Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Fougasse

sourdough fougasse pears bacon blue cheeseThis year we’ll be away for Christmas. As a result, the  house isn’t decorated for the holidays. No tree, no lights. These halls are not decked. Still, I hanker for the glitz of Christmas. So instead of traditionally shaping a batch of Pear – Blue Cheese – Bacon Sourdough Fougasse, I opted for Christmas trees and Snowflakes.

Hee Hee, spell check thinks I meant outgases instead of fougasse. Stupid spell check.

Of course, sourdough fougasse with pears, bacon and blue cheese would be a treat any time of year and in any shape, but they really feel perfect right now, as it’s lashing with rain outside. Just like real snowflakes, these are disappearing rapidly.

I used Point Reyes blue, which is quite creamy and mild. If you want something more assertive, a Danish blue or even gorgonzola would work well. So would cherries in place of the pears. The bacon is never optional..

 pears blue cheese

Fougasse with Pears, Bacon and Blue Cheese

makes about a dozen hand-sized breads

400 grams bread flour
75 grams rye flour
280 grams water
238 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter
12 grams salt
25 grams olive oil
117 grams blue cheese
125 grams bacon
60 grams dried pears (mine were very dry – use more if you have the thick, heavy type of dried fruit)


  1. Dice the pears into small bits and place in a small bowl. Measure out the water them pour some over the pears to just cover them. I put mine in the microwave for 30 seconds to facilitate rehydration. if you have the thick, moist kind of dried fruit, you can skip this step (aside from the dicing).
  2. Dice the bacon and gently sauté until it’s just barely cooked. Spoon onto a paper towel to drain the fat. bacon
  3. Crumble the cheese into chunks. I put mine in the freezer so that it wouldn’t disintegrate when I mixed it into the dough.
  4. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flours, remaining water, and starter and mix until it is just blended. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Add salt, olive oil to the dough. Drain the water from the pears and add that too. Mix on medium speed until the dough reaches medium gluten development. This took me about 5 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured board or counter and flatten. Spread the pears, bacon and cheese on top of the dough, then fold until the add-ins are evenly distributed throughout the dough.   sourdough fougasse pears bacon blue cheese
  7. Place the dough in a lightly oiled contained and let it ferment for 2 1/2 hours with a fold after the first hour.
  8. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, then shape each as desired. It does work best to chop straight down (like a guillotine) rather then trying to slice the dough with a knife. I used a bench scraper and the top of my cheese grater to make the cuts. A spatula might also work, though mine are all too big for this particular size of fougasse. shaping fougasse
  9. One the cuts are made, transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stretch to open the cuts and form the final shape.
  10. Dust with flour, cover and proof for another 2 1/2 hours.
  11. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Spritz the fougasse with water to generate steam when baking. Place the baking sheets in the oven, reduce the heat to 450 and bake for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. I baked one batch of my fougasse on a baking stone and the others just on the sheet pans. To be honest, I didn’t notice any difference in the result, so use a stone of you have one, but don’t bother if you don’t.
  12. Let cool on a wire rack, then enjoy!

  sourdough fougasse pears bacon blue cheese

This recipe has been shared with Yeast Spotting on the Wild
Yeast blog.

Happy Holidays to everyone from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poaching with the Daring Cooks

This month the Daring Cooks challenge focused on the technique of poaching. Specific recipes were provided to poach an egg, or alternatively to poach a home-made pine nut and sundried tomato sausage.

Because Mrs. Monkeyshines won’t eat eggs in their native form and was also concerned about the calories contained in the vegan sausage (there are 909 calories in 135 g of pine nuts!), we started looking elsewhere.

The first task, of course, was to determine exactly what poaching is – yes, even though we disregarded the main portion of the challenge, we still were eager to carry it out exactly. Such is life in the Monkeyshines household. According to

Poaching, simmering and boiling are really three different stages of the same cooking method. Each of these methods describes cooking food by submerging it in hot water (or another waterlike liquid like stock). What defines each one is an approximate range of temperatures, which can be identified by observing how the water (or other cooking liquid) behaves. Each one — boiling, simmering and poaching — has certain telltale characteristics:

Poaching refers to cooking food in liquid that has a temperature ranging from 140°F to 180°F. Poaching is typically reserved for cooking very delicate items like eggs and fish. At poaching temperatures, the liquid won't be bubbling at all, though small bubbles may form at the bottom of the pot.
Simmering is distinguished by cooking temperatures that are a bit hotter than with poaching — from 180°F to 205°F. Here we will see bubbles forming and gently rising to the surface of the water, but the water is not yet at a full rolling boil.
Because it surrounds the food in water that stays at a fairly constant temperature, food that is simmered cooks very evenly. It's the standard method for preparing stocks and soups, starchy items such as potatoes or pastas, and many others. One of the downsides to simmering is that vitamins and other nutrients can be leached out of the food and into the cooking liquid. (we’re not 100% convinced here, as we usually cook our pasta at a healthy rolling boil..)
Boiling is the hottest of these three stages, where the water reaches its highest possible temperature of 212°F. It's actually the method that is least likely to be used in cooking. That's because the violent agitation caused by churning bubbles characteristic of a rolling boil will often damage the food.

Braising, for the curious, is when you first brown the item (usually meat), then cook it with some water, but not submerging it.

Lately we’d observed several references to poaching in olive oil, so we turned to the internet and found a recipe for Olive oil poached shrimp that apparently came from the show Top Chef.

olive oil poached shrimp

Olive oil poached shrimp, cucumber and poblano pepper salad, avocado and risotto with chestnuts and bacon.

The poached shrimp were a revelation. It seemed impossible that cooking them in the oil that was just warm could possibly work, but it did. in just 7 minutes we had perfectly cooked shrimp that tasted exactly like, well, shrimp. When we’ve sautéed them in the past it seems that shrimp always develop little hard bits or slightly off flavor. We’ll absolutely use this technique in the future when cooking shrimp.

