Monday, February 1, 2016

When Life Hands You Lemons ... Make a Lemon Cream Pie

In a previous post, I explained how my wonderful neighbor gave me his bountiful harvest of Meyer lemons and that my daughter and I decided that the end of the saying, "When life hands you lemons" is "get cooking!"

After pickling lemons and making a savory chicken and lemon pie, we wanted a dessert.  We revisited Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat, which was the book used for the very first post of this blog, Peanut Meatose.

ISBN 0-486-43764-7
Here is an excerpt from that post:
Mr. Estes was born a slave in 1857, was employed by a restaurant-keeper at the age of 16, and then became a cook for the railroads at age 26, where he continued for most of the rest of his life.  His culinary skills were so valued that he was assigned to cook in a special car that catered to celebrities.  Mr. Estes prepared food for presidents, princesses, famous actors and singers, and more.  He was trusted to provide them with a good meal and, upon viewing his recipes, I can see that that trust was not misplaced. 
One thing I like about this book is that it is "The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef."  Mr. Estes says, in his foreword,
This book, the child of his brain, and experience, extending over a long period of time and varying environment, ... The recipes given in the following pages represent the labor of years.  Their worth has been demonstrated, not by experimentally, but by actual tests, day by day and month by month, under dissimilar, and, in many instances, not too favorable conditions.
This man was obviously talented and proud of his accomplishments, and I am grateful he took the time to share his recipes with us.

He offers quite a few recipes that use lemons, including an "old-fashion" lemon pie "because it is baked between two crusts, yet many have called it the best of all kinds."  It actually looks quite simple and I might try it some time.  He also gives a "Large Lemon Pie" recipe, which is what we call a Lemon Meringue Pie.

On page 92, he gives another lemon pie recipe that seems like a lemon meringue pie but is cooked differently.  This is what we decided to try.

Lemon Cream Pie

Stir into one cup of boiling water one tablespoonful of cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water.  Cook until thickened and clear, then add one cup sugar, a teaspoonful of butter, and the juice and grated rind of two lemons.  Add the beaten yolks of three eggs and take from the fire.  Have ready the bottom crust of a pie that has been baked, first pricking with a fork to prevent blisters.  Place the custard in the crust and bake half an hour.  When done, take from the oven and spread over the top a meringue made from the stiffly whipped whites of the eggs, and three tablespoonfuls of sugar.  Shut off the oven so it will be as cool as possible giving the meringue plenty of time to rise, stiffen and color to a delicate gold.
And water
My Notes
For the pastry, we used the same crust recipe I used for the Elizabethan meat pie last March.  It baked with a bottom weight (instead of pricking it) at 425 degrees F in a ceramic pie pan for 8 minutes.

I had trouble getting the cornstarch mixture to become completely clear but it did get thick.  I turned the heat down once it was pretty clear so as not to break the thickening feature of the cornstarch.

The Meyer lemons are small so I used the grated rind of two of them and the juice of three.

The "custard" was runny and we worried it wouldn't set up.

After baking for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, it was still runny.  Since the crust wasn't very brown, we put it back into the oven for another 10 minutes.  During this time, the filling bubbled and thickened.

At this point the crust was brown and we didn't want it burnt, so we took the pie out of the oven.  The filling hadn't set but we hoped it would after it had a chance to cool.  I had whipped the egg whites and sugar into a meringue while the pie was baking so that had to go into a container into the refrigerator.

The pie cooled a little but the filling still hadn't set so we put it into the refrigerator, too, with the idea to put the meringue on the next day.

The Verdict

The next morning we checked the pie and the filling still hadn't set.  It was too runny to serve as a pie, so we poured the filling into a container.  By the way, the crust had cooked up beautifully and stayed in one piece when we popped it out of the pan.  Heart-breaking! (Tasty, too, later on.)

Tilt and slide
My daughter then made a vanilla cake (thank you, Betty Crocker!), split the layer, poured some filling over the bottom layer, put on the top layer, frosted the top of the cake with whipped cream, and decorated it with fresh blackberries and the lemon filling over the top.

It made for a lovely impromptu dessert and was well-received.  The lemon filling was tart, lemony, and not too sweet.  The little bits of zest were pretty and added a nice lemon burst.

