7.26.2014

Tuesdays With Dorie: Johnnycake Cobbler


It's summer and the living is easy. Or at least, it should be easy. But sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's hot, sticky, and out of control. Sometimes the traffic is never ending, the mosquitoes forever thirsty, and the air conditioner nonexistent. But then there's this cobbler. It's easy, but it's also hot, sticky, and out of control. The juices are plentiful, bubbling up the sides and over the rim. The biscuit is flaky, its uneven terrain perfect for catching pools of cold sweet cream.


This week, I happily made a blueberry, black plum, and nectarine cobbler. With a handful of chopped mint from the garden and the zest of a lemon, the fruit was perfection. Topped with mounds of un-fussy cream and cornmeal biscuit - a biscuit that does not require the delicate touch that so many others do - this dish is best eaten fresh from the oven. With a spoon. And no shame. Because let's be real, this is messy and these juices are going to go exactly where they shouldn't. Blueberry stained fingers (and shirts, anyone?), a full stomach, and a wild smile are guaranteed. Don't worry about it: it's summer, and please, let's all live a little easier.


Johnnycake Cobbler
Adapted from Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan

For the fruit:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
6 cups sliced fruit (I used 2 cups blueberries, 2 cups nectarines, and 2 cups plums)
*Handful of chopped mint & zest of one lemon optional but delicious

For the biscuit topping:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (white or yellow)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

For the fruit:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the sliced fruit and stir until evenly coated. If using, add the mint and lemon zest with the fruit. Cook until the fruit has emitted a substantial amount of juice. The juices should boil for a few minutes until thick. Remove from heat.
*The fruit should be mostly cooked during this stage, since the cobbler takes about 15 - 20 minutes in the oven.

For the biscuit:
Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the chopped butter and pulse about 20 times until the butter is finely cut into the dry mixture. Transfer the flour/butter mixture to a large bowl and create a well in the middle. Pour the heavy cream into the well and mix together, pushing flour from the sides into the middle. The dough should be wet and mixed as little as possible. You may need to add as much as 1/4 cup more cream, although I found that 1 1/4 cups was perfect.
*This can be done by hand. Feel free to cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, or your hands, a perfectly acceptable method.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Split the fruit into 4 to 6 small oven proof ramekins, or pour the entity into one large deep dish (as I did). Top carelessly, or methodically, if so preferred, with biscuit dough. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes if using small dishes, or 15 - 18 if using a large dish. The topping should be golden brown and the juices bubbling.
*I  had to cook mine for an additional 5 minutes, and even then the biscuit, which was very thick, was a bit undone in certain areas. I would recommend leaving the cobbler in for a few extra minutes to get a deep golden brown color.

Serving suggestions:
Vanilla ice cream, heavy cream, whipped cream, fresh fruit (mo' fruit less problems).

7.05.2014

Tuesdays With Dorie: Leaf Shaped Fougasse

I've been on a bit of a fruit craze. I mean, it's summer after all! The cherries are juicy, the watermelon cold and crunchy, and the peaches - oh, the peaches - are sweet and tangy. It's not just the fruit that has captured my palate (and my heart), but the endless combinations. Cherry pie? Nope, cherry pistachio ice cream. Watermelon in a fruit salad? How about watermelon in a dinner salad, with feta and mint. And peach cobbler? Wait a sec, let's take those peaches, slice 'em up, and layer them on an oily, spongy bread with mozzarella, basil, honey, and a pinch of sea salt. Are you still with me? 


These leaf shaped fougasse, from Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan, are a dream. The focaccia dough - an airy, oily, soft species - is quick to prepare and requires almost no hands on time. The flavors congeal in the fridge while you carry on, doing whatever it is you had planned for the day. After 24 hours, the dough is easily shaped into a beautiful leaf. It's fun, hands on, and not too complex.



The recipe calls for a mixture of herbs to top the focaccia bread, pre-baking. As I roamed the kitchen, looking for any herbs I could get my hands on, my eyes stalled at the big pot of basil wildly growing on the windowsill. There was no looking back after that. I threw a few handfuls of chopped basil into the dough before the rise, and then topped one fougasse with salt, rosemary, and oil, and the other, with peaches, fresh mozzarella, honey, basil, and salt. The fruit and cheese combination was phenomenal. Sweet summer peaches, fresh basil, and crispy baked cheese. Yum!


You can find the recipe on page 146, although there are many variations posted online, Of course, feel free to use your own favorite focaccia dough as the base. 

