Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lemon Curd

Preparations continue for the holiday gift baskets with this tasty treat: Lemon Curd. For anyone who's never seen or tasted it, lemon curd will come as a surprise. It's roughly the same consistency as custard, but a brighter yellow and the scent of lemon wafting from the mix can transport you right back into summer...a nice treat during the cold winter months.

It is great on scones, on pastries or you can use it as filling layers for a cake.

Lemon Curd
Makes 1 serving.
1/3 cup lemon juice plus zest, from 2 lemons
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt


1. Heat lemon juice and zest in small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Whisk eggs and yolk in medium nonreactive bowl; gradually whisk in sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon juice into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to spoon, about 3 minutes.

2. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in cold butter until incorporated; stir in cream, vanilla, and salt, then pour curd through fine-mesh strainer into small nonreactive bowl. Cover surface of curd directly with plastic wrap or pour into sterile jars and seal; refrigerate until needed.

The curd will keep for about a month in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Homemade Vanilla

Something new for this year's Christmas goodie bags: homemade vanilla extract. You need to start this one a little bit in advance...around four to six weeks ahead of time...so plan accordingly.

The nice thing about making your own vanilla extract is that it isn't difficult to do and it takes only a few supplies.

First step is to choose the type of vanilla bean you want to use. Here are some varieties and the characteristics of each.
Madagascar - the strongest, most intense vanilla flavor with a full body
Bourbon - notes of berry and ripe fruit
Mexican - sweet and smooth, mellow and spicy
Tahitian - delicate, exotic, and floral
Tonga - rich, full flavored
Indonesian - sweet and woody
India - high percentage of seeds, sweet, woody, and spicy

I ordered some Madagascar beans for my first attempt at this and they just arrived yesterday. The smell from the package was almost overwhelming.

Ingredients and equipment
Large mason jar
Lid and screw down ring
2 cups vodka
6 vanilla beans

Cut the beans in half lengthwise.
Add the beans to the jar.
Cover with the vodka.
Store in a cool, dark place and shake every couple of days for at least a month. The longer you let it stand, the more intense the flavor will be.
When you get it to the point you like it, strain in through a coffee filter or cheesecloth into dark bottles and seal tightly.

You can vary the flavor by using different combinations of beans or adding another spice during storage.
Add a few buds of edible lavender.
Add a whole clove.
Add a part of a cinnamon stick.
Add a teaspoon of brandy per 8 ounces. You can also make the vanilla in brandy or rum for a different flavor.

12/9 UPDATE: It has been a few weeks since I started the vanilla and it already looks great! This is definitely the way to go to make vanilla extract.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chicken Liver Pate

We got this one from Bon Appetit and the BA Foodist and put jars of it in last year's Christmas gift bags. Since it went over so well last year, it will very likely get a repeat inclusion this year.


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 4 bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 12 ounces chicken livers, trimmed
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch cubes (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons dry Sherry, bourbon, or Cognac
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • Fresh parsley sprig
  • Rye bread slices, toasted


  • Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add onion and sauté until pale golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add chicken livers, apple, and marjoram; sauté until livers are no longer pink inside and apple is soft, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer warm liver mixture to processor. Add hard-boiled eggs, Sherry, and salt; puree until almost smooth. Transfer mixture to fine to medium sieve set over large bowl. Using sturdy rubber spatula, press mixture through sieve into bowl. Mix in remaining 1/2 cup butter. Season pâté to taste with freshly ground pepper. Transfer to small serving bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Garnish pâté with parsley and serve with toasted rye bread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

We love making our own Christmas presents. It is our thought that by taking the time and effort to make something for our family members, we are giving much more than just buying something at the store.

Here is one of the items our family members might be receiving in the annual Christmas goodie bags. I just ordered the jars for these and several other items that will be discussed in future posts.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (just like Nutella)
(this is for 4 servings)
1/3 cup hazelnuts, with the skin on
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place nuts in a single layer on a shallow baking pan. Toast until the skins are almost black, about 15 minutes. Wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub until most of the skins have come off.
Process nuts in food processor scraping down sides of bowl occasionally for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Combine milk, chocolate and honey in heatproof bowl or top of double boiler and set over a pan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, heat until chocolate has melted.
Add the chocolate mixture to the liquefied nuts and process until mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to airtight container and store refrigerated up to 1 month.