Archive for the 'recipe' Category

06
Jun
13

In hono(u)r of the royal spawn, a scones post

Kate Middleton’s due in July, so I thought the timing was appropriate for posting about these scones I made earlier this year.

Afternoon tea is one culinary tradition we can’t fault the Brits for. Imagine how much nicer people would be if we all took an afternoon break to nurse a hot mug of tea and nibble on tiny pastries. Bet it’d go a long way toward alleviating road rage during the evening rush hour.

Meyer lemon scones with jam

Easy-to-make lumpy, bumpy lemon scones with dried cherries.

If the word “scone” evokes those triangular bricks from the Starbucks pastry case, think again. Scones are easy to make from scratch, don’t require any special baking equipment, and are infinitely tastier than anything you’ll find commercially. Straight from the oven, they’ve got crunchy exteriors that give way to fluffy, moist pastry on the inside. The leftovers also hold up well re-heated in a toaster oven. (Note: if you want yours to be triangles instead of circles, work your dough into a big rectangle and cut it into even triangles. Adjust your baking time accordingly.)

If you make them yourself, you can customize the ingredients by adding whatever combination of chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, and flavored glazes you want. Just be mindful not to overwork the dough. You need those pieces of cold butter to stay solid so they can create pockets of fluffiness while baking.

Glazing your scones is optional.

Glazing the cyclops scone.

I used this recipe for Meyer lemon scones from the White on Rice Couple, substituting dried cherries for cranberries. They were mighty tasty with jam. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you could also whip up some cream to serve with these, and pretend you’re having high tea at Claridge’s. I’ve also seen jars of the aptly named clotted cream for sale at Dean & Deluca, if you want to get super authentic.

27
Apr
13

Suspend your disbelief: this prune cake’s actually really good

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A steaming bowl of mashed prunes isn’t exactly an auspicious start to a cake. In fact, it can do the opposite of whetting the appetite.

Yet this prune cake with buttermilk icing from the Pioneer Woman’s really, really good. Like a mild spice cake without the annoying cloyingness you can get from too much molasses and/or brown sugar. The buttermilk icing gives the entire thing a caramelly finish.

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I suppose if she called it dried plum cake, it wouldn’t sound that much better. Seriously, though, no matter your feelings for prunes, this is a cake worth trying if you’ve got some extra buttermilk in the fridge.

You can cut back on the sugar without hurting the taste (I cut back to 3/4 cup for the cake and 3/4 cup for the icing. I didn’t end up using all of the icing.). Provided you don’t over-mix the batter, you get a super fluffy, moist cake that will having you re-evaluating your preconceived notions of prunes.

22
Mar
13

Some gelatin desserts are more socially acceptable than others

Buttermilk panna cottas

Buttermilk panna cottas, accessorized with lemon cookies from Trader Joe’s.

Making this buttermilk panna cotta (inspiration: a recent Cupcakes and Cashmere post) brought me back to my childhood, where rainbow jello was on heavy rotation.

Ok, so maybe the only thing they have in common is the jiggle. But that’s what I was reminded of by the texture of this gelatin-based panna cotta, something you’d serve at a dinner party for grown-ups. Whereas rainbow jello is something you’d serve at a dinner party with guests whose ages are in the single-digits, or with a tongue-in-cheek 70s theme (break out the avocado-green Tupperware!).

rainbow jello

Half the fun is peeling apart the Technicolor layers as you eat it. Photo from alphamom.com.

Bemoaning the lack of jello dessert options at your local restaurant? One of the places you can still find jello options in abundant supply, apart from your local senior center, is K&W Cafeterias. I head there whenever I’m visiting my hometown in NC and need a cheap comfort-food fix.

K&W cafeteria congeal menu

The full range of congeal options at K&W Cafeterias. Would you like yours with cottage cheese?

At K-Dub, they call jello congeal, not a word you’d normally associate with anything you put in your mouth. If that doesn’t make you think twice about that green, gelatinous cube with mandarin oranges suspended within like a Damien Hirst shark tank, I’m not sure what will.

But back to the panna cotta. It’s not as solid and chewy as your typical block of jello, but it’s definitely got a jiggle about it. If you like the flavor of vanilla yogurt, I recommend trying the recipe mentioned above. It’s dead easy, just requires a few ingredients, and foolproof. I didn’t even bother straining the mixture, and it turned out just fine. Like yogurt, it’s best served up with a compote or fresh fruit. I liked it with strawberries and mangoes (if available, buy the champagne mangoes, with the yellow-orange skin. They’re sweeter than the larger ones with red-green skins and have a buttery texture).

buttermilk panna cotta avec fruit

Buttermilk panna cotta tastes like yogurt, so buddy it up with fruit.

18
Feb
13

Meet the world’s most dangerous cake

Your diet is doomed: the world's most dangeous cake.

The dry ingredients, left to right: flour, cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate chips, and a pinch of salt.

According to Mr. x-sXe, it’s right around this time every year that gym attendance starts tapering off. So if you’ve already wavered on your diet-and-exercise resolutions, this cake’s for you.

It’s called dangerous for good reason: you probably have all the ingredients in the pantry, and it takes less than 10 minutes to prep/bake. Plus, cleanup just requires washing a whisk, spoon, and mug. Recipe here.

The cake texture reminds me of Ethiopian bread.

