They are calling for snow…………….
Today I am mourning the destruction of the fires in California for the second time this year. Today, they are in southern California, causing devastation in and around Los Angeles, not far from where my son lives, and all the way up to my beloved Santa Barbara. As I read about the closing of the Montecito and Carpinteria Farmer’s Markets, as well as Mc Connell’s Ice Cream shop on State Street (you can see where I hang out) because of thick smoke and ash cover, I was reminded of the otherworldly pristine days I just had there in October. I meandered, without a care in the world, up to the Mission Rose Garden daily, indulged in the Morning Buns from Deux Bakery, and scoffed up the Dylan’s Raw-Hive Honey Early- Summer Wildflower edition at the Downtown Market. As I read, I couldn’t imagine the place covered in smoke and ash. I am so sorry for this travesty to people’s homes, livelihoods and environs. I do hope everyone will be safe, including the animals and the bees, and all will be over very soon.
As I stared at my jar of Dylan’s honey, I deepened my sentiment that honey is perhaps my most favorite indulgence. It literally sends me into a swoon. Not only am I completely obsessed with those precious bees that make it, following them around, snapping their photos, talking to them and giving them lots of encouragement as long as they are at work, but I think their product is one of the most spectacular gifts of nature, ever. And yes, I do talk to the bees.
I approach honey as I do the wine experience. I indulge in honey “tastings”. For me, the best place to do this is at Farmer’s Markets or food festivals. Wherever I go, in this country and abroad, I dreamily try all of the varieties offered to me. In fact, I first met Lou DiPalo of Di Palo’s Fine Foods fame, at the Newport Food and Wine festival (same day I first met Roseann Tully) where I sampled his Tuscan Sunflower Honey – YUM!
I will put a swab of honey on near anything you can think of – I have been known to mop some up with a sfogliatelle at breakfast in Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, right around the corner from the stellar venue highlighted below .
The jars shown above are two of my favorite collections of this year. The first was scoffed up at the Downtown Farmer’s Market in Santa Barbara where I was encouraged to sample both the early summer and later versions – two totally different flavors – I chose the brighter, early- Summer edition. The second was a gift from the Chateau St. Martin in Vence, France where I stayed in early September and comes from their own hives.
I am lucky enough to have an article in the current issue of Intermezzo Magazine on cooking with honey. Check it out. There are 7 recipes to try: Ginger-Pear Loaf with Cranberries, Honey-Corn Madeleine Muffins, Roast Loin of Pork with Honey-Port Sauce and Figs, Honey-Apricot Chicken, Butternut Squash and Fontina Gratin with Honey and Cranberries, the pudding and Petite Honey-Drizzled Hazelnut Jewels. Did I pique your interest?
At this time of year, I tend to get into a lot of mischief in the kitchen. The combination of the early and enduring darkness and the magical quality of being home in the house with twinkly lights and favorite decorations all around while it is cold and blowing inside gets me inspired to make and eat lots of seasonal goodies.
These mischievous endeavors can range from the simple to complex. I’m always fantasizing about sugar-crusted goodies at this time of year. However, I can get going on the savory side as well – I just answered a question in a group I am in about my fantasy Christmas dinner. It went like this: Champagne and oysters, the Burrata and Pompelmo appetizer (avec honey) and the signature ravioli/tortelloni at La Giostra in Florence! How’s that for getting into trouble before sun up? Yum!
Anyway, one of the recipes in the Intermezzo article is for Chocolate Pudding with Honey. You may think of chocolate pudding as a relatively mundane dessert option. You may actually dismiss it as your memory harkens back to store bought options. Not me!
This morning I was reading around and happened on For the Love of the Table’s recipe for Candied Orange Peel and it brought to mind this recipe. This is a festive and yummy and easy dessert to serve your guests, or your family at this time of year. Who doesn’t adore Chocolate Pudding anyway?
If you don’t have time to make your own candied orange peel, you can of course get some in a specialty store (Dean and Deluca) or online.
Here is my recipe for My Chocolate Pudding with Honey and Candied Orange Peel Soldiers as found in Intermezzo Magazine #43. In case you are wondering, I am inspired to use the term “soldiers” here in keeping with the spirit of the English version of Eggs with Toast Soldiers – little strips of toast to dunk into your soft boiled egg and the soldiers from the Nutcracker.
I hope you will try this recipe one night this month – perhaps one of the very cold evenings forecast for next week. I think you will be happy, soothed and satiated. You can, if you like, sub in a strip or two of crystalized ginger if you choose.
Chocolate Pudding with Honey
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup best quality orange blossom honey (or your choice of bright-flavored honey such as the Dylan’s Raw Summer Flowers version)
2 squares Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (* Ghirardelli chocolate squares weigh 1/2 oz each, if you sub in another chocolate, you need 1 oz total)
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
Honey Whipped Cream and chocolate shavings for garnish
Candied Orange Peel “Soldiers”
- In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together cocoa powder and cornstarch. Set aside.
- In another saucepan whisk together the milk, cream and honey over medium heat until warm and combined.
- Over medium-low heat, drizzle milk mixture into the cocoa-corn starch mixture, whisking until it is fully blended. Raise heat and whisk until mixture thickens and begins to boil slowly.
- Add chopped chocolate and whisk for 1 minute, making sure the bottom of the pan does not burn. (I will actually take the pan off heat.) Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water.
- Pour pudding into individual serving bowls or ramekins and refrigerate until cool.
- Make honey whipped cream: beat 1 cup heavy cream with 2 tablespoons honey until thick.
- To serve: Place a dollop of the honey cream atop each serving. Grate chocolate shavings over and serve with Candied Orange Peel “Soldiers” for dipping on the side.
Of course, you can have a sip of Vin Santo along side! Enjoy! Not into pudding? Make a boozy chocolate fondue and dip the soldiers into that!