Asparagus Soup {FFwD}

Asparagus Soup

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie just screams “Springtime!” It’s light, flavorful, and bursting with asparagus flavor.

The soup consists of asparagus (lots of it), onion, garlic, shallot, leeks, olive oil, butter, salt, and white pepper. I started by snapping the asparagus to remove the woody part at the base, then peeling the stalks (seriously, who does that?). I tied the peels and stems in a cheesecloth, then boiled the asparagus, stalks, and peels in boiling water. I removed the asparagus after about four minutes, reserving the water and discarding the stalks and peels.

Next, I heated olive oil in the pot. I was using a butter-infused olive oil, so I left out the butter called for in the recipe. I added the onion, garlic, shallot, and leeks, salted and peppered them, and cooked them low and slow until they were soft and glistening. I added back six cups of the asparagus water, simmered for a while, then dropped the asparagus back in.

After everything had cooked a bit more, I puréed the soup in two batches in my Vitamix. I thought the first batch looked a bit too watery, so I left most of the liquid out of the second batch. When I mixed it all together, it was a beautiful color and consistency.

The recipe says that the soup can be served hot or cold. I wanted to try it right away, so I served it hot with a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil. I found it slightly bland, but a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper solved that problem.

I’m interested to try this soup cold, but I really enjoyed it hot. It was smooth, silky, and brimming with Springtime flavors.

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Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs {FFwD}

AMFT Cover

Although I haven’t been participating in French Fridays with Dorie (or any other bake- or cook-along group) recently, I happened by the website the other day, and this recipe was enough to pull me back in. Mushrooms, cream, and poached eggs (singing: these are a few of my favorite things) on top of toasted brioche — I mean, what’s not to love?

This recipe was as simple as it was delicious. Cleaning the mushroom caps and chopping the mushrooms, shallot, rosemary, and mint were the most time-consuming parts of the whole process. After that, it was just a matter of adding everything to the pan in the right order while Mom poached some eggs.

Once I had my mise en place, I began by heating olive oil and melting butter in a sauté pan. I dropped in the shallot and sautéed it for a few minutes, then added the mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Once the mushrooms had given up their liquid and begun to soften, I added cream and let it simmer away for a few minutes while I sliced up the brioche and started toasting it. Finally, I removed the pan from the heat and stirred in rosemary and mint.

By that time, Mom was finished poaching the eggs (perfectly, I might add), and we plated everything. We put a slice of brioche on the plate, topped it with a nice spoonful of mushrooms and the poached egg, and then finished it off by spooning the mushroom cream over the top.

Everyone agreed that this was a perfect Sunday supper — simple, homey, filling, and insanely delicious.

I’m glad to be back cooking with my friends for French Fridays. I can’t say for sure how many recipes I will make, or if I’ll post many or any of them. But I have already made next week’s Coupetade. And I love both asparagus and avocado. So there’s a good chance I’ll be around at least for the month of May.

Bon appetite!

Endive, Apples, and Grapes {FFwD}

Do you remember when you made Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup for French Fridays with Dorie? You can be forgiven if you don’t; it was almost a year ago. It was also the last FFwD recipe that I made before I dropped out of sight.

Well, I”M BAAAAAAACK!!!!

I was going to restart French Fridays in October. In fact, I read through the recipes and have already started buying the ingredients. But when I saw this week’s pick, I decided to jump in a week ahead of schedule.

I love sautéed apples, but I had never had grapes or endive cooked in butter before. OK, truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever had endive at all. But slow cooked with fruit and butter — how bad could it be?

This was a really simple recipe. Other than the fruit, butter, and endive, it contained only rosemary, salt, and pepper, all of which I tucked into a cast iron skillet over low heat.

After 20 minutes, I turned everything over to cook some more.

Another 20 minutes, and it was done.

I put everything on a plate, scraped up the buttery bits in the bottom of the pan, and poured that over the top.

I sprinkled on a little salt and pepper, and tucked into this delightful little dish. The apples and grapes were amazing. (If you’ve never had a grape cooked in butter, you don’t know what you’re missing.)

