Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers January Challenge: Tuiles

Whew, just made it!
Really. Just now, in about a half hour, I made these.

I didn't procrastinate this month so much as I kept waiting for inspiration. I hoped that Robb would come over and we would get back into our groove of Tuesday baking. I hoped that I would tackle so many projects in the early part of the month before the Spring semester began, including making the templates for these cookies.

I never did sort out the template situation- making some, finding some to buy? What shape? Also, how to shape and cool the things once done? I couldn't justify buying the cornets- cream horn molds or cannoli molds, even though I really wanted them. So I just made do this morning. I piped a bit and smeared it into a circle and tried to get it reasonably thin and even. I used little ramekins to shape them into cups. I will say that I didn't put a lot of love into this. The challenge for me was just getting it done well enough to take a photo. Done is done.

That said, these were pretty good. I made the savory version and made a tuna... mousse? No, better call it what it is- tuna salad. I fancied it up with spinach dip, capers, gherkins, toasted sesame seeds and Chinese chives. While rummaging around to find something, anything!, to make this more than a scoop of tuna salad, I remembered this jar of spicy red pepper. I think it's Polish. In any case, it's good, and spicy, and pretty. I colored some of the batter and put some polka dots on the tuiles, that turned into smears. I also piped stripes to make the pretty curls. The flavor of the tuiles was definitely enhanced by the spicy pepper, and it was quite compatible with the tuna.

Please check out the other DBers efforts. There are many wonderful and creative examples. There was a sweet option, but I chose the savory one below.


Savory tuile/cornet recipe
From Thomas Keller "the 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.*** 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.
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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The BIG Bread Sandwich

If I could have only one cook book (perish the thought!), it would be The Silver Palate. My original copy is well worn. I saw the 25th anniversary edition and initially I was confused. 25 years. Since what? It can't be 25 years that I've had this book. Quick calculation... OMG!! It has been twenty-five years. Granted, I was a sprite when I purchased my first copy, but still. The new edition is updated with color photos, and the familiar and wonderful illustrations of the original are still there, too.

I feel like I am sharing some secrets when I say that many of my "go to" recipes are from this book- gravlax, ceviche, carrot and orange soup, pasta puttanesca, pate brisee, sour cream apple pie, blackberry mousse- just to name a few off the top of my head. I think I have such a fondness for this book because it was in the kitchen (along with a few other select books) of the first real restaurant I worked in. I was learning to cook at the time- this was even before culinary school- so I was really learning!! Many of the recipes we used at the restaurant were straight from the SP with modifications made only in terms of quantity and a la minute preparations. I find, still, that I have very few notes of changes to recipes after all these years.

I have always been intrigued by The Big Bread Sandwich. The first edition has a wonderful illustration, which has been replaced by an enticing color photo in the second edition, and it was finally too hard to resist. Plus, I had the great excuse of throwing a brunch for Kevin's birthday, and there were plenty of willing eaters- see Lila above, she's always in the center of the action. Unfortunately, none of Kevin's family made it for the celebration.

The bottom layer is sweet and hot Italian sausage (12 sausages) with green and red (and yellow and orange) bell peppers (7), and sliced black olives (1 c). The middle is prosciutto (1 lb. in very thin slices), fontina (8 oz. in very thin slices), arugula (2 c) and tomato (no tomato for Kevin's version), with a garlic anchovy dressing. The top is Eggplant Livia with seasoned ricotta cheese. It is fabulous.

Included is a recipe for the BIG loaf of bread. I'm getting more and more confident with yeast breads, so I dove in and made it. It was terribly exciting to make the enormous loaf- it barely fit on the largest sheet pan I own!! It would be completely reasonable to purchase a good loaf of bread and enjoy the sandwich all the same, see Dan's sandwich below made with a tasty purchased loaf and the tomatoes included, that he's made twice already!

