Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sushi Cupcakes

Sunday Morning Baking: Sushi Cupcakes! Or maybe this is more of a petit four? Well, they are adorable, whatever they are.

I found some gorgeous coal black, coarse sanding sugar at my local baking supply store this weekend and I knew what I had to do... make sushi from cake!

Usually I would use fondant or fruit leather to make the nori but as soon as I saw this sugar, I knew had to test out its seaweed-replicating powers. The sugar grains have a really interesting shape, they are broader and flatter than other coarse sugars I have.

To make these I took a basic sheet cake and cut out the appropriate shapes with a knife and a small biscuit cutter. However, next time I attempt to do frosted nori I'll use a denser cake, perhaps a pound cake (maybe even brownies) as frosting nearly the entire surface of such tiny, fluffy nuggets of cake was not very easy.

Anyway, I made up some butter cream, divided it and tinted it dark green, red and reserved some white to do the rice. To make the nori, I coated the sides of the rolls in the dark green butter cream and then rolled them in my black sugar. The rice is created by frosting the roll with white butter cream and pressing it into a plate of white sprinkles. I made the flying fish roe in the same manner, with red nonpareils and red-orange butter cream.

The shrimp and fillings are made from tinted and painted fondant, coated with a little piping gel to make them look fresh and glossy.

I wouldn't try to make dozens of these, but they really required less effort than I expected.

I'm probably going to head back to the kitchen now and make some more sashimi out of fondant just for fun. I think I may need to go find a little dark green fruit leather to wrap up some tamago too...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Eggs Benedict

I love eggs benedict in all its incarnations, particularly the Northwest version made with dungeness crab cakes.

This is yet another take on Eggs Benedict, Thanksgiving leftover-style. I've taken last night's cold mashed potatoes and formed them into a potato cakes. Dredging each in beaten egg, flour and then pan fried to create a crispy shell surrounding soft buttery potatoes. Top each golden potato patty with sliced turkey, poached egg and homemade hollandaise and you're well on your way to emptying your refrigerator of all those pesky leftovers.

Not so Humble Turkey Eggs Benedict on Potato Cakes:
serves 4

5 large eggs
2 cups cold mashed potatoes
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
sliced turkey

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Beat one of the eggs in a small bowl and set aside. Divide the potatoes into four portions and form into patties with your hands. Cold leftover potatoes work best for this as freshly made mashed potatoes will be too sticky. Dredge your patties in the flour, then into the egg and then back into the flour coating well. Place the patties into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes each side, until golden, flipping once. Set the potato cakes onto paper towels to drain.

Poach the remaining 4 eggs in gently boiling water for three minutes.

Top the potato cakes with turkey slices, poached eggs and hollandaise and serve.

2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place the egg yolks into a blender and mix briefly. Microwave the butter in a small bowl until very hot and bubbly. While blending on high speed, pour the boiling butter into the blender and mix for a minute. Add the lemon juice and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Science Cookies: Periodic Table

Well the science cookies seem to be a big hit and I really like making them, so I am going to continue to indulge my science geek side. Periodic table cookies?

Chemistry and baking are very much alike, right? They both utilize precise measurements and techniques in the hopes of getting just the right chemical reaction. Sometimes while tinkering around you create something amazing... and sometimes you just get a really nasty smell.

Really the only difference is, in chemistry you never get to lick your spoons.


Anyway on to the silly cookies...

I'm not sure the evening following Thanksgiving dinner was the best time to attempt these. I was pretty tired and I know that tends to make me sloppy, not exactly the ideal mindset for making iced cookies. I admit I plowed through making these. However, despite my 2 hour rush job, I think they turned out pretty darn cute.

Yes, I know I left off the lanthanides and the actinides (and those flakey unun-elements too). I ran out of dough, sorry. When I make these cookies again (only bigger and more awesome!) I'll be sure to include them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dueling Potato Rolls

The humble potato: destroyer of family harmony.

Roll battles are brutal and it is not just the baking, it is the eating.

