Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bergamot Madeleines

I really wanted some Madeleines. For a while, I've been wanting some. But since I have these bergamots, I thought I should use some of them for it. Unfortunately I didn't have a pan, and I didn't really want to buy one. Aside from a clutter issue, there's also the unitasker issue as well as the "how often will I really make these? Enough to warrant the cabinet space?" question. So, instead of going out and finding a pan, I asked my Facebook friends if anyone had a pan I could borrow (and return with a batch of fresh pastries). Not surprisingly, no one actually had this specialty pan (or if they did, I guess they just didn't want to share it?). So I went out to find one, ultimately deciding that I will simply make sure I use it often enough to warrant the space it'll take up.

I remembered seeing some old tin ones in thrift shops lately. I mostly remember it because I saw a bunch, and I thought it was odd, and I also had to talk myself out of getting one. That whole cabinet space thing again. So, I went to a billion thrift shops, and is usually the way when you're looking for something specific you saw there recently, no one had any pans for me to buy. From there I went on to the restaurant supply store (no luck), and so many other stores I honestly lost track of where I'd been. There were two places where I saw non-stick ones, but you don't want a non-stick Madeleine pan, if you want the browning to be even (which I did). So I kept looking. Seven hours after I first left my house, my quest was finally over. Sur la Table sells non-stick and stamped steel ones. They had two non-sticks left in stock (weird), and a million stamped steel. I got my steel pan, and moved along before I got tempted by the other objects to look at.

This recipe is adapted from the Chez Pim one, though I stuck fairly close to the recipe this time. On account of that, I'm just going to do the paraphrase thing with my changes and comments in italics. Hope you enjoy!

4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup bergamot syrup (see below, but make this before you do anything else)
zest from onebergamot orange
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups even of cake flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder (I doubled this since mine is close to expired)
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (she uses salted; I used unsalted and a teaspoon of kosher salt)
Approximately two more tablespoons of softened butter for brushing the pan, plus some more flour

Beat together eggs and sugar. Add zest and syrup and beat well. Mix together baking powder and flour. Fold in with a whisk or spatula. Fold in melted butter. Put the batter in a pastry bag and refrigerate, OR leave in bowl and press a piece of saran wrap against the batter, then refrigerate. Leave in fridge 2 hours to one day. Brush butter in the molds of the pan, taking special care to get all the nooks and crannies. Then sift flour over the pan, shake then tap out the excess. Put the pan in the fridge while the batter is chilling.

Heat oven to 450F. Remove pan from fridge and fill molds with 1 1/2" diameter-ish amount of batter. You may pipe this (that's what she does), or you can use spoons, or a portion scoop (that's what I did with about a 1 tablespoon scoop; she pipes)  or whatever. Put the pan in the oven and let it bake 6 minutes. Then crack the door of the oven open, turn the heat down to 400F and let them bake another 2-4 minutes, or until the edges are golden browned and the bump in the middle of the pastry springs back when you press it lightly. Remove from oven and let sit for a minute on a rack or the counter. Then lift up the pan about 4" from the counter, and drop it. The pastries will pop out. Transfer them to your mouth or a tray. Wipe out the pan with a damp cloth, then stick it in the freezer for 2-3 minutes (don't do it longer than this or it's a pain to butter). Butter and flour again, then fill and bake again. This recipe makes 36 units, but I am pretty sure I'd have gotten at least 48 had I not so dramatically overfilled the first batch. If you don't need a full batch, this will keep, well wrapped, in the fridge for a day or two.

Bergaot syrup:

1/2 cup bergamot juice (roughly one orange's worth)
1 cup sugar

Boil together until reduced by about 1/3 volume. Cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ichangensis Marmalade

I think that Lisa might actually be the Citrus Goddess of my dreams. Just when I think she's shocked and awed me with not only her fruit selections, but her incredible generosity in sharing these fruits with me, she pulls another trick out of her sleeve. This time, with the box of bergamots that came yesterday, were five Ichangensis lemons. I kind of didn't believe it at first, while I was staring at them in my lap. I was thinking, "there's no way these are what they say they are. How is this even possible?" I was so shocked that I actually set the bergamots (you won't believe this) to the side so I could just stare at this rare and impossible to find fruit for a few minutes.

