Monday, August 17, 2009

Craig Cooks Broiled Fish and Potato Salad

Once again Craig triumphs in the kitchen. I come home from work and Craig's standing in the middle of the kitchen with his cookbook in his hands. "Oh, you're home early!" We were out of mayo. So rather than go to the store (which by the way is IN the building we live in), Craig decided to just make mayonnaise. I don't know who this guy is, but he's pretty fabulous.

More chopping, no more injuries:

Potatoes were chopped up and boiled:

Mayo was mixed with a bunch of stuff:

To make this potato salad:

Somehow in all the hoopla of potato salad-ing, I didn't take any pictures of the fish until it was plated. It was broiled:

Broiled Fish Fillets
Adapted from "How to Cook Everything"
makes: 4 servings

3 T extra virgin olive oil
about 1 1/2 pounds thin fish fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Lemon wedges for serving

1. Heat the broiled until quite hot. Move the rack as close to the heat source as possible (3 or 4 inches is good). Put a sturdy pan on the rack and heat it for about 5 minutes.
2. When it's hot, remove the pan and pour in the oil, then put the fillets in the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Time under the broiler (for salmon or 1 inch thick pieces will be 10 minutes) for thin fillets 2 minutes 30 seconds.
3. To serve, carefully remove the fillets with a spatula, sprinkle with parsley, if you like. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Potato Salad
makes 4 servings

1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes
1/2 c minced fresh parsley
1/4 c chopped scallions or onions (we used shallots)
1/2 c mayonnaise
3 T white wine vinegar

1. Peel the potatoes if you like, then cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a pot with enough water to cover them and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the water bubbles gently. Cook the potatoes until tender but still firm and not all mushy, 15 min or so, depending on the potato. Drain, rinse in cold water for a minute, then drain again.
2. Whisk together the mayo & vinegar. Toss the still-warm potatoes with the parsley and scallions. Add the mayo mixture until it is dressed as you like. Season to taste with black pepper. Serve as is or refrigerate to chill first. (At this point, you may refrigerate the salad, covered, for up to a day)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Leaf Shaped Fougasse

Many things could have gone horribly wrong with this recipe.

For instance I might not have stood beside my mixer for the 10 minutes it stirred around the dough. If I hadn't been standing there it probably would have vibrated onto the ground, killing my dog. You're welcome Cooper.

One hour, doubled, check.

This is where I should have read the recipe a little more carefully.

Oh, what's that? I should have used 3 bags? Then they wouldn't end up looking like this 24 hours later:

All night I thought I was going to hear an explosion from the fridge.

It was at this point that I got a little pissy. You see, I had everything listed in the ingredients. Then you read the recipe and it says something about corn meal dusted baking sheet. Where is the corn meal in the ingredients, huh? Also, I need a water bottle to spray the oven, maybe there should be an equipment list... if something is required it should be listed without me having to read the whole damn thing.

I kind of feel like I'm doing it wrong at this point. It doesn't look as smooth as the pictures in the book. OOoooohhhh, I skipped the part where I let it sit out for an hour and a half. Which I really didn't realize until just know while blogging. Damn, how did this bread actually turn out?

I'm not sure how I was supposed to fit three of these on two baking pans. So I didn't.

Something tells me the one on the right is going to turn out a little better. Without the pictures in the book I never would have been able to tell what the hell Julia was trying to tell me to do with the dough. I barely understood with the pictures for God's sake. Also what does "spray the oven with water" mean exactly? Am I supposed to be spraying over the baking, or straight into the bottom. I did both just in case.

I probably should have pulled those holes just a little bit bigger. Pretty much tastes the way it looks. Like bread.

