Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Creamsicle Cake For Mother

I am on a blogging roll! My latest creation is a creamsicle cake for my mother's birthday (Alexis Stewart [Martha's daughter] had it on her WhateverGirls blog [and she made it for Martha's birthday]). Here's the recipe adapted from The Cake Book:

The Cake:
1 c. sifted pastry flour
1/8 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla
4 tsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Sift together the pastry flour and salt into a small bowl. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar and heat over a pan of simmering water (be sure water level is below the bottom of the bowl) until 'warm' (I'd say about hand-hot...the recipe wasn't very specific). In an electric mixer (with the whisk attachment), whip on high until tripled in volume. Then, with the mixer on low, stir in the vanilla and orange zest. By hand, sift in 1/3 the flour mixture into egg yolk mixture and fold; add the rest in two more additions. Put the butter in a small bowl and stir in 3/4 c. of the batter. Fold this mixture back into the rest of the batter. Pour into a buttered and floured 9-inch spring form baking pan (the recipe wasn't too specific about pan-type, but later on you need the spring form, so why not use the same one? If you do decide to venture out and use a regular cake pan, be sure to line the bottom with buttered, floured parchment because you don't want it to get stuck!). Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes until it springs back to the touch and tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then unmold and let cool on a rack (with the spring form, even when buttered and floured, I had to loosen the bottom with my offset spatula...just fyi..)

The Syrup:
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. orange juice (freshly squeezed)
2 tbs. Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)

In a small saucepan, simmer sugar, water and orange juice until sugar is dissolved. Stir in liqueur, if using, and set aside to cool.

1/4 c. water
2 tsp gelatin
1 1/2 tbs. orange zest
3/4 c. orange juice
1/3 c. lemon juice
3/4 c. granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 tbs. Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, stir water and gelatin together and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, add orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar and yolks and heat over medium heat, whisking continuously until slightly thickened and at 180F. Take off heat, and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl set over ice water. Stir in liqueur and vanilla and stir the mixture occasionally until cool (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, whip up the heavy cream to stiff peaks. When the cake is all cool and everything else is ready, fold the orange juice mixture into the whipped cream until well blended. (it might seem like the liquidy orange juice mixture won't mix with the cream, but it will...just keep folding! And use immediately!)

With a long, serrated knife, slice the cake in half. Center one piece, cut side up, on the bottom of your 9-inch spring form pan (there will only be about half a centimeter of space around the cake, but it should be all good for the mousse to get down and around the sides of the cake).

Soak this half with half of the syrup and then pour half of the mousse over the cake. Use a spatula (small and offset, if you have it) to spread the mousse around and down into that gap on the sides. Then center the other cake half into the pan and soak with syrup (stupid me, I forgot to soak my second half...oh well...). Then pour the rest of the mousse over the cake and spread as you did before. Smooth the top and put into the refrigerator for 3 hours, until set.

(this is a looonnng recipe....)

To unmold, dip a thin flexible knife in a container of hot water, wipe and run around the edge of the pan, re-dipping and wiping as needed. If not serving immediately, return cake to the refrigerator (it melts rather quickly because of the cream).

(Clearly, I didn't spread/push the mouse down far enough...alas, mine isn't as perfect as Alexis's)

the original recipe makes candied orange peel for garnish when serving, but I didn't feel like making it.
Other notes:
-my unsoaked layer didn't seem to miss the syrup, so no harm was done.
-I went to Daiso and bought a cake box for storage within my refrigerator--only 1.50! Or go to your local Sur La Table or bakery and get one

The cake was perfect for a hot summer day, and surprisingly didn't take as long as I expected (and no need for a piping bag!).

Happy birthday, Mother!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Farmers' Market and Grandma's Garden

Friday morning = Cupertino farmer's market = me (Patty) buying a lot of food = me cooking a lot of food

My finds: little summer squash, heirloom tomatoes (how can I resist?), plums, english peas and figs. English peas, if you can buy them fresh, are a rare find (in my opinion). So, if I ever find them, I have to buy them. I just love the act of taking them out of their pods, and eating a couple of them raw while I'm at it.

So, some things I cooked with my farmers' market finds: peas with shallots and ham, boiled summer squash, panzanella and (with some stuff from Grandma's garden) a fig crisp.

The peas were simmered with a thinly sliced shallot, thick cut ham salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The squash was just boiled with a little olive oil and salt on top. I like my vegetables simple (and in large quantities).

The thing I'm most proud about, though, is my panzanella (bread salad). I saw this recipe a few years ago in Martha Stewart (circa summer 2004) and have always been meaning to make it, and I must say, it's pretty darn good. Here's my version adapted from Martha:

9 tbs olive oil
1/2 lb. Italian country bread, in 1/2 inch slices
5 garlic cloves (2 minced, three peeled and halved)
2 large heirloom tomatoes, in half inch dice
1 pint mozzarella balls (any size), in half inch dice
5 slices speck (or proscuitto. I buy speck because it's cheaper)
15 leaves basil, thinly sliced
2 tbs vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Use 3 tbs olive oil to brush on both sides of the bread and then broil in the oven until brown and crusty. Flip until the other side is brown and crusty (I also did some on a skillet, but I think my toaster oven broiler produced faster and more even browning). Rub both sides with the halved garlic, tear into bite sized pieces and throw in your [large] serving bowl.
Tear your speck into bite sized pieces and remove the fat, if you wish (I don't much care for biting into flabby matter, so I cut it off). Toss that into your bowl along with your diced tomatoes, mozz and basil.

