Salad Niçoise {FFwD}

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was a perfectly simple, perfectly composed, and perfectly delicious salad.

Salad Nicoise

See, what did I tell you? Perfect.

This salad featured Bibb lettuce, parsley, boiled potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, steamed green beans, tuna, tomatoes, capers, Niçoise olives, homemade vinaigrette, and, the star of the show, anchovies. Although there were quite a few ingredients, and the potatoes, beans, and eggs had to be prepared ahead, the salad came together very quickly with minimal fuss and almost no clean up.

It might not surprise you to learn that we served this for lunch while the kids were away at school. We all really enjoyed this salad. It was pungent, salty, and quite filling, in that wonderful, salad-full sort of way.

Another keeper from Dorie to start out year four of French Fridays.

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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!

Cocoa Génoise {ModBak}

The next cake in the line up for the Modern Baker Challenge is cocoa génoise. Flush with my recent success with a classic génoise, I was looking forward to making the cocoa variation.

First, a correction. The original hardback edition of The Modern Baker contains an erratum in the instructions. The book says to use 1 cup all-purpose flour for the cocoa génoise; it should read 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. This erratum was corrected in the paperback version of the book.

The cocoa génoise recipe is based on the classic génoise recipe, the only difference being the amounts of flour and cornstarch and, of course, the addition of cocoa. Otherwise, the ingredients and instructions are the same.

Check out my classic génoise post for step-by-step photos and details about the process. Here’s a picture of the cocoa génoise batter in the pan:

And here it is after it was baked:

It didn’t bake up quite as high as the classic génoise. I had to work a little harder to get the cocoa and flour mixed it, and I think I deflated the egg foam a bit. Nevertheless, it was light, airy, and delicious.

And I was still able to cut it into three layers. You’ll have to check back in a few days to see what I used them for….

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.

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.

Viennese Raisin(less) Coffee Cake {ModBak}

The fourth recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Gehrueter Gugelhupf mit Rasinen (beaten coffee cake with raisins), or, more simply put, Viennese raisin coffee cake. Although I don’t have a traditional gugelhupf pan, my Wilton pan is just fancy enough to work for this recipe.

It’s fitting that this recipe comes right after the pound cakes in the book, as it is quite similar to a pound cake in ingredients, mixing method, and flavor. After beating butter and sugar until light and fluffy, I added lemon zest, vanilla, and egg yolks. Then I alternated adding a mixture of flour and baking soda with more egg yolks, mixing each into the batter. Finally, I folded in egg whites. (I omitted the raisins.)

The cake baked up beautifully. The lemon flavor was reminiscent of both the Perfect Pound Cake and Lemon Ginger Pound Cake, as was the somewhat dense texture of the cake. I wonder if the raisins might have made it seem more coffee cake-like. I’ll have to try adding them next time to find out.

If you want to see this cake made in a true gugelhupf pan, along with some stunning pictures of Vienna, check out Sara’s post. And if you want to make this and more amazing baked goods in your own kitchen, pick up a copy of The Modern Baker. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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.

Real Strawberry Shortcake {ModBak}

We’ve been getting some beautiful strawberries this year and using them as many ways as we can. We’ve eaten them whole, sliced, and macerated, and I’ve made a number of desserts featuring fresh strawberries. There are a number of recipes I would like to remember for future years, so, I’ve declared this week “Strawberry Week” on my blog and invited my blogging friends to join in.

Two recipes I made (and the base for a third) happen to be from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge, including this one for a simple, classic strawberry shortcake. As with most strawberry shortcakes, this recipe consists of three components: shortcakes, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream.

For the strawberries, I hulled, washed, and sliced them, then mixed them with sugar (it didn’t take much, as these were height-of-the-season, super sweet strawberries). I set them aside to macerate while I made the shortcakes.

I began by mixing flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of my food processor. I added cold butter and pulsed until it was finely mixed in.

I whisked egg and buttermilk together, added them to the food processor, and mixed until I had a soft, wet dough.

The recipe presents two options for the shortcake. It can be made as a single cake in an 8-inch round pan, or baked as individual shortcakes by mounding the dough on a baking sheet. I opted for individual shortcakes.

I baked the shortcakes for about 15 minutes, until they were firm and lightly browned.

While the shortcakes were baking, I whipped heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract with the stand mixer.

After the shortcakes had cooled enough to handle, I cut them in half, buttered them, and assembled the shortcakes.

Each shortcake consisted of a buttered shortcake half, topped with strawberries and whipped cream, and finished with the remaining shortcake half.

