Thursday, December 25, 2014

New England Spider Cake

Christmas brought a few unexpected delights this year, including discovering this decorated tree during a stroll through Hendrick's Park. Another treat was this New England Spider Cake that we had for a late Christmas breakfast (after fortifying ourselves earlier with stollen). I adapted this recipeusing corn flour, polenta, and soft white flour from our newest CSA installment from Lonesome Whistle Farm, and we ate it topped with poached quince. This cake is just the thing to slip in the oven, along with a tray of bacon, to bake while opening presents. The final dish is a kind of cornmeal spoon bread, and apparently gets is name from the spidery cracks emanating from the center of cream, which is itself an unexpected custardy treat.

New England Spider Cake
1/2 cup corn flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's corn flour)
1/2 cup coarse corn meal (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's polenta)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used Lonesome Whistle Farm's soft white wheat)
1/2 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to warm.  Combine corn flour, cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk eggs into the buttermilk. Stir into dry ingredients and set batter aside.

2. Remove the skillet from the oven and melt the butter in the hot skillet. Pour in the batter. Pour the cream into the center, slide the skillet into the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve warm.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marbled Birthday Cupcakes

This year, my Winter Solstice seven-year-old son was eager to help bake his birthday cupcakes. We decided on chocolate and vanilla marbled ones (no need to give a bunch of bouncing seven year olds too many choices). We adapted this marble cake recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, and my son laboriously transcribed the ingredient list, increased by 50% to ensure sufficient cupcakes for his party.

He distributed the first layer of vanilla batter,

helped mix in melted chocolate for the top layer,

and marbled the two with a skewer. 

The resulting cupcakes were just big enough to hold seven candles for the afternoon festivities, and just plentiful enough for a second afterdinner wish.

Marbled Cupcakes
adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, makes 18-24 cupcakes

150 grams (7 ounces) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
6 eggs
330 grams (2 cup plus 4 tablespoons) sugar
3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
330 grams (3 1/3 cups) flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
180 grams (a little less than 13 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 330°F.

2. Melt the butter in the microwave, and set aside to cool. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, and set aside. 

3. Combine the flour with the baking powder and pinch of salt and set aside.

4. By hand or in a mixer, beat together the eggs and the sugar until frothy. Add in buttermilk and whisk to combine. Combine in the flour mixture and then incorporate the melted butter and the vanilla, without over mixing. 

5. Line 18 to 24 muffin tins with paper muffin cups. Scoop a soup spoon of batter into each cup, using half of the batter. Mix the melted chocolate into the remaining batter. Scoop a soup spoon of the chocolate batter into each cup. The cups should be about 3/4 full. Using a skewer, pierce each mound of dough and give it a quick swirl to create the marbling.

6. Bake for 25-28 minutes until a clean skewer comes out clean.

Note: we made 18 cupcakes (our household's muffin tin capacity) and had batter leftover for a mini cake, so I think one could stretch this recipe to 24 cupcakes. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holiday Scents and Poached Quince

Our house smells like Christmas. It's making me giddy with anticipation for the holidays, and thoroughly distracted from all the end of term grading I should be doing. Last weekend my daughter and I visited Sweetwater Farm (home of the rusty dragon above), and learned how to make wreaths from a bounty of evergreen boughs twisted onto frames of poplar branches. When we brought home our masterpieces, the fresh pine smells of these wreaths enveloped the house and suddenly all I wanted to do was bake stollen and Christmas cookies.

The major baking projects will have to wait until I get my grading done, but today I poached a couple of lovely quince from our Good Food Easy CSA.

The fragrance that filled the house was heavenly, and I can't wait to savor these rosy gems on top of waffles tomorrow morning.

Poached quince
2 quince
1 1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp honey (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Combine the water, honey, and vanilla in a sauce pan and bring up to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile peel, core and slice the quince into eighths. They are much harder than apples, so be careful. I found it easiest to use a vegetable peeled on cored quarters. Slide them into the simmering poaching liquid as you slice them.

3. Cover the pan, turn to low, and cook at a very gentle simmer for an hour, until the quince are very soft and rosy. The quince can be stored in their poaching liquid in the refrigerator for a week or so. They make delicious toppings for waffles, pancakes, yogurt, or rice pudding. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Turkey Mole Poblano

At this point Thanksgiving should be a distant memory. But if you still have some lingering turkey leftovers in your freezer, I can recommend a turkey mole poblano. The meditative process of roasting all the chiles, seeds, and nuts that go into this elaborate sauce can be an escape from the frenzy of the holiday season.

I always crave something spicy after the mild flavors of Thanksgiving fare, and we often make Mexican dishes with our turkey remains. This recipe for turkey mole poblano is from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison. I also consulted Rick Bayless' recipe but wasn't quite up to all the straining involved. Instead I happily embraced the slight grittiness of the various purees (above from left to right: chocolate and corn tortillas, chiles and tomatoes, and nuts and seeds). The recipe made enough to freeze away a batch of sauce and still have plenty to drench our turkey leftovers. We dined on turkey mole tacos with a side salad of kale, roasted delicata squash, black beans, and avocado, as we started to discuss our Christmas wish lists. 

Turkey Mole Poblano
adapted from The Border Cookbook

Mole sauce (makes enough for two batches)
12 ounces whole dried red chiles (a combination of anchos and pasilla)
6 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup pepitas
3 Tbsp neutral oil such as canola
4 cups stock (turkey, chicken, or vegetable)
6 garlic cloves
14 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 stale corn tortillas, torn into pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Mexican)
1 tsp ground canela or other cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

shredded cooked turkey (3 cups for half of the sauce recipe)

1. Break the stems off the chiles and remove the seeds. Toast the chiles until fragrant in a large, heavy skillet, turning frequently, and transfer to a bowl. Cover with two cups of boiling water and allow to rehydrate.

2. In turn, toast the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, pepitas, and almonds until fragrant and transfer them to a blender. Then toast the garlic cloves until soft. When cool enough to handle, peel them and add to the blender. Add one cup of stock to the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

3. Next add the rehydrated chiles to the blender, along with the fire roasted tomatoes, and 1 cup of the rehydration liquid from the chiles, strained through a strainer. Blend these until smooth and add them to the bowl with the nut and seed puree.

4. Add the quartered onion to the skillet and cook until slightly charred on all sides. Place these in the blender along with the corn tortilla, the chocolate, the cinnamon, and 1 cup broth. Blend until smooth and add to the bowl with the other purees.

5. Heat a deep Dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil. Spoon in the sauce and fry while stirring continuously (it will splatter) for about ten minutes. Add the remaining broth and continue to cook for about 30 minutes. Depending on how much turkey you have, at this point you could reserve a portion of the sauce to freeze for a rainy day.  Add the shredded turkey and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

6. Serve the turkey mole with warm tortillas, over rice, or bake into enchiladas. Enjoy.