Wrong-time-of-year King Cake

First thing I want to start off this post with, is something very personal and revealing.

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This is the most cohesive recipe I’ve ever gotten from my mom. Everything else I’ve gleaned through my nose and eyes. A couple of times I’ve gotten a dictated recipe full of vague measurements like “enough” and “some.”

It’s definitely possible to learn from and work with stuff like this!

This is also a big part of why I’ve always been a little inconsistent in how I post recipes. I fundamentally believe that the ingredients themselves are inconsistent–no two jalapeƱos are alike, and it’s important to be prepared to handle the differences.

Even with baking, I follow the same ideas. I started out using recipes as a crutch, but I grew to trust my senses. All sorts of things–humidity, age of the yeast or flour, temperature of each ingredient and of the air–influence the dough, and it is more important to look at the dough itself than to look at a dead page with dead script on it. So now recipes are starting points, style guides. And the pictures help keep me in tune with what things should look like. Good descriptions help fill in my senses and build my expectations.

So with that in mind, I took a ton of pictures of the process and I’ll try to be detailed in all my sensory descriptions.

It wasn’t the right season, but I’m consistently out of town for Mardi Gras, so we made a King Cake anyway last time we visited.

We’re not big on excessive food coloring or sugar, so the toppings are a bit different than what you’d normally see.
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For our version, there are actually two recipes. One for the filling (which we also used as an icing) and one for the dough. Our filling is a basic fluffy-almost-cream-cheese, but you can use anything you like. The filling was whipped up too fast for me to get a good picture, so here’s the recipe:

2 cream cheeses
1 tub of mascarpone (8oz)
1 cup confectioners sugar
tap of vanilla

Mix these all together in a bowl until smooth.
Resist the temptation to eat it all while making everything else.

But as for the dough, that’ll be a bit more interesting.

Assemble the following:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
2 packages of yeast (or 4.5 teaspoons)
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup warm water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
5 1/2 cups flour (we used bread flour, cake flour would be nice too)
1 1/2 tsp salt

your selection of toppings/extra filling (we used a mix of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries)

To start, we’re going to need to scald the milk.

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To do this, just heat the milk up on medium high. Keep an eye on it, because you don’t want it to boil, scalding is just before that. Stir it if you like, but it will slow down the process. When the milk starts to froth at the edges, you’ve reached the right point.

Take the milk off the stove, and pour it in your mixing bowl. Add your butter and allow to melt. Now that the pressure’s off of watching the milk, go ahead and preheat the oven to 375.

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Yeast is alive, and you don’t want to kill it. If you put it in the butter + milk too soon, you could murder it with heat. So let that cool until it’s cold enough that you would comfortably touch it, then add the yeast, sugar, water and eggs.

Lightly mix it. You don’t want to froth it up, but you want the ingredients to be equally incorporated. Top it off with the nutmeg.

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Then, add the flour slowly, about a cup at a time. Tap it into the mixer while it’s running, and add more once what was in there has blended in. Your dough will end up somewhat sticky, but not soupy. It’ll stick to your fingers, but that’s totally fine.

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This recipe makes three king cakes, but we only made two last time and that worked out well. You can play with this to see how many cakes you want and how thick they’re going to be. Once we grabbed as much dough as we wanted to use, we then separated it into two pieces. After the rolling and the filling, each piece will be a half circle for the whole cake.

Before rolling it out, prep the countertop and the rolling pin with more flour. Sprinkle liberally, but try not to have clumps.

As you roll it, if there are spots where the dough sticks to the rolling pin, just sprinkle more flour on. You’ll notice that it becomes easier to handle the dough once you start working it like this.

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Aim for a crust that is rectangular instead of square or circular, and make it around 1/4-1/2 inch thick. We’re going to roll it into a tube, and then make it a circle from there. But before that!
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Slap down some of the cream cheese filling and sprinkle your favorite things inside. We used mixed berries, but it works really well with any type of fruit, flavored cream cheese fillings, or even chopped up candy bars.

With your hands (not the rolling pin!), roll these flat doughs into tubes.

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You can see both of ours in the picture, back in the background is the second one. Once they’re both ready, curl one into a half-circle and make room to bring the other half over.

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We overlapped the dough a little to help seal the halves together.

