Archive for December, 2010

Christmas Stollen (Daring Bakers Challenge) and My Thoughts on Yeast Doughs

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. The recipe is here

I followed the recipe and made a large as well as several small stollens.  However, instead of following the yeast rising schedule, I used the method I learned from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day in which you just mix the dough without kneading and let it rest in the fridge (I use the fruit cellar in the winter – it works perfectly).  In the book they say you can leave the dough for as long as a week, and I have done this and the bread is great.  In the book they have a recipe for brioche that is a similar dough recipe to the stollen, so I just used the long rest method and let the dough sit for three days before I had time to make the actual stollen.  The advantage of this method is that by letting the dough rest in a cool place you get essentially a sour dough development, with resulting more complex flavour.

There are various methods on this cool rise technique, but I highly recommend this book.  I use this method for all yeast doughs now.  They also have a new book with healthier recipes including gluten free.

My kids were here for the holidays, and the stollen little buns were eaten quickly.  Today with the kids gone and a quiet house, I tried another use for this cake – I cut it up into chunks and put caramel sauce over it with left over whip cream.  Mmmmmmmm, sort of like a Christmas version of Baba au Rhum!  Try it.

Thanks to Penny for this challenge, it made a great treat for the holidays.

Beauty in the Kitchen – Springerele Cookies

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I have admired these shaped wonders ever since I saw them in a Martha Stewart magazine several years ago.  But alas, the molds are not readily available, or weren’t at that time.  Then on a trip to visit my son in San Francisco I saw one mold at Sur La Table, but still I did not succumb due to what I thought was an astronomical price.  This year I couldn’t stand it, and after unsuccessfully trying some shortbread molds I broke down and ordered the real deal.  You can mail order the molds from House on the Hill.  There are hundreds for all different themes and holidays. Since they are very pricy, I only ordered 2, a heart and some little ovals that are also small enough to use as marzipan decorations.

I followed the recipe that came with them and is on the web site.  It workd very well, even when I divided it into 1/3 of the recipe.  I do recommend you try to get ammonium carbonate.  It used to be difficult to find, but my local grocery has even started carrying it.  It does make the texture light, and it rises when heated.  The cookies have to set overnight to dry before baking to get the best impressions.  In one batch I did not really cook them through, so they were a little soft in the middle and tasted great.  The next time I followed more of the instrucitons in the Martha Stewart baking Book, and baked them at a lower temperature for much longer (almost an hour).  That batch came out very crisp, in fact they are best eaten by dunking in coffee.

Is this is best cookie ever in terms of taste – no.  They are a little dry.  But, they are really lovely to look at, so I do recommend trying them.

I have to go now, I am visiting the local foods class to talk about my blog with the students, so this post is for them.

Weird Eggsperiments from the Pantry: Daring Cooks Challenge

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

A well poached egg is one of the most simply delicious culinary delights that anyone can master.  If you have fresh eggs, it is truly a gourmet treat.  I love poached eggs, but spent years trying to get the perfect poach.  After trying all sorts of gizmos….. silicone cups and those sort of forms, I have concluded that the perfect poached egg is made by the little “truc” of making sure that you simply swirl the boiling water, then turn the heat way down, and give a little swirl until the egg is definitely free from the bottom.  The other secret is quite a bit of vinegar in the water – I use about 2 T to  my little deep Paderno saucepan.  A dash of salt is  also important, and keep the water only just before a boil.  Poached eggs are so versatile.  They are delicious just on toast, but also resting on beds of various things, covered by sauce. One of my favourite combos is poached eggs on a bed of du Puy lentils, weird I know but good protein and low glycemic index (This is important so you can eat more shortbread cookies).

Anyway, to get on with the challenge, I needed to do this fast since my most recent obsession is knitting doll clothes so I wanted to get back to my yarn.  For the first “eggsperiment” I happened to have a jar of Patak’s korma sauce just opened that I had used on a delicious fish dish the night before, and some good Italian canned tomatoes.  So, I made a sauce of tomatoes, a couple spoons of Pataks (to taste – no recipe needed here!), and some of the dark kabouli chick peas I had in the fridge.  So, eggsperiment one was delicious, and a make again for sure, good for fridge leftovers, I bet you can put almost any leftover vegetable in the sauce.  And if you havent tried Pataks sauces, they are an amazing, my theory is that they can get fresher spices than we can.  I make lots of indian food, but Pataks is sometimes the best answer to quick gourmet Indian food (especially in a small central Ontario town where Indian is pretty exotic and restaurantless).

Eggsperiment #2:  “Oeufs a la Châtaigne”

Another pantry wonder.  I had spinach that was past it’s prime.  So I sauteed it for a sumptious bed for the poached egg.  Then, I ruminated over maybe  a cheese sauce, and really wanted to do Oeufs en Meurette, but today I wanted to go shopping so that’s for later.  So  I rooted out a truly gourmet leftover from the depths of my fridge – a “Confit of Chestnuts, Fennel, and Walnuts” from the Joel Robuchon / Patricia Wells  Simply French cookbook.  OK, true confessions, I didn’t make the exact recipe (my larder of veal stock was non existent), but my version was to saute onions, shallots, fennel, deglaze the pan with some sherry, then add the chestnuts and walnuts.  This was baked in the oven until the rest of the meal was done.  It was delicious, even Greg who doesn’t really like fennel had seconds.  After spying this lovely little bowl of chestnutty goodness …(don’t throw up, I am trying to emulate Nigella),  I put some of the leftover confit in the food processor, added a little water and whip cream, and voila, the start of a delicious sauce.  I heated this up, added a little flour to smooth out and thicken, and poured it over the poached egg.  I have not included a picture of the cut centre, because the truth is that by the time I finished all this pantry raiding the yolk was a little stiff, so the picture you will have to imagine is a bite taken out and the yellowy smoothness of the yolk bursting out of its eggy goodness  (ok, I know, enough Nigella, maybe I will try emulating Anthony Bourdain next!)

Stay tuned for my next post, I just got springerele molds!!

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