Monday, November 28, 2011

To Add Zing to Leftover Turkey

If you cooked more turkey than you could possibly eat on Thanksgiving as I did, (or if you ever have extra turkey after a meal) then you might enjoy making this fresh cranberry sauce to liven up a leftover turkey sandwich or just as a side with sliced turkey.

Unlike most fresh cranberry sauces, it doesn't have any orange flavor or components. It does have fresh apple, dried figs and some port but you could probably sub raisins for the figs and another liquid for the port and still get a great sauce, just different. I've found that fresh cranberries these days seem to be on the large size, so I pulse them a few times in the food processor. If you like the texture of whole cranberries that have popped, or have smaller whole cranberries, or don't own a food processor, you could probably skip that or chop the cranberries up with a large knife.

We had this with our Thanksgiving dinner and it was really good with the turkey, playing up the turkey flavor. Since I adore turkey in many of its renditions, this was a good thing. This looks like jewels when served in a clear or crystal dish, but is pretty in any dish you choose.

If you celebrated American Thanksgiving last week, hope it was a great time.
XO Elle

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Apples, Figs, and Port

Many cranberry sauce recipes include oranges but if, like me, you have a guest who is allergic to oranges, try this cranberry sauce. To give it extra crunch, you could fold in some pomegranate arils.

1 bag fresh cranberries (about 12 oz)
2 tart apples
4 dried figs, cut in small dice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water (or orange juice or pomegranate juice)
1/4 cup port
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)

Wash the cranberries and pick over them to remove any that are soft. Place in food processor fitted with metal blade.

Cut the apples in half and remove the core and stem and blossom ends. Cut each half into four pieces and put them into the food processor with the cranberries. Pulse a few times to roughly chop the fruit.

In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, water (or juice), and port. Stir to combine. Add the chopped fruit and figs and stir again. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Check about half way through. If mixture is too dry, add more water or juice...about 2 - 3 tablespoons. I too soggy, you can simmer uncovered a few minutes to thicken it up.

After the mixture has simmered for 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the port, vanilla (and the pecans, if using). Let the mixture cool a bit, then taste to see if you need to add sugar or water to make it the perfect sauce for you. Serve slightly warm or chilled.
Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Whoosh...November Babe Lateness with Potato Cake

That whoosh sound was the days of
November from the last post to this one just whizzing by. Somehow we are now just a week away from the last day of the month, and I'm just getting my Potato Coffee Cake posted. Part of the reason is that I injured my left foot (I know, I's always the right foot or knee, but sometimes I have to change it up a bit, right?) which came just about the time I would have been baking this luscious treat (having jsut gotten back from Seattle a few days before that). Part of the reason is also that I've been immersed in cleaning out my computer room and also have been busy at the computer with class work. Loving being back doing graphic arts, but it is always time consuming.

All excuses aside, this is one delicious cake. Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, a super Babe and lover of breads made with potatoes, based this bread,

Kartoffel Kuchen or Potato Coffee Cake on a recipe in One Potato, Two Potato by Ray Finamore, but in the process of getting it ready for the Babes and Buddies she tweaked it and patted it and played with it and made it much better than the original recipe.

I made two 9-inch cakes and one big ring cake, which meant that the smaller cakes are also not terribly high and that I made double doses of the fantastic struesel so that each cake had a LOT of it. Once you taste it you'll understand why.

I found this very easy dough to work with. I did add the flax seed meal but didn't have any white whole wheat flour, so used regular whole wheat flour, which worked out well. The dough really liked to rise and I didn't have to bake it any longer than the recipe called for with the 9-inch pans. The big ring pan took 30 minutes.

For toppings I used the light raisins for one, putting them on the dough under the streusel, then I sprinkled pulverized dried orange peel on the dough of the second 9-inch pan, then sprinkled on dried cranberries, followed by streusel. Both got the dimple treatment once all of that happened.

The ring pan was filled with lumpy balls of the dough (half the recipe) which had each been rolled in cinnamon-sugar. No fruit was added, just half of the streusel. I expected to see lines of cinnamon-sugar through the dough when I cut into it, but didn't. It was slightly sweeter and the cinnamon fragrance was wonderful!

