Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers: Tuiles


This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.


Our hosts tell us: "traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are gently molded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they're named. In Holland traditionally this batter was used to bake flat round cookies on 31st December, representing the year unfold. On New Years day however, the same batter was used but this day they were presented to well-wishers shaped as cigars and filled with whipped cream, symbolizing the New Year that's about to roll on. "

I made the regular tuiles, and served them up with my Zesty Pomegranate Sorbet to celebrate the engagement of my friends Amanda and Steve.

They turned out pretty well, after a few practice tuiles went in my mouth.  You really can only make a few at a time, since they need to be moved immediately to be shaped (I used a glass).  I found a nonstick cookie sheet sprayed with PAM worked better then parchment. 



Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Recipe:
Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chocolate Chunk Pecan Cookies


I came home from work one day and felt the need to bake.  Sometimes following directions, stirring, adding, and creating can empty your mind and be calmingly therapeutic. I had been wanting to make a recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey since I had picked it up last fall, and a rummage through my cabinet in search of something I had lost yielded a forgotten bag of chocolate chunks.  This recipe looked perfect- one bowl easy, and included chocolate and pecans, two of my favorites.  These are big, substantial cookies that look beautiful and taste divine. 

The Best One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk-Pecan Cookies
from Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

2 cups pecan halves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans on large baking sheet and toast in oven until they are warm and fragrant, 6 to 9 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cool completely.

Place the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave uncovered on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until completely melted. Using a large wooden spoon, stir both sugars into the melted butter. When combined, add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Stir until smooth. Stir the flour, baking soda, and baking powder into the batter just until incorporated and a soft dough forms. Carefully fold in the chocolate chunks and cooled toasted pecans.

Use a 2 oz self-releasing ice cream scoop or a 1/4-cup measuring cup to measure out the cookie dough. Place the cookie dough balls on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, 45 to 60 minutes. Toward the end of chilling time, return the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake until the cookies are crisp and golden around the edges but still a little soft in the centers without being gooey, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool slightly. Transfer the cookies from the baking sheets to the wire racks and let cool to room temperature.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rice Krispie Peanut Butter Tartlets



When I was little, one of my teachers, Ms. Luke, always made special rice krispie treats.  In actuality, she would just cut regular rice krispie treats into shapes with a cookie cutter, but when I was in elementary school, this seemed magical to me.  On Valentines Day and for class parties, these special shaped treats would appear.

When I heard that this month's Sugar High Friday was highlighting childhood delights, I knew I wanted to feature rice krispie treats.  But I would have to take them to the next level, and a cookie cutter wouldn't do it.  

Enter my co-workers.  We decided it was high time for a bake-off at work, battle rice krispie treat style.  This is my entry.  A standard rice krispie treat molded in a mini-muffin tin.  I used a tassie shaper to create an indentation, which I filled with a peanut butter filling, and covered it with milk chocolate.  Kinda like a recees enrobed with a rice krispie treat, or a fluffernutter with chocolate. 

Check out the recipe below the other bake-off entries.


Ms. C's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Krispies

Abby's Sereal Samosas, which won the bake-off!  Check out the recipe at Big East Baker!
    


Mrs. C's Chocolate Chex Mix Squares- tied with mine for a close second




Mr W's Spice Krispie Treat- definietly the most inventive and very tasty- chinese rice crackers, puffed rice, and mini marshmallows!


Rice Krispie Peanut Butter Tartlets

Rice Krispies Treats:
1 bag of Marshamallows
1/2 stick butter
1 9 oz box of rice krispies

melt butter and marshmallows over low heat, add cereal and stir.
press into a mini muffin tin and use a tassie shaper (or your fingers) to make indentations
fill with:

Reeses Filling: 
from CHOW.com

1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup natural crunchy peanut butter (no added sugar)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and peanut butter. Mix on medium speed until filling is well combined, breaks into large chunks, and resembles cookie dough, about 3 minutes.

cover with melted milk chocolate.


Friday, January 23, 2009

The Tasty Bits, January 17-23

Tasty Bits from the internet this week:

First and foremost, a new food blog on the scene!  Big East Baker, written by my friend and co-worker, Abby! I've converted her to the world of food blogging from across our desks.  Today is her inaugural post, so head over, check her out, and give her some love! (she promises a post from me about rice krispies treats- check back tomorrow)

Green Peas Cookies from My Kitchen.  Just in time for Chinese New Year.  Peas?  In a Cookie?  What must these taste like?? I am so curious I just might make these. 

