Friday, May 25, 2012

FFWD Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese

I feel like I've been babbling a lot on the blog recently, but I have surprisingly little to say about this recipe.  I've never had Boursin cheese and I was definitely curious to try the recipe, but I wouldn't say it was a very memorable one.  It was very easy to put together, but quite expensive.  (My store only had one brand of fromage blanc and it was a fortune!  It probably would have been cheaper if I had just used ricotta, but I did like that fromage blanc is naturally fat free.)  It definitely tasted good, but not amazing, and probably isn't something that I would make again.

I made the cheese the night before, and stuffed some of it into some piquillo peppers that I happened to have around.  I served the rest of it with sliced vegetables, some defrosted left-over fougasse, and a bean salad.  

The salad was probably the most exciting part of the meal.  I bought some garlic scapes on impulse at the farmer's market last weekend and decided to make them into a garlic scape pesto, even though I had no plans for the pesto.  I also wanted to make a salad with these beans.  I was about to roast some garlic to combine with the beans and some roasted cherry tomatoes I had in the freezer (per the suggestion), but luckily I thought to just use the pesto instead.  I tossed everything together, and it made a quick and flavorful salad. 

As part of my continuing attempts to catch-up (my goal is to be caught-up by my one year blogging anniversary in October), I also made gougeres this weekend.  I bought a really good cheese at the farmer's market (I can't remember the name, but it was similar to a parmesan) and combined that with some cheddar that I had at home.  I'm trying to eat more whole grains, so I used about 3/4 multigrain flour mix (I use Kim Boyce's recipe from Good to the Grain) and the rest white flour.  I've made gougeres a bunch of times, and all of the recipes I've tried have been about the same, but they do always taste great!  Paul didn't even notice that it wasn't all white flour (he often complains).  He just said that they were excellent.  I'll definitely be making them again.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

FFWD Double Chocolate and Banana Tart

I love the combination of chocolate and banana, for many years my favorite ice cream was Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey and one of my favorite cakes was banana cake with chocolate frosting, and this tart was another winner.  It felt a bit silly to serve it for two people on a weeknight (we'll be eating this for days...), but this would be great for company.

It seems to be becoming a theme around here, but I split this one over multiple nights.  On Monday I made the dough for the shortbread.  On Tuesday I baked it off.  Wednesday night I made the caramelized bananas - I think I cut mine way too thinly, they turned into mush - and the ganache.  I know Dorie said not to fill the tart until you were ready to serve, but I was in a lazy mood so I filled the crust with the bananas and ganache, wrapped it well in saran and foil, and left it in the fridge over night.

I decided to keep dinner light on Thursday - a good excuse to eat more tart! - so I made one of my favorite salads (Sara Moulton's Chopped Salad) with some lettuce from the garden (I think it's growing faster than we can eat it!).  After dinner, I finished up the pie.  I totally forgot to put apricot jam on my shopping list this week (and didn't happen to have any extra in the house).  I briefly debated going back to the store to get some, but decided to improvise instead.  I finished the pie with a drizzle of honey and some flaky sea salt. 

My only complaint about this tart is that I could definitely taste the lemon juice on the bananas.  Did anybody else have this problem?  I tried to only use a very small amount and shake it off before putting the bananas on the tart, but I guess I still used too much.  Also, I used three bananas and still only made two rows on the outside of the tart pan.  Did other people manage to cover the tart?  Maybe my pan is too big.  Slight lemon taste aside, I loved this tart.  I love chocolate and the bittersweet ganache was outstanding, and I loved the surprise of the caramelized bananas inside.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TWD Pecan Sticky Buns

When I was little I wasn't a big fan of cinnamon rolls; the ones at Cinnabon were too sweet for my taste.  Luckily, on one of our family's annual trips to Chicago my mother introduced me to the cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather.  We both absolutely loved them.  Once, in a moment of poor judgement, my father admitted to my mother that he actually preferred the rolls at Cinnabon to the ones at Ann Sather.  My mother still hasn't let him live it down!  As far as we're concerned, Ann Sather is the best.  When I was in college and graduate school in Chicago, I would always try to think up good reasons to go to Ann Sather.  After eating two of their cinnamon rolls (they came with the egg dishes I always ordered) I didn't feel like eating for the rest of the day, but it was always worth it.  When I'm not at Ann Sather I typically avoid cinnamon rolls.  I'm usually trying to save on calories and it's very rare that they even compare.

However, that's one of the most fun things about being part of TWD.  If I weren't part of the group I would have read this recipe, wanted to try it, but then talked myself out of it after counting the sticks of butter (4.5, I think).  But since I'm part of the group, I have an excuse to try these rolls.  I know they aren't actually cinnamon rolls (Ann Sather actually has pecan buns as well but I've always been too fixated on the cinnamon rolls to try them), but I had a feeling I would like them.  Because I've been travelling so much I didn't have a chance to make these on a weekend, so I spread the process out over several weeknights.  I'm actually glad I did, it made the whole thing feel more manageable.  I was pretty overwhelmed when I read through the entire recipe.

