Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Cream

Our snow is already melting, so it is a good thing I followed through on making snow cream last night. It was light, crunchy and sweet with lots of vanilla flavor. Eating snow cream is like eating a snow cone with superfine ice. Yum.

Snow Cream
5ish cups of clean Snow
1.5 Tsp Vanilla
5 Tbsp Skim Milk
3 Tbsp Sugar

Collect the snow in a large bowl. Drizzle the other components over the top and mix everything together. Taste and add more of anything you'd like to add. Then eat it, quickly before it melts!
All the ingredients lined up in a row.
What I decided the texture of finished snow cream should be.

Mom's improvised cobbler a la mode

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Christmas Stollen

Merry (Belated) Christmas! It is a peaceful snowy day here in Virginia and I am taking advantage of it to organize, read, watch movies and maybe venture over to see the Osipenko household. Usually I would bake too but I'm content snacking on the leftover Stollen from Christmas Eve. At least until I make snow cream this evening; my bowl has been collecting flakes since last night for that delicacy. :)

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. You can find all the details and the recipe here.

When Mom heard about the challenge she enthusiastically started reminiscing about her great-grandmother making it on rainy days during her childhood. I was less excited as Stollen's comparison to fruitcake concerned me, but I followed the provided recipe using homemade candied orange peel, dates and cranberries for the fruit and substituting orange for all the lemon. Also! I skipped the rum as we have underage family members. I have to tell you the end result was a pleasant surprise. It looked and tasted great - very moist and tender with a fruity flavor.

This recipe is worth the time and numerous dirty dishes! I will be making it again in loaves. Thank you for a great challenge, Penny.

 The yeast was out of control! I had to get a bowl for the overflow. 

 I love candied citrus peel, so it was shame to have this all go into the bread. Candied 
grapefruit and lime peel and ginger will be next and they will be eaten on their own.

 This was 24" x 17" i.e. HUGE.

Clearly, I am delighted to be cutting the finished product.

You can see the swirled layers and yet it doesn't fall apart when you eat it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 2010 Daring Cooks' Challenge: Poached Eggs

I completed the Daring Cooks' challenge on time, but my heart wasn't in creating a post. Clearly. Since  deciding to draw my time in NYC to a close by January 1 and finding myself in control of seemingly nothing, I have been racing around trying to see people, taste things and get myself together for the transition. But I am alive and once I'm settled back in Virginia I suspect I'll get back to eating in my usual manner, exercising and dabbling with this again. In the meantime, happy holidays!

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num. A PDF with all their info and the recipes can be found here.

I opted to focus on the required egg poaching and assemble a simple, healthy meal of roasted Kabocha squash, almost caramelized leeks and a poached egg. It was a nice, savory mix with the yolk to sauce things up. My egg poaching certainly has improved since the debacle where the whole thing turned into foam but it still needs refining. My first eggs spun out of control as I had brought this too far past room temperature but the later one (pictured) was a pretty solid (and tasty) attempt.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Bean Salad with Fuyu Persimmon, Avocado, and Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

If you can find persimmons you have to make Kayln of Kayln's Kitchen's Black Bean Salad with Fuyu Persimmon, Avocado, and Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette. My Mom's in love with it and I'm rather fond of it too. It is sweet and smooth yet it has a nice bite from the green onions, lime and salt. I followed her recipe exactly, but next time will decrease the oil as the result was a bit slick for my palate.

I wish I had remembered it earlier this year as I'm not sure persimmon's will be readily available at this point and I would love to eat the salad again before next year. We had a it a few times last Fall and tried to make it with mango, which was not quite as good, so if I can't find them I will have to wait.

FYI, Fuyu persimmons can be peeled and eaten while firm or soft...either way they are sweet. You'll want to use firm Fuyu's not Hachiya persimmons as they aren't tasty until they feel like jelly and therefore wouldn't hold up in this salad once ripe. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, October's Pasta Night and a Troubled Spaetzle Attempt

As Britt sings when I'm lucky, Happy, Happy, Happy Turkey Day! If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you've all found many things to be thankful for and that you are enjoying time with your family,  biological or chosen. My family is feasting on Friday and Sunday, so I am not indulging yet but there's no reason not to be thankful in advance of the trimmings. I am grateful to my family and friends for their ongoing love and support, the experiences I have had this year including visiting Lizzie in Minneapolis and checking out the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens, touring Glacier National Park and attending fun weddings among others. 

