Friday, December 31, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Nuts


It's Friday, the day that cooks and bloggers scattered around the globe post food they've prepared from Dorie Greenspan's book Around My French Table as part of the French Fridays With Dorie cooking group. Each month there is a list of recipes, and we can cook and post them in any order, as we have the time and inclination. This week I've chosen to post the Sweet and Spicy Nuts. According to Dorie, the French are most likely to serve something simple, such as nuts, along with drinks. And whether you are French or not, these nuts are the perfect nibbles to serve at a party, making this just the thing to post for New Year's Eve!

The first time I made these nuts was back in November when I attended an event in Madison, Connecticut, where Dorie read excerpts from her book and gave a little talk before giving each member of the audience personal attention as she signed our cookbooks. Dorie was, of course, utterly charming, and meeting her was a highlight of 2010 for me.

I knew that I wanted to bring something edible to the book signing for Dorie. My initial thought was, "Oh, I know, I'll make something from Dorie's book." I chose the nuts, because they would travel well, and didn't really realize how daunting it was - to cook Dorie's own food to serve to Dorie herself - until the nuts were already in the oven.

n.o.e.'s notes:

[edited to add: you can find the recipe for the Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts on Dorie's blog]

- I used pecans, because I wanted to have something from my home state of Georgia for Dorie.

- Although Dorie gives lots of possible variations on seasonings for the nuts, I used the chili powder as specified in the main recipe.

- The nuts are quite easy to prepare. First you mix the nuts with egg whites then coat them with sugar and spice mixture. Then the nuts are baked until they are dry and a bit browned.

- I substituted palm sugar for the granulated white sugar.

- Pecans have lots of little crevices that catch and hold the egg whites and spices.

- It's a bit tedious to take each nut out of the seasoning and place it individually onto the baking sheet, but Dorie says that's how it's done, so I did it.

- There was a good bit of egg whites and spices left in the bowl, so I tossed in some more pecans and coated them also.

- I've also made this recipe with almonds and curry powder, pictured below.


the verdict:

Maybe it's as surreal for Dorie to taste her recipes, but cooked by other people, as it is for us to make her recipes and have her taste the results? Any musing along that line, however, was rendered irrelevant by the graciousness of Dorie. "Oh, these are good," she said, "your nuts are so nice and separate; mine always stick together." I had to laugh, "Dorie, I just placed them individually, as you said to do!" And then I had to admit that I'd changed the recipe by substituting the kind of sugar, although, the nuts were delicious that way. Unfortunately, in all the excitement, I didn't take a single picture of those pecans.

My next batch, the almonds with curry, was also quite good. The third time I made the nuts, I went back to the pecan/chili powder combination. These got just a tad too toasty in the oven, as you can see in the top picture, but luckily were still enjoyed by all.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

{TWD} Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits


One of the appealing parts of the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group is the variety - and essential unpredictability - of the recipes selected. With a different "host" each week, the chosen recipes reflect not only the season but also the tastes of the various TWD members, as they choose the recipes from Baking: From My Home to Yours which attract them.

At busy times of the year, it can be a little bit tricky to fit the TWD recipes into the menu, planning, so this week, just like at Thanksgiving, we were free to choose a "rewind" recipe; something that we previously missed. After a bit of searching and thinking, I decided to choose a breakfast item. We had house guests for Christmas week, and at such times it's nice to pull something fresh from the oven first thing in the morning.


n.o.e.'s notes:

- These biscuits were originally chosen by Ashley of Eat Me, Delicous, in February 2008. You can find the recipe on her post.

- I baked these for breakfast on Christmas Eve and I was doing a million things at the same time. I mixed, rolled, cut and popped the biscuits in the oven, and was in the middle of congratulating myself on what a great job I'd done, when I realized that I'd left out the brown sugar. Luckily the biscuits are incredibly easy to throw together that I whipped up another batch immediately. This time I mixed up my steps and added the liquids without working the butter into the flour first. So I tried to mix the dough enough to incorporate the butter without overmixing and making the biscuits tough. No matter how they turned out, I wasn't going to bake these a third time just to get it right. Too much else on the "to do" list on Christmas Eve.

- I used a cutter that was slightly smaller than the specified 2 inches. Despite my worries about them, both batches of biscuits rose quite well in the oven, and I ended up with very tall petite biscuits.

the verdict:

I ended up liking both versions of these biscuits. The unsweetened ones were particularly good with salted butter or a piece of smoky bacon. The brown sugar version had a nice sweet edge, but I wouldn't exactly say that they tasted very strongly of caramel. The pecans provided a nice textural interest. From the way these biscuits disappeared from the serving plate, I'd say they were a big hit with everyone on Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Eggnog Cheesecake


Eggnog by itself, as a drink, is a fairly divisive substance. On one side is the majority vocal "eeewww" crowd and the smaller, but passionate "best thing ever" camp. My family falls pretty squarely in the second group; we love nothing better than a glass of eggnog, big or small, spiked or not, before or after meals.
Turning eggnog into baked goods gains it a bigger audience; I've made eggnog scones, eggnog cinnamon rolls, and when I saw Sunset Magazine's recipe for Eggnog Cheesecake, I knew it would be the perfect thing to bake for my daughter A.L.E.'s fiance, K., who was visiting our home during the Christmas holidays and who loves cheesecake.

n.o.e.'s notes:
- You can find the recipe here
- I made a half recipe into a mini cheesecake in a 6 inch springform pan.
- Rather than the graham cracker crust in the recipe, I substituted gingersnaps for a little spicy bite.
- This cheesecake uses a fair amount of nutmeg, so a microplane comes in very handy to grate the fresh nutmeg.
- I skipped the whipped cream on top.
the verdict:
This was a lovely, creamy cheesecake with a mild nutmeg-y eggnog flavor. K. enjoyed "his" cheesecake and generously let us help him polish it off!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

{TWD} Cardamom Crumb Cake


With all of the Christmas cookie and special occasion dessert baking going on at this time of year, I'll have to say that a breakfast-appropriate cake - one that Dorie Greenspan describes as "not too sweet" - was a very welcome Tuesdays With Dorie baking assignment this week. The Cardamom Crumb Cake contains the flavors, cardamom, orange zest, and coffee. I had a hard time imagining how those tastes could possibly combine, so I just had to bake it the way Dorie wrote it to see how it turned out.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- We can thank Jill of Jill's Blog for choosing the crumb cake this week. For the recipe, check out her blog post.

