Archive for the ‘Breakfast and Brunch’ Category

Unlikely Inspiration

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
Tyler Hines and Lacey Chabert (with strudel!). This and other Hallmark images copyright 2019 Crown Media United States LLC, Photographer: David Brown

One of the reasons that I love writing about food is that ideas for my writing can come from just about anyone or anything I encounter. People, books, films, television shows: all are grist for my food mill.

Last week I found a new source for fictional recipes. My sister-in-law and I made strudel based on a film I viewed on … I blush to admit it … the Hallmark Channel.

Hallmark movies are one of my guilty pleasures. As a writer and a sort-of intellectual, I critique them for their focus on young, heterosexual, single-race romance, as well as for their frequent factual errors.

As a viewer, I get sucked into them all the same. They abound with light and color. Their heroines often have glamorous and fun if unlikely careers. The films solve everyone’s problems in the space of two hours (including ads).

Early this month I watched Winter in Vail, a typical Hallmark offering. Its heroine, an event planner from Los Angeles, inherits a spacious chalet in Colorado and decides to move there in January to reinvent her life.

She shortly finds community, a boyfriend, and a new focus for her party-planning expertise: organizing an event called Strudelfest. The festival reinvigorates the center of town and gives her a chance to show off her long dormant pastry-making skills.

Like many Hallmark movies, “Winter in Vail” features what might kindly be called improbabilities … or might unkindly be called gross factual errors.

First, when the heroine arrives at her chalet for the first time, she is dismayed to find that there is no heat. There is running water, but it is potable only in one bathroom.

Anyone who has ever lived in a cold place in winter (this category does not include the film’s writers, apparently) knows that an unheated house with running water ends up with frozen, often burst, pipes.

Second, the hero and heroine spend their first date sledding down a mountain at 5 p.m. The sky is suspiciously bright.

I know that Vail, Colorado, is located at a slightly lower latitude than my home in Hawley, Massachusetts. It’s not far enough south to have a bright sky at 5 p.m. in January, however. The writers clearly know little about geography and astronomy.

Third, the heroine’s chalet is a mess when she arrives in town; it needs new flooring, new plumbing, better heat, and fresh paint on all the walls. The hero (who is also her contractor) manages to fix all of these issues in a few days and charges her next to nothing.

I wish I could find a contractor like that! I’m pretty sure I never will.

Despite these and other conflicts with the world as most of us know it, the film is appealing. The actors portraying the heroine and hero, Lacey Chabert and Tyler Hines, are attractive and throw themselves into the fiction with gusto. And naturally as a food writer, I was captivated by the idea of a Strudelfest.

Strudels lined up at the fictional Strudelfest.

After watching Chabert and Hines learn to make strudel in the film, I decided to try my hand at this classic Viennese pastry. I have long needed a recipe related to Colorado for a project on which I am working.

I quickly confirmed that people in Colorado do indeed make and eat strudel (one cannot always trust the Hallmark Channel on such matters) and then got to work on my own mini-Strudelfest.

I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law Leigh, whose hands are lighter than mine when it comes to pastry … or anything else for that matter. I adapted the dough recipe for the strudel from King Arthur Flour and the filling from a variety of sources.

Our strudel didn’t quite match the one in the film in terms of looks. We (especially I) clearly need to work on our pastry skills. The end product was absolutely delicious, however.

“Winter in Vail” Strudel

Ingredients:

for the dough:

2-1/2 cups sifted bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons Canola or another neutral oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice

for the filling:

1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup dried cranberries
3 large apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (if you don’t have these, crumble up bread into small pieces by hand and pulverize them in a powerful blender or food processor; then toast the crumbs at 300 degrees until they crisp up a bit, about 15 minutes)

for the glaze:

1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
about 2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions:

Begin the day before you wish to serve your strudel. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour and salt on low speed. In a liquid measuring cup whisk together the water, the egg yolks, and the oil; then whisk in the lemon juice.

With the mixer running, add the liquid to the dry ingredients in a slow, steady stream. Mix on low speed for 10 minutes. You may need to stop the mixer from time to time to rearrange your dough.

At the end of the 10 minutes the dough should have formed a relatively smooth ball around the dough hook. It should be slightly tacky, not sticky but not dry; if it does seem dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing for a minute before checking the texture.