As far as the endive goes, I enjoyed it with bites of fruit, but it was too bitter to eat just by itself. I think if I were to make this dish again, I’d try to come up with something to use in place of the endive. Having a savory component to the dish is a great idea. But I wish I could think of something less bitter and with a bit more flavor on its own.

In any case, it’s good to be back doing French Fridays again. I’m not going to try to make every recipe — that’s how I got burned out last time. And some of my posts may be short and sweet, been-there-made-that kind of affairs. But at least I’ll be making recipes from Around My French Table again.

And after all that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Triple Chocolate Cake {ModBak}

A few weeks ago, I wrote about making this wonderful light and airy Cocoa Génoise.

Today’s Modern Baker Challenge post is about what I made with the génoise layer. As the name implies, this cake is chocolate on chocolate covered with chocolate. In addition to the chocolate cake, there are two versions of chocolate ganache — one used to frost the cake and the other a glaze that goes over the whole thing.

With my génoise at the ready, I began by making a moistening syrup, which consisted of water, sugar, and raspberry liqueur.

I set the syrup aside to cool while I made the ganaches.

First, the ganache for filling and spreading. While I heated cream and corn syrup on the stove, I melted bittersweet chocolate in a bowl.

I poured the cream mixture over the chocolate, mixed well, then whisked in softened butter.

Next, I made the ganache glaze, which was also made with cream, corn syrup, and chocolate, although not as much chocolate as the filling. And there was no butter in the glaze. And rather than melting the chocolate, I poured the cream mixture over the chocolate and let the heat from the cream melt the chocolate.

To assemble the cake, I cut the génoise into three layers. I put the bottom layer on a tart pan bottom and brushed it with 1/3 of the moistening syrup. I topped this with about 1/3 of the ganache filling and spread it to the edge of the cake. I repeated the layers two more times, then spread ganache frosting over the entire cake.

I refrigerated the cake for a while, then poured the ganache glaze over the top and smoothed it over the sides.

This cake was beautiful. The glaze gave it a smooth, perfectly finished look. The kind you see in a bakery and wonder, “How do they do that?”

I made this cake before my parents came for a visit so they could enjoy it with us.

This cake was amazing! It may be the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And my parents, with over 140 years of cake-eating experience between them, agreed that this was by far the best chocolate frosting they’ve ever tasted.

As Nick points out in the notes, this is a cake for a milestone birthday or other very special occasion. It has enough flavor and visual appeal to match up to any celebration. And even though it’s a bit of work to put together, the accolades you’ll receive make it well worth the effort.

Banana Rum Coconut Layer Cake {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge cake features one of my favorite flavors. No, I don’t mean dark rum (although I’m certainly not opposed to rum). I’m talking about bananas. Regular readers of my blog know about my obsession with all things pumpkin, as well as my love of apples. But I am equally enamored with bananas.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’ll eat anything that’s banana flavored. In fact, like strawberries, while I love real bananas, I really dislike “banana flavored” foods. But give me a fresh banana, or better yet a baked good made with ripe bananas, and I’m a happy man.

So this cake was right up my alley. It combines ripe bananas with rum and coconut for a delicious tropical flavor baked into a homey layer cake.

To make the cake layers, I beat butter, granulated and dark brown sugars, and vanilla until fluffy, then added eggs. I mixed flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in one bowl and mashed bananas, milk, and dark rum in another. I alternated adding these to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

I beat the batter for several minutes to lighten it, then divided it between two 9-inch pans. I baked the cake layers in a 350°F oven for about 25 minutes, until the cake was well risen, golden, and firm in the center.

This cake smelled good enough to eat right out of the oven. But I resisted and cooled the layers while I made the frosting.

As I’ve baked my way through the Cakes section of  The Modern Baker, I have really come to appreciate the simplicity, lightness, and wonderful flavor of whipped cream as cake frosting. And when you add rum to the whipped cream, well, things can only get better.

Having cooled the layers and made the frosting, which consisted of whipping cream, sugar, and dark rum, I was ready to assemble the cake. I placed the first layer on a cake plate, sprinkled it with about a tablespoon of dark rum, and spread the top with whipped cream. I inverted the second layer on top of the first and topped it with rum and whipped cream. I spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake, then pressed coconut into the frosting.

We enjoyed this cake for dessert, and everyone asked for seconds.

