Tag Archives: zest

Madeleines Turned Petit Almond Citrus Gateau

10 Mar

In a stroke of genius the other week, I remembered that I had not yet used my gifted Madeleine pan.  Chris and I were going to the store anyway, so I found this beautiful recipe at food52.com: Citrus Madeleines.  Instead of a grapefruit, I grabbed an orange and paired it with the lemons already in our fridge.  The first step required lots and lots of zesting.  Towards the end my arms grew tired and I zested my finger a bit – Ouch!

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One of my favorite parts came next: mixing the zest with sugar.  The sugar coated the zest perfectly and it just looked beautiful.

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The rest is your basic baked good recipe.  Mix the dry and the wet separately, and then combine them until just barely mixed.  I really attribute this step as a make or break moment in any baking project.  It’s the difference between dry and dense or moist and fluffy.  The latter of course being the preference.

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A little more…

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Stop!

Here’s where my Madeleines turned gateau.  While I was mixing the perfect batter, I asked Chris to pull out the Madeleine pan and prep it for baking.  Just as the batter reached the barely mixed goal, Chris exclaimed that he couldn’t find the pan.  I too searched high and low, but came up empty-handed.  Thinking fast on our feet, we looked through the cabinet and chose a mini cake pan as a stand in.  I was slightly disappointed, but still hopeful that they would taste delicious.  Chris buttered the pan (with Smart Balance) and I lightly dusted it with flour.  We then evenly divided the batter into each rectangle.

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I topped them off with a few sliced almonds and popped them into the oven.  They turned out a beautiful golden brown, although slightly sunken in from the weight of the almonds.

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Taking a look at my final product, I dubbed the tiny cakes Petit Almond Citrus Gateau.  I cut one in half and sampled the fruits of my labor.  It was light, fluffy, and balanced.  Chris had 2 cakes exclaiming that they were, “the best things we ever made.”

The next week Chris asked me to make the cakes again for his friends dessert and wine birthday party.  We decided to bake them in a mini cupcake pan this time around.

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These small cupcakes turned out a bit dry.  I think they were just a bit overcooked.  Next time I’ll adjust the baking time a bit more to accommodate for the smaller size – OR I’ll just get a Madeleine pan so I can do the batter justice in that playful shell shape.

 

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When Pigs Fly: Apples and Pork Loin

20 Jan

Orange and Herb Turkey Cutlets Pork Loin with Maple-Sautéed Apples

I never thought the day would come.  I cooked and ate pork for dinner!  Over the past five years, Chris has encouraged me to taste and eat foods I never thought I’d try.  While pork is common, I have generally stayed away from it since re-entering the meat-eating world after 9 years of vegetarianism.   When shopping this past week, we couldn’t find the turkey cutlets that I wanted for this dish.  I browsed the meat section, and instead found these beautiful rather lean looking pork loins.  With my heart set on the recipe, I caved to Chris’ delight and bought them.

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  The recipe is from my Flat Belly Diet cookbook, and honestly it looks like a pork recipe that uses turkey to make it healthier.  We rubbed the pork with spices and browned it in a skillet.  It was browning too fast, so Chris had to turn down the heat and cook it for a bit longer to get it right.  The apples were pan-fried with maple syrup, cinnamon and pepper.  The flavors were bold and the pork lean enough for my palette.  We served it with a bit broccoli, which I severely over-salted (sorry Chris!).  Not a bad first go with pork loin.  I just might have to try it again.

 

I’m Obsessed With Cardamom

22 Jan

For about two weeks now, Chris has asked, begged even, for a dessert with cardamom.  Why he became obsessed with this particular spice, I have no idea.  After he treated me to a wonderful seafood dinner, I decided to indulge his obsession.  I took out our ground cardamom, opened it, and inhaled its complex aroma.  The lemon smell hit me right away, so I decided to go with a lemon cardamom cookie.  I based the dessert of this recipe: Meyer Lemon Cardamom Crinkle Cookies, but made several substitutions to work with what we had available.

For this recipe, as with any cookie, cupcake or muffin recipe, the first step involved mixing all the dry ingredients together.  This time, I thankfully remembered that I needed to save the sugar to cut the butter, and did not include it as a dry ingredient (by accident I added the sugar to the dry ingredients when baking banana cupcakes).  For the lemon flavor, the recipe suggests the zest of 4 Meyer lemons.  We don’t keep lemons on hand, and it would be rather difficult to grow a lemon tree on the patio of our apartment, so I had to make do with something else.  I looked through our fridge and pantry and found lemon juice, lemon extract, and dried lemon zest.  I surveyed Chris, and he chose the dried lemon zest.  This substitution required a bit of math:

1 lemon yields about 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon zest.  As you can imagine, dried lemon zest is smaller than fresh lemon zest, so you can’t just do a straight conversion.  I looked it up and most sites suggest that you use 1/2 the amount of dried zest.  Since 1 Tbsp equals 3 tsp, that means that you need 1/2 Tbsp or 1 and 1/2 tsp of dried zest.

