Archive for ‘Desserts’

June 6, 2011

All-Occasion Crepes

Last week, seeing as we had the panini grill out (admittedly an odd graduation present but one which has proved extremely useful) S decided to make crepes for dinner.  Then, since there was batter left over, she went ahead and made crepes for dessert.  Then, since there was still some batter left over, I made crepes the following morning for breakfast.  There is certainly nothing like starting the day out with an asparagus and arugula crepe.

The batter recipe is from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.

So, for dinner we had this:

That is, finely chopped portobello mushrooms, cured and green garlic, chives, arugula, ramps, local rosemary-fig goat cheese, and a drizzle of heavy cream.

Then for dessert this:

Raspberry jam, nutella, heavy cream.

Then breakfast (sorry, at 7:45am  I don’t take pictures):

Asparagus, chives, green garlic, arugula, salt and plenty of pepper.

Recipe for Batter:

Whisk together a cup of all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, two eggs, and 1 and 1/4 cups milk, in a blender if you’ve got one (we don’t). If  it’s not pourable, mix in a little more milk.

Let it sit in the fridge for an hour. It can be used for up to 24 hours, if you are the kind of person who would prep a meal a day in advance (if you also iron your socks, seek help!)

When you’re all ready to crepe, put an 8-10 inch non-stick skillet on medium heat, and wait a few minutes before adding a pat of butter. Stir the batter and use a large spoon or ladle to pour a couple of tablespoons of batter onto the skillet. Swirl it around so it forms a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. When the top is dry, after about a minute, then flip it and cook the other side for about 15 to 30 seconds. It should be only very slightly brown and not crispy. Do not freak out if you screw up the first one or several, even pros mess up this fickle chemistry.  Just try again!

Put the filling in the bottom third, and use a spatula/your fingers (it only burns a little, totally worth it) to roll it up. Then slide it off and keep it in a warm oven. Put more butter on the pan, pat yourself on the back, and start the next one. You rock! Now go casually drop your crepe-making skills into conversation and watch your dates pile up.

 

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May 22, 2011

L Makes Peanut Butter Cookies

Our good friend L, who often bakes for us, visited this weekend and made these amazing chocolate chip peanut butter cookies.  We had a jar of extra healthy peanut butter which turned out to be inedibly terrible.  So, instead, we made a lot of cookies.  We have cookies to eat, L went home with cookies, and we have several logs of dough in the freezer for later.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, a website which has been recommended by two different friends and you can find it here.

May 10, 2011

Zucchini Bread & Muffins

This is a recipe we’ve had around for years.  Looking back through my cookbook (a book I made  years ago and which charmingly tracks my developing ability to cook from age 15 onward, complete with recipes such as “eggs stuck to toast” and detailed instructions on how to make and use natural indigo dye, which is, of course, not food at all) I’d say I copied this one down in the summer of 2008 when we were working on a farm in Vermont.  I don’t remember what I based the recipe on, but the slightly idiosyncratic increments make me think it has been fiddled with.

The great thing about zucchini bread is this: it is always delicious and you can freeze grated zucchini in the summer when there are those big baseball bat sized zucchinis and then enjoy fresh zucchini bread of muffins all winter long.  Last summer I froze eight packets of grated zucchini, all in 2 cup increments to make the baking easier.  A brief digression about freezing zucchini: it’s really easy, just grate it up into a strainer, save the extra liquid for stock, and pack it into freezer bags.  press out the extra air and lay the bags in the freezer.  If you smooth them out and lay them flat they will become very easy to stack and move around.  However, I did note that two cups of fresh zucchini seem to come down to about 1 cup frozen.  So, if you’re making this recipe with frozen zucchini, make sure you do get two whole cups.

Now, the recipe:

This makes approximately 2 loaves

3 eggs

2 cups grated zucchini

2 1/8 cup sugar

3/4 cup melted butter.  Note: if using unsalted butter, also add 1 teaspoon salt.

1/4 cup neutral oil

3 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

smattering of nutmeg (optional)

1 cup slightly crushed wallnuts (optional of course)

1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Beat the eggs until foamy, then add the sugar, butter, oil, zucchini, and vanilla
  3. Add baking soda, baking powder, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Again, if using unsalted butter, add a teaspoon of salt here.  Mix well.
  4. Add nuts and chips and again stir until evenly mixed.
  5. Pour the batter into a lightly greased loaf pan or into a lightly greased muffin pan.  Fill to just below the top since they do rise somewhat.
  6. Bake loaves for 40-50 minutes.  Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes, depending on size. 15 on the nose seems to be perfect for mini muffins.
March 22, 2011

Purim Part 2: Hamentashen recipe

And now, my mother’s hamentashen recipe:

1 cup sugar

1 cup shortening

1 orange

1 lemon rind

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/4-3 1/2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

3 eggs

 

Filling:

lemon rind

matzo meal (you can use flour if you like)

ground walnuts

jam of choice ( lekvar/prune butter and apricot are traditional; I did apricot and then nutella for the second batch)

Cookies

  1. Cream the sugar and shortening then add the eggs.
  2. Add the rind and juice of one orange.
  3. Add the lemon rind, then the vanilla.
  4. Combine the flour and the baking powder separately (I like to use a whisk to mix dry ingredients together)
  5. Add the flour and baking powder mix.
  6. Make sure everything is smooth and not too sticky.  You can add flour by the tablespoon until you have a smooth, slightly sticky ball.  Now wrap it in a plastic back or something similar and put it in the fridge overnight.

