Shamleless Plug


Since the years I began this blog, I like to think I've grown a bit. I've gone through the C.I.A and got a job.......At what I now refer to as "The Pie Shop of Horrors". A few years and one more job later, I'm at a new place with people who are really cool. With great food, a great vibe and I still feel like the place is too cool for me.

So now I'm embarking on a new part of my life that is happier and going in a direction! It's really refreshing.

I was married May 19th, 2012 to a great guy I met at the C.I.A and we're go excited to embark on a life together. He has as culinary degree to match my baking and pastry degree. It's going to be a Good life.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on food and cooking. I am but a humble baker, who happens to love cooking and embraces the joy of food.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marshmallows!!

So, my friends, I haven't posted in a very, very long time. This recipe request comes from a few sources. One was when I sent marshmallows to those who donated to my sister's CTF NYC Marathon. One: If you don't know what Neurofibromatosis is, please check it out on this page.
Two was when I made a comment on Reader's Digest Facebook page about how their marshmallow recipe....wasn't great. So here's the recipe! Please do not be intimidated. Have confidence! Give the marshmallows love and they will love you!
Also! Before y'all get all over me about Corn Syrup, allow me to please explain. Corn Syrup in moderation really isn't too terrible. In candy recipes such as this one, it is CRUCIAL and irreplaceable. It works on a molecular level to create the happy candy I hope you will enjoy.  It's a little difficult to explain how corn syrup works, but knowing it works on such a tiny level may make you less adverse to use it. I promise if there was a way around it, I'd tell you! :) 
I really hope you enjoy these marshmallows. I made 6 pounds of it for my sister's fundraising and while it was exhausting, it was fun and easy and I'd do it again and again! Once you make it once, feel free to play with flavors! I did coffee flavored as well as maple flavored and can't wait to play with other kinds! 
Enjoy and ALLONS-Y! 
Ingredients

3 Envelopes Knox Unflavored Gelatin 
4 oz (half cup) cold water
In a heat proof bowl sprinkle gelatin evenly over cold water. Set aside
_______
12 oz (1 1/2 cups) white sugar
9 oz (3/4 cup) light corn syrup
3 oz (1/4 cup) honey
4 oz (1/2 cup) water
_________

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
________________
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Sift together and set aside

_________


For less of a mess, cover counter/work area with newspapers. Oil a 9x9 inch square baking dish. For thinner marshmallows, use a standard size cookie sheet. Line with wax paper and oil again. Be sure to oil well. 
Set up a stand mixer with a whip attachment. 
Combine sugar, corn syrup, honey and water in a 2-quart sauce pan. Mix well. 


Set over medium-high heat. You may stir until the mixture begins to boil. Wash down sides as needed with a wet pastry brush


When it begins to boil, use a candy or probe thermometer to cook to 250 degrees.  Do not keep stirring or you will cause your sugar mixture to crystalize. 


Pour hot syrup into a 5 qt mixer bowl. Allow to cool until a thermometer in the syrup reaches 210.
While the mixture is cooling, melt the gelatin over a hot water bath. 


When the syrup reaches 210,  add the melted gelatin and whip on highest speed for about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and whip until combined


Working quickly, remove the whip attachment and using an oiled spatula pour into well oiled baking dish. 
Allow marshmallows to rest 3 hours, but preferably overnight. 


Before cutting your marshmallows, dust both sides with the marshmallow powder
You can use very small cookie cutters for shapes, or using a pizza cutter, slice into stripes and then again into squares. 
Dredge marshmallows in the cornstarch mixture and shake excess through a sifter. 

For chocolate marshmallows, add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in before adding vanilla.  


This great recipe is from Chocolates and Confections:At Home with the Culinary Institute of America by Chef Peter Greweling. He was truly one of my favorite chefs at school. He is so brilliant. In his book you will understand why you must use certain ingredients and why you must do certain things. You don't read a recipe, you learn WHY.  If you enjoy making candy or want to learn how, this book is an amazing way to start. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Best Pizza Dough Recipe

Yeast rasied dough can be a very daunting task for a causal or unconfident cook. What with all the rising, punching, kneading..is it worth an hour or more for fresh baked bread? The short answer is YES, but the long answer is in this post.

