Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Days Dinner

I had been thinking about making an extra special dinner for Valentine’s Day all week and I knew exactly what it would be. For special occasions I like to make Short Ribs with Polenta and vegetables and Beranbaum's Best Buns. I will often make this for a dinner party because the short ribs are that good. I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to make for dessert except that it had to be chocolate. The problem was this – I was intent on making a heart shaped cake but I could not find a heart shaped pan anywhere where I went shopping. I even went to the States on Saturday for a quick shopping trip and checked out three places including Target and I had no luck finding a heart shaped pan. I guess all the pans had been bought for Valentine’s Day and leaving it to the last minute didn’t help. The frustrating thing is that I will come across a heart shaped pan during the year and not pick it up because I figure I’ll get one closer to the occasion. Note to self: buy heart shaped pan when you see one.

At breakfast my husband Randy gave me a Valentine’s card and in it was a certificate for cooking lessons, privately or in a group, the choice was mine, with a chef. I looked at him and said “are you trying to tell me something?” In all honesty this is something I’ve always wanted to do so I was pretty happy. My gift to him was a nice bottle of wine to go with dinner, and I would bake a
chocolate cake (his favourite) for dessert.

For my birthday in September, my daughter gave me three Julie Child books; Mastering Vol. 1, My Life in France which I enjoyed very much and Julie & Julia by Julie Powell which I haven’t started yet. So I’ve been on a Julia Child kick lately - I even find myself thinking French phrases while making a JC recipe and I can’t speak French for beans, except that being Canadian you can’t but be exposed to some French. I had made a Reine de Saba (Chocolate and Almond Cake) iced with a Glaçages au Chocolate (Chocolate-butter icing) in the fall from Mastering Vol. 1 and it was quite good. So that's what I finally decided for dessert; it met the criteria for chocolate, and though it was baked in a round pan it was made from the heart.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine
by Bonnie Stern

· 6 lbs. short ribs, cut in thick chunks or strips
· 1 tbsp. each salt, pepper and smoked paprika or regular paprika
· 2 tbsp. olive oil
· 2 onions, chopped
· 3 cloves garlic, chopped
· 2 cups dry red wine
· 28 oz. plum tomatoes, crushed with juices
· 1 cup beef stock
· 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in Dutch oven or roasting pan. Brown short ribs well on all sides. Remove from pan. Discard all but a few tablespoons of oil.
Add onions and garlic. Cook until tender. Add wine. Bring to a boil. Add tomatoes and stock. Heat. Place ribs in sauce; cover directly with parchment paper and then with lid or aluminum foil.
Place in a 350 F. oven for 2½ to 3 hours or longer, until meat is very tender. Remove to serving plate and keep warm. Skim fat from the sauce. Reduce sauce, if necessary, by cooking without a cover until slightly thickened.
Combine the sauce with the ribs and sprinkle with parsley.
Note: If you like you can add a sprig of rosemary tied in cheesecloth to the sauce.
Beranbaum's Best Buns

These delicious, preservative-free buns can be made in just 3½ to 4 hours with no more than about 45 minutes of actual work — less than 30 minutes if using a food processor (see TIP, below). The recipe can be doubled and the extra baked buns frozen to have on hand for a speedy summer supper. The added crunch of sesame seeds sprinkled on top of the buns is nice; a mixture of seeds and grains kneaded into the dough provides still more fiber and flavor.
· 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, plus more as necessary
· ¼ cup whole-wheat flour
· 1¼ teaspoons instant yeast, such as rapid-rise or bread machine yeast
· 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
· 1⅓ cups room-temperature water
· 1 teaspoon mild honey, such as clover
· ¼ cup olive oil
· ¾ cup toasted mixed seeds, such as cracked flax, sesame, poppy, sunflower and pumpkin, or 1 tablespoon sesame seeds for the topping (optional)
Milk or water, for brushing the tops of the buns (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, whole-wheat flour and yeast, then the salt. Add the water, honey and oil. Using a mixer with a dough hook on medium speed, or by hand, knead the dough for 7 minutes (10 minutes by hand) until smooth and springy. The dough should be soft and just sticky enough to cling slightly to your fingers. If it is still very sticky, knead in a little flour. If it is too stiff, spray it with a little water and knead it. Allow the dough to rest, covered, for 20 minutes and then knead in the seeds, if desired.
Set the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise for about 1 hour or until it has doubled. (The indentation from a finger stuck into the center of the dough should remain.)
If you plan to bake the hamburger buns the next day, press down the dough and place it in a large, oiled resealable plastic food storage bag, leaving a tiny bit unzipped for the forming gas to escape, and refrigerate it. Take it out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before shaping.
When ready to shape the dough, set it on a very lightly floured work surface and form it into a log. With a sharp knife, divide it into 8 equal pieces. (If you prefer very large buns, you can divide the dough into 6 equal pieces.) Shape each piece into a ball by cupping your hand over the dough and rotating it. It works best if you use only as much flour as you need to keep the dough from sticking. A little resistance helps to form a round ball. Keep the balls of dough covered with damp paper towels to prevent drying; allow them to rest for 5 minutes.
Transfer the dough balls to a parchment-lined baking sheet or inverted sheet pan, leaving enough space between them to allow for a 4-inch bun. Flatten the balls to a height of about 1 inch. (If the dough is very elastic, you can flatten them again after 15 minutes of rising.) If using the sesame seeds, brush the dough lightly with milk or water and sprinkle with the seeds. Cover the balls with a large inverted plastic box or with plastic wrap lightly coated with baking spray, and allow them to rise for 1 to 1½ hours, or until almost doubled; when the dough is pressed gently with a finger, the depression should very slowly fill in.
While the dough is rising, set the oven rack toward the bottom of the oven and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it. Set a cast-iron skillet or heavy baking pan on the floor of the oven or on the lowest shelf. Preheat the oven to 425° degrees for 45 minutes or longer.
Mist the dough with water, quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet, and toss ½ cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door and bake 15 minutes. Rotate the pan front to back and bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until the buns are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read 200 to 210 degrees.) Transfer the buns to wire racks until they are completely cool or barely warm.
The Carrots and Brussel Sprouts recipe is in Epicurious and the Reine de Saba is in Julia Child's Mastering Vol 1. and if you don't have the book you can google it.


Melinda said...

I would love to eat this at home or in a restaurant! I looks great!
Rose's buns look so sweet all lined up like that! Ahhh!
I love their little slash on top.

Your cooking lesson is a wonderful gift...for you both really. I hope you will do a blog post about your cooking day. I sure have enjoyed my baking school in Bath. It was such fun!
Your chocolate cake looks yummy whether it is shaped as a heart or round. Typical, not to find what you want though. I have the same scenario many a time.

doughadear said...

I make Rose's buns quite often. The recipe is for hamburger buns (I haven't made them for hamburgers yet, maybe this summer) but they are perfect as small dinner rolls and delicious toasted for breakfast.

I am looking forward to the cooking classes. My husband was upset that he missed a Julia Child series by a few weeks that he thought would have been perfect for me so instead I will go to the school to meet with the co-ordinator to customize the classes to suit me. I am pretty excited.

Hanaâ said...

The buns look awesome! So perfectly round and all the same size. Great job!

How nice to get a cooking lesson from a chef!! I'm sure you'll have a LOT of fun.

doughadear said...

Thank you. I weigh the dough for each bun, that's why they are all the same size. It really doesn't take to me long to do this and I've done so many times that I have it down to an art.

I am really looking forward to the cooking lessons

SN said...

Everything looked absolutely devine. I love how you pair short ribs with the polenta! Looks amazing!

You know where I found the heart shaped pan? It's one of those with the removable top part...excuse my lack of baking words but you know those pans that you use for cheesecake where you can remove the top from the bottom? Well, I found a heart shaped one at the St. Lawrence Market the Saturday before Valentine's Day. If you are ever down there, there's this little store in the middle of the market right before you get to the seafood section (coming from north). Very affordable as well, I believe it was around $20 or so.

doughadear said...

Thank you for your nice compliment and letting me know where to get the heart pan. I've been meaning to go to St. Lawrence for a while now.

Virginia Taylors said...

Your breads are amazing! Glad the cake strips worked on your cake. I love them.