Saturday, December 26, 2009
The very mention of holiday stollen sends German hearts a-fluttering. Yet, something about those neon colored fruit flavored gelatin bits never quite sat right with me. In fact, I usually find the whole idea of stollen pretty unappetizing. So when I read an article in the New York Times about reimagining this treasured German holiday treat, I was intrigued.
If stollen is such a cherished holiday tradition in Germany, it couldn't be what we know today. No, for stollen to have such deep and time honored roots in German heritage, it must be something really special. The author of the article I read found an old recipe from a German pastry chef, altered it just a tad, and presented her readers with a newly imagined stollen that harkens on traditions of old.
After soaking dried fruit in rum, letting the bread rise and sit over and over again, and letting the stollen "ripen" to fully develop its flavors, this stollen took about four days to make. I also made my own candied ginger and candied orange peel, both of which turned out delicious (links to recipes below). Was it worth it? I'd say so. This stollen is certainly a departure from its candied cousin. This stollen was dry like biscotti but rich with rum soaked fruit. The candied ginger and orange peel brightened the flavors and added texture. And the powdered sugar coating made it elegant enough for the holidays and added a gentle sweetness. While it may not become a holiday tradition in our family, this stollen was a lovely addition to our holiday spread and taught us precisely what real German stollen is all about.
I'm not a huge candied ginger fan, but David Lebovitz has a really nice recipe that I used.
Candied Orange Peel and Orangettes
I started with this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis but ended up cutting the peels a bit thinner and cooking them a bit longer in their syrup like Smitten Kitchen. I then rolled half in sugar (for the stollen) and dipped half in melted semisweet chocolate.
Here's the recipe from the article. I followed it almost exactly, however, I found the dough to be a bit dry so I added a splash more melted butter and rum than suggested. Turned out fine. I'm not sure all of that sitting and rising time was worth it, but the result was certainly delicious.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Christmas is no less than two days away and, well, I have yet to get into the Christmas spirit. Despite Christmas carols, Christmas movies, sitting next to our gorgeous tree, driving past homes frosted with Christmas lights during the evening, shopping amidst the hustle and bustle, the smell of eggnog, Christmas dinner menu planning, and an aggressive schedule of holiday baking, I have yet to really feel ready for the holidays. Maybe it was two weeks of finals hell that broke my spirits. Maybe its the fact that I'm flat broke. Maybe it's that my special someone if 500 miles away. Maybe I'm jaded. Whatever the reason, I hope to snap out of it as soon as possible. I'm usually one to love Christmas. This is so unlike me.
I couldn't think of a nicer holiday treat than this white chocolate persimmon bread pudding. Its homy and comforting, with a creamy indulgence from the white chocolate and a burst of sweetness from the persimmons. I love the heartiness of bread pudding and this one packs a powerful punch with its unique flavors. It may not get me into the holiday spirit but it surely made me feel warm, cozy, and at peace.
White Chocolate Persimmon Bread Pudding
Adapted from Martha Stewart
1 large loaf of day old french bread
6 small or 4 large Fuyu persimmons
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sugar
3/4 bag of white chocolate chips
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Butter, for baking dish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the crusts off the bread and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Lay the bread out on a baking sheet and toast for 4-6 minutes.
Peel, seed, and finely chop persimmons. Using the back of a fork, mash persimmons up as much as you can, leaving some larger pieces. Add persimmons, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup sugar to a small saucepan just until sugar is dissolved and persimmons begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In another small saucepan, heat milk. Add white chocolate chips and gently whisk until chips are melted and incorporated. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl whisk 3 eggs. Slowly add the milk mixture to the eggs, stirring constantly, being careful not to cook them. Add persimmon mixture to milk and eggs.
Liberally butter a 9x13 ceramic baking dish. Add bread. Toss bread with cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly pour liquid ingredients over bread until bread is almost covered completely. Wait about 10 minutes for bread to absorb liquid.
Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until filling sets and the top is brown. Let cool about 15 minutes before serving.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I could spend this post talking about how much I love cooking, about how I could see myself pumping out wedding cakes and porfiteroles in ten years, or about how this experience taught me how challenging, difficult, and immensely rewarding baking of this caliber can be. But I'm not going to do any of those things. Instead, I'm just going to shamelessly show you pictures of how incredible our cake turned out, and maybe throw in a word or two about how it all came to be.
I am as proud of this cake as I would be my first born child. It's my baby. I put so much blood, sweat, and tears (not literally, sheesh) into this cake and was thrilled with how it turned out. Granted, by the time we actually served the cake I was so sick of frosting and chocolate and spun sugar that I could scream. Admittedly, I took one or two bites of the cake and I was finished (now I understand how bakers can make such delicious desserts and not be tempted to stick their faces in them). But it I were to really judge it from a objective point of view, not one clouded with the delirious sugar high I had after five days of baking, the cake itself was absolutely wonderful.
Yes, I was serious when I said five days. We baked on Wednesday and froze the cakes (cake in fact freezes great. Freezing both improves the texture and makes it worlds easier to frost) until we assembled on Saturday night and served on Sunday. It was quite the project.
I worked on this masterpiece with my friend and culinary genius Rachel. Every year, our house has "Special Dinner," a night of feasting and drinking only the classiest of things. That night we had rack of lamb, seafood pasta with mussels and clams, ratatouille, bacon wrapped scallops, stuffed portobello mushrooms, and more. It was any burgeoning foodie's dream. Rachel and I had been cooking up a plan to make this cake for weeks, maybe months, prior to the big night. We even planned the theme of the dinner, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, around our confectionary aspirations. When the time came, our heads were reeling from the endless potential this cake held.