Whisk together your remaining 6 tbs olive oil with the vinegar and minced garlic until emulsified and pour over your bread mix. Toss, season with salt and pepper and let stand for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. If you feel so inclined, you may garnish with some whole basil leaves.

Bring a bunch of people over to eat this because it makes a lot and is no good the next day. The bread gets soggier the longer you keep it and the mozzarella also loses moisture, so..just eat it all. p.s. garlic breath is an unfortunate consequence of eating this dish. bring gum
These are my pickings from grandmother's house. Her peaches are especially fuzzy (and there's some unidentified crusty matter on them..), but the skin's easy to peel off, and I used these little peaches for my fruit crisp (a bounty of summer fruit always means fruit crisps or cobblers for me) with the figs I got from the market. Unfortunately, I had to throw many of by beautiful figs away because I waited until the next day to cook them off, so they got a lil bit moldy.. But in any case, I still had enough to make my crisp. Here's the recipe (adapted from Martha):

1/2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. flour
pinch of salt
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 tbs granulated sugar
4 tbs butter (oops.. In all my Martha searching, I got two recipes mixed up and used 6tbs...oh still tastes good)

Mix the dry ingredients together and then, using a pastry blender, cut in the butter to form moist clumps. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

2 pints of figs, trimmed and halved
2-3 small plums, sliced
1-2 peaches, sliced (I used 3-4 of my grandma's small white peaches, skinned)
2-3 tbs sugar
pinch of constarch
pinch of salt
a squeeze of lemon
2 leaves of basil, torn (optional, for an herbaceous touch)

Whipped cream for serving [Put 1 qt. of whipped cream in a large bowl, add 2 tbs sugar and 1 tsp vanilla and whip with a whisk until soft peaks form]

Put half the figs into one bowl with the plums and the other half into the bowl with peaches. Add about a tablespoon of sugar to each, depending on the sweetness of the fruit and your taste, and add a pinch of cornstarch, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon to each. If desired, add torn basil leaves to the peach-fig mix. Toss and evenly distribute your fruit among 4 ramekins (two for each flavor) and sprinkle evenly with your topping. Bake at 375 until fruit is bubbling and topping is browned. Serve with softly whipped cream warm or at room temperature. Cobblers may be reheated at 325 for 10 minutes.

I love summer...


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cupertino Eats

At the House of Falafel (Stevens Creek and E. Estates) you will find kanafeh: a stetchy cheese dessert fried between two disks of vermicelli pastry, soaked in sugar syrup and sprinkled with ground pistachios. On the sweet side, but sooo gooood... and only 4 dollah!
Tempted much?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cocktail Time Again!

Dearest readers,

Today marks our first dually-written posting! And it's a cocktail!

So, Patty, here. I went out one evening in the East Village to this bar called 'The Blind Barber.' (One actually did enter the bar through a barbershop) After having one Hendricks and tonic, I longed for something more exotic and inventive. I then asked the bartender to shake me up something on the fly. 'What were you having before?' he inquired. 'Gin and tonic,' I replied. So he proceeded to mix up a concoction of Tanqueray, Aperol, St. Germain, lemon juice and simple syrup, pouring it into a chilled martini glass. 'So, what do you call this libation?' '.....'Uh...the Firecracker?' At any rate, we've taken the inspiration and we've spun it into what we're calling Le Marais: a nod to the infamously swishy area in Paris' 3rd arrondissement.

The gin provides a solid, botanical body while the St. Germain lends the unmistakable elderflower flavor it's famous for. The lemon juice adds a tang and cuts the sweetness, while Aperol melds everything together in its aperitify sort-of way. And the pink color is enough to make even Ina Garten blush.

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So here's how to shake up your own:

Le Marais

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2 shots Tanqueray, or your favorite gin
1 shot St. Germain
scant shot fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 shot Aperol
1/2 shot simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with some crushed ice, shake, and pour into a highball glass over ice. Serve without a garnish and sip slowly. Enjoy. Serves two.

Keep it classy, y'all!

-Davey & Patty <3

(enjoy responsibly)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Salsa Verde

Dear Blog,
It's been a while. This 4th of July 3-day weekend I made some of Alice Water's Salsa Verde (from her book "The Art Of Simple Food"). After seeing it on Chez Panisse's menu (on their website, where I gawk sometimes) so many times, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about (I also had a huge bunch of parsley sitting in my refrigerator) and I must say, it is quite wonderful.
At first I thought it was just pesto made with parsley, but it's not. It's fresher and lighter in flavor and goes with pretty much anything. I suppose it's kind of like a chimichurri, but without the spices and without vinegar. Anyways, here's the recipe:

1/3 c. finely chopped parsley (leaves and small stems only)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
A few grinds of pepper
1 finely minced garlic clove
1/2 c. olive oil

Mix and taste for salt. Let sit for 1hr (or more) to let the flavors meld.
--The recipe also says 1tbs. capers, rinsed, but I didn't have any on hand, so I ommitted them. I didn't miss them, quite honestly. I also may have used more parsley and less olive oil--I wasn't too exact about the measurments and you needn't be either.

Last night I served my salsa verde with some baked flounder with lemon squeezed on top. (Adding lemon juice to the salsa verde is very good, but should be done right before serving to prevent discoloration)

Today I served my salsa verde with some angel hair pasta and two mashed poached eggs. These eggs were also sitting in my fridge and were about to expire, so I used both. It was rather rich, so I'm sure one egg would be fine. It could have also benefited from a squeeze of lemon, but, alas, I used all my lemon yesterday.

I still have 2/3 of a bunch of parsely left, so I'll probably be making more, and as should you.

Stay cool,

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Hi folks,
I made pierogis today and I was cooking from 1pm to 6pm, so...I won't be making these again--too labor intensive--but in any case, here's what I did:
(this is a Martha Stewart recipe from her April 2010 issue--her mother's recipe)
Whisk together 1 egg and 2 tbs sour cream until smooth.
Whisk in 1 c water and 1 c whole milk.
Stir in 5 c flour, one cup at a time
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough comes together. The dough will be quite sticky...try not to over-flour, though..
Let dough rest underneath an overturned bowl for 1 hour while you make your fillings:

Peel and quarter 2.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes and put into a pot of cold water, season with salt and bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes until fork tender. Pass the potatoes through a ricer (or do what I did and mash with a fork) and add 4oz cream cheese and 2tbs butter, salt & pepper to taste.

Core and quarter a 3lb head of green cabbage and steam in an inch or so of water until very tender, 30-40 minutes. Let cool and pass through a meat grinder. If you don't have a meat grinder like most people, do what I did and just chop finely with a knife. Add 4oz cream cheese and 2tbs butter and salt & pepper to taste.

Roll out your dough to 1/8inch thick and cut out with a 3-inch biscuit cutter or cup. Fill with about 1tbs of filling and pinch to seal. It often looks like you have too much filling to put in such a small amount of dough, but it stretches and holes can be easily patched up with scraps. Put your finished pierogis on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a kitchen towel dusted with corn meal and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Be sure to cover your unrolled dough with plastic wrap too so it doesn't dry out.

Martha says that her mother never reused scraps, but I can't stand throwing away food, so if you haven't used up all your filling and have "run out" of unrolled dough, by all means just re-use.

I like the potato most and now I have a week's worth of lunch and dinner pierogi.. Serve with sour cream. Martha says to serve the cabbage pierogi with brown butter, but I was too exhausted and had enough dishes to clean for the night (including the table I rolled on), so I used sour cream and as far as I'm concerned, sour cream goes with anything.

In conclusion, the pierogi were delicious, but too time consuming for a student like me to make.. especially since finals are just around the corner. Also, I'm not too sure I'm a huge fan of pierogi..I like the things they're filled with, but the dough is always just too stodgy for my taste. This could be attributed to the fact that I grew up on the thin dough of Chinese dumplings and won tons..Maybe they'd taste better wrapped up in pre-made dumpling wrappers (and less time consuming too)...not sure, but I think I'm set with pierogi for the next few months..

much love,

P.S. David is in Deutschland, and appears to be MIA from the blogosphere. Here's to hoping he gets internet soon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

L'chiem Day 2

Matzo ball soup, day two:
-Skimmed off all the fat on the chicken soup--it's disgustingly easy how it peels off when chilled..
-And I ground a generous (for me, at least) amount of tolicherry pepper (merci, David :> It is indeed very fragrant and wayyyy better than the crap I usually use--I actually like pepper now!) over the top.
>>Tastes much better and cuts the richness and eggyness of the soup indeed.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


Just made some matzo ball soup. It didn't turn out as well as I thought it would...kind of bland. The raw matzo ball dough smelled better than it tasted, however, it was a nice foray into the world of Jewish cooking. Here's what I did:

Chicken Soup:
Put two chicken thighs in a large pot, cover with water and 1 tbs salt and bring to a boil. Skim the foam and put in 5 peeled, sliced carrots, and 3 crushed garlic cloves. Boil for 70 minutes, skim the fat and remove the meat off the bones. Return the meat to the pot.

Mix two eggs, 1tbs chicken fat, 1tsp salt, 1tsp ice water, and 1/2 c matzo meal. Chill 15 minutes. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, drop in 1 inch balls and boil for 35 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and balls may be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Things I should have done:
-Bought celery for the chicken soup
-Not put the carrots in for the whole time--I was supposed to put it in after 30minutes of cooking
-Put in a chopped onion in the chicken soup--the onions I had at home were molded, which I found out after I had already started the soup; I cut one open and it smelled like POO. BEWARE OF ROTTEN ONIONS!!
-Used plain matzos--I used egg matzos, which taste better for eating as a snack than the plain, but I think they made the matzo balls overly egg-y.
-Added some pepper to my bowl of soup, I think I needed something fresh/zesty tasting to cut the fatty-ness/chickeny-ness of the soup

All in all, this has been a nice lesson in the world of chicken soup. Now I am going to try and make my soup work, as I have a couple days worth of leftovers..


Sunday, March 21, 2010


Bonjour tout le monde!
I just made a batch of crepes:
(recipe courtesy of Jacques & Julia)

1c flour
1 egg
2 egg yolks
3/4 c milk
3/4 c water
1tbs sugar
1/3 c melted unsalted butter
a pinch of salt

whisk or blend in a blender all the ingredients and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Heat a tablespoon of butter in a wide bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Ladle 1/3 c of batter into the skillet and shake vigorously to coat the bottom. Cook until nicely browned and flip and cook other side until nicely browned. Crepes may be frozen.

My phone no longer sends images, so I can't take pictures anymore, but I'm sure ya'll know what a crepe looks like. I just filled mine with some peach jam and rolled it up, but you can fill a crepe with whatever you like--ice cream, whipped cream, custard, etc.

stay classy,

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our Sundae Best

It's a really wonderful thing, thinking of a decadent ice cream sundae: one with tons of toppings and whipped cream, drizzled with warm chocolate, caramel, and butterscotch sauces. For most, the assemblage of a sundae involves a trip to the local grocery store for the purchase of canned chocolate sauces and mass-manufactured, preservative-laden ice creams.