But how does it taste? The cake’s very moist, light, and spongy. The texture isn’t for everyone—it reminded me remotely of Ethiopian bread (it tastes nothing like that, of course). But it’s a good go-to for a chocolate fix when you don’t want to bake an entire cake. I recommend a heartier sprinkling of chocolate chips than the recipe calls for. Maybe a dollop of cream whipped with vanilla, amaretto, or Grand Marnier. Hey, if you’re gonna do it, do it right.

01
Feb
13

When life gives you Meyer lemons, make pound cake. Maybe.

Tis the season for Meyer lemons galore

Meyer lemons. The name alone sounds delicious. I say this at the risk of being stoned by pastry chefs, but methinks they’re a bit overrated. The zest is surprisingly bitter, and the sweet flavor, while nice, isn’t as bright as a typical lemon. But these were on sale at Whole Foods (8 for $3), and I’m a sucker for a bargain. You can also find them cheap at Trader Joe’s right now.

After some initial waffling on what to do with an entire bag of lemons, pound cake began calling my name. But I was conflicted about which recipe to try. The Martha Stewart one had mixed reviews (confirmation that Martha isn’t perfect). The other recipes I came across, no critical mass of user reviews. In the end, I took my chances on this recipe from Tide and Thyme because it uses sour cream, which I’ve found helps make for a moister cake.

  Meyer lemon pound cake

The result was a very sweet, slightly bitter pound cake that was borderline too buttery. (I found 2 sticks of butter to almost be overkill for one 9″ x 5″ loaf—despite the origins of the name “pound cake” stemming from “a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, etc.”). The cake does turn out moist, especially with the lemon syrup saturating it. I screwed up the frosting, which is why this looks bald compared with the Tide and Thyme photo.

PS: I ended up using 6 lemons for this recipe, although you could get away with using fewer than that.

25
Jan
13

A respectable shortcut for apple dumplings

This is my first time out trying a recipe from Trisha Yearwood’s Food Network show. The country music star focuses on rib-stickin’ Southern home cooking. In the opening credits she says that everything’s home-cooked, but her recipes actually tend toward semi-homemade. Example: these apple dumplings, which use store-bought buttermilk biscuit dough for the pastry. Although I’m not opposed to store-bought shortcuts, I felt a little misled.

One reason I tend to stay away from using Pillsbury-type doughs (with the exception of the pie crusts) is that they’re best eaten straight from the oven. Wait an hour or so and they’ve usually already hardened, amplifying their fake buttery taste. That, and I wince when the can pops.

Trisha Yearwood's apple dumplings

Before these semi-homemade apple dumplings went into the oven, they were languishing in a buttery bath.

I decided to try this recipe anyway, swayed by the overwhelmingly positive reader reviews. But a few questions plagued me. Would the pastry soaking in the butter fluids actually cook, or remain factory-made pastry mush? Would the fake-butter taste from the pastry overwhelm the finished product?

I’m relieved to report that these turned out quite tasty, despite the slightly repulsive butter bath they baked in (I just about halved the recipe for 8 dumplings). The Granny Smith apple softens inside, a nice contrast to the crunchy cinnamon-dusted tops. The leftovers even held up the next day (stored without the butter sauce).

Trisha Yearwood's apple dumplings, from the oven.

After baking. The bottoms do bake through, thankfully.

PS: Turns out Tricia’s in good company when it comes to semi-homemade apple dumplings. Pioneer Woman makes a variation on these using Crescent Roll dough and Mountain Dew (recipe here), if you like your apple dumplings with a caffeine kick.

16
Dec
12

A genius creme brulee imposter

Easiest, most delicious pudding recipe I've come across in a long time.

There are a number of reasons I’m digging this burnt caramel pudding recipe. (And apparently lots of other people are too: it won the “Best Pudding” award on Food52.) One is that I rarely attempt puddings, custards, or crèmes of any kind (caramel, brulee) because they can be time-consuming and I usually end up scrambling the eggs. But the Food52 directions are really clear, so even someone prone to baking disasters like me can manage this.

Second is the simplicity of the ingredients. This recipe calls for heavy cream, 1/2 vanilla bean, sugar, egg yolks, water, and salt (optional). Basically, the same ingredients you’ll find in a classic creme brulee. The only challenge was finding the vanilla beans at a price I could swallow. Turns out that Trader Joe’s has them in 2-packs for $4.

Burnt caramel pudding, pre-baking.

Right before they went into the toaster oven. BTW if you want to avoid spillage, add the water after you stick them into the oven.

Oh yeah, these turn out amazingly delicious—caramel fans will find that the combination of creaminess plus burnt-sugar taste (which pervades the pudding instead of just sitting on top, a la creme brulee) takes your taste buds to many happy places.

You’re really supposed to bake these in the oven, but I went for the toaster oven instead. The tops ended up browning (within 15-20 minutes, I think?), which turned out to be a good thing, forming a darker brown crust. Once I realized the tops were too close to the upper heating coils, I stuck a piece of foil loosely over the ramekins for the rest of the baking time.

They were still jiggly/slightly liquid in the middle when I took them out of the oven. After refrigeration, there was just a tad of liquid at the bottoms. Next time I do these I’ll leave them in a bit longer.

Burnt caramel pudding, closeup.

The scrapings from just half a vanilla bean (split among 4 ramekins) go a long way.