Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grapefruit-Ginger Tea Bread

Grapefruit-Ginger Tea BreadThe other day Hubs came home with a bag of grapefruits, given to him from the neighbor of a customer. He was warned that they would be... tart. Fortunately I had bookmarked this recipe a while back. For some mysterious reason, I always seem to have crystallized ginger on hand (it seems to keep forever) so there was nothing stopping me but the butter... we were out. Guess what? This beautiful cake/bread doesn't call for any butter at all! How great is that? It's my new favorite recipe, that's how great that is!

Grapefruit-Ginger Tea Bread from
My Notes: The gifted grapefruits hid the smallest fruits inside the thickest peel. I ended up using the zest from three of them and the fruit from all five. I really liked the flavor of this cake/bread, but it's not for everybody. The grapefruit zest gave it a very "astringent" quality. Don't know of any better word for it. If I make it again with grapefruit, I'll add more ginger to it. In the meantime, this would be simply smashing with orange or maybe even Meyer lemon subbing for the grapefruit. Overall, this was easily made and quickly eaten. The texture was perfectly moist. This will definitely go into my "regular rotation".

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Corn Muffins x 2

Dorie's Corny & Savory Corn Muffins
Sometimes things just fall into place so nicely. A couple of weeks ago I signed up to bring cornbread to a potluck. I thought I'd make it in muffin tins as it would be easier and neater to serve and eat that way. Then last week I received a Valentine's gift of the Dorie Greenspan cookbook I've been wanting. Guess what was in the first chapter? Not just one, but two different corn muffin recipes! Of course, I made both. Some things are just meant to be. Corny but true.

Corniest Corn Muffins
from page 4 of Baking: From My Home To Yours, Dorie Greenspan, 2006
(also found at the Serious Eats blog)

Notes: FORGOT TO PUT THE ROSEMARY IN! GRRR. It was even sitting out on the counter (sigh). It was "optional", but I really wanted to opt for it. Used only the one cup of canned corn called for, so I could put extra in the other muffins and not have to open another can. Ha. I didn't feel like peeling the shaker lid off of the nutmeg, so instead of a pinch, I just put in a shake. Baked for 15 min, then 3, then 2 (20 min. total). They were turning golden on the top but were on the light side when taken out of the pan to cool. Lovely aroma. They tasted sweet, but not too sweet. Really quite nice, I'm very happy with them.

Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins
from page 6 of Baking: From My Home To Yours, Dorie Greenspan, 2006
(also found with another good review at Ezra Pound Cake)

Notes: Opted out of the jalepeños. Used the rest of the (15.25 oz.) can of corn (1/4 cup + 3 Tblsp). The batter looks fantastic with flecks of bright red, yellow and green in it. Smells good too. Baked for 20 min, then 2 more (22 min. total). Didn't bake up as big as the other muffins, and came out a bit darker too. I love the flavor of these. Perfect for chili, gumbo and the like. Very pleased with both recipes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I've Got Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

Lavender Lemon Mini Tarts
Lavender Lemon Mini Tarts – because it's cold outside, and I'm dreaming of the month of May.* Looking at the lemons and egg yolks sitting next to each other on my counter as I got ready to make these tarts, brought to mind those great lyrics and thoughts of sunny days ahead. After our little false-Spring came to a cloudy end yesterday, I've realized how sick of Winter I am. But then I think about all the things I love about Winter and I start to miss it before it's even gone. Twisted, I know. It's like that with every change of season for me. So relieved to finally welcome the next one, but wistfully sad for the loss of the last. A good reminder to appreciate the things we have while we have them.

Lavender Lemon Mini Tarts
These are a combination of two different recipes. With a dozen+ egg yolks in my fridge and some of the first lemons off our little tree, making lemon curd seemed the thing to do. I liked the idea of a butterless lemon curd, since I'm running low on butter and the word "butterless" sounds healthy (or at least less fattening). The spiced tart crust recipe that I found, appealed to me as much for the flavor possibilities as for the promise of less shrinkage from the addition of vodka.

Butterless Lemon Curd (from the Lemon Angel Food Cake recipe), page 510, The Martha Stewart Cookbook, 1995

My Notes: Butterless but not effortless. Unless you consider 40+ minutes of whisking over a steamy stove-top, effortless. It's times like this that I wish I was more ambidextrous than I am. But what better opportunity for practicing, right? This lemon curd is a lovely shade of creamy pale yellow and it took 8 of my egg yolks left over from the other day. The Meyer lemons from our tree are pretty small, so it took two of them to come up with enough zest, but two were not enough to make the 3/4 cup of lemon juice required. I augmented it with some lemon juice I had frozen some months ago and then made up the difference with a little bit of bottled lemon juice. After the lemon curd cooled, I pressed plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerated it until the tart shells were ready. The flavor is lemony lovely. The texture is very light, almost fluffy or foamy, as if there were egg whites in it instead of egg yolks. I can see why it would go nicely inside an angel food cake. Maybe it's not the best choice texturally for tarts but I was curious and am glad I made it.

Lavender Tart Shells adapted from Spiced Lemon Tarts at

1-1/3 cups flour
2 Tblsp sugar
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dried lavender
1 stick of cold butter
1 large egg
2 Tblsp vodka, ice cold (we keep it in the freezer)

Put all dry ingredients into bowl of food processor and pulse a few times until lavender flowers are ground up. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the butter and egg and pulse until combined. Dribble the vodka into the mixture a little at a time as you continue to pulse. Once the dough begins to form into a ball, take it out of the food processor and pat it together on a lightly floured board. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out the dough to approximately 1/8" thickness. Cut out 12 circles from the dough using a cookie cutter or an empty can (I used the 3.5" ring from a large Mason jar canning lid). The circles need to be large enough to fit into the bottom of a muffin cup and go up the sides 1/2" or more. Press the dough circles down into the 12 muffin cups. Prick the bottoms all over with a fork and place pan in the freezer. Turn oven on to 350°.

Bake tart shells for about 20 minutes, or until they begin to turn a nice golden brown. Place pan on rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove tart shells from muffin tin and finish cooling on the rack. Store in airtight container if not using right away. To serve, fill with lemon curd and top with fresh berries and/or whipped cream.

Notes: There was enough dough left over to make 12 super-mini tart shells (and 6 "cookies"). I used an old tomato paste can with both ends removed (2.25" diameter) as a cutter and pressed the dough circles into a mini muffin pan using my dough "tamper". It was the first time I'd used it and it worked perfectly.** These little bite-sized tarts turned out so itsy-bitsy cute. If I had my Teddy Bear here, we could have a splendid tea party.

*Paraphrased lyrics are from the song "My Girl" written by Smokey Robinson. Simple, pure, and timeless: "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May." In other words, carry it with you in your heart, and you'll never be without it.
**Plus you can use it as a muddler for making mojitos in the Summer!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

I'm working my way up to real bona fide honest-to-goodness made-with-love cinnamon rolls. Like the ones Nana used to make (What? I can dream can't I?).

Baby Step #1: Make Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins from Joy The Baker
Based on Quick and Easy Cinnamon Bun Bread at Baking Bites
(All the flavor of a cinnamon roll without the hassle!)

The part about making muffins that I never liked is filling up the muffin tins*. This statement in particular: "Divide batter evenly...". No matter what I do, it never comes out even. There are always one or two that look "less than" rather than equal. Then there's the borrowing from the fuller cups to even out the lesser cups, and pretty soon it's all a big mess. I need to let go. I know this and that's why I've decided to make muffins more often. It's good practice for letting go (and we get to eat them after). Case in point, these Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins. I filled up the muffin cups with batter and there were a couple little runty ones. Oh well.**

The recipe gives the option to press the topping into the batter or swirl it in. Decisiveness being something else I'm working on, I decided to do both. I pressed half of the muffins and swirled the other six in order to see which way will work best. I'm letting go and making decisions. Such progress.

Next lesson: Listening to that little inner-voice. Like the one that told me it might be a good idea to put a cookie sheet underneath the muffin tin in case of spillage. Nope. I ignored it. I was in a "trusting in the world and all it encompasses" kind of a mood. Ha. Our pizza stone (which lives on the bottom rack of our oven) took the brunt of the cinnamon-sugar molten ooze-a-thon that followed. Not sure why it happened. It cleaned up easily enough though, and the muffins still tasted really good. Fiddle-de-dee. I'm letting go and accepting, listening to the intuitive little voices, and having another muffin... It's best to do this while they're still warm by the way.

*Cleaning out the muffin tin afterward is a strong second on this list.
**See how good I'm getting already.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mayo & Mustard

I remember going over to my friend's house after school one day and there was her big sister, making mayonnaise. So detached was I from "real" food that I didn't really know what mayonnaise was made of, or (even more amazing) that you could make it yourself at home. Once we finally work our way through the big ol' jar of mayo in our fridge*, I am going to start making our mayonnaise from scratch.
In the meantime, I want to make some "fancy" mustard. Hubs and I both really love all of the Sierra Nevada mustards, and a nice honey-mustard is sure good on sandwiches. One of our favorite things is to shmear a strong flavorful mustard on the inside of a grilled-cheese sandwich before cooking it. Mmm.

So, in the continuing interest of "make do and bloody well make it yourself", we're going to try to recreate some fabulous mustards at home.
*Waste not want not.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Grand Chocolate Chip Cookies

A long time ago in a far away land, I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies for an "end of semester" party that were so good, my teacher exclaimed in front of the whole class, "If I'd had these before I turned the grades in, I would have given you an A!". I had mixed feelings about her statement (and frankly still do), but that's a dialog for another day. These, by the way, are not those cookies. They are inspired by those cookies.

Tonight when I asked Hubs if we should make our "regular" cookies or try a new recipe, he enthusiastically said, "Try something new!"  As I randomly pulled out a cookbook, he asked if adding dried cranberries would be a good idea. Cranberries and chocolate? Definitely, yes, affirmative, and uh, ya-sure-youbetcha! My thoughts drifted to other flavors that would compliment, and I remembered that we happened to have a lone orange looking for something to do.

It was while I was zesting that orange into the cookie dough, that I flashed back onto those grade-changing cookies from my past. Grand Marnier... that's what was in them. And everybody knows that Grand Marnier and chocolate were absolutely designed for each other by divine decree. It's expensive stuff, to be sure, but you only need a tablespoon and we just happened to have some.*

These are really good cookies in their own right, but with the changes we made, the flavor was spectacular. Truly a chocolate chip cookie worthy of special occasions. When I get more organized, I will dig out that other recipe and give it another go. Until then, this one is top of it's class.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

page 321, The Silver Palate Cookbook (25th Anniv. ed.), 2007
Do you still not have this book? Seriously, go get it!
Until then, here is the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and another review of it at Over the Hill and On a Roll

Notes: To the Silver Palate recipe I added... 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 cup chopped pecans, zest from one orange, and 1 Tbsp Grand Marnier. Made approximately 6 dozen using my little cookie scoop. I baked one batch right off (12 minutes @ 350°) and they spread a great deal, making large but quite thin cookies. Not a bad thing, but I suspect it was to do with either the temperature of the butter or the temperature in the kitchen (making the dough too warm). Scooped the rest onto a sheet pan, froze them, then bagged up for later.

*I need to seriously think about moving the booze into the kitchen. I just love to cook with it, especially around the holidays.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Curds And Tarts

I've finally got a couple of Meyer lemons from our little tree and a ton of egg yolks left over from the angel food cake the other day. Oh, what to do? What to do?....
  • Alton Brown's Lemon Curd recipe on looks good but I don't have enough lemons this time.
  • These little Lemon Tarts from SugarLaws via look great and have a no-shrink vodka crust.
  • I've made Martha Stewart's beautiful Caramelized Lemon Tart* once before when faced with a glut of egg yolks. Luscious, rich and lemony (and a brulée top)!
  • Also from Martha, a Butterless Lemon Curd**. Meant as a filling for her Lemon Angel Food Cake, I bet it would make for a great little tart too!
*page 492, The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, 2000; and Martha Stewart Living magazine, April/May 1992 issue.
**page 510, The Martha Stewart Cookbook, 1995

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Angel Food Fix

lemon angel food cake
Here it is more than a month after my "oops!" with the Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake and I hadn't done anything with the erroneous flour-sugar combo other than pack it up and stuff it in the pantry. Didn't want to waste it, but it sure would have been helpful to have noted how much flour and sugar was actually in there. All I remember is that I had measured some of the sugar in with the sifted flour before realizing that it was the wrong kind of sugar.

