Archive for December, 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding

December 18, 2014

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This, my friends, is a winner.  I don’t know how many times I’ve made this dessert, but it never fails to be a show-stopper.  I don’t know whether it’s the cake being served straight out of the oven, the warmth of the spices, or, hello, the over-the-top toffee sauce.  It never fails to amaze people.

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Which is what is so interesting about these ingredients.  I love dates.  They are little gems of wonder to me.  But I never knew how polarizing they were until I made this cake.  When people would ask me what was in the “pudding” part, I would excitedly tell them about the warm date cake.  I got…well…reactions.

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It is quite astonishing how many ways people can contort their faces and say “dates?!” in a semi-disgusted manner.  I don’t know what it is about this fruit.  Maybe it’s the texture?  Maybe it’s the sweetness?  Maybe it’s people pretending to not like them because no one else does.  I haven’t figured it out yet.

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But put that aside, and you’re left with warm, moist cake with pockets of sweet dates and toffee, all served with a smoky, buttery sauce on top.  Everyone went for seconds, even after finding out ingredient information.  This is a star.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding (recipe slightly adapted from David Lebovitz)

For the toffee sauce

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup demerara or muscovado sugar (dark brown sugar will also work)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup or molasses (my preference is golden syrup, which most grocery stores carry, but I’ve successfully used honey too)
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt

For the pudding

  • 6 ounces (180g) pitted dates, snipped or chopped
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (175g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and butter an 8 1/2-inch soufflé dish (or similar-sized baking dish.)

2. Make the toffee sauce by bringing the cream, demerara or turbinado sugar, golden syrup (or molasses/h0ney) and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring often to melt the sugar.

3. Lower heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 35 minutes, until the mixture is thick and coats the spoon. Put it aside.

4. To make the pudding, in a medium saucepan, heat the dates and water. Once the water begins to boil, remove from heat and stir in the baking soda.

5. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

6. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, then the vanilla.

7. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the date mixture, then add the remaining flour mixture until just mixed. Don’t overbeat the batter.

8. Scrape the batter into the soufflé dish and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.

9. Remove the pudding from the oven, and let cool and cover until closer to serving time.  Poke the cake about fifteen times with a chopstick. Distribute half of the sauce over the top, as shown in the photo, cover with foil, then re-warm in a 300F (150C) oven, for 30 minutes.

Serving: Spoon portions of the cake into serving bowls and douse with additional warm toffee sauce.

 

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Fried Cauliflower with White Wine Vinaigrette

December 10, 2014

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There isn’t a time in my life that I did not like cauliflower.  It is actually a pretty sneaky vegetable.  Steam and mash it, and you are rivaling potatoes.  Cut it in half and sear it, and you have yourself an extremely satisfying vegetarian entree.  Roast it with just a bit of salt and pepper and you are fighting with broccoli.  But fry it?  Dress it with a vinaigrette?!  Add some dried fruit and nuts??  You have yourself a show stopper.

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Yep, I said it.  Cauliflower is a show stopper.  You know it’s true.  It’s become such a trendy vegetable!  There is always some kind of cauliflower dish as an appetizer of side dish, and people are thinking of such innovative ways of serving it.  The reason why cauliflower can be so delicious is because it is such a blank slate.  It tastes like whatever flavor you give it, and this, my friends, has very great flavor.

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Think: freshly fried cauliflower, with a sweet tangy sauce poured over so it just seeps into the cauliflower to make these delicious, amazing bites.  It’s special, this cauliflower dish.  You’ll never look at this vegetable the same way again.

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Fried Cauliflower with White Wine Vinaigrette

White Wine Vinaigrette

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper

Cauliflower

Canola oil, poured to about a half an inch high in a large, straight-sided skillet
1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

1. Whisk together the vinegar, honey, and mustard. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk to emulsify. Add salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add cauliflower and boil for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put it on a paper-towel lined plate to dry off.

3. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large resealable bag. Throw in the cauliflower florets, seal, and shake until thoroughly coated.

4. Heat the oil in you large skillet to medium-high.  Test oil by dropping a tiny piece of cauliflower in the oil.  If it immediately sizzles and floats to the top, the oil is ready.  Working in small batches, carefully drop florets into the oil and fry until they are a deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel-lined serving bowl.

5. Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl and pour vinaigrette on top.  Toss cauliflower with vinaigrette, currants, and pine nuts.

 

Apple Crostada

December 5, 2014

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Is it taboo to post a pie recipe immediately after Thanksgiving?  Is pie even consumed after Thanksgiving, or are we squarely in the cookies and cocktails part of the holiday season?  And then on top of that, it’s an apple recipe, which is obviously an October treat.  We’re out of the cinnamon part of the season, and on to the gingers and caramels.  Right?  Am I reading too much into this?  I’m so off-season with this recipe!

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But I must share.  Because 4 ingredients (+ some water) made the best pie dough I’ve ever had.  So good, in fact, that I made this crostada twice last week.  Once pre-Thanksgiving, and one the day after Thanksgiving, because, quite frankly, I missed it.  It was gone so quickly the first time, that I felt we needed another one, immediately after consuming a Thanksgiving meal.

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That flaky, buttery pie dough combined with the obviously sweet, spicy flavor of softened apples.  I mean, I have nothing else to say but to put aside holiday rules and make this immediately.  If not for a holiday party, then for breakfast tomorrow.  You won’t be able to get enough of it either.

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Apple Crostada (adapted from Epicurious)

Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice cold water

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 4 apples, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/4″-thick slices
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp. cream
  • 3 tablespoons raw sugar

For crust:
Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to blend.  Add butter; pulse just until coarse meal forms.  Add 1/4 cup ice water; pulse until dough forms clumps, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic and chill 1 hour, or up to 1 day.  If doing it by hand, work the butter into the dry ingredients by hand, or with two forks until the butter is pea-sized, and then gently stir in water with a wooden spoon.

For filling:
While dough rests, place a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Roll out dough disk on parchment paper to 15″ round (some of dough will extend over edges of paper).

Whisk sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Add apples and lemon juice to bowl with sugar mixture; toss to coat apples evenly.  Let the filling sit for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Transfer apples to crust, mounding in center and leaving a 3″ plain border, leaving the juices in the bowl.  Fold crust edges up over outer edges of filling, crimping dough and folding and pleating as needed to fit. Slide crostata and parchment onto a large rimless baking sheet. Crack egg into a small bowl. Using a fork, beat egg with cream, just to blend. Brush crust edges with beaten egg, then sprinkle crust and on top of the apples with the raw sugar.

Place crostata in oven and bake until juices in center are thick and bubbling, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool for 5 minutes. Run a long, thin knife or offset spatula around edges of crostata to loosen from paper and to prevent it from sticking to the paper.

Transfer baking sheet with crostata to a wire rack. Slice and serve.