However, the recipe as a whole was a serious pain in the *ahem* – and was frightfully expensive as it called for an entire bottle of oil to poach 8 shrimp. (we poached 12 shrimp in about 2/3 of our bottle of oil and it was fine, but still.. )  The cucumber and poblano pepper salad was surprisingly tasty, but could have been made much more simply. Also, we infused the oil with crushed red peppers and coriander seeds, but did not detect any of their flavors in the shrimp (though that was really just fine, flavorwise).

Buoyed by our success at poaching, and having quite a bit of olive oil leftover, we tried another recipe – this time poaching artichokes that were miraculously still appearing at the farmer’s market, despite it being the dead of winter here. Again, the poached items were perfectly tender and flavorful and on the whole this recipe was much more successful (meaning worth the effort), so we’ll share it with you.

poached artichokes

Herb and Lemon Poached Baby Artichokes

adapted from Food and Wine

12 baby artichokes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
2 sage leaves
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Lemon Zest for garnish (optional)


  1. Pour the olive oil and the white wine, onion, coriander seeds, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaves into a deep non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Try to maintain a steady temperature of 140-160 degrees F.
  2. While the oil is heating, prepare the artichokes by slicing off the top half of the leaves, trimming off the stem, and paring off all outer, tough leaves. As you finish each one, place it in the oil. While this means that some are cooked longer than others, it works out OK in the end since you’re cooking at such a low temperature.
  3. Cover and cook until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Let the artichokes cool in the cooking liquid for 30 minutes. artichokes poached in olive oil and wine

    Poaching the Artichokes

  4. Transfer the artichokes to a work surface; discard the cooking liquid. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a platter. Garnish with long strips of lemon zest if desired (we really liked this addition to the recipe and used a zester to produce the strips) and serve warm or at room temperature.

Now for the poaching experiment that didn't go to plan... We recently obtained a beautiful white truffle and wanted to make a dish that would showcase its unique flavor, so we kept it simple - homemade pasta tossed in a little butter with shaved truffle and parmesan cheese. During a trip to Piemonte (Italy) a few years ago, I learned that truffles and eggs are a mysteriously magical combination so I decided to add a poached egg to my dish. (Mrs. Monkeyshines still won’t try even a truffled egg, so just a single poached egg was involved). But what an egg! - this egg had been sitting in the same box as the truffle and was just bursting with truffle aroma.

white truffleI followed the challenge recipe - water temperature no higher than 180F, cook for 3 1/2 minutes - and all looked good until I came to remove the egg from the water. I scooped it up with a slotted spoon, only to find that the white drained away through the slots...

Here is all that was left of my beautiful truffle-infused egg. Not quite sure what went wrong, except maybe it wasn't cooked enough?

 poach 014

I made the best of the situation and at least had the remains of the egg with my truffled pasta, which was still very tasty:

pasta with truffle

Blog checking line: Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Check out the many marvelous creations that the other daring cooks created this month too.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dungeness Crab Tortelloni

crab ravioli or tortellini

It’s crab season here in San Francisco and this year we’re determined to make the most of it. Last night, instead of our usual crab cakes (which will get a post of their own one of these days) we decided to try our hand at a pasta dish.

Searching the farmer’s market for inspiration, we found a gorgeous bunch of leeks simply begging us to take them home and turn them into crab and leek ravioli. Well, tortelloni, actually, as they’re vastly easier to make as well as less likely to fall apart when cooking.

Can we toot our own horns here? These were simply divine. We kept it really simple and the crab was sweet and perfect. We sauced it with leeks braised with just a touch of wine and butter.

Crab and Leek Tortelloni

serves 2

1 recipe pasta


8 oz crab meat, cleaned
1 small leek
1 Tbsp cilantro
zest of 1 Meyer lemon


2 Tbsp butter
4 small leeks
2 Tbsp butter
Ground Pepper to taste


Finely chop the leek and gently sauté it until it’s wilted but not browned. Let cool. Mince the cilantro. Mix the crab, lemon zest, cilantro and leeks. We didn’t try to break it up too much, just combined the ingredients.

crab and leek pasta filling

Roll out the pasta and cut into approx 2 1/4 inch circles. Working one at a time, spoon a dollop of filling onto each round then fold into a tortelloni. Detailed steps and a video are available here. If the filling is too wet (you’ll know if it starts to interfere with your sealing the parcels), squeeze out any excess water. Place the tortelloni on a board that is generously floured and let rest while you make the sauce.

Slice the leeks and gently sauté in butter. Add about 2 oz of water and the wine and simmer until the leeks are soft. Grind in pepper as desired.

Bring a pot of water to a full boil. Slide the tortelloni into the water and boil about 3 minutes or until they’re all floating consistently. Drain the pasta and serve, topped with sauce. Do not grate cheese on this one as it will make the crab taste fishy! I know i find it nearly impossible to not put cheese on, well, anything, but this is the one exception.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rise and Shine: Sweet and Savory Soufflés

horseradish souffle
This month we were honored to host the Daring Cook’s November challenge. Before going any farther, we want to thank all the DC’s who posted their results in the forums – your creativity and sense of fun with the challenge was so inspiring! We learned so much from everyone.

When we first joined the Cooks, we started to think about what we would choose in the highly unlikely event that we were selected as host. We quickly set our hearts on soufflé – it seemed like the epitome of Daring Cookery – something that is classic, known around the world, is easy to procure ingredients for and that scares even seasoned cooks. So far so good.

When were were actually selected to host, we then had to set about choosing recipes that we thought were good and that could be reliably repeated.  We wanted a dessert soufflé and also one or two that could be a main dish, appetizer or side dish. Not so easy.

