Sunday, February 27, 2011
My favorite time for afternoon tea is four o'clock. It's the perfect time, when you think about it. Three o'clock is too early, I'm usually still full from lunch. Five o'clock is too late, I certainly don't want to spoil my dinner. But four o'clock? Four o'clock is just perfect.
Unfortunately, more often than not the chaos of life doesn't allow for four o'clock tea. Afternoons are the busiest part of the day around here and when I do have free time, I'm usually trying to get a hike in before the sun sets. Four o'clock tea is a luxury and, well, my life is far from luxurious.
But if I do have time for four o'clock tea, I want these scones to be there. Buttermilk cranberry scones to be exact. With Meyer lemon curd on the side. "Yes, I'd like that with an Earl Gray, please."
These scones are actually very lovely and perfect at many times of day, including breakfast. The buttermilk and the cranberries make them slightly tangy and they are oh-so-moist and flaky, just like any good scone should be. And the Meyer lemon curd? Don't even get me started. It's delicious, it tastes like lemonade. Or lemon meringue pie. Or lemon bars. Mmm... The sweet and tart lemon curd is the perfect accompaniment to these scones. They're a match made in heaven and are sure to make you smile, anytime of day.
Adapted from Gourmet, March 1990
The buttermilk flavor really shines through in these scones. The original recipe calls for sour cherries, but I love the flavor of dried cranberries (and that's what I had in my pantry). I had to add a touch more buttermilk than half a cup -- my dough was far too dry. Also, with regards to the cake flour, I highly recommend you use it because it really makes a difference. There really is no direct substitution for cake flour, but if all-purpose flour is all you have, you can subtract two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and add a tablespoon of cornstarch for each cup of cake flour that the recipe calls for (that is, 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup - 2 tablespoons ap flour + 1 tablespoon cornstarch). But that's just an approximation, obviously cake flour is best.
1/2-3/4 cup of buttermilk plus 1/4 cup for brushing scones
1 large egg
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour (not self rising)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) very cold salted butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Granulated or turbinado sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, the egg, the brown sugar, and the vanilla until the mixture is combined well.
2. In an electric mixture fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together the flour, the baking powder, and the baking soda. Blend in the butter on low speed until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas (you should still be able to see pieces of butter). Stir in the cherries and the buttermilk mixture until the mixture just forms a sticky but manageable dough. Add additional buttermilk if mixture is too dry.
3. Knead the dough gently for 30 seconds on a lightly floured surface, pat it into a 3/4-inch-thick round, and cut it into 8 wedges. On an ungreased baking sheet brush the wedges with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and sprinkle them with the granulated sugar. Bake the scones in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden.
Adapted from David Lebovitz
I love this recipe because compared to other lemon curd recipes I found, it's very low tech. Most called for double boilers and candy thermometers and all sorts of crazy gadgets, but David Lebovitz really strips down the technique and makes it an accessible recipe for everyone, especially those that don't want to wash a thousand dishes after this process. The only change I added was to include the zest of the Meyer lemons. Some of the zest gets strained out in the last step, but all those glorious essential oils cook into the curd.
2-3 Meyer lemons
1/3 cup of sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1. Finely zest lemons until you have two teaspoons of lemon zest. Juice lemons so that you have 1/2 a cup of lemon juice. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks, eggs, sugar, and salt.
3. Set pan over low heat and add the cubed butter. Whisk constantly until the butter is melted and well combined.
4. Increase the heat and cook over medium, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to look like jelly (David Lebovitz explains that you know it's done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape before falling back into the pan from the whisk. I found it took about 10 minutes).
5. Press the curd through the strainer. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until curd is cooled completely. Enjoy spread on scones, biscuits, or toast.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
One of the reasons I love cooking is for the sensory experience. I love the smooth feel of slicing through potatoes, the the soft sizzling sound of diced onions hitting hot melted butter, the way fresh basil looks like ribbons after its been julienned. Other than taste, my favorite sense (as I'm sure is true for most people) in the kitchen is smell. One whiff of a delicious smelling meal is better than an appetizer and is sure to make your mouth water and your stomach grumble. I love the smells of roasted garlic, fresh tarragon, lemon zest, and bacon in the morning while I'm still lying in bed. Smells to me are just as much a part as the taste, texture, and appetizing appearance of a finely prepared meal. It's smell that makes it or breaks it.
As good smelling meals go, this roast chicken is probably the best one I can think of. It's amazing. Come on, it's chicken slathered in butter, stuffed with lemon, rosemary, garlic, and sitting on a bed of potatoes and onions. The chicken skin cooks to a golden crisp but the meat is moist and juicy. The lemons and rosemary, and garlic in the cavity permeate the chicken and the juices that run off. And the potatoes and onions become soft and caramelized while cooking in chicken fat. What could possibly be better? And it makes the whole house smell absolutely fantastic.
The recipe is my mom's creation. Served with a simple green salad and a fresh baguette to sop up all of those glorious chicken juices, this is one of my all time favorite meals. Give it a try and you'll remember why cooking is a true sensory delight.
Favorite Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken
About 3 tablespoons of room-temperature butter
2 lemons, halved
2 heads of garlic, with its top cut off, exposing the cloves beneath the skin
2-3 rosemary sprigs
10-12 new potatoes, halved (enough to serve how ever many people are eating)
2 onions, cut into large slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 French baguette or other fresh bread
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scatter potato haves and onion slices in a large roasting pan.
2. Pat chicken dry. Salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. Stuff lemon haves and garlic heads into the cavity of the chicken (both heads of garlic may not fit -- we like to leave one out roasting with the potatoes and eat the roasted cloves with bread. They don't quite get as roasty and sweet when you cook them inside the cavity). Rub the skin with softened butter. Season the outside of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Place roasting pan in the center of the oven and cook for an hour and a half or until the skin is crispy and the juices run clear. Take chicken out of the pan and place on a serving dish. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, return roasting pan to the oven and cook potatoes, onions, and garlic (remove garlic from cavity and continue cooking it if you want it to get it nice and roasty and soft).