One of my favorite things in NYC has been thematic cooking events. First there were Dana's where my urge to share my cooking trumped my nervousness about being somewhere surrounded (mostly) by strangers. Then there has been the new version organized by Meg. Our most recent was Pasta Night i.e. making use of her Kitchen-Aid Mixer's Pasta Roller. Everyone contributed something - Leslie's awesome meat ragu was the star in my opinion - and we learned that there is a limit to how many times you can run pasta through the roller without losing its tenderness while chatting, eating and drinking. Perfection.

My contribution was freshly grated Parmesan and Fettuccine Alfredo sauce, my favorite childhood food other than ice cream. I returned to All Recipe's Fettuccine Alfredo V something I made in college with these notes "a little buttery, use less margarine (what I substituted), rich enough to give a little stomachache, it got rave reviews from my roommates and sisters, possibly could use a bit more garlic and have to stir upon reheat then it is a bit grainy but still flavorful. That also mixes the butter back in" for the occasion. I'm pleased to report it no longer gives me a stomachache, even though I traded up to butter. It is just delicious. If you like Fettuccine Alfredo when dining out, trust me, the linked version beats it.

The following Monday I used the leftover Fettuccine Alfredo sauce, blanched zucchini, basil chiffonade and spaetzle with lemon zest to create something similar to my memory of a dish I ate at B-Bar in May. The flavor was good, but I learned the hard way that a potato ricer does not work to make spaetzle. Mine did not cook as evenly as April's and looked a bit like brains, if their tissue were white.

Vanessa and Meg made the pasta from scratch.

We all took turns running the pasta through the pasta roller. 

Erin made lovely bow ties.

The rest of the dough turned into fettuccine.

Bow Ties with Leslie's killer ragu. This was only the start of what I ate.

My attempt at spaetzle, though not lovely, was delicious.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé and Pepper Jicama Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website. You can find their recipes and tips here. You can find Audax's always amazing additional tips and results here.

This month I was not only late but I also was very daring. I reviewed the provided recipes and those in my Fine Cooking I binder, then I created an Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé. I'll walk you through the steps I took but I can't say I would recommend that you try it since it's flavor improved as it cooled and soufflés are meant to be served HOT! If you do try it, add salt to the avocado mixture and keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn't overcook. Mine rose beautifully only to collapse after I overcooked least the internal texture was right nevermind the rest of it.

I served the Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé with Sweet Potato Fries, a simple Pepper Jicama Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette (that you should make) and some Foreman'ed Pork Chops (courtesy of an assist from my Mom when I ran out of steam) topped with Caramelized Onions. Being home for Thanksgiving and having Mom's Kitchen-Aid mixer and dishwasher made this whole process so much easier!

Thanks to her, Dad and Jarrett for being so patient while I put our meal together and for bearing with the experimental soufflé.

Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé
(enough for a 1.5 quart dish; serves 4 people)

1 Tbsp. Butter
Crushed Doritos

1 Haas Avocado
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. Coconut Milk (Regular Milk or Cream would be fine)
1 Tbsp. Butter
1/8 cup cheddar cheese

4 egg yolks, at room temperature
8 egg whites, at room temperature

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in oven-proof dish with high sides. Coat the interior of the dish with the butter, then coat it with the crushed Doritos.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Halve the avocado, remove its pit and scoop the flesh into food processor. Rinse and dry the cilantro, pluck off the leaves and chop enough to add 1/4 cup cilantro to avocado. Add 2 tablespoons of coconut milk to the food processor to facilitate pureeing. Puree the mixture until smooth.
4. Melt the other tablespoon of butter into a pan on the stove. Transfer avocado-cilantro mixture to the pan, add the grated cheddar and warm the mixture incorporating the cheddar. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
5. Temper the 4 egg yolks with a little of the avocado mixture, then incorporate them into the avocado-cilantro mixture. Transfer to a medium bowl.
6. Beat the egg whites to soft peak stage and fold them into the avocado-cilantro mixture. Be careful not to overmix and deflate the egg whites.
7. Transfer the mixture into oven-proof dish, wipe the edges clean and smooth the top. Bake until puffy, serve immediately. 40 minutes was way too long of a baking time; maybe try 22 minutes as that is when my souffle was elevated and starting to turn golden.

