Monday, February 16, 2009

Delivery Day

Happy belated Valentine's Day! I hope that you were showered with love, or at least with chocolate, this weekend.

Steve and I drove to Miami's Design District on Saturday night. We rarely go out on Valentine's Day because that usually involves an over-priced prix fixe menu and crowds. This year, though, we got out of the house and made the drive to Sra. Martinez, Michelle Bernstein's new tapas restaurant.

I am no restaurant reviewer, so I won't drag you into a detailed analysis of the meal. I will just tell you that Steve and I loved it, from the crisp pork belly with fennel-orange marmalade to the Greek yogurt ice cream with sweet tomato marmalade and basil syrup. It reminded us that Miami is not such a long drive from Fort Lauderdale, and piqued my curiosity about what other interesting discoveries we could make in the Design District (a sentiment I felt again as we walked past Marni, with its mortgage-payment dresses, on the way back to our car).

*sigh* I will always be Fort Lauderdale, never Miami. That dress will have to stay where I saw it. At least so that we can pay our mortgage.

Michelle Bernstein published her first cookbook, Cuisine a Latina, last year. The dessert chapter of this cookbook is entitled, "The Shortest Dessert Chapter Ever." With only one recipe, it is indeed the shortest ever. The recipe is for Michy's bread pudding sounds excellent. I'll have to make it someday. For now, however, I created my own bread pudding recipe.

Last week, I promised you bread pudding with chocolate and bourbon caramel sauce. Today is delivery day.

Bread Pudding with Chocolate and Bourbon Caramel
A Fritter Original

For the bread pudding
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons), melted and set aside to cool for 10 minutes
3 cups of day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup of broken semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar

For the bourbon caramel
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/8 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/4 teaspoon for cinnamon whipped cream
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus 1/2 cup for whipped cream
1/8 cup Kentucky bourbon

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract, ground coriander, orange zest, and salt until well-combined. Once the butter has cooled, whisk it into the bowl in 1/4 cup amounts. It is very important to do this slowly, so that the eggs do not cook.

Place the bread cubes in a separate bowl and pour the cream mixture over them. Gently toss until the bread is well-coated, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

After the bread has chilled for an hour, remove it and toss again, ensuring that every surface of the bread has been covered with the cream mixture. The bread should be soaked at this point, but not falling apart.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and add half of the bread to the bottom. Scatter half of the chocolate pieces over the bread, then cover with the remaining half of the bread. Scatter the remaining chocolate pieces on top, then crumble the brown sugar over the surface. Bake for 25 minutes, until the bread pudding is golden on top and bubbly.

While the bread pudding is baking, make the bourbon caramel. In a small saucepan, heat the butter until the froth begins to fade and the edges of the liquid start to turn gold. Stir in the water, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, then continue to cook until the liquids have reduced almost completely to a thick film on the bottom of the pan, about 6 minutes. Add the 1/8 cup of heavy cream and stir, then cook until the juice is syrupy, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the bourbon. Allow the skillet to rest for 1-2 minutes, which will allow the alcohol to evaporate.

Serve the bread pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven with 1/4 cup of bourbon caramel sauce and, if you wish, a scoop of ice cream.

Serves: 4

Thursday, February 12, 2009

There's a Database for Everything

If you plan to visit Florida anytime soon, I have good news for you.

When you think of Florida, aren't you terrified of the wildlife that this great state harbors? Do you fear being attacked by an alligator as you stroll through the Magic Kingdom? Do you worry that your little angels will become gator chow as they paddle in the pool at your resort?

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel thinks so. That can be the only explanation for this database.

Gator attacks are rare and often result from the animal being cornered and stressed by a changing environment and the reduced food supply that comes with it. If you stroll along a low-water canal with your well-fed Maltie named Porky-poo yapping away at the water's edge, well, that's your business. Why our local paper thought that a database would help you is beyond me. Also, I doubt that steering clear of the site of a previous gator attack will help much, since, you know, alligators move around.

In case you need it, though, we have a database for it.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I know that I have been spotty lately when it comes to posting. Before you shrug me off completely, let me explain that I have good reason for my neglect.

My friend Lauren and I are chairing a committee that is in charge of a rather large 5-mile and 5k charity run. By "rather large," I mean that it draws more than 1,300 runners each year (it's not the New York City Marathon, but hey, that's still a lot of people in one small park early on a Saturday morning!). We also offer a 1-mile Kids Run, which we hope will inspire children at local schools to participate and learn a little bit about fitness.

Until I began working on this event last summer, I had no idea that it would be a second full-time job; a habit-forming activity; something of a demanding baby - one that requires constant feedings, changings, soothings, and meetings with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and other city agencies.

The 9th Annual Riverwalk Run will take place here in Fort Lauderdale on March 21, 2009. Between now and that date, I foresee many more evening meetings in my future. Unfortunately, I do a lot of my Fritter cooking in the evenings. This is all for a great cause, though.