The sandwich is delicious and the idea is great. Purchase yourself a copy of the Silver Palate and get to work exploring all the wonderful recipes!

Here's Kevin blowing out the candles on his birthday cakes (carrot and German chocolate). Dixie dog must have elbowed Lila out of the way to get the front row seat!
(I'll post separately about his birthday present-thanks again to everyone who contributed. XOXOXO to all!!)


Eggplant Livia
1 lb. eggplant
1 c olive oil
2 dried red chiles
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 c red wine vinegar
2 T oregano
1 T basil
1 c oil for frying
Mix oil, chiles, garlic, vinegar, herbs.
Slice eggplant into 1/4 rounds. (You can salt it if you want. I don't.) Fry slices in oil in batches until brown. Drain. Add to marinade and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temp to make the sandwich.

Seasoned ricotta
1 c ricotta
1/4 c grated pecorino
2 T parsley

Garlic Anchovy Dressing
3-4 anchovy fillets
1-2 cloves garlic
1 T dijon
1 yolk
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 c olive oil

BIG Bread
4 c 110 degree water
2 T molasses
2 pk active dry yeast
11-12 c A.P. flour
2 1/2 T salt
3 T olive oil

Mix the water and molasses, sprinkle yeast over to proof. Start adding flour. Add salt once about 1/2 the flour is mixed in. Get about 10 c flour mixed in and turn out to knead dough, mixing in remaining flour. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
Oil a big bowl, let dough rise covered until doubled. Punch down, knead 5 minutes. Let rise again until doubled. Shape dough into a large oval loaf and put on cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled- it should be about 12 x 14. Rub the risen dough with flour. Slash the top. Bake 15 minutes at 450. Reduce to 375 and bake another half hour.

To assemble:
Cut the loaf into 4 slices. Put the sausages and peppers on the bottom layer and drizzle with some of the cooking oil. Sprinkle with s&p, oregano and fresh parsley and black olives. In the next layer dress the bread, then top with prosciutto, fontina, arugula and tomato and drizzle the dressing on top, too. Add more s&p, oregano and parsley. Smear the seasoned ricotta on the top layer, cover with the eggplant and drizzle with the marinade. You need to wrap it and put in between a couple cookie sheets and weight it for a few hours before you serve it. Let it come up to room temp for full flavor.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


A while back I purchased Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and I have been playing around with some of the recipes. For our Christmas Eve fete, to go along with Stefan's delicious cioppino, I made sour dough bread. This is a San Francisco thing- the fisherman there are credited with creating the fish and shellfish stew. The required accompaniment for nearly everything, and especially cioppino in San Fran is sour dough bread. In fact, the bacteria in the yeast and bacteria balance that makes the famous flavor is named Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis.

Sour dough breads are made with a starter. It's a mixture of flour and water which sits at room temp and the wild yeast on the flour and in the air does its thing gobbling up the sugars in the flour and releasing carbon dioxide which is what makes the bread rise. The starter can be kept and maintained forever. Some San Fran sour doughs claim to trace their mother starters back to gold rush time- Wow!

I didn't find the sour dough loaves that I made to be sour. It was decent home made bread, but it wasn't like the sour dough loaves from San Francisco, or even those in Seattle. This may be because the yeast and bacteria on my flour were different (airborn yeasts in a region tend to take over), or maybe the culture hadn't been going for long enough to get enough sourness established.

With the starter hanging out in the frig, I turned to consider bagels. The Double Daring Baker's December challenge (yes, still catching up) was bagels. I used the starter to make the "sour dough" version of bagels from the Reinhart book (recipe below) and the DDB recipe which you can find here.

