Archive for September, 2009

Basic Cobblers –

24 September 09

Cobblers are mostly US and UK in usage. ‘Course the Brits don’t mean the same as we do by the word. What was that about two peoples separated by a common language? Methinks that G.B. Shaw had it right. Anyway – to the American a cobbler is a desert with the crust on the bottom and usually some kind of very sweet fruit mix through which the crust rises and mingles as it cooks. You wind up with a nice brownish crust on top and a kinda’ dumpling sort of consistency through the middle of the goodie.

The Brits mean a meat pie or casserole sort of thing with a Cobbler – or biscuit – scone-like kind of topping. The Brits are starting now to realize that fruit fillings are also a good thing – but they mostly still put the crust only on the top.

The American cobbler has had many variations over the past couple of centuries: Grunt, Sonker, Betty, Buckle, Slump – and so on. Mostly a New England sort of thing in the beginning – but it has spread all over the country.

There is some disagreement as to whether Yankee flour – such as King Arthur – or Southern flour – such as Martha White – does better. A matter of personal taste, in my opinion. Get a bit more rise out of the King Arthur, which I like. Suit yourself and just use whatever you have handy in the way of an all-purpose type. If it is the old-fashioned Self-Rising Southern type then leave out the baking powder.

—–Fruit—–

340 g fruit (2-1/2 cups)
210 g sugar (1 cup)

—–Crust—–

150 g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
8 g baking powder (2 tsp)
4 g salt (1/2 tsp)
245 g milk (1 cup)
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
Cream, whipped cream or ice cream, if desired

—– Fruit —–

Most Berries: Stir together berries and sugar in a bowl big enough to hold them. Let stand about 20 minutes and then stir again gently. You should see a bit of syrup which has formed. Works fine for Blackberries, strawberries and the like. May not work for blueberries – I haven’t tested them yet.

Peaches: Blanche for 1 minute, then plunge in an ice bath for 1 minute. Peel, pit, cube or slice. Boil with sugar and 70g (1/3 cup) water, Simmer for 10 minutes. You can add a bit of cinnamon or whatever else tickles your taste.

Apples: Core, peel, slice. Use brown sugar. Can be boiled and simmered or mixed with crust. Cinnamon is pretty good with apples.

—–Crust—–

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and milk. Add the butter and stir just until blended. Pour into an ungreased pan big enough to hold everything with some room at the top. Spoon the fruit mixture over the batter.

Bake at 375°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until the dough rises through the fruit and is golden. I usually set the pan on top of a jelly-roll pan covered with aluminum foil. Otherwise a mess is had by all when the sugary fruit mix boils over the sides. An oven cleaning is then in order – NOT my favorite kitchen activity.

Serve warm with cream. Or with ice cream. Can be stored in the fridge and re-heated. Heat up in a 350°F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

You can up to double the fruit filling if you want more fruit to crust ratio. You can adjust the sugar down if it is too much for you. Being a very traditional Southerner I like my peach or apple cobbler fairly sweet – but suit yourself.

Mayonnaise the Easy Way

21 September 09

Now that you have seen the original energetic way to make mayonnaise and have discovered the full flavor of the real stuff, you may wish there were an easier way. There is (are). The first method requires a food processor, which I suppose that most people have nowadays. This is pretty easy in that the processor does all the elbow work, but it is still a drop at a time method.

1 large egg
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice or wine vinegar
1-1/4 cups oil

If you have an emulsifying disk – use it – it works much better. Otherwise use the normal chopping blade. Then add the egg, mustard, cayenne, sugar and vinegar and blend until smooth. Now, you still need to add the oil SLOWLY! So – with the motor running, slowly dribble in the oil. The mixture will become thick and creamy. You may want to scrape down the processor side and mix again once or twice. You can stop blending when you have gotten to mayonnaise thickness. Keep it in an air tight container in the refrigerator. This uses the whole egg and does not get as nicely stiff as the yolk only recipes.

Now – the best possible way. You need two things: first – one of those handy stick-type blenders – you know the type – the blade is on the bottom of a fairly long stick. Also called an immersion blender by the technically correct. The second thing you need is a jar that is tall and not much wider than the bell of your blender. It so happens that a standard dill pickle jar works nicely for me. Oh, yeah. It should also be large enough to hold all the mayo for that session plus some extra room.

4 egg yolks
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
2-1/8 cups sunflower oil or safflower oil
1 Tbs lemon juice

Put the egg yolks, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in the jar. Mix them together until smooth. Turn off the blender but leave it in the jar. Gently pour in the oil – all of it. You will notice that the oil sits on top of the egg yolk mixture, and that’s the secret. With the bell at the bottom of the jar, turn on the blender and slowly draw it up to the top of the oil. As you will have noticed, when you draw the blender up you keep blending only the small amount of oil that is at the border of the emulsified liquid. Pretty slick. You will probably need to keep the blender running and move it up and down and around a bit until all the oil is blended in and the more you beat it the stiffer the mix will get. You will get up to full mayo stiffness in a very short time. At this point add in the lemon juice and blend it in.

Take a taste and adjust your seasonings as you like. There is only one problem with this method: it is so easy that you may be ashamed to let anyone see you do it. After all – mayonnaise is supposed to be one of those things that only real cooks do. Oh yeah – since you should have mixed the stuff in the container that you are going to store it in there is much less waste since you don’t have to transfer the goodie – and one less mess to wash. Just scrape of the blender, cap the jar, and stuff it in the fridge. Too easy – way too easy.

Now then – you can add other things in as you see fit. Crush a clove of garlic and dump it in – wonderful. Add a bit of sugar – either white or powdered – for that sweet flavor that commercial mayo has. Try different mustards and more or less mustard for different kicks. French mayo has mustard – non-French has none – simple. Try cayenne pepper. Now the other thing to notice is that all the mayo recipes differ slightly in ingredients and/or proportions. That is fine. You need 3 things: egg, oil, and acid. Which ones you use and which other things you add will determine flavor. The essential method is: beat the devil out of the eggs as you add in the oil slowly. This forces an emulsion to take place. That is mayo.

Here are some variations:

Remoulade: chop up a hardboiled egg, some capers, parsley. Blend in & add a little more lemon juice to taste.

Aioli: Add 4 cloves minced garlic. Mediterranean sauce used with fish, veggies and such.

Add some sour cream, sweet cream, or yoghurt.

Add a couple of tablespoons of the herb of choice.

Add more mustard and some brown sugar and dill to taste.

Dream up your own variation(s).

Finally – use any of the mayo recipes with any of the methods – and enjoy superior flavor.

This stuff will keep for a week in a cold refrigerator.

{{Herself Sez: I keep our “upstairs” refrigerator at about 33 – 34 degrees – colder than most. Things tend to keep longer at this temp than at the “normal” temp of about 38 degrees. Problem is, occasionally it drops a degree or so, and some things freeze. Usually not a problem. Even the eggs will be ok if you plan to scramble them or beat them up in a recipe. But you can’t separate them and make the whites “work” for meringue. The lettuce, however, has to be tossed! O Well!!}}

Mayonnaise – The Real Thing

11 September 09

Or – How to get some exercise.

This is the second great classic sauce that every cook should be able to hammer out with little or no effort. I’ve already covered Hollandaise (see Eggs Benedict), so this bit on mayonnaise completes the Allemande (emulsion of lemon and egg yolk) class of the mother sauces of Escoffier. One of these days I’ll gather them all together in one place.

There are all kinds of stories about how mayonnaise came about and was named. I suspect that anywhere quality oil and eggs were available someone figured out how to emulsify the oil into the egg yolk. The name seems to be French in origin.

For those who are used to modern mayo from the jar this stuff is a bit of a shock. It actually has real flavor – and lots of it. It is also about 10 minutes of work – guaranteed to work your arm and give you a bit of cardio-vascular workout.

3 egg yolks
1 Tbs acid: wine vinegar or lemon juice
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp dry mustard – up to ½ tsp by taste for French style (optional)
2 cups corn or safflower oil or NON-Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs boiling water

Make sure the mixing bowl is big enough for lots of elbow action. Also make sure the whisk is comfortable to use.

You want ingredients room temperature: 70°F or so. So don’t take stuff right out of the refrigerator and expect good results. If the eggs are cold you may heat up the mixing bowl with lots of hot water – just not hot enough to cook the yolks. It also helps to separate the yolks by hand, which will help warm them up. If your oil is cold, warm it up – but then, why should your oil be cold?

Whisk the egg yolks for a few seconds until they start to thicken a bit.

Add the acid – whether lemon juice or wine vinegar – and salt. Bit of discussion here: adding mustard is French, most others don’t. The mustard not only adds flavor but also helps to stabilize the mixture – your choice. Anyway – continue whisking while you add this stuff and beat for about another 30 seconds to a minute.

Take a deep breath. Shake your arms and get some blood into them. Relax. From here you cannot stop whisking for the next 5 to 8 minutes or so.

You do not have to whisk particularly fast – just steady – without stopping. You can switch hands or change directions – just don’t stop. Use a teaspoon and dribble the oil in a drop at a time while whisking steadily. When about half of the oil is in you can take a deep breath and take a SHORT pause. Then start adding from the measuring cup, about a teaspoonful at a time – whisking steadily. If at any time you see the mix looking oily stop adding oil and continue whisking until all has been absorbed. Usually it works out that about every 2 or 3 teaspoons of oil you will need to stir for a few extra seconds to get proper absorption. At no time let the mix get oily and loose.

When you get about ½ the oil worked in the danger of failure is pretty much over.

If you don’t get enough volume before the mix stiffens up too much to add more, then you can dribble in a few more drops of the acid, then go back to adding oil.

Add the boiling water, which will help the final consistency. Correct the seasoning to taste.

You can decant into a sealable container and store in the refrigerator for a few days. This is NOT commercial stuff with all the preservatives, etc. Therefore don’t think that you can ignore it in the fridge for more than a very few days.

Yes – you can make this in a blender on the lowest speed. Yes – you can use olive oil but it must NOT be extra virgin. Olive oil works and tastes very nice, but corn oil is a whole bunch easier to work with and tastes very, very good.

{{HERSELF SEZ: There is nothing – absolutely nothing – like homemade mayonnaise! This version is similar to other versions of homemade mayo that I’ve had or made – it’s a little “runnier” than the commercial kind. Doesn’t seem to be anything to do with this recipe to make it a thicker consistency. But I can easily get used to a runnier mayo for the taste!! Yum!}}

Strawberry Shortcake

2 September 09

This is an old-fashioned kind of dessert. The cake is not a cake. It is shortbread or shortcake to Americans or scone to Brits. What that means is a basic biscuit that is leavened by baking powder. The ingredients are not really blended, they are cut together – an entirely different proposition.


—–Biscuits:—–

300 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
12 g baking powder (1Tbs)
3 g salt (1/2 tsp)
38 g sugar (3 Tbs)
1 stick butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
150 g heavy cream (3/4 cup)

—–Filling:—–

1 quart strawberries
72 g sugar (1/3 cup)

—–Topping:—–

230 g heavy cream (1 cup)
50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
7 g vanilla (1 tsp)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set rack at mid-level.

—– Filling: —–

Rinse and drain the berries, hull and slice. To hull means to remove the green at the top of the berry. If you are worried about getting every last bit of strawberry goodie, then pick them off. I don’t usually bother, I just whack the top of the berry off, then turn and slice. A whole lot faster and you don’t really lose that much strawberry compared to the time and effort you save. When you have the berries sliced up sprinkle the sugar over them, cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Overnight is ok).

—– Biscuits: —–

Mix up all the dry ingredients in a fairly large bowl. All you really need to do is swirl everything around with your fingers thoroughly. Cut the butter into the mix with a pastry blender until the butter/flour mix resembles pea sized gravel. If you do not have a pastry blender – they are cheap and plentiful – popular lore has it that you can use two dull knives. I find that awkward to say the least. Bare hands would probably work better. Do NOT make the classic mistake of over blending. This is a biscuit (scone) – NOT a roll or bread. Make a well in the center of the mix and add the heavy cream, stirring it in with a fork until all the flour/butter is moist. Don’t over mix. If necessary add a little more cream.

Let the mix stand for about 5 minutes, then pour it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold and press 3 to 4 time until the mix starts holding together. You may find it beneficial to use the heel of the hand and the wrist rather than fingers or palm. The heel generates less heat into the mix and you don’t want to melt the butter.

Pat it out about ¾” thick or so and cut 3” circles out with a round cutter. You should be able to get 8 out of this dough. Put them on a cookie sheet – either non-stick or greased – brush the top with cream and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes or until they rise and are slightly browned.

Gently split and butter while they are still warm. A serrated knife works best – these are quite crumbly. {{Herself Sez: OR you can split them using a fork – as with English Muffins.}} Put about 1/3 cup strawberries in each biscuit, put the tops back on. Add a tablespoon or so of strawberries to the top, then cover with the whipped cream topping. Be sure to get some of the strawberry liquid from the bottom of the bowl dribbled over each biscuit.

—– Topping: —–

Whip the cream until almost stiff. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until cream holds peaks.

If you are not going to serve immediately the strawberries and the whipped cream will refrigerate nicely. Just assemble as many shortcakes as you need just before serving.

{{Herself Sez: Lots of Yummy Sounds for this one!}}


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