Leaf Shaped Fougasse
Adapted from Baking With Julia

Makes 2 large or 3 medium breads

1 recipe Focaccia dough, chilled for at least 24 hours
Olive oil, for brushing
Fresh herbs or dried herbes de Provence, for topping
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Focaccia Recipe
2 1/4 -2 1/2 cups tepid water
2 T active dry yeast
1/4 c olive oil
6 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
4 t salt

Mixing the dough: Whisk 1/2 c of the water and the yeast together in the bowl of a mixer. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast dissolves and turns creamy.
Meanwhile, pour 1 3/4 c warm water into a large measuring cup, add the olive oil, and whisk to blend; set aside. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl and set this aside as well.
Pour the water-oil mixture over the yeast and stir with the whisk to blend. Add about half of the flour and stir with a rubber spatula just to mix. Attach the dough hook, add the remaining flour, and mix on low speed for about 3 minutes or until the dough just starts to come together. If the dough appear dry and a little stiff, add a few drops of warm water, scraping the bowl and hook if necessary to incorporate the water and create a soft dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to mix for about 10 minutes, scraping down the hook and sides of the bowl as needed until you have a soft, slightly moist, extremely elastic dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. You will know that the dough is properly mixed when a piece can be stretched, without tearing, to create a "window", an almost transparent patch of dough.

First Rise: Transfer the dough to a work surface and form it into a ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it around to cover it with oil, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Second Rise: Fold the dough down on itself to deflate it and let it rise again until doubled and billowy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Shaping and Resting: Fold the dough over on itself again to deflate it (as you do this, you can hear the bubbles squeak and pop) and turn it out onto a work surface. Using a metal dough scraper or a knife, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball.
Place each ball in an oiled gallon-sized lock-top plastic bag and refrigerate 24 - 36 hours.
About 1 1/2 hours before you plan to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently take the balls out of the oiled bags. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, dust the tops of the balls with flour and cover loosely but complete with plastic (to avoid having the tops go crusty). Let rest for 1 hour, until the dough reaches a cool room temperature and feels spongy when prodded.

Position the oven racks to divide the oven into 3rds and preheat the oven to 450 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and dust the paper with cornmeal; keep the sheets close at hand. Fill a spray bottle with water and set it aside.

Shaping the Dough: Working with one piece of dough at a time (keeping the others covered), and working with the dough as you do with all focaccias - that is, gently, taking care not to knock out all the air you've worked into it - put the dough over your left fist (your right if you are left handed) and lift and circle it around your fist with your other hand. Pull it little and pinch the edges slightly as you work your way around - you're aiming for a teardrop or triangular shape about a foot long and 10 inches across at the base. Put the dough on the cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and cover it while you work the other pieces into shape.

Use a single-edge razor or a sharp serrated knife, held perpendicular to the dough, to create the leaf pattern in the dough: Position the teardrop with the broad base parallel to you and cut 3 vertical slashes in a line down the center of the teardrop, plunging the razor straight down into the dough. With these as your guide, cut 3 slanted cuts in both halves of the teardrop, angling the cuts between the slashes that clip the long sides. Nick the sloping sides, cutting at an angle and cutting only about half the length of the razor blade into the dough. Starting with the diagonal slashes on either side of the vertical cuts, work your fingers into all of the openings and stretch them evenly to double or triple their original size. (they must be opened now so that the holes won't close when the dough rises.)

Rest: Brush the loaves with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs, and dust with coarse salt. Let rest for about 10 minutes before baking.

Baking the Bread: Bake the fougasse for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden and speckled with small surface bubbles, spraying the oven with water 3 times during the first 8 minutes of baking. If the breads aren't browning evenly, rotate the pans, top to bottom and front to back, halfway through the baking period. As soon as you remove the fougasse from the oven, brush them with a little more olive oil, and transfer them to a rack to cool before serving.

Storing: The fougasse are best the day they are backed, but once cooled, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Thaw the breads, still wrapped, at room temperature and warm them in a 350 F oven before serving.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Double Chocolate Cookies

When this recipe said that these would taste like a mixture of cookies and brownies I wanted to french kiss Julia Child... because that sounds like my idea of heaven.

Seriously though, that's a lot of fucking chocolate:

When you get right down to it... there's a pound of chocolate in these cookies.

