Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Séches aux Gingembre #CreativeCookie Exchange

These light cookies are perfect for dunking in a cup of tea or for serving after dinner with a coffee. They are just sweet enough with a little heat from crystallized ginger and a sprinkle of ginger sugar. 

This month’s Creative Cookie Exchange ingredient is ginger so I did something I’ve been wanting to do since a year ago April. I added some crystallized ginger to my friend, Jamie’s traditional French séches recipe, from over at Life’s A Feast and then, for good measure, sprinkled some ginger sugar on top. Divine! Perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit.

If you are ready for some gingerful baking, make sure you scroll on down to the bottom to see what the rest of the Creative Cookie Exchange bakers have for you, along with our fearless leader, Laura from The Spiced Life.

For the cookie dough:
Scant 1 cup sifted flour (sifted before measuring) or 120g plus extra for kneading and rolling
1/4 cup or 50g sugar
25g or a small handful of crystallized ginger pieces
2 3/4 tablespoons or 40g chilled unsalted butter (by which I mean straight from the refrigerator)
Pinch salt
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons or 100ml heavy cream

For the ginger-sugar:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C.

In a small bowl, mix together your ginger and sugar to make the ginger-sugar. Set aside.

Mince your crystallized ginger with a sharp knife or put it in a food processor to chop it up finely. The ginger gets really sticky when cut so the food processor is easier, if you have one.

Combine your flour and sugar for the dough in a mixing bowl and add in the cold butter, cut into cubes. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour, working quickly, until you have a sandy texture. You might still see some small bits of butter and that’s fine. That where the flakiness will come from when they bake, kind of like rough puff pastry.

Add the crystallized ginger bits to the flour mixture and use your fingers or the pastry blender to separate the sticky bits from each other and coat them with flour.

Add in the salt and the egg yolk and mix thoroughly with a fork.

Add in the cream and mix until you have a soft dough.

Scrape the dough out onto a clean surface sprinkled with flour and knead it for a few turns, until it is smooth and homogeneous.

Flour your rolling pin and a large piece of baking parchment and place your dough ball in the center with another light sprinkling of flour.

Roll the dough out into a large circle, about a 1/4 inch or 7mm thick.

Slide your parchment with the dough onto a cookie sheet and dust the circle liberally with ginger-sugar.

Gently cut the circle of dough into triangles with a knife.

Sprinkle on any remaining ginger-sugar.

Bake your cookies in your preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes or until puffed and set.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for just a few minutes. While they are still warm, use your knife to separate the triangles again. Allow to cool completely.


Bake some ginger cookies and your whole house will smell like Christmas is coming, I promise! I hope this wonderful link list will inspire you.

If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts. You can find all of them here at The Spiced Life. You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homemade English Muffins #NationalHomemadeBreadDay #MuffinMonday

English muffins are a traditional British bread made with yeast but cooked on the once-upon-a-time ubiquitous griddle. According to my current baking idol Paul Hollywood, even if you didn’t have an oven, back in the day, you surely had a griddle to make muffins, crumpets, Welsh cakes and the like. In fact, in the days before most homes had ovens, the griddle was the most efficient way of producing homemade bread. I'd like to suggest that it still is. 

Today I am celebrating Muffin Monday by making a different kind of muffin because it is also National Homemade Bread Day! And while normal muffins are still considered bread, I felt like getting my hands in some yeasty dough for the occasion. This special edition of Bread Bakers was instigated by Lauren, at From Gate to Plate so she is hosting today’s celebration! Hey, raise your hand and I’ll put you in charge. Thanks, Lauren!

Make sure to scroll down to the bottom of my post to see the link list of all the wonderful homemade breads we have today. We hope to inspire you to bake some bread and have a wonderful National Homemade Bread Day!

The following is adapted from these two recipes by King Arthur Flour and Paul Hollywood.

Ingredients for 16 English muffins
For the muffin dough:
1 3/4 cups or 415ml milk
3 tablespoons butter
4 1/2 cups or 570g strong white bread flour, plus more for cutting the dough into pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg

For final proofing and cooking:
Semolina or fine cornmeal, for sprinkling the griddle or pan

Measure your milk into a microwave proof vessel and then add the butter. Gently warm the milk until it is lukewarm. If you are a thermometer using type, you want it somewhere between 120-130° F or 49°–55°C. This should also soften the butter but it doesn't have to be completely melted.

Add the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and egg to the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. (I imagine you can do this by hand but it’s going to be hard work and, honestly, I don’t recommend it unless you are looking for a strenuous workout.)

Pour in the warm milk/butter mixture.

Beat the ingredients together until they form a soft sticky dough.

Just  coming together
Scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl, then keep beating on medium high for at least five minutes.

Getting stretchier
You are looking for smooth shiny stretchy dough that has pulled away from the sides of the bowl.

Pulling right away from the sides of the bowl

Scrape the sides of your bowl again to form the dough into a ball. Cover and allow to rise at least one hour.

Here’s where you can be getting your griddle pans ready for the next step. If you only have one griddle, coat it with semolina or cornmeal and do the same with a baking sheet. If you have two griddles, coat them both liberally.

When the dough has finished the first rise, punch it down down gently and tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a sharp knife dipped in flour to cut the dough into 16 pieces.