We determined that we’d publish a cauliflower soufflé recipe as one of our options. We reviewed a lot of different recipes and  saw that they were all pretty much variations on the same core set of ingredients: roux + egg yolk + cheese + filling + egg white. We chose one that looked straightforward. Yuck. My notes described it as eggy and dense. So we tried another. Not much improvement. Then we started tweaking – was it too much cauliflower? too much cheese? too wet? more egg whites? We tweaked as many of the variables as seemed right, while still following the pro forma recipe. After a parade of cauliflower, er.. dishes, we were getting despondent. How could soufflé have this reputation of being light and fluffy and dramatic when everything we did yielded gooey pudding?
Cauliflower Souffle

just peeking over the edge – three cauliflower soufflés

We gave up. But in the process of trying to find an alternate recipe, I noticed that none of the pictures of savory soufflés looked any better than what we were turning out. In fact, our looked pretty darned good compared to most of them.

So we started on a path of rethinking everything. Our first attempt was to beat the egg yolk over a hot water bath as you do for a sabayon. Presto! This tripled the volume of the egg yolks, making a stable foam by gently cooking the egg yolk as air was being beaten into it. We tried this on a watercress soufflé and it was, if anything, almost too light, but we sure weren’t going to quibble.
Watercress Souffle

Watercress Soufflé using the sabayon technique

Our dear virtual friend and Daring Cook Audax Artifex, host of the Daring Cooks Sushi challenge, stepped it up to a whole new level. We were right – everything that you think about soufflé is probably wrong – but we didn’t take it nearly far enough.

Here are some tips based on his research – and that we have tested and proven to be effective:

Avoid fats in your filling as they cause the egg whites to break down and the soufflé won’t rise. To the extent that you do use fat, make sure that it is encapsulated or stabilized. This is why our sabayon technique worked, as it stabilized the fat in the egg yolk by cooking it gently and incorporating air into it.  However you’re better off skipping the yolks and the roux entirely. And use low-fat milk rather than cream. That contradicted everything I thought I knew about French food right there! 

Use cornstarch (aka corn flour) instead of your roux. Cornstarch will encapsulate the fats in, say, grated cheese, and also provide strength to your soufflé so it doesn’t collapse right away. We made our Banoffee soufflé without cornstarch and it rose gorgeously, but immediately plummeted. Corrected that mistake the second time around..  The starch can be used with cocoa powder in a chocolate soufflé, or simply blended with a vegetable puree or cheese for a savory soufflé.

Add any fat in grated form into the mixture which ensures that the egg whites are set before the grated fat melts. Either add the solid fatty ingredient in a finely grated form to a nearly set sauce (like chocolate), or add the fatty food and corn-flour to the hot sauce and beat really hard while the sauce cools to divide the fat into fine droplets that solidify and are coated by the sauce.

So why are traditional recipes repeating the same old mistakes? I really don’t know. Dessert soufflés generally rise much more dramatically than savories – largely as they involve less fat and use a greater ratio of egg whites to filling. What we do know is:
  • that the Daring Cooks turned out some spectacular soufflés and you can see their results and get their recipes here – the creativity of their dishes was astounding
  • Soufflé is not a complicated or temperamental dish to make (provided that you ignore nearly every recipe that’s been published in the past)
  • Just about any flavor combination can be translated to a soufflé
  • Even when a soufflé falls, it still (almost always) tastes great
So with all that said, we’re publishing two brand new recipes that take into account everything we learned along the way. We're also posting the original challenge recipes that honestly were good and rose proudly the first time, but that we’ll probably reformulate when we make them again (but time and our cholesterol counts prevent us from making and retesting before posting time) and a link to the original Daring Cooks write up which contains some additional tips and links for making a souffle.

Horseradish Soufflé

Horseradish Souffle This soufflé was intensely horseradish-y. It had a perfectly crisp skin and creamy interior. We put steak on the menu as a pairing to it. This is maybe one of Linda’s new all-time favorites.
Serves 2

2 oz / 57g Sharp Cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp Milk
2 Tbsp Horseradish
1 1/2 tsp Cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Egg whites
1 oz Butter
Panko crumbs (or regular breadcrumbs) to coat the dishes
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare 2 1-cup soufflé dishes by buttering them, then coating evenly with panko crumbs. Set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the soufflés.

Grate the cheese.

Heat the milk gently in a medium saucepan. Stir in the cornstarch and stir to dissolve thoroughly. Add the cheese and horseradish and stir until the cheese melts. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff peaks. peaks2

left: stiff peaks     right: not yet ready

Fold a small amount of the egg whites into the cheese mix. Working in 2-3 batches, fold the cheese mix into the remaining egg whites.

Remove your prepared soufflé cups from the refrigerator and gently spoon the soufflé mix into them. smooth the tops with a spatula and clean thoroughly around the rim – if you don’t do this last step the soufflés will rise at a rakish angle.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.


Banoffee - Banana Toffee Souffle

Banoffee Soufflé with salted Pistachio Brittle and Chocolate Sauce

Banoffee pudding is a British dessert that combines bananas and toffee. We created this interpretation of the pudding as a special dessert for Dave’s birthday. The brittle recipe is adapted from Bon Appétit – it makes a lot more than you need (I actually made a third of the recipe and we still had leftovers) however the leftover toffee is yummy in its own right. I also spooned out some of the toffee before adding the nuts, so that I’d have a just plain brittle for the soufflé.

Serves 3

Salted Pistachio Brittle Salted Pistachio Brittle

2 cups Sugar
1 cup Corn Syrup
1 cup Water
Pinch Salt 
2 Tbsp Butter
1/2 tsp Baking soda
2 cups pistachio nuts, shelled
1 Tbsp Flaked sea salt or Kosher salt

Spread half the butter on a baking sheet, then set aside.

Heat the sugar, water and corn syrup in a heavy pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 330 degrees F. I found this to take about 20 minutes both times I made the recipe. Keep an eye on it as the temperature really rockets toward the end.

Remove from heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp butter and baking soda, then stir in the nuts. Spread the mix quickly on the prepared baking sheet, evening it out with a spatula as necessary. Sprinkle with the coarse salt and let cool.

Caramelized Bananas

4 Tbsp - 1/2 oz Brown sugar
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Water
2 Bananas, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

Melt the brown sugar, butter and water together. Add the banana slices and gently stir until the sugar thickens and the bananas are evenly coated.

Remove the slices to a plate and set aside 6-8 slices to use as garnish.

