Archive for February, 2012

Gingerbread Pancakes

Some mornings, we skip breakfast. We all do it, in spite of constant assurances that it’s the most important meal of the day, in spite of the fact that we know that by lunch time time we’ll thoroughly regret it. Sometimes you run out of yogurt, or forget to grab a banana on the way out the door. I won’t judge.

But what about those other mornings? Weekend mornings, or those brilliant days when, for no reason, you wake up half an hour before usual (for some this means actually getting up the first time the alarm goes off)? What if I told you you could make pancakes that taste like gingerbread cookies in fifteen minutes?

If you’re feeling extra fancy, make a batch of royal icing to drizzle over these instead of syrup.  I like the combination of maple syrup and gingerbread, so that’s what I went with.

I did realize after getting out all of my ingredients that there was no leavening anywhere in the apartment. There’s nothing wrong with flat pancakes, but use some baking powder to get yours nice and fluffy.

This recipe is adapted heavily from the CIA Breakfasts and Brunches‘ recipe for buttermilk pancakes.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

3/4 cup flour

3 T granulated sugar

2 T ginger

1 T cinnamon

1/2 t salt

3/4 t baking powder

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

3 T milk

butter or oil for cooking the pancakes

Directions

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon in a bowl.

Stir to combine.

Combine molasses, egg, and milk in a small bowl.

Mix well. If your ingredients are all at room temperature, they will mix more evenly. If the egg and milk are cold, you get molasses blobs like these.

Stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture with a fork. Just give the batter a few good turns, and don’t worry about a few pockets of unincorporated dry ingredients. Over-mixing is bad.

Butter the hot skillet. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet. a 10-inch skillet should comfortably hold 3-4 pancakes at a time. One at a time is easier to manage when one’s dominant hand is full of camera.

When the holes formed by popping bubbles on the surface of the pancake don’t close, it’s time to flip them over.

Cook the pancakes on the second side for 3-4 minutes.

There’s something delightfully rustic about both molasses and maple syrup.

Serve piping hot with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or malt powder, a pat of butter, and maple syrup. Alternately, make it more dessert-like with a drizzle of royal icing and a puff of whipped cream. Either way, make these pancakes while there’s still a chill in the air. They’re worth getting up early for.

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Croissants

Homemade croissants can be a daunting task. One has to make laminated dough, after all, and that is no small feat in itself. I’ve mentioned before, though, that it’s worth it, and I stand by that. On the other hand, when is the last time you had one of these– –piping hot from the oven, exterior crisp and shattering, full of layer after layer of steaming, buttery, flaky pastry? If your answer is “I live in Paris; there are three cafés withing two blocks of my apartment,” then fine, you don’t need to do this. Everyone else? Get out your rolling pin and start cowing some butter into submission. It’s the only way. I actually made these when we still lived at the old apartment, which two months after move-out is still making me tear my hair out over the security deposit (grumble, grumble). I forgot to mention them until I made a second batch yesterday. Clearly, this could not be allowed to stand. The world must know that making croissants something you can do! The technique here comes from James Peterson’s Baking, and it’s pretty much spot on. You’ll need prepared laminated dough for the purpose, and an egg wash. That’s it.  Directions  The night before you want croissants, get out your laminated dough and roll it into a rectangle about 7 inches by 21. The dough should be just a bit more than 1/16 of an inch thick. Cut the dough into about 6 long triangles like so. Cut a little notch in the base of each triangle. Fold back the dough from the notch like you’d fold down lapels on a coat. Roll the triangles into croissant shapes, pulling on the end as you approach it to give the croissant more layers. Pull the ends of the croissants towards each other to form a crescent shape and arrange the croissants on a parchment lined baking sheet in a formation suitable for Space Invaders. Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will rise slowly and after 8-10 hours you’ll be able to pull it out and bake them for breakfast. If you don’t want to wait overnight, let them rise for 1-3 hours at room temperature instead. After the croissants have risen, brush them with an egg was made from 1 egg, 2 teaspoons of milk, and a pinch of salt. Bake the croissants at 375°F for 30-35 minutes. These can be served as is, of course; a fresh homemade croissant is rich and moist enough to be enjoyed without any kind of topping. On the other hand, I have always eaten croissants with jam, and black raspberry jam is my particular favorite. The best part is pulling off the horn of one end of a croissant, which leaves a great big hollow space behind it. Stuff that with jam, wait a minute for the steaming hot croissant to warm it up, and prepare to be amazed. These are also good, if a bit overly decadent, with a smear of double cream and of course a bit of espresso to perk up your morning. This is definitely something worth getting out of bed early for.

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Kale and Acorn Squash Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are a compromise of a dish. They’re cheesy and delicious like lasagna, but more filling-oriented and neater to eat, like an overenthusiastic tortellini. (Just pretend the simile makes sense, okay? Thanks.) As far as compromise goes, they’re often the best of both worlds. After all, you could never fit this much squash into one bite of lasagna, and tortellini is finicky to make at home.

These shells are a great weeknight dinner, especially when you’re dealing with a chilly February in Texas. At least the metroplex isn’t iced under and terrified this year–those of us who live in the South have no idea how to handle even small doses of below freezing weather, nor should we have to. It’s the American South. It has a contract with its residents that temperatures will never drop below 50° F, and we’ll all speak in accents the rest of the world can mock. There are rules.