This cake was delicious, with the tropical flavors of banana and coconut shining through. And even though it had dark rum in the batter and frosting, it wasn’t at all boozy tasting.

This is another celebration cake: one that’s simple enough to make for any gathering, but impressive enough to commemorate those special occasions.

Whipped Cream Layer Cake {ModBak}

I’m still baking my way through the Cakes Section of the Modern Baker Challenge, and this week’s entry is a simple and delicious layer cake. What makes this cake unique is that the butter you would normally expect to find in a cake is replaced by whipping cream. This makes sense if you recall that overwhipped cream turns into butter.

So all you are really doing with this recipe is replacing the butterfat in butter with that in whipped cream. The fat and the air whipped into the cream add to the texture, lightness, and tender crumb in this cake.

The frosting for this cake is also made with whipped cream, but the sweetness of the cake and cream are balanced by the addition of caramel to the frosting. At least, they are supposed to be.

My misadventures with caramel are legend (although I’ve had some successes, too). At least I’m at the point of not fearing caramel in recipes anymore. So I wasn’t really concerned about making the caramel for this frosting. And it seemed to come out OK. But some of it seized up when I mixed in the cream, and after pulling out the solid chunks, what remained wasn’t enough to be visible or to flavor the whipped cream in any discernible way.

No matter, because even with regular whipped cream, this cake was light, airy, and delicious. Definitely one to make again.

Popovers {TWD-BWJ}

Oh, beautiful, delicious, airy, fluffy popovers! Where have you been all my life?!?

Not only had I never made a popover, until this recipe came up for Tuesdays with Dorie, I had never even tried one before. I can’t believe I have lived for 40-some years and never had the joy of tearing into one of these beauties before dinner this evening! I can promise you, it won’t be 40 more years before I make them again. It probably won’t be 4 days.

I must have been planning on making these at some point, because I have a popover pan. I think I got it with points from my bank the same time I got Baking with Julia. So it’s only fitting that I used the pan for the first time with Marion Cunningham’s recipe from BWJ.

I preheated the oven to 400°F, as that’s what several recipes I saw using popover pans called for. Based on some of the comments on the P&Q for this recipe, I buttered the pans really well with melted butter. (As a side note, my Chicago Metallic popover pans are nonstick, and I’ve found their nonstick pans to work really well with a minimum of greasing.) I filled the cups about 1/3 full and baked them for exactly 35 minutes.

They looked absolutely perfect when they came out of the oven. Dinner was on the table, so the popovers went right from the pans to a basket and onto the table.

I tore into one and was surprised and delighted by how open and airy the center was. They weren’t doughy or custardy in the middle, just a little less done than the crispy exteriors. I slathered the insides with butter and drizzled on some honey. They were absolutely delicious! Soft and crisp at the same time. Puffy, buttery, dripping with honey. I could have made a meal of them.

I’m glad I tried this recipe. And I’m glad to have a popover pan, wherever it came from. I only wish I had two pans so I could make a dozen of these at a time.

Our hosts this week are Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes and Amy of Bake with Amy. Cruise on over to their blogs for the recipe and to see what they thought of these yummy popovers.

Raspberry Cream Cake {ModBak}

In last week’s Modern Baker Mondays post, I recounted my first successful attempt at making a classic génoise.

And I promised that if you came back this week, you’d see what became of this wonderful cake layer. Obviously, a cake this beautiful had to be destined for something equally stunning. So I used it to make this show-stopping raspberry cream cake.

This is a special cake for a special occasion. Who wouldn’t feel great about being presented with a cake like this for a birthday or anniversary? It’s just enough work to make it a cake worth saving for a special occasion; but not so much that you should be intimidated about making it. In fact, once you have your génoise prepared, most of the work is behind you.

This cake derives its raspberry flavor from three components: raspberry moistening syrup (which is just a simple syrup with a little framboise stirred into it), seedless raspberry jam, and raspberry buttercream.

This is a classic buttercream with a raspberry purée (seeded raspberries cooked down to a jelly-like consistency) and more framboise added to it. Once you’ve made the génoise, syrup, and buttercream, it’s just a matter of assembling the cake.

I began by cutting the génoise into three layers.