Caramelized Banana and Toffee Soufflé

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Caramelized banana from recipe above
1 1/2 tsp Corn starch
2 Tbsp toffee, smashed into small bits (I used toffee without nuts, but that's just me..)

Butter and brown sugar for preparing the soufflé cups

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

Butter the soufflé cups thoroughly and then coat evenly with brown sugar. Set aside in the refrigerator (some recipes say that this helps the soufflé to rise. I found that it didn’t do any harm and got the dishes out of my way while working on the rest of the steps).

Mash the banana and blend with the corn starch. We used an immersion blender for this, but you could do just as well with a whisk or spoon. Stir in the toffee bits.

Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat until stiff, but not dry. Spoon the banana mix into the egg whites, then pour into your prepared soufflé dishes. As always, even the tops and clean the rims of the dishes with a damp finger to assure an even rise.

Bake for 15 minutes, garnish with reserved banana slices, pistachio brittle and chocolate sauce as desired.

Chocolate Sauce

1 oz Sugar
2 oz Water
2 oz - 20 grams 70% Chocolate

Heat the ingredients until smooth, then keep warm to serve.

Chocolate Chipotle Souffle

Chocolate Soufflé

Serves 6. Adapted From BBC Good Food Recipe by Gordon Ramsay. As we discovered, dessert soufflés rise much more reliably than savory ones to, so there’s really no need to tweak this recipe further – it is delicious as is. However, if you want to change out the cream for milk, you won’t be putting your splendid dessert at any risk at all.

  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30g) unsalted butter, for greasing
  • Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 tsp (10 gm) (0.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK)
  • ½ tsp (4½ gm) (0.15 oz) corn starch (aka corn flour)
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 1 medium whole egg
  • 4 Tbsp (60 ml) milk
  • 5 Tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream)
  • 3 oz (90gm) good-quality dark chocolate preferably 70+% cocoa solids, broken in pieces
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Optional: 2 tsp orange zest or 2 tsp minced chipotle chile en adobo or 1 tsp chipotle chile powder. (The chile version is a Monkeyshines favorite!)
  • Optional: powdered sugar for dusting
  • 6 medium egg whites
  • 6½ Tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90g) superfine/caster sugar (if you don’t have it, regular sugar is OK)
  1. Heat oven to moderate 375 ˚F/190 ˚C/gas mark 5.
  2. Take four 1 cup/~240ml soufflé dishes and brush them completely with softened butter. Tip a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tilting it as you do so it is evenly lined all round.
  3. For the crème patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch into a small bowl. Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium sized bowl, beat lightly, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.
  4. To make the ganache, pour the milk and cream into a pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.
  5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganache into the paste from step 3, and add the orange zest or chile if using. This is your crème patisserie.
  6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk. Sprinkle in the sugar as you are mixing. Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peaks to give volume to the soufflés.
  7. Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the crème patisserie. Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat. Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.
  9. Bake the soufflés for 15-17 minutes.
  10. The soufflés should have risen by about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.

Watercress Souffle

Watercress Soufflé

Next time we make these soufflés, we’d add a teaspoon or two of corn starch to help them keep their puffiness a little longer. We probably would still add the egg yolk to help give the soufflé some body and richness.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish, 2 as an entree

2 Tbsp 1 oz/30g butter plus additional for the soufflé dish
3½ Tbsp (55 ml) 1 oz/30g plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup/8 fluid oz (240ml) milk
½ cup (120 ml) 2 oz/60g parmesan cheese, finely grated plus additional for the soufflé dish
1 cup (250ml) 2 oz/60g finely chopped de-stemmed watercress (can substitute spinach) – about 1 large bunch (this measure is the leaves after they’ve been washed, de-stemmed, and chopped)
4 large eggs, separated
½ tsp (2½ ml) (3 gm) (.1 oz) prepared mustard
¼ tsp (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) (0.05 oz) cream of tartar*
Salt and pepper to taste

* If you can’t find cream of tartar, a dash (~ ½ tsp) of lemon juice can be substituted


1. Butter the soufflé dish(es) thoroughly, then grate a small amount of cheese in each dish and tap so that the sides are evenly coated with the cheese. Place the dish(es) in the refrigerator until needed (according to some sites, this helps the soufflé climb).
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350˚F/180˚C/gas mark 4
3. Wash and chop the watercress if you haven’t already.
4. Finely grate the parmesan cheese
5. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook 1 minute, then add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until just thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cheese and stir until it’s just melted. Remove from heat then add the watercress and salt and pepper.
6. In a larger pan, bring water to a gentle simmer. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl set just over this water until pale and slightly foamy – about 6 minutes. (I held the bowl just above the simmering water to be sure I didn’t cook the eggs)
7. Mix the egg yolks into the watercress sauce.
8. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks yet are still glossy.
9. Fold the egg whites into the sauce in 3 additions so that it’s evenly mixed, but you don’t lose too much volume.
10. Remove the soufflé dish from the refrigerator and spoon the mix into it. Use a spatula to even the tops of the soufflés and wipe off any spills.
11. Bake 25 minutes for small dishes or 40 minutes if using a large soufflé dish, then serve immediately.

