Pure fromage frais is virtually fat free, but cream is frequently added to improve the flavour, which also increases the fat content, frequently up to as high as 8 percent.

This dessert was made in a desperate effort to use the Crème fraîche which was lying around my fridge ever since the “Sunday Fiasco” time. I wasn’t looking to make something elaborate with it, but something simple yet classy. Again using with what i had available at home I came up with this no fuss dessert. They are made from frozen mixed berries which are pureed with icing sugar, and Crème fraîche beaten lightly with some icing sugar and a gelatin mixture made from one 1 tsp gelatin and 2-3 tbsp warm milk. Simply prepare these two and pour them each in two different measuring cups. Gently pour into desired glasses and let it set. The berry layer does not have gelatin so it will not set whereas the Crème will. The contrast in the two textures is simply amazing in your mouth. The rich, smooth, creamy, velvety and very slightly tart Crème fraîche layer against the sweet n tart slightly textured berry layer which is bursting with flavour.

100 gms frozen mixed berries + 2 tbsp icing sugar + a splash of red grape juice- pureed, but not strained
250 gms Crème fraîche 30% fat content + 2 tbsp icing sugar
2-3 tbsp warm milk + 1 tsp gelatin powder, melted together above boiling water

Adjust the sugar to your taste. I didn’t want it too sweet so this worked just fine. Also these make 6 shot glasses, so if you are using other glasses or molds u’ll need to change the quantity. Chill them well before serving and can prepare them a day in advance if making them for entertaining.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

I was never any good with kids. Which seems strange considering that I am the eldest amongst all my cousins, on both my mother’s and my father’s side. You would think that I would be besieged with babysitting duties growing up. But for some reason unknown to me, this was not the case. My cousins grew up around me, and it only was when they were a little bit older that I was comfortable around them. Babies did not enthrall me the way they did other girls, who would coo and carry them as if they were born to the task manual coffee mill. I took one of my toddler cousins to a children’s party once upon a time and I was so tense (don’t you dare fall off that swing!!) that I had a stiff neck and a stiff drink afterwards.

I never held an infant until my own daughter was placed in my arms.

I hoped, fingers-crossed and salt-over-the-shoulder, all those nights when little C grew inside of me, that something magical would happen when I gave birth and I would turn into…a mother. A mum. A mama. Someone who knew instinctively what to do. Someone who effortlessly sat her happy and content baby on her hip while spouting things about the benefits of nursing and infant-led-weaning. I wanted to trust all those well meaning, and seemingly more experienced, women who said that it would all come naturally.

What did come naturally (and with shocking force) was the complete and absolute (and often irrationally hormonal) love I have for these two little beings. A love so powerful it borders on painful paranoia sometimes. Sometimes I just want to stay home and smell them – that kind of weird love…that if it wasn’t your own kids somebody would be calling for a restraining order red coffee mug.

But the other stuff? The mummy stuff? Well, let me be real here. Those most certainly did not come naturally. Apart from little C and H, I am still too nervous to hold an infant. There is still a point in children’s parties when I am in real need of a stiff drink. I am a hopeless mess about playdates and after-school activities and arts and crafts.

So little C is relegated to this. Cooking and baking and going to the market. Mixing meatballs and peeling garlic. Sniffing spices and steaming fish. Choosing cherry tomatoes and learning to work the pepper mill. These are our “arts and crafts”.

And here’s one example.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes
(From Donna Hay’s Simple Essentials Chocolate)

For the Chocolate Fudge Icing:

250 grams dark couverture chocolate
1/2 cup single cream
70 grams butter

For the cupcakes:

125 grams butter, softened
3/4 cup or 165 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup (190 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
100 grams dark chocolate, melted

- Make the icing: Place all the icing ingredients in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth wholesale coffee mugs. Watch the heat (keep at moderate) and that the water never touches the bowl (my icing split, but with a little faith, trust, and elbow grease I was able to save it – more on saving the split icing below). Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When the icing is cool, beat with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy.
- While the icing is cooling, get started on the cupcakes: Place the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and then beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well until combined.
- Sift together and add the flour, baking powder, and cocoa to the bowl and beat until combined. Fold through the milk and melted chocolate.
- Spoon the batter into a 12 x 1/2 cup capacity, paper-lined muffin tin.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes in a pre-heated 160C (320F) oven, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
- When the cupcakes are completely cooled, pipe on the icing as you like. Top with sprinkles and toppers and any pretty thing that you or your little one can think of.

Little C was very excited about these cupcakes for a lot of reasons. Firstly, she loves to do things in the kitchen, whether it be stuffing a fish or washing dishes. Secondly, she loves chocolate and cupcakes (like most kids). An thirdly, I told her she could put all the sprinkles she wanted, plus these princess cake toppers. She sifted, stirred, and decorated. I also tried to inject a little math when we measured out the milk. All in all not too shabby an endeavour as far as life learnings are concerned. Plus the bonding and camaraderie that licking a pan of melted chocolate brings. Plus we get to eat our handiwork!

