misshepeshu: (NOM)
So I love angel food cake kind of a lot. I also love egg yolks kind of a lot. But TWELVE leftover egg yolks post angel-food cake baking is a whole hell of a lot to use up all at once, even for me. I used to do one of two things: make crème brûlée, or make the French Laundry's Doughnuts. This time, I wanted to try something new and a lot more low-key. Enter MOTHERFUCKING CHOCOLATE MOTHERFUCKING PUDDING.

You guys. Oh my God. Sam and I ate some warm out of the oven, and we almost fell over. We brought some over to Sam's parents (this recipe makes a LOT of pudding), and when his dad took a bite, his eyes opened all the way, and he said "Dang, this is the best thing I've ever had in my life."

I don't know if this is going to be the best thing you've ever had in your life, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a strong contender, assuming, of course, that you love chocolate and dairy and all that is good and right with the world.

All right, so here's how you do it:

What You Need
12 egg yolks
1 whole vanilla bean (or a fuckton of high-quality vanilla essence/paste)
11 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces (something in the 60-something percent range is good; much darker and you might maybe run into problems with graininess)
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar (you can taste the mix as you go and find the perfect balance for you—I tend to like my desserts richer and less sweet, and 3/4 cup was the point when the mixture popped for me)

Helpful: about twelve 4 oz. ramekins. Me? I used four 3 oz. ramekins and one 9" x 9" glass baking pan.

What You Do
1. In a medium-sized saucepan, add the cream and milk and turn up the heat to medium-high. While the mixture is warming up, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the beans into the liquid with the tip of a sharp thing—paring knife is good, but toothpicks and skewers also work fine in a pinch. Drop the entirety of the pod into the pan and stir the mixture occasionally until it starts to simmer.

2. Add the chocolate pieces and sugar, and whisk gently until all of it has melted and the mixture is starting to boil very gently. (Pro tip: don't let the mixture boil over, unless you're bored and want to mop up the stove and the floor beneath it as the cream goes crazy and froths all over the place. Not that I've EVER done that. Ahem. Koff.)

3. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. If you're enterprising, you can pour the mixture into a bowl and set it in an ice bath, which cools it within an hour or so. Or you can be lazy like me and surf the Internet for a few hours, or make a lasagna, or whatever.

4. Whisk the egg yolks into the mixture. Don't be too vigorous with the mixing, because frothing it results in too much trapped air, which makes the pudding look and feel a bit weird. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, and discard any solids.

5. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Prepare a hot water bath for your babies, your precious, precious puddin' babies. I basically boiled a bunch of water, set the ramekins and the baking pan into my biggest roasting pan, and added enough hot water to come up about 3/4 of the way on the ramekins.

6. Divide the chocolate pudding mixture into the assorted receptacles you have for them, and bake for about an hour, or until the sides are set but the middle is still kinda jiggly. My 3 oz. ramekins were ready to come out after about an hour, but the 9x9 stayed in for another hour.

7. Cool at room temperature for about an hour, then cover the containers and pop 'em in the fridge; chill for another hour or so.
misshepeshu: (NOM)

Note 1: Holy shit these are good. The first time I made them, I accidentally used 3/4 cup each of the flours, and the cookies turned out a bit flat, but I love crispy cookies and these kept stupendously well. Sam loves this version the most. I made a second batch with 1 cup each of the flours, and nobody could tell they were gluten-free. Bonus: one of the people who ate Batch 2 hates almonds with a passion, and happily devoured the cookies anyway.

Note 2: 375 is wayyy too hot; once I cranked it down to 350, the cookies came out perfect.

Note 3: Now officially my favorite chocolate chip cookies of all time.

I'm going to do something I haven't done before: post a recipe that I think will probably work, but that I haven't tried out yet. I want to make gluten-free chocolate chip cookies made primarily with oat flour and almond meal, because I love their flavor and texture way more than I do rice, sorghum or tapioca flours, which is what most gluten-free recipes call for. I'll update with actual results!

• 2 sticks butter at room temperature so you don't have to microwave them like a derp and then accidentally melt them—not that this is even remotely a dealbreaker for cookie baking, of course, this is more general purpose cooking competency yelling rather than recipe-specific yelling
• 1 cup gluten-free oat flour, 3/4 cup if you want flatter, crispier cookies (pro tip: not all oats are gluten-free because they're often processed on the same equipment that processes wheat; from what I understand, people who aren't super intolerant deal just fine with regular rolled oats pulverized to a fare-thee-well in a food processor, but those who are extremely sensitive may experience some distress because of the cross-contamination)
• 1 cup almond meal, 3/4 cup for flatter etc.
• 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup brown sugar
• 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
• Fuck yeah vanilla, I'm not even telling you how much because measuring vanilla for baking is a completely nonsensical proposition for me; I can tell you that the times I ate a baked good and went "What the shit this person went way overboard with the vanilla" are exactly ZERO, I mean I just POUR THAT SHIT IN until I'm mildly alarmed at how much vanilla I've added and then I stop
• 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I've discovered that I'm a Guittard girl—they're affordable and delicious)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F 350°F. Mix all assorted flours and leaveners together.

2. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until thoroughly combined.

3. Add the dry ingredients in two separate batches, stirring each time until they're just combined. Add chocolate chips.

4. Spoon onto baking sheets. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Pray they turn out well. Find solace in the fact that even if they're mediocre, you can eat them warm with ice-cream spooned on top, or make them into small ice-cream sandwiches. Ice cream: it cures what ails you, if what's ailing you is less-than-spectacular cookies.
misshepeshu: (NOM)
When the weather outside is frightful, and the vegetables in your crisper drawer are...less-than-delightful, there's only one thing to do: stay in and make soup, delicious sooouuuup. Sam requested split pea soup ages ago, and I'd never made a proper split pea soup before; I'd merely assisted an ex's efforts to perfect his split pea soup. Those soups turned out less than stellar, but I suspected it wasn't due to faulty technique--inferior ham hock and lack of onion were the two true culprits, I reckoned. So I bought a ham hock from the best butcher in town, Gartner's Country Meat Market. Including the onion was a shoo-in because I wasn't dating a person with an allium intolerance any longer.

And I was right. This version right here is the best split pea soup I've ever tasted. Which isn't necessarily saying much, because I've only had mediocre split pea soup. But it also falls solidly into the genre of "amazingly satisfying lentil soup exploding with umami," and I've had lots of those, and I can safely say this is one of my better efforts in that category.

Here comes the recipe!

