Monday, June 24, 2019

Abrams Dinner Party - Invitation and Roundup 2018-19

What a fun year I've had, participating in the Abrams Dinner Party! (You can apply to be a member this next season; please see farther down this post.) It was my second and final year (you can see last year's roundup here.) I tried to do a better job this year at capturing the recipes I was interested in, things I tried, recipes in the making, all in my Instagram Stories. I still have many pages marked in these cookbooks of other recipes I want to try - I still need to make pizza from Genuine Pizza (I got sidetracked by the cookie recipe everyone was making), and I need to try more seasons in The Modern Cook's Year. I will post my favorites from the year at the end. But maybe you missed some of these posts, and want to know what I made!

Fall 2018

Matty Matheson: A Cookbook
Chicken cacciatore in Instagram

Korean Home Cooking by Sohui Kim
Tofu and kimchi pancake in Instagram

Home Made Christmas by Yvette van Boven
Vegetable Spiral Tart in JennyBakes
Vegetable Spiral Tart in Instagram
Cauliflower Curry Christmas Pasty with Apricots & Almonds in JennyBakes
Cauliflower Curry Christmas Pasty with Apricots & Almonds in Instagram

Ibiza, Land and Sea by Francoise Pialoux
Mauritius Fish Curry in Instagram 

Cali'Flour Kitchen by Amy Lacey
Spinach Artichoke Dip Pizza in Instagram 

Spring 2019

Pescan by Abbie Cornish and Jacqueline King Schiller
Spicy Buffalo Tofu Fingers in Instagram
Spicy Buffalo Tofu Fingers in JennyBakes
Banana Pancakes with Cardamom Spiced Berries in JennyBakes

Eat Clean, Play Dirty by Danielle Dubois and Whitney Tingle
Roasted Radish and Turmeric-Ginger Bowl in Instagram stories

The Modern Cook's Year by Anna Jones
Whole-wheat spelt, date, and molasses scones in Instagram
Whole-wheat spelt, date, and molasses scones in JennyBakes

Cauliflower rice with fried eggs and green chutney in Instagram

The Power of Sprinkles by Amireh Kassem
Sprinkle Cake Experiment in JennyBakes

The Bacon Bible by Peter Sherman and Stephanie Banyas
Bread Pudding French Toast with Bacon and Rosemary-Orange Maple Syrup in Instagram
Bread Pudding French Toast with Bacon and Rosemary-Orange Maple Syrup in JennyBakes

BBQ&A with Myron Mixon
Banana Pudding in Instagram
Banana Pudding in JennyBakes

Icing on the Cake by Tessa Huff
Orange Honey Cake in Instagram
Orange Honey Cake in JennyBakes

Genuine Pizza by Michael Schwartz
Chocolate Chunk Cookies in Instagram
Chocolate Chunk Cookies in JennyBakes

I enjoyed cooking and baking from all of these cookbooks, but these are my top four! The Modern Cook's Year is innovative, seasonal, vegetarian food with some formula based recipes (I still haven't tried that curry chart and really want to.) Icing on the Cake has complex yet doable recipes with good photography and very clear instructions. Home Made Christmas
is homey and full of cheer, and enjoyable to flip through.  Korean Home Cooking simplifies a cuisine I can't access very easily locally but of which I am a huge fan, so I remain excited to keep this on hand for experimentation. How else could I have fish cakes and rice cakes in my freezer and gochujang in my fridge?

I also enjoyed getting to know the other members of the Abrams' Dinner Party, who would post triumphs and challenges and cheer each other on. And I so appreciate Mamie VanLangen, who kept us organized and excited.

You can also apply to participate in the ABRAMS Dinner Party for 2019-20! I've seen some good looking cookbooks in their upcoming season. The application is here, and is due July 22.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Beaten Biscuits from Gone with the Wind

"She dropped her eyes to her plate and nibbled daintily on a beaten biscuit with an elegance and an utter lack of appetite that would have won Mammy's approval."
I co-hosted a joint readalong of Gone with the Wind this summer with Chris Wolak and Emily Fine of the Book Cougars podcast. The discussion episode posts tomorrow, June 18th.

