Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Orleans "King Cake" Cronuts with a Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling, Toasted Pecan Sugar, Bourbon Glaze, + Festive Mardi Gras Sprinkles

As many of y'all know, my Mountain Man and I made a trip recently to New Orleans for New Years Eve. And although it was the greatest trip... you know the part where I fractured my foot about 30 minutes after leaving our hotel room. Yeah that part sucked, so did the crutches, and being cooped up in our hotel room for three days, but I still was able to explore the city for one day. And that one day drew a bunch of inspiration for future recipes. I know I want to make some beignets, a fried green tomato + shrimp remoulade po'boy, bacon pecan pralines, and a king cake. Well I took all of that food to heart and used it as inspiration for some upcoming recipes. So today we're taking a glance at King Cake, with a delightful twist. For the last year, I think the country has been enamored with the new pastry concoction that marries a croissant with a doughnut. You might know them by name, the infamous "Cronut". I've made about 5 versions at home and featured two recipes on this blog. So what do you get when a Cronut and King Cake come together? A KING CAKE CRONUT. And it's just about as good as it gets when it comes to pastry confections. I started off by making the Cronut dough, which involves making a yeast based dough that is laminated with some sticks of softened butter. I began this process about two days before because I wanted to take my time and not rush any of the components. After all that tedious folding, I used a doughnut cutter to make them into the specific doughnut shape, and then I moved onto everything else. Most King Cake recipes involve the following ingredients... the cake itself, brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, and bourbon (if you're lucky). So, a filling of a Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Pastry Cream seemed to be a necessity. It is thick, luscious, smooth, and perfectly oozes in between the flaky layers of the croissant. After frying the Cronuts to a crisp, golden brown, I let them cool before I filled them with the pastry cream. Meanwhile, I toasted some pecans in a  pan and pulsed them with some sugar to make a Toasted Pecan Rolling Sugar. Then it was time to fill the insides of the Cronuts with the chilled pastry cream, followed by rolling the entire thing in the pecan sugar. By far the best part of this whole recipe is decorating the King Cake Cronut. I whipped up a thick bourbon-infused glaze to squeeze on top of the Cronut before finishing it with Mardi Gras-inspired purple, green, and yellow sparkling sugars. Not only do they look amazing, but they taste even better!! Just for some advice, two regular ole squeeze bottles with me needed to complete the recipe... one to inject the filling into the Cronut and one for the bourbon glaze on top. Now since I live in Georgia, I went on quite the escapade to find some miniature babies to top the King Cake Cronuts with, but to no such luck. So instead, we did tiny pigs, which seemed fitting considering that we are bacon-fanactics and we were slightly depressed that we couldn't incorporate any pork products into this pastry. Oh well, the pig is there as a stand-in, and might I add, I think they are adorable :) Now I completely understand that this project seems daunting, but every now + then I love to completely challenge myself culinarily, so I really enjoyed the whole process of it all. And hey, getting a real Cronut from NYC is harder than making them at home. Once you finish, just stand back and enjoy the creation you have completed... before eating everything single one!! Enjoy :)
some cronut frying action
the perks of frying cronuts... eating the holes right away :)
a cronut after being injected with the pastry cream
all tossed in some toasted pecan rolling sugar

hereeeeee piggy piggy pig
oink oink
oh yes those layers + pastry cream oozing
For the Cronuts:
¾C Milk, Warmed
1T Active Dry Yeast
1/3C Sugar
2 Large eggs
1t Vanilla Extract
3 ½C AP Flour (divided)
1t Kosher Salt
1 Cup of Butter (or two sticks), at least room temperature  

Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling:
1 ½C Whole Milk
¾C Brown Sugar
¼C Cake Flour
½t Sea Salt
1T Cinnamon
4 Large Egg Yolks
1 Vanilla Bean, Split & Scraped for Seeds
2t Vanilla Extract 
½t Butter Extract
¼t Almond Extract    

