Monday, November 30, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

As I was making these cookies, I was thinking we've had two easy recipes back to back, when might this end? This recipe is so easy. One bowl and a few ingredients and you have cookie batter.

Unfortunately, mine didn't come together as easily as the recipe described. The recipe says after mixing for 3 minutes, the batter will thicken slightly. Mine didn't thicken. I kept wanting to add flour to make it thicker but flourless means no flour, right? My cookies were so thin I was worried about the batter running off the cookie sheet and into the oven. Fortunately, that did not happen but as you can see they did not turn out. Looks aren't everything though, right? So I thought the taste of these might make up for the appearance. Nope not so much, I didn't like the flavor either.

This month's recipe was chosen by Karen of Karen's Cookies, Cakes and More. You can also find the links to the other Chocolate With Francois bakers here. Hopefully their cookies were scrumptious and beautiful, as the recipe describes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Sweet Melissa Sunday's

No Sweet Melissa Sunday's for me today. The main reason, we're in LA with my son Justin. Also, I am not a Fruitcake person, not sure I would have baked if I had been home.

This weeks recipe was chosen by Karin of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice. You can find the recipe at her site. Also, stop by the Sweet Melissa Sunday's site and check out the blogs of the bakers who did make this fruitcake.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! No Thanksgiving recipe posts from me this year. We're spending Thanksgiving with my son in Los Angeles.

Thanksgiving means so many different things. From your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, to time with family and of course the day after Thanksgiving shopping. Every Thanksgiving as I stop and reflect on all of the things I am thankful for, I always say I am going to try and reflect on the these things more often throughout the next year. Then what happens? Life happens and sometimes it just gets in the way.

I am thankful for so many things but this year I am especially thankful for my health. For the first six months of this year, I battled various health problems. Culminating in a diagnosis and two surgeries in July. Fortunately, the surgeries cured what was wrong with me and it wasn't anything more serious.

What are you most thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The New Green Bean??

Are brussels sprouts the new green bean? You can't read a food magazine, watch a food show or read a food blog these days without seeing a recipe for brussels sprouts.

I've always liked brussels sprouts, even growing up when they were boiled and didn't have the most appealing fragrance. It's amazing the wonderful toasted flavor, fragrance and color of roasted brussels sprouts. Even my husband, who is a green vegetable convert, likes these. Of course, that may have something to do with the bacon.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

2 (10-ounce) packages Brussels sprouts
2 ounce piece slab bacon cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash and then peel off any loose or damaged leaves from the sprouts. Trim the root end and cut each sprout in half.

Cook the bacon and walnuts in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat until bacon just begins to crisp and walnuts are toasted, about 4 minutes. Transfer the bacon and walnuts with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside. Add the Brussels sprouts to the skillet and season with salt and pepper.

Put the pan in the oven and roast the Brussels sprouts for about 30 minutes, add the bacon and walnuts and continue to roast until the sprouts are cooked through and golden, about 10 to 15 minutes more.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fettuccini Alfredo

One of my favorite dishes from the Culinary Boot Camp cooking classes I took was Fettuccine Alfredo. I've had it on my list of recipes to make for the last several weeks and finally got around to making it. This is one of those dishes that is just sinfully delicious! I've never made it before and was so hoping it would be as delicious as it was in cooking class. Well guess what? It was every bit as delicious. This recipe will be a go to recipe for dinner or entertaining!

Fettuccine Alfredo
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesean-reggiano
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound of fettuccine pasta
Bring the butter and cream to a boil in a heavy bottomed sauce pot, simmer for 1 -2 minutes until slightly thickened. Add the parmesean and grated nutmeg, stir continuosly until cheese is well blended.

Add pasta and coat well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas

I love waffles! This recipe is perfect for Sunday morning breakfast. I've been wanting a new waffle iron. After making this recipe, I am for sure getting a new one. I didn't feel that these waffles came out crispy or golden enough in my waffle iron.

This recipe does require a little more time than most waffle recipes. You make the batter most of the way, the night before. The finishing touches the next morning are quick and easy. The topping for these is heavenly, my favorite part.

