Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pistachio marzipan brownies

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, if that's your sort of thing. I have been taking my 2 weeks of vacation very seriously, and have only baked a few pies and a birthday cake. I made this confection above the week before Christmas, and have been wanting to tell you about it, but couldn't find the time in the holiday mayhem. I'm not really sure what to call this, but the texture of the chocolate part was fudgy, with crispy edges, and the pistachio marzipan was rich and delicately flavoured. Together, they were outstanding, and I'm not even a chocolate fanatic.
I adapted this recipe from the gevulde speculaas, or spice cake with almond paste I made last month, by substituting Dutch-processed cocoa for some of the flour and making a sweetened pistachio paste from the fabulous, fresh Iranian pistachios available just down the street. I omitted the spices, but I bet a chocolate spice version would be fantastic. I baked it in a rectangular tart pan, but a round cake pan would also work well. Blanching and peeling the pistachios was a time-consuming business, but the end result was so worth it. Umm, that's a lot of 'buts', but I can't think of any other words right now. Bear with me. The brownies kept well in a covered container for well over a week, though I cut a small slice every time I walked by. 
Pistachio marzipan brownies
Adapted from Warm Bread and Honey Cake

1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup Dutch-process cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
7 oz/1 cup brown sugar
6 oz/¾ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg, well beaten
10½ oz pistachio marzipan (I made my own, see below)
about ½-¾ of a beaten egg (reserve the rest for glazing)
  1. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and run the food processor until the dough comes together. Try not to eat all the dough. Divide the dough into ⅓ and ⅔ portions, shape in discs, wrap separately in plastic and refrigerate. Chill for one hour. It can be made the day before, but will need to warm up before rolling to prevent it from breaking up.
  2. Preheat oven to 340℉/170℃  and grease a 9" cake pan, or a 13"x4" tart pan.
  3. Mix the pistachio paste with enough beaten egg to make a fairly soft, spreadable filling. Set aside. Roll out the larger portion of dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap until it is about 1" larger than your pan on all sides. Make sure there are no creases in the plastic wrap. Use this piece of dough to line the pan, pressing it to the sides of the pan so it doesn't fall inward. Spread the pistachio paste evenly over the dough and fold in the dough edges so they rest on it. Reuse the plastic wrap to roll the smaller piece of dough into an 8½" circle. It should be slightly smaller than the cake pan. Trim it so the edges are neat. Moisten the edges of the dough in the pan and lay the smaller circle on top. Press the edges gently together to seal. Brush with the leftover beaten egg and prick with a fork in several places.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan, then transfer carefully to a serving plate. If you can stand it, wrap this and let it sit for a day or two before serving for best flavour.
Pistachio marzipan
10 ounces/283 grams shelled pistachios
7 ounces/200 grams granulated sugar
2 egg whites

This was rather labour-intensive, so if you can find shelled, blanched pistachios, it'll be worth it. Otherwise, pick up about twice the weight of pistachios in the shell.
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pistachios and blanch for 30 seconds to one minute. Test one by running it under cold water and seeing if the reddish skin comes off easily. If so, drain and rinse with cold water. Now, one by one, squeeze the pistachios to remove the skin. This is what keeps the marzipan bright green. Once they are all skinned, place on a towel-lined baking tray and allow to dry for at least 3 hours. Do not dry in the oven, as the colour may fade.
  2. Combine pistachios and sugar in a food processor and grind as finely as desired. I leave mine with a bit of texture.
  3. Add egg whites and process until well blended. Scrape into a container and refrigerate or freeze. This keeps well, and is best made in advance. 
Clockwise from top: pistachios in shell, shelled, blanched, marzipan
Oh, and here's the last slice of my mother's birthday cake: one for the baker!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cardamom crumb cake