For the Toasted Pecan Sugar:
1C Toasted Pecans
1C Granulated Sugar

For the Bourbon Glaze:
2C Confectioners’ Sugar
Pinch of Salt
2T Whole Milk
1T Bourbon
¼t Vanilla Extract
For the King Cake Cronuts:
Prepared Cronut Dough, Cut into Doughnut Rounds
Chilled Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling (put into a squeeze bottle)
Prepared Toasted Pecan Rolling Sugar
Prepared Bourbon Glaze (put into a squeeze bottle)
Purple, Green, & Yellow Sparkling Sugar Sprinkles, For Decorating

1. Prepping the Cronuts: In the bowl of a standing mixer, stir together the warmed milk and yeast. Stir in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well. Add a cup of flour and the salt, and then gradually add another 2 ¼C of flour, stirring and then kneading for a few minutes, until it’s smooth, elastic, and still a little bit tacky. Transfer to a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, beat the butter and remaining ¼C of AP Flour with an electric mixer for a couple minutes, scraping down the sides of a bowl, until smooth. When the dough has chilled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is about ¼inch thick. Spread the butter evenly over the dough, and then fold it as you would a letter, in thirds. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for another 30 minutes to an hour.
2. Laminating the Dough: Pull the dough back out and put it back onto the floured surface, with the open sides facing the left and right. Roll it out into another rectangle that is ¼inch thick. Fold the left third over the middle, and then the right third over the middle (this is referred to a “turn”). Chill the dough for another 30 minutes to an hour. Roll, fold, and refrigerate the dough two more times, so that is had been “turned” for a total of four times. Cover and refrigerate it for at least an hour or preferably overnight.
3. For the Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat milk over medium-high heat until bubbles just start to form around the edges but milk is not yet boiling. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and vanilla bean seeds until well combined; slowly whisk in flour mixture until thick and pasty. Remove milk from heat and slowly add to egg mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer egg mixture to saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 3 minutes. Boil, whisking, for 10 seconds, and immediately remove from heat. Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a small heatproof bowl; stir in vanilla extract, butter extract, and almond extract. Strain into a plastic squeeze bottle and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
4. For the Toasted Pecan Rolling Sugar: Toast 1C of Pecans in a sauté pan over medium heat. Continuously move the nuts around, so that they will not get burned. Once they have reached a nutty fragrance and slightly browned, they are done! This should only take a few minutes. Place the toasted (make sure to cool first) pecans into a food processor and pulse until small grind has been achieved. Add in the cup of sugar and continue to process until you have a finely ground pecan sugar. Pour into a bowl and set aside until you are ready to use.
5. Frying the Cronuts: Cut the dough, using a doughnut cutter, into rounds (it should make about 12 Cronuts total). In a heavy pot, heat a couple inches of oil to 350 degrees and a scrap of the dough sizzles when you dip it in. Cook the Cronuts in batches, without crowding the pot (because that can cool down the oil), flipping as necessary until they reach a golden brown color. Transfer to a baking sheet, lined with paper towels, and let them sit until excess oil is completely soaked up. Next, move them to a cooling rack.
6. For the Bourbon Glaze: Add all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk together until a smooth, cohesive glaze has been made. Pour this white glaze into a squeeze bottle and set aside until you are ready to use it.
7. Assembling the Cronuts: It is now time to start filling the fried Cronuts. I did this “Twinkie-style” by using the squeeze bottle that is filled with the brown sugar-cinnamon pastry cream. Gently poke holes into the bottom of a Cronut and fill them all the way through with cream. Repeat this process until you have about 5-6 cream filling holes in each Cronut. Scrape off any excess cream that begins to ooze out. Now that they have all been filled, roll them in the toasted pecan sugar before placing them back onto the cooling rack (make sure the poke holes are facing up) and squeeze some of the prepared bourbon glaze in a circle around the top of the Cronut.
8. Finishing the Cronuts: Garnish the top of the glazed Cronuts with the purple, green, and yellow colored sparkling sugars, making sure to alternate colors, that way you form bands. Let them cool and enjoy!!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Braised Short Rib Ragu Pasta

