29 April 2011

Bake & Decorate

Today was the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. (I am sure that you forgot and are just now amazed that it happened without you. Never fear, it is being shown over and over and over again throughout today ad probably for the next few months.)

Still, it is only fitting and proper that we feature a cookbook by the baker who is in charge of the Wedding Cake. Fiona Cairns has written a a lovely little baking book called Bake & Decorate. The Book came put before she got the Royal gig, so in true marketing fashion, she will be releasing a new book just in time for Christmas.

Here is Fiona with finished Wedding Cake.

This cake adorns the cover of Bake & Decorate. Care to speculate what is on the cover of the next book?

Pansy Wreath Cake

175g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
175g self-raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
175g golden caster sugar
the zest, finely grated, and juice of
1 large unwaxed lemon

For the topping

the juice of 1 large lemon
100g white granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly butter an 18cm, 7.5cm deep, round springform tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pan and set aside to cool slightly. Using an electric whisk or mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until very light and fluffy (about five minutes). Blend in the melted butter; then very gently fold in the flour and zest. Finally, slowly fold in the juice.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Meanwhile, make the crunchy topping by mixing the juice and sugar together. Immediately the cake comes from the oven, prick tiny holes all over it with a fine skewer or cocktail stick. Pour the lemon syrup evenly all over the surface. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

To decorate

150g icing sugar, sifted
purple food colour
20-25 crystallised small violas and pansies
50g bag white royal icing

Place the cake upside down on your serving plate or cake stand. Tip the icing sugar into a small bowl and add 1½-2 tablespoons of water and a tiny amount of purple food colour. The icing should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Spoon it over the cake and allow it to drizzle down the sides. Arrange the violas and pansies in a circle, using the royal icing to affix them, if you like, then place a few in the middle of the cake.

Check out Prince William's cake here.

Eating Royally --REDUX

With the wedding today, we felt that we should revisit Eating Royally. Mainly we felt we should re-visit it because between the pages of this book rests the recipe for Prince William's Grooms Cake.

The actual cake is being made by McVitie's Cake Company. It is being made with the "secret" royal family recipe. McVitie's has been making cakes for royal weddings and christenings since the wedding in 1893 of the Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George V and Queen Mary. They made the 60th wedding anniversary cake for the Queen and Prince Phillip in 2007. The United Biscuits Group , who now owns McVitie's says about 1700 McVitie's Rich Tea Biscuits and over 16kg of chocolate will be used in the reception cake.

Darren McGrady, the author of Eating Royally and the chef to Princess Diana included the no-bake chocolate cake in his book. Though The United biscuit Group will not confirm that it is the recipe, it is just too close to deny.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

1/2 teaspoon soft butter
8 ounces McVities rich tea biscuits
4 ounces soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate
1 egg, beaten
8 ounces dark chocolate for icing
1 ounce white chocolate for decoration

1. Line the base of a springform pan with silicone paper, and butter the sides. Break the biscuits into almond-sized pieces and set aside.

2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Melt 4 ounces dark chocolate and mix with butter, add the beaten egg and mix well. Add biscuits and coat well.

3. Pour into the pan, making sure the bottom is well covered as this will be the top of the cake when it is unmoulded. Let set in a fridge for three hours. Let partially warm outside of the fridge while 8 ounces dark chocolate and white chocolate are melted. Flip cake and drizzle chocolate on top.

Now you too, know the secret.

As for the formal Wedding Cake, Fiona Cairns is in charge. Check out the post here.

For more Royal Wedding info head over to Lucindaville for Etiquette and a Tiara or Two!

25 April 2011

Goat Meat Milk Cheese

It seems such an obvious statement: 70% of the red meat eaten in the world is goat meat. Duh. And yet, it never crossed my mind. I have eaten my share of goat meat...OK, clearly not my share as 70% of my red meat hasn't been goat. I have had a substantial amount of goat cheese.