The next day we made pancakes and, instead of syrup, we spooned the lemon filling and a blueberry compote over the top.

After that, we put the lemon sauce and more of the blueberry compote on some lemon scones.

I have to call this recipe a failure because it didn't set up properly to be served as a pie.  I think the problem was that there was not enough cornstarch to thicken the liquid.  The standard is 1 tablespoon cornstarch to 1 cup liquid and, between the water and the juice, we had more than 1 1/4 cup liquid. Next time I would use at least 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Still, I am not sure why this pie needed to be baked after the filling was cooked and thickened.

Finally, I needed to do something with the whipped egg whites I had made the night before.  Sitting had made them separate and they did not look like something I wanted to use "as is."  So I put them back into the mixer and beat them, hoping to get them back to stiff and usable.  I was surprised to see that they could be beaten back to stiff.  Once they were ready again, I spooned them into little piles on parchment paper and lightly baked them into simple meringue cookies.

The nice thing about knowing how to cook is being able to adapt and recover from failures.  : )

Friday, January 15, 2016

When Life Hands You Lemons ... Make a Chicken and Lemon Pie

In a previous post, I explained how my wonderful neighbor gave me his bountiful harvest of Meyer lemons and that my daughter and I decided that the end of the saying, "When life hands you lemons" is "get cooking!"

We wanted something savory, meaty, yet still highlighting the lemon flavor.  I found the answer in The Dutch Table by Gillian Riley.  I showed off this book earlier when I tried its chicken hutspot recipe.  It is a lovely book that displays both Dutch recipes and art.

ISBN 1-56640-978-0
What I found was a recipe for Veal and Lemon Pie on page 62.  The ingredients list was inviting however veal was not really an option for me at this time.  We decided that boneless, skinless chicken thighs would be a good substitution, and set off on our Dutch adventure.

Chicken (Veal) and Lemon Pie

1 lb. (500 gm) of chicken thighs (leg of veal), finely chopped.
(1/2 cup veal fat, finely chopped)  I did not use this or substitute for it with the chicken.
1 lemon; half of it thinly sliced, the rest chopped
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, and mace to taste
2 egg yolks
Butter to taste
Verjuice, lemon juice, or white wine vinegar
Rich shortcrust pastry

Mix all the ingredients together except the sliced lemon.  Line a pie dish with a layer of pastry, tip in the meat mixture, and finish with the lemon slices and generous lumps of butter.  Cover with a pastry lid and bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour.  Eat hot or cold.  If hot, make a sauce with meat stock thickened with egg yolks, butter, and verjuice.  (Lemon juice or a very little fine white wine vinegar may be used instead of verjuice.) 

A little chopped parsley or marjoram makes a pleasant addition to the flavorings.
That ball is the crust.
My Notes

For the pastry, we used the same crust recipe I used for the Elizabethan meat pie last March.

We decided to use a deep dish pie pan and so we used 3 pounds of chicken thighs, and chopped them finely using the food processor.  That means we estimated about double the rest of the ingredients.

The Meyer lemons are small (about 2 inches in diameter) so I used four of them.  Two were sliced thinly and two were chopped.  All were seeded as I chopped and sliced.

I love my Ulu knife
I used 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper, 1/4 tsp mace, and about 1/8 tsp of nutmeg.  I also included about 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped oregano.
Herbs and spices about to be mixed in.

We used two egg yolks (did we forget to double that?).  I also mixed in about 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar.

This was the meat mixture and it looked lovely even before being tipped into the pastry.

Now with the chopped lemon and beaten yolks
Once the mixture was smoothed out, my daughter arranged the lemon slices over the top and I arranged a stick of butter, sliced, over the top of that.

She wanted a lattice top so she wove it and finished the edges.

We used the egg whites beaten with a little water as a crust wash in the hopes the crust would brown nicely.

The pie baked at 325 degrees F because a moderate oven is 350 degrees F and we were using a ceramic pan.  After 1 hour it did not look ready so we gave it another 20 minutes to get the crust brown.

The big problem we had was that the juices from the meat and the butter overfilled the pan and made a mess on the bottom of the oven.  I think we probably could have used 1/2 of a stick of butter instead.

It turned out beautifully!

