Daily Gluttony

 

IMG_1783
Literally every vegetable under the sun. Roasted broccoli, pinto beans, brown rice, avocados, salsa, roasted potatoes, carrots, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, bbq sauce and hot sauce drizzled on top with some dairy-free cheese shreds. I ate ALL of that in one sitting. Yessss.

I’ve always been an avid food blog reader. I have also always wondered, “do these people actually eat this stuff on the reg?

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve had a few people ask if I actually eat all of the food I make or if it goes to waste.

Well, the truth finally comes out. Continue reading

Wrongness

IMG_1120

 

I recently read a New York Times Editorial titled “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person“. At the end of it, despite the dark title, I felt a bit uplifted.

It discussed basically that humans will be humans. No one can reasonably expect another person to not annoy them, make mistakes, lose intimacy from time to time and all the other issues that marriage comes with that they don’t talk about in your average Nicholas Sparks movie.

So what does this have to do with food? Continue reading

Cooking With Friends: A Man Called “Frenchy” and an Eclair Crepe Cake

2015-12-19 11.16.45

Old friends are special.

Especially ones that will gobble a whole dozen donuts with you and will always be ready for more. Yeah. He’s that kind of friend.  A keeper.

With his shock of stark, yellow hair, prominent, French nose and his Banana Republic air to him – it was hard not to notice him in a crowd. Frenchy had always been this way – striking and distinct, but always warm and happily magnetic in person.

He is affectionately called “Frenchy” by his old high school friends because his family is actually French. Though he was born in the U.S., Frenchy spent over seven years living in France. Anyone from the European continent felt exotic to us high-schoolers at the time and so Frenchy’s persona was born!

I remember one year, for my birthday, he brought me the best surprise – crepes! We had them with Nutella and sugar and I thought I was the most special girl to deserve such a surprise.

Recently, I begged him to show me how he made crepes. It didn’t take much arm-twisting. He enthusiastically agreed and was excited, as was I, at the prospects of gorging ourselves on crepes for a night.

I was curious as to exactly how “French” it was to enjoy crepes. I found out from Frenchy that his family made crepes together from time to time and would make a whole meal out of it. They would use crepes as a part of the main dish – with savory elements such as eggs, bacon, vegetables and whatever else they liked. They would then round off the meal with crepes for dessert – something simple like sugar and lemon juice or Nutella and banana slices as the filling.

2015-12-19 11.15.19

Frenchy was so skilled at turning out crepes. He made many in no time at all. He told us about a French holiday tradition (the holiday of la Chandeleur in which it is a custom to have crepes on that day) that if you hold a coin in the same hand that you are holding the crepe pan in and you successfully flip the crepe, it will bring you good luck!

2015-12-19 11.14.17-1

Some of us were not so successful in our crepe-flipping endeavors. It was a fun experience nonetheless! I felt so very French while making and flipping crepes!

We decided, early on, that we would make a crepe cake. Aside from the fact that I’m a terrible traditional cake-maker (I am always too manic and impatient. I end up putting the icing on too soon and it all melts into a horrible, sugary mess), I was also desperately craving eclairs. So we decided to make a horrible, wonderful bastardization of two French classics and thus, the Eclair Crepe Cake was born!

 

2015-12-19 11.11.57

Layers upon layers of crepes, vanilla pastry creme and tempting, tantalizing, titillating chocolate ganache.

Did we devour this? Oh yes. Yes, we did.

And now, it’s your turn!

