Sunday, March 30, 2008

Waffle Love

I mentioned earlier that The Delicious Life had been so kind as to send me a raffled copy of The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. Sarah gave me the task of finding a recipe in the book that I liked and making it for the blog. Here's to one of many, I'm hoping!

The recipe that caught my eye first off was Creamed Mushrooms on Cornmeal Waffles. Waffles? Mushrooms? What's not to like? It was a match made in heaven. The waffles were like all the best parts of a cornmeal muffin, with more of the crusty outside than ever. Yum!

Creamed Mushrooms on Cornmeal Waffles
from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

Serves four

For the creamed mushrooms:

2 tb unsalted butter
1.5 tb all-purpose flour
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tb extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces shittake mushrooms, trimmed and roughly chopped (2c)
6 ounces portabello mushrooms, trimmed and roughly chopped (2c)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or tarragon
2 tb Madeira or dry sherry (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 c heavy cream

For the waffles:

1 c stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cups whole or low-fat buttermilk (preferably whole)
4 tb unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs

Start by preparing the mushrooms. In a 12-inch skillet or saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat until frothy, about one minute. Add the flour, whisking to break down any lumps, and when the flour is well-incorporated, add the onion. Cook the onion until soft and not yet browning, about five minutes. Add the olive oil, mushrooms, thyme, Madeira, and salt and cook until the mushrooms have darkened and released some of their liquid, about three minutes. Add the cream and stir to distribute it throughout the pan. Once the cream begins to simmer gently, cook until it takes on some of the mushrooms' color -- a rich beige hue -- about three minutes. Remove from the heat.

While the mushrooms are cooking, preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Place a rack in the middle.

Sift the dry waffle ingredients together into a bowl. IN a separate bowl, whisk the wet waffle ingredients together. Add them to the dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Ladle the batter onto a hot buttered waffle iron and cook eight minutes, or until the outside is crisp and golden brown. As the waffle comes off the iron, place them in a single layer on the oven rack so they stay warm and crisp.

When creamed mushrooms are cooked and the waffles are ready, ladle the mushrooms over the waffles and serve immediately.

Moving munchies

Two of my favorite people in the world moved yesterday.

Don't worry. They didn't move away, just a few doors down from where they were before.

However, this meant a moving gala! And when I say 'gala', I mean 'enlisting friends to move things approximately fifty steps'. And also 'moving a cat'. The cat moving is always the most fun.

This was the perfect occasion for me to make something and to keep part of it. I find that the things I make for this blog sometimes go to waste, but I try to make sure they don't. Most of the time, they find a good home. In this case, half a tray of my favorite brownies ever made it to their doorstep.

This was the first time making these brownies with my baby, and they came out fluffy and over the pan. I also added in some of the leftover white chocolate chips from the Malted Mousse Cake recipe down below, because I really don't like white chocolate much at all and figured others might enjoy it better in such a rich brownie.

So, what brownie did I make? This recipe comes out moist and sickeningly rich every time. It's made from cocoa, not chocolate, so the flavor is almost too rich--but not quite. I made mine in a 9x9 pan and they were still very thick, though I used to make them in a pie pan and cut them out in small slices.

AB's Cocoa Brownies recipe can't be beat. It's even good with add-ins: Bailey's, mint extract, pumpkin pie spice. I like mine plain the best.

Sometimes while I'm photographing, I like to pretend I'm floating in a sea of chocolate batter.

Cocoa Brownies with White Chocolate Chips
adapted from Alton Brown, Good Eats

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6-8 oz. Ghirardelli White Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Pam (for Baking) an 8- or 9-inch square pan.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a 8-inch square pan worked with non-stick spray and bake for 45 minutes. When it's done (knife test), remove to a rack to cool.

A caketastic disaster

I don't procrastinate. I just don't.

However, I procrastinated on posting this Daring Bakers challenge because I wasn't happy with the end result of my cake.

I watched many an episode of Good Eats when I had access to cable. I watched as Alton recommended, among other things, a lazy susan and a cake stand in order to ensure a good-looking cake as a result of proper slicing and frosting.

I convinced myself, "It's not worth it to buy those things. I can totally do this on my tiny kitchenette table with no extra plates. I don't need a spatula for frosting!" I was kind of wrong.

I went out on a limb and tried some things that were new. I stretched myself too thin the day I made the cake. I had a guest over and the frosting and the melted chocolate and oh my gosh it was a huge mess, maybe too much for my tiny kitchen to handle.

It wasn't pretty at all, but it tasted good. That's worth something, right?

I swear there are four layers of cake in there. They didn't come out even. But I numbered them for your convenience.

