Pink Lady Cake

Pink Lady Cake

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pecan Sans Rival with Salted Browned Butter Buttercream and Fresh Cranberry Orange Filling-November Daring Bakers

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

So that was this month's challenge-I only got to the Sans Rival, though I would have liked to try the Bibingka, which is naturally gluten-free.  You can find the recipe on the Daring Bakers website if you would like to try it.

The Sans Rival is made up of four layers of meringue, into which ground cashews are folded.  The meringue is baked and layered with a buttercream made of egg yolks and sugar syrup.  When I first recieved the recipe, what I found most interesting was that you could make whatever alterations you wanted.  I had been looking forward to a challenge like this, where there are so many options. 

Yet I ran out of time-or nearly, and realized that I still had to complete the challenge just last night! I knew the meringue would be easy enough, but I hadn't made a frosting with egg-yolks and sugar syrup before.  Just as well, I knew for a fact that I wanted to make some interesting alterations to it-so that might make it a bit more complicated.

The one thing I was pretty focussed on to change would be leaving the butter as it was.  I wanted to brown salted butter and then turn it back into a solid that could be absorbed by the eggs.  It actually worked!  But the frosting was quite salty.  I added in some honey, and it balanced right out. 

I added pecans to the meringue, and to go with the caramel notes in the frosting, I used half brown sugar in the meringue in place of granulated sugar.  With the meringue, I shaped the layers into squares, just because I didn't have 4 round cake pans. 

When it came time to frost the meringue, I remembered that many other Bakers had said the cake was too rich, adn with 2 1/2 sticks of butter in the frosting, I could see how this would be the case!  So I only used about half of the frosting-spreading it in very thin layers.  But even with thin layers, I feared that the salty-sweet frosting would overpower the whole thing.  The only thing that I thought would cut it would be some of the cranberry-orange relish from the last post.  I had made so much that we still had quite a bit left.  I put a little atop the frosting under each layer-and voila! It was done!

I didn't try it until today, but I think it improves by sitting as the flavors meld and the cranberries moisten the meringue layers just slightly.  You should really try this recipe and make you own adaptations to it, it's really a great recipe!

• Brushing the parchment paper with some oil will help you to peel it off after the dacquoise is baked.
• Do not grind the nuts down to a fine flour/powder. This recipe is better with the nuts in a grainy/sandy grind.
• It is important to peel off the parchment within a couple of minutes of it coming out of the oven. Certainly while it is still warm.
• After I’ve removed the paper, I like to return it into the warm oven to dry out more as the oven is cooling down. You want crunchy layers.

Preparation time:
Batter prep: 20 minutes
Baking: 30-60 depending on layers
Frosting: 30 minutes
Assembly: 15 minutes
Equipment required:
• Parchment paper
• 2-4 9 inch (23 cm) cake pans – you’ll be making 4 layers, so you might have to reuse pans
• Whisk
• Spatula
• Candy thermometer
• Mixer, hand or upright

Sans Rival:
Servings: 12
Photos shown are chocolate version, which is not traditional.
10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) cream of tartar
¼ cup (60 ml) (20 gm) (2/3 oz) Dutch processed cocoa (optional and not traditional)
2 cups (480 ml) (240 gm) (8½ oz) chopped, toasted cashews

Note: You will need four layers which will mean that you might have to bake in two batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.
1. Preheat oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well.
3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 mins.)
4. Fold in nuts, reserving enough to use for decoration.
 5. Divide meringue into four equal parts. Spread in pans, evenly to edges. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.
7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

French Buttercream:
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1¼ cup (300 ml) (2½ sticks) (285 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
Optional Flavorings: 2 oz (55 gm) unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) almond extract, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) vanilla extract, or any flavor you like
1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235°F/112°C (or thread stage).
3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins). Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring after you beat in the butter. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.
Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.

Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a
thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of
buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and
sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is easier to cut cold. May freeze.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Angel Biscuits, Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish-Thanksgiving Part 2

Of all things, I sure didn't guess this.  We had, in effect, too much food.

I should have figured that out of course, seeing as we had to take two cars to bring all the food and make multiple trips, each of us, in order to get it all inside.  It had begun to stockpile in the mudroom we we using as an icebox.

Yup, so now we've returned, almost painfully full, and have a whole other feast to be comsumed, made up of all the leftovers.  I guess I overdid it, just a litle bit.  What I realized though was that this Thanksgiving wasn't so much about the food, but it was about seeing whether or not I could do this in a manner that most would describe as sane.

And I did.  Generally, all was done in a pretty sane manner.  This is the first year that I have actually done this and I truthfully feel quite happy about it! 

Something that I think kind of sums up these last two days is last night, when my mom told me that she had forgotten to get gluten-free rolls and I had to make them.  Along with the who-knows-how-many pounds of potatoes that filled up this whole pot:

Yup, I was baking gluten-free rolls from some unknown's blog last night at eleven, and guess what?  They were some pretty great rolls.  In essence, this experience has shown me that things don't HAVE to go wrong just by the nature of the game.  If you are calm and try to approach things happily, it will work, it just will. 

Now I'm posting these two recipes together because they are on our table for similar reasons.  The Angel Biscuits are a staple at Thanksgiving on my mother's side.  My grandmother has made them for as long as I can remember, and because she is from South Carolina, loves to eat them with ham, which we, when at her house, have for Thanksgiving.  I baked the biscuits this morning, after having made them the night before.  The recipe calls for all shortening, but, as I can't stand the thought of that much shortening sitting in my arteries for the rest of eternity, substitute in half butter.  Some would argue this is no better...

I'm proud to say that they tasted much like the ones Nana makes with the perfect texture and taste.  I am quite happy.

Now the relish isn't such an old recipe, though it comes from the same cookbook author.  My grandmother found it about 10 years ago and has been making it for Thanksgiving ever since.  It is the simplest recipe ever and can be eaten with so many things.  This time the color was very pronounced, perhaps because I had frozen the berries the night before and then let it sit for a day after having processed everything together.   Perhaps the maceration of the cranberries in the sugar made them extra bright.  Whatever it was, they were beautiful and scrumptious.

Batch One of Frozen Bicuits

Last batch all done

The second batch cooling

That's all for now folks...tomorrow will be the flourless chocolate cake or maybe the three pounds of mint and shallot peas that I made.  Or maybe the potatoes...Oh how I love Thanksgiving!

Keep Cooking--The Maine Way (Marjorie Standish, 1973)
1 envelope dry yeast (I think that's one tablespoon...)
2 tablespoons lukewarm water
5 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening (I use half butter and half shortening)
2 cups buttermilk
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. Cut shortening into dry ingredients. Add buttermilk and dissolved yeast and mix well. Turn onto floured board, knead 2 or 3 times, roll to desired thickness. Cut into biscuits, dip into melted butter (I just brush with butter). Fold over like Parker House rolls or place flat biscuits in greased pan.
Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes. Recipe makes 3 dozen regular size biscuits.
Adpated from Cooking Down East (Marjorie Standish)
2 cups Fresh Cranberries
1 whole orange (I use large navel oranges)
3/4 cup sugar
Process the orange in its entirety in a food processor.  Process the cranberries until finely chopped.  Mix together the orange and cranberries and add sugar.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pumpkin Pie with Gluten-Free Gingersnap Crust-Thanksgiving Part 1

And here it begins.  It is the day before Thanksgiving and as always, this entails a lot of cooking.  On the agenda for today are: pumpkin pie, cranberry relish, angel biscuits (to be frozen), and a gluten-free cake (as it is also my grandmother's 70th birthday tomorrow).  The really amazing mashed potatoes are tomorrow, along with the mint peas, baking the rolls, making brussels sprout salad, and deviled eggs.  To give you an idea of the size of this feast, this is just our family's contribution.  There will be 19 of us at my grandmother's house tomorrow.  I am VERY excited.

