February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Double Time


I’m so hardcore, I’ve been a part of the Daring Bakers since before we were called the Daring Bakers. Yet despite this apparent hardcoreness, I had never made the original Daring Baker challenge of pretzels. All that has now changed. You’ll notice that today the blogs are overrun with Julia Child’s French Bread, and mine is too, but I also have DB pretzels. I somehow feel more complete as a person now… or at least as a Daring Baker.

First up, the actual challenge of the month, Julia Child’s million page recipe for French Bread: This bread is time consuming, (just reading the recipe will take up a good chunk of your time) but not hard to make. I’ve been making a lot of bread lately, especially since I received the wonderful Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and although the Julia Child recipe produced nice bread, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily any better than the uber popular No Knead Bread or any of the rustic loaves I’ve been making from Artisan Bread. That being said, both of the later loaves also take a fraction of the effort and are a lot more convenient to make for the average home baker. They also don’t require kneading, which is a good or bad thing depending on which side of the fence you’re on. Some people find kneading very therapeutic, for others it’s torture. I had no problem kneading to make the Julia Child recipe, but I don’t think I’ll do it again as I’ve fallen in love with speedier ways of making similar bread. That doesn’t mean I’m against kneading, I kinda think it’s fun, but not always necessary.

Up second: Hot Buttered Pretzels from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. This recipe took considerably less time, which was good for my impatient self. I was surprised to see that the pretzels were only dipped in water before being baked as opposed to boiled, but maybe I’m thinking of bagels and thought they would be done the same. I liked these best hot out of the oven and dripping with butter, just how everything should be enjoyed. The only thing missing was a strip of bacon…

To check out hundreds of other attempts at Julia Child’s French Bread, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll. You’ll get more info from these blogs that you ever knew could possibly exist for one recipe. Thanks to Mary and Sara for hosting this month and choosing another challenging recipe!



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February 24, 2008

Roasted Lemon Chicken for Pete

Last week my friend Pete called Kmac, (of previous pie fame) to ask her about chicken. When she answered the phone he didn’t even say hello, the first words out of his mouth were, “Do I bake or broil chicken?” You see, Pete wanted to put his chicken in the oven and go to the gym but decided he should ask Kmac about the proper way to go about doing this. K recommended that he not broil the chicken and strongly advised against him leaving it in the oven while going to the gym as she feared for the safety of his apartment. Pete, however, is stubborn and was insisting that he could leave the chicken in the oven while going to the gym because his girlfriend’s mom leaves chicken in the oven when she goes to church. Basically, Pete had it in his head that no matter what, he was putting the chicken in the oven and going to the gym. He only called Kmac to get someone else to support his decision to do so but when K didn’t go along with his plan he decided to forgo the second opinion and went ahead and left for the gym. A couple days later when K hadn’t heard back from Pete she feared that his apartment had burned down and sent him a message asking about the chicken. In typical Pete fashion, he responded with the following smart alec remark:


“The chicken was as sweet and succulent as my pristine ass. And my apartment wasn't even on fire when I came home, which is nice.”


Classic Pete. If you want to read more of Pete’s smart alec remarks I encourage you to visit his website where you’ll find his Word on the Street column which he writes for The Homer Index, (of which he is the news editor).

The following is my letter to said editor, regarding his phone call to Kmac.


Dear Pete.


When Kmac told me you called her to ask about how to cook chicken I was hurt. You said she was the first person you thought to call when you were standing in your kitchen in need of poulet help. Granted Kmac is talented in all areas, (that’s why I’ve put her in charge of my life) so I could see how you might think to call her, but come on! K has only made a few appearances on my food blog, she hasn’t written it! In the future I expect to be first on your speed dial for all food inquiries. To show you there’s no hard feelings, here’s my advice on how to roast a simple chicken:


Preheat your oven to 350F.


Take your chicken, pat it dry and make sure there are no innards tucked inside, (if there are, remove them). Then, get a lemon and cut it into slices, you might need two, depending on how big your chicken is. Now you’re going to have to get your hands dirty: start at the back and slide your hand between the skin and the body of the chicken, it should separate fairly easily. Then, slip the lemon slices into the space you’ve made, laying them flat against the chicken. Rub some salt and pepper over the entire chicken.

Next, you need a pan to roast your chicken in. Pretty much anything will do, so long as it has some sides so the chicken juices don’t escape. If you have a roasting rack, put your chicken on the roasting rack, in the pan. But don’t panic if you don’t have one, so long as you’ve got carrots, you can make your own. Wash and peel your carrots and slice them in two lengthwise so that you can lay them flat on the bottom of your pan as a makeshift rack and put your chicken on top of the carrots, (make sure to tuck in the chicken wings so they’re not flapping everywhere). That’s all there is to it.

Put your chicken in the preheated oven and let the oven go to work. A 5 lbs chicken will take approximately 1 ½-2 hours. To determine if the chicken is done you can use a thermometer, which should register 180F, (180F is the FDA safe temperature, but other sources will tell you the chicken is done by the time it hits 170F) or you can pierce the chicken and check to see that the juices run clear. When you take the chicken out of the oven, remove it from the pan and let it ‘rest’ for 10 minutes with a piece of aluminum foil over it to seal in the juices before carving.

There you have it, a simple lemon roasted chicken. If you happen to have any leftovers, I suggest making chicken salad sandwiches, (sprouts optional).


