Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chocolate-Caramel Triangles with Sea Salt

I have two absolutely delicious frozen dessert recipes waiting to be published. Unfortunately, although it is spring officially, cold desserts are still not what we crave for. So I decided to share today a recipe for a baked, very sweet and comforting cake, especially that many persons have already asked me for this recipe.

And because this type of cake on a short crust base called Mazurek is what in Poland we traditionally prepare for Easter, there is one more reason to do it now.

I must admit that this cake is really sweet and can satisfy the sweetest tooth. It calls for milk chocolate, which is my favorite, but with the added sweetness of the caramel, in that particular cake, dark chocolate can be used as well, especially if you prefer dark chocolate.

What makes this cake, as someone noticed similar to Mars or Twix bars, as well as interesting and addictive is the sprinkle of sea salt sprinkle on top of the chocolate layer. It brings up the taste of the chocolate and contrasts nicely with its sweetness. I used a Himalayan pink salt but any good quality coarse sea salt can also be used.

You can make a lot of triangles from a cake baked on a 10-inch by 15-inch cookie sheet, and even a small piece of this cake goes a long way. But the cake stores nicely in an air-tight container for several days and we can indulge in it any time we crave something sweet while waiting for the spring to come.

Caramel-Chocolate Triangles


For the crust
1 cup (two sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature,
2/3 cup confection sugar,
2 cups all purpose flour,
1 tsp. vanilla essence

For the topping
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk,
1/2 cup (one stick)butter,
1/2 cup sugar,
1/2 cup light corn syrup,
1 and 1/3 cup good quality chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips,
1 tbsp. vegetable shortening,
2-3 tbsp. coarse sea salt.

To make dough
1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and run the engine until they resemble crumbles. Take it out on a working surface and knead into a smooth ball. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. The dough can also be made by hand. First mix with fingers flour and sugar, then add pieces of butter and vanilla and knead all ingredients together to make a smooth ball. Chill.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
3. Roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 10-15 inches large. Grease lightly the baking tin with butter and, using a rolling pin, transfer the dough on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until crust becomes gold.
4. Take the tin from the oven and let the crust cool completely.

To make a topping
1. In a medium pan combine condensed milk, butter, sugar and corn sugar. Stir over low heat for about 15 minutes until mixture becomes darker, smooth and thick.
2. Pour the caramel topping evenly over the cold crust.

3. In a small saucepan, on a low heat, heat the pieces of chocolate mixed with shortening, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes smooth.

4. Spread the chocolate on top of the cold caramel layer. Sprinkle with salt and chill until firm for about 2 hours.

Cut in triangles and serve. Store the remaining triangles in a cookie box or an air-tight container.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Leeks in Béchamel Sauce

This is probably the last chance this season to share the recipe for leeks since they are rather a fall-winter vegetable. And once the spring hopefully comes one day soon we will crave more the fresh and crispy vegetables, so leeks will be forgotten until fall.

Leeks are a wonderful vegetable, but you either like them or not. I am one of those who love them and one of my favorite dishes are leeks in mustard sauce, which I make often during cold months and serve as cold cuts accompaniment.

But recently I had some leeks and extra ham and made this nice, warm dish in Béchamel. I tried something similar years ago in London and it worked well then too. And if you are not yet a leek lover I believe this could the best way to get acquainted with them.

Only the white/yellowish and sweet parts are used which very much remind onion. Leeks are wrapped in French or Italian cooked ham and baked in a creamy Béchamel sauce with a little bit of cheese on top. They cut easily and taste really good soaked in Béchamel, especially accompanied by fresh baguette and a glass of wine. They can also be served with rice, making a dinner dish. Either way, it is a very tasty dish, which all leek lovers will appreciate.

Leeks in Béchamel Sauce
(Serves four)

4 large leeks,
4 large or 8 smaller slices of cooked (preferably French or Italian) ham,
3 tbsp butter, plus extra one to butter the baking dish,
1/4 cup all purpose flour,
2 cups of milk,
1/2 cup Gruyère, or cheddar cheese,
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg,
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped flat leaves parsley

1. Cut out the most green and hard parts of leeks and wash toughly making sure that you rinse out the soil from between the leaves. If your leeks are long cut them in half.
2. In a large pot bring water to boil with a tbsp of salt. Put in the leeks and cook them for 3-5 minutes. Drain on the colander.
3. Make the Béchamel sauce. In a medium heavy duty pot melt butter. Add flour and, using a wooden spoon or a whisker, mix until a gold and thick paste forms. Using a whisker incorporate a cup of milk. When there are no lumps in the mixture, pour in the rest of the milk and heat. Whisk until the sauce thickens and becomes velvety smooth. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently. Season the sauce with nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Preheat oven to 400 F.
5. Grease a medium oven-proof dish with butter.
6. Place the slices of ham on the cutting board, put at the end leeks and roll them up in ham.

