Happy Holidays, from Dear Martini!

Happy Holidays!

Dear Martini

Happy Holidays from Dear Martini

(Mia and Terri)!

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Happy Holidays from Dear Martini

Happy Holidays from Dear Martini

(Mia and Terri)!

Announcing… Video Playlists!

Hi Gang!

We’re busy keeping a cool project under wraps but for now let’s talk about something important:  VIDEOS.

Do you watch them?  Do you like them?  Are they helpful to you in your culinary pursuits?  We hope you say YES to all three!

To make things every easier for all you awesome home cooks out there, we’ve uploaded all of our current videos to YouTube for your viewing and sharing pleasure.  We’ve also made some playlists that group the videos together according to recipe.  Take a look and see what’s helpful.

Here is our Bacon and Egg Salad Playlist, for example:

We’ve got a playlist for each recipe we’ve featured here on our blog:  chocolate souffle, cranberry-orange scones, guacamole, Nicoise salad, pan-seared steak, vinaigrette, aioli… and more!

Remember to share the videos with everyone you know — especially that colleague or cousin whom you KNOW could use the help.  We’re  are in serious need of some increased numbers, so please help us spread the word.  Yes, the same videos are also still available on Vimeo, which we prefer to use; but we noticed that YouTube is still the standard when it comes to viewing and sharing.

And, as always, we wouldn’t be here without YOU.  It’s YOUR encouragement and support that keeps up wanting to make more great videos for you.  So THANK YOU for being here with us!

xxoo

Mia and Terri

Strawberry Shortcake — the classic all-American summertime dessert!

Strawberry Shortcake!

We’re in the last stretch of summer and if you haven’t already made this classic all-American dessert yet, now’s your chance!

Let’s say you’re invited to a friend’s house for a weekend backyard barbecue… and you want to contribute a dessert to the party but don’t know what to make? Herein lies your salvation. Bring strawberry shortcake! It’s everyone’s favorite! Bring the components with you in separate containers, and assemble just before serving.

There are only three components to this dessert: strawberries, whipped cream, and lightly sweetened biscuits. Follow our how-to videos to help you along with preparing each component. As always, we’ve created a portfolio of all relevant how-to videos on our Vimeo Channel: http://vimeopro.com/dearmartini/strawberry-shortcake. We hope this will earn its place in your arsenal of go-to dessert recipes!

Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 8 to 10

1 recipe shortcakes, recipe follows

2 cups sliced strawberries, macerated

2 cups creme chantilly, recipe follows

Zest of one lemon, from a traditional zester for garnish, or

8-10 fanned strawberries

Bake the shortcakes according to recipe and set aside.  While the shortcakes are baking, prep the strawberries for macerating and whip the cream. Serve immediately.

If you are taking the shortcakes to an event, it’s best to assemble the dessert on site.  Macerate the strawberries and whip the cream immediately before serving.

To assemble for serving:

Slice the biscuits in half and warm them in an oven set to 250°F for 10 minutes (this step is optional, but the biscuits are awesome when they are warmed!)

Arrange the bottom half of a biscuit on a plate. Place a generous spoonful of the macerated strawberries and the resulting syrup on the biscuit. Spoon a generous dollop (or quenelle) of whipped cream over the strawberries. Top with the top half of the biscuit. Repeat with the remaining biscuits. Garnish with either threads of lemon zest or a fanned strawberry. Serve immediately.

Recipes:

Shortcakes

Makes 12 biscuits

* in this recipe, the base recipe for the biscuits is derived from our scone recipe. We like to make our own acidulated milk instead of using buttermilk from the store; so if you wish to use buttermilk, substitute ½ cup for the lemon juice and whole milk.

