SHORTBREAD

19 February 2009

sp-stbread-cookies-sables

SHORTBREAD :

JUST CALL ME MELLOW YELLOW : Field Guide to Butter & Baking

Recently I have been reading the book TASTE by Kate Colquhoun, in which she describes the creation of English butter as an accident! When people travelled, cream was stored in leather pouches, which bumped and jostled along the route, until it thickened and turned into butter.

I remember learing how to make butter in kindergarden, it was like a field trip – but in the classroom! First we had to quietly get into a straight line (which was easier said than done for 15 little girls) and then each of us was given a glass jar, into which the teacher poured lovely thick cream. Tightly closing the lid, we shook the jars, watching in amazement as pale yellow islands gradually formed. Pouring out the remaining milk, we pressed the butter to remove excess water, rinsed & dried each cube & voila homemade butter!

Butter may have been simple to make but I’ve found that  it can be delicate to cook with, especially when it comes to baking. The New York Times has a great article on how butter holds the key to making great cookie, which seemed particularly appropriate to my current post, as one of only three main ingredients used is BUTTER!

THE BUTTER GUIDE – Here is a snippet:

  • Cold butters ability to hold air is the key to prefect dough / pastry!
  • Creaming butter softens it & adds the air bubbles
  • Preparing refrigerated butter for creaming: Cut butter into cubes, spread out on a plate & leave at room temp (do not use microwave or oven)
  • Ready to cream test: when butter is still cool but takes a finger imprint when gently pressed
  • Cream for at least 3 minutes at medium speed

SHORTBREAD

{SOUPE FROIDE AUX ASPERGES BLANCHES ET A LA VANILLE} While I know that the asparagus season is officially coming to a close, I wanted to sneak in one last recipe, as there are still bunches of white asparagus appearing in our farmers market, and next spring is a full 365 days away!!

Do not be fooled by my images…. what looks like a sumptuous vanilla cream is actually CHILLED white asparagus soup with the added touch of vanilla bean. This was an intentional trompe l’oeil  (AKA fooling of the eye), which demonstartes my love of taking ingredients, typically used in sweet recipes and using them in savoury ones (& vice versa). The outcome is an awaking of the senses!

Our senses need a wake-up call from time to time, as we all find ourselves EATING THE SAME THING week in week out – does this sound at all familiar???  The problem is not a lack of ingredients or imagination, but more of falling into the cooking comfort zone….  and while I love my traditional asparagus soup, things needed to be shaken up a little – so I removed the onion, added the vanilla bean + white pepper and dropped the temperature to a cool summer chill.  

Besides, it really is too HOT to cook, & heating a saucepan for 10 minutes is my outside limit at the moment!

WHITE ASPARAGUS FACTS

  • AKA spargel – the German name for asparagus (where most asparagus is white!)
  • Grown covered in soil to avoid photosynthesis preventing the shoots from turning green
  • This produces a less bitter, more tender, sweet taste
  • Season is from April to June

VANILLA BEAN FACT

  • Name : derived from the Spanish vainilla meaning “little pod”
  • Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid flower, grown in the form of a bean pod
  • Originated in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Now grown in Madagascar (3/4 world’s supply), Tahiti : see Chocolate & Zuccini blog, Mexico…
  • Over 110 vanilla orchid varieties
  • 1 variety, vanilla planifolia (Bourbon vanilla), produces the majority of commerical vanilla beans
  • Hand harvested, rinsed, & rolled in blankets to “sweat”, then gently dried in the sun
  • Uses: INSIDE – of the bean is used to flavour cakes, ice cream, sweets, drinks etc. PODS – Keep & dry, placing them in a container of white sugar, to give a vanilla perfume. POWDER – finely grind the dried pod and use in cooking!

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RECIPE

PEAR JAM

19 September 2007

Pear and vanilla jam

PEAR JAM with VANILLA BEAN

Seasonal fruit…. a delicacy, a rejuvenation of the senses and a welcomed change with each calender month that passes. But I find it sad how people seem to be increasingly unaware of which fruit belongs to which season and thus buy on a craving basis. It is no wonder though… with the grocery stores offering strawberries, peaches, mangoes, melon… (I could go on here) 365 days a year! Unless you have tasted a hand picked, perfectly ripe, home grown fruit, how are your sense suppose to know the difference.

I am getting off my soapbox … and have decided to dedicate this post to THE PEAR‘poire william’ to be exact, currently in season and picked from the farm trees a few days ago.

There are two main types of pears in Europe, the Anjou and the William (or Bartlett as they are known in North America) Anjou pears are a hardy winter pear, light green in colour and available from the autumn through to spring. Whereas the William pears are a sweeter variety (great for jam making) golden yellow with a fleck of red and ready to pick from late summer through the autumn.

RECIPE

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