Monthly Archives: December 2017

EAST TEXAS DONUTS

I have been promising to make donuts with my grandson for so long that I am sure he began to see it as one of those promises that never get fulfilled. Finally, I was able to make good when he spent the night with us while his parents had a late evening. On such occasions, it has been our tradition to walk across the street for sushi at a little neighborhood sushi bar (Remember this is LA!) This time we got our sushi fix, came back home, and watched a movie. I had already made the donut dough and let it rest in the refrigerator. In the morning, my grandson was up early, anticipating the donut making and eating the results. I pulled the dough out of the refrigerator and rolled it out so we could cut, fry, and eat until Mom and Dad came by to pick up our charge.

The recipe comes from our family cookbook, but the original source was a dear friend of Mom Mom, my mother-in-law who lived in East Texas. Mom Mom lived on the farm, and Elizabeth lived in the city (population 400), but they visited often with one another and belonged to the same quilting circle. One time many years ago, Elizabeth brought a batch of freshly made donuts to the farm. They were so good that Mom Mom asked for and got the recipe. It should be understood that fried donuts are a great tradition in East Texas. There were Krispy Kremes before it was cool, and one of our must-stops on any trip to the farm was Bobby Jo’s Donut Palace in Fairfield.

Elizabeth Montgomery was an excellent cook. I have written about her kitchen exploits before when I wrote about East Texas Casserole. This recipe is another of her contributions that became a welcome addition to our family repertoire. These donuts are raised rather than cakes and fried rather than baked. We used a small donut cutter, so they are not as big as Krispy Kremes, but a bigger cutter would bring them closer to that pinnacle. Eat them plain or add whatever kind of sugar bomb you choose. We shook them in a bag of sugar – plain, powdered, or cinnamon – and that was all they needed.

RECIPE

Elizabeth Montgomery’s East Texas Donuts

Ingredients

  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • ½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6½ cups all-purpose flour
  • canola or peanut oil for frying
  • sugar, powdered sugar, and cinnamon for coating

Method

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside to proof.
  2. Melt the butter and transfer to a very large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk, water, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has cooled a bit. Stir in the proofed yeast.
  3. Add beaten eggs and salt. Then stir in the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition of flour. The dough will be very soft.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. When you are ready to make the donuts, work with half of the dough while keeping the other half cold in the refrigerator. It is important to make sure the dough remains chilled while you work with it. On a heavily floured work surface, roll the dough into a circle about ¼ inch thick. The cold dough will not absorb the flour, and the flour will keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or the work surface.
  6. Using a donut cutter, cut out the donuts. Finish with the second half of the dough when you are ready.
  7. Cover the donuts (and donut holes) with a clean cloth and let them rise for about 30 minutes before frying them.
  8. Fry the donuts, 3 or 4 at a time,  in canola or peanut oil heated to 350°F, turning the donuts so they are nicely browned on both sides. Remove to a cooling rack or several layers of paper towels on a brown paper sack.
  9. Shake, one at a time, in brown paper lunch bags containing sugar, powdered sugar, or sugar and cinnamon. Serve while still warm.

Yield

  • The recipe makes about 2½ dozen donuts.
  • If that’s too many, you can freeze half the dough for another day of donuts.

 

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH SHAKSHUKA

With winter here, squash and root vegetables are at their zenith in the kitchen. Butternut squash is one of the favorites, and it’s a favorite of mine, too. At the same time, preparations can get a little bit boring. Butternut squash soup is on many menus, roasted squash cubes appear on the internet, and mashed squash, sautéed squash, and candied squash are all in abundance. We had a squash consigned to the vegetable drawer while we were out of town. Even though squash seems to keep forever, this one really needed to be eaten.  I tried to think of something a little novel. The hollow in the base of the butternut just seems to beg to be stuffed with something, but what? I thought of tomatoes and then baked eggs. Why not combine them all? That sounded like shakshuka, although what I finally came up with is definitely not shakshuka even though it uses similar flavorings and food combinations. My final dish turned out to be tasty, and it used up that butternut squash.

RECIPE

Butternut Squash Shakshuka

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • Greek yogurt

Method

  1. Wash, dry, and split the squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and membranes from the cavities. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in each of the cavities. Arrange the squash halves on a baking sheet and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F. When the butter has melted, about 5 minutes, brush some of it on the squash flesh. Continue to bake for 30-40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato, bell pepper, tomato paste, garlic, and cumin. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are wilted and the juices have been released. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Test the squash for doneness with a kitchen fork. When the flesh is soft and easily pierced, remove from the oven. Partly fill each of the squash cavities with the tomato mixture, leaving enough room for the eggs.
  4. Top each of the cavities with an egg and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the egg whites have set and the yolk is still runny. Watch carefully at this point to make sure the egg does not overcook.
  5. Remove from the oven, season with salt and pepper, and transfer to individual serving dishes.
  6. Spoon on 1 or 2 tablespoons of yogurt and serve immediately while still hot.

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PAIN PERDU – NEW ORLEANS-STYLE FRENCH TOAST

We have been spending several days in San Francisco, watching two of our grandsons while their parents are off to London and Paris for a cooking demonstration along with “professional observation and study” of some amazing restaurants in both cities. I have been in charge of packing lunches, and each evening I look at the lunch boxes to see what has been eaten. It is usually a big let-down but also a stimulus to pack something they will eat. Pirate’s Booty seems to be a sure-fire winner. Keep in mind that they are six and three years old. Still.

Susan and I have been sharing breakfast duties. Of course, there are always toast soldiers and dry (no milk!!) Cheerios to proffer, but that gets monotonous, even for the cook. So far, Susan has been the winner with plates that include maple syrup or – the kids’ favorite – Louisiana cane syrup from Shreveport. Taking a cue, and wondering what to do with a dried-out hard loaf of French bread that Sarah had left after using part of it for Thanksgiving dressing, I decided to make French toast.

“French toast” apparently got its name in England; there are other names for the dish in other countries. In France and New Orleans it is known as “pain perdu” i.e. “lost bread”. I’m not sure about Paris, but I am certain that it is a staple in New Orleans. Most of the cafes and bistros that are open for breakfast in the French Quarter feature it.

Honestly, I am not a big fan of French toast like my mother used to make. Slices of store-bought sandwich bread dipped in egg and fried always seemed like  a soggy egg and toast. But pain perdu is a totally different experience. Done properly the dish should be puffy and golden with a crisp outside and a custardy inside. The secret is to use good-quality dry bread and give it enough time to soak up the egg and cream bath.

RECIPE

Pain Perdu

Ingredients

  • slices of dried French bread
  • eggs (one egg for each slice of bread)
  • cream (½ cup for each slice of bread)
  • Vanilla sugar (1 tablespoon for each slice of bread) Note: you can make vanilla sugar by placing a vanilla bean in a covered container filled with sugar and letting stand overnight. Alternatively, you can substitute  plain sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • unsalted butter (1 tablespoon for each slice of bread)

Method

  1. Arrange bread slices in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer
  2. Beat the eggs well and then combine with cream, sugar, and if needed, vanilla extract.
  3. Pour the egg mxture over the bread slices, turning the bread once before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating overnight. Turn occasionally to make sure both sides of bread absorb the egg mixture.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-low flame. Add butter and heat until the butter stops foaming. Add the soaked bread and fry until both sides are golden. Serve immediately with syrup or fruit compote.

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