Thursday, March 2, 2017

Recipe Notes, February 2017

15 February 2017
Angel Food Cake

Recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, 2013, p. 270

We often buy angel food cake in the summer time to have with fresh strawberries. However, it can be good to have on its own if home made. Caleb made some for us some years ago and since Diane likes this cake I decided it was time for me to attempt it.

The recipe has relatively few ingredients: cake flour, salt, sugar, 12 egg whites, cream of tarter, and vanilla extract. The egg whites, with the cream of tarter and sugar, are whipped to soft peaks at which point the vanilla is added. This happened quickly, in 2-3 minutes rather than the estimate of 6 minutes in the recipe. The remaining ingredients are mixed and gently folded into the egg whites. The mixture is then baked in a tube pan; for me the cake was done after 45 minutes. It is cooled, inverted, to room temperature then removed from the pan.

We enjoyed the cake. It was light and tasty. When fresh the crust provides a nice textural contrast with the soft crumb, but this does not last. One nice feature is that the cake can be eaten out of hand: it is not too sticky and with no icing it is not at all messy. We ate much of it as a dessert with lunch or mid-afternoon snack. We will definitely make this cake again. But now, what to do with a dozen egg yolks??

21 February 2017
Crème Brûlée

Recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, 2013, p. 472

I didn't know what to do with the 12 egg yolks that remained from making angel food cake so I asked in a Facebook group. There were many suggestions but the one that appeared the most was to use them to make crème brûlée. I looked up the recipe in the same book that I used for the angel food cake recipe and was pleased to see that it uses exactly 12 egg yolks. That cinched it, I was making crème brûlée. 

This recipe has very few ingredients and is easy to make: vanilla, heavy cream, sugar, salt, and 12 egg yolks. The cream, sugar, and salt are heated then left to cool. The remaining cream is added and this mixture is whisked into the egg yolks in three portions. The mixture is poured into 8 ramekins and baked in a water bath.  The crème brûlée is then refrigerated before serving. The whole process took 25 minutes. Instead of an expensive vanilla bean, I chose to use vanilla extract.

Serving involves sprinkling about a teaspoon of turbinado sugar on top and melting the sugar with a blow torch. The crème brûlée is then refrigerated for 30 minutes before serving. I didn't have a blow torch and after doing some research decided to buy a propane torch at the hardware store rather than a butane kitchen torch, which is smaller but takes longer to melt the sugar and is less versatile. Not that I've ever had a need for a blow torch.

This was a great recipe to use to take advantage of the egg yolks, I don't know that I would make it otherwise. The crème is very smooth and creamy, with a mild flavor. The brûlée (French for burnt, referring to the melted sugar topping) was not a solid topping but was rather thin and sweet, providing a pleasant contrast to the pudding below.  Diane like her sugar less brûléed than I did and this request was easy to accommodate.

27 February 2017
Vietnamese-style Caramel Chicken with Broccoli

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, May 2015

The name sounds strange, chicken with caramel? But this is not the caramel that you would have in a dessert. Caramel is made by cooking sugar with a small amount of water. By cooking the sugar to a higher temperature you create a sauce that is not sweet but rather has an interesting savory flavor. That is what is used in this dish. 

The ingredient list is short and the meal, including steamed broccoli and steamed rice, took an hour and half to make. I purchased "thigh fillets" which I take to be boneless, skinless chicken thighs that have been cut up. Whatever they are, they worked well for this dish. The chicken was briefly marinated in baking soda before cooking as a tenderizer. Sugar and water were cooked to a temperature of 390°; the recipe warned of smoke but there was none. The caramel was quenched with water, stirred to dissolve the sugar, then fish sauce and grated ginger were added. The chicken was added and simmered until the temperature of the chicken was 205°. This is much hotter than chicken is usually cooked! After it reached this temperature, the chicken was removed and the sauce thickened with a little corn starch.

Despite the high temperature, the chicken was moist and very tender. The sauce was delicious when poured over the rice, broccoli, and chicken. It wasn't at all sweet and I doubt I would have identified it as caramel if I didn't know that in advance. The ginger and fish sauce added to the sauces complexity and flavor without overpowering it. The recipe made enough chicken (starting with 2 pounds of chicken) for 3 or 4 meals and the leftovers are also good.

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