Archive | February 2013

Wherein pound cake breaks my computer

So my new recipe last weekend was a sauted cabbage with fennel and apples. It was perfectly good, once I adjusted to the taste of fennel, but I forgot to take a photo and time passed and it wasn’t really worth a whole post. So instead you get Lemon Pound Cake!

This was actually first made the same weekend as Russian mardi gras – but it was soooo good, I had to make it again and share.

So since this recipe is from the flour cookbook, I’m not totally sure if listing out the recipe is a copyright violation, or at least in bad form, so I will just give a couple pointers. Beat the eggs and sugar together until they are really really really fluffy before you add the other ingredients, I promise you will see a difference. 2. Add more lemon juice and zest than you think you will need. I like things to be really lemony, and when I follow the recipe exactly (only 3 tablespoons of lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice) it was only slightly lemony. Cool in the loaf pan for like 30 minutes and then place it on a cooling rack to put lemon glaze (powdered sugar and lemon juice) on it. MAKE SURE to put a plate or something under the cooling rack to catch the drips of glaze. Its really important and annoyingly messy if you do not.

lemon pound cake

Now, you might be wondering what this lovely cake has to do with my computer. Both times I’ve made this pound cake, my computer has broken. This second time, my computer crashed and ceased to be functional to the point I had to buy a new one (fortunately the nice people at Best Buy managed to salvage all my data, including my thesis research). So while this cake is amazing, I’m not sure if I will ever make it again – can’t risk the crazy coincidence striking again. So – proceed with caution, and remember, if the robots take over the world, they are vulnerable to lemon pound cake.

Russian Mardi Gras

Life occasionally gets crazy (or in my case is always crazy) so while I made this recipe last weekend, I’m only getting around to this now. Every now and then the Russian side of my personality comes to the fore – in this particular case, the result was delicious food, bliny. Bliny are Russian pancakes that are a traditional food to eat before Lent begins and one of my favorite things ever. They are typically topped with cheese, hard-cooked eggs and scallions probably because the Russian Orthodox are hard core. Lent is not just meatless – like Catholics – there are no eggs or dairy products either. I’d never made them before, but when my dad told me that he and my mom were having them for dinner, I asked him to email me the recipe so I could make them too.

I was out of eggs, so I topped my blini with apples

I was out of eggs, so I used apples

An important thing about bliny – they take forever. I kid you not, the dough needs to rise FOUR times. Four. Its a little ridiculous. First: you make a bread sponge of 1/2 cup water, 1 package of yeast and 1 cup flour. Then, after that’s risen, you add an egg yolk, 1 cup warm milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon sugar and more flour (about 1-1 1/2 cups). Then you let it rise. After an hour, you stir it down, and let it rise again. Stir it down and let rise again. After the third rising, you cook the super puffy dough on a griddle, like a normal pancake. Yes, this seems like rather a lot of work for just pancakes … but they are the puffiest and most amazing pancakes ever. They also have a very distinctive flavor – no idea why, maybe the result of the alchemic process of rising and cooking.  They are SO GOOD. Seriously worth the effort of making. A word of warning though. Make sure you use a large enough bowl for the dough to rise in. Otherwise you get this …




In which our heroine does not cook vegan food

This week I reached new cookbook #4 – Veganomicon. Now I’m a vegetarian but I rarely eat intentionally vegan food. I eat plenty of things that happen to be vegan, but I see no reason to eat dairy/cheese/meat substitutes. All those substitutes are never the same as the real food and I feel like its just twisting food pointlessly. There are lots of wonderful things that can be done using only vegan ingredients, and I’m always excited to try those, but with this cookbook, if it calls for dairy substitutes, I’m just using milk, butter, eggs, etc.

Since its been extremely cold – I decided on a warming casserole – vegetable pot pie. The recipe was fairly straight-forward. Saute veggies with some oil and vinegar, then steam until they are all slightly tender (not all the way). Mix with herbed bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce is an uncomplicated recipe, I learned how to do it when I was 10 (though my parents called it white sauce). Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and mix the two into a paste. Add 1 cup of milk and cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring constantly. To that you can add whatever herbs you want – I used bay leaves, thyme and parsley.The only tricky thing is knowing what qualifies as “thick” for the sauce. That just takes practice. Or, in my case, asking my dad every couple minutes if it was thick enough and having him say “almost” for a year. The crust was a standard biscuit dough. Assembly: Mix the sauce with the veggies and pour into a casserole dish, or a large pie plate (the glass ones make wonderful surrogate casserole dishes). Roll out the biscuit dough and cut into squares – place the square over the veggies to cover. Bake for like 30 minute.

The result was decent, but unfortunately I found it kinda bland. I added shredded cheddar cheese and that helped. I think next time will need more herbs, more salt, garlic, and cheese. I did like the way it worked when I added the cheese at the end, so I’ll probably do that again, rather than baking it into the casserole. And the cutting up the biscuit dough and then putting it on top was very cool – definitely going to repeat that one. Sadly, not every new recipe I try will be amazing and perfect at the first attempt. But the recipe is a decent baseline and has potential to be excellent. We will have to see.

Cooking with Harry Potter

Because my best friend is amazing, one of my new cookbooks is The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook which is recipes for foods that are mentioned or referenced in the Harry Potter books. It even includes little blurbs about where in the books the foods are referenced, how to ruin a recipe so its more like Hagrid’s cooking, and little boxes with fun facts about food. Basically, in my world its one of the coolest things ever. Since I’m trying to rotate between all my new cookbooks, so they all feel loved, Harry Potter cookbook had to be next one. For the first recipe I chose: cinnamon rolls. Which is cheating a little because the books just mention breakfast rolls.

cinnamon rolls

I’m not going to go through the entire recipe this time – way too long for a blog, and there a probably a million, very similar cinnamon roll recipes out there. But I do have some fun tips. One: make the rolls the night before and let them do the final rise in the fridge. All you’ll need to do the next morning for freshly baked rolls is to pop them in the oven for 20ish minutes. One of my colleagues was shocked when I told her I made cinnamon rolls from scratch for breakfast because it requires waking up so early. But it really doesn’t if you do it this way. You lose maybe 10 minutes of sleep, maybe. Two: use lots of cinnamon. More than they initially suggest probably. Otherwise all you will taste is sugar and bread. Three: freeze the extra rolls that you don’t intend to eat immediately before you bake them. Then the night before, stick a couple in the fridge to thaw. This way you don’t bake them all at once and get increasingly stale rolls over the week, you get fresh ones every day!  Four: Glaze, at least in my opinion, is unnecessary.  It just adds redundant sweetness and makes it stickier and messier.

Having hot, fresh pastries with a cup of tea for breakfast is amazing. The work of making them is totally worth it. And I am not a morning person at all. I promise, if I can do it, you can too.