There are some meals here on Haute + Heirloom that we tend to repeat... and repeat... and repeat. Like our favorite Fancy Pot Roast, we make this 3-4 times a month. Well this Braised Short Rib Ragu Pasta is also becoming a weekly tradition. It is something that you can start early on Sunday and by dinner time you just have to stir together everything for a super comforting + filling meal. There is something so magical about braised short ribs, and I can't really put my finger on it, but it is truly special. After browning the short ribs in a big pot, I added in a bunch of aromatics... carrots, garlic, leeks, onions, parsley, and celery. After they saute a bit, it's time to add in the pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, and red wine.
Finally, it is all topped with the crucial "flavor"-producing components... herbs, bay leaves, cocoa powder, balsamic vinegar, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. These all bring such depth to the dish, so don't skip out on any of them. I MEAN IT. Now this pot, it's gonna braise and braise and braise some more. Like 4-5 hours worth of braising is on the horizon, but to me, that's okay because I'm already doing some house cleaning and laundry, so I can keep an eye out on the pot as well. Eventually you get to that glorious part of the recipe where the braised short ribs are amazingly tender and forked off the bone tender. UM YUM. And then, you have to reduce this sauce down until it becomes chocolate brown and much thicker than where it started. I continuously stirred the sauce, so it would evenly reduce and not burn on the bottom. Once that sauce is ready, it's time to add in some more yummy stuff. Begin by browning a stick of butter in a separate pot, once it is just started to brown, add in the minced garlic and saute for just a minute or two. Throw in already cooked pasta, turn off the heat, and coat the pasta in the garlicky brown butter. And this, my friends, is where the magic begins to happen. Put the shredded short rib met on top of the pasta, along with as many scoops of your ragu sauce as you like, caramelized onions, red pepper flakes, shaved bittersweet chocolate, half of the grated Parmesan, some fresh herbs, and heavy cream (to make it extra luscious). Fold in all of the ingredients until you have a cohesive pasta dish. Spoon the finished pasta into serving bowls and garnish with a mound of freshly grated Parmesan + fresh herbs. Y'all are gonna LOVE it!! Enjoy :)
For the Braised Short Ribs:
¼C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4oz Diced Pancetta + A Heavy Pinch of Cinnamon
4lbs Bone-In Short Ribs
Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper (to heavily season the short ribs)
½C AP Flour
1 Vidalia Onion, Finely Minced
1 Leek, Finely Minced
3 Carrots, Finely Minced
4 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Minced
3 Stalks of Celery, Finely Minced
½C Fresh Parsley
28oz Whole San Marzano Canned Tomatoes, Pureed until Smooth
3T Tomato Paste
2 ½C Beef Stock
1 ½C Red Wine
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary + Fresh Thyme
1t Dried Oregano
3 Bay Leaves
3T Cocoa Powder (sifted to remove clumps)
1T Balsamic Vinegar
1T Fish Sauce
1T Worcestershire Sauce

For the Braised Short Rib Pasta:
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Melted & Browned
4 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1lb Pasta, Cooked Al Dente
Braised Short Ribs, Shredded into Bite Size Pieces (prepared above)
A Few Scoops of the Braised Short Rib Ragu Sauce (from the pot used above… to taste)
1C Caramelized Onions
½-1C Heavy Cream (depending on how creamy you like it)
1-2t Red Pepper Flakes (or as spicy as you like)
4-6t Shaved Bittersweet Chocolate
1C Freshly Grated Parmesan (divided)
Fresh Herbs, For Garnishing (we used parsley, basil, and chives)

