Monday, January 24, 2011

Tortillas - Flour

Authentic MexicanOver the next several months I will be working my way through Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican Cookbook. I got this cookbook for Christmas from my mom. She's been asking when am I going to make some Mexican dishes so I told her if she got this for me for Christmas I would use it for my next cookbook project. In case you didn't know, I'm half Mexican and that is why she was asking.

The first section of the cookbook is actually for sauces and condiments. I decided to skip that chapter since I wasn't sure what to use the sauces and condiments for. I am thinking some of the recipes later in the cookbook might reference one of them and I'll make it at that time. I decided to skip over to the tortillas section and start with something simple at least to me. I'm not new to making flour tortillas. I helped my mom make them many times growing up but she would always make the dough (masa) and I would usually help with the cooking and eating part. There's nothing like fresh flour tortillas smothered in melted butter.

There's really not much to making flour tortillas. Flour, water, salt, and shortening is all you need and every recipe is pretty much the same. I used a mix of lard and vegetable shortening as recommended in the cookbook since I had both in my cupboard but Rick says you can really use either one. There's a bit of a trick to getting the balls of dough nice and round which Rick doesn't explain in his cookbook but I know from experience and it's a bit hard to explain without the use of video so I won't but I may take a video later when I make these again.

I always liked watching tortillas cook. You never know what kind of bubbles will surface while they're cooking. If you're lucky you will get a huge bubble that covers the entire surface of the tortilla. It doesn't happen very often but I managed to get one of those which is pictured below. Rick doesn't mention it but you should pop any large bubbles that appear mainly so you don't accidentally burst it while you flip or remove the tortilla from the pan because you're sure to get burned.

I ended up making a dozen tortillas and made bean and cheese burritos for dinner. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with the rest of them, maybe just eat them with butter and/or make some breakfast burritos next weekend.

Masa Cooking Tortillas
Tortilla Stack

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook Review

newlywed collage

This was my second cookbook project, the first being The Herbfarm Cookbook. I made two recipes from each section with the exception of two sections: The meat, poultry and seafood section was much larger than the others so I made four from it and the brunch section, not because the section was so large but because there were so many good looking recipes in it and couldn't decide on just two. I tried 17 recipes in all, a few more than I did in my previous cookbook project. All of the recipes turned out pretty good, some better than others. I followed the recipes pretty closely and only made substitutions and omissions in a couple of them. My top three favorites were the zucchini fritters, kale soup, and berry tart. Mark's favs were the fried chicken, mac & cheese and the berry tart. As you can see, the berry tart was a favorite of both of ours and was our overall favorite. It was the most recent one I made and there's not much left of it!

Mixed in with the recipes are short stories from various married couples in the food industry from authors to chefs and restaurant owners. I recognized a few of the names of people I've met over the past couple of years like Kathy Casey, Shauna James Ahern (Gluten Free Girl), Thierry Rautureau (Chef in the Hat), and Kate McDermott. At the end of each story, the couples give advice for newlyweds and say what their favorite things are in the kitchen. Having these little stories makes this more that just a cookbook and are fun to read. The end of each section contained a sample menu that included three to five recipes from the book with page numbers. I didn't do any of these menu lists and didn't really find it very helpful. Seemed like doing that many recipes at one time would be a little too much work for one meal but others may find it helpful.

I was glad to see at least some of the recipes had photos which always helps to see what the dish is supposed to look like though a few of mine didn't look quite the same but were still tasty. I've met the author, Lorna Yee, a few times in person and also follower her on Twitter and Facebook so I felt comfortable asking for suggestions or clarifications on the recipes. I emailed her before I began the project to let her know I was doing it. I asked for a list of her favs and if there were any recipes that were ok to post on my blog. She replied with a lengthy list of her favorites which I made a few of but there were so many that I didn't make them all. She also sent a short list of recipes that can be found online and ok to post on my blog. I only made one of those and it's noted below.

I almost forgot to mention that Lorna must really like bacon because several of the recipes I made had bacon in them. I am sure I ate more bacon over the past couple of months than I have eaten since I was born. I have never been a big bacon fan and always choose sausage over bacon for breakfast. But it went well with all the recipes I made with it.

- Great photos
- Entertaining stories
- Fun section titles
- All the recipes sounded good and weren't too complicated

- Some instructions weren't descriptive enough
- Some of the serving numbers seemed to be a little off on some of the recipes

Carry me over the threshold - Starters & Snacks
Zucchini Fritters with Tangy Yogurt Sauce
Chicken and Chorizo Empanadas

For better or for worse - Budget-Friendly Soups, Salads & Sandwiches
Kale, White Bean, and Sausage Soup
Roasted Tomato Soup with Rosemary Croutons

The morning after - Scones, Biscuits & Other Brunch Goodies
Smoked Salmon Frittata
Cheddar, Ham and Dill Biscuits
Pina Colada Pancakes

Who gets the remote? - Comforting Meals for Lazy Nights
My Award-Winning Four-Cheese Mac-and-Cheese
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup *includes recipe*