Now you may ask, why are you doing this?  The answer is simple: all of these things are quite necessary for it to really seem like Thanksgiving.  For this reason, almost all recipes should follow for a few days. 

At the moment though, I have cooked nothing, though plan to do pumpkin pie soon.  We are getting a good bit of snow up here in Maine and I do not have much sugar, we left our pie plate at church, and we need a few more eggs, so I'm waiting.  Soon enough, there will be pie.  Soon enough.

....And now I have made the pie, the flourless chocolate cake, frozen the biscuits, and made ALL of the relish (an amount that surpasses even the greatest imagination).  But the pie is today.  I shall tell you about that first.

So, I made this Silky Pumpkin Pie recipe from Cook's Illustrated last year and I loved it, everyone loed it, in fact.  You must cook down the pumpkin first, in order to concentrate the flavor, and, well, it just helps.  I can't remember the exact effects because I didn't actually use the original recipe from the magazine which has the full explanation, but got it off Smitten Kitchen.  Yes, I somehow or other lost the November/December 2008 issue.  I THINK I might have sent it to my grandmother to use, but I'm not so sure. 

Our yard during the storm

The pie looks great, no cracks, and smells divine.  This is because of the cooking method, which ensures zero curdling.  What I would like to mention is that though the pie may seem very jiggly by the end of the cooking time, it does cook with residual heat.  So, follow the times specified.

Our snowy street

Now the one thing I changed from last year was I actually pressed the filling through a strainer.  I didn't think it would change much last year, but it turns out there is quite a bit that can be removed.  So, do also follow this piece of advice.

Last but not least, I didn't use candied yams, and I didn't last year, because we just can't get them here.  Instead I added another cup of pumpkin to replace amount of yams I would have needed.  It seems to have worked, we'll see by tomorrow!

Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie with Gluten-Free Gingersnap Crust
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adpated it from Cook’s Illustrated, November & December 2008

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (Like SK, I just used 2 cups half and half)
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (I think an extra cup pumpkin works fine instead)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

1 bag Pamela's gluten-free gingersnaps
3 tablespoons butter (melted)

Crust:  Crush gingersnaps until fine.  Mix with melted butter and press into 9-inch pie plate with the bottom of a ramekin.  Cook at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.

Filling: Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams (or more pumpkin), sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams (or not) against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Re-whisk mixture and transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until edges are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. (The pie finishes cooking with residual heat; to ensure the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pineapple Salsa

I'm not sure why I decided to make something with pineapple, it not being all too seasonal. I really wanted to work on the Daring Cooks challenge, in which you must infuse a savory recipe with tea, but I just ran out of time.  This is the last one I can skip for the year, so, well, hopefully you'll be seeing some recipes for Daring Cooks in coming months. 

I am working on my Daring Bakers challenge though.  I'm trying to devise some interesting flavor combinations.  Something unique and vibrant and just great!  Yet of course I can't tell you what this is to be it's a bit difficult for you to come up with flavor combinations. 

But today I made pineapple salsa from Saveur.  I made a few changes by using a full pineapple instead of just one cup.  I didn't change the proportion of  the other ingredients to the pineapple, except for doubling the sugar and increasing the salt.  I didn't really want a salsa, I wanted a more interesting way to serve pineapple with other things; more like a salad.

Now, I was hoping for a Thanksgiving test recipe today.  Turned out that wasn't to be.  It's okay.  Tomorrow perhaps?  We'll see, or maybe I'll just be spending all of next Wednesday thinking and planning because it may be the only time for it!

