Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From the Kitchen

When I was in France I found these really neat scissors, they can do the work of five! I was at a street market and found several of these with the kitchen wares vendors. Very usefull for cutting up chives, green onions or any herbs that need a quick cut for garnish or taste. These are the five blade ones, I have seen some with as many as eight blades, although I dont know what you would be cutting eight of? Maybe cole slaw?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting Clarified

I woke up this morning to make myself an egg over easy, and found that my supply of clarified butter was almost empty. I use butter that I clarified to reduce the burning of regular butter when used in a pan. Making clarified butter is one thing that you should try to do at least once every two to three months.

There is nothing better than being able to cook at a higher heat without burning your food before in goes into the pan. Clarified Butter should not be confused with Ghee. Ghee is the term used in India for clarifing butter at a higher heat. In India, Ghee starts out the same but ends with a different taste and color even though most people often confuse the two.

First the process.

You will need about a pound of butter. I recommend unsalted butter over salted, since we are removing the milk solids and water, the salt just becomes one of those added things that will just be tossed out.

Next place the butter in a good stainless sauce pan and set to medium heat. Do not use a pan with a non-stick coating, as this can flake off and contaminate your finished product. After about 3-4 min you will see that the butter has melted and is starting to boil. You do not want a hard boil, but a med boil. Let it boil until the sounds of pinging from the water and solids in the butter have dissipated. You will find that a most of the milk solids have sunk to the bottom of the pan and some of the lighter solids have floated to the top. Skim off the foam with a spoon. Take off the heat and let cool for about 2-3 min. Using a fine mesh strainer, gently pour off the contents into a heat proof container with a air tight lid. Refrigerate and it will hold for about two to three months. Kept on the counter, it will keep for about a month.

For Ghee, Ghee is done when a second foam forms on top of butter, and the butter turns light golden brown and has a nutty aroma. It should take approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Be sure to watch carefully so you don't over cook the butter and it over browns.  Brown milk solids will be in bottom of pan. Use the same process as clarified butter to store.

The Taste

Clarified butter is rich, and can be used where you don't want a flavor other than the flavor of butter. Ghee has a caramelized buttery nutty taste and is useful for a lot of foods where high heat is used.

Friday, February 5, 2010

There's an App for that!

I have had my iPhone for a little over five months. In that time (contrary to my reluctantance to own one) I have found that I can do just about everything I need to do with one of the many applications ( or app's ) that are continualy being developed each day on the iPhone platform. Above is a actual screenshot of some of the app's that currently populate one of the pages on my iPhone. As you can see, some of them include a favorite subject of mine.... Food! I use at least one or two of the food related apps daily. From checking a recipe, to calculating measurements, it's a click away.
So if you are planing a change in mobile phone platforms or are into food like me , then I would recomend the iPhone. And if you can think of a want, there's probably an app for that!

Keeping it together

One of the best ways for some one to keep your travel recipes together is to write them down in a notebook. I have used the Moleskin brand of notebooks for over twenty years. It was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway as well as a lot of fellow chefs. Now moleskin has introduced a notebook designed just for Recipes.
While I have used just the regular notebook, I am going to go and pick-up one of these new books and continue to write down recipes that I come across in my travels. Another way to keep it all together.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do you waffle?

The Brussels waffle is based on a batter raised with yeast -- as opposed to most North American waffle or pancake batters, which are raised with baking powder.

This is where many North American attempts at the Brussels/Belgian waffle fall down: the yeast raising changes the chemistry of the batter, producing a tenderer crumb in the finished waffle than a baking-powder raising can. The yeast and the beaten egg whites which are folded into the batter work together to produce a light crisp waffle. The Brussels waffle is rectangular and usually about an inch thick, with fairly deep "dimples". When you buy it on the street or in a shop in Belgium, it usually comes dusted with a little confectioners' sugar / icing sugar, and maybe spread with chocolate or thick whipped cream. But you can also get it piled high with fruit and other goodies.

The other main kind of waffle is the Liège waffle, named after that city. (This waffle is also known as the Luikse wafel in Vlaamse and as Lütticher waffeln in German.) It's oblong, more or less oval-shaped, a thinner and smaller waffle than the Brussels waffle. But it's also more substantial, and has a significant crunch due to the small nuggets of parelsuiker or "pearl sugar" that are added to the batter just before baking. These bits of sugar melt when being baked on the waffle iron and caramelize, producing a sugary crust like what's found on top of a creme brulée.

I prefer the Liege Waffle...

For the gaufre de Liège / Liège waffle:

420 grams (3 1/3 cups) flour
7 grams salt (about a half teaspoon)
25 grams (1/8 cup) granulated sugar
2 eggs
5 grams yeast / one package fast-acting yeast
300 grams (1 1/3 cups) butter
Around 20 centiliters (3/4 cup) cold water (preferably sparkling water)
270 grams (1 1/3) pearl sugar
Vanilla to your taste

Allow eggs and sparkling water to come up to room temperature first.
Sift the flour into a bowl: make a well in the middle.
Melt the butter over hot water or in the microwave. Allow to cool to lukewarm. Beat the eggs well: add the butter and the yeast: mix well. Add the water and mix again.
Add to the flour along with the granulated sugar and vanilla or other seasoning (cinnamon works well).
Beat the dough for at least ten minutes. It will probably be sticky and difficult to work with. This is normal.
After this beating, allow to stand and rise in a warm place for 15-30 minutes. 5 to 10 minutes before baking, add the pearl sugar.
Heat the waffle iron. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto each quarter or section of the waffle iron. Bake until well browned.
Serve hot off the iron, dusted with confectioner's sugar, or top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Please note that pearl sugar is somewhat specialized. Some stores that specialize in cakemaking and other confectionery carry it, and there are some online sources, this one for example, The Nordic House http://www.nordichouse.com

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"La Chandeleur" or Crêpe Day!

Today is Crêpe day in France!
Or as they call it "La Chandeleur".

In France, the second day of February is a religious day and celebrated like Candlemas. La Chandeleur is also the day for predicting the future similar to Groundhog Day in the United States. However, it is not a furry critter that foresees your fortune - it's a crêpe!

The celebration goes like this:
First, using only one hand holding onto the pan, attempt to flip the crêpe onto it's second side after it has cooked on the first side. Legend has it that you will enjoy good luck for the rest of the year if the crêpe lands perfectly in the pan. Suffer bad luck if the crêpe does not land well - or you can do what I do...try again!

Now try making your own.

Crêpe recipe for 8 - 10 people
Preparation time 10 minutes, cooking time 3 - 4 minutes

2 cups (250g) flour
6 eggs
3 cups (3/4 litre) milk
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (50g) butter melted
1/4 cup sugar ( if you want a slightly sweet crepe)
1 teaspoon vanilla
(variant - you can replace 1 cup milk with 1 cup crème fraiche for a little extra taste)
Place the milk and one cup flour in a blender, blend on low or stir. When the flour is mixed, add the second cup followed by the eggs, one at a time. Add the melted butter salt and the sugar then the vanilla.
Leave mixture for at least an hour.This gives the flour a chance to "bloom" and create the needed gluten which will hold the crepe together while cooking.
Preheat a crêpe/frying pan to med heat. When the pan is hot add a little butter to grease the pan
Put half a ladle, or 1/4 cup, of crêpe mixture into the pan, swirl to evenly distrubute and cook for 2 minutes on first side then  flip and cook additional 1 min.
Suggested accompaniments: sugar, Nutella, jam, honey, fruit or fillied with stawberries and whip cream!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweet tooth

Pastry is my weakness... And I confess, GOOD pastry is something that one never forgets. While I was in France, pastry was not only common, but often times beyond good to be called memorable.
Just thought I would share!

Another great shot

Another great picture of the Eiffel Tower at night taken live while I was 9,000 miles away.