I came across this recipe online looking for a basic, quick pizza dough recipe. While many recipes for dough take an hour or more to prepare, this one is ready to bake in 30 minutes.
I've swapped out ingridents to turn this pizza dough into sticky buns and dinner rolls.

The base recipe is this
1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast

Combine water and yeast with a tsp sugar and let sit for ten minutes until the yeast is foamy

2.5 cups flour 
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt.
Pour yeast mixture into bowl with flour and salt, add oil and knead well, until dough is no longer sticky and easily forms into a ball. 
Let sit for 20-30 minutes, and your dough is ready. Roll into a nice pizza shape, add your toppings and bake at 425 until golden brown and delicious. To assure bottom gets well baked, I recommend putting your oven rack on the lowest rack. 
You simply cannot omit salt in yeast recipes. It has to be said it is vital in yeast raised recipes for flavor and color. I like to add garlic powder and onion powder to give the dough a little zing.

Now, if you want to make a kick ass, tender, pillowy sticky bun recipe, you omit the olive oil.

Here's what you need to add
Four tablespoons soft butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup white sugar, mixed in with the flour

Take soft butter and with your hands, mix it into the flour until it makes pea-sized crumbs.
Add the yeast mixture, then the beaten eggs and mix well. Let sit 30 minutes.  Roll into rectangle shape.
From here you can use any filling recipe you like. You can use jam, a shmear recipe, or use my favorite shmear below.

half stick soft butter
pinch cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat all ingridents well.

You only need a thin layer spread all across the rectangle. Roll longways, slice, and put in a cake pan that has been spread with butter. To make sticky buns, sprinkle bottom of pan with brown sugar and you can add nuts, if you like.

Bake at 375 until golden brown and perfect. 

This base dough is great. You can play with it and have generally great results. Never be afraid to experiment with dough recipes. You can make really great discoveries. 




Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pie Dough Meandering

I don't get the deal with pie crust. So many chefs and people who think they are pastry chefs religiously bleat on and on about the importance of cold fat, ice cold water and the proper distribution of the two. My last boss so deliriously and furiously defended her pie dough that the only time we were allowed to touch the damn mixer was cleaning it when she was done making her dough. Although it wasn't hard to figure out her recipe. About ten pounds Crisco, 50 pounds of flour, about a gallon of ice water and 2/3rds cup salt. Opps! There goes the "secret" recipe. But it sounds like your rough 3-2-1 ratio to me. The 3-2-1 ratio being 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part water. Cut the fat into the flour and mix the water into that and you got pie dough.

Last year I was making a chicken pot pie, and forgot to both chill the fat and ice the water. I was annoyed over the tough crust I could expect. But that never happened. My crust was just as flaky, just as perfect as ever. This had to be a flaky fluke. So I tried it again the next time I made pie with the same excellent results.

Tonight, I made pulled pork pot pie. The crust, though needing a bit more salt, was tender, flaky and browned very nicely. So what's the deal with pie dough? I barely even followed the 3-2-1 method. Everyone seems to make a big deal out of it. Secret recipes, methods guarded with pretentious greed. Is there some Pillsbury dough boy conspiracy going on?

During the hay day of Food Network, Alton Brown was a very popular man. He had all the answers and could present it with flair, humor and understanding. His pie crust episode was no different. He stressed the importance of adding ice water in slow stages, even going as far as using a spray bottle. I remember thinking that while the idea was brilliant for proper water distribution, it seemed like a lot of work for pie crust. A mere vessel for transporting filling into your mouth.

Turns out, all this fuss is not needed. As long as you coat the fat with enough flour and make it into a cornmeal consistency, allow time for the dough to rest and use minimal rolling, you're golden. The culprit is over rolling and over working the dough. This is true for any dough you make. A cool hand and a firm but gentle touch is what can make puffy pastry dough or a tender pizza crust.