Salsa de Pina Picante
From Saveur Issue #40

MAKES ABOUT 1 1/3 CUPS1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 jalapeƱos, stemmed and minced
1/2 small red onion, minced (I just used white onion)

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients; serve at room temperature.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Roasted Broccoli with Raisin (Craisin) Vinaigrette

This weekend has kind of been one of failures, or at least I should say the weekend of very unphotogenic food.  For instance, take my broccoli swiss quiche for church.  It was very good, but the lighting at 8 o'clock at night was terrible and I could just never get my who-knows-how-many-cups of broccoli florets to look right.  Plus, it was for church, and though I got to try it the next day, I didn't have my camera with which to take better pictures of it when plated.

The other endeavor this weekend was a little more comical.  My eight-year-old brother had been pining for me to make him something that was sweet and gluten-free, in other words, cupcakes, preferably chocolate.  Yet because I had made the quiche the day before and we only had egg yolks left over, I had to use something I rarely employ: dehydrated egg whites.  And, the cupcakes had to be gluten-free and dairy-free.  Out went whole milk, in went soy milk.  Out went butter, in went canola oil.  As these changes were being made I kept thinking that, well, these could be so much more interesting, and I really didn't see how this Ghirardelli Chocolate cookbook recipe was going to be that chocolatey.  So, instead of stirring the cocoa in with the dry ingredients, I mixed it with the hot espresso, and added another tablespoon of dutch-processed cocoa powder.  Lastly, I decided that these were just going to be too boring, and added 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the cocoa/espresso mixture, and into the oven they went.  Now, they taste great, but for whatever reason they kind of collapsed, or at least a few of them did, right out of the oven.  This may have been because I didn't cook them for quite the amount of time stated.  It might have been because I tried to sour the soymilk, because I was afraid the dutched cocoa wouldn't be quite acidic enough, overactivating the soda, causing a profusion of bubbles, and a collapse...I don't know....Anyways, that is what happened.  I also decided there would be no frosting (trying to be health concious, or somewhat as I prepare for Thanksgiving when all hope will be lost) which might have diguised the craters in the top. 

Yet despite all of this, they taste positively divine.  I am truthfully just too tired to type up the recipe, and would much rather get on to something that is not sweet, not boring, and not too hideous.  Today I decided to make a salad I found through Bon Appetit.  It sounded interesting and it just so happened that I had quite a few broccoli florets left over from the quiche.  Now, originally, raisins are used in the dressing, but one review written of the recipe said that craisins worked well.  As I prefer them over raisins, I tried them, and they work quite well.  Now, I do think that perhaps there is a bit much dressing. I am fine with it, but I think this is a personal preference thing.  I added some carrots to it in order to fill in for not having quite enough broccoli and they also seem to work well.

Over the next week, I am hoping to not get too much homework so that I can begin testing out candidates for new Thanksgiving recipes.  Will this happen?  I'm not so sure.  I do have quite a few recipes to try out though, so the less homework the better!

Roasted Broccoli With Raisin (or Craisin) Vinaigrette
Changes noted on the Febrauary 2008 Bon Appetit Recipe

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, stems removed, tops cut into large florets
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (I used a little less, maybe 2 tablespoons for roasting)
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1/2 cup raisins (or Craisins)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 carrots-quartered vertically and each piece cut into 2 inch pieces
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place broccoli on large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 (2) tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast broccoli until tender and brown in spots (I would say to roast covered with tinfoil for maybe 20-25 minutes-depending on floret size), about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, raisins, 1 tablespoon water, and cumin in blender. Blend until raisins are finely chopped, about 30 seconds. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer broccoli to large bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nana's Molasses Cookies and A Day of Being Dead

Well here we are, back again.  Quite a bit did happen this week, which deterred me from cooking, but the main reason for my lack of blogging was what happened last weekend.  You might say that it was similar to the croissant fiasco of March.  Would you like to hear the story?  Here it is...

