Sometimes it's fun to bake something completely foreign to you. This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick, Butterscotch Pralines (chosen by Tess of The Cookin' Chemist), is the perfect example of that.
Pralines are a southern dessert, and I am not a southern gal. True, I grew up in Canada's southernmost area. But although, if the stereotypes are true, they are both home to good, kind people, Canada's south and The Deep South couldn't be more different.
Point being, I had no idea what pralines were prior to making this recipe. But after realizing the recipe involved candy-making, I was sold. I love making baked goods that require the use of a thermometer, like toffee. Maybe it's because they're usually pretty easy, or maybe it's the fact that they produce goods so sugary they instantly satisfy my sweet tooth.
These pralines were a big hit - creamy, sweet, and nutty, they tasted just like fudge. Maybe I'll tip my hat to southern Canada next time and add maple extract. Thank you, Tess, for such a lovely choice! Visit her blog for the recipe.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Apple-Apple Bread Pudding, chosen by Elizabeth of Cake or Death?, couldn't have come at a better time for me.
You see, I've been sick since last week. Not deathly ill, thankfully, but the kind of ill that makes life pretty unpleasant nonetheless. It started out with a sore throat, shortness of breath, and an overwhelming urge to lie down on any flat surface - a desk, the floor, a book trolley at work. Then it mutated into the kind of cough that has prevented me from sleeping more than 20 minutes in a row for the past five nights. Five nights!
After five sleepless nights - four when I made this recipe yesterday - my brain is positively fried. Simple logic? Can't do it. Common sense? It's temporarily flown the coop. So this week, I needed a Tuesdays With Dorie recipe that was easy, and also soothing. Very soothing.
Enter apple-apple bread pudding. There were quite a few steps, sure, but they were all very methodical and pretty straightforward. I can slice apples. I can melt butter with sugar. And I can make a custard, especially when it doesn't involve tireless stirring over the stove top. And I can do all of these things - well, not in my sleep, but with a severe lack of sleep.
This recipe was a huge success, and makes a wonderful dessert or breakfast (hey, there are eggs and fruit in it, and I used whole wheat bread). Creamy custard, caramelized apples, texture from the bread, and an inviting complexity from the apple butter. Dorie, you've done it again.
Thank you Elizabeth! For the recipe, visit her blog.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Lately I feel like I've lost my kitchen mojo. Does that ever happen to you? Suddenly, the things you used to be good at don't come as naturally. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't crack an egg properly anymore. I've been fishing tiny specks of eggshell out of my cracked eggs for weeks now.
And every so often, a recipe will turn out not quite as expected. I think it happens when I get more concerned with following a recipe than trusting my own intuition.
This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Quick Classic Berry Tart (chosen by Cristine of Cooking with Cristine), was, unfortunately, more of the same. Of course, there were the bits of eggshell needing to be fished out. But the main problem was the pastry cream, which I overcooked. It looked just fine last night, but after taking it out of the fridge today, it remained a solid, springy jelly. The flavour was still fantastic - like custard - but the texture was quite off-putting. Oh, and doesn't it look silly? Almost like scrambled eggs.
With a crumbly shortbread-like crust - more proof my kitchen mojo's gone on hiatus? - and slightly sour strawberries, this tart was not a winner. Perhaps I'll try it again when I get my mojo back! For the recipe, visit Cristina's blog. And feel free to check out the other participating bloggers, who I'm sure fared much better than I.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Has there ever been an ingredient that eludes you, no matter where you search? For me, for a long time, that ingredient was queso fresco - a Latin American cheese that's reminiscent of cottage cheese. I first had it on a trip to Mexico with my mom, where it was sprinkled liberally on, well, lots of things, from huevos rancheros to tacos. That was over four years ago, and after searching supermarkets, Latino food stores and cheese shops from Toronto to Leamington to Florida, I had never been able to find any - until last month, when I discovered a Latino food shop in my own city with a ton of different cheeses for sale, including queso fresco.
When life hands you queso fresco, make tacos. That's not how that saying goes, of course, but maybe it should. Because queso fresco and tacos make one great pairing.
This recipe for slow cooker beef tacos, modified from a Rick Bayless recipe, reminds me of every authentic taco I've ever had at Mexican restaurants - tender, saucy beef sprinkled with mild, fresh cheese. If you can't find queso fresco, you can try other cheeses - feta, goat cheese, even cheddar or mozzarella. It won't have the same flavour or texture, but it will add the cheesiness that, to me anyway, is crucial to any good taco.
Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Queso Fresco
2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 inch pieces
28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and sliced
1 tbsp. adobo sauce from can of chipotles
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1.5 tsp salt
24 warm corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other cheese (feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, etc.)
Fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)
Iceberg lettuce, shredded or thinly sliced (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Add the beef to the bowl of a slow cooker. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes (with their juices) with the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion and salt. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the beef. Cover and slow-cook on high for 6 hours. It can rest on your slow cooker's warm setting for up to 4 more hours.
When it's time to eat, spoon off the fat that has accumulated on top of the beef mixture - or don't, if you're feeling lazy. Shred the beef using two regular forks - this should be easy. Taste the meat and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with the warm tortillas, crumbled cheese and optional garnishes (tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream). Depending on who you ask, these garnishes aren't authentic - but a lot of the authentic Mexican restaurants I've been to serve them, and the fresh, bright flavour they add is a great contrast to the slow-cooked beef.