This is actually one recipe with two applications. The brothers Lee wrote up the no-cookie-press-needed cheese straw recipe and I recognized the pastry as quite similar to what my mother used to wrap olives in for hors d’oeuvres. Yes, it was the seventies, what’s it to you? First the Lee’s faux cheese straws:
Since this is just cheesy pastry, it makes sense to do it in the food processor like any other pâte brisée – it’s fast and foolproof. It also means all those fiddly processor bits to clean, so I never do this unless I’m at least doubling the recipe. (If you do more than double, you have to do it in batches – even our new 11 cup processor won’t do more than a double batch well.)
4 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
4 Tbsp. butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (this is the right amount, but reduce if you don’t like even a little heat)
1 Tbsp. half-and-half
Grate the cheese in the processor, switch to the steel blade, then pulse cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper until you’ve got clumpy sand or coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half (or milk or cream), and process until dough forms a ball – it should only take a few seconds, depending on temperature and moisture in your cheese.
I think a rest/chill for 15 minutes or half an hour is helpful at this point, but it’s up to you. The Lees’ say one recipe makes a rectangle 8 by 10 inches and 1/8 inch thick. To make the straws, cut dough into thin strips, 1/4 to 1/3 inch wide. Gently transfer each ”straw” to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving a 1/4-inch space between them, and bake 17 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Let cool.
If you’re doubling the Lee’s recipe to use 8 oz., you can probably buy a block in just that size at the store. Otherwise, it’s handy to have a scale. We buy the plain sharp cheddar in the giant two pound blocks and cut it up.
You can use a pizza cutter or a fancy pastry cutter, though I usually just use a paring knife – dip it in some flour if it sticks. If you have a roulpat, do be extra careful not to cut it when cutting your pastry – it would be best to move your rolled dough to another surface to cut (but I live dangerously).
Once baked off, the straws cool quickly and remain crisp for a few days, but they’re best warm. I’d suggest keeping some dough in the fridge and baking them when folks drop by so they’re fresh and warm. Unless you don’t want to encourage that sort of behavior.
Now, about that part that I added… the olives. People will have strong feelings about these, one way or the other. Either they’ll love them and pester you for them on a regular basis, or… not. I live with an anti-olive person. That’s fine… more for me.
Cheesy Olives is a nice additional use of the cheese pastry. Just roll it out and cut into squares or triangles to wrap around the olives of your choice. The only trick it to make sure that your olives are really well drained. I drain in a colander then press them gently in a paper towel.
Once you have the olives wrapped in the pastry and put on a baking sheet, they can be frozen. Once frozen on the sheet, put them in resealable freezer bags and store for a spur of the moment party.
To bake, just put on a small pice of foil (no dishes!) and pop in the oven or toaster oven for about 15 minutes (the “everything bakes at 350F and burns at 450F” rule holds here). If you’re doing a real batch – not just for yourself – a little butter on the foil or the cookie sheet will surely keep them from sticking, but it’s usually not a problem for me. The worst that happens is you get a little tear in the crust. Smaller olives might bake faster – once the pastry is set and starts to brown a tiny bit, they’re done.
Oh, and these will be about 10,000,000F internal temperature when they come out of the oven. Give them five minutes at least. You’ve been warned.
This one is easy, but you do need a candy thermometer at least the first few times. It’s is from River Road Recipes.
2 sticks butter
1 c. sugar
2 Tsp. water
1 Tsp. light corn syrup
1/2 c. chocolate chips
2/3 c. chopped nuts
Melt the butter and sugar together, add the corn syrup and water. If you used unsalted butter, a tiny pinch of salt at this point couldn’t hurt. Use a wooden spoon to stir constantly over medium (medium-high if you’re daring) heat, cook the syrup to 320F. It will “stick” around 260 and again just near 300. Keep stirring and once the relevant proteins and carbs do their thing (Maillard reactions or caramelization, respectively), the color and texture will change and you’ll be back off to the races – be extra careful between 300 and 320 – it will sneak up on you and you don’t want to overshoot by too much.
Pour the lava onto a greased cookie sheet or a silpat-covered sheet pan. You’ll want to move the saucepan as you pour to spread the sugar around, then tilt the pan this way and that to get it as even and spread as possible. Let it cool thoroughly.
