Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Gluten free, I guess: junk food edition

-Costco frozen pizza. Like a giant open faced pizza roll.
-King Arthur Flour chocolate cake mix. A little dry, frost and serve with ice cream ace consider brushing with syrup before frosting.
-Wild Harvest freezer waffles. Indistinguishable texture, lightly sweet, faint anise flavor, taste like pizelle cookies
-Amy's gf mac & cheese, pretty good
-Pao de queijo (brazilian cheese bread). These are so good, I can't even. We've been eating these for months though.

That's it for now, to be updated as we find things. Making amaretti cookies today because they're gluten free already, but totally respectable.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

nonsense blondies in a bread pan

I went on a weird baking spiral (goal: a small batch of blondies, "blondies for 2" was a google search) at too late o'clock one night recently and Joel was super into the result. I'm on the fence. They're pretty good though, extremely rich, and fit in a bread pan.

Chocolate Chip Blondies (with whisky, brown butter, walnuts, coffee, vanilla)

4 tbsp butter
1/2c dark brown sugar (or if you're like me, white sugar and a drizzle of molasses)
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp+ vanilla
glug of whisky (mine was Jameson)
tiny pinch of instant coffee, I have decaf. a splash of brewed coffee could work too.
1/2c flour
Handful of walnuts, chopped
Handful of chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. On the stove, melt the butter, and toss in the walnuts. Stir until fragrant and butter solids are browning but not burnt. Add to sugar and flavorings in a bowl and let cool. Add egg yolk, flour, and if the mixture really is cool, chocolate chips (if it's warm it'll melt the chips). Pat into a bread pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, until beginning to brown around the edges. Don't overbake - err on the side of less baked.

Excellent with vanilla ice cream. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

cop-out files: dinner edition

Easy but low-shame dinners #1:

This is not crazy authentic Thai food, but also it's not NOT if that makes sense. It's crockpot-mom-ified, but I'd like to think it's not SUPER shameful. It's very flavorful, extremely simple, and it's embarrassingly easy and takes zero cooking skills.  It's best made with cheaper cuts of meat that do well with long braising.

I don't remember eating a lot of just regular red curry in Bangkok, honestly. We did have plenty of Massaman curry and Panaeng curry - both very worth a google if you're interested. This has plenty of flavor on it's own, but those are some ways you can take it up a notch.

A note on fish sauce: I promise, you like fish sauce. if you don't, you aren't interested this curry recipe, because you don't like Thai food. Yeah, it smells bad, bu it tastes good and it's in almost literally every Thai dish.  Your Thai food will not taste right without it. A few tbsp, at least, goes in everything. It's the source of salt in Thai cooking. It's very cheap and they have it at Cub.

If you're looking for guidelines for a red curry to cook on the stove, this recipe from SheSimmers would do you nicely.

Crockpot Red Curry 

1 little can red curry paste  (Maesri is a good brand that is widely available, like, our Cub has it. If possible, get the cheap kind in the tin with lots of Thai writing, not the Thai Kitchen kind in a glass jar. That is fine, though, if you can't find the other kind.)
1 or 2 cans coconut milk, Aroy-D if possible but others are fine. NOT LITE. It is weird, sweet, and full of stabilizers that can make your recipe wonky. Only use the full fat, regular kind.
Slow cooker meat: Chicken thighs, pork shoulder, stew beef, etc. Boneless & skinless is easier, but  bones and skin add flavor, so whatever works for you. Scale this for however many you're serving... you can do a pound of meat and some veggies and this is a saucy curry over rice, or you can put a whole giant pork shoulder in it and it's red curry braised pork.
Sugar, 2 tbsp
Fish sauce, a few squirts (I guess this is technically optional, but fish sauce is so cheap and lasts forever...)
Steamed rice

Frozen peas*
Any veggies that sound good: pea pods, cauliflower, onions,  spinach, sweet potatoes, anything.
Fresh basil, sweet purple kind, or honestly even the Italian kind*
Kaffir lime leaves*
OR Green onions & cilantro chopped and mixed*

Turn crock pot on high. Add coconut milk and some or all of the curry paste, depending on your tastes - a few tablespoons makes a mild, creamy, but still tasty dish, the whole thing is a bit spicy but only by Minnesota standards. Whisk to combine. Add sugar and meat, and cook until meat is falling apart and tender - varies a lot by cut, but it'll be at least a few hours and have a lot of forgiveness.

