Monday, August 15, 2016

Garden Dinner of the Garden State

What a marvelous summer it has been! My garden has produced a glut of heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, Russian kale, black and white eggplants, and herbs galore. I now have so many beets I have run out of ways to cook them. 



I recently hosted a 6 course dinner for 6 at our place. I decided to make it a “farm to table” affair using as much produce from my garden as I could. I wanted the dinner to reflect the abundance of my New Jersey garden. It was a wonderful dinner that lasted for hours. We enjoyed the gracious bounty of the earth, the beauty of life, good conversation and good wine, and the fortune of good friends.


Garden Dinner of the Garden State


Italian Gin & Tonic
Guacamole and Chips

Grilled Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Grape, Cucumber, and Basil Gazpacho


Accoutrements
    Radish Salad
    Fried Mozzarella 
    Croutons
    Basil and Fried Sage
Ricotta Gnocchi in Brown Butter
Seared Cod with Capers & Preserved Lemon
Avocado Stripe

Crispy Duck Breast with Orange Gastric & Oranges
Ratatouille Tartelette
Cauliflower Hash
Pickled Beets & Carrots

Humboldt Fog
Grilled Kale Salad
Brioche Points
House Pear Butter

Dessert Tasting
Chocolate Bouchon & Chantilly
Peach Crisp
Lime Posset & Blueberry Juice
Tomato Raspberry Ice Cream



Here are two recipes from this amazing dinner: Grilled Tomato Gazpacho and Lime Posset

Grilled Tomato Gazpacho
Yield: 6 - 1 Cup servings
This traditional Spanish dish is typically made with raw vegetables. I find that grilling the tomatoes elevates the flavors of this soup. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

INGREDIENTS
5 Very ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and quartered
1/2 Large Vidalia onion, or other sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 Medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks
1 Clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 Cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 TBSP Fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS
1. On a hot grill heated to medium heat, place the tomato quarters. Sear them until black marks appear. Remove from heat.
2. In a blender, pour tomato chunks and purée for about 30 seconds. Once smooth, add onion, cucumber, garlic, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Purée mixture until very smooth, about 2 minutes.
2. Add more lemon juice, salt, and pepper as needed to taste. If the gazpacho is too thick, gradually add water until it is a drinkable consistency.
3. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours. Place 2 ice cubes in each of 6 tall glasses. Fill the glasses with gazpacho, and serve.


 Lime Posset
Yield: 6 – 3 oz. servings
A posset historically refers to a drink made with hot milk and subsequently curdled with alcohol. This posset is a custard-like dessert that can be flavored with citrus or berries. I like how the freshness of the lime lightens the decadence of the cream.

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups (470 mL) Heavy cream              
2/3 Cup (130 gm) Granulated sugar
1 TBSP Lime zest     
3 oz. Lime juice (Approximately the juice from 3 Limes)           
Fresh blueberries or raspberries for garnish, or jam

INSTRUCTIONS
1. In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together the cream, sugar and lime zest. Place saucepan on stove and turn heat on medium. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar. Keep an eye on the cream so it doesn't overflow.
2. Once the mixture reaches a simmer, lower heat and reduce it for 10 to 12 minutes.
3. After the cream has reduced, remove saucepan from the heat and stir in lime juice. Let cool for 20 to 25 minutes. A thin skin will form on top.
4. Place a strainer over a medium sized bowl. Once the mixture is cooled, pour it through the strainer and discard zest. Using a ladle, divide mixture evenly among 6 individual ramekins or serving glasses.
5. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours. Once chilled, possets can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
6. Serve cold and garnish with berries or jam.

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cake Pudding and Strawberry Shortcake

June. I love the flirting, warm days of June that presage Summer's arrival. My flowers are blooming and the vegetables are growing. When summer comes, the cooking will be more varied and even more delicious. But before Summer arrives, I want to enjoy Spring to the fullest.