There are several memorable passages in Gone with the Wind, but nothing more than Scarlett when she decides:
"As God is my witness, I'm never going to be hungry again!"
What we often forget is what came right before that - finding radishes in the ground at Tara, her family's plantation, and really only having that to live on.
"A spicy, sharp-tasting radish was exactly what her stomach craved."
I decided to make a meal in tribute to Gone with the Wind. I knew it had to have beaten biscuits and radishes. When we discussed the book, Emily mentioned eating baguettes with radishes and butter, and it reminded me of a time I made radish butter when I was trying to grow vegetables in my backyard. I decided to do something similar, and also to cook radish and turnip greens, since Scarlett would have had those available too.

Beaten biscuits were a whole other exploration. They traditionally were made by beating a dough for an hour or so, keeping down the gluten and turning them into something more like a cracker. It's no mistake these were served in wealthy southern homes, as it is definitely a by product of slave labor (and a lack of baking powder.) 

I tried making the best decisions from a bunch of historical recipes and I'm not sure I chose right, so instead of a recipe in this post, I'll link you to the various places on the internet I consulted. Maybe you will have better luck. Traditionally, beaten biscuits are considered the perfect vehicle for country ham, but of course during Reconstruction it is highly unlikely it would have been available!

Mine turned out pretty much like giant oyster crackers. I'm not sure it's wrong, but some pictures in these recipes look more bready. It's definitely more of a food of survival than of deliciousness, but I still wanted to try it.

Recipes consulted:

"The Art of the Beaten Biscuit" from Garden and Gun (a magazine similar to Southern Living, believe it or not) - this is the recipe I used more or less, but the baking time was puzzling. It said 325 F for an hour, or until cooked through. But mine were cooked through at 20 and tough at 25. I'm willing to entertain other points of user error. It was also interesting how it said you could beat the dough for 45 to 90 minutes, or for 2 minutes in the food processor. I also had found in both Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen that the plastic dough blade in a food processor is not needed, and you can just use the standard metal blade. So I did that, set the timer for 2 minutes, and held on to the food processor once I realized it was making entire rotations on the counter. I could tell the motor was trying hard too. This recipe doesn't have you rest the dough while others do, but it did look similar to the texture I thought I was going for.

Beaten Biscuits from White Lily Flour - this recipe had a completely different mixing time (15 minutes in the food processor? this would have destroyed my machine) and a completely different cooking temp/time (450 for 8-10 minutes)... and the picture shows them with jam. I dunno. It didn't seem as historical in nature so I let it go, but the temp/time differences definitely gave me pause.

Beaten Biscuits from Atlanta Magazine - this has a similar cooking time to what I did, but much more resting of the dough, after processing, and in the oven after baking.. after looking at so many this may be the best for the contemporary kitchen.

I also watched an entire 45 minute video on YouTube about Maryland beaten biscuits, using traditional equipment. It was fascinating but the state is pretty far north, and I'm just not sure - they ended up in large pillow shapes. I also found several historical recipes for other states in the south, but using plantation amounts or instructions. As it was I made half the recipe I settled on.

There are a lot of other recipes on the internet that call themselves beaten biscuits but are actually more accurately called drop biscuits, misnamed because, well, you beat the batter. Go southern for this if you try it at all!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting

I've started experimenting with potential birthday cake recipes since next month is my birthday month. I even keep a group in Pinterest marked "Birthday Cake" for potentials as I encounter them, then of course I have shelves of cookbooks that also hold potential. Hopefully I'll try a mix. First up is a recipe from the internet - Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting.

This recipe comes from Edd Kimber, aka The Boy who Bakes. I guess he won the first season of The Great British Bake Off but we didn't start watching until Season 2, so I first encountered him in one of the many baking Instagram accounts I follow (@theboywhobakes.) He also posted a video about making this cake that shows how quick and straight-forward of a recipe it is. The flavor mirrors the infamous Martha Stewart salted caramel chocolate layer cake that everyone made a few years back, that was messy and divine. I would say this recipe is similar in flavor but much simpler to assemble, so that's a win/win. See more notes from my attempt after the recipe!

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting
(recipe from Edd Kimber, not sure if recipe copyrights are different in UK, trying to give all credit where credit is due since it's available online!)