I've had so much buttered bread this afternoon that I don't even know if I want to so much as look at another roll this week. Worse, even after that bread binge I'm totally undecided as to who has the better potato roll. I was feeling really confident with my recipe going in and then I ate one of Mother Humble's rolls... they were unexpectedly good. Well played Mother Humble, well played.

It would be easier if the rolls were not so similar. They are both moist and slightly sweet. My rolls had a lighter, open crumb and Mother Humble's rolls had a soft, fine crumb. How do you choose between that?! So I just keep sitting here, eating bread, trying to determine who the loser is and now I am getting the feeling that the only loser here is my waistline.

I'll just post the recipes and the family will just have to duke this out over the next couple of days.

Mother Humble's Potato Rolls:

1 cup unsalted butter
12 oz evaporated milk
4 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs
4 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3 cups mashed potatoes
8 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Mix together the salt and the flour in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, microwave the evaporated milk until very warm, add the butter and allow it to melt. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of the butter/milk mixture with about 1/4 cup of cool water to bring down the temperature to about 100-110°F. Add the yeast and sugar mixing well, then allow to stand for a couple minutes.

Once the milk-butter mixture has cooled enough not kill the yeast, add it and the yeast mixture to your stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, along with the potatoes and eggs. Mix well. Add the flour, one cup at a time, mixing on low speed. Once all the flour is incorporated, switch to a dough hook and kneed the dough for several minutes until soft and smooth, adding additional flour if dough is too sticky (up to one additional cup if needed). I should note that this dough is supposed to be fairly sticky, so only add enough flour to help the kneading process.

Once smooth, turn the dough out into an oiled bowl and let sit covered for an hour or until doubled. Once risen, punch down and with well-floured hands assemble the rolls. (Tip: Mother Humble tends to give this dough an extended rise [up to several hours--I think she forgets about it], both after mixing and before baking.)

Allow the rolls to rise for another hour and then brush with egg wash and bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes.

Not so Humble's Potato Rolls:

2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
8 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening

Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside.

Heat the milk until warm (110-120°F ) and whisk in the eggs and sugar. Add the yeast and mix well and then allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes until foamy.

Add the flour and salt to your stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment and beating on low speed, add the yeast mixture in a slow stream. Add the potatoes and mix until incorporated. Add the butter a couple pieces at a time mixing slowly and then, working in thirds, add the shortening. Switch the paddle out for the dough hook and mix on medium low speed for 4-5 minutes until dough is soft and smooth.

Place the dough into a oiled bowl and cover. Allow to rise for an hour and then punch down and shape into rolls. Allow the rolls to rise for another hour, or until doubled.

Brush with egg wash and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes.

These are both big batches of rolls, so expect about 3-4 dozen from each.

Mother Humble

So Mother Humble is here, visiting from London for the Thanksgiving holiday and currently making a determined effort to destroy the Humble kitchen and empty my pantry. She has already pilfered all my lemons, shrimp and fish to make some dubious English fish pie that I will supposedly 'love', despite the grudge I already hold against it for using lemons that I need for another dish.

Anyway, so we're discussing prep for dinner tomorrow and who will be doing what. I volunteered to handle the rolls, saying that I had a good recipe for potato rolls. Of course, my mother has a "better recipe".

I, not being one to defer to old age or wisdom, decided that we should just have a 'roll off' and bake both.

We're going to settle this, once and for all.

Dueling Potato Rolls! Bring it, Mother Humble.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Biology Cookies: Laboratory Mice

(That mouse cookie isn't really dead, he is just pretending)

So I found this little mouse cookie cutter on Saturday I couldn't resist impulse buying it and adding to my science and biology themed cookies. Mouse cookies! So neat! There isn't anything weird about that... right?

This was my first attempt with the cookie cutter and I'll probably do a better job next time. I had to make a quick little batch to see how they would look finished. The cutter was pretty small and my icing was probably a little too thick for them. Still, the finished cookies amuse me, especially the little cartoonish pretend-dead mice.

By far the best mouse I've ever eaten! Although, this one probably isn't pretending anymore...

Biology Cookies: Petri Dish

This is my second batch of petri dish cookies. Another odd-ball microbiology science themed cookie that I've made to amuse my husband and his coworkers (thank goodness he isn't a proctologist, eh).