Once the oven was ready, we popped it in, covered with high quality butter, and bake for 30 minutes. The butter isn’t strictly necessary, but it gives it a beautiful GBD color and texture.

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When the cake is done, let it cool on a cake rack until cool to the touch. If you try to ice it while it is still hot, the icing won’t set and will melt down the sides. We used the leftover filling for the icing, but you could definitely use something like a royal icing or a buttercream, or your favorite type of other-icing.

We sprinkled on the leftover fruit to finish it off, then chowed down.

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It was great as a dessert, but if you can manage, I recommend saving at least a little. It tastes great chilled (and I love the texture of the filling both hot and cold, so it’s good to try it both ways).

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Mushroom Surprise, Part 2

Hello again!

The overtime has yet to calm down, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten you. Today I’ll post the tantalizing finish to The Mushroom Surprise Saga. The mushroom bacon from the last post was used as a topper for this more complete meal.

We got a sampler pack of mushrooms and tried half of them as the “bacon” and the other half went into this … stir fry? We basically sauteed vegetables that seemed wonderful together, then tossed it on top of some miso-quinoa.

Since there was no meat in either of these recipes, I did pull a few savory tricks out of my bag. When cooking the quinoa, I added some Liquid Aminos and red miso paste. If you don’t have liquid aminos, you could use mushroom broth, beef broth, or even soy or Worcestershire sauce. They all have a similar flavor profile to me, with slight variations.

Cook the quinoa according to your usual methods (bring 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water to boil in a pot, once boiling, turn heat to low, cover and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes. remove from heat and let sit for 5. fluff and serve) but with the extra additions. If you want to be super exact, you can pour your liquid element into a the measuring cup you’ll use to measure the water, to make sure you end up with the proper 2 parts liquid.

As for the interesting bits, I used:

Asparagus

Brussel Sprouts

Shallots

Alba Clamshell Mushrooms

Walnut oil

 

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Start by:

  1. Chop the asparagus into bite-sized bits, and the brussel sprouts in half. Go ahead and chop the shallots too, but set them aside.
  2. Cook the asparagus and brussel sprouts in medium heat until just starting to get tender, use the walnut oil.
  3. Once those are tender, add the shallots. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes or so. (You can probably add the shallots and mushrooms at the same time, it’s just a matter of a difference of texture).
  5. Eat it!

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Fungus Bacon, or, Mushroom Surprise, Part 1

I’ve been staying late at work a lot this week, so I’m going to pull that excuse and turn it into a fun advantage! Today’s article/recipe will be a bit of a teaser.

We were experimenting with mushrooms a little while back and got a sampler pack. In combining the different mushrooms in one dish, we tried out two different cooking methods. One is tried and true, tasty and vegan friendly–maybe even playfully deceptive if you’ve got a little Ferran in you.

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For this part of the dish, we used the shiitake, chanterelle, and king oyster mushrooms. We’ve done this with shiitake mushrooms, but the others were a bit of an experiment. We found out that they all work well, but the key is to make sure to cut them to the same consistency. Slight differences are magnified as the mushrooms cook down, so it’s definitely worth taking your time.

After cutting them, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper. You want them to be covered, but not sopping, and as for the SnP, I say heavy on the P. Some salt is good to help out, but keep in mind that people add salt once it’s on the plate, so no need to overdo it here.

 

 

 

 

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Once they’re ready, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes then flip. Bake another 15 minutes, then check and flip again. Moisture will evaporate more readily from the edges than the center, so try to re-disperse when flipping. Repeat this until the “bacon” is in a satisfactory zone of the crispy-gooey scale.

Hatch Pain Perdu

The pain perdu I’ve been exposed to is hard to find. When I search for the phrase, I come across “that’s just French for French toast!” or crusty, fried, maybe baked bread recipes with sauces. What I’m used to is stale bread, thrown in an oven pan, drowned in broth, cream, cheese etc etc etc and baked until the bread absorbs it. If y’all know a better name for it, let me know, otherwise I’m gonna keep calling it what I know.

In Texas around August, hatch peppers are a big thing. Grocery stores will have roasting parties, restaurants will bust out seasonal menus, city blocks will erupt in hot sauce festivals.

