Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Apologies, and 12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: The Big Wrap-up

So... it's been a while.  21 days, to be exactly.  But that is nearly precisely how long it's taken me to get back in the kitchen following what I fondly call The Plague of 2012.  On Day 10, after a delicious dinner of frog legs (which I now unfortunately cannot think of without being a bit nauseated), I was brought down by some godawful sickness.

I seriously cannot remember the last time I was so sick.  I had a fluctuating fever for two days, didn't eat food for one day and didn't eat anything solid for nearly three days.  My stomach was a disaster zone.  It was miserable.  Alec was struck with the same thing, of course, so neither of us had anyone to take care of us.  And therefore I really haven't done much in the kitchen for nearly a month.

It's been rather tragic.  I obviously didn't finish the 12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge, but I will still post the pictures of everything else that was made.  And try not to get queasy thinking about the aftermath of Day 10.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six geese a-laying.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I made Foie Gras Stuffed Dates.

Mmm, not my favorite.  Did it because they "kindof look like eggs."  It was a different foie gras recipe than I usually use, and I ended up turning the foie gras mousse into normal foie gras, and we ate it like that.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.

On the seventh day of Christmas, I made Black Swan and Flying Swan.

These weren't too shabby.  I preferred the Flying Swan (right) better.  Sour Apple Schnapps, rum, and orange juice.  How can you go wrong?  The Black Swan was a white chocolate martini.  

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I made Tirimisu Milkshakes.

This?  Delicious.  I would make this again.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing.

On the ninth day of Christmas, I made Ladyfingers.

Omg.  These were a result of my 2012 goal to start (slowly) cooking through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  And they are amazing.  I'm sure I'll be doing an actual post on these.  Because I'm sure I'll be making them again.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten lords a-leaping.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I made Frog Legs.

 Honestly?  These were so good.  Alec and I were raving over them while we were eating them.

But now?  I'm kindof grossed out just looking at the picture.  It's such a shame that I will always relate them to The Plague.  Maybe in a few years I'll be over it.  Because I'd really like to eat frog legs again.  But now I really have to stop talking about them.

All in all?  I hope for better luck next year with finishing, and, you know, not being direly ill.  But I made some yummy things and tried a lot of new foods and methods.  So?  Worth it.

...five gold rings...

... four colly birds...

... three French hens...

... two turtledoves...

... and a partridge in a pear tree.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day Five- Five Gold Rings

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five gold rings.

On the fifth day of Christmas, I made "Golden" Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts.

I love making doughnuts.  Or maybe I just love doughnuts.  Scratch that.  I definitely love doughnuts. I was debating between making onion rings making doughnuts, and then I thought, "Who am I kidding?" and I made the doughnuts.

These were a new method for me.  I've done baked cake doughnuts and I've done yeast fried doughnuts, but these?  These were yeast baked doughnuts.  And they were pretty delicious.  They had the wonderfully light texture of a yeast doughnut without the admittedly unhealthy (though admittedly amazing) addition of frying oil.  Alec claimed they were the best doughnuts I've made, though I don't know if I'd go that far.I liked them enough to eat three doughnuts and several doughnut holes that night alone.

"Golden" Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts
makes 10-14 doughnuts, plus doughnut holes!

1 egg
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. milk, at 115 degrees F
1 tbs active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 c. flour
1 stick butter, softened, cut into pieces

1 stick butter, melted
1 c. sugar and 2 tbs cinnamon, mixed

Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one.  Beat the egg and sugar together for 2 minutes.  Add milk, yeast, salt, and vanilla.

Lower mixer speed to low, and add in 2 c. of the flour.

Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook and mix on medium, adding in one piece of butter at a time until combined.  Reduce speed to low and mix until dough comes together and is pulling away from the side of the bowl, slowly adding in more flour.  Dough should be soft and moist, but not sticky.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  Gather into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Turn over to coat.  Cover with damp towel and let rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about one hour.

Punch dough down, turn out onto a floured surface, and roll out to 1/2" thickness.  Using a 3" round cutter and a 1" round cutter, cut out doughnuts from the dough.  Definitely save the 1" cut outs for doughnut holes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Place doughnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, 1" apart.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 25 minutes on top of the preheating oven.

Bake 5-8 minutes, until light golden brown.

