Saturday, July 27, 2013

Brioche Doughnuts

There is nothing quite like a fluffy, hot, doughnut straight out of the frying pan and into your mouth.  The sweet yeast and butter smell fills your nose as you bite into the cloud-like sensation that is a homemade doughnut.

I ventured into making brioche doughnuts just this morning.  Make sure you start a day ahead as this dough needs about 24 hours to retard (rest) in the fridge overnight.

Brioche Dough

Eggs             300 g
Milk             212 g      
Bread flour   751 g
Instant yeast     9 g
Salt                20 g
Butter           373 g
Sugar            112 g

Mine are filled with apricot jam!
Combine first five ingredients and 1/3 butter in a mixer with dough hook attachment.  Mix on low for about 2 minutes until ingredients come together.  Mix on high for 4 minutes.  Then, while dough is mixing add all the sugar and butter (roughly chopped) to the dough.  Mix on high until the butter and sugar is fully incorporated into the dough.  Don't worry! This may take 10-15 minutes and your mixer may get fairly warm.  Keep going until you have a very sticky but smooth dough and no butter pieces are visible.  Stop the mixer to scrape down dough periodically to ensure an even mix.  Lightly oil and butter a large bowl.  Ball up dough and place into bowl.  Wrap very well with plastic and place into fridge for about 24 hours but at least 12 hours.  I left my dough in the fridge for about 36 hours and did not find my product to be damaged at all.

Take dough out of fridge the next day.  It should have risen up a fair amount while in the fridge. Dust your hands with bread flour and dust the work surface you are using with bread flour so the dough does not stick.  Weigh out 2 oz pieces.  Using your hands form the pieces into balls and flatten the balls with your palms so they look like rounded discs.  Allow doughnuts to rest at room temperature for about an hour to an hour and a half.  The doughnuts should look puffy and the dough should definitely have risen noticeably.  

When you notice the dough is almost ready start heating up canola oil in a pan with high sides.  You will need to fill the pan so that it is about 2-3 inches deep with oil.  Also prepare a plate with sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste.  You will need enough cinnamon sugar to coat all the doughnuts.  Heat up the oil to 350 degrees F.  This is the optimal frying temperature for doughnuts so keep an eye on it as you start frying.  Prepare a metal rack for the hot doughnuts or if you don't have one line plates with paper towels to absorb extra oil.

Add the doughnuts to the pan but do not crowd them.  Using wooden sticks (or two forks) turn them when they are golden brown on one side.  Place them on the paper towels and allow the towels to soak up the extra oil.  When the doughnuts have cooled slightly but are still warm roll them in the cinnamon sugar.  When they are completely cool fill a piping bag fitted with a number 2 tip with your favorite jam and pipe it into the doughnuts from the side.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vánočka- European Yeast Raised Bread

Pastries and cakes don't just have to be full of butter cream, chocolate and sugar although that's what most people think.  Some cakes are delicious without all these extra flavors- and calories! One of my favorites is Vánočka which is  Czech bread made with sugar, butter,eggs, yeast, flour, walnuts and raisins.  And that's it! The bread gets its beautiful flavor and color from the prevalence of egg yolks in the formula.  And the light fluffy texture comes from developing the gluten properly in the dough before baking it off.  This cake is best the day it is made- literally hot out of the oven.  It goes very well with apricot jam and a hot cup of tea or coffee.  A good variation of this recipe can be found here. Yum!

Vánočka I made recently
Light and fluffy crumb structure of Vánočka

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Pizza Time!

Nothing is tastier (and cheaper) than a homemade pizza.  Assuming you already have some olive oil and flour at home you can make your own pizza for about $10.  Of course your cost will depend on how many ingredients you use, where you buy them, and their quality.

Overall, pizza is amazingly easy to make.  Just mix up a quick dough, let it proof for about 45 minutes and then roll out the dough and throw on some toppings.  I like to crank up the oven to about 450 for the first 10 minutes so the crust gets the lift and color it needs before lowering it to around 375 for the remaining 5-7 minutes.  Also, preheating a pizza stone is key to a great, golden crust.