2 teaspoons lemon juice or cider vinegar

½ cup whole milk

1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 cups plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour for dusting

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar)

 

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Mix the lemon juice and milk together and let it stand in the fridge for as long as it takes to prepare the rest of the recipe. If you are using ½ cup buttermilk for this recipe, eliminate this step. Cube the butter and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt with a wooden spoon. Add the butter. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or break up the butter into the flour by rubbing the butter and flour together between your fingers. Do this very quickly and randomly. You should still have lumps of butter varying from small (pea-sized) to large (blueberry sized). Do not let the butter get soft. If it does, return the bowl to the fridge for a few minutes.

Combine the eggs and milk mixture together and add to the flour mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy, lumpy mass. It’s ok that it’s not smooth or uniformly mixed in. It’s ok to see random lumps of butter still not mixed in.

Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently, with floured hands, pat it down into a rough rectangle shape about 1-inch thick. Use a spatula and pick up one end of the dough and fold it over in half. Pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees. Flour your hands and pat it down into another rectangle.  Repeat this patting, folding, turning method 4-5 more times. Keep flour dusted underneath the dough as you turn it.  For the last pat-down, make sure the rectangle is about 10-12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Transfer the dough to a sheet pan and cover. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to firm up the butter.

Use a 3 ½ -inch diameter biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter to cut the biscuits. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the scraps together and pat and fold to recombine the dough. DO NOT KNEAD THE DOUGH TOGETHER. Continue cutting out biscuits and reforming the dough until they are all cut. Refrigerate the biscuits for about 30 minutes to firm up the butter.

Just before baking, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the biscuits and sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The biscuits will be firm to the touch. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool.

Macerated Strawberries:

1 pint strawberries, sliced

1 tablespoons sugar

Macerate the sliced strawberries in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let them sit for 15 minutes or keep covered in the fridge until ready to use. In our experience, strawberries taste best when they are cool, or at room temperature. We find that the chill from the refrigerator inhibits their flavor.

Crème Chantilly:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

 Whip the cream with vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. Set all components aside until you are ready to serve.

 Strawberry Shortcake recipe 500pxl

GAME OF SCONES

When I take an interest in something, I get obsessed with it. In this case, it was finding the recipe for The Perfect Scone. For nearly 2 months, I made a batch of scones every single day. I tried every method out there to achieve the butteriest (yes, that’s a word), flakiest, most tender melt-in-your-mouth scones ever produced on the planet.

I learned the hard way that nothing can be perfect (though our Italian Meringue Buttercream gets pretty close but that’s another blog post, of course). What I’ve developed instead, over the years of trial and error in search for the perfect scone recipe is more a fool-proof method for achieving the best results possible. To be honest, food science plays a big part. Just understand the principles of heat (and cold) management, how butter behaves, what steam brings to the party and how the slightest hint of gluten formation can wreck the tender texture of the scone.

Follow my simple rules and you can’t go wrong. I promise. It doesn’t matter which recipe you use. Just change the method to follow these principles.

Chef Terri’s Principles for the Best Possible Scones:

1) Keep your ingredients, especially the butter, as cold as possible. This is counter-intuitive, I know, when all you’ve heard all your baking life is how all ingredients must be at room temperature for good baking results. Chilled butter, not softened, is best for scones.

2) Mix your scone dough by hand with a wooden spoon instead of using a mixer. A mixer can over-mix your dough and develop that evil gluten. OK, a food processor might work well to cut the butter, but mix the wet ingredients in by hand, please.

3) Soak your dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, cherries or blueberries) in hot water for a few minutes. Drain them just before you add them to the dough. The dried fruits will soak up any moisture they can, robbing your scone of its precious steam during the baking process. Alternatively, the heat of the oven could dry out the fruit even more — producing hard pellets, not soft, luscious flavorful fruit.

4) Don’t use a rolling pin. There is no knead for it. ;) Instead, gently use your palms to flatten the dough into one even layer. Lift up and fold it in half, then give it a quarter-turn and pat down again to flatten. Do this 4-6 more times. Your hard work will be rewarded. Our patting-folding-turning method is great to achieve multiple layers of butter and dough with very little toughness, rewarding you later with tender flakes when it’s baked.

