Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A few sentences


Just wanted to stop by quickly, and tell you that even though it doesn’t seem like it, I have been stringing together a few sentenes, here and there. I really have. Just lately, they haven’t been about food. That makes me sad, of course, not only because there are so many recipes to try and tell you about, but also because it means that I’m not actually eating much of anything interesting. And if you know me, you know that makes for a pretty sad few weeks.

If you’re curious, I’ve been blogging a bit for the Long River Review, and you can see the latest here and here.

I hope that tides you over. If not, then make galettes, if you haven’t already. Then we’ll talk.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Birthday traditions, plus galettes

I am invariably predictable when it comes to birthdays. Of two things you can be absolutely certain. First, for those not my own, I tend to get extraordinarily excited. We’re talking stay-up-all-night baking projects, planning months in advance, and the like. It’s sick, really.

Which brings me to the next certainty. Somewhere around my birthday, in the name of tradition, I usually get sick. In old family movies, especially the ages 4 through 7 trilogy, there is always a similar scene: a herd of little pig-tailed girls in dresses playing duck duck goose or the equivalent, Little Mermaid decor, and Kenzi, sitting outside of the circle, huddled in what looks like a mass of other people’s jackets, shivering. I’m usually wearing some kind of tiara, too, but I suppose that is beside the point.

My birthday was this past Monday, and as traditions go, I got sick again. I don’t have any home movies to prove it, but I do have some antibiotics and a fairly large pile of work to catch up on, if you’d like to see those. But even though I have sickness following me around every April, it turns out I wouldn’t really have it any other way. I have such wonderful friends that even though I ended the day shivering like mad wearing socks, slippers, and two whole comforters, I still managed to go to sleep happy. With a stomach full of galette. And future Marea reservations. Aren’t I lucky? These two things, plus the promise of a really nice bottle of wine sitting on your table, seem to do the trick entirely.

I also made out with a David Lebovitz cookbook, a generous Williams Sonoma gift card (ice cream maker perhaps?), and too many other things – a result of my parents’ lovely and utterly idiosyncratic habit of buying gifts, forgetting they bought gifts, and so then buying more gifts, having been thrown into a frenzy at the thought of not having any gifts at all.

But back to that galette. My friend Katherin made it for me and brought it to school on the day of my birthday, all wrapped in tin-foil and with plastic forks on the side. We ate it outside, in the sun, with a water-bottle full of red sangria. Which is how I highly suggest you eat it too, once you make it. It was perfect, all rustic and lemony and exactly what I imagine eating in the springtime. More perfect, though, is that when I saw her plate, I got excited for cookies, and then I opened it, and it was a galette. A strawberry one. With thyme. Do my friends know me or what?

Thyme and Strawberry Galette

Adapted from Crumpets and Cakes

Note: Katherin thinks that combining the curd with the strawberries makes it a little heavy on the liquid, but I say do it, because I tasted the final product and it. Was. Delicious.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water

3 tablespoons lemon curd
Strawberries, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 egg beaten with a bit of water for egg wash

Mix the flour, salt, and thyme in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. (You can also do this with your fingers if you’re an all-star pastry chef, or if you just don’t have a processor.)

Knead the dough just so it comes together and shape it into a disc. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To make the filling, combine all ingredients (except the egg wash, silly) in a medium bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle a lightly floured work surface with 1/2Tbsp turbinado sugar (this step is easily skipped if you don’t have any). Roll out the crust to about ¼ inch thick and about 8 inches in diameter. At the last minute, fold the lemon curd into the filling mixture, and then arrange it all onto the pastry, leaving a border to fold the edges of dough over the strawberries. Brush the dough with the egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is browned and the center is bubbling.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fifth-stair inspired muffins

The inspiration for this one is pretty strange.

If you don’t know by now, before the restaurant where I work was a restaurant, it was a big, big, old, old barn. The owners even kept an old, old, grey, grey horse in what now is the basement for a few years. Doesn’t that fit right in? Sometimes when I’m bringing boxes down to the still gravel-floored basement, or turning on the outdoor lights, I imagine how the stalls would look, all perfectly vintage-looking, nestled against the stone foundation.

When the barn was renovated, everything original that could stay, did: all of the beams are original, the bar is made out of the old cow stalls. The hay loft remains, though it’s now storage for mixers and deli cups and paper towels, and there is still an old rope swing right hanging above the newer duct work. Every time I go down those stairs, if I look up around the fifth, maybe sixth, stair, I look directly at old crates chock-full of muffin tins. And not the child’s-play muffin tins you make cupcakes in, either – they’re big, huge even, the super-sized version of muffin tins.

Last time I was at work, I hit the fifth stair, and thought that it would be awesome to make giant muffins. That’s it, that’s where I got the idea. And so I did, a few days later.

It turns out that I’m not that big of a muffin person, really (I thought I would rather enjoy being able to eat what is essentially a cupcake in the morning and be able to pass if off as breakfast). They were tasty, what with their heavy-handed dose of chocolate and walnuts, don’t get me wrong, they just weren’t really for me. It’s not a total lost cause, though. At least now I’ll never wonder what it would be like to make giant muffins? I can cross giant, chocolate-banana-walnut muffins off of my list? Maybe it was a total lost cause?

They got eaten, quickly, so maybe that’s a good sign. Though, if you leave pretty much anything out on the table in my apartment, it will get gobbled up at a pretty alarming rate. Like, record setting. It’s quite a nice ego-boost, come to think of it.

The moral: these were certainly decent, it wasn’t quite as awesome to make giant muffins as I had thought (though maybe some of you feel differently about that), and you should make these if you live in an apartment full of skinny, hungry boys. Or if you really like muffins, of course.

That was a terrible sell, I realize. I should never be a salesperson.

Chocolate Banana Walnut (giant) Muffins

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 large egg
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup milk
A few handfuls each of :
-semisweet chocolate chips
-roughly chopped walnuts
(Because I’m a rogue baker)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour your giant muffin tin, if you have one, or line a smaller tin with baking cups. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in different, medium bowl. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until mixed.

Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out relatively clean. Mine took about 30-35 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack; cool.

Feed to hungry roommates.