November 2008 COTM The Art of Simple Food: Desserts
November 2008 COTM:
Alice Waters - The Art of Simple Food
Please post your full-length reviews of recipes for desserts here, including those recipes that fit in this category that are in the first section of the book. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.
A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.
Thanks for participating!
Ginger Snaps: Pg. 206
This recipe looked very simple to me so I put my 15 year-old in the driver's seat for this one and I was the co-pilot. She's only made cookies once or twice "all by herself" and she had no problems with this recipe. She even had the foresight to make sure all the baking soda lumps were crushed. (Alice does not call for sifting.) Overall, these cookies were quite good but the chowpup, after taking her first bite, declared: "yours are better." "Mine" would actually be the Joy of Cooking (1975 version) Old Fashioned Molasses Cookies, which I agree are better, but more complicated to make..
I decided on a whim to bake cookies last night. I picked out Oatmeal Currant Cookies, p380, because I had all of the necessary ingredients. Except the currants. So, I made them with raisins and chocolate chips.
The recipe uses mostly oats, ground in a food processor, and a bit of flour. I left the oats fairly coarse, certainly not like an oat flour consistency.
Butter is creamed with white and brown sugar. Baking soda is mixed with boiling water and added to the butter mixture. The recipe explains that this makes the cookies crisp, which is interesting, because the only other recipe for which I remember doing this is the Fresh Ginger Cake on this site, which certainly is not "crisp".
The dough was fairly soft, and quite tasty :) A nice balance of sweet and salty and buttery.
The first batch was fairly disastrous, due to my stupid electric oven. Despite setting the temperature to 375 as called for, when I opened the oven at 9 minutes (the recipe calls for 8-12 minutes), the bottoms of the cookies were completely burnt, and the parchment paper was covered in brown burn marks as well. I've never seen parchment paper burn like that, and certainly not at 375 degrees! I turned down the oven and watched the next batches more carefully. I really need to get an oven thermometer.
A few minutes after emerging from the oven, I thought the cookies tasted really good, not too sweet, with a nice hearty texture. After cooling them, though, I found that they have a strong baking soda flavor... not so tasty. I wonder if this has anything to do with the baking soda + water technique? Anyway, I would think that the character of these cookies would be quite different with currants, but based on the flavor of the finished cookies, I probably wouldn't use this recipe again... I've made much tastier oatmeal cookies.
fbf242: Join the "I HATE ELECTRIC STOVES" Union. Nobody in Congress is going to bail US out. Mine is fairly new and "fancy", but it is always cooler than the temp. gauge indicates. I've finally started using a thermometer and my life has improved.
I could get a gas stove, but we'd have to tear out walls and floors and run in pipes....so electricity forever it is. Sigh.
That baking soda after taste sounds weird and icky.
1-2-3-4 Cake (212)
I actually made this cake this summer (I got the book as a gift in June), but I thought I'd post my feedback on it.
This was my first time making a real cake from scratch. I'm not sure why I chose to make one in that moment - my family was on a beach vacation, and the only tools available were metal pots (to use as mixing bowls) and dinner forks and spoons for mixing. I also used a disposable rectangular cake pan. Oh, and I couldn't find cake flour at the local grocer, so I used the cornstarch + AP flour sub.
Anyway, all that said, this cake was delicious. It was more work than I expected (though I think it would be easier if I had a hand mixer to beat the eggs instead of a fork!). The directions were pretty clear and the introduction to the recipe was helpful. The cake had a beautiful flavor, rich but very simple and "honest". The texture was good as well. Not bad for my first cake! I would really like to make it again at home, with better tools, ingredients, and oven.
I frosted it with Waters' Simple Frosting, p 386. This buttercream frosting uses a higher ratio of butter to sugar than any other frosting recipe I've made, 12T for 1 1/3 cups sugar. I found it to be too heavy and buttery... it just tasted like sweetened butter. Maybe I could have beat it more, but the texture was also just reminiscent of softened butter. Because the cake is so buttery and delicious on its own, I think next time I make it I'll serve it with whipped cream and berries, or even just powdered sugar.
I made the Poached Pears, p. 195, last weekend. Very simple, but nice. I doctored them a bit. Pears are really good right now here in NoCalif.