I caved in the grocery store and bought a loaf of the hatch cheddar bread. Although I’m an eater, I do still not have any roommates, so bread will sometimes go bad at my place. After nomming through half the loaf, I decided this would be a great way to use and keep the old bread.

To make it complete, I bought fresh hatch peppers and some hatch sausage to go with it. Hatch 3 ways.

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The end result isn’t the most photogenic, but it’s very tasty.

 

Hatch Pain Perdu

  • enough hatch bread to fill your baking pan
  • heavy whipping cream
  • broth
  • fresh hatch peppers
  • cheddar
  1. Chop bread and peppers. Mix roughly and layer into baking pan, while putting cheese between the layers.
  2. Fill the pan half way with a mixture of broth and cream. I used a bit more broth than cream, but the proportions are up to you
  3. Bake at 370 for 30 minutes, then check on it.

Baked Spanish Tortilla, an experiment

I was given a bunch of fresh squash and zucchini the other day. Living in an apartment, it’s very nice knowing people who have gardens and small appetites. Lucky me!

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For a long time, I always made basically the same thing with squash and zucchini–a delicious stewed concoction with tomatoes that could go well with pasta or in lasagna–but this time I wanted to do something different. I’d also been craving a quiche or something eggy, so one fateful night, I decided to embark on a Spanish tortilla. The first night I had a Spanish tortilla was very eventful for me. It was the first night I found out that beer could taste good and it was my first college party, so this dish has an interesting place in my brain/heart.

Before I’d only had it with onion, potato, and egg, but I thought the squash and zucchini double whammy would work out well. I recently bought pounds and pounds of potatoes and have a ridiculous amount of good olive oil (thanks mom!), so I went to town.

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Since I don’t have a very good skillet for a traditional Spanish tortilla, I decided to try baking it, which thankfully, turned out very well.

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Baked Spanish Tortilla!

Garlic, Salt, Pepper
3-4 medium golden potatoes
4-5 squash and/or zucchini
I think I used around 8 eggs?
And probably about 1/4 cup olive oil (that’s why it’s important to have one that you think tastes good)

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Slice the garlic (of course), potatoes, zucchini, and squash (and onion if you remember) into thin slices of equal thickness. Mine were about 1/4 inch.
3. Oil the bottom of a 9 x 13 and begin layering the potatoes and squash/zuchs, starting with potatoes on bottom. Add a little Salt/Pepper/Garlic/Olive oil at each layer.
4. Crack some eggs into a separate bowl and whisk, then pour over pan. You want it to fill to only about half full. I started with only a few but kept adding more until it reached the level. (My pan isn’t 9 x 13, it’s something weird like 10 3/8 x 14 1/4, so I needed about 8 eggs, but you might need a different amount)
5. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
6. Check on it–test fluffiness of eggs. It might need 15 more minutes without the foil.

Honey Jalapeno Chicken

So recently I’ve learned a few things. One, roasting chickens is awesome. It’s cheap, easy, tasty, and impressive. Two, allspice is delicious.

I’ve been trying to save up money because I’m going to Costa Rica in August, so I’ve been eating a little cheaper (hah) but still pretty well. Chicken’s a good way to go with it, especially when you buy whole ones. They also give you a pretty good chance to experiment with flavor. Every time I’ve prepared chicken this way it’s been completely different, and it’s not hard to be creative.

This time honey jalapeno was the start.

Ingredients:
Whole chicken, thawed and innards removed
5 jalapenos
~2/3 cup honey
~3/4 cup water
~1/8 tsp allspice, ground
black pepper

The first thing I did was cut up the jalapenos and push them under the skin of the breasts and thighs. All five didn’t fit in there. The rest I put inside the cavity, save one which I used for the sauce.

Next I made a sauce to baste the chicken with as it was cooking. I combined the jalapeno, honey, water, allspice, and pepper in a saucepan and cooked on medium to start, then kept it on 2 as the chicken was cooking.

To go with the chicken, I scalloped some potatoes and put them in a pan under the chicken, to catch the drippings. Don’t cut them too thin, because they’ll just cook too fast and stick to the bottom if you do.

As for baking, there should be instructions on the packaging. I think it was 350 degrees for 20 minutes/lb. Mine was a five-pounder so it took a while. I started the chicken off with a little sauce, and every 15-20 minutes I brushed on some more. The whole process is very easy to walk away from, so long as there’s a timer going.

