I made that!

Pine nuts are expensive.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of by brandi on April 29, 2011

What a week!

Construction on my new business, The Pantry, is moving along, and I can finally see how the space is going to feel when all done. Such a good feeling. Then we released our class schedule on Monday and my “How to be a Pie Ninja” classes sold out in three days! And THEN, as if that wasn’t enough to make me blush, I wake up on Wednesday to the announcement that “I Made That” is a finalist for Saveur Magazine’s Best Cooking Blog award along with 101 Cookbooks, Lottie and Doof, Smitten Kitchen, Sprouted Kitchen and The Wednesday Chef! Seriously, my friends, I am glowing. And a little intimidated…I mean, I knew I had a few readers out there, but I don’t know how I landed in that company. All of a sudden I’m staring intensely at my photos, worried that they just aren’t up to snuff. And what recipe do you post when people are actually LOOKING? I was so scared I actually went out and bought $25 worth of pine nuts, because suddenly walnuts just weren’t good enough! I’m cracking people, I obviously can’t take the pressure. But thank you, whoever nominated me, you are a very nice person. And I mean that.

After a week like that there is only one answer: cake. And, well, I might as well put those pine nuts to good use…

So I toasted them.

And folded them into one of the weirdest cake batters I’ve ever made. It’s from the book “Urban Italian” by Andrew Carmellini, which is a book that I just love. Everything I’ve made from it has been right up my alley, and I’m excited to share this particular recipe. The book has you start with creaming the butter and sugar, and then go straight into adding all of the flour. Once all the flour is in, THEN you start adding the eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. That’s just crazy. But it worked. The cake has a beautiful crumb and it’s not too dense for my taste at all (did I mention it gets meringue folded into it? That probably has something to do with it).

It’s a simple cake, with the texture of a pound cake and a flavor that is almost savory. I made the recipe as he called for, except that I added salt, because all cakes want a little salt. And to be honest, I might add a bit more next time to make it feel even more savory. Or maybe make a salty caramel to pour over it. In fact I might just go do that right now. Certainly all that salt I just added makes it count as dinner rather than dessert, right?

Pine Nut Cake (Pinolata) Recipe (Andrew Carmellini):

cake batter:

2 cups pine nuts

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature

zest and juice of 2 lemons

4 cups flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 whole eggs

3/4 cup yogurt

for the meringue:

4 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

- Toast the pine nuts over very low heat in a dry saute pan until they have just begun to take on a golden color. Remove from the stove and reserve. I actually just toasted them in the oven…

- Prepare the batter

- Meanwhile, cream the sugar, butter and lemon zest together in a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment. Be sure to scrape down the sides as you go to make sure everything mixes evenly.

- When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour and baking powder. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated and then begin adding the eggs, one by one, waiting until each egg is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Turn the KitchenAid up to high for about 5 seconds to combine everything thoroughly, then scrape down the sides and the bottom with a spatula and mix in any bits that have failed to incorporate.

- Add the yogurt and mix in with the paddle attachment until it’s thoroughly incorporated.

- As you continue mixing, add the lemon juice and incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom and mix well with a spatula. Then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

- Fold a third of the meringue into the batter using a rubber spatula to combine well. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in well until the mixture is combined. Fold in the pine nuts, reserving about 3 tablespoons for the top of the cakes.

- Brush 2 9×5 loaf pans with melted butter. Fill each loaf pan with the batter. Smooth and flatten the tops with the spatula. Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with the reserved pine nuts. I forgot to do that part. (Now I’ll never win!)

- Bake the loaves on the middle rack until you can put a knife into each and bring it out clean, about 45 minutes.

- Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 30 minutes and then turn them out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

Homemade Doughnuts! Krispy Kreme style!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Playing With Yeast by brandi on April 4, 2011

Now I’ve really gone and done it. I knew it was a slippery slope, but how could one resist? I’ve made doughnuts before, with mixed success. I’ve probably been the most happy with my apple fritters, but apple fritters are basically in their own category. And ricotta zeppoli, I think I’ve nailed that one. But a perfectly executed, simple glazed doughnut, now that’s a challenge. It seems to me that there are two camps of thought on the topic of glazed doughnuts (we’re talking “raised” doughnuts here), and they revolve around Krispy Kreme: you’re either with them or against them. I know this is a controversial opinion, but having grown up in the South where Krispy Kreme reigns, where staring bug-eyed at those little discs moving along their little frying oil river after church on Sunday mornings was a pinnacle experience, I am a devoted fan. Since moving to the west coast, they are much less ubiquitous, and not having a car for 14 years kept me from seeking them out, which surely kept my waistline in check. All that changes today, because now I can make them myself. Very, very dangerous indeed. I suspect I’ll be renewing my gym membership this week.

For those nervous about doughnuts, let me assure you, they are worth it. While there is a lot of waiting time, the amount of time you’re actually making effort is quite minimal. So while they’re probably not a weeknight dessert (unless your workday ends quite early), they are perfect for a day when you have other things going on in the house. You can check in on them periodically, and once you get the system down, they practically make themselves! OK, not that easy, but you know what I mean.

I started with a very wet and sticky dough.

I let it rise until it doubled in size.

Then I rolled it out and stamped pretty little shapes in it.

I let those pretty rings rise again, until perfectly puffed.

And then I fried them and glazed them. I am very excited about the vanilla glaze. Oh yes. My chocolate glaze, well, it needs some work. And since I need to take a breather from having doughnuts around ALL THE TIME, I will get back to that another day. For now, the glazed doughnut, use it wisely.

GLAZED DOUGHNUTS RECIPE:

(Makes 10 – 12 doughnuts)

2 tsp active dry yeast

1 cup whole milk

12oz bread flour, divided

3 egg yolks

2 TBSP superfine sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 vanilla bean

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 oz butter

vegetable oil

- Heat the milk to 100 degrees. I just pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Stir in the yeast until it is dissolved. Transfer to a medium bowl and add 5 1/2 oz of the bread flour. Stir until it forms a smooth paste. Cover the bowl in plastic to prevent drying out and place in a warm spot to rise. The inside of a gas oven is a great place, oven turned off of course.

- When the paste has doubled in size (about an hour, depending on the temperature of your house, it will now look more like a sponge), add it to a kitchenaid mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the egg yolks, superfine sugar and salt and mix on low speed until smooth.

- Split and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to a small pot with the butter and vanilla extract. Heat just until melted. Add to the dough in the kitchenaid mixer and mix on low speed until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly add the rest of the flour, sprinkling in at the side. Keep mixing until it just comes together into a smooth dough. It will be quite wet and sticky, but should be able to hold together as one “lump” of dough. If not, add a bit more flour, one TBSP at a time.

- Brush a large bowl lightly with vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot to rise.

- Once the dough has doubled in size, pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes. This will make it easier to roll out.

- On a well-floured surface, gently roll out the dough to about 3/8” to 1/2” thickness. Use a cutter to stamp out whatever shapes you like. Place the stamped dough on a parchment lined sheet pan, cover with plastic and allow to rise again in a warm spot.

- Once the doughnuts are almost doubled in size, begin heating 1 1/2 to 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot. When the the oil reaches 360º start frying the doughnuts in batches. Fry them until golden brown on each side, the total frying time will be under 2 minutes. Use tongs to flip and retrieve them.

- Allow to drain on a wire rack over a sheet tray. While still warm, drizzle with glaze. If making chocolate doughnuts, wait until they have cooled and then dip half in the chocolate glaze.

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk

- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth. If it is lumpy, pour it through a fine mesh strainer.

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