You peel the pears, leaving the stem intact and use a corer to take out the "small blossom end", which I took to be the fat, bottom part.
You boil 4 cups water and 1 1/4 cup sugar and then turn it down to a simmer. Then you add zest and juice of one lemon. Put in the pears and simmer for "15-40 minutes", which is quite a large window of possibilities. I simmered mine for about a half hour.
I also added a big dollop of a "ginger spread" I fell for in the entryway to Berkeley Bowl. Turned out to be a good buy. It was a great addition to the stewing liquid and gave a wonderful flavor and smell to the pears.
I cooled and then refrigerated the pears in their liquid for a couple of hours.
Served with 1 cup of non-fat yoghurt (I use Pavel's) and 2 heaping tablespoons of "Lite" cream cheese beaten together with a bit of sugar...not too much because the pears are quite sweet.
This was a big hit and so very easy to put together. I'll add this to my dessert repertoire.
Waters says to cook them a bit longer if they're not totally ripe - "15-40 minutes depending on "variety and ripeness"....I don't know that much about pear varieties (except for Asian), only the names - Bosc and D'Anjou and French Butter. I don't even remember which ones I poached.
Mine became translucent and soft when poked gently, aftere being cooked for about a half hour. I'd say you pretty much can't go wrong in the overcooking dept. Just check to make sure they're not falling apart. The ginger spread was a great addition.
I made these last night - adding lemon zest per the recipe, as well as a cinnamon stick. I only made two pears, rather than four, but used the full amount of liquid and sugar, and had to add quite a bit of water to cover. I probably cooked them for 35 minutes or so, then removed to a bowl, poured some of the syrup on, then reduced the rest of the syrup at a boil while I was cooking dinner. I intermittently spooned syrup on the pears and turned them in the bowl. I served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and poured more syrup over the pear and the ice cream.
I think one of the things that I'm enjoying about the book so far is that the recipes I've made are simple, not too many ingredients, but quite delicious.
Apple Tart, p. 180
I was debating between making Waters' apple tart recipe or David Tanis' from A Platter of Figs to accompany my homemade honey ice cream. I ended up going w/ this one since it was COTM.
Like all the other recipes in the book, this one is very simple and streamlined. The tart dough had no sugar or egg, just flour, butter, salt, and ice water. It was fairly easy to handle. I used a mixture of different apples from my farmers market...black twig, granny smith, braeburn, honeycrisp. I also used her variation of cooking down a couple of apples and pureeing to use as a base between the crust and sliced apples. This recipe is supposed to be a free-form tart but I decided to bake in my 10" tart pan instead. When it came out of the oven, apples looked a touch dry on top so I glazed w/ some warmed apricot jam.
Overall, I wasn't thrilled w/ the result. It worked fine but needed something more to make it POP. Maybe tossing the sliced apples w/ a touch of lemon, sugar, cinnamon or cardamom and salt. The crust also needed a hint of sugar IMO. The texture of the crust was quite crisp and sturdy, and I wanted it to be more tender and buttery. Oh well, we just focused on the deliciousness of the honey ice cream! I'm going to try Tanis' recipe next time...
I couldn't find an online version of Waters' recipe from this book, but here's a different one that sounds and looks better to me: http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/11/sim...
re: Carb Lover
Good lord CL, this looks like it'd drive me nuts! The recipe in your link. The apples are all equal sized slices and arranged perfectly. I really have a hard time making anything like this - I'm too sloppy or don't care enough or something. The finished tart did look fabulous, though.
The fanciest tart I make (I mean the one with the most steps) is Jamie Oliver's Ricotta, Orange and Chocolate Tart with a lattice-work top.
I'm always very impressed with folks who can take the time, concentration and effort to make something so elegant.
Yeah, the apples do look perfectly sliced and arranged in the link, huh? We had some house guests last weekend, and the guy who loves to cook was my sous chef. He actually sliced the apples and arranged them free-form in the pan...definitely more on the rustic side but still nice. Me? I sorta get into practicing my knife skills and slicing everything evenly and carefully arranging in a pretty pattern. I find that very relaxing...