...and it's been staring at me from the pantry shelf ever since.

The first thing to do was to go back to the beginning (a very good place to start).* I got out the Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake recipe thinking that if nothing else, I could just try the same recipe using regular sugar or a combination. On the following page was a Lemon Angel Food Cake filled with lemon curd. That would be a sweet way to deal with all those extra yolks!

Alas, I used my only two lemons on the rum cake disaster last weekend. However, I noticed that the only difference between the lemon and brown sugar cake recipes (other than the type of sugar) was the addition of lemon zest. So you could say, I made the Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake with white sugar. Or did I make the Lemon Angel Food Cake without the lemon? All of the amounts were identical. For instance, the eggs. Fourteen of them. Leaving me once again with... 14 egg yolks looking for a purpose. Stay tuned.

Adapted from Lemon Angel Food Cake, page 510, The Martha Stewart Cookbook, 1995

Notes: I measured out the flour/sugar combo into another bowl and subtracted the known quantity of the flour. From that I was able to determine how much sugar was in there and add to it. Since I didn't have anything to make a sauce with for this one, I was worried that the cake would be too plain by itself. It was too late to sub cocoa powder for some of the flour (darn), but I looked up a basic angel food recipe** and added 1 tsp of vanilla and 1/2 tsp of almond extract according to that recipe. Baked it for 50 min. Could have gone maybe 5 more. Not sure I'm in love with the almond flavor, but overall it's lovely cake, and I would happily serve it to people I like.

*Everything I need to know about life... I learned from The Princess Bride (and The Sound Of Music).
**Angel Food Cake, page 725, How To Cook Everything, Mark Bittman, 1998

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Super (Bowl) Citrus Cake

Super Citrus: Orange Bundt Cake

Orange Cake, page 359, The Silver Palate Cookbook, 2007 (25th anniversary edition)
Don't have this cookbook? (you really should), here's the recipe along with another review of this excellent cake at the blog Matarást-Love of Food

Went totally by the book and everything went like clockwork. Except for the glaze. I forgot to set the timer on the stove and got distracted by a design project I'm playing around with. Oops. I made caramel. I didn't need caramel, I needed glaze. So, I took the rest of the juice from the oranges and just whisked in powdered sugar until it reached a glaze-y consistency. 

The cake was moist and flavorful without being too sweet, and the simple glaze was perfect with it. I needed a crowd-sized dessert though, and while I thought my Bundt pan was the right size for the recipe, the cake was at least an inch shy of the top of the pan. Survey says... diminutive yet delicious. A keeper for sure, but will only serve about 8 fans. Of course, I could just make two of them and solve it that way...

See also: Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake, page 206-207, Barefoot Contessa: Parties!, Ina Garten, 2001

Friday, February 5, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweet Little Sour-Bombs

As if from some alternate reality, the skin of the kumquat is the sweet part and the fruit inside is sour. Really sour. If you've eaten one, you will either love it or hate it. They may look like cute little shrinky-dink oranges, but they pack one heck of a sour-patch punch.

During the course of your life you just might find yourself living near someone with a kumquat tree, or working with someone who has a kumquat tree at home - you'll know it if you do. These people will love you to pieces if you take a bunch of them off their hands; they will thank you profusely and may even want to hug you.

In my experience, the people who have kumquat trees in their yards are generally not the ones who actually planted the tree. The trees are there in the yard when they move in and it's such a great place and "Oh look! It even has a fruit tree of some kind! Won't that be nice? I wonder what it is?". These people are soon desperate to unload the enormous bounty of sour little fruits on anyone who will take them. And then they yank the tree out.

For the life of me, I cannot remember where I found this recipe,* but it sounded kind of good, and I'm curious to try it out. All I need now is a fruit-laden neighbor and a party to serve these at...

Cream Cheese and Ginger-Stuffed Kumquats
  1. Slice one pound of kumquats in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh.
  2. Trim flesh to remove any tough or woody parts and remove the seeds.
  3. Combine the flesh, 4 ounces of cream cheese and 4-6 slices of crystallized ginger in a food processor until well blended.
  4. Using a pastry bag and medium tip, fill kumquat shells with the cream cheese mixture and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Read more about kumquats here.
*As soon as I find the source, I'll add a link to it.