Archive for April, 2010

Back in February, I tried making brownies for the first time (yes, I’m including any potential boxed mixes).

What changed my mind? Well, two things: Michael Ruhlan’s Ratio and it’s very persuasive argument in favor of weighed ingredients and inspiration grounded in math; and the accidental acquisition of a pound of Black Cocoa due to kind customer service after a box with an combined order with several friends was damaged.

And then into that willingness to bake brownies, Smitten Kitchen offered up a recipe she claimed to be the Best cocoa brownies ever, and she should know from brownies. (and SK found/adapted the recipe from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet)

Right, so brownies.

Now some people would know enough about cocoa powder to be a little intimidated by having the wrong (more alkali processed) kind, but this did not deter me as this was the kind of cocoa powder I had to experiment with. Or they might be intimidated by not having a brownie pan… but I had a casserole dish that looked to be of good dimensions for brownies. And I didn’t line it with parchment paper, just greased it with butter.

But other than that, I totally followed the recipe exactly. Probably.

Black Cocoa Brownies with Orange and Clove

Go ahead and preheat the oven to 325F

And bring out your double boiler. Okay, so SK admits that this step can probably be done in the microwave, but I have a double boiler that has been sitting unused since I acquired it for free about 4 years ago, so I used a double boiler. Put water in the bottom, but not too much – simmer.

Dump 141 grams (if I’ve got the scale out and the author is kind with the measurements, hell yes I’m going to use them ~g~) of butter (1 1/4 sticks) into the double boiler. Top with 280 grams of sugar. She used all white sugar; I did about 100 grams of brownulated sugar and 180 grams of white. Add a generous 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. And add your cocoa powder (82 grams) – black, in this case. Stir it from time to time, breaking up the butter, until it’s an evenly grainy base.

Then pour in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract I scraped in some vanila seed from about half a bean. Because that’s what I had in my apartment.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating them in well, but without splashing because that black cocoa powder is really hard to clean up. The mixture should look nice and shiney when you’re through.

Add 66 grams of all purpose flour, stirring it in so that it is thoroughly incorporated. And then even more stirring for good measure (she says 40 strokes). (Oh, and she also has everything off the heat by this point. I was enamored of my double boiler enough that I just turned the burner off and did not separate the top from the water.)

At this point, I tasted the batter – because batter is delicious. And it was very dark in flavor as well as appearance. So I took and orange and zested the entire rind into the batter. And then I crushed the heads of about 15 cloves into the batter (tasting/smelling at intervals to see whether the flavor seemed right).

And then I added a bunch of broken walnuts into the mix and stirred it up thoroughly.

Pour into my greased casserole dish of shame…

And bake.

And here’s where I ran into difficulty. The original recipe called for 20-25 minutes. SK’s ran about 35 minutes. Mine ran about 45 minutes, even with (because of?) enthusiastic toothpick testing.

The first batch wasn’t so good.

It went almost immediately from gooey pudding to a brownie impersonating a brick rather quickly. Actually, it was sort of like biscotti, so the overcooking did not stop me from eating almost half of the pan by myself.

So I appealed for help on Twitter. And I called friends. And my mom. And in general I did not take it well because everything had seemed to be going so well until those last nail-biting 20 minutes.

And apparently you should take it out still a bit moist and just trust in it cooking further… or eating it with a spoon.

So I made a second batch. And it was much improved. My co-workers gave my baking the seal of approval. And my foodie co-worker approved this recipe as my entry into the… wait for it…

Philadelphia Food Blogger Bake Sale for Share Our Strength
April 17, 2010, 10am – 3pm
A Full Plate Cafe, on Liberties Walk (1009 N. Bodine St Philadelphia, PA 19123)

April 17, 2010 - National Food Bloggers Bake Sale for Share Our Strength

Here’s some of the explanatory text from foodaphilia/Baker E‘s launch post:

On April 17th Food Bloggers from Philadelphia will be gathered with goodies for sale from their home kitchens in order to raise money for Share Our Strength. Funds raised through Great American Bake Sale support Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America. Nearly 17 million— almost one in four—children in America face hunger. Despite the efforts of governments, private-sector institutions and everyday Americans, millions of our children still don’t have daily access to the nutritious meals they need to live active, healthy lives. Click for more information on Share Our Strength.

