Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daring Kitchen: Sans Rival

This month's Daring Baker challenge was to make Filipino desserts. I picked Sans Rival, which is a layer cake with French Buttercream. I have to say, I wasn't crazy about the meringue-like cakes but the French Buttercream....

I have forever detested buttercream frosting on cakes. I find it sweet and greasy, it has no good flavor to me, and I would often scrape it off or avoid the cake entirely. But oh how I have been shown the light! The French Buttercream that I made for this recipe is absolutely and completely fantastic. It's gooey and tasty and smooth and rich. I made mine with salted butter because I love the salty sweet taste. I feel like I'll be coming up with a few cakes in the future that feature this new found joyous concoction. The Sans Rival recipe can be found on Catherine's blog, Munchie Musings.

Try this Buttercream. It's completely brilliant.

Salted Vanilla French Buttercream

5 Egg Yolks at room temperature
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Water
10oz Salted Butter (2 1/2 Sticks) at room temperature
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Beat the egg yolks with a mixture on high speed. They will turn lemon yellow and double in size. Meanwhile, in a saucepan mix the water and sugar over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar is just barely dissolved. Mix the sugar syrup in with the egg yolks a tablespoon at a time and continue mixing until it is all combined and the mixture is at room temperature or the butter will melt in the next step.
Mix the butter in a tablespoon at until until all is in and smooth.
Refrigerate for an hour before using if possible, then beat smooth. It is nigh impossible to not lick the spoon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Best Part

I'm a terrible terrible blogger. I went through the whole of Thanksgiving devoted to my kitchen and preparing a myriad of dishes, and I forgot to take a single picture.
I adore Thanksgiving, even though I'm not actually American. I love that it is a holiday centered around family and food, without the pressure of gift giving. It's all about gathering people together and eating. What could be better than that?
So I gathered together a few other Waifs and Strays here in Las Vegas, and we had a big Thanksgiving lunch before heading off to work later that afternoon.
I've always made turkey for Thanksgiving, even though I was a vegetarian for seven years. This year was the first year that I actually got to eat it and wow.... my turkey is really good! I subscribe to Nigella Lawson's turkey method from How to Eat. You roast it breast down, and you don't cook it for very long. I had a 5lb turkey breast that I roasted upside-down for just an hour and a half. I basted every 15 minutes with butter and cumin, and I let it rest for half an hour before I sliced it.
It's moist, it's yummy, and it doesn't tie up your oven for five hours.
As for the rest of my Thanksgiving menu, well, it was pretty huge. I have some great recipes to add to my repertoire and hopefully by next year they will be tweaked enough that I'm content with them. Here was my Thanksgiving menu and it's inspirations.

Cumin Roasted Turkey Breast inspired by Nigella Lawson
Cream Braised Brussels Sprouts inspired by Molly Wizenberg
Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Roast Potatoes
Lemon and Rosemary Green Beans
Together Corn
Apple and Sage Stuffing
Maple Cranberry Sauce inspired by Ree Drummond
Almost Famous Maple Pumpkin Pie (my signature Thanksgiving dish)
Banoffee Pie

That plus a round of mimosas, some good conversation, lovely friends, and a lot of dirty pans made for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

For me, my Maple Pumpkin Pie and Cumin Roasted Turkey are the best part. Two things that will be a part of my Thanksgiving menu for all eternity. So what is the Thanksgiving dish that you always make every year without fail? What is your best part?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daring Kitchen: Chinese Eggs

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This months Daring Kitchen Challenge was all about cooking with tea, and hosted by Sarah from Simply Cooked. Since I'm an avid tea person (it's kind of a prerequisite when you are British), I decided to make Chinese Eggs as they are something I'd never even heard of before. Why not do something Daring in the Daring Kitchen?

Chinese Eggs are eggs that you boil first, then crack all over and simmer in tea and spices. They are infused with flavor, and when you peel them they have this lovely delicate webbing pattern all over from where the tea has seeped through the cracks. I think I was drawn to them mostly because they are pretty. The taste was also interesting. The spice used is Chinese Five Spice powder, which I've only ever used in pie before. Topped with toasted sesame seeds, the eggs had a delicate yet intricate flavor. They were a neat snack and I did enjoy them. I think they would be a great side item for an Asian salad.

