I SAY TOM KHA GAI, YOU SAY TOM KHA KAI

As you may have noticed, I have a soft spot for all things language. Frustration took place as I tried to figure out the correct spelling for the name of this delicious Thai soup. It is often tricky to go from a language such as Siamese  to something that would convey the correct pronunciation in English. After a lot of searching around, I found a video that made me even more puzzled. In the video, they spell it as Tom Kha Kai, but when I listen to the girl my ears detect a clear sound of G for the third ideogram, making Tom Kha Gai my preferred way to spell it.  You can listen for yourself and decide. Click here and fast forward to 1 min and 50 seconds. No matter how you decide to spell it, this is a delicious and very simple soup with all the contrasting flavors that are typical for the cuisine of Thailand.

TOM KHA GAI
(adapted from Marta Stewart)

1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, bruised with back of a large knife
3 cups chicken broth
1/8 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 piece of ginger, about 1 inch long, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp dried galangal powder
salt and pepper to taste
zest and juice of 1 lime, separated
1/2 Serrano pepper, sliced thin
1 + 1/2 pound chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into strips
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced thin
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 can (about 13 oz) full-fat coconut milk
fresh cilantro leaves

In a slow-cooker, combine chicken stock, lemongrass, fish sauce, brown sugar, galangal,  lime zest, chicken and mushrooms. Cover and cook on high for 2 ½ hours (or on low for 4 hours). Add coconut milk and shredded carrots, and cook on high 30 minutes longer (or on low for 1 hour). Stir in lime juice and cilantro leaves.  Serve topped with additional fresh cilantro, if desired. You can also save the soup without the coconut milk and carrots, and add those when re-heating on top of the stove for about 15 minutes, until the carrots are just cooked.

Serve while pretty hot, with a squeeze of fresh lime juice right on the bowl to brighten up the flavors even more.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Fishing out the lemongrass…

Comments: What a delicious soup!  Oddly enough, I am not too fond of shiitake mushrooms in stir-fried preparations, even if they are quite popular in Oriental recipes. Something about their texture turns me off a little. But in soup or risotto, I love them. They do impart a lot more flavor than regular mushrooms do, and in this soup they are definitely a must.  Lemongrass is also a favorite flavor of mine, and we are lucky to have a very healthy lemongrass plant growing in our backyard. When I need it, I go out with a pair of scissors and cut a stalk very close to the ground.  The smell is just amazing…

I made this soup on a Sunday and as so often happens, it was my lunch three days in a row. I ran out of cilantro on day 2, but it was not a big deal. At all. Adding the coconut milk at the very end of the cooking time together with the carrots make sure that the carrots retain some of their bite, and the coconut flavor seems brighter than if it cooked for hours from the beginning. Little details matter, especially when using the crock pot. That dump and forget approach is definitely not the tastiest path…

No slow-cooker? A regular pan will work, just keep the soup at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through, then add the coconut milk and the carrots for a while longer.

 

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ELDERFLOWER MACARONS AND MUSINGS ON THE SUBJECT

My last macaron post was on August 15th, so the clock was ticking for another batch of these babies I am still obsessed with. Keep in mind I have two more batches ready to blog about. so if you are also a macaron-lover, stick around.  Once again, I used my default recipe from Craftsy although I’ve been playing with the formula from Philip (at Baking Fanatic) that has calls for less sugar. For this batch I used a lavender gel color, and something called Egyptian gold dust, which I talked about before. I also added a little bit of yellow color in the elderflower buttercream, to have a nice effect with the gold details. Very happy with this batch, which we enjoyed while my stepson Alex was visiting us from New York.

