Monday, December 31, 2007

Perfecting Butterscotch

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There are few sauces in this world that I love more than butterscotch. It has the gooey richness of caramel, but with a little more moxie. Even the name butterscotch has an allure to it. "butter" and "scotch"- of course it's gonna be good.
But, this innocent little dessert condiment has been irking me since last summer when I had a burnt sugar banana split on my menu.
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This was no ordinary banana split. For weeks before the restaurant opened, I had a vision in my head of this glorious dessert, and glorious it was; A banana bruleed with a blow torch, scoops of homemade chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice creams-
topped with strawberry sauce, bittersweet fudge sauce, butterscotch, chopped almond praline, sliced strawberries, and a fresh bing cherry. Each order took almost 10 minutes to assemble and to this day, it could very well be one of my finest achievements...with the exception of one thing- I could never get that damn butterscotch right.

I started with a recipe from one of my heroes, Emily Luchetti. Her butterscotch contained all of the usual suspects: brown sugar, butter, cream, salt, etc.
Right off the stove it was quite delicious. After the sauce bottle sat overnight in the fridge however, it was grainy. Still yummy- but the texture simply wouldn't do. Graininess is one of my biggest pet peeves.

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Not ready to give up, I tried a recipe given to me by a fellow pastry chef. As I was cooking it, I realized her recipe was pretty much the same as Luchetti's, and I knew I was probably going to have the same problem. So, I cooked it a bit longer to see if that would help dissolve the brown sugar, then I added a shot of whiskey while it cooled. The extra cooking time did nothing for the grainy issue, but the whiskey worked wonders on it's flavor. I had one of those no-duh moments. Why would I even consider making a butterscotch with out any booze in the first place?

With the restaurant in it's infancy at this time, I obviously had a million other things on my plate. I certainly could not linger here in this quagmire. The flavor was very good, and if it were made daily, in small amounts, I could sideswipe the grainy issue. I vowed that I would pick this butterscotch thing back up when I had time to catch my breath.

Fast forward to December, and I have gingerbread on my menu. A dark and spicy wedge with a dollop of Meyer lemon-mascarpone whip (a pillowy blend of Meyer lemon curd, mascarpone, and heavy cream. I will post about it in the future- it's too good not to share), rose poached quince, and a glaze of the infamous butterscotch. Here was my chance to re-visit the texture.

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Butterscotch is made in the same procedure as caramel- but you use brown sugar and butter instead of white sugar and water, and you don't caramelize it. Instead, they are melted together, then the cream is added and the sauce boils for a few minutes... It's like "lawyer-ball" caramel.

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Brown sugar was not only was it the key to butterscotch's flavor, but it was also my roadblock. Brown sugar is basically white sugar with molasses added to it. What if I made a basic creamy caramel sauce, then added molasses, whiskey and salt while it cooled? First time was a charm. I would go so far as to call it perfect. I was pissed off that my brain didn't make that connection back in the banana split days.

The hubby and I have been enjoying homemade cinnamon stick ice cream and butterscotch sundaes for dessert over the holidays. Luckily, we polished off the last of it last night- just in time for my new years resolution to decrease the size of my bum!

Butterscotch
This sauce can be refrigerated in a sealed container for at least 2 weeks. To bring it back to it's original saucy lustre, re heat it slowly over the stove, or in the microwave.
Makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water

3/4 cup cream
1 oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes

2 T molasses
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 T whiskey (I like Yukon Jack for it's sweetness)

In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water. Cook over high heat until it' caramelizes. This takes a while longer due to the extra amount of water.
Meanwhile, in a separate sauce pan, combine the butter and cream. Bring to a simmer and let sit until the sugar has caramelized.
Off the heat, slowly and carefully whisk in the hot cream. The pot will spatter and spit- look out!
Whisk over gentle heat until sauce is smooth and lump-free. Strain into a heat proof container, then stir in molasses, whiskey, and salt
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Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Multigrain Sandwich Bread (The Pie Lady Returns!)

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Something has been missing from The Pie Lady. Blog posts!
December has been a strange month. More like a comedy of errors. In a matter of a few days the alternator went out on our car, my wallet was stolen, our refrigerator broke, and our computer both caught some sort of virus and the hard drive crashed. Needless to say, I have not had the opportunity to blog as much as I would like to. It's been such a chapper to have to put it aside just when it's just getting off the ground- and I miss my new blogging buddies!