Homemade root beer at Chez What? Makes me long for summer during this cold, cold season.  Specifically, for root beer floats.  

These are described as a homemade alternative to wheat thins, which sounds alright by me.  But the concept of savory shortbread sounds perfect, and parmesan seems like a perfect pairing to the buttery, crumbly texture.  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cauliflower and Beet Salad with Pistachio Encrusted Ricotta

P made this salad last weekend for our dinner party.  Even though it looks like a sea monster, it was pretty tasty.  Here is his report on it:

Cassoulet can be just the slightest bit heavy, so we wanted something on the lighter side to serve with it. After some meditation (i.e., Googling), my thought was to pair the wintry vegetables beets and cauliflower together to serve as a dainty introduction to the meal. I thought that L's freshly-made batch of ricotta might spruce the dish up, so I balled some of it up and rolled them in chopped pistachios. The ricotta also played a part because I parboiled the cauliflower pieces in the remaining whey before roasting, hoping to impart a little bit of a tangy flavor. Alas, the tang was elusive, but the florets were no worse for the wear from their dairy dousing.


If I made this again, I think I'd just reconsider the way the whole thing is constructed. I thought cutting the cauliflower on the mandolin would make for a nicer presentation, but I really should have respected the vegetable's branchy nature and cut into florets. The whole thing would also be best served in a bowl rather than a dish because the little cubed beets liked to try to escape from the plate in the course of eating. But, it was a nice pairing and I think it deserves future study.

I'm going to write this out the way I should have done it, not the way I did it, so the fruitless whey-poaching step will be happily omitted. L was right, and I think everything will taste better roasted anyway.

1 head of cauliflower
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Curry powder
4 medium-to-large beets
Ricotta
Toasted pistachios, chopped
Honey
Vinegar (sherry, white wine or apple cider)

Make balls out of the ricotta, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll in the pistachios and refrigerate uncovered.

Heat oven to 400°. Wrap the whole beets in foil and roast.

After the beets have been in for about 20 minutes, cut cauliflower into small florets and chop the good parts of the stem up. Toss in a large bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt, and maybe 1/2 tsp of curry powder. Spread out on a cookie sheet - do not overcrowd the sheet, or the pieces will not brown. Pop into the oven with the beets. Check every 10 minutes or so, turning as necessary, and continue to roast until they are lightly browned. At this point, remove the beets as well - they should be tender but still a little firm and crunchy.

Peel the beets and dice into small cubes. Heat a 1/4 cup of honey until it runs freely and add a pinch of salt, a pinch of curry powder, and just a splash of vinegar.

For a serving, place some cauliflower in the bowl and top with diced beets. Pop a ricotta ball on top and drizzle lightly with the honey mixture. If you have any leftover pistachios from the coating step, you can sprinkle with some of those as well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Plantain Pancakes with Honey Yogurt Sauce


I'll Eat You is about to solve one of your greatest problems: what to do with all of that leftover fufu? OK, so having too many mashed plantains is probably not on your top ten list of concerns, but here's what we did with the cup or so we had left over after our cuban meal last week: added it to pancakes. Specifically, to a half-recipe of Trader Joe's multigrain pancake (gasp) mix.

We topped them with a simple mixture of yogurt and honey and a handful of chopped pistachios. In all honesty, the plantains didn't add all that much flavor to the pancakes, but adding them in achieved the job of removing it from our refrigerator, and is among our list of recommended uses for leftover plantains. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TWD: Meyer Lemon Surprise


This week's selected recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was Berry Surprise Cake.  The story behind the recipe is a sweet one, evoking memories of one of Dorie's favorite childhood treats, Charlotte Russe. But berries are out of season here, and the ones to be found are expensive and probably tasteless.  What is in season, and on my must-try ingredient list, (actually, on my how-have-I-gone-so-long-without-trying-ingredient-list) is meyer lemons.  At the same price point per pound as a pint of chilean blueberries, this was a no-brainer. 

