Thursday, October 29, 2009

What the hell do you do with this?

Those tan things in front of the carrots are fresh ginger. Really fresh ginger from the Japanese farmer at the farmers market who grows all the crazy squashes. The skin is thin and soft like a young carrot and they are firm like a potato. They were so beautiful that I bought them not knowing what they would actually become. A friend told me that her acupuncturist told her that fall is a very good time to eat ginger, very healthy for you in fall.

Okay then, carrot ginger soup it will be. Chopped up about 1/4 c of the fresh ginger, which seemed like an awful lot of ginger, but I took courage from the acupuncturist's words.  I sauteed it with an onion (chopped also) in some olive oil, added carrots, probably about 8 or so. Then added chicken broth, probably about 4 cups and simmered the whole thing until the carrots were soft, and pureed with an immersion blender. It smelled great, it was the color of your best Halloween pumpkin dream, but it tasted about as exciting as boiled oatmeal. Lesson learned - really fresh young ginger doesn't have the flavor depth of older, wiser ginger.

Added dried ginger and some Lyle's golden syrup bc the carrots weren't very sweet, and then it was good.

Now what to do with the rest of the fresh young ginger?

Monday, October 26, 2009

steamed pudding--isn't it really cake?

I'm thinking that I should rate my desserts by how much whipped cream is required to make them edible, well, not just edible but good enough to eat. Sublime requires no whipped cream, v good can use a spoonful, but doesn't need it, good requires several spoonfuls, but then it's really good, and tolerable really is just a vehicle for the whipped cream.
I followed the recipe the first time. Ginger steamed pudding from a Chris Idone book. Laurie Colwin was right, molasses is too much for the ginger. Mostly tasted like a somewhat too sweet molasses cake. Tolerable and then I ran out of whipped cream.
Next I read about steamed puddings. The older recipes (Mrs. Beeton) call for fine dry bread crumbs, treacle and suet. By the time we get to Fanny Farmer, some of the recipes call for suet and bread crumbs and some go with flour and butter. I read Martha, she likes flour and butter. I tried to make a spread sheet tallying the amounts of dry, fat, liquid, eggs, but are eggs a liquid? Cranberries add moisture, but probably not as much as a grated apple. And then I looked at some cake recipes and wondered if I could just steam a cake (I still think I can) but does a recipe with 2 C of flour fit both my 2 qt pudding mold and my much larger looking bundt pan? The one thing I don't want is pudding exploding all over my kitchen. I'm not the methodical, analytical sister, and none of it was adding up to dessert for me.
Armed with my bewilderment and my Sunday afternoon craving for cake, I tried again. I was done with ginger and went right onto Pumpkin. Martha has a recipe for persimmon pudding which I loosely followed, but I substituted about a cup of pumpkin and added fresh cranberries and pecans. It also had a stick of butter and a cup of heavy cream, which seems unnecessary. It was very good if a little subtly flavored (bland). I am going to try it with milk instead of cream, some fresh grated ginger, more cranberries and an extra half cup of sugar, maybe brown this time.
OK, I tried again. And it went like this:
2 C flour, 1 tsp soda, 1/2 tsp powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp mace, mix together, set aside. Put 1 and 1/4 C pumpkin in a bowl, mix in 4 eggs, then 1 C milk, then 3/4 C white sugar and 1/2 C brn sugar, then 2 TB bourbon, then 1 stick melted butter. Once all that is well combined, add the dry, then fold in 1 1/2 C fresh cranberries and a generous C of chopped pecans. Put it in your buttered pudding mold and steam for 90 minutes.
This one was better, but I prefer the texture of the original ginger pudding and I thought it still lacked a little flavor. Next time, I'll increase the brown sugar to 3/4 C, I'll increase all the spices, maybe add some chopped ginger and I won't add the baking powder in hopes of getting a denser, less cakey crumb.
According to my rating system this is somewhere between good and very good, depending on how much you like this sort of thing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stood Up Spice Cake

I got stood up by my friend Travis today bc he forgot his mother was coming to town. Yes, I do believe that. So rather than walking our dogs in the rain on this Sunday afternoon, I am home baking and he is at the airport, I guess.

