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Posts Tagged ‘brown butter’

These days, I bake to get out of my head.  It’s easy to get so far into your head when you’re studying that I think a good way to unwind is to do something with your hands.  Anything that is tangible and quiet to get away from the noise in your head is a welcomed pause in the chaos of modern living.

I had a choice between a Chez Panisse fruit crisp or a Melissa Clark cobbler.  Both equally sounded like a fabulous place for a set of over-ripe nectarines to rest in peace.  I ended choosing the Melissa Clark one because it was different and it had browned butter.  End of story.

This was probably the most appropriate study break ever.  Thirty minutes tops to create a mess and wipe up, and back to studying I go.  Most of the time study breaks stretch out to an hour or an hour and half because of the number of steps involved.  Shh :P

This is probably the first cobbler I really enjoyed in recent memory.  It has so many nice textural components from the crunchy bits of sliced almonds to the chewy bits of the barely-formed buttery cake.  Then, there is the custardy middle, and the subtle tang of buttermilk.  Oh, and it’s fast to put together.  That’s always a plus.  What’s there not to like? :)

Brown Butter Nectarine Cobbler/ Cake

Printable Recipe

Adapted from the Melissa Clark Brown Butter Nectarine Cobbler/ Cake (via New York Times)

3 cups of nectarines or peaches, sliced in 1 inch thick pieces

3 ounces granulated sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 ounces flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 c buttermilk

1/4 c sliced almonds

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons Demerara sugar

1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the fruit slices, 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer, then take the pan off the heat.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it smells very nutty, turns golden, and flecks of dark brown appear, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the brown butter into an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the batter on top of the brown butter, use a spatula to even out the batter but be careful not to mix it into the butter. Scatter the nectarine slices and juice on top of the batter without stirring. Sprinkle with the almonds, nutmeg and Demerara sugar. Bake until golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm.

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Brown does not picture well.  It generally does not cause a run of a thousand cravings that secretly plot conquest and domination.  (Unless it is shiny and luscious, but chocolate belongs in its own category.)  No, brown is more background than inspiration–a certain plainness that leaves us pausing and struggling to muster enthusiasm.

Understandably, I was baffled by my own attraction to this pecan cornmeal butter cake.  It is certainly brown.  Pecans, especially ones that have been roasted are a caramelized brown.   Beurre noisette (also known as browned butter), which infuses the entire cake, is also deeply amber brown.

Perhaps, I am attracted to my own cake opposite–something that is unstructured and not fussy.  Sure, the show-stopping cakes are fabulous to rave about, but when it comes down to it, I want something that is unspectacular and brings me back down to earth.  There was something carefree about this cake that I liked–something about the plain nutty hue of the cake base and the syrupy macerated berries that cascaded down the soft dollop of freshly whipped cream.

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A friend asked me once why I fussed over the gift-packaging.  I mean, I was the kind of person who followed the Japanese gift-wrapping instruction books or took to my own inspiration and combined random origami elements together.  She noted that people just rip open the package to look at the contents inside, which would make my attempts fruitless.  However, I also noted that when you see a fancy gift package, you also realize the person may have spent a little more time wrapping the present.  In other words, the person was thinking of you in creating a “complete” gift–fancy wrapping paper, colorful ribbon, and all.

As a gift-giver, I worry about a lot of things.  I want the gift to be thoughtful, appropriate, and pretty!  Sometimes, it’s impossible to meet all those criteria because there are so many variables I am assessing simultaneously that I overlook something.  As much as I want to understand and anticipate the will-she-like it answer, I have to expect that I do not think of everything.

In any case, this night was a slightly special night to give an early congratulations to a friend who is waiting to hear back from the last of the medical schools.  (See, I will not be physically here to celebrate, so I thought I might as well offer the toast and some goodies before I head back to San Francisco this weekend.)  I guess I am kind of like the Food Fairy–I bring goodies to all that I befriend O-O.  Well, you see me, so I guess I am not that magical…

Although it was a drive I have done many times before, I focused on rehearsing this little speech.  I have never done that before since all of my previous visits were casual.  This time, I felt that I needed to elaborate on my intentions because I omitted the complementary greeting car.  Haha, bad idea because I think I was a bit unnatural.  (My public speaking instructor should whack me in the head since I did the very thing he told us not to do for public speaking–that is, memorizing and reciting a speech word-for-word.)  Plus, I feel horrible that I forgot to respond to a “hello.”  Poo on my poor social graces.

In any case, I am sure that my friend and her family enjoyed the goods anyway, but yes, I tend to second-guess myself frequently.  I always think in terms of the worst case scenario.  What if this happened?  But if I do this, that will happen?  Gosh, the second-guessing never ends, which is bad in terms of making brown butter…

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