You need:

1 large, meaty smoked ham hock, 2-3 lbs. (if you don't have access to a champion-grade butcher, get a bone-in smoked picnic ham instead)
3-4 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf (you can use more, if you like--I find bay overpowering)
Several large sprigs fresh thyme
1 very large sweet yellow onion, diced
3 large carrots or, in this instance, 5 wilted, sad-ass small carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, leaves and all, chopped
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced (most recipes don't include mushrooms, but I love 'em in lentil soups)
6-7 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 stick butter
3ish cups or about 1 lb. split peas
A buncha water--look, it's a soup, and it's hard to fuck this part up, because you can boil down if you have too much or add more if you didn't have enough

Make the stock
Toss ham hock into large soup pot, cover it with water, add bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns, and heat up until water juuust starts to boil. Turn heat down to low, and allow ham to simmer for 2ish hours, until meat is tender and starts to pull away from bone. Skim off the foam and any excessive bits of fat you find floating around. While this is happening, you need to:

Prep the vegetables
Once you've successfully made your vegetables smaller, you need to sautee 'em. In a large skillet, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Once butter stops foaming, throw in allll the vegetables and sautee until onions are translucent and mushrooms look shiny. Once that's been achieved, you'll want to

Turn the ham hock into ham bits
Retrieve the ham hock from the broth, and add the vegetables into the broth. Set the ham hock on a cutting board, and if you're sensible, you can wait until the thing is cool enough for you to handle. But sensibleness is for the faint of heart and stomach! Grab a fork and a boning knife, and cut away the meat and fatty rind from the hock. The hock I bought was amazing--I got well over a pound of meat off the bone. Separate the meat from the thickest layers of fat, and dice the meat into 1/2" cubes. Return these steaming chunks of heaven into the soup (after burning your mouth on a couple of choice bits because you were hungry and they smelled way too good for you to allow all of them to escape unscathed and whatever, blisters on the roof of the mouth are NO BIG DEAL and also totally worth it). Some authorities recommend discarding the bone and fat at this point, but I say FUCK YOU TOO MUCH FLAVOR LEFT IN THESE BITS, so I tossed them back in the pot, and friends, more bone and more pork fat in stew has never been a decision I regret in life. I left the fat in large sheets so they'd be easy to avoid when serving.

And then you add the lentils
Stir! Stir them all around! Make sure you stir thoroughly at least once every half hour or so, making sure to scrape the bottom, or the lentils WILL stick and they WILL burn and then you will know true sadness as you ruin your soup and also try to get the goddamn gluey mess off your pot afterwards. The soup is done when when the onions and lentils have disintegrated completely and you have something the consistency of cream. That'll take another couple of hours.

You can garnish with parsley and finely-chopped raw red onion. Or you can just fill a huge bowl with pure deliciousness and re-burn your mouth, reveling in the explosions of umami with every bite.

Ling cod

Sep. 4th, 2013 07:49 pm
misshepeshu: (NOM)
Oh man. Last night's dinner. Ling cod fillets coated in a mixture of crushed pecans, coconut flour, white rice flour, garlic powder, and fresh minced tarragon and oregano, pan-fried in butter on medium-high, approximately 5 minutes per side.

NOM. Fish is too expensive for me to indulge in regularly, but hot damn, that was totally worth it. Time to try this treatment with chicken and pork and see how it turns out....
misshepeshu: (NOM)
I haven't made up a recipe from whole cloth in a good while, but last night I decided I wanted a creamy garlicky sauce to go with pasta. And I whipped something up. AND IT WAS AMAZING. Here for my memory and your edification: one of the easiest and tastiest things I've made in yonks.

1.5 lbs. boneless chicken thigh, chunked
Half a pint heavy whipping cream
About 1.5 tablespoons flour
Half a head of garlic (if feeling enterprising, roasting the other half and tossing it into the pasta can only make it more heavenly)
Two tablespoons butter
Splash of olive oil
About a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme--if you have fresh oregano on hand, toss a bit in, too, but not too much, because it's more about the garlic and the cream
A wee bit of fresh minced rosemary (maybe a quarter teaspoon, tops)
1.5ish cups freshly-grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan, or Asiago, or a mix of all three)
About 1 cup fresly-shredded mozzarella (I used smoked mozzarella--I initially wanted to use a lot more, but I decided too much smokiness would've clashed with the brighter flavors I wanted for the dish. Anything creamy and meltable and mild works well here, so Gruyère, Gouda, Jack, milder cheddars, Fontina, etc. are all fantastic options)
Lots and lots and lots of freshly-cracked black pepper
Salt to taste
Handful chopped sun-dried tomatoes
A sprinkle of freshly-chopped chives (I basically reached into the herb container, pinched off a few stalks and hacked it up)
1 lb. pasta of your choice (I used corkscrews, which are my favorite pasta for creamy sauces)

1. Start the pasta cooking.

2. Heat a 12" skillet on medium-high and splash in enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Toss in the butter, wait for the foam to subside.

3. Add the herbs and garlic, stir briskly until the mixture is very fragrant but before they brown. Add flour slowly, turn down heat a bit, and scrape that stuff all around until the roux is a nutty brown color and the smell drives you mad, maaaaaaad.

4. Toss in the chicken! Stir that shit around until the pieces are mostly cooked through. You can be all fancy and sear them separately. I, however, am a lazy bastard.

5. Add the cream, and make sure you stir thoroughly, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the sauce comes to a gentle simmer, toss in the cheese and turn the heat down, because separated cheese is sad cheese. Taste as you go and add more cheese as desired. Stir stir stir till the pan is a wonderful gooey mess. (BEND OVER AND I'LL SHOW YOU A WONDEFUL GOOEY MESS.)

6. Add salt and pepper. Don't be shy with the pepper. Add more. No, more. No, more than that. Does your sauce have wee black speckles all over it? You're getting close! Trust me, this sauce loves the pepper. Once it tastes amazing, turn heat off and remove skillet from heat.

7. About this time, your pasta is done cooking, so drain it and rinse it. Ladle it into your bowl, top it off with a generous serving of sauce. Sprinkle the chives and chopped sun-dried tomatoes on top, and add more cracked black pepper for good measure. I'm serious! The black pepper garnish makes everything extra amazing.


The whole meal, including prep, took less than 45 minutes. Clean-up took about 15. I had help from the Sam; solo prep might take a bit longer, but not much. This is one of the most rewarding things I've made in terms of time invested vs. size of flavor. The recipe makes enough for four VERY generous servings, or five to six smaller ones.
misshepeshu: (Default)
Baking brings me a joy that's hard to replicate with any of my other hobbies. I get the nerdy intellectual satisfaction of figuring out the chemical reactions so I can tweak the recipes and techniques to get the precise taste and effect I want. I get the little-kid "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS MAGIC HAPPENING BEFORE ME" wonder when I see the batter/dough transform from individual ingredients into a mixed-up mass in a bowl to fully-baked deliciousness. I get the tactile pleasure of handling the ingredients (have you guys held or stroked a handful of dry flour? It's amazing; I highly, highly recommend it). I make the kitchen smell absolutely amazing; and then afterwards, not only do I have something tasty to eat, I have something wonderful to share.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that my angel food cake in particular has had people coming up to me and saying, with the light of the recently-converted zealot in their eyes, "This is the best angel food cake I've ever had what are you some kind of witch?" It's flavorful and not too sweet and the texture is difficult to describe: it's tender and fluffy and moist and kind of witchcraftey all at once. It's certainly like no other angel food cake I've had, either bought or home-made from scratch.

So now, my insomnia + restlessness + desire to be pedantic brings you: Candy's tips on how to make angel food cake! Before you read a couple thousand words worth of cake guide, I'm going to save you some time by laying out my assumptions: I'm assuming that you already know how to make cake and either a) you have an angel food cake recipe that you've tried and that you're less than satisfied with the outcome; or b) you've been terrified of trying because of all the horror stories you've heard.

In re (b) above: guys. I'm here to tell you that angel food cake is one of the easiest cakes I make. The trickiest technique you have to master is how to fold flour into the batter. However, there are a few make-or-break points when making angel food cake, and they are more numerous than for the average cake, which gives them their reputation for being tricky fucking bastards. Once you know what to look out for, though, it's really easy to work around, and you'll be whipping up angel food cakes in no time. I'll include my favorite angel food cake recipe at the end of this primer in case you're curious about what specific variant I make.

