Archive for November, 2012

Quick N Easy Chunky Cranberry Sauce

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Cranberry Sauce is another element of Thanksgiving Dinner that deserves the personal touch of being homemade.  For years I have followed my mother’s recipe for a cranberry jelly, which is good, but is difficult to get just right and if undercooked, never really gels and goes to the table as a cranberry syrup that tends to be ignored.

This year, I decided to go off-recipe and create my own.  A couple of elements that I decided were crucial: it should be easy to execute, capture the tartness of the cranberries, and have some body to it.  If I hit those points, I reasoned, it would be a garnish that would make its way onto everyone’s plate.

The bowl was empty at the end of the first meal of leftovers.

Quick N Easy Chunky Cranberry Sauce

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
  • 4 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 shot whiskey
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • grated zest of 2 tangerines (or of 1 orange)
  1. In a large saucepan, fry the minced ginger in the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the ginger starts to take on a bit of a golden brown hue.
  2. Add 4 1/2 cups cranberries into the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped (several minutes).
  3. Add the shot of whiskey and light it on fire with a burning wooden skewer. Let it flame off. This will caramelize the sugars in a way that simply boiling it will not accomplish.
  4. Stir in the brown sugar and the citrus zest. Once these have been stirred in, simmer without stirring for about 7 minutes or until the sauce has taken on a very thick and bubbly appearance, sort of like lava looks in a low-budget film.
  5. Remove to a heat-safe glass bowl. Let cool briefly at room temperature before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating overnight.

I’ll admit that some of Angstrom’s culinary proclivities are not ordinary for a two-and-a-half-year-old, but the little man was responsible, I think, for polishing off about a third of this sauce. He was such a fan of it that I actually didn’t get to eat quite as much of it as I would have liked to, so I am going to have to make another batch soon… maybe for Christmas; this recipe would also go quite nicely with ham.

Revolutionary Roasted Mushroom Pumpkin Pie

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

You may have noticed that another year has come and gone without me being invited to share my Thanksgiving tips on NPR.  I can’t say that I blame them.  I don’t have a book or a TV show, and it’s not like I’ve got a publicist or a manager booking high profile appearances for me.  So what makes me think I might deserve an invitation to appear on All Things Considered?  Because this pie is just the start of the meal.

Revolutionary Roasted Mushroom Pumpkin Pie capitalizes on the savory aspects of pumpkin and elevates your Thanksgiving appetizer course to a new level.

Revolutionary Roasted Mushroom Pumpkin Pie
A New Classic is Born in this Savory Appetizer Pie

  • 2 cups prepared pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed roasted mushrooms seasoned with spices and rosemary (see note at end of recipe)
  • 3 eggs
  • 12 oz evaporated goat milk
  • 4 oz cow milk
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • black pepper to taste
  • homemade crust for a one crust pie (see note at end of recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Beat the eggs with the salt and spices.
  3. Add the evaporated goat milk and the cow milk, stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the prepared pumpkin and the roasted mushrooms.
  5. Roll out the pie crust, drape into a 9-inch pie pan. Pour pumpkin mixture into crust. Bake at 450 for the first 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 40-45 minutes or until the filling has mostly set (it should have puffed up slightly, have a thicker, jelled consistency, and be dull in color except for the very center of the pie).
  6. Let cool to room temperature on a rack before covering and refrigerating. Optional garnish: serve with lightly salted whipped cream
Notes on Recipe
Roasted Mushrooms

For the purpose of this recipe, I used a mix of crimini, oyster, royal trumet, and maitake mushrooms.  I sliced them to roughly 1/2-inch pieces and seasoned them before the roast with salt, pepper, ginger, and a generous pour of olive oil, tossing them until they were coated with spices and oil.  Their pre-roast volume was approximately 4-4 1/2 cups, enough to mostly fill a standard half sheet tray.  I roasted them at 375 F for approximately 45 minutes, stirring them after 15, 25, 35, and 40 minutes; moving the pieces from the edge of the tray into the center to maximize caramelization and avoid scorching.  Immediately upon removing the finished mushrooms from the oven, I tossed them with 1/4 cup minced rosemary.

Pie Crust

A homemade pie crust is always superior to a store bought crust, as it shows a level of care and pride that can not be matched with a manufactured product.  Furthermore, you can determine the ingredients in a homemade crust.  I like to season my crusts with the same spices that I use in the pies.  I also use butter as the fat in my crusts.  Should you choose to use butter, be certain to keep the crust entirely contained in the pan as butter is a soft fat and anything hanging over the edges will droop, drip, and drop to the bottom of the oven, setting off your smoke detectors and creating a mess that will need to be cleaned.

