Archive | March, 2010

Dear Friends: A piece of cake for you!

12 Mar

Have a piece of friendship cake.

One of my co-workers brought me an Amish friendship starter and though I had heard about the process before, I had never tried it.

Basically, the starter sits for about ten days, on the counter-top, in a plastic bag.  Each day, you give the bag a little mush.  On day 6, you add some stuff (milk, sugar, flour) and then let it sit for another 4 days.  On day 10, you divide the starter into 5 equal parts (4 to give away and 1 to use in your recipe), add a bunch more stuff and bake your bread. We were a little reluctant–the stuff sitting in the bag did not look good and the idea of a milk based product sitting on the counter for 10 days made me weary.

We made the bread, actually we made a cake and some muffins out of the batter. And they were great!  Way better than expected.  Food tester #1 (husband) was afraid to try them at first due to the gross looking bag that they came from.  Food Testers #2 (my seven year old son) and Food Tester #3  (my five year old daughter) were not afraid.  They even went back for seconds and asked for them to be put in their lunch boxes the next day. Food Tester #1 eventually gave in and proceeded to eat up most of the cake.

I tweaked the recipe a lot because I ran out of milk (so I used a mixture of heavy cream and water, and a big dollop of plain yogurt).  The recipe also calls for instant pudding mix–which I just happened to have on hand however next time (there will definitely be a next time) I need to experiment with substitutions for the pudding mix.  I don’t like to buy that kind of thing–if I can avoid it. Also, I want to add things–bananas and chocolate chips, blueberries, poppy seeds and lemon.  All of these would work very well in this cake.

Now I have four bags of starter, that I am mushing everyday and no one to give them out to.  So, if anyone (who lives nearby) wants one—let me know.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Crack Pie

9 Mar

Why does a suburban mom in Southwest Florida care so much about a restaurant/cafe in New York City?

I’ll tell you why… I was supposed to be living in NYC by now…..it was my plan since high school, throughout college, and was side-tracked by my decision to take a temporary job in Honolulu. That temporary job led to permanent work, meeting some great people, having two kids and moving to Florida. However, NYC is in my plans–just sidetracked about 10 years. I am hoping to run in the NYC marathon this November (if my name is lucky enough to be chosen in the lottery) and I keep hoping that my husband’s art will take us there (or my day job, although that is unlikely). And, if either of those things happen–it would be very useful for me to be on the up and up of New York City’s dining options, right?—-especially the really cool ones. And if media hype is any indication, Momofuku is one of those places. And so, in the name of potential future residence scouting, I have been doing some Momofuku research.

First, I started with The Momofuku Cookbook. I thumbed through it at the local book store the other day and really wanted to take it home, but I just couldn’t allow myself to spend that $40…..We are saving for a big trip in December so I weigh all purchases against how badly I want to go on our vacation. And I guess, the cookbook didn’t win; maybe they have it at the library? Anyway, My birthday is coming up–so maybe someone will surprise me with it. (Dad, are you reading?)

Next, I found the recipe for the Momofuku Compost cookies on Amateur Gourmet and made them for a weeknight family dessert. The kids helped crush the potato chips and happily devoured the whole plate. I’ve posted about this before.

And then, on Friday, as if the universe was trying to tell me something; a recipe for the Momofuku Crack Pie was delivered to my in-box! I took it as a sign that I would be baking over the weekend.

Since I had been collecting ingredients for Smitten Kitchen’s Carmelized Onion and Cauliflower Tart, I decided we would have tart for dinner and pie for dessert. Everyone was happy about that until they heard that the “tart” was filled with vegetables—-more specifically, the grossest vegetables in the world–ONIONS! I am not going to go through the details of this recipe since I want to focus on the other pie…..but here it is. I made a few modifications primarily, I did not use truffle oil or truffle salt. I didn’t have them and I didn’t particularly want to buy them either (hmmm….salt or vacation? Not a tough decision for me). And I don’t think it mattered. The tart was creamy, with great texture from the cauliflower. Oh! The carmelized onions added the best flavor to the dish–definitely they were the key to greatness in this recipe (and I don’t even like onions….although maybe I do now).

But now onto the real reason for this post. THE CRACK PIE. I guess the name of this pie refers to the fact that it is so addicting……because that it is. At first, I was very hesitant about making this. It just did not sound that good to me. Oatmeal cookie crust, ooey gooey center, and a thin shell on top—not usually what I go for. But, I couldn’t resist the hype and I knew I wouldn’t be ordering one via Fed Ex (for $45+shipping) nor getting to NYC anytime soon. It was all in the name of research!

Enough talk already…Let’s get to the recipe.

Okay–here is my recipe, which was adapted from the LA Times recipe, which was adapted from Momofuku:

Momofuku’s Crack Pie

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling and chilling times

Servings: Makes 2 pies (12 to 16 servings each)—Note : The LA times version of the recipe suggested that these pies would equal about 6-8 servings each. I chose to serve the pie in VERY thin slivers….as it is very rich and I knew exactly how much butter, egg yolks, and cream was involved.)

Note: Adapted from LA Times which adapted from Momofuku. This pie calls for 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Note: I made one very thin pie, and one very thick pie (which needed about 5 more minutes in the oven). I thought the thick one looked and tasted better.

Cookie for crust

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar

1 egg

Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

5. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack.

7. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.

Crust

Crumbled cookie for crust

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Note: If you have a small food processor, like I do, you can make one crust at a time by just halving the ingredients. So, use half of your cookie crumble, 1/8 stick of butter, 3/4 T of brown sugar and a sprinkle of salt. My favorite part of the crust is the little bit of saltiness that you only occasionally notice. Next time, I may add a full 1/8 tsp of salt to each pie crust. Gotta love that salty sweet thing!

Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder (Note: I sent my husband on a search for milk powder and he came home with buttermilk powder. “She couldn’t possibly want powdered milk”, he thought. I went to Whole Foods and found a tiny bag of organic powdered milk for $6.99 and decided against it. Couldn’t find it at CVS or Fresh Market so I decided to try it with the buttermilk powder. Not sure how it would taste the other way..but this was still good.)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 egg yolks

2 prepared crusts

Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.

3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks.

4. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells. (Note: Like I said before, I did not divide the filling evenly. One was much thicker than the other.)

5. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies and cool on a rack. (Note: I also did not bake them, one at a time…..who has the patience for that?).

6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. (Note: We sampled the pie that night—hot from the oven and I have to say, I didn’t love it. But, the next day, after some time in the refirdertor…YUM!)

And voila!, the finished (and almost finished off) product:

I tried to give some to my neighbors and unfortunately, I couldn’t cut it out of the pan nicely. I ended up giving them three blobs of crack pie in its ooey gooey glory, piled unappealingly into a Tupperware container, ……all the while promising to them, “It really is good!” I’m sure I confirmed their suspicions that we are slightly crazy I mean, who would give their neighbors blogs of pie? But this pie must be shared (both because it is so good and no one needs that many calories) and I assure you, once they take a bite of their pie blobs, they will realize that it is one of the sweetest gifts ever.

Does your husband read your blog?

5 Mar

This is not my husband...but I bet he would read my blog.

Just curious.  You see, the other day, when I posted about the Momofuku Compost Cookies that I had found on Amateur Gourmet, I linked to the AG site…and Adam Roberts (the AG) twittered about my blog post.  (Wow! I can’t believe that I used all of these hip words in one sentence.  I should have also mentioned, in an effort to sound really cool, that I found out about this while checking out my blog stats on my iphone.) 

I said to my husband, “I’ve had like, 200 blog hits today!”  He said, “Huh.” 

A few hours later, I bought it up again. 

I said, “You know, maybe you could make a really cool blog layout for me.  So, people come and check out the blog and they will want to comment/subscribe/etc.”   “Uh-huh”, he said.

  A few hours after that, I said, “Have you ever even looked at my blog? and he immediately responded with, “No, of course not.  I don’t care about cakes so why would I read a blog about them.” 

Ouch. 

That really hurt.  He doesn’t care about cakes!!??? What about other sweets?  Brownies!? Cookies?  Did I miss something?  Did he fake his love for sugar when we first met?  I don’t know if I can live any longer with a man who doesn’t care about the things in the world that are most important to me**—cakes, cupcakes, cookies and pies!  I just can’t handle it.   I need some emotional support and if he doesn’t love cake as much as I do—it just can’t work.  I can’t imagine telling my family about his lack of interest of the dessert world.  I am so ashamed.  (Oh, and while I am in full venting mode here, I should mention that while he says he doesn’t CARE about these things, he has no problem SCARFING them down when they are placed in front of him.) 

Maybe I should feel embarrassed about airing our dirty laundry like this in a public (although not wildly successful) blog—but I don’t.  He’ll never read it anyways….

Do your partner/sibling/parent/friends read your blog? 

** Of course, I care about my kids more than some desserts.  I just needed some dramatic effect.

Lucky Peach! The best cookies ever……

2 Mar

 Just the other day, on the Amateur Gourmet, I saw a recipe for the Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie……..and while I have heard a lot about Momofuku, and have even contemplated splurging on the cookbook, I felt that I couldn’t truly understand the attraction because I don’t live in New York City and even if I did (oh, I hope to someday), I wouldn’t be hip enough to go there.  

