Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Tasty Muffin

Last night after blending a fragrant Mint custard to freeze into a Mint Chocolate-Chip ice cream, I was left with 5 egg whites. I didn't want a crispy meringue, nor did I want to mess around with the French Macaron. I was also headed to a party in the evening and wanted to bring a treat for people to snack on. After searching the depths of the internet and my many cookies, I finally found a recipe that would use up my egg whites and create a bite sized sweet.

It was from an old New York Times article and had a name in French that I was not quite sure how to pronounce, the Financier.  They are little cakes with caramelized edges made mostly with ground nuts, very little flour, and many egg whites. I made a few alterations of my own and they turned out quite tasty and smelling deeply of butter.

I brought them to the party that evening and since I had baked them in a mini muffin pan, they appeared to be muffins. These are much sweeter and rich than a muffin is, and it is a welcome surprise upon taking a bite through the crisp caramelized edge to the light, buttery, nutty interior.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Financiers
Based on this recipe

1 2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, ground finely
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate - varying between bits and shavings
5 egg whites
3/4 cup unsalted butter, browned and cooled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly butter mini muffin tins (24 total) and lightly dust with flour. Brown the butter on the stove top over medium heat, until it smells nutty and has a golden brown color. Set aside to cool. Mix the ground toasted hazelnuts, powdered sugar, flour, and chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the egg whites until the dry ingredients are coated. Mix in the cooled brown butter until combined into the batter. Spoon the batter into the mini muffin tin, almost filling the molds to the brim, just slightly under-filled. Bake for 7 minutes at 450 degrees F, lower the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for another 7 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the pans sit in the oven for another 5 minutes before taking out to cool on the racks. I took mine out of the molds about 10 minutes after baking because I was in a hurry, but you could wait until they have cooled more.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall Happenings

For the most of this fall, or at least it has felt like, I have been spending many evenings inside working on algebra problems, and remembering the rules of geometry. I ran a pen out of ink and filled a whole notebook up with my practice.  I learned what hirsute means. All of this tedium came to an end last week with a successful run at the GRE. I promptly celebrated with a Nopales burrito at a Mexican to-go stand attached to a tiny convenience store that had been beckoning to me on the ride into my parent's house for awhile now.

Now I can get back to tending projects that have been neglected, here is what I have been up to in the mean time. 

,A delicious kitchen experiment using lye to make traditional German pretzels.

 This apple weighed more than a pound. A light afternoon snack for Angel.

 Two of my most recent baking endeavors. The pumpkin caramels were a mix of salty and sweet, a welcome addition to the vast realm of pumpkin goods. Underneath are a new favorite cookie - one made with spent grain from beer brewing.

My coworker has a larger than average brewing operation and will boil up to 20 pounds of barley for a brew. After boiling the barley the wort (boiling liquid) is drained off to be made into beer, and the spent grain is left behind. He gladly donated the spent grain  for me to experiment with in bread and other baked goods. If you don't have spent grain, oats or any other grain could work well in the cookies.

Spent Grain Cookies

1 c flour
1/2 c barley flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 c light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp molasses
1 tsp kosher salt
1 c rolled oats
1 c toasted spent grain
1 c toasted, roughly chopped hazelnuts
3 oz. roughly chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sugars, vanilla, molasses and salt and beat until well combined, a few minutes. Add eggs to combine. In another bowl mix the flours, baking soda, and spices. Add the flour mixture to the butter in two parts, combining completely between additions. As soon as the flour is combined, add in the oats, grain, hazelnuts, and chocolate. Mix until all additions are distributed evenly. Drop onto a baking sheet with parchment, and sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar. Bake 10-12 minutes, and cool on a rack.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Good Day

Today was good as far as days go, with my ability to fully utilize the internet restored. Also, completely unexpectedly, a large portion of my music collection and many thought to be long-lost photos are back in their home.

To top off those wonderful happenings, I had a cold rainy trek up Mount Pilchuck with my Dad and very muddy dog. It was a great end to our Northwest "summer". The hillside was covered in wild huckleberries, and although the lookout was completely socked in and wind-whipped, it was still a pleasant place to eat lunch.

Here is my favorite late August/early September recipe I made for my family and Aunt a couple of weeks ago.
Right now in Seattle you can find blackberries and apples growing in the city.
The two match well together in a pie. The apples help to soak up the extra blackberry juices, so the pie doesn't get too runny.
It is a perfect end of summer food - berries to celebrate the end of warm weather fruit, and apples to help you remember why you should look forward to the fall.

Apple-Blackberry Pie

4-5 cups of blackberries
3 small to medium apples sliced thinly (I like to use Gravenstein)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp salt

I use Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee recipe with European style butter for my crust

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the crust recipe of your choosing, and put in the fridge to chill.  Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Coat all the fruit with the sugar and let set for at least 15 minutes. During this time you can roll out your crust and place it in a 9 inch pie pan. Scoop the filling out into the crust, leaving behind most of the juices in the bowl. I like to make a lattice on top of the filling, but you could do a plain double crust. Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour until the fruit is bubbling well and the crust is just turning golden. Let set for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, July 19, 2010

berry time

 I think one thing in particular that I can't wait to have in summer months are berries. They might be my favorite fruit for anytime, and I get overwhelmed at the sight of endless berry flats at the market. Each little berry packs its own intense burst of flavor, and the variation in taste across the berry family is as exciting as the thought of all the days of summer you have to enjoy in different ways. I want to eat as many as I can while they are here, and savor them like I do the season.

This week at the market I had to convince the "Berry Man" to give me as many blueberries as he could with the cash I had left. I only had $6, but being the kind Berry Man he was, he gave me $8 worth. I was ecstatic, and my purse was empty. Thankfully farmer's markets don't take debit cards or I would have spent at least $20 on berries. 

One of my favorite modes to showcase fresh berries is in a simple pie. Since I didn't want to make one big pie that will get soggy too fast with just me to eat it, I decided to make little pie turnovers that I could freeze and bake up for whenever I had a berry pie craving.

They are especially good on days like this.

Berry Turnovers
If you have a favorite pie crust recipe, use that. The filling is very simple and could be adapted for any fruit. If the fruit is juicier add more corn starch, if the fruit is sweeter lessen the sugar.

Pate Brisee
by Martha Stewart

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 c cold unsalted butter, my favorite for pie is the Organic Valley Cultured European Style
1/4-1/2 c ice water

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter in cubes to the flour. Crumble and cut the butter into the flour either with your hands, knives, or pastry cutter until it resembles coarse meal. Add the water slowly, stirring it into the flour as you pour. Add only enough water to hold the dough together, it should not be wet or sticky. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, form into a ball and chill for an hour.

Berry Filling

2 1/4  c. blueberries - or any other berry
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp salt

Combine everything in a bowl, and let set for 30 min.

To make the Turnovers:

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge, work with one half of the dough at a time. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick. Using a bowl, or other stencil, cut out circles of dough 5-6 inches in diameter. You can do smaller ones as well, 3-4 inches in diameter. For each circle, scoop 2 Tbsp of berries into the middle of the circle. Carefully fold over the dough to make half circles. Press the seam together to seal, crimp with your fingers to tighten the seal. Place the turnover on the prepared baking sheet. After all the turnovers have been made, put the sheet in the freezer for 30 min. About 15-20 min. before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, if you have a baking stone place that on the lowest rack for the preheat. After the turnovers have been thoroughly chilled, take out of the freezer to prepare for baking. You could also at this time put them in a zip lock to freeze for later. Brush the tops with cream, milk, or buttermilk, and sprinkle with sugar. Cut three steam vents into the top of the crust. Slide the turnovers, on the parchment, onto the baking stone (or baking sheet). Bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

warm nights on the porch

With sunny days and long nights finally here, I have found myself spending many hours lounging on my deck in the back yard. We have these wood and canvas chairs that you can sink into, and are perfect for book reading and snacking. The ice cream and shortbread I savored one warm night recently had been made for Fourth of July, which made me crave my new wool sweater more than a sundae. 

Other treats I have been enjoying in the evening light

An apricot and strawberry tart made with Rustic Rye Dough out of Good to the Grain (I have tried multiple delicious recipes from this book, this dough stood out). I made this as a dessert for a dinner I prepared for two friends of mine visiting Seattle from Germany. They enjoyed the dessert, but were pickier with their beer. They chose a tall can of Busch over the Alaskan Summer Ale I offered, although they said they appreciated the Orca Whale on the label.

I also took up a culinary adventure by grilling, which I have never done on my own. I was tenacious and grilled a whole salmon. Inside the salmon I tucked in garlic, lemons,  and rosemary. It sizzled and dripped tasty fats while over the charcoal. The only difficult process was when I went to turn it over; I almost capsized the entire grill, demolished the salmon, and burned my hands. It was all in good efforts though, as it turned out delicious. 

I ate the Strawberry Lemon Ice Cream and Ginger Oat shortbread intended for Fourth of July for many meals over the past week, including breakfast. The last spoonfuls of the ice cream were eaten as an after-work bike ride refreshment this afternoon. The combination of the buttery oat cookie with the tang of the strawberries and lemon are perfect for summer evenings outside, and I am excited to make more ice cream and cookie combos. 

Ginger Oat Shortbread

1 stick unsalted butter
2 Tbsp shortening, non-hydrgenated
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp
1/2 c. oat flour
1/4 c. oats
2 Tbsp powdered ginger
1 tsp salt

 In a stand up mixer, beat together the butter, shortening and sugars until well combined, and beginning to become soft, but not too fluffy. Add the flours, oats, ginger, and salt. Mix until all components have just come together. Turn out dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Lightly flour the top, and roll into a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cover the top of the dough with plastic wrap. Place dough sheet on a cookie sheet and chill at least one hour. At least 15 minutes before you decide to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and unwrap the dough. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut the dough into rough 3x3 inch squares, and place on the parchment. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown on the edges. Cool on a rack before trying to remove from parchment.

Strawberry Lemon Ice Cream 

2 c. Heavy Cream
1 c. Whole Milk
1/4 c. honey
1/3 c. sugar
thick zest of 2-3 lemons
Fresh Cidronella (optional, I had some in my garden)

3/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
2. c strawberries, roughly chopped

In a saucepan on medium high heat combine the cream, milk, honey, sugar, and zest. Heat until just before boiling, but do not boil. Take off heat, cover, and let the cream infuse for one hour. Transfer to the fridge to chill overnight. In another saucepan combine the lemon juice, water, and sugar. Boil unti reduced by half. Add the strawberries and toss them until coated with the syrup. Keep over heat for 5 minutes, until the strawberries loose some of their structure. Transfer to the fridge to chill overnight. To freeze ice cream, take the cream mixture out of fridge and strain into a large bowl. Mix in strawberries, and freeze according to your ice cream maker.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Treat Transporter

It was a co-worker's birthday this week, and I wanted to bring her a surprise treat. Instead of being impressed with my thoughtfully-made baked good, she surprised me by taking a last minute trip out of town. Luckily my other co-workers did not need much encouragement to eat up a fellow worker's birthday gift.

To deliver a box full of goodies on a bicycle, my commute method, takes some careful forethought. If a vessel is fragile, it can be easily crushed in a backpack. Tupperware containers must fit perfectly into a handle bar bag or pannier, or they will fall out en-route or fail to be zipped in. I have been struggling with how I can get my baked cakes, tarts, and large batches of cupcakes from my home to my good friends - especially the tarts!

I have overcome the problem - the Treat Transporter:
It may look simple and rugged, but with a mounted bike rack and one of those nylon pull string bags that are given away for free at races, conferences, etc. treats can be transported with success. I rode 10 miles with a 10-inch tart strapped onto my bike, 18 whole cupcakes made it up and down Dexter, and a cherry cobbler survived the pot holes on Fairview. I am so excited I have a song I sing while transporting.

The cupcakes that were delivered without harm, were made with one of my favorite recipes my Mom would make while I was growing up. They are classic Black Bottom Cupcakes; a bittersweet chocolate cake bottom topped with a dollop of cheesecake. The softened chocolate chunks in the top make it even better. I don't know where the recipe my Mom used came from, but the chocolate cupcake base works great with other toppings besides cheesecake.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes
18 cupcakes (12 if you just make the bottoms to frost)

1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa (I used Ghiradelli baking cocoa)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c. water
1/3 c. oil (any light flavored oil)
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp vinegar (apple cider, or white wine, works well)

1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tins with liners for 18 cupcakes. In a mixer on medium to high speed beat the topping ingredients well. Stir in the chocolate chips and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure the mixture is even. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients of the cupcake batter.  Add the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full with the batter. Top each with a heaping tablespoon of the topping. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops have set up and have almost started to turn golden.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Out in the Country

I volunteered at a benefit dinner for Cascade Harvest Coalition at Willie Green's Farm in Monroe this weekend. I had my first experience working as a server at a large, fast-paced dinner. It was a beautiful warm day in Monroe, and this was the view as we arrived.

 The dinner was held in the green-house, since they had expected rain. While the servers were setting tables, it felt like a tropical rain forest. Thankfully, for the guests, it was perfect come dinner time.
There was a "Dessert Dash" game for after dinner. Restaurants from Seattle donated desserts that guests could bid on, and then race to the buffet to grab. I had to make an emergency run to the tiny downtown Monroe to find extra treats for the game; luckily boxes of locally made truffles were found at the town's candy shop.  This salted caramel tart was the first to be taken in the mad rush of contestants.
The servers were given a platter of these double-decker bread puddings with first-of-the-season strawberries on top. The bottom layer was made with lemon verbana, and it was delicious. They were devoured after we had been on our feet for hours. 
There was even time to enjoy the warmth and a cool drink.
The night came to an end with colors that lit up the fields
It was a long night of hard work, but the beautiful country scenery and new tastes (like a salmon bahn-mi!) were a welcome change of pace from a Saturday in the city.