Thursday, January 29, 2015

But Baby, it's Cold Outside - Weekly Bread

Here's the thing about food writing that gets to me most, first off, it's not the food. I love food. I have since before I could talk. The joke was that my first word was, in fact, a sentence: 'Mother, would you please pass the chicken?' 
The passion has far from abated.

Is it the writing, perhaps the regular blog schedule? Eh, the devil-may-care approach to schedules has suited me well enough- and I'll write, how I write, when I want to write.
Simply put, it's food photography. Once the dish is done, I want to eat it. I don't want to fuss with it, make it pretty, or god forbid- style it. There was a time that I would've said, to hell with the minutia, except that I've been known to fuss over pixels in a portrait for hours. I know where passion is involved, the devil and I hold hands while attending the details. That's two devil references, just in case you're counting.
Look, I'm not going to rant, I am, however, going to fight back a little bit. In my absentee year and some change, I haven't stopped cooking. I certainly haven't stopped baking. I'm a conceptual portraiture photographer that's also going to learn how to take pictures of food that aren't stiflingly claustrophobic. With any luck, it'll get a bit surreal. If I slap a bamboo plant next to a dish and call it a day, you have permission to smack me upside the head. I hit back though.

That said: You may recognize this kitchen towel and these somewhat claustrophobic compositions. The lighting's a little better though.
Shall we begin?

I got a bread machine because a friend inspired/seduced me by putting ingredients into a little metal box, then walking away for a few hours and being rewarded with fluffy, steaming bread. Also, because once it's no longer summer, the kitchen thermostat is cemented at 52° F, and only that 'warm' so the pipes won't freeze. It is an inhospitable tundra for same day bread making.
Personally, I think bread machines are wonderful. If you're a purist, well you should know by now that you're reading the wrong damn blog.

I modded this recipe from King Arthur, because they're nothing if not a legit baking source. 

Oatmeal Pecan Bread (2 LB loaf- go big)

1 cup water (Plus up to a half cup during the mix cycle, added a tablespoon at a time)
1/3 cup coconut milk
4 Tblsp coconut oil (mine was solid bc again, 52°)
2 Tbslp brown sugar
2 Tblsp maple syrup
1 cup rolled oats - plus 1/2 cup rolled oats ground into a flour (food processor, blender, spice mill- whatever medieval oat torture device floats your boat)
2.5 cups bread flour
2.5 tsp active dry yeast (I use Red Star to no bad end)
1.5 tsp salt
A fist full of Pecans, reserve for after the kneading cycle

Here's where you add the ingredients into your bread machine in an oddly specific order (Liquids, sugar, flour, yeast that mustn't touch the water for some reason) I don't know if I buy it, but I do it because it's all I know. I'm not crazy about not letting the yeast come in contact with the water first- I do think that part's BS.

Now even though I said you can slap the ingredients in there and walk away, you can't. Everybody lies. Watch this puppy mix. If it starts to look sick and sad, get in there and coach it along like it was your own personal Balboa. Sprinkle in some water if it's too dry, if you get too enthusiastic with that, dust in a bit more flour. Get your hands in there mix it if it's being pathetic, make amusing sounds as you avoid the mixing paddle. Call me, we can compare and contrast sounds for best results. You'll know it's ready when it's pulled around the baking pan in a taut, round....ball. Your machine may have an alert for when the strenuous kneading cycle is done, and you can add mix-ins. Mine, for instance, beeps just loud enough to scare you from any damned part of the house you're in, and for long enough to make you grumble more than Yosemite Sam (tm). That's where you add your pecans, by the way.

I baked this- hah, I can't say I baked this - I pushed some buttons for 'white loaf', 2lb, and 'light crust'. Then I buggered off for about 3 or 4 hours to play Super Mario 3 and be really critical of how I used to be awesome at this and there's clearly something wrong with this remote.

The scent wafting from my frigid kitchen soon reminded me of the product of my 'efforts' 

Told you that kitchen towel would be familiar. How're the oats on the side? That doin' it for ya?

Here, check out the crust:

Clearly, I have to re-bake the birthday chocolate bread recipe from a couple weeks ago and do some surrealist antics with the photos, because I'm off to a cracking start here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The North! Food Festival and Kammerjunker

NORTH Festival

This is a SPONSORED POST brought to you by Honest Cooking and the NORTH Festival 

Honest Cooking will be teaming up with Restaurant Aquavit and the International Culinary Center (ICC) for the first ever New York City Nordic food festival, NORTH. NORTH will take place Wednesday, October 2 through Monday, October 7 with the majority of events being held at the ICC in SoHo. Offering classes, hosting talks with local chefs, and of course, the food. The festival is sure to be a delicious education.

