Saturday, April 30, 2011

Necessity: How to make the prince of pies – Homemade Apple Pie

Thye breath is like the steame of apple-peyes. – Robert Green (playwright,1558-1592)

Photo: bkajino, Flickr ccl
That's quite a compliment, and at time of writing was meant to be one. There's nothing quite as good as a slice of homemade apple pie, still warm with a flaky crust and a scoop of ice cream (usually vanilla) on the side. It conjures happy memories of "home" to many people.

There are many versions of apple pie floating around on the inter-web, not to mention in cookbooks. So it can be a little confusing as to which recipe to choose. Many newer pies are a variation on the old tried and true recipe. I prefer the old time recipes. There's a reason they've lasted so long. It's because they're good.

Photo: bucklava, Flickr ccl
A little history
Apples have been baked in pastry for centuries. In the 13th century, published recipes show that they did not contain sugar. It was an expensive commodity. 

The crust was not to be eaten, as it was more of a vehicle to bake in, as opposed to being part of the dessert. Many meat dishes also used a pastry case that was discarded.

By the 1500, sugar had become more available and the pastry had changed into part of the whole dessert. The early American colonists brought their favourite apple varieties with them as the only apples they found growing natively were more of a crab apple variety and unfit for pies.

By the early 1800s, with the proliferation of somewhat more affordable books, published recipes began to appear in cookbooks that people could afford. Publication meant that recipes could spread more quickly and easily. This also led to standard methods of making apple pie.

So what IS the best apple pie?
If you were lucky enough to have a mom (or dad in my case) who made pies when you were a child, you'll appreciate this recipe. Hailing from the 1950s, this is as close as you can get to the actual pie that defined the saying "as American as apple pie."

Of course everyone has their favourite, but this is about as close to a traditional, old fashioned apple pie recipe as you will ever find.

This recipe is from the cookbooks my mother received shortly after she was married in 1951. It's from Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, page 985. Quantities are listed for 9" and 8" pies.

You also have to use the correct kind of apples. Some apples are too soft for baking. Good apples to use for pies are Cortland or Northern Spy. Use Granny Smith as a last resort. They're more tart than the other two, and will require additional sugar.

Cortland apples are a good all-purpose baking apple.
Photo: paige_eliz, Flickr ccl

Photo: polyalida, Flickr ccl
Apple Pie. 
The prince of pies!
For a 9" pie  |  Prep: 30 mins  | Bake: 50 mins
(Quantities for 8" pie are in brackets)

pastry for a 9" double crust (or 8" double crust)
7-8 medium-sized tart apples, 2-1/4 lbs (1-1/2 lbs)
1 tbsp flour (3 tsp)
1/4 tsp salt (pinch of salt)
 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar, depending on tartness of apples (7 tbsp to 1/2 cup)
1 tbsp butter (3 tsp)
1 tbsp lemon juice (3 tsp)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (scant 1/4 tsp)

Pastry for a double crust 9" pie (8" quantities in brackets):
2 cups all-purpose flour (1-1/2 cups)
1 tsp salt (3/4 tsp)
2/3 cup lard OR 3/4 cup shortening, chilled (7 tbsp lard OR 1/2 cup shortening)
1/2 cup ice water (1/3 cup)

To make the crust:
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl.  Cut in the lard or shortening until the size of peas – no smaller. 

Add most of the water and mix with a fork. Add the remainder if necessary to bring it together as a shaggy dough. Do not over work, or your crust will not be flaky. 

For more about pie crusts, see this page:

To make the pie:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Adjust the rack to 5"-6" from the bottom.

Divide the pastry in two. Rill out one piece and fit it to the bottom of a 9" pie plate. Allow the pastry to hang over the edge. Roll the remaining crust for the top. Make it large enough to have some hang over as well. Cut a vent design in the crust. (TIP: you get a more even design if you cut the vents while it's flat, rather than after you place it over the filling.)

The vents you cut in the top can take many different designs.
Photo: Matt McGee, Flickr ccl
Wash, peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into 3-4 slices. (TIP: This gives you the correct size for the apple pieces so they cook correctly for the length of time stated in the recipe.) You should have a quart of apple slices, packed. (A quart is 4 cups.)

Blend the flour, salt and sugar and  sprinkle 1/4 of it over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle the remaining amount over the apples and toss. Turn the slices into the pan and arrange them to fit compactly. The fruit should be slightly mounded in the centre.

