Bake Sale!


Last night, my modern dance group, Gnosis, held our second annual show Dance for Another Day to help fund Lupus research. Highlights included cowboys in rhinestone-studded chaps, dancing dolls, pop n’ locks, ochos, singing into shoes, and yummy treats courtesy of the Bojon Gourmet, vended by my lovely sister, niece, and sister in spirit, Isaac the Girl. Apologies to anyone who did not get to sample the goods I made for the pre-show bakesale; here are some photos to make you drool/jealous. Recipes coming soon!

Gluten-free espresso brownies with salted butter caramel
(‘These are heaven in my face,’ said T.)

Cranberry-apple crumble bars with oats and pecans



Cheddar-Parmesan scones with fresh dill

I also baked these pumpkin cupcakes, but made up my own recipe for the cream cheese frosting. Sadly, I neglected to snap a photo before they got devoured.
Don’t despair *too* much if you missed the show (and the goods) this year; we’ll do another in 2010. I’ll keep you posted.

Coconut Cardamom Arroz con Leche

My favorite kinds of breakfasts are ones that also double as dessert. Though commonly eaten as an after dinner treat in Latin America, an extremely talented cook named Nancy makes arroz con leche every morning at the band camp that the doc and I attend every summer. There’s nothing better than a bowl warm, sweet, creamy rice infused with cinnamon and dotted with plump raisins on a foggy, cold morning under the redwoods when you’ve been up dancing til 4 am the night before.

Although I woke up indoors this morning, to a crisp, sunny dawn (ok, it was 10:30), after going to bed at midnight after watching the Colbert Report on Hulu, arroz con leche sounded like just the ticket.

Sweetened condensed milk, commonly called for in arroz con leche, scares me. Why would I use scary, sticky, canned dairy when I can get organic, Strauss creamery milk that comes in a gorgeous glass bottle, and this unrefined hippie sugar I found at Rainbow?
‘Herbally purified,’ it claims to be… hmmmm, I wonder what herb they could be talking about???
Milk shouldn’t be shelf stable – that’s just wrong. It should be kept in a refrigerator, like God intended. Canned coconut milk, on the other hand, that’s ok by me. I like putting coconut milk in just about everything. Coconut milk makes me think of cardamom, so I decided to add that to my arroz this morning, along with some vanilla bean. Pretty fantastic, if you ask me. Jay scarfed it down and went back for seconds; and he doesn’t even like rice pudding. So there you have it.
Arroz con Leche with Coconut Milk, Cardamom and Vanilla

Makes 4 servings
Time: about 1 hour

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup white Jasmine or Basmati rice, rinsed briefly in a strainer
3″ cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
14 oz. can coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water (or additional milk)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sugar or sweetener of your choice
1/3 cup raisins or currants

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the rice, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 – 2 minutes. Add the milks, water, vanilla bean pod and scrapings and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the rice is very tender and the liquid has thickened somewhat, 20 – 30 minutes.

Add the sugar and raisins. Cook 5 – 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until thickened to your liking. Let stand off the heat for 10 minutes before serving. It will continue to thicken as it sits, so thin with a little milk if you like.

This rice pudding is best served slightly warm. Store in the fridge for up to several days.

Winter Squash and Sage Gougeres

Oh winter squash and cheese, will I ever get tired of combining you?

This morning, I set out to make gougeres, heavenly little puffs of pate a choux with loads of gruyere cheese folded in. Pate a choux, like most things with fancy French names, is deceptively easy to make. (Take a brunoise, for instance. Sounds tricksy, doesn’t it? Well it just means ‘a fine dice.’ Thanks, Frenchies, for constantly making us feel inadequate.)

Here in SF, gougeres seem to be the new scone, popping up at chic coffee shops, like Coffee Bar and Tartine, as a nourishing, portable, savory treat for any time of day. They are rather like the scone’s refined, city-dwelling cousin; lighter, crispier and with a name that makes you salivate just pronouncing it.

For my first trial, I added small cubes of roasted squash and some crumbles of goat cheese to the finished batter, but it made the dough overly moist and heavy. The goat cheese dried out in the oven and the dough tasted overly salty. That didn’t stop Jay from making them all disappear by the time I got home from work, though. For trial 2, I (sob!) omitted the goat cheese and added the squash with the other wet ingredients at the beginning, cooking off some of its liquid with the flour. These gougeres baked up light, tender and crisp. I reduced the salt by half, and found the balance of flavors to be just right.

These addictive little puffs would make an elegant and luxurious start to a fall cocktail party, or a bojon brunch. Try serving them with pomegranate mimosas or a simple glass of prosecco.

