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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's time for MONKEYBREAD!!!!

Monkey bread…
A lot of water under the bridge and many many times i have made this dessert. Almost a signature thing for me a desert not to be eaten after a heavy dinner but something to be enjoyed during a brunch or breakfast or just with a hot cup of milk. 

A desert easy to make but takes it's time, a desert for slow food, for people that can wait… 

Patience is not a virtue i hold. I want things and want them now. This in cooking is a big mistake that have payed dearly on many occasions. Especially for something like a monkeybread. 

First came across this recipe from one of my favorite blogs (smittenkitchen). Debs in a small apartment in NYC creates wonders and share them with us. Love her writing, her persistence, incredible person!

There i read about monkeybread for the first time and she was raving about it. And when Debs is raving about something then you better try it soon! She is on to something for sure there.. 

So.. I tried it and was smitten… And not just me. All the people that tried it really got hooked and kept talking about it afterwards. Monkeybread brought people together and even gave a name to a weekend. After that first try i have made it atleast a dozen times and always with success. 

So, apart from the fact that it is a dish that you need to have patience for it inorder to turn out great you also have to keep in mind the timing cause it is at it's best when it comes out of the oven for people to enjoy the most.

Here is what you have to do:

Monkeybread with cream cheese glaze

60 grams unsalted butter, divided (30g melted and 30g soft)
1 cup milk, warm
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 package yeast (dried or fresh)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons salt
Brown Sugar Coating
1,2 cups packed light brown sugar.Have also tried it with dark and it is fine as well for me but i like the strong taste of dark sugar…
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (we love cinnamon in our house)
150g unsalted butter , mleted
Cream Cheese Glaze
100g cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus extra if needed
4 tablespoons milk, plus extra if needed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
OK! for the dough!
in the mixer with the paddle or hook mix the flour with salt. In a bowl mix the rest of the ingredients (only the 30g of melted butter though as the other 30 go for buttering the pan). 
Slowly incorporate the wet mixture in the mixer with the flour. Bear in mind a few things. When we say that milk and water have to be warm it means that we can stand the heat if we stick our fingers in. The yeast is a living thing and if the liquid is too hot it will kill the bugs that make it work. 
Another point to take into consideration when it comes to bread or this dough in particular is that as the mixer works, the dough gets less and less sticky. So you have to be patient and let it work for a long time till the dough becomes nice and silky.  If the worst comes to the worst and it is still wet after say 10 minutes in the mixer then add a bit of flour but no more than one or two spoonfuls.  
Let the dough rest in a warm place till it doubles in size (say an hour).
Prepare the coating. Melt the butter in a pan and mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. 
Put the dough on a floured working surface and spread it out a bit inorder to cut it in 64 pieces (8X8). You can use a knife or scraper for that. It is advisable to separate the little pieces as if you let them there they tend to stick back in with the rest of the dough.
Have your pan ready. Dip pieces of dough in the butter and then dump them in the sugar bowl and roll them in sugar. Do not use a slotted spoon or spatula for that as too much butter sticks to them and apart from the mess you will make you will also spend a lot of butter. Transfer the little dough balls in the pan… When you are finished and the whole kitchen smells of melted butter, dark sugar and cinnamon put the pan in a nice warm place to rise for a second time… 
After that you can leave it in the fridge all night where it will rise a bit more and it will be ready for the oven the next day or pop it in the oven then and there for 30-35 minutes in 180 celcious… Let it cool for 5 minutes and not more before turning it upside down on a platter. Leaving it in the pan for more time will make the caramel that has formed to stiffen and bond with the pan and so you will not be able to remove it afterwards… 
Let it cool for 10 minutes while you prepare the glaze. Soften the cream cheese, add the sugar, milk, and vanilla. As each cream cheese is different do not mix all of the milk at once as it may become too runny. So… you are looking for a glaze that can cover the desert but not run away from the top of it… 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baked Quinces with cream

Want to make a quick, easy and tasty desert with only 3 main ingredients and a few spices? A desert with no measurements and only one dish to wash up?

Take 2 quinces. Cut them in 8 slices. Core them and put them in a pan that goes in the oven. Add some cream to cover half of their height and some brown sugar. Spice the desert with a cinnamon stick, a couple of star anise, scrape the seeds of a vanilla bean, some orange peel. Feel free to omit any of the spices if you do not have them and in general try and see what combination works for you. 

Preheat the oven at 200C. Put the pan in the oven with a lid or some aluminum foil. Bake till the quince is nice and tender (30-45 minutes). Put slices of fruit in a bowl, scoop some of the cream and serve.. Serves 4…

If you want to go over the top sprinkle some dark sugar on the fruit that you have in the bowl and use a blow torch to make the sugar nice and caramelized. 
Bon appétit!

Pumpkin Crème brûlée

Sometimes you read a recipe and it just kicks you in the butt. Or just takes you from the shoulders and shakes you or shouts in your ear: "YOU HAVE TO MAKE ME"!! 
As if this recipe has a life and a mind of it's own, not to mention a will of it's own. 

This happened when i read a recipe for pumpkin creme brullee from Chef Eddy Van Damme. I had to make it and had to make it as soon as possible, possible tha same day.. Do not know what it was that really made this recipe for me to be so special. I mean i love pumpkin and it is pumpkin season and have blanced pieces in the freezer to make soups etc but the creme brulle is not my favorite desert. Too many eggs and cream and a cream custard is just a cream custard when it comes down to it. 

But the addition of the pumpkin and the pumpkin tuile take it all to a new level.. refined, airy and full of different textures and tastes… subtle, silky and yet with a distinct character that cannot go unnoticed.. 

So, let's get down to business…  but before i have to make a comment about the fact that the recipe asks for pumpkin puree. In USA it is easy to find canned puree and it has the right consistency and richness. Here in Greece we have to make our own. What i would suggest is take pumpkin, cut it in half, remove seeds and pulp and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a preheated oven (170 C) for an hour or until tender. Scrape the "meat" and blend in a food processor. Now, in my case and since i had blanced pieces of pumpkin i put them in a pot and simmered in low heat till tender. Blended it and passed through a sieve. Since the puree was still runny i let it thick some more in a pot simmering in low heat for another 20 minutes… 

From now on i will be using the baked method for storing pumpkin in the freezer as it takes a lot less space and has a lot less water in it… 

The recipe of Cheff Eddy makes many many brulee but since i only use small 100ml ramekins i only made one third of the recipe.. With it i make 4 servings..


3 egg yolks (60 gr)
70 g sugar
120g pumpkin puree
220g whipping cream
1,5g cinnamon
0,5g cardamon
0,5g ginger dried
1g salt
2g orange zest

Beat the eggs and sugar. Do not overbeat cause it makes a frothy layer on the brulee and it is not nice. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Put the mixture in the ramekins. Put the ramekins in a pan with high sides. Preheat the oven at 160C. Put the pan with the ramekins in the oven and add water in the pan to come up to 2/3 of the sides of the ramekin. Bake until the center is not wobbly. In my case it took 20-25 minutes. Cool and refrigerate. 30 minutes before serving take it out of the fridge and at the last minute you put some granulated sugar on top and caramelize it with a blow torch. 

Serve with a puking tuile… recipe for that follows

100g glucose
120g pumpkin puree
15g flour
150g powdered sugar
75g melted butter

Melt glucose in a saucepan but not boil. Add the puree and shift in the flour with the sugar. Finally incorporate the butter and add some spices like cinnamon, ginger etc. Spread the mixture as thin as possible on a baking sheet. Bake at 190C until edges start turning light brown. DO NOT overbake. Also it is a miracle watching the dough fluff up and then collapse and tiny holes start forming as sugar caramelizes… BEAUTY! Store in an airtight container but make only as many as you need. The rest of the batter can be frozen for later use…