happy holidays!

On December 25, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

Sugar cookies

Happy holidays! Sorry no posts lately, I’ve been working mad overtime. Hoping to be more diligent in the new year.

I did find a little time to make some sugar cookies…

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on the menu: eggs en cocotte

On May 17, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

Eggs en cocotte are a surprisingly quick and simple breakfast, all you need is the ambition to pre-heat the oven.

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A cocotte is formally a covered casserole or Dutch oven (any size) but is also often used as a synonym for ramekin. A cover isn’t at all necessary, so any ramekin or oven-proof teacup is fine here, 6-8oz is ideal. Even a muffin pan will work, though I prefer the ease of serving and the uniform heating of either porcelain or ceramic. Great for brunch as you can put them together in an assembly line, and your serving capacity is only limited by the number of cute little oven-safe dishes you have. It’s convenient if they are all more or less the same size, so they will cook uniformly.

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Adorable 8oz mini cocotte from Le Creuset in Caribbean

Add-ons will improve the situation, but eggs, butter and cream alone will do just fine. I like to include any combination of the following: bacon, ham, parsley, cilantro, asiago, gruyere, cheddar, parmesan, chives, scapes, dill, basil, scallions, caramelized onions, sauteed vegetables…anything you would put in an omelet, really.

What you do:

Pre-heat oven to 375°

Heat water in a kettle

Liberally butter (unsalted) the base and sides of cocotte(s), leave a little pat of butter in the bottom.

Layer add-ons into the cocotte as desired. Here I’ve layered scallions, garlic scapes, cooked bacon lardons (+ dash of bacon fat), cheddar, asiago.

Add one or two eggs, depending on the size of your cocotte and hunger levels. Add salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Pour in a dash (anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp) of cream (cream on the bottom also popular). Add a little more cheese on top (this is non-traditional, but I like a lot of cheese).

Place cocottes in a casserole dish (I add a paper towel to the bottom so they don’t slide around) and pour hot (not quite boiling) water around such that the water level comes half-way up the sides of the cocotte. The water bath/bain marie helps keep the eggs tender and evenly cooked.

Cook 10-15 minutes, depending on your taste and the size of your ramekins. I like to cook for about 10-12 minutes and then broil for 1 to brown that cheese but still have the yolk soft. The broiler business is non-traditional and an easy way to overcook the egg, so be careful with this if you try it.

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Very little trial and error is required to figure out what the best cooking time is for your favorite kind of egg. It’s never too late to add more garnish at the end, either, herbs especially. I’ve been putting garlic scapes on everything to great effect lately.

Don’t forget the coffee.

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sourdough bagels

On September 28, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

My sister recently shared her sourdough starter with me and I’ve been thinking of baking projects to use up the portion that gets discarded whenever I feed it. I’ve been meaning to get into baking bread and other yeast-based comestibles for a while now, and so pleased with the results so far. The first project was a multi-grain boule* baked in a Dutch oven, and the second: bagels.

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I used a hybrid of this recipe from CHOW and one from Lauren Groveman, featured on an episode of Baking with Julia. I hadn’t realized how straightforward making one’s own bagels is. It’s not easy, exactly, as it takes a fair amount of time, but I had no trouble getting the dough to the proper consistency (which I have not at all found to be the case with breads in general). And these were so, so good. Worlds better than standard grocery store bagels and, freshly baked, basically better than any but those from specialty bakeries making them fresh each morning. Soft, chewy, not at all dry, tasting really properly of bagel (this thanks to the malt syrup, which recommend taking the trouble to get). Good if not better without toasting.

A fair number of steps, but, provided ample flour to prevent sticking at various points, not hard. I especially liked Groveman’s shaping technique, which involved pinching the dough into a neat ball and poking a hole through the center rather than shaping a rope into a circle, better structural integrity this way.

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You make the hole disproportionately large when initially shaping to allow for shrinkage. I hadn’t thought about this, and am pleased with this bit of data. That said, I made mine rather too large.

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They don’t look so promising for many stages of the process.

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Seed & semolina base, egg wash, coating of choice, baking stone, ice water below for steam.

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Semolina, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds.

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Trying to learn to make more and more of these foods I would normally buy pre-made. Satisfying. The making of breads I find especially meditative and comforting.

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pie time

On September 21, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I made a pie.

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I started with Dorie Greenspan’s apple pie recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours, which uses tapioca as a thickener, and added a bit of cornstarch as I did not intend to use only apples. No no no.

I made a peach apple raspberry pie.

I think the best shot is on instagram. [Oh, I am on instagram now.]

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First a layer of Jonamac apples (similar to McIntosh, they baked very nicely) and raspberries, then a picturesque layer of fanned peaches, which took ages and which of course I forgot to document, and which really ought to have been the top of a tart, which is the new species of baked thing I want now.

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Then a tartan latticework crust, because I never can do things the easy way.

Brushed with milk and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

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So pleased with my pie, which turned out beautifully. I should really make more pie. I don’t have any rabid love for pie (excepting pecan pie, in which case it may be love), but I enjoy it. I think it’s one of those things I like making even more than I like eating, a satisfyingly involved, crafty process. It’s one of those things I am happy to give away.

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 The pie bird isn’t strictly necessary when the crust is open, but it’s just so cute. And, for what it is worth (this was my first time using it), the juices did not run over, and the crust was not a soggy disintegrated mess. 

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on the menu: carrot spice muffins

On August 6, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Another great breakfast snack from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, carrot spice muffins.

We’ve got carrot, we’ve got golden raisins, we’ve got pecans, we’ve got toasted coconut, we’ve got coconut oil substituted in for canola, we’ve got Greek yogurt and coconut milk substituted in for the milk (no shortage of coconut, you see). Excellent level of moisture. Success.

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I love breakfast.

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