Eggs make magic — they also make Cheesy Multigrain Popovers

Eggs make magic. If you’ve whipped egg whites into stiff, glossy peaks, you know this. If you’ve ever put a souffle in the oven, and then pulled it out, puffed and golden and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, you know this. If you’ve ever made a Dutch baby, or a German pancake, you know. And this is why I am obsessed with popovers. With some flour, milk, butter, and most importantly, eggs, a popover recipe gives you a bread to go with dinner (or breakfast or brunch), with minimal planning, impressive results, and so little effort is feels like cheating. Plus, they are so cheerful! But the most addictive part is the way they, well, pop out and over, thanks to the egg action.

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The addiction factor was a strong player in my weekend cooking. I made popovers twice this weekend to go with soup for dinner (French lentil and a roasted parsnip/cauliflower). My first round was using the recipe from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. Have you purchased this cookbook yet? It is inspiring. Also, the recipes yield delicious results. If you’re anything like me, when you get your hands on this book, you’ll pretend to yourself that you are reasonable person and look for recipes that use flours you already have (like rye, so you’ll make the infamous Rye Crumble Bars a couple of times), then you’ll focus on recipes that use a new one you acquire just for that purpose (maybe barley) and then you’ll just give in as your fridge becomes taken over by a whole litany of alternative flours. And this point, you can make the multigrain mix that Kim Boyce calls for in her recipe for multigrain popovers! Luckily, you can use this mix to make her recipe for multigrain waffles (they are good) and a number of other treats that I haven’t tried yet…but it is only a matter of time.

Anyway, those popovers were good. They were especially good ripped open and liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper. However, even as I was enjoying them, my mind couldn’t help wandering to the block of sharp cheddar cheese in the fridge, and imagining the possibility of a merger and acquisition between the two.

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So, Sunday’s dinner brought more popovers. This time, I opted for a less-rich version of the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, only still with the multigrain mix from Good to the Grain, and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Darn it. Just thinking about how tasty and easy these are…I might just have to go make more right now! You should, too.

Cheesy Multigrain Popovers

adapted from the Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rambauer Becker and Ethan Becker,  and Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce and Amy Scattergood.

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup multigrain mix (see below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon warm melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar or Gruyere

Preheat oven to 450. Butter a popover or muffin tin. Whisk together the flours. Whisk the eggs, milk, and butter to combine in a separate bowl, then pour over the flour mixture and fold together until just blended. Fill the popover tins 1/2 full, divide cheese among them, and cover with remaining batter. Bake for 15 minutes at 450, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for 20 more minutes, until well browned and crusty. Leave those guys alone in the oven without opening the oven door for the last 5 minutes of baking. Serve immediately. The recipes I looked at say this should make 8 popovers, but I always got 7.

Multigrain Mix, ala Kim Boyce

Whisk together:

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup oat flour

1/2 cup barley flour

1/4 cup millet flour

1/4 cup rye flour

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A Piece of Cake

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If you looked through our texts, a good portion would be about recipes/cooking

Usually one says the phrase “piece of cake” when referring to an activity that requires little effort to finish or a job that’s simple. It is true that some parts of each of these recipes were a piece of cake but the easiest part of all of was eating them!

The first, a Kransekake, was a cake Megan and have been wanting to make for Christmas Eve and this year we finally did. Kransekake is a traditional Norwegian Wedding Cake which if you’ve grown up in a family with Scandinavian heritage you are probably familiar with. Kransekake is also served at the holidays because of its tree shape. It can be made with as many rings as you like, our set of molds consisted of 18 graduated rings. The dough consists of almond paste (ground up blanched almonds), egg whites and powdered sugar. The dough is then piped into the molds so they are smooth. After the dough is baked and cooled they are assembled into a tower that is held together with icing and then decorated with flags and candies. Nothing about the recipe itself is difficult but the assembly requires patience and steady hands. The cooked dough is very fragile and has a tendency to crack, however, it is just moist enough that it can be smashed back together and with the icing glue, no one ever knows. It had good flavor and was a fun decoration as well as homage to part of our heritage but since we’d had the Feast of the Seven Fishes for dinner, no one was very hungry for dessert.

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Dark and Stormies were the perfect addition to our afternoon of baking!

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The molds

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Starting the pyramid

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Dough is not a perfect medium.

