Suzi’s Blog

TBT Cookbook Review: Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

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Recently I did a TBT Cookbook Review for A Real American Breakfast by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. It’s a laudable book, one that still sustains Suzen and me on weekend mornings. It was just after I published that review that I learned, most sadly, that Bill had passed away earlier this year.

When it came to Bill, there were two kinds of people. The five-second people and the ten-second people. Whether you in one group or another, eleven seconds after you met Bill you were a fan. He was a fun, noble gentleman. And a smart one. He collaborated with Cheryl on their many books and his research was key to their exceptional quality. This book, Texas Home Cooking, was published in 1993 and really put the couple on the culinary map. This book was immediately recognized for its authencity, comprehensiveness, and usablity. It's a template for what makes "a good cookbook."

Texas is big, bigger than, say, France or Germany or Spain or Italy. So, if each of those countries can have its own national, and home, cuisines, then why not Texas? The Jamisons spent, I believe, over two years traveling the highways and byways of Texas performing the research for this book. Big cities. Little towns. Farm homes. They looked for “real” Texas food. They found it and they put it into the 400 down-home recipes packing this 600 page volume.

There is no subtitle to this book, but there could have been: Jalapeno Cooking. Jalapenos are not in each and every recipe, but they appear in a lot of them. And not just the jalapenos themselves. When you buy a bottle of pickled jalapenos, you are getting the chile itself and that pickling juice. Never, never throw away that juice. It is an ingredient unto itself and one used many times in this book.

The book spans the range of recipes you might expect and has the singular recipes that a true Texas book must contain.

So, you’ll find a recipe for C.V. Wood’s World’s Championship Chili with a wheelbarrow load of 21 individual ingredients. And alongside this bright recipe is a discussion of what ingredients are allowable in a “real” Texas chili. Hint: some people object to onions.

The jalapenos are abundant in dishes like:

Chicken Fried Steak in Jalapeno Pickling Sauce

Corn and Jalapeno Jam muffins

Scallop Jalapeno Potatoes

Jalapeno Pie

Jalapeno Spinach Casserole

The local flavors appear in delights like:

Chile Pecan Sauce for Turkey

Creamy Peanut Coleslaw

Minted Beets

Venison Scaloppini with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Texas Hill Country is famous for its peaches which, it turns out, can be drunk in a Hill Country Peach Fuzzy — peaches, vodka, peach brandy, and orange juice — made in your blender and sure to please on a summer or fall evening.

There’s dessert, too, of course. Spice cookies and that cocoa sheet cake that ubiquitous for Texan dessert tables. Texas actually has a climate that is almost Mediterranean so there is a bounty of interesting fruits, and those fruits can appear in most interesting desserts. There is a Fig Spice Cake with Buttermilk Glaze, for example, that would please you year round.

Suzen and I will be taste testing several of the recipes here for this coming Thanksgiving:

Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Cinnamon Scented Squash

Sweet Potatoes with Honey-Mint Butter

Sweet Potato, Pecan, and Bacon Compote

There are recipe ideas here that, I’m pretty sure, you have not had the pleasure to enjoy. In Texas Home Cooking, these ideas are presented in abundance and with the consummate skill that trademarks the Jamisons’ writing. Texas Home Cooking is a legacy cookbook, a Texas-size tribute to the skill of the Jamisons.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Dorie Greenspan via Paris

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Some foods are just American. Apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, … Ah, well, about that pie. There is tart tartine from France which is certainly a forerunner of our treat — and to be truthful a good tartine can give a good apple pie a very strong run for the money. Or the Euro.

But we still have our American chocolate chip cookies. It was disconcerting, therefore to read in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi the headnote for Edouard’s Chocolate Chip Cookie. In France, if you say “cookie” then chocolate chips are involved. And in praising this cookie, Dorie really seemed over the top. You begin to think she favors this Parisian version of our perfect standard, the Nestle standard.

How silly could that be? It just shows the dangers of spending too much time in France. Or, as in Dorie’s case, actually living there for months, months at a time. Your entire perspective on life — as in chocolate chip cookies — can become distorted.

Still, I did read this recipe and wonder. Could I be wrong about the American cookie being the very best? Could Dorie be right? I am only human. And already this year I have been wrong about three, no two, things.

Dorie wanted hazelnuts. I had pecans on hand. What the hell? I made them.

The verdict?

Does anyone know how to get a French passport or a long-term residency permit? I need to spend time in France. One cookie at a time.

These are quite unlike any chocolate chip cookie you have ever had. There is an enormous amount of flour used here, almost double the amount called for in the Nestle recipe. And more sugar. And an additional 1 ½ cups of hazelnut/pecans ground up into flour as well. This dough may seem a little dry and it certainly is not wet.

