Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers tackle a Croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

For the recipes, head on over to the daring kitchen and give it a try!

I really enjoyed this daring bakers challenge. I was so happy that it was something I could accomplish in just under a couple of hours too! I baked off the profiteroles, and whipped up some pastry cream in the evening, then made caramel and constructed the croquembouche the next day.

It felt like a very fancy dessert, the techniques are classic but simple and I'll definitely be trying to perfect my technique by making this again soon!

I did find that the dough was way too runny, you can see my profiteroles just spreading on the baking sheet, I think my eggs must have been bigger than the ones used in the original recipe. I also think that milk is a nice addition instead of water, these were extremely eggy pastries! After reading some of the comments it seems I was not alone. I'll be using another recipe in the future.

The pastry cream came together nice and quick, my only change was omitting the sugar and adding a can of dulce de leche for a delicious spin on classic pastry cream.

The really tricky part was the assembly. I dipped each pastry into the molten caramel to construct and ended up with a few little burns on my finger. Any attempt to use tools resulted in a big mess. I think maybe constructing layer by layer would result in a safer construction, and also a little less caramel, these were difficult to eat with a thick layer of caramel on them!

Thanks so much for the challenge, I will definitely be revisiting this one!

If anyone has any advice for playing with spun sugar, I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Soups Stocks and Sauces, another Grossmont College Class

I just thought I'd talk a little about the class I've been doing every Tuesday evening with chef Kim at Grossmont College. Its called 'Soups, Stocks and Sauces' which sounds a little dry, but it really is the foundation for all other cooking.

It was an extremely enjoyable class, made even more enjoyable by my team, we were all a little older, and really wanted to do our best, so we were always very happy with our dishes.

The class started with a lot of boiling of bones to make stocks. This wasnt so interesting for me as a vegetarian, but it was useful to know the principles in case I do ever plunge back into a truly omnivorous diet again.

We moved onto reductions, vegetable stocks and soups, and then some tomato sauces.

There was an investigation into the fine art of making a roux, and we made white, blond and brown roux and then used it in various applications.

Next were healthy hot and cold soups, some delicious vichysoisse, gazpacho and curried soups.

We explored chowders and bisques.

Then came the tricky hollandaise and beurre blanc. Divine but scary to see the amount of butter in there!

It was really fun to delve so deeply into flavors and seasonings and to test our palletes against other peoples, and to learn these basic techniques. The complete snob in me was excited to be officialy educated in 'the mother sauces' so I can sound all poncy at any chosen occasion!

I will definitely keep some of the things I learned in class close to hand, many of the reductions we made were truly delicious and add a depth of flavor that will be really useful for my cooking, in particular some of the reductions we did.

If anyone is interested in signing up for any classes then pop on over to the Grossmont College website. Classes fill up almost immediately and there are some pre-requisites. This class required you to take 'Basic Culinary' which is another reason why it is so pleasant, everyone in the class had already been through a semester of knife skills, breaking down chickens and general classes.

The last picture is our final exam. We made consomme, beurre blanc, red pepper coulis, a corn chowder and hollandaise sauce and we aced it with an A!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cupcakes cupcakes!

I thought I'd share some truly delicious cupcakes I've been creating recently. They arent terribly intricate or new recipes but I thought they were truly delicious combinations that I might mention.

The first is a black forest cupcake. I took my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, from 'Confetti Cakes' by Elise Strauss. Its lovely and moist and rich from the sour cream.

I found some tart morello cherries in a jar at Trader Joes, scooped out the middle of the cupcakes and popped a couple in. A little drizzle of kirsch would probably go well here too. I then whipped some cream with a little sugar and topped the cakes with delicious valhrona pearls, chopped almonds and a sour dried cherry.

I think I'll be using more whipped cream toppings, its a lot lighter than buttercream and I much prefer the flavor. The only down side is its not as durable or long lasting, the cakes really need to be gobbled up in a few hours.