Other directions you could go with this recipe would be:
-smoked paprika or chipotle
-curry powder
-bacon!
-omit the gruyere topping, and shove some crumbles of blue cheese and a few toasted walnut pieces into the center of each unbaked gougere

If you live with a gougere hog, or are baking for guests, you might consider doubling this recipe as there never seem to be quite enough of these to go around. The batter can be made a day or two ahead and scooped just before baking, or you can scoop the dough onto a parchmented sheet pan, freeze, then save the frozen dough blobs in a ziploc baggie for instant gougere gratification whenever you please.

Winter Squash and Sage Gougeres

Makes 20 1 1/2″ puffs
Time: about 1 hour

1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mashed roasted winter squash (such as butternut)
1/4 cup (2 oz.) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 – 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
4 oz. grated gruyere, divided

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425º. Line a 12×18″ baking sheet with parchment paper and place on top of another baking sheet (these tend to over-brown on their bottoms.)

Combine the milk, squash, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Dump in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball and a film forms on the bottom of the pan, a few minutes.

Dump the mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat on medium speed for a minute or so to release some heat, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined and smooth after each addition. Add in the sage and three quarters of the cheese, beating to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and fold a few times to make sure the mixture is homogenous.

Using a #40 spring-loaded ice cream scoop (or a piping bag fitted with a #8 plain tip, or the old spoon-and-finger method) scoop out 20 balls of the mixture and place them, 4×5, on the parchmented pan.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so, to dry out the centers slightly. (If underbaked, the gougeres will deflate as they cool.)

These are best served warm from the oven, but will keep for a couple days at room temp. You can re-toast them before enjoying, if you like.

Mac and Cheese with Winter Squash, Bacon and Collards

When you think of Italians, it is likely that several characteristics come to mind. Sylish, perhaps. Romantic, sophisticated, passionate. Unless you’ve spent a fair amount of time with them, I doubt you associate with them the words picky, stubborn or dogmatic.
Prepare to be disillusioned.
Italians don’t like eating things with too many flavors going on. They like simple, familiar, traditional dishes. Mention the words pizza, pesto and shrimp together in a single culinary creation and you will have earned yourself one condescending, Italian sneer. (I know this from firsthand experience.)

 The Italian phrase which sums up this gastronomical hegemony is ‘mettere un po’ di tutto,’ or ‘to put in a little of everything.’ While here in gli Stati Uniti chefs earn praise and notoriety for dreaming up creative concoctions, an Italian would shrink away, horrified, from foods we consider basic or mundane. Eggs for breakfast: disgustose. Barbequed chicken pizza: ma, dai! Salad dressing: Madonna, che paura! Mettere un po’ di tutto is not a good thing to an Italian. In fact, it is a very bad thing. If you proffer a dish to an Italian and they ask what’s in it (notice the look of suspicion) and if, after you’ve told them, they smile sardonically, cock an eyebrow, give little nod and say, ‘Ah, hai messo un po’ di tutto!’ you can bet you will be dining alone.

Of all the things Italians hold sacred, pasta, and of course someone’s mamma, are probably the two most inflammatory topics you could pick if looking to be cursed and gesticulated at in Italiano. Forget to salt your pasta water? Inexcusable. Too much sauce? You may as well have doused it in gelato by the look of horror you will receive. And Santa Maria forbid you use the wrong shape of pasta. Everyone knows that pasta alla carbonara gets bucatini while pasta in brodo needs, nay, demands orecchiette. Open any Italian’s cupboard and you will find at the very least a dozen different blue boxes containing varying shapes and sizes of pasta; not just because they eat a lot of it, they will tell you matter-of-factly, but because it is essential to have a variety of shapes at the ready at all times. Since an Italian will never reheat pasta the next day, every Italian owns a little scale on which the pasta is weighed before cooking. Go out for chinese with a few Italians and they will each order two courses: a pasta dish and a meat dish. They will eat their pasta first, and the meat second. So while the Mafia may have invented ‘family business,’ Italians don’t do ‘family style;’ at least, not in Chinese.