Things are starting to calm down around here- car fixed, fridge fixed, driver's licence/credit cards renewed (the punks managed to use my card at a gas station before I had a chance to cancel it. Happy holidays to you too, arshole).
The final clusterphuk to deal with is the computer. Luckily, I do have access to one for the time being. So, while posts may not be as frequent as usual- the hiatus is over.

Now that I've explained myself- I will move on to the yummiest sandwich bread that I have ever tasted. I know- my last post was bread, but trust me. I would not dare to be so redundant unless it was worth it.
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I doubt I have mentioned this, but nothing tickles my fancy more than getting my Cooks Illustrated in the mail. I have subscribed for 3 years, and find myself buying less general cookbooks because of it. The recipes in Cooks Illustrated are so well tested and often offer variations, so once I've tried it, I (usually) don't feel the need to seek out other versions.
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The multigrain sandwich bread caught my eye in the March/April '06 issue. The test cook had the brilliant idea to use 7 grain cereal mix, rather than hunting them down individually. This is one of the easiest bread recipes I know, so I don't mind putting it together the day after the holiday cooking marathon...(by the way- Happy Holidays everyone).
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Just in time for turkey or roast beef leftovers, this sandwich bread tastes better than anything you can buy in the grocery store. Leftovers on homemade bread makes you feel like you're having a meal just as special as the night before.

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Easy Multigrain Sandwich Bread- Cooks Illustrated #79, Mar/Apr '06

6 1/4 oz (1 1/4 cups) 7-grain hot cereal mix (Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills)
20 oz (2 1/2 cups) boiling water
15 oz (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
7 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
4 T honey
4 T butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 T fine sea salt
3/4 cup unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds (*I like sunflower the best)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1. Place cereal mix in bowl of standing mixer and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees and resembles thick porridge, about 1 hour. Whisk flours together in a medium bowl.

2. Once grain mixture has cooled, add honey, melted butter, and yeast and stir to combine. Attach bowl to standing mixer fitted with dough hook. With mixer running on low speed, add flours, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until dough forms ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes (if it does not clear sides, add 2 to 3 T additional all-purpose flour and continue mixing); continue to knead dough for 5 minutes. Add seeds and knead another 15 seconds. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead by hand until seeds are dispersed evenly and dough forms smooth, taut ball. Place dough into a greased container with 4-qt capacity; cover with plastic and allow to rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 9by 5- inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and pat into a 12 by 9- inch rectangle; cut in half crosswise with knife or bench scraper. Roll each portion into a log and pinch the seam closed. Spray each log with water and roll in the oats. Place in loaf pans, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire rack before slicing, about 3 hours.


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Monday, November 19, 2007

Daring Bakers on a "diet"

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A pot of coffee and a daring baker challenge. My ideal day off

Yeasted delicacies are showing up on blogs everywhere, which can only mean the daring bakers are at it again with Tanna hosting this month's challenge. After October's bostini cream pie, which came in at a whopping 93 grams of fat and almost 1200 calories PER SERVING (thanks again Julius, I can't say that I really wanted to know about that. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss), myself and several other db's had our fingers crossed for something savory, and perhaps something we could eat a serving of without having to go buy new jeans. Tanna valiantly answered the call with Tender Potato Bread. Those who are carb conscience are rolling their eyes right now because I just said "potato" and "bread." Sorry...it's not my stupid diet. I for one, was ecstatic. Tanna was giving us creative freedom with this. She provided the recipe for the dough, advised that we make a loaf with half of it, and the rest should be used as a canvas to "unleash our inner daring baker." We were allowed to do whatever we wanted with it, so long as it wasn't sweet. Another rule: the dough had to be kneaded by hand. No mixers allowed.

As the db's started making this challenge and posting their results on our private blog, the overwhelming majority warned that this was a really sticky dough.
I consider myself to be pretty comfortable with bread making. I am by no means an expert, but running the wholesale bakery forced me to become familiar with it. Cinnamon rolls and hot cross buns were two of my biggest sellers, and I was also asked to make the ciabatta for the dinner theatre that I shared the kitchen with. Ciabatta is one of the stickiest, most difficult to work with breads out there, which is why it is always in that flat rectangular blob shape. I told myself that If I can handle ciabatta, I can handle this. Here's the thing though: I made the ciabatta in an enormous 60 quart mixer, and both the rising and forming was done on a big wooden bench. I'll admit it- the idea of kneading the sticky potato bread on my tiny formica counter top had me nervous. If anything the clean up that would be required was not something I was looking forward to. But, that is the whole idea of these challenges. Step outside your comfort zone. To me, artisan style bread making is not a big deal. Doing it at home without my mixer? SCARY.

