Suzi’s Blog

Cookbook Review: Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman

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“Can you get us pears?” I asked Suzen.

“Of course, they are in season,”

“I know,” I said. I did not say it well. Bad tone.

“What’s wrong?” she came into my office from hers.

“Nothing,” I said. “I just have this great recipe: Honey Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts.”

“Sounds great. Can we do pecans?” Suzen hates walnuts. “Where did this recipe come from?”

“Wonderful book. Wintersweet.” I was being careful.

“Let me see,” Suzen took the book from my hands. She scanned pages. “Wonderful,” she observed. “Wait,” she paused, “this says it was published in 2013. You just got this?”

“Kinda,” I said. I was nearly trapped.

“When did you get this?”

“2013,” I had to admit.

“What year is it now?”

“Uh, let me think,” I began. Suzen did not smile. “2015,” I concluded.

“Was this another buried book?”

“Yeah, kinda. It was there on the shelf and I thought I had written about it and then I picked it up and I realized I probably had not written about it so I checked on the blog and I could not find any trace, so …” Suzen held up her hand. “No, I screwed up,” I concluded. Big time.

Suzen left my office. “Where are you going?” I asked.

“To order pears.”

I really wish I had not lost this book but I am fortunate to have found it at just the right time: the dead of winter. Author Tammy Donroe Inman lives in Boston, the land of feet and feet of snow, and she ardently believes that winter offers the opportunity to use many “in season” ingredients: late season apples and pears, pumpkins and squash, nuts and chocolate, persimmons, cranberries, pomegranate, quince, cheese and maple syrup. Plus citrus fruits, particularly Meyer lemons, grapefruits and oranges.

Her creative ideas, her philosophy, and her recipes all appear in Wintersweet. Asked if she is a chef, she modestly says no. But she is a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and worked at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and the matching television show America’s Test Kitchen.

Tammy knows how to cook and she really, really knows how to fashion exceptional desserts. Just look at that book cover: Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova. That idea sets the tone for this book: distinctive recipes planned with care and graciously presented for the home cook. Not all of us went to culinary school, but all of us want a great dessert.

The book’s chapters flow by ingredient. Here they are with some sample recipes:

Apples:

Cast Iron Apple Cake with Maple Brown Butter

Apple and Walnut Bread Pudding with Cinnamon-Cider Sauce

Baked Caramel Apples

Pears and Quince:

Gingerbread Cake with Brandied Pears

Pear Cardamom Crostada

Honey Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts [or pecans!]

Nuts and Chocolate:

Chestnut Fudge Cakes

Maple Walnut Babka

Pistachio Ice Cream

Persimmons, Pomegranates & Cranberries:

Cranberry Cobbler

Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova

Persimmon Pudding

Citrus:

Grapefruit Buttermilk Cake

Tangelo Sorbet

Rosemary Meyer Lemon Tart

Roots, Tubers & Gourds:

Pecan Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingersnap Crusted Pumpkin Cheese Cake

Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Cheese:

Goat Cheese Cake with Dried Cherry Compote

Ricotta Blintzes

Blue Cheese Fondue

Dried Fruits:

Spicy Prune Cake with Penuche Frosting

Rum Raisin Cheesecake Bars

Cinnamon Date Ice Cream

This book is distinguished for its creativity and consideration. Tammy says that if you like carrot cake, then why not use sweet parsnips in those cupcakes. And if you have a prune cake, then surely the only way to frost it with penuche. These are recipes just this side of deliciously outrageous, recipes to give you pause, and recipes that surely will give you pleasure.

For God’s sake, don’t waste two years as I did. Go get Wintersweet and get baking. We probably have two months of snow left. Maybe three. I’ve actually worn out my snow shovel. Now, I just want my Honey Roasted Pears.

 

Melt-y Chocolate –Truffle Cookies from Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson

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That top picture explains why Suzen and I will not be dining on the deck today. We could attempt an igloo, of course, and “eat in” or “eat under” the snow, but we are reluctant to attempt that. Can you make an igloo from snow? Do we need ice? We are just not prepared here. Although, I will say, our driveway has been plowed so we can escape to, and not from, New York City.

