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 jalapeños 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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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.

Aigo Bouido

Oh man, this soup.

I couldn’t stop myself from eating a pound of bread and two bowls of this soup. After that, I couldn’t do a lot of things. But after after that, I felt amazing.

I’d been feeling a little under the weather when this soup came on my radar. The fact that it would help with my sickness was an bonus, an accessory. It is no secret that I love garlic, so when this recipe made it into my brain, of course I jumped for it. I’ve always believed fervently and zealously in the power of garlic. It’s to the point that I even “convert” people and do things like make them read the Wikipedia page. It stops me from getting eaten by mosquitoes when I go to Louisiana, it keeps my heart healthy despite eating like someone from Louisiana, and it comes to the rescue when I’m coming down with something. Generally, I have a little soup I throw together on mornings when I need to eat but am feeling too bad. Aigo bouido reminded me of that soup on overdrive.

I’ve been on a Julia Child kick ever since reading her memoir, which is where I found this recipe. Although I was able to find her version online, I decided to make a Frankenstein’s monster, pulling my favorite parts out of all the recipes I found. Broth seemed more flavorful than water, a bread bowl seemed tastier and easier than toastlets with fresh mayonnaise, and despite her saying that it would be easier to peel the garlic after boiling it, I peeled it like normal.

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Falling in line with what I vaguely think I know about garlic, I smashed it instead of slicing, and I didn’t strain it out. It was delightful biting into a chunk of aromatic garlic.

*On that note, when you eat this, make sure that whomever you make out with is also eating this soup.

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In her book, she said that she made it after a rough and stormy Mediterranean day, full of wind, salt, and poor spirits. But this soup livened everybody up again. It is surprisingly light and refreshing, which is part of why I wanted bread with it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be very substantial which might lead to accidentally eating the whole pot. IMG_5160

 

Aigo Bouido

  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic
  • 6 – 8 cups veggie broth
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tbs olive oil (or butter, or both)
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 2 cloves (don’t skip!)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sage
  • salt
  • pepper
  1.  Crush garlic. Heat oil in med/low pot. Add garlic and cook until they begin to golden.
  2. Add herbs and stir. Cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and cheese together.
  5. After the 30 minutes, temper the egg/cheese by very slowly adding a cup of broth. Once tempered, return mixture to pot.

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.

Lamb Burgers

This isn’t so much an instructional article as a show-off article. I’ll probably end up breaking this down into multiple articles explaining the different bits, but for now this will suffice.

We used:
ground lamb
shallots
olive oil
Asian pears
egg yolks
arugula
gruyere

This was a very long and complicated dinner, but it was so good we made it twice.

We started by dicing the shallots.

Then we cooked them in olive oil for about an hour on a med-low heat. The goal was to infuse the oil with the shallot flavor.

Once they had browned, we strained them out of the oil, careful to keep as much of it as possible. Then we mixed the shallots into the meat, along with a little salt and pepper.

Next, in the oil we fried thin slices of Asian pear. Not until crispy though, just until soft.

After that we let the oil cool and made an aioli with it and the egg yolks.

Ok, now imagine all that combined together–perfectly cooked meat along with a slice of gruyere and some arugula. I have to tell you, it tastes a bit like Heaven.

Birthday Tarts

I’ve never really liked birthday cake. It’s sacrilege, I know, but there’s something so sickly sweet and terrible about the birthday cake and all that icing on top of it that just really turns me away from it. Don’t get me wrong; there’s always a time and a place for cake, just not on my birthday.

Because of this, at the joint birthday parties my sister and I would have, there’d sometimes be some alternative like a gigantic cookie cake or ice cream cake, but sometimes it was just so easy to go the the grocery store bakery and pick something up.

But a few years ago I moved in with my mom and for my 15th birthday we made this.

It was awesome. And ever since I haven’t been content with just any cake. It may seem silly, but at the same time I don’t care what you think! Hahaha. And for the most part I’ve been making my own birthday desserts, so it all works out.

One thing that’s hit me and really stuck was the tart.

For the longest time I’ve been making these with my mom and sister. We always followed the Martha Stewart recipes for the crust and the filling, but this time I wanted to try to make my own recipe. (Part was due to the desire to create from absolutely nothing, not even a recipe, part was due to the laziness encountered when faced with the task of looking up the recipe.)

