Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cream Puffs

mmmmm Cream puffs. Basically a crisp hollow round of tender choux pastry, split in half and filled with a filling. "Choux" in French means cabbage and the pastries, before cutting, do look a bit like a cabbage so perhaps that's where the name came from. A lot of recipes call for a thick, sugary cream filling, usually made with boxed pudding. Not these. The pastry has the barest hint of vanilla sugar, and the filling is very light and not overly sweet, also with a decided undertone of vanilla. For these are filled with cream that's been seeped with a dismantled vanilla bean and then whipped until light and soft and creamy with an extra dab of vanilla sugar. Jello pudding's for kids.
I'm a HOTR Cream Puff

Preheat oven to 400F (205 C)
1/2 cup (70 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar (I used Penzeys)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten

In a bowl, mix the vanilla sugar, flour and salt and set aside. Bring water and butter to a boil on the stove over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat source and add the flour mixture all at once, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon. Return pan to the heat source and stir vigorously for about two minutes, until the dough forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the side of the pan. Remove from the heat source and stir vigorously another minute to release the steam from the dough.

Let cool to lukewarm and then add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon after each egg, until it is incorporated into the dough and is quite smooth (this takes a while, be patient).

In a small dish, beat a small egg with a good pinch of salt (is your arm tired yet?) to make a glaze for the puff if you wish.

Using an ice cream scoop or other small measure, spoon cream puff mixture onto a buttered baking sheet(use real butter, not cooking spray). It should make about 12 small puffs (and yes you can do large ones but you will have to adjust your second stage cook time and let them dry in the oven after the heat is off for 15 minutes.

Gently brush dough with just a small bit of the egg glaze (optional).

Bake at 400 (205 C.) degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 F (177 C.). The initial high temperature will set the structure of the puff by allowing it to rise quickly. Bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes (40 if you're making larger ones) or until the shells are a nice golden color. Take out a test puff and cut in half before turning the heat off. The inside should be dry. If it's wet, the puff will deflate when it cools. If they're done turn the oven off and, with the oven door ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 8-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla bean whipped cream:

2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
3 Tablespoons plus two teaspoons white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Penzey's Vanilla sugar

Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer. You can do this by placing in the refrigerator or in a room with your ex wife. Both would probably work.

Pour the cream in a medium sized bowl. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into cream. Add remains of bean to cream and whisk to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Strain cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the chilled bowl of your electric mixer, then beat with the chilled whisk attachment at medium speed for 1 minute.

With the mixer running, slowly sprinkle in sugar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. May be refrigerated for an hour or two before filling puffs (I used a pastry bag but a spoon will work).

Cream puffs will keep for two days in fridge or can be frozen for up to three weeks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spicy Italian Frittata

If you have eggs and a cast iron skillet, you can make a frittata (pronounced "fri-taaa-taa") and it's a lot easier, for me anyway, than an omelet. This one is spicy, great paired with a salad and bread for a meal or just a hearty breakfast with friends.

If you like Italian food, especially pizza, you will like this Frittata.

  • 12 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded Italian style cheese blend
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 and 1/2  teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh gound pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic,roasted and  finely chopped
  • 3-4 small red potatoes, cut into big chunks
  • 1/4 cup oil packed chopped sun dried tomatoes - drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini salad peppers, drained
  • about 3/4 of a 3.5 ounce package pepperoni, chopped
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried.
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (if you want it milder, just a pinch will work)
Heat oven to 300 degrees, have a rack in place so that you can broil the frittata briefly when cooked.

Whisk eggs, cream, 1 cup of the cheese Italian style cheese, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning in a bowl and set aside. Heat oil in a large, cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion and garlic and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes.

Add potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges become tender, about 4 minutes. Add drained Pepperoncini salad peppers and drained dried tomatoes and cook another 5 -6 minutes, until softened.  Add pepperoni, chopped basil and cayenne pepper, stirring to incorporate and making sure veggie mixture is distributed evenly across bottom of pan, stirring frequently so potatoes and garlic don't burn.