A phone conversation with my sister led to the idea of a spice cake. Okay, it led to a spice cake recipe, and then the contents or lack thereof of my cupboards led to this specific spice cake. Stood Up Spice Cake,I'm calling it.

1.5 c unsalted butter - let come to room temperature while you talk on the phone with your sister
1.5 c sugar
3 eggs, also room temp so the batter doesn't curdle in that weird way that happens when the soft butter hits the cold eggs
2 1/3 c flour
2 t freshly grated nutmeg
2 t cinnamon
1 t cloves
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
1 c milk
1 c dried cranberries
as much crystalized ginger as is left in the bag, chopped
1 c pecans, chopped

(leave out baking powder and other leavening bc you are busy thinking about your conversation with your sister. Don't worry, it will be fine.) edited the next day to add that it actually will not be fine. Put them in.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the milk and the dry ingredients alternately, about 3 rounds. Mix in cranberries, pecans and ginger and put in buttered bundt pan. Bake at 350 for one hour.

Next time I will try using brown sugar and 1/2 whole wheat flour, just to see.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hi Punkin

Fall is for pumpkins. On the porch, at the farmers market, smashed by the side of the road, and especially, on the table.

Last week I went on a binge. It was brought on by the first pumpkin pie at the store, a cute little palm sized, $7 nugget. Bought it but than had to share it with my husband, so rather than satisfying it only aggravated the craving.

A whole pie followed, made with one of Martha's recipes. The squash pie section in Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts is covered with many fall's worth of notes, most penned by my husband who is both a fan of pumpkin pie and the designated Thanksgiving pie-maker. However, it needs to be noted that he is not a pie-maker by habit, so some of the less-than-complimentary notes might be attributed not to Martha's recipe but some small oversight on the part of the baker.

Anyway, I know the brown sugar pumpkin pie recipe is solid. I often skip the crust entirely and just make the filling in individual ramekins. I confess to a preference for filling over crust and a somewhat lazy streak. But this time I made it crust and all, and we didn't eat it all in one sitting. It took about 6 hours.

Next up, pumpkin cookies. This is a recipe given to me by a friend in 1986, according to the note on the card. It's got a lot of notes on it too. The original recipe called for chocolate chips and M&Ms, no spices, no nuts, no raisins. Yuck. I add a mess of typical pumpkin pie spices, crystalized ginger, raisins, walnuts and leave out anything chocolate. A vast improvement. They lasted longer than 6 hours.

Fall is good. And I have a pumpkin on the porch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The best failed apple cake

This is my kvetch about some cookbooks. They are written as if by God and and as if no reader would question any step in the recipe. Emily Luchetti of Stars Desserts is such a writer. I was looking for an apple cake because I had a lot of apples and wanted to make a cake. My sister is partial to the chunky apple walnut cake in Silver Palette and I'm OK with that one. I think it appeared in some previous entry. But I didn't have any vegetable oil that wasn't rancid and I wanted to use butter because I prefer a butter cake. So there is Emily Luchetti with her morning apple cake.
5 apples, butter, sugar, eggs, ww and white flour. I substituted some brown sugar for the white. It was stiff. I hadn't even added all the flour and it was extremely stiff. Seemed more like a cookie recipe. No where in the recipe does it say, "the batter will be very stiff." So I panicked and added some sour cream. Actually, by the time you have folded in all the chopped apples (she wanted them "shredded, grated," I opted for a medium fine chop in the miniprep. Less work, less to clean) it would not have been too stiff. I greased and floured the bundt pan as directed, but I really think from now on, if I can't use parchment, I'm going to use Pam. It isn't worth it.
So the cake fell apart and even after an extra 20 minutes of baking, it still wasn't done, but I took it out anyway.
So I had a cake that was in pieces and really undercooked, nary an air bubble or crumb to be found, and it is still the best apple cake I've made. I plan to make it again, without the sour cream and with the Pam and cool it in the pan as directed.
Back to the kvetch. I wish she had reassured me that the batter would be stiff and also made a bigger deal about the cool in pan part so I would have noticed it.