So last Friday things were going well.  I knew I didn't have much homework and believed the weekend would be great.  It was quite wonderful until Sunday afternoon.  On Thursday, my Spanish teacher had assigned us a project about El Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead.  We got into groups and had to choose a dead person to build an altar for.  We were doing Steve Irwin.  First problem with this was that I volunteered to make the food for the altar, and Steve Irwin doesn't like simple things, he likes Chinese food.  Now, I couldn't just buy Chinese food, and if I made it I was pretty sure no one would eat it if I made it, seeing as Spanish is right after lunch.  I was still undecided about what I was doing on Sunday afternoon about his favorite food. 

AND, even though I didn't know what food I would be making for him, I had still convinced myself that I had time to make Pan de Muertos for the altar as well.  On Sunday we had to go to my brother's cross country meet, you see.  We were supposed to have arrived back from the meet by 1:30.  We got back at 4:30.  Yet I still wanted to make Pan de Muertos, which takes, I don't know, like five hours to rise! and some strange food that I hadn't yet figured out?  Why?  I don't really know. 

Soo, I began the bread and set it to rising.  Then I raced around the house trying figure out what some authentic Australian recipes were.  After realizing Pavolva wouldn't work because of the whipped cream, and friands wouldn't work because we didn't have the right pan, I lit upon Lamingtons.  They sounded like they would be pleasing, yet I did have doubts from the beginning.  They are made of yellow cake, sliced horizontally and filled with whipped cream.  The cake is then cut up into squares and dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in coconut.

My mom went out to get a few ingredients while I busied myself reading "The Old Man and the Sea," my only homework that weekend for school.  The starter finished rising and I made the dough and set it bak to rise.  When mom got home I made the cake for the Lamingtons, put the cream in the middle and cut them up to dip. 

Guess what?  Cream doesn't hold cake together.  You cannot put ceam in hot icing.  Neither can you put it in cold, hard icing.  Lamingtons sure taste good, if you don't might that they look like hairy lumps.  I mean, the cake recipe was divine, but let's just say that making Lamingtons at whatever hour it was it that point, sure didn't work.  I gave up after eight of them.

The bread finally got done at aout 11.  I decided once I got to school that it would just be for show though, because I had read a different recipe afterwords that called for a much longer cooking time, and the center to my bread still was pretty much dough.  I'm quite glad we kept it.  Turns out the inside was dough.  It was REALLY good dough though.  That much butter, and sugar and egg yolks made it a lot like king cake. 

Oh yeah, and the best part to all of this was when I got to school on Monday I learned we were having a surprise pep rally that afternoon, when Spanish would have been.  So much for all of the cooking.  We ate the Lamingtons in class on Tuesday instead.  I decided I shouldn't bother trying them-too many bad memories.

So, the lesson to be learned is this.  Do not bite off more than you can chew, and only make things for schol that you have made before!  Next time, the class will be getting cream puffs...even if they have little to do with Australia.

The Pan de Muertos

Now onto today.  Tomorrow is the church Bazaar.  I promised that I would make some gluten-free cookies and that's what I did.  This recipe made about 3 dozen, though this probably would have been close to four if you counted the ones that burned and the ones we ate ourselves.  It's a very good recipe that my Grandmother makes.  I really prefer the gluten ones as they are much more substantial than the gluten-free ones.  The gluten free cookies are much crisper and thinner than the gluten ones.  The taste is just the same though, and they taste quite good. Try them!  Recipe is below:

Best Maine Molasses Cookies
Makes about 3 or 4 dozen

2 3/4 cup flour (I used a combination of Bob's Red Mill flour and King Arthur gluten-free flour mixes.  I also added 3/4 tsp. xantham gum)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses

In a small bowl, measure flour, soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.  In a large bowl, measure the sugar and egs, and beat until creamy.  Add oil and molasses, and mix well.  Add the flour mixture graduallyto the wet mixture, nad mix well.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.  Shape into small balls and coat with sugar.  Place balls onto greased cookie sheet or sheet covered in parchment paper, and flatten into a circle with a tumbler bottom.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes (When I made these gluten-free I found the best way to cook them was on the very top rack for about 10 minutes)  Remove to a baking sheet to cool.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing and Maple-Glazed Pecans

Here's a story for you.  Two days ago my parents decided that we were finally going to get back to having friends over for dinner and called up a family whose children are the same ages as my brothers and live right in the neighborhood.  Well, I thought to myself, what an opportunity for blog recipes.  Little did I know that my parents had already set down a hard and fast line about what we were going to make.  It would be lemon risotto and salmon, no more questions.  But of course, I needed to do something a little bit different.  Salmon and lemon risotto are basically the two things I make all the time. 

So I was flipping through some old Bon Appetit magazines and found this wonderful slaw that was on a Thanksgiving menu for 2009.  The family that was coming liked brussel sprouts, we liked brussels sprouts, it was November, coming on Thanksgiving.  It was perfect, and tangy and would pair well with rich risotto. 

My dad went out and bought everything.  The dinner was to be at six.  He returned from the store at about quarter to five.  Good, I thought, I have time.  I started sauteeing onions and the pecans were almost done when...the power went out.  Just on our street, and not even all of the houses.  There was no wind, rain, snow, ice, anything.  It just so happened that one of the transformers malfunctioned on the one day we happened to be having friends over for dinner.

Well, we called them on my mom's cell-phone and told them that they should wait a bit, because we had no power.  Then we gave up.  We told them they could come over and have olives, chips and salsa and we could talk while we waited for the power so we could cook.  We lit a whole bunch of candles and waited.  Eventually they came back on, but we finally ate at 8:30.  Here it is, 10:30 and my eight-year-old brother is still up reading.

Despite being delayed a bit, this slaw was still great.  I really needed a good vegetable recipe for this blog, and found the recipe to be perfect.  I adpated it a bit partly by instead of chopping the brussels in a food processor to doing it by hand as I was afraid that they would just turn to mush. Anyways, here's the adapted recipe:

Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing and Maple-Glazed Pecans
Adapted from Bon Appetit-November 2009

8 Servings

1 cup large pecan halves
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing foil
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place pecans on small rimmed baking sheet.  Grease large sheet of foil lightly with canola oil.  Whisk maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in small bowl.  Add to nuts and toss to coat; spread in single layer.  Bake nuts 5 minutes, stir.  Continue to bake nuts until toasted and glaze is bubbling thickly, about 6 minutes.  Immediately transfer nuts to prepared foil and separate.  Cool completely.  Do ahead:  Can be made 2 days ahead.  Store airtight.

Whisk mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar in a small bowl; whisk in oil.  Seaon with pepper.

Bring large pot of water to boil.  Add brussels sprouts.  Cook until crisp-tender and still bright green, about 5 minutes.  Drain; rinse with cool water.  Cool on paper towels.

After sprouts are cool, chop into thin slices.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Do ahead: Dressing and brussels sprouts can be made one day ahead.  Cover separately; chill.

Toss brussesls sprouts with enough dressing to coat.  Let marinate 30 to 60 minutes (I only did this for about 15 minutes).  Mix in pecans.  Place slaw in serving bowl.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Julia Child's Onion Soup

I never realized quite how wonderful carmelized onions are until I made this.  I could have eaten all 5 onions by themselves, no soup at all, after they had cooked down for forty minutes into a browned, buttery mass which was just sooo good.  I mean, I did have to have at least a few.

Julia Child is a wonderful cook and no matter what anyone else thinks, I will always love her recipes.  This soup has very few ingredients and is still divine.  It's all technique and cooking times with her. 