Place leeks in the oven-proof dish.

Cover with Béchamel and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes. take off the foil and continue baking until the cheese becomes gold, which will take another 10-15 minutes.

Serve warm, sprinkle with parsley.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Exotic Mango Tart--on Coconut Crust

It is time to share another tart recipe. Tart is my favorite cake. This time, it will be an exotic one made with mango filling on coconut crust. This tart is a kind of tropical combination so I often do it in the summer. The fruity and slightly sour taste makes it a delicious dessert for sunny days and a great accompaniment to a cup of afternoon coffee.

Unfortunately, it still does not feel like summer in DC area but that could be a reason we definitely should indulge ourselves with a piece of an exotic dessert.

Although it is a mango tart, no fresh fruits, except for decoration are used in this recipe. The filling is based on mango juice(quite common, especially Asian and Brazilian brands) or mango pulp, which is available frozen from Goya company. The coconut crust can be baked in advance, finished at the last moment and decorated with either mango or berries, or both.

Mango Tart on Coconut Crust
(For a 9-inch tart form)


For the crust:
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes,
3/4 cup all purpose flour,
7 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces, plus extra one for the form,
1/3 cup icing (confection) sugar,
1/4 tsp salt.

For the filling:
1 cup mango juice,
2 tbsp lime juice,
1/2 cup sugar,
4 tbsp corn starch,
1/2 cup sour cream,
1/2 cup whipped cream to decorate,
1/2 mango peeled and cut into slices and a cup of fresh berries to finish


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Put all the crust ingredients in a food processor and process for about 10 seconds until the mixture is crumbled. Then process it for another 15-20 seconds, until it is smoother.
3. Remove the dough from the processor and place on a surface slightly dusted with flour. Knead it together into a ball, cover with plastic foil, and let it chill for 1/2 hour in a refrigerator.
4. Roll the dough on the same surface into a circle of about 10" in diameter. Using a rolling pin transfer to a tart form, previously greased with butter. Make nice edges in the tart by cutting off extra dough. Bake it for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is light gold. Cool down.

1. Pour mango and lime juice into a medium pot. Add sugar and corn starch and using a whisker mix all the ingredients until smooth.
2. Bring the mixture to boil over the medium heat stirring frequently. Let it boil for a minute or so. Cool completely.
3. Fold in sour cream into a cold mango mixture. Spread over the cold crust.
4. Decorate the tart with whipped cream and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, or overnight. Decorate with mango slices and berries shortly before serving.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Avocado Grilled with Goat Cheese--Easy and Delicious

There is always a right moment to share a good recipe and today's is one of my favorite.

This dish, with avocado in the main role, became one of my most popular dinner starters, when I have friends over. It is easy and can be prepared all year long as avocados are one of the most common vegetables, available in any season.

So I always have avocados in my kitchen since my whole family loves them. They are very nutritious; rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, proteins, as well as vitamins A, E, C, and B.

The only trick with avocados is to catch them at the right moment. I buy them still hard and let them ripen at home. It is said that if you put avocados among apples it speeds up the process. When they get to the right point of softness they can be refrigerated for a couple of days to preserve that perfect point.

In one of the French magazines a saw a recipe for a grilled avocado and goat cheese. Right away this combination seemed to me very interesting. I could imagine how a salted, well defined goat cheese can complement a rather mild and oily avocado. And the idea of grilling it seems very intriguing.

But instead serving it plain just with salad I also prepared a fresh tomato sauce to serve with the avocado and lighten a bit the whole dish. With a little bit of mache or arugula it became instantly a huge culinary hit among my guests. So today, I finally share this recipe.

Avocados Grilled with Goat Cheese
(Serves four>

2 medium avocados (have at least extra one in case they are not perfectly greenish inside)
about 4 oz log (four 1/2-inch thick slices) of goat cheese,
2 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled off, and chopped,
1 small shallot,
1 tbsp olive oil,
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar,
a few grape or cocktail tomatoes,
arugula or mache leaves to decorate,
2 tbsp chopped chives,
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut avocados in half and remove gently the stone without destroying the flesh.
2. Place chopped tomatoes in a high wall container, add shallot, olive oil, and vinegar and, using a hand blender, make a smooth pure.
3. Prepare serving plates and divide the tomato sauce among the plates.
4. Preheat boiler to 400 F. Place avocados on a small baking form. On each half put a slice of goat cheese and put the form close to the broiler. Grill for about three minutes until the cheese melts and turns slightly gold.
5. Take the avocados from the oven and place on top of the tomato sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with chives. Decorate with grape tomato halves and salad leaves.
Serve with baguette.