The topping for these is h e a v e n l y!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It reminds me of bananas foster, which I love! I cut the waffle recipe in half but made the full recipe of the topping. I am so glad I did, even making the full recipe, I really didn't feel like it was enough topping. I used honey instead of maple syrup. I guess my brown sugar and butter mixture wasn't hot enough? I didn't get the flame when you add the rum. Bummer! I was so looking forward to an intentional flame experience (and Tim was on stand by with the fire extinguisher).

Thanks to Lauren of Fried Pickles and Ice Cream for choosing this recipe. You can find the recipe on her site. Also, you'll find the links to all of the wonderful SMS bakers here!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lemon Lavender Martini

How relaxing is the scent of lavender? I have lavender candles, lavender sheet spray and lavender bubble bath. How about lavender flavored cocktails? This summer we experimented with herbs in cocktails. Although I didn't try it, there is a Lavender Martini is on the menu at The Girl and the Fig. A few weeks ago we made a visit to the Pezney's store. When I was checking out I saw a sign for culinary lavender and decided to purchase it to make lavender simple syrup.

Lavender Syrup

1 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh or dried lavender flowers
2 cups sugar
Bring water and lavender to a boil. Stir in sugar until fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Keep in the refrigerator for 3 days, then fine strain the lavender.

Lemon Lavender Martini

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce lavender simple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist, or a lavender bloom.

I thought this cocktail had too much lavender flavor. I will try it again with more lemon or even cranberry. I think the lavender syrup has lots of possibilities.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Slow Cooker Flank Steak

If you follow my blog, you know my husband love his red meat but me, not so much. Normally we grill flank steak but now that the weather has cooled off, I need some indoor recipes. Since flank steak is a tougher cut of meat, I wondered if I cooked it in the slow cooker how tender it would be.

This steak was so tender and the flavor was melt in your mouth delicious. Yes, the not so much red meat eater loved this steak. And the mushroom gravy was to die for. This recipe is a keeper that I will make again, SOON.

Slowcooker Flank Steak

Adapted from Risa's Flank Steak Recipe

1 pound flank steak
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon beef base
1 cup water
1 tbsp Ketchup
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 lb fresh baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

Preheat a grill pan . When hot, place steak on and cook until you sear it well and you have nice grill marks. Remove and place in crockpot.

In a measuring cup, place beef base and water, add. Mix well. Add wine, soy sauce, garlic, ketchup, mustard and onion. Pour over steak. Cook on low heat for 8 hours or until meat is tender.

Turn to high. Place cornstarch and water in small bowl and whisk well to combine. Add cornstarch mixture to crockpot along with the mushrooms. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

To serve: slice meat in thin strips (against the grain) and serve with sauce over noodles or rice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Indoor Gardening - Week Seven

Week seven and the herbs in the AeroGarden are growing like crazy...well at least some of them are anyway. The basil and parsley are beautiful. The sage looks pretty good, although the leaves seem to curl a little. The mint and chives are another story. The mint is puny and the chives are almost non existent. Maybe they will get a growth sprurt here in the next few weeks?

As the plants start to grow, their water absorbtion increases. You have to keep a close eye on the water levels and replenish twice a week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Charlie's Afternoon Cake

Today we have a bonus creation for Chocolate With Francois. In order to try more of the wonderful recipes in Chocolate With Payard a little sooner, I will be choosing an occasional bonus creation.

Since we're approaching the holidays and because many of the creators also bake Sweet Melissa Sunday's or Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club, both of which have bakes today, this bonus bake needed to be simple. After reading through the book the simplest recipe seemed to be Charlie's Afternoon Cake. And it did not disappoint! What a simple and decadent cake this is!!!

I baked mine in a 8" round pan, instead of a 9" and it still appears to be much flatter than the cake in the cookbook. If you need a quick dessert, made with ingredients you are likely to have on hand, try this cake. Serve it with vanilla bean ice cream or creme fraiche.

Charlie's Afternoon Cake

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces 60% (bittersweet) chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the sides and bottom of a 9 inche round cake pan with vegetable cooking spray. Dust it with flour, shaking off the excess, and set aside.