Now don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The kids love DIY-sundaes, and it gives party guests tons of agency to do what they want with their dessert. I wanted to take my two favorite elements, the ice cream and caramel sauce, and do them at home my way. And let me tell you what, folks, these two fairly simple recipes have lit the pilot light for future exploration in the sundae toppings and construction department, so stay tuned. These two recipes are only the beginning of greater, more decadent confections on the horizon.

Let's start with our ice cream, since it will take the most amount of time:

Batterie de cuisine:
  • Small saucepan, heavy grade
  • Ice cream maker
  • Sieve or other fine strainer

For the ice cream:

  • 1 C heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 C sugar, divided
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1/2 C creme fraiche
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 t salt

Dissolve half the sugar into the cream in a small heavy saucepan and scald. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl until blended.

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Temper the egg yolks by gradually adding the hot cream and sugar mixture and quickly whisking it, a bit at a time. After fully incorporated, add the mixture back into the saucepan and heat on medium-low, stirring constantly.

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After about three minutes on heat, the custard should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Remove it from heat and pour through a fine strainer into a clean bowl. This is a crucial step that ensures you won't have any scrambled eggs in your final product, often a by-product of the hot cream and egg tempering process. Cool the custard to room temperature. (This is an essential step! You must wait for the mixture to cool completely before adding the buttermilk, or the buttermilk will curdle.)

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When the mixture is around room temperature, whisk in the buttermilk, creme fraiche, lemon juice, and salt. Reserve about a 1/2 C of the custard in a small, freezer-safe bowl. Chill the remaining custard in the refrigerator, covered, anywhere from six hours to overnight. Cover the smaller portion of custard with plastic wrap and place directly into the freezer.

To prepare the custard for the machine, remove both bowls from the refrigerator and freezer. With a small paring knife, dislodge the frozen custard and incorporate into the chilled custard until there is no further evidence of frozen particles. Process mixture in ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. With the self-freezing units like the unit pictured below, I like to leave the machine running for about five minutes before I add the mixture.

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Chill in the freezer after processing at least an additional six hours. I've found that chilling the near-frozen, soft serve-like custard in a 9"x9" pan and tightly covering the very top layer with plastic wrap helps in the freezing process. After that anxious six hours, you can transfer your ice cream to a more permanent, sealable vessel. Taking an ice cream out of the machine and freezing it directly in the vessel will result in a rock-hard. icy iced cream that's certainly not appealing in texture.

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Serve after a minimum of two additional hours in the freezer and make sure to consume within five days of initial freezing.

Yield: scant 1.5 pints

And now for the sauce!

I wanted to create something inspired by recent rumblings from the food world: the almost yin/yang-ness of salt and sugar harmonized in dessert form. Incarnations of such pairings include chocolate-covered pretzels, bacon chocolate, and salted caramel. I consider these pairings to be some of the most marvelous things on the menus of today's happening restaurants. It's as if somewhere along the paths of Candyland, Princess Lolli met up with her long lost Prince Umami and together they bore a love child.

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At any rate, I chose to do a salted caramel sauce adapted from one of my favorite lipid-laden recipe tomes, the aptly-titled Fat, by Jennifer McLagan.

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A homemade salted caramel sauce takes only a bit of your time, notwithstanding a certain amount of patience. Remember that when you're dealing with sugar and butter, it takes only a few moments to scorch! (This isn't the time to watch Guy Fieri playing with his squirt bottles while you impatiently wait for sugar to melt)

Batterie de cuisine:

  • Small, heavy grade saucepan
  • Wooden spoon

For the sauce:

  • 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C plus 2 T whipping cream, room temperature (the 35% butterfat variety)
  • 2/3 C salted butter, diced*

*NB: While Chef McLagan has recommended the use of salted butter to provide the salted flavor for the sauce, I prefer to use unsalted and to add sea salt near the end, to taste. This ensures that you have your own agency in the sauce's nuanced saline profile.

Chop the butter up. Don't worry--it needn't be pretty. It's quite an odd measurement of butter that doesn't fit neatly into the demarcated tablespoon measurements. Consider it to be between 10 1/2 T and 11 T.

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Start to heat the sugar on medium-low heat in the saucepan until the sugar is completely melted. This takes practice and constant vigilance. A few, gentle swipes of the spoon will ensure that the sugar more uniformly melts, while too many vigorous schlags will spatter sugar on the side of the saucepan and cause unsightly browning and crystallization. Discretion is the better part of valor, I'll say that much on caramel. Take the sugar off the heat and dip the bottom of the saucepan in cold water to halt the cooking process. Next, add the cream slowly. It will foam and spatter, so add it slowly. Like really slowly. You will be left with a substance similar to the following if you get too excited and add the cream too quickly:

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I wish I could explain to you gastronomically what is occurring in the photo. All I can say is that cold cream will quickly harden the sugar syrup, which is busily transferring its heat to the cream. Assuming you did alright with that last step and you began with room-temperature cream, we'll continue by adding in the marvelous quantity of butter which I've evaluated to be completely appropriate for this recipe. (Any stalactites on the whisk can be remedied by low heat and a bit of stirring)

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It should resemble Anne Burrell's skin tone to some extent, but a little less orangey. For those that may be unfamiliar with my favorite Food Network star's obsession with the Mystic Spritz, see below:

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Once all the butter is melted, you can either sprinkle a few dashes of sea salt to taste or leave it be if you've used salted butter. Allow it to cool a bit before pouring it on the wonderful "cultured" ice cream we made beforehand. The combination of something tart, and something that's both sweet and salty comprise a wonderfully-decadent flavor profile sure to wow any discerning palate.

