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!