Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There's always room for Yorkshire Pudding

IF my mother read my blog, she'd be proud as hell that I have mastered what I think is the quintessential British side. The Yorkshire Pudding. She used to make it when I was a kid and I loved it. She would present, proudly, an entire pudding, fresh from the oven while we waited at the table and I think, if memory serves, there was usually applause involved. Maybe I should ask her again if she'd read it.

About Yorkshire Pudding all I can say is that I love it and one of the things I think I really love that it can be both savory and sweet at the same meal without changing anything but the topping. Yes please I'll have some with the roast. Yes please I'll have some for dessert. How many other foods can you say that about?

A friend talked to me today about it and I suddenly had a hankering, hankerings in my world are dangerous because they are rarely unfulfilled. Today, they have been both dangerous and completely fulfilled.

I dashed into the kitchen and made my usual pudding mixture but this time, I measured what I had tossed into the bowl! You see? I'm learning!

Do not notice my grotty old muffin pan on a grotty old sheetpan. They are old, obviously grotty but they perform for me when I ask and as a result, they shall not be retired for a new shiny set but be allowed to fall apart slowly in regular rotation in the kitchen at Casa Williams.


*NOTE: I will say here that I prefer the pudding be made in a grotty old rectangular metal pan that I have at the back of the cupboard. I think it should be made in one large pudding and cut up and served thus. That being said, the current passion is the individual popover and this is the one and hopefully only time I totally cave to convention and do it their way instead of mine.

Put one sheetpan with a half muffin tin on it in the oven (half muffin tin being a 6 muffin tin). Put the rack in the oven to the top, not broiler top but the high level. Turn the oven on to 425.

Combine in a 2 cup glass measuring cup with a spout

3 oz milk
(it's slightly less than 1/2 cup, there's no notch on my cup measure but I just know where I fill it to; so I looked online to determine what the measure should be and it's between the 2 and 4 oz lines, hence the arrival at the assumption it's 3 oz)
2 eggs
splash of water (?2 Tablespoons)

In a bowl combine

3/4 cup flour (sifted if you really want to be involved in a culinary moment, unsifted if you just want to eat)
1 tsp salt

Whisk the wet into the dry and whisk like crazy. Hard and fast and be sure there's no lumps at all. When you are sure you've whisked it enough, whisk it a minute more then transfer the whole lot into the measuring cup (aha! moment, so you can pour it into the muffin tins!)

By now the muffin tins are screaming hot, remove the sheetpan from the oven and put a scant 1tsp of lard in each muffin tin and return it to the oven for 4 minutes.

Remove the sheetpan (with the muffin tin on it) from the oven and divide the pudding mixture between 5 of the muffin cups. The liquid should be almost to the top of each one. It should sizzle like mad.

Immediately put it back in the oven (on the sheetpan) for 25 minutes. NO peeking, just go about your business. Chat to a friend, read a blog, decide if you are going to devour the goodness sweetly or under an unctuous blanket of sausage gravy you had in the back of the fridge.

When the buzzer goes off, then, and only then, can you open the oven and this, my friends is what will await you.

They are funky looking and have crazy uneven shapes. High on one side, crackly, leany, crunchy, light, airy, spongy, craggly, tasty, savory, chewy, are you getting how much we're loving this?

Here is the only dilemma for you, as I see it... do we devour under the brown oniony sausage gravy? or do we dive in slowly with some golden syrup (tate and lyles for the uninitiated) and some hardly whipped cream. Before you ask, yes, I had both. I'm claiming it was all for research and science the same way I claim "I'm fight with the baby weight" but my son is 11 years old. I'm doomed.


Savory Scones - Bacon Onion and Cheddar

Not all scones have to be sweet, as there are sweet and savory biscuits and breads, so are there scones. I've been on a biscuit and scone kick lately. I think it's because they used to baffle me, I had real trouble producing anything other than a rock hard lump of clay at the end of my efforts.

I discovered my unfortunate hot hand problem and fixed it with a butter knife or pastry blender. I discovered the proper ratio of flour to fat and started baking at a much higher temperature and since that point, I seem to have found a rather substantial improvement and success rate with my baking.

I'm venturing into true recipe creation and experimentation now that the basics no longer elude me. I baked like a mad woman yesterday and then delivered all my wares to those who would take them from me (to stop me from sitting in the middle of the living room floor with the entire batch and a pound of butter - all in the name of science and research you understand - so to my guinea pigs I say thank you!).

Everything I made yesterday was sweet which, for those seeking balance in the universe, means that today we are savory. One of my favorite breakfast foods, oddly enough, is bacon and onion pie. It occurred to me I could certainly take my favorite breakfast flavors and morph them into a scone. I'll save you the worry or having to jump ahead to the end; I have achieved success and as a result, here we are:


Put 6 slices of bacon in the oven, on a rack, at 425 degrees and bake for 15 minutes - remove from the oven, eat one slice and chop up the other 5, allow them to cool (which only really takes a few minutes).

Grate 1 cup of cheddar and chop up 2 large scallions (only the pale green and green parts) and pop them into a bowl, toss them in the fridge and let them wait. Toss them together with a little flour so they don't clump up.

In a bowl, combine:

2 cups a/p flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
a couple of grinds of black pepper (optional but I like the bite the black pepper adds)

Chop up and add 1/2 stick of cold butter, cut it in until it looks like sand.

Add the cooled, chopped up bacon and the cheese and onions and mix up with your fingers

Make a well in the center and add up to 3/4 cup half and half (I dump most of it in but always keep a couple of tablespoons back just in case the flour doesn't need it; you can always add, it's a pain to try to take it away). Mix with a knife until just combined, turn it out onto a floured board and flatten it into a 8 inch circle, it should be just shy of 1" thick. I pat it out with my hands and then transfer the whole thing to a sheetpan or again I'm using my trusty comal.

Cut the dough into 8 wedges and brush with cream, or milk, or egg, I used cream today because I had some. I sprinkled a little salt on the top of one of them as a test and I really liked the little added crunch it gave along with a salty note without overpowering the scone at all. You could also grate pepper on top if you wanted a spicer flavor. I might add some dry mustard next time to see what that does.

Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. Remove them straight to a rack to cool, eat and be happy!

They are savory, spicy, bacony, cheesy, oniony, crumbly and moist. They taste like a pie in your hand and that can never be a bad thing. I'm so happy with them that I am looking through my phone book as I type this to see who I can take them to - good food is only good when it can be shared!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Scones - Maple Walnut and then Raspberry Lemon

I had a hankering this morning. Husband took Connor to school so I had an additional hour added to my day. I love that. It was 52 degrees as I stood in the backyard listening to birds sing the "we're not roasting anymore" song and the dogs barked madly at unseen squirrels.

I considered, briefly, dashing out to treat myself to a coffee (that someone else made) and a baked good. The weather has finally cooled off a little bit here in Texas and I felt like a scone or some other breakfast cake type thing; then it occurred to me. I know how to make them, have supplies here and if I spent a few minutes, I didn't have to even get dressed. Sometimes I like a good plan.

I dug through my notes and decided to use the sweet biscuit recipe as a base and went from there. Trust me on this one, the dough is unnaturally wet but if you flip and knead a few gentle times with gobs of flour on it, you can pat it out, cut it, transfer it to a pan and bake it. The resultant scone is a cross between a biscuit and a cake and I think that's the perfect definition of a scone in the first place. Stick with me here, I haven't led you wrong before!


In the food processor combine

2 cups a/p flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar

pulse it a few times then add 7 Tbsp cold butter and pulse until it's crumby. Toss in a scant cupful of walnut halves - so they have a chance against the blades when you add the liquid, any smaller and you'll have walnut dust - IF you are fanatical, feel free to substitute pecans but since I live in Texas and EVERYTHING has pecans, I like the walnut diversion!

In a 1 cup measure add

1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup (if you don't have REAL maple syrup, you're not allowed to make this, just sayin')
mix together and fill with milk to equal one cup total liquid.

Pour down the feed tube with the machine running (yes yes yes, you can do this by hand, I just happened to be lazy today) and stop the minute it combines. It looks like batter, fear not!!!

