Monday, August 20, 2012

Easy No-Strain Lemon Curd


What is it about lemons?  Sometimes you can get that little puckery sensation in your mouth just thinking about them.  A lemon dessert will trump chocolate for me just about any day of the week.  This little batch of lemon curd is one I have made quite a few times.  I love it.  Just made a batch for my mom.  It was SO good...  Guess I'll have to make another batch to give to her.  ☺  At least it's easy, right?  I do try to pinch off those little white chalazae pieces of the yolks.  But really, no straining is needed if you cream it well.  Love this method; found it on Fine Cooking.  It gives a nice thick curd, good for spreading or maybe even filling.  Though not so firm as say, a lemon pie filling.  Perfect for me.  Too perfect.  Now I have to make more.

*UPDATE:  To make this even more super easy, put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and no butter grains show, a few minutes.  Then pour into a saucepan and cook over low-med until thickened.  It takes less than 10 minutes to have a whole batch done!

Easy Classic Lemon Curd
makes about 2 cups

6 tbsp butter, firm room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest (use organic lemons please to avoid pesticides)

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time.  Beat well for at least one more minute.  The better you cream it, the more insurance there will be against having to strain.  (Older eggs are actually great for curd because the white has broken down somewhat which also helps against curdling.)  Slowly mix in the lemon juice, then the zest.  It will turn into a curdled looking soupy mess.  Don't worry.  Pour into a medium, heavy saucepan and cook on low until it smooths out.  Increase heat to medium and cook and stir until it thickens, about 15 minutes.  If using a thermometer it should be done around 170ºF and it will coat the back of a spoon.  Just don't let it boil.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and press a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap over the surface so it won't form a skin.  Chill in the refrigerator, it will get even thicker.  The curd will keep, covered tightly, for a week in the fridge or a couple months in the freezer.



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A French Bread Celebration of Julia's Birthday


I remember one of the first videos I saw of Julia Child cooking something.  She was making a sauce to go on top of something and using sour cream.  And she said, "Now just take a nice big plop of the sour cream and mix it in there."  Or something very close to that.  I just especially remember the big plop of sour cream.  I nearly laughed my pants off and fell in love with Julia's style right then.  (As someone who has written on recipes, "add a small plop" of this or that.)  I have never been able to find that particular video again, but I'll never forget it.  So the BreadBakingBabes invited the Buddies to post with them this month in honor of Julia's birthday.  Despite there not being a day under 80 here for the past couple weeks, I managed to not raise my french bread too fast my multiple stints in the fridge, including an overnight.  It only adds to the flavor fortunately.  Since we don't have access to french flour here, which has lower gluten than American all purpose, I used a small portion of whole wheat pastry flour with the bran sifted out to try and relax my dough a bit.  It was very nice to work with, not so stubborn while shaping as it could have been.  I really enjoyed the shaping process.  Very easy.  And oh wow, that wonderful crackly sound while the baguettes were cooling.  I'm pretty proud since I did the whole thing by hand and I do usually use a machine to do some of my kneading.  Here is the handy recipe summary that Susan of Wild Yeast provided.  I used the instant yeast option this time, but I'd love to try it again with fresh yeast - something I have never used before.

I didn't get quite the pop on my slashes I was hoping for, I think the hot weather proofed my thin baguettes faster than I expected, or I added a bit much flour while I was kneading.  Still ended up with great flavor and chewy crackly bread. ☺


(Oh, and it's absolutely amazing toasted, I am dipping lightly toasted pieces (many pieces) in my bowl of amaranth this morning and I'm in heaven!)

Julia Child's French Bread -- Recipe Summary

Yield:
  • 3 baguettes or batards or boules
  • Or 6 short loaves (ficelles)
  • Or 12 rolls (petits pains)

Time: about 7 - 8 hours, not including cooling time

[Susan's breakdown:
  • mix and knead: 15 minutes
  • first rise: 3 hours
  • second rise: 1.5 - 2 hours
  • divide, rest, and shape: 15 minutes
  • final rise: 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours
  • prepare to bake: 10 minutes
  • bake: 25 minutes
  • cool: 2 - 3 hours]

Ingredients:
  • one cake (0.6 ounce or 17 grams) fresh yeast or one package active dry yeast [Susan's note: Here are some equivalents: fresh yeast: 17 grams; active dry yeast: 0.25 ounce or 7 grams). You could also use 5.6 grams of instant yeast]
  • 1/3 cup warm water (not over 100 degrees F)
  • 3 1/2 cups (about one pound) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 cups tepid water (70 to 74 degrees F)

Steps:
  1. Combine the yeast and warm water and let liquefy completely.
  2. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour, the salt, and the remaining water in a mixing bowl.
  3. Turn the dough onto a kneading surface and let rest for 2 - 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.
  4. Knead the dough for 5 - 10 minutes. See the original recipe for details on Julia's kneading technique [p. 59].
  5. Let the dough rest for 3 - 4 minutes, then knead again for a minute. The surface should be smooth and the dough will be soft and somewhat sticky.
  6. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and let it rise at room temperature (about 70F) until 3 1/2 times its original volume. This will probably take about 3 hours.
  7. Deflate [fold] the dough and return it to the bowl [p. 60].
  8. Let the dough rise at room temperature until not quite tripled in volume, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare the rising surface: rub flour into canvas or linen towel placed on a baking sheet.
  10. Divide the dough into 3, 6, or 12 pieces depending on the size loaves you wish to make.
  11. Fold each piece of dough in two, cover loosely, and let the pieces relax for 5 minutes [p.62].
  12. Shape the loaves and place them on the prepared towel. See original recipe for detailed instructions [p. 62 or 68].
  13. Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature until almost triple in volume, about 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours.
  14. Meanwhile, Preheat oven to 450F. Set up your "simulated baker's oven" [p. 70] if you will use one.
  15. Using an "unmolding board," transfer the risen loaves onto a baking sheet [p.65] or peel [p. 72].
  16. Slash the loaves.
  17. Spray the loaves with water and get them into the oven (either on the baking sheet or slide them onto the stone [p. 72]).
  18. Steam with the "steam contraption" [p. 71 and 72] or by spraying three times at 3-minute intervals.
  19. Bake for a total of about 25 minutes.
  20. Cool for 2 - 3 hours.

