Wednesday, April 29, 2009
It all started with some baby artichokes in our CSA box. That and the giant block of feta in the fridge R had picked up from Costco. I was leaning Mediterranean, as I had already made some fresh hummus earlier in the day. The meal ended up having a Greekesque flair to it. Nothing hardcore authentic, but throw some feta, lemon, and mint together and it's going to at least hint of being Greek.
I have never prepared baby artichoke before, so I kept those simple. I peeled the outer, tougher leaves off, trimmed the stem and the top of the choke and then quartered them and let them hang out in some lemon juice infused water while I prepped everything else.
I made some long grain white rice, cooked with lemon zest, and then fluffed with minced mint, from our garden, after it was finished cooking.
I wanted a simple and light protein to go with it, so I ended up making some baked, mini, Greek, turkey meatballs. The ground turkey was mixed with one slightly beaten egg, about 1/4+ C. of feta, 2 Tbs. fresh zatar (it tastes a bit like oregano), 2 Tbs. fresh mint, some minced shallot, and minced garlic. I also mixed in a bit of bread crumbs and oats because I had them. Any sort of binding agent would work. They were loosely rolled into small balls and placed individually in the wells of a mini muffin tin. While they baked in a 425 degree oven (for about 20 minutes), I got to work on the chokes.
I started by braising/steaming them in a saute pan with a tight fitting lid. I used some homemade veggie broth and a little of the lemon water. There was probably about a 1/4 inch of liquid in the pan with the chokes. After about 15 minutes they were getting tender, so I removed the lid to cook off the liquid. Once almost all of the liquid was cooked off, I added some butter, shallot, and a bit of the fresh zatar and sauteed the chokes until they browned slightly.
The artichokes and meatballs were served over the lemon mint rice, all with a healthy drizzle of lemon juice and more feta. Was this the most amazing meal ever? No, but it was pretty good. Light, seasonal, and it's just generally hard to argue with a homecooked meal.
Monday, April 27, 2009
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
The challenge of this month’s Challenge was to get creative with the flavor combinations of the cheesecake. I had several ideas (lavender/lemon with a shortbread crust, espresso liqueur with chocolate ganache, lemongrass and thyme…) but ultimately ended up with an orange blossom cheesecake with a vanilla/pinenut crust. Not amazingly creative, but it sounded good to us. I had originally planned to serve it with an honey cream topping but decided that might be overkill (although I think I may still mix up a little and give it a try).
The recipe calls for a traditional graham cracker crust, which I actually like quite a bit, but since we have found out J is allergic to soy, we have realized that there is soy in EVERYTHING – graham crackers included (along with most sandwich bread, crackers, cookies, dressings, all restaurant food, etc.). So I swapped out vanilla wafer cookies and added some toasted pine nuts. Because the nuts have a pretty high oil content, I cut the butter back to about 6 Tbs. instead of 8. I also omitted both the sugar and the vanilla extract since the cookies are vanilla flavored and quite sweet already.
In the cheesecake part, I swapped Orange Blossom Water for the vanilla (I used about 1.5 Tbs.) and added .5 Tbs. or so of orange liqueur. My original plan was to swap out some of the sugar for orange blossom honey, but frankly, I forgot. And while the cheesecake ended up amazingly delicious, I will definitely try the honey substitution next time.
My plan for the honey cream was just a made up sort of whim, but I may yet give it a try. I am basically planning to whip together some heavy cream, sour cream, and honey. This could be served on the side like a dollop of whipped cream, or spread on the set and chilled cake like a traditional sour cream layer. Without the honey cream, it was still quite nice served with a drizzle of orange honey and a smattering of toasted pine nuts.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
crust: (see notes above for my substitutions)
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
cheesecake: (see notes above for my substitutions)
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
As promised, here is the no-knead bread post. As I mentioned earlier, the no-knead trend has been gaining a lot of steam lately and has been credited with getting a lot of people over their fear of yeast. And frankly, the credit is earned. It really is quite easy and it really is quite good.
The bread is a pretty straight forward flour, water, salt, yeast french bready type deal. It has a nice crisp crust without being overly chewy, a soft, moist, open crumb and it just tastes good. Both recipes I made had a touch of sweetness to them because they are both all white flour breads. The first no-knead bread we tried was the Jim Lahey/Mark Bittman bread as published in the New York Times. We pitted that against the Cook's Illustrated "Almost No-Knead Bread" but I skipped their kneading stage, so we can call it a true Throwdown::No-Knead Bread.
Both breads use the same long fermentation technique. You mix up all the ingredients into a shaggy dough, cover it, and let it sit for 12-18 hours. Time it so you can wait the whole 18 hours, it makes a difference. The dough is then folded together (watch this video to get a sense of what the folding looks like - and a walk through of the whole process) a few time, left to rest, shaped, rested, and baked in a preheat dutch oven. The first have of baking is covered, so the moist dough in a closed environment creates it's own steam with contributes to the great crumb and crust.