So. Guide. Got-damn that was a long intro.

1. By far the most important thing: whip your egg whites properly, in a clean stainless steel or glass bowl. Avoid plastic bowls; they're hard to clean properly because fat molecules kind of soak in there and hang out, ready to leap out and molest your unsuspecting egg whites and preventing them from forming proper protein matrices. Think about it this way: how cleanly can you perform a handstand if somebody's intent on diddling you the whole time? That's what fat does in an angel food cake.

No need to thank me for that mental image. It's just part of the service I offer you, my readers.

a) Start with cool (not room temprature) egg whites--about 60°F. Even cooler is just fine.

b) Pay attention to this, sports fans, because this is really important: start at the slowest speed. This is especially true if you have a stand mixer, and your urge is to pump it to 11 right away. Starting fast not only doesn't help you get to the proper consistency any faster, it's basically asking to have egg whites spooge all over your counter. And I mean, if you're into that kind of thing, then god bless and watch out for the small chance of contracting salmonella. If you're into making an actual cake, though, start slow, go up to medium stirring speed after a few seconds, and don't add the cream of tartar till the eggs are kind of foamy. After adding the cream of tartar, increase the speed a couple notches. Once the batter starts getting opaque and looks more white than yellow, add the granulated sugar very gradually (I usually add two to three tablespoons at a time). If you have a KitchenAid, you have absolutely no reason to go above 6 or 7; going faster doesn't actually save you time, it just increases the likelihood that you'll overwhip the eggs and ruin your cake.

c) Whip the whites to the proper stiffness. You want to whip a lot of air into the whites because the tiny trapped bubbles of air are your sole leavener, but overwhipping means that the bubbles don't have any room to expand and are more likely to collapse. The shitty news is, you can overwhip even before the whites get that crazy lumpy holy-whoa-you've-fucked-it-up-right-royally point.

Here's how you can tell you've reached the requisite stiffness (THAT'S INDEED WHAT SHE SAID): once the soft glossy peaks have formed (about thirty or so seconds after you've added all the granulated sugar), stop your mixer, and tilt the bowl just a tiny bit. Did the egg whites move? If yes, gently but thoroughly scrape down the sides and bottoms of the bowl, and whip some more. After 10-20 seconds, stop. Tilt the bowl a tiny bit again. Movement? If yes, then scrape, whip, etc. Go another 20 or so seconds. Tilt. No movement? Sweet. Tilt a tiny bit more. Still no movement? Tilt more. Keep cautiously tilting until you can hold the entire bowl upside-down and the egg whites stay securely in the bowl. Congratulations, you've just a) performed motherfucking MAGIC, and b) know that your egg whites have enough air beaten into them.

The thing is, you want to stop beating RIGHT AT THE POINT the eggs do that magical fuck-you-gravity trick. Beating them further beyond this point is counterproductive.

I like this metric because it's completely objective, and it's also super-simple to gauge. Cookbooks all say "soft, droopy peaks" but fuck, man, what does that MEAN? How droopy is droopy? 'Cause I can get droopy peaks that look like a Hokusai wave, or droopy peaks that look like a tired, slouchy Ryan Gosling. It's completely subjective and leads to outcomes that are far too variable. With my method, it's a yes or no proposition. If egg whites still move, then keep beating those eggs like they was Dickensian orphans. If egg whites stay put, you're golden, and tastiness awaits you.

d) Alton Brown will try to feed you some bullshit about how stand mixers are terrible for angel food cakes and any other recipe requiring meringues. He will go on about chaotic motion. He will tell you that you'll have a watery pool of unwhipped whites at the bottom of the bowl. LIES. In my nine or so years of angel food cake-making, I have never once had this problem. SCRAPE THE BOWL, PEOPLE. Jesus, it takes all of like four swipes. As far as I'm concerned, a stand mixer basically ensures I can do other things with my hands while I'm waiting for the foam to get real. Which reminds me:

e) Seriously, don't stop watching the egg whites while they're being beaten, especially if you're beating at speed 6 or higher. If you have to take a potty break or anything that requires you to take your eyes off the mixer for more than 10 seconds, turn the mixer off, or put it at low speed, and resume high-speed beating only when you're back. Besides, watching the egg foam transform is the very best part of making an angel food cake. (That is, other than cramming some into your cakehole once it's cooled.)

2. Get a proper angel food cake pan. That non-stick shit? Fuck it. Fuck it right up its tiny little funnel. Angel food cakes get their gorgeous loft by climbing up the pan, which means the batter needs to be able to cling to the goddamn walls; furthermore, to properly free the cake, you oftentimes have to cut that fucker out, and I don't know about you, but having Teflon sprinkles in my cake do not a happy camper make. Get a sturdy uncoated metal version. They're not any more expensive that the useless non-stick versions. Getting a pan with built-in feet makes cooling them easier, too, so you don't have to save glass bottles with necks skinny enough to fit through the funnel. However, that's a lesser consideration compared to not succumbing to the (non-existent) benefits of a non-stick angel food pan.

3. Use powdered sugar to substitute for some of the sugar and cake flour. Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen doesn't like this approach. I am here to tell you that awesome though they are, they are wrong. I made angel food cakes without powdered sugar for a couple of years and wasn't quite satisfied with the texture and loft until I found a recipe online that called for it, and bam: I leveled up. Taller cake that had amazing, tender crumb and superior flavor. One and a quarter to one and a half cup of powdered sugar sifted into the cake flour makes all the difference.

4. Here's a dirty little secret: a tiny bit of egg yolk in your egg white? Not a big deal at all. I've totally fucked up while separating eggs and, like, dumped an egg yolk into the egg white bowl, or had a yolk break on me when I was being lazy and wasn't separating my eggs in a small bowl before transferring the whites to their own dedicated container. (Writing cake-making instructions: you either sound like some kind of pro-segregationist nutball, or a sex fiend. FACT.) I used to toss the entire batch out and start fresh because oh my god the fat and how it interferes with the protein matrix oh despair oh cry, but one day I just had no eggs left and no way of getting more any time soon and I said fuck it, scooped out all the yolk I could and went ahead with the cake. And the cake turned out perfectly.

I'm not advocating sloppy practices, mind you. I strongly, strongly recommend that you separate your eggs over a tiny bowl and transfer the whites one egg's worth at a time to the mixing bowl. Trust me, you're saving yourself a headache. I'm just here to tell you that if you have a speck of yolk contaminating the whites, you're almost definitely going to be OK.

5. Sifting the flour and the powdered sugar is absolutely key, especially before measuring, and double especially if you're measuring by dry volume. The sifting before measuring not only ensures you get rid of all lumps, it also ensures that you're not packing in too much flour and powdered sugar, which can weigh the cake down.

That said: you can actually get away with a lot less sifting than the cookbooks typically recommend. I personally sift twice, three times max when making angel food cake: I sift the flour and powdered sugar directly into the measuring cups before dumping the contents into the bowl; I occasionally re-sift the combined flour/sugar mixture; and I sift the flour mix over the batter, which ensures that I get a nice, even coating of particles over the surface of the batter.