- I made half a recipe in a medium loaf pan, saving a few spoonfuls of batter for a tiny loaf.

- The only variation I made was to add a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of additional sugar to the crumb topping.


the verdict:

This is definitely not a run-of-the-mill crumb cake. Dorie says it's "exotic" and I couldn't agree with her more. It took me three bites to decide what I thought about the cake, then I loved it! The individual flavors combined in a mysterious yet appealing way and it had a pleasing crunch from the walnuts and the browned edges.

Here are reactions from family members:

My daughter JDE: "I'd eat it again. The salt in the topping is compelling"

My daughter ALE: "I'm tired of regular coffee cakes that are so sweet and not nuanced. This is definitely a cool coffee cake, very challenging, with surprises all along the way, and deeper layers of flavor. Ooh, now I taste the coffee."

My husband: "I like it. Please make more."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots


If Christmas can be said to have a vegetable, I think the honor would go to brussels sprouts. They are a fabulous winter accompaniment to a hearty meal, but they rarely get to play a memorable role. This recipe for Skillet-Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots, from the The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, just might change that. With bacon and bits of caramelized shallots, brussels sprouts get gussied up for the holiday (but they're just as comfortable at a weekday family meal.)


n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe, which I've included below, is pretty simple:

- I used Benton's bacon, and because it is so strong in smoky flavor, I used a little less than the recipe specified.

- I found that my sprouts cooked a bit quicker than the recipe advises, so my advice is to watch them carefully - the first time I made this, they were almost overcooked. Since I like a little more crispness to the sprouts, I've reduced the cooking time.

the verdict:

I'm glad to find such an easy and delicious way to prepare brussels sprouts. There was enough bacon to lend the sprouts great flavor but not so much that it overpowered the goodness of the sprouts. This has definitely become my regular brussels sprouts recipe, but it's also my company-worthy brussels sprouts recipe!

the recipe:

Skillet Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

4 oz bacon (4 slices) sliced about 1/4 in wide
2 shallots, sliced
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved through stem
1/2 c water
salt
1 T unsalted butter
1 T red wine vinegar

1. Cook bacon and shallots together in skillet over medium heat about 10 min. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

2. Add brussels sprouts, water and 1/2 tsp salt to skillet, cover and simmer over medium-high heat until brussels sprouts are bright green, about 9 minutes or less.

3. Uncover skillet and cook until the liquid has evaporated and sprouts are tender, about 5 minutes or less.

4. Remove from heat, and stir in bacon and shallots, butter and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best Cookbooks - Links and Lists

If you like cooking, or reading, or cookbooks, or if you just like reading about cookbooks, this post is designed for you. Round about early December I started seeing, and reading, year-end lists of best cookbook. I saved the links and now I have a sizeable collection from various sources. Most are lists of books actually published in 2010. There are books that appear on nearly all of the lists, and there are some that show up only once. But each book has a reason for being listed, and it makes for fascinating reading, and wonderful gift-planning, to sort through them.

I've arranged the links thus: the first group contains lists from familiar media sources, such as major newspapers and food magazines; the second group has lists from food writers and bloggers. Next I've singled out a few notable cookbook review projects that are a bit out of the ordinary, and finally I've provided my own list of the books, some new and some older, that were most useful in my kitchen this year.

There are enough links here to provide you with material to while away long winter hours - and that's without even ordering anything! You'll also find suggestions to help with your Christmas gift-giving, and truth be told, gift-receiving.

After sifting through these lists, I now have a steady stream of USPS carriers and UPS trucks bringing packages to my doorstep. Many of my intended gift recipients happen to be readers of this blog, now they can expect cookbook gifts! And I am confident that there will be *ahem* a cookbook or three under the tree for me on Christmas morning.

Whether you choose to purchase at your local independent bookseller, or order from Amazon up until the very last possible moment, if you love to cook from cookbooks it's a safe bet that you will find something fabulous somewhere in this post.

I apologize for the formatting glitches in this post. Try as I might, and I actually tried to decipher the html, I couldn't get rid of some inconsistencies.

Amazon's Top 20 "Most Wished For" Cooking, Food & Wine Books
The Guardian's 25 Best Cookbooks of 2010
Epicurious' Best Cookbooks of 2010
NPR's Best Cookbooks Of 2010
Publisher's Weekly (25 more favorites)
The LA Times Great Cookbooks to Give and Receive
The New York Times Year's Best Cookbooks

Best Cookbooks ~ lists from food writers and bloggers

Gluten-free girl's 10 Best Cookbooks of 2010(Plus 2 More) [not necessarily gluten-free]
Michael Ruhlman's Books for the Holidays
Pastrygirl's The Best of Baking Cookbooks 2010
David Lebovitz's Best Cookbooks of 2010
the kitchn's My Favorite Baking Books of 2010
Cheryl Sterman Rule's Notable Cookbook Releases of 2010

Of particular interest:

In his list, food writer Jonathan Gold didn't focus on newly published cookbooks but on those books in his kitchen which are the most worn and stained. Here's the resulting list: 10 most battered cookbooks in Jonathan Gold's kitchen:

In order to generate a more accurate list of best cookbooks of the year, the Huffington Post Food editors first looked at a bunch of other lists. Only those cookbooks that had been listed on several other lists made the final cut: http://huff.to/guMTUV .