 

Eclair Crepe Cake

What You’ll Need:

For the Crepes:

You will need about 20-25 crepes

A non-stick crepe pan or shallow skillet

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  1. Combine all of your ingredients, EXCEPT for the butter, in a large bowl.
  2. Once all your liquid and dry ingredients are just combined – do not overmix – add in your melted butter last.
  3. Set batter aside in the fridge to rest while you work on the pastry cream.
  4. Once the pastry cream is made – heat your lightly-greased crepe pan or non-stick skillet to medium heat.  (You can wipe the pan with a bit of olive oil or melted butter). Pour 1/8 of cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl the batter in the pan so that the batter covers the pan evenly.
  5. Cook for about 30 seconds or until the sides of the crepe are just cooked and then flip to finish cooking. (Don’t be nervous about flipping. It’s just like a pancake. Be confident! You’ve totally got this!)
  6. Repeat until your batter is finished or until you have the 20 or so crepes you desire.

 

For the Pastry Cream

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tsps of orange zest
  • 2 tblsps of orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup milk in another bowl.
  3. Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from scrambling when you add them to the simmering milk.
  4. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla extract, orange zest and orange juice. 
  6. Rub an additional piece of butter over the surface of the cream, top with a piece of plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the pastry cream so it doesn’t develop a skin), then refrigerate until cool.

For the Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 1/4 cup or 10 ounces of dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 3 tblsp of brewed coffee (or 1 tblsp of instant coffee granules)

Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each 30-second session until the chocolate has just melted. Takes about 1 minute – 1.5 minutes total.  It’s okay if you still see lumps of chocolate chips. Keep stirring and the mixture will continue to heat and melt the chocolate and you will have a luscious ganache.

To Assemble the Cake:

Gather your cooled crepes. Place the first one on you platter and spread a thin layer of pastry cream (around 2-3 tablspoons of cream). Start from the middle and push the cream outwards. Do this for three crepe layers.

On the 4th layer, spread about two tablespoons of the chocolate ganache, working from the inside out. I like this alternation so that the rich chocolate doesn’t overpower the pastry cream and you can taste all the layers more distinctly.

Repeat 5-7 times until you have the desired height and layers of your crepe cake.

Top the cake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache (1/4 cup or thereabouts) and dot with blackberries or sliced strawberries.

My best advice to you is to make this cake in advance. The cake cools, settles and tastes better if it is left to sit overnight. 

2015-12-19 11.10.57

With that being said – I definitely did not do that. In fact, it was close to 11pm and the friends I was cooking with were worn out and hankering for a slice of the cake. Our sweet, French man cut the cake for us and we devoured our warm, chocolate-seeping slices in a weary but oh-so-satisfied silence.

2015-12-19 11.10.01

Eat and be merry! Be French!

Food and Movies: The Hobbit – Cherry Chocolate and Almond Scones

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

 

There are actually no words for how much of a Tolkien fan I am. If you want to ever get creative with torture, take a non-Tolkien fan and have them sit with me through all the extended versions of the Lord of The Rings movies. I may or may not make you want to gouge your eyes out and rip your ears off.

Yes. It’s like that.

Aside from the beautiful cinematography, gorgeous, bearded men and sorcery – there are the hobbits. THE HOBBITS.

They are the most wonderful creatures that literally do nothing but live leisurely. Any creature that sets aside time for a SECOND breakfast has my heart.

If you’ve never seen The Hobbit, firstly – shame on you, but I’ll just go ahead and brief you. Bilbo is a hobbit and he accompanies a band of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their home in a large mountain. They have the help of a wizard and get into some shenanigans on the way.

There was a scene in the first installment of the trilogy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in which all of the dwarves who stand behind Thorin Oakenshield all arrive at Bilbo’s house and demand food and drink. The first dwarf to arrive, Dwalin, eats all of Bilbo’s personal dinner and an entire jar of what looks like scones or biscuits (hence the inspiration for the recipe below).

The entire scene following Dwalin’s arrival is a food-lover’s dream (or nightmare, if you’re worried about mythical creatures emptying your pantry and leaving you with nothing). The rest of the dwarves arrive for the planning of the upcoming adventure and they storm Bilbo’s pantry and take cheese, wine, vegetables, beer, cured meats and all sorts of wonderful things. The only thing I could think of the whole time is: ‘WHY?! WHY DON’T I HAVE A PANTRY THAT LOOKS LIKE THAT?!’

