Archive | March, 2010

Wednesday Night Supper: Vegetarian Stuffed Poblano Peppers

31 Mar
stuffed poblano

Hello, beautiful stuffed pepper. Hold still, cuz I'm gonna eatcha. Thanks.

Well, hi there friends.  It has been a few days, and One can only rest on one’s Cranberry Ketchup Laurels for so long, so…

I was Ever So Slack last week and left you without a Sunday Supper.  For that, and for all the other ways I am sometimes slack, I apologize.  Please accept this humble offering as an olive branch.  Thank you.

Before I go any further, I must tell you that I was inspired by my friend Gina’s picture of her stuffed poblanos that she posted on facebook.  Thanks, Gina!

So, The Beloved and I are trying to eat responsibly.  We’ve always been pretty good about eating foods that are good for us, and we always try to Consider the Source when it comes to purchasing meat.  I doubt that we will ever become true vegetarians, what with our love of sausages and bacon and What Not, but we are taking more steps towards the Veggier end of the Vegetarian to Carnivore Spectrum.  One of our steps is called Gimme Lean.  It’s a sausage-style vegetarian Food Product, and I initially bought it because I appreciated the name.  Gimme Lean is the veggie alternative to Jimmy Dean, and I do appreciate a good rhyme.

Of course you can make this with meat.  A lovely Mexican-style sausage like chorizo would be fantastic in this.  But, we wanted to go Veggie, so we defaulted to Gimme Lean.  And the flavoring for Gimme Lean is more Italian–it’s pretty fennel-y.  Kinda weird maybe, but we went with it.

Vegetarian Stuffed Poblano Peppers

  • poblano peppers (we just used two and saved the rest of the filling for burritos.  You can make as many as you want)
  • a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 pound Gimme Lean (or Meatatarian Sausage of your choice)
  • some chopped onion
  • salt and pepper, cumin and chili powder, all to taste
  • 1-2 minced chipotles in adobo (completely optional but quite yummy)
  • 1 can o’ diced tomatoes
  • a couple of splashes of vegetable stock to keep things moist
  • rice (I cooked ours in vegetable stock with some cumin in it)
  • Salsa
  • Queso fresca or any mild, crumbly cheese.  Or pepper jack.  Or cheddar.  It’s up to you.

First, put the peppers on a sheet pan and shove them under the broiler.  Keep a close eye on them and turn them often until the skin is blistered and/or charred all over.  If you have a gas stove, you can also do this by holding them in the flame (with tongs).  Danger makes it taste better.

Once your peppers are charred, throw them in a bowl and cover them with plastic wrap for a couple of minutes so they can steam a bit.  Let cool so you can handle them, and then peel off the charred/blistered skin.  It should come off very easily.

If using veggie sausage, add some vegetable oil to a skillet and then add the sausage. (No need for oil if using Meatatarian sausage)

Cook the sausage for a couple of minutes over medium-high heat, and then add the onions and spices.

Cook for a bit until the onions are soft, and then add the tomatoes, the chipotles and some vegetable stock.  You don’t want this runny, so only use the stock if things are looking dry.

Mix in your cooked rice–however much you want.  You can just a little, or you can use 1/2 rice, 1/2 sausage stuff.  It’s completely up to you.  You can even just serve the rice on the side if you want.  I mixed it half and half.

Back to the peppers:  you can either cut them in half the long way and scoop out the seeds and stuff (that’s what Gina did), or you can cut around the stem and pull out the seeds that way.  I chose Option 2, but either way is A-OK.

Fill your peppers with the sausage/rice mixture–don’t pack it in tightly, but make sure they’re full.

Arrange your guys in a greased baking dish.  It’s fine if they touch.

Pour some salsa over the whole deal.  As much or as little as you’d like.  You can make your own, but I just used what was in the fridge.

Bake at 375F for about thirty minutes, or until everything is hot and bubbly.

If you want, you can grate some cheese over your guys about five minutes before you take them out of the oven.  Either way, sprinkle some cheese over the stuffed peppers once you have them plated.

And that’s pretty much it.  I hope that you find this is a Particularly Tasty olive branch.  Now, I’m off to work on my Inaugural Newsletter.  I’m calling it The Inbox Pastry Chef.  Hey, why not go sign up for it?  Plus, it’s time to work on The Creaming Method video.

Shameless Teaser Alert:

Oh, and guess what?  Tomorrow, our neighbors’ kids Jackson and Sophie, will be my able-bodied assistants to the prequel to Doin’ the Pretzel Twist as we bring you Before the Twist:  How to Make Pretzel Dough. Jackson continues to Wax Poetic about the pretzels.  The other day, he told me that they were Masterpieces.  I can actually make him Do What I Want by offering (or threatening to withhold) homemade pretzels.  That boy is Mine. Ha!

Okay, I’m done now.  Happy day, all.

