Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Mornings spent with my husband are few and (too) far between. This morning I was so happy to wake up and see him there; I shot out of bed and started making us a celebratory breakfast. Knowing I had apriums to use; I immediately thought crepes. I reached for my copy of Lenotre's Desserts and Pastries for inspiration. There I found a recipe for poached whole apricots with honey and candied ginger, crepes Suzette and pastry cream; with those recipes as I starting point I began to tinker.
I halved the apriums and cooked them in 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup plus 1 T sugar, 1/4 cups honey and 1 T of chopped candied ginger.
Once they were cooked; I separated the liquid from the fruit and cooked the liquid down to a syrupy consistency then strained it.
I followed Lenotre's recipe for pastry cream except I added 1/4 tsp of quatre epice and about 1 T of butter.
I based my crepe batter on Lenotre's crepes Susette. Here it is:
40 g of unstalted butter
1 cup milk
Brown the butter. Mix flour, sugar, oil, eggs and 1/2 cup of milk till smooth in a bowl. Add the rest of the milk whisking well making sure there are no lumps. Let rest one hour. Cook the crepes for about 1 minute on each side.
To plate spread a little (or a lot) pastry cream on half a crepe, fold over then fold over again. Put 4 filled crepes on a plate. Top with poached apriums and the reduced sauce.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Last night I made strawberry jam using the strawberries we picked at Verrill farm. I loosely followed a recipe from Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda Amendt. Essentially, I halved the recipe in the book and then decrease the sugar a tiny bit (good idea), added freshly crushed black pepper, a tiny bit of salt and some home-made apple pectin. It turned out lovely. I plan on using the jam in something during 4th of July weekend; though I have found a nice snack in the meantime. Spread a little bit of goat cheese on a black pepper water cracker, then top with the strawberry jam. It's lovely.
Here's my recipe
Strawberry Black Pepper Jam
2 cups hulled strawberries kept whole if small, halve or quarter if large
1 tbsp fresh strained lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp of home-made apple pectin
Combine strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a large pan. Turn the heat on low and stir just about constantly till the sugar is melted.
It seems like way too much sugar, but just be patient and it will melt. Turn up the heat and bring it to a boil, skimming all the foam that rises to the top. Once the mixture reaches 221 F, add your home-made pectin and stir it in well. Bring it back to a boil once again, for me it took about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and process if you're going to can it.
I was lucky enough to go strawberry picking last week before the never ending rainstorms began. Joe and I went to Verrill Farm in Concord, MA. It's a lovely farm that's close to Walden Pond so you can make a day trip out of it (weather permitting). The day we went strawberry picking couldn't have been nicer. It was a cool, dry, crisp morning with the sun shining upon us. As soon as we started picking I felt a sense of tranquility (and a pain in my lower back; squatting for that long is difficult!). Regardless of my back pain, it was a fun experience. We picked a basket full of tiny beauties. When we went to purchase our berries we couldn't help but buy their beautiful english peas, golden beets and easter radishes.
Here's a list of the produce they have available right now:
Peas - shell & sugar snap
If you would like to go strawberry picking at Verrill Farms I posted their hours below. Make sure to call before you go though to make sure the pickings are still good.
Pick-your-own hours depending on conditions:
Mon - Fri: 9 am - 12 noon
Sat & Sun: 9 am - 3 pm
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I take after my mom for my never ending desire to bake; and my dad for my never ending desire to eat baked goods. Growing up, we used to hide boxes of cookies under a basket turned upside down on top of the fridge, so that he couldn't find them. The funny thing is for all the cookies he ate back then, he was still in great shape (why didn't I take after him for that!). Now, my dad is over 50 and eats much healthier than back then. No more sweets for him, he's taking care of his heart. Every now and then though, he will indulge; and the following brownies are the perfect reason. They are dense, chewy and chocolaty.
