Oatmeal for Breakfast

I love oatmeal for breakfast, and I’ve been experimenting with additives over the last few months. After a brief survey of my friends on Face Book, I got so many great responses, that I decided to list my favorites here.

  1. My favorite is plumped up raisins cooked with the oatmeal. Then I add ground pecans and “baked sugar”–a process of slightly caramelizing regular white sugar.
  2. To cooked steel cut oats, add a cut up fresh Granny Smith apple, dried cranberries, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  3. To cooked oatmeal, add dried peaches (or cook them with the oatmeal), ginger, brown sugar, and heavy cream.
  4. For those who like savory, add butter and salt.
  5. Add raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, and heavy cream.
  6. Cook the oatmeal in orange juice, then add chopped dates, and walnuts,
  7. Cook in orange juice and add crushed pineapple.
  8. To cooked steel cut oats, stir in buttermilk.
  9. To cooked steel cut oats, add cream, dried wild blueberries, and sliced almonds.
  10. Add bananas and brown sugar.
  11. Add chopped Turkish figs and chopped walnuts.
  12. Add crumbled bacon, caramelized onions, and fresh cut up apple.
  13. Add honey and Irish whiskey.
  14. To baked oatmeal made with eggs, stir in blueberries, and lemon zest.
  15. Stir in savory spices (I’d go with cumin and coriander), then drizzle Spanish olive oil over the top. You can also stir in cooked chickpeas. [If olive oil isn’t your thing, try plain Greek or goat’s milk yogurt.]
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Pastry

Is there anything more perfect that pastry? A delicious, melt in your mouth delivery system for carbs and fat. It makes the things you pile into it taste better without losing anything of its own. In its simplest form pastry is flour, salt, fat, and water. The proportions and temperature are important, but the basic recipe is simple. Your single 9 inch pie crust is 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces), and 1/4 cup cold water. You mix the flour and salt, cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal, then add the water, a little bit at a time, until you can pull it together into a ball. Most recipes call for chilling it at this point, but if your ingredients were cold, it’s not strictly necessary. The real secret of pastry is to not handle it very much. Too much kneading, and it is tough. Of course making it in the food processor is easy–pulse until it’s a ball.
But there is more than simple pastry. You can “super-fat” your pastry, by using three times the amount of fat, divided into thirds. You make the pastry with 1/3, roll it out and smear it with another third, fold that up, roll it out and smear it with the last third. This pastry with be sturdy enough for a tall pastry, but still melt in your mouth. First mentioned in Scappi in the 16th century. Folding into thin layers can make a strudel pastry or a puff pastry.
You can use different fats, although butter and lard make the best pastry. You can add egg yolks for richness, sugar for sweetness, rosewater for scent. Grated lemon rind, spices, ground nuts can all be put into pastry. Pastry can be baked or fried, thin or thick.
A few years ago I taught a pastry class at 6 AM in the kitchen at an event. Seven hearty souls showed up, and we made pastry for the herb tortas than were served for breakfast. Here is the recipe:

Herb Tortas (Makes 2)
3/4 pound Romano cheese, freshly grated
10 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh marjoram, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, minced
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ice water
2, 8 inch pie pans
Preheat oven to 350′ F. Make pastry: Whisk flour and salt together to mix. Then work chilled butter cubes into the flour until it resembles coarse meal with some slightly larger pieces. Gradually add the ice water a little at a time until the dough pulls together and stays, but is not sticky. Divide dough into two balls for the individual crusts. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill slightly. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured board. Press the crusts gently into the pans, trimming and crimping the edges.

Filling: Put eggs, cheese, sugar, minced herbs, ginger, and salt into blender and blend. Add the softened butter and blend until smooth. Divide and pour evenly into pie crusts. Bake at 350′ F for about 35 minutes until set and golden brown on tops. Serve warm or room temperature.
For those of you who might want a bit more of a challenge. Here is a recipe adapted from several sources. Period literature mentions that at the third wedding of Lucretia Borgia, a special torta was served in her honor that was topped with something that replicated her long blonde hair. A modern Italian dessert, Torta di Tagliarini Farrarese, is the descendant of this dish. However, the version I found in The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, had many modern elements not used in Renaissance cooking. I then went looking through Scappi to look at period 16th century tortas. Below is my version of the dish.
Torta di Ferrara (makes one large torta)
Pastry
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
10 Tablespoons cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
8 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
3 egg yolks, chilled
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (for greasing)
1/4 cup or less cold water
Filling
3 ounces cappellini (angel hair pasta)
1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, toasted, then chopped fine
1 cup sugar
1 pound ricotta cheese
3 eggs, separated
Topping
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
Make the pastry a day ahead, form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and put in a zip-lock bag and chill.
Pastry: Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal with a few large shales of flour coated butter still intact. Make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks and 1 Tablespoon water. Beat the yolks and water with a fork until smooth. Then toss the dry ingredients until everything is moistened. Do not stir or knead or the dough will toughen. Gather the dough into a ball. If too dry, sprinkle with the remaining Tablespoon of water, toss a few seconds, then gather into a ball, wrap, and chill.
Making the crust: Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Thoroughly grease a 9″ springform pan with butter. Roll out the dough into a large round about 1/8″ thick. Make sure it is of even thinness. Fit into the pan, bringing the dough up its sides and neatly trimming it around the pan’s rim. Keep cool or chill while preparing filling.

Filling: Preheat oven to 375′ F. Have a 10″ round of parchment paper ready. Boil salted water to vigorous boil. Boil dried pasta for about 1 minute. It should be tender enough to eat, but quite firm. Drain, rinse under cold water, and shake dry. Spread pasta on paper towels. Mix the topping sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.

