Christmas Eve Day was a marathon of cooking and baking. For almost ten hours I flew through the kitchen, whisk and spatula in hand. It’s a miracle I took any photos at all, as the camera was the last thing on my mind. I had already done my recipe research and knew what I would be making. Ingredients were on hand, including anticipation. I love holiday baking and cooking, and it was a pleasure to add these dishes to our friends’ table on Christmas Day.
All things come to an end, even Gourmet Magazine, which took its final bow with the November 2009 issue. Having cut my teeth on Bon Appétit, and then graduating to Gourmet, I almost can’t recall cooking without an issue at hand for inspiration. Here are two dishes from the final Gourmet that graced our friends’ Christmas dinner table in San Pancho, Mexico. Adios, Gourmet.
The recipe for Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs is from Epicurious. A simple brine is used to pickle peeled, hard-boiled eggs for at least 2 hours. Sliced beets cooked in the brine provide the intense color.
I was so tired by the end of the day and more than ready to sit down with a sip of Glenfiddich to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, that I forgot about the pickling eggs. At 5:30 Christmas morning, I leaped out of bed to remove them from the brilliant brine. No harm was done, and I’m sure the extra time gave them a more magenta hue. Could I have chosen a better visual image to start my day?
The photo shows the eggs more pink, less intense in color, than they were in reality. I will have to remember this colorful recipe for Easter brunch.
Also from Gourmet, Golden Onion Pie, a yeast dough encasing buttery, creamy onions.
While making the dough, I accidently used twice as much melted butter than called for. Butter sticks in Mexico are not 4 oz. or even the metric equivalent. There is always some math involved to make a conversion, and I didn’t do it right this time. As soon as I saw the oily dough in the Kitchen Aid bowl, I realized my mistake. I quickly added the same ingredients all over again, except for the butter, doubling the recipe. This gave me extra dough to cut out stars with a cookie cutter to use as decoration on the pie. Some happy accidents cause me to thank my lucky stars. I also added one roasted, peeled poblano chile and one cup of sliced mushrooms sautéed in olive oil to the filling.
100% Whole Wheat Bread in the Bread Machine — my recipe
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water
1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
4 cups whole wheat flour (more or less, you will need to monitor the first kneading to see if it needs more flour or more water)
2 tablespoons gluten flour
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast or rapid rise yeast
Add all ingredients in order given to bread machine pan. Select cycle and start the machine. You may need to adjust for more flour if the dough is too sticky, or more water if it is too dry. Add in small increments until you have a dough that kneads together in a smooth ball.
- If you detect a bitter flavor in the whole wheat flour, throw it out and buy fresh flour. Bitterness means the flour is rancid. It is best to buy it where there is a high turn-over, or better yet, grind your own.
- Use the whole wheat setting if your bread machine has it.
- I have learned that whole wheat bread never rises as much the second time as it does for the first rise, so I omit the second rise all together. This results in a higher loaf, though a less tender crumb. Since it is 100% whole wheat, there is a limit to how tender the crumb will be anyway, so I don’t mind the sacrifice. To eliminate the second rise: after the first kneading remove the paddle and return the dough to the pan. Before you return the dough to the pan, you can spray the shaft where the paddle fits with Pam or apply vegetable oil. The oiled shaft will easily release the finished loaf, instead of taking out a chunk of bread when it is removed from the pan.With the paddle removed, there will be no “punch down”, resulting in one long rise.
Any recipe from David Lebovitz’ web page is a winner, and his Chocolate Biscotti is no exception. I learned from his blog that the word biscotti means twice baked. If you don’t return the sliced biscotti to the oven for the final crisping, it is not true biscotti. Maybe “Unocotti”?
All my chocolate comes from the States, returning in my carefully weighed luggage and, hopefully, not exceeding the allowed weight and thus incurring the hefty overweight fee. This results in judicious use of chocolate. David calls for chocolate chips and optional dipping in melted chocolate. I’m sure his biscotti finished so would be wonderful, but it is also very, very good made without these two elements. The generous 3/4 cup of cocoa called for gives a very chocolaty flavor, “and no one will complain”.
I discovered years ago, when baking Christmas biscotti as gifts for friends, that it crisps more quickly during the second baking if the slices are placed on a cake rack which is on a sheet pan. This does away with turning the slices over halfway through the second baking for greater crispness.
The twice-baked slices of biscotti are almost too hard to bite into, but they are sturdy enough to hold their shape when dipped into a morning cup of freshly roasted Mexican coffee. They are too good. Thank you, David.
And also from David, and also made as Christmas gifts, his Lemon Curd.
For the first time ever, I saw fresh lemons this December in our local produce and grocery stores. Lemons are not part of traditional Mexican cooking. Rather, the ubiquitous limes take their place in all things sweet and savory. Finding beautiful, fresh lemons only one block away from my house and for only twenty pesos a kilo — not even two dollars for over two pounds — was a real Christmas gift. The first thing I made was a lemon vinaigrette. The second thing I made was David’s Lemon Curd.
David says to cook the curd until a spoonful dropped back into the pan briefly holds its shape on the surface. This was a good tip to know and it worked. While reading other curd recipes, I checked out The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Her recipe calls for lemon zest to be stirred in after the curd comes off the stove and is strained. David’s recipe didn’t call for zest, but since to my taste there can’t be too much lemon flavor, I followed Rose’s suggestion. It was really lemony and just right. Lemon curd on whole wheat toast with tea, or used as a filling for a layer cake, adds a sunny piquancy.
A microplane is best for zesting. It produces a fine shred without any of the bitter white.
Stir the curd over a low flame constantly to prevent curdling. Do not allow to bubble, and remove from the heat if it starts to steam, as this can cause curdling. While you may think it tiresome to have to stir constantly, it is well worth the effort.
And then strain to remove any tiny bits of cooked egg white and chalazae (structures of egg white that anchor yolks in the center of the egg). Once strained, add the zest and spoon into jars.