So, my main changes were adding ganache and buttercream to the center layers. The ganache was still a little warm. That should have been the first sign.

So, dark chocolate and orange zest--specifically, blood orange zest and orange extract--were the additions to my version of the cake. It was very fun to watch the cakes come together (and oh, how wonderful they smelled!). The frosting scared me--it really did look like cottage cheese for a long while before it came together. The end result was a really tasty cake, though I will admit it was too rich for a single dweller's kitchen. I was scared not to refrigerate it for fear that it would go bad quickly, and I think that's what did it in at the end.

This was my first four-layer cake, and everyone's got to have some falls before they accomplish something profound, right?

Lots of people have the recipe up. Rosa's Yummy Yums is the first I found.

Thanks for the challenge!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Egg Abhorrence

I hate eggs.

I really hate eggs.

On holidays, my mother still has to sneak boiled eggs into my grandmother's prized stuffing recipe before I notice. I still pick them out.

The texture is what gets me. The rubbery, gelatinous, sulphuric protein has been a bane of my existence. When I lived with a host family in France, the father one night made a giant plate of scrambled eggs for dinner. I went hungry. (okay, that's an extreme way of putting it. I just ate bread and cheese instead.) Mr. O's mother presented me with a scrambled egg casserole for breakfast within twelve hours of me meeting his family for the first time. Not about to say no, I ate the plate-sized portion handed to me and haven't let him forget since.

But it just wouldn't be Easter without deviled eggs. My sister is the best deviled eggs constructor. I pale in comparison to hers, but mine are still pretty good.

Mr. O kept me company while I colored the eggs.

And then he kept me company the next day while I peeled and deviled them. This part makes me gag a little.

With enough mustard, I'll even eat the yellow part.

Oh, and my family recipe for most things holiday relies heavily on this stuff:

Sorry, can't share the recipe for this one. Perhaps Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy will help you on your journey to find the perfect devily goodness.

Yeasty Easter Rolls

My Kitchen Cafe kindly supplied the post and recipe which inspired my Easter Sunday rolls.

I like my rolls a bit undercooked. They remind me of those wonderful, yeasty cafeteria rolls. I remember crowding around the lunch line when the rolls were available, and tearing them apart. They left an amazing smell in the lunchroom whenever they came out of the oven.

The dough came together very quickly and was easy to work with. I shaped them into balls that bounced back with energy.

And oh, did they rise! I found the recipe through Tastespotting and Phemomenon had mentioned they rise in a frantic manner. The perfect rising weather left these babies looking like huge, pillowy clouds sent straight from bread heaven.

Mine didn't come out as golden as others, because of the light undercooking and the fact that I don't generally egg wash my rolls. Hey, it's an egg and I'm a student. I could totally eat that egg later instead of making my rolls look pretty.

Recipe here.

A little less malt and a lot more action

In all the years I spent in her kitchen, Mom never told me how hard cooking a holiday meal was. I always watched bemusedly as she ran around haphazardly, trying to make sure the rolls were done at the same time as the potatoes.

It all comes back to bite you, huh?

This past Sunday, let's just say I ended up with what my dear sister so kindly referenced as a 'floor ham'.

Anyway, let's focus on the more positive aspects of the meal. I made a rather complicated recipe from Better Homes & Gardens, a Malted Mousse Cake. It involved gelatin and whipping cream and malt. It came out lighter than a cheesecake, and keeps well in the fridge. I was highly disappointed at the lack of malt taste in the final product. I'd recommend doubling, if not tripling it in the final product.

In addition, for those of you who approach the Easter candy aisle with as much trepidation as I, if you go for these, assuming they are festive eggs to put on top of your lovely cake, they are not:

They will look more like candied rabbit poop than robin's eggs. After Jim Bob and his fifteen children stormed the candies in front of me, I grabbed what I thought was the best option. Whoppers, why do you deceive me so? They did not land on the final cake. Instead, sprinkles helped make a colorful Springtime nod.

I subbed the crust ingredients because Texas grocery stores generally don't carry ameretti. Nor hazelnuts. I crushed up some Pecan sandies and pecans instead. Tasty!

Recipe here.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Lee Bros. have arrived!

I just wanted to extend a giant THANK YOU to The Delicious Life for the lovely copy of The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners. It is such amazing reading!

And behold, the amazing power of the cookbook cover:

Who the hell else could pull off a vine belt? Not me, I tell you.

And the Lee Bros. have the tenacity to put shucked oysters on their tidewater summer buffet! Maybe it's spring there, too, and they won't be stuck with salmonella.

But seriously, all their recipes come with a story or two. And they're funny, so I'd definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book online or through your local inter-library loan program.

