It’s like making a kasutera cake… [odds and ends]

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I'm typing this completely stuffed... I find it harder to think about food descriptively when the idea of putting another forkful of anything near my mouth is unwanted. (wow that was difficult to type the word unwanted and food and my mouth in the same sentence) Instead I'm thinking more in terms of ah, that was good. Satisfying. Contentifying.

But I must go on and try because posts have been going on unwritten for far too long now. Why? I've been eating up marathons of master chef and kitchen confidentials. I've been more interested in playing with flames and cooking lately, than baking. I've been floundering about with my convictions and career choices and everyday life decisions (do I toast the pecans or leave them be?) For a week a food blog seemed pointless. Why do I have a food blog if I keep most of my recipes secrets? I started it for me with nobody reading it but myself... Now people do read it, surprisingly. I like that, and I keep food blogging because It is worth it. It's somewhat an outlet and I don't have to give away my secrets just to post about how good other people's recipes are. Also, it is always nice to have people that like your things. :) Continue reading

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I’ve been MIA for a few weeks now, overscheduling, events and the like…. Also I’m trying to teach myself some basic decorating skills so I haven’t been in the kitchen much except to brew another cup of coffee. Here is some of what I’ve been doing… These are flowers made out of gumpaste.

 

 

First hummus, next the world. [tahini, hummus and pita bread recipes]

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I just woke up recently with dried raspberry jelly plastered to my arm hairs; a distant reminder of this morning… (and also why I didn’t get around to that hummus post yet)

I was up far, far earlier than my normal schedule. Why? Because I was given an opportunity to learn how to do the cake and pastry work in the bakery I work at, instead of the usual bread baking at night.

I put on my uniform at, to me, the ungodly hour. I caught myself staring hard at my shoe, pondering which foot it belonged to. (the curved outlines of my shoes wiggled, and then both appeared to seem straight to my mild bafflement)

After that though, the rest of the day was cake. Hah, punny (that one slipped by subconsciously) There were certainly quite a few characters there; one in particular reminded me of the days when I was 12, working with my dad and the over the top new yorker italian restauranteurs… Mostly there were some slightly more repetitive things to do like, how to jam a little cake square into a smaller square mouthed shotglass. (After three hours I began to understand why, when I was given this task, the taskgiver added “I’m sorry” and looked genuinely apologetic) However, I did learn some pretty useful things, so I’m happy I got the chance to do it!

Alright, on to the hummus.

The first time I made hummus, it was a disaster. I was inspired by the greek restaurant Opa taverna’s, hand smashed in a mortar and pestle chickpeas… I also cooked the beans myself, and I guess they didn’t cook long enough because even popeye after a can of spinach would’ve had difficulty hand smashing them. (perhaps this is a job for chuck norris?)

Here are some Chuck norris jokes brought to you by google;

“Some magicians can walk on water, Chuck Norris can swim through land”

“Chuck Norris can say “m” without putting his lips together.”

“There used to be a street named after Chuck Norris, but it was changed because nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives”

“Chuck Norris died 20 years ago, death just hasn’t built up the courage to tell him yet”

“Chuck Norris can cut through a hot knife with butter”

“Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door”

“When the boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.”

“Chuck Norris once got bit by a rattlesnake…… After three days of pain and agony…… the rattlesnake died.”

“Chuck Norris once kicked a horse in the chin. It’s descendents are known today as giraffes.”

Tahini (AKA raw sesame paste)

recipe inspired by cinnamon spice

 

Sesame seeds  **It takes a lot of sesame seeds to make a little paste

Sesame oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put desired amount sesame seeds on a baking sheet with a lip, or no crevice will be able to escape the wraith of the sesame seed

Toast sesame seeds until fragrant and golden brown (6+ minutes)

Let cool for a few moments, then blend with a food processor ideally, or blender. If the crushed seeds become powder like or hard for it to process, add a splash of sesame seed oil and keep processing; continue doing this until you get the consistency you want; thin and pourable. There should only be a few whole sesame seeds remaining, if any.

 

Hummus;

recipe from the hummus blog (for more in detail instructions)

 

1 cup of dried chickpeas

1 tbs and 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup tahini

juice of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves

1/2 tsp cumin

salt to taste

olive oil

parsley

Wash the dried chickpeas until the water runs clear.

Soak them in a bowl of water overnight, with one tablespoon of the baking soda (I believe I soaked them for 15 hours, some people recommend a full 24 hours)

The next day drain the chickpeas, rinse out the bowl and add fresh water. Let soak for a few more hours.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas well, put them in large pot. Cover beans with water and add the 1/4 tsp baking soda.

Cook at a soft boil until the chickpeas are tender and very easily smashed between two fingers. (It took me about 50 minutes) The recipe author recommends changing the water once during the cook time and to skim the foam and peels off the surface of the water. (most of the foam happens in the beginning of cooking)

When they are done cooking strain the beans, but keep the cooking water for thinning the hummus later.

Put in food processor or blender and blend well; let sit until cool.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you get the desired texture. If it is too thick for your tastes adding the cooking water will thin it out.