Pepper Jicama Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette
(an approximate recipe to serve 4-6 people)

5 Ounces of Baby Spinach
1.5 Red, Orange and/or Yellow Peppers
1 Medium Jicama
1 Lime, juice only
1.5 Tbsp. Canola Oil
1 Tsp. Cumin
.5 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
Salt and Pepper

1. Retrieve a large bowl. Place the spinach in the bowl.
2. Wash the peppers and cut them into small dice. Place the the diced pepper in the bowl with the spinach.
3. Peel the jicama using your knife. Cut it into small cubes. Add these cubes to the bowl.
4. Juice the lime into a jar with a lid. Add the canola oil, cumin, agave nectar and salt and pepper to taste. Shake vigorously. It should still be slightly tart in my opinion for a bright contrast to the jicama and pepper's sweetness.
5. Pour over the salad and serve.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Chickpeas

Clearly I am on a roll... I have been eating pumpkin spice again thanks to Sarah of Peas and Thank You's Pumpkin Spice Chick Peas, which I've made twice now. They are easy and addictive with their crisp exterior and slightly sweet flavor. For my second batch I added a bit of cayenne pepper and halved the maple syrup to up the savory factor. We'll see what happens next time.

To keep things simple, this time I also just mixed my salad (spinach, carrot shreds and a little bit of cheddar cheese) in the bowl I mixed the chickpeas in prior to roasting them. I only needed a touch more apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to have it ready for the finished chickpeas. No waste and no extra bowl...also not vegan...but we'll tackle that some other time. The sweet and savory combo can't be beat.

Mama Pea's Pumpkin Spice Chickpeas
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
2 T. maple syrup
1 t. canola oil (or oil of your choice)
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1/8 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ginger
3/4 t. cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir them until evenly coated.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and spray it with olive, canola or another oil.
3. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 25 minutes. Be sure to wiggle them periodically to encourage even crispness.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread

One of my favorite treats growing up in Richmond, Virginia was fresh bread from Montana Gold Bread Company in Carytown. Going to get new pointe shoes at Ellman's inevitably ended with a thick, sample slice and a few loaves coming home. When I saw Cassie from How To Eat a Cupcake and Flour Child Bakery post this Cinnamon Swirl Bread I was brought back to their Cinnamon Swirl Bread and bookmarked the recipe confident that I could bring a version of Montana Gold's bread to my Brooklyn kitchen.

My only changes to the recipe were spreading a bit of canned pumpkin between layers in lieu of raisins  (because what isn't pumpkin good in?), rolling it up without the topping and having to unroll it (oops) and letting it rise overnight in the fridge, which didn't hold it back in the least as this bread was a prodigious riser. I'm not kidding. It's strength buckled my silicon loaf pan.

The resulting loaf was an excellent likeness to the one in my memory -- light and fluffy in texture and slightly sweet. It was great on its own fresh or toasted with a bit of butter later in the week. To get a feel for it imagine the texture and size of Texas Toast only replace the garlic and butter with a sweet swirl. My only change next time will be having more space to roll out the dough, so there will be more of a swirl in my end result! You've got to try it.

Other excitement: I have two new readers! Thanks for signing on y'all. I also ran my first 8k this past weekend; thanks to a friend's pace setting skill there were no stops or walking breaks and we finished in 58:20. I didn't think a 5k outside was possible much less an 8k. :)

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread
From Joy of Cooking via How To Eat A Cupcake
Yield: 1 loaf

