Soy-Marinated Eggs

Lately one of my favorite lunches has been a simplified variation on this egg and rice bowl from Smitten Kitchen— I love the refreshing combination of rice with lightly pickled vegetables and punchy vinaigrette, but I often don’t have the patience to crisp the rice or freshly fry an egg. Enter the soy sauce egg– I discovered it one day and had to try it, and once I did, it earned a permanent place in my lunch rotation.

What is a soy sauce egg? It’s an egg that’s been boiled to medium-hard (with a soft, jammy center, not a runny or crumbly one) and then marinated in a sweet/salty sauce to give it extra flavor. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the veggie-heavy rice bowl and gives a little heft and protein to my lunch!

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Cream Puffs with Craquelin

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I’ve made cream puffs on this blog before, but while they’ve been light and puffy and filled with delectable cream, they’ve never been what I would call “pretty.” I’ve come to the conclusion that my standard choux recipe is just a tad too thick– not eggy enough– and that’s making the piped choux blobs slightly irregular in shape, which translates to unevenly-puffed cream puffs. I’ve decided to adapt my recipe to add a bit more egg, and to add an extra layer of protection– a craquelin.

A craquelin topping is a circle of sugar-butter dough that you put onto the unbaked choux. As the choux bakes, the craquelin cooks over the top, expanding with the choux and creating an uneven, crunchy, sugary top that adds texture to the puff as a whole. Also, I figured that having something on top of the choux would help even out the rise in the oven.

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Microwaved Chocolate Pastry Cream

pastry-cream-done

The other day, my husband (by way of gloating) mentioned an amazing treat he’d had at a lunch out that he had– so sad– failed to save any of for me. It was apparently a fresh croissant, split and filled with Nutella and chocolate pastry cream. He gleefully described how he’d tried to save half, but then couldn’t resist eating just one more bite, and then another, and then another… until it was gone. I think he enjoys torturing me like this.

Not one to admit defeat, I promptly decided that I would make my own– so there! Croissants, of course, are easy to come by, and our pantry always has Nutella in it, but pastry cream isn’t something I generally just whip up. It’s so fussy, what with using only egg yolks, whisking constantly, etc., that I rarely make it.

Then it occurred to me that I had already solved this problem with regard to lemon curd– and my whole-egg microwaved lemon curd recipe is one of my favorites. Why not try the same thing with pastry cream? I found a basic whole-egg recipe online and used the same technique I’d applied to the lemon curd (though going to a higher heat due to ingredients), stirring in melted semisweet chocolate at the end. And what do you know? It was reasonably good. The texture was just a bit grainy– I think I overcooked the eggs just a tiny bit– and it wasn’t quite as rich as I’d hoped. Next time I might add an extra yolk to the eggs, or use half-and-half instead of milk. Or I guess I could just cook it on the stovetop where I’d have more control over the heat distribution.

But in any case, it’s a perfectly serviceable chocolate pastry cream if you’re short on time and want to make a point about sharing desserts. ūüėČ

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Savory Brunch Tarts

tart-fennel-baked

So I mentioned the post-Christmas brunch we hosted earlier– along with sweets we also had several savory items, including a trio of delicious savory tarts. I was originally only going to make two– cauliflower and onion, and apple and fennel– but ended up having extra cauliflower, onions, and pie crust, and didn’t want to let it go to waste. The tarts didn’t turn out perfectly (cracks in the crusts allowed egg to leak through, making the bottoms soggy), but they were pretty tasty and provided inspiration for future recipes!

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Bread and Butter Pudding with Clementine Marmalade

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I didn’t really grow up eating bread pudding on a regular basis. I think my dad made it a few times– cubed bread, soaked in a cinnamon-laced egg-and-milk mixture, with some raisins thrown in. It was reasonably good whether hot or cold, but it was admittedly somewhat lacking in… something. There was no pop of flavor or texture to make it stand out. Later, once I tried pumpkin bread pudding, chocolate bread pudding, and¬†even savory spinach-and-gouda bread pudding, I grew to love it and to try seeking out new variations on the theme. Because really, what could be easier than cutting up some stale bread, tossing in some extras, soaking it in custard, and sticking it in the oven?

The other day I realized that I’d inadvertently let a half-baguette go stale (usually I slice it up and freeze it before it gets to that point), and decided to make some use out of it. Going through my refrigerator for add-in options, I came across a small jar of clementine marmalade that I hadn’t used in a while and decided¬†to give it a try as a flavor booster for “bread and butter pudding.”

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Emily’s Upside-Down Custard Pie

custard-pie

Emily’s Runaway Imagination is one of Beverly Cleary’s lesser-known works, and it takes place on a farm in the 1920s or thereabouts. One of the scenes I remember best is where Emily (a little girl with a big imagination) bakes custard pie for a church potluck.¬†She’d previously overheard someone say that the secret to a light and flaky pie crust was adding “a generous pinch of baking powder” to it, and she’s eager to demonstrate her newfound pie crust prowess.

“Two and a half cups of flour,” directed Mama. “Some salt ‚ÄĒ not quite a teaspoonful. Let’s see, some lard. You’d better let me measure that.” Mama came into the pantry and deftly measured the lard out of the lard bucket. “Now Emily, take two¬†knives and slash through the flour and lard until it is as fine as corn meal.” Emily started to slash. […]
Quickly Emily added a generous pinch of baking powder and then, not certain how big a generous pinch should be, added another generous pinch to make sure. Then she slashed and slashed and according to Mama’s directions, added¬†water,¬†just a little bit. “There are two secrets to making good pie crust,” said Mama. “Use very little water and handle the dough lightly.” Emily smiled to herself because¬†she knew a third secret.¬†

Unfortunately for Emily, once the pies come out of the oven, instead of the custard surface¬†being “golden yellow and flecked with nutmeg,” the crust has risen to the top with the custard at the bottom. Her mother concludes that the custard filling was too liquidy to weigh the crust down (apples or raisins would apparently have worked better). No one wants to eat her “funny-looking” pie, until one of her neighbors remarks that the inversion will keep the crust from getting soggy… and then everyone digs in.