All and all, it was much harder than we anticipated but turned out much better than we'd hoped. The recipes we used came from all over. For the cake (we made chocolate and vanilla. Heaven and Hell, get it?) we used Smitten Kitchen's wedding cake recipes, made a simple buttercream (with... 25 sticks of butter. Gah!) and used cake decorating dye (don't remember the brand but do remember that the pink flowers were made from the color "Mauve Aster," the name we eventually gave to our cake), and used this recipe to guide us through the spun sugar process. The roses and leaves we made with simple piping materials and a lot of creativity (Rachel gets credit for the big beautiful roses, mine are smaller, more pathetic, and not pictured here).
I would love to tell you that it was a snap and couldn't have been easier, but this cake was definitely the most difficult thing I've ever dared to whip up in the kitchen. However, it was also by far the most fun and rewarding. The journey was certainly the reward, and I couldn't have been more satisfied with the experience.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
It's that time of year again. A time of finals, term papers, and a shameful amount of procrastination undoubtedly aided by cookie making an blog writing. Perhaps more importantly, the cool winter weather and the promise of holidays are upon us which lend themselves to an inordinate amount of baking and eating, both of which I eagerly take part in.
Every year my mom, sister and I spend a day baking holiday cookies. These ginger cookies are among my favorites. I found them in Sunset magazine a few years ago and have been baking them each December since. The molasses and spices give them a homy, comforting flavor, one that belongs beside a fireplace with a good cup of hot cocoa, but their lemony glaze grants them a certain elegance you won't find in the average ginger snap. They're soft and chewy with a light crunch from their sugary shell.
As finals rapidly approach, I know I'll have less and less time to enjoy holiday the holiday season. But until then, you can find me in the kitchen.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
What with my newly realized passion for cooking, I couldn't help but spend some time thinking about ("spend some time thinking about" being a moderate description of what I had been doing the weeks preceding the holiday, behavior which could probably be more accurately described as "obsess over," "perseverate on," or "fantasize about") Thanksgiving recipes. I was completely enamored at the idea of a perfect feast, traditional by its own right but with the volume turned up (I know, how Ina Garten of me).
As it turned out, my family seemed perfectly happy letting me take the reigns of the meal. The turkey and stuffing were the most difficult to settle on, but the rest of the side dishes seemed to naturally fall into place. I wrote a brief post about the menu but let me flesh it out with the pictures I managed to take and the recipes I used.
Rosemary Roasted Nuts
My family fell in love with these. They were great for appetizers. I served them at Thanksgiving then again at my good friend's wedding shower later that weekend and everyone raved about them. The good news: they couldn't be easier to make. Adapted from one of my favorite blogs, The Kitchen Sink Recipes.
Herb Roasted Turkey and Apple Chestnut Stuffing
We used a recipe for herb roasted turkey from Martha Stewart along with the apple chestnut stuffing she recommends to go with it. Both were delicious. We dry brined the turkey the day before then stuffed whole herbs and butter underneath the skin of the bird. We roasted it for five hours (it was 20 pounds!) and the turkey emerged flavorful and moist with crispy golden skin and juicy tender meat. It was one of the best turkeys I've had.
The stuffing turned out perfect as well. This might have been one of the first years that my family has departed from boxed stuffing mix and I couldn't be happier with the result. The flavors were traditional with sage, apples, and chestnuts and roasted along with the turkey the flavors really shone.
(P.S. Yes, I am wearing shorts on Thanksgiving. It was a glorious 82 degrees in San Diego. Jealous?)
Thinking of this gravy makes my heart flutter, just a tad. It was rich and delicious and the bourbon gave it great depth of flavor. The recipe can be found here, again courtesy of Martha Stewart.
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
The name says it all. These were wonderful.
8 russet potatoes, peeled, rinsed, and quartered
3 heads of garlic
About a cup of half and half
1/2 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
A bit of extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (since the turkey was in, 350 is fine). Cut the garlic heads in half. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinke with salt and pepper, then wrap in foil. Roast garlic until lightly caramelized and tender, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in liberally salted boiling water, cook potatoes until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and return to pot.
Heat cream in a small saucepan. Using an electric mixer, beat potatoes. Add butter, then gradually add cream, beating constantly, until potatoes are light and fluffy. Squeeze garlic cloves from their skins and beat into potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Maple Roasted Acorn Squash
These weren't the biggest hit for my family. I loved them but I could eat roasted squash any day and be in heaven. I very loosely followed this recipe from Caviar and Codfish.
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
These were great. I come from a school of thought where vegetables should still be green and slightly crunchy (even when cooked) not boiled to death. Sauteing Brussels sprouts is a great way to bring out their flavor without compromising their integrity. These got a little over cooked while sitting in a covered serving dish while the turkey was begin carved so I think if I were to make them again with the same time restrictions I would slightly undercook them and then let them steam on their own. Inspired by Everyday Food.
Balsamic Glazed Onions
Surprisingly delicious. I was ambivalent towards these onions but my mom really wanted to give them I try. Pearl onions cooked in butter and white wine then glazed with balsamic? Why not? While certainly not traditional Thanksgiving flavors, these onions turned out to be a great addition to our spread.
Orange Scented Cranberries
Traditional. Delicious. Here's the recipe.
Bourbon Sweet Potato Bundt Cake
This was a big hit. I made it the day before and then glazed it with a vanilla-bourbon syrup right before serving. With a dollop of vanilla whipped cream (or bourbon whipped cream if you're feeling saucy) you can't go wrong. Here's the recipe, again from Martha.