gastronome
clarified butter

I decided to give myself a little cooking class this afternoon and see if I could make clarified butter. It was actually super-easy! The milk solids float on top of the melted butter and skim off no problem. And then you're left with golden liquid butter that has a much higher smoke point than regular butter, which makes it perfect for browning. Check my next post to see how I used it...

Place 1/2 cup butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; cook 5 minutes or until completely melted. Skim solids off the top with a spoon; discard solids. Slowly pour remaining butter out of pan, leaving remaining solids in pan; discard solids. Yield: about 1/3 cup.

Posted by astraea at 05:05 PM

flaky pastry

I've posted this before, but not as its own entry. This makes a top and bottom crust for a 9" pie (with a little extra in case your pie plate is large). You can fill with fruit or meat. Leftover turkey in a light cream sauce with veg is especially nice...

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tbsp. icing sugar (or 1 tsp. white sugar, if you don't have icing sugar)
1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 stick cold unsalted butter

about 1/3 c. + 1 tbsp. ice water

A word about substitutions: you can use all butter in this crust, but it's a bit trickier to work with. likewise cold tap water for the ice water. if you only have salted butter, use the salted butter and omit the salt from the flour mix.

To make the dough for the crust:
Sift flour, sugar, salt together into a good steady mixing bowl. Cut shortening and butter into small chunks, and cut into flour with two knives or a pastry blender. Make sure that you bring the flour up from the bottom and distribute the contents of the bowl evenly -- you should end up with evenly pea-sized bits of stuck-together flour and butter: dry flour with little chunks, not cookie dough.

Sprinkle about half the water onto the flour mix. Using either your hands or a spatula, collect and press the dough together lightly. This is easier to do than explain, unfortunately. Add the rest of the water very slowly -- you want the dough *just* sticking together as you press it down into the bowl. Collect the dough together into a ball and knead it against the sides of the bowl 5 or 6 times. Don't worry if you have a bit of flour left that won't stick as long as you've managed a good-sized ball.

Wrap the ball of dough in cellowrap or wax paper, make it nice and round and press it down into a flat circle about 2 " thick. Refrigerate at least 30 min before trying to roll.

Posted by naomi at 09:52 PM

Sri Lankan Curry Powder

Mary Anne published a delightful cookbook of her family's recipes - A Taste of Serendib. I used several recipes during NYF this year, and recently threw some of the curry powder I made from this recipe onto popcorn, along with some pumpkinseed oil. The cookbook also has a companion site, full of photos and additional advice.

One of the main characteristics of Sri Lankan cooking is that the spices are dark roasted. This gives them an aroma and flavor that is completely different than Indian curries, and you cannot simply substitute yellow curry powder!

1c. coriander seeds
1/2c. cumin seeds
1 T fennel seeds
1 rounded t. fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches
1 rounded t. whole cloves
1 rounded t. cardamom seeds
2 T dried curry leaves
2 rounded t. red chili powder

1. In a dry pan over medium heat, roast seperately the coriander, cumin, fennel and fenugreek, stirring constantly until each one becomes a fairly dark brown. Do not attempt to save time by roasting them together - they each have differnt cooking times and you will only end up half-cooking some and burning others.

2. Put into a blender container (I use a coffee grinder that is dedicated solely to spice grinding) together with the cinnamon stick broken into pieces, the cloves, cardamom and curry leaves.

3. Blend at high speed until finely powdered. Sieve into a bowl, discarding any large pieces, and combine with chilie powder; stir well. Store in airtight jar.

(reprinted with the kind permission of the author)

Posted by shock at 09:30 AM

velouté sauce

I'm ramping up to some Thanksgiving recipes, but you should know how to make velouté sauce before we jump in whole hog (or turkey, or timpano, as it may be). It's great on a number of fronts - you can make it as rich as you want, or you can use it to lighten up a bechamel-type sauce while still keeping that lovely creamy smooth mouthfeel intact. You can use it to make a vegan "cream" sauce that substitutes nicely for one that uses butter and cream or milk. You can use it to start a gravy, or thicken a soup that's too watery when you don't want to add a potato or rice or bread. This is one of the building blocks i use a lot when adapting traditional cream or cream-based sauces for people counting calories or dairy.

Ingredients:
Some kind of fat: butter or olive oil
White flour
A flavorful liquid: I always use some kind of stock.

Method:
Get 1 part fat, 1 part flour ready. If you're not worried about dairy, I like to use butter for its flavor. I've used duck fat or the fat of the meat i was saucing in the past, too. For a vegan sauce, i prefer olive oil.

Warm the fat over medium heat; whisk in the flour. Lower the heat. Cook for at least 10 minutes - you're replacing the raw flour taste with a mildly nutty one. Keep the heat LOW - you want to cook for 10 minutes without turning your roux dark. At most, you want it to barely take on some color.

