17 May 2010

TWD: Apple-Apple Bread Pudding

 I don't think it really is, but isn't this cute?

OMG DO I EVER LOVE BREAD PUDDING.  It is quite possibly my very favorite dessert of all time.   I grew up eating it often as a kid; in the South it's one of those basic things anybody worth a dime can make decently, like peach cobbler or sweet potato pie. 

That being said, though the point of bread pudding is that it is a simple dish of leftovers tossed together, my attempts to make it as an adult have been not so great.  I find that people have different interpretations of it;  different techniques and as such I am never quite sure what I will get in the end.  The bread pudding I grew up on was firm, not really discernably custardy;  all the custard would cook into the bread, which bakes straight on the over rack with no water bath, to give you soft sweet cinnamony bready goodness.  It's usually eaten warm because it's just better that way, though it's not bad at room temp either.

So I was ambivalent about today's TWD (chosen by Elizabeth at Cake or Death;  check her blog for the recipe)  On the one hand: yay, an excuse to make bread pudding.  On the other: um, what is this tomfoolery with paper towels and boiling water?  Why does the pudding have to sit for 30 minutes?  Cooked apples?  These recipes rarely let me down, so I went on ahead.

Surprise #1.  Though the recipe is pretty straightforward, it actually takes a good while to get from peeling apples to eating dessert.  Don't think you can just whip this out at teatime.  You can't.

I made a 1/2 recipe, in Pyrex as suggested.  I went out and bought a cinnamon raisin brioche from Local Fancypants Grocery, and then waited for ETERNITY for it to get stale and finally broke down and just left some slices laying around for a couple of days.  I have learned that you really need your bread stale for it to work.  There's a time consuming thing right there.

Caramelizing the sugar and cooking the apples was simple.  I am still working through my fruit aversion, so I chopped the apple in chunks instead.  I bought some cute local apple butter (see above) and used that.

Then on to the "custard," which again, wasn't really to me.  It was just eggs, milk, and sugar, uncooked.  Pour over and let sit. 

Baked in the water bath.  Surprise #2: using paper towels in the water bath.  I guess the paper towels are supposed to keep some water, or make the cooking more gentle, or...I have NO idea why they are there.  I was afraid they'd catch fire!

 please don't burn down my apartment, please o please

They didn't. I had to cook my pudding for an hour and a half, even though it was a half recipe, and it was still awfully jiggly.  I let it cool and then I cut it...

 curses!  the Curds of Death appear.

Oh NO.  no no no.  Clumps mean something didn't work right.  The pudding tastes OK, but it kind of tastes like something is missing, and I tried to add as much as I can with cinnamon sugar lining the pan and cooking the apples, and cinnamon bread, but I am a little disappointed so far.  It's very soft and custardy;  no structure at all.  perhaps I should have used even more bread.  It's not bad, but I've had better.  Oh well.  We can't love 'em all, can we?  I liked the idea;  I'll just have to fiddle with the execution to get it to work for me.

12 May 2010

You Want Pies With That?: Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza

This marks my inaugural entry into the You Want Pies With That? monthly baking challenge.  This month looked like a good one for tossing my hat into the ring, because the theme is "Pizza Pies," a genre with which I am very intimately familiar.  Last year financial circumstances forced me to do a LOT of on the fly cooking, and more often than I liked to admit I was slapping together leftovers to create some kind of pizza.  I always had cheese and ingredients for pizza crust on hand.

Of all the variations I made, the one that made the most satisfying comfort food-ie version was this one: a cheeseburger pizza.  It's also probably the least healthy, so I haven't made it in ages, but I think it's worth sharing. I do it rather haphazardly, so I hope this is followable!

First, I cook some sort of burger meat.  Ground turkey or chicken are what I usually have about the house.  Beef is of course totally fine too. I put in a little salt and pepper while it cooks.  I also usually brown some diced onions, but to my mortification I found I have none today--what in the world?  I usually have 2 or 3 bags of frozen diced onions in the fridge--so I put in a few minced onions instead.

Then, since I had no onions and needed this to be special for y'all somehow, I cooked a couple slices of bacon.

 I do this for my culture!

Now that the cooking's done, moving on to the sauce.  This is non-negotiable item #1!  Don't use tomato sauce;  you won't get the "cheeseburger" taste!   DO NOT.

I blend ketchup (about 1/8 c here) and about half that amount of mustard and relish (about 1 T each).  This is very mustardy.  I like mustard better than ketchup so that's cool with me.  You should taste to see if you like it and adjust accordingly.

Then I prep the dough.  I do know how to make my own dough--and I think I make a fairly kickbutt pizza dough--but I just got back from driving all over the Northeast in four days so please cut me some slack.  I will admit that I bought dough from my local fancypants grocery.  Don't judge me!

I like to roll/stretch my dough on a lightly floured silpat.  The flour is not really necessary but it makes me feel better.  The silpat allows me to just flip the dough onto the pizza peel, where I then dress the pizza.

Before putting the pizza on the peel, I dust it liberally with cornmeal.  This makes it easier to get onto the hot baking stone.

Now I do: sauce, then meat, then mozzerella cheese.  I'm going to go with about 1/2 cup here;  this is a fairly small pizza.  I crumbled one slice of bacon--you could certainly go with bacon bits instead--and then about an ounce of cheddar diced up.

Nonnegotiable item #2:  American cheese. Yes, that's right, good old pale, bland, plasticy, processed cheese food.  A cheeseburger is not really a cheeseburger to me without this stuff.  It's...well, I don't know what, but not a cheeseburger.  Yes, yes, I know you aren't the sort of person who eats such awful things.  Buy the Kraft kind that is actually largely made with milk if you must (I do) but you need this.  I'm gonna use a slice and a half here and for laziness's sake, slice into strips.

