Sunday, September 28, 2008

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Apple Galette

Here's a recipe from America's Test Kitchen I saw on PBS the other day. I had a large container of Fuji apples from Costco to use up, so this sounded perfect. I used the suggested weight measurements, as this usually is more accurate. There was a significant difference between the volumes and weights. The fraisage process sounded a bit intimidating, but really there's nothing to it. Next time though, I'd be a bit more observant while adding the ice water. I think I went one tablespoon too much, and this made the dough a bit wet, but it rolled out just fine. The result was nice and flaky with not too much sweetness. The Costco and Sam's Club here do not sell heavy whipping cream (!@#%+!!!!), so we used the old-fashioned canned Redi Whip type and that was fine. This is a lot for two people, but it holds up for a few days just fine at room temperature. I think this could be made using more apples, cut a bit thicker, for more apple flavor, but as written it's fine too.
Apple Galette

Serve with vanilla ice cream, lightly sweetened whipped cream, or creme fraiche.

Serves 8 to 10

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup Wondra flour or Pillsbury Shake and Blend instant flour (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter , cut into 5/8-inch cubes (1 1/2 sticks)
7-9 tablespoons ice water
Apple Filling
1 1/2 pounds apples (3-4 medium or 4-5 small), see note above
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons apricot preserves (used peach preserves mixed with blood orange marmalade)
1 tablespoon water

1. CUT IN BUTTER: Combine flours, salt, and sugar in food processor with three 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour, pulse to cut butter into flour until butter pieces are size of large pebbles, about 1/2 inch, about six 1-second pulses.

2. ADD WATER: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over mixture and pulse once quickly to combine; repeat, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulsing, until dough begins to form small curds that hold together when pinched with fingers (dough should look crumbly and should not form cohesive ball).

3. FORM MOUND: Empty dough onto work surface and gather into rough rectangular mound about 12 inches long and 5 inches wide.

4. FRAISAGE AND CHILL: Starting at farthest end, use heel of hand to smear small amount of dough against counter, pushing firmly down and away from you, to create separate pile of dough (flattened pieces of dough should look shaggy). Continue process until all dough has been worked. Gather dough into rough 12 by 5-inch mound and repeat smearing process. Dough will not have to be smeared as much as first time and should form cohesive ball once entire portion is worked. Form dough into 4-inch square, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until cold and firm but still malleable, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

5. CUT APPLES: About 15 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and halve apples. Cut apple halves lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

6. ROLL AND TRIM DOUGH: Place dough on floured 16 by 12-inch piece of parchment paper and dust with more flour. (I rolled out between two pieces of parchment paper the size of the half sheetpan.) Roll dough until it just overhangs all four sides of parchment and is about 1/8 inch thick, dusting top and bottom of dough and rolling pin with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Trim dough so edges are even with parchment paper.

7. FORM BORDER: Roll up 1 inch of each edge and pinch firmly to create 1/2-inch-thick border. Transfer dough and parchment to rimmed baking sheet.

8. LAYER APPLES AND BAKE: Starting in one corner, shingle sliced apples to form even row across bottom of dough, overlapping each slice by about one-half. Continue to layer apples in rows, overlapping each row by half. Dot apples with butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake until bottom of tart is deep golden brown and apples have caramelized, 45 to 60 minutes.

9. GLAZE: While galette is cooking, combine apricot preserves and water in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium power until mixture begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Pass through fine-mesh strainer to remove any large apricot pieces. Brush baked galette with glaze and cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into individual portions; serve.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fabulous Lemon Bars

While I'm sitting here and posting, I might as well add this recipe for lemon bars I copied the other from Happy in the Kitchen. I'll keep this really short and sweet.

Recipe: Very easy.
Result: Yummy!
Repeatability: Yes.

Enough said. Here's the recipe. Only change I made is addition of about 1/4 cup finely processed almonds to the shortbread dough.

This is a good party recipe as it makes 2 dozen squares or about 48 small triangles
2 cups for the pastry+ 1/4 cup flour- for filling
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter- room temp
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the butter and powdered sugar in an electric mixer until creamy. Add the 2 cups of flour and beat on low till well combined.
Press the mixture evenly into a 9x13 inch baking pan (pyrex works best; silly me, I used metal, should have used glass as suggested) working the dough up about 1/2 inch the sides.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
For the filling:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, the 1/4 cup flour, the eggs, lemon juice and zest.
Pour over the crust and bake for another 20 minutes until set in the center.
Allow to cool completely. Then put in the fridge - it will be easier to cut when cold.
Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Big Shoutout to Lisa et al. at Mountain View Ranch H.O.A.

Thanks for your help yesterday, Lisa and Tony. Enjoyed chatting and getting to know you a bit -- finally!

