Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dining with the Bloggers - January 31st., 2007

So. I'm a baking fanatic. You should know by now. I have a LOT of recipes bookmarked that lies in that category. And not a small part of those are recipes I've bookmarked from Ivonne - aka The Cream Puff from Cream Puffs in Venice. Is she Italian? Well, yes, but she lives in Canada. IS she in fact a cream puff? No. But I'm sure she's donning a red-chequered apron full of laces like every self-respecting Italian Momma everytime she walks into that kitchen - 'cause Baby, Cream Puff can cook!

It's not that she doesn't make ridicously good looking savory dishes (which, face it, are the ones I should be trying, seeing I seem to have no excuse for finding a way to bake - I really shouldn't be using DwB as an excuse also!) - but it's her baking that's won my heart. And when I saw it, I knew I had to try the Peach Tart she posted about.

Admittedly, it's been a while since I made it - I did it shortly after Ivonnes original post, back in August. And instead of furry peaches, I opted for smooth-skinned nectarines because, well, I had a couple lying around.

It is one FABULOUS tart and it was appreciated in big slices by both my Mom and my Mother-in-law, who each had two pieces. It goes somehow marzipany, which in my opinion is a good thing, indeed. I had to find the original recipe to get an idea of the size of pan to use (9½-10 inch, btw. the one I have is a bit bigger though) Otherwise, I followed Ivonne's recipe to the letter, using a 38% creme fraiche which might be just a bit too much fat. The tart turned out a slight on the buttery side because of that - and maybe, just maybe because I was a bit impatient and wanted it out NOW so that it could cool a wee bit before we were going to eat it.

So I know, 'tis is not the season. But remember it, when peach (or nectarine) season arrives - it is DEFINITELY worth it! Meanwhile, go pick a recipe from Ivonne's archives - you know you want to!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Showdown in Baker's City: Organic vs. Non-organic

Johnny & Denny turning towards the screen

Johhny: Welcome, welcome everybody! Tonight e have one of the biggest games EVER on our hands!

Denny: Thank you for joining us here in Baker's City, where tonight - people, I'm telling you, tonight - well, the results are bound to go over in history!

Johhny: That's right Denny - none other than the game we've been asking, begging, pleading to see for the last couple of years -

Denny: That is true -

Johhny: The fight between our days biggest stars, isn't it, wouldn't you say?

Denny: None other! It is game time!

Johnny: But how's about a little background story for the new-comers to boxing, Denny?

Denny: Sure, of course - and I'm sure noone will mind a lowdown on tonights stars!

intro, flash across the screen, then...

In the left corner: Mr. Manitoba - in the right, Herr Ølandshvede!

voiceover, Johnny: In the left corner, we have Mr. Manitoba. A strong wheat, originally grown in the province of Manitoba, Canada, he's known for his high gluten-developing properties. Mr. Manitoba shows no fear when it comes to wet doughs and Italian-type breads - in fact, those are the challenges he likes the most! His white color is a tell-tale sign of his love for working with bleach and pesticides in general - no organic frilly-nilly works for this guy!!

voiceover, Denny: ...and in the right corner, we see the slightly exotic looking - and by the name alone, also sounding - Herr Øland! Herr Øland is from an old, old family, stemming from Sweden, but was re-discovered by a Danish organic farmer, who noticed him for his pest-shunning qualities and high protein-content, compared to the usual wheats. The farmer brought him to Denmark, and look at what he's gotten out of him! Strong gluten - a true MONSTER!

- Back to Johnny and Denny -

Denny, looking at Johnny: it really is amazing, I mean, tonights game: you have the strong, well-developed Manitoba, and, dare I say it, the somewhat underdog, Øland, going head to head Johnny: you're right Denny, you're right. I can't wait to see this game, it's bound to be full of surprises!

Denny: So should we have a look at the preparations for the participants in tonights game?

Johnny: I think that's a great idea, Denny!

Denny: Well, Johnny - it seems both the competitors has started out by pulling the well-known trick of doing a BIGA - adding water (118 g.) and fresh yeast (5 g.) to just a part of themselves (150 g).

Johnny: I guess half the fight lies in the preparation, doesn't it, Denny?

