Monday, May 23, 2016

Rough Puff, the Great British Bake Off, and the Return of the Blog

It has been far too long since my last post. Although I've continued my cooking and baking adventures during the past three years, this blog lay silent as nothing more than a testament to the food of yesteryear. However, I could no longer ignore the legions of adoring fans who clamored for the blog's return. So, in all its (hopefully existent) glory, here it is.

I've wanted to start this back up again for a while and was just waiting for that final push to get me in motion. I finally got that push a week ago when I visited my best friends from law school in Chicago. Not only did I have one of my top three meals of all time while there (keep a look out for my upcoming post on Roister), but my friends and I spent an entire afternoon binge watching the first season of The Great British Bake Off. The actual first season, not what Netflix calls the first season.

Both of these experiences reminded me how much I love the process of making food, maybe more so than eating it, and made me want to continue sharing my modest attempts. At Roister, we sat at a counter immediately overlooking the tiny kitchen creating our entire meal. For the first half of the meal, we did nothing more than marvel at what the chefs were doing. After that we were too consumed with the actual food itself to keep watching, but being able to see them perform was part of why the food was so captivating. The same can be said of the GBBO--the final products on that show are impressive enough, but watching the process and the amount of work that goes into those final products really blows me away.

However, as impressive as it is to watch people perform at the top of their game, it also helps you realize that anyone can learn these techniques and accomplish amazing things at home. Not everything will be perfect. And you will throw away dozens of eggs and pounds of butter on failed attempts. But you will continue to grow with each of those failures and, when you do succeed, you get to experience one of the best feelings ever: watching people enjoy something you created.

That ability to connect with other people through food is why I love cooking and baking, and I hope this blog can serve as some semblance of that. Although I cannot share an actual meal with you, I will share with you some of the things I love and, through that, attempt to share a small part of myself.

The first picture above appears to be a fairly unassuming piece of dough--what you cannot see is the hundreds of minuscule layers of dough and butter that will expand in the oven to create layers and layers of flaky and tender pastry (as seen in the baked goods the dough transform into).

This magical dough is called Rough Puff (as in, a rough puff pastry). I have been obsessed with puff pastry since I first learned about it years ago. Since then, I've watched dozens of videos on how to make this dough at home but had never attempted it myself. I found it much easier to just run out to the store and buy a pack of frozen puff pastry because making it at home was basically a multi-day process. You would have to make a dough and then place a block of butter weighing approximately as much as the dough itself into the middle of the dough. You could then fold the dough over the butter and roll it out. Then you would fold the dough over itself and roll it out again. Then you would repeat that process again. And again. Throughout this whole time, you had to be absolutely sure that your butter remained a solid block and did not melt into your dough. This meant that your kitchen either had to be in the middle of a corn field in Illinois in December, or that you had to refrigerate the dough for hours at a time between each step.

As much as I wanted to, I was just not going to attempt that. Then, the GBBO taught me about the poor man's puff pastry--the rough puff. Although not easy when compared to boiling water, much easier than the full laminated puff pastry described above.

Rough Puff Pastry

225g / 8oz Flour
Pinch of Salt (mixed with flour)
200g / 7oz Butter
125ml / 4oz Cold Water
Squeeze of Lemon Juice (mixed with water)

(Recipe makes enough for one big tart or a couple dozen pinwheel cookies. I made a triple batch in the pictures below.)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bacon Onion Jam

So this might not be the prettiest dish I've ever posted about, but it is absolutely one of the tastiest. Ever since I had my first burger from Father's Office in LA, I feel in love with their bacon-onion topping. It is this delicious marmalade/jam made from sweet onions and smoky bacon that just paired beautifully with the other toppings on the burgers. I got obsessed with recreating it and while this recipe is not the exact same, it satisfies all the same taste buds.

8 slices of nice bacon
6 pounds of onions (i like yellow for this, but any will work)
2 tbsp salt
3 cups apple cider
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Thyme (I used dry this time, but fresh is ideal)
Black pepper to taste

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Shrimp Skewers (and hello again)

So I cannot believe how long it has been since I had a chance to update this thing. I really thought I would be able to keep up with this during the semester, but I had no idea my second year of law school was going to be so busy. Even when I managed to find some time to cook for myself, there was no way I had time to make a blog post out of it. Thankfully, I think I am going to be able to have a little more balance next semester. I am still going to be doing a ton of stuff, but I think the way my class schedule is working out should allow me to update this thing once or twice a week.

