The Perfect Burger {Recipe}

If a picture is worth a thousand words, need I say  more than this?

After watching an episode of Good Eats, I was convinced that I needed to buy a cast iron griddle and grind my own hamburger. And, boy, am I glad I did.

This, my friends, is the best hamburger you’ve ever tasted. Made right in your own kitchen. No pink slime; no mystery meat; and no seasonings other than Kosher salt.

The Perfect Burger (based on recipe by Alton Brown)

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces chuck
  • 12 ounces sirloin
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • mayonnaise
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Lightly oil cast iron griddle. Preheat griddle over medium-high heat.
  2. Trim chuck of excess fat and cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes. Place chuck in food processor and pulse 10 times in 1-second intervals. Scrape meat into large bowl.
  3. Repeat with sirloin, adding to bowl with chuck after grinding.
  4. Add salt to meat and mix well with clean hands by lifting the meat from underneath and turning it over, being careful not to squish or compress meat.
  5. Shape meat into 5- to 5 1/2-ounce patties by forming into balls, tossing gently back and forth from hand to hand, then shaping each patty gently, again without pressing meat very much.
  6. Place patties on preheated griddle pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare or 5 minutes per side for medium, turning only once during cooking and resisting the urge to press down on the patties while they cook. (This is not a diner, and your name’s not Mel. Pressing the patties while they cook only serves to squish out all the delicious juiciness. Also, because the meat is freshly ground and not full of who-knows-what, the patties do not need to be cooked beyond medium.)
  7. While the patties are cooking, prepare hamburger buns by spreading the bottom bun with mayonnaise and topping with a bit of freshly cracked black pepper. The juices from the burger will mix with the mayo and pepper to make the most delicious “sauce” you can imagine.
  8. When the burgers are done cooking, place on buns, adorn with desired toppings, and enjoy.

Makes 4 burgers

The first time I made these, I didn’t add any toppings, as I wanted to taste them unadorned with just the mayo, pepper, and burger “sauce”. I can’t describe how good it was this way. Juicy, tender, and oh-so-meaty tasting.

I think what sets this recipe apart from any other burger I’ve tried is the “meatiness” of it. The freshly ground beef, the lack of overpowering seasonings, and the minimal toppings all let the meat flavor shine through.

Give it a try. It’s easier than you think to create the most flavorful, meaty burger you’ve ever had. But be warned: you may never be able to go back to store-bought ground beef again.

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Spicy Hazelnut Biscotti {ModBak}

Today I present to you the first biscotti recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Unlike the biscotti regina I made back in January, which was actually a cookie (biscotti is, after all, “cookie” in Italian), this is what I would consider a classic biscotti recipe. It’s twice-baked, very crunchy, and made for dunking in coffee or tea.

What makes these biscotti unique is the addition of lots of spices, including some that might surprise you — ginger, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and black pepper. The dough also contains lots of hazelnuts, some of which are ground with the sugar, while the rest are chopped up and stirred into the dough. A bit of honey and orange zest round out the flavorings.

The dough came together very quickly, although it was a bit powdery after I initially mixed it up. I worked it on a floured board until it held together, then I formed it into a log, put it on a cookie sheet, and flattened the top. I baked the log at 350°F for 40 minutes, until it was firm and nicely browned.

I cooled the log on a rack for half an hour or so, then cut it into 1/2-inch slices. I put the biscotti back on the cookie sheet and returned them to the oven, this time at 325°F for about 20 minutes, until they were dry and firm.

The aroma of the spices filled the house like Christmas at grandma’s. They smelled so good, I couldn’t wait for them to cool before trying them. I brewed a cup of French roast coffee, grabbed two biscotti, and headed for the living room.

How do I describe these biscotti? Crunchy, sweet, spicy — all those things, but so much more. The combination of flavors is absolutely genius, perhaps Nick Malgieri’s finest work.

These would be a perfect for the holidays, when spicy treats are on everyone’s minds. But don’t wait until then to make them. They’re too good not to enjoy year-round.

Irish Soda Bread {TWD-BWJ}

Although I’ve recently had to cut back on my baking/blogging commitments, I’ve been toying with joining the second round of Tuesdays with Dorie since it was announced. I bought the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan a while ago but hadn’t made anything from it yet. So when a group was announced to regularly bake recipes from the book, I was sorely tempted to join. What finally tipped the scales was the fact that there would only be two recipes per month, and members are only required to post one of the two. A once a month commitment fits even my schedule, so I decided to jump in.

The other thing that helped me decide was the second recipe for March: Irish soda bread. I love Irish soda bread and make it regularly, especially around this time of year. In fact, by the time I saw this pick for March 20, I had already made two soda breads: one from a Bob’s Red Mill mix and the other Irish whiskey soda bread from my friend Michele’s blog. I ended up taking these loaves to work, where they were both big hits, so I needed to make another loaf for home for St. Patrick’s Day. What better way to ease into TWD than baking something I was going to make anyway?

This is a very simple recipe. There are only four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The dry ingredients get whisked together, then the buttermilk is stirred in and the whole thing is formed into a loaf. After slashing the top of the loaf with the traditional cross-shaped pattern, it goes into a 375°F oven for about 50 minutes.

