Tag Archives: nuts

Cream of Walnut Soup

I’ve been taking a small break from blogging. I’ve posted a new recipe every day for a couple weeks now and it got a little tiring. Don’t get me wrong, the cooking isn’t the tiring part. It’s the photo editing, uploading, descriptions, writing, photo-insertion, linking, proofreading, and then all the updating on community sites. Spring break fever set in after four days of work preceded by a short day off visiting Chad’s family (it’s a boy!) and a looooong week of midterms. So I took a couple days off. And man was it nice. Yesterday I had a day off work and I went to the library and (finally) got a library card. It seemed unnecessary since I had the school library at my disposal but then I kept seeing my cookbook wishlist grow and I realized I should probably try some of those books before I shelled out for them or asked for them as gifts (since Chad already has my cookbook wishlist in the event he “does something wrong” which I find hilarious). So I put on a cute summer dress (IT’S WARM OUT, YOU GUYS!) and took my water bill to the library. I returned with nineteen books but one of the ones I hoped to find was lost. See, I’ve been looking for the French Laundry Cookbook because I’ve been reading this blog (or rather its archives since the blogger finished the project) and have been stunned by the recipes. I’m a big fan of Thomas Keller and Carol’s persistence and work ethic have bowled me over. She’s done amazing things in her Maryland kitchen and she’s now working her way through the Alinea cookbook which is even more massive and complicated looking and plumb insane. And she gets her cookware at TJ Maxx too. Go Carol3! (<-Math nerd, thy name is Kristen)(<-Shakespeare nerd, they name is also Kristen)

Enough chatting. The point of the matter is that I’ve been pouring over this blog of hers and I found a recipe I had to make. It’s rather simple and unassuming but it sounded incredible and combined some of my favorite flavors: poached pears, vanilla, cream, nuts. (ha) However, without the cookbook itself and without a recipe courtesy of Carol (who doesn’t post them presumably because she’s blogging the whole book and that would defeat the purpose of other people buying it) I had to wing it and go off of her photos and the photos of the same recipe here. But since I’m not blogging the whole cookbook, I think it’s fair for me to share this self made imitation recipe. The book is $30 and I really want it. Read Carol’s site and you’ll want it too.

Adapted from Carol Blymire’s inspired completion of a French Laundry recipe:

Walnut-infused Cream base:

2 C milk (I used 2% but you can adjust cream for whole or skim)
1/4 C heavy cream (oh my)
1/2 vanilla bean
2 C walnuts, shelled and toasted

Poached Pear Purée:

1 pear (I used bosc)
2 C white wine (any will work)
1/2 C water
1/2 C sugar

I definitely took liberties with this dish. I could have done everything as Carol described, but I took a couple shortcuts with the (correct) assumption that I know how to poach pears like a champ. His holiness Sir Thomas Keller wants his readers (and cult followers) to bring wine to a boil then add water and sugar then bring that to a boil before adding pears. Too many “then’s” for me. I can’t imagine that my results were too different. I also halved the quantities because I knew I’d be the only one eating this.

The first step is to combine the milk, cream, and vanilla beans for the cream base over medium heat. Use a knife to cut the pod in half lengthwise and scrape the beans out of the bean pod. You can reserve this for your next batch of homemade vanilla extract or throw it in. I threw it in the pot. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts until warmed through and fragrant. When the milk and cream mixture begins to simmer, add the walnuts and turn the heat down to medium low. Let this simmer for 25-35 minutes. Other bloggers indicate that the instructions say to simmer for 40 minutes to let the walnuts infuse their flavor into the cream/milk mixture. I was afraid that it would get bitter because walnuts always run that risk. While that’s going, peel and slice a pear into 8 segments. Remove the core and that tough strip up the center. Pour the wine and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered. Add the pears and pour the sugar over them.

I chose to use my favorite measuring cups for this step. The one-cup measure lives in the big ole flour canister but these three get used for fun recipes like this.

Cover the pears and hike up the heat to medium high heat. Let this cook and poach and be awesome for 20 minutes (I flipped them over midway through cooking). It should be done around the same time as the walnut cream but if not, just strain the walnut cream and let it sit. I used a fine mesh strainer and I only strained it once because I can’t stand cleaning my strainer. (<-Logic)

Spoon the pears and about a third of a cup of the poaching liquid into the bowl with the walnut-infused cream. Now bust out your boyfriend’s immersion blender aka his favorite present from Christmas 2K9 (yeah, it beat the Wii and Wii Fit I got him) and pulse until gorgeous and smooth and frothy. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a blender or processor (But have fun cleaning that up suckers! Immersion blenders rock.).

Oh my goodness. You can’t imagine how delicious this is. It’s creamy and rich with a nutty background flavor and a scrumptious poached pear flavor. Poached pears might be my favorite taste in the whole wide world. I love that this brings this flavor to a new medium and doesn’t lose the signature grittiness of the pears. This is incredibly easy. One could argue that this takes the same amount of time (or even far, far less) as a horrible, horrifying Sandra Lee recipe. I think it would be great with tuille cookies or biscotti too.

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Hazelnut-Almond Baklava & Baklava Ice Cream

When I worked at my dad’s office in California, there was a really funny, really helpful guy named Kevin whose wife Jennifer made baklava during Christmastime. One bite and I was hooked. I really wanted to know how to make it so naturally I asked if they gave out the recipe. Kevin’s response was, “You only get the recipe when you marry into the family.” Which of course led me to ask if there were any single guys in Jennifer’s family. (Nope.)

So when I mulled and mulled and mulled over the idea of hazelnut baklava, I turned to Alton Brown. When it comes to certain things, there is a guru, sage, or personified encyclopedia to consult. For carpentry, it’s my grandpa and his groups of friends. Ask them about any kind of mitered joint and they’ll tell you the best tool to use (including brand), whether glue alone will hold it or if you need wood screws. They’ll all bicker and then offer up tools to borrow and then tell you a big ole story while you drink coffee that faintly and sweetly smells like sawdust. When it comes to carpentry, ask “What would Grandpa do?”

But with cooking, you can ask one of three choices. Obviously, Saint Julia knows all. “What would Julia do?” Then of course you might want more scientific explanation. In that case, look no further than Alton Brown. He and Ree from the pioneer are my ideal, dream neighbors after all. “What would Alton do?” Then, if you are Chad, or if you just plain agree that Wolfgang Puck is delightful and talented and just plain awesome, ask “What would Wolfgang do?” (Ask that in German if you can.)

So, not having any evidence that Saint Julia made Greek pastries, I looked to my would-be (if ever possible) neighbor. I tweaked some parts of his recipe, halved the syrup, and used some of the finished product to incorporate into vanilla ice cream. How this idea never occurred to me before trying it at Trojan Horse of Bloomington, I will never know. But seriously. Do it.

2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
9 oz almonds (toasted, unsalted)
9 oz hazelnuts (toasted)
2/3 C sugar
1 C water in a bowl
1/2 lb phyllo dough, thawed
1 stick butter, unsalted

Syrup
3/4 C honey
3/4 C water
3/4 C sugar
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (use real ones)
a couple inches of fresh orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350. Turn on some music or some bad reality television (or maybe put on Everybody’s Fine if you want to cry your eyes out) and grab 10 butter knives or spoons from the drawer. You’ll see why in a minutes. Fetch a 9×13 pan, roll out the thawed phyllo dough, and cut it to fit the bottom of the pan. Throw the stick of butter in a little sauce pan over medium heat just to melt through or nuke it in a microwave-safe bowl. Toast the almonds and hazelnuts in a stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat (I only toasted the hazelnuts because my almonds were already done). Don’t let them burn. It happens in a heartbeat. Now toss all those almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor (or do it in batches if you have a mini-prep blender like I do). When they are finely chopped, pour into a medium bowl and add sugar and spices and stir well. Now form the assembly line. You will have the bowl of nuts and sugar, a small bowl of water, the trimmed sheets of phyllo dough, the bowl of melted butter (at least we know Saint Julia would approve!), two pastry brushes (one for butter and one for water) and another spot for the knives or forks.

Start with one layer of butter brushed on the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of phyllo and press out any bubbles with your fingers. Add butter again then phyllo. Continue until you have 10 sheets of phyllo layered. Remember how I told you to grab all those knives? Here’s why: do you find when you have to measure and count that you lose track and can’t remember how many cups of flour you added to your yeast roll dough? Push all the knives to one side and for every layer of phyllo you apply, move one to the other side. This way you can make fun of the Real Housewives while you cook and not loose count. Or if you have 10 things that would be more fun to count, use those. GI Joes?

Now, when you have just a layer of phyllo on top and no butter on it, add one third of the nut/sugar mixture. Now sprinkle on water using a pastry brush or alternatively you can put the water in a spray bottle. Now you will add phyllo then butter then phyllo again for another 6 sheets of phyllo. Pour on another third of the nut/sugar mixture, then layer 6 more sheets of phyllo and butter. Pour over the remaining nut/sugar mixture and top with the remaining 8 sheets of phyllo and butter. Bake for 30 minutes at 350. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into small squares. While cooling, make the syrup. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved and all is combined. After baklava is cut into squares, pour on the syrup and bake for another 30 minutes.

Let cool completely before placing squares in small candy or mini-muffin cups. To make baklava ice cream, chop some baklava and stir into softened vanilla ice cream.