More than a single list, Food writer Kathleen Flinn is writing a series of posts in the month of December that she calls 25 Important Food Books - 2010. In her words, "I’ll be showcasing 25 books that had an impact on me in the past year. They’re not necessarily new books or classics or the ones you’d expect, but rather 25 books that I think everyone should know about for one reason or another". http://kathleenflinn.wordpress.com/ (The book posts are the ones from December 6 through 31)

The 2010 Tournament of Cookbooks, aka The Piglet, is a project of the fabulous site Food 52. Sixteen top cookbooks published in 2010 were placed in brackets, and an impressive array of food-world judges rendered verdicts on each matchup. The tournament is now complete, with a final winner declared, but you can explore all of the action by checking out the links in the right hand column on the tournament page. I found this to be wildly entertaining, and promptly lost half of a morning to reading this year's match-ups. When I realized that the 2009 Tournament was also accessible online, I lost the other half.


A Baker's Dozen of Cookbooks I Enjoyed in 2010
I. Savory and/or Comprehensive


Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything - This book may not have absolutely everything in the world, but it certainly has everything I'm likely to cook and a good bit that I'm not. It's clear, it's comprehensive, and it's good. When I want to research an ingredient or a method of cooking, I'll reach for Bittman or my old Joy of Cooking.


Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table - As a devoted fan of Greenspan's previous book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'd buy this 2010 book. Greenspan branches out into savory food in her newest work, and she brings to it her trademark clarity and charm. Recipes I've enjoyed include the kuri squash soup and the fish en papillote. Oh, and I've made the sweet and spicy cocktail nuts three times already.



Rick Bayless, Mexican Every Day - Last year I was lucky enough to eat at Bayless' restaurant Topolobampo in Chicago, and at the end of the meal I purchased this book. For the most part the recipes are quite quick but the techniques and flavor combinations are far beyond the average Mexican-inspired recipes. Bayless' avocado and mango salad has become a standby in my kitchen, and I've loved several of the fish dishes as well.

Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc At Home - I bought this book when it was first published in 2009 when I got an excellent price on Amazon, but I suspected that I'd never actually cook from it. The book is gorgeous, and is sized more for the coffee table than the kitchen table, but it would be a shame to keep it for display. I read in an interview that Thomas Keller wanted the book to be used so much that it ended up spattered and stained, and at this point my copy is well on its way. Although some of the recipes are a little (or a lot) more complicated than my usual fare, Keller is clear and precise in his directions, and I've loved everything I've cooked from the book. The leek bread pudding was a favorite at Thanksgiving and we enjoyed the duck breasts for Christmas dinner last year (yes, both were in 2009 but I have continued to cook from the book this year)


Ruth Reichl, The Gourmet Cookbook - If you're feeling nostalgic for Gourmet magazine, this book might be the most comforting place to turn. You can most likely find all of your old favorite recipes between the yellow covers of this cookbook, and discover new favorites too. Since I started cooking my collard greens and kale Brazilian style, I've not prepared them any other way. And the chili is just about the best I've ever tasted.

II. Baking and Sweets


Alice Medrich, Pure Dessert - For my birthday last year I went to the bookstore to purchase a specific cookbook, but this book caught my eye and I came home with it instead. The book is organized by flavors (milk, nuts, fruit, etc.) rather than type of dessert (cake, cookie, tart, etc.) The recipes are unusual but not weird. I've made the lemon bars, Italian chocolate torte, and chocolate wafers.


I just bought Medrich's new cookie book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, and I anticipate that I will love it also. I've tasted five of the cookies, baked by Medrich herself at a baking class. I enjoyed all of them, especially the ginger cookies, which are extraordinary, and which I immediately baked in my own kitchen.



Davis Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert - For this 2010 book David Lebovitz completely reworked and updated all of his favorite recipes for sweets. The result is a large book completely packed with beautifully-photographed temptingly-presented desserts. Although Lebovitz is known for his chocolate creations, non-chocolate selections make up significantly more than half of the recipes. The fresh ginger cake is beyond wonderful, and the chocolate racines cake was also delicious.


Lebovitz's previous book, The Perfect Scoop, is now available in paperback. It is a comprehensive collection of frozen confections, from the basic - but perfect - vanilla ice cream to more unusual flavors such as black pepper ice cream. I make ice cream at least once a week and this book is almost always on my counter.



Nick Malgieri, The Modern Baker - What initially drew me to this book is that it has a savory pies and tarts section, tucked in there among the cakes and specialty yeast breads and cookies. But I baked other things, including the yellow cake, the blackberry jam cake before making the delicious walnut, scallion and gruyere tart, and what I love about the book is that Malgieri streamlines the baking process for each baked good, so the preparation is simpler, and more elegant.


Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, Tartine - This book is stylish and the recipes I've tried have been impeccable. I've especially loved the almond breakfast cake and the soft gingerbread cookies. Based on my success with this book, I'd be excited about the new-in-2010 Tartine Bread.



Dan Lepard, The Art of Handmade Bread - Dan Lepard, a baker from England, has devised a revolutionary method of preparing bread dough, and his breads have totally revolutionized my life. The only reason that this book is not constantly open is that I have memorized the recipe for his Simple Milk Loaf; it's simple and simply the best toasting bread I've ever had. There are other brilliant bread recipes, but the Milk Loaf is worth the (very low) price of the paperback book.



Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker's Apprentice - I've been - very slowly - baking my way through this book; I've now passed the halfway mark and can truthfully say that there's not been a bad recipe to date. The book is worth owning for the bagels alone - making those homemade with his recipe is truly life-changing. Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads is similarly terrific, but I didn't use it much in 2010, as I was busy with the BBA recipes. I also have Reinhart's newer book, Artisan Breads Every Day, but haven't baked from it yet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

{TWD} Apple Coconut Family Cake


The past few months have brought a bounty of apple recipes into my life. I've baked apple bundt cakes (here and here), apple tart, apple tart cake, and apple pie. Not to mention apple breakfast bread, apple granola, apple bread pudding, a few batches of applesauce, and a repeat baking of my very favorite apple ginger cake. There were even apples in the cranberry galette I baked last month. I'll have to admit, however, that I've never paired apple with coconut. But Dorie Greenspan has, in this week's recipe for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, Apple Coconut Family Cake. There was only one way to see how that flavor combination would taste, so with the prospect of serving this cake to the members of my book group (who have been subjected to enjoyed most of the other apple recipes) I set forth to bake the cake.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Amber Marie of the blog Cobbler du Monde chose the recipe, which you can find by clicking over to her post.

