Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September Daring Bakers- Croissants

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non blogging members, Sarah, the daring bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French cooking, none other than Julia Child.

I wanted to like this recipe, really I did. I have always admired Julia Child and have had the pleasure of meeting her several times during my culinary tours of  duty.
But I was not wild about this recipe. I found the dough very hard to work with. The dough was tough and the method very tedious, even for croissant. The batch I made cooked too quickly and was doughy on the inside. Even Hubbie who eats anything would not eat them.
 I have made croissants a lot over the years and even bought a roller that cut out the triangles to get even shapes. I always used the recipe from The Village Bakers Wife and found it wonderful to work with. The top picture is one of the second batch of croissants I made using my tried and true recipe. The croissant came out a lot better and I promised myself to make them every month now just to keep in practice and justify keeping that behemoth roller cutter in the drawer.
The Village Bakers Wife is a great book and I recommend it for many recipes.
Here is a look at my croissant in progress.
And Hubbie ate two for breakfast!

Step one of many!

First rise of the day

Guess how many turns?

Yes, it is as big as it looks!

Cute as Croissant
Worth the effort!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Husk Cherries

Recently, I searched the local Farmers Market for something interesting to take to our friends who had invited us to their lake for the weekend. One of the ladies at the stand gave me a husk cherry to try. I have to say I was not impressed because they were a little dull looking among the vibrant colors of tomatoes, corn, eggplant and profusion of flowers. I got a little rush when I opened the husk to find a spotless yellow berry all shiny and plump. The taste was not that of a cherry, though it had the texture of a cherry. The taste was more like plum, cherry and melon all mixed together. It was addictive and I grabbed the last container.

Weekends at my friend's lake are always filled with food, drink, fun and definitely no fuss about any of those activities. The husk cherries were a perfect end to the meal, almost like eating little candies as we unwrapped them easily from the husk and tossed the natural wrapper over the porch railing.

I did a little research about the husk cherry and found it is also known as a Cape gooseberry. I had never had a gooseberry before and now think of the recipes I have seen for gooseberry pie with a little less skepticism.
Here is a great link to learn more about the husk cherry/cape gooseberry.
The lady at the market said there would be another batch to be harvested but as the days grow shorter and the leaves on the trees change their colors daily, I think that I may have missed their short appearance and will have to wait another winter or get them online.
Oh well, that gives me time to look for that gooseberry pie recipe.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Heirloom Tomatoes

Clockwise from top left: Striped German, Arkansas Traveller, Evergreen, Speckled Roman
Our little town here in MA has a couple of Farmers Markets. One of those is right on my way home from the grocery store. I feel almost obligated to check in each day that I pass it. It has a few very young enthusiastic workers who smile almost continuously as they inquire of each customer the destination dish of the produce they are getting. I have to admit to getting  many menu ideas just by standing in line and being a good listener.

Recently, I noticed the heirloom tomato display. As a tomato lover from childhood when I used to eat tomato sandwiches so juicy, it would dribble down my chin, I decided I needed to do some research. I am the only tomato lover in my family so the results are totally subjective and unscientific findings.

I sliced the tomatoes and adorned them with a little kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and chopped fresh basil. Of the four varieties chosen simply for eye appeal, the Evergreen and Striped German were the tastiest in the sliced tomato tasting.

Hands down - my favorite. It had all the things I look for in a tomato. The skin was thin and tender. The flesh was juicy, almost a little floral but packing a huge tomato flavor and had a smooth finish. I ate it all and wished I had bought more than the one.

Speckled Roman
was the smallest tomato of the group. It reminded me of a plum tomato. It was very juicy but not sweet at all.  The skin was the thickest and toughest of the group and the flesh was almost mushy. I might use this one as a concasse to help thicken a sauce.

Arkansas Traveller

I thought this one was going to be my favorite when I picked it at the farm stand. It looked like the perfect sandwich tomato and I could envision its brilliant redness layering with some crunchy lettuce and crispy bacon between the sheets of beefy bread..yummmmm. But it was a big disappointment. It tasted like nothing..just wetness. It had a thick skin, almost unchewable. The flesh was a nice texture of firm/soft but there was no flavor at all and I didn't need a second bite when that beautiful Evergreen was still on the plate.

Striped German
If a tomato can be fun, this is my party girl tomato. It looks adorable sliced and the flesh was glistening!
It was a big beefsteak tomato that demands attention on the plate. The skin was thin and melted in the mouth. The flesh was firm but also melted in the mouth with almost a buttery feel to it. I ate all of this one too even though I was very full by the time I got to this tomato. I would love to use this one in a Panzanella with a really nice bread to dance with it.

Well there you have it. Heirloom Tomatoes have been getting very popular. Follow the link I created for more information about them. I found the site really useful. I am planning my tomato garden for next year almost halfheartedly. I think I might prefer to support my local stand instead and get some more menu ideas.

If you have a favorite tomato variety, I would love to hear about it! I am always game for more "research".