Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Madam Chow's Kitchen Has Moved!

Please come visit me at http://www.mzkitchen.com.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Daring Dakers Tackle a Perfect Party Cake

I, however, won't be able to join them this month, but I urge you all to check out the Daring Bakers’ blogroll for the latest lovely creation, Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. This month's hostess was Morven, of Food Art and Random Thoughts.

I'll be back next month. Meanwhile, I'm getting used to my new website, how to use Wordpress, and recovering from weeding, raking, trimming, and laying down new mulch.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jam Session

Preserved Meyer Lemons

No Tuesdays with Dorie for me today, but I'll be back next week for Gooey Chocolate Cakes! Be sure to check out the ever-growing blogroll to find your way to Dorie bloggers and this week's creation, Caramel-Topped flan. I am taking a break this week because I simply cannot spend three hours per day at the gym. Not even for flan.

What I did do with my time the past couple of weekends was to tackle two culinary projects that used up the huge amount of citrus stored in my refrigerator: Meyer lemons, blood oranges, and Seville oranges. I turned to the recipes that I had bookmarked at Elise's site, Simply Recipes.

First up: Preserved Meyer Lemons. I followed Elise's recipe exactly, and everything is looking good! Meyer lemons are so precious, I couldn't bear the thought of having to discard any before I could bake with them some more, so I decided to preserve them. They will turn up in a Moroccan tagine in the near future. Or a Smoked Salmon and Gruyere grilled cheese sandwich. Mmmm.

Next: Seville and Blood Orange Marmalade.

Elise's recipe calls for four cups of Seville orange juice, and I had enough oranges to yield 2 3/4 cups, so I made up the difference with the juice of Blood oranges (thus, the dark color of the marmalade). I used one regular lemon, 8 cups of sugar, and threw in one plus one-half vanilla beans for good measure, inspired by a Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Bean marmalade recipe that I found in Bon Appetit.

I grew up eating things that most American kids in the 60s and 70s were not eating, in part because we traveled so much, but also because my father was an immigrant, and my mother was a fabulous cook who rarely resorted to prepared foods. One of the things we had in our house was Dundee orange marmalade, not Welch's grape jelly (a very rare treat), so I developed a fondness for the sharp bitter tang of this orange jam, and have yearned to make some for myself. Through Rose Levy Beranbaum, I discovered a mail order source for Seville oranges, and took the plunge. I can't tell you how proud I was to have a piece of toast for breakfast, spread thinly with my jewel-toned creation!

Elise's instructions are fabulous, especially the "wrinkle" test to determine when the marmalade is done. It took a lot longer to set up than I had expected, but I'm so glad that I didn't give in to temptation and pull the whole batch off the flame before the jam was ready. The recipe doesn't call for the addition of any pectin, but relies on the naturally occurring pectin in the seeds and membranes of the fruit (photo of pectin bag to the right), a technique that I had never used before, so I was a bit nervous about having 12 cups of orange soup on my hands. Nevertheless, I girded my loins and stuck it out - Elise's recipe works! Woo-hoo!

I have quite a few Blood orange rinds sitting in the fridge, and I'm just itching to make candied orange peel. I'd better get started - I have to make those Gooey Chocolate Cakes for next week's Tuesdays with Dorie!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Great Carrot Caper

"Carrot? What carrot? I haven't seen any carrot!"

"Oh, THIS carrot. I just found it laying around."

"It sure does smell interesting."

"Hey! Where did you get that?! I want some, too!"

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Finally Make Soda Bread

I love Irish Soda Bread, but had never made it until this week. Now, I know that the Irish American version full of raisins and other goodies is supposed to bears little resemblance to its original ancestor, although some say it does, and I don't care. It's really good, even with the dang raisins, which I leave in for Master Chow.
I used the recipe that I found at the New York Times via Smitten Kitchen, and altered it slightly by substituting white whole wheat flour for some of the AP flour, plumping the raisins, eliminating the caraway seeds, and by adding 1/2 teaspoon of lemon oil to the batter. Quick, easy, moist, and delicious, especially with butter. And it gave me a chance to bake in my 12 inch cast iron skillet!

Skillet Irish Soda Bread
Adapted slightly from a recipe in the New York Times 3/14/07

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Butter for greasing pan plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil (this is stronger than lemon extract)
1 1/2 cups raisins or currants (plump them in boiling water for about 5 minutes, drain, then pat dry before using)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch oven-proof skillet (Note: if you have a 12 inch skillet, like I do, you can use that and it will cook more quickly and yield a thinner loaf) and line with parchment or waxed paper.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, lemon oil, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in the raisins or currants.

3. Pour batter into skillet. Brush top with remaining butter. Bake until golden and firm to touch, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Yield: 1 10-inch loaf.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - Raisin Brioche Snails

Buttery brioche. Rich pastry cream. Cinnamon. What's not to like?