I started off by selecting and preparing some fruit that I thought would go well together and look nice.

I chose blackberries, strawberries, kiwis, dragon fruit, raspberries and blueberries. Good stuff.

And for the crust, I used:
1/4 cup sugar (you can use less or none at all, as you wish)
2 cups flour
8 oz cream cheese
1 tbs water

This makes enough for one 9inch round plus a little extra. I used my handy-dandy stand mixer (thanks mom!)

to mix the dough but any sort of mixer (or even your hands) would work fine. You want it to have the consistency of a crumbly cookie dough.

I just put it in the pan and flattened it out with my hands, but it would also work if you rolled it out first. That’d probably look really nice, but at the same time, it’s about to be covered with cream so it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t bake it, I wanted to see how it would come out as is. So I just set it in the fridge to get harder and cold while I did the next parts. (I think I’m going to try baking it later, maybe into a pear-tart, mmm.)

***UPDATE***
So I tried baking them this time. They came out kind of crunchy and nice, so I definitely recommend it. If you want it to be flakier and lighter, try adding a little butter. Maybe even replacing some of the cream cheese for butter.
I preheated and baked at 360-375 (my oven’s not super accurate) for about 25 minutes. I checked on them every 5, so that may have let out a bunch of heat, thereby making it take a bit longer than it should have. They brown a little, but not very much; you don’t want them to be golden all over, just some on the edges. (If they cook too long they get kind of too hard.)
***

Next I made the filling. It was very simple and light because it doesn’t use cream cheese like a lot of other fillings I’m used to making.

It calls for:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (powdered would be best, but in all honesty I used granulated)
16 oz cottage cheese (small curd)
1 tbs vanilla

Similarly, just whip until it’s whip-creamy. I think I got up to the 6th speed setting, and maybe let it sit there a few minutes. But you can play around with it some, like stop it for a “quality control taste test,” if needed.

Then when that’s done, just plop the whipped cream onto the tart shell, flatten it out with a spatula, and start decorating.

I had a couple of friends help me decorate, which explains the variety of designs. This is really one of those tangible manifestations of food-ing as a social thing. It’s nice when people can get together over something playful and delicious like this.

Stuffed Pork Chops

This is another idea inspired by something my mom said last time I was in town. It’s really simple and it’s a new way to handle pork chops.

Besides the normal seasonings (salt, pepper, and olive oil) all you need is:

Pork chops
And the white thing next to it, I don’t know the official name. I’ll call them mozzarella roll-ups. Basically imagine a sheet of mozzarella with prosciutto and basil layered on before rolling it all up together. In other words, super tasty. A lot of grocery stores carry them in the deli section, but if you can’t find any, you could easily replicate it with the three ingredients just being together.

Start by slicing the mozzarella.

And you should probably just eat the end pieces because they’re the best part and they’re funny shaped anyway.

After that, butterfly the pork chop. The technique is pretty simple and I’ve talked about it in another article. Then put the mozzarella inside.

Now it’s time to get ready to bake. I lined my pan with foil so that it’d be easier to clean, but it’s not necessary. I also but a little olive oil on the pan and on the pork chops themselves. Then I salted and peppered both sides.

I chose to bake these, but you could easily cook them on the stove. To bake it, I cooked it at 375 for 16 minutes then checked on it. They needed a few more minutes after that, so I’d say it took about 22 minutes total.

And to complete the meal, I paired the chops with baked asparagus.

They were super tasty and made me happy. I can also vouch for they’re skills as leftovers as I brought some to work the next day and it was still awesome.

Three cheese and basil risotto

I had risotto for the first time a few weeks ago and ever since I’ve wanted to make my own. It’ simple in idea, but seemed daunting because of it’s mystery to me. And for once, I only made enough for two people! (It’s always a good idea to make a text batch of something you’re not familiar with.)