Melt the chocolate in your usual way (you do have a usual way, don’t you? I like a double boiler… Bittman has a great video on tempering chocolate) and spread thinly on the cooled toffee. Sprinkle with the nuts if you’re feeling like a nut. Or not, if you don’t. Let the chocolate set. Break the toffee into bite sized bits and package up for gifts or… not… if you’re hungry.
Don’t leave this sitting out. First, it will get eaten up. Second, anything left will get soft and nasty – remember this is basically sugar, so it’s crazy hygroscopic. Also, this is why I think of this as Christmas candy – it would have been nearly impossible to keep in humid Maryland summers.
Note on doubling
I sometimes make a double batch, but since it gets so foamy, you need to do this in a large dutch oven. Even if you have a big enough pot, don’t try a triple batch: you won’t have time to pour and spread the toffee onto three different pans before the last bit overcaramelizes (what we usually call “burns”).
Why corn syrup?
Yes, you need to use corn syrup because you want several kinds of sugar structures (sucrose, gulcose, fructose) in your toffee to prevent big crystals from forming. Eventually the heat will break down some of the sugars (caramelization) but you want a bit of a buffer, so just add a squeeze of corn syrup. (Now that it comes in squeezable bottles – why did that take so long?)
Finally, safety first:
Do not turn your back on this very, very hot sugar. It can boil over. If it gets on your skin, you will be burned. It takes a surprisingly long time to cool – no licking the spoon or thermometer, please. If you don’t use a silpat, put the cookie sheet on something heat-resistant (and don’t touch it for a few minutes). Really, this stuff is worse than oil – it’s just as hot as a deep fryer, but sticky. Tight-fitting long sleeves too, please. (Can you tell I’ve been burned by this stuff once or thrice?)
A pound and quarter! Five sticks! Forty tablespoons! I defy you to use more in one recipe that isn’t
a) buttercream wedding cake
b) chocolate covered butter-stick
c) written by Paula Deen
Sticky buns made from Brioche dough, recipe by Nancy Silverton from Baking with Julia. It’s not for the faint of heart but the hardest part is time management, and I’ll give you some tips. Even still, these aren’t practical to make more than a few times a year – and that will make your cardiologist happy anyway (3.4 oz butter per two-bun serving, eat three and that’s more than a stick of butter and a whole egg). Full parts list at the end.
Fear not the yeasties; fear not the chicken eggs nor the incorporation of three sticks of butter into your dough. But, my beemish boy, beware the lack of stand mixer. Trying this, or indeed any brioche dough, by hand is surely more frumious than any bandersnatch. Really. I did it by hand. Once. You must have a heavy duty stand mixer – Kitchen Aid classic or better – our 4.5qt Kitchen Aid gets really hot. Or do it by hand – maybe Amy Adams will play you in the movie.
Make some brioche dough:
The brioche dough recipe in the book is straightforward enough: make a sponge, knead in the rest of the flour and eggs then work in the butter. Totals are two and a half cups of flour, five eggs, a third of a cup each of milk and sugar. And a stick and a half of butter. (Are you counting?)
You mix up the sponge with part of the flour, cover it with the rest and set it aside. (1 c. flour, 1/3 c. warm whole milk, one egg and the yeast. Cover with another cup of flour and let work for 40 minutes.) When the sponge is good and bubbly, you add the rest of the dough ingredients, except for the butter. And this is where the heavy duty mixer comes in. Let it run for 15 minutes kneading the dough. (Mixer motor temperature: 100F.) Once you have a beautiful soft eggy dough, you proceed to gild the lilly – by adding the softened, but not melted, butter. Your nice dough will fall apart as the butter is added and the mixer is in for another workout doing the five to seven minutes of additional kneading required to get the butter incorporated. (Final mixer motor temperature about 110F.) Once it’s done it will all come back together and look really great – slightly satiny and soft. This is the prettiest dough I’ve come across. You’re looking for the fabled “slapping sound” from the dough hitting the mixer bowl.
Wait around for a good long time:
Let the dough rise for two hours or until doubled. Then you deflate it (“punch down” is a dumb term – never punch your dough, lift gently around the edges and press gently to redistribute the yeasties and their byproducts) and chill it during the second rise – 4 to 6 hours or overnight. I know; I did warn you it was elaborate.
The science here tells us that in addition to the kneading workout we gave it at the beginning to develop the gluten, this extended second rise will help create the distinctive crumb that makes brioche so wonderful. It also allows the butter a chance to rest and recover from any overheating.