I am still not sure if my streaking technique is up to par on cookies, but hey I'm working with royal icing not agar. However, I did improve my counts of isolated colonies by just loading on the nonpareils this time.


And unlike the real thing, licking these won't make you horribly ill.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Terrine of Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse

Mr. Humble has a serious thing for peanut butter cups. So I decided to indulge this chocolate-peanut butter beast of his by whipping up a giant peanut butter cup... well, a chocolate terrine cup. Filled with a light and silky chocolate peanut butter mousse.

This can be put together over an afternoon, but I recommend letting the mousse chill in the terrine overnight so that is as firm as possible when you glaze it.

Not so Humble Peanut Butter Mousse:
Adapted from Godiva
11 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup(s) heavy cream (40% min milk fat)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
4 eggs yolks
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons granulated sugar divided

5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 teaspoons light corn syrup

Line a terrine or a loaf pan with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to chill.

In a double boiler combine the chocolate, peanut butter and the butter and melt, stirring till smooth. Just to be safe, I'll just make a little reminder: you do not want the water in your double boiler to ever touch the bottom of the pan you're working the ingredients in. The water should also be at low simmer, not a rolling boil, so you don't overcook the eggs or chocolate.

Back to the mousse. Remove the chocolate/peanut butter mixture from the double boiler and set aside. In a second bowl that will also also go on the double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Place on the double boiler and whisk a couple minutes until it has thickened slightly and then remove from heat. Add a little of your chocolate peanut butter mixture to the egg yolks and mix to temper. Add this mixture back into the chocolate bowl and combine.

In a third bowl (I know, lots of dirty dishes) whip the heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar together until you have soft peaks. Working in thirds, add the cream to the chocolate and gently fold to combine.

Remove your now cold terrine from the freezer and pour in the mousse. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

To make the glaze combine all the ingredients over a double boiler and mix until smooth and satiny.

Once your terrine is thoroughly chilled you can remove the mousse and peel off the plastic wrap. Using a wet offset spatula I smooth down any wrinkles left by the plastic. I also had to smooth out a big thumb impression because someone in the Humble household decided to poke my terrine while it was chilling.

Once everything is touched up on the mousse, it is time to pour on the glaze. Smooth the glaze over the mousse with a spatula and return to the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes until it is firm.

Sprinkle with peanuts and cut with a warm wet knife. Serve up a big slice to Mr. Humble with a dollop of guilt for poking the terrine like a curious toddler.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chai Spice Mini Angel Food Cakes

Light and fluffy little angel food cakes, a perfect use for those leftover egg whites you have on hand from a previous recipe.

I've topped these mini cakes with a chai-spice glaze and candied ginger. They pair perfectly with a milky cup of tea.

Not so Humble's Chai Spice Mini Angel Food Cakes:
Adapted from The Cupcake Deck
Makes 9 large cupcakes

1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 egg whites (at room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 almond extract

Chai Spice Glaze:
1/4 teaspoon chai spice (store bought or homemade - see below)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons whole milk

Sift together the cake flour and two tablespoons of sugar and set aside.

In a large bowl whisking lightly by hand, dissolve the salt and cream of tarter in the egg whites. Add this to your stand mixer outfitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high until the egg whites form soft peaks. Slowly beat in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar a couple tablespoons at a time. Beat on high for a minute and then mix in the vanilla and almond extracts. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly sprinkle in the flour sugar mixture.

Divide the batter into 9 unlined muffin cups (roughly half full) and bake at 325°F for 20-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan upside down for at least 30 minutes. Slide a small knife around the edge of the cakes to release them from the pan.

To make the glaze mix the sugar, chai spice, vanilla and butter in a bowl and slowly add the milk while whisking. Add just enough to make a smooth glaze.

Pour a little of the glaze onto each cupcake and sprinkle with chopped candied ginger. These are eaten the same day you bake them.

Chai Spice Blend:
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of white pepper

Mix the spices and store in an air tight container

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turkey Avgolemono

Back to this week's turkey. Or at least, what is left of it.