It went into the refrigerator in preparation to be eaten the next day.

The Verdict

I reheated the pie in the microwave for about 4 minutes to make sure the interior got warmed.  Then I covered the top with foil and put it into the oven at about 300 degrees F to finish warming it.

Since we were serving it hot, I made the sauce as the recipe suggested:  1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon butter, a little honey, and then once it was well-mixed and hot, I beat in two egg yolks.   It didn't thicken very much but the color was a pretty pale yellow and I liked it.  I didn't add any salt because the broth was already a bit salty.

I served the pie from its pan and the sauce from a gravy boat with a ladle.

Thin but very tasty.
Four of us were there to taste it and we liked it!  I thought it was even better a few days later, reheated in the microwave.

Still juicy
The flavor was lightly lemony, mostly savory from the chicken, and the spicing was delicate yet flavorful.  The filling was not greasy or too buttery and there was still the juice from the cooked meat.  The sauce added a nice, mild zing and made the filling even moister.

I had two parts I would change:

1)  I think I put in too much mace but not by much. (I got a blast of mace bitterness in my first bite.)

2) I would put in less lemon peel and more of the lemon pulp because there was some lemon bitterness in the dish.  The people who like bitter didn't mind and the people who don't like bitter were still able to enjoy it but wished there was less bitter.  Perhaps just use the peel on the slices on top of the meat.

We made the bottom crust too thin so it nearly disappeared in the taste of the pie but the top was robust, crunchy, and delightful.  We thought maybe we didn't really need a bottom crust as the filling stayed in its shape without it.  This pie would be good either way.

We also decided that making it a deep dish pie was not the best way to serve it.  That worked for the Elizabethan pie because it had so many layers, chunks, and spaces, but this filling was uniformly dense.  A normal thickness would have been better.

All four taste-testers declared it a success!

Yes, we served it for Christmas dinner!

Friday, January 1, 2016

When Life Hands You Lemons... Pickle Them!

The saying is, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!"

However when life hands you Meyer lemons, free from my neighbor's tree, I say, "Get cooking!"

First, though, my apologies.  My work over the last four months has been the busiest ever and I could not find the time to cook and write for this blog.  All I can really say about it is thank goodness for chef salads and store-bought roasted chicken so I could have a balanced diet.  : )

But now the crunch time is over and I am back along with my daughter who is visiting.  We want to cook and she wants to take pictures!  We are ready to take on the fifth year of life for this blog with 107 posts and more than 23,000 page views from all over the world.

Imagine our joy when my new neighbor discovered a prolific Meyer lemon tree in his backyard and proposed that we take them off his hands...

In case you don't know the variety, Meyer lemons are different from the typical lemon you find in the grocery store.  That is a Eureka lemon, a true lemon because the Meyer is a hybrid of lemon and orange or tangerine.  The big differences are that the Meyer has a smoother, thinner skin and its juice is sweeter and less acidic than the Eureka.  A good explanation is found here:

Eurekas are preferred for the market because they are durable in shipping but Meyers are prized in my area for their flavor and scent.

I spent some quality time perusing my cookbooks (O!  How I missed thee!) to find interesting ways of using my windfall.  The first choice was from A Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and published in 1974.

ISBN 0-394-71948-4
Ms. Roden began this book around 1950 to recover the tastes of Cairo with which she had grown up, and ended up examining the history of many of the recipes and expanding out to many of the Middle Eastern countries:
With this collection of dishes I wish to offer what to me is a treasure, the detailed and simple explanation of the way in which the women of the Middle East (and, of course, the professional male cooks) have prepared their food for centuries, some even since Pharaonic times.  I would like to pass on the experience which has been transferred from mother and mother-in-law to daughter and daughter-in-law, with the keen encouragement of their husbands, fathers, and brothers.

I was inspired by my success on the Seer Torshi, Persian Pickled Garlic, to try pickled lemons, a favorite in Moroccan cuisine.