I stayed true to Dorie and used her recipe for lemon curd, and layered it with the filling and rounds of cake, trifle style. I was afraid that filling the center of the cake with the curd, as she calls for with the berries, would make it too soggy.  

I decorated the top with a sunburst pattern.  Today it can symbolize the hope our country goes forward with as we inaugurate our new president.  There's a lot of excitement in the air here in Philadelphia.  Perhaps I'll whip up another batch of these to celebrate tonight.

Check out the original recipe as chosen by Maryanne of Meet Me In The Kitchen on her blog, or in Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking, from my home to yours. Check out the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie Bakers here


Monday, January 19, 2009

Spinach Ricotta Pie


P here. Growing up, when vexed with the what's-for-dinner questions, my mom would often turn to what she'd sometimes call "poor man's quiche". It was not indecision but a ricotta surplus that prompted me to suggest this simple spinach pie for dinner. It's delicious, very easy to make, and paired with a nice salad, it makes a fine weekday dinner.

As fate would have it, one of Lauren's aunts makes a similar though far less cheesy pie around Easter, but hers features raisins and pine nuts. Lauren insisted we toss some in, so what we have here is a hybrid spinach pie. As we don't currently have any kids, you can consider this the best representation to date of the results of our genetic intermingling.

Spinach Ricotta Pie
1 9" pie crust - (savory) recipe of your choice
1 bag/block frozen chopped spinach
1 small container ricotta (about 2 cups?)
1 egg
Locatelli, romano or other grated "macaroni"-type cheese that doesn't come in a green cylinder
nutmeg
black pepper
1/2 C lightly toasted pine nuts (optional)
1/2 C raisins (any type, optional)
2 tbsp butter

First, preheat the oven to 350° and get the spinach cooked. Microwaving according to the package directions is fine. When the spinach is done, DRAIN THOROUGHLY. Putting it in a kitchen towel and wringing it out would be ideal. Just get all the green water out of it.

Roll the pie crust out and mold into pan. Dock the bottom of the crust with a fork and blind bake for about 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, combine the drained spinach, ricotta, egg, about 1/4 C of the grated cheese, a generous grating of nutmeg, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix thoroughly. If the mixture appears too wet or liquidy, add a tablespoon or so of flour. Add the nuts and raisins if you are using.

Pop the crust out of the oven and fill with the spinach mixture. Level out the top and sprinkle another 1/4 C or so of grated cheese on top. Cut butter into small cubes and dot the surface. Back into the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Let stand for a few minutes before enjoying!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Trip to Cuba!


This week, the My Kitchen, My World crew traveled to Cuba, in an attempt to bring some warm, tropical vibes into our lives.  At least here in Philadelphia, we're having some record breaking cold days, and every little bit of warmth counts.  

P and I made Ropa Vieja, a dish of beef cooked until it gets very tender and gets shreddy like "old clothes."  Who doesn't want to eat food that is supposed to resemble rags?  This dish was actually very good, and easy enough to be made on a weeknight, although I don't think my end product tasted quite authentically "Cuban."  In an attempt to fake the sofrito element (which was, I admit, a mistake) I made it too tomato-y.  

P found the side dish of mashed plantains with rum, which is authentically cuban, but I suspected would not go well with the beef.  We made it anyway.  I could not eat the two together.  The plantains were good- sweet and rummy, but just the WRONG combination.  I think they would be great with pork tenderloin, or grilled shrimp, just not a tomato and beef dish. 

Cuban Ropa Vieja
from tasteofcuba.com

2 1/2 lbs flank steak, cut in strips
5 tablespoons oil
2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic or 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
6 ounces sofrito sauce

Heat 3 tbsp. oil in skillet on medium, brown meat on all sides. Remove from skillet, add remaining oil to skillet, stir in garlic, onion and green pepper and cook until translucent. Stir in black pepper, browned meat, tomato sauce, water and sofrito. Simmer until meat is tender and shreds easily, about 1 hour. Serve on top of rice.

Serves 6

Mashed Plaintains with Rum

from Food and Wine

INGREDIENTS
4 very ripe plantains (almost fully black), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
In a medium saucepan, combine the plantains, butter, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Add enough water to just cover the plantains and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Cook until the plantains are very tender, 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the plantains to a medium bowl. Add the rum and lime juice and coarsely mash the plantains. Season with salt and pepper and serve.



Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cupcake Hero: Hazelnut White Chocolate Cupcakes

Two beguiling ingredients set out to collaborate for this month's edition of Cupcake Hero.

First, white chocolate, the theme ingredient. The most polarizing and perhaps least popular of chocolates. Some question its eligibility as a chocolate due to its lack of cocoa liquor. I prefer its liquor-laden brother any day of the week, but I'm an equal opportunity chocolate lover. However, many people won't touch the stuff. Oh well, more for me.  Next up, hazelnut. A nut that has two first names.  I find it's a natural companion to chocolate, and in many countries, you can't find chocolate without it.  Can chocolate's nutty companion elevate white chocolate to the level of its brown brethren?  We set to find out.  

White chocolate can be overwhelming in large doses, so I keep the cupcake a plain hazelnut, made with hazelnut meal and a splash of Frangelico.  This is filled with a light which chocolate mousse and toped with a thin layer of white chocolate ganache infused with frangelico for a little extra nuttiness.  For decoration, a fringe of hazelnut prialine and a petit chapeau of a chocolate dipped hazelnut, disguised as his alter ego, the filbert.

Even my white chocolate hating spouse enjoyed these cupcakes, so I guess the hazelnut did the trick.

Hazelnut Cupcakes

1/2 c unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Frangelico
1 cup hazelnut meal
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 c milk
1/8 t cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350° F

Beat butter in an electric mixer until soft.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks and beat until combined.  Add the vanilla and Frangelico; beat until combined.  

In another bowl, combine flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder and salt.

Put the mixer on low speed and alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture until combined.

In a small bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and whip until stiff peaks form.  Fold the whites into the batter.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full and bake 12 to 20 minutes until a tester comes out clean.


White Chocolate Mousse
adapted from Joy of Cooking

3 T water
3/4 t gelatin
8 oz white chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream
1 cup cold heavy cream

Combine water and gelatin in a small bowl and set aside to soften.

Chop chocolate very fine.  Heat 1/2 c cream in a saucepan until it reaches a rolling boil.  When hot, pour over the chocolate, whisking until all chocolate is melted.  Stir in softened gelatin. Refrigerate the mixture until cold and thick enough to fall from a spoon in heavy, satiny ribbons, 15 to 45 minutes.

Beat 1 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold into the chocolate mixture and refrigerate at least 2 hours before filling cupcakes. 


White Chocolate-Frangelico Ganache

Chop 6 oz white chocolate finely and heat over a double boiler.  When melted, gradually whisk in 1/4 c cream and 1 tsp Frangelico.  Allow to set up a but before dipping the cooled cupcakes.

Garnish as desired. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Tasty Bits, January 1-16

I've decided to write a post each Friday featuring stuff I find a like in my travels around the blogosphere. Cause you know, you might be interested in what I find interesting.

These Aracini di Riso over at Always Order Dessert makes me think of having these delicious fried balls of goodness at a train station in Italy, and of last winter, when P and I recreated them in our own kitchen to break in our new deep fryer.  Balls of risotto stuffed with cheese and fried?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies on Bakerella.  I know technically I should shun these because they are made with mixes, but I bet they would be awesome with from scratch recipes too.  And they look soooo good.

Apple Pork Pie with Caramelized Onion Crust from no recipes.  Pie gone savory- a great idea.  Apple and pork- a classic combination.  And the pies are individually sized, and mini = cute.  The guy who runs the show over there is full of great ideas.  If only the interwebs were scratch and sniff . . .  

Beetroot, Buttermilk and Apple Muffins at The Great Big Vegetable .  I am intrigued by the idea of beets in a sweet muffin.  The whole idea behind this blog is to get her picky eater son to eat more veggies.  She served these as a dessert and he gave it a 9/10.  So they must be pretty good.  And they sound pretty healthy.  I want to give them a try, don't you??

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cassoulet


Cassoulet is a traditional dish from the Occitane region of France. Like its cousins feijoada and good ol' fashioned baked beans, the basic plot is "cook meat with beans for a long time".

I remember first hearing about cassoulet from my AP French teacher, Madame Fleming. She was slighty batty and taught us french words like "bagatelle," which I would later use in college and cause many people who were more hip to french vocab trends to laugh at me. Anyhow, Mme Fleming said cassoulet was both delicious and complicated and that she would make it for us. But she never did.  Liar.

