March 23, 2011 § 1 Comment
These past few weeks have been brutal with the change of seasons, the yearning for warmth, and the congestion of faces. All of these things have left me incapable of exerting any extra effort outside of my daily routine. Luckily, my routine involves sifting flour, roasting garlic, and supremeing oranges. Unfortunately, my energy levels have been so low that writing about any recent adventures would have been overkill. So now that spring has sprung, the temperatures have risen, and everything surrounding my sinuses has cleared I can share what I have been eating.
Before I got sick, my body knew I needed an extra boost of vitamin C. Therefore my mind decided to make a blood orange olive oil cake which Deb from Smitten Kitchen just so happened to post around the same time. It was fate. I really wanted to make the flaky blood orange tart but had neither the 10 blood oranges accessible nor the energy to acquire them.
In retrospect I should have gotten the additional oranges for the tart because the cake, even with though it was packed with 4 nourishing oranges, did not prevent my body from aching and my face from congesting. When preventative baking doesn’t work, its time for a healing soup. And I can not think of anything better to ward off illness than garlic. So I concocted a roasted garlic, teff, and lentil soup. Unfortunately I can not report back about the actual taste, but here I am finally healed, so something must have worked.
Now that I have been able to breathe, smell, taste, and move without cringing I have been craving some thing really decadent to make up for all of the meals lost to lack of taste and/or appetite. Namely, a chocolate chili cake. I wanted to experience something rich, yet not too sweet, and bursting with flavor. So after a good amount of chocolate cake research Scharffen Berger’s chocolate chili cake won my heart. Although I did make quite a few tweaks to suit my liking.
Thankfully, I could taste this cake in all of its glory. And it may just be my new favorite way to get my chocolate fix. Once it is baked it is moist, and stays moist for a couple of days. It has the texture of an airy fudge brownie thanks to the buttermilk and leaves a striking remnant of spice on your palate without needing a fire extinguisher.
Chocolate Chili Cake
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/3 cups turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder +1 cup water
1 additional cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped walnuts- optional
2 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1/2 cup confectioners sugar for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the dry ingredients into a stand mixer.
3. Make a chili paste by heating the chili and water just to a simmer. Then remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
4. Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and stir on a slow speed until it looks sandy. Now raise the speed and add the additional water and buttermilk once the mixture is uniformly wet add the eggs one at a time.
5. Pour the batter into a thoroughly buttered cake pan and place in the center of the oven. It will take about 50 minutes to bake through. After 20 minutes sprinkle the walnuts onto the top of the cake- this will create a nice nutty layer.
6. When a toothpick or knife inserted in the center come out clean the cake is ready.
7. Let it cool for 15 minutes. Remove the sides if you used a spring foam pan or simply turn the cake out onto a plate to allow to cool completely.
8. Dust with cocoa sugar.
After an indulgence, one should do something healthy like adding extra greens onto the plate. In my case these greens made their way into a tender biscuit founded by homemade oat flour mixed with a nutty white whole wheat flour. I discovered how easy it is to make oat flour thanks to Heidi Swanson’s oat soda bread which, slathered with a generous coat of Baily’s butter, comforted me during the height of my illness.
Oatmeal Arugula Biscuits
Eat these when they come out of the oven. Their succulence decreases with time. I froze half of them after they were shaped and on the cookie sheet then threw them into a plastic bag for an easy warm breakfast in 12 minutes.
1 cup rolled oats or oat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled or frozen unsalted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
1 packed cup arugula
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Add the rolled oats to a food processor and whirl them around for about 3 minutes until the oats look like flour, similarly, just get your oat flour out.
3. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
4. Chop the arugula by hand or in a food processor and incorporate into the dry mixture.
5. Use a cheese grater to grate the butter into the dry ingredients and gently stir. If the butter is not frozen, chill the mixture for 10 minutes.
6. Stir together the honey and buttermilk and slowly add to the oat and butter mixture.
7. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead a couple of times. Using as much flour as necessary.