Choose your path wisely:
After your dough has chilled, you have an decision to make: just how many sticky buns can you eat? With your blob of rested brioche dough, you can make two rolls of sticky buns or make one roll and some other sort of brioche-based yumminess, like a traditional tête or a more French Toast/Pain Perdu-friendly nanterre loaf. Complicating your decision is this: you can prepare two logs of sticky buns and freeze one for another time. This freezer trick is especially handy for blowing the minds of houseguests.
We’ll proceed to make the entire recipe of sticky buns – of course, use half quantities if you’re only making one roll of buns. Divide the rested dough in half, rewrap half and return it to the fridge. You need to keep the dough cool to avoid setting the yeast off or worse, melting the butter – the dough should never be greasy. Gently press and roll out the working half so you get a 11″ by 13″ rectangle. Spread half the butter (6 tablespoons) across the dough – you need to have the dough and the butter at cool room temperature for this to work reasonably well. Fold in thirds, like a business letter, then roll out to 11 x 13 (-ish) again, avoiding the edges (you’re making layers here). Fold in thirds again, then wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Do it all again with the second half.
Mix the cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Beat the egg and grab your pasty brush. Take the first half out of the fridge after its rest and roll it out again. Paint it up with the egg – leave a bit at the top or bottom unpainted for sealing up the roll – and sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar over the dough. Spread half the chopped nuts and press them gently into the dough so they stick. Roll tightly and wrap, seam side down, in plastic.
Freeze long enough to harden lightly, about 45 minutes. Do the same fill-and-roll routine for the second piece of dough.
This is the part where you can double-wrap one of your rolls and leave it in the freezer for another time. Just let it defrost, wrapped, on the counter for 15 or 20 minutes before proceeding.
More butter, please:
Prep your pan(s) for the rolls – you’re actually making the sticky topping in the bottom of the pan.You need one 9″ round cake pan with “high sides” per roll – I find my 3″ deep pan works great, but I have done it in the supermarket 1.5″ cake pan with just OK results. Press a stick of butter into the bottom of the pan then cover evenly with half a cup of brown sugar.
With the roll(s) that have been in the freezer for just under an hour, proceed by pulling it out and pressing firmly to make sure it’s truly round. Measure out (yes, get a ruler) seven even slices – about 1.5 inches and slice them off. I use a serrated knife to avoid mashing the roll. You’ll need to reshape them gently into rounds. Press three pecan halves into the top of each bun – I like to make a little triangle – them flip them, pecan-side-down into the prepared pan. Put 6 around the outside – seams out – and the last one in the center. Repeat with the second log if you’re doing two. Let the prepared rolls proof for two hours or so, until the slices are touching each other. Bake in at 350F oven 35 to 40 minutes. If you’re using a shorter cake pan, put foil or a sheet pan on a lower rack to catch drips.
Avoid the molten sugar and eat up!
Remove from oven, let cool for just five minutes – then invert onto a serving platter. Be careful as you’re flopping around molten caramel, and likely some melty, drippy butter. Remove the cake pan and let the buns cool for several minutes on the platter to avoid sugar burns. Serve warm, and really, you need to eat them all the first day. They don’t keep too well.
Well. It’s going to take a while no matter what. I like to make the dough in the morning, get through the first rise and get it in the fridge before lunch or errands or whatever. Then in the evening, before bed, you can knock out the butter and turns, and fill and roll and into the freezer. That’s about an hour’s active work with the half-hour rest after the butter-and-turns.
The day you want to eat them, you can get up really early and defrost, pan, proof and bake, but that makes for a really early day, even for a brunch-time breakfast. I’ve been known to cheat and slice and pan them the night before, cover and refrigerate. Then set an alarm for early, take them out of the fridge and let them proof while you have a little nap. Then bake them off and you can have them at actual breakfast time.
Parts list, brioche dough:
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (or one packet)
5 large eggs
1/3 c. whole milk
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp kosher salt or 1/2 tsp. table salt
1.5 sticks (6 oz.) unsalted butter
Parts list, sticky buns (makes two logs, 14 buns):
3.5 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. packed brown sugar
42 pecan halves – about a cup and a half
Heavy duty stand mixer
9″ round x 3″ deep cake pan
Serving platter bigger than your cake pan (safety first!)
For those of us too chicken to try Steph’s macarons, this will get you your almond fix. As a bonus, it’s very, very easy and is always a crowd pleaser.
