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Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

purple yam bread (purple, lower right corner)

Because I’m holed up most of the time in a kitchen creating foods under someone’s direction and eating meals made by someone else, I rarely have the time to eat meals that I have full control of. When I do, I spend a lot of time—almost too much, one may say—weighing whether I should eat something I’ve eaten before or seek new tastes, and whether this new or old edible means I should buy or cook. Yesterday after a trip to Sripraphai in Queens to scratch an itch for Thai (old, seeking memory), we walked to Phil-Am market (new to us), a store selling goods from the Phillippines, and found this bread above, called ube ensaymada. I immediately reached for it, because it’s familiar; my mother, a nurse, often brought these home, given to her by her Filipino colleagues. I remembered its sweet, cheesy fluffy-ness, when as a teenager I would eat the loaves without knowing or caring what was in them. It was, simply, good.

Different story now! I took care to note, that the label says it’s a brioche, which I didn’t know 14 years ago. It also has ube, purple yam, which is probably good for you if it’s not doused with artificial coloring (other ensaymadas had coloring, which we eschewed). The cheese is actually monterey jack; I don’t know why exactly monterey jack, except that it’s probably one of the milder cheeses that won’t upset the sweet to cheesy balance, and the topper you see that the brioche is slathered with is probably margarine, not the butter—both are listed, but the former probably performs better with a higher melting point, if any. The whole equation, as my other noted, tastes “like a Danish,” sans the shape of a jam or cheese-filled nest or bear claw.

Still, re-jiggered memories, however picked over and made not as fun, are delicious, as are new tastes, like purple yam, that you might file away for your next, precious, short days off.

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Dough!

Sorry folks, I’m alive. Just that the day job leeches so much energy out that most of my free time is spent drinking Chinese herbs for strength/receiving acupuncture and general recovery. Last week, though, I was able to actually actualize an idea of making brown butter croissants because for the first time in a couple of weeks I had two days off in a row. The result, however, was not what I imagined. And it was all entirely my doing.

I sometimes think people make too much of the belief that you can’t substitute anything in baking, and that you have to measure everything to two decimal points by weight, and you can only do it using glass cups and wooden spoons (kidding, kidding). There is leeway, but you just have to be smart about it, and sometimes you can just settle for something less than what you originally imagined. Perfect is not the enemy of the good, as it goes. Even if it’s not something that might be photo’d for the Fauchon website, you can still eat it and enjoy it.

Ze butter paton and detrempe ready for rolling

So, I had forgotten that in the recipe we used in school that croissant dough requires bread flour, and not all-purpose flour, and hadn’t picked any up at the market. In my laziness, I thought, “Hey, you can use all-purpose flour for profiteroles or cream puffs without consequence, maybe I can get away with using it for croissants!” And therein was the fatal error. It matters. It matters a LOT. That’s because for all the rolling you need to do—and with finesse and speed, because the more you roll, the tougher the croissants become—you need the high gluten content in bread flour that can provide structure for all the layers of butter you’re folding.

See that crack? That's a textbook should-not-happen situation

With some careful rolling and pinching and patchwork, I was able to make some semblance of croissants out of the dough.

Not entirely a croissant-fail...let's see how they bake.

The scrap pieces(not pictured) had exposed pieces of brown butter, so when the tray came out of the oven, some of them were sitting in a pool of fat, which is surprisingly not appetizing. The end results were actually more like good ole crescent rolls: surely tougher than your average croissant made by a skilled baker, but still good. The brown butter didn’t have enough of a presence, though, but it may have something to do with the fact that a third of it wasn’t incorporated correctly into the dough.

brown butter crescents

I’ve already bought some bread flour for trial no 2. I will post the recipe next time if it will be worth your while.

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Cornbread! Ain't nuthin' wrong with that.

I’m sorry. It’s been awhile.

Last week, my legs were about to give out after a day off from some long, long nights but I still needed an accompaniment to turkey chili. So I cracked open Mollie Katzen’s Still Life With Menu Cookbook and made the Simple Corn Bread recipe. And indeed-y, it was smoove-as-buttah sailing: Mix dry stuff. Mix wet stuff. Combine. Put in oven. Wait. Cool. Stuff in mouth. If I had some canned or fresh corn, some cheddar cheese, or jalapeno or roasted peppers, it would’ve been corn bread squared, but so it is.

But pardon me, I’m burying the lede here. If you want a revelation in sweet edible form, you should really try the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake recipe from the November 4th “A Good Appetite” column from The New York Times.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, ready for its dramatic closeup

I was really intrigued by it because the cake has a yeast-based crust. After reading about it, I just talked about making it for two weeks, but in the end, I was also too tired to actualize the idea of bringing the creation to life, so the bf decided to take matters into his own hands and make it late one night. It took awhile for the bottom to proof and rise sufficiently; when it was finally done, it was nearly 1:30am. I really wanted to be asleep by that time, but the warm bite fresh out of the oven was worth it, and it was nice to be lulled to sleep by the sweet scent of cake.

Gooey St. Louis

Taste-wise, it’s pretty damn heavenly: It has the scent and flavor of caramel from the butter and sugar, and the corn syrup gives it the right chewy-ness. It’s all offset by the hardy, enriched bread-y cake base.