I make a lot of cookies, especially ones with chocolate chips in them, and these were so different in the process, that I began to get a bit excited.  What was all that mixing going to do to the consistency?  potato chips and pretzels?  Huge ice cream scoops full of dough? 

I have to say that these cookies were the best I have EVER made.  They are beautiful.  Perfectly sized (for a giant), round, nice crackle-ly surface.  And they taste awesome!  The potato chip/pretzel does not really stand out, but the salt adds such a flavor dimension that most cookies don’t have. 

Here is the recipe I followed from Amateur Gourmet.  However, I was a bit scared of all the salt so I only used 1.5 tsp of Kosher salt, and only 1 cup of potato chip/pretzel combination.  Next time, I will add more pretzels and will use bittersweet chips instead of semi-sweet…but that is just a personal preference.

Weekend full of holiday fun (in February)!

2 Mar

This post is long overdue…..I wrote it on Ash Wednesday and still haven’t officially posted it yet. Oops!

I love holidays….any holiday.  And, this past weekend was chock full of holidays.  Of course, there was Valentine’s Day, of which I am not a huge fan.   But what about those lesser celebrated holidays such as Chinese New Year (at least in the USA),  President’s Day; and, who could forget Fat Tuesday?  I sure couldn’t.  And luckily, Fat Tuesday more than made up for a ho hum Chinese New Year dinner.  (As a side, I knew I should have cooked. My sister in law had sent me a nice cookbook with all kinds of Chinese new year decorations.  Our house was decorated more festively than the restaurant.  I am not suprised however, I mean, Chinese food in suburban Florida is already questionable…..add that to the fact that the restaurant was very clearly marketing to the Valentines Day crowd.  I think I noticed them rolling their eyes when we walked in….and we were a sight.  Husband who might not have showered for days, son with oversized hoodie pulled over his head, and daughter wearing the biggest, loudest tutu dress that she could possible find.  And me, just begging for a beer, some dim sum and a celebration.  Alas, no dim sum.  No lion dances.  There was deep fried shrimp covered in mayonaise with walnuts sprinkled on top. Yuck.  No celebration and bad food=grumpy family.  For the first time, I desperatly wanted to be back in Hawaii. )

Fast forward a couple of days to FAT TUESDAY!  To get us warmed up for the end of Mardi Gras, I bought a King Cake from Fresh Market.  I had contemplated making one but this cake was SO GOOD that I am glad I hadn’t.  However, the thing with King Cake is…buried somewhere within the cake is a plastic baby doll or some other kind of trinket.  Whoever eats the piece with the baby in it gets the honor of buying the cake the next year.  The kids were so excited to find that baby.  Aaron got the last piece and what!??, NO BABY!  The kids were so dissapointed. I am considering complaining to the store.  Why would you buy a King Cake if you don’t get to play “find the baby”. 

Anyway, I decided to make gumbo for dinner on FAT TUESDAY.  Shrimp Gumbo and Chocolate Lava Cakes.  (The chocolate lava cake was a late Valentine gift to my son….who begged me to make them.)  I am not from New Orleans….actually I have never even been there so I had no idea if Gumbo is even eaten around Mardi Gras…..but I did know that it was Cajun and thought it would fit the bill perfectly.  So, at about 4 pm, I started to search for a good, simple, recipe.  That was not easy to find.  Finally, I stumbled upon Alton Brown’s Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo.  It didn’t really sound easy at all.  It required baking the roux for an hour and a half, boiling shrimp carcasses and shells to get a shrimp broth, browning sausage, and cutting a chopping a whole lot of veggies.  Not exactly a Tuesday night quick and easy dinner.  However, I was quite surprised.  There was a lot of downtime, like waiting for the roux, so it didn’t seem too chaotic in my kitchen.  I even had time to clean up while cooking!

I followed the steps.  I baked the roux until dark brown.  I boiled shrimp bodies and made a mess of my stove-top. I browned the sausage. I chopped and diced the onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and tiny baby celery from my garden.  I mixed it all together.  And it worked!  It was really, really good.  So good that Aaron did not believe I actually made it (Now, that’s a compliment!).  His exact words were something like, ” This is take-out, right?  I mean, you made this?  It is just so complex and colorful and good.  I thought it must be take-out.”  (Yes, I have tried to pull that one over on him before.) 

So, Fat Tuesday or not.  I suggest you try this recipe.  I modified it slightly due to lack of certain ingredients and I added okra for more green.  I used Alton Brown’s recipe and instead of the file powder, I added about 1 cup of frozen okra. 

Give it a try for Mardi Gras or anyday!