ELDERFLOWER MACARONS
(adapted from Craftsy.com)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
113 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Purple Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract

for the filling:
120 g softened butter
200 g confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon elderflower syrup
tiny amount of yellow gel food coloring

to decorate:
gold dust (optional)

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal   in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes. If using edible gold powder,  sprinkle a little with a brush and use a hand-held fan to spread it over like dust.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C/gas mark 3). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling:  Cream the butter with the powdered sugar in a KitchenAid type mixer until it reaches the correct consistency for piping. Add the elderflower syrup and beat for a few seconds longer to incorporate.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had two goals with this recipe. First, to make a filling using elderflower flavor because the thought of it made me dream. Elderflower… even the name is musical! Second goal, to use a gold dust powder that I featured back in July in my In My Kitchen post. Small problem. I do not have an air-brush thingie, so decided to search for improvised ways to turn the powder into dust. A small, hand-held fan could potentially work, but we do not own one. Then I remembered the air-compressed can that we sometimes use to clean computer keyboards and small crevices in all sorts of gadgets and equipments. Here it is, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about.

I don’t know if you can read the name of my file by clicking on it, but it doesn’t matter. I will tell you right now. I called it not_the_right_tool. Yeap. Capisci?  It is way too strong, even if you try to  maneuver very delicately the little gun, it will spray air with too much enthusiasm. Which led to Sally having golden eyebrows two months before Halloween. Quite inappropriate. I don’t see an air-brush thingie in my future (pretty expensive little gadget), so I might search for a more well-behaved hand-held fan before I attempt using the powder dust again.  The effect is pretty nice, once you get it correctly. Live and learn. Even if my decorative effect did not have the exact look intended, the macarons were delicious.  The elderflower buttercream worked very well, and I imagine it would be perfect to ice cupcakes too. 

 


And now, I share a few thoughts on macarons, probably one of the most-feared concoctions by bakers everywhere. So many things can go wrong when you prepare the batter and then bake them. All recipes involve three basic ingredients, egg whites, almond flour, and sugar (usually in two different forms).  Basically egg whites are beaten to form a stable meringue that is next mixed with almond flour and, if desired, food coloring and flavoring agents. The method to form the meringue will range from French (egg whites are beaten with sugar at room temperature), Swiss (sugar is dissolved in egg whites gently warmed up and then whipped into meringue), to Italian (most stable meringue, formed by beating a simple syrup at the exact right temperature into egg whites).

The fact that macarons are so finicky would make one think that the proportions of ingredients are set in stone. Any variation, and you are doomed for failure. Well, that’s really not the case. In the table below, I offer you a few formulas, the first uses a Swiss meringue, all others are for the basic French method. You will immediately notice that the variation is not trivial. Particularly the amount of total sugar left me a bit surprised. Each of these recipes have many people who swear by them. They are often described as ‘my default recipe’ because “it never fails.”  I’ve tested two of them, Craftsy and Philip’s, and yes they both worked great. I like Philip’s formula because the shells are less sweet, and complement better some fillings like caramel and chocolate ganache.

All amounts given in grams.Original sources for above formulas, keep in mind my table normalized them all to 100 g egg whites:

Broma: Broma Bakery Craftsy: Craftsy online  tutorial Philip: Baking Fanatic Mimi: Indulge with Mimi Sue: You can do it… at home!  J.O.B. Joy of Baking Tiffany Macarons by Tiffany

The take-home lesson is: focus on technique. The ingredients are a lot more forgiving than we would think. As to aging the egg whites, trust me on this: you can bake a perfect batch of macarons with egg whites brought to room temperature without any need for aging.  I did the experiment myself, and others did too. I know many experts will swear it makes a difference. I would love to have them do a blind experiment baking a batch with aged whites another with room temperature eggs, no aging, and tell me which is which.  If you want to bake a batch of macarons on a whim, go for it. Technique trumps everything else for these finicky babies.  Watch videos showing proper macaronnage, and you will be on your way to success. And, of course use a scale so that you know how many grams of egg whites you are starting with, and adjust the proportions accordingly.

From my friend G.P.E. (Gary Patissier Extraordinaire) I got this nice lesson on macaron basics:

The important ratio in macarons is the sugar to egg ratio. At a 1:1 sugar/egg ratio, the meringue will bake up soft – think lemon meringue pie topping. At a 2:1 ratio, the meringue will bake up crisp – think meringue cookies. So for macarons, you are looking at a 2:1 ratio. Extra sugar ( > 2:1) will make the surface shinier and crisper and, of course, sweeter.  Note how there are two separate additions of sugar – one combined with the eggs and the other combined with the almond flour. That is intentional. Sugar stabilizes the meringue which is good. Stabilizing also means it inhibits formation of the foam. So to optimize stability versus volume, the maximum amount of sugar you want to add with the eggs is 1:1. Furthermore, you add the sugar late in the whipping process; I was taught to gently add the sugar when the egg whites are 75% done. Once you finish whipping the eggs, additional sugar (in this case, that mixed with the almond flour) can be added without affecting volume.

 

So there you have it, mine and Gary’s  little musings on a subject very dear to my heart: French Macarons… love making them, love thinking about making them, imagining colors and flavors together. Love bringing them to our department when maybe they make it easier to face that experiment that refuses to work, the upcoming exam, the preparation of that grant proposal…


or sharing with a very handsome (and very tall) stepson!

ONE YEAR AGO: A Duet of Sorbets

TWO YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

THREE YEARS AGO: Spiralizer Fun

FOUR YEARS AGO: Beer-Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Secret Recipe Club: Corn Chowda

SIX YEARS AGO: Page-A-Day Calendar (Pits and Chief 5 minutes of fame…)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Home Sweet Home (our beloved Pits in one of his last photos)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Marbled Rye

 

 

 

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COTTAGE LOAF, MY VERY OWN TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

Many years ago, I baked a bread called “Cottage Loaf” for a wonderful friend of ours, who was born and raised in England. I had never heard about it, never seen or tasted this special bread that elicited fond memories in our friend. Come to think of it, pretty naive of me to try and bake a special loaf having zero knowledge about it. I was so nervous about the shaping – it involves dividing the dough in two unequal portions, balancing the smaller one on top of the bigger one, so I completely forgot to slash it before baking, as you can see with a jump to my old post.  Seven and a half years went by (!!!), I never attempted it again. To my surprise, last week’s episode of The Great British Bake Off featured that very bread of my past as the technical challenge.  I simply had to go for it, particularly after witnessing so many talented bakers having all sorts of issues with the challenge. Not because they lack skills, mind you. But because the instructions given in the show for every technical challenge are pretty minimal. One of the contestants had his top loaf collapse into the lower one, and in despair he said “my dough ate itself!” I could feel his pain…  Anyway, without any more tangential talk, here is my Cottage Loaf. Too bad we now live 312 miles away from our friend Glenn. I suspect he would enjoy a slice or two…

COTTAGE LOAF
(adapted from Celia’s blog) 

(recipe in metrics at the end of the post)

Pre-ferment:
140g all-purpose flour
140g bread flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
170g water

Mix the two kinds of flour, salt, and yeast in a bowl. Add the water, mix briefly and let it rest for 10 minutes. Knead the dough briefly, allow it to rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then stick it in the fridge overnight.

Final dough:
All the preferment
225g bread flour
45g rye flour
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp instant yeast
170g water, at room temperature

Remove the pre-ferment from the fridge 1 hour before making the dough, cutting it into pieces to speed up warming up to room temperature. Place in a large bowl. Cut it into pieces with a knife or pastry cutter, and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Add the water and yeast, and stir together, then add the flours and salt. Combine everything into a shaggy mass, allow it to sit for 20 minutes undisturbed. Let the dough rise for 90 minutes, folding the dough at 20 and 45 minutes. Dough should rise not more than double its original size.

Weigh the dough (it should be around 900g), divide in two pieces (600g and 300g each), form each piece into a tight round. Allow them to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature, then coat the large ball with a little olive oil, cut a cross on top. Cut a cross on the bottom part of the smaller ball, and place it on top of the large one.

Now insert your finger or chopsticks in the center of the round, going almost all the way to the bottom, opening the whole outwards slightly to join both loaves. Allow them to rise for 10-15 minutes more before baking.

Slash the dough all around cutting through both levels. Place the bread in a the oven (430F), cover it with an inverted roasting pan moist with hot water, bake it for 30 minutes, uncover and allow it to bake for another 15 minutes (if top layer is browning too much, protect it with aluminum foil). If you don’t have a roasting pan large enough to cover the dough, follow the baking method explained here.

Allow to completely cool on a rack before slicing through.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I was so happy with this baking adventure! I haven’t baked a loaf of bread in many months, my poor sourdough starter is totally neglected. This bread – that takes a simple pre-ferment made the day before – was a nice way to warm me up for more baking ahead. All things considered, it is not a difficult recipe. The bulk rise of 90 minutes is followed by simple shaping, less than 30 minutes more and into the oven it goes.  Once again I used a 600 g to 300 g ratio of lower ball to upper ball, but I think that 650:250 could work even better, more stability for the upper component. Keep that in mind if you try it. Cutting a cross on top and bottom before joining the two balls is very important to ensure they will stay glued during baking, probably a step that was not included in the instructions for GBBO contestants.

I think my technical challenge went very well. At least our judge Paula Hollywood seemed pleased with it… If you are ready for some serious silliness, click on the video. At your own risk…

Please note Bogey circling around from the get go, and Buck getting up the moment he hears the knife in action… Oscar? He rather not have anything to do with so much non-sense going on in the kitchen. What a fun killer!

😉

Pinning is caring, go ahead and pin away!

NOTE ADDED AFTER PUBLICATION:  

Measurements in cups:
For the pre-ferment, mix 1 cup all-purpose flour to
1 + 1/3 cup bread flour. To that add 3/4 cup water

For the final dough: 1 + 1/2 cups of regular flour, 3/8 cup rye flour, and 3/4 cup water

ONE YEAR AGO: Pork Ribs: Sticky, Spicy and Awesome

TWO YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

THREE YEARS AGO: Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Silky Cauliflower Puree with Almond Milk


SEVEN YEARS AGO:
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EIGHT YEARS AGO: Summer’s Finale

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SOUP SATURDAY: QUICK WEEKNIGHT SOUPS

Third Saturday of the month, which means it’s time for soup! I regret to admit I haven’t joined this fun event for the past 4 months. Too many trips and work commitments made it impossible. But I am back now, and thrilled to join their party. This month’s event is hosted by Amy, from  Amy’s Cooking Adventures.  She chose Quick Weeknight Soups as the theme.  My choice is so easy that I made it for lunch, from start to finish. On a working day. Are you absolutely amazed, mesmerized, intrigued, and anxious for the recipe? I thought so. I adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe that called for soba noodles. I zoodlelized it, and made a few other minor changes.

ZUCCHINI NOODLE SOUP WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH
(inspired by a recipe from Martha Stewart)

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 large zucchini, spiralized
4 cups flat-leaf spinach, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add mushrooms and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 6 minutes.

Add broth and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Add zucchini noodles; reduce to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook just until tender, about 1 minute. Add lime juice and soy sauce. Serve very hot.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of the easiest soups to make ever! It surprised me how much flavor it packed with so few and humble ingredients.  The soy and the lime juice added at the very end, right before serving, deliver a mixture of umami and brightness. Umami echoed by the mushrooms, brightness intensified by the ginger. Really delicious and so very light. I picked this soup as my lunch on a day we had a departmental seminar scheduled for the afternoon, so anything that is too heavy makes it a bit hard to stay awake. Unless, of course we are talking about a fantastic speaker on a subject that is very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, not always the case.

If you like, use soba noodles which will be perfect with the mushrooms and spinach. I actually love soba and have not had any in a long time. As to that seminar, it was not my area of research, but I lucked out, great speaker, wonderful talk! I could have loaded up on soba. Such is life… best laid plans…

Amy, thanks for hosting this month, I feel so bad for staying away from the group for so many months, but what matters most is to be back…

To see what other #Soupswappers are sharing,

visit Amy’s post with a click here

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Loaf with Cranberries and Walnuts

TWO YEARS AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SIX YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Every once in a while I like to group very simple recipes in a single post, like I did last February and again in June.  Today’s post has three really simple recipes and one slightly more involved, but  still uncomplicated enough to justify hanging out with the others. A meaty main dish, a cute skewer-salad, a side dish, and oh-so-very-trendy kale chips. Yeap, I am jumping on that bandwagon, and you should too because when my beloved loses all self-control next to a bowl of kale, it means a lot. Seriously, it was a scene never before witnessed in gastronomic history.

