03/14/15

Hollandaise: Have No Fear!

Hollandaise sauce is one of those things that people get afraid of attempting in their kitchens, much like working with yeast for bread baking, or fish in general, there seems to be a level of trepidation people experience before they decide to take the plunge and make an attempt. What if it doesn’t rise? Or it rises everywhere? Fish is delicate; delicate is difficult. What if the sauce breaks? What if the egg yolks scramble?

What if it doesn’t work?

And I mean, really, sometimes things don’t work when you want them to. Especially on the first try. Mistakes are bound to happen, especially as you are learning a technique. I’ve even read before (though I have been unable to locate the specific source that I remember it from), that Hollandaise is kind of like a horse. If it know’s you’re afraid it’s going to react to you accordingly.

If you approach with some research, and a healthy approach that if it doesn’t work, fix it or try again, you can do it! And you may realize, like I did, that emulsifying some egg yolks with butter and lemon isn’t something to be apprehensive about.

Some how to notes, and techniques:

Mrs. Child even goes so far as to tell you how to fix your Hollandaise if it breaks, or still make it useable if the eggs clump. As always, she presents a wealth of knowledge.

Start at ~1:25 for him to start on the Hollandaise. He’s doing an Eggs Benedict episode, and part one can be found on Youtube if you’re interested, but I’m just here to talk about Hollandaise for now.

Now, I love Alton Brown, because he gets science-brained in the way I often do. The interesting thing here though, is that his technique is a little bit different than Julia Child’s. And they’re both making Hollandaise using the direct heat method! I’m not even bringing up methodologies that differ as much as say, the blender method for Hollandaise sauce. (This may be because I prefer the direct heat method…)  There are so many variables to get into balance, many approaches can get you to delicious Hollandaise territory, and there are many spots in which you can adjust to make sure that your sauce gets to what you would like it to be. While we experience some worry because there are a lot of places where things can go wrong it’s important to remember that those are all places that, with a little care, we can ensure that things go right.

Now the recipe that I was basing the meal plan off of, a tasty turkey hash to eat for brunch, used a brown butter Hollandaise. And if you’ve been reading around these parts, you would be familiar with the fact that my household likes brown butter. As written in the magazine, I could not get the Hollandaise to work. The action of browning the butter made it too hot, so that no matter how slowly I added it in to my egg yolks, everything scrambled. Frustrating.

Google led me to Lauren’s Latest, where she had made Eggs Benedict with a Brown Butter Hollandaise, and her technique was to not cook the egg yolks, just whisk them up, and then let the heat from the brown butter be what thickens them, while the whisking things into emulsion was in process. I cannot speak to how her technique works, as the addition of too hot butter had already left me feeling uneasy.

And so, when you read my recipe, I hope you do not feel daunted by Hollandaise, either from the trepidation fellow cooks seem to have at the concept, or from the fact that I had to do a couple of tries before I got the technique down. Emulsions are nothing to be afraid of, a whisk is nothing to be afraid of, and options in technique are nothing to be afraid of either.  If I can make a Hollandaise, so can you! No fear, intrepid food explorers!

Turkey Hash with Brown Butter Hollandaise

(recipe adapted from Flavours magazine)

For the hash:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 Cup potato, peeled and chopped

1 Cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 Cup leftover turkey, chopped

1/2 tsp sage

salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

For the Brown Butter Hollandaise:

1/2 Cup butter

2 egg yolks

1 Tbsp cold water

1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

Directions

  • Before starting on the hash, brown the butter for the Hollandaise, and then set it aside to cool while you get the hash going. (For more detail on the process of browning butter, check out this recipe.)
  • Combine the olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. The thing that is lovely about a hash is the tasty, crispy, browned bits, and so if you’re a cast iron afficionado like I am, this is the time to pull it out. If you aren’t a cast iron cookware afficionado, just make sure to pull out something heavy bottomed to optimize the browned goodness of your hash.

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  • Once the fats have gotten bubbly, add the vegetables. Sauté until the potato and sweet potato have softened and all of the veg has started to pick up some colour.
  • Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add in the chopped turkey. Now that we are into brown and crisp territory, try not to move things around in the pan too much. Too much motion in the pan will prevent the process of browning, but the hash does need to moved around a bit, so that it doesn’t burn and so other surfaces get to brown too. I like to think of baking in moments like these; fold, don’t stir.