Form the pieces into balls and place them on your prepared griddles or griddle and baking sheet. Press them out gently into circles about 3-3 1/2 in or 7 1/2-9cm.

Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with more semolina or cornmeal. Cover them with sheets of parchment paper and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Cook the muffins over a very low flame for seven to 15 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reaches 200°F or 94°C.

If they rise and start to stick together, sprinkle a little more cornmeal where they are joining and use the point of a sharp knife to separate the muffins. Otherwise they are going to be a challenge to turn over.

I turned mine after seven minutes and, after a minute or two, I started to shift them around the griddle, scooting the ones in the middle to the outside and vice versa. Since my flame is in the middle, I figured those were getting cooked faster than the outside muffins.

After seven minutes on the second side, I checked the internal temperature and it registered 190°F or 88°C so I turned them over again and left them for three minutes. Then I turned them over one last time, turned the fire off and left them on the hot griddle for three more minutes.

So to recap: 1. On my lowest flame I cooked them seven minutes on one side. 2. Then seven minutes on the other side. 3. Checked my internal temperature. 4. Three minutes on the first side again and 5. three more minutes on the other side with the fire off. Ten minutes in all on the griddle on each side.

The King Arthur recipe says that you can put them for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 350°F or 180°C if they are getting too brown on the outside before they finish cooking inside but that wasn’t necessary for me.

Place your finished English muffins on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving. Split the muffins with a fork poked in all around the sides to get the nice knobbly texture we like inside.


Check out all the other celebratory breads we’ve been baking for you today!
Bread Bakers
What is Bread Bakers?
It is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Bread Bakers Pinterest Board. Links are also updated after each event on the Bread Bakers home page.

How is the monthly theme determined?
We take turns hosting each month and the host gets to choose the theme/ingredient.

Would you like to join in the fun?
If you are a food blogger, send an email with your blog name and url to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lapin au Cidre – Cider Braised Rabbit

Lapin au cidre is a specialty from Normandy and, as in most of the Norman dishes, apple and cream feature prominently. The dual apple role is played here by calvados, an apple brandy, supported by a dry alcoholic apple cider. The addition of sour cream or crème fraîche creates a luscious sauce you’ll want to eat with a spoon. 

On the Hunt for deliciousness
As I mentioned in my preview post,  I am hosting Sunday Supper this week with my talented friend, Tara, from Noshing with the Nolands. Our theme is On the Hunt, so we are sharing recipes with ingredients that are hunted or foraged, including wild game like venison, boar and rabbit or vegetarian options like mushrooms, truffles, wild berries or even edible wildflowers and greens. And to make sure that our urban members could also take part, the recipes can even include a special ingredient that you have to source online or hunt down at specialty markets!

I grew up with a father and uncles and cousins who loved to hunt so game wasn’t unusual fare but if you didn’t hunt for it, you didn’t eat it. When we were living in Paris though, many moons ago, it was fun to go to the market or grocery store and see frogs’ legs right along side the chicken and rabbit as prominently displayed as the beef. The rabbits were either whole, minus the heads, or more commonly, only the thigh/leg pieces were offered. Those are what I tended to buy. We called them bunny haunches and I’d sing “Little Bunny Fufu” as they simmered. I know, I know, I have a perverse sense of humor. A thousand years as a Girl Scout will do that to you.

One day I opened my mailbox to find a big promotional envelope inviting me to join a recipe club. For a number of francs that escapes me now, I could get recipe cards by mail each month. The envelope contained sample cards, which I was free to keep even if I didn’t join. We never know how long we’ll live any place, so I didn’t sign up but I have used the sample cards many times through the years.

The reverse has the recipe and says in tiny letters: Cette fiche extraite de la collection Mes Recettes Préférées est un échantillon
Or This record extracted from the collection My Favorite Recipes is a sample.

1 large carrot
1 stalk celery
3 shallots
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
6 rabbit thigh and legs (Mine weighed about 2lb 10 oz or 1.2 kg)
1/3 cup or 80ml calvados (Substitute cognac if you don’t have calvados.)
1 cup or 240ml dry apple cider (I used Strongbow Original which is still available in Dubai.)
1/2 cup or about 125g crème fraîche or thick sour cream
Several sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To serve: Good handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Peel the carrots, shallots and the garlic. Chop them finely, along with the celery.

Heat the butter and oil in pan large enough to fit all of the rabbit pieces in one layer without too much crowding.

Brown the rabbit pieces on both sides in the pan. Once they are browned, add the vegetables. Don't forget the shallots like I did. I added them later, after the calvados. You add them now, okay?

Fry them for a few minutes and then add the calvados. You are supposed to flame it at this point but I couldn’t get mine to light for a photo.

Add in the cider and season with salt and pepper.

Add in the thyme and bay leaves. Cover the pot and cook over a low flame for about 50-60 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, add in the crème fraiche and mix well.

Cook for a few more minutes with the lid off so that the sauce can reduce in volume and thicken slightly.

Taste the sauce and add more salt or pepper if needed. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and sing a round of "Little Bunny Fufu" to serve.


Have a look at all the fabulous On the Hunt recipes my Sunday Supper friends are sharing today! And scroll down for details on how to join us for the Twitter chat this evening that Tara will be hosting.

Spread it on Thick

Nibbles and Sides

The Main Event

Sweet Treats