Posted in baking, dry heat, wet heat

Dinner for 28 Linguists

Yesterday, I was in charge of cooking dinner after a colloquium we had in the department.  I shopped on Wednesday, as did one of my co-cooks.  I cooked from 2:45pm on Thursday until 3:45…am.  And then a little more Friday morning.  And then more Friday night.  The great thing was that, even though I’m a really bad judge of what’s enough food, I ended up with basically the perfect amount.  Just a little left over of everything.  So I want to keep track of how much I made this time, in case I’m ever crazy enough to do it again.  My theme was French food.

Thanks to everyone who helped!  I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Creme du Barry

This is a leek and cauliflower soup.  I referred to these four recipes: Group Recipes, Global Gourmet, Recettes et Terroirs, Delices de France.  I basically made the first recipe, multiplied by four, with half of the water replaced with whole milk and no extra milk (it was plenty liquid), and for herbs and spices I used white pepper and fresh thyme, flat parsley, and curly parsley.  I blended it in batches in a blender and served it cold.  If I did it again, I think I’d go for a creamier texture – less water, some cream for some of the milk, maybe more creme fraiche – and maybe a different combination of herbs.  I loved the white pepper in it, though.  I had more left over of the soup than anything else, even though I made an amount that’s supposed to serve 16, while I made 24 servings of everything else.  I don’t know if that’s because people were less enthusiastic about it, or because people eat less soup than other things.

We also had (thanks to a couple of helpful linguists) 3 baguettes, of which two got eaten.


I used this recipe for the amounts of the ingredients, except I used half yellow bell peppers and half red.  I doubled the recipe, so I made 24 servings.  Here’s how I did it:

  • Cut the ends of a head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast at 400F for 15 minutes.  Squeeze cloves out and mince them.  (I would have pressed them if I had a garlic press.)
  • Sweat onions; put in a big pot.  Add the garlic.
  • Saute zucchini on high heat in a little olive oil until it gets a little brown; put it in the pot.
  • Put chopped bell peppers under the broiler for 5-10 minutes; in the pot with them.
  • Chop eggplant; pot it up.
  • Dump canned diced tomatoes into the pot.
  • Cover the pot and cook on medium low heat until the veggies are the consistency you like.  I don’t like mine mushy, and I’m proud to say that despite having to be reheated at the dinner, the zucchini kept a nice firmness in the middle.  I chopped everything into cubes or an approximation thereof, rather than slices, and I think that helped.
  • Season with fresh basil and thyme.  I also added some dried oregano, which is not usually done, but I love oregano and I’m the cook.

My only complaint was that there was a lot of liquid that I couldn’t cook off without overcooking my vegetables, so I just discarded some of it.  The veggies absorbed the rest, which may be a really good thing.  But still, next time I would cook the tomatoes separately for a while to get rid of some of that liquid.

I had maybe one side dish sized portion of ratatouille left by the end of the night.

Coq au vin

I used Julia Child’s recipe, multiplied by four (so 24 servings), except I didn’t pay a lot of attention to her instructions on the onions and mushrooms; I just caramelized the onions and sauteed the mushrooms and called it a day.  I also cooked in crockpots, so I reduced the wine and chicken stock by half before cooking.  I probably should have reduced it even more.  I cooked it on low for just shy of 8 hours, and it was perfectly falling off the bone.  Unfortunately, when I went to reduce the sauce, I didn’t think to strain out the bits of stuff, and then I neglected the pot because I was doing other things, and as a result the bits of stuff burned.  At that point I just gave up on the sauce, because I had enough to deal with.  But I think it would have added a lot.

There was nothing left of the coq au vin but a pile of bones.  It was a beautiful, if slightly scary, sight.

I served this with one package of couscous, of which about one serving remained.  I had another package but it didn’t seem necessary.


I used this recipe and made three pithiviers.  I made four pies last time I cooked for a colloq and had a whole extra, and sure enough three seemed to be the right amount this time.  I had about two small slices or one big slice left over.