But of course, that's just my opinion. I've learned how to make the painstaking, multi-step, multi-hour pastry dough at school and one that took about an hour at home with identical results. Is either method right or wrong? No. Is one more traditional and therefore more trusted than the other? Sure. I love tradition. I love experiencing the way things were done classically. I have a deep respect for the classics. But if I can save myself several hours taking principles of those traditional methods and yield the same results, I'm going to take it.

Which brings me back to pie crust. There are incredibly fussy ways to make it, with people swearing this is the only way to make it properly. I have people like my former boss, who was defensive over a "secret" recipe. There is no secret recipe for pie crust. It's a ratio. A ratio, people! This isn't Grandpa Jack's secret recipe for moonshine.

Anyway, long story short, you probably don't need to worry too much about perfectly chilled fat and icy cold water. Nice to have, might increase the quality vaguely. But really, don't worry so much about deep coldness. In my opinion, as long as things are reasonably cold and you don't overwork the dough, you're probably good to go. Just don't flake out.

It's pork pot pie! And it's happy to see you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Onions and Mushrooms

You know, I've never been a fan of mushrooms. For one, it's fungus. The word alone is unappealing. For another, the texture and mouth feel is weird and rubbery. It's almost as bad as biting into the gristle part of a steak. I know I'm eating a mushroom, and the word creeps into my head as I chew "Fungus...Fungus...Fungus!!!!"

But I've found when I chop them into a tiny dice and cook them with onions and red wine, they make an incredible (inexpensive) flavoring agent. Tonight I'm cooking burgers for dinner. You could just form the beef into patties and throw them into the pan, but why? Ground beef doesn't have to be boring. Ground beef isn't just the inexpensive dinner substance formed into the dry meatloaves of the 50's.

Burgers are usually my lazy go to dinner option. Or when I'm craving beef. But since I have leftover raw mushrooms and half an onion, I'm feeling like putting a little more effort into the burgers. Cooking the mushrooms and onions down in a little wine and Worcestershire adds moisture and a deeper beefy flavor to any kind of beef you pair them.

Onions and I are sort of like Gollum and The Ring. I hate what it does to me, but I love them. Slicing into just one onion is enough to make my eyes sting shut hours after we've cooked. They make me cry and I still keep crawling back to their caramelized love. One onion ring to rule them all. Please excuse the Lord of The Rings reference.

Mushrooms are starting to grow on me. Maybe someday I can cook them sliced thin and eat them without noticing their horrible unique texture. But for today I'm happy with my sauteed mushroom stuffed burgers. I really hope they come out well. They are a bit moister than I'd like, so I hope they don't fall apart when I cook them, but the egg yolk should provide enough of a binder.
Cheesy mushroom burgers and tator tots. I promise I usually make better dinners, but for a gal getting up (too) early for a weekend bake at work, it'll do deliciously for now.

.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I can't believe I haven't written anything since June. But summer is kind of a boring time of year when it comes to food for me. Don't get me wrong, I like the food well enough. I like the warm summer nights eating at the beach. I like grilled veggies. I like the one lobster roll I eat a summer. If Matt and I could afford the Farmer's Market produce prices we'd frequent them, but honestly summer food doesn't interest me too much. I'm not really a multi-colored heirloom tomato kinda gal. I'm a Fall girl. I love Fall probably more than any other season.

It's New England's time to shine in Fall. You have the best apples ready to be picked. You have an arsenal of pumpkin products. The food gets heavier and richer. Crusty bread becomes a side dish to the wonderfully meaty beef stew.
Food seems to taste better in the cooler months. During the summer, I make our favorite foods less often because it's too hot to eat slow cooked beef. Roasted root vegetables just don't fit into the summer. It's difficult to plan the week's dinner menu when all you think about is the food you're going to make in a few months. I relished the cool rainy days when I could get away with something heavier.
To be honest, summer kind of bores me. I'm not a beach girl, it's too hot and humid to go for a long walk, and I work. I'd rather be home putting time into a good meal than laying on the sand.

But I feel like I'm going to miss out on the heavy food this year. I'm getting married in 247 days. With dress fittings and engagement photos a bride to be has little need for rich foods. But I haven't really felt like too much of a bride apart from when I found my dress anyway. But that's another post.

