Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bourbon Street Madness Caramel Apple Meringue Coffee Cake

Too much unwelcome drama in the hood doesn't make for a happy Daring Baker this month. But cooking does provide an escape, so I welcomed a little Saturday morning baking to unwind and get into my zone. I focused on how much we have to look forward to when we move to our new house in a few months. We're staying in Coronado, but it was time to make a change to something a bit larger, and much more private. Did I mention loads of charm and a fabulous outdoor entertaining space? Did I mention a breakfast nook with beautiful, natural light, perfect for my blog-ography studio? Dooley's just beside himself and so very excited about his new yard, with grass and a huge shady tree for those morning, afternoon, and evening Newfie naps. We're all ready for an awesome summer of Friday night cocktails and hors d'œuvres, and another challenging season of Concert in the Park themed-picnics! In the meantime, just help me through the next few months.

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Our hostesses instructed us to roll up our sleeves, put our hands wrist-deep in some smooth, silky dough, and create a yeast-risen coffee cake - a brioche-like dough, rolled jellyroll style around a layer of whipped meringue and our chosen filling, shaped into a wreath, and baked.

"Beautiful to put together, and gorgeous out of the oven, the cake is light and fluffy,
barely sweet, and the meringue miraculously melts into the dough as it bakes,
leaving behind just a hint of sweetness and adding to the perfect moistness of the cake."

Jamie provided us with her all-American version (cinnamon, chopped pecans and chopped chocolate) and Ria's version incorporated Indian flavors (saffron added to the sweet yeast bread dough, and garam masala, cashews, and semi-sweet chocolate chips in the filling). We were free to try one of their versions, or get creative and create our own personal flavor variation. They suggested we let our own national cuisine inspire us.

My inspiration for our coffee cake came from the amazingly decadent Apple Pie Caramel Apples at Fuzziwigs Candy Factory in Coronado. A crunchy, juicy, sweet apple, dipped in gooey caramel, dipped in melted white chocolate, and then rolled in cinnamon sugar, best cut with one of those apple corer/slicer doohickeys, and eaten by the slice.

With a squeeze bottle of John's Bourbon Street Madness caramel sauce still in the refrigerator, the filling for our Saturday morning coffee cake was a no-brainer: Apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, white chocolate, and bourbon-caramel sauce. I didn't shape mine into a wreath - too much like the Stollen we made at Christmas-time.

Bourbon Street Madness Caramel Apple Filled Meringue Coffee Cake
Adapted from Filled Meringue Coffee Cake
Makes one coffee cake and serves 8


For the yeast coffee cake dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 package active dried yeast (3.5 grams)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg at room temperature

For the meringue:

2 large egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/4 cup sugar

For the filling:

2 large apples (peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup caramel sauce

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg

Extra caramel sauce and/or powdered sugar for serving.


Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3/4 cup of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the egg and 1/2 cup flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in about 1/2 cup of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (using the remaining 1/4 cup of flour) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 – 60 minutes.

Prepare your filling: 

Place the chopped apples in medium bowl, add the lemon juice and stir to coat the apples with juice. In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, and sprinkle over the apples. Toss together to incorporate.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:

In the clean mixing bowl of your electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the sugar, a little bit at at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cake:

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Punch down the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch rectangle. Spread the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Distribute the apple mixture and chopped white chocolate evenly over the meringue.  Squeeze caramel sauce all over (that's John's hairy arm).

Roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the ends closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to the lined cookie sheet, seam side down.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along both outside edges of the roll, at about 2-inch intervals. Make the cuts about 1-inch deep.

Cover the coffee cake with plastic wrap and allow it to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the top of the coffee cake with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Transfer baking sheet to cooling rack and allow to cool.

Serve warm, or at room temperature, with extra caramel sauce and/or powdered sugar.

For the complete challenge recipes, please visit The Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive, and take a browse-through the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see what some of the other members created this month. There are some fabulous savory versions also.

Thank you, Ria and Jamie! Although I procrastinated until the last minute and almost skipped this one, we were rewarded with a lovely Saturday morning coffee cake.

Friday, March 25, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Seared Scallops with Caramel-Blood Orange Sauce

I'm living an exciting life in Paris...

Living vicariously, that is, through Dorie Greenspan's little snippets introducing each recipe in Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. But Dorie's not a name-dropper. The chefs she mentions are probably some of her closest friends. If I close my eyes, I can see her in the kitchens of L'Arpège and Market, chatting it up with chefs Alain Passard and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as she sips Krug Champagne and indulges in an innovative hot-cold egg, (a surprising mixture of egg, cream, sherry vinegar, and maple syrup, all served in the shell), or foie gras crème brûlée.