 

POUNDED FLANK STEAK

This non-recipe was in a recent issue of Bon Appetit. Get a flank steak, lay it over a cutting board, place a saran-wrap over it. Pound it with gusto with the flat side of a meat mallet. With gusto. You want to really get at the fibers and tenderize them. Try to go for less than 1/2 inch width all over. Season with salt and pepper, give it a very light coating (or spray) with olive oil. Grill to your desired degree of doneness. It will be medium-rare very quickly, a couple of minutes per side on a super hot grill. In fact Bon Appetit called it “minute steak” for good reason. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

We loved it so much I made it three times within a ten-day period.  Very good paired with a red cabbage-cucumber salsa, but I need to tweak that recipe a little before sharing with you.


WATERMELON-FETA SKEWERS

Cut seedless watermelon into cubes. Do the same to the best quality you can find feta cheese. If you find real Greek feta, go for it. Place in wooden skewers cubes of feta and watermelon separated by pieces of fresh mint leaves. Make a simple dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, a touch of balsamic vinegar, or, if feeling particularly trendy, add a bit of pomegranate molasses. Whisk all together and drizzle over the skewers, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper (keep in mind that feta is very salty).

Only two pointers for success: use good quality feta (repeating this point because it is really important), and do not skip the mint. It offers the exact right counterpart to all other flavors. Great also as a little appetizer for a dinner party. Can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for a couple of hours.

 

TOMATILLO RICE

TOMATILLO RICE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tomatillo sauce:
8 large tomatillos cut in half
2 medium shallots peeled
1/2 Serrano pepper, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
juice of half a lemon

for the rice:
1 cup rice, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt

Place the tomatillos, cut side down, shallots and Serrano pepper on a baking sheet and roast at 425 F until soft and the tomatillo skin is starting to get brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer everything to a blender shallots to a blender, add half a cup of chicken stock or water, a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves and the juice of half a lemon. Process until smooth. Adjust seasoning. Sauce is perfect over fajitas, or seafood. To make rice, you only need 1/2 cup of it.

Sautee one cup of rice on a little bit of olive oil, add 1/2 cup of tomatillo sauce and 1 + 1/2  cups of water. Cover and cook for about 18 minutes, until done. Leave it covered for 10 minutes, fluff with a fork, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This rice is addictive.

 I could easily eat it every day for a year.

Yes, that’s how much I love it. 

 

KALE CHIPS


Remove the stems from a bunch of fresh kale, cut the leaves in large pieces. Wash and dry them well, a salad spinner is the best way to approach it. Add very little olive oil to the leaves, massaging them briefly. Add them to the basket of an air-fryer at 390 F, and fry until done, shaking the pan every couple of minutes.  It will take less than 10 minutes to finish. Season with salt, pepper, and spices of your choice if so desired. No air-fryer? No problem. The hot oven works the same way, only a bit slower. Also, make sure to have all leaves as a single layer. As to the seasoning, cumin and paprika go very well with kale, on my next batch I will try nutritional yeast, as I heard it gives it a very intriguing flavor. And of course, it would take the trendy quotient of this dish to the highest possible level. I don’t do trendy often. But sometimes, when that special mood strikes…

Phil went absolutely crazy for these chips. He showed up at the kitchen as I was preparing dinner, and mumbled his usual “hummm… kale.”  Not the yummy-anticipating-hummmm… it was the “how-to-escape-this-hummm….”. So yes, I was unprepared to have to fight for the last four chips sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Go figure.