For my pizza I chose simple toppings of mozzarella, mushrooms, onions, and pepperoni but again, the sky is the limit.  Happy pizza eating! Don't be afraid to get creative.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Perfect Summer Wine- Vinho Verde

A hot Texas night lends itself well to a crisp, refreshing wine. So when trolling the wine shelves of Spec's this past weekend I was drawn to the Portuguese Vinho Verde. The one I chose to drink was Arca Nova, Vinho Verde 2012 whose price hovers right around $9 retail value. But not to fret, a Vinho Verde lover can find one that is priced even cheaper! This wine is one of those glorious buys which can be found for as low as $5 or $6 and still taste delicious.

This wine was a beautiful pale daffodil color in the glass and smelled of summer melons and green apples.  The taste was refreshingly acidic and the wine stayed on the palate for a medium to long finish.  This pleasing wine finishes with a slight effervescence on the palate.  The effervescence is added to prolong shelf life but is also just a pleasant surprise in a wine that appears to be still.  Great for enjoying on a hot summer day!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Crooked Tree Coffeehouse - Dallas, TX

Anyone looking for a great cup of coffee in the Dallas Metro area should look no further than Crooked Tree Coffeehouse.   The Coffeehouse is situated right near uptown in a remodeled house.  It is unassuming and quaint but the inside truly has a welcoming quality.   The coffee and pastry selection is small but the quality is great.  They make a champion cappuccino that is strong, bold, and smooth.  No lingering, bitter after-coffee taste here. 

The coffee is rich and luxurious and packs a powerful boost.  It is served on simple china and comes complete with beautiful latte art.  It has always been my firm opinion that a coffee shop that takes the time to make latte art will take the time to make a good cup of coffee as well.  This certainly holds true at Crooked Tree.  The coffee is almost too beautiful to drink, but drink it you will, and you will probably go back for another cup too!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

2011 Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons, France

Chablis is locater in a Burgundy, France and has a cool climate and soil rich in minerals such as chalk and limestone.  The chalk and the limestone in the soil help to promote the intense acidity often found in a Chablis.  For those who enjoy a good Chardonnay, a Chablis is a fine choice.  And for the more discerning taste, one from the Premier Cru Vaillons region is particularly enjoyable.

I tasted a 2011 Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru from Vaillons.  The wine was a vibrant yellow-gold color and translucent.  In the nose I could smell honeysuckle, honey, nectar, grass, and just a touch of apricots.  The wine had a medium acidity, a light to medium body and was incredibly well balanced.  It also had a long finish with a taste of oak at the end.  The oak taste was not overpowering but added a noteworthy nuance to the wine.

This is a wine that is so pleasant for sipping it makes one thirsty for more.  Such a wine is perfect with oysters on the half shell or a poached fish.  A summertime delight indeed!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

El Tiempo Cantina - Houston, TX

Pork fajitas
Mexican cuisine is my food of choice whenever I visit Texas because is excellent, fresh and relatively inexpensive fare.  I would say that El Tiempo is on the pricier end with most entrees hovering between $12 - $30.  I felt that I got a great deal by ordering fajitas which I split with a friend.  For $24 you receive a half pound of the meat of your choice cooked to order. I opted for the pork option but guests can also order chicken or beef for the same price.  The half pound of beef tenderloin is slightly more expensive at $32.

The fajitas came out sizzling hot on a steaming, elevated skillet.  I ordered mine with the fajita topping, "Barry" which is an assortment of mushrooms, jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions with a white wine butter sauce.  The fajitas also come with rice, beans, pico de gallo, and cheddar cheese.  This smorgasbord of food is more than enough for two.  The meat was tender and moist and the vegetables that came with the fajitas were browned and sauteed to perfection.  The meal tasted fresh and was filling and satisfying.  The fajitas arrived within 10 minutes of ordering and our server was very attentive and efficient.  While you are waiting for your food you can enjoy snacking on the hot, toasty chips that are brought out and your choice of either a spicy salsa or a mild creamy cilantro dip.