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  • Season with sage, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn the pan with the hash down to low heat, to hold until we’re ready for plating. Give it a little shake every once in a while so that things don’t start to stick on to the bottom.
  • Place the egg yolks in a small saucepan and whisk for about a minute, until they become paler and become more viscous. When you pull the whisk away from the bottom of the saucepan, the yolks will pull upward too, instead of just sitting at the bottom.
  • Add the water, lemon juice, and salt to the whisked yolks, and continue whisking for an additional minute.
  • Before we start adding heat to the Hollandaise process, fill a large bowl with cold water and put it nearby.
  • Place the saucepan over low heat, and whisk, whisk, whisk as the mixture slowly starts to thicken. The goal is to put heat to the eggs very slowly, so don’t be afraid to take the saucepan on and off of the heat if things are changing too quickly.
  • Once you begin to see the bottom of the saucepan between strokes with the whisk, the yolks have thickened enough.Remove the saucepan from the stove, and plunge the bottom of the pan into the bowl of cold water you set aside. This will halt the cooking of the eggs.
  • Working with the ever trusty whisk, continue to beat the egg yolks, adding the browned butter by droplets or small spoonfuls at a time, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of a very heavy cream. From this point, the rest of the browned butter can be added in a drizzle. Your Hollandaise should be thick, sunshiney, and completely emulsified. Magnificent!
  • Cook up an over easy egg for yourself and the person you’re going to eat breakfast with. Hello tiny perfect egg pan!
  • To plate, spoon a mound of turkey hash onto the centre of the plate, top it with an over easy egg, and then finish by spooning some brown butter Hollandaise over the egg.
  • Bon appetit!

I regret to say, I didn’t really take pictures of the Hollandaise process, what with one hand whisking away and the other holding a saucepan handle. Maybe next time I will see if Mr would hover over to take pictures as I go. But, you have to admit, this looks as though it would be worth eating.

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For your enjoyment (maybe while also enjoying some tasty turkey hash with brown butter Hollandaise), Recipe Wars actually does Alton Brown’s Eggs Benedict versus Julia Child and Jacques Pepin’s Eggs Benedict. Do you think that the right recipe won?

This time last year: Vanilla Sugar

2 years ago: Udon Noodle Chicken Soup

3 years ago: Pear Ginger Jam

4 years ago: Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova

02/19/15

The Most Layered Cake

Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake

(A recipe from Sprinkle Bakes with very minor changes made!)

 

For the crepes:

(*Note* – The original recipe calls for you to make the crepes in a 9 inch pan. My crepe pan is larger than this, so I doubled the following recipe so that my larger cake would still achieve a desirable height. If you are using a large pan, I would strongly suggest using this recipe doubled. If you are using a small pan, a single iteration of the recipe should be enough.)

6 eggs

1 Cup milk

1/2 cup table cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Cup flour

1/4 Cup icing sugar

a pinch of salt

melted butter for brushing

  • In a mixing bowl, combine together your wet ingredients: the eggs, milk, table cream and vanilla.
  • While stirring with a whisk, sieve the flour and icing sugar into the wet mixture, discarding any clumps left in the sieve. Then, stir in the salt.  (A whisk is made for the purpose of aeration while stirring, yes, and while a crepe is not in need of aeration, I find that crepe batter comes out less clumpily for me if I use a whisk.)
  • Voila! Crepe batter! It should be the texture of heavy cream. The superstitious cook would tell you to leave the batter overnight so that all of the flour particles become properly hydrated. A certain crepe making friend who hails from Quebec says that the waiting period is unnecessary. How superstitious you are feeling is up to you, of course!
  • Set a shallow skillet or crepe pan over medium low heat. And brush with some melted butter.
  • When the butter just starts to smoke, lift the pan a few inches from the burner.
  • Ladle a scoop of crepe batter into the centre of the pan, swirling the pan so that the bottom is coated with a thin layer.
  • Return the pan to the burner and cook until the edges of the crepe start to look dry.
  • Flip the crepe in the pan, allowing it to cook for a few seconds on the second side so that it sets.
  • Slide the crepe onto a plate to cool, and repeat the process until you run out of crepe batter.

Your first few crepes are probably going to come out a little questionable looking. That’s kind of just how it goes with crepe making. To be completely honest, mine tend not really ever get picture perfect. Mr. is some kind of crepe whisperer. His always come out nice and round and pretty. That stinker. :) I guess I just need more practise.

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For the chocolate amaretto filling:

1 1/3 Cups whipping cream

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

3 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp amaretto

  • Start to whip the cream, manually or by machine. As the liquid starts to stiffen, gradually add in the sugar and the cocoa powder.
  • Once the mixture is nearing soft peak stage, drizzle in the vanilla and amaretto. Continue to whip until the filling will hold stiff peaks.

