Archive | September, 2012

Pumpkin Beer Bread: Denver

28 Sep

I, like Nora, eagerly await the arrival of autumnal baked goods all year. I actually eat canned pumpkin pretty much year-round (I like it in my oatmeal in the mornings) since it’s full of the precursor to Vitamin A (for the science nerds out there, we make it into vitamin A using the enzyme Beta-carotene 15,15′-monooxygenase…thanks, biochemistry!).  However, there’s something extra-special about the spicy smell of pumpkin goods in September. I’ve actually been feeling a little defensive of my love of pumpkin- and other fall-themed items, lately; for as long as I can remember, my mom baked with winter and autumn squashes this time of year, but lately they seem ubiquitous. Pumpkin latte this, pumpkin muffin that. Get off of my bandwagon!

delicous, delicous molasses.

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I actually wasn’t crazy about this particular recipe. Like a lot of the comments on the SOURCE RECIPE, I found it to be bland. Here’s the kicker, though: because so many people found it to be bland, I tasted the batter before I got it in a loaf pan – and MAN did it need more spices. I doubled the spice load in the batter, and it still just didn’t taste like much more than nutmeg. Boo! It also came out pretty dense, but otherwise, I liked the texture. It did make my apartment smell incredible, though, I’ll give it that. And…I got to measure beer out in a measuring cup. How often does that happen?

One of the virtues of this recipe is that it is a really, really simple quickbread recipe. I started with my dry ingredients (sorry, I did a dismal job of taking photos on this one).

Then I mixed together my pumpkin, eggs, oil, and spices. I actually decided to replace some of my brown sugar with molasses. I mixed the two together, and it did make a pretty batter.

I made a double batch, because we were planning to head over to some friends’ apartment to celebrate their successful attempt at running more miles than anyone actually thinks is a good idea. They were celebrating by mimosa (as anyone who knows me knows I think is the best way to celebrate anything), so I thought some pumpkin bread would do them well.

I made half of my batter into a loaf:

And half of my batter into muffins.

These took quite a while to bake – almost 10 more minutes than the recipe dictated. Then again, there wasn’t a lot of free liquid in the batter, and I’m at altitude, so maybe that was to be expected.

Once they were cool, I found the muffins to be quite dry (not the recipe’s fault – it was prepped to be baked in a loaf pan!), but they were pretty good reheated in the microwave and with butter. The loaf was moist, though dense, but like I said, I didn’t taste much pumpkin. People at the party didn’t seem to complain, though, so maybe I’m being overly sensitive.

Fortunately, it’s only September, and I still have plenty of time to get seasonal baking out of my system.

Written with the help of my Trusty Sidekick, Yeti.

Challenge #18: Pumpkin-beer bread

16 Sep

Well, that was a freebie. Knowing all about my prodigious love of pumpkin, Chris Rose posted this recipe on Facebook a few days ago, and I knew just what to do with it.

Instead of just pumpkin, add pumpkin ale. Things like this are why I love fall.

Apple Galette: Portland

14 Sep

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Sadly, these photos are not the best. But this galette was. The reason for the photos is simple: My memory card decided to cease functioning not five minutes before I started baking. The reason for the galette is also simple: This uncomplicated recipe let the apples shine through, complemented by a buttery crust and little sugar or spice. I decided to go free-form with Hannah’s apple tart challenge, as I’ve always been intrigued by the idea, and deliciously pretty presentation, of a galette.

imageI started with what turned out to be way too many darn apples for one galette (see below)…

image…which I later turned into applesauce by adding some of the glaze we were instructed to make (by simmering the reserved apple cores and peels in sugar water for about 30 minutes). I used honeycrisps, as the recipe recommended, and I ended up really liking them.

imageAndrew was in charge of the crust, which I proceeded to almost ruin by giving him too much butter. He pointed out that 6 Tbsp. is not the same as one stick, and we added more flour accordingly to make the dough less buttery and easier to roll out. Still, I had the same troubles as Hannah, in that my dough kept cracking in places. I may go back to my go-to crust recipe, which includes a bit of vinegar. That gives it a more cohesive and more malleable texture. (Also included with this recipe is Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Pie…mmmmmm.)

imageFinally, when the ginormous stack of apples was assembled and ready to go (and after wrestling, yes wrassling) with the crust, we started layering the apple slices.

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Last year, around Thanksgiving, I finally learned how to properly crimp a pie crust, thanks to the tutelage of the Internet. Because this dough was prone to cracking, I decided to use this method to make it stick together and look at least slightly put together.

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This turned out to be the perfect prelude to fall, with its just-right temperature, apples and pumpkins galore, and my favorite part: soup. Served warm with Tillamook vanilla ice cream, this recipe won my approval.

Apple Galette (Tart): Denver

14 Sep

I was really pleased with this delicious apple tart! (Recall: source recipe)

This tart was as easy to make as a normal pie, but I thought the impact factor was higher because it was so dang pretty! I’ve never accordion-sliced apples like this for a baked good, but it was easy enough to do (it took some getting used to, but I managed fine). I had intended to make this a gallette, but my pie crust dough just didn’t want to cooperate (more on this in a second), so I ultimately put my tart pan to use.

