On the Frittata Fence?

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I know how you feel! Frittatas were never my thing. In fact, until recently, I had never even made one at home. If you don’t believe me, you can read more about my egg adventures by clicking here. But that has all changed. I have broadened my horizons, and become a frittata lover. And not just because they taste so good. They also happen to be a perfect meal-on-the-cheap. And while their main gig is brunch, they can stand in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! More…

I know how you feel!

Frittatas were never my thing. In fact, until recently, I had never even made one at home. If you don’t believe me, you can read more about my egg adventures by clicking here. But that has all changed. I have broadened my horizons, and become a frittata lover. And not just because they taste so good. They also happen to be a perfect meal-on-the-cheap. And while their main gig is brunch, they can stand in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

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Yes, the humble frittata is extremely versatile–even in what you pair with it. You see, frittatas are the Garanimals of the food world. For every five or six eggs in your frittata, you simply mix and match about one cup of fillings and a handful of grated cheese–all based on your taste and what’s available in the fridge. Leftovers and eggs make for a really inexpensive culinary adventure. Every time I think I have found my favorite, I am surprised by a new combination and gobble it up with the excitement of a 1-year-old eating cake for the first time. I am not normally a second helping type of girl–just ask my husbandbut I now break that rule for frittatas (and Indian food, if I am being completely truthful)!

My favorite combo had been smoked ham with sauteed leeks and smoked Gruyere. But then a  few days ago, I made warm bacon, fennel, and Brussels sprouts over tagliatelle pasta with chicken liver alfredo sauce, which had leftover braised fennel and Brussels sprouts. I knew immediately that these veggies would play well with pancetta and, of course, smoked Gruyere. As luck would have it, our girls egg production has increased with the longer days, so six eggs was a drop in the basket.

Putting this light supper together was a snap. I simply cracked and whisked the eggs, added the accouterments, poured into a buttered fry pan, cooked over low heat until slightly giggly, and then popped in the oven until set. In the off chance you would like a more formal recipe, here it is:

Pancetta, Fennel, & Brussels Sprouts Frittata

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 or 6 free range eggs (depending on the size provided by your egg source)
  • 113 grams (4oz) of pancetta, precooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup (by volume) braised fennel & Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 cup(by volume) of grated smoked Gruyere
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • knob of butter

MISE EN PLACE

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Get leftover veg braise out to bring to room temp.
  3. Cook pancetta.
  4. Crack and whisk eggs.
  5. Grate cheese.
  6. Get out butter, and make sure salt and pepper are within reach.

STEP ONE
Heat 8″ non-stick fry pan over low to medium-low heat. Add butter. Once butter is melted, add veg to reheat.

STEP TWO
Add whisked eggs, most of the meat and cheese, salt, and pepper. Slowly cook the mixture; gently but constantly stirring, making sure to scrap sides of pan as you go. Continue to stir until slightly giggly.

STEP THREE
Once slightly giggly, pop in oven until just set; approximately 5 minutes, but really dependent on your oven and how well done you like your eggs. Do keep in mind that they will continue to cook from residual heat after being removed from the oven.

STEP FOUR
Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. At that point, you can run a spatula around the side of the pan and slip the frittata on to a cutting board to cut/portion. To serve, sprinkle a bit of the leftover pancetta and grated cheese on top of each slice.

Cook’s Notes
The addition of crusty grilled bread would be a nice complement at breakfast, while the grilled bread and a green salad would be satisfying lunch or dinner. I would also recommend that you try cooking for slightly less time than you think is appropriate. When the eggs are cooked to perfection, they are creamy; without being runny. But if you take the frittata out of the oven too late, the texture will become rubbery and lack the rich, velvety texture that makes this meal stand out.

Makes 4 servings.

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Aunt Jemima On My Mind

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I grew up in what may now be considered a large family. And most of us were not very culinarily (is that even a word?) adventurous. But one thing we could all agree on was Aunt Jemima’s Buckwheat Pancakes. If you have never had them; I feel sorry for you. Very, very sorry. You can’t even buy the mix now, or at least I was unable to find it in any grocery store or available online. I did however find plenty of strings of content from those of us who would love to buy a box of this mix; maybe even a case. More…

I grew up in what may now be considered a large family. And most of us were not very culinarily (is that even a word?) adventurous. But one thing we could all agree on was Aunt Jemima’s Buckwheat Pancakes. If you have never had them; I feel sorry for you. Very, very sorry. You can’t even buy the mix now, or at least I was unable to find it in any grocery store or available online. I did however find plenty of strings of content from those of us who would love to buy a box of this mix; maybe even a case.

