Archive for the ‘Year-round’ Category

Three ginger cake

5 November 2014

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The best cake in my world.

Were we to play the hypothetical game by which I had to pick one single dessert, to the exclusion of all others, for the rest of my life, I would choose this one. It is incredibly moist and sticky, intensely gingery spicy — need I say more?

The recipe is by April Bloomfield, from her engrossing book A Girl and Her Pig, which is full of anecdotes and brilliant recipes. I made two very small changes.

Since I couldn’t find ‘light molasses’ anywhere, I substituted with a mix of blackstrap and honey. Bloomfield pointedly specifies against using blackstrap hence the mix. I played around with the quantities and using more than 1/3 cup blackstrap makes the taste overpowering. Also, I added bits of candied ginger to make it a ‘three’ ginger cake because… Well, just because.

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Ginger cake by April Bloomfield A Girl and Her Pig

8 Tbsps (1/2 cup or 110 g) butter at room temperature

2 1/2 cups flour

1 Tbsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup light molasses (or 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses and 1/2 cup light liquid honey)

1 tsp baking soda

1 packed cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup finely grated fresh ginger

Two handfuls candied ginger (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC) with the rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter an 8-inch springform cake tin and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the tin on a baking sheet (because the cake will probably leak a bit through the springform).

Sift the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and baking powder together into a medium bowl. Stir well.

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil in a small pot. Add the molasses (and honey if using) and the baking soda. Stir until everything is well dissolved. It seems like a lot of water but trust the wizard here — it works!

Beat the butter and sugar heftily for a few good minutes, until light and fluffy as they say. Add the egg and mix until it is well incorporated. Add the grated ginger and mix again until combined.

Now add about 1/3 of the flour/spice mixture. Mix well. Then 1/3 of the molasses mixture and stir well. Repeat this, in thirds, until everything is combined. The mixture will be very wet. Again — it works.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and carefully (because it is so liquid!) place it in the oven, with the baking sheet underneath of course.

Now very thinly slice the pieces of candied ginger.

After about 15 minutes in the oven, as swiftly as possible in order to not disturb the cooking, pull out the cake and evenly sprinkle the finely sliced candied ginger. **This is done now because if the candied ginger is added before the cake goes into the oven, everything falls to the bottom.**

Bake for another 45 minutes (the cake bakes for about an hour altogether), until a knife point comes out almost clean and no longer wet. Let cool a little before removing the ring from the springform.

Bloomfield likes this cake still warm. I loved it the next day. In any case I’d serve it with a big dollop of clotted cream.

Savory oat, leek, and pecorino scones with za’atar

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.

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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.)

Grilled pork chops with fennel, sage, and pimentón

13 September 2012

I have a dilemma, and it involves pork.

As I may have mentioned, a few years ago I discovered Flying Pigs Farm at Union Square market. Before then I never bought pork (ham and bacon excepted), but since I’ve become more than a little fond of the animal, largely encouraged by a pretty remarkable recipe for slow roasted shoulder.

As I may also have mentioned, last November a real local butcher, Harlem Shambles, opened in our neighborhood.

So I have a problem of fealty: where should I buy pork now?

Rather than resolve this question just yet I’ve embraced this sudden begging supply of excellent pork and expanded my pork-cooking horizon further; I’ve been making pork chops. We’ve grilled them and, due to uncooperative weather gods, have seared them in a pan. Both work very well; key are the quality of the pork, and seasoning that respectfully complements the flavor of the meat.

They were amazing, I thought. Whether here or there, another great reason to buy pork.

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Serves 4, one pork chop per person

4 (1 inch-thick) all natural and preferably heritage breed pork chops
1  1/2 tsps fennel seeds
1 tsp coarse sea salt
8 sage leaves
Smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)

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Take the pork chops out of the refrigerator and prepare the rub at least 45 minutes before cooking.

In a mortar, crush the fennel seeds with the sea salt.

Rub the chops on each side with the spices and add a sage leaf in the middle. Let sit at room temperature. *Meat cooks more evenly if allowed to come to room temperature.*

Just before cooking — on a grill or in a pan faintly coated with olive oil — sprinkle some smoked Spanish paprika on each side of the chops.

Cook the chops over very high heat so they become beautifully brown on the outside without having time to dry up inside. It’s difficult to give an exact cooking time but it should be approximately 4 minutes on one side and 3 to 4 on the other.

As always, let the meat rest in a warmish place 5 to 7 minutes before serving. The chops should be faintly pink inside and very juicy.

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Related posts

Slow-roasted pork shoulder

Pork rillettes

Ratatouille

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

26 July 2012

During the first couple of weeks the persistent Breton drizzle rarely abated, the rolling clouds swept from deep coal to lighter greys, with barely a glint of blue. We went on foggy walks through swampy fields, tore out weeds under the rain, wore thick sweaters, spent evenings by the fireplace. There wasn’t much outdoor cooking.

And when it is too wet to grill mackerel on an open fire, the next best thing is to slather the fish with mustard on both sides and bake it in the oven. This is how we always prepared mackerel in the family. Short of outdoor grilling, it is the best.

Fish is pretty easy going and doesn’t need much in terms of preparation; the tricky and single most important thing is the cooking time. It is very easy to overcook and that ruins everything. This is particularly acute with mackerel: well cooked it is succulent, overdone it becomes heartlessly dry.

I usually count one mackerel per person, but here we’ve found very small line-caught mackerel that were barely enough for one, and occasionally I’ve seen mackerel large enough to be shared. When I’m not sure I seek advice from the fishmonger.

One medium mackerel per person, whole but gutted
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme
Olive oil
Hot Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Season the gutted belly cavity of the mackerel with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper; stuff with a sprig of thyme.

Drizzle a little olive oil onto a baking dish large enough to hold all the mackerel.

Slather a thin layer of mustard on both sides of each fish, place into the baking dish and slide into the oven.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes; this depends on the size of the fish, naturally, and larger ones could take a few minutes longer. **As it is absolutely essential not to overcook fish, rather risk having to pop it back into the oven for a minute if it is still raw inside (the flesh would still be slightly translucent).**

Serve immediately, preferably with mashed potatoes.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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Related posts

Orange thyme pancakes

Crepes

Banana cake

Cuban bread


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