Tag Archives: brunch

And, on the Sixth Day

What I really want to tell you about it bread, in all it’s shapes and sizes. Of leavening agents, the benefits to using Aluminum-Free baking powder (in sort, it just makes things taste better).

I haven’t forgotten about sharing the recipes from my recent Jewish Deli Brunch with you. I’m counting down, until I can tell you about them.

It’s just that talking about challah and knishes during Passover feels somewhat sacrilegious. Also, mouthwatering, in case you were

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Typically, during the holiday, I’m fine until around day six. This year, it found me waiting for a table in a local pizza place with a friend. Only, I couldn’t do it. It was too reminiscent of two years ago when I waited for an hour for a table at Lombardi’s only to order salad. It a bit of a long story, and one that’s rather uninteresting, except to say that the smell of yeast was intoxicating, and suddenly, I felt like a petulant child, complaining that the holiday was too long. Not a proud moment. The thing about getting to the sixth day is the end is almost in sight. Almost, but not quite—it’s close enough that you simply have to grin and bear it. And, try to convince yourself that matzoh isn’t at all that bad.

It’s really not, actually, when you have other options. And, for that matter, there’s no reason to wait until Passover to have Matzoh Brei. It may even be more enjoyable.

My version follows below. Expect some recipes for leavening agent laden things shortly. First, I’ll need to gorge myself on bread.

Matzoh Brei

2-3 boards Matzoh
2 eggs
1 small onion
1 tsp olive oil
salt
pepper

Break the boards of Matzoh into several large pieces, place in a bowl and cover with water. Allow to stand 10-12 minutes, until the matzoh is soft. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Once the matzoh has softened, strain out the water and combine the matzoh and eggs.

While the matzoh is softening, dice the onion into small pieces, and begin to saute them in olive oil over a low flame, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Once the onions become translucent, add the matzoh and eggs to your pan. Saute over a medium heat for approximately ten minutes, until the matzoh begins to break up and brown.

Eat immediately.

Serves two

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…which is why I am telling you about it

Last night, coming home on the R train, I saw these guys. I was quietly reading a manuscript when I was distracted by loud yelling. My first thought wasn’t a generous one.

Then, I listened.

They were performing Lear. Which just so happens to be my favorite play. (Make of that what you will.)

I’ve been harping on as of late with predictions of how 2012 is going to be a good year—the truth of that matter is that this has more to do with 2011 being—how to say this—kind of lackluster. Nothing bad happened, yes. And, for that I am grateful. But, in a lot of ways it felt like nothing happened at all, which is not to make light of some fairly significant changes. More to say that, surface changes notwithstanding, there was a lot of waiting for things to realign and feeling a bit like the ever elusive brass ring was just that. That’s the problem with having too many expectations, I suppose.

There’s no big explanation coming about why I’m going to share this recipe with you today.

It’s just that I was reminded last night of how much I loved many things, generally and New York City, particularly.

Partly because it’s the kind of place where you can hear Shakespeare on the subways.
Partly because it’s where elevated train lines become parks.
Partly because it’s where writers like Frank O’Hara are made.
Partly because it’s the kind of place that has bakeries where you can get cookies that taste like fresh corn and blueberries and cream.

In other words, a place of the unexpected. Which may be just the thing.

The recipe for blueberries and cream cookies is below.

And, in other news: I’m back to quoting Shakespeare and Frank O’Hara. If you know me, this means I’ve likely gotten about fifty percent more pretentious and annoying than usual in your estimation.

I couldn’t be more pleased.

Blueberry and Cream Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Momofuku Milk Bar by way of Serious Eats

For the Cookies
16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 225 grams) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups (150 grams) sugar
2/3 cups (150 grams) light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup (100 grams) glucose or 2 tablespoon (35 grams) corn syrup
2 eggs
2 cups (320 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 1/2 grams) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) kosher salt
1/2 recipe Milk Crumb (recipe follows)
3/4 cup (130 grams) dried blueberries

Milk Crumb
1/2 cup (40 grams) milk powder
1/4 cup (40 grams) flour
2 tablespoons (12 grams) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 55 grams) butter, melted
20 g milk powder 1/4 cup
3 ounces (90 grams) white chocolate, melted

To Make the Milk Crumb: Heat the oven to 250°F.
Combine the 40 grams (1/2 cup) milk powder, the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the melted butter and toss, using a spatula, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy at that point, and your kitchen should smell like buttery heaven. Cool the crumbs completely.
Crumble any milk crumb clusters that are larger than 1/2 inch in diameter, and put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the 20 g (1/4 cup) milk powder and toss together until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are enrobed. Then continue tossing them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.

For the Cookies: Combine the butter, sugars, and glucose in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. (Do not walk away from the machine during this step, or you will risk overmixing the dough.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Still on low speed, add the milk crumbs and mix until they’re incorporated, no more than 30 seconds. Chase the milk crumbs with the dried blueberries, mixing them in for 30 seconds.