See, you guys may not know this about me, but bergamot, although my favorite citrus in the world, is not the only citrus I am interested in. I kind of love them all. Everyone of them has its own kind of personality, allure, mystery and thing about it that makes it beautiful and perfect in every way. From the humble Navel orange, to the exotic-looking Buddha's Hand. All of them are perfection; their own unique kind of perfection. There are definitely citrus I prefer over others, but at the end of the day I can't really think of a single one I don't love and appreciate.

There are, however, some citrus I've chosen to put out of my mind forever, because I know deep down I will never get to know them in person. The Ichang lemon was one of those, until yesterday. I didn't ever think I'd ever see one in person, let alone have five of my very own to experience. So when I read the note telling me what they were, I couldn't believe my eyes for a few minutes. Once the shock wore off, I thought about what the best ways I could honor them could be. And what I ultimately decided was that some of them would become marmalade, since what is marmalade if not the boiled down essence of a citrus? Boiled down essence you can enjoy alone, or with other foods. Which gives you a variety of ways to experience the fruit, limited exclusively by the amount of marmalade you've made. This recipe used only two of the five, so the remaining three will be made into candies, with the piths, pips and membranes used to make pectin. Nothing being wasted here!

Anyway, this recipe is pretty similar to the recipe for bergamot marmalade I use. I tasted the juice and peel of these while I was making the marmalade, and they're glorious. The marmalade will be wonderful for a lot of things. However, since I wanted to make sure that I was very, very careful with what I'd made, I canned these in four-ounce jars to ensure there could be no possible wasting of marmalade happening because a jar didn't get used quickly enough once it was opened.

So, although this recipe probably gets filed in a list of recipes most of you won't be able to make, I wanted to share it with you anyway. If you can get your hands on some of these, make this, and enjoy it. If not, you can still use the recipe for citrus you've got available to you. Hope you enjoy!

2 Ichang lemons, zested into strips (I used a zester tool), deseeded and fruit/juice removed from pith and chopped up
5-6 cups water
more water
sugar by volume
pinch salt

After zesting your lemons, put the peels in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil ten minutes, then drain. Add 5-6 water, juice and pulp of lemons, and the pith, seeds and membranes tied up in cheesecloth or in a contained strainer. I normally would only use 4 cups of water, but I decided it'd be worth the extra boiling time to be able to rinse any Ichangensis essence off my plates, bowls and utensils into the large saucepan. Boil the whole thing for 10 minutes more, then remove from heat, cover and let sit overnight. You can let it sit in the fridge or on the back of the stove, whichever you prefer. In the morning, remove the cheesecloth and its contents. Pour the remaining contents of the saucepan into a measuring cup and find out how much is in there. However much is in there, add that much volume of sugar (or a little less, if you prefer marmalade to not be quite so sweet). Also, add the pinch of salt. Boil it, stirring constantly, until it passes the gel test. Ladle your mixture into sterilized four-ounce jars, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bergamot Scones

Lisa very, very kindly has sent me a new batch of bergamots! I have a lot of plans for these guys. Perhaps too many plans, since I might actually need a tree of my very own to have enough fruit to make as much stuff as I'm interested in. But I'm going to roll through as much of my list (which I'm keeping a surprise!) as I can, so we all have new ways to play with bergamot. So, feel no surprise if you see nothing BUT bergamot from me for a little bit. This only happens once a year, so I figure y'all can be entertained by it instead of annoyed. Also, feel free to make any of these recipes with another citrus fruit than bergamot. Y'all should also expect to see a lot of adapted pastry recipes, because pastry is what I'm particularly interested in right now. Which is kind of weird, considering I don't have much of a sweet tooth.

The original scone recipe I adapted this from can be found here, at Rock Recipes. The original recipe has raisins in it, and stuff like that. But I changed it about so it'd fit what I wanted for the bergamot I was using in it. I think this particular scone recipe would be lovely done up with Meyer lemon, also. Or even sweet lemon would be quite nice.

