Hard-Boiled Egg Cookies

My grandmother, mother, father,step-grandfather, and IMy grandmother used to bake a multitude of different cookies. I remember that she would make hard-boiled-egg cookies and insist that they were from an old German recipe and would make the best crumbs of any cookie (which she would use for the crust of cheesecake). I was young and never really thought much about this until I came across a recipe from the Second Edition of the Neighborhood Cookbook, published by the Council of Jewish Women, Portland, Oregon (1914).  The recipe was named simply German Cookies.

(Which makes sense to me, as my Grandmother was a stout, stern German woman.)  However, the concept of using hard-boiled eggs in cookies has an unclear origin. I am still looking for the history on it.

German Cookies (Council of German Women Recipe)

Yolks of one dozen hard-boiled eggs, one and one-half pounds butter, one-half pound granulated sugar. Enough flour to make a nice soft dough, two teaspoons of baking powder (mix with flour), one teaspoon lemon extract. Cream the butter and sugar; then add the grated yolks of the eggs; then two raw eggs, and lastly, flour, and flavoring. Roll out quite thin. Cut into different forms, and bake in moderate oven until golden brown.

I’ve run across other hard-boiled-egg cookie recipes in European cookbooks. The Polish have cookie recipes that use hard-boiled-egg yolks. The kruche ciasto Polskie (Polish crumbly dough) is used for cookies and tart shells. There are also numerous Italian cookie recipes that use hard-boiled eggs.

They only sound weird.

Cookbooks from the 1940s had a great variety of hard-boiled-egg cookies. They seem to have evolved into something of a dinosaur in recent editions of standard cookbooks. I’m not sure why. Hard-boiled-egg cookies are delicious.

Hard-Boiled-Egg Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 hard-boiled-egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 2 cups flour

Cut cold butter into small pieces with knife. Work into sugar until crumb-like. Mash egg yolks with fork, and work into crumbs. Add vanilla and small amount of milk. Mix in flour. This dough will be dry but will hold together when squeezed. It should not be crumbly. (If it does not hold together, add few more drops of milk.) Press or shape as desired. Bake in 400-degree oven 6 to 9 minutes or until set but not overly browned.

Berliner Kranser

  • 2 egg yolks, raw
  • 2 hard-boiled-egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ pound unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 2 egg whites
  • decorator’s sugar

Mash hard-boiled-egg yolk with fork. Add raw yolks to hard-boiled yolks. Add sugar and almond extract, and mix together. Blend in butter, and add flour. Dough will be dry and firm. If it does not hold together and is too crumbly, add another raw yolk (although that might require more flour for the right consistency). Refrigerate dough several hours to chill thoroughly. Roll dough into thin ropes about 7 inches long. Twist ends together to form circle with ends overlapping. Brush with egg white, and sprinkle on decorator’s sugar. Bake in 350-degree oven 6 to 8 minutes or until just set but not browned.

Dessert Hard-Boiled Eggs

old-easter-cards-505They might sound strange, but a sweetened hard-boiled egg dates back to Roman times. Egg yolks were sweetened with honey and mixed with raisins to create a dessert egg dish.  A bit shocking to some, but so obvious.  We are so used to the savory deviled (stuffed, dressed) hard-boiled eggs it never occurred to me that I could go sweet, too.  A friend mentioned a dessert egg recipe that their grandmother would make every Easter.  I’ve tried them.  They are delicious.

Another way to get kids to eat all those hard-boiled eggs they were so keen on coloring..

Maple Pecan Deviled Eggs

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons (scant) maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped toasted pecans (topping)

Chocolate Deviled Eggs (Sweet)

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • ¼ cup superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • several drops vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • cocoa powder for garnish

Butter and cream cheese are easier to work with if at room temperature. Blend. Add sugar and chocolate, add vanilla extract. Top with sweetened whipped cream, and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

 

Deviled, Stuffed, and Dressed Hard-Boiled Eggs… YUM.

easterbunny-egg-1820-20110414-1022It’s that time of year, where we dye a bunch of hard-boiled eggs, and then we have to figure out how to use them up over the next few days.

I’ve always been a big fan of deviled, stuffed and dressed eggs.

The difference between deviled, dressed, and stuffed eggs is negligible. (A rose by any other name…)  The ingredients for all are pretty simple: take a whole, peeled hard-boiled egg cut lengthwise. Scoop out the yolk. Mash it. , enhance it, and plop it back into the empty depression on the white half.  Who hasn’t had those?

They are so popular that special plates are sold to cradle the egg halves.

Cookbooks have referenced them since the Romans (although they stuffed their hard-boiled-egg yolks with raisins and honey). In the 1500s in England, instructions appear in cookbooks to “farce” the yolks (meaning mush them up, usually with other ingredients) and re-place them in the egg. The concept is widespread, and popular worldwide.

The term deviled is a description in old cookbooks — that usually meant something  especially hot and spicy.

(Wait, no hard and fast rules here…Devil’s food chocolate cake is not hot and spicy; it was named to contrast with angel food, the exceptionally white, light, and airy sponge cake made with a great many egg whites.)

The first known reference to deviled was in an English cookbook in 1786. In the 1800’s, it was very common to find described as deviled various recipes. This was quite risque, as the usually boring bland food lacked the devilish pinch of cayenne or tiny dollop of minced horseradish.

Oh so tame by today’s chili-pepper-obsessed standards.

At the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery in 2006, Nancy R. McArthur related the following item reported in The New York Times (June 13, 1904) entitled “Angel Cake and Deviled Eggs Barred” (page 6):

“The popularity of deviled eggs was not without controversy as erupted in 1904 in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. The all-male officers of the Reformed Church voted against permitting deviled eggs and angel cake at the June fete. In their view, having deviled eggs would bring profane objects within the sacred edifice while angel cake would be sacrilegious. Women planning the fete cancelled the event in a fit of pique, refusing to bow to the will of the sanctimonious menfolk. Similar issues arose in the southern states, sometimes requiring a change in the dish’s name.”

Because of this controversy, parts of the U.S. still refer to deviled eggs as dressed or stuffed.

For years I thought that deviled eggs were ONLY egg yolk mixed with store-made jar mayonnaise. How wrong I was.

In Northern Europe, it is not uncommon to mix the yolks with stale white bread that has been soaked in milk, along with mustard and parsley. Germany is fond of stuffed eggs with anchovy and capers.  Old recipes use softened butter instead of mayonnaise. Other recipes use substitutes such as dry, Greek-style yogurt; heavy whipping cream; sour cream; cream cheese; hummus; or in the case of a mid-twentieth-century American recipe using a very American cheese-product invention, the neon-orange Cheez Whiz, for a cheesy egg concoction (No comment. I haven’t tried it.)

More-exotic binder ingredients (instead of mayonnaise) are mashed avocado, olive or other oil, and coconut milk. Additions to the egg yolk include pureed artichoke hearts; minced olives; diced sun-dried tomatoes; bits of chicken, fish, or bacon; mashed potato; bread crumbs; and ground nutmeats. In one popular variation, Russian eggs, the eggs are filled with caviar and served with a rémoulade sauce.

A couple of recipes from my collection

Deviled egg recipes all have the same instructions (unless noted): cut peeled hard-boiled eggs lengthwise; remove yolks; mash them; and add enough of a binder such as mayonnaise, butter, or yogurt to make the yolks creamy and hold them together. Mix in with other ingredients and spices. Return the yolk mixture to the center depression in the egg white (with a spoon or a pastry bag). Garnish with a spice (typically paprika) and/or other ingredients such as parsley, cilantro, or caviar

My Mother’s Deviled Eggs

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (more or less as needed to make yolks creamy)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • paprika for garnish

Yogurt Deviled Eggs

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Dash Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt, to taste
  • Paprika, for garnish

Old-Fashioned Butter Deviled Eggs

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons softened sweet cream butter
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons heavy cream (more or less as needed to make yolks creamy)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika, for garnish

Bean Deviled Eggs

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons refried beans
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon finely minced fresh oregano (or ¼ teaspoon dried)

 

Almost Time to Dye Eggs

smaller chicken and laundryEggs come in a variety of colors – white, light and dark brown, pink, green, but this time of year, we look for more intensely colored eggs for Easter. Aside from the purchased tablets of concentrated food dyes, or liquid food coloring, there are many  foods and flowers that can dye egg shells. They may not be as consistent, but the experimentation is a lot more fun.

You might not exactly get the colors you intend, but there is satisfaction in the process, and its a much better story to impress your friends and family with your trial-and-error efforts to “go natural”.

There are three ways to dye your eggs with foods and flowers:

  1. hard boil the eggs with the dye-source
  2. soak the already boiled eggs in a concentrated “tea” overnight in the refrigerator
  3. crush a dye source (such as fresh or frozen berries) on the egg

To allow the dye to penetrate the outer shell of the egg, add vinegar, to the liquid you will soak the egg in.

The science: Vinegar “etches’ the exterior of the egg and softens the outer layer to accept the dye.  Soak an egg for too long, or in too much, or too strong vinegar, the shell will completely dissolve, leaving the tough outer egg membrane (which is popular with some methods of pickling eggs). Why? The egg shell is made of calcium carbonate.  Vinegar is a mild (3%) solution of acetic aced.  The calcium carbonate bond is broken by the acid, and the carbonate is released as carbon dioxide, while the calcium ions float free.  The result the shell is dissolved while the egg and egg membrane are unaffected.

A teaspoon per 4 cups of liquid is sufficient. For more intense colors, add more of the dye-source (not more vinegar). The colors  also vary with the length of soaking — as long as overnight (*ideally in the refrigerator).

One of the most interesting (and variable) ways to dye eggs is with onion skins.  The problem is that you need a great quantity of skins (and who has that many onions laying around?)  I’ve only done it once — after going to a produce store and asking if I could come in for several days and collect the dried onion skins.  They were amused (to put it mildly). I came in three days in a row, and on the fourth, the shop presented me with a huge plastic bag of the onion skins. (I think they were getting tired of seeing me.)

I used six cups of onion skins (crushed) and four cups of water. Brought the mixture to a boil, and then covered and reduced the heat to a simmer and cooked them for 60 minutes.  I let the onion skin “tea” cool before, straining, adding vinegar, and then placing hard cooked eggs in the mixture.

The red onion skins produce a deep red dyed egg, and when left in the mixture, can become nearly maroon (if not left for very long the color is more lavender/violet). The yellow onion skins result in yellow/golden/orange/brown.

Juices, and red wine, can be boiled (reduced) down to make a more intense dye. Bring to a boil and simmer on the stove until about half as much of the original volume remains.

Some things may be used ‘just as they are’, such as mustard, or red wine, or even crushed berries.  The egg shells (and your hands) will pick-up color  by coating them onto the egg, or soaking the eggs into a cup-full of the stuff.

Juices (out of the bottle) can be used to dye eggs, and, best if you add some vinegar.

Seeds, herbs, leaves, flowers require boiling, and simmering to become colorants. Simmering takes a length of time (30-60 minutes) to become intense. Cool, and strain.  (Although, with the colorant can result in some interesting effects of mottling, and spotting.)

It’s not an exact science. It’s more trial and error. (Or, at least, it has been for me.) Fascinating, and perhaps time consuming, but also rewarding and interesting. And, depending on the original shell color (white, brown, tan, pinkish, greenish) the colors are even more variable and interesting. (Although, brown eggs won’t color as well as a white egg, obviously.)

The egg color result will be a matte color. You can add shine by rubbing the eggs with a drop olive oil dried with a towel.   Sometimes the colors will be splotchy (because of the vinegar etched the egg shell irregularly).

Colors to dye eggs:

PINK/RED/VIOLET/BLUE

Raspberries, blueberries (fresh or frozen); the onion skins, beets and beet juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, red grape juice, .cherry juice (concentrate), purple cabbage leaves (boiled), red wine, cinnamon, grape hyacinth blossoms.

BROWN/ORANGE/YELLOW

Strong Coffee (or used coffee grounds), instant coffee, black walnut shells (boiled for more than an hour), strong black tea, dill seeds (boiled – 1 cup seeds/1 cup water), mustard, carrot tops (boiled), carrot juice, celery seed (boiled), cumin (boiled), paprika (boiled), turmeric (boiled), dandelion flowers, daisies (flowers and greenery).

Time to get some chicks…

I must admit, I’ve been off the blog for a while.

My last chicken, Survivor, died last summer.  She was called survivor, because she was the last one of a group of 25. They were the original 25 that inspired me to start finding out all I could about eggs, chickens and recipes on eggs.  Survivor was nearly a decade old.

Chickens die of many things. Some illness, some mysteriously disappear (I’d like to think they run away from home for a  life of fame and fortune, but sadly, I doubt they leave without help from a predator). I’ve had ravens come down and kill a chicken or two. An eagle snatched up a small one. Raccoons find intriguing (but gruesome) ways of grimly reaping a few. Egg binding is sad. There are so many ways that chickens shuffle off the mortal coil.

chicken-in-snow

R.I.P Survivor.

But, to be honest, I was sick of eggs, too. Time to take a break.

So, now it is time to order a new batch. The coop is cleaned. The chicken yard will have new grass and grain seeds planted. Netting will tent the yard. Some bushes have been added. The nesting coop has had the security beefed up, and soon the fencing will be improved.

I’ve learned from my past mistakes.

The brooder area is set up. The days are getting longer (heck, in two weeks we will change the clocks forward, and spring is on the calendar for this month).

It is time to place the order for another 25 chickens (mostly hens, oh I do HOPE mostly hens). Then, await the early morning call from the post office to pick up the compact box, with holes and bright letters “caution live animals” that will be peeping.  The peeps are so cute. The peeps become so annoying because they are incessant.

Chicks are so cute when they are a week old. After that, not so much.  They manufacture their body weight in excrement, daily.  They try to escape. They will pick at each other with abandon (unless you “enrich” their brooding pen with greens and more interesting foods, and items).  They grow rapidly, and in just a few weeks will be fully feathered, and ready to brave the new world.

There are so many breeds of chickens. I’ve learned to avoid any birds described as “lively and quick” (they escape, they roost in trees, they freak out and cause a panic of the flock whenever possible).  I’ve found lively and quick means “type A” and prone to chicken anxiety issues.   I like the larger birds, described as laid back and calm.  I want couch potato birds. Not much ambition, and very little stress.

But, the color combinations are hard to resist — reds, golds, blue/black, yellow, orange, white.  And, the patterns and variation are so interesting.   On one hand it would be lovely to have a yard full of identical chickens (my favorite are the butter-golden Buff Orpington), but I want a mix of white, brown, greenish, and pinkish eggs, and maybe some dark, dark chocolate brown ones.

Maybe I am starting to get a little too excited

 

Summer Egg Blues (and, adventures in Hollandaise Sauce)

broken eggs  jean-baptiste greuze

“Broken Eggs” Jean-Baptiste Greuze 1756  (On display at the MET. Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920)

The painting was said, by critics in the 1700’s, that the broken eggs symbolized the loss of the girl’s virginity. I don’t think they’re right.  I just think that she was overwhelmed by the eggs, and the weight of deciding what to do with them. As is the case, in the long days of summer chickens just lay too darn many eggs.  (Although I do wonder why the little boy has a rat and that strange expression.)

My chickens have long since passed on to the pasture in the sky, so I source my eggs at a local honor farm stand. A couple of days ago I didn’t have change for a single carton of eggs, so I purchased four cartons (two medium $4.00 each, and two large $6.00 each) and stuffed my $20 bill into the locked box.

Now I have the weight of 48 eggs staring at me every time I open my refrigerator.

I don’t really feel like making an angel food or sunshine cake. Not in the mood for a savory bread casserole. (No stale bread, either.) Not in the mood for a souffle.

So, what do I feel like?  Custard? Flan? Quiche?

That is the dilemma. I feel like I can relate to that poor woman sitting on the floor. Deep in contemplation, annoyed at the lack of direction and unable to make a decision. I have 47 perfect eggs sitting waiting for me. Calling out “I’m yummy”. (The best I have done is fry one for breakfast.)

I think I’m going to make a Hollandaise sauce (which will bring me down to 46 eggs which will patiently wait until tomorrow).  I have some fresh, wild caught salmon that I will poach in some white wine, some fresh squash (who doesn’t have too much squash this time of year?) a glass of the white wine, and a Hollandaise sauce will be perfect.

I can taste it now. The butter and egg sauce with a lemony flavor, emulsified over heat served hot.

Hollandaise sauce is named for Holland, the place of its birth. Although made famous by the French. The name suggests that it was a Dutch creation imported to France (by the Huguenots). The sauce’s history is quite muddled, with many views on who was first, where it appeared in written form first, and why it came to be.

Most people only think of Hollandaise for breakfast (Eggs Benedict).

As all emulsified egg sauces, it has the reputation for being difficult, in this case,  notoriously difficult. The internet and cookbooks all have some trick and shout out: “this is the BEST RECIPE” that most people shy away from making a batch.

(Note: I’m cutting the recipe in half, because I’m just cooking for myself.)

The most important thing about all sauces is to not rush. Eggs and oil are an exercise in patience. Push to hard, heat too high, rush and the sauce will “break” (curdle, clump).

Some cooking experts will tell you to start with nearly frozen butter cut into small cubes and let the butter melt as you blend it with the yolk over heat. (It works. It can take a long time for the butter to melt, but the end result is fine.) Some recipes make no distinction in the temperature of the butter but say to put the pan directly on low heat and move it off when necessary to control the temperature. Other recipes call for an extra initial step: clarifying the butter first (which I prefer) and then mixing the oil into the yolk, much as with making mayonnaise, only over a bain-marie or a double boiler. Although, you can just do this in a saucepan over the heat.

(Something I have NOT tried until tonight.)

My husband insists that clarifying the butter is an unneeded step and that any butter will work, salted or not, although the only butter he usually has on hand is unsalted butter. He has made Hollandaise and Bernaise sauces hundreds of times. I, on the other hand, have made emulsified sauces only with clarified butter but have made mayonnaise many times, and I like liquid oil to mix into the egg yolk, because I find it easier to control and more familiar. Since we both come up with the same basic end result, I suppose it’s only a matter of which directions you care to follow and practice with. One thing is for certain: These are sauces you have to be prepared to practice, and make routinely, until the techniques are foolproof—or nearly so—for you.

The key is to not get frustrated. Once you have the hang of it, these are easy and elegant sauces to “whip up.”

If the egg in the sauce begins to curdle, you can strain the sauce through several layers of cheesecloth, return the liquid to the pan, add a new egg yolk, and try again. Addition of some very, very cold water (a teaspoon to a tablespoon) can cool the sauce down enough to stop the break. (Then whisk energetically to get the egg proteins to smooth out and accept more oil.) If a sauce breaks, it breaks. Everyone has it happen, sometimes. When it does, just start over and go slower, and you’ll find success. (I have a lot of mistakes I can make, and still have eggs.)

Tonight I’ll try my husband’s recipe [cut in half]:.



  • 2 sticks butter  [1 stick, or so 1/4 pound, or 4 ounces of butter]
  • 4 egg yolks [2 egg yolks]
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice [1/2 teaspoon lemon juice]
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper [I am going to skip the cayenne, because I don’t feel like it]
  • salt and pepper, to taste [just a small dash of salt, touch more pepper]
  • 2 teaspoons ice water, if needed [1 teaspoon ice water]

Cut well-chilled butter into small (1/4-inch) chunks, and set aside. In fairly large saucepan, add egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne, and pepper. With hand whisk, blend all ingredients. Add chilled nuggets of butter, and turn heat to medium. Start whisking ingredients, and do not stop until butter melts and sauce begins to thicken. If sauce starts to break, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of very cold water, remove from heat, and whisk feverishly until sauce combines again. Once sauce is thick and smooth, add salt and more pepper, to taste. Remove from heat, and serve. (You can put saucepan into pan of warm water to keep sauce heated for as long as 30 minutes. This sauce does not hold well—it will begin to break.)



 

I’ll report back —

Swedish Egg Coffee

the-scream-1893(2).jpg!Large

The Scream   by Edvard Munch

I thought I’d heard of everything, and then someone mentions Swedish Coffee — an egg used in brewing it.

What?

Something in the far back of my mind registered — wasn’t there some old fancy trick about using egg  to clarify the coffee?   I only vaguely remembered this — tossing a beaten raw egg into the hot-pot of coffee to collect the grounds. The egg adds flavor and mellows the coffee (in the process — wastes an egg).