When there was only 20 minutes left, I opened up a can of chestnuts I had in the pantry and threw them in with the potatoes. (Chestnuts are amazing. If you’ve never had them, I highly recommend you do. They go really well with chicken and potatoes and drippin’s.)

With the chicken done and the oven on, I decided to make some asparagus to go with it. The timing worked out perfectly because by the time the asparagus was done, the chicken was cool enough to cut.

And wa-bham–cheap, easy, tasty dinner.

Seafood Lasagna

So apparently lasagna is one of those foods I really like because I tend to make it a lot. Every time it’s a little bit different, based on the whims of the day and the one I made most recently was a seafood lasagna. Seafood lasagna is another one of those dishes that reminds me of France because my host mom used to get some really good lasagna from the fisherie(?) on a fairly regular basis. This one was a bit too bright and not as diversely occupied as Sophie’s guy’s, but it’s still pretty nice.

Structurally, it was very similar to every other lasagna I’ve ever made, the only special thing was how I treated the tilapia. But I’ll go over everything just because I like you so much.

Tilapia Ingredients:
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon’s worth)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tilapia filets
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (how convenient!)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Start by combining the zest, thyme, salt, and pepper in a bowl then take roughly half of it and coat both sides of the tilapia filets. In a oiled skilled heated on medium-high, cook the tilapia for about two minutes on each side.

They won’t be cooked, but don’t freak out. You’re going to bake them so it’ll be ok.

Once that’s over with, remove the tilapia and lover the heat to medium. Add the remaining spices and lemon juice, then stir it all around and mingle with the fish juices. Next add the whipping cream and cook for about 2 minutes until slightly thick.

While the sauce was reducing, I chunked/shredded the tilapia. When the sauce was ready, I tossed the tilapia in and took it off the heat. And that’s it for the tilapia.

Lasagna ingredients:
Tilapia and sauce (as prepared above)
About 3/4 lb cooked shrimp
Lasagna pasta sheets
1 jar Pasta sauce (I used 24 oz black olive and capers since lemon and capers are such good friends)
7 oz ricotta
~3 cups mozzarella
2-3 handfuls parmesan

Keep in mind to preheat the oven to 375, then feel free to get on your layering.

I started with a layer of pasta, using 4 sheets.
Then ricotta with parmesan sprinkled on.
More pasta sheets.
The tilapia and sauce, topped with a good amount of mozzarella.
Even more pasta sheets.
All the shrimp, a little less than half the sauce, and more mozzarella.
The penultimate layer: pasta.
And finally, top it off with the last of the sauce and however much cheese you want.

Then cover and bake for 35-40 minutes and enjoy!

The lemon comes through well, but isn’t overpowering and mingled with the sauces nicely. And even though it may seem strange to combine seafood and cheese, it totally works in lasagna. I’ve tried it a fair number of times, with a variety of sauces–even pesto–and it always works.

I ate mine with a side of asparagus, also something that turned out to be one of my favorite things.

Hazelnut oil and lemon cake

So I’ve been in a super cake mood since the other day when Mom told me it was National Chocolate Cake Day. I haven’t checked to see if that’s a real thing, but it did prompt me to make this cake and it was bitchin’ sweet, so last night we made another. Last night’s was totally different though–it was lemon and hazelnut and very fluffy instead of chocolate.

Last night’s cake was super good. Normally when I make cake, I end up giving all but three bites of it away because it’s huge and I’m done with it. But I’m totally hoarding this one. None for you! So now you have to make one and here’s the recipe.

3/4 cup hazelnut oil
1 lemon (for zest and juice)
1 cup cake flour (it totally makes a difference–I used to be a nonbeliever, so believe me now)
5 eggs, separated into 5 yolks and 4 whites
3/4 cup sugar, divided1/2 tsp salt

I baked this in a 9 x 13 pan but I bet it would work in a 9 or 10 inch circular one if you prefer.

The oven needs to preheat to 350, do this when you like.

Hazelnut oil is really cool. It’s got this smoky flavor that probably came from roasting the nuts and is really nice. We’ve used it in salad dressings a couple of times, but this is the first thing we’ve done which requires a lot of it.

Whisk together the 1 cup flour and 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest in a bowl you can easily pour from, then set aside.