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
3 tablespoons Warm Water (105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 cup Milk (full fat or nonfat both are fine, heat to  low-fat milk, warmed 105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
6 tablespoons Melted Unsalted Butter (keep one tablespoon for finishing)
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 large Egg
1 teaspoon Salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup Pumpkin
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1 Egg
1. Combine yeast and water in a large bowl or bowl of mixer and stir. Let stand for five minutes until yeast dissolves. Meanwhile, oil a large bowl.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the flour and the aforementioned teaspoon of butter, and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the 3 1/2 cups of flour a 1/2 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl yet sticks to its bottom. If needed, continue adding a tablespoon of flour at a time until you reach the right consistency.
3. If using a mixer with a dough attachment, switch to it and knead for about 10 minutes on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, sprinkle the counter with flour and knead the dough until smooth and elastic.
4. Place the dough in the prepared bowl and turn it over once to coat. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
5. Open the can of pumpkin and scoop out 1/2 cup in a small bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar for the filling.
6. Grease an 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pan. Melt the reserved butter. Punch dough down. Roll the dough into an 8” x 18” rectangle about 1/2” thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the 1 teaspoon of the melted butter. Sprinkle all but 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon sugar over the dough and spread the pumpkin as evenly as you can over the surface. Starting from one 8” side, roll up the dough and pinch the seam and ends closed. Place seam side down in the pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk egg and salt together and gently brush over the top of the loaf. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and the bottom of the sounds hollow when tapped, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove loaf from the pan onto a cooling rack. While the bread is still hot, brush the top with the remaining melted butter, then let it cool.
8. Once cool, slice and enjoy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Root Vegetable Risotto

As I threw this together I was calling it “Going to Richmond Risotto” in my head since I just was cleaning out the fridge for my trip home tonight (!) when I came up with the ingredients. I can't wait to be home, to have time to think and to catch up with my often too far away family.

The risotto ended up looking so festive that I decided to share. Plus it tastes delicious. It is warm, filling and comforting -- perfect for Fall and perhaps Thanksgiving? I bet you could throw Turkey Day leftovers into a risotto for a tasty result too. Hmm.  Anyway, the parmesan makes the risotto tangy and rich while the root vegetables add sweetness and the beet greens spice things up a touch.

This is the first time I’ve enjoyed beet greens too, which is a serious accomplishment. I didn’t have to feel guilty for discarding them. Finally. Here’s hoping to many more…maybe one day even without cheese.

Root Vegetable Risotto
Yields approximately 5 cups

1.5 Tbsp Browned Butter (or Regular)
3 Leeks
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
1/4 cup Dry White Wine
4-5 cups Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup Nonfat Greek Yogurt

1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Large Sweet Potato
2 Small Red Beets
1 Large Golden Beet
1-2 Bunches of Beet Greens
Salt and Pepper

Directions (as usual adapted slightly from Sally Schneider’s A New Way To Cook)
1. Heat 4-5 cups of chicken broth in the microwave until warm. In the meantime, cut the leeks in half, trim down to the white portions and slice into 1/8” pieces.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks and a little salt. Sauté for 5 minutes until tender. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains look chalky with a white dot in the center of each, about 5 minutes. Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
3. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed by the rice. Stir in 1/2 cup of the broth. Cook at a very low boil, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the broth in this fashion, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking and stirring until the grains of rice are tender yet still firm in the center and the risotto is creamy but not soupy.
4. While the risotto cooks…. Put olive oil into a large bowl. Trim beet greens, rinse and dry. Set aside. Peel sweet potato and beets. Slice into 1/4” thick slices, and then cut into 1/4” slices. Toss with olive oil in the bowl.
5. Lay the beets and sweet potatoes out on the tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the sweet potatoes, red beets and golden beets in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.
6. While they roast and the vegetables roast, slice the beet greens into ribbons.
7. Add the beet greens to the risotto with the last 1/2 cup of broth and stir.
8. Remove the root vegetables from the oven and cool. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the Greek yogurt and Parmesan.
9. Add the root vegetables in and stir the mixture together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whole Wheat Pita Pizza with Roasted Apples, Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion

Though I don't feel compelled to become vegan it intrigues me, so when The New York Times referenced vegan Thanksgiving dishes I clicked over to Chef Chloe's Web site to check them out. What really caught my eye once there was her Flatbread with Roasted Apples, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion. I knew I had to make it immediately.

I wasn't disappointed by this decision in the least; it is seasonal and satisfying with the crunchy crust, garlic's bite and sweetness from the caramelized onions and roasted vegetables. This flatbread can be a meal on its own but I presented it as a first course and suspect it would also make a great appetizer.

I didn't follow Chef Chloe's recipe exactly as I was feeling lazy but I didn't change it substantively either. I substituted whole wheat pitas for pizza dough and a diced large sweet potato for butternut squash as they are a bit easier to handle. To make up for using pre-baked bread, I roasted my vegetables on their own while the onions caramelized, then topped the pita with everything and heated it for approximately 5 minutes.