What To Do with a Bag O’ Cranberries, Part Deux, or Cranberry Ketchup, or Why “Tomato” is an Adjective in the Phrase “Tomato Ketchup”

24 Mar
cranberry ketchup recipe

An-ti-ci-pay-ay-shun, it's makin' me wait...

I was considering ketchup the other day.  Of course I was.   I mean, who doesn’t?  Right?  Ahem.

At any rate, it’s often written as tomato ketchup on bottles.  Sure, we shorten it to ketchup:  “Hey, pass the ketchup,” “Oh poo, I got ketchup on my tie.”  See?  But the fact remains that the word tomato usually lives before the word ketchup, and that can only mean one of two things:

  1. Tomato is Ketchup’s first name.
  2. Tomato is an adjective describing the type of ketchup in the bottle.

Since I think tomato is a pretty silly first name, I’m going with meaning #2.  So, I decided that if tomato is just a descriptor, there’s no law that says it has to be made from tomatoes.  After all, I understand that banana ketchup is pretty popular in the Philippines.

Back when there was that big fat sale on cranberries a few months ago, I began my occasional series about What To Do With A Bag O’ Cranberries, and it’s now time for Part, The Second.

Cranberry ketchup it is.  I must admit that I was feeling Rather Cocky and Pleased With Myself for coming up with cranberry ketchup.  Until I Googled it and found 14,600 entries for “cranberry ketchup” and another 5860 entries for “cranberry catsup,” for a grand total of 20,460 ketchup/catsup references.  That means that, statistically speaking, one out of every 332,357-ish people has gone online and written a Thing about cranberry ketchup.  28 of those statistical folks reside in the great state of North Carolina, and 5 of them live in my area of NC.  Statistically speaking.  Fine.  Just fine.   But to put that into perspective, a casual search for that Prepubescent Canadian Warbler, Justin Bieber, yielded 76,200,000 results.  Take that, cranberry ketchup results.

Regardless, I am proud to be the 29th North Carolinian to speak up about cranberry ketchup and the 6th Triangle resident to do so.  Yay, me.

Before I launched myself all Pell Mell into making the ketchup, I decided to go to a few of those 20,460 entries and kind of Scope Things Out.  You know, get an overall feel for the kinds of ingredients that go into a ketchup.  I even made an electronic pilgrimage to that font of open-edited wisdom, Wikipedia to find out what ketchup actually is.  And what it is is a sauce.  A thick, spicy sauce.  Fantastic.

So then I read further and discovered what it was about ketchup that made it so addictive that an Esteemed Former President once declared it a vegetable?  The secret:  umami.  Yup, that glutamate flavor described as savory or meaty.  Mouthwatering.  Gimme more-y.  Apparently, back in the day, tomato ketchup was a watery, un-umami affair, but when Mr. Heinz learned how to concentrate tomatoes, he also concentrated all that umami goodness in said tomatoes, and all of a sudden, folks just Could Not get enough.

In light of that Nugget of Knowledge, I glanced back over some recipes and came up with what I thought was a reasonable starting place.

A Reasonable Starting Place for Cranberry Ketchup

  • 1 bag o’ cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce (my secret umami weapon)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teasp0on five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Oh, I’m editing to include what I forgot–about 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Of course, I didn’t really measure anything, but I think this is a pretty good approximation of what I started with.

So, I brought everything up to a boil, let it go for about 10 minutes at a gentle boil, and then hit it with the stick blender.  How did it taste?  Bland and sad and not sweet enough but with potential.

Cranberry Ketchup, After My Tweaks*

  • 1 bag o’ cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 oz cider vinegar (1/2 cup)
  • 4 oz brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste, of course)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Bring to a boil, cook for ten minutes, puree and then turn heat to low-ish and let reduce until it’s as thick as you want.  Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking. Once you take it off the heat, you can strain the ketchup to remove all the little bits of cranberry skin and seeds.  Or not, if you want it more rustic.

Cranberries do have a fair amount of pectin in them, so it will thicken as it cools.

cranberry ketchup

Hello, thick-luscious-tangy-umami-wonderful cranberry ketchup.

The Verdict
I am officially the 6th smartest person in the Triangle.  This stuff is seriously good.  It has a lovely balance, to my taste anyway, of savory/sweet/tangy.  Right now, the whole house smells of ketchup.  In a good way.  Not the way where you’re cleaning out the Condiment Wells at McDonald’s, but in the way that your house smells pleasantly tangy and spicy and mouthwateringly delicious.

So, what am I gonna put this stuff on?  Well, it honestly tastes enough like standard tomato ketchup that I will probably use it that way sometimes, but I think it will really shine as a condiment for game, pork and poultry.  I can see making turkey meatballs and using cranberry ketchup as a dipping sauce.  Or maybe roasting some venison and using this in the sauce.  Or as the sauce.  I can smear it on turkey or chicken sammiches.  Mix it with honey and glaze some pork ribs.  The possibilities are many and mouthwatering.