- I made 3/4 recipe in an 8" springform pan (the full recipe is scaled for a 9" pan).

- We didn't have any yogurt in the house, so I used plain kefir. Actually, yogurt, kefir and buttermilk are all cultured dairy products and can be used interchangeably in baked goods.

- I combined the tail ends of a couple of bags of unsweetened and sweetened coconut, although I would have rather used all unsweetened.

- Instead of the dark rum I used King Arthur's boiled cider.

- By mistake I forgot to reduce the sugar to 3/4, and ended up adding a full recipe's worth of sugar. Luckily, Dorie's recipes don't tend to be super-sweet, so the 33% extra sugar didn't ruin the recipe.

- For the flavorless oil I used grapeseed oil. There's a huge bottle of the stuff in my fridge, and I'm always glad to have a chance to put it to use.



the verdict:

Dorie calls this a "family cake" which sounds cozy and comforting, and just a bit rustic. And that's a perfect description for the cake, which I served to friends as well as family. I kept asking my tasters, "this isn't as good as some of the other apple cakes, right?" and the response kept being "maybe not, but this is really good" and then they cut another piece. I had to hide a piece to photograph the next morning, and even then, I was only able to get a quick snap before the cake became breakfast.

It really was a delightful cake: moist, soft, and a bit chewy (from the coconut). The coconut flavor was quite a subtle presence; taking a back seat to the apple.

So there you have it. A lovely, homey apple cake that you can easily serve to guests. And to family too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Triple Ginger Cookies

I've never actually participated in a cookie exchange - one of those get-togethers where everyone brings cookies to share and at the end everyone leaves with an assortment of cookies baked by others - but they always sound like such fun. This year my friend Di proposed a cookie exchange with a bunch of our baking friends. That would have been cool enough, but this was no ordinary cookie exchange. You see, the bakers in this exchange happen to be are scattered over 9 or 10 time zones, with no chance of meeting in person. Rather than cookies actually changing hands, this is a Virtual Cookie Exchange. The cookies are real, baked by each of us in our own kitches, and they are shared with one and all in a virtual manner - on our blogs!

Di will prepare a roundup with links to all of the various cookie posts, and you can participate too! Just visit our blogs and bake the ones that appeal to you.


I'd be pretty remiss if I didn't point out that my daughter A.L.E. designed the logo for the Virtual Cookie Exchange. Being a proud mom, I'm also going to say that she's uber-talented and accepts art commissions.

My favorite Christmas cookies are the ones with molasses and plenty of of spice so that's the direction I looked when it came time to choose a recipe to share. I wanted to try a new recipe, but it also had to be a great cookie.

Luckily, last Friday I was in Houston and met up with fellow bloggers Jessica and Jeannette. Jessica and I took a class at Central Market - Alice Medrich demonstrated 5 recipes from her new book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy. For over two hours, Medrich mixed and stirred, scooped and piped, all the while giving us tips and tricks for better cookie baking. She whipped up 5 different cookies and each person in the room got to enjoy all of the different cookie varieties. There were flat crispy chocolate chip cookies, biscotti, peanut butter meringues, ginger cookies, and brownies. I enjoyed every last crumb! At the end of class, when she was signing our books, Alice Medrich asked me, "Which cookie was your favorite?" Without hesitating, I replied, "The ginger ones!"

So thanks to Alice Medrich, I have the perfect cookie to share in the cookie exchange. Medrich calls them "My Ginger Cookies" or "Screaming Ginger Cookies" - to me they're Triple Ginger Cookies.



n.o.e.'s notes:

- I've included the recipe at the end of the post.

- Kudos to Alice Medrich for including weights as well as volume measurements for the sugar and flour in her recipes. I'd actually be even happier if the recipes contained weights for more of the ingredients. I've included as many as I could, see below.

- The recipe is not difficult, but because of the chopping and grating, it is a bit time consuming. On the plus side, these cookies use melted butter, so no creaming of butter.

the verdict:

These are - hands down - the best ginger/molasses cookie I've tasted!

I'm pretty sure that the fresh ginger is what puts these cookies at the top of the ginger-cookie list. I love how the three kinds of ginger - plenty of each - play together, and how the ginger gets solid support from a generous measure of cinnamon and allspice. The cookies are wonderful when they are baked to a chewy texture, but equally delicious when a bit crisper. The book gives tips for baking this recipe with less gingery heat, just in case you aren't the ginger fanatic that I am. Going to the opposite extreme, I'd add a bit of ground black pepper the next time I make this recipe; I love the bite that it adds to baked goods with ginger.

Thanks, Di for organizing the exchange. I can't wait to see all the cookies that everyone else has posted!

Screaming Ginger Cookies, aka Triple Ginger Cookies
recipe by Alice Medrich, from her book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (9 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick; 2 oz) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • ¼ cup (2T, 100 g) unsulfured mild or full-flavored molasses (Medrich says not blackstrap)
  • ½ cup (3.5 oz, 100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (2.33 oz, 67 g) firmly packed brown sugar or light muscovado (I used dark muscovado)
  • 2 tbsp (16 g) finely minced or grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 large egg (50 grams without shell)
  • ¾ cup (4 oz) finely chopped crystallized ginger (1/4-inch dice)
  • About ½ cup Demerara or turbinado sugar for rolling (I used turbinado, also called raw sugar)

Preparation:

preheat the oven to 350F

Position the oven racks in the top third and lower third of the oven.

Line the baking sheets with parchment paper, or leave sheet unlined.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk or fork.

Combine the warm butter, molasses, both sugars, fresh ginger, and egg in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and chopped candied ginger and stir until incorporated. The dough will be soft.