The Junior League of Greater Fort Lauderdale, the organization that hosts the Run (and of which Lauren and I are members), supports a local endeavor called the Transitional Independent Living project. "TIL" as we call it, is collaborating with state and local agencies to provide needed resources to for teens aging out of the foster care system in Broward County. In case you did not know, foster children stop receiving state assistance the day they turn 18. This means that many lose their place in their foster homes abruptly during their senior year of high school, which decreases their chances of continuing their education.

TIL will subsidize housing and teach "life skills" (i.e. how to lease an apartment, make a budget, cook, etc.) to teenagers who turn eighteen before they are really equipped to deal with adult life. Considering that up to 25% of teens who age out of the foster care system experience homelessness and up to 50% of them experience unemployment, TIL is something we need here in Broward. By organizing the Riverwalk Run, Lauren and I hope to raise the funds necessary to aid TIL in its goals.

While all of this 5k craziness is going on, I will continue to cook for Fritter, just on a less predictable basis. For your own convenience, please feel free to "follow" Fritter or sign up for email updates. Stick with me, here, since you never know what the future will bring!

Here's a hint: chocolate bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce. Stay tuned.

Fast French Boule
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

This recipe is different from most orthodox bread recipes in that it is just about the lowest maintenance bread recipe you'll ever find. No kneading is needed (ha!). From start to finish, you can have fresh bread in under 2 hours. Please note before you begin that this recipe yields enough dough for 4 1-pound loaves. The dough will store up to one week in your fridge, so in theory, you can make a loaf of bread whenever you feel like it.

3 cups of warm (but not hot) water, plus 1/2 cup
1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated yeast
1 tablespoon of coarse salt
6 1/2 level cups of all-purpose flour, plus an extra 1/4 cup for dusting
A handful of cornmeal to dust the baking surface

Pour 3 cups of warm water into the bowl of an upright mixer equipped with a bread hook. If you do not have such a mixer, just use a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, then add the salt. No mixing is required.

Add the flour all at once. Turn the mixer on the lowest setting and allow it to blend the flour into the water until a wet dough forms (1 -2 minutes), or stir by hand with a wooden spoon. Turn the dough out into a large, resealable food container (a 5 gallon container would be handy here, but I use a large casserole-type tupperware with good results).

Cover the container with aluminum foil or a lid (do not seal it all the way or the pressure from the yeast gases may blow it off). Set stand at room temperature for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Dust a clean work surface with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.
Tear off a grapefruit-size portion of dough and form it into a soft ball, then set it on the floured surface (refrigerate the remaining dough in its container with a resealable lid). Turn the ball in the flour a time or two to lightly cover it in flour. Holding the ball with both hands, gently pull the sides down underneath the ball and pinch them together. Rotate the ball 90 degrees and pull the sides down again, bunching the two sides underneath the ball. The ball should appear smooth on top and bunched underneath. Cover the ball with a clean kitchen towel and all it to rise for another 30 minutes.

While the boule is completing its second rising, place a pizza stone or an oven-proof iron skillet in the top shelf of your oven and a broiler tray on the bottom shelf. Dust the pizza stone or skillet with the cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees for about 20 minutes.

When the boule has completed its 30-minute rising, lightly slash the top of it with a knife. Using a pizza peel, quickly place the boule on the pizza stone or in the hot skillet. Pour 1/2 cup of water into the broiler tray below and shut the door immediately. The steam created by this step will give your bread a nice crisp exterior.

Bake at 450 for 30 minutes, until the boule is browned on top and firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before cutting into the loaf.

Makes: the dough recipe yields 4 1-pound loaves of bread

Monday, February 2, 2009


January weekends can be so weird. When you wake up on a Saturday morning in January, you're still on the heels of the holidays (no matter how distant they seem now), so a measly two-day weekend seems so short and hurried. You go from a one-year-old's birthday party on Saturday to a Superbowl party on Sunday in a rush, then down the rabbit hole to Monday before you've had a chance to relax.

That's how my January weekends feel, anyway.

Now, yesterday was the first day of February. Already, my schedule has lightened up. I even had some spare time to bake. Ahem. To bake.



Wait 'til you hear what's in them Melted semi-sweet chocolate. Walnuts. Dried cherries.

Folks, you haven't had a great cookie until you've had this cookie. I baked them yesterday afternoon before the Superbowl. They received universal thumbs ups and I knew that I needed to share them with you. So please, find some spare time in your busy weekends and give this recipe a try. You will not be sorry.

Chocolate Cherry-Walnut Cookies
Adapted from this recipe at

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

Set up a double boiler (if you have not done this before, it's simple: Pour 3 cups of water into a medium-sized saucepan, then nestle a stainless steel bowl on top. Heat the water to a simmer, and you've got a double boiler). Add the chocolate and butter and stir with a spatula until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In an upright mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Blend in the vanilla and the chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour mixture, then the dried cherries and the walnuts. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill the batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using two spoons, drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. You can eyeball the amounts here; just be sure that each ball of batter is roughly the same size as all the others to ensure even baking times. Bake the cookies just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheets.

Makes: a dozen large cookies