November 10, 2015

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Crème Anglaise

On Sunday, I cooked a Downton Abbey-inspired supper to celebrate a friend's mom's birthday. Here was our menu:

Smoked salmon mousse with cucumber canapes
Butternut squash soup with sour cream & pumpkin seeds 
Salad with Roquefort, figs, walnuts & creamy pomegranate dressing
Prosciutto, rosemary, & thyme gougeres *
Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey crème anglaise

* Recipe will be posted soon!

In the 5th episode of Downton Abbey, the cook Mrs. Patmore refuses to make an Apple Charlotte for dessert, as request by the lady of the house, because she was having problems with her eyesight and couldn't read the recipe.

Apple Charlotte is essentially a caramelized apple filling baked in a French-toasty crust. In my research, I saw many different versions and methods. I chose a recipe posted on the Downton Abbey Cooks blog that uses raisin bread for the crust and condensed milk for the caramel filling. The bread is dipped in an egg & milk batter, which results in a bread pudding-like consistency. (Confession: I don't think I followed the "lightly dip" directions well. I probably should have just brushed the bread.)

In hindsight, I think it would have been better to brush the bread with butter and toast it in the oven, then brush only the tops of each Charlotte with the egg mixture. This would make for a crispier crust that held up better.

Another suggestion: Don't forget to grease the ramekins. It was difficult to get the desserts neatly out of their dishes. Whoops.

Still, these individual desserts make for an impressive presentation, and everyone seemed to like them.

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Créme Anglaise

November 7, 2015

Buttered Popcorn Cookies

So, the semester is more than halfway over. It's been a good school year. I like my classes, for the most part anyway. My stress level is fairly low, except for the new teacher evaluation procedures. This year, 25% of my evaluation is based on student progress. I have to assess my students three times from September to November on the writing standards I've chosen to focus on. I have to chart their scores, determining how much I think they can improve in the two months' time. After the post-assessment, if at least 80% of my students meet their learning target, I get an "excellent" for that part of my evaluation.

Such. Bullshit.

This isn't making me a better teacher. In fact, it's making me less effective since I'm spending so much time focusing on the assessments instead of the rest of my curriculum, and I'm falling behind in my other grading.

It's all frustrating me, but my students are aware of why they are taking these assessments and I've been honest with them about the outcomes so far. Thankfully, they are understanding and cooperative.

Because it's time-consuming for them, too, I made a little treat for one of my classes this week. I didn't have any chocolate chips or whatnot for traditional cookies, but I did have some popcorn cookies it was!

These are quite buttery, but salty and sweet and really good.

Buttered Popcorn Cookies
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

November 1, 2015

Winter 2015-2016 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's winter schedule is now available online and runs through March.

I'm teaching a few demonstration classes: Girls' Night Out classes out on a champagne-laden menu on December 19, Korean food on February 20, and a dip extravaganza on March 19.

My Date Night for Couples classes include a beer pairing on December 7, an ultimate cocktail party on December 20, a salsa dance & dinner class on January 23, and a chili cook-off on January 31.

My Valentine's Day class is on February 6 and features soufflé with lobster sauce & seared scallops with champagne-balsamic glaze.