Easy Challah

I saw this version of challah on The Desert Sun site the other day, and since it's almost time for Jewish New Year, I set out to make a batch. I've made challah before, and it always comes out great, no matter which recipe or the source. One thing I've found is true, though: I always -- ALWAYS -- end up adding a lot more flour than called for. If only 4 cups of flour were added, as written in the recipe, I'd end up with a wet, sloppy, unmanageable blob of dough which never would rise or hold a shape. I didn't keep track, but at least another 1 1/4 cups of flour were needed to make the dough right. The only other change I made was the addition of about 1/4 teaspoon of good vanilla extract. I'd considered using half a vanilla bean's worth of seeds but didn't; possibly too much vanilla would come through. For the initial and second risings, and to provide extra humidity, I boiled some water in the microwave and placed it in the oven with the bowl of dough. When shaped into braids, I placed each on on separate parchment-covered sheet pans. I find with two on one pan, they usually end up touching and merging when baked. These loaves came out perfect: dark golden color, shiny on top from the prebake eggwash, and more like a cake texture than bread. Eddie and I could not resist and had some slices with soft unsalted butter to go alongside leftover and reheated chili-lime chicken wings. (Yummy!!) Tonight, we'll have soft-scrambled eggs and French toast. Cant' wait!

Easy Challah

Start to finish: 4 hours (30 minutes active). Makes 2 loaves

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup warm water, about 110 F

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (-ounce package)

1/4 cup honey

3 large whole eggs, divided

3 large egg yolks

(1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional)

1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for bowl

1 tablespoon salt

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 tablespoon whole milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, water and yeast. Mix until the yeast is dissolved. Let sit until foam develops on the surface of the water, about 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, 2 of the whole eggs, all 3 egg yolks, and the oil. Add to the yeast mixture.

Add the salt and flour, then use the mixer's dough hook attachment to mix on low until combined, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes.

Lightly coat a large bowl with oil, then transfer the dough into it, turning the dough once to completely coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume, about 1 hour.

Transfer the dough to a dry work surface and punch down lightly to remove air that has gathered inside the dough.

Reshape the dough into a ball and return to the oiled bowl, again turning the dough to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with the towel and set in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume, about 1 hour.

Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.

Divide the dough in 2. The dough can be shaped into a standard loaf and baked as is. It also can be braided into a more traditional challah design. The number of braids determines the complexity. Three is a good number for beginners.

To do this, divide each piece of dough into three equal parts. Using your hands, roll each portion of dough into strands about 12 inches long and about 1 inch wide. You should have a total of 6 strands.

Gather together 3 strands and pinch them together at one end. Arrange the strands on the counter such that the pinched end is away from you and the strands fan out toward you.

Take the rightmost strand and bring it over the center one, dropping it between the center and left strands. Take the leftmost strand and bring it over the center, dropping it between the center and right strands. Continue this action of crossing the strands over one another until the strands have been fully braided. Be sure to pause occasionally to adjust the already braided portions so that they lay evenly and in a consistent pattern.

At the end of the braid, pinch the ends of the strands together and tuck them under the loaf. To make the second loaf, repeat this process with the remaining 3 strands of dough. Carefully transfer the braided loaves to the prepared baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and the milk. Use a pastry brush to coat the surface of each loaf with the egg mixture. Reserve excess egg mixture in the refrigerator.

Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap, then place them in a warm spot to rise until the loaves have doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Lightly brush the loaves with the remaining egg mixture. Bake until the loaves have risen and are a deep golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Are You Old Enough to Remember Her?

Are you old enought to remember the comedian Totie Fields? If not, she was a top performer from the 60's and 70's, best remembered for her acts on The Ed Sullivan Show and live shows in Las Vegas. She made irreverent fun of her weight problems and just about everything else. When in Vegas, she could get away with a lot more risque humor that Sullivan would not tolerate. I came across videos of her show at the Sahara after her return from a leg amputation due to complications from a blood clot. Tragically, she died two years later. I had forgotten how funny she was. Here's a clip that really made me bust out laughing late last night.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Incredible Blueberry Pancakes




Last month when I bought a large container of blueberries at Costco, I made Kevin's blueberry blintzes and froze the rest for another day. Well, today was the day. The recipe came from Cream Puffs in Venice; I think the great photo of the pancakes did it for me.

Actually, since the recipe included the name "Mrs. Biederhof," and I'm a huge Mildred Pearce fan (raise the gay red flags here), I just had to give them a try. Actually, the recipe is from the Mildred Pearce restaurant in Toronto.

I had actually mixed together the dry ingredients last month and set them aside. So this morning, all I had to do was combine the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. After a quick but thorough mixing of the dry and wet, the batter was ready for the griddle. I used a standard ice cream scoop to measure; that way, they'd all be the same size and Eddie and I wouldn't have to fight over who got the biggest portion. After scooping out the batter onto the griddle, I just scattered frozen blueberries on top, waited for that large-bubbly stage that pancakes get, and then turned them over for a few minutes.

