Like so many medical professionals, my father feels that any low-fat dietary guidelines, exercise regimes and requirements of good hydration are not necessarily a good prescription for him. When I was very young, I would go with him on rounds and then if the timing was right we would have a full-fat snack at the hospital cafe.
The healthcare system at that time was wholly different—a time before FEE-BASED valet parking at oncology departments, before security alarms on babies in the nursery, before bullet proof glass in Emergency triage centers. And a snackshop, staffed by volunteers, including me as a high school candy-striper, was considered a worthy amenity for the patients.
The hospital café had a few small tables and a long counter. Unlike the cafeteria in the basement, the café served food to order. Rather than the heart-healthy, tasteless options on hospital menus these days, the café served delicious Americana food that didn’t skimp on sugar, butter or mayonnaise. Specialties included toads in a hole, stellar egg salad on toast, butter-soaked crispy shredded hash browns and thick milk shakes. But, the most delicious offering was the BLTs--the salty, crispy bacon contrasting with the softness of the mayonnaise soaked white bread and the coolness of the lettuce. And, in my mind, a BLT is one of the few occasions where the requisite bread is white and none other.
The simplicity of name belies the complexity of the BLT—tangy, sweet mayo; salty, crispy bacon; crunchy, wet lettuce; soft, moist tomatoes. Thanks to Ruhlman, we took our late August challenge to create a variety of BLT inspired dishes that lives up to the complexity but changes up the format.
We started the challenge with the ingredients. The homemade bacon was so simple it’s frankly criminal to claim any real labor. The tomatoes and leafy greens were from Belle and her dad’s garden; though again in all honesty they really only worked intermittently on the project.
The first dish we created from the ingredients was BLT pie. The whole pie began with a dream and an incredible craving for tomato pie. This Southern delicacy is not something that I have actually ever eaten making the dream even more compelling. My friend suggested Laurie Colwin’s recipe for Tomato Pie, but I had a desire for tomatoes encased in flaky pastry. Laurie Colwin’s recipe did however include a rich mayonnaise and cheddar topping that hit the right tone of love manifested through unctuous, fatty gooiness, so I used that topping for the BLT pie subbing homemade mayonnaise for Hellman's.
The delicious pie moved me, who is often described as a small or even birdlike eater, to eat three slices for lunch. It had a flaky cheddar cheese crust that held up to the complex filling. Tomatoes and caramelized onions brought sweetness and moisture to the party; bacon spice and saltiness; and the Swiss chard and kale brought seriousness.
My father, who is always suspicious of the healthy hocus pocus that that is part and parcel of my cuisine, not only enjoyed the pie but later mentioned this dish as a specimen of a good dinner entrée--little did he know that he was the inspiration.
Cheddar Pie crust recipe at Gourmet Magazine. I wished I had subbed lard for the shortening, but had to accept that I didn’t. You need both a top and bottom crust.
Slice 4-5 medium tomatoes and then place in a colander to drain. if they are really juicy tomatoes, give them a squeeze.
4-5 slices of thick cut bacon and set aside meat.
1 large onion sliced in rings in bacon drippings
2.5 cups chopped Swiss Chard and Kale (next time I might use escarole). Keep the greens slightly undercooked.
Place greens as the bottom layer of the pie.
Top with shredded bacon.
Top with tomatoes and rings of red onions.
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 cups cheddar cheese
Handful basil chopped
2 T rice wine vinegar
Add this mayo-cheese mixture to the pie.
Top the pie with second crust.
After the egg wash, bake at 375 until golden brown about 35-40 minutes. (Tent the edges for the last 15 minutes.)
This is my entry for One Local Summer. The bacon homemade; tomatoes, basil and greens were from the garden; the onions, eggs were from Maple Valley Sugarbush, the cheddar was Amish. And, it is also my entry for Grow Your Own hosted by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes for the 2nd Anniversary of the event. And of course, my entry for Ruhlman's BLT challenge.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I once thought I was a daring baker, but it turns out I was a fraud. You might remember me from such challenges as Strawberry Cinnamon Almond Cake with Pumpkin Seed Swiss Buttercream , Mango Cardamom Opera Cakes , Cheesecake Pops with Pretzel Sticks, Caramel Cupcakes with Bacon, or not. All in all, I finished and posted 8 challenges.
But, I think I was in denial about something. I thought I had made those desserts—it turns out I had only ½ of each. You see, my husband, J--, had not only helped with each of those challenges, but he had actually been the voice of reason. If I said, so what if it says the butter should be melted and it is actually ice-cold; he would say this butter temperature thing is important. Where I would say, so what if it says sift the flour lets dump it in; he would say sifting really will change the texture of the cake. Where I would wing it; he would act with reason.