Now one might think that writing a cookbook about a protein we Americans (and I use the term lightly) use sparsely would give the authors and air of superiority. We have all picked up those "holier than thou" cookbooks when the author manages to be condescending and didactic all at the same time. Well, Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough is not in that category. The authors are accessible and funny and informative... did I mention funny? If you never even look at a goat, you will get a big kick out of this book. (And if have read as many stuffy and overbearing cookery books as I have, you will be thrilled at the light yet thoroughly authoritative prose.) And where else, one might ask, will you ever find a cookbook that mentions, even in passing, Derrida?

The main problem with goat (aside from its slightly gamy aroma) is that the darn thing is bony. But hey, you eat quail and fish and they are bony. Got meat is also a mere 244 calories for a 6-ounce serving and less than half the fat of its nearest low fat challenger -- chicken. this could definitely start a Jenny Craig trend.

The book covers that gamut from sweet to savory or rather savory to sweet. There are stews, curries, moles and there are blintzes and brownies (my very favorite brownie is one swirled with goat cheese) and several preparations for cheesy concoctions like fondue and dip. Here is an accessible recipe for goat cheese dumplings. How can you beat that.

Baked Spinach-And-Goat-Cheese Dumplings

One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 ounces fresh chevre or soft goat cheese, at room temperature so that it’s very creamy
4 ounces hard, aged goat cheese, such as goat Gouda, finely grated and divided
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup semolina flour, plus more for rolling the little dumplings
1 tablespoon finely minced chives or the green part of a scallion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon goat butter (or unsalted cow butter, if you must)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup regular or low-fat goat milk (or cow milk, if you must)
2 tablespoons dry white wine or dry vermouth

1. First, grab the frozen spinach in small handfuls and squeeze as hard as you can over the sink to get rid of as much excess moisture as you can. Put the bundles in a big bowl and use a fork to separate the spinach back into bits and threads.

2. Whisk in fresh chevre or goat cheese, half the grated hard goat cheese, the egg yolks, semolina flour, chives, salt, lemon zest, black pepper, and nutmeg. You want a creamy but somewhat stiff mixture, because you’re going to form it into balls.

3. Sprinkle a little more semolina flour onto a clean, dry work surface. Pick up a little bit of the spinach mixture, a little smaller than a golf ball. Roll this in the semolina flour to form an oblong ball, sort of like a football but without the pointed ends. Set aside and continue rolling more, adding more flour to your work surface as need be (but not too much, or the balls will turn gummy). You’ll end up with about 24 dumplings.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 5 or 6 dumplings. Lower the heat so the water barely simmers. Poach for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer dumplings from the pot to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or an oblong roasting pan. Then add 5 or 6 more dumplings to the pot and repeat the poaching process again — and again — until all the dumplings are done and in the baking dish or roasting pan. Why not just toss them all into the water at once? Because they’ll crowd the pot and stick together. You want enough space so they can bounce around freely in the simmering water.

5. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6. Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Whisk in the all-purpose flour. Whisk over the heat for 30 seconds. Then whisk in the milk in dribs and drabs, a little bit each time to form a paste — and then more at a time, although never more than a slow, steady drizzle. Once all the milk is in the pan, whisk in the wine, raise the heat to medium, and whisk until bubbling and slightly thickened, just a minute or so.

7. Pour this sauce over the dumpling balls in the baking dish or roasting pan. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the dish. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

Mark my words, before long you will be seeing nifty goat trucks dotting the food scene and at least one NYC restaurant that offers up all goat, all the time. And you will have Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough to thank.

13 April 2011

Sunday's Kitchen: Food & Living at Heide

Let me preface this by saying that Australia has never held any great thrall with me. I suppose if Oprah paid my way to go and visit I might board the plane. That being said, I love Donna Hay and Stephanie Alexander. It was because of Alexander that I ran across Sunday's Kitchen: Food & Living at Heide as she wrote the foreword.

I knew nothing about Sunday Reed but it seems she and her husband, John, we big art patrons in Australia. They purchased a house they called Heide, short for "Heidleberg" and began inviting artist friends to stay there. They wanted a self-sustaining farm with gardens and animals and orchards and they worked for years to make their house magical.