Most of my knowledge of Nordic cuisine comes from PBS, specifically the program New Scandinavian Cooking on their ‘Create’ station (which I miss dearly, Comcast) With their infectiously happy and gregarious hosts, cooking outdoors in beautiful, if not blustery surroundings, the inherent magic of the North is hard to deny. I was tasked to immerse myself into, specifically, the Danish food culture. What I found was that inherently, Danish food does not really cater to vegetarians or vegans. While more restaurants are popping up in Denmark, offering options in the form of innovative tacos and curries; Danish vegetarian (vegetar) cuisine seems at its roots, a bit Spartan. What I can always rely on, however, are baked goods; as this blog dicatates quite clearly, I eat them for morgenmad (breakfast), frokost (lunch), and middag (dinner).

From  rich cakes like Othellolagkage (Literally Othello cake with layers of macaroon, marzipan, and ganache), to the tantalizing donut-like æbleskiver, to holiday pebernødder, I am definitely at home with Danish sweets.
When I came across kammerjunkers, I felt a kindred spirit. The kammerjunker, and yes I'm going to say it like it's today's magic word, is a biscuit like cookie that is twice baked. Ring any bells to you? Kammerjunker may very well be the Danes answer to biscotti, bringing them even closer to my Italian heart. Typically, kammerjunker are found in a dish called koldskål (containing milk, buttermilk, and yogurt) for breakfast. While anything in a bowl and covered in milk is defined as breakfast, I chose a different route with my abundance of peaches, and made a jam to match.

Kammerjunker (say it with me now)

2.5 cups Flour
1 Tblsp Baking powder
3/4 tsp Ground cardemom
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
 7 Tblsp Earth Balance (cold and cut into chunks)
1/3 cup Coconut milk
2 tsp Vanilla paste (or extract)

Preheat your oven to 350° F.
This is not your standard pastry method, or even creaming method. Dump the flour, baking powder, cardemom, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl, and mix to incorporate everything.
To this, add your earth balance and work into the dough, until you get a pebbly consistency.  
Once you're there add your coconut milk and vanilla to form a somewhat sticky dough.
Form into ping-pong sized balls on a lined baking sheet. If you want a softer end product, make them more toward the golf ball side of the spectrum, as such.

Bake these for 10 minutes, then remove and set aside. You now want to cut the kammerjunkers in half while they're still warm. Wait until you can handle them without them falling apart, or you'll be forced to eat the evidence. By no means do you have to explain an uneven number of tops to bottoms.

This picture is definitely cropped to give the appearance that I did not decimate the batch.  Symmetry is important.

Lower the oven to 200° F and continue to cook the kammerjunkers, cut side down, for 45 minutes to dry them out further.

The cookies do not get as hard as biscotti per se,  and have almost a scone-like quality to them. They pair marvelously with say, some:

Farmer's Market Peach Jam
3 Peaches, peeled and diced
1/4 inch of fresh ginger, grated, or 1/4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup Strong brewed Earl Grey tea

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat on medium. When the sugar begins to melt, keep your eye on it! This sucker likes to froth like nobody's business.

Let this reduce until you get the consistency you want. I let mine go on medium low heat, with monitoring and stirring, while the kammerjunk baked. 

The end result is a sophisticated breakfast treat. Faintly spiced, crunchy, but not too crunchy, and delicious.

 Want to get a bit more decadent? You can also fill them with:


1/2 cup Semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Coconut milk (hot)
Pinch of salt

Place the chocolate chips and salt in a heatproof bowl. Heat the coconut milk in the microwave, or on stove top if you feel fancy, until very hot and steamy. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chocolate, steep for a moment, then stir stir stir until it comes together in glossy goodness. You can use it as is, or refrigerate for a truffle-like consistency on your kammerjunkers.