Using a 2 3/4-ounce ice cream scoop (or a 1/3-cup measure), portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature—they will not bake properly.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be very faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute or so if that’s not the case.

Makes 15-20 cookies

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Having your cake…

Usually, when it comes to entertaining, I’m racing to the finish, still putting the finishing touches on, well, everything, as my first guests are arriving.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, by 11:30 am on New Year’s Day, I had baked cookies, started chicken stock and made a trip to the grocery store. I’m not trying to show off here, in fact, I’m still not sure how it happened, given that I didn’t go to bed until around 3 am. But, perhaps it’s a sign of a good year to come?

I think so.

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At the very least, I was finally able to make a blueberry coffee cake that I’ve wanted to serve at a brunch since April, but just never quite had the time. I can only say that I’m sorry I waited—the cake comes together in almost no time at all, and, between its moist delicate crumb and the fact that there are so many actual crumbs, it was the thing on the table that I kept coming back to. Needless to say, this is going to be a brunch staple in my 2012 rotation.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

For the streusel:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries (I added some raspberries here, too)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
Make the streusel by combining the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

Make the cake: Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers,

crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

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New Year, Same Us: 2012 Kick Off Brunch

I’ll say this much: when the year starts with a brunch that goes until 10:15 pm, it can only be taken as a sign that the new year is going to be a good one.

So, Notwithstanding that I still need to finish my Friendsgiving recap (1 post to go!), I’m about to begin another series: New Year’s brunch.

On the menu:

Bacon
Acorn Squash and Kale Strada
Blueberry Crumb Cake
Bagels (these were not homemade this time, but you can find a recipe here should you be so inclined)
Blueberries and Cream Cookies
Lime Meltaways

Lots of strong coffee and mimosas.

Stay tuned for the recipes. And, more from the backlog.

May 2012 be filled with good meals for you and yours!

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Starting with Dessert

It occurs to me that I’ve started the Friendsgiving recaps in the wrong order: with dessert first.

Although, on second thought, that’s probably the best idea I’ve had—along with my late night ice cream inspiration, anyway.

Plus, given the amount of pumpkin within this custard, it could serve as a side dish. A really, really decadent one.

If I’m being completely honest, my family has had many post-Thanksgiving meals where we’ve done just that. All things considered, it’s just shy of being too sweet. Making it the perfect candidate for any meal.

If you choose to eat your leftovers for breakfast, I won’t tell. In fact, I may be doing this same this week.

Pumpkin Custard

3 cups mashed pumpkin
6 TBS butter, melted
9 TBS all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 eggs, beaten

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a pie dish and set it aside.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, melted butter, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Combine well, then add in the sugar and stir. Once all ingredients are incorporated, add in the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Pour the custard mixture into the greated pie dish.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 50-60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean.

Serves Eight

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It remains a mystery to me

I still haven’t told you about the bread making class.

When I finally signed up, the most frequent question I got centered around sourdough bread. How was it made? Was I going to get to? How do you start starter?

The answers:

  1. With starter

  2. I [had] no idea. But I hoped so.

  3. I still have no idea. But, thanks to a great instructor, I now have my own.

About that third point: it’s entirely possible to make sourdough starter yourself, and in fact, Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen goes into the specific details and how to’s.

It’s a multi-day process.

Twenty-one, to be exact.

There’s something amazing about it. The two most basic things, flour and water, when combined right and left to their own devices become the building block for bread. Impressive, I’d say.

But, twenty-one days? I’ve done so pretty absurd things in the kitchen, and I’m not sure that I could keep it up. So, feeding the starter that I was given has become all the more important. And, because I’m neurotic (at least I admit it, right?), there’s all sorts of pressure. What if I kill it? Or, don’t do it right and am condemned to loaf after loaf of bad sourdough now that I’m not making them under the guidance of an expert. Should I gift it to my friends when I’m not sure that I can keep it alive myself? These are serious issues.

And, the starter itself? I’m beginning to think that it’s a bit like having a goldfish. It requires just enough effort to make you feel as if you’re doing something. But, just that much. Until you go on vacation, in which case, it’s entirely possible that by the time you get home, it’ll be dead. I’m really making this process sound enjoyable, I know.

In terms of the process, I’m not quite there, yet. To date, my loaves have been a little flat. I’ve been rushing it, when really the thing to do it take a step back and let the muscle memory develop. So, this may become one of those on going projects, much like the Year of the French Macaron, which I’ve taken a break from but plan on resuming. Expect reports on both counts.

For now, I’m including the method for sourdough below. If you ask really nicely, I’ll give you some of my starter, assuming that I haven’t killed it, yet.

Sourdough Bread
Technique (and, in my case, starter) courtesy of Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

To create leaven:
12 grams sourdough starter*
68 grams filtered water
134 grams flour (this can be a mix of whole wheat and all purpose)

Mix all of the ingredients until well combined and allow to sit 8-12 hours at room temperature. When your leaven is ready to use, it will float in warm water.