As I don't like to waste ingredients, I try to find new and creative ways of using leftovers or scraps. In my pastry classes, I use cake remnants left by my students for my cake pudding. It's like bread pudding -- except it's made with cake instead of bread cubes. Because the cake is already sweet, I don't add sugar to the custard. It is so delicious and tender because there is no gluten developed in the cake as there is with the bread. I like to serve it with softly whipped cream or ice cream. In the Spring and Summer months, I add seasonal fruits.

In addition to leftover cake scraps, I sometimes have a surplus of an almond flour and powdered sugar mixture. This is typically used for macarons, but I've found it to be delectable as a shortcake served with macerated fruits.

Here are the recipes:

Cake Pudding
Serves 6 - 8
For the Custard:
4 Eggs
2 Tsp Vanilla
½ Tsp Nutmeg
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Clove
Pinch of Salt
480 mL (2 Cups) Half and half
480 mL (2 Cups) Whole milk

2 Lb White cake cubes, dried or old
115 grams (8 TBSP) BKLYN Buttah brand Butter for beurre noisette (if unavailable, substitute unsalted butter)
     
Directions:
1. If the cake is fresh, toast it lightly in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes just until dry. Remove from oven and pour evenly into a clean baking dish.

2. Put the butter in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Cook until the butter melts and the milk solids (white foam) appear. The milk solids will lose their color and start to brown. You will see little brown flecks throughout the butter. The butter will have a nutty scent; the darker the butter, the deeper the flavor. Just be careful not to burn it!

3. Drizzle the brown butter over the cake, making sure to get as many pieces as possible. Set aside until the custard is ready.

4. Make the custard: In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, salt, milk, and half-and-half. Whisk the mixture until it is completely combined. Pour over the cake cubes and let rest for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 300°F.

6. Sprinkle brown sugar over the pudding (as much or as little as you like) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a small knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6. Cool slightly and serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped cream.

Variations:
√ Sprinkle dried fruits over the cake cubes before adding the custard
√ Whisk in 1/4 cup of Brandy or Rum to the custard
√ In the fall and winter add 2 grated apples to the cake cubes. Serve with caramel sauce


Strawberry Almond Shortcakes
Serves 4

Grease 4 muffin tins or ramekins

1/2 LB Strawberries (Approximately 2 cups of strawberry halves)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
Zest and juice from one lime

6 TBSP Heavy cream
1 TBSP sugar

Shortcakes:
43 grams (3 TBSP) Unsalted Butter
75 grams (1/2 Cup) Almond flour
80 grams (1/2 Cup) 10x (Powdered) Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract
Pinch of Salt
35 grams (1/4 cup) All-Purpose flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) Crushed Graham crackers

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin tins and set aside

2. In a food processor fitted with blade, add almond flour and powdered sugar. Mix until they are combined.

3. Add butter, egg, vanilla, and salt to the almond flour and powdered sugar.

4. Process the mixture until thoroughly combined.

5. Add AP flour and graham crackers to the almond flour mixture. Process everything until it is well incorporated.

6. Divide the mixture evenly into the greased muffin tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

7. Carefully wash and dry the strawberries.

8. Using a paring knife, hull the strawberries and cut them in half. Place strawberry halves in a bowl.

9. Add sugar, lime zest, and juice from half the lime to the strawberries. Gently stir so all the berries are coated with sugar and lime.

10. Let the berries sit and macerate for 15 minutes.

11. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add heavy cream. Turn the mixer on low speed and whip. As the cream starts to whip, slowly increase the speed. Gently add the sugar and continue whipping until the cream is at soft peaks (the peaks will fall over).

To serve:
Cut the warm shortcake in half and place one half cut side up on a plate.
Top the shortcake with strawberries and juice.
Place a dollop of the whipped cream on top of the strawberries, and top with the other half of the shortcake.
Enjoy!!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bonbons,Three Ways

Spring was fighting to come out this year. Winter didn’t make it easy but Spring is finally in full bloom. My garden is coming to life, proof that Spring is really here. I have 4 varieties of potatoes, in addition to asparagus, arugula, parsley, cilantro, and other seedlings ready for transplant. I love to spend hours on end in the garden planning for the days and months ahead. 