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Makes a 9x13 cake that serves 12-18 people

250g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
300g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
100ml oil (you can use something neutral tasting or olive oil)
225g sour cream
225ml hot coffee

Whipped Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Ganache

200g milk chocolate, finely chopped
400ml double cream
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp flaked sea salt
50g unsalted butter

salted peanut and cocoa nibs, for garnish 

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/160C fan and lightly grease a 9x13 inch brownie pan, lining with a strip of parchment paper. The excess parchment should hang over the sides of the pan which will make removing the cake a lot easier later.

Make the ganache first as it needs a couple hours to chill before whipping. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl and set near the stove. Place the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place the sugar into medium sized saucepan and place over medium heat and cook until melted and caramelised to the colour of a rusty penny. Once caramelised add the butter and salt and stir to combine. Add the cream in two additions, being careful as it will bubble up viciously. Once the bubbling has subsided you should have a smooth caramel, if the cream wasn’t hot enough you may have a couple lumps which will melt if you just pop it back over low heat and stir for a couple minutes. Stir in the vanilla and then pour the hot caramel over the chocolate, set aside for a couple minutes before stirring together to form a smooth ganache. Pop the bowl in the fridge for a couple hours or until thickened. Make sure you don’t leave the ganache in the fridge for too long as it will become too firm to whip, it still needs to be spreadable.

For the cake sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar into a large bowl and use a whisk to combine so everything is evenly combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in the remaining ingredients and whisk together until a smooth cake batter is formed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the cake springs back to a light touch and it is slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Notes from JennyBakes:

What I love about this recipe is that it is pretty forgiving. I was too lazy to use my scale so I searched online for ounce/cup equivalencies for the ingredients and may not have gotten them exact. The cake still worked. All of my 9x13 pans were occupied so I divided it into 2 9" square pans. The cake still worked. I had a few clumps in the caramel that refused to melt back in despite his reassurances, and then the milk chocolate didn't melt as smoothly as I would have liked (it was harder to find milk chocolate bars for baking as I usually use dark, so I bought Cadbury dairy milk bars and they are probably more intended for eating) so you can seem chocolate and/or caramel bits in the frosting but the cake still worked. I didn't use his recommended cake toppings since I was birthdayfying it and also am trying to get rid of these sprinkles that I keep using on everything, and the cake still worked. It is probably more sophisticated with the cocoa nibs and nuts, so I'd still recommend doing that.

Also I don't have a way to transport a 9x13 cake outside of its original pan so part of my cake division strategy was purely so I could take half to work!

Monday, June 03, 2019

Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Genuine Pizza

This is my last official post as a member of the Abrams Dinner Party. Part of the behind the scenes happenings that you can't see is that all the members have a private online group where we can share recipe experiments, ask questions, etc. Well when we first got Genuine Pizza, other people started raving about this cookie recipe - best ever, makes a ton, multiple batches, etc. I was determined to make pizza from a pizza cookbook but then I had a leftover half stick of butter sitting around from the cake I posted last weekend that I decided to make a quarter recipe. They are amazing!

At some point I will return to Genuine Pizza and make, oh I don't know, pizza, particularly the one with porcini cream that I have my eye on, but for now please understand that these cookies demand to be shared.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup/225 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp (175 g) granulated sugar
generous 3/4 cup (175 g) packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, cold
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (405 g) all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
12 (1-oz/30 g) chocolate chunks or 84 chocolate feves (7 per cookie)
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 F).

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Pause the mixer motor to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.

Using a large cookie scoop (2 oz/55 g), scoop out the dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press a chocolate chunk or 7 chocolate feves into each of the cookie dough balls and wrap the dough around the chocolate so it's completely encased and the dough balls are round. Return the cookie balls to the parchment-lined baking sheet, flatten the cookies so they're a bit squat, and sprinkle each with some flaky salt.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they are golden brown and about 1/2 inch thick. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Let cool completely, then transfer to a container with a lid and store the cookies at room temperature for up to 1 week.*

Notes from JennyBakes: I had some small chocolate truffles leftover from the holidays (the type that are dark chocolate ganache rolled in cocoa powder) and this is what I chopped up to stuff inside the cookie. It worked great but didn't take much! I also didn't realize it called for cold butter and used room temperature, and used regular brown sugar instead of dark. Guess I'll have to make them again, oh darn.

* It is impossible for them to last this long because you will eat them, obviously.

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