King Cake – A Year Later

Same recipe as last year… but I used sanding sugar from a party supply store instead of attempting to make the colors myself. We have a gas oven this year and it seems that the even distribution of heat prevented the yeast from turning the cake into a huge donut. It looks far more authentic and tastes so good!

The recipe.

Homemade King Cake 2

Homemade King Cake

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King Cake

It’s that time again. Today is the eve of King’s Day/Feast of the Epiphany/Twelfth Night/Little Christmas AKA the last day of Christmas. Tomorrow is when we take the Christmas trees and lights down and put up the Mardi Gras decorations. This year Mardi Gras is somewhat early (February 20th) so Carnival season is short and there’s less time to eat King cake. The following recipe is for a traditional King cake which is more like a sweet brioche than cake. I am no fan of the modern King cake which is at best treated like a glorified coffee cake. A few years back, we bought a king cake without knowing it was filled with cherry. Normally, I would have liked cherry coffee cake, but it was a bit like taking a drink of soda thinking it’s coke only to find out it’s root beer. I like root beer, but not when I want coke. When I was growing up, we always had the McKenzie’s or Schweggman’s King Cake which were made in the traditional style; I guess my mind is stuck on those cakes.

Traditionally the cake was baked on Epiphany Eve and served the following afternoon to family and friends. Nowadays the cake is made throughout Carnival season and served until Mardi Gras. By the Middle Ages, veneration of the three wise men had spread throughout Europe and Epiphany became known as The Feast of the Three Holy Kings. The cake was baked in honor of the Magi. According to Wikipedia, related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France. Latin Americans, like New Orleanians, place a figure representing the Christ child inside the cake. In other cultures, the king cake might contain a coin, bean, pecan or pea. In New Orleans, the person who receives the piece of cake containing a “baby” must provide the king cake for the next gathering of the season.

King Cake

King Cake

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup finely chopped candied citron
1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Glaze:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes.

Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).

Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the citron and knead until the citron is evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a log, about 30 inches long. Place the dough on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

Warn your friends that there is a potential baby/bean inside so there are no broken teeth.

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Daube

Daube is a larded pot roast slowly braised in wine. The word has the same root as the spanish adobo, which is braising meats in wine or acid. The acids in the simmering liquid help to break down all the sinews and tendons in the meat, which release collagen and make a rich sauce. The larding step helps make the final gravy much richer and it adds flavor to the roast. Rather than dicing the garlic, my grandmother would add entire cloves into the larding slits. She probably went through an entire head of garlic doing this. You can do it that way, but crushing the garlic releases more of the garlic flavor, in my opinion. We used to have this most Sunday afternoons when I was a kid… yum!

Daube

1/4 lb. salt pork fat
1 shoulder roast (~5 lbs.)
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 toes of garlic, diced
4 whole bay leaves, ground
1/2 tsp. clove
1/2 tsp. thyme
4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 carrots, peeled, and cut into 1/2 chunks
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1-2 quarts boiling water (depends on size of pot, see below)
2 tablespoons dark roux

First, slice the salt pork into 1/4 inch thick strips. Make incisions about 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches deep every couple of inches across the surface of the roast. Insert the slices of salt pork into each slit. This is called larding. Finely dice 1 quarter of the onion (about 1 cup) and the garlic. Combine this with the ground bay leaves, clove, thyme, 1/4 tsp. of the salt and 1/4 tsp. of the black pepper. Mix this thoroughly. Insert some of this mash into each slit, pressing it into the salt pork. Dust the outside surface of your roast with flour. Next, in a heavy 8-quart pot heat the olive oil. Brown the roast well on all sides. By following this all important step, you are both searing the meat, and you are starting your gravy for later. Add carrots, onion, parsley and remaining seasonings and cook until everything is well browned. Add red wine and just enough boiling water to cover the roast. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 3-4 hours or until beef is fork tender.

When roast is done, lift it out of the pot with a long fork and allow the juices to drain back into the pot. Set meat aside and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove your vegetables and set aside. Strain the gravy into a large sauce pan and add roux to the saucepan to make a gravy for your roast. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a strong simmer and allow some of the excess liquid to boil off. Stir constantly. After about 10 minutes of this, you should have a velvety, rich gravy. Slice meat into 1/4 thick slices, serve with vegetables, add some gravy and enjoy.