8. Roll the dough into a 9 x 5 rectangle, which should be about 1/2 inch thick.
9. Fold the short sides of the rectangle in thirds like a letter and re-roll the dough into another 9 x 5 rectangle. Repeat this two more times.
10. Roll or pat the dough into a 3/4 inch rectangle and use biscuit cutters to shape the biscuits.
11. Place the biscuits on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden.
12. Consume with butter and honey.
February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
It seems that I am baking through Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain in a similar manner to which Julie Powell cooked through Julia Child’s Master the Art of French Cooking. In the past month I have looked to Kim’s book on a daily basis for baking inspiration. So while, my venture requires no guidelines, time tables, or boeuf bourguignon to stress me out all I need to worry about is browning loads of butter, stocking up on exciting flours, and whipping out heart shaped cookie cutters.
Most recent attack on Kim’s book was a combination of two recipes using teff flour. As I found out yesterday, teff is a deep, rich, and dark flour which makes a beautiful match for two of my favorite ingredients: hazelnuts and brown butter. The outcome of toasting the hazelnuts in the butter as it begins to brown is quite intoxicating, and leaves the entire kitchen smelling of sultry golden love perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Hazelnut Butter Scone
Love child of Kim Boyce’s Hazelnut Muffins and Brown Butter Scone from Good to the Grain.
4 oz unsalted butter
1/2 cup hazelnuts chopped in half
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oats or a mix of rolled grains
1/2 cup teff flour
1/2 cup palm sugar or 1/4 c white and 1/4 c brown *next time I want to use honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Over medium heat, begin to melt the best butter you can get your hands on. Once the butter has turned into liquid and starts to bubble add the chopped hazelnuts. Let the butter foam. The hazelnuts will become a lovely golden color. Once there are brown bits forming on the bottom of the pan, remove the butter and hazelnuts from the pan and pour into a shallow freezable container. This should take about 7 minutes. Let the hazelnut butter freeze. Do this a day before or wait impatiently while preparing everything else.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all of the dry ingredients together in a food processor. Chop the frozen butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse the flours and butter until the mix is a sandy texture. Whisk the cream, egg, and vanilla together in a separate bowl. When both the wet and dry ingredients are both individually combined, pour the cream and egg mixture into the sandy flour and stir to combine.
Flour a work surface and dump the batter out. Use your hands to press the batter into a circle. Now either slice the circle into 8 slices like a pizza, or use your seasonal cookie cutters and give the scones some character and transfer the scones to a prepared baking sheet.
Brush the uncooked scones with a nice blanket of cream and sprinkle with some sugar; the coarser the better. These babys will be nice and bronzed after about 22 minutes if they are small cookie cutter types, or 26 minutes if they are large slices.
February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are some things in life which never change. Like snow days. Who doesn’t get a cozy nostalgic feeling with the thought of a day off from the real world? As a kid, this meant an escape from sitting at a desk all day listening to someone talk
to at you from the front of a packed room (for many adults this may still be the case). For me, a snow day means that my kitchen gets my full attention.
These past few weeks I have been slightly obsessed with the mere thought of a delicate crêpe wrapped pleasantly around a oozy gooey filling of nirvana. Oddly, in these past weeks I have had more opportunities to indulge in a simple fruit filled crêpe since living in France. But I found myself resisting, unconsiously holding out for what would be the perfect crêpe day.
By noon on this exceptionally wintery day I had a table full of steaming buckwheat crêpes, warm fig butter, lustrous onion jam and a perfect way to spend my snow day. I made two batches of batter, one made from solely buckwheat flour, which is completely nontraditional. But I had no warning, and authentic batter should really rest over night and I unwilling to compromise. I want to have my crêpes and eat them too. Consequentially we will be finding all sorts of fillers for the endless stacks of toasty savory galettes which will be gracing our plates for the next couple of days as I could not resist the urge to mix up some more traditional batter, courtesy of David Lebovitz and fry them up tomorrow for dinner.
