Apple-celery root au gratin…very good in theory, but not a big hit with family

Due to my repeated frequenting of the Union Square Greenmarket in the past couple of years, I have introduced my immediate family and those who come in contact with them to a number of new and exotic veggies. Sometimes this has gone remarkably well, as in the case of the Peruvian Purple Potatoes. Sometimes this has backfired, as in the case of my latest experimental culinary production, Apple-celery root au gratin.
Last time I was at the Greenmarket (the last one of the season) I got bold and decided to buy a vegetable I’d seen there before, but had never actually tasted: celery root or celeriac. The man who sold me two grotesque knobly bulbs had a sign recommending frying it and sauteeing it with apples and onions. I was also aware that you could make soup with it, but with NYC’s unseasonably warm winter this year, I started looking for alternatives. I found one in Apple-celery root au gratin, a casserole-like concoction which combined elements of the above strategies. I had enough of the Honeycrisp apples from my trip to the Greenmarket. I had _almost_ enough of the celery root, and ended up with even less, the larger of the bulbs having grown a beard-like coating of fluffy white mold before I got the right time and circumstances for preparing a dish with such long prep times. I ended up using only one smallish celery root, when the recipe called for three average-sized celery roots. Maybe I shouldn’t have sliced the white fibrous part and included it in the dish, but having never eaten celery root before, I had never been given any pointers concerning how it was “supposed” to be. While celery root was never served by my mother while I was growing up, it was also never discussed. When I brought home the E.T.-looking roots from the greenmarket, my sister was amused, but my mother was anything but. She claimed that she hated celery root, and that her mother (my grandmother) had served it often when she was growing up. This was a fact I hadn’t known, in part because Grandmother died when I was five years old, after a battle with cancer in which she, to the best of my knowledge, didn’t do much cooking in the last few years of her life, and, in part, because when my mother discussed her formative years, it was usually to talk about how wonderful they were. Nevertheless, every so often, when family lore was being discussed, some little clue would emerge that would suggest what she led others to believe was a reasonably happy and wholesome childhood, had its dark shadows and wasn’t all it appeared to be.
I had no gouda in the house, and circumstances weren’t right for me to go shopping for it, so I substituted some powered Romano cheese in the fridge which really needed to be used. Nobody else had prepared anything else for dinner, so I thought potential acceptance of the dish may have hit a sweet spot. My sister refused it, initially, saying “what did you make for me?” My mother had a taste of it, but only a taste. She said during the evening afterwards (and after she, too, had eaten some leftovers from the fridge) that “it stayed with me”. Perhaps due to the fact that it contained cream and cheese, she thought it was too rich? I was the only one who ate an entire serving as an entire dinner, and, while I did not consider it absolutely terrible, I could see how mixing “savory” and “sweet” foods was an acquired taste that they hadn’t acquired yet. Also, the exact version from the recipe would have been better and milder-tasting.
Having used olive oil to sautee the onion and brown the panko, I could see how sticking to the original version would have altered the dish in another way: I also would have enjoyed the bits of bacon on top, but they would have violated the saturated-fat conscious consensus of the household. I rarely get to have bacon and to use some in the context of something more elaborate than a BLT violates several unwritten sumptary laws in my family.
My sister did actually try some later on, but she said “it even looks like Eggs Erroneous” and damned it with the faint praise about mixing sweet and savory that I have repeated above.

Add comment July 3rd, 2013 Laura

post-Christmas cookie experimentation: less intense lemon moons!

I had previously posted about my relatively recent familial variation on Lemon Slice Cookies from the 1964 Betty Crocker cookbook. The formula is very simple in theory but can get complicated in practice: make them into moons with a crescent-moon cookie cutter, and coat them with a simple glaze made with powdered sugar and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. The glaze gives a very different taste to what would otherwise be very plain, shortbread-like cookies without _liquid_ ingredients, but with lemon zest. For this Christmas season, I made a batch that was very “strong”; as much lemon zest as I could get into the cookie batter, and juice straight from the lemon in the glaze. They were intense! Too intense for some. So today I experimented with a less intense variant. I made the dough with about a tablespoon less butter than the recipe called for (because one of the sticks of butter I’d set out to soften hadn’t remained untouched). This (and a perhaps too-generous flouring of the surface on which I’d rolled it out, & having to knead & roll more than once) made the dough more crumbly when baked. Also, I put ‘em in for 7 minutes-midway in the recommended baking times of “from 6 to 8 minutes” in a 350 F oven. They were less “done” than usual. While none of ‘em were burned, I initially feared some might have been underdone. This was a matter of accident/variation. However, the next step was of deliberate intent. Instead of using solely lemon juice when I made the glaze, I used a lot less lemon juice (perhaps a 1:4 ratio) than water. When I applied the glaze and let it dry, the formerly intensely tart cookies now had just a _hint_ of lemon.