The Lahey/Bittman bread is a straight up dough of flour, water, yeast, and salt. The Cook's Illustrated version gets tricky by adding a bit of lager and a touch of vinegar to get the yeast all excited. Neither one takes much hands on time. A few minutes to mix the ingredients, a minute to fold, another minute to shape. You have to remember to preheat the dutch oven. It needs to be screaming hot so the bread steams and doesn't stick.
At the end of the day, we decided we liked the Cook's Illustrated version better. The beer and vinegar just gave it a slightly more interesting dimension. Both were very enjoyable and I would make both again. In fact I know I will end up making them quite often. It is great dinner bread with soup, or as an appetizer with cheese etc. Very versatile and delicious.
Lahey/Bittman No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Cook's Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread
3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces) at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) mild-flavored lager (I used a Black Lager and it worked great - not exactly mild)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Don't be afraid to bake it until the edges get pretty dark, pale, anemic looking bread is just sad
1. Whisk flour, yeast and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
2. Lay 12- to 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours. [Okay, this part I did totally different. After step one, dump the dough out onto a floured surface and fold several times the same way as with the Lahey/Bittman bread and transfer to a flour covered cloth (not terry cloth). You don't need the parchment paper, skillet, or cooking spray if you flour the cloth well.]
3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position (I left it in the middle), place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch long, 1/2-inch deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). [Since I didn't use the parchment paper, I just gently lifted the dough and dropped it into the pot - be careful, it's very hot!] Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Friday, April 10, 2009
The weather is warming, the plants sprouting, and (knock on wood) we are leaving a spell of winter illness behind us, so I am going to give my best effort to blog the foods and meals we are growing, baking, and eating much more regularly.
But until I get my blogging up to speed, I wanted to at least offer up a few Blogging Backlogs - desserts, some of which may now be out of season but are worth remembering and revisiting down the road.
Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Cake
Adapted from: Eggs on Sunday
Ingredients (crust and ganache ingredients listed for 10-inch pan)
For the cookie crust:
6 oz chocolate wafer cookies
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 quart Ice Cream (homemade or store bought) I used mint chocolate chip
For the chocolate ganache:
6 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate cut into pieces
6 oz heavy cream
Choice of garnish to match ice cream flavor (berries, cookies, crush candy or nuts, etc.) I used Andes mints.
Make the chocolate cookie crust:
Process the cookies in a food processor until they’re fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse it in until the cookie crumbs are moistened thoroughly. Pour the crumbs out into the bottom of your springform pan and firmly pat them down to make an even layer for the crust. Cover the crust with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set, about 1 hour.
Make the ice cream layer — two ways:
If you’re using ice cream that’s already made (I used mint chocolate chip), you can just soften it a bit at room temperature and then beat it in an electric mixer until it’s more the consistency of soft serve. Spread it evenly over the cookie crust, gently pressing down with a spatula to fill in any holes. You want to use enough ice cream to come almost all the way to the top of the springform pan; leave about 1/2 inch room at the top (where the ganache will go. Place the plastic wrap back on over the ice cream layer, smoothing it down directly on the ice cream’s surface so there are no air bubbles. Freeze for at least 2 hours.
If you’re making the ice cream, choose your favorite recipe and have at it. Churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. When it’s finished churning, spread enough ice cream over the cookie crust in the springform pan so there’s about 1/2-inch of room at the top of the pan. Place plastic wrap over the ice cream, pressing it gently down all over the surface of the ice cream so there are no air bubbles. Freeze for at least 2 hours.
To make the chocolate ganache:
Place the chocolate and cream in a large heatproof bowl, and set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Take it off the water and cool at room temperature until it’s lukewarm.
Take the ice cream cake out of the freezer and remove the plastic wrap. Spread the chocolate ganache over the top, smoothing with a spatula. It should just about come to the top of the springform pan. If you’re using the mints or other garnish, place them around the edge of the cake top.
Replace the plastic wrap over the cake, and place it back in the freezer for another 2 hours.
To serve let it warm for a few minutes and then carefully cut with a clean, sharp knife. Clean the knife in between cuts to help minimize the weird looking smears I got on each slice.
Shaker Lemon Pie
Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie
From: The Kitchn
makes one 9" double crust pie
3-4 Meyer lemons
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Basic Pie Crust – I like using either Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee (classic pie crust) or Pate Sucree (a little sweeter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Egg white for wash (optional)
Sugar for top
Thinly slice the lemons - as shaved thin as you can get them! Use a mandoline if you have one. Pick out any seeds. Toss with the sugar and salt and set aside.
Heat oven to 450°F. Grease a 9" pie dish or tart pan. Roll out half the dough into a circle, flat between two pieces of wax paper. Peel off the top layer of wax paper. Place your pie dish upside down on the pie dough round, and carefully flip the pan and dough over. Peel away the wax paper on that side and carefully press the dough into the pan. Using a knife or shears, trim away the extra dough so that there is a half inch of dough above the lip of the pan. Tuck under and roll this extra dough, and pinch tight to the side of the pan. Put in the freezer to chill.
Roll out the rest of dough between two pieces of wax paper and put in the freezer to chill.
Beat the eggs well and stir into the lemons with the vanilla. Remove the chilled pie crust from the freezer and pour in the lemons.
Place the other round on top and trim to fit. Pinch seal the edges and cut a few slits on the top to let out steam. Brush with egg white and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar on top. Put back in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill.
Take out pie and bake on the lowest rack for 15 minutes at 450°F. Turn the heat down to 375°F and move to the center rack. Bake for another 30 minutes or until the crust is golden. If the crust edges begin browning too much cover with parchment.
Chocolate Guinness Cake
Again, St. Patrick's Day has passed already, but this was pretty good and certainly fun. I ended up serving it with David Lebovitz's Milk Chocolate Guinness Ice Cream. I found the cake recipe at The Kitchn, but it is originally adapted from Nigella Lawson. The idea with all of the cream cheese frosting on top is to make it look like a frothy pint of Guinness. I was very tempted to bake this in individual pint glasses, but I just don't think they would take the heat. It's almost worth baking the cake and spooning it into the glasses and then topping with the frosting. I think it would be a fun and festive way to serve your guests.
Chocolate Guinness Cake
From Feast by Nigella Lawson
Yield: One 9-inch cake (12 servings)
For the cake:
Butter for pan
1 cup Guinness stout
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar (I have used regular granulated sugar with no ill effects)
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
For the topping:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.
For the topping: Using a food processor or by hand, mix confectioners' sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.
Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In order to get all of this baked over the weekend and still hang out with the wife and kids (and finally do my taxes) I put together a schedule that started with mixing the pre-ferments for both recipes Friday night. Early Saturday afternoon I mixed, folded, rested, and shaped the doughs, and then baked both loaves later that afternoon. The No-Knead bread was broken into about an hour after it came out of the oven – we couldn’t wait any longer, we’ve been without for so long. We gave the Rustic Bread an appropriate rest and tore into it on Sunday.
Both bread ended up fantastic. The No-Knead bread (you’ll see photos soon) wasn’t gorgeous, but had fantastic crumb. The Rustic Bread had a hearty, but not overwhelming crust, a slightly denser, but very enjoyable crumb structure and wonderful taste. I have been eating it all week, sliced, toasted and covered with cream cheese and orange marmalade. Decadent I know, but an awesome breakfast.
I look forward to making this again with the rye flour and maybe working on my shaping and scoring.
Adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman
50% pre-fermented flour
Makes 2 large loaves
1 lb, 9.6 oz
1 lb 6.1 oz
.06 oz, instant
3 lb, 6.7 oz
1 lb (3 5/8 C)
9.6 oz (1 ¼ C)
.3 oz (½ T)
1/8 tsp, instant
1 lb, 10 oz
9.6 oz (2 ¼ C)
Whole wheat flour
6.4 oz (1 ½ C)
12.5 oz (1 ½ C)
.3 oz (½ T)
.06 oz instant (½ tsp)
1 lb, 10 oz (all of above)
3 lb, 6.7 oz
1. PRE-FERMENT: Disperse the yeast in the water, add the flour and salt, and mix until just smooth. At 60 percent hydration, it will be stiff and dense, but add water if necessary to correct the hydration. Cover the bowl with plastic and let stand for 12 to 16 hours at about 70°F. When ripe, the pre-ferment will be domed and just beginning to recede in the center.
2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the pre-ferment. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes in order to incorporate the ingredients. As the dough is coming together, add the pre-ferment in chunks. If necessary, correct the hydration by adding water or flour in small amounts. Finish mixing on second speed for about 21⁄2 minutes. The dough should be supple and moderately loose, with moderate gluten development. Desired dough temperature: 75°F.
3. BULK FERMENTATION: 21⁄2 hours.
4. FOLDING: Fold the dough twice, once after 50 minutes of bulk fermentation and again 50 minutes later.
5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 1.5-pound pieces. Preshape lightly into rounds and place on a lightly floured work surface, seams up. Cover the rounds with plastic. When the dough has relaxed sufficiently (10 to 20 minutes), shape into round or oval loaves, place them either into floured bannetons or between folds of floured baker’s linen, and cover with plastic.
6. FINAL FERMENTATION: Approximately 11⁄4 to 11⁄2 hours at 75°F.
7. BAKING: Invert the risen loaves onto the loading conveyor or peel. Slash the desired scoring pattern with a blade. Presteam the oven, load the bread, and steam again. Bake at 450°F. Open the oven vents after the loaves show color, in order to finish the bake in a drying oven. Loaves scaled at 1.5 pounds should bake for 35 to 38 minutes.