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I Love Quince. Quince Loves You. 12.21.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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At what point does a repeated act become a tradition?  I definitely refer to Christmas tree hunting in the  Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest a tradition, and that’s been happening for the last five years.  But, I’m only on year two of making Christmas presents for friends and family.  Last year, it was a bourbon laced caramel sauce.  This year everybody received Dulce de Membrillo, a firm quince paste.  I intend to continue food gifting for years, so perhaps that intention is enough to define a tradition.  Anyway.

Dulce de Membrillo is a sweet paste made with Quince, a fruit native to Asia.  Related to apples and pears, Quince looks like a large, green misshapen pear, with whitish, tart flesh.  As it ripens to a golden yellow its aroma of pineapple and rose becomes tangible.  Quince remains hard until cooked.  As it cooks, the fruit’s tannins break down and react with oxygen, producing a red color that deepens with further heating.  To get the color you see in Membrillo, quince is cooked for a long time, low and slow.  Here’s how it’s done.

Two cases of quince (about 40#) are allowed to ripen about one to two weeks, until their fragrance is overpowering and flesh bright yellow.  Then, they are washed, quartered and boiled in water until soft.  This takes a while.  When a knife moves effortlessly through the thickest part of a quarter, you know they are done.  Drain and cool the quarters.  Keep some of the liquid.

Next, remove the core and any stems.  Leave the skin on as quince skin (like most other friut skins) contains pectin, which will give the Membrillo greater firmness.  Throw the cored quarters into a food processor with some of the liquid and puree.  Remember the more liquid you add, the more you will have to simmer off.  However, the more liquid, the finer the quince will be pureed.  Moral dilemma!

Transfer the pureed quince back into the (cleaned) pot.  Figure out the weight of the puree.  Add sugar in a 2:5 ratio to the amount of quince.  Many recipes found online call for a ratio of 1:1, which I found too sweet.  If ripe, the quince has enough sugar to compensate for it’s tartness.  So, after pureeing I had 24 pound of quince.  I added about 10 pounds of sugar.

Turn the heat to a simmer and allow the sugar and quince to incorporate.  Taste.  Here you can add some lemon juice to cut the sweetness (I ended up adding about 2 cups).  I also added 2 split whole vanilla beans, for flavor.  And now, SIMMER.

The toughest thing to do is figure out what to do while it simmers because you NEED to watch and stir it frequently to prevent burning.  Some suggestions: refresh thanksgiving stuffing with squash and other leftovers; make a chocolate custard pie with an old candy bar and that unused pie shell in your freezer; write thank you notes for your birthday; bake your favorite Christmas cookie, heavy on nutmeg;  drinking your favorite scotch; watch family guy reruns; watch Youtube videos of Trey Anastasio jamming; and set a clean area of parchment paper to spread with hot paste.  Three days and a total of 18 simmering hours later:

You will know the Membrillo is done by color and consistency.  The color should be front bright red to a deep mouth-watering crimson.  Even super hot it should form fairly stiff peaks when stirred with a spoon.  Take the super hot, membrillo off the the heat an immediately transfer it to parchment paper, spreading with a flat object (plastic scrapers work great).  It cools fast so be speedy.  Allow it to fully cool overnight.  Cut it into squares with a sharp knife.  Eat.

Manchego cheese is the traditional Spanish complement to Membrillo.  Or you can spread it on a toasted baguette with a blue cheese, or a cracker with cream cheese.  Personally, I’ve been enjoying eating it plain and simple, like a gummy candy.

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Plum Mania 2: Brandy Plums 10.20.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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NOT human viscera.A combination of simple syrup, plums, and cheap brandy become something boozy and magical.  Wash and pit the plums, stuff them into a big mason jar, pour hot simple syrup over within an inch or two of the top.  Fill the remainder with a we bit more brandy than you think is needed.  Cover, can.

