Monday, June 30, 2014

¡Sangria Blanca!

¡Oralé! I finally got the White Sangria recipe I have been desiring for years! I made it last weekend and brought it to a friend's house to enjoy with pulled pork tacos. I'm not sure I even drank any with the tacos, as I was already two hefty glasses in by the time we ate, and I needed to switch to a non-alcoholic beverage at that point. Anyway - it was perfect for a light and cool summer drink, to enjoy during the day and not feel like too much of a boozer.

It was easy to make, throw the booze and chopped fruit into a jar, and bring along fresh mint, and seltzer to top off on a per glass basis. I will post the recipe later this summer, as I believe a couple of personalized tweaks will make it even better. More research (of course) is necessary. Oh, and I will need to take a stab at that Pulled Pork recipe too. So many dishes to make this summer! And off to a great start.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014 Summer Cocktail

The other day I threw together a beverage with ingredients I happened to have on hand, and combining them sounded befitting. And it was. Delicious, refreshing and light! I will need to work tirelessly in the coming weeks, so that I can get the portions right, but the cliff notes version is this:
gin, ginger beer, decent squeeze of lemon, bubbly water, dash of angostora bitters, all over ice

Freakin' yum. While diligently perfecting and recording the quantities, I must also brainstorm an appropriate name for this magnificent summer beverage.

p.s. Forgive me if a) this cocktail already exists and I completely stole it, thinking I brilliantly came up with it on my own. Because if I did that, it was undoubtedly so good, I likely guzzled 5 of them, promptly forgetting where/what/when plus my own name. Or b) I already wrote about just such a cocktail, and forgot

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Baking breads

I made three kinds of bread last week. Challah, rustic country bread, and rosemary sea salt loaf. If I keep this up, I will have super buff triceps by Labor Day!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Baking with chocolate day in Baking class….
Chocolate decadence (flourless)

Cupcakes with whipped ganache

Monday, June 2, 2014

Buttersctoch Pie, 1

This is a long one folks. But it is because I want to learn, and master the art. I attempted to make a pie the other day that I had about 20 years ago, in a German restaurant in Spokane, Washington. It was one of the most delicious things I had ever tasted, and I have always been on the lookout for a recipe to recreate it. The restaurant did not exist a year later when I returned, so I just wondered where/when/if I might ever come across that pie again.

Some notes: The crust - I used the standard double pie crust that I had just used a couple days before in class. Right away, I noticed a difference. The butter I bought was a superior butter (I think… grass-fed cows, etc.) from Ireland. It was much creamier. I wasn't sure if this was going to mean that it just tasted better, or that the cooking time would vary or what, so I just proceeded.

After resting it for an hour in the fridge, I turned out one of the discs on a 9" glass pie plate, and blind baked it in the convection for about 10 minutes. I wasn't sure how long the pie weights needed to be there. The last time I did this, it was managed by the assistant in my cooking class, and it was a sweet tart, which would then go on to be baked for a few minutes with lemon tart filling in it. The goal was a little different with this one; I needed it to be fully cooked. After the first 10 minutes, it seemed a little raw. I took the pie weights out and let it bake for another 5 or so minutes. I was concerned that it would rise up and break in the middle without the weights, so I stabbed the bottom with a fork. At this point, I really should have googled blind baking. Back in for about 3 minutes, I noticed it had risen, and contemplated putting the weights back in. Nervously, I circled the oven, and just let it go back in (without weights) for another few minutes and pulled it when it looked lightly golden. It had puffed up a bit, but I had to go with it.

The pudding. I felt pretty confident about this because we had just covered puddings and custards in class, and I had done pretty well. The puddings in class were chocolate, lemon for a tart, vanilla infused creme brulée.
I had read several recipes and it seems, there are many ways to make butterscotch pudding. One recipe had geletin in it, another said to add scotch, while another said to add bourbon. There is more that one way to caramelize sugar too! I chose the Mozza budino recipe, but had to make one change of adding Bourbon instead of Scotch, because we were fresh out. The first step, letting the sugar, salt and water caramelize until a "lava-like" consistency was probably the hardest part, because I didn't want it to go too far (burned caramel) and I didn't want to pull it before it had fully developed. I think I may have pulled it a couple of seconds too soon, as it wasn't quite the rich amber color I had wanted. After adding the cream and putting it back on the stove to thicken, just like I had expected, it went from liquidy to thick like gravy within seconds. Just when you start thinking you need to turn up the heat or something, the thickness suddenly happens, and you get that big lazy bubble (bloop!) which says, I'm done! I stirred in the liquor and butter, strained it, and put it away to chill for a couple hours.

When it came time to put the whole thing together, my plan was to cut the banana on the bottom of the crust, fill the rest of the pie with pudding, then whip some cream for the top, and maybe throw a couple of decorative banana slices on top. I had left the cream out on the counter (couldn't remember if room temp was a good thing for whippped cream, or right out of the fridge was best). It was immediately obvious that leaving it out in my hot kitchen was the wrong idea. It became waxy chunks almost immediately, and it was obvious it needed to be tossed. A creamy element on top would have been nice, but not having it didn't ruin anything. I served it without.

The final product was good, but not great. It could use some improvement. The crust was a little too hard. Not in an overworked-the-dough kind of way, but in a dried out, baked for too long kind of way. Also, the flavors: while the combination of butterscotch and banana is excellent, the whole thing didn't flow as well as I had hoped. Did it just need time to meld? Would an additional caramel drizzle on top have brought it all together? Would sea salt have done anything to make it more delicious? Was bourbon just not the right flavor?

Lots of questions to ask my teacher next class. All in all, I think my dish/experiment was a total success. The pudding was delicious, the crust was pretty close to perfect, and bananas are bananas. The challenges I faced were honestly exactly what I was looking for. As in, the reason I decided to bake this myself was to put the lessons to use, and see if I could do it myself. The more experience I have, the better baker I will be. Having everything go well in class is one thing, but in my own kitchen when I'm trying to figure it all out, and I can't fall back on an expert next to me, THAT'S when the real learning happens! I will try again, and it will get better and better. I think my teacher will be proud of me, that I tried to put it all together at home, with successes and failures.

Notes: Refresh my memory before blind baking again on how to do it properly. Use regular butter, that I'm used to working with. Figure out- does my light colored butterscotch mean that I pulled the caramel too early? Also- buy some Scotch! Figure out whether caramel sauce in addition to the pudding would be excellent. Pick only one recipe and stick to it

P.S. My teacher gave me the recipe from the school's pie-making class for this pie, which is the one I will try next. And funny, THIS one has RUM in it (yet another variation!)