Having prepared the components separately enabled me to enjoy fresh flatbread several days in a row, which is a plus! I managed to eek out 7 pita flatbreads from the ingredients. I highly recommend that you try this recipe out.

Whole Wheat Pita Pizza with Roasted Apples, Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion
Adapted from Chef Chloe's recipe

Whole Wheat Pitas (alternately you can purchase or make pizza dough)
Garlic White Bean Puree
    1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
    1/4 cup Olive Oil
    2 tablespoons Water
    1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
    2 Cloves Garlic
    1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
    1 teaspoon Sea Salt
    1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Pizza Topping
    4 tablespoons Olive Oil
    1 Onion, thinly sliced
    Sea Salt
    Freshly Ground Black Pepper
    1 large sweet potato, diced
    1 cup spinach
    1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sprinkle them with salt. Saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. If they are getting dry, yet haven't browned, you can add a tablespoon or two of water at a time instead of additional oil.
3. While the onions caramelize, toss remaining 2 tablespoons oil with sweet potato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes until squash is fork tender, turning once or twice with a spatula.
4. While the onions caramelize and the sweet potatoes roast, place all the garlic bean puree ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. If you don't have a food processor, you could put them in a bowl and use an immersion blender. You probably could use a regular blender too.
5. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and set aside. Place the whole wheat pitas on a baking sheet and spread a thin layer of the puree over each one's surface. Place the spinach, caramelized onions, sweet potato and apple slices on top.
6. Bake for 5 minutes, rotating midway, until the pitas warm.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Butter

Much better than the doughnuts was my first batch of Pumpkin Butter! It not only dressed up/salvaged the doughnuts but it also tastes great on its own, spread on bread or stirred into yogurt for breakfast. Plus it is full of that pumpkin pie spice everyone craves this time of year.

I started from Sarah's recipe using the white pumpkin I picked up during a girl's weekend in the Catskills. I hadn't seen a white pumpkin before but I found its flesh to taste the same as an orange one though it had more of a brown tinge. My changes to her process were substituting maple syrup for white sugar, amping up the cinnamon and cloves and cooking the butter for a mere hour or so over on low on the stove instead of for 8 hours in a slow cooking. The result was lightly sweetened, super smooth bliss. No question this project is worth the time it takes!

When you scoop out the pumpkin's insides be sure to save and roast the seeds for a salty, crunchy and, somehow, healthy snack that will have you wishing you ate whole pumpkins and squash more often. I used Mama Pea's recipe this time and found the addition of vinegar to the usual mix of olive oil and salt to be a good one. 

Pumpkin Butter
Slight adapted from Sarah at All Our Fingers in the Pie

1 Pumpkin
Maple Syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking sheet with olive oil.
2. Cut the pumpkin in half and use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and pith inside. If you want to roast the pumpkin seeds, save them.
3. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a baking sheet and roast until soft, approximately 30 minutes.
4. Scoop the cooked pumpkin flesh into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add flavorings to taste.  I went with 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/8 teaspoon each nutmeg and ginger for each cup of pumpkin. 
5. Transfer the seasoned puree to a large pot and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for an hour (or until it reaches the desired texture).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts

Happy Halloween! Now on to the belated October Daring Baker's Challenge...

Oh dear. Doughnuts are tough. I grew up loving the sight and meaning of the HOT Krispy Kreme sign in Richmond...fresh glazed doughnuts. Now that I made my own I have a whole new appreciation for doughnuts I can purchase. Leslie compared my chocolate doughnuts to burnt marshmallows, which is a compliment, uh, if you like those. For me it just confirmed the fact that I had a bit of a doughnut disaster for the October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge, which was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up.

Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts (obviously) and she made beautiful doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious. I made the Old Fashioned Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts (page 4) substituting 1/2 cup of flour for cocoa.

They took much longer than the recipe advised - perhaps because I was a novice? Regardless somehow 37 minutes turned into 2 hours. So should you tackle this, leave plenty of time and keep in mind that the dough is VERY, VERY sticky... Only after I added enough flour to make it look like muddy elephant skin did the doughnut holes not stick to the cooking cutter and/or table.