To make the bread:

200 grams leaven
700 grams water, plus an additional 50 grams, set aside
200 grams salt (dissolved in the 50 grams water that you’ve set aside)
1000 grams flour (at least 200 grams of this should be whole wheat)

Combine 700 grams of water and the leaven. Mix to combine, kneading to get out any dry bits. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit for 30 minutes. It should be shaggy.

Once the dough has rested, add the salted water to it and mix. Begin turning the dough (this is a more passive method of kneading). Let the dough sit at room temperature and turn it every half hour for 2-3 hours. It should double in size. Cut it in half when it’s ready.

Flour and flip each of the halves and shape it. Allow the dough to rest for another half hour, covered with a towel. During this time, the dough will flatten out slightly.

When the dough is almost ready to bake, stretch and fold it and place it in a flour lined bowl to proof. Proof for two hours. In the last hour, begin preheating your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. You should place a lidded cast iron pot in the oven as it is preheating.

Bake the bread in the lidded cast iron post at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. The internal temperature of it should be 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Makes 2 loaves

*Note that if you are not ready to use the starter, you should feed it, by discarding half and combining a half cup of water with a full cup of flour. Mix everything together well.

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So, that happened

Right. So, this week.

I think it’s safe to say it was in danger of ending almost as inauspiciously as it as it began which is to say, sucking greatly.

I got to work early on Friday, hoping to tacking some of my looming deadlines and, once again, prepared for battle with yet another bank. Instead: coffee all over my desk, including my phone. And, I was due to head to Philadelphia for the night (more on that later) in just under 8 hours. Which meant going straight to the closest Verizon store to replace said phone. Except that on Friday, the Verizon wasn’t open until 11:11 because of some ridiculous Droid promotion. Actually, none of them were, a fact which I discovered only after taking a cab to a second location.

And, so, walking down 6th Avenue, back to my office where I was going to have to tell my boss that I needed to leave again, I had finally had enough. The frustrations of fighting to get credit cards replaced and being locked out of an account when the cards finally came, all thanks to a miscommunication from the bank, of dealing with the D.A., of not having identification to carry around with me, of the constant and very real concern that the next thing to be stolen could very well be my identity—the exhaustion of it all—it had all gotten to me.

That’s the thing. When your defenses are down, each little obstacle seems completely insurmountable.

One thing was clear: I needed a good friend.

Thankfully, I was on my way to Philadelphia to visit my friend Peggy. I’ve mentioned her here before. If there was anyone who could understand my complete frustration, Peggy was it. The story of how her brand new computer got stolen out of her own apartment is legendary at this point—because it was a horrible thing to go through, yes, but really because Peggy has a way of making the whole thing completely hilarious.

On my bus ride down to visit her, I was channeling her sensibilities, and reformulating the morning, thinking about how it would retell it. And, in fact, it was all pretty amusing in that comedy of errors sort of way. I still had my health, my job, and in a few short weeks, I’d have the contents of my wallet fully replaced. This was all survivable, even if it was unpleasant.

And, by the time I arrived at 30th Street, the morning was a distant memory. There’s nothing quite like seeing an old friend after too long, especially one who greets you with a home cooked meal and some hot toddies to celebrate fall.

The next morning, when, immediately after waking up, Peggy started pouring through cookbooks to find the perfect recipe for biscuits to accompany the spoils she brought home from the farm stand where she worked, I knew things would be fine. It was a relaxed day, cooking and talking and lots and lots of walking.

By the time I got on my bus to head home—with a bag of snacks, including those very biscuits—I was tuckered out in the best possible of ways, and ready to tackle the week.

Often recipes enter my repertoire because of the stories behind them. I daresay that, after baking this particular biscuit with Peggy, I no longer need to try out other versions.

Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted, just slightly from In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters

2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
10 TBS butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 cups cold buttermilk
1 TBS plus 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 TBS kosher salt

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the flours, baking powder and salt in a bowl and blend. Add the butter and lightly rub it and the flour mixture together until about half of the butter is well incorporated and the other half remains in large pieces about 1/2 inch in diameter.

Make a well in the flour and pour in the buttermilk. Give it a quick stir, just until the buttermilk is combined and the dough forms a mass. It should be soft and sticky and all of the flour should be combined. If necessary, add more buttermilk.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead about 8 times, until everything is well combined. Then, flatten the dough and roll it out until it is 1/2 inch thick. Pierce the dough with a floured fork.

Lightly flour a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter (a floured pint glass will work, too), and begin cutting the biscuits. You should try to cut them as closely together as possible for maximum yield. Place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet. You should bake the scraps, too.

Bake the biscuits on the top rack of your oven for 8-12 minutes until they are crusty and golden brown.

Serve the biscuits hot. If necessary, you can warm them in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven prior to serving.

Makes approximately 15 biscuits

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