This mac and cheese makes a perfect one dish meal, another thing that Italians don’t do, as it contains the four basic food groups: veggies, grains, dairy and bacon. I clipped the original recipe from an old Martha Stewart, in an article on lightening up traditionally rich dishes. It did not call for bacon, rather for nonfat milk and ricotta cheese. I did away with those immediately in favor of whole milk and aged cheddar, but appreciated the basic theory of the dish. The squash gets cooked and mashed into the milk, thickening into a sauce and eliminating the need to make a roux. I did reduce the amount of pasta called for, and add in some roasted chunks of squash, ribbons of collard greens, and caramelized onions. (You may think I did this for health reasons, but when I asked my dieting housemate, Luisa, why she didn’t add any veggies to her risotto bianco she frowningly replied, ‘troppo pesante,’ or ‘too heavy.’ The phrase was accompanied by a gesture similar to that used to connote the male reproductive center. So there you go.)And, because it makes everything better, crisp lardons of bacon. (How could you not love something called ‘lardons?’)
Buon Appetito!


Baked Mac and Cheese
with Roasted Squash, Collard Greens, Bacon and Sage
Makes one 9x13x2″ casserole, 8ish main-course servings
1 medium winter squash, such as butternut, about 2 lbs, sliced lengthwise
6-8 strips of bacon, such as Niman Ranch cured applewood smoked
3 medium red onions (10 oz.), sliced thinly
1 cup breadcrumbs from 1-2 slices crusty boule
2 1/2 cups whole milk
8 oz. grated cheese, such as extra sharp white cheddar, gruyere or goat gouda
1 oz. grated parmesean
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
10 oz. penne
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed, leaves halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2″ ribbons
salt
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Place the squash halves cut side down on a lightly oiled sheet pan and roast until soft and collapsed in places, about 1 hour. Remove and let cool enough to handle. Scoop out and discard the strings and seeds, and remove the flesh from the skin. Set 1 cup of flesh aside, and chop the rest into approximately 1″ chunks. You should have about 2 cups.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.
Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until browned and crispy, turning once or twice. Remove to a paper towel to drain, then slice into 1″ squares, or lardons.
Pour off all but a tablespoon or two of the rendered fat. Saute the onions over medium-low heat until golden, soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan with a metal spatula. Remove the onions to a large bowl and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of the fat to the pan, and fry the breadcrumbs, with a few pinches of salt, until crisp. Scrape out of the pan and set aside.
Place the 1 cup of squash in the skillet with the milk and simmer for a few minutes, then mash or puree smooth. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the collards and cook until crisp-tender, a few minutes. Fish out with tongs or a slotted spoon or skimmer, cool enough to squeeze out excess moisture, and add to the the bowl with the onions. Dump in the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Strain and toss with the onions and collards.
Add the squash chunks, milk mixture, cheeses, sage and bacon and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt or what have you if necessary.
Brush a 9x13x2″ casserole with some of the you-know-what fat. Spread the pasta in the pan and scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over.
Bake at 350º until bubbling and golden, about 30 minutes.

Cuckoo for Curry Powder: Curried-Coconut Sweet Potato Tea Cake

I’ve never exactly been a trendsetter. All too often I find myself clambering onto the bandwagon just as all the cool passengers have already transfered. Take fourth grade, for instance. My best friend and I spent weeks choreographing a dance to our favorite song, Ice Ice Baby, for our school’s talent show. When you’re 9, that seems like a really long time. While we looked great in matching black bike shorts, oversized t-shirts, slouch socks and Converse, the performance got off to a rocky start when the sound came on too low and we couldn’t really stick our dramatic and suspenseful opening. We did our best, though, jumping, spinning, popping, locking, and finishing in breathless exhilaration. Afterwards, riding a stellar performance high, a fifth grader sauntered up and, rolling her eyes, notified us that Vanilla Ice was totally last year.

Which, to be fair, he totally was.

Similarly, while many conoscenti have been touting the gustatory pleasures of curry powder for years, I have only just begun to feel the craze. I have sprinkled it on popcorn covered in butter, olive oil, salt and nutritional yeast. I have eaten Humphry Slocombe’s Peanut Curry ice cream and liked it. I have taken multiple swipes of the curry flavored, coconut milk enriched sweet potato shiitake goo that comprises the veggie empanadas where I work.
Inspired by that combo, I decided to bake these flavors into a rich, moist, and satisfying tea cake. I had sweet potatoes and coconut milk left over from last week’s canela buns, and decided to use coconut oil rather than butter in the batter. A happy amount of curry powder, some eggs, sugar, flour and leavening made a simple batter which I spread in a loaf pan and sprinkled with a salted, curried sugar.
If you want to be even more badass, and if you can find it, use coconut palm sugar in the batter. Toss in half a cup of dried fruit if you like (golden raisins plumped in coconut rum would be sweet; chopped dates or prunes would be good, too), or some toasted pecans or shredded coconut. This tea cake works any time of day; breakfast, lunch, or, well, tea time. Enjoy plain, or with a smear of cream cheese, creme fraiche or greek yogurt.
This recipe could be easily veganized by using egg substitute or 2 tablespoons flaxseed blended with 6 tablespoons of water until smooth. But, honestly, vegans are so last year…
Curried-Coconut Sweet Potato Tea Cake
Makes one 8 x 4″ loaf, 8 – 10 servings
1 cup (8 oz.) sweet potato puree
6 tablespoons (3 oz.) virgin coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Topping:
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line an 8×4″ loaf pan with parchment paper, and brush lightly with a bit of coconut oil.
Combine the sweet potato puree, coconut oil and milk, sugars and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder, curry powder and salt. Add the dries to the wets and fold gently until thoroughly combined. Spread evenly in the pan.
Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top.
Bake the loaf for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly dry with a few clinging crumbs. Cool 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely before slicing.

