Posts Tagged With: red currants

More Retro Red Currants–testing in progress

What does one do with extra red currants? That was on my mind this past week before I had to hit the road again. I ended up getting way more red currants than I needed for the fritter experiment but it would be a shame not to use them for something else of the same time period. I looked through the White House Cookbook once more for a recipe or two. The book is delightfully vague when distinguishing between fresh currants and dried currants. Two recipes where freshness didn’t seem in doubt was “Currant Ice” and using ‘seasonal fruit’ in the recipe for “Bavarian Cream”. Both these recipes still need some tweaking but since I don’t have the time or fruit to spare at this moment I will leave you with Round One for each item and some pictures. Neither needed a whole lot of tweaking but I’d like to perfect either one so I can write out a copyable recipe.

Currant Ice–Round One

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To be frank, I was a little scared of this one and did have to alter the recipe structure a little because none of my research for similar recipes came up with the bold-as-brass instructions from the original. The recipe is pretty straightforward in the beginning–press out fruit juice, add water and sugar, heat it all up, whip up egg whites…  And then you see the request to add your cool, frothy egg whites to the boiling hot liquid and mix it in. Every fibre in my being said, ‘You’re going to cook those whites and have scrambled whites floating in juice”. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I searched around and decided to, instead, whisk a little bit of the hot liquid into the egg whites, tablespoon by tablespoon and then quarter cup by quarter cup until the whites had heated up sufficiently. Then I added the mix back into the sauce pan. In the end it made flavoured whites floating on liquid but with cooling and sufficient time in the freezer, it was okay to break up the ice crystals and stir the whole lot together. After freezing it again, it made a completely edible frozen dessert. Two things that will change in Round Two are the quantities of sugar and the huge likelihood that, unlike the first round, round two will be purely raspberry. In round one I didn’t have quite enough red currant juice to make it purely currant ice, but, like the original recipe said, you can make a mixture of currant and raspberry. I made 1/3 raspberry, 2/3 red currant juice.  The sugar asked for was way, way too much. I’ll research that again for quantities but I doubt it will be the two cups asked for. Almost set one’s teeth on edge but still very refreshing on the hot night when it was tried.

Bavarian Cream–Round One

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Like the currant ice, this one doesn’t need a whole lot of fixing but there were certain quantities to fix which would have made this dessert survive heat. To be honest, this test was a roaring success in terms of taste and texture. It just couldn’t survive room temperature (or slightly above, actually). Given my reviews of other bavarian cream recipes out there in Internet-land, I am pretty sure my gelatin quantities were insufficient. I would warn that this recipe does take a number of steps and that, like many older recipes, requires some time to prepare and set. Is it worth it? Oh me, oh my… there are no words to describe how much my extended family and friends think it is ‘worth it’. Some are still worried that adding extra gelatin will take away from the experience. Round two will tell.  Oh. And this is NOT for the dieter. Egg yolks, cups and cups of whipped cream fill up this recipe but let me tell you this– this round of Bavarian Cream broke somebody’s willpower. Swore up and down they did that they’d not eat sugars and eat fattening things. One finger licked led to a second fingerful and then a high pursuit chase by her husband to get some bavarian for himself. I think that story alone sells this dessert.

Round two, again, will not likely have currants in it since I doubt we’ll find any one the way back home but I’ll work that into the recipe write-up anyways since they tasted ever so good with the cream. A perfect sour-sweet counterpoint to the rich sweetness of the cream.

I hope to try both Round Twos out soon but it won’t be for at least a few days.

Categories: creams and desserts, custards, ice cream and ices, still testing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Currant Fritters are Educational–Currant Fritters, White House Cookbook

Currant fritters are educational. Did you know that? When I started my adventure into fritter land, I never expected to learn so many valuable lessons.

Lesson number 1 – the internet and the phone are your friend when you want to source less common fruits, no matter how “in season” they are

I spent no less than three hours going from supermarkets to farmer’s markets to ethnic stores to organic markets trying to find red currants. Red currants are still very much in season here but you’d think I’d asked the fruit and veg people if they carried Martian snow berries for the odd looks I often got. Or the “We have dried ones over there…”  Would I be asking for fresh currants if I wanted dried? Come on, people! Only one place out of about fifteen said, “Oh sorry. We ran out three days ago.” Bugger! Just my luck. Disgruntled and overheated from the warm day, I plopped in front of the computer, googled a few words and voila! There was a farm a few kilometres from the antique store I’d just patronized that specialized in berries including –you guessed it—red currants. Count me relieved when I phoned and they still had some. And good thing I phoned, too, because if I’d delayed too much, they might have been out. I just got to the stand with the red currants when a European woman reached the same stand. Seemed like a gun fight at high noon when we both started reaching for the punnets, daring each other with barely-there glances to be the one to grab the lot and run.

Lesson number 2—Cold is your friend when using beaten egg whites.

I don’t seem to have a whole lot of luck when it comes to cooking. I say, “Hey, currants are in season. I’ll make those fritters” and Mother Nature says, “Ah, time for a heat wave then”. It was a bit warm on Friday when I started Round 1. I made a few errors in the recipe—the fritters were too big to cook right through (great spoonfuls, my aunt fannie) and the temperature needed tweaking—but the road looked pretty clear ahead for the next round. Okay. I can handle that. Can’t cook the next day but I’ll book Sunday for Round 2. Sunday ends up being a 35°C torture fest in a house with no air conditioning and me hanging over a hot pan of boiling lard. I was stubborn and plowed on anyways, despite the heat. The batter sulked and refused to cooperate, burning on the outside and staying raw in the middle. Thankfully, my sis was around to help me through my crying jag and suggested the fridge and new lard (the first lot got all gummy with scum and burnt bits). The temperature change definitely made the difference. You either have to cook your batter quick time while the whites are cold, refrigerate before you start frying, use an air conditioned house or keep the batter bowl in a bigger bowl filled with ice if you’re crazy like me and fry fritters on a hot day.

