Tag Archives: starry starry nights

Pushing Boundaries

16 Dec

This week has been a week for the pushing of boundaries in all sorts of ways. Its quite an experience to put oneself out there, and try new things. To expose oneself as one is, to be seen and acknowledged. While I am confident and at ease with my cooking, so far, I have only chosen to share my food with my nearest and dearest – my family and friends. And while people have said to me for ages that I should branch out, and begin to cook on a professional level, the idea, frankly, scared me.

When you cook for those you love, you think about them. You imagine what would interest and titillate their senses. You are aware of their likes and dislikes, the food they adore, and what they avoid. And while I have found cooking to be an extraordinarily personal and powerful expression of my creativity, and my soul joy, I also recognise that when I cook for those who I know and hold dear, I am cooking in a safe way. If it all goes bottoms up, we can always order Indian vegetarian food! 😉

Why am I telling you all this? This past Friday, I had dinner at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio with some very close friends. One of them, GoddessSpouse, started talking to me about baking and providing catering from the recipes I have developed. I nodded in agreement, and told him that I was working my way towards that, albeit slowly. He said, why not start now? He needed a tea break for 12 – 15 people on Tuesday, and he wanted me to do it. Could I? I couldnt think of an excuse, and so I said yes…. well, may be… let me get back to you.

But GoddessSpouse is a smart and clever man. He didnt accept waffling, and just said, OK then, I will see you on Tuesday at 3pm.

I have to say, it scared the bejesus out of me. But in a gooood way. It made me consider my life, look at the choices I have made, and why I made them.

It made me realise that for me, to truly embrace this gift and passion I have, I had to put it out there. My beloved ones, bless them, have always given me such intensely positive feedback. But to share my cooking with those who were not my beloved ones, well that would be a new experience. And as I said, this week seems to be a week of opening myself up to possibility. I had to test myself in the unknown. I had to see how people would react when I shared my passion with them.

It was a tea break, for goodness sake. If I could cook 11 dishes for Thanksgiving in 2 days, for 15 – 18 people, surely I could handle a tea break!

I made a batch of Starry Starry Night cookies, and two small pots of baked artichoke, spinach and parmesan dip (adding a lot more garlic, and some chili to spice it up a bit), served with tortilla chips and sliced carrots and cucumbers. AngelKitten came along to help set up – but also to provide much needed love and support (thank you Kitten). I was nervous, but I found that once it began, once I really settled and took a breath, I found myself.

How was the reaction? Wonderful! The participants ate, and ate, and ate. They loved the food, and they were interested, open and supportive. It was a beautiful experience.

GoddessSpouse turned the process into a learning experience, not only for the participants but for me. It was a small step, but I realised that this was something I could do, with confidence and calmness (eventually), with diplomacy (thanks Ayah!) and with great joy and pride.

Another step towards the life I want for myself. Another experience lived. A further layer of happiness added to the joy of knowing my true self.

Thank you to all of you who pushed my boundaries this week. I appreciate having been able to take that first step in such a safe and supportive space.

 

Starry Starry Nights

4 Nov

NightsAnd after the phenomenal Savoury Polenta Tart Tatin… we are back to sweet again! I have been wanting to bake these little chocolate cookies for ages now. The recipe is in the wonderful book, Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Say the name of that book, out loud, three times fast, and have a good giggle! It sets the tone for the entire read – funny, intelligent and immersed in the pleasures of baking. I really resonated to the story in this book because Bullock-Prado had the bravery to changer her life mid-stream, to acknowledge who she was, and what her true calling was – baking. Its kind of what I am doing now, and its terrifying, but its also so incredibly joyous.

I love the stories in the book, because they are so intensely personal – memories of her father, and their shared passion for good food, loving memories of her mother, her elegance, her charm, and her ability to bake the most gorgeous cakes, memories of her grandmother and aunts in Europe, and learning what afternoon coffee was all about. This book is a series of stories that enables us to look into Bullock-Prado’s life and understand who made her who she is today – and who gave her her passion for baking.

Starry Starry Nights are a gluten-free chocolate cookie, made with almond meal, sugar, honey, chocolate, eggs and cocoa powder. They are incredibly easy to put together – but its the waiting that drives me crazy. In order for these perfect, dark chocolate, baked truffle morsels to bake up properly, you first need to refrigerate the dough so it can set up, and then you need to freeze the little cookies for about 2 hours so that they are rock hard when they go into the hot oven. Dipped twice in sugar, they have a crackly nubbly exterior, glistening with sugar stars. The interior is like nothing I have ever tasted before – deep dark chocolate, beautiful and delectable.

I think I am going to try and have a bag of these in the freezer at all times – ten minutes to baking so I should never be caught wanting! Try them… and buy the book. Its wonderful, smart and funny and the recipes will make you drool. And if you want to check out a demo of how to bake Starry Starry Nights (complete with mimosas!) check here!

Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Starry Starry Nights

Makes about 80 small cookies or 50 slightly larger ones

  • 8.2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (2 bars + 2 strips of Lindt extra dark – 85%)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar plus more for rolling
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 5/8 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp non-Dutch processed cocoa powder

Chop the chocolate and put in a metal bowl with the butter.

Fill a saucepan about 1/3 full of boiling water, and put over medium heat. Place the bowl over the saucepan and gently mix the chocolate and butter together, mixing gently to incorporate the butter into the chocolate. Set aside to cool for a moment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar and honey. Whisk for at least five minutes, or until the eggs have turned creamy and golden, and have quite a bit of air incorporated into them.

In a small bowl, combine the ground almonds, salt and cocoa powder.

Using a silicone spatula, fold the almond mixture into the melted chocolate. Make sure everything is incorporated well.

Once the eggs have been whisked to a creamy, ribbony, golden consistency, fold about 1/4th into the almond-chocolate mixture to lighten everything up a bit. Fold in the rest of the eggs, and refrigerate the batter to let it firm up. You need to let it sit for at least an hour, preferably 2.

Once the mixture has firmed, prepare a cookie tin by lining it with parchment paper. Put a couple of tablespoons of sugar in a bowl. Remove the batter from the fridge, and use a very small cookie scoop or a melon baller to scoop out small balls of dough. Roll the cookies in the sugar, and place neatly on the parchment paper in the cookie tin. Continue doing this until you have completely used up all the dough.

Freeze the mini cookies for at least two hours.

If you have 40 – 80 cookies, you will need to bake in batches. I prefer doing a few at a time – about 20 – 25.

Once the cookies have frozen through, remove them from the freezer. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a second cookie pan with parchment paper, and put a couple more tablespoons of sugar in a little bowl.

Working quickly, roll the cookies in sugar for a second time, and place them on the second prepared cookie pan. Put the rest of the (unrolled) cookies back in the freezer.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, turning the pan after 5 minutes to ensure even baking. The cookies will begin to crack on the top – you want this! Dont let the sugar burn though…

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan, on a rack, for a few minutes before transferring to a plate, or your waiting hungry mouth.

Enjoy these unique and beautiful cookies with someone you love 🙂