Sourdough apple-oat pancakes with aged cheddar… and bacon!

A vegan’s worst nightmare, and not diet food by any stretch of the imagination, you would be hard pressed to find a better cure for a hangover than these deliciously satisfying cakes, other than a bit of the old ‘hair of the dog.’ I made this discovery the first time I made the original recipe, from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors, on New Year’s Day of this year. But this makes a satisfying breakfast even when your liver is not chastising you for the uncouth way you treated it the night before.
In my un-ending quest to find more ways of using up sourdough starter, I adapted this recipe yesterday morning, subbing starter for the flour and buttermilk originally called for. I’ve never been a huge bacon fan (I like the smell of it better than the taste) but I sampled my first bacon ice cream a couple weeks ago and it brought on the bacon lust of which so many have already fallen victim. I purchased some cured, applewood smoked Niman Ranch bacon to use for a future post (spoiler alert: butternut squash mac and cheese with sage, collard greens and the ‘b’ word), and was anxious to test it out. I couldn’t think of a better accompaniment to these cakes. The cured bacon crisped up beautifully in a hot skillet in just a few minutes. I toyed with putting the bacon IN the pancakes, but had mercy on Jay, a ‘vegetarian’ (or ‘environmentally responsible eater,’ he just corrected indignantly, reading over my shoulder), but you sure could. I did, however, cook the cakes in the rendered bacon fat, which may make you feel obese just reading about it but, really, it’s pretty much the same as using butter. And it would be a shame to let those flavorful oils go to waste. (If you want to go the veg route, you won’t be any worse off using butter to fry the cakes. You might try using a smoked cheddar on top, such as Meyenburg’s smoked goat cheddar.)
A couple things make this recipe unique. First, the eggs get separated, the yolks whisked into the batter and the whites whipped to soft peaks and folded in. Secondly, the acidity in the starter reacts with the baking soda, causing the batter to foam up, as per usual in sourdough cakes. Last but not least, slices of extra sharp cheddar are laid over the cooked side of one cake, melting and giving the cakes a deliciously unexpected bite. Oats and grated apples give the cakes texture and earthy, tart flavor; a drizzle of maple syrup brings it all together, and the side of smokey, crisp bacon- well, it just makes everything that much better.
Don’t just save this for hungover mornings-after; these tasty cakes are the perfect way to start any crisp, fall, bojon day. If you are nursing a hangover, try sipping a bit of Calvados along side.
You’re welcome.
Sourdough apple-oat pancakes with aged cheddar and bacon
Makes 8 4″ cakes, 2-4 servings
3 strips of bacon per bacon-eater (I recommend Niman Ranch, cured, applewood smoked)
8 oz. (1 cup flat, 2 cups or more bubbly) liquid sourdough starter
2 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons melted butter (or try bacon fat!)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 large, crisp apple (such as granny smith, pink lady, or cameo), 7 – 8 oz, grated (about 1 cup)
2 oz. aged, extra-sharp cheddar, thinly sliced
maple syrup, for serving
Fry the bacon in a cast iron skillet (or a griddle if you are so fortunate) over medium heat, turning a couple times, until done to your liking, 5 minutes or so. Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour the fat into a ramekin and reserve.
Measure the starter into a medium bowl. Whisk in the yolks, butter, baking soda, spices and salt to combine. Stir in the grated apple and oats.
Put the egg whites in a clean, large bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the batter.
Heat a bit of bacon fat in the skillet (or a griddle) over medium heat. Pour in 1/3 cup of batter and cook until deeply browned, about 2 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. Flip the cake over, and place a couple slices of cheese on top. Cook until browned on the second side. Continue with the rest of the cakes.
Serve with the bacon alongside, and pass a pitcher of warm maple syrup.