Overall, a great dinner out in a casual, clean atmosphere.  The warm booth that we were seated in for our meal just added to the pleasant and cozy ambiance of the restaurant.  I would definitely recommend El Tiempo for any Tex-Mex lover.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Haselnusstorte (Hazelnut Cake) - Delicious and Gluten Free!

Celiac's disease and gluten intolerance is now affecting thousands of people around the world.  But having Celiac's, which makes one intolerant to wheat, barley, and rye should not inhibit a person from enjoying a great dessert.  Last week I made a hazelnut cake which is great for the gluten intolerant individual.  It is rich and tasty and has the toasty taste and aroma of hazelnuts.  But happily, it is gluten free! Below is the recipe for the cake, the hazelnut filling and the chocolate buttercream I used for decoration.  Bon appetit!

Hazelnut Cake (adapted from Viennese Desserts Made Easy by Georgina Gronner)

1 1/3 cup peeled hazelnuts, ground
3/4 cup sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.
2. Toast peeled hazelnuts in 350 degree oven until they are a light golden color. (About 7-10 minutes).
3. Whisk egg yolks, egg, and sugar together on high in a mixer until they are pale yellow and fluffy.  (about 5-6 minutes).
4. Fold in ground hazelnuts with rubber spatula.
5. In a separate bowl whik egg whites until they make a soft peak.  Be careful not to overwhip.
6. Stir 1/3 of egg whites into egg yolks to lighten the batter.  Gently fold in remaining egg whites and pour into prepared pan. Bake immediately.
7. Bake about 30 minutes until cake is golden brown and springs back.

Chocolate Hazelnut Filling (adapted from Viennese Desserts Made Easy by Georgina Gronner)
Filling before butter is added
Caramelizing nuts and sugar

2/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons rum

1. Cook hazelnuts and sugar over medium heat until hazelnuts and sugar are a light caramel color.  On low heat add egg yolks, milk and chocolate and cook until mixture thickens.  Cool hazelnut mixture.
2.  Whip butter until light and fluffy in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add hazelnut mixture and whip until filling is light and fluffy.

Finished hazelnut filling

Chocolate buttercream (adapted from Culinary Institute of America Italian Buttercream recipe)

4 oz egg whites
8 oz sugar
12 oz cold butter, cubed into 1 inch pieces
4 oz chocolate
3 tablespoons rum

1. Prepare egg whites in mixing bowl with whisk attachment
2.  Measure sugar into heavy bottomed pot.  Add water to sugar until sugar is consistency of wet sand.  Wash down sides of pot with water so that NO SUGAR is on sides of pot.  Cook sugar until it reaches 240 degrees F.  When sugar is at 235 F start whipping egg whites.
3. Egg whites should be opaque and mixer should be on medium low speed.  Start streaming in hot sugar slowly.  After all sugar is incorporated turn mixer to high and whisk until the bowl feels body temperature.
4. Add butter slowly and whisk until the mixture emulsifies.  It should look satiny and taste smooth and creamy.
5. Melt chocolate and stream into buttercream when the chocolate is body temperature.  Add rum.

Cake Assembly
1. To assemble cake, slice cake into three layers.  Use hazelnut filling between 1st and 2nd and 2nd and third layer.  Use chocolate buttercream to ice and finish cake.  If desired caramelized hazelnuts can be used for decoration. Enjoy a slice of this cake with Frangelico liqueur.  This hazelnut liqueur will pick up the hazelnut flavors in the cake quite nicely.

Finished and decorated hazelnut cake

A Complex White Burgundy - 2010 Xavier Monnot Meursault Les Chevalières

The 2010 Mersault has a pale yellow-gold color and is translucent in the glass.  The nose has the spicy aroma of American oak but also smells of grass, oil, and honey.  The aroma has great complexity and adds to the enjoyment of the wine's taste.  The wine has an excellent mid-palate and tastes acidic, making your mouth water for more.  The finish of the wine is long and gives one pause.  It is definitely a wine that encourages one to sip again and again to discern all the flavors that lie within.  Pair this wine with salmon, lobster, or lasagna.  It will also lend itself to a more tender cut of beef such as filet mignon.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bastille Day - Celebrate with Craquelin!

