Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yummy Afternoon

There's nothing quite as warming on a cold day as golden bread baking in the oven and this weekend I've had the pleasure to experience this twice. Who needs radiators in this sub-zero weather when the oven never sleeps?

On my way home on Friday I called my friend D, and while we didn't really have plans to meet, we got to talking and the next thing I know she's at my house with a cooler and a recipe. She found this great recipe on a while back and has been making it ever since with great results. While we were waiting for the bread to rise I separated a few eggs to age some egg whites for macaroon experimentation tomorrow and made these Turkish Coffee Pots de Creme with the egg yolks.

Turkish Coffee Pots de Creme

To be honest, I didn't really like them. The recipe worked like a charm and they baked up nicely into a thick, creamy custard, but I think the cardamom flavor was a bit too strong for my taste. But if you love cardamom, you should really give this a try.

Anyways, back to the fabulous bread! D wrapped up and took the 4 loaves she made home with her when she left around 2 am and I went to sleep, but when I woke up I could still smell the bread and since there was no bread to be found all I could think of is making some for myself. Lucky for me, D forgot her recipe on the counter. I promise, I didn't steal it, hide it or anything....I think. Anyways, it just so happens that I had everything needed on hand and I had just enough time to pop the pretty loaves into the oven when my friend K rang the buzzer. A while ago she and I planned a Frenchie inspired foodie day, but as the day drew closer everyone else dropped out and it was up to K and me to keep the plans alive, so while the bread was baking we popped a bottle of bubbly, the cork narrowly missing my eye and the glass cabinet full of fragile tea cups and glassware, and started on the macaroons. The plan was to make hazelnut macaroons filled with a chocolate honey ganache I had made that morning...but when we got started I realized I had almost no powdered sugar. Woops. Oh, well, we decided. We'll just go with it, anything you make with sugar, hazelnuts, and egg whites has got to be good. And once you fill the hazelnut meringues with ganache (see how I changed the cookie name as if that's what we meant to make all along? you didn't see anything...) they came out great!

Macaroon Burgers

But in my opinion the best part, aside from having a good friend over to chat and tinker in the kitchen, was the bread.

Egg bread

K brought some fabulous ham and cheese because originally we were going to make savory crepes, but with the beautiful bread cooling on the counter K suggested making grilled cheese sandwiches instead. Genius! I mean look at this:

Grilled Ham and Cheese

Wait,look, another angle to get the full affect of this amazing deliciousness:

Grilled Ham and Cheese Cut

I don't mean to get obnoxious here, but that sandwich was fabulous, so I'd recommend that you either scroll back up to the link with the recipe and make it right away...oh what am I saying, don't leave. Stay, I'll even give you the recipe right here:

Braided Egg Bread

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110F degrees)
2 cups hot milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup water
5 eggs
11 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

- Proof yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl.
- Combine hot milk, sugar, butter, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Cool to 110 degrees.
- In small bowl, slightly beat 5 eggs, then add to cooled milk mixture. Add milk mixture to yeast mixture. Add 2 cups flour and beat until smooth. Slowly add remaining flour until it forms a stiff dough. Knead on a floured board for 10 minutes (5 minutes with a bread hook). Place in a large glass or plastic bowl lightly greased. Turn dough over to grease both sides. Cover and let rise in a warm, dark place until doubled in volume, approximately 60 minutes.
- Punch down, cover, and let rise again until double, approximately 30 minutes.
- Punch again, and form into three parts. Form each part into a 20-inch roll. Braid rolls on a large, greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled.
- Lightly beat remaining egg and brush loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven for about 55 minutes until nicely browned. May be made into two regular sized loaves. Reduce baking time slightly.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dusting off the sewing machine

Blue Tea Cup
I was told to bake less this year, and while I know for a fact that I just can't do that, I thought it might be a good idea to pull out a few of my other, more neglected hobbies. At least until I have some extra cash for a new camera and I drop everything again for a new shiny toy that will surely need pretty pastries to practice with. And so it was, a few weeks before new years, that I found myself digging out my sewing machine from behind a pile of boxes that I tossed amidst a cleaning frenzy. "I should make something!" I thought to myself, and started scouring the web for patterns and ideas. To brush up on my skills a bit I made a cute little blanket for my nephew, which was wrapped up and given as a holiday gift before I even thought of taking a picture. The retro polka dot apron I made for my sister went the same way, as did the tea cozy I made for my mom. I loved the idea of a tea cozy so much that last night I pulled out the leftover fabric from that project and made another one. Don't you think that this is the cutest way to keep your tea warm as you're chatting away with your sisters or girl friends over some pastries? The vintage tea cups deserve no less.

