Monday, November 30, 2009

Grandma Rosie's Persimmon Pudding with Cinnamon Creme Anglaise

This little persimmon followed us all the way across the country from Oregon. It sat ripening with other fruit for a week and change before finally becoming tender enough to be included in a recipe I've been excited to try ever since I came across it in my mom's collection of recipes. Although my mom's mom - my Grandma Rosie was never much of a cook, my mom had this recipe, written in Grandma Rosie's own hand writing on a faded index card for persimmon pudding. Having not ever tasted persimmons until last November and never having cooked with them myself, I was excited to try working with this strangely overlooked fruit.

The pudding looked simple - the simplest of the other persimmon pudding recipes I had encountered online. But I trusted in the simplicity of the dish - especially cooking with persimmon for the first time. I was not disappointed. Similar texture to a traditional English pudding, slightly crunchy carmelized sweetness on the top with a softer middle with a touch of tartness from the persimmon and the warmth of cinnamon. Positively mouth-watering.

However, that little note in the bottom left hand corner to "serve with sauce" left me a bit stumped. What sauce did you mean, Grandma Rosie? The back of the card provided no insight, so I went back to the Internet for some inspiration and settled on a cinnamon crème anglaise - another treat I had never made before, though I have enjoyed it many times. The simplicity of the recipe seemed a natural pairing with the simplicity of the pudding. The crème also did not disappoint - so much of a non-disappointment that I had no qualms using my fingers to scrape out every last bit of the few remaining dregs of crème from the bowl.

Cinnamon Crème Anglaise
2 cups whole milk
1 3 1/2- to 4-inch-long cinnamon stick, broken in half
6 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
Combine milk and cinnamon stick halves in medium saucepan. Bring just to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; cover and let steep 1 hour. (I confess to shortening this time to about 20 minutes due to time constraints and added ground cinnamon to intensify the cinnamon flavor).
Whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Return milk mixture to simmer. Gradually whisk milk mixture into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until sauce thickens and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 165°F to 170°F, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat. Strain through sieve into small bowl; cool. Cover; chill until cold. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead; chill.

Sweet Potato Rolls

Even though I didn't make much in the way of contributions to Thanksgiving dinner this year, I still had a blast playing with some of the recipes I mentioned in my dreaming of thanksgiving post. One of my favorites were these sweet potato rolls from James Beard. As clearly demonstrated in this blog, orange food and I have a very special relationship - and the sweet potato is in the top teir of those treasured autumnal delights. Put together with a delicious parkerhouse-style roll? Heaven. I certainly wouldn't mind making these again...and again...

Sweet Potato Rolls
adapted from Adapted from "Beard on Bread," by James Beard via the washington post

1 (8-ounce) sweet potato
4 1/2 teaspoons (two 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus enough to grease the pie plates for baking the rolls
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
Oil, for greasing the proofing bowl

Prick the sweet potato all over with a fork, and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes or until soft. Let cool, then peel and put through a potato ricer or food mill, press through a strainer, or thoroughly mash so it is smooth. You should have 1/2 cup of flesh.
Combine the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; proof for 5 minutes. (If the yeast bubbles and foams, it is active. If it does not, it is dead; buy fresh yeast and start over.) Add 2 eggs and beat on low speed, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the butter and salt. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes (no need to scrape down the bowl), then add the sweet potato and beat for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the flour at a time, beating to form a slightly stiff dough that has pulled away from the sides of the bowl; add flour as needed.
(Alternatively, mix by hand: Proof the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl, then whisk 2 of the eggs in a large bowl just to combine, then add the yeast mixture, along with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the butter and the salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to blend well. Add the sweet potato; stir until thoroughly combined, then stir in 3 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl and is stiff enough to work.)
Lightly flour a work surface.
Transfer the dough to the prepared surface; knead for 2 to 3 minutes, adding flour a tablespoon or so at a time, and adding only enough to prevent the dough from sticking to the countertop. It should still be tacky to the touch but should not stick to your hands. When it is smooth and springy, shape it into a ball.
Use oil to lightly grease the inside of a large bowl, then place the dough in it, turning it to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let the dough rest for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. The dough will be ready when you can push 2 fingers into it and the indentations remain.
Use a little melted butter to lightly grease the inside of 2 glass pie plates or round cake pans (9 or 10 inches).
Punch down the dough and use a bench scraper to divide it into 3 equal pieces. Use the scraper again to divide each piece into 8 golf ball-size pieces (for a total of 24). Roll into balls, then arrange them in the prepared pie plates.
Cover with plastic wrap; let the rolls rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Beat the remaining egg, then brush it on the rolls. Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown on the top and bottom. Let cool slightly in the pie plates, then cover loosely with aluminum foil and serve warm, letting diners pull them directly out of the plates; or use a large spatula to transfer them (held together) to a cloth-lined basket or another serving dish.
VARIATION: Instead of the freshly cooked sweet potato, you can use 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree. Proceed as directed, but be prepared to add up to 1 cup of extra flour in the initial mixing to account for the extra moisture in the canned puree and to create a stiff enough dough.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baked Doughnuts

As if taking over a certain Portlander's kitchen to make these once wasn't enough, the Mr. and I repeated the deliciousness.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I dream of Thanksgiving...

My family has a long history of hands-on, potluck/bring it and make it dining events. Whether it was a cornucopia of CSA-fresh goodies on "Farm Night", or the annual neighborhood potluck supper, our kitchen was not only the center of some fabulous cooking but community. Thanksgiving for my family these days is no different with friends from all over bringing their own annual specialties, or exciting new combinations of flavors for traditional ingredients. It's always a blast to get together to share, prep, cook and eat together. Though I may not be cooking for the annual event this year (Mr. Pleasant and I are celebrating with the In-Laws this year) I can't resist pouring through the Thanksgiving-related recipes from cooking magazines, websites and blogs with great relish, mouth-watering as I pick out my favorite-sounding recipes. If I were hosting a Thanksgiving celebration, I dream of whipping up the following:

fall harvest salad
sweet potato rolls

main event:
cider glazed turkey or Julia and Jacques' deconstructed turkey
Pumpkin stuffed with Vegetable Stew

chestnut and thyme stuffing or chestnut stuffing or chestnut and apple stuffing
porcini, chestnut and sausage stuffing
Sweet Potato and Grits spoon bread or sweet potato spoon bread
Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnut butter
carrot with shallots, sage and thyme
green beans Amandie or green beans with roasted garlic
honey parsnip medley
braised potatoes

Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

sweet potato tart tartin or sweet potato souffle pie
vegan chocolate cheesecake
pumpkin pecan pudding cake or triple-chocolate pumpkin pie
sweet potato pie or gingered butternut squash pie or acorn squash and honey pies
apple pie
mini cranberry pies