Monday, May 21, 2018

Tahitian Vanilla Pavlova with Strawberry Coulis and Rose-Scented Rhubarb

As we planned the annual book club pick party for my in-person book club, I started thinking about which dessert I would make. When I RSVP'd, our fearless leader emailed me back:
So, what extraordinary thing are you bringing on Monday?  Please make another Pavlova!  My bday is this Friday and I would love to have a piece on Monday!!
How could I ignore a birthday request? I had marked a recipe in The Foreign Cinema Cookbook: Recipes and Stories Under the Stars by Gayle Pirie and John Clark for a pavlova that used spring fruits, so once I checked that she was okay with rhubarb, I knew I'd make this recipe.
 
The recipe in the cookbook ends up making 6 individual-sized pavlovas, but I wanted to make one giant one, not being able to predict how many people would be there, but knowing it would be more than six. So I found a recipe with what looked like a scaled up recipe with the same ratios, just to make sure it would work, with one stabilizing ingredient (I'll link to it; the recipe that I'm including is from the cookbook itself.) I used the fruit methods from the cookbook recipe exactly, except I didn't have time to go find rosewater and left that out. I think this is how cookbooks are used, though, where you start with the recipe and adapt to make it work for your available ingredients and who you are making it for.



Tahitian Vanilla Pavlova with Strawberry Coulis and Rose-Scented Rhubarb
from The Foreign Cinema Cookbook 

Serves 6

Meringue
2 large egg whites
6 tbsp (75 g) sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 Tahitian vanilla bean

Strawberry Coulis
1 pound (455 g) strawberries (about 4 cups)
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of kosher salt

Rhubarb
2 cups (400 g) sugar
1 tsp rosewater
pinch of kosher salt
3 medium stalks rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch (6 mm) dice

Whipped cream, for serving

To make the meringue: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 200 F (90 C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Fill a medium saucepan with enough water to reach about one-third of the way up and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so that the water is just barely simmering.

In a medium heatproof bowl large enough to rest on the edge of the pan of simmering water without touching the water, whisk the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Slit open the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl. Drop in the pod as well.

Set the bowl over the pot and gently whisk the egg white mixture until the sugar completely dissolves and the mixture is hot (a thermometer should read 150 F/ 66 C). The liquid will look clear with a little bit of foam on top.

Remove the bowl from the pan and transfer the egg white mixture to a clean bowl. Discard the vanilla pod. Beat the mixture with a handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed until it doubles in volume and stiff peaks form, 7-8 minutes. You should see no unincorporated liquid in the bottom of the bowl.

Use a 3/4 cup (60-ml) measure to dollop the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet in 6 mounds with 2 inches (5 cm) all around them. Use the back of a spoon to make a well in the center of each.

Bake until the meringues are dry on the outside and soft in the center, about 90 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

To make the coulis: Hull and roughly chop the strawberries and put them in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice, salt, and 1/4 cup (60 ml) water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the strawberries are soft and the liquid is syrupy, about 10 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then transfer the strawberries and syrup to a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth. Strain the berries through a fine-mesh strainer (discard the solids) and let cool completely.

To prepare the rhubarb: Line a plate with paper towels. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, rosewater, salt, and 4 cups (960 ml) water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Add the rhubarb and return to a simmer until it is just barely tender, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer; discard the liquid. Scatter the rhubarb onto the lined plate to cool.

Pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the strawberry coulis into 6 shallow individual serving bowls and set a meringue on top of each. Center a heaping spoonful of rhubarb over each of the meringues, letting it cascade over the sides. Dollop each pavlova with whipped cream and serve immediately.

Make ahead: Although this dessert has several components, all can be made in advance and assembled to order. Refrigerate the strawberry coulis and rhubarb in separate airtight containers up to 1 day ahead. Store the baked meringue in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Notes from JennyBakes: I substituted this classic pavlova recipe, which has a lovely marshmallow texture on the inside if prepared correctly. I made the whipped cream, rhubarb, and coulis the night before, then made the pavlova the morning of book club, allowing it to cool in the oven while I was at work. This worked okay but it did get quite a bit wider and flatter than it started, so I may not have beat the whites long enough! It still tasted good, still soft inside, and heck, it made it easier to share.

This cookbook is brand new, and came out last week on May 15, 2018. Since I wasn't familiar with the restaurant, I started out expecting recipes that matched with movies somehow. But apparently this is a well-loved San Francisco restaurant that has been around since 1999. Woe is me, for I live too far from the west coast. You can read more about the restaurant at its website.