courtesy of asromanov

After figuring out how much to use, I measured the zest and added it to the mixture only to find that I had enough to cover just 1 lemon.  My choices were to keep going and risk creating a rather bland cookie, or to come up with a second substitution for  the remaining 3 lemons.  I opted for dried orange zest to complete the citrus flavor.  This choice was rather lucky, as I read later on that Meyer lemons taste like a cross between oranges and lemons.  I then looked at the recipe for the salt, but hesitated before proceeding.  Sea salt!  Another item that I did not have on hand.  Besides the absence of the ingredient in my pantry, I was a bit concerned about the use of sea salt in a cookie.  Sea salt has larger granules, and while great in cooking, it isn’t often used in baking.  After some consideration, I decided to go for a 1:1 substitution with kosher salt.  The granules of kosher salt are slightly larger than table salt, but slightly smaller than sea salt, which generally makes it a better option for baking.  Last but not least, I added the cardamom with my favorite copper-colored, fish teaspoons – no substitutions needed.

Next, it was time to whip together the butter and sugar.  This usually calls for an electric hand mixer, and sometimes a paddle attachment.  I don’t have a paddle attachment, but my mixer always seems to do just fine as is.  A couple of notes here:

If you have the foresight, you can put the butter out in a bowl while you mix the dry ingredients.  That way the butter will be closer to room temperature and softer when it comes time to whip it.  Also, these cookies should have a fluffier, cake-like texture, so the recipe really emphasizes this step, explaining that the sugar cuts little holes in the butter that will expand from the baking powder when heated.

Once I whipped the butter and sugar to a creamy texture, I added the eggs and vanilla.  The last step before scooping the dough to a cookie sheet, involved mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.  This is also an extremely important step:

During this mixing process, it’s important to keep the mixer on low.  Mixing flour with the rest of the ingredients, results in the formation of gluten, the protein that holds it all together.  The faster and longer you mix the ingredients, the more gluten you get.   You want just enough gluten for a cohesive baked good, but not so much that the texture becomes tough or dry.  The key to this is to mix the ingredients together until just after you see the last bit of flour disappear.  Any more than this and you risk losing that moist, fluffy goodness.

I mixed the dry ingredients into the wet, dividing it into 3 sections, to keep lumps to a minimum and make sure that everything was evenly dispersed.  Note: You can add ingredients in this order for cookies due to the small amount of liquid in the batter, but wetter batters like cupcakes are best mixed in the opposite order to avoid lumps and prevent over mixing.  I also made sure to keep my mixer on low and to stop mixing the moment that I could no longer see the white of the flour.

Besides the cardamom and Meyer lemon, this recipe appealed to me for it’s cracked, powdered sugar covered exterior.  The recipe recommends sifting the powdered sugar to make sure that there are no lumps.  With my love for baking, you might think that I have a sifter in my cupboard, but I don’t.  Instead of sifting the powdered sugar, I used the shaking method.  I vigorously shook the powdered sugar in its container for a few minutes, and then measured out a cup.  The result was smooth, lump-free powdered sugar.

Finally, I rolled the dough in the palm of my hand (I also have no clue what a number 40 scoop is), covered each one in powdered sugar, and arranged them on 2 cookie sheets.  As with most icings, toppings, and coatings, there was a ton of powdered sugar left at the end (I really need to remember to cut these ingredients in half to start).  I took some of the leftover powdered sugar, sprinkled it over the balls of dough, and put the sheets in my 350 degree preheated oven.

For those of you that think that I spoil Chris, you should see the mess that I leave for him to clean up after.  That’s the deal.  I bake him goodness, he cleans up.  The mess I made with the powdered sugar in this recipe made our kitchen look like it was hit by a snowstorm.  Once the cookies were in the oven, I called Chris over with my sticky, sugar covered hands.  He kept a safe distance while taking a picture to document the moment.

Twelve minutes later, we pulled the cookies out of the oven.  They smelled fantastic, but they didn’t look quite ready.  We decided to put them back in the oven for an extra 2 minutes.  We pulled them out, and then put them on a couple of cutting boards to cool (I also do not own cooling racks).  The recipe mentions that they will not brown, and this is absolutely true.  Trust your nose, not your eyes on this one.

We sampled the cookies a bit later, and we both loved them.  Chris even went back for seconds.  They turned out light and fluffy, and the cardamom citrus flavor really came through.  The substitutions, save the salt, were great successes.  In hindsight, due to the size of the granules, we should have cut the amount down a bit when using kosher salt instead of sea salt.  The salt flavor, while a bit strong, still balanced out the flavors well.  Besides the slight salt error, the color of the cookies was also a bit pale and unappealing.  Perhaps a bit of yellow dye would liven them up.  All in all we count this as another yummy baking adventure.  If one or both of us ever becomes obsessed with cardamom again, this cookie could certainly sate the craving.

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