December 29, 2013

Pecan pie

In the continuation of my Thanksgiving/Christmas series, here's a fairly easy recipe for a rich and very nutty pecan pie. For my first attempt baking this American classic, I referred to the recipe featured in the gorgeous book "Cake Days" by the Hummingbird Bakery, and left aside the chocolate chips as I wanted my pie as traditional as possible for our Thanksgiving party. It was so popular among our friends, I decided to prepare it again for my family this Christmas in Strasbourg, in place of the usual "bûche de Noël". This is when I had to bring a couple of variations (detailed below) as products such as golden syrup and soft sugar can be tricky to find in France.

Ingredients for the pastry
110g butter, softened
225g flour
80g caster sugar
1 large egg

Ingredients for the filling
100g butter
225g soft brown sugar (or regular brown sugar if soft sugar cannot be found)
110g golden syrup (or agave syrup, in which case sugar can be reduced to 150g as agave syrup's sweetening power is greater than golden syrup's)
3 large eggs
260g pecans, roughly chopped, plus 16 halves

Place the butter and flour in a bowl and rub together using your fingertips until crumb-like in consistency. Stir in the sugar, followed by the egg.
When a dough starts to form, take it out of the bowl and knead gently on a floured work surface to bring it together. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 20-30 minutes.

In the meantime, grease and flour a tart tin. Once the pastry has rested, roll it out on a lightly floured worktop so that it is about 5mm thick. Line the tart tin with the pastry and using a sharp knife, cut away any excess pastry so that it is level with the edge of the tin. Prick the base of the pastry a few times with the point of the knife and put the tin in the fridge to rest for another 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Once the pastry case has rested, line it with baking parchment, fill with baking beans and place in the oven to bake 'blind' for 10 minutes (dry lentils or split peas work fine too). Carefully remove the beans along with the parchment, and bake the tart case for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together. Once melted, set aside to cool. Whisk together the eggs in a bowl, just to break them up, then pour the melted ingredients into the eggs, stirring continuously until everything is combined.

Scatter the chopped pecans over the base of the tart case and pour the liquid filling on top, then decorate with the pecan halves. The liquid filling should naturally settle between the chopped pecans. If not (in case the pecans are too thinly chopped or a thicker syrup such as  agave is used), carefully mix the pecans and the liquid filling together using your fingers or a spoon.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140°C and bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool and serve thin slices (the pie is very rich!) with a dollop of cream.

December 27, 2013

Roast turkey stuffed with clementines and rosemary

Okay both Thanksgiving and Christmas are over, but turkey can be eaten anytime after all - and I feel this precious recipe should be written down and shared before it gets lost. A big thanks to our friend Hendrik (once a cook at Berlin's famous Adlon Hotel!) for preparing this incredibly moist and tasty turkey for our Thanksgiving feast last month. The recipe may be inspired from Jamie's Christmas turkey, Jamie himself can't possibly have achieved a better result!

Ingredients for the marinade
1 cup of salt
2 cups of cranberry juice
1 ground nutmeg
Peel and juice of 1 orange
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil

The day before, place the turkey in a plastic bag. Fill in the marinade, squeeze the air out of the bag and store in a cool place overnight.

Ingredients for the stuffing
Some clementines, cut into halves 

Preheat the oven at 180°C.
Wash the turkey to remove the rest of the marinade and dry it well.
Massage the turkey with olive oil, and season with salt (possibly mixed with paprika powder) and pepper.
Place in the oven and roast for 30-35 minutes per kg of turkey (ours was 8.8 kg and was in for a little more than 4.5 hours).
Regularly collect the out coming liquids with a spoon and pour back over the turkey.
For the last half hour, chop some rosemary and sage, mix it with some olive oil and brush the turkey with this preparation.
Insert a meat thermometer in the biggest part of the breast. When the thermometer indicates 72°C, remove the turkey from the oven. Cover with foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Cut out the breasts and put the legs back into the oven for another 10 minutes per kg of turkey (whole).

December 9, 2013

Easy puff pastry

Epiphany is in a month and even though Christmas is still to come, I'm already thinking of inviting some friends over for a "galette des rois" party one afternoon early January - perfect way to stay warm and cosy in the middle of the freezing Berlin winter... Last year I even took up the challenge of making my own puff pastry, and did not regret it a second. I found a simplified version of the classic puff pastry recipe, and my galette turned out even more delicious as the previous years, and just as amazing-looking as those from the fanciest pastry shops :-)

I referred to the "rough puff pastry" recipe in "Pastry" cooking book by French chef Michel Roux. As the book says: "This quick puff pastry rises well - almost 75% as much as classic puff pastry, and it saves an incredible amount of time. Once you have tried making rough puff pastry, you'll probably opt for this easier method every time. Tightly wrapped in cling film, it will keep for 3 days in the fridge, and for at least 4 weeks in the freezer."

Here's the very recipe, to which I look forward to give another go soon. As to the instructions for the galette des rois filling, you'll find them in my older post "Galette des rois, or kings cake".

Ingredients for 1.2kg pastry (enough for 2 galettes, or 4 tarts) 
500g plain flour
500g very cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 tsp salt
150ml ice-cold water (the book states 250ml but 150ml proved way enough)

Put the flour in a mound on the work surface and make a well. Put in the butter and salt and work them together with the fingertips of one hand, gradually drawing the flour into the centre with the other hand.

When the cubes of butter have become small pieces and the dough is grainy, gradually add the iced water and mix until it is all incorporated, but don't overwork the dough. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Flour the work surface and roll out the pastry into a 40 x 20 cm rectangle. Fold it into three and give it a quarter-run. Roll the block of pastry into a 40 x 20 cm rectangle as before, and fold it into three again. These are the first 2 turns. Wrap the block in cling film and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

Give the chilled pastry another 2 turns, rolling and folding as before. This makes a total of 4 turns, and the pastry is now ready. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

December 8, 2013

Happy Sängsgiwinn!

A big thank you to our friends who came over last week to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and made our potluck a particularly successful one. Unfortunately our American/Canadian friends could not make it - but our party of German, French, British, Dutch and Italian took up the challenge quite superbly!

I will be sharing recipes soon - here are a few photos in the meantime. A special thanks as well to our dear friends from north America who sent over their favorite recipes.

Roast turkey stuffed with clementines and rosemary - Recipe here

Candied mashed sweet potatoes

Cornbread muffins

Pumpkin pie

Pecan pie

October 27, 2013

[Corn]Bread of Heaven

…or heavenly cornbread, as non-Welsh readers will probably not get my tentative play on words (which hopefully will at least amuse my dear in-laws).

5 days ago. Harlem, NYC. Red Rooster restaurant.
I am eating cornbread for the first time (or if I had some before, it wasn't memorable) - served warm along with honey butter and tomato chutney on the side.
Impression: Wow! To me, the ultimate comfort food - understand soft, moist, light yet indulgent, delicately sweet and spicy, all at the same time. So simple and so delicious.

Today. Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Home.
I am baking cornbread for the first time, following Red Rooster's chef Marcus Samuelsson's recipe itself, and praying to successfully reproduce the melt-in-your-mouth experience...
Verdict: More rustic in texture but just as scrumptious, "even tastier than the original" according to my loving husband.

Here's the recipe, found in the chef's cooking book that luckily happened to be sitting on the shelf right next to our table. As I'd still like to reach the velvety consistency that appealed to me so much in Harlem, I'm thinking of trying some of the following next time: replacing part of the flour with starch, adding an egg, reducing the amount of fresh corn, discarding the bain-marie. But anyway, this is all fine-tuning and I've now got the major Thanksgiving staple ready for next month!

Ingredients for 2 loaves
4 ears fresh corn (shucked)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 red chiles (seeds and ribs removed, chopped)
Butter to grease the pans

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain. When the ears are cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob. Place 1 cup of the corn kernels in a bowl and set aside. Place the remaining kernels in a blender and puree. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F, or 190°C.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, ginger, cardamom, and nigella seeds. Stir in the brown sugar, chiles, corn kernels, corn puree, and 2 cups water. Mix to combine.

Butter 2 loaf pans and divide the batter evenly between them. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Place the pans in a shallow baking tray filled halfway with water and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour. Cover with aluminum and bake for another 30 minutes.

Turn the loaves out onto a cooling tray and let cool. Serve with tomato chutney.

Red Rooster Harlem
310 Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY 10027
(212) 792-9001