Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Distracted Cook Bakes a Fraisier

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers' host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

Of course, not everyone has fresh strawberries hanging around the garden, so Jana gave us creative license to create the basic recipe using other berries or fruit. Blueberries were calling my name, so The Distracted Cook thought they were worth an attempt.

The first decision was whether to follow the recipe for a basic chiffon cake or to use one of the variations. Blueberries and lemon seemed to be a good match, so that is what was baked in our kitchen.

I must say that the lemon variation is absolutely delicious. I had never made a chiffon cake from scratch (or any other way, come to think about it.) All of the beating and folding and separating of eggs was a real fun job, and the end result certainly tasted good enough to pass muster.

Egg whites are beaten until they hold a soft peak - almost ready!

After beating the egg whites they are gently folded into the egg yolk mixture just like in the picture above. Then into the prepared pan, and into the oven. After baking and cooling the cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days - which is a good thing because you can then do the other steps and not worry about the cake. And even before this, you can make the simple syrup and refrigerate it also. I added some Limoncello to my syrup for another boost of lemon flavor.

Making the pastry cream is the next step and that also may be done in steps over a few days. This is a really convenient recipe!

Next comes the final assembly and final refrigeration before cutting and serving. After splitting the cake, lining the springform pan with plastic wrap and inserting the bottom of the cake back into the bottomless form, it is time to play with the design of the blueberries around the sides. Talk about fun. And every berry that fell over or rolled around had to be eaten - right then! After you manage to get the entire  pan lined with some berries you begin piping the pastry cream around them. The rest of the blueberries are then set in the middle of the cake and everything is covered with the rest of the pastry cream except for a few tablespoons that you save aside. And don't forget, when you cut the cake into two layers, you brush each layer with the simple syrup so that it soaks up that lemon sweetness. This is one of the real secrets of the wonderful taste. The other is that you roll out a very thin (not thick like mine ended up being) circle of almond paste to set on top of the top layer of cake. I dusted some powdered sugar over the top of that layer and put the entire thing to sleep until dinner time (or at least four hours so that it all those flavors get to soak in together.) The time in the refrigerator also allows the pastry cream to set so that it all doesn't end up on the floor when you release the springform and remove the plastic wrap from around the sides.

This is what the finished Fraisier looked like. Yes, those are pretty big blueberries!

And this is what my piece looked like before it disappeared.

Why don't you have some fun in the kitchen baking with us? Just join The Daring Kitchen and we'll see you back here next month.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Distracted Cook and My Noodle Hands!

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spatzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

This time The Distracted Cook knew it would be great. Home made pasta? What fun. And having someone in the kitchen to help - what could be better? Lucy was here for the week and is always eager to help out at the stove. So, with the aid of her cookbook, Emeril's  There's A Chef In My Soup we got started.

You might be wondering about the sunglasses? Well, Lucy informs me that when you are cutting or cooking raw onions you must wear your sunglasses or else you end up crying into your soup - or sauce! So, here she is stirring up the onions for the sauce she was making for our pasta. Emeril's recipe was an easy one for Lucy to make and it is really good. And while it was simmering away on the back of the stove, Lucy and the Distracted Cook decided to tackle the pasta making. First though, Lucy had to run around outside and get rid of some extra energy. Back in the kitchen without her special "at the stove" shirt on, we got down to pasta business.

The next step was to sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. This is where we parted company for a while. Lucy made her pasta with an old recipe on hand - flour, water, salt. She used our Giusto's Organic "00"  flour  for her pasta and I used plain old unbleached all purpose flour for my noodles using the recipe that Steph posted.

This is what Lucy's dough looks like after she has incorporated the water into the sifted flour and salt.

And this is what The Distracted Cook's dough looks like after mixing the eggs, flour and water.

And this is what they look like ready to be wrapped and set to rest. Can you see the difference in Lucy's dough and The Distracted Cook's dough? The addition of the eggs makes the dough on the far left hand side of the picture have a yellow color rather than the lighter white color of Lucy's dough.

And here they are wrapped in their plastic wrap and taking a rest! After they rested, the two cook's ran  Lucy's dough through the pasta cutter and The Distracted Cook decided to hand roll and cut hers just as she used to do with her Grandmother!

Here is some of the dough ready to be cut into noodles.

And here the cut noodles are just waiting to be unrolled and set out to dry a bit before being dumped into boiling water.

Aren't they great looking? Cutting them by hand was a lot easier than running them through the pasta cutter. BUT, using the pasta machine to cut them made them a lot thinner. The Distracted Cook will have to practice a lot more with that rolling pin. Grandma used to do the rolling, and The Distracted Cook used to cut them and unroll them and hang them up to dry!

Fresh cut noodles waiting to jump into the pan!

After about 5 minutes in the boiling water, The Distracted Cook removed the noodles and drained them.

Noodles! Waiting for that great tomato sauce that Lucy made - and some meatballs also.

And now it's dinner time! Fresh egg pasta fettuccine with homemade tomato sauce. What a delightful way to answer The Daring Cook and her challenge. Thanks to Steph for such a fun adventure! Why don't you join us next time? All you have to do is go to The Daring Kitchen and register. The rest is just as easy and twice as much fun. See you next challenge!