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Oct 31, 2012 11:50 PM

November 2012 COTM: Union Square Cafe Cookbook -- Desserts; Pantry Staples

Desserts 267 - 308

Pantry Staples 309 - 320

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  1. Biscotti, p. 276
    Decided to do these cookies today, my first Union Square Cafe recipe. Recipe can be found online here:
    I had a little trouble with the texture -- when cooled to room temperature they were too firm to slice
    (1/4" slices) without crumbling a little. This could have been due to my making only half a recipe -- no matter how exact I am with half measures, sometimes half-recipe baking doesn't quite work. But oh oh they *are* exactly delicious -- those who love the mild licorice flavor of aniseed, fennel seeds, Pernod, Ouzo etc. already like these. But if you think you don't like licorice you will probably eat 8 or 10 of these anyway! I think these would be an excellent gift cookie too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: blue room

      Blue Room, did you let the logs cool before slicing? If you did this is the reason they started to crumble. You need to slice them as soon as you are able to handle them while they are still soft.

      I am wondering about aniseed - did you put it in whole or did you grind it first?

      1. re: herby

        You know, the recipe says ""Cool to room temperature." So I did. But the next sentence begins " enouigh to handle..." so I think it's a mistake in the recipe.
        I also noticed this recipe tells you to make logs of the dough, each 4 X 15 inches, then bake. I think that's the measurement *after* the first bake, not the measurement of the raw dough.
        I used a little mortar and pestle for the seeds, so they were half smashed, it sets some flavor free to do that, I think.

        1. re: blue room

          I think they do mean measure the raw dough but screwed up about when to slice. Biscotti are one of the few successes I have had as a baker.

    2. Vegetable Stock, p.316

      This excellent but with-a-problem recipe is in both books (in "Second Helpings" it appears on page 318.)
      I peeled and chopped -- carrots and Savoy cabbage, leeks and Bibb lettuce, parsnips and parsley. Also onions, celery, garlic, thyme, basil, bay leaf, tomato, and potato. Three quarts water. The recipe is identical in both books until you come to the salt & pepper part. The 1st book calls for one teaspoon peppercorns, two teaspoons kosher salt. The second book calls for one *tablespoon* peppercorns, two *tablespoons* kosher salt.
      (I used the smaller amounts to be safe.) I'm very happy with the stock, but this is I think the 4th problem I've seen in the books. I want to like them, but they're losing me!
      I've made several vegetable-only stocks, looking for a knockout, and this one is definitely above average.

      5 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        Good catch on the differences!
        I made this as well, and enjoyed it, as vegetable stocks go. I did make a 'second pressing' of the stock, after straining I added more water and the leftover vegetable peels/trimmings and simmered for an additional amount of time. What I ended up with was of course nowhere near as deeply flavoured, but worked well to have on hand in the freezer as a mild broth.
        What I don't get about this recipe is the fact that you are asked to peel and trim all the veggies. I thought that was part of the point of stock in the first place--not wasting a thing.

        These threads are so far very lonely, aren't they?

        1. re: Allegra_K

          Yes, it seems the enthusiasm went away before it arrived. I'm gonna do a few more recipes, though.

          1. re: blue room

            I want to make this but have had a problem assembling all the veggies- took the bibb lettuce to work yesterday and it's in the office fridge and our one block away grocery store went out of business so I have to try harder but I will do it next week! Don't be lonely- the storm and the election have occupied a lot of hounds but we will be back! Saturday I am veggie shopping for sure. I may make the Ratatouille soup with a ready made no chicken chicken broth later today but another storm is coming so it may have to wait.

            1. re: Berheenia

              Yes, the hurricane and the election, and probably Thanksgiving too, all distractions. But I see lackluster reviews, it ain't 660 Curries, that's for sure! Maybe the restaurant recipes were just a little too thoughtlessly cut down to home-size for the book. The restaurant is very popular, I'd say well-loved.

        2. re: blue room

          I finally made this yesterday and was surprised at the volume of vegetables it took for the actual yield. It is good but a bit pricey to make. The main thing I changed was to use more olive oil to braise the veg- one tablespoon wasn't going to make it in my soup making experience so I used about 4 tablespoons. Should be reporting on the ratatouille soup this weekend.

        3. Basic Tomato Sauce – p. 317

          In recent COTM’s we’ve had passionate discussions about Marinara. Many of us have our own preferred ingredients and methods that have been passed along through generations. Those discussions have prompted me to be open to trying new recipes in place of my own so I embraced the idea of diving in to this recipe for Basic Tomato Sauce.

          A few things set this apart from my own marinara. I typically just used tinned tomatoes whereas this recipe calls for a combination of fresh and canned. My tomatoes are crushed by hand. These go through a food mill. I uses sliced garlic (lots!) this recipe calls for a small amount of crushed. The addition of onion was new to me and finally, I add water to my marinara before cooking it down whereas this recipe does not. So, all that said…how did this turn out?

          We definitely like this sauce though we both agreed we prefer a little more texture. Since this went through the food mill the sauce was very smooth/one dimensional in texture. I tasted this sauce before cooking it down as I was interested to know what the fresh tomatoes brought to the party. The answer was…not much. Full disclosure here, tomatoes are no longer in season so I tend to find them bland anyway so in some respects, in this instance they likely made up for the water that I normally add. On the other hand, my onions were fresh and, on the sweet side so we really liked the sweetness they brought to the sauce…so much so in fact that I’d consider adding some to my own Marinara in future. While we appreciated the tomato-forward flavour of this sauce, there was consensus that for our tastes, there just wasn’t enough garlic.

          Sometimes when time is tight I make a quick marinara by sautéing garlic then pouring in a bottle of Italian Passata. Texturally, this was very similar to my quick version. From a flavour standpoint, I don’t think this sauce was any better so it’s unlikely I’d make it again, especially since it is more work.

          NB: The photo is of my milled tomato mixture. Unfortunately I forgot to take a shot of the final sauce.

          1. Pumpkin Bread Pudding, page 296.

            This recipe is online, so I won't go into all the details.

            I followed the recipe as exactly as I could. I don't have a stand mixer, so I used a vintage electric hand mixer. The store was out of half and half, so I used one cup of cream, and one and 1/2 cup milk. I balked briefly at the full tablespoon of cinnamon in the bread, but it was not at all overwhelming. I baked the bread the day before, and assembled and baked the pudding right before it was to be consumed. The directions for cutting and positioning the bread are like a thought problem, so I just cut it and smooshed it into the pan any old way.

            Suffice it to say, Mmmmmm. One of my guests declared it their new favorite pumpkin dessert. Now, I love bread pudding, so it was an easy win for me. But another guests stated that he doesn't like pumpkin, and he doesn't like bread pudding, but he sure liked this. That was a very good sign.

            1 Reply
            1. re: L.Nightshade

              There's that gorgeous china again (I remember you used it for Julia C's birthday!)
              I've never tried any but regular white bread pudding, but now I'd certainly try this. The tablespoon of cinnamon in the bread would have stopped me too -- even the teaspoon of nutmeg sounds like a lot -- and there's *more* cinnamon in the custard.
              Earlier in this thread I posted about the vegetable stock that calls for a tablespoon of salt in one book, a teaspoon in the other, so yes I'd have been wary.
              It's nice to have another extra-recommended dish from these books, it's been a.. tame sort of month.