On the first night (after I made the Olive Fougasse) I gave my stand mixer some time to rest and cool off, and then made the brioche dough.  After the first rise I put it in my fridge, and let it rise again (it actually didn't rise that much) until after dinner on the following night.  The following night, I took the dough out and used my kitchen scale to measure two balls.

I rolled it out and topped it with the cinnamon-sugar and chopped pecans.  I followed the advice I read on the P&Q's and toasted the pecans for extra flavor.  I then rolled the logs, stuck them in the freezer, and went to Portland, OR to spend 10 days with my in-laws!  In hindsight, I'm reasonably sure I topped and rolled these in the wrong direction.  I got 8-9 tall and skinny buns out of each roll.  I'm now thinking that if I had rolled the other way, I would've had the 7 shorter and fatter rolls that the recipe calls for.

When I got back from Portland (the trip was a lot of fun but a long time away from home...) I took the rolls out of the freezer and prepped the pans with the butter and sugar.

I then cut the rolls at neatly as I could manage, topped them with pecans, and put them into the pans.  I made a mistake in this part of the recipe as well.  I knew it made much more sense to put the "pretty" side of the pecans up, but I thought I was following the instructions by putting the flat ("ugly") sides up.  I was mad at myself when I looked at the color picture in the book and noticed that, sure enough, I should have trusted my instincts and put the other side facing up.  Oh well, it definitely didn't affect the taste.

After I got the buns into the pans, I covered them with plastic wrap and left them in the fridge overnight.  I had read that this would work, and even though I wasn't totally sure, it saved enough time in the morning that I was willing to give it a chance.  I set my alarm for 5:30, woke up, took the buns out of the oven, and went back to sleep while they rose.

After about an hour and a half the buns hadn't risen very much, and were nowhere near actually touching each other, but I had to go to work so I put them in the oven anyway.  I was very worried about whether or not they would rise in the oven - and it didn't help my confidence when Paul walked in, looked in the oven, and asked me if I was sure I'd let them rise enough - but luckily when I got out of the shower and peaked in the oven they had risen beautifully and filled the entire pan.  I was so relieved!  I brought one pan's worth to work and kept the second one for us (we each ate one and then I froze the rest in pairs).  

Everybody who tried these loved them (or at least my co-workers were nice enough to lie).  They were incredibly buttery - almost like a croissant - but I like butter and liked that these were flavorful without being too sweet.  My co-worker, who said these "were awesome", said they were like butter flavored with cinnamon.  I would only make these again if I had a lot of people to serve, and even then only infrequently, but I'm definitely glad I tried them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

FFWD Provencal Olive Fougasse

When this posts, we'll be in Oregon with Paul's family celebrating his grandmother's 90th birthday.  She's an incredible woman and I'm so excited to be there, but I have so much to get done before we can leave for vacation.  Luckily, for a yeast dough this was a pretty easy recipe.  On Wednesday night after work I made the dough, let it rise once, and then put it in the fridge before going to bed.  With a stand mixer, the dough was pretty easy to make.  The hardest part for me was not eating all of the olives before they made it into the dough!  In my defense, I was hungry (I wanted to get the dough rising before dinner) and I love olives. When I got home Thursday night I took the dough out of the fridge, and it had risen beautifully.

I am absolutely terrible at rolling dough into rectangular, or circular, shapes, but I did the best I could and then quickly got the dough onto my silpat.  I was nervous about cutting through my silpat so I actually used kitchen shears to cut the slits, and thought they worked great.  I didn't manage to make it look much like a leaf, but it's really taste I'm going for so I let it rise and put it in the oven.

I was on the phone when it finished baking (and running out of room in the kitchen), so I put it on drying racks on the dining room table to rest.  It shared the table with Paul's bottles - he's getting ready to bottle his beer. 

I served this with another big salad, some cheeses, and some butternut squash soup I found in the freezer.  It was excellent.  You just can't go wrong with homemade bread, and I absolutely loved the olives.  The orange and rosemary flavors were much more subtle to me, but they contributed to making this a wonderful bread.  I'm so glad I froze the second one to keep in the freezer.  We'll be looking forward to having this again!

