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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Fruit Vinegar

Pear Vinegar (infused with chamomile) and Concord grape vinegar (infused with lemon thyme) 

When people think of vinegar, salad dressings and pickles usually spring to mind. Rarely does one think of fruit. But after staring wistfully at the couple hundred apple cores left from Thanksgiving pies, I researched fruit vinegars to use these fruit scraps that would otherwise be resigned to the trash heap. There are many ways to make vinegar but the simplest method is to ferment sugar into alcohol which is then oxidized into vinegar. Fruit, ripe with sugar, quickly ferments into alcohol so exposing it to air often spontaneously results in vinegar, much like wine that was forgotten about for decades or more. And like wine, fruit vinegars can preserve the aroma and flavor of fruit well past their harvest months. Peach, cherry, pear, raspberry, Concord grape, apple…any fruit is fair game for making vinegar.

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New Flours, New Flavors

I’m bored with baking, baking with wheat flour that is. Last year, I stumbled upon a case of faro and chestnut flours in my work kitchen and played around with pound cakes, muffins, and sponge cakes. As wheat flour has formed with basis of baking traditions in the United States, it was hard to find reliable recipes and baking information. (It was even harder to explain to a dining public cultured on wheat flour that chestnut flour contains neither nuts nor gluten…never mind its name). Although I’ve experienced more frustration than success, the challenge of baking with alternative flours has made baking fun again as intriguing flavors and unusual textures breathe new life into old recipes.

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Corn Flour

Corn Flour

I’ve been on a mad tear with the corn flour lately: corn flour biscuits, corn flour pancake, corn flour bread. Corn flour, which is super-fine ground cornmeal, adds a subtle corn flavor and stunning yellow hue to baked goods—all of the corn flavor with none of the grit. Although corn flour is gluten-free, I tend to use it for flavor rather than a flour substitute because when used in large amounts, the texture of cakes and breads become dry and crumbly. By far, my favorite corn flour treat has been this blueberry-corn flour poundcake. One taste of this poundcake and you’ll understand why blueberry and corn is a refreshing food pairing that offers respite from the humid haze of summer months.

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Chocolate Mousse Cake with Milk Sorbet and Pickled Cherries

I’ve always been a stickler for calling foods by their correct names. Gelato is gelato, not ice cream. A macaron and a macaroon are not the same cookie. So, I’ll be upfront and admit this recipe should really be called a sherbet since it contains dairy. By strict definition, sorbets are frozen concoctions of fruit, syrup, and on occasion, an egg white or two, while sherbets are essentially sorbets with a small amount of milkfat. In other parts of the world, sherbet also refers to an effervescent fruit beverage. Either way, sorbet and sherbet refer to fruit-based frozen concoctions of which this frozen milk is neither so I am sticking with a name that best describes the texture and one that most people will recognize: milk “sorbet”.

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Ricotta is underrated in the cheese world—always a supporting actress but never the lead. Cheese connoisseurs wax poetic about the vintage of a Cheddar cheese or the stink of a blue cheese but I’ve never heard people swoon over ricotta (unless they’re debating which ricotta makes the best cannoli filling). This ability to fade into the background makes ricotta the perfect companion in desserts where its creaminess and simple sweet taste creates a blank canvas for flavors to co-mingle and meld. My obsession with incorporating cheese into desserts thus inspired me to make this simple cheese. Although my initial attempts at making ricotta met with paltry curds and oceans of whey, I felt that ricotta was a Mount Everest worth climbing as commercial ricotta tastes so bland and nondescript.

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Brioche is technically a French pastry (although I tend to use it in my repertoire as a rich yeast bread). Its high egg and butter content gives the pastry a flaky crust and tender crumb and although it is excellent when served plain, I also like to change the flavor of the dough with the seasons. For spring, I chose a strawberry-almond brioche. Strawberries can be a tricky ingredient to bake with because their high water content will wreak havoc in doughs and their elusive floral, winy flavor can be difficult to capture in ice creams and creamy desserts. For this brioche, I use dried strawberries, which are expensive. I’ve never seen them for less than $10 a pound so you can buy fresh strawberries and dry them yourself (which takes a couple hours in a dehydrator) or suck up the cost and save some time. Either way, don’t be tempted to work fresh strawberries into this (or any) dough; their flavor will not be intense enough and their texture will be obliterated once they hit the mixer.

 

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