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Sort of a leaning tower cake

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Finished! And all credit goes to Megan who did the bulk of the work. I cheered and provided moral support

After the holidays I decided to make a Galette des rois or King’s Cake for a family dinner which was somewhat close to the Epiphany when this cake is traditionally served. I was inspired by a David Lebovitz post on the topic . Oddly, it was similar to the Kransekake in that it was a light, almond flavored cake. I used pre-made puff pastry making the whole affair quite easy. My puff pastry was quite frozen and I made the mistake of defrosting it in the microwave. Luckily the buttery pastry was forgiving and I was able to salvage it. If you make this, do be sure to spring for the quality puff pasty–the first ingredient should be butter and this will set you back a few pennies–approximately three times as much as the brand the grocery store usually carries–you’ll have to go to a Metropolitan Market/Whole Foods/Tacoma Boys type store to find it.

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Ready for the oven

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Galette des rois or King’s Cake

While we were in Portland over the holidays, Megan found a Maida Heatter cookie book at Powell’s Bookstore. She made one of the cookie recipes on New Year’s Eve and they were fantastic! I found a copy of Best Dessert Book Ever at King’s Book in the Proctor District and yesterday I made Sonrisa Chocolate Cake which is her interpretation of a cake made at the Sonrisa Bakery in Santa Fe, NM. This recipe requires very few ingredients but is a bit fussy to assemble and bake. That being said, it’s worth the fussiness. It has the texture of cheesecake without that richness that always seems a bit too much and without the distraction of the crust. I went ahead and did the 1/2 inch strips of paper on the top to create the powder sugar design but you could easily skip that part and just sprinkle the top all over, but be sure to sprinkle more than you think as the sugar melts into the cake.

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Dried breadcrumbs on the bottom help when removing the cake out of the pan

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If you don’t have a double boiler do what I do and use two saucepans. Just do not get water in your chocolate!

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Two mixers are handy for this recipe. I used my hand mixer for the egg whites.

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Getting the whites to soft peaks

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Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites

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Do not get impatient at this point, cake must be cooled completely

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Fussy parchment paper strips

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Should have been a little more generous with the powdered sugar

Sonrisa Chocolate Cake

8 to 10 portions

Maida Heatter

10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used bittersweet)

4 ounces unsalted butter

6 large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon dark rum

Confectioners sugar (to be sifted on top after the cake is baked)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place oven rack one third up from the bottom. Butter an 8-by-3-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment. Butter the parchment and then dust the entire pan with flour. Sprinkle fine bread crumbs on the bottom of the pan.

The cake is baked in a water bath, so wrap the pan in two layers of aluminum foil–don’t let the foil go over the top of the springform and make sure you wrap it so it is watertight.

Cut the butter and chocolate into small pieces and place in the top of a double boiler over warm water on moderate heat and let cook until partially melted. Then stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove the top and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on high speed for several minutes until the mixture forms a wide ribbon when the beaters are raised. On low speed add the chocolate mixture and the rum and beat, scraping the bowl with a spatula until smooth. Set aside.

If you do not have another mixing bowl, or a hand held mixer, wash your mixing bowl and beater and dry well. In a clean small bowl with clean beaters (so important with egg whites), beat the egg whites until they hold a soft shape. On moderate speed gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and then, on high speed, beat until the whites just hold a straight shape when the beaters are raised. Do not beat any more than necessary.

Stir one fourth of the whites into the chocolate mixture. Then, in two additions, fold in the remaining whites only until just barely blended.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place the pan in another pan that is wider but not deeper. Place in the oven and pour hot water (the water from your double boiler works perfectly) 1 inch deep into the wider pan.

Baker for 15 minutes. Reduce the temp to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more. Reduce the temp to 275 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more. Turn off the oven and prop the door open a few inches and let cake sit for 30 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and the water bath. Remove the foil and let cake stand for several hours at room temp until completely cool.

Run a sharp knife around the edge of the springform pan and then remove the sides of the pan. With a table knife or metal spatula quickly smooth the edges of the cake. Then cover the cake with a cake plate (or the plate you will serve it on) and turn the cake (and the plate) over. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and slowly peel of the parchment paper lining. Leave the cake upside down.

Optional (in my opinion). Make 9 inch by 1/2 inch strips of wax paper. Lay across the top and then sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

Serve at room temperature with a mound of whipped cream on the side (1 cup whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar).

Enjoy!