The other delicious cupcake I wanted to share was a chocolate hazelnut praline cupcake, I took the same delicious, moist chocolate cupcake, took a little scoop out, then popped a little nutella in the middle. I then topped with a praline buttercream, which is a little bit of a pain to make, but seriously the most delicious buttercream I've ever tried! The praline buttercream recipe comes from one of our daring bakers challenge from the filbert gateau, which was a truly delicious treat!

With such a decadent filling, I usAdd Imageed a little lighter touch to pipe the buttercream with a new technique.

The third cupcake I've made recently is a lighter one too, a guava chiffon cake, I adapted from a strawberry chiffon cake on Jen's website , just subsituting guava for strawberries. I filled with a strawberry and topped with just a little vanilla buttercream for people who want something on the lighter side. With strawberry season upon us, this is a delightful summer treat.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fish Taco Tour!!

What a fun way to spend an afternoon! The folks from Chevy have a really fun program where they collect a bunch of local food bloggers and writers and go on a tour of the towns 'best of'. Other fun events have included street food in San Francisco and cupcakes in LA.

We were treated to the best fish tacos in San Diego, lots of fun!

We were also shown the range of the chevy vehicles and encouraged to drive them. I was a bit scared to be honest, but I wish I'd given the 'bitchin camero' a go, it did look very cool! They were all fun as a passenger, although I did have a hard time climbing in the giant suburban!

We were also shown the 'On star' system which was pretty cool. It would be nice to know if I ever got in a bad scrape that I would just press a button and there is someone there, or automatically if the airbags deploy.

Here is the very fun sdhipmomma driving the suburban!

Our first stop was at South Beach Bar and Grill. The boys seemed to think this was the best, it was certainly the biggest and there was lots of flavor!

It was pretty rowdy and crowded in there too!!

We then made our way over to Shelter Island and the San Diego institution, the Brigantine. They only have one type of taco, the pollock fried taco, and that came in a corn tortilla (the only one of the trip).

This looked like a nice restaurant, somewhere I would love to bring my grandma, with a lovely patio with the nice cool breeze.

The third destination, Bluewater Grill, was the busiest and they werent able to seat us, so we went 'street style' and had our tacos out with the vehicles. This was my favourite, the tortilla was freshly toasted, and the salad tasted clean with a marinated mahi mahi.

Appetites flagging, we headed over to the World Famous in PB. The view is just stunning, right on the beach, and you cant beat that! The tacos were ok, we had a fried shrimp and fried fish, and after all that fried food, I was pretty full, so maybe didnt give it my best shot.

I'd certainly be happy to visit any of those places again, and it was really fun to meet more San Diego foodies, and to be re-acquainted with others. I dont have that many 'foodie' friends, so its nice to sit with a bunch of people and not feel like a freak when discussing fine details of a particular cuisine.
After chatting to Caron Golding and Candice Wu, I reminded myself I must get more involved with the Slow Food movement, and actually try and show up to some of their wonderful events. I also have a long list of restaurants to try!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Roasted Veggies, Halloumi and Bulgar

This is one of my favourite dishes, and better still, it gets the husband approval. Its also healthy, which is great, lots of whole grains. Although I'll try and tap out a recipe, its extremely adaptable to whatever you have on hand. I make a variation most weeks based on some sort of grain, eg rice, bulgar, pearl barley, quinoa, random roasted veggies, some sort of bean, and lots of flavor.

This time I used a delicious bulgar wheat product that I found in north park produce. It cooked up pretty quickly, maybe 15 minutes. I put a teaspoon of better than bouillon in there for flavor. Meanwhile, I had some diced veggies which I roasted up. This time there were red peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini and onions.

I fried some cubes of halloumi cheese(also available at north park produce, somewhat similar to paneer, doesnt melt like regular cheese), chopped olives an avocado and some parsley.
I dumped everything in a bowl, then deglazed the roasting pans with a little white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice to balance everything out. mmmmm