6. Use a very, very light touch when folding, and use the barest minimum of strokes necessary to get the job done (see what I mean? SEX FIEND) so you don't disrupt the protein/air matrices any more than you have to. If you don't know how to fold, it's really easy: grab a large, flexible baking spatula (I hope it goes without saying that the spatula has to be clean, I mean sweet Jesus what kinds of lazy bastards would fold cake batter with a dirty fucking spatula?) and cut right down the middle of the batter bowl, starting at the edge farthest from you and moving towards you. As you bottom out on the far end (yup, the joke writes itself), scrape the edge of the spatula along the bottom of the bowl, and as you bring it towards you, you lift the batter up from the bottom and very, very gently plop that batter on top. Rotate the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat. Do this until the ingredients are just incorporated. Little streaks of dry ingredient are OK. We're mostly trying to avoid big chunks or lumps of dry stuff.

7. Do not, for all that is holy and angel food-cakey, open the oven door in the first 40 minutes or do something that would cause a big, sudden vibration that could jar the oven. I've had an angel food cake fall once and only once in all my years, and that was during a party when a well-meaning guest opened the oven and popped in a dish to warm up barely 20 minutes after I had put the cake in the oven. The vibration from the food dish hitting a rack + sudden drop in temperature = rubbery angel food cake that was completely unsalvageable.

8. Use the highest-quality vanilla you can, preferably vanilla paste, if at all available. And add a ton of vanilla to the cake--I typically use 1 to 2 tablespoons, which is far more than cooking books generally recommend.

9. Cool that shit upside-down. It helps the cake maintain its height.

10. A cutting technique instead of a baking technique: use a very sharp bread knife, and use very little pressure downwards when cutting. Saw back and forth instead. Putting too much pressure into a knife compresses the cake unpleasantly. Or you can use those fancy forks for tearing apart angel food cake. Or faceplant into the cake. That works, too.

All right, so armed with that information, are you ready to get your angel food cake on? Here's my recipe if you want to give it a shot:

1 cup cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 3/4 cup egg whites (11 to 12 eggs' worth)
1 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar (you can decrease to 3/4 cup if you want a less sweet cake)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Loads of vanilla paste

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Sift the cake flour and powdered sugar together.
2. Add salt and vanilla to the egg whites in the mixing bowl, then follow the entirety of (1) up above, in the guide.
3. Sift 1/4 of the flour mixture over the batter, then fold it in. Repeat until no flour is left and there aren't any clumps or stripes of flour mixture hidden in the batter.
4. Gently scoop the batter into the pan; smooth the top with a baking spatula, and cut around the outside edges and around the middle of the cake to ensure no big bubble pockets form.
5. Pop into oven and bake for 40 or 45 minutes. Look for a cake that springs back when you touch its top, or when a skewer poked through the middle comes back clean. If the cracks in the cake feel dry, that's another good sign that the cake's done.
6. Set cake upside-down until completely cooled, about 3 to 4 hours, then cut the cake free by cutting along the sides and along the funnel, then upend onto a large plate and wait for the cake to fall free. Slip a knife between the cake and the cake pan base to separate the cake from the base.
misshepeshu: (Default)
Oh my God, where have you been, you beautiful cake? I've been a fool to ignore you for so long. You're resilient, you're hard to fuck up, you're easy, and best of all, you take only two bowls and a skillet.

(I feel like there's an Eddie Izzard routine hiding somewhere in there.)

Anyway, the recipe, for your edification and my memory:

For the bottoming-that-will-becoming-topping (hur hur):
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
One 20-oz. can pineapple rings, drained, with juice reserved
Pecan halves, as many as you want to sprinkle on, but 1/2 cup for those of you who are weak of heart and stomach and desire to have a measurement

For the batter:
1.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
Juice from can of pineapple rings
Generous glug o' rum
As much vanilla as your little heart desires
Optional: spices like cinammon, cardamom, nutmeg. I didn't bother with them because I wanted pure pineapple goodness, but most recipes recommend them, and I imagine they'd all be super-tasty additions.

Directions for the topping:
Take your well-seasoned 10-inch skillet (or your mediocrely-seasoned 9-inch, as was my case) and melt the butter. Once it's stopped foaming, toss in the brown sugar and pecans. Stir until pecans smell toasty, and pat the topping flat. Lay down the pineapple rings in slightly overlapping circles.

Directions for the batter:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Sift/stir the flour, salt and baking powder together.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter until fluffy, then add the brown sugar and beat until even more fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating until even fluffier. Add vanilla.
4. Add half of the flour and stir until just combined.
5. Add glug of rum to pineapple juice, then pour mixture into batter. Stir until combined.
6. Add the rest of the flour. You know what to do. Mixture will probably look a bit curdled, but that's OK, it's going to be delicious.
7. Pour batter into skillet and smooth it so that it's distributed evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the tester comes out clean.
8. Once out, let the cake sit in the skillet for 5 to 10 minutes, then grab thee a big plate or serving platter, press it firmly against the skillet, and flip that fucker upside-down. A couple of pineapple rings or pecans stuck to the skillet? No problem. Grab those suckers off and pop them back where they belong. Keep the skillet upended on the cake for a little while to make sure all the delicious, delicious topping makes it onto the cake.
9. Eat while still warm. High-quality vanilla ice-cream recommended but not necessary. The only thing needed to truly enjoy this cake is shoving it into your cakehole.

So that came out sounding more like a guide to some strange (and messy) BDSM scene than I meant it to. Huh.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to make all kinds of crazy upside-downy fruit cakes. Apple! Blueberry! Apricot! PEACH OMIGOD PEACH. I may even use frozen slices because I don't know that I can wait till summer for access to fresh.
misshepeshu: (Default)
Whenever I crave chocolate cake, I crave THIS chocolate cake. I made it last night for the first time in a while, and I was reminded of how much I love it. It's incredibly easy, and if you like your cakes dense and moist, but with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, then you really need to make this. You won't be disappointed. I adapted it from the Elodie's Chocolate Cake recipe on Epicurious.

12 ounces dark chocolate, broken up into small pieces (Note: trust me when I say that splurging and buying some Valrhona or Scharffen Berger is worth it for this cake. There's more chocolate by mass in this cake than anything else. If you're feeling like being a cheap-ass, get a Trader Joe's Pound Plus Belgian bittersweet bar and use 5 lines of it.)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, cut into small pieces
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 10" (9" also works in a pinch) springform pan.

2. Melt butter and chocolate on low heat until smooth. Add vanilla and stir thoroughly.

3. Whip eggs and sugar together until fluffy and thick.

4. Sift flour and baking powder mixture over egg batter and fold in throughly.

5. Gradually add chocolate mixture to egg batter and fold in gently but quickly. Pour batter into prepared springform pan.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes (30 if using 9" pan), then cover with foil and bake for another 30 or so minutes (up to 40 if using 9" pan, but check frequently after the 30-minute mark), or until tester inserted into center comes out mostly clean, with some moist crumbs attached. Cool on rack, then release cake. Cake will fall and crack as it cools. Sift powdered sugar over the top if you're feeling fancy, but honestly, the cake doesn't need any adornment.
misshepeshu: (Default)
For Christmas dinner dessert, I decided to give Momofuku Milk Bar's Crack Pie a try. My conclusion: tastes like pecan pie filling without the pecans, except even more delicious. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but I'm not sure I'd pay $44.00 for it. It's also a touch too sweet for my tastes; next time I make it, I'm going to cut the white sugar down by quite a bit. Also, the only milk powder I was able to get my hands on was Safeway brand dried milk, which didn't dissolve properly and gave the whole pie a gritty texture. I'm thinking of adding sweetened condensed milk next time (SHUT UP I grew up with the stuff and I love it, don't judge me you don't know me you don't know what it was like)--sub half the cream and the milk powder for condensed milk and decrease the sugar even more.

