Friday, July 31, 2009

Bread: The Good and The Bad

The bad news: I forgot to feed my sourdough starter, but I forgot that I forgot, and my dough refused to rise to this or any occasion.

The good news: I baked it anyway and brought it to work. My colleagues were kind enough to overlook the lack of rising.

If you're a sourdough purist you may not approve of the use of commercially produced yeast in this starter, but it makes one fantastic loaf of bread.

And don't forget to feed it.

Sourdough Starter
  • 3 T instant mashed potato flakes
  • 3 T white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 t. active dry yeast
Combine instant potatoes, sugar, water and yeast in a covered container. Let the starter sit on a counter for five days, stirring daily with a wooden spoon. At the start of the fifth day, feed the starter with 3 tablespoons instant potatoes, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 cup warm water. In the evening, take out 1 cup of the starter to use in your favorite sourdough recipe. Refrigerate the remaining starter.

Every five days (and this is important), feed the starter 3 tablespoons instant potatoes, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup water. If starter is to be used in a recipe, let it sit at room temperature all day. If starter is not being used in a recipe, keep refrigerated and discard 1 cup of starter after each feeding.

The food: Sourdough starter
The verdict: Starters need to eat, too

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chow(der) Down

I love a nice corn chowder, but I usually make it with corn from a can with a friendly green giant on it. Don't judge. Martha Stewart (via her Everyday Food magazine) recently encouraged me to make a chowder using fresh corn from the cob and yummy bacon. And who am I to argue with Martha?

Turns out that corn-from-the-can chowder is good, but corn-from-the-cob chowder is much, much better. Sweeter, crunchier, cornier.

Corn Chowder with Chicken and Bacon
  • 6 ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 8 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 to 2 cups roasted chicken, shredded
  • Salt and pepper
Cut the corn kernels from each ear, scraping the cobs with a spoon to release pulp. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, the remove with a slotted spoon. Drain and set aside. Add scallion whites and potatoes to pan. Cook two or three minutes, until scallions have softed. Add flour cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add milk, water, Old Bay and thyme.

Bring chowder to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add corn, chicken and scallion greens. Heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season chowder with salt and pepper. Serve topped with bacon.

The food: Corn chowder with chicken and bacon
The verdict: Chow(der) down

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another One (Two-) Bites the Dust

Perhaps you remember me writing about Whole Foods' two-bite, cream cheese-topped brownies last fall. Or perhaps you've had the good fortune to experience them first-hand. They are a little piece of brownie heaven.

Oddly enough, and despite my polite request, Whole Foods has not contacted me with its recipe so I can create these brownies myself. Which wouldn't be such a big deal were it not for the fact that old Whole has quit carrying them! (My pal Katherine looks for them every time she's there. No dice.)

That forced me to attempt my own version, using mini muffin pans, my stand-by cream cheese frosting and a triple-chocolate brownie recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

The brownies, they weren't bad. But they just didn't have that oomph. And I hate to say this, Christopher Kimball, but you let me down. I don't care if you wear a cute little bowtie. I don't care if you are a fellow New Englander. I don't care if you pal around with the exceptional Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Triple chocolate two-bite brownies are a singular disappointment. No offense. And say hi to Lynne for me.

So the search for the perfect brownie recipe continues. Suggestions welcome.

Monday, July 6, 2009

In the Key Lime Light

While I really love Gourmet magazine (the photography! the descriptions! the Sterns!) I find it intimidating. So in making my first Gourmet recipe, I decided to try something familiar, like a cake.

Key Lime Coconut Cake was the bee's knees. Sure, you've got to juice about 30,000 teeny, tiny limes -- but they're so cute! And they are yummy in cake, which tastes like summer. And also coconut.

Key Lime Coconut Cake (from Gourmet magazine)
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated Key lime zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh Key lime juice, divided
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan (I've also made this using an 8- by 8-inch pan) and line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Toast coconut in a small baking pan in oven, stirring once or twice, until golden, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool. Leave oven on.

Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and zest with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir together flour and 1/2 cup coconut (reserve remainder for topping). Stir together milk and 2 Tbsp lime juice. At low speed, mix flour and milk mixtures into egg mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour. Spoon batter into pan and smooth top.

Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool to warm, then turn out of pan and discard parchment.

Whisk together confectioners sugar and remaining 2 Tbsp lime juice (I used 3+ Tbsp the second time I made the cake) and pour over cake. Sprinkle with remaining coconut.

The food: Key Lime Coconut Cake
The verdict: Sublime (get it?)