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I hope you've enjoyed this foray into the world of sundaes. You can apply the techniques applied in making homemade ice cream to other flavors as well. Simply remember that the extra time you spend on homemade products will always manifest good things in your life and on your tongue.

Keep it classy, y'all!

-Davey <3

Friday, February 26, 2010

Absinthe Minded

So perhaps you've heard that Absinthe, the famed liquor harvested from the grand wormwood, has made its return into the United States after legislature lifted a more than 90-year ban on the hooch in 2007. I might also add, on the day I turned 21, I made it a specific point to purchase my own bottle of the stuff no matter the horrific cost. I wanted to relive the Absinthe Parisienne experience of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, and the other expats during the '20s and '30s. I wound up choosing La Fée. It kinda sweetened the deal that the bottle also included an Absinthe spoon suited to traditional pouring service.

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While the lore and legend of seeing green fairies may be taking it a bit too far, Absinthe is definitely a very sensory experience. It's reminiscent of licorice, with anisey, herbaceous notes. While vodka, rum, tequila, and gin are generally around 40% alcohol by volume (80-proof), Absinthe is generally goes far beyond. La Fée Absinthe Parisienne is 68% abv or 136-proof. Discretion is the better part of valor, folks. But if you're keen to enjoy this wonderfully-pungent libation, it's best to start with the basic preparation.

It's best to use a slotted spoon and a goblet. Pour about a shot of Absinthe into the goblet and suspend the spoon on the top of the glass. Lay one or two sugar cubes along the slots. You'll also need some chilled bottled water for the service. Alternatively if you've got great tap water in your area, use that. Regardless of what kind of water you use, it needs to be COLD. Here's what your set up will look like, minus the Absinthe in the glass:

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Next, pour the water over the sugar cubes and watch the sugar absorb the water and slowly begin to crumble into the water. The absinthe, sugar and water mixture will look cloudy and green. The French refer to this clouding as "la louche" in an almost ritualistic manner. After you have diluted the absinthe sufficiently, you can go ahead and add the remaining sugar that has not seeped through the spoon slots and give it a healthy stir. Enjoy plain and simple, with no garnish or further additions.

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While many are beginning to come up with formulations for cocktails involving Absinthe, I think it is best that one experience Absinthe in its traditional form diluted in water with sugar first. It's surprisingly easy to drink for those who enjoy the flavor of anise. Drinking absinthe in a shot form will certainly offer a far different experience, which I would believe to be more reminiscent of battery acid than of expatriate literature.

One application:
David Lebovitz' Absinthe Cake

I found this recipe after Patsy did her Rolos and recommended this blog to me. Chef Lebovitz was at the Helm of Chef Alice Water's Chez Panisse for a number of years doing the pastries and sweets. In my eyes, he required no further qualifications. It didn't hurt, though, that he spent a number of years in France and isn't afraid of taking our American sweets and giving them a bit of a gourmet touch.

While I haven't really heard much of putting alcohol in cakes aside from the rum in [kind-of-cake but not really] tiramisu, this sounded like a fun one to try. I really like the anise flavor and I've never really used the whole seeds to bake with before. It sounded almost like a nice, light breakfast bread with a glaze. So let us begin!

Batterie de cuisine:
9" loaf pan
spice mill, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle
electric mixer, free-standing or stand variety
wooden skewer or toothpick
citrus zester or grater
parchment paper

For the cake:
1 1/4 t anise seeds (whole, to be ground)
1 1/4 C cake flour (Davey loves King Arthur-brand unbleached cake flour!)
1/2 C plus 2 T pistachio or almond meal (good luck finding pistachio meal--Bob's Red Mill of Oregon makes Almond Meal that is commercially-available at most specialty or gourmet food stores)
2 t baking powder (Chef Lebovitz recommends aluminum-free varieties)
1/4 t salt
8 T unsalted butter, softened
1 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 C whole milk
1/4 C Absinthe
1 orange

For the glaze:
1/4 C granulated sugar
1/4 C Absinthe

And into battle we go!

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the loaf pan and line with parchment paper along the bottom. Line the parchment paper with butter to ensure an easy release as the cake cools after baking.

Next grind the spices using your preferred method, either by mortar and pestle or machine, until relatively fine. Whisk together the cake flour, meal, baking powder, salt, and anise seeds. Set aside.

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Beat the butter and sugar in a separate bowl until light and fluffy, about a minute or two. Next, add the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated. In a small measuring cup, mix the milk and Absinthe together and dust with a few swipes of an orange zester or fine grater.

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Next, blend half of the dry ingredients into the beaten butter mixture, and then the entirety of the milk and absinthe mixture. By hand, add the remaining portion of dry ingredients to the wet and blend until no dry pockets of flour remain, being careful not to overmix.

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Pour into prepared, parchment-lined loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake resists slightly when pressed. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.

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To prepare the glaze, stir the Absinthe and sugar until just mixed, adding orange zest if you care to.

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Unmold the cake onto a cooling rack and gently poke 50 holes evenly spaced throughout the top of the cake with a skewer or toothpick. When ready to serve, spoon glaze over top and allow to drizzle into drilled holes and down the sides. Slice and plate. Because this is an uncooked glaze with raw alcohol, it is probably not the best dessert for children, nor is it the best for cheap dates.

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A final word of warning as I close this oh-so-lengthy blog on Absinthe: it will indeed IGNITE. In other words, know how such a fluid will behave around an open flame.

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Keep it classy, y'all!

-Davey <3

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hoecakes Part II

So, since I have eaten all the hoecakes I made on Sunday, and had no food left to eat in the refrigerator except a slice of bread, two eggs and a bag of oranges, I decided to make more hoecakes, but this time with Martha's recipe, and sans bacon fat (I need to cut it out with all the animal fat for a few days; butter, bacon--it's too much for me).

I must say, I enjoyed these hoecakes much more than Paula's recipe. They have more sugar, so they're sweeter (duh..), but I'm a "northerner" (more like a Californian, but I digress) and I like my cornbread sweet, so sue me. They were moister because they used all buttermilk (and no water). I made these from memory because I was too lazy to take my computer out of my backpack and turn it on, so I used 1 1/4c buttermilk instead of 1 1/2c, so my batter was quite thick, but it still tasted good, my hoecakes were just a tad on the thick side.. and I only used 1/4 c. sugar, which I think was quite enough.

So there you have it, Go Martha.

-Patty Lu

p.s. where is david?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I have been wanting to make hoecakes since 2004 when this recipe was published in Martha Stewart Living--cornbread in pancake form!

Six years later, I watch True Blood, Tara says "Hoecakes! And you fried them in bacon grease!" and now, I have to make them, I've put it off long enough!

I googled "hoecakes" for a second opinion on a recipe (it's a southern specialty, so I'm not sure if Martha Stewart is exactly the authority...), Paula Deen enlightened me with this recipe, and with her 50 comments [to Martha's zero], I decided to favor Paula.

Paula calls calls for self rising flour and self rising cornmeal, which I refuse to buy when I have perfectly good AP flour and regular cornmeal, so I mixed Martha with Paula to get the following:

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cornmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. + 1 tbs. water
1/4 c. bacon grease
oil for frying

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Whisk in wet ingredients until just blended. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Spoon in two tablespoons of batter per hoecake until brown and crisp turn over. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve with maple syrup or honey and bacon!

Despite True Blood saying to fry the hoecakes in bacon grease, I think that bacon fat inside the cake itself would integrate the bacon-y goodness, rather than coat the hoecakes in a greasy mess. Be sure to have the ingredients at room temperature (the eggs and buttermilk), if not warmed, because the warm bacon fat solidifies with the cold and stiffens the batter. I used my eggs and buttermilk out of the fridge and at first the batter didn't spread out much and it wasn't until my last two pancakes that they spread out on their own and showed the tell-tale bubbles on the surface. If you forget to let the ingredients come to room temp, let the batter sit until it's thin and pourable.

Martha says to serve the hoecakes with honey, which is what I ate mine with today, but I think it would go much better with the thinner consistency of maple syrup. Pure and real maple syrup, mind you. We only have Aunt Jemima's syrup in our apartment right now, shamefully, and it is NOT maple syrup. Seriously, it's corn syrup and color and flavorings; there isn't a drop of maple in that stuff, and it tastes like it. Sorry to be a food snob, but I'm probably going to continue serving mine with honey (I have 8 more hoecakes now sitting in my refrigerator to be eaten over the next few mornings), since I'm trying to save money on food and I don't think I want to spend it on maple syrup when I have perfectly lovely Italian honey sitting in my pantry.

I never realized the beauty of bacon until I fried it myself...I come from an Asian household, so we never really ate bacon and I always found it kind of concerning to have so much fat on such a small piece of meat, but when fried up crisp, it really is quite wonderful. And it goes great with hoecakes.

These smell fantastic when they're cooking, but f.y.i., if you just cooked your bacon in that pan, wipe it out. I didn't because I wanted to use the residual fat to cook the hoecakes, but the pan ended up smoking and made the entire apartment smell like smoke.

All in all, hoecakes are awesome. I love using cornmeal in everything and these are a nice change from your plain ol' pancakes.

much love,

p.s. next on my cooking wishlist: crispy prosciutto: prosciutto baked in the oven, that is, once our oven is fixed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I made some creme fraiche caramels (yes, I used creme fraiche despite David Lebovitz's disclaimer, but I had already purchased the creme fraiche before I realized he said not to use it!) and they were rather oozy and runny like he said, but I reduced the butter to two tablespoons, so I think they were perhaps less runny than what he may have experienced...anyways, I painstakingly wrapped each of the 60 some caramels in saran wrap and they are still very good, but I had WAY too many for just me and my roommate (who would probably only eat a few and I'd end up eating them all...), so I decided to take half of them and dip them in chocolate--homemade rolos!!!

I used my favorite (and cheap) Icelandic chocolate 70% bittersweet. The chocolate must be tempered, f.y.i. Melt half of your chocolate over a double boiler (don't let any water drip in!!) and then pour it over some (less than half the amount you melted, so less than 1/4 of your total chocolate) unmelted "crystallized" chocolate in a separate bowl (the residual heat in your bowl will do your chocolate tempering no good) and stir until smooth. work relatively quickly because your chocolate has now cooled and will solidify in 10 minutes or so. I left 1/4 of the chocolate untouched so I could re-melt and re-temper the chocolate (that chocolate hardens faster than my little hands can cut and roll the caramels into lil' balls and dip), so just to be safe do not melt all your chocolate! If your chocolate does harden and you have melted all of it, if the stuff that's hardened is tempered, just scrape 1/2 of it into another bowl and temper it with that. Anyways, making your own rolos is relatively simple. Make caramels and dip in chocolate-->homemade rolos. And they're pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself, and better tasting too.

