Tag Archives: j. paul getty museum

Spiced Cupcakes with Rosewater Frosting


Spiced Cupcakes with Rosewater Frosting

Fashionable Julia Titi lived in the 1st century AD and was the daughter of Roman emperor Titus. She was quite a wild child in her day and had an affair with emperor Domitian, her uncle, who divorced his wife and lived openly with her. She must have been quite a seductress.

Portraits of woman like Julia set fashions throughout the Roman Empire. Traces of paint on her dramatic curls suggest she was a fiery redhead. A hairstyle worn by an imperial woman would soon appear all over the court and spread through the rest society as a sign of taste and status. (If you were a part of Julia’s high society, you’d better forget about the blow out and pull out the curling iron.) Her diadem was originally inlaid with gold, silver and/or gems. The sculpture, which has pierced ears, would have worn gold earrings.

Now, take a close look at her neck. Yes, those are rolls you see and no, they’re not from saggy skin. (Julia was only 30 when she died.) They’re rolls of fat. Fat? Yes, fat. Those perfect little rolls are called “Venus rings” named after Venus, the Roman goddess of sex, love and beauty. Like her Greek counterpart Aphrodite, she represents a sexuality free from anxiety and self-consciousness. These rolls tell us that she not only had abundant wealth and power, she was well fed and confident. I hope she also had love.

The rose was the favorite flower of Venus and in Julia’s day people often ate rose pudding to revitalize their sex lives. Cinnamon and cardamom were very expensive and known for their sensual appeal in the ancient world from the Middle East to Europe to Asia. With that in mind, the flavor profile of the following recipe makes me think she would have liked them. And they remind me of her curls.

For the cakes:
2 ½ cups flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 ¾ cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon rosewater (Taste and add a little more if you’d like, but use it with caution as it can go from tasting sublime to tasting like perfume very quickly. Consider yourself warned.)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 12 large cupcake or 24 small cupcake molds. If you’d rather make this as a cake, butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan.

Add vanilla extract to the milk and stir.

Mix flour and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and beat on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs to batter one at a time beating for an additional 2 minutes.

Beginning and ending with the flour, mix one third of the flour into the wet mixture at a low speed, then half of the milk, alternating until all ingredients are mixed. Add lemon zest, cinnamon and cardamom.

Transfer batter to cake pan filling until cavity is about 3/4 full and bake about 40 minutes – until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cakes are baking make the frosting. Place the cream cheese, butter and rosewater in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed just until combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool completely before frosting.

Makes 1 cake, 12 large cupcakes or 24 mini cupcakes

image: Portrait Head of Julia Titi, Roman, about 90 AD, marble with polychromy, J. Paul Getty Museum

Chocolate Pots de Creme


Chocolate Pots de Creme

The “food of the gods,” chocolate is native to Mexico where it was consumed by priests and nobility as an unsweetened foamy drink. The Aztecs prepared a highly spiced beverage called xocoatl, with cocoa beans that were roasted, pounded in a mortar and flavored with chiles, vanilla, annatto, and sometimes honey and dried flowers. (Emperor Moctezuma is said to have consumed 50 cups of chocolate a day because he believed it made him more charming and attractive to women.)

Chocolate was introduced to Europe in the 16th century and for centuries it was consumed exclusively by the aristocracy and bourgeoisie as a hot drink. The Spanish and French courts that added sugar, milk and exotic flavorings to it. It was first used for baking in 18th century England. Chocolate in 19th century France was most closely associated with la cuisine bourgeoisie and with the bistros, where chocolate pots de crème would appear on practically every menu.

For the pudding:
2 ¼ cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
pinch salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
crème Chantilly, for serving

For the crème Chantilly:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of the milk with ¼ cup of the sugar and the salt and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the cocoa powder and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar until blended. Add the remaining ¼ cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Whisk this mixture into the hot milk in the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the pudding is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the egg yolks. Gradually whisk about 1 cup of the hot cocoa pudding into the eggs until thoroughly incorporated, then scrape the pudding back into the saucepan. Cook the pudding over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until it just comes to boil, about 2 minutes.

Strain the pudding into a medium heatproof bowl. Add the chocolate chips, butter and vanilla and whisk until the chocolate and butter are melted and incorporated and the pudding is smooth, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the pudding to six 6-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until chilled. Serve with lightly whipped cream dusted with cocoa powder. (The chocolate pudding can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days.)

Prepare the crème Chantilly. In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract together on high speed until soft peaks form in the mixture.

Serves 6

photo credit: Carin Krasner

Potatoes Braised in Butter


Potatoes Braised in Butter

Native to Peru, potatoes were an important part of the French diet during the 19th century and are still widely eaten today. Urbain Dubois features 44 potato recipes in his La cuisine classique. In his dictionary of food, Alexander Dumas writes of the potato, “This excellent vegetable was brought fro Virginia by the English admiral Walter Raleigh in 1585, and has since then preserved people from famine.” He goes on to say that the potato is not only healthy, but also inexpensive.

3 pounds baby Yukon gold potatoes
salt and pepper
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Place the potatoes in a deep skillet and season generously with salt and pepper.

Cover potatoes halfway with chicken stock, about 3 cups, add the butter and cover skillet with a lid. Cook the potatoes in the stock until almost tender, about 5 to 8 minutes, depending upon the size of the potatoes.

Remove the lid and allow the stock to evaporate, about another 5 minutes.

Once the stock has evaporated pop each potato using a ladle or large spoon, creating a small crack in each, but do not smash. Allow the potatoes to brown on each side, another 5 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning.

Remove the browned potatoes from the skillet and place onto a serving platter, garnished with the parsley.

Serves 6

Adapted from Jacques Pepin
photo credit: Carin Krasner

Tunisian Tuna Brik

tuna brik

Tunisian Tuna Brik

For centuries, every civilization, empire, religion, trade route has some sort of filled pastry including but not limited to empanadas in Latin America, samosas in India, and spring rolls in China. A brik is the Tunisian version.

This recipe was prepared at the Getty Villa in my recent classes, The Eclectic Empire, inspired by the special exhibition, Roman Mosaics Across the Empire.

2 7-ounce cans tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper to taste
6 sheets phyllo dough

1 egg, beaten
vegetable oil for frying

In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, scallions, capers, parsley, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

On a work surface, make 2 stacks 
of 3 phyllo sheets each. Cut each stack into four 4×12” strips. Keep the phyllo dough covered with 
a damp kitchen towel.

Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the tuna filling at the end of the strip closest to you. Brush the edge of the other end with the beaten egg. Fold the corner of the phyllo over the filling to form a triangle. Continue folding the triangle up and over itself until you reach the end of the phyllo strip. Press to adhere. Repeat with the remaining phyllo strips.

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350° F.

Fry the brik in the preheated oil in batches until golden brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Makes 6