I served them with slow-scrambled eggs and a family favorite, although somewhat odd, a slice of cheddar cheese. Don't laugh; the sweet from the berries and maple syrup goes really well with the tang of the cheese.

For reference, here's a link to the recipe.

I thought these were without a doubt the best pancakes I've EVER had! I loved them so much, I made up a triple batch of the dry ingredients and stored them in a big clip-top jar for the future. Also, I weighed it out, did the math, and figured out how much in grams I need for half a batch, as a full batch is too much to eat, although I froze the remaining six for toaster reheating. Notice that I use Grade B syrup for pancakes; it has a lot more maple flavor than the Grade A.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

New Favorite Banana Bread

The other day, I came across this recipe on the Joy of Baking site for Chocolate Banana Bread. I'd packed for the move all of our bags of assorted chocolate chips, hoping they'd make it in a cooler. They did, although slightly fused in blocks, but still usable. This recipe called for white chocolate chips, so I thought what the heck. Sitting in the fridge were perfect-for-banana-bread blackened bananas, and all the other ingredients were in the pantry. Stephanie, the host of Joy of Baking, writes all the well-tested recipes using volume measures as well as weights. I weighed out per her instructions, and I'd do exactly the same next time. This bread came out, like, totally awesome! After testing for doneness (no crumbs on my tester pick), and a brief rest in the pan, I turned it out onto a cooling rack, whereupon Eddie and I kept passing by, touching the sides to see if it had cooled down enough to "test" it out. When we couldn't wait any longer, Eddie made a pot of tea and we devoured nice thick slices. We could not resist the urge to shmear a bit of butter on first. Delicious! Not too sweet, good banana flavor, and just enough chocolate from the cocoa and white chips. The optional sprinkling before baking with raw sugar was a nice touch, giving the top a sugary crunch. Click on the above link for the Joy of Cooking site, but for convenience, here's the recipe. I did not change anything, but made it exactly as written. Why change perfection?
Chocolate Banana Bread:

1/2 cup (55 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 3/4 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (30 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 ripe bananas (approximately 1 pound or 454 grams), mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (85 grams) white chocolate chips


Turbinado or Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Set aside.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 - 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients until just combined and batter is thick and chunky. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the top of the bread with coarse brown sugar (optional).. Bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 - 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce

I DVR'd Sara Moulton's show last week, the show dealing with weeknight pasta dishes. This ricotta gnocchi gratin was one I just had to try. It can be done in stages, so work ahead is always good. Just assemble, bake and enjoy. Eddie and I each had a decent-sized serving, which was more than enough. This would easily serve six with a side of roasted vegetables, such as asparagus or broccoli. Looking forward to the leftovers tonight! Yeah, no cooking necessary.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce
Makes 4 - 6 servings

Kosher salt
One 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 recipe Sautéed Cherry Tomato Sauce (recipe follows) or your favorite bottled sauce
2 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, coarsely grated (about 1/2 cup)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400° F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Beat the ricotta cheese and eggs together with an electric mixer until well combined. Stir in the flour, half of the Pecorino cheese, the salt, pepper, and nutmeg until just combined. (I made the dough in the morning, covered the bowl with plastic wrap and chilled it until dinnertime. Also, I just mixed it up by hand and it came out great.)

Scoop up a rounded tablespoon of the gnocchi dough, then use a second tablespoon to scoop the mixture off the spoon and into the boiling water. Repeat to make as many gnocchi as will fit in the saucepan without crowding. Simmer for 7 minutes. When they are cooked through, transfer the gnocchi with a slotted spoon to a shallow baking dish. Repeat until all the dough has been cooked. (I used a small ice cream scoop, about 1 1/2 tablespoons each. After cooking, I scooped them out to a sheet tray until I was ready to assemble the dish and bake it off.)

Meanwhile, prepare the Sautéed Cherry Tomato Sauce. (I started the sauce in the morning and finished simmering before dinnertime.) Spoon the sauce over the gnocchi and top with Fontina and remaining Pecorino cheeses (here I gave it a quick drizzling of olive oil) and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted. (Finished it off under the broiler for a nice browned top.)

Sautéed Cherry Tomato Sauce: Combine 1 large onion cut into 8 pieces and 6 garlic cloves in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade; pulse 2 to 3 times until coarsely chopped. Heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium; add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place one pint of cherry tomatoes in the food processor bowl and pulse 3 to 4 times, until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and repeat twice with 2 more pints cherry tomatoes. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes to the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they form a sauce, about 10 minutes. (10 minutes is not nearly long enough; I simmered at least 30 minutes to get right consistency.) Add kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste and serve over Ricotta Gnocchi. Top with 1 1/2 ounces Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup) and 2 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh basil and oregano, if desired. Makes about 4 3/4 cups.