Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's Baking? January: a new technique

Jen, the Beantown Baker picked our theme for January, which was something new: a technique or ingredient you've never used before.
I love this idea. When I heard about the theme, I immediately set out to hunt for something new. I eventually got a pretty big list: laminated dough (croissants), boiling before baking (like pretzels or bagels), grains other than wheat flour (like spelt, or possibly teff, which I've never baked with or had success with), or the one dish that's been on my "I must try this" list for years now, a souffle.

Everything was tempting to make, but I decided I had to go with the souffle. My mom's been after me to make a souffle probably ever since she bought me a stand mixer for Christmas 2002, when I first moved into my own place. I made the souffle for when my parents came to visit- they had to be able to enjoy the souffle when mom was the reason I was baking it.

I learned a few things: souffles are kind of fun! It's not hard at all. Souffles are... kind of interesting. It was a little wet- apparently this is normal? It had great flavor. Finally, one very important lesson, that I must remember for all cooking endeavors: mise en place. Get everything ready before you start cooking- get it out on the counter, measure, chop, get all the utensils out, etc, before you turn on the burner. It makes it SO much easier.

I used Alton Brown's cheese souffle recipe. For finicky cooking that involves a lot of science, I trust him more than anyone.

Cheese Souffle
from Alton Brown

butter, room temperature but not softened, for greasing the souffle dish
2T grated parmesan

in a medium saucepan:
3T butter (to be melted)

in a small bowl:
3T flour
1/4-1/2 t garlic powder
1t dry mustard
1/8t salt

in a small saucepan:
1 and 1/3 cup milk

in a medium bowl:
4 large egg yolks

to later add to the yolks:

6oz grated sharp cheddar

in the bowl of your stand mixer:
5 egg whites
1T water
1t cream of tartar

Because my organization helped me so much, I'll walk you through exactly what I did.

Preheat your oven to 375F, with a rack placed slightly lower than right in the middle.

1. grease the souffle dish with butter (an 8 inch in diameter, straight sided ramekin-style dish). Sprinkle in the parmesan and press the cheese to the butter so the sides and bottom are evenly coated with cheese. Chill in the freezer for about 15 min (or if you live in the north and it's winter, stick it outside. I love my auxiliary freezer!)

2. Whisk together the flour, mustard, garlic and salt. Set aside.

3. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks. Grate the cheese and set the cheese aside- later you'll add it to the egg yolks.

4. Start the egg whites: in the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the whites, water and cream of tartar. With your whisk attachment, beat on medium-high to high until they're glossy and stiff. (this takes about the amount of time steps 5-7 need)

5. Place the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until it just starts to bubble, then turn off.

6. Meanwhile, put the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and let it melt and start bubbling. Once the bubbling subsides (that's the water boiling off), whisk in the flour mixture and stir until it's thick- this is a roux. Cook for 2 minutes, and keep stirring. Whisk in the scalded milk. Turn the heat to high, and cook until it starts bubbling (which was almost immediately for me). Now turn off the heat.

7. Temper the egg yolks with the milk mixture: whisking the yolks constantly, pour about 1/3-1/2 of the milk mixture, one ladleful at a time, into the yolks. Then pour the yolks/egg mixture back into the milk saucepan (the burner is still off). Stir in the cheese, keep stirring until everything's combined.

8. Now your egg whites should be nice and stiff. Fold in 1/4 of the egg whites to the yolk/milk/cheese mixture, very gently. Fold in another 1/4 of the whites, folding til well combined, and continue until all the whites are in. Be gentle! It'll be a little tedious but you want to be nice to the fluffy whites.

9. Transfer the mixture to your prepared souffle dish (which I placed on the counter just before step 7- I was worried about putting a cold pan in a hot oven.) Place the souffle dish inside a metal pan (I have no idea why) and pop it in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes (I baked for more like 50), until the souffle is nice and golden on the top. Don't open the oven until it's done- I hope you have a glass window on your oven door!

