Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Edible Egg?

So I'm a little concerned about tonight's supper. Egg and Tomato Gratin. I know, it sounds thrifty and, well, eggy, but I was seduced by the photo in Jacques'  Fast Food My Way. It makes the dish look so deliciously browned and crunchy cheesy. It's what's underneath the melted Baby Swiss I'm worried about. Egg, crushed canned tomato, dried thyme?

It's bound to look as good as the photo though, thanks to my favorite bake-ware staple. An orangey-red and oval shaped enameled cast iron gratin dish. I found this nesting set once at an estate sale. Not one of those estate sales at a grand estate, but a really cat-hairy thick carpet burby split-level affair. There were two actually, made by Lavec, selling for 12 dollars each. The vintage appeal was strong. But somehow not strong enough, or maybe my sensitivity to it not developed enough. I only bought one set. Why? I ask myself every single time I bake a brownie, or a quiche, or an eggy thing. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oh the snow.

We had long since finished the last of our scintillatingly satisfying ham & baby swiss on baguette -- "cornichon-ed and "maille-d" to perfection, and were feeling a little down on smug now that we were about to run out of gas after dark in the snows of the Kickapoo river valley, so we stopped at this farmhouse to ask if we were close to a station. 

Yep, we were, three miles in to Lafarge.

I guess I had hoped they would just offer to fill 'er up right then and there...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cactus! Cactus! Sammies

One of my friends was very encouraging about my last post. I found this note on my facebook wall yesterday afternoon shortly after sending her home with a few muffins to share with her bf, "the banana muffins were excellent. i just ate three and then fell asleep at my desk."

I've never tried eating three in a row, but now I know what to try next time I can't sleep. 

In reality, I think she was exhausted from driving me across chicago and back in the snow to find the roasted salted hazelnuts I needed to satisfy a strong double urge: baking + nutella.

I shamelessly bribed her with fervent vows to hand deliver these to her today...

Cactus! Cactus! Sammies

If you can't secure any roasted salted hazelnuts... 
Dust with a solid dusting of fine sea salt and pop into a 350 oven until fragrant:
3/4 cup raw hazelnuts
Cool slightly and blitz until fine in your food processor.

Whisk together in a med. bowl and set aside:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup ground hazelnuts
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Beat in a stand mixer with paddle attachment or with a hand beater until fluffy:
2 sticks of butter
1 generous cup sugar
  add and mix well:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla

Slowly add dry mixture to butter on med/low, and mix until dough comes together. 

Divide dough into two rounds, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15 mins (or up to a few days)

When you're ready to bake the cookies, roll out one round of dough on a lightly floured surface (flour your rolling pin too) turning it quarter turns between passes with the rolling pin to 1/8 of an inch thick. 

With a mini-cactus cookie cutter (mine's from Sur la Table) cut cookies and lay carefully on a baking sheet-- bake til golden and cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transfering to a rack. Frost half the cookies with Nutella, topping it with the other half to make sandwiches when the cookies cool. 

Repeat with the second round of dough then call all your friends to help you eat your 60 + cookies. (Or freeze the second one and bake before a month is up).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Acupuncture Muffin

The bananas had accumulated -- the forgotten bananas that had been a day too old to appeal with cheerios -- for too long in the freezer, and I, the depressed food lover was feeling demoralized after last night's brush with freezer-burned scallops that even saffron sauce couldn't cure. The scene was set for a beautiful sunday afternoon match of banana muffins. Pick-up banana muffins. 

It was beautiful. Buttermilk splashed in effortlessly in place of milk, 3 whole eggs replaced 4 egg whites,  the wet folding into dry like they were born for a tender crumb... I watched from the kitchen floor as my pecan dotted prototypes rose to apparent perfection. When my husband rode home from a victorious encounter of his own (turned out to be a close call, then a loss for "bike shop guy") and tasted them, he likened the experience to the benefits of eastern medicine. "Muffins have the potential to be so doughy, but here, the pecans provide such a specific relief, like acupuncture."

He is always one for precise language. 
2-0, me.

Oat Bran Banana Nut Muffin

With your oven at 400, after you've lined or buttered 2 dozen muffin cups,
Whisk together in a large bowl and set aside:
    3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Whisk together
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
and stir in
5 over-ripe bananas

Add wet to dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. If you're wondering whether you've mixed enough, it's time to stop.
Scoop into muffin tins (I save half the batter to bake in the mornings) and top with a mix of chopped pecans and a little brown sugar. 
Bake 'til the ol' toothpick comes out clean.  

What's the score?