Good luck Pete.


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February 21, 2008

Porkquat Stir Fry

Porkquat. Awesome word. I just made it up. Feel free to credit me, (read: you must credit me or else you’ll suffer the curse of the porkquat) whenever you use the word in the future. Right. Anyways, sorry to have left you hanging at the end of my last post by saying “oooh I’m going to be making an awesome leftover dish” and “it uses a brand new-to-me ingredient, whatever could it be?” With an ending like that I’m sure you’ve all been wearing out your refresh buttons, just dying for me to put up this post. Or something like that. I’m sure you’ve deduced by now that my mystery ingredient is none other than the mighty kumquat. Fun to say, fun to eat, what’s not to like? Except possibly those blasted little seeds. Seeds are the bane of my existence. But I digress, prior to this week I had never had a kumquat. Then I started seeing them pop up on blogs everywhere and I’m nothing if not a bandwagon jumper so off I went to Chinatown, determined to get on the kumquat bandwagon.

I walk through Chinatown a few times a week so I’m generally up with whatever’s in season, (or in season somewhere on this earth, I guarantee there are no kumquat farms in downtown Toronto and yet we have kumquats). When I got to my favourite grocery store/fruit stand I saw what I had presumed were kumquats but they were labeled ‘sweet tangerine’. Hmmm. Well this certainly threw a wrench into my machine. I wondered around my store, eyeing the goods and trying to decipher foreign symbols and wonky English translations and after some time I decided that ‘sweet tangerine’ was simply a wonky translation that really meant kumquat. When I got back to my apartment I decided to turn to the ever useful thing the kids call the internet to figure out if my sweet tangerines were in fact kumquats. Since when does google fail me? Results for sweet tangerine netted a whole bunch of sites about some band called The Hush Sound who have a song called Sweet Tangerine and little else. Then I turned to MSN and noticed a fellow Daring Baker was online. I messaged Marce and asked if she had ever had a kumquat before and if she knew if it was the same thing as a sweet tangerine. I think she thought I was a little nutty. Fair enough. Eventually I decided, based on Marce’s suggestion, to compare pictures of kumquats to the sweet tangerines that I held in my clammy hands. Google Images redeemed itself here and I was able to figure out that they were in fact that same thing. Great, I have kumquats, now what do I do with them and how do I eat the little suckers? I’ve seen them used in both sweet and savoury dishes and decided to try my hand at both, beginning with an off the cuff savoury stir fry that utilized none other than the leftover pork roast. Since it was off the cuff, the proportions are all approximate. I was happy with how it turned out so I tried to write it down. After making this dish I put the rest of the pork in the freezer so that you won’t have to see it night after night for weeks on end.


Porkquat Stir Fry


Canola oil, a splash

1 clove garlic, pureed

2 T ginger, grated

A pinch of 5 spice powder

5 kumquats, zested and then thinly sliced

Half a red pepper, thinly sliced

A quarter of a red onion, thinly sliced

6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

Leftover roast pork, thinly sliced

Wide vermicelli noodles, cooked


Heat oil in a pan and add the ginger, garlic, 5 spice powder and kumquat zest. Fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds and then add the red pepper, mushrooms and onions. When it is just about cooked to your desired doneness, (do you like your peppers crunchy or soft?) add the pork and continue cooking until it is heated through. Toss with noodles and serve.



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February 20, 2008

Sunday Night Dinners

When I think of Sunday night dinners, I think of roasts. Roast beef, roast pork, roast chicken, the animal doesn’t really matter so long as there is an animal and it’s roasted. The typical accompaniments to said roast are potatoes and a veggie. Both of those can take a number of forms. The potatoes can be baked, boiled, mashed or smashed. The veggies can be steamed, fried, cooked or raw. Put it all on the table with a salad and a dessert afterwards and you’ve got Sunday dinner. There’s usually lots of food so it’s perfect for company. Unfortunately, when you don’t live with any family, Sunday night dinners are few and far between. But sometimes you just want homey, comfort food, whether or not you’ve got family there to share it with. And that’s how I ended up cooking an entire pork roast, for one. Can you say leftovers?

My solo Sunday night dinner consisted of a roast of pork, mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. When I was little and we had mashed potatoes I insisted that mine take the form of a potato volcano so that I could fill them with gravy and proceed to dunk anything and everything into it, including my fingers. I suppose not much has changed because I still make potato volcanoes. For the pork I used a Rob Rainford recipe for Pulled Pork Picnic Roast. I have made this recipe before, complete with accompanying Peach Chutney and it’s fantastic. Ideally I would have done the pork roast in the smoker like I have in the past, but wait, the smoker is at the family house. That’s another reason why Sunday night dinners mean family. I no longer have a large enough porch, (or any porch) to accommodate the smoker and it remains at my parent’s home. The picture of the smoker in the snow is from last time I was home which was for Dad’s birthday. When winter takes up a good portion of the year you just have to deal with it. BBQ season is all year round, snow or no snow. I miss the porch dwelling smoker, BBQ and infrared fryer…

Enough bellyaching, I’m really not that hard done by, I had a whole roast to myself, didn’t I? I also made glazed carrots from a recipe we used at school. I liked cutting the carrots into bâton shapes so I decided I’d do it at home too, it makes me feel fancy. Oooh la la, les carottes sont coupés en bâtons! Apparently it also makes me feel French. I was feeling particularly full of myself while cooking this meal so I even made a wine gravy and I thought it was damn good gravy too. I treated myself to a few glasses of wine with my meal, (well it was already open…) and capped the night off with some homemade split level chocolate and vanilla puddings. My craving for Sunday night dinner was satisfied, although next time I need to invite some company over so that I don’t have to immediately start planning what to do with the leftover pork. I’ll tell you about what I did with some of it tomorrow, I was surprisingly happy with the results. For extra fun, I used an ingredient I never have before in tomorrow’s dish. What could it be?




