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Friday, June 20, 2014

Strawberry Water

This isn't a real recipe, but it is a new idea for using the ENTIRE strawberry, before throwing the tops away. Simply immerse the strawberry tops in a glass of water for an hour or so. Then enjoy a refreshing, berry-flavored drink!

 Source: Food52

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Betsy and I discovered this together during one of several visits with each other this spring. Bread puddings are comforting desserts by nature but add the chocolate and you can almost drown your sorrows.


Chocolate Bread Pudding

Source:  What's For Dinner? by Curtis Stone
Serves at least 10

2 1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/4 c whole milk
1 1/4 c packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teas vanilla extract
1 pound day-old French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or good chocolate chips
1-2 T granulated sugar

Place oven rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350F.

In a large bowl, whisk the cream, milk, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add the bread and gently stir to coat well. Set aside for about 20-30 minutes to allow the bread to soften and soak up some of the egg mixture.

Fold the chocolate into the bread mixture. Transfer to a buttered 9X13 baking dish. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the pudding puffs and is golden brown on top but still moist inside. Cool slightly before serving. This can be microwaved to warm leftovers although some of the crispiness of the sugar topping will be lost.


About bread:

Betsy and I have access to a less-than-sour sourdough bread which is lovely in this recipe. In its place I'd seek out a loaf of challah bread. Sometimes the Italian loaves sold in supermarkets are awfully airy and I think this pudding would be a bit mushy with that kind of bread. Go for something with some substance. Remove hard crusts. Cook's Illustrated makes these recommendations: "If you cannot find challah, a firm high-quality sandwich bread such as Arnold Country Classics White or Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White may be substituted."

In addition, I like to let my bread be dried out so it can soak up more of the custard mixture. I heated the oven to 325F and let the bread toast for 15 minutes on rimmed baking sheets. (See this at Cook's Illustrated.)

I find that when using chocolate chips, they have a tendency to sink to the bottom of the pan. Give the mixture a good stir once you've placed it in the baking pan, before sprinkling with sugar. If you find you don't like the sunken chips, reserve a handful or two and sprinkle them over the top of the pudding (and under the sugar) before baking.

Betsy and I were the only people eating this when I made it so a 9X13 pan seemed awfully large. I divided the recipe between two casserole dishes (or it could be divided into two 8X8 pans). One, I lined with foil, leaving an overhang so I could wrap it after baking. I buttered the foil lining (just like the unlined pan) and placed half the pudding in each pan. I sprinkled sugar over the pudding in the unlined pan only. Both pans went into the oven together and were baked at the same time. After cooling, I wrapped the foil around the top of the baked pudding and sealed it. I then placed it in the freezer and when it was frozen, I took it out of the pan. When Betsy wanted the pudding some weeks later, it was waiting for her in the freezer. She placed the frozen pudding (still in the foil, but having removed the top covering) in the original casserole dish, sprinkled some sugar on it and let it heat at 300F for 45 minutes.  You could let it thaw and heat it for a shorter period of time, possibly 20-25 minutes.

This is good with a dollop of whipped cream, or plain cream poured over the top. If you like to gild lilies, it can be topped with ice cream, and/or caramel sauce. In that case, I think some  flaky salt sprinkled over all would keep it from being cloyingly sweet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower

This isn't comfort food exactly, but my mom made it last time she was here taking care of me, so there's the connection to comfort. The original article billed this as cauliflower even kids will eat, which wasn't true for my kids. But I sure love it. The combination of spices and nuts makes this a keeper, and it's super easy to roast while you're cooking other parts of the meal.


Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower

Source: Food52 via Slate

1 large cauliflower, cut into inch-sized florets
1/2 teas ground coriander (original recipe calls for coriander seed that you crush with the flat side of a chef's knife)
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas ground cinammon
3 T olive oil
1/2 teas salt (kosher or sea salt is nice)
3 T sliced or slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 425F. Mix spices, salt, and oil in a small bowl.

Scatter the cauliflower florets over a rimmed baking sheet, then toss with the oil-and-spice mixture. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and roast for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle on the almonds and roast for another 5-10 minutes, or until the cauliflower and the almonds are nicely browned. Serve hot, warm, or cold.