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Luckily, Tanna's recipe was really straight forward- and yes, the dough was sticky at first. But once you start kneading, it becomes the most fun thing to play with EVER. Sorry if I am grossing anyone out here, but the texture of the dough can only be described as old lady arm flab. It reminded me of going to visit my great aunt Charlotte and giving her a hug. The dough picks up just enough flour to hold together, but remains very soft and "blubbery."
I have kneaded dough by hand before, but it was not quite as slack as this one. Stiffer dough means your arms tire out quickly. I could have kneaded this dough all day. I forgot how much more satisfying it is to actually feel it come together.
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One third of my finished dough became a rustic free form loaf, which I baked right on my pizza stone. The crust was crisp and the inside was tender and fluffy. It was delicious the next day as garlic toast for soup.
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The rest became something that I usually make with plain buttermilk dough: cheddar ham rolls with sage. The dough is rolled out into a rectangle as if you were making cinnamon rolls. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar and chopped sage. Lay out slices of good quality deli ham, then sprinkle with more cheese and sage. Roll it up and slice off medallions. Bake them just like you would a cinnamon roll. We had them for dinner with a salad. How often does a daring baker challenge become two perfectly well rounded dinners? Um, NEVER. Thank you Tanna. This was a great choice after last months heart attack cream pie. If you would like the recipe for Tender Potato Brad, Tanna has it posted on her blog. To see all of the other amazing creations that resulted from this dough, head over to our blogroll. I know that is where I'll be for the next 3 weeks, as there are (last I checked, I'm sure there's more by now) now about 300 daring bakers across the globe!! Thats alotta dough!
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

December Royal Foodie Joust!

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Mayan Chocolate Boca Negra with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Yaaaay! It's jousting time again! This monthly battle of the foodies is hosted by the lovely Jen, also known as the Leftover Queen. It's participants, which include members of Jen's Leftover Queen Forum, are all to create a dish including 3 required ingredients. The winner gets bragging rights, a nifty graphic for their blog, and best of all- picks the 3 ingredients for the next month's joust. Ley of Cilantro and Lime, kicked ass and took names with her paneer, which was created with mushroom, cheese, and herbs as her required props. Ley blessed us with ingredients that both provide a challenge, but go beautifully together: Chocolate, Chiles, and any sort of grain. I heart you Ley, because this means I will get to make one of my all time favorite chocolate treats- baked pudding or "boca negra." It's 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour barely squeeze me into the guidelines.

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This dessert is not only really easy to put together, but it is sinfully delicious. I make this when I am looking to impress someone. It may not look like much in the photo, but it's one of those things you need to taste to believe. The texture is fudgy, creamy, and souffle-like. The flavors blend together in perfect harmony- not one of them over powers the other. Instead they all bring out each other's best qualities.
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That's not even the best thing about this recipe. Unlike it's cranky cousin, the souffle- boca negra batter can be made in a relaxed state of mind. You can bake off just 2 of them, and refrigerate the batter for another time. It keeps for 2 or 3 days. I'm keeping the rest of mine in the freezer, where it should last for a month. Now, I have a fancy schmancy dessert on hand if I need it. I served mine with some just-churned vanilla ice cream this time, but cinnamon ice cream or whipped creme fraiche are also both deelish.
Mayan Chocolate Boca Negra

12 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped- use a good one!
8 oz. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 oz. Kahlua
1 cup superfine sugar
1/4 tsp orange zest, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp mild Chile powder
5 eggs at room temp
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 T sifted flour

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baking
Preheat oven to 325 and have ready 6 ramekins that will fit into a roasting pan. Spray ramekins with pan spray. Fill the roasting pan with hot water until the cups are halfway submerged. Set aside.
Combine the butter and chocolate in a large bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water to create a bain marie. Stir chocolate and butter occasionally until smooth and completely melted. Set aside.
In a saucepan, stir together the Kahlua and 1 cup sugar until it dissolves. Heat until mixture boils. Whisk into chocolate. Stir in orange zest, cinnamon, and chile.
In a standing mixer, or using egg beaters, whip the eggs, salt, and 1/3 of sugar until very light and fluffy. They should be as thick as soft peak egg whites.
Whisk eggs into chocolate. They will deflate some, but that's ok.
Whisk in the sifted flour. The batter will be of pouring consistency.
Divide batter amongst ramekins and bake for 20-25 minutes. They do not rise, but the tops will be dry to the touch and shiny- like brownies.
Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, remove them from the water. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or creme fraiche.
Any excess batter can be stored in the refrigerator and baked off at a later time.

