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Tsoureki Bread Pudding

17 Jul

Thanks to the many, many of you who reached out with kind words about my grandfather. It is appreciated more than you know.

I’ve got no clever transition and very few jokes today, so we’ll just get right into it– tsoureki bread pudding. IS THIS NOT THE MOST BRILLIANT THING YOU HAVE EVER HEARD OF? I mean, really.

So here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna make a loaf of the delicious sort-of-sweet Easter bread, tsoureki. Then we’re gonna drown it in cream and sugar. And then we’re gonna throw some chocolate on it, bake it and eat it.

Please accept my most sincere apologies that I could not have been bothered to take the perfect picture of what is obviously the world’s most delicious dessert. Although, if you need a picture to believe that this dessert is a good idea, I’m gonna need you to check yourself — the cheddar on your cracker may not be as sharp as it used to be.

FullSizeRender (31)I pooled several resources to come up with this recipe–what I ended up going with is reflected below.

Tsoureki Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of tsoureki, cut into cubes (or, any store bought not-plain Jane bread … a cinnamon raisin loaf would probably be all kinds of awesome, too)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 c sugar
  • 6 c milk (please do not even come to me with anything other than whole)
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 c butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • 1 TBS bourbon (Metaxa if you have it!)
  • pinch of salt

Assembly

  1. Lightly grease a 9×13 pyrex or large cake pan. Whisk the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, butter, vanilla, chocolate and nutmeg together.
  2. Arrange in the tsoureki cubes in the pan, the fewer the layers, the faster it will cook. Pour the egg mixture over it. Set aside and let the bread soak up all that creamy goodness for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F while the bread/cream mixture sits.
  3. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is browned and center is set. This will vary depending on your pan, so go with what it looks like rather than what these direction say.
  4. While the pudding bakes, make the sauce: simmer sugar and water on medium heat, swirling the pot  instead of stirring, until it is a deep amber.
  5. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the cream.
  6. Add bourbon and salt. Return to heat for 1 minute more, stirring constantly and gently.
  7. Serve pudding warm or room temp, with a generous serving of cooled bourbon sauce.

A Blueberry Treat Whose Name We Shall Not Mention

30 Jun

Some things that I love, in no particular order: carbohydrates that defy definition, blueberries, and GingerKef’s cousin. So when I got the chance to bake a blueberry kind-of-cake/kind-of-bread WITH PresidentKef HIMSELF, I knew it was going to be a good night.

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PresidentKef and I go way back to the early days of this blog, when he was just a young man searching for Emerald City and I was a young, imprudent woman living on Lincoln Rd. Since then, we’ve been basically #BFF.

PresidentKef came into town last week and requested some time in kitchen with Kef, and I was only too happy to oblige. This recipe comes from the 1940s, and has an obnoxiously-appropriate-of-the-era name to boot: Blueberry Boy Bait. Blech. Good to know that in the 60 years between this recipe’s publication and the Neptunes’ production of “Milkshake,” America held true to the ideal that a hefty amount of saturated fat and sugar would snag you a suitable life partner.

Anyway- PresidentKef and I had a blast whipping this guy up. Here’s a mini lesson on when to be precise in baking and when to just go with your gut:

Sadly, there is no chocolate in this recipe– but there is a bunch of butter, sugar, and gluten. I’ve made this two or three times for large groups and it has always been met with demands for an encore appearance (but somehow, not one suitor… hmph). It’s “cake” in the way that coffee cake is, which is to say somewhere in between bread and cake (cread? brake?). Whatever you call it, it’s awesome, and I think you should make it.

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A Blueberry Cake Whose Name We Shall Not Mention

Ingredients

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 16 TBS unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first)
  • 1/2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 13×9 pan (pyrex or metal).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a stand or electric mixer on medium high, beat butter and sugars until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated. Scrape down bowl between egg additions.
  3. Reduce speed to medium, then beat in one-third of flour mixture. Once incorpated, beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture.
  4. Toss blueberries in about 1 tsp of flour (optional). Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  5. Make the topping: scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter.
  6. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan for at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Vegan Carrot Cake Everyone Will Love

28 Mar

 

You may recall my love affair with Superhero Muffins, the healthy and insanely delicious muffins chock full of vegetables. If the insanely delicious part of that description appeals to you but you could do without the healthy, this Carrot Cake is for you.