Form the dough into 1-inch balls (1/2 oz of dough for each). Roll the balls in the Demerara or raw sugar and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake, in batches (form the rest of the balls while the first batch is baking ), for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they puff up and crack on the surface and then begin to deflate in the oven. Rotate and turn the sheets about halfway through the baking time. For chewier cookies, remove them from the oven when at least half or more of the cookies have begun to deflate; for crunchier edges with chewy centers, bake a minute or so longer.

Cool the cookies completely before storing.

Other ginger molasses cookies that I've known and loved:
Dorie Greenspan's
Molasses Spice Cookies
Fine Cooking Double Ginger Crackles that Tracey baked recently.
Another great ginger cookie is
this one from the blog Prudence Pennywise.

I tried to bake the gluten free version of these cookies that Medrich gives instructions for, but used double the egg white by mistake and ended up with a delightful wheat-free gingerbread rather than cookies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

{TWD} Translucent Maple Tuiles


Many a time when browsing through Dorie Greenspan's book I'd stopped by the page for the Translucent Maple Tuiles. In the picture they are absolutely gorgeous; shining golden curved cookies on a plate, yet as I looked at them, invariably my thought was "aargh, how will these ever turn out when I try to bake them?" It's the curved part that looks and sounds tricky: a process that involves taking cookies hot out of the oven, somehow getting them off the cookie sheet, then draping them on a cylindrical object. Once cooled, they maintain a curved form. Or at least that's the theory.

This week the tuiles are the assignment for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group. Time to face this somewhat intimidating recipe head on. After all, that's why I joined the group, to learn new techniques. Right? Right!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The maple tuiles recipe was chosen by Clivia of Bubie’s Little Baker, who is Canadian. I must confess, Clivia, I used New York State maple syrup for my tuiles. Clivia's tuiles post has the recipe, or you can look in the book on page 173.

- The dough couldn't be easier to mix up - just stir together a few room temperature ingredients, including butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and flour. Looking back, I wish I'd used Grade B maple syrup, as it has a stronger maple flavor, and I'm all about the maple. Following a tip from this week's P&Q post I cut the amount of butter by about a teaspoon or two. The dough chills for a few hours, or two days in my case. Dorie says the dough can be made up to a week in advance.

- A whole bunch of Tuesdays With Dorie bakers who are on Twitter picked a time and baked this recipe "together," tweeting their experiences as they went. I was a bit late to the party, so I just read all of the tweets and had plenty of tips when I baked mine. From what I gathered, bakers were using cooler ovens than Dorie's 400 degree recommendation, and the cookies were baking pretty quickly. Engineerbaker said that she was using parchment (even though the recipe says to bake on an unlined cookie sheet.) That was all the permission (excuse?) I needed, and I was ready to bake - on a parchment, no less.

- I used my tiny melon baller to scoop out the dough. The little balls were maybe dime-sized in diameter.

- Dorie talks about removing the cookies from the sheet and draping them "with alacrity," surely a recipe for disaster in my hands. I realized that if I baked each cookie on its own 3 inch square of parchment I could skip the spatula entirely (although I lined up at least 4 different ones, just in case.) It worked perfectly! I could lift the parchment square, let the cookie cool for a few seconds, then peel the cookie from the parchment and drape it.

- I had to play with the oven temperature and time a bit. I baked the first batch in an oven that was not hot enough. The tuiles curved nicely, but were pliable even when cooled, so they flattened out when left to their own devices. 375 degrees for approximately 7 minutes ended up being perfect.

- Draping the cookies over my rolling pin produced a curve that wasn't as dramatic as I wanted. I searched around my kitchen, and ended up using spice bottles and the handle to my dough whisk. After I finished, I realized that a broom handle would have been perfect. I would wrap it - actually I wrapped all of my cylinders - first with plastic wrap so the cookies would be on a clean surface and so that the surface wouldn't absorb the grease from the hot cookies.


It was so much fun forming the curved tuiles that I experimented with making tuile cups. After trying a few different techniques, and here's what I devised:

- Scoop or roll the balls somewhere between a nickel and a quarter in diameter. Place them in the center of a 5" square piece of parchment (can re-use from cookie to cookie) and bake. For me, 375 worked the best. Start checking them at about 5 minutes, and remove from the oven when the cookies are bubbling and browned.

- Let the tuiles cool -flat - on the parchment, then remove them from the parchment and place each over the open top of a custard cup or ramekin, put back into the oven for about 45 seconds, or until softened. The cookie may start to sag into the cup, which shows that is is warm and malleable. Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and gently press the warm cookie down into the inside of the cup. Let cool. Because there is so much butter in these cookies, they will easily release from the cup.

the verdict:

Despite my early trepidation, the tuiles were lots of fun to make. With simple-to-throw-together dough and a baking time of just minutes, they deliver a lot of wow! for very little effort. Not only that, but they taste scrumptious. We especially loved them as ice cream cups, accompanied by rum ice cream and toasted coconut ice cream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Red Kuri Squash Soup and my 400th Post!


Back when I began my blog I might have - rashly - thought that of course I'd still be blogging 29 months later, but from my current vantage point I'm a bit surprised that I'm still at it, writing, photographing, and posting the food that I prepare and that we eat. And although I was tempted to reach back into my stack of draft blog posts - my backlog hovers at around 150 posts at varying stages of readiness, for this my 400th post I will feature a recipe that I made yesterday.

At dinner last evening I was telling my family that my next post would be my blog's 400th and that I was unsure which recipe to use. My husband stopped, soup spoon halfway to his mouth and said, "Post this soup." So here it is, Red Kuri Squash Soup from Dorie Greenspan's newest book, Around My French Table. And really, it's only fitting that I use a recipe of Dorie's because it is her previous book, Baking From My Home to Yours and the baking group Tuesdays With Dorie that got me started on the whole blogging enterprise.

I'll be honest, here. Before today I'd never eaten kuri squash in my life. But it was pretty much a mission for me this fall. When cool weather hits, or when it hits places that have cool weather, the food world fairly explodes with recipes for winter squashes: butternut, pumpkin, acorn, and lesser known types such as kabocha, delicata, and kuri.

