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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Turkey and Andouille Gumbo

Every year I get a turkey for Thanksgiving. This is the first year I actually used it for Thanksgiving, but that’s for a different article. What I always use the turkey for is awesome Louisiana food–namely, gumbo and jambalaya. Right now I’ve got a batch on the stove, and I think I’ve made it enough times to write a good article about it.

Although it’s kind of intimidating, it’s not too hard. For the longest time, making the roux was the scariest part. It’s that essential first step that either makes or breaks your gumbo. I come from two different methodologies when it comes to making a roux, which didn’t help things either. Basically, there are two ways to do it: low and long or hot and fast. But whichever way you choose, the most important thing is that you don’t burn it. I used to be a fan of long and low, but as I got more used to making a roux, my impatience came to take over.

I guess gumbo is one of those foods that I love–the kind you can play with and make your own. I have a recipe that I forced out of my mom written down, but I’ve made so many adjustments and make so many non-measurements that having a recipe has become a little silly. But it is a good starting point. So for those of you who would like a starting point, here you go:

First, here’s what you need:
1/2 cup fats (I use a mix of butter and olive oil–it all depends on your own flavor preference)
1/2 cup flour
2 stalks celery
2 poblano peppers (this is my first year using these, normally I use green bell peppers)
1 yellow onion
11 cloves garlic (Cajuns love them some garlic)
8 oz okra (this is the first time I’ve used this too, I just used half a bag of frozen)
7 cups home-made turkey stock (another super-easy thing to make with leftover turkey bits, article coming soon)
~1 1/2 cup turkey
4 links andouille sausage

It’s true there’s a lot of waiting for this, but in the beginning it’s a flurry of activity, so it’s best to be well prepared before starting anything.

So, first things first, begin by chopping up the sausage and veggies. Put the veggies in a bowl and set aside. You will need them suddenly, so keep them handy.

Then–and this is important, but I always forget to do it–brown the sausage in the same pot you’re going to cook everything else in. It saves you a pan and also helps the delicious sausage flavor permeate everything.

Once they’re done, remove from pot and set aside.

Now it’s time for the roux.

That is your desired end result, but it’s going to start off more like this:

Combine the flour and oil/butter and combine. A french whisk is my favorite tool for this, but a normal whisk or a wooden spoon will get the job done too.

If you want low and long, keep it around 3 and stir forever. This method could take most of an hour but it’s safer in that you’re less likely to burn it (yet more likely to succumb to a murderous rage induced by impatience and slight arm fatigue).

The method I tried out today and which I vastly prefer is hot and fast. I started around 5 and progressively got more impatient and ended around 8 1/2. You definitely have to pay attention to your stirring and make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. But it’s worth it.

Once your roux is a delicious chocolatey brown, take it off the heat and–quick!–add the veggies. They help cool off the roux, which is very important at this stage.

Since gumbo itself takes so long to cook, I didn’t see the need to cook the veggies for too long, though you can if you want on a low heat. Now it’s time to add the stock (should be warm) and meat.

And I don’t have a finished picture yet because it’s still going! But once the rice is done I’ll enjoy a bowl and let you know how it came out.

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.

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.

Grandma’s Peach Cobbler

Now this one’s kind of a family recipe, but I’ll tell you about it just because it’s so tasty. I’m pretty sure Grandma won’t mind. Most of the time when we make this, we use blueberries and garnish it with globes of vanilla ice cream, but with the over abundance of peaches, it seemed natural to try it out with those.

We used:
1 stick butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3 cups mashed peaches
3/4-1 cup water
About 1 tbs lemon juice

It’s a pretty simple recipe to throw together and make. Plus it’s so tasty, everyone will be happy to eat it. And because it doesn’t take too long to put together, preheat the oven to 350.

Once you chop up the peaches, sprinkle on the lemon juice.

That helps the peaches preserve their color and the acidity breaks them down so they’re sweeter, juicer, and just overall more delicious.

Then combine all the dry ingredients (the flour and sugar) while melting the butter in the baking pan.

Then pour the dry mix and milk into the buttered pan and add the peaches on top.

Before it goes in the oven, pour some water on over the top. When that’s done, let it bake for about 45 minutes, until it browns on top, then serve as soon as you can with scoops of ice cream.

Be careful not to have too many people over when you make this–some people might be left wanting.

Peach Ice Cream

I didn’t make this recipe up myself, it came from Martha Stewart. For the most part. We did make some changes, but they were very minimal.