Dot with the butter, and sprinkle with the lemon juice and then the cinnamon. Moisten the edge of the bottom crust with water. Place the top crust over the filling and press down along the pie plate edge. Trim off the pastry 1/2" out past the edge of the plate.

Turn the overhanging pastry under the lower crust and flute the edge with your fingers to make a decorative edge.

Optional: if desired, beat one egg yolk with a little cream and brush the top of the pie. Then dust with sugar before baking.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for 35 minutes more. Test for doneness by piercing the apples through the vents. They should be tender, but not overly soft. By this time juice should also be bubbling up through the vents.

Allow to cool on a rack for 2-3 hours. Serve warm, with ice cream.


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using any of the links below.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Recipes: Old Fashioned Pudding Cakes!

“Make a remark," said the Red Queen; "it's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!" – Lewis Carroll

Lemon pudding cake. Photo: jensteele, Flickr ccl
So today I’m offering two recipes for pudding cakes—one for chocolate addicts, and one for lemon lovers. Pudding cakes are those magical cakes that separate when baked into a layer of cake on top and a bottom layer of sauce. 

For the lazy cook (like me) this is a fantastic bonus. Add on top the fact that it's very tasty and you have a winning dessert.

These recipes couldn’t be more different, and I don’t mean because one is lemon and the other chocolate. It’s in the technique. The chocolate version relies on baking powder and hot water for the loft of the cake; the lemon combines separately whipped whites and yolks which is much like making an angel food cake. Interestingly though, both separate into the same delicious cake and sauce combo.

Who knows when the first pudding cake appeared. I like to assume it was a mistake gone "right." I did find some general information about the history of cakes that I thought you might find of passing interest.

The following information is an edited excerpt from an article about the history of cake from Visit the site to get all of the information.

Hot fudge pudding cake with chilli.
Photo: QuintaRoo, Flickr ccl
Ancient cakes were very different from what we eat today. They were more bread-like and sweetened with honey. Nuts and dried fruits were often added. According to the food historians, the ancient Egyptians were the first culture to show evidence of advanced baking skills.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. It is a derivation of 'kaka', an Old Norse word. Medieval European bakers often made fruitcakes and gingerbread. These foods could last for many months.

What we would consider modern cakes were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-1600s. This was due primarily to advances in technology (more reliable ovens, manufacture/availability of food molds) and ingredient availability (refined sugar). At that time cake hoops—round molds for shaping cakes that were placed on flat baking trays—were popular.

Cakes were usually made using yeast until the middle of the 1800, when baking powder replaced it. In France, Antonin Carême is still considered one of the most important chefs of modern pastry/cake world. His elaborate creations decorated the tables of the most important figures in France. He baked Napoleon’s wedding cake.

Well I doubt these recipes would be quite elaborate enough for Napoleon’s wedding reception, but they will certainly be welcome additions to your own table.

Photo: smimholt, Flickr ccl
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
From The Betty Crocker™ Cookbook
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp shortening, melted
1 cup chopped walnuts (this can be optional)
1 cup brown sugar, packed 
3/4 cup hot water

Heat oven to 350°F. Measure flour, granulated sugar, 2 tbsp of cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Blend in milk and melted shortening; stir in nuts (if using). Pour into a 9”x9” pan. Stir together brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 cup cocoa powder; sprinkle over batter. Pour hot water over batter. (Do NOT stir.)

Bake for 45 minutes. While hot, cut into squares; invert each onto dessert plate and spoon sauce over each serving. If desired, serve with sweetened whipped cream. Makes 9 servings.

Photo: jensteele, Flickr ccl
Lemon Sauce Pudding Cake
(no actual source as this cake is so common with slight variations)
Lemon pudding cake is a very old recipe that has been around for a long time. The standard ingredients are basically the same from recipe to recipe. I like this one because of the introduction of lemon rind and butter which adds a little more richness and lemony zing to the finished product.

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon rind
1 tbsp butter
Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Set aside.

Beat together egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon rind, and butter or margarine until thick and light yellow. 

Combine sugar, flour, and salt. Combine this mixture into the yolks and lemon in thirds, beating well after each addition.

Fold the beaten whites into the batter taking care not to deflate the whites. Add 1/3 of the whites initially to lighten the batter. Then fold in the remainder. View the youtube clip below for an example of how to do it properly. It jumps through the process a bit, but shows good technique of folding.

