November 28, 2008

hazelnut brown butter cake

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday- though most kids would probably prefer Christmas. But when you think about it, where has the Christmas spirit gone? My sister and I are too old to set cookies out on the table (after we caught our parents eating them, our spirit began to go downhill), we don't put up many decorations around the house, and we no longer dare to lay out our light up village houses in the fear that our cat will devour the artificial snow- covered figurines. But really, we're not that unique. What children don't leave out requests for Santa Clause's photo ID these days?
But see, Thanksgiving requires no let downs, or wondering if you'll wake up with coal in your stocking. Instead, I always visit my family, and in a nutshell, eat a colossal meal. You know, the kind where there is a serious amount of food, and you eat way too much because you know, when you're back to eating a plain old PB&J for lunch tomorrow, that you'll regret leaving that once a year thanksgiving taste behind? So you see, this thanksgiving was another chance to contribute to the table. What to make? Oh, that could take days, even weeks, to choose.

I think I flipped through over 15 cookbooks, and was unable to find even inspiration. With only two days left until thanksgiving, I could have slapped myself on the head- I hadn't checked Smitten Kitchen. After taking a quick browse through the listed recipes, I found the recipe for a hazelnut brown butter cake. Despite how much I hate peeling hazelnuts, my feelings could not tarnish the outcome of this cake. It was good.
Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
From SmittenKitchen
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins
1/2 pound unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon melted extra for greasing the pan)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cups all purpose flour
5 extra large (or 6 large) egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 300ºF.
Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they're golden brown and smell nutty. Let them cool.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 10 inch round cake pan.
Brush the pan with a little melted butter and line the bottom with the paper.

Place the rest of the butter ina medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and using a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla coated knife through the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.

Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners' sugar in a food processor until they're finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very still peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.

Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third at a time. Remember to scrap the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all of the little brown bits.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour**.
Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar or chocolate Ganache (below)

**My cake was ready at 30 minutes so keep an eye on it (SmittenKitchen's was done at 40)

Draping Ganache for 10-inch Cake

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occassionally. Drizzle over the top of the cake.

November 23, 2008

herb stuffed artichokes

Have you ever flipped through a magazine, eyed recipes hungrily, but never actually made them? I find it a habit of mine to mark off every other page in La Cucina Italiana, but I've only ever made one recipe from the magazine itself. It's like me and my Ina Garten craze.

I had a feeling that it was a reliable magazine- in my defense, the pictures just looked so darn good. They're enough to make me cry with hunger after eating two large helpings of baked ziti. That being said, I think my attempt at this recipe was justified.
This recipe was, well, it just was. It wasn't good, but wasn't awful. Ok, I'm being nice- it wasn't abysmal. I followed the recipe to a T and was left with, on top of my downtrodden excitement, tough, chewy, plain, and unpleasant artichokes. My picture didn't bear a slight resemblance to the one in the magazine. I have not, tragically, opened it since.
Would I recommend this recipe? I think it's safe to say you can pass.

November 8, 2008

apple crumb pie

As the apple picking season is drawing to an end, I felt it was, at last, the right time to go and get my apples. I went with my dad to New Paltz, and after countless complaints about our original hiking plans, a screech of tires, and a last minute U-ey, we headed in the other direction towards an apple orchard.
Well, may I say, it was quite overwhelming; which apples to get, what tree to get them from, and the constant belly-aching 'full' feeling you get from tasting the apples (er, each and every). In the end, we drove home with a hefty two pound bag that kept a bright smile on my face.

Of course, I knew just what to make. A classic- apple crumb pie. Easy to make, and not one of those you'll-have-no-clean-pots-after-this recipes, this is perfect for one of those days where you don't feel like working too hard for a good treat.
Apple Crumb Pie
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 (9 inch) pie shell
6 cups thinly sliced apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I upped it to 3/4 teaspoon- I love my cinnamon!)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Place sliced apples in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice if desired. In a small bowl, mix together white sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle mixture over apples. Toss until apples are evenly coated. Stir in walnuts if desired. Spoon mixture into pastry shell.
In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over apple filling. Cover top loosely with aluminum foil. 
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.