Friday, May 4, 2012

FFWD Almond Flounder Meuniere

It's been another crazy week.  We flew in from visiting my grandma in Florida early Monday morning.  After a weekend of doing nothing but eating, I knew I'd want a quick and relatively-healthy dinner.  This dish sounded perfect.  I went shopping for fish on my lunch break and couldn't find baby flounder (I actually don't think I've ever seen baby flounder, I'll be very curious to see if anyone managed to find it) but sole was on sale so I bought sole fillets instead.  Because I was in a lazy mood, I used some almond meal instead of grinding up almonds.  It was quick and coated the fish very well, but I think next time I might grind the almonds myself.  I wish the dish had a little more texture.  I also used a meyer lemon, because that's what I had in the fridge.  I really liked the flavor it added.

I served this fish with a big salad, which sounded great to me after a weekend without vegetables.  We're still struggling to keep up with all of the lettuce Paul has been growing.  We've eaten salad at every meal (except for breakfast!) this week, but it's growing faster than we can eat it.  I think we're definitely going to start giving some away.  I know it's healthy, and Paul said he likes eating salad at every meal, but to be honest I'm getting a little tired of it.  Anyway, after I finished cooking the fish and plating it with the salad, I put it on the table and took out the camera to take quick photos before we started eating.  I tried to turn the camera on and realized I had forgotten to charge the battery, again!  I was too hungry and tired to care so we ate dinner anyway.

After dinner (during which I charged the battery), I decided I'd try to take photos of the extra pieces of fish.  I was about to put them on a plate, when Paul came in and said that all of my photos are boring and unimaginative and that I need to worry more about staging.  He's completely right.  I'm terrible at photography, and at this I point really see taking the photos as the last thing in the way of getting to eat, but this was not the night for me to work on my photography skills.  So, Paul decided to put the fish back in the cast iron skillet and take photos himself.  Next time I make this dish - and there will be a next time, I'm always looking for quick and easy fish dishes - I'll hopefully be more motivated and practice taking some photos myself!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD Hungarian Shortbread

I was very excited when I saw this recipe.  I love shortbread and I love Gale Gand.  Based on my extensive interaction with her - I spent a lot of time watching her Food Network show Sweet Dreams when I was in college and graduate school - I have determined that she is fun, super nice, down-to-earth, and an excellent baker and pastry chef.  I also absolutely love her babka recipe.

We spent the weekend in Florida visiting my grandma, and we're leaving early Saturday morning to spend 9 days visiting Paul's family in Oregon, so I knew I wouldn't have much time to make this recipe.  I made and froze the dough when I had some time a couple of weeks ago, and I was planning on finishing the recipe one night this week.  Luckily, I thought to check the website yesterday, and realized that the recipe was supposed to be posted this Tuesday! (For some reason I thought it was supposed to be next Tuesday.)  So, I had to revise my plan.  We flew in from Florida early Monday morning and went straight to work.  When I got home Monday night, I put the dough in the freezer to defrost.  I woke up early this (Tuesday) morning to finish the shortbread and take my photos before work.  (Don't normal people do stuff like this?  Sometimes I think this blog is taking over my life, and I post at most twice a week!  I don't know how people do it.)  Unfortunately, I'm also supposed to be logging all of my food this week to show my doctor.  For some reason I don't think she's going to love the idea of eating shortbread for breakfast....

Anyway, luckily this is an easy recipe.  Roasted rhubarb is one of my favorite spring desserts and I really wanted to make the rhubarb jam, but unfortunately I couldn't find rhubarb at the store and our rhubarb plant is still at least a month away from being ready.  I decided to use some of the fig preserves I canned last summer instead, making the recipe even faster.  The dough was easy to make, and I like that the recipe can be made in stages.  This morning, while drinking my coffee, it was pretty easy to grate the dough, spread the jam, and get the cookies in the oven.

I pulled the shortbread out of the oven after 40 minutes, when it was just starting to brown.  I have a hard time telling when things look "golden brown" and am now thinking this could have used a few extra minutes, but I had to get to work.  I halved the recipe and used an 8 by 8 pan, so that may have affected the cooking time slightly.

For me, the hardest part of this recipe was dusting the cookies in powdered sugar.  I've always been absolutely terrible at it.  I - brilliantly - tried to rest the sifter on the cookies as I poured in the sugar.  It - of course - sunk right into the dough, leaving a clear circle in the middle of my cookies.  I thought powdered sugar might cover it up, but no such luck.  My sugar is also very uneven - very thick in some spots and almost none in the corners.  I think I got more of it on myself than on the cookies!

The good news is that these cookies still tasted absolutely great.  My husband remarked on how great the texture is.  Shortbread can be pretty dense, but I think the grating (and very gentle patting) of the dough keeps these cookies almost airy.  I wouldn't refer to anything with this much butter as light, but these are very easy to eat, and eat, and eat...The jam I used is a pretty subtle flavor, but definitely a great addition.  I can't wait to get home tonight and eat these for dessert!

Our hosts for this week are Lynette and Cher, visit their sites to get the recipe.