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Don't forget to head over to the forums during the first week of December to vote for your favorite!
PS- curious about the title of this dessert? It translates into "black mouth"- which completely describes ones appearance after one bite.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pie #4- Apple Quince: Flavors of the Pacific.....

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Asian Pacific quinces team up with Pacific Northwest Apples

You guys didn't think I would hold out on you just before the peak of pie season, did you? You did, didn't you. Oh, ye of little faith, I know it's been a while since The Pie Lady has defended her title, but I would never abandon my readership before the holidays without at least a couple of pies for inspiration.
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So, I am presenting you with my all time favorite. This is a bold statement. Choosing my favorite fruit pie is like choosing a favorite pet I've had over my lifespan. They are my babies and all of them are dear to me. You know when I crown a pie "favorite", that something about it is special.
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Quinces can be spotted on many food blogs these days, and this is likely not to be the only apple quince pie you've seen. I can tell you that this one has been tested time and time again, and has a surprising taste. The quince is native to Asia and is related to both apples and pears. It's really fragrant and if uncooked, horribly bitter. After about 30 minutes cooking time, the bitterness dissipates and the floral and honey notes that are in the fragrance of the fruit come out it it's flavor as well. As a lucky bonus, the fruit also turns a gorgeous pink color and leaves behind a rosy, full flavored syrup....cocktails anyone?
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The Asian quince will be crossing the pond...or Pacific Ocean, to the Pacific Northwest to snuggle up with some Washington apples. They packed a little treat in their carry on. Chinese 5 spice (which is a blend of cinnamon, anise seed, cloves, ginger, and fennel seed)-a staple in Asian cooking, separates this pie from all of the others in my arsenal. It wakes up the apples and fits right in with the quince, joining both fruits together in holy pie matrimony. Never, has a spice, so made a pie.
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The choice of which apples to use in a pie is a controversial one, so I'll leave that up to you. It should, however be a blend of 2 apples. One should be tart and firm- I use granny smiths, and the other should be sweet and tend to soften more when cooked-I like Braeburns. They don't turn to complete mush and have a full, sweet flavor. The quinces must be poached ahead of time. They are a much firmer fruit than apples so by the time they are cooked, the apples have turned to sauce. Blegh. The good thing about poaching the quince first, is that once they are done cooking in the syrup, they will not continue to cook in the oven. I love the control that gives me. It makes me drunk with power...or maybe thats my quincemopolitan (see below). Another reason pre poaching is the bees knees: sadly, when quince is baked raw under dough, the don't turn that beautiful blush color. They just kind of look like apples. Pre poaching pumps up the color.
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Raw Quince
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Poached Quince

Apple Quince Pie
1# sweet apples (such as braeburn, jonagolds, or Macintosh)
2# tart apples (such as granny smith or newton pippen)
poached quince* drained (save the syrup!)
2 T quince poaching liquid*
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
pinch sea salt
3/4 tsp good quality Chinese 5 spice
2 T cold unsalted butter
enough of your favorite pie dough for a double crust 10" pie
(Follow this link for my all butter pie dough)
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Peel, core, and slice the apples. Toss with the lemon juice and the poaching liquid. Add poached quince and stir gently to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and 5 spice. Add to fruit and toss to combine. Mound fruit into a dough lined pie plate and dot with butter. Moisten the overhang with water and apply the top crust. Seal the edges, trim excess overhang, and form into a crimped pattern. Slice a few steam vents in the top and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Rotate, lower heat to 325, and continue baking for 30 minutes.
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Poached quince

5 quinces
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Peel, core, and slice the quince. Dissolve the sugar into the water in a pot. Add the vanilla bean and bring to a simmer. Drop in the fruit and let cook on low heat for about 30 minutes. The liquid should be at a constant simmer, and use a plate to keep the fruit submerged. Let cool in the syrup. Drain and reserve the syrup for flavoring the pie and for the cocktail I will show you!