These are the two chefs, and their sweet-savory creations, that inspired Dorie to create Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce, this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe.

Alain Passard is the French chef and owner of L'Arpège in Paris, a three Michelin star restaurant. He plays the saxophone, released a recipe book written especially for children, partners in a company that produces mustard using a 16th century recipe, and collaborated with silversmiths Christofle on the design of a flatware collection specially designed for eating vegetables, modeled after pitchforks and scythes. Vegetables are an important part of L’Arpège and all their vegetables are grown on their two hectare all organic farm in the French countryside. I'd love to have a few pieces of this flatware to add to my prop collection...

Christofle Arpège flatware

Jean-Georges Vongerichten was born in France, but now resides in the United States, where he reins over his vast empire of restaurants in Las Vegas, London, Paris and Shanghai, as well as New York's Jean Georges restaurant. He is the author of four cookbooks, including James Beard-awarding winning Jean-Georges: Cooking At Home with a Four-Star Chef, co-authored with Mark Bittman.

Although I was tempted to wow you, and myself, with the hot-cold egg and foie gras crème brûlée this week, I took it easy and was happy to prepare scallops for two. They're lightly seasoned with salt and white pepper, seared in olive oil, and drizzled with a spoonful of caramel orange sauce over the top. Before searing the scallops, which only takes minutes, you prepare the caramel orange sauce, also within minutes. It is similar to gastrique, essentially a sweet-sour sauce made from caramelized sugar and vinegar. Here, the caramel orange sauce is made by caramelizing some sugar in a small saucepan, and then adding white wine in place of the vinegar used in a gastrique. Freshly squeezed orange juice is also added, and the sauce is reduced to a syrupy consistency. That's it. Perfectly seared scallops, drizzled with a sweet, citrusy orange sauce. I added an additional step of a quick 10-minute brine of the scallops, the treatment for Thomas Keller's Caramelized Sea Scallops in Ad Hoc at Home. I also decided to use blood oranges for the juice in the sauce, and fried a few shallots for garnish. While I prepared the scallops, John made our favorite Roasted Beet and Orange Salad.

Beautiful, fresh, sea scallops from Whole Foods (about 7 in a 1/2 lb.) 

Keller's 10-minute scallop brine

A quick sear in a hot pan
(And yes, I missed that tendon on the front scallop,
and realize I would instantly be chopped on Chopped,
or berated by Gordon Ramsey in Hell's Kitchen)

These scallops would make a nice amuse bouche on their own 

But we enjoyed them with our favorite salad

John said I could quote him, "I don't know what it is about this salad,
but I can't get it into my mouth fast enough."

I would have to agree, the salad upstaged the scallops. If you want the scallops to be the star, as they deserve to be, serve them as a hors d'œuvre or with steamed asparagus or green beans on the side.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. Dorie always tells a personal story behind each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Salted Butter Break-Ups, or Broyé de Poitou

If you need some fun in your life, this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, a salty, buttery cookie, promises just that. Called broyé in French, meaning "crushed," the Broyé de Poitou is a tradition in the Poitou region, a part of western France where butter is prized.

Dorie suggests bringing your freshly baked broyé to the table whole, and letting everyone break off pieces big and small. I read elsewhere that a broyé is broken with a swift punch. The swift punch method sounds more fun to me. Seriously, I needed to make this gigantic cookie, with an entire cube of butter incorporated therein, like I needed a swift punch in the head.

With my interest piqued, as it usually is by the introductory paragraph before each of Dorie's recipes, I started Googling.

Poitou-Charentes, known as one of the most tranquil regions in France, is comprised of four departments along the western coast - Vienne, Deux-Sévres, Charente-Maritime and Charente. Islands off the coast include Ile d'Oléron, known for oyster catching as its main industry, and Ile-de-Ré, popular for its many salt marshes, as well as a reputation for receiving the most hours of sunshine in all of France, not counting areas along the Mediterranean. Apart from tourism, the economy relies heavily on the farming of corn, melons, sunflower, wheat and other important crops. Also notable are the many vineyards, cattle farms and dairy industry.

Photo from About French Property

Butter produced in the town of Echiré, Beurre d'Echiré, located in the Deux-Sèvres department, is served at the best tables throughout the world (Read Dorie Greenspan's New York Times article, Butter with a Pedigree. Ah, the French).

Photo from About French Property

And while we're at it, the world's best-known brandy also comes from the Poitou-Charentes region, in the peaceful countryside surrounding the Charente River. A twenty-mile area called the "golden circle" of cognac production encompasses Cognac and the second distilling town of Jarnac.

Cognac, France

I think we need to reevaluate "fun." Fun is not breaking one of these cookies with a swift punch. Fun is hopping a plane to the Poitou-Charentes region of France, for a tranquil vacation of lounging in the sun, slurping oysters, sipping Cognac, and eating buttery, butter with a pedigree, croissants. Not necessarily in that order or during the same lounging session.

Getting back to our Salted Butter Break Up, the dough is easily prepared in the food processor with flour, sugar, French or premium American butter (82-84% milk fat), sel gris salt, and a few tablespoons of ice water. It's then wrapped in plastic, refrigerated for an hour, rolled out to a rustically shaped rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, brushed with egg yolk, and adorned with a crosshatch pattern with the back of a fork. It bakes for 30-35 minutes, until golden, emerging crisp on the outside and still tender within.

Although Dorie neglects to specify the use of butter with a pedigree, she does recommend sel gris. Sel gris or grey salt is a cooking salt from the coast of Brittany in France where it is still made using a time-honored way that was carried through the centuries. In February of each year, artisan salt farmers sculpt eight-chambered clay beds and flood the first chamber with water from nature preserves. During the next three months, the salt moves from chamber to chamber. In July after it has reached the eighth chamber and crystallized in its purest form, the farmers rake the salt to the edge of each bed. The salt picks up its gray color and distinctive flavor from the healthy blue-green-hued minerals in the bed's clay bottom.

In addition to the butteriness, "the cookie is undeniably salty, and now and again, you can even feel the salt on your tongue." It's true, the cookie is crisp on the outside, slightly tender within, deliciously buttery, and noticeably salty, in an addicting way. Okay, it's also fun.

Newf Notes:  In Dorie's NY Times' article, if you can't find French butter, she recommends using some American producers like Keller's, which makes Plugra (also sold as European Style Butter), which has 82 percent butterfat butter, and Land O'Lakes' Ultra Creamy Butter, with 83 percent butterfat. Egg Farm Dairy in Peekskill, N.Y., and the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company in Websterville, Vt., make butter with 86 percent butterfat using methods that mirror Echire's.

Regarding the recipe, I recommend using 1 generous teaspoon of sel gris. Also, watch your baking time as the recipe calls for 30-35 minutes. Mine was done in just under 30 minutes.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book, Around My French Table. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. Dorie always tells a personal story behind each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunday Morning Fried Oyster and Bacon Sandwiches

Sam Sifton, New York Times' restaurant critic, published a list of the 15 best things he ate in New York City in 2010, comprising "restaurant dishes of uncommon excellence and flavor." He went on to say "... But these dishes make up just one part of a year’s meals taken at the professional table, one sleeve in the accordion folder marked “2010 Delicious.” Add meals I ate out of town on assignment or off the clock or on the way to the clock, and the catalog swells. There is, for example, the sandwich of deep-fried oysters and house-made bacon I had this year at Cochon in New Orleans, served on white Pullman bread with a chili-spiked mayonnaise..."

I was so tempted to order Cochon's Fried Oyster and Bacon Sandwich when we traveled to New Orleans and dined there a few weeks ago. The couple at the end of the bar was happily polishing one off as we grazed through several small plates on the menu, including the amazing wood-fired oyster roast. However, I did come home with James Beard Award Winning cookbook, Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana, which has Cochon's Fried Oyster and Bacon Sandwich, and I was eagerly waiting for the chance to make it at home.

I made some minor substitutions by adding a little Creole Spice blend I made for another recipe, using fresh brioche rolls instead of bread, thick applewood-smoked bacon in place of Cochon's housemade bacon, and oysters from Prince Edward Island rather than the Gulf, but oh my, let me tell you, this was quite the sandwich for our Sunday morning dining pleasure!

Fried Oyster and Bacon Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
(I also added about a tablespoon of homemade Creole Spice Blend)
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
12 large raw oysters, shucked
2 brioche rolls, or 4 slices white bread, toasted
Mayonnaise for spreading on the rolls
6 applewood-smoked bacon slices, cooked until crisp and drained
Iceberg lettuce leaves, whole or shredded
1 large tomato, the ripest and sweetest you can find, cut into thin slices

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl or breading tray.  Heat 2 inches of oil in a medium saucepan until it reaches 350 F (Alternatively, fill small electric fryer with oil to fill line and heat to 350 F).

Toss the oysters in the seasoned flour, shake off excess, and fry for about 3 minutes, until lightly golden brown, and then drain on paper towels.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread the toasted buns with mayonnaise, then build upward, starting with the oysters, then bacon, lettuce, tomato, and bun tops.  Scarf immediately.

This sandwich is all about using the best and freshest ingredients you can find - plump oysters; ripe, sweet tomatoes; thick, smoked bacon; and soft, fresh rolls or bread.  It's a winner.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Peruvian Ceviche, for the Daring Cooks' Challenge

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau, and Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

Two summers ago, our Concert in the Park culinary group dedicated one of our Sunday picnics to Peruvian cuisine. We had an amazing spread, including Pisco Sours to start, followed by two versions of Aji de Gallina, Papas a la huancaina, Causa, Empanadas with Rocoto Rellanos filling, and Alfajores.

I've made ceviche once or twice, but never Peruvian-style. In preparation for this challenge, I looked to see if San Diego had any Peruvian restaurants. There is one in Pacific Beach, called Latin Chef, with great reviews, so I called John on a Friday afternoon and suggested we meet there for lunch. We sat outside, in the warm afternoon sun, and tried their Ceviche and Aji de Gallina. I talked to the owner, told him about our challenge, and he happily answered a few of my questions.

Armed with additional knowledge, a bag of dried corn, and an order of Alfajores to go, I was easily able to come home and prepare an authentic Peruvian Ceviche platter.

Peruvian Ceviche
Adapted from The Daring Cooks' Challenge Recipe

1 pound skinless, boneless Pacific halibut or other firm white ocean fish, cut in a 1/2-inch dice (I used Tilapia)
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (Key limes are closest to the limes used in Peru, but you'll need about 40 to yield a cup of juice)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I was a bit short on my lime juice, but also wanted a little sweetness from the orange juice)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 aji amarillo chile, seeds removed, minced (we found these in a jar at a local Peruvian market)
1/2 serrano or jalapeño chile, seeds removed, finely diced
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Pickled red onions, for garnish
Sliced sweet potato (I roasted ours, but you can use boiled or baked)
Mote Corn (Latin Chef sold us a bag)
Sliced avocado, for garnish

Rinse and dry fish and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place fish in a medium glass or nonreactive bowl.

In another small bowl, whisk lime juice, minced chiles, ginger, olive oil, and cilantro. Pour over fish and toss to coat evenly. Scatter red onion slices over the top, cover with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and allow fish to "cook" in the juice for only about 15-20 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Drain the ceviche, and season to taste with salt. Serve each portion in a chilled martini glass, or on a chilled plate, garnished with pickled red onions, sweet potato, corn, and slices of avocado.

Ceviche (also spelled cebiche or seviche) is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America.  The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chile peppers. Additional seasonings such as onion, salt, and pepper may also be added. Ceviche is usually accompanied by side dishes that complement its flavors such as sweet potato, lettuce, corn, or avocado.

In Peru, ceviche has been declared to be part of Peru's "national heritage" and has even had a holiday declared in its honor.  The classic Peruvian ceviche is composed of chunks of raw fish, marinated in freshly-squeezed key lime or bitter orange (naranja agria) juice, with sliced onions, chile, salt and pepper. Corvina or Cebo (sea bass) was the fish traditionally used. The mixture was traditionally marinated for several hours and served at room temperature with chunks of corn-on-the-cob, and slices of cooked sweet potato. Regional or contemporary variations include garlic, minced Peruvian ají limo, or the Andean chile rocoto, toasted corn or "cancha" and yuyo (seaweed). 

The modern version of Peruvian ceviche, which is similar to the method used in making Japanese sashimi, consists of fish marinated for a few minutes and served promptly.  Many Peruvian cevicherías serve a small glass of the marinade (as an appetizer) along with the fish, which is called leche de tigre or leche de pantera [see Wikipedia].

For the complete Daring Cooks' Challenge recipes, please visit The Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive.  Also, please stop by the Daring Cooks' blogroll for links to member blogs, and check out some of the creative takes on this month's challenge.

Thank you, Kathlyn, for hosting this month's challenge, and I promise to try the Papas Rellenas soon!

