Archive for February, 2012

24
Feb

Chocolate Studies

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in chocolate

So I have a friend who is serious about Chocolate, who for the last 15 years has been taking a week off to make chocolate things. Many things. Amazing things.

Since I started making truffles, the possibility of making desserts has seemed slightly less intimidating and I’ve started exploring baking.

This year, I took a couple days off work to help/apprentice with the chocolate making. Confectionery was the first half of the week, and I’m here for the baking portion.

Things I have learned so far:

  • I had an impression that both egg whites and cream were similarly fussy when whipped. I was wrong. They’re both fussy, but differently. Egg whites want a completely clean and dry bowl (no water or fat) and room temperature eggs. Cream is not so fussy about water or fat (since that’s what it’s made of anyway), but everything should be cool/cold.
  • lozenges of baking chocolate are not so awkward to use/store as I’d thought they’d be, so I’ll probably buy that form next time
  • Michel Cluizel processes their chocolate more than most and so they don’t use soy lecithin as an emulsifier
  • Using coconut fat in the vegan truffles as a brilliant idea because professionals pick coconut fat to create meltaway centers (from Chocolates & Confections by the CIA) – keyword: lauric fat
  • it’s no so hard to spot soft peaks of whipped cream
  • double boilers are for suckers. Melting chocolate in the microwave is where it’s at.
  • I should get some larger smooth glass bowls
  • the weird transfer of stuff between containers before folding in whipped stuff is not so much about temperatures (since they should probably both be cool) but about making the heavier stuff light enough to mix all fluffy-like
  • jelly-rolls – you can wait 5 min after making, roll them up, and then let them finish cooling rolled up.
  • you really should buy superfine sugar sometimes
  • it’s awesomely helpful to have cooling racks that fit inside your jelly roll pans
  • I’m not sure I could duplicate it, but I saw two gorgeous textbook perfect demonstrations of pouring ganache over cake to make a mirror-shiny coating. – proportions came from Cocolat by Alice Medrich
  • I used a disposable (brand = Wilton) pastry tube for the first time. To make white chocolate drizzles. Easier than expected. All pastry tips come in 2 sizes. There are universal screw couplers to keep them on the bag. Used a pastry bag again to frost cupcakes. Think that went well, too. Kept worrying my hands would be warm enough to melt the frosting.
  • I’d forgotten, but this household is where I picked up the knack of wrapping teabag tags around the mug handle to keep them from slipping into the cup when you pour hot water.
  • I had not forgotten, but this is also where I picked up the strong opinion that am important step toward sharing food accessibly is to just fucking label everything with the ingredients. It takes a little time and thought, but it’s not that hard.
  • bread pudding out of stale croissants!
  • If you have fresh croissants and a bowl of excellent mousse (Saturday is going to be yummy), you should scrape up that mousse with the croissant. I will be every bit as good as you think it will.
  • Cakes and cupcakes iced with cream cheese frosting should not be packed away in plastic right away. They need to sit out until the frosting has a slight crust, lest moisture condense and they become all melty and not pretty inside the container
  • there’s a(n avoidable) reason dried milk tastes nasty. Look for ones without lipase “a fat-degrading enzyme, resulting in a sort of controlled rancidity… done to increase the buttery flavor… to obtain the signature flavor profile the manufacturer seeks.” (Also from the CIA book)

I think I’ve separated about 3 dozen eggs. With only 1 broken yolk among them.

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22
Feb

Food swapping

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Events/Promotions, Philly Food Swap

Went to the 3rd Philly Food Swap this evening.

I traded some packets of my amazing pita chips, quarts of vegetable stock, and the last three half pints of uninspiring sour cherry sauce (that refused to be jam) from last season.

In return, I got

  • 6oz homemade dried linguini in 3 flavors
  • homemade frozen spinach ravioli
  • (let’s just assume homemade for everything and be gleeful) pasta soup
  • spicy mustard
  • caramelized onion confit with balsamic vinegar, honey, brandy, and rosemary
  • cranberry chutney
  • blackberry infused vinegar
  • a pint of pickled peaches with a cinnamon stick
  • 2 frozen babka loaves to be baked at my leisure
  • a loaf of yogurt cake with orange zest
  • vegan spicy chocolate cookies that are nothing like the ones I know how to make
  • vegan chai cookies
  • orange ginger curd
  • chocolate covered potato chips that aren’t particularly good
  • chocolate dipped cookie dough balls, which are
  • candied walnuts, which I gave to my neighbors hanging out on their steps as I came home

I love food swapping!