I started with a WHOLE LOTTA butter.

The Pate Brisee that Smitten Kitchen recommended was fairly fussless – well, I thought it was fussless. Maybe that’s why it came out crumbly. Anyway, butter met flour/sugar/salt. I (finally) got my act together and bought a pastry cutter!! It’s been on my kitchen-item-wish list for about two years now (not an exaggeration), and I don’t know why it took me so long. The major takeaway lesson from this whole pie experience, actually, was this: cutting shortening into flour with a pastry cutter is about 40 times easier than cutting it into flour with two knives (if you have to ask, you don’t want to know).

After cutting it all together, the icy water got dribbled and mixed in. Then, into the refrigerator it went! I let it chill for about 40 minutes. It was seriously as hard as a rock when it came out of the fridge, so I did need to let it warm for maybe 5 minutes before I could roll it out.

Towards the end of the dough-chilling, I preheated my oven to 400 and started cutting/peeling apples. Now, it was fairly late at night when I was doing this (11ish? That’s f’n late on a Tuesday.) and I had a ton of physiology homework to do, so I made the executive decision to skip the save-the-skins-and-then-make-a-syrup-out-of-them step. Sorry, universe. But I did peel my beautiful Granny Smiths:

After I peeled each one, I left it whole (at first) and rolled it around/let it rest in a mixing bowl with the juice of a few lemons in it. No oxidation here! Once I had them peeled, I halved them and cored them with my melon baller, returning them to the lemon juice bath.

At this point, I rolled out my dough – it was fairly crumbly and I honestly found this pate brisee recipe harder to work with than other recipes I’ve used in the past. I don’t know why. It was really humid that night, so maybe it was an atmospheric or altitude problem – I don’t know. Anyway, I decided I was going to use my tart pan instead of doing a galette. I am bummed, because galettes have been on my list to do for AGES. Sometime soon, I promise. Maybe in an upcoming challenge…

Once my dough was rolled and in the pan, I started hasselbacking my apples. I hasselback potatoes sometimes, so I figured this would be similar – but I neglected to remember that when I hasselback potatoes I don’t cut 100% of the way through the potato (you leave them slightly connected at the bottom). I had a few problems with the apple slices sliding out of place, but I got the hang of it. (Unfortunately, I got the hang of it on the last half-apple). I would like to take a knife skills class sometime to get better at this stuff.

I arranged the apples in my crust and folded the edges over.

Then, it got a bath in melted butter, and I sprinkled sugar over it (probably about 1/8 of a cup or so). Also cinnamon. Smitten Kitchen didn’t say anything about cinnamon, but it’s just not apple pie without cinnamon.

Viola!

Then into the oven it went. I put it on a lipped baking sheet because I was pretty sure it would bubble over – it did. I later patted myself on the back for that.

30 minutes into baking, I rotated the pan, and then it was ready to come out 20 minutes after that.

This thing was really delicious and simple, and I was pleased with the presentation (that made it look like I put way more work into it than I did…I’ll be remembering this technique). My crust tasted amazing but was more crumbly than flaky – I think it got overworked when I was trying to roll it out to be a gallette. Oh, well! I suffered through it well enough.

Challenge #17: Apple Galette (or tarte!)

10 Sep

Our next challenge will be this simple apple galette from Smitten Kitchen! This blog is incredible. Seriously incredible. Well… I thought it was a galette at first glance. Upon scrutiny, it appears Smitten Kitchen uses a tarte pan. Oh well. Nora: I challenge you – feel free to try a galette, or make it in a normal pie pan. Up to you!

The recipe also looks incredible. It is autumn, which always vies for my favorite season (it’s a constant toss-up between spring and fall). This means it is apple pie time!

Apple pies! ‘Sco!

Cinnamon toast flan: Portland

10 Sep

Well, after two failed attempts and 30 eggs, I finally got it right. Wasteful, yes, but also delicious. As Julia Child once said, “Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.” I hope to adopt that outlook in my cooking, mistakes and all. This experience with her French toast flan was another one full of mistakes — and lessons — but more importantly, a good outcome.

Notes to self: First and foremost, again and forever, read all the directions all the way through before beginning. In fact, read them twice. In fact, go online and look up technique tips and see what other cooks have to say about their experience. You might be able to avoid making common mistakes if you know about them in advance.

Now, onto the nitty gritty of my flan flub.

The first part of the recipe was easy. Melt some butter, spread it on toast, top it with cinnamon sugar, then broil it for a wee bit.

This part of the process reminded me a lot of home. In my mom’s spice cabinet, we always had a bottle marked “cinnamon sugar.” My mom never let us eat sugary cereals and pretty well controlled our diets (which has actually made me quite careful in my eating habits as an adult), so cinnamon toast was one of the few sugary treats we were allowed in the morning. Having to make it as part of a recipe, a French one no less, certainly prompted some nostalgia.

So this is the part that I messed up. Twice. Creme Anglaise. My custard nemesis. It looked great (see above), until (see below).

I went and overheated the lovely light cream, and it looked like scrambled eggs gone wrong. So so wrong. (The first time, which I don’t show here, I put the egg and sugar mixture in too hot a pan too soon, and it failed miserably.)

I decided to call it a night and begin again the next day with a fresh outlook. With a new dozen eggs recently acquired from Safeway, I came into the kitchen refreshed and ready to conquer my custard deficiency.

The recipe is called flan, but it’s really just bread pudding. That requires making an egg custard. First thing to do was beat the (ROOM TEMPERATURE) eggs with sugar. I used the KitchenAid, which helped me beat them just so, until the “formed the ribbon,” as Julia calls it. This is just a fancy way of saying that the mixture is light, fluffy and makes a little ribbon coming off the beater. So far so good.

Here’s what they looked like after beating, pale and fluffy. After going into a saucepan over medium heat (sorry, no pictures), I slowly, ever so slowly, poured in hot milk and stirred for about 20 minutes until it started to thicken. On the second failed batch, I guess I’d assumed the custard would thicken more than it did, which led to the overheating. The trick is to see how it holds to the spoon. If all the bubbles are gone and it sticks to the spoon in an opaque yellow sheen, YOU’RE DONE. Take that baby off the heat pronto.

After pouring the custard over the arranged cinnamon toast triangles in the baking dish, it went into the oven and came out looking lovely. Even though my first two attempts didn’t turn out to my liking, this last run was worth it. The bread pudding was light and creamy, with hardly any butter to weigh it down (surprising for a Julia Child recipe, right?), and the distinct taste of accomplishment. Bon appetit!

Cinnamon Toast Flan: Denver edition

5 Sep

Mmmmmm. Bread Pudding.

This recipe was the best recipe. I love Julia Child. Actually, I’ve always loved Julia Child. I remember watching her TV show on PBS with my mom when I was little. She was seriously an awesome lady; she was ultra sassy and a feminist, and also loved good food and didn’t let anything stop her when it came to making it. I was really pleased when I saw that Nora chose this recipe.

I made this as part of my mom’s Birthday brunch. It seemed breakfasty (if you are like me and eat dessert for breakfast, anyway), and paired nicely with the coffee and omelets that I made, too. Here I am with my final product, about to go over to my parents’ house for brunch:

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I made this pudding the night before and served it warm (heated it up in the microwave right before serving). I was a little anxious about the Crème Anglaise, because I’d never made it before and from the comments on the recipe, inexperienced cooks had theirs curdle on them. However, mine turned out fine (probably because I was so anal and careful because I was scared of messing it up – I seriously mixed in the hot milk 1/8 of a cup at a time), and the end product was delicious. It really did turn out somewhere between bread pudding and a true custard.

I started with my toast. Actually, I started with bread, and then realized I didn’t have any butter (what?! How could this happen in my house?!), so at 9 pm on a Sunday evening, I went out wearing my pajamas (10-year-old Wick School of Irish Dance shorts and this sweet T-shirt, for the record) to my grocery store to buy some. Once I was back, I buttered my bread.

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That’s a lot of butter.

I got it onto its baking sheet, cinnamon-sugared it, and broiled away. And mmm did it look tasty. I LOVE cinnamon-sugar toast – it reminds me of my dad. He used to make it for me when I was a kid, much to my mother’s annoyance (it’s, obviously, sugary).

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Once it looked gooey, I pulled it out and let it cool.

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While the toast was cooling, I started on my Crème Anglaise. First, the eggs and sugar – then the heated milk.

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When the milk was heated, I mixed it in slowly, slowly. Thus, I don’t have any photos of this step
(sorry!). Here it is being heated, though.  I also heated slowly, slowly. It took a long time to cook (like 10 minutes). It seemed like nothing was happening, and then, BAM, it was thick and creamy and
done. I added my vanilla extract (homemade by Nora herself!). Oh my god, was this good. The spatula was licked clean, trust me.

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At this point, I cut/tore up my bread (it wasn’t really very crispy so it ripped more than cut when I ran a knife through it). Into my baking dish it went.

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Then came the fun part. I poured ½ of the custard over the bread. Look at it, basking in there.

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After 5 minutes or so, I poured the rest of my custard over the bread. Only a few bread iceburgs were left poking out of the top of the custard.

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Into the oven it went, with a waterbath to keep the top from cracking. It took AGES to cook – way longer than Julia said it would. Maybe it’s the altitude here.  After about 40-45 minutes, my skewer came out clean, and out of the oven it came. It smelled heavenly. It was about one million degrees hot, and at this point it was about 11 p.m., so I let it cool on the stove top overnight, covered by some tin foil.

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The next morning, I took it over to my parents’ house. Once I had it dished up, I heated each bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds and served it warm with peaches. Of course, I forgot my camera (like always), but it looked beautiful and tasted silky and creamy and cinnamony. I will definintely be making this again.