For the previous four winters I’ve emptied my Aspen condo of personal belongings, parking them in my down valley storage unit, and handed my keys to The Gant’s front office personnel. There’s no way to make this easy. Physically, it’s double-duty difficult, packing for a 51/2-month journey while converting my home into rental space. Mentally, it’s always been way outside my comfort zone. I just couldn’t get my head around the process.
Usually I return to Colorado, as I did last week, dreading the re-entry chores awaiting me. But this year, compared to the past, that has seemed less daunting. If I weren’t dieting, I would call it “a piece of cake.” In four years I’ve apparently morphed from hunter-gatherer to true believer, less is more, keep it simple. My mantra is if I take something out, don’t bring something else in.
Every year it seems my less becomes less, my simple is simpler. It may be, as someone suggested, I’ve stepped so far outside my comfort zone I’ve forgotten how to climb back in. If that translates to lightening my load, I vote yes.
After a 3-month hiatus from cooking, hanging out in my kitchen says Welcome Home. Since we’re into comfort zones, being inside and out, I’m thinking this blog sorta teeters on the edge. Dear Readers, when did you last do something brand spanking new? Something that nudged you outside the familiar. That’s the true test.
This blog has forced me into a deep dive of unknown recipes, techniques and ingredients. Every week it’s a learning experience with more failures than I will ever admit. In fact I’ve become quite comfortable with failing. Oops!
This week I’ve baked three newbies which I guarantee you bakers will be trying. My new bestie is buckwheat flour, not only healthy but hearty. You’ll see me using it in more recipes this summer. Although I’ve never waded through Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, I can now bake madeleines. Hooray for me. Thank you, Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz.
Two of my favorite bloggers, Liz, That Skinny Chick Can Bake, and Chris, Café Sucre & Farine, are the stars of two recipes. They’re keepers, both the bloggers and the recipes. It’s Cook the Book Fridays with Madeleines au Sarrasin from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Here are the recipes:
CHERRY CHOCOLATE PECAN COOKIES by Liz Berg, That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Each summer I need a tasty, freezable drop cookie recipe for snacks and to share. This chunk of sweetness loaded with two kinds of chocolate, roasted nuts and dried cherries is quick, simple and delicious.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate
1/2 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate
1 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, roasted pecans
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
4. Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in cherries, white and milk chocolate, and roasted pecans either in the mixer or with a wooden spoon.
5. With a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop 2 tablespoonfuls of dough and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
6. Bake until just set and golden, about 12-14 minutes.
7. Let cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
TIP: Store in an airtight container for about 3 days or freeze for up to a month
MADELEINES au SARRASIN (Buckwheat Madeleines) by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
David’s take on madeleines using buckwheat flour is genius in a hearty, more healthy manner. It’s less sophisticated and refined than its white flour sister but the guys at The Gant’s front desk loved these “seashells.” In fact James told me, “My mom used to make these every Christmas.”
YIELD: 18 madeleines
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup egg whites (usually about 4 large eggs)
1 tablespoon dark honey
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. As the butter cooks, it will sputter a bit and then it will settle down. Cook the butter until it’s the color of maple syrup and smells toasty. It’s about a 5-minute process. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (See the How-To below in TIPS.)
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the egg whites and honey. Stir in one-third of the browned butter and gradually add the rest of the butter, including all the dark bits, without scraping the bottom of the pan. Mix until the batter is smooth.
3. In a madeleine mold, brush the indentations with melted butter. Fill the molds three-quarters full with the batter. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until the spring back lightly when you touch them in the center. Because of the color of the buckwheat flour, color is not a good indication of doneness.
4. Remove from oven, wait 30 seconds, then tip out onto cooling rack. Madeleines are best eaten warm, or on the same day they are made. Sprinkle confectioners sugar on the tips if you wish.
TIPS: Here’s a great link to browning butter 101 by Joy the Baker (Love, love, love Joy the Baker). Personally I would take my butter to a deeper brown, a maple syrup color, than Joy suggests.
ONE BOWL BUTTERMILK BRAN MUFFINS by Chris at The Café Sucre & Farine
For most of my adult life I have searched for a tasty bran muffin. I like the idea of a bran muffin and the taste. Unfortunately I’ve never met a bran muffin that isn’t dry. With that first bite, I’m always hopeful. By the third bite, dry, crumbly, no flavor. Chris’ bran muffin passed the dry test. In my opinion the honey-butter glaze is the magic. Before you glaze the warm muffins, why not poke it with three small holes so the glaze will seep through.
Here’s Chris’ link. Besides the recipe, she offers many tips, a must-read.