Anyway, not being Occitanidental ourselves, the first step was finding a recipe. Of course, cassoulet is one of those things that no two people agree on: goose or duck? Lamb or rabbit? Tomatoes or no tomatoes? Pork? Yes, they all agreed on pork, but what cuts? In the end I decided to pick the recipe that "felt" the most right, and the one that seemed to feature the most easily procurable ingredients (staying clear of things titled "30-minute crock pot cassoulet LOL").

This recipe from Saveur magazine fit the bill and seemed to be backed up by a suitably authentic story. It stars pork and duck, the King and Queen of Accessibly Flavorful Meats. Thanks to the friendly butcher at Martin's in the Reading Terminal, I was able to get a hold of some freshly cut ham hocks and delicious garlic sausage, and Guinta's helped me out with the duck legs. I confit-ed the legs in our Crock Pot, but I had to use mostly olive oil to cover as I was unable to get a hold of duck fat. But hey, I'm sure it's healthier this way anyway.

With confit-ing out of the way, the recipe was a snap. There are quite a few steps, but each one only requires a few minutes of your attention. I would recommend doing this over a weekend, or when you're snowed in, because there's a lot of waiting around.

The end result was pretty tasty. The seven plus hours of cooking makes everything kind of melt away into a sumptuous mush, studded with the pieces of duck and pork that have fallen off the bone.
Regretfully, our cassoulet never seemed to develop the crust on top that is hailed as one of its "glories". A few theories here: one, it was not baked in a conical "cassole" but rather a large Le Crueset dutch oven, so less surface area exposed to crust over. Two, too much liquid. Three, the recipe's suspicious lack of direction in terms of soaking the beans overnight prior to cooking. When the beans went into the cassoulet, even after some time cooking in the water/pork rind mixture, they were not quite tender, so I think the rate at which their starch was released was a little off or something.

Anyway, I'm not complaining. For a once-a-winter fatty-meat blowout, it's hard to beat.

I'm submitting this dish to the Well Seasoned Cook's My Legume Love Affair, Seventh Helping, since this dish is mostly beans.  It's being hosted by Cooking 4 All Seasons.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Infamous No-Knead Bread


A lot of buzz went around the blogosphere a while ago when Mark Bittman published this recipe for no-knead bread in the New York Times.  I am, admittedly, the last person on earth to try this recipe, making me the one billionth person to realize that it makes an amazing, artisan style boule with a nice, light crumb and a crispy, crackly crust.  Effort is minimal, all you need is time.  A lot of time. 

 It's kind of like Ronco Showtime Rotisserie, in that you "set it and forget it."  12 to 18 hours later, you're ready to make bread.  (although if you left a chicken in a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie for 12 to 18 hours you would have a problem.  So nevermind.) 

After a folding over and a brief second rise, the bread bakes in a cast iron pot, which helps with the creation of the magical crust.  We're talking, impress your friends, looks like it's from a bakery crust.  Our friend J, makes bread "the old fashioned way" and is very competitive.  We served this bread at a dinner party which he attended, and now he says he won't make bread for us anymore, which means I know we made him jealous.  So this is no longer Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Bread, it's make your breadmaker friends jealous bread. 

If you haven't made this bread (which you probably have because everyone except me has), you should.  It's easy to make and it's super good, and it makes you want to attach little catch phrases to it.

***Please do not read on if you have not seen, and do not want the ending of the movie The Perfect Storm ruined for you.  Although if you ask me it is a sham so you don't have to be so concerned****

OK this is unrelated, but it bothers me a lot. Does it bother anyone else that in the movie The Perfect Storm, you think all that stuff actually happened, and then in the end you realize that it's all speculation because they all died (maybe not by a giant wave or whatever???)  So they could have sat around and played cards the whole time?  It bothers me a lot.  A LOT.  I would really like your opinions on this so please comment.


Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Published: November 8, 2006, The New York Times
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

These are a fun fiesta in a muffin!  The whip up in a snap and would be at home on a breakfast table or next to a bowl of chili or tomato soup. These give you just the smack to your senses we need this time of year when everything is cold and dark and you want to stay in your cozy bed a little longer. 


These muffins have the zing to get you going and the staying power to keep you going all morning long. They are hearty and moist and have a lovely crumbly texture from their hefty cornmeal content.  I love how they are chock full of surprise bits of pepper and corn, and have a lovely backround of chili from jalapeno and chili powder.

This week's recipe was chosen by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake. Check our her site (or Dorie's book, Baking, From My Home to Yours,) for the recipe.  Check out what the other TWD bakers have done here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Melted Peppers and Onions


This is a food craving that comes from the depths of my soul. I know it sounds strange, but really, eating this dish is innate to me, and lately, I've had the feeling that I want to eat it all the time. The peppers and onions really do "melt," and what is left after a long cooking is delicious and silky and golden. It's as simple as can be, making it the essence of comfort food, and it's brainless to make, although it takes a long time, so you don't get immediate gratification. By the time it is ready, you are really wanting to eat it.

It's not much of a recipe. Slice yellow onions and bell peppers thinly and cook in olive oil over low heat for a long time, over an hour, until the onions have caramelized and the peppers no longer have a crunch to them. I like to add a pinch of salt and a splash of balsamic vinegar as well.

When it is (finally!) done, eat as is, on toast, as a side dish, with eggs, however you might like. The peppers and onions cook down a lot, and it's easy to eat a lot, so make a lot at the start and have leftovers!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Review: Amada or, the day P cheated on L with a flan

Amada: it means "beloved". So to quote Haddaway, what is love? Love is 95% pure delight and maybe 5% disappointment, and not disappointment in the absolute sense: it is only because it fails to meet the unfairly high standards of the other 95. Love is a thing to be followed everywhere. Love is powerful as a pit bull and gentle as a bunny rabbit. Go to Amada and you will understand.

I am not going to waste time on décor, location or anything like that. I would still go to Amada if it were located in an abandoned warehouse, in an angry bear's den, or under the sea.

What kind of place is it? Ostensibly, tapas. It goes beyond that, though, in complexity and refinement. It uses some tapas standards as starting points, but Amada is not restrained by any sort of dogmatic traditionalism.

Amada has a menu, but in our experience you are far better off getting the chef's tasting. You will have an incredible amount and variety of food, and you will taste things you would never think to order, and you will not have to look at the menu, which has a vast variety of choices, and you will not have to tax your memory remembering what you wanted when your server comes to take your order.

Cheeses. Top quality, things you don't see every day, and each served with a thoughtful and delicious accompaniment like lavender honey or fresh cherry compote, pepitas or pistachios.

Vegetables? Warm fava and lima bean salad. Roasted vegetables with perfect little cipollini. Piquillo peppers stuffed with a cheesy crab filling. Mushrooms, my God, the mushrooms, the almost obnoxiously delicious mushrooms that taste better than any fungus has a right to taste.

Pulpo a la gallega is a tapas standard. We only had the chance to have it once in Spain, but Amada's version blows it out of the water. The chefs must interview each octopus they use individually and reject any that come off as too abrasive or "type A", because each disc of the cephalopod is pure tenderness, anointed with oil and tantalizingly smokey paprika that makes you wonder if bacon found its way into the dish somehow.

L really likes the flatbreads. I can take them or leave them, but they are delicious nevertheless.

In the things-you-probably-wouldn't-order-but-are-unexpected-chef's-tasting-surprises department: the "madre e hijo", mother and child, a chicken breast topped with an egg. Oh, and truffle. Last time we went, the chicken breast was cooked sous-vide style; this time, a more roasted approach. Both are nothing short of awesome.

And now, alas, I come to the 5% portion of the review: the breaded lamb chops stuffed with goat cheese. I've had this twice now. Every element of this dish is great, but for me, it just doesn't hang together (and I mean that partially in the literal sense, too: the breading tends to fall off as soon as you dig in). All in all, I'd rather just have the lamb chop.

Oh, dessert? Only $5 per person for a tasting. I must admit I can remember only one thing we had: the crema catalana. Yes, this was what made me take off L's engagement ring and propose to a dessert. The delicately lavender-spiked cream is pure love on your tongue.

Notably absent from the dessert menu these days is the churros con chocolate, whose awesomeness was heightened by the sprinkling of hot powdered chile on the churros. Jose, bring them back!

Service is exceptional.