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February 19, 2008

Breakfasts with Bacon

I’m usually hungry when I wake up. I blame this on the fact that I go to bed reading cookbooks and that I spend the night dreaming of food. Or that I’m crazy. The problem with waking up hungry is that I want something immediately and that usually means last night’s leftovers. This morning for example, I had chocolate and vanilla pudding for breakfast, followed by a piece of roast pork and some mashed potatoes, all cold. Don’t even try to understand how those things go together, just accept that they do. So by the time I’ve rummaged through the fridge and taken care of the leftovers I don’t feel like making an actual breakfast. The problem though is that I like normal breakfast foods and I’d like to make them but generally don’t because of my previously stated problem. When I do cook breakfast it often becomes lunch or dinner, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t really matter.

Every now and then I manage to make breakfast for breakfast, but this only happens if I plan on it the night before. I’d been thinking about these chocolate chip pancakes with bacon for quite a while before they actually happened. What finally spurred me into action was a Dorie Greenspan post, (quelle surprise!) about how bacon in sweets is the trend of the moment. It’s not a concept that’s new to me as I’ve been a lover of bacon brittle and bacon with waffles and maple syrup for some time now but seeing the combo again made me crave it. I’ve also had a craving for these Bacon Chocolate Chip cookies but they will have to wait for another morning.

As for the breakfast burrito, I’ve seen numerous links to a Gordon Ramsey video, (click below to see it yourself) where he shows how to make perfect scrambled eggs and I wanted to try his technique. Breakfast burritos are a regular for me, but usually the contents of the burrito are last night’s supper. This time around I wanted to actually fill the burrito with breakfast contents, like Gordon Ramsey’s eggs, bacon, (of course) red onions and green and orange peppers. I cooked the eggs just like Ramsey shows how to do and then I added them to my other filling which I had made up by rendering the bacon and then frying the onion and peppers in the bacon grease. Before I wrapped it all up in a warm flour tortilla I added some shredded smoked gouda, one of my favourite cheeses as of late. It turns out breakfast burritos are just as good as leftover dinner burritos!

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February 17, 2008

Music & Veggies

What do music and veggies have in common? Not a whole lot except that I like to listen to music while making veggies, (or anything for that matter). I’m also hoping that music makes veggies more exciting. Kind of like how I had a Prof that would add random sound effects into his Powerpoint presentations to wake everyone up. I liked that class so I never had trouble staying awake through it, but there were definitely some people who were jolted back to life after hearing church bells go off half way through the lecture. With that in mind I’d like to share some veggie recipes and some music and am asking that after reading this post you leave me a comment and let me know about your favourite cooking music. I have pretty eclectic tastes in music, so whatever you post, I’ll have a listen to. I’ve just pulled random songs from my ipod to suggest for you today and I’m going to start with Akon & Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Starting Something.

Say what you will about Michael Jackson’s personal issues, (and there are many) he’s still a musical genius who has influenced countless other artists. For MJ’s 25th anniversary of the release of Thriller he’s re-released the disc, complete with remixes featuring artists such as Kanye West, Fergie, Will.i.am and Akon. I’m particularly digging Akon’s remix of Wanna Be Starting Something.

Back to the veggies, February’s issue of Bon Appetit is dubbed The Green Issue and contains tips on how to eat organic, sustainable food that is good for the earth and good for you too. One of those green things that are good for you are Brussels sprouts. Before you turn your nose up at the thought of Brussels sprouts you should know that they’ve come a long way from being hated by children everywhere to a dish worthy of being served at your next dinner party. Brussels sprouts are downright tasty so long as they’re prepared properly and you can count on Bon Appetit to show you how to do it right. Simply click to see how to make Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pistachios. At some point I think I’ll also have to post about my favourite Brussels sprouts recipe which involves nuts and a maple syrup vinaigrette.

Song selection number two is Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out. When I was in Australia on exchange during University I spent my first month there traveling the East coast. One of the most memorable places that I went was Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island. I signed up to be part of a tour group and was placed in a group with enough other random people from all over the world to fill two 4x4’s. Our 4x4 was equipped with a cd player but we only had one cd so for an entire weekend we listened to Franz Ferdinand’s self titled cd, courtesy of an entertaing Scot himself.

Another veggie dish from February’s BA is Creamy Rice with Parsnip Puree and Root Vegetables. You’d never guess that there’s no actual cream or butter in the recipe. The creaminess comes from the parsnip puree and makes for a nice and healthy side dish. I’d also like to take this opportunity to say I really like parsnips and don’t eat them nearly enough. They’ve got a certain sweetness to them that comes out particularly if they’re roasted.