I used cognac instead of rum, and I didn’t decorate the pithiviers in the traditional way – I just rolled the puff pastry into two circles, put the filling on top of one with maybe and inch border,  which I put egg wash on.  Then the second circle went on top and I gently pressed it against the egg wash.  I learned that pinching the two circles together inhibited the rising of the puff pastry, so it’s important to be gentle and trust the egg wash to do its job, which it did.  The filling turned out really well, I think; before baking it was a little light on sugar and a little heavy on booze, but when served it tasted just right.  I topped it with whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar.

These are supposed to be served right out of the oven, but I couldn’t under the circumstances.  It turns out they taste great at room temperature, but the puff pastry doesn’t stay as amazingly puffed, and when some of the layers fall back together it gets a little hard to cut through.  So serving them right away is optimal, but serving them the next day is still perfectly fine.

Posted in baking, candy, foam

S’more bars

This summer, foodgawker was inundated with recipes for s’more bars and I’ve been dying to make some.  My friends’ housewarming seemed like the perfect opportunity.  But when I looked at the recipes (the ones that didn’t involve strange ingredients like granola), they were all exactly the same: it’s essentially a cookie dough with some of the flour replaced with graham cracker crumbs, topped by chocolate and marshmallow fluff and more of the same cookie dough.  I don’t know where it originated or I’d link to it.  Anyway, delicious as that sounds, I decided to try to go a little more traditional with it and use a graham cracker crust like you’d make for a cheesecake – just graham cracker crumbs and butter – topped with chocolate and homemade marshmallow.  I omitted the top graham cracker layer so I could flambe the marshmallow, because I don’t know about you, but I like my marshmallow seriously singed.

I based the graham cracker layer on this recipe, ending up with the following:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (12 crackers)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Based on the ubiquitous s’more bar recipe, put 6 Hershey bars on top of that.  I put this in the turned-off but still hot oven for a few minutes to melt them.

Instead of using marshmallow creme like the s’more bar recipe says, I made marshmallows according to Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe via Cooking For Engineers.  (The Keller link no longer leads anywhere, but that’s what CFE cites.)  It’s really easy: make a hard-ball stage candy while you bloom gelatin, then beat both together until it gets opaque and thick and voluminous.  Then I poured it over the chocolate and let it cool.  I didn’t use the whole recipe on the s’more bars – I saved enough to fill one of those short square Gladwares because it just made too much.  I still think I ended up with more marshmallow on the bars than I should have had, but I guess that just makes it indulgent.

I took the bars to my friends’ place and flambeed them, which melted the top of the marshmallow but didn’t get it really burnt like I like it.  I tried to take a picture but the picture put the fire out somehow!  Next I’ll try setting the reserved marshmallow on fire.

If I made the s’more bars again, I think I’d go with different chocolate – something darker.  I stuck with Hershey’s milk for tradition’s sake, but it really was a little too sweet for me.  I must be getting old.

Posted in thickening

Blueberry pate de fruit

The night before the first day of school, I whipped up some blueberry pate de fruit.  Now that I know the secret of low-sugar pectin, I can do stuff like that.  Especially if I’m using whole fruit instead of juice or wine; it already has so much less water than the latter that it hits the right consistency really fast.  I actually added a little water this time to give the pectin time to heat up before the blueberries got too dehydrated.  I want the candy to be thick because of the pectin, not because I boiled the fruit down to nothing.

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • some water – a few tablespoons
  • 1 package low-sugar pectin
  • some sugar – my blueberries were a little tart, so I’m guessing I used about 1/2 cup

Puree blueberries.  Add sugar.  Boil.  Add pectin and water.  Stir.  Test on a plate in the freezer.  Pour into my trusty madeleine pan.  Let set.  Enjoy.

This made just over the amount my little madeleine pan will hold, so I have some scraps in a tupperware.

When I made pate de Riesling, I wondered if greasing the pan was necessary.  It’s not nonstick, but I suspected the shape of the madeleines would let the candies slide right out.  So this time I didn’t grease it.  Before being refrigerated, they absolutely slid right out.  After refrigeration, they slid out but not quite as perfectly as before.  I think this may be because they got below freezing in the fridge, though.  That’s happened to things in certain parts of the fridge before, and these seemed colder than they should have been.  So it seems to be pretty safe – the main thing to watch out for when molding pectin candy is the shape of the mold (you need leverage to get them out), not the nonstick-ness of the surface.

I’ll add pictures when I’m less lazy.