Chinese Eggs

6 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Black Tea or 4 Teabags
2 Teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 Tablespoon Salt

In a large enough pot to avoid overcrowding, cover the eggs with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for twelve minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and keep the cooking water.
With a spoon, tap the eggs all over until they are covered with small cracks. This can also be done by tapping and rolling the eggs very gently on the counter.
Return the eggs to the pan and add the tea leaves or bags, Chinese five spice powder, and salt. Cover the pan.
Heat gently and simmer, covered, for one hour. Remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs cool down in the liquid for 30 minutes. Remove the eggs from the liquid. Peel one egg to check how dark it is; the others can be returned to the liquid if you wish to have the web-like pattern darker. Allow the eggs to cool fully.
To serve, peel and slice the eggs in halves or quarters. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cocoamint Cookies

It's turning colder out, and I've started wearing scarves to work. I love scarves. Mine are mostly all handknit, and they feel like wearing a hug around your neck. I know that it won't snow here in the desert, but I really wish it would just a little so it feels more like winter.

In an attempt to pretend it's the snowy, fluffy, grey season I find myself all about the hot chocolate right now. It's not December yet, so I can't make my fabulous Heart Attack Hot Chocolate... I reserve that for December because it's about 500 calories a cup and it's a treat. It's kind of like how I only make Maple Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving. If you make things like that too often, they don't stay special.

All that aside, I'm quite a resourceful person. So when i decided today I wanted hot chocolate and cookies, I figured why not make something that makes me feel as though I'm having both. And thus, the Cocoamint cookie was born.

These cookies are chewy and dense inside, and they have a little bit of a crispy edge to the outside. They are quite rich and so very very chocolatey.

I made a chocolate ganache glaze for these because I'm a sucker for chocolate ganache. If you're really into dark chocolate, go for that for the glaze. If you want a touch more sweetness, use milk chocolate or semi-sweet. You can put a little peppermint flavoring in the ganache too if you like, but it doesn't really need it. I feel as though the mint should be secondary to the chocolate.

Cocoamint Cookies

For the Cookies

1 Cup Flour
2/3rd Cup White Sugar
1/3rd Cup Light Brown Sugar
6 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, packed, then sifted
4 Tablespoons Butter (1/2 a stick)
1/3rd Cup Plain Yogurt or Sour Cream
2 Teaspoons Peppermint Extract
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Melt the butter and mix it well with the sugar. Add in the yogurt, peppermint, salt and vanilla and mix well. Sift in the cocoa powder and baking soda. Then, incorporate in the flour. This is going to be a very dense, muddy dough. Scoop out chunks of dough and use your hands to press them into flattened 2 inch rounds. You should be able to get about 15 cookies. Bake for 12 minutes or until the tops have cracks on them. Cool on wire racks.

For the Ganache Glaze

2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
3 Tablespoons Chocolate Chips
4 Teaspoons Powdered Sugar

Warm the cream up and pour over the chocolate. Stir until it is smooth, then stir in the powdered sugar. Take a teaspoon and drizzle a little of the glaze on the cookie, then spread it with the back of the spoon.

These taste great out of the oven, and keep well for several days after. I recommend dunking them in coffee or milk.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Coconut is one of those flavors that is both exotic and completely homey at the same time. It's technically a tropical fruit, but it is such a staple flavor that I feel as though that is often overlooked. I mean, Mango, sure. But coconut? It's so easy to find and it comes in handy neat little bags that you don't have to break into with a hammer. You can put it in so many things... curry, muffins, ice cream, pie. It can be background noise, or it can smack you over the head in shining star form.

So lets talk about when coconut smacks you over the head. I'm talking here about Coconut Macaroons.
I remember eating these when I was young. They were delicious little mounds of soft and squishy coconut with a thin drizzle of chocolate over the top. They were quite delicate. Now that I'm a grown up, though, I can be the boss of my own kitchen and make them the way I really wanted them to be.... enormous, chewy, and packed with extra chocolate.