Serve warm. Souffles are very funny: mine puffed up beautifully in the oven, and then it took about 15 minutes to completely fall, as it cooled. It was a little wet (maybe I should have cooked it more? This is actually the first souffle I've ever eaten, so I'm not sure) but it had a lovely flavor. It's even good reheated in the oven- I cut a slice and wrap it in foil, and heat for about 10 min at 350F.
Fresh from the oven
After 5 minutes of cooling
After 10 minutes

15 minutes after taking it out of the oven, it went to the table... completely flat! ha.

I really loved making this souffle- I forgot how much making something completely new can be (especially when it turns out to be delicious). I plan to bake/cook something new like this throughout this year. Stay tuned for a delicious fougasse recipe, and Clint voted for pretzels next. I also plan to try out a chocolate souffle- maybe even modify a recipe to make a nutella souffle!

Souper Bowl: Soup for Charity

A couple weeks ago, I heard about a blogger making soup to benefit animals. Branny Boils Over pledged to donate $1 to the ASPCA for every soup recipe submitted to her. I love this idea! I'm dedicating this soup to Pansy, who, as usual, hung out with us in the kitchen while we cooked, and sat with us while she ate.

(here she is with the catnip heart I just made her)

Want do make a charity soup? Just make a soup recipe, blog about it by January 30th, dedicate it to your favorite animal, and email it to Branny. Details and her email are on her blog. Don't like soup? Donate directly to the ASPCA.

This soup had the bonus of making a "going back for seconds" meal- this only happens about every other month. I rate how "good" a meal is by whether my husband goes for seconds. And with this meal, he had seconds... and then thirds.

I made stew and bread. It's been chilly, and I'm kind of in a soup mood. We had some pork in the freezer, and who really makes soup/stew with pork? Well, I found a recipe for pork stew and because it was so unexpected, I had to bookmark it. Good move. It was surprisingly good (i.e., I thought it'd be pretty good, but it was more like "wow... this is good!"). It was also easy- about 20 minutes to assemble everything, then I had a 30 minute work out while it simmered, and then we ate. It would have been a great weeknight meal.

To go with our stew, I made Dorie Greenspan's fougasse. Have you ever had fougasse? She describes it in "Around My French Table" as the provencal cousin of focaccia- honestly, I think it's better than focaccia (although it's possible I've never had real focaccia). The first time I ever saw fougasse was when I was in grad school and made it a point to visit the bakery at King Arthur Flour on a weekly basis. My friend Molly and I would go every Friday and buy a loaf of either rosemary (her) or olive (me) fougasse. Molly was a serious runner, so she'd eat the entire thing in one sitting, but I'd make mine last through Sunday (it's definitely best eaten the day it's baked). KAF didn't keep fougasse on the weekly rotation for very long, which was sad for my mouth, happy for my hips. It's a really simple bread, but something about it has a beautifully pure flavor, it's hard to describe. It's composed of olive oil, flour, yeast, water, salt, rosemary and olives (I omitted the lemon zest, more or less accidentally), and I think some combination of the salty, acidic olives with the blank palate of the rest of the ingredients does something magical. As Clint forcefully stated, "this bread is stupid-good".

Oh, and perhaps the pork stew and olive fougasse aren't the best pairings (sweet potatoes and olives? kinda weird), but it worked pretty darn well at for us. Next time I may make sage fougasse and have it with this soup, or maybe the olive fougasse with minestrone.

Pork, Sweet Potato and Apple Stew
adapted from Our Life in the Kitchen

1-1.5lbs pork (original recipe said pork stew meat, I used a pork tenderoin), cut into chunks
2 large or 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2-3 apples, peeled or not peeled (we peeled) and cut into large chunks
2 leeks, cut into 1 inch chunks (or 1-2 onions, roughly chopped)

2-3T olive oil or butter
1t cumin
1t dried sage or rosemary
black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup flour
6-8 cups chicken stock (or a mix of chicken stock and water)

In a large pot/dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the pork and brown for a few minutes. Add the leeks and cook for 2 minutes, then add the cumin, sage and black pepper and cook a few minutes until fragrant. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until it soaks up the fat in the pan, and add the stock, sweet potatoes and apples. Simmer over medium-low or low heat for about 30 minutes.

