Sunday, January 27, 2013

Homemade marshmallows

Oh, baby it's cold outside. Winter arrived this week with a little snow, and I mean a little, and sub zero temperatures. When the fluffy stuff is flying outside I make fluffy white marshmallows inside.

I traditionally make these in December and share as Christmas gifts to friends and family. I confess, I wasn't going to make them this year but it's tradition and who can argue with that. Even though it's  January better late than never some would say. 

You could could had a bit of food coloring or peppermint to change things up if you choose. 

One of the main ingredients 

Waiting for the sugar to reach 244 degrees

Whipping the mixture

Marshmallow in the pan "curing"

Marshmallow ready for hot chocolate

Marshmallows are ready for hot chocolate

Homemade Marshmallows

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)
Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Let it stand 30 minutes.
Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.

Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high. Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from heat.

With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to incorporate.

Generously dust an 8 x 12-inch glass baking pan with confectioners' sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan. Dust with confectioners' sugar; let stand overnight, uncovered, to dry out.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ode to the Haggis or Happy Birthday Robbie Burns

Robert Burns is Scotland's best-loved bard. Among many Scots, his best know poems are Auld Lang Syne and Ode To A Haggis.
Robert Burns was born January 25, 1759, in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, to William Burnes, a poor tenant farmer, and Agnes Broun.  Robert Burns was the eldest of seven children. He spent his youth working his father's farm, but in spite of his poverty he was extremely well read - at the insistence of his father, who employed (1772) a tutor, John Murdoch, for Robert and younger brother Gilbert. At 15 Robert was the principal worker on the farm and this prompted him to start writing in an attempt to find a suitable outlet for his circumstances." It was at this early age that Burns penned his first verse, "My Handsome Nell", which was an ode to the other subjects that dominated his life, namely scotch and women.
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
You pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’need
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead
His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!
Then, horn for horn they stretch an’ strive,
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive
Bethankit hums
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash
His spindle-shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle
Ye pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
An’ dish them out their bill o’fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r,
Gie her a Haggis!

 What is haggis? Haggis is a dish containing sheep's heart, liver, and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt. It is mixed and traditionally simmered in the sheep's stomach. Although modern haggis is prepared in a casing rather then the actual stomach. So, haggis is a sausage or pudding cooked in a casing. I have to admit the thought of innards in a recipe isn't so appealing. But I have to say the haggis we had celebrating Scotland during our stay at the Kilconquhar Castle Estate in 2008 was really good. It was very moist and flavorful and nothing like I was expecting. I really wasn't sure what to expect. I heard stories, most of what legends are made of. It was nutty, spicy and was actually quite good. The haggis is a traditional dish of Scotland and is served with "neeps and tatties" to us that is yellow turnips and potatoes.
 The recipe pictured above is called "Haggis Jacobean"put  2-3 oz of haggis in an individual serving dish. Add an extra teaspoon of whisky and heat in oven or microwave until piping hot. Serve with a generous portion of fresh cream.
And there you have it. Happy Birthday Robbie Burns a toast to the haggis

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shaker Lemon Pie for National Pie Day

Winter time needs days that celebrate good food. Citrus is in season to help us get through the cold winter months, So, it's a win win all around, well at least for me. Today is National Pie Day. And to celebrate all things pie and citrus I made a Shaker Lemon Pie. I love tart pies ( I love all pie, I don't discriminate).

Last week I  asked my friends on Facebook if anyone had seen Meyer lemons in the stores yet and low and behold the next day was a  bag of Meyer lemons so I decided to make this pie for pie day.

This recipe comes from the Shaker community, maybe from Southern Ohio.  The Shakers are very frugal and this recipe is no exception, it uses the whole lemon rind and all.

Once again I'll take some to work and some to share with my neighbors. Like the fig newtons if this turns out well I will make it for the hubster when he comes home in June. I'm sure he won't complain about being my taste tester again.

Meyer lemons awaiting their fate

Lemons starting to macarate in sugar

Pie crust dough

Pie awaiting the oven

Out of the oven and cooling, HURRY HURRY I want a bite
Let's eat

This recipe is adapted from, Kate McDermott.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A little quiet time

It's late in the morning, a pie is in the oven for my National Pie Day post, the cat is finally asleep so the house is really quiet.

I wanted to take some time to figure out what I wanted  blog about this year. I really didn't make much time to blog last year. This year I'd like to change that so instead of focusing on food holidays (well let's not totally forget to celebrate those) I'll still do those occasionally.  I want to focus at least the bake part on all  the things that have intimidated me. Since my pie crust fears have been conquered I now want to take on puff pastry, choux pastry and macarons. And create all the pastries I LOVE to eat in Paris.

On the eat part I do want to get out more, by myself and when the hubster gets home. DC restaurant week is in February and I do have reservations for at least one restaurant. I do want to take an excursion to Union Market in my Ward and visit and get to know the vendors there. I would like Union Market to become my go to place for my baking and cooking needs.

And last is the travel part. We do have two trips planned so far, a cruise and our annual trip to Massanutten. Massawhaten? Massanutten it's our go to get out of the city escape. It's in the Shenandoah Valley and for us it is a chance to get away relax, play golf, go the the spa, eat good food, drink good local beer and wine.

So there is, written down for all to see.

I hope you will continue to follow me on this part of my journey. I hope to have more successes than failures (oh, you'll see those). And as always there will be a little swearing, cut fingers and fingernails a long the way. Thanks mom for setting me on this different journey.

Make time to eat out more.