Pour the batter into 8” square baking dish. Place a pan of hot water in the oven, and set the baking dish into the pan. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 45 minutes.

Let cool slightly before serving. The cake will have separated into a fluffy cake top and a lemony sauce below.


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using any of the links below.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Booze of the week: Drink your rhubarb, spiked or not!

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand. – Mother Teresa

Photo: frangrit, Flickr ccl
Here's a list that may surprise you. Tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, beans, okra and peppers are not vegetables. Botanically speaking, they're fruit. And so is rhubarb. Most are easy to understand why. They grow from the blossom of the plant and contain its seeds.

Photo: iowa_spirit_walker, flickr ccl
But why rhubarb? We eat the stalks, not any borne fruit. There's nothing like the law to set things straight (or confusing, as it were) because that is where the definition was confirmed – not by botanists. 

Since rhubarb was used as a fruit in in the United States, a New York court ruled in 1947 that it WAS a fruit as far as regulations and taxes. So it was finished, done and over, and it legally is now a fruit—even though it's NOT…

In case you're not familiar with rhubarb, it's a herbaceous perennial plant from the buckwheat family. It develops large "umbrella" leaves on bright red stalks. Only the stalks are used in cooking. 

Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic, so avoid ingestion. That means pets as well as humans. Large doses can cause convulsions and even coma.

There are several varieties of rhubarb that are hardy to our Zone 5 climate. The edible version of rhubarb is Rheum rhaponticum. It is one of the first vegetables harvested, usually in late April or May. The medicinal rhubarb plant is Rheum official. Many ornamental variants also exist and appear in garden flower borders. We have an ornamental in ours that has extremely serrated large leaves. Last year it was settling in, so this year it should perform well. We also have a small patch of rhaponticum tucked away in a corner for kitchen use.

Photo: smallritual, Flickr ccl
Rhubarb on the dinner table
In Nova Scotia it was "de rigeur" on old homesteads to have a patch of rhubarb growing somewhere on the property. Many of those same patches, even though many decades old, still flourish today. These patches of rhubarb were always put to good use. 

The bright red stalks were harvested and put into pies, stewed and served with meats, or even made into pickles, jellies and jams. Their tart taste was also combined with other fruits. A common combination even today is rhubarb with strawberries in a pie. It's really very good. There are many more ways to use rhubarb. Check here for a massive list of interesting rhubarb recipes:

Rhubarb Strawberry pie.
Photo: Vortech, Flickr ccl
Rhubarb medicinally
Rhubarb has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has been written about in ancient Chinese, Arabic and medieval European publications. Rhubarb, if eaten in quantity, can be a mild laxative. It is astringent, has uses as a tonic and to treat indigestion. Even the roots are dried for later combination in many Chinese herbal remedies.

Rhubarb booz-ically
But what if you want to drink it? Making a liqueur or syrup are two wonderful ways to enjoy the taste of this early summer "fruit." You can capture the combination of tart and sweet that we so much appreciate when using rhubarb in cooking. So I offer you recipes for both. Fresh local rhubarb should start to appear in markets within weeks.

Refreshing rhubarb syrup with soda.
Photo: Duncan H, Flickr ccl
For the booze hounds:
Rhubarb liqueur
4 cups fresh, red rhubarb stocks (the redder the better)
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 cups vodka
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Wash and slice the rhubarb into 1/2" pieces. Place the rhubarb, zest and vodka in a container. Cover, refrigerate and allow to steep for 5 days.

After 5 days, strain the solids from the vodka. It will have a rosy tint. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat. Allow the syrup to cool.

Add the syrup to the infused vodka and chill.

For the tea-totalers:
Rhubarb syrup
2 pound fresh rhubarb
3 cups water (or enough to cover the rhubarb in the pan)
2" piece of ginger, sliced
1-1/2 cups sugar, or 1 cup liquid honey

Wash the rhubarb and cut into 1/2" pieces. Place the rhubarb with the ginger and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the rhubarb starts to break down. Strain the mixture to remove the pulp.

Place the liquid back into the pan. Reheat on low and add in the sugar or honey. Stir until the sugar (or honey) is dissolved.

Remove from the heat, cool, and bottle.