Filling

  1. Mix all the ingredients together until you have a slightly stiff but very sticky mixture.  I did the following quantities:       1 10 oz jar of apricot jam, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 1/2 tablespoons matzo meal.
  2. Grind the walnuts in a small cuisineart and then add them to the jam.  Mix until evenly combined.
  3. Add matzo meal in small increments and mix thoroughly.
  4. For Nutella: do just under 1 tablespoon matzo meal and do about 3/4 cup of nutella.  Still use 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

Now the fun part, putting it all together:

  1. Take the dough out of the fridge and put it on a very heavily floured surface.  You want to work with cold dough and with tons of flour.  Your first few tries may not work out perfectly and you might need to just mix the dough back into itself until you get the rolling correct.  To avoid the dough becoming too warm I cut off chunks and left the rest in the fridge while I worked.  But I have never seen my mother do this.
  2. Gently roll out the dough, flipping often and re-flouring every few moments, until it is about an eight of an inch thick, maybe a little thicker.
  3. Use the top of  a cup to press through the dough making circles.  Peel away the extra dough between the circles.  
  4. Now, place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle and fold three side inward.  You should have a triangle with the filling tucked inside.  Here is my very basic diagram for shaping hamentashen.
  5. Pinch the edges of the flaps so that they stick together well and make sure the corners and pinched shut so the filling doesn’t run out.
  6. Place all your cookies on a very lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375.  They should be just starting to turn golden-brown.
  7. This recipe makes a ton: give them away freely, mail them to your friends and family!  They are best within the first few hours, but usually stay very good for at least a week.

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March 21, 2011

Purim

In honor of Purim, a Jewish holiday about Queen Esther and the saving of the Jews of Persia, I made hamentashen cookies (they’re supposed to be either the hat or the pocket of the story’s bad guy Hamen).  The recipe is in another post.  I used my mother’s recipe and I will here recount my rough version of the Purim story.  Stick with it, there is a lot of build-up and back story before you get to the real action.

Also, a quick note: traditionally you’re supposed to get dressed up as the characters and then get so drunk you can’t tell Hamen from Mordechai.  It’s a little bit like a Jewish Halloween, with more alcohol.

The Story of Purim (more or less, with all the feminist leanings of my upbringing and education):

A long time ago the King Ahashverosh of Persia had a wife named Vashti.  Now Vashit was a proud and beautiful woman.  In some versions of this story Queen Vashti has leprosy, in others something else judgmental and terrible thing has happened to her to anger the king, but in the feminist version Vashti refused to dance naked for the King and his friends at a feast.  So, Vashti, unwilling to debase herself for the king was either killed or sent away.

Which, or course, leaves us with a single king of Persia.  So Ahashverosh held a beauty contest and chose the sweetest, smartest, and most beautiful of the young women to his new wife.  That young woman was Esther, a Jew.  Esther had lost both her parents and had been raised in the capital city by her uncle Mordechai.  When Esther was chosen to be the queen, Mordechai cautioned her not to let Ahashverosh or anyone else in the palace know that she was Jewish.  And so Esther, keeping her identity a secret, became the queen of Persia.

Now, every week, sometimes more than once a week, Mordechai would go visit Esther, so he was always walking by the palace walls and one day he heard two men plotting to assassinate Ahashverosh.  Mordechai immediately told Esther, who told Ahashverosh, who was able to avoid the plot and kill the conspiring men.  Next Ahashverosh went to his chief adviser, a man named Hamen, to ask how to best honor Mordechai.  It went like this:

“Hamen, how should I honor someone to whom I am grateful and who I love?”

Hamen, being conceited, assumed the person in question was himself and answered, “You should dress him in the king’s robes and mount him on the kings horse, and one of your officials will walk with him and proclaim through the city: ‘behold the man the kings loves!’”

“Why Hamen,” said Ahashverosh, who, it seems, took every idea to heart, “that’s a great idea!  Do you want to know who that man is?”

“Yes!” (me) said Hamen.

“It’s Mordechai; he saved my life.  And since I respect you so much, Hamen, you can lead him through the city on my horse, in my robes, calling out how much I love him.”

