Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chia Chocolate Pudding

Merry Christmas!

Here we are in Ithaca, NY with Eric Husband's family. I love vacation time with his family because everyone's a great cook and the food is superb. We always have an "Iron Chef" competition with specific ingredients we have to use in our meal. It gets pretty heated, quite viscous, everyone trying to out-do each other. This year the ingredients to incorporate are Cardamom, Potatoes and Fish. Challenging, I know. My night to cook is tonight, so I'll let you know how it goes.

This is the final installment in the Healthy Fixes series, at least for now.

Ok, remember Chia Pets? The set came with chia seeds to plant in grooves on ceramic animals or cartoon characters. When the seeds sprouted, the leafy greens looked like fur or hair.

Now- this blew my mind- not only are chia seeds edible, they are mega nutritious. Not only that, but when stirred into liquid, chia seeds form a gelatinous goop that is super fun to eat. It texture reminds me of...pudding. If you are a texture person in a way that prohibits you from eating things that are slimy or lumpy then maybe skip this recipe. But if you like bubble tea and tapioca then you just may love this.

First, a word about Chia Seeds. Chia seeds can be ground into powder and used as an egg substitute in vegan baking. They're also gluten free. They are high in dietary fiber (42% of the day's requirement!) and Omega-3 fatty acids. They also include antioxidants, vitamins, calcium and protein. Chia seeds stabilize blood sugar and fill you up, giving energy for hours, making them a good diet food. They include good fats, and for 145 calories and 9 grams of fat in 1 oz, there's tons of nutrition to be had.

The recipes:

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons chia seeds into 1 cup chocolate almond milk, and stir until all the seeds are wet. Place in fridge and let soak at least 2 hours, overnight is good. Stir them occasionally at first to make sure all the seeds are soaking up the milk.

That's all! Eat with a spoon or slurp with a straw.

Vanilla Spiced Chia Pudding

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons chia seeds into 1 cup of milk. Add dash of cinnamon and cardamom, with a squirt of agave nectar or honey. Let soak in the fridge for at least two hours, overnight is good. Stir occasionally at first to hydrate the seeds.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spiced Whipped Oatmeal

I now present you recipe two from the healthy fixes series. It reminds me of oatmeal pudding. And we know that I'll eat anything that reminds me of pudding.

I was inspired to make whipped oatmeal by the blog Katheats. This girl is a serious oatmeal lover- check out her oatmeal tribute page; it's epic.

The Basic formula is this:
Make oatmeal with thin slices of banana, whisking like crazy during the second half of cooking.

Once you've mastered the (extremely complicated) basic formula*, the dish is highly customizable. You can use any kind of milk you want to prepare the oats and then add extras like spices, nuts, granola, peanut/almond butter, dried fruit, fresh fruit, yogurt or chia seeds.

* Its not extremely complicated, that was a joke.

Now, Why Oatmeal? I'll tell you.

Oatmeal boosts energy without adding a ton of calories and fat. It is a complex carbohydrate, which means you feel full longer and have energy longer than you would if you'd just eaten cake and icecream, or even something like a peach. This means the oat/banana combination packs a one-two punch: Energy spike from the banana, sustained energy compliments of the oatmeal.

Oatmeal contain more soluble fiber than whole wheat, rice and corn. The soluble fiber helps eliminate heart-clogging cholesterol, and reduces the risk of heart disease. Oatmeal also contains goodly amounts of vitamins A, B and E, protein, iron and calcium.

What's more, when you choose oatmeal for your breakfast, you are totally in control of what you put in your mouth. Unlike cereal, the only ingredient in rolled oats are OATS. Stay away from the flavored instant varieties... they're full of sugar and it really doesn't much longer to prepare the real thing.

Here is my super tasty decadent version:


1/2 cup oats
1 cup vanilla silk almond milk
1 medium banana
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cardamom

There's no sweetener even needed, because the banana and the vanilla almond milk is sweet.

Combine the almond milk and oats in a pot over low heat. Thinly slice the banana into the pot and let the oats warm, stirring occasionally. Once you start seeing some simmering action, get out your whisk and whisk until the banana is dispersed and unrecognizable as banana and the oats are at your desired consistency. Stir in the spices. Mmmm fragrant and spicy. After writing this post, I definitely know what I'm having for lunch today.