Raise the mixer speed to medium and continue to mix for 10 minutes more. Transfer the dough to a medium-sized oiled bowl and turn the dough over a few times to coat it lightly with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so to take off the chill. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Set up a table for your strudel preparation: a folding card table; a kitchen table; an island; or any small, flat area around which you can walk completely.

Place a tablecloth on the table, and place a wooden board on top. Lightly flour the board. Gently roll the dough out on the board, aiming for a rectangle that is about 13 inches long and 10 inches wide. Flour the tablecloth lightly, and oil your hands.

Using your fists rather than your fingertips (that is, the tops of your hands folded), stretch the dough in the air, trying to keep it rectangular. When it becomes a little hard to handle, place it on the lightly floured table.

Leigh at Work

Use your closed fists to stretch the dough one corner at a time, working outward from the center. The goal is to get the dough so thin you can see through it. Don’t be alarmed if the dough tears; you’ll be rolling it up, and the holes will be hidden inside.

Again, aim for a rectangle. The shorter sides of the rectangle should be about the length of your cookie sheet.

Once you have achieved the desired size, pull gently around the edges of the dough to make sure they aren’t too thick. If this is too hard, cut off the edges so you have a more-or-less uniform thickness.

Prepare your filling. Heat the orange juice to lukewarm, and place the dried cranberries in the warm juice. Let them soften for a few minutes while you slice your apples.

In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, the cinnamon, the salt, and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter. Stir in the apple slices, followed by the drained cranberries.

To assemble the strudel, place the bread crumbs on one half of the strudel (lengthwise), leaving an inch or so of crust on three sides with no crumbs. Cover the crumbed area with the apple mixture. Drizzle butter (don’t spread it; it might tear the dough) over the other half of the dough.

Fold the extra strudel dough on the three sides over the filling, and begin rolling gently at the end with the filling and continue to roll until you have a long roll ending with the butter.

Gently roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment paper, seam side down, and slide the parchment onto your cookie sheet.

Bake the strudel until it is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, turning it around in the oven after 15 minutes.

Place the baking sheet with the strudel on a wire rack to cool for 1/2 hour; then gently transfer it to a serving dish or platter and prepare the glaze.

To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Add a little more juice as needed to make the glaze drizzle-able but not liquid. Drizzle it on top of the strudel, and slice. Serves 8 to 10.

Foods of Our Fathers

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

This post will be quick because it’s hot outside, and I really, really want to spend all of Independence Day by the water!

For my TV appearance this week, I decided to make dishes beloved of a couple of our founding fathers. I started out with George Washington’s Hoe Cakes, which I first wrote about here after my visit to GW’s gristmill near Mount Vernon. They were as tasty as I remembered: crispy and corny.

I went on to make a strawberry fool in honor of John Adams and his pioneering wife Abigail Smith Adams. According to The Food Timeline and other sources, the pair were fond of a simple, rich gooseberry fool. I didn’t have any gooseberries—but strawberries have just reached their peak here in Massachusetts. So I made those into a fool. Everyone who tasted it raved.

Neither dish will warm up your kitchen too much, and both will make you respect the taste of our first and second president.

Here’s the recipe for the strawberry fool. If you have strawberries and cream in the house, you can eat it in less than 15 minutes. I wish you a Glorious Fourth!

 

Strawberry Fool (inspired by John and Abigail Adams)

Ingredients:

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Toss the strawberry pieces in half of the sugar, and let them sit for 10 minutes to juice up.

Place half of the strawberries and all of the strawberry juice in a blender. Puree the mixture; then stir it into the remaining strawberries.

Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks, adding the remaining sugar and the vanilla when it is almost ready. Fold in the berry mixture. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Hoe Cakes on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Strawberry Fool on Mass Appeal

Asparagus Quiche

Friday, May 20th, 2016

It looks as though we're in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy—but we’re actually discussing diets.

It may look as though we’re in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy. Actually, we’re discussing diets.

After a wet couple of weeks we finally have enough sun to bring asparagus up in our area. I eat grocery-store asparagus in the winter from time to time. But I CAN’T STOP EATING farm-stand asparagus in the spring. To me the flavor of asparagus embodies this green, lush, delicious season.