Note that there's no salt in this: surprisingly, we didn't need any. I used 1.5 cups of homemade salt-free chicken stock, 1.5 cups of canned low sodium chicken broth, and 4 cups of water, and we didn't need to add salt at all. Of course, salt your own to taste before serving.

Olive Fougasse
from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table" (if look it up on, you can read the recipe page 48) on "look inside this book")

Note: Dorie recommends letting the dough sit in the fridge overnight before baking. I'm sure it'll be delicious if you just let it sit a few hours, though, but I haven't tried that yet (I will this week, I'll report back).

2/3 cup warm water (in my opinion, 95-100F)
2t yeast
1t sugar

4T (1/4 cup) olive oil (I used extra light, but EVOO would be the normal one)
1 cup warm water

4 cups AP flour
1.5t salt

1T fresh, chopped rosemary
1 cup pitted, chopped dates (I used kalamata)
zest of 1 lemon or orange

1T olive oil
2t water

Combine the 2/3 cup water with yeast and sugar, stir and let sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast wakes up and is frothy.

Stir in the 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 cup of water. Meanwhile, in the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the flour and salt. Pour in the liquids, and stir to combine with your dough hook for a few minutes on low. Knead in medium for 10 minutes. This dough is very soft and sticky, so my KA could handle 10 minutes on medium.

Now add in the olives, rosemary and zest and stir to combine (I kneaded with my hands for this part). Let the dough sit in a cool spot/refrigerator (I left it in the mudroom area, which we've recently discovered is uninsulated and averages about 50-55F) at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, or up to 3 days. I left it overnight.

On the day of baking, divide the dough in half (I left one half in the bowl to bake the next day). Roll out the dough to a flat-ish oval, and with a sharp knife, cut slashes in the dough, kind of in a leaf shape (traditional) or another shape you like. Let rest about 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450F.

A few minutes before baking, whisk together the 1T oil and 2t water and brush over the top of the dough. Sprinkle with salt. Bake on the medium or lower rack in your oven for 10 minutes, then rotate and bake another 8-10, until lightly golden. (If you bake 2 loaves at once, put one on the medium rack and one on the low, and swap them after the first 10 min of baking).

Best eaten fresh from the oven, and accompaniments are totally unnecessary, this is a bread worth eating completely plain.

I only ever post recipes I think are worth sharing (unless there's some hilarious story or lesson to be learned from a fail), but I think these two recipes are more worth trying than other things I've shared. I'm telling you: go make these. And then make them again. I'm baking the second loaf of fougasse today, and then making more to bake later this week, and I think I'll be bringing this stew to our ski weekend in VT in March.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dinner for a lazy snow day

As I mentioned earlier, we had a huge snowstorm this week (and I heard a rumor that 49 of the 50 states have some snow- I assume Hawaii would be the 50th? Or do they get snow on the mountain tops? No idea. Interesting tidbit, regardless.)

Here's how our house looked on Wednesday night, just before we ate the following meal
Isn't that awesome? I think I'm the only adult in the whole world who loves snow this much, but I'm just awestruck by how gorgeous my neighborhood looks right now. I drive slowly every morning not because I'm worried I'll fishtail, but because I'm loving looking at everything.

Anyway. So, snow. I could have cooked all day long, being home in a blizzard, but technically I was working from home, and I already set aside time to make that waffle pudding I posted about yesterday, so I couldn't really dedicate a lot of time for dinner. At the same time, I was home, I planned to skip my knit night, so I was looking forward to a nice, hot, non-leftover dinner. And in rearranging the upstairs freezer to fit 2 loaves of bread, I discovered a 3lb pork loin.