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BUT WAIT!! Don't go anywhere!! Why not wash down that tasty pie with a "Quincemopolitan"? Two posts in one my friends, for it is Blog Party time, which is hosted every month by Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness and she has picked Fusion as our theme for November. For this virtual cocktail party, I am taking that pink nectar from the poached Asian quince, and fusing it with a New York cocktail made famous by that one show that I've never seen and don't think I'd like. But, I do like the drink. The bartenders serving them at my sister's wedding party can attest to that...Wow. I drank a lot that night.....they just go down so smooth!
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Anyhoo, here ya go. Take this recipe and have a jolly old time. I'll be taking it to the blog party were we will be chasing fusion inspired bite sized appetizers with zany cocktails like this one. Check out the round up on Stephanie's blog on November 17th.

2 1/2 measures good quality vodka
1 measure cointreau
1 measure fresh lime juice
2 measures quince poaching liquid *see above
shake with ice and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry and a slice of lime.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sugar High Friday #37: The Beta Carotene Harvest

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Sweet Potato Flan with cider reduction, brandy snaps, and glazed pecans
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Last month, I barely made the deadline for Sugar High Friday, and now I'm early for November's event. Blogs and blog events can be difficult to keep up on, and I'm still pretty new to the whole thing. The evil pie lady robs me of sleep (I am writing this post at 11:20 pm, which means it will not be done until 1:30 or 2 am- And yes, I do have to work in the morning), and keeps me from doing things like laundry and dusting... But it is just SO DAMN FUN!! And I hate wretched laundry and dusting, so any excuse to avoid such activities will do. Seriously, If it were not for SHF's, Daring Bakers, Retro Recipes, and all the other Internet foodie "parties" like that every month, I would probably get bored to tears with my blog and ditch it. I am so happy to have met such an interesting, talented and kind group of people (cue Aw Track a la "full house": Awwwwwwww). But really, I am.
Sugar High Friday #37 is hosted by the lovely and hilarious Leslie of Definitely Not Martha. Her blog is one of those gems that blends really funny writing with great recipes and photography. If you're unfamiliar with her, follow the link to her page. Now. I'll wait.
Ain't she a hoot?

Anyway, in honor of the upcoming US Thanksgiving, Leslie has chosen beta carotene as the November theme. Desserts using sweet Potatoes, squash (or as several of my family members like to call it "squaRsh"), carrot, etc. are all acceptable entries. So....I'm cheating, well- not cheating, but it's not like I made this recipe once, photographed it and entered it. I actually have been making this recipe every day for the last 4 weeks. It's on my dessert menu. Is that bad? I know, maybe I should have tried something new, but I had been planning on posting it before Thanksgiving anyway and it was just too perfect for this month's SHF's theme.

For it's first 2 weeks on my menu, this dessert was entitled "sweet potato flan", but it wasn't selling and no one could figure out why. All of the servers loved it, so they were pushing it with as much gusto as possible. All of the guests who did order it claimed to be delighted with it. Then, one of the cooks bet me a dollar that if I changed the menu to say "sweet potato creme caramel" it would sell better. Well, he was right. The next day I was out a dollar and completely sold out of flans. They are now one of the top selling desserts on the menu.
People are so weird.
Call it what you want, this stuff has a similar mouth feel to sweet potato pie, but with that nice custardy-eggyness and "self-saucing" caramel that can only come from flan. I'm serving mine with a brandy snap, glazed pecans, and cider reduction- but really, it is still just as tasty and chic when served alone.
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Sweet Potato Creme Caramel
makes 6 individual servings

flan base:
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick, broken apart
4 grams (about 2 T) whole cardamom, crushed
1/8 tsp each grated nutmeg and clove
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
10 oz. sweet potato puree*
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 T brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 oz. calvados brandy

Combine the milk, cream, vanilla bean, and spices in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, spray 6 ramekins with baking spray. Combine
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
in a pot and cook until amber in color. Be careful- caramel gets hot as hell and will cause some of the yuckiest burns ever. Carefully ladle 1 oz of the caramel into the bottom of each ramekin. Set aside while you finish the custard base.
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In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sweet potato puree, sugars, and salt. Bring the milk mixture to a full boil, then remove from heat and slowly whisk into the egg mixture. Strain the custard and stir in the calvados.
Place the prepared ramekins into a hotel pan and fill with hot water until the cups are halfway submerged. Pour the custard into the ramekins, then cover the whole pan with foil. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until set. Remove from water bath and chill at least 2 hours.

At serving time, run the tip of a paring knife around the custards. Place a serving plate on top of the cup, then invert the whole thing onto the plate.

*To make sweet potato puree, roast 4 or 5 sweet potatoes in a hot oven until very soft and beginning to caramelize. When cool enough to handle, peel away the skin and puree the meat of the potato in a food processor until very light and fluffy.

