Thursday, 30 October 2008

Cook The Books - La Cucina and a little pasta.

Long to read something besides recipes and how-to's but your heart is still in the kitchen? Join the new Cook the Books Club, a wonderful endeavour created by my friend Deb from Kahakai Kitchen and two other very lovely ladies, Rachel from the Crispy Cook and Jo from Food Junkie, Not Junk Food. "We are foodie friends Rachel, Debbie and Jo and will be taking turns in hosting a new blogging event under the name of COOK THE BOOKS. We discovered that we love reading and cooking very very much so combining the two was ideal."
This month we are reading Lily Prior's La Cucina, "a saucy tale chock full of sex, recipes and murder". Well what could be better than that?

Participants are encouraged to cook something inspired by the book.

To kick things off I decided to make a pasta from scratch. Now, I have made pasta from scratch before, and let me tell you, it is worlds away from dried. Like homemade bread next to Wonder bread. Usually I throw the ingredients into the stand mixer and mix it up in there. This time I wanted to try it the old fashioned way. Pile up the flour, make a well, add the eggs and slowly whisk them - adding in the flour bit by bit. I found a recipe from Mario Batali that called for 3 1/2 cups of flour and 5 eggs. Nothing more. When the dough is brought together, it is kneaded for 10 minutes by hand which is no easy feat. It may seem like a long time for such a stiff dough but by 7 minutes or so you can start to feel the difference under your hands. The dough becomes like the softest leather. I felt like Ann Burrell. This is the finest homemade pasta I have made so far. I did want to take a picture of the well and the eggs but the eggs were trying to escape - note - 5 eggs need a pretty big well. I advise having a dough scraper near by to capture escaping eggs.

I used my KitchenAid rollers to roll the dough fine and cut it on the larger setting. Then hung it to dry a bit on my handy-dandy pasta rack (that hubby built me a couple of months ago) while I made the sauce. Why does hubby build me so many great things for the kitchen? He gets paid in food. Pretty good food, at that.

I have a secret when it comes to making a sauce that I want to add pasta to. I use a giant wok. It is the only thing big enough to toss the pasta into.

For the sauce I just laid out the ingredients that I wanted to include - 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp hot pepper flakes, 2 sliced onions, 6 cloves minced garlic, 2 tbsp capers - divided, 1 1/2 cups small tomatoes - halved or quartered, 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms, 2 tbsp tomato paste, salt, pepper, 2 tsp Italian seasoning (just oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and a little sage) 2 tbsp anchovy paste (trust me) 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, 1/2 cup white wine, 125 grams spicy pecorino cheese. The glass of red wine in the picture is for the cook.

So, start up the pasta pot and begin the sauce.

By eye and by taste - heat up some olive oil and the thinly sliced onions. Add hot pepper flakes. Cook until the onion is soft and starting to brown. Add mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes. Saute for a couple of minutes and add anchovy paste, tomato paste, capers, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, chicken stock, and white wine. Let cook together, adjusting seasoning to taste.

When pasta has cooked in boiling, salted water until al dente, drain and add to sauce, adding a ladle full of pasta water as well. Combine with sauce, let cook together another minute and 1/2 the cheese. Serve with more cheese and sprinkle with additional capers. (Extra capers if you are serving this to Debbie)

This dinner is a labour of love. Homemade pasta isn't something that I would make every week but it is a treat and a delight for the senses. I recommend giving it a try. I also recommend giving the book club a try. Cheers.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The Daring Bakers Bake Pizzas Like A Real Pizzaiolo

In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl here's what they say
When the moon hits you eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore.....