If you want to really mix things up, instead of spices, try adding 1/4 cup chocolate chips when the oatmeal is still hot and stirring them in to melt. You could also add a little bit of cocoa powder and a sweetener like agave nectar or honey instead of the chips.

Calories: 340 Fat: 2.5 g Sugar: 30 g

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hooray for healthy fixes!

Do you imagine me as a gargantuan-sized woman who never leaves the house but only bakes, eats and blogs, bakes, eats and blogs? Despite appearances, you mustn't believe that it's all dessert all the time for me. I do have a concept of healthy eating and I confess only to you that I'm more than slightly obsessed with spinach.

image by paramount pictures courtesy getty images

Dear readers, this is a bit of a break in tradition, but I am here today to tell you about health food. What's more, it's health food that still gives you that Fox Fix we've all come to love. Food that feeds your body with essential nutrients but can still satisfy your cravings for SUGAR. And even CHOCOLATE. Because lets be honest, we're all addicted to sugar and chocolate here.

And I'm not talking about pure health food fluff- food that is only a substitute for the junk food. This "fluff" might not be as bad for you as the real thing, but it's not helping you out much either...I'm thinking of my brief foray into the "eating raw" realm, when I'd mix almond butter with agave nectar and cocoa powder and eat it every night with strawberries and pretend I was being healthy. Maybe it was better for me that Nutella, but it shouldn't have replaced real meals.

No, these dishes make great breakfasts or snacks and are even worthy of every-day-eating.

And while we're talking, I'd like to address all you lurkers out there. I know I'm not talking to myself here at The Fox Fix; the blog stats reassure me that I'm not. Some of you are even lurking from far away places like Canada and the Netherlands. Therefore, I'd like to encourage all of you to introduce yourselves- say hi in the comments and we can all have a dialogue; a real repartee if you will. I'd love to know my readers.

And those of you that I already know, please feel free (or even obligated) to comment away :) Thank you.

Because they are full of nutrients and easy to use, I find myself eating bananas and spinach most days. I also eat a lot of oatmeal, and I would like to eat pudding every day, though I do my best to quash that desire. Pudding every day is ridiculous.

And so, inspired by these food items, I bring you three delicious snacks in the next three posts:

First up,


I drink a lot of smoothies because they're easy to mix up with different frozen fruit and juices. I always, always, always throw a large handful of spinach in the blender, too, because you can't taste the addition and spinach is one of the most nutrient dense foods in existence. One (packed) cup contains only 14 calories, and loads of vitamins A and K, as well as magnesium, iron, fiber, calcium, etc. It protects against cancer, heart disease, cataracts and more. With stats like that, why wouldn't you throw it into everything you eat?

Recently, Eric and I have been going ape for Banana Milkshakes, a drink his mom made a lot when he was growing up. It's simply frozen banana blended with milk, and I swear it tastes exactly like a creamy vanilla milkshake. It's truly equal to milkshakes made with ice cream. I crave banana milkshakes, and you will to once you join the club. Bananas are fat free and contain lots of vitamins c and a, potassium and fiber. It is also one of few fruits that contains the entire range of B vitamins. Freeze the bananas in chunks in ziplock freezer bags when they're very ripe for best flavor.

All this to say, I combined the green smoothie and banana milkshake concepts, added a dash of my love for chai lattes, and came up with the GREEN CHAI MILKSHAKE.

Blend until smooth:

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup liquid chai latte mix
1/2 cup skim milk or almond milk
large handful spinach

You may have to adjust the amount of liquid based on how big your banana is. Feel free to skip the chai and double the milk or add other flavorings, even cocoa powder.

According to my calculations, this milkshake has about 200 calories, zero fat and 46 grams sugar (plus loads of nutrients.) If you compare this to a chik-fil-a vanilla milkshake (640 calories, 26 grams fat, 88 grams sugar) you're doing great to stick to the green chai milkshake.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snickers Pie

Hooray! Another heavenly peanut butter dessert!

I'm feeling in a bit of a baking rut; I'm kind of sick of baking mass quantities of the same old things, kind of sick of getting up early to do it.

I take my job very seriously, and I'm used to receiving praise for it. I love watching customers approach the dessert case with wide eyes, clutching their friend's arm and gasping "look...just look at all that..." I love when they find out I'm the baker and they sigh "I just love your desserts!"

