Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lunches and France

What a combo. I was home for a few weeks at the beginning of the summer, and I now have begun a program for study abroad in Arles, France!

While I was home, I ate a lot of avocado. And weird, weird lunches.

Homemade hummus, avocado, grapes, and toast! Put some picnic on your plate!
All orange, all soft for apres-wisdom teeth
An attempt at fried rice. Basically, leftovers with 2 eggs, some soy sauce, and sriracha dumped in a pan and cooked. con avocado, of course.
And in Arles (which is a beautiful and small city situated on the Rhone river in Provence), I have been eating well, too!

Omelette with ham and cheese. Bread, always.
Gazpacho and tartine at Cuisine de Comptoire. The soup is spicy with raw onions and fruity with tomatoes. The tartine I ordered has duck and cheese, and heavens, was it good.
There have been lots of tartines au beurre (toast with butter--tartine is bread with stuff and toasted, or toast with stuff), and even homemade yogurt for breakfast, thanks to my host family! I'll have to try making it in the US!

And, I have been jogging a bit. Chez moi...

Et en France...


It is truly a spectacularly beautiful summer so far. Many more photos and food to come!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quick Carrot Cake

I really wanted to bake a cake yesterday. And I really didn't want it to take a long time, and I really didn't want to go buy cream cheese for cream cheese frosting (though it is the most heavenly thing on the planet).

This is a cake for all of those concerns. Like a snack cake. There's no butter involved. I was kind of sick of running down our butter supply, so that's good.

I read an article this morning that said you increase your creativity by thinking in the box, and man was I in a box. "I don't want this, I don't want that"...well that narrows down the options! It was a happy outcome, though. Benefits of not planning...

I was in a hurry to eat this fabulous cake...sorry for the iPhone photo
On the other hand, a disadvantage of not planning is that I thought, "Oh, I'll make an orange glaze." Because I didn't want to buy cream cheese (see above). But we had no oranges or orange juice concentrate in the house. So I settled by putting in some orange oil, but I accidentally put in a little much (a little goes a long way with that stuff) and ended up with glaze that's too orangy.

My recipe also included cornstarch, which gelatinized over the stove, rendering the glaze kind of gloppy and not as syrupy as I would have liked. I peeled it off in a fit of rage!!! The cake is really good as is, with or without a better glaze. I would have rather made a soaking syrup as opposed to a glaze, and used real orange juice if I were to do a glaze, and those changes are included in the recipe below.


The cake method is novel...eggs and sugar are beaten until frothy, then oil is slowly drizzled in to make an emulsification, and then the wet team meets the dry team (plus carrots) for a batter that comes together quickly and dirties only two bowls. Win. You shred the carrots in the food processor before mixing the wet ingredients, so the whole thing has this cohesion, a yin-yang sort of feel.

Kumbaya, let's eat cake.

Quick Carrot Cake
Yield: 1 8x8 pan of carrot cake! (I cut mine into 9 squares, and we finished it in 2 days)

Ingredients:
Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (rounded) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated (or ground) nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound (3-4) carrots
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 oz) brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
Glaze:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a pat of butter
  • a piece of orange rind (take a vegetable peeler to it; this is optional)
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and move a rack to the middle position. Spray 8x8" cake pan with baking spray (line it with a parchment paper sling if you want to be able to take the cake out of the pan easily after baking) or grease and flour.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl, set aside.
  3. In a food processor, shred the carrots with the big grater (into large shreds). Add these to the flour, then wipe out the food processor bowl and lid.
  4. Process sugars and eggs in the food processor fitted with the metal blade for about 20 seconds, until slightly foamy. Start the machine again, and slowly stream in the oil, continuing to process for another 20 seconds until well emulsified.
  5. Add this egg/sugar/oil mixture to the dry ingredients and carrots, and fold with a spatula to combine. Pour into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
  6. While cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it starts to boil, and is slightly thicker, it is ready. Take it off the heat and remove the orange peels.
  7. Pour warm glaze over cake (you can poke the cake first with a toothpick or fork for maximum absorption). Cut, serve, and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated (I halved their carrot cake recipe) and the Seattle Times (for the glaze)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Ok, so most of these pictures are of the peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies about which I posted a while back...


But I also made a fluffernutter sandwich!


Low fat lifestyle! Not. It was amazingly delicious, though!

Is it a coincidence that both of these things have peanut butter in them?


I think not. I think people just haven't realized what a good smear of peanut butter does to the s'more flavor combination of marshmallow (and chocolate). It adds the salty dimension and the umami dimension, rendering both of these dishes perfect.


Can I get a whoop for this almost whoopie pie? Though the cookies are more dense and chewy than cakey, the homemade marshmallow fluff stood up to their strength and it makes for a delicious combination.

I made these cookies with my blogger friend Maxine--we also made peanut butter and jelly muffins together a while back! Peanut butter is definitely one of the adhesives that keeps us together.

Speaking of adhesives, let's talk marshmallow fluff. This is very similar to the fluff you get out of a jar...maybe a little more spring/stick/toughness but similar texture and flavor. And it's a fun way to try your hand at an Italian meringue (when you pour hot sugar syrup into egg whites and beat the you-know-what out of them). It's crazy, it feels like you're going to cook the eggs and end up with gross hard sugar stuck to the mixing bowl, but it all comes together like a heavenly cloud. An inescapable cloud, given how sticky it is.

You want to know how to make these? They're also from Michele!
Homemade Marshmallow Fluff
Yield: about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Method:

  1. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer (or get it boiling and then boil vigorously for another 5 ish minutes).
  2. While the sugar mixture is boiling, add the egg whites and cream of tartar to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. The egg whites should be ready and waiting when the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees F. If the egg whites reach soft peaks before the sugar mixture reaches its temperature, turn off the mixer.
  3. Once the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees F, turn the mixer speed to low and very slowly drizzle the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl. Once all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled substantially, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add the vanilla extract during the last minute or two of beating.
  4. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Croissants

Croissants. Another bucket list item.


I think it's the fact that I'm home for a bit not doing anything and it's summer and I'm finally running my to-do list down to a manageable size.

It also has to do with the fact that my dad has been taking care of sourdough starter since our cats died and now is a new disciple of the Tartine bread book.


This is the craziest recipe for croissants. I really don't expect anyone reading this to decide, "Hm, I guess I'll incubate a starter and then spend 3 days making these!" If you've got a starter, though, and you're tired of making the same loaf every week, well then, this recipe is perfect!


Goodness gracious...eating one of these is inspirational. They're also some kind of dense...it's like a whole meal, unlike some of those light, flaky, airy, puffed up teases that look so golden and delicious but then are dissapointingly vapid inside.


This is a long recipe. I'm not going to type it out, because the lovely Bridget from The Way The Cookie Crumbles already has, with lovely pictures to go along. All I can say is, it's worth it, and it's a labor of love.


I love my dad for doing the final day (rolling, cutting, shaping, baking) while I was immobile on the sofa with a migrane. The croissants were still delicious later that day once I was feeling better, and delicious the next day too. He even took pictures so you all can see that part of the process!


I challenge you to make them last any longer.


Another wonderful thing about my dad and his baking? He always makes more bread than we (Mom, Dad, and I) can eat, and he delivers the extra to someone in our neighborhood. The person to receive a loaf is lucky indeed. This recipe makes 16 enormous rolls, and he gave away 10 of them.


Flaky yum! The outside shatters and the inside is chewy and gluteny and buttery like a really good country loaf. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Welcome to the auto-blog post generator. Generating first paragraph...

"This dish is perfect for a light lunch with a sliced chicken breast, or even breakfast with a fried egg on top! And, if you can manage to wait to slice these until they've cooled, you can cut them with cookie cutters and decorate with royal frosting for a superbowl party! Sure to please any guest, these are also vegan (so healthy) since they are made with coconut oil and quinoa."

None of this is true of the recipe I made today.


It's messy; there's no way you could cookie-cutter it for a theme party. And although fried eggs are pretty, I think greek yogurt makes for a delicious breakfast combination.


There's no quinoa to rinse (that's seriously the biggest thing that keeps me from making quinoa...and I know they make a pre-washed version, but we have a big costco bag of the regular stuff. First world problems, for real). The only specialty ingredients are rhubarb and strawberries. And it's a strawberry-rhubarb recipe.


You can totally use this as a general crisp recipe, though, changing up the spices and fruits as you see fit. This article has a nice explanation of which fruits are high in pectin (the jelly-like stuff that makes fruit in fruit pies. cobblers, crisps, etc. thicken up). If your fruits have more pectin, you won't need as much flour or tapioca starch to thicken; if they have less, like strawberry/rhubarb, you'll need more.

Before and after!
And crisp is special...people can really only get it if someone makes it for them. It's not exactly something keebler sells on the grocery store shelf.

This crisp is:
gooey
tart
flavorful
perfect for dessert or breakfast
sweet but not too sweet
...and the crumb topping is perfectly buttery, chewy in parts where it soaked up the fruit juice and crisp on top.


In short, delicious.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
Yield: about 8 servings

Ingredients:
For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


For the filling:

  • 5 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices fresh rhubarb (from about 2 pounds)
  • 1 pint quartered/halved (depending on size) strawberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • juice from one orange
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • zest from one orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Method:

  1. For topping: Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until moist clumps form.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine all filling ingredients in large (and I mean LARGE) bowl; stir to blend. Let stand until juices form, about 15 minutes.
  3. Pour rhubarb mixture into large baking (casserole) dish; sprinkle topping evenly over mixture. 
  4. Bake until topping is golden brown and crisp and filling is bubbling thickly around edges, about 45 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, greek yogurt, or simply straight up.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious (which I'm rediscovering as an excellent source!)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wacky Cake

I had some friends over for dinner the other night.

And seriously, I see bloggers with mason jars and flowers and ribbons and none of it's particularly difficult, but the overall effect is impressive and takes a bit of effort.


My parties are, um, effortless (and that's putting it in a nice way). Like, "oh, could you open that drawer over there and grab some napkins?" after we'd already dug into take-out pizza. But...

My mom did clean up the piles of paper on our dining room table. That's a big deal.

And spinach deep dish pizza? Also a big deal. Especially because we've been at college where the pizza is good, but not Chicago-style deep dish. One slice of this and you're full.

To give you an idea of the size, this is a full-size dinner plate, and the pie is about an inch thick. 
It's from Piero's, our favorite place to get deep dish. Spinach is the best because you get some vegetables, but also it makes the cheese layer twice as thick so you feel like you get twice as much cheese.

For dessert, we dug into this cake. Have this recipe in your back pocket. Literally all of the ingredients come together in one pan, and then you throw in in the oven.


It is more moist than any box cake with pudding in the mix and full of rich chocolate flavor.
[Bonus: it's also dairy, nut, and egg-free!]

Nutella warmed up in the microwave makes a nice, lazy-man's frosting. Everyone had seconds. I kid you not, we are 4 college girls, and we ate the majority of the cake in one evening.

It's a keeper.

Wacky Cake
Yield: 1 8x8 inch cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (0.75 ounce) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

Method:
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt directly into the baking pan, then add the sugar. With your finger, poke 2 small holes and 1 large one in the dry ingredients. Into one of the small holes pour the vanilla, into the other one the vinegar, and into the larger one the oil.
  3. Pour the water over all the ingredients and stir the ingredients together with a table fork, reaching into the corners, until you can’t see any more flour and the batter looks fairly well homogenized.
  4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack, then cut and serve it from the pan. 
  5. A drizzle of warm nutella is an optional but amazing finishing touch. A drizzle of cherry jam would make a great quick black forest cake. Or simply a dusting of powdered sugar to keep it simple.
Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.

Note: Though I haven't tried it, you could probably replace the cocoa powder with flour for a vanilla version of the cake. (I wouldn't, but some people prefer vanilla...different folks, different strokes, man.)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chocolate Mousse (Eggless)

My mom asked me the other day how I choose which recipe to make when I decide to bake/cook.

I replied surprisingly cogently, given the long time it sometimes takes me to pick the perfect recipe to try. Since I'm not home in a well-stocked, well-equipped kitchen that often anymore, it's a treat, and one I try to use to its fullest.


But I told her there are basically two kinds of recipes I like to make: experiments and old standbys. Sure, there's crossover. A new variation on a oatmeal raisin cookie is not that much of an experiment, but it's a recipe I've never used before. But generally I either try a crazy layer cake that takes hours to make or something like learning how to temper chocolate, or make these chocolate chip cookies which never fail to make people happy.

An empty cup, and a full tummy!
The former are often things on my bucket list. And so we perch on the edge of discovery with this recipe for chocolate mousse, a fancy, rich dessert I have really only ever eaten at a restaurant. It's an experiment. Even more so for the recipe's lack of eggs, a usual backbone ingredient in mousse.

But this recipe toed the line while I was making it. A short list of ingredients and easy instructions made me feel like I had already made the recipe--it was comfortable.

The kitchen counter--a knife and cutting board for my Dad's incredible bread, the newspaper clipping with this recipe, and a cup of coffee from needing a couple of tablespoons for this recipe
After making it once, I have firmly decided it falls in the "old standby" category. Yes, I'll make this for friends when they come over, with no sweat. Heck, we can make it together. (Stay tuned for another recipe in this category soon!)


A couple of other notes on this recipe:
It's excellent food for recovering wisdom tooth patients (me).
It makes a mess of the kitchen, requiring many bowls, but really takes hardly any time since there's no cooking involved.
It looks adorable in teacups, though you could also use ramekins if you have them.

Chocolate Mousse
Yield: 6

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz chocolate, chopped (as good quality as possible, and dark is good but not more than 62% cacao)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons prepared coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
Method:
  1. Finely grind chocolate in food processor.
  2. Bring milk, sugar, and salt to a simmer in small saucepan, stirring to dissolve. Start food processor and slowly drizzle in milk to melt chocolate. Process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
  3. Add oil, vanilla, and coffee, then process again to combine. Pour mixture into large bowl to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, beat cream with an electric mixer (handheld was my choice, to make less cleanup) to soft peaks.
  5. Fold 1/3 of cream into chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the rest, just to combine. It'll look like this...          

          Then it'll look like this...

Love ya!
     6.  Scoop into pretty glasses, ramekins, or teacups. Refrigerate for 1.5 hours, serve and enjoy.
          (Optional: sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel or bit of ground pepper before serving)

Recipe courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.