Cornmeal Buttermilk Waffles {ModBak}

This is one of those recipes that seems a little strange at first — cornmeal in waffles? — but after you try it, you find yourself going back to it again and again. In fact, I’ve already made this recipe three times. Well, actually I’ve made the batter three times but have only baked the waffles twice. Let me explain.

Back in September, before we got to the Yeast-Risen Specialties section in the Modern Baker Challenge, I was in the mood for waffles. I don’t make waffles very often; in fact, it had been at least a year or two since I had made them at home. I order them out sometimes, but we just don’t do them at home. But I decided to make them one weekend, and I knew there was a waffle recipe coming up in the next section of The Modern Baker, so I thought I would give it a try.

This is a simple recipe, which takes only a little bit of planning, as the batter has to be mixed up the night before you plan to bake the waffles. To make the batter, I mixed yeast into warm milk in a mixing cup. Then I combined flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, I beat eggs, melted butter, and buttermilk. (I had the buttermilk in the freezer from the last time I made cultured butter. Since I found out that buttermilk can be frozen, I almost always have it on hand.)

I combined the wet and dry ingredients, mixed it well, and put the batter in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, I got the batter out of the refrigerator and stirred it down. It had just about doubled in volume and had a sweet, tangy taste. I was the first one up, and I thought I would surprise the rest of the family with fresh, hot waffles when they got up.

I checked the cupboard for the waffle iron but didn’t find it. I figured it must be in the basement, where I store kitchen supplies and equipment that I don’t use very often. I dug around downstairs but couldn’t find it there, either. I went back and forth between the kitchen and basement, looking everywhere I could think of, but I never did find it. So, I didn’t surprise anyone with breakfast that morning. In fact, I ended up throwing away the batter.

Fast forward to last week. I was talking to two of my co-workers at the office. I asked Margy if she had a waffle iron. She did, so I told her if she would bring it in Friday morning, and Mark would bring syrup, I’d supply the waffle batter so we could have breakfast. They were both a little leery of the idea of cornmeal in waffles, but my reputation as a baker and chef meant they would give me the benefit of the doubt and try these waffles.

So that evening, I mixed up another batter, put it in a lidded pitcher, and chilled it overnight. The next day, we set up our waffle station in the kitchen area at work and started baking. The waffles came out very thin, which I think was mostly a function of Margy’s ancient, and very heavy, waffle iron. We all agreed: these were great waffles. The cornmeal gave them just a bit of crunch and a nice, slightly nutty flavor. Mark and Margy told me about their misgivings, but both said these were delicious and very flavorful waffles.

That was Friday. On Saturday the girls and I went to the outlet mall to do some shopping. As always, I snuck away to Le Gourmet Chef “just to browse”. I was wandering the aisles, when this caught my eye:

Now, I know my old waffle iron is around the house somewhere. But this is a Belgian waffle maker. And it’s the kind like they have in hotels that flips over. How cool is that? Needless to say, it found its way into my shopping bag, along with some K-cups, a nutmeg grinder, a set of conventional and odd-sized measuring cups and spoons, and a roasting pan for the Thanksgiving turkey.

I, of course, had to justify buying another waffle iron, so I made another batch of batter Saturday night, and we had waffles for breakfast on Sunday morning.

I was surprised at how light and fluffy these waffles came out compared to the ones we made at work. They puffed up just like you would expect a Belgian waffle to do.

They were as good on Sunday as they had been on Friday. I may not make always make these when I want waffles, but this is definitely a recipe I will make many times in days to come.

They were certainly worth the expense of a new waffle iron — as if I needed an excuse to buy something new for the kitchen.

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Kouing Amman: Breton Butter & Sugar Pastry {ModBak}

“This Breton specialty is like a cross between croissant dough and palmiers….”

So begins Nick Malgieri‘s description of Kouing Amman. Who wouldn’t want that? Flaky, buttery croissant dough crusted in caramelized sugar. So, even though I had never heard of this pastry, I was excited to try the next recipe in the Modern Baker Challenge.

The recipe consists of a simple dough, folded with butter and rolled with sugar. After mixing yeast, water, flour, salt, and butter into a dough, which I chilled for half an hour, I rolled out the dough, and smeared it with butter.

I folded the dough in thirds, scattered the work surface and dough with sugar, rolled the dough out into a rectangle, and gave it another fold. I refrigerated the dough for an hour, then continued the process of rolling and folding the dough, liberally sugaring the dough and work surface all the while.

After working in about one cup of sugar, I rolled the dough into a circle and pressed it into a 10-inch round stoneware baking pan. I sprinkled on the last of the sugar, then covered the dough and let it rise for about two hours. I baked the pastry at 350° F for one hour, until it was well-puffed and the sugar on top had caramelized.

When it came out of the oven, the pastry was swimming in sugary butter (you can see some of it in the lower right hand side of the pan in the picture above), which absorbed into the pastry as it cooled. I let it cool completely, then sliced and served it right from the pan.

The Kouing Amman was flaky, crusty with sugar, and looked really light. When I cut into it with a fork, I was surprised to find it a little tough. It tasted pretty good, and it had distinct layers like puff pastry, but it was a bit on the chewy side. I found the toughness of the pastry layers offputting and not something I’d like to eat too often.

In the end, the flavor was fine, but the texture was such that I don’t see myself making this recipe again.

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake {FFwD}

The final recipe chosen by Dorie Greenspan for the premiere month of French Fridays with Dorie is, appropriately enough, a Fall dessert. This recipe, as with all of the FFwD recipes, comes from Dorie’s newest book, Around My French Table. Having just made our annual autumn pilgrimage to Patterson Fruit Farm, I was flush with apples, so Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake came at a perfect time. Dorie recommends using apples divers, that is different kinds of apples. I had four varieties — Jonathan, Jonagold, Macoun, and Granny Smith — and I used them all.

This recipe sounded so good that I decided to make a double batch so I would have an extra cake to take to work. I prepared the pans, got out my ingredients, and set to work.

After mixing the dry ingredients — flour, baking powder, and salt — I whisked together eggs, sugar, rum, and vanilla. I stirred half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, added four tablespoons of melted butter, mixed in the rest of the flour, then four more tablespoons of butter.

Finally I folded in the chopped apples.

As you can see, the mixture is more apple than cake. There was just enough batter to hold the apples together.

I baked the cakes at 350°F for 55 minutes, until they were golden brown and set.

I turned the cakes out of the pans and let them cool a bit. We ate the cake while it was still warm with whipped cream.

To say this cake was delicious would be an understatement. It had an amazing depth of flavor, from both the apples divers and the dark rum. If you don’t believe me, ask my friends at work. They never got a chance to try it. One cake just was’t enough for us at home.

Cinnamon Breakfast Ring {ModBak}

The third bread in the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of The Modern Baker is Cinnamon Raisin Breakfast Ring.

This recipe starts with a batch of quick brioche dough. After turning the dough out of the food processor, I pressed it out to a square, then rolled it into a rectangle.

I spread the dough with a mixture of butter, cinnamon, and sugar, then sprinkled it with pecans. The recipe also called for raisins, but I omitted them so the girls would eat it.

I rolled the dough from the long end, then curled the dough into a ring on the baking sheet.

It didn’t come out as even as I had hoped, and I had a bit of trouble getting the ends to stay together. But in the end, it looked fine.

I cut slits in the ring from the outside about 3/4 of the way to the center.

Then I twisted each section 1/4 turn, so that the filling was visible.

After letting the shaped dough rise for about two hours, I brushed the surface with an egg wash and sprinkled it with more pecans.

I baked the ring in a 350° F oven for about 25 minutes. It looked and smelled terrific when it came out of the oven.

This was an impressive-looking loaf that would be great to serve to company or for a casual brunch. And it was really delicious — soft, gooey with cinnamon, but not overly so. Definitely a dish to make again and again.

Orange & Almond Scones {Bake!}

I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Malgieri a few weeks ago and taking a few classes from him. On the first evening, he featured recipes and techniques from his newest book, Bake! I had just picked up the book a few days before the class, so I hadn’t had a chance to make anything from it. But watching Nick bake, I knew it had been a good purchase.

When my friend Kayte mysteriously received a copy of Bake! in the mail, return address Nick Malgieri, New York, she was excited to start baking from it. So we decided to do a Twitterbake, where we would both bake the same recipe at the same time and Tweet about it as we went. Kayte chose Orange & Almond Scones, which sounded perfect to me. I’m a big scone fan, and these looked great. We had our recipe, picked a time, and were good to go.

The recipe calls for almond paste. Although I had never baked with almond paste before, there are a few recipes I’m making soon that call for it. And after some searching, I had recently acquired my first-ever can of Solo Almond Paste. In the process of searching for almond paste and realizing how expensive it is, I had also found a few recipes to make it. So, the evening before the Twitterbake, I made two versions of almond paste. I liked the egg white version better, so that’s what I decided to use for the scones.

