Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your day! I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of our feast.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mr. Wizard meets Betty Crocker

How many of you like powered sugar donuts? Jelly filled donuts? I know I do. Boy howdy, do I. Have you ever noticed that when you bite into the donut it cools your mouth? I'd noticed this before, but never really thought much about it. I came across something interesting tonight in my reading.

But first a little background...dextrose is the dried form of glucose. Powered dextrose is also called "doughnut sugar" because it's better at coating things (like the front of my shirt) and doesn't dissolve easily. Now, onto the science!

"Dextrose crystals require a relatively large amount of energy to dissolve, because they are held together with strong bonds. When dextrose crystals are placed in the mouth, the energy needed to break the bonds and dissolve the crystals comes from the heat of the mouth. So much heat is needed that the temperature inside the mouth drops briefly, creating a cooling sensation."
-from How Baking Works by Paula Figoni

Neat, huh?

What I have been keeping from you.

Items from Baking lab, which would have been revealed here had I not gotten Swine Flu/Bird Flu/SARS/Indonesian Death Flu/whatever it was I had.

Puff pastry. From scratch. Surprisingly, it did not require ingredients such as unicorn hair, pixie dust or fairy wings. The ingredients are pretty much the same as pie dough. And it worked! It really worked!

We filled them with a mushroom stuffing. Yummy!

We also made this fruit strip thingy from the puff pastry dough. I hated it. Puff pastry with a lemon cream cheese filling with apricot halves, topped with a sugar glaze. I thought the cream cheese curdled in the time it took the thing to bake. Also the lemon zest was too overpowering with the apricots. I would never make this again. I'd use the technique, but with different ingredients.

Vanilla napoleon. Also with puff pastry. Also yummy.

Pear frangipane tartlettes. Frangipane is an almond paste.

Fresh fruit tart with vanilla pastry cream and clumpy apricot glaze.

Les croissants! Plain, ham and cheese and chocolate. Dude. So. Good.

Souffles with gruyere, dill and dijon. Fell pretty quickly due to lack of sugar to add structure.

Japonais meringue discs which became the...

...Japonais Meringue Cake.

Finally, here's what I did on the last lab of the semester. I'll spare you the graphic details. I burned my arm on the open door of the top deck oven. Ouch. It's pretty big. And ugly.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Zely+Ritz, Raleigh

I had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants a couple weeks ago with Kat and her mom. Kat loves Zely and we try to go each time she's home. Zely+Ritz is a locally owned restaurant. They work with Coon Rock Farm to source as many ingredients as possible, like produce and heritage pork. The food is amazing, the prices are reasonable and the service is great. Here's what we had for dinner:

Bartender Jay is known for his inventive cocktails. He greeted me with a this little lovely. Meet The Cardigan. It's soft and warm, just like your favorite sweater. Apple cider, pumpkin puree and moonshine, not to mention entirely too easy to drink.

Moving on, nuts and olives. If you've ever been out to dinner with me, you know I'll order this if it's on the menu. I can eat this like other people eat potato chips. Love 'em.

This was a little hard to photograph, white cheese on a white plate, however, I present the baked farmer's cheese en croute.
It was warm with a little something sweet, apples I think. Delish.

I have three words for you. Pigs. In. Pyjamas. Okay, a fourth word. Amazing. It's a Coon Rock Farm sausage en croute, housemade sauerkraut that was perfect, and a wee bit of mustard. I could have eaten 17 more of these.

Risotto with Coon Rock Farm pork shank. Serious comfort food.

So, um, if you know me, you know I have little self-control when chocolate is involved. What can I say? I'm weak. Even though the camera was on the table when dessert arrived, I forgot all about it until the end. May I present to you, what's left of the flourless chocolate cake with Mexican chili chocolate ice cream.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chicken with Spicy Black Bean Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables

I'm definitely feeling much better. Whatever bug I caught turned into bronchitis (free gift with purchase?) which is why I was so sick. Thankfully I'm feeling better since I'm getting on a plane at 6AM tomorrow to head to Detroit Rock City to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday! Ninety! Amazing! Can you imagine all of the changes she's seen in her life? It's mind-boggling, really.

As promised, here are the recipes from my class. This was SO good. I can't wait to make it again. Now, the recipe calls for chicken, but I believe this would be equally tasty with beef, pork, or shrimp. I added the sambal oelek because I was in the mood for spicy. I recommend adding sambal rather than the garlic chili version because the sambal is just chiles and nothing else. It's available in Asian markets everywhere. It'll keep forever in the fridge. Do let me know if you make this. I'd love to hear what you think.

Chicken and Snowpeas in Black Bean Sauce, 4 servings

2# (about 8 ounces each) Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1 Egg white
6 fl oz Chinese rice wine
2 TBSP Cornstarch
2 fl oz Soy sauce
2 tsp Granulate sugar
2 Onions, small
4 fl oz Peanut oil (or any flavorless oil)
1 TBSP Garlic, minced
2 tsp Fresh ginger, minced
3 TBSP Fermented black beans, mashed
4 oz Snow peas, fresh
To Taste (TT) Sambal Oelek

1. Slice chicken into thin strips, about 1" x 1/4".
2. Combine the egg white, one third of the wine, and 1 TBSP of cornstarch. Add chicken, refrigerate for 2 hours.
3. For the sauce, mix the soy sauce, sugar, remaining wine, and cornstarch.
4. Quarter the onions, separate the layers.
5. Stir-fry the chicken in 3 fl oz of oil. Remove and set aside.
6. If necessary, add the remaining oil and stir-fry the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. Add the onions and mashed beans and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the snow peas and cook for one minute.
7. Return the chicken to the pan, add the sauce mixture and stir-fry until hot and the sauce has thickened.
8. Serve immediately with rice.


-In the steps that ask you to add cornstarch to liquid, MIX WELL! Cornstarch gets lumpy when introduced to liquid. It may be helpful to use very clean fingers to break up the lumps.

-On the day we made this, we were out of Chinese rice wine in the kitchens. We used rice wine vinegar instead. I think I'd do it again. It gave this dish a nice tanginess that helped to round out the flavor. The choice is yours.

-When you remove your chicken from the marinade, pat it dry.

-I also added baby corn, which was good as well.

Stir-fried Asparagus with Shiitake Mushrooms, 4 servings

1# Asparagus
6 oz. Shiitake mushrooms
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP sesame oil
2 tsp garlic, chopped
4 fl. oz. oyster sauce
TT crushed red chiles, optional

1. Wash the asparagus, trim the ends, and slice on the bias into 1-2" pieces.
2. Wash the mushrooms, trim off the stems, slice the caps into 1/2" slices.
3. Heat the oils in a wok or saute pan.
4. Add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds.
5. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute.
6. Add the oyster sauce (and crushed red chiles if used) and continue to stir-fry until the asparagus is nearly tender, approximately 3 minutes.


-If you are unfamiliar with oyster sauce, it's wicked salty. I found that in step 6, it was helpful to add some chicken stock. It toned down the saltiness and the stickiness of the cooked oyster sauce. I definitely recommend it.

-Feel free to add other veggies here. I added eggplant too. Tasty!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tag! I'm it.

Ugh. It got me. I had started three posts in the past week because I have lots to share with you. Unfortunately, it will have to wait. If you can, get the vaccine. You don't want this. I've been feeling funky since Thursday, full-on ill since Friday night. Ugh.