5) Chill your dough between every stage — even before sliding the prepared scones in the oven. In fact, the best scones I ever made were frozen before they hit the hot oven. Remember, if the dough (and consequently, the butter) is warm and soft before it goes into the oven, the butter will melt quickly and not have a chance to leave behind the flaky layers we so desperately desire. If ever you feel as if your ingredients are getting warm at any time during the scone-making process, just return everything to the fridge for a few minutes to firm up the butter. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember, when working with our recipes on the blog, simply hit the blue hyperlinks to see the technique video associated with the recipe. It’s our way of guiding you through the recipe. Alternatively, you can view our Vimeo Portfolio, where all of the scone-related videos are bundled: http://vimeopro.com/dearmartini/scones

Cranberry-Orange Scones (Makes 24 scones)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 cups plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Zest of one orange

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup cold heavy cream

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or regular sugar) (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Soak the cranberries hot water for 10 minutes, or at least as long as it takes to prepare the rest of the recipe. Drain and set aside.

Cut up the butter sticks and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest with a wooden spoon.

Add the butter. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or by rubbing the butter and flour together between your fingers. Do this very quickly and randomly. You should still have lumps of butter varying from small (pea-sized) to large (blueberry sized). Do not let the butter get soft. If it does, return the bowl to the fridge for a few minutes.

Combine the eggs and heavy cream together and add to the flour mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy, lumpy mass. It’s ok that it’s not smooth or uniformly mixed in. It’s ok to see random lumps of butter still not mixed in. Drain the cranberries and add them and the remaining cup of flour to the dough. Mix gently until the cranberries are distributed evenly in the dough.

Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently, with floured hands, pat it down into a rough rectangle shape about 1-inch thick. Use a spatula and pick up one end of the dough and fold it over in half. Pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees. Flour your hands and pat it down into another rectangle. Pick up one end and fold it over, then pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees again. Repeat this patting, folding, turning method 4 more times. Keep flour dusted underneath the dough as you turn it.

For the last pat-down, make sure the rectangle is about 10-12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Use a sharp knife and cut three strips of dough, each strip being about 2 inches wide and 10- 12 inches long. Cut each strip into 8 triangular pieces and lay each piece on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil. You can fit 12 pieces on one tray, and prepare another tray for the remaining 12. Refrigerate the scones for about 30 minutes to firm up the butter.

Just before baking, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the scones and sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool.

IRISH SODA BREAD

irish soda bread for blog

Irish Soda Bread!  I wish I could remember when I first fell in love with this bread.  Maybe it was when I was a Girl Scout, aiming for some baking badge. I have no idea, really, though it’s safe to say that I’ve grown up baking this bread.

The magic of this recipe is — it takes less an an hour to bake, it uses only 4 (ok, 5) ingredients, and successfully baking this bread gives one so much confidence in the kitchen to tackle larger, more challenging projects.

As a quickbread, like scones and muffins, the leavening agent is the baking soda.  And if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can certainly get by with a nifty substitution.

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Some folks like to add raisins to the dough or dried dill… whatever you fancy.  Either way, use our method of baking it halfway underneath a metal mixing bowl.  The bowl creates a steam-trap which improves the texture and crust.   It’s a beautiful bread, which really should be made more often!  It’s not just for St. Patrick’s Day!

Take a look at our video playlist for all technique videos to help you!

  https://www.youtube.com/user/DearMartiniKitchen

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Irish Soda Bread  (Makes 1 loaf)

3 cups all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ cups buttermilk

½ teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the flour and combine the remaining flour with the salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.  Use a wooden spoon to create a well in the flour and add the buttermilk a little at a time and mix gently and quickly until the mixture forms into a shaggy, sticky mass.

Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out from the bowl.   Flour your hands and begin to gently knead the dough together, lifting and folding over and turning 45° each time you fold.   Knead in this manner 8 – 12 times.  The dough should come together quickly and don’t worry if it’s not totally smooth.  There is no need to knead vigorously — this is a quickbread, so you’re trying to achieve a tender bread, which is different from a yeast bread.  Use a plastic scraper to help you lift the dough as you shape it into a round about 7 inches in diameter.

Oil an aluminum nonstick baking sheet with the canola oil and place the dough on the sheet.  Sprinkle the reserved teaspoon of flour over the surface and using a sharp knife, make two intersecting ¼”-deep cuts across the top of the surface of the loaf to create a cross.

Place a stainless steel bowl upside-down over the bread and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes more.

Remove from oven and immediately remove from the baking sheet.  Let the bread cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Check out our YouTube Playlist for Irish Soda Bread here:  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1OJQwr1oUeRBbhRWAsR7sBJM0O5VF1_K

“Butter and jam!  Get the butter and jam!!!!”

ZEST FOR LIFE


It’s a fragrance that easily transports me… The heady aroma of lemon oil hits my nose.  I’m spiraling into a special place…  It’s the zest.  Lemon zest, to be exact, though pretty much the oils from any citrus peel will do it for me. RuBo tweets daily about the effects (benefits) of smoking tangerine zest*.

So, what is zest, anyway?  Is it an ingredient?  Is it a technique?  Is it a utensil? Here’s our first-ever compilation video treating the concept of zest.  Enjoy!

Don’t try this at home.

I used to hate to zest.  Now I live for it.

In the old days, zesting meant having to drag out that dented, rusty old box grater, dread mounting in my heart as I knew I’d also be skinning my knuckles, trying to get the treasured citrus peel off the fruit for my recipe.  Oh yes, picking out the zest from the clogged grater holes with the tip of my knife…  knowing I look like a complete idiot when I do that…  right, and then there’s that well-meaning-yet-equally-useless kitchen tip that suggests you cover the grater with a layer of parchment paper (or even more horrifically, plastic wrap) so you can “lift” up the zest from the grater … and presumably some bits of paper (or plastic) along with it.  No thanks.

But times are better now.  Now, peeling/zesting oranges (lemons, limes, tangerines… etc) is a snap.  Just make sure you’re using the right tool for the job/type of zest you need.

Why not try some for yourself?  I’ve included two of my favorite recipes.

Orange-Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies (makes about 36 cookies, depending on the size)

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

zest of 1 orange (microplaned or minced)

3 ¼ cups all purpose flour

2-3 cookie sheets covered with parchment or foil

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture is light and soft and fluffy.  Add the cinnamon and orange zest and beat for 2 minutes more to incorporate.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the flour by hand with a rubber spatula.  The dough will be soft.

Place a handful of the dough at a time on a lightly floured work surface.  Use a floured hand to press out the dough until it is about 3/8-inch thick – don’t make the dough too thin.  Cut out the shortbreads and place them on the prepared pans about 1 ½ inches apart.  They don’t spread, but they will puff up a bit during baking.

Continue until all of the dough has been rolled out and cut – you can press the scraps together and roll it out as well until all of the dough is used up.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes making sure they are just a very pale golden color.  Slide the parchment onto cooling racks.

Wild rice salad (serves 6-8)

1 cup wild rice

1/2 small red onion, small diced

1 stalk celery, small diced

1 small carrot, peeled and small diced

2 tablespoons julienned orange peel

½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse wild rice in a sieve under cold water, then combine with cold water to cover by 2 inches in a 5-quart pot. Simmer, covered, until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Wild rice is done when all of the seeds have split open.

Rinse the cooked wild rice in a sieve under cold water and drain. Stir together rice, onion, celery, carrot, orange zest, cranberries and pecans.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small jar, combine the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil and shake to emulsify.    Toss dressing with rice mixture and fresh parsley.  Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.

