Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Two days and counting until Christmas eve.  I hope you're shopping is done, your meals are planned, and you're well and healthy.  Me?  Well, shopping is done, meals are almost planned, and my holiday
cold should turn the corner any day now.  Happy Holidays and may the rest of the 2010 bring you everything you could wish for and more.

Ahhh, gougères.  If you're ever looking for the go-to appetizer for your next dinner or cocktail party, these should, hands-down, be your number one pick.   Russ Parsons writes about them in today's LA Times and I couldn't agree more with his notion about how simple they are.  These French cheese puffs are made using a traditional choux pastry, very heavy on the eggs and mixed over the stove top until the dough resembles thick and smooth mashed potatoes (some people transfer the dough to a mixer to finish it-I do it by hand and it always works just fine).  The best thing about these light and airy cheese puffs is that you can make them in advance, freeze them (uncooked) on baking sheets, them store them in zip-top bags in your freezer for weeks.  I pop them right onto a parchment lined baking sheet and into the oven with no defrosting at all.  They still rise beautifully and save lots of last minute work.  You can serve your gougères as is (perfect with a crisp, dry Champagne) or cut them open and pop in fillings like smoked salmon mousse, crumbly bacon and arugula, or smoked duck with cherry jam.  They really are the perfect appetizer. 

I have been making candy non-stop this holiday season.  I adore the candy thermometer I got for Christmas last year and it's helped me ensure perfection in all those batches of toffee, brittle, and bark.  Today, however, the esteemed food scientist Harold McGee writes, in The New York Times, about using your microwave to make all types of candy.  He says the heat in a microwave boils sugar syrup more quickly and evenly, avoiding the inevitable hot spots on the stove top that can cause scorching.   He judges doneness by color, instead of using a thermometer, and if the photo of this nut brittle is any indication, it comes out quite nice.  I'll admit, I don't own a microwave so this isn't a method I'll be testing any time soon but if you've shied away from making candy because the thermometer thing seems too overwhelming (it isn't, really), this could be a great place to start. 

Sticky buns and cinnamon rolls rank in my top five all time favorite foods.  Just like my mom, I've tried dozens of different recipes on the quest for perfection.  In today's Washington Post there is a Pecan Toffee Sticky Bun recipe that just jumped to the top of my list.  A brioche dough is coated in caramel like toffee sauce and loaded with cinnamon and pecans.  These take some time, I'm not going to lie-homemade buns like this are a labor of love.  I often do them for Christmas morning, making them the day before, refrigerating them (unbaked) overnight, and, after they come to room temp in the morning, I pop 'em in the oven.  Perfect after a marathon round of cleaning up gift wrap, taking photos, and drinking coffee. 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.  Enjoy the flavors of the holidays!

1 comment:

Amelia PS said...

Jodi: Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you! I have been meaning to stop by your lovely place here but have been so know, the holidays...and all the rest! I love coming by to see what you have collected for your "what I'm reading today" pieces. A great anthology, always :)

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