Agnes Goodsir, Portrait of Sunday Baillieu Quinn, Paris 1929

Along the way, Sunday Reed cooked for friends and family and few people who sat at her table forgot the event. Stephanie Alexander met the Reeds once and always remembered the encounter. Heide was made a museum after the Reed's deaths (Sunday died ten days after John). Two curators at the museum, Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan produced an exhibition that looked at life at Heide when Sunday was running the house and cooking. They found recipes that Sunday used and several of her annotated cookbooks and produced a book that is part cookbook, part biography, part art history and all fun. It is both warn and scholarly, not always an easy feat. Here is their description of the exhibition:

This exhibition explores life behind-the-scenes at Heide, the celebrated haven for progressive modernist artist and writers. Heide was the home and personal Eden of John and Sunday Reed, two of Australia's most significant art benefactors. Settling on the fifteen acre property in 1935, the Reeds transformed it from a run-down dairy farm into a fertile creative space. They extended their hospitality and resources to now-famous artists such as Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and Charles Blackman and developed a culture of collaboration, eclecticism and idealism which helped change the course of Australian art.

At the centre of activity was Sunday Reed, a passionate cook and gardener, who ensured the artists she championed received sustenance for the body, not just the mind. Drawing on her experiences in the south of France, she established two abundant kitchen gardens and developed a ‘garden to table’ approach to cooking, enhanced by fresh milk, cream, butter and eggs all produced at Heide. This emphasis on subsistence living, coupled with a self-styled domestic aesthetic, became an inspirational model for those in the Reeds’ wider circle.

Sunday Reed was greatly influenced by the time she spent in France. Much of her cooking came with a French influence. One of her specialities was chocolate mousse. It is an extremely simple recipe but the finished product is lovely.

Chocolate Mousse

115g chocolate
4 eggs, separated

Melt the chocolate, allow to cool a little, then work egg yolks in well. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the chocolate mixture a little at a time. Pour into a glass dish and chill.

Well, I admit, I knew nothing about the Reed's or Heide but I am convinced that really need to visit. Oprah, are you listening?

11 April 2011

365 Cakes and Cookies

Marion Harland was a prolific cookbook author and recipe writer at the turn of the twentieth century. She had the kind of name recognition that lent itself to selling books, so featuring some of her recipes and adding her name to a cookbook was a good way to give a book a leg up on sales. We have often written about cookbook trends and the “recipe of the day” style was popular during this era.

365 Cakes and Cookies was published in 1904. It is a testament to the bakers who used books like these that they were able to get edible cakes and cookies form the scant instructions. Of course, at the time the book was compiled, there were few commercial bakeries, so baking was a task that most cooks knew how to accomplish.

Here is today’s recipe:

April 11 – Pistachio Biscuits

Make a batter with 3 eggs, 1/2 cupful of powdered sugar, 1/2 cupful of flour and the grated rind of 1 lemon. Put the mixture by teaspoonfuls on the baking sheet, upon which has been spread a greased paper. Dust with granulated sugar, and when baked, cover the tops with white frosting and sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.

It’s funny that this type of book is explicit in there being 365 recipes. What happens during a leap year? Alas, it is the one day of the year when there are no cakes or cookies. So if your Birthday is April 29th there will be no cake. Sorry.

09 April 2011

Fried Chicken & Champagne

I would have picked up Fried Chicken & Champagne no mater what. Why? Well of course you should know that two of my favorite things are fried chicken and champagne. To me they are about as mutually inclusive as food can be. Though it is not everyone’s idea of the perfect pairing so, clearly, Lisa Dupar is a kindred spirit.

Dupar runs the Pomegranate Bistro in Redmond, Washington. Fortunately for me, she didn’t use the subtitle, A Romp Through the Kitchen at Pomegranate Bistro as the actual title, as I might not have been so eager to pick it up. (OK, I probably would have picked it up for the cover alone and wondered what fried chicken had to do with pomegranates, but I digress…)

Where does one begin with this book? First, there are really great recipes. There is a great blend of the familiar with the more adventurous. The photographs by Kathryn Barnard capture the essence of Dupar’s cooking and much more. The cookbook captures the essences of what cooking is all about, feeding the people around us that we love. While Dupar is a large-scale caterer, her cookbook is not sterile. In fact, opening the cookbook is like being invited into Dupar’s life, it is indeed a romp through her kitchen. The pages feature colleagues and suppliers, friends and family, modern dishes, handwritten notes and food splattered family recipes.