To make a refreshing summer drink, combine the syrup and soda in a glass with ice. The ratio for mixing is 1 part syrup: 4 parts soda, or to your liking.

By the way, the syrup can be used to add a rhubarb boost to cocktails as well... Great for the patio season.


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using any of the links below.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cuisine: Escoffier and one of his Mother Sauces: Espagnole

…in cooking, care is half the battle. – Georges Auguste Escoffier

Jeannoit, The Hôtel (Ritz), Garden Side, 1908. Photo: Wiki Commons

Photo: Wiki Commons
Auguste Escoffier, one of the foremost French chefs of all time, was born in 1846 in Villeneuve-Loubet, Côte d’Azure, France. 

At age 13 he became an apprentice at a restaurant owned by his uncle. This was Escoffier’s first introduction to the profession he would dominate until his death 75 years later.

During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), Escoffier served as a Chef de Cuisine in the army. His experience there made him examine the unnecessary complexity in French cooking, and also the need for better preservation techniques for food. 

After hostilities ceased, Escoffier resumed his culinary career which saw him move from success to success.

During a tenure in Monte Carlo he became acquainted with Cesar Ritz. Escoffier and Ritz made considerable changes to the hotel industry in the following years, considerably raising the standard of hotels and the restaurants in them. 

Ritz eventually opened his own hotels, including Hotel Ritz (Paris) and the Ritz Carlton (London), where Escoffier ran the kitchens. During his time at the Carlton, Escoffier developed his reputation for haute cuisine.

Caésar Ritz. Photo: Wiki Commons
Three of Escoffier's most notable achievements are his modernization of menu presentation, the system of cooking, and the organization of the professional kitchen. 

Escoffier simplified the menu system, which included writing the menu in the order dishes were to be served (Service à la Russe). Previously it was not. He also developed the first “à la carte” menu where patrons could choose their own individual courses. 

He simplified cooking by getting rid of ostentatious display and elaborate garnishes and by reducing the number of courses offered. He also emphasized the use of seasonal foods on restaurant menus. He organized his kitchens by inventing the brigade de cuisine system. This eliminated duplication of effort and streamlined service techniques.

Escoffier is also no less famous for codifying the five “mother” sauces of French cuisine: béchamel, velouté, espagnole, tomato and hollandaise.

L'hôtel Ritz, Paris. Photo: Wiki Commons
On an unusual side note, Escoffier consulted with the White Star Line on the menus for its ocean liners, which included the ones for the maiden voyage of the Titanic. The evening before the sinking, first class passengers dined on a 10 course meal specifically chosen by Escoffier. The first course—oysters—was served on ice...

Over his lifetime he also wrote nine books, many of which continue to be important today. Three of his best-known works include Le Guide Culinaire, 1903; Le Livre des Menus,1912 and Ma Cuisine, 1934.

There have been several compilations published after his death as well, the most recent being in 2002.

Escoffier received many honors during his lifetime. The French government made him a Chevalier of the Legion d' Honneur in 1920, and in 1928 he was elevated to an Officer, to name but two. 

He died in February 12, 1935 in Monte Carlo, just a few days after the death of his wife. He was 88 years old.

The home where Escoffeir was born is now run as the Musée de l’Art Culinaire.

Mother Sauce: Espagnole
Being familiar with the creation of the five "mother" sauces is akin to cracking an egg for your success in the kitchen. Once mastered, you can create a massive variety of recipes that either include them or sauces based on them.

abbreviated from wikibooks:
Espagnole (demi-glace) has a strong taste and is usually not used directly on food. As a mother sauce, however, it serves as the starting point for hundreds of derivatives. 

A typical espagnole recipe takes many hours or even several days to make, and produces four to five quarts of sauce. In most recipes, however, one cup of espagnole is more than enough, so that the basic recipe will yield enough sauce for 16 to 20 meals. Frozen in small quantities, espagnole will keep practically indefinitely.

Pork with Mushroom Demi-glace, based on espagnole.
Photo: Wiki Commons
Escoffier's Recipe
adapted to 4 cups yield (because no household needs 16 cups of espagnole… You will still have lots to freeze for later.)

4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups brown stock (homemade or best you can get)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 lb. mirepoix (1/2 cup onion, 14 cup celery, 1/4 cup carrot, all in fine dice)
1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme and bay leaf, tied together)

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, then add flour. Mix well and cook to desired color, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This may take some minutes. It should be well browned, but not burned. You will notice the colour change from yellow, through tan to nut brown.

