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Saffron muffins

This morning I made muffins that seemed to fit within my current diet regemin (PCP – YAY!) that I saw on Heidi Swanson’s 101cookbooks site: Lucia muffins

They called for saffron, which I don’t know that I’ve had often, if at all. I’m not sure how critical saffron is to the flavor – I couldn’t taste the fragrance in the finished muffin, but the muffins were Awesome!

Mix the dry ingredients (whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, finely cut up almonds, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and a little sugar):

toast the saffron until it is fragrant. My Dad gave me some saffron that he’d bought in Jordan in 1998 (yeah, way back when… I’m not sure why he never used it. It’s expensive, sure, but even more so if you don’t use it while it’s still useable..) that remarkably enough was still fragrant.

grind the toasted saffron with some sugar and add to buttermilk (from my butter making experience) with egg whites and some melted butter. Add wet to dry, blend and bake:

The muffins are divine, though. Barely sweet, nutty, and chewy. (I skipped the raisens. I don’t like them)

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Croissants!

For a brunch (nearly two months ago – eek!) I made croissants from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume II by Julia Child and Simone Beck. It isn’t the fastest recipe on the planet, but it is excellent. Last year, when I saw Julie and Julia, I walked out of the movie theater impressed, and wondered at someone who would approach such a project … 10 minutes later I remembered my first MtAoFC experience – I made Beef Wellington with brown sauce and, as I recall, it took me two or three days, including rendering my own pork fat, and was devoured by my grad-school buddies in something under 15 minutes. Oh. I’m that sort of person.

The recipe for the croissants is not difficult, or even fiddly (if you remember that the dough will initially be pretty sticky), but it does require impressive logistic skills as there are (at least) 5 hours of raising time, over three intervals, and (at least) 4 hours of dough resting time, over two intervals. So, as Child/Beck says,

If you want freshly baked croissants for breakfast you will have to stay up all night as the bakers do.

Or, take the author’s advice, and plan ahead to freeze the dough and slow down the rising by putting the dough in the refrigerator to rise over night. In other words, this recipe requires planning ahead. I did, and have a handy card used as a bookmark that lays out the steps and where I need to plan to freeze or refrigerate the dough.

Mix the dough, let rise for about 3 hours (to 3 1/2 volume)

deflate dough, pat out to a rectangle, fold into thirds, and let rise overnight. I usually do up to this step the weekend before I want to have the croissants and freeze the dough. The following Friday evening, I take the dough out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator. Saturday, I roll in the butter.

roll out into a rectangle again, fold into thirds, and repeat. Let the dough rest, and repeat twice more. One final rest for the dough. Only now can we form croissants. I invariably make some incredibly ugly ones before I remember how to do it properly. Those get eaten before serving to guests 🙂

Glaze the croissants, let rise about an hour, and bake. Voila!

It takes a goodly amount of time, and certainly planning ahead, but it isn’t hard if you are willing to invest the time and planning. Because it does take so much time, I usually double or quadruple the recipe, and freeze the resultant croissants. Bake them for 5 minutes at 400F and they’re almost as good as fresh baked.

And 100% better than croissants you’ll get anywhere else outside of France.

Chicken in Milk

I know I’ve not posted in a while … I have a long list of things I mean to write about, but later (or never, we’ll see).

My office mate sent me a link to a recipe that looked intriguing, so I gave it a shot. It’s called Chicken in milk and he found it at the kitchn, but it was originally a Jamie Oliver recipe found here

It calls for little more than a chicken, garlic, lemon zest, sage, milk, and cinnamon. You brown the chicken in butter and olive oil:

which takes about 5 minutes

and then you remove the chicken and discard the fat (I used it later to braise cabbage with some chicken stock) and return the chicken to the pot with the rest of the ingredients

and then put it in a 375 F oven for 1 1/2 hours:

And the meat just fell off the bones, and with the now roasted garlic… Yum! I liked the hint of Cinnamon. Apparently the sauce was meant to curdle – it didn’t for me (in fact, afterward, there was little to indicate there’d been milk in the pot at all). Perhaps because I used skim milk? Or because so much of the lemon zest remained on the bird?

Still, tasty. And I’ll make it again.

Thinking About Food

So, as usual, one of my resolutions this year is to get fit. And, as usual, this year I think I am actually going to do something about it.

This year I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have signed up to do something called “The Peak Condition Project“. It started Januarty 15th – but before it started, I spent an evening in the kitchen making something that tastes great … and is full of the rich things that one shouldn’t make a habit of eating copious amounts of things.

I made pate a choux (also known as cream puffs) with cheese (gougeres).

I remember Mom making them for special grown-up dinner parties when I was little. She filled them with whipped cream, so I wasn’t very interested, but they remain linked in my head with 70’s-style dresses, and rooms full of legs.

It never occurred to me to make them until a few years ago, after seeing them in a food blog somewhere. They are precisely the kind of thing that you’d think would be very hard and take a lot of effort … and after you’ve made them you sort of wish you could un-learn how to make them because now you’ll be tempted to make them more often than you really should be eating them. It helps if you have a standing mixer, and look prettier piped rather than spooned, but can be made with a pot, bowl, spoon, and cookie sheet.

Melt butter into water. Add flour. Beat in eggs (and cheese, for gougeres). Pipe onto parchment paper lined cookies sheet and bake for about a quarter hour.

mmmm

The Blind Side

So like last year, I’m trying to see more movies.

I enjoy them, enjoy them more in the theater, and never get around to seeing them at home. On the rare occasions when I do watch a movie at home – I find that unless someone else is watching with me, I’m simply terrible about pausing to go and do something else. Not what the movie makers had intended.

Today I saw The Blind Side, which I had heard good things about – although a few reviews I’d read suggested that it was perhaps a little too feel good. Perhaps they are right, but I enjoyed the movie and thought it was very well written and put together, with funny bits of humor with just the right amount of lightness.

$10 well spent.

Brussels Sprouts

I love brussels sprouts! (though I remember this most often in the winter time, oddly). One of my favorite ways to serve them is lightly boiled and drenched in butter. Which is not the healthiest way to eat them … so I’ve found a healthier way:

Roasted

in a light coating of oil (in this case, peanut) with some grapefruit zest, served with a spoonful of grapefruit juice and hazelnuts.

Yum!

Stir Fry Cabbage

I’m BACK!

HOPEFULLY TO STAY …

A few months ago, I went to Mary Chung’s in Cambridge (our favorite Chinese restaurant) and one of their specials was something I remember being called “Mountian Cabbage”.  Which I loved and thought I could try to make it at home. So I found a recipe on-line (and I really was not paying all that close attention – ’cause what I had at Mary Chung’s wasn’t spicy), printed it out, and intended to make it.

As I recall, I “intended” to make it long enough to buy a head of cabbage and have it go bad before Christmas.

Over Christmas I was given this lovely ceramic bowl and chopsticks (yay!) so I once again resolved to try the recipe. Which I did tonight. Which is when I realized that I utterly do not have the correct recipe as I don’t think the dish I am looking for had either chili paste or soy sauce in it. So I’ll have to try again.

But it wasn’t a complete failure – this recipe was really tasty! (And reminded me how much cabbage is likely to cook down …)