1. Preparing the Short Ribs: Place the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add in the Pancetta, with a pinch of cinnamon, and cook until the Pancetta is golden and crisp. This will take about 2-4 minutes. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour (make sure to dust off any excess flour, so there is only a light coating). Using a slotted spoon, remove the Pancetta from the pan and put them into a small bowl, and reserve it for later. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Once all of the short ribs have evenly browned, take them out of the pot and place them on a plate or baking dish.
2. Making the Braised Short Rib Ragu: Meanwhile, place the onion, leek, carrots, garlic, celery, and parsley into a food processor and pulse until everything is finely diced, but definitely not pureed! Add these minced aromatics to the pot that the short ribs had been browning in and allow them to cook and caramelize some, just about 5-10 minutes over medium heat. After sautéing them, add the crispy pancetta, pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, and red wine. Bring this mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, before you submerge all of the browned short ribs into the braising liquid, and then top with fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, dried oregano, and bay leaves. Cover the pot and cook at a simmer for 2 hours. Remove the lid and simmer for another 2 hours, making sure to stir occasionally. After this period of cooking, remove the lid, and continue to cook for another 2 hours (while also making sure to occasionally stir the sauce). After their second cooking period, remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the meat and bones from the pot onto a large cutting board (making sure to throw away any fatty pieces as well). Shred the meat into bite-size pieces and let them rest while we reduce the ragu sauce. Stir in the cocoa powder, balsamic vinegar, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and bring the sauce up to a boil, and then back down to medium heat. You will need to remain near the pot to stir the sauce to ensure that it does not burn. Cook this sauce until it is much darker in color and reduced in volume. It should be quite thick. Remove the bay leaves, sprigs of rosemary, and sprigs of thyme. Season the sauce with some kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper (and sugar if you want it to be a little bit sweeter).
3. Assembling the Short Rib Pasta: In another pot, melt a stick of butter over medium heat until it begins to brown and release a nutty fragrance. Add the minced garlic and sauté just for a minute or so in the brown butter. Turn off the heat and quickly add the al dente pasta and coat it completely in the garlicky brown butter. Throw all the meat on top of the pasta, followed by some scoops of the reduced ragu sauce (as much as you want), caramelized onions, heavy cream, red pepper flakes, ½C grated Parmesan, shaved bittersweet chocolate, and fresh herbs. Fold the pasta gently to combine and until a luscious sauce has coated your pasta.
4. Serving the Pasta: Spoon the short rib pasta into serving bowls and add a heap of freshly grated Parmesan and some fresh herbs to garnish. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bacon Infused + Slowly Caramelized French Onion Soup with Bacon Fat Sourdough Toast, Gruyere Cheese, Aged Cheddar Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, & Bacon Lardons

It's funny how something as simple as soup, can be exactly what you need on a crummy day. We usually make a pot every Sunday because it seems to have a calming effect on all of us. It's so comforting, simple yet complex, and it's something that the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. That is certainly the case when it comes to this recipe, my Bacon Infused + Slowly Caramelized French Onion Soup with Bacon Fat Sourdough Toast, Gruyere Cheese, Aged Cheddar Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, & Bacon Lardons. Who doesn't love caramelized onions? Everyone has to. The process of caramelizing the onions takes a loooooong time... like 3-4 hours long. But that's okay, it's not super high maintenance besides occasionally stirring it, so that the onions caramelize evenly. And like any good Southerner would do... I added a shit ton of bacon essence to it. Yep, I started by crisping up some bacon lardons, and then removing them to a separate bowl before I caramelized the onions in the rendered bacon fat. After the hours + hours of cooking the onions low + slow, you will find a pot of a gold. The pure gold is certainly something that has been handed down to us by the gods.
After the onions were done, I added all the yummy liquids... cognac, balsamic vinegar, red wine, beef stock, and water. Once they've gone through a good simmer and the flavors have begun to meld, make sure to season to taste with some salt, pepper, sugar, and even some more wine if you like. The part of French Onion Soup that everyone loves is the bread + the melty cheese. I took this component over the top by frying some slices of sourdough bread in bacon fat until they got golden brown + toasty. This bacon-fat-infused bread is plopped on the surface of the soup before a mixture of gruyere, aged cheddar, and parmesan is piled on top. Just pop the bowls into the oven and broil the heck out of it until the cheese is melted and nicely browned. All you have left to do is garnish with some crispy bacon lardons and fresh herbs, and you will be one happy girl/boy!! Enjoy :)