I've been busy in the kitchen, too. In the midst of finishing wedding cakes and special desserts, I made an array of chocolate bonbons: lemon filled (layers of lemon curd and lemon milk chocolate ganache); dark chocolate Sicilian pistachio ganache; and milk chocolate espresso ganache. I can't pick a favorite as they are each exquisite and decadent in their own way. The lemon curd and lemon milk chocolate are refreshing, while the milk chocolate espresso ganache has a little zip. The dark chocolate Sicilian pistachio bonbons are a nice combination of salty and chocolate. You can't go wrong with any of these. 

If you'd like to see my tutorial, check out my YouTube video on making bonbons:

You will need the following for the bon bons:
Tempered white chocolate for the white chocolate shell
Tempered dark chocolate for the dark chocolate shell


Proceed to make all the shells first so they set at room temperature. (Make sure you are working in a cool kitchen not hotter than 72°F). Here is my YouTube video on tempering chocolate using the seeding method: 


Lemon Bonbons
White Chocolate Shell
Lemon Curd
Ganache 

For the Lemon Curd:
1/2 Cup (100 grams) Sugar        
Zest of 3 Lemons
1/3 Cup +1 TBSP (90 grams) Lemon juice (from lemons)
3 eggs
3/4 Tsp (5 grams) Gelatin powder 
12 TBSP (180 grams) Butter, softened

1. In a small bowl, place 3 TBSP water. Sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over the water. Let it rest for 5 minutes until it congeals. 
2. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and eggs in a bowl. Transfer the mixture to a heavy saucepan. Over low heat, whisk the lemon curd and bring to a simmer. 
3. As soon as the mixture simmers, it will start to thicken. Remove from the heat and add the bloomed gelatin and softened butter. Whisk the curd until it is well emulsified.  
4. Pour the lemon curd through a strainer into a bowl. Let the curd cool slightly, and cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't create a skin. Let it continue to cool down to room temperature.

For the Ganache:

1/4 Cup + 3 TBSP (100 grams) Heavy cream
1 1/2 Cups (250 grams) Milk chocolate
150 gm Lemon curd (Approximately 1/3 of Lemon curd from recipe above)

1. Place chopped milk chocolate into a large bowl. Set aside. 
2. Pour the heavy cream into a heavy saucepan. Bring the cream to a boil over low to medium heat. Remove from heat and pour carefully over chopped milk chocolate.  Let it rest undisturbed for 1 minute.
3. After it rests, whisk the mixture slowly. Start in the middle of the bowl and slowly incorporate more of the chocolate into the heavy cream. Continue whisking slowly until it emulsifies. 
4. Add the curd to the ganache and fold in until it is mixed well.

Assemble the Bonbons:
1. Temper white chocolate
2. Put a #3 plain tip into a pastry bag. Fill the pastry bag halfway with the lemon curd. Pipe half the shell with the lemon curd.
3. Put a #4 plain tip into a pastry bag. Fill this pastry bag halfway with ganache, and fill the bonbon almost to the top. 
4. Seal the bonbons with the tempered white chocolate per the instructions in the Bonbon video. Set the molds in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. 
5. Turn the bonbons out of the mold, being careful not to break them. 




Pistachio Bonbons
Tempered dark chocolate
Pistachio ganache

For the pistachio ganache
1 1/2 Cups (250 grams) Milk chocolate
1 1/2 Teaspoons (10 grams) Honey
Pinch salt
1/4 Cup + 3 TBSP (100 grams) Heavy cream
1/2 Cup (150 grams) Sicilian pistachio paste.