Denny: Sure does Johnny - they've beaten themselves together more than 6 hours ago, some even have them start up to three days in advance, leaving them in a cool, cool place meanwhile. Do you think that's what they've done in this case?

Johnny: Well, judging by the looks of them, as they're entering the ring right now, they could have spend just a day or so in the shade! Here we have them:

ØLAND!!! MANITOBA!! The crowds ROAR!!!

Johnny: Now, is it just me, or does Øland there on the left look just a slightly bit - deflated?

Denny: you know, Johnny, I was thinking the exact same thing - do you think it will be to his disadvantage?

Johhny: I don't know Denny - you know, these fighters have their own ways of making things happen!

Denny: Don't I know it!

Johnny: It looks like we're getting ready down there...

Denny: Now, let me just point out to your folks out there: tonights game is of course in the bread category, but the judges are also giving out points for looks, texture and of course, taste!

Johnny: That's right Denny - its' going to be a big game! Not only will there be pushing and shoving and kneading - there'll be flour, yeast and water as well!

Denny: So, any last minute preparations going on down there?

Johnny: No, I think we're ready to start! Let's get ready to RUMBLE!!!!

fight starts...


Johnny: It seems both of the fighters have teamed up with a well-known persona down there...

Denny: Yes, it looks like the sports-psychologist, Dr. Durum Flour (142 g., organic kind) has been working with both our flours - is that even legal?

Johnny: Well, I guess you could say it's only fair to give the participants the same psychological ballast when going into a game like this - and yes, it's most definitely legal...

Denny: You're right, Johnny. Not much going on down there right now, is there?

Johnny: It seems they're mostly trotting around each other, trying to incorporate the first rounds extra flour (142 g.), fresh yeast (20 g.) - and is that a special brand Ø is using there? I do believe it's an organic brand, isn't it? -

Denny: You've got that right, Johnny - Ø swears by his organic yeast, he does. The yeast has been dissolved in a bit of water (236 g.) and oh - a bit of salt (10 g.) got into play there, didn't it?

Johnny: Well, an uneventful first round there...

Denny: It was, but don't judge the book by it's cover, Johnny...

Johnny: I know. Now, let's go to commercial...


Johnny: Welcome back to the game, folks, tonights game between Manitoba and Øland!

Denny: We're looking forward to the second round!


Denny: So, wait - is that extra flour I see beeing incorporated into mr. Manitoba's already huge corpus?

Johnny: I think you're right - it's amazing how he can keep incorporating and incorporating, isn't it, Denny?

Denny: Especially considering Øland already looks filled to the brim!

Johnny: Don't let that fool you - he might have some aces up his sleeve!

Denny: They're moving on to the business letter turns now, aren't they?

Johnny: Looks like it, Denny - they're right there on the table, being stretched and turned every half hour, two times in total.

Denny: And I know, this looks like it won't mean a thing, that they're just being lazy - but don't mistake, they're building strength as we speak!


Johnny: So what's happening now, Denny?

Denny: I think we have a classic game on our hands here, Johnny. They're going to stay in low gear, for another 2 hours or so, rising up as we wait for the action to happen - but I think we could wait for a while. They might even withdraw to the cooling area, which will have us waiting for hours...

Johnny: I hope that won't happen! Here's a couple of words from our sponsors...


Denny: Welcome back - well, Denny, you were right - they withdrew.

Johhny: They sure did. But now they're back, and look at the shape they're in!


Denny: I must say, they've grown quite a lot, haven't they?

Johnny: That's what you get!

Johnny: And we're on again!

Denny: It seems - it looks like they're shaping themselves!

Johnny: ...and tucking into a couple of rising baskets... Let's se how they're going to get on here!

Denny: I must say, they've been pretty much on the same level so far, haven't they?

Johnny: I agree, Denny - let's see if something happens once they go into the oven...


Straight to commercial...

Johnny: Welcome back to the fourth round here - we're just about ready to go into the oven!

Denny: ...and we've had to do one bread first, seeing they need pretty much space in there -they've drawn straws and it looks like Øland is starting...


Johnny: Some problems getting out of the rising basket there, hasn't he?

Denny: He does, indeed - oh, but there he goes! Onto the baking stone...

Johnny: Now there's just waiting...

Denny: But wait, what's that smell?

Johnny: Oh my. You're not going to believe this! Manitoba is moving in for the kill! I can't believe this, would you...

Denny: Øland's DOWN, he's out, oh, that is one DEADLY blow!

Johnny: That is some unhealthy wounds he caught there, that Øland!

Denny: And I thought he was just getting of on the right foot there - will he be able to come back, you think, Johnny?

Johnny: It's hard to say, Denny - let's have a look at how Manitoba turns out from the oven...

Denny: He's taking the sure path, on a baking sheet, instead of the baking stone...

Johnny: Well, you learn from your opponents mistakes, don't you?

Denny: Looks like it - oh I can barely bear to look at Øland - that is one sad, sad way to end this...

Johnny: It isn't necesarily over yet, Denny!



Denny: And we're back form commercials, round five, now, folks - the breads will present themselves to the judges and be awarded points and comments on texture, looks and of course, taste - and here we go:

Voiceover, Johnny: He sure does look good, that Manitoba - a beautiful, white crumb, high rise - he has got things going for him!

Voiceover, Denny: Herr Øland, the underdog - but look at that, despite his wounds, he looks amazing! A hole-y crumb, a beautiful suntanned look - he's ready for the judges!

Johhny: Judge Martin, pokes the two breads sligtly, taps underneith them - he does throw a sceptic glance towards Ølands wounds, but he declares - yes, he does declare Øland the winner of the looks and "sounds" category!!

Denny: And here we have judge Martins Mom, the other judge in the competetion tonight - she does like the look of our Manitoba, yes, she does! She notices the slightly doughy look of Ølands interior - not something she approves of, but she must admit it might have to do with him getting sliced before he was completely cold. No, no she sticks with Manitoba!

Johnny, low voice: Now, they blindfold the taste judge, just to make sure she wont know which is which when she tastes them...

Denny: Here we go, first bite...

Judge: It's a little bit bland, this one - the texture not quite as chewy as I'd like - but there's a nice crumb here, it's definitely got something going for it!

Johnny: And the second bite...

Judge: Now, the crumb here is a bit more chewy, but still airier, somehow. There's also a more complex taste... Definitely a good crumb here also, and the crust is plain wonderful.

Denny & Johnny: ...she's going to deliberate with the other judges - wait, here they are again already!

Judges: In spite of all his efforts and accounting his somewhat sly tricks with scorching mr. Øland to a burn, we declare Mr. Manitoba to not posses enough complexity and "want-to-eat-more"-capabilities to be able to win this competition - the winner of this competition is therefore HERR ØLAND!!!!!

Crowds ROAR!!!!

Johnny: Well, that was an exciting game, folks!

Denny: Indeed it was! Let's have one last look at the competitors tonight, they sure fought well! Thank you for joining us here tonight, and 'till the next time!

Tonights winner, Herr Øland!!

The loser, Mr. Manitoba...

Outro credits:
Pugliese recipe - from Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Bread Bible. Made in double portions, in two versions - one with Manitoba flour, one with Ølandshvede. Both batches used organic durum flour and the bigas were both done with non-organic yeast.

Where did YOU bet your money???;-)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dining with the Bloggers - January 17th, 2007

You thought I was going to cheat, didn't you? Well, who would I be to blame you, it's happened before - but no, here we are!

This week, we're going to the countryside - to be precise, we're going to visit a fellow Scandinavian in, um - Italy. Makes no sense? Well, get Ilva to explain it to you - she's the writer and photographer of the stunningly beautiful Lucullian Delights. I keep bookmarking recipes from her site and I always, but always, drool on my keyboard - seriously, how do you make something as humble as an onion look this good??

A couple months ago, she made a little number called Plum and Oatmeal Cupcakes and as I found myself with an abundance of plums on the very same day she posted the recipe, I jumped straight at it. That is, I had to ask for help - there was a couple thing missing in the ingredients list, but luckily, Ilva must have been sitting at her computer at the very same time I put in my comment, 'cause she was swift with an answer and an update of the recipe. And just you be glad she was, because these are worth trying.

The cupcake/muffin takes on a marzipan-like consistency (I guess the oat flour is the guilty one here?) and the plum adds a little savory, fruity, soft note to it. Yummy! They're dead easy to make and really, there's no excuse not to. They even look adorable!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

[DANSK] Brunsviger

So - trying to revive a couple of the old projects here, aren't I? I told you, I do like 'em.

This here is a piece of classic Danish baking tradition. A yeasty, sweet, bread-like bottom with a soft brown sugar-butter topping. Easy as pie. This is one of those cakes were the result is more than the sum of it's parts. It's good, caramelly, sugary, fingerlicking so. I remember carrying brunsviger home from the bakery every summer when I was a kid and we were on vacation in north-Jylland - the sugar smearing the paper bags so they were all see-through when I arrived home. Really, you had to make sure that the sugar didn't touch the bag too much, 'cause then there'd only be so much left on the cake itself when you were going to eat it. Yes, a delicate matter indeed, carrying these precious things home.

And here's the recipe - it's a mash-up of a couple different ones I found in my cookbooks, so now it's totally how I think it should be.

Brunsviger - inspired and adapted from Karolines Køkken 2 and Kager Der Smager og Andre Gode Sager
-enough for a brownie-sized pan (mine's 25 x 25 cm.), making, oh, 6 reasonably sized slices (8 if you're more well-mannered than I, heh) Doubles or triples easily.

For the dough:
125 ml. milk, lukewarm
15 g. fresh yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
250 g. flour
50 g. melted butter

For the topping:
140 g. butter
200 g. soft brown sugar

* Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add egg, sugar, salt and flour, holding back a couple spoonfuls of the flour - beat well. Add the melted butter, beat again. Add more flour as necessary, kneading until you have a glossy, slightly sticky dough, sorta like the dough for cinnamon rolls. I do all of this in my Kitchen Aid, but it can of course be done by hand just as easily. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and leave to rise for 1½-2 hours.
*Grease your brownie pan with butter. Deflate the dough and push it into the brownie pan - make sure you cover the entire pan - it will rise again, so it's okay if it's only a centimeter thick to start. Leave to rise again, ½-1 hour.
*Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Make the topping: in a small saucepan (such a Delia word!) melt the butter with the sugar. Let it come to the boil, then take off the heat. Dimple the now risen dough, so you'll have lots of holes to be filled with sugar. Pour the sugar-butter mixture over the dimpled dough and put everything in the oven.
*Bake for 15-20 minutes (making sure to put an empty baking sheet underneith the rack with the brownie pan - I forgot and ick! what an oven I got myself!)

Btw: have I told you there's a new Danish food blogger (writing in English) out there? Her name is Anne, her blog is called Secret Gourmands and her sweet tooth is almost as big as mine! :-) Go check it out!

Monday, January 8, 2007

This year, I dare...

No, no, no - no kissing of fish! Silly!