For the French Onion Soup:
1T Unsalted Butter
½lb Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cut into Lardons (reserve the rendered fat)
6-8lbs Yellow Onions, Thinly Sliced
¼C Sugar (plus a little extra to sweeten the soup if needed)
Smoked Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper
2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
1/3C Cognac (sherry may be substituted)
1-2T Aged Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
1C Red Wine
4C Unsalted Beef Stock (preferably homemade, but store-bought is fine)
1C Water
Slices of Sourdough Bread (make sure it is able to fit inside the bowl)
Rendered Bacon Fat, For Frying the Bread
½lb Gruyere Cheese, Grated
½lb Aged Cheddar Cheese, Grated
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (to top the other cheeses)
Crispy Bacon Lardons, For Garnishing (made crispy in the first step)
Fresh Parsley or Chives, Minced (for garnishing)

1. Beginning the Soup: Use a large soup pot that will hold all of the onions and liquid. Place the pot over medium heat and melt the 1T of butter. Add the bacon lardons and cook until the bacon has rendered all of its fat and it is crispy. Strain the bacon from the pot into a small bowl and set it aside until the soup is finished. Add all of the thinly sliced onions; sprinkle them with 2t smoked fleur de sel, some fresh cracked pepper, and the sugar. Stir to combine. Cover and cook until the onions have heated through and started to steam, about 30-45 minutes. 
2. Caramelizing the Onions: Uncover the pot, reduce the heat to low, add in the fresh thyme, and cook, stirring continuously (you should be able to leave the onions alone for an hour once they’ve released their water). I kept cooking my onions for at least 3-4 hours, low + slow until they reach a deep, dark golden brown.
3. Making the Bacon Fat Fried Sourdough Slices: In a sauté pan, over medium heat, melt some bacon fat and fry the slices of sourdough bread until they are golden brown and toasty. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the slices of fried bread onto a baking sheet and keep them warm until you are ready to top the soup with them.
4. Finishing the Soup: When the onions have completely cooked down and all their liquid had cooked out, add in the cognac, balsamic, red wine, beef stock, and water. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to low. Taste and season with smoked fleur de sel, fresh cracked pepper, and some sugar if needed. If the soup is too sweet, you can add an extra tablespoon of balsamic. If you want the soup to have more depth, add a little more red wine (shhh, no one has to know).
5. Serving the Soup: Preheat the broiler of your oven. Portion the soup into the bowls, top with a bacon fat fried slice of sourdough bread, cover with a handful of gruyere cheese and a handful of aged cheddar cheese, and finish with a mound of freshly grated parmesan. Broil until the cheese is melted and nicely browned. Garnish the top with crispy bacon lardons and minced herbs. Serve immediately.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mixed Citrus Salad with Thinly Shaved Shallots, Cubed Feta Cheese, Fresh Mint Chiffonade, a Drizzle of Homemade Spicy, Fresh Cracked Pepper Honey and Champagne Vinegar Vinaigrette, Olive Oil, + Fleur de Sel

