Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers: Savory Tuiles

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. After two busy months of holidays and adjusting to my new job, I finally made time to get back to my Daring Bakers for January. And I was so glad I did, because it was a recipe I'd attempted before but had yet to master!

This month's hosts gave us a lot of flexibility with the recipes, and I chose an alternative savory tuiles from Thomas Keller. The French Laundry version is shaped into cone-like cornets, but since I didn't have molds I used a little creativity to shape mine. For a light topping I made a smoked salmon mouse with creme fraiche, lemon, dill, and smoked salmon. I sprinkled minced shallots on top for extra flavor. The tuiles were buttery and delicious, with some sweetness to balance out the salty salmon. I would love to experiment more with shaping the final produce, but the taste was spot-on! My only regret was making them for just Joe and myself, because then we were forced to eat them all!

Below is the original recipe, but feel free to shape the tuiles however you want. Also, check out all the other Daring Bakers to see how they were inspired!

Savory Tuile/Cornet Recipe
From Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (65 grams/2.1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (= 2/3 teaspoon table salt)
8 tablespoons (114 grams/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth and mayonnaise-like in texture. Using a stiff spatula or spoon, beat the egg whites into the dry ingredients until completely incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the softened butter by thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary and whisking until the batter is creamy and without any lumps. Transfer the batter to a smaller container, as it will be easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make a 4-inch hollow circular stencil. Place Silpat on the counter (it is easier to work on the Silpat before it is put on the sheet pan). Place the stencil in one corner of the sheet and, holding the stencil flat against the Silpat, scoop some of the batter onto the back of an offset spatula and spread it in an even layer over the stencil. Then run the spatula over the entire stencil to remove any excess batter. After baking the first batch of cornets, you will be able to judge the correct thickness. You may need a little more or less batter to adjust the thickness of the cornets.

There should not be any holes in the batter. Lift the stencil and repeat the process to make as many rounds as you have molds or to fill the Silpat, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cornets. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.

Place the Silpat on a heavy baking sheet and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the batter is set and you see it rippling from the heat. The cornets may have browned in some areas, but they will not be evenly browned at this point. Open the oven door and place the baking sheet on the door.
(At this point I did my own thing. I cooked them about 3 minutes longer, then took them out and shaped them into little cups using ramekins as my mold. Then I just let them cool, and filled them up!)

This will help keep the cornets warm as you roll them and prevent them from becoming too stiff to roll. Flip a cornet over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down and place 4-1/2 inch cornet mold at the bottom of the round. If you are right-handed, you will want the pointed end on your left and the open end on your right. The tip of the mold should touch the lower left edge (at about 7 o'clock on a clock face) of the cornet. Fold the bottom of the cornet and around the mold; it should remain on the sheet pan as you roll. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue to roll the cornets around molds; as you proceed, arrange the rolled cornets, seams side down, on the sheet pan so they lean against each other, to prevent from rolling.

When all the cornets are rolled, return them to the oven shelf, close the door, and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to set the seams and color the cornets a golden brown. If the color is uneven, stand the cornets on end for a minute or so more, until the color is even. Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so. Gently remove the cornets from the molds and cool for several minutes on paper towels. Remove the Silpat from the baking sheet, wipe the excess butter from it, and allow it to cool down before spreading the next batch.

Store the cornets for up to 2 days (for maximum flavor) in an airtight container.

My stencil was a file folder that I cut a circle out of. Quick, cheap, and totally disposable.
It was hard to get the dough spread evenly! I used a spoon to spread it, then a
spatula to smooth it out.

I only had four ramekins to shape the tuiles, so I did the rest as flat crackers, which were just as tasty and much easier to make!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Disaster Strikes!

The trouble started last Monday night. Joe and I attempted a Thai Curry with Tofu, and ended up with food poisoning. We chalked it up to bad tofu, and spend the day on Tuesday in bed recovering. Not a fun experience, and we were surprised when we both still had unsettled stomachs for the rest of the week. But we carried on working and doing our usual routine, with some basic pasta and standard leftovers feeding us through the week.

