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Elderberry Syrup

November 12, 2017

It’s the time of the year to pull out all the stops when it comes to finding ways to boost our immunity. I just recently learned the hard way about the joys, oh wait I mean germs that come along with the 12 little preschoolers my son is hanging out with in the mornings. Little. Germ. Spitting. Sponges. Good thing they’re so dang cute.

Then thankfully my friend Lisa Jane introduced me to a recipe for Elderberry Syrup. Elderberries are known for their immune boosting properties. The syrup can be slurped from a spoon, drizzled on yogurt, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, made into gummy bears (still on my to-do list), or added to popsicles or smoothies.

There has been lots of studies on the health benefits of elderberries. Aside from being full of minerals, vitamin C and antioxidants, it has also been found to inhibit certain strains of influenza. I have heard 1-2 teaspoons a day is a good amount for prevention. The general consensus is to 3 teaspoons, 4x a day is a good amount if you are sick.

The syrup will stay good for months in the fridge. May you and yours enjoy this in good health.

Ingredients
3 c. filtered water
1 c. dried elderberries
1-2 inch piece of ginger, chopped
3/4 c. raw honey (local if possible)

Method
1.) In a small saucepan bring water, elderberries and ginger to a boil.
2.) Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by about half.
3.) Strain elderberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer or through a strainer lined with cheesecloth.
4.) Let cool to room temperature.
5.) Stir in raw honey.
6.) Store in the refrigerator.

Conponent in action
-spoon over yogurt or ice cream
-drizzle over waffles and pancakes
-add to smoothies and homemade popsicles

The Best All Butter Pie Dough

August 15, 2017

It is so hard to choose what to publish during summer. There is so much to cook and so little time before the tomatoes, berries, eggplant, sweet corn, peaches and cherries fade into a luscious memory until next year. Can you tell I’m a bit hungry as I write this?! This week an unexpected surprise, our peach tree with little green peaches that I thought might be little and green forever, has sprung to life growing big peachy peaches in our little wild yard. I say wild because before we moved to Santa Fe…i think it’s safe to say I would describe us as city folk with a dream.

And now this dream is real life and in our yard lives a array of plant and animal characters that are keeping us in a steady state of wonder and curiosity along with a generous pinch of bewilderment. We have met many a lizard, a few black widow spiders, prairie dogs, gophers, hummingbirds, snails that suddenly appear on the stone patio in the back any time it rains, frogs, a snake who lives right outside our side door and sleeps in a little hole in the side of the house (deep breaths, deep breaths, oohhhmmmmmm) and certainly not least is the little skunk who visits our yard after dark and occasionally brushes its straggly white tail across the outside living room window, usually while we’re watching a movie so then we jump with the heebie-jeebies and then scramble to the window to get a closer look before it disappears under the fence.

We have a peach tree, two big lavender bushes, honeysuckle, mint and blackberries all which we discovered after moving here. Each new discovery felt like finding buried treasure. Then we built a raised bed and have been trying (trying is seriously the operative word here) to grow herbs, onions, eggplant, beets, tomatoes, peppers, kale and corn.  The kale and onions are showing the most only promise, especially with all the rain we’ve been getting the past few weeks, but the rest, well, let’s just say there’s always next year.

So now that there are a lot of peaches in my future, I have pie on my mind. And not just any old pie, but the best pie I can possibly make. So for that, I’m going straight to the source of where I first experienced the best pie I had ever had and that was from Hoosier Mama Pie Shop in Chicago, IL.

This is closely adapted recipe from The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie. I feel like I should probably be punished and sent to the corner by a bunch of pastry chefs, but I always use salted butter when making this pie dough and I have never once felt sad about it. I also increase the sugar from 1/2 T. to 1 T. because for some reason on the day that I made the blueberry tart pictured above, it just seemed like the right thing to do. So cheers! I am fairly confident this is the best all butter pie dough you will ever stumble across. Haha. I have been trying to stay disciplined and write shorter blog posts getting to the recipe faster. I guess just like my little grumpy garden, there’s always next time <3.

And if you’d like to watch the master, Hoosier Mama’s own Paula Haney walk you through a step by step pie dough session, you can find that here.