HEAVILY flour the counter and use a spatula to scrape the dough/batter onto the counter, cover heavily with flour and knead LIGHTLY a couple of times to entice the mass to be more a dough than a batter.

Pat it out to 3/4 inch thick in a circle and cut into 8 wedges (these make gigantic scones but, hey, if you're making yourself scones, why on earth would you make yourself small ones?)

Put wedges on pan (I use a cast iron comal because it sits on my stovetop and I tend to use it for everything) and brush lightly with butter. I sprinkled little sugar on top today because I wasn't sure (no really!) whether I was going to glaze them.

Bake at 425 for 16 minutes (or until they're done, don't overbake them though!)

Let sit on the pan for a few minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool a bit. I made a glaze of

1/2 cup powdered sugar and enough maple syrup to make a glaze the consistency I could drizzle.

When the scones are room temperature (or close enough) glaze them and leave them to dry a few minutes then eat one. Yes, I do know. Yes, I did taste it. Yes, you're welcome.

I was waiting for these to cool and thought why not keep going? This batch I did by hand, mostly because I couldn't be bothered to wash out the cuisinart.


In a big bowl, combine

2 cups a/p flour
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar

then cut/rub in 1/2 stick cold butter. I used my hands, mix the dry ingredients with your fingertips then rub the flour/butter between your palms, as soon as you feel the butter, drop it all back into the bowl. Alternatively, use a pastry cutter or two knives (both of which work better for me because of that unfortunate hot hand condition I am cursed with)

When it all looks like sand with some lumps, you're ready for liquid, make a well in the centre and add

3/4 cup half and half with 1tsp vanilla and a healthy dose of lemon zest mixed in. Pour 3/4 of the mixture into the well and mix with the knife until it comes together, add more liquid if needed, it should be a soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured piece of parchment paper. Pat (or roll) it out to a large rectangle about 1/3 inch thick. Spread the whole thing with raspberry jam (or whatever jam you love) Chunky or smooth, doesn't matter.

Use the paper and fold the dough into thirds lengthwise, like you're folding a piece of paper to go into an envelope - remember those? Brush any extra flour off the top.

Cut the log into wedges with a bench scraper that's well floured and spread them out on the parchment. Transfer the whole lot (with the parchment) onto a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 19 minutes.

Like the maple scones, allow to sit a few minutes before you transfer them to a wire rack.

Glaze them, when they're room temperature, with 1/2 powdered sugar, lemon zest and enough lemon juice to make the consistency you like for spreading, pouring or glazing.

Eat. Repeat.

These are also ridiculously delicious with a completely different texture to the maple. These are as moist but substantially crumblier and crisper. More of a flaky scone.

Yes, I had to eat one of each, purely in the name of science and research of course and no, I can't possibly decide which one I like better. Feel free to share with me your thoughts on the subject.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes you NEED carrot cake

I'm back. The air conditioning system has been replaced, the workers left a hell of a mess but I really don't care, not today. Today, it's cool and I might have just found my cooking juju. I was accused of having broken juju but I'm feeling every so slightly like me again and that might be instrumental in repairing it, and me.

I thought I needed support from specific people to make me believe in my own cooking and writing ability. I think I may have been wrong. Family is complicated and you can't make people care. The people who are in my life by choice make me realize how blessed I really am. I'm going to try not to focus on those who don't care and smile sweetly in the direction of those who do.

I've done a lot of soul searching in my head for the past couple of weeks and I think I made some decisions about food, cooking, writing and life in general.

Nothing profound that I care to share today, today, in addition to wallowing in the coldness of my house, I have a hankering...

I have a hankering for carrot cake. The ONLY problem with carrot cake is the sheer size of it. Husband doesn't like anything sweet and Connor claims to love treaties but really hardly eats any of them. I love carrot cake but even I can't eat a whole one.

Enter the muffin/cupcake. I'm not a fan of either really but if you fill the paper cups with carrot cake and slather, liberally, with decadent cream cheese icing then in my book it's neither muffin nor cupcake, it's heaven in the palm of your hand. I'm calling them mini carrot's all in the name. I morphed some recipes, some old and some new and this, my pretties, is what we have.

Let's begin. (Oh and this post is pictureless because I was almost frantically making it, cooking it and slathering it and forgot to take pics, sorry but really, they're that good)

Preheat oven to 350, remove cream cheese from fridge to come to room temperature, grab some butter and let it warm up too. Line a 12 and a 6 muffin pan with cups. I made 18, I think you could make only 12 and they'd be higher but then there'd be your own math on it.


Combine (by hand or in your beloved kitchenaid)

2 eggs
1/2 + 1/8 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 dribbly tsp of vanilla

Beat like heck. Dump on top of it (I don't bother with the extra bowl then combining, even though I have a dishwasher, I'm all about less dishes is more joy)

1 cup a/p flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 solid grating of nutmeg (I use the whole nut and scrape once into the bowl)
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (I grate them with my cuisinart but a hand box grater is fine. I grated 2 extra fat and 1 thin carrot today and it was only slightly more than the amount so I tossed them in anyway)
1/2+ cup chopped walnuts (I portion half the batter first because Connor isn't a nut fan and then add them to the rest and get extra nutty ones for me!)

*Some people add raisins and pineapple...if you're one of those types, go for it just add a bit. I'm not a fan of either in my carrot cake, hence the absence of them in the recipe.

Blend gently until just mixed and scoop into the papers with an ice cream scoop. Again, either fill them to the top and get 12 or 3/4 and get 18, it's your call.

Bake in preheated 350 for 25 minutes or until just done, do not over bake these babies, you'll be sorry.

When the oven dings, remove them to a rack to cool completely. It's torturous but IF you made 18 then you can eat one warm and no one will know any are missing whereas if you made 12, someone will notice. Just an observation.


1/2 package (4 oz) cream cheese - room temperature
2 Tbsp butter - room temperature
whip these together with a whisk with a dribble of vanilla and a pinch of salt then add
1 cup confectioners sugar (or more or less depending on the consistency you want, I want thick so I can pile it on and swirl it)

When the cakes are cool, put an enormous blob on each and swirl it, put it on thick, it's carrot cake after all and everyone knows most of the joy is in that smooth cheesy sweet thick creamy icing.

Ice them, eat a couple (to ensure they're good enough for those who you love) then arrange them on a plate to be a hero for anyone who walks into your house. They're moist, delicious, crazy easy and quick. I had a vision that I'd freeze half of them (before I frosted them) but, um, no. I've already eaten 3 - they're carrots...that's GOT to be healthy!!!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

An explanation of the absence

Hi faithful foodie friends;

Yep, I've been gone. I've had to eat out most of the meals for a week now. I'm actually sick of it, as ridiculous as that sounds. I miss my own food. I'm trying not to eat junk but have obviously become delirious when I thought, "it says 'salad' beside it so the 2 lbs of fried seasoned beef, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and salsa poured over the ounce and a half of lettuce in the bottom of a deep fried edible bowl MUST be healthy!" (it WAS delicious though, Serranos at lunch last week; it'll be reviewed on when I get my head back on.)

I will be back in the week though, so stand warned. For those not in the know, I live in Austin, Texas, and last week the central air in the house went down completely. It'd been dying a slow on again off again death for about 2 weeks before that so I feel like we've been living in temperature limbo for way too long.

In some parts of the world that wouldn't be an issue or concern but for me, in 2010, in Austin, in September, it's hell. One day it was just at 100 and when I went outside, it was cooler than inside the house. Sure, there are other people dealing with other things, real things and much bigger problems than whether it's too hot to cook in the kitchen. I get that. I'm not comparing my little issue to any global crisis and I can't justify the moaning about it. I'm sort of sick of hearing myself complain, should the truth be told. That being said, for me, in my world, it was (and is) a biggie.

*we do have a window unit in the bedroom so we can all sleep, "hobo style" as Connor says and a unit in the living-room to take the edge off if we want to spend time in any room other than the bedroom.

Rumor has it the entire system is being replaced on Monday and THEN I'll cook. I'll write. I'll feel like I'm worth something, yeah, it's that deep for me. I'll come back to life and will hopefully find some degree of happiness that the loss of those things took.