1. Place chopped milk chocolate, honey, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside. 
2. Pour the heavy cream into a heavy saucepan. Bring the cream to a boil over low to medium heat. Remove from heat and pour carefully over chopped milk chocolate.  Let it rest undisturbed for 1 minute.
3. After it rests, whisk the mixture slowly. Start in the middle of the bowl and slowly incorporate more of the chocolate into the heavy cream. Continue whisking slowly until it emulsifies. 
4. Add the pistachio paste to the ganache and fold in until it is mixed well.


Espresso Bonbons 
Tempered dark chocolate
Espresso ganache

For the Espresso ganache:
1/4 Cup plus + 3 TBSP (150 grams) Heavy cream
1 1/2 Tsp (10 grams) Honey
Pinch salt
1 1/2 Cup (250 grams) Milk chocolate
1/4 Cup (50 grams) Espresso coffee, brewed

1. Place chopped milk chocolate, honey, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside. 
2. Pour the heavy cream into a heavy saucepan. Bring the cream to a boil over low to medium heat. Remove from heat and pour carefully over chopped milk chocolate.  Let it rest undisturbed for 1 minute.
3. After it rests, whisk the mixture slowly. Start in the middle of the bowl and slowly incorporate more of the chocolate into the heavy cream. Continue whisking slowly until it emulsifies. 
4. Add the espresso coffee to the ganache and whisk together until it is mixed well.

Assemble bonbons as above for the lemon bonbons, filling a pastry bag fitted with #3 tip halfway with pistachio ganache. Fill prepared bonbon shells nearly to the top with either pistachio or espresso ganache. Seal bonbons with tempered dark chocolate, cool for 10-15 minutes until they set, and gently turn out onto a clean surface.
Enjoy!


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pear Tarte Tatin

Thanksgiving. This is one of my favorite holidays, one where I go to great lengths to research and plan a wonderful dinner. Because Thanksgiving dinner tends to be heavy on the carbs, I try to make many tasty vegetable side dishes. I paired the whole dinner with wines from the Languedoc region of France.

My chickens (AKA: The Choir: Alto, Mezzo, and Soprano) provided the eggs (but not the singing) for some of the dishes such as Turtle soup with poached egg Bocuse style.

Alto and Mezzo (Spanish Reds)

Soprano (She is a Dominique, the breed Pilgrims brought to the US)

To make things special for my guests, I like to set a lovely table:

I also like to provide a formal menu:



This is my Turtle Soup Bocuse style:


The meal ended with a choice of two desserts: Pear Tarte Tatin and Pumpkin Pie. Since Thanksgiving has passed, I thought I'd share my Pear Tarte Tatin recipe with you.

Pear Tarte Tatin

For the Brisée:
250 gm Cake flour
125 gm Unsalted, cubed butter
½ Tsp Salt
Cold water

1. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add the flour and salt.
2. On low speed, add the cubed butter. Mix until it is coarsely combined and is the size of lentils.
3. Pour butter and flour mixture onto a clean surface.
4. Slowly pour cold water throughout mixture. You don't want the dough to be wet; just pour enough so it isn't dry. Pinch the dough to incorporate the water into the flour and butter.
5. Using the palm of your hand, press on the dough and push it away. Do this once per section in order to fully incorporate the water into the dough. Be careful not to smear sections repeatedly so as not to over mix it.
6. Scrape the dough from the surface and gather into a ball. Shape dough into a disk and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before ready to use.


For the Pears:
7 Large Bosc pears,  peeled, halved, and cored
120 gm Butter
120 gm Sugar
½ Tsp Salt
1 Vanilla bean, seeded and scraped
4 TBSP Calvados
2 Tsp Balsamic vinegar

1. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt butter. Keeping the heat on medium, place the pear halves cut side down and brown them. Once browned, gently flip them over to brown the other side.
2. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds to the pan.
3. Cover pan, lower the heat slightly, and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Pears should feel slightly soft but not mushy.
4. Uncover pan, turn heat up to high, and caramelize pears until they look mahogany color.
5. When they are of the desired color, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the Calvados in the pan.
6. Return the saute pan to the heat and deglaze. Carefully flambé. (Note: Please don't pour alcohol from the bottle directly into the pan while on the heat. The flames can jump into the bottle and cause an explosion.) When the flames have diminished, add the balsamic vinegar .
7. Remove the saute pan from the heat and put aside to rest, keeping pears and caramel in the saute pan.

