Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NUTTY CHOCOLATE BROWNIE DROP COOKIES

WHAT A PAIR! (-or- Moose Nuggets to say good-bye)

First there were Lucy and Ethel.


Then there were Barbie and Midge.


Then there were Gertrude and Alice.

…. well, maybe not.

Then there were Laverne and Shirley.


And then there were French and Saunders.


Now, there are Jamie and Clare. And what a pair.

Ok, so all the good photos of us are on her camera on their way home. Give me a bit of time.

Great women duos, what would one be without the other? One plays it straight or plays off the other, not as much sidekick as foil. They make fun of themselves, trip over each other, fall flat on their hypothetical backsides and get right up and start all over again. They know what the other is thinking before it is said, they reinvent themselves as they go along, they, in the end, are women, supported by the other, capable of anything, afraid of no situation and there is nothing they won’t try.

Clare and I just spent a week together. We have known each other for not quite a year, first through Mudflats then across the pages of Facebook. What happens when you finally meet someone you know only over the internet, what flits through your mind when you are off to pick them up at the train station knowing that they will be spending a whole week in your home?

The ten days have come and gone and she is now on her way to Switzerland. I am thrilled to say that Clare and I got along like a house on fire, as if we had been neighbors forever. Our inner Lucy and Ethel kicked in the minute we met face to face, Laverne and Shirley minus the beer factory. Well, we may not be as goofy as that greatest of American tv teams from the 50’s (I mean, false eyelashes and lipstick when you are disguised as a man? Who was she kidding?) or quite as outrageous as Dawn and Jennifer at their mightiest. We may not even be as glamorous as Barbie and Midge, but we made one hell of a great team.

Everything is fun with a friend.

She taught me to make no-knead bread, I introduced her to the first and best steak tartare she has and will ever eat. We showed each other clips of our favorite British Comedies and we laughed until we cried. Everything and anything makes us both think of food, and we giggled at all the bad hair, combovers, helmet hair and strange characters wherever we went. And if you don’t think that these things make for a tight friendship, then I don’t know what does. It was an outstanding week.

Just hanging out in Nantes together, eating ice cream served up by Clem.

And we baked. We have posted what we made together. Yet as true Mudflatters, we watched in joy and fascination as the Governor of Alaska left office (I think you know my politics) and decided that the most perfectly appropriate something had to be made. Together. In honor of both Mudflats and the now-former Gov. I mean, after all, if it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t have ever met, now would we?

Cooking together like Kaye and Eve. Classic!

We batted around ideas, racked our brains for hours, for the perfect Going Away Party treat to offer our friends in celebration of this strange political victory, deliberating between Egg On Your Face Word Salad, Half-Baked Alaska and various other dishes, and finally settled on these wonderfully gooey, chocolaty goodies. We now offer up Nutty Moose Nuggets and a thank you for AKM not only for her fabulous blog, both amusing and informative, but for bringing us all together.


NUTTY BROWNIE DROP COOKIES (MOOSE NUGGETS)
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

6 oz (180 g) semi-sweet chocolate, either chips or chopped (we used Lindt Dessert 70%)
1 oz (30 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped (we used Lindt Dessert 85%)
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
¼ cup (30 g) flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup (100 g) coarsely chopped pecans

The two chocolates.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or oven paper.

Place the chopped chocolates in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave (or over a pan of simmering but not boiling water) and heat gently until almost melted.

Remove the chocolate from the heat while there are still pieces or it may over cook.

Add the softened butter and stir vigorously until all the remaining bits of chocolate and the butter are thoroughly melted, combined and smooth.


Add the vanilla and the two eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk or beat together (by hand) until smooth.


Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add to the chocolate mixture and stir until completely combined and smooth.


Fold in the chopped nuts.


Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake (I bake one batch at a time in my tiny French oven) for 8 to 10 minutes until just barely set in the center but no longer gooey. Remove from the oven and carefully lift off and remove to a metal cooling rack to cool.