There are still some segments left in the freezer, but bit by bit, they’re disappearing into some happy maws.

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In theory, Zabar’s take of the challah bread in the form of a menorah is a fun idea. It’s probably hard, though, to make the bread rise so that it doesn’t look like eight nights of phalli? Take a look and tell me what you think.

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Yes, it was an impulse buy

Yes, it was an impulse buy

I had a strange craving this past week for banana bread (Amish Friendship Bread unrealized?), and all the bananas available at the market had that fresh green yellow hue so I was S.O.L. Little did I know, I had other means of scratching this itch, because I walked into Bierkraft in Brooklyn and saw this guy staring right at me. This is normally the type of beer that my purist-beer-appreciator bf would poo-poo. But he ain’t here! Mmmmuuwuuhaha.

I will tell you that it had a very fragrant banana scent that cupped my nose as I took my first sips. But then the scent kinda disappeared into the ether half-way down the mug. And it’s really no substitute for the whole banana bread experience, as in comforting banana-y satiety, but I half-knew that I was buying/buying into a gimmick. As I drained the mug (alone…while watching “In Treatment”… yes, please refer to my blog title), I heard my bf say in my head, “That serves you right.”

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As expected, no buttons

Psst, it wants to befriend your taste buds

My friend E. gave me a Ziploc bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter and a sheet of instructions a couple of weeks ago when we met for lunch. (A quick intro to bread lingo: a “starter” jumpstarts yeast fermentation and provides flavor to bread doughs.) I was very excited, having been a carb slut pretty much my whole life.

When she had first told me that she was making AFB and that there was a starter required, I thought it would be a hearty yeast bread, like a Balthazar pain de seigle, or a multigrain boule. But when I read the instructions, which is a little bit all-over-the-place with strict rulesĀ  (No fridge! No metal spoons! No buttons!), I found that the recipe is really a quick bread. I had never heard of a quick bread that requires a starter. Even more exciting.

Like friendships, the starter brings responsibility. The instructions say that the day you receive the starter is Day 1, and you’re supposed to follow a set schedule of “mushing” the bag’s contents from Days 2-5, then feed it more flour, sugar and milk on Day 6, and mush it again Days 7-9 to mix and bake on Day 10. But E. and I both found that you don’t have to follow the schedule to a tee. Between being sick and other goings-on last week, my mixing day—yesterday—ended up being Day 18. I cheated and stuck the bag in the fridge for a couple of days, thinking it would prevent the milk in it from going bad (though in hindsight, there’s probably enough sugar in it to prevent it from spoiling), and I knew from school that putting it in the fridge a couple of days won’t stop yeast growth, just slow it down a little. I don’t really know what all this cheating on my end says about friendships, though, hrm.

Mmm, goo

Mmm, goo

I’ve parsed the recipe here so that it makes more sense.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9-inch loaf pans with soft butter. Sprinkle some cinnamon sugar (a mixture of 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar) onto the bottom of the pans.

Combine the wet ingredients:

1 cup oil (or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce for a lower-fat version)

1 cup milk

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Add any spices or flavoring you want to the wet ingredients: The original recipe says 2 tsps cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, and 1 large packet of instant vanilla pudding mix. I omitted the pudding mix and kept the cinnamon and nutmeg, and would add next time 1 tbsp of grated orange zest (if you do add zest, toss with a little bit of flour first so it doesn’t sink to the bottom). Add this entire wet mixture to the starter.

Then mix together the dry:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar (I cut this down to 2/3 cup)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

Then combine the two wet and dry mixtures. Mine was super lumpy, so I cheated yet again and used a wire whisk to smooth it a little. (I would make a very bad Amish person.) Pour the mixture into the pans so that it’s about 2/3 full. Bake for about 1 hour until the middle of the bread springs back to the touch. Run a knife along the edges of the bread to dislodge. Cool.

What you end up is two loaves of very fluffy and flavorful bread that reminded me of a cinnamon-spice zucchini bread. It should freeze well.

If you want to start the edible chain letter yourself, here’s the link to purchase the starter. Or I can pass on the cheer to you—yes, you, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen you, friend. Call me.

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Since Jane’s wedding was in Tarrytown, my smart boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to make a detour to Blue Hill at Stone Barns nearby for a cocktail before the ceremonies.

Prettiest bar, ever

Prettiest bar, ever

I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. Everything tasted as good as they look.

cocktail made with Seville oranges

cocktail made with Seville oranges

And I never thought ramps could look so…imbibe-able?

Pickled ramp martini

Pickled ramp martini

No full-on meal, but we did dig into the bread with an appetizer we got, and this ain’t no ordinary spongey white bread in a basket. It was potato-onion, yeasty and pillowy in the middle with a crust that reminded me of that scene from “Ratatouille” when Colette shows Linguini what bread is supposed to sound like, and you’d of course leave it to Blue Hill to serve it perfectly warm out of the oven, with butter that’s not rock-hard.

Potato onion bread

This was just at the bar. I don’t know what awaits in the dining room here (though I do remember a dinner years ago at the Blue Hill in Manhattan being excellent), but my guess is that it’s probably something like a mind blow. Save up and reserve waaaay ahead.

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