Homemade craquelin
Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14th to commemorate the storming of the Bastille and the resurrection of a constitutional monarchy after the French Revolution.  It is a national French holiday celebrated all over the globe now with food and good fun. Paris also marks the occasion with an annual military parade.

Today I am celebrating Bastille Day by giving a nod to the famous bread, brioche, which is said to have originated in France.  It is an egg and butter rich dough which can be baked as a traditional Brioche à tête or made into a number of other delicious baked items.  One of my favorite desserts made with brioche is craquelin.  For this yeast product, the brioche is filled with sugar infused with flavorings- often orange or lemon zest.  There is nothing quite like biting into a fluffy brioche to get to the delicious, crunchy sugar center.

Enjoy a great craquelin recipe found here and happy Bastille Day!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Beet Salad and Wine?

Beet salad is a great summertime treat.  The beautiful red/pink hue of beets lend themselves to a stunning table display and the delicious sweet crunch of the vegetable itself  is light and heavenly on a hot day.  However, beets are tricky to pair with wine because they are quite sweet and usually adorned with vinegar.  Although not a food that is commonly paired with wine I might suggest a fruitier Sauvignon Blanc or Rosé to pick up the beet's sweeter undertones.  Thoughts?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Woodford Reserve Distillery

Kentucky is an often forgotten state that most individuals forget about except, maybe, once a year when people flock there to participate in the Kentucky Derby, the renowned horse race.  But Kentucky is no longer just famous for its horses.  In fact, Kentucky has received rising recognition for its bourbon which is a drink that, according to an Act of Congress in 1964, is an American Native Spirit.  This means that it can ONLY be produced in the 50 states of the union.  However, true bourbon connoisseurs agree that Kentucky bourbon is the best and in fact most of the spirit's production takes place in this state.

 Sour mash and yeast is fermented in the early states of production
When I visited Woodford Reserve this week I was awed by the sheer beauty of the drive into Versailles, KY, where this famous distillery is located.  The distillery is nestled among the lush green pastures of KY between acres of horse farms and charming vineyards.  After embarking on the tour of the distillery I learned what makes Woodford Reserve so special apart from its exterior beauty.  First, the distillery uses the traditional process of  making bourbon meaning that they only use Kentucky water (packed full of essential minerals like calcium and magnesium).  They also use a special sour mash comprised of 72 % corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley.  And in keeping with the traditional bourbon process, they age their bourbon in new, charred oak barrels.  Most of a bourbon's distinct taste comes from this very special barrel which can only be used once for the production of bourbon.  Woodford Reserve imparts additional flavor into its bourbon by placing the bourbon into the barrel at 110 proof instead of the standard 125 proof.  They believe that this help the bourbon to acquire its unique "Woodford" flavor.

Woodford is placed into the barrel at 110 proof
Woodford bourbon is aged at least six years to give it a strong flavor and its unique caramel color.  Woodford is classified as a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey which, by the way, is a classification that can only be achieved if the bourbon is made in Kentucky and distilled according to the laws for distilling bourbon spirits.  Additionally, if the bourbon is aged for less than 4 years the manufacturer must disclose the age on the bottle otherwise they are not required by law to do so.

Woodford smells deeply of caramel and vanilla flavors and tastes of  oak, spices, and toasted nuts.  It has a long finish.  It is a pleasant bourbon for drinking neat or with a touch of ice.  Or to feel like a true Kentuckian, try a mint julep, which is the classic drink for the Kentucky Derby horse race.  A traditional recipe can be found here. Overall, I raise my glass (of bourbon) to Woodford Reserve and congratulate them on making a product which has achieved international fame despite being relatively new to the market.