Monday, January 25, 2010

Parmesan-Herb Popovers

From The Art & Soul of Baking

Makes 12 popovers Popovers are culinary sleight of hand. Their simple ingredients and mixing method belie the great heights to which they rise during baking, puffing up like crispy brown balloons. A popover pan is designed to optimize that rise, with tall narrow cups that force the batter upward. The recipe here gives instructions for baking popovers in a regular muffin pan; the variation uses a popover pan.

Although they don’t rise as high when baked in a muffin pan, they develop a rounded depression at the bottom that, when turned upside down, is the perfect spot for some sautéed mushrooms or a generous spoonful of soft-scrambled eggs. If you like, leave out the cheese and rosemary and fill the depression with your favorite jam.

1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (1 ounce) freshly grated
Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Standard 12-Cup Muffin Pan, Medium Bowl, Whisk, Silicone or Rubber Spatula, 2-Cup Liquid Measuring Cup, Cooling Rack, Small Offset Spatula (Optional)

Getting Ahead
All of the ingredients may be measured in advance, but do not combine them until you are ready to bake the popovers.

1 Preheat the oven to 450°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the muffin pan with melted butter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray. Once the oven is fully heated, heat the prepared muffin pan in the oven for 7 minutes.
2 In the medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, melted butter, flour, and salt until well blended. Add the cheese and rosemary and blend well.
3 Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the measuring cup. Remove the pan from the oven and close the oven door. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 400°F and continue to bake for 15 minutes longer, until the popovers are puffed and deep golden brown. Cool the pan on a rack for a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan with a spoon or small offset spatula and serve hot.

Popovers do not hold or store well, so plan on enjoying them when they are fresh from the oven. If they have cooled, reheat them briefly in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until warm.

Classic Popovers
This variation uses the classic popover pan. The deep wells in the pan need more batter, so you’ll need to double the recipe above. Omit the Parmesan cheese and rosemary and increase the salt to ½ teaspoon. Bake for 20 minutes at 450°F, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the popovers are a deep golden brown. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

From The Art & Soul of Baking

Serves 6 to 8

This classic cake has a deep chocolate flavor and close grained, velvety crumb. A great keeper, it’s nice to have on hand in the freezer for that unexpected occasion. The cake can be dressed up with a little Dark Chocolate Ganache (page 412) spooned over the top and allowed to drip alluringly down the sides. Be sure to let the ganache cool to between 85° and 90°F before spooning it over the cake—at that temperature, it is cool enough to run in thick rivulets for a beautiful finish.

For a stunning finish to a special occasion, bake the cake in individual or min bundt pans, glaze with chocolate ganache, then add a tophat of Spun Sugar (page 433).

1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened (65° to 68°F)
1 ¼ cups (8¾ ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon water, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, such as Medaglia d’Oro
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) unsifted unsweetened
Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup (4 ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature

8 ½ by 4 ½-inch Loaf Pan, Parchment Paper, Stand Mixer Fitted with a Paddle Attachment or a Hand Mixer and a Medium Bowl, Silicone or Rubber Spatula, Small Bowl, Fine-Mesh Strainer, Medium Bowl, Whisk, Cooling Rack

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the pan with melted butter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray, and fit it with parchment paper to extend up both long sides to the top of the pan.
2 Cream the butter and sugar: Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium-high until light—almost white—in color, 4 to 5 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.
3 Add the eggs: In the small bowl, stir together the water and espresso powder until smooth. Crack the eggs into the bowl and beat to blend. With the mixer running on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. About halfway through, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then continue adding the eggs. Scrape down the bowl again.
4 Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately: With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the medium bowl and whisk to blend. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; repeat, then finish with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand, if necessary.
5 Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.

The cake can be made several days ahead and kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap. Or double-wrap it, put in a resealable plastic freezer bag, and freeze for up to 8 weeks.

Individual Chocolate Velvet Bundt Cakes
Use an individual Bundt cake pan (with six 1-cup molds) and follow the instructions for the Individual Bundt Cakes variation (page 312), but bake for 16 to 19 minutes. See recipe introduction for finishing ideas. Makes 6 individual Bundt cakes.

