Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Rhubarb rosemary jam

7 June 2014

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This is me realizing that jam need not be a well planned out, day-long project. It can be, of course, and should, on occasion, because is there a better way to spend a day than whiling away the hours hunched over bubbling vats of sugared fruit? This is not about those days. This is about how making jam can be an afterthought, as easy as clearing out the fridge before a week-long holiday.

I was the first to consider jam making an incredibly laborious process. Carefully timed trips to the market to grab the last of the season’s fruit at an unbeatable bargain, endless kilos of berries to cut and trim and wash, giant jam pans boiling furiously for hours… I didn’t make jam very often. For one, market vendors in New York don’t usually sell off fruits for a good bargain, even as they pack up to leave  (I’ve tried); second, fruit at home often disappears so quickly I need to hide it to keep it safe (and I have); third, I don’t own a jam pan, giant or otherwise.

So I don’t (didn’t) make much jam. There were exceptions, naturally, few and far between, so noteworthy I usually recorded them, here, and here.

A few years ago my mother gave me Christine Ferber’s book (available only in French). Christine Ferber is a world re-known Frenchwoman from Alsace, widely described as the ‘fée des confitures’ (jam fairy). I’ve never actually eaten from one of her jars, but I have read so many tantalizing descriptions that I feel I might have. Taken literally, her technique is quite time-consuming, but using her inspiration, some latitude, and a little improvisation (she would be appalled), I’ve realized that making jam can actually fit quite snugly into my life.

Key is that the process in divided into two parts. In the evening, prep the fruit, mix it with sugar and lemon juice, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, cook the jam. Chances are, it’s easier to find 15 quick minutes in the evening and another 45 of mostly cooking time the next day, than scheduling a full long slot for the entire process.

Emboldened by this realization, last week I made jam, the easiest thing I found to save a few remaining bunches of rhubarb.

Rhubarb jam recipe

1 kg rhubarb

1 kg sugar

Juice from one lemon

Few sprigs rosemary

Wash the rhubarb, trim the ends, and chop the stalks into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces.

In a saucepan, mix the rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice.

Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The next morning, cook the jam. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for approximately 30 minutes. At first it will bubble furiously, but as the jam jells it thickens, the bubbles slow down and burst at a more leisurely pace. To check whether the juice has “gelled,” take out a small spoonful and let it cool. Once cold, the juice should have thickened in the spoon, and when you try to pour it the drip is not liquid but heavy, as though it was sticking to the spoon. Cook longer if necessary and check again.

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the jam is ready, stir in the rosemary to steep for about 5 minutes. Remove. Pour into sterilized jars and close tightly.

Jam is best stored for a few weeks (and up to a year at least) before eating.

 

 

Savory oat, leek, and pecorino scones

17 December 2012

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English purists wouldn’t accept these as ‘scones.’ Scones are plain, eaten at tea time, with strawwwberry jam and clotted cream. I’ll worry about that in a few months. I’m still firmly implanted stateside and not above studding scones with currants (ha!), dried cranberries and apricots, almonds, gruyère, walnuts, or even caraway.

I could have named these differently, of course, but they are scones because I made them using a scone recipe. From England. It’s a recipe I copied when I lived there many years ago, when I was ten or so. It’s the second oldest recipe I collected, just after that of the banana cake.

These scones were a happy accident. Leo had a performance at school last week, which was to be followed by a potluck breakfast. As often — or always — happens, at first I wasn’t sure what to bring, then decided I’d pick up something easy like juice since Thomas was in London and I alone with the children all week; later I realized too many parents were already planning to bring juice. So for once, just this once, I wouldn’t bring anything. It’s OK to do that once. Of course the night before, filled with guilt, I felt I absolutely had to bake something, and must make do with whatever was in the house.

So these scones happened. I tasted one just a few minutes out of the oven, with butter melting from the warmth. It was really good. And better still with a little citrus jam — er, ‘marmalade.’ Cold, the next morning, the scones were not quite the hit. It seems people prefer sweets in the morning.