Ingredients

1 3/4 (196 grams) sticks unsalted butter, divided
1 T. (12 grams) sherry, apple cider, white wine or red wine vinegar 
1/2 cup (118 grams) cold water
2 1/4 cups (333 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (12 grams) kosher salt
1 Tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar

 

Method

  1. Cut butter into small cubes and put in freezer.
  2. In a cup mix the cold water and vinegar and set aside.(to keep the water cold sometimes I throw in an ice cube if my kitchen is hot)
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.
  4. At this point the butter should be super cold but not frozen. Remove butter from the freezer and add to your flour mixture.
  5. Using your fingers (or a food processor if you have one as this produces the best pea size butter pieces) squeeze the butter pieces into the flour until the butter is blended into the flour and resembles small peas.*
  6. Add 6 T. of the vinegar and water mixture. Stir with your hands or a wooden spoon. At this point the dough will probably be crumbly. Continue adding and stirring in 1 T. of vinegar-water at a time until dough comes together into a ball.
  7. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and cut in two pieces if you’re making a pie or just leave whole if you’re making a big rustic tart.
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. If you want to keep longer, freeze and thaw the day before you want to use it.

Component in Action

-make big rustic tart with your favorite fruit filling
-make a two crust pie
-bake little tart shells and fill with whipped cream and fresh fruit
-make little pie pockets with circles of dough that you fill, fold over and then crimp with a fork before baking.

Summer Fritatta

July 21, 2017

My cooking has changed since becoming a mom. It’s become less about me expressing myself as a chef and more about the needs of my family. I have grown to love this and I love and am surprised that this small shift has made me a better cook.  I actually spend less time cooking, I think more about nourishment and health and I have been forced to get creative in new ways to meet the needs of my opinionated crew of eaters.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, cooking for a toddler can be more challenging than a packed restaurant on a Saturday night. Sure every child is different, I just happen to have one who, for example, upon catching the slightest whiff of a beef stew I have spent the afternoon making, proceeded to tear up and then projectile vomit across the kitchen table just because “it smelled like meat”. Real fun as a mom who wants nothing more than to cook food for my family and have them love it.

So I guess I’m sharing this because I’m as much on this journey as any mom out there despite having cooked in kitchens across the country. And my goal, despite the obstacles of a picky toddler with a killer gag reflex, is to cook my family food that will nourish and bring them joy.

My four year old still doesn’t eat eggs. One day after reading a book about all the different ways kids like to eat eggs, he was excited to try them out and I was more than happy to oblige. We made eggs scrambled, sunny side up and hard boiled.  He couldn’t bring himself to try the scrambled or sunny side up even though he was glad I made them because they looked “pretty” (so I have that going for me), but he did try the hard boiled egg white and then the yolk with a tiny bit of salt sprinkled on top before the gag reflex kicked in.

I still have hope that someday he’ll eat this fritatta with us. In the meantime I love the fact that I can make this on a Sunday night and my husband and I can throw a couple of pieces in the oven throughout the week for a super fast breakfast that doesn’t taste fast at all. You can even eat this for lunch or dinner and pairs beautifully with a simple salad of greens with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

You can sub out ingredients if you want. This just happens to be my favorite fritatta combo at the moment. You can also double this recipe if you have a big pan or even a baking dish.

The most important thing to keep in mind when making your own fritatta is to cook most ingredients in advance, especially those that you want to caramelize (like bacon or onions) or that have a high water content like tomatoes and bell peppers.

Ingredients
2 pieces of bacon (diced) (optional)
1 T. butter
½  onion
1 Red bell pepper
½ c. halved cherry tomatoes
½ c. basil leaves (finely sliced aka chiffonade)
1 T. thyme leaves (finely chopped)
1 c. fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
¼ c. whole milk yogurt
Salt and pepper
½  c. cheddar cheese (diced)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°f.
  2. Butter a (approx. 8”) cast iron pan or baking dish.
  3. In another pan over medium heat cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp.
  4. Add the butter, onion, red bell pepper and cherry tomatoes. Cook until they soften, about five minutes.
  5. Add basil, thyme, spinach, salt and pepper to taste and cook for another minutes until greens are wilted. Take mixture off heat.
  6. In a bowl whisk eggs, yogurt and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour into buttered pan.
  7. Spoon bacon-veggie mix evenly over eggs.
  8. Sprinkle cheese evenly over eggs
  9. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the eggs are set when you jiggle the pan.
  10. Let cool before slicing and serving.
  11. Enjoy cold or warm.