My biggest challenge was regulating the frying oil's temperature. I used 1.5" of canola oil rather than 3," so perhaps that made it more complicated? Either way I have to admit it was fun to watch the dough dip down, bounce up and flip flop all over the place while the holes fried! Somehow in spite of temperature regulation issues the doughnuts weren't greasy though some had doughy centers. 

I can see where these would be delicious and, if you can ignore the slight burnt flavor, mine were rather delicious but in the future I suspect I'll stick to eating other people's fried treats. Frying is messy and wasting all that oil just kills me. The pictured Pumpkin Butter though? I'll take that anytime...more on that later.


Nothing I make will ever compare to Funfetti? Why is it so, so good?!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not Miso Soup and My 29th Birthday

I tried to ignore turning 29, not because I was worried about it but, because I was worried in advance about turning 30, nothing could have lived up to Spain, I wanted to save my energy with weekends of work ahead of me and every other reason I could throw out. My tendency to get ahead of myself knows no boundaries though I hope to work on taming it, among other things, this year.

Luckily my friends and family refused to ignore the day leaving me feeling special thanks to cards, calls, texts, e-mails, facebook posts and even flowers and sweets from co-workers. Meg's insistence that I not spend it alone resulted in a low key night watching Boardwalk Empire (gorgeous!) while eating good food, which was further improved when Leslie joined us spontaneously.

Meg made a refined version of her Chilean Sea Bass and I threw together this Not Miso Soup loosely based on Cathy of Not Eating Out in NY's Celeriac Miso Soup. Meg also surprised me with chocolate cake and stout for a finishing touch. It was a delicious evening relaxing with good company and I don't think it could have been better...except if I hadn't gotten sick the next day.

I promise it wasn't the rich soup with hints of the salty sea below that caused the illness though it was a great comfort in making me feel better. It's like potato-leek soup with an oceanic twist and I like that it doesn't require anything other than Miso paste to make the broth (as I'm often too lazy to make it yet don't like buying it). Plus Miso paste seems to keep forever in the fridge so it is easy to have on hand.

Not Miso Soup
(4-6 Servings)

6 cups Water
3 tbsp Miso Paste
8 trimmed bunches of Shanghai Bok Choy
3 Scallions, greens only
1/3 cup Hijiki, rehydrated
5 Baby Potatoes, diced (the first time I didn't include these and we decided it needed more heft - tofu, white beans or chicken could also add texture)
Salt to taste

1. Put the dehydrated Hijiki in cold water to rehydrate. Rinse scallions, bok choy and the potatoes' exteriors. In a large pot, whisk together 6 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of miso. Heat over medium high until bubbling a bit.
2. Chop scallions, greens only, into 1/8-1/4" rings. Set aside. Trim ends off of bok choy, contemplate that the wasted bits look like rosettes. Peel potatoes and dice them into small to medium cubes.
3. Add potatoes to the miso/water mixture. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Drain Hijiki and rinse it well.
4. When the timer goes off add half the scallions, bok choy and some salt. Let the mixture cook for approximately 5 additional minutes until bok choy wilts and becomes tender. Potatoes should yield easily to a bite but still have texture. Taste. Add more salt if needed.
5. Remove the soup from the stove and stir in the Hijiki. Add remaining scallions. Serve.

Birthday Night Version
  Trial 2 (same week, to make sure this didn't make me sick)
Meg's Delicious Dish

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grape Focaccia with Rosemary

On September 19, I impulsively bought New York State Concord Grapes thinking I'd try Deb at Smitten Kitchen's Grape Foccacia with Rosemary. While I threw them into sauce for sauteed pork then, I didn't attempt the recipe until last weekend and that only happened because the grapes were showing signs of shrivel! This was my second attempt at a Foccacia-style bread and while it went better than my first where the dough ended up like dinosaur skin it just didn't live up to Luca of the Cavatappo Empire's.

The focaccia's flavor is delicious and the unexpected combination of grapes and rosemary satisfies your desire for sweet and salty in one bite, but it's lack of levity made me think of pizza dough. At first I thought it the density might have come from my mistakes following the recipe -- adding 6 tablespoons of oil to the dough instead of 2 due to poor reading and leaving it in the fridge to rise for almost 14 hours -- but Deb's pictures while much more stunning than mine reveal the same height.