3lb pork loin.... not a lot of hands-on time.... I'd say that means pulled pork!

Have you done pulled pork before? You should. It's so easy, I couldn't believe how easy and delicious it was the first time I did it.

"Vietnamese" pulled pork
adapted from Closet Cooking

Vietnamese "BBQ" sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
2-3T lime juice
2 chipotles in adobo, left whole (because why not? chipotles are awesome)*

Place the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook until it melts and turns caramel-colored (I just left it alone until it melted, no stirring). Carefully add in the water (the water will boil once it hits the hot sugar, so add slowly) and stir until the sugar/caramel dissolves. Add in the remaining ingredients and cook until reduced, about 8 minutes.

3lb pork loin, trimmed of fat

Place the pork in your crock pot. Pour the bbq sauce over the pork. Cook on low for 7-8 hours (I turned the pork over every 30-45 minutes, so that it was all covered in the sauce). Shred the pork with 2 forks, a fork and some tongs, or spatulas, whatever. Stir it around in the sauce in the crockpot, and then serve.

*Chipotles: the original recipe called for a birds-eye chili. I don't know what that is, and I had chipotles in adobo in the fridge. I wanted to leave the chipotle whole so the spice could infuse into the sauce evenly (and I was too lazy to chop it). I transferred the whole chipotles to the crockpot at that step, figuring I would always chop it up later. But it ended up being a nice amount of spice- just a little, just enough so you know it's there. You can certainly increase the chilis (or use different ones) if you want it spicier, or chop the chili up in the beginning for the sauce.

The description of this recipe can only make it seem harder, that's how ridiculously simple it was. Cook sauce, dump on pork, turn crock pot on. That's it! Walk away! Go watch tv, or work, or play in the snow.

The original recipe made this pork to put on banh mi sandwiches, but since it was a blizzard and we're hard-core northern New Englanders, we refuse to run to the store in a panic before a storm. Which meant that we didn't have much in the way of veggies or bread. But whatever, Clint made a naan pulled pork sandwich (2 pieces of naan leftover from Monday, with pulled pork in the middle). I had leftover cornbread and refried beans and some pickles with mine. And you know what? It was delicious.

Pulled pork is now my go-to recipe when we need some meat for dinner. It's so easy (you could also just use a bottle of bbq sauce, making the hardest part of the whole recipe getting the pork out of its package) but so tasty.

Last night I used some of the leftovers in a burrito... and I plan to do the same tonight. That recipe will come soon!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's get crazy with leftovers!

btw, friends, I'm playing around with new blog templates/backgrounds. I'll hopefully get a few different things up in the next few weeks. Feedback is welcome!

It all started with a quart of pumpkin eggnog that M pawned off on my because she doesn't really like eggnog, and had another quart already in her fridge. Well, I don't really like eggnog either, but we were both very happy to try to think of ways to cook with it. (I hear she made some really good eggnog muffins and cookies that I'll have to try sometime)

I made waffles. And I didn't blog about them- it would look like that was because I've been busy, but actually, it's because they weren't that good. They had nice flavor, but they were pretty dry- from no fault of the eggnog, I'm sure, I made quite a number of alterations. The waffles were based on this favorite recipe, only I:
reduced the butter from 12T to 8T
used half whole wheat flour
eliminated the sugar
used 1/2 cup milk and 1 cup pumpkin eggnog
and got 5 waffles instead of 8. Hmm.

We happily ate them when they were fresh, but the last 3 sat in the fridge for several days, until yesterday's blizzard, when I decided to work from home. Well, I was much more efficient than I expected, so I took some time to bake.
And... leftover waffles plus still unwanted pumpkin eggnog... well, that just screams bread pudding right?

Waffle (bread) Pudding
A wamozart12 original
12oz /5 cups waffles (about 3 large waffles), broken into pieces
2 eggs
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup milk
3T sugar
1/2t vanilla
1/2t nutmeg
1/2t cinnamon

Beat the eggs, nog, milk, sugar and spices together in a large bowl. Toss in the waffles,
and let them soak for about half an hour- if the waffles are not covered by the custard, then come back periodically and stir everything around.