I was so excited when I saw this cake appear on the December recipes list, thanks to Jill of Jill's Blog. However, with work, a nasty bug and general holiday craziness, I didn't get much time to spend on this. The one night I was able to bake this I discovered that I didn't have enough cardamom for both the cake and the crumbs. I put what I had in the cake, as I'm not usually a fan of crumb toppings and figured I'd be picking it off anyway. I know many people who prefer the crumb topping to the actual cake, but I am definitely not one of them. Other changes I made were to use slivered almonds instead of walnuts and I omitted the orange, as I wasn't convinced that it would work with both the coffee and cardamom. In the end, I didn't much like this cake, but I think it was probably my own fault. I found it tasted more of coffee than cardamom, and the texture was a bit coarse, like those boxed snack cake mixes my mother would occasionally buy when I was a child. Oh, and no surprise, but I didn't like the crumb topping. One good thing about it was that it kept very well: it sat around for about a week before I took a photo of it, and it was still perfectly fresh-tasting. Please don't let my poor results deter you--this was a well-liked cake by the rest of the TWD bakers. You can find the recipe here. I do have my eye on another cardamom cake recipe, so hopefully I'll be more successful next time. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cupcake art

I have finally got over a nasty cold/sore throat that I had been fighting (and mostly losing) for about 2 weeks. As a result, I haven't felt much like baking. I did make 4 big pots of soup over that time, and I ate lots of poached eggs. Thursday I baked for the first time in a while, but you'll have to wait a few days to see what I made. It's worth the wait, trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong? However, while I was lying on the sofa and generally moping, others were busy. Most excitingly, one of my photos from the summer was turned into a print by Lisa Orgler of The Lunchbox Project. Lisa paints pictures of food and I love her quirky style. She asked for submissions of cupcakes for a poster she's putting together, and she chose mine! Here it is, with my original photo beside it. Here's the link to the original post, with recipe.

In other news, I spent the day yesterday making a birthday cake for my mother's surprise party tomorrow. It's a 2-layer, 12" vanilla genoise with raspberry and vanilla buttercreams. I will try to get a photo, but it's hidden in her garage, frozen solid. And, my Escher salamander cookies showed up in Not So Humble Pie's science cookie roundup #8. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Daring Cooks poach to perfection!

I am always nervous when the Daring Cooks' challenge is revealed. What if it something really meaty? That just does not appeal to me. Eggs, on the other hand, are a staple for any meal around here. This was a perfect challenge, as I had already made the challenge recipe of Eggs Benedict, so I could branch out a bit and try other poached egg recipes. In fact, I got a bit carried away and made 4 different dishes, only missing making the fifth because I was out of a key ingredient.
First up, egg hoppers. Hoppers are a Sri Lankan stovetop yeast bread made with coconut milk. Usually an egg is cracked and cooked in the bread, but I poached mine and topped them with a coconut and curry leaf sambol. This was the dish I could not stop eating, and I think I had 8 of these until the sambol finally ran out.
Egg hopper with karapincha sambol
Next, I revisited Japan, and one of my favourite breakfasts. Hot rice, natto, and egg. What is natto, you wonder? Well, it's fermented whole soybeans that are quite slimy. They are often served with a raw egg beaten in, but I used a lightly poached one. Some say that natto is stinky, but I don't think so at all. This makes a filling, savoury breakfast. It was also a great excuse to use the natto bowl and spoon a friend had sent me from Japan.
Rice, natto, poached egg and black sesame seeds
Hmm, where to next? Well, back to Eggs Benedict, the dish that every brunch joint in North America serves. This is what I order almost every time I go out for brunch. I've had them on steak, lobster, crab cakes, biscuits, focaccia, with back bacon, with spinach... I had only made them once before at home, and that was for an Easter brunch of about 15 guests. This time, I made them for myself, for an indulgent breakfast on a day I wasn't working. First, I made crumpets, then topped them with steamed spinach, the eggs, and hollandaise sauce topped with a bit of smoked paprika or ancho chile, I can't remember now. Delicious!
I really wanted to make the oeufs en meurette, or eggs poached in a red wine sauce, but there are lots of mushrooms involved, and I'm not a fan of the fungus. I also thought about doing an eggs in tomato sauce, as that's another staple around here, but I just never got around to it. Instead, I enjoyed my eggs benny...
...and then it came to me. Of course! Eggs poached in maple syrup, that sugar shack specialty. I decided to make some buckwheat crepes and peppercorn crusted, very crispy bacon to accompany the eggs. Now, if you're recoiling at the idea of poaching eggs in syrup, relax! It's not nearly as sweet as you might imagine, especially when served with the unsweetened crepes. Don't forget to dunk your bacon in the syrup too!
 And now, the official blog-checking lines for a great challenge. Thanks Jenn and Jill!