To Assemble the Tarte Tatin
1. Roll brisée to ¼ inch thick. Roll it 1 inch larger than the edge of your saute pan.
2. Place rolled dough on top of pears and fold excess inside the edge of the saute pan. (The dough will shrink during baking.)
3.  Bake at 375°F until completely baked and golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.
4. Carefully flip the mold into a large tray. Be careful of the hot caramel sauce that will come out of the mold.

Voila!!


Monday, October 5, 2015

Lavender Trifle

Fall is upon us. The yellowing of the leaves, the cool breezes in the morning, the last of the tomatoes and zucchinis – I love all of it. It's time to start planning Fall gatherings and dinners next to a toasty fireplace. To really get into the Fall season, I made an Autumn Chocolate box. You can learn how to make this by signing up here:

I recently had a Fall picnic with friends while the weather was still warm. We had a great afternoon with brisket, tomatoes with Buffalo mozzarella and St. Maure goat cheese, zucchini "pappardelle" salad, grilled New Jersey corn, grilled Andouille sausage, and desserts galore. 

The dessert selection included mini pavlovas with passion fruit filling 

almond cake lollipops 


mini Black Forrest trifles 


and lavender cream with rose petals trifle.

Here is the recipe for the Lavender Trifle.

Ingredients
One vanilla cake layer, ladyfinger cookies, or pound cake
1/2 Cup simple syrup (recipe follows), flavored with dark rum or brandy
2 Cups vanilla mousseline, buttercream or cream cheese frosting, or your favorite frosting or vanilla pudding
4 TBSP Lavender sugar (recipe follows)  
4 to 6 Organic rose petals, julienned and mixed with 1 TBSP granulated sugar
8 Small cups (or 1 medium size trifle vase)

Directions:
For the Simple Syrup:
In a saucepan, place equal parts of water and sugar. Turn heat on medium and bring just to a boil. Turn heat off and let cool to room temperature. Add dark rum or brandy to taste.

For the Lavender Sugar:
In a food processor, place 4 TBSP sugar with 2 teaspoons of dry or fresh lavender flowers.  
Blend until mixed thoroughly.

To assemble the mini trifles: 
1. Cut 24 small circles of cake that fit inside cups or cut the ladyfingers into small pieces.
2. With a pastry brush, brush the cakes or ladyfinger cookies with flavored simple syrup.
3. Put a circle of cake (or piece of ladyfinger cookie) on the bottom of each cup or vase
4. Put the buttercream in a pastry bag and pipe a dollop of buttercream on top of the cake piece. 
4. Sprinkle some of the lavender sugar.
5. Repeat layering two more times. Finish with buttercream, lavender sugar, and rose petals.
6. I decorated mine with a piece of pink macaron. Enjoy!




Monday, August 3, 2015

Chocolate "Pot de Creme" and Blueberry Jam




I love the Summer, although not when it is too hot. I recently spent one week in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I thought I was going to melt. It got to be 105°F! Here at home we've had a couple of days where the temperature reached 90°F. That is much better.

When the weather is hot my favorite desserts to eat in the summertime are fruits, fruits, and more fruits. I will take any variety I can get in the garden or at the farmers market. 

However, it is never too warm to eat chocolate. Lucky for me chocolate pairs very well with fruit. It is in that spirit I am sharing my favorite recipes for my chocolate 'pot de crème' and jam. It is not technically a pot de creme as it would have to be cooked in a Bain Marie in order to qualify. But, it is so easy and fast you won't make pot de creme any other way. 

Enjoy!

