Month: April 2015

Meringues: How To Manage The Peaks And Avoid The Weeps

I seem to be compelled to makeover my leftovers, which were most recently the six egg whites that remained after making Hollandaise sauce. They sat in the refrigerator for a few days – three too many eggs for an omelet, but just right to make 12 meringues for dessert.

My family often points out that I constantly talk about a time when I used to make their “favorite” desserts such as trifle and meringue. The reason that I don’t make meringues any more is that I feel intimidated when stacking my attempts against the perfect swirls and beautiful pastel-colored ones in the stores. On revisiting this recipe, I found homemade meringues not only easy to make, but also hard to resist until dessert time with their crisp outsides that crumbled in to a soft and chewy center.

Here are a few guidelines when working with egg whites:

  • Egg whites should be separated carefully, making sure there is no trace of the yolk in the bowl.
  • Both sugar and egg whites are hygroscopic, meaning that they attract moisture from the air, and so the bowls and whisks should be bone dry. Egg whites will not stiffen with high humidity.
  • When whisking the egg whites, use an electric whisk. It takes steady whisking to form snowy white alien-landscapes of soft, medium, or firm peaks.
  • Adding an acid (cream of tartar or vinegar) to the egg whites keep the peaks firm.
  • The finished meringues should be stored in an airtight container; moisture droplets cause them to sweat or weep!

Meringue

Egg whites – 6

Cream of Tartar – ¾ tsp

Superfine sugar (confectioners’ sugar) – 1½ cup

Bring the egg whites to room temperature

Set oven to 225°F

  • Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
  • Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip, until the powder is mixed into the peaks.
  • Add sugar in small batches and mix until all used up. Whip until the peaks are firm (about 10 minutes).
  • Place a tablespoon of the whipped egg whites onto a parchment paper or oil-sprayed sheet pan.
  • Cook for about 8 minutes (varies with ovens, remove immediately when there is a sugary aroma or the meringue has a pale brown color.
  • Makes between 12-14 medium cookie-sized meringues.
  • Serve with unsweetened stewed berries.

Note: I didn’t have superfine sugar and used confectioner’s sugar.

Add a drop of flavoring or few drops of color for variety of aromas and tastes.

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Double Boiler: To Make Hollandaise Sauce Or Melted Chocolate

The first asparagus spears that push through frost and dirt need only a dusting of salt and pepper to bring out spring’s freshness. Later in their season, the more hardier and fibrous asparagus tips benefit from embellishments of shaved Parmesan cheese or a creamy Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise is the “mother” in a family of buttery sauces, which also includes Béarnaise and mayonnaise. Béarnaise is used with meat and Hollandaise sauce usually accompanies milder flavors such as eggs or asparagus. The base for Hollandaise and the others is an emulsion of egg yolks and butter, which is combined together at the right heat for a velvety-rich textured sauce. Monitoring the heat is key; too hot, the yolk can curdle or the emulsion separates, and if there is not enough heat, the emulsion does not form.

Controlling the temperature is accomplished by using a simple utensil called a double boiler. A double boiler or bain-marie (water bath) can be bought, but can also be improvised. A double boiler, like a homemade steamer, uses two pans. The main pan is filled with water, and the second pan sits snugly above the first without touching the simmering water. The steam, which is at a lower temperature than the boiling point of water, cooks the ingredients in the inner pan. Using a double boiler prevents overcooking, burning or curdling, and is a more foolproof option for making delicate sauces or melted chocolate than using a microwave or direct heat.

Hollandaise

Egg yolks – 3, beaten well

Butter – 5 tbsp

Lemon juice – 1 tbsp

Kosher salt – ¼ tsp

White pepper – ¼ tsp

  • Set up the double boiler. Start to simmer water in the bigger pan.
  • Warm the butter in a separate pan, and keep aside at room temperature.
  • Add salt and pepper to the egg yolks in the smaller pan that fits inside the larger pan of the double boiler. Whisk the yolks continuously for 6-8 minutes. Keep the water at a simmer. The color will change from deep yellow to a creamy pale yellow as the sauce thickens. Stop when the whisk or fork leaves a trail in the pan. If the temperature is too hot, remove from heat and keep whisking. Do not let the eggs cook.
  • When the mixture is creamy, remove from heat. Drizzle in the lukewarm butter and keep whisking until all the butter has emulsified (mixed) with the yolk mixture. The sauce will be rich and creamy yellow.
  • Add the lemon juice. As whisking generates heat, mix gently to prevent any more cooking.
  • Serve Hollandaise with grilled asparagus or shrimp.
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Welsh Rarebit: A Becoming Fit between Grilled Cheese and Eggs Benedict

The week ending April 18th holds two perennial favorite comfort food days – April 12th, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day and April 16th, Eggs Benedict Day. I could cover both food events with one delicious savory dish, Welsh rabbit or Welsh rarebit.