I was walking through the produce section of Whole Foods a few weeks ago and pounced when I saw a display of kuri squash. Luckily winter squash has a long shelf life, even if that shelf happens to be my kitchen counter, and yesterday's stormy weather gave me just the excuse to cut into that kuri and make some soup.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The soup is beyond simple to make. Dorie shared the method in this post on her blog.

- The recipe calls for simmering the squash and some leeks in equal parts of milk and water. Luckily I had some leeks in the fridge, but I was running a bit short on milk. It was far too cozy and dry in my house for a run to the grocery store, so I mixed in a lot of half-and-half, a bit of milk, and some water. A little extra butterfat never hurt a soup. I'm sure the French would agree.

- After half an hour or so of simmering, I used my immersion blender to puree the soup right in the 4 quart soup pot. There was at least 2 quarts of soup, and given that two of the three humans in our household don't care for squash, I was pretty sure I'd be giving away several pints of soup.



the verdict:

My daughter wandered into the kitchen as I was pureeing the soup and readying it for its photo session. We had a late afternoon soup snack together. Her reaction? "Mom, I love this soup. Don't give any of it away."

A couple of hours later, when dinner time rolled around, my daughter asked for soup. Then my husband requested a bowl. After he tasted it, I thought I heard him say, "This is really rich." I must have had the half and half substitution on the brain because he really said, "This is really good!"

So there you have it: my two squash-haters loved this simple, easy soup. I think you will too; it is smooth in texture and flavor. The nutty flavor of the kuri comes through and is perfectly accented by a bit of nutmeg and black pepper. That big vat of soup will disappear in short order, as I can see it on the lunch, snack, and dinner menu for the next several days. And I envision licking the bowl when the last drop has been served.

In honor of my 400th post, I am going to make a donation to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, so that others in my community might be able to eat.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

{TWD} Devilish Shortcakes


In the past few months, chocolate recipes have been scarcer than hen's teeth in the baking lineup of the Tuesdays With Dorie group. We've enjoyed a wonderful selection of seasonal fruit-based recipes; there's definitely been no lack of apple and cranberry sweets. But a little chocolate is good for the soul, so I was happy to see this week's selection, Devilish Shortcakes. I've never heard of chocolate shortcakes, but I was willing to give them a try!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- We can thank Tania of the blog Love Big, Bake Often for selecting the shortcakes this week, and her post contains the recipe.

- I halved this recipe, and ended up with 6 large shortcakes. I think that next time I would make smaller ones, like biscuits.

- To boost the chocolate flavor of this recipe, I used Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa powder from King Arthur Flour.

- The recipe comes together easily (Thank you, Tania). Although Dorie prefers to use her fingertips to combine the flour and butter, I have much better luck using a pastry blender.

- I gave a little taste when these came out of the oven and discovered that they are actually not very sweet or assertive in flavor; so I made a quick compote with frozen blackberries to serve as a filling with sweetened whipped cream.


the verdict:

I love serving shortcakes to my book group, because we can all assemble our desserts to our own tastes. These shortcakes were not a rich chocolate dessert in themselves, but they did make a lovely vehicle for filling and topping. They could definitely take a warm chocolate or caramel sauce but I was glad to go the fruit and cream route.

Blackberries are my favorite fruit to combine with chocolate. The mild cakes paired nicely with the bright acidity of the blackberry sauce, and the whipped cream unified and smoothed out the flavors. The shortcakes were generally well-received, although many of us had half a cake because they were so large.


Other shortcake recipes I've baked and posted:

Ginger Peach Shortcakes
Strawberry Shortcakes

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Overnight Oven Stock and Turkey Leek Soup


It has always been m habit to make stock with the remains of my Thanksgiving turkey (I previously posted my stock recipe here). I freeze most of it, and usually give some away. A couple of days after Thanksgiving last year Michael Ruhlman posted two recipes. The first was his Turkey Stock: Oven Method and the other was a Turkey Leek Soup that could be made with the stock. I prepared both recipes, and address them separately, below.

n.o.e.'s notes, overnight turkey stock:

- You can find the stock and soup recipes here.

- There are several advantages to using this method for cooking stock. First, it is cooked on very low heat for a very long slow cooking time. Ruhlman says 8 to 16 hours in the oven. That gives a lot of flexibility and does not keep you tied to the stove, to wakefulness, or, indeed even to your house while the stock cooks. The temperature is low enough that you can sleep or run errands without the fear that the house will burn down in your absence.

- Perhaps my favorite part of this recipe is that it begins with bones plus water, that is all. Eventually, after the pot has a long stint in a slow oven, at your convenience you add some aromatic vegetables and seasonings. Then you can return the stove to the oven for several more hours, or you can finish it more quickly in the conventional manner on top of the stove. This suits me because for some reason I'm always very pressed for time when I'm trying to make stock, and find it difficult to find the time to chop and peel the vegetables at the beginning of the process of stock-cooking.

- I always add all of the optional flavoring ingredients to the stock.

- One tip: your oven might decide to turn itself off after a certain number of hours, so if you are heading out the door or going to sleep, I'd advise turning the oven off and re-starting it.

the verdict, stock:

Although I love my usual stock recipe once I made Ruhlman's stock with last Thanksgiving's turkey carcass I have not used any other method to make chicken or turkey stock in the intervening year. It is a far easier and more flexible way to cook stock, and the end result is as tasty as my previous recipe.

n.o.e.'s notes, turkey leek soup:

- As long as you have some leeks on hand, you can make this soup easily with leftover turkey meat and your wonderful fresh stock. You can also make it with stock you've stashed in your freezer, and an poultry scraps you might save, and leeks, of course.

- This soup was a snap to make, which was quite welcome after all of the cooking involved in Thanksgiving dinner.

the verdict, soup:

Leeks, the well-mannered, refined members of the onion family, lend a subtle note to this soup. It made a lovely light dinner served on Thanksgiving weekend with bread and salad on the side (and a little leftover pie to finish it off!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating today!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

{TWD} Ginger Fig Cream Cheese Torte


I jumped aboard the Tuesdays With Dorie train in its 30th week, and have baked every weekly choice since that time. While I have managed to keep current with the recipes chosen for the group, I have not made much progress in baking the recipes that I missed in the early weeks of the group. This week, however, the TWD bakers have a built-in catch-up day: we are free to bake any past recipe of our choosing.