I've never been able to just toss out what remains of a turkey after I've carved all the meat off it. I have to make stock out of it. It seems to be a compulsion of sorts. One that I think my mother shares, as she will start a pot of chicken stock on my stove moments before catching a plane back to her home in London. She seemingly can't leave the country without first ensuring that any leftover rotisserie chicken that might be lurking around in the fridge are properly simmering in a pot. I have to mention that this habit of hers, making and then abandoning stocks, nearly set fire to the kitchen once.

Anyway, before I enter full on ramble mode, let's get on to what I did with my turkey stock. As much as I love good ol' fashioned traditional turkey noodle soup, I need to mix it up a little sometimes. I need some turkey avgolemono.

Literally meaning 'egg-lemon' in Greek, this soup is essentially that; rice (or orzo) in a stock thickened with egg and flavored with lemon juice. I discovered it while working for a Greek chef named Fifi almost a decade ago, she served it in her restaurant from time to time and it always ran out before the dinner rush ended, usually because the floor staff were eating so much of it.

I eventually got the Cliffs-Notes version of her recipe and have been able to replicate her soup. While this recipe calls for chicken it works equally well with turkey.

Not so Humble's Turkey Avgolemono:
8 cups turkey stock
1 cup uncooked white rice (preferably short grain)
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (though I usually add a bit more)
2 cups cooked and roughly chopped turkey meat (optional)

Bring the turkey stock to a boil and add the rice. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, stir in the turkey and remove from heat.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yoke, olive oil and lemon juice until smooth. Temper the egg mixture by slowly adding one cup of the hot soup while whisking continuously. Pour this mixture back into the pot and stir gently. The soup should have a smooth, creamy appearance now. Salt and pepper the soup to taste. Serve garnished with parsley or dill and a drizzle of olive oil.

If the soup is reheated or stored the texture will change ever so slightly, so it is best served immediately. However, don't let that that stop you from eating leftover Avgolemono, the flavor will still remain the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fleur de Sel Caramels

Caramels are a particular weakness of mine. I would try to make them as an adolescent when my mother wasn't around because it seemed like a relatively simple mixture of cream, sugar, butter and vanilla. Now that I am a parent the idea of any tween of mine playing around with molten sugar is truly frightening...

Anyway. I was awful at it. I never made a decent caramel as a kid. I tried taffy too, but I always got the same result; something hard and scary that tasted like butterscotch. At that age I really didn't understand how important controlling the temperature or preventing crystallization was for candy making.

Since then, I've gotten slightly better and have purchased the prerequisite candy thermometer. I suggest that anyone attempting these caramels own one too, as it takes a lot of the guess work out of making them.

These are my favorite caramels, mostly because they are deliciously soft and chewy, yet firm enough to cut into clean, uniform pieces that wrap easily. Best of all, they are nothing like the 'caramels' I made when I was a kid.

Not So Humble's Fleur de Sel Caramels:
Makes 60-70 large caramels*

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream (I use 40% minimum milk fat)
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fleur de sel (Or gray/smoked sea salt if that is your preference)

Line a 9 x 9 cake pan with lightly buttered parchment and set aside.

In a heavy sauce pan (I use nonstick for this) over medium heat combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and one cup of the heavy cream. Stirring constantly with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil. This will take some time. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat, this recipe requires patience.

Once the mixture boils add the remaining cup of cream in a slow trickle so that you do not cool your caramel mixture and it continues to boil uninterrupted.

Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to boil for 5-6 minutes without stirring.

Add butter one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each melts. Clip on your candy thermometer and allow to boil over medium-low heat until the mixture just hits 250°F (Firm Ball stage) stirring occasionally. This should take about 30-40 minutes, if your temperature is climbing too quickly you might need to reduce heat all the way to low. By the same token, if you're not hitting 250°F by 40 minutes you might want to increase the heat a bit.

Once you've hit the right temperature, quickly remove from heat. Stir in the teaspoon of vanilla and pour into your prepared pan. To prevent any crystallization, don't scrape the pan as you pour, just allow what clings to the pan to remain in it. Set your dish of molten caramel carefully on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

Using the parchment, remove the cool caramel sheet from the pan and cut into pieces using a sharp buttered knife. Lightly press each piece onto a plate sprinkled with fleur de sel and wrap in cellophane, parchment or waxed paper.

These should keep for roughly a week or two, if wrapped and in an air tight container.

* Note: While one can double this recipe (I have done so several times myself) it requires small adjustments in heat and cooking times, so I don't recommend doubling until one has a comfortable feel for making single batches of this caramel.

(Also, there are additional tips for these caramels in the comments for this post, so check them out)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Early Bird: Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey

All done with the my near-freebie turkey. Thankfully, it is now a much more manageable size with the meat removed and the carcass simmering away in my stock pot. Thats right, there will be a soup post in the near future. Going to turn my birdie buddy into my favorite Greek soup tomorrow if time allows.

Anyway, on to how we dealt with this enormous turkey.

Look at that beast! Almost too wide for my biggest roasting pan.

So I went with a simple, reliable approach for this unplanned turkey. Herbs and lots of lots of butter, smeared under the skin to keep the flesh moist and flavorful. It is hard to go wrong with that. Though, can you go wrong with a dish when 'lots and lots' of butter is involved? I think not.

Not so Humble's Basic Herb Butter Rub:

I cup of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic minced

Cream the mixture together and set aside. Now comes the fun part, where you get really familiar with your dinner. Starting from the neck cavity, slip your hand in between the breast and the skin of your turkey, separating any connective tissue. Get all the way to the other end of the breast making a pocket for all that yummy butter. Repeat on the other breast. Now, take about half the butter and slather it all over both breasts under the skin, using the pockets you've made. Take the rest of the butter and thoroughly rub it over the outside of the bird and inside the cavity. This part is a bit icky, I know. I didn't want to spend my morning elbow deep in a cold turkey, but some things just have to be done. Besides, if the girl who passed out twice in highschool biology can do it, so can you.

I then take 8-10 whole fresh sage leaves and slip them under the skin, arranging them best I can to look pleasing once the turkey is baked. They are hard to see now, but once the turkey is cooked the skin will be crispy, golden and near transparent. The leaves will then show, making a pretty, edible mosaic under the skin. Once that is finished I sprinkle the bird with more kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, stuff some of my remaining fresh sage and parsley into the cavity and it is ready to hit the oven.

Cook at 325°F for however long necessary for the weight of your bird. Check occasionally to see how it is browning, tent with foil towards the end of the cooking if the breast is darkening too quickly. Once the thickest part of the thigh hits 165°F your turkey is ready. Allow the bird to sit for about 20 minutes before carving so the juices can saturate the meat.

The end result should be a moist, flavorful bird with very crispy skin.

Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves

Had a nice food find this week. Fresh banana leaves!

These are great for wrapping food and then steaming or grilling. Steamed, the banana leaves impart a sort of fruity, almost floral taste to the food. Grilled, they add a similar but more bitter aroma.

I also picked up some yellow eye rockfish that looked fresh and delicious. However, I just read that it is probably going to be declared a protected species in our area. Gah! Now I feel really bad for eating the poor thing. Of course, this recipe works equally as well with just about any other sustainable white fish. In fact, I'm going to leave that rockfish alone entirely, now that I know that it is up for a possible status change in my area.

The black rockfish would be a better option for those of us wanting to make eco-friendly choices and if you're ever worried about the impact of what you're putting on the table, here is a link to help choose environmentally friendly seafood (link)

Not so Humble's Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves:

1 large banana leaf
boiling water

2 lbs firm white fish fillets
1 tablespoon garlic finely minced
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 heaping tablespoon rice flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of half a lime

Boil several cups of water and cut the banana leaves into 4-6 13"x9" sheets. Place the leaves into a roasting pan and pour the boiling water over top and let soak while preparing the other ingredients.

Trim and skin your fillets and cut into large chunks and set aside. Assemble the remaining ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Coat the fish pieces in the mixture and allow them to marinate for about 10 minutes. Once ready, remove a banana leaf from the dish of water, it should be pliable enough to work with now.