Buuut, recently I heard about some customer complaints, and I have no idea what could have gone wrong. It makes me feel extremely insecure. I'm going in to bake in the morning and I'm actually nervous. I'm an approval suck, it's true. It's funny how one bad comment can wipe out the memory of all the good ones. That's true about everything in life, I suppose.

Anyway, this weekend is the Holiday Market downtown (8th st and Reynolds) from 12-6 and it should be good. Santa will be there and live Christmas trees and FREE chik-fil-a sandwiches. I'll be there with loads of good bread and baked goods like sourdough, ciabatta, rosemary, black olive, mediterranean stuffed loaf, bleu cheese stuffed loaf, cinnamon rolls, brownies, oat fudge bars and more! If you're in the Augusta area, make sure to stop by.

Now, on to this luscious snickers pie, which is a winner guaranteed to improve any bad baking day. There's several steps but they're not hard and the result is phenomenal.

Snickers Pie, Adapted from Martha Steward

Oreo crust:
1 9-in springform pan.
about 2 cups finely ground oreos (a food processor does the job in a jiffy, but you can also crush the cookies in a heavy duty ziplock bag with a blunt object like a rolling pin)
3/4-1 stick melted butter

Caramel Layer:
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream or 1/2 stick butter
1 cup roasted salted peanuts

Peanut Butter Mousse:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 t vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, whipped into medium-stiff peaks

Chocolate Ganache Layer
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

1. Make the Oreo Crust. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ground Oreos with the butter and press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of the springform pan. I like to use the side of a measuring cup to do this. Use your fingers if necessary. Bake the crust for 10 minutes so its nice and crispy. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Make the Caramel. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat on the stove. It will take about 10 minutes to turn amber, but watch it carefully, swirling the pan occasionally, because it can burn easily. Remove from heat once a dark amber color and carefully whisk in the 3/4 cup heavy cream. It will bubble and steam and be very hot, so watch your hands. If there are any caramel lumps, reheat the caramel until smooth. Whisk in the sour cream or butter. Transfer to a heat proof bowl and cool, about 45 minutes. Once the caramel is fairly cool, fold in the 1 cup of peanuts. Spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of the oreo crust. Refrigerate while you make the Peanut Butter Mousse.

3. Make the Peanut Butter Mousse. In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the 1 1/4 cup Peanut Butter and the vanilla and beat until smooth.
Whip the 1 cup heavy cream in a clean bowl until medium-stiff peaks form, and then fold 1/3 the whipped cream into the Peanut Butter mixture to lighten it. Fold the rest of the whipped cream into the Peanut Butter in two additions.

4. Spread the Peanut Butter Mousse evenly on top of the caramel layer, taking care that the two don't mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5. Make the Chocolate Ganache. Pour the final 1 cup heavy cream into a microwave safe container and microwave for about 40 seconds, depending on your microwave. You can also heat it on the stop until bubbly around the edges. Dump the 8 oz chocolate into the hot cream (or pour the cream over the chocolate) and let sit for 1 minute to melt. Whisk until smooth. Pour the Chocolate Ganache over the peanut butter mousse and spread evenly.

Refrigerate a final 30-45 minutes and you're done! Slice and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

tell me you can relate to this.

Occasionally I've wished to find out I'm pregnant, but only to have an excuse for my inexplicable weight gain, which is not actually inexplicable but completely explicable because I make dessert for a living.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sweet and Salty Brownies by Baked


Or at least that's what I wrote on the sign at the restaurant. There were no dissatisfied customers. Here is why:

1. Outrageously fudgey brownies
2. Thin crust on top of brownie
3. Salted caramel center
4. Sea salt and turbinado sugar topping

One of my favorite bakeries (and baking book) has added a new addition- Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. In it, they release the recipe for their famed Sweet and Salty Brownies, as well as many other delicious takes on dessert, like a Mississippi Mud Pie, Grasshopper Bars and Buckeyes.

The point is, if you want to be very popular with your friends or impress friends you hope to have or simply boost your reputation as a comfort food genius or convince your children/husband that boxed brownies are not all there are in the world, I suggest you make these relatively easy brownies.

Sweet and Salty Brownies, adapted from Baked

Make the caramel first.

