Have a safe and happy Halloween and remember to hug somebody you love!!!
Have a safe and happy Halloween and remember to hug somebody you love!!!
At Curiosity Doughnuts we serve doughnuts and frozen custard. I love pie. I love the fillings and the crust. In order to weave pie into our world we use classic pies as the inspiration for our filled doughnuts. We opened with apple pie. The filling was made with apples from our trees. As the seasons change and we begin to get our feet underneath us we are able to do a bit more. This week we are unveiling pumpkin pie. And while not a true pie, we have added Boston Cream pie to the mix. The pumpkin pie filling is flavored and thickened with marshmallows. The vanilla pudding for the Boston Cream is sweetened with condensed milk. It is exciting and interesting to narrow our focus and then play with the available resources.
We have been working on relocating back to PA from NH. Our house has been on the market for too long. Recently we changed realtors. The new team's first action was to bring in a home stager. She went through the house with fresh eyes. She made notes. She had ideas. Her goal, to make the house look its absolute best. It amazes me how the fresh look changes what we see. It helps clear the fog and bring clarity to the subject. I would not have sought out a home stager on my own. And that was short sighted. There are specialists for a reason. Taking the leap to work with them is something that is essential to elevating ourselves.
First we work on ideas. Then we sift through the ideas and work with what we think are good ideas. We don't discard the other ideas. They are set aside in a separate pile. We work with and tinker with the good ideas. We let them bounce around our minds. Then we introduce them to other ideas, both old and new. Occasionally ideas are drawn together like magnets. And sometimes they repel each other, also like magnets. We don't always have to be working, tinkering, and developing. We do need to be open to new ideas in order to make way for new combinations.
There are books that I reach for when I'm feeling exhausted and in need of a little comfort. Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin are those books for me. I read them for the first time so long ago that I couldn't tell you how old I was, though it was definitely before I hit my twenties. As a New Yorker and a home cook, they touched me on many different levels. Colwin wrote of places that I had been to and people who were amazingly similar to the ones I knew. Her approach to coking was casual, and yet, the food was thoughtful and she understood why people ate. It's not as though hunger is the only thing that drives us, or at least not physical hunger. The books are entertaining and inspiring and written in this friendly, matter of fact tone that is implicitly hers. Every time I open them it's like visiting an old friend, one I've never met in person. They are books that make me happy and one day I hope to write something that will make someone, who I'll never meet, happy too.
Turns out you can deep fry sprinkles. We folded rainbow sprinkles into the trimmings from cutting doughnuts. We let the dough chill again and rolled out the doughnuts. We cut them and fried away.
The sprinkles in the doughnuts browned a bit. Inside they melted into the doughnuts.
The color vibrantly stained the tender interior. And a new doughnut was born.
When we added our frozen custard the doughnut got an upgrade.
We were recently re-introduced to filet mignon served on the bone. We cooked up a traditional filet beside one on the bone and people unanimously chose the one on on the bone. It looks larger and more impressive and it cooks beautifully. It's interesting to see how size adds value in the eyes of the diner, even when you are dining at home. A perfectly cooked steak is a thing of beauty and this one is easy to carve with almost a 100% yield. It's definitely a cut worth looking into and exploring more.
Alex was trying to get the barn door open the other day and found it surprisingly difficult. Once he got in, he found out why. The squirrels have adopted out barn for their future winter home and every protected nook and cranny is filled with walnuts.
Though clearly some of them are not waiting for winter to begin enjoying their provisions...
Check out this interesting video on what the industry is doing to define the term "natural."
At Curiosity Doughnuts we currently have 2 styles of doughnuts: yeasted and dropped. To round things out we have been working on our version of Old Fashioned Doughnuts. In our quest we have borrowed from our past experiences and the inspirations of others. We have explored using gelatinized starches to add structure to noodles. In Japanese and Chinese baking, this technique is exploited to create a more tender crumb with a sound structure. As inspiration would have it, Aki was working on Japanese Milk Bread for our next cookbook. The texture of the bread was soft and decadent. And it held together beautifully.
Old Fashioned Doughnuts often crumble and splinter. I'm not a fan of this attribute. The goal for our Old Fashioned was to get the tender crumb of the cake doughnut combined with the structure and decadence of our yeasted doughnut. I made a starch paste similar to the beginnings of a pate choux. I blended the paste into our Old Fashioned Doughnut recipe. I rolled the dough and chilled it. When it was cold we cut and fried the doughnuts. The crumb is moist and tender. The doughnut is full flavored and has a bit of bite. It is not our cake doughnut and it is not our yeasted doughnut. It is a new template for flavors and textures. Today we achieved the delicious results. And New Fashioned Doughnuts were born.