Component In Action
-enjoy for breakfast, snack, lunch or dinner
-Enjoy cold or warm
-don’t be afraid to switch the ingredients up..
-in spring try pancetta, fresh peas, green onion and lavender
-in summer try mozzarella, basil and tomatoes
-in fall try maplewood smoked bacon, mushrooms and gruyere cheese
-in winter try spinach, goat cheese and caramelized onions

Rhubarb Coulis – The sauce of early summer

June 2, 2017

There is no question, rhubarb is my favorite fruit of early summer.  It begins raw and inedible, streaky red and green stalks that are usually in need of a good scrub when I lug them home, sticking this way and that out of the bag, already tart and sassy before I even get them home. All that’s needed is care and a bit of time, to coax out their bright flavor and luscious texture. With a bit of sugar to balance out their natural acidity, this humble fruit transcends to its full potential and is always the highlight of the season.

A few weeks ago my husband was making his famous Swedish pancakes for brunch. At the store I was looking for a jar of lingonberry jam (if only we lived near Ikea!) and couldn’t find any, so instead I picked up a few stalks of rhubarb. I ended up making this coulis and to everyone’s surprise, even the Swede in the group, it was a perfect match for the light and airy pancakes. The next day I served the left over coulis with some soft cheese and that awesome. The next morning, we drizzled it on plain greek yogurt for a delightful breakfast treat. I’m only sad we used it all up before I could spoon it on ice cream, but hey, I still have a little time before the rhubarb harvest is over.

A coulis is a French sauce, thick and velvety smooth, made with vegetables or fruit. I could have just cooked the rhubarb and not blended the mixture. This would have been called a compote. Enough cooking vocab, let’s get to the sauce of the season<3.

Ingredients
1.5# rhubarb (washed, trimmed and sliced)
1 c. sugar (granulated or raw)
2-4″ strip of orange peel (or lemon..or both<3)
1 c. water

Method
1.) Bring everything to a boil.
2.) Simmer for 20 minutes.
3.) Turn off the heat and let the fruit steep (just sit around like you’re making a cup of tea) for 30 minutes.
4.) Blend until smooth.
5.) Taste. If is tastes too sweet, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Component in Action
-drizzle over pancakes, french toast, crepes
-spoon over ice cream
-serve with goat and soft cheeses
-use to flavor your own yogurt
-use as a jam substitute (think toast & biscuits)
-make with other fruits too! blueberries, strawberries, cherries, plums, peaches…

Maple Cashew Cream

January 21, 2017

I first made a version of this for a dinner I catered for good friends who were celebrating their health and wellness coaching company. At first when tasked with coming up with five dairy and gluten free courses I was just the tiniest bit apprehensive. Of course I could do it, but would it be less fun of a meal? Would I be able to pull off a menu that stayed within the no dairy/no gluten perimeters, but didn’t taste like sawdust?  I wanted all forty guests to feel as though the entire evening was a treat. As I thought about all these things, the more it started to feel like a big, beautiful challenge.

A trip to meet the farm we partnered with added another layer of limitations, because I wanted to create the menu based on what they were harvesting that last week of July. And that’s kind of where the magic happened. The “dragon’s tongue” flat beans were gorgeous cream beans with bright purple stripes. Every time I see this bean, I think of Jack and the beanstalk and hope Jack’s beans were as stunning as these. They had just picked dark green bunches of kale, pink, purple and white Easter egg radishes, amaranth greens and mint. There were ripe heirloom tomatoes, bursting with a delicate juice just begging to be made into a basil infused consomme. I quickly scribbled on a piece of paper the vegetables, herbs and legumes I would have to work with, and as the wheels started turning, the pieces started to come together:

passed canape
cucumber, roasted garlic hummus, radish tartare

amuse
tomato consomme shooter

vegetable 1
arugula, easter egg radish, pickled yellow beans, farm egg salad

vegetable 2
massaged kale, dragon’s tongue snap beans, savory lentils, amaranth greens, mint pesto

main
braised hawks hill elk, quinoa, coconut milk curry, fat blossom farm vegetables

Savory always comes to me first when planning a menu, and I end up wrangling together a dessert, sticking close to the fruits of the season or a sure winner like the decadent flourless chocolate torte. So here I was, boxed into a corner with nowhere to look but up and outside my habitual go-to’s.  It really is a gift of circumstance, to be forced to get creative, especially with food.  It might not feel great at the start, but rarely disappoints in the end. Time and time again that’s how some of my most creative moments have come about in the kitchen. With odds and ends from the pantry and fridge, and a half hour to make dinner. Or in this case, a dessert with dietary restrictions and a creamy little vegan delight I had heard of called Cashew Cream.