Until I had a reason to make the pavlova, I had my eye on a bunch of recipes that I am likely still to try (including some delicious sounding drink recipes based on homemade ingredients) - Potted Smoked Trout, Tomato Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette, Farro and Grilled Kale, Buttermilk Spoon Bread with Shiitakes/Corn/Scallions, Wild Greens Soft Polenta, Ginger Cake with Cardamom Creme Chantilly, and Champagne Omelet from the brunch section.


This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. 


Monday, May 14, 2018

Rhubarb Tarragon Ice Cream

When I first perused First We Eat, one of the cookbooks sent to me as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party, I was enamored by its northwestern focus, as a former resident of the northwest. I also loved the seasonal sections, and had my eye on some of the rhubarb recipes in particular. When rhubarb proved hard to find, I dug my heels in until I could find some. One (new, I presume) worker at a local organic store told me that rhubarb season is August, but anyone who knows looks for it between April and June. Finally the produce guy at Publix, wearing a light pink shirt, said he had a big box in the back, and stopped what he was doing to package some up just for me, including washing and chopping it. This is not a paid advertisement for Publix, but seriously, does any grocery store even come close to their service level?

I marked several rhubarb recipes, but the one that moved to the forefront is this recipe for rhubarb-tarragon ice cream. I couldn't imagine the flavor combination. It took almost a week longer to make all the parts and to allow time for everything to chill properly, but I did it!


Rhubarb Tarragon Ice Cream
from First We Eat

1/2 cup (120 ml) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup (13 g) coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
3 large rhubarb stalks (about 1 pound/455 g), cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 star anise
2 egg yolks
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream

In a very small saucepan, stir together the condensed milk and tarragon. Heat over low heat until hot but not boiling, stirring every minute. Remove from the heat and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain the infused condensed milk into a bowl, discarding the tarragon.

In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, star anise, and 1/2 cup (120 ml) water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes, until the rhubarb has become pulpy and partially disintegrated, 20-025 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain the syrup through a mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. You can double the syrup recipe, and serve half alongside of the ice cream for garnish. The syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the rhubarb syrup until the mixture lightens in color, 3-5 minutes.

Bring water in the bottom of a double boiler to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together the infused condensed milk and the egg yolk mixture. Whisk until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks. Cover and refrigerate.

Fold the whipped cream into the chilled egg yolk mixture, then pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer's directions. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze. Best if eaten within 6 months.

Makes about 1 1/2 pints.

Notes from JennyBakes:

I did make the double recipe of the syrup, as you can see in the photo. What a pretty pink color! I also have been adding some to sparkling water for a fizzy spring drink, since I didn't end up using all that much when serving the ice cream.

If I know anything, it's that you have to really chill everything, so I did overnight for all of it.

First We Eat: Good Food for Simple Gatherings from my Pacific Northwest Kitchen, is by Evan Kosmas Flores, and came out March 20, 2018.

I also made the Fennel-Pistachio Pesto Lasagna, since it also had the tarragon and I had enough for both recipes. If you can't picture this flavor combination, well neither could I. It was amazing. Fresh and tasting of spring, and if I had not known what was in it I'm not certain I could have identified the flavors individually but they really did work nicely together. I'll post a picture of that at the end of this post.

I have my eye on the Brown Butter Sprouted Grain cake that is made here with a rhubarb buttercream, but probably has endless flavor possibilities. I even went as far as purchasing the sprouted grain flour but have not made it yet. I also plan to make the Chai and Poppy Challah (but it seemed better for the fall), the Homemade Chai Latte, and perhaps I'll bring the recipe for Foraged Fir Tip Herbal Tea with me to Alaska.

Fennel Pistachio-Pesto Lasagna

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Wrinkle Cookies of Internet Fame

I saw these cookies everywhere, even in the spaces around the paywall the New York Times has for a recipe that wasn't even their recipe in the first place (harumph.) Luckily enough people on the internet have made these cookies that it started to beg the question, why haven't I? And so I did.


The original recipe creator just calls these chocolate chip cookies but then interrupts the baking process to slam the cookie sheet down on the rack, deflating the cookie and causing ripples or wrinkles in the surface. They are also giant.


This is definitely a cookie that is simple enough that it is going to depend on the quality of your ingredients. I used Trader Joe's dark chocolate block for the chocolate in this and I think that's why my cookies tasted a bit off. Look, it's cheap chocolate. I would make these again with higher quality chocolate that doesn't just taste like sugar alcohol. I also overbaked my first batch (not pictured) by only two minutes, and while they were a lovely golden color, they were crunchy all the way through. I went for underbaking for the rest, and added a bit of salt on the top, and these two changes made for a more delicious cookie.

