Friday, October 28, 2011

Gooey Butter Cake


This is another recipe inspired by a number of delicious experiences at Russell Street BBQ. We used to always get the big sundae and share it with the table. That was before gooey butter cake came into our lives. It’s usually only available on the weekends and when it is, the eyes of our party always light up. Seriously. It is that good. I bookmarked SmittenKitchen’s version long before I had ever had the RSBBQ version and totally forgot about it. Because I have so many recipes bookmarked, I recently decided to look through and find some that I either wanted to make soon or just delete. Enter butter cake and the realization that I could make it on my own time. Any time. And now you can too. And should.

Gooey Butter Cake from Smitten Kitchen:

Yields at least 16 to 20 servings

For the cake-
3 Tb. milk, room temperature
1¾ tsp. active dry yeast
6 Tb. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
1¾ c. all-purpose flour

For the topping-
3 Tb. plus 1 tsp. light corn syrup
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
12 Tb. (1½  sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ c. sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
1 c. plus 3 Tb. all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling.

To make the cake dough in a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly. It might only be a teensy bit. It’s okay.

Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. I followed Deb’s advice and switched to a dough hook at this point to beat dough on medium speed until it formed a smooth mass and pulled away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes. The dough will still be very soft.

Press, stretch and nudge dough into a greased  9-by 13” baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Use a glass or ceramic one. It works better. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, whisk corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. It didn’t look golden brown at 30 so I went to 35, though I  think absolute perfection was somewhere in between. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.
Yeah, it’s good. A friend of mine commented she liked my crust better than RSBBQ. I don’t know if I is better, but it is so much fun to make at home, so easy, and so delicious.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Flavored Lemonades

It is definitely fall and I love that. The weather lately has been perfect: crisp, clear, and just the right temperature for boots, scarves, and walking in fallen leaves. With all the sunny weather, though, lemonade is still a lovely idea. And if you’re not into autumn, these lemonades can remind you of the warm days of summer.

Flavored Lemonades modified from Not Your Mama’s Lemonade via Chef Carol Dearth, Sizzleworks Cooking School:

1 c. sugar
4 c. water
2 Tb. fresh lavender buds
2 Tb. fresh rosemary

Combine 2 cups of water and ½ c. sugar with each flavoring agent in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes to infuse the flavors. Strain the syrup.  Mix in with lemonade to taste. Garnish with a sprig of lavender or rosemary. You can also use 12 fresh basil leaves or 3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger as flavoring agents.
These are fun and very herbal. The color looks so cool and I love the taste. These also work really well for cocktails. Remind yourself of summer or just enjoy some tasty lemonade because tasty lemonade works any time of year.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reuben Sandwiches

It seems a little weird to post sandwich recipes (I know I’ve done it before) because sandwiches are flexible and easy to make. These are also easy, but man, so worth posting a recipe. Even if you don’t like big hunks of meat (like me), you may want to give these sandwiches a shot. They are classic deli style and wonderful. And make the Russian dressing. It’s just not the same with thousand island.

Reuben Sandwiches from Lobel’s Meat Bible:

Serves 2

½ lb. thinly sliced corned beef, at room temperature
3 Tb. corned beef cooking liquid
4 slices Jewish-style rye bread
4 Tb. Russian dressing, plus more for serving (recipe follows)
3 oz. good quality Swiss cheese, thinly sliced, at room temperature
1 c. sauerkraut, drained and blotted dry, at room temperature
4 Tb. unsalted butter

Russian Dressing:

Makes about 2/3 c.

½ c. mayonnaise
¼ c. chili sauce or ketchup
½ tsp. prepared horseradish
½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb. minced red onion
1 Tb. minced dill pickle

Moisten and heat up meat if you are making the sandwiches later than right after the beef is done. You can do this in the oven or the microwave if you’re sando craving is killing you.

Smear one side of each bread slice with 1 tablespoon of the Russian dressing. Dive the cheese between two of the slices. Neatly top each portion of cheese with half of the hot corned beef, followed by half of the sauerkraut, distributing them just to the edges of the bread. Top with the two remaining slices of dressed bread.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in an 8-10” heavy skillet over medium-low heat. When the foam subsides, add the sandwiches, cheese-side down, and weight them regularly with the back of a spatula. You want to compact the sandwich without crushing it. Cook gently until the first side is a rich golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
Remove the sandwiches to a plate and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Return the sandwiches to the skillet and cook the second side, without weighting them, until golden brown and the cheese has melted. Flip the sandwich back and forth a few more times to completely melt the cheese without burning the toast, if necessary. This also crisps the first side, which can get soft. Cut the sandwiches in half with a sharp knife. Serve with more Russian dressing on the side, if desired.