It's fall here in New Hampshire and this year, for the first time, I went on an actual hayride. There were a couple of stacked hay bales directly behind the drivers of the cart, instantly claimed by the experienced riders, and the rest of us settled into the blanket of hay layered on the cart floor. It was a whole new experience, bumpy and fragrant, with amazing views of the farm and the surrounding countryside. It wasn't the most comfortable ride but it was compelling. It was a reminder of how far we've come and how limitless our horizons are. Looking back over the last hundred years or so it's amazing to see how technology has simply sprouted, seemingly out of thin air, transforming our world from log cabins and outhouses into a place where we all carry miniature computers in our back pockets. Kitchens have evolved tremendously and yet some things remain the same. Those of us who love to cook are nurturers. We pursue flavor and comfort in equal measure and have an endless desire to take care of the people we love. It's nice to know that some things don't change.
A friend of mine asked me if I liked sesame cookies and of course I said yes, because I adore sesame cookies. There are several different kinds out there and they all tend to be crisp and crunchy and full of that rich nutty goodness that is a sesame seed. As a kid I had to be coaxed into trying those brown sesame candies that are basically honey and sesame seeds bound together into one delicious bite. It took a while for the flavor to grow on me but once it did I was hooked. As I got older and began cooking I discovered the deep flavor of roasted sesame oil and how a few drops could make a huge difference in the flavor of a finished dish. As with many ingredients, I go through phases, using them often and then losing them to new passions and relegating the sesame seeds to the back of the shelf.
The very next day she brought me these cookies. They are Lebanese sesame cookies, with her own special twist, only slightly sweet, spicy, thin, crispy, and totally delicious. The spices were a surprise for me, reminding me vaguely of ras al hanout, and adding a haunting depth to the flavor to the cookies. She's promised me the recipe, though I'm still waiting, and in the meantime I've added making my own version of these cookies to my list of things to do. Seed cakes and cookies were very popular in Victorian times though have mostly fallen out of favor. I'm thinking it's time for a renaissance.
With the weather turning cold we turn to braises. A favorite combination is duck legs braised with sofrito and olives. The olives add a fruity salinity to the sauce. The duck meat is rich, decadent, and luxurious. The sofrito: slow cooked onions, celery, carrots and garlic, is the backbone of the sauce. We use red wine to add structure and then the duck adds its rich, earthiness to round everything out. It's definitely one of those occasions where the end result is so much more than the sum of its parts. As the winter approaches it's time to start playing with deep, complex flavors in the kitchen.
My favorite lamb chop is the last chop off the roast. Same goes with pork. The chop in mention is the first cut chuck. It is the same cut as the first cut chuck shoulder of beef that we are smitten over.
We have created an obstacle with our creativity. We have explored, examined and explained the first cut chuck shoulder of beef. We use it in burgers. We braise it. We slow cook it sous vide and in CVaps. Unlike lamb and pork we have not seared and slow roasted it to medium rare. Why? Because we thought we already knew what to do with it. We thought the meat would be tough. We thought the whole cut needed a variety of times and temperatures to break down the connective tissue. We thought it was more interesting to break the cut down into its individual parts and serve them separately.
Tonight we thought differently. We seared the 2 inch thick steak in a cast iron skillet and roasted it in a 250°F oven until it reached an internal temperature of 130°F, relying on our thermapen. We removed it from the pan and let it rest. We carved the meat off the bone. We removed the fat pockets, connective tissue and sinew. The meat was amazing. It was juicy. It was beefy. Each cut from the shoulder had its own texture. They were all tender and delightful with a rich, meaty flavor. Good thing we questioned ourselves.
It is all around us, if we remember to look. One of the things I enjoy about foliage is its transitory nature. There are loose parameters for when it will occur and it changes from day to day and hour to hour. Forget to look and you may miss the best moments. It's sort of like life that way. We're racing around right now, juggling two businesses and a family life, and its important to remember to take a minute to pause and appreciate what's happening in our environment. We're never to busy to stop and take a breath, in fact it makes us stronger and more efficient. So, whatever the season it is where you are, look outside and soak it in. This moment will never be here again.
We are making a lot of yeasted doughnuts. We knew we would be creating a lot of doughnut holes. We use lots of doughnut holes in the sundae named the Freeze Brain. Others are sold in six packs. Still, we knew we wanted to do something different with the doughnuts holes. Mid-day on Sunday we finally brought out our doughnut clusters. The first few looked like pretty flowers but the holes were falling off the edges. To make them more functional as a full scale doughnut, we fused them together before frying. They cook up into beautifully individual shapes. As we got better at making them their aesthetic improved. When they are fried and glazed they are an amazing pull apart doughnut and so much fun to eat. Sharing a bite has never been so easy and difficult at the same time.
I find it interesting the different rules we have for foods. And when we switch the foods around the results are questioned. Sure occasionally we see blueberry shortcake. But in the back of our minds the question rings, why not strawberry? And look at pancakes. Blueberry pancakes are part of the breakfast lexicon. And when we put strawberries in pancakes heads turn. We need to question. It is the catalyst for discovery. And we need to test the questions and the boundaries. We can't let the rules hold us back. They are essential to driving us forward.
It is essential to be the filter. What we let through and what we hold back defines the results. We have found that our filter is directly related to our internal compass. It is not always easy to be the filter. There are compromises. Understanding why we make the decisions helps. And when we don't know and can't find the answer we pause to look at both sides of the filter.
We put the rice flour streusel to work on a batch of rice flour doughnuts.
We baked the doughnuts for 15 minutes at 425°F. The doughnuts were moist, tender and rich.
The streusel was crisp and crunchy. The crumb was light and delicate. We had a delicious and simple gluten free rice flour doughnut. Look for new additions to the menu at Curiosity Doughnuts at Stockton Market this weekend.
Streusel delivers flavor and provides textural contrast. In the interests of improving flavor and texture, we should focus on streusel and its basic elements. Today we we began working on things. We combined equal parts butter, sugar, and rice flour. We added 0.3% salt to season the streusel. The first variable we played with was the flour. We substituted white rice flour for our go-to all purpose flour. The raw streusel has a sandy crunch. The butter, sugar and salt remain neutral. While the dough chills we write. Tomorrow will reveal what that small change does to the finished result. From there we can continue our exploration adding flavors and playing with different types of sugar in the rice flour blend.
Cornbread has always fallen into that category of things that I wanted to like more. The idea of cornbread has always appealed to me. I have visions of Laura Ingalls in the prairie and Southern kitchens full of cornbread and good will. The reality tended to be disappointing. Either dry and tasteless or overly sweet and sticky. It's a recipe I've been chasing for years.
This morning I felt like baking so I reached for the corn flour. There was a bag of smoked corn flour in the drawer so I added some to bread. That's my first tip right there, corn bread made with corn flour will have a softer, less gritty texture than corn bread made with cornmeal. Bob's Red Mill is my go-to for this and I have never had any motivation to find another brand. Smoking the corn flour will give it a deeper, richer flavor. We cold smoke our corn flour in a shallow container for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.Just be judicious in the amount of smoked flour you add to your mix. A little goes a long way and too much can be overpowering.
I used buttermilk for the liquid in the bread because I wanted a bread that moist and tender. That little bit of tang also helps balance out the sugar in the recipe. I used 1/2 cup of sugar. I'm thinking that I could easily take that down a tablespoon or two, though Alex and Amaya loved it, so maybe not. Quick bread recipes are always warning you not to over-mix things but I'm here to tell you that cornbread needs a certain amount of stirring to develop structure or it just falls apart when you slice it. Thirty to forty strokes is just about right. Lastly, don't over bake it or it will dry out. Cornbread should be just firm to the touch and a cake tester should come out clean. Don't over think things and leave it in there for an extra few minute or your bread will suffer for your caution. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
The finished cornbread was light and tender, sweet and savory, with a buttery corn flavor that lingered on my palate. This bread is happily eaten warm, straight from the pan, possibly with a pat of sweet butter, if that's how you roll. It tends to disappear quickly, though, if you happen to find yourself with a reasonable amount of leftovers, roast chicken with cornbread stuffing could be a wonderful thing on a chilly autumn evening. It's a quick recipe that only took a few decades to get right.
4 ounces / 113 grams unsalted butter
1/2 cup / 100 grams sugar
1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
2 large eggs (cold)
1 cup / 240 grams buttermilk (cold)
1 cup / 150 grams all purpose flour
1 cup / 150 grams corn flour (sub in 1/4 smoked corn flour for a more savory bread)
1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 grams baking soda
Preheat oven to 375°F. (190°C.)
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.
Cut the butter into slices and put it in a large microwave safe bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap and put a vent hole in the wrap. Microwave on high for 30-60 seconds until the butter is melted. Remove the plastic wrap and use a silicone spatula to stir in the sugar and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring the first one into the mixture until it is fully absorbed, before adding the second. Once both eggs have been incorporated, stir in the buttermilk. Once it is mostly mixed in, there may still be streaks of buttermilk in the mixture, add the flour, corn flour, and baking soda. Stir the mixture together, giving the batter 30-40 strokes with your spatula, until it looks creamy and smooth, with just a few small lumps here and there. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, it will have the texture of soft whipped cream. Use the back of a spoon to smooth it into the corners and spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown and the bread is cooked through. It should feel feel set when you gently press a finger against the center of the bread and a cake tester will come out clean. Do not over cook the cornbread. Remove from oven and let the bread rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
There's something about picking apples from a tree in sight of your kitchen window. We've watched them ripen all season long and wondered what they would be like. There's nothing quite so wonderful as seeing something evolve and then finally getting to taste it.
We barely made a dent in the number of apples on the tree. I'm sensing more applesauce in our future. Maybe applesauce doughnuts?
Processing the apples was a great project to share with Amaya. With so many apples to deal with, she was able to hone her skills and get very comfortable with both peeler and paring knife.
We're not entirely sure what kind of apples are on our trees. Someone mentioned Macouns and it's a definite possibility. They have a strikingly sweet-tart bite. So I added apple cider to the pot when cooking them for a little extra sweetness and enhanced apple flavor.
Once they were close to becoming sauce, I adjusted the seasoning with salt and BLiS maple syrup, to taste, stirring well to break up any big lumps of apple.
Amaya's first apple sauce. This batch came out beautifully. It's thick and almost chewy, which may sound strange, but tastes delicious. I didn't blend, strain, or puree it because I like a bit of texture in the sauce. It lets people know it's homemade and it seems to taste better that way. It feels more substantial somehow. This sauce is full of rich, savory apple flavor with just a hint of sweetness. Yum.
October 4, 2008
Over at the elementary school, the kids are working on fairy houses. There is a local author, Tracy Kane, who writes a lovely series of childrens books (and photography books) based on these small creations. One of the things I love about the books is that the fairy houses are actually made from items you find in the forest, they aren't tiny enchanted toadstools or perfect little mini-cottages, these fairy houses are entirely natural, built into trees and bushes, or simply constructed from the debris you would find on the forest floor. It adds to the element of realism in the stories and as the children gather leaves and rocks and crab apples to build their own fairy houses, their imaginations come to life.
Amaya came home yesterday full of excitement and asked if she could decorate the dining room table for dinner. Of course I said yes and she immediately ran out into the front yard to look for treasures. It made me pause because I don't often find time, except for holidays, to focus on the table settings. Martha Stewart definitely doesn't live here. Don't get me wrong, we've invested in a variety of pretty and useful dishes and place settings, and have a lovely and rustic candle holder that runs along the center of the table, but other than occasionally changing up the place mats or tablecloths, I don't really think about the table.
Clearly my daughter does. As she painstakingly arranged her centerpiece, occasionally running back outside or upstairs for another piece to add to the arrangement, she glowed with passion and pride. The centerpiece was kind of perfect, low on the table so as not to be intrusive or obstruct conversation. It was colorful and engaging, giving us something to discuss as we looked at it. It was seasonal and brought a little of the outdoors inside. Most of all, it was fun. It made everything feel a little more festive and homey. It reminded me to look at the table more often and think about the dining room as an extension of the kitchen rather than just the place where we bring the food to eat.
Just in time for the weekend, here's a recipe from our most recent book: Gluten Free Flour Power. If you can't make it to Curiosity Doughnuts, you may as well stay home and bake a decadent chocolate cake. If you prefer four layers, as pictured above, bake your cake layers in two pans and split each layer in half. It will take an extra 5-7 minutes for your layers to bake. Feel free to substitute all-purpose flour for the gluten free (by weight) if that's what you've got in your pantry. The cake will still be fabulous.