Note: At this point Escoffier chills his roux to be used at a later date. He then tempers it with a little stock before adding back in and continuing with making the stock.

To continue on with the recipe, without chilling the roux:
Slowly, a little at a time, ladle in the stock—whisking to avoid forming lumps. Add all the stock and whisk until smooth. Add in the tomato paste and mix well. Then add in the mirepoix and bouquet garni.

Partially cover and simmer on low for 2-3 hours. Check to see if it needs skimming periodically.

If the sauce thickens too much, thin with a little more stock. The sauce should lightly coat the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasoning (i.e., add salt and pepper if necessary). Strain the stock through a sieve to remove the vegetables and herbs.

The sign on The Ritz London Hotel. Photo: Wiki Commons
Escoffier’s method to make espagnole:
Dissolve the cold roux in a bowl by stirring in some of the cold brown stock.

Heat the rest of the stock in a deep, thick saucepan over a medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Lower the heat.

Temper the roux by ladling some of the stock into the roux while whisking vigorously. Stirring constantly, slowly pour the tempered roux into the simmering stock. Dissolve the tomato paste with some of the stock and stir it into the sauce. Add the mirepoix and the bouquet garni.

Simmer slowly, partially covered for 2 or 3 hours. From time to time skim off any scum. Add more stock if the sauce thickens too much. You should end up with a sauce that coats a spoon lightly.

Adjust the seasoning. Strain and remove any visible fat.

This foundation sauce can be refrigerated, or even frozen for extended periods of time.

The following is a (very) short list of sauces based on the “mother” espagnole sauce. Understanding them can help take the mystery out of restaurant menus:
  • Madeira: with Madeira wine
  • Champignon: with mushrooms
  • Bordelaise: with red wine, shallots and herbs
  • Lyonnaise: with chopped onions, parsley and white wine
  • Africaine: with African/Creole seasonings
  • Charcutiere: with mustard and pickle
  • Chevreuil: with shallots and jelly


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using ay of the links below.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gardening: Tulips on a tree? Liriodendron tulipifera

He who plants a tree, plants a hope. – Lucy Larcom

Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree). Photo: photommo, Flickr ccl
I like my trees to be something a bit special. They need to be beautiful in leaf, interesting in winter, and deliver something extra – be that unusual leaves, fruit, seed pods or flowers. Here's one that delivers on a few of those counts.

Liriodendron tulipfera is a statuesque tree that you'll have to give lots of breathing room for at maturity. It has distinctive leaves, nice Autumn colour and blooms with very unusual tulip-like flowers. How's that for most of what you would ever want in your garden?

Many people rely on magnolias in Zone 6 for trees that bloom with larger flowers, but there are many more. Liriodendron is one such tree. It goes by the common name of tulip tree. It also happens to be a relative of the magnolia.

I saw my first tulip tree when I was quite young. I remember it for its unusually shaped leaves – but not flowers. There's a reason for this. It was on the same street as my music teacher's home. My lessons went from September to May. Tulip trees bloom in the summer months. Therefore I never saw them. But the leaves and shape alone made it a standout from our usual fare in Nova Scotia.

I had a chance last year to go back and see that tree. It has grown considerably from what I remember. Quite considerably, in fact. It was huge. It must be absolutely amazing in bloom.

Photo: wlcutler, Flickr ccl
Tulip trees are native to the eastern United States and can reach heights of up to 190 feet. That's for a very, very old tree. Usual height is a more manageable 70 feet. It is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. 

This is a tree that needs full sun. Over time it will become a shade tree for you to enjoy, so keep that in mind when choosing your planting site.

The leaves are interesting in themselves. They start out "v" shaped with two lobes and then cut in and are straight across the top. The tulip tree we purchased last year was variegated, so the leaves are both green and cream which is an added bonus. 

Leaves turn yellow in the Fall. Quite decorative, all in all. We have ours planted next to a purple beech, so the future should be quite colourful in that spot.

The blossoms are relatively small, about 2-3 inches tall and a yellowy green with a hint of orange. They grow singly on the branch tips and are upward facing. When the blossom fades the pistil turns into a slender cone. They are very tulip-like in appearance, which is responsible for its name.