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For the ganache:

5 oz dark chocolate

4 oz milk chocolate

1 Cup whipping cream

2 Tbsp amaretto

  • Break the chocolate into smallish pieces and place it in a mixing bowl.
  • Heat the cream until just boiling, and then pour the hot cream over the chocolate.
  • Stir until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
  • Then add in the amaretto, stirring until once again smooth.
  • Allow to start to cool to a spreadable but not super drippy consistency.
To assemble:
  • Layer this cake on the plate or pedestal you plan to use for serving. It will not transfer easily after being built.
  • Select two presentable crepes, one for the top and one for the bottom. Not so prime crepes can go in the centre of the cake unnoticed.
  • Centre your first crepe on your serving plate. Very lightly coat the crepe with the ganache. A pastry brush is an excellent tool for this step!
  • Scoop a heaping spoonful of the whipped filling over the ganache, and spread it out into a thin layer. A palette knife is an excellent tool for this step!

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  • Repeat these steps: stack a crepe, brush on ganache, spread out filling, until you have only your second presentable crepe remaining. Use it to top the cake.
  • During this stacking process, the ganache will be cooling and becoming more solid. If you work at a similar speed to me, when you are done stacking up all the layers of the cake, the ganache will be at a spreadable almost icing like consistency. Use it to ice the cake! I selected to ice only the top, as I liked the somewhat wild edges, but if you make this tasty cake you could ice all of the way around too!

Mr, who was kind enough to let me make use of his superior crepe making skills, says: Despite the effort required to make so many crepes, it is well worth it for the ridiculously awesome flavour of this cake.

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A cake with so many layers does require more time and energy than a standard layer cake, but it really is quite impressive once executed. It is rich, and dense too (crepes aren’t leavened like cake is), so you can cut it into lots of skinny wedges and everyone at your gathering can have a slice!

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So many layers!

This time last year: Adventures in Sausage Making

2 years ago: Converting Powdered Pectin to Liquid Pectin

3 years ago: Black Pepper Cookies

4 years ago: Gingerbeer

01/18/15

Spatchcocking and Brining

What can I say? It’s better late than never.

When Bert the Turkey came to our house he got some high quality spa treatment.

First on the morning of Christmas Eve, in preparation for spatchcocking, I armed myself with kitchen shears, a cleaver, and a mallet. The instructional videos out there for taking the spine out of a bird do tend to issue a warning along the lines of, “you might need to exert some extra force to get through the bones.”  I am here to tell you, sharpness of your kitchen shears be damned, it’s a lot of extra force to cut through the pelvic bones of a turkey. The Serious Eats tutorial I watched made it look pretty easy. Any flies on the wall watching my valiant efforts would have probably found the struggle pretty laughable. I will admit that my arms are pretty spindly, but it was also just a difficult thing to do. Luckily, Mr was at work and I was unaccompanied, so no one needed to watch the farce of me battling the 22 pound turkey.

Once this step of prep was finished, I put together a nice relaxing briny bath for Bert, in which he languished for about 24 hours, until Christmas morning. There’s nothing like a good soak.

Brining, while it does require some forethought, does wonders for a bird and requires so little extra effort. First off, it introduces a lot of flavor, not just by salt but by any other seasonings you include in the brine. The salinity of a brine is also beneficial in two more ways: it has a tenderising effect because it breaks down tough muscle filaments, but it also improves the capacity of the muscle cells to hold water. This helps the meat stay moist. I’m certain almost anyone who’s consumed turkey has heard the associated banter for it’s proclivity to be dry, and the brine is a good safeguard against that inclination.

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Holiday Spiced Brine (For a Turkey)

Per 4 litres of cold water, use:

3/4 Cup kosher salt

2/3 Cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

1 tsp mustard seed

1 tsp caraway seed

2 bay leaves

1 star anise

1 finger length stick of cinnamon

4 cloves

2 springs of rosemary

Directions

  • Stir the kosher salt and brown sugar together in the water until dissolved.
  • Add in the rest of the spices, giving the rosemary a bit of a rub through your hands to bruise it (the flavour will seep out of it more easily through burst cell walls).
  • Ensure that your turkey, or other fowl of choice, has had any unwanted remaining innards removed and that the cavity has been given a rinse before immersing it in the brine.
  • Allow to soak for 24 hours.

