25 January 2010

In which failure becomes perfection...

...or at least better.

The other day at the supermarket I saw, and immediately purchased, some Devon cream. While Little Miss Picky-pants wrongly believes that it is gross, I love it - on scones, on toast, on pancakes, on French toast, and sometimes, when no one is looking, even on a spoon. This purchase got me thinking about scones, and other tea-time accoutrement. And I started to wish for some lime curd to go on my scones.

It should be noted that I have not yet made scones, I am hoping to convince one of my sisters to do my dirty (or floury?) work for me.

While ruminating on the yummy goodness of citrusy, custardy, fruit curd, I remembered that I had some Ruby Red Grapefruit syrup in my cupboard. It was supposed to be jelly, but never set up. Yes, sometimes my kitchen projects don't work like they are supposed to - G. is still happy to tell everyone about my high school kitchen learning curve.

So I have this grapefruit syrup languishing for want of use. But I have never made a fruit curd, or really much of anything that requires tempering of eggs. And none of the recipes start with failed jelly. I am not afraid, though ...much.

Off to the internet for research. I first checked Tea & Cookies, my favorite-est food blog, because she has written about both Lemon Curd and Raspberry Curd. Ok, now I have two different methods for curd-ing. Next on to Saveur, which sends me to theKitchn. It now appears that everyone does curd a little differently.

Ok, well I will just dive in then. Heat the syrup and the butter. Beat the eggs. Slowly, oh so slowly, add about half a cup of the heated citrus to the eggs, and whisk all the while. Slowly, again so slowly, whisk the eggs back into the pan. Hold your breath. And whisk. Switch hands and whisk some more. Look closely. Is that egg white? Oh well, it is going to be strained out anyway. Whisk some more. Has it been twenty minutes yet? Strain. Pour into sterilized jar.

Now I can lick the bowl. Hmm, better taste it again... I think I could taste it better if I had a spoon. I guess it is ok. Hey, look! I made grapefruit curd!

Now, if I can just convince G. to make those scones... while I clean out that bowl... with my fingers... so yummy!!

Update: G. rocks!!!

23 January 2010

Cooking our way through...

My sisters and I were talking and we think that we have way too many cookbooks - good, interesting cookbooks - that we hardly ever use. So we have decided that we will cook our way through one this winter. We are not going the Julie & Julia route, with a time limit and every recipe in the book - we (ok, I) don't ascribe to a need for that much structure. We were somewhat limited in our selection as well, because G. is a vegetarian, so we had to pick one of our vegetarian or vegan cookbooks - this limited us to about twelve out of over a hundred.

We decided on this one. We liked the layout, the ingredients weren't over-the-top expensive or hard to find, and we wanted to go with one that we didn't already use a lot, so no Moosewood or Vegan With A Vengeance. The whole point - or at least one of the points - of this project is that we need to make better use of what we have. So starting tomorrow we are going to pick at least one recipe from the book for every supper during the week and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. This means more planning of meals, which is something that we have been trying to do more of anyway - and I am a particular fan of, as there is nothing I hate more than "I don't know," when I ask what to make for dinner. We will not be super religious about following the recipes - M. is allergic to anything remotely resembling a nut and G. maintains her title of Little Miss Picky-pants with fervor - but the effort here is to appreciate and make use of what we have, so this is a start anyway.

21 January 2010

If I were a fruit...

...I would be a blood orange.

I know I have said it before, though maybe not here in this public forum, but it remains true - I would be a blood orange. I love January - not for my birthday, though I do like presents; not for the various winter sports, though I am a fan of the warm beverages that follow them; not for the return to school, though I am usually ready for the mental re-stimulation the beginning of a new semester brings. I love January because it is citrus season, and that means blood oranges. Sweet, tangy, rich, lovely blood oranges.

Like so may things I love they are a mutant. Their beauty comes from abnormality - a pigment not found in other citrus.

A deep staining red.



Beauty on the tongue.


10 January 2010

Holiday Recap... There was cake!

For the holidays, my sisters and I had incompatible schedules, so my Dad, Grandma, and youngest sister came from Wyoming to visits us. For me the holidays are about family, those you are born into and those you make. This holiday I had a wonderful time with the family I was born into, and terribly missed much of the family I have made – scattered as we are from DC to China, Wyoming to Arizona, and many zip codes in between. The visit from the Wyomingites kicked off with a birthday party for my youngest sister, C., the day that they got here (the day after her birthday).The hit of the party was this cake:

Grand-Maman’s Chocolate Cake
adapted from Chocolate by Nick Malgieri

3 large eggs
¾ c. sugar
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
4 ½ oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ c. all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, until very light and increased in volume. This works better if your eggs are at room temperature before you start – the light and fluffy will not happen as quickly if they are too cold. Whip in the butter and beat until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.

The chocolate is where I diverged from the recipe – I melted my butter in with the chocolate to make it melt more smoothly, and then added them both in together and beat the batter until smooth. I don’t know how much of a difference this makes, but the cake was a ginormous hit, so I would say it didn’t hurt it any.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the flour by hand. This is to maintain the light fluffiness achieved by all that whipping. Scrape into an 8 inch round cake pan that has been buttered and floured (I cheat and use the spray that has flour in it – it has worked so far, and I actually think it is better – I don’t miss spots as easily) and smooth the top. Bake in a 350º oven for about 30 minutes. It should still be moist in the center, so a toothpick test might not come out clean, but it should be well risen and firm.

Cool in the pan for about 5 min, then turn out onto a wire rack. I liked the crackly looking top, so I flipped mine back over, instead of cooling it inverted, but if you want a smoother presentation, cool it top down and make sure that the pan side is facing up when you transfer it to a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

I served mine with French Vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. And it was super tasty. In fact, my dad, who doesn’t like cake, ate all the leftovers during their visit. Which is a testament to how awesome it was, not to how uncakelike it was, in case you were wondering.

We continued to do touristy things and family things and the sisters, all 4 of us, made a lovely Christmas dinner of turkey and the trimmings. I have to say, working in the kitchen with my lovely sisters really made my Christmas.

05 January 2010

Place holder...

I have several posts brewing about the holidays - with recipes, the new year - with lists, and my upcoming birthday - with reminisces. But my new reading obsessions of Deanna Raybourn, Tasha Alexander, and Elizabeth Peters (the Amelia Peabody Mysteries) have precluded writing of my own. I am attempting to get these obsessions under control by the time the semester starts, luckily I read very quickly. So, until then a poetry place holder to fit my reading mood...

HE rain set early in to-night,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me--she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could to-night's gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshiped me; surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time by shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria's love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!
      ~Robert Browning (1812-1889)