Friday, January 28, 2011

Pink Porridge.

The northeast has been completely pummeled with snow. I am a self-professed winter lover, but even I am starting to feel closed in by all the icy crystals neatly stacking themselves in heights of several feet. The trees are bowed over, crying for mercy. Snow boots everywhere are organizing protests, claiming to be overworked. Children are bored of sledding, lovers bored of lazy Sundays, snowed in. Cabin fever is rampant! I forget what the ground even looks like!

Anyway Mother Nature needs to take the hint that we’ve all now had too much of a good thing. But with two more official months of winter and no thaw in sight, we need to make the best of what we’ve got, and stop complaining (see first paragraph). And since we’re all being pushed toward hibernation by the snow, my thought was to post about porridge because you know, bears like it…and they hibernate…and stuff.

When you’re done being dazzled by that super slick segue, try this magical recipe for porridge – it’s perfect for being snowed in. I swiped it from the fabulous Lottie + Doof blog, and it captured my heart with the first pink spoonful. Because it’s pink, you know. And it’s simple – boil some berries in water and honey, throw in some oat bran cereal, top with cream, fruit, nuts, brown sugar and snuggle down in the breakfast nook with your favorite Goldilocks to wait out the rest of this insistent season.

Pink Porridge
From Lottie + Doof (called Brooke’s Porridge)

1 cup Oat Bran cereal
2 cups water
1 scant cup of berries (fresh or frozen, strawberries don't work *that* well unless they are fresh and sliced)
pinch of salt
1-3 tablespoons of honey

Suggested Toppings: nuts, fresh fruit, brown sugar, cream

In a medium pot over high heat bring water, pinch of salt and berries to a boil. Add the oat bran and honey and stir regularly until cereal is cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Serve, topped with whatever you like.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Le sucre et le feu.

I get all Amelie about crème brulee. If we’re sharing don’t even think about taking the first whack – I must be the destroyer of the perfect golden sugar crust. That crack through said crust with my little spoon is so dreamy…the combo of the sweet, perfectly burnt shards and silky vanilla custard puts every other dessert to shame in my eyes. It is absolute perfection in its simplicity.

So, imagine my delight when I was gifted my own personal mini kitchen torch for Christmas! I guess I had swooned over dessert enough times. At first I was a little intimidated – I’m something of a klutz, and during those kinds of moments in the kitchen it’s usually due to rushing. So while most of my mind was freaking out about the awesome brulee-related possibilities of this amazingly thoughtful gift, a small part was spending time coming up with a way to explain to my hair stylist why a section of my long tresses was tragically and mysteriously singed to above my ear.

But the torch and I…we’re old friends now. It’s just a tiny thing, easy to fuel and operate, very light to handle…and the flame is pretty small as well…a definite bonus.

So once I had the torch, I needed the perfect crème brulee recipe…and there was no problem there because I received Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook for Christmas as well. For those of you unfamiliar with Chang, stop what you’re doing and look her up immediately (especially if you’re in the Boston area, for SHAME!). She is the genius behind the Flour Bakery, as well as the fantastic eatery Myers and Chang, in Boston's South End (with husband Christopher Myers). She is basically one of my heroes – a very smart lady who pursued her passions in the kitchen. Her cookbook is thoughtful and fun. I plan to try my hand at every cookie, tart, custard and bread.

Anyway, it’s no surprise that Chang’s crème brulee recipe is fabulous. If you want all of her words of wisdom, you’ll have to buy her book. Instead you’re going to get my notes on her recipe, which hopefully you’ll find helpful too. I halved the recipe, but followed her instructions to a tee. I felt just like Amelie cracking into that first one. I'm actually going to go have another one right now.


...crack. sigh.

Creme Brulee
From Joanne Chang's Flour, with my notes

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise *or 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract - Chang's isn't nuts about this idea but it will work in a pinch
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/3 to 1/2 cup for the top
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 325˚F. Place eight 4 ounce ramekins in a large roasting pan with at least 3 inch high sides.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and half-and-half. Use a knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and add the pod (if using extract, do NOT add at this point. that comes later). Place the pan over medium-high heat and scald the mixture (bubbles will form around the edge, but the liquid should not boil).

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the 3/4 cup sugar until combined. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg-sugar mixture, a bit at a time, whisking constantly. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a pitcher or liquid measuring cup. Stir in salt. If using vanilla extract as opposed to the bean, stir that in now.