- If the meat has bones/skin, fish out, remove, add meat back to the pot. No need to shred - just stir.

-If adding veggies, add depending on how long they take to cook - hard veggies take awhile, frozen peas just need to thaw, greens just need to wilt.

Steam rice, and serve.

-My favorite variations are cubed sweet potatoes  with beef in the fall/winter (although, to be honest, I haven't done that in the crock pot) and frozen peas and leeks with pork or chicken in the summer.
-Add a few crushed cloves of garlic at the very beginning. No jarred chopped acrid nonsense sorry.
-Kaffir lime leaves - few can go in early on too
-Sweet or spicy  basil - tear off leaves and stir in before serving.
-Chopped scallions & cilantro - sprinkle on top or pass at the table. Tastes good and the green is a lovely contrast on the orange curry and white rice.

That's it! That's literally it. You can do this - it's dump and stir and wait. Even with all the additional things, this is an incredibly easy meal.

-Good Deal Oriental on Lowry & Logan (I think?) in North Minneapolis is my favorite source for ingredients
-...but the Cub Foods near my house has everything here.
-Favorite person I know to learn to cook Thai: MY MOM. for real.
-Favorite non-shameful Thai food blogger: Leela @ SheSimmers
-Pictures of the brands I use to follow:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cream-filled brioche buns: deception donuts

This whole idea is deceptive, start to finish. It's a complex recipe...but it's just a few simple components + time. It's filled dough...but the dough is no-knead. It's two basic, classic recipes combined, but the person I stole it from  - The Salty Tart's Michelle Gayer, via this article - mentions sort of making it up. It's simple, especially in the light of the reign of the Salted Caramel Mocha Red Velvet Oreo Cake Pop style of food blogging (which, I mean, no disrespect - I made an unholy dessert mashup  on the same weekend I made these and no I don't want to talk about it) and I also wondered about throwing in some blueberries, or a slick of ganache, or any number of sharp or tart elements, thinking it'd be too plain and sweet. I took Gayer's advice and left well enough alone, and I'm so glad I did.

Lede sufficiently buried, let's move on: this is a recipe for sorta-brioche filled with pastry cream, baked, and rolled in butter and sugar. It looks like one of those filled donuts, it tastes like...if one of those filled donuts got in a fight with a cream puff and they emerged as one, superhero-style.

You can use any brioche dough and any pastry  cream recipe you liked. This is what I used. The name brioche should be taken with a grain of salt - barely any egg! - but I liked the no-knead, no-mixer component with my impatient baby.

Cream-filled brioche buns
Makes 8 large rolls.

Adapted from the challah recipe in Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day. Makes a very easy to use, playdoh-like dough once chilled.

1 C warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 egg and 1 yolk, lightly beaten
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Splash of Grand Marnier, kirsh, brandy (optional)
3 1/2 c (440g) flour
1/2 c butter, very soft

Beat water, yeast, salt, eggs, flavorings, and sugar together. Add flour and mix until incorporated. Add butter in slices, beating or punching or wrestling until combined. Let rise for 2 hours at room temperature. Dough can be used immediately at that point, but it's much friendlier cold, when the butter has solidified. Refrigerate for a few hours or up to 5 days (hint hint: overnight. On a Friday.)

Pastry cream:
Adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day.