Place 3-4 pieces of fish in the center of the leaf and fold the sides to the center, then bring the top and the bottom up to close the little package and secure with a toothpick or skewer. Arrange these in your steamer's baskets and steam for 15-25 minutes.

Hopefully your steamer is bigger than this one! But hey, it is my most photogenic steamer... so in they go!

Oh No! A Turkey!

So I was out last night doing some grocery shopping and apparently my local store had a deal where if you spent X number of dollars you got some enormous turkey for pennies a pound. I just couldn't pass that up. That is a nearly free turkey!

So here I am with this enormous twenty-something pound bird and absolutely no plans to cook a turkey this week and no where to store it. Smart move there Ms. Humble!

So looks like I am roasting a turkey today and of course, that means turkey soups and turkey sandwiches, turkey, turkey, turkey. All just days before Thanksgiving. This blog is going to get fowl... ha... ugh.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nutella Stuffed French Toast

This dish is for my favorite St. Louis couple, who recently discovered the joys of Nutella. I wanted to share one of my favorite ways to eat the stuff... one that doesn't involve sneaking spoonfuls straight from the jar. Something I never do. Never.


I've taken french toast, tarted up the batter with cocoa, dredged it in chocolate cookie crumbs and stuffed it with Nutella. Toss this in a panini press and it cooks it up light and crisp on the outside and a hot and gooey in the middle. Yum!

I've taken the toast and topped it with a little powdered sugar, fresh whip cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce, because with french toast like this, there really is no point in holding back.

Not so Humble's Crumb Coated Nutella French Toast:
8 slices of french bread or brioche
1/2 cup chocolate wafer or cookie crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon cocoa powder
pinch of nutmeg

Serves 4

For this dish, I've taken a homemade baguette and sliced it into four 4" lengths.

Remove the crust and slice it down the middle. Coat one side of each slice with a liberal amount of Nutella and set aside. Get your panini press hot or place a skillet on medium heat.

In a shallow bowl mix eggs, milk, cocoa powder and nutmeg. In a second bowl place the chocolate crumbs. Dip the non Nutella coated side in the egg mixture and then dredge it in the cookie crumbs and place it on the panini press nutella side up. Repeat with a second piece of toast and place that one, nutella side down on top of the first piece. Close the press and cook for 2-3 minutes. If using a skillet, cook roughly twice as long, flipping once.

The toast is now ready for whatever toppings you can dream up.

Cold Buckwheat Noodles

Trying to make up for all that cheesecake that has been going around the humble household with a light lunch today. Cold Japanese buckwheat noodles with green onion, sesame seeds and toasted crumbled nori. Served with wasabi, pickled ginger and a dipping sauce.

This is a very easy meal to throw together, just boil some buckwheat noodles and rinse well with cold water and let drain. Assemble a serving of noodles on a plate and top with freshly toasted sesame seeds (medium heat in a dry skillet) and chopped green onion. I quickly toast a sheet of nori over a gas flame and then crumble over the noodles.

For the dipping sauce I mix the following together:

1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon dashi granules
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1 tablespoon bonito flakes

I heat this mixture to barely a simmer and let sit for a few minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the bonito flakes. Let the sauce cool to room temperature and it is ready to serve with the cold noodles.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Street Food Munchies: Curry Puff

I had a sheet of puff pastry left over from last night's hand pies, so I opted to quickly whip up some curry puffs this morning.

They are a ubiquitous street food in both Singapore and Malaysia, filled with... well just about anything. I've also had these stuffed with a chicken curry mixture my favorite local dim sum place. My version replicates the puffs served at the Chinese dim sum place (baked, not deep fried and topped with toasted sesame seeds), though I believe authentic Chinese curry puffs (咖哩角) are closer to the Malay version than this Seattle dim sum dish. Nevertheless, that doesn't make my somewhat inauthentic curry puffs any less good.

Stuffed with saute onions, potatoes, chicken and spices these things get gobbled up as quickly at home as they do over cups of tea on Sunday mornings in Seattle's international district.

Egg Nog Cheesecake

Next cheesecake: Egg nog!

I really like egg nog. Enough to create this delicately flavored cheesecake version of the beverage and partially because egg nog alone just wasn't bad enough for a person.