If you would like to be a Bread Baking Babes Buddy, and why not?, just bake this bread/cake by the 29th, post about it, and send Tanna an e-mail with a photo and a brief description of your experience baking it. She'll be glad to hear from you and will post a round-up shortly after the 29th.

Thanks, Tanna, for a great challenge and a wonderful coffee cake experience! Sweetie is having trouble resisting it...'just another small piece' has been heard often.

Do visit the other Babe's blogs to see their take on this recipe. Since I'm late you may need to go back a few days to see the post for this coffee cake, but you're sure to enjoy it. The links are to the right toward the top of the blog.

I'm also sending this over to Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting round-up. Stephanie of Hefe Und Mehr is the hostess this week while Susan takes a break.

Potato Coffee Cake
Recipe Adapted from: One Potato, Two Potato by Roy Finamore
Yield: 2, 10 inch round cakes; 4 eight inch round cakes
From the books intro: There are a lot of things called potato cake in this book, but this one's a real cake, of the coffee cake school. It's based on an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.


For the Cake:
1 pound russet or all purpose potato, peeled and cubed
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
5 cups AP flour
1.5 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
4 tablespoons flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Streusel
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons butter, room temp.
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans or almonds
1/3 cup white raisins

1. Cook potatoes until very tender, just falling apart.
Drain and reserve potato water.

2. Idealy: rice the potatoes otherwise mash them.
Combine with butter and 1 3/4 cups warm potato water. Allow butter to melt and water to cool to luke warm.

3. In a standing mixer bowl: mix together the potatoes, potato water & butter, yeast, sugar, eggs and 2 cups of flour.
Beat until smooth. This is VERY liquid at this point.
Cover the sponge with plastic and leave in a warm place until it's bubbling happily.

4. Original recipe allowed 1 hour for this.
I altered this to a 5 hour rest in the fridge.
I'm working on the premise that a coffee cake is a morning thing so I aimed for an overnight rise in the dough with shaping in the AM.

5. Stir in remaining 4.5 cups flour, nutmeg and salt using the dough hook (or strong wooden spoon) for about 5 minutes. Dough should be very smooth. I never got a really smooth dough. I tried using Richard Bertinet's slapping technique for very liquid doughs but didn't really have any success.
I probably added another almost 1 cup of flour here but didn't want to push it anymore than that.

Cover again & leave to rise until doubled.

6. Again, original recipe allowed for 1 hour. I let this rise overnight.

7. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lighty floured surface.
Divide the dough in half. If you work quickly while the dough is chilled you can get a reasonable nicely tucked round. As it warms, it'll get more liquid on you.
Shape into two rounds. I did four rounds and used 2 8 inch and 2 10 inch round cake pans. My four cakes were about 2 inches tall.
Original recipe: Place into two 10-inch round cake pans.

8. Preheat oven to 400° at least 20 minutes.

9. For the Streusel Stir flour, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and add butter.
Mix together creating a soften mixture with dark color and sticky texture.
Work in the nuts.

10. Sprinkle streusel over the cakes.
When cakes are covered, dimple the cakes with your fingers - much like dumpling foccacia.
Dimpling will bury some of the crumbs and leave others on the top.

11. Cover with plastic.
Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, taking about 45 minutes.

12. BAKE Bake cakes at 400° 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool on rack … but not cold … this is too good warm.

Tanna's notes:
This is beautiful toast!
Freeze the second cake if you can get it to the freezer before it's gone.
Notes: my 1 pound of potatoes, cooked then mashed equaled 576 grams of mashed potato
I got lazy here, didn't get out my ricer. Potatoes were perfectly cooked and mashed easily with a fork.

Make as two loaves if you want it tall.
Make into four loaves as I did if you want it lower. My four were something like 2 inches tall.