1 cup sugar
1/4 c water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 t fleur de sel (sea salt) or other coarse grained salt

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water, stirring over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. The let it cook without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel is deep amber in color. Be ready at this point to whisk in the cream- the caramel gets dark very quickly at the end and continues cooking even after you turn off the heat. Whisk in the cream, being careful of the steam and bubbling that will occur. Then whisk in the salt and the sour cream. Set aside.

And then the Brownies

1 1/4 cup flour
1 t salt
2 T cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, chopped (or chips)
2 sticks butter, cubed
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 large eggs
1 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper and buttering it or spraying it with cooking spray. You can skip the parchment if need be.

In a metal bowl set over a pan of an inch or two of simmering water, combine the cubed butter and the chocolate. Stir occasionally until the two are melted together.

While the butter and chocolate are melting, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.

When the butter and chocolate are melted and combined, remove from the heat and stir in the two sugars until the mixture is homogenous. Whisk in 3 of the eggs until just combined. Add the vanilla. Whisk in the remaining eggs until just combined. Finally, sift the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture and fold the two together until just combined. If you mix it too much at this stage, your brownies will be cakey.

Pour half the brownie batter into the pan. Drizzle one cup of the caramel over the batter, avoiding the edges (any caramel touching the edge of the pan or exposed to the air during baking will get very hard.) Pour the rest of the batter over the caramel, spreading and smoothing it to cover it completely.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once. You can stab the middle with a knife to make sure it's done, but be aware that if you stab where there is caramel, it may look undone even if its not.

Sprinkle the top of the brownies with fleur de sel and turbinado sugar (or other coarse salt and sugar). Let cool, slice and start looooving life!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lemon-Ginger Creme Brulee

I make Creme Brulee at least twice a week at the restaurant. Until recently I stuck to chocolate and vanilla, but I've branched out and results have been fantastic.

The cool thing about creme brulee is that you can flavor it with pretty much anything you can steep in cream. You can use anything from ground spices and liquors to herbs and fruits. Try thyme, citrus zest, mint, lavender, cardamom, mocha, etc!

I've also recently found out that there is a cart in San Francisco that sells really creative flavors of creme brulee on the street. Next time I'm in San Francisco (which will be the first time I'm in San Francisco), I definitely plan on braving the streets and the lines to try this creamiest of desserts.

The flavor is courtesy of David Lebovitz, in Ready for Dessert, who tells us that ginger contains an enzyme that will prevent the custard from setting unless you parboil it first. Good to know, David! I would've wasted a lot of cream and eggs with out that valuable information.

The base recipe is divine, it's from the Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking book, and you need look no further for your use-for-everything creme brulee recipe. It's very similar to Lebovitz's.

Lemon Ginger Creme Brulee Recipe (makes 6 servings, half of the recipe I make at the restaurant)

3 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
3 oz sugar (a tad less than a half cup)
pinch salt
3 oz thinly sliced ginger plus the grated zest of two lemons*
extra sugar for caramelizing the tops of the brulees

Slice ginger thinly and place in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the ginger and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then pour off the water.

Add the cream and the lemon zest to the ginger. Heat until warm again and then let steep for an hour to meld the flavors.

Towards the end of the hour, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and gather your ramekins. You will need approximately 6. Prepare a water bath for them to bake in- a 9 x 13 baking dish works well. Place the ramekins in the pan and pour very hot water around them, half way up their sides.

Strain the cream to remove the ginger and much of the zest. Add the salt. Reheat the cream until quite warm. In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar (you can also add the salt at this stage instead of adding it to the cream), until the yolks are pale and fluffy.

Gradually add in the hot cream, whisking constantly. If you move too fast through this stage you will have little bits of cooked egg in your creme brulee, and nobody wants that. Slowly add the cream until it is all well combined. Try not to make too many bubbles on the surface of the custard mixture as you do this.

Pour the custard mixture through a strainer (to remove rouge egg bits) into a spouted container and divide the custard mixture evenly between the ramekins.

You can cover the whole thing with aluminum foil if you're worried about the tops of the brulees browning, but I've found if you cook them in the low-middle of the oven, you don't need to worry about foil. Bake for 30 plus minutes until the edges of the brulees are set and the centers are still a little loose. In the whackadoo oven at the restaurant, this takes over an hour, but in normal ovens it should be closer to 30 minutes.

Cool the custards completely before refrigerating (in the water bath if you're worried about them setting, out of the bath if you're confident they're good to go). They won't completely set until they've been chilled in the fridge.