Posted in thickening

Riesling candy

Rose molds
The candy setting in rose-shaped molds.

I have finally played around with pectin enough that I can whip up a batch of gelled candy without worrying about recipes.  They make it seem so hard!  Here’s what works for me.

I visited some good friends in Minneapolis for the Minnesota State Fair, and since they had given me some molds for candy just because they saw them and thought of me, I’d been planning ever since we thought up the trip to bring them candy made in the molds.  One of them loves wine, and I think she’s actually a red wine person, but my red wine candies from Valentine’s Day didn’t taste quite candy-like enough.  I thought a Riesling, a white wine known for being sweet, would make a great candy.  The only ingredients are:

  • a bottle of Riesling
  • a little sugar – I didn’t measure, just poured a little in, but I’d say 3-4 Tbsp is a good guess.  It’ll depend on your wine, anyway.
  • a box of SureJell pectin, the kind that doesn’t require sugar to gel
  1. Put a small plate in your freezer.
  2. If your pectin is powdered like mine was, mix a little of the wine with the pectin in order to make a slurry so the pectin won’t clump as much when you stir it in later.*
  3. Heat the wine and sugar until it comes to a rolling boil.  (To be honest, I didn’t add the sugar until I had started testing it and tasting the test bits and realized it could be a little sweeter.)
  4. Whisk in the pectin.
  5. After a few minutes, start testing small spoonfuls of the mixture by putting them on the freezer plate, putting the plate back in the freezer for a couple of minutes, and then pressing on the cooled gel.  At first, your finger will make an indentation in the gel.  But after a while, the gel will split under the pressure, because it’s more solid.  That’s when it’s ready.
  6. Remove from the heat and pour into your molds.  Alternatively, and more traditionally, pour into a rectangular or square pan and cut into squares when cooled.
  7. It’s also traditional to toss the finished candies in sanding sugar, but I think they’re prettier as they are and find the sugar distracting taste-wise.  Plus I hate to have to worry about whether or not the sugar will draw out the moisture and get itself dissolved.
florida molds
My friend lived in Florida for a while, my home state. Hence these beachy shapes.

*I’m not sure if making the slurry was necessary, because I noticed there were some clumps in the pectin-wine mixture anyway, and yet when the candy was done and I poured it into the molds, I saw no clumps.  So maybe it all works itself out in the intense boiling that goes on.

I also molded some, as with my red wine batch, in a mini madeleine pan.  Works beautifully, and the shell shape makes them easy to slip out of the molds.  I greased all of my molds with a little coconut oil to be on the safe side, but I’m not sure it matters.

I ended up with enough to fill both of the molds my friends gave me (they have 11 spots each, with each spot holding maybe 2 tsp) and my mini madeleine pan, and have a little left on the bottom of my saucepan to try.

madeleine candy
I have actually never used this pan to make madeleines. Only to mold candy.
Posted in baking

Fresh From the Oven Challenge: Brioche

loaf of brioche
I still have yet to master slashing.

I’m really late posting this, because I was traveling and then, well, not in a blogging mood.  But the August FFTO challenge was really great, I would make this again in a heartbeat. Chele from Chocolate Teapot gave us this recipe from from the River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread.

  • 400g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 5g powdered dried yeast
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 90ml warm milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 4 medium free range eggs, beaten

To Glaze

  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  1. Mix the ingredients.
  2. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and shiny.
  3. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Shape into two loaves.
  5. Let rise 3-4 hours, until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
  7. Beat egg and milk together for the glaze.
  8. Put loaves on baking sheet.
  9. Glaze loaves with a pastry brush.
  10. Bake 10 minutes.
  11. Turn oven down to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Cool.

Makes 2 small loaves

I actually followed the recipe exactly – shocking, I know – and it worked beautifully except that my stupid oven burned the bottoms of the loaves.  I seriously have to cook everything in it for ten minutes less than recipes say.  The rest was fine, though.  Even though it looks long, this recipe is really easy.  It’s a great one to try.  This was my first time doing a real glaze and I loved the shininess!  It’s just a shame that I left town right after making it so I couldn’t enjoy it more, but don’t worry, I packed one loaf in my carry-on and took it to the friends I was visiting!

crumb of brioche
It was nice and soft, but don't overbake yours like I did!