Double the Streusel if you make this into 4 loaves.
I changed the original recipe from 1 cup AP flour to the oat bran & whole wheat.
I increased the sugar from 3/4 cup to a 1 cup and used brown instead of white … I most always use brown unless it really changes something basic to the outcome; just like the caramel flavor it gives.
Original recipe called for 1 package active dry yeast. I used 2 teaspoons. I don't think it would work to cut it any more. Also, original recipes called for dissolving yeast in 1/4 cup potato water. I put all the potato water into the potatoes with mashing and whisk the yeast into flour mix.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Ravioli and Spinach

My recent trip to Seattle not only included a visit to the University of Washington Arboretum where the photo above was taken (I just LOVE autumn colors so had to post one more!) but also a wonderful dinner at Smash, a small restaurant which focuses on small plates and nice wines. I was particularly taken with an entree which had a bed of spinach topped with luscious tender ravioli filled with ginger enhanced butternut squash. A silky browned butter cream sauce with a hint of Marsala pulled it all together. I decided to see if I could make something similar at home.

The first thing I did was to purchase some fresh pasta ravioli made with butternut squash and sage. The filling had more cheese than the restaurant made ones, but they looked like they would work just fine. Then I made sure I had fresh baby spinach, more butternut squash that I could prepare to go on the side and the ingredients for the sauce. Although the extra squash might seem like too much, ravioli doesn't really have a lot of squash in that filling so additional veggies seemed like a good idea. I used to have Marsala, but couldn't find it and the sauce really needs it. Marsala must not be too popular...the bottle I purchased at the Safeway was dusty on the shoulders.

The real challenge was replicating the sauce because it really does bring all the other flavors together. I started with the ingredients for a basic white sauce: butter, flour, milk & cream, and salt and pepper. In addition I added some ginger because the ravioli I purchased lacked the ginger in the filling that the restaurant used. I also added some Parmesan cheese, a dash of sage and the all-important Marsala. To capture the nuttiness found in the restaurant sauce, I browned the butter gently until it was a medium golden brown and then added the flour/ginger combination. When it came time to add the Marsala I added one teaspoon, tasted, then added a second teaspoon. That was all it needed, but it added just the right hint in both flavor and fragrance to let you know it was there.

The butternut squash on the side wasn't part of the restaurant meal, but Sweetie is used to big plates, not the minimal ones found at trendy restaurants. He really liked the contrast of the delicate ravioli and creamy sauce with the squash which had been pan roasted and was still slightly al dente. It was a slight bit sweeter, too, which was a nice counterpoint to the spinach. Although I could have seasoned the spinach I remembered that the restaurant seemed to use plain spinach, wilted, under the ravioli, trusting no doubt that the seasonings in the sauce and pasta would suffice. I used about 5 cups baby spinach, but would use more if I made this again.

Timing is important when making this dish. Plan on having everyone ready to be at the table once the pasta is done. Parsley can be minced ahead of time. The pasta water needed to be fully boiling and then the pasta only takes 5 minutes to cook, so the sauce should be made ahead a bit and kept warm while the pasta cooks. If the spinach has been rinsed and put into a microwave safe bowl, the wilting takes only a minute or two after starting the pasta. Of all the elements, the pan roasted squash takes the most time but it can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave once the spinach is wilted and the pasta is in to boil. Once the pasta is just cooked, it can be drained and the plate put together quickly. Serve at once while everything is still hot.

I hope you try this one. None of the elements are difficult as long as you can find ready-made butternut squash raviolis. It makes an impressive and delicious plate of pasta and vegetables and somehow seems very luxurious as you eat it. The sauce makes enough for 4 but I only had pasta enough for two, so the recipe is for two. You could increase the ingredients to use the whole squash and buy a couple bags of baby spinach (10 oz each) and double the amount of pasta to serve four and there should be enough sauce.

Butternut Squash Ravioli
with Wilted Baby Spinach, Pan-Roasted Butternut Squash and Browned Butter Sauce

1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups milk or a combination of milk and cream (I used 1 1/2 cups evaporated non-fat milk and 1/2 cup "1/2 and 1/2" light cream)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Marsala
dash ground sage
1 package butternut squash ravioli (about 8 oz. for two)
1 bag (10 oz) baby spinach, well rinsed but not dried
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced

To make the Pan-Roasted Squash:Cut the butternut squash in half. Reserve the other half for another use and peel one half. Cut to reveal any seeds and remove seeds and stringy materials from the inside if there. Cut the squash into 1/2 inch dice. Set aside.

