Monday, April 30, 2012

The New York Times' Hazelnut Cookies


You know then feeling when you have a huge amount of one particular ingredient, and it's taking up a heap of space in your pantry and you just want it out? You obviously  don't want to waste it on anything awful, so you trawl your cookbook collection and the whole of the internet in the hope of finding a worthy recipe? Well these cookies were born of such a search. I had a bucket load of hazelnuts left over from that kick-ass buckle we had a while back, and I wanted cookies. I searched a bunch of websites but all the pictures looked a little... less than delicious. I'm pretty specific about cookies. I like mostly flat ones, that are only a little bit chewy, and I'm really not that good with super-soft Subway-esque ones, they always taste a bit under-cooked to me.

The thing about the New York Times is, there are no images, for the vintage recipes anyway. So these were a mini gamble. Only a mini one, though, because A) NYT is ace, and B) I had all the ingredients in my pantry so part of the work was already done! They were exactly what I was looking for, the hazelnut butter lends a richness and a Nutella-ness that was wonderful. A cinch to make, too.

The New York Times' Hazelnut Cookies: August 23, 1987

I added in some chocolate chunks to the recipe, because how could it be wrong to?

170g unskinned lightly toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil  
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt 
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and grind coarsely. Reserve 1/4 cup of the hazelnuts. Grind the remaining nuts fine and add the oil. Blend the mixture thoroughly until it takes on a butter-like form, this will take about 5-10 minutes of continuous processing. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy (this can be done in the washed food processor or with an electric mixer in a bowl). Beat in the hazelnut butter, the egg and the vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Sift the flour and add with the baking soda and the salt to the hazelnut mixture. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved hazelnuts. Using a teaspoon, form the dough into balls and arrange them 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Using the prongs of a fork, flatten the balls into 1 1/2 inch rounds (dip the fork into flour to prevent the prongs from sticking and make a criss-cross pattern on the cookies).

Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-to-12 minutes or until the cookies are golden. Cool on racks. The cookies will keep for about a week in a sealed jar.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Baklava


I nearly had a panic attack in Harris Farm last weekend! It was totally stupid and totally annoying for Ed, and probably really awkward for the shoppers going about their grocery business. We walked in there seriously clueless about what to make for dinner (we were staying in the country for the weekend) other than we wanted easy and we wanted healthy and we didn't want salad. I'd assumed (wrongly) that the supermarket would 'inspire' me. So, I set out and thought of... nothing. NOTHING. We walked and walked, I picked up half a pumpkin and put it back down again, toyed with some chorizo and placed it back on the shelf, looked miserably past the cheese section and kept thinking of nothing!  

The pressure was mounting and I was getting really pissed off at the situation (and myself) and I told Ed that we needed to just "get the fuck out of here!" with our lame collection of San Pellegrino, a bag of licorice and a pot of yogurt. Just as the water was being scanned through the till it occurred to me, San Choy Bow! Of course my lightbulb moment had to be one of those dishes that calls for an anal pantry and an ample stockpile of Asian sauces, which obviously we didn't have on hand at the farm. So I spent $40 on bloody oyster sauce and all those extra fiddly things you need but only end up using 2 tablespoons of anyway. It was alright, but so completely not worth the mental breakdown. I don't know what happened to me, maybe I'm too attached to my cookbook collection, stack of magazines and the internet to come up with anything remotely original under pressure? Man, if that had been a Masterchef challenge I probably would have burst into flames from all the anxiety. Thank you to Ed, who kindly pointed out that "baby, don't worry, if it was Masterpasta, not Masterchef, you would definitely win."

Anyway, it got me thinking back to the Easter long weekend, which we spent with a group of friends in Palm Beach. It was eaaaaasy living up there. It was the weekend of The Most Epic Steak Sandwiches Of All Time with barbecued asparagus and capsicums and an unholy amount of kick-ass garlic aioli. There was a kind of riff on my favourite lentil and sausage dish (I left half my groceries at home - idiot) and there was a tray of baklava, made on the Friday afternoon. It was slowly eaten throughout the weekend, and I'm pretty sure I ate the entire middle row to myself, which is disgusting but I couldn't help it. 

It's a good and soothing process, making baklava. There is a lot of layering going on and a lot of butter. Once you get into the rhythm of it - pastry-butter-pastry-butter-nuts-pastry-butter - it's over before you know it, sitting in the oven getting all golden and crisp and giving off the most wonderful cinnamon aroma that ever was. 

To mental health in the Kitchen! Cheers.

