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.

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Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt {Recipe}

Sometimes the simple things in life are the best. Like a simple, delicious strawberry frozen yogurt.

Or a simple post with a simple recipe for strawberry frozen yogurt.

This recipe was inspired by David Lebovitz and adapted by me.

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 pint peak of the season strawberries, stems removed and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kirsch
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (whole fat, if you can find it; can also use Greek yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

  1. Cut the strawberries into 1/2-inch slices and place in a bowl with sugar and Kirsch. Stir to mix well, then set aside to macerate for 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Put strawberries and their liquid, yogurt, sour cream, and lemon juice in bowl of food processor. Process until mixture is smooth. Press mixture through fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.
  3. Refrigerate mixture for 1 hour, then process in ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Enjoy immediately, or freeze to desired consistency.

Makes about 1 quart.

My family loved this frozen yogurt. In fact, my wife pronounced it “too good”, meaning it won’t last long around here. It was sweet, slightly tart (my 8-year-old picked up on the lemon juice), and tasted like fresh strawberries.

Everyone was surprised when I told them it had sour cream in it. I added it because the only yogurt I had was low-fat, but I ended up liking the smoothness and tang it lent to the frozen yogurt. From now on, it will be a regular addition to my homemade frozen yogurt.

This post is part of Strawberry Week here at Of Cabbages and King Cakes. Check out my other posts to find out what else I did with fresh strawberries while they were in season this 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:

Tart Lime Wafers {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge is a great make-ahead cookie. The dough is formed into rolls, which can be refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to slice and bake them. Kind of like the cookie dough you see in tubes in the dairy case, but without all the nasty preservatives.

The dough is mixed up in the food processor, and I could tell by reading the ingredient list that it was going to be a lot. I’m pretty sure Nick Malgieri must have a 14-cup food processor, because several of his recipes have filled by 11-cupper to the brim. I thought about cutting the recipe in half, but I really wanted that extra roll of dough to freeze, so I went with the full recipe.

I started by mixing flour, sugar, salt, and lots of lime zest in the food pro, then adding 3 sticks(!) of butter.

Next I added eggs, then mixed until the dough formed into a ball.

I had to stop and scrape the dough down into the bowl a few times, but eventually it came together.

I scraped the dough out onto a floured pastry mat, divided it in half, then shaped each piece into an 8-inch cylinder.

The next step is to roll the cylinders in lime sugar, which I made using lime zest and King Arthur Flour sparkling white sugar.

I spread the lime sugar out on the pasty mat and rolled each log until it was well coated.

I had a lot of lime sugar left over, so I packed it up and stashed it in the freezer. I’m not sure what I’ll use it for, but coating the rim of a mojito glass comes to mind.

Nick gives great instructions for tightening up the dough cylinders using parchment paper and a dough scraper. Mine went from the loose logs you see above to this:

I wrapped the cylinders in plastic wrap and stuck one in the fridge to bake the next day and the other in the freezer for later use.

To bake the cookies, I sliced the dough into thin disks and placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I baked the cookies at 350°F for about 15 minutes, until they were slightly puffed and just starting to brown around the edges.

These cookies were a huge hit around my house. Sweet, tart, buttery, crispy — they reminded me a lot of a shortbread cookie. And they were perfect for dunking in tea or coffee.

This is definitely a recipe to repeat. And it makes a generous amount of dough, so you can bake one roll and freeze the other for later. Re-roll the dough in the leftover sugar, slice, and bake, and you can have these fresh, delicious cookies anytime.

Cornmeal & Pine Nut Biscotti {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for Modern Baker Mondays is another biscotti. Like its predecessor, spicy hazelnut biscotti, this is a classic, crunchy, twice-baked biscotti. Although I’ve never had biscotti with pine nuts, what really surprised me about these cookies was the addition of cornmeal.

The dough mixed up quickly in the food processor. It came out powdery, much like the hazelnut biscotti dough. And like that dough, it came together on the dough board with a little mixing. Even though I had to press the dough firmly but gently to get it to stay together, I knew once it hit the oven, the butter would melt and pull the dough together.

After I put the logs of dough in the oven, I looked at the recipe again and realized I hadn’t added the correct amount of pine nuts. The recipe called for 3/4 cup pine nuts, but I only added 1/4 cup. I thought it seemed a bit light on the pine nuts while I was adding them, but by the time I figured it out, it was too late to fix it.

I baked the dough logs, then cooled them while I mixed up tart lime wafer dough for later in the week. After the logs had cooled, I sliced them into biscotti, then put them back in the oven to crisp.

I was a bit worried that these cookies might have an overly strong cornmeal flavor, but they were really good. As Nick says in the notes, the sweet corn flavor is enhanced  by the lemon zest and vanilla in the recipe. And even though they were light on the pine nuts, they still had a nice, nutty flavor, too.