But! Let me tell you!

It didn’t fully register at the time, but someone looked at my labels on the pita chips and said, “Oh! You’re Nocounterspace.”

As in recognizing, not just reading the label.

From someone who doesn’t know me at all.

Wheee!

So it is the time of birthdays among my friends.

One weekend there was a joint birthday party for three of my friends, and one of them received three beautiful blocks of cookware grade Himalayan salt from a boyfriend.

if google+ displays the pictures, this is an assembly of all three blocks, two small and one large

(Oh, yes, there is a possibility of photos on this post! That’s because my friend took pictures and posted them to Google+. Is there aren’t photos, blame google for not displaying them. Wooo!)

The next weekend, for my birthday, we cooked on salt.

salt block on a big, sexy gas range

So I’d spent all of the past year pondering the Charcutepalooza challenges, participating in one, and looking all over the D’Artagnan catalogue to use the challenge’s discount code. And all year, no purchases from them. I sigh over the missed discount.

But that meant that when it was time to grill meat, I was ready. What’s more, I was grilling meat with someone who only eats fowl or swine for meat. But that was perfect since the one thing I’d really been pining after in the D’Artagnan catalogue was the wild boar.

And since I wanted the most forgiving cut possible, I went with the wild boar tenderloin. And then just to hedge my bets, I also selected a chicken sausage.

the styrofoam shipping container with the wild boar and chicken sausage all propped up and looking eager to be cooked

We started with the wild boar, and we sliced it into three thicknesses – thin (about 2-3mm), medium (4-6mm) , and thick (10-15mm).

one intact tenderloin, and below it the one we were slicing into the thicknesses

We started with the thin ones – and they were delightful. All salty on the outside, but with the salt taste very distinctly on the outside. The people who rarely eat red meat thought it tasted like steak. I thought the wild boar had a delightful funk of liver. But there wasn’t any flavor I’d call gamey. And they just melted on the tongue delightfully. Sadly, thought, the block had not yet reached a temperature to give the meat a good sear.

meat. cooking on salt. it's kind of beige in the picture.

The middle thickness was not as pleasing. It ended up being a bit chewy. But then once it cooled, it developed a graininess that made it tender again.

By the thickest ones, we were getting a lovely caramelization while still retaining the juicy center. Also, we threw some asparagus on the salt, too.
just what the text says

Of everything we made, the asparagus was the most delicious! The outside could blister while the inside still hadn’t lost its crisp. The saltiness was perfect, and it needed no other seasoning.

Oh, right – other seasoning. We also tried some thick boar slices rubbed in Penzey’s Galena Street rub. Meh. Not only did the rub already contain salt (so not necessary with this cooking method – imparts mild saltiness, my ass (luckily, I love salt)), but also the pepper and paprika powders were not happy with the high heat and turned a little bitter. Don’t get me wrong – I still ate the meat and loved it, just not as much as the plain slices.

You can also see that we’re building up meat residue on the salt block. If we’d cooked much longer, it could have grown a bit off putting. Here’s what it looked like scraping the salt down after we’d finished with the boar.

Ewww meat crud

And then we moved on to chicken sausages, sliced mushrooms, and slices of onions (a brilliant last minute addition). Slicing the sausages into rounds proved to be a mistake because that was just too salty. But grilling intact ones was delicious. Even more delicious was wrapping them in dinner rolls and adding mushrooms and onions and a bit of mustard and calling it a hot dog.

foreground: sausage sandwich. My friend has also added ketchup, but I'm trying not to judge her for that. background: chicken sausages and mushroom slices grilling on the salt block

The mushroom slices were more exciting that expected. We didn’t cook them to a point where the were releasing a lot of liquid, but the outside got firm while the inside puffed a bit, and it was like biting into a tiny mushroom pillow.

And the onions were beautiful grilled onion slices, pulling up the meat juices from the previous grillings.

And then there were birthday cupcakes. (Using Nigella Lawson’s Victoria Sponge Cake recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, topped with King Arthur Flour’s lemon pastry filling whisked with whipped cream). Not only a good dessert, but they also made a good breakfast the next day.

a while cooking rack full of cupcakes, with one special chosen one bearing a lit birthday candle

I have some wonderful friends.

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Upcoming Event: Cooking with Cat Ladies

Cooking with Cat Ladies logo - cute cartoon grey/white cat with a pint nose holding an knife and fork and all ready to eat tasty food

After a long hiatus, one of City Kitties’ favorite fundraising events is back! Cooking with Cat Ladies is a delicious way to show your support for stray cats and kittens. This fine dining experience will be held the evening of Saturday, March 10th at a volunteer’s West Philadelphia home.

How It Works
I am preparing a mouth-watering menu for Cooking with Cat Ladies guests. A $50 ticket purchase reserves your seat at the table, where you will enjoy a five-course vegetarian feast and the company of other cat lovers and City Kitties volunteers. The menu is not yet set in stone, but it will be vegetarian with vegan and gluten-free options (see below).

Seats are limited, so don’t delay in purchasing your ticket! All proceeds benefit City Kitties. (And it goes without saying that this event is open to anyone — not just ladies as the title may imply!) NOTE: If you are unable to attend but would still like to support this event, you may purchase seats to the event and we will offer it to our dedicated foster homes to go as your guest. Just note your intention to donate your seat to a foster parent in the paypal notes section when you purchase the tickets.

rough menu (with recipes to follow)

Appetizers
tzatziki (dairy)
red wine and ginger black bean dip (vegan)
pita chips (vegan, gluten)
carrots and cauliflower (vegan)

Soup
Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup (vegan)

Entree
vegetable biryani (vegan, gluten free)
hazelnut tamarind brown rice (vegan, gluten free)
Winter Squash Vindaloo (vegan, gluten free, spicy)
Chana Masala (vegan, gluten free, moderate spice)
Palak Paneer (dairy, vegetarian, gluten free, mild; possibility of home made paneer) or something else mild and vegan
assorted chutney (vegan) and raita (dairy)

Salad
Arugula and/or baby spinach
Nuts and cheeses
Lemon dressing

Dessert — to be announced

Go to the main event page for purchasing details

I love having greens for breakfast, and I’m glad any morning I have the time to cook and fresh greens in the fridge.

This was actually almost dinner, but I’d gotten everything cut up and then decided I was too tired to actually eat it – so everything was prepped and ready in the morning.

Oh, and I have a rant about poached eggs. You know how they’re pretty difficult for many cooks, with the whites all turning whispy and unruly? And you know how some authors are tempted to try to sell you gadgets that promise to make everything simpler? And other authors just whip up delicious poached egg dishes?

Well, that’s making things too hard and getting all of your dishes dirty. Just make food with a little liquid to it, crack the egg into the food, and then cover it so that the egg poaches in steam and/or the liquid in your dish. Not only is this easier, requires fewer dishes, and gorgeous, but also the end result is more delicious because your egg whites get to absorb the flavor of your dish.

I clean out and keep those takeaway containers made out of foil for this, but you can use any kind of bowl or lid (that is high enough not to touch the egg while it’s steaming), if you don’t compulsively reuse containers or if you’re worried about cooking with aluminum.

Kale for Breakfast with a Poached Egg on Top

I melted 2 teaspoons of butter into the bottom of my skillet and tossed in a sliced (young enough that it hadn’t developed a bulb) vidalia onion, a cubed red bell pepper, and the flesh (only) of 1 habanero pepper, having been sliced into tiny slivers.

While that sauteed, I washed 4 young curly kale leaves. I just shook them dry, leaving a decent amount of moisture still in the leaves as I cut the leaf off of the tough rib and then sliced the pile of leaves across into short ribbons.

I got my egg ready.

Once the cooking vegetables were decently wilted, I added the kale and stirred it all up just until the kale turned bright.

But on tasting it, I realized I needed a bit more saltiness, so I went back to my Roman kale recipe for methodology and tipped in 1 teaspoon each of fish sauce and sweet red wine.

A quick stir to distribute the liquids, and I piled the greens into a nest.

Cracking the egg into the center, I covered the egg nest of greens with another container.

And it took about as long to poach as it took me to toast a frozen bagel.

You can peek under the lid – you are looking for no visible liquid white and an amazing rosy blush to the top of the yolk (which you don’t get from regular poaching).

Then eat!

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