I got to experimenting and soaking, adding vanilla bean and maple syrup, and before long had put together a dessert so simple I almost felt guilty, but it was a home run at the dinner so any guilty feelings dissipated pretty quickly once I saw a room of delighted faces:

dessert
stewed cherries, cashew cream, toasted coconut, dark chocolate

I filled a cocktail glass with cashew cream, added a spoon of stewed Michigan cherries that had been steeped with black peppercorn and rose petals, and sprinkled each glass with toasted coconut and dark chocolate shavings. I opted for a texture right in the middle, with the mouthfeel (almost) of whipped cream. You could also add more liquid to end up with a saucy texture like creme anglaise, or add less for a custard feel. If you are feeling feisty you can freeze it which results in a rich cheesecake-esque, ice-creamy goodness which I also highly recommend with some blueberries swirled in.

Ingredients

2 c. raw cashews
1 c. coconut milk (or water)
4 T. real maple syrup
1 vanilla bean (scraped) or 1 t. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Method

1.) Soak raw cashews in cold water overnight in the fridge or in hot water for 1 hour.
2.) Strain and discard water.
3.) Add soaked cashews, 1 c. water, maple syrup, vanilla and salt to a blender. Blend until smooth.
4.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

Component in Action

-Freeze for an ice cream treat
-Add more liquid to use as sauce
-Add less liquid to enjoy as a “custard”
-spoon cashew cream between layers of berries and dark chocolate
-a thicker version on pancakes or toast
-drizzle a thin version on spiced baked apples

Butter Croutons

January 13, 2017

I grew up in a country crock house. It was the 80’s-90’s and butter substitutes were the rage and thought to be healthy compared to the real thing. I still remember with fondness the brown tub with the friendly looking barn logo, and smearing the golden spread on warm slices of amish friendship bread. I’m sure until the end of time we will continue to learn and have new theories popping up about what is healthy, so I’m not judging (hi mom!). I’m just thankful now we know that soybean and palm oils are not great for our bodies or the environment.

I actually remember the first time I tasted butter. I’m sure I technically tasted it before at our house or somewhere else, but I’m talking about the first time I really tasted it. I think I was in 6th or 7th grade and my family was at a graduation party for a high school student from our church. I remember standing at the buffet table out in the yard, streamers and balloons weighted down with 2-liters of pop to keep them from blowing away. I remember looking at the assortment of cake, veggie platters, chips and dips, sloppy joe simmering in a crock pot, and then there were dinner rolls with butter in a glass butter dish.

The butter wasn’t too soft or hard. It spread perfectly on the roll and it was then I noted it’s absolute superiority to butter spreads. It was like a wave. First I tasted the salt, then quickly followed by sweet cream all of which rolled over and through the soft and yeasty dinner roll. This was one of those “When I grow up moments” where I internally promised my middle school aged self that when I grew up I would always have real butter in my house. So I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t grow up during World War II where butter was carefully rationed. To this day I still have a bit of a love affair with the real thing and thankfully it still tastes like a treat whether spread on toast, a ham and cheese sandwich, or melted to make these croutons.

This is also a great way to stop bread from going into the trash. Sometimes I’ll make these as soon as I notice a partial loaf of bread has been hanging around for a while. I can promise that these won’t go to waste.

Ingredients

2 c. bread (your favorite kind, diced or torn into pieces)
1/4 c. melted butter
Salt (to taste)

Method

1.) Preheat oven to 350 f.
2.) Line a sheet tray (aka cookie sheet) with a silpat, parchment or foil (easy clean up!)
3.) Toss bread and melted butter in a bowl.
4.) Spread out into a single layer onto the sheet tray.
5.) Sprinkle with salt.
6.) Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until croutons are crisp and golden brown.