Hamen was not pleased.  He developed a massive grudge against Mordechai and, once he found out that Mordechai was a Jew, against all Jews.  So over the years Hamen kept conniving and scheming how to punish Mordechai and the Jews.  And finally he came to it:  Hamen met him in the street and told Mordechai to bow because he was chief adviser to the king.  But Mordechai refused, saying he would bow only to god.  Hamen was pissed, angrier than ever, and ready to put his scheme into action.

Hamen went to Ahashverosh and had a nasty manipulative conversation something like this:

“Hey Ahashverosh, shouldn’t all your subjects love you and bow to you?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, what if I told you there was a group of people who loved someone more than you?”

“That’s terrible!  Who are these people?”

“The Jews!  The Jews love their god more than they love you.”

“And what should I do?”

“Kill them, kill them all!”

“Okay, let’s pick a date.” Again with the not thinking for himself.  Ahashverosh is remarkably un-discerning for a king.

So Ahashverosh and Hamen drew lots (I think that’s literally what Purim means) and picked 13th of Adar to be the date on which all the Jews of Persia would be killed.  He put it into law and Hamen was really happy.

Mordechai, however heard and was heartbroken.  He tore his clothing, wept, and laid in the streets.  Then he went to see Esther and told her about the plan.  Esther, seeing that she had the power to prevent this massacre, knew she had to take action.  She decided, given the limited social roles available to women in her time and position, to use her feminine wiles.  She started by fasting for three days and Mordechai organized all the Jews to fast a well and pray for her.  Then Esther faced the challenge of going before Ahashverosh.  To go to the king unannounced and unasked was punishable by death, but Esther knew she had to nonetheless.

She put on her finest clothes and went to the court of King Ahashverosh.  She walked by the open door once, slowly, hoping the king would see her and invite her in, but he did not.  She walked by a second time, and again he didn’t see her.  So a third time she passed by the door.  A third time he did not see her.  And so Esther took a breath and stepped into the court.

At once guards ran to her, pulling out their spears.  But Ahashverosh finally saw her and called out to let her go.  And so Esther came and sat with the king all afternoon and at the end of the day she asked the King to join her for a banquet in her personal chambers.  The king came and had a great feast with Esther.  And she asked him to come back the next night and to bring his adviser and friend Hamen.  Again, they all had a great time.  And Esther asked them both back for one more banquet.

At the end of the third banquet Ahashverosh said to Esther, “Thank you my dear for these banquets, they have been so wonderful.  Please, how can I reward and thank you?  Be it up to half my kingdom, what can I give you?”

And Esther, finally having her moment proceeded carefully, “What would you say, my king, if I told you someone wanted to kill me?”

“What!” Cried the king.

And

“Who? Kill him!” Cried Hamen.

And Ester stood. “Him,” she said, pointing to Hamen.  “Hamen wants to kill all the Jews and I am a Jew.”

Ahashverosh jumped up as well and called for the guards, who took Hamen away and hung him on the gallows he had prepared for the Jews.   But, Ahashverosh still had a problem because he’d already passed a decree to kill all the Jews on the 13th of Adar.  He brought Mordechai into the court and made him an adviser and the two of them put out a decree that the Jews could defend themselves and their neighbors could defend the Jews.  And so Esther saved the Jews of Persia.

 

March 7, 2011

Snow Mountain and brownies

After shoveling approximately 800 cubic feet of snow out of our driveway, our visiting friend, L, and I came in to enjoy these wonderful brownies L made this morning:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Toss and handful of chocolate chips on top of the batter in the pan.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day Treat

A fully non-local blood orange dipped in melted chocolate.

January 25, 2011

Making Brownies on a Cold Winter’s Night

It is 1ºF out and this week’s first round of snow has just started falling. In the street lamp outside our living room window we can see the snow dusting the street; in the morning it will be ice. The weather isn’t predicted to break for a while. It’s the perfect night for brownies.

Tonight we’re making the brownies I grew up on.  My dad and I used to whip these up in the evenings, a double batch so he could take some to work and the family could eat the rest.  It’s a great recipe because, as my dad says, “you can mix these up and have them in the oven in under ten minutes.”

Maida Heatter’s All American Brownies:

Over the years Maida Heatter’s careful, often obsessive instruction have been lost, but, the gist of it is still here, and it still works beautifully.  I do remember that she recommends pressing aluminum foil over the outside of your pan, then laying it inside the pan to perfectly line it.  You can also just grease the pan without foil.

1/4 lb butter
2 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt

1. Melt butter and chocolate over low heat or a double boiler.  Add vanilla and eggs and sugar.  We don’t have an electric mixer, but if you had one, you’d use it now.

2. Stir in the flour and salt.


3. Preheat the over to 350.
4. Grease your 8×8 inch pan and pour in the batter.
5. Bake 20-25 minutes.  If you’re us, your oven is hyperactive so the trick is to check early and many times.  When you check, stick a fork, knife, or toothpick into the middle and if it comes out just a little gooey, then the brownies are done.  If it comes out dry, you’ve gone too far.