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

かぼちゃの Casserole

Greetings fellow foodgoers. I know many of you have been eager to know what I did with my kabocha squash from the farmers market. Rest assured I indeed found a use for it. It has been merely a matter of posting the results of this use that has taken considerable time.

Having concocted many recipes from the Lee Brother's tome of Southern cooking, cleverly entitled The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, I decided to rely on them for some guidance with my winter squash. Their recipe for Winter Squash Casserole can be executed with any number of winter squash varieties, but I found the kabocha to work exceptionally well here in a Southern application given its natural sweet and nutty inklings.

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While any squash is typically hard to prepare, I found that using a spoon to remove the fleshy and stringy or seedy center made quick work of the kabocha and allowed the perfect amount of time to get a nice salty pot of water to come to a boil. The addition of my favorite sausage, a Whole Foods variety "pork pesto," lightly browned and sliced thick added a great smoky, herbaceous flavor that almost made this casserole a standalone meal.

Here's what you'll need:

about 3 1/2 lbs. winter squash (I used kabocha of course), peeled and cut up into bite-sized pieces
5 T unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
3 C chopped yellow onion (about 2 large)
1 C whole or low-fat buttermilk (if you find whole buttermilk, let me know where you find it!)
2 large eggs
2 1/2 t minced fresh thyme
1/2 C bread crumbs, of course home made is always best
3/4 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C pumpkin seeds or pecans, toasted
2 C coarsely grated cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9" x 13" baking dish.

2) Place 3 quarts of water in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the prepared squash, return to a boil, and then cook for six minutes. Drain and set aside.

3) Melt the butter in the stockpot and add the oil. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent and limp, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring to prevent browning. Add the warm squash and the buttermilk, eggs, thyme, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 1/2 of the pumpkin seeds/pecans, 1 1/3 C cheese. Blend until well combined. (At this point you can add a pound or so of seared, golden brown sausage to the mix--just make sure to take out an equivalent amount of squash so you don't crowd the casserole dish)

4) Spread the mixture in the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese and pumpkin seeds/pecans over the top of the casserole and bake 15 minutes more until cheese bubbles and top is golden brown.

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I definitely grated a bit of parm on top. Sometimes its nutty brilliance is quite hard to resist.

Keep it classy, y'all!

<3 Davey

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cheese Party!

Last weekend my roommate and I hosted a wine and cheese party and I, of course, was put in charge of the cheese.. Oh, by the way, I LOVE CHEESE.

My favorite place to get cheese is Murray's Cheese on Bleecker. It is the most magical place ever--incredible descriptions of the cheese, a mind boggling array of cheeses, sandwiches, meats, and the smell is intoxicating!

The best part of being the person who buys the cheese is tasting them before you buy them. There are a few cheeses that are sold individually as squares or pucks that you can't taste, but that's part of the adventure, non? Gouda, cheddar, parmesean--soooo passé. I want to buy only the cheeses that I have never tried before and that my guests have never tried. One should bear in mind, however, that some palates can be...unsophisticated...close minded...? Is there a kinder word for the unadventurous? In any case, I bought the cheese for a cheese party a couple years ago and I went to Murray's and bought a bunch of unknown cheeses and by the end of the evening, everyone only tried each cheese once and that was it. I was stuck with the rest of the cheese plate with no one else to help me eat it, not that's a bad thing, but, you know, too much of a good thing... Anyways, lesson kind of learned because some of my cheeses had more left over than I would have liked, even though I tried to buy more accessible and less stinky/crazy cheeses. I guess you can't please everyone. A good guideline for buying cheese for a cheese plate is "something old, something new, something stink and something blue":

Here's a breakdown of what I bought and the Murray's description:

Ewephoria Sheep Milk Gouda
The punny name that only makes sense in English should give it away: this cheese was invented for the American market's infamous sweet tooth. Presumptuous--if only the butterscotch sweet, nutty result wasn't so gosh darn successful. And there's an upside to a focused market: the single producer of pasteurized milk is much smaller than most export sources--the farmer's wife posits that the sheep eat better than her children on lush pasture surrounded by a nature preserve. The crunchy stuff makes a blissful snack with drinks like Sherry or Porter and is delicious melted on pies or dessert breads.

La Tur
From the great wine region of Piedmont comes La Tur: a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full with a lingering lactic tang. the effect is like ice cream served from a warm scoop: decadent and melting from the outside in. An ideal regional paring would be sparkling Asti Spumante; effervescence will whisk away the richness while matching the mild acidity. We recommend you get back-up: La Tur is always the first to go at a party.

Pont l'Eveque Tradition
These plump and rosy tiles have been toted by townspeople in Normandy since the 12th century. The cool, misty climate is the perfect setting for the robust, often pungent flavor of this brine-washed cow's milk cheese. These are pasteurized for export, but you won't miss any of the authentic complexity or charm: a skillful adaptation of the recipe, using carefully blended cultures, has retained both. Slice up with apples for a restorative snack or smear on dark bread with cider or Calvados for an after dinner treat.