Lower the heat in the pan just slightly (a bit less than medium high) so that the eggs don't cook TOO quickly when they are added. (This is especially important if you have an old gas stove. You may even want to take the pan totally off the heat for a couple of minutes.) Pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture, tilting the pan to make sure the mixture covers the veggies evenly and reduce heat to medium. Cook until eggs are set around the outer inch of the pan, about 10 minutes Sprinkle remaining 1 cup Italian cheese evenly over the frittata and bake at 300F for 20 minutes, until the middle is fairly solid (To tell if it's close to done, cut a small slit in the center, if egg runs into it, give it another minute or two.)  Sprinkle with Parmesan and  place under the broiler until the cheese is browning up and the frittata is puffy, about 2 minutes.  Serve with toasted Rustic Italian bread.

Stay warm! - Brigid

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Scandahoovian Double Berry Streusal Bars

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons, cut into ½-inch pieces and softened to cool room temperature (keep the two tablespoons separate)
¼ cup packed brown sugar  light or dark

a drop of good quality vanilla extract
½ cup rolled oats  old-fashioned, not the quick cooking packets
½ cup almonds, chopped fine

1/16 teaspoon of Cardamon (or nutmeg if you just can't find Cardamon)
1  1/4 cup lingonberry or marionberry preserves
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cup fresh raspberries (about 4 ounces)
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut two pieces of foil  to fit down into the pan, draping over the sides to make a sling (in order to lift out the bars later) in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Spray lined pan with cooking spray.

Cookie Base:  Mix flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until combined. With machine still on low, add the two sticks of butter, one tablespoon at a time, plus a drop of vanilla, until the mixture looks like damp sand.

Set aside 1 1/4 cups of the mixture in a medium bowl. Pour the remaining dough into the baking pan and with clean, dry hands, press gently and evenly to form a crust.  Bake in preheated oven until the edges are brown (about 18 minutes).

Filling and Streusal Topping:  Add the brown sugar, oats,spice and nuts to the flour mixture set aside in medium bowl and stir to combine. Add in the separate 2 tablespoons of butter until fully incorporated into the mixture. Work with your hands to create clumps about the size of tiny peas (or small ball bearing for you non-Scandahoovian types).

Place the preserves, raspberries and lemon juice in a small bowl. Mash together with a fork, making sure some berry pieces remain intact.

When the crust is done baking,  remove from the oven and spread the berry filling over it and then sprinkle the streusel on top of that. Put pan immediately  back in the oven and bake for another 22 to 25 minutes, or until top is gold and bubbly. Cool in pan to room temperature, then lift bars out with the foil sling and cut in squares.

Yields 24 bars  - they'll keep in an airtight container for 3 days but they rarely last that long with a family around

Pop Tarts for Grown Ups.

Makes six  pastries.

1 sheet of Puff Pastry thawed in it's wrapper
4 ounces cream cheese (one half of a block).
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 pinches of cinnamon (a bit shy of 1/8 teaspoon)
pinch of Cardamon
3 tablespoons sugar.
2/3 cup whole boysenberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3  cup boysenberry jelly
1 small egg mixed with 2 and a half teaspoons water.

Thaw frozen puff pastry sheet in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Before unwrapping pastr , mix cheese, lemon juice, vanilla, sugar and spices in a bowl with a a hand mixer until fluffy.

In another small bowl mix fruit (if frozen, thaw and drain) and jelly.

Gently unwrap and roll the puff pastry sheet into a 10 inch square on a lightly powdered cutting board.  If there is any reason the dough will sit for a while after (phone call, dog has to go out, etc) cover immediately with Saran Wrap and a slightly damp towel so it doesn't dry out..

Transfer  rectangles to parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  With a fork, prick the center of the rectangle just a few times, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges untouched (the more "holes" you put in it, the more steam will escape and more crisp and less puffy it will be).  Brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg/water mixture.  Drop  a tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture in the center (don't attempt to spread out, just leave as a dollop) Then gently dot the cream cheese with small teaspoons of the fruit mixture, covering the top of the cream cheese, making sure 1/2 inch border remains bare. 

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes until puffy and golden brown. Cool slightly and serve immediately.