Meyer Lemons

I found Meyer lemons at the fancy grocery store last week and couldn’t wait till the weekend to turn them into something tasty…it was a long week!

Yesterday was finally the day. I’d decided to try Anne Burrell’s recipe for a ‘Meyer Lemon Curd Tart’. We’ve only ever made one tart before (ala Heston Blumenthal) and it was a long, complicated process, which, in my opinion, wasn’t reflected in the taste. This was part of my apprehension, the other was I only bought a 1 lb. bag and didn’t want to muck it up!

First things first, I blitzed the crust together in my food processor (it was a very moist dough) and put it in the fridge to chill for half an hour. I had several things going in the kitchen yesterday and found plenty to do with that time!

Rolled it out once, but it was so moist that it absorbed the flour and I found it was stuck to the counter. I dusted it liberally with flour, scraped it up and folded it back together, then re-rolled. Much better! This time, I had no issues whatsoever when I tried to roll it around the pin to transfer it onto the tart pan (newly purchased at ‘The Restaurant Store’ for just this occasion) and easily placed, arranged and trimmed it. Trimming was the easiest thing, I simply rolled the pin over the top of the pan, slicing of the extra and getting a nice, uniform edge.

I followed Anne’s instructions to line the shell with foil for baking and poured some of the contents of my coin jar on to that for a “pie weight”, a tip from our first tart experience, though Heston had us use parchment paper, which let the oil from the butter through and I had a fun time getting it back off my coins. Foil worked perfectly, but I think I’ll fold it over the top edge next time, so that it browns a bit more evenly.

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Now for the curd! I had 8 lemons and it took 7 1/2 of the to get the 3/4 C. I needed. I also had to zest three of them, this took the longest, cracking 5 eggs and adding salt and sugar was far quicker. On to the stove, whisking and whisking, paranoid that it might burn.

It was very easy to tell when it had cooked enough, the consistency changed, yes, but the color changed too, so there was no second guessing there, which made me happy. Poured it into the shell and put it into the oven. Let it in for the max time (and as long as I dared!), then pulled it out, though it still seemed a little swimmy.

Now the hard part, letting it cool. Fortunately, I had those other things I mentioned earlier to focus on and didn’t suffer too badly. After 3 hours, during which it had moved out of the kitchen and into the air-conditioned living room, we declared it cool enough and he sliced into it (I was too scared).

Mmmm. It was rather perfect, if I do say so myself, maybe could have baked another 30 seconds, but the flavor, yum, lemon! The texture was good too, smooth and creamy. He liked it too (see below).

First we shared a slice.

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Then he had another.

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Then I had one of my own.

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Then he had one more.

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How do you know when it’s good? When you eat half of it in one sitting!

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S’mores Cookies

It was my birthday a little while ago and a friend gave me 3 s’mores cookies from a local convenience store, which was perfect, for I was hungry for some good, chocolate, cookies, but didn’t want to bake them or have an abundance to eat later.

They were better than I expected, given their origin, and I thought, if they’re this good from a store, I should be able to make some that are even tastier! Plus, I’d gotten a 6 qt. KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday and it seemed like the perfect thing for its maiden use.

Found a recipe online that was similar to what I’d eaten, a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips, marshmallow bits, and graham chucks, and set about mixing it up. It said it served 12, but not how many cookies I should expect from it, so I made a triple batch, wanting to have enough for several events over the weekend. It nearly filled my new mixer bowl,  see?

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And it looks so chocolately too!

Used my largest cookie scoop and baked them just until the wet look was gone from the top. They looked good.

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Three batches might have been too many though, I started running out of containters.

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Tasted one, the big moment… They were full of chocolate flavor, no complaints there, but the graham flavor didn’t come through at all. You could see them, but not taste them! The marshmallow could be found, but nowhere near as much as the chocolate.

I’m thinking maybe some sort of graham cookies will add some of the flavor I’m looking for, but I’m stumped on the marshmallows. In the cookies that were given to me, they weren’t as melted, how? Does anyone out there have a tip they’re willing to share? I want to mix them in, not add them on to at the end… please help!

English Muffins

With this week’s fed sourdough starter, I thought I’d try making english muffins. I wanted to do something different, but don’t have a lot of extras to add to a loaf.

Fed it Friday night and mixed them up on Saturday, then put them in the fridge for 24 hours, wanting as much sourdough flavor to come through as possible without adding any citric acid to the dough.

Sunday, when I got home from church, I rolled them out and cut them, ending up with 13 instead of the 12 I was expecting, but I’m not complaining.

After they’d sat for two hours (since they’d been in the fridge so long), I put them on my large skillet and let them cook there for about 12 minutes, with a cookie sheet on top of them to keep them flat.

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After that time, I started checking the bottoms, the skillet doesn’t heat evenly, so some had to be turned before others. Tried to rotate them around and get them evenly browned.

When the first one was done, I was excited, for as you can see,

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it looks like an english muffin!

Finished them all off, which took about 45 minutes.

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Then, let myself eat the last one while it was still warm.

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The bottom was toasted and I must say that I enjoyed it far better than any store-bought one I’ve ever had, with a hint of sour flavor and moisture unlike any of them. *sigh* I am content.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream!

We’ve finally done it! We’ve finally made ice cream with liquid nitrogen!

A friend of ours asked us to help cook for her son’s wedding rehearsal.She served a cheese platter for the appetizer. We made green beans almandine and roasted a pork loin and some baby vegetables for the main course, then all that was left was the dessert.

She had mentioned ice cream and my fiancé instantly promised her ice cream and a floor show, if she’d get some liquid nitrogen. She did.

He mixed up a batch of vanilla custard and left it to chill in the refrigerator while they ate, then when the time was right, we went into the dining room with a stand mixer, a metal pitcher with liquid nitrogen in it, and the custard. He handled everything, I simply watched as he poured the custard into the mixer bowl, then turned it on and slowly added the nitrogen.

When it started to clump up on the outside, he didn’t miss a beat, but simply stopped the mixer and knocked it back into the main ice cream. I realized at that moment that we’d never gotten around to testing/practicing this at home beforehand at all, um… I thought for certain that we’d now have lumps in our ice cream. Fortunately, I was wrong, for he knew what he was doing, having done his research, it mixed right back in.

As it mixed and the steam/fog slowly poured across the table and down on to the floor the ring bearer and flower girl thought it was amazing and loved feeling how cold it was, but some of the grownups were on their phones, checking to see whether or not we’d be poisoning them!

Still, everyone happily ate some once the groom had a taste and proclaimed it ready. It was smooth, creamy, and full of flavor, by far the best vanilla I’ve ever had, and vanilla isn’t at all my preference.

Sugared Strawberries

This week I made my first day batch of sugared strawberries. He heard it discussed on ‘The Splendid Table’ and arrived at my apartment bearing a container of strawberries so we could try it ourselves.

Hence, Tuesday morning found me in the kitchen, slicing away. I’d gone to the website for ‘The Splendid Table’, but the instructions there called for raspberries and muddling, whereas he’d heard of slicing and layering with equal parts sugar, strawberries, sugar, strawberries, etc., so that’s what I set out to do.

My first discovery was that it’s difficult to get sliced strawberries to lay in a nice, even layer in the bottom of a canning jar. My second was that it’s hard to tell if you’re doing exactly equal parts or not, but I gave it my best try.

These are from shortly after I’d started:

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And this is what I had at the end:

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Mmmmm, strawberries!

This I placed in the fridge. You’re to wait at least 2 days before tasting, per the instructions, however, by that evening, they’d mostly separated with the strawberries sitting atop a layer of wet sugar and that being above a layer that looked about the same as when I first put it in. Stirred it all up on Saturday, but it’s separated out again….

Has anyone out there every made these? Is it supposed to separate? How do I proceed from here?

My Weekend in the Kitchen – Sunday (5/18)

After church, we had two culinary tasks today:

 

1. Assemble the lasagna, which I’ve done before with regular lasagnas, but the sauce for this one wasn’t very wet and since I prefer to use the no-boil noodles, we added more salsa.

Come Monday night it was very flavorful in a way that is completely different then what one expects from lasagna, but no complaints here! We garnished with sour cream and hot sauce, per our preferences.

 

2. We had found this recipe http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/flaky-bread in a magazine we borrowed from the library and were anxious to try it, then I had the idea to turn them into pizza margaritas (one of our favorites). We had some tomatoes he’d gotten earlier in the week and fresh mozzarella balls too, perfect.

It was quite the process, the dough came together just fine, and after I let it sit for the four hours the recipe calls for, it was very, very soft. I was surprised by how long it took to roll them out. After dividing them (I weighed them to keep them even, 2.25 oz. each), I rolled them into balls and let them sit. Once they were done resting, I got rolling, it took well over an hour, but there were lots of layers in there.

wpid-img_20140518_180405_873.jpg At the top is the ball post-rest, then rolled out in the center, and coiled at the bottom.

I found them to be hard to manage after rolling them out a second time, they’re so thin! But I managed to butter them and fry them up, one at a time.

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After they came out, he salted them and set about turning them into pizza.

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It had to be eaten soon after it finished, or the crust went soggy, so it was more of an eat while you cook” then a sit down meal, but it was so good that we didn’t mind. In fact, we couldn’t make it fast enough and found ourselves impatient for the next one to cool off. It was a wonderful pizza, we ate and ate and it never felt heavy in our stomachs.

The bread just plain was also good, and flaky, just like it claimed. One thing I found interesting was that the darker spots (a.k.a. the nearly burned ones) had an even richer flavor, as opposed to getting that dark, burned flavor most other things do. We shall definitely revisit it and explore its potential.

It was hours later when we finally finished (the rolling alone took more than one), but we couldn’t have been happier. Another case of hours of labor resulting in amazing results which makes it all worth it.

Chocolate & Caramel Ombre Cake

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1161646/chocolate-and-caramel-layer-cake

This is the cake I made for my family’s Easter gathering last Sunday. I’d never made such an ambitious cake before. I was done with work early on Friday, around 1:30 and found myself with plenty of time to bake and assemble, thinking everything through twice, since I wouldn’t have time to start over.

It took me two hours to mix and bake the first two layers, which would end up being layers 1 and 4 in the end product. I followed Cook’s Illustrated instructions for mixing it together, since my family hasn’t had much success with white cakes in the past (but then, we hadn’t a stand mixer then either). Feel like I should have prehaps sifted the ground almonds, but the recipe wasn’t very specific with those sorts of details. Also, I maybe should have used granulated sugar instead of raw… to make it more white. Washed up the dishes I’d made up to that point while they baked.

Once the cakes were cool enough to remove from their pans, I started on the second batch, which went quicker. Used various shades of brown sugar, since I don’t have all the British ones (at least not at prices I could afford right now). So at this point, one could find this on my kitchen table,

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Looks good already, right? Let them cool for awhile while I washed the dishes and ate some dinner.

Frosting went smoothly enough, though it took a while for the ganache to cool. I’d delayed making it, not wanting it to set up too much before the cakes were ready for it. I’d never used canned caramel before and was surprised by how thick it was, but I managed.

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As you can see from the picture on the left, the gradient layers were working on the outside, at least…. That’s what ‘ombre’ means in this instance, by the way, gradient layers.

At this point, I just had to sit back and wait until Sunday afternoon when it was time to serve it. I had a very hard time waiting for all my nieces and nephews to finish finding eggs! But, once they had, I carefully, ever so carefully, cut into it and found this:

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I’m rather happy with the results and my family seemed to be as well. The two-year old niece said ‘yum’ with every bite and her father had three pieces. For me, it was moist and rich, but, the texture was a little odd (maybe the almond flour) and it could have had more flavor. Still, the family was happy and I got to stretch my baking skills, so that works for me!