When I started to make these the other day, I wasn't really thinking about doing much to them but adding a little cocoa powder. Fate, however, intervened. I couldn't find my cream of tartar. It was lurking way back in my cabinet and as I was rifling through all of my various and sundry jars, I happened to knock over a jar of cocoa nibs. I was already going to grind some almonds, so I figured what the heck and decided to include them as well. It turned out to be the most fantastic idea I've had in a while! The cocoa nibs give the macaroons a really great chocolate flavor without taking anything away from the coconut. It's almost harmonious.

These are really the kind of rich macaroons that you can sink your teeth into. This recipe makes only eight. You could always go ahead and make them smaller, but in my mind you'd just have to eat twice as many, so eat a nice big one instead.

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Inspired by Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess

For this recipe, I would recommend going by weight for most of the ingredient, which is what I have provided here.

2 Egg Whites
8oz Shredded Coconut
3.5oz Sugar
1oz Almonds, ground
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Nibs, ground
1 Teaspoon Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/4 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
Pinch of Salt
2 Tablespoons Dark Chocolate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 335°F.
Whisk the egg whites until they are frothy. Add the cream of tartar and which until they are starting to get more glossy and peaky. Then, while whisking, add the sugar a little at a time until combined, then add a pinch of salt. Whisk more until peaks are beginning to form. Grind the almonds and cocoa nibs, fold them into the egg white mixture along with the vanilla and cocoa powder. Then, mix in the coconut gently. The mixture should basically coat all the coconut, it shouldn't be runny at all.
Form the mixture into 8 largish balls on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are starting to turn a little golden on top and around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. If you like, melt two tablespoons of dark chocolate and drizzle a little over each Macaroon before eating.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Memorable Miso

There is a chain of Sushi restaurants back in Atlanta called RuSans. They are open late, their sushi is really inexpensive, and they have the best Miso soup I've ever had anywhere. There used to be one right by my house... so close you could walk there.

I've spent many a late night there grabbing dinner after a show. Even when I didn't eat fish or meat, their vegetarian sushi made me incredibly happy. I loved their (extremely delicious but not too healthy) cream cheese tempura roll. Now that my diet is much more varied, it's anything with Eel, maybe a rainbow roll, and always always a bowl of Miso soup.

It just stands up, and they must do something magical to it because it's very hard to replicate. When the other half of me went back to Atlanta for a visit, the first picture he sent me was of the instantly recognizable Miso soup.

The thing about Miso soup is that it's so salty and simple and warming and good. It's not too filling, but it is still incredibly satisfying. There are so many different variations of something so utterly basic. A lot of people put in seaweed or tofu chunks. Almost everyone tops it with thinly sliced green onion. For me, though, to emulate Ru Sans, the main thing that has to go in the soup are a spoonful or two of cooked Soba Noodles hiding in the bottom of the bowl.

There are a couple of specialty ingredients in Miso Soup, but once you have them in stock, you won't need to refresh them for a while. If you have an Asian Grocery store near you, just pop in and pick up the Bonito/Dashi and the Miso paste, and one package of each should last you a very long time. I make this soup all the time when I'm in the mood for something salty and warming. I'm certain this is not an authentic Miso Soup, but it sure is tasty.

Miso Soup

This soup comes together in a snap once you have the ingredients. Bonito or Dashi flakes will work well in this. You'll probably need to ask someone to help you find them. If you skip them, your soup will still taste okay but it will be missing a roundness of flavor.

2 Cups Water
4 Tablespoons Miso Paste
2 Hefty pinches Bonito/Dashi Flakes
4 Tablespoons cooked Soba Noodles
1/2 Green Onion

Boil two cups of water and put in the Bonito flakes. Let sit off the heat for ten minutes and then strain. Return the pan to the heat and mix in the Miso, stirring well to incorporate. Heat for about five minutes. In two soup boils, put two tablespoons each of Soba noodles. Pour half the soup over each and top with a sprinkling on green onion.

Makes Two Servings