Perusing the first 29 recipes on the "Completed Recipes" page of the TWD website quickly led me to the Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte: a slim cheesecake with a layer of jam or preserves between the crust and the cream cheese filling.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This torte was chosen in the third week of the group. You can find the recipe on this post of our TWD founder Laurie of the blog Slush.

- An 8" springform pan is perfect for making 3/4 recipe.

- This recipe is fairly easy to put together; first you make the crust in the food processor, then use the food processor to make the filling from cream cheese and cottage cheese. It ends up beautifully smooth, and much more pourable than regular cheesecake filling.

- I have jams for nearly every occasion, so it took me a while figure out which type to select for the torte. It finally occurred to me to use some fig preserves, as I'd recently stocked up on them, not realizing I already had some in the pantry. The biggest glitch in my plan is that my husband has a spotty relationship with figs. He generally dislikes the taste of figs, but he has been known to enjoy some dishes that contain fig preserves.

- I spiced up the preserves by adding powdered ginger, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper. Both Laurie and my buddy Leslie mentioned that the amount of jam in the original recipe was barel perceptible in the finished torte, so I increased the jam layer, adding probably 3 times as much as the recipe called for. Fig is fairly subtle and I wanted to make sure it was noticeable. Oh, and from an aesthetic perspective, a different flavor/color of jam would have been more attractive; the color of the fig preserves blended with the color of the crust.

- Dorie calls for some cinnamon and nutmeg in the cheese filling and I added a pinch of ginger as well.

- Leslie also passed on some baking hints, so I tented my torte with aluminum foil for the entire time that it was in the oven, and it turned out creamy and perfectly baked.


the verdict:
Numbered List
I was in a bit of a rush to get the torte photographed while it was still daylight, so I cut it before it had full cooled. The jam layer was just a bit oozy After taking pictures I then - of course - had to taste the torte while it was still slightly warm. I loved the flavors and textures of this torte: the spicy jam with a lush creamy filling and sweet crunch of a cookie-like crust. I later found that the torte was also good chilled And at room temperature, for that matter.

Despite my efforts to spice up the fig preserves, this torte fell squarely in my husband's "dislike" camp; the fig flavor ruined it for him. I was left with an entire torte and without my trusty sweets-consumer to help me. I forced fed offered the pie to friends of my daughter. They were very polite; each tasting a tiny sliver, and murmering their approval. One even said that she doesn't like cheesecake and liked this.

The ginger I added to the jam and the filling turned out to be quite popular with my tasters. My daughter said it tasted like "pie spices" - exactly! What do you expect when you bake a torte in Thanksgiving week?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Perfect Green Beans with Walnut Vinaigrette

Considering how many hours of my childhood were spent sitting in front of a plate of cold green beans that I refused to eat, it's pretty ironic that I'm posting a recipe for green beans. Luckily, time passes, tastes change, and I'm thrilled to share this recipe with you in time for Thanksgiving. It's elegant enough to serve to company but simple enough that it won't stress you to do so. Really, it's a perfect recipe for any ordinary day as well.

The recipe for the green beans is Ellie Krieger's, and she calls it Green Bean Salad. I call it "perfect" though, because it is. For the past two months I have not made green beans any other way.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe here.

- I begin this dish by steaming the beans and toasting the walnuts at the same time, each for 4 minutes. In that time the rest of the recipe - chopping red onions and flat leaf parsley, whisking a simple vinaigrette, can be made in the 4 minutes that it takes to steam the green beans.

- Walnut oil is delicious in the vinaigrette, but I also have used olive oil and it is quite tasty.

- The walnuts and onions are so good with the beans that I usually measure them generously.

- The beans can be enjoyed warm, cold, or at room temperature. I've served them at all three ways with equal success.

the verdict:

These beans are quite simple to make, and have a subtle, sophisticated fall flavor from the toasted walnuts and walnut oil. I plan to serve these with my holiday turkey and hope you will also!

Other green bean recipes that I've known, loved, and posted on the blog:

Dramtically Seared Green Beans With Garlic and Chile from Mollie Katzen
Green Beans with Shallots and Clementine Zest from Cottage Living Magazine

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

{TWD} Cranberry Lime Galette, and Gluten Free Tart Variation


This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Cranberry Lime Galette, and yes, that makes two cranberry recipes in a row for the bakers of TWD (and three cranberry recipes in the past four posts for the readers of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs!) This bothers me not a bit because I adore cranberries. I always have a jar of homemade cranberry sauce in the fridge (see this post and this one), and I buy bags of fresh cranberries for as long as the local markets sell them, and squirrel them away in the freezer for the times when I can't find fresh berries.

Cranberries are a wonderful, bright counterpoint to roast meat or buttery baked goods. And speaking of buttery, I'm going to resist comparing this recipe to last week's because, well, they're as different as apples and oranges - literally, since last week's cake paired oranges with the cranberries and this week it's apples that join the cranberries.


n.o.e.'s notes:

- Whitney, April, and Elizabeth of Celestial Confections chose the Cranberry Lime Galette, and you can find the recipe on their blog today.

- A galette is a free-form pie, baked on a cookie sheet. Rolled-out pie dough is pulled up and tucked like a blanket around the fruit filling mounded in the center.

- I made a full recipe of the cranberry mixture, and divided it into a small galette with regular pie crust, and a medium tart with a gluten/grain free crust.


- My freezer had a half-single recipe of pie crust, which rolled out to a 7 inch circle. I marked the inner circle at 4.5 inches, and ended up with an adorable little galette.

- For the gluten/grain-free tart, I used a variation of the nut crust that I posted here, this time with pecans, almonds, and coconut flour.

- The filling for this galette contains fresh cranberries, lime zest and juice, apples, chopped fresh ginger, jam, and, optionally, plump dried cranberries. I didn't have any of those on hand, but I did have some plump dried Montmorency cherries from Trader Joe's, which I used instead, cutting them in pieces first. Continuing the theme, rather than raspberry jam, I used black cherry jam.