Component in Action

-sprinkle on soups and salads
-use odds and ends of bread hanging around your kitchen…a great way to stop them from going to waste.
-when tossing bread with butter, add various spices and/or grated hard cheese for a flavor boost:
-add grated parmesan cheese before baking for tomato soup
-add dried oregano for a salad of tomato, cucumber + feta
-add a bit of cinnamon and black pepper for a butternut squash soup

Profiteroles & Eclairs: The many delights of pâte à choux, part 3

February 24, 2016

Ingredients

for the dough
1 c. water
1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz)
pinch of salt
1 T. sugar
1 c. bread flour (AP flour works also)
4 eggs

for the chocolate glaze
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz. at room temp.)

for the whipped cream
1 c. heavy cream (cold)
2 T. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make the glaze: melt chocolate and butter in the microwave or over a double boiler to melt. Let cool at room temperature until you are ready to glaze.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. In a medium saucepan bring water, butter, and salt to a boil over medium heat.
  5. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until dough comes away from the sides of the pan, about 30 seconds.
  6. Take the pan off of heat and add eggs one at a time, stirring until each egg is completely incorporated into the dough before adding the next one. This is when you will notice the dough will appear to “break”. Just keep stirring and before you know it, all will be well again and you will be ready to add the next egg.
  7. Use a spatula to transfer the dough to a piping bag and let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
  8. Once the dough is rested, snip off the tip of your pastry bag (You are looking for about a ½” tip or opening).
  9. Ok, let’s have a quick pep talk: Next is piping the dough onto the parchment parchment paper (or silpat) lined baking sheet. It’s just one of those things that you have to believe you can do (with gusto!) before you do it for the first time (kind of like much of life, huh?). It’s actually very straightforward (wow, no pun intended I swear!). Sure, the finished product looks like you’ve just been to a Parisian pastry shop, but there is no doubt in my mind that with a small amount of practice, these will soon be a snap for you to make.
  10. For Eclairs, you are looking to pipe a straight line of dough (about 5″x 1″). Take a minute to visualize how many rows you want to make. A typical baking sheet will usually be big enough to make 3 rows of 4 (12). Take a few deep breaths and rest the tip of your piping bag on the sheet tray where you want to start. Piping from the back of the bag and your palm, squeeze the dough out relatively slowly and as you see a 1″ thickness form, keep piping and pull your hand back until you’ve reached around 5″ long. The key is to not be afraid of the moving dough and piping bag. You are in control of the dough, the speed and the movement!
  11.  For profiteroles, you are looking to pipe tablespoon size rounds (think 1”x 1”) onto the sheet tray about 2 inches apart.  Check out the photo’s in the gourgeres post to get an idea for size.
  12. For both the eclairs and profiteroles, there comes a time when you want to end the piping and move on to the next one. There is a little bit of technique to do it and I have a few tips for this:
    1. keep your pastry bag still when piping out the dough and keep the tip almost touching the sheet tray for each one.
    2. to make a clean break between the pastry bag and your piped eclair or profiterole, instead of pulling up, make a quick and confident swipe to the side. This will leave a little mountain looking peak.
    3. After you’ve piped the entire tray, dip your finger in a little water and gently pat down the peak of each one.
  13. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until they are a deep golden brown and nicely puffed up. Remove from the oven, and make a tiny slit in the side with the tip of a sharp knife to allow the steam to escape. This is how they will stay crispy. Let cool completely.
  14. Make the whipped cream and use a spatula to transfer to a piping bag.
  15. Wait to fill the eclairs until you are ready to serve them. The last thing you want is a soggy eclair. The same is true for cannolis (I wish I could scream that from a mountain top but that’s for a different time). Oh, it should also be said that classically eclairs are filled with pastry cream, I just love the light texture of fresh whipped cream with the pastry and glaze. Snip the tip (1/4″) and fill the pastry in the side where you slit the side for the steam to escape.
  16. Once the eclairs are filled, dip the top half into the glaze which by now should be nice and cool. Place chocolate side up on a baking sheet and you are ready to serve.

**If you want to really dig into the depths of eclair making, I would highly recommend checking out Ironwhisks’ tutorial on the subject. Talk about a labor of eclair love!

Component in Action

  • fill with pastry cream, whipped cream or combinations of both.
  • incorporate various flavors/fruits into the filling (raspberries, strawberries, chocolate, spices)
  • play around with the glaze incorporating liquor or spices like cinnamon.
  • you could get wild and top the glaze with something crunch like candied nuts.

