Corn-brats

I made corn-brats tonight. Well, without any corn. OK, so it would be better described as breaded, deep-fried bratwurst. But they looked like corndogs, so that is all that matters. Tastier.

Dunkworthy

Friends will tell you that I have been going through Krispy Kreme withdrawal.  The chain no longer operates in New England, after a short-lived, quick-fail attempt to buck the Dunkin’ Donuts market over 5 years ago.  Really people? You chose DD over KK?  My head still reels as to how this unfortunate mental illness came to grip all of New England.

In my most recent trip to Lost Vegas … Las Vegas, I had as many as I could muster.  I specifically remember the sweetness they added to the moments I spent perusing the wedding chapel merchandise cases at the crusty Circus Circus Casino at 4 am.

All this has left me pining for those featherlight, honey-kissed hoops of holiness.  I spent a good hour Googling recipes for mock Krispy Kremes, for as you can imagine, the real recipe is locked in a safe somewhere. Not even the employees know exactly what’s in ‘em.  Much to our chagrin, we cannot fully recreate these wonders at home, but we can come close to touching the sun.

Here is a link to the recipe I used.  Keep in mind that these are yeast doughnuts.  They take some time, because you must let the dough rise twice.  These are much lighter than brutish Dunkin’ Donuts… doughnuts. I took advice from a fellow recipe reviewer and also made some of my own adjustments:

  • Substitute 1 cup of the regular flour with 1 cup of cake flour for extra fluffiness
  • Let your doughnuts rise in the oven.  Heat your oven to 200ºF half an hour before you are about to cut our your doughnuts, then turn it off and allow to cool down (anywhere between 100-150ºF). Place a small bowl of water on the bottom rack to add some humidity.  Put your doughnut cutouts on a cookie sheet and allow to rise for 45 minutes on the racks above the bowl.  Extra fluffiness ensues.
  • When making the glaze, heat it over the stove until all the sugar lumps are removed.  I also added at least another full cup of powdered sugar. The glaze should be almost opaque and quite thick.  Double dip those suckers after the first glaze has hardened.

Voila

You may also wish to watch something while eating your dunkworthies. I recommend:

http://www.silverscreenclassics.com/video_streaming.php?id=00465001

New digs …

…as in, new things I dig.

Winter sale time at my place of occupation — which means outrageous deals on everything I shouldn’t be spending money on, especially before a cross-country trip.  I’m a sucker for cheap stuff, though.  My grandfather was the ultimate bargain hunter–I would make him proud.  Although, I would have to say my take home booty is much more practical than bulk jars of pickles or golf balls.

I bought a great espresso machine on the cheap-to-the-cheap.  I really bought it for the stainless-steel cups it came with more than the machine itself. But, I must say, I am very happy with it so far.  Here are the cups I couldn’t deny; what’s wrong with me?

They don’t actually say “Breville” on them.

Got a cool, retro Waring blender.  $22.  Mhmm.

Many other things I don’t need but couldn’t pass up at the price. That’s usually how it goes.  But I will definitely get use out of the biscuit cutters. Now I no longer have to resort to rusty soup cans.

Save those peels!

Don’t throw away your citrus rinds — eat them! Wait … not yet.  You have to candy them first.  This process is so simple I wonder why more people don’t do it. Candied orange, lemon, lime, tangerine and grapefruit peels are a great accompaniment for desserts — for decorating cakes, making florentines or  just dipping in chocolate.  Buying them is quite an expensive affair, so learn how to make them here.

The process of candying citrus involves first removing the bitter pith — the white, fibrous junk between the peel and the inner fruit — and lastly boiling the peels in a simple syrup. Other recipes on the web don’t always tell you to scrape the pith off in-between each boiling, but I can tell you it is necessary to avoid bitterness.

The way you prepare your peels depends largely upon how you plan to use the fruit flesh inside.  If you are eating the citrus in sections, score the peel with two intersecting cuts around, then peel each quarter off the fruit.  This will result in four leaf-shaped peels.

Notes

If you are juicing (reaming) the citrus first, then you will have to do a little more work, as a lot of the flesh will still be attached to the peel when you are done juicing. Whichever route you take, you will follow the same steps below. I recommend using tangerine peels over orange peels if you have the option. They have less pith to remove and have a stronger flavor and deeper orange color (if presentation matters).

Also, don’t bother to try this recipe if you have less than 6 oranges — it is too much work for too little.  Wait until you have about 8-10 orange peels (you can save your peels in the freezer until you have enough).

Candied Citrus Peels

4-6 grapefruits -or- 8 -10 oranges -or- 12-14 tangerines, lemons or limes
Granulated sugar
Water
  1. Add the citrus peels or reamed citrus halves into a pot of boiling water
  2. Boil the batch for 45 minutes
  3. Pour the peels into a colander and run under cold water until cool to the touch
  4. Using a spoon or grapefruit spoon (lightly serrated), scrape the inside of the peels, removing as much of the pith as possible. Take care not to tear the peel, as it will be very soft and pliable at this stage. Discard the portions of pith that you are able to remove.
  5. Return the peels into another pot of fresh boiling water (the discarded water is very bitter) for 20 minutes, then repeat step #4.
  6. Return the peels into a fresh pot of boiling water a final time for another 20 minutes (that’s three times total).
  7. Scrape the inside of the peels of the last remaining pith residue. If any remains, repeat the process until it has all been removed.  The peels should be very thin and translucent at this point. If you tear some of the peels (you will), I assure you, they still taste fine.
  8. Make a simple syrup in a pot large enough to contain all of the peels. Depending on how many peels you have, you may need to double or even triple the recipe. Make just enough to submerge the peels.
  9. Simmer the peels in the syrup until it has reduced to no more than a few tablespoons in the pot.
  10. Place a cooling rack over a sheet of wax paper.
  11. Remove the peels from the pot with tongs and place them spread out on the cooling rack.
  12. Allow to cool and dry overnight.
  13. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container between leaves of wax paper

You can save any leftover syrup to use as an orange-flavored sweetener for tea or cocktails.