Much love,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Campfire Pie

Writing the following entry will be interesting for me. For the majority of readers, campfire pie is something entirely foreign to them. It is essentially the classic campfire dessert, the "'smore," pie-ified. While there are many different takes on such a dessert, like "smores pie" or "chocolate marshmallow pie," I really like the romantic connotations the title "campfire" gives. I used Cindy Pawlcyn's recipe. Chef Pawlcyn is of Northern California Wine Country fame, where she owns three notable restaurants. I was lucky enough to eat at Cindy's Backstreet Café, where I enjoyed the campfirey goodness firsthand. She apparently also appeared on an episode of Giada's Weekend Getaways, which was great, because the recipe for campfire pie is now available on the Food Network website. Here's a clip of her introducing herself and her food philosophy from her stint on Top Chef Masters:

Someone stressing the values of healthy food would be hard pressed to find a more decadently sinful dessert than campfire pie. In this way, I thank Chef Pawlcyn for allowing her more devious side it's time to get down and dirty with sugar, butter, and cocoa. However, this recipe is by no means perfect. It is extremely time consuming, has a bit too much butter (I know, I never thought I'd say it either), is time sensitive, and it's extremely rich. That being said, it's delicious if you enjoy it bit-by-bit and there's nothing like it.

Let us begin. We'll start component by component.

The crust:
9 ounces of chocolate cookies (you could either go with Oreos sans frosting or Nabisco Chocolate Wafers)
2 1/2 oz. unsalted butter, melted

Grind the cookies in a food processor until powdery. In a medium bowl, blend the powdered cookies and butter until the mixture resembles a moistened sand. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 10" pie plate. I find that a circular, metal 1/2 C measure works as a great tool to press the crumbs. Freeze to set, about 10 minutes minimum.

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Almond ding:

This is where tragedy struck for me. I found that the recipe called for much too much butter. 5 ounces? Where there's only 3 ounces of almonds? Hmm. The following is what I believe to be a more appropriate amount.

3 oz. whole blanched almonds (I used slivered almonds)
2 oz. sugar
5 oz. butter (my recommendation: 1 oz. butter)
pinch salt

The bitter chocolate sauce:

Again, I take issue with the amount of butter used. It simply floats on top of the sauce like oil on water. It's unappetizing, and bears notice. I would start with half that amount.

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 1/2 oz. cane syrup
7 oz. butter (my recommendation: 3.5 oz.)
5 oz. heavy cream

Combine the chocolates, cane syrup, and butter over a double boiler and gently melt. Stir in cream. Set aside.

At this point, it's also important to note that you'll need 8 ounces of dark chocolate cookie chunks. To accomplish this, I bought some local bakery cookie dough, baked the cookies myself, and crumbled them.

Lastly, the heart of the recipe, the marshmallow:

4 sheets of gelatin, soaked in water (according to packaging amounts)
3 oz. water
5 oz. egg whites
1/8 t cream of tartar
pinch salt
8 oz. sugar
1 1/2 oz. cane sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract

Hydrate the gelatin sheets in a small saucepan. Gently warm the gelatin until dissolved and set aside. Place the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. In another saucepan, bring the sugar, corn syrup, and water to a boil. Using a candy thermometer, bring the syrup to 230°F. Start whipping the egg whites on high speed and continue to boil the sugar syrup to 240°F.

Pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream while whipping the egg whites until all the syrup is incorporated. While continuing to whip, add the gelatin and vanilla. Whip for one minute longer.


Remove the chocolate wafer crust from the freezer and immediately spread 1/3 of the marshmallow fluff onto it. Then, sprinkle half of the cookie chunks, almond ding, and chocolate chips on top.

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Just after a sprinkling of cookie chunks.

Drizzle 2 ounces of the bitter chocolate sauce on top. Spread another 1/3 of the marshmallow fluff and follow up with the remaining cookie chunks, almond ding, chocolate chips and 2 oz. bitter chocolate sauce. (There will be leftover bitter chocolate sauce, which you may reserve for plating at serving time.) Top off with remaining marshmallow fluff and shape the top with tufts by using the back of a spoon.

Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.

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To serve, preheat your oven to 400°F. Slice into 8 equal pieces and bake for 5 minutes.

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So there you have it. Smores in a pie. It's not a perfect recipe by any means. But I did enjoy struggling through it and enjoying its richness. In the future, I'd like to devise a recipe that incorporates less chocolate and more graham cracker elements. a smore is, after all, 1/3 graham cracker. But if you do care to execute this recipe, note my butter reductions and work quickly through assembly. And if you can't find gelatin sheets at specialty foodstores, you may need to order them online.

Keep it classy, y'all!

<3 Davey

Country Apple Pie

Apple pie. Yawn.

I know, I know. It's a tad passé. Stick with me on this one, folks. It surely won't disappoint you if you follow it through till the end and you mix it up a bit with your apples. There isn't too much innovation going on here, but there really needn't be with something like apple pie. I chose instead to innovate on the quality and type of the ingredients.