At any rate, even though my pumpkin supply has been tragically cut off for the year, acorn squash is still abundant and we’re a long way still from the summer days when I poke sadly at zucchini and wonder why it still gets to be called squash when it lacks all the good squash qualities. Acorn squash is sweeter than pumpkin, and a bit stringier, but still brilliantly orange and velvety. Combined with tangy goat cheese and bitter, crunchy kale, it makes a perfect filling for the shells.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

18 jumbo shells, cooked

1/2 of an acorn squash

2 T butter

1 bunch kale

4 oz goat cheese

2-3 T marscapone

1/2 lb mozzarella, grated (divided use)

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and get out your squash. These things can be a little intimidating to cut into, as they are quite hard, but if you just give it a really good whack with a nice heavy knife, you’ll be all right. Just use a sturdy cutting board and pretend you’re chopping wood.

Chop it in half and scoop out the tasty, tasty seeds.

Peel it and chop into half-inch dice. Spread the squash in a baking pan and dot with the 2 T of butter and a sprinkling of salt.

Roast at 400° F for 20-30 minutes, until the flesh is translucent and the edges just begin to caramelize. You could alternately cook the squash in a cast iron pan on the stove over high heat for 10-15 minutes, for a lot more browning. I will almost certainly do that next time, as it is both quicker and more flavorful.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Set the squash aside and prepare the kale. Cut the central ribs out of the leaves and lay the leaves on top of each other in a stack.

Roll that stack up tightly and slice it into thin ribbons (this is called chiffonade, for those of you who are interested).

Toss the squash, kale, goat cheese, marscapone, and half of the mozzarella in a bowl and mix well.

Arrange the cooked shells in a buttered baking dish and stuff each one with as much filling as it will hold. Or a little more. I won’t judge.

Top the stuffed shells with the remaining 1/4 pound of mozzarella and a thorough sprinkling of Parmesan.

Wrap the dish snugly in tin foil and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake another five minutes or so, just to get some nice browning on top.

Serve with steamed broccoli and ciabatta.

This is just as tasty the next day, although the crunchy Parmesan lace is somewhat diminished by microwaving. It’s gooey and salty and just a touch sweet all at once, which makes it the perfect cure for just about any craving you may be having right about now.

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Meyer Lemon Tiramisu

Meyer lemons only seem to appear here for a scant few weeks every year. When they do, I buy more than I can use and cook up a storm in hopes that the lemony goodness will last me until next winter. It never does, but that’s all right because there are sweet, delicious Meyer lemons right now.

As much as I love a traditional tiramisu, coffee and chocolate seem to make the dish a bit too rich for my taste. Replacing them with lemon removes any heaviness from the dish, replacing it with a tart freshness that acts as a perfect foil to the slight sweetness of the ladyfingers. A sprinkling of  lemon zest and shaved white chocolate provide a perfect finish.

Probably the best thing about tiramisu is how easy it is to make, and how mind-bogglingly impressed people are when you make one. I buy ladyfingers pre-made, because although they’re not difficult to make, getting the sides perfectly straight isn’t a trick I’ve mastered yet, and I have no complaints about the flavor of store bought cookies. I do use raw egg, which bothers some people, but if your eggs are fresh and clean the risk of Salmonella infection is minimal. If you prefer, you can use pasteurized eggs to remove the possibility entirely.

Other than an egg and some ladyfingers, all you need is marscapone,  a touch of sugar, the juice and zest of a Meyer (or regular, if you prefer) lemon, and a splash of vodka or limoncello.

Ingredients (makes a square three-layer tiramisu, serves two)

9 ladyfingers

8 oz Marscapone cheese

1 egg

2 T sugar

juice of one Meyer lemon, divided use

2 T vodka or limoncello

zest of one Meyer lemon

white chocolate shavings, to garnish

Directions

Measure out 2 T of lemon juice.

Combine the marscapone, egg yolk, sugar, and 2 T lemon juice, and 1 T of vodka in a mixing bowl.

Mix until uniform in color and texture.

Whip the egg white to stiff peaks. Scoop the egg white over the marscapone mixture.

Fold it in gently to incorporate.

Set the bowl aside and combine the rest of the lemon juice and the remaining 1 T of vodka in a shallow dish. Dip three ladyfingers in the mixture for about 2 seconds each side, being careful not to oversaturate. You’ll know it’s oversaturated if it crumbles in your hands. Arrange the three cookies on a serving plate.

Spread about 1/3 of the marscapone mixture over the three ladyfingers. Dip the next three, add them perpendicular to the first stack (this add structural stability, like in Jenga), then another 1/3 of the marscapone mixture, and finish with the rest of the ladyfingers and marscapone.

Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Before serving, grate the zest of a Meyer lemon over the top of the tiramisu, and grate a bit of white chocolate over that.

The flavor is bright but not overwhelming. The lemon is present, but takes a backseat the the creaminess of marscapone and the delightful contrast of texture provided by the ladyfingers. If you want something simple and elegant for Valentines day, add a couple of raspberries for the obligatory pink color and you’re set for dessert. In any case, make this soon. It’s amazing.

 

 

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