Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chrusty for Fat Thursday

The highlight of any Polish sweets table for me is chrusty. Mounded high on platters and dusted with powdered sugar, these delicate, airy confections are subtly sweet and crisp yet melt-in-your-mouth tender. They're also highly addictive; it's impossible to stop at just one. 
You'll see them often at Polish celebrations but they're also one of the traditional indulgences of Poles on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday and one of the last feast days before the Catholic Lenten fast begins on Ash Wednesday. My mother's friend Irena's are the best I've ever had and she very generously shared her family recipe so that we can make them too.

 Chrusty
makes about 50

Ingredients:
80g/4 large egg yolks
pinch salt
1 tbsp vodka
1-1/2 tsp white vinegar
1-1/2 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
125g/scant 1 cup all-purpose flour

454g/1lb shortening or lard for frying

115g/1/2 cup icing sugar 

Method:
In a medium bowl, whip the egg yolks and salt on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the vodka, vinegar, sour cream and vanilla and beat 1 minute or until incorporated. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and mix until a ball of dough forms. The dough will be quite sticky. Turn it out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic with a slight sheen, like pasta dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the shortening. Place it in a large, deep skillet or a shallow dutch oven over medium heat, or in an electric fry pan, and heat to 175C/350F.

Once the dough has rested, divide it in two and working with one piece while the rest remains well-wrapped, roll it out into a circle about 30cm in diameter and 2mm thick, dusting the dough and work surface with flour as needed. The dough should be thin enough to read a newspaper through.

Alternatively, if you have a pasta maker, divide the dough into three portions. Working with one piece while the remaining portions are well-wrapped, dust it with flour and roll it through the machine twice each on settings 1, 3 and 5, and once on setting #6.

To shape the chrusty, cut the dough into 4cm wide strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 10-12cm lengths. Cut a 5cm slit lengthwise in the centre of each piece, then pass one end of the strip through it and pull gently. Transfer the shaped chrusty to a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan and cover them with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying.

Repeat the rolling, cutting and shaping with the remaining dough.

Cover some cooling racks or sheet pans with 2 layers of paper towel.

To fry the chrusty, make sure your melted shortening is at 175C/350F. Add a few chrusty to the hot shortening without overcrowding the pan. They will sizzle and start to puff immediately. After about 30 seconds, once the sizzling has subsided and the bottoms are a pale golden, turn them and fry the other side for about 20 seconds or until the bottoms are the same pale golden shade. Remove them immediately - a fork inserted through the opening works really well - first allowing the excess shortening to drip back into the pan, and place them on the paper towels in a single layer to drain. If they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat under the fat and if they take longer than one minute to cook, raise the heat. Continue cooking them in small batches.

Once they've cooled completely, use a sieve to sprinkle them with icing sugar. Since there's no sugar in the dough, be generous!

To store, stack them gently in containers and cover them loosely with plastic wrap.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sunday in Paris Chocolate Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Tuesdays with Dorie members are baking up something sweet and chocolate-y again, another of the "Fancy Cakes" from the book Baking Chez Moi. The "fancy" part of the rather easy-to-make peanut-chocolate butter cake is in its presentation, either as mini loaves or a sleek oblong topped with dark chocolate ganache, chopped peanuts and chocolate shards.
Lacking the recommended pans, I baked the batter in a heart-shaped pan, and while I was about making changes, frosted the cake with whipped ganache, adding three times the cream to the chocolate, whipping it once it cooled.
We really enjoyed the cake: it had a deep, rich chocolate flavour that was balanced by the peanut butter and peanuts and it wasn't very sweet. But I think I over-baked it by a few minutes since it was a bit dry when I served it at room temperature (though next day's leftovers were quite moist straight from the fridge). 

It was a fun cake to try but if I were to make it again, I would bake as minis and decorate as the recipe directs as I think its appearance is part of its charm.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Marcella Hazan's Pasta Bolognese

Much has been written about Marcella Hazan's Bolognese meat sauce recipe and once you've tried it, I think you'll agree that the accolades are well-deserved. It was one of the first recipes I made from her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and it, alone, is worth the price of the book. 
This rich and meaty pasta sauce is flavoured with simple ingredients: onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes. Slow cooked for five hours, first in milk, then wine, then finally with tomatoes, the meat becomes tender and almost silky and the vegetables dissolve into its saucy goodness. It freezes well so you'll want to make a double batch, half to enjoy now and the rest for a day when you don't have five hours but still want a fantastic dish of pasta.

The recipe can be found here if you would like to try it yourself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Granola Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Our second project this month from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi was a snack cake that incorporated ready-made granola. Since I had none on hand, I made a batch of Crunchy Granola from the book.
Packed with toasted oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, and chocolate, it tasted good but I still prefer my granola for breakfast with some plain yogurt.

Visit here to see what the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers thought