29 June 2012

Faschingkrapfen (Mardi Gras Doughnuts)

Time for another Girls Brunch, so I busted out the cast iron skillet and some oil to fry us up some Austrian doughnuts--Faschingkrapfen from Rick Rodgers' book, Kaffeehaus.

The three of us have been doing brunch long enough that the girls are used to my food experiments.  Poor things, they're always having to taste some new recipe I've dug up.

Although I admit one lemon fig crostata failed so miserably I wouldn't even let them see it!!  (The photo is a definite Before)

Honestly, it would probably be weird if I didn't have something untested for them to try.

Smaller than a typical Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donut, Faschingkrapfen are traditionally eaten in February during Carnival.  Usually these sweet little indulgences are filled with apricot jam, and found in every bakeshop prior to Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Their trademark is the "white ribbon" band that wraps around the doughnut.  All I know is that they looked like little pillows of doughy goodness and I had to have one (or seven!).

What Happened:
The doughnuts are based on a sweet, fairly wet and sticky dough that gives them their pillow-y quality when they're fried.

It's a fairly fast dough to put together, considering it starts with a sponge.  But I don't think this is a recipe I'd wake up one morning and decide to make for breakfast, although you could prep them the night before.  To me, the better idea would be to have them for dessert or as an afternoon snack.

Something to know about this dough is that it has considerable elasticity, so rolling it out requires a little patience because it shrinks back pretty easily.  If you're slow and steady the dough will ultimately succumb.  Remember, you control the dough the dough doesn't control you!

Like most "stuffed" pastries, be sure not to overfill them or they will bust open in the skillet. 

Also, they relax a little after they come out of their oil hot tub.  Don't panic if they look more like balls at first.

Things I Would Change:
  • I added a little more salt (reflected in the recipe) to the dough just to give it some character.
  • The frying method in Rodgers' book didn't work for me.  He suggested covering the skillet once the Faschingkrapfen were in the oil.  That way the trapped heat would help cook the top of the dough too, then you would flip the doughnuts to brown the other side.  Instead, I flipped the dough frequently to cook both sides to golden brown and still managed to get the white ribbon around the middle.  Rodgers' method made it difficult for me to flip the doughnuts and I had to try to hold them on the second side so they would cook.  Their natural tendency was to float cooked side down.  Even when flipped, they flipped back.

The Results:

The funny thing to me was that I thought I was being clever filling most of the Faschingkrapfen with Nutella, a few with Plum Jam and only TWO with Apricot Jam.  The best flavor was in the traditional Apricot filled doughnuts!

I was leery of the apricot because of my cooked fruit issues, but the fruit brought out more flavor in the dough.  The acid in the jam married well with the lemon zest in the slightly sweet dough.

My advice is to stick with acid based fillings.  Hey, you could even spike the jam with rum or another spirit of choice.  That would definitely add a bit of complexity.

Between the three of us we ate 18 doughnuts, leaving just 2 for Cody to taste.  EIGHTEEN!!  Guess we liked them a little, huh?

24 June 2012

Farmers Market Forage: Fresh Strawberry Pie & Grilled Veg Sandwiches

I've been itching to get to the Saturday Farmer's Market in Calabasas for weeks.

In fact, we had plans to go twice in the last month only to scrap them because Egan woke up late or took longer to feed or I spilled formula all over me and the kitchen floor.  Outings can be a lot to coordinate.

Do you remember the movie Out Of Africa (or any movie involving the British traveling in Africa) when they would go on safari and would take EVERYTHING including fine china?  That's what I feel like traveling with baby!!  It's just wrong.

We finally got it together and had our Farmer's Market Safari.

So happy to see all the local bounty!  I had to restrain myself from buying every color in the rainbow.  The fact is I just don't have as much time to play in the kitchen as I used to.

I kept it simple.

I bought tons of super-sweet strawberries along with an eggplant and a huge tomato that I could add to the zucchini, red peppers and lettuce we had in the garden at home.

A perfect summer meal was coming together in my head.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Limoncello Spritzers and Fresh Strawberry Pie.

For the sandwiches, I just sliced the vegetables (except for the red pepper) lengthwise about 1/4-inch thick drizzled them with olive oil seasoned each side with salt, pepper and crumbled Herbes de Provence and let them "marinate" until the grill was ready.

I also put together a zippy tarragon "aioli" by adding chopped tarragon, lemon juice, zest, garlic powder and a good amount of salt and pepper to mayonnaise.

Grilling the vegetables was pretty straight-forward--I cooked them until they were tender, not mush.  I roasted the peppers until they were charred then put them in a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap for 10 minutes or so to sweat the skin loose.  Pulling the skin off was easy then I just sliced the peppers in half scrapping out any loose seeds.

I like lightly toasted bread for sandwiches.  It assures the bread doesn't get soggy--so does slathering un-toasted bread with a bit of butter, but that's another story!.

I only do a light toast because I don't want the bread to be so sharp it cuts up the roof of my mouth.  Maybe that's just me who has that issue?

Bread toasted, I added the aioli, lettuce, tomato, eggplant, zucchini and roasted red pepper.  Voila.

The Limoncello Spritzer is a riff on Electric Lemonade.   Great for summer.

  • Limoncello
  • Simple syrup
  • Mint
  • Lemon juice
  • Ice
  • Sparkling water 
  • Blueberries

So refreshing.  And pretty.

Finally.  The Pie.

I love Strawberry Pie and like most things I'm full of opinions about what works and what doesn't in a Strawberry Pie.

  • savory crust
  • sliced or quartered strawberries
  • whipped cream
  • whole strawberries (how do you eat that???)
  • Jello

Here's What Happened:
I had a recipe from Cook's Country that I wanted to try.  Basically, they created the filling using fresh strawberries with a little gelatin for stability.

The recipe is not complicated.  You cook down 2/3 of the strawberries into a jam, add the sugar and gelatin then when the filling is cool you fold in the remaining fresh strawberries and pour into a baked pie shell and chill.

So I threw together my basic cream cheese crust and tested out their filling.

Things I Would Change:
Per usual I made changes.
  • The first thing I did and would do again was add vanilla to the "jam."  I like the mellow flavor that vanilla brings to fruit.
  • I would use a little less gelatin the next go around.  The pie was a little too firm. The recipe reflects this change.
  • In order to make the flavor of the berry elements more compatible I would lightly sugar the fresh berries before folding them into the filling.
  • I used lime instead of lemon.  It's more interesting.

The Results:
Close, but not EXACTLY what I wanted.  Mind you, I am splitting hairs here.  Truth be told I'm on a quest for PERFECT Strawberry Pie, not just good Strawberry Pie.  This pie is good.  Not Perfect.

The filling was a little tight, but the real hair I'm splitting here is that there was a distinct difference in taste between the strawberry gel and the chunks of fresh (uncooked) strawberries.  The gel was sweetened and the fresh berries were not.  To me there should be a uniformity of taste between the two or at least congruity.

I'm not sure if this recipe is the path to my dream Strawberry Pie, but I learned a few things which is always valuable.

Make no mistake we ate this pie--every slice.  It's good, just not perfect.  But the whole summery meal really hit the spot!