Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blackberry Fraisier, er, Mûrier

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine. We were required to make chiffon cake, pastry cream mousse and simple syrup from scratch; the cake had to feature fruit on its sides and be free standing. You can download the full challenge and recipes here.

Don't be intimidated. I promise this is totally do-able. Making the components requires some advance planning due multiple steps and a 4 hour minimum chill time time, but as long as you pay attention the recipes are manageable! The Fraisier's assembly is by far the hardest part, but even my products' imperfect appearance looks impressive and more importantly it was delicious.

If you like desserts that are fruity, creamy and light on the palate (though not so much on the waist), then a Fraisier is perfect for you. The chiffon cake has a tender texture similar to Angel food cake and soaking it in simple syrup makes it very moist. If you flavor your simple syrup effectively, I'd imagine it also adds an extra flavor dimension. Since my ginger simple syrup wasn't detectable I ended up with blackberry and vanilla for my flavor profile and that was fine with me.

The pastry cream's speedy production really impressed me. It was so quick that when I walked away from the stove after returning the custard to it it clumped (see the picture with an x over it below) and I had to start again. As far as mistakes go this one wasn't so bad; Dad has been quite happy with the leftover lumpy pastry cream. I may make it my go to recipe

Thank you for a cool, sweet, summer challenge, Jana! It was a perfect fit for Virginia's heat wave and berries from the Red Dog Farm.

Basic Chiffon Cake
1 cup and 2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 cups Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt, preferably Kosher
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil (I used Canola.)
3 large egg yolks
1/3cup and 1 tablespoon Water
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
3/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest, grated
5 Large Egg Whites
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.
2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan. (I didn't have a springform pan and substituted a 13 x 9 x 2 Pyrex baking dish.)
 3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. (Mine sunk a little. Reading through other Daring Baker's comments it looks like cooling it in the pan upside down helps to avoid sinking.)
10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream Filling
1 cup Whole Milk
1/2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/8 teaspoon Salt, preferably Kosher
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Large Egg
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
3/4 teaspoon Gelatin
1/2 tablespoon Water
1 cup Heavy Cream

1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon. Do not walk way... This happens quickly!
6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
12. Heat the cream until it is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup
You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.

1/3 cup Sugar, flavored or white
(1/4 cup peeled and sliced Ginger)
1/3 cup Water

1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
4. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly
1 baked 8 inch Chiffon Cake
1 recipe Pastry Cream Filling
1/3 cup Simple or Flavored Syrup
2 lbs Strawberries
(Traditionally it is covered with almond paste, but I skipped this and used extra pastry cream to "frost" the top of mine.)

1. Line the sides of a 8-inch spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. of the pastry cream.
7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
8. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. The longer it chills, the more firm the gelatin will become.
9. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
10. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.

I would have supported Debbie Reynolds' museum of Hollywood history had it been financially viable and had I known about it. How sad to know that her purchases are being split among buyers by auction. For links to fantastic Golden Age of Hollywood clothing pictures and the story see: Hollywood Auction Ends Myth of Zaftig Marilyn by Virginia Postrel. For waist measurements of Hollywood icons, all tiny, read Postrel's follow-up article.

If you haven't seen More, the 1998 Academy Award nominated short film, take 6 minutes to check it out. The end result for the tinkerer reminds me of Valley of the Dolls.

ToneCheck is a tool that proofs your e-mails for tone. I read everything twice, but this sounds super useful! (via Diana)

Recipes Bookmarked
Eggplant Crostini
Fancy Butter at Simplifried
Simplest Corn Pudding at NY Times

Beach at Low Tide, Brewster, MA July 2011

Regardless of how Amy Winehouse passed I hope she is now resting in peace.This song is still in my iTunes top 25 several years after its release.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pink Summer Salad

Growing up this pink salad was one of my favorites. I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when I came home from Red Dog Farm with tomatoes, cucumber and onions and saw Mom, who triggered the memory. I promptly asked if she would show me how to make it for dinner. Her response was to ask if I was sure since it involved Sweet 'n' Low and mayonnaise.

It's true that I don't use artificial sweeteners and only in recent years started using mayo sparingly, but I couldn't resist the delicious memory. Thank goodness as, Sweet and Low be damned, this still is a great salad. It is comes together in a snap, especially if you don't get all OCD about dicing the veggies, and is so satisfying with its crispness, sweetness and tang. I'm salivating as write about it. In fact, I suspect by the time you see this post I'll have made it again for lunch.

