Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Week One

I like routines. Waking at eight, starting classes at nine, eating lunch at noon, returning from class by half past two. My schedule this semester is busy, but I like it. To celebrate the end of the first week of classes, I went to Chinatown with a few friends this past weekend. We wanted to get away from the books and do something relaxing. After getting lost on the subway, we found our way to Nom Wah and sat for hours drinking tea and gobbling down dumplings. My favorite were the soup dumplings, which are exactly how they sound: dumplings with soup in them. After biting through the chewy dumpling exterior, you find a tasty meatball and a hot squirt of broth hiding inside. Yum!

(And check out the cool Serious Eats behind the scenes slideshow of Nom Wah that you should admire.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Call Me Crazy

This blog is supposed to be about documenting the practical, healthful recipes that I eat on a regular basis. Occasionally, that is what visitors can find on these pages, but more often than not, I'm posting some completely insane sugary contraption. Today's post is worse than usual. At this point my brain is a vat of lemonade and white chocolate.

Today's insanity is all thanks to Mr. P, one of those wonderful internet people who doesn't know I exist although I feel like we're good friends. If you're reading this, Mr. P, thank you for hosting your third annual Re-Inventing the Lamington competition! It's my first time entering your round-up and I'm very pleased to present to you my Meyer lemon lamingtons with white chocolate and toasted coconut.

See that nutty toasted coconut? It deepens the flavors of the sweet white chocolate that envelops these tender cakes. The sweet meyer lemon flavor is present throughout the soft yellow sponge.

Lamingtons take commitment to make. There's nothing particularly hard about it, it's just a whole lot of time in the kitchen per bite of cake. But if you feel like doing something crazy, join the ranks of foodies Mr. P has convinced to share Lamington recipes! You can enter your pictures until the 31st of January.

Meyer Lemon and White Chocolate Lamingtons with Toasted Coconut 

lemon sponge cake
white chocolate ganache
coconut flakes, toasted
lemon curd
candied lemon slices

Cut the sponge cake into squares or use a cookie cutter to cut out circles. Sandwich two matching squares or circles together with lemon curd. Ice the sides and top with ganache (depending on the consistency of your ganache, you might have to microwave it for a few seconds to make it more liquidy, or you might have to beat in powdered sugar to make it stiffer). Roll the cake cuboid in coconut or leave it plain. Decorate with candied lemon slices, if you haven't eaten all the lemon already.

Lemon Sponge Cake
adapted from the New York Times Menu Cookbook

2 eggs, separated
1/2 c sugar
2 T lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
scant 1/2 c flour
3/4 t baking powder
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.
Beat the egg yolks until thick. Gradually beat in the sugar. Beat in the lemon juice and zest.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold into the yolk mixture.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold into the batter.
Pour into the pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool on a rack, then wrap in saran wrap and put in the freezer to firm up before you are ready to make lamingtons.

White Chocolate Ganache
from Not So Humble Pie

8 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl and bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for a minute and then mix until smooth.

Candied Lemon Slices
from Martha Stewart

1 lemon
1 cup sugar

Prepare an ice water bath. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut lemon into paper-thin slices. Discard seeds and the ends of the rind.

Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add lemon slices. Stir until softened, about 1 minute. Drain, and immediately plunge slices into ice water bath. Drain.

Bring sugar and 1 cup water to boil in a medium skillet, swirling to dissolve sugar. When liquid is clear and bubbling, reduce heat to medium low. Add lemon slices, arranging them in one layer with tongs. Simmer (don't let it boil) until rinds are translucent, about 1 hour.

Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cool. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back to Indiana

You know that dream state where you feel completely at home in a place that just couldn't be true? You know you must be asleep, but your environment feels so natural. Perhaps it was the 50 degree weather and sunny blue sky in January, but something about my trip to Indiana felt like a dream. And it makes me want to sing!

I spent three days visiting my high school, travelling on the debate bus to Ben Davis, and drinking tea with friends. One night, I ate dinner at Thai Essence, and it felt so right to be there in the kitchen garnishing plates of Pad See Ew just like the old days. I'm so glad that I got to visit Indiana. I filled my craving for memories and I'm ready to go back to work.

This birthday cake was made by Lisa for a lovely party with all of my mom's friends that Lisa and Bill hosted. It was so great to see many of the people who have been there for me and my family as I've grown up.

And at the end sits a memory of a cotton candy summer night. It was one of my last evenings in Indiana when I watched the sun set over the Wabash from the pedestrian bridge. Lovely.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sandwiches on the Way Home

Five months ago, I left my home state. The state where I was born; the state where I graduated from high school. It's only been five months, but if feels like decades since I walked down my street barefoot in the sunshine. I can't wait to be back. I'm not going to see that many people, but all I want is to walk the streets and breath Indiana air. I'll be there in 14 hours and my stomach is doing that flippy thing already. 

We had a giant fridge clearing dinner tonight in preparation for our trip. With a great quantity of leftover roast chicken I made a yummy chicken salad. For dinner, we stuck it in apples as mini edible bowls. The rest will be packed as sandwiches for our drive back to Indiana tomorrow. I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait. 

Chicken Salad

celery, diced
cooked chicken, diced
celery salt
salt, pepper

Cut a slice off of the top of each apple about 1 cm below the stem like a lid. Use a melon baller to hollow out the core of the apple within 1/2 cm of the peel. Set aside the apple bowl and lid. Dice the apple flesh. Mix it with diced celery, diced chicken, a few spoonfuls of mayo, several good shakes of celery salt. Season with salt and pepper. Serve inside the apple bowls, on crackers, or in sandwiches.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jeni's! (in Real Life)

If you've been reading bEATS for very long, you probably have heard of how obsessed I am with Jeni's ice cream. Based in Columbus, Ohio, it's owned by a wonderful lady (named Jeni), and it's basically the most fabulous thing ever. I've been eating Jeni's pints for ages at home, plus I have the cookbook to make my own, but I had actually never been to a real live Jeni's store. Luckily, that changed yesterday when I found myself choosing flavors in person! I was so overwhelmed with brilliant ice cream flavors that I couldn't make up my mind what flavor to order, so my mom decided for me: goat cheese with cognac fig sauce (one of my absolute favorites) and whisky with pecans. Both were great, but I definitely preferred the goat cheese. It has an amazing creamy texture with so much flavor. By contrast, the whisky was too delicate. But still, it was amazing and I was so happy to finally eat Jeni's at a real live store! I can't wait to go back. 

The last few bites of the terrine Noam ordered with coffee, lime, and chocolate ice creams. It looked delicious!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nanny's Berry Shortcake

My grandma came to visit a few days ago for a brief visit full of brisk walks and good food. She was barely out of the driveway before I started preparing my next dessert. I searched various cookbooks for a blackberry recipe to use up a box of juicy berries sitting on the counter. I didn't want anything fussy, like my pastry cream tart, I wanted something simple and homey. I found just what I wanted in my dad's recipe box. It was a recipe from my grandma, called Blueberry Shortbread. Reading her words was as if she was in the kitchen with me, even though she was driving back to Vermont.

Nanny's Blackberry (or Blueberry) Shortcake
When you think shortcake, you think biscuits with raw fruit, but this is more like a cross between a cobbler and a cake. It's warm and sweet, perfect with whipped cream and tea.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
4 T sugar
3/8 c cold unsalted butter, diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 T milk
1 t lemon extract, optional
2 c blackberries (or blueberries or whatever else)
whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400.
Butter an 8 inch pie plate.
Combine flour, baking powder, a pinch of salt, and 2 T sugar in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fingers. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and the lemon extract, if using it.
Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix.
Spread half of the dough into the prepared pan.
Sprinkle blackberries over the dough. Dot the remaining dough over the berries, then sprinkle with the remaining 2 T of sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Serve warm with whipped cream.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mad Mushroom Meringues


These meringue beauties are perfect to decorate a realistic buche de noel, or for (a rather elaborate) snack. The cocoa powder on top makes them quite realistic. They look beautiful clustered around a cake with a few holly leaves and a dusting of confectioner's sugar. They take a long time start to finish, but most of it is hours in the oven. Give these a try with any extra whites in your fridge.

Meringue Mushrooms

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder or ground chocolate
leftover frosting or melted chocolate

Preheat the oven to the lowest setting possible (150 or 200).
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a big bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually until stiff peaks form.
Put the meringue mixture into a pastry bag (or ziplock).
For the mushroom tops, pipe flat circles onto the cookie sheet. Pull the pastry bag off to the side to avoid making peaks on the top of the mushroom caps. For the stems, pipe a small amount of meringue straight up, so it looks like an elongated kiss. Vary the sizes of the caps and stems to make the mushrooms look more random and natural.
Dust a tiny amount of cocoa onto the caps only to make them spotted.
Put the caps in the oven for about 2 hours or until they seem thoroughly dry. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for a few more hours.
When the meringues are cool, remove them from the parchment.
Drill a small hole in the base of the caps with a butter knife. Fill the whole with frosting or melted chocolate, then stick in a mushroom stem. It should stand up by itself.