Then in the dead of winter, when you and your friends are craving the warmth of a sunny august day, get drunk on the memories of summer.

Adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe for brandied peaches.  (which I feel is further evidence of two things: cooks like to drink and everything tastes better with a little liquor…cheers!)

Plum Mania 3: Plum Engagement Tart 10.12.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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Even though I made this I STILL WANT TO EAT IT THROUGH THE SCREENFinally, we wrap up plum mania (and the last of the plums from our coworker’s tree with this mouthwatering plum tart.  Beautiful right?  Yep, sometimes I impress even myself.  This was the first time that Bread and Buttress has made pie crust…ever.

Pie crust is what I like to consider one of those “Othello” type skills.  Needless to say, daunting.  However, with some insider tips (thanks Elaine) I felt confident.  Biggest tip: everything should be hella cold.  So, after mixing the dough, I refrigerated it.  Hours later, after rolling it, I refrigerated it.  After forming it in the pie pan, fridge.  What resulted was a flaky yet strong crust. that adequately held the contents of the tart.

Anyhow, if you’d like further crust information, email me.  I’m happy to share.  The tart itself uses washed, pitted, and halved plums that have been lightly sugared (because they were super ripe already).  The plums sat on top of an almond paste painstakingly made by my skilled girlfriend.  A brandy custard was poured over carefully arranged plums.  An hour in the oven and topped with a homemade peach glaze (gives it that nice sheen).  The results:

Fuzzy enjoyment of said tart.

It deserves to be noted that this tart was fashioned at the last minute to celebrate the engagement of two dear and awesome friends.  Nothing celebrates better than food right?  Congrats Joe and Kelly!

Plum Mania Part 1: Plum Jam 09.29.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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We're going to destroy these little guys

Nothing signifies the start of Fall in Seattle like ripe plums…or rather, friends trying to dump their ripe plums in your lap.  For us, picking plums from a coworker’s tree in Sunset Hill was a welcome act of charity.  A half hour of picking and gathering of treefall yielded enough plums to poke around with a few different recipes.  First off, Plum Jam.

Always use butter on your toast.  Always.Jam comes in all different forms.  Thick, thin, smooth, chunky.  It’s perfection depends less on ingredients and more on preference.  What follows is an easy spreading jam, with no added pectin.  It depends more on the fruit solids and natural pectin for consistency.  Jam is also a great example of a recipe that depends on personal taste rather than proportion.  Let your tongue be your measuring cup.

You will need:

  • Plums (Italian pictured here.  maybe 10lbs)
  • Sugar (maybe 4 cups)
  • Lemon Juice (from real lemons only.  maybe 1 cup)
  • Big Pot
  • Drill with paint mixer attachment

Jam is a great oportunity to use treefall, or plums that have fallen to the ground.  Gather only those that have been unpuntured.  Usually that means a bird or a slug has gotten to them first.  If they’ve fallen, chances are they are super ripe.  Rinse the plums.  Pit them by shoving your thumb in and tearing them open.  Scoop out the pit with a finger and through the roughly halved plum into a deep pot.  Add the sugar.  Juice lemons, making sure to pick out or strain all the seeds before adding the juice to the pot.

What the...metal?  It's ginger.  Keep flavoring separate to maintain a consistent end product.Place it on high heat.  Stir occassionally to prevent the bottom from carmelizing.  When it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  We probably let this batch go for about an hour plus.  Note that we also added a bunch of chopped ginger in a tea ball for flavor.  This made a subtle but nice complement to the plum.  though it is not necessary because the jam is going to be friggin’ amazing without it.  Just saying.

The consistency desired here is easy spreading but not watery.  Because we’re going to be blending the plums we looked for the syrupy part of the mixture to barely coat a spoon while hot.

Enter the power tools.  Grab your drill and your (brand new from your local hardware store, and washed) paint mixing blade.  Still that sucker in and pull the trigger.  Be amazed as your plum goop turns into a beautiful crimson jam.