The cooking at Amada is like a laser-guided munition: precise yet unmistakably bold. Almost everything is done flawlessly. And at $45/person for the tasting, I can think of no better restaurant in this city for the money.

If you haven't been, go. If you have, find someone who hasn't, and go again with them. This world can use more love.


Amada on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

TWD: French Pear Tart

This is a most exciting edition of Tuesdays with Dorie, as the recipe was chosen this week by none other then Dorie herself!  One of the fun things about this group is that Dorie pokes her head in from time to time to help out with recipes and give advice, and now, for the first time, is hosting!

This is a nice tart, not too sweet, with the wonderful, classic combination of pear and almond.  I am guessing that the almond cream is the same as frangipane, and it was suprisingly easy to make. I halved the whole recipe, but still had tons of almond cream left over.  This was my second go-round with the sweet tart dough, and it turned out much better then it did last time!  I wish I had taken the time to poach the pears, but I'll leave that for the next time.  

Thanks to Dorie for sharing one her favorite recipes with us!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Holiday Panettone

J, my bread baking friend and I like to make Panettone at Christmas time.  Panettone is traditional Italian bread (from Milan) that is often bought and exchanged as gifts at Christmas and New Years. 


 It is traditionally made with citron and golden rasins, but J and I really don't like citron, so we make ours with a more festive-feeling dried cranberries and pistachios, and a hit of grand marnier.  This bread traditionally needs a starter that takes at least a week to develop, and a several day proofing process, but someone (J), forgot this year, so we cheated with a recipe from epicurious, and got it done in just a few hours with the help of a warm oven. 


We got a great rise on these in the proofing, and they rose even higher in the oven- our best effort to date really.  They had a nice crumb, but perhaps might have a nice one if given more time to rise.  

Panettone (adapted from Gourmet)

For dough:
1 cup dried cranberries (5 oz)
1/2 cup sgrand marnier
1/2 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened, plus additional for buttering cans
1 cup diced pistachios

For egg wash
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Special equipment: a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment; 2 (10- to 15-oz) clean coffee cans (paper or plastic labels removed); parchment paper

preparation

Make dough:
Simmer cranberries in grand marnier in a small saucepan 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature.

Meanwhile, stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Add 1/4 cup flour and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, zest, lemon juice, salt, and remaining 2/3 cup sugar and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium-high, then gradually beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, 4 to 6 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.) Drain cranberries, discarding grand marnier, then add to dough along with pistachios and mix at low speed until incorporated.

Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2 to 3 hours.

While dough rises, generously butter coffee cans and line bottom and side of each with parchment (use a round for bottom and a rectangle for side).

Punch down dough with lightly floured hands and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Halve dough and scoop 1 half into each can, pressing gently to expel any air bubbles. Loosely cover cans with lightly buttered plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of cans, 2 to 3 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.)

Bake panettone:
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Beat together yolk and water and lightly brush top of dough with egg wash. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (remove from cans first), 35 to 40 minutes. (Firmly thump bottoms of inverted cans to remove.) Transfer loaves to a rack and discard parchment. Cool to room temperature.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

aaand, we're back!

Four airplanes, 3 countries, 2 holidays, and 1 midnight visit to the ER later, I'm back in the world of blogging.  P and I had a wonderful vacation in Spain and Portugal (plus a bonus stop in Paris) with our friends Jen and Don.  

Here are a few of the highlights of the trip:



A surprise stop in Paris on Christmas Eve.  Quick, but enough to show P Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and to have a croissant.


Being in the Sagrada Familia on Christmas.  This church is the brainchild of Barcelona's own acid-trip architect Gaudí, and has been under construction since 1882.


The crazyness of Madrid, including a fun carousel in Parque del Buen Retiro


Fireworks show in Lisbon as the year turned 2009.


And of course, the culinary highlights:
Clementines still on the tree and perfect, tiny grilled green peppers in Barcelona

The tapas trail in Madrid, including bacalao croquettes, Iberico ham, and a new culinary discovery, smoky morcilla on toast with pine nuts.

Perfectly flaky, creamy pastéis de Belém in Lisbon.


I haven't hit the stove yet, as I'm laid up with bronchitis that has been with me since before we left.  Thanks to the friendly ER staff at Lankenau Hospital, I'm on the mend and will be back to producing blog-worthy goodies soon!