Triple Chocolate Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
This is a serious chocolate cake for chocolate lovers. It’s tall and beautiful and it can be decorated after it’s frosted with sprinkles or nuts. The excess bourbon chocolate syrup that we use to soak the cake can also be used to make chocolate milk, hot chocolate, or to top ice cream sundaes. It’s pretty useful stuff to have in the fridge and so much better than store bought syrup. This recipe is ideal as a beautiful birthday cake. Just one bite will tell the recipient how much you love him or her. It may seem like a big batch of frosting but that's because Alex’s pet peeve is skimpy frosting between cake layers. That said, our guests leave nothing on their plates so the recipe must make the right amount. Use your favorite brand of chocolate and hang the expense because this recipe will make a cake that is better than any store-bought cake you’ve ever tasted.
4 ounces / 113 grams unsalted butter, sliced
4 ounces / 113 grams bittersweet chocolate
2 cups / 400 grams sugar
2 ¼ cups / 292.5 grams Gluten Free Flour Blend (page 000)
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons / 210 grams cocoa powder
2 teaspoons / 12 grams baking powder
1 teaspoon / 6 grams fine sea salt
½ teaspoon / 2.5 grams baking soda
1 ¼ cups / 300 grams buttermilk, room temperature
4 ounces / 113 grams peanut or vegetable oil
4 large eggs, room temperature
Bourbon Chocolate Syrup:
1 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoons / 375 grams sugar
225 grams / 1 cup water
8 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon / 125 grams cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams fine sea salt
¾ tablespoon corn syrup / 15 grams light corn syrup
1 tablespoon / 16 grams pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons / 85 grams bourbon, rum or heavy cream
2 cups heavy / 480 grams cream
4 ounces / 225 grams unsalted butter, sliced
2/3 cup / 132 grams sugar
½ cup / 113 grams water
4 tablespoons / 80 grams light corn syrup
½ teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
32 ounces / 910 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. (180 C.)
Butter three 9-inch cake rounds and line the bottoms with clean parchment paper circles.
To make the cake, put the butter and chocolate in a small pot set over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the butter and chocolate melt and blend together. Do not over-cook this, you want the fats to be just melted. Set aside to cool. Put the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and whisk to blend. Add the buttermilk, oil, and eggs and whisk together. Add the cooled butter mixture and whisk to blend. Whisk vigorously for 1 minute until the batter becomes smooth and shiny. Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans and use a small offset spatula to help spread it evenly and smooth the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes on the middle and top oven. The cake will just begin to pull back from the sides of the pan and have an internal temperature of 190°F-195°F (88-91°C). Cool for 15 minutes.
For the bourbon chocolate syrup, put the sugar, water, cocoa and salt in a medium sauce pot set over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula to keep the cocoa from falling to the bottom and scorching. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and stir to blend. Remove from heat and stir in the bourbon. Let cool. They syrup will thicken as it cools. Syrup can be kept in a bottle or covered container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Use a chopstick to poke holes into the cake layers, still in the pans. Spoon ¼ cup of warm chocolate syrup over each cake layer. If the syrup is cold warm it up for 30-45 seconds in the microwave before spooning it over the cake. Let them cool completely in the pans.
For the frosting put the cream, butter, sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a medium sauce pot set over medium heat. Bring to a bare simmer, stirring, and remove from heat. Once the butter has completely melted add the chocolate. Whisk until all of the chocolate has melted and the mixture is glossy and smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 ½ - 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. Use immediately.
Turn the cake layers out onto wire racks. Put the first layer on a cardboard cake circle if you have one. Put about ¾ cup frosting on top of the cake layer. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly over the cake, leaving a border of about ¼-inch around the circumference of the cake. Put the next layer on top of the frosting, flat side down. Add another ¾ cup frosting and spread it over the top as before. Put the top layer on the cake and spread about ¾ cup frosting over it, letting the frosting come to the edges and slightly past them. Don’t worry about making it perfect, just concentrate on covering the cake. Clean off your spatula every so often, scraping excess frosting back into the bowl. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the sides of the cake. This is the crumb coat so you just want to make everything smooth and even and fill in any holes along the side. Scrape off any excess frosting and rinse your spatula under warm water and wipe it dry. If your frosting starts to stiffen up, use a hair dryer on the low setting to warm it up enough to make it pliable again. This will make it easier to spread the final coat of frosting. Use any remaining frosting to swirl onto the cake in pretty patterns or to pipe small rosettes along the border or to decorate however you choose. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes so the frosting can set up before serving. Cake is best served at room temperature once the frosting is set.