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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Monday, February 25, 2008

Neoclassic Buttercream

The icing that I had to use when I took my cake decorating class was made of shortening and powdered sugar. Even though it was easy to learn on, and it's what many bakeries use, I simply couldn't bear to have it in my mouth.

Fear no more! Rose Levy Beranbaum's Neoclassic Buttercream is pure butter and fabulous! I was scared to make it (add boiling scary-hot sugar syrup to egg yolks, beat like crazy, add lots & lots of butter, continue beating like crazy), but now that I've tried, there's no going back. It's light and smooth, super delicious. Since today was just practice icing on practice cupcakes, I left everything very plain. I can hardly wait to use different flavors.

Her recipe for Mousseline Buttercream is stiffer, supposedly more appropriate for piping decorations. So I will try that next.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Heart Cookies

Treats for my peeps. I love them and I love that Valentine's Day is always right before the Austin Marathon. Go Team!

How Big Are My Blobs?

Left to right:
2 Tablespoon, 1 Tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, 6 blobs

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day
is my current obsession. I saw a variation for Vermont Cheddar Bread, and it reminded me that Jess makes Chipotle Cheddar Sourdough, so I decided to add chipotle.

Whenever I open a can of chipotle in adobo, I dump it straight into the blender, puree it, and freeze it in little blobs using a mold I reserve for that purpose only. I don't know the orginal purpose of the mold; I think I inherited it somehow. After the blobs are frozen, I put them in a zipper bag for easy retrieval whenever I want a bit of chipotle. One of my favorites is in aioli, but I use it in a lot of other things too.

In making the bread, I wasn't sure how much to add. I don't mind tasting raw cake batter or cookie dough, but raw bread dough just doesn't do it for me. So I added blobs until it started smelling hot and then quit. For the full recipe in that article, it would be 6 blobs. Which begs the question of course, "How big are your blobs?"

I originally estimated that each blob is a teaspoon and that 6 would be 2 Tablespoons. However upon comparing the blobs to measuring utensils, it appears that a blob is a heaping teaspoon, not a level one. Of course it's all subjective anyway, and I've had some chipotles that were hotter than fire using only a dab, not even a blob.

The bread is excellent, by the way. 1-2 more blobs and twice as much cheddar and it would be perfect.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


If I could, I would cook with Sheri everyday. I would happily be her kitchen slave. I wouldn't mind washing her dishes or doing her prep work. We've had so many happy cooking projects - Mole! Tapas Party! My First Bread! [and don't forget - we are the queens of fondue!]

But, seeing as how we live 1700 miles apart, it's not that practical. Sigh.

As substitutes go, Jess is a dear one. We've already had one project, which I'll blog about later. And yesterday was our second. It was her idea to learn to make tamales and she chose a recipe from Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time for Green Chile Chicken Tamales.

We soaked corn husks in hot water for a couple of hours. We marinated and grilled some chicken thighs. We made a tomatillo sauce with serranos and jalapenos. We reconstituted masa harina and mixed it with shortening, salt and baking powder. We laid out the corn husks, spread them with masa, topped them with filling, and wrapped and tied them. Then they steamed for just over an hour. Food blogger Homesick Texan devotes two entries to the process: Part 1 and Part 2, which are informative and fun to read.

These Green Chile and Chicken Tamales are super yummy and an awful lot of fun with a friend. The recipe we used makes 24 tamales, which was do-able afternoon project for 2 people. I think it would be a blast to have a tamale party, with lots of people and dozens of tamales.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

I was thumbing through my most recent King Arthur mail catalog last night when I saw this recipe Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. Instead of starting the 99 million other things I have to do today, I procrastinated by whipping up a loaf. It's very easy if you have a Kitchen Aid or other stand mixer. I've only tasted the heel (I love the heel!), but it seems like pretty nice, soft, basic sandwich bread to me. Would make a good PBJ, I think.

KAF has a similar recipe online.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
13 oz. lukewarm water
2 T. butter
1.5 tsp. salt
2 T. sugar
2.5 oz. nonfat dry milk
10.5 oz. white whole wheat flour
4.5 oz. traditional whole wheat flour
2 tsp. instant yeast

Combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer and mix until you've made a smooth, fairly stiff, but not dry, dough**. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl and allow it to rise for 60-90 minutes. It won't have doubled in size, but should feel puffy when you squeeze it.

Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan. Gently shape the dough into a smooth log. There's no need to punch it down, just stretch and round it to fit the pan. Place it in the pan, smooth side up, cover the pan, and allow the loaf to rise for about 30-45 minutes, till it crowns over the rim of the pan by an inch or so. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until center registers 190 degrees. Remove from pan and cool on a rack.

**After kneading forever, I finally added more flour to get it to clear the sides of the KitchenAid. But the instructions do say to "reduce the water by 2 tablespoons if you're baking this bread in the summer, when there's more humidity in the air" so maybe that's what I should have done. Who knows, maybe February in Texas is like July in Vermont.