Just like in the Odyssey!

Here’s where taste comes in.  Once blended give it a try.  Try it again.  Ask a friend to try it too.  Does it need to be sweeter?  Add sugar.  Does the sugar overpower the plum?  Add lemon juice.  Those are your two options.  Once you’re got the taste right.  Bring it back to a boil to safely integrate the added ingredients.  Aaaaand…done!

We canned it by boiling and it looks great.  Tastes even better.  Stay tuned for part 2 when we brandy plums!

You won't eat it all.  Give it away you packrat.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mashup: Tollhouse vs. Specialty’s Bakery 06.09.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in BnB.
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thawing cubes!It’s a great day when you can make chocolate chip cookies, regardless of, well, anything.  The kitchen fills with the cookie smell, all activities outside the home must be put off, conveniently forcing you to relax and bake as the kitchen fills with the nostalgic aroma of warm cookies.  And, of course, there’s the raw cookie dough.

Our favorite recipe has always been Nestle’s Toll House classic cookie recipe.  This is primarily because it is conveniently located on the back of a bag of their bagged chocolate chips.  However, my overwhelming problem with these cookies is that they tend to turn out like little pillows of homogeneity.  (though not nearly as uninspiring as Joy of Cooking’s recipe…what gives Rombauer?).

Fast forward to a few weeks back when fellow cookie lover Nancy posed the following: “How can we emulate the deliciousness of a cookie from Specialty’s Bakery?”  Whoa, great idea.  For those of you that don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, Specialty’s is the de facto source for cookies in Seattle and the bay area.  Their cookies are squarish, super thick, soft creations.  Serious cookies.  The company website even allows you to sign up for email alerts that notify you of warm cookies near you!  We challenge you to find a better chocolate chip cookie.

same ingredients, different results!Most chocolate chip cookie recipes have the same ingredients and method of preparation.  Variation in the final product therefore occurs in two distinct parts of the recipe, ingredient proportions and finishing (aka, forming and baking).  Here’s our variation on the old classic in Bread and Buttress’ attempt to emulate the qualities of a local classic.  Note that we like our cookies chunky, so there are a few additional embellishments in this first effort.

Bread and Buttress’ Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • ¾ c. brown sugar
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 1 t vanilla

Cream together at medium speed for 10 minutes.

  • 2 c. AP flour
  • ¼ c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. chopped/ground pecans
  • ¾ c. old fashioned or quick oats
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

Meanwhile, mix these dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

  • 2 eggs

yes, frozen.  note the remnants from squaring the cookie block.  make round cookies with 'em.Add eggs to creamed butter/sugar.  Once incorporated, begin to add the dry ingredients in three separate batches, mixing each time until just incorporated.  Cover a cutting board that will fit in your freezer with a piece of wax paper.  Spread dough out on the cutting board, forming into a rectangle one inch high.  Place another piece of wax paper over the top and smooth down.  Freeze.  After a couple hours or even days, remove from freezer and cut dough into 1” cubes, allow each batch to thaw on cookie sheet for 30 minutes.  Go ahead and eat frozen remnants of dough raw.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Center of finished cookie should NOT be browned but rather light and raw looking.  This ensures a gooey center.

Oooooooo...

Here are some links:

Flickr user JDong has some shots of Specialty’s cookie selection.

Here’s another emulation recipe without the chunks.

Good Easts episode on chocolate chip cookies via youtube.

Ganache and Buttercream…My Humps 06.01.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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My lovely lady lumps.I don’t quite know what to call these haphazard little creations.  The idea came from a post over on Cakespy and goes by the German name “Granatsplitter”.  But I can’t pronounce that.  Rather, I think it takes the best part of the cake, the frosting and covers it in rich chocolate.  Not only that, it utilizes the remains of any cake crumbs that might be leftover from, say a prior project.  “Waste not, eat more,” I say.  What results is a dessert that is perhaps a little risqué.  Mouth feel is flirty, the flavor combo is dangerous, and the aesthetic…well, um…

You’ll find the recipe here.  It’s translated from German.  I think you can do as I did and just wing it with leftovers and a little new ganache.  Note that you’ll want your ganache really cool so that it doesn’t melt the refrigerated buttercream.  If you have lots of time, let the ganache cool and the buttercream warm up for a tougher outside and softer inside.