The basic procedure is to make a very stiff dough, let is rise, divide, shape, rise, boil, bake. This is one time that I wish I could get everyone a taste. The Reinhart bagels are the best I have EVER had. They aren't very sour despite using the starter. I may try the sponge method described in the recipe below and see if there is a difference.

bagels waiting to be boiled

bagels boiling

finished bagels- some with seeds and salt

The DB recipe is ok. Kevin thought that if we didn't have the totally amazing, best ever bagels as a comparison, we'd have been quite happy with them.
They rose quite quickly compared to the Reinhart recipe and had a slightly fluffier texture, although they were REAL bagels, not the round bread passed off as bagels at the grocery store.

The Daring Baker Bagels

Peter Reinhart recipe for 12 large bagels

Sponge (In case you don't have 35 oz. starter)
1 t instant yeast
18 oz. bread flour
20 oz. room temp water
Stir together and cover. Sit at room temp for a couple of hours. It should foam and bubble, and double in size.

1/2 t instant yeast
17 oz. bread flour
2 3/4 t salt
2 t malt powder or 1 T honey or brown sugar (I tried honey and brown sugar. Both gave good results.)
Add the yeast to the sponge. Add 3 c of the flour, salt, and malt. Combine, slowly working in remaining flour to create a stiff dough. Knead for 10 min. The dough should be pliable and satiny, not tacky.
Divide into 12 equal pieces. Form into balls and let rest for 20 min. covered with damp towel.
Shape the dough balls into bagels- either make a rope and stick the ends together or poke a hole through the middle and shape it. Put the bagels onto oiled parchment lined sheets, mist with spray oil and cover. Let sit at room temp for about 20 min. Bagels are ready to be retarded when they pass the float test. Put one in a bowl of water- if it floats it passes. If it does not float, wait and test again in 10 minutes.
Put the covered pans in the frig overnight. They'll keep for a couple of days.
When you're ready to bake, heat the over to 500, and put a pot of water with 1 T baking soda on to boil. Boil the bagels for 1 min. each side (2 min. for chewier bagels) and return to the oiled parchment that you've sprinkled with a little cornmeal.
While wet, sprinkle with seeds and salt, or leave plain. Bake for 5 min. Rotate pans, reduce temp to 450 and bake another 5 min. ENJOY!!
These bagels kept well, 2-3 days. I will be experimenting with freezing them next.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Black Cake

This has been tested and verified as the real deal by folks who know. Greer and her family are from Jamaica- see her happy face below. For those of us unfamiliar with the Jamaican Black Cake, it's like fruitcake.

Hold on; don't go running from the room. It's good fruitcake.

Yes, there is such a thing.

My Dad found this recipe last December, 2007 that is, in the New York Times. I don't know what possessed him to be interested in it, or to forward it to me. Maybe it struck him as similar to mincemeat with all the booze and fruit? He's a Big Project cook (which reminds me of the latest revamp of Fine Cooking mag. There is a new section in each issue dedicated to weekend projects- the first is croissants, we're definitely making those!) The major project of mincemeat is a recipe for another time involving a whole cow's tongue, suet, and pounds of dried fruit, fresh fruit and bottles of booze... and canning. Talk about a project.

We made the black cake together last year and liked it. We are fruitcake fans, but really this isn't that gross green maraschino cherry thing, promise! In fact, we liked it so well that this year we both separately planned to make it. Dad arrived here for Christmas with a sample of his and I had the fruit soaking for mine. We had plenty of cake, that's for sure!!

Below is the Christmas Eve dessert scene at Greer and Stefan's house following the amazing feast of cioppino and the rest. As I think about it, I'd like to get them to make some more cioppino and invite me over- I hope my telepathic desires will be received...
You can see the whole Black Cake in the foreground- AND the plum cookies with the shaved pecorino cheese. Delicious!

Don't be afraid that the ingredients are going to cost a fortune and that you'll have 4 cakes- dive in and make this!