Blog-checking lines: 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.

Challenge PDF, recipes and recipe links can be found after the jump.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tuile not get the best of me!

What's your favourite thing to bake? Mine is cake. Not only do I love the texture, especially of a sponge cake, but the method suits me. You pay attention for a few minutes while you whip up the batter, then you put it in the oven and you've got at least 25 minutes before you have to pay attention again. Oh, and when you can smell a cake, it's almost ready. Cookies, on the other hand, require a whole different level of attention that I haven't got. Mixing the dough is fine, but then you have to roll it/cut it/mark it with a 'B'/divide it evenly/roll it into balls/roll them in sugar/press them flat with a fork or glass/space them evenly on the baking sheet/prepare that baking sheet/pay attention for 6 to 12 minutes or so/cool on sheet for a bit/remove to a rack to cool/cool baking sheet. And that only gets you about a dozen cookies, so you have to repeat! They sure do taste fantastic fresh from the oven, though. Why am I going on like this? Well, these tuiles and I are not friends, for many reasons. I made them a couple of months ago, to go with some pumpkin ice cream, but it took a few tries to get it right. I got it really wrong in a number of ways, including one smoke alarm incident. You can read about it here.
Tuile version 1.4, from earlier this year
Why could I make complex things, with multiple components like wedding cake, croquembouche, tian and pavlova, but not a simple cookie? So, when this recipe came up in TWD, I was leery. Did I need to make these again? Was it just bad kitchen karma the last time I tried? Well, the answer is yes, and no. I decided to try again, because they seem so simple. 4 ingredients, one of which is maple syrup. Then, Nancy posted the ingredients in weights, so it seemed easy enough just to make a half recipe. That would have been great, except for the attention span issue. Whenever I halve/double a recipe, I always forget to halve/double one ingredient. I can only pay attention for so long... This time it was the flour. I must have forgotten to halve it (for the second time that day), and didn't notice until I went to pull the first tray from the oven. They had hardly spread and could not even charitably be described as lacy. So, I added a bit of butter and syrup to the rest of the batter and tried again. They were even worse. At this point, I thought it was high time to give up. But, as bedtime approached, I couldn't. I made another half batch, carefully measuring all the ingredients this time.
Version 2.1 (in front) and 2.2 (in back): too much flour, but they tasted like
maple fortune cookies. I may be on to something.
Early the next morning, I got the batch you see up top in the oven, and I am so happy to say that they worked out well. They were crisp and lacy, and easy to remove from the baking sheet. I was so happy, that I had a few with breakfast, along with fruit salad in my favourite bowl.
Thanks so much to Clivia for selecting this recipe! I can now say I enjoyed the process, but I am not going to be making these again for a long while! I actually find them too rich and sweet, and greasy coming off the cookie sheets. Or perhaps that's just the contrast with the sour grapes! I promise not to complain next time. Even though I did get strep throat at school. See what the rest of the TWD gang thought here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hazelnut-buckwheat crêpes with pear-ginger compote and crème fraiche

I recently joined the Food52 site when I saw that you could sign up to test recipes that members had submitted. These days, it seems that I belong to too many cooking groups, but I liked that with this one, you only sign up if there's a recipe you'd like to test. For me, that means dessert recipes. Then, it's as easy as writing a 100-word review and sending it in to the editors to help them make their picks for the week's winner. I haven't got around to submitting a recipe yet, as I always seem to be cooking someone else's, but hopefully soon.
I chose this recipe because it seemed to have a really interesting mixture of textures and flavours, and also because I love both buckwheat and crêpes. I loved the pear compote, with its sharp, gingery and lemony syrup. Sadly, I did not love the crêpes. I found them really heavy, and, if I make this again, I will eliminate the hazelnuts in the crepes and just use them as a garnish. The only change I made to the recipe was to use a rich, thick, local Greek-style yogurt in place of the crème fraiche. It was what I had on hand, and I actually prefer it.