In another bowl, beat together the 5 yolks and 1/2 cup sugar on high for about three minutes, until the texture is totally different–thick and pale.

becomes

After that, lower the speed to medium and add the hazlenut oil. Mmm hazlenut oil. As well as 1 1/2 tbs lemon juice. Mix enough to combine. Then add in the flour/lemon zest and mix in gently (ie, not with the mixer, use a wooden spoon or spatula).

In an entirely new bowl, combine the 4 egg whites and 1/2 tsp salt then beat at med or med-high until foamy. Once you’ve achieved this, start adding 1/4 cup sugar a little bit at a time, while still mixing. Once all the sugar is in, continue until you are able to form soft peaks.

Now comes the delicate part. The foamy egg whites will help lighten the cake. Sounds awesome, yeah?! Well the yolks and flour are going to do their best to eff you over, so what you’ve got to do is fold them together. First, take about 1/3 of the egg whites and put them in the same bowl as the yolks and, using a spatula, fold them together. This is different from normal mixing in that you’re trying to maintain the airiness of the whites so you literally fold layers of pre-cake on top of each other until the batter seems homogenous. After the first third is combined, go ahead and fold the rest in.

Once this has been completed, pour the batter into your baking pan of choice and tap it against the counter to remove obstinate, excessive bubbles. This will ensure a uniformly delicious cake, with no dissapointing holey pieces.

Then bake this glory for 30-45 minutes, depending on your pan, until the poke test is successful.

Once this cools, I’m sure you will find yourself in a paradise of refreshing smokey, nutty, lemon and fluff, just like I did. It was quite disorienting. So much so, in fact, that I found myself unable to take a picture of the completed cake without at least a few pieces missing.

Grandma’s Cornbread

This is a recipe I’ve been in love with for years and last night was the first time I made it. It came out so good! The recipe is simple enough, but I think there’s a key secret ingredient I’m not going to reveal at this point, but I’ll let you get close.

The secret’s which corn meal. Here’s a picture:

Good luck! They don’t even sell it around here; last time I visited, Grandma made me take a package back with me so I could make it right.

What you need is:
2 cups white, stone ground corn meal
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbs butter
A cast iron skillet

Start by heating the oven to 400 degrees and putting the butter in the skillet.

When the oven’s warmed up, put it in and let the butter melt until browned.

While that’s going, mix everything else together in a bowl.

It’s a very no-nonsense recipe and it comes together so effortlessly that you’ll want to make it every night. In fact, the only thing stopping me today is my lack of buttermilk and the extreme (ahem, 50 degrees) cold outside preventing my trek to the store.

Once the butter’s browned, remove the pan and pour in the mix, then bake for 20 minutes.

Honey Cupcakes

So this year some friends and I are throwing an awesome Halloween party and we kind of want to go over the top. We’re going to decorate her backyard with all sorts of props, have neat little party favors, and of course, incredible cupcakes. The party’s Alice in Wonderland themed, so a lot of the decorations and of course, food, are ridiculous and non-nonsensical. So I tried to come up with flavors that not everyone would have tried before.

The first batch of cupcakes I made were honey flavored. The cake came out very moist and fluffy, but not overly sweet. And super amazing.

What I used is:
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup cake flour (sifted)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk (I used whole)

Depending on how fast you work, you may want to preheat the oven to 350 now.

Start by creaming the butter and sugar.

Creaming the butter calls for the beater attachment to your mixer and mixing on the lowest speed until no clumps remain. Once that’s done, mix on medium for about ten minutes, while scraping the sides for batter periodically to ensure it blends well. Blend until fluffy, then add the honey.

Then beat until light and fluffy. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or so.

Next add the vanilla and eggs, then beat well to combine. After that, pour in half the flour as well as the baking soda and salt, then mix. You should be careful not to over-mix here, because overworking the flour can make cakes, breads, and biscuits (i.e. anything with flour) come out tough.

Add the milk, mix it in, then add the rest of the flour and mix until smooth. For this batch I tried to fill the cupcake containers to about 1/2 or 3/4 full, but some of them overflowed, so I’m going to try 1/2 full next time.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes then check on them. The toothpick test is one of my favorite done-ness indicators.

As for icing, I tried out two different types, butter cream and royal. But not just your ordinary icing–recipes coming soon!