Malt Syrup in Sourdough Bread

I got a book on baking artisan bread by the Culinary Institute of America from the library several weeks ago that has a different approach to making sourdough, so I was curious to try it out and since I’d recently acquired malt syrup and had Friday off from work, it seemed like a good time to give it that try.

(On a side note, malt syrup (if you’re curious, I know I was) is similar to molasses in appearance and behavior and not that far off from it in flavor too.)

Got my starter out of the fridge and followed the instructions for feeding it, which resulted in something that resembled a dough itself, then let it sit for close to 21 hours… I needed the time to match up so that after all the raising it would be ready to bake on Sunday morning in time to be done for church but not too early either!

Saturday afternoon, I took the fed starter and, again, following the very specific instructions in the recipe, turned it into dough. First mix was the starter, water, and malt syrup. Second was flour (it said to use about 1/3 a cup of wheat flour, which I didn’t have, so I made it all ‘unbleached, all-purpose white flour’ instead), then I left it sit for 15 minutes before adding in the kosher salt.

It rose for an hour in a lightly greased bowl (I followed the directed times more than growth), then turned it out on the table and let it sit for another hour, after which I divided it in half and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Shaped it and let it rise for another hour before sticking it in the fridge overnight.

Sunday morning, I was up at 6:15 to pull it out of the fridge and turn the oven on, then I went back to bed for another hour’s sleep. Put it in the oven at 7:30 and then set about getting ready for church while it baked, making sure to pull the parchment paper from under it at 12 minutes.

Out at 8:00, it looked good, nice and brown, though the slashes didn’t really seem to much. It had a firm crust, but wasn’t overly crunchy where you’d cut your mouth on it. The aroma was lovely as well, it sure made my fiancé hungry when he arrived to take me to church (I’d had plenty of time to get ready), and was still lingering when we got home…though we soon replaced it with aroma of roasting. Cutting into it revealed larger air bubbles then I normally have, but it holds together when we eat it, so no complaints there. The flavor isn’t all that different from my other recipe.

All in all, I’m happy with the results, but it’s quite a lengthy process! Maybe there’s a way to combine the two recipes?

Easter Cake!

I now know what I’m making for my family’s Easter get together. I found recipes for a pear and blueberry cake, vanilla cupcakes with ‘surprise’ bunnies inside, a strawberry layer cake, and a four layer, chocolate and caramel ombre and submitted my ideas to the sister in charge of planning the menu. She choose the last one (my family loves chocolate), so there you have it.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1161646/chocolate-and-caramel-layer-cake

After a trip to the local Wegmans last night, I’ve found all I need, except for the exact sugar, but then, I don’t live in Britain, so I’ll make do.  There will be several new experiences in this process, i.e using almond flour and yogurt in a baking, so here’s hoping it all turns out. Stay tuned!

P. S. (Off Topic) I also bought Malt Syrup last night and will be using it in my bread this weekend. I’ll post about that once it’s done.

Crumpets – Who Knew?

A short entry to share a pleasant surprise. This Saturday morning, I was trying to find something to do with my unfed sourdough starter and had nearly consigned myself to having to throw it away, when I found a recipe for Sourdough Crumpets from King Arthur Flour that seemed to solve the problem. It also gave me something to eat for breakfast!

It looked (and was) simple enough, add 1 t. of sugar, and 1/2 t. of salt and baking soda to 1 C. of the starter, stir and cook like pancakes. ‘Twas neat to see how it grew and bubbled.

Melted a little butter on mine and ate them while they were still warm. I was amazed at their flavor. Best ‘pancakes’ ever! I had no idea, but this is definitely my new favorite way to use up that unfed starter each week.

Meanwhile, the fed is being turned into bread bowls….