The cookie crust, however, was incredible. I foresee myself using that as my chocolate chip cookie base and making a ton of crispy, tiny chocolate chip cookies.

By the way, if you guys in the Portland area want to come by and give this a try, PLEASE DO IT. I have a whole pie left in the fridge, and it's really rich stuff--it's definitely something you eat only a sliver of at a time.
misshepeshu: (Default)
Hey dudes,

So I'm going to make my first pumpkin pie ever this coming Saturday. I'm not a fan of them, but Robert and many of my friends decidedly are. Any suggestions for a good recipe? I'm eyeballing the Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar-Walnut Topping from Epicurious (subbing the walnuts with pecans, because fuck walnuts, pecans are totally sexier and tastier), since Epicurious has treated me right many, many times in the past. But I thought I'd consult the hivemind, too. Have any delicious suggestions for me? Post them in the comments nowwwww.
misshepeshu: (Default)
As happens every couple of years, I am yet again making more of an effort to cook decent meals made mostly from ingredients whose natural origins are recognizable. Tonight's effort: chicken curry with mushrooms and zucchini, and baby broccoli sauteed with thin strips of tri-tip steak, garlic, pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds. The chicken curry is tasty, but it always is because I cheat shamelessly using a pre-made paste, and honestly, most food items featuring a whole can of coconut milk are an instant win for me. The baby broccoli/beef thing, though? Holy crap! It turned out super well! It was even deliciouser than I thought it'd be! I am insanely pleased! So pleased that for the first time in aaaaages, I'm going to post a recipe.

So, what you need are:
One large-ish bunch baby broccoli, or a decent-sized head of adult broccoli if that's where your proclivities lie (YOU ALWAYS KNEW I LIKE 'EM YOUNG), chopped into big chunks
4 ounces thinly-sliced steak of some kind (my favorite is tri-tip, which hits that magic sweet spot of good flavor, good texture and reasonable price), which is completely optional because this is perfectly tasty meatless
Half a head of garlic, minced
Olive oil
Toasted sesame seeds (if you really like sesame, sub some of the olive oil with toasted sesame oil)
Chili flakes
Water--I ended up using about a quarter cup

Heat a large skillet on medium-high. Sautee the garlic in olive oil until it's juuuuust barely starting to brown. Throw in broccoli; cower in fear as oil starts mad spittin' everywhere if you don't have access to one of those oil shield things. Briskly stir the broccoli; it'll start looking dry very shortly, so grab a couple tablespoonfuls of water and throw it in there. Enjoy the steam. Stir more. Throw in more water. Cover the skillet for a couple minutes, then stir the broccoli some more. Vegetables looking dry again? Toss in another couple tablespoons of water. When it's on the cusp of looking done (I judge this by the fact that when I press one of the big stems with the edge of my spatula, there's just the faintest hint of give), toss in the steak. Stir! Stir, you fools! And when the steak's just about as done as you like it to be (I like mine the way I like my women: tender and bloody, oh ho ho ho), add the pepper flakes, sesame seeds, salt and pepper, stirring as you go to get the Optimal Level of Flavor.

In any case: super-fast, super-tasty, and moderately healthy. Hooray! This has all the signs of becoming a regular part of my Quick Cookin' Repertoire.
misshepeshu: (Default)
1. Potato starch will look like it's doing sweet fuck-all, until you get it above a certain temperature. Then BAM. Solid goo. Solid emulsified goo. It's amazing. *The More You Know star shoots across the sky*.

2a. I will never, ever make pie crust with anything other than Strauss European-Style butter. It contains a gram more fat per tablespoon, and sweet Jesus, the pie crust I made today was unbelievable.

2b. So apparently the secret to making amazing pie crust for me is using a food processor. I've finally learned the magic touch. Huh.

2c. If I continue on this pie and bread-making kick, I need to buy a sturdy baking mat of some sort, because using my bamboo cutting board just ain't working for me any more.

3. I will make sure to get frozen peaches to room temperature before introducing browned butter to it, because damn, those congealed lumps of dark brown fat sure looked gross.

4. Speaking of browned butter: when browning butter, use a light-colored stirring implement, because it's impossible to see how dark the butter is truly getting otherwise.

So today was my apartment complex's Garden Party. We all made food harvested from our respective gardens ([livejournal.com profile] katealaurel had started a garden this year, and yea verily, it yielded a buttload of tomatoes and squash), got dressed up in swank gear and sat in our courtyard at a long picnic table, hanging out, stuffing our faces with incredibly delicious food, cracking jokes and generally having a fantastic time. I decided to make squash curry from the assload of unripe squash we rescued when three of Kate's plants fell prey to the powdery blight, and the squash was so big (I think it weighed about 8 lbs.) that I made two different kinds: a coconut milk-heavy variant with chicken, and a dry vegan variant with tomatoes. Both turned out amazingly well; in fact, I inadvertently replicated one of my favorite Indian curries with the dry curry. Win! And for dessert: a brown butter-peach-rum pie, modified from a prize-winning pie from this year's Portland Pie-Off. I was terrified at first that it was going to suck, because the filling was so watery, but lo, the potato starch miracle blessed me, and the filling was AMAZING: firm, juicy, intensely peachy and just the right kind of sweet, with a delicious caramelized overtone from the browned butter.

And lo: there were recipes and rejoicing. )
misshepeshu: (Default)
1. Mini fruit hand pies = awesome. I had two, warm out of the oven. I am restraining myself from having any more. Jesus.

2. I need to make savory versions of these--fill the crusts with lamb curry, or chicken pot pie filling, or some kind of Mexican deliciousness. Oh god. Mouth watering just at the thought. (They'd essentially be hot pockets, except, y'know. GOOD.)

3. Crusts need to be thicker and sturdier than expected.

4. Also, delicate handling. Because these sumbitches LEAK, and then the sticky goo gets everywhere and I need to cut those mofos free.

5. So glad I have an excellent boning knife, because they do excellently at cutting fruit pies free from cookie sheets. Dear boning knife: you are worth all the Your Mom jokes, and more.

6. Look into getting non-stick silicon baking mats?

I used my standard pie crust recipe (2 sticks butter, 2 cups flour, tablespoon sugar, teaspoon salt, enough water to make dough just barely clump together--this made 11 crusts, each about 5 x 5), and used a combination of peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, cooked with sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of guar gum for the filling.

I had a bunch of leftover pie filling and was too tired to make and roll out more pie crusts, so I used the leftovers to make a cobbler. We'll see how the cobbler turns out--I kind of made the biscuits up as I went along (2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, 1 cup sour cream, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt), and there's not much berry filling relative to biscuit, but I can always drench everything in ice-cream and fresh berries, right? Riiiight.


OK, so the specific recipes I used are as follows:

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

For the crust:
2 cups flour
2 sticks butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Approx. 1/4-1/3 cup ice-cold water

Instructions: I use a food processor, for lo, I am lazy. I throw together the flour, sugar and salt, then cut the butter into 1/4" chunks, and process everything till the butter is in pea-sized chunks. Then I add water, about a tablespoon at a time, and process until the dough just barely starts coming together (you can feel the food processor sticking a bit, and that's when you stop). Press the dough into two separate flat discs, and refrigerate.