I can remember my mom making us pancakes, and delightfully dancing around the kitchen as she cooked them, taking in the rich, earthy aroma as I spun. Eventually, my mom would shoo me into the dining room as I had become a distraction or worse, dumped something over, but I was happy to sit down knowing that the flapjacks were on their way. Interestingly enough, I do not recall having any other pancakes as child other than buckwheat pancakes. I am not sure if that is just my mind playing tricks on me or if my mom never made buttermilk pancakes. In either case, I did not feel deprived. As I sat in the dining room, patiently awaiting those golden brown discs, I prayed that I would get first dibs. You see, unlike many breakfast cakes or crepes in which the first batch is for the dog, the first buckwheat pancakes were always my favorite. They possessed a crisp, yet tender, ring around the edge of the sphere that is reminiscent of flaky pie crust or a deep-fried turnover but with an earthiness that neither pie crust or turnovers can deliver. Sadly, each batch thereafter, did not boast that crunchy edge.

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Today, I found myself in the mood for a stack of this childhood favorite, but without the original mix, I had to fend for myself. I decided that trying to replicate Aunt Jemima’s was futile, so the next best thing was to put my own spin on this classic from my youth. My extremely smart husband had talked about adding chocolate milk to your standard pancake batter a few weeks ago. I filed that idea away for trying with buckwheat cakes as it theoretically seemed like a tasty match. As it turns out, it is in reality as well. The chocolate milk provided a hint of chocolate without overpowering the hearty flavor the buckwheat offers up.

I did learn a few things in creating this recipe. First, it needed a little more sugar than I used in the first batch. I assumed that by adding the chocolate milk, I would need little to no added sweetness. I was wrong. Second, while the taste was good, I would suggest letting the batter sit for at least fifteen minutes to a half hour after mixing until the bubbles have calmed down.

As you can see from this picture , the craters were a bit over the top using the unrested batter.

As you can see from this picture , the craters were a bit over the top using the unrested batter.

Once I let the batter rest, the cakes were less holey but still provided a thin, yet tender stack with my oh-so-sought-after edges!

Once I let the batter rest, the cakes were less holey but still provided a thin, yet tender stack with my oh-so-sought-after edges!

Auntie M’s (that’s me!) Flapjacks

INGREDIENTS

  • 140 grams buckwheat flour
  • 80 grams of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 16 oz chocolate milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla paste
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter for oiling griddle

MISE EN PLACE

  1. Measure out all ingredients.
  2. Get out accouterments such as syrup, yogurt, fruit, etc
  3. Preheat griddle to 325 degrees.

STEP ONE
Whisk all ingredients together. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.

STEP TWO
Melt butter on griddle. Using a large ice cream scoop, pour batter onto griddle and cook until you can see bubbles throughout top of batter. Flip and cook on other side until done.

STEP THREE
Wipe down griddle and melt more butter (in hopes of getting the crispy edge again). Repeat step two until all batter is used.

STEP FOUR
Bring pancakes, accouterments, and plates to table. Serve and enjoy!

Makes approximately 24 5″ pancakes.

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Pound for Pound

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I have baked my fair share of pound cakes throughout the years, but I have never really made the original. You know, the one with one pound of butter, one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs, and one pound of flour. So, no time like the present. My task today was obvious: bake a traditional pound cake as well as a slightly updated version that even included a bit of baking powder and compare them. More…
Today is National Pound Cake Day which was enough to get me out of bed and into the kitchen in a matter of seconds. After all, pound cake is where I got my start in baking.  This teatime staple provides everything you could want in a sweet treat; it’s tender yet dense, moist with a slight crumb, and rich but not cloyingly so.

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I have baked my fair share of pound cakes throughout the years, but I have never really made the original. You know, the one with one pound of butter, one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs, and one pound of flour. So, no time like the present. My task today was obvious: bake a traditional pound cake as well as a slightly updated version that even included a bit of baking powder and compare them.The recipes were not all that different, as you can see…

Original Recipe

  • 454 grams of butter
  • 454 grams of sugar
  • 454 grams of eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 454 grams of cake flour

Updated Recipe

  • 454 grams of butter
  • 454 grams of sugar
  • 454 grams of eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon of cream sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 454 grams of cake flour
  • 50 grams of almond flour
  • 25 grams of coconut flour

If using measuring cups and such, you would use four sticks of butter, about two cups of sugar, about four cups of flour, and eight eggs. But using weight provides a more precise version and hopefully more consistent results. I measured everything in grams, as I just prefer that unit of measurement for baking, but you could use ounces as well by simply converting.