Bring the butter to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Stir to prevent burning. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate to the pan. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add the flour and mix well. Add the chocolate to the batter and stir until the mixture is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 8 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cook completely in the pan. Unmold, and serve.

Next up for Chocolate With Francois is Flourless Chocolate Cookies!

Candied Sweet Potato Cupcakes- Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club

These cupcakes remind me of the sweet potatoes we had for Thanksgiving dinner when I was a little girl. Lots of marshmallows. Today, I actually prefer my sweet potatoes without marshmallow goo!

I stood in the kitchen for a few minutes trying to decide whether make a half or quarter of this recipe and whether to make mini cupcakes or standard size cupcakes. I just wasn't sure we would like these, so I figured we'd go with one bite mini's. As I was assembling these, I kept thinking...sweet potato??

Boy was I wrong, these are delicious. The sweet potato flavor is mild and the cupcakes are light and airy. YUMMY!!

Trying to brown the marshmallows with my torch, I almost set the kitchen on fire. So as not have to call 911, I decided to try putting the marshmallows under the broiler. All the while I kept thinking how do they stick to the top if you're browning them on top? So ladies, how do they???As I was setting up little trio's of marshmallows, it occurred to me I had a jar of fluff in the cabinet. Flame free and easy.

This month's MSC recipe was chosen by Karen at Karen's Cookies, Cakes and More. Thanks Karen for picking a recipe I would not have tried otherwise!!! You can find the links to all of the other MSC baker's here.

Butter Toffee Crunch - Sweet Melissa Sundays

Considering my sweet tooth, when I read this recipe makes 3 pounds, I decided to cut it in half. Cutting recipes in half always reminds me of grade school...converting fractions. I decided to take advantage of the internet and find a recipe converter. I found a great site that allows you to enter the entire recipe, directions and all and even print it if you like.

Cavities or no cavities, I am so sorry I didn't make the full recipe! This toffee is absolutely delicious and so easy to make. The mixture reached the 290 degree temperature much quicker than I expected. Don't take your eyes off that thermometer or you will overcook it. When you purchase toffee, you see it in those nice little triangle shapes. So how do the candy makers do that? I used the wooden end of my meat mallet and some pieces are nice shapes but others are small crumbles? Maybe the candy makers have eat all the leftovers? Kind of like that one unforgettable I Love Lucy episode?

This recipe would be great for holiday gift giving. Thanks to Kaitlin of Kait's Place for choosing such a wonderful recipe. You can find the recipe on her blog and links to all of the other Sweet Melissa baker's here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pear Crumble Pie

To keep them cool, I've been storing the pears that a co worker gave me in the garage. Due to an unseasonably warm weekend my storage area is a little warm, so I need to use the rest of the ripe pears.

I love crumbles! This recipe is a pie with a crumble topping. This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was Pear & Cranberry Muffins with a Gingersnap Crumble. The crumble was my favorite part of this recipe. Perfect! I can use some of the leftover gingersnaps for the crumble for this pie.

Pear Crumble Pie

6 medium pears, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 9-inch baked pastry shell

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine
12 gingersnap cookies, crushed
Combine flour and spices for crumb topping and cut in butter till crumbly.

Sprinkle pears iwth lemon juice. Mix sugars, flour, cinnamon and lemon peel; stir into sliced pears. Spoon into pastry shell. Sprinkle with Crumble Topping. Bake at 400♂F. for 45 min. or until pears are tender. Serve warm with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At Least One Green Thumb

When I lived in Kansas City, I didn't have anything growing in my house. I always said I didn't have a green thumb. Now when I stop to think about it, I just didn't take the time to have a green thumb. Tim had lots of houseplants and they're such a wonderful addition to a home. Three years ago we traveled to Mexico on a cruise. We fell in love with the beautiful bouganvilla plants we saw while traveling the countryside. That summer we purchased a bouganvilla. Summers in Nebraska can be pretty tropical! Our bouganvilla thrived. Once the temperatures began to cool, we brought it inside and wintered it inside. Much to my surprise, it survived. As the temperatures began to get warm enough, we moved it outside. The second year, we wintered it inside again. That winter it flourished inside. When summer came, we decided it had become a beautiful houseplant and kept it inside.

