Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sweet Potato Biscuit Muffins - A Holiday Baking Mishap

Ironically, it's always this time of year -- prime baking season -- when I have baking mishaps. I chalk it up to being in a rush and not reading directions. Case in point, a few weeks before Christmas, I hosted another holiday open house and decided to make Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ham, Mustard and Honey. Although the recipe was recently published in the December issue of Bon Appetit, I had been wanting to make it since reading about it in Molly Wizenberg's book, A Homemade Life. Heck, I even tracked down the mustard she recommended in preparation.
But in my haste, I did not read the whole recipe closely enough and neglected to let the sweet potato mash (made from potatoes purchased during my final farmers market run) cool before mixing it with the dried ingredients and cold cubed butter. Needless to say, the chilled butter melted on contact with the mash, resulting in a gloppy mess. Since there was no way I could roll out the sticky dough, I decided to try to salvage the biscuits by scooping the dough into muffin tins and baking as is. Although the end result was a little flat and heavy, it actually worked really well, and the "biscuit muffins" were perfectly shaped -- even more so than they would have been had I attempted to cut them out of the rolled dough. Just goes to show that there are holiday miracles this time of year after all. Maybe I should get out the almond meal and attempt macarons again...or maybe not!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review of The Scarsdale Winter Market

Last weekend, I drove over the (Saw Mill) River (Road) and through the (sparse) woods to Scarsdale, NY on a quest to find the indoor farmers market. Scarsdale has a reputation for being a rather tony place (in fact, the village's Wikipedia entry list dedicates quite a bit of space to the famous and infamous who live(d) there).

Which is probably why everyone was flocking to the downtown area on Saturday afternoon. By the time I navigated the quaint and cramped streets lined with Tudor-revival-style architecture and Land Rovers, I was ready to make this my one and only visit to the market. But as I pulled into the municipal parking garage, I realized the indoor market was really incongruous compared to the other parts of the village.

Because the market is literally set up in a parking garage. No frills, but it works. With a mix of vendors selling everything from cheese to honey to woolen scarves, you can pretty much find anything you want (except takeout Indian. Chutney Masala was not there, as I had hoped).

In fact, the lone produce vendor had quite the assortement -- including purple cauliflower and a variety of mushrooms. He even had greenhouse tomatoes (which, if not as tasty as summer tomatoes from the field, were at least locally grown).

I picked up some apples and shallots, plus a head of purple cauliflower (still looking for inspiration on how to use it!) and drove back home, passing a Hastings farmers market sign on the way. Yes, I could have avoid the trip (and probably scored some samosas) as my local market is open one Saturday a month during the winter season. Oh well, I would have missed counting Land Rovers.


The Scarsdale market is located in the garage at 1 Christie Place every Saturday.

Future dates for the Hastings on Hudson market are January 9, February 13 and March 13 at the Community Center on Main St.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Tis The Season for Entertaining

The holidays are here and everyone is scrambling to shop, cook, eat and entertain. This year, I am trying to take a simpler approach in every way possible, including parties. Take last weekend -- I hosted a family brunch for nine adults and two babies. I planned the menu around things I could either: make ahead or in an instant, have people make themselves or items I could cook once and eat twice (or thrice!). So the day before I prepared the spinach artichoke dip and frittata filling, made all of my desserts, and prepped the vegetables for crudité and tossed salad. The morning of the brunch, I juggled oven space, heating the dip, baking off the frittata in muffin tins, warming a spiral ham and cooking scalloped potatoes. At the last minute, I baked the thawed-from-frozen croissants and threw together a fruit salad and batter for make-your-own waffles. Thanks to a few helpers, everything came together beautifully, everyone enjoyed the meal and I had a ton of leftovers. In fact, some of those leftovers, including remaining slices from the 8 lb. ham currently tucked in the freezer, will make a second appearance next Sunday at Holiday Brunch -- The Sequel. After all, 'tis the season. Happy Holidays!
Pumpkin Trifle (adapted from Gourmet)

Do a Google search and it seems like everyone and their brother has a pumpkin trifle recipe. Last weekend, I made this as written but am thinking about using artificial helpers (e.g., the old instant pudding and whipped topping route) next time to get a lighter and fluffier mousse with fewer calories. Will let you know how it goes!


1 8x8 pan of Gingerbread cake (prepared from scratch or from a mix like the one from Trader Joe's)

1 (1/4 oz.) Envelope of gelatin
1/4 C. Water
1 14-15 oz. Can of Pumpkin (unless you're lucky to have fresh puree on hand) 1/4 C. Brown sugar 1 t. Cinnamon 1/2 t. Nutmeg Dash of Salt 2 C. Whipping cream 1 1/2 t. Vanilla extract
1 1/2 T. Sugar
Using a bread knife, cut the cooled, prepared gingerbread cake into 1 inch cubes and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, spices and salt; whisk until well incorporated.
Pour the water in a small pot; sprinkle on gelatin and let sit one minute. Heat mixture, whisking until gelatin dissolves completely. Pour gelatin mixture into pumpkin mixture and combine.
In a separate bowl, combine whipping cream, vanilla and sugar and beat until the mixture forms and holds soft peaks.
Fold 2/3 of the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture, reserving 1/3 of the cream.
In a clear glass bowl, layer 1/3 of the gingerbread cubes and top with 1/3 of the pumpkin mixture; repeat for two more layers.
Top the bowl with the reserved whipped cream; cover and chill for two hours or overnight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crispy Kale on Thanksgiving

Well, I finally made kale chips. I had a bunch of Tuscan kale that was starting to look forlorn, and I figured it was use it or lose it. I tried making the chips once before, but they steamed versus crisped in the oven (or stuck to the tinfoil I lined the baking sheet with). This time, I followed the method recommended by none other than Dan Barber (as published in Bon Appétit). I did decide to jazz it up by using a combination of wasabi and sesame oil instead of olive oil and a sprinkle of soy instead of salt. This time, I lined the pans with parchment and the smaller leaves came out perfect. The larger ones started to burn a bit, and the stems never cooked through, making eating the final product difficult (unless you like chewing and chewing and chewing with green bits of the leaves stuck to your face). The taste of crisped kale was oddly addicting at first, but then, after a few leaves, kind of sickening -- even after I sprinkled a bit of sugar on the crisps to counteract some of the bitterness. In fact, my family nibbled on a few leaves (more as a dare than anything, I think), but we ended up tossing most of the crisps. What a waste of kale. In the future, I think I will reserve kale for soup, and leave the chips to the potatoes!