Crab and Artichoke Souffle

Crab and Artichoke Soufflé

This recipe was tasty as is, but next time we make it, I’d likely forego the roux entirely and replace it with 2-3 tsp corn starch. I’d also whip the egg yolks over hot water, using the sabayon technique from the watercress soufflé, above, to add a little more drama to the final product.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish, 2 as an entree

1 cup (250 ml) 4 oz/120g crab meat, flaked and lightly-packed
½ cup (125 ml) 2 oz/60 g finely chopped cooked artichoke hearts (frozen, fresh or from a jar is OK, but please don’t use the marinated-in-oil style), Alternatively, lightly sautéed leeks would be nice here too.
2 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites
½ tsp (2½ ml) (3 gm) (.1 oz) salt
¼ tsp (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) (0.05 oz) cream of tartar*
1 cup (250 ml) 2 ½ oz (75g) Gruyere cheese, shredded
½ tsp (2½ ml) (2 gm) (0.07 oz) white pepper
1 Tbsp (15 ml) (14 gm) (½ oz) butter
1 Tbsp (15 ml) (9 gm) (1/3 oz) flour
1 tsp (5 ml) (3 gm) (.1 oz) dried chives or tarragon
1 cup 8 fluid oz (250ml) milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional butter and bread crumbs for preparing the dishes

* If you can’t find cream of tartar, a dash (~ ½ tsp) of lemon juice can be substituted

1. Preheat oven to moderate 375 ˚F/190 ˚C/gas mark 5
2. Prepare dishes – you can use one 2-quart (US)/1.9 litre or six 1-cup/240 ml soufflé dishes – by buttering the dish, then coating with bread crumbs. (You may have some left over soufflé mixture if you go with the smaller soufflé dishes.)
3. Chop the artichoke hearts into ¼”/0.5cm dice. If you use frozen or from a jar, then there’s no need to cook them. If you are using fresh, then steam gently until just softened, about 5 minutes or sauté over low heat until just ever so lightly browned.
4. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then stir in the flour to make a roux. – you just want to get the flour evenly blended to a paste, not cook the roux for any length of time. Gradually stir in the milk, mixing all the time. Add herbs, then the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and you have a thick sauce. Remove from heat.
5. Beat the egg yolks well and gently warm them, either according to the instructions for watercress soufflé (above) or by adding some of the cheese sauce. Gradually stir the egg yolks into the cheese sauce until well blended.
6. Add the artichoke and flaked crab meat to the cheese sauce.
7. Beat the egg whites until at the stiff peak stage
8. Fold the whites in thirds into the sauce.
9. Spoon the mixture into your baking dish and level the tops using a spatula. Be sure to wipe up any spills and make sure the edge is clean.
10. Bake for 40 min if you’re using a large soufflé dish or 25 min if using smaller dishes – the soufflé should be richly browned.

Thanks to all the Daring Cooks for playing along and to any of you who’ve made it all the way down to the end here.

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

Thursday, November 11, 2010



For me, the holy grail of baking has always been the croissant. I’d tried a couple of times to make croissants, but had not met with much success. Although I followed the recipes meticulously, my previous attempts yielded flat, gummy, rolls. Maybe they were OK for what they were, but they sure weren’t croissants.

Finally, I saw a photo of what looked like a perfect croissant on Wild Yeast’s YeastSpotting column. I simply had to try them immediately. I’ve learned now to follow the pictures closely on recipes – if the original doesn’t look good, there’s no way that my rendition is going to be better.

Success!! These were perfect! Buttery. Small(ish). Flaky. Yum. Another cozy treat as I pack on calories to prepare for winter. The recipe is directly from Sur le Table’s book The Art & Soul of Baking – Unlike most recipes, this one hasn’t needed even the slightest tweaking.


1/2 cup (4 ounces) whole milk, warmed to 110° to 115°F
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar
4 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 3 teaspoons instant yeast
4 cups (20 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
2 teaspoons (1/2 ounce) salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup (8 ounces) cold milk

Butter block
3 3/4 sticks (14 ounces) cold, unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour

Egg wash
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk or cream

Make the dough:
Pour the warm milk into a small bowl and whisk in 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Whisk in the yeast and set aside for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and the mixture is bubbling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, salt, and cold butter pieces.

Blend on medium speed until the butter is cut into tiny pieces. Add the yeast mixture and the cold milk. Switch to the dough hook and mix on lowest speed for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and has formed a very rough mass. Dust a work surface lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough 3 to 5 times, to finish bringing it together. The dough will not be smooth or elastic; it will become fully kneaded and smooth during the rolling and turning process ahead. Don't overwork the dough now, or you'll have trouble rolling it later. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

Make the butter block:
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces, toss with the flour, and refrigerate for 20 minutes. In the cleaned stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the floured butter on medium speed, scraping down the bowl once or twice with a bowl scraper, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the butter and flour form a smooth mass. You are not trying to beat air into the mixture, just make it pliable and smooth while keeping it cold. Scrape the butter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, wrap it up, and refrigerate while you roll out the dough.

Laminating the dough:
Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Set the dough in the center and dust the top with flour. Roll the dough into a 15 by 12-inch rectangle with a short side parallel to the edge of your work surface. Gently pull or stretch the dough to form straight edges and sharp corners. Brush any flour from the surface. Visually divide the dough lengthwise into 3 equal, 5-inch-wide sections. Spread the cold but pliable butter evenly over the top two sections of dough, leaving the bottom third empty and leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges of the buttered sections. This is best done with your fingers.

Fold the empty bottom third up over the center third of the dough. Then fold the top third down over the center. Pinch together the seams along the bottom and sides of the dough. Roll your rolling pin across the top of the dough briefly and gently 3 or 4 times to help seal the seams. This completes both the incorporation of the butter and your first turn of the dough. If the butter has become warm and squishy, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour before continuing with the second turn. If you have worked quickly and the butter is still cold yet pliable, continue with the next turn.

Position the dough with the short side parallel to your work surface and the long fold on your left (as though you were going to open the dough like a book). Dust the dough with flour and roll it into a 20 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush any flour from the surface of the dough. Fold the dough using the book-fold method: Fold the two short edges into the center of the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch crevice between them. Line up the edges precisely and square the corners as you fold. Now fold one side over the other, as though you were closing a book. Roll your pin across the top of the dough briefly and gently 3 or 4 times to seal the seams. This completes your second turn. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, dust it with flour, and again roll it into a 20 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush any flour from the surface of the dough. Fold the dough using the letter-fold method: Visually divide the dough lengthwise into 3 equal, 5-inch-wide sections. Fold the empty bottom third up over the center of the dough, and then fold the top third down over the center, making sure to square the corners and fold as neatly and precisely as possible. Pinch together the seams along the bottom and sides of the dough. Roll your rolling pin across the top of the dough again briefly to help seal the seams. This completes your third turn. The croissant dough is finished. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before cutting, shaping, and baking the dough.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 26 by 14 by 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. Cut the dough rectangle in half lengthwise to form two pieces that each measure 26 by 7 inches. On each half, use a ruler and paring knife or pizza cutter to make nicks along the top edge of the dough every 4 inches. Along the bottom edge, measure 2 inches in from the left side and make a nick; then add a nick every 4 inches.