Whipped Cream

Beat 4 oz heavy whipping cream with 1/4 tsp salt and a sprinkling each of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Please share this page with everyone you know (especially if you know Steve Inskeep and Robert Siegel). Just be certain to give me credit—I don’t want to hear Nigella Lawson giving this recipe over the air!

A Basic Sourdough

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Several years ago, when I was still working in a restaurant where I occasionally had a shift baking, I did pretty well at maintaining a sourdough starter.  Then, and it’s tough to remember the exact sequence of events, but I think that breaking my leg was somehow involved, I killed the yeast.  Found it one day submerged in a pool of pink slime.  I can’t say I was really devastated, or even surprised.  I’d gotten off track with my starter, hadn’t even glanced at it in well nigh a month at that point.

Still, it was nice to be able to whip up bread with nothing but flour, water, and salt.

I’ve been maintaining a new starter for about a month now.  It was a gift from Brett (of the chocolate sourdough fame) and it has been pretty easy to maintain.  So far, at least.  And I’ve made some fantastic bread and an amazing pizza crust from the resulting dough.

It’s often been said that baking is a science and one must rigorously follow formulae to get the desired result.  I disagree.  If I were to have rigorously followed the formula for pain au levain that I used as a starting point for my dough making, I’d have come up with a ‘dough’ that more closely resembled a puddle.  “Resist the temptation to add more flour,” the recipe said, “this dough should be quite soft.”  I’m quite content to have ignored that bit of advice.

A couple of batches of bread feeling out the consistency under my belt, I decided to take more careful stock of the measurements.  Perhaps get a formula of my own that is somewhat replicable.  No idea if this will work for you, but it seems to do the trick for me.

Basic Sourdough Formula

  • 38 ounces (by weight) fed starter
  • 3 lb unbleached all purpose flour
  • 25 oz water
  • 2 Tbl kosher salt
  • 4 oz additional flour
  1. Your starter should have been fed within the last 2-6 hours.  You should have measured out about 12 oz of it and returned it to its home in a glass canning jar in the fridge.  The 38 remaining ounces are enough to make about 3 loaves of bread and 2 pizzas.  If that’s more bread than you want, give some of it away, or discard some of the starter and reduce proportionately the remaining ingredients.
  2. Use cold water, preferably water that has had several hours to sit since having come from the tap, so that the chlorine included in most tap water will have had a chance to dissipate.  Or use bottled water if you must, but from a waste reduction standpoint, I would highly encourage against that.  Heat the water to 100 degrees F.
  3. Combine the water and the starter.  Add the flour and mix.  Cover with a clean dishcloth and let sit about 30 minutes.
  4. Mix the salt into the dough by kneading it on a heavily floured surface (that’s what the additional 4 oz of flour are for).  Don’t put all 4 oz down at once.  Start with about 1/3 of it and add more as needed.  When you have a dough that is smooth, elastic, and only a little bit sticky, return it to the bowl, cover it with the dish cloth, and let it rise for an hour or two.
  5. Gently deflate the dough by separating it from the side of the bowl and pushing down on it gently.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 3 days.
  6. Remove from the fridge.  Divide into portions and let sit at room temperature to warm back up.
  7. For pizza:
    1. Grease the bottoms of two standard half sheet trays.  Stretch the dough by hand to cover most of the area.
    2. Spread with sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and add the toppings of your choice.
    3. Bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven for about 30 minutes or until done.
  8. For bread:
    1. Shape loaves.  Let proof for about 30 minutes to an hour.
    2. Heat cast iron pans flipped upside down in a 400 degree F oven, plus a small cast iron pan rightside up at the very bottom.
    3. When the bread has proofed, transfer it to the hot cast iron pan bottoms.  If doing two loaves on the same pan, allow adequate space so that they don’t grow together in the oven.  Should that happen, the parts that are ‘kissing’ will still be doughy when everything else is done.
    4. Pour some water into the rightside up pan and also scatter some on the floor of the oven.  A huge cloud of steam will result.  Close the oven door quickly to keep it contained.  Watch out for steam burns!
    5. Set the timer for 20 minutes.  When it rings, remove the pan of water from the oven.  Steam for the first 20 minutes will help to produce a beautiful crust, but you need dry heat to finish it.  Set the timer for another 20 minutes.
    6. The bread is done when golden brown with a crackling crust and it sounds hollow when thumped from beneath.  Remove it to a rack to cool.

If you want to know how to start a sourdough starter, there are plenty of great resources that you can find to guide you.  Strange but true culinary school tidbit… when I was in the baking rotation of culinary school, the sourdough recipe they taught involved no starter.  Instead, they added pickle juice to the dough to give it tang.  I was incensed.  “That’s not a real sourdough!” I protested.  The chef instructor said, “wait til you taste the bread.  That dough really is sour!”