Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A bit of zest

I made some rather wonderful lemon pudding cakes this weekend. As always, they're fairly easy to make, though I had a moment of panic when the batter remained stubbornly curdled until I folded in the egg whites. But they turned out beautifully, so all was well in the end. 

They stay cakey and almost souffle-like at the top while forming a sort of lemon curd at the bottom. It's delicious. Tangy without being overwhelming and refreshing after a full meal. That's the best thing about lemon desserts. There's always room for a bit more.

The recipe comes from Anna Olson, whose desserts never disappoint. So without further ado, here it is.

Lemon Pudding Cakes

6 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
4 lemons, zest and juice
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup 2% milk

Beat butter and sugar. Add zest and lemon juice, then egg yolks, one at a time. As mentioned above, it will likely curdle. Don't panic! It'll be fine.
Add flour and baking powder, then milk, a little at a time, until you have a mostly smooth mixture.
Whip egg whites to stiff peaks and then fold into batter.
Pour batter into ramekins and place into a pan. Pour boiling water into pan so that it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 35 minutes in a 350F oven.
They should be golden brown on the top when they're done.

They're going to fall a bit once they've sat out of the oven for a bit, but they'll still taste delicious. I crushed some raspberries with a bit of sugar to add extra colour and another layer of flavour. And raspberries pair so well with lemon that I couldn't resist.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coffee, Vietnamese style

Whenever the weather starts to get warm, I always find myself in a bit of a conundrum with my morning coffee. Though the truly hot weather hasn't hit yet (and hopefully won't until June), there are still a few days where I don't want to be drinking a cup of hot coffee. There's nothing less desirable than sweating profusely over your breakfast because you need your caffeine fix.

This is why I'm here to tell you about Vietnamese coffee. Though you can drink it hot, it's meant to be served over ice. And it's so, so good. Sweetened with condensed milk and made as a single serving, it's perfect for a hot summer day. And you won't have to buy expensive iced drinks from Starbucks now.

First, you need some fairly specific equipment. I was lucky enough to receive all of mine for Christmas, but I'm told you can get it all in Chinatown. The Vietnamese filter has been disassembled in the picture below so you can see all it's parts. Then you need some Vietnamese coffee, such Trung Nguyen.

Fill the filter with coffee until it reaches the indented rim that runs along the inside of the filter. I use about 3 rounded teaspoons. Then screw on the removable part of the filter tightening enough that the water doesn't run through too quickly. It should be snug, but not so tight that you can't turn it any further. Pour some condensed milk into the bottom of a glass. Then boil some water (or, you know, have it boiling while you're getting the glass and coffee ready).

Place the filter over the glass with condensed milk. Pour about a centimeter of water into the filter and wait about 20 seconds. If the coffee is dripping through (not pouring through) then fill the filter to the top with water and place the lid on top. If you find that the coffee is not dripping through or is filtering through too quickly, loosen or tighten it accordingly.

Once all the water has filtered through, remove the filter. If you want to drink it hot, top it off with some more hot water. I like to stir it so the condensed milk is evenly distributed. Other people like to save it for the end. If you want it iced, stir it up and pour it into a glass over ice. Again, you don't have to stir it first, but I think it tastes better all mixed in. Not too sweet and kind of rich and chocolatey.
This is by no means the final word on Vietnamese coffee. In fact it was largely trial and error aided by the internet. But it really is very easy. The only problem is if you want another cup you have to go through the whole process again. But I think it's worth it. So happy warm weather! And if anyone has their own tips for Vietnamese coffee, let me know.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On the Uses of Buttermilk

I had some buttermilk left over from the Irish Soda bread I made a few weeks ago. One of the annoying things about buttermilk is that it only comes in one-litre containers, never anything smaller, so no matter what you're making, you always have some left. One of the good things about buttermilk is that it has a fairly impressive shelf life.

I was flipping through my cookbooks, trying to find a recipe that used buttermilk, and I came across some cornmeal muffins. Now, normally I'm not that fond of cornmeal muffins, or cornbread, or cornmeal in general unless it's added in small amounts for texture. I don't know why, it's just not my thing.

These muffins though, are delicious. I'm so glad I had buttermilk that needed using, because otherwise I might have eternally passed this recipe by.

The best part about them? They're so easy. You probably could have guessed that's what I liked best about them. Sometimes I think I should have called this blog The Lazy Baker. Anyway, the muffins. Aside from being truly easy to make, they also taste really good. They are ever so subtly sweet, just a hint, not quite there, and the lime juice and zest round out the flavour nicely. They end up smelling weirdly like lime Tostitos, but I swear that's not how they taste.

They're also really moist. Oh yeah, another good thing about buttermilk? It's the king of keeping baked goods moist. You'll never have to worry about drying out if you use buttermilk.

You probably want the recipe now, right?

Cornmeal Muffins from Anna Olson

1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt


Whisk buttermilk, oil, eggs, sugar, and lime juice to combine.
In a separate bowl combine cornmeal, flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
Add to buttermilk mixture and whisk until smooth (it's a very wet batter).
Pour into greased or lined muffin tin.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes in a 350F oven until golden brown and tops spring back when pressed lightly.

I can see these being extremely versatile. Brush them with a water icing glaze to sweeten them up a bit more, grate in some cheese before baking to make them savoury. Bake it in a pan as cornbread. You can stir in blueberries before baking to add another layer of flavour. Raspberries would also be nice. I can also see them going really well with your bacon and eggs in the morning.

Whichever way you eat them, you're sure to enjoy them!