June 26, 2010

Crepes - just like my grandmother made!

I was excited when this month’s recipe was crepes, as crepes have a wonderful memory for me.

When I was growing up, I lived a long way from my grandmother, my mother’s mother. But on the rare
occasion that I was sick and staying with her, she would make my favourite foods, in an effort to get me to eat. And one of my favourite things was pancakes – as we called crepes, when I was young. My grandmother made them so wonderfully – in a pan with lots of butter, served with lots of sugar and lemon juice, rolled up! (I confess that my grandmother’s pancakes were even better than my mother’s!!)

So it was with great joy that I made this month’s recipe.

The Alton Brown recipe was really great. It was simpler and possibly more delicious than the recipe that my mother gave me about 20 years ago, or the other one I have used many times, from The Commonsense Cookery Book (compiled by The Public School Cookery Teachers’ Association of New South Wales, 1960).

And as we were going to have it for dessert, I decided to wrap each crepe around balls of raspberry-swirl ice-cream, and served with some raspberries.

But they were so good, that I had to have some more.

This time, I had them just like my grandmother made them, rolled up with lots of lemon juice and sugar – truly perfect!

Plus, I have some batter left, and lemon juice too, so I think I might have to have more tomorrow!

June 4, 2010

June Recipe: Crepes!

This month's recipe is crepes. If you have never had a crepe before, they are magnificent little pancake like discs filled with a variety of fresh fruits, or vegetables, eggs, and potatoes. Below you will find Alton Brown's recipe with three variations: plain, savory and sweet. 

You may choose which ever batter preparation you like, and fill it to your hearts content with fruit, nuts, herbs, cheese, etc. And if you are feeling extremely indulgent, top it with ice cream. You can also form them into little vessels for your ice cream. Be Creative and have fun. It will be great to see all of your creations. 

Now, go forth and purchase Nutella! 

Here are step by step images and instructions for How to Make Crepes  

Crepes Three Ways
2 large eggs
3/4 C milk
1/2 C water
1 C flour
3 T melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

Savory Variation Add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 C chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.
Sweet Variation Add 2 1/2 T sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 T of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.

Here are some links to Creperies for menu inspiration.

The Crepe Place, Santa Cruz CA
Flip Happy Crepes, Austin TX
The Crepe Cafe, a very commercial but tasty looking venue 

June 2, 2010

Lemon Sandwich Cookies

For May’s independent study baking project, I baked lemon cream sandwich cookies. The recipe came from Citizen Cake in San Francisco. I love sandwich cookies: lemon cream, Oreos, Nutter Butters…So I thought this might be a fun thing to do. Also, lemon season is ending soon, so this was a nice way to get a quick lemon recipe in. The cookies were pretty easy to make. You have to plan ahead a bit because you need time to refrigerate both the dough and the filling. I used a decorative cookie cutter which made the cookies look prettier. Note to self: “The fancier the cutter, the prettier the cookie.” The recipe called for lemon zest – I was careful to only zest the yellow part of the peel to avoid the bitter taste. The cookies were yummy the first day and even better the second. They make a great lunch box cookie, for those of us packing lunches! The recipe:

Lemon Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Citizen Cake, San Francisco
For Cookies
½ Tbsp. grated lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 large egg yolk
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour

For Filling:
3 Tbsp grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted (after measuring)

A 2-inch round cookie cutter

Make Cookies: Boil lemon zest and juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1 Tbsp, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Beat together butter, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer at 5 minutes. Add yolk and egg, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in lemon reduction. At low speed mix in baking soda and lour until just combined. Form dough into a 6-inch disk. Chill, wrapped, until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F with racks in middle and upper positons. Butter 2 larage baking sheets. Rool out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin to a 13-inch (1/8-inch-thick) round. Cut out cookies, rerolling dough once. Bake 1 inch apart until edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Make Lemon Filling: Mince zest with salt. Beat butter with a electric mixer until light and fluffy, then beat in zest paste. Reduce speed to low, then mix in sugar until well combined.

Assemble cookies: Spread filling (about a rounded Tbsp) on half of the cookies and sandwich with remaining cookies. Press slightlly, then smooth edges with a butter knife or small spatula. Chill until filling sets, about 30 minutes.

Fresh Starwberry Pie ~ Gluten Free

In March my daughter had to begin a Gluten Free diet. She's now feeling great, but it's been a learning process for mom. Just when I finally felt all grown up and confident in my baking skills, I feel like I'm starting over learning about rice flour, sweet rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, corn flour, almond flour, dry egg replacer, xantham gum...I could go on and on. We've been experimenting with a wide variety of recipes - some good, some not so. One of my saving graces has been the late Bette Hagman's "Gluten Free Gourmet" cookbook series. Not only are they quality recipes, there is variety and kid-friendly options. She offers good information on Gluten Free living as well. Seems everyone knows someone with special diet needs, so I thought I'd share with you a new recipe I tried.

This week we attempted something new - gluten free pie crust. And, I must say, it was a flaky success. I don't know about where you live, but the strawberries are perfect and abundant this year in Kansas. So we made fresh strawberry pie this morning - literally walked outside, picked the berries, and made a pie. Can't get any fresher than that. I followed the recipe listed below as written. One thing to note before beginning, the crust needs time allowed to chill. Since I'm impatient, I put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes and found it easy to work with. It's very light and airy, not like typical pie crust dough. It reminded me of icing made with shortening - that kind of bulk without the weight. The only change I would make, not suggested in the recipe, Is that it probably needs foil around the edges to keep from browning too much. The edges of the crust were nicely browned when the bottom of the crust was still a bit too soft. Otherwise, a great pie and crust!
Gluten Free Ricotta Pastry

1 1/2 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. xantham gum
1 c. melted margarine
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. sour cream (no substitutions)

Sift together the dry ingredients. Mix together the margarine, cheese, and sour cream. Stir in dry ingredients. Chill for at least 2 hours, or until dough is easy to handle. Roll out dough on a rice-floured plastic as it may be sticky. Using a second piece of plastic keeps it from sticking to the rolling pin. Transfer to your pie pan/plate and flute the edges. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool before filling.

Fresh Strawberry Pie Filling

1 qt. fresh strawberries
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 T. cornstarch
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
3 T. sugar

In a sauce pan, put 1 c. sliced berries, 1/2 c. sugar, salt, and 1/4 c. water. Bring to boil. Cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix cornstarch and remaining water. Add to sauce pan. Return to heat. Stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool. Mix into remaining fresh berries.

Mix cream cheese and sugar. Spread cream cheese mixture on the bottom of the cooked, cooled pie crust. Add berry mixture on top. Chill until firm. Approximately 7 servings.