Wondering what to listen to while eating parsnips? How about Shelter by Bedouin Soundclash? A friend of mine gave me a copy of this album, (Sounding a Mosaic, released 2004) and it took me a while to get around to listening to it. Finally I put it on one day while cooking and since I had sticky hands I was forced to listen to the whole thing as I didn’t want to goo-up my stereo, (goo-up is a technical term…). It turned out I really enjoyed it as background music for cooking, it’s upbeat and puts me in a good chopping mood. As an added bonus, they’re Canadian.

Our next veggie is asparagus. Asparagus used to be one of my most hated vegetables. When I was little I didn’t want to touch the stuff. This was especially bad as we grew asparagus in our garden so when it was in season, it was on the dinner table every night. I’m not sure what it was that made me decide to like asparagus, age and wisdom perhaps? I don’t know, but I like it and one of my favourite ways to prepare it is simply to roast it in a hot oven with salt, pepper and olive oil and then to drizzle it with reduced balsamic vinegar and some parmesan shavings.

Maybe if you listen to Take Me to the Riot by Stars you’ll like asparagus too. I’ve been listening to the radio a lot lately and this means that I hear the same set of songs over and over again. You would think this would encourage me to put together my own playlist but instead I’ve come to really like certain songs from the radio set and loathe others. Here’s one that I’ve been enjoying, (it takes a little while for the video to get to the music, give it time).

And if you’re sick of veggies and want some meat, how about Lamb Sausage Patties? Bon Appetit has been sporting a new look lately and this issue also introduces some new columns, one of which is written by blogger extraordinaire Molly Wizenberg of Orangette and is called Cooking Life. In this month’s issue, Molly explains why she’s not a vegetarian and provides a recipe for delicious looking Lamb Sausage Patties. If you’re a fan of Molly’s blog, you’ll love her column and if you’re not acquainted with Orangette, you’ll want to be.


I’m all for switching things up which is why my final song selection is a Jay Z and Beatles mash up by Danger Mouse. Some people may think it’s sacrilegious to combine Jay Z with the Beatles, I happen to disagree. For those of you who don’t know, DJ Danger Mouse took The Beatles White Album and combined it with Jay Z’s Black Album to create the Grey Album. A video was subsequently made, which I’ve linked to, but unfortunately the sound quality in the video isn’t as good as if you just downloaded the song. Enjoy nonetheless. And don't forget to tell me about some of the music you like to cook to!




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February 16, 2008

Jumbo & Jaden: Round 5

As you can obviously tell, things are looking a little different around here. That’s because I’ve been restless lately. Actually, this has been going on for quite some time. It’s affecting all areas of my life so it was only a matter of time before the blog was shuffled around too. Back in January the restlessness was making it difficult for me to blog and I felt like it was a huge effort to put together a semi-coherent post. Around that time my favourite Steamy Kitchen blogger wrote a post about food blog writing tips. I left a comment on that post saying I was looking forward to hearing more of her tips as I could use them to jumpstart my writing again. Not long after that, on a chilly winter’s day, a package arrived for me from the ever amazing Jaden. It was a little bottle of saffron to give me the boost I needed to get back into the swing of things. It’s taken me far too long to get this post up, but that little gift really did get me back into blogging mode. It didn’t take care of the rest of my life, (you can’t win ‘em all) but it did manage to refocus my blogging. Thanks Jaden!

So without further ado, welcome to another round of the Jumbo & Jaden Project! Can you believe I’m at round 5? What started as a joke is slowly building into an obsession of mine. I can’t help it, I love everything that Jaden makes and it only seemed right that I make one of her dishes with my new spice, especially since saffron isn’t a spice that I’ve used very much in my cooking. But I love trying new things though so I quickly perused Jaden’s archives for a saffron recipe and the first one to catch my eye was a beautiful Sweet Yogurt Sundae with Saffron and Pomegranate.

It was also around that time that I had been waxing poetically, (or something like that) about how kiwi and pomegranate should always be photographed together because they’re Fruitywood superstars. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to prove this as Jaden’s recipe calls for both of them. Off I traipsed, in search of the necessary ingredients, hitting up my favourite Chinatown locations for cheap goods. But where were the pomegranates? They were nowhere to be found. I checked no less than 7 different grocers for pomegranates and left each one empty handed. The last fruit stand that I ventured to had pomegranates, 3 of them to be exact, but they were the most pitiful looking pomegranates I’d ever seen in my life. Nevertheless I picked each one up, turned it over, examined it and tried to decide if I could salvage enough of the seeds to make the Yogurt Sundae. At some point I realized this was ridiculous and that I would be better off pairing my pretty kiwi with a fruit that was fresh and tasty instead of mediocre and past its prime. I settled on mango as a suitable alternative. For the rest of the recipe I followed Jaden’s directions and the end result was delicious.

Of course I still had plenty of saffron leftover and was itching to use it again. I considered doing another Jaden recipe but thought that might be overkill, (although I will definitely be making her Persian Sour Cherry Saffron Rice at some point) so I turned to epicurious.com and came up with Arroz con Pollo, a traditional Spanish style chicken and rice dish. I had never had it before either and in my never ending quest to try new things, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I was not disappointed. This dish is packed with flavour, so much so that my camera couldn’t handle it and this picture was the best I could do. But don’t take my word for it, make it yourself and enjoy the fiesta in your mouth. Hasta luego!