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Fall in Seattle...
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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Retro Recipe Challenge #10: Story Book Food

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What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She's perfectly well and she hasn't a pain,
And it's lovely rice pudding for dinner again!-
What is the matter with Mary Jane?


A.A Milne
"Rice Pudding"
When We Were Very Young
1924

It's retro recipe time again. This month's host is Naomi from Straight into bed, cakefree and dried and she has chosen a really unique theme- story book food. I love, love, LOVE this theme. Retro food is extremely comforting to me. This is most likely because of the work I do at the restaurant. I'm always trying to think outside the box and come up with really cutting edge desserts (I know, pie is not exactly cutting edge- it's the one "comfort" item on my menu, and it is special it it's own way. Very few "urban bistro" dessert menus in Seattle have the balls to feature a granny's kitchen-style fruit pie.), at home, I like to get down to my roots in the kitchen. After a long day of making gateaus, salt caramel tarts, sweet potato creme caramel, and anise hyssop sorbet- it's nice to come home and soothe my tired self with simple desserts from my childhood.
With Naomi's theme this month, the retro cooking in my kitchen is extra comforting. Not only do I have an excuse to cook something childlike and cozy, but I get to dig through old children's books to find my idea.

On a blustery day, I went to a used book store and found a book of poems called "When We Were Very Young" by A.A. Milne. This was published in 1924- I'd say thats retro enough- and featured a poem about a teddy bear who "however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise". This would be a little character known as Winnie-the-Poo's first appearance in Milne's writing. Another poem, entitled "rice pudding", jumped out at me as a perfect candidate for this month's RRC. I absolutely adore rice pudding and I have not made it in at least 5 or 6 years. Not to mention, there was a good chance that the hubby might even like it. He loves rice in just about anything, and despite his lack of a sweet tooth, custard and vanilla are two things he will happily devour. So, the opportunity to introduce him to something new was an added bonus to this event.
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I wish I could tell you all where I got the recipe for this rice pudding. I have a big binder in my kitchen cupboard with the words "CHEF BRITT" written down the binding in sharpee. The contents of this book are hand-written (sometimes on the back of unopened phone bills dated 2001) recipes in no particular order. This thing is an ungodly mess, but for many years, it has worked for me. These recipes are usually jotted down while I am cooking without a net, given to me by friends, or scribbled down while watching cooking shows.
Now, my binders at work are a different story. I have two. One is for recipes from the current menu. They are divided by each dessert item. Between each tab, my assistant will see every recipe needed for a particular item, right down to the garnishes. The second binder is full of archive recipes and notes from dessert specials I have ran in the past. Everything in both books is typed neatly and inserted into a sheet protector. Since I have to be anal at work. I choose to be messy at home. Ying and the yang, ya know?
This rice pud' comes from the scribbly-sloppy book. I truly cannot remember where it came from. I guess recipes written in chicken scratch with unknown origins are the essence of the RRC. I can tell you that if you do chose to try it, you won't be disappointed. It's creamy and cozy. Trevor loved it and has pre-requested it for the next time he is sick. We ate it while snuggled up under fleece blankies, watching the Simpsons. I don't know that you can get more comforting than that.

Rice Pudding
serves 6-8

6 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean
2/3 cup long grain white rice
1 lg egg
2 lg egg yolks
1/2 cup raisins or dried fruit (optional)**I omitted them so that my husband wouldn't freak out**
ground cinnamon and nutmeg for sprinkling

In a heavy bottomed pot, slowly bring the milk, sugar, salt, and split vanilla bean to a boil. Stir in the rice with a fork. Cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until rice is quite tender. About 40 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean; scrape the seeds into the rice mixture and stir in.
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a casserole dish. In a bowl, beat the egg, egg yolks, and remaining milk until combined. Add this mixture and the raisins, if using to the rice and stir to combine. Set the baking dish in a roasting pan and place in the center of the oven. Fill with enough hot water to submerge the dish halfway. Bake for 25 minutes, stir gently to redistribute the rice. Bake for another 25 minutes. Sprinkle the rice pudding with cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake for 25 more minutes (total baking time is about 1 1/4 hours, it varies depending on the size of your dish- do not over bake)
Remove from water bath and cool on a wire rack. Serve lukewarm or chilled.

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Thanks again to Naomi for hosting this month. She will have the round up posted on her blog after the holidays.
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Thanks Norm!