I want my focaccia to be thick and fluffy, so I'll have to keep trying other recipes. Plus halving and seeding all those grapes was too tedious for my taste. It was more fun to be less lady-like and to enjoy them by popping them in my mouth and spitting out the seeds.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Homemade Baguettes: Attempts 1 and 2

My current infatuation is attempting to make artisan bread, which all started with baguettes. Back in June Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny chose pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge. Swamped with moving I skipped it but the thought of making baguettes at home stayed with me and now I've made them twice using their suggested recipe.

Perfecting baguettes is a work in progress but even my imperfect results were pleasing with their crispy exterior and chewy interior with the requisite pockets from air bubbles. This is the perfect project for a long weekend. There's a 50/50 chance of happening again this weekend for me (SO excited to have the extra day off!) and I'd recommend that you try making baguettes too as the bread's delicious - though it goes away all too quickly.

While the recipe can't be halved I have discovered that you can bake the loaves about 5 minutes short of being done, let them cool to room temperature, wrap 'em up and freeze them to finish at a later date. It's the fast way to have baguettes handy and the amazing smell of homemade bread in a short amount of time. Otherwise plan to time out the 19 hour recipe very carefully. My only other note so far is that the second rise can take place for 4-6 hours in the fridge; for me this method resulted in the bread holding its shape better and it let me go out to play.

Almost the full Gossip Girl Season Premiere Spread -- I made everything but the cheese myself! The only thing missing is the improvised cake mentioned here (without instructions as it needs refining).

I suspect my serrated knife isn't as sharp as it needs to be since cutting the slits into the loaves 
distorts them even more than my initial handling!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thomas Keller's Confit Byaldi

Last summer Leslie made Thomas Keller's Confit Byaldi when we viewed Ratatouille and in my frenzy to host the aforementioned Gossip Girl Season Premiere party I decided its deliciousness was the perfect way to incorporate peak seasonal produce and stay in theme. She warned me it took HOURS to prepare but as usual my denial about how long cooking projects will take caused me to think I was superhuman and could create this dish in a mere afternoon. Ha! I was wrong again.

The piperade, chopping and arranging alone took the afternoon... By the time I was ready to cook it at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 2.5 hours (after which point I could hold it according to the recipe) I was already late leaving for Vika and Rafe's to watch True Blood's season finale. Into the fridge it went, instructions be damned. After I came home I cooked it overnight using my alarm clock at the appropriate intervals. My only change to the recipe was using my dutch oven instead of foil and a dish with lower sides. In the end, it came together and was as sweet and rich as I remembered, but I think Leslie's version was better. I blame my timing in combination with the dutch oven being too large to squeeze under the broiler.

To be honest, I probably won't make this again as I was perfectly content with Smitten Kitchen's simpler version last summer and/or any improvised ratatouille (adding things like radishes, peppers and whatever else might be in the fridge) I've put together since without writing about it. In this case, less time for a great taste wins for me. But if you make it...invite me over to enjoy it please!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking and themed September. September means many things to me -- my birthday, work deadlines and the arrival of Fall -- but I decided, perhaps predictably, to focus on TV shows as my theme. While I often mention TV here I follow just a few shows, usually with friends, and our informal viewing "parties" are perfect for distributing eats.

Earlier this month True Blood came to a close (what a bad ending!) and Gossip Girl began in Paris, so I made two sets of themed cookies. The Royal Icing was meant to be a just bitten red only somehow almost a full bottle of red food coloring left it merely mauve and at 2 a.m. I had had enough fooling around with it. The icing was too thick for flooding (oops) but worked well for piping; even if my illustration skills are weak I think the concepts for both are clear! And, yes, there is a cookie that states "Tights are not pants." It is a rule to live by people.

If you need (or want) to decorate sugar cookies, I'd recommend the linked recipes. The cookies are easy to make with a very almond flavor and a nice crunch that somehow turned back into a delicious dough-y texture in the fridge, over a few weeks of post-viewing storage and slowed consumption, and the frosting wasn't bad to put together either. Just recognize when you start the project that there is chilling time for the dough, cooling time the cookies and setting time for the frosting, so starting at 8 p.m. the night before you want to serve them...while also making baguettes, making and canning applebutter (two other never before done projects) and watching Can't Buy Me not wise.

Posts on the other French-themed food for Gossip Girls' Season Premiere will follow later this week!