I tend to eat asparagus plain, but as the many asparagus recipes in these pages attest I do also put it into other dishes. Yesterday on Mass Appeal Seth Stutman and I put it into a quiche I have served several times already this spring—first with sautéed dandelion greens, then with sautéed spinach, and now with asparagus.

I based it on the idea of a spinach salad so I wanted to add red onion and plenty of cheese. One could of course add a bit of cooked bacon as well—particularly in the spinach or dandelion versions. I’m not sure the asparagus version needed the bacon; it has plenty of flavor the way it is. In fact, another time I might try a milder cheese to let the asparagus flavor dominate more. I’m happy with the recipe as is, however. (I just like to tinker!)

Seth and I also made rhubarb bread. That recipe was adapted from Land O Lakes. If you want to try my version, add 1 tablespoon orange zest to the batter and double the streusel. And if you’d like to use three little pans as I did, bake the bread for less time than the recipe suggests. The mini-breads took 45 minutes in my oven, but when in doubt use that toothpick!

You’ll note from the rhubarb video below that I forgot to add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I also FORGOT TO ADD THE CHOPPED RHUBARB!

I’m sure all TV stars have days like yesterday. At any rate, I hope they do.

I stirred the missing ingredients into the batter in the pans before baking the bread and threw a little more brown sugar on top for color. The end result was delicious; the recipe is very forgiving.

quicheweb

My Quiche

Ingredients:

1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2 splashes of extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
2 pinches salt (divided)
3 cloves of garlic, slivered
1 large bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and blanched for 1 minute (about 2 cups of pieces)
4 eggs
1 cup cream
5 to 6 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 9-inch pie shell

Instructions:

Sauté the onion pieces in a little oil until they caramelize (ideally, half an hour or more, but you can get away with 15 minutes if you have to). Sprinkle on a little salt, and remove them from the sauté pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Splash a little more oil into the pan, and sauté the garlic briefly (3 to 4 minutes) to soften it. Toss in the asparagus pieces, and sauté them just until they are warm.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, the cream, and a pinch of salt.

Sprinkle two thirds of the cheese over the pie crust. Top the cheese with the onion, asparagus, and garlic pieces; then pour on the cream/egg custard, and top with the remaining cheese.

Place the quiche on a rimmed cookie sheet to prevent spillage, and bake it for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Serves 4 to 6, depending on appetite.

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Anna and Caity’s Chocolate-Chip Scones

Friday, April 13th, 2012
Caity (left) and Anna

Stu Cosby is one of the most warm-hearted people I know. He loves being a father. He has two terrific kids of his own who have now grown up and made him a proud grandfather. When he married sweet Cathy a few years ago he happily acquired stepchildren.

At the time of their mother’s marriage to Stu, Caity and Anna were small, but they are now growing into lovely young ladies. (The photo above was taken at their confirmation in March.)

The two can be a little shy—but once they get to know you they show their smart and loving nature. They are also EXTREMELY tactful: when Anna sent me the confirmation photo she gently labeled it so that I would know which of the twins was which. (I’m learning; really, I am!)

One thing I know for sure is that these girls are getting to be great cooks. I salivated when I saw a photo of the scones on Facebook so Anna kindly sent me the recipe. I had never actually made chocolate-chip scones because, frankly, they are not precisely the sort of thing one needs. A scone has plenty of sugar and fat without chocolate.

Nevertheless, the mini-chocolate chips in this recipe don’t overwhelm the scones or their eater’s waistline. And Anna and Caity inform me that if one wishes to be truly virtuous one can substitute raisins or currants. I didn’t. I DID cut a couple of smaller scones, however, so that I could try the things with less guilt!

Caity and Anna’s scones looked a little nicer than mine. I couldn’t find my pastry brush so my egg wash got a little messy. And cutting dough has never been my specialty. My scones tasted just fine, however.

The Scones

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional sugar for topping off (I used sprinkles for the latter.)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter (cold), cut into small pieces
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla (I added this)
1 egg yolk for glaze (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with a silicone mat.

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With knives or a pastry blender cut in the butter. Stir in the chocolate chips.

In a small bowl or measuring cup whisk together the sour cream, whole egg, and vanilla. Using a fork, stir this mixture into the dry ingredients until large clumps of dough form. Do not over mix.