The filling for my crêpes today are from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, and are unbelievable delicious. She has this ingenious section of her book dedicated to fruit and vegetable jams and spreads to accompany all of her treats. My favorite: fig butter. I was first introduced to the idea of her fig butter when Heidi Swanson unveiled Kim’s Figgy Buckwheat scones on 101cookbooks. Since then have been looking for the perfect time to bring the heavenly butter into my life. I must confess my disappointment; the time which I let pass without consuming this butter is completely unacceptable. I could, no lie, eat this everyday. Possibly at every meal. It has a velvety, rich, deep flavor from the figs, wine, and butter but doesn’t leave a feeling of piggishness behind. It requires little hands on work aside from chopping off stems, boiling sugar, and getting out the food processor, and yields a sufficient amount to last (an insatiable girl) just about two weeks.
Perfection. The second filling was even more simple and just as ingenious. Onion jam will be finding its way into nearly all of my sandwiches from here on out. When onions cook down they turn into a heap of savory caramelized luxury ready to make any meal a feast. There is a reason that they make you cry, and it is happiness for what is about to come. It is as if they are forcing us to pay for the magnificence which if hidden behind their bite.
(Nontraditional) Buckwheat Crêpe
This recipe is actually gluten free as buckwheat has no relation to wheat. It also requires only a 15 minute rest which was the appeal for me. These are also a bit thicker than I am used to but delicious nonetheless. I used a 7 inch cast iron pan for the crêpe cooking, if you desire larger crêpes simply use a larger pan. I found the recipe here and followed it pretty precisely but I used salted (Baily’s Dairy!) butter and less salt.
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot (a thickening agent)
dash of salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 3/4 cups water
To make the batter simply sift the dry ingredients together into a medium sized bowl. Now whisk the eggs with the water and add the butter. When the wet ingredients are well mixed pour half into the buckwheat flour and stir until incorporated and smooth. Then pour the rest of the egg mixture and finish stirring. The mixture will be a pretty dark purple color and quite runny. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Just enough time to prepare the pan and finish up the fillings. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and coat it with butter. Add just under 1/4 cup of the batter to the hot pan and swirl it around so that it fills the entire bottom. When the crêpe batter has started to dry out on top, after 2 or 3 minutes, flip it over to briefly cook the other side. I used my fingers to do this. A spatula is safer but less effective. The first crêpe is always, always, always, a disaster. Keep the crêpes warm in a 200 degree oven. This recipe will make 10-12 crêpes. I am planning on freezing some leftovers by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap then sealing in a freezer bag.
Kim Boyce’s Fig Butter
These recipes are not published on the internet and I technically have no right to publish them. Consequentially I am going to HIGHLY recommend you make the decision to own your own copy of Good to the Grain if this looks good to you. I will leave a basic description of the recipe.
A little bit of sugar and water are boiled with cloves and star anise for about 10 minutes. Then lots of red wine and port and black mission figs and cinnamon are added to to the syrup. This mixture simmers for about 3o minutes and becomes a beautiful viscous maroon liquid. The concoction needs to come to room temperature for another 30 minutes or so before removing the cloves and star anise. Then the figs and their syrup are pureed with some soft butter. It is possibly the most indecent thing I have ever eaten.
Kim Boyce’s Onion Jam
See the notes above regarding Kim’s book. You can figure this one out on your own without a recipe. This onion jam with some sauteed mushrooms, horseradish, and hearty slices of bread could hardly make me happier. Although slathered inside a hot crêpe with butter I was quite delighted all day.
Slice a lot of onions. I think I used about 10 yellow cooking onions from Barnard’s Orchards. In a medium dutch oven heat some olive oil on medium high heat for a minute or two. Add the sliced onions and salt and coat them in the oil. Cook them on high until they just begin to brown. Turn down the heat and cover until they get a nice consistent golden. Remove the lid and let them look until they break down into a mass of jam like consistency. This all take about two hours and makes about a cup of savory jam.