BLACK CAKE from NY Times December 2007

1 lb. prunes
1 lb. raisins
1/2 lb. golden raisins
1 lb. currents
1 1/2 lbs. dried cherries (or 1 lb. dry cherries, 1/2 lb. glace cherries) (I used all dry cherry)
1/4 lb. mixed candied citrus (I used citron)
2 c dark rum, plus more for brushing cake
1 1/2 cherry brandy
1/4 lb. blanched almonds
1 c white or light brown sugar for burning (or 1/4 c molasses which is what I used)
1 lb. butter
1 lb. brown sugar (Dad used dark and I used light-dark is probably better)
10 eggs
zest of 2 limes
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t angostura bitters
4 c A.P. flour
4 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon

1. Combine prunes, raisins, currants, cherries, candied peel, rum and brandy. Sit for at least 2 days.

2. Grind fruit and almonds to a rough paste, leaving some chunks of fruit intact. Add more brandy or some wine if needed. Can work in batches in the f.p. or blender.

3. If burning sugar, melt 1 c sugar until it is almost black. It will smoke. Add 1/4 c boiling water, turn off heat. It will splatter.

4. Cream butter and brown sugar to smooth and fluffy. Mix in eggs 1 x 1. Add zest, vanilla and bitters.

5. Combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon and fold into butter mixture. Stir in fruit paste and black sugar or molasses. If the batter is light, add more molasses or sugar- should be medium-dark brown.

6. Divide between 4 8" (or 3 9") buttered and papered pans. (Recipe calls for 2 layers of paper, but I'm skeptical). Bake at 250 degrees- yes TWO hundred fifty degrees- for 1 hour. Reduce oven temp to 225 and bake for 2-3 more hours. Will test clean.

7. While cakes are hot, brush with rum. Brush with more rum when cakes are cool. Turn out and serve. Wrap, and store in a cool, dry place for up to one month.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Travel back to 1942

My New Year's resolution for 2008 was to read The Art of Eating, by M.F.K. Fisher.  A compendium of her writings on food from 5 previous books.  I've failed at finishing it in one year -- I have a tendency to read one essay then put it down then read another.  I've, sadly, spent more time last year with it being put down than reading.  But I'm determined to finish it this year, along with The Odyssey by Homer. 

One of the books that this includes is How to Cook a Wolf, teaching people to cook well using the ration books that they received in war time. It somehow seems appropriate in our current financial crisis mode.  So, I've been turning down corners and saying, "I've gotta make this." So today I did.

War Cake
M.F.K. Fisher

2 cups flour, white or whole wheat
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening (bacon grease can be used, because of the spices which hide its taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon other spices (cloves, mace, ginger..)
1 cup chopped raisins or other dried fruit (prunes, figs, etc.)
1 cup sugar, white or brown
1 cup water

Sift flour, soda and powder together.

Put remaining ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Cook five minutes. Cool thoroughly. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix well. Bake 45 minutes or until done in a greased loaf pan in a 325 to 350 (F) oven.

Whenever I would ask my grandmother how to know if something was done, she'd say, "It feels done".  Not helpful to a little kid.  But as I was trying to talk to J about this cake, I was trying to explain why I was letting the cake cook a bit longer, after I touched it.  And I said, "It just doesn't feel done."  Grandma was right. 

This warm-spiced fruit-type cake is just that: warmly spiced with cinnamon, ginger and cloves that would have covered up any bacon taste, but I used butter instead.  What drew me to it was the fact that you boil the fat with the spices and sugar instead of creaming them together.  After you boil it for 5 minutes and let it cool completely it gets a bit syrupy. The dried fruits are softened and not the hard overly chewy bits in some fruitcakes.  This must also add to the overall moisture of this cake.  The texture is moist and dense.  Just lovely. It was a bit difficult to get out of the pans, but I think if you cool it completely, it will come out better.   Ms. Fisher says that the cake would keep well.  I can see my grandmother making something like this and wrapping it in wax paper. 