2 cups milk
1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp butter
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (OR: vanilla bean. I have the feeling this would be a million percent better.)
Splash of grand marnier, brandy, kirsh, etc (optional)
1 egg
3 egg yolks (make meringues, macarons, or gross low-cal omelettes with the whites!)
3 tbsp cornstarch

Bring the milk, butter, salt, and half of the sugar to a simmer and turn off heat. Add vanilla and optional booze and set aside. Whisk remaining sugar with cornstarch and then eggs, beating to a paste. Slowllly add warm milk mixture, whisking constantly (a great use for your stand mixer if you have one!) until combined. Put the mixture back on the stove and bring to a boil, whisking constantly for 2-3 minutes. It will thicken up considerably! Press through a sieve to remove any lumps (or just mix really well if you're less worried).

To finish:
A few tablespoons melted butter
White sugar (bonus for vanilla sugar!)

To assemble: Sometime within the next few days: divide dough evenly into 8 balls. Roll the first ball into a circle about 1/4" thick, and dollop a spoonful of pastry cream. Wet the edges of the dough circle with water and pinch them up to seal. Use whatever method you like - I went with sort of a soup dumpling gather, but it doesn't matter as long as it is definitely sealed. Pinch and smoosh to make sure - this is super important!!
Place with a generous amount of space on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Let rise until they about double in size (30-40 minutes) and bake in a 350 oven for 20ish minutes, or until golden brown.
Move to a cooling rack and brush with melted butter. Roll/dip/sprinkle with sugar. They should look like sugared donuts! Let cool for a few minutes, but not too many - they are lovely hot. Devour with coffee, with bourbon, with bacon and eggs and fruit, or just standing in your kitchen.

The only thing I'd consider adding to these is a handful of blueberries, preserved sour cherries, a pinch of cranberry sauce, or a bit of  very sharp marmalade...something fruity and flavorful. I don't think they'd be better, but they'd also be very nice. I want to try Lunds 'holiday preserves' or whatever it's called (I think it's cranberry, pear, and orange) for Christmas morning.

(I also want some right now, but you know.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The frosting files: Unnecessarily opinionated base recipes

Yeah, sometimes I go on frosting spirals. Here's the results of the last several years' worth of base recipes, with notes on pros and cons and how I personally like to use it. I wanted to put them all in one place for future reference, and maybe possibly save someone the work...although, I mean, frosting research is pretty much the best kind of research so you know, don't let this stop you from, uh, required experiments.

Also: I don't have a stand mixer, so all of these are either with a hand mixer or just by hand.

1. Regular ol' American buttercream

You know the drill. I'm not putting a recipe here. Mix some butter, some powdered sugar, thin with some milk, throw in some flavorings. 
Pros: Fast, reliable, sturdy, endlessly customizable. Pipes, crusts, and holds shapes well. Easy to keep all of the ingredients on hand. Sweet and tasty. Stands up well to strong flavorings like cocoa powder and lemon juice. This isn't fashionable to say, but I like the mouthfeel of classic homemade mom frosting.
Cons: Can be stiff, once you add too much milk there's no going back, Very, very sweet by necessity - it's entirely made of butter and sugar. Gritty in that fine powdered sugar way. Can be hard to push through the piping bag. 

I like to use this for between layers, as it can be as thick as you need it to be. Classic and very easy.  You don't need a stand mixer, although that'll make it lighter and smoother and much easier. 

2. Light and fluffy whipped cream cheese/stabilized whipped cream

1 oz block cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar (whiz it in the food processor/blender if you're nervous about it dissolving but honestly it's just fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
Pinch of salt

Throw it all in the mixer. Mix it until it's whipped. Use more or less sugar to taste - taste it when it's incorporated but before it's really gotten whipped, so you don't overwhip it or have grit in your frosting. I like what the almond adds, but less is more unless you're actually wanting almond cream cheese frosting.

Pros: Super light and fluffy! A little denser than whipped cream. Lovely piled on anything. None of the structure comes from the sugar, so this is the ideal frosting for anyone who "hates frosting" because "it's too sweet." Not runny and heavy like cream cheese buttercream. Good slathered on a single-layer cake, dolloped on cobblers, and as the cream layer in a fresh fruit cream pie (don't bake it!)

Cons: Not for decorating. This is fluffy and light, a very stable whipped cream, not for precision or 'gluing' things together. Needs a thick layer, or it'll sorta start to soak into a cake left overnight. Not ideal for piping, but you probably can. Use caution with it as a weight-bearing filling, but good for something piped in. Best used fresh.

3. Cheater's Swiss meringue buttercream

Okay DON'T JUDGE ME and don't knock it until you try it. I've spent hours fussing with making real Swiss meringue buttercream, successfully and unsuccessfully, and remember noticing that the egg white + sugar mixture tastes remarkably similar to marshmallow fluff. I gave it a shot, and...yep.

1 regular jar (not the big jars...sorry, don't remember the oz) of marshmallow fluff
16 tbsp cold unsalted butter (two sticks), cut into slices
Salt, to taste
Flavorings - at least some vanilla

Dump the fluff in a bowl and mix in the butter a few cubes at a time. Eventually it'll get fluffy and silky. If it breaks, add more butter! I like to use unsalted and then salt to taste but do your thing. Add in flavorings to your heart's content - I just threw in probably half a cup of dulce de leche and several tablespoons of cream cheese and it's totally fine. If you want chocolate, do melted cooled chocolate, not cocoa powder. Google 'swiss meringue buttercream' + your desired flavor and I promise someone will have you covered. Nutella! Raspberries! Peanut butter! Bourbon! Doesn't taste particularly like marshmallow, but I'd add a bit of vanilla at least or it's vaguely reminiscent of a rice krispy bar.

Pros: All the same ones as SMBC, plus almost instant. So, so silky and light and creamy. Easy to pipe, holds it's shape, perfect for topping cupcakes. Can be used as a filling as well. Incredibly stable and easy to flavor. No muss, no fuss, two base ingredients. Buttery and smooth, keeps well, I've even heard it can be frozen (but haven't attempted.) An awesome hack for a classic frosting. If you grab some gel food coloring, you can do pretty much anything you want with this.

Cons: Must be at room temperature for serving or it feels and tastes like cold butter, so needs some lead time out of the fridge if made in advance. Can't go too warm, or it can be a bit greasy.

4. Cooked flour frosting (roux frosting/grandma frosting)

Just use the Tasty Kitchen recipe. I haven't made this in several years, but it was my gateway to frostings other than American buttercream.

Pros: Light and fluffy and creamy, not gritty, less sweet, since the structure comes from the roux and butter. Fun to make and very tasty. More neutral than the tangy whipped cream cream cheese, but similar texture.

Cons: Does not last well - seriously. Gets weird if you frost the cupcakes and keep them in the fridge overnight. Can be bland. I like the taste and mouthfeel of this frosting a lot, but I haven't made it in at least four years because I can't handle the whole doesn't-last-well thing.

5. Ganache

Rich, dark, truffle-y. No really, this is what truffles are made of. It's chocolate + cream or butter and the ratio is variable based on what you want to use it for. A little corn syrup (don't faint, you totally eat candy) can make it a bit chewy and elastic, which is nice when pouring over a cake. Use super dark chocolate if you're one of those maniacs. One made with butter will completely firm up when cool, obviously, since both ingredients are solid at room temperature.The Kitchn has a good post. So does Joy of Baking,

I like to spread a slick of this over cupcakes, and then top them with a different frosting. It's easier than cutting out the middles and filling them, and is a nice even layer of tasty chocolate surprise. Great for when the cupcakes just seem a bit plain.

Pros: Rich, tasty, elemental chocolate. Great for filling, and as a glaze or drizzle. People get super into it.

Cons: Very very intense and can overwhelm a dessert very easily. I mean, it's pure truffle, which are eaten in small portions for a reason. Can be finicky with the texture - lovely and shiny when it works but easily becomes messy and dull.

Okay! Eventually I might put up some of my favorite variations, but these are the base recipes I use. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Chai, my way (cardamom, ginger, vanilla)

Inspired loosely by Afrah's talk of cardamom tea, I started thinking about chai and how I prefer it to taste. Of course, her tea is a different beast entirely (no milk, for one thing!) from what I was wishing for, but it did set off the train of thought in my head.
'Chai' in English refers to sweet spiced tea with milk, but of course there's a lot of room for variation there! I've made and disliked plenty of versions in the past, but just now have hit on a particular preparation that I like. It uses only a few spices, and sweetened condensed milk and higher-fat milk for a creamy, rich effect. It's sweet and mild, but it's what I like. Feel free to experiment with other spices (common ones include cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, black pepper, ginger, and cloves) and other components (different milks, flavorings, more or less black tea, etc) and find what you like. I highly suggest using whole spices - ground gives the final product an odd texture, and also generally has an inferior flavor. A pinch of a single spice on top can be nice, though

My blend has only cardamom, ginger, and vanilla. I get cardamom seeds at Holy Land (Central & Lowry in NE Minneapolis - hot food's just okay, but it's a fantastic grocery store - bakery, deli, from-bulk, etc, plus a halal meat counter) They're also available in pods, which you can shell easily (or, in tea, just crush) but I like the ease of the pre-shelled seeds. I also got some dried ginger root there, which is nice to have, but fresh ginger keeps for quite a while on the counter. The sweetened condensed milk adds body, as does adding as much volume in milk as water.

Simple Chai
 I found some decaffeinated black tea bags in my pantry and have been using them, since this is such a nice warming drink to have on a cold spring night. Adding the tea bags for the later part of the brew keeps the whole thing from getting too bitter and astringent. 

Serves 1. Scales up easily.

1 tsp cardamom seeds
1" piece of ginger root, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 black tea bag, or equivalent loose tea
1-4 tsp sweetened condensed milk (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 c milk, higher fat is better
Boiling water

Heat water on the stove or in microwave. Add cardamom, ginger pieces, and vanilla to a small mug. Fill halfway with hot water, and cover with a saucer. Steep for 5 minutes.  Add tea bag, re-cover, and steep for 3-5 more minutes, depending on how strong you want the tea flavor to be. While the tea is steeping, heat enough milk to fill the mug  you're going to drink out of in the microwave or on the stove. Remove tea bags, stir in sweetened condensed milk to taste. Strain mixture into second mug, and add milk. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Miang Kham (Thai leaf parcels with palm sugar sauce)

Generally I haven't written about things that have plenty of existing content here, because I don't see much of a point. Marcia Hazan's tomato sauce is amazing, but everyone posted about it years ago; pad thai is delicious, but I don't have my own recipe and there are a million; cream scones are the opposite of the Starbucks bakery case sawdust that put you off of them, but that's 1. pretty simple and 2. been written on by much better bakers than I am.

Erm. I never said recommendation was a bad thing. The point is, everyone else has done it (and much better than I would!) before. This, however, is something harder to find.

Alright you've buried the lede enough get on with it FINE. Here we go. This post is about Miang Kham, a traditional snack in Thailand and Laos. It's...a bit hard to describe succinctly, so while I sniggered at one of my sources calling it 'Leaf Wrapped Snack,' I was hard pressed to come up with a better English name. I believe the Thai name translated means something along the lines of 'mixed leaf parcel bite,' which is a bit better.
From Real Thai Recipes

Still don't care what is this alright. It's tiny pieces of intensely-flavored things, bound by a savory-sweet thick sauce, wrapped up in a mild edible leaf. It's addictive, tangy, fresh, crunchy, aromatic, and complex. You can assemble them in advance and put them on skewers, but I've always enjoyed it way more as a group appetizer. Everyone picks exactly how much of each item they want in each bite, and it's a tangle of arms over the tiny bowls in the best way possible.

The Thai philosophy of food calls for the balance of the four flavors - salty, sweet, sour, spicy. Instead of salt and pepper, a table should have a condiment caddy containing fish sauce (salty), sugar (sweet), white vinegar (sour) and dried chilis (spicy) for diners to use to customize the balance to their taste. In view of that, this seems like one of the most Thai dishes ever.

Miang Kham
The amounts for all of the ingredients should be fairly equal, so feel free to just eyeball it and to scale up and down as you like. Add items to your heart's desire, just chop them finely first. Tiny dried shrimp, like in pad thai or green papaya salad, are easily found at any Asian grocery store, as is Chinese broccoli. Galengal, palm sugar, and fish sauce are even stocked at Cub (if you're local to Minnesota).
Also, the leaves are traditionally chaplu (possibly spelled shaploo etc) leaves, but the small Asian grocery store near my house didn't have them. Chinese broccoli leaves were fine as a substitute, as would lettuce or any mild leaf...although I've heard of peppery nasturtium leaves being tasty so it's really up to you.

1/4 c tiny dried shrimp
1/4 c dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
1 small thin-skinned lime, sliced very very thin, skin left on, the slices cut into 4ths or 8ths (I used a mandoline to slice)
1/4 c chopped shallots - tiny little ones from the Asian grocery store are best, but the big ones are fine too
1/2 c grated unsweetened coconut, toasted - yeah, go a little heavier on this one
1/4 c ginger, finely chopped. Use smaller, more tender roots rather than bigger woody ones

Sticky palm sugar sauce (recipe follows)

Also consider:
-Little Thai chilis
-Sour fruit, like green apple or unripe mango
-Green onions
-Crispy-fried shallots or onions instead - available jarred or google how to make your own
-Very ripe sweet fruit, like small bits of mango or peach
-Sub Meyer lemon slices for lime

Do all of your chopping/dicing/slicing, and put ingredients in separate small bowls. Make sauce. Wash leaves thoroughly, cutting off at the top of the stem, and pile on a plate or platter. Arrange bowls however you like, making sure to show off a bit with how awesome your presentation skills are. Put out spoons for the different components, though it seems to devolve into fingers eventually.
Option 1: Take a leaf, add a bit of everything, top with sauce. Roll up, devour.
Option 2: Do it in advance and stick them on bamboo skewers. Obviously better for a buffet situation, but a lot more work.

Palm Sauce
Sticky palm sugar caramel with aromatics. I let mine boil too long yesterday and it was hard and sugary after it cooled, but I'd imagine if you kept a better eye on it than I did it'd be fine. If you're nervous, a candy thermometer could help keep it around soft ball stage - that'd probably be about right. Also, if it annoys you as much as it did me to buy a knob of galengal and stalk of lemongrass only to use a tiny bit, consider using up the leftovers by making my favorite soup ever, Tom Kha Gai.

2 tsp finely chopped galangal
2 tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 tsp very finely chopped inner tender lemongrass
1 c water
1 c palm sugar (just estimate with the disks, don't worry about being extremely exact)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 c grated toasted coconut

Throw everything but the coconut in a saucepan and boil it until it's dark and sticky and caramel-y, and the texture of caramel sauce...or to the upper end of the soft ball stage, about 240. Add coconut, stir to combine, let cool so it's not molten.

Drinks note: We had them with a Washington state riesling provided by Ferrol Pemberton (of Blondie's Plate, and if you happen to be in the Sequim WA area you really really should check them out), but I can't vouch for the pairing, since I was too busy cooking AND trying to eat AND laughing at David Pemberton to have more than a sip before we sat let me know if you think of something brilliant.