Arroz Con Pollo (From Gourmet, January 2001)

1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes including juice
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 bay leaf (not California)
1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, coarsely chopped

Garnish: chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet (at least 2 inches deep) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken on all sides, about 12 minutes total. Transfer chicken with tongs to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet and add onion, bell pepper, and salt to taste. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, and rice, then cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil, uncovered, 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice, chicken broth, saffron, and bay leaf. Nestle chicken in rice, adding any juices from plate.

Cook, covered, over low heat until chicken is cooked through, rice is tender, and most of liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peas, olives, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover skillet and let stand 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.



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February 15, 2008

Making it Right


It’s always interesting to hear how someone makes a dish that is considered a national specialty. When I try out recipes found online and in magazines and books I often wonder how authentic the recipe is or how much it has changed from its origins. I don’t necessarily mind the change if the end product still tastes good, but I wonder what someone who grew up on the stuff would think of the bastardization that has occurred. As I told you a couple days ago, while revealing too much about myself, I started Chef Training in January. Many of the comments on that post asked to know more about the experience, so here’s a little story for you. One of the chef’s is from Switzerland and as such has very firm beliefs about a dish that originated there, rösti, (many consider it a national dish). Let me back up even further and say that Chef Swiss has a very dry sense of humour that I find hilarious. He also has a habit of going off on tangents about topics that he really likes. Rösti is one of those topics. During a lecture on potatoes he got sidetracked with rösti and spent the next 15 minutes telling us exactly how it should be cooked. He was so passionate about it that I was convinced I had to try making it at home, and I did. So here’s my attempt at rösti, with Chef Swiss’s valuable nuggets of information thrown in.


To begin with, it’s pronounced Rrrrr-eush-ti. Roll the r, that o with the dots sounds like ‘eu’ and then add a ‘sh’ sound before the final ‘tea’. Chef Swiss had the whole class trying to roll their r’s and would simply sigh and shake his head in frustration when most of the class failed epically. Next, before he could explain how to properly make rösti, he had to emphasize what it was not.


What rösti is NOT:


-Hash browns

-Latkes

-Pancakes

-Pizza of any sort

-French fries

-Heavy and flat


And do NOT serve rösti with ketchup, (I think Chef Swiss thinks ketchup should be outlawed altogether, but it should especially never be served with rösti). Certain regions of Switzerland may opt to add bacon or onion to the grated potato or serve it with a bit of melted cheese or a fried egg on top but those are regional twists and the traditional rösti is just potato.

So without further ado, here is how you make rösti:



Boil potatoes in skin until tender. Remove from boiling water and cool overnight in the fridge. The next day, remove the potatoes from the fridge, peel them and grate coarsely with a box grater. While grating you must hold the grater above the bowl so that the potatoes fall lightly into the bowl. The potatoes are not to be smushed down by holding the grater against your counter or cutting board. Season the grated potatoes with salt and black pepper. No white pepper. No nutmeg.


Take a non stick pan and melt enough butter to coat the bottom. Drop the potatoes lightly into the pan and let slowly fry over medium heat while giving the pan a shake. Once the potatoes start to colour, you can shape the potatoes around the outside of the pan so that it’s a nice circular shape. Do not push down on the potatoes in the middle, they are to be light and fluffy. Once the potatoes start to dry out a bit, add little balls of butter around the edges and let it melt underneath. After about 10 minutes, when the bottom is browned and will hold together, flip the rösti over and once again add little butter balls around the edges of the pan and let them melt into the middle. The rösti is done when the outside is browned and crispy, but the middle remains soft, light and fluffy. Plate and serve as is.



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February 13, 2008

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Apparently I didn’t get the memo that it’s meme time. I’ve recently been tagged not once, not twice, but thrice. At first I thought I’d let it slip by because I’ve responded to similar memes in the past, but when I looked in my archives for when that was, I also discovered that I need to organize my archives better because I never actually found what I was looking for. Nevermind that though, since I’ve been tagged by Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar, Mrs Presley of Good Eats ‘N Sweet Treats and Bron of Bron Marshall Classic and Creative Cuisine, I came to the conclusion that I must seem awfully secretive if all three of these ladies want to know more about me. Well, you must give the people what they want, (even if it’s actually very boring) and so if that means revealing some secrets, then that’s what I’ll do. Two of the memes called for disclosing 7 things about me, the other only asked for 5 so I’m splitting the difference with 6.
  1. I have a fondness for trying the unknown. This led me to a love of desserts with red bean although I had never made any for myself until recently when I attempted red bean buns. They turned out decently, but not the same as my favourite Chinese Bakery. Next up I want to try making sesame balls, but that requires deep frying so I don’t know how soon it will happen.
  2. I wish the whole world could live in jogging pants.
  3. I look at the clock every day at 11:05. Sometimes I catch it in both the AM and PM, sometimes only once a day, but at least once.
  4. I wear running shoes all through winter, (even if there’s a foot or two of snow) but having cold and wet feet makes me want to cry.
  5. I’m pretty good at reciting the alphabet backwards.
  6. Alright, here’s a big one to end things off, I’ve been keeping this quiet but if you must know: I started Chef Training in January.



Sweet Bun Dough (Adapted from Happy Home Baking)


143g milk

35g egg
25g caster sugar
5g salt
250g bread flour
4g instant yeast
38g butter (unsalted)


Place milk, egg, followed by caster sugar, salt, bread flour and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer. Use the dough hook and knead for 8 mins before adding the butter. Continue to let the mixer do the kneading or take it out and continue by hand if you feel so inclined, about another 10 minutes until dough is smooth.


Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and let it proof at room temperature, covered with cling wrap. Let proof for 60mins or until almost doubled in size.


Remove dough and punch down. Divide dough into 9 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Flatten the balls, place about 1 T of sweet red bean paste in the middle (I bought mine, but if you want to make your own, here’s a recipe for it) and close the dough around the past. Place them seem side down and let the buns proof for the second time, about an hour, covered lightly with cling wrap.


Bake on a baking sheet in pre-heated oven for 25-30mins or until golden on top.



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February 12, 2008

When You Try Your Best but You Don’t Succeed

Way back in July I told you a little story about making pierogies and then renaming them Pockets of Goodness in the hopes that a misguided Ukrainian Princess would finally embrace her culinary heritage and enjoy a bite. At the time, I was not able to rush my pierogies over to the castle quickly enough for the Princess to try some but I vowed that one day I would convince her of the awesomeness of pierogies. So when Zorra announced that she was hosting an event called A Heart for Your Valentine whereby bloggers create edible hearts for their valentines I saw it as a perfect opportunity to win the Princess over. You see, Princesses love pretty things like hearts so surely she’d love pierogies in the shape of a heart. Right? Wrong. I’m going to forewarn you, this story does not have a happy valentine type ending. You might want a box of tissues before you continue reading.


Last time I made pierogies I thought the perfect trick would be to rename them Pockets of Goodness to distract from what they really were, with the rationale being that you can’t hate something you’re never tried. But I decided I would be better off changing both the name AND the shape of the pierogies, especially if the shape-to-be was a heart. Then I could call them Yummy Hearts and they’ve got it all; new name, new shape, same great taste. Of course I had to pair the Yummy Hearts with bacon, because every good Princess loves bacon and I personally believe that everything is better with bacon. So with the combination of hearts and bacon it seemed as though the stage were set for the Princess to experience a pierogi epiphany whereby she would finally realize that she’s been mistaken all these years and that pierogies are in fact delicious.


I waited until I knew the Princess would be at the castle and then I delivered the Yummy Hearts on a silver platter, complete with bacon. The Princess looked at the platter and this is the conversation that ensued:


Princess: Those are pierogies.

Me: No they’re not, they’re heart shaped and pierogies aren’t heart shaped.

Princess: So the shape determines what it is?

Me: Yes, of course. If those were half moon shaped then I could understand your concern, but they’re not, they’re hearts. And look, there’s bacon!

Princess: They’re pierogies.

Me: No, they’re Yummy Hearts.

Princess: I can’t eat them, they’re pierogies.

Me, (trying to hold it together): No, no, no! You have to try them, just one bite.
Princess: I’ll eat the bacon.

Me, (getting desperate): Just a tiny bite, I promise it will be good. You’ll like them. I wouldn’t lie to you Princess.


The Princess then proceeded to eat the bacon and replace the dome on the silver platter. I couldn’t even convince her to take a little nibble. She won’t eat the pierogies and the Princess may just break my heart.


Potato and Cheese Perogies (Adapted from Bozena Srubarek, Business Class Catering, Toronto via Foodtv)


Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour (500 ml)

1/2 tsp salt (2 ml)

2 large egg yolks

2 tsp vegetable oil (10 ml)

1/2 to 3/4 cup hot tap water (125 ml to 175 ml)


Potato Cheese Filling

2 medium potatoes, peeled, cut in chunks

1T sour cream (15 ml)

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated (250 ml)

salt and pepper, to taste


Dough

Place flour on counter or wooden board. Sprinkle salt on top of flour. Make a well in centre. Place egg yolks and oil in well. Using the tips of your fingers, stir in circular motion, working from middle of flour mixture out and adding water with other hand, a little at a time, as you go. You have added enough water when dough begins to hold together and so just slightly sticky. Form into ball, scraping up and adding any bits that stick to counter

Knead dough, adding a little more water if necessary, 20 to 25 times or until soft and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 hour or overnight.


Potato Cheese Filling

Add potatoes to medium pot of boiling salted water. Cook until soft. Add sour cream, yogurt or milk. Mash with potatoes masher or ricer. Stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.


Assembly

To fill perogies, divide dough into 3 to 4 pieces. I used a pasta machine to roll out the dough, but the original recipe tells you to do the following: Using hands, shape into logs about 1- inch in diameter. Slice each log into pieces 1-inch wide. Dust each piece lightly in flour. Using hands, shape each piece into a round disc, then pull gently as you would pizza dough to make the disk thinner. When dough is thin, place a rounded tsp. of filling in centre. Using your fingers, gently pull dough over filling to form half-moon shape. Pinch edges together carefully but tightly, crimpling as you go, to seal. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.


To cook the perogies, bring large saucepan of salted water to boil. Reduce heat so water simmers and does not boil rapidly. Add perogies, one at a time, taking care not to over crowd the pan. Cook uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and gently with wooden spoon to loosen from sides of saucepan. Drain.



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February 11, 2008

Time to Make the (Oddly Shaped) Donuts


Peabody and Helen are hosting an event called Time to Make the Doughnuts. I’ve never made donuts before, (coincidentally, Mom has made donuts on numerous occasions, but of course, like owning goats, that was before my time) but I knew I had to participate as these girls are not only fellow Daring Bakers, but two of my favourite bloggers in general.