This month the Daring Bakers tackled “Pizza Napoletana” from Peter Reinhart's “The Bread Baker's Apprentice”. The very lovely Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums is our hostess with the mostest this month. Pizza? She asked, with a glint in her eye. Oh yes, we shall make pizza. All around the world you can hear the wet fumblings of innocent dough being tossed at alarming angles.
How did I do? Pretty good actually. I am a big fan of Peter Reinhart and, as a mother to teenagers, have been turning out more than my fair share of pizzas for some time. I was glad to try his version and intrigued as to how the two day process would effect the dough.
How was my tossing of said dough? About as good as my juggling. Which is not so much juggling as moving the ball from hand to hand. Trying to balance a camera at the same time did not improve my technique but hey, I tried.
I made 3 so far. I just topped them lightly so that I could taste the crust. Tomato, cilantro and a little chorizo on one, chorizo, cilantro, jalapeno and feta on another. These two I drizzled with olive oil and finished with a little finely grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. The third I did with Thai peanut sauce, thinly sliced carrot and green onion. I wanted a vegan one to send to school with my daughter. (Who doesn't like cilantro)

They turned out so light and crispy and airy - they really did taste like something special. Very different from the ones I crank out on Friday nights.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter)

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.

The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pan to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

When you walk down in a dream but you know you're not
Dreaming signore
Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli
That's amore, (amore)
That's amore

Check out how thousands of other Daring Bakers fared with their pizzas - all over the world.

Beignets de Langoustines, Sauce Tartare

Langoustine Fritters with Tartar Sauce.
Or, in my case, shrimp fritters with tartar sauce.

This week in Whisk Wednesdays we are back to langoustines. Since I have only seen them on Iron Chef, I subbed the humble shrimp.

For such a fancy title, my dish looked and tasted remarkably like pub fare. Really good pub fare. Like the kind you order with imported beer.

So pour yourself a cold one and open Le Cordon Bleu at Home to page 162.

First prepare a tartar sauce using homemade mayonnaise, click here for instructions.

The shrimp are marinated for an hour in salt, pepper, lemon, parsley and olive oil. A batter is prepared - flour, potato flour (rice flour, in my case), baking powder, salt olive oil and water. The batter sits for 45 minutes and then is mixed with whipped egg whites. The shrimp are patted dry, dipped in batter and deep fried until golden. Leave the oven door open and the heat up to 350. A lined pan will keep the shrimp nice and hot until the rest are done.
The batter is light and airy, almost like tempura. These were very tasty, and filling.

I served mine on a bed of greens with a little dressing, a few croutons and some Parmesan cheese and roasted mini potatoes on the side. Don't forget the beer - the good stuff, this is fancy pub fare remember?

The leftovers made for an awesome Po'boy sandwich for hubby's lunch the next day. How bad can that be?

Whisk Wednesdays is an at-home culinary learning community following Le Cordon Bleu at Home and organized by Whisk: a food blog. Check out Whisk for instructions on the dish, the blogroll and to find out how you can play along.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

Tuesday is the sweetest day.

This week in Tuesdays with Dorie, Clara of I Heart Food4Thought has chosen Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes on pages 215-217 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Please visit Clara's site for the recipe.

Well, you can't go too wrong with chocolate cupcakes for the kids. These were timely with Halloween just around the corner and my baby girl decorated them while I got dinner going. The pups soon dispatched any fallen sprinkles, which we did try to keep to a minimum.

I found that these were good but nothing extra special, they taste like most chocolate cupcakes. I did like the chocolate glaze on top. I don't care too much for buttercream so this was a nice alternative.

Want to see how the other TWDers fared? Click here.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Making Whoopie. Pies, that is.

Another bride, another groom
The countryside is all in bloom;
The flow'rs 'n trees is,
The birds and bees is
Making whoopee.

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - Martha Stewart
Makes about 20.

The choir sings, "Here comes the bride"
Another victim is at her side
He's lost his reason
'Cause it's the season
For making whoopee.

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
* 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Down through the countless ages,
You'll find it ev'rywhere:
Somebody makes good wages,
Somebody wants her share.
It's so he'll fall for
Making whoopee.

* 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
* Pinch of cinnamon
* Pinch of nutmeg

Another year, or maybe less
What's this I hear?
Or can't you guess?
She feels neglected,
And he's suspected
Of making whoopee.

1. Prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Place butter, shortening, and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in half the flour mixture, then the milk and vanilla. Mix in remaining flour mixture.
3. Drop about 2 teaspoons dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies spring back when lightly touched, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cool 10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets and transfer to wire racks using a spatula; let cool completely.
4. Prepare filling: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together cream cheese, butter and confectioners' sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg; whip until smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
5. Pipe or spoon about 2 teaspoons filling on the flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, keeping the flat sides down.