Last December I had to drop out of Daring Bakers due to a difficult pregnancy. But, then in July, even knowing that life would be crazy with a new baby, I reenlisted. I wanted to go back to my old life and I loved DB. My husband is working extra hours on projects; hoping to tighten the budget (i.e. less money for sugar and flour); and hoping to drop a few pounds. The agreement was this—I make the challenges while he is at work, clean up without him and then give away the results.
I was feeling very with it when I started this challenge. I had a clear plan—cut the recipes in ½ (and 1/8 for the caramel layer.) Make the frosting on the first day, cake on the second and caramel and assembly on the third. I planned all the steps so that I would only need to work 20 minutes at a stretch but only 1 hour at most on any one day. They baby (2 weeks old at the time) sleeps about 1.5 hr at a stretch, so there was time for the clean up. It was all very clear and easy—in theory. Then I set to it. As I was perched on a stepstool to reach my too-big, makeshift bain marie feeling the burn of whipping the eggs, all of a sudden I realized for my last Swiss buttercream when I got exhausted with the whipping, J—had stepped up and finished the frosting.
So thanks J—for being the secret to my Daring Baker success and here’s to a new life as a solo daring baker.
And for those tricky bots: The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. For the recipe go to the DB site. (For my cake, I made 1/4 of the cake recipe straight. Then 1/4 of the recipe but with cocoa powder for 1/3 of the flour. The chocolate cake was topped with white chocolate buttercream.)
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
When once asked what sorts of regional foods abound in Cleveland, I quickly replied Hough Cakes. The bakery was a Cleveland phenomenon that turned out the most luscious, fluffy white cakes with a smooth, silky frosting. With piped pink roses and blue birds, it was the thing kindergarten dreams were made of. (The bakery has since closed but a few places in town have the recipe and make the cake.)
That recipe remains a tight-lipped secret--even the internet offers no clues. When I read the fluffy white cake recipe on the back of the King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour, I wanted to see if it could fill that void. The photograph on the website is so evocative. It made me think of a time when homemade layer cakes, and homemade preserves, were the norm; when people made preserves; when men wore hats and women gloves. In short, the cake looks like a thick slice of Americana on a plate.
I don’t own white gloves; I go to work out of the house during the day; I swear. So, I decided to update the plan a little. I made cupcakes; if the interweb is to be believed, they are the layered cake of the naughts. Instead of jam and fluffy white frosting, I made two glazes—one from homemade red currant jam and white sugar.
I didn’t mentally measure the recipe up to the Hough bakery one—it wouldn’t be fair to King Arthur or to my memories. Long ago, I decided to stop chasing food memories. Those sensations are so powerful. I can’t ever make a cake that matches up to the one I ate after an afternoon of playing pin the tail on the donkey while wearing a little lace lined dress. That bite of frosting, that rush of sugar on that sunny afternoon was much more than a recipe. No cake will transform me into a 4 year old again. So, instead, I think the test for this cupcake would be my 2 year old's reaction. Was it the kind of cupcake that would form the same sort of memories in her? Let’s just say I was washing red glaze off of my daughter’s party dress.
So King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour hats off to you again.
This entry is part of my review of the King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour. They generously donated to BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine. My first entry is here. There are still a couple more entries to come— expect more cupcakes, angel food cake, and chocolate.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I am terribly susceptible to suggestion. (This is apparently confession weekend at feeding maybelle).
When I read about pikelets at more than burnt toast, I wanted them immediately. My desire was not born of cultural affinity or childhood remembrance. I had never heard the word pikelet until Bellini Valli posted them. But, the word itself seemed so charming, as if sitting down to the plate makes you a kid again dressed in your fairy outfit. Cynical Anglos and Australians might laugh at my naiveté. But, imagine never hearing of something say a moon pie; what picture comes into your mind?
So back to me and my susceptibility…I just couldn’t shake the pikelets. I woke up this morning and needed them. We used the recipe from Souvlaki for the Soul because it seemed flexible to adapt to both sweet and savory cravings. We topped half with fresh peaches from our CSA and maple syrup for J-- and Belle. For the other half, we paired them with a peach, tomato and corn salsa. As someone who is not super hot on pancakes, I found these pikelets perfect for breakfast—fluffy but neutral in flavor. I am hoping pikelets are the new pancakes in our house.
Peach, tomato and corn salsa
½ ripe peach
5-6 cherry tomatoes (I used both orange and red ones)
½ an ear of corn
½ small green chilli pepper
½ - 1 tsp fresh mint
In oil, heat and then add to salsa
1 tsp mustard seeds
5 curry leaves
Toss everything, add salt and lime to taste.