On a snow day, what should you do? Make cookies, of course. I reviewed Homemade Decadence last week, a lovely dessert book from Joy Wilson:

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/cookbook-reviews/cookbook-review-homemade-decadence-by-joy-wilson/

This cookie recipe caught my eye because it reminded me of a crinkly cookie I blogged in December 2013:

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/cookie-jar/kris-kringles-christmas-chocolate-crinkles/

Joy’s cookie looks identical, but it’s made with a very different technique. I wondered how it would turn out. In a word, superbly.

The old crinkle cookie is a bit crusty and does dry out over time. Joy suggests “underbaking” a tad so the cookies come out soft with just a hint of chewiness. We’re going to bag them up, so they don’t dry out. We’ll see if they stay soft for the next day. Assuming of course that cookies last for 24 hours. Remember, Suzi and I can’t go outside!

That crinkle cookie from a year ago represents a recipe I’ve been cooking for, gosh, maybe 40 years. It begins with melting chocolate and butter together. In Joy’s version, the chocolate is chopped and added to a flour-cocoa mixture. Then the butter is cut into small pieces and rubbed into the flour mixture, much as if you were making a biscuit. The chocolate melts as you bake, hence here clever “melt-y” adjective in the title. It’s a totally different technique, yet the final result “looks” right and I think tastes better.

It’s a terrific cookie, densely chocolate, and the perfect sidekick for a copy of coffee while you watch the snow fall. And fall. And fall.


Melt-y Chocolate –Truffle Cookies

Yield: 18+ cookies depending on your scoop

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup (about 3 ounces) chopped dark chocolate (I used a 70% cacao chocolate)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preparation:

Put racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder, if using. Add the butter and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be relatively dry and resemble breadcrumbs. Add the chopped chocolate and toss well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir with a fork until the mixture is slightly moistened. Use your hands to press the dough into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Put the confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape it into tablespoon-size balls. Generously coat the balls, one at a time, in the confectioners' sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets. Leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake until the cookies are just set, but still slightly undercooked on the inside, about 10 minutes. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Serve warm (preferably right after dinner). The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Source: Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson [Clarkson Potter, 2014]

Photo Information [bottom]: Canon T2i, 18-55mm Macro Lens, f/5 at 1/80th second, ISO-1000

 

 

 

 

Green Beans with Roasted Chestnut Vinaigrette

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This year’s Valentine’s Day feast at Cooking by the Book featured duck breast:

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/recipes/16580/

To complement the duck, we served twice-baked potatoes with caviar and these green beans. Green bean flavor is not quite harsh but surely intense. To create a dish that has a wider flavor profile, that is a side dish to capture your attention, we paired the green beans with this vinaigrette of vinegar, mustard and roasted chestnuts. Yes, chestnuts. With their own distinctively intense flavor, the chestnuts can stand on their own and successfully compete and then complement the green beans.

The beans are wonderful for strong protein dishes, whether four-footed, or winged, or finned: steak, duck or chicken, or certainly salmon.


Green Beans with Roasted Chestnut Vinaigrette

Yield: serves 8

Ingredients:

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon hot Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 to 4 roasted chestnuts, peeled, and minced or grated (depending on desired consistency)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the beans:

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound green beans, stem end trimmed, beans halved diagonally
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 10 fresh shitakes, stems discarded, caps julienned

Preparation:

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar and Dijon until well combined. Whisk in the oil until emulsified. Stir in the chestnuts, 1 tablespoon at a time to ensure desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large pot filled with salted water over high heat, blanch the green beans until tender but still slightly firm, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss with chestnut dressing.

In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the shallots until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, toss well, and continue to sauté until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes more.

To serve, transfer the beans to a serving dish. Garnish with shallots and mushrooms and serve with extra dressing on the side, if you wish.

 

Source: Corinne Trang at Cooking by the Book with inputs from Wikipedia

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.0 for 1/60th second at ISO‑400