You may add diced tomatoes to the pot before simmering to increase the dish’s acid content. I added quartered yukon gold potatoes to the pot about 2 hours into cooking (they’ll be over cooked if you add them any sooner).

If you can get real French bread (vietnamese bakeries often have it if you don’t live in New Orleans) you will want to use the leftovers for po’ boys—especially the gravy. Some folks serve daube with spaghetti noodles—either by topping the noodles with the meat and then gravy or by using red gravy in lieu of the daube’s gravy.

Roast Beef Po' Boy
Po’ Boy made from leftover daube.

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Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauces

Notoriously rich and difficult to keep from “breaking”, both Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauces are emulsion sauces; meaning that they consist of droplets of fat suspended in water which are (semi) stabilized by egg protein (lecithin). Hollandaise is considered by many to be one of the finest sauces of western cooking. Many European cooks consider Béarnaise sauce a mother sauce unto its own; but in the US, cooks start by making Hollandaise and finishing the sauce with tarragon, vinegar and shallots to make their Béarnaise. Hollandaise is good on egg dishes, vegetables and fish. Béarnaise, with its stronger flavor, is great on broiled meats, salmon and steaks. The following Hollandaise recipe is not too hard to complete and should be fairly fool-proof, you may want to use it immediately for this sauce is hard to hold to long (more than 2 hours) and will separate into an oily mess. But if it fails I will add instructions on how to fix a “turned” sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
1 1/4 stick melted unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk the egg yolks in your saucepan for a minute or so until they become thicker and turn a pale yellow. Add lemon juice and whisk. Add 2 tablespoons of the cold butter before placing on heat. While this butter melts, it should help to keep the eggs from curdling. Set the pan over low heat and whisk. Keep an eye on your mixture. As the eggs thicken, you should be able to see more and more of the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and whisk in remaining cold butter a tablespoon at a time. This will stop the yolks from cooking any further.

Add the warm melted butter in slowly and by slow I mean drizzle! Whisk to make a thick sauce. Whisk in seasonings and a little more lemon juice if you feel it needs it.

For a sauce that refuses to thicken, is too thin or has curdled: Take a tablespoon of the turned sauce and place in a separate mixing bowl. Whisk it with a tablespoon of lemon juice until it thickens. Drizzle in bits the turned sauce into THIS mixture slowly and whisk… let each addition of turned sauce thicken before adding more.

Béarnaise Sauce

A reduction of:
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 dry vermouth
1 tablespoon shallot, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
1 1/4 stick melted unsalted butter

Combine vinegar, vermouth, shallots, tarragon, salt and pepper and boil down mixture until it reduces to about 2 tablespoons. Strain mixture into another saucepan. Substitute this reduction for the lemon juice in the previous recipe.

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Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel sauce is the other white sauce mère. It is made by mixing a white roux with milk, très simple. With a Béchamel, you can make a variety of dishes including staples like macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings and more complex dishes like moussaka and lasagne. The sauce for the Creole Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe on this blog starts with Béchamel (technically it’s a Mornay sauce since it incoporates cheese). Béchamel sauce’s “children” include Sauce Aurore, Chantilly sauce, Mornay sauce and about 50 other sauces.

Béchamel sauce – Quick and Dirty

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons AP flour
2 cups cold milk, preferably whole milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
optional: dash of nutmeg or cayenne pepper
optional: 1 bay leaf

Start by making a white roux: Use a heavy bottomed saucepan that distributes heat evenly. Put the pan over medium-low heat and add the butter and melt the butter. When the foam subsides take the pan off the heat. Using a flat whisk or wooden spatula, rapidly stir in the flour. Return the pot and stirring every couple of minutes, cook until the flour is a straw color. Whisk in the cold milk, salt, pepper and any optional spices. Turn heat to low and continuing to stir, cook for 20-45 minutes until thickened and smooth. The longer you cook it, the smoother and less grainy it will become.

Be sure to fish out your bay leaf at the end of cooking if you’ve added it to the sauce.

Béchamel sauce – The More Traditional Approach

1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1/3 celery rib, diced
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup AP flour
4 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of nutmeg
bouquet garni

First, scald the milk. Remove from heat and set aside. Melt the butter in a small saucepan until the foam stops, then add the diced vegetables and sauté until the onions are translucent. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Put the pan back on the heat and cook about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the scalded milk. Return to heat and bring up to a boil, stirring constantly. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the bouquet garni, lower heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes. Remove and strain the sauce, without pushing on the vegetables.

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Sauce Velouté

Sauce Velouté is the first white sauce mère that we will explore this week. Sauce Velouté is made by combining your white roux with a light colored stock, like stocks made from vegetables, chicken, shellfish or fish. Velouté in French means “velvety”, obviously a reference to the finished sauce’s texture. The petites sauces that derive from Sauce Velouté are great over fish, poultry, pork and vegetables without overpowering any of them.

Sauce Velouté

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons AP flour
2 cups stock (vegetable, fish, or poultry)
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Start by making a white roux: Use a heavy bottomed saucepan that distributes heat evenly. Put the pan over medium-low heat and add the butter and melt the butter. When the foam subsides take the pan off the heat. Using a flat whisk or wooden spatula, rapidly stir in the flour. Return the pot and stirring every couple of minutes, cook until the flour is a straw color. Transfer the roux to a mixing bowl to stop the cooking

For combining the stock and roux, the standard rule is: hot roux = use a cold stock; or cold roux = use a hot stock

To finish the above recipe: Place the roux back in the saucepan and whisk in half of the liquid. Place the pot over medium heat and whisk in the remaining liquid. When the roux and stock are well combined, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, skimming frequently. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Strain the sauce and allow to cool, uncovered, to room temperature if you plan on storing it.

There are two categories of petites sauces made from Sauce Velouté: In the first, the ingredients are first cooked in wine, butter or stock and then combined with the mother sauce. In the second, the ingredients are stirred into the sauce in order to finish it. From the first category, we have sauces like Sauce Ravigote, Sauce Bercy, and Sauce Allemande. The second includes Sauce Bonne Femme, Sauce Suprême, and Sauce Suprême Aurore.

Sauce Allemande

2 cups Sauce Velouté
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Reduce the Sauce Velouté to 1 cup, by cooking it over medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low and add a bit of the sauce to your yolks in order to temper them, gradually bringing the yolks up to the temperature of the sauce in order to avoid having scrambled eggs. Stir in the tempered yolks, the butter, nutmeg and lemon juice. Cook until thick. This sauce is very good over fish and chicken.

Sauce Suprême

2 cups Sauce Velouté
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 tablespoon butter

Gradually stir the cream and crème fraîche into the Sauce Velouté. Finish the sauce by swirling in the butter.

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Sauce Espagnole

Sauce Espagnole is a rich, reduced brown stock made with tomatoes and a mirepoix of browned vegetables thickened by a brown roux. From this sauce mère can be made its most “popular” children or petites sauces: Bordelaise and Madeira. It is also known as a demi-glace.

According to Alan Davidson, in The Oxford Companion to Food, “The name has nothing to do with Spain, any more than the counterpart term allemande has anything to do with Germany. It is generally believed that the terms were chosen because in French eyes Germans are blond and Spaniards are brown.”

Sauce Espagnole

1 small carrot, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup AP flour
4 cups hot beef stock
1/4 cup tomato purée
2 toes garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Cook the carrot and onion in butter in a heavy saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (about 7 to 8 minutes). Add flour and cook roux over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until medium brown. Add hot stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then add tomato purée, garlic, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaf and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3 cups, this will take about 45 minutes.

When sauce is reduced, pour sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.

Remember, if the roux burns you have to start all over, some people take the extra step of cooking the roux separately because of this; granted if you do cook the roux separately you will be lacking some of the richness from the browned vegetables cooked in the roux. If you choose this option, you will need to add an extra 2 tablespoons of butter to the recipe in which to sautée the vegetables.

Madeira Sauce

Sauce Espagnole
1/4 cup Madeira wine
optional: 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

Follow the recipe for the Sauce Espagnole above. Add wine in the last five minutes of cooking. Optionally add 1/4 cup of mushrooms to round out the sauce.

Bordelaise Sauce

2 cups Sauce Espagnole
1 6-inch long marrow bone (ask your butcher)
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, diced fine
1/2 cup dry red wine (traditionally a good Bordeaux)

Place marrow bone in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover, bring water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the bone until the marrow is cooked and can be pressed out of the bone, about 10 minutes. Remove the marrow and press through a strainer. In a heavy sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the shallots and marrow until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Add the wine and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir in the Sauce Espagnole and simmer before serving.

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