Below is my schedule. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BUBBLES - Saturday, December 19 @ 6:00-8:30 (demonstration)
  • Who doesn't love the sound of a popping champagne cork? Celebrate the season as I create elderflower-gin champagne cocktail, prosciutto puff pastry twists with champagne mustard, lobster-citrus salad with avocado and fennel and champagne vinaigrette, pan-roasted chicken au Champagne with mushrooms in champagne cream sauce, truffled smashed potatoes, plus salted chocolate shortbread with pink champagne sorbet.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE ULTIMATE COCKTAIL PARTY - Sunday, December 20 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • We will mix up Hemingway daiquiris and pear old-fashioneds. Learn to create a dazzling spread of smoked deviled eggs with quick pickled jalapeños, roasted red pepper and pomegranate hummus with crudités and homemade crackers, Korean-style barbecue pork skewers, savory butternut-goat cheese tarts with fried sage, plus saffron lollipops.
SATURDAY NIGHT SUSHI - Saturday, January 16 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • Menu includes tempura vegetables, miso soup, edamame salad with ginger-soy dressing, crab and mango inside-out rolls with teriyaki glaze, spicy tuna hand rolls, crunchy shrimp rolls with avocado-chile cream, and sweet plum ice cream.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SALSA SALSA DINE AND DANCE - Saturday, January 23 @ 6:00-9:00 (hands-on)
  • Grab your partner and join us for a unique experience of dancing and dining. The evening begins with a one-hour Latin salsa dance lesson with a dance instructor from COCA, that will spark your appetite for a memorable evening in the kitchen. Afterwards, refresh your thirst with a mojito, then enjoy fried corn tortilla chips with black bean dip, grilled shrimp quesadillas with smoked tomato salsa, roasted pork tenderloin with papaya-mango salsa and yellow Cuban rice, plus banana cream pie with chocolate crumb crust.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE BIG CHILL-I COOK-OFF - Sunday, January 31 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Let the battle begin, as couples create and choose their favorite chili for a spirited evening of cooking, fun, and a little beer to wash it down. Learn to make roasted corn and jalapeño dip with fresh tortilla chips, Carolina pulled pork chili, Cincinnati chili with spaghetti, "real" Texas chili (without beans), and delicious root beer sorbet.
VALENTINE FOR COUPLES: SEDUCED BY SHELLFISH - Saturday, February 6 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on) 
  • Learn to make red pepper bisque "cappuccino" with gruyère and smoked paprika crackers topped with foamed cream, goat cheese soufflé with creamy lobster sauce and arugula salad, seared scallops with champagne-balsamic glaze, pommes Anna, pancetta-wrapped roasted asparagus with citrus vinaigrette, plus white chocolate-raspberry tart.

October 13, 2015

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

Last weekend, we visited Nick's daughter at Eastern Illinois University. It was fun to spend a couple days at my alma mater. It was even more fun to spend time cooking with Jordan. She wanted to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, so we did that on Sunday before driving home.

While it's not difficult to do, I'm not sure that roasting a pumpkin is all that much better than using canned pumpkin puree. Still, it feels good to start with this:

Only the smallest of those pumpkins was harmed in the making of pie.

and end up with this:

Mmmmmm, pie...

September 12, 2015

Shaker Lemon Pie

Summer may finally be releasing its hold. After near-100 degree temps the past couple weeks, this weekend is cool, breezy, blue-skied, and lovely. The temperature always affects my mood, and I've been sweaty and crabby since school started three weeks ago. Right now, however, I am perfectly content as I sit outside drinking coffee and soaking up 60 degree sunshine.

I love the fall so hard...and all I can think about is wanting to pick apples and make pies, spending the afternoon at a winery near the river, and having picnics of crusty breads and cured sausages and pungent cheeses. I want to make hearty pastas and soups and stews. I want to curl up in a blanket next to a campfire with a glass of red wine or a dark beer. You know...all the stereotypical autumny stuff. BRING ON THE PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING!

But, if you're more of a summer person and are lamenting the dying light and warmth, you should make this's the ultimate bright, sunshiny dessert.

* * *

I was so excited to try this recipe a few months ago, a treat I was taking to our annual Shakespeare in the Park outing. I love tart lemon desserts, and this one sounded so slice whole lemons, let them candy in sugar overnight, mix with eggs & flour, then bake in a pie crust. 

While it was simple to make, I thought it was too tart and chewy for my taste. The lemons didn't soften as much as I'd hoped, and the texture was just....weird. 

Such is the nature of Shaker Lemon Pie, however, with a filling that is a cross between lemon curd and marmalade. 

Epicurious suggests coarsely chopping the sliced lemons so that the smaller pieces will soften more.

I'll try this recipe again, but next time I'll peel the lemons first to remove the bitter rind and pith. I'm thinking this would work beautifully with winter citrus as well. In fact, I may have to try it with blood oranges in the upcoming months!

Shaker Lemon Pie
recipe from Beth Howard