I followed this recipe from The Greek Vegan’s brilliant mind exactly, and it was gobbled down by a whole bunch of kiddos who are not inclined to eat carrots, even if they are hidden in cake. If you think this is a stranger-than-usual photo, you are right: I took the picture on my desk at work and was terrified I would accidentally publish patient information, so I covered my desk in random sheets of paper to avoid that. So, uh, yeah… here’s the least weird one of the bunch:FullSizeRender (21)

Anyway, I am told this cake is awesome. The secret is pre-flavoring the carrots by boiling them in orange juice and spices and then later using that same liquid in the cake batter.  Greeks think of everything. This Greek-American will try to make another version that is a bit healthier… but you just feel free to ignore that and keep making this one.

Vegan Carrot Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 c chopped carrots
  • 1 c orange juice
  • 1 c water
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves (I used 2ish tsp ground cloves)
    —-
  • 3.5 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/3 c molasses
  • 1/2 c cooking liquid from carrots
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (I used zest of about half a lemon)
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c raisins (or walnuts if you don’t hate them as much as I do)

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a bundt pan. Bring chopped carrots, orange juice, water, cinnamon sticks and cloves to boil in a small pot. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until carrots are tender but not mushy. Set aside to cool. Do not even THINK of dumping out that cooking liquid–we are coming back to it!
  2. Once cool, drain the liquids from the carrots AND KEEP THE LIQUID IN A BOWL SOMEWHREE. Throw carrots in your food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times, then scrape down sides,  then add 1/3 cup cooking liquid and pulse 2 more times. Scrape down side and set aside. At this point, carrots will be a variety of sizes, with a little mashing but not a full on puree.
  3. In medium mixng bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. In large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup cooking liquid, sugar and molasses until combined. Add spices, whisk. Add oil, whisk. Add carrots and stir to combine completely.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix completely. Stir in golden raisins and/or nuts if they’re your jam. The batter will be dense and a teeny bit dryer than you might have expected. This is okay..
  6. Pour batter into lightly greased bundt pan and use a spatula to even out the top. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool in pan. Once completely cooled, turn the cake out and serve–if you’re fancy you can dust with powdered sugar before serving.

A Lemon Cranberry Tea Cake For High Class Turn Ups

1 Mar

I’m 4-5 seconds from wildin’ and we got 3 more days til Friday, so today I gotta type and dash. Because I know my readership is full of people who turn up with Rihanna on Saturday and attend pinky-up high teas on Sunday, I present this pretty little cake especially for yall. The cake itself is dainty and sophisticated–pretty much what you’d expect from a tea loaf–and the cranberry swirl and candied lemons give it just enough sour sass to be memorable.  Basically, a good girl gone bad.

To make this cake, I and combined a few recipes from the beautiful blog A Hint of Vanilla, the creator of which has artistry and genius that far exceed mine, so go check her out. Her bona fides include a world-class pastry education AND beautiful food photography, and all these recipes were easily made gluten/sugar free if you’re with me on that front. No word on whether she makes paragraphs-long Rihanna references, though.