Moving on now. In the picture below, I used equal amounts of tomato, cucumber and onion but I have decreased the onion in the recipe by half. If it would make you more comfortable, you probably can swap sugar or another sweetener for the Sweet and Low, but I'm not going to break with tradition. Mom got this loose recipe before I was born from a church picnic (nearly 30 years ago!) and I see no reason to change it now.

Pink Summer Salad
2 cups chopped Tomatoes (no need to seed them, you want the juice)
2 cups seeded, chopped Cucumber
1 cup chopped Onion
3 tablespoons Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons White Vinegar
1/2 to 1 packet of Sweet and Low
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Combine the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Sprinkle with Sweet and Low. Stir.
2. Add the mayo, white vinegar and salt and pepper. Stir until the liquid turns pink and the taste meets your approval.
3. Consume a generous portion and look forward to finishing it the next day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.

Warm fuzzies, kind words from a friend or stranger, never fail to make me smile. I would be delighted to find a bit of poetry grafitti sewn into clothing during my next thrifting adventure. (via The Improvised Life)

That artist's efforts made me think of Operation Beautiful, which encourages people to place post-it notes with positive messages around for people to find them. On a similar yet different note, Things We Forget places post-it reminders in public places for people to discover. (via Courtney, indirectly)

Courtney also pointed out this Firefox Add-On, ShareMeNot, which prevents third-party buttons (such as the Facebook “Like” button or the Twitter “tweet” button) embedded by sites across the Internet from tracking you until you actually click on them. They can track you, even if you have third party cookies blocked. I installed it immediately.

This sentiment rings true for me sometimes.  

If you are heading to or living in NYC, this guide to Cheap Eats in NYC (less than $10, put together by food bloggers) looks promising. (via Blondie and Brownie)

Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno series detailing the sex lives of animals is interesting and charming just as The Improvised Life noted.

Recipe Bookmarked
Cheesecake Ice Cream at Deliciously Organic
Chinese Five Spice Tuna and Stone Fruit Skewers at Tartlette
Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca Recipe at Simply Recipes
Curried Eggplant Turkey Burgers with Mango Raita at Clean Eating
Dill Pickle French Fries at Peas and Thank You
Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt at Smitten Kitchen
Grown-up Jalepeño Poppers at Eat Make Read
Polenta Fries without the Deep Fry at ReadyMade via Everybody Loves Sandwiches

Brewster area, Cape Cod, Masschusetts July 2011
(More photos to come!)

When you play this song imagine it sans base with a calypso beat... We'll be on the same page.

Find more Taio Cruz songs at Myspace Music

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spaetzle, Zucchini and Peppers with an improvised Green Curry Sauce

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with! I appreciated her willingness to let everyone experiment with their own variations on the theme based on their personal preferences, dietary requirements and/or financial restraints.

Since the spätzle was her Dad's recipe, and it was estimated to take 30-minutes, I chose to tackle it instead of fresh egg pasta. My previous attempt at spaetzle involved squeezing it through a potato ricer and resulted in brain like squiggly masses; the tablespoon method Steph and her Dad endorse treated me better. The resulting spaetzle reminded me of dumplings, though not as soft to the bite and sans butter.

As in our house no meal is complete without a vegetable or two, I decided to drop chopped squash and yellow bell pepper into the boiling water during the last minute or so. This made it simple, summery and minimized the number of additional dishes used. The green curry sauce gave it some added zest, thank goodness as the lemon zest I had thrown in did nothing to add flavor thus it is missing from the spätzle recipe below. I would happily revisit this again, though perhaps with a revised or different sauce, and suggest that you consider trying it as long as you like dumplings and/or gnocchi.

Thanks for the reminder to not give up on spätzle, Steph! 