Optional; pile hummus on plate in circle. Make a divet in the center and pour olive oil and sprinkle fresh chopped parsley on top. Sprinkle red pepper on the sides in strips for spiciness and color.

 

Pita bread;

bits and pieces recipes adapted from arabic bites, kath eats real food, smitten kitchen, rose levy beranbaum

 

2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 Tablespoon olive oil

place all ingredients in a mixer bowl, knead for 10 minutes to make a soft dough. (I had to add a half handful extra flour because it was too wet)

Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in bowl. Lightly oil top of dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 90 minutes.

One 45 mins – 1 hour before you bake pitas put a baking stone, cast iron pan or cookie sheet on an oven rack on the lowest level and preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Cut dough (a dough scraper works well) into desired size of pitas. If you want tiny ones you should end up with about sixteen pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball, set on plate. Let rest for 20 minutes, covered.

On a lightly floured surface roll each ball into about a 1/4 inch circle.

Let rest for 10 minutes (I skipped this and they still turned out good)

Cook for 3 minutes”

*If your pitas are not puffing to your liking supposedly you can spritz the rolled out pitas and let rest for three minutes, or as rose levy beranbaum suggests kneading in a little moisture.

“There is an art, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

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Look at this babee

Yes that is what you think it is – and if you don’t know what to think it is, exactly, it is I shall tell you. It is. A kitchenaid stand mixer from the 70’s, when hobart used to make them.

I just made a pita bread dough and it was a pleasure, a joy even, to watch as the hook which would normally be my hand, twirl about breathlessly bringing together a ball of dough any baker would dream about.

Sigh.

Okay, I’m going to go… mix some stuff.

Also… Holy shadoodle, making hummus and tahini from scratch without a food processor and only a very very subpar blender kicked my butt today. However, I did it, and it tastes, feels and looks positively stunning. Recipes, pics, unrelated tangents and whatnot tomorrow.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. [Celebrating world dulce de leche day with Alfajores]

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Febuary 28th was proclaimed to be world dulce de leche day… I meant to post this yesterday, however… I was distracted by the wonders of pita bread and those little magical, sought after air pockets.

This was my first time trying dulce de leche (to my conscious knowledge) and hmm… my thoughts on it? It’s pretty darned good. It’s pretty much like a casual caramel. There are three ways to make it, one in boiling water (which you can google if you really care to, but I believe you will be better off with the oven technique), the other in the oven and the last in the microwave

Dulce de leche:

Via oven;

Recipe from Jumbo Empanadas

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Sprinkle of salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Empty can of condensed milk in a glass pie plate or shallow baking pan. Stir in salt.

Cover pie plate with aluminum foil, fit snugly to sides.

Set the pie plate within a second, larger pan. (ex: roasting pan) Set them on the oven rack.

Fill larger pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the pie plate.

Bake until the milk has browned and carmelized (It may take an hour or more — mine took 1 hr 30 and was still rather light…) It is advised during baking to check the water level and refill the water if it has depleted.

When done, let cool on counter and whisk or stir until smooth.

Keep refrigerated*

Via microwave;

Recipe from Cooking for engineers (For a photo walk through look at his recipe)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Put sweetened condensed milk into a large microwavable bowl.

Cook on medium for two minutes.

Whisk milk cautiously (it may be hot)

Microwave for two more minutes on medium.

It is advised to keep a close eye on the milk as it cooks; to quote the writer of the recipe: “A microwave oven generally has only two modes – on and off. High means the microwave is continuously on, but a medium setting will cycle of microwave oven on and off every few seconds. The off periods help prevent boil over. If the bowl boils over, clean up the mess, upgrade to a larger bowl and continue.”

Continue a few more times of cooking for 2 minutes and then cautiously whisking until about 10-12 minutes when it begins to look curdled.

(Yes it will look strange at this point) Whisk until smooth.

Note: if you want a firmer dulce de leche you will have to continue cooking. The higher the temperature the firmer.

*Keep refrigerated

After making the caramel, I went on to make these supposedly traditional argentinan cookies:

Alfajores;

Recipe adapted from Cristina

250 grams butter

150 grams sugar

1 small lemons worth of zest

1 tsp vanilla

3 room yolks

200 grams all purpose flour

300 grams corn starch

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

Filling:

Dulce de leche

Coconut flakes (I use unsweetened)

Sift together corn flour, AP flour, salt and baking powder in medium bowl.

In seperate larger bowl cream together butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla.

Add egg yolks one at a time, fully incorporating the previous one before adding the next yolk.

Add dry ingredients in three additions, mixing between additions until just incorporated. (You don’t want to overbeat because you will end up with a tough cookie)

Wrap up cookie dough and let rest in fridge for 1 hour.

To make cutouts roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut shapes; An easier method for these crumbly cookies I felt was to make them into slice and bake cookies. Seperate dough into two portions and roll dough into a log. Chill log for a few minutes and it will be very easy to slice through. (Sometimes as a shortcut I preform the logs or preroll out the dough after I make the dough and before I chill it)

Bake cookies at 350 until there is a hint of golden to them (About 10-12 minutes: Keep an eye on them though, they can change quickly)

Spread or pipe dulce de leche on to cookies and sandwich them. Roll sides in coconut flakes.