Here’s what you need (aside from an ice cream maker):
3-4 large ripe peaches
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 yolk
1 cup and 1 tbs heavy whipping cream

This is one of those things you can definitely have going on in the background; there’s a lot of waiting. The first thing you need to do is cut up the peaches. Honestly, the smaller the better, but we didn’t worry to much and eventually resorted to the blender. Then, combine the peaches, lemon juice, and only 1/2 cup of the sugar in a bowl and let it sit for 2 hours.

See what I mean about waiting–and that’s not even all of it.

When that’s done, it’s time to add the vanilla and milk. At this point you can either blend it or potato mash it. Turns out mom conveniently didn’t have a potato masher, so…

Then let that sit for another half hour.

After that, beat the egg and yolk with an electric mixer until they’re well mixed, then add the rest of the sugar (1/4 cup). When that’s all nice and blended, add in the creamy peach mixture.

While that’s finishing up, have a friend prepare the ice cream maker. (You’ll know it’s ready when the penguin shows up.)

Then when everything’s just right, pour the pre-ice cream into the ice cream maker and let it make for a couple hours until it’s done.

We made whipped cream to go with it using the leftover cream. It was super good and yummy.

And as per Martha‘s recommendations, serve in a goblet.

And this recipe works really well for all sorts of fruit, we’ve tried it with different kinds and none have disappointed.

Peach-stravaganza!

Though I don’t have pictures of everything (my camera broke part way through the trip and I haven’t been able to recover all the pictures) I’ll tell you about everything we made with mom’s peaches.

First of all, grilling peaches is awesome. We cut them in half and pitted them, then made a sauce with honey, water, and soy sauce to flavor them, then grilled them until they got soft. Sooo good. Especially with tuna (I love tuna and fruit together–apple tuna sushi is great).

(No picture for the moment, unfortunately)

We made four fresh fruit tarts.

Peach ice cream is one of the best fresh fruit ice creams you can make. It’s almost like they’re naturally creamy.

We always make cobbler with my grandma. Normally we use blueberries, but the peaches were too bountiful to not cook with.

And then, for something new, we made jam.

We also made a yummy salad and salad dressing with the peaches that was similar to the berry salad we made earlier in the summer.

I think that was everything we came up with, but my memory’s not so good without pictures to remind me. That’s why I take so many pictures. (If you knew me in real life, you’d know what I’m talking about.)

But! We’re going to have a similar situation next year, assuming the tree survives the hurricane season and the coming winter. There’s also going to be plums, which seem harder to deal with, according to me. So give me ideas!

Mom’s fruit trees

Mom hasn’t been in this house long enough to see what explodes out of the backyard every summer. Last month, we had to figure out what to do with a million plums.

Because of the overwhelming task at hand, we ended up giving most of them away. But because of that, we were slightly more prepared for the peaches. So far we’ve made two tarts, ice cream, grilled them (which is super good), and made cobbler. Monday we’re making jam. And possibly some candy once I get back to Texas.

Everything’s been tasty so far, but we’re running low on ideas and there’s still about a half a tree left. So I’m coming to my point. I need ideas! Feel free to leave comments with whatever ideas you have! Also, expect a few more peach posts than normal for a little while. I’ll try not to make a bore of them, so I’ll probably spread them out anyway, so hopefully you’ll enjoy them!

Andouille Alfredo

This one is modeled after something I had at a restaurant once in Louisiana. It was super tasty, and coincidentally, the same night I had the pasta, I met the chef at a friends house and then learned that this was no usual alfredo sauce with a cream base and parmesan cheese, but instead, it was roux based. This intrigued me, and so I decided to try it out. I accidentally made enough for 15 people, so you’re going to have to scale down what I did.

Here’s what I started with:

A stick butter (this is where I used way too much)
1/2 cup flour (same amount of butter)
2 Andouille sausage (my grocery store just came out with some chicken andouille, and I wanted to give it a try)
A little less than half a pound of parmesan
A pack of linguini
32 oz heavy whipping cream
1 tbs(ish) paprika
Salt, pepper, and minced garlic to taste

If you want to make less, start by using less butter and flour. The rest will be easy after that. I’d recommend using about a tablespoon of butter per person. That might end up in some leftovers, but nothing like what I ended up with. (And just FYI, expect a post with what I did with the leftover sauce.)

Ok, so, to start, cut up the sausage into whatever size pleases you. I opted for bigger, chunkier pieces because that’s similar to how I had it at the restaurant. Then heat them in the same pan you plan on making the sauce in.

You’ll notice that I started off in a skillet, but by the end I had to move to a soup pot. I literally made about 50 oz by the time I was done (that’s about 2 giant pasta sauce jar’s worth). And don’t clean it in between. The drippings from the sausage helps makes the sauce and helps integrate it’s flavor. I noticed that the flavor wasn’t as strong because it was chicken andouille, but it was definitely less fatty. So there are pluses and minuses to the chicken sausage.

When the sausage is warm and a little browned, take them out and start melting your butter.

When the butter’s done, toss in the flour, then stir to combine. At this point you’d be making a blond roux. Don’t worry about browning it, because you want it to keep this light flavor.

Keep in mind that I was winging this recipe. So, at this point, not really knowing what I was doing, I added the cheese.

I thought that melting the cheese into the roux would magically make a sauce. Not quite… It made a semi-solid roux and the as it kept cooking, the butter started separating. Supposedly more flour would help it keep it’s roux-iness, but I didn’t want a roux, I wanted a sauce. So I literally stopped in the middle and ran to the store to pick up some cream. All in all, I needed to add the whole 32 oz container to make it all stay homogenized. And once the cream was in, I added my spices.

Stir, stir, stir and add the sausage.

(See I told you I had to switch to a soup pot.)

Stir some more then serve.

Et puis, laissez les bons temps rouler.

Beef Stroganoff

This is based on how my grandma makes it. I don’t think I quite have it down, but it’s still very tasty and not too hard. The hardest part was dealing with the meat. I bought a 4 lb chuck roast and it was a pain to cut up. You probably won’t need that much meat (it fed two people for about 5 days) unless you love easy left-overs. An easier way to deal with it would be to get some stew meat. It tends to be cut up. You’d probably have to cut it into smaller pieces, but it would be a lot easier to work with.

The whole thing cost me about $25, but again, I was cooking for 10 people, and chances are you’ll already have some garlic, sour cream, butter, an onion…You get the idea. I conveniently was out of everything, so that’s the cost if you have to buy everything.

What you’ll need is:
An onion (about fist sized, my favorite is yellow onion)
~3 cloves of garlic (more or less to taste–I generally use more)
A dash of olive oil (or canola, whatever floats your boat)
A small container of sour cream (you can use either half or the whole thing, so it you have some sitting in your fridge, now would be the time to use it)
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsps Nutmeg (to taste)
4 lbs chuck roast
16 oz button mushrooms
Egg noodles (Unless you have a heart problem, I recommend WITH yolk. It makes the sauce stick much better and therefore you get a better over-all eating experience)
1/2 stick butter (give or take–enough to make the noodles buttery)

You start by cutting up the main ingredients (mushrooms, garlic, onion, and meat). The onion and meat should be cut into long strips, unless you want the onions to disappear completely. And the mushrooms should be sliced, nothing fancy. If you want to save some time with this, you can buy the pre sliced mushrooms.

Another short cut I’ve been trying out recently is buying pre-minced garlic.

It does seem to taste a little weaker, and it is less aromatic, but it is Sooooo convenient. Most of the time you can just add a little more to make up for its weaknesses.

And because chuck roast is a cheap and not a super high quality meat, you want to be sure to cut it against the grain so that it comes out tender and not chewy.

After everything’s cut (which might take a while depending on what kind of meat you get), add your dash of oil to a big pot and toss in the onions and garlic, but NOT the mushrooms.

Note that my pot is a little too small. Let these sauté until they’re soft and translucent, then add the meat.

At this point, add your couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. It’s good to have the base seasoning now so that it will penetrate into the meat and veggies. If you think it might need more, wait until the meat is cooked and taste the sauce. It’s best to have it a little over seasoned, because the noodles will reduce the flavor.

Stir the meat until brown. Note, don’t add any water, it will make it’s own juices. Now add the mushrooms, cover and let simmer until meat is tender. Grandma says to wait two hours, I waited 20 minutes. But one difference between our recipes is that she uses rump roast, which is even tougher than chuck, so it takes longer to get tender. If you go the 20 minute route, now would be a good time to start you pasta.

When that’s done, you’ll notice that the mushrooms have changed quite a bit. They’ll be smaller and darker because they’ve given up their own moisture, but have also soaked up some of the awesome juices. This would be a good time to taste the sauce to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking.

Now that it’s close to an end, it’s time to add the sour cream. Just dump it in and mix it around. It will change the color and consistency of the sauce (but only by a tiny bit).

Once you’ve cooked and strained your noodles, butter them up. Not only does that make them taste good, it also keeps them from sticking together when they cool down–good thing for leftovers.

And when you’re ready, serve in a soup plate on top of noodles.