Salad can be kept for 3 days, covered and refrigerated.

*Ruth Bourdain is a fictitious character celebritweet with an equally fictitious penchant for deep, dark vices.  Do not smoke tangerine zest. In fact, don’t smoke anything; unless it’s using one of these.

CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!

Here at DearMartini, the chocolate soufflé is a recipe that is near and dear to our hearts.

I mean, who DOESN’T love a chocolate soufflé?  So sweet and warm… so rich and soft… so decadent yet light…and SO EASY TO MAKE!  

When we ask around, the general consensus is that soufflé-making is difficult and should be as feared as waking a sleeping dragon.  The truth is, it’s easy.  You only need to arm yourself with a few techniques and understand the basic principles of soufflé-making.

The chocolate soufflé also holds a special significance in DearMartini history.  It was the first thing Chef Mia ever asked Chef Terri to make when Terri was trying out for an intern position at Draeger’s Cooking School  (oh so many years ago…).

It was also the recipe that served as inspiration for the DearMartini library of bite-sized videos.  Check out this little video we made a while back — when we thought this might be a good idea for an iPhone app.  How quickly things change.

As a dessert for Valentine’s Day, it’s perfect; and almost fool-proof.  Want proof?  Watch this video.  Tom didn’t know what he was doing, but he followed the recipe instructions and they came out beautifully!  We can’t guarantee you’ll have Chef Terri by your side, but if you need some extra help, hit the helpful links to watch a short video.  To guide you, we’ve created this video portfolio which holds all of the how-to videos in one place for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Long Live the Chocolate Soufflé!

Chocolate Souffle

Makes twelve 4-ounce individual soufflés

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus an additional tablespoon for greasing ramekins
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs, separated
½ cup sugar, plus an additional 2 tablespoons for dusting ramekins
pinch of salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Prepare the ramekins by generously butter soufflé dish and sprinkle with sugar, knocking out excess.

Melt butter and chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage (when it is pale and thick and ribbons, when lifting the whisk, the mixture will fall back into the bowl, leaving a trail before sinking in).   Stir in the chocolate mixture.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl until they just hold stiff peaks. Stir about 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then add mixture to remaining whites, folding gently but thoroughly.

Spoon into a ramekin until it comes over the top and use a straight-edged spatula to level off.  Run your thumb around inside edge of the ramekin (this will help soufflé rise evenly and create that elegant “Top Hat“).

Bake in middle of oven until puffed and crusted on top but still jiggly in center, 14 to 16 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Chef Mia’s Souffle Basics:

1)  Every soufflé is made from two basic components:

  • Egg yolk base – provides the flavor
  • Whipped egg whites – whites provide the “lift”

2)  Whether you are making a sweet or savory soufflé the basic sequence is as follows:

  • Bring all ingredients to room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven.
  • Butter a straight-sided soufflé dish or individual ramekins.  Remember, now is the time to be meticulous, make sure bottom and sides of dish are completely covered with a thin layer of butter. 
  • Sprinkle dish with sugar, breadcrumbs, cheese, or flour depending on your recipe.
  • Make egg yolk base.  Be sure to beat to the ribbon stage.
  • Beat room-temperature egg whites to stiff peaks.  Perfectly whipped stiff peak whites are firm, shiny, and moist, not crystalline.  Copper bowls work the best as the albumen reacts to copper and gives the fluffiest whites, but copper is not requisite and a clean stainless steel bowl works well.
  • Lighten the base with about a half-cup of fluffy whites.  Then fold in the remaining whites in two or three additions.
  • Cook the soufflé low in the oven.
  • Serve soufflé as soon as possible between removing the soufflés from the oven and their consumption.  Soufflés will begin to sink almost immediately once  removed from the oven.

Remember, kings wait for soufflés; soufflés do not wait for  kings!

And be fearless and cook with confidence . . . “They fall if they know you are afraid of them”,  James Beard