About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Star Brioche

I know Christmas is over but I was so busy making these, I didn't have time to post this.  It's a wonderful Christmas morning baked good or any time brunch item.  I cranked out quite a few as gifts and they make for "WOW" impression.  My hairdresser said he had to sit down he was so thrilled.  They can be filled with either cinnamon/sugar, Nutella, fruit jam, lemon curd or cheese.  If wrapped well, they freeze nicely too.

My big secret is I have a bread machine to make the dough in. It's a time saver and makes for a consistent dough with the right environment for the dough to rise in.  While there is a heating element in the machine which enables baking, I always prefer baking in a conventional oven.  I used the  1 1/2 pound recipe for brioche from Fleishmans's Breadworld and use the dough setting on the machine.

The recipe calls for bread flour but it can be made with all purpose flour successfully.  All purpose doesn't rise as much.

Layer in order in the bread machine:

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
3 large eggs
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), cut into pieces
3 tbls sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
4 1/2 tsp active yeast (2 packets)

Layer ingredients in order in the bread machine
Remove dough after the course in completed (mine takes 1 hr and 50 minutes) onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal parts.  I also have a scale to ensure each is the same size.  Roll the first piece of dough into a 10 inch circle, using a cake pan to as a guide to trim the edges.  Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Spread 1/4 cup filling onto the dough leaving a 1/2 inch bare border around the edge.

Do the same with the next two quarters of dough.  Don't spread anything on the top layer of dough.  Take a 3 inch cookie cutter or small jelly jar and make an impression in the center of the dough.  Then make 16 cuts with a sharp knife around the edge of the circle impression.  It may help to chill the dough for 15 minutes before cutting.
Stretch and twist twice
Tuck the ends under

Lift two wedges of dough at a time, give them a slight tug and then twist them away from each other, twice and then tuck the ends under. Continue the same technique all the way around.  Cover and let rise 1 hour.  Brush with 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of cream and bake in a 350 degree oven for
35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Be creative with your filling but remember not to spread too much between layers.
Ham & Cheese version

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Salt Encrusted Whole Snapper

I had watched this preparation of whole fish a couple of times by Martha Stewart and Sara Moulton and found it intriguing.  I recall ordering a whole herb stuffed Branzino in Italy and forgotten they present the whole fish to the dining patron then remove it to be filleted by the server.  There's a formality and ceremony about this and, without thinking, picked up my knife and fork to tackle the task myself.  The waiter swooped in to rescue the fish from my butchery and probably muttered something under his breath about stupid Americans.

The salt crust is even more dramatic as the cracking of the crust reveals a whole fish with some flourish.  Brush away the excess salt, then carefully peel back the skin to reveal silky, moist flesh  perfectly seasoned.  It's struck me as a great company entree that had a "ta da" moment to it.  I practiced on a striped bass and then a Branzino before purchasing a near 6 pound snapper.  The fish monger trimmed off the fins, scaled, gutter and gilled the fish. The snapper didn't have as big a cavity for stuffing because of a bone but it was tasty anyway.  It's not too hard to do but try a smaller fish like trout first.  If you want a dish that impresses, try this.  The drawback, may be the pin bones depending on the fish, so warn your guest and pick out as many as you can before serving.  The Branzino had too many, the large snapper had more flesh, less bone.

All it takes is a box of kosher salt and egg whites. Use 1 cup of salt and one egg white per pound of whole fish, remembering you will lose half the fish's weight to waste (head, bones, tail).  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the egg whites, salt and any other spices until it feels like wet sand. Add more of either to get the right texture. Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry. Stuff the cavity with fennel fronds, sliced lemon, leek and  thyme.

Make a half inch bed of salt for the fish after stuffing the cavity, then lay the fish on top of the salt and pack remaining salt mix tightly over the fish leaving just the mouth and tail exposed.  Bake at 400 degrees, 10 minutes to the pound until golden. Remove from the oven and let rest 10-15 minutes. Rap the salt with the back side of a spoon and break away the salt crust.  Brush away the excess salt and carefully peel back the skin. Remove as many pin bones as possible and fillet. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon.  Heaven!