Peabody, of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, selected Dorie Greenspan's Raisin Brioche Snails for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie (check out the link for the entire blogroll). And these tasty little morsels seemed to get better the longer they sat around!

First let me say that I am mightily impressed by all those bakers who made this dough by hand. It took me about 20 minutes of kneading with the Kitchen Aid to produce the brioche, while pressing on the mixer to keep it from dancing off the counter top!

I baked only half of the rolls, and froze the other half for later. A few more thoughts: next time I make this, I'm going to infuse the warm milk with half a vanilla bean pod, as it would have benefited from a stronger vanilla flavor. I am not a big raisin fan, and will use something else in the future, but flaming the raisins in rum (WOW!) was so much fun, and really gave them a lot of flavor. Note to self: rum-soaked raisins taste a whole lot better than plain old raisins.

Finally, when I made the glaze, I added a few drops of orange oil to the mixture to give it a bit more zing, and I'm glad I did. If you don't have orange oil, add some finely grated orange zest, starting with about a 1/2 teaspoon (for a full batch of glaze) and increase the amount to taste. Personally, I like a strong citrus flavor.

For the original recipe, check out Peabody's blog, or Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. Below is my adaptation of the recipe.
Brioche Raisin Snails
Adapted slightly from a recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 cup moist, plump raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves, chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)
1 recipe Pastry Cream

For The Optional Glaze

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
About 1/2 teaspoon milk
2-3 drops orange oil, or 1/2 t. finely grated orange zest

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

If you want tips on how to flambe safely, see here and here. Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. DO NOT WALK AWAY. The raisins heat up rather quickly, and you can burn them in an instant.

Be sure you have the pan lid ready, and clear your cooking area of all flammable materials. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour the rum over the raisins. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stir until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.) If things look like they're getting out of control, clamp the lid on the pan.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder.)

With a serrated knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), flat side down, leaving some puff space between them.

Lightly cover the snails with plastic wrap and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Add the zest or orange oil to the powdered sugar. Mix the milk into the powdered sugar drop by drop, until you have a consistency that you can drizzle onto the rolls.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Pastry Cream

1 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Luscious Lime Cookies

Looking for something to make with the abundance of limes that flood the markets in the winter months? Look no further - here is a recipe for lime cookies, courtesy of Carole Walter, that actually taste like lime! Imagine that!

I am a big fan of citrus, so when I was looking for something to bake with all my limes, and happened across this recipe from Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets, I decided to give it a try. Carole Walter builds the lime flavor via three sources: lime juice, lime zest, and lime oil. Needless to say, these refrigerator cookies have a lime taste that actually comes through. And they are so easy to make: roll them into a log, slice, and bake. This is great if, like me, cookies are not your most favorite thing to bake, but you sure like to eat them.

I adapted the cookies slightly by using ground almonds instead of pistachios. The cookies are crisp along the outside, and tender and slightly chewy towards the middle, with a pronounced but not overwhelming lime flavor.

"Pistachio" Lime Thins
Adapted slightly from a recipe by Carole Walter

2 cups all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 T. freshly grated lime zest
1/2 t lime oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 T. fresh lime juice
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped, toasted almonds, unsalted
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons of water (this is an egg wash that you should prepare just before you are ready to bake the cookies)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter, lime zest, and lime oil on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar in a steady stream and mix until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, then the lime juice and vanilla, mixing well for about 1 minute and scraping down the bowl as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two additions until almost combined. Remove bowl and finish mixing by hand. Don't overdo it, or you will have tough cookies.

Shape the dough into a mound, and divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a six inch log, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I just made two long logs. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months at this point.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F, and butter a cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Remove logs from the refrigerator. Brush each one with the egg wash, then roll in the chopped almonds. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs into 1/4-inch thick segments, either straight across or on a diagonal. Turn the log every two to three cuts, to keep it from flattening out. Place the cookies two inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake 8-9 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. To ensure even browning, you may want to rotate the pan half way through (I only bake one pan at a time when I make cookies, due to the vagaries of my oven.) Let stand for 2-3 minutes before loosening from the pan with a thin metal spatula. If you use a thick spatula, you may break the cookies!

Freeze, or store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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Hey! Somebody Likes My Blog!

Erin of Dinner and Dessert has passed along the “E is for Excellent” award to me! Thank you so much, Erin! I started reading her blog, and discovered many others, through the Daring Bakers and Tuesdays with Dorie.

When I started blogging, my primary purpose was to keep track of my cooking experiments, and to motivate myself to actually use my voluminous cookbook collection. Much to my surprise, it worked, and I've enjoyed blogging about food, and reading all of your blogs almost every day. When I don't get a chance to go on line and see what everyone is up to, I feel like something is missing.

I'm passing this award on to Cookbook Catchall, Kathy at a Passion for Food, Joy the Baker, and Breadchick Mary at the Sour Dough, great blogs, all!