The cookie itself? Distinctively different in texture and taste. The nuts provide some internal structure, crunchiness, and of course a patina of nut flavor. This is a great cookie. An extension — no an improvement — on the American original.

Who would have imagined? Get some nuts, get your blender out, and be prepared to be surprised ala France.

Ah, yes, Dorie uses both baking soda and baking powder. So, she has you flatten the cookies halfway through the baking process. I never saw a chocolate chip recipe with step before. But then, I’ve never done French before either. Yeah, halfway through, those cookies are little mountain monsters. As you can see from the picture, they settle down just perfectly.


Edouard’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: about 50 cookies, assuming you do not eat batter

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups (476 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (200 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups (150 grams) hazelnut or almond flour [I loved my pecans!]

Preparation:

Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add both sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating fora minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 4 or 5 additions, mixing only until each addition is just incorporated. (Because you’re going to add more ingredients after the flour, it’s good not to be too thorough.) Still on low speed, mix in the chocolate and nut flour.

Divide the dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Or, if it’s more convenient for you, you can scoop the dough now and freeze it in balls. You won’t need to defrost the cookies, but you will need to bake them a little longer.)

When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or: silicone baking mats.

Edouard says to scoop the dough into mounds the size of golf balls. A medium cookie scoop with a capacity of 1 ½ tablespoons is just right here, but you can also spoon the dough out using a rounded tablespoon of dough for: each cookie. Place the dough on the lined sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 8 minutes and then, using a metal spatula, gently press each mound down just a little; rotate the baking sheet. Bake for another 7 minutes or so, until the cookies are pale brown. They’ll still be slightly soft in the center, but that’s fine—they’ll firm up as they cool. Pull Ad sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then, using a wide metal spatula, carefully transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remainder of the dough, always using a cool baking sheet

Source: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan [Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for1/20th second at ISO‑3200

 

 

Cookbook Review: Einkorn by Carla Bartolucci

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Many of us grew up on white flour and only white flour. Whole wheat? Rye? Rarely encountered and only if we visited some bakery in an ethnic neighborhood.

Now, we are in a whole new grain world. You’ve probably seen a display from Bob’s Red Mill with 10, or 20 or even more variety of grains to supply. So there are choices aplenty out there. And who has missed the gluten-free aisle of your local grocery store? For some folks with celiac disease, that familiar white flour is a problem and one of these other grains is a necessity.

Einkorn is an ancient grain, one of the original stains of wheat that mankind began using ten thousand or more years ago. Other grains were modified over the centuries, but einkorn was not. More difficult to use and yielding less net product per acre, einkorn was largely forgotten. And there were few acres of einkorn around the world as it became a relic grain.

And then, slowly at first, and then with intensity and speed, people discovered einkorn and began to discover interesting properties. Carla Bartolucci and her husband Rodolfo have been in the food industry for two decades. When their daughter showed signs of celiac disease, she searched and discovered einkorn. Her daughter is now thriving on goods baked with einkorn.

Is einkorn gluten-free? Is it the solution for persons with celiac? The short answers are “no” and “maybe.” Like any wheat, einkorn produces gluten but, because it has not been hybridized by man over the centuries, einkorn has a different mix of proteins. And it is the proteins in wheat that combine to form gluten. With different proteins, einkorn produces a different gluten, one that some people with celiac disease seem to tolerate and benefit from.

So, while there is no final evidence, there are cases where einkorn works for those with celiac disease.

Just how do you make einkorn “work” for you? This is where Einkorn by Carla fills the gap. With its very different protein makeup, einkorn requires its own world of recipes. Einkorn offers 100 recipes for:

  • Breads & Crackers
  • Quick Breads & Breakfast
  • Cookies & Cakes
  • Pies, Tarts, Pastries & Pudding
  • Pizza, Pasta & Savory Main Dishes
  • Street Food

Here you’ll find baked treats from ciabatta to empanadas to carrot cake. The picture at the bottom of this post is for the Whole Grain Bundt Cake with Rum Caramel Glaze. The cake is not infused with spices or chocolate or other outside flavors. It’s just pure einkorn flavor, Carla says.

This recipe is an example of the research Carla used to fashion einkorn recipes. The flour absorbs liquid slowly so the batter needs to rest for an hour in the fridge for an hour before baking. It’s an excellent example of how, if you want to use einkorn, you need some expert help to get the results you deserve. Carla’s Einkorn is just that help.

Suzi is a baking maven and cannot pass by a display of Bob’s Red Mill without picking up a package or two. Einkorn is on our shopping list and we’ll be testing recipes and letting your know how they work out.

First on my list? This bundt cake. Now I just have to figure out how to make it Suzen’s too.

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