Meeting Nancy

One of the things I like about being a member of several bake-and-blog-along groups (Modern Baker Challenge, French Fridays with Dorie, Bake!) is that I get to meet so many cool and interesting people. Of course, we “meet” by following each other’s blogs, Tweeting, e-mailing, etc. We keep up on each other’s baking and cooking adventures, for sure, but we also talk about our spouses, kids, jobs, other hobbies, you name it.  It’s amazing how well you can get to know someone 140 characters at a time.

It’s fun to have friends (and, yes, they are my friends) all over the world. But it’s also fun to meet them in person from time to time.

One of those opportunities came up the other day when my friend Nancy Tweeted to say she was passing through my area the next evening and would love to get together if I had the time. J had been out the day before, so she wasn’t up to hosting, but she didn’t mind if I went out. So the next evening, Nancy and I met at TGI Fridays.

I ask you, which one of us appears to have been on the road for 11 hours?

We spent an hour or two drinking Guinness milkshakes, chatting, laughing,  and getting to know one another better. We talked about our families, cooking, baking, and our other online friends. Even though this was our first in-person meeting, it was more like catching up with an old friend than meeting someone new.

 
Thanks for taking the time to stop by for a bit, Nancy. I enjoyed passing the evening with you. We’ll have to do it again soon.
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Jacques Pepin Chicken Liver Pâté — Twitter Avatar Fun

This month Di picked Jacques Pepin for our Twitter avatar chef. There are about a dozen of us participating in this endeavor. Each month someone chooses a chef, and we each pick a recipe by that chef, cook or bake it, and use a picture of the results as our Twitter avatar for that month.

I wasn’t very familiar with this month’s chef, so I started looking up recipes online. As I expected his recipes looked really delicious and a bit on a the gourmet side. But what surprised me was that most of them also seemed to be quick and simple to prepare. 

I have been wanting to make a “Welly” (beef — or venison — Wellington) lately, so I thought homemade chicken liver pâté would be a good start. My only fear was what kind of photo I would be able to get. Kayte didn’t help any by pointing this out, either.

Nonetheless, I made the pâté recipe, as reproduced here. It was so easy. Fresh chicken livers poached with onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and salt, then whirred in the food processor with pepper, brandy, and lots of butter.

 

The results were fabulous — rich, fatty, a little smoky. And the picture wasn’t half bad, either.

It’s a good thing this pâté is so easy to make, since once we started sampling it, it wasn’t long before there wasn’t enough left to make Welly.

Emeril’s Duck & Wild Mushroom Gumbo — Twitter Avatar Fun

A number of my cooking/baking friends and I decided to spice up 2011 by cooking a new recipe each month from a chef chosen by one of us. We pick our own recipe by that month’s chef, prepare it, and use a picture of the results as our Twitter avatar for the month. For this moth’s Twitter avatar, Margaret decided we would all make recipes by Emeril Lagasse.

I’m no stranger to Emeril. I haven’t made many of his recipes, but my go-to King Cake and bread pudding are both based in large part on his recipes. So choosing an Emeril recipe for March was fine by me. The trouble was narrowing it down to just one recipe. In the end I settled on one of my favorite foods made with ingredients I’d never used in it before.

Click here for Emeril’s duck and wild mushroom gumbo recipe. It may look complicated, but like all gumbos, it mainly just takes time. And once you’ve butchered and browned the duck and made your roux, most of the work is behind you.

Duck fat, oil, and flour cooking away to make roux. It's not done yet.

 

Once it hits the right level of doneness (coffee-colored), it's ready.

 

Quick! Add the Trinity before the roux scorches.

 

Lots of spices, including Essence and extra cayenne for good measure.

 

'Shrooms, 'shrooms, and more 'shrooms! I used six kinds of mushrooms -- morel, oyster, protabella, crimini, chanterelle, & shitake.

 

Mix it all together, add the browned duck and broth, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

 

Oh yeah. That's what I'm talkin' about.

 

Picture perfect and good enough to eat.

 So, from a self-proclaimed gumbo expert — having made and tried many, many different gumbos in my time, both here and in NOLA — I have to say that this was among the best gumbo I have ever eaten. I had two big bowls for dinner and could easily have had one or two more. It was spicy, but not overly so, and the duck was rich and flavorful without the slightest bit of gaminess to it. My kids are fairly adventurous eaters, but I didn’t know how they would do with duck and the spiciness of the dish. But they both loved it.

I may have made this one with the picture in mind, but I’ll keep making it with my belly in mind. Bam!

Tiger (or Giraffe) Rolls {Bake!}

It was my turn to pick a recipe from Bake! for my weekly Twitterbake with Kayte, and I chose Tiger Rolls on page 69. These rolls are simple and delicious and will become a regular feature on my dinner table. They are really good rolls in their own right, and are taken to another level by the addition of Dutch crumb topping.

To make these rolls, I started by making the One-step Bread Dough on pages 64-65. The dough is made with flour, salt, yeast, water, and oil, which I mixed in a bowl with a rubber spatula.

After the initial mixing, I allowed the dough to rest for 15 minutes, then mixed it again.

I let the dough rest again, then turned it out of the bowl, gave it a stretch and fold, and put it in an oiled bowl to rise.

After a second stretch and fold, I put the dough back in the bowl and allowed it to ferment until it had doubled in volume. At this point the dough was ready to be made into rolls. I turned the dough out onto a floured board and patted it into a rectangle. Using a bench scraper, I cut the dough into 12 pieces. I then shaped the pieces into individual rolls.

I let the rolls rest while I made the topping, consisting of yeast, water, sugar, salt, olive oil, and rice flour. This is a fairly typical Dutch crumb topping, which is spread onto the top of the dough before baking. As the rolls rise in the oven, the topping dries and cracks, creating a mottled effect.

I spread the Dutch crumb on the rolls with a small offset spatula, then set the rolls aside for a final rise.

The rolls proofed for about 45 minutes, until they had nearly doubled in size. While the rolls were proofing, I preheated the oven to 375°F.

I baked the rolls for 25 minutes, until they were well-risen and the topping was lightly browned and crackled.

These rolls were light and airy inside, and the crust had just the right amount of tooth to it. The Dutch crumb topping was slightly sweet, crunchy, and just a bit yeasty. Taken together, these were among the best rolls I’ve ever tasted. I had two of them right after they came out of the oven, and another one or two later in the evening. They were as good at room temperature as they were straight out of the oven.

Nick calls these “Tiger Rolls” because of the appearance of the Dutch crumb topping after it bakes and cracks. Looking at them, I thought they looked more like giraffes than tigers, so I’ve renamed them “Giraffe Rolls”.

The next time I make these rolls, I will scale the dough. I generally scale any dough that I’m going to divide, whether into two loaves or 24 rolls. I didn’t do that with these rolls, which you can tell by looking at a few of the rolls side by side.

OK, so maybe it’s a baby giraffe standing next to its mama. These were fine for a casual weekend family supper, but if I were making them for a dinner party, I would definitely use my kitchen scale to make sure the rolls came out more uniform in size. In any case, they were really delicious and reminded me how much I love Dutch crunch.

This was another successful recipe from Nick Malgieri’s newest book, Bake! If you want a great baking book with lots of techniques and great recipes, you should pick up a copy. If you do, we’d love to have you Twitterbake along with us.

Kayte couldn’t wait to make her next pick, so we are making Spinach & Bacon Tarts tomorrow. So much baking, so little time….

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.