Chocolate 'Pot de Creme' AKA Crémeux
12 oz. Milk chocolate
5¼ oz. Dark chocolate
½ Cup Yolks
1¼ Cups Milk
1 Cup Heavy cream
½ Tsp Cinnamon
½ Tsp Salt
¼ Tsp Cayenne
¾ Tsp Almond extract

Directions
1. Carefully chop the milk chocolate and dark chocolate into pieces the size of a quarter. Put the chopped chocolate into a blender. Place a sieve over the top of the blender and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks by hand until lighter in color (blanchir).
3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, cream, and spices to boil. Remove from heat.
4. Temper the eggs: add a ladle of the hot milk/cream to the yolks and whisk thoroughly. Continue this process of adding a ladle of hot milk/cream to the yolks and whisking until the temperature of the egg yolks has risen to the temperature of the milk/cream.
5. Make a crème anglaise: Return the milk/cream with the tempered egg yolks to the saucepan. Over low heat, stir constantly until it reaches 160°F. Remove from the heat.
6. Sir in the almond extract.
7. Pour the crème anglaise through the sieve and over chocolate. Place cover on the blender and blend until smooth and emulsified. 
8. Pour the mixture into a bowl (or individual glasses) and refrigerate overnight. 

Serving Suggestions:
* Quenelle to serve.
* You may also pour the pot de creme in mini terracotta pots (new and cleaned). Take any leftover, dried chocolate cake you may have and sprinkle crumbs on top of the pot de creme to simulate soil. Decorate with a sprig of mint and voila! a mini chocolate mousse planter pot.


Blueberry Jam
2 lb  (910 gm) Blueberries, washed, stemmed and sorted
1/2 lb (225 gm) Rhubarb, unpeeled, cut in cubes
500 gm Sugar
1 TBSP Lemon juice
1 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP Cassis liqueur 
Pinch Cinnamon
1/8 Tsp Vanilla extract

Prepare the jars for canning:
1. Put the lids of canning jars in the bottom of a very large pot. Place 10 - 11 mason jars (6 oz ea) in the same pot. 

2. Fill the pot with hot water, making sure the water goes 1 to 1-1/2 inches above the mason jars.

3. Turn the stove on medium heat and boil for 20 minutes. Keep the pot on the stove over low heat until ready to use. 

4. All the tools (i.e. kitchen tongs, jar extractor, ladle, funnel) that you need must be sterilized. In a large pot, place tools and cover them with hot water. Boil them for at least 15 minutes. Now you're ready to make the jam.

For the Jam 
1. Place all ingredients in a large, heavy pot and simmer over low heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.

2. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the jam. When the temperature reaches 217°F to 220°F, it is ready. 

3. When the jam is ready, carefully use sterilized kitchen tongs or jar extractor to remove the jars from the boiling water. Let the water drip out of the jars and then place on a kitchen towel, opening side up. (You should not touch the lid of the jar under any circumstances as you will risk contamination). Keep the lids in the boiling water for now. 

4. Using a sterilized ladle and funnel, ladle jam into the mason jars almost entirely to the top, leaving 1/8 inch space at the top.

5. Once you have filled the jars, use a piece of paper towel dipped in Vodka or boiling water and wipe any traces of jam on the lip of the jar. 

6. Using tongs, remove the lids from the boiling water. Let the water drip off them and loosely place them on the jars. 

7. Twist the lids on loosely but not all the way.

8. Let the jars cool down to room temperature. In the process of cooling you will hear a pop which is the sound of sealing. It will be music to your ears and it means you are successful. Label your jams and keep in a dark, cool place for up to one year. 

8. If any of them didn't seal you can keep them in the fridge.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scottish Whisky and Sticky Toffee Pudding

I just came home from my trip to Glasgow, Scotland. It is a wonderful city full of history, friendly people, delicious food, and whisky. So much whisky...Luckily, I'm a whisky afficionado so I felt right at home. 

I've learned in Scotland, it is spelled "whisky". In the US and Ireland, it's spelled "whiskey". To honor the Scots and their gift of whisky, I will use the proper Scottish spelling. (I also have a penchant for their crafted beers, but that is a post for another time.)

