Sunday, January 29, 2012

slow poke

I have been trying to meditate.  Emphasis on trying.  I am not a quiet person.  I have a very loud mind.

This is what I thought of today, while I was trying to think about nothing....

There are two types of people. The type of person who honks the moment the light turns green, and the type of person who thinks hey, sometimes you just need a second.  The majority of the time I am the second type of person. In fact, I am the kind of person who appreciates the second type of person for not honking at me.  I am usually thinking about something else.  Really, what it comes down to is that sometimes, mostly always, I need a second.  Or two, or three. So dear driver ahead of me, or behind me, lets all just take a big deep breath and think about these....

Salted Caramels. 
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark honey
1 tablespoon maple extract 
4 oz butter, cubed at room temp 
1 cup heavy cream 
Sea Salt 

You need a candy termometer for this one.  And wax paper. Lots of it.
Combine sugar, honey, and maple extract and a large pot over medium heat until caramalized. While the sugar mixture cooks, heat cream.  When sugar mixture reaches the color of your liking, whisk in butter. Add the warm cream and continue to cook until the caramel reaches 260 degrees. Pour onto a baking sheet covered in wax paper. Let cool about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with healthy, I really mean it, dose of sea salt.  Let cool completely and cut into squares.

If you don't want your candies to go from this:

Into a sticky mess of gooey caramel, after cutting the cooled candy sheet into squares wrap them in wax paper. It takes time, gets a little boring, but its well worth it. Plus these little candies are decadent and the recipe makes plenty, plenty,  for sharing.

Next week my sister is getting married.  I'll be in Vermont. Making piles of these. Literally, heaps of salted caramels. I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

here's the thing

I have this skillet. It's emerald green and made of clay. In many ways, or as far as ceramic skillets go, it's perfect.  The thing is, since acquiring said dish months ago, I still haven't used it.

It seemed only fitting then yesterday, when deciding what to bake for a friend who prefers tart to chocolate, I would search for the perfect thing to bake in my beautiful green pan.

I was going to make lemon bars, but then somewhere in the fruit section of whole foods I stumbled across a bag of gems.

Meyer Lemons.  And with more enthusiasm than any one shopper should express in the produce section I had the best idea....

Candied Meyer Lemons.

For as in love with these as I now am they are dangerously easy to make.  Slice about 5 Meyer lemons thinly and boil them in simple syrup for about 20 minutes.  Strain lemons and lay out to cool before putting in the fridge. They will get chewier and more delicious as they cool.  When straining keep the liquid if you are so inclined.  I plan on using the lemon syrup to make hot toddies.....

As for the cake I made- I'm not even really sure what to call it, but it provides the perfect sweet base for your candied lemons.  Really more of a clafoutis than a cake, this "skillet" cake is moist, sweet, and light.  The key is pressing the lemon zest into the sugar, infusing it if you will with the essence of meyer lemon. Seems silly, I know, but at the end of the day there is nothing silly about this cake.

Meyer Lemon Skillet Cake 
Adapted from this site 
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
zest of 2 Meyer Lemons
juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup melter butter

Preheat oven to 350. Place pan on stove on low and add butter.  While butter is melting, zest and juice lemons. Add sugar and zest into a bowl and press zest into sugar, until well infused into the sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla and whisk  until light and fluffy. You can do this in a mixer, or with a whisk. I prefer whisk, but it takes about 3-5 minutes of beating.  Add in juice and mix again. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula until combined.  Pour in melted butter and stir. Pour batter back into skillet and put in oven. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until the batter starts to pull away from the sides of the skillet.  Top with candied lemons, let cool, and serve.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

it's snowing

Really snowing.  I've missed it more than I even knew.

What I love about the occasional Seattle snow day is that it is one,  infinitely prettier than rain, and two, people freak out about it. People, like me.  But, before I unnecessarily put my snow pants on there was something I had to try....

It started a few days ago really. I have been questing for Seattle's best cinnamon roll (more on that later, the search is getting pretty intense) and I stumbled upon an absolutely gigantic piece of lemon poppy seed cake from Tall Grass.  Don't get me wrong it was good, but disappointingly not all that lemony or poppy seedy. So for about a week now I've shifted gears, sifting through cookbooks, blogs, and websites to find a more perfect lemon poppy seed cake.

And then I found this.

I was skeptical.  Really skeptical actually, but I felt compelled to try.  Only 1/2 cup of flour to 8 egg yolks? Also, I have never baked anything with that much cornstarch.  Doubts aside, I pushed forward with the sneaking suspicion it would all work out.