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Lemon Cranberry Tea Cake

–For the cranberry swirl

  • 6 oz cranberries (about half of the bag you get in the grocery store)
  • 60 mL brandy (I used a cherry brandy we bizarrely had hanging out)
  • juice and zest of one orange
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • 1/2 TBS vanilla
  • 2 TBS maple syrup

–For the Cake

  • 6TBS butter
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 c flour (I used CupforCup for gluten free)
  • 1/2 c almond flour
  • scant 1/2 c buttermilk (or 1/2 c milk + 1/4 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice)

–For the candied lemons

  • 1 lemon
  • 200 mL water
  • 1/2 c sugar (I used coconut sugar and it was beautiful)

–For the lemon glaze

  • 2 TBS butter
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 2 TBS milk
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Assembly:

  1. To make the cranberry swirl: place all the ingredients for the cranberry swirl in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat. Stir frequently. After about 5ish minutes, the cranberries will soften and burst–remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then, transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Texture will be something like smooth jam.
  2. To make candied lemons: slice the lemon as thin as you can–the original recipe suggest 1 mm, mine ended up somewhere about 3-4mm. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat down to low. Add lemon slices and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let lemon slices soak in syrup until ready to use.
  3. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease two small loaf pans or one large one. Mix together dry ingredients, set aside. In a standing or electric mixer, cream together butter and honey until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
    1. With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg, then turn up to medium-high for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat again for about 15 seconds. Add the egg yolk and beat on medium-high for another 20 seconds. This crazy beating schedule should get you a shiny batter.
    2. Using a rubber spatula, alternate folding in the dry flour mix and the buttermilk to the honey/butter/egg mixture. Begin and end with the dry mix, so that it takes 4 additions to use all the dry mix and 3 additions to use all the buttermilk. Do not overdo it- fold in until just combined. Finally, add in your desired amount of cranberry swirl and fold in–I used about 1/2 cup and think my bread could have used a bit more… start there and, if you decide to add, move up slowly. But again- don’t go crazy mixing this beautiful batter.
    3. Fill your prepared pans so each is about 2/3 full. Arrange 2-3 candied lemon slices on top. Bake the loaves for 30-40 minutes (mine took around 36 or 37), or until center is set and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool in pans.
  4. To make lemon glaze: Mix all glaze ingredients together in a small sauce pan until just simmering. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour/spoon glaze over cooled cake. Allow glaze to cool completely before serving.

 

Savory Baklava (or, how to turn vegetables into dessert)

17 Jan

JetSet and KimmieKef recommended the sort-of-new cookbook Smashing Plates. I got it last week, and pretty much every page is already dog-eared for future cooking. I hope you’re all looking forward to some new Greek Easter dishes this year… or at least being conscripted into taste-testing the recipes I try.

Our recipe for today actually comes from the author’s web site, which is equally replete with new takes on traditional Greek fare. It also answers the question JetSet has been wondering for the last 7 years or so: how can we make vegetables dessert? The answer, it turns out, is to combine caramelized onions cooked down with cinnamon, tomatoes, feta, almonds, dill, and dates, and then to layer them with phyllo and butter.

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Yeah, she went a little crazy with the filter– sue me. At least I’m trying.

It’s important you know that this pie is neither sweet nor savory–it’s the best of both. MrKef  and some non-Greek, normal eaters gave the swavory thing big thumbs up, and I would definitely recommend this pie for a brunch–because who the hell knows which meal or flavor we’re supposed to be eating at 11:30am with a bottomless carafe of mimosa, anyway?

Tomato, feta, almond and date baklava

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium white onions, finely sliced or minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of granulated sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 bunch dill, finely chopped (or 3 teaspoons dried)
  • 10 vine plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped (keep half of the juice)
  • 3 TBS tomato purée
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet phyllo pastry (9 sheets)
  • about 1/2 stick butter, melted (sub olive oil- this is just for spreading on the phyllo)
  • 3/4 c sliveredalmonds, ground down to a crumble (either by food processor or just by banging them)
  • 7-8 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely sliced
  • 2 c feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons clear honey (optional)