Heat a skillet (cast iron works best for this) over high heat. While skillet is heating, place the squash cubes, olive oil, salt, sage, and grated onion into a gallon zipper bag or large plastic bag. Close and shake vigorously to coat the squash pieces with the other ingredients.

When a drop of water dropped on the skillet sizzles, add the seasoned squash cubes. Use a spatula to flatten the mixture and compact it a bit. Let it sit undisturbed for 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for another 30 seconds.

Turn the squash with a wide spatula to bring the browned side up and get the unbrowned side in touch with the pan. Cook another minutes. Repeat. Add the maple syrup and stir to combine it with the squash mixture. Flatten the squash mixture again and let cook 30 seconds. Turn the mixture a few more times, letting the squash brown a bit before turning. Check for how done the squash is by tasting a piece. It should be softened but still have a little resistance, like al dente pasta. Correct seasonings if needed. Remove from the heat and reheat in the microwave just before serving.

To make the Browned Butter Sauce:In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, melt the butter over medium-high heat. As the butter melts, swirl the pan to mix the butter solids in with the clarified butter. Continue to cook and swirl until the butter is colored a medium golden brown. Remove from the heat. Combine the flour and ginger in a small bowl. Whisk the flour mixture into the browned butter. The residual heat will cook the flour enough so there is no need to return the mixture to the heat. Whisk the milk in, all at once, and continue whisking to thoroughly combine the milk mixture and flour mixture. Return to medium heat and, whisking constantly, cook until the mixture thickens, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Parmesan, Marsala, and sage. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as desired. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the sauce to keep it from forming a skin. Set aside until needed for plating the pasta. When that time comes, remove the plastic wrap and gently heat the sauce again, whisking as needed.

Start a large pot half filled with water to boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt if you like your pasta salted.

To make the spinach:Take the washed spinach and place in a microwave safe bowl.Cover with waxed paper or a plain paper towel. Set aside.

The pasta:Once the water comes to a full boil and you know that you can serve in about7-10 minutes, reduce the heat to medium (so that water is barely boiling) and gently place the ravioli, one by one, into the pot. Start your timer for 5 minutes. About half way through that time you may want to flip the ravioli over but don't if they start to break up or lose filling.

Now, once the pasta is in the boiling water, you can reheat the butternut squash for 2-3 minutes in the microwave. Next wilt the spinach by cooking on high 1-2 minutes in the microwave. Remove the plastic from the sauce and gently reheat. Get your plates ready.

At 5 minutes (or at whatever time is recommended for cooking the pasta by the manufacturer), drain the pasta gently. Place half the spinach on each plate, spoon on a little of the sauce, place half the pasta on each plate (leaving some space on the side for the pan-roasted squash) and spoon a generous amount of sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle some minced parsley on top. Spoon some of the squash on the side and repeat with the other plate. Serve at once.

A dry red wine goes well with this dish. Toast the cook. He or she will deserve it after putting this meal together.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Fun

Just back from a visit to Seattle. We were lucky (or perhaps brought California sunshine with us?) because all the rain that had been called for as I packed never happened. It was great fall weather with a nice chill to it. That's probably why the fall color was fantastic!

One of the places I visited was the U Dub (as it is known around here) Arboretum where there were lots and lots of fully colorful trees of all sorts. Bliss for me since our fall color is more muted.

We also made sure to check in at Trophy Cupcakes so that we could try the current seasonal one...Candied Yam with a Toasted Marshmallow topping. It was sort of like a good carrot cake but with yam flavor. We also shared a Mocha Chocolate one that was amazing. They really know how to do butter cream frosting at Trophy. They are shown in the photo at the top, surrounded by the leaves we collected on the walk near there. We used to collect fall leaves when the kids were young and iron them between sheets of waxed paper, then hang them up in the windows on cords to let the sun shine through.

All of this indulgence had been preceded by two good sized walks, not counting the walk at the Arboretum the day before. One of the things I love about Seattle is that is seems like a really walkable city to me.

I'm going to be making a dish (or my version of it at least) that we tried at a restaurant in Wallingford area called Smash. I'll post it in the next day or two. It involves two of my favorite flavors: butternut squash and spinach.