Now it did snow today, but not as much as I had hoped.  I fear its rapid departure.  I am also reading at this moment "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame", or, as it is really called "Notre-Dame De Paris."  Actually, I have been reading it for about two months now.  I am only on page 309.  It is one of my favorite books thus far, yet I never can seem to focus on it for longer than a couple of hours.  And these little sessions of a few hours are few and far between with everything else going on.  And sometimes, I would just rather read my brother's books, him being in 5th grade, for their simple plot and dialogue.  You can skim them, and their plot is just fulfilling enough that you continue to read them night after night even if you kinda guessed the ending from page three.

Well, I came back to Notre-Dame de Paris today because I was making the soup and was in the mood for all things French.  Thus today has been quite fulfilling, all holed up here with the snow and my French soup and books.  I am enjoying my few moments of faux winter.

Onion Soup (Soupe a L'Oignon)
Mastering the Art of French Cooking-Volume 1

The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, than a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew.  You should therefore count on 2 1/2 hours at least from start to finish.  Though the preliminary cooking in butter requires some watching, the actual simmering can proceed almost unattended.

For 6 to 8 Servings

1 1/2 lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions                
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
A heavy bottomed, 4-quart saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.

1 tsp. salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar (helps the onions to brown)

Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.

3 Tb flour (I used King Arthur Gluten-Free flour mix)

Sprinkle in flour and stir 3 minutes.

2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon(I used the last combination, but with vegetable broth)
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occaisionally.  Correct seasoning.  (*)  Set aside uncovered until ready to serve and then reheat to a simmer.

3 Tb cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread (see recipe following)
1 to 2 cups grated swiss or parmesan cheese

Just before serving, stir in the cognac.  Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the rounds of bread and pass the cheese separately.

Garnishings for Onion Soup
Croutes-hard-toasted French bread

12 to 16 slices French bread cut 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick

Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 1/2 an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.

Olive oil or beef drippings (I never quite got on the bandwagon with the beef dripping thing-I would advise you take the same route)
A cut clove of garlic

Halfway through baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil or beef dripping; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed iwth cut garlic.

Croute au Fromage-cheese croutes

Grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
Olive oil or beef drippings

Spread one side of each croute with grated cheese and sprinkle with drops of olive oil or beef drippings.  Brown under a hot broiler before serving.

Sugar Cookies

Here it is, the end of October, about to snow, and I'm finally getting in some recipes.  Did you hear that though?  About to snow?   Yes, it is true.  It is going to snow before Halloween.  This is both unexpected and very wonderful!  I love snow, and am hoping to appreciate it before swim season starts.  During swim season, I often feel like I don't have enough energy or time to get around to looking at and enjoying the pillowing soft snow.  On the snow days I spend most of my time wishing that we don't have practice.  Anways, if the snow comes now though, and stays...please, please, please...I will be able to enjoy it for a full MONTH!

Not that this has anything to do with sugar cookies. 

So, I made these cookies because I had to go to a church function, per se.  My mom had made them last year for the same function because though I had wanted to to, I had known I wouldn't have the time.  Yet this year, because they had been so good, I had to make them myself.  Guess what?  They were perfect again!  Cook's Illustrated never fails!  Never! 

Well, actually, the recipes have been known to fail a few times.  These times only happened though because, welll, I took the liberty to change a few ingredients.  Good things come to those who wait, you know?  Well, turns out I'm just a bit too impatient and often can't wait to get one or two of the primary ingredients. 

But, if you actually follow the recipe, things turn out just fine, or, much better than fine, like these cookies!  They are crisp on the edges but soft and chewy in the center.  They are sweet but the flavor is rounded out by the addition of cream cheese. Just as well, they are easy, like the cupcakes, and require only a few small steps before you can put them in the oven to bake a few minutes.  Please try them, and, when you do, please comment on my blog!  In fact, comment on all the recipes, all the time, whether or not you've tried them! It would be hugely appreciated!