Form the Croissants:
Line up your ruler with the top left corner and the first bottom nick (2 inches in from the left side of the dough). Cut along this line. This first triangle will make a smaller croissant when you shape the croissants. Then line up the ruler with the second nick on the top edge and the first bottom nick, and cut along that line, forming a tall, skinny triangle. Continue lining up the nicks and cutting until the whole sheet has been cut into triangles. Mark and cut the second half of dough in the same way.

Line up all the triangles so that their bottom (4-inch) sides are parallel with the edge of your work surface. Make a 1-inch vertical slit in the center of the bottom edge of each triangle. To shape, grasp a triangle and, with the wide end in one hand and the point in the other, very gently stretch the dough until it is a couple inches longer. Set it back on the table. Pull the slit in the bottom apart slightly and roll the corners upward and outward, widening the slit. Now roll the entire triangle toward the tip, pulling gently on the tip to stretch the dough slightly. Tuck the tip under the roll (so it doesn't pull out during baking) and place the roll on one of the prepared baking sheets. Curve the ends in toward each other to form a crescent shape. Continue stretching and rolling the dough triangles until you have shaped all the croissants and placed them on the baking sheets, allowing 2 inches between each croissant.


Make the egg wash: Combine the egg and the milk in a small bowl and whisk to blend well. Brush each croissant evenly with the egg wash. Allow the croissants to rise in a cool room-temperature spot until they are nearly doubled in size and look like they have taken a deep breath, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of the room. If you squeeze one gently, it should feel soft and marshmallow-like. Don't try to rush the rise by warming the croissants—you don't want the butter to melt.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400° F. Chill the croissants in the freezer for 10 minutes or in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. This will firm the butter, creating a flakier texture. Brush the croissants once more with the egg wash. Bake one sheet pan at a time, rotating it halfway through, for 17 to 22 minutes, or until the croissants are a deep golden brown. Transfer croissants to a rack to cool. until the croissants are golden brown. Transfer croissants to a rack to cool.


To serve, toast lightly to warm through.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


 arancini aka Crocchetti di Riso

As Autumn and Winter draw in here in San Francisco, we’re drawn increasingly to comfort foods. One of the most sinful, but delicious, of these treats is Crocchete di Riso, known more commonly here as Arancini.

We made two versions – one filled with herbed cheese and the other with a rich meat sugo. I liked the way the cheese stayed molten and stringy (read: fun to eat) for a good 20 min after cooking. These were also a touch easier to make than the meat version. Our guests marginally preferred the savory meat-filled ones, though there really weren’t many leftovers of either type..

The process is relatively simple, though we made them a day ahead so that the arancini could set overnight so that they wouldn’t fall apart during cooking.

Crocchete di Riso

adapted from Joyce Goldstein’s book Antipasti

For the Rice:
3 1/2 cups Water
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 tsp White pepper, ground

You’ll also need:
1 1/2 cups Breadcrumbs,
2 eggs, 1 cup Flour
Oil for frying

Bring the water and salt to a boil, then add the rice and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes until the water is fully absorbed but the rise is somewhat sticky. Stir in the cheese and pepper, then remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the filling.

For the Meat Filling:

arancini filling
1/4 lb Ground Beef
1/4 lb Ground Pork
1/2 Medium onion, minced
2 oz Pancetta
1 Stalk celery, chopped
1 Carrot, minced
1/2 cup Tomatoes, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop the pancetta and saute it with the onion, carrots and celery until the onion is translucent. Add the Beef and pork and saute until just lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and cook another 15 minutes until the sauce is rich and thick. Set aside to cool.

For the Cheese Filling:

arancini filling
4 oz Fontina cheese
2 - 3 Tbsp mixed herbs - we used Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary and Parsley

Dice the cheese into 1/2 inch-sized cubes. Mince the herbs, then roll the cheese cubes in the herbs to coat them evenly all over.

To assemble the Crocchete:

Wet your hands thoroughly. Spoon roughly 2 Tbsp of the rice into your palm and gently flatten it to a disk that is about 1/8 inch thick. For me, this pretty much covered most of my palm. Place a spoonful of the sugo or 1 cheese cube in the center of the rice disc.

making arancini

Fold the sides of the rice up and over the filling. I found it helpful to use my thumb to press into the center to help round out the ball. Gently roll between your hands to even the shape into a tidy sphere. Place on a sheet tray while you repeat the process, using the rest of the rice and filling. I found it best to wet my hands each time to prevent the rice from sticking.

Get out 3 bowls and place the Flour, the Breadcrumbs and the eggs each in its own bowl. Beat the eggs until thoroughly mixed.

One at a time, dip the crochetti into the flour, then the eggs, then roll in the breadcrumbs, coating evenly each time. Place on a wax-paper or parchment-lined sheet tray. When all the balls are coated, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.


To cook:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F and line a heat-proof plate or tray with paper towels. Pour oil into a heavy saucepan to a depth of about 3 inches. Heat to 350 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, test the heat by tossing in a chunk of bread – if it starts to fry immediately, then the oil is hot enough (but take care that it doesn’t over heat either).

Place 2-3 crocchetti into the oil and fry until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon lift them out of the oil 2-3 times while they cook to help make sure that they heat all the way through while cooking adn that the cheese is melted. Overall, it should take 6-7 minutes to fry the arancini.

Place on the paper-lined plate and place in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the crocchetti. Serve while warm.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Turning over a new leaf

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Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

We’ve made dolmas before on several occasions, but had never seen the technique of filing them with uncooked rice. Although we were maybe a bit tentative at first, this approach really worked well... we should know by now that some things have stood the test of time for a reason, right?! The rice swells up when cooking, creating a much firmer and more attractive dolma after cooking than anything we’d done before.