Somewhere back in my memory I had heard of this. This was a childhood memory, and I only remember it like a dream.

Was this really something?

It is mixed up in my mind like Hobo Coffee. Where you boil some water, toss in the grounds usually in the same pot you boiled water in, let it steep for a few minutes, then pour in some cold water (which drags the coffee grounds to the bottom) and you end up with a perfectly good cup of lukewarm coffee.

And, then out of the haze, I remember my grandmother always put her egg shells aside in a wooden box, and when she made coffee — pretty much Hobo coffee — she just put coffee and egg shells into a pot of boiling water, stirred it, and set it aside to steep. When she poured it out, without straining, it was dark, hot coffee. She said that the egg shells bound the grounds together at the bottom of the pot. (These coffee grounds and egg shells would go into the garden compost pile every morning.)

Of course, the funniest thing about being at Grandma’s house was watching my step-grandfather with a hot cup of coffee.  He would, to my grandmothers chagrin, pour the coffee from the cup to the saucer, then back to the cup, then back to the saucer, and so on, until he deemed it cool enough to drink.  He ate his green peas off his butter knife, and slurped his soup. He was an old Scotsman, with a thick Scottish brogue. He would say all kinds of strange things.Always called me a cheeky bairn. Half the time I never knew what he was saying with all the peely-wally, stookie, stooshie,  aff, aye, and oof.

My grandmother (my mother’s mother) was always in the kitchen. She kept the bacon grease in a crock by the stove. She kept bread crusts in a paper bag, and  egg shells, rinsed, in a small wooden box next to the stove. Egg shells were used to wash out bottles (put place crushed egg shells into a long neck bottle, with some soap and hot water, and shake-shake-shake. The shells would scrub the corners and hard to reach parts and the bottle would come out sparkling.  She used crushed egg shells and a sponge to clean her cast iron pans (she never used soap on the pans, claimed it would “ruin them”). She added finely ground egg shells to soups and stews to give them a calcium boost. And, she would crush them in a paper bag with a rolling-pin, and make a fine line around her vegetable plants, because she insisted “it kept the snails away”.

While on the subject of coffee, my father liked to drink Turkish Coffee (basically finely ground coffee heated up, slowly with a ton of sugar, and some ground cardamom). Really fine restaurants, back then, would usually have it on the menu, as an exotic delicacy. It was good, I was often allowed to have a small sip. A thick swill that you almost had to chew to get down, but delicious. (Now I have a craving for that.)

Coffee making for me was either the electric percolator that my parents used, or the “modern” ways, which I embraced. When I was out on my own, I was in the land of paper filters, and, later, French Press coffee. My friends had very complicated ways to make the “very best coffee, ever”. Coffee bean stores were opening up — where exotic beans from all over the world, in different roasts were trendy (unlike the big cans of pre-ground coffee that my parents would haul home from the grocery store).  Everyone had specific instructions that they would insist on. There were various promoted blends of dark French roast mellowed with a small amount  of Rainforest South American or Hawaiian grown beans (a light roast to balance out and put complexity the blend).

Everyone had a blend. Exotic Ethiopian beans, or Jamaican Blue Mountain Grown were the high-end (thankfully Civit digested coffee hadn’t been discovered, or marketed, yet) and Mexican and Columbian were the low-end.

Coffee beans were always ground fresh right before brewing (beans always kept in the freezer for maximum freshness). The coffee pot had to be preheated. The water boiled, but then cooled for several minutes to 205 degrees (to not injure the coffee oils), and then (for the paper filter drip method) poured in a circular motion over the ground coffee.  For the French Press, the coffee was placed in the glass carafe prior to pouring the hot water over them, then stirred once, and allowed to steep for 2-3 minutes, maximum, then transferred (in the case of a big batch of coffee) to a preheated thermos.

Complicated stuff this coffee-making.

So, my idea of coffee is strong, and full-bodied. I still like my coffee dark and strong, on the occasion that I indulge (more of a tea person these days). Seems, according to cooking websites and blogs, Swedish (aka Norwegian, Scandinavian) coffee is a thing, now. I find references all over the web. As a self-appointed egg expert I just had to try it.

I tried it.

I read a conglomeration of instructions.  I took an egg, and cracked it into a room temperature pan, crushed the egg-shell well, and broke the yoke. Placed a heaping tablespoon of ground coffee (ground to the consistency of what you would use for French Drip). Mixed together it looked disgusting, like mud.  Poured cold water into the pan, and set it on the stove, on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mess was just below the boiling point (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit). .Removed it from the heat, and let it sit for two minutes.  Then, I strained it into a cup(had to clean the metal strainer several times because it would get clogged up).  The coffee was not coffee-colored. It was more like cafe au lait. The smell was like a very mild coffee. The flavor was very mild — not what I’ve come to expect from coffee concoctions. It was almost insipid, bland.  With added sugar it was more reminiscent of hot cocoa than coffee.  It would be a good drink for someone who didn’t like coffee very much.

Interesting. Different.

I added cream, and the coffee developed a chewy, chalky mouth feel. Not bad, just unexpected. It’s better without dairy.  There is no obvious egg flavor, but it does have more texture, perhaps egg proteins.The only other drawback, aside from using up an egg, was that it was messy to create, and the brown egg, shaggy mess left behind was unsavory.