Let cool just enough to handle, and then, one by one, dip briefly in the melted butter, and then into the cinnamon sugar.  Eat promptly!

Note: These do not keep very well.  They're best fresh and hot from the oven, and are still okay the next day. But after that, I threw the remainder away.  Invite someone over (or several someones, depending on how generous you're feeling) over to share.

... four colly birds...

... three French hens...

... two turtledoves...

... and a partridge in a pear tree.

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day Four- Four Colly Birds

So, I'm very behind in posting.  As usual.  Here it is, Day 9, and I've only posted up to Day 3.  I'm ashamed.  But I blame it on Beggars.

This past Saturday was, of course, New Year's Eve.  There was an absolutely enormous party at the Casa Loma Ballroom for the Beggar's New Year's Eve show.  Nearly 600 people were in attendance, not to mention the Beggars themselves.  The show featured a champagne toast at midnight, wonderful music by the Royal We, and a multitude of out-of-town and local performers, including Armitage Shanks, Ray Gunn, Jeez Louise, and Lady Jack.

Here are a few links to some photos from that night, as taken by a few of the amazing St. Louis photographers.  (Note: you may need to be friends on Facebook to view some of these)

I spent Friday night and Saturday morning making 8 dozen cupcakes to sell.  There was French Toast and Bacon, Faux-stess, Candy Cane, and VanElla Surprise (a vanilla pudding-filled vanilla cupcake, in honor of Lola Van Ella herself).  And they all sold out!  It was quite a night.

I have been keeping up with cooking, just not with posting.  So... here we go.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four colly birds.

On the fourth day of Christmas, I made "Blackbird" Berry Pie.

Another thing I learned, besides the timing of the 12 Days of Christmas, is that the line was not originally "four calling birds."  The original phrasing is "four colly birds," "colly" meaning "blackbird."  The line has been modernized into "four calling birds."  Fun fact.

I had a ton of blackberries left from a 10 for $10 sale at Schnucks, so I figured... blackbirds... blackberries... blackbirds.  Close enough.  And then I threw on some bird cut-outs and called it a "Blackbird" Berry Pie.  

"Blackbird" Berry Pie
(serves 8)

1 pie dough recipe for top and bottom (below)
5-6 c. blackberries, rinsed, picked clean, patted dry
1/2-3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 tbs quick cooking instant tapioca
Place blackberries, sugar, juice, zest, cinnamon, extract, and tapioca in a large bowl.  Fold everything together very gently until the berries are well-coated.  Let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F.  You should have two balls of pie dough.  Roll out one on a lightly floured surface to 12" diameter.  Fit into a pie pan.  Chill in the refrigerator while you roll out the other crust.

Roll out the second ball of crust into a 12" circle.  Use a bird shaped cookie cutter to make bird cut-outs.  (Or you can do a lattice-top or a regular full crust, but a bird-scattered crust is much more fun.)

Spoon the berry mixture into the pie pan.  Place your bird cut-outs over the top of the berries.

Trim the edges of the bottom crust to 1/2" from the edge, then fold back over themselves and pinch to make a pretty edge.

Brush the crust with an egg wash (1 egg white, 1 tbs water, beaten).

Place the pie in the middle rack of the oven, with a backing sheet on a lower level, in case any juices bubble over.

Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.  Then cover with aluminum foil, reduce the heat to 350 F and bake another 30 minutes.  The crust should have browned and the filling should be bubbling.

Let cool completely before serving.
 All Butter Pie Crust

2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6-8 tbs ice water

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl.  Cut in butter, or pulse in a food processor until mixture resembles sand, with very small pieces of butter.

Add in water, a bit at a time, and stir/pulse in processor until dough comes together and can hold together in a ball.

Separate dough into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Before using, let sit out 5-10 minutes to soften slightly.


My favorite part of this is the bird cut-outs.  In retrospect, I probably should have thrown a few more on, as they obviously shrink with baking.  In further retrospect, these would be adorable as mini-pies, with just one or two bird cut-outs on top.  I got my cookie cutter at Sur La Table.  Technically, it's a chick.  But whatever.

I'm not the biggest blackberry fan, but this is a pretty decent pie.  It's sweet and juicy and the crust turned out lovely, not too flaky and not too hard.  It doesn't get soggy.

Plus, the whole thing is super-cute, I think.

... three French hens...

... two turtledoves...

... and a partridge in a pear tree.