Philadelphia’s Great American Bake Sale is being held on April 17th from 10am till 3pm at A Full Plate Cafe on Liberties Walk (1009 N. Bodine St Philadelphia, PA 19123) in Northern Liberties (yes, this is the restaurant where I bake full-time) and snag goodies made by some of Philly’s most beloved food bloggers! I’m donating some Cookies ‘n Cream Whoopie Pies to the event and I know Sabrina of Rhodey Girl Tests is going to whip up some of her delectable chocolate and candy covered pretzel rods.

So, if you’re a fan of food blogs, or just want to do your part to ensure kids across the country are getting the nutritious food they need, come on out to the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale and spend some money! All proceeds benefit Share Our Strength. If you can’t make it to the bake sale, but would like to donate to the cause, please visit this link to make a safe and secure donation.

If you’re a food blogger in Philly or the surrounding area and would like to donate a goodie to the bake sale, please contact Julie at jmdenouden@gmail.com and visit her post of the Great American Bake Sale here.

AND That will be a convenient break from the other amazing thing happening in the city that weekend –

The Free Library Festival!
Saturday & Sunday, April 17 & 18, 2010

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6
Apr

Beef tongue

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in dinner/lunch, experiments, Food, non-vegetarian, Recipe

Friends of mine recently went in for a half share of beef. And then a few months later the couple brought a third into their household – only the new person was vegetarian and had trouble with meat just being cooked in the same room.

It helps that I like the person, but I’d be excited anyway because this is bringing a lot of free beef into my life.

It’s also bringing the weird beef into my life. For some reason half of a cow (or steer, I suppose) yielded 2 tongues. I don’t know.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this tongue – I wanted to cure it and slice it thinly onto sandwiches. Only I don’t own pink salt, and I didn’t have any other plans for the huge amount I’d have left over. And basically, it was going to end up procrastinated for months taking up space in my freezer.

So I started looking for more options, and happened upon Tacos de Lingas. Woot! Just slow braising the tongue until it reaches joy.

I followed the recipe pretty closely to start, and I put into my soup pot

  • 1 frozen tongue
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • plenty of water to cover
  • and I just added a little sprinkle of salt

And here’s why I skimped on the salt. You see, I’ve just recently written up my recipe for carnitas, and I figured that if I cooked all the liquid out and ended up with something shredded, that would be delicious and would have flavors so concentrated that I’d want to wait on correcting the salt until later.

So I cooked it down until the meat was cooked through, and I took it out to slice into 1″ this rounds, to break up the grain. I also peeled the tongue… to discover that even right underneath the thick skin/membrane there was the same rough tongue texture. So I ended up cutting off the skin, instead of peeling, so that I’d get below the texture.

All back in the pot, and I cooked until there was very little liquid left. Then I poked the meat with a wooden fork – and it didn’t shred. So I added half a pot of water and started cooking it down again, poking occasionally as I went.

Still not shredding.

I tasted the meat, and it was okay, but it could use a little more flavor. So I added some wine. And some ground oregano and black pepper.

Cooked down until there was very little liquid, and it still wasn’t shredding.

So I added a pot full of water again, and about quarter of a cup of balsamic vinegar and another quarter of a cup of red wine vinegar.

By the time this cooked down again (let’s say the total is about 14 hours over a few days), the meat still wasn’t shredding, but it had the lose give of good pot roast. So I declared it done.

Pulled out the meat, and I had about a cup of liquid left behind. I corrected the seasonings (mostly with salt and a bit of pepper), and I starting sifting whole wheat flout into it gradually. About 2 teaspoons later, I had a good dark broth. I remembered that I had some water hanging out in my fridge from reconstituting some dried mushrooms, so I added that, too – it added a nice flavor, but was totally optional.

And then I forgot about the tacos, and I had it over leftover cooked brown rice with gravy.

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This is a BiUnity event, but anyone is welcome to attend. Just drop me an email at NoCounterspace at gmail for more information.

BiUnity is a Philadelphia community organization.
The goal is to provide a community outlet for bisexuals, and we welcome anyone who would consider themselves an ally.

Because of the size of the apartment, attendance is limited to no more than 10 people. Minimum number of RSVPs for event to occur is 3.

Saturday, May 29th

10-11am – stroll to Clark Park farmers market to purchase ingredients for the cooking – you are free to join me.

11am-3pm – My house will be open to people who want to hang out and craft, especially if they want to make baubles for Biunity to sell. I can have supplies for that available.

3-8pm – Bisexuals in the Kitchen

This is both a social event and a teaching event. You will have the opportunity to learn how to make a simple summer meal, and you’ll get a chance to help create an improvised recipe for the soup. There are openings for a couple people to help prepping the ingredients for each of these, and feel free to bring your questions. Or – feel free to come just to relax and talk and eat.

tentative proposed menu
soup
spicy corn & lemongrass broth

meat
carnitas (pork)

sides
salsa verde
jalepeno corn salad
quick roasted asparagus

bread
corn tortillas

dessert
depends on what is available at the market

movie – starts at 5:30pm
Velvet Goldmine

Note:Since the meat is entirely separate, I am considering this a vegetarian and celiac friendly event. If you are vegetarian and would like additional food options, let me know when you RSVP, and that won’t be a problem at all. I’m mostly just trying to keep the list simple for people new to cooking and menu preparation

Notes on accessibility:

  • not wheelchair accessible (stairs at entrance)
  • very fuzzy cat on premises
  • no air conditioning
1
Apr

Cobbler-esque

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in course, dessert, experiments, Food, friendly, gluten free, Recipe, vegetarian

I’ve always refused to look in a cookbook for a recipe for cobbler or crisp or anything that is pretty much baked fruit. It’s so easy, it should just be intuitive.

And I’m sure no one is surprised that my results have usually be disappointing. Well, no one other than me. It’s always a surprise.

So there I was with a package of blueberries from a month ago that wasn’t moldy or rotten, just a bit wrinkled, and nothing to do with it other than some kind of baked fruit joy.

So I got out two ramekins. And a tart green apple.

I diced the apple, and I added half to one ramekin and half to the other. Then I picked through the blueberries and split them evenly between the ramekins, too.

Also, for added complication, I wanted a lot of flavor out of as few calories as possible, so I did not put a pat of butter into each of these. Nor did I add a lot of sugar.

I added to each about half a teaspoon of vanilla sugar from Marx Food*, a healthy dash of Korintje cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

And then that was it for the first one, and it was ready to pop into the oven.

For the second one, I tried a crust.

I mixed together 2 heaping teaspoons of old fashioned rolled oatmeal, roughly the same quantity of leftover cooked brown rice, 1 heaping teaspoon of Trader Joe’s whole wheat baking mix (think Bisquik), and half a teaspoon of Demerara sugar. Mix together first, then spread over the top of the fruit.

And then I baked it for a while in a 350F oven. I didn’t time it, just kept peeping at it while I was cooking something else. I’ll guess they stayed in for about half an hour.

results – crustless
It was tart!

But I’d spent the cooking time also looking through my Weight Watchers cookbook for light dessert recipes, and I’d come across a beverage with added lime juice and I hadn’t noticed that it was a drink at first. And that just seemed right.

So I tried adding lime juice to the already tart baked fruit. And it was amazing! It was a gooey, bubbly dessert that also felt refreshing. Would make again. Don’t know if my friends would like it – but a lump of ice cream on top would probably mellow it out nicely.

When I took the first one out, the crust still wasn’t looking like a cohesive crust. So, I sliced a thin teaspoon of butter off the stick and lay that on top to melt in. And that worked well.

About 10 minutes later, when I’d finished the first dessert (only took so long because it had needed time to cool down from molten), I pulled out the 2nd cobbler.

results – with crust
I loved this. The rice dried out a little and got crunchy, but I thought that was delicious. The topping was a good mix of crispy and chewy, and it had a lot of the richness I like even it is wasn’t packed full of butter. The exact same fruit ended up tasting not nearly as tart with the starchy topping.

So – FINALLY – I’ve had a random experiment with cobbler turn out as joyous as I’d hoped.

*After I reviewed the Black Garlic the sent me for free, they sent me a mix box (related to a mix tape, I’m sure) of more things to try. Also for free. There was not any expectation of more fun from the first experiment, but there is a bit of a relationship now. And now a review of their vanilla sugar:

I have a friend who regularly orders vanilla beans from Penzey’s and makes her own vanilla sugar from scratch. In most cases, when given a choice between regular sugar and the vanilla, I prefer the plain. In fact, I’d pretty much only use it as a substitute for vanilla extract, which I don’t keep on hand either. No, I don’t do much baking. But this seemed a perfect time for a bit of extra.

They use a fine sugar, which is almost a confectioners sugar. I don’t know if it’s thicker because it’s a different grade or because of the additional vanilla, but it seemed a slightly different texture. Oh, hey – there’s a picture/explanation on their website. I think I like their sugar better for just popping on my tongue… not that I did that a lot. 🙂 But I don’t know that there’s much functional difference in a setting where you can’t enjoy the texture. It would make a lovely dusting for a chocolate bundt cake.

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