popovers with black pepper, chives & parmesan

FamilyStyle Food

Last week I attended a conference for food professionals {IACP} in Portland, one of my very favorite cities for eating and living well. What a great experience – with so many people representing a huge array of expertise in the field of food and cooking, the exchange of information is amazing and energizing; I love that we all have something to learn from each other.

I found myself sitting next to pastry chef Cindy Mushet during one session. Cindy is the author of  the award-winning The Art & Soul of Baking, a big door stopper of a book. I have to admit it’s not one I invite into bed with me since it must weigh in at more than five pounds, way too unwieldy to perch on my teetering pile on the bedside table.

But the other day I needed to get busy baking something, so I flipped through it; there’s lots to learn in there, the book is full of beautiful photos and basic techniques as well as some advanced recipe variations for more adventerous bakers.

I wasn’t feeling like spending the whole day baking, so when I saw a recipe for Parmesan Herb popovers I was all in. Popovers are the best at delivering bang for the buck; minimal ingredients, time and technique but big on the “wow” factor.

FamilyStyle Food

They are also delicious. Warm out of the oven and popped into your mouth they have a crisp exterior and a soft, almost creamy interior. Popovers are commonly sweet, but I like the idea of savory ones to serve instead of  the usual rolls or bread for a dinner party. Popovers are so easy to make at the last minute, and you can flavor them however you like.

I took Cindy’s basic recipe and tweaked it by adding freshly cracked black pepper, lemon zest and some of the chives that are blooming in big clumps in my yard right now.

While my popovers rose impressively, I noticed when I cut one open that they weren’t hollow inside as popovers typically are, but had a more substance. I might have to make another batch to practice my baking science, since I’m not sure why that happened. Did I use too much flour? Don’t know, but they were still light and delicious to eat.

Popovers with Black Pepper, Chives & Parmesan

Yield: 12 popovers

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups milk
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  4. 2 scant cups flour (10 ounces)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  8. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  9. 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat a 12-cup popover pan or muffin tin with melted butter or oil.
  3. Whisk together the milk, eggs and butter in a large bowl until blended. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Place the empty pan in the oven to heat for 7 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and fill the cups evenly with the batter (this is less messy if you transfer batter to a 4 cup liquid measuring cup).
  5. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the popovers are deep golden brown, 15 - 18 more minutes.
  6. Cool briefly in the pan before removing and serving. You can reheat cooled popovers in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/popovers-with-black-pepper-chives-parmesan/

Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

We spent spring break at home last week, and I have to admit I dreaded it a tiny bit. My kids usually have a gang of friends in our neighborhood to hang with, but it seemed like they all flew south for a taste of warm sun, leaving my brood in a state of social withdrawal. I imagined long rainy days stuck inside while their boredom escalated to deafening levels.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law L flew in from Portland to entertain and play with us – happiness all around!

I came home one afternoon to find her in the kitchen with the kids, applying lashings of creamy frosting to the tops of just-baked little chocolate cupcakes, something I know an attentive Mrs. Cleaver might attempt with her family, but I never seem to. That must be what aunts are for, I think.

The cupcake recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s fantastic book Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie is a perfectionist, and her recipes are crafted to a precise “T”. Perfect recipe instructions are especially important in baking recipes; those chemical reactions that happen in the oven rely on exact measurements of ingredients, time and temperature.

These cupcakes are no exception; they turned out just as promised – dark, moist, not too sweet – glazed with a shiny, bakery-like chocolate frosting. L sprinkled some colored candy sprinkles on the cupcakes, reserving a few with a sprinkle of sea salt, a just reward for the adults in need of a chocolate fix.

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

My Italian grandmother never made biscotti for me, but if she did I imagine that they would taste a lot like these, gently crunchy and sweet with lemon.

Biscotti are my favorite cookies to make because they don’t require much; no fussy rolling resting or cutting, which is the sort of process that makes me start to feel restless and fidgety – not the way I like to operate in this endlessly busy season.

And here’s another bonus – they’re perfect for holiday gift giving because they keep so well in a covered container. Bake a batch and stash away; when you need something for that last minute cookie tray you can take a deep, cleansing breath…one less thing on your holiday to-do list.

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Yield: about 3 dozen

Ingredients

  1. 3 large eggs, separated
  2. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  3. 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  4. 1 cup pine nuts
  5. 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  6. 2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
  7. 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  8. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  10. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  11. Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl with remaining 3/4 cup sugar to form soft peaks.
  12. Stir in the melted butter, pine nuts, lemon extract and lemon zest.
  13. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.  Add half the flour mixture to mixing bowl and stir; add the beaten egg whites, followed by the remaining flour. Stir on low speed until the dough is firm and slightly sticky.
  14. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a log approximately 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Arrange the logs side by side on the baking sheet and bake 20 - 25 minutes or until light golden brown.
  15. Remove from the oven and cool the logs for about 10 minutes; transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch wide diagonal slices with a very sharp knife.
  16. Arrange the slices cut-side up on the baking sheet and bake 5 minutes on each side or until gently browned and crisp.
  17. Makes about 3 dozen.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl with remaining 3/4 cup sugar to form soft peaks.
  3. Stir in the melted butter, pine nuts, lemon extract and lemon zest.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.  Add half the flour mixture to mixing bowl and stir; add the beaten egg whites, followed by the remaining flour. Stir on low speed until the dough is firm and slightly sticky.
  5. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a log approximately 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Arrange the logs side by side on the baking sheet and bake 20 - 25 minutes or until light golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool the logs for about 10 minutes; transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch wide diagonal slices with a very sharp knife.
  7. Arrange the slices cut-side up on the baking sheet and bake 5 minutes on each side or until gently browned and crisp.
http://familystylefood.com/2009/12/lemon-pine-nut-biscotti/