Let’s go:  Take the cake remnants and leftover frosting and beat them together. It may help to finely chop the cake remnants first.  Fool around with proportions.  I used a 1:1 ratio.  Make sure the buttercream is soft.

It will end up a little firmer than regular frosting.  Good, spoon it out of your bowl and onto a sheet of wax paper that has been placed on pan, mounding up two to three spoonfuls.  Make some room in your fridge and refrigerate the mounds till solid, about an hour.

pouring ganacheMeanwhile, you can prep the ganache:

  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Put the cream in a saucepan and heat till it is foaming and rising towards the pan rim.  Remove from heat and add the chocolate.  Let it sit for a few seconds and then whisk.  Whisk.  Whisk.  The chocolate will incorporate into the cream and you will get a warm, dark bunch of chocolate sauce.  Let cool till a spoonful poured back into the pan will remain on the surface instead of sinking.  It’ll be about 90 degrees.

Transfer a chilled buttercream lump to a wire cooling rack that has a pan or parchment underneath.  Pour cooled ganache over the lump.  If your ganache is the right temp, it will not liquefy the outer layer of the buttercream and slide off.

Continue with your other lumps, letting the ganache cool while on the wire rack.  After 30 minutes, transfer lumps to a plate and serve.  They can be cooled for a long time too.  Yum!

Thanks to Susie Evans at Office Nomads for the action photography.

Is the blurriness a product of the intention or the lighting?

Pistachio Butter Cake 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Portfolio, Recipes.
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Whoops, a little overflow on the left.  Trim with a knife.This Pistachio cake is flavored with cardamom and orange zest.  It might be good with green tea steeped in the milk…another time perhaps.  Other spices are optional.  Bread and Buttress loves nutmeg.  You will see that pretty much a constant in everything here.  Note that the eggs are not separated.  If you are not using an electric mixer, separate the eggs.  Add the yolks to the creamed butter/sugar.  Undermix the flour into the wets and fold in the egg whites (beaten to stiff peaks.  This is easier with whites at room temp and with a pinch of salt added).  You will need:

  • Three 8” cake pans (about 4 cups each)
  • Electric mixer (not needed, but the more powerful the better)
  • Spice grinder or clean coffee grinder
  • Scale
  • Cooling Racks
  • 1.25 cups unsalted butter (2.5 sticks)
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 8 eggs

Pull the butter and let it sit out overnight.  Cream the butter and sugar together for about 10 minutes.  It’ll become white.  Add whole eggs, one at a time.  Let each incorporate.  After they’re all in, scrape the sides to incorporate and mix for a few more seconds.

  • 1 package Jello Pistachio Pudding
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • ½ t vanilla extract
  • 1-2 t orange zest (one small orange)

Stir together the milk and pudding in a measuring cup with a fork and add to the creamed butter and eggs.  Toss in the vanilla and zest.  Mix.  Scrape.  Mix.

  • 2.5 cups AP flour, sifted
  • 2 cups raw pistachios, ground
  • 1.5 T baking powder
  • 0.5 t salt
  • 1.5 t cardamom
  • 0.25 t anise
  • 0.25 t nutmeg (the secret ingredient to everything!)

Chunk, not smooth.  Some flour clumping is a-ok.Sift flour into a bowl.  Grind pistachios into a meal (use a Ziploc bag and crush ‘em with a soup can if you don’t have a grinder) and add to the flour along with the other dry ingredients and spices.  Add the drys to the wets in three (or so) parts.  Go slowly.  Don’t make the mix creamy!  Mix until the added drys are almost incorporated then add another portion.  This will leave some air in the mix and will help make a fluffier cake.

