Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

This is a fantastic treat for Halloween. I wish I could say that it was a great way to use up all those seeds you scooped out of your pumpkin when you were making your jack-o-lantern, but I can't. Because unless you're willing to hull all your seeds by hand, you need to buy them already hulled. So go ahead and toast your pumpkin seeds and eat those as a snack while you make a batch of this addictive confection. Move over peanuts.

Makes 12 servings (as part of tapas buffet)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup (4 oz.) green, hulled pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas), raw—not toasted

1.      Put a 24- by 12-inch sheet of parchment on a work surface and anchor corners with pieces of tape. Or you can use a silpat if breaking the brittle instead of cutting (omit the tape). Have a second sheet of parchment ready.
2.      Bring sugar, water, and sea salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cook mixture, without stirring, washing down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, until syrup registers 238° F. (soft-ball stage) on thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes (sugar syrup will be colorless).
3.      Remove sugar syrup from heat and stir in seeds with a wooden or silicone spoon, then continue stirring until syrup crystallizes, 3 to 4 minutes.
4.      Return pan to moderate heat and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar melts completely, (sugar will continue to dry and become grainy before melting) and turns a deep caramel color, about 15 minutes or more (seeds will be toasted).
5.      Carefully pour hot caramel mixture onto parchment and carefully cover with another sheet. Immediately roll out (between sheets of parchment) as thinly as possible with a rolling pin, pressing firmly. Remove top sheet of parchment and immediately cut brittle into pieces with a heavy knife or pizza wheel.
6.      Cool brittle completely, then peel paper from bottom. (Alternately, break brittle into pieces once cool.) Brittle can be made 2 weeks ahead and kept, layers separated by wax paper, in an airtight container.

from Gourmet, January 2005 (procedure slightly tweaked)
hulled pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas)
sugar, water and salt cooking

My sugar syrup wasn't colorless because I used evaporated
cane sugar (which is browner than regular sugar).
approaching 238° F.
adding the pumpkin seeds

So far it looks normal, but as you'll see, it
starts to really dry out, the more you heat/stir.
getting bubbly
Okay, now you're starting to wonder
why it's getting thicker and weird.
Now it's so thick you're thinking you've
screwed up and it's not going to work.
Now you're cursing at your pan because
you're convinced after all this stirring that
you'll have nothing to show for it.
And now it looks like sand and you're realizing you can't
even throw this stuff away until it cools off, so you
might as well keep stirring and pray for a miracle.'s starting to melt again!
miracles do happen
ready to pour
I used a silpat (silicone mat) because I was
planning on breaking my brittle, not cutting
it (you don't want to slash your silpat).
spread out and ready to roll

FYI: this is a double batch.
rolling out with a piece of parchment on top
cooled and parchment removed
pumpkin seed brittle


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shrimp Burgers with Roasted Garlic-Orange Aioli

You know I didn't bake burger buns just because I was bored (actually, that does sound like something I would do). But not this time. This time it was for shrimp burgers! I like trying out new non-meat burgers and this one was really lovely. I appreciated the fact that all the other ingredients enhanced the shrimp's flavor, instead of overpowering it, allowing the shrimpiness to really shine through.

Yield: 4 patties

Roasted garlic-orange aioli:
1 head garlic
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
freshly ground black pepper

Shrimp burgers:
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fennel, from one small bulb (fronds reserved)
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel fronds
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon zest from 1 orange
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, finely chopped by hand
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons roasted garlic-orange aioli
toasted hamburger buns for serving (light brioche buns are nice)

Roasted garlic-orange aioli:
1.      Roast the garlic: Heat oven to 400º F. Peel away the outer skin of 1 garlic head, and cut off top ¼ to ½ inch of the head to expose the individual cloves. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the garlic head, wrap in foil, and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cloves are soft when pressed. Cool, then squeeze the cloves from their skin. Mash the cloves and set aside.
2.      In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil, then the grapeseed oil; begin with small drizzles, then whisk in a thin stream until the mayo is very thick. Whisk in a pinch of salt and then the orange juice, a little at a time (you may not need the full amount), orange zest and the roasted garlic paste. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Shrimp burgers:
1.      In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel and shallots and cook until they start to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and cook about 3 minutes longer; you want the pepper to soften but retain its texture. Remove from the heat. Mix in the fennel fronds, chives, and orange zest.
2.      In a bowl, combine the shrimp with the sautéed vegetable-herb mixture and salt and pepper (to taste). Fold in aioli, a teaspoon at a time, to just bind the burgers. Form into four patties, and refrigerate until ready to cook.
3.      Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a pan (cast iron works well) over medium-high heat and fry the patties until golden, about 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
4.      Spread the aioli on both sides of the toasted buns; serve the shrimp burgers with your favorite condiments, such as a big leaf of butter crunch lettuce.

barely adapted from (added by EmilyC)
raw garlic
roasted garlic
whisking oil into the egg yolks for the aioli
fennel, red pepper, shallots and chives
shallots cooking
red pepper added
adding the fennel fronds, chives and orange zest
vegetables and herbs mixed
raw shrimp
chopped shrimp mixed with vegetables/herbs & aioli
raw shrimp burgers
cooking the shrimp burgers
putting aioli on a shrimp burger

My aioli was a little thin...I think trying to take photos
while I was whisking had something to do with it
(hopefully yours will be a little thicker). Making it the
day before also helps (it thickens slightly in the fridge).
shrimp burger with roasted garlic-orange aioli
on a light brioche bun

Monday, October 22, 2012

Light Brioche Buns

I've always wanted to make my own burger buns because I think that's one of the things that separates a good burger from a great one. Of course there isn't always time. But if you're planning on being close to home, this is a great recipe that doesn't require much hands-on time (it's mostly rising/baking). I'm assuming it's called light because traditional brioche is richer. But while these buns don't have as much eggs and butter as the original, they're still moist and definitely richer than your average bun (plus they won't fall apart on you). For a true restaurant experience, I recommend lightly toasting them. You'll think you're in a nice bistro.

Yield: 8

1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1.      In a glass measuring cup, combine the 1 cup warm water, milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat 1 of the eggs.
2.      In a large bowl, whisk both the flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, unfloured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
3.      Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
4.      Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.
5.      Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400º F. with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns.
6.      Bake the buns, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

from The New York Times (adapted from Hidefumi Kubota, Comme Ça, Los Angeles)
adding yeast to water, milk and sugar
rubbing the butter into the flours/salt
adding the yeast mixture and egg
mixed, rough dough

I couldn't find my dough scraper, so I used
the widest silicone spatula I could find.
dough after slapping it around for a few minutes
shaped into a ball (before rising)
after rising
separated into 8 pieces
rolled into buns (before rising)
after rising
brushing with egg wash

After you brush them, you can sprinkle them
with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if you like.
brushed with egg wash
It's okay that some were touching a you
can see, they're easily pulled apart with no harm.
light brioche bun
the inside (soft and fabulous)