I started with my farmer's market Pink Lady apples. And while there wasn't much that was called for, I decided to opt for the juice of the Meyer lemon rather than just the garden variety lemon. I find that their flavor is the perfect amount of tartness and flavor. And for brown sugar, if it's not specified, I love to use the darkest variety I can find. This is typically the muscovado type, or "Barbados sugar." It's got a molassesy flavor that I like to pair with anything from pork to pears. Freshly grind your own nutmeg for the recipe, and you're on your way to a wonderfully-decadent, fabulous yet familiar apple pie. This recipe comes from The Southern Heritage's Pies and Pastries Cookbook.

But we'll start with our crust. I've doubled the recipe I featured before in the post about chocolate bourbon pecan pie. It's a wonderfully versatile crust that I use for any sweet pie. The following recipe for apple pie fits a 9" plate.

2 1/2 C unbleached, all-purpose flour plus extra for work surface
1 t table salt
2 T sugar
12 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" slices
1/2 C chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into two pieces (I always use my home-rendered lard here--you can't beat the flavor!)
1/4 C cold vodka
1/4 C cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 2 4-inch disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Remove one dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured work surface to 12" circle about 1/8" thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least a 1" overhang on each side. Working around the circumference, ease dough onto plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Trim overhang to 1/2" beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against the rim of the pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

For the filling now:

6 C of peeled, cored, and thinly-sliced cooking apples
1 T lemon juice
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C firmly-packed dark brown sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
2 T butter
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 T water

Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine apples and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, mixing well. Spoon over apple mixture, tossing gently. Spoon filling into evenly into pastry shell and dot with butter.

Next, remove the other disk of dough from the refrigerator to roll out the top shell. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to a thickness to a circle about 11" in diameter, roughly 1/8" thick. Then, using a 1.25" biscuit cutter or upside-down shot glass of a similar size, cut one hole in the center of the circle. Then, cut 6 more circles around the first.

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Next, wrap the dough loosely around a rolling pin and transfer it while unrolling over the top of the apple filling. Trim the edges. Seal and flute the tops. Brush the top of the pie with the egg and water mixture: this will guarantee a wonderfully golden crust.

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Bake on a rimmed baking tray at 450°F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue to bake an additional 35 minutes. The rimmed baking tray will ensure that any spilled filling fluid won't burn on the floor of the oven and burn. That smoke flavor simply won't do for country apple pie!

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Enjoy warm with a decadent scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream dusted with a touch of cinnamon sugar, and you're good to go.

Keep it classy, y'all!

<3 Davey

Sweet Sourdough Starter!

(Continued from the post "A Story of Starter")

After 11 long days of adding and subtracting flour, water, salt, and the combination thereof, I finally had sourdough starter. And boy, what a beautiful thing it was! After a few days it developed that yeasty, smelly odor so reminiscent of the famed sourdough bread that originated so long ago.

So following up, we now have about 1110-g of starter. Chef Coumont's recipe then calls for the following, for two 2-kg round loaves:

720 g of the starter
2.5 kg stone ground flour (I used good quality bread flour)
1.75 L water
40 g unrefined sea salt

Having enough common sense to know that almost seven pounds of flour won't fit in my Kitchen Aid UltraPower stand mixer, I split everything in two. And as always, a scale was ABSOLUTELY necessary. The remaining starter can be cycled as described in the previous post for about 2-3 days before achieving the status of ready-to-use starter again. This way, if you run a bakery, you won't have to wait another 11 days. Not having the manpower or time to do so, my remaining starter met an untimely demise.

So here's my recipe, whittled down to a more manageable size.

360 g starter
1.25 kg bread flour
875 mL water
20 g salt

Make sure these ingredients are WARM! (We're looking for a range of 77-81°F) You can keep your oven on a low preheated temperature, if you're not opposed to expending the extra energy, or keep your fires going in the fireplace with a little extra wood.

Now, place all the ingredients in the mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and knead at low speed for three minutes. Then, knead at high speed for another two and another five at low. Leave the dough to rest for an hour and a half at temperatures ranging from 81-83°F. During this time, turn the machine on in three second intervals every fifteen minutes or so. Therefore, you'd do this six total times.

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Next, you move the lump of dough to a floured worktop to be "boxed." This is difficult to explain in words, which is while I'll include a few illustrations below to clarify. You'll want to push your dough to a thickness of two or so inches and then stretch it into a square shape. Fold the four corners into the center.

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Next, take the resulting four corners and fold them likewise into the center.

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Press firmly into the center with the palm of your hands to firmly seal the 8 corners. Flip the dough so that the sealed corners are face down and place the dough in a linen-lined bread basket. The dough now needs to proof between 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, depending on the desired level of activity. (The longer you let it sit, the more acid is produced.)

When you're ready to bake, make sure to have preheated your oven to 465°F with a baking stone inside. You'll also want to make sure you have a heatproof dish with a small amount of water inside as well, to keep a nice, crispy crust.

Place your dough onto an oven peel and razor blade the top with a few criss-cross marks and give the loaf your signage. Gently slide the loaf into the oven onto the stone and bake for an hour and ten minutes. (Yup, this bad boy is HUGE!)

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Wait a few hours before slicing, and enjoy!

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but much like boeuf bourginon, this is the kind of thing you make with a lot of love. Think about those you love when you cook it, and really channel that into your kneading, measuring, and waiting. It's well worth it. And since the starter is based off of the bacteria in its environment, it breathes much of what you and your cohabitants do. It really gets you thinking about the ways in which you connect with your food--fascinating!

Keep it classy, y'all!

<3 Davey