Mix the ricotta, sugar, and egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Stir in the almonds. Beat the egg whites to form soft peaks. Then gently fold the whites into the Ricotta mixture. Slather half the filling over the crust; spread half the pasta over this. Drizzle with half the melted butter and sprinkle with half the sugar-cinnamon topping. Top with remaining filling, and top that with remaining pasta. Drizzle with the melted butter, and sprinkle with remaining sugar-cinnamon topping.

Lightly cover the tart with parchment paper and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted 2″ from the edge comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Take out of pan and place on serving plate. Sprinkle with more sugar if desired.

House Wild Rose Feast, Pennsic 2013

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For those of you that don’t know me, I have my household, House Wild Rose, at Pennsic War every year in our own camp. We are all interested in SCA period foods and cooking, and we use Pennsic as a place to experiment with cooking over fire; open fire pits with grills, wood oven for baking, and coming this year, two braziers. We are “foodies” and enjoy challenging ourselves with various themes. This year our theme is Saints and Sinners. Each cook will pick a saint and a sinner from the same time and place, and then build a feast appropriate to it. I have chosen St. Joan of Arc (d. 1431 at age 19) https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQLXprC-qLvstsV7isoGsUFn8IHooMAoQ7C-uweDuivuC8n_NOI308and Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who oversaw her trial and was being bribed by the English. As a result, my feast will be Franco-English. My menu is:  Cive d’Oetres (oysters in onion sauce), Frumente (wheat porridge), Capon et Boef Stuwed (stewed chicken and beef), Jowtis (pottage of greens), Flawmpoynt (“flaming” cheese pasty), Saucisse avec Sauce au Moust (sausage with raisin sauce), Caudel Ferre avec Baies (Light custard cooked in wine with berries–we will flambe these), and Pain au Cheate (fine cheate bread). The oyster dish has an interesting sauce. Although it does involve quite a bit of onion, the base for it is a puree of dried, cooked peas or beans. I’m going to make that in advance and freeze it because of the time involved in the cooking process, but also so I can puree in a food processor instead of doing it my hand. The original recipe can be found in Fêtes Gourmandes. The stewed chicken and beef recipe comes from Cocatrice and Lamprey Hay. The original calls for whole chickens and whole beef roasts in what must have been an enormous pot. I’m going to cut my chicken into large pieces, like you’d have if you were frying it, and use slabs of beef short ribs. I’m going to attempt to slow cook this in wine over low heat on a brazier. The flaming pastry is also from Cocatrice and Lamprey Hay. The original was pork and cheese, but we have a vegetarian in camp, so I’m going with a simple cheese tart. The “flames” are lozenges of dough that are fried in oil that has been colored red (alkenet is used in the original recipe), then stuck into the cooked pie after it comes out of the oven. How cool is that? The sausages are homemade, and they are already in my freezer (pork butt, a mixture of dried herbs, salt, and white wine). The Sauce au Moust, I think is a must sauce–made from the dregs of the wine barrel. I could cook down a great deal of cheap red wine, but I decided to go with the authors’ (Fêtes Gourmandes) suggestion and use macerated raisins. This is something else I’ll make in advance, so I can experiment with it a bit. I have a whole separate post on the caudel ferre, so I’ll leave it there. After Pennsic, I hope to post some photos of the dishes.

Caudel Ferre

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Caudel Ferre (spelled a bunch of different ways), appears in various forms in quite a few medieval cookbooks. It appears in most of them to be sort of a warm eggnog made with spiced ale instead of milk–not as unappealing as it might seem at first glance. In a new book, Cocatrice and Lamprey Hay, by Constance Hieatt (recipe 6, circa 1499), it is different. The author suggests that it might be like zabaglione, in other words, a light custard, because you are told to “Leche it in dyschis” or slice it into dishes. In fact, when I pulled out my trusty 1970s copy of The Joy of Cooking the recipe for the caudel ferre bears a striking resemblance to “wine custard”. Zabaglione or sabayon are a bit closer to the original recipe in some ways, but they involve adding in whipped whites at the end before serving. The wine custard uses the whole egg instead of the just the yolks, but the cooking instructions are very similar. It calls for a great deal more liquid that Hiett suggested (again, I think she was looking more towards the zabaglione), so I assume that you simply cook the wine custard a bit longer, and that the egg whites help it set up.  I have not made this yet, but I thought I’d include my recipe in case someone else wants to experiment.

Caudel Ferre (serves about 8)

3 cups dry white wine
3/4 cup water
6 large eggs, unbeaten
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch saffron

Topping
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

Put the wine and water in the top of a double boiler over boiling water. Make sure that the bottom of the pot does not touch the boiling water. Add the eggs, sugar, saffron, and salt and beat vigorously with a whisk. Cook until it thickens, beating constantly. Divide among the individual cups. Mix the sugar and ginger for the topping. Sprinkle it on top of the custards.

The original recipe called for sugar or clarified honey. I’m opting for sugar because it’s easier to control the consistency. Honey can be very unpredictable. I plan on using this, as well as a number of other recipes from the same book, for my in-camp feast at Pennsic War this year. I’m going to serve it with with flambeed seasonal berries. The amounts of liquids suggested by the author seemed awfully small, so I went with Joy of Cooking on the amounts. Although the hot custard cannot be cut–spooned is more likely, it could be cut if it was chilled. As the caudel ferre recipe has the cook finishing the dish off of the heat, that may well make a difference.