This recipe was submitted by user KTC, who has a brand-new blog called Whip & Spoon

Hazelnut-buckwheat crêpes with pear-ginger compote and crème fraiche
Serves 6

Pear-Ginger Compote:
8 pears, firm but ripe
Juice from one lemon
Juice from one orange
2-3 strips lemon zest
2-3 strips orange zest
¼ cup honey
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, beans scraped from pod
1 cup cup white wine, such as Moscato (or a dry wine will work, too)
1-1½ cups water (enough to cover pears in pan)
2 1-inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled
6-ounce container creme fraiche
  1. With a swivel peeler, peel skins off pears. Remove stems and cut in half. Cut each half into four even wedges; remove seeds and tough interior with a paring knife. Add to 2.5 quart sauce pan.
  2. Using a swivel peeler, remove zest strips from orange and lemon; juice lemon and orange. Add lemon and orange juice and zest strips, honey, sugar, vanilla beans and pod pieces, white wine, and ginger pieces to pan. Add one cup water (plus extra, if needed, in order to just cover the pears).
  3. Bring to a boil; allow to boil for just a few minutes. Turn down heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until pears are easily pierced with a sharp knife but not falling apart.
  4. With a slotted spoon, remove pear slices from ginger syrup and set aside.
  5. Turn up heat, bring syrup to a boil, stirring occasionally, until it's reduced to about 1.5 cups golden, thick syrup. Pour juices released by cooling pear pieces into the syrup as you cook it.
  6. Remove ginger pieces, vanilla bean pieces, and lemon and orange zest strips from syrup. Add pears to syrup.
  7. Keep pear-syrup mixture on low heat if you plan to serve immediately. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate; reheat when you're ready to use it.
Hazelnut-Buckwheat Crepes:
1 cup cold water
1 cup whole milk
4 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sifted buckwheat flour
1½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups whole unsalted hazelnuts
2 teaspoons sugar
  1. Place water, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and buckwheat and white flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (alternatively, you can use a hand mixer or a whisk and mix by hand).
  2. Mix on high (or vigorously, if by hand) for a few minutes until all ingredients are fully incorporated and batter is smooth. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Put hazelnuts onto a cookie sheet and into an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Roast them for 10 minutes (or, until skins start to pull away from the nuts and they turn golden). Remove the hazelnuts from the oven, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel, set aside for a few minutes to steam, then rub vigorously using the towel to remove as much of the skin as possible.
  4. Divide hazelnuts into two even batches. Place one batch onto a clean plate; place a second plate on top of the hazelnuts and press down firmly a few times to crack the nuts into large pieces. Set aside to use as a garnish.
  5. Repeat the above step with the second batch of hazelnuts then place the roughly cracked pieces onto a clean cutting board and chop them into fine pieces, about the size of Grapenuts. (Alternatively, you could chop them in a food processor, pulsing until you get the desired result, being careful not to overchop them into a paste). Set finely chopped hazelnuts aside.
  6. When you're ready to cook the crepes, bring the batter to room temperature. Check the consistency of the batter--it should just coat the back of a spoon, like a heavy cream. Add water a little bit at a time if you need to thin the batter, then stir in the finely chopped hazelnuts (it's best to add the hazelnuts just before you cook the crepes, otherwise, if they sit in the batter, they will get soggy). Heat a 6-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, add a dab of butter (enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan), lift the pan from the heat, and pour 1/4 cup batter into the center of the bottom of the pan as you quickly swirl it around to spread the batter evenly.
  7. Return the pan to the heat. As it cooks through, gently peel it from the pan with a rubber spatula; flip the crepe with the spatula or your fingers and cook it on the second side until light golden brown. Repeat until all crepes have been cooked (stir the batter before you ladle the batter for each crepe, since hazelnuts may settle to the bottom of your bowl).
  8. To assemble, fold the crepes in half, then in half again. Place one or two on a plate. Top with 8 or so pear pieces; spoon ginger syrup over the top. Add a dollop of creme fraiche. Sprinkle coarsely chopped hazelnuts on top.