The tulip tree's native range is from Illinois, across to the southern New England States and down to Florida. We took a chance purchasing one as it is borderline hardy in Nova Scotia. We are Zone 5B to 6A, depending on the location in the province. The tree we purchased was Zone 6 which is borderline hardy for us.

A young tree going into Fall colour.
Photo: Badly Drawn Dad, Flickr ccl
But once again our ocean proximity has stepped in to help us. We purchased a 6 foot specimen from Lakeland Plantworld in Dartmouth late last summer. It settled in quite quickly. We were rewarded with bloom in the Autumn, once the tree knew it was in a happy spot.

Henry, our dog, inadvertently broke off a few branches when we were transporting it. By the end of the season it had already started to produce buds in the broken spots to replace those branches. That's a very good sign. Or an omen of rampant growth…

The tree survived this last winter in fine shape and has already shown signs of being ready for the new season. We're looking forward to the display it will give us this season!


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using any of the links below.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Need to Know: Mother, may I? The 5 Classic Sauces, and a Recipe

I hate people who are not serious about their meals. – Oscar Wilde

Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Photo: MarkScottAustinTX, Flickr ccl
M.-A. Carême. Photo: Wiki cc
Today I thought I would give you a little background information on the major sauces of French cuisine. They are referred to as the "mother sauces" because if you master these, you can then create the multitude of variation sauces based on them. These form the backbone of sauces taught in almost every culinary school, and can be found in nearly every good cookbook.

In earlier posts I have given recipes for mayonnaise and béarnaise. Both of those sauces are based on the technique of Hollandaise. So you can sort of catch my drift when I say “master these five and…”. So where did this list originate? Who made them the experts?

Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833)
Carême is considered one of the first celebrity chefs. He was known as “the chef of kings, and the king of chefs." His employers included Taleyrand, Napoleon and George IV. 

He was a major proponent of “haute cuisine” to royalty and nouveau-riche. He created a list of four sauces, but one was later removed from the list and two more added by another major influencer, Escoffier.

A. Escoffier. Photo: Wiki cc
Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935)
Escoffier was a chef, restaurenter and writer who updated the French cooking techniques of the 1800s. He is legendary and one of the most influential figures in modern French cuisine. It was Escoffier who elevated cooking into a respected profession. 

Escoffier "codified" the principles of French cuisine in his writing, which made it possible for home chefs to emulate the dining of the rich. He introduced organized discipline to his kitchens where roles and responsibilities were well defined. This delineation is currently in use in restaurant kitchens. 

He also altered Carême’s list to the five sauces we know today as the Mother Sauces.

Mother Sauce 1: Béchamel
This is the classic white sauce. It was named after its inventor, Louis XIV's steward Louis de Béchamel. It is often referred to as the “king of sauces.” It is made by stirring milk or cream into a cooked mixture called a roux (butter and flour). The thickness is determined by the ratio of these three ingredients.

Mother Sauce 2: Velouté
Velouté is a stock-based white sauce, as opposed to cream-based. The stock is made from either chicken, veal or fish, being determined on what the sauce will ultimately accompany. Sometimes the sauce is enriched by the introduction of egg yolks or cream.

Mother Sauce 3: Espagnole
Espagnole is a brown sauce. It is made using meat stock, a mixture of sautéed vegetables (most often a “mirepoix” of diced onion, carrots and celery), a well browned roux and herbs. Sometimes tomato paste is added to this sauce. 

Mother Sauce 4: Hollandaise
Hollandaise is a sauce which is made from white wine, vinegar or lemon juice, with egg yolks and butter. It is often made over a double boiler and is served with vegetables or atop the classic Eggs Benedict. Mayonnaise and béarnaise are variations in this category. Others are Tartar Sauce, Remoulade and Aioli,

Mother Sauce 5: Tomato
As is obvious, this is a red sauce. It is created either by cooking tomatoes down slowly as in a reduction, or sometimes it is thickened by a roux of butter and flour. Additions of other ingredients are according to its final use.

So let’s make one of the five.

Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce. Photo: Michael W. May, Flickr ccl

Classic Hollandaise Sauce
The original of this recipe can be found at
Makes 1 cup

2 tbsp white wine vinegar, or fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons boiling water
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt

Melt the butter and keep warm. Heat the vinegar or lemon juice until just warmed. 