Then, Saturday morning, my weekend coffee routine was disrupted by chunky milk. Yes, it's disgusting, I agree! I checked the date, saw that it wasn't expired, thought "how weird", and moved on to plan B. I grabbed a container of whole milk from the fridge (leftover from a recipe), and tried that in a fresh cup of coffee. It was bad too! Now I was wasting precious coffee, and was getting quite frustrated. The whole milk was a day or two past it's sell by date, so I decided it served me right for trying to drink old milk. Next attempt: fat free half and half. Apparently, there are enough artificial chemicals in this dairy product to keep it fresh for extended periods of time, so I was able to drink my coffee and get on with my day. We had leftovers for lunch and went out for dinner, and there were no more food-related issues that day.

Sunday started with coffee, no milk/cream. We noticed the fridge smelled kind of funky, so we threw out some potentially deadly old veggies and headed out to church. We got home a bit later and I started planning my weekly grocery shopping. It was when I took a swig of Joe's warn fresh from the fridge Gatorade that it dawned on me... something is wrong with our fridge! The freezer is working perfectly, but after a little testing we found out that the fridge was at about 50 degrees, which is at least 10 degrees higher than it should be. It was just cold enough that it took us a week to notice, but it was warm enough that it was slowly spoiling all the food!

We spent this afternoon shopping around for a new fridge, and decided we should attempt to have it repaired before we replace it. It's only about 4 and a half years old, so we figure we should try to save it. Tomorrow Joe will be calling a handy man, and we'll be eating out for all three meals. I spent some time this afternoon disposing of everything that could possibly have gone bad, and cleaning out anything we could recycle. So, needless to say, there will not be much cooking going on around here this week! And I think I can officially say this was the first time we missed our crappy old apartment, where we could just call the maintenance guy to come whenever anything went wrong. I hope things are going better in your kitchen, and wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bread Baking for Dummies

I am a huge planner. I plan my recipes each week. I plan what day I'll clean the bathroom, and what day I'll wear my new sweater. I plan vacations far in advance. And yet, when it comes to baking bread, I NEVER plan in time! I cannot tell you how many times I've had a free weekend afternoon when I've tried to bake some kind of yeast bread, and every single time I seem surprised that almost every recipe requires a 16 to 24 hour rest or rise period. Therefore, I rarely manage to bake fresh bread.

This weekend was the same scenario as usual, but when I decided to make bread at about 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, I decided I just had to find a way around the typical time constraints. I searched the web, and found the ideal recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. (Side note-- do you like to bake bread? They have a million and one great sounding recipes on their site, so go check it out!) I wanted a true loaf of Italian style bread (not a foccacia or another typical quick bread), and The Easiest Loaf of Bread You'll Ever Bake was exactly the recipe I'd been dreaming of! In less than three hours, I could have a lovely loaf of fresh baked bread. This recipe was really simple, with only ingredients you have around the kitchen, and produced a really great tasting loaf of bread. Was it the fanciest, most delicate and crusty bread ever? No. But it's a great place to start your bread baking adventures, and I've found it to be quite inspiring towards baking other types of bread in the near future. Now if only I could plan ahead enough to make that a reality...

The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake

1 T sugar
5 1/2-6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 T (1 packet) yeast
1 T salt
corn meal
2 cups warm water (not over 110°F)
boiling water

Add sugar and yeast to warm water and let dissolve. Gradually add salt and flour to liquid and mix thoroughly until dough pulls from sides of bowl. Turn out onto floured surface to knead. (This may be a little messy, but don't give up!)

Fold far edge of dough back over on itself towards you. Press dough away with heels of hands. After each push, rotate dough 90°. Repeat process in rhythmic, rocking motion for about 3 minutes. (Lightly sprinkle flour on board to prevent sticking.) Let dough rest while you scrape out and grease mixing bowl. Knead dough again about 3 more minutes until bouncy and smooth.

Place dough in bowl and turn over once to grease the top. Cover with damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk (1 to 2 hours).

Punch down dough with fist and briefly knead out gas bubbles. Cut in half and shape into 2 Italian or French-style loaves. Place on cookie sheet generously sprinkled with corn meal. Let dough rest 10 minutes.

Quick Method: Lightly slash the tops 3 or more times diagonally and brush with cold water. Place on rack in cold oven. Bake at 400°F for 35 to 40 minutes until crust is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch.

Traditional Method: For lighter, crustier bread, let loaves rise 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 450°F for 15 minutes. Pour 2 to 3 cups of boiling water into roasting pan. Carefully place on oven bottom. Place bread on rack above pan and bake 20 minutes. Turn oven off and allow bread to remain for 5 more minutes. Remove, cool and devour!