Lamoun Makbouss / Pickled Lemon  (page 332)
A delicacy which is also magnificent made with fresh limes.  
Scrub lemons well and slice them.  Sprinkle the slices generously with salt and leave for at least 24 hours on a large plate set at an angle or in a colander.  They will become soft and limp, and lose their bitterness.  Arrange the lemon slides in layers in a glass jar, sprinkling a little paprika between each layer.  Cover with corn or nut oil.  Sometimes olive oil is used, but its taste is rather strong and may slightly overpower the lemons.
Close the jar tightly.  After about 3 weeks the lemons should be ready to eat -- soft, mellow, and a beautiful orange color.  
My mother accidentally discovered a way of speeding up the process when left with dozens of lemon wedges which had been used to garnish a large party dish.  She put them in the freezing compartment of her refrigerator to keep them until she was ready to pickle them.  When she sprinkled the frozen lemons with salt, she found that they shed a large quality of water and softened in just over an hour.  They were ready for eating after only a few days in oil and paprika.
The lemons are frozen here
We decided to freeze our lemon slices and wedges (just to try both!) before we salted them.  That way they would be ready to try before my daughter had to leave.

Be sure to remove the seeds before freezing!
Once they had been frozen overnight, we put them on a cookie rack over a pan and sprinkled them with the salt.  The lemons certainly gave up a lot of water quickly but we let them sit for about 12 hours anyway.

Then we packed the slices and wedges into a glass canning jar, sprinkling with a bit of paprika between the layers.  Note:  The instructions didn't say to sterilize the jar but we filled it with water and microwaved it until it boiled, then drained the water and let it steam dry.

We finished the recipe off by covering the lemons with canola oil and putting on the lid.  I tapped the jar several times to get the air bubbles out from between the layers.

It was tough to wait but we managed a week.

A pretty picture

The Verdict

Five of us did the taste test.  One, who does not like anything bitter at all, did not like the taste of the pickled lemon and didn't finish her piece.  Three thought it was okay -- the bitter level wasn't high but it was present; mostly it was considered too sour and they wished there was some sugar involved in the pickling process.  The fifth liked it enough to have two and noted that the flavors came in waves:  sour, salty, and then a little sweet.

We wondered how the pickled lemons were utilized in Moroccan food.  Was it to be served as a garnish?  A condiment?  None of us thought it should be served "as is" because we expected more depth of flavor for something you should pick up and eat.  To be clear, the slices tasted like lemons, which is something desirable if that is the flavor you want for your garnish or to add to a recipe.  It was not desirable if you wanted something to nibble -- and that was confirmed by the person who likes to eat fresh lemons.

Perhaps I didn't use enough paprika and that would have made a better flavor.  Perhaps the recipe's goal was to capture and protect the flavor of fresh lemons for a time when lemons weren't available. It definitely achieved that goal!

So we decided to call it a success but with the accompanying "meh" to indicate that it was not something we were excited about.  The jar is sealed back up and put away to pickle some more.  We'll taste test it again in the future.

The Bonus

The lemons we prepared for the recipe didn't all fit into the jar we had picked out.  So the rest went into another jar and we covered them with brandy.  We tried those, too, and found them to be a little more interesting than the lemons in oil.  The brandy had soaked into the peel and that was good.  The salt was a surprise flavor on the tongue.  Then the lemon flavor from the fruit spread its goodness across the tongue.  Overall, I think that was a better success but that it still needs time to soak.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Easy Spoon Bread -- one of my Most Favorites

I like to reserve my last post of the year for sharing one of my favorite recipes.  Previously I have given you my Spiced Cranberry Sauce, Sweet-n-Hot Mustard, and Sweet Potato Apple Souffle.

This year I want to give you a recipe out of the same book the souffle recipe is in:  The Mount Vernon Cookbook.

ISBN 0-931917-13-1
I obtained this book in 1999 when on a family trip to East Coast of the United States.  We were visiting mostly Colonial American sites (but of course we visited Hershey, PA) and my souvenirs tend to be cookbooks!  It more like a Ladies' Group cookbook as not all the recipes are considered from the colonial period but they certainly are proven and loved by other home cooks.

I first tried this recipe in April 1999 when I left a note saying, "We love this more than cornbread!"  I have made it many times since.

Easy Spoonbread (page 157)

1 cup self-rising corn meal*  
1 teaspoon shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs, well beaten

And water.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine first 3 ingredients with 2 cups of water in saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until smooth and thick, stirring constantly.  