In short: Kammerjunkers,  gateway into the world of Danish sweets. There is much to choose from and enjoy, and even more to learn about the North! We hope to see you there!
Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sangria Cake, a Tailored Birthday Cake

Predominantly, birthday cakes tend to be a chocolate/vanilla, or both sort of an affair. People tend to sit on one side of that fence, though a few of us straddle it happily. When it comes to flavors, I for one, am all for duplicity, or even triplicity. Why stop at two when you can melodiously have three? Last year, when told a friend of mine was having a birthday, I wanted to tailor the cake specifically to what I knew about her. This fun culinary experiment happily founded Hungryface's bakery with, the Tea Cake. So when my sister in-law's birthday rolled around, I compiled a list of applicable themes, but one stuck out. Sangria cake. It's a tasty beverage, it's got fruit, why the heck not?
 Well, for one thing, the final product looks akin to something you'd find in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean; a sleeping leviathan laying in wait for an errant diver to come within range. Though in this case, you devour it, before it devours you.

Steel yourself for this one, and your bravery will be rewarded. If people are deterred, you'll simply have more for yourself. Suckers.
Taking some of my aforementioned Crispy Green bounty, I used a combination of freeze dried fruits, and an inexpensive Spanish red and went to work.

Sleeping Leviathan/Sangria Cake

1.5 cups Flour
1/2 cup  Almond meal
1 tsp Salt
1Tablspoon Baking powder 
1/2 tsp Baking soda
3/4 cup Coconut oil (melted)
1 and 1/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Red wine
1/2 cup Coconut milk
2 tsp Vanilla
Freeze dried fruit (Peaches, strawberries, pear, apple- whichever you like)

Preheat your oven to 350°F 
Combine your flour, almond meal, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl.  
In a large mixing bowl, add your sugar, melted coconut oil, wine, vanilla, and coconut milk, and stir until well combined.
Add your flour mixture to the wet mixture in batches.
When just combined, stir in your freeze dried fruit.
Pour into a 9 inch cake pan that's been greased or lined, and bake for 30-40 minutes; or until an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean.

The results are dark and mysterious, punctuated by bright, now chewy fruits.

To ease my guests and the birthday girl into this delight, I whipped up a simple glaze of powdered sugar and extra wine.

There! Perfectly presentable!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Enjoy Everything

I've been thinking about this for a long time, likely years. Maybe I do struggle to maintain a positive outlook, but I console myself with the fact that I do struggle, rather than submitting to the alternative. It wasn't until I had a conversation with a co-worker that the dimmest of light bulbs illuminated weakly in my brain, and I'm still trying to grasp the depth of it.  We started talking about the convention of summer-weight sweaters, something that's always confounded me, but is useful in corporate casual dress. Most people get cold in the office a/c, but I prefer it cold, to which she responds:
'Oh, I love the summer. I love the hot, sticky, sweaty heat of it. It's what summer is supposed to be. I also love the winter, when it gets cold and you can cuddle up in blankets and sweaters. '
Momentarily dumbfounded, I realize: 'That's the best outlook I've ever heard. Thank you.'
It was simple, it was straight forward, it was flat-out obvious, and it was still amazing.
Enjoy everything.
I wish five days of the week away in favor of the all too brief two that never live up to the expectation and weight that I put on them. I live a life so far out of balance, but I don't have to. I started this food blog to keep my creativity alive, to keep my love of food and writing fresh. When that started to dwindle, I started Hungryface bakery, and became a contributor to other food related websites. While it's important, it's not enough to only focus on the things you love, then you may miss out on the whole picture. Largely, the lesson isn't what you want to hear; it's the good and the bad. Sure, this is kind of psych 101, sitcom opening theme song bullshit, but you don't really think of it. There is probably no way to write this that doesn't sound cheesy or heavy-handed, so I'll be as honest as I can.
I had a hard quarter. Hell, few quarters. I missed some obvious things. I made a bunch of mistakes. I hated my life, and then I started giving in to hating everything. I watched the sun rise for the last three weeks with a furrowed brow and grim slate mask of a face; but during those three weeks I watched the sun rise. I sang in my car. I had time to think, be alone, listen to what I wanted, belt out a tune without being judged or shy (and my goodness I have some pipes on me) I saw the stars before they faded, that intense blue just before dawn. All of those things alone are beautiful. So you're a little sleepy, you're supposed to be! Anyone who's chirpy at sunrise should not be trusted (and I say that wryly) Take the time took at what you're seeing, you may never see it again.
It's not easy to find the good, or even the modicum of importance, in all things, but it may be the most worthwhile thing. The rain feels good on my head. Today nothing hurts. It took me twenty minutes to recognize someone I worked with for at least two years, but in the end, I recognized him. I had a really good meal in an unexpected place with the person I love. I learned something new, even if I didn't want to. I made a mistake, but now I know how to avoid it in the future. I can ask questions instead of just saying yes. I can say no. I love saying no.
I can brown pseudo-butter then infuse that pseudo-butter with basil, then mix that into blueberry cookies.