3 cups flour
2/3 cups white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
zest of one bergamot, finely grated

3/4 cup cold or frozen butter, diced into cubes or sliced (I sliced mine, but convention is to cube it)
 
juice of one bergamot orange
1 cup cream

In a food processor, pulse the first set of ingredients (you can do this with a pastry blender or two knives, if you prefer. But I am lazy and like to make my scones in the processor, especially when I'm engaging in 5am insomnia baking). Toss in the butter and pulse again until you've got pea sized bits of flour in there (just like when you make pie crust). Add in the bergamot juice and the cream, and pulse again until the dough is starting to combine but it not very well combined. This is important because scones should never be tough. Tough scones ruin breakfasts and make people cry. And we all know making people cry is not a very nice thing to do.

Onto a well-floured board, turn out dough. There will be bits of dough all over your board. This is okay, and is expected. Flour your hands really well, and the top of the dough in as much as you can. Start pushing the dough together into a really big disk with your floured hands (reflour as needed; the dough is quite sticky), patting it to 1 inch thickness as you go. Using a cup or biscuit cutter, cut rounds from the dough and put on a sheet pan that's lined either will a Silpat or parchment. Leave about 2" space between each scone disk. When your disk is used up, repress the scraps together and cut again. You want to do this repressing (I feel like I'm stopping the dough from doing what it wants when I type repress in) with as little flour as possible so you don't make them tough, and you don't want to work the dough very much. But you also don't want to waste it, so this is a good way to not waste dough.

Once all your scones are on sheet trays (should take 2 unless you're making them really big, and then I guess even then it'll take two pans), freeze or refrigerate the trays. If you put them in the freezer, leave them there for an hour, then take them out, put them in a freezer-safe container or bag, and put back in the freezer. You can bake them straight from the freezer by simply adding another 2-3 minutes to the bake time (I did this with about half of them). If you put them in the fridge, take them out after an hour, sprinkle a little sugar on top, and put them straight into a preheat, 375F oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. This should make about 16 reasonably sized scones (I used a 1.5 inch diameter cutter, I think).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cacio y Pepe (aka, cheese and pepper pasta)

I guess I've been on an Italian kick lately. I'm not really sure why, but I'm going to blame it on the fetus. Every time I eat Italian food or drink coffee, it's like a Solid Gold dance-a-thon is going on in my uterus.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about this particular dish for a while now. I've been hesitant to make it, because Ross is really not huge on black pepper. He'll eat it (but admittedly, there's only been one time since I've known him that he's refused to eat something. Generally he'll eat things he doesn't even like, unlike me), but he's not into it. And generally, he'd prefer to just dispense with the pepper entirely if possible. So that can make serving this kind of a mean thing - I mean, imagine: you're sitting there, happy as a clam with your massive bowl of yums, while your companion is sitting there picking at their massive bowl of yucks. I really feel like if eating isn't making you supremely happy, you're just not doing it right. Hence, I was hesitant.

But he said to go for it, so I went for it. And it turned out that he really loved this dish. Which proves, once again, that proper care and handling of an ingredient can turn something from gross to wondrous. This is also an incredible week-night meal, since it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare (so Daniel, this is getting posted for you!). Hope you enjoy!

1 pound spaghetti
4 ounces grated pecorino (ideally - I made this one with parmesan because that's what I had)
2 cups reserved pasta water
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more for the table
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Boil your spaghetti in heavily salted water until al dente, about 6 minutes. Get a couple cups of the pasta water and set it aside, then drain the pasta well. In the same pot, heat your oil. When it's rockin' hot, add the pasta and a cup or so of the water. Stir well, then dump in your pepper and cheese and keep on stirring. You may need more water to make your sauce, and if so, add it. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Variations:

- Some people use butter. Some people say this is unacceptable. I put in 2 tablespoons, because I'm cheeky like that.
- Bacon. This is wrong and non-traditional by all accounts, but it does taste good. If you're going to put in bacon, cut up 3 strips and cook it with the olive oil. Don't drain the fat. I did this because Ross asked me to, and he's nice to me so I thought it was okay.