Julia deserves to be Yeastspotted!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Curried Ham and Cheese Casserole


Some families love casseroles and some won't touch them with a 10 foot pole.  This is for you casserole lovers out there.  The recipe comes from an old family friend and is one of the few savory dishes where I actually like having the pineapple in it.  Those little bursts of sweetness work perfectly against the creamy cheesiness and the salty bits of ham.  If you don't like green peppers, you are welcome to use red or orange for more color.  I really appreciate this dish especially because it goes together quickly and is ready to eat soon, but I don't get to enjoy it often because I am not in the majority as a casserole lover in our house.  Ah well.  If you have everything chopped and ready, it will be just about a 30 minute meal.  Maybe 45 with chopping and gathering time added on.  ☺ 

Curried Ham and Cheese Casserole
from Mary Allen

1 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp butter
1 green pepper, chopped
1½ cups chopped celery
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp curry powder
1 cup chopped ham
1 cup rice, uncooked

1 cup cubed cheese (I always use cheddar)
1 8oz. can pineapple tidbits

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Meanwhile, in a large ovenproof skillet or pot, cook onions in butter until tender-crisp.  Add green pepper, celery, rice broth, seasonings and ham.  Bring to a boil, stir well.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.  (If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, you can transfer to a 2 Qt casserole dish to bake.)  Remove from oven.  Add pineapple and cheese and toss lightly.  Serve.

(I usually toss it pretty well, but if you do it just enough to spread the cheese cubes through before they melt, then there will be nice melty pockets of cheesey goodness when you serve it up.)  ☺

Friday, August 3, 2012

Strawberry Sponge Cake


This was my birthday cake this summer.  Everyone loved it.  What a great way to enjoy the bounty of fresh summer berries.  I made it just slightly spiked, but you can always substitute vanilla for the rum that I added.  I love that sponge cakes are so quick and easy too.  If you want to be really fancy, you can split this cake into three layers and use a combination of raspberries and strawberries.  Me, I went the easy route.  Halves and strawberries.  Yum!  Make the flavored syrup ahead of time or while the cake bakes and it's a simple matter of assembly once the cake is cooled.  (The rum syrup recipe makes more than you need but stores for a long time in a clean, sealed jar in the fridge.  You can make a half batch in a small saucepan though, which is just about the right amount for the recipe without too much waste.)

Strawberry Sponge Cake 
serves 8-10

For the cake:
2/3 cup flour
½ cup potato starch
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted, divided  (as usual, I use one with tapioca starch)
5 eggs, separated
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp gold rum

For the filling and topping:
6 tbsp rum flavored syrup (recipe follows)
2½ pints fresh strawberries
3 tbsp sugar
1¾ cups heavy cream
1 tbsp gold rum

Rum simple syrup:
½ cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp orange zest (optional)
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
3-4 tbsp gold rum

To make the syrup, place the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan.  Dissolve the sugar over low heat.  Bring to a rolling boil and remove from heat.  Stir in the zests if using.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Strain the zest out and stir in the rum.  Cool, store in a sterile jar and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Grease and line a 9" Springform Pan with parchment.

For the cake, sift the flour and starch together very well.  Set aside 3 tbsp of the powdered sugar.  Whisk the egg yolks and remaining powdered sugar until thick and pale.  (Ribbon stage.)  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks.  Sift over the reserved 3 tbsp powdered sugar and beat just to stiff peaks.  Fold in the lemon juice.  Lighten the egg yolk mixture by stirring in two dollops of egg whites.  Gently fold in the flour mixture and the 1 tbsp rum.  Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites, taking care not to deflate them.  Pour into pan and gently smooth the top.  Bake at 350ºF for 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done.  Let it cool for 5-10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  (Take off the parchment when it is cooled.)

Slice the cake in half (or three layers) and brush or sprinkle the insides with a few tbsp of the rum syrup on each piece.  (Sprinkle the two bottom layers if doing three layers.)

I just love how easily this cake sliced and what a beautiful texture it had.  Sponges are great that way.

Save some of the berries for the topping and quarter the rest.  Whip the cream, sugar and rum into stiff peaks.  Spread the quartered strawberries over the bottom layer of cake and top with half of the whipped cream.  Cover with the top and press down to squish the berries and cream together.  Spread the rest of the whipped cream over the top and arrange the reserved berries as you like.  You could garnish with some mint or strawberry leaves if you like.  Basil would be good too!  (If you are doing a three-layer, divide the berries and cream accordingly.)  Chill until ready to serve.  This cake will last well, refrigerated and covered, for a couple of  days.  Sift over a little powdered sugar for a nice presentation just before serving.  Or just dive in.  ☺



Adapted from Ultimate Cake.
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