It did. It really did.

To be fair, like the recipe from Smitten Kitchen says, this cake is really all about the poppy seeds.  A serious snowstorm of poppy seeds- crunchy, nutty, and so many of them the cake is almost black.  And since my only real experience with poppy seeds comes from the occasional bagel, I was surprised at how flavorful they are. Delightfully surprised.   I suppose it could be sweeter and maybe a touch more lemony but for now it was just what I was looking for on this snowy Saturday.

Poppy Seed Lemon Cake 
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen 

2/3 cup sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt (edited to add this)
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted 
1/2 cup poppy seeds 

Preheat oven to 325 and butter and flour a 10 inch bundt or tube pan.  Beat sugar, egg, and yolks together until light and fluffy- approximately 8 minutes. Add in lemon zest and beat again.  Sift in flour, cornstarch, and salt mixture and incorporate with a rubber spatula until combined. Add butter and beat again. Add in poppy seeds and beat until combined.  Pour batter into pan and bake for around 35 minutes or until cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from pan, let cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

let's run away...

There was a time when I dreamed of Paris.  And while I still love Godard, baguettes, and the idea of strolling and eating pastries all day I have a new obsession.  I am thinking of running away.... to Italy.

Mostly, I just want to drink italian espresso, eat biscotti, and read books. Oh wait, it's "winter" in Seattle- I guess I can do that here in the city of coffee shops and rainy days.  Don't get me wrong, the first wet days are kind of comforting. Especially now that I have these....

excellent coffee by the lake full

and one (or two) of these.

In honor of slow mornings, afternoons, or hey- even nights- of cafine, chocolate, and a book or two. I swear, I do have a job... really- I just find plenty of time for the small things.

Like biscotti....

Winter must be settling in and making me crazy because I don't know where this is coming from.  I normally don't like anything too crunchy or anything designed for dunking. In fact as a generally rule, I don't even believe in dunking. But I believe in these...

Chocolate Stout Biscotti 
 Highly Adapted from David Lebovitz 
2 cups flour
3/4 cup dutch cocoa powder (the chocolate makes all the difference, so really no skimping)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1/4 cup stout (I used Dogfish Head chicory stout, but you could do a chocolate stout)

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder and set aside. Beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, maple, and beer together. Slowly add in dry ingredients until you form a soft, sticky dough.  Split dough in half and on a slightly floured surface roll dough into two long logs.  Glaze uncooked dough with one beaten egg and about 2 tablespoons of raw sugar.  You wont use the entire egg, just enough to lightly cover the tops and sides of the uncooked biscotti. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven at 350 for 20 - 25 minutes, or until dough is firm to the touch.

Remove from oven. Let cool for 15 minutes and then cut on a diagonal 1/2 cuts. Lay biscotti out on baking sheet and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until cookies are mostly hard, rotating baking sheet halfway through.  Remove from oven, let cool completely and store in an air tight container.

Ok so beer and chocolate. Let's talk about it, cause it works- I swear.  I stumbled upon this one- No, I wasn't drunk, but it was 11 pm and I was bored. It seemed more normal to make biscotti at night if it had beer in it so there you have it. Chocolate Stout Biscotti.  Appropriate for both breakfast and late night espresso.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

best foot forward

I know today is the day for a photo montage and celebration of the past 12 months, but I'd rather put my best foot forward. Sure, 2011 has been quite the year, but I feel big things happening for 2012.

Resolutions be dammed- I can't think of a better way to prepare for the coming year than with Pancakes.

I love pancakes. I don't know if it's that I love maple syrup so much, but I use just about any excuse to make pancakes. Blueberry in the summer, cornmeal flapjacks when the mood strikes, choc chip to make you feel like a kid again, banana walnut in the winter, the list goes on.....

However, here's a new one for 2012 and they may just be my second favorite pancakes of all time.

My favorite pancake  of course is any kind somebody else makes. It helps when they make coffee too.

Lemon Olive Oil Pancakes 
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg slightly beaten
1 1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
4 tablespoons good olive oil

Combine dry ingredients, set aside.  Combine wet ingredients and stir into dry mix until smooth.

Top with Applesauce and maple syrup.  Lots of maple syrup- and the real stuff too, you know how I feel about Vermont syrup- so please dont make me cry.  You can make your own applesauce too if you like. I do, it's pretty easy especially if you like it kinda chunky.  Just peel and cook sliced Apples, I prefer granny smith, add some apple cider (or bourbon) and spices to your liking.  Let cool and store or spoon it directly on top of your pancakes.

Cheers to a great 2012 everyone...