Saturday, March 13, 2010


Gougeres are essentially cheese puffs, originating in the Burgundy region of France. We've got delicious comte cheese at Zingerman's right now, so I made some for my Dad's birthday, and served them along side Schwarzwälder Schinken (smoked, cured black forest ham). I bought a bottle of medium bodied red that I've already forgotten the name of, which I drank a bit of before he arrived, as the gougeres grew cold, because he was late.

Either way, they were much easier to prepare than I had imagined and will continue to experiment with them. They're delicious on their own (best served warm), or you can fill them easily with any manner of fillings- mushrooms, beef, ham- by either slicing them in half and filling them like a sandwich, or piping the filling in through the bottom or side with a pastry bag with a small tip.



1/2 cup (125ml) water
3 tablespoons (40g) butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of chilli powder
1/2 cup (70g) flour
2 large eggs
12 chives or 1-2 T fresh thyme, finely-minced
3/4 cup grated comte cheese (or gruyere)


-Preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
-Heat the water, butter, salt, and chili or pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted.
-Dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.
-Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly to make sure the eggs don't 'cook.' The batter will first appear lumpy, but after a minute or so, it will smooth out.
-Add about 3/4 of the grated cheese and the herbs, and stir until well-mixed.
-Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into mounds, evenly-spaced apart, making each about the size of a small cherry tomato.
-top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese, then pop the baking sheet into the oven.
-Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F/190C and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes, until they're completely golden brown.

My {malted} milk shake brought all the boys to the yard

I've had cravings for malt-flavored sweets ever since we had a malted vanilla milkshake on the menu back at NoMI in 2004. We were using amber malt, procured from a beer brewing supply company, and bourbon vanilla beans in the ice cream base. What put the milkshakes over the top was that we were blending the malted vanilla ice cream not with milk but with un-spun ice cream base. They were so rich we had to serve them in a shot glass. It was about that same time that there was popular song out, with the chorus of 'my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard' and i would hum it in my head, never sure of what it was supposed to mean in the songwriters context, but certain of how it fit into mine.

Malt is not a common ingredient, but I came across this recipe as a quick fix for my cravings:

This recipe appears in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008)

Brewer's Blondies

Yield: 24

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons malted milk powder

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 3/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup malted milk balls (like Whoppers or Maltesers), coarsely chopped in a food processor

3/4 cup (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Vanilla ice cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and malted milk powder together.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until completely combined. Scrape down the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture in two batches until just combined. Add the malted milk balls, chocolate chips and walnuts and beat until just combined, about 10 seconds. The mixture will be thick. Turn the mixture out into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.

Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the blondie comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. These blondies taste delicious warm. Cut them into squares and serve with ice cream. They also taste great at room temperature. Once thoroughly cooled, cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

For the ultimate snack, place one Brewer's Blondie on a microwave-safe dish and heat on high for 15 seconds. Remove the blondie from the microwave oven and top it with one heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. Let the warmth of the blondie melt the ice cream for a few moments, then serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Buckwheat Crepes

The sun is finally beginning to shine again, as the winter months are more behind us than ahead. Late this morning I walked over to a friends place and we made crepes. As usual, we couldn't decide on just one filling so we made three. Each of them turned out delicious enough to warrant sharing.

The thought of buckwheat crepes was on my mind when I woke up- one of those random food cravings that pops into my head when I'm dragging myself out of bed and getting ready to go to the gym. It seemed like a good idea, since the batter needs to sit for at least 30 minutes before it's ready. Every time I make crepes I wonder why I don't make them more often- it's a fun process and it takes only a little effort to get a great result.

This version is from The Gourmet Cookbook, which has over the years become one of my 'go-to' books for whenever I'm looking for a recipe that I've never made. It seems to have everything in it, and they are all tested and work well.

Buckwheat Crepe Batter
(enough for about eight 10" crepes)

2 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup + 1 T buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs

Start by making a brown butter: cook it in a small saucepan over moderately low heat until golden brown. This gives a nice nutty depth of flavor to the crepes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

Sift together the flours and salt in a bowl. Separately, whisk together the milk, eggs and brown butter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

My friend has a fantastic cast iron pan from lodge cookware that is the perfect size and weight for crepes (and useful for other things as well). Let the pan get hot enough to make butter sizzle, and run the end of a stick of butter across the top of. Tilting it up slightly, pour about 1/4c of the batter onto one side and quickly roll the pan around so that the entire surface is coated with a thin layer. After a minute or two, flip it over. They taste best when there is a little bit of browning but they're still soft enough to drape and fold. With the oven on warm (250F) we stacked them on top of one another on a plate as they were finished- this keeps them warm. If you're not going to be using them right away, cover them up with a slightly damp towel.

For our first course, we sauteed some spinach with butter, a dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper and piled it in the middle of the crepe, folding the four sides in. We left a little bit of the spinach showing in the middle and topped it with a fried over easy egg. The runny yolk made a great sauce and the overall flavor was at the same time light and filling.

We then moved on to the classic nutella + banana, followed by crepes stuffed with sauteed apples with cinnamon, with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice on top.

When the fridge is empty, a simple squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of sugar is a delicious alternative.