Well, here we are. The first post. It feels like the first day of school, or the first day at a new job. Do I look okay? Will the other kids (or readers) like me? Where’s homeroom?
Okay, maybe not that last one. But there definitely is an excited butterflies in the stomach feeling happening here. So, why not just dive into introductions:
I’m Jillian. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for some time, but I wanted to make sure it was about something I was truly interested in, something that was just for me. I went through several different ideas of what I wanted this blog to be about: healthy living, theatre, San Francisco, ballet. But I kept coming back to the idea of food. Because I love food. I love making it, I love eating it, I love food. And I love learning more about food. 6 years ago, I’d never had anything besides regular table salt, and now Himalayan Pink Salt is one of my favorite seasonings. I had never made pudding before. Or panna cotta. Or roasted a whole chicken. Or braised ANYTHING. The list goes on and on. I had always been interested in cooking, especially baking, and had even thought about attending the Culinary Academy instead of college. But, I went to college, majored in theatre, and then got a string of non-food related jobs. But my interest kept growing. I started trying more complex and difficult recipes. I made pot de crème for the first time, and cheesecake. I cooked with lamb and quinoa. I made my own ginger pear preserves. Then I started changing up recipes; less of this, more of that, customizing, making them my own while using the existing recipe as a base to jump off of. Then I started creating my own recipes: Peanut butter and Jelly Cheesecake, Sautéed Mushrooms with Haricots Verts, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Sage, Chocolate Macarons with Whipped Jersey Filling. It was so fun, so addicting, so rewarding watching my family, particularly my husband, chow down on these creations with such glee. I started thinking there was something to this “cooking” thing. Then I started reading all the cooking blogs. The beautiful photography and creative recipes definitely drew me in, but it was the passion, the joy, the absolute delight these bloggers had in what they created that got me hooked. I knew that this was what I wanted to blog about. This is what I would enjoy, what I wouldn’t (hopefully!) burn out on. Because we all need to eat, right? So why not eat well?
I thought long and hard about what recipe I wanted to start the blog out with. I knew I wanted it to be a dessert, since those are my favorite recipes, but what? Definitely something chocolate, definitely something a little on the simpler side, and recognizable. A twist on a classic. Then I thought about madeleines. These little cakes are my dad’s favorites. We had them as favors at our wedding (with heart-shaped tea caddies and earl grey tea, so cute). And my mom had the pans. Perfect!
The twist (although not a terribly dramatic one) is that they are all chocolate. A traditional madeleine is sort of a sweet, slightly orange flavored cake that is often times dipped halfway in chocolate. But I wanted these to be all chocolate. Rich, velvety, dense, with just a hint of that orange flavor that really brings out the chocolate.
Please excuse the not-so-great quality of the photos. It is something I am still learning to master.
These babies were consumed fairly quickly. While I was baking them, my sister dropped by and said that she could smell the chocolate walking up to the front door, and got excited because she knew that meant I had been baking. Really, is there anything better than coming home to freshly baked desserty anything? I don’t think so. THG
***I added the orange sugar into the powdered sugar dusting as well; about a 1:3 ratio. It really brings all the flavors together nicely, especially because the cake itself is a little more of a bittersweet chocolate, so the powdered sugar helps cut the bitterness, if you prefer it on the sweeter side.
MADELEINES WITH ORANGE SUGAR
(adapted from this recipe)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup orange sugar (see recipe below)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2-3 tablespoons orange sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Extra butter for buttering madeleine tins
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a medium bowl. Make sure they are well-incorporated. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and orange extract together until smooth and thick. Fold the flour mixture into the eggs until just smooth; add the melted butter.
Butter the madeleine tins and pour in the batter, about 3/4 full in each mold (I like to use a 1/4 cup measuring cup; it’s just the right amount for my size tins). Refrigerate the batter in the tins for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the madeleines until puffed and just firm, about 7-9 minutes. Immediately turn out from the molds onto a cooling rack.
Combine the 2-3 tablespoons of orange sugar with the powdered sugar. Sift over top of the madeleines until just covered.
2 cups refined sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice, preferably fresh
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
In a small saucepan, bring the orange juice to a boil, then simmer until reduced to half the volume, about 10-15 minutes. Mix the reduced orange juice and orange extract into the sugar. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until sugar has dried out, turning over once, about 15-18 minutes. Pulse sugar in a food processor to break up chunks. Store in an airtight container or freeze.