The scones are very simple to make. After mixing flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the food processor, I whirred in the almond paste, then the butter. I beat an egg with milk and orange zest, added that to the food pro, and gave it a few pulses. Then I dumped the whole thing out onto a floured board, divided the dough in half, and shaped each piece into a disk. I scored the dough, gave it a little egg wash, pressed on some slivered almonds, and it was ready to bake.

As simple as they were, these scones came out great. I’m going to serve them when my family comes to town for Thanksgiving and make them again for Christmas morning.

From the recipes I’ve sampled from this book so far, I highly recommend it. If you do pick up a copy, let me know. Kayte and I are planning to make a few recipes from it each month, and if you’d like to bake and Tweet along with us, we’d love to have you.

Marbled Chocolate Brioche Loaf {ModBak}

The second recipe in the third section of The Modern Baker is another brioche loaf. The basic recipe is similar to Quick Brioche, with the addition of rum and lemon zest. After making the brioche dough, it is divided into three pieces, and one of the pieces is then enriched with bittersweet chocolate and cinnamon.

I patted one of the plain pieces of dough into a five-inch square and set it aside. I did the same with the chocolate dough, then stacked it on top of the plain dough. Finally, I patted out the last piece of plain dough and added it to the stack.

After pressing the dough together, I cut it into three pieces.

Then I cut each strip into about 10 pieces, which I put into a bowl and tossed together.

I added a teaspoon of water, squished the dough into a ball, then pressed it into a loaf pan.

I allowed the dough to rise for two hours. Even though it hadn’t crested the top of the pan, it was ready to bake.

I baked the bread in a 350° oven for 40 minutes. The loaf smelled so good baking, with the chocolate, rum, and butter begging to be tasted.

I cooled the loaf on its side to keep it from deflating.

I sliced into the loaf and liked what I saw. It had a nice even crumb and the marbling looked like the picture in the book.

This was a really delicious bread. The chocolate gave it a wonderful flavor without being cloying sweet. It was good plain, toasted, and with a little marmalade. And after a few days, it made great chocolate bread pudding.

Hachis Parmentier {FFwD}

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe is hachis Parmentier, a French version of shepherd’s pie. Unlike a classic shepherd’s pie, however, this one is made with finely chopped beef chuck and sausage in place of the ground beef. This adds a great depth of flavor that elevates this dish beyond your expectations for meat pie.

After gathering my ingredients, I began by cooking the beef into a broth with vegetables and spices.

The broth cooked down for about an hour and 45 minutes, until it reduced in volume by about half and the beef was cooked through.

For the filling, I removed the beef from the broth, chopped it finely with a chef’s knife, and added it to a skillet with the sausage, a teaspoon of tomato paste, salt, pepper, and some of the broth.

Then I boiled and riced the potatoes for the topping.

I assembled the hachis Parmentier, then topped it with grated Gruyère and dotted the top with butter.

I baked it for 30 minutes at 400°F, until it was bubbly and the top had begun to brown a bit.

I served the hachis Parmentier for dinner with a salad. My whole family loved it. My wife and I agreed that it was way better than any shepherd’s pie either of us had ever tasted.

Another success from Around My French Table. I’m enjoying this journey and the way it’s opening our minds and palates to a whole new world of cuisine.

Up next week: Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake

Quick Brioche Braid {ModBak}

The first recipe in the third section of The Modern Baker is a bread with which I am quite familiar, having baked three versions from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and one from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Around My French Table. What differentiates Nick Malgeri‘s brioche recipe from others I’ve made is that it comes together very quickly, is shaped immediately after mixing, and rises only once.

I made this bread twice. The first time I departed from the recipe in two ways. First, I mixed the dough in the stand mixer instead of the food processor.

As you can see, the dough was very wet. After mixing it, I put the dough in bread pans (the second departure from the recipe, which calls for braiding the dough).

Even though it remained slack, the dough baked up nicely, and I was pleased with the look of the resulting brioche.

As far as the taste goes, I would have to say it wasn’t my favorite of the brioches I’ve made. It tasted fine, but wasn’t exceptional. I made Dorie’s brioche at the same time and liked it better.

I made the first batch of brioche before we actually go to this section of the book, and I decided to remake it, this time following the recipe. So, I mixed the dough in the food processor instead of the mixer. I’m still having the issue of liquids leaking out of the food pro when I use it to make dough, but I’m starting to think it’s either something with my Cuisinart or user error, as others don’t seem to have this problem.

After mixing the dough, I shaped the loaf. The dough was much less slack than the first time I made the recipe and was easy to handle. First, I divided the dough into three pieces, rolled each piece into a rope, and then braided the ropes.