- An 8 ounces bag of cranberries yielded 2 cups, once I discarded a few soft cranberries

- The 1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger specified in the recipe produced nearly 1/4 cup when chopped. Did you know that you can throw ginger root right into the freezer and it will peel and grate perfectly when frozen? Another tip: scrape the ginger with the edge of a spoon to peel it easily. I did let the ginger thaw before chopping it; didn't want any knife accidents.

- My lime was pretty large, so I probably ended up using extra lime juice.

- To balance all of the tartness, I used a bit more chopped apple - 2 smallish ones. I don't know what kind of apple they were, since they were from my farm box, but they were fairly sweet.

- I didn't want to use bread crumbs in the tart since I was keeping it gluten/grain free, so I used a mixture of coconut flour and ground hazelnuts to line the dough. Because I was lazy, I used the same mixture for the galette as well.


the verdict:

I served the galette with whipped cream at the end of our family dinner on Sunday. My husband was bowled over by the flavors, and happily welcomed a generous second helping, saying, "This might be the best pie of any sort I've ever eaten; and I've eaten some good pies, too, if you catch my drift."

I'm well aware that his is not going to be the universal response to this galette. It is brash and bold, fresh and tart. The flavors are strong, but quite balanced. The cranberries are straight-out bitter/tart. The apples add the sweet note, the dried cherries amp up the flavor, and the jam combines with the lime and the ginger and the sugar to make a vivid, sweet glaze. The whipped cream (I used unsweetened) was a perfect accompaniment to the galette; it performed the welcome job of mellowing the flavors.

We enjoyed the tart also; the strong taste of the cranberry filling stood up nicely to the sturdy nut crust. All in all, this recipe was a winner, one that I wouldn't mind seeing on the Thanksgiving dessert buffet.

Another way to prepare this recipe would be to bake it as a one-crust pie, and add a streusel topping, which would moderate the tartness of the filling somewhat.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Apple Triple Ginger Streusel Bundt Cake


Last week I baked two apple cakes.

The first one was a failure. Not a spectacular, "I can't stand the taste" type of failure, nor an "I made a huge error baking this cake" failure. Even worse, it was a "ho hum" failure. Although (homemade) applesauce and autumnal spices went into the cake, it ended up with little detectable flavor. To add insult to injury, "even the texture is bland," in the words of my husband, who hit the nail right on the head. I didn't even bother to photograph that one.

The next cake - Apple Ginger Streusel Cake - was my choice for National Bundt Day, (which is today, November 15) so my fingers were crossed that this one would turn out well. Mary, of the blog The Food Librarian, is again marking the holiday by posting 30 bundts in 30 days, culminating today. I figured the least I could do was bake one cake. Food blog events with a once-a-year posting requirement are just about my speed!

When I choose a recipe for National Bundt Day, I look for one that's primarily intended to be baked in a bundt pan. It's true that most loaf cake and quick bread recipes can be doubled and baked in a bundt pan (and the reverse is always true; any bundt can be baked in two loaf pans) but for such an august occasion, I go for a true bundt recipe. Last year I baked a bundt with blackberry jam, which I posted here. For this year's I selected an apple coffee cake that is shown in bundt form, although the recipe says that it can be baked in other pan sizes. I bookmarked this recipe many months ago; National Bundt Day was the perfect excuse to try it out.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe for this cake is from Fine Cooking; you can find it here.

- The cake consists of a ginger-spiced buttermilk batter, into which crystallized ginger and apples are stirred, and a streusel which is layered in the middle and on the top (which becomes the bottom) of the batter in the pan.


- I made a full recipe, but divided it into two different pans: a small metal bundt-ish pudding mold (that I only filled about half full) and a loaf pan. We kept the bundt cake at home and I brought the loaf to my buddy Audrey, who I finally met in person last week. If ever there was a lover of apple cakes, it's Audrey (I'm pretty sure that sentence is not grammatical, but I can't figure out how to fix it. If you have any ideas, let me know!)

- I was a little worried that the cake wouldn't deliver the spicy ginger-ness that I anticipated - and wanted. So I heaped the measure of dry ginger, and added about a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to the batter. Erring on the side of too much spice is a good gamble for me; I've rarely met a spicy cake that I didn't like.

- Toasted walnuts give a much better flavor to bake goods than the plain ones, so I toasted mine in the oven before chopping them very finely for the streusel.

- I used a honeycrisp apple for this cake, since that's what I had. Because it wasn't a tart apple, I cut the sugar a bit to compensate.

- There wasn't a ton of streusel when compared to the amount of cake batter. By the time I divided it for the two layers, it was more dotted than continuous, so it didn't make a swirl as it baked; rather it became little balls of streusel randomly throughout the cake. Seeing as the bundt cake gets inverted when it comes out of the pan, the streusel that was on top of the batter became the bottom of the cake and totally lost any decorative value. On the other hand, the top of the loaf cake stayed the top once it was taken out of the pan, so the streusel looked very nice. Next time I bake this as a bundt cake, I'll add all of the streusel in the middle of the cake, rather than splitting it into two parts. I'd also consider increasing the amount of streusel.

- Since this is a coffee-cake it would be perfect for a brunch, or for Thanksgiving morning.

the verdict:

The first day, the cake had a lovely crunchy crust and a moist crumb. The ginger flavor was subtle but definitely present, and it made a pleasant underpinning for the apples. The next day the cake had softened considerably, and the flavors had married a bit more.

Audrey's cake was a day or two old by the time it was delivered and served. Nonetheless, Audrey and her tasters gave it favorable reviews: "I would say FANTASTIC combination of flavors."

Mary will post a round up on her blog of all those who celebrate National Bundt Day, so keep your eyes out for that post; there are sure to be some great recipes. In the meantime, you can find Mary's bundts:
I Like Big Bundts 2009 (30 different recipes here!)
I Like Big Bundts 2010 (30 different recipes here!)