Monthly Archives: July 2012
Is it Friday? Is it Tuesday? Is it Sunday? With the midweek holiday, the flow of the week and the feel of each day have been confusing. I worked a normal week with Wednesday off for Independence Day. On Tuesday, it felt like Saturday. On Wednesday, I was sure it was Saturday, so it was odd to go back to work with a one day break, when I had a list in my mind of what to do on Sunday. Back to work yesterday, I just didn’t know what day it was. All in all, it was fun to have the break to celebrate one of my favorite holidays!
This week’s pick for French Fridays with Dorie sounded like a good picnic or cookout dish: Crunchy Ginger Pickled Cucumbers. They were super simple to put together. First, chunks of cucumber are salted and then sit for half an hour to draw out some of their moisture. Then, after draining, the cucumber marinates in a gingery vinegar bath for a few hours (mine went overnight), giving it a quick pickle. Flecks of dried red pepper (I used some Korean chile I had on hand), give them a little fire. Chopped cilantro dresses them up right before serving.
These quick pickles looked promising, but I found them disappointing. Though Howard said the ginger flavor was strong, I mostly tasted the vinegar. I used rice wine vinegar and added sugar to mimic seasoned rice vinegar. I typically find this type of vinegar to have a mild flavor, but, in this dish, it tasted harsh to me. I’m not sure why. I make a ginger cole slaw where the vinegar-to-sugar ratio is 1:1. I like that combination. I’m thinking maybe I had a mental expectation that the end result would be sweeter.
These pickles will get eaten, but I’m not sure I would make them again. Though, I could find a new idea about how to change it up from one of the other Doristas who also made the same recipe this week. I’ll be checking out their links here. If you want the recipe, you’ll find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.
I don’t just like biscotti, I love it. With a decent Italian bakery within walking distance of my house, I seldom make them myself. A fix is always in range. When I saw that this week’s selection for Tuesdays with Dorie/Baking with Julia was Hazelnut Biscotti, I had to try it. This recipe was from Alice Medrich, the renowned San Francisco area baker. I have admired and earmarked many Alice Medrich recipes in the past, but never actually made one. I am, after all, more of a cooker than a baker. So, an attempt at Alice’s biscotti was made.
The first bonus from this recipe was the genius technique for removing the stubborn skins from the hazelnuts. I must have seen the episode where Alice baked with Julia on the PBS series, because I have these instructions scrawled on a piece of a paper that I’ve referred to in the past. Who would think that boiling hazelnuts with baking soda and water would make the job so easy? The water gets rather gross, and you have to use a pot big enough that the icky water doesn’t boil over (voice of experience), but other than that, this is a method to use again and again. I wonder whether it works on almonds too.
The batter itself was different than biscotti recipes I’ve made before. I seem to make a different recipe every time, but all of them typically call for oil or butter. This recipe has no additional fat beyond the eggs. I stirred it by hand, mixing the flour mixture in to the egg mixture, kneading the last of the flour in by hand.
Just as with other biscotti, the sticky dough is shaped with floured hands into logs and baked once.
After a brief cool (so the logs can be handled comfortably, I assume), the logs are sliced, and the slices are baked again. Biscotti does mean twice baked, after all.
This is where the second bonus of the recipe comes in. Rather than baking the slices on a cookie sheet, Alice has us bake the cookies on cooling racks placed directly on the oven rack. This lets the air move around the entire cookie as it bakes, eliminating the need for the flipping over step. Taking the rack back out of the oven was a little tricky, but well worth the inconvenience. While I might have slightly overcooked the ones on the bottom oven rack, I will use this technique again.
The cookies are wonderfully crisp. I’ve only eaten a few “straight” so far, but I will dip them in my tea for a snack later today. I will definitely make these again, maybe trying almonds (swapping amaretto for the frangelico) or other nuts with the appropriate liqueur. I can’t wait to see what the other bakers have been inspired to do with this one. You can check their links here.
Happy 4th of July to all! This all-American holiday is among my favorites though it brings to mind a celebration of freedom throughout the world.