Monday, December 31, 2007

Perfecting Butterscotch


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.
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.


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.


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.


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!

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
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Multigrain Sandwich Bread (The Pie Lady Returns!)

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.
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.
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).
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.

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.


Thanks Norm!