This loaf baked up beautifully and looked like a traditional soda bread. We had already had dinner by the time I made it, so I ate a piece of the bread with butter for an evening snack. It came out a bit dry for my liking. I didn’t check the temperature of the loaf during or after baking, so I’m not sure if it overbaked or if that texture was to be expected. There is almost no fat in the bread, so I’m not surprised it came out kind of dry.

As far as the flavor goes, it was just so-so. The buttermilk gave it a nice tang, but otherwise it was a bit bland. Of the three soda breads I made this week, this came in third in both flavor and texture. Others have reported liking it more than I, so I might try it again sometime. But for now, it’s definitely not a contender to become my go-to soda bread recipe.

Melting Moments {ModBak}

The next recipe in the Modern Baker Challenge is an old British cookie that Nick Malgieri describes as “little buttery orange-flavored clouds”. Now I’m all for melt-in-your-mouth goodness, which is what these cookies promised. But I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I read the recipe and saw that the lightness in these cookies comes from cornstarch. That’s where the lightness in the meringues I made recently came from.

And like the meringues, I was worried that the melting moments cookies might have a strange, overly dry mouthfeel. The fact that the recipe called for half as much cornstarch as flour didn’t give me any comfort, either. But this was the next recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section, so for better or worse, I was going to make it.

In addition to the flour and cornstarch, the recipe calls for baking powder, salt, butter, confectioner’s sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange extract, and orange zest. I mixed the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Then I beat the butter and powdered sugar in the mixer until light and fluffy. After beating in the eggs, I added the orange zest and extract (I substituted fiori di sicilia for the orange extract), then beat in the flour mixture. I scooped small spoonfuls of the dough, rounded them slightly, and put them on a cookie sheet.

I baked the cookies at 325°F for 20 minutes, until they were puffed, set, and lightly golden.

The cookies smelled delicious. The orange zest and fiori di sicilia were almost intoxicating, and despite my reservations, I couldn’t wait for them to cool so I could to try them. And once I did taste them, all my fears were put to rest. They were light, crisp, and brightly flavored. And, yes, they melted in my mouth with no cornstarch aftertaste.

I’m glad I made these cookies in spite of my initial skepticism. And I’m sure I’ll be making them again.

Macadamia Shortbreads {ModBak}

I was hopeful that this week’s Modern Baker Challenge cookie would make up for the tuile disaster and the fussy thumbprint cookies. Since it’s a shortbread, I knew it would at least be fairly easy, without a lot of ingredients. And the addition of macadamia nuts seemed like it would elevate the cookies a bit, both in style and flavor.

A classic Scottish shortbread recipe uses three ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour. This recipe adds baking powder and, of course, macadamia nuts to the trinity, but otherwise stays true to its Scottish roots.

After grinding the macadamias with sugar in the food processor, I added the flour, baking powder, and butter and whirred it together until it made a fine, powdery mixture.

When I dumped it into the pan, it was hard to envision how this sandy, silty substance would pull together into a cookie.

Of course, that’s the beauty of shortbreads. Since the only liquid in the recipe is butter, and it starts in its solid state, the dough really comes together once it hits the heat. In the meantime, I pressed the dough into the pan as best I could.

I sprinkled the dough with a little water, then topped it with macadamia nuts ground with sugar.

The shortbreads baked up beautifully. They smelled so rich and buttery, I couldn’t wait to try them.

And the flavor did not disappoint. Macadamia nuts have a buttery richness to them that paired perfectly with the shortbread dough. In fact, it’s such a natural combination, I’m surprised I’ve never heard of it before.

The cookies kept well in a plastic container, and we enjoyed them for several days. In case you’re wondering where the picture of the finished cookies went, you’ll have to ask him…

I realized I hadn’t plated the cookies for a picture, and went to get them, but they weren’t on the counter where I had left them. I looked all over the kitchen and dining room, but to no avail. I never found the cookies, but I did find the container under my daughter’s bed, where Bailey likes to take his purloined treasures.

Stupid dog.

But at least he has good taste.

Cappuccino Thumbprint Cookies {ModBak}

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a fan of fussy cookies. My idea of making cookies is mixing the dough, dropping the cookies onto a pan, and baking. Bar cookies are even better, as you get to skip the individual cookie dropping step. So I tend to pass over recipes with a lot of shaping, dipping, rolling, and filling. Like this one.

These cookies had it all, and then some. First, you make the dough, shape it into a square (I put it in an 8×8 pan), and chill it.

After the dough chills, you unwrap it (as you can see, I had a bit of trouble getting mine out of the pan), then cut it into squares.

The individual pieces of dough (all 40 of them) are then rounded, dipped in an egg wash, rolled in ground almonds, and placed on the pan.

Next, you make a cavity in each cookie and then bake them.

While the cookies are baking, you make a white chocolate and espresso filling. I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate, so I made two fillings, one with white and the other with bittersweet chocolate. After the cookies cooled, I piped the filling into the cookies, then sprinkled them with cinnamon.

These cookies were a lot of work, but they tasted really good. To my surprise, I even liked the white chocolate ones. I could see making these cookies again for a holiday cookie tray. Maybe by next Christmas I’ll have forgotten how much work they were.

This recipe is from The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri and is part of the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge.