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Cornmeal Crusted Soft Shell Crab with Buttermilk Apple and Chive Coleslaw


This remarkably quick meal is a colorful and crunchy way to use the insanely good soft shell crabs that are coming into season right now.  I made this for my husband and I a few nights ago, and was so pleased with the speed to wow ratio.  But in addition it was so so so good that we craved the exact same thing for dinner the following night with the extra crabs I bought to photograph for the blog.

Though the crabs need to be served immediately after pan-frying, they take just minutes, and so still could be a great alternative for a small group BBQ, turning out crabs as you would burgers off the grill.  You can also skip the rolls and just serve them atop a salad of greens and slaw.

I also highly recommend trying the same recipe using thick green tomato slices in place of the crabs later in the summer.  Oh, how I love cooking during these months...

 

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Buttermilk Honey Wheat English Muffins
 



I don't know about you, but I am a tad worn out from all of the high-spirited holidays that have been crammed into the calendar as of late.  Earth Day, Easter, Passover, National Eggs Benedict Day (I wish I was kidding), Arbor Day, May Day, Cinco De Mayo, and even a wedding of the century thrown in there.  I'm feeling a little tapped out for brilliant ideas to mark this weekend's Mother's Day.

So when in doubt, I go homemade.  English Muffins, that is.

I did some tinkering with the dough, including a few highly hockey puckable versions, and came up with one that has a full flavor and tender texture.  The addition of buttermilk (ah-hem, something to do with all that you have leftover from making your own butter) gives these a wonderful sour flavor, not unlike (a shortcut) sourdough.  The sourness, the sweet honey and the nutty wheat make these perfect for a slathering of oozy stinky cheese and a drizzle of honey or fig preserve, or use the bounty of the spring and smear on some strawberry rhubarb jam.  English muffins have long been my favorite hamburger buns, and don't for get our national treasure (see above) Eggs Benedict.

As with store bought english muffins, these are fine with a little butter right out of the oven, but really show their stripes when "fork split" (poke all around the side with the tines of a fork, to divide the top and bottom, and gently pull the top and bottom apart to reveal the nooks and crannies), and then lightly toasted to crunch up the hole-y texture.

Make them a day or two before, toast them up, and bring them on a tray to the bedside of your favorite mom.  Instruct her devour them with her pinky up, channeling the Duchess of Cambridge.  English indeed.

BUTTERMILK HONEY WHEAT ENGLISH MUFFINS

Makes 18 three inch muffins or one dozen four inch muffins.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
cornmeal, for dusting

Place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle yeast over the surface.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Yeast will turn the water cloudy and the surface will froth some.

In a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer, comine bread flour, wheat flour and salt.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in yeast mixture, buttermilk, and honey.  Either using your hands or the paddle of a stand mixture, combine the ingredients throughly, until you have a shaggy dough.  Change to a stand mixer dough hook, or pour the dough onto a well-floured surface, and knead for 8-10 minutes.  Form dough into a large ball.

Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl.  Place the dough in the bowl, turning gently to coat with oil.  Cover lightly with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for sixty to ninety minutes.

Gently stretch the dough into a "pancake" that is about a half inch thick, on a floured surface.  Using a round biscuit cutter (you could also use a knife and just make square muffins), cut out muffin shapes and transfer to a piece of parchment dusted liberally with cornmeal.  You can gently combine the "scraps" back together to cut out additional muffins.  Just be careful not to squeeze out all of the air in the dough.

Sprinkle tops of muffins with cornmeal, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise in a warm place for sixty to ninety minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place a large, lightly oiled skillet, on medium to medium-high heat.  Carefully transfer the muffins, so not to deflate the nooks and crannies, to the skillet and gently pan-fry until the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Carefully flip over to brown the top.  As soon as each muffin is ready, transfer to a baking sheet in the oven, and finish baking.  Transfer the muffins to the oven as they are ready, not waiting for the others to finish browning in the pan.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the muffin sounds hollow when thumped with a finger on the bottom.

Cool finished muffins on a baking rack.  The english muffins will keep for about 4 days in an airtight container.  To serve, fork-split, and toast.



 

 


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Homemade Butter


Ever since the first time I whipped my own fresh whipped cream, I have kept my gaze obcessively glued to it, in dreaded fear of over-whipping and having it turn into butter.  The horror!  Imagine!  And so to this day I anxiously sweat that critical make or break, stiff peak to useless butter, moment.

But wait...I can turn cream into butter?  Thus making my own butter?  And that easily?

Well, yes, yes, and yes.  I finally gave it a try this week, gleefully letting my mixer plow right through from beautiful lofty whipped cream to deflated heavier looking cream-paste to cheerful little golden globules of butter separating from ivory buttermilk.  And all in about ten minutes.  The transformation was kind of thrilling, and the result revelatory.

A pint of heavy cream yielded about 6.5 ounces of butter and a cup and a half of buttermilk.  Pound for pound this is will end up being a bit more costly than store-bought.  However, I found the taste superior and just fresher all around, and it didn't have the "natural flavorings" that I just noticed on the ingredient list of my butter package.  I cannot wait to try it with the outstanding, abundantly flavorful, local cream from farmers at the markets.  There are also plenty of times when I have bought heavy cream for a recipe, or had extra whipped cream left over from a dinner, and wish I had used it to whip up some butter, rather than having it sit in my refrigerator waiting for another recipe to come up.

This is a remarkably easy process and tremendously satisfying.  Of all of the challenging and technical cooking projects I have attempted it is amazing that I haven't tried this before, as it is most definitely simpler than most.  Give it a try.  Slip some on the table at your next gathering.  "Oh that?  I just whipped that up."

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Olive Oil Everything Crackers


Here is another cracker recipe with which to send you off into the weekend!

This recipe and the Cornmeal and Chive Cracker recipe from earlier this week contrast each other nicely, and would make a sublime little cracker basket assortment.  This cracker is a little more subtle in flavor and more tender in texture than the other, so pairs nicely with soft, less powerful cheeses too.  With or without the everything seed mix and this is a perfect, versatile, go-to cracker recipe to have in your bag of tricks.


OLIVE OIL EVERYTHING CRACKERS
by Catie Schwalb

Makes about two dozen 2.5" diameter round crackers.  However, cut in any shape you fancy.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Everything Seed Mix:
1/2 teaspoon each of toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and flax seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (available in the spice aisle) (optional, for the true everything bagel flavor)

Heat oven to 350 ° F.

Mix together flour, whole wheat flour and salt.  Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the buttermilk and olive oil.  Mix either by hand, with a paddle of a stand mixer, or in a food processor until dough comes together.

Lightly dust with flour a silpat or piece of parchment paper that is the same size as your baking sheet. Roll out a portion of the dough right on the paper or silpat. Try to get it as thin and even as you are able, without creating holes, ideally around 1/16th of an inch. Lightly sprinkle with more flour if the rolling pin starts to stick.

Using cookie cutters, my new favorite tool: a Pasta Bike, pizza cutter or carefully with a knife, cut crackers in desired shape. Remove excess dough.  Brush lightly with water and sprinkle liberally with seed mix.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the sheet once in the oven about half way through. Crackers are ready when they are crisp and no longer pliable. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Will keep in an airtight container for a week.

 



 


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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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