For the filling:
2 peaches, peeled and cut into 1/4-1/2" chunks
1-1/3 cup each of fresh bluberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon guar gum
Juice from one fresh lemon

Instructions: Dump all the fruit into a large pot, and add the lemon juice. Throw in the sugar and guar gum, and toss everything gently until fruit is evenly coated in sugar and gum. Turn stove to medium heat, and cook the fruit, stirring regularly, until mixture is thick, steaming and bubbling. Turn heat off, let cool, then refrigerate (filling is much easier to handle this way).

To put the pie and filling together:

Fill a small bowl with water. Also: life's a lot easier if you have a 3" round cookie cutter, but if you don't, just use a sharp knife and make square hand pies like I did. Roll the dough out to about 1/2"-1/4", then cut into squares (or rounds) about 3" on each side. Roll until squares are about 5" x 5", or just a bit smaller. Spoon a couple small spoonfuls of filling in the center, leaving a generous (about 1") margin around. Wet finger in water, wet margin of pie crust, then gently flop on side onto the other and press together, making a seal. Use the tip of a fork to make indentations (seems to help seal the pies tighter). Using a sharp knife, cut 2-3 vents on top of the pies.

Bake in oven at 375°F for about 25-35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. The pies are prolly going to goop some; investing in non-stick baking mats, or lining your cookie sheets with tinfoil, is the smart thing to do. (I am not particularly smart. Sigh.) Wait about 10 or 15 torturous minutes before nomming, preferably with some high-quality ice-cream.
misshepeshu: (Default)
1. Thanks for all the wonderful birthday wishes. I'll respond individually to comments and such sooooooon.

2. Broken Social Scene last night was amaaaaaazing. Nobody does dense, textured sound like they do, at least not in the Western pop/rock mold; also got to witness a really cool experimental bit of music called the Happiness Project, wherein one of the bassists captured the natural musical cadences of his neighbors speaking, grabbed the most interesting samples, translated it into musical notes and then proceeded to loop and riff those samples with all the rest of the band. Amazing, transformative, moving stuff.

It also helped that the excerpted bits of interviews were lovely and inspirational--one of them is his neighbor, who was born deaf and received a cochlear implant when she was 30, describing what it was like to hear noise for the very first time, and how her brain couldn't really make sense of it at first--sound was translated into a physical sensation in her whole body, and it made her move.

Also, saw [livejournal.com profile] octi_stripe. It took me a few seconds to actually recognize her. I think I need to see my friends more often. Christ.

3. I win at making meat pies. I slightly overcooked a pork loin last week, which: sadface. But then I determined it could be turned into pie, delicious delicious pie. Two, actually: one with onion, and one without. Basic instructions follow:

1 lb. overcooked sadface meat of your choice, cut into small cubes
1/2 stick butter or more
Half a head of garlic, minced (less if you're less insane about your garlic than I am)
1 medium onion
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
3-4 ounces crimini or mature shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme and whatever other herbs you fancy
2.5 cups dark chicken stock or other type of dark stock (use the commercial stuff if you must; just know that you're morally inferior in EVERY WAY)
2-3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup marsala wine (sherry and port would work well, too)
Double crust pie crust (my favorite uses 2 cups of flour, 2 sticks of butter, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of sugar)

1. Make the pie crust and refrigerate. If you're buying the pie crust, there's probably a special circle for you in Food Snob Hell. Don't forget to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Throw in the garlic and other vegetables; saute briefly until they're just starting to soften.

3. Throw in the flour, and stir in very thoroughly with the vegetables. Things will start looking dodgy and pasty. Never fear, because the next step is:

4. Throw in the stock, wine and herbs. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let simmer until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 what it used to be, or until it looks like thick gravy.

5. Throw in the diced overcooked meat cubes of sorrow and tears, soon to be turned into DELICIOUS.

6. Turn heat off, and while filling is cooling down, roll out your pie dough. Pre-bake the dough lining the pan for about 15 minutes.

7. Add the meat filling, and lay on the top bit of dough. Poke out a pretty pattern, or a dirty limerick, or whatever grabs your fancy. Bake for 30ish minutes, or until crust is golden brown and you're ready to gnaw off your roommate's leg because the smell is driving you crazy.

8. Try to wait at least 30 minutes before cutting into it to allow the pie to set. But the Baby Jesus understands if you don't, because damn, it sure smells and looks good; just know that gravy is basically going to goosh out of there.
misshepeshu: (Bork bork bork)
I made two variations of banana bread last weekend, and lo, they are insanely tasty, and yea verily, the recipe shall be shared with the people.

Variation 1: Blueberry Monster

Essentially, if you have a favorite banana bread recipe already, just use that, and instead of nuts or chocolate chips or whatever, dump in 2 cups of blueberries. If you don't have a favorite banana bread recipe, well, I have a doozy for you.

2 cups flour
3 overripe bananas, well-mashed
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
3/4 cup sugar (I like using dark brown, which means it's a bit less sweet and has a darker flavor)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt (non of that non-fat or lowfat stuff! BE A MAN!)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries
Cinnamon, if you want

Oven: 350° F. Use a loaf pan, or an 8 x 8 square pan.

1. Combine all the dry ingredients except the blueberries in a big bowl.

2. Combine all the wet ingredients (butter qualifies as wet because it's MELTED, see?) in a medium to small-ish bowl.

3. Dump wet ingredients into dry, and mix gently and quickly until everything is just combined. Dough should be very thick and shaggy. Don't overmix! It makes for tough banana bread, which, as you all should know by now, makes the baby Jesus very sad and kill kittens with his sad baby Jesus powers.

4. Dump in the blueberries. Incorporate into batter carefully, making sure you don't smoosh any of them.

5. Bake anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. I recommend poking a skewer into the center at around the 45 minute mark, or when the bread starts smelling really, really good, to see if it's reasonably dry in the middle.

Variation 2: The Beautiful Apple/Banana Bastard Lovechild of Much Tastiness

I came up with this recipe when I realized that I didn't have three bananas but did have two small-ish apples that needed to die/turn into sauce. It turned out really, really well. Whee!

So again, if you have a favorite banana bread recipe, use half the butter on the apple sauce component and about 1/4 cup of the sugar; if you want to make exactly the bread I did--well, you can't, because I was eyeballing everything for the applesauce component, but seriously, guys: grated apple, cinnamon, butter and sugar. Unless you burn it (and you'd have to WORK at burning apples, because of their high water content), it's pretty goddamn hard to fuck up.

The apple sauce:
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated coarsely
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (this is approximate)
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
Sprinkling salt
Shitton cinnamon--can't remember how much I added, but it was at least a tablespoon

1. Melt butter in saucepan.

2. Toss in apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt.

3. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are simmering and gooey and the water's cooked away enough that there isn't a little pool at the bottom of the pan any more.

4. Try not to stuff your face with the apple sauce because these are meant to serve a nobler purpose. Remember: NOBLER. PURPOSE. Also, let that shit cool down so it's lukewarm.

The bread:
2 overripe bananas, well-mashed
1/2 cup sugar (white vs. dark brown is a matter of preference and conscience)
2 cups flour
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup), melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt (we know what happens to people who bake with non-fat yogurt, right?)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Oven: 350° F. Use a loaf pan, or an 8 x 8 square pan.

1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a big bowl.

2. Combine all the wet ingredients (remember the butter!) in a medium bowl and mash together well.

3. Dump wet ingredients into dry, and mix gently and quickly until everything is just combined. Remember the kittens. Please. Just. Remember the kittens.

4. Bake between 50-65 minutes for this puppy. The apple makes for a wetter batter. Again, check right around the 50-minute mark, or when it starts smelling really, really good. The batter is pretty sturdy and forgiving, and takes gratuitous poking better than, say, your mom.
misshepeshu: (The cake is not a lie.)
Law school starts tomorrow. AUGH. I'm determined to start the semester right, however, and that means kicking it off with DELICIOUSNESS. To that end, I decided to bake a coffee cake tonight that I could have for breakfast tomorrow.

I decided to experiment with a sour cream coffee cake recipe I've used for quite a while--one topped with fresh raspberries, almonds and drenched in chocolate sauce. It's very good, but a bit rich for breakfast. I also had several nectarines and peaches that need to be Taken Care Of, and I decided that pecans would be an excellent complement to the nectarines.

And thus was this recipe born. HOLY SHIT, GUYS, IT'S REALLY REALLY GOOD. Who's a masterbaker? I'm a masterbaker. I am awesome. And best of all: it's dead easy, you don't need any equipment other than a couple of bowls and a large fork, and the mixing takes hardly any time at all.

So. Enough bragging. (Forgive me, I'm eating the cake right now, and sweet sassy fuck yeah it is tasty.) On to the recipe.

For the topping:
1 large ripe nectarine or peach
1/3 to 1/2 cup raw pecan pieces
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (more if desired)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter (or you can use salted butter and skip the salt)

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Once the foam has subsided, throw in the dark brown sugar and salt and stir until you get a uniform brown mess. (I will refrain from the buttsecks jokes, because I'm classy like that.) Add pecans and stir until pieces are uniformly coated in AWESOME. Promptly remove saucepan from heat. Don't toast the nuts because they'll be plenty toasted in the baking process. Taste the nuts; if they don't taste sweet enough, keep sprinkling brown sugar until it tastes right.

2. Cut nectarine or peach into eighths and skin the segments. Chop the segments into small pieces (about 1/4" in size).

For the cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour
Half stick butter, melted.
2/3 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar (white is fine, dark brown gives it a good flavor, too)
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Take an 8" cake pan (9" works, too, you just get a flatter cake and it bakes a bit faster) and brush the bottom and sides with some of the melted butter.

2. Whip the egg, sour cream, vanilla and the rest of the melted butter together.

3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking soda.

4. Throw the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture and mix gently with a large fork until mixture is just combined. Batter will be very thick and kind of shaggy. Do not overmix! This will result in a tough cake.

5. Pour batter into cake pan and sprinkle the nectarine pieces and pecans on top of the cake. Bake for about 35 minutes (if using 9" pan, check at 30 minutes). When a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, it's done. Let cool for about 15 minutes and NOM THE SHIT OUT OF IT because this cake is really, really good hot out of the oven.
misshepeshu: (Bork bork bork)
Jess and I entered a pie contest today, run by the fine bakers at Mission Pie. It was awesome wacky funtimes. I made my standby Best Blueberry Pie Ever (recipe below, of course), and Jess made a really interesting experimental tart that included:

- Crème fraîche custard
- Halved figs
- Mascarpone cheese sweetened with honey dolloped on top of said figs
- Thin slivers of prosciutto on top of the mascarpone cheese

It was quite delicious, but some of the taste combinations jarred a little, and Jess is going to tweak it until it's perfect.

We ultimately had enough leftover pie filling, pie crust and topping to make three miniature tarts, so we decided to enter the big blueberry pie and one of the experimental tartlets in the contest.

Mission Pie was MAD CROWDED when we got there, y'all. 27 pies went toe-to-toe (crust-to-filling?) in a battle for ultimate pie superiority, and many more people were there to sample the deliciousness.

I'm too tired right now to go into the technicolor details, but suffice it to say that Jess and I tasted some damn tasty (as well as a some fairly mediocre) pie, and after all the honorable mentions were given...my pie won the best filling award, even if it didn't win best overall pie. Hot damn! The prize was a red boa--not the feathery kind, but the wispy feathery kind. Anyway, I win I win I win I don't lose I WIN!

Render unto Caesar that which is DELICIOUS and PHOTOGRAPHED! )

And now: the recipe! )

I'm now pondering the Ultimate Fruit Tart of Ultimate Destiny, which I'll hopefully be making when I get back to Portland. It'll contain:

- Tart crust (we learned today that my pie crust recipe also makes a fantastic tart crust)
- Mascarpone-honey filling as the base
- Fruit topping consisting of peaches, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, cooked with cornstarch and sugar

All of this will then be chilled and served cool with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.

All hail my masterbakery!
misshepeshu: (Bork bork bork)
I'd made pesto mac and cheese once, a couple of years ago, and it didn't turn out well--it was dry, kind of lumpy, and the oil had separated from the cheese. This made me a Very Sad Panda. Today, however, I had a craving for some delicious delicious pesto mac, AND since I had volunteered to make dinner for my awesome landlady's family (she'd suffered a lot of blood loss recently due to an Unfortunate Incident, so all of us at the apartment complex volunteered to make them food on various nights), I decided to make a double batch. First, though I had to do a bit of research and find out how to make my pesto mac Not Suck Wang.

America's Test Kitchen to the rescue! I looked up the mac and cheese section in The New Best Recipe, and found out that the separation and lumpiness both could be fixed by using more (and the proper type) of emulsifier. Well, duh.

So I set out to make the sauce, with tweaks for the pesto and to take into account the ingredients I had at hand. The results were deeeelicious. Creamy, decadent, and laden with tasty, tasty pesto. Next time, I might actually cut down on the fontina/cheddar combination and double the batch of pesto for even MORE PESTO AWESOMENESS.

Here's the recipe I used this time. Feel free to play around with it, and if you do, let me know how it turned out.

I. The Macaroni:

1. Buy 1 lb. elbow macaroni. Small shell pasta works, too. Trader Joe's has some cute alphabet pasta that I ended up using this time around, which, while tasty and fun, sticks like hell to the bottom of your pot unless you continually--and I do mean continually--stir. Goddamn.

2. Boil that macaroni until it's just barely al dente.

3. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water to stop it cooking.

II. The Cheese Sauce:

Note about the cheeses: Cheddar is the classic, but because of its relatively low moisture content and what the aging process does to casein, using exclusively cheddar results in a grainy sauce. Fontina and monterey jack, on the other hand, are creamier cheeses. The New Best Recipe recommends half a pound of cheddar and half a pound of jack; I was a maverick and struck out on my own after reading several different gourmet recipes and went with a fontina/cheddar combination. Play around with the cheese combinations in the sauce. I've seen recipes that call for gouda, brie and gruyère, among others.

1/2 lb. grated fontina cheese
1/4 lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 batch (amounting to about 1-1/2 cups) of your favorite pesto (my recipe follows below)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half
1 cup whipping cream
5 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat large pot on medium-high heat and melt butter in it. As the foam's almost subsiding, add the flour gradually, whisking constantly to ensure mixture is uniform. Do this for a couple of minutes, until the roux is medium-brown.

2. Add the milk, half and half and cream gradually, whisking constantly. Allow to come to a boil. DO NOT STOP WHISKING. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat back down to medium and whisk occasionally until mixture achieves the same consistency as heavy whipping cream.