 

 

The scones below are nice because of the inclusion of sour cream. The sour cream allows for a texture that is somewhere between the normal biscuit texture of a scone and the inside of a muffin.

I’m not afraid to admit – the first time I made these scones, they didn’t turn out quite as well as I had hoped. I actually had to make a second batch because my neuroses would not allow these scones to go public until I fixed them.  They were just too dry for my taste. The sour cream really does the trick.

There were a few other things I did differently the second time around as well: I didn’t overwork the dough, I worked in a quick manner (nothing stressful, just efficient) so that the butter could be as cold as possible before it went in the oven and I lowered the temperature of the oven. I started out at 400 degrees but for the second batch, I lowered it to 375 degrees. I also decided that hydrating the cherries is awesome because it gives you a flavor close to fresh cherries without all the juicy mess of actual fresh cherries. To be honest, you’d probably fine not hydrating them if you’re truly that lazy.

It just goes to show that cooking, no matter how long or often you do it, there is always something to learn. Furthermore, nothing feels quite so good as a recipe you’ve mastered.  At least – to me. I also am a Lord of the Rings nerd and think about things like perfect scone-cooking temperatures.

I have no life.

 

2015-11-17 07.05.24

Cherry Chocolate and Almond Scones

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 cups plus 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 lb (two sticks) of cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of cold heavy cream
  • 1 tsp of almond extract
  • 1/2 cup of cold sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups of hot water
  • 1 cup of dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup of milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of sliced almonds
  • 1 egg beaten with tablespoons of cream or water for egg wash

Prep: 25 min

Yields: 15-19 scones

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

  1. In a small bowl, put your hot water and dried cherries together to hydrate while you work on your dough. (Sometimes I put a teaspoon of sugar or a small squeeze of honey in the water just give the cherries back some of their sweetness. Totally optional)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the 4 cups of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the cold, diced butter and using the pads of your fingertips,  pressing the butter into the flour, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (You can also do this in a food processor but I’ve always liked doing it by hand so that some butter chunks remain large.)
  3. Combine the eggs, heavy cream, sour cream and almond extract in another bowl. Slowly pour the liquids into the flour and butter mixture and mix until BARELY combined. *REMEMBER* Do not overwork the dough. You will cry.
  4. Drain the cherries well and mix them together with the chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of flour. (This is to keep the ingredients from settling to the bottom of the scones) Combine with the dough until just combined.
  5. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form gently into a ball. Flour your rolling pin and hands and roll the dough to about 3/4-inch thick square. Move the dough constantly so that the dough doesn’t stick to your surface.
  6. With a floured knife, cut your square into smaller squares. 2015-11-18 11.19.35
  7. Then cut those squares diagonally across the middle so that you get two triangles.
  8. Place onto a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of the triangles with your egg wash and sprinkle sugar and the sliced almonds on top.
  9. Cook for 17 minutes. The tops will brown slightly due to the sugar and the scones will be firm to the touch when done.

 

NOTES:

  • Seriously, don’t overwork the dough. Keep things as cold as you can. This means not taking out your sour cream, heavy cream and butter until right when you need it.
  • Work in a timely manner. Don’t stand around, on a coffee break or whatever because your butter in the dough will melt and you won’t get good scones. Tears will ensue.
  • Flour your rolling surface but don’t go crazy. Adding too much extra flour to the dough will most certainly make your scones tough.
  • Also, hydrate those cherries. It’s worth the extra iota of energy you will expend.
  • I chose milk chocolate chips because the creaminess works well with the tartness of the cherries and the smooth nuttiness of the almonds. If you’re one of those chocolate snobs who can’t bear the thought of anything less than 95% cocoa solids, be my guest. Does it help if I told you I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate? Classy stuff.

 

Pour yourself some tea and watch The Hobbit as you munch away, dreaming of a world where Second Breakfast and Elevensies exists.