The following post I have actually had on my computer since this past summer. I ended up deciding to go through the pictures and put the post together today because I am feeling a little homesick. Even though I am on break from school for the next couple weeks, money and logistics made it so that I won't get to see any of my family this break (which means it will probably be about 7 months total before I see my family).

This post helped the homesickness out a little because the day we made these skewers was amazing. We were having a bunch of uncles, aunts, and cousins come over for dinner so I was able to make my three siblings (and one cousin) help me with these. It was such a good afternoon and doing this with a group of folks definitely made the monotony more bearable. Plus, once we were done, we had delicious shrimp skewers.

Wooden skewers
Lemons and Limes

Salt (1/4 cup per 1.5 lbs of shrimp)
Sugar (1/4 cup per 1.5 lbs of shrimp)
Water (1 cup per 1.5 lbs of shrimp)
Ice (2 cups per 1.5 lbs of shrimp)

Red Pepper Flakes
Olive Oil

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Guava Macarons

Up until last year, I had never tasted a macaron. I always thought people were referring to coconut macaroons, which I hate; the texture of shredded coconut just really bothers me. After I tried one, I knew I'd found a special friend. They are so light and airy, with the perfect combination of crispy outside and slightly chewy inside. They were everything I always knew a cookie could be.

Typing up this post actually really made me crave some; I made these over the summer at my parent's house. I filled the first batch with one of my other favorite things in the world, guava paste. For the second batch I cheated slightly and instead of making something from scratch, I bought some Dulce de Leche. In case you're not familiar with Dulce de Leche, it is a sort of caramel made from cooking down whole milk/cream and sugar. I've actually made my own before, and it comes out much better than the can, but for this recipe the canned version works great.

I actually had an opportunity to make macarons for the first time with a friend last year and I learned most of my techniques from her. As for the recipe itself, I ended up amalgamating various recipes I found online. I might tweak the proportions a bit in the future, but these gave me a damn near perfect cookie. As for the guava filling, that was totally my own idea. You will notice that the measurements are in grams; this is one of those recipes where a food scale is almost a necessity. The structure of the cookies is so delicate that being off by even a little will alter the final product drastically.

60g almond meal
50g egg whites
100g powdered sugar
30g granulated sugar
wilton food coloring of choice

Guava Filling
Guava paste
lemon juice

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fondant Potato

This year has been incredibly busy. I have to say, I was not expecting it. I was hoping this year would be easy, and that I would be cooking and posting new recipes four or five times a week. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. I've barely had time to cook for myself and when I have, I've been so rushed that I don't have time to take pictures and post. This not only ends up being unhealthy, but also expensive. So I've decided to make a renewed effort to eat at home.

This is going to involve finding and coming up with recipes that will keep for a few days in the fridge so that I only have to cook a few times a week. And, it just so happens that this potato recipe I came up with last week is perfect for that. They taste good the next day heated in the microwave, even better if you have the time to heat them in the oven, and (I might be alone here, but) I love them as a quick snack cold from the fridge.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Masterchef Australia. I was watching this summer and multiple times I saw them make something called Fondant Potatoes. I had no idea what these were, but the judges made them sound divine. Perfectly crispy on the outside and an inside that is so soft and tender it almost has the texture of mashed potatoes. I looked online and couldn't find a recipe that seemed like it would give me the results I wanted. So instead, I took tips and methods from multiple sources and combined them in a way that I thought would work. I actually think I came up with the perfect potato.

When I was younger, my parents would make this amazing pollo con papas (roasted chicken and potatoes). What I loved most about this meal was the potatoes. The side touching the pan would get completely browned and crispy, and the potato would absorb all the fat and juices the chicken released. They were phenomenal and I think I achieved this exact same result with my recipe. As always, the amounts and ingredients are all suggestions. You can use chicken stock instead of bullion, any sort of spices you think will taste good, and can even use less butter if you want (but the butter makes them so delicious).

Fondant Potato
2 very large russet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter (for pan)
3 tbsp butter (for oven)
2 tablespoons bullion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 cup water