Add comment July 3rd, 2013 Laura

Experiment with chocolate-chip cupcakes with chocolate chip filling and frosting (same idea, different recipe)

(Another cross-posting with

This variant of cookie dough cupcakes has a filling as well as a frosting. The cupcakes themselves were tricky. When I first baked them, I toothpick tested ‘em, and when they came from the oven, the toothpick came out clean, so I thought we were good. But then, when i excavated the middles to put in the filling, the inner part of the cupcakes seemed more like custard than cupcake, so I put them back in the oven, only to have them come out crispy, cookie-like, and overbaked, but with the interior texture not improved. I had thought the previous batch of chocolate chip cookie cupcakes were oily, but after baking these, the cupcake cups were _swimming_ in oil. Attempting to eat them made your fingers greasy. So much for the cupcakes themselves. :sad:
However, the filling & the frosting have a lot more to recommend them. The filling recipe calls for a bit of condensed milk and is an eggless simulcrum of chocolate cookie dough which turns out to be similar in taste and texture to the cookie dough bites confection one can buy in movie theatres. (Attached pictures are of the filling in the middle of the cupcakes.)

The frosting, unlike the brown-sugar frosting on the previous batch of cupcakes, came out a very light brown and milder in taste and texture. My theory is that the addition of flour (this is the only chocolate chip cookie dough frosting recipe I’ve tried which has it) makes it closer to actual chocolate chip cookie dough than the other versions of chocolate chip cookie dough frosting I’ve made.

Add comment July 3rd, 2013 Laura

Peach pie with speculoos crust

In a previous posting on this page, I’ve mentioned speculataas, a kind of cookie it has become traditional for my family to bake during Christmas season. They are spicy, brown cookies, adorned with the occasional sliced nut, and nearly everybody who eats them, loves them, and secretly covets the recipe. (Sorry, folks, I’m not going to reveal the secret recipe here!)
Anyway, my sister recently got the idea that I should make a peach pie with a speculataa cookie crust. (i.e., one giant speculataa for mankind!) Preparatory to this, we mounted a family expedition to a farmers’ market, and got the peaches, which are in season, as of this writing. I can understand her reasoning, after all, the vast majority of peach pie fillings have just a leetle bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to kick things up, and these particular cookies have those spices (and more) as major ingredients. And she thought making a crust would be as simple as making a batch of the cookie dough and rolling it out into piecrust form. Then, to ensure the crust/giant pie-pan formed cookie would be done all the way through, blind-bake it for some time (I chose 5 min) before adding the filling. I wasn’t nearly as confident, but I agreed to make a test pie to try it out.
One thing she failed to realize: most peach pies have a top crust. I ran into 2 problems here: 1) There wasn’t quite enough of the dough in just one recipe for the cookies to make a double-crust for a standard-sized pie, 2) how do you blind-bake a top crust. I ended up placing the partial top crust I had on top of the pie filling raw and baking it as is and hoping for the best, while I blind-baked the bottom crust as requested.
Rolling out the crust proved much more difficult than expected, even though I had kept the dough in the fridge overnight as I would if I were making it into the cookies. Either the early July heat completely undid the chilling of the dough, or it was going to be incredibly sticky anyway and under any circumstances it is handled, but it became incredibly sticky and fell apart quite easily when I tried to roll it out. I had to just take little bits and smush ‘em into the bottom & sides of the pie pan, basically pushing segments together, like putting together a puzzle of Pangaea. I hope it comes out in a reasonably edible form. Stay tuned.

Add comment July 3rd, 2013 Laura

Chocolate-chip cookie cupcake experiment, take 1

(Cross-posting with

From Brandy Designs:
These turned out to be a better idea in theory than in practice. I dutifully followed the steps, and made the dough, only to discover at the end, that I had neglected to put the frozen filling in the middle of the cupcakes. Before or after I baked ‘em? How much filling was I supposed to have set aside for this purpose and how long was I supposed to have frozen it? Apparently, I was also supposed to have added chocolate chips to the cupcake batter, frozen center, or both. Either I somehow missed it, or the recipe could have been better organized. Though it had said that it makes 24 cupcakes, the amount of dough I got seemed to promise more than that. I heaped high the cupcake cups and waited. They seemed to rise well enough in the oven, but exposed to a cool (relatively) nearly-summer night, their domed tops quickly fell upon removal from the oven, and, I was soon to discover, the sides shrank as they cooled in the muffin tins. I had been told by a Wilton Method cake decorating instructor that if you let cupcakes cool in the pans that caused them to shrink. I had _not_ found that true with the vast majority of cupcake recipes I made, but then the vast majority of cupcake recipes I have made were cupcakes intended as such, not cupcakes trying to be cookies.
When I tried to remove them from the pans, the dough turned out to be inordinately delicate. The tops which had overrun their brims and baked to the pans soon crumbled away when I tried to dislodge the bases, which also seemed to crumble with inordinate ease. Could I have forgotten an ingredient?
I took the suggestion to make the frosting while the cupcakes were baking. An eggless version of the chocolate chip cookie dough, it felt gritty, and might not have combined as well as it should have. “I taste salt”, my sister said upon sampling it. My cupcake frosting was more fortunate. The cupcakes themselves tasted OK, (perhaps they would have been better had they had chips throughout, but I would have found ‘em distracting). Perhaps the cupcakes would benefit from the use of heavier King Arthur white wheat flour, instead of standard white all-purpose flour?

Add comment July 3rd, 2013 Laura

Previous Posts Next Posts


Sponsored Links



August 2017
« Apr    

Most Recent Posts