Here’s what I used:

1/2 cup arborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
A couple basil leaves
Some Parmesan (I’d say about half a cup)
Some Ementaler (I’d say a little more than a quarter cup)
A little blue cheese (about two tablespoons)
1 tbs white vinegar (to imitate the white wine flavor in the dish I first tried)
Black pepper to taste

First, I sliced the basil into strips and put it in a saucepan with the broth and a little pepper. I brought it to a boil over medium heat in order to let the broth soak up the basil flavor, but also without having a lot of the water boil away. Once it started boiling, I reduced the temperature to low and let it sit for 8 minutes.

While that was going I sliced the cheese.

I sliced it because my grater is currently out of commission. The point is, you want it to be small enough to melt quickly, so slice or grate it as you like.

When the broth’s about 2 minutes from done, start frying the rice on medium.

I’m not saying deep fry it or anything, just get a pan with some oil and there you go. This is where I added the vinegar. I didn’t want it to be too pronounced, so I added it early so that some of it would boil off. This would also be a good place to add some garlic or onions, if that’s your kind of thing. And FYI, from this point on, you’re going to be stirring constantly.

Let that cook for about 2 minutes, then add 2 ladle’s full of broth and a little bit of cheese.

When all the broth’s absorbed, add some more! Remember to keep stirring the whole time and keep repeating this until there’s no more broth. Do a taste test to make sure they’re not too al-dente, then turn off the heat and serve!

Berry Salad

Some might call this a summer salad because the fruit in it are summer fruit. But I feel silly doing that because there are so many summer fruit. But anywhoo.

My mom made a salad similar to this the other day and I felt the need to replicate it last night because it was so good.

What you need is:

Strawberries
Raspberries
(Mom made it with blueberries too, but when I went to the store they were all ugly and unappealing, so no blubes for me)
Equal amounts of walnuts and blue cheese
Spinach
Oil and vinegar

I also cooked some chicken to mix in with it. Nothing special, just skillet-ed, seasoned, and sliced.

Start by washing your fruit and slicing the strawberries.

And be sure to set some aside to make the dressing. I’d say one good-sized strawberry and 3 or 4 raspberries.

I used a food processor because I like my little Philbert, but we didn’t use one at Mom’s. A knife and whisk will do the job just fine.

Mince the berries and scoop them into a cup, then add oil and vinegar and whisk. So easy! Then do the obligatory taste test to make sure everything’s good and tweak if necessary.

Now for the walnuts and blue cheese. Pile them together on your cutting board.

Then chop to combine. That may sound weird, but trust me, it makes sense. As you cut the walnuts, the blue cheese kind of starts to coat them and they become one. Which I like a whole lot better than just lone blue cheese floating dejectedly around in my salad.

Then toss everything together!

Puff Pastry Calzone

I a lot of my cooking is dictated by what I need to use in my fridge. I’ll buy something thinking I’ll go on some fantastical culinary adventure, then that falls through or I get sidetracked, and then I end up having to find something to do with it. It’s not very hard, but it happens all the time. And this was one of those occasions.

I had some leftover andouille and puff pastry. Something had to be done.

What I had at my disposal was:
16 oz heavy whipping cream
2 links andouille
2 packages of preshredded italian blend cheese

Now don’t give me too much crap for that one, I was cooking at a friends house who is renowned for being eternally broke and therefore has very little to work with. The irony is that he graduated from culinary school.

Anywhoo, I started by reducing the cream on a medium heat. (Or medium high, I might have been impatient.) There’s not really a difference, except that the hotter it is, the faster it reduces. But you have to stir a lot more often because it might burn on you.

While that’s going, get to cutting the sausage and prepping the puff pastry.

In this case, “prepping” = unfold, assuming it’s defrosted enough. If not, just wait some more.

And when the cream is reduced to about half it’s original volume, start adding the cheese.

Do it handful by handful until it comes out ridiculously stretchy.

Then spread on the sauce,

the sausage and cheese,

and fold it all over.

Then bake it at around 425 until it’s done (I checked on it after 8 minutes (I’m very impatient) and it still needed some time, a little less than 15 minutes total).

The gash in the top is ugly, yes, but it Did serve a purpose. You need some sort of ventilation so that it doesn’t explode in your oven and look even worse. But there are prettier ways of going about this. A nic little \\\ three slices on the top would look super nice. It’s just too bad I thought of it now instead of then.