After 10 minutes, start adding your liquid. You can use stock of any persuasion, milk, wine, etc. I generally start with stock, and add cream, milk, vermouth, or soy creamer near the end as a flavoring. Even with just stock, this has a lovely creamy mouth feel and appearance. Keep whisking, and add your liquid slowly. It's better if the liquid is warm or room temperature, but certainly not required. A tablespoon each of fat and flour will take a little more than a cup of liquid to make something of light gravy consistency.

If you add too much liquid, you can raise the heat and simmer the sauce a little. It will reduce a bit and thicken right back up. You can flavor it with herbs, cheese, roasted garlic, etc.

Posted by shock at 08:06 AM

cheese on toast

On a snackish forage through the fridge after my ride back from the bakery (and work, but the bakery part is relevant later), I discovered a small piece of Brie in need of eating. Brie for one!

I think I may have created the perfect indulgent snack:

Take the end of a fresh loaf of bread, thickly sliced.
Cut last bit of Brie into slices, cover bread in cheese.
Place in toaster oven, set to Broil.
Broil until toasty.
Drizzle fig marmalade over melted cheese.

I suppose, if fig marmalade is unavailable, any other not too sweet fruit preserve would be acceptable.

Fig marmalade!

(too bad i didn't notice the wee bit of open gewurz. in the fridge, or we'd have had a perfect complement)

Perhaps we ought to have a category for toaster oven indulgences...

Posted by naomi at 11:00 PM

crepes

I could not decide where to put this.. are crepes a main dish or a dessert or just an everyday staple?

I had never really thought about the ability to make crepes at home. I had always heard that they were too hard, too time consuming, required special tools.. and so I just thought that if you wanted to eat a crepe you went out.

That was until about a year or so ago when Heather started making them at home... with a little planning they are simple. A great "make a head of time" treat. Shortly after Heather moved out and took her crepe pan with her I decided to purchase my own and instead of watching her make them, I would make them myself. What follows is the recipe Heather gave me, and some filling suggestions.

Basic Crepe

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

combine all ingredients in the mixer until smooth, scraping down the sides, and blending an extra 5 seconds more. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
You can rest the batter overnight if you like. Just put it in the fridge and remember to stir it before beginning to pour out the batter. I have found that it does separate.

heat a crepe pan brushing w/oil or butter... pour a small amount of the batter (I have a 10" pan and use a little less than 1/2 cup) and swirl to coat the pan. cook until set, and then flip, cook.. remove from pan.

now you can either cook them, fill them eat them, or what I do is cook up the entire batch stack on a plate and then reheat and fill and eat. The cooked crepes will last in the fridge for a few days. Cover in plastic wrap.

Fillings:

butter and powdered sugar
blueberries and whip cream
chocolate and coconut
chocolate and raspberries
chocolate and ANYTHING
lemon curd and brown sugar
green apples and cheddar cheese
cheese
cheese and mushrooms
nutilla and coconut
nutilla

I like to keep the fillings simple. It doesn't take much to fill the crepe.

I generally make a double batch and have them around for a few days, they seem to be one of shari's favorites.

Posted by karine at 12:25 PM

pate sucree

This is a great, simple tart shell pastry recipe. It's easy to make, it doesn't stick to pans, it barely shrinks at all. I've been sucessfull with it each time i've used it; in mini-tartlette pans, and in several larger tart pans.

My favorite use for this is in Chez Panisse's blueberry and lemon tart. I've done this tart three times, each a resounding success. Most recently, i made it yesterday for anne & Dave's Thanksgiving feast. Both recipes are from Chez Panisse Fruits.

1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Beat together the butter and sugar in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Add the salt, vanilla, and egg yolk and mix until completely combined. Add the flour and mix until there are no dry patches. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and press into a 4-inch disk. Chill several hours or overnight, until firm.

To roll out the dough, first cut 2 14-inch-square pieces of parchment paper. Remove the disk of dough from the frige and unwrap it. Dust one of the pieces of paper with flour, center the disk on it, and dust the top of the dough with flour. Cover with the other pieces of paper and roll our the disk into a 13" circle about 1/8" thick. If the dough starts to stick to the paper while you re rolling, peel back the ppaer and dust again with flour, and replace the paper. Then flip the whole package over and repeat on the other side. chill the sheet of dough for a few minutes.

To make an 11-inch tart, remove the top sheet of paper and invert the dough into the tart pan. Peel off the remaining piece of apper, press the dough into the corners of the pan, and pinch off any dough overhang. Use the dough scraps to patch any cracks. Let the tart shell rest in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

To make 4-inch tartelts, remove the top sheet of paper from the dough and cut out six 5-inch rounds. Transfer the rounds to the 4-inch tartelt pans with a metal spatula. Press the dough into the corners and pinch off any extra dough from the edges. Let the tartlets rest in th freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

To prebake tart shells, preheat the oven to 350f. Transfer the shells directly from the freezer to the oven. Bake until slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Check the pastry halfway through baking and pat down any bubbles that may have formed. Let cool before filling.

Makes 11 oz of dough, enough for 1 11" tart or 6 4-inch tartlets.

Posted by shock at 10:57 AM