I am a cheese danish fanatic.
It's not that surprising. I have an affinity for cheese and pastries so eating them together, as a socially acceptable breakfast, is pretty much my idea of heaven.
Unfortunately, most of the cheese danishes in this world are awful. Cloyingly sweet or lacking enough cheese to have them even be worth eating. So many of them are just wrong and that surprises me. In New York, it's no longer difficult to get a good croissant but it's incredibly difficult to find a good cheese danish; one with a tender, buttery, yeasty pastry, a sweet yet cheesy center. and a smattering of glaze strewn haphazardly over the top. Where is it?!
For a while I gave up. I convinced myself that cheese danishes were like finding the perfect pair of jeans - something everything one wants but few rarely find. And then back in December the NYTimes wrote an article about Danishes and included a recipe for cheese danish and I had a moment where I wondered if this was going to be the recipe that provided me cheese danish nirvana. I was apprehensive. It all seemed a little too easy (or as easy as making faux puff pastry can be) and I grew skeptical. Over the last couple of weeks, I kept going back to the recipe and I started reading the comments and all anyone could say was how delicious the recipe was and how easy it was and at that point I was sold (or at least needed to try it myself).
So this past weekend, during the Great Blizzard of 2016, I set out to make the cheese danish of my dreams and I did! The dough is a breeze, the process is simple, and the resulting pastry is everything I've ever wanted. I'm already dreaming of new riffs on the old classic but for now I'm content to know that anytime I want a good cheese danish I can have it.
Recipe from the NYTimes
This is not a labor intensive process in the slightest, but it does involve some planning. I started by making the initial dough on Friday evening and letting it rest overnight. On Saturday I made my folds, let it rest, and made my filling. On Sunday morning, I formed my pastries, let them rise, and baked them up. They make for one hell of a an awesome breakfast after treking around outside in the snow with your dog.
1 ½ cups/6 3/4 ounces/192 grams bread flour, plus more for the work surface and the rolling pin
2 tablespoons/24 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons/6 grams active dry yeast
¾ teaspoon/3 grams kosher salt
14 tablespoons/198 grams cold, unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), roughly cubed
1 large egg
¼ cup/60 milliliters cold whole milk
Combine the flour, granulated sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse to combine. The butter should be the size of small marbles and peas. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters water.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture until it is evenly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a small rectangle, and wrap well. Chill for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days.
On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to an 8-by-15-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the dough in thirds like a letter, bringing the top third of the dough down, then folding the bottom third up. Use a bench scraper to help lift and fold the dough if necessary. At this point, the dough will be rough and shaggy with visible butter pieces; as you roll and fold the dough it will come together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees. Repeat the rolling and folding process, then rotate the dough once more and roll and fold again. As you work, dust the work surface, your hands and the rolling pin with flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Repeat the entire rolling and folding process one more time for a grand total of six turns. If the dough starts to fight you and become difficult to roll at any point, just pop it in the fridge for an extra rest. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Cheese Danish Filling
Recipe from the NYTimes
Makes 9 danishes
8 ounces/226 grams cream cheese
1 ¼ cup/160 grams confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 batch Danish dough (see recipe above)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons/30 milliliters whole milk
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 1/4 cup/32 grams confectioners’ sugar, the egg yolk, the salt and the vanilla until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a resealable plastic bag; set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12 1/2-inch square. Trim 1/4 inch off each edge. Cut the dough into nine 4-inch squares. Brush the corners of each square with a bit of the beaten egg, then fold each corner into the center and press down gently. Transfer the squares to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.
Cut the tip off one corner of the filled plastic bag so you have a 1/2-inch hole. Use the bag to pipe the cheese filling onto the center of each dough square. Loosely cover the pastries with plastic wrap and let stand until slightly puffed, about 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Remove the plastic and gently brush the top and sides of the dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue to bake until pastries are puffed and deep golden brown, another 6 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1 cup/128 grams confectioners’ sugar and the milk. Let the Danish cool slightly on the sheet then drizzle with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Friday, January 22, 2016
Since adopting Jackson, Tyler and I have been buying carrots with abandon, something that previously we never did. This dog is a foodie and is particularly fond of carrots and all other orange-hued vegetables so he gets them as a snack with peanut butter (it's like we have a five year old). Feeding him so many carrots got me thinking - why don't we eat carrots more often? I remember eating them as a kid - cooked slowly in orange juice and and brown sugar - but since then, I haven't really given them much thought.