Stir in milk.  Add eggs and beat well.  Pour into greased baking dish.  Bake 30 minutes or until set.

My Notes

*I don't normally keep self-rising corn meal around so I put 1 teaspoon baking powder into a 1 cup measure and then add corn meal to fill the cup.

For a greased baking dish I used a greased cast iron skillet.  In the past I have used various dishes and they all work well, as long as the batter doesn't fill it too close to the top.

I think it is "set" when there are some golden brown areas on the surface and a knife inserted into the middle comes out somewhat clean.  The middle shouldn't jiggle much when the pan is shaken, either.

The puffy parts tend to fall while the spoonbread is cooling.

Keep in mind this is a very moist dish and not like your usual cornbread.

The Verdict

Success!  This is a "most favorite" because it is good!  It is moist, creamy, and pretty neutral in overall taste so it makes a good accompaniment to meats and stews.  It is also excellent as a breakfast mush, served hot with butter, syrup, jam, or a good gravy.  Sometimes I pour milk on it, too.

The only failures I have had were when I didn't cook the first three ingredients until "smooth and thick", so the middle of the spoonbread never set.  Well, we just ate around the liquidy parts.

One teaspoon of salt makes the dish taste a little salty, so if you don't like that, consider using less. I usually think about what I am serving it with and decide if salty is appropriate or not.  In this case I used the full amount because I was serving it with a lovely chicken and vegetable stew.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can modify to being a perfect side dish.  Add herbs, spices, peppers, or crumbled cheese just before putting it in the oven.  It could even be a meat-free main dish with the right sauce.  Well worth trying and playing with.

Enjoy and I wish you an excellent 2016!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Seer Torshi, Revisited and Challenged

Last April I tried the "quick" method for producing Seer Torshi or Persian Pickled Garlic.  You can read about it here:

It has been more than four months so I gave it a try:

The Verdict

I found the cloves of garlic to be tender (but not mushy), sour with a touch of sweet, and with a mellow garlic flavor that made me happy to eat it instead of blasted away and worried that others would smell it on my breath.

Really quite tasty with an added boon that the cloves slipped easily out of their peel with a gentle squeeze.

My guest taster and I had them as an accompaniment to a dinner of pulled pork and coleslaw, and that was a good call.  My guest taster enjoyed them even more than I did, I think!

So they certainly are labeled as a success!

But next came the true challenge....

I shared some of the seer torshi with a Persian friend, someone who has had the really good stuff (aged fourteen years!) and knows what true seer torshi is supposed to taste like....

I crossed my fingers and hoped he didn't find it wanting as he took it home and tried it....

His response:  "Your seer torshi was better than Persian seer torshi."

Wow!  We agreed that he was being honest, not polite, and I was pleased to hear him say that I had done a good job on it.  He mentioned that the soft cloves made him think they had been aged a long time.

Then he gave me some of the seer torshi he buys in the Persian markets to do my own taste comparison.  This is not the well-aged version as that type is very expensive.

I thought it was acceptable but I felt that mine was better for these reasons:

The purchased torshi did not always slip out of the peel easily, and it was messy to pull the peel off with my fingers.
The vinegar flavor was harsh to my taste buds.
The cloves were harder and the garlic flavor almost too strong for me.  
Comparison shot.  Mine on the right.
My guest taster liked them both but I found myself going back to my homemade version more often than the store bought.

Definitely a success!  And good enough that I want to make a bunch of jars to give as gifts.

I am also intrigued with the idea of making a jar that has to age for years and years.  I'm not sure that is an option but it is fun to think about.

These were good as a side dish (really a condiment) to the main course.  I think they would also be good as an appetizer with other items, like cheeses, olives, pita bread pieces, and something a little salty.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Syllabub, Overdone

It is hot outside.  Not a situation conducive to cooking or really to do much of anything requiring motion or energy.  This means my post for today is simple, cool, and easy!

I recently acquired Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving by Hannah Glasse.  It is an extraction of Mrs. Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, which I already own but I wanted to compare the copies to see if anything had changed between them.  Besides, it was on sale and I was buying other books, too. (wink!)