Friday, March 11, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Beggar's Linguine, and its Inspirational French Confection

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, comes from La Ferrandaise, a bistro near the Luxembourg Garden in Paris. The dish is called Beggar's Linguine, or Linguine Mendiant.

Mendiant translates as beggar, but the word is actually used more often to describe a French confection composed of chocolate disks topped with nuts and dried fruits, and sometimes accented with candied orange zest. 
Apparently, the chef at La Ferrandaise's, with his "very creative culinary mind," was inspired to create a savory version of mendiants, sans chocolate. He tossed pasta with browned butter, chopped almonds, pistachios, raisins, dried figs, grated Parmesan, and a pinch of orange zest. 

Dorie loved this pasta when she was served it for the first hit the spot when she was cold, jet-lagged and hungry. It must be tough, flying back and forth between New York and Paris, but a plate of pasta, at a cozy, rustic bistro, makes it all better.

I loved this pasta when I prepared it for the first time because I didn't have to spend too much time in the kitchen after a day of lawyering, and because I love just about anything involving pasta. The bit of sweetness from the dried fruit is nicely balanced by the nutty butter, salty Parmesan, zest and parsley.

I whipped this up a few weeks ago, before the March recipe schedule was even announced, with ingredients already on hand. I used Marcona almonds, after falling in love with them in this salad.

I should have been content, dedicating this post to Beggar's Linguine. It's not like I have too much time on my hands, and can just mosey into the kitchen at every whim. But there are exceptions, especially when chocolate cravings are involved.  And in this case, I needed to experience the inspirational French confection behind Beggar's Linguine.

If you can temper chocolate, toast a few nuts, and cut up dried fruit, you can create these decadent chocolate disks in no time at all. I started small, with about 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate. For toppings, I used variations of Marcona almonds and pistachios, dried cherries, apricots, and pears, and a few pieces of crystallized ginger.  Here's a recipe, but I used David Lebovitz' method for tempering chocolate, here.

Although not a traditional mendiant, I couldn't resist drizzling a few of the disks with Bourbon Caramel Sauce, left over from our beignet weekend, and a sprinkle of Fleur de sel.

Now I'm content. I have a new pasta recipe, and a new chocolate dessert, both of which can be quickly and easily prepared.

Mendiant is a traditional French confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits representing the four mendicant or monastic orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites. Each of the nuts and dried fruits used refer to the color of monastic robes with tradition dictating raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnut for the Augustins, dried fig for Franciscans and almond for Carmelite. Usually found during Christmas, recipes for this confection have veered away from the traditional combination of nuts and fruits to other combinations incorporating seeds, fruit peels and other items (Wikipedia).

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book, Around My French Table. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. Dorie always tells a personal story behind each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. Dorie has posted the recipe for Beggar's Linguine, on her own blog, here.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Crown City Beignets

I'm surprised we even made it a week.

Home from New Orleans for exactly one week, before succumbing to homemade beignets. Thank you, Cafe Du Monde, you have ruined us! And, of course, we also brewed up some of your Coffee & Chicory Cafe Au Lait to go with our beignets, Crown City Beignets. However, we didn't stop with the liberal dusting of powdered sugar. John, my virile saucier, jazzed up our beignets with a few decadent dunking sauces.

Jim and Melinda followed the aroma wafting over the wall; Jim and Carmen pulled up curbside for a to-go plate on their way to visit Jim's mom; Pammy cut her Home Depot shopping short; and Mom was lured out of the house a little earlier than normal...

People tend to respond quickly when an offer of fresh, homemade beignets gets out on the street.

John's Dunking Sauces (from left to right)
Raspberry-Champagne Puree, Orange-Basil Crème Anglaise , Nutella Crème Anglaise 

Slightly adapted from John Besh
Makes approximately 30

"Like many delicious treats, this preparation takes a bit of time and planning. You can speed up the process of proofing the dough if you leave the dough covered at room temperature for an hour or so, instead of letting it rest in the refrigerator overnight."


1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110°F
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
4–6 cups peanut or canola oil (Cafe Du Monde uses cottonseed oil)
1 cup powdered sugar
Optional:  Raspberry Champagne Puree and Creme Anglaise Dunking Sauces (recipe below)


1. Pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, the yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour into the milk, mixing with a whisk, until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.

2. Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, about 10 minutes, whisk in the butter, salt, and vanilla. Add the remaining flour and sugar, folding them into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about 5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 6–8 hours.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the beignets to rise for about an hour.

4. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over high heat until it reaches 350°F. Use a candy thermometer to check temperature. Fry the beignets in small batches in the hot oil, turning them every 30 seconds or so with tongs, until golden brown all over. Use tongs to remove beignets from the oil and drain on paper towels. Put the powdered sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and dust the warm beignets generously with the sugar.

Newf Notes:

Although the expiration date on our yeast packages was far into the future, the first package of yeast did not bubble and foam, so I started over with another package before adding and wasting all the other ingredients. Make sure the yeast bubbles and foams!

We did put the dough in the refrigerator overnight, and then took it out and let it sit on the counter, covered, for a few hours before rolling. After rolling, we allowed it to sit another hour. I used a little square cookie cutter to cut the dough.

The dough did not really "rise" at all on the counter, but puffed up beautifully once put into the hot oil. We used peanut oil instead of canola oil.  I fried 4 beignets at a time and made sure to monitor the temperature of the oil with a candy thermometer. Our Presto Fry Daddy worked really well, but the oil temperature rapidly rose 375-380 F quickly, so I unplugged it periodically to keep it closer to 350 F.

I constantly turned the beignets as they cooked, pushing them back into the oil as they floated to the top, in order to achieve an even deep golden brown.

As soon as the beignets come out of the fryer, and have drained briefly on paper towels, dust them liberally with sifted powdered sugar.

Raspberry-Champagne Puree

6 ounces fresh raspberries, with a few reserved for garnish
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Champagne

Combine raspberries, sugar, and Champagne in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced and raspberries are broken down, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a chinois to eliminate seeds.

Vanilla Creme Anglaise
Enhanced with optional flavorings

2 cups 

1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Optional flavorings:  Nutella, Orange-Basil

In a medium saucepan, bring the half-and-half and vanilla to a simmer. While it is heating, combine the yolks and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until pale yellow in color.

Slowly begin adding the hot cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly until all the half and half mixture has been added. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly. Cook until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat a spoon.

Remove from the heat.  (If using additional flavorings, see below).

Allow to cool.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve. This sauce may be made 2-3 days in advance.  

Optional Flavorings:

Nutella: Whisk in about 1 tablespoon Nutella to 1 cup of the warm creme anglaise. Allow to cool and press through a fine mesh sieve.

Orange-Basil:  Add 8 torn basil leaves and the zest of 1/2 orange to the warm creme anglaise.  Allow to cool, and press through fine mesh sieve. The basil flavor will be extracted as you press the creme anglaise through the sieve.

Not a good idea to wear black when eating beignets and powdered sugar

Dooley, Coronado Crown City's King of Mardi Gras

Friday, March 4, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Savory Smoked Cheddar and Chive Bread with Walnuts

Here I am again, baking savory bread from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. I haven't turned my nose up at any of the weekly recipes since joining French Fridays with Dorie, because they have all been interesting, tempting, and ultimately enjoyable. Our appreciative friends and hungry boys at work seem to agree. John adores bread, and he made sure I was making this loaf.

In France, savory "cake" is often served with aperitifs, but a lightly toasted and buttered slice pairs especially well with a salad. I could use an aperitif right about now...although I just ate lunch. I could use a digestif right about now.

Dorie's Savory Cheese and Chive Bread is made with Gruyere, Comte, Emmenthal or cheddar cheese, minced fresh chives, and optional toasted walnuts. But there are endless variations, substituting different cheeses, herbs, and nuts, and choosing from various add-ins, such as ham, bacon, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and shallots. Preparation and baking time totals only about an hour.

I used smoked cheddar cheese, chives and red walnuts in my version; unfortunately, you can't see the beautiful color of the red walnuts. There's grated cheese and little diced pieces of cheese, for more cheesy flavor and texture. Although I'm not a beer drinker, I think a slice of this smokey, slightly salty bread would taste great with a cold beer.

I'm going to keep this one in mind for picnics, cocktail parties, or as a hostess gift. And for John, to go with his beer.

This bread is very similar to another favorite savory bread I've blogged about previously, Chorizo, Sun-dried Tomato and Pistachio Bread.  This is a winner also - a bit heartier and spicier with the chorizo. Both are very pretty, colorful loaves.

And, If you prefer savory cookies over savory cakes, I strongly recommend these Pistachio-Orange Cocktail Cookies, also made with cheese and nuts.

French Fridays with Dorie members are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes. This Cheddar Chive Bread is already plastered all over the web, but I still encourage you to purchase Dorie's cookbook. I've already prepared next week's recipe, a unique pasta, so I'm ahead of the game!