Use your hands to press the dough into a rough ball. (This is a little tricky, but as you press the dough will come together!)

Place the dough on a lightly floured cutting board. Pat it into a 7- or 8-inch circle (about 3/4 inch thick). If you wish to use the egg wash, beat the egg yolk briefly and then paint it onto the circle with a pastry brush. Top with additional sugar for crunch.

Use a serrated knife to cut the circle of dough into 8 triangles. Place them on the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. If they seem too crowded, use a second cookie sheet.

Bake the scones until they are golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool them for 5 minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 scones.

A Family Affair: Davenport Maple Farm

Friday, March 2nd, 2012
This photo was taken three years ago, but the ambiance hasn’t changed much! (Courtesy of Davenport Maple Farm)

March is Massachusetts Maple Month, and an annual pilgrimage for many syrup lovers is now underway. Nothing beats a visit to a sugarhouse restaurant at this time of year to watch sap being boiled and consume food made with fresh, hot syrup.

At Davenport Maple Farm, high on Tower Road in Shelburne, Norman Davenport and his wife Lisa are boiling sap furiously in their evaporator and greeting crowds at their restaurant, which is open only on weekends during maple season. The farm has been in the Davenport family for generations.

“We’re actually approaching our centennial,” Lisa Davenport told me recently. “Norman’s great grandfather Walter Davenport purchased the farm in 1913. There was always sugaring going on here prior to that. And they’ve always had cows here.”

She noted that the restaurant, which opened in 1990, was the brainchild of her husband’s father. At that point the family’s old sugarhouse was in need of substantial repairs, and Russell Davenport and his wife Martha decided to expand it into to a restaurant.

Two decades later the senior Davenports can still be found at the restaurant during maple season. Russ Davenport helps Norman run the evaporator and chats with customers, and Martha Davenport runs the cash register. Lisa and Norm’s daughter Maegan runs the kitchen while daughter Daina serves as head waitress.

“Norm’s sister Barbara Goodchild comes up and helps, too. It’s really a family affair,” said Lisa. “I supervise everybody. I do all the ordering and the payroll, I go out and do the shopping, and I fill in for somebody when they stop working.”

She admitted that while she enjoys maple season she can also find the family’s restaurant weekends intense.

“It’s a short season, six weeks long, but you’ve got a couple of weeks beforehand when you’re getting ready for it. There are some all-nighters. If the sap’s really running, you’ve got to keep boiling.”

She observed that she sometimes sets her cell phone to wake her up in the morning only to hear it ring in her pocket at the end of a long night at the evaporator.

“And we still have the cows to milk and regular chores to do,” she added. “It’s a long schedule, but it’s fun. You’re right in the middle of it all the time.”

Most visitors to the restaurant order breakfast, which is served all day, although the Davenports also offer lunch items. These include hamburgers made from their own beef, corn chowder, maple baked beans, and grilled cheese.

Asked to sum up the farm’s cuisine, Lisa Davenport thought for a minute. “Good home cooking. We don’t use any mixes; it’s all made from scratch. I bake all the bread.”

At home the Davenports use maple syrup in a variety of dishes. “My kids didn’t like spaghetti sauce or the tomato sauces,” Lisa told me. “They’d just have buttered pasta with maple syrup drizzled over it.” I am NOT telling my nephew Michael about this practice!

She also tops her tuna-noodle casserole with maple syrup and crackers. And she recommends a drop or two of syrup on scrambled eggs.

I’m not sure I’m ready for the tuna casserole or even the eggs. Nevertheless, I did enjoy making and eating the Finnish pancakes that are the restaurant’s most popular breakfast offering.

The recipe below served four of my family members, although Lisa explained that she doubles it for four. Portions are generous at Davenport’s!

The pancake tastes a bit like a rich custard as it doesn’t use a lot of flour.

Davenport Farm Finnish Pancakes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups fresh milk
4 large eggs
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter and place it in an 8-by-8-inch pan or a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Mix the milk and the eggs lightly with a beater; then add the sugar, the salt, and the flour. Pour the mixed batter over the melted butter and bake for 20 to 23 minutes.

Serves 4.

Photo by Michael Weisblat, who helped eat!