 

I hope you enjoyed these four simple recipes, and give some (or all) a try, even if kale might not be your thing, or watermelon in a savory dish a bit too much of a stretch for your taste buds. Sometimes it’s fun to try something different, especially when the preparation is so simple.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Going naked, and my husband loved it

TWO YEARS AGO: Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

THREE YEARS AGO:  Star-Shaped Chocolate Brioche Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blueberry-Banana Bread 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Into the Light Again

SIX YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

 

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BRUNCH BURGER

We almost never eat at chain restaurants, but there is one situation in which we almost look forward to them: road trips. They usually have fast service, and the menu offers a ton of options. Recently, during our trip to Colorado, one of our stops to charge the car was Hays, Kansas. The charging station is located right by a little Applebee’s.  If you don’t live in the US, Applebee’s is a restaurant chain that started in the 80’s and now has over two thousand spots all over this and 15 other countries. We decided it would be a good option for lunch during our 40 to 50 minute stop to fully charge the battery. We ordered their signature Brunch Burger: beef patty, a thin layer of hashbrown potatoes on top, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. Ok, now that you’ve read the description you can get up and do a few jumping jacks or else you’ll be a pound or two heavier. We softened the caloric damage by ordering it without a bun. We like it naked (wink, wink). It was so tasty, I could not wait to get home and make my own version. Here it is…

BEWITCHING BRUNCH BURGER
(inspired by Applebee’s)

turkey burgers (use this recipe)
air-fried carrots (use this recipe)
melting cheese (any kind you like, we used Morbier)
sunny side up fried egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
lettuce and avocado slices
bacon (optional)
hamburger buns (optional)

Cook the burger to your liking. Add cheese in the final minutes on the grill. Place on a plate over lettuce leaves (or a bun, for more traditional presentation).

Add a good layer of air-fried carrots (or roasted in super hot oven), top with a fried egg, well-seasoned with salt and pepper.

A little Sriracha adds a nice punch. Avocado slices sprinkles with lime juice and Tajin go well with it too.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

No air-fryer? Use a 425 F oven until done…

Comments: The turkey burger recipe became my default ever since I blogged about it. This time I made two very small changes, using regular mushrooms instead of Portobello and cilantro instead of parsley. Other than that, exactly as posted. I don’t worry too much about precise amounts. I grabbed one of those little boxes of mushrooms pre-sliced from the grocery store, and after processing with the other ingredients, added that mixture to one and a half pounds of ground turkey.

The air-fried carrots are considerably lighter than hashbrown potatoes, but of course if you’d like to indulge, go for the Applebee’s version. What really makes this recipe amazing is the fried egg. The warm yolk forms a natural, luscious sauce and turns this burger into a very satisfying and complete meal, even without any bread. Phil is already lobbying to get it into our weekly rotation. And I will be more than happy to make it happen…

ONE YEAR AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SIX YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

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PAUL HOLLYWOOD: THE WEEKEND BAKER

In the past year, I was hit hard by two addictions. The Game of Thrones, and The Great British Baking Show. Odd to see them mentioned together in the same phrase. I caved to GoT despite my adamant stance against violent movies. That show is awesome, brilliant, irresistible. I can hardly wait for the next season, already feeling deprived. But The Great British Baking Show is a lot easier to watch, and so much better than ANY cooking show made in the US, it’s not even funny. They really hit a magical formula to entertain and teach at the same time. The right amount of humor, the right amount of anxiety, great atmosphere among the contestants, and so much talent! I also love the fact that they do blind judging of the technical challenge, to me that immediately sets the show on a higher level.  Then, there is the chemistry between Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I realize she won’t be part of the new season, and from what I heard the new person does a stellar job too, the show should follow its natural path of glory. Paul is something else. Those penetrating blue eyes probably turn the blood of some contestants cold when he deeply stares at them and asks “have you really tried this before?“, or “is this slashing going to be alright?”    Analogy for my hard-core biochemist readers: if Paul asks “are you telling me that a low Kd means higher affinity for this enzyme? you sure about that?”  you would probably doubt all the biochemistry that until then was solid in your brain…

When you are so in love with GBBS. you do two things.

  1. You move to binge watching Master Class, in which Paul and Mary actually bake all that stuff they inflicted on the contestants, spilling some of the secrets for success.
  2. You buy their cookbooks. I now own several written by Paul and Mary, as well as a few from the show itself. Yes, I have a problem. No, I do not intend to go for therapy.

One of the cookbooks I own is The Weekend Baker by Mr. Hollywood. And I got his and Penguin Books permission to share with you one recipe from it (insert happy dance here). After a lot of mental struggles to pick just one, here it is. Chocolate to the limit, an Italian classic from Capri. Gluten-free, which might be a bonus to some, and decadently rich. A small slice will be enough, making it perfect to share with many friends, or in my case, co-workers. A certain Monday morning was made quite a bit sweeter in our department.

TORTA CAPRESE
(Reproduced from THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood, published by Penguin Books Ltd (2016). With permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Recipes © Paul Hollywood, 2016. Photography © Issy Croker)

 to buy the book, follow this link:  The Weekend Baker

for the cake:
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blanched whole almonds
50 grams (1.75 ounces) plus 160 grams (5.6 ounces) superfine sugar
1 whole egg, plus 5 eggs, separated
265 grams (9.3 ounces) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
50 grams (1.75 ounces) chopped almonds

for the topping:
70 grams (2.5 ounces) water, plus for softening the gelatin
90 grams (3.2 ounces) superfine sugar (superfine)
30 grams (1 ounce) cocoa powder
25 grams (.9 ounces) liquid glucose (I used light corn syrup)
2 gelatin sheets (about 2.4 grams/.1 ounces)

Candied lemon peel or chopped almonds, for decorating

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4 (355 degrees F). Grease a deep 20-centimeter (8-inch) round cake tin. To make the cake, grind the whole almonds with 50 grams of fine sugar in a food processor. Reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat the whole egg and 5 yolks with the 160 grams fine sugar until the mix is pale and creamy and leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Do not over mix.

Add the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almond mixture and the chopped almonds. Beat in a spoonful of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Now, a spoonful at a time, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the pan to cool before turning it out onto a serving plate.

To prepare the topping, place the water, fine sugar, cocoa powder and glucose (or corn syrup) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir.

Soften the gelatin sheets in a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze any liquid from the gelatin sheets and then add the sheets to the pan. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Leave to cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour the chocolate topping just onto the surface of the cake and decorate with candied lemon peel or extra chopped almonds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Please notice that instead of almond flour, Paul prefers to grind whole almonds with sugar. He states to get better taste and texture this way. So resist grabbing that bag of Bob Mill’s you’ve got on your pantry. The glaze. Oh, the glaze. Very intense chocolate flavor topping a cake that also has a punch of chocolate, but mellowed down by the almonds, both in taste and texture. In fact, when you look at the Torta Caprese you’ll expect your classic flourless creature, very fudge-like. It is not, the ground & diced almonds turn it into a different type of cake, one that in fact will feel a tad bit less rich. When I bite into a flourless chocolate cake, I always have the filling that it is so rich, a small slice seems tricky to finish.  This cake? Not the case. It is rich, but you’ll feel that keep working on that slice is the most natural move… Consider yourself warned. Plus, the glaze… Oh, the glaze…

 

And now, a quick virtual tour of Paul Hollywood’s book.

 

The book is organized in ten chapters, and contrary to most cookbooks, these are not your regular ‘Breads”, “Pies”, “Cakes” categories. Instead, Paul dedicates one chapter to each place he’s been to, showcasing the recipes that impressed him most during his visit.  Consider it a gastronomic tour. His introduction to the book will have you excited to jump on a plane (or as he puts it, start a very long swim from UK all the way to New York), and, book in hand, try every one of the delicacies he talks about.  So, without further ado, a few of my favorites from each chapter.

SUN BAKED, MADRID: I’ve never been to Spain, so baking from this chapter would be a nice way to tempt myself to finally go visit. My favorites include Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate (for dipping them into), as churros were actually quite popular in Brazil when I was growing up.  But how about Iberico Ham and Manchego Empanadas? I am crazy for Manchego… Buñuelos de Viento sound great too, these are very light puff pastry entities, filled with chocolate or cream. But I am really intrigued by the last recipe in this chapter, quite simply called Torta. It is like a focaccia, but made with 70% olive oil in its formula. I bet it is amazing!

LA DOLCE VITA, NAPLES: My showcased recipe, Torta Caprese, comes from this chapter, where you will find many of the most authentic examples of Italian baking, like Pizza Margherita, Ciabatta, Focaccia. But the one that captured my imagination is Gatto di Santa Chiara, a cross between a quiche and a pie. The dough calls for some mashed potato in it, which I know results in incredible texture. Definitely something to make in the near future.

FRENCH FANCIES, PARIS: My home away from home! He opens the chapter with royalty, Croissants… And offers some other classics like Quiche Lorraine, Eclairs (be still, my heart), and Madeleines (made with brown butter). Baguettes are there too, just in case you are wondering…  I have my mind set on Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues, though.

PUDDING LANE, LONDON: A city I visited three times, and find absolutely amazing, definitely want to go back. You will find a basic recipe for Scones that you can adapt for any flavor you like, the famous Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns, Lemon Drizzle Slices (similar to a cake I just blogged about, but with fancier icing), and Battenberg (a two-color cake that is calling my name).

DANISH TASTIES, COPENHAGEN: Another place I’ve never visited but hope to stop by some day, to get fully acquainted with the meaning of hygge, a very fashionable word. Danish is in there, a version with Apricot and Passion Fruit,  Seeded Rye Bread, and the recipe I almost picked to showcase, Danish Raspberry Slices. They look so cute, I know I’ll be making them for our graduate students in the very near future.

BAVARIAN BITES, MUNICH. I’ve been there, years ago, ate superbly well. Beautiful place! Paul offers a recipe for Pretzels that has some unexpected twists, I am a lover of soft pretzels, and have been meaning to try and bake them at home for…. forever.  Stollen, the famous bread is in this chapter, as well as Lebkuchen Biscuits, a sort of soft spice cookie that I’m sure I would fall in love with at first bite. Prinzeregententorte (say that three times fast) seems like the kind of cake that could be the weapon of my self-destruction. Seven layers of sponge cake that must be absolutely identical, as they represent the regions of Bavaria in 1886. Are you amazed yet?

AMERICAN PIE, NEW YORK: There we are at the Big Apple, the chapter opens with Bagels, rightfully so! Also a big nod to Bittman’s No Knead Bread, New York Cheesecake with details for baking that definitely take it to the smoothest consistency ever.  I really want to try my hands at it. So many recipes, so little time!

FUN IN THE SUN, MIAMI: Still in the US,  dear friends…  Paul loved the beat of Miami – who doesn’t? – it is packed full of Brazilians (sorry could not resist a little wave to my home country). Great items in this chapter, starting of course with Key Lime Pie, passing by  Best- Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Waffles, and American Pancakes.

PRIDE OF POLAND, WARSAW: Would I be repeating myself too much if I say I’d love to visit Poland? Not only I have great Polish friends, but all my friends who visited were mesmerized by it. Seems like a fantastic place indeed.  Here are the recipes I loved the most: Babka, for obvious reasons. A bread, beautifully swirled with chocolate. And Polish Cheesecake. Yes, I need to get to know this, if not in Warsaw, in our kitchen.

THE RUSSIAN OVEN, SAINT PETERSBURG: Paul was really smitten by that city, and I also heard plenty of great things about it. Of course, I would never go in the winter, just looking at the photos of Paul in full winter gear when he landed there, made me cringe. No, a Brazilian cannot face that ever. But the recipes seem just amazing. Russian Pies (much more involved and complex than the name implies), the famous Blinis, Medovik (a gorgeous honey cake), Sweet Berry Pancakes, but what really won my heart is something call Vatrushka. Go ahead, google, and drool…

So there you have it, my little tour of Paul Hollywood’s The Weekend Baker is over. The book has a little introduction to each recipe, with interesting bits about them, gorgeous photos, not only of the finished product, but of the places he visited.  Well-balanced, actually. You will not be bombarded with personal photos like some cookbook authors do (not naming any names), but you’ll have enough to tease you, make you dream about that plane trip to see the world.

Paul, thank you and Penguin Books for allowing me to publish your recipe.

Before I leave my dear readers… yes, a lower Kd will always indicate higher affinity. For any enzyme in the known universe. I am sure you can all sleep better now…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FIVE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

SIX YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

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