Pour custard into the ramekins, dividing evenly. Carefully move the pan to the oven. Pour hot water into the pan to reach the same level as the custard in the ramekins. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. (Be sooooo careful during all of this. The last thing you want is the hot water getting sloshed into the custard. Believe me.)

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Chang suggests you start testing the custards at about 20, by gently wiggling the pan, and I encourage this, even though mine took the full 30. You're looking for a Jello-like texture - some movement but jiggly, rather than liquidy. 

At this point remove the pan from the oven and let the custards cool in their bain-marie until you're able to carefully fish them out without burning yourself. Place the ramekins in an air tight container and refrigerate for at least 1 day before serving, but up to 4 days.

When ready to serve (or this can be done a couple hours ahead of time), sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar on top of each custard, and spread evenly. Light a kitchen torch and wave it back and forth over the surface of each custard, with the flame about 1 inch from the sugar, burning the sugar evenly (don't linger!) until it melts and starts to caramelize to a dark golden brown. Let cool at least 5 minutes and serve!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Egg sauce for your eggs.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love breakfast? I mostly love it for what it means specifically to me. Coffee means, let’s look out the window – we have nowhere to be. Eggs mean, we can even go back to bed if we want after this. Overall it means things will unfold slowly for a while, and we’ll get around to the day eventually.

Recently on one of these expansive mornings, I decided to tackle the sauce of all sauces at breakfast time – hollandaise. I had never made it, I think because the double boiler scared me off, not to mention how many bad, over-salted versions of it I’ve been exposed to. But, I was dying to recreate a dish I had for brunch at The Front Room, in Portland, ME, and hollandaise was a mandatory requirement.

Looking out the window right now, at breakfast.

Hollandaise is an emulsified butter sauce, thickened with egg yolks, made tart with lemon juice, and deepened with the inclusion of everything from paprika to Worcestershire to white pepper, depending on the recipe. An emulsion is a mixture of liquids that if combined correctly, doesn’t break down into its separate components – so when making hollandaise not only are the ingredients important, but how you incorporate them - basically by constant whisking. It’s scientific, and it may seem like a lot of effort to essentially add egg sauce to your eggs, but it has a texture and flavor all its own, and is 100% worth it.

If you don’t have a double boiler, as any hollandaise recipe will call for, you can use a medium-sized sauce pan with a shallow metal mixing bowl fitted on top – just make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water, and that you can fix the sauce pan’s lid firmly on the whole contraption (inside the bowl is fine).

So what did I do with my hollandaise? First I pan toasted some fresh potato gnocchi in butter until it was puffy, browned and crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. I then wilted spinach in olive oil with a touch of chicken stock, and combined that with torn chunks of crisp bacon. On top of the spinach, bacon and toasted gnocchi went two perfectly yolky sunny side up eggs (you can do poached too, I was feeding firmer-egg-lovers that morning) and then finally, the hollandaise, which was smooth and distinctive, with a citrus kick that brought the whole dish together. Sigh.

Basic Hollandaise Sauce
adapted from

4 egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (mine was really lemony, so you might want to try adjusting the lemon juice and cider vinegar ratios, if you want it less so)
1 pinch ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt

Fill the bottom of a double boiler with a couple of inches of water. Make sure the water does not touch the top pan (or metal bowl, as it were). Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of water.

Add melted butter to egg yolk mixture 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly (to do this successfully, think about your setup at the stove beforehand, and make sure you have a cup of hot water and a spoon within reaching distance, for the next step).

If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water. Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated. Whisk in salt, then remove from heat. Place a lid on the pan to keep sauce warm until ready to serve. Makes enough for 4-6 breakfast portions.

One year ago: Anadama Bread

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Effing Delicious Top 10 of 2010!

Happy New Year! The holidays are over and we're left to the newness of January. I personally love January for that reason - maybe the weather is bleak in New England, and I'm exhausted from the rush of the holidays, but there's something undeniably inspiring about the fresh start we all get when January rolls around.

But before I jump into fresh new posts for 2011, I thought for this post I'd recap the 10 most popular recipes on Effing Delicious in 2010 - its first year of existence!  I'll count down, because that just seems right. These were the top 10 based on reader stats - if you've tried any (on the list or not) I'd love to hear your favorites in the comments!

So readers! Some conclusions we can draw are that you like steak and dessert...and clearly so do I. We, you and I, also like fun baking science experiments like popovers and profiteroles. And we definitely like to eat. So here's to a 2011 full of all of those things, as well as way better photos and more exciting experiments and recipes! Thanks for reading!