Okay guys, prepare yourself mentally... I'm really going out of the box today with this recipe. It doesn't have butter, it doesn't have bacon, or buttermilk, or a crispy outer coating, or anything southern really ((let the shock set in for a few seconds)). This is something healthy and gorgeous and vegetarian. Woah, I know. At the peak of winter, every citrus fruit is practically at its best, so why not use them to our advantage? I bought multiple citrus... blood oranges, cara cara oranges, navel oranges, ruby red grapefuits, clementines, tangelos, meyer lemons, and limes (and probably more that I can't even think of). I'm not going to lie to you, prepping the citrus for the salad can be tedious and time-consuming, but if you're willing to eat a piece of artwork, like this dish, it's so worth it. Pretty much, you have to remove the rind and the bitter pith, leaving behind gorgeous "carpaccio" style slices. After you've done every citrus, the hard work is pretty much done! Arrange a plate with the prepared citrus in any colorful manner you like. I decided to do a rainbow/ombre pattern and I think it looked fabulous! Next, I whipped up a delicious and easy-breezy dressing to drizzle over the top. It's made with honey, raspberry champagne vinegar (you can use any flavor really though), dried red pepper flakes, and fresh cracked pepper. Cube up or crumble some fresh feta over the top of the citrus, followed by a drizzle of the homemade honey dressing and olive oil. I finished it all off with a scattering of mint chiffonade and a sprinkle of fleur de sel. The salad is so juicy and practically explodes in your mouth. The cheese offsets all of the acidity and heat because of its delicious creaminess, while the spicy + peppery honey perfectly accents all of the other components. Finally the fresh mint gives the dish a final herbaceousness that should not + cannot be missed. I really hope y'all get around to making this unique salad because it is so different than anything that I have made before. I imagine it would be fabulous during the spring or summer as well... with a bottle of white wine!! Enjoy :)
For the Spicy Fresh Cracked Pepper Honey + Champagne Vinegar Vinaigrette:
¼C Orange Blossom Honey
2T Champagne Vinegar
½t Fresh Cracked Pepper + Dried Red Pepper Flakes
For the Mixed Citrus Salad:
3 Blood Oranges
1 Ruby Red Grapefruit
1 Cara Cara Orange
1 Navel Orange
2 Clementines or 1 Tangelo
1 Meyer Lemon
1 Lime 
Cubes or Crumbles of Fresh Feta Cheese
Fresh Mint, Chiffonade
1-2 Shallots, Thinly Shaved
Prepared Honey Vinaigrette (listed above)
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Flakes of Fleur de Sel, For Sprinkling
1. For the Homemade Honey Vinaigrette: In a mason jar, add the honey, champagne vinegar, fresh cracked pepper, and dried red pepper flakes. Shake the heck out of it until the dressing is cohesive, the honey has dissolved into the champagne vinegar, and the pepper/red pepper flakes are speckled throughout the vinaigrette. Set it aside until you are ready to use.
2. Preparing the Citrus: Slice the different citrus fruit into rounds, and then using very sharp kitchen scissors, carefully cut off the rind, making sure to get rid of the white bitter pith. Gently remove any seeds. Continue until all of the citrus have been finished and resemble a citrus “Carpaccio”.
3. Preparing the Salad: Cut the big block of fresh feta cheese into small cubes (or you can also decide to crumble it as well if you prefer). Shave a few shallots, using a kitchen mandolin, until you have thin slices of the onion. Chiffonade the fresh mint into small strips.
4. Assembling the Salad: Scatter a thin layer of the shaved shallots on the bottom of your serving dish. Shingle and layer the prepared citrus rounds in an overlapping fashion, so that they cover the entire plate (we decided to go in a rainbow colored scheme, but you could also do random or strips of color if you please). Place the cubes of feta into any holes that you see that need to be filled on the plate. I also scattered some crumbles on top, just for a little extra. Drizzle as much of the spicy honey vinaigrette as you want all over the salad, making sure to get all of the fresh cracked pepper + dried red pepper flakes (these ingredients really balance against all of the sweet flavors of the dish). Drizzle a few spoonfuls of olive oil on top of the dressing as well. Finish by garnishing with a sprinkling of fleur de sel and chiffonade mint.
5.  Enjoy this refreshing salad with a glass of white wine!