Monday, November 30, 2009

The Kitchen Reader

I've joined a new group! This one is called The Kitchen Reader. It's aptly named, because we read together and post reviews about "foodie" books. The book this month is called The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home by Steve Gdula.

It's an interesting read. It talks about how kitchens have grown and evolved according to what was going on in the world. Some things that really struck me was the concept of a "scientific" kitchen. In making things "cleaner" and "sanitized", lots of food traditions were being eroded away. Instead of using familiar ethnic seasonings, people in the early 2oth century were encouraged to use more mass produced foods. It's also interesting to see how certain advances, the microwave for example, came about. I enjoyed this book. In some places it was a little slow, but overall, the information was compelling. I liked following along over the course of the years to see where we've been and where we are going.

Next month instead of a book, we'll be sharing a favorite holiday cookie recipe. See you then!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not a TWD: Instead, I do some experimenting for Thanksgiving

The only recipe I didn't complete for the month of November was the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake. It looked lovely in the book, but the recipe had a few more steps than I was willing to deal with. This week's host is Britin, who chose the holiday bundt cake I made two weeks ago. Confused? Sorry. We'll be back on track next week.

I have been assigned a side dish and rolls for dinner on Thursday. I went to the source of all things good when it comes to side dishes and let Alton Brown guide me. I chose his green bean casserole, and I gave it a test run last night. There is nary a can in sight in his version. Yes, I know that millions have used this recipe for years. However, I like to cook from scratch as much as possible. Alton's recipe is similar. You make a creamy sauce, add the beans, and then top with crunchy onions. The crunchy onions did give me a bit of trouble. And I grabbed the wrong can of chicken stock and it wasn't low sodium. Regardless of those two little bumps, I really like this one. I'm going to double it and bring it on Thursday.

This is Alton's photo. Had I taken a photo, you would have seen mine looking just as yummy.

I tried making rolls. For some reason, the bread gods are frowning on me this week. I found this recipe. It sounded really good, easy, and versatile. I followed the instructions and instead of dough I got... glop. I added some flour to make it more dough like. It never rose. I baked some anyway to see if they might rise in the oven. Nope. I threw it all away.

Today I tried David Lebovitz's recipe for dinner rolls. This one was in the food processor. Easy! It took F O R E V E R for it to rise. So I stuck that one in the fridge to do an overnight proof/rise. I'll bake them off in the morning and see how they turn out. I did do a test on my yeast. Since neither dough really rose, perhaps my yeast was no good. Nope. It did just fine in a bowl of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar added.

Ah well. I'll keep looking, and hopefully I'll get something good before Thursday. Have a wonderful holiday, all. Enjoy good food. Watch some football if you are so inclined. And (if all is right with the world) celebrate with some good people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD: Sugar Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

Hey! I'm in synch this week! This week's cookies were amazing. They were perfect for fall.

I was a bit skeptical at first. I have an absolute favorite gingersnap recipe (the one that everyone asks for). I already had a recipe for this kind of cookie, so why do I need another? I'll tell you why. Though this has ginger in it, it's not the focus. The molasses was really the star. This also had a secret ingredient that really added to the spiciness of the cookie.

This one was easy to put together. Dry ingredients in one bowl. Wet stuff in the mixer. Combine. Refrigerate. I've learned with a cookie like this to leave it overnight before baking. Better flavor. Plus, the dough was much easier to work with when it was cold. Getting back to those dry ingredients -- here's where the secret flavor came in. In addition to the ginger and cinnamon, Dorie had us add black pepper. It really added to the final cookie! I was hesitant, but I'm glad I added it.

According to the recipe, this makes 24 cookies. I have to add that it makes 24 HUGE cookies. I made mine a bit smaller, and they were still big! I think I got 48 cookies. Dorie cautioned us that they would spread like crazy. She was absolutely right. The dough balls were to be rolled in sugar and then flattened on the cookie sheet. I did a little sugar experiment. I rolled some in demerara sugar and some in sparkling sugar. Truthfully, in the end, we couldn't tell a difference.

Only eight to a cookie sheet. They got big! I should have taken an "after" photo for comparison.

You can see a bit of the sparkling sugar on the outside. They were thin, dark, and delicious.

Same cookies but showcased on a fall plate that the girl made.

Everyone who tried one of these cookies loved them. They were very thin and crispy with just a bit of chew in the center. If you can get them to last, they get better with age. The flavors blend and mellow and really stand out. On Saturday I made a maple pumpkin filling to go in some pecan cookie tart shells. It also went fabulously well spread out on one of these cookies.

Thank you to Pamela of Cookies With Boys for broadening my horizons.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: All in One Holiday Bundt Cake

Out of order again! This time, instead of the crisp (which I made last week), I made this fabulous bundt cake. This one is a keeper. It was enjoyed by all.

It was easy to put together. There are quite a few components, but none of it was tough to deal with. This recipe calls for pumpkin, pecans, cranberries - fresh and dried, diced apples, and the usual cake ingredient suspects. I had never worked with fresh cranberries before. Really. They were pretty cool looking on the inside. The batter came together quickly in my stand mixer. Then into a greased bundt to bake for about an hour. This is a cake that makes the kitchen smell wonderful.

It came out of the pan with no sticking. Here's where I did a smart thing. I baked the cake the day before I needed it. I wrapped it tightly and left it on the counter so the flavors could ripen and meld a bit. Good call! I made a glaze with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and vanilla. It was a little on the thin side, but I liked it when it had hardened.

Very thin glaze. It made it shiny.
I am not a fan of pumpkin. At all. But this was so good! All of the flavors worked so well together. And since it had so much fruit in it, I was able to convince myself that it was healthy and therefore a good breakfast option.

See, there's the golden pumpkin and cranberries right there. Healthy!

Breakfast of champion. And bakers.

Thanks to Britin of the Nitty Britty for choosing such a great cake. (She made the crisp this week, but check back at her site for the recipe)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisp

Yea! I have a hard drive again. Mind you the old one is still AWOL, but I'm working on it. Actually I'm spending obscene amounts of money to have someone else work on it, but I digress. Back up your data, folks!

On to the food! This month, because of the holiday, we are allowed to move things around a bit. The four recipes can be made and presented in any order. The husband liked the sound of the crisp, so that one came up first.

I love a good crisp. There's the contrast of the textures and, in this one, the contrast of the tart cranberries and sweet apples. The apple chunks took on a bit of a rosy hue.

Crisps also scream "Fall!" to me. They are homey and the perfect dessert for a cool autumn evening. This one was easy to make. The topping came together in an instant in the food processor. The cranberries and apples were tossed with a few ingredients in a bowl and then poured into a baking dish. Dorie's original recipe calls for individual crisps, but I just went with one big one. I was all about the easy. I was very happy to find fresh cranberries in my grocery store. And they were on sale! This baked for about 50 minutes. My kitchen smelled amazing.

It came out looking really good. The crisp crust was a gorgeous golden brown. I could just bake this stuff up and eat it as is.

It was hard to let it cool before eating it. I added a scoop of good vanilla ice cream, and... WOW! This was very good. Very. Good. I hate coconut. There was coconut in the topping. I didn't even really notice it. It just added a "something." I would absolutely make this again. I don't think I'd change anything.

Thank you, Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef for picking such a winner! Go see Katya's blog, Second Dinner for the official recipe for this week.