I think it would be better with some cocoa (will try that next time) to make a super beefy, mocha drink.  It would be better with ground cardamom added. (Which, to me, would make it much more exciting of a drink.)  I might try mixing it with some chai spices (star anise, allspice, ginger, cardamom, fennel seeds, peppercorn nutmeg and cloves) or adding some milk masala powder, because the coffee base would be delicious brightened up with something more.

Overall, interesting.  I can’t rave about it, because it was just a little too flat and mild for my tastes.  But, worth experimenting with.

 

 

Monte Cristo Sandwich

The sandwich that is the oddest in my book is the Monte Cristo sandwich. It is a class of sandwich, with several regional variations. Generally speaking, the pieces of bread are sweet French toast and the sandwich filling is savory.

The sandwich filling may be ham and cheese or turkey ham and cheese, much as in a club sandwich. Some parts of the United States grill a “closed” sandwich, whereas other places serve it open-faced with Swiss (or other) cheese melted on top. The bread is always French toast. Some recipes call for a more savory approach (Thousand Island dressing on plain egg toast, with fries on the side), and others lean toward the standard American breakfast French toast with powdered sugar, maple syrup, and fresh fruit salad as garnish.

The thing is, French toast isn’t actually that unusual as a sandwich exterior. Several recipes call for two pieces of bread dipped in egg and fried. I think it’s the combination of ingredients and the name that make this sandwich stand out.

The name of the sandwich is, obviously, a nod to Le Comte De Monte-Cristo, the Alexandre Dumas adventure novel, published in 1844. The Count of Monte Cristo’s protagonist, Edmond Dantes, who had been wrongfully accused and imprisoned and subsequently escaped from jail, flees to the island of Monte Cristo and finds the legendary treasure of the Spada family. With the riches, he can fund his revenge on those who wronged him. His revenge is formidable and the results shocking. The book is a classic.

Alexandre Dumas, painted by Olivier Pichat

Alexandre Dumas, painted by Olivier Pichat

The history of the sandwich is more difficult to unearth than the Spada family treasure. Many references assume that the first incarnation of the Count of Monte Cristo sandwich was in Disneyland, in Anaheim, California (where it was served at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square and in the Adventureland Tahitian Terrace restaurants). The earliest Disneyland menu it is found on is from 1966.

The first cookbook to publish a recipe was the Brown Derby Cookbook.[1] Its recipe:

     Take three slices of white bread. Butter the first and cover with lean baked ham and chicken. Butter the middle slice on both sides, place on meat, and cover with thinly sliced Swiss cheese. Butter the third slice and place, butter down, over cheese. Trim crusts; cut sandwich in two; secure with toothpicks; dip in light egg batter; fry in butter on all sides until golden brown. Remove toothpicks and serve with currant jelly, strawberry jam, or cranberry sauce.

The Brown Derby did not claim to have invented the sandwich. In Southern California, it was served in many cafés, from some at swanky golf courses to the famous Cantor’s Deli in Hollywood[2].

However, all these citations are predated by the Monte Cristo Hotel in Everett, Washington. The sandwich was a house special in its cafe.

Monte Cristo Hotel, Everett Washington

 

The first written citation on the sandwich was in a weekly Los Angeles Times column by Chef A. L. Wyman[3] in 1924. His recipe:

     Cover six slices of sandwich bread with a slice of American full cream cheese, cover the cheese with slices of boiled ham, cover with slices of bread, tie with white string, dip in beaten egg and fry a nice brown on both sides in hot butter. Place on hot plates, remove the string and serve.

It is notable that his recipe called for cream cheese, not the Swiss cheese or Emmentaler (a type of Swiss cheese) that is fairly standard among all the recipes.

The Monte Cristo has many minor variations. The most common: The bread is made into French toast first and then grilled (using 3 pieces of bread in a “Dagwood” layering[4]); a sandwich (usually with 2 pieces of bread) assembled and dipped in an egg/flour thickened batter; meat variations such as ham, turkey, and chicken; a sandwich served with jam, jelly, fruit, or maple syrup and dusted with confectioner’s sugar (and sometimes whipped cream); and a savory version (Cumberland-head style) served with Thousand Island dressing and garnished with pickles, relish, or French fries.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

1 egg

6 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons flour

3 slices bread

2 teaspoons butter

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or other hard cheese

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 (2 ounce) slice Swiss cheese

2 (1 ounce) slices roasted turkey

2 (1 ounce) slices boiled ham

confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

jam, for garnish

Whisk egg, milk, and flour together to make thick batter. Heat skillet on medium heat to melt small amount of butter. Dip bread into batter until coated, and put into frying pan; sprinkle with grated cheese and nutmeg. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Put Swiss cheese between 2 pieces of battered bread. Grill until cheese has melted enough to join the 2 pieces together. Remove from pan. On plate assemble sandwich. Place ham and turkey on top of grilled cheese pieces, and put last piece of battered bread on top. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve with side dish of jam.
[1] Doubleday & Company: Garden City, NY, 1949 (p. 183). The Brown Derby was a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles, California. The first and most famous was opened in a building shaped like a hat. The restaurants were iconic during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The first restaurant opened in 1926.