Baklava
Adapted from Alice's recipe at Gourmet Traveller and I was also inspired by one of my new favourite blogs, cuisine diplomatic.

250g each raw walnuts and pistachios
100g caster sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon
approx 1 packet of filo pastry (depending on the size of your baking tray, I used about 2 thirds of a pack and had to trim the pastry to fit in my tray)
150g butter - clarified (to clarify butter melt it slowly in a pan over a low heat, when it is melted, spoon off all the white milk solids that rise to the surface, you just want the clear yellow liquid)

Honey Syrup
300g caster sugar
300ml water 
125g honey
1 cinnamon quill
rind of 1 lemon
juice of half the lemon
4 drops rosewater, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they're finely chopped and then combine with the caster sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Cut your pastry to the size of your baking tray and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Brush your baking tin with some butter and lay a sheet of pastry on top, making sure it fits well. Brush with butter again and lay another sheet on top, repeat until you have 4 layers of pastry - you want to create a stable base.

Spread a thin layer of nut mixture on top of the pastry, and lay another sheet of filo on top, brush with butter, lay on another sheet, brush with butter and then spread some more nuts on, repeat this process until you have run out of nuts, and finish with three layers of pastry and butter on top (do not butter the top of the baklava).

Refrigerate the tray for about 15 minutes or until firm, remove from the fridge and slice in a diamond pattern (like above) using a very sharp, small knife. Bake in the oven until golden and cooked through, about 30-40 minutes, covering loosely with foil halfway through if it is browning too quickly (mine did).

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine all syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar has melted over a low heat and the flavours have infused (about 20 minutes). Strain through a sieve and set aside until the baklava has finished baking.

Cool baklava slightly and then pour over the syrup, letting it soak in and cool completely (overnight if possible). Baklava tends to improve with age, so if you're not eating it straight away, leave it covered and unrefrigerated for up to three days.

 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Broccoli & Gorgonzola Pie


I'm considering changing this blog's tag line to Stovetop Revolution: Taking Vegetables and Adding Various Cheeses to Them Since 2009. 

This seems apt, no? Considering the lingering theme. But hey, I had a day off, and a friend was coming over for dinner. Said friend had given up sugar for Lent and actually made it through the whole 40 days, a victory not to be overlooked since it is chocolate season after all, and the Easter Bunny is a very cruel mistress. I figured since she had been so painstakingly good I had better amp up another vice to make up for the lack of sweet stuff - fromage.

The name of the pie reads simply, making no mention of the not one, but three leeks that are sweated with seeded mustard, tarragon leaves with their mysterious slight aniseed flavour and a spoonful of cream. They're cooked slowly, softening just up until the point of colour, and make up the first layer of the pie's filling, bringing a mustardy sweetness to the Gorgonzola, which doesn't bugger around with subtlety.

I really, really liked this one. Another gem from Plenty. We ate the last of the Summer's red, green and golden tomatoes with some thinly sliced red onion, parsley, olive oil and red wine vinegar, just as Yottam suggested. And the fresh acidity was a welcome foil.

Broccoli & Gorgonzola Pie
Adapted from Yottam Ottoleghi's Plenty

There was a serious amount of Gorgonzola in the original recipe, I used only about two thirds and it was more than enough for me (and I love the stuff), but if you are using quite a large pie tin then you might like to up the ante a little and use the full amount in the original recipe, which was 200g.
 
Serves 4

2 sheets all-butter puff pastry
2 broccoli heads cut into florets
25g butter
3 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
150ml double cream
80ml water
15g chives, chopped
15g tarragon, chopped
3 tbs wholegrain mustard
1 tsp salt
black pepper
150g Gorgonzola
1 free-range egg, beaten


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Line a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin with one of the sheets of pastry, and trim the edges. Line with baking paper and fill with baking beads and blind bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, while the tart is baking, prepare the filling. Cook the broccoli florets in a large pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain in a colander, rinse well with cold water and leave to dry.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and fry the leeks on a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes or until soft but not coloured. Add the cream, water, chives, tarragon, mustard, salt and some black pepper. Stir well and remove from the heat.

To assemble, spread the leek mixture over the base of tart pastry case. Scatter the broccoli evenly on top and press into the leek mixture. Dot with pinches of the Gorgonzola until it is evenly distributed. Brush the rim of the pastry case and place the other piece of pastry (cut to the size of the tin) on top, pressing down firmly to seal. Trim off any excess pastry that hangs over the edge.

Glaze the lid with beaten egg and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Allow to cool a little before removing from the tin.