Toss into greased and floured pans (8 inch round shown) Bake at 350 for 35-50 minutes.  Remove, cool on racks.

For the buttercream frosting go here.

Kay’s Famous Pistachio Cake 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in BnB.
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Mmmm, pistachio buttercream lattice and caramel brittle!We here at BnB firmly believe in the power taste has over memory, especially sweets.  Surely you have a specific food that makes you remember a certain moment in time or feeling.

For Bread and Buttress, Grandma’s pistachio cake makes us remember childhood picnics on her backyard deck under a fringed yellow umbrella.  Swing music would be playing on ancient speakers fastened to the brick exterior of the house by Grandpa.  Every time this cake is made, we take a little trip down memory lane.

When we learned that Passages NW was holding its annual Courage benefit, duty called.  We wanted the Pistachio Cake to take part in their frantic dessert auction.  Passages is a Seattle organization that empowers young girls and build community through carefully tailored outdoor programs.  It’s an organization our Grandmother would have appreciated.

Now, Grandma was no slouch but, growing up through the depression, she was thrifty.  Her original recipe for the pistachio cake displayed as much.  For example, boxed vanilla cake mix saved her some time.  Walnuts, similar in texture to pistachios were substituted in the batter. Jello pudding mix lent pistachio flavor to the cake.

Well, as you’ll see, some changes were made.  We’re making a scratch cake here folks, with a few additional embellishments.  However, we could never think of substituting the Jello.  (Ok, if you’re not into the animal gelatin, try pistachio paste).  Grandma always used a plain and super sugary American style buttercream frosting.  We decided to try a pistachio buttercream frosting in the Swiss tradition.  But fear not, the sweetness of the sugar can still be found in the pistachio brittle that tops the cake.  Find the cake recipe here, and buttercream here.  Finally, Grandma’s original recipe.

The finished cake at the Passages NW auction

The finished cake at the Passages NW auction

Pistachio Buttercream 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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Remember to wash before sticking a finger in!This is a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.  It accompanied our variation on our Grandmother’s pistachio cake.  We like it for four reasons.  First, the egg whites add lightness.  Second, it stays soft at room temp, Third, it refrigerates easily, for a week plus.  Forth, it is forgiving and cannot be overmixed.  It’s not too tough to make either.  If you think heating egg whites is expert stuff, don’t worry.

  • 5 sticks butter

Let the butter sit out overnight.

  • 1 cup egg whites (about 8 large eggs)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 0.5 t vanilla

wmaking-buttercreamSeparate egg whites.  Throw ‘em into the metal mixing bowl with sugar and salt.  Place the mixing bowl onto a pot with a small amount of boiling water.  Whisk till sugar is melted and it hurts you to stick your finger in (masochist, I know.  Ok, till it is 160 degrees F).  Remove from heat and place into mixer.  Mix for a good 10 minutes on medium high speed (6 on a kitchenaid).  Add vanilla.

  • 4 oz pistachio paste

While still mixing, add the soft butter, a quarter stick at a time, allowing it to incorporate.  Volume will reduce, that’s alright.  After the butter is in, Bam!  Buttercream.  To make it pistachio, simply add the pistachio paste.  Double Bam!  Eat a little bit.

Frosting is an art form.  If you aim too high, you might make it look like crap.  Our feeling is, stay in your skill level.  Don’t go for roses if you’ve never frosted.  Just aim to get a nice looking top.  We were going for smooth sides and a little piping work.  No plant life in this skill set, yet.  At Bread and Buttress, we love caramel so we also threw some pistachio brittle (equal volume pistachios added to sugar that has been caramelized) on top.  Note the order of assembly.  Throwing the brittle on first allows for piping to mask defects.  Smart!

Careful, now.