She sits alone 'most ev'ry night
He doesn't come home, or even write
He says he's busy
But she says, "Is he
Making whoopee?"

Martha Stewart's Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies are the cookie of the month for Cookie Carnival.
I have to admit, I was a little afraid of doing another filled cookie as my last ones didn't turn out well. But these are light and cakey and delicious. The are even better after they have had a few hours to relax at room temperature and let the flavours meld. The pumpkin is subtle but the whoopie pie is a winner.

He doesn't make much money
Only five thousand dollars per;
Some judge who thinks he's funny
Says, "You pay six to her."
He says, "Now judge, suppose I fail?"
The judge says, "Bud, right into jail.
You'd better keep her
You'll find it cheaper
Than making whoopee."

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Souper Sunday - Potato Soup with Roasted Squash and Garlic Croutons

It's Souper Sunday! Baby it's cold outside, or, it will be soon. To honour the fall and coming winter months, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen has encouraged all and sundry to celebrate the season with soups, stews and other soul warming dishes. Here is my contribution, made especially for my little girl - who leans towards the vegan side of life.

Potato Soup with Roasted Squash and Garlic Croutons
1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash
olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
5-6 yellow fleshed potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
4 cups good vegetable broth
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel and cube squash in rough 3/4 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil, spread out on parchment lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast 1/2 hour or until nicely caramelized and cooked through. Put aside.

For soup - In heavy bottom pot, heat up 2 tbsp olive oil. Add onions and cook until starting to brown. Add celery, parsnip and potatoes. Add vegetable stock and white wine. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 1/2 hour. Season to taste.

Remove from heat, puree with an immersion blender, stir in squash cubes and garnish with garlic croutons. Serve hot.

Garlic Croutons - a rustic accompaniment, use whatever leftover bread you have.
Cube stale bread, saute in large pan with olive oil and, when half way crispy, add grated garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to brown and remove from heat. Don't burn garlic.
Want to join Souper Sundays? No problem, just make a soup or something in that genre and let Deb know at Kahakai Kitchen. From the other side of the world and celebrating spring? Great, glad to have you!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Cambodia

This week in My Kitchen, My World we have travelled to Cambodia. I figured that I was fairly fortunate as one of the foodie writers that I admire, Tam from Under the Tamarind Trees, is from there and I had many recipes bookmarked from his site. The bad new was that his site is offline for a couple of weeks and I now had no idea what to make!
Even in my innumerable cookbook collection, I could find lots of recipes for Vietnamese and Thai but not for Cambodia. Fortunately I found a couple of recipes on the Internet and decided to make a curried shrimp noodle soup that I found here.

This soup is my favourite kind of soup, hot and noodley and so thick that it barely qualifies as soup!

The changes I made to the dish - I saved the cucumber and added it as a crunchy garnish on top. I reduced the amount of shrimp and bean sprouts and added carrot, mushroom, hot pepper and green onions.

I am actually eating it right now, as I made it this morning!

Num Pachok Kari Pakon (Shrimp curry noodle soup. ) By MyLinh

Ingredients :
8 Cups water
1 Package rice vermicelli noodles
¼ lb Bean sprout, washed and drained
1 Cucumber, peeled and julienne
A handful mint, chopped
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Yellow onion, chopped
1 Large canned coconut milk
2 Cups water
2 Tablespoons curry powder
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
½ Teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
¼ Teaspoon black pepper
1 to 2 lbs Fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 Cup water
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Procedures : Put 8 cups water in a large pot, cook till water bubbling, add noodle and cook till noodle tender.
Pour cooked noodle in a colander, rinsed with cold water, drained and set a side. In a large bowl, mix bean sprouts with cucumber and mint leaves together, set a side.
Heat up a soup pot. When soup pot is hot, add oil, saute' garlic and onion, stirs, add coconut milk and 2 cups of water, stirs well.
Seasoning with curry powder, fish sauce, salt, sugar and black pepper, stirs, add shrimp and cook till shrimp turns pink color.
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with 1 cup water, mix well, pour cornstarch mixture in to soup pot, stirs well, simmering till sauce thicken.
Serve hot with noodles, bread or rice.
To serve with noodles: Put some mix vegetables in a bowl, add some cooked noodle on top, pour curry shrimp over and serve immediately.