If strawberries are the perfect fruit, then these may be the perfect dessert. The shortcakes and whipped cream accent the strawberry flavor without overshadowing it. And did I mention that start to finish this recipe takes less than an hour to prepare?

This was a great recipe to highlight fresh strawberries, and a great way to kick off Strawberry Week. Here’s what’s in store for the rest of the week:

Rum-scented Marble Cake {ModBak}

I was all set to make this recipe the other day when my friends Kayte and Margaret tweeted that they were making it, too. So we decided to have a Twitterbake and make it “together” in our separate kitchens (and separate States). It’s always more fun baking with others, even if you are baking and tweeting from far away.

This is the third recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. After starting with a delicious, if fussy, pound cake, I was looking forward to trying this recipe.

As impressive as it looks, this cake was really easy to put together, although it did dirty quite a few bowls. The base batter consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter (three sticks!), seven eggs, and dark rum. After making a heavy paste of the dry ingredients and butter, I whisked the eggs and rum, then added them to the butter mixture.

The chocolate swirl layer consisted of dark rum, milk, baking soda, bittersweet chocolate, and two cups of the base batter, all mixed together until blended.

To assemble the cake, I put half the base batter in the pan, smoothed the top, then topped it with the chocolate layer.

I covered this with the rest of the base batter, smoothed the top, then marbled it by dragging a knife through the batter from the center to the edge all the way around the pan.

I baked the cake for 75 minutes, until it was done through but still moist.

Pardon the pun, but the cake smelled intoxicating while it baked. The chocolate and rum combined to give it a rich, heady aroma, and I couldn’t wait to cut into it. I let the cake cool, then sprinkled the top with powdered sugar (although it really didn’t need any adornment).

My daughter and I decided to sample it for a bedtime snack.

I was planning to take the rest of it to work today, but after tasting it, my daughter announced that I would be doing no such thing. The cake was rich, but not overly sweet, and had a great balance of flavors. Calling it “rum-scented” is quite apt, as the rum adds more to the aroma than the flavor.

This was another great recipe from The Modern Baker and has me looking forward to the next seven months(!) of cakes.

Check out Kayte’s and Margaret’s posts to see what they thought and to get a look at their beautiful marbling.

Brioche {BWJ}

Our next Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Pecan Sticky Buns, which is due to be posted May 15, 2012. The first “ingredient” listed in the recipe is one batch of brioche dough. Since the brioche is a separate recipe and is used as a base for various other recipes in Baking with Julia, I decided it deserved its own post.

Brioche dough is loaded with butter and eggs, so you know whatever you make with it is going to be good. Brioche is known for its richness and fine texture. It can be tricky to work with, and it is definitely best made using a heavy-duty stand mixer.

Now, I’m no stranger to brioche. I made three versions of it during the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. Bubble-top brioche was one of the first recipes I made from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (AMFT). And Nick Malgieri has a quick and easy brioche recipe in The Modern Baker, which I used to make a quick brioche braid and marbled chocolate brioche loaf.

The recipe in BWJ was contributed by Nancy Silverton and begins with a sponge. Milk, yeast, one egg, and a bit of flour are mixed just until the flour is blended in.

More flour is sprinkled on top, and the sponge is allowed to rest until the yeast begins working. You know it’s ready when the flour starts to crack.

Once the sponge was ready, I added sugar, salt (not enough, in my opinion; next time I’ll increase the salt by about half), and more eggs and flour. I mixed the dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook for about 15 minutes, until I had a shaggy dough that clung to the dough hook and slapped against the side of the bowl.

The next step called for incorporating lots of butter into the dough. In order to do this, the directions said the butter should be roughly the same texture and consistency as the dough. The recipe recommended beating the butter with a rolling pin or smearing it on the work surface with a dough scraper. I decided to use the smear method, but I found the dough scraper awkward to work with. I had much better luck with an offset spatula.

I incorporated the butter a bit at a time. Thanks to the instructions, I didn’t worry when the dough separated, as I knew with continued mixing it would come back together. Once all the butter had been added, I continued to mix the dough for about 5 more minutes. The dough was soft, sticky, and warm from all the mixing. I put it into a large buttered bowl and set it aside to rise.

After about 2 hours, the dough had doubled in size.

I deflated the dough and put it in the fridge for its second rise.

After an overnight rest in the refrigerator, the dough was ready to be made into sticky buns. Check out the sticky buns post to see how they came out.

As for the brioche dough itself, I would have to say it was my least favorite of all the variations I’ve tried. It was extremely labor intensive, and the final product didn’t have a payoff in line with the amount of work involved. I suspect Dorie wouldn’t be too surprised to hear this. After all, she developed a much easier and more straightforward recipe for brioche for AMFT.

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