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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Perfect Party Cake

My dear friend Carolyn completed the Tahoe Triple! That is THREE marathons in THREE days. I think she deserves a cake, don't you???

This the Perfect Party Cake from Baking From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. The recipe was originally given to her by Nick Malgeri and a version of it is on his website. It's four layers of lightly lemon flavored cake, filled with raspberry jam, frosted with meringue buttercream and patted with coconut. I'll take it to Rogue this afternoon around 4:30, and if you'd like to stop by to help us celebrate, that would be wonderful.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Enchiladas Verde

When's the last time I raved about Fine Cooking? Now would be a good time.

I'm ashamed to say that, unfortunately, this is not a Fine Cooking recipe. This is a Cooks Illustrated recipe. CI is an ass about having their recipes linked to, copied, shared, or blogged about.

Fine Cooking, on the other hand, sent an email to me last week:
Hi Amy,
I'm the managing web editor at Fine Cooking, and I just wanted to say we love all the great posts you've been putting on your blog re. FC recipes. We're embarking on some heavier blog outreach in coming months, so basically I just wanted to say hi. Feel free to link directly to individual recipes, too, when you mention them. If you want to link to one that's behind a pay wall, let me know, and I can usually switch it over to free.

Sarah Breckenridge
Managing Web Editor
Fine Cooking Magazine

Read it again. Is that awesome or what??? I love Fine Cooking. Love it, love it, love it, own every issue ever published, thanks to Sheri. If you love to cook or if you want to learn to love to cook, please Please PLEASE get Fine Cooking. And if you ever have a cooking question, please let me know, because I would be happy to help you. If I don't have the answer, I'll get it. Now, go COOK something!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Petits Fours

Back in August, I took another class at All In One Bakeshop. I purposefully bypassed "Basic Petits Fours", which according to the course description were cut-outs from poundcake. I wanted to take advantage of the one titled "Classic Petits Fours". What I learned is that there is a very good reason - no, there are many very good reasons - that those lovely little cakes cost a fortune, whether you are having an event catered or you are simply admiring them behind the display glass at your favorite bakery: although we used excellent ingredients, real butter, eggs, and Callebaut chocolate, the real cost is the labor. And labor it is. Petits Fours are quite pesky.

The "Classic Petits Fours" consisted of 2 layers of frangipane cake, 2 different fillings (in this case chocolate and apricot), topped with a thin layer of marzipan, then iced with poured fondant (typically pastel) and decorated. This was a hands-on baking class, so we had to forego decorating time.

As we started, we went around the room introducing ourselves. Several pastry chefs, a culinary student, a woman with a wedding cake business... and me... ummmm... "one of these things is not like the others".

We each made a dozen little cakes. All of mine looked like crap. And I'm not ashamed to say that I was relieved when I looked around the room to find that all of theirs looked like crap too. It's a time consuming process and we were under a time crunch. That and the fact that the tables were a bit crowded; sometimes you'd nearly have an acceptable example of a petit four and someone would bump you. There went your darling baby cake.

Each of us left with a whole new appreciation for the value of a petit four. In addition to our finished dozen, the instructor encouraged us all to take home our "extras", so that we could see how much easier they were to work with after chilling (not to mention in the solitude of our own kitchens). I was so tired of them by that point that I nearly didn't. But I did and she was right and they were. Petits fours are still pretty much a pita though.

At least I had a couple that were presentable enough to photograph. Which was when I realized that my husband had taken our only camera on an out-of-town trip. Completely and utterly frustrated by that point, I threw them all in the freezer, and only just now remembered them. So today I blog.

{Speaking of frustration, All In One Bakeshop is holding a ROSES, ROSES, ROSES class. The description was tailor-written for me: "Still trying to master the buttercream rose? Do you dread making roses for your cakes and will do almost anything else not to have to do them? Is it still looking like a cabbage?..." Thank goodness I have something better to do that day.}

Monday, September 15, 2008

Allspice Crumb Muffins

It has taken remarkable restraint not to dive headfirst into Baking: From My Home To Yours.

Part of me wants to be "race weight" by October 4th. (How badly do you want it? Apparently not badly enough.) Then Mr. Enstone instituted a ban on baking. He'll tell you that what he meant was not to give any to him. But he later let it slip that it's part of his routine to get baked goods at the farmer's market, so it must not be a strict ban. And as Mike asked, why would I listen to someone who wears old man socks, a metronome, a fanny pack and has an acute GPS addiction? Good point.

Yesterday I finally sat down to peruse 40 pages of messages on eGullet, taking notes on which recipes were universally adored, dutifully noting errata, and enjoying that Ms. Greenspan herself cheerfully replies to questions and comments. She seems genuinely delighted to read about people using her book.

Oh where to begin? Since I've tabbed nearly every page, the tabs weren't exactly helpful. I decided it would be one of the several muffin recipes that were tempting, but even then I'd have to narrow down my choices. Allspice Crumb Muffins. There. The hardest part was over.

No, that was the 2nd hardest part. Now comes the part where I eat only one, save one for The Young Master, and send the rest to work with the oh-so-slender husband.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sweet Potato Fries

Napoleon Dynamite: "Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills." Well, not only is my son incredibly goodlooking, he's also developing excellent knife skills!

Fast-Food Lover's Fix:
Homemade Sweet Potato Fries
(serves 4)

2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs), scrubbed
1 T. olive oil
2 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
Cooking Spray
Kosher or sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil.

Slice the sweet potatoes into long matchsticks about 1/4" thick. Combine the olive oil and soy sauce in a large bowl or zip lock bag. Add the sweet potatoes and toss until evenly covered. Spread them in one layer on the baking sheet, so they aren't touching. Coat with cooking spray.

Bake until the fries are golden on the outside and soft on the inside, about 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Continue baking until spices are fragrant (approximately 5 minutes) or run them under the broiler briefly.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pizza Bianca

Bored while traveling for work, I picked up a copy of Saveur magazine at the airport. It had an article about ricotta cheese, including a tutorial on making it at home. I knew that Sheri had made some and loved it, and of course I have to do everything she does. Because afterall, I am Not As Good As Pork Cracklins. *smooch*

According to the article, lemon juice, vinegar, or buttermilk will work to curdle the milk, but if you use rennet, you get "moister, tastier curds, as it leaves more proteins intact and does not inhibit the milk's flavor compounds as an acid would." Ok, rennet it is. I ordered it from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and it arrived in just a couple of days. It's only a 2 ounce bottle, but I'm thinking it's pretty much a life-time supply.

Don't be afraid to make ricotta!! It was easy (though it took a little longer than we'd planned) and totally worth it!! With some of it, we made a half recipe of Spuma di Ricotta al Caffè (Ricotta and Coffee Mousse). Creamy and delicious! But our big plan with most of it was to make Pizza Bianca.

We used Peter Reinhart's recipe for pizza dough from Fine Cooking #92. The website also has a very helpful video of him demonstrating shaping the dough. I have to say, this dough is excellent. It will be my go-to pizza dough recipe from now on. It's easy to work with (our pizzas came out round!) and bakes up crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside. Use a pizza stone and the highest temperature your oven has. Eric went first, and his looked picture-perfect. My turn:

We brushed each dough with olive oil, piled on FRESH RICOTTA, tossed on roasted garlic, and sprinkled with a little bit of fontina. Some pizzas also got kalamata olives, some got spinach, and most were topped with basil from the garden. None got red sauce, which is why they are pizza bianca.