Whipped Cream

February 14, 2016
The Clarified Kitchen Whipped Cream

In the world of desserts there is whipped cream, and then there is whipped cream. Sure, there are lots of tubs of “whipped” “topping” out there, but why??? I’m not trying to be a whipped cream snob about this, but whenever I see tubs of said topping in the store, my brain…how do I describe this…kind of takes over and starts shooting red flag alerts into the sky like I am all of a sudden R2D2 malfunctioning and in need of a reboot.

I do want to say this, if you totally love the taste of cool whip and that could be totally possible because I know taste memories are powerful, then that’s cool. (ha! pun unintended). I have a similar affinity for store bought pie dough as it brings back vivid memories of my grandma’s Easter Pie. But for the rest of us, the entire world of fake whipped cream can literally be turned upside down with a few ingredients and five minutes, resulting in one of the most amazing treats ever from our very generous friend the dairy cow.

In our house, whipped cream usually marks special occasions like birthday treats, peak of the summer fruit tarts, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, winter nights that call for hot cocoa and cozy pj’s, or when friends come for dinner. Now that I think of it, it kind of feels like we are always looking for a reason to whip up a batch, or maybe we are always looking for a reason to celebrate. Either way, it’s always a sign of good times ahead.

This may seem like a itty bitty recipe to devote an entire post to, but here’s the thing. Learn how to make this once, allowing your mind to compartmentalize the recipe and technique on its own, and you will have this up your sleeve for life. It really is as simple and beautiful as that. So let’s do a pretend cheers (imagine two bubbling glasses of champagne), and I’ll go first–Here’s to you, your table, and may you have many reasons to celebrate with whipped cream in the year ahead.

Ingredients
1 c. heavy cream (cold)
2 T. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

Method

  1. Put a large stainless steel mixing bowl in the freezer and let it hang out for about a half hour. You can use a glass or ceramic bowl as well, stainless steel just retains the cold temperature better. You want the bowl to be really cold because room temp cream does not aerate.
  2. Remove the bowl from the freezer and add the cold heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to the bowl.
  3. With a large balloon style whisk, whisk the cream until soft peaks, semi-soft, or stiff peaks form. Choose the level of stiffness you want for whatever you are using it for. When you whisk, make sure you are not just stirring. You want to make sure the whisk is picking up air, incorporating it into the cream.
  4. I like to take turns between my left hand and right hand to take advantage of this sweet bicep workout. But you could also use a mixer with the whisk attachment and achieve the same results in half the time.
  5. Soft peaks are awesome for dolloping and stiff peaks are better for using as a filling. If you over whip the cream you will be well on your way to making butter. If this happens, take a look at the grainy, separated cream and don’t fret. You will realize how much whisking it took to get you there, and chances are it will never happen again.

Component in Action

  • over pie, cakes, tarts
  • over ice cream
  • served with fresh berries
  • use as a filling in pastries
  • over hot cocoa

Gougères: The many delights of pâte à choux, part 1

January 29, 2016

There are plenty of complex and difficult pastry recipes and techniques out there. Lucky for us, pâte à choux dough isn’t one of them.  The first time I made this dough was in culinary school. I was a nervous cook back then (2003), having only cooked at home from the pages of magazines and from tv shows when I managed to scribble down the ingredients in a notebook.

At school, I expected the actual cooking to be the hard part. But I had to first get past the culinary vocabulary before I could get to the actual task at hand. My first instructor, a stern Swiss Chef would yell things like

“Class: You have one hour. Gather a rondeau, two third pans, one half hotel pan, one bain marie, glacés à brun a six pan of cippolinis, and I want 100 each perfectly tourned potatoes and carrots. I’m going to check your stations in ten minutes. Why are you staring at me…GO!”

HA HA HA. I can totally picture my face. I was probably frantically trying to remember what a rondeau was and didn’t even hear the rest. Don’t feel too bad for me. This is what I get for going to culinary school before working in an actual restaurant.

So when we learned to make pâte à choux it was a wonderful moment of relief. When making a batch, the dough naturally breaks and then comes back together with the addition of each egg. So in the span of a couple of minutes (or four eggs), something broken comes together four times. In the midst of so much newness, it was an incredibly satisfying recipe to learn. It would take years for me to learn the incredible range of this dough, but at the time it was perfect in its simplicity.

I mean, how often do you get to watch something break and then come together better than before, a glossy golden dough ready to be made into all sorts of delightful things like gougeres, eclairs, profiteroles (cream puffs), beignets, cakes, gnocchi, and honestly I have even made a killer sandwich from a split open eclair. Best of all, it is straightforward and easy to make.

Over Christmas I had an awesome afternoon with my nieces Anja, Calla, and Brynn making this dough. These girls are so fun and totally rocked it in the kitchen. They made an entire dinner for our family in Minnesota and most of the courses used pâte à choux! They made parmesan gougeres for an appetizer, gnocchi for the main course, and profiteroles and eclairs for dessert. I think we made eight batches of the dough in total and by the end they were each making their own batches and had the ingredients memorized. The day also happened to fall on my birthday (Dec. 28), so it was pretty much the best birthday ever.

I thought the best way to dig into this dough, is to start at the beginning of a meal with a beautiful canape (bite sized appetizer). These are particularly awesome right out of the oven and are equally at home being served at the beginning of a dinner party or in the middle of cozy afternoon.

Ingredients

1 c. water
1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz)
1 c. AP flour
4 eggs
pinch of salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 c. shredded gruyere cheese

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 f.
  2. line a sheet tray with a silpat or parchment paper (not wax paper! I recently learned the hard way when I grabbed a box quickly without looking)
  3. In a medium saucepan bring water, butter, and salt to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until dough comes away from the sides of the pan, about 30 seconds.
  5. Take the pan off of heat and add eggs one at a time, stirring until each egg is completely incorporated into the dough before adding the next one. This is when you will notice the dough will appear to “break”. Just keep stirring and before you know it, all will be well again and you will be ready to add the next egg.
  6. Stir in a pinch of pepper, nutmeg, and cheese.
  7. Use a spatula to transfer the dough to a piping bag. (you can even use a freezer bag with a corner snipped off). You are looking for about a ½” tip or opening.
  8. Pipe tablespoon size rounds (think 1”x1”) onto the sheet tray about 2 inches apart. There is a little bit of technique to give the gougères their round shape. I have a few tips for this:
    1. keep your pastry bag still when piping out the dough and keep the tip almost touching the sheet tray for each one.
    2. to make a clean break between the pastry bag and your piped gougere, instead of pulling up, make a quick and confident swipe to the side. This will leave a little mountain looking peak.
    3. After you’ve piped the entire tray, dip your finger in a little water and gently pat down the peak of each gougères.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and nicely puffed up. Remove from the oven, and serve immediately.
  10. To serve later, prick a hole in them with the tip of a sharp knife to allow the steam to escape. This will keep them crispy.

Component in Action

  • perfect just as is for a delicious canape
  • slice in half and make mini ham,swiss and dijon sandwiches
  • pipe into the side some softened fresh herb cream cheese

Gingerbread Pancakes

December 9, 2015

This is our second holiday season in San Diego and while the weather is vacation worthy year round, I still miss the beautiful snowfalls of the Midwest. Lately I’ve been trying to make these December evenings as cozy as possible. As soon as the sun sets, or as my two year old likes to say, “look mama the night time is coming!”, I turn on some holiday music (my favorite is The Carpenters Christmas album), light the pinon scented incense and candles, and plug in the twinkle lights. I must say it’s working. By the time Saturday rolls around, we are so happy it’s the weekend. Hans is a loyal fan of Swedish pancakes (as any Swedish boy from Minnesota should be), but I couldn’t resist bringing a bit of gingerbread fluffyness to our weekend.

This recipe is from a little book called Cinnamon Mornings that I picked up one summer at the Printers Row Bookfair in Chicago. The book is a collection of breakfast & brunch recipes from B&B’s and Inns from around the country. This recipe is courtesy of the Hersey House in Ashland, Oregon. It also must be said, that Hans and I met just a mountain drive away from Ashland, Oregon, so for many reasons, this is now a breakfast keeper in our house.

Ingredients

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
5 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 c. molasses
2 c. milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 T. butter, melted

Method

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and spices.
  2. Combine molasses, milk and eggs in a bowl.
  3. Stir in melted butter to the egg mixture.
  4. Add molasses mixture to dry ingredients.
  5. Stir only until everything is combined.
  6. Cook on a hot griddle, using 1/4 c. batter for each pancake.

Component in Action

  • whipped cream
  • greek yogurt
  • pecans, walnut, almonds
  • real maple syrup
  • raisins
  • warm maple syrup with orange zest and/or vanilla bean
  • apple butter
  • spiced apples
  • granola