It goes through spells where it doesn't bloom and looses a few leaves but always comes back. The secret to growing a bouganvilla is the right amount of light, water and feeding. I did a lot of reading about what kind of food to feed it. I ran across an article on using Epsom Salt as plant fertilizer. I decided to give it a try. Once a month, I put two tablespoons of Epsom Salt in a gallon of water and feed all of our houseplants. The bouganvilla seems to really like this food.

I still won't say I am a gardener but I do think I may have one green thumb.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Apricot Chicken

My husband was telling me about an Apricot Chicken dish he remembered having a child. All he could really remember was it had apricot jelly. I decided it probably had apricot preserves. The internet is such a great thing, hard to remember life without it. I did some searching and the recipe that kept coming up was one with just three ingredients, apricot preserves, onion soup and russian dressing. How simple is that? I decided to make it even easier and use my slow cooker. I work full time and the slow cooker is my friend! There's nothing better than coming home and having dinner ready.

Apricot Chicken

1 1/2 cups russian dressing
1 envelope onion soup
1/2 cup apricot preserves
6 pieces of chicken

Combine and pour over chicken. Cook in the slow cooker 8 hours. Remove the chicken from the the slow cooker, strain the sauce and use a fat separator to drain the grease. Whisk together 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water. In a saucepan, combine sauce and cornstarch mixture. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until thickened. Place chicken in serving dish, cover with sauce. Serve over rice.

My notes on this recipe: I thought this was good but a little bland. I want to experiment with the ratio of dressing to preserves. I think the addition of some herbs or spices would help as well.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Indoor Gardening - Week Six

Six weeks have passed since I "planted" the herbs in my AeroGarden. The garden is really starting to take shape.

I am seeing the same pattern with the chives and mint. The chives are very slow in growing and aren't as I would like. The mint leaves are really small. Hopefully they will grow larger as the garden continues to grow.

As with my last herb garden, the basil is the star! I am looking forward to using experimenting with the lemon basil. And of course, there's nothing better than fresh basil when it's cold outside.

Hopefully within the next couple of weeks, I can begin to harvest some of the herbs.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pear and Cranberry Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble - SMS

This recipe couldn't have come at a better time. A co-worker gave me several pears from their backyard tree. They remind me of our backyard apples, lots of spots but beautiful, juicy fruit on the inside.

The Pear and Cranberry Muffins are the same base recipe as the Peach Muffins we made in August. This recipe makes a lovely, moist muffin. I decided to make 6 large muffins instead of the 12 small ones. They took about five minutes longer to bake. I used lemon zest instead of orange zest and rehydrated craisins for the cranberries.

Not being a big gingersnap fan, I was a little concerned about the flavor of the topping. Boy was I wrong, the topping ended up being one of my favorite things about these muffins. I used store bought gingersnaps. Next time I make these, I will use more pears.

Thanks to Jennifer of Maple N' Cornbread for choosing this week's recipe. The recipe can be found on her blog. You can find the links to all of the other Sweet Melissa Sunday's bakers he For links to all of the Sweet Melissa Sunday's bakers here.

Next week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's is Butter Toffee Crunch, a perfect recipe for holiday giving.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Culinary Boot Camp Week 5

Tuesday night was my last Culinary Boot Camp class. It was hands down my favorite class of the series. The chef asked us last week what we wanted to do for tonight's class. We all wanted to make pasta and some type of bread.

We made pasta dough, focaccia bread, alfredo sauce and marinara sauce. We made ravioli's with the pasta dough. The fillings for the pasta were ricotta cheese with basil or chives or butternut squash. (Oh and I did remember the camera BUT the batteries were dead.)

The bread used a Poolish starter. This enababled us to make our focaccia bread during our two hour class time. The alfredo sauce was quick and easy but tasted like you worked on it for hours.
I was sad to see my classes come to an end. After the holidays, I plan to take a few more. The Classy Gourmet offers a wide variety of classes and I would also like to take a Wilton Cake Decorating Class.