Bert the turkey was a big guy, and so, even pulling out the most gargantuan bowl in my kitchen, he wasn’t going to be able to be submerged. Innovation was required here (though the reading I have done since brings up the suggestion of a cooler being a suitably sized brining vessel), so Bert went into a brand new garbage bag. Please do not try this at home if you use scented garbage bags.

After pouring the brine over top, I squeezed the air out of the bag and tied a knot. This way, Bert the Turkey was completely surrounded by his relaxing brine bath. Being a perpetual worry wart, I added a second garbage bag, to try and catch any leaks that may have sprung up in the brining process.

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Living in a climate that hovering at just the right temperature this holiday season, Bert went out to our sun room, which had become a giant walk in fridge thanks to the weather. That was a god send for me throwing Christmas dinner, we had more cold storage than we could have asked for. Bert spent the rest of Christmas Eve chilling out next to a yellow bowl full of lemon curd.

Fast forward to Christmas morning, after a breakfast of Dutch babies, maple breakfast sausages, raspberries, pears, and fancy bacon that my mum brought along, Bert got to come back inside. After removing the turkey from the brine, give it a rinse with some cool water to wash away any stuck on peppercorns, mustard seeds or caraway seeds. Mr helped me with scoring the keel bone from the inside of the cavity (see Serious Eats link above if this seems unclear), and the forceful compression that set Mr Bert the Turkey laying flat.

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It’s a good idea to use a clean tea towel, or even some paper towel to pat the turkey skin dry of remaining moisture after rinsing away the brine. Dry skin is essential for it to crisp up delicious and golden during roasting. Here is a good time to let the turkey come up to room temperature in preparation for roasting, Christmas breakfast is over, but it isn’t quite time to get running on Christmas dinner yet (hopefully, if you have approached planning this dinner with some organization).

Spatchcocking is a beneficial way of preparing a turkey for roasting because you can cook it more evenly and in less time than roasting the bird unaltered. When cooking a turkey traditionally, there is a balancing act that often fails, you want the dark meat to have enough time to cook through, but you don’t want to dry out the breast meat. And the traditional method stacks the odds against you because the breast meat is the most exposed to heat, while the dark meat which ideally needs to be taken to a higher temperature is less exposed. By flattening out the bird, the breast meat is sheilded by the legs of the turkey, and the dark meat is brought up and is more exposed to the heat of the oven. The light meat and the dark meat are more likely to reach their ideal temperatures at the same time. By flattening out the turkey, the ratio of surface area to volume is maximised, heat can penetrate more easily and evenly and the cook also gets the opportunity to crank up the heat and save some time. Serious Eats and Bon Appetit both suggested that you could roast a turkey at up to 450º F and in half the time as roasting a turkey the traditional way. This isn’t the method I ended up going with, but that’s a topic for the next paragraph. Also, it doesn’t hurt that with all of the turkey skin exposed at the top, the amount of crispy skin you come away with is maximised. Crispy turkey skin is a fantastic treat.

While cooking a turkey extra quickly by doing it at a higher temperature sounds really exciting, when I was throwing Christmas dinner I had a counter full of items that also needed to spend time in the oven, and a 450º F oven isn’t an oven that is prime for cooking that many other components of dinner. Bert the Turkey went into a 400º F oven for 30 minutes, to get a jump start on browning and fat rendering, after which the oven was turned down to a more welcoming 350º so that I could cook other dishes too. Once the breast meat read 150º F and the thigh meat read 165º F, the turkey was done roasting.

All this talk makes it seem as though getting Bert the Turkey from cutting board to table was a whack ton of work, but really, that isn’t true. Yes, cutting the spine out of a sizeable turkey was a bit of an effort, I will admit to that. Making a brine though, is a matter of stirring and pouring, and brining the turkey is about as difficult as steeping tea. You just let it sit in the liquid until the right amount of time has elapsed. And roasting isn’t really that work intensive of a thing to do either, spatchcocked turkey or traditionally done. You put it in the oven and peek in on it periodically to check to see how it is progressing. The minimal extra effort to spatchcock and brine the turkey you intend to serve will really elevate it though. I can’t suggest it highly enough. Bert the Turkey was the first turkey I’ve ever cooked, and he was reviewed as pretty divine all the way around the table!

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Bert the bird did not burn, nor was he raw in the middle. He was practically perfect in every way.

Mr says: It was the best turkey he has ever had. “It was super ridiculously moist. Where a turkey can be dry, this was moist like a roast chicken can be moist. It was very flavourful, and even with my inept carving it was a 10/10.”

xo