German Spätzle
Yields approximately 15 spätzle pieces

2 Large Eggs
1/2 cup Milk (Any type works - I used Coconut.)
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour (I needed 1/4 cup extra.)
1 tablespoon chopped Basil (up to 1 tablespoon of any herbs and spices can be used.)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon chopped Basil (for decoration)
1 medium Zucchini, chopped
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, chopped

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and any herbs and spices.
3. Sift in 1/3 of the flour into the liquid mixture and stir until incorporated. Continue adding the flour until the dough is elastic, smooth and very hard to stir.
4. Dip a tablespoon into the boiling water, pour the water out. Scoop up enough dough to fill the moistened tablespoon halfway and drop the dough into the boiling water. Continue until all dough is in the water.
5. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes. If desired, add the zucchini and squash for the last minute to minute and half to blanch it. While the spätzle boils make your sauce.
6. Drain the spätzle and veggies thoroughly.
7. Place the them in a dish and pour a little sauce over each spätzle (you want just enough to dress them lightly). Top with the the chopped basil. 

Improvised Green Curry Sauce
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
2 teaspoons Green Curry Paste
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cornstarch
1 tablespoon Shredded, Unsweetened Coconut

1. Whisk together coconut milk, curry paste and cornstarch in a bowl. Heat in the microwave for a minute. Whisk again. Continue until it has reduced/thickened to the desired consistency.
2. Stir in shredded coconut.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Thrifting!

Since I'm at the Cape, hopefully minimizing internet use and maximizing relaxation, I am skipping my usual Friday distractions. Instead here are the clothing and accessories I have thrifted since January. It is like a flashback to my long discarded stylediary, only most of these pictures include my head. ;) To see a larger version of any picture, just click it.

I am not keeping everything, as sometimes the thrill of the find overtook my best judgement and I don't want to end up on Hoarders, but thrifting these items and a few housewares has been fun. With my sporadic income, this has been my way to shop largely guilt-free.

Do you thrift? What has been your favorite find?Would you be seen with me in any of this?



(Just kidding on that last "suit." You should see the stuff I don't buy!)


Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.

This bunny is SO cute. Our bunny would never permit this and that makes me a little sad.

Spotify is coming to the US. I signed up for access already... If you like music, you should consider doing so as well. Jeff showed this to me a few years ago and we were able to listen to full, new albums for artists for free. (via Lara)

Are you a have-runner? I am! I miss that feeling. I've had a nagging pain in my left hip flexor area for quite a while now in spite of taking a month-long break from 95% of exercise. I suppose it is time to suck it up and pay the money to get that checked out. Sigh. (via Sarah)

An ocean wave made of maps... This is in the same vein as Liesl Pfeffer's travel art that I highlighted a few weeks ago.

iPhone/iPod touch users there is now an app to create your own animated gifs! Neat. (via Courtney)

A thought-provoking Op-Ed on our choice to lose our privacy. I will never think of supermarket loyalty programs in quite the same way. (also via Courtney)

Recipe Bookmarked
Greek Nachos at Not Without Salt

 Lighthouse in Maine, July 2008

I left for Cape Cod this morning! If you leave a comment, I'll get back to you but it might be a bit. Spending time at the beach with friends and celebrating Rachel and Peter's wedding is the perfect way to reward myself for having finished Microbio. Regardless of how the class turned out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cabbage, Squash and Spring Onion Pie

Way back in 2008 Deb at Smitten Kitchen raved about Tomato and Corn Pie, I didn't bookmark it. Leslie made the pie, substituting greek yogurt for mayo, and said it was amazing. Still I ignored the recipe, though I did bookmark an adapted version Jeannette at Everybody Loves Sandwiches made using her favorite biscuit dough. I guess I was afraid of pie crust after attempting a lattice on my first pie.

2011 rolls around, Leslie still says Tomato and Corn Pie is one of her favorite dishes and Rachel informs me Peter loves it too. So I finally decide to try it out, only at the time tomato and corn weren't in season. Since I had cabbage, squash and red spring onions courtesy of my farming internship, I changed the filling to include those items. The filling's bright lemon flavor, hint crunch from the cabbage and overall vegetal sweetness were a hit with my taste testers.

For trial one, I used Smitten Kitchen's Cream Biscuits for the pie's crust. If, like Jeannette, I had a favorite biscuit dough recipe I could make in my sleep this would have indeed been easy. Instead it was a bit messy to put together. That said the resulting pie "crust" was doughy and a little flaky. I also added a sprinkling of feta on top of the vegetables.

For trial two, I stuck to the original crust recipe and OMFG (remember that controversial ad campaign from Gossip Girl Season 2) the resulting flaky, golden crust was SO good. I don't think you can beat butter. It also was super easy since I used the food processor to assemble the crust and it rolled out nicely. As the feta hadn't added a significant flavor I skipped it.