6.03.2014

Tuesdays With Dorie: Savory Wheat Crackers

I created this blog a year ago with the hopes of expanding my culinary knowledge. I thought that by having a blog, I would feel obligated to challenge myself to become a better baker. Obviously, my expectations fell flat. In the past year I have become a better baker for sure, but I just haven't been blogging about it. The blogging aspect is key - I think that it forces me to put forward my best effort and put a personal spin on any given recipe. So, this being said, I decided to join the increasingly popular Tuesdays With Dorie baking group! Basically, the group bakes two recipes each month from Dorie Greenspans book Baking With Julia. Members then post about their experience with the recipe.



My first recipe challenge was Dories recipe for savory wheat crackers. I have never made crackers before so I was very excited to do so. I tweaked the recipe and swapped out some of the whole wheat flour for rye flour, as well as the seedy topping for a heavy pinch of za'atar and kosher salt. These crackers were finicky, as some baked quicker than others. To be quite honest, I found them rather lackluster and the texture a little off putting. Perhaps a different flavor profile would change that. Anyway, I'm glad I made them and am looking forward to the next recipe!

Photo: Savory wheat crackers with white bean and roasted onion dip.


7.11.2012

Blackberry Chai Cupcakes


It's finals week and I've been in crunch mode. Crunch mode means taking everything good and enjoyable and ruining it. I love writing, reading, cozy coffee shops, staying up late, and curling up with chai lattes. But in crunch mode, after typing away for hours on end, those are often the last things I want to think about. Cozy coffee shops become lifeless rooms meant to stifle creativity; staying up late with friends or a good movie becomes pulling an all nighter to meet a deadline; writing becomes a chore. 

That's why I made these cupcakes. I was determined to preserve my love for chai. I figured that I'd skip the caffeinated milky drink this week and use it as a special pick-me-up-and-I-swear-baking-is-just-a-quick-study-break treat. And that's just what they are: special. Not to mention absolutleysupermouthwatering. 







These cupcakes are incredible. They are super easy to make, but seem like a million dollars. . The tart blackberry, sweet frosting, and spicy chai all work together to create the perfect bite.




I'm warning you though...these are highly addictive. Don't say I didn't try to tell you.

Blackberry Chai Cupcakes

Adapted from happysugarfuntime.com


Ingredients
  • 7 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla 
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ chai spice mix (recipe follows)
  • 1 ¼ cups  sifted flour
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp white vinegar
Chai Spice Mix
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 320F.
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat in one egg at a time.
 Stir in half the quantity of chai spice mix. Fold in flour and buttermilk alternately and stir until JUST combined. 
Mix together baking soda and vinegar and mix into the batter.
Spoon into cupcake foils (2/3 of the way full), and place a blackberry in the center of each cupcake. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Top with frosting.
Vanilla Chai Buttercream
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 chai spice mix (as little or as much as you'd like!)
Cream the butter. Add remaining ingredients and beat until light and fluffy. 


3.05.2012

Firsts

Biscotti. Beautiful, sweet, crunchy, double baked perfection. Because why bake a cookie once when you can bake it twice? 


I happened to stumble across this recipe a few years ago, and to this very day it is still my go to recipe when I need something unbelievably good. There's no crazy beating and folding of egg whites, nor is there any tempering of chocolate. All there is, is some good old fashion butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and a hefty pinch (or handful...) of cinnamon. These are ridiculously fail proof, yet ridiculously delicious. 


These cookies can be scarfed down with a tall cold glass of milk, a cup of joe, or straight out of the cookie jar (my personal favorite). Trust me, these are worth the time. Put any preconceptions you may have had about tooth breaking biscotti behind you. It's time to open the oven up to pure delight. 



Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti
Adapted from Giveagirlacookie.com 

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (can easily be reduced to 3/4 cup) plus 3 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

**These are extremely versatile, and the addition of raisins/craisins, almonds/pistachios or dark chocolate chunks is encouraged! 

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line one large baking sheets with parchment paper.



 Mix flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. 

Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until creamed. Add 1 egg; beat well. Add egg yolk; beat well. Mix in vanilla, then dry ingredients. Mix until combined into a ball (might require the use of hands). 

Transfer dough to work surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into 9-inch-long, 1 1/2-inch-wide log. The dough may crumble, but don't fret! Keep shaping the dough and it should come together. Once baked, the cookie will hold. Transfer the logs to baking sheet. Beat remaining egg in small bowl and lightly brush logs with egg. Bake logs until golden and firm to touch (dough will spread), about 40-50 minutes. Cool on baking sheets. Maintain oven temperature. 

Mix 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl. Using serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch-wide diagonal slices. Place biscotti, cut side down, on baking sheets. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over each biscotti. Bake again until pale golden, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on racks. Eat to your pleasure. 



*Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container.