Going to play for the work BBQ? Put your all into it! Going to take photos of it? Make sure you capture the dedication they played with.

I got a bunch of ash in my hair, but got some pretty cool pictures out of it.

I drive past this most days. I finally stopped to take pictures of it. It's has been decaying for a while, and slowly taken apart- but look at it.

Cause it's pretty freaking cool, in its own transient way.

Did you know a lot pine is edible? What does it taste like?

Kind of citrus-y as it turns out. Something unplaceable, but not at all as abrasive as you would think. Make your own extract and put it in the background of a peach and almond cake, you've got something pretty damned unique.

If you take too many self portraits, fuck it! Take some more. Play around, do something weird. Do whatever the hell you want.

Sure this is obvious at times- but what if it needs to be? What if that's what gets the wheels turning onto something bigger? What if that's the momentum you need to pull yourself out of your well worn rut? Well then it's worth it. Every little thing. Every stupid bump and stumble is worth it. Take what you can and move on, but enjoy everything. You don't have to be a sickening ray of sunshine, but you can swelter with the best of them, grab an icy beverage, put on your swank sunglasses, and enjoy the hell out of it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Key Lime Challenge, Hell is Full of Tiny Limes

Hell is full of tiny limes. At first you may look upon them as these green jewels that promise you that coveted tart and tangy goodness, but soon you realize, the seeds. The SEEDS.
Have I learned my lesson from sour cherry pie? Obviously not. So when my husband's boss challenged me to make key lime bars for her vegan-disdaining family, how could I resist? My pride will eventually be my downfall; but not today. Not today.

First, you have to find the damned things, which proved more difficult than I originally thought.  I found blood oranges through cherimoyas, but no  key limes. I'm not going to call something Key Lime if it isn't made with key limes, there is some honor left in me after all. Mind you, I have no qualms about using regular ol' limes in this; but then I'm going to call it: Regular ol' Lime Bars.  After I was finally able to procure them (thanks, husband) I was able to begin the task at hand.

For these bars, I used a shortbread cookie crust that I cut with lime zest/juice. You can use your favorite cookie or pastry crust here, but I won't divulge my own. A girl has to have some secrets.

Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Go find your favorite base, dock it with a fork, bake it in a 13X9" pan until just under done, then round up the following:

Key Lime Bars

1/2 cup Key Lime or Regular ol' Lime juice (don't be disingenuous) 
Zest of about 8 Key Limes, or 3 Regular ol' Limes
1 cup of Raw Cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours (until soft) in water
1 and 1/3 cup Sugar
2 Tblsp Coconut Cream
1 Tblsp Cornstarch 

First things first, if you haven't already, start soaking your cashews in enough water to cover. This can go from 2 hours, to overnight if you're that organized. This is a useful component when you want to make a custard, but you don't feel like using tofu, or have soy allergies. We've used it in the past for coconut creme pie as well.  When you can squeeze them and they crumble, you're good to go.
Now if you chose key limes, you get put to task. See all these tiny cute things? 

Don't be fooled! Each of these is at least 80% seeds. Grab a comfy chair, and put on some good background telly; you're going to be here for a while. If you chose regular limes, high five! You don't get to use the elitist name of key lime, but you also miss out on most, if not all, of the seeds.

What have we learned? Invest in juicing equipment of some sort. My set up was not very sophisticated, and brute strength is not the best juicer.  Also, try not to zest your hands off.
Once your cashews are ready, take all of your ingredients (cashews, lime zest/juice, sugar, coconut cream, and cornstarch) to your food processor or blender and blend the hell out of it.

Blend it so hard. I mean, we want a smooth filling here, so taste to make sure no solid cashew pieces remain. A word on coconut cream: where I am, the local Trader Joe's sells cans of it. It's fantastic, thick bordering on solid, and rich like nobody's business. If you can't find it on its own, refrigerate a can of full fat coconut milk the night before, and skim the top of the solid goodness from there. 
Pour your smooth filling over your shortbread/cookie base.

In your 350° F oven, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until custard is set. Once cooled, cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar and extra lime zest, if you're fancy like that.
I did that for the husband's boss, but for me? I'm eating them before they've even cooled.

That first bite is what I like to call: Baker's tax.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Introducing your Salad to the Skillet, a Warmed Brussels Sprout Salad

My fridge has two phases, and only two phases. It is either a ghost town, containing only a few sparse items that I don't even remember purchasing; or stuffed to the gills, where it's impossible to find that one ingredient you're looking for, but here, have some buffalo style eggs, because that's a thing that exists. I'm convinced I have a phantom shopper, a bizarrely sadistic phantom shopper at that.
This weekend was one of those sparse phases, and I was left with some carrots, a bag of Brussels sprouts (season schmeason) and an interesting frozen blend of farro and red rice that I'd been wanting to play with. You can use any frozen/fresh grain variety you'd like. Cooked spelt berries would work nicely here, but even barely or a brown rice would do. Hell, you can even break out the couscous, but we all know that's not a grain. Since Brussels Sprouts are secretly part of the cabbage family, you could sub them out for kale or Napa cabbage. Flexibility is a beautiful thing.

Now I'm all for salads, especially with farmer's market season just opening up, but I wanted to jazz it up a little bit. Sure, salads are usually healthy, but why don't we toss a fried element in there for the heck of it? Fried things. Don't fight it. Embrace it.

Warmed Brussels Sprout Salad

1 cup Brussels Sprouts
2 large carrots
1 Spring onion or Scallion
2 cups of your favorite grain blend (Spelt berries, farro, brown rice)
Juice of one Lime
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance
Pistachios (optional)
Salt/Pepper to taste

Prep your veggies first. Cut the root ends off of your sprouts and discard. Shred the sprouts and set aside for later. 
Peel your carrots. Once the outer skin is gone, peel the flesh until you get to the cores (you'll notice the color change in the center) Set your ribbons aside.
Chop up your onion or scallion, while you're at it.
Cook your grain blend to package directions, or be a hero and do it from scratch. I'm an anti-hero, I microwaved mine and was done in two minutes. Who's laughing now?
Combine your grain, carrots, and onions in your serving bowl and mix thoroughly.
In a large heavy skillet, melt your earth balance over medium high heat. Yes, you could use olive oil, but I like the richness that the Earth Balance adds here.
Once melted, toss in the shredded sprouts and salt/pepper them to taste.
Leave them be for a few minutes, until they brown a little bit, then hit them with the juice of one lime; De-glazing style. See what we're doing here? The pseudo-butter acts as the oil, and the lime juice acts as the acid component/vinegar. We're dressing the salad in one fell swoop.
Pour the hot contents of the pan over your grain mixture, and combine.
I became obsessed with having seeds/nuts in my salad years ago, so I add pistachios here. I regret nothing.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Simple Taste of Springtime

Peas are a rare treat that remind you, after a month or two of indecision, that it's finally spring time. They have a short window of sweet goodness to grasp at, so when I see them I snatch them up.  The one thing I always seem to forget is, no matter how cute the little suckers are, no matter how sweet, you still have to shell the darn things.  Like pitting sour cherries, or juicing key limes, it's the seasonal treat you love, and love to hate. So pull up a chair, and get set to mutter at these sassafrassing good fer nothin' tasty treats, because you only get so long to do so.
I know you can buy them already shelled, but I like to pretend there's a certain freshness you gain on the journey from pod to pea (though I've got nothing to back that one up)
No soup here, but a spread, and a darned simple and tasty one. Do yourself a favor first, spring on some fancy bread. I don't want to see any bargain brand white defacing your table when only something artisanal, or at least multigrain, will do. Personally, I picked up some million grain/seed bread at the year round New Haven Farmer's market (Sono Bakery)

Of course, I'll gnaw on the stuff the whole ride home too, but whatever was left I slathered with this green goodness. You can easily scale this recipe up, depending on both your bounty, and patience for shelling the things.

Spring Peas, If you Please
1 cup Shelled peas 
1/3 cup Hazelnuts 
1 Tablespoon Fresh lemon juice
5 Leaves or so of Fresh mint
Extra virgin olive oil to combine
Salt/Pepper to taste

I tried a fork, a foodmill, and then resigned myself to food processor. Fresh peas are nothing if not resilient. Combine the peas, hazelnuts, lemon juice, mint, and salt/pepper in the food processor and get to whizzing. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while running until a cohesive paste forms. You can add more, depending on the consistency you want. I left mine a  paste chunky enough to stand up to the bread.

Rustic, verdant, and literally easy peasy. Celebrate the soon to open farmer's markets/farm stands (so exciting!) without even having to turn on your oven, or break a sweat.