I always wondered as a kid if this would really happen if you added baking powder to a custard pie crust. Thinking about it now it doesn’t really make sense, since the custard would have no way of getting down through the bottom of the crust unless the crust had holes in it to let the custard flow through–¬†without the holes even the puffiest crust would just end up pushing the extra custard over the top of the pan to spill on the oven floor. I could dock the crust, of course, but no one would dock a crust with big enough holes to let custard get through in any quantity– that’s just asking for the custard to leak and stick¬†the crust to the pan.

I decided to give this food myth (if one can really call it that) the best possible chance of success by cutting a few 1″ circles out of the pie crust, allowing the custard plenty of space to run through and let the crust rise up to the top. I figured that if that didn’t work, nothing would.

Let’s see what happens!

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Sara’s Currant Buns

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I’ve already mentioned my love for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess— quite apart from the doll reference, Sara was a character I could¬†relate to (at least in some respects), always telling stories and imagining things.

There are several references to food in the book– rich, savory soups, hot muffins, sandwiches, cakes– but the most prominent takes place when Sara is out on a cold winter day. Tired, cold, and extremely hungry, she daydreams about being able to buy some hot buns, when suddenly she happens upon a lost four-penny piece!

And then, if you will believe me, she looked straight at the shop directly facing her. And it was a baker‚Äôs shop, and a cheerful, stout, motherly woman with rosy cheeks was putting into the window a tray of delicious newly baked hot buns, fresh from the oven‚ÄĒlarge, plump, shiny buns, with currants in them.

As a child, I didn’t really know¬†what currants were, but “large, plump, shiny buns” sounded delicious.¬†I figured that these buns would be lightly sweet, studded with rehydrated dried currants, with a shiny egg wash and perhaps even a light sugar glaze over the top.

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Dessert Poutine with Miso

miso-poutine-done

Recently my husband and I took part in a little friendly competition with a few other couples for a mutual friend’s birthday, which involved her naming an ingredient and the rest of us coming up with dishes incorporating the ingredient, to bring to her birthday dinner. She selected miso, which was a brilliant idea, as miso can be used in so many applications, sweet and savory. Some of the contributions that evening included miso-marinated steak, miso-caramel ice cream, and miso-pork stuffed steamed buns. Delicious!

But how does this relate to poutine, you ask? Well, for reasons left unexplained, bonus points were awarded for Canadian-themed dishes, and what’s more stereotypically Canadian than poutine?

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Cinnamon Babka

** Note to all my readers: Just wanted to thank you all for keeping up with my posts! We reached the¬†5,000-view¬†point¬†last week, and just hit the¬†2,500 visitors mark this weekend! I’m thrilled that so many people seem to be enjoying the blog, and I can’t wait to share more projects with you! **

cin babka loaf

I’ll say right now that this cinnamon babka was something I made to bring to my great-aunt for her 90th birthday, so I have very few photos of the inside– it’s not like you can demand that the recipient slice into the loaf right away so you can get a picture for your blog. She did cut one slice which she shared with me, and it was delicious, so I feel comfortable posting about this recipe despite the lack of good pictures.

Anyway, cinnamon babka. I grew up eating a butter-enriched sweet loaf swirled with cinnamon for holidays, so cinnamon bread was always something I enjoyed. But this recipe, adapted from Cook’s Country, stands head and shoulders above that one (sorry, Dad). It’s soft and moist, and the cinnamon-sugar filling is thick and gooey, yet holds its shape in a way that I have to attribute to the flour and egg white– brilliant additions to the standard sugar-butter-cinnamon filling mixture.

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Ma Ingalls’s Vanity Cakes

RD vanity cakes basket

I was definitely a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series as a child. Wasn’t everyone? Okay, perhaps not, but I enjoyed the descriptions of the day-to-day life (however fictionalized), and one of the food descriptions that stayed with me was in the third book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, where Ma fries up a batch of “vanity cakes” for Laura’s birthday party.

She made them with beaten eggs and white flour. She dropped them into a kettle of sizzling fat. Each one came up bobbing, and floated till it turned itself over, lifting up its honey-brown, puffy bottom. Then it swelled underneath till it was round, and Ma lifted it out with a fork. She put every one of those cakes in the cupboard. They were for the party.

The cakes were not sweet, but they were rich and crisp, and hollow inside. Each one was like a great bubble. The crisp bits of it melted on the tongue.

They ate and ate of those vanity cakes. They said they had never tasted anything so good, and they asked Ma what they were.

“Vanity cakes,” said Ma. “Because they are all puffed up, like vanity, with nothing solid inside.”

As a kid I could picture these exactly– they’d be crispy and thin and about the size of a large plum, with a golden brown outside that shattered when bitten into, and maybe just a faint hint of chew on the inside. They sounded really delicious, and I wished I could try them.

The Little House Cookbook¬†apparently has a very basic recipe for these, but every single one of the online reviews for the recipe states that the cakes just don’t puff up that much– they’re dense and eggy, not crispy, and certainly not hollow inside. This didn’t sound right at all, so I had to think of some other way to achieve the effect. Then I thought of choux pastry.

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