Assembly

  1. Lightly butter or oil the bottom and sides of your longest pyrex pan or rectangular aluminium baking dish (I used a 13×9 pyrex). Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large-bottomed pan. Gently fry the onions over a low heat, add the garlic, cinnamon and sugar, then increase the heat. Fry for about 12 minutes, until caramelized. Add the dill, tomatoes and half of their juices and the tomato puree and cook for another 10 minutes, until reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove outer bag from phyllo, and gently roll out the dough. If you are new at phyllo, lightly dampen a paper towel and cover the dough with it, as it dries out if you are moving slowly. Place one sheet of phyllo in the greased baking dish, then gently brush it with melted butter or olive oil, being very generous. Be sure to get all the corners and ends. Repeat 3 more times, for a total of 4 layers. Don’t worry too much if these layers rip, as they will be covered by deliciousness in a minute anyway.
  4. Spread half the onion mixture over the pastry, top with half the almonds, the dates and half the feta. Repeat butter/phyllo layers for another 4 layers, and top with the remaining onions, almonds and feta. Do another 4-5 layers of phyllo/butter, making sure that the last one is as pretty and untorn as possible.
  5. Lightly score the top, cutting diamonds or squares, brush with butter and splash with a little water. Place on a baking tray and cook for 30–35 minutes until golden.To get maximum flakiness, turn up the heat to 400F for the last 5 minutes of baking, keeping a close eye to avoid burning.

Skillet Sensation #2: Lemon Almond Cake

15 Jun

A one-bowl treat cooked in a pan? The New York Times gets crazier and crazier by the day. I’d cook on my hands if Mark Bittman said it would result in a better meal on my table, but he really goes off the deep end in the video associated with this recipe when he resists calling this a tart, and suggests instead that we call this an almond fritatta. I’m not quite ready to go there. The lemon is refreshing, it’s not too sweet but not savory either, and it has a bunch of protein from the eggs and the almonds…so I’ll just go ahead and call it a recovery cake, then. Eat that, Bittman.

I made mine without the powdered sugar, so it didn’t look so hot– here’s the beautiful work of the NYT to show you what yours could look like if you’re as good at life as they are:

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Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • ½ to ¾sugar (I used 1/2 c of coconut palm sugar)
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ground almonds
  • ½cream
  • ½sliced almonds, more for garnish
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 TBS butter
  • powdered sugar, for garnish

Assembly

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt, ground almonds, cream, sliced almonds, lemon zest and juice.
  2. Melt butter in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over low heat; when foam has subsided, add almond mixture to pan, tilting pan to distribute batter evenly. Continue to cook tart on stovetop until edges just begin to set, then put pan in oven and finish cooking, about 10 to 15 minutes more.
  3. When tart is done, put it in broiler for about a minute or until just golden on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and sliced almonds. Serve.

Nutella Brioche Flower, Bad Pictures, and a Frosty Valentine’s Weekend

19 Feb

Just in case anyone thought I was playing around, I made the most amazing treat over the weekend. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Nutella Brioche Flower!photo(4)I fell in love with the idea of this when I saw it on Instagram (first, follow me @ChefKefiRN…then, search #FOODWINEWOMEN to be amazed at the stuff people come up with) and decided it would be the Valentine’s Day treat that I would bring to MrKef’s family on Staten Island. I found this recipe and knew within about 15 seconds that it was the one for me: it promised my kitchen would be filled with the “smell of lemon and nutella” (umm..yes, please!) and the woman who narrates the amazingly-instructional video does a dead-on Mrs. Potts and what’s better than cooking with Angela Lansbury, really?

Before you make any judgment as to your ability to make this bread, I implore you to watch the video–it really is not skills intensive at all, especially if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook!

Since this one is full of gluten and full of sugar, I did not taste it, but it got very positive feedback from those who did, and –as promised–the kitchen smelled really amazing. I am looking forward to making all kinds of iterations of this one–a FIG jam tsoureki flower, a s’mores flower, a peanut butter and jelly flower…. the possibilities are endless. I will try the next one with Cup4Cup to see how it fares as a gluten-free brioche (which seems about as oxymoronic as you can get, but a girl can dream).

Next on the docket: Valentine’s Day weekend. MrKef and I are not that into the holiday, but as it’s fallen around a long weekend for the last couple years, we usually try to do something out of the ordinary together. This year, we went up to New York to see our families, a play, and check out a fun hotel. But before all that, we ate our body weight in paella at Guardado‘s in Bethesda. They say the $35 served-still-steaming pallea feeds 2-3, but honestly I think 4 really hungry people would still struggle to make a dent in it! We went for the Valenciana and the Black varieties, as I will order pretty much anything with squid ink, and I highly recommend it.

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Moving right along from dimly-lit restaurant photos: frosty, blustery, freezing New York. Every time I go home, I think to myself, “Why don’t I live here?” and then I remember that it can be in single digits for days and days and I snap out of my NY nostalgia pretty quickly.

After a really lovely visit with MrKef’s family, we went to see Disgraced, which is an intense 90-minute play about Islamaphobia and assumptions in America (is anyone surprised that was our Vday pick? I don’t think so.). We both loved it and I would actually really like to go and see it again–lots of threads to tease out. In addition to being reasonably-timed, it is extremely reasonably priced because the Lyceum is such a big theater… and it has Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother and the woman who played Jimmy’s mom in Boardwalk Empire. So, really, go see it and we will unpack it all over coffee.

Following the play, we met up with JetSetKef and his FIANCEE, KimmieKef. They are being totally Amish about their engagement status (MamaKef says it still isn’t “official” until it’s on Facebook), so I am not even stressed that I am grinding JetSet’s gears by not taking the time to find the accented-capital E to correctly use the word fiancée above. QueijoKef joined us and we recreated this amazing evening. But first, we took a selfie:

photo 3Once all that fun was over, MrKef and I headed back to the VERY highly-recommended Paper Factory Hotel in Long Island City. Very hip, reasonably priced (on a Sunday night, anyway) and super close to the subway, we had a blast at this place–especially in the Mediterranean/Latin American fusion restaurant, Mundo (grape-leaf-wrapped halloumi and yucca fries, anyone?), and at the PINGPONG TABLE. Check out MrKef’s moves:

photo 2 photo 1Whew, that was a long one. Finally we come back full circle: the recipe!

Nutella Brioche Flower

Ingredients

  • 3c + 3TBS bread flour or all-purpose flour (I used all purpose)
  • 6 oz room-temp milk
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 2 oz butter, melted
  • 2 room-temp eggs, beaten lightly
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • Nutella (I used about half a jar and it was a little too much) or whatever spread you’d like
  • 1 TBS milk + 1 TBS water (for glaze)

Assembly

  1. Whisk together the yeast, sugar and milk. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and lemon zest. Make a well in the center and add the butter, beaten eggs and yeast/milk mixture. Mix to a soft dough–if you’re using a standing mixer, just use the dough hook on med-low, otherwise just use your hands (this dough is not particularly sticky).
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or 4 minutes by mixer.  Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly-greased bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place until the dough has about doubled in size (about an hour). I always use the microwave for this.
  4. Cut a circle 12″ in diameter out of parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. If you haven’t watched the instructional video here yet, do it while the dough is rising.
  5. After the dough has doubled, punch it down for any air bubbles and knead it for another 3-4 minutes by hand or 1 minute by mixer. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each piece into a ball.
  6. One at a time, roll out each ball  into a circle measuring about 10″ in diameter. The dough should be about 1/8″ thick. Do not be intimidated- this is a study dough and you can do this without very good pastry skills (like me!)
  7. Place the rolled-out dough onto the parchment circle and use a flat spatula or knife to spread an even layer of nutella, leaving a small border at the edge. It really doesn’t have to be a very thick layer, or the center of your flower will look a bit too nutella-heavy.
  8. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough but do NOT spread nutella on the top of the final layer.
  9. Leaving a small circle at the center, cut the dough in half, then quarters, then eighths, and finally sixteenths.
  10. Take a pair of adjacent segments. Lift and twist them away from each other through 180°. Lift and twist through 180° again, then twist through 90° so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process for all pairs of segments.
  11. Cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours. Preheat the oven to 360F.
  12. Mix together the water and milk. Brush the brioche with the glaze and then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until center begins to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
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