Anyhow, true to our custom, we didn’t exactly follow the recipes (blame Mrs Monkeyshines for that. As usual.) We made two versions one with meat and one vegetarian and gobbled them both up in no time. These are surprisingly filling, and made a delicious dinner when accompanied with whole wheat tabbouleh, baba ghanooj and a greek salad:

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Lamb Dolmas

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1/2 pound ground lamb
1/6 cup rice
1/4 cup onion
1 tsp dill (dried)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp fresh mint leaves
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

About 2 dozen grape leaves – fresh or from a jar.

  1. Soak the rice for 15 minutes, then drain.
  2. Soak the grape leaves in fresh water for about 15 minutes
  3. While the rice is soaking, mince the onion, garlic and herbs.
  4. Mix all the ingredients  except the grape leaves together in a small bowl
  5. One at a time, remove a grape leaf from the water and snip off any remaining stem.
  6. Center about a Tablespoon or so of filling in the center of the leaf (just above the stem)
  7. Fold the left and right sides of the leaf inward to cover the filling, then roll from the stem end toward the top of the leaf.
  8. Place the rolled dolma into a shallow skillet or sauté pan.
  9. Repeat with the remaining leaves, packing the dolmas closely into the pan so that they don’t unroll.
  10. Add water to the pan until the dolmas are about 3/4 covered. Cover the pan with a lid and place on the stove over medium-high heat.
  11. Bring the water in the pan to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes. Check periodically to make sure that the pan does not run dry (it didn’t for us, but did for other DC’s)
  12. Spoon out with a spatula and serve.



Rice, Feta and Olive Dolmas

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2/3 cup rice
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup onion
1/2 red or orange bell pepper
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh mint leaves
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
10 or so large black olives, pitted 
Salt and Pepper to taste

About 2 dozen grape leaves – fresh or from a jar.

  1. Soak the rice for 15 minutes, then drain.
  2. Soak the grape leaves in fresh water for about 15 minutes
  3. While the rice is soaking, mince the onion, bell pepper and herbs.
  4. Coarsely chop the olives and feta.
  5. Mix all the ingredients  except the grape leaves together in a small bowl
  6. One at a time, remove a grape leaf from the water and snip off any remaining stem.
  7. Center about a Tablespoon or so of filling in the center of the leaf (just above the stem)
  8. Fold the left and right sides of the leaf inward to cover the filling, then roll from the stem end toward the top of the leaf.
  9. Place the rolled dolma into a shallow skillet or sauté pan.
  10. Repeat with the remaining leaves, packing the dolmas closely into the pan so that they don’t unroll.
  11. Add water to the pan until the dolmas are about 3/4 covered. Cover the pan with a lid and place on the stove over medium-high heat.
  12. Bring the water in the pan to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes. Check periodically to make sure that the pan does not run dry (it didn’t for us, but did for other DC’s)
  13. Spoon out with a spatula and serve.
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Thank you to Lori for hosting a fun challenge and to all the other Daring Cooks who presented some extremely inspiring rolls!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Daring Cooks get Canny

canning copy

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation. Read his thorough discussion of canning techniques and also some excellent recipes if you’re new to canning.

While we are not new to canning here in the Monkeyshines household, this was nevertheless an excellent and informative challenge.

Let’s talk first about the successes:

We made a Plum Cardamom Butter that is out of this world (if we say so ourselves). And it really couldn’t have been easier to make. Monkey devoured the little bit that was left over after filling the jars in a matter of days.

We also made a Spicy Chile Chutney that tasted fantastic. It was awesome on a turkey burger last weekend.

Last, but most certainly not least, we canned fresh Montmorency cherries – commonly referred to as pie cherries or sour cherries though they aren’t so much sour as just not the sugar bombs that other cherries can be. The season for these is fleeting – some years they don’t arrive at all – so week after week we kept buying pounds of them and putting them up. Some are canned, some frozen and we look forward to enjoying them throughout the rest of the year.

These were processed using a  recipe from an old British cookbook. We placed the pitted cherries in sterilized jars, then poured in boiling syrup and then baked the jars in the oven at 300 degrees for 50 minutes. This apparently does not meet current USDA standards, they say that the mix might not get hot all the way through, though since the syrup was boiling going in, we are not too concerned.

Then there was the less successful part… Over the years the safety standards for home canning have become much more conservative. Two years ago, we canned tomatoes using the directions from my grandmother’s 1950’s edition of the Joy of Cooking and they were just wonderful. We processed them in hot water for about 5 minutes. Nowadays the USDA recommends 85 minutes. Honestly, I couldn’t bear it and pulled this year’s batch out of the water after 60 minutes. We haven’t opened these yet, but you can tell by looking that there’s a world of difference. I found a can from the two-year-ago batch and the tomatoes look fresh and are packed in their lovely juice. This year’s batch have been cooked beyond recognition and are watery. While processing both the bruschetta and the tomatoes, the jars leaked just a bit during the extended boil and I think a) some water got in and b) the solids in the juice cooked out and separated.

I’ll also confess that last year I canned a batch of tomatoes and, on inspection the next day, they were bubbling vigorously. This is not a good thing – though it was very obvious and therefore we knew not to eat them. However, when I can tomatoes again next year I still plan to stay closer to the old recipe than the new one. I am not advising you to do that. I’m just saying… When I go to the work of putting up 10 pounds of tomatoes, I really want the resulting product to taste as close to a summer-ripe fresh tomato as possible. 85 minutes of hard boiling (or even 60 min) just doesn’t cut it. For me.

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Tomatoes from 2010 and 2008 – this year’s batch is on the left

would you do that to these beauties?

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Plum Cardamom Butter

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4 lb ripe plums, halved
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cardamom, ground from fresh pods

In a heavy saucepan, cook the plums, sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 tsp ground cardamom. Bring to a boil, then cook over a low heat until the mix is thick and pasty. This is likely to take several hours. Add the remaining cardamom, to taste – we found that the spice flavor diminished with cooking. Also, if you’re using pre-ground, you might want to add a touch more than this recipe calls for.