Fourme d'Ambert, Affinage
Raw cow's milk is gathered from the Auvergne region of France to create this signature "fourme" or "tall cylinder" of mild blue cheese. You won't find the metallic punch of Roquefort here due to the difference in cultures: Penecillum roqueforti is the namesake mold that causes bite and spice, whereas d'Ambert is laced with P. glaucum--more often found in Italy's balanced, creamy Gorgonzolas. The result is a rich, velvety treat that will win over blue-weary guests with its gentle, earthy pungency and relative sweetness. One of the few blues suitable for lighter reds. Aged by Herve Mons outside of Roanne.

The favorites of the evening were La Tur (they're not kidding when they say it's like ice cream. Serve it up with some baguette and brace yourself) and Ewephoria (Gouda--reliable, creamy, tasty). I especially liked Fourme d'Ambert and La Tur. Pont l'Eveque is good, mild--not as stinky as I thought it would be...sadly..--but the rind is too thick and it's better cut off. It's also good for melting. Trying to finish it off these past few days, I found it particularly fun/tasty to put a little slice on a piece of baguette and nuke it for a few seconds so it gets all melted and the you can taste the flavor better too. Fourme d'Ambert (the poor thing wasn't finished at the party) the blue--I have been putting it on my sandwiches: baguette spread with homemade mayo, spread on some of the cheese, mixed greens, a slice of black forest ham and it is quite excellent, if I do say so myself.

I hope this has inspired you to try some not your run of the mill cheeses!

love, Patty

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

the miracle of mayo and the brilliance of braised beef

The other night I had some leftover wine in the apartment and it needed to be used quickly, so I decided to make some braised beef with it.
In a skillet over medium high heat with 2tsp olive oil, brown on all sides 1.5lb beef chuck cut into 1 1/2 in chunks in as many batches as necessary and put into a dutch oven/braising dish. Pour off most of the fat and lightly brown 1 onion cut into quarters, 4 cloves pierced into each onion quarter, 2 carrots cut into 2in pieces, 1tsp dried thyme, 2 sprigs parsley then put into dutch oven with the beef.
Raise the heat and pour in 1c white wine or 1 3/4 c red wine and simmer until reduced to 1/2 or 2/3, respectively. Be sure to scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour into dutch oven. Add 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1 head of garlic coarsely chopped, 1 strip orange zest, 2 c beef stock.
Cover the pot tightly and cook at a bare simmer or in a 325 oven for 2-3 hours until tender.

I accidentally bought cilantro instead of parsley, but had I some flat leaf parsley, I would have chopped it up with come garlic and sprinkled it on top. I've been eating my leftovers with fettuccini, but the first night I made it, I ate it with baguette, which is the better way to eat it because it soaks up all those fabulous juices.

Improvements: trim off as much of the connective tissue as possible. I don't cook meat that often and I was hoping it would just dissolve into the broth, which it does to a point, but it's still kind of flabby and soft to me and I prefer just the purely textured meat without the extra jigglyness.


My roommate and I had a cheese party the day before and we had a considerable amount of cheese leftover. She doesn't eat blue cheese and that was one of the big hunks we had left (Fourme d'Ambert--an excellent, not soapy blue cheese. I had never really ventured out into blue territory before, but with the occasion of the party, I thought it was necessary to have one atop the cheese board and this was an excellent choice.). So, I decided to make a sandwich with it, and I've been hearing a bunch of Frenchmen talk about the wonders of making your own mayo in the past week (my Molecular Cell Biology professor, and this French guy in Brooklyn who was on the Food Networks "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" making a BLT (Ted Allen's fave thing with bacon)) and I really wanted to try it, I don't usually use mayo, but what better occasion than a sandwich to make your own?

So, I woke up early-ish Monday morning and whisked 1 egg yolk with 1/2 tsp water, a pinch o' salt and 1c olive oil. What the F? It has the consistency of salad dressing! But I whisked it vigorously and was relatively slow about it...I think!...?!?! Well, Alice Waters's "The Art of Simple Food" told me not to fret and to use another egg yolk and SLOWLY whisk in the broken mayo. This time I was uber careful about it (so much so that it took me 15 minutes...but I didn't want to waste another egg yolk!) and it turned thick quickly and my arm got a light work out. Marvelous. It's a light yellow-green color--that's the olive oil talking; that's what mayo is: spreadable oil. Sound gross? Well, I think it's pretty brilliant, actually, because what do people spread on their bread at restaurants? Butter. Now, is mayo really that different? It's better for you than butter--less saturated fat, and you don't need it to come to room temp in order to get it to a spreadable consistency (somewhat shamefully, I have been spreading it on a piece of bread and eating it plain.. HEY! I dip my bread in straight olive oil all the time and that's my favorite way of eating bread. Mayo is less mess and I made this mayo with my own hands!). The oil is really showcased here, so use an extra virgin olive oil--one that you like the flavor of. I used Trader Joe's olive oil, but I like their stuff and am but a humble student, but I would say don't be afraid to use a nicer olive oil and venture out to some flavored oils too if you have the money.

The lesson: Don't buy that flavorless, lord knows what's in them jar mayo. If you have an egg, a good oil, and a whisk there are no excuses.