3. Take pot off the heat and add the pesto, whisking until mixture is well incorporated. Add the cheeses and whisk until cheese has melted. Add salt and pepper to taste--remember, this is going to be the sauce for something pretty damn bland, so you want the saltiness to be somewhat assertive.

4. Add the pasta and mix thoroughly. Return pot to stove and heat on medium until mixture is steaming and pasta is completely heated through--this should take anywhere from six to ten minutes. FOR THE LOVE OF MILKFAT, DO NOT LET THIS MIXTURE OVERHEAT, because the cheese will separate, and you'll end up with sauce that smells delicious but looks, quite literally, like vomit.

5. Transfer mac and cheese to a 9 x 13 pan or two 8 x 8 pans. Sprinkle breadcrumbs lightly over the mac and cheese. Move your oven rack to the lower middle position and stick the pan under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. NOTE: DON'T BE A DUMBASS LIKE ME and put the rack at the topmost height so that the element is RIGHT THERE. You want a little distance from the crumbs because you want the crumbs to have time to soak in and form a crust before they burn.

6. Once the breadcrumb crust is dark golden yellow, take it out and let it rest for a few minutes. Then nom the shit out of that shit.

III. The pesto:

I've played around with a bunch of different pesto recipes, and this is by far my favorite, because I've discovered that I like my pesto really nutty and really garlicky. These numbers are merely guidelines. If you've never made pesto, taste and tweak as you go until you hit a combination you like. Pesto is just about impossible to over-process, which means you can keep adding stuff as you go along without harming the texture.

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano (pecorino romano works well, too--basically, most hard italian cheeses would do well, and you can play with mixes as well)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic (you can roast this for a mellower, richer flavor, if you like)

1. Throw everything except salt in the food processor. Process the shit out of everything. Taste the delicious resulting paste, and add more elements as needed.

2. When the base taste is correct, add salt. Be cautious with the salt, because the cheese adds plenty of saltiness as it is. However, over-salting pesto for use in mac and cheese isn't the end of the world, because you can compensate by adding less salt in the sauce itself.

3. Use to stuff chicken breasts and pork chops, or add to mac and cheese sauce, or toss pasta in it, or top a piece of crusty bread with it, or any other number of delicious things.
misshepeshu: (NOM)
Several minutes ago:

Candy: That was a nice little dinner. Thanks for cooking with me, Ben.

Ben: You're welcome.


Ben: You know, I like how for us, "little dinner" involves four courses.

Candy: And two and a half hours of cooking.

Ben has been sick for the last week, and I caught le crud from him. I've been exhausted, sleepy and full of coughing and phlegming for the past three days. I was going to have chicken soup and bread for dinner tonight, but Ben started talking about making dal, and then I started craving lamb curry, and before we knew it, we were in the kitchen, wantonly chopping vegetables and throwing spices around with wild abandon.

This happens more often than you'd think.

Or maybe about as often as you'd think, depending on how well you know the both of us and what freaks we are about food. I was a bit shaky on my feet and headachey by the time we were done, but it was absolutely worth it.

Ben made dal and chard with potatoes and Indian spices, while I made lamb curry. I threw it together out of nowhere, putting the flavors together in my head and adjusting the spices as I went. I'm good at impromptu French and impromptu Italian, but I've never tried my hand at impromptu Indian before--not from scratch, anyway. I'm inordinately proud of how well it turned, and I'm recording it here before I forget everything I've put in it.

So, here it is: Candy's Awesome Lamb That Tastes Like Some Kind of Indian Thing, Almost As If She Knew What She Was Doing

Please note that all quantities for spices are approximate. Start conservative, and taste as you go.

2 lbs. boneless lamb meat (we used leg meat), cut into hearty chunks
1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4" wide strips
8 (or more) cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 stick cinnamon, bashed briefly so it's in large pieces
1/2 teaspoon whole mace, finely chopped
5.6 oz. can coconut milk (it's the itty-bitty single serving size one)
1/4 cup curry powder (I get the brand with the rooster on the package, the all-purpose type for "meat"--if you get the kind specifically for red meat, it'd probably taste darker, so you might not need to add as much cumin)
2-3 tablespoons cumin powder
1-2 tablespoons turmeric powder
2-3 pinches coriander powder (fresh cilantro would be great for this dish, so use that instead or in addition to if you have it)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 serrano pepper, finely diced, more if you like more heat
1/4 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil
Salt to taste (you'll need a surprisingly large amount of it)

1. Heat large cast iron skillet on medium-high. Add peanut oil, then throw in the garlic, shallot, cinnamon and mace. Fry until mixture is very fragrant and garlic is barely starting to brown.

2. Throw in the lamb and brown. Add coconut milk, half the curry powder and half of all of the different spices, including the serrano pepper.

3. Allow to simmer for a while, then taste. Add more spices and curry powder as necessary.

4. Add onion. Cook until onions are just starting to wilt.

5. Add tomatoes and salt.

6. Taste again and adjust spices as necessary. Allow everything to simmer for a few minutes more
(basically, until you can't stand the smell and temptation any more).

Dinner was awesome, and the best part? We have leftovers. Aw yeah.
misshepeshu: (The cake is not a lie.)
This one, however, doesn't involve eating babies, although just about every other kind of fatty animal is going to be on the menu.

So tomorrow (technically: today), Jess and I are going to cook Thanksgiving 2: Electric Boogaloo, a.k.a. Frenchgiving. On the menu so far:

Smoked goose
Smoked capon
Mushroom soup
Tartiflette (which calls for a pound of cheese, half a pound of bacon, two and a half pounds of potatoes and copious amounts of white wine)
Salmon gnocchi
Salmon tartare (they were going to be salmon cornets, but we lack proper cornet-creating equipment)
Salad with candied pecans and home-made elderflower and garlic vinaigrette dressing
Crepes with raspberries (The quantity of desserts was ludicrous enough without us making it any more ridiculous)
Creme brulee
Angel food cake (hey, we have to do something with all the egg whites left over)
Mocha rum cake (which is baking in the oven as I type this)

This is not counting the other things that will be brought over by Jess and Colin's other friends.

Also! I made the Best Raspberry Brownies Ever for Thanksgiving Proper, which other people told me wasn't actually a brownie but a fudge cake. Psh. Whatevs. It was tender and deeply chocolatey and amazing, and I provide you with the recipe forthwith. It was based on a basic brownie recipe, but I modified it so heavily, it's basically its own thing now.

7 ounces dark chocolate (I used one with 73% cocoa content), chopped
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter, cut into 1/4" squares
3 large eggs
1-3/4 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla essence or paste
8 oz. raspberries (either fresh or frozen will work, though the frozen berries will increase baking time)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9" springform pan. If you want a thinner brownie, use a 10" springform or a 9 x 13 rectangular pan, and decrease baking time accordingly.

2. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler or in a large bowl in the microwave. Stir until mixture is uniform and smooth.

3. Whisk in eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir in flour and salt. Add raspberries and fold them in gently. Transfer mixture into prepared pan.

4. Bake for about 45 minutes. If you used frozen berries, you might need to add about a half hour to this (I did) but I highly recommend that you check every 5 minutes after 55 minutes are up. Eat warm, and preferably with ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream or both if you REALLY want to make those arteries your utter and complete bitch.


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