Chewy Sugar Cookies
Cook's Illustrated-November/December 2010

Makes 2 Dozen Cookies

Note:  The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough.  For the best results, handle the dough as briefly and as gently as possible when shaping the cookies. Overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces)  unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3  cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Adjust oven to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
2.  Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl.  Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside.  Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but smooth out later).  Whisk in oil until incorporated.   Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.
3.  Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use # 40 portion scoop).  Using hands, roll dough into balls.  Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet.   Using bottom of drinking glass, flattten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle tops with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray) , discarding any remaining sugar.
4.  Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes.   Cool cookies on baking sheet five minutes.   Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Portugese Fish Stew

Well, this is actually my second post for today, as I am typing this on Thursday and will be posting it tomorrow, when you will come to read it.  Yesterday, my mom told me that I absolutely had to make this fish stew recipe that she had found through NPR.  She said that it just sounded so good, and wasn't a soup that was laden down with cream, or really complicated.  It sounded nice.

Now, I went to the NPR website to look for the recipe, and I found it quite easily.  The recipe relies on two key components: The HUGE amount of fish, and the spice paste.  I mean huge when I say it.  There are four pounds of fish in this soup.  That's $20 worth of fish!  Now, my mom went out and bought it, and we cooked it all, but really, I think 2 pounds would have been better.  I feel a little too fishy right now. 

Despite the absurd amount of fish, probably because Portugal is on the ocean and has to make up recipes to use all of the fish, the broth is really the crowning glory.  In order to make it, you poach all of the fish in the 4 cups or so of water, with a few onions, parsley, and olive oil.  That liquid, after the fish is removed, is used as the base for a spice paste that includes....wait...7 cloves of garlic!  Now, of course, when I saw this in the recipe I already knew that it would be good.  Anything with this much garlic has to be. 

So, yeah.  Everything worked out well with this soup.  It's not too fishy like some, and it has its own unique blend of flavors, especially because of the 1/4 cup of wine vinegar which brightens everything.  I would advise you to make it, even if you don't really like fish soup.  I didn't think I did until I tried this one. 

Exerpt from NPR Article:  This recipe adapted from Ana Patuleia Ortins' Portuguese Homestyle Cooking (Interlink 2003) is one of the first recipes I fell in love with as a new cookbook reviewer. I still remember the moment the brick-red seasoning paste dissolved into the stew and its aroma filled the house. It is an ample recipe, so sometimes I halve the amount of fish. When I do, I still use the full measure of the seasonings, as I find them irresistible. I can never find the pickled Portuguese chili peppers, but they are there principally for their heat, and the author has said they can be used interchangeably with other dried, fresh or liquid capsicums.

Recipe from:
T. Susan Chang for NPR

Makes 6 to 8 servings
4 pounds any thick cuts of white fish (halibut, hake, pollock or cod), cut into 1-inch-thick steaks or thick serving-sized fillets(I would use only 2 pounds)
1 quart water or enough to barely cover the fish
3 sprigs parsley
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bottom of an 8-quart pot, layer the fish and pour in enough cold water to barely cover it. Add the parsley, onions, bay leaves, salt and olive oil.
Cover tightly, place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the fish is opaque, about 20 minutes.

Seasoning Paste

7 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed or 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 pickled chili peppers, each about 1 inch long, finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon ground safflower* or paprika
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar

Using a large mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the salt, forming a paste.
Mash in the cumin, parsley, chili peppers and safflower. Stir in the tomato paste, sugar and nutmeg. Drizzle in the olive oil followed by the vinegar. (If you do not have a mortar and pestle or yours is not large enough, make the paste in a medium bowl using the back of a spoon or a fork.) Stir to blend the ingredients well.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked fish to a serving dish. Cover and keep warm. Whisk the seasoning paste into the fish broth, making sure it is well dispersed. Simmer about 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Ladle some of the seasoned broth over the fish and serve remaining broth on the side. Or place generous pieces of fish in individual soup plates and spoon the broth over it. Serve with plenty of bread to dip in the broth.
*Portuguese ground safflower can be found in Latino markets and some supermarkets.