** Notes: I did a half recipe, and it turned out great. I did the traditional method to bake the loaf. I also used my Kitchen Aid mixer to knead the dough.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday Soup

I tend to be skeptical when I see a tasty sounding soup recipe. The thing is that I do really enjoy soup, but I'm always concerned that it will leave me unsatisfied and wanting a 'real' meal. Especially at dinner time, when I tend to be quite hungry most days :) I've started to learn what types of soup will leave me feeling well fed, and I've determined that potatoes, protein (chicken or pork usually), and some kind of greens are the key to a soup I'll enjoy. This soup, Dijon Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Kale, was both delicious and warming on a freezing Chicago night.

Dijon Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Kale

from Cooking Light, January 2006

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups sliced leek
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled white potato (about 1 pound)
8 cups loosely packed torn kale (about 5 ounces)
Crushed red pepper (optional)

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leek; sauté 6 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Spoon leek mixture into a large bowl.

Place 1/3 cup flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken mixture; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add browned chicken to leek mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken mixture, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

Add wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add broth mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, water, and mustard to pan; bring to a boil. Stir in chicken mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Stir in potato. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until potato is tender. Stir in kale; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Garnish with crushed red pepper, if desired.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Year, New Food

I decided this year that my resolution would be to try to cook meat-free more often. Partially because I feel it can be healthier, and I know reducing the meat in my diet helps my carbon footprint. I also figured this would be a chance to expand my horizons, and I've never been afraid of a challenge in the kitchen. I don't have any strict goals here, just a desire to be more aware of the food that I'm eating.
I really like the flavor and texture of chickpeas, and I know that they're a common protein source in vegetarian cooking. This weekend I decided I wanted some kind of tomato and chickpea mixture that I could serve over couscous, and I found the perfect recipe on Epicurious. This Moroccan inspired dish was hearty tasting but still quite healthy, which is the perfect combination for a cold January day after too much holiday eating. We ate it with whole wheat couscous from Trader Joe's, and I'm happy to report that I ate until I was uncomfortably full :)

Check the link for the original recipe-- the reviews were really helpful on this one. I'm going to post my version of the recipe, but the original gives lots of examples of how flexible this dish can be. Trust the other reviewers... it needs more spice than originally called for. I also thought the spinach was the best part of the whole dish.

Chick-Pea Tomato Stew with Moroccan Flavors
adapted from

1 can chick-peas (about 14 ounces)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/8 cup olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thin (about 7 cups)
one 28- to 32-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
zest and juice of one lemon
two cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder
3/4 pounds fresh spinach, stems trimmed and leaves washed well and drained (about 5 cups packed)

In a 3-quart saucepan combine chick-peas, cinnamon, cumin seeds, and water to cover. Simmer, covered partially, about 20 minutes. Discard cinnamon.

While chick-peas are simmering, in a large heavy kettle heat oil over moderate heat and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with reserved juice, chick-peas with cooking liquid, apricots, garlic, lemon and juice, ground cumin, curry powder, and coriander and bring to a simmer. Cook stew about 45 minutes, or until chick-peas are tender and liquid is thickened slightly. Stir in spinach, a heaping handful at a time, and cook until wilted and just tender.

Season stew with salt and pepper and serve with couscous and bread.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Another Anniversary

I know I just blogged about my wedding anniversary a few days ago, but another milestone is being celebrated today. One year ago I made the decision to stop just looking at food blogs and to start my own, so today's post is a celebration worthy dessert! I have had so much fun building up my blog for the last year, and I hope you've enjoyed reading it! I love the challenges that come from tracking my cooking, and I'm excited about the recipe collection I'm building up.
Crème brûlée has always been one of my favorite desserts. Last Christmas Joe got me a kitchen torch to make it at home, and during the post-holiday sales I found a crème brûlée cookbook on sale at Williams-Sanoma. This was only my second recipe out of the cookbook, though, because I rarely indulge in desserts this rich. It is a cappuccino crème brûlée, and the coffee junkie inside of me has been begging for this dessert for a while now. It did not disappoint! The custard was rich and smooth, and the coffee flavor was intense. The sugar crust on top was the perfect contrast. I ended up quite pleased with this variation on the traditional dessert, and would especially recommend it to any coffee lovers out there.

Cappuccino Crème Brûlée
From Lou Seibert Pappas Crème Brûlée

5 tsp instant espresso
2 Tbsp hot water
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp Kahlua or brandy
6 Tbsp sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 275. In a medium bowl, dissolve the espresso in the hot water. Stir in the cream.

In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the brown sugar until dissolved. Whisk in the espresso mixture and Kahlua or brandy.

Place 6 standard size flan dishes or ramekins on a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture evenly among the dishes. Pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of each custard still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water. Let cool briefly, then refrigerate for at least two hours or up to two days.

When ready to serve, place the dishes on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar on each. Using a handheld torch, caramelize the sugar. You can also do this in the broiler. Let the sugar harden before eating.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Two years down, a lifetime to go...

I got the new Ina Garten cookbook, Back to Basics, for Christmas this year. A few short days later it was my second wedding anniversary, and I knew that was the perfect occasion to test it out. We had initially planned a pretty posh dinner out for this anniversary (Blackbird in Chicago), but the state of the economy has hit close to home and we decided to be a little more financially responsible this year. There will be a dinner at Blackbird in the future, but for now we decided a nice night at home was the best way to celebrate.

There are tons of recipes in Back to Basics that sounded perfect to me, and I settled on Roasted Potato Leek Soup and Herb Marinated Loin of Pork. It sounded classy, romantic, and cozy on a freezing cold Chicago night. And since our anniversary was on a Monday, the meal I chose was also one that could be mostly prepared the night before. The soup was made almost entirely the night before, and then the last few ingredients were added when I reheated it on Monday night. I also did the marinade the night before, so I only had to throw the meat on the grill when it was almost dinner time. I did simple roasted broccoli as a side, and the meal ended up simple yet nice enough to feel special.

The soup was good, but not the most amazing thing ever. I ended up roasting the veggies for about half the time, then boiling them in the broth until the potatoes were soft. It might be my cheap pan, but the potatoes and leeks were browning way too much for my tastes. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the end result, because while I was cooking I really worried this dish might be a waste of time.

The pork, however, was FANTASTIC! It was so moist and flavorful, and grilling it was so much easier than the baking or broiling methods we've used in the past. Even a few days later, the pork was great left over. It was elegant on its own, and would also be delicious served on rolls as mini sandwiches for a party. And since the tenderloins were sold with two in a package, I froze the second one and get to make this again in the near future.

Roasted Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Shallots

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
4 cups chopped leeks (4 leeks), white and light-green parts, cleaned of all sand
1/4 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
6 to 7 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces crème fraiche
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish (see note)
Crispy shallots, optional (recipe follows) ** I didn't make these, but it sounds like a tasty addition**

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted.
Remove the pan from the oven and place over two burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the
chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.

(I did things a bit different here. I roasted the potatoes and leeks about 20 minutes, and when they seemed to be browning way more than softening I decided to change things up. I moved them to a saucepan, and added the broth to that. I simmered it until the potatoes were soft, then added things in and pureed it. I did scrape the brown bits from the pan as described above.)

In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree. Pour the purée into a large pot or Dutch oven. Continue to purée the vegetables in batches until they're all done and combined in the large pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup. Add the cream, crème fraiche, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasoning.
When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine and the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan cheese and crispy shallots, if using.

Crispy Shallots

1 1/2 cups of olive oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings

Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Reduce heat to low, add shallots slowly to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.

Herb Marinated Loin of Pork

grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4-6 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
2-3 pork tenderloins, 1 lb each
freshly ground black pepper
(I did a half recipe of the marinade, and one pork tenderloin)

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 tsp salt in a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 3 hours. (I like to put the bag in a bowl, just in case).

When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill. Be sure to brush the grill with some oil to prevent the pork from sticking. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then grill, turning a few times to brown on all sides, for 20 minutes--until the meat registers 137 degrees at the thickest part. **Use your meat thermometer, or you will do what I used to and overcook it!**
Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Let the pork rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Thanks to The Food of Love for typing this shorter version of the recipe for me to use!

Not quitting yet

As you might have noticed, I have not completed a Daring Bakers challenge the last two months. I hated to skip both challenges, but I knew with the demands of work that I would make myself crazy if I added these challenges to my schedule. But the rules of the group allow you to miss two challenges in a row, so I thought I would take advantage of that for my own sanity. I do love the exciting baking opportunities I get from this group, though, so I'm not giving up on it yet. Check back at the end of this month, and I should have this month's challenge on display. And who knows, maybe there will be some interesting baking going on here in the meantime!