This was in the food section of the The Week in November 25, 2005 as a summary of an LA Times article about Lindsey Remolif Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook. How’s that for attribution? It does indicate, however, why this may seem familiar: it’s not a new recipe. In fact, looking at the original now, I see that this is officially dubbed “Almond Torte” but we’ve been calling it almond cake for so long, I’m changing the title.
1 1/4 c. sugar
8 oz. almond paste
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 eggs at room temperature
1 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
9-inch cake pan or springform pan
Hey! Almond paste isn’t the same thing as marzipan. Nor is it the same as ground up almonds. You’ll probably see some paste that comes in a 7 oz. package. Note that you need 8 0z., and there is a manufacturer that puts 8 oz. of almond paste in a can (UPDATE: now a box). We’ve used both, and really, you need all 8 oz. or it messes with the fat ratio in the cake. Just sayin’.
Mix the almond paste and the sugar in your mixer or food processor. You want sandy looking almond-sugar without lumps of almond paste. Start slow – when we do this in the mixer, it invariably tries to throw some of the sugar and almond paste out of the bowl – just pick up any big lumps and chuck ’em back in the bowl.
Cream the butter and almond-sugar mixture. Watch the color during this step; you want it to go from yellowy-tan to almost white. This is your only real chance to get any air into the cake, so don’t skimp here.
Add the vanilla and the room temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each to become fully incorporated before adding the next. (I break them into a measuring cup to check them and then pour them in one at a time.)
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder and add to the batter and mix until just combined.
Butter and flour (or Baker’s Joy and/or parchment round) a 9″ round x 3″ deep cake pan or a springform pan (We’ve only used the springform a few times – there’s really no need and it’s a pain to clean). Pour/spread in the batter (depending on your room temperature, you may need to even it out a little in the pan) and bake in a 325F oven for an hour to 75 minutes.
Skimping on baking time is the one thing you can do to mess up this cake. It will look beautiful and puffy and golden brown after about 50 minutes. It’s lying to you! Don’t believe it. It’s all a trick. If you take it out now, the center will sink and you will be sad. (It will still taste fine, but it won’t look so nice – can you tell we’ve done this a few times?) Test with a toothpick in the center and look for the center to spring back when pressed lightly. Don’t test halfway between the edge and the center – test in the center. (UPDATE: if your kitchen is particularly warm, you might even consider popping the filled pan into the fridge to firm up the butter for 5 or 10 minutes. This will give the batter a chance to set up a bit in the oven before the butter loses all its structural integrity.)
Let the cake cool for about an hour or so – it will pull away from the edges a bit. Run a knife around the edge and unmold if you springformed, or dump it out onto a cooling rack if you used the regular pan. If you let it cool overnight in a cold kitchen and it seems reluctant to leave the pan, put the pan in a hot water bath for a few minutes to soften the butter you greased the pan with – it will pop right out (don’t do this with a springform – they’re notoriously leaky and no one wants soggy cake).
A sprinkle of powdered sugar and a few slivered almonds (toasted if you’re feeling fancy) make it look really nice. We usually don’t bother unless we’re taking it to a party. (The almond garnish is a nice warning to the nut-intolerant as well, since the cake doesn’t really look like it’s full of nuts.)
Since I think I’m the Recipicitor closest to Manhattan, and I know I’m the one who’s mixed the most, here’s a basic Manhattan guide.
A Manhattan cocktail is bourbon whisk(e)y, sweet vermouth and aromatic bitters. Since bourbon and sweet vermouth are both, well, sweet, the bitters is an important part of composing the cocktail. The cocktail “cool kids” (not to be confused with the law library “cool kids”) are all a-twitter about bitters, so that’s something you can play with once you have the basics worked out.
The unsung, and unphotographed, hero of our cocktail is the ice which chills the drink but also serves to provide water to the mix. Shaking and resting after shaking before pouring for different lengths of time will change the nature of the drink. If your water is nasty, please buy ice or make it with filtered water.
I know I have some mid-South / Bluegrass colleagues, so I’ll set aside discussion of which bourbon to use. And what counts as bourbon. And which is best. I’m a card-carrying Marker’s Mark ambassador, so I’ll say I use (the admittedly mild and sweet) Maker’s for Manhattans and you can use what you prefer. Since the bourbon is the base spirit, changing it up will change the drink quite a bit – please experiment.