4. Remove roasting pan from the oven after 15 minutes or until onions and potatoes are caramelized. Remove foil from chicken and spoon potatoes, onions, garlic, and chicken juices around the chicken on the serving dish. Serve with fresh bread.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I meant to write an adorable Valentine's Day post. Really, I did. I was going to make sugar cookies. They were going to be cut out with heart shaped cookie cutters and topped with pink sprinkles and everything. But antibiotics have this funny way of making you feel kind of miserable. I spent my Valentine's day trying to stave off my nausea (which has been a near constant symptom of being so drugged up these days) until a romantic Italian dinner in the evening with my special someone. I felt so full and ill after dinner, I couldn't even muster making a quick batch of chocolate covered strawberries. Thankfully, I have a remarkably understanding boyfriend who is perfectly happy to go with the flow (or at least lets on to be).
But the purpose of this blog is certainly not to complain about my medical maladies. I bring it up only because for someone who loves food, not wanting to eat really sucks. I usually spend my afternoons surfing food blogs for that next jaw-dropping, mouth watering, awe inspiring recipe -- but when the only thing I feel like eating is chicken soup and yogurt, my search becomes lackluster to say the least.
Slowly I've been taking on more adventurous foods again as my palate has regained its strength. By last weekend my eating habits were back in full swing. I celebrated by cooking up a delicious batch of wine braised short ribs for my family on Sunday. Served alongside was this seemingly mild-mannered, unassuming cheddar-dill corn bread that quickly became the star of the meal. After the fist bite, it was almost impossible to stop eating. The bread was moist, slightly sweet, and bursting with sharp cheddar cheese flavor and the grassy freshness of dill. The top was browned and cheesy and just heavenly to put it simply.
The short ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus we ate with that dinner became but distant memories as leftover cornbread was devoured the next day. I whipped up this simple and quite tasty tomato soup for lunch today as the perfect accompaniment to a huge slice of cheddar-dill cornbread. My inspiration came from none other than Martha Stewart. When the March edition of Everyday Food arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the tomato soup on the front (does mine look just like the picture or what?). The soup was very easy and almost exactly like tomato soups I've made in the past, but I loved Martha's idea of swirling pesto on top. It gave the soup a basil, cheesy, nutty taste with a bit of richness from the oil and was a great addition to classic tomato soup.
This soup was definitely tasty, but let's be clear about the real star of this meal. I'm really happy about this soup, and I'm gunna finish it, but this cheddar-dill cornbread was the best cornbread of all time. The best cornbread of all TIME! Please try it. It's recipes like these that make you remember why loving food is so great.
Find the cheddar-dill cornbread recipe from Ina Garten here. I found it really made a difference to use good cheddar. Try to find an aged, sharp cheddar cheese. I used Cabot Seriously Sharp aged cheddar cheese and had amazing results.
Find the tomato soup recipe from Martha Stewart here. I couldn't find it online since it's in the brand new edition of Everyday Foods, but I'll type it up tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
When life gives you lemons, you should make this lemon meringue pie.
It's entirely easy and completely delicious and will definitely make your day better. It's fun, beautiful, tasty as can be, and really not so bad for you (you know, as pies go).
So go ahead, here's the recipe. There's really no excuse not to make it.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I don't have anything funny or charming to say about these so I'll just be blunt. These chocolate soufflés are amazing. Stop what you're doing and make them. Make them for someone you love on Valentine's Day. Make them for yourself on Valentine's Day. Make them for someone you love or for yourself tonight. They are delicious and seriously easy and a great way to show off your making-delicious-and-seriously-easy-things-that-look-super-elegant prowess. Because, after all, soufflés are pretty classy. There's an accent in their name and everything.
Individual Chocolate Soufflés
Adapted from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook
The big change I made from the original recipe was in the type of chocolate. The original recipe calls for 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (I imagine semisweet would be fine too) but I had baking chocolate, which is totally unsweetened. After looking up conversions in the cookbook, I replaced the 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate with 1 ounce of baking chocolate plus 1 tablespoon of sugar. If you're using bittersweet or semisweet which I imagine most of you are, double the amount of chocolate and omit the extra sugar.
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of granulated white sugar
1 ounce unsweetened or baking chocolate bar, chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons milk
1 large egg yolk
2 large egg whites
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush two 1 1/2 cup or four 1/2 cup ramekins with melted butter. Sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of sugar.
2. Combine chocolate and 2 tablespoons of milk in a heat proof bowl. Using a double broiler or a microwave, gently heat the chocolate until just melted. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining 2 teaspoons of milk.* Allow to cool slightly. Whisk in egg yolk.
3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Add remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar and continue to beat until stiff. With a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until combined, then fold in remaining egg whites being careful not to deflate. Divide among prepared ramekins. (The soufflés may be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated for up to 2 hours. Bake straight from refrigerator, adding 3 minutes to the baking time.
4. Bake in large ramekins for 20 minutes; bake in small ramekins for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, dust with confectioner's sugar, and serve immediately.
*This step wasn't in the original recipe but I think it's important. Adding the cool milk to the hot chocolate tempers the chocolate, that is, it brings its temperature down faster to prevent it from burning (even if just melted and off the heat, chocolate can still burn and turn grainy from the residual heat in the bowl). Especially if melting in the microwave (which I did because I'm lazy) tempering is really important. You can also temper it by leaving like 1/4 of the chocolate unmelted, and then adding it when the melted chocolate is off the heat, allowing the residual heat to melt the remaining chocolate and lowering the overall temperature.