Kind of festive, no?

Put pizza on stone, bake till brown and bubbly and and apply to face.

10 May 2010

TWD: Quick Classic Berry (mini)Tarts, two ways

Tarts!  Eaux, how I do love them so.  I was very excited about this week's recipe.  Nothing new to see here, but it gave me an opportunity to work on some things we've made several times before:  tart shells and pastry cream.  Still in the middle of traveling, so mini tarts it was. 

I gave Yellow Processor one more try with the tart shell dough.  I finally figured out:  metal blade ONLY for the processor when making dough. 

Now if I can just figure out how to keep the blasted thing from coughing up flour...  

I used half the dough and made four tart shells, rolling them out insead of pressing them into the pans. Rolling circles on silicone and then fitting them into the pans works *so* much better for me. 

I put them in the freezer while I made pastry cream.

For the pastry cream, I had a mind to do something different from the usual vanilla.  Originally, I thought I would do the ginger pastry cream from the cookbook, but at the last minute I had two ideas for variations.  I couldn't decide between them, so I made both in half batches.

1.  St. Germain pastry cream

I happened upon a minibottle of St. Germain for the first time last week in Nashville, where a very nice, very knowledgeable, and very cute clerk was helping me spend too much money on red wine.  It looked interesting--I'm a sucker for a pretty Art Deco piece of frippery--so I bought it.  The tag on the bottle said something about "elderflower" and "hints of citrus."  Ok.  I don't really know what elderflower tastes like, but it sounds like something that would go well with blackberries, so I decide to try it.  I open the bottle and take a tiny sip and SWEET NECTAR OF THE GODS WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE. I had to put the bottle down and leave the kitchen.  It is that delicious.

I followed Dorie's instructions for "liqueur scented pastry cream," adding about 2 teaspoons to the cream.  It came out very light and smooth and bright yellow.

2) Madagascar Vanilla Tea pastry cream

I kind of got this idea from Dorie.  The Paris Sweets book has two recipes for tea-flavored tarts, one vanilla and one darjeeling.  Neither is made with pastry cream--if I recall correctly they are baked custardy tarts--but why can't I make pastry cream that tastes like tea, I thought?  I have a ton of teas that I buy loose from A Southern Season--one of my little extravagances is that I order all my teas from there.  I have at least twelve varieties right now.  I decided the Madagascar Vanilla was the safest bet to go along with fruit, though I thought hard about the Jasmine Black.

I decided the best thing to do would be to infuse the tea flavor by steeping the leaves in the milk as it heated and boiled.  I put a couple teaspoons into a tea ball, poured over the milk (in this case, a blend of whole, skim, and half and half) and let it go. 

It was nice and dark when it got to a boil, and the resulting cream is caramel brown, deeply, aromatically infused with the vanilla black tea.  It's deep and complex and rich compared to the St.Germain cream's airy brightness. 

For testing, I decided to try both flavors with the berries and jam. 

My pigginess only goes so far, so I combined both flavors in one tart, topped with berries, and glazed them with my favorite jam:  a spiced ginger marmalade.

Both are fabulous.  The berries, though not at their very sweetest yet, went well with each flavor, as did the plain shortbread crust.  I had a tart the next day with just the tea cream and whipped cream and that was awfully tasty too.  I think it would also be sensational with some sort of streusel, such as that on Dorie's darjeeling tart. The St. Germain tart filling tastes like a very pleasant vanilla at first and then the St. Germain hits you at the end.  YUM.  It's light and fruity and delicious with the blackberries.  I noticed that the St. Germain flavor seemed to fade after a day or so, so next time I will be less dainty and light-handed and just slug some in.  That one I think would go well with any number of fruits.

Today's thankyuhvurymuch for choosing this week's recipe goes out to Cristine.  Hat tip to ya!

04 May 2010

TWD: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

I've now successfully--though very reluctantly--escaped from Nashlantis, so I can post my TWD entry (chosen by Becky over at Project Domestication) for the week. I know I owe a ton of you lovelies comments from the last couple posts--I haven't forgotten!  And I promise I am not usually this uncouth.

I've made ice cream before, but not since I was a kid.  My grandmother had the old-fashioned-big-wooden-bucket-with-crank-requiring-rock-salt kind of ice cream maker, which I recall being used once or twice when I was very small, and as a preteen I can clearly remember making ice cream with my younger sisters in this:

and the chairs become DISHES!!!!

I've tried making mango sorbet using the freeze-and-stir method, but I wasn't pleased with the icy result at all.  The last thing I need right now is to buy more expensive kitchen appliances with limited uses.  However, I had to do TWD, right?

First I made the caramel custard. Dorie suggested it could take up to 8 minutes to cook the sugar properly.  Um, how about FORTY FIVE, is what it took me to get to somewhere around"dark amber" stage.  I may never really get the hang of cooking on an electric stove.
starting off with promise


 eh, bump it. I'm tired of standing here.  Moving on...

I had a hard time gauging the proper custard consistency. I think the term "custard" is throwing me off.  I think "custard"  I think "thick and solid."  Can we call it something else?  Pre cream sludge? I might have cooked it a tad long, but it tasted good.  In to the fridge it goes.

Making the ice cream in the Cuisinart was the EASIEST THING EVER!  You just turn it on, pour it in, and go about your business for 30 minutes or so.  Cheah!



eh, that'll do.

After a couple hours in the freezer, I tried it. It tasted nice--a bit sweeter than expected. I don't think I cooked the caramel quite enough to get the "burnt" flavor;  mine was just caramelly, like dulce de leche ice cream.  It was quite rich, and though I still had some ice crystals, was generally pretty smooth.  Thumbs up.  I think once I get the hang of making the custard, I will use the Cuisinart more often--especially for company.

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