I would insist that these scones, which are very quick to prepare, should be made just before breakfast (or brunch) and eaten immediately, warm, or, if later, toasted.

*

Makes about 16 scones

I used za’atar to add zest and depth of flavor, but I realize it’s not necessarily a house staple (I just happened to have some) and could be substituted with chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme even better! — is that not helpful?).

1 1/2 cups butter
3 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
6 tsps baking powder
2 tsps za’atar
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup coarsely grated pecorino
1 long or 2 small leeks
Zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and butter generously.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and za’atar.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and add the milk and melted butter. Combine this with the oat/flour mixture until all the flour is absorbed.

To clean the leek remove the coarse outer leaves, rinse thoroughly under running water, opening up the inner leaves slightly to make sure no sand remains. Slice the leek very thinly.

Add the leek, ground pecorino, and lemon zest to the dough. Stir to combine well.

With a large soup spoon, scoop out balls of dough and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake for 22 minutes. The outside should be starting to turn golden and feel slightly resistant to the touch but not firm (it will become harder as it cools).

Serve quickly, while still warm, with delicious butter and orange marmalade…

(These scones are really very delicious when warm, so they should be eaten immediately, or toasted or reheated in the oven later.)

Spelt buckwheat buttermilk pancakes

5 June 2012

I expect everyone has an opinion about pancakes.

Pancakes must be light and fluffy, of course, but they must have character. I don’t make plain white flour/milk pancakes, if I can help it. Every Sunday (right, every Sunday *on which I make pancakes*), I experiment. Spelt, oat, whole wheat, buckwheat; buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, ricotta; orange and thyme; fruit, nuts, coconut; … . Some improvisations are better than others.

This recipe strikes just the right balance. There isn’t much buckwheat and that’s how it should be. Just a little heft, tempered by the tang of cultured milk.

***

I used white and whole spelt flours though regular wheat flours would also work. The key here is a small proportion of whole grain and a little buckwheat.

4 Tbsps butter

1 1/2 cups (175 g) white spelt flour

1/2 cup (75 g) whole spelt flour

2 heap Tbsps buckwheat flour

2 Tbsps sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) cultured buttermilk

Coconut oil for the pan (I use coconut oil to cook pancakes. It works perfectly because it doesn’t burn.)

*

Melt the butter and let cool to room temperature.

Into a large bowl, sift the flours together with the sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In another, smaller bowl, beat the eggs well with the fork before adding the buttermilk and finally the melted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and mix swiftly, just enough to combine completely (a few bumps are nothing to worry about, it is important not to overstir the batter).

Grease griddle (non-stick pan) and place over high heat. Once the griddle is hot, pour little puddles of batter (the size is entirely up to you, but keep in mind that they will expand quite a bit), reduce heat to medium, and stay close, checking constantly until you start noticing bubbles popping up. Turn over the pancakes with a wide spatula and, within barely a minute, the pancake is ready. To make more pancakes, repeat process, adding a little oil every time to make sure they don’t stick.

The pancakes can be kept in a covered pan in a 250°F (120°C) oven for a little while if you want to make all the pancakes first and serve them at once.

*

Related posts

Orange thyme pancakes

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Banana cake

Cuban bread

Cuban bread

20 March 2012

In his New Complete Book of Breads, Bernard Clayton doesn’t elaborate on this bread’s name; he does, however, call it “… a beginner’s dream.” And adds “Often I have used it in baking classes to demonstrate the ease with which good bread can be made.”

He might also have pointed out that this handsome bread is just the right measure of dense and chewy on the inside, with a soft but assertive crust on the outside, and that the rising time is only 15 minutes, which means the bread can be made from start to finish within an hour and a half, which is pretty great if — like me — you leave bread making to the last minute.