This recipe is part of the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Check out the challenge page to see what other bakers thought of this and other recipes in the cookies section.

Pizza Rustica {TWD-BWJ}

This is my second forray into Tuesdays with Dorie, and I’m happy to report that I liked this recipe a lot better than the Irish soda bread I made a few weeks ago. This recipe is from Nick Malgieri, and it reminded me of a savory version of his Neapolitan Easter pie.

I should say up front that I’m sure there’s some historical reason for the name, but it really isn’t anything like a pizza. It’s more of a savory cheese pie, akin to a quiche, but not as custardy.

The crust is simple to whip up in the food processor. The surprise here is that, although this is a savory pie, the crust is quite sweet. I found my dough a bit on the dry side, so I wet my hands and kneaded a bit of water into the dough before rolling it out. It worked beautifully.

The filling also came together quickly. It consisted of ricotta cheese, eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, sweet Lebanon bologna (my substitution for prosciutto), mozzarella cheese, and spices. I began by stirring the ricotta to soften, then mixed in the remaining ingredients one at a time. I spooned the filling into the crust and smoothed the top.

I rolled out the remaining dough and cut it into strips with a  ruffle-edge pastry wheel, then made a criss-cross lattice pattern on top of the pie.

I baked the pie for about 40 minutes at 350°F, until the crust was golden brown and the filling set. The recipe says to cool the pie completely before eating. I let mine cool for about 20 minutes, but we were hungry and decided to eat it while it was still warm.

It seemed like it needed something light and refreshing to go with it. I wanted to make a frisee salad, but I didn’t have any greens in the fridge. I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I decided to toss together a quick carrot salad to eat with the pie. It turned out to be the perfect accompaniment.

The pie was rich, sweet, savory, and salty all at the same time. I’m not sure how it would be with prosciutto, but the sweetness of the crust paired beautifully with the salty-sweet of the Lebanon bologna. And the carrot salad provided just the right coolness and acid to balance out the dish. We all agreed that this is a dish we would gladly eat again.

This post is part of Tuesdays with Dorie. Check out the group website to see what everyone else thought of this dish. Our hosts for this recipe were Emily and Raelynn. Surf on over to their blogs for the pizza rustica recipe.

Next up: Lemon Loaf Cake. You’ll have to check back in a few weeks to see what I thought of it, but here’s a preview:

Dinner and dessert

 

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.

Sicilian Fig Bars {ModBak} — Move Over, Newtons!

When I saw this recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of The Modern Baker, I knew I wanted to make them. I love figs, and I’m especially crazy about Fig Newtons. So I signed up for the official Modern Baker Challenge post and added figs to the grocery list. I have been trying to bake the recipes in this section in order, but once I had figs in the cupboard, I couldn’t wait to make these.

The ingredients list is short: figs, water, apricot preserves, dark rum, cinnamon, and cloves. And other than the figs, I had everything else on hand. After snipping the figs into a saucepan, I added the remaining ingredients, brought it to a boil, and simmered everything for 10 minutes or so, until the figs were soft.  I puréed the fig mixture in the food processor, then set it aside while I prepared the dough.

 

The dough for the fig bars is the same dough used to make biscotti regina. I made a double batch of the biscotti dough, half of which I used for the regina, and the other half to make these fig bars.

Beginning with 1/3 of the dough, I rolled it into a 12-inch rope.

I flattened the rope into a rectangle about 4 inches wide.

Then I spread 1/3 of the fig mixture on the dough,…

… folded the top half over the center,…

… and folded up the bottom half. I pressed the dough to seal it, then flipped it seam side down and put it on a cookie sheet.

I made three dough cylinders, which I put on an unrimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

I baked the bars at 350°F for about 20 minutes, until the dough was firm and golden. As I removed the pan from the oven, I inadvertently tipped it ever so slightly. Unfortunately, given the flat, rimless cookie sheet and the slickness of the parchment paper, that was enough to send 2 of the 3 cookie bars sliding off the tray and onto the bottom of the oven. Note to self: next time, use a jellyroll pan.

I let the remaining bar cool, then cut it into cookies. They weren’t pretty, but they were delicious. Both the dough and filling reminded me of my beloved Fig Newtons, especially in texture. But the filling was much more flavorful. The apricot preserves added a little citrusy sweetness, while the rum, cinnamon, and cloves gave it a spicy depth.

My fig bars could never pass for Fig Newtons. But I would pass up Newtons for these fig bars any day.