Friday, 24 October 2008

A Taste of Heaven

I don't think that many people would disagree that a single serving of dessert, lovingly crafted, is a joy to receive. Tailor that dessert to the receiver's own tastes and you have made a very special gesture indeed.
For this month's Iron Cupcake - Battle Cheese, I have made little mousse-like espresso cheese cupcakes for my sweetie. He is blessedly not all that difficult to please, but I wanted to make that extra effort to cater to his tastes. One of his favourite tastes? Espresso. Every morning, he mans the espresso machine and at 4:45 am we are having double espressos with our granola and yogurt to start the day. Typecast, he has developed a little collection of shakers, spoons, stove top espresso makers, cups of all sizes and a nifty little sign. The only thing missing from his life? Decadent little clouds of espresso mousse cheesecakes, individually crafted especially for him. Honey, these are for you, I love you.

Espresso Cheese (Cup)cakes - adapted from Little Cafe Cakes by Julie Le Clerc.

24 silicone cupcake liners
200g chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
100g butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp powdered gelatin
1/2 cup boiling water
300g cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
200g dark chocolate
1 cup hot strong espresso coffee
1 1/4 cups cream, whipped

1. Mix cookie crumbs with sugar, cinnamon and butter. Press into bottoms of 24 silicone cupcake liners.
2. Sprinkle gelatin over measured boiling water in a small bowl or cup and leave to swell.
3. Beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Melt chocolate in hot coffee, stir until smooth and beat into cream cheese mixture.
4. Heat bowl of prepared gelatin in a water bath, or microwave oven for 40 seconds to dissolve. Mix well into filling.
5. Allow mixture to cool before folding in whipped cream. Pour over prepared bases in silicone cupcake liners and refrigerate overnight to set.
6. Freeze for at least 3 hours and remove liners to serve. They will soften fairly quickly and are beautifully cool and mousse like.
7. Decorate with whipped cream and an espresso bean.
8. Share with someone that you love.

Iron Cupcake is proud to have some fantastic sponsors and great prizes!

ETSY artist ART ON THE MENU with her awesome little cardboard cupcake, and a pair of cupcake earrings from Lots of Sprinkles . As an added bonus for October only we have a sassy and sweet T from Bakelove Bakewear. Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, JESSIE STEELE APRONS ; the CUPCAKE COURIER ; TASTE OF HOME books. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Vegetable Pot Pie

This week in Barefoot Blogging, the lovely and talented Deb of Kahakai Kitchen has chosen Vegetable Pot Pies which can be found on page 255 of Barefoot Contessa Parties!

This is a most timely dish as our last vestiges of summer have slipped away and left us with chilly winds and wet snow! What's a girl to do? Curl up with a bowl of vegetable pot pie, that's what.

I followed the directions exactly, only substituting brandy for the Pernod and peas for the asparagus (which is not in season in Ontario). I used some old french onion soup bowls that a friend passed on to me because she thought they were ugly! I love the old style bowls and made the pastry rough and rustic to match them. These pot pies need no bread or sides, save perhaps a simple green salad, as they are quite filling and satisfying on their own. The built in lid keeps the stew inside hot for frozen commuters as they walk in the door. Nothing says love like homemade pot pies in the oven.
The only caveat - I would make the pastry first and put it in the fridge while you make the rest of the dish.

Vegetable Pot Pies
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.
For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Are they delicious? But of course! They are from Ina. The lady never lets me down. Make sure you have her new book on order - it will be out very soon! Check out the Barefoot Bloggers blogroll to see how the others fared.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Bread Baking Babes Challenge - Challah

If ever there was a feminine bread, it would have to be challah. Formed into soft, doughy bumps and curves it resembles the Venus of Willendorf, icon of feminine bounty.

This is a bread to slow down and enjoy the process. Of sweetness and richness, softy braided like your daughter's hair.

