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Pumpkin bread from scratch | Recipe of the week

26 Oct

Pumpkin bread

Tonight, I made pumpkin bread from scratch. Though, to be fair, I started on the pumpkin puree on Sunday. We went to Farmer John’s Pumpkin Patch in Half Moon Bay on Sunday to pick up some carving pumpkins, as well as a Cinderella and a Fairytale pumpkin for eatin’. Mrs. Farmer John told me that the Cinderellas were good for baking and the Fairytale was better for grilling, since it had less water.

I was thinking of roasting the pumpkins, like I often do with winter squash, but D wanted to use the pumpkins to make pumpkin bread. Good ol’ Cook’s Illustrated helped out here, with simple (though time-intensive) instructions for making pumpkin puree. We used the Cinderella for the puree and CI’s recipe for pumpkin-nut bread (leaving out the nuts). And voila! Pumpkin bread from scratch. We ate it with vanilla ice cream, after it cooled down a bit but was still warm from the oven. It was definitely a subtler taste than with canned pumpkin, but it was pretty darn tasty. Next time, I’d add a tiny bit more sugar and more spices.

Recipes: Pumpkin-Nut Bread (Cook’s Illlustrated). Although Mrs. Farmer John’s recipe (and pumpkin prep technique) is here.

Technique: Pureeing pumpkins (Cook’s Illustrated)

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No-knead bread

4 Jul

Bittman's no-knead bread

No-knead bread

Cherry pie | Recipe of the week

31 Aug

The cherry pie, in progress.

Note: I’ve been clearing through my Draft posts folder, hence the deluge of “new” posts.

When I moved from Portland to San Francisco, I drove Wolfie, my 1990 VW Golf down I-5 through Oregon, then over to the coast, stopping along the way for coffee and cherry pie (I may or may not have been inspired by Twin Peaks). I honestly feel that there is no more perfect pie than cherry pie. The round whole cherries bobbing about in that bright-red syrup and popping in your mouth as you eat them–delicious.

So since this summer has turned, somehow, into the Summer of Pie, it was only logical that I try my hand at a cherry pie to bring to my friend Angela’s jam up in Fiddletown.

Step 1 in making cherry pie: Clear your calendar.

Pitting cherries takes a really long time, people. I wasted several pounds of delicious organic cherries because I didn’t have time to pit them right after I bought them. I still ate most of them as snacks, etc., but still…

Once you do free up several hours of your time, bear in mind that it will likely be on an uncharacteristically gorgeous day when you’d really rather be doing something outside. That’s OK, because soon you will enter the Zen state of cherry-pitting, and that is something that all those people hiking, biking, sunning, eating at charming outdoor cafes, etc. will not be able to enjoy. Nor will they be able to eat your pie.

The pie, about to go into the oven then, soon after that, into my belly.

How to pit cherries without a cherry pitter is a hot topic online. Although I was intrigued by the pastry tip approach described by one Chowhounder, I ultimately went with the paper clip method because I wanted to keep the cherries as whole as possible. (I also consulted the NYT’s cherry-pitting discussion.)

Other than that, I followed Bittman’s recipe (of course) for cherry pie. I used sweet cherries from my local farmer’s market and added lemon juice and almond extract. This was, I must say, my best pie ever.

What to Cook for Dinner: Nicole’s Favorites

4 Jan

My friend Alix and I were just chatting over IM about our favorite recipes, so I thought it might make a fun list. The faves are things that I’ve been cooking recently.

BTW, it affirms my assertion that the October issues of Martha Stewart Living have always been the best. Best recipes, best crafts, best covers (until Michael Boodro became editor and, really, just ruined the magazine for me).

My winter faves (all Martha):

My recent faves (my kitchen has been almost all Bittman, all the time):

  • Roast Chicken with Roasted New Potatoes (How to Cook Everything, p. 359)
  • Spicy Tofu with Ground Pork (HTCE, p. 526)
  • Baked Ziti with Radicchio and Gorgonzola (HTCE, p. 143)
  • Broccoli Raab with Sausage and Grapes (HTCE, p. 545)

On my to-cook list:

  • Gwynnie’s Caramelized Black-Pepper Chicken (GOOP)
  • Also, her Buckwheat Banana Pancakes (GOOP)
  • Our friend V’s veggie saute: red onion, mushrooms (any kind but flavorful is better), basil, zuch, red peppers, tomato. Drizzle with balsamic, let it sit together and stew. Serve over a mild white fish or polenta.
  • Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate-Toffee Cookies
  • Moosewood Cookbook’s Lemon-Anise Biscotti (this and the guacamole recipe are the only two things I make out of this cookbook anymore).
  • Bittman’s chicken stock (still choosing which one)

[[Update 1/12/09]]

How could I forget my favorite chili recipe? Sooooo good.

Pumpkin-Chocolate Tart

5 Dec

(Am home sick today, so I’m using the time to catch up on some blogging.)

I always intend to blog about various cooking projects (but of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions), but never seem to find the time. So here’s a quick update on the ridiculously decadent pumpkin-chocolate tart (from MSL 11/2003) I made for the vegetarian Thanksgiving down in Santa Cruz.

Crust for pumpkin-chocolate tart

Next time, I’m going to build the sides up a bit more. They shrunk more than I remembered. And yes, that is chopped chocolate in the bottom of the chocolate crust. You can see one of my test pots de creme for post-Thanksgiving (before they met their unfortunate fate) in the background.

Pumpkin filling for pumpkin-chocolate tart

The creme fraiche in the filling gives it a nice tang that helps, slightly, to cut the richness of the chocolate. The store-bought creme fraiche helped speed up the preparation. I’ve made this twice before and made my own creme fraiche both times.

Pumpkin-chocolate tart

Sadly, my photos of the finished tart either make the chocolate look strangely purple or are out of focus. Next time, I’m going to heat the chocolate a bit more to get it a thinner consistency for dripping. The globby look of the chocolate undermines the presentation and doesn’t make it look as yummy as it is, although it does remind me of lattice-crust pie.

Cut in small pieces. This is one of the richest desserts I’ve ever made.

Making dough in a mini-Cuisinart

12 Aug

It’s not the worst thing in the world to try to make dough in a mini Cuisinart, but it is labor-intensive. I just spent an hour making pate brisee in a ridiculous number of batches. But it actually turned out better than it usually does (I think. I’ll find out for real when I make my tomato tart tomorrow).

I did three things differently:

  • I mixed the flour and salt with a spoon, instead of in the mini-cuis.
  • I added the butter in smaller batches, scooping up the dry, cornmeal-consistency dough in each batch to try to distribute the butter more evenly. The added benefit of this was that the butter was more evenly distributed and there weren’t as many chunks.
  • I poured the water in slowly. For the most successful batch, I added dough, then water, then dough, then water. Adding water just to the top made the dough at the bottom of the cuis get all nice and sticky, but it didn’t blend into the top.

I’d definitely do the parfait layering of the dough and water next time. I also would try to keep the butter colder (maybe cut up a half a stick, and leave the rest in the fridge or put it in the freezer for a bit). My one concern is that all these little batches work the dough too much. But considering that I don’t know what the ill effects of that are (I just know you’re not supposed to do it), I’ll wait until tomorrow AM when I roll it out.

Baking Tip: A Must for Crust

6 Nov

In the new Everyday Food, there’s an awesome tip for dough: roll it onto floured wax paper so you can turn the paper (not yourself) when you need to roll the dough in a different direction. I’m so trying that.