I will most certainly be posting some fixings from this book, and though I'm interested in the boiled peanuts I don't think I can make do with ten pounds of said peanuts in my tiny matchbox apartment. Perhaps one day, right.

Thanks again, Delicious!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Great Elgin Sausage Debate

Something that's kind of important to the local Texas cuisine is barbeque. When making the long trip between Austin and Houston, many travelers stop in Elgin, Texas for hot Elgin sausage. What is Elgin sausage? The website Dallas Food has a lowdown of the regular places. It's a peppery sausage made from mostly beef, including the tripe, made with natural casings.

There's a local sausage rivalry that might rival Pat's and Geno's were it not for the laid-back nature of most Texan road-trippers. Homesick Texan and I are on different sides of the debate. She prefers Southside, whereas I definitely side with Meyer's.

I am in the process of fully appreciating the fact that I can go to any local grocery store and pick up either of these sausages, fresh and pre-cooked.

Mr. O and I celebrated an important anniversary yesterday, and I picked up some Meyer's from the store. Unfortunately, the local grubs don't carry Meyer's BBQ sauce (no big deal for Mr. O. He much prefers Southside on this one, but his favorite sauce by far is Rudy's) but did carry Salt Lick sauce. He loves sweet sauces, whereas I prefer spicy and vinegary ones. Thankfully, we can both agree on Ruby's for regular 'que most of the time. (People really are this dedicated to their barbeque joints, I swear.)

Sliced on fresh rolls, Elgin sausage can't be beat. I am defying the rule which states 'meat must be served with white bread', but I figure since I'm upgrading the rule it's still mostly okay. The sausage has a nice bite to it, and is flavorful (as well as slightly hot).

p.s. I love Cooper's the best. Don't go there expecting Elgin sausage though; that's for Elgin.

blood lust

I love moro (blood) oranges. They're somewhat in season here, and the local crop is very pretty.

I think it might just be the vibrant color. They're a little different from regular oranges in taste--maybe a bit more acidic yet sweeter at the same time. Plus, the stark color contrast between pith and fruit is gorgeous.

I also like cooking with moro oranges... but I can't show the goods quite yet. :-)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pie Day

I'm heading over to a Pi Day party tonight, and am bringing along a chocolate meringue (my first!)

I had to document the process of meringuing the pie as it was so gorgeous. The only changes I made to the recipe were to add more cornstarch (that baby was going to set if I had to beat it into submission) and to substitute dark chocolate for bittersweet, omitting some of the sugar as a result. The filling is creamy and thick--yum!

Recipe adapted from here.

Chocolate Meringue Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon sugar
7 tablespoons ice cold water

3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped plus 2 tb cocoa
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch salt
3 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Add the shortening and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and let sit 1 minute. Either using a fork or your hands, carefully press the mixture together to form a soft ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough on the floured surface into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 of an inch thick. Gently fold the circle of dough in half and then in half again so that you can lift it without tearing it, and unfold into a 9-inch by 2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Crimp the edges and place in the oven. Bake until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

In a saucepan, combine the chocolate, 1 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt. Mix well. Stir in the milk. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Beat the egg yolks. Add 1/2 cup of the hot mixture to the egg yolks and mix well. Add the mixture back to the saucepan and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and cool completely. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until chilled. Beat the egg whites, on medium speed, until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue evenly over the pie. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven, on the top rack and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and cut into individual servings.

Butter Buns

I wonder if other blogger work like I do. I end up taking pictures of things that I made in pieces, so if one part of the 'project' screws up, at least I have something good and tasty to show at the end. Cooking lesson of the night: If you're going to grill hamburgers on a George Foreman, don't try stuffing cheese in the middle. Stuffed burger + added weight = no more stuffing.

But at least the bread came out as expected! La Tartine Gourmande posted a brioche about a year ago that I have fallen for, mainly because the dough calls for not even a whole stick of butter (and two sticks may be too much for me to bear toute seule.

Gorgeous stuff! Head over to her place for the recipe.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Keep rollin' rollin' rollin'...

This morning, I made cinnamon rolls for my colleagues. I have found that baking is a happier alternative to dealing with stress than, say, running naked on a busy street. Not that I've tried that. I did lose my hat in the middle of a rainstorm while running to catch the bus yesterday, and I thank the people who stopped on the local busy road for not running me (nor my hat) over.



As I mentioned before, I have an unhealthy obsession with cinnamon. As this week has been less than stellar, I've been baking to cope. However, a break is coming up soon and birthday today and all, so life is much better now that I can take a breath.