In the meantime, you can bet I will be making these recipes. Look for them to be blog topics in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Smoked Gouda Mac n Cheese

One of our new favorite restaurants in town is Ryan's Bistro. It's a warm, intimate bistro not far from our house. Ryan's serves a Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese as a side dish. It is so good. I've been wanting to make homemade mac & cheese and decided to try making it Smoked Gouda.

I was a little nervous since the base for any homemade mac & cheese is a bechamel sauce and I am sometimes sauce challenged! I was pleased with how this mac & cheese turned out. It wasn't quite as flavorful as Ryan's but very good nonetheless.

Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese
Recipe from Emeril Lagasse

6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound ditalini or small elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 pound smoked Gouda cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the water, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the white pepper and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 8 minutes. Remove the white sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese melts. Lightly grease a 6 1/2 by 10-inch casserole dish with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon butter. Combine the cheese sauce and macaroni in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Pour into the prepared casserole and bake until lightly golden on top, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot. Garnish with parsley.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Indoor Gardening - Week Five

My AeroGarden is really beginning to grow. The herbs are taking shape and starting to be recognizable.

At week five, the garden still does not require much water or care. As the garden starts to grow more, it will require pruning and more frequent watering.

I am beginning to start accumulating recipes using my fresh herbs!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

White Chocolate & Orange Cookies - Sweet & Simple Bakes

I have been looking forward to making these cookies all month. I was going to make them last week but ended up with a busier week than I'd anticipated. I did print the recipe and using the internet convert grams to cups. Or so I thought...the site I looked at showed 200 grams as 7/8 cup. As the first cookie sheet was baking, I knew the conversion was oh so wrong!!! My cookies were running all over the cookie sheet. I looked on line again and found another site that said 200 grams is 1 3/4 cup. At the end of the baking time, I let them cook and scraped them off the sheet and into a baggie. I think they'll make a great topping for ice cream. I added more flour and baked the second sheet...better but still runny. On my third attempt, I think I was able to add enough flour but sadly only had enough dough for 6 cookies.

The theme of my last two Sweet & Simple Bakes has been the same, I need to get a scale. I've been looking at them and need to make the purchase, SOON!!! If anyone can recommend a good scale, please let me know!

The flavor of these cookies is amazing! The orange and chocolate are wonderful together! I didn't have any white chocolate and am not a white chocolate fan, so I substituted milk chocolate.

You can find all of the other Sweet & Simple bakers and the recipe here!

French Onion Soup - Recipes to Rival (RTR)

I am thrilled to be joining a savory blogging group, Recipes to Rival. Recipes to Rival is going to help motivate me to achieve one of my goals in blogging, to create recipes I wouldn't normally make or recipes that challenge my cooking abilitites. This month's Recipe to Rival was chosen by Sara at Thanks Sara for choosing such a great recipe!

I have never made French Onion Soup. I was excited to make this recipe, especially when I read the recipe is Thomas Keller's. French Onion Soup is one of those soups that just says comfort and warmth. The creamy cheese on the top adds that distinctive onion soup texture.

Because it's just the two of us, I decided to make a half recipe. I have always cooked on an electric stove. This recipe is a recipe made for a gas stove. I had trouble getting the temperature just right for browning the onions. In between medium low and low seemed to give it the right sizzling temperature. My onions browned beautifully, although they only took about 2 1/2 hours. They cooked down quite a bit. When they were done, I wondered if I would have enough onions. As it turned out, I had the perfect amount. I didn't make the homemade beef stock, I used store bought stock and water.

I don't own soup crocks, so I used the only dishes I could find that were suitable and oven safe. Although my picture doesn't look it, this soup was delicious. I made the soup on Sunday and finished it for a simple Thursday night supper. I used Conte cheese which was a wonderful compliment to the onion flavor of this soup. I didn't find this recipe particularly difficult, you just have to make sure you have the time and the patience to stir the onions. We both thought the soup was delicious. I will make this soup again (after I get some soup tureens).