In both recipes, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and lined four loaf pans. At the same time, I got out all my ingredients as everything needed to be at room temperature. I set up my mise en place and then just waited. Once the butter and eggs were at room temp, I began by creaming the butter and white sugar together in a stand mixer on a relatively high setting. (I used baker’s sugar, but this is not required.) I creamed the mixture until almost white in order to get as much air in as possible. I then added the eggs, one at a time, incorporating and then scraping down the bowl between additions. Once all the eggs were added, I scraped down the bowl again and added the vanilla. It is at this point that the recipes diverge.

In the updated version, I then added the cream sherry and salt and continued mixing. Once incorporated, I then added the baking powder, and cake, almond, and coconut flour in three parts mixing on stir/low on the stand mixer until combined. I then poured the mixture into two loaf pans and began baking. In the original recipe, I simply folded in the cake flour by hand, poured into two loaf pans, and began baking.

I tasted each batter, and yes I knew that there was raw egg in it, but I was willing to take that risk in the name of science. The original recipe batter smelled and tasted like Christmas cutout cookies. Pretty darn good in my book. The updated version was more subdued and did not have the in-your-face butter bomb of the original. At that point, I decided to start keeping score and the original was currently in 1st place.

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The original loaf took about 65 minutes to bake, while the updated version took approximately 75 minutes. As you can see right out of the oven, there is a distinct difference in height. No big surprise. Actually it was more surprising that the original got as much height as it did! In addition, the updated version has a beautiful fracture and crispy top that dares you to crack it like a thin layer of ice on the first freezing day of winter. I decided it was best to start writing this post where I could not be tempted. Current score: one to one.

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Some time passed, 30 minutes to be exact (not that I was counting or anything). It was time to cut into each and see what the crumb looks like. I glided the serrated knife through each. The original recipe offered up some resistance; with the other slicing like butter. As I peeked in, the original was dense, really dense. The updated version, proved to have more texture and a lighter feel. I am not sure whether that is my mind playing tricks on me or not though. Looking back on it, it would have been interesting to weigh each. The updated version had taken the lead.

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I tried a slice from each recipe; plain, with butter, and with lemon curd. I took two bites of each for a total of twelve bites. Let’s start with plain. I actually liked the flavor and crunchy shell of the original pound cake; but dense. The updated version was good, but lacked as much of a buttery presence. I then tried each slice with a bit of butter; which now seems insane given the amount already in the loaves. The updated version actually tasted on par with the original in this taste test, and the texture of the updated version better across the board. And lastly, I tried each with lemon curd. I have to be honest, both tasted like a hot summer day after running through the sprinklers sipping on lemonade feeling a warm gentle breeze dance across your arms after this one (to be overly verbose). I really could not decide. They were both amazing with the curd.

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So at this point, I think the updated was ahead in terms of points, but I tossed the points out and chose the original. And here’s why; the original recipe was pound cake–through and through. Yes it was dense, but what else would you expect? It’s right there in in the title: Pound Cake. The original was also rich without being over the top. It’s funny though, I feel pretty stuffed after my two pieces in total now, but when I was a child, I was able to eat a whole loaf over the course of a day. My younger self would be so ashamed of my current shortcomings. And lastly, I thought the updated version was going to have the delightful crisp top layer I so fondly remember, but it turned out that the original recipe had that sought after edge on all sides. That sealed the deal for me.

This evening I plan to have my family try these pound cakes in a blind taste test and will update this post after the results. If you are interested in their thoughts, stop back. If you are interested in a few key shots of yesterday’s National Pancake Day breakfast, head over to my Twitter page.

UPDATE: Well, the blind taste test was interesting. My husband liked the original pound cake recipe across the board; plain, with butter, and a smear of curd. He liked the taste, texture, and outer crunch. On the other hand, my daughter chose the updated recipe in every category. To be fair, at first she thought she was taste testing bread, not cake, so she was looking for something more bread like, but the texture/density of the original was not her favorite. In addition, she thought the original was too sweet. She is not the biggest sweet eater, so this made sense.

What does this mean? I think it means that much like people, there is a recipe out there for everyone. If you find a beginning such as this one that dates back to the early 1700s, think about how you might be able to interpret it to your liking. If it doesn’t work, try again. The worst thing that will happen is that you learn something; like adding too much liquid makes a soggy mess that you have to throw away or not enough fat makes makes a dry loaf that gets used for ice cream topping instead. Either way, you are that much closer to finding your perfect pound cake (or any other recipe).

We have pounds of pound cake in the kitchen, so it will be pound cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I don't find someone to take some of these loaves off my hands!