1/3 sweet vermouth
Shake vigorously with ice, strain into cocktail glass. Add stemmed Maraschino cherry.
So you can see I use Noilly Pratt vermouth. This is another thing that can radically change your cocktail. Try several – like dry vermouth, if you don’t like the sweet vermouth straight, don’t put it in your cocktail.
I like Angostura bitters generally, and it’s definitely the thing to use in a classic Manhattan. It’s also the easiest to find – probably in your supermarket, definitely in your liquor store. I have experimented with orange bitters and it works well in this drink. Anise-y Peychud’s, a must for any well stocked bar since it’s required for a Sazerac, doesn’t work with this one, in my opinion.
The cherry is really part of the drink – even if you don’t like them – it adds some sweetness, so drop one in. If you hate it, put the rest on your sundaes.
A word about measuring and servings
You wouldn’t make most (any?) recipe for the first time without measuring. Don’t mix cocktails by “eyeballing” them. Use a proper measure of some sort.
Since I have your attention, I’ll also comment on the disturbing size of modern cocktail glasses. The ones shown here are 8 oz. capacity. That’s to say that if filled with a strong cocktail like a Manhattan or Martini, you’d have about 3.5 oz. of pure alcohol – over 8 units (a pint of 6% beer is 1 unit). I usually mix two doubles of an evening – 1.5 oz vermouth and 3 oz bourbon – I shake and let rest long enough for the melt to make up two 3 oz pours, which fill the glass “half-way” (triangles, cones, geometry, fun!). That still means 3*40% + 1.5*16% / 2 servings = 0.72 oz of alcohol each, or 1.8 units – a true double for each of us. Please, as the lawyers make the advertisers say, drink responsibly.
“Foamy. Beer Foamy” Buffy is right. Beer is foamy. Cocktails can be too: intentionally in the case of foams, flips and carbonated concotions, or as a side-effect of shaking, as here. A Manhattan should not be foamy when served – let it sit for a minute or two and the drink will clear.
[Note: I’m starting a new category called “needs improvement” and I’m serious about it. Use the comments or contact me directly with suggestions. I’ll be updating these as I discover improvements. If you have one of those recipes that “seems like a good idea” but never seems to work right, send it along and we’ll see what we can do…]
Peter was frying chicken last night (he insists on deep frying but that’s another story) so I made french fries. I’ve done them before with mild success. My best outcome was with sweet potatoes. I’ll keep at this and post updates as I perfect the technique.
The basic technique is generally agreed: cut high-starch potatoes, soak in cold water, dry well, fry in low oil, drain, fry again in high oil, salt and enjoy.
First: high-starch potatoes are generally russets or bakers. This is what I used.
I cut them on our v-slicer/mandoline, using the 1/4″ julienne blade.
This is a departure from how I’ve done fries in the past – by hand with a nice big knife. I don’t think it was an improvement for fries – they were too small for my liking. Using these “fries” for hash browns, fritattas or tortas could be wonderful.
Second: soaking the cut fries. This helps reduce the amount of starch on the surface of the fry so that it doesn’t form a crust during frying. This means the steam can escape from the inside of the fry, making the interior light and fluffy. Allegedly.
Dry them really, really well, or you’ll be sorry.
Next, heat the oil to about 320F. We use peanut oil since it has a nice high smoke point (never heat an oil above its smoke point – it’s dangerous and will break down the oil and make it nasty). We tend to overshoot on the lower temperatures since our fryer has such slow recovery, and dumping a whole potato in makes the temperature drop really fast.
(Our 327F dropped to just under 300F when I dropped in the fries.)
Once the fries are floppy and soggy and generally horrible looking, pull them out and drain them.
These should be more spread out, but I only have so much counter space (and remember, someone in my kitchen is also making fried chicken at the same time).
Heat the oil to 365F or 370F and put the fries back in. These tiny little 1/4″ fries cooked fast – two or three minutes for each step.
The finished product:
What I learned:
1/4″ fries are too small for this application. My hand-cut 3/8-1/2″ fries worked better.
Two-step frying really does seem to make a difference. The inside of the fries are pretty fluffy – even at this small size.
Other things to try:
Some other starchy roots
Much larger fries – planks?
Try grapeseed oil for a higher temperature final fry
Try a more flavorful oil using these small fries at lower temperatures – walnut? olive?
High-temperature bake in lieu of final fry
Use these tiny fries in a torta or gratin for different texture than the usual slices