For now, I'm looking forward to cool days, cozy nights, explosions of colors and slow cooked, slow roasted fall food.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Edo's

I haven't done a restaurant review in awhile, but tonight's dinner totally merits one.

I first went to Edo's almost three years ago. It was right next store to my job at that time, and my co-worker and I went to try it out. I was totally hooked by the good food and the reasonable lunch prices and took Matt the first chance I got.
We both completely fell in love with the place and have been going ever since. It's become our special date place. We never come here enough, but it's such a great place with such special food it might become overkill if we visited too often.

I'm really protective of Edo's and hesitant to suggest it to people. The owners are nice and keep the place spotless and the quality of everything is always above expectations. I'm protective because this isn't a quick bite. The servers are attentive, but un-intrusive. If you want to sit for two hours through their inclusive small bites of pickled items, dinner and dessert, they wont bother you or rush you. It's a little slow, but only because you want to have a real experience with your meal.

Anyway, back to tonight. I hadn't seen the owner since before I quit my job, so when we saw him, we cheerfully said hello to each other before we were seated.  After we ordered dinner (Matt got something with sweet potato noodles, beef and vegetables...with a name I cannot remember at the moment and I got the Gob Dol with beef) we nibbled at the complimentary small bites they brought out, and drinking the miso soup.
Mr. Hung was came to our table and set down a plate of mysterious handrolls.
"Mr. Hung! What's this?" I exclaimed, surprised at the sudden arrival of food. He wouldn't tell us, but smiled and told us try it "Doesn't need soy sauce!" He promised, and left.

Clumsily, I picked up a roll with my chop sticks and looked at it. It smelled wonderful. Matt thought the middle had salmon, and figuring I tolerated salmon, it was worth a leap of faith. Besides, Mr. Hung has never steered us wrong, nor has sent over anything we didn't like. I popped the whole thing in my mouth and what I experienced could only be described as a food explosion. The top of the hand roll was laced with avocado and lightly sauced with a gingery/sesame glaze. The sushi rice was glutany and sticky (my favorite qualities in rice). The avocado was creamy. The middle was...crunchy...Surprisingly . It was crunchy and not at all salmony. It was shrimpy!  It was shrimp tempura!

"Holy Goodness." I said, through a mouthful of endorphin inducing food deliciousness. "This is incredible." I had to laugh, it was so good.  I set my chopsticks down and sat back. I needed a minute to let what I ate sink in.  And I don't even like avocado.
I picked my chopsticks up again and began to use them to point at the hand rolls "We need to have these at the wedding. You want to have sushi, we got to have this, too!" I said, still quite in a daze of experiencing such a combination of sweet, creamy, sticky and crunch.
"We can't not finish this, it'd be rude not to." I said, ungracefully attempting to pick up another piece. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish my dinner of a sizzling hot stone bowl filled with meat, veggies, rice and egg. But this was such an explosion of flavors and mouth feels I couldn't stop.

Plus, it'd be rude to not finish. Had I known such a delicious world of things existed outside my favorite menu items, I'd gotten them years ago, A whole new world of options...I'm not a picky eater, but when you go somewhere infrequently and know that you can rely on something being perfect every time, you tend not to stray too often.

When dinner came, I was bubbling with excitement to tell the server to tell Mr. Hung how amazing the hand rolls were. She probably thought I was insane (or possibly tipsy; though I hadn't drunk anything); the Whitest Girl in Connecticut tripping over herself with excitement over their food.
My Gob Dol was sizzling hot, the raw egg cracked in the center cooking in about 25 seconds as the sever mixes it all together. You need to wait almost ten minutes to begin eating lest you burn your mouth. But the beef, cut so thin, is moist, tender and flavorful. The rice on the bottom of the bowl turning into crunchy bits of tasty brown. The veggies fresh and lightly cooked. The egg mixed thoroughly through your bowl. The steam emanates from the bowl and the sizzling lasts almost ten minutes. It's by far my favorite meal at Edo's. You can get Katzu anywhere, but Gob Dol is a special experience. 