There will always be an excuse to make pie 

Travel should always be part of life.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Holiday in Prague

This Christmas  was a weird year for our household. Christmas was very low key o real Christmas tree,  no lights on the house and no presents around the small artificial tree,  How can these things happen? Well, the hubster was unable to come home for the holiday this year. So, if  the Christmas spirit won't come to me I will go to it. I really wanted to find a place that really had all the Christmas I could soak in.
Our original plans fell through so  I was desperate to find a spot for our rendezvous. I was at a loss, Pairs, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Moscow? Nope, no and no. SO, where to go? We chose Prague. We have never been there, didn't speak the language didn't really know much about it, so why not?  It's know as the Art Nouveau capital of Europe and did not disappoint. Most of the buildings are painted lovely shades of yellow, blues, greens and pink. Exteriors are adorned with fancy trim and some even have statues.
It was everything I had hoped for cold, snowy and Christmasy.  The city was old world Europe. With cobblestone streets twists and turns and all the streets all seemed to bring you back to Old Town Square. Prague is very walkable city  and we boy did walked it, everyday. The view from our hotel was right in the heart of the old square across from the famous Astronomical Clock and main hub for the annual Christmas market.  Looking forward to going back, oh Yes!

One of the many decorated buildings

Up close

Astronomical clock in the Old Town Square

One of the many church spires

Painted facade

Buildings in Old Town

Franz Kafka

View of Prague Castle

One of the Christmas trees in the market

St. Charles Bridge

View of the city from the castle

One of the many ornate doorways

St. Vitus cathedral

Turn a corner and there is an other painted building

Ornate work over a door

Ornate decorations

Iron Work

Old Town Square

Ornate door work

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's the Big Fig Newton

Fig Newtons, or Newtons as they are call now a days, are they a cake or cookie? Or does it really matter if you love them. If you love them then celebrate because today is National Fig Newton Day.

The first Fig Newtons were baked at the F. A. Kennedy Steam Bakery in 1891. The product was named “Newton” after the town of Newton, Massachusetts.
The Kennedy Biscuit Company had recently become associated with the New York Biscuit Company, and after the companies' merger to form Nabisco, the fig rolls were trademarked as “Fig Newtons”
If you grew up in the 70s like I did then you may remember that  Nabisco ran an advertising campaign for the Fig Newton. The commercials featured actor James (Jimmy) Harder dressed like a fig. At the conclusion of the song, he struck the "Fig Newton Pose", leaning forward and balancing on his left foot, with arms spread and right leg raised behind him. Who doesn't exclaim “The Big Fig Newton” and strike a pose?

I searched the Internet for a recipe that I could use to recreate the Fig Newton. I looked through many. Some had corn syrup; others added orange zest in both the fig and cookie part; others had egg whites in them. With so many to choose from t I finally settled on one from renowned pastry chef Sherry Yard. The recipe comes from Desserts by the Yard.

So here goes: I used dried Calimyrna figs instead of Black Mission figs. And you do need an afternoon to make these from start to finish. But since I am not eating sugar, but I may have to make an exception, I will leave the judgment to my taste testers.   The directions did say that dough was sticky and that's no lie. I only baked half the batch at first, I refrigerated the other half to see if would help. OK, so my so no sugar kick was kicked to the curb. I had one the same day I baked them they were like a cookie a little crunchy then the next day I couldn't help myself and ate another one. They were definitely better the next day they were more cake like. "OMG", "These are amazing" were some of the responses I got from my taste testers. 

Fig Bars
Adapted from Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard

For the filling:
1 cup of Calimryna dried figs chopped in small pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of sugar
zest of 1/2 grated orange
For the cookie dough:
4oz (8tbps) soften butter
1/2 cup of  granulated sugar
zest of 1/2 orange
1 room temp egg white
1tsp of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

For the filling:
Combine the chopped figs, water, apple juice and 1/4 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan, bring it a boil over medium heat. After it starts to boil reduce the heat to low and simmer it until the figs are soft and  practically disintegrating, anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours. Stir occasionally so the figs don't scorch on the bottom of the pan.
When the figs are done cool the mixture at room temperature. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until it smooth at this time add the of 1/2 orange. Process until combined. Set aside until ready to use. I refrigerated my filling.
For the cookie dough:
Combine the 1/2 cup sugar and butter and beat them together on medium speed until light and fluffy about 2 minutes. Add the egg white, the remainder of the orange zest and the vanilla extract until smooth. Scrap down the sides of bowl and beaters. Add the flour, and mix on low until everything is mixed together and there are no streaks of flour. It should look like sugar cookie dough. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until its firm enough to roll out.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Take the chilled dough from refrigerator and dust your work surface. I can not stress this enough. The dough gets sticky very quickly.
Roll the dough out to a rectangle that is 16X12 it will be thin.
Divide the dough into 4 inch strips. Take the filling and spread it in the middle of each strip of dough. Gently, very gently fold over one side over the fig mixture and then fold over the second side of dough.  Repeat for each of the dough strips. 
Gently transfer the strips to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cut the cookies before baking. I cut them before transferring them to the baking sheets. On the last two sections I put them back in the refrigerator to chill again. The cookie dough really does get sticky so flour your surface very well. 

Ingredients for the cookie/cake part

The figgy filling: figs, orange zest, app;e juice and sugar
Rolled at dough and fill with fig puree 

Newtons ready for the oven

Ta Da! Homemade fig newtons

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Looking back at 2012

Well another year has zoomed by and by now people are already giving up on 2013 resolutions. So before looking to a new year and new blogs, new foods,  and new places let's look back at 2012.

January is restaurant week, celebrated at Art and Soul

American Eats closed in July
I traveled to San Francisco in August

Alamo Square, San Francisco

I also traveled to Portland, Oregon and Voodoo Donut

Made saffron risotto in September

Saffron the hubster sends me from the Middle East

Pie for the Sate Fair in September
December trip to Prague with the hubster