Biscotti Regina {ModBak} — Not Just for Dunking

I know what you’re thinking: biscotti — one of those sliced and double-baked biscuits great for dunking in coffee or tea but tooth-shatteringly hard on their own. And most of the time, you’d be right. But the word biscotti in Italian simply means “cookie”. And the biscotti we’re talking about today are just that: cookies.

I don’t know much about Italian history, but I know I would have loved Queen Margherita di Savoia, the Queen consort of Italy during the reign of her husband, Umberto I. The Queen (the regina in biscotti regina) had such a sweet tooth that she used to visit local bakeries and sweets shops with her ladies in waiting. And if she really liked the treats she found, she was known to ennoble the pastry shop owner, bestowing on him the rank of cavaliere (knight). Now that’s my kind of royal.

These cookies are not as sweet as others I have made thus far in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. The recipe, which makes 40 good-sized cookies, only calls for 1/2 cup sugar. In addition to the sugar, the dough contains flour, baking powder, salt, butter, vanilla, and eggs. The dough mixed up quickly in the food processor and came out moist and powdery.

After a few turns on the pastry board, the dough came together into a nice ball.

I shaped the dough into a cylinder, half of which I set aside. I divided the other half into four pieces.

To form the cookies, I rolled each piece of dough into a rope, …

… cut the rope into 3-inch pieces, …

… and dipped the pieces in an egg wash, then white sesame seeds.

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to making cookies, and I usually shy away from recipes that require rolling, shaping, or dipping. In this case, after shaping the cookies, they had to be double dipped — first drenched in egg wash, then rolled in sesame seeds. But it all came together very quickly, and I didn’t find the process at all tedious. In fact, I kind of enjoyed making them.

I baked the cookies at 325°F for 30 minutes, until they were firm and the sesame seeds looked nicely toasted.

I was curious to try these cookies. I knew they wouldn’t be overly sweet; and with the sesame seed coating, I wondered if they’d taste like cookies at all. They weren’t as sweet as most cookies I’m used to; and the seeds did lend a savory element. But these little babies were more than the sum of their parts. Sweet, savory, slightly crunchy, good for dipping or eating out of hand. I enjoyed these cookies more than I thought I would. And I’ll definitely be making them again.

And if you’re wondering what I did with the other half of the dough, check back in a few days to read about my Sicilian Fig Bar (mis)adventure.

The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri {Review}

“If you have an oven, you need The Modern Baker.”  ~ Maida Heatter

First published in 2008, Nick Malgieri‘s cookbook, The Modern Baker: Time-saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, and Cookies, has just been reissued in paperback.

Like most home cooks, I own a lot of cookbooks. Some I turn to all the time; others I rarely touch. The Modern Baker never leaves my kitchen.

This book contains over 150 recipes, both sweet and savory, with everything from quick breads to savory tarts to cookies, cakes, and pies. I have been baking from it for about a year and a half, and even started the Modern Baker Challenge to encourage others to bake with me. In that time, I’ve made — and blogged about — almost 100 recipes. (If you want to read any of the blog posts, use the search box on this page to search for {ModBak}, the tag I use in all my Modern Baker posts.)

I have really come to appreciate the clarity with which the recipes are written, how easy they are to follow, and the consistent results I get when making them. But what really sets this book apart from other cookbooks is the way Nick takes the mystery and intimidation out of baking. Through his helpful, step-by-step instructions and photos, he shows how to make perfect pie crusts, “instant” puff pastry, bakery-quality cakes and pies, and company-worth tarts.

I originally picked up The Modern Baker in hopes that I could finally overcome my mental block when it comes to pie crusts. As comfortable as I am in the kitchen, both with cooking and baking, I had never been able to make a decent pastry crust. It wasn’t that I didn’t try; I just could never seem to get it right. My dough would be gooey or too dry, and when I baked it, it would turn out tough or dry and crumbly. So I was delighted when I made Nick’s quick pastry crust and it turned out perfect the first time. And the second. And the third. And every time since.

The puff pastry is another breakthrough in this book. It mixes up in minutes and doesn’t require rolling in butter in “turns” as in most puff pastry recipes. After mixing the ingredients in the food processor, you pat it out, fold it over itself envelope style, roll it up, and pop it in the fridge. And the resulting puff pastry surpasses anything you can buy. Since I discovered Nick’s technique, I always have homemade puff pastry in the freezer. And the book has taught me countless ways to use it.

If you fancy yourself a cook, but have always been intimidated by baking, you need to own this book. And if you are a seasoned baker and want to find some new, streamlined techniques for the recipes you love to make, you’ll find them here. Even if you’ve never tried your hand at homemade bread or layer cakes, you will feel like a real baker after trying just a few recipes.

In fact, whatever your level of baking experience, you will learn amazing tips, techniques, and tricks from Nick Malgieri and The Modern Baker.

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