ISBN 978-0-241-95789-9
Anyway, The Art of Cookery was originally published in 1747 in England.  I love the very beginning (page 1) where she addresses the reader:
I believe I have attempted a branch of Cookery, which nobody has yet thought worth their while to write upon:  but as I have both seen, and found by experience, that the generality of servants are greatly wanting in that point, therefore I have taken upon me to instruct them in the best manner I am capable; and, I dare say, that every servant who can but read, will be capable of making a tolerable good cook, and those who have the least notion of Cookery cannot miss of being very good ones.
If I have not wrote in the high polite style, I hope I shall be forgiven; for my intention is to instruct the lower sort, and therefore must treat them in their own way. ... So in many other things in Cookery, the great cooks have such a high way of expressing themselves, that the poor girls are at a loss to know what they mean:  in all Receipt Books yet printed, there are such an odd jumble of things as would quite spoil a good dish; and indeed some things so extravagant, that it would be almost a shame to make use of them, when a dish can be made full as good, or better, without them.
I like her attitude!  Write the recipes so that most anyone can understand and follow them and don't go crazy with the ingredients or quantities.  My kind of cooking.

What I selected to try was the recipe in the title:  Everlasting Syllabub.  A dessert!

A short scamper through the Internet tells me that syllabub has been popular since at least the 1570s (this I knew) but that the standard method of beating cream with an acid to thicken it was replaced in the 18th century when gelatins were more common.  The word "syllabub" is based on "syllable" because the mixture separates into layers (syllables) upon standing.  The gelatin (in this recipe, calf's-foot jelly) stabilized it, making it "everlasting."  I see the advantage here in that you could make this dessert in advance, which is good considering Mrs. Glasse says you need to beat the mixture by hand for one half hour.

To Make Everlasting Syllabub  (page 39)

Take five half pints of thick cream, half a pint of Rhenish wine, half a pint of sack, and the juice of two large Seville oranges grate in just the yellow rind of three lemons, and a pound of double-refined sugar well beat and sifted; mix all together with a spoonful of orange-flower water; beat it well together with a whisk half an hour, then with a spoon take it off, and lay it on a sieve to drain, then fill your glasses:  these will keep above a week, and are better made the day before.

She goes on to give some advice on the "best way to whip syllabub":  "have a fine large chocolate-mill, which you must keep on purpose, and a large deep bowl to mill them in:  it is both quicker done, and the froth stronger."  What she probably means is what we call a molinillo:

Hot chocolate as a beverage was new and popular in Mrs. Glasse's time and so having a chocolate-mill was the "in thing."  But using a whisk is fine, too.

Did you notice there is no mention of calf's-foot jelly?  That is for the second part of the recipe, which I will get to later.

My Redacted Version

I didn't want to make such a large quantity so I reduced the cream to one pint and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly.  My orange was not the bitter Seville variety, and my sack was cream sherry, which is a bit sweet, so when I converted the sugar quantity I rounded down.

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup Gewurztraminer
1/2 cup sherry
1 large orange, juice only
1 lemon, zest only
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange flower water (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until thick and creamy.  Follow the directions above regarding removing, draining, and serving.

My Notes

I started off with the mixer on "stir" to give the sugar a chance to dissolve.  Once the liquid seemed thicker, I bumped up the power level to the next notch.
Just starting
I watched the progress of the liquid as it got thicker and creamier but I wasn't sure when to stop the mixer.  And then, suddenly, the creamy mixture became grainy and very yellow.

Too far!  You can see the lemon zest in the butter base.
Oh no!  I had beaten it too far and turned it to butter.  It tasted pretty good but looked weird and I knew I had not achieved the desired result.  So I put most of it in a covered bowl to refrigerate but set up a quick, light dessert with the rest.

I took some Old-Fashion glasses and alternated layers of fresh, hulled-and-quartered strawberries with a few spoonfuls of the syllabub.  Then I sprinkled on a crumbly top, which was the left over crust mix from the versatile cheese tart I wrote about earlier.  It looked good!

Layers and separation and crumbles all displayed.
The Verdict

I count this as a failure because of my mistake in beating the mix.  I achieved some success because of adlibbing a dessert from it anyway.

The overdone syllabub was tasty although I didn't like the grainy butter texture.  The flavors of the wine and sherry were dominant and a good complement to the strawberries.  The citrus flavors were a pleasant understatement and the overall sweetness was low (just right). 