Our house is now filled with pound cake, so breakfast consisted of grilled pound cake and fruit. I wonder how I can sneak it into lunch as well?

Butter My Biscuit!

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I adore a good biscuit. I admit that I grew up on Bisquick biscuits. And if offered a free-form drop biscuit from this ubiquitous brand, I probably would not turn it down. With a bit of melted butter, it still brings back fond memories of my childhood home and when my girls were young. More…

I adore a good biscuit. I admit that I grew up on Bisquick biscuits. And if offered a free-form drop biscuit from this ubiquitous brand, I probably would not turn it down. With a bit of melted butter, it still brings back fond memories of my childhood home and when my girls were young.

Through the years, I have had my share of biscuits from that pop-n-fresh refrigerator roll as well. I can remember peeling the flaky layers apart to slip a pat of butter in and wait for it to melt. I also remember the salty butter dripping out the side and down my hand; licking every bit I could find.

For probably a good ten years, when I went out for breakfast, I would always get a side of sausage well-done and a side biscuit. It is always something you can depend on being on the menu–no matter where you go. For the most part the biscuits were dependably good and the sausage the gamble.

So given that I really had no issue with the box biscuits, roll biscuits, and greasy-spoon biscuits, you might be wondering why I ever decided to try making my own from scratch. I would too if it were me reading this. But it is really quite simple: I make my brownies, my cookies, and most of my other baked goods from scratch, so why not biscuits? At least that is what was tumbling around in my head. As luck would have it, I happened to be thumbing through a Food & Wine magazine when I came across a recipe by Bobby Flay for Black Pepper Biscuits with Bourbon-Molasses Butter that peaked my interest.

I just happened to have everything I need to make these lofty delights with the exception of the buttermilk. I made sure to put that I my grocery list. I did not realize that the simple task of writing out buttermilk was about to change my live. Over dramatic, you say? I think not! A few days passed, I purchased the buttermilk, and set about making molasses butter and ultimately the black pepper biscuits.

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Biscuits require very few ingredients, flour, leavening, fat, and liquid in its basic form and with very few additions, they can be elevated quite easily. And the process of making the biscuits is rather easy as well. But the part that sealed the deal, was watching the biscuits rise in the oven. It was a beautiful thing. The whole process maybe took five minutes more to make than semi-homemade versions from the store, but the taste was a million times better. So why didn’t I know this already? Why have I been wasting my time on any think else? I guess no one ever told me. So now I am telling you and you have no excuses. And no need to send me a thank-you card, the fact that you will be enjoying your very own high-rise buttermilk biscuits is thanks enough!

My a sage and red pepper biscuit version

My sage and red pepper biscuit version

The original recipe for these biscuits is darn near perfection, but more for a grown-up palette. I have kids and also like to use biscuits for a variety of purposes–from warm out of the oven with butter at breakfast and rustic sandwiches at lunch to soup dippers at supper and the base of a decedent biscuits and gravy at brunch, so I made a few modifications; mostly to make a biscuit with more universal appeal and to take advantage of what I normally have growing in my garden. Thus a sage and red pepper biscuit version was born; and titled exactly how I feel about these biscuits.

Best Damn Biscuits EVER!
(very extremely closely inspired by Bobby Flay’s Black Pepper Biscuits in Food & Wine magazine)

INGREDIENTS
4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp freshly minced Sage Leaves
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
14 Tbsp Butter, cubed & cold
2 cups Buttermilk, cold

Extra Buttermilk for brushing

 MISE EN PLACE

  1. Measure out ingredients.
  2. Cube and chill butter.

STEP ONE
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

STEP TWO
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, sage, red pepper, and baking soda. Scatter butter cubes over dry ingredients. Using your fingers, pinch butter in to flour mixture until everything comes together in a pea-sized crumb. Stir in buttermilk and stir until just formed.

STEP THREE
Turn the dough out onto work surface and gently fold the dough over itself 2 or 3 times. Pat the dough down to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits using a knife or biscuit cutters.

STEP FOUR
Arrange on cookie sheet, brush with extra buttermilk and cook until golden brown; approximately 20 minutes.

COOK’S NOTES:
If using biscuit cutters, be sure not to twist when cutting. Twisting limits the rise.

Sometime in the near future, I plan to post the results of a biscuit experiment I have started. It may be a few weeks though as I need a crew to give me there unbiased opinions on biscuits: fresh versus frozen and frozen raw versus frozen pre-cooked. I have all the frozen ones in the icebox and have already baked off some of the frozen raw ones, but have not done any comparison to the others. Should be a yummie experiment!