Yes, I'm a follower. So sue me. But I like this idea - I'm always game for a challenge, especially the ones I impose on myself, heh! So this year, with a little inspiration from my fellow bloggers, I dare:
  • To do more comparative cooking and, especially, baking. Why are bleached flours better in some instances? Why do a cold rise for bread, when the warm one is so much faster? What happens when you use sour dough vs. yeast vs. a biga? Hmm. Let's see if I can do this...
  • Cook Osso Buco. The whole "big pieces of meat"-thing hasn't entered my kitchen too often, but I love me a good braise - Osso Buco could be a place to start.
  • Make pasta Ooops. I actually did this, for the first time, for New Years Eve - and I loved it! I was given a pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid two Christmases (is that a word?) ago, so it was about time. How about this, then: to use my Kitchen Aid attachments more often - I've also got a meat grinder, and (of course!) a sausage stuffer - must try making homemade sausages!
  • Enter the Indian kitchen. I like spices. Martin like spices. I like Thai and Chinese food, but for some reason, they don't really appeal to the loved one. Indian food though - that he likes. What little he's tried so far, anyways. I've been reluctant to try making it myself, 'cause I have no idea what the 'real' deal is like - Indian restaurants are here, but a lot of them are just too, umm, grungy looking for me to want to try them. With the help of all the Indian food bloggers out there, I should be able to get a got idea of what it's all about though, so I feel pretty confident that authenticity shouldn't pose too big a problem. Anywho, as long as what I end up with tastes good, authenticity might have to wait until I lure him with me to the country itself! Dishes I'd like to try: samosas - Dal Makhani - five in total is the goal (but more are of course okay!)
  • Cook Chicken Parmesan, a classic Wienerschnitzel and Cordon Bleu. Yup - MEAT! These are dishes I've either heard a lot about or already know I like to eat myself - but I've never tried making them, just ordering them. Time for a change.
  • Make puff pastry. GAH! And then bake me some fine Danish "Wienerbrød" with it. Doesn't get much more Danish than that, does it?
  • Thrash less food because it's gone bad. I'm guilty of doing that way too much, and it a) makes for a food budget that's probably a lot bigger than it ought to be and b) I feel bad when I do it. It's thoughtless and overflow-ish in a way I don't like, so I'll try to be more aware of what I have lying around and use it/freeze it/give it away before it's gone'rs. Starting with that big tub of mascarpone from New Years...
  • Find the recipe for Ranch dressing I've been looking for...
  • Make stock! Vegetable, veal and chicken - and maybe fish. And actually keep some handy, throughout the year (am I clashing with no. 7 here?) Shall this be the year of the death of Touch of Taste? (a liquid stock thing)
  • Cook fish, at least once a week. Or, maybe, eat fish, at least once a week. Because it's good for me. And Martin, too.
  • And oh, the agony: It has been suggested that my cookbook collection is ever-expanding, and the basket of magazines ain't getting no smaller as the years go by. So. I know this is probably going to be somewhere near IMPOSSIBLE for me to keep, but I'll try. I'll try not to buy any cookbooks. Like Jennifer said, gifted ones are of course perfectly acceptable. As are magazines, bought myself or gifted ones. C'mon, you don't want me totally deprived and depressed, do you?
Let's see how it goes, shall we?:-)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Dining with the Bloggers - January 3rd., 2007

It's been a while, hasn't it? So with no further apologies or ado's, I bring you DwB - once more, with feeling!

This week, it's Shauna, or as you might better know her, Gluten-Free Girl that's in the spotlight. It's not like she needs her horn tooted - c'mon, the woman's got herself a bookdeal, people! - but well - this dish (and several other on her blog - and just the blog in general, m'kay?) certainly deserves a brass band with matching chorus. This is a woman with a passion for food - taste, smell, texture and just plain writing about it. It has to be gluten-free, but that certainly doesn't leave nothing left to wish for for the gluten-eaters among us. Oh yes, and she's a little passionate about the Chef, too ;-)

But this is about the food - to be more specific, it's about Chicken Thighs in Pomegranate Molasses.

Ah - the dish, the dish!

I'm telling you - it's good! And it was pretty fast in the making, too. I had a bottle of pomegranate syrup in my cupboard - okay, it had been lounging in there for quite some time - so when I saw this recipe, I bookmarked it immediately. (if you want to go all the way and make your own, there's a recipe for it here)

Amazing organic chicken...

Good thing I did, too. A wholly sublime taste, and a perfect combo of sweet, sour, bitter and salt (even though I almost forgot to add salt!) The nuts take on a funny texture once they've boiled with the sauce, so I might just roast them on the side next time, and then add them at the end, just before serving. I'm not sure the taste of the sauce will be exactly the same then, though, and I wouldn't want to miss out on that. Also, I'm pretty sure I remember what I used to be the upper part of the thigh, and not thigh as such - it worked wonderfully, either way. Braising really works with chicken, I agree, Shauna.

I served it, sliced, alongside this salad (somebody aren't too keen on livers, but the whole beast goes down well) waaaaaay back in August, but I can just imagine what it will be like now, when it's all grey and rainy and winter-y outside, topping a big bowl og creamy mashed potatoes... Mmm.

Nuts for the sauce..., well, nuts in the sauce and I'm pretty nuts about the sauce, too

Now, I have to dash - that bacon vinaigrette is calling me...