Posts Tagged ‘easy’

Why So Much Work?   Permalink

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Why TV chefs feel the need to demonstrate the assembly and kneading of fresh pasta dough using only their hands is beyond me. It looks rustic and homey, and I have done it many times and understand how cathartic and therapeutic hand-kneading can be. The problem is that it’s so easy to make, but the idea of hand-kneading makes it less approachable for the average joe. It’s certainly not how it’s done in the majority of restaurants making their own. So why should a home cook have to?

Fresh pasta is quite easy to make, and a very simple recipe. It’s a ratio of 100g (3.5oz) of flour to one large egg. Two ingredients! Times that by three and you’ll get a 450g (4g shy of 1 lb) recipe. It’s just a matter of the time and effort; most of which can be achieved with a stand mixer and a dough hook.

Hand kneading offers zero gain; except for the fabulously large arms you can develop doing it on a regular basis. My opinion is, if it offers nothing to the final taste and texture over the faster method, then use the faster method. Carpenters don’t need to cut wood with hand saws any more because band-, jig- and circular saws exist. The same pasta dough with the same taste and texture can be made using the same technique using a home stand mixer. All with less mess and in about half the time.

Place your flour in a mixer.

Create a well in the center.

Place your eggs in the well.

Start your mixer off slow…

…and when the egg is fully mixed in, turn it to medium and knead for half the recommended time for hand-kneading.

If the dough won’t come together, add a teaspoon of water and continue mixing for 1 minute. If it still doesn’t come together, repeat until it does.

The dough should be stretchy with a smooth surface when it’s done.

Cover and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

See? Same technique, but without getting your hands messy. Your arms will thank you.

Recipe: Clafoutis   Permalink

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Because we in Eastern North America will be paying premium prices for cherries this year, it’s best we use them in applications that truly show them off, like a clafoutis.

Clafoutis is a classic country dessert from the Limousin region in central France. As with a lot of French country food, it’s simple, focuses on ingredients and is served family style. It’s not overly refined or finicky, or needing a lot of skill. The cherries themselves are distinct and whole, and become sweet/tart pop-in-your-mouth juice bombs. It can pretty much be described as a big casserole made with (traditionally) cherries and sweetened crepe batter. Yep, that’s pretty much it. And it’s even easier to make. Just about any fruit that can hold its shape well under heat can be used in place of cherries.


750g (roughly 1.5lbs) sweet cherries like Bing, Chelan or Ranier.

For the batter:

325mL milk (2% or higher)
55g (¼ cup) unsalted butter
3 large eggs
70g (½ cup) all-purpose flour
125g (½ cup) granulated sugar
1 TSP vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

For dusting:

30mL (2 TBSP sugar)

For greasing:

5mL (1 TSP) butter


A Blender or stick blender.
A medium bowl.
A small sauce pan or microwave safe dish.
A shallow casserole dish, capable of holding 2L (8 cups) of liquid, with room for expansion.
(optional) a cherry pitter.


Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F)

1) (optional) Pit the cherries. Traditionally, they aren’t pitted and it’s said the pits impart extra flavour. Like bitter almonds perhaps? Stone fruit pits contain amydgalin, which metabolizes in the body as hydrogen cyanide. Best to err on the non-toxic side.

Not to mention you’ll need to issue advance warning, or risk broken teeth of your guests. And we like our friends, don’t we?

2) In a bowl in a microwave or on the stovetop in a small pan, heat the 55g of unsalted butter until almost completely melted. Carry over heat will continue to melt the rest.

3) In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.

4) Place the eggs in a blender and blitz until frothy. Add the flour mixture and pulse until combined, occasionally stopping to scrape down the side of the blender jug.

5) With the speed on medium-high, in a steady stream pour in the butter and then the milk. Allow the blender to keep going until no visible lumps are seen. Add the vanilla and pulse once or twice to incorporate.

NOTE: At this point, you can store the batter and cherries in the refrigerator until needed, for up to 48 hours.

6) Using the 1 TSP of butter, grease the inside of a shallow casserole dish, then add the cherries. Any cherries that don’t fit must be eaten or taken prisoner for later sado-masticistic reasons. Pour the batter over the top, but keep the liquid a good 1cm (½ inch) from the lip of the dish. Clafoutis batter will slightly soufflé and may spill over the edge.

7) Bake for 30 minutes, pull from the oven, sprinkle the additional sugar over the top and return to the oven (turned 180° for equal cooking) and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the top shows signs of light browning and caramelization.

Serve warm. Try not to devour it all in one sitting.