I chose to make baked donuts, but please hear me out on this one. If I had a deep fryer, I would have made traditional fried donuts, but unfortunately I don’t. Therefore, if I were to make fried donuts there is always the possibility of my burning down the kitchen. Actually, the thought of burning down my godawful cave of a kitchen was almost enough to tempt me into frying, but then I considered how long it took my landlord to fix my shower and I knew that if I burned down the kitchen I might never have one again. It wasn’t the fear of calories or fat that scared me away from fried donuts, but the fear of losing what meager kitchen I have.


Furthermore, I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know that diets are for suckers and if you’re on one, I don’t want to hear about it. I hate when people refuse my baked goods because they’re on a diet and I especially hate it if you tell me you’re fat. It’s never attractive to hear anyone say they’re fat. So long as you exercise and aren’t morbidly obese, a few extra pounds are not worth worrying about. So don’t tell me about your carrot stick and grapefruit diet or all the delicious foods you’re not eating because you’re worried it will go to your stomach or hips or behind. Don’t tell me how after eating one cookie you have to go to the gym because you feel disgusting. I don’t want to hear it.


Back to the donuts. Do you ever do something even though you know it’s not a good idea? That’s what happened to me while making these donuts. When I rolled them out, I rolled them too thin and I realized this immediately, with plenty of time to correct the situation, but did I? No. Instead, I knowingly made it worse. I took two thin donuts and stuck them together. Even as I did it, I knew that it was a bad idea. I knew they would separate while rising and baking, but I ploughed ahead. I decided to further mess things up by cutting out enormous centres. The recipe warns to make sure the donut holes are large enough that they don’t bake shut. This does not mean they should almost be the size of the donuts themselves. Ugh. These donuts had such potential. I’ve seen other bloggers experience success with them and I was looking forward to showing off some beautiful donuts. Sadly this is not the case. Because of preventable errors on my part, I got some seriously weird looking donuts. The donuts holes turned out to be the best part. I dipped them in butter and then rolled them in cinnamon and sugar. Since my larger donuts didn’t lend themselves very well to rolling due to their bizarre shapes, I tried to coat them a few different ways. One of them was dipped in butter and coated in cinnamon sugar, but that was a pain, so I switched to a cinnamon glaze which was messy and then simple powdered sugar which was the easiest, but least tasty.


Baked Doughnuts (from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks)


Don't over bake these, if anything, under bake them a bit - they will continue baking outside the oven for a few minutes. You want an interior that is moist and tender - not dry. Also, be sure to cut big enough holes in the center of your doughnuts - too small and they will bake entirely shut. Remember they rise, and they rise even more when they are baking. These really need to be made-to-order, but you can make and shape the dough the night before if you want to serve them for brunch. Instructions: after shaping, place doughnuts on baking sheet, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Pull them out an hour before baking, and let rise in a warm place before baking.


1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour (alternately, white whole wheat might work - haven't tried it yet)
A pinch or two of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt


1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon


Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the yeast and set aside for five minutes or so. Be sure your milk isn't too hot or it will kill the yeast. Stir the butter and sugar into the remaining cup of warm milk and add it to the yeast mixture. With a fork, stir in the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt - just until the flour is incorporated. With the dough hook attachment of your mixer beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. This is where you are going to need to make adjustments - if your dough is overly sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Too dry? Add more milk a bit at a time. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth. Turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead a few times (the dough should be barely sticky), and shape into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a buttered (or oiled) bowl, cover, put in a warm place (I turn on the oven at this point and set the bowl on top), and let rise for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on your floured countertop. Most people (like myself) don't have a doughnut cutter, instead I use a 2-3 inch cookie cutter to stamp out circles. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stamp out the smaller inner circles using a smaller cutter. If you cut the inner holes out any earlier, they become distorted when you attempt to move them. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes - start checking around 8. While the doughnuts are baking, place the butter in a medium bowl. Place the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven and let cool for just a minute or two. Dip each one in the melted butter and a quick toss in the sugar bowl. Eat immediately if not sooner.

Makes 1 1/2 - 2 dozen medium doughnuts.



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February 09, 2008

Lasagna to Soothe the Soul

Thanks to everyone who voted for me in Culinate’s Death by Chocolate contest. I didn’t win, but I was in the top ten, so that’s not too shabby. Congrats to Not Eating Out in New York and her Pain with Chocolate, which was the grand prize winner, I know she’ll have an amazing time in Napa. She’d better!

Instead of jetting off to Napa, I’ll be here, wallowing in misery. Usually to ease my sorrow I would drown myself in chocolate, but given the current circumstances, chocolate can’t console me, it only serves as a painful reminder of what I’m missing out on. So I’m turning to good old fashioned comfort food to make me feel better, something with lots of carb-goodness: lasagna with homemade noodles. Lasagna was always a dish I used to get excited about when I found out we were having it for dinner. When I was little we didn’t have it all that often and it was usually reserved for a Sunday dinner as it takes a little extra time to prepare. I could never resist the smell of lasagna as it baked in the oven and was impatient as ever to eat it. I hated waiting and the fact that it couldn’t be served directly from the oven. I was repeatedly told that the lasagna was too hot to eat right away and even though I was made to wait for a while before it got to my plate, I would always burn my mouth on the first bite. That never slowed me down though, I think I stuffed myself silly every time I ate lasagna, (who am I kidding? I still do) and never turned down seconds or thirds or fourths. Given the amount of lasagna I would eat in one sitting, you’d think I’d get sick of it but I still couldn’t wait to have the leftovers again for lunch the next day.