* for vanilla creme brulee, omit the lemon zest and ginger, adding half of a scraped vanilla bean plus the pod to the cream (You will strain the pod out later) Heat the cream and let steep for only a few minutes (opposed to an hour) before adding it to the yolks. A slick trick to avoid clumps of vanilla seeds in the milk is to rub them into some of the sugar that you are using, then put both rubbed sugar and seeds in the cream. If you have no vanilla bean, use about 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract...but the resulting brulees won't have exciting flecks of vanilla bean in it.

For serving, grab your kitchen, brulee or small propane torch. Guess what we use at the restaurant? Thats right, the propane torch.

Sprinkle the top of the brulee with sugar and knock off the excess. Blast with the torch until melted but not brown. Sprinkle on another layer of sugar and blast this layer until the sugar is brown and caramelized. Do this step carefully, you don't want black tops to your carefully baked dessert. Nobody wants that.

Let's be real, not all of us have access to a torch. There are other options, but you must choose one because custard with no caramel on top can never be called creme brulee (which I suspect means something to do with "burnt" in french, the sugar being burnt in this case.) (Yep, I was right, it means burnt. Thanks Google.)

You can either sprinkle with sugar and use your oven broiler to try to caramelize the tops, or you can make caramel (with only sugar and water or even just sugar) and pour a thin layer on top of the brulee, swirling it to make it even. Be careful not to burn yourself. Nobody wants that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Caramel Cake with Apple Filling

Apples often seem pretty plain jane to me. It was a fruit we always had in the house growing up,* and so I never thought it very special. This could be because I kind of hate red delicious apples, and pretty much any other apple that is sold at the grocery store in a plastic bag with ten other of its fellows. Not very special at all.

However, I declare Fall 2010 the Apple Revolution! Let us rejoice with the bounty of autumnal boughs hanging heavy with the crisp, sweet-tart fruit that is the apple!

And caramel. Everything I make has caramel in it these days.

Apple Revolution started a couple weekends ago when Eric and I went to Greensboro, NC for a wedding (shout out to Haley and Dave! Hooray!). We found there, surprisingly near our hotel and the highway, the absolute biggest farmer's market I have ever seen. It had three massive awnings that housed vendors selling everything from pumpkins to bread to flowers to apples. So many apples. I bought a very large bag filled with one of every kind I could find. We're talking Winesap and Arkansas Black and King Luscious and Duchess and Honeycrisp (aren't apple names just wonderful!) will be seeing a lot of apple related desserts around here in the coming weeks.

The inspiration for this cake came from Honey and Jam, but I couldn't make the frosting from that recipe set. It stayed a caramel goo mess. Fortunately, I found a delicious recipe on Epicurious from Bon Appetit. If you beat the frosting a little, you get this dark, thick frosting that reminds me of caramels. If you beat it a lot, the frosting becomes lighter in color and very fluffy. Both are tasty, but I like the way the darker one looks better.

This combination is awesome, by the way. Truly awesome. The cake is a rare vanilla cake that stays moist for many days in a world full of dry cakes. The individual components take some time (mostly cooling time, so don't try to make this on a tight schedule), but you can spread out the making of the cake and it's not bad.

Vanilla Cake from Cakelove (it's best if you can weigh the ingredients, and so much easier)
I make this times 1.5 to come up with a three layer cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare two 9-in cake pans with parchment rounds in the bottom and butter or spray.

Dry Ingredients:
AP Flour, 7 oz or 1 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs
potato starch, 2 oz (you can sub cornstarch if necessary)
baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp
salt, 1 tsp

Wet Ingredients:
half and half, 1 cup
brandy, 2 tbs (can sub more half and half for this)
vanilla extract, 1 tbs

unsalted butter, room temp, 6 oz or 1 1/2 sticks
extra-fine granulated sugar, 14 oz or 1 3/4 cups (you can food process regular sugar to make extra fine.)
eggs, 4 large

Start by mixing the butter and sugar with in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on med-low for at least 5 minutes, the more time the better. It will be very fluffy.

Meanwhile, whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift together. In a separate container, combine all the wet ingredients.

After the butter and sugar are sufficiently creamed, add the eggs one at a time, blending well between each.

Finally, add the wet and dry ingredients in 5 alternating additions, waiting only until the ingredients are just incorporated before adding the next addition. Scrape the bowl and mix on medium speed for 15-20 seconds.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-28 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Apple Filling adapted from Honey and Jam
I doubled this for a triple layer cake.

2 large granny smith (or other baking-type) apples
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

Peel the apples and grate with a box grater. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the apples are tender and there is little liquid left. Cool completely.
Caramel Frosting from Epicurious

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream
2 egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1/8 t salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Stir the sugar and water together and cook over med-high heat, swirling the pot occasionally (not stirring). Cook until the caramel is deep amber; watch it carefully, it will continue to darken a little after you turn off the heat. Remove from the burner and whisk in the cream (watch out for steam and bubbles). Stir until the caramel is smooth.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, and gradually whisk in the hot caramel. Cool the caramel mixture.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar together until smooth. Beat in the caramel mixture. Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about an hour.

Spread the apple filling between the cake layers and frost the outside of the cake with caramel frosting. If you have time to freeze your cake layers, it makes frosting easier.

Go, enjoy this quintessential fall cake.

* Oddly enough, we also always had bananas around too when I was growing up, but that apparently had the opposite effect on me than the ever-present-bagged apple, because now I am slightly obsessed with the banana. Really, its the perfect fruit.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October was great.

Remember the Chocolate Bread?

It made fantastic french toast. I made mine a sandwich with bananas (the perfect fruit!) and peanut butter and whipped cream.

And now, I will tell you that October was great because:

1. It finally feels like fall here in Augusta, GA.

2. It was my birthday. (Yes, the whole month- October is my birthday. Except for October 10, because that is my mom's birthday.) Poor Eric- I was raised to believe that birthdays are really, really important, so he is having to take a crash course in the whole birthday song and dance.

He did great. There was a very surprising party with pumpkin carving and fruity pebble treats and a pinata!

3. Sara and Andrew's wedding.

4. Eric and I dressed as mimes and went to a Halloween 80s dance party. We've decided to get really good at miming for next year.

5. The Farmer's Market (which I've been baking for and selling at almost every weekend since April) finished with a bang this month. Yesterday, in fact. I love baking a ton of bread and spending time at the market.

And I'm looking forward to November because:

1. Camping at Tybee Island with friends!

2. We're playing in a soccer tournament in Hilton Head, the place of our engagement.

3. Harry Potter 7 part 1 November 19! My generation grew up with HP, and I am proud to love it.

4. Thanksgiving with my family on the farm in Virginia!

5. No more farmer's market every weekend!

Fantastic Ciabatta Bread

You don't know this, but I have been trying in vain for the past few months to make a ciabatta bread that looks attractive, has a crunchy crust, and a soft interior with the large holes that make ciabatta, ciabatta. I've tried Peter Reinhart's recipe so many times. I've tried random recipes off the internet, I've tried the no-knead bread recipe, and I've tried the "Artisan Bread in 5 min a Day" recipe, all to no avail. They produce pretty tasty bread, but none with the holes I was looking for. Very frustrating, let me tell you.

WELL, I HAVE ARRIVED. I could tell just from the dough that this recipe was the one. It was wet, but still had structure. Even when I turned it out onto the table to divide it, it didn't deflate. The dough was strong, but still developed the gas holes. Killer. Thrilling. I'm beside myself with joy. Thank you King Arthur Flour. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In a selfish way, I'm almost reticent to share this with you, considering what I went through to get here...bu I've decided to save you pain. And King Arthur has tons of baller recipes.
I made only a few changes to this recipe, noted in the ingredients.

First, you must stir up a pre-ferment that will sit overnight, developing flavor. Mix these ingredients together and let sit for 10-15 hours until very, very bubbly.

1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 oz) bread flour or King Arthur AP flour
1 cup (8 oz) cool water
1/16 t instant yeast

When ready to mix the dough, combine the pre-ferment and the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer.

all of the starter (pre-ferment)
1 t instant yeast
1 1/2 cup (6 1/4 oz) bread flour or King Arthur AP flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs nonfat dry milk*
1/4 cup (2 oz) water*
2 tbs (7/8 oz) olive oil

(*instead of the dry milk and water, I just used 1/4 cup milk)

It's important you use a mixer because the dough is so soft (basically impossible to knead by hand).

These pictures show the recipe multiplied by 8

Beat at medium speed using the paddle attachment. I had to switch to the dough hook after a few minutes because the dough climbed up onto the paddle and clung there like a frightened monkey. When sufficiently mixed, the dough will be gorgeously smooth and elastic. It took more like 10 minutes in my big mixer.

Look at that gluten development! See how stretchy and shiny it is!!

Place the dough in a greased bowl and set aside to rise. After one hour, stretch each side and fold over the middle, then turn the whole thing upside-down so the seams are on the bottom.

folded dough

Let rise one more hour (two hours total rising time, with the folding in the middle)

fully risen dough

Gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface (no need to go nuts with the flour. This dough isn't as sticky and gloppy as some of the no-knead recipes).

Use a knife to divide the dough into 2 loaves, or smaller bits for sandwiches. (K.A. website says for the two loaves, you should have two fat logs, about 10"x4").

Gently transfer the dough to a baking sheet, stretching them out slightly, leaving about 4" between them.

Allow to rise for 60-90 minutes, dimpling with your fingers halfway through. You can push your fingers almost to the bottom of the loaves, the holes will fill partially back up. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees about 20 minutes before baking time.

Spritz the loaves with luke warm water (to help create steam) and bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. You can also create steam by placing a rimmed baking sheet in the oven during preheat and pouring hot water onto it just before loading the loaves in the oven. Steam is necessary to facilitate proper "oven spring" (the sudden burst of yeast activity and loaf expansion when hit with the heat of the oven) and the development of a proper crust.

Great Scott this is good bread! Eric and I cut it in half lengthwise, toast it and eat bruschetta on it practically every Sunday. We're about to eat some now, in fact. Just combine diced tomatoes, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and fresh chopped basil, then spread it on the toasted ciabatta bread. Add some mozzarella if you like. The crust gets crunchy and the interior stays soft. YUM.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Flan de Naranja

I love chocolate as much as the next girl, but I promise you that I will choose desserts from the custard/pudding family first every time. The texture! I love the smooth creaminess that holds its shape but yields the second it's placed on your tongue...

The only problem is desserts of this nature are usually comprised almost entirely of cream, egg yolks and sugar. Aka, not health food as we usually define it.

Which is why, dear readers, I was positively THRILLED to find this recipe for "Orange Flan." Which is as close to health food that custard will ever venture. Which is why I bought a large bag of oranges the very next day.

In general flan, unlike creme brulee or other egg custards, is not worth eating without the caramel topping, and this orange flan is no exception. Make the caramel. It will hit your tongue first, giving way to a mysterious orange egginess. If you think this is a puzzling set of flavors, you are correct- but you'll be completely satisfied mulling them over as you take the next bite...and the next...

The custard is incredibly easy to prepare, so save your worry for the caramel, which can be tricky.

Flan de Naranja (Orange Flan), adapted from Apple Pie, Patis and Pate

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and get out 4 ramekins and a baking dish that will hold all of them.

Have 4 6-oz ramekins at the ready. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a sauce pot. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring only until the sugar is dissolved. Once the syrup boils, watch it carefully and swirl the pan occasionally to make sure the mixture is heating evenly. Cook until the caramel is deep amber- but be careful! It cooks some after you take it off the heat, so you may want to take it almost there and have some cool water in the sink to stick the bottom of the pot in to make sure you don't burn it. Burnt caramel is inedible.

Working quickly before the caramel hardens, pour a little into each ramekin, coating the bottom. I swirled mine to get the caramel on the sides too, but it's not necessary, and hot caramel is VERY HOT. And STICKY. And DANGEROUS. (or, because we're dealing with a Spanish dessert here- PELIGROSO!)

Make the custard:

6 large eggs
5 T sugar
1 1/3 cups fresh squeezed orange juice (about 4-5 large oranges)
1 t orange zest (from one orange)

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Try not to incorporate too much air into the eggs. Mix in the sugar, and then slowly mix in the orange juice while beating the eggs. Strain to remove pulp or seeds. Add the zest and stir.

Get out the baking dish and line with a tea towel. Place ramekins in the dish and distribute the custard mixture evenly among them. Pour hot water in the pan so it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. This will help the flans bake evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes until the centers are set. Once done, remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool at room temperature. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Run a knife around the edges of the flans and invert onto plates to serve.

I figured it out- each flan only has about 1.5 eggs and less than 2 tablespoons of sugar. Not too shabby.