Mini Chocolate Velvet Bundt Cakes
Use a mini Bundt pan (with twelve ¼-cup molds) and follow the instructions for the Mini Bundt Cakes variation (page 312), baking for 13 to 15 minutes. See recipe introduction for finishing ideas. Makes about 18 mini Bundt cakes.

What The Pros Know
The addition of espresso here is not just an enticement for caffeine addicts. Full-bodied, bitter espresso is often paired with dark chocolate because it deepens and enhances the flavor, making it taste even more, well, chocolaty. You won’t notice the coffee flavor, but if you leave it out, the cake will have a lighter chocolate profile. If you wish to omit the espresso, try adding 1 teaspoon pure chocolate extract, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shrimp and Pork Dumplings with Spicy Dipping Sauce

From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

Prep 30 to 45 min | cook time (per batch) 20 minutes |
Makes about 40 dumplings | serves 4–6

Asian dumplings are fun to make and to eat, and ready-made wrappers can be found in the refrigerated or frozen-food section of many supermarkets. Asian dumplings can be boiled, braised and browned in a skillet, or steamed. These are complemented by a spicy dipping sauce.

Small Saucepan, Small Strainer, Food Processor, Rimmed Sheet Pan, Parchment Paper, Large Skillet, Tongs, 1 or 2 Bamboo Steamers, Pot Holder

½ cup dried (about ½ ounce) shiitake mushroom slices
4 ounces shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 ounces ground pork (not too lean)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 teaspoons peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon crushed or grated garlic
¼ teaspoon sugar
¹⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 (10-ounce) package refrigerated or frozen round wonton wrappers or square gyoza skins (about 50)
6 to 8 whole Napa cabbage leaves

Spicy Dipping Sauce
¹⁄3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon chile oil

1. Make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine the mushrooms with water to cover (about 1 cup) and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes, or until softened. Drain in a small strainer placed over a bowl, reserving the soaking liquid for soup. Spread the mushrooms on a clean kitchen towel and blot dry. Finely chop the mushrooms.

2. In a food processor, pulse the shrimp until finely chopped but not pureed. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, shrimp, pork, shallot, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, and black pepper. Insert a chopstick or the round handle of a wooden spoon into the mixture and pull it straight across once or twice to mix the ingredients. Then use the chopstick or handle to stir the mixture gently in one direction until well mixed.

3. Have ready a small bowl of warm water. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Lightly flour a flat work surface, and lay a wrapper on the surface. Top the wrapper with a rounded teaspoon of the filling, placing it off center. Using your fingertip or a small brush, moisten half of the edge of the wrapper with the warm water. If using a round wrapper, fold it in half to make a half circle. If using a square wrapper, fold it in half to make a triangle. Pinch the center closed first. Using your fingertips, make 2 pleats on the front (side facing you) flap of the wrapper and press to close. (You can skip the pleats, see Tips, following). Alternatively, bring the corners of both sides of the bottom of the triangle together and seal. Stand the dumpling on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat to make more dumplings until you have used up all of the filling. As you put the dumplings on the sheet pan, make sure they are not touching, or they will stick together. If you have leftover wrappers, they can be frozen for another use. At this point, the dumplings can be frozen. Place them on a rimmed sheet pan lined with heavyduty aluminum foil and freeze solid, then peel them off the foil and store them in a resealable plastic freezer bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw before steaming.

4. Half fill a large skillet or sauté pan with water and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage leaves a few at a time and blanch for 1 minute, or until wilted. Using tongs, transfer 150 the leaves to a plate and let cool. Lay the cooled leaves in a single layer, overlapping them slightly, in the bottom of 1 or 2 bamboo steamers. Arrange as many dumplings as will fit comfortably, without touching, on top of the leaves.