Final thoughts... Take whatever produce you have, throw it in Epicurious' buttery crust and call it dinner, lunch and snack. The meal time won't matter; this pie and its original crust are a little bite of heaven and it reheats pretty well. I can't wait to try the tomato and corn version for the first time next week while vacationing. As for the heavy cream biscuits, I would make them again too if I had cream on hand but not butter and need a biscuit.

Cabbage, Squash and Spring Onion Pie
Adapted from Tomato and Corn Pie from Gourmet 2003 at Epicurious with reference to the recipes linked above

3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1 3/4 teaspoons Salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
3/4 cup Whole Milk
2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
Zest of a Lemon and juice from 1/2 of it
1 medium to small Summer Squash
1/2 head Cabbage
4 Red Spring Onions
Salt and Pepper

1. Slice the summer squash into circles, I aimed for 1/8 inch or less, sprinkle it with salt and set aside. Slide the onions into circles. Chop the cabbage up thin ribbons, then go back over it to break it into small pieces. (You may not be able to fit all the veggies into your pie, if not they'll be great for stir fry.)
2. Add unbleached all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles wet sand. Add milk and continue to pulse until a dough forms, then remove from the food processor and make it into a ball. (This can be done by hand. See the original recipe for instructions).
3. Place one sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and place the dough ball on it. Divide the dough in half. Wrap half in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Cover the remaining dough with a sheet of plastic wrap, then roll it out into an approximately 2-inch round that is 1/8 inch thick. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap and lift dough using bottom sheet of plastic wrap and invert into a 10-inch glass pie plate, patting with your fingers to fit. Set the plastic wrap aside.
4. Preheat oven to 400°F.
5. Stir together mayonnaise, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pat the water off the squash. Arrange a layer of overlapping squash in crust, then a layer of onions and finally the cabbage. Spread approximately half the mayo mixture over top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then repeat the layering process.
6. Remove the remaining dough from the refrigerator. Spread out the plastic wrapping it, place another sheet of plastic on top and roll it out into an approximately 2-inch round that is 1/8 inch thick. Fit it over the filling and pinch it into the bottom crust. Cut steam vents in the top and brush with melted butter.
7. Place the pie in the oven on the middle rack and bake until crust is golden, approximately 35 minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

P.S. If you have any must try ideas for first time visitors to Cape Cod, please leave them in the comments. I leave Friday morning!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.  Happy 4th of July!

Two different ways to look at your food: Wild Food, pictures of your food in its natural setting, by Jay Parkinson MD + MPH and, one he linked, Inside insides: Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Foods by Andy Ellison. The artichoke MRI is hypnotizing.

Jamie at From Me To You captured great photos of Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra's Jazz Age Party last weekend. I'm smitten with this party, as you likely know. I will be there one day in August!

Gone with the Wind, one of my favorite books, was published this month 75 years ago. I'm not sure what inspired me to read it as the movie didn't do much for me, other than creating a love for green velvet, but I could not put the book down. The characters are so well developed! And I so wanted a Rhett Butler after my last reading. Anyway,  NPR's All Things Considered has a five-minute story that gives a bit of background on it. Having read the NPR story and listened to it, I can tell you they are virtually the same so explore the material as you wish, if you wish. (via Jaime)

Creative gardening, again... This garden is vertical, made of gutters and attaches to your house.

If It Were My Home allows you to compare life in two different countries. (via Marginal Revolution)

Recipes Bookmarked
Horchata at David Lebovitz which then indirectly led to Rick Bayless' Horchata recipe at Chef Bud
Korean Spicy Cold Noodles Recipe (Bibim Guksu) at Simply Recipes
Latik (coconut topping with the handy by-product coconut oil) at Cupcake Project
No-Bake Chewy Cookies and Cream Bars at Picky-Palate (I fully intend to make these from scratch.)
Take 6 Cupcake (vegan, who would have known?) at Parsnips and Sprockets via The Cupcake Project's Ice Cream Cupcake Contest Round-Up
The Best Frosting at Mel's Kitchen Cafe

 Bumblebee at Red Dog Farm, June 2011

Song of the Week: Doin' Time by Sublime, which makes me remember high school summers spent riding around in friend's cars with lots of bass. Are crazy speakers still cool with high school kids these days?