That was until I stumbled across this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen archives in an attempt to up my own carrot intake. I know that carrot salad sounds very unexciting, but this recipe is so incredibly good. I have a hard time getting excited about salads in January, mostly because all the produce needs to be imported from some far off country and that makes me sad. Carrots on the other-hand can still be found at the farmers markets in January which makes this an incredibly seasonally appropriate dish. The bright Middle Eastern spices, tahini dressing, and crisped chickpeas takes this from ho-hum side dish to delicious main especially if served with some good cheese and even better bread.
Carrot Salad with Tahini, Crisped Chickpeas and Salted Pistachios
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-ounce can, drained and patted dry on paper towels
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon zatar
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro
1/4 cup shelled, salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
1 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon zatar
1/2 teaspoon sumac
Salt and red pepper flakes (or Aleppo) to taste
Roast chickpeas: Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss chickpeas with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and cumin until they’re all coated. Spread them on a baking sheet or pan and roast them in the oven until they’re browned and crisp. This can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your chickpeas. Toss them occasionally to make sure they’re toasting evenly. Set aside until needed.
Make dressing: Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, adding more water if needed to thin the dressing slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning; don’t worry if it tastes a little sharp on the lemon, it will marry perfectly with the sweet grated carrots.
Assemble salad: Place grated carrots in large bowl and toss with parsley. Mix in 2/3 of the dressing, adding more if desired. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with a large handful of chickpeas (you’ll have extra and if you’re like us, won’t regret it) and pistachios and dig in.
Do ahead: Salad keeps well in the fridge for two days, however, I’d add the chickpeas and pistachios right before serving, so they don’t get soft.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Gnoochi is one of those incredible winter comfort foods that I struggle with making homemade. I can't tell you how many times I've ended up with gnoochi that stuck together in the pot and turned into a massive ball of mush. Other times I managed to create dense hockey pucks of potato and flour - nothing like the pillowy ethereal gnoochi from the best Italian restaurants. Starting in October and going through April, I try every couple of months to create a batch that is perfect; light, melt in your mouth pieces of heaven.
A few weeks ago I made what may be the best batch of gnoochi of my short thirty year old life. They were tender, fluffy bites of wonderfulness and I was one proud lady (even Tyler said they were my best!). I'm not sure I've figured out all the secrets to making perfect gnoochi but I've come close. This recipe has been (for me at least) the most successful and hopefully it helps you make your best gnoochi.
Recipe from Andrew Carmellini
Some gnoochi advice based on my own experience - do NOT attempt gnoochi on humid days. You will end up with horribly sticky dough that is impossible to work with and you will cry.
Once the potatoes are tender, work quickly. Don't wait for the potatoes to get cool. You want that sweet spot of not so hot you are burning your fingers and not cold. I don't know the magic behind why it works but it really does help the final product.
If you freeze your gnoochi, I find that when you are ready to cook them, it's best to only cook a small handful at a time (and then transfer to a plate until all are done and you are ready to sauce). If you put a lot of frozen gnoochi in the pot at one time, the temperature goes down too quickly and then when it comes back up to a boil, it causes all the gnoochi to stick together (which is when Tyler will usually find me cursing). Take the extra time required to just cook a few and you'll have better results.
4 large Idaho potatoes (about 2 lbs.), scrubbed
1 whole egg, beaten
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon course ground black pepper
Method: Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 425°F.
Prick each potato several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Bake in the oven until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a small knife (about 60 minutes).
Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly—just enough so that you can handle them, not more. They should still be steaming when you cut them open ( about 6 to 10 minutes). (If you let the potatoes get too cold, the proteins in the egg won’t bind with the potatoes, and your gnocchi will fall apart). Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Pass the potato flesh through a food mill or press through a ricer set over a medium bowl. (When it comes through the ricer, the potato should look sort of like Play-Do.) Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper, and 1 cup of flour, reserving the rest. (You can melt the butter in the microwave). The mixture should be stirred only until the ingredients are combined: anything more will overwork the dough, and your gnocchi will come out tough (like the frozen-in-a-bag variety). Work the mixture into a smooth ball; if the dough seems a little too moist for this, add a touch of flour (the moisture level in every potato is different, so every batch of gnocchi will be a bit different, too).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, cut the dough into inch-wide slices, using a dough cutter if you’ve got one, a regular dinner-table knife if you don’t. Roll these between your hands to make them into a ball. The dough should feel soft, slightly tacky but not sticky—sort of warm and sexy. Roll out each piece into long logs (or “snakes,” as we call them in the kitchen), approximately 14” to 16” long, about ¾“ thick. (This isn’t a precise measurement. You can make your gnocchi whatever size you want—this is just how I like ‘em.) Cut each on in half and roll it out again, thinner, to the same length. Sprinkle the rolled-out snakes with flour to keep them from sticking, and keep adding more flour to the work surface as you go to help as you roll the dough. Cut each snake into gnocchi-sized pieces ( I like mine to be about 1 inch x 1 inch), and place the pieces on a baking sheet covered with semolina. Cover this with a cloth or plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, so they don’t dry out.
Gnocchi are delicate little things; fresh gnocchi should be cooked the day they are made or, at the very latest, the next day. Frozen and stored in an airtight container, they’ll keep for up to a month.
To Cook the Gnocchi: This step is just as important as the preparation: tender gnocchi require careful attention.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi all at once (or as close to it as possible). Stir once gently all around, so that the water is aerated and the dough doesn’t become glued together like one big gnoccho. Let the gnocchi cook until they rise to the surface (about 1-2 minutes); wait one more minute and then, using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the gnocchi. (Don’t ever dump the gnocchi out into a colander the way you would spaghetti: that’s a disaster. All the gnocchi crash onto each other and break.)
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016
This coconut cream pie has been taunting me for about 9 months now. I had book marked it last May when I first came across it in Bon Appetit but the problem with discovering recipes like this during peak fruit season is that fruit filled desserts will always take precedence over out of season, shipped in a can from the other side of the world coconut milk and lime based pies.
But now, now we are in the throws of winter. And when you are in the depths of winter it helps to eat things made with coconut and lime. Coconut and lime transports you to a warmer place - dessert islands and sandy beaches. Places you dream about in the middle of January.
This is the coconut cream pie of my dreams. Tangy, creamy, and crunchy. It's like a jacked up Almond Joy but better - so much better. The custard isn't cloyingly sweet like some cream pies can be. Instead it's rich (coconut milk and regular milk) with the perfect hit of lime juice. Paired with a brilliant (and easy) macaroon press-in crust (why has no else done this before?!) and chocolate covered almonds and you basically have one the best desserts I've ever made (and eaten).
Also (and this comes as no surprise to me) the recipe comes from Tandem Bakery in Portland, Maine which just earned them 10 billion more stars in my book.
Coconut Cream Pie with Macaroon Crust
Recipe adapted slightly from Bon Appetit
For the Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 large egg white
1¾ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
Custard And Assembly
2 wide strips lime zest
1¾ cups whole milk
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
¼ cup raw skin-on almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
11/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly coat a 9" pie pan with nonstick spray. Mix egg white, coconut, sugar, butter, and salt with a rubber spatula in a large bowl until evenly combined and the consistency of a stiff paste. Using your hands, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie pan. Bake until edges are golden brown and bottom is set and just barely golden, 15–20 minutes.
Transfer pie pan to a wire rack (leave oven on to toast almonds and coconut) and let crust cool. Brush crust with melted chocolate.
Make the Custard: Bring lime zest, milk, and coconut milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Cover and let sit off heat 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened and fragrant, 8–10 minutes. Let cool. Toast coconut on same baking sheet, tossing once, until edges are golden, about 4 minutes.
Stir almonds into melted chocolate in a small bowl. Spread in an even layer on a sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle toasted coconut over chocolate almonds and chill until firm, 8–10 minutes. Coarsely chop, then cover and chill.