And a pickle! You need to have a pickle. These are SO (!) good! Kirst is a meat fan and I think she went to meat sandwich heaven.   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Deli Rye Bread

If it’s one thing I have learned from my deli cookbooks, it’s that delis and Jews are not messing around when it comes to portion sizes. I love rye bread and if you do too, you’ll still need some friends to get through this delicious, gigantic loaf. I made this for reubens specifically, but this bread is wonderful for all sorts of sandwiches. You may just want to make half as much.

Deli Rye Bread from Deli:

1 package (or 2¼ tsp.) dried yeast
2½ c. warm water (100-115 degrees)
2 Tb. kosher salt
1 Tb. caraway seeds
3 c. rye flour
1 c. mashed potato (1 medium potato)
5-6 c. unbleached all purpose or bread flour
Cornmeal

Combine the yeast with warm water in a large bowl. Stir with a fork or small whisk. Add the salt and caraway seeds. Stir in rye flour, one cup at a time, the potatoes, and the white flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed. Starting with the flour I was using my stand mixer with a dough hook.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead vigorously for 20 to 25 minutes. You can get a lot of kneading done in the stand mixer, which is what I did. Either way, you want the dough to become smooth, nonsticky, and elastic. Knead in up to 1 cup additional flour, if necessary (hence the 5-6 cups). Let the dough rest while you wash, dry, and grease the bowl. Knead the dough a few more times, form into a ball, and place it in the bowl. Turn it to coat with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and put ina  warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1½ hours. It has risen sufficiently when you can gently poke a finger into the dough and the hole remain after a few minutes’ wait.

Flour your first and punch down the dough. Knead a few times, then shape into a round, plump loaf and place it on a large, cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet (or your awesome baking peel to later put on your baking stone. That is all awesome).   Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place to double in bulk. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
When loaf has doubled, slash it lightly in two places with a sharp knife. Brush it with cold water. Bake it from 1 to 1½ hours (mine was done in 1), until a knuckle rap produces a hollow sound. Brush with water twice during the baking process. Let cool thoroughly on rack.
And then make sandwiches! This had one of the best crusts I’ve ever gotten on a bread. The addition of potatoes was a surprise to me, but this bread really works. Next time though, I’m going to half size. Or maybe just make more people come over and eat bread with me.

Tomorrow is the reuben sandwiches this all was for.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Corned Beef

Aaron is a library volunteer and as such, he comes home with a variety of books. Not too long ago Lobel’s Meat Bible began to live at our house. After drooling over a number of recipes, Aaron decided it was high time he corned his own beef. There was a beef brisket sitting in our freezer from the farmers market that just needed that extra love. He went down to Sheridan’s and talked to the meat guys and got some great curing salt. And then it was off to making the beef. We had a little over a 2 pound brisket, so Aaron halved the recipe below. It managed to be done in perfect time for Kirsten to come over and have some. I like surprising my friends with food.

Corned Beef from Lobel’s Meat Bible:

Serves 8-10

1½ c. kosher salt
½ c. brown sugar
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 recipe corned beef pickling spice (recipe follows)
1 oz. pink curing salt
5 lb. fatty beef brisket
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped

Corned Beef Pickling Spice

Makes about 1/3 c.

¾ tsp. mustard seed
¾ tsp. coriander seed
½ tsp. fresh, coarsely cracked black pepper
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. ground ginger
18 allspice berries
10 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods, cracked
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 1½” long cinnamon stick, cracked into small pieces
Combine all ingredients and store tightly until use.

Put the kosher salt, sugar, garlic, thyme, pickling spice, and 1 quart water in a 6 to 8 quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and let the mixture steep for 5 minutes. Stir in the curing salt to dissolve, add 3 quarts of cool water, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.
Put the brisket in a lidded, high-sided, food-grade plastic or metal container just large enough to contain the meat. Pour in the cooled curing liquid to cover the meat, weighting it with small plates, if necessary, to keep the beef submerged beneath the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 5 days, turn the meat over after 2 to 3 days.
Remove the meat from the liquid and place in a pot large enough to just contain it (reserve the curing liquid for now). Rinse the meat in two or three changes of water and drain. Strain the herbs, spices, and garlic from the curing liquid and discard the liquid. Add the spice to the pot with the meat and cover by 2 inches of water. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and bring to just a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain the barest possible simmer, and cook until very tender but not yet falling apart (a carving fork should slide easily into the meat), 3 to 4 hours.
Carefully transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, slice thinly across the grain. Serve each portion moistened with a few tablespoons of the cooking  liquid (reserve enough cooking liquid to reheat any remaining beef).