I inverted the top layer onto a tart pan bottom, then brushed it with the raspberry syrup.

I spread some raspberry jam on the layer.

Then I topped it with buttercream.

I repeated these steps with the second layer, then inverted what had originally been the bottom layer on top.

I finished the cake with buttercream, then pressed sliced almonds on the sides of the cake. Finally, I topped everything with some sugared black raspberries.

This cake was amazing! The génoise was light and airy, and the raspberry flavor permeated the entire cake yet was somehow delicate and almost understated. We enjoyed this cake for dessert the day it was made and over the next several days, as it held up really well.

This is definitely not a weeknight cake, but it’s not so complex that you should be afraid to try it. The “wow” factor definitely exceeds the amount of work it takes to make, making this a great cake for any special occasion.

Blueberry Crumb Cake {ModBak}

Like most of the rest of the country, we have had an unseasonably warm spring and early summer here. One of the consequences of this has been that many of the local fruits and vegetables are coming on much earlier than normal.

So I was only a little surprised to find fresh local blueberries at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago. Blueberries don’t usually hit until about mid-July in our area, but here is was the second week of June and they were at the market already.

I try to avoid buying trucked in fruit whenever possible, so I was holding out until I could get local blueberries to make this recipe from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I just never imagined it would happen this soon. This recipe is a combination of  a blueberry crumble and a cake. It has a thick cake layer on the bottom, topped with a mix of blueberries and crumb topping.

I began by making the crumb topping, which consisted of flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Because the butter was melted, it had more of a doughy consistency than a crumb topping made with room temperature butter.

I crumbled the topping onto the blueberries in a baking dish and set them aside while I made the cake. I found this step kind of odd, as I expected the recipe to say to put the blueberries on the batter, then add the crumb topping. It turns out my instincts were right on in this case, as I got an e-mail from Nick Malgieri after I made this recipe noting that this instruction was an error in the book. Either way, it worked out fine.

The cake batter was made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and buttermilk. After mixing it up, I spread it in the pan.

I topped the batter with the blueberries and crumb mixture.

I baked the cake for about 40 minutes, until the batter was set and the crumb well-colored.

The blueberries melted into a jam-like consistency and were delicious with the crumb topping. I thought the cake layer was a bit too thick for the amount of topping. I think if you doubled the amount of blueberries, it would be perfect.

Abby liked this recipe a lot (she has a thing for blueberries), and she wrote the official post for the Challenge. You can check it out here.

Lemon Ginger Pound Cake {ModBak}

It’s day five of Strawberry Week here at Of Cabbages & King Cakes. And today’s theme is a simple one — strawberries make everything better.

Case in point:

This is Lemon Ginger Pound Cake from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. In the recipe notes, Nick Malgieri states that this cake needs no accompaniment. And he’s right. It’s a great cake on its own. But with height-of-the-season strawberries and freshly whipped cream, it’s sublime.

This is the second recipe in the Cakes section of The Modern Baker. After starting this section with the delicious but fussy Perfect Pound Cake, I was looking forward to trying this simple, quick recipe. Other than grating lemon zest and ginger (I used pregrated ginger), this cake takes almost no time to throw together.

This cake is baked in a bundt pan, which is buttered, dusted with fine bread crumbs, and then sprayed with cooking spray. The bread crumbs seem like a strange addition, but they bake into the cake without a trace.

To mix the batter, I began by combining flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of my stand mixer. I added butter and beat it with the paddle attachment until it formed a heavy paste. Then I added the remaining ingredients: eggs, egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and juice, and ginger, and beat the batter until it was light and fluffy.

I scraped the batter into the prepared pan and smoothed the top.

I baked the pound cake at 325°F for about 50 minutes, until it was firm, golden, and baked throughout. After cooling the cake in the pan for five minutes, I turned it out onto a rack to finish cooling.

I dusted the top of the cake with powdered sugar and served it for dessert. The lemon and ginger combined to give this pound cake a wonderful flavor.

We ate it plain the first night and really enjoyed it. But when we topped it with strawberries and whipped cream the next evening, we realized we had really hit on something.

Check out the other Strawberry Week entries, starting with Monday’s Real Strawberry Shortcakes.

Man, I can’t wait until strawberry season next year.

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