Sarah Keiffer’s Chocolate Chip Cookies 
very slightly adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book 
as seen on Building Feasts

Makes 14-16 cookies

285g (2 cups) all-purpose flour 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1/4 tsp salt (plus more for the top of the cookies) 
225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature 
300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar 
50g (1/4 cup) packed soft brown sugar 
1 large egg at room temperature 
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
2 tbsp water 
170g (6oz) dark chocolate chopped into irregular bite size pieces

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). 

Line two extra large or three regular baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a small bowl whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and water and mix on low to combine, scraping down the bowl to make sure it is all fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.  Add chopped chocolate and mix on low into the batter. 

Using a large ice cream scoop (or a 1/4 cup measure) form the dough into balls and place next to each other onto one of your prepared pans. Cover with cling film and place in the freezer for 15 minutes (or at this stage you can freezer the dough balls completely, transfer into a ziplock bag and keep for as and when you need them). 

When you are ready to cook, arrange the cookie balls well spaced apart on the baking sheets (they will spread considerably) and bake for 8 minutes until the cookies are puffed slightly in the middle. 

Pick up the baking sheets and let them drop onto the oven rack to set the edges of the cookies and the middle deflates (trust Sarah - it feels wrong but works). Repeat this lifting and dropping of the cookie sheets every two minutes three more times (baking 14-16 minutes total) to create the ridges and the crisp edge but with pale and not fully cooked middles. 

Allow the cookies to cool completely on the racks before removing from the tray.

Note:  If you skip the freezing stage the cookies will spread too much and not keep their shape.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Wild Ramp Souffle

This recipe comes from The Cook's Atelier: Recipes, Techniques, and Stories from Our French Cooking School by Marjorie Taylor, Kendall Smith Franchini, with beautiful photographs (often full-page) by Anson Smart. In the introduction to this recipe, it says "in the springtime, we like to infuse the milk with fresh green garlic, ramps, or even a bouquet garni before preparing the béchamel." Since my trip to a local grocery with local produce included a bunch of ramps, and ramps have such as short shelf life, I decided they would be perfect in this souffle! I will include the recipe as it occurs in the cookbook but add notes at the end so you can see my changes.


Green Garlic Soufflé (which I made into Wild Ramp Soufflé)
Serves 8

5 tbsp (30 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
8 stalks young, green garlic, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise
3 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the mold
1/4 cup (30 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (85 g) coarsely grated Comté or Gruyere cheese
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp dry mustard (optional)
7 large egg whites

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Butter the inside of a 6-cup (1.4 L) soufflé mold or eight individual 1-cup (240 ml) ramekins. Sprinkle the inside of the mold(s) with some of the Parmesan, reserving any excess. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the milk and green garlic. Place over medium heat and bring to just under a boil. Remove from the heat and steep for about 15 minutes to infuse the garlic into the milk. When ready to prepare the soufflé, bring the milk back to just under a boil, then strain out and discard the garlic.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir briskly with a wooden spoon until the butter and flour come together, being careful not to let the mixture brown, about 1 minute. Add the hot milk, all at once, and whisk to blend well. Add the salt and pepper, whisking continuously, until the béchamel becomes thick, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the cheese, nutmeg, and dry mustard (if using) and stir until fully combined. Transfer the soufflé base to a large bowl and let cool slightly.

In a large, very clean, preferably copper bowl, use a large balloon whisk to beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Stir a large spoonful of the whipped egg whites into the base to begin lightening it. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites, working quickly to keep the base light and airy.

Pour the finished mixture into the prepared mold(s), filling it just below the top rim. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the top is golden brown and lifted about 2 inches (5 cm) over the edge of the mold, 25-30 minutes (15-18 minutes for the ramekins). Do not be tempted to open the oven during baking or the soufflé will fall. Serve immediately.

Jenny's notes: First, check out the wooden spoon sent from the folks at The Cook's Atelier for a holiday gift. I saved it to use with their cookbook so I used it for the bechamel part of the recipe. When it said to whisk, I just used the spoon, not sure if I should have also used a whisk. Speaking of equipment, I don't have copper bowls; I just used my KitchenAid to beat the egg whites and thought it worked fine.

As far as ingredient replacement, I used 8 ramps for the 8 stalks of green garlic. I cleaned them very well and trimmed off the roots, but used the entire ramp from bulb to leaf. I ripped the ramps up into pieces before infusing with the milk, hoping for more release of flavor. I could taste it in the souffle but thought it was well-balanced with the other flavors.

I only had canned Parmesan so I used a brick of manchego for all the cheese parts of this recipe. Manchego is one of my favorite cheeses. I also decided to leave out the dry mustard, but ended up wishing I'd had one more flavor, maybe.

Souffles are not hard, but the one thing that really helps is having everything ready before you start. That includes the dish!