Lesson number 3—Always check your camera lens (and other parts) before starting an extensive photo shoot.

Yeah. You read correctly. I went blithely through round 1 shooting all kinds of “in process” photos and some attempts at finished photos for a ‘round one’ post. I downloaded them and then saw picture after picture with a smudge on it. I don’t know how I didn’t see the smudge on the LED screen but there it was, bold as brass, telling me that my work was far from over. When I finished round one and knew I had to take some more photos of the finished product but I though the mixing and cooking would be much faster since I didn’t need to take photos. Surprise! And since Round 2 was on such a hot, muggy day, I think even my camera was pouting and not wanting to cooperate but thankfully things went somewhat better even if it took way longer to finish the shoot.

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I don’t know who came up with such a complicated fritter recipe that was bound to be fussy on hot days and then use a fruit in it that ripens only when hot days usually occur. Don’t get me wrong. It has had many rave reviews from humans to gluten-crazy cockatiels but, ye gods, it seems a lot of work for a high summer’s dessert. I am starting to wonder if the fruit and veg guys were right and it really was dried currants in these babies. I still totally recommend the red currants but I’m wondering if a different version will be tried down the road to see if dried currants makes more sense.

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CURRANT FRITTERS. (Original Recipe)

Two cupfuls dry, fine bread crumbs, two tablespoonfuls of prepared flour, two cups of milk, one-half pound currants, washed and well dried, five eggs whipped very light, one-half cup powdered sugar, one tablespoonful butter, one-half teaspoonful mixed cinnamon and [Pg 267]nutmeg. Boil the milk and pour over the bread. Mix and put in the butter. Let it get cold. Beat in next the yolks and sugar, the seasoning, flour and stiff whites; finally, the currants dredged whitely with flour. The batter should be thick. Drop in great spoonfuls into the hot lard and fry. Drain them and send hot to table. Eat with a mixture of wine and powdered sugar.

CURRANT FRITTERS (modernized recipe)

Fritters

½ pound (227 g) red currants

2 Tbsp white flour

2 cups fine bread crumbs

2 cups milk (1% or higher)

1 Tbsp butter

5 eggs, separated

½ cup sifted icing sugar

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 Tbsp white flour

1 lb (454g) block of lard

Icing sugar for decoration

Glaze

1 cup sifted icing sugar

4 Tbsp Raspberry wine (or any dessert wine)

Glaze Instructions:

  1. Add sugar and wine together. Stir until completely mixed
  2. Place bowl in fridge until needed.
  3. Just before serving fritters, allow 5 minutes for glaze to warm up, mix to break up sugar crystals

Fritter Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, place 2 cups of bread crumbs. Add butter to the crumbs but do not mix.
  2. In a medium saucepan, place 2 cups of milk over medium high heat. Allow milk to heat until very gently bubbling and steamy but not boiling.
  3. Pour hot milk over bread crumbs slowly and mix until well-blended. This will produce a very firm mixture. Set aside to cool, covered with a tea towel.
  4. Pick currants off stems. Discard any stems, withered berries and leaves.
  5. Gently wash currants in a colander. Spread out currants to dry on clean paper towel.
  6. When the currants are mostly dry, place them and the 2 Tbsp flour into a plastic bag. Gently shake bag until all berries are completely covered with flour.
  7. Dump currants into dry sieve and allow excess flour to fall through, carefully shaking so as not to crush the berries. Set floured currants aside until needed.
  8. Take the 5 egg whites and whip in a bowl until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside in fridge until needed.
  9. Take a new bowl and add 5 yolks and ½ cup of sifted icing sugar. Beat until completely blended. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and flour to yolk mixture. Beat until completely blended.
  10. Spatula the yolk mixture into the bread mix bowl. Mix well until completely blended.
  11. Add beaten whites to the bread mixture and fold in until whites are completely incorporated into batter.
  12. Add floured currants to batter and gently fold in, trying to avoid too much berry breakage.
  13. In a cast iron pan, heat pound of lard over medium high heat.   When a piece of sandwich bread can brown in half a minute or less in the oil, it is ready for cooking.  Place 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of batter into hot lard.  Do not crowd the pan with fritters. Three or four is best at one time. Make sure a platter with paper towel is ready to receive hot fritters and absorb some of the grease.
  14. Place fritters on a clean platter. Serve hot with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar over the fritters. Glaze can be dribble over top or served on the side in small dishes

Makes about 30 -36 fritters, depending on the size

Notes:

1. I always rub fresh lemon over my mixing bowl and whisk before doing egg whites to ensure any fat/grease is not present or they will not beat properly

2. The original recipe just said “fine bread crumbs” but to ensure they were fine, I ran the crumbs through a sieve. Not necessary, I believe, but I did it for even absorption of the hot milk

3. You may need more lard on hand just in case of the temperature of the day. Round One did just fine with a pound but Round Two needed two pounds on a much hotter day

Categories: biscuits rolls muffins etc | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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