Shed yourself of your shoes and socks. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Put on your favourite Joni Mitchell album and tune in to the cosmic feminine. If your children object to your singing, gently remind them that it is still easier to listen to their mother sing than to pay rent.

It is time to make challah.

Sara of I Like to Cook has chosen challah as the bread to craft this month. I had made it before years ago and was very much looking forward to making it again, especially as my baking skills have improved since then. This recipe did not disappoint. Total time involved is about 3 hours, so the results are fairly quick - and miraculous. It is hard to believe that something so beautiful could come from flour, water, eggs and butter. The recipe does call for powdered saffron, which I didn't have, so I used one teaspoon of cardamom. The scent is heavenly and the flavour matches the pillowy texture of the bread perfectly.

from The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook
Makes two loaves

5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups flour, unsifted
3 TB sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 package dry active yeast
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
pinch powdered saffron
1 cup warm water (120-130'F)
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp cold water
1/2 tsp poppy seeds

Combine 1 1/4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in the softened butter. Stir the saffron into the warm water until it dissolves. Add a little at a time to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer and medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally. Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Blend the single egg white and the other 3 whole eggs into the batter. Reserve the single egg yolk. Stir 1/2 cup of flour into the batter and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Blend in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it once to grease the top. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until double in bulk (approximately one hour).

Flour a pastry board lightly and set the dough on it. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 2 pieces, using 1/3 of the dough for one piece, and 2/3 of the dough for the other. Divide the large piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 12 inch ropes. Braid the ropes together tightly, using your fingers to press the dough together at the ends. Divide the smaller piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 10 inch ropes and braid tightly. Place the smaller braid on top of the larger one and seal the ends. Repeat this process to form the second loaf.Place both braided loaves on a greased baking sheet. Mix the reserved single egg yolk with the 1 tsp of cold water and brush the top of the loaves with the mixture. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, and let the loaves rise until double in bulk in a warm draft free place (approximately one hour). Bake in a 400' over for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on wire racks.

Want to be a Buddy to the Bread Baking Babes? Visit Sara's site and bake this loaf, contacting her before October 31st. Timely submissions will be rewarded with a badge of achievement - what could be better than that?

Sole Belle Meuniere, or, I Love Butter

Pan Fried Sole with Nut-Brown Butter and Mushrooms.
This week in Whisk Wednesdays we have fish once again. This is a good thing as the hubby loves fish. The pan frying part was simple enough - I actually used cod fillets as they were on sale. Just season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper, dredge in flour and fry in a mix of olive oil and butter until golden and crispy. But I am getting ahead of myself.

This recipe started with 15 tablespoons of butter. (!) So you know it's going to be good, right?

A little is used to fry the fish, a little is used to fry up some nice, sliced mushrooms on the side - but the bulk of said butter? A little gift from god that I like to call Brown Butter Sauce. I had actually never had it before, let alone made it. But, since my triumph over caramel last month, I am feeling a little more fearless at the stove. Said butter is cooked at a medium/high heat until the foam dies down and it starts to turn colour and smell like candy. Immediately it gets removed from the stove and, in this case, lemon juice is added. A little salt and pepper and it gets applied to dinner - the fish, mushrooms, green beans, cute little colourful potatoes, my fingers... seriously, I had no idea what I was missing.

A couple of nights later I made the brown butter with lime and tossed egg noodles in it... I am addicted. Not sure if there is a twelve-step program for that......

Whisk Wednesdays is an at-home culinary learning community following Le Cordon Bleu at Home and organized by Whisk: a food blog. Check out Whisk for instructions on the dish, the blogroll and to find out how you can play along.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Nutty Pumpkin Muffins

Tuesday is the sweetest day.

This week in Tuesdays with Dorie, Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp has chosen Pumpkin Muffins on page 13 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours. Please see Kelly's site for the recipe.

I made these muffins on Sunday and we have been enjoying them for breakfast ever since. They are nutty and sweet and taste like fall. The only caveat - I, like many others, had to pull mine out of the oven at least five minutes before the recommended length of time. This is entirely forgivable. The muffins are fantastic, they are especially good with apricot preserves and a cup of green tea. Great for my commuters too!

Check out the TWD blogroll to see how the others fared.