[2] The original Cantor’s—a Jersey City, New Jersey, delicatessen—opened in 1924 and moved to Hollywood in the 1940s.

[3] The regular column was called Practical Recipes: Helps for Epicures and All Who Appreciate Good Cooking. The Monte Cristo sandwich recipe was published May 24, 1924.

[4] Dagwood Bumstead was a character in artist Chic Young’s long-running comic strip Blondie. Dagwood was famous for creating insanely tall, multilayered sandwiches topped with an olive on a toothpick. This name has become a food term to describe any sandwich with more than two pieces of bread.

Mayonnaise

hellman's fixed

1. Hellman’s Delivery Truck, circa 1930’s 2. BEST FOODS Real Mayonnaise Jar, 1939 3. Mr. Richard Hellmann, 1920’s 4. HELLMANN’S Real Mayonnaise Jar, 1939 5.) Richard Hellmann’s staff and original delicatessen, 1912 6. BEST FOODS delivery vehicle 1920’s

When most of us think of mayonnaise, we think of Best Foods, or Hellmann’s (depending which side of the country you are on). Few people actually TRY to make mayonnaise, because it has the reputation of being difficult to make.  Mayonnaise is a popular sauce for pairing with a wide variety of foods, was used in many ways, and had abundant variations. Much of this variety has been lost because of the ease of opening a jar. We have become so imprinted on the Hellman/Best Foods standard flavor that we overlook the delight to be found in fresh, homemade mayo.

I suspect that the commercial mayonnaise makers were responsible for the unreasonable claims that it is finicky and difficult to make. There are still pervasive myths. Among the most outlandish: Mayonnaise cannot be made by a menstruating woman. (It will fail to emulsify.) Also, mayonnaise cannot be made on a warm summer’s day, during a thunderstorm or a rainstorm, or when the barometer is showing a winter storm approaching. Some recipes insist that all the ingredients must be very cold, whereas others caution that they should be at room temperature. The mystique that surrounds creating the emulsion known as mayonnaise is certainly interesting. It makes you wonder: If it is so difficult to make, how is it that factories are able to consistently churn out truckloads of mayonnaise every day. (Do they ban menstruating women? Shut down during thunderstorms and fluctuating barometric pressure?)

The truth is: Mayonnaise is not difficult to make. If the idea was mastered in the 1500s, without refrigeration, by cooks during war campaigns — mayonnaise just cannot be that difficult.

The thing about making mayonnaise is that it, like most other cooking, is anything but an exact science. The most important ingredient (aside from good eggs and bland oil) is patience. A homemade product will, predictably, not turn out exactly the same every time. That is the nature of homemade, and the variations are part of the charm. The thing to remember about homemade mayonnaise is that it has a quality that cannot be mass-produced. It is an affordable luxury.

The science behind it is simple. Mayonnaise is an emulsion, which is a mix of two immiscible ingredients. Immiscible means incapable of mixing without a third substance called an emulsifier. In the case of mayonnaise, it is oil with a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar, which is mixed SLOWLY into egg yolks’ (lecithin in the eggs acts as an emulsifier).  A pinch of mustard powder or squeeze of prepared mustard (called for in most recipes) is an additional emulsifier.  The acid (lemon juice or vinegar) strengthens and lengthens the yolk’s proteins.

 

It is egg, and oil, with a little acid added (any kind of vinegar, lemon, or lime), plus a dash of salt. Mustard does help the emulsion hold together, so it is a good addition. Everything else is a suggestion. Keep this in mind when you read the following recipes. You can experiment with different kinds of mustards (grain, brown, dry powdered, prepared yellow) for different flavors. You can use different oils or oil mixtures. You can add various spices or other ingredients. The worst thing is to try to duplicate Hellman’s/Best Foods in flavor, texture, and color. It is nearly (if not completely) impossible to obtain the white color of commercially made mayonnaise. Yours will always be a richer, more interesting yellow. The flavor will be broader and the texture richer and creamier. The final product will often be thick. Add a tablespoon or more of cold water (or cream) to thin it.

The natural variation of homemade mayonnaise is due to the ingredients, the temperament of the cook, and the eggs. Eggs are not just eggs. They vary in seasonal quality—a spring egg is “wetter” than a late summer egg. A stored egg or an older refrigerated egg is thicker and dryer than a newly laid egg. An egg from a chicken fed on natural grasses is vastly different from an egg from a chicken raised on commercial pellets. A pastured chicken egg is different from a battery cage chicken egg. A freshly laid egg is different to work with than a commercial store-bought egg. Eggs from different strains of chickens probably have some minute differences, and eggs from different species have some very different characteristics. (A duck egg yolk and white are thicker than those of a chicken egg. A goose egg yolk is creamier than either a duck’s or a chicken’s.)

A freshly laid chicken egg is the easiest to work with for mayonnaise. But, unless you have chickens, this won’t be an option. Duck eggs make a very thick and rich mayonnaise, although you might need to add milk, cream, or water to thin it. Goose eggs make delicious mayonnaise, although some people find that it is too intensely egg-flavored.