A little over two years ago, I made 16 batches of these brownies for my wedding reception. That's when my dad fell in love with them. I can't tell you have many times during the wedding weekend he said how good they were, or better yet; how many times he's brought them up since the wedding. He LOVES these brownies. So, for Father's day this year, I decided to send him something he would actually like (I bet you can guess what).
The brownie recipe comes from The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. It is a beautiful cookbook full of great chocolate recipes and really interesting information on chocolate. I highly recommend it. The recipe can also be found here.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
There are many reasons why I love my job, but one is our growing cookbook collection. It seems like every week there's one or two new additions. One book we have that is absolutely beautiful is Turquoise: A Chef's Travels in Turkey by Greg and Lucy Malouf. If you haven't looked at this book, go to your local library and get it. The recipes are inspiring as are the stunning pictures. By the time I had looked at it from back to front (I'm a pastry chef; I always start at the back); I was on expedia looking at airfare to Turkey (slight exaggeration). In all seriousness though, this book is worth looking at.
Some people love pizza, others chocolate, but me; I love Bulgur. The hot side uses it at Sofra, and I'm particularly obsessed fond of our carrot kibbeh. The more bulgur recipes I look for, the more I'm inspired to use it. I have found breads, puddings, cakes and loads of savory dishes. While discussing my bulgur obsession with Christy (of The perfect bite); she suggested I make the Clay Pot Chicken with Dates, sucuk and bulgur from Turquoise. She had made it, and highly recommended the dish. As always Christy was right. The dish has warmth of spices, and the comfort of home. Here's my adaptation of the recipe:
2 oz butter
1 Tbsp evoo
2 red onions, but into thick rings
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 long red peppers, seeded and cut into rings
2 long green peppers, seeded and cut into rings
1 long green chile, seeded and diced (they call for 2, but all I could find was jalapeno)
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
Generous splash of sherry
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 oz fine bulgur, washed
1 ½ C chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
(2 star anise-didn't have on hand so didn't use)
Few sprigs thyme
2 pounds of chicken breast on bone (they call for 2 1# chickens)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 oz spicy sausage (they call for sucuk-a Turkish sausage)
Preheat oven to 400. Put 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chicken and lightly brown the meat all over. Add the sausage and cook till it's golden on all sides. Remove the meat and pour out any excess fat (or leave it if you want). Add the butter and evoo to the pan.
Gently sweat the onions, garlic, peppers and chilies with the cumin and cinnamon for about 5 minutes or until the veggies soften. Add the sherry, tomatoes, bulgur, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, star anise and thyme and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and sausage to the vegetable mixture and tuck in the dates.
Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Cherries are my mom's favorite fruit, so this past Mother's day I decided to make her sour cherry jam. Growing up, we had a big sour cherry tree in our backyard. Once we fought past the birds we would pick buckets of cherries during the height of the season. Then off to the kitchen we went for the messy task of pitting the cherries. Covered in cherry juice we would spend the next hour wiping down ourselves and sometimes the kitchen walls. They were juicy.
The following recipe yields a sweet tart jam with a hint of complexity due to (I think) the vanilla and sourness of the cherries. The jam is lovely sandwiched between salty almond cookies (recipe follows).
Sour Cherry Vanilla Jam from Madelaine Bullwinkel's Gourmet Preserves
2 pounds pitted sour cherries
1 pound granny smith apples (2 ½ cups peeled and chopped)
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 ¼ cups sugar
Place the cherries in a good processor and pulse for 15 seconds to chop them medium fine. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Chop them to a medium-fine texture in the processor. Combine the cherries and apples in a 5 quart pan.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, and add the seeds and pod to the fruit. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Uncover and simmer for 15 minutes to reduce the juices, stirring regularly. The mixture will thicken, but should not stick.
Stir in the lemon juice, and then add the sugar in 4 equal batches, waiting for the liquid to return to the simmer before adding more. Stir frequently. Let the jam actively cook 10 minutes more. It will noticeably thicken and reach a temperature of 210 to 212 F.