Lisa Dupar did this book herself (with a team of creative individuals) so her personality comes dripping through. This book was not published by a large company that has a “cookbook” formula or editor that beats all the quirkiness out of the final product. (For some of our favorite personal cook/publishers check out Zac Brown’s Southern Ground or Canal House Cooking posts.) Since the production costs are always higher on an individual who does their own publishing, the book is a bit more expensive than most, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t snapped up by some large publisher for a paperback edition.

We would be remiss if we did not offer up Lisa’s fried chicken. So here it is.

Lisa’s Southern Fried Chicken

1 whole fryer chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
Flour, for dredging
2 to 3 sleeves of saltine crackers, crushed by hand for coarse crumbs
Peanut oil, for frying

Season chicken pieces well with salt and pepper. Ina bowl combine the butter milk and eggs until well incorporated. Dust each chicken piece in flour, then dip into the buttermilk-egg mixture. Press the chicken into the saltine crumbs. Set aside before frying.

Fill a large skillet 1 inch deep with peanut oil. Heat to 350 (use a candy thermometer to test). The purpose of the oil is to brown the saltines: the chicken will finish in the oven. Fry the chicken pieces until golden brown – this will happen quickly. Remove the chicken from the g hot oil and drain. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through (to avoid overcooking the smaller chicken pieces while the breasts are cooking, remove the smaller pieces first, leaving the breasts for last.)

We are not alone in our praise for Fried Chicken & Champagne, it was recently nominated by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in both the best American and First Book categories.

And in other news… Lisa Dupar’s Fried Chicken & Champagne is now a blog!

How fun is that. Buy Fried Chicken & Champagne now, so that when everyone else is talking about it you can say (haughtily)… “I’ve had that book forever!”

08 April 2011

The Housekeeper’s Apple Book

Apples are one of the most popular and available fruits in America. That was especially true during the last century. In the early years of the twentieth century the apple was food, drink and medicine and were therefore held in high esteem.

Gertrude Mackay wrote The Housekeeper’s Apple Book in 1917. She presented over two hundred ways to prepare apples for the “modern” housekeeper. In addition to the recipes, there was prudent medical advice extolling the virtues of the apple:

Doctor Harry Barnard, Chairman of the Food Division of the American Chemical Society says, “An apple eaten in the evening will mechanically and chemically clean the teeth and protect them from the bacterial ravages during the night when most damage is done.”

And this advice:

Doctor Hobart of Tasmania says: “The sailor who lives for a long time on salt pork and biscuit alone will rot with scurvy, and if he takes the sugars, acids, etc., contained in an apple every day separately, he will still die, but if he takes an apple a day his blood will keep perfectly right.”

With advice like this to the average “Housekeeper” one can only imagine what an impact this advice had on these women and how they must have run right out to the nearest orchard for help. Ironically, many of these recipes add a ton of sugar; so all that mechanical and chemical tooth cleaning might really be needed after the marmalades, cakes and puddings.

As was the style, MacKay’s book offers up a small paragraph of ingredients and instructions but for most of the details the cook is on her own.

Apples in Maple Syrup

Cut eight apples in halves and remove the cores with a teaspoon, put into a baking pan with one cup of maple syrup and one and one-half cups of water and two tablespoons of butter. Bake until the syrup is thick and serve with whipped cream.

This is one of my favorite recipes. I make a lot of marmalade and jams and I am always getting new cookbooks featuring confiture. Books published in America are meticulous about the canning process. When I run across recipes like this one, I always chuckle.Looking at all the care that goes into canning today and then looking back at all the canning that was done a hundred years ago, without thermometers, and fancy canning tops and pressure cookers, one might wonder why we are still all alive.

For years I ate my great-aunt’s jams sealed with paraffin. I recently read a blog where a reader asked if he could make old-fashioned jam like his mother and seal the jars with paraffin. The answer was a resounding no. (In fact, the blogger was so horrified at the thought of sealing a jar with paraffin one would have though the poor guy wanted to can human blood.)

