Tag Archive for 'Madeira'

Puff Paste for Absolute Beginners

Puff Paste for Absolute Beginners

I. Fruit Turnovers (Suitable for Pic-Nics) [1248.]

I went blackberry picking two weekends ago and decided to jump into the world of pastry with both feet so I would have something to do with the berries besides just eat them. The extent of my pastry “expertise” is making quick pâte brisée and simple crusts for things like empanadas. I peeped at the puff pastry recipe in my 1980s edition of the Joy of Cooking and immediately took note of the fact that it was a page and a half or so, whereas Beeton’s recipe for “puff paste” was not much more than a paragraph. Turnovers called for the Medium Puff Paste [1206.], which called for a mix of lard and butter.

I immediately decided to chuck out modern recipes, and see what Beeton’s would produce. As is often the case, the recipe proved to be a rough outline for, perhaps, what many cooks knew. Many recipes I feel are more of a reminder or the Cliff’s Notes version for rusty experts than a step-by-step.

Rolling the paste

I rolled the “paste” out after stirring the flour and water together, and began slicing the butter over the dough, or in the case of the lard below, spreading it on. I chilled the lard a bit, but perhaps it was too warm. The order was butter, lard, butter.

Spreading the lard layer

I let the dough chill overnight because I was running out of time, and thought warm turnovers would be nice for morning. Plus I knew the air would be nice and cool then. I cut rounds using a small plate and filled them with fresh blackberries that had been lightly macerated with granulated sugar.

Filling the turnovers

They looked pretty and they tasted good, but the dough was a bit “heavy.” Edible, but certainly nothing like what comes out of a pastry case. Plus there was a river of grease in the pan when I took them out of the oven. Seasoned bakers will scoff at my naivité, but I did a little looking online and discovered that croissants, danishes, and their ilk will leak their grease if they do not go into the oven quite cold. I think these turnovers should have had a little sojourn in the fridge before I baked them.

Not all was lost, though. As I said they were perfectly edible.  I decided I am going to make some modern recipes this week that call for quickie frozen puff pastry, like a tomato goat cheese tart, to get some more practice in.

Overall, I am glad I went in blind without trying to remember 4,000 tips, since I tend to over-research things like this. I got a feel for the process without stressing out. I think I will attempt to apply this lesson to more aspects of my life. It is not always necessary to do things perfectly the first time, is it?

NYARM! goes the Strudel.

II. Strawberries in Madeira Redux

GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE. I finally figured out the point of preserving strawberries in madeira. I mentioned earlier this month that two months later the strawberries were unlovely and not very tasty, either. However! The resulting madeira is very, very delicious. It still tastes strongly of madeira, but also completely like strawberries. I am enjoying a small glass of this once and a while on ice.

Liquid Strawberry

This week I am making “curry powder.” I know there are many, many varieties available–I am going to see if I can figure out what this recipe was attempting to ape. I have been meaning to try this for years, so I am excited.

Umami Wears Army Boots

Umami Wears Army Boots

Hello Victorianophiles, I suppose you must think I fell down some consumption-induced rabbithole in my quest for authenticity. Have I been in a syphilis-induced fugue? WORSE! I moved. It went very well, and I have moved to another rental. Many people assumed I was buying, but no, no interest in doing that in the city I currently reside in. I understand from my readings that sometimes Victorians would enter into leases up to seven years, and that most people rented at that time. It’s interesting to me that there was some minority of people who held the majority of the real estate if this was the case.

I come to you selfishly with a short update that is meant more as a kick in the pants for me to start again than anything profound or detailed. I have discussed this with other bloggers, and we often agree that the longer you wait, the harder it is to restart again.

So, I bring you a picture of my Strawberries Preserved in Madeira.

Rather puce

As you can see, the color has been somewhat bleached out of them. I pulled one out the other day, about two months later, to see what they are like. They are getting a little “hairy” (not mold, but kind of fruit softening around the edges), but still have a firmness to them at their center. They almost completely taste of Madeira now, with a very slight fruit undertone. This is yet another recipe in Beeton’s that does not explain what to do with fruit preserved in this fashion. I think I will make a cake from the BOHM soon and try the fruit over that. It will be fun to strain the wine off and drink it as well.

I took pictures of the sliced strawberries before they went down mine and my daughter’s eager hatches, and I also photographed a reconstituted bowl of Portable Soup. I can show you what the cubes look like, but not the soup, because somehow I deleted both the soup and the sliced berries pictures. Again, I blame the move. Sigh.

Recently, I also made Anchovy Butter [1637.] which, unsurprisingly, appears twice with slight variations. I used one that called for mixing anchovies, butter, and chopped fresh parsley.