I have never before purchased instant coffee. I wasn't even really sure what it looked like. Apparently something like this:

I melted down half of that chocolate while whipping up things in my mixer:

This is the first recipe I remember where they haven't said "or using a hand held mixer"...

Everything was all mixed up and put in the fridge overnight. It was quite the transformation from fluffy chocolate-y marshmallow-y bowl of yummy to this:

All that stuff that looks like it's dripping down the sides? It's just frozen in time there. Totally hard. The dough itself, and I have a hard time calling it that, was mostly just hard on top and then it was pliable under that surface.

Let's be real. Basically this is melted chocolate, re-hardened and melted again into cookie shape. It's a POUND of chocolate. Did I mention that?

I was quite serious with my measuring. I didn't want to end up with one giant cookie. Because I'd eat it. By myself. In two seconds. And no one wants to see what I look like after eating a POUND of chocolate in two seconds.

My pictures are getting progressively worse because normally I rely on natural sunlight in my shots. This is what it looked like outside:

So after measuring and baking I was to rotate 5 minutes after putting them in the oven. This is what the cookies looked like half baked:

Honestly, I know this is a food blog and all... but if you took that and put it on the floor... I would take my dog to the vet.

I think the detailed directions of what the cookies should look like made me overcook my first batch. I kept waiting for them to fall, instead they stayed all puffy... until I took them out of the oven. Also while scooping dough in from the bottom of my bowl I noticed there was flour visible around all the chocolate chunks. Which surprisingly didn't affect the taste at all. I think I ate about 6 of these today. If they weren't making me feel nauseous I'd eat the rest because they are exactly a cross between cookies and brownies - heaven.

Double Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from "Baking With Julia"

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into larger than chip size chunks
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1½ tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside until needed. Divide the bittersweet chocolate in half and set half aside.

2. Place the butter, the remaining bittersweet chocolate, and the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler over, but not touching, simmering water. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the butter and chocolates are melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

3. Meanwhile, put the eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at high speed for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon when the whisk is lifted and the mixture is allowed to drizzle back into the bowl.

4. With the mixer on low speed, very gradually add the warm butter-chocolate mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and work your rubber spatula around the bottom of the bowl, then continue to mix just until the chocolate is thoroughly incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and the remaining bittersweet chocolate chunks and mix thoroughly. The mixture will look like a thick, marshmallowy cake batter.

5. Chilling the dough: Cover the bowl with plastic and chill for several hours, or overnight. The dough can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.

6. Baking the cookies: When you are ready to bake, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

7. Using a heaping tablespoon of dough for each cookie, drop the dough onto the lined sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between each mound of dough – these are spreaders. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking period. The cookies will puff, then sink and crinkle and wrinkle around the edges. These cookies are better underdone than overbaked, so if you have any doubts, pull them out of the oven earlier rather than later. These shouldn’t appear dry and they won’t be crisp. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough.

8. Storing: The cookies can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for 2 days or frozen for up to a month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.

A Week Late - Blueberry Nectarine Pie

I didn't make this until Wednesday... I've been majorly slacking in the Baking Beauties involvement. I couldn't let this one go by though. So very in season... In fact all the filling came straight from the farms for the Blueberry Nectarine Pie:

Really I have no excuse for being late with this project. Remember back to the French Apple Tart, when I made too much dough? Well, these were still in the freezer, so I didn't even make the dough, just thawed some.

Although while they were still frozen I was convinced one was pizza dough, I really need to start labeling my freezer contents.

I love that I use Redpath Sugar on Redpath Ave. Technically I live on Eglinton, but the view out my window is named after this little sugar factory.

My first hesitation with this recipe came here:

What the crap do you mean I'm supposed to "boil" this? That's not liquid, Julia.

And that's about 10 seconds later. Oh, I see! It turns to liquid.

I was jealous of Kristina's butterfly, so I added a little star. I obviously had some problems with the top of the dough, where I had to add little pieces to cover up places where it ripped. Also, I will never understand how to form the crust. They try to explain, but I can't picture it... I'm going to have to find a video somewhere.