Read more: http://www.food52.com/recipes/7694_hazelnutbuckwheat_crepes_with_pearginger_compote_and_creme_fraiche#ixzz1759hNUKX

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ad Hoc chocolate chip cookies

Are you always in search of the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe? It seems to me, from wasting time online my extensive research, that folks want a very chewy cookie. Caky is bad. Too thin and crisp is usually bad. So, basically we are looking for warm cookie dough, I think. Have I got my finger on the pulse of chocolate chip cookie lovers? Or is that a bit too personal?
Anyway, I was looking for something to make for the Ottawa Foodies potluck that happened recently. I had to work that morning, so it couldn't be too elaborate. It needed to be portable and not require any serving utensils, because I was too lazy to bring my own. So, cookies it was. I made a double batch of dough the night before and finished baking them seconds before I ran out the door, only an hour late. After reading Valerie's post on the cookies I decided to reduce the flour by a fair bit, as I did want the chewiest cookies possible. That made my cookies much flatter than hers, but I loved the texture, even a couple of days later. Yes, I kept tasting in the service of sharing my findings with you. I'm unselfish that way.
I froze the leftover dough and baked them to send to a friend for her birthday. I underbaked them, hoping they'd still be somewhat soft when Canada Post finished mangling them. Amazingly, they survived the journey. This batch wasn't as flat as the first batch, but the only picture I got were of the ones I forgot in the oven and didn't mail! They are brown and crisper, but still very good.
The overdone batch: dark and crispy
Oh, and what is with cookie yields? This recipe apparently makes 30 3-inch cookies, and I doubled it, expecting 60 or so. I used EXACTLY the measure called for and got about 100. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate chip cookies
from Ad Hoc at Home, by Thomas Keller

2⅓ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces 55% chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces (about 1¼ cups) I replaced this with milk chocolate
5 ounces 70 to 72% chocolate, cut as above  I used 72%
8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces *
1 cup packed dark brown sugar, preferably molasses sugar. I added a dollop of molasses to brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Vanilla--not in recipe, but I couldn't help adding it

*I just noticed the 'cold' as I was typing. Maybe that's why mine were flatter. Oops.

For chewier cookies, instead of underbaking them, Keller recommends misting them with water before baking. I tried it, but couldn't tell the difference between those and the unmisted ones, so didn't bother after the first tray.

Preheat oven to 350℉. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpats or parchment.
Sift the flour and baking soda together and stir in the salt.
Put the chopped chocolate into a fine-mesh strainer and shake to remove any chocolate 'dust'.
Beat half the butter until fairly smooth. Add both sugars the remaining butter, and beat until well combined, then beat for a few minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding the next, and scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Mix in the chocolate, and fold with a spatula to ensure that the chocolate is evenly incorporated.
Using 2 level tablespoons per cookie, shape the dough into balls. Arrange 8 cookies on each pan, leaving about 2 inches between them, as dough will spread. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tops are no longer shiny, rotating pans and switching racks if you are baking 2 trays at once.
Cool the cookies on the pan on cooling racks for about 2 minutes to firm up a bit, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
The dough or shaped cookies can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Defrost frozen cookies in the fridge before baking.
Apparently makes 30 3-inch cookies, but I got substantially more than that.
The original batch: paler, flatter and chewier. Cloudier that day, too.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers make crostata

This month's challenge was to make a crostata dough and fill it with our choice of anything at all. Time ran out on me, as it usually does, as I really wanted to make a savoury one. I did manage to make 2 small crostate, but I'll definitely have to come back to this one, especially as I still have some of the pastry in the freezer. The first one I made, shown above, was blind-baked and  filled with passion fruit curd and topped with raspberries. It tasted like summer, which is a treat, considering it's been alternating between freezing rain and snow here for the last 24 hours. You can find the recipe for the passion fruit curd here
The other one I made was filled with homemade applesauce and fresh blackberries. I find that a very English combination, but it was fantastic in the pasta frolla crust. I actually liked the crust better in this one--it was not as crisp and flaky, but very tasty from the filling. I topped it with a lattice and sprinkled it with raw sugar. I served this with whipped cream on the side, but it didn't need it at all. I had some warm and some cold and liked it both ways. 
Before topping and baking
Blog-checking lines:
The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
After a bite or two
Full challenge PDF here. Thanks for a great challenge, Simona! Take a look at the Daring Kitchen to see a slideshow of all the lovely crostate this month.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cardamom sablés

If you love cardamom and butter, this is the cookie for you. I made a batch of these for a friend's birthday and mailed them off, and they arrived safe, sound and delicious. These are a buttery shortbread style cookie, and the variations are endless. This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours, and I first made it last Christmas, just before I joined the Tuesdays with Dorie group. This week is a rewind week, where instead of all of us making one recipe, we choose one we missed or would like to revisit. So, if you want to see a variety of recipes, click your way over to the TWD site

Makes about 50
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature, plus 1 large egg yolk, for brushing the logs
2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cardamom, preferably freshly ground
coarse sugar (I used raw sugar)

You can use a hand or stand mixer for this, or make them by hand. I made them by hand this time. Using a wooden spoon, beat the butter until smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars, cardamom and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Beat in 2 of the egg yolks, again beating until the mixture is homogeneous.
Add the flour, and mix gently to combine, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball -- and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.

Scrape the dough out onto a smooth work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long: it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log. Wrap the logs well and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months).

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Remove a log of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Whisk the remaining egg yolk until it is smooth, and brush some of the yolk all over the sides of the dough -- this is the glue -- then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with decorating sugar.
Trim the ends of the roll if they're ragged, and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies. (You can make these as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as -- but no thinner than -- 1/4 inch.) Place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them.
Bake one sheet at a time for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the midway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top; they may feel tender when you touch the top gently, and that's fine. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest a minute or two before carefully lifting them onto a rack with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remaining log of dough, making sure the baking sheets are cool before you bake the second batch.
These keep well in a tin for about 5 days or so, and can even be frozen if you haven't sugared the edges.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roasted chickpeas and butternut squash with cilantro-tahini dressing

I think I could quite happily live on this dish all winter, and I don't even like leftovers much. It had great taste, texture, and temperature too, leaving me with nothing to dislike, which is saying a lot. I first saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but it is originally from one of the Moro cookbooks. I made a few changes, by roasting the chickpeas and onions, and by pureeing all the dressing ingredients together. Why? Well, I usually soak and cook my own chickpeas, cause I'm a nerd that way, and because I don't always like the texture of canned, so I thought roasting them would firm them up. As for the onion, I figured if everything else was cooked, that I didn't want crunchy raw onion. And because everything is cooked I'm not calling this a salad. Why do people do that? Cauliflower and cheese sauce is the same idea and nobody calls that a salad. Oh, and the sauce! I have often bought tahini, but I can't remember ever finishing it. I usually throw it out when I move. Not sure why, but this container is going to go fast, on this recipe alone. Pureeing it with the cilantro and the roasted garlic and lots of lime juice and salt made it sing, and cut the sweetness of the squash in a very good way. Try this! Just don't call it salad.
Warm butternut squash and chickpeas with tahini-cilantro dressing
Adapted from The Moro Cookbook

about 2½ pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" cubes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed and patted dry (or 1½ cups of cooked and drained)
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved if large
½ teaspoon ground allspice (optional--I used it, but couldn't really taste it)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425℉. Toss all the ingredients above together on a baking sheet and cook for 25-40 minutes, till squash and onion are tender and touched with brown. Cool slightly.

¼ cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water, plus extra to thin, if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic, fresh for a stronger flavour, or the roasted one from above for a mellower taste
Place cilantro in food processor and chop coarsely. Add the roasted garlic from the baking tray and process again. Add the remaining ingredients and puree. Taste and add salt--I liked this a bit salty. You should end up with a bright green and very flavourful sauce.
To serve, toss squash mixture with dressing, or serve it on the side so everyone can decide how much they'd like. Garnish with cilantro. I had lots of dressing left over and found it made a great dip for vegetables. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Daring Cooks make soufflé!

I realize there is a bottle of Amaretto right behind the soufflé, but there was no time to move it!
Watching a soufflé rise in the oven is way better than anything you can find on television. I watch what's happening in my oven all the time, but this was the best show I've seen in ages, and I wouldn't mind watching a repeat. In fact, I think there should be a specialty channel: Soufflé TV.
After a few minutes. They started out level with the top of the dish.
This month's challenge comes to us from the lovely Linda and Dave of MonkeyShines in the Kitchen. For my sweet soufflé, I couldn't decide what to make, meaning I left this close to the deadline. I had some lovely homemade applesauce from freshly picked apples, but then I made something else with it. Oops. Passionfruit? A favourite flavour, but I kept forgetting to pick any up. Banana? Possibly. Then I spied the bag of oranges in the back of the fridge. Orange and Amaretto are one of my favourite flavour combinations. I used a simple recipe and added orange zest, along with a couple of tablespoons of Amaretto.
After 10 minutes or so. MonkeyShines described these as rocket ships!
The soufflé mixture was fairly liquid, from the booze, I guess, and I was afraid it would spill over the edge and end up on the bottom of my oven. That didn't happen, and as you can see, they rose rather well. I was actually afraid they were going to propel themselves right out of the dish! I took the one on the right out after about 18 minutes, as I like a creamy centre. I left the other one in the oven while I took pictures, and it was fine--just a bit drier. These tasted wonderful--they were crispy on the edges from the sugar crust, and had a lovely orange flavour. The Amaretto was subtle, but I fixed that:
By scooping out a place for more Amaretto. Mmm. Getting pictures of these was the trickiest part, as they don't last long, and it was a partially cloudy day. The sun was playing cat and mouse, or, more accurately, playing chicken. I need to work on my food styling, but I was satisfied with the taste, and that's what counts for me. But that's not all...
I also made a savoury soufflé, a beet and feta one, soon after the challenge was revealed. It made a nice lunch, but didn't puff as much as I wanted. The texture was creamy, though, and the feta added bursts of flavour. It looked like a big fuschia cauliflower, I think.
Can you see me, reflected in the kettle?
Blog-checking lines: 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.

Recipes and full challenge PDF after the jump.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Caramel-topped semolina pudding

What is the difference between semolina and farina? This has been one of the burning questions this month on the French Fridays with Dorie website. Now, I tried to help, but I'm really not sure half the time. I sometimes buy semolina to make pasta (okay, I did once about 10 years ago), but is it fine or coarse? Is it durum semolina? How about I just skip the recipe and make something else on my very long to-do list? Um, please don't go to Wikipedia and tell me what they think. :)
I wasn't sure when I saw the title of this recipe, but you need to read on with Dorie recipes, because the title may actually tell you very little about it. It may even mislead you completely. This dessert is called a semolina cake, but contains no semolina and is not even slightly cake-like. Hmmm. What it did have, though, was an ingredient I was familiar with: Cream of Wheat. I even had some in my cupboard, so I got right to it.
We have been asked not to publish the recipes from this book, but for this pudding you hardly need one. Make cream of wheat as usual, with milk. Add sugar, flavouring and beaten eggs. Pour into a caramel-lined cake pan and bake till it puffs up. Invert, cool, and serve. I did not include the raisins, as my raisin aversion has been well documented here. I used my own vanilla spice extract, which is in a rum base. I also made half the pudding recipe but the full amount of caramel and divided it amongst 3 small ramekins. I could have made 4, as I didn't realize it would puff so much. in fact, mine were like little volcanos in the oven, spouting molten caramel. This is why the oven window is better than TV. Come back on Sunday for some photographic evidence of that.
I really liked it, and didn't find it resembled my winter breakfasts much. It was firm enough to turn out, but soft enough to eat with a spoon. The flavours of rum, vanilla, mace, tonka bean and sapote were understated, but definitely there. I didn't think it needed anything to accompany it, though apparently it's good with pineapple. Perhaps grilled? Even though I doubled the caramel, there wasn't a lot. Usually a custard is baked long and slow in a water bath, then chilled overnight, making lots of runny caramel. This caramel was still quite sticky, and I was able to spin it into all sorts of shapes as I ate it. I refrigerated one overnight to see if it had more, but it didn't--the pudding seems to absorb much of it. Also, the pudding was firmer and not as nice the next day. So, make it and eat it--neither will take long!
Some see the world through rose-coloured glasses--I prefer caramel.
See you Sunday with the Daring Cooks' reveal!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raspberry shortbread, or maybe cake?

  • I don't love cranberries.
  • I don't need a big, possibly dry cookie thing hanging around.
  • I haven't got any soft butter.
  • It gets dark just after 4:00, thanks to Daylight Savings, or Standard Time, or whatever it is. I am living in the wrong place to take photos after work.
  • My oven is horrible.
These were just some of the excuses I came up with for not doing this week's recipe.
  • And why do cranberries have to be in everything at this time of year?
That was just me whining a bit.
Then I got over it, softened accidentally melted some butter, and perused my jam cupboard. I have half a dozen types of homemade jam, but decided to make a quick raspberry sauce to keep with the red theme. I added the zest and juice of an orange, some sugar and boiled it till it thickened a bit. I quartered the recipe and made 2 little cakes. I ate one right away, and it was good, even though it got a bit too dark around the edges, and the 'jam' was too runny to fit much in the crust. I may have to experiment with other types of jam. But not cranberry--you turkey lovers can have it. You know you're going to need it.
Thanks for the pick, Jessica! I'm glad I got over myself and made it. :)
Oh, and there's an interview with Dorie on Leite's Culinaria. Check it out. Here's the link.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Butternut squash, spinach and goat cheese tart

Update: I forgot that I added an onion! Revised recipe below.
I made this a few weeks ago, when I had some friends over for brunch. The brunch was an excuse to eat homemade doughnuts, but I thought I had better serve something a bit more substantial first. I wanted to use butternut squash, as a huge one had taken over all my (very limited) counter space, and I found this recipe, but it had been adapted from a book called Roast Figs, Sugar Snow by Diana Henry. I haven't got my hands on this book yet, but it sounds good--wintry recipes from all over the world. I used goat cheese, as I didn't have any blue cheese on hand, but I plan to make it with the stronger cheese next time. I thought this tart was fantastic--very flavourful and it made excellent lunches for me for a few days. Just eat any leftovers at room temperature, as microwaving destroys the crust. I used an all-butter crust instead of the shortening one (eeww), but used a lower ratio of butter to flour, as it was all I had. It was perfect--buttery and flaky.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
ice water, 4-8 tablespoons (mine took 7)

Combine flour and salt in food processor and pulse to mix. Add butter, and pulse until butter is broken up--some pieces will be tiny, but some should still be pea-sized. Add water a few tablespoons at a time and pulse. You don't want it to come together in a ball. Instead, open the processor and squeeze some of the mixture together. If it holds, you're done. I often put too much water in my impatience, but it'll be fine after resting. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refigerate for a few hours.
Preheat oven to 350℉. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface till it is about 13" in diameter. It'll be thin, which is how I like my crust. Transfer to a 10" tart pan or springform pan (I used a springform). If using a tart pan, you can fold down the pastry to make a thicker edge. If using a springform, trim the pastry so it is an even(ish) height all around. Freeze while the oven preheats. I baked the squash at the same time, so read below to have that ready. Prick the pastry with a fork, line it with greased foil and dried beans. Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and bake for another 10 minutes or so. You want it set and dry, but only lightly coloured. My oven runs very slow, so keep an eye on it! Cool on a rack.

1 pound (454 grams) of butternut squash
olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
½ pound (250 grams) of spinach, washed and stemmed
2 large eggs, plus one yolk
1 cup whipping cream
2 ounces (about 50 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
3.5 ounces (100 grams) goat cheese, crumbled into large pieces
a few leaves of fresh sage, minced, or a grating of fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper

Cut squash into large cubes (about 1"/2.5 cm) and toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, underneath the tart shell if you're doing both, for 25 minutes or so, till tender. Set aside to cool.
Saute onion in olive oil until it is completely softened and nicely brown.
Blanch spinach in boiling water for a minute, drain, rinse with cold water, then squeeze till it's dry. Chop roughly. 
Mix the eggs and yolk, cream, Parmesan, sage or nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Scatter the squash, spinach and goat cheese over the bottom of the tart shell, and pour the custard mixture over. It will be very close to the top of the crust, and that's fine. Bake at 350℉ for 40 minutes, until golden and set. Let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan and serving. This tart is good warm or at room temperature.