Tea Cozy

If you're feeling ambitious and would like to whip one up yourself, it's not that hard. I found pretty thorough instructions here, and it's a pretty quick evening project to work on with your favorite show on in the background. Just pick out some pretty fabric, the insulation and a pretty ribbon and you're all set to go.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Moving Forward by Looking Back

Christmas Sugar Cookies
Many many years ago, just a few weeks after my little sister finally moved out of our room into her own we got into one of those pointless, nonsensical fights which involve lots of yelling, but lose wind almost immediately and, since it's been many many years since it happened and since no one remembers what it was about anymore, I can finally admit that it was probably my fault. I don't remember what I was doing right after the "slamming of the doors", but I must have been puttering around my room for a while fuming when my sister came in and put a sheet of paper on my desk and walked out.

Today, I am trying to bring a sense of order to my house after a hectic holiday season and while clearing out some shelves in my overstuffed and scary closet I ran across that sheet of paper. The slightly torn paper that I saved because it makes me smile every time I see it and I asked her permission to share the poem that was on that paper with you. On top of the page she wrote "Anna - here have a poem! Critisize it all you like!" I'm going to leave punctuation and spelling exactly as she had it because that makes me smile too...though for probably the same reasons as the ones that caused that long ago fight. So without any further ado, a poem from my little sister to me written in a fit of anger:

What the hell?
Whats that smell?
Oh it just my sister Anna
She smells like a ripe banana
It's not that bad
But she does get mad
When I say that
And give her arm a pat
She wants a cat
A pretty little black one
Light as a feather
Not heavy like a ton
One that you feed buns
But we cant get it
As much as we may beg & hit
Daddy just tells us to sit
Or go try to get fit
Which Anna don't know how to do
Ask anyone, she knows its true
Going to the fitness center rarely
Doing very little excersize - barely
She's still a cool sister
So don't say it's not so mister
She's one of the best
Not like any of the rest

Who ever said that writing things down isn't therapeutic? She started out mad, then got carried away by her need to rhyme, remembered she was mad again, and then decided that she loves me after all. She can't stay mad at me for long even now...and I'm still hoping to try and get the whole exercise thing off the ground this year.

Raspberry Marshmellows
I'm sharing this because it makes me happy and because I ran across it as I was cleaning and I decided to clear a few other things too. I have been baking, shopping, wrapping, crafting just like everyone else these past few weeks and I was planning on cheating and stretching out the pictures I have been taking over the next few days, letting myself get lazy, but still turn out posts. As I was cleaning though, I decided that I want every post that I will write to be "fresh off the presses", and while I didn't really have time to take too many pictures, what with the late nights and all, I am putting the good ones into this post. A few festive sugar cookies, some homemade raspberry marshmallows and these:

Cocoa Meringue Cookies
Because I made these crispy meringue cookies between my first and second shifts at work, implying that anyone with 5 minutes and an idle oven can do it, I'm sharing the recipe with you.

Cocoa Meringues
Adapted from Death by Chocolate Cake by Marcel Desaulniers

4 egg whites
⅛ tsp cream of tartar
⅛ tsp salt
1¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa; sifted
1 tbsp cornstarch

- Preheat the oven to 225F.
- Place a sheet of parchment paper or a silpat onto a baking sheet.
- Place 4 egg whites, the cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip and whisk on high until soft peaks form, about a minute.
- Gradually add 1 cup sugar while continuing to whisk on high until stiff, about 1 1/2 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in and thoroughly combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa and the cornstarch.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the cocoa meringue and pipe swirls onto the parchment as small or big as you like, as close as you want making sure that they don't touch.
- Place the meringue in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Lower the oven temperature to 200F and bake for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes before handling.
- Enjoy with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa, or share with a friend

You can also melt some chocolate and dip these in it if you want, but I was tired. Maybe next time.

I'm going back to cleaning for now, but I hope to have another year full of successful kitchen experiments to share with you.