They are ready to use for whatever purpose you have in mind. Some recommendations? After they have cooled overnight:

  • Slice the peels into thin strips, dip into dark chocolate
  • Use the “leaves”  to decorate a cake
  • Cut into various shapes with small metal pastry cutters for pastries
  • Give to your kids as an alternative to fruit leather
  • Serve one “leaf” inside a cup of tea as a sweetener
  • If you kept the peels as halves, fill the candied “bowl” to serve chocolate mousse or custard
  • Eat the whole batch with reckless abandon before you have time to decide on any of the above options

Bismarcks


My litter of new baby bismarcks

Last Friday I stopped into a local bakery in the Salem Depot area.  I had driven by it countless times without ever stopping in. Imagine that — a bakery in my own town I have never visited! So I decided it was high time that I patronize this little place.  I got a bismarck, which was quite good.

This inspired me to make them at home.  With my newfound love of deep-frying, it was quite a pleasant experience.

In case you don’t know, bismarcks (aka berliners) are jam-filled yeast donuts. There are apparently a number of ways to make these — either in the traditional round shape, or as long crullers. I copied how the bakery made them, so I cannot take credit for their “style”, so to speak.

I looked up a recipe online, and although it turned out great, I give little credit to the recipe. It was terribly written and didn’t explain things well enough. It also told me to add the milk twice at two separate times. Recipe writing is really an art that not all can do well.  I can certainly give you a better one.

Bismarcks

Dough
4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 Tb unsalted butter, in slices
4 Tb granulated sugar

2 packages rapid rise,  dry yeast
8 large egg yolks

Filling
Jam -try apricot!

Toppings
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream (not Cool Whip)

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Bring the milk to a low boil in a saucepan over medium heat, taking care not to scorch it.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and sugar. Set aside to cool to between 75-100ºF.

When the milk mixture has cooled, add the yeast and egg yolks. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. The dough will be very sticky.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 2 hours.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a half inch-thick rectangle. Cut into 2″x6″ logs with a sharp knife, taking care not to squash the dough flat. Cover the cut logs with a kitchen towel and lest rise for 30 minutes.

Heat vegetable or corn oil to 360ºF in a cast iron skillet, deep sauté pan or an electric fryer.  If heating the oil in a pan, fill with a 1/2″ of oil.  Follow your electric fryer instructions for the proper amount of oil.  Use a candy/oil thermometer to monitor the temperature, making sure it does not go over 370ºF, or the donuts will brown too quickly without cooking in the center.  Stir the oil frequently to evenly distribute the heat.

Cut a length-wise slit half way through the center of each log with a sharp knife. Do not cut all the way to the tips of the logs. Slightly spread the slit open a quarter inch to allow the center to cook quickly.  Gently lower 2 to 3 logs into the hot oil with a large slotted spatula. Cook on each side until golden brown.  Remove the donuts from the oil and place on a platter lined with paper towels. Blot off any excess oil.   If you find that the centers are not fully cooked, immediately add them back to the oil for another minute.

When they have cooled, cut a long, triangular slice off the top of each donut.  Set the triangular slices aside. Spread a heaping tablespoon of jam on the inside of the cut grooves. Use a flour sifter to dust the donuts with powdered sugar. Top each donut with whipped cream, then place the triangular slice of donut on top of the whipped cream.

Makes 8 bismarcks.

Pear Prayer

*Update below
My friend Ra and I have often expressed our dismay over subpar pears.  You know what kind of pear I’m referring to, right? The one that looks like a good catch, but upon subsequent bites reveals a terrible mealy texture or lacking flavor.  What is the magic rule of pear selection? Is there some sort of density test I should be performing, a certain squeeze&slap technique to use at the market? The tricky thing is that pear skin so conveniently camouflages bruises and imperfections that warn of impending pearpartum depression. Apples are easy. You see a dent or a brown spot and it goes back into the pile.  But some pears, like anjous, are all … denty … by nature.  What a gamble.

I was inspired to write a poem on the matter, and it is wholeheartedly dedicated to Ra.

Pear Prayer

Chaw into yon freckled pear
Sweet moment void of anxious care
But should her mottle birth a tear
Coarsen, bruise — be less than fair
Resolve it not a pear to share.
Thanks to Wikipedia, I have answered some of my own questions, at least in relation to determining ripeness.  Clairvoyance in the realm of bruising and mealiness is still a crapshoot.   Apparently, you should perform the “Check the Neck” method, which involves pressing your thumb into the upper neck of the pear. If it gives a little, or in other words, if your thumb makes a slight impression — it is ripe and sweet.  If you buy hard pairs and need to ripen them quickly, place them in a bowl with bananas at room temperature for a day or two.   Now we can rest easy.
Oh, answer this week’s poll, just for the heck of it.

And then you add a slice of….

Thumb.    My right thumb is in a huge bandage. It lost a fight with my mandolin.  This will take really long to heal.  DEEP.

I really should get stitches, but, well…. I don’t have insurance. Augh (frustrated Snoopy sound)!

Had to put my bandaged thumb in a sandwich bag just to shower.