My new baby got put to good use in mixing the dough. I cringe at the thought that I would have been kneading it. I still haven't gotten over the first Daring Bakers experiment with French Bread. On the PBS website, there is a video with Julia and Danielle Forrestier. She beats that dough like it just ate her kitten. Throw, whomp. Throw, whomp. I can't whomp. My apartment complex might fall down.

The dough hook did a good job of kneading the dough, but I needed quite a bit of flour before the dough wasn't sticky. It rose within four hours (again, cold apartment) and kept overnight quite well! The end result was a cinnamon roll much like a pastry shop's. The bread was flaky and buttery, and although I didn't have cream cheese a simple butter, powdered sugar and milk frosting did just fine.

Recipe for Alton's Cinnamon Rolls on the Food Network website.

p.s. Alton, I miss you. Please come visit sometime. Unless the gym starts playing Food Network, we may be separated indefinitely. I can only take so much Ty Pennington in one weekend.

Tiny meringues make me warm all over

Happy birthday to me!

Gosh, another year older. What they don't tell you is that after twenty-one, all the rest of the birthdays (at least, for a while) are met with baited breath. Will something break this year? How many more gray hairs will develop under the guise of wisdom?

I have no use of a cake this year. It's too big! I'm also leaving the digs for a while tomorrow, so the cake would have to be consumed all at once or not at all. I'm pretty sure my school friends are either
a) sleeping,
b) geeking out,
c) inebriated.

So that's a no-go for a birthday party. All's good, though. Mr. O surprised me at lunch and we had a nice (quick) time together. But what to do for a celebratory, sugary substitute for the usual cake?

After making all that creme patisserie last week, I had a plethora of egg whites and a plenitude of vanilla beans. And cinnamon. Darn it, I love cinnamon. It's a bit unhealthy, really. If not for cooking for others, I'm pretty sure all my recipes would have a dash of cinnamon in them (most already do).

I made cinnamon-vanilla meringues. Now, understand, my area of the world this week has experienced freak snowstorms and wind that would blow out a thousand birthday cakes. I decided to make the meringues yesterday, which meant that my egg whites (all four? five? of them) mixed for about twenty minutes and never got halfway above the pan. It also took about two hours for them to cook, and even then they were still very soft when touched. In a moment of impatience (I had to get to class, darnit!) I cranked the oven up to 300. Oops. They got a little brown and done, but they tasted fine just the same.

This morning, I made a parfait with some more creme patisserie and frozen cherries for breakfast, mixed with some of the crushed meringues. Yum!

recipe & directions from 101 Cookbooks, with vanilla bean & cinnamon added at the same time as the sugar.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Sweet Tart

This week was a 'freezer week'. I didn't have time to cook, so since I know these weeks will happen in advance (or months, as in the entire month of April), I eat out of my freezer. Thankfully, this weekend offered a reprise.

I just acquired a nice stash of organic Bourbon vanilla beans from this source. Even for a student, this is a price that can't be beat. To match that, the store had strawberries on sale. Score!

Martha's cookbook recommended a tart crust that came out terribly (I blame it on doing the crust in batches), but future attempts should be better. I panicked. Mr. O was coming over in a few minutes and there was no dessert? I jumped on a puff pastry sheet I had in the freezer and threw it on the hot oven top to defrost. Fifteen minutes later, I threw it haphazardly in the tart pan and off we went.

By the way, no one ever tells you how difficult it is to make a tart look pretty. As someone who is definitely artsy but prefers the terms 'freestyle' and 'rustic' as opposed to 'neat' and 'even' this was a frustrating event. The pastry cream sticks like glue to those strawberries! Once they're down, they're down.

Strawberry tart

1 to 1 1/2 pints strawberries, sliced
puff pastry dough, one sheet defrosted
Creme patisserie (recipe below)

Roll out pastry dough to fit pan, if desired. Poke holes in dough with fork so it won't rise while baking. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until sufficiently brown.

Spread creme patisserie and arrange sliced strawberries on top. Add fresh mint, chocolate ganache, or pearl sugar to top for added effect.

Creme patisserie

from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. There are many variations on Martha's site, but this makes one plain cup which I find suitable for the tart.

1 c milk
1/2 vanilla bean (I used whole, with inside scraped into pan)
1/4 c plus 1 tb sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tb flour
1 tb cornstarch
1 tsp unsalted butter

Combine the milk, vanilla bean, and 1/4 cup sugar in saucepan, heat until sugar dissolves. In another bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until thick. Sprinkle in flour and cornstarch and mix until combined. Add half of the hot milk to eggs and whisk thoroughly until heated. Bring mixture to pan and bring to a boil, whisking away. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool, rubbing the top with butter and then covering with plastic wrap to ensure that a film doesn't form. Cool completely.