Place the top of a double boiler over hot water. Place the egg yolk in the top of a double boiler and whisk until they begin to thicken. Now add 1 tbsp of boiling water. Continue to beat the sauce until it begins to thicken. 

Repeat with the remaining water, one tbsp at a time, beating the mixture after each addition.

Now add the warmed vinegar or lemon juice. Remove the double boiler from the heat. Beat the sauce briskly with a wire whisk. 

Continue to beat the mixture as you slowly pour in the melted butter. Add the salt and cayenne and beat the sauce until it is thick. 

Serve immediately.


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share it using any of the links below.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Foraging 11 and Recipe: Dulse awash on the Briny Sea, Celtic Scones.

Love is like seaweed; even if you have pushed it away, you will not prevent it from coming back. – Nigerian Proverb

Photo: The Stakhanovite Twins, Flickr ccl
Have you ever eaten dulse? If you've eaten sushi, you've had its cousin, Nori. It wasn't too bad was it? Dulse is similar with a refreshing ocean taste.

Photo: Hijod.Huskona, Flickr ccl
Dulse harvesting by hand is a great way to get out into nature. All you do is wait for low tide and go gather it up (in an approved and non-polluted spot, of course). It then has to dry before use.

A word of caution. Since it is harvested on the seashore, always check for small shells and stones that you may gather up with it. Stones or shells can damage your teeth.

Dulse grows in the ocean  on both northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific. It is used as a snack food as well as a delicious ingredient in cooking. Dulse is a seaweed (ocean vegetable) that has a distinct "ocean" flavour and dark red/purple colour. 

It has been an important source of fibre for shore dwelling cultures for centuries. There is record of it being harvested by monks around 600 AD. Dulse is also an important source of fibre, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and B2 and some trace minerals.

Dulse can be eaten in several ways. Many local harvesters in Nova Scotia dry the seaweed on low heat in the oven to make crispy dulse chips. I can imagine they are amazing.

From The Fairmont Algonquin. Photo: Sifu Renka, Flickr ccl
It can be added to salads in very surprising ways as well. In researching this post I came across a pear and dulse salad, as well as avocado and dulse. 

It is an excellent addition to seafood soup where it imparts a wonderful sea flavour. It also can be added to sandwiches, for example replacing bacon in a BLT. I guess that would make it a DLT. 

Many upscale restaurants are also creating wonderful ways to use dulse in entrées and appetizers. The picture at right is from the Fairmont Algonquin Hotel, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick. It is Chilled Bay of Fundy Lobster, Dulse Dusted Diver Scallop, Nori Wrapped Balik Salmon and Basil Aioli. Looks fantastic.

It is used in many stir-frys as it complements tofu or tempeh. Since it is high in potassium as opposed to sodium it can be an aid in lowering sodium intake. Dried dulse flakes are often sprinkled on food for this use.

For an unexpected recipe I've chosen to make the following recipe for Celtic Scones. The result is a scone with barely a hint of salty ocean flavour. Most scones have butter cut in and as such are lighter and crumblier. These are a cream style scone which is fluffy rather than crumbly.

Celtic Dulse Soda Scones
Makes 8 scones  |  Prep 10 minutes  | Bake 30 minutes, plus 10 min

3 cups flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/3 cup dulse, dried (packed into measuring cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup thick plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten for brushing
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp water

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a cookie sheet in the oven to heat up. 

Soak the dulse in warm water for five minutes. Drain off the water, squeeze the dulse and chop it into fine pieces. Combine the flour, soda and salt in a bowl, mixing thoroughly. Add in the dulse and mix to combine.

Add the yogurt into the mixture. At first mix with a fork and then use your hands. Knead in the bowl for about 1 minute until it all comes together. It will be somewhat sticky, soft and pliable. 

The mixed dough after kneading.
Using the palm your hand, shape the dough out into a circle about 3/4" thick and 10-12" wide. Score the dough with a knife, like you would cut a pie, into eight equal pieces. 

Place on the heated cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Mix together the sugar and water and set aside. 

Do this next step relatively quickly. Remove from the oven and brush with the sugar water. Cut into the 8 marked pieces. The scones will still be slightly doughy in the centre. 

After first bake, before cutting and
second bake.
Place back on the pan and bake for 10 more minutes.

Serve warm with butter and/or jam or jelly.


If you like this post retweet it using the link at top right, or share using any of the links below.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks?