Just like in Seinfeld’s “The Muffin Tops” where Elaine sets out to prove that nobody really wants to eat a whole muffin, we’re largely in the camp that believes that nobody really wants to eat a whole bagel. And judging by the range of “bagel-light” hybrids (flagel, crogel, and the like), we’re not alone. Bagels are big. They’re doughy. And even though they’re inevitably filled with something delicious, you still have to bite through an inch of starch to get to the stuff inside. In our opinion, the crust flavor and the filling are the selling points of a bagel. If we can get those flavors in something more delicate, let’s do it. So we turned to the airy cheese puffs known as gougères to see if they could replace our morning favorite.
We couldn’t let Christmas come and go without reposting this. It’s one of our earliest posts, but one of our very favorite recipes and something we make every single year for family parties. It just may be the toffee of your (my) dreams and while I may be indulging in a tiny bit of hyperbole, once you try it, you’ll know that I might be dramatic, but I am not a liar. In the past, I proclaimed this Salted Caramel Sauce the best thing ever and I stand by that. It’s just that there’s room on the pedestal for that sauce’s cousin from across the pond, real English toffee.
Why This Toffee Works
I’ve made a lot of toffee recipes over the years and this one is by far the tastiest and the easiest. It not only has a really nice balance of sweet and salty but a clever secret. The addition of a very small amount of corn syrup pretty much eliminates the danger of the sugar crystallizing (this has happened to us a few times, and can be a real bummer). This problem is caused when the sugar crystals start a chain reaction of crystallization (the process of sugar particles clinging together) which makes the mixture grainy. Once it happens there’s not much you can do about it, but there are a few things that will help prevent it from starting.
If, like me, you get a lot of your culinary inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram (I admit it, I’m completely addicted to both), you might well think that pumpkin and squash were the only vegetables available from September through November. Not true!
Don’t get me wrong, I love squash and that high-pitched squeal you heard was probably me squee-ing with excitement when the first delicatas arrived at the farmer’s market but a girl’s gotta mix it up a little, right?
Thus, our Brussels Sprout Pizza with Balsamic Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese was born.
Pimento cheese doesn’t have to be eaten in a sandwich – and neither does it need to contain pimento. Say what?! Before you flay us alive for our heresy, let us hurriedly explain that we replaced the pickled pepper with fermented home-made kimchi. And we, frankly, think it’s even better.
Pimento cheese, the iconic spread of the American south, turns out not to be very southern at all – at least in terms of its origins. It’s so associated with the south that it’s hard to imagine the spread (a mix of cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise and diced red pimentos) as coming from anywhere else, but our friends at Serious Eats did a little digging and discovered that pimento cheese actually got its start up north, in New York, as a way to market the burgeoning production of cream cheese.
In the 1870s, New York farmers started making a soft, unripened cheese, similar to Neufchâtel, that eventually evolved into cream cheese. Around the same time, Spain started exporting canned red peppers — or “pimiento” — to the United States. Eventually a combination of the cheese, peppers and mayonnaise became the spread we know today and like any good origin story, the lore soon outgrew its humble beginnings and pimento cheese became a staple of church picnics and neighborhood potlucks and fancy restaurants all over the southern U.S.
While most loved between two slices of bread, the cheese spread is versatile enough to lend itself to a variety of uses – as a dip, as a topping (think cheeseburgers, or our favorite, patty melts), and even as a stuffing for meats like chicken breasts, or pork chops.
Ramps (wild leeks) have a sweet, garlicky flavor that pairs beautifully with brown butter and caramelized oyster mushrooms. We pile this on top of toast that has been slathered with creamy ricotta cheese, making a delicious, simple appetizer.
[2018 update: we’re reposting this article originally published on the blog several years ago because firstly, we actually have ramps growing in our garden for the first time (!!!) and secondly, it’s a damn delicious recipe which for us, celebrates the foraging that starts in our area in Spring.]
If you have no idea what ramps are, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s some kind of disease that turns people into drooling, seasonal zombies. Because like Walkers, we (the afflicted) wander the countryside, arms outstretched, moaning “Raaaaamps. Raaaaaaaaaaamps.”
Come spring we wistfully scan shady hillsides for tell-tale green shoots. We travel great distances to far-flung farmers markets. We meet dodgy ramp dealers* in back alleys, taking our very lives in our hands, all in hope of scoring some of that delicious, garlicky goodness.
*Note: I have never actually met a dodgy ramp dealer but I bet they exist. I can just picture some bearded hippy dude standing on the corner whispering, “Pssst. Ramps. Meet me behind the compost bin in 5. Namaste.”
Call it winter blues, call it having a massive sweet tooth, or call it being homesick for my mother country’s dessert items, but over the last few weeks I’ve had a big old hankering for biscuits. Brits (and Commonwealth-based readers) will know exactly what I’m talking about, but just to make the point clear: I don’t mean American-style “biscuits”, the savory (sometimes cheesy) risen doughy product with a soft interior that you might slather with butter and eat for brunch. Neither are they exactly “cookies”, in the strictest sense.
What IS a biscuit?
If I was the dedicated type, this is where I might insert a Venn diagram of dessert snacks with a big circle in the middle representing the set of “cookies”, and another circle representing the set of “biscuits”. Depending on who you ask, “biscuits” might totally be a subset of “cookies” (i.e., all biscuits are cookies), or it may have a significant overlap (many biscuits are cookies, but not all), but it’s hard to make the argument that the two are completely separate. As for the “all biscuits are cookies” camp, while that may be technically true, if you asked me for a cookie and I gave you a Rich Tea biscuit you’d be pretty miffed. So here’s the best definition of “biscuit” that I can come up with:
A small, lightly sweetened, unrisen baked item, that will break with a snap (it should definitely not bend), and is typically eaten as a light snack with a drink (tea, coffee, milk). Some are a single layer (digestive or Rich Tea), and some comprise two layers sandwiched with a thin cream filling (custard creams, Bourbons).
If it helps you to think of them as “tea biscuits” or even “sweet crackers”, feel free. Of course, living in Britain, few people would go to the trouble of making a variety of a store-bought biscuit, since it’s a matter of minutes to pop into the nearest shop and pick some up. Here in the US, though, we’re just going to have to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves. And we’re going to start with the classic sandwich chocolate biscuit, the Bourbon.