This post brought to you by the letter “M”

Cherry Mess

As in Meringue!  I’ve always loved macroons and Megan’s, John Hansen, makes a great, chewy macaroon dipped in dark chocolate. Yum! but my meringue obsession has been broadened this summer by a few new recipes.  The first is a delightful concoction called  Cherry Mess that I found on David Lebovitz’s blog.  If you are not a follower of his blog, you really should be– delicious recipes, funny stories–a great read!  Anyway, I made the cherry mess(es) for a family dinner in July and they were delicious.  They consist of a cherry/red wine almond mixture, crisp almond meringues (or not, if you forget to put in the almond like I did the first time I made them), candied sliced almonds and whipped cream with just a hint of almond (or not, if you forget to put it in the second time you made them, notice a theme here?)  The only thing that could have possibly made them better (besides making them correctly each time) would have been if I could have purchased the adorable wine glasses that Crate and Barrel had on their website–that strangely,or not, in my experience, were not for sale anywhere.  But my mom came to the rescue with her boopie glasses, which looked pretty cute, too.  And my brother said they were indeed cherry messes as he ended up wearing a bit down his shirt.

Next new love?  the macaron–which is not macaroon spelled incorrectly, like I thought the first time I saw the word a few years ago.  I’ve tasted some upscale grocery store macarons and have been less than impressed. A few weekends ago I was looking for a couple-of-hours creative project and something to take to dinner at my parents when I remembered a saved Dining section of the New York Times that had a macaron recipe and the not yet used silicon macaron template sheet that Megan  brought me from France.  Perfect!

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The dough is stupidly simple to make–almond flour, egg whites and sugar.  You don’t even need a mixer.  The panic set in when I read those words I dread, “using a pastry bag fitted with a smooth tip” The pastry bag is where most projects involving a pastry bag seem to go to H-E double hockey sticks for me.  Almost as bad as the other four culinary terms that terrify me, “hard crack” and “soft ball”.  But, I kept a positive attitude (or something close) and figured the dough was so simple, if it all went south, no big deal.  It actually went pretty well and the little silicone template sheet worked fantastic, and they actually baked like the recipe said they would.  I was on a roll.

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Now to fill them.  Quick google search (the time to leave for dinner was getting closer) for a macaron filling and the first hit was, of course, a Martha Stewart recipe.  Don’t get me wrong, I have followed Martha Stewart since Entertaining was published (and I have a signed copy that was my dear friend, Sally’s) but I have learned sometimes her recipes don’t quite turn out right.  It only required sugar, egg whites and butter which I had all of and it was pretty simple to assemble. It seemed to turn out a little on the thin side to me and when put in the pastry bag (yes, another), it pretty much ran out.  I refrigerated them for one hour and they set up fine so maybe that’s how it was supposed to turn out, but if that’s the case, tell me in the notes or directions!

When all was said and done, they were delicious little morsels.  Great almond flavor with a rich filling and not a crumb was left after dinner.  Next, I might try a floating island with a delicious creme anglaise sauce…

Go have some fun in the kitchen!

1552Nancy Macarons

Adapted from “Cuisiniere Lorraine” by Elisabeth Denis

Time: About 30 minutes

Yield: Approximately 40 2-inch cookies

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 cup almond four or meal

2 egg whites (large eggs)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or silicone template sheet)

In a medium bowl, make a paste using 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons water.

Add almond meal and unwhisked egg whites and mix. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and mix until thoroughly combined.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a smooth tip; pipe out circles about the size of quarters, spacing each disk at least an inch apart. Rap the pans on the counter a few times to even out batter and eliminate air bubbles.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden but centers are still light and slightly soft.  Let cookies cool on baking sheets for a few minutes to set.

Rhubarb Roundup (part 2)

rhubarb stalks

rhubarb stalks — dino-sized snack

This year the  admission yield season and rhubarb season coincided and I almost missed rhubarb season. There was a time when I would not have been sad about that but I have changed how I feel about rhubarb over the past few years. Years ago, when Jack brought home three of his grandfather’s rhubarb plants, I was not excited or encouraging. As a child, I had an experience with a stalk of rhubarb and a cup of sugar that left an unpleasant memory. The rhubarb pies or rhubarb/strawberry pies I tried over the years seemed slimy or slimy and sour. I was always more than happy to give our rhubarb to anyone who got excited when I said we had rhubarb. A few years ago, I tried the Rhubarb Crisp a la mode with Strawberry Sauce recipe from our local newspaper which was adapted from Sylvia Thompson’s “The Kitchen Garden Cookbook”  and it changed my life.  Next was Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Upside Down Cake–delicious!  My fear of the slimy and sour are gone and now it’s great fun to see what I can make with all my (notice it’s now my) free rhubarb!