I allowed the bread to proof for about two hours, until it doubled in size.

After brushing the loaf with beaten egg, I baked it in a 350° oven for about 40 minutes, until it was well-risen and golden brown.

The bread smelled amazing. And it looked really nice when I sliced it. The big question, of course, was how it would taste.

Although I didn’t have another brioche to compare this one to, this loaf would stack up well against any of the other recipes I have tried. In fact, given how easy this one is to prepare, it may just become my go-to recipe for brioche.

Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup {FFwD}

The third recipe Dorie Greenspan chose for the French Fridays with Dorie group seems like an odd recipe to find in a French cookbook — Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. However, as Dorie explains, France has colonial ties to Vietnam, and Vietnamese restaurants are common throughout France. So, it should not come as a surprise that some Vietnamese dishes have found their way into French kitchens.

This recipe is a combination of two traditional Vietnamese soups: pho ga and la sa ga. I’ve never had either of these soups, but this recipe does remind me of one of my favorite dishes — Thai chicken coconut soup.

The recipe begins with a bouquet garni tied up with star anise, coriander seeds, white peppercorns, and cilantro stems. This is added to a pot with onion, garlic, fresh ginger, red chiles, chicken broth, and coconut milk. This mixture is seasoned with fish sauce, brown sugar, and salt, then brought to a boil.

Once the broth boiled, I lowered it to a simmer and added the chicken breasts. I covered the pot and poached the chicken for about 15 minutes.

After the chicken was cooked, I removed it from the pot and let it cool for a few minutes before shredding it by hand. While the chicken was cooling, I cooked and drained the noodles.

I then returned the broth to a boil and added the chicken and noodles to the pot. When everything was heated through, I stirred in cilantro and lime juice, adjusted the seasonings, and served the soup for dinner with a salad.

I topped my bowl with a few splashes of chili oil. I had omitted the red chiles from the recipe at the beginning, as I was serving the soup for dinner and my daughters don’t like things that are too spicy.

This soup was delicious. Spicy, slightly sweet from the coconut milk, and full of flavor. As noted above, it reminded me of Thai chicken coconut soup, which I order almost every time we get Thai food.

Even though there were quite a few ingredients in this recipe, it was really simple to assemble, and it was ready to serve in about 30 minutes, making it a perfect light dinner for any night of the week.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes {MSC}

This month’s selection for the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club is Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, featured on page 138. I’m a huge Snickerdoodle fan, which could be good or bad when it came to these cupcakes. I knew I would like the flavors, chiefly cinnamon and sugar. But just because a dish is fashioned after another dish doesn’t guarantee that it will live up to the original.

So, with mixed feelings, I set out to make this month’s cupcakes. As with most of the recipes in this book, I decided to make a half recipe, as the full recipe yields 28 cupcakes, and I don’t need that much temptation in my house.

The recipe calls for AP and cake flours. I didn’t have cake flour in the cupboard, so I improvised by adding a bit of corn starch to some all-purpose flour, with a ratio of two tablespoons corn starch per one cup flour. The easiest way to do this is to measure the corn starch into a dry one-cup measuring cup, then fill the cup the rest of the way with flour.

I mixed up the batter and filled the cupcake pans. In the past, I’ve found Martha’s recipes to be very generous — if the yield is supposed to be 15, you almost always end up with 18 cupcakes. So I was surprised when this recipe, which I expected to yield at least 16 cupcakes, ended up making only 12.

I baked the cupcakes for about 20 minutes. They smelled a lot like snickerdoodle cookies while they baked. And they came out looking something like them, too.

After the cupcakes cooled, I made the Seven-Minute Frosting on page 303. This is a meringue-type frosting, in which egg whites are beaten together with a sugar syrup cooked to the soft-ball stage.

The frosting is supposed to be piped onto the cupcakes using a Wilton 1A tip. I didn’t have the tip, and although I admit to looking for it at one store, I ultimately decided to stick to my self-imposed, although infrequently followed, rule of not buying a new piece of cooking equipment until at least the second or third time I need it. So I frosted the cupcakes without a tip. To do this, I used a disposable piping bag and cut a fairly large chunk off the end. And I have to say, it worked pretty well.

A little sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar was all it took to finish them off. The cell phone picture above doesn’t do justice to these cupcakes. They were easily the most professional-looking cupcakes I’ve ever made.

So, how did they compare to “real” snickerdoodles? Quite favorably, I’d have to say. I would be proud to serve these to company or, as I plan on doing, contribute them to a school bake sale.

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