Full disclosure:  The photo included here is from my second try at making this cake. I bet my grandmother never left her cake in the oven to begin working on her blog like I did.  This time, I doubled the recipe and as you can tell, we liked it so much we didn't wait to take a picture, we just dove right it.  Luckily we have one in the freezer.  (Please notice the cake plate: a gift from my Mother and Father-in-laws.  A wedding gift to them, and the best "re-gifted" Christmas gift I've ever received.)

Until I started to read How to Cook a Wolf, I always wondered why my Grandma had a jar of bacon grease on the stove -- Now, I realize now that she was born in 1899 and was 29 when the Depression hit and old habits are hard to break.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The gift that keeps giving

I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions lists.  I've found that I've done well with my resolutions being singular and often easily completed in a week or so of the nerve wracking January 1 date.  One year my goal was to read Anna Karenina. I had purchased it a few months before and it was staring at me.  Since then, I've only had the resolve to read one specific book per year.  There was a year when I decided that I'd quit smoking.  Luckily, that one held -- I'm now 2 years smoke free.

But, if you were to look at our blog, you'd think that both J and I were meeting some resolution inflicted quota.

Way back in August I got a great gift from my baking companion -- an Easy Bake Oven.  It actually meant a lot to me -- in my younger days, my neighbor had one (circa 1972) and we would bake in it and I used to play with her Barbie dolls too, but that's not really relevant to this blog.

Today, with a bit of time and a swift kick to my pants, I made a cake in my Easy Bake Oven.  Here's what I learned: The cake sticks a bit.  The batter is a bit runny.  The frosting way thick.  The smell is compelling.  Frosting the cake was easier than I remember it -- I assume it was from all the practice I've gotten with this blog. 

The cake that came out of my lightbulb heated plastic oven was quite nice.  A bit spongy, but all in all an "adequate cake" to paraphrase J's father.

The chocolate frosting was a bit thick, but a couple drops of water fixed that right up.  It was tasty -- but remember folks, I'm the one who's written about frosting with a tub o' frosting, so my opinion on frosting is a bit suspect.

Notice the lovely cake plate -- just the right size to showcase this lovely treat -- J and Kev got it for me for Christmas.  


Friday, January 2, 2009

Plum Pecorino Cookies

I picked up Nancy Silverton's Pastries from Le Brea Bakery a while back. I was flipping through it looking for something impressive to make for Christmas Eve dinner we were invited to. The dinner had an Italian theme- cioppino, pasta, leg of lamb- and was delicious.

These cookies fit the bill- anise seed dough, almond, fruit and cheese. They're really more of a pastry than a cookie, or you could think of them as a large cookie to share.

2 T toasted ground anise seeds
2.5 c A.P. flour
1/2 c sugar
1 t b. powder
Pulse in f.p.
Cut in 8 oz. chilled butter and pulse in 1/2 c heavy cream mixed with 2 XL egg yolks and 2 T vanilla. Smear the dough to form a ball (a la pate brisee), and chill 2 hours.

Almond Cream:
Process 5 oz. almonds and 1/4 c sugar
Cream 1/4 c sugar and 2.5 oz. butter and add to almonds.
Mix in 2 oz. almond paste.
Drizzle in 1 XL egg, 1 T rum, 1/2 t almond extract.

Roll out the dough to 1/8" and cut 4 3/4" rounds and set on lined baking sheets 1 " apart. Chill. Spread 2 t almond cream onto dough and top with thinly sliced plums (start with 2.5 lb.s plums). You're making a big layered flower shape. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and dot with butter. Bake at 350 for 25 min. Cool and shave 4oz. pecorino cheese over the top. You should have 14 large and incredible cookies. My Dad helped arrange the plums, and we discovered that it was hard to slice the plums paper thin as suggetsted, and that the thicker slices worked out pretty well on the bottom of the layers.

In our haste to get over to the Christams Eve dinner, I forgot to take a picture of the finished cookie! Picture what's above looking cooked but still in that shape, with shaved cheese on top. The cheese really adds a terrific dimension of flavor- don't skip it!!

Happy baking