When I was in Juneau two summers ago visiting Mitch and Rochele I picked up a cookbook titled “Every Which Way With Rhubarb” by Amanda Brannon.  Until this week the only recipe I had made from the book was a chutney and I was feeling some guilt about yet another cookbook that I haven’t really used, so I pulled it out of the cupboard and took it for a spin.  I do have a rhubarb recipe rule which is it has to use a LOT of rhubarb otherwise it’s not worth putting on the garden clogs and trekking to the side yard with a butcher knife to harvest.  This week I tried two recipes, Rhubarb Crumble Bars which used four cups and Rhubarb Cake II  which used two cups–both were delicious but I really like the Rhubarb Cake II.   It was moist and slightly sweet; a perfect snack cake!

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Every Which Way With Rhubarb by Amanda Brannon

2 cups rhubarb, diced

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda (I always use aluminum free)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.  Combine the rhubarb and 1/2 cup sugar.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cup sugar. Add the eggs and beat until well blended.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla.  Add the milk mixture alternately with the flour mixture to the egg mixture, beating well between additions.  Stir-in the rhubarb mixture.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool slightly and serve warm or room temperature, plain or with ice cream.

Now the Rhubarb Crumble Bars were perfectly nice but vague directions involving cornstarch, water and cooking until “thick” meant my bars were more a crisp and not bar-like.  Would have been delicious with ice cream or whipped cream but you certainly could not eat with your hands. I thought they would be more like Smitten Kitchen’s Kim Boyce’s via Orangette Rye Crumble Bars which are the most amazing thing ever.

Both were taken to work,  as two people do not need to eat that much cake or crumble, despite what Jack says. -Stephanie

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Rhubarb Roundup (part 1)

cherry blossoms

Spring has finally arrived here in the Boston area! It was a cold and snowy winter, but the sunshine, warmth, blossoms, and leaves have finally arrived. So has the rhubarb.

Here in Cambridge, I’ve had my eyes open for rhubarb at the various grocery stores, but have been disappointed by either its absence or its pallor. I’ve also been disappointed by the fact that I have to buy it at all, since last spring I could just have my mom cut me a pound…or ten (check out the photo below). Such is the price of city living.

rhubarb plant

However, I was able to find some lovely, vibrantly-hued rhubarb at Market Basket this past weekend. My next task was to figure out what to make. This was a challenge not for a lack of recipes, but precisely because there are so many good ones out there! I spent an hour (or so…) googling through recipes. Instead of replicating this search each spring season, I thought I’d take the time to organize and post them here.

These recipes fall into two basic categories — “made by one of us,” or “not yet made by one of us, but maybe next weekend.”

Made by one of us:

rhubarb upside down cake – made this several times, it is a great way to show off really red stalks.

lemon buttermilk rhubarb bundt cake – made this several times, it has a pleasantly tart flavor from the lemon, and I like it more with just powdered sugar instead of with a glaze. This is what I ended up making, by the way! It is an easy one to bring into work.

rhubarb pie with orange zest — this is my favorite pie ever.

rhubarb syrup with rosewater – it turns out I’m not the biggest rosewater fan. If you like it, you should make this, or just use a tiny amount.

rhubarb crisp a la mode with strawberry sauce  Stephanie said, “Very tasty–first rhubarb recipe I tried that I liked and wanted to make it again. Has white pepper in it which adds a nice twist.”

vanilla-roasted rhubarb and strawberries – Stephanie made this and said it was delicious, but I didn’t get to try it — this will probably be my next attempt!

rhubarb and raspberry crostata – Steph made this, I did get to try it, and will thusly vouch for its deliciousness.

rustic rhubarb tarts with corn flour – Deb Perelman’s tweaks to Kim Boyce’s recipe from (the amazing) Good to the Grain. The tender dough breaks apart very easily — make sure to have plenty of all-purpose flour on the counter and your hands. Now that I’ve tried the compote with a vanilla bean, I’d like to try the original version with hibiscus.

Not yet:

rhubarb shortcakes 

rhubarb snacking cake

rhubarb hamantaschen from Deb Perelman’s own amazing book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (this isn’t the link to her blog here, though — and again, I haven’t tried this, but thought I’d link with that caveat and the plug that if you buy Deb’s cookbook, you won’t regret it!).

rhubarb salad with goat cheese

simple baked rhubarb 

lemon buttermilk rhubarb bundt cake

And yes, this is just part 1. Stephanie and I had so many rhubarb recipes to share, they couldn’t all be rounded up in one attempt.  Here’s to many more iterations of sweet (and savory) rhubarb creations! -Megan