About the split icing – I think my heat was too rapid and I was a tad negligent in the stirring department so the melted fat split from the chocolate. With a panicky look at little C, I beat faster and faster in the hope of somehow getting the two elements bonded back together. Suffice to say that didn’t work and all I got was an oil spattered frock and a worried looking little C. I calmed down and took a lick of the chocolate lump in my pan. Not bad. Little C demanded a taste as well, to which she declared, “Yummy!” If that mess still tasted good, then it could be salvaged. I told little C that we were going to get on with the cupcakes and just shoved the pitiful split icing in the fridge. After we placed our cupcakes in the oven I revisited the icing. The fat had solidified softly and both components were at the same temperature…that is to say, chilled. I scraped all of this into the bowl of my mixer and beat like mad. Et voila…chocolate fudge icing! Whether in life or in baking, when there’s a will there is a way folks! Another life lesson for my little one :)

I don’t think I will ever be one of those effortless mamas who do all the perfect and right things for their children. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m more a fly by the seat of my pants kind of mother…and that’s ok. I have my own mom to consult, and friends who are awesome moms, and mommy-blogs, and Google. So I can say I have a great support network ;) Other than that, I just do what I think in my heart is best, and try to have fun while doing it…chocolate cupcake-style.

Scalloped Potatoes and Fennel

This rich and indulgent dish is sure to impress. It's crispy on top and creamy underneath hong kong heritage cycling tour. The sweet flavor of roasted fennel is a nice contrast to the starchy potatoes and spicy white pepper.

6 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
4 2-inch-long fresh rosemary sprigs
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 large fresh fennel bulbs with fronds
3 1/2 pounds medium russet potatoes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs in bottom of prepared baking dish. Combine cream, coarse salt, and white pepper in large bowl glass teapot with infuser.

Cut off any stalks and fronds from fennel bulbs; discard stalks. Finely chop fennel fronds; cover and chill. Using V-slicer or mandoline, thinly slice fennel bulbs. Layer half of fennel slices evenly atop garlic and rosemary in baking dish. Peel potatoes and place immediately in large bowl of cold water to prevent discoloration. Working with 1 potato at a time, use a V-slicer or mandoline to thinly slice into rounds. Immediately add potatoes to bowl with cream mixture, turning to coat potatoes. Arrange half of potato slices evenly over fennel slices in baking dish, reserving cream mixture in bowl. Repeat layering with remaining fennel slices, then remaining potato slices. Pour cream mixture in bowl over fennel-potato mixture in baking dish. Dot with butter cubes. Cover baking dish with foil, doming foil slightly (do not allow foil to touch potatoes).

Bake scalloped potatoes until almost tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Remove foil and bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and top is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved fennel fronds and serve company registration hong kong.

Chicken Marsala

Makes 4 servings

active time
50 min

total time
50 min

Food Editor/Stylist: Paul Grimes
Father: Elmer M. Grimes, Haddonfield, NJ
My dad loved mushrooms, and he always ordered veal Marsala when we went out to restaurants. My mom didn't buy veal very often, so she adapted this recipe for chicken and made it on special occasions. He was also very fond of white Burgundy wine headphone stand, which makes a wonderful accompaniment to this dish.

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 oz mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (2 lb total)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200°F.

Bring broth to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, then boil, uncovered, until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes gear motor.

Cook shallot in 3 tablespoons butter in an 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon sage, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

Put flour in a wide shallow bowl. Gently pound chicken to 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap using the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin.

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, 1 piece at a time, shaking off excess. Transfer to sheets of wax paper, arranging chicken in 1 layer.

Heat 1 tablespoon each of oil and butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté half of chicken, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer cooked chicken to a large heatproof platter, arranging in 1 layer, then put platter in oven to keep warm. Wipe out skillet with paper towels and cook remaining chicken in same manner, then transfer to oven, arranging in 1 layer.

Add 1/2 cup wine to skillet and boil over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, about 30 seconds. Add reduced broth, cream, and mushrooms, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened Aluminum Windows

, 6 to 8 minutes. Add lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons wine and 1/2 teaspoon sage.

Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot: Wine on Friday

Merlot is back! Actually, it never went away, it just fell out of favor with a lot of wine drinkers. Recently I visited Hourglass Wines in Napa and talked to owner Jeff Smith about Merlot, a wine many people think is insipid. Was it the dreaded Sideways (the movie in which the lead abhors Merlot) affect? Not according to Smith, "Sideways wasn't the problem, it was the punctuation point, at the end of the problem." And it's true porcelain coffee mugs, at the time of Sideways, there was a lot of lousy Merlot.

Lately there are a lot of Merlot producers, even some very good ones, trying to market Merlot by saying things like "Merlot for Cab lovers" but Merlot should be appreciated on its own merits. If you haven't had a really great Merlot in a long time, or ever, here's what Smith says it should taste like--spicy, aromatic, with density, rich and vibrant. The holy grail? According to Smith it's richness with energy and structure. Although often blended with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon is darker, more tannic. Merlot is an easier drinking wine with lots of black and red fruit. Here's an easy way to think about Merlot. Think Marilyn Monroe dc motor 12v--voluptuous, fleshy and soft, sometimes elegant.

Hourglass acquired the lovely Blueline property in 2006, it's located in the Northeastern part of Napa Valley, two miles south of Calistoga and has a mix of alluvial gravel, sand, and loam. On the property Hourglass grows not just Merlot but Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The 2011 Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot has spicy and lots of fruit but also some chocolate and vanilla notes. It's silky and lush and complex in a good way. It's a pricey wine at $75 but cheaper than a "cult Cab gucci handbags sale."

One of the other things I love about Merlot, is how easy it is to pair with food, often much easier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, there is a range of Merlot from lighter styles that pair with pizza, pasta and charcuterie, to riper styles that stand up to spicier dishes too. It's great to see a winery like Hourglass committed to making a really great Merlot. I hope other winemakers are inspired to do the same.


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