Saturday, March 17, 2012

So this is brunch?

A lazy Sunday brunch, on a sunny day, with mimosas and friends.  Doesn't get much better than that.  Plus the nice thing about Sunday brunch is that you don't have to get a baby sitter, just some kid friendly food and a room that they can more or less safely dismantle.  So we invited 3 families in our neighborhood over for Sunday brunch.  Amazingly the house withstood the 7 kids, all under the age of 10.  And the cooking was actually pretty simple.  Well, except for the homemade croissants, which I had to start 3 days in advance and use a bulldozer to roll all the butter into.  But otherwise it was pretty simple.

  • Mimosas
  • Blood Mary's
  • Croissants, with butter and jam
  • Sticky Buns (made with croissant dough)
  • Ham and guyere quiche
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Waffles (for the kids)
  • Fresh fruit (so we could all pretend like we ate something healthy)

I was most proud of the croissants and sticky buns.  The dough took 3 days, and lots and lots of rolling.  But they turned out the perfect fluffy layered croissants that I've had in Paris.  Of course they were about 50% butter by weight.  But hey, its not like I make them every week.  The quiche was kind of made up.  Quiche is a great brunch food because its savory and eggy, but unlike omelets and scrambled eggs it doesn't taste so bad if it isn't perfectly warm.  And it went pretty well with the vaguely French theme that seemed to crop up as I planned out the menu.  Which is good because cooking for 15 people, 7 of which are picky by nature, is no small feat especially for a Sunday morning.

As usual, we all gathered in the kitchen for drinks and then the 3-ring circus of feeding the 7 kids.  Afterward we sat down to what was a very nice brunch.  It ended a little earlier than I was expecting, and there was only 1 bottle of champagne and 2/3 bottle of vodka consumed, so it was a pretty mild event. But I am pregnant, so its not as if I was able to contribute.  I ate extra croissants to make up for it.  I can't wait for the next one.

Ham and Guyere Quiche (approximately)

  • 1 round pre-made pie crust (refrigerated type)

  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped in 1/2in pieces

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced smoked ham, diced

  • 6 oz Gruy√®re, coarsely grated (1 cup)

  • 2 oz Italian Fontina, coarsely grated (2/3 cup)

  • 3 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup sour cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • Preheat oven to 375.  Bake pie crust for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool pie crust but leave oven on.  Saute onion in butter until golden and caramelized.   Whisk eggs, pepper, and nutmeg.  Stir in ham, cheese, and caramelized onions.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and put back in the oven.  Check part way through and cover crust with aluminum foil if it becomes too dark or dry.  Bake for a total of 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until center is set.  Serve warm or room temperature.

    That's It! Right There!

    I found it.  The sweet spot.  The perfect combination.  I've been trying for a couple years to find the perfect sourdough recipe recipe.  Its partly the right starter and its partly the recipe.  Recipes with just starter, flour, and water are a little bland.  So after searching and trying and growing what probably amounts to gallons of sourdough starter, I found the right combo of richness (milk and sugar in the dough) that still lets the sour starter show through.

    One note about sourdough bread.  People will think you are crazy.  Apparently it was standard in California kitchens about a century to century and a half ago that you could always find sourdough starter bubbling.   However, in this modern day of making sure everything is hermetically sealed and preserved beyond recognition, having something bubbling, growing, and smelling sour on your countertop will make people worry about your sanity and the cleanliness of your kitchen.  Perhaps talking to it and feeding it periodically doesn't help the matter........  But really, its the best way to get good sourdough.  And there is nothing better than hot sourdough straight from the oven with a good smear of butter.  Real butter.

    San Francisco Sourdough Bread

    • 4 3/4 cups bread flour
    • 3 tablespoons white sugar
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
    • 1 cup warm milk
    • 2 tablespoons margarine, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
    • 1 extra large egg
    • 1 tablespoon water

    1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. Add milk and softened butter or margarine. Stir in starter. Mix in up to 3 3/4 cups flour gradually, you may need more depending on your climate.
    2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to oil surface, and cover. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
    3. Punch down, and let rest 15 minutes. Shape into loaves. Place on a greased baking pan. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
    4. Brush egg wash over tops of loaves.
    5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 30 minutes, or till done.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    A is for Apple Cake

    It's getting cold. And rainy. Yes, yes, go ahead and get your "world's smallest violins" out to go along with my whining. I like winter, when it's crisp cold and I don't have to go outside much. Right now it's just wet cold and I have to walk to work. What better thing to make me feel better than to steal some of Trey's apples that he keeps around for healthy snacks and turn them into a butter-laden, caramel-topped spice cake. That's right. Call me the grump who stole the healthy snacks. But I did make a very nice dark, spicy, rich and utterly perfect apple cake. Especially when you pour caramel over the top part way through baking so it comes out a little more like sticky toffee pudding than actual cake. Even Charlotte liked the cake. Of course she called it "big cookie" and demanded it for breakfast. But if I was eating it for breakfast its kind of hard to tell her no.

    Well, I'm sitting here watching the movers pack up my kitchen for what I really hope is the last move for a very very very VERY long time. I'll let you know how the new Wolf stove works out. Perhaps I'll even get to make pancakes this weekend.

    Man I'm hungry. Too bad we finished the apple cake yesterday. Well, I suppose it's time to put something in my stomach before I get so hungry the packing paper starts looking good. Next post from the new house!