This is also my entry for One Local Summer. The milk is Snowville Creamery Whole, the yogurt homemade; the egg, corn, and peaches from Maple Valley and Sugarbush, the tomatoes from our yard.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
My husband likes to call me the laziest overachiever he knows. There is truth in that. Four layer chocolate cake with basket-weave piping and coffee macaroons as a thank you gift, sure, I will do that. But, run out and buy the cake flour called for in the recipe, heck no. I have never bought cake flour, not because I am ethically opposed, but because I am lazy. (And, I do love the MacGyver, self-sufficiency, could hack myself out of any recipe nature of a good substitution.)
When I received a sample box of Unbleached Cake Flour from King Arthur, I decided that the universe was trying to show me what I have been missing.
King Arthur was generous enough to participate in BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine by sending out products for bloggers to review on their sites. And I decided to match their generosity by trying their product in a series of small batch baking experiments. Over the next month, I will be posting many baked goods as part of my review.
First up, peach upside-down cake…I have a love/ hate relationship with this genre of cake. I love the concept of the fruit on the bottom and my husband will devour anything that smacks of caramelization. But, I think the cake part can be tough and chewy. This seemed like a good start to prove to myself that AP flour is not truly all purpose. I went with Alton Brown’s recipe for mini-cakes, and made one small skillet’s worth. Fruit, butter and brown sugar already took me on the path to success. The cake component was a breeze (though I did add some ginger juice to it.)
The resulting cake was moist and almost flaky. It really was quite a success. And, said cake would be a wonderful thing to serve warm with ice cream for a small plated dinner with friends. Since this test, I have been thinking about making a sweet and savory version for thanksgiving with pumpkin. (But I digress.)
Test 1 completed, it looks like King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour 1, my incredible laziness 0. Stay tuned for other tests.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Please take a moment to marvel at these thighs. (And, disregard the gratuitous add for the brand name diapers that we received from the hospital.)
While generally I would not be so bold as to be so self-promoting, in this case, those thighs are thanks to me. My little Tiger loves to eat, and I have been on call 24-7. It is a very new sort of relationship.
My Belle has always been far too busy to enjoy a meal. (Though now at the ripe age of 2, ice cream is something I have found she can make time for.) When I nursed her, I remember tickling her little toes to get her to eat. During those feedings, there was frustration on my part and snoring on hers.
At the hospital with the Tiger, she fed more than any other baby. No, I am not being hyberbolic—the lactation consultant came to give me a gold star for my efforts. (Yes, we thought the gold star was hokey too.)
So what have I been eating in this one-handed life? Well not as much as I had hoped after the year of nausea. I am trying to make and eat grab and go food heavy on the nutrients but easy to eat when you are carrying around a small human. I have also been adding flax seeds, chia seeds, brewer’s yeast, and wheat germ to things—pasta sauce, calzones, gratins, salad dressing. My husband has been surprisingly calm and silent about this. After going through pregnancy and post-pregnancy before, he has clearly wizened up to the ways of the hormones. And, apparently in it for the long haul, he knows better than to start the great “Flax Seed Fight of 2009.”
In some cases, he has even endorsed these recent experiments outright. These muffins, he said, are “actually really good. I mean, you should have made a double batch.” The “actually” does of course imply a sense that there were other items in the past that were the opposite of good and that his comments in those cases weremisleading if not actually false. But, hey, why should I start the great “ACTUALLY??!! Fight of 2009”
Plum Yogurt Muffins
adapted from Rose's Recipes
Separate 2 eggs. Whip whites.
In a large bowl, mix:
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 large egg yolks
1 T ground flax seeds
3 T orange juice
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 t almond extract
To that bowl add each successive ingredient and stir to combine:
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup ground almonds
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
3 T wheat germ
Fold in the whites.
Fill muffin tins to ¾ full. Top with thinly sliced fruit.
Bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes. (Watch them and check at 8 minutes and then 10.)
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Children come when they wish beginning a lifelong schooling of a parent in the truth that after procreating your life is not your own. Our little Tigerlily came on the 31st of July--happy, healthy and surprisingly big (considering).
The nausea of pregnancy is gone, let the gluttony begin. And, it started with some mini-cheesecakes from the freezer
Red Currant Mini-Cheesecakes
This is the Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake recipe and I don't repost published recipes on the blog. I did signifantly decrease the proportions to bake a much smaller amount and make then in lined mini-cupcake tins. They baked in a convection oven for 15 minutes
2/3 cups rusk, pulverized
1/3 stick butter, melted
2 T olive oil
2/3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1/3 cup sugar & 2 T sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 t lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract
Splash of anise flavoring or anise liqueur
1/3 cup red currants (dropped into the cupcake tins)