Dec 30, 2007

She: Divinity

Okay. I'm not giving the recipe here, because this recipe or this candy in general is TOO MUCH WORK. And thats saying something, coming from me. But this is a creamy vanilla treat we would get during christmas from my Grandmother. I've been trying this dish for the last few years, and this is the first time I've gotten it right! So I had to post an image to my family. As proof.

Now, if you're curious, I used the good old fashioned Betty Crocker recipe. I found out a couple of things: After whipping up my whites, I started pouring in the hard-ball sugar mix. At this point, once its all fluffy, you're supposed to start spooning it onto sheets. Well, mine was still so hot it made pancakes...until it cooled more by the end of the line. So I'd say disregard that part of the recipe, and let the sugar cool just a bit before spooning it out. At the end, I had my fluffy candy, but it was still sticky. It took two days to set in the fridge! That was where I went wrong every year before--I didn't wait long enough for it to set! So, hurrah for divinity.

Dec 15, 2007

He: Butter

Okay Brandy has been giving me a lot of crap lately. My head is just full of useful food information, that I could be sharing with the world. What do I usually do with it all? nothing. So this might be a boring post, but for those in the world that would like a little more information on what is actually happening with our foods, or how to pick out better will like this.
I was very slowly reading my way through this amazing book about food by Harold Mcgee who takes all of the scientific information that Alton Brown brings to you in Cliff's Notes form in the full unabridged dictionary form. This guy's work is the stuff of legend and requirement of any modern kitchen in the US. Let's get to the meat of things...or rather the fat of it.
Raw Cream butter--just as it sounds this is raw butter made with raw milk. Something that nobody in this country will find without the right teat to remove it I'm not going to bother to explain it (if you ever do find it...enjoy it while you can).
Sweet Cream Butter--The common stuff that you find all over the US. It's just pasteurized cream that has been turned into butter. Can be found salted and unsalted (the salted is usually less money because the salt makes it antimicrobial, and therefore extends shelf life). They are both at least 80% fat, and the rest is divided up between water and milk solids, and in the case of the antimicrobial one salt. Coincidentally, I NEVER buy salted butter...why buy something that is potentially old?
Cultured cream butter--Originally this was raw cream butter that is soured prior to being churned. Basically this is butter that has a more intense flavor and aroma....but since it's made from raw can't find it in this country. In Europe they make this by using a couple of methods, using the a bacterial culture that already has the flavor profile, and diacetyl that makes it more intense. This butter is great for eating raw, or for cooking in things that the flavor of the butter is greatly needed (croissants come to mind).
European-style butter--American creation that is meant to resemble European butter. The restaurant standard that comes to mind to me is Plugra...horrible name...good butter. Most of Europe has a standard that butter has to be at least 82% fat, so that is the standard that most of these 'boutique' American producers shoot for. Most of these producers tend to hit around 85% fat.
What does all of this really mean to you and your wallet? Well, if you're smart you will just buy standard unsalted sweet butter from whatever producer you like. The only times that you should even think about any of those crazy expensive butters (the stuff that you see at places like Whole Foods) is when you're working on pastries where there are only a few ingredients...places where the FLAVOR of butter is important to the final product. Brandy and I tend to do this when we do cakes and cookies...and every once in a while just for kicks.

Dec 6, 2007

She: Cupcake Craving

Last week we went to Cupcake Craving off Arden and Howe. We got the half dozen and brought them home for a sugar coma. We had the Smores, Lemon Boost, Cherry cake, Red Velvet and German Chocolate. The Smores was fabulous--chocolaty (iiif thats a word) and creamy. The German Chocolate was also decadent. Red Velvet? (shrug) I don't think red velvet is ever all that fantastic, but I was disappointed by the cherry cake. I wanted much more flavor! There are a few others in town I want to try out. For this place, the people were very friendly, the cakes were all super soft with nice icing, and anything chocolate is great, but I'd prefer more punch to their fruity flavors.

She: Pumpkin Cheesecake

I actually made two different cheesecakes for thanksgiving, but the pumpkin cheesecake was by far better. Infact, it didn't last for more than an hour. The whoooole thing. I got the recipe from "Joy of Baking." It wasn't the easiest recipe, but it was worth it. I added a few alteration, but they are minor.

First, the crust: I used a food processor and ground up a cup of ginger naps, cup of graham crackers and mixed that with 1 tb of sugar and 4 tbs of melted butter. I smashed all that down into the bottom of a springform pan. I then ground up some walnuts and sprinkled those ontop...that helps the crust from getting soggy later.

The cheesecake: Mix/grind the spices together and set aside (1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 nutmet, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp salt). On low speed, beat 1 lb cream cheese til smooth, then mix in 2/3c brown sugar and spices. Add 3 eggs, then add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup pumpkin puree. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl! Pour ontop the crust, and bake at 350F for 30 minutes, then reduce to 325F and bake for another 10 minutes. If you put a cake pan filled half with water at the bottom of the oven while it cooks, it'll help prevent cracks in the cheesecake.

Topping: Mix 1c sour cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4c sugar. Spoon the mix ontop of the bakes cheesecake and then return it to the oven for 8 minutes to set it. A nice tip Mark shared: if you need to put this in the fridge, you can spray some pam oil on a plastic sheet before you put it on the cheesecake--it keeps it from clinging to the dessert!