Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie: Irish Soda Bread

I'm not gonna lie.  I was not looking forward to this recipe.  I had Irish Soda Bread once, from a grocery store and it was just okay.  I didn't get what the hype was all about.  I just chalked it up to being an Irish thing I wouldn't understand.  For this recipe I was imagining a tasteless (there's only 4 ingredients, how good can it be!?), hard, dry loaf of bread that I would try and pawn off to the guys at work.

Well.  They won't be getting any.

What I loved about this recipe was that it was 4 ingredients.  Except for the buttermilk, everything was on-hand.  It took 5 minutes to mix up and throw in the pie pan.  I wasn't too concerned that it was a little straggly-looking since the recipe said not to knead for long, just shape.  And again, I wasn't expecting much.

I added the "X".

Oh, I just remembered.  I added dried cranberries (since I thought the bread was going to be dry and tasteless).

That's the better side.  I think part of my X went a little too deep and widened out a bit much.  As soon as it cooled enough for me to hold it, I sliced into and try a piece.  It was so good!  I am very pleasantly surprised it had that much flavor.  The cranberries added a little sweetness and tartness to the bread too.  As I began to slice more, I noticed it wasn't fully cooked in the middle so I threw it back in the oven.  It came out fine.

And My Critic says: "This is actually pretty good!" (after picking out the cranberries)  I will definitely be making this again.  It was so simple and delicious!

For this recipe please check out Carla of Chocolate Moosey and Cathleen of My Culinary Mission.  Come back on April 3rd for Pizza Rustica!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A cheese-making Saturday

Sur la Table has a fantastic variety of cooking classes at their stores.  It's probably best I live an hour away to the closest one, which puts them in the same category as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.  I would be poor if I lived any closer.

Anyway, the Homemade Mozzarella and Ricotta Cheese Workshop piqued my interest, mainly because I'd be learning something I know nothing about.  And I love cheese.  And my friend Abi wanted to go. And we had an excuse to stop at TJ's and WF first.

The classroom/kitchen was towards the back of the store.  It was well-equipped - so equipped I found myself just looking around the first 10 minutes of class just soaking it all in.  They also had a nice little snack station set up with cheese (not the kind we were making)/crackers, ginger tea and Nespresso.

First, we made Ricotta cheese.  It's quite simple actually. And I had no idea.  I'll be making it at home from know on.  Don't believe me? Scroll down, I just made some yesterday for stuffed shells tonight.

Boil milk, add buttermilk and salt. Let it strain. That's it!

Curds and Whey

Next we made the Mozzarella.  This was pretty simple as well, but a bit more involved and more temperamental.  There were a few spots you can mess up and your cheese is just awful.  I think mine was the best only because it was extra hot during the kneading process and I added a lot of salt :)

Abi and I with our cheese balls! See how her's looks a little scruffy? That's because it wasn't hot enough.

With all the Ricotta we had, we made ice cream.  Ricotta Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate and Candied Orange Peel. OH. MY. GOODNESS.  I will be making this again soon.  Then we made a pasta dish for the mozzarella and sat down to an amazing lunch.

Fettuccine with Fresh Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes and Chives
Fresh Mozzarella platter (salt flakes!)
Oh, the ice cream! It was incredible.

We also made a new friend.  Hi Chriselle!

So I took what I learned in class and made Ricotta for stuffed shells.  There really is no comparison. 

What I really enjoyed about the class is that not only did we learn to make the cheese, but we also made dishes that featured the cheese.  And I got to play in a professional kitchen!  I was thoroughly impressed with the instruction from the Chef, the setup and attention to details, the recipe packets to take home, and the 10% off coupon!  We can't wait for the next one.  Who's game?

Fresh Whole-Milk Ricotta
from Sur la Table

Yield: about 10-12 ounces

8 cups whole milk (don's use ultra pasteurized)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups buttermilk, whole milk (if you can find it)

Place the milk in a large heavy saucepan and set over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the milk comes to a frothing boil.  Turn off the heat and, as the bubbling subsides, stir in the salt and buttermilk.  Continue gently stirring in one direction until the curds and whey separate (the mixture will resemble thickened buttermilk.  The whey will still look milky and the curds will be very small).  Remove from the stove and let sit, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth.  Carefully pour the curds and whey through the cheesecloth.  The whey will drain into a bowl underneath.  Leave the curds in the strainer to drain for about 15-30 minutes depending on the desired consistency.  Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rugelach

This week's recipe was Rugelach.  Living in the Northeast, I've had them on numerous occasions and like all different kinds.  A few years back I attempted to make them around the holidays, and they were just okay - so I hadn't made them since.  But I was super stoked to give it another whirl.

Wax paper made it easy to roll out and measure

I already had planned on making two different kinds - Apricot (for me) and Cinnamon/Sugar (for my Critic), but then I went to Trader Joe's and saw dried figs and Fig Butter.  From the jar, "Fig Butter? Don't be confused...there is no butter in it!  To be a butter, a spread must contain more fruit than sugar...which results in the very concentrated fig flavor you find in this wonderful spread."  And it's very tasty.

For the apricot I used Apricot Preserves.  I just didn't feel like making the Levkar.

Ready to roll...I did half nuts, half without.

And because I was feeling even more ambitious, I did the cinnamon/sugar version as well as a Nutella one!  So, in all I ended up with 4 different kinds - each with and without nuts for the nut-free friends, but I can't promise a nut crumb didn't sneak in.  There's my disclaimer.  Just saying...

After they were all baked and cooled (thank you, double oven), I tried one of each.  For testing purposes, of course.  I have to say the Apricot are my fav, then Nutella, and tied for third are the Fig and Cinnamon/Sugar.  Nutella would have been first, but I'm still on chocolate overload after the tartlets.

And My Critic says: Why do they look different? (Not rolled in the traditional crescent-shape).  Two thumbs up!  (He originally only wanted the Cinnamon/Sugar ones, but I convinced him to try the Apricot.  I mean, they're rolled in so much sugar you can't even taste the fruit!)

If you'd like to try making them for yourself, check out fellow TWD members Jessica of My Baking Heart and Margaret of The Urban Baker.  Up next = Irish Soda Bread