Ok, how funny is that? Vile, maybe, but funny. And oh so good!

These rich, dark, fudgy cookies with the crunch of nuts are the perfect treat to have with a cold glass of milk or a hot coffee as you are sitting in your jammies in front of your computer, watching Alan Partridge on dvd or (yes we did) Tropic Thunder.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

GREENGAGE PLUM CRUMBLE CAKE

JAMIE AND CLARE BAKE A PLUM CRUMBLE CAKE

We are settled into our new apartment, as you all know, and oh ever so happy to be here. Do we miss our old apartment, the one that we so lovingly renovated to our own taste and lived in for 5 years? No! Our new building and neighborhood are wonderfully quiet and relaxing, our floor-to-ceiling French windows are flung open to catch the breeze and let in today’s gorgeous summer light. I am slowly getting used to working in our tiny galley-sized kitchen and only pause for a second or two as I try and remember where each baking utensil, measuring cup, mixing bowl or cake pan has been stashed.


And it has been an incredibly busy time since our move, what with unpacking and shuffling everything we own from one end of the apartment to the other until everything has found its place, waving our arms, stomping our feet and screaming over the telephone trying to correct the errors made by the phone/internet/tv, insurance and parking garage companies (are we the only people who have ever moved in this city?), struggling to keep up my blog and get back into the swing of visiting all the other food blogs on my list and now with a visit from the lovely Clare.

JP, I am so fed up with these damn French utility and insurance companies, I'm going to explode!

In the midst of all the craziness, I was honored with a food blog award by a fellow food blogger. Now I ask you, what draws people to each other, what makes us take the first step, say the first friendly word, and decide that we have everything needed to becoming good friends, no matter the distance between? I stumbled upon the fun food blog Mom’s Cooking Club and found a fellow Floridian named Jamie who owns not one but two Boston Terriers. That was all I needed! We had too much in common for us not to become foodie friends! And just before I moved, while I was at the height of my craziness and angst, she awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award! Thank you, Jamie! It really made everything worth while!


So here are the rules :

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

I am passing on this award to 7 food blogs and these deserving food bloggers :

Lien of Notitie Van Lien (Lien’s Notes)

Ilva of Lucullian Delights

Heavenly Housewife of From Donuts to Delirium: My Life as a Housewife

Simone of Junglefrog Cooking

Deeba of Passionate About Baking

Mary of One Perfect Bite

Sophie of Sophie’s Foodiefiles

I love these food blogs and the women behind all of them are great and truly creative!

And you really want to know 7 things about me that you don’t already know?

1. I spent over 5 years researching my genealogy and organized 2 huge family reunions with all of the formerly unknown relatives I discovered.

2. I have a degree in Psychology with a minor in Art History.

3. I do not wear gold jewelry.

4. I “collect” Opera Houses, trying to see an Opera everywhere I go; Palais Garnier in Paris , La Scala Opera House in Milan, The National Opera House in Budapest, the Nantes Opera and the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC.

5. I bumped into Andy Warhol on a street in NYC. My husband and I have a running competition of who saw the most famous person on the street, in airplanes, etc.

6. I love chocolate-covered marshmallow Santas, Easter Bunnies and Valentine’s Hearts.

7. I still refer to (and think of) my mom’s house in Satellite Beach where I grew up as “home”.

Now it’s your turn, ladies. Enjoy the award!


Clare and I spent hours racking our little brains for what we could bake for this month’s Bread Baking Day challenge. I participate in this great bread event created by Zorra of 1x umr├╝hren bitte every month and just didn’t want to miss it. This month’s challenge BBD #22 is hosted by Stefanie of Hefe und mehr and she has invited us over for a potluck breakfast, sweet breads only, thank you very much. This is perfect as I only eat sweet for breakfast!

Jamie and Clare putting on their thinking caps and trying to come up with the perfect recipe.

We thought long and hard, pushing aside the thought of bringing Clare’s No-Knead Bread because seeing this fabulous bread it is hard to imagine that it is actually amazingly sweet! But she and I put our heads together, one so dark, the other so blond, and decided to bake a Plum Cake.


Again, names can be deceiving. The base of this cake is a very slightly enriched, barely sweet bread dough, pushed into a pan, topped with whatever seasonal fruit you like, snuggling down deep into the soft bread dough under a cozy blanket of not-too-sweet crumble topping. Eaten warm from the oven, the dough is tender yet dense like the perfect slice of homemade bread, the greengages that we had chosen bursting out in a sweet, tangy flavor sensation, the crunch of the chopped pecans in the crumb topping adding a wonderful texture and nuttiness to this ideal of all breakfast treats.


PLUM CRUMBLE CAKE
Straight from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess (and aren’t we all just a little bit Domestic Goddess, after all?)

Dough :

1 ½ tsps rapid-rise yeast
2 ¼ cups (280 g) white bread flour + more as needed
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
¾ cup + 2 Tbs (@215 ml) milk, tepid
1 medium or large egg, beaten
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

Filling :

1 ¼ lbs (600 g) plums, we used greengages (Reine Claudes) *
1 – 3 Tbs sugar **

Crumble Topping :

1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
scant ½ cup (80 – 100 g) light brown sugar
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, diced or cut in pieces
1 cup walnut or pecan pieces, very coarsely chopped


* Any fruit will do, whatever is in season, always pitted, sweet, tart or mild. We happened to stumble upon a fruit stall at our market with the most flavorful, sweet greengage plums and scooped them up! I so want to try this with pitted, halved cherries. In the winter, apples will be great!

** Nigella Lawson calls for 3 tablespoons sugar and I thought that this was outrageous! I wouldn’t want to cover up or drown out the beautiful sweetness and rich, full flavor of the plums with sugar. Use your discretion. How sweet do you want it and how sweet is the fruit that you are using? We stirred less than a tablespoon into the greengage plums.

Make the dough :

Place the yeast, flour, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Slowly pour in the warm milk, stirring. Add the beaten egg and the cubes of very soft butter and, using a wooden spoon, stir until you have a well-blended, sticky dough.


Turn out onto a well-floured work surface. As we felt that our dough was much too soft and gloppy, we stirred in just enough flour until it was at least slightly workable and would hold together rather than slither all over the work surface.


Knead by hand for 10 minutes, adding flour a little at a time until you have a beautiful, soft, silky and satiny dough that barely sticks to the work surface. (Don’t forget that different flours absorb liquid differently, so just feel your way).


Place in a lightly buttered glass bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rise for 1 hour at room temperature.


Prepare the filling :

Toss the halved and pitted plums into a bowl with a bit of sugar (see note above about quantity). Set aside to infuse.


Make the crumble topping :

Combine the flour with the sugar in a medium mixing bowl, then work the butter in with your fingers (I find it easier and more enjoyable to use softened butter for this and I like the results better) until you have worked in all the butter and have pea-sized clumps of dough. Stir in the coarsely chopped nuts and set aside.


Put it all together :

Preheat the oven to 375° F (190°C). Butter a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking or roasting pan.

Knock down the dough with your knuckles and put in the baking pan. Using your fingers, push out the dough to fill the pan, pushing up the sides to form a lip all around. Make sure the dough is even across the bottom of the pan.


Top the dough with the plums, cut sides up, then sprinkle with the nutty crumble topping.


Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the dough is risen, the edges golden brown all the way around, the fruit meltingly tender and the crumble golden.


As this is really a bread dough, not sweet at all, and the topping is not overly sweet either, all of the rich, tart flavor comes from the fruit and is really the ideal breakfast food. Cake or bread, whatever you call it, serve this delicacy with hot coffee and milk. Just slice and pass it around.

The dough is tender, dense yet light and springy.

Though the dough is cooked all the way through even to the center of the pan, the fruit is beautifully cooked, melting in your mouth, yet doesn't make the bread/cake base soggy.

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