This place is terribly under rated. I've always had a relaxing and delicious experience and Matt and I linger long past any other restaurant would usually allow.

Anyway, you need to visit Edo's. Come for the Gob Dol, stay for the deep fried Red Bean ice cream.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Potato Skins

Ever had potato skins at a chain restaurant? Growing up, my family would occasionally go to Bennigans; usually on New Year's Eve. I remember laughing over the name "Fuzzy Navel", eating burgers, Turkey O'Tooles and  fudge brownie sundaes.

But mostly I remember potato skins. They were probably deep fried skins. Which was hidden by melty cheddar cheese, greasy bacon, chopped chives and cold sour cream. The whole thing was a greasy, cheesy oily mess. And they were addictive as eating whipped cream straight from the can.

My 9-year old self never knew potatoes had a better topping than ketchup. Who knew?!

I haven't enjoyed potato skins in so many years. Matt and I have about four slices of extra thick cut bacon in the fridge, along with a half  pound block of cheddar cheese and sour cream. I don't need to tell you where this is going....

I know they wont be as good as what you could get in a chain restaurant circa 1994; there was a lot more leeway on assorted fats back then. I baked the potatoes and scooped them, and will just broil them later instead of deep frying the tasty skins. But the bacon will be greasy, the sour cream full fat and creamy and the cheese will be plentiful.

I'm saving the inside potatoes and the bacon fat for pierogies tomorrow.

Rendering the bacon fat is worth the slow effort. The bacon we picked was very lean, but it yielded a surprising amount of fat. It smells all bacony with a touch of smokey in here. I'm using extra sharp New York Cheddar, sliced slightly thick. It's going to melt beautifully draped over the chopped bacon. 

Holy Goodness. I have missed potato skins. The middle of each potato skin was full of melted cheddar, slightly crisp and salty bacon and sour cream. Like a surprise party for your mouth.

Okay, okay, okay. Sure. You can totally make these "healthy" Some kind of vegetable combination instead of bacon, less or no cheese, light sour cream...But...uhh..why? I understand healthy eating is great and can be completely delicious. I know. But what's life without enjoying your meal?...But that's another post.

Every time I bit into a bacon loaded, cheese laden mouthful of potato, it was like an explosion of awesome. Some bits of the bacon were slightly fatty and soft, providing incredible flavor. Sour cream, cheese and bacon. Could there be a more flavorful trifecta on a potato?

These potato skins were such a great splurge. Incredibly easy and a filling meal for a Friday night.

If only I had a good beer to go with it.....


Mmmmm...rendered bacon fat......


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brinner!!

Our menu of dinners has been varied the past few days. Delicious, but in need of special prep. I'm starting to want something simple and completely different.

Which brings me to the magic of Brinner.

Brinner, if you haven't heard of it, is one of those combinations of meals. There's Brunch (Breakfast for lunch or even lunch for breakfast) Linner (lunch for dinner; in my mind it's mainly soup and sandwiches) and Brinner. Breakfast for dinner. I'm sure there's a dinner for breakfast (Dreakfast?) combination but 75% of my breakfast meals over my lifetime has been leftovers from dinner or non-breakfast food items (ranging from Pastina to burgers). 

Brinner is admittedly a lazy meal. You really don't need to go to the store. Crack a few eggs, pull out the bisquik and fry up some bacon. You can throw together a frittata with whatever you cooked the night before. And who (besides me) doesn't like a short stack for dinner sometimes?

It is the quick and easy dinner. Clean-up is a snap and everyone's happy.

I'm making Brinner tonight because I'm in the mood for a change. I'm also dying for bacon. We usually try to keep it in the fridge, but while I was job hunting I'd rather spend 5 bucks on a 5 pound chicken than 16 slices of cured pork. At work I'll have a cream cheese bagel with bacon, but I'm yearning for my Maple Bacon.  Maple bacon is one of the tastiest things I will ever eat at breakfast time....but that's another post.

We got this extra thick cut applewood smoked bacon. A little drizzle of maple syrup and brown sugar and you have created something so palette pleasing and sweet and the sweet bacon fat is just so........I'm losing track here. Bacon is mighty distracting.

Anyway, I don't really like categorizing meals into their own little boxes. I love a burger for breakfast as much as I do for dinner. I can put away an egg/sausage/cheese bagel for dinner or lunch. At work, I don't blink an eye if someone asks for Diet Coke at 8:30 in the morning. Hell, when I went into work during my externship at 4 am I'd start my shift off with some Diet Coke!

Don't go all cannibal on me, but meals are a lot like people. We shouldn't put them into these boxes and expect them to conform to what we think they should be. Why can't you have pancakes at 8pm? Why can't you have a chilli dog in the morning? Brinner, Brunch, Linner, Dreakfast, Dunch (?), why label? If you want to eat it my friend, don't let us judge you! If you order a turkey club at the diner at 7 am, I'll feel less embarrassed when I order my pattie melt, deal?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shortcakes

This is probably my main motivation when making risotto. Yes, it is creamy and parmy and full of starchy goodness, but risotto cakes are where it's at.

Soft. Crispy. Moist. Compressed cakes of indulgence.

But that's not the cakes I'm writing about. I came across incredible looking strawberries today for a price that felt a little like stealing. Strawberries! They actually look deep red, ripe, plump and delcious!
I bought two packages for shortcakes for dessert.We had left over heavy cream from last night. It was such a beautiful sunny day, so it just felt like a shortcake night.

I used the raw sugar for the shortcakes, and sprinkled some on top to create a sweet sugary crunch.

The whipped cream was more or less an afterthought. I wasn't really planning on it, but Matt insisted.....I am so glad he did! I haven't had good whipped cream in months. Months and months. Before I quit my job. Their whipped cream was always over whipped and under flavored.

I took a spoonful to check the sweetness factor and was hijacked into airy heaven. It was perfect. Medium peaked, smooth, airy and creamy. A whole different kind of creamy than risotto. I couldn't have made it go better with the strawberries and shortcake; the medium peaks eased seamlessly into the fruit. It didn't just sit there like a dead bird. Ever had too whipped cream? It really ruins a great dessert.

I've missed fresh whipped cream! And strawberries. The strawberries were ripe and sugared just enough to bring out the flavor of the fruit without overwhelming it with sugary sweetness. It went really well with the shortcakes; the sweet crunch was every few bites, so it was an extra burst of sweet sugary flavor.

What a fabulous kick off into warmer days. If I wasn't so full from such a great meal and dessert I'd go back for more.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Risotto.

Cheesy creamy short grain rice. If I were to have an "issue" with food, it would be Risotto. I love it more than tuna and Doritos, more than beef stew. More than fresh marshmallows.

Risotto is a bowl of creamy Parmesany haven. It is a labor of love, needing care and patience, just the right amount of liquid and stirring. Stir too much, and you have a starchy mess, stir too little and you have a bowl of rice. Just the right amount of stirring and you are left with an evenly cooked, tender and creamy bowl of Risotto.

Basic risotto just has the main ingredients of cream, parm and white wine. Classic but stylish.
Risotto lends itself to any savory addition. vegetables, salmon, sausage, chicken, bacon. But I think bacon would be such an incredible indulgence with the risotto my tongue would surely die a thousand blissful deaths. It's a one dish meal. But it's not so much "healthy" or "quick" but you will soon find the end result is worth all that stirring and time.

But there's so much more to this dish. Leftover Risotto turns into cakes of pan fried, crispy on the outside soft on the inside risotto cakes. And those, my friend, are worth making risotto just to have the crispy cakes.Which are worth a post all by themselves. Risotto. Pan fried. There is no need for further explanation.

Risotto is a special meal for Matthew and I, partly due to the work involved and partly due to the amounts of rich ingredients. We made it for New Year's Eve 2010...Or what I refer to as my "Emancipation and leaping into a brighter future." So the dish is now a little more special. My freedom meal. That creamy mouth feel? That's my bright future, baby!

Anyway...If you've never had risotto, I cannot imagine why you haven't! It's like a high ten from the classic great chefs.