XO Elle

Friday, November 04, 2011

A Star is Born (uh, Baked)

Now that the air is nippy and the fall color has turned the trees to flame, the urge to start baking for the holidays has hit. Natasha, my dear friend (but not a Bread Baking Babe...that's Natashya) loaned me a wonderful book called Festive Baking - Holiday Classics in the Swiss, German, and Austrian Traditions by Sarah Kelly Iaia.

It really started my creative juices flowing, even though many of the recipes are for things related to Christmas, not the fall. One recipe that called to my crafty side was in the bread section (of course it was). It's called Geflochtener Weihnachtsstern or Braided Christmas Star. The dough called for is a typical rich sweet dough flavored with lemon zest. I decided to go with something more in keeping with autumn and harvest...Anadama bread. I've made it before but this time I used regular corn meal and less molasses and I like it better this way.

The finished bread was soft and mellow with just a hint of molasses. It kept the shape of the star really well, too. It goes well with hearty fall soups or stews and makes wonderful toast.

Once I'm back from Seattle I plan on making French Toast with any bread that is still around. The start shape was barely contained by the half sheet baking sheet, which is a lot of bread, plus I baked the other half of the dough into a nice loaf and it made something line 16 slices for sandwiches (or French Toast since Sweetie loves French Toast.) I used three of the 'arms' of the star today to make s small batch of stuffing to go with the grilled chicken and asparagus we had for dinner. It made excellent stuffing. What a versatile bread!

Hang on to this recipe in case you want to bake a star for the holidays. It really is easy if you know how to braid, yet looks super impressive. You could probably even use thawed frozen bread dough if creating bread dough isn't our thing. Just be sure to glaze it with the egg wash so that it is that gorgeous golden brown.

Anadama Bread and Star
Star shaping from Festive Baking by Sarah Kelly Iaia
makes two loaves or one loaf and one big star

1/2 cup regular corn meal
2 cups water, divided
1/3 cup molasses
6 tablespoons butter, softened,
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for greasing
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and 1 cup of the cold water. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring another cup of water to a boil. Add cornmeal mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, about 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in the molasses and the butter.
Add the whole wheat flour and stir until all is combined. Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric stand mixer and cool to tepid. (Or transfer to a mixing bowl large enough to mix the dough by hand and then knead in the rest of the flour.)

Add the 1 cup sourdough starter to the mixing bowl with the tepid cornmeal mixture. Mix on low speed with dough-hook attachment ( or a wooden spoon) for several seconds. With dough hook in place on the stand mixer add flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing for several seconds after each addition. Sprinkle in the salt, and continue mixing until dough completely comes away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Oil a sheet of plastic wrap and loosely cover dough. Allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. (At this point I punched the dough down, recovered it, and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day I let the dough warm up and then did the shaping.)

Lightly grease 1- 9 x 4 inch loaf pan. Line a sheet pan with silicon mat or parchment for the star. Press down dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape one piece loosely into a loaf and place in the prepared pan pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until loaf has doubled.

For star, take second half of dough (all the dough remaining) and divide it into six equal pieces (using a scale really helps with getting the pieces about the same size). Set one piece aside. Each of the other five pieces is used to make one of the star 'arms'.

Take one of the pieces and divide it into three equal pieces. Roll each of those three pieces into a rope about 8 inches long, with a taper at one end. Join the three ropes at the tapered end and braid the ropes. Repeat with each of the next 4 pieces.

Place the braided pieces on the prepared baking sheet with the tapered end pointing out, to shape a five-point star. The ends at the middle should touch and so pinch them together.

Take the last piece of dough and roll into a long rope, about 20 inches long. Starting at the center of the star, wind the rope around in a spiral over the center of the star. Tuck the end under the spiral.

Cover the star with oiled plastic wrap and set aside to rise, until doubled in bulk. When almost to that point, preheat the oven.

When oven is fully preheated, brush the star and the loaf with a wash of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Make sure that the wash goes into the crevices of the star. Slash the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven. Bake loaves for 35 minutes to 1 hour, or until bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Star may take a shorter baking time than the loaf. That's OK.

Allow bread to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Serve warm if possible.

This bread is mellow and soft, barely sweet from the molasses and makes really good toast.