Pour the jam into a heat resistant 1-quart measure. Remove the vanilla pod. Fill hot, sterilized jars to within ¼" of lips. Wipe the rims clean; attach new lids and screw caps on tightly. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Salty Almond Cookies (or JV Snacks-Croq-Télé) from Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets
These cookies are extremely easy to make if you have a food processor. Once the dough was made, I tried 3 different shape cookies. The first as described by Dorie was the easiest, but a little too rustic for me. I formed the rest of the dough into logs and tried to make slice and bake cookies with the dough. It worked, but not very well. The last method I tried was I shaped tiny cookies by pressing the dough into my ¼ tsp and slid them out. They were extremely cute, but time consuming.
¾ cup (100g) blanched almonds
½ cup (100g) sugar
¼ tsp to ¾ tsp salt (I used ¾ tsp of Kosher salt)
1 cup (140g) AP Flour
7 tablespoons (100g) cold unsalted butter cut in 7 pieces
Preheat oven to 350.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the sugar, nuts and salt till finely ground. Make sure to scrape the bowl frequently. Once processed turn the mixture out of the bowl.
Put the flour in the food processor and with the motor running drop in the cold butter pieces. As soon as the butter is in; switch to pulse mode. Pulse till the mixture looks sandy. Add the sugar-nut mixture and pulse until the dough forms small clumps and curds. Scrape the dough out onto a piece of parchment or wax paper.
To shape the cookies take small pieces (about the size of a cherry) in your hand and form irregular sized chunks. Place the pieces on a lined baking sheet leaving ½" space between them. Bake for 9-11 minutes rotating the pans after 5 minutes. You want the baked cookie to set, but not brown.
Jessica of My Baking Heart picked Parisian Apple Tartlettes as this week's TWD "recipe". It's hard to call it a recipe because you're supposed to buy puff pastry, cut it into a 4" round, and top it with half an apple and a bit of butter and sugar and bake. For a Dorie Greenspan recipe, this is as "semi-homemade" as she gets.
Instead of buying puff pastry, I decided to make a dough that acts like a quick puff pastry. Essentially mix equal parts butter, cream cheese, flour and a pinch of salt in a mixer till a dough forms. Chill then roll and use in place of puff pastry. I like making this dough because it's so easy, gets nice layering and I usually have all the ingredients on hand to make it. The dough works best with an overnight rest, but due to time constraints I had to make mine an hour and a half before baking. Even so, I was a little nervous that it would grow out of control, so I docked each tart shell and then topped with the apples.
Once they came out of the oven, I realized that docking them was a bit overzealous. They didn't rise as much as I expected them to, but the dough was still lovely.
The resulting tartelettes were okay. I baked them for an extra 5 minutes because the apples were still leaning towards raw, but that still wasn't enough time. Technically there was no way I could have baked the apples through and not overcooked the dough. Due to its simplicity, I think this recipe has a lot of potential. However, the apples should be sliced thinner, or the chunks should be par cooked before baking. This was so easy to make though, I'll definitely play around with it again.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I've spent the last two days traveling back and forth from Boston to Vermont, so I thought there was no way I could fit this recipe in. Well, after a quick look at just how easy it was to make I decided there was no way I couldn't make this recipe. Essentially, you mix your dries together, then add your wet ingredients, then follow by folding in some cooled melted butter. I think all together it took me about 10 minutes to assemble my ingredients, make the batter and get the cake in the oven. That was fast.
Since this cake is all about cinnamon, I decided to head over to my local Penzeys store in Arlington, MA and pick up some special cinnamon. I bought their Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon ($7.65 for 4 oz). It has a lovely aroma, and a powerful cinnamon flavor. It was the perfect spice for this cake.
I followed the recipe as written except I halved it, and baked it in a 4" round cake pan. It took 40 minutes to bake at 350.
Instead of making the chocolate frosting, I decided to make a simple cinnamon glaze. For the glaze I put confectioners sugar, a dash of milk and a big pinch of cinnamon in the bowl and whisked together till smooth.