Onion Soup - Soupe A L'Oignon
Thomas Keller - Bouchon
makes 6 servings

2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
6 large sprigs of thyme

8 pounds (about 8 large) yellow onions
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons all purpose flour
3 1/2 quarts Beef Stock (recipe below)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sherry wine vinegar

1 baguette (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt

6 to 12 slices (1/8 inch thick) aged Comte or Emmentaler cheese (at least 4 inches square)
1 1/2 cups grated aged Comte or Emmentaler cheeses, or a combination

The more basic the soup, the more critical the details: Slice the onions uniformly and brown them very slowly and evenly; slice the bread a half inch thick and dry it completely in the oven; and serve the soup in appropriately sized bowls so that the melted cheese extends over the rim. When you hit it right, there's nothing more satisfying to cook or to eat than this soup.

It's worth reiterating the importance of cooking the onions slowly so that the natural sugars caramelize rather than brown through high heating sautéing. The onions cook for about five hours and need to be stirred often, but they can be made up to two days ahead. The soup is best if refrigerated for a day or two so that the flavors of the onion and beef broth can deepen.

Comte is traditionally the cheese of choice, but Emmentaler works as well. Gruyère is a bit strong. Use an aged cheese; a younger cheese would just melt and wouldn't form a crust.

FOR THE SACHET: Cut a piece of cheesecloth about 7 inches square. Place the bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme in the center, bring up the edges, and tie with kitchen twine to form a sachet.

FOR THE SOUP: Cut off the tops and bottoms of the onions, then cut the onions lengthwise in half. Remove the peels and tough outer layers. Cut a V wedge in each one to remove the core and pull out any solid, flat pieces of onion running up from the core.

Lay an onion half cut side down on a cutting board with the root end toward you. Note that there are lines on the outside of the onion. Cutting on the lines (with the grain) rather than against them will help the onions soften. Holding the knife on an angle, almost parallel to the board, cut the onion lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Once you've cut past the center of the onion, the knife angle will become awkward: Flip the onion onto its side, toward the knife, and finish slicing it, again along the grain. Separate the slices of onion, trimming away any root sections that are still attached and holding the slices together. Repeat with the remaining onions. (You should have about 7 quarts of onions)

Melt the butter in a large heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and 1 tablespoon salt, reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring every 15 minutes and regulating the heat to keep the mixture bubbling gently, for about 1 hour, or until the onions have wilted and released a lot of liquid. At this point, you can turn up the heat slightly to reduce the liquid, but it is important to continue to cook the onions slowly to develop maximum flavor and keep them from scorching. Continue to stir the onions every 15 minutes, being sure to scrape the bottom and get in the corners of the pot, for about 4 hours more, or until the onions are caramelized throughout and a rich deep brown. Keep a closer eye on the onions toward the end of the cooking when the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat. (You will need 1 1/2 cups of onions for the soup; reserve any extra for another use. The onions can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.)

Transfer the caramelized onions to a 5 quart pot (if they've been refrigerated, reheat until hot.) Sift in the flour and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef stock and sachet, bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the liquid is reduced to 2 1/2 quarts. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a few drops of vinegar. Remove from the heat.

FOR THE CROUTONS: Preheat the broiler. Cut twelve 3/8 inch thick slices from the baguette (reserve the remainder for another use) and place on a baking sheet. Brush the bread lightly on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place under the broiler and toast the first side until golden brown, then turn and brown the second side. Set aside and leave the broiler on.

TO COMPLETE: Return the soup to a simmer. Place six flameproof soup tureens, with about 1 1/2 cups capacity on a baking sheet to catch any spills (the soup will bubble up and over the tureens). Add the hot soup to the tureens, filling them within 1/2 inch of the tops. Top each serving with 2 croutons: Lay them on the surface - do not push them into the soup. Lay the slices of cheese over the croutons so that the cheese overlaps the edges of the tureens by about 1/2 inch, Scatter the grated cheese over the sliced cheese, filling in any areas where the sliced cheese is thiner, or it may melt into the soup rather than forming a crust.

Place the tureens under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese bubbles, browns, and forms a thick crust. Eat carefully, the soup and tureens will be very hot.