I really do hope you  give this a try.  It is really, really good.  And I see absolutely no reason why you can’t make any kind of ketchup that you can think up.  Blueberry, blackberry, cherry, strawberry-rhubarb–whatever.  It’s not really so much about the fruit you use as it is the balance of flavors to get that mouthwatering tang going on.

And that’s pretty much it for now.  ‘Scuse me, but I hear my ketchup calling me…

*I call them my tweaks because that’s exactly what they are.  You might like more or less cinnamon, more or less celery seed, more or less anything.  And that’s okay.  You might even want to use shallot instead of or in addition to onions.  Great–go for it!  Throw in some allspice if you like that.  You’re just looking for loads of flavor, an intense aroma and tons of mouthwatering goodness.

PMAT Live! Episode 3b After the Twist (The Highly Anticipated Sequel to “Doin’ the Pretzel Twist”)

20 Mar

Yes, friends, it is finally here.  Between the foster cats and the deaths and What Not, it has taken me awhile to get around to the actual baking of the pretzels.  But, it’s done.  And they are Awesome.

Here’s a story to Illustrate their Awesomeness.  I took two over to Chuck and Susan’s, and only their 11-year-old Jackson was at home.  He was all, “What’s this?”  “The pretzels you’ve been waiting for.”  And with big eyes, “Oooh!”  I told him he was Required to share with the rest of the family, because I know where he lives.  He promised, and I told them they’d be good heated up in the toaster oven and made my Egress.

I was halfway home when he opened the door to ask what temperature to set the toaster oven to in order to heat up 1/2 pretzel.  I told him 300F-ish until it was warm.  Then, I rolled our big old trash cans up to the house and was getting ready to rest after my Exertion when my phone rang.  It was 11-year-old Jackson!  “Hello?”  “Miss Jenni, those pretzels are Gooooood!”  I thanked him and again warned him to use some restraint and save some for everyone else.

Pretzels that are so good that an 11-year-old will make a Spontaneous Thank You Phone Call to a grown up are good pretzels, indeed.  So, enjoy them!

And, in case you missed it or need a Refresher Course, here’s Episode 3a:

The Beloved’s Birthday Dessert Extravaganza Plus The Weeping Radish.

18 Mar
layered chocolate-orange-coffee dessert thing for The Beloved

Happy Birthday, Beloved!

The Beloved’s birthday was this past Friday, the 12th.  As part of our celebration, I created a Big Ass Dessert for him.  Well, let me amend that.  It wasn’t so much one Big Ass Dessert as it was Individual Desserts.  But, it had a lot of layers, so that has to count for something, right?

Individual desserts make everyone feel special, because nobody has to feel like they’re sharing.  Plus, it’s easy to deal with portion control–just choose the size of the Vessel in which you build your desserts.  Don’t worry about the layers being even to begin with.  If some of the layers aren’t stacking up so beautifully, press down on the whole thing until all the layers are touching the glass all around and it magically looks beautiful.  You can go from this:layered dessertto this:layered dessertAll I did between picture 1 and picture 2 add another sponge cake layer and press down firmly until it went from ugly to magically pretty.

**Mocha Orange Temptation (I just made that up.  It didn’t really have a name)

The Players:

graduated cutters

Graduated cutters are a must for making layered individual desserts. Honest.

Baccarat glasses

The smallest Baccarat glasses that Auntie Ev and Uncle Ray gave us for Christmas

mocha sponge cake

The mocha sponge

crisp meringue

The crispy chocolate-orange meringue. That little mark at the corner was where I touched it to see if it was ready. The answer was no.

chocolate speckled coffee orange mousse

The speckled coffee-orange mousse. Next time, I'd melt the chocolate rather than grating it in at the end. I thought it'd be an interesting texture, and it was. But not necessarily in a good way. It was fine all layered together, but alone, it kind of felt like tweed in my mouth. Alas.

Cointreau simple syrup

The Cointreau simple syrup

coffee orange cream

The coffee orange cream

And here’s the dessert as I assembled it, layer by layer.  See, I’m a Helpful Blogger.  Occasionally.  **All the recipes are at the end of the post.  See, I’m Especially Helpful today.  You’re welcome.

  1. Cointreau simple syrup soaked mocha sponge cake (1 part sugar, 1 part water, splash of Cointreau for simple syrup; sifted cake flour and cocoa powder, whipped egg yolks, sugar and espresso powder, whipped egg whites)
    sponge cake in simple syrup

    Everybody in the pool!


  2. Coffee-orange, speckled chocolate mousse (egg yolk, sugar syrup, espresso powder, salt, whipped cream infused with coffee and orange zest and then strained, grated milk and bittersweet chocolate)layer2
  3. Chocolate-orange crispy meringue (3 egg whites, 1.5X weight of half powdered sugar/half granulated sugar, salt, orange zest, cocoa powder) This layer gets chewy after being refrigerated for awhile.layer3
  4. More of Layer 2layer4
  5. More of Layer 1layer5
  6. More of Layer 2layer6
  7. Coffee-orange whipped cream (more of that infused cream whipped with some sugar and a pinch of salt)layer7
  8. A jaunty shard of crispy meringue along with some Microplaned crispy meringuemeringue garnish

While the 11-year-old gamely tried it and pronounced it Too Coffee-y, and the 8-year-old opted for the Kid-Friendly Ice Cream Sammich, the 3-year-old Chowed Down and probably slept the Cointreau-induced Sleep of the Innocent that night.  And for the record, all the adults loved it.

I put a candle in each of the desserts and had everyone make their own wish for The Beloved.  Keen, huh?

As a Further Birthday Treat, Saturday morning we got up pretty early and I drove us out to the Outer Banks to Weeping Radish Brewery.  The Radish is the oldest microbrewery in North Carolina.  I think they opened up in 1985.  They are an all-organic brewery run by a very nice German family, and to make them even Keener in my book, they also have a certified German butcher on site who makes all kinds of wonderful sausages from locally, organically and compassionately raised am-i-nals.  We came home later that day with a case of 22 oz bottles of Weeping Radish brews as well as a sack of satisfying sausages.  Sausages and beer–now there’s a novel idea.

Being a German brewery, most of the beers were lagers rather than ales, but they were across-the-board really great.  Their hefe weizen was very complex and flavorful with a long finish that a Blue Moon can’t even begin to approximate.  The Kolsch was light and refreshing.  Their Black Radish was a light porter-style lager that was toasty and roasty but much lighter than its ale cousin.  They even have a beer called Radler (German for cyclist) which is a mixture of one of their lighter lagers and stevia sweetened lemonade.  (They don’t use sugar because the sugar would add to the fermentation).  The resulting mixture is a perfect lawnmower beer.

If you ever get the chance, you should seriously go to The Weeping Radish.  Their beers were all excellent.  If you don’t live close to the Outer Banks, you at least owe it to yourselves to check out their website.

And now, for you Dear Readers, a Photo Essay of the day:

ocean off Kitty Hawk, OBX, NC

I'm not even an Ocean Person, but wow--beautiful!

high flight memorial

Cool "History of Flight" Memorial at the Kitty Hawk, NC Welcome Center. Each pillar has several timeline entries about Milestones Of Flight. That thing in the center is a bronze part of the earth thingy.

death star

There are all sorts of images of planes, helicoptors and stealth bombers and such on the bronze earth thingy, and then there's this. I think the bronze caster-dude was a George Lucas fan, cuz I'm pretty sure that's the Death Star.

house at the OBX

It's dumb dreamy folks that build houses In The Ocean that make homeowners' insurance so expensive. Sure, it's picturesque and all, but it's also kinda stupid.


Happy us at Kitty Hawk, OBX

weeping radish brewery

The Sign on 158 for The Radish. We were both really excited about their commitment to Farm to Table and Organics.

goats behind an electric fence

Now that's what I call a Warm Radish Welcome! The fence made little popping noises when bugs hit it. Pretty extreme, as far as bug zappers go. The goats are pets. I asked.

the weeping radish mascot

Yup; we're in the right place, alright!

happy beloved

He's happy because the beer is Good. Really good. Plus, I drove.

**Component Formulas

Sponge Cake

  • 5 oz cake flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 5 oz egg yolks
  • 6.5 oz. egg whites
  • 6.5 oz sugar
  • splash of vanilla
  • powdered espresso, to taste

Works best w/2 stand mixers, or a stand/hand one-two combination.

Whip the BeJeezus out of the egg yolks along with 1/2 the sugar, vanilla and the esresso powder.  The yolks should be extremely thick–almost marshmallow-creamy looking.  Do this first because the emulsifiers in the yolks will keep this foam stable.

Sift together the salt, flour and cocoa powder.  You don’t want any lumps.

Whip the whites together with the other half of the sugar to glossy, medium-stiff peaks.

Pour the whites onto the yolks and then sift the dry over all.  Using your clean hand or a big spatula, gently but thoroughly fold everything together until there’s no dry stuff left hanging around.

Spread onto a Silpat or parchment lined half sheet pan and bake at 375 until springy and done–about 18-20 minutes.  Or so.

Crispy Meringue

  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 ounces powdered sugar
  • 2 ounces granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • microplaned oranged zest
  • splash of cointreau
  • cocoa powder to taste–I used a couple of heaping spoonfuls

Whisk everything together like mad for a very long time.  This stuff won’t get to stiff peaks because of the oils in the orange zest and the fat in the cocoa powder, but you don’t need it to since you’re not piping it.  Just whip it until it’s very thick and spreadable–sort of like a too-thin frosting or a glaze consistency.

Spread onto a Silpat lined half sheet pan and bake at 225F for an hour or so, or until the meringue is Firm and crispy all the way through.

It will continue to crisp as it cools, so check it when it’s cool.  If it’s still a little ooey-gooey, throw it back into the oven for awhile.  You can’t hurt this stuff, unless you turn up the oven to A Billion.  And you won’t do that, so you’re good.

Chocolate Speckled Coffee-Orange Mousse (This makes a ton, but it’s hard to make less than this amount and have it turn out okay.  Just share with friends).

  • 24 oz heavy cream (steep ground coffee, orange zest and a splash of orange extract in the cream overnight, then strain.  Use more than 24 ounces of cream to do this, because you’ll lose some volume as the grounds soak up some of the liquid)
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1.5 oz water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • espresso powder, to taste
  • 8 oz grated dark chocolate
  • 4 oz grated milk chocolate
  • salt, to taste
  • splash of Cointreaux
  • splash of vanilla

Whisk egg yolks until thick.  This is kind of hard with only two.  Use your stand mixer, but you might have to adjust the way the bowl sits to make sure the whisk reaches the bottom of the bowl.

Cook sugar with water to 248F.

With the mixer still on, pour the syrup into the yolks, making sure not to splash the syrup on the whisk attachment.  I usually pour mine in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl itself.

Continue whipping the yolks until light and very thick.  Add espresso powder to taste along with the vanilla and Cointreau.  Remember that the cream is already coffee-flavored, so don’t get too heavy handed with the espresso powder.  Just add it a little at a time.  Keep whisking the yolks until completely cooled and thick. (This cooked sugar/yolk combo is called a pâte à bombe.  It’s a useful thing to know.  Just file it away for now).

Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the pâte à bombe and fold in thoroughly.  Fold in the rest of the cream, and then fold in the grated chocolate.

If you want to make this a true mocha-orange mousse, just melt and cool the 12 oz. chocolate.  Then, fold it into the pâte à bombe and the pâte à bombe into the cream.

Cointreau simple syrup

  • Equal parts (by weight) of sugar and water
  • Cointreau, to taste

Bring sugar and water to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in some Cointreau, to taste.  Let cool.

Coffee-Orange whipped cream

  • About 8 oz of cream steeped together overnight with coffee grounds, orange zest and a splash of orange extract.
  • powdered sugar, to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of Cointreau

I didn’t measure anything for this.  Just whip the cream on medium speed, adding sugar until it’s as sweet as you want it.  Don’t forget the pinch of salt and a splash of Cointreau.  Then, whip to medium-stiff peaks.

You Know It’s True: Every Pound Cake I Bake, I Bake It For You

11 Mar

Okay, I might be the only game in town that revisits the humble pound cake on a regular basis.  But, you’ll thank me.  Honest.  Soon, all of you I Don’t Bake people will be riffing on the basic pound cake and coming up with All Manner of Variations because I refuse to let the subject go.  You’re welcome.

So, here’s how this most recent pound cake came about.  You guys heard about my lovely Auntie Ev, right?  Well, she passed away last Thursday morning, and The Beloved and I went to Pinehurst to meet her son, clean up the house and deal with Funeral Arrangements and such.  Then, their son Ken came and stayed with us Saturday evening before driving back home to Virginia.

This posed a bit of a problem:  what to feed Cousin Ken.  We had some leftover baked rigatoni-type stuff I had made a couple of days before and also 2 bunches of lovely asparagus, so along with a loaf of Italian bread, that took care of dinner.  But I felt that we needed a dessert to round out the meal.  Plus, desserts are comforting when people are sad, and we were all a little sad.  Not so much for Auntie Ev who really wasn’t living any kind of life at the end, but for Uncle Ray who was left behind.  And for ourselves a bit because now everything has changed.  Anyway, I looked in the fridge and in the cabinets to make sure I had enough of the Right Ingredients to make a version of Van Halen Pound Cake.  And guess what?  I did.

Remember the base recipe:

  • 20 oz. sugar
  • 12 oz. butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 13 oz. cake flour
  • 10 oz. dairy/liquid
  • leavening, salt, extracts, zests, etc of your choice

And this is how I changed it up.  I’ll tell you what I call it in just a minute.

  • 20 oz. sugar
  • 12 oz. butter
  • zest of two oranges
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons of Cointreau (just for fun)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 13 oz. cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (added to balance the acidic sour cream and OJ concentrate)
  • a little more than 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 4 oz. sour cream

I used The Creaming Method, as it is the Preferred Method for mixing pound cake.  I creamed together the butter, sugar, zest, extracts and Cointreau.

I added the eggs one at a time.

I whisked together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

I added them alternately with the OJ concentrate and then the sour cream.

Of course, there was plenty of Bowl Scraping as well.

Once all of your ingredients have been incorporated and the batter is thick and fluffy and smooth, scrape it into a sprayed and floured Bundt pan and bake at 325F until it’s done.  In my oven, it took an hour and ten minutes.

This cake is extremely moist and somewhat dense due to the extra sugar in the orange juice concentrate.  You could certainly cut back the granulated sugar to 17-18 ounces to keep things balanced.  The cake will rise a bit higher and have a more even crumb.  The Up Side of keeping the sugar at 20 oz. despite the OJ concentrate is that the cake is very moist and keeps well for at least a week.  That’s good news if you’re baking for only a couple of folks.  No one likes dry pound cake, and this is certainly not dry.

We loved it.  Ken loved it and took some home to his wife.  His wife Candace loved it, too.  I talked to her on the phone the other day, and she said that her usual prerequisites for Loving a Cake are that 1)it be chocolate and 2)it have frosting.  This cake was Unchocolate and Naked, and she still loved it.  High praise, indeed.

For those of you who have been following along with the Saga of the Van Halen Pound Cake, do you see how I changed things up?  And you can do the same thing.  Play with different seasonings, spices, herbs, fats, dairy, sugar, glazes, etc.  Just stick to the basic Recipe Scaffold (I just made that up), and you’ll always end up with an edible cake, even if you don’t Love It.  And how can that be wrong?

Besides, you will eventually come up with Your Perfect Pound Cake.  Make sure you write down the ingredients and amounts for all your attempts, and behold, you’re creating Original Recipes, and you’re not even Colonel Sanders!

Do try this particular cake toasted for breakfast.  After all, it contains eggs, orange juice and dairy.  Sounds like breakfast to me.

Oh, I call this guy the Anita Bryant Sunshine Pound Cake.  I don’t agree with her politics, but I will always associate her with orange juice.

What’s So Fine? Meringue, Meringue, Meringue

9 Mar

When most of us think of meringue, we think of the poufy, soft white stuff on top of a lemon or chocolate pie filling.  That kind of meringue is Lovely and certainly has its place, but there’s a lot more to a humble meringue than meets the eye.

I recently posted about garnishes for desserts and how it’s Desirable to have several textures and temperatures on a plate.  Meringue can fit that bill nicely, because depending on how you Deal with It, it can have a texture of anywhere from crispy to crunchy to chewy to poufy.

So, for your Edification I present to you:

Ways that You Might Not Think of to Use Meringue

Oh, before I start listing ideas, the basic ratio for a thick and stable meringue is one part egg whites to two parts sugar, by weight.  So, for every one ounce of whites, you’ll need 2 oz. of sugar.  There are also a few types of meringue.  A French meringue is the simplest to make:  whip whites until frothy, add sugar a bit at a time and whip until thick and glossy.  A Swiss meringue is basically the same thing, but you heat the whites and sugar together over a hot water bath to dissolve the sugar before whipping to thick, glossy peaks.  An Italian meringue is the most stable of the three types of meringue, because it is made with a sugar syrup heated to 240F.  When you drizzle the hot sugar syrup into your whipping egg whites, the heat cooks the whites.

If you have Issues with Weeping Meringue when you use it as a pie topping, make an Italian meringue instead of a French meringue et voilà: no more weeping or shrinking.

Okay, now here’s the list.  Feel free to add to it:

  1. Make a simple meringue, spread it out in a thin layer in a Silpat-lined baking sheet and bake it at 200F until firm.  Let cool, break into shards and use as garnish.  You can also flavor this with a little lemon or lime juice.  Maybe mix in some minced mint or other herb that goes with whatever you’re serving.
  2. Take your shards from Idea #1, crumble them up and top or fold into ice cream or whipped cream for added texture.  It’ll start off as little crispy bites and slowly turn into little chewy bites.  Either way, it’s yummy.
  3. While you can make marshmallows without egg whites, you can also stabilize a meringue with gelatin to make them.  Once they’re set, you can toast them before putting them on the plate–or just leave them the way they are.  Marshmallows can be flavored in all sorts of ways by whipping in a little extract, spices and/or liqueur.  David Lebovitz has a good recipe for meringue marshmallows.
  4. For individual plating, or for a Big Old Dessert for that matter, swirl on some Italian meringue and then hit it with a torch to brown.  It’s cooked through, so Italian meringue is the safest for folks who are concerned about eating raw (or raw-ish) eggs.
  5. Fold very finely ground nuts into a meringue and pipe onto Silpat.  Bake at 300F until golden and crisp all the way through.  When you fold nuts into meringue, you end up with dacquoise.  Pipe them to use as crunchy layers in a layered dessert, or pipe them in Keen Shapes and use as garnish.
  6. Fold mini chocolate chips into meringue, pipe into “kisses” and bake in a very low oven to make wee Meringue Kiss Cookies.

And there you have it.  Happy Meringue, people.  Doo-lang, doo-lang, doo-lang.

Winter Leaves

6 Mar

winter leavesIt is sometimes the way of things
for a late frost to cut down nascent buds,
and we mourn lost potential.

It is sometimes the way of things
for the storm to rip young leaves off slender branches,
sending them plummeting prematurely,
and we know it wasn’t their time.

But when Nature’s plan is fully realized
and leaves mature unmolested,
we regard their growth through the seasons,
their glorious gold and crimson transformation,
and the natural graying
before they gently slip from releasing branches
to rest in the arms of the Earth.

–Jenni Field
March 6, 2010

Auntie Ev–Evelyn Lainson Leavee
February 18, 1918-March 4, 2010

Jenni, Ev, Ray and Eileen

From several years ago, Auntie Ev in the chair, Uncle Ray, me and Ev's sister, Eileen (Auntie 'Leenie)

Garnish: It’s More Than Just a Sprig O’ Mint

3 Mar
dessert garnishes

This lovely sorbet could certainly use some garnish buddies. Ideas?

Growing up, I thought that garnish was green frilly stuff.  It was the anemic lettuce leaf under the crab salad, the parsley nestled between the steak and potato, the mint shoved into the whipped cream on top of the chocolate cake.

My definition stayed narrow until I met Monsieur Escoffier.  Okay, I didn’t actually meet him, being that he’s all Dead and stuff, but I met his work.  And what I realized was this:  when he used the term garnish, it pretty much meant everything on the plate that wasn’t the protein.  So, a stew could be garnished with tourneed vegetables, sauces, a small salad, a puree, etc.

I was raised thinking that a garnish was a throw-away.  No need to eat that parsley or that piece of lettuce.  After meeting Escoffier, I began to think of the garnish as components that harmonize with the Main Event–not at all throw-away-able, but integral to the whole presentation.

One cool thing that comes from understanding the classical meaning of garnish is that you come to realize that the main event can be garnished in any number of ways, as long as the garnishes that you choose complement and harmonize with the main event.

Desserts can be served at four basic temperature ranges:  frozen, chilled, room temperature and heated.  Textures can be creamy, crunchy, crispy, chewy, dense, light and airy, silky, etc.  A well plated and garnished dessert should contain elements from three temperature ranges and at least two complementary textures.  For example, a “simple” piece of apple pie is generally served heated and with two basic textures–a fruity bite and a crisp/flaky pastry.  Appropriate garnish could consist of frozen/creamy ice cream and/or crunchy/room temperature nut brittle and/or light and airy/chilled whipped cream.  You probably intuitively do this anyway.  Who doesn’t like warm apple pie with ice cream or some whipped cream, right? Just do like mom used to do:  elevate a bowl of sherbet from a one note frozen treat to a study in contrast of texture and temperature by sticking a couple of wafer cookies into it.

Make sure you consider the dish as a whole and take care that all the components make sense together.  If the dessert doesn’t have any mint flavor in it at all, just walk away from that leaf of mint you’ve been eying.  If there’s nary a berry in the dessert, put away that insipid strawberry fan.  Likewise, if the only strawberries you can find in the middle of December are white and green, that is nature’s way of telling you that they are Out of Season and it’s best to just wait for the summer.  Only a dish with orange notes in it requires that jaunty twisted orange slice, so just give it back to the bartender right now.

When you begin to conceptualize a dish, consider the texture and temperature of your main dessert and then design the garnishes accordingly.

Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing:

1.  Toasted pound cake (heated/toasty/cakey) with fresh berries (room temperature or chilled/juicy/fruity), lemon curd (chilled/silky) and a shard or two of caramelized sugar (room temperature/shattery).

2.  The hot fudge sundae:  frozen/creamy ice cream, heated/smooth/almost chewy fudge sauce, chilled/light and airy whipped cream, room temperature/crunchy nuts

3.  Syrup-soaked genoise (cool/light/airy/cakey/moist) with Italian buttercream (*room temperature/light/smooth/creamy/poufy) and macaron shells (crisp/light/chewy) with a quenelle of sorbet (frozen/icy-smooth).

Now, none of this seems like rocket science, mainly because it isn’t.  It really is pretty intuitive, especially when you keep the temperature ranges and textures in mind.  Of course, we haven’t even touched upon harmonizing flavors.  Stay tuned, as they say, for the rest of the story…

*If you take your cake out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before serving, the frosting on the outside will be room temperature while the inside is still cool.  Very nice.

The Weekend: Parents, Plants and Pasta. And Freddie. And Adam.

1 Mar
black and white kitten

This is our foster kitten Tyler. Ruthie hates him. She stares at him, just thinking of ways to kill him. He usually slinks away and stays far away from her. This morning, he jumped on her back, spreadeagled like a flying squirrel. She was Not Amused. It was more than a little bit awesome.

Yes, The Beloved and I hosted my esteemed mother and father this weekend.  We had a lovely time.  They left their dog, China, at home so they could enjoy our “children” without worrying about cat-dog animosity.  That worked out beautifully.  The grandparents were able to hang out with our kids without hurting China’s feelings.  So yay!