I first made it last September, realizing there was no bread in the house a bare ninety minutes before guests were to arrive for brunch. The name had also caught my eye and indeed it complemented well the baked eggs with cherry tomatoes, basil, and dash of balsamic vinegar I was serving that day.

Back then I hoped this sudden baking impulse would set the tone of a home-baked-bread–filled year, and perhaps even lead to realizing the sourdough fantasy I’ve been chasing.

Well, there hasn’t been much bread baking in the interim, let alone a sourdough adventure. Not a single loaf, in fact, until I baked this same Cuban bread for brunch again recently. It was well complemented, this time, by fried eggs with sautéed leeks and mushrooms atop grilled polenta (or that was the intention — the reality wasn’t quite so neat, but delicious nonetheless).

Happy spring!

***

From Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

5 to 6 cups white flour

2 packages yeast

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsps sugar

2 cups hot water (120°-130°F or 50°-55°C)

Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

*

Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Place 4 cups of flour in a large bowl, add the yeast, salt, and sugar, and stir until they are well blended.

Pour in the hot water (using a thermometer is best here because if the water is too hot the yeast won’t work its magic, but, in the absence of such a device, a very unscientific gauge for right temperature is to place the little finger into the water and slowly count to ten. The water should feel quite hot at the end but below burning).

Beat with 100 strong strokes, or for 3 minutes with the flat beater of a hand mixer.

Gradually work in the remaining flour, half a cup at a time, until the dough is no longer too sticky and can be shaped into a ball. Kneed the dough for 8 minutes by hand on a floured work surface or in a hand mixer with a dough hook until it feels smooth, elastic, and “alive.”

Shape into a ball in a greased bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 15 minutes.

Punch down the dough, separate it into two equal parts, and shape each into a smooth round. Place onto the parchmented baking sheet and cut an X on each loaf using a sharp knife. Brush with water and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.

Place the baking sheet with the loaves in the middle of a cold oven and place a large pan with hot water on a grate below, and heat oven to 400°F (200°C). **The bread will continue to rise in the oven as it is heating.**

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread is a deep golden brown. To check for doneness, knock on the bottom crusts; the loaves should sound hollow.

Let cool before slicing.

*

Related posts

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Stollen

Apple sauce with lemon, cinnamon, and ginger

25 October 2011

Fall has come with crisp air and deepening sunshine, piles of fallen leaves to jump into and carpets of prickly chestnuts to tread onto, scarves without gloves and short skirts with leather boots, and apples, and apple sauce.

Apple sauce should be made with the newest, crispest apples of early fall as a celebratory leap away from summer; but also with the last, gnarly, bruised, and slightly soft apples of spring in patient anticipation of the summer’s first strawberries; and all winter long through grey skies and rainy days, snow storms and frigid winds.

Because making apple sauce is as easy as cutting apples into pieces and letting them cook for a little while, with a film of water at the bottom to prevent burning. But there are countless possible variations. Sugar or no sugar. Chunky or smooth. Spices? Even butter, for some. This is how I often make apple sauce, though by no means the only way.

***

This makes an intensely fragrant, chunky apple sauce. For a smoother texture the cooked apples can be run through a food mill. The spices and amount of sugar can also be adapted according to taste. I prefer fresh ginger and whole cinnamon because it imparts a more subtle taste, but ground spices would be fine, too.

About 10 small apples

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

1-inch (2.5 cm) piece ginger

1 thin cinnamon stick (or a half)

2 or 3 Tbsps brown sugar

***

Peel, core, and cut the apples into quarters and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Peel the rind of the lemon into a long ribbon, carefully avoiding too much pith, juice the lemon, and add both the rind and the juice to the apples.

Peel the ginger, cut it into thin slices, and add to the apples. Also add the cinnamon stick and the sugar.

Toss the apples. Pour in 2 or three tablespoons of water, just enough to coat the bottom of the pot.

Cook, covered, over medium to low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until the apples have softened.

*

Related posts

At the market | Quinces

Oatmeal raisin walnut cookies

Banana cake

 


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