Scotland has 5 major whisky regions: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Campbelltown, and Islay. Every area has its own distinctive flavor profile. I love all Scotch whisky, but I especially prefer those from the Highlands and Islay.

Whisky from Islay is known for the strong peaty and char nose while whisky from the Highlands is more prevalent in apple, pear, and vanilla notes. Whisky from Lowlands tastes of citrus and lightness. On the other hand, whisky from the Speyside region elicits a more pronounced cooked orchard with a hint of smoke.

Each region, although distinct from the other, appeals to me. My favorite Lowland SW is Auchentoshan; my choice from The Highlands is Oban and Talisker. From Speyside I like Glenfiddich and from Islay, I love 16 YO Lagavulin and Bowmore.
Most people enjoy whisky on its own, but I've found it to be dessert-friendly. In fact, Auchentoshan with dark chocolate truffles is out of this world.
Another dessert that pairs well with whisky is sticky toffee pudding. One of my favorite desserts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, it was served warm in a toffee sauce with ice cream on the side. With its butterscoth and caramel tones, this dessert goes well with a Highland Whisky like Oban, Glenmorangie, or Dalmore. Delicious!

Here is my version which I tried my first night back from the trip. Enjoy!

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Serves 8

Ingredients 
Pudding Cakes
170 g (1-1/4 Cups) Whole medjool dates, pitted, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
235 gm (1 Cup) Boiling water
1 Tsp Baking soda
170 g (1-1/3 Cups) Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tsp Baking powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
110 gm (1/2 Cup packed) Dark brown sugar
1 Large egg
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 Tsp Ginger powder
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon powder
1/4 Tsp Clove powder
1 TBSP Molasses
60 gm (4 TBSP) Unsalted butter, melted
100 gm (1/3 Cup +1 TBSP) Milk

Toffee Sauce
60 gm (4 TBSP) Unsalted butter, softened
110 gm (1/2 Cup) Packed brown sugar
75 gm (1/3 Cup) Heavy cream
2 TBSP Scotch whisky
1 Tsp Molasses

Vanilla ice cream

For the Pudding Cakes: 
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease and flour eight 4-ounce ramekins.
3. Set prepared ramekins in large roasting pan lined with a piece of paper towel. Bring large saucepan of water to boil. Keep at a simmer until you are ready to make the water bath.
4. In a bowl, mix dates with 1 cup of boiling water and baking soda. Soak for 5 minutes.
5. Using a strainer, drain the dates over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Transfer to medium bowl.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.  
7. In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add the brown sugar and half the soaked dates. Pulse just until blended. Add the reserved soaking liquid, egg, vanilla, spices, and molasses to the food process. Process the entire mixture until smooth, about 5 - 10 seconds. The mixture will have no lumps and will be very fluid.
8. Through the feed tube, slowly add the melted butter and mix for about 10 seconds or until thoroughly combined. Transfer this mixture to bowl with remaining softened dates.
9. Using a spatula, mix the remaining softened dates with the batter.
10. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the batter, alternating with milk. You want to fold everything just until it's combined and the date pieces are evenly dispersed throughout the batter. Distribute batter evenly among prepared ramekins.
11. Place the roasting pan in the oven. Fill roasting pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. (It is easier to fill the roasting pan with water once in the oven as opposed to filling the roasting pan first and then transferring to the oven.)
12. Cover pan loosely with aluminum foil.
13. Bake pudding cakes until puffed and small holes appear on surface, about 35 minutes.
14. Immediately remove ramekins from water bath and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

For the Toffee Sauce: 
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, sugar, and heavy cream. Whisk until smooth. Continue to cook once everything is melted, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Keep the mixture on the heat and slowly add the whisky and molasses. Whisk just to combine. Reduce heat and simmer until frothy, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Pour 1 TBSP of toffee sauce over each pudding.
3. To serve, rewarm puddings in microwave if cold. Invert each ramekin onto a plate or shallow bowl.
4. Serve with a small ladle of sauce and good ice cream.