Friday night, I made a simple tomato sauce and served it with some cheese ravioli.  And for Saturday breakfast, I made us some pancakes.  ‘Member that batch of flour, baking powder and salt I put together for the scaling video?  Well, I used that as the base.  To that, I added a wee handful of sugar, eggs and milk.  As simple as a mix, and way better.  If you want to make your own self rising flour (which is pretty much what flour+baking powder+salt equals) to make pancakes or biscuits or whatever, just use 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt per 4 oz of flour and whisk it up.  Then, to make pancakes, for each 1 cup of “mix,” use an egg, 1 cup of dairy, a tablespoon of sugar and a wee splash of vegetable oil.  And maybe a dash of cinnamon or something else fun.  You can also add a touch of vanilla.  Mix it up, and there you go.

Okay, so where was I?  Ah, yes.  After breakfast, we ended up going to a nursery about five miles from the house.  Now, I’ve been to nurseries before, but this place was Unreal.  It’s called Plant Delights, and it’s on the premises of Juniper Level Botanical Gardens.  Spectacular.  They have four open houses a year–winter, spring, summer and fall–so you can see what the plants look like during all seasons.  Of course, this was the winter one, and there were so many plants that had interesting branch formations and seedpods and Frilly Parts that you almost didn’t care that they were sort of wheat colored.

We found out about this place because Randy, our house’s former owner, bought lots of stuff from Plant Delights–specimens all over the yard that bloom at different times throughout the year so there is always something Cool to look at.  Because of that, we get their catalog.  We’re “Current Resident.”  If you’re a Plant Person, go check out their website.  If not, just know that we had fun and be happy for us.

Sunday evening, we all went over to friend MaryLou’s house where we enjoyed a lovely pot-luck vegetarian Sunday Supper.  ML made a great roasted veggie pasta bake.  You can make one too, if you want.  She diced up mixed veggies–red, yellow and green bell pepper, butternut squash, eggplant, onions and more–seasoned them and roasted them.  Mixed them all up with some ziti and seasoned tomato sauce, topped the whole shebang with cheese and Baked Until Bubbly.  Really tasty, satisfying and easy.  Yay.

I do have to report that my dear mother Jane was cold all weekend.  I know this because she told us about 471,000 times.  Not always in words either.  She’d do the old Bob-Cratchit-doesn’t-have-enough-coals shuffle, the chafing-of-the-wrists, the swathing-in-chenille-throws.  When she did say something about being cold, it was pretty straightforward:  “I’m cold.”  And then, this is how the conversation would go:

Jane:  I’m cold.

Jenni: Well, I’ll turn up the heat.

Jane:  Oh, no.  Don’t do that!

Jenni:  Well, mother, if you’re cold we’ll turn it up.

Jane: Oh, no–I’ll be okay.

Jenni: I’ll turn on the fire place.

Jane:  No, I don’t think so.

Jenni:  Seriously, mother–if you’re cold, we can turn up the heat.  You can turn it up yourself if you want.

Jane:  Oh, no.  I’m fine.  Really.

Jenni:  I know.  You wanna keep warm? How about you burn that cross you’re carrying around…

And then later:

Jane:  Woo!  It is chilly in here.

Jenni:  If you’re cold, turn up the heat or turn on the fire place.

Jane:  No, I don’t think so.  I’ll be okay.

Jenni:  I’ve given you your options.  If you’re cold, you have two ways to Take Action and Get Warm.  If you don’t want to do either of those things, then I don’t want to hear about it.  Save yourself, woman.

I told her I was going to tell all of you about this.  I’m not sure if she believed me.  Ha!

As some of you know, my mom is very into Queen.  She discovered Queen through our boy Adam.  Freddie Mercury is one of his big influences, so mom had to go check them out.  Now, she is a die hard fan and talks about Freddie, Brian, Roger and John like they all went to college together.  She is forever humming or whistling snippets of Queen songs–it’s kind of weird (in a good way) to realize that your Sainted Mother is whistling Bohemian Rhapsody as opposed to The Old Rugged Cross.

She recently purchased Queen’s A Night at the Opera on Amazon.  All by herself.  The Lure of Queen is very strong to make her overcome her queasiness about using her credit card online.  Here’s her current favorite from that album:
It is most catchy, huh?  Go mom.  Go Freddie.

Oh, and our boy Adam was in concert at Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio, CA.  He performed an amazing slow acoustic jam of Whole Lotta Love.  You have to hear it to believe it.  If you’re not into guys wearing peacock feathers and turquoise hair extensions, look away.  But don’t close your ears–he is amazing.

PS  I’ll be finishing up the pretzel video series in a few days.  The Beloved has ordered some more memory for my computer.  As it is now, every time I make an edit, the computer thinks about it for about 45 seconds each time.  Rather than throw the poor computer down the stairs in Frustration, I think I’ll just wait for the memory to come in.  So, to The Beloved, “Thanks for the memory!”

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