But we didn’t just eat this. Oh no. We made reubens. Coming up tomorrow? The rye needed for that special sandwich. Later this week I’ll post the sandwich recipe. They are so good that Aaron recently bought another 3 pound brisket and we had reubens again. And then corned beef hash. And then something else we’re making today that I’ll post soon.

If you’re interested in doing something very homemade, this recipe is well worth it. It tastes so much better than the stuff you buy at the store.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Things I Love Thursday: The Legacy of Ali McKenna

This post is not about food, but it is about writing and things that I love and that are important. Over the past weekend one of my favorite teachers from high school passed. She was only 42. News of her death came the same day I started my first librarian position. The two are linked. Ali was instrumental in my development as a student and a writer. I would not be a librarian today if not for her and this food blog would not be what it is if not for her.

Ali taught my freshman advanced English and my junior advanced American Lit. Over the course of high school, she became more than just my teacher. She was an adult I could trust, someone who treated me like more than just a teenager, who encouraged me to always try harder and to do more. She was a mentor and was adored by me and my family. When my dad was running his bagel business, he gave me many bagels to give to her. Whenever my folks came back from parent-teacher conferences, they always remarked on the conversations they had with Ali.

One thing that made her such a dynamic teacher and popular with many students was the way she taught. She was tough, but the reward of doing well was always worth it. She pushed us further. We were required to say why we thought the things we did and gave the opinions we gave, no matter what they were, so we could develop our own philosophies. Learning how to reason is crucial to being both a student and a lifelong learner. At the end of the semesters, she would not just tell us our grade, but give us a note on how we were doing in our learning beyond letter grades. Though English was always my favorite subject and was something that I excelled in, getting these notes was more important than the A grade at the bottom. I felt respected. I felt understood in a time when I was feeling confused about everything.

During my junior year, a classmate of mine died in an accident. He was a friend of friends and we didn’t like each other and his passing made me feel strange. Ali had us write out what we were feeling, to help us understand our own grieving process and our emotions. Writing was a passion of hers and she had us do it in so many forms and so many ways. I hope her students past and present are using writing to help them deal with this grief.

In my own long winded way, this is my Things I Love Thursday list of some of my favorite memories and moments from my time at JDHS with Ali. This is my way of coping.
  • Freshman year we watched Romeo & Juliet, both the 1960s version and the Baz Luhrmann one. During the 60s film, in the balcony scene that seemed to go on forever, Ali shouted out “Just kiss her on the mouth already so she’ll shut up!”
  • Anytime anyone insulted anyone else in class, we had to give them three times as many put-ups as put-downs and they couldn’t be lame. “He’s nice” didn’t pass muster.
  • While learning how to debate issues, one of my classmates said “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” I was appalled, but before anyone else could say anything, she said “That’s not an argument. That’s just stupid.”
  • Junior year we did a huge decades project. Each group got a decade from the 20th century and we had to do a skit and teach our class about American life. How many kids get to wear mini dresses and dance around in their class saying things like “have you heard about this new pill thing? Yeah, you take it and can have as much sex as you want without getting pregnant” while another classmate pretended to be a philandering LBJ in a closet. We also had our classmates do a mock protest and we got to go outside to burn a bra. Yes, I know women didn’t actually burn their bras, but we got to do it anyway. And Ali hung it up and kept it in her classroom for the rest of the year.
  • When discussing some issue or another junior year, a classmate of mine said “This sucks.” She asked him if he could try to describe it in a way that wasn’t a reference to oral sex. His response? “This blows.” Hers? “Try again.”
  • Learning what a metaphor is because of “life is a highway”
  • Forcing me freshman year to write a story where no one died (I was reading a lot of RL Stine and Christopher Pike at the time). It turned out to be one of my best pieces of work that year. She then asked me if she could publish it in a student section of the local paper.
  • The best discussions about The Grapes of Wrath. I fell in love with Steinbeck that year.
  • Reading canon and beat and modern works
  • Asking me to always try and try and try again. If I didn’t get it, to keep trying.
Thank you Ali for being my teacher. The lessons from my time with you will continue to teach me as a learner, an instructor, and a person.

For any of my readers who knew her and don’t already know about this, there is a blog set up for us to send in our memories and thoughts about Ali that will be turned into a book for her children. I haven’t posted there yet, but I will.

Thank you for indulging me in this. I’ll return with food stuff soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Things I Love Thursday: Oct. 13, 2011

It's definitely fall, folks. When I walk to the bus stop in the morning, it is either dark and chilly or dark and chilly and rainy and I get muddy water on my tights. But! I also get to spend time drinking warm beverages and thinking about soup and buying new boots and clean tights. Fall is pretty rad.
Bake Two Pies in One: What says fall more than pie? This comes courtesy of Lisa, who likes to send me links to awesome food things. Have you ever had issues deciding what kind of pie you want? I know some people don't like pie (which is weird. Even if they are very good friends of mine.), but I think pie is wonderful. And people are picky, even if they like pie, so this could satisfy everyone. Or you could just make two half pies of the same pie and make one easier to give away. Everyone is happy! Well, except for those pie hating weirdos.

Big, Sweet Dreams: My sister-in-law is turning her food cart into a sit down place this month. Yeah! It's just that amazing. The article isn't lying either - she and Johanna might be the most manic people I know, but they are also some of the most lovely people I know. Please become their patrons because I know it's going to be amazing and I can't wait to see it!

Clever Halloween Cakes: Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. You get to dress up and eat candy and try to figure out what that dude is dressed up as (or if that's just his day to day wear). I can't remember the last time I went to a Halloween party with cake (tragic) but maybe one of the ones I hit this year will have a cake as awesome as one of these. Or these rad cupcakes.
(warning: there is currently some blurred out nudity on their main page)
The Fiddlehead Cookbook Turns 20: I am in love with the Fiddlehead Cookbook (see evidence here, here, here, and here and especially here, here, and here). Have you had North Douglas Chocolate cake? If you don't want to mess with my half recipe from the cupcakes, check out Renai's full post on it. Anyway, the book is 20 years old now! If you don't have, go get it. Seriously. You can learn about my hometown and fun new recipes.

More on Whiskey: Did you know barrels to age bourbon can only be used once? Well, now you do! Bourbon is my favorite version of whiskey and knowing more about your favorites is always a smart way to go.

Armed with Technology Tea Infuser: It is sold out right now, which is tragic. I have already asked them to notify me on restock. This is an item all robot  and tea lovers should have.

Why Do Sandwiches Taste Better When Someone Else Makes Them?: (scroll down to get to this question) There's actually an answer to that. Of course it comes from The New York Times. Where else would it come from? This answers the question of why, when I tell me friends how easy something is to make, they tell me they don't want to and I should do it instead. Now I get it. This won't stop me from sharing the love of cooking, but at least I understand now.
I'm also loving: drinking muddled cider while making caramel apples (how's THAT for fall?); jalapeƱos in meatballs; simple dinners; the first brussels sprouts of fall; surprisingly good happy hour food from Hobnob; steel cut oats with PB for breakfast; honey crisp apples forever and ever; sushi because man, Aaron loves it now and that's so great; chile honey + warm biscuits = heaven; breaking the Yom Kippur fast with risotto from Bread and Ink (still need to go there from brunch!); @alyankovic "SPOILER ALERT: Unrefrigerated milk goes bad quickly."; the smell of cardamom on my fingers.

What are you loving this week? Seriously, I want to know. Comment away.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pimento Cheese

Hey, remember how a couple of weeks ago I said I was really busy? Yup, still busy. So is Kirsten, but somehow we managed to make some amazing food together during this crazy time (she also managed to already blog about it). It was so good that we are going to try another version of it. When we have free time. If we ever have free time again.

Anyway, this stuff is ridiculous and it is based on a story. Once upon a time, Kirst and I were classmates only and not friends (yet). And then one night out after class, we started talking about food. A lot. And then we started working together and then we started going to this place after working for pimento cheese dip and cocktails. It is a tradition that sadly we cannot participate in much anymore, but a good one regardless. Shortly after we started this, we thought that we should try to make our own. So this dip, ladies and gents, was a long time in the making. And we finally did it. And it is so good and you should make it too.

Pimento Cheese modified from Like Mother Like Daughters:

Makes enough to share

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. cheddar cheese, grated (we went for sharp. Tillamook, ya heard?)
2 Tb. mayonnaise
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
4 oz. canned pimentos, drained
1 small onion, grated (we had to sub in rehydrated dried onion due to a complete lack of onion in my house, which is weird)
4 cloves of garlic, worked into a paste with kosher salt (kind of like what I did way back when)
½ tsp. smoked paprika
Hot sauce, to taste (Frank's Red Hot  was our choice)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crackers for the snacking

Mix the red wine vinegar and the pimentos together. Mix remaining ingredients together and add red pepper mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate before serving to blend flavors. We managed to wait all of maybe 45 minutes before digging in and it was wonderful. The next day, though, I got a text from Kirst and she had eaten some of her portion and it was even better. I was already snacking away and it really is. So if you can help it, make this the night before or early in the day and go do something else and then eat it. It's worth the wait.
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