I'll admit it - I'm not a "vanilla" person. I'm the one who needs a million toppings on my ice cream. I yearn for lots of texture and crunch, and interesting flavor combinations. Given the choice, I'd take chocolate (or caramel, or berry-filled, or dressed to the nines) any day.
But sometimes, I think it's really important to enjoy something plain old "vanilla". Really, truly, enjoy it. Get back to the roots of your confection, to remember how incredible it can be all on its own, without an excessive amount of chocolate, being drenched with some succulent sauce, or studded with this and that. I refuse to say "plain", because "vanilla" should be anything but plain. Personally, I think "vanilla" is the hardest thing to do well - it needs to be exceptionally well executed in order for whatever you make to get rave reviews. So yeah, "vanilla" is a challenge.
I've been on a scone kick lately (but really, what "kick" am I not on, let's be honest). And while the scones I've been making are good, they haven't been GREAT, and we all know that perfection is the name of my game. I've tried leaving chunks of butter, grating the butter, refrigerating all ingredients, refrigerating the scones overnight, etc - and there's always been a little something not quite right. So, I decided to go "vanilla", and go back to square one. No chocolate, no strawberries, no glaze, no nothing. The simplest ingredients, only - butter, flour, salt, leaveners, cream, and creme fraiche. Cream scones.
Friends, these cream scones are really out of this world. Not plain in the least, and they fly directly in the face of dry, dense, overly-sweet, brick-like scones. They are high rising, impossibly light, and quite literally melt in your mouth delicious (really). The simple addition of coarse sanding sugar is the perfect adornment, that adds a slight crunch and a hint of extra sweetness.
Vanilla (and scone!) perfection.
Whenever I buy a head of cabbage, it seems to last FOREVER. Seriously, it's like the vegetable that just keeps on going! I remember one particular occasion last summer - I wanted to bring cole slaw to a party, and bought both red and green cabbages. Four batches of cole slaw later ... we were cabbaged out.
This salad though, is definitely going into the regular rotation this summer (and, I'll buy cabbages just to make it)! It's packed with produce and protein - not to mention tons of fresh flavor. Perfect for a light but filling meal. I used a rotisserie chicken, but feel free to use whatever protein you like - sliced pork or shrimp, or maybe even edamame, would be delicious too.
My friend Laura took a bite of one of these cinnamon rolls, and declared that this recipe alone could put Cinnabon out of business!
You're pretty much guaranteed to make some new friends with these poufy, soft, sweet rolls. They're filled with just the right amount of butter and cinnamon-sugar, baked to perfection, and slathered with slightly tangy vanilla cream cheese icing. Cinnamon roll perfection, as far as I'm concerned!
I am in love with this lemon curd. Super lemony (obviously), perfectly creamy, silky, and smooth. It has great body and texture, is light but rich, and not too sweet. I'd be lying if I told that I didn't eat a giant spoonful of the stuff as soon as I made my latest batch!
I use a lot of egg whites for baking (and for omelette-making), which means that I'm often left with many leftover egg yolks. I hate seeing things go to waste, and I try hard to create something out of everything. The perfect remedy for lonely egg yolks? Lemon curd! If you've never had lemon curd before - please, please make this. It'll change your life. Though the name leaves something to be desired ("curd" isn't my favorite word), this creamy, bright, custard-like treat is absolutely delicious. It is wonderful as cake or tart filling, the perfect match for cream scones, or simply stunning when eaten straight off of a spoon. Not like I'd know from personal experience or anything!
First off - happy, happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there! We love you!
Love really big, bright flavor? Then this amazing veggie-loaded sandwich is for you!
Salty feta and oil-cured olives are balanced perfectly by a bright, fresh herb salad and vinegary pickled beets and capers. Roasted eggplant adds some heartiness, and a smear of garlic mayo gives this sandwich an extra burst of flavor that really sets it apart. To really bring this sandwich to the next level, make your own focaccia bread. Keep the focaccia toppings simple - I opted for sea salt and fresh rosemary - no need to compete with the full-flavored fillings.
There's something about focaccia that always draws me in - and I'm pretty sure it's the toppings! Not to mention the wonderfully chewy, slightly crisp bread that is out of this world when enjoyed warm, fresh from the oven, or just a while later as the perfect sandwich bread.
This focaccia couldn't be easier to put together, and is ready in just a few hours. I kept the toppings simple here, since this bread was going to be be used for sandwiches that would already be packed with herbs and flavors. However, you can use this recipe as a base for all of your favorite toppings - lemons, roasted vegetables, cheese, caramelized onions...
Ahhhhhh croissants. Those delightfully buttery, flaky, golden brown pastries that when done right, are pure bliss. They should be light as a feather, shatter as you take your first bite, and be bursting with flavor. Too often, purchased croissants are too doughy, not flaky, and well, maybe even stale after sitting out for a long time. So, why not give them a go them at home?
The process of making croissants is methodical, and requires some patience. You must start these croissants about 2 days before you want to bake them (the process that works well for me is about 36 hours; see timeline in post). Yes, this may seem like a long time, but trust me, it's worth it. The dough requires resting time in the refrigerator not only to strengthen, but also to gain enormous amounts of flavor.
As my friends and family will tell you, I like to hammer on a small number of recipes until I get things juuuuuuuust right. And these croissants are no exception. I've been trying to make at least one laminated dough treat per week; usually my bake day is Monday morning (my lucky, lucky coworkers!). I've figured out a dough schedule that works really well for me, and allows me to have plenty of time on to do Sunday things (this schedule works well for me during the week, too, with the timeline shifted up a few hours):
- Saturday night: mix dough, usually around 8:00pm (no more than 12 hours before I plan to get up and laminate the dough Sunday)
- Sunday morning: Plasticize Butter & Roll I around 8am; Roll II around10:00am
- Sunday evening: Roll II & Shape around 7:00pm; Proof until about 10:00pm (time depends on how warm/cool our house is)
- Monday morning: Bake!
- The goal when making laminated dough is to create many, many distinct butter and dough layers. See that lovely honeycomb looking structure above? That's what a cross-section of a croissant should look like. When placed in the oven, the water in the butter evaporates, creating steam that forces the layer to puff - into a flaky croissant! It's very important that your dough and butter block be of the same consistency, and that you press down firmly onto your dough with your rolling pin before actually rolling it out, to help maintain the layering. If during the process of rolling out your dough, you notice many large chunks of butter throughout your dough, your butter was likely too cold, and shattered. If your croissant bakes up dense and not very flaky, your butter may have been too warm and melded into the dough, or, you may have squashed your layers otherwise during rolling.
- When rolling/shaping your dough, try to keep your edges as square as possible. It'll make your layers nice and even, and it'll be much easier to fold and manipulate your dough.
- Have fun! Even if it takes you a few attempts to get the results you're after (it took me a few tries, too), it's pretty much guaranteed that every attempt will be delicious! The ingredients here aren't complicated; it's the technique that takes some time to hone.
Recently, I was invited to join the Sandwich Club at work - a group of 10 foodie sandwich enthusiasts, who get together every Monday to enjoy gourmet sandwiches. During every 10-week period, each person signs up to bring sandwiches twice - so we all get to try two sandwiches every week.
Crab salad on homemade croissants was my first sandwich contribution, and I must say they were seriously delicious (recipe/tutorial here). A buttery, flaky croissant is the perfect vehicle for super fresh crab salad, filled with herbs and bright flavors. I love the slight crunch that the cucumber adds, and the poppy seeds are an unexpectedly delicious addition. Start by adding the smaller amount of herbs, and adjust according to your taste (I tend to like a lot of fresh herbs). I hope that you enjoy these sandwiches as much as we did!
I've been known to eat many a burger bunless - most of the commercially produced buns just don't seem worth it to me (I'd rather eat dessert!). Most of the time, if I'm going to indulge, whatever I'm eating better be really awesome. These homemade sourdough honey wheat buns are amazing, and are a healthy, fiber-filled compliment to any burger. The butter and honey keep the crumb soft, and the fact that they're 100% whole wheat ensures that the buns are sturdy enough to hold up to even the juiciest burger. Not to mention that they're much more flavorful than anything you'll find in the grocery store.
A few notes here:
- This recipe will make 9 or 10 regular size burger buns, but you can easily make different sized buns if you like. For sliders, I'd probably divide the dough into 18-20 pieces.
- In the instructions below, you'll see one of my favorite steaming methods, but feel free to use another method if you like.
- I topped my buns with wheat bran and sesame seeds - feel free to get creative here! Love sunflower seeds? Go for it! "Everything" topping - poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, dried garlic, and dried onion? Yes, please!
Please check out Tartine Bread Experiment or the Wild Yeast Blog for more information on building/maintaining a sourdough starter, folds/turns, etc.
I think fermentation is pretty darn cool. The fact that you can combine simple ingredients, and some time later be rewarded with delicious results never ceases to fascinate me. Flour + water = amazing sourdough bread leavner? Awesome. Sweet brewed tea + a SCOBY = kombucha? Delicious. Heavy cream + buttermilk = crème fraîche that you'd normally pay big bucks for at the grocery store? Amazing!
I love baking with crème fraîche, and had no idea just how easy it is to make at home until recently. You simply combine heavy cream and buttermilk, and let it sit out at room temperature until thick and creamy. That's all she wrote, folks. Please use pasteurized heavy cream for this recipe - not ultra pasteurized or sterilized - and make sure that the heavy cream doesn't have additives.
Know what else is super cool? Once you've made your first batch, you can keep on making more crème fraîche, without buttermilk. I usually add about 2 tablespoons crème fraîche to 1 cup heavy cream, stir, and again, let sit for 12-24 hours until thick. And, what could be better than an endless supply of wonderful crème fraîche??