5. Place the bottom of a steamer in a large wok and add just enough water so that the rim, but not the mesh, of the steamer touches the water. If using a second tier, place it on top of the first and cover it; otherwise, just press the top in place. Place the wok on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and steam the dumplings for 18 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, combine the soy, vinegar, water, and chile oil and stir to mix. Set aside in small serving bowls.

7. When the time is up, test the dumplings for doneness: Uncover the steamer, remove 1 dumpling, and cut it open. The filling should be cooked through and the dumpling light and tender.

8. To serve, slide the steamer (or each steamer) onto a round platter using a pot holder. Serve the dumplings directly from the baskets, and eat the cabbage leaves along with the dumplings. Either spoon the sauce over the dumplings once they’re served or place individual bowls of sauce on the table for dipping.

The Many Ways to Wrap a Dumpling Dumpling wrappers are variously called dumpling skins, wonton wrappers, and gyoza wrappers. Examine them carefully before buying. The thicker wrappers are good for boiled dumplings, whereas the thinner ones are better for steamed or fried dumplings. Although round and square wrappers are traditionally used for different fillings, they can be used interchangeably.

Chinese steamed dumplings are typically pleated along their edges, so that the steam can puff them up without the delicate wrapper tearing. (If they do break open during steaming, you have probably used too much filling.) The pleating can be omitted in favor of simply pressing the edges together firmly; be sure you underfill the dumplings slightly, or they will break open while steaming. Or, look for a molded plastic dumpling maker, a hinged tool that pleats and presses a Chinese dumpling with one easy motion.

Why Stir in One Direction?
It may sound overly fussy, but stirring the dumpling filling in one direction is important. It blends the ingredients together thoroughly without compacting them, which is what happens if you stir them in more than one direction. Your filling will be lighter and more tender as a result. Apply this same technique to meat loaf, meatball, and pâté mixtures.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fennel and Orange Salad with Fresh Cranberries and Green Apple

From Knives Cooks Love: How to Buy, Sharpen, and Use Your Most Important Kitchen Tool

Bright, tangy, and full of flavors, this slawlike salad will jazz up a pork, chicken, or turkey main course. It also lets you hone your fennel slicing and orange-segmenting skills. Reducing the orange juice is the key to the dressing’s intense flavor.

Serves 4 as a side dish

²⁄3 cup fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons sugar
3 navel or blood oranges (or a mix)
1 fennel bulb
¼ small red onion
1 small Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (see page 132)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
Freshly ground black pepper

Set a cutting board in a large rimmed baking sheet (to catch any runaway cranberries). Cut the berries in half, cupping your hand over the spine of the knife to help prevent berries from popping off the board. Continue chopping them to medium-coarse pieces, as for a relish. Put the cranberries in a small bowl and toss with the sugar. Let macerate for about 20 minutes as you prepare the restof the ingredients.

Working over a bowl, segment the oranges (see page 150). Pick out any stray seeds. Separate the orange segments from their juice, reserving both in separate bowls. Peel away the outer layer of fennel if it isscuffed up or very fibrous. Quarter and core the fennel, and cut it into very thin crosswise slices (see page 119); you should have 2 to 2 ½ cups. Put the fennel in a large bowl. Cut the onion into very thin crosswise slices until you get ¼ cup (see page 94), and add it to the bowl.

Peel the apple and cut it into ³⁄8-inch-thick slices (see page 139). Cut the slices into ³⁄8- inch julienne strips and then crosswise into ³⁄8-inch dice; you should have 1 cup. Add the apple to the bowl with the fennel. Add the parsley to the bowl as well.

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, and a generous pinch of salt in a small dish. Pour the reserved orange juice into a very small saucepan. Give the orange segments a gentle squeeze to release additional juice and add the juices to the pan. Bring the juice to a simmer and let it reduce down to a thin, syrupy consistency, 2 to 3 minutes; you should have about 1 tablespoon of juice. Add it to the oil mixture.

Sprinkle the fennel mixture with the ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Scrape the cranberries, along with any juices, into the bowl. Add the orange segments (but not their juices, if any) and toss gently. Whisk the dressing and drizzle it over the salad. Toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours. Taste and add salt if needed before serving.