Now that I make my own lasagna I can have it whenever I want and often make up a big tray and freeze (enormous) individual pieces to heat up when I get a craving. I don’t follow a recipe for the filling, it generally varies depending on what I have on hand. I like to make up all the components and then put it together assembly line style. My latest and greatest lasagna discovery is to use homemade pasta instead of storebought noodles. Yes, it takes considerably more time to make your own, but I like playing around in the kitchen, it’s fun for me. I also like rolling the noodles super thin and making as many layers as will fit in my pan. For this lasagna I got 6 layers of noodles alone. That’s awesome! I’ve gotten even more than that, but in that case the filling I’m using between pasta layers is pureed. This time around I used a filling that consisted of tomato sauce, cottage cheese, beef seasoned with ginger and garlic, onions, green and red peppers and mozzarella cheese. Someday I’ll have to post about the seafood lasagna that I make which uses a white sauce and is fantastic. Until then, I’d be happy to hear what you like in your lasagna and if anyone needs me, I’ll be finishing off the pan of lasagna and then rolling myself to the couch.


Fresh Pasta (from Giada DeLaurentiis’ Everyday Pasta)


3 cups all purpose flour, (I used 00 flour and since I’ve started using it in my pasta, I like it a whole lot more)

4 large eggs

1 T kosher salt

1 T olive oil


Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor. In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add the salt and olive oil to the eggs and stir to combine. Add the egg mixture to the food processor with the flour and pulse to combine, scraping down the sides if needed. Continue with the machine running, until the liquid is evenly distributed, about 1 min, (I didn’t let it run that long). The dough should stick together if pinched between your fingers and be cornmeal yellow in color. Some of the dough will be clumping together but it will not form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather the dough into a ball and knead until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes before rolling and shaping as desired.



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February 08, 2008

Spicing Up Chocolate with Cinnamon

Today is the last day of voting so if you haven’t yet done so, get yourself over to Culinate and enter the Death by Chocolate contest to win a trip for 2 to Napa Valley and then vote for me so that I can meet you there! Just click on the pretty chocolate button. Once you’ve done that, come on back to read about Cinnamon Squares.

Although chocolate as the main event is awfully nice, it’s just as sweet as an accent feature. Such is the case with Dorie Greenspan’s Cinnamon Squares, which get a double hit of chocolate; layered in between the batter and then slathered on top as a frosting. The smell that wafts from the oven and fills every corner of the house, (or tiny apartment…) while this cake is baking is simply intoxicating. The second I caught a whiff of the heavenly aroma I began to salivate. When the timer buzzed I went to check on the cake and grew weak in the knees as I opened the oven door, the smell was overwhelming. For a split second I had a crazy thought of sticking my fist into the pan, pulling out a handful of cake and shoving it into my mouth. I shook my head to clear out the crazy and realized that would be a disaster on so many levels. I then calmly removed the cake, put it on a rack to cool and left the kitchen to try to busy myself with thoughts of something other than cake.


As many tools, pans, gadgets and gizmos that my kitchen has, it’s lacking an 8x8 baking pan, which is what this recipe calls for. As I always do when a recipe is supposed to be baked in an 8x8 pan, I made it in my 9x9 pan, (bad baker, very bad!) which means that it wasn’t as tall as it should have been and isn’t as tall as the Cinnamon Squares made by Nicole over at Baking Bites or those made by Helios from Tales from a Veggie Kitchen, (who also added cardamom to the swirl) but I’m sure it was just as melt in your mouth good.


Cinnamon Squares, (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)


For the cake
11/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
11/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup store-bought mini
chocolate chips


For the frosting
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
21/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces



Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Place the pan on a baking sheet.


To Make the Cake: Stir 2 tablespoons of the sugar, 21/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and the espresso together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 11/4 cups sugar, the baking powder, salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the liquid
ingredients over the flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a homogenous batter. Now, using the whisk or a rubber spatula, fold in the butter with a light touch, just until the butter is absorbed. You'll have a smooth, satiny batter.
Scrape half of the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the chocolate over the batter and dust with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter and smooth the top again.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan; a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 15 minutes before unmolding it onto another rack. Peel off the paper, invert it onto the first rack, and cool to room temperature right side up.


To Make the Frosting : Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and fit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring gently and often, just until they melt. Be careful not to overheat the mixture so much that it thins out; the chocolate should be smooth, very shiny, thick and spreadable. (If it thins, leave the frosting at room temperature for a bit, until it thickens a little.)
Using an offset metal icing spatula or a table knife, spread the frosting in generous sweeps and swirls over the top of the cake. Allow the frosting to set at room temperature, then cut the cake into 9 squares, each about 21/2 inches on a side.

Makes: 9 servings


Serving: Serve the cake as is or, if you'd like, with whipped cream, crème fraîche or sour cream.


Storing: Wrapped in plastic, the cake will keep at room temperature for 2 days. It can be frozen for up to 2 months, but it's best to put the cake in the freezer unwrapped and then, when the frosting is firm, to wrap it airtight; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.


Vote for me in the Death by Chocolate contest



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