For the Kids

Ever watch Gilmore Girls? If you read my blog, the answer is probably yes. Do you remember the episode where Lorelai and Sookie decide to do small, private parties, complete with catering by Sookie? They’re charged with planning a kid’s birthday party, and Lorelai gives Sookie explicit instructions to do mac and cheese and pizza and all sorts of kid-friendly foods, and Sookie makes jalapeno mac and cheese and all sorts of adult foods, and it’s a complete disaster?

Lilli in the Yard

We nearly had a similar incident at a brunch we hosted on Sunday. I should make it clear that the meal wasn’t a disaster, and everything worked out in the end, but only because Rich played the role of Lorelai to my Sookie. We hosted a friend from college and his family. His daughter Sara is about four, and his son Alex is just a touch younger than Lilli. I was thrilled at the chance to set up a Sunday morning spread and was quite pleased when I reviewed the menu with Rich on Saturday night: Broccoli frittata, a salad of greens topped with maple roasted pears, walnuts and blue cheese, with a brown sugar vinaigrette, breakfast potatoes, hummus and crackers. (There was also a pumpkin bread that I forgot to serve, so we’ve been working on that during breakfasts this week.)

“Waffles. You need to serve waffles for the kids,” Rich responded after my menu review. Annoyed, but in agreement that he was probably onto something, I got out Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book, his birthday gift from a few years ago. We’ve done the waffles before, and thought they were really great. They’re a yeasted waffle that’s done overnight, so it take a bit of planning.

Turns out Rich made the right call, and little Alex went nuts for them. He loved them so much when they left he was holding an entire one in his hand for their road trip back to Philadelphia. His dad wrote me this afternoon for the recipe, which reminded me it was time to share it with you guys.

As Cunningham explains, the recipe is from an early Fannie Farmer cookbook, and “is still the best waffle I know. The mixing is done the night before and all you have to do in the morning is add a couple of eggs and some baking soda. These waffles are very crisp on the outside and delicate on the inside.”

Raised Waffles from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

Ingredients

½ cup warm water

1 package dry yeast

2 cups milk, warmed

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 eggs

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

Use a rather large mixing bowl – the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeast mixture and beat until smooth and blended. (Cunningham often uses a hand-rotary beater to get rid of the lumps.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda, and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. Pour about ½ to ¾ cup batter into a very hot waffle iron. Bake the waffles until they are golden and crisp.

This batter will keep well for several days in the refrigerator.

 

I Remembered In Time

About two days before my birthday this year, Sylvie popped up online. “Do you already own this cookbook?” she asked, sending me a link. I told her I didn’t but that it looked promising. She was pleased and apologized for being so blunt. The next day, the cookbook arrived.

The Passover recipes – more than 45, the front cover boasted – looked great. Literally — I must have flipped to the recipe for the lemon tart with basil nut crust and gazed at the photo every night for about a week. Alas, the recipe called for a candy thermometer, and I didn’t own one that is kosher for Passover. Also, I don’t have time to stir a lemon cream for 30 minutes. Maybe when Lilli is 6.

Cheese Babka

But while I had the cookbook out, I figured it made sense to check out the Shavuot recipes, as that was the next holiday to think about. I settled on the cheese babka, and then promptly forgot about it until last week, when I started poking around my cookbooks for cheesecake recipes. You’ll be pleased to know I remembered this recipe in time, and, actually put it together this morning while Lilli and I hung out. If I’m going to be up before 6AM on a Sunday, I might as well get a babka out of it.

Now, you’re probably wondering, if she doesn’t have time for a lemon tart, why would she make a babka, which calls for yeast? I’ve discovered that yeasted things are actually a safe bet because it’s just a matter of putting together a dough and then literally walking away for at least an hour to do what needs to be done. In our house, that probably means watching Cookie Monster on Youtube.

I have to say, this recipe is flawed. Things like what sort of pan to bake the pastry on were flat out missing from the instructions. As I tested the recipe I kept thinking I wasn’t going to actually end up talking about it. But then I removed a golden ring of light, sweet pastry from the oven and all was forgiven.

I’m posting this up tonight in hopes you’ll get a chance to make it in time for the start of Shavuot on Tuesday night. I had everything already in the house. I hope you do too.

A few things about the recipe: My dough did not rise after 45 minutes so I turned my oven on to 275F and placed the metal bowl on top of the stove for another 45 minutes. If it had been winter, I would have just put it over the heating grate; that always works. My cream cheese filling did not come together the way it was supposed to, but I’ve had that problem before when baking with cream cheese. I ended up putting the wet mess of cheese in the freezer while I made the topping and the dough continued to rise. But the results were great, and I’m sure your cream cheese mixture will be just fine.

Cheese Babka from The Holiday Kosher Baker by Paula Shoyer

Dough

1/3 cup (80 ml) milk

¼ ounce (1 envelope; 7g) dry yeast

¼ cup (50g) plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

2 ½ cups (315g) all-purpose flour, plus one tablespoon, if needed, plus extra for dusting

½ cup (1 stick; 113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature 30 minutes

1 large egg plus 1 white (reserve yolk for glazing)

Filling

8 ounces (230g) cream cheese (not whipped)

½ cup (100g) sugar

1 large egg, divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Crumbs

½ cup (65g) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (75g) light brown sugar, packed (I only had dark and had no complaints)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter

To make the dough

Heat the milk over the stovetop or in a microwave oven until warm, not boiling. Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, until thick. Add the remaining ¼ cup (50g) sugar, 2 ½ cups (315g) flour, butter, and egg plus one white. Combine the ingredients with a wooden spoon or with a dough hook in a stand mixer on low speed until they are all mixed together. If the dough sticks to the bowl, add the additional tablespoon of flour and mix it in; the dough should come together into a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rise for one hour.

To make the filling

MEANWHILE, remove the cream cheese from the fridge and put it in a medium bowl. Let the cream cheese soften for 45 minutes. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and combine using an electric mixer. (I moved the dough to another large metal bowl, washed the mixing bowl and used it for this part of the recipe.) Cover and place in the fridge until the dough is ready.

To make the crumbs and bake the babka

MIX THE FLOUR , brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub the mixture between your fingers until you have small clumps. Set the bowl aside.

PREHEAT OVEN to 375F (190C). Sprinkle a 12×14-inch (30×36-cm) piece of parchment paper with flour. Roll the dough on top of the parchment paper until you have a 12×14 inch (30×36-cn) rectangle. Sprinkle more flour on the parchment paper if the dough sticks to the rolling pin. Remove the filling from the fridge and use a silicone spatula to spread it evenly over the dough. Roll the dough up the long way. Bring the ends together into a large ring, and press them together. Use a sharp knife to make cuts in the dough, every inch or so, on the outside of the ring, but cut only about three-quarters of the way into the ring, not all the way through. After you have made all the cuts, pull the slices apart slightly and turn each one so the swirl part is facing the next slice, partly facing up. Repeat all the way around.

The recipe falters here, but I moved the ring to large rimmed baking sheet covered with a silpat liner. If you can manage to get that piece of parchment paper you’re working on on to a rimmed baking sheet that will also work.

BRUSH THE DOUGH all over with the remaining egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of water. Sprinkle with the crumbs. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. Let it cool for about 20 minutes. Store covered at room temperature for up to three days or freeze for up to three months. Reheat to serve.

Genuine Ginger Beer

We don’t go out very often. I think it boils down to two basic things: 1. I have trouble justifying the cost of most nice meals when I know I can make it in my own kitchen for a fraction of the cost, and 2. When I make it in my own kitchen, I can season the dish to just my liking. When we go out, I become a mash up of Goldilocks and Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally. “Um, waiter, I’d like my porridge to be served in a medium, heated, bowl, but don’t fill the whole thing with porridge, leave room for a splash of heavy cream, and a dash of nutmeg, oh, and can I have a side of honey?”

Although not visible in this picture, this glass of homemade soda is very bubbly.

We met up with friends over drinks in Harvard Square last week, and the Moscow Mule — homemade ginger beer, vodka and lime — caught my eye. Or really, the homemade ginger beer did. I had been thinking a lot about homemade sodas lately. There’s a great raspberry one at Flour Bakery, and  Clover Food Lab has really neat flavors like vanilla bean and hibiscus.

So I ordered just the ginger beer. It was very tasty but much too sweet, and the truth was, could really have used some vodka to cut it. So I ordered a shot of vodka. Then it was good, but not quite there. It was missing lime. So I ordered some limes. Well, after realizing I had just deconstructed and reconstructed an entire drink, I figured I might as well order it the way it was meant to be. But the vodka in the drink overpowered its gingery sweetness. Third time was a charm when I ordered a glass of ginger beer, a shot of vodka and some limes. It was nice to finally have the drink taste just right, but not the most cost effective way to go about doing it.

And, I asked myself, if this bar serves homemade ginger beer, why can’t I?

I sifted through some recipes and was tickled when I realized I could. All I needed was to ferment sugar with baker’s yeast, generating carbon dioxide which would carbonate my homemade soda. Also, this way I could control how much sugar went into the soda.

The recipe I have here is a combination of a few recipes, and I highly encourage you to fiddle with it until it’s to your liking. I think a teaspoon of vanilla would work really well with this basic recipe; a couple of whole cloves or even a cardamom pod would be great, too. I happened on a sale of turbinado sugar last week, so I had that on hand for this recipe, but I would have ordinarily used brown sugar. White sugar would also work. It’s entirely up to you.

You can make the ginger beer and add the vodka and lime to it like the restaurant did, or add rum and make a Dark and Stormy. I’ve recently discovered that Marty’s Liquor has an overstock store in my neighborhood. It’s like Ocean State Job Lot, but for alcohol. With recipes like this one, I will be making frequent trips!

Homemade Ginger Beer

For this recipe, you will need a clean 2 liter plastic soft drink bottle with cap. Do not use glass, as the pressure from the fermentation could cause it to shatter. A funnel really comes in handy, as does a box grater for the ginger.

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root and its juices.

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 teaspoon granular baker’s yeast

cold water

Directions

Pour the cup of sugar into the bottle using the funnel

Add the bakers yeast through the funnel into the bottle

Shake to disperse the yeast grains into the sugar granules.

Grate the ginger and then place it into a measuring cup

Juice half a lemon directly into the measuring cup

Stir to form a slurry

Add the slurry to the bottle

Rinse the measuring cup and add the rinsings to the bottle, cap and shake to distribute.

Fill the bottle to the neck with fresh cool clean water, leaving about an inch of head space, securely screwing the cap down to seal. Invert repeatedly to thoroughly dissolve sugar.

Place in a warm location for 24 to 48 hours. Do not leave at room temperature longer than necessary for it to feel “hard.” The excess pressure may cause an eruption when you open it or even explode the bottle

Test to see if the carbonation is complete by squeezing the bottle forcefully with your thumb. It if dents, it is not ready.

Not quite ready, as I can still make an indent.

 

Once the bottle feels hard to a forceful squeeze, place in the refrigerator. Before opening, refrigerate at least overnight to thoroughly chill.

Filter the ginger beer through a strainer before serving.