I didn't realize what stock I put into the cooking and writing. I assumed it was just a side interest. I get the feeling sometimes the husband thinks it's all just a little something something to keep the happy little housewife busy between bouts of PTA volunteering and driving Connor to where he needs to be. I was wrong. I was big wrong. It's my lifeblood apparently, it keeps me sane, keeps me focused, gives me a total sense of self which is the gist of the whole thing I think. Most of all though, it keeps me happy in my skin. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in standing in the kitchen frying some chicken but I am shocked by how the absence of it has affected me.

Thanks for continuing to check in, keep doing it, I'll be back when it's cool enough that the butter doesn't turn to liquid on the counter and the peanut butter doesn't separate into an oily slimy mess in the pantry...that's how hot it got in here. Blech.

I'd share more but it's lunchtime and we're piling into the car, hmmm, maybe I'll just have a salad?


Friday, September 10, 2010

The baguette - I did it

Sometimes, very little needs to be said, this is one of those is my Friday morning, in pictures

I made baguettes. I found a few recipes in the old old cookbooks and morphed them into a version that ended up being very similar to the p'ain ancienne that everyone is abuzz about.

Mine was a simple, gloppy dough of

3 1/4 c a/p flour (plus a little for dusting the top if it needs it)
1 1/2 t salt
1 heaping t yeast
1 1/2 cups ice water

I dumped it all into my beloved kitchen aid with the paddle attachment. I beat the heck out of it about 2 minutes (it might need a little more flour, depending on your day/weather/house/flour so sprinkle in more by the tablespoon; the dough should just start to pull away from the sides of the mixture but still be very sticky at the bottom) When it began to look like it might become a dough I switched to the dough hook and beat it like hell for 6 minutes. I switched to the hook not because this is a firm enough dough but because it has a lip on the top which stops the dough from travelling up into the innards of the machine.

Blech, as you beat it, it'll start to pull away ever so slightly, this is when you switch out to the hook and then beat it for a good 6 minutes on medium high, it'll flap, smack, whack around the machine, cleaning the bowl completely on the sides and become incredibly shiny.

The resultant dough looks a little like, well it makes my 11 yr old son giggle every time he sees it if that's any hint. It is VERY slimy and very shiny and sticks to everything.

Drop/pour it into a greased bowl (I use olive oil) and flip it over with a spatula because you don't want to touch this stuff!

Toss the bowl, covered, into the fridge and forget about it.

The next day pull the bowl out of the fridge and leave it on the counter for 3 hours. I took it out when I drove Connor to school at 6:30 and by the time I ran a quick errand, had a shower and dealt with the monotonous dealings of the day, read laundry, dishwasher and pets, the dough had come to room temperature and easily doubled, that was 8:45 am.

Dump the jiggling mass onto the floured counter and split it into 3, stretch each piece out, kind of gently, to the shape of a baguette. I like long and skinny, you can go short and rounder if you want. I picked up each chunk of dough, rolled it gently an shook it out like I've seen noodle makers do on tv until it was long enough. I did cut the top of them with scissors in an attempt to make them look artsy, that failed and next time I will razor them as they go into the oven. I lay each one on a parchment covered sheetpan and left it to the side. I added some olive oil, salt, tomato to one because I needed to use some of these tomatoes.

Crank the oven to 500 and put a cast iron pan in the bottom. By the time the oven is screaming hot the bread is rested enough, no worries about doubling in size here. Put the sheetpan in the oven, toss a large handful of ice cubes onto the cast iron pan and close the oven.

I baked for 10 minutes, added more ice and went another 15 minutes. Your oven will cook differently, just go till it's the color you like!

Put on a rack and try really hard not to rip it apart and eat it immediately. I set a timer to wait for 15 and managed to wait for 12 before I ripped it apart, took it's picture and devoured. No, I won't tell you how much I ate.

The crust is crisp and shatters, the crumb is chewy with a little tang. It actually has flavor which is missing in so many artisan breads you buy. Sure, it takes a day to make but that's really 24 hours you can ignore it. It's easy, delicious and you should go and make it, now.


second day quality control sample worked just beautifully :)