Here is an old school jelly recipe, but for heavens sake, don’t try this at home.

Apple and Mountain Ash Jelly

Take equal parts of quartered apples and the berries of the mountain ash. Boil until soft. Drain and add one pound of sugar to each pint of juice. Boil until it jellies. Turn into tumblers and cover with paraffin.

Remember: An Apple a day keeps the doctor away. As for that pound of sugar -- you're on your own.

01 April 2011

My Father's Daughter

How could we resist Gwyneth for a FFF. There are a lot of people out there who love to bash Gwyneth but let's give her some credit. Seriously, look at her sorted life. Born to two beautiful parents who loved her unconditionally, raised on the Upper West Side, not the best student at The Spence School, so she asked her godfather, Steven Spielberg about the movies and lo and behold, she had a part. She was engaged to Brad Pitt, won an Oscar, and wears designer clothes. Did I mention she is tall, blonde and skinny? She has a web site called Goop which has been known to get her into trouble.

Look at her background. It's not that she means to offend the poor folks, it's just that she has really never known any poor folks. So when she says the best thing a new mother can do after giving birth is to get a personal trainer and a new stylist, she means it. Not in that Marie Antoinette way but in that, "I don't really know any better," way. So when she gives advice on “finding a good balance between having a career and being a mom,” she offers up a venture capitalist and Stella McCartney, not a single secretary with no day care.

Most of this snarkiness is clearly jealously, and if you had to be jealous of someone, it might as well be Gwyneth.

So when she decided to write a cookbook, she did what all aspiring cookbook writers do -- she hired a cookbook writer. While the actual writer if her cookbook, Julia Turshen, does get a mention (and a picture with Gwyneth). And speaking of jobs to be jealous of, spending a year in London hanging out in Gwyneth's kitchen cooking is not the worst gig in the world. Besides, you show me someone with 10 or 12 cookbooks and I'll show you someone who has a writer coming up with those recipes, even Sandra Lee didn't think up that Kwanzaa Cake on her own.

So Gwyneth's cookbook is entitled My Father's Daughter. It is in the end a kind tribute to her father who died in 2002. The ever snarky Jeffery Steingartner wrote about Gwyneth for Vogue and to say he was smitten would be a gracious understatement.

"Only after an hour had passed did I notice the sharpness of her knives. I was impressed. Gwyneth sharpens her knives by hand, using a MinoSharp, a contraption that you fill with water before pulling the blade between two submerged ceramic wedges. I've never gotten the hang of that little device. Later she told me about her outdoor pizza ovens, one in each of her backyards in London and on Long Island, and I took her ownership of two of them as the mark of her seriousness as a cook... Gwyneth and Chris own two adjoining houses and three backyards. They bought the first house from Kate Winslet; it has the kitchen and the backyard where the wood-burning oven stands. (Later they bought the house to the left, and finally the ground floor of the house to the right, which earned them the garden. They seem to believe that extra backyards make good neighbors.)"
For those of you keeping score we have five houses and two wood burning pizza ovens, oh yes, and sharp knives.

The cookbook is a lovely, beautifully produced book. There is no liquid nitrogen, no squid foam, just nice family recipes that you (or your personal chef) could whip up without ever breaking a nail. I must say, I was expecting it to be bit more veggie and I was pleasantly surprised, thought there is no red meat. Here is a nice chili sans red meat or white meat for that matter.

Vegetarian Chili

2 tablespoons extra virgin
olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground
black pepper
1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup de Puy lentils (small, dark French lentils that hold their shape well), rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 –14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Big pinch coarse salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste

Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper. Cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add the chipotle and stir to combine.
Turn the heat up to high, add the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them a bit with your wooden spoon, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the lentils and beans. Fill one 14-ounce can with water and add it to the pot, along with the salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the flavors are melded.

In the realm of "celebrity" cookbooks, this one is pretty good. I am sure it will sell many copies and if it does, there is talk of a Gwyneth food magazine. Oh my...

As seen at Lucindaville.
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