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Pour the butter into 4 sterile half-pint (or 2 pint) jars and process in boiling water for 15 minutes. We’re assuming here that you are familiar with canning – see John’s recipes if you are not. And rest assured that this processing time is compliant with (current) USDA standard.


Spicy Chile Chutney

This chutney (or is it a relish?) is nicely balanced. The peppers aren’t particularly hot, but they cook down to something more piquant than a common bell pepper/capiscum. There’s just enough sugar to balance the acid without making it sweet.

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1 pound gypsy peppers
1 medium onion
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp black peppercorns

Dice the onion finely and sauté. Coarsely grind the mustard seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, then add to the onions.

Slice the peppers into approx. 1/2 inch rounds and add to the onions. Add salt, then cover and reduce heat and simmer partially covered until very soft – about 15-20 minutes.

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Stir in the vinegar and brown sugar. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until jammy – about another 20 minutes.

Pour the butter into 4 sterile half-pint (or 2 pint) jars and process in boiling water for 15 minutes. As with the recipe above, this processing time is compliant with (current) USDA standard.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

We loved the idea of putting our own regional twist on pierogies, and came up with lots of ideas: unfortunately, this month we both found ourselves insanely busy with work and only managed a few renditions. They were, however, very tasty and we will definitely make them again.

Neither of us had actually ever had pierogis before, so in a shocking break for Monkeyshines in the Kitchen, we stuck pretty close to the Russian recipe that Anula shared.

Pierogies with potato, cabbage and bacon stuffing and mushroom cream sauce

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This was a variation on one of our favorite cabbage dishes: cabbage with garlic and juniper. In our experience, this treatment transforms the humble cabbage into a star of the dinner table, guaranteed to win over the most ardent skeptic. In keeping with Anula’s original family recipe, we paired the cabbage with potato. And – of course – bacon, in our case some home-cured pepper bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon.

2 russet potatoes
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp ricotta cheese
1/4 large cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 juniper berries, crushed
3 strips bacon. finely diced
1 tbsp oil (included because our bacon was very lean; I would probably omit this if the bacon were more fatty)
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb sliced field mushrooms
1/4 c sour cream
1/4c milk
Pinch thyme, salt and pepper

Gently fry the bacon in the oil until it starts to get crisp; add the garlic and juniper berries, then the shredded cabbage. Cook over medium heat until the cabbage is sort. Meanwhile, peel and boil the potatoes until soft; drain, add the sour cream and ricotta, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix/mash the potatoes using a hand mixer, then blend in the cabbage mixture.

Make the mushroom sauce: Sauté the mushrooms in a little oil until soft; add the milk and cream together with the seasonings and heat through. Easy as can be!

Make the Russian-style pierogi dough according to the instructions; cut into circles and add a spoonful of filling, then fold over into a half moon shape and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.

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Boil them in a large pot of salted water, then drain and serve with the mushroom cream sauce.

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For our second round, we took the ‘local’ part of the challenge literally, and made a dessert pierogi featuring blueberries and lemons from our garden. For this version, we used the challenge Wareneki recipe for the dough, then filled the dumplings with a mixture of fresh ricotta, basil and lemon zest. In truth, we only made a third of the dough recipe and still had more than enough to serve 4 (of course a dessert portion is smaller than what you’d serve for dinner).

Pierogies filled with ricotta, lemon and basil and topped with blueberry sauce and basil granita



6 oz Ricotta
zest of one lemon
1 large basil leaf, minced
1 1/2 tsp sugar

Make the dough as per the recipe. We let it rest about 30 minutes even though the recipe didn’t ask for that.

Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl.

Fill and crimp the pierogies as above.

Heat a cup or two of oil in a heavy pan and fry the pierogies until they brown. We did them in small batches of 2-3 to try to keep them from sticking to each other.

We liked the way that frying created a textural contrast to the smooth filling. We’re faintly embarrassed, though, as we’ve fried more for the Daring Cooks than we ever have – we feel compelled to declare that this is not part of our normal repertoire! The cool granita was also a nice contrast to the hot pierogi. However, it seemed that the filling tended to disappear during the cooking process – perhaps someone little lax in the sealing process? possibly, but we point no fingers. Nevertheless, you could still taste the filling and it was delicious.


Thanks to Liz and Anula for presenting the opportunity to try something new!

The challenge recipes:

Russian style pierogi

(makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings)
(Traditional Polish recipe, although each family will have their own version, this is Anula's family recipe)

2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy (you can add more bacon if you like or omit that part completely if you’re vegetarian)
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi - this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried.  Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

Cottage Cheese Wareneki (pierogi)

½ cup (125 ml) milk (can be whole milk, 2% or skim milk)
½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream
3 large egg whites
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
3 cups (450 gm) all-purpose flour

1. Mix flour and salt, add other ingredients, and knead dough until you have a smooth dough. (I kneaded this dough quite a bit, and it yielded a nice, pliable dough).
2. On a floured surface roll out fairly thin (1/8” or about 3 millimeters), cut into 2” (5 cm) squares, and fill with 1 tsp (5ml) cottage cheese filling (see below).

1 lb (455 g) dry cottage cheese (this is usually found beside the “wet” cottage cheese in the supermarket’s dairy aisle. If you can’t find it, please see below for how to proceed with the “wet” cottage cheese.)
3 large egg yolks
Salt to taste

1. Mix well all the ingredients for the filling.
2. Put 1 rounded teaspoon (5 ml) of the filling in each square, fold corners to form a triangle, seal edges well using your fingers or a fork
3. Cook in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes.

Boiled pierogi can also be fried after boiling for a nice crunchy dumpling.

If you can’t find dry cottage cheese, simply drain normal cottage cheese by nesting the cottage  in a few layers of cheese cloth or a fine sieve over a bowl.

Adapted from The Mennonite Cookbook