*These cookies to me are reminiscent of shortbread cookies and are hard and snappy the first day. After a day of sitting with the filling they soften up quite a bit. (I prefer them soft)

What did I think of them personally? Well… I thought they were alright, kind of interesting to try. I’ve tried to love shortbread but for some reason I just don’t like it. I think it is the texture.¬† ) : I did however like them the day after, the soft cookie seemed to be a lot more fitting.

A towel, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. [Palmiers]

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Well, it seems as though this post is unfashionably late for V-day, but ah well, it was a busy day…After witnessing my friends getting married at the courthouse, I dropped my phone in one of their toilets, bought a $15 replica of said phone, went home and napped for a bit. Quite eventful. (my v-day present from shaun was him entering the room marked “women”, digging out the phone from the depths of the toilet and saving the sim card… my hero) (he claimed to have only done it beacause he was worried I was going to flush it and break their pipes. Meeee? Nooo…)

Anyways… I can still recount the highly recountable sweets I made; Palmiers. To put it into perspective how much I adored these cookie-esque pastries… I originally had made them with the thought in mind I could give them as a gift to my recently lawfully wedded friends.¬†Instead, I devoured them. All of them, except two. Which I pressed into the palms of my friends, with a look that said: take good care of these. This is also coming from a someone who generally only tastes their own creations, rarely ever gorging on them. (Chocolate nut paste is the other exception…Ah, peanut butter crispies, alright so there’s a few) If that’s not enough to convert you visualizers, imagine… a very glorious golden sunset. Only the sun tastes like luscious butter and sticky sweet carmelized sugar and it’s flaky golden layers are setting (melting) into the horizon of your mouth. (oh baby?)

The relatively easy part of these are putting them together… It can at the minimum consist of two ingredients (sugar and puff pastry) or it can be more complex depending upon your taste buds. (they can even be made savory) I enjoy mine with added cinnamon, and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top. I do not like very sweet things, at all. When I tried a recipe that called for a full cup of sugar I still enjoyed them, but they had a sickeningly sweet aftertaste to me, so from now on I will probably only use 3/4 a cup per batch. If you like the sweet then I suppose you could keep it as such.

Palmiers (Palm-ee-A s)

Puff Pastry

3/4 cup – 1 cup sugar (depending on taste)

16 oz (1 lb) puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; have ready an ungreased pan; silicone mats or parchment paper are not necessary.

Generously dust your work space with half of the sugar. Place (defrosted) puff pastry on top of sugar and roll into a large rectangle.(about 1/8 inch thick) Put the rest of the sugar evenly over the dough and press it in using your hands (you can also roll it in with your pin)

There are two ways to shape the dough; you can make one inch folds on both ends until they meet in the center or you can roll each side up and meet both sides in the middle (like a jelly roll or cinnamon bun). If you don’t know how to do this, here is a photo tutorial of the folding method and here is a tutorial of the rolling method. (Also, a video of the folding method.)

Using a sharp knife slice into 1/2 pieces and place about an inch apart from eachother. They need space to expand, but if you place them within just the right length from eachother it will keep them from opening too much.

Bake for 10 minutes and then check to see if they are ready to be flipped. Look underneath one or two of the bottoms of the cookies; if the sugar is golden brown and caramelized they are ready to be flipped. If not they need a few more minutes. They are done when both sides are golden brown and caramelized (It usually takes mine about 15 minutes total) When they are done, do not let them get cool on the sheet pan or they will stick.

Questions about Palmiers; (figured out by trial and error)

Can I freeze them and bake them without defrosting the dough? Here is a picture of what they looked like when I tried doing that. Hah, what do you think? :P

Does it taste the same if I use store bought puff pastry? Perhaps some kinds… I’ve used pepperidge farm puff pastry and it really doesn’t compare to the stuff I made from scratch. Anyhow, the quick puff pastry is much simpler to do than I thought it would be.

Why don’t I use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper? I originally tried using my silicone baking mat, but it deformed the shapes a bit and made them spread too much. The parchment paper or greasing is unneccessary because the cookies are buttery enough to keep from sticking.

On a side note, I would like to start eating more toast. Particularly toast with avacado and possibly an egg on it. I think I would, if I didn’t have to make the bread. (I’ve forbidden myself to buy premade bread as an incentive to start baking my own. So far, not working. Perhaps positive reinforcement would have better results…)

On a side side note, I will begin to include here some of my favorite quotes/excerpts I wish to remember, from the book I’m currently reading: the ultimate hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy.

“Arthur prodded the mattress nervously and then sat on it himself: in fact he had very little to be nervous about, because all mattresses grown in the swamps of Sqornshellous Zeta are very thoroughly killed and dried before being put to service. Very few have ever come to life again.”

“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.”

“It has been said that Vogons are not above a little bribery and corruption in the same way that the sea is not above the clouds. When he heard the words integrity or moral rectitude he reached for his dictionary.”

“I am so hip I have difficulty seeing over my pelvis”

“You guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”

As a side picture,
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