Saturday, May 28, 2011

Scarborough Fair Part One--Rosemary Scones

Before I get into today's entry, I thought I'd give you a quick preview of what's coming up in future entries. If you recognize the song title above, you'll have correctly inferred there will by thyme (potato salad), parsely (linguine with clams) and sage (I have no flipping idea) coming up in the next several weeks. We'll also have a treat in which I will play photojournalist and take pics of my sweetie as he creates a creme brulee or two.

Today's dessert intrigued me and it's all my friend Mike's fault. Mike lives in Athens, Georgia, which is towards the northeast part of the state. It is home to UGA and some of the most fabulous food I've had. We went to a restaurant called the Farm, who grow as much as they serve as possible and source the rest locally. I remember an omelette with lemon-infused tomatoes that still makes my mouth water, and for dessert, we had an olive oil-rosemary pound cake. It was my first foray into combining a normally savory spice into something sweet and I was hooked.

Like most Americans, we'll be at a cookout on Memorial Day--does anyone do parades and read "In Flander's Field" anymore? We were asked to bring a salad, and then also dessert. The salad will be, I hope, a replica of one I had in a restaurant/club a couple weeks ago. Avocados and black pepper are involved, but I'll save the rest for the upcoming posts. After driving myself nuts about dessert, Ken said he'd make the creme brulee, but I kept browsing for desserts that didn't involve an ice cream maker.

Today's recipe comes from Giada De Laurentis of the Food Network. I like this recipe and the layout because it was accurate with the timing, and had some good hints about what the mix should look like before adding liquid. I also appreciated that it did not insist on a food processor--anyone with a fork can cut butter into dry ingredients, it just takes a little longer. Anyway, copyright is Food Network, if they're paying attention. Here's our ingredient list:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small pieces (I was really tempted to switch out a tablespoon or two for olive oil. Maybe next time)
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups confectioner's sugar

I really love my half-moon chopper for cutting up herbs. I also saved myself a little time by cutting off a lot of the rosemary with scissors. My fingers still smelled like the fragrant herb, but I can deal with that.

For the scones: Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with asilpat or parchment paper. Set aside. (I used aluminum foil lightly greased with olive oil. I don't know where my parchment paper is)
In the bowl of a food processorpulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, rosemary, salt, and butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (I used the cook's note below) Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Gradually stir in the cream until the mixture forms a dough.
 On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 1/2-inch thick, 10-inch circle.
I ran into a small problem here. I don't own a rolling pin. I don't do an awful lot of baking, so it's never come up as a need. Instead, I used an iced-tea glass that came from Tea Forte (delicious stuff, but I digress, and they're not paying me to endorse)

 Using a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out heart-shaped pieces of dough and put on the prepared baking sheet. (I used a round juice glass, though at the end, I rather liked the lumpy hand-shaped one. I may go with that the next time) Gently kneadtogether any leftover pieces of dough and roll out to 1/2-inch thick. Cut the dough into more heart shapes and add to the baking sheet. Using an index finger or a small, round measuring spoon, gently make an indentation in the center of each pastry heart. Spoon a heaped 1/2 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Transfer the cooked scones onto a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes.

For the glaze: In a medium bowl, mix together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add the water until the mixture is thin enough to spread. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the scones. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes. Serve or store in an airtight plastic container for 2 days.
I had a bit of a problem with the glaze. I don't know if I made it too thin or if 30 minutes wasn't enough time, but it just ran right off the scones, leaving only a taste behind. Didn't take away from the deliciousness, though.
Cook's Note: The dough can also be made by hand by stirring together the flour, sugar, baking powder,rosemary, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Gradually stir in the cream until the mixture forms a dough.

Overall, I was really pleased with the results. They're not too sweet, the lemon in the glaze is a nice finishing touch and I find them good for breakfast or dessert. The finished product:  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stir Crazy IV--Mac & cheese for adults

I haven't made mac & cheese since we left Austin's over a year ago and I've had a craving. After making the beer cheese soup with gruyere, I wanted to try gruyere with mac & cheese. Today was a rousing success, though because it was so rich, it is certainly not for everyday consumption.

Same basic recipe as I've used in the past:

3 T butter
3 T all-purpose flour
2 cups cream (because the cream we bought for the coffee jelly topping was about to expire)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups shredded gruyere
1 cup shredded edam 
1 pound pasta
2 T dark beer (I used Smithwick's)
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

I love edam, it's delightfully buttery and I thought it would add both some creaminess and some richness to counteract the sharp taste of the gruyere.

photo by KMKulig

I also added one head of roasted garlic (I happened to have this handy because I was going to make a garlic aioli last week, but that didn't happen, so why not here?)

If you use this recipe, don't attempt to bring this particular cheese mixture to a boil. It will clump. Instead, do a lot of stirring on lower heat, I was just shy of medium low through most of it. I strongly recommend a tool like the silicone whisk above. 

I used orichiette pasta, also known as "little ears". They're a little more open than small shells, which can hold water if you don't shake the whatsis out of them after draining.

I served today's meal with andouille, and for dessert, my sweetie and I shared a very tart granny smith apple:

Questions? Comments? Death threats? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coffee Jelly!

photo by K. Hashimoto

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This week was next week last week. . .

and I should have said, "next entry" instead of "next week" in my last post. At the time, I wasn't thinking about my trip to Nashville, which was last Sunday.

For those who don't know, I telecommute. My main office is in Nashville and I visit 3-4 times a year. It was a good trip overall, though I missed my regular hotel (long story) and didn't have any time to be social with local friends.

So, today I made sure I had all the ingredients to put today's recipe together.

brief pause for some boggling

Yes, folks, you read it correctly. As I type this, I have coffee jelly hopefully gelling in my fridge. I first had this with my sweetie and a dear friend at a Japanese restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York. It was as delicious as the concept was astonishing.

You may have noticed I don't make a lot of desserts. This is generally because they require more exact measurements than I tend to use. I wasn't exact with this either, so let's see how it goes:

My ingredients (makes 4 half cup servings):

4 oz espresso (purchased from the nearby cafe. We don't own a coffee maker)
12 oz water
1 heaping T of sugar (according to the local authenticity monitor, the sweet in this dessert should be incorporated into the whipped cream topping)
1 envelope Knox gelatin, which works out to about a Tablespoon

coffee filter

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 T of water
Add the coffee, gelatin and water to a small saucepan. Stir on low until gelatin and sugar is dissolved. Strain through coffee filter (You can use your coffee maker for this). Pour into serving dishes. Chill. Write blog entry. Check fridge every 20 minutes until sweetie tells you to calm down and go watch the Criminal Minds marathon on A&E.

I'm leaving the making of the topping to my sweetie. Later this evening, or possibly tomorrow, we will have the results.