Losing the newlywed - Healthful Vegetable Side Dishes
Roasted Parmesan Broccoli with Toasted Bread Crumbs
Maple-Roasted Root Vegetables with Sherry Vinegar

Something bold, something new - Meat, Poultry & Seafood Dishes
The Ultimate Roasted Chicken
Ultra-Crispy Secret Fried Chicken
Paprika-Spiced Hungarian Beef Goulash
Chicken Potpies with Cheddar-Thyme Crusts

Happily ever after - Desserts & Sweets
Dad's Favorite Carrot Cake with Whiskey Praline Cream Filling
Marionberry Blueberry Tart with Honeyed Creme Fraiche

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blueberry Tart with Honeyed Creme Fraiche

Blueberry Tart with Honeyed Creme FraicheThis will be my last recipe to blog from The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook. I've completed at least 2 recipes from each section and it's time to move onto another cookbook, but I will write another post later this week summarizing this project.

This last recipe was one of our favorites. The recipe is actually for a Marionberry tart but says any berries would work; so I went with blueberries because I still have a bunch of blueberries we picked last year at Life Mountain Blueberries in the freezer. This was my first time making a tart other than the tart in Chef Robin Leventhal's class I took last month. I had just got a tart pan for Christmas so it arrived just in time for this recipe.

The honey creme fraiche that was drizzled on top was actually made with sour cream because I couldn't find creme fraiche and couldn't seem to get it to thicken so instead of putting a spoon of it on the tart, I drizzled it on instead. I'm surprised how difficult creme fraiche is to find. I guess sour cream is used pretty often as a substitute. I'm not sure I've ever actually had creme fraiche so I don't know how close sour cream is in taste but it tasted great mixed with honey and drizzled over the top of the tart.

This is one recipe that is pictured in the cookbook and I found the topping of my tart didn't come out like that in the picture. Most likely because I used more berries and also because I didn't use all of the custard on one tart but saved some for a small tart that I made with the leftover crust dough. Even though it didn't look the same, it tasted great.

Pie WeightsI also got to use my new pie weights that I got for Christmas for the first time. I did have a little trouble with the wax paper sticking to the top of the crust but it turned out just fine since the berries covered it up. The recipe didn't say to bake the tart crust or the filled tart on a cookie sheet but I did anyway and am glad I did because some butter, probably from the crust, leaked out and onto the cookie sheet. It would have been all over my oven if I hadn't so I was glad I did that. Maybe it was supposed to be assumed but I am used to recipes saying to do that.

Mark and I are not fans of super sweet desserts and this one was just the right amount of sweet. I had to hold him back from eating the whole tart in one night. I think it was probably his favorite recipe I've made from the cookbook and might be mine too.

Blueberry Tarts Ready to Bake
Blueberry Tarts Cooling

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Linzer Cookies with Spiced Jam

I received several foodie magazines recently with lots of holiday cookie recipes. One in particular from the December issue of Food & Wine magazine jumped out at me for Linzer cookies. I've never made or even had these cookies before but they looked and sounded wonderful so I decided to make some to bring to a New Years Eve/Birthday party. They were a huge success. Several people complemented me on them and a few asked for the recipe so I decided to post it here.

I had never even heard of Linzer cookies before so I Googled them to get more info on where they came from. They have kind of a German sounding name. Linzer is made as a torte for the holidays in Austrian, Hungarian, Swiss, German and Tirolean traditions and the cookie version is more traditionally made in North America.

I followed the recipe from the magazine for the most part. I substituted orange zest for lemon zest and used a different jam than the recipe specified. Seedless raspberry jam was the suggested preserve but I used my homemade fig jam on some as well as my mom's homemade blackberry jam for the rest. I think any jam would probably work well for these cookies.

The cookie dough was pretty tasty raw too. It reminded me a lot of a dough that was used for frangipane tart in my cooking class with Chef Robin Leventhal except we used almonds in that crust instead of hazelnuts. I might try making a tart using this cookie dough and see how that comes out. Just not sure what to fill it with yet.

Linzer CookiesIngredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp finely grated lemon (or orange) zest
1 1/4 cups hazelnuts with skin
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
confectioners sugar for dusting
3/4 cup jam/preserves
1/4 tsp anise seeds, ground in spice grinder
1/4 tsp ground coriander

In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the granulated sugar at medium speed until creamy. Add the egg yolks and zest and beat until smooth. In a food processor, combine the hazelnuts with the bread flour and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the cinnamon and cloves and pulse to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and beat on low speed until smooth. Pat the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Working in batches if necessary, roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Using a 2 inch round cutter stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Using a small decorative cookie cutter or smaller round cutter, stamp out the centers of half of the cookies. Transfer the whole cookies to 1 prepared baking sheet and the cut-out cookies to another.

Bake the cookies in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheets. Meanwhile, refrigerate the scraps until chilled and reroll, stamp out more cookies and bake.

Dust the tops of the cut-out cookies with confectioners sugar. In a small bowl, whisk the preserves with the ground anise seeds and coriander. Spoon the preserves onto the whole cookies, cover with sugar dusted cookies and serve.

Linzer Cookies