This is a beautiful cookbook, but with its size and heft, it would be easy to recluse it on a coffee table. The recipes are highly seasonal and often focused on gatherings, holidays, and occasions, so there is a lot of good fodder for entertaining. The photography will make you wish you attended this cooking school, maybe on jam day.

Other recipes I looked at: Almond-Cherry Galette, Gougeres, Lemon Soufflés.

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares from What's Gaby Cooking

I have a soft spot for chocolate chip cookie recipes, chocolate chip bar cookies, you name it. I"m always willing to try a new recipe to see how it varies from others. Will it replace my favorite? When I came across this recipe in What's Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food by Gaby Dalkin, I knew I'd have to try it.



The hardest part with these cookies is waiting for the cooling time, but they are worth it! (I guess it makes up for the time saved by melting the butter to start with.) Even my co-worker who loves chocolate chip cookies more than anything demanded the recipe. 

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups light brown sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate discs*
1/4 tsp Maldon sea salt*

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the melted butter and brown sugar and mix with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment for 1 minute, or until combined. Add the vanilla and eggs and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until fully incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and slowly mix until just combined. The batter will be a bit stiff, but that's normal. Fold in almost all of the chocolate discs, leaving a few for sprinkling on top.

Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan, sprinkle with the remaining chocolate discs and Maldon sea salt, and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown and still have a slight jiggle when gently shaken. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving. If you want to speed up the cooling process, transfer to the fridge for 30 minutes and then slice and serve.

*Notes from JennyBakes - I had leftover gluten free mini chocolate chips from my sister's visit, so I used those instead. Rather than sprinkling on sea salt, I added 1/2 tsp of regular salt to the batter, and felt this was a good choice (I'd just rather have salt throughout than as an accent.) I also baked the bars at least 10 more minutes than the recipe calls for, and still didn't have the dark golden brown that is in the cookbook picture. So mine may have been a bit more gooey, but after being overnight in the fridge, that turned into the kind of caramel-like middle that you can see in the first picture. These are thick, and I wonder what would happen in a 9x13 pan.


This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.

I have my eye on some other recipes in this book, but they felt more summery than our weather has prepared for, even in the south. Those include "Breakfast Flatbeard with Ricotta and Strawberry Basil Jam," "Chicken Larb and Coconut Rice Bowl," "Summer Chipotle Cobb Salad," "Chocolate Chip S'mookies,"and "Green Goddess Dip.

Bring on the summer!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Enchiladas and Beans from The Austin Cookbook by Paula Forbes

One of the cookbooks I was sent in February from the ABRAMS Dinner Party is The Austin Cookbook by Paula Forbes. I wasn't as intrigued with the baked goods as with some of the savories, so I decided to try a few dishes. I mean, this is JennyBakes, and I definitely baked these enchiladas.

I made a huge pot of vegan lentil chili that was too spicy for us to eat, but I still have a sneaking suspicion that I grabbed the cayenne when I was supposed to use paprika, and you can only imagine the difference in heat that would create. Luckily my co-worker, consumer of all things spicy, took it off my hands.

I also made the pimento cheese because I wanted to see how Texan pimento cheese differed from South Carolina pimento cheese, which I have been consuming ever since moving here. It was a bit spicier, not as creamy, and the green onions were a tasty addition that would be good in any pimento cheese!


I challenged myself to make a vegetarian meal from this very meat-heavy cuisine and cookbook, so I made the ranchero sauce from the last chapter, full of pantry recipes. I replaced the chili con carne in the "chili con carne" enchiladas with ranchero sauce (the insides were always only cheese.) I made "Traditional Pinto Beans" on the stove, which take about 3-4 hours total but were super tasty, the true hero of all my experiments, and winner for recipe I'll most likely make again soon. Instead of turning them into refried beans, which was my original plan, we just ate them as is. Without the optional edition of pork, of course.

Two days later, I used leftover ranchero sauce and leftover pinto beans to whip up huevos rancheros for a light supper. The recipes keep on giving!


This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. All experiences and opinions are my own!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Coffee Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I'm still loving the Alaska from Scratch cookbook, and made another delicious treat from the breakfast section a few weeks ago. I only wish I'd taken a picture of the browned butter apple blondies I made and took on my trip with me. I will be making those and this recipe again!

Coffee Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Recipe from Alaska from Scratch website and Alaska from Scratch cookbook

Yields: 1 loaf
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/3c butter, melted
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1t vanilla
  • 1/4c strong brewed coffee
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2c chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

Peel bananas, break them up and toss them into a bowl. Mash with a potato masher (I leave some banana pieces so you get occasional nice bites of banana in the bread; don't mash until the bananas are completely liquefied).

To the bananas, add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden or plastic spoon. Add dry ingredients and stir until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched.