Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sweetened Condensed Milk Pound Cake

As I planned out my menu for our belated Lunar New Year dinner, I wanted a light, Asian-influenced dessert. I knew I would have plenty of fresh ginger on hand from the main courses, and I remembered that my mom loved the ginger ice cream formerly carried by Trader Joe's. I also had some Meyer lemons on hand and wanted to incorporate it with the ginger ice cream. After having success with the lemon meringue cupcakes, I decided on lemon curd. So what vehicle would go well with ginger ice cream and lemon curd? A pound cake made with sweetened condensed milk!

Growing up, I loved sweetened condensed milk on a piece of white toast or swirled into some oatmeal. As an adult, I know it's not the healthiest thing, but it brings back sweet childhood memories. Nowadays, I love how Trader Joe's packages their sweetened condensed milk in a squeeze bottle, which is perfect for saving the leftovers. The recipe for the pound cake comes from Pichet Ong's cookbook, The Sweet Spot. The batter comes together quickly and easily in a food processor. I was pleasantly surprised by how the pound cake had a pronounced creamy and milky taste that came through abundance of vanilla.

The fresh ginger ice cream was the perfect ending to a rich and abundant meal and also serves as a palette cleanser. As usual, The Perfect Scoop comes through as my trusted source for making ice cream at home. Seeping the blanched ginger slices in the warm cream for just an hour yielded a warm, spicy punch. I reduced on the fat by using 4 egg yolks and 1% milk instead of the 5 egg yolks and whole milk called for in the recipe. I didn't think it compromised the creaminess, especially after adding a capful of vodka to prevent the ice cream from getting too hard.

The Meyer lemon curd was bold and stood on its own next to the ginger ice cream. Using Meyer lemons made is a little more delicate and less sour compared to traditional lemons. Each of these dessert components are lovely on its own, but even better when served together.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Momofuku bo ssam

Consistent with getting together late for other holidays, my family gathered a month after the Lunar new year. I offered to host because I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make Momofuku's Bo Ssam. Bo ssam translates to mean little packages of pork, rice, and kimchi wrapped in fresh greens. It was recently written up in the NY Times, and I saw some posts about preparing it at home on LTHForum. The simplicity of the recipe that promised to yield mind blowing results really excited me.

With the recent opening of the Publican's Quality Meats, I decided to splurge on getting a sustainable pork butt sourced from them. Little did I know, they only had Berkshire pork in stock the day before our gathering, which made it a very luxurious splurge. Berkshire pigs are a pedigreed breed prized for it's juiciness, flavor, and tenderness. I justified it by thinking that it's still much more cost efficient than flying to NYC and dining at Momofuku.

To gather the Asian ingredients, we drove up to Joongboo Market. My LTH friends recommended offering sesame leaves, aka gaenip or perilla, in addition to the bibb lettuce. As part of the mint family, they taste similar to fennel and mint.

Words cannot describe the deliciousness of this meal. I wish I could reach out and give you a bite through your monitor. All of the components just marry so well together. I love the vinegar from the sauces in contrast to the richness of the pork. There's very little hands on prep time. The most time consuming part was chopping the scallions and ginger for one of the sauces, and even that was minimal considering the high yielding taste that comes from it. If you're looking for a crowd pleaser, you need to try this as soon as possible!

A couple of quick notes: Based on the feedback from some LTHer's, we skipped the salt when we added the brown sugar. Also, if you want to know exactly when your pork is ready, you'll want the internal temperature to be 190 degrees. Hope this helps.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Roasted squash, pear, and ginger soup

I'm embarrassed to admit that I still had a squash leftover from our fall weekly produce share. It's amazing how long squash can last after being harvested. I'd already made two different kinds of squash risotto and a squash tart twice. I was hoping to do something different with this last remaining squash. I think someone tweeted about Deborah Madison's recipe for this roasted squash, pear, and ginger soup, which led me to bookmark it for weeks before finally making it. I trusted the recommendation especially since I love the combination of pears and ginger.

Whenever I cut into a squash or pumpkin, I reserve the seeds with the intent to dry and roast them. More often than not, I lose the ambition and energy to do it, and so I just end up trashing the seeds. With this recipe, I didn't have to give it a second thought since the seeds and strings were used to flavor the broth. Having read the recipe reviews, I also added the skins from the pears to the broth. I really enjoy this soup, especially as leftovers. In my photo below, I added some Greek yogurt and fresh sage, but it was completely unnecessary. I preferred for the soup to stand alone. Without a doubt, the dominant flavor was squash, but there was a subtle fruitiness from the pears and a warm hint of spice from the fresh ginger. Given its sweet taste and smooth texture, this would likely be a hit for little ones.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

I hope you and your love enjoyed a sweet valentine's day. I baked these chocolate sugar cookies, which really surprised me. The dough was really soft and sticky after the first hour in the refrigerator. After getting frustrated and discouraged, I was beginning to regret not making Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies. 

I left the chocolate sugar cookie dough in the refrigerator for two more days before I finally decided to tackle them again. This time, I cut off a small section of dough each time so that the remainder could stay cold and hard in the fridge. This technique really helped yield clearly defined cookie shapes. After letting the dough rest for two days rather than the recommended two hours, I anticipated dry, hard cookies and didn't have very high hopes. Martha proved me wrong! These were soft, chewy and so chocolatey. I made a small batch of icing, so some cookies remained plain. I decided to put some homemade vanilla ice cream in between the plain cookies, and they were so delightful. Do you remember those awful, boring ice cream sandwiches growing up as a kid? This was so much better in comparison. I will have to remake these cookies just to recreate these ice cream sandwiches. 

Below is my preferred recipe for icing. It's not as opaque as other recipes, but I like it for its simplicity and taste. Annie's Eats and Bake at 350 both have a great tutorial on using royal icing.

Decorative Icing
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

1 cup confectioners sugar
a few drops of flavored extract (vanilla, lemon, almond)
2-3 tbsp milk

Mix ingredients to your desired consistency. Allow the icing to rest for 10 minutes so that the air bubbles can settle.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Valentine Brunch: Red Velvet Waffles

My heart shaped waffle iron is the very first kitchen related item that I remember getting. In the sixth grade, I vividly remember inviting my mom to brunch as part of our cooking class. We made waffles to serve our parents, and I became enamored with them since. I begged my parents to buy me the waffle iron. It makes me so happy that it still works almost 20 years later! I like to bring out the heart shaped waffles for special weekends, like Valentine's. 
When A and I started dating while I was still in college, I remember going to the store to buy boxed cake mix. (Yes, the horror! We had limited funds and equipment back then!) I think he meant to grab the chocolate cake mix, but we somehow came home with a box of Red Velvet. Being Yankees, we were totally grossed out by the idea and set out to return to the store to exchange it for the chocolate mix. To this day, we never jumped onto the red velvet bandwagon.  It's a muted chocolate flavor and a disgusting amount of red food coloring. I don't understand why people claim it to be their favorite. Are you fan? Can you please explain it to me? 

I tried to give it another try and thought that trying to make them in a waffle form might be interesting. I adapted a buttermilk waffle recipe by adding cocoa powder, sugar, and a few drops of gel food coloring. While the exterior was crisp and the interior was fluffy, the taste was lacking until I made it really indulgent by transforming breakfast into dessert with the addition of a  whipped cream cheese  topping. ;) Sorry red velvet fans.....we're still not loving it.
Red Velvet Waffles
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 3 large waffles

7/8 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg, separated
7/8 c buttermilk
2 tbsp butter, melted
5 drops of red gel food coloring

1. Whisk flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk egg yolk, buttermilk and melted butter in a glass measuring cup.
2. Preheat waffle iron. Beat egg white until stiff peaks form.
3. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients slowly and careful not to over combine. Add food coloring and gently fold in the egg white into the batter with a rubber spatula.
4. Pour batter into waffle iron and proceed using manufacturer's instructions.

Whipped cream cheese topping
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 1 cup

2 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 c heavy cream

1. Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl. Beat at medium high until light and fluffy.
2. Add heavy cream. Beat on high for 3-5 minutes to desired consistency.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sweet and Salty Brownie

It's no secret how much I loved my Baked cookbooks given the several successes I have had with their recipes. For the Superbowl, A suggested something good to go with ice cream. As a chocoholic, brownies seemed like an obvious choice. Baked's Sweet and Salty brownie cinched the deal for me - combining chocolate and salty caramel!

I specifically chose these two pieces to photograph: an interior piece and a edge piece.As you can see from the edge piece, the caramel oozed out a bit while baking. This created a wonderfully chewy edge with a pronounced caramel taste. Meanwhile, on the interior piece, the caramel layer gets fully integrated with the brownie batter while baking. These pieces are buttery, moist and in between being cakey and fudgey. Personally, I'm still a big fan of brownie edge pieces. I even have this specially designed brownie pan that yields at least two edges per piece! I was tempted to make these brownies in my Baker's Edge pan, but I opted not to out of fear that the caramel would burn when oozing out. Next time, I will have to get creative with lining the sides of the Baker's Edge pan with parchment paper.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Italian Stromboli

You might think that the picture above is a plain loaf of bread, but you're wrong! Slicing through the loaf will reveal a delicious combination of hard salami, mortadella, capicola, provolone and giardinera. It's best described as biting into a warm Italian sub that is salty, spicy and rich all wrapped in a light wheat bread. If this isn't great football watching food, then I don't know what is!
Light Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 c warm water (no warmer than 110 degrees) 
2 tsp salt
2 c all purpose flour
1 1/4 c white whole wheat flour

1. Mix all of the ingredients in a lidded food container until well combined. (I use something like this dough bucket.)
2. Cover and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours. 
3. Use the dough immediately or refrigerate until ready for use. 

1 lb dough ball of the light wheat 
1/2 lb your choice in a variety of deli meat (We used hard salami, mortadella, capicola)
1/4 lb your choice in sliced cheese (We used provolone)
Giardiniera, optional

1. Preheat a pizza stone on the middle rack in your oven to 450 degrees for at least 20 minutes. Place an empty broiler tray on the bottom shelf.
2. Prepare the dough for use: dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off about half of the dough (serrated knife works best here). Apply a dusting of flour to your dough piece and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. 
3. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 10"x12"x1/8". You may need to stretch the dough with your hands if the dough resists being stretched by the rolling pin. If the dough still doesn't stretch, allow it to rest for a few minutes for the gluten to rest.
4. Leaving a one inch border all the way around, brush the dough with the oil from giardiniera, if using. Begin to layer with your desired deli meat, cheese, and chopped giardiniera (if using).
5. Roll up the dough and seal the seams with a light brushing of water. Brush the top crust with olive oil or spray with olive oil. 
6. Using a sheet of parchment paper large enough to cover your pizza stone, transfer you stromboli onto the pizza stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the empty broiler tray. (Be careful of the steam.)
7. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown.
8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Turkey, Kale, and Brown Rice Soup

We've been blessed with a mild winter thus far considering that last year at this time we already had over 40 inches of snow! I haven't made as much soup or chili given the mild weather. However, in anticipation of indulging on Superbowl Sunday, I wanted a heart healthy soup to enjoy over the weekend. This soup was rich in nutrients due to the rainbow color of ingredients. It can easily be adaptable to be vegetarian through the use of beans in lieu of the turkey. Here is the link to the recipe.