Transfer to a greased deep baking dish (I used a medium-large ramekin, I'm not sure how much it holds, though, but I will check) and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the custard is no longer runny. (I ended up baking for 30 minutes uncovered, then I covered with foil for another 30. I'm not sure which is best, I was worried the top would burn.)

Enjoy warm or at room temperature, on its own or drizzled with caramel sauce, a dollop of whipped cream, or anything else that sounds food.

This is such a random and strange idea, but I really liked it. The waffles soak up the custard just as well as bread does, and because my waffles are always a little flavored, the whole dessert was nicely flavored. The only downside is that the waffles not covered in custard during the baking time ended up rather dry and hockey puck-like, so you'll need to make sure all of the waffles are covered in the dish. I should have added a little more eggnog, or just taken some of the waffle pieces out.

I will be making this in the future, because what else do you do with leftover waffles? Maybe this weekend I'll root around in the freezer for other leftover waffles, we always save them (I hate wasting food!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy 2011!

Where did the holidays go? For that matter, where did the first week of 2011 go?

I didn't make any resolutions this year. I have things on my to-do list, like make a souffle, pretzels, maybe even croissants, and join a sock knit-along. I want to get organized. I'm not making any promises on losing weight, even though I'd love to lose that post-wedding 8lbs I've gotten used to. But resolutions are always these grand ideas that turn into empty, forgotten promises. Like getting healthy, it's not a "diet", it's a "lifestyle change". So let's see how my 2011 lifestyle changes.

In 5 weeks, I'll have a big change. It's not necessarily bad because of what's preceded it, but it's not exactly good. We'll have to see how it goes. I hope to include a regular exercise and blogging schedule with this change, and I hope to help my husband's 2011 goal of getting ourselves and our house organized. Overall, I'm looking forward to this, as long as I can keep my feelings of despair in check.

I wanted to do a "favorite recipes of 2010" type of post... but 2010 brought me a lot of recipes that never got posted because of time and all the craziness. So instead, let's look forward, at what I hope 2011 will bring.

A cheese souffle. I trust Alton Brown completely, so when I come to make this dish, which my mother has been asking me to make for several years now, I turn to him.

Croissants. Not necessarily Martha's recipe, although at this point, it's the front-runner.

Pretzels. Because, yum. And I've been meaning to make pretzels for a long time.

Roast chicken. An odd thing, right? I've never actually baked/roasted a chicken. Making chicken soup with a whole chicken last year was a big break-through, and in my condo, I wasn't sure I could afford to have the oven on that long (yet for a cake, it was fine... I know, it doesn't make sense). And the January MSL has a big article on chicken, with a lot of nice-looking recipes. So I will do it this year.

Orange marmalade. I was given a big jar of this as a bridal shower gift (seems random, but it's oh so appropriate) and it was the best marmalade I'd ever had. I ate it with everything, and I almost cried when I finished the jar. I'm so excited to be comfortable enough with jam and canning to take this on myself.

Decorating cookies with royal icing, based on Annie's and Bakeat350's tips. I've played with royal icing exactly once (Christmas 2009) and it was a big fat fail. The recipe I used (from the container of Wilton meringue powder) was way off for my climate (or something) and I was too hesitant to more than double the water I'd added. The result was a clay-like goo that, while having a decent flavor, was impossible to spread and eat. The cookies looked ridiculous. It was pretty sad. But this year, I will triumph. I have 12 months to do it, and tons of cookie occasions, so at least by Christmas 2011, I should succeed.

So stay tuned to hear how I do with these new techniques (especially because our What's Baking? January theme is new techniques/ingredients, so by the 25th you'll see how I do with one of the above items (or else I'll break out some spelt and play with that), as well as some tasty new dinners to be posted within the next couple days.

Happy 2011!