Pluck out lime zest from milk mixture; discard. Return milk mixture to a simmer. Whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, salt, and ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add ½ cup milk mixture to egg mixture. Whisking constantly, add egg mixture to milk mixture in saucepan and cook over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbling (it will look like thick pudding). Remove from heat and whisk in butter and lime juice.
Scrape custard into crust and press a piece of plastic wrap against surface. Chill until set, about 2 hours.
Assemble: Just before serving, whip cream, lime zest, and remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar in a small bowl to medium-stiff peaks. Spoon over custard, leaving about a 1" border, and swirl decoratively. Scatter chocolate-almond mixture around perimeter.
Do Ahead: Pie (without whipped cream) can be made 3 days ahead; keep chilled.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
1 - I've been the hunt for a pair of everyday earrings that hug the ear lobe. I had basically given-up on ever finding them until my friend Katy showed me a pair that were EXACTLY what I've been looking for. Simple yet interesting - timeless but fun. They can be found at Steven Alan and come in silver and gold. You can probably guess what color I got them in.
2 - Making a Murderer is what would happen if the Jinx and Serial had a baby (Netflix is killing it). It's a thought-provoking and intimate look at our legal process and quite possibly what's wrong with it. Binge-watch as soon as you can.
3 - I discovered this butter in upstate NY last summer and will now only eat toast if it's slathered in it. It's incredibly creamy, impossibly rich, and almost cheesy tasting. It makes all other butter seem paltry in comparison. Oh! and it's salted which makes it that much better.
4 - These socks are my saving grace in the winter. Incredibly warm, the perfect amount of cheeky, and made in the USA. What more could you want in life? (My favorite striped ones are pictured above.)
5 - Our puppy-bear. Jackson Randall was adopted 12/27 and is quite simply the best (minus his aversion to going down stairs). A 2 year old lab-pit mix (or so we think). He gets called handsome a lot and loves the ladies. In addition he is a little foodie (with a particular fondness for beets, carrots, and parmesan), loves ripping apart squeaky toys, and is very big on snuggling and giving kisses. Quite frankly, we are in love.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
I received the Gjelina Cookbook for Christmas (thanks Aunt Carol and Uncle Dennis!) and have been blown away by how good it is. The book itself is gorgeous but the real kicker is how accessible everything is. These aren't labor intensive weekend long projects. These are realistic meals and side dishes - things you can make even if you only have 35 minutes to throw dinner together.
The chapter that has me most captivated is the vegetable chapter. Gjelina (like a lot of restaurants now a days) treats vegetables like the main attraction and it's fun and exciting to learn new ways to make vegetables shine. Yogurt shows up a lot and deservedly so; it can add a richness to a dish that people love. Spices are used with abandon and roasting seems to be the cooking method of choice. The whole thing feels very here and now. It's how I want to eat come 2016.
I've made a handful of dishes thus far but my favorite may be this roasted yams dish. In January when you are trying to wean yourself off holiday cookies and cake, this dish is a welcome distraction. It has depth and an absurd amount amount of flavor and the lime yogurt just brings the whole thing together. Serving it with some crusty bread and leftover roast chicken makes for a most excellent meal.
Roasted Yams with Honey, Aleppo, and Lime Yogurt
Recipe from Gjelina Cookbook
1/2 cup Greek Style Yogurt
Juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 medium to large yams/sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons honey (I used Mike's Hot Honey because I love the extra heat)
1 tablespoon Espellete, Aleppo, or crushed red pepper flakes
Flaky sea salt
2 green onions (white and green parts cut on the bias) or 2 tablespoons chives minced
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a small bowl combine the yogurt with the lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cut the yams lengthwise into 8 - 10 wedges (about 3/4 of an inch). In a medium bowl toss the yams with the honey, 1/2 teaspoon of the Espellete/Aleppo/Crushed red pepper flakes, and the remaining olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Marinate for 10 minutes tossing once or twice to coat.
Transfer the yams to a rimmed baking dish and roast until they are nicely caramelized around the edges and soft when pierced with a fork at the thickest part, 25 - 35 minutes.
Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle with yogurt all over, and garnish with green onions or chives and the remaining Espellete/Aleppo/Crushed red pepper flakes. Season with flaky sea salt. Serve warm.