I was glad I put on the crumbly top -- the crunch was a good counterpoint to the cream and strawberries -- and I wished I had put some between the layers, too.

There was some separation which meant the strawberries at the bottom of the glass had "marinated" a bit in the liquid.  This was not a problem!  My guest taster and I both liked that. 

I wish I had chilled it a while before serving.  I would like to try this dessert again when the syllabub is cold.

So what about the whole "everlasting" part and the calf's-foot jelly?  If I had done the first part right, I would have gotten to that.  Of course this means I have to try the recipe again (yippeeeeee!).  Stay tuned for attempt number two!

Next day:  I tasted the chilled syllabub and, although I still didn't like the grainy texture, I liked the flavor and that it was cold.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Another Gadget Post -- A Pasta Cutter

I have this fun looking gadget in my kitchen that looks like this:

Note the orientation
How strange!  I thought about it and its parts to get a clue on what it does and decided it cuts pasta dough into strips.  My daughter searched the internet and confirmed my suspicions:  you can find it for sale listed as a vintage rotary pasta cutter or vintage noodle cutter.

The wheel width is not adjustable like some brands but if you aren't demanding a variety of noodle widths, you might be happy with this.  I wasn't quite sure how to use it but we decided to give it a try.  Of course that means we needed pasta dough!

I turned to my faithful The Great Food Processor Cookbook by Yvonne Young Tarr.

ISBN 0-394-73284-7
On page 365 you will find a simple recipe labeled

Pasta Dough

Yields enough to serve 4 to 6

3 cups flour
1 1/3 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup water

And water.
Combine flour and salt and sift together into container; turn machine quickly on and off twice.

Turn on machine and add eggs, 1 at a time, until both are well incorporated, then start the machine again and add enough water in a thin, steady stream to make a soft, well-formed, but not sticky dough.  Cover dough and set aside for 30 minutes.

Knead dough according to directions for your machine until it is smooth and elastic, then turn out onto a lightly floured pastry board.

Divide dough into 4 equal-size pieces; roll out, one piece at a time, into very thin, even sheets of pasta.  Sprinkle each sheet lightly with flour and cut into desired pasta shape.

No pastry board but a floured counter top worked great.
My Notes

I used my mixer with a dough hook to do most of the kneading and found I had to add a little more water to make the dough soft instead of stiff and hard.  Once I got the right amount, the kneading looked "right" in that the dough was being manipulated by the hook instead of just bouncing around the bowl.

To use the pasta cutter, I tried holding it and dragging it across the dough in a variety of ways.
This is wrong!  : )
This picture shows me using the cutter upside down.  Not intentionally but I realized that the metal "V" acted as a shield to keep the cut noodles from staying between the wheels as it rolled.

There were several other issues I had to deal with.  One was that the wheels didn't really roll well; this was fixed by a bit of cooking oil dribbled down the shaft and the wheels rotated by hand until they turned smoothly.  The other is that the shield kept rubbing against the wheels; that was just a matter of wiggling it back and forth until it fit over the wheels and snapped into place without touching the wheels at all.

To get it to work well, I had to push it hard against the dough and it still didn't always cut the dough through.  I suspect the wheels need some sharpening, which I didn't do, but I found the noodles separated easily with a gentle pull from my fingers.

After the noodles were cut, I hung them on a wire rack to air dry for at least 30 minutes (as recommended by the cook book instructions for cutting fettuccine).
For the second batch, we put the rack horizontally and let the noodles hang below.
The cook book recommended that we fix the noodles by cooking them "for 5 minutes in a large amount of salted water", which we did.  After they were drained, we dressed them with browned butter and minced Seer Torshi (see this previous post and the next one!).

The Verdict

I liked how it cut noodles into a sensible width and made many at one time.  It worked much better after I oiled the axle and properly aligned the shield over the wheels.  Oh yes, and it worked much better when I held it in the correct position!

The noodles themselves were tasty:  tender not chewy (I cooked them al dente) and with a mild flavor that showed off the sauce well.

Success!  I would use this gadget again, just making sure it is oiled and properly aligned.  The finished noodles are a good width for my needs and I think they would be excellent in a soup as well as with other sauces.