A little about oil: Olive oil is the standard go-to for mayonnaise, but many olive oils are too flavorful and any undesirable traits, such as bitterness or an overbearing acid flavor, will be accentuated in the mayonnaise. In most cases, this detracts from or clashes with the flavors in the meal. It is better to find a neutral olive oil (such as a Spanish one) or use another type of bland, neutral oil such as safflower or sunflower oil. You can even try melted unsalted butter, it makes a very interesting mayonnaise, which is quite rich, and very unique.

(What causes me the most challenges is one of my own human foibles: impatience. Do not attempt to make mayonnaise if you are in a hurry. Mayonnaise cannot be rushed.)

Making an emulsion takes patience! By its very nature, an emulsion is something that does not want to blend. You have to coax the egg into accepting the oil and dribble the oil in slowly. I use an eyedropper and try not to add more than a few drops at a time. (I have never tried “pour in a thin stream” without awful results). I dribble the oil, drop by drop, at the start, and then move up to teaspoonfuls. I also give the yolk ample time to “rest.”  Stopping for a moment is handy. Stop and take a breath. This tip is good to remember if you begin to see the emulsification stalling and the mayonnaise just beginning to “break” (forming big, ugly curds that will not go back together again). You can settle the mixture down by pausing, adding a few drops of cold water, and just waiting a moment before continuing.

If you want a good workout, use a wire whisk and a large bowl that will allow the yolk to spread out into a very thin layer. It will give you a clear view of what is going on, and if any breaking starts, you can stop it quickly. (A deep, narrow bowl does not afford as much control.)

I’ve read that you can use a hand whisk, a rotary hand mixer, an electric hand mixer, a stick blender, an upright blender, or a food processor. However, I have used only a whisk or an electric hand mixer. It took me about three tries (one afternoon) before I managed to find a technique that worked for me. I have tried since then to use a blender and a food processor but always return to what I find easiest: the hand mixer and a big bowl with a flat bottom. But there is no one right way. Experiment, and find what works for you.

Expect a few mishaps before you get your technique down. The most common error, from my experience, is rushing it and adding the oil too fast. The point is to keep the egg yolk (or yolks) in motion while you add the oil, a drop at a time.

Basic Simple Mayo Recipe:

Mayonnaise

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon prepared mustard
1½ cups olive oil, salad oil, or mixture

2 tablespoons boiling water

Beat egg yolks with salt, mustard, and vinegar or lemon juice. Add oil, a drop at a time, and keep beating. Dribble oil in, in short bursts, beating constantly to make sure egg mixture absorbs oil smoothly. Dribble, and then stop and beat. Dribble, stop, and beat. When 1/3 cup oil is mixed in, the chance of the whole sauce’s breaking is lessened, so you can add oil in larger amounts (such as a teaspoon at a time). Continue until all oil has been used. The end result will be very thick and creamy. Thin with a little boiling water or a mixture of hot water and more vinegar or lemon juice if mixture is too thick. Add seasoning after mayonnaise has been chilled, covered, for an hour. (If not covered, it may develop an unsightly “skin” on top.)

If you are at all fearful of the dreaded “salmonella” (which I will cover on a different post, and best avoided by buying the freshest eggs, from the most natural source you can find — like a farmer’s market with the actual chicken wrangler right there selling them, or, naturally, from chickens wandering your backyard) then here is a “cooked” mayo recipe:

Cooked Mayo

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon dry mustard

dash pepper

1 cup very light olive oil

In double boiler, over simmering water, stir egg yolks, lemon juice, water, mustard, and pepper until blended. Continue stirring constantly. Using a glass cooking thermometer, get temperature to 140 degrees and maintain that temperature for 3½ minutes. Remove from heat (take pan off hot water), and let sit for several minutes to cool. Pour into blender, cover, and blend at high speed. Add oil, drop by drop, slowly. Keep adding more oil while blender is going, until all oil is absorbed. Yolk will become very thick and smooth. Occasionally turn off blender to scrape down sides with rubber spatula. Remove mayonnaise from blender, and placed in covered container. Keep refrigerated.

.

The Spanish Fried Egg

Spanish Fried Egg

I am always looking for new ways to fry an egg. I came upon this recipe in my travels, and have found it to be very interesting. it’s like a poached egg, in oil!   The egg white get crackly, and the egg yolk thickens. It is perfect to top a steak, or as a change from the drab morning egg.  Nothing could be further from the “perfect way to cook an egg” that Chef Ferdinand Point promoted.  (He insisted the ONLY way to cook an egg was slowly, in ample amounts of butter.)  The texture is unique.  The Spanish fry everything in a rather bland olive oil (lacking in overall “olive” flavor). This may be cooked in a good quality cooking oil, in melted lard, or as the Spanish do, in olive oil.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a heavy pan (cast iron works well) until it is nearly smoking. Then reduce the heat to medium-high, and break an egg into the hot oil. Cook eggs one at a time (several eggs will instantly migrate together and coagulate into one big shaggy mess). Tilt the pan away from you, and spoon the oil over the egg or, alternatively, roll the egg gently with a spoon to cook all sides evenly. Cook until the white is opaque but the interior is still runny. The total cooking time is less than a minute, closer to 45 seconds, for a still-runny yolk and up to 2 minutes for a firm yolk. Use a slotted spoon to lift the egg out of the oil, and let the excess oil drip off. The technique and resulting egg texture are more like those of a poached egg, but with a decidedly fried, almost crispy, exterior.