Though I know objectively, egg nog is a pretty weird beverage. My Indian friend Binder told me that egg nog was one of my culture's most frightening holiday creations. She is probably right about that. Cream, booze and lots and lots of eggs. Not usually the sort of beverage that would get me salivating. While I agreed it was an odd drink, I reminded her about those salty yogurt milkshakes she likes so much (salt lassi). We then had a lengthy debate about the relative weirdness of each drink. I think egg nog lost...

Anyway! Enough with the cultural relativism ramblings... on to the cheesecake.

Not so Humble's Egg Nog Cheesecake:

1 1/2 cup of graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter melted

4 8 oz packages cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons dark rum
1 tablespoon brandy
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup fresh egg nog
4 large eggs (at room temperature)

boiling water

1 cup heavy cream

1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 10 inch spring form pan with butter and parchment.

Combine the ingredients to make the crust and press into the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack, reduce oven temperature to 320°F.

In your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment mix the cream cheese for about 4 minutes until smooth. On medium speed, slowly pour the sugar into the cream cheese scraping down the sides of the bowl well. Add the dark rum, brandy, vanilla and spices and mix. Sift the flour into the mixture. Reduce your mixer's speed to low and add the egg nog mixing well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one is just incorporated taking care not to over beat the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the pan with the crust. Set the pan on two sheets of aluminum foil and smooth them up the sides of the pan making it water tight. Set the pan into a roasting pan and place in the oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan, till it reaches about half way up the side of the cheesecake. I shouldn't have to say this but I will, don't fill the pan above the level of the foil. Cheesecake soup isn't fun.

Bake for approximately 60-70 minutes until cake is set but center is still slightly wobbly. Carefully remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Chill for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight.

Before serving make the whip cream, dollop onto the cheesecake and grate fresh nutmeg on top.

Not a single crack! Mmmmm gorgeous cheesecake.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Savory Hand Pies

Craving hand pies today, which of course means making pastry. I like using puff pastry for my little pies--homemade whenever time allows--but I'm not enough of a masochist to make puff pastry in the classic style very often. I mean, that can end up being a full day of labor and there is no instant edible gratification in that!

Guess I'm just not 'hard-core' enough to make that sort of time commitment, so I make what is termed a rough puff pastry. It is very similiar, light, flaky and buttery, only you can start the dough at lunch time and have it done in time to make dinner.

So I took my homemade puff pastry and made hand pies stuffed with prosciutto ham and a creamy local artisan cheese with green and black Madagascar peppercorns.

It's like a hot pocket... only edible!

Anyway, these are on the table tonight alongside a simple organic tomato soup.


Not so Humble's Rough Puff Pastry:
(Makes a dozen large hand pies)

3 cups all purpose flour
3 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup plus 1-2 tablespoons ice water

Egg wash
1 large egg beaten
1 tablespoon water

Cut the cold butter into the smallest cubes you can manage (mine are roughly 1/2-1/4 inch cubes). Don't fret over them too much, you don't want to warm the butter with a lot of handling. This is one time where maintaining temperature is more important than uniformity or showing off your OCD chopping skills.

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the food processor and mix with a few pulses. Add one of the sticks of cubed butter and pulse several times till the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the rest of the cold butter and mix for about 20-30 seconds. Place this into a bowl and add the ice water a tablespoon at a time mixing with a spoon. Add enough water to allow the dough to form a rough crumbly mass.

On a cutting board, handling it as little as possible, shape the pastry into rectangular slab a couple of inches thick and wrap in plastic wrap. Place this in the fridge for at least an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to a little less than a quarter of an inch thick. It is hard to explain the exact method of folding, so if I am unclear in this I apologize. Working quickly so the dough remains chilled, fold the dough like you would a letter for an envelope. Then starting at the narrow end of the dough, fold/roll the dough into a compact brick. Wrap this mass and chill again for at least an hour.

Repeat this process 2-4 more times and it will be ready to roll, cut and bake.

Stuff the hand pies with whatever sweet or savory filling appeals to you. Brush with an egg wash and bake in a 400°F oven for 10-12 minutes
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