I am no fan of anchovies, really, though I do generally like fish. I added two jarred anchovies, the kind you lay on pizza, chopped, to a stick (8 ounces) of butter, and a small handful of flat chopped parsley from the garden in the old house. (There is a major lack of herbs at the new house, which I am working to remedy as soon as possible.)

I was prepared to dislike anchovy butter, but surprise! I did like it very much. I served it soft in a dish and that night we spread it on chicken breast, steamed corn on the cob, and french bread. I will tell you what happened: Reader, I umami’d them. Okay, so the bread ended up tasting slightly fishy. But the other two foods were totally kicked up. I will make it again.

So, I am back on duty. For the rest of the summer I am going to concentrate on reworking meat and veggies recipes. I hope your summer/winter is going well (depending on where you are).

Capturing Early Summer

Capturing Early Summer

“I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.” –Julia Child

Here it is June, somehow, and I find myself thinking about strawberries. I wondered if Beeton thought of strawberries in June as well. The BOHM has very few strawberry recipes: a simple one for strawberries and cream, which I will be trying tonight, a jam and a jelly recipe, and lots of advice for arranging fresh fruit on trays and platters in pleasing pyramid and tower shapes. The unspoken message here, I suppose, is that strawberries are excellent fresh and enjoyed with no adulteration.

Beeton tells us that the name “strawberry” is derived from

an ancient custom of putting straw beneath the fruit when it began to ripen, which is very useful to keep it moist and clean. The strawberry belongs to temperate and rather cold climates; and no fruit of these latitudes, that ripens without the aid of artificial heat, is at all comparable with it in point of flavour. The strawberry is widely diffused, being found in most parts of the world, particularly in Europe and America.

This is a popular story that I had heard well before reading it in Beeton’s, but by some accounts, untrue. It looks like another case in the English language where the meaning is assumed to be very literal (strawberries=berries bedded in straw) much like “forcemeats,” which meant “spiced meat” rather than the very literal “filling that is stuffed (forced) into other meats.” I know I am going all Captain Obvious on this topic, but I do like how English is never as simple or literal as it may seem on the surface.

So, strawberry pyramids seem like a fun way to impress guests, but what if it is 1865 and you want to save strawberries to enjoy later? I decided to Preserve Strawberries in Wine [1595]. The wine it calls for is madeira or port, which is something I enjoy, but do not have a lot of taste or experience in. I am much more of a sauvignon blanc person–very fruity, green wine suits me.

I went to a local wine shop where I knew they would know MUCH more than I did. I chose some midrange-priced, “rainwater” madeira, with the intention of sweetening it, and thinking I would drink the leftovers. I am having a small glass as I write this–delicious.

Two Pounds of Strawberries

The recipe is very simple: stem and hull the strawberries and cover them with sweetened madeira. This is where we get into trouble with Beeton’s. How long do we keep them for? Strawberries float, is that a problem for rot? John Smythe, our pickling master here at TQS, has advised me to “weight” the strawberries using a plastic bag filled with water as is sometimes done with pickles. I think I am going to give them a day or so to see if the berries become wine-logged and sink on their own.

Strawberries in madeira

I used two pounds of strawberries, three ounces of sugar, and a bottle (750 ml) madeira. My plan is to pull some out in August and test them, and slice them over ice cream or poundcake. The rest I will pull out during the holidays–I think they could be very interesting as a compliment to the rich meats served at that time. I am sure I will do something with the leftover madeira as well–it could be easily reduced to be a dessert sauce, I think.

One more thing that I am very excited about that I should have done months ago:

EXACTLY Three Ounces

A food scale! Even if it is not perfectly accurate, it got decent reviews and will cut out a lot of my careful math and guesswork.

PRESERVED STRAWBERRIES IN WINE.

1595. INGREDIENTS – To every quart bottle allow 1/4 lb. of finely-pounded loaf sugar; sherry or Madeira.

Mode.—Let the fruit be gathered in fine weather, and used as soon as picked. Have ready some perfectly dry glass bottles, and some nice soft corks or bungs. Pick the stalks from the strawberries, drop them into the bottles, sprinkling amongst them pounded sugar in the above proportion, and when the fruit reaches to the neck of the bottle, fill up with sherry or Madeira. Cork the bottles down with new corks, and dip them into melted resin.

Seasonable.—Make this in June or July.

1595. Preserved Strawberries in Wine [My version]

1 750 ml bottle rainwater madeira
3 ounces sugar
2 lbs. hulled and cleaned strawberries

In a wide-mouthed jar, stir sugar into wine until dissolved and then add strawberries. Screw on lid and hope for the best! I’ll let you know.