I used to picture Welsh rabbit as a dish with a small animal in a creamy sauce, and so using its other name, Welsh rarebit, sits better with me. The dish includes many of the food creations from the British Isles – tangy Guinness stout, tart Cheddar cheese, vinegary Worcestershire sauce, and pungent English mustard powder (in that familiar yellow tin). All of the ingredients are mixed with egg yolk, liberally slathered on a hunk of country bread, and broiled. The resulting creamy and substantial dish is a cinch to prepare, while combining in one swoop all of the major comfort foods: bread, cheese, butter, and eggs.

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Welsh Rarebit

Bread (sturdy country loaf) – four chunky slices

Butter – 1½ tbsp

Cheddar cheese (such as Welsh reserve) – ¾ – 1 cup, freshly grated

Mustard powder – ¾ tsp

Paprika – ¼ tsp

Stout (such as Guinness) – 2 tbsp

Worcestershire Sauce – ½ tbsp

Egg yolks – 2, beaten

  • Pre-heat the broiler.
  • Melt the butter in a pan on low heat.
  • Add the mustard powder and paprika to the melting butter. Stir and mix well.
  • Add the stout and the Worcestershire sauce. Stir to mix.
  • Add the grated cheese to the pan, stirring continuously to incorporate into the mixture. Do not let it come to a boil.
  • Remove the pan from the fire and cool until just warm to the touch.
  • In the meanwhile, place the bread under the broiler and broil both sides. Remove.
  • Add the egg yolks to the warm pan and beat until you get a smooth, spreadable mixture.
  • Spread the mixture over the broiled bread and place the bread back under the broiler. Cook for a minute or until the cheese-egg mixture starts to brown and bubble.
  • Serve immediately. There should be enough egg-cheese mixture to top four slices.

 

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Injera (Ethiopian Flatbread): Fermented Gluten-free Batter (2)

The batter used to make Injera relies on fermentation to rise. My carefully-planned Ethiopian dinner was to be a surprise for N, but when the batter didn’t rise even after 24 hours, I panicked. Trying to eke out warmth from this late spring weather into the batter was futile – the optimum temperature for fermentation is between 75-80°F.

 I ended up using the “oven” method to coax both batters (one batch made with dry active yeast and another with air-borne wild yeast) to rise. This endeavor reminded me of some tips to help with fermentation of a batter made with flour, yeast, and salt:

  • Use a wide stainless steel pan to increase the surface area exposed to air; this helps more of the batter to be exposed to capture both wild yeast from the air and heat to start the fermentation process.
  • Use non-chlorinated water (chlorine inhibits yeast from fermenting).
  • Use kosher salt, as iodized salt slows down fermentation.
  • If the air is not warm enough, heat the oven to 200°F. Once the temperature is reached, turn off the oven. Put the batter in to the warm oven for an hour. This warms the yeast and starts up the fermentation process. Remove the batter from the oven and let the process continue naturally outside. Another method using the oven is to turn the oven light on, and leave the batter in the oven overnight. Remove the batter from the oven and let the process continue on outside.
  • In cool weather, plan for the meal two days ahead! The ideal temperature for dry yeast is 75°F and for naturally-occurring wild yeast found in the atmosphere is 80-90°F.

Injera

Teff flour – 1 cup

Water – 1 cup + 1 tbsp

Kosher salt – ½ tsp

Yeast (instant active dry) – ¾ tsp

  • Sift the flour
  • Warm 1 tbsp. of water. Add the yeast to the water. Mix until yeast granules are dissolved.
  • Add the water and salt to the yeast solution.
  • Add the liquids to the flour. Mix well.
  • Keep aside in a warm place, for 24-48 hours. Bubbles on the surface of the batter or cracks that appear on the puffed up surface indicate that the batter is ready.
  • When ready to cook, add a little water to get the batter to a pouring consistency.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet.
  • Using a ladle, drop in 2 tbsp of batter into the middle of the pan or skillet. Using the back of the ladle spread the batter in one continuous motion, working from the center in concentric circles toward the edge of the skillet. When little bubbles appear on the surface of the batter, the injera bread is ready. There is no need to flip the injera over, as the steam causes it to cook through.
  • Keep the bread stacked. Makes about 6 pancakes.

 

The batter can also be made without yeast.

 

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N., who is a Nutella fiend, came home for the weekend, and I used the remaining gluten-free teff flour to make Nutella-based cookies. The texture of the cookies is more like bran muffin, which also balanced out the sweetness of Nutella.

Teff Flour and Nutella Cookies

Teff flour –1½ cup

Agave nectar – ½ cup

Nutella – ½ cup

Oil – ½ cup

Cinnamon (or your preference) extract – 1tsp

  • Preheat the oven to 350F
  • In a food processor, mix the agave nectar, Nutella, oil and cinnamon extract.
  • Add the teff flour and combine well.
  • On a greased cooking sheet (stains the cookie pan), add a tablespoon of the cookie batter. Flatten the batter with the spoon.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 10-12 cookies.

 

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