So that's about it... I just cooked the fruit and stuck it in the pie. Turns out I had a secret hidden LOVE for blueberries. Hidden from myself I mean. This pie is totally amazing. I would have sat down by myself and eaten the whole thing with a fork if I had no shame. In fact if I had no shame I'd forgo the fork as well.

Blueberry Nectarine Pie

1/2 Recipe Flaky Pie Crust
3 cups fresh blueberries, washed
2 cups sliced nectarines
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
large pinch of lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

While your dough is chilling before you roll it out, start your filling. Put half of the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand. Add the sugar, flour, and lemon zest and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Cool the filling to room temperature. Taste, and add lemon juice as needed.

Spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell and dot the tip with butter.

Roll out your second ball of dough. Transfer it to the top of the pie, aligning the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust. Trim any ragged edges.

Fold both layers of overhanging dough under to create a thick edge around the rim of the pan. Crimp the edges by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of your other hand, creating scallops every 1 - 2 inches around the rim. Using a sharp paring knife, cut 4 - 6 slits in the top of the crust, brush egg wash over the top, and chill for 20 minutes.

Placing the pie on a jelly roll pan in the center of the oven, bake at 375 for about 40 - 50 minutes. Let the pie cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Craig Cooks Pad Thai

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first dinner fail. I know Craig would say Sausage and Beans was, but I disagree. You see, we ate the sausage and beans - on Pad Thai Night we ordered pizza.

It all started out well enough. I was working late, Craig was chopping up peanuts.

He was measuring things out and refilling the bean sprouts bowl after he munched a few too many.

I got home and eggs got a crackin'.

This is where it starting going off the rails a little. You see our closest grocery store is a Sobey's Urban Fresh store. This means a lot of times they don't have exactly what we're looking for. Such was the case with our noodles. The recipe said to soak them for 15 minutes, but since they weren't the right kind they were still quite.... stiff at that point.

The recipe also said to turn the heat up to high and dump in some garlic. We weren't using the shrimp it called for so that garlic pretty much instantly burned. That's me getting rid of the evidence.

Did I mention Craig accidentally bought flavoured tofu? Luckily it wasn't anything weird, like peach flavoured - just herb.

Doesn't that look totally awesome?

All those black bits you see? Burnt garlic. But it was actually just the uncooked noodles that made it inedible.

I think I'm going to get the right ingredients one day and we'll attempt this again.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything:

Pad Thai

Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

12 ounces dried flat rice noodles, 1/4 inch thick

5 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

3 eggs, lightly beaten

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces small shrimp, peeled

4 ounces pressed tofu, or extra-firm tofu, blotted dry, sliced

2 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths

1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and trimmed

2 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)

2 teaspoons tamarind paste or ketchup

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 small fresh green chiles, preferably Thai, seeded and sliced (optional)

1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Put the noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Soak until softened, at least 15 minutes; if you want to hold them a little longer, drain them, fill the bowl with cold water, and return the noodles to the bowl.

2. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the eggs and scramble quickly for the first minute or so with a fork almost flat against the bottom of the pan; you're aiming for a thin egg crêpe of sorts, one with the smallest curd you can achieve. Cook just until set and transfer the crêpe to a cutting board. Cut into 1/4-inch strips and set aside.

3. Raise the heat to high and add the remaining oil. When hot, add the garlic and shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp lose their raw gray color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate next to the stove. Add the tofu, scallions, and half of the bean sprouts to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the plate with the shrimp.

4. Put the drained noodles, eggs, nam pla, tamarind, and sugar in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are heated through, then add the stir-fried tofu mixture. Toss once or twice and transfer the contents of the pan to a serving platter. Top with the peanuts, cilantro, chiles, and remaining bean sprouts. Serve with the lime wedges.

Vegetarian Pad Thai.

Omit the shrimp and increase the tofu to 8 ounces. Substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce.