Sweet Souffle, Savory Souffle


Okay, first things first. I know that “souffle” should actually be “soufflé”, but I can’t be bothered to type out “é” every single time I write souffle, so it will be souffle all the way down. Feel free to pronounce it “sooh-ffull” instead of “sew-flay” if you like.

Souffle is a kind of fluffy puffy egg custard dish. Fluffy and puffy, kind of like how you would become if you ate too many souffles. Many recipes I researched began with the caveat “souffles are known for how difficult they are to make, but actually, they’re easy!” That’s true to some extent. I failed in souffle making twice before I finally got it down. Once it was down, it’s fairly easy. As with all tricky dishes, there are a few key details that you should pay attention to, but as long as those details are taken care of, everything else is fairly forgiving.

Also, if this is your first time making souffles, I recommend that you try the chocolate recipe first. It is simpler, uses less ingredients, and will save you extra frustration if you need to try the recipe multiple times.

Before you begin, you WILL need an electric mixer (hand held is fine), and a few straight-walled ramekins. The recipes are made for 6 oz ramekins.

Case I: Chocolate Souffle

Thanks to practice, I no longer have trouble

Thanks to practice, I no longer have trouble “getting it up” when I need to.

Adapted from “The Joy of Cooking” cookbook
Cook & Prep Time: 30 minutes
Serves 3
Ingredients:

2 fresh eggs
3 oz semi/bitter-sweet chocolate
3 tbs butter + more for buttering ramekins
1 tbsp rum, coffee, or water
2 tbs sugar + 2 tbs sugar*
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

*If you have castor sugar (ultrafine) or powdered sugar, use that instead. Granulated sugar will also work. More details below on the practical differences.

Cooking

Begin by separating the yolk from the whites of the eggs. Keep each in their own separate container. You will need both but at different times. Heat a medium to large-sized pan or pot of water to just below simmer. You want the water to be hot, but not simmering. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C).

Try doing this with a human period, huh? Chickens are clearly superior in this aspect.

Try doing this with a human period, huh? Chickens are clearly superior in this aspect.

Combine the three tablespoons of butter, rum, and chocolate in a small bowl. Hold the bowl over the hot water and whisk until everything is silky and combined. Try not to let the bowl touch the water. Once everything is melted and combined, set the chocolate aside to cool for ten minutes.

COVER YOUR EYES CHILDREN! THIS ISN'T WHAT FOOD SHOULD LOOK LIKE!

COVER YOUR EYES CHILDREN! THIS ISN’T WHAT FOOD SHOULD LOOK LIKE!

Bring your bowl of egg whites over the hot water for a minute or two, swirling the contents so as to not cook the whites. You want to sort of bring the whites to room temperature-ish before beating it. When the chocolate has been cooling for 5 minutes, start beating your egg whites. Beat it on medium until it is foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks, and then slowly drizzle in your sugar. The less fine your sugar, the slower you should drizzle it. If you have granulated sugar, you want to add the two tablespoons over the course of an entire minute so as not to kill the foam. You are basically making a meringue, which forms the foamy structure of the souffle.

Like light, puffy, sweet clouds, with a small chance of salmonella.

Like light, puffy, sweet clouds, with a small chance of salmonella.

Continue to beat your meringue on medium until it has formed stiff (but not dry) peaks. Use a rubber spatula to move 1/3 of this meringue mixture into the container with melted chocolate and stir to combine. Dump the chocolate/meringue mixture back into the bulk of the meringue and fold everything together, being gentle so as not to kill all the air bubbles that were beaten into the egg whites. Brush the insides of the ramekins thoroughly with softened butter and dust the insides with sugar (again, castor sugar is preferred, but granulated is fine). Fill each ramekin to the brim with the chocolate mixture and swipe off any excess with a straight-edged utensil. Run your thumb along the inside rim of the souffle to carve out a shallow valley around the edge; this will allow your souffle to rise straight up (credit to Gordon Ramsay for this method). Bake for 10 minutes.

It's brown mesa, Black Mesa's edible and less dangerous cousin.

It’s brown mesa, Black Mesa’s edible and less dangerous cousin.

Top with chocolate shavings and/or whipped cream if available. Serve immediately. Souffles do not keep and will deflate very quickly after cooking, so plan accordingly.

Case II: Spinach, Shrimp, and Gruyere Souffle

They call me puff daddy.

They call me puff daddy.

Prep & Cook time: 45 min
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 fresh eggs
1.5 tbs all-purpose flour
1.5 tbs butter, plus more for brushing
3/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt
3-4 medium-sized shrimp
1 cup raw spinach, packed
4 tbs gruyere cheese, grated*
2 tbsp cooking oil
3 tablespoons bread crumbs

*Yeah yeah it’s “gruyère” I know.

Cooking

The process begins a lot like the sweet souffle: separate your egg whites and yolks and reserve both. Place your butter into a small pot over medium-low heat. Melt the butter, taking care not to let it brown. Add your flour.

This is like, food porn as in the food version of porn that features your grandma. Just a friendly reminder that not all porn is created equal.

This is like, food porn as in the food version of porn that features your grandma. Just a friendly reminder that not all porn is created equal.

Generally speaking, most savory souffles follow a very simple guideline: cheese and egg yolks are stirred into a bechamel sauce which is in turn combined with a meringue along with whatever solid food objects, which is then baked in a similar fashion as a sweet souffle.

Cook the flour and butter for a while, being careful not to let it brown. If anything starts to turn brown or yellow, turn the heat down and remove the mixture from heat temporarily to cool it down. After a few minutes, slowly whisk in the milk. Let cook for 3-4 more minutes until the mixture thickens. Add nutmeg and white pepper, set aside to cool for about ten minutes.

If we use the Louis C.K. analogy of the Cinnabon being the

If we use the Louis C.K. analogy of the Cinnabon being the “fat faggot treat“, this would be the hot cum.

Heat another saute pan on high heat. Add your cooking oil. When the oil begins to smoke, saute your spinach until cooked, about a minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add your shrimp (chopped into tiny pieces beforehand) and saute until just cooked, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Pre-heat your oven to 350F (176C).

When the spinach is sufficiently cooled to handle, squeeze the juice out of it and chop into small pieces. Set aside. Now, take out your gruyere and either grate or finely chop 4 tablespoons. Add both the cheese and the egg yolks to the bechamel while stirring rapidly. The stirring will help ensure your egg yolk does not cook upon touching the bechamel. Stir until the cheese is melted.

Do you see that fucking pricetag? Ugh. Real imported gruyere. I spent like 5 minutes just standing in front of the cheese section thinking about it before buying the smallest block I could find. Traumatized for life.

Do you see that fucking pricetag? Ugh. Real imported gruyere. I spent like 5 minutes just standing in front of the cheese section thinking about it before buying the smallest block I could find. Traumatized for life.

Now start beating the egg whites for the meringue. This time, add nothing except a pinch of salt once the meringue has reached soft peaks. Beat until stiff. Add 1/4 of this mixture to the bechamel. Mix to incorporate. Then, dump the bechamel back into the meringue along with the spinach and shrimp. Fold to incorporate. Brush the inside of two ramekins with softened butter and dust with bread crumbs.

You can also use grated parmesan. I don't have parmesan.

You can also use grated parmesan. I don’t have parmesan.

Pour the batter in, swipe the excess off the top with a flat utensil, and make a valley around the rim with your thumb as per the sweet souffle. Bake for about 18 minutes, until souffle has risen and is golden brown on the top. Top with shaved cheese and serve immediately.

Eat too many of these and you might souffle off your mortal coil.

Eat too many of these and you might souffle off your mortal coil.

Conclusion
Before I started this project, I remember thinking “who in the world would ever make a savory souffle? Well, in reality the savory souffle is just as good (if not better!) than the sweet souffle. It is warm, rich, creamy, and the light texture completely masks how heavy the dish actually is until you realize that you are suddenly full from having eaten such a small dish. A master stroke dish that is perfect as the first course of a three course meal.

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Bootleg Snickers


Bootleg? That’s right, but not illegal. The thing about food is that there isn’t really such thing as piracy. In fact, people (even chefs of famous restaurants) actually share many of their recipes with the world, and you can freely recreate the exact dish provided the resources and skill. Of course, not all recipes are shared, especially branded mass-marketed foods such as Snickers. The recipes for these types of food (and others like it such as Coca Cola) are very closely guarded secrets. That’s where some unscrupulous (and Chinese) bastard such as myself comes into the picture. This isn’t an exact recipe for Snickers per se, but a close approximation that is good and easy to make to boot.

Ingredients

Unfortunately my recipe doesn't include exotic ingredients such as calcium benzoate or xanthene gum or whatever the fuck the real Snickers has. Feel free to add it on your own time though.

Unfortunately my recipe doesn’t include exotic ingredients such as calcium benzoate or xanthene gum or whatever the fuck the real Snickers has. Feel free to add it on your own time though.

Prep and Wait time: 2 hrs
Serves Many

You will also need: two pots, one of them NOT non-stick, a wooden spoon or chopsticks, a sheet pan, parchment paper.

1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 cups (1 12 oz bag) semi-sweet chocolate
1 12 oz can of roasted peanuts
2 tbsp vegetable shortening (not shown in pic)*
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cream
3 tbsp water

*Vegetable shortening only. Do not replace with any other type of oil such as butter or lard or vegetable oil.

Assembly

If you have read any of my other blogs, you’ve probably seen me make caramel a couple of times. Well, here it is again! There’s a new trick this time though, if your sugar is dry and clumped together like mine is. Dump the sugar along with the lumps into your pot, and add just enough water to break up the lumps over medium heat. This will allow you to break all the sugar down into a homogenous mixture.

If you dip your peanuts in now all you'll get is a hot sticky mess. Wait... let's try that one again. Basically, you want to hold off on the peanuts.

If you dip your peanuts in now all you’ll get is a hot sticky mess. Wait… let’s try that one again. Basically, you want to hold off on the peanuts.

Bring the sugar to a boil and boil it down. Eventually it will be come transparent, and then start to brown. As the sugar boils, prepare another small pot and bring your cream to a simmer. You will eventually pour the cream into the sugar, and since the sugar is extremely hot, you want the cream to be hot also to avoid crystallizing the sugar instantly.

That sugar, it just caramelts in the pot. But don't try to taste it, or it will caramelt through your mouth and burn a hole in your tongue.

That sugar, it just caramelts in the pot. But don’t try to taste it, or it will caramelt through your mouth and burn a hole in your tongue.

If your caramel is darkening too quickly, take it off the heat to slow the cooking. Add salt and vanilla to the caramel at this time. Once the caramel has reached a deep amber, take it off the heat. Hold the small pot of cream in one hand and a wooden utensil in the other hand (I used chopsticks). Stir the caramel in a circle vigorously while pouring the cream into the caramel. Be sure to keep your hand to the side as you stir, as the steam rising out of the pot of caramel is VERY hot. You should end with a creamy looking caramel.

Now, dump your entire package of peanuts into the caramel. Mix. Prepare a sheet man lined with parchment paper. Pour the caramel/peanut mixture into the sheet pan. Stick the sheet pan somewhere cool, such as the refrigerator or the freezer, for at least an hour (an hour in the freezer, longer in the refrigerator).

This is actually quite good as is. It's like a Snickers bar if you licked the chocolate and caramel off first.

This is actually quite good as is. It’s like a Snickers bar if you licked the chocolate and caramel off first.

Once the peanuts are cooled, dump the entire thing onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment paper. Reserve the sheet tray and parchment paper, you will need it later. Cut the peanuts into bite-sized pieces, or however large you would like the pieces to be.

Prepare your chocolate by placing 4/5ths of it into a microwave-safe bowl along with the vegetable shortening. Microwave on high at 30 second intervals for about 2 minutes total to melt the chocolate. Stir. The shortening thins the chocolate out a bit, allowing you to get a thinner coating on your peanuts.

If you're one of those poor bastards allergic to peanuts and/or chocolate, read on, there is something for you at the end! But you are still a bastard.

If you’re one of those poor bastards allergic to peanuts and/or chocolate, read on, there is something for you at the end! But you are still a bastard.

When your chocolate is smooth and melted, stir in the remaining, unmelted chocolate. This allows you to “temper” the chocolate a bit so that when it resolidifies it will melt at a much lower temperature than it would otherwise. Ideally, professional candy makers would keep melted chocolate between 88-89F for optimal tempering, but that is extremely difficult to do at home. This substitute method is not as good, but easily executed at home.

Turds.

Turds.

Now, dip your cold candy pieces into the warm chocolate with your fingers, wiping off excess chocolate, This is a bit difficult because the candied peanuts soften in the warm chocolate, but you should be able to persevere. Once all the pieces are coated and on the sheet tray again, cool them for a second time for about half an hour in the freezer, or longer in the refrigerator. Then, store in a container for future consumption.

How do these taste? I actually made them a while ago, so it's all a blur.

How do these taste? I actually made them a while ago, so it’s all a blur.

The End…..?

Extra Stuff: Blueberry Vodka

These blueberries weren't eaten, but they were still in high spirits nonetheless.

These blueberries weren’t eaten, but they were still in high spirits nonetheless.

What? Two recipes for the price of one? Unheard of! Who does this kind of shit? Anywho, blueberries were on sale a few weeks ago, and what better to do with blueberries than to infuse a bottle of vodka? Here’s what you will need:

1 750 ml of decent quality vodka
2 cups blueberries

First, pour about 1/3 of the bottle of vodka out. Use that however you like. Then, make a small cut in each blueberry (yes, it’s tedious, but if you do it while drinking the vodka it’ll all pass quickly. You won’t even remember it in the morning). Deposit all of the nicked blueberries into the bottle, and store somewhere dark for two weeks. Shake the bottle vigorously at the end of the first week.

After two weeks, prepare a few coffee filters and filter the blueberries out of the vodka.

Thanks to the antioxidants in blueberries, it's bad for your liver but prevents cancer. So it's like chemotherapy in a bottle.

Thanks to the antioxidants in blueberries, it’s bad for your liver but prevents cancer. So it’s like chemotherapy in a bottle.

Pour the vodka back into the bottle (or down your gullet) and store in a cool place. Enjoy!

A gift for a friend.

A gift for a friend.

The Result

Here is finally a self-contained food blog: there is something to eat, and something to drink. Why, you could even call it a meal, if you’re still in your teens or are on a destructive path to gastronomic suicide. If the bootleg snickers are too complicated for you, at least try the vodka. It’s worth the wait. Hell, buy two bottles if you can’t wait. Drink one bottle while the other marinates.

Fun with Eggs


…Specifically, eggs of the chicken. Most people will agree that chicken periods are considerably more palatable than human periods. Furthermore, they are cheaper. Requests for human egg donors in the classified section of newspapers often offer thousands of dollars for a single egg.

This blog entry isn’t as much about egg dishes as it is about what you can do with eggs. The first dish is a broccoli and tomato salad with home made mayonnaise. The second dish is a cherry clafoutis. Both dishes use eggs in a supporting role, but the eggs are critical enough that the dishes will not work without them.

If you hate eggs, this is not the blog for you. And shame on you for hating on eggs.

Module 1: Tomato and Broccoli Salad

Hullaballoo

What came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken, of course. Eggs can’t come.

Prep Time: ~30 minutes
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb broccoli
1 lb tomatoes
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp salt

Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2/3 cup oil*
1/2 tbsp salt**
1/4 tbsp pepper (white pepper if you want consistent coloring)
1 1/2 tbsp wine vinegar or lemon juice

*Typically you will want to use a neutral tasting oil. I used half olive oil and half vegetable (sunflower) oil. Pure olive oil will have too strong a flavor for making mayonnaise.

**I tend to under-salt my dressings and my food in general. You may wish to up this to a full tablespoon for the final salad.

Cooking

Bring about two quarts (2 liters) of water to a boil in a pot with 1 tablespoon of salt. Meanwhile, cut your broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

I bet you can’t spot the egg in this picture.

Blanch the broccoli (which means to cook something briefly in boiling water) for about a minute, keeping the heat on high. When you first put the broccoli into the water, it may cause the water to stop boiling. The water should come back to a rolling boil before the minute is up. This will quickly cook the broccoli until it is slightly tender, but the broccoli should still retain some of its crispiness.

Just kidding, there weren’t any eggs in the previous picture.

Lift your broccoli out of the water and let it cool in a colander. Do not dump the hot water yet. As the broccoli cool, you can start on your mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is quite easy to make, but also easy to screw up if you do not pay attention. Crack open an egg and separate the yolk and the white. Discard the white. Deposit the egg yolk in a medium sized bowl. Add the mustard. Mustard is a good emulsifier, which means it will help bind the oil to the egg yolk.

Salmonella? Never heard of her. Is she hot?

Whisk the mustard and the egg yolk together while holding the bowl over the hot water. You will want to bring the two to room temperature without overcooking the eggs, so check the bottom of your bowl every now and then to make sure that it is not too hot. Oftentimes mayonnaise recipes will tell you to use “room temperature eggs”, and this is the best and safest way to bring eggs to room temperature. Simply leaving egg outside for a few hours will “age” the egg significantly and it will be considerably less fresh than if you used the method described here.

Once the yolk and mustard mixture is well whisked and at room temperature, you are ready to make mayonnaise. Have your oil ready at hand and add ONLY a few drops to the yolk. The key to mayonnaise is to start adding oil very slowly. If you add oil too quickly, the mayonnaise will never form and you will have to restart.

The mayonnaise starts out yellow and becomes paler over time. As a Chinese living in the United States, that’s the story of my life right there.

Whisk the few drops of oil into the yolk until it is smooth and uniform. Add a bit more oil this time, and whisk the oil in. Continue to add oil, increasing the increments each time, and whisk the oil completely into the mayonnaise before continuing on.

Whisk until all the oil has been incorporated. Now you can season the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper, and vinegar or lemon juice for acidity.

The primordial ooze of French cuisine

The time for salad assembly is now. Cut your tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Throw in parmesan and toss your vegetables together with the mayonnaise (add as much as you need). Serve right away, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Vegetables just aren’t the same without a ton of fat drenched all over it.

Module 2: Cherry Clafoutis

A custard had sex with a flan once upon a time. The flan got pregnant and gave birth to the clafoutis.

Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe
Prep time: ~1 hour
Serves 3-4
Makes 1 8-inch cast-iron pan

2 cups ripe cherries*
5/6 cup milk (or part milk, part cream)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla eggstract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
butter, for buttering pan
1 tbsp powdered sugar

You will also need: a vessel which is both stove-top and oven-safe, such as a cast iron pan.

*The traditional dessert can be made with either apricots or cherries (pitted or not). I used unpitted bing cherries, which allegedly gives a more intense flavor. You can either pit the cherries, or use pitted canned cherries. Drain the canned cherries of syrup before use.

Cooking

A clafoutis is like a mix between a flan and a custard. It can be eaten either as a dessert or for breakfast. It is fast and easy to make. First, pre-heat your oven to 350F (175C) sift your flour into a bowl. Add eggs to the flour and mix together into a thick, yellowy batter.

Chopsticks, so named because they are excellent tools for chopping objects. If you disagree, it means your kungfu is weak.

Add sugar, mix thoroughly again, then add the milk slowly while mixing to avoid lumps. Add salt and finally vanilla extract. You should end up with a very thin batter.

If you stir 13 times counter-clockwise using your feet while doing a handstand underneath a ladder with a black cat as witness, a unicorn will appear and grant you one wish.

Prepare your cherries however you want them to end up in the clafoutis. Butter your pan. Turn the heat to medium on the stove top and place your pan on the stove. Pour a thin layer of batter into the pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Heat the bottom just enough for the layer to thicken slightly, then pull the pan from the heat. Place all of your cherries into the pan in a single layer and pour the rest of the batter into the pan.

This clafoutis just got clafruity.

Stick the clafoutis into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check in at about 40 minutes. Once the edges are puffed and brown, and a knife stuck into the center comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. Dust with powdered sugar and serve at room temperature.

Don’t forget to warn people about the cherry pits when you serve this to them, unless you secretly hate them.

Conclusion

Aren’t eggs useful? And not even in the impregnation/reproduction way either. Even when they are not the centerpiece, they serve as critical instruments that bind many dishes and sauces together. I like eggs, and so should you. Eggs are there to serve. They exist for your nourishment. Instead of beating your children or your wife, consider beating your eggs instead. You will discover that the results are much more desirable.

Caramel Quesadillas


Pull a dessert out of your ass, why doncha?

Don’t mind if I do. June is apparently a dessert month or something, since I’m doing a lot of these, and I don’t even have a pregnant wife or anything like that. At any rate, this time it is a dessert of my own concoction. The premise is simple: a sweet version of the quesadilla. I ran the idea past a friend of mine who is a pastry chef, and he said it sounded pretty good.

The idea is to mirror the savory quesadilla in its entirety. Toasted, crispy tortillas, gooey caramel in place of cheese, and roasted hazelnuts to complete the filling. On the side is a fruit version of pico de gallo, using fruits to reproduce the texture of your standard tomato and onion pico.

Ingredients

If it doesn’t have queso, is it still quesadilla?

Prep Time: ~1 hour
Serves 4-6

Tortilla:

4 medium-sized flour tortillas (about 6 inches diameter)
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp for sprinkling
1/4 cup cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz hazelnuts toasted or roasted (about three dozen nuts or so?)

Pico de Gallo

1 medium sized Granny Smith apple*
2-3 dozen red seedless grapes**
1 tbsp fresh mint
2 tbsp honey
juice of 1/2 lime or 3 tbsp grapefruit juice***
1 kiwi (optional)
salt****
pepper****

*Or 1 1/2 small granny smith apples. Try to find apples that are as crisp and tart as possible.
**Red seedless grapes are the best because of their combination of sweetness and crispness. Their skin texture is tender and a good imitation of a tomato’s skin texture. You can also use plums, but make sure that they are very sweet and firm enough to be diced.
***I used lime juice, but grapefruit juice could add an interesting hint of bitterness
****You only need a tiny pinch of both, less than 1/4 of a teaspoon

Assembly

Pico de gallo becomes tastier over the passage of time as the flavors marinate together. Therefore, it is made first. Wash and assemble all the fruits. Dice the granny smith apple into roughly 1/4 inch (~3/4 cm) cubes.

Who is this Granny Smith, that people hated her so much they named the sourest fucking apple in existence after her wrinkled ass?

Follow it up by dicing your grapes into quarters. The work might seem tedious, but it is necessary to make sure the grape pieces are as close to the apple pieces in size as possible. Put both fruits into the same container.

What did Granny Smith do, pour acid on her grandchildren as a form of punishment?

If you have a kiwifruit, dice that as well and dump it into the container. Pick out a tablespoon or so’s worth of mint and slice it into fine strips. Put everything into one container, add salt, pepper, honey, and juice. Toss everything together and refrigerate for the moment.

I guess if you have grapples you can just use those instead of grapes and apples.

Now it is time to make the caramel. Measure out your sugar and place it in a heavy bottomed pan (not a non-stick one! you will ruin your nonstick pan). A lot of caramel recipes tell you to add water, but that isn’t really necessary. Simply keep an eye out on your caramel as it melts. You can stir it around, but not too much as that will form lumps.

I’ve found a way to turn white into brown! But Michael Jackson is unfortunately dead.

In a separate pot, bring your cream to the boiling point. Add vanilla extract and salt to the cream. Let the sugar melt until it is a deep amber but not brown color. Take the caramelized sugar off the heat. Stir it around to prevent it from solidifying, then pour the boiling cream into the sugar while constantly stirring. Ideally no lumps will form and you get your caramel sauce. However, if lumps do form, you will have to put the sauce back on low heat and stir until the lumps go away. At the end of the process you should have this:

Never lick melted sugar until it is completely cool, unless you wish to intimately discover how cooked human tongue tastes like.

At this time you are almost ready to move onto the tortillas themselves. Bring out your hazelnuts. If they are not already toasted yet, toast them (a small toaster oven is the easiest and most efficient. You can also do it in the conventional oven, or over the stove. Make sure you do not burn the hazelnuts if you use the stove).

Pre-heat your oven to 400F and set it to broil. Prepare a sheet pan by covering it with parchment paper. Place two rounds of tortillas onto the pan. Take a knife and stab a bunch of pinpricks into each tortilla. This will prevent air pockets from expanding and ruining the shape of your tortillas as you toast them. Butter each tortilla on one side only and sprinkle sugar all over the buttered side.

These two tortillas are the most Mexican part of this dish that you will see, so savor the moment.

Broil each tortilla for approximately 5 minutes or so. I say approximately because the tortillas can go from completely white to thoroughly burnt within the span of thirty seconds, so you should start checking them at around 3 minutes. As soon as some parts of the tortillas start becoming dark brown, remove them from the oven.

When they are reasonably cooled, turn them over and spread the caramel sauce on the untoasted sides of both tortillas. Sprinkle one of the rounds with your crushed hazelnuts. Place one tortilla over the other to form the quesadilla.

If you didn’t turn your tongue into a slab of well-done meat by tasting the caramel while it was hot, you’ll probably enjoy what is about to come a lot more.

Serve the quesadillas while they are fresh alongside the pico de gallo.

The Result

This one is dedicated to all the vegetarians out there. So you can all get diabetes faster MUAHAHAHA

It’s pretty good. The first time I made this dessert I used plums instead of grapes, but I find that grapes are superior due to their tenderer skin and their sweeter flavor. Both parts of the dessert can be eaten separately or together.  The tortilla is a bit chewy, so the dessert is not for those with bad teeth. Where is the sour cream you ask? Well, you can use whipped cream or ice cream to replace sour cream for this dessert. I did not do it because I never liked sour cream anyways.

Conclusion

What is with all these desserts? I have no idea. They just keep popping into my mind so I make them. I think this one turned out rather well, but I don’t exactly have a large number of people to back me up on that, so you’re just going to have to make this one yourself. Tell me how it turns out, and if you have suggestions for improvement, tell me about it as well.

Brioche Dessert Applications


Brioche is fantastic on its own, but it is also a great “utility bread” for making all kinds of other dishes, both savory and sweet. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for you, I have a tremendous sweet tooth, so after having made brioche my mind immediately went to all of the dessert applications that such a rich bread could have.

This blog will showcase two desserts that can be made with brioche. Both are fruit related and relatively simple to make. If you only wish to make these desserts and not the bread, feel free to buy the bread from a store. You can also substitute any rich, egg-heavy bread for brioche if you wish.

Sortie I: Brioche Pear Tart

Boobies.

A pair of pared pears does not a healthy dessert make. Appearances can be deceiving. In fact, health is not a peartinent factor in the prepearation of either of these desserts. Pearmit yourself these simple indulgences, or pearish after living a flavorless life.

Prep time: ~25 minutes
Adapted from Jacque Pépin’s “Fast Food, My Way,” episode 220.
Serves 4

2 large pears*
4 slices of brioche
~3 tbsp of butter
~4 tbsp of sugar
4 tbsp honey
salt
1/2 cup whipped cream

*This is if you are using muffin tins to make single-serve tarts. Use 1/2 pear per person. Try to find pears with the width slightly wider than your muffin tins themselves. You can also make a large tart with an oven-safe, non-stick pan. You will need 4 large pears or 5-6 medium-sized ones. If you do not have pears, apples and peaches can also work.

Cooking

This is a quick and dirty dessert. First, take your pears out. Peel and core them. If you are making single-serve tarts, the best way is to cut them in half through the cross section. Core the pear and trim the top half so it is as spherical as the bottom half. That way, you can layer a single piece of fruit onto each “crust” made from brioche. If you are making a large tart, dice the pear into 1-inch slices. I know in my photos I diced my pears, but in retrospect that is not the best way to prepare the pears for single-serve tarts.

lots of boobies

LOL WUT?

Place the pears into a non-stick pan (oven safe pan if you are making a large tart. The pan will hold the tart as it bakes in the oven). Add honey, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a tablespoon of butter. Cook over medium heat, covered, for about 3-10 minutes depending on how ripe and soft your pears are. The crispier your pears, the longer you will need to cook them until they are tender.

Once the pears are tender (or almost tender), uncover and cook the pears down until they are golden and caramelized.

Best boobies you've never seen.

King Midas could do this instantly but you’re gonna need a few minutes on the stove.

As the pears cook, slice your brioche if it isn’t sliced yet. If you are making single serve tarts, cut circular shapes out of the brioche the size of the muffin tin tops. These circles will be the “crust” on which the fruit ultimately rests on. Otherwise, you will want to cut the brioche in such a way that you can lay pieces of it over your pan of fruit to form the crust.

Boobalicious boobies

Be careful not to stab yourself with the knife. Blood is not a required ingredient in this dessert.

Pre-heat your oven to 400F (~200C). Butter your brioche on one side and sprinkle some sugar over them. Spoon the pears into the muffin tin (or keep them in the pan) and place the brioche circles on top of the pears, with the buttered side facing UP. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the bread is toasted and caramelized on top.

Tantalizing boobies.

A fairly easy dessert, right? Even if it’s not as easy as your last night’s dessert of six sugar packets poached from the nearest coffee shop.

Remove the muffin tin (or your pan) from the oven when the bread on top is crisp and a bit brown all over. Wait a few minutes for the tin to cool, then place a plate or pan over the tin and flip it over to unmold. If you kept your pears in halves, it should be easy to remove the slices from the tins.

Serve lukewarm, topped with whipped cream.

Boobtastic boobies.

Fattening? Not unless you feed it to other people. MUHAHAHAHA.

 

Sortie II: Summer Pudding (Proper)

I know I’ve made summer pudding before, but this time I will show you the “proper” summer pudding, which uses berries instead of tropical fruits. It is as easy to make as the other one.

Ingredients

Delectable boobies.

You can use all kinds of berries, except for dingleberries. I would not recommend dingleberries.

Prep time: ~6-12 hours (mostly waiting)

~1 pound of assorted summer berries*
1/4 cup baking/castor’s sugar (not powdered sugar, but finer than granulated sugar)
1/4 cup berry jam/jelly**
Slices of brioche (3 per single-serve pudding)

You will also need: either some circular molds or spare mugs in which to keep the berries; some weights to sit on top of the puddings as they marinate; plastic wrap.

*The traditional mix is of red/black currants, raspberries, black berries, and strawberries. Depending on where you live, some of these berries may not be available for purchase. Use what you have. You can also use other berries, such as the blueberries that I have here.
**The flavor of jam depends on which berries you are missing. Where I live I am unable to acquire currants, so I used red currant jelly. Try to use a jam of a single flavor and avoid “mixed berry” jams. You want the jam to make up for the flavor of the berry you do not have, so it should be a concentration of a single berry flavor.

Assembly

Wash your berry mixture and set it aside. Slice your strawberries so that they are of similar size as the smaller berries.

Why were we talking about boobs again

It’s a pudding, but it’s British, so it’s not really a pudding, but it’s called a pudding, and so forth.

Over medium heat, measure out your sugar and jam. Cook until the jam has melted and add the berries. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the berries have released a bit of their juice, then take it off the heat. You do not want to fully cook the berries. The raspberries especially are prone to disintegration when cooked for too long. Let the berries cool.

Well, I mean, everyone likes boobs.

That is one expensive pan of fruit. For the same amount of money you can probably feed an Ethiopian family of four for a week.

Cut your brioche into circles that will fit loosely into the mugs. You do not want the brioche to fit too snugly because that would make removal difficult. You can also try fitting the inside of the mugs with a layer of plastic foil so that you can remove the pudding more easily, although that presents its own challenges.

Once your fruit has cooled, separate the fruit from the juice in the pan. Dip both sides of each brioche circle into the juice. You do not need it to soak thoroughly, simply to get the surface of each bread circle wet. Place one layer of bread, one layer of fruit (around 1 inch or 2 cm deep), another layer of bread, fruit, then a final layer of bread, making sure to soak each layer of bread. Cover the final layer of bread with a little juice. Cover the bread with plastic wrap, then place a weight (a can of soda or a bottle filled with water will do nicely) on top of the pudding. Let the pudding sit for at least six hours in the refrigerator.

After completing your puddings, you should still have some juice and fruit left over. Save these for now. They will be useful when it is time to plate.

Right? Boobs?

Bury the berries beneath the brioche bread.

After six hours (or however long you’ve managed to wait) has passed, you can plate and serve. If you layered your mug with plastic wrap, simply pull the pudding out gently and plop it upside down onto the plate. If not, place a plate over the mug, flip the mug over, and tap on the mug until the pudding drops down. Sometimes the top slice of brioche is still stuck in the mug. If this is the case, take a spoon and gently edge the brioche slice out by its edges. It should still remain intact. Top the pudding with more fruit and juice. Serve either as is, or with whipped cream or ice cream.

Titillating.

The fugitive berry made a run for it, but was shot in the back.

Conclusion

Thus ends this tale of two desserts. One warm, one cold. One French, the other British. Both ended up being devoured by ravenous gnashing teeth, to re-emerge as identically brown, very un-food like pastes which were flushed into the capable, well-maintained sewers of the city of Seattle. But that is another tale, which will most likely never be told. It is a reminder that although every meal begins differently, they all end in the same way.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Until next time, make sure to eat enough fiber to stave off constipation. That shit is never fun. Like, literally.

Strawberry Shortcake


What is a Shortcake? A miserable little pile of secrets. Did you know that as famous as strawberry shortcake is, most people actually don’t know what a shortcake is? I certainly had no fucking clue until recently. Many “shortcake” recipes call for using yellow cake, pound cake, or angel food cake. But none of these are actually authentic shortcake. We’ve all been living in a world of lies.

As it turns out, a shortcake is a kind of crumbly, biscuit-like object that tastes like a cross between a buttermilk biscuit and a cornbread muffin. It tastes nothing like a cake. You might even say that the cake is a lie. The shortcake tastes even less like a cake than banana bread, and banana bread, well, it calls itself a bread! Jesus fucking Christ on a stick.

But enough of this rant. You might be thinking that every food blogger and their mother has probably done a strawberry shortcake blog. What do I have left to offer you? Merely a small, humble twist to the classic strawberry shortcake. Involving bananas and honey. Read on!

Ingredients

Were you looking for an ingredient spread? Please fill out form 56-b and my lawyers will be in contact with you within 3-7 business days.

Total Time: ~35 minutes
Yields 5-6 shortcakes; recipe can be multiplied as needed.

Macerated strawberries:
3/4 lb fresh strawberries, cleaned and thinly sliced
3-9 tbsp white granulated sugar, depending on berry sweetness

Whipped cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp white granulated sugar*
3-4 drops vanilla extract

Shortcake:
1 + 3/8 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp honey**
1/2 medium banana, mashed***
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup whipping cream

You will also need: 1 muffin mold

*Do not attempt to use honey in whipped cream. The flavor of honey will completely overpower anything else you put into the cream.
**You can also use sugar if you do not have honey here. The honey merely adds an extra something in flavor.
***1/2 medium banana per 1.25 cups of flour, do NOT add any more than this unless you want some kind of bastardized banana bread.

Construction

Begin with the fruit. Get rid of the green leaves on the berries and lop off the tops if need be. Thinly slice the berries. If you have some particularly large berries, you should cut them in half across the width before slicing. Taste the berries for sweetness, then add anywhere from 3 to 9 tablespoons of sugar depending on how sweet your berries are. Toss the berries and refrigerate for now.

Have you noticed your girlfriend never asks you if you think she looks fat while holding a strawberry shortcake, or maybe a large pot roast?

Obtain two containers. In one container, mash half a banana with a spoon until it is a pulpy mess. It may be helpful to first cut up the banana into smaller pieces.

Alternatively, feed banana to a baby, then shake baby violently until the banana is vomited back up, ready for use. Be prepared to run from the law.

In the second container, measure out flour and add all the wet and dry shortcake ingredients together. Add the mashed bananas and then mix just enough to combine. Do not over-mix! The less you mix, the better your shortcake will turn out.

A land of milk and honey isn't actually ideal since there's no way to get your dietary fiber. You'll be constipated all the time.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F (175C). Butter your muffin mold and divide the dough evenly between 5-6 molds. The dough will be sticky, but do not worry too much if your batter is not beautifully even.

Is it dough or is it batter? I dough not know either, but it doesn't really batter.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Most shortcake recipes give a baking time of 18-20 minutes, but the added moisture in the banana lengthens the baking time.

They look a bit like pufferfish that smell nice and won't kill you with a neurotoxin when you eat them.

Leave your finished cakes to rest for at least five minutes. Meanwhile. you can whisk your cream. I highly recommend using an electric mixer (which is ironic, since I whisked mine by hand. Whip the cream until it is nice and thick before adding sugar and vanilla extract.

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it. No one wants to be defeated by a bowl of whipped cream.

When you are ready to serve, cut each shortcake in half. Place the bottom part on a plate. Heap a generous mound of macerated strawberries on top, then a dollop of whipped cream. Top with the second part of the shortcake. Do not be afraid to let it all overflow! The shortcake is not meant to be eaten as a neat sandwich.

Alternate serving method: take a clean transparent glass and wipe down the insides for moisture. Cut your shortcake into bite-sized pieces. Place one layer of shortcake on the bottom of the glass. Then a layer of cream, a layer of strawberries, another layer of shortcake, another layer of cream, and top off with a final layer of strawberries. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve.

The Result

Sucking a baby's cranial fluid through a straw.

I dub it the "strawberry-banana shortmuffin-biscuit conglomeration". Rolls right off the tongue.

4.5 / 5 I won’t lie. I personally still think yellow cake or pound cake or some type of cake fits the dessert better than shortcake. The texture of shortcake just clashes with strawberries and cream. But if you want strawberry shortcake, REAL strawberry shortcake, that’s what this is (plus an extra hint of honey/banana aroma from the shortcake).

Conclusion

Anyhow. This is the end of yet another blog entry, and this one took far, far less time to assemble than the three-day monstrosity that was the previous entry. Strawberry shortcake is a very fast dessert that you can whip up very quickly. If you are very, very lazy, you can even directly substitute store-bought buttermilk biscuits for the shortcake. Top with cool whip and sliced strawberries for a two-minute dessert. Until the next entry, cheers!

Summer Pudding II, Part B: Summer Pudding


Previously on Food in Mind: a bold trap was laid for billions of dry yeast cells in hibernation, a feast of flour and honey. They took the bait: eating, shitting, and reproducing in a cesspool orgy of activity. Suddenly they were swept up in a massive goop of flour and water, only to be tossed into a fiery oven where every single yeast cell suffered the terrible, terrible fate of being cooked alive mere hours after being awoken from their slumber.

Oh yeah, some challah bread was made too. Do not fret! Those yeast cells did not die in vain. We will honor their sacrifice by using the bread (laden with their tiny cooked bodies) to make a refreshing summer dessert known in the British isles as Summer Berry Pudding.

This pudding is traditionally made with raspberries, strawberries, and red and black currants. Unfortunately, red and black currants are not readily available where I live, and raspberries and strawberries are not yet on sale. This blog is devoted to a variation on summer pudding, preserving the essence of the idea while using seasonal fruits that are on sale.

Again, please read through the entire recipe to make sure that you have all the ingredients and equipment necessary to create the pudding. Some Macguyver action may be required on your part in order to make the pudding happen.

NOTE: the pictures for this blog are taken from two separate iterations of the dessert. I used the same process but with different vessels.

Ingredients

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the British invented puddings to compensate for the fact that their bad teeth could not handle real food.

Total time: 30 minutes prep + 5-12 hours of waiting

1 loaf slightly staled white bread (brioche/challah is a good choice)
1 cup diced fresh mangoes
1 cup diced fresh pineapples
1 cup diced fresh supremed* navel oranges**
1/4 cup castor’s or baker’s sugar***
1/4 cup water****

*To “supreme” a citrus fruit is a method of cutting out certain sections of the fruit. More detailed instructions will be included below.
**These fruits are what I used because I felt they pair well together. Feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand. Ripe peaches can stand in for mangoes, or you may wish to use an assortment of melons instead. If any of the fruits turn out to be not quite ripe, macerate them in a tablespoon or two of sugar beforehand. Also I will include fruit suggestions for making a budget pudding below. Substitute and swap fruits as you see fit.
***This is also known as superfine sugar. Its fineness is between that of granulated sugar and superfine x10 sugar (aka powdered sugar). It is a bit more pricey than granulated sugar, so feel free to use granulated sugar if you do not feel inclined to do some extra shopping.
****An “adult” version of this pudding is possible if you replace the water with some type of spirit, such as a brandy or a white wine. Yet another alternative is to skip the water and sugar altogether, and reduce some type of canned fruit juice (I personally tried guava nectar in one of the puddings for an added “tropical” kick) down to about 1/3 of a cup).

Budget/lazy alternative for fruits:

Canned peaches
Canned pineapple (preferably diced)
Canned mandarin oranges

I recommend buying “pure” forms of these canned fruits as opposed to a medley such as a fruit salad. Furthermore, it is better to buy canned fruits as preserved in juices rather than syrup if at all possible. Certain fruits such as mandarin oranges may only be found preserved in syrup. If that is the case, choose to purchase fruit that is preserved in the lightest syrup possible. Separate the juices from the fruit before proceeding, but keep both the juice and the fruit.

Assembly

There is very little cooking involved for this recipe but a fair amount of preparation. First you will want to peel and dice your fruits. I do not have any photographs of how to peel and dice pineapples and mangoes. I assume you know how to dissemble these fruits. In any case, here is a quick run-down:

For mangoes, you may find it useful to not peel the fruit at all, but cut slabs of flesh from the fruit (two large slabs from each side of the mango and two thin strips from the narrow sides of the pit). Then, using your knife, slice horizontally and vertically through these slabs (being careful not to cut through the skin!) to cube the mango to the desired size, much like how you would for an avocado. Finally, use a spoon to scrape the cubes of mango into a bowl.

For pineapples, there is a fast way and a slower way to peel the fruit. Both ways begin with using a knife to cut off both the top and bottom ends of the fruit, giving you to flat ends to rest the fruit on. Then, cut away the skin from top to bottom using your knife whilst following the contour of the fruit. For the fast way, cut deep enough to peel away both the skin and the “eyes” on the sides of the fruit. For the slow way, cut only deep enough to get rid of the skin, but keep the eyes. Then, use your knife to make “v” shape cuts to get rid of the eyes two or three at a time, following the spiral pattern that the eyes make. You will end up with a peeled pineapple with a spiral groove pattern all around the fruit.

Checkpoint! Your ADD timer has been reset by this picture.

Finally, supreme your oranges. To “supreme” a citrus fruit is to cut out all the juicy sections of the fruit, leaving the rind and the membranes behind. Simply take a citrus fruit and cut off both the top and the bottom, making sure to cut deeply enough to reveal a cross section of the fruit itself. Then, resting the fruit on the cutting board, cut away the rind while following the contour of the fruit. Again, you should cut deep enough to reveal the flesh of the fruit itself. The last step is to take the skinned fruit in your hand and make v-shaped cuts in between the membranes to dislodge only the juicy sections of the fruit. You may wish to cut these sections into halves or thirds so they conform to the sizes of the other diced fruits.

This is a picture of sucrose crystals melting in dihydrogen monoxide.

Now we are ready to cook! Measure out and dump both sugar and water/wine into a pot or pan large enough to hold all of your fruits. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add all of the fruit, and cook for about 3-5 minutes just to warm the fruit a bit. Do not overcook your fruits! You want to preserve the fresh fruit flavors.

If you are using canned fruits: pour all of the juices from the cans into a pot/pan large enough to accommodate all of your fruits and reduce through boiling to approximately half a cup. Taste the juice. If it is too tart, add one or two tablespoons of additional sugar. Then place all of the fruit into this mix, cook for 3-5 minutes, and proceed as normal.

A great opportunity to trade your scurvy for diabetes

…And that concludes the cooking portion for this blog! Separate the fruit from the juices. Set both aside. Now comes the tricky part.

You will need to find and prepare a vessel for your pudding. This vessel should be deep enough to hold the fruit and the shell of bread that will encapsulate your fruit. You will also need some kind of lid or flat object that will cover the entirety of the pudding, yet fit snugly inside the vessel in a way that you can place a weight on top of the lid to press down on your finished pudding. My solution was to measure and cut out a cardboard shape that fits the size required, then cover this cardboard shape with aluminum foil.

Cover the inside of your pudding vessel with plastic wrap. This will make turning the pudding onto a plate easy. Slice your loaf of bread into approximately 1/2 inch thick slices. Cut the crusts off, leaving only the white centers. Dip the bread pieces into the fruit juice for a few seconds to soak, then strategically layer them inside your vessel to create a bowl shape. Place most of your fruit (leaving half a cup or so) into the shell to fill it.

What to do with the crusts? Well, you can eat them, or possibly dry and toast them to make semi-sweet bread crumbs for coating fried dessert items.

Fully cover the fruit with your final layer of bread. You should still have about half a cup of fruit left, and possibly a bit of juice left. Set these aside for now. Cover the pudding with your lid contraption, then place some kind of weight on top of the entire pudding, such as canned food, a gallon of milk, or jars filled with water. Place the entire contraption into the refrigerator to chill for at least 5-6 hours (overnight preferred).

boobies

An aluminum eclipse to blot out the pudding. Merlin would be impressed with my wizardry.

When you are reading to serve the pudding, take it out of the refrigerator. Remove the lid to uncover the pudding. Place a plate face-down on top of your pudding vessel and flip your pudding over on top of the plate. The plastic wrap should make removing the pudding from the vessel easy. Peel off the plastic pudding, and top the pudding with the rest of your fruit/juice. The reserve juice is also great for shoring up any bits of bread that are not yet fully drenched.

Serve cold, possibly with whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a glass of wine.

The Result

I know this looks like Pac-Man lying on his side vomiting fruit, but it does taste good. HAVE FAITH.

4.7 / 5 It has been an epic saga, a strange tale of the marriage of bread to fresh fruit. Usually fruit is eaten with bread in the form of preserves; we most often imagine these foods as breakfast or snack items, not desserts. Even then, the sharp tartness of the fruit is often dulled by the application of some type of dairy or creme product so that it does not taste so harsh against the mildness of the bread. But when the bread itself is drenched in fruit juice, it is transformed into something tart and juicy itself, becoming a fitting partner for the refreshing flavor of fresh fruit.

Conclusion

It is now 5 AM and I’m finally almost done writing up the second part of the Summer Pudding blogs! I must admit that I am personally not a big fan of soggy foods. The very reason why I attempted this dessert at all was because I was intrigued by the idea of how bread drenched in fruit juice (of all things) could possibly taste good, and I have a bit of a fetish for trying foods that do not seem appealing at first sight. I am glad I tried summer pudding. This dessert is definitely a keeper in any cook’s repertoire, being flexible enough to accommodate a variety of fruits. If the prospect of baking your own bread to make the pudding is too daunting, you should at least try to make the pudding with store-bought bread. You’ll be glad you did (probably).

Summer Pudding II, Part A: Challah Bread


Author’s Note: Summer Pudding I hasn’t been written yet. Don’t bother looking for it. Summer Pudding II starts below 🙂
Hello ladies and gentlemen! After slaving away the past three days, I am proud to present to you a twist on the classic British summer dessert, the Summer Berry Pudding. Unfortunately, the whole unabridged process involves baking a loaf of bread then assembling the dessert. Because of this length, I am splitting the entire dessert into two blogs. This is part one, on how to make Challah bread. The blog following this one will detail pudding assembly.

Many of you non-British gentle readers may be wondering, what is summer pudding? Well, it is kind of like a fruit pie, except instead of a baked flaky crust you have a soft, juice-drenched bread shell, and instead of a bubbly stewed fruit center you have an assortment of fruit that has been only lightly cooked to bring out its juices. A light, refreshing dessert.

Many of you readers may also be wondering, “my god, three fucking days for a dessert?!?” The thing is I actually made this dessert twice over the period of time with a few overlapping ingredients. I used my own fresh-baked challah bread and an assortment of tropical fruits as opposed to the traditional berry mixture. If you really wanted to make this dessert the way I did it should only take you parts of two days, and if you are lazy you can create this dessert using pre-bought bread (I recommend challah or brioche) with about only 30 minutes’ worth of work.

So without further adieu, how to bake challah bread. To be fully honest, it is a lot of work (to do it the proper way), so unless you absolutely love cooking I recommend you seek shortcuts as I recommend them. Finally, please read through the entire recipe before you begin in the event there is something required that you do not have on hand.

Ingredients

Scarlett Johansen and Jessica Alba together, in bed.

Silly Westerners, eating bread when cooking rice is so much easier.

Prep Time ~5-10 hours

Adapted from Here

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling
1/4 cup honey OR white granulated sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg for eggwash
1/4 cup vegetable oil
7/8 cups warm water*
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar**

*Water should be warm but not hot, between 110-118F (43-47C) to allow yeast to flourish.
**Only if not using a poolish

Baking

There are two ways to start the bread: either by proofing (fast) or by using a poolish (slow). I used the poolish method, but either is fine.

For proofing: in a plastic container, measure out 7/8 cups of warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of yeast. Lightly cover with a lid and wait for 5-10 minutes until there is a beige foam floating above the water. If this foam is not there, dump out the water and start over: either the water is too hot and killed the yeast, or your yeast has expired. Only proceed once you have seen the foam.

For poolish: 5-7 hours (or the night before) baking, place 1/2 cup of warm water, 1/2 cups of flour, and 1/2 teaspoons of yeast into a plastic container, mix and cover lightly. Leave in a warm place until bubbles are seen and a slightly fermented aroma rises.

Nipples

Resist the urge to rub this all over your nipples, you'll need this poolish later.

Regardless of which method you use to activate the yeast, step two is to join the yeast/water mixture with all of the listed ingredients that have not been added yet. You may need a larger bowl for this step. Mix everything (remember to use only two eggs, the last egg is for egg wash) until you have a coherent mass.

Challah is a Jewish bread and all but it goes damn well with bacon.

Dump this coherent mass onto a lightly floured works surface. Knead your dough until you have a smooth coherent mass, about 8-15 minutes (People usually say 8-10 minutes, but I’ve never been able to do it in 8). The dough might be a bit sticky due to the honey. Continuously flour your hands if the dough becomes too sticky, but try not to add too much flour since that will negatively impact the resulting bread.

Your mother's wild younger years.

Dough. Rhymes with tough, cough, though, through, and trough. Isn't the English language so wonderfully intuitive?

Lightly oil the surface of a large pot. Place the dough into the pot and roll around to cover. Put a lid on the pot and let sit in a warm place (an oven that has been turned on for a while at 150F then turned off is a good place) to rise for 45 minutes.

After one hour, take the dough out. Gently press some of the air out of the dough, then return it to the oven for another 45 minutes of rising.

Looks like that dough really let itself go. As if it's American and McDonald's just opened next door.

Now take the pot out of the oven. You will need a relatively large work surface to work the bread into shape. Lightly flour your work surface. Take the dough out and divide it into six even pieces.

Tw- tw- tw- TWINS?!?

Try to make sure the pieces are exactly even, or one of the pieces might think you favor the other more and hate you forever when it grows up.

Roll each piece out to about 18-20 inches. Do not over-flour at this point, as it will make the rolling difficult. Braid the strands together to form your loaf. I would give instructions on how to do it, but it is rather difficult to describe. Instead, it is much better to look up how to do it in a Youtube video, such as this one:

Here are some additional photos of my own braiding in progress:

Once braided, transfer your loaf onto a lightly floured baking sheet. Let it sit for 30 minutes to rise for the third and last time.

Pre-heat your oven to 375F (190C). Beat an egg. Using either a brush or a paper towel, brush your loaf with the beaten egg two times. Bake the loaf for about 30-35 minutes (but start checking at 25 minutes) depending on your oven.

The Result

The Mona Lisa, naked.

Challahkazam! Super effective against ghost-types.

 4.5 / 5  If you’ve never tasted fresh-baked bread warm from the oven, you are missing out on one of the great food pleasures in life. To be honest, the only reason why I recommend using 3.5 cups of flour to shape the loaf is because you will need that much bread to make the pudding in the next blog. Otherwise, I recommend shaving down to 3 cup flour loaves or less. This is because with large loaves there is a delicate balance between cooking the bread through fully and not over-baking the eggwash exterior. As you can tell, the exterior of my bread is already near the limit of what is acceptable without tasting burnt.

Conclusion

This is the end of part one of a two-part blog series on how to make summer pudding. If you are not interested in summer pudding this loaf is perfectly good for consumption as is. Optionally, if you only wish to make Challah without making the pudding, you can opt to sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds onto the bread prior to baking, and incorporate raisins into the dough (soaked for an hour in warm water or brandy).

Please stay tuned for part two.

Cheesecake II


Hello gentle readers, it’s been a while. This hiatus wasn’t intentional. Blogs and dishes were planned… beautiful plans. But the stars of the universe fell out of alignment and re-arranged themselves into the “FUCK YOU” constellation. I got sick. I injured my wrists. Life sucked.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

The only hope laid in a single block of cream cheese left in the refrigerator. It was time for the return of the cheese cake. This time I know how to make it right. And as always, there is a twist to the theme: a fusion dessert between a cheese cake and an apple crisp. Cinnamon crust, creamy vanilla cheese cake filling, spiced apple topping. It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m health conscious so I chose to chew sugar-free Trident gum instead.
Ingredients

No spread this time, so you're just going to have to reverse engineer the ingredients from this photo instead. Good luck.

Total Time: 3-8 hours (depending on how you’re counting)

Crust:

20 squares of graham crackers, crushed
6 tbsp rolled oats*
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp butter/margarine, melted
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon

*Do not used instant oats. Rolled oats may also be known as old-fashioned oats.

Filling:

One 8 oz block cream cheese, room temperature*
8 tbsp sour cream, room temperature
6 tbsp white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, with yolks and whites separated, room temperature**
2 tbsp cream or half-and-half***
1 tsp vanilla extract

*Allow 3-4 hours at least to bring these ingredients to room temperature.
**This isn’t essential, but I’m told by TL poster fire_brand that it results in a lighter filling.
***This also isn’t essential, but makes beating eggs easier.

Topping:

2 medium crisp apples, such as Fuji or Granny Smith
Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1/2 orange
3 tbsp brown sugar*
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tbsp flour
6 tbsp of water, as needed**
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

*This is for Fuji apples. You may need 4-5 tablespoons of sugar for a tart apple such as Granny Smith.
**More or less, depending on desired thickness of sauce.

You will also need: A (preferably two) muffin tin mold, at least two somewhat large bowls, a small pot, among other things.

Cooking

We begin with the filling. Take your pieces of graham crackers and stick them into a sturdy bag, such as that of the Zip-loc variety. Then either using your fingers or some other implement, crush the graham crackers into tiny bits. You can also beat them into submission with a rolling pin if you are feeling particularly violent.

If you have a bomb shelter, simply place the crackers in a small pile in the center of the bomb shelter, toss a grenade into the bomb shelter, and close the door. Let the grenade do the work.

In a separate container, melt the butter. You can do this in a microwave by microwaving at 5 second intervals and swishing the melted butter around until everything is melted. Add your tiny graham cracker bits and all the other ingredients.

This flour looks like cocaine cut with feta cheese. But it's flour. Really.

Mix thoroughly. Preheat your oven to 300F (150C). Butter your muffin tin and spoon about 3 tablespoons of this mixture into each mold. Using a spoon or a small butter bowl (what I used), press the mixture into a hollow bowl shape against the sides of the mold.

Possibly the most annoying step in making mini-cheesecakes. A lot less annoying with practice, but still annoying.

Bake these crusts by themselves for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, onto the filling! You can use a mixer or do the filling by hand. Making the filling by hand is obviously more difficult but not impossible, especially if the ingredients are softened at room temperature. Measure out 8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup of sour cream into a bowl. Mix this by itself for a bit so that you coat your bowl with sour cream, which will prevent cream cheese from sticking to the sides of your bowl. Dump your block of sour cream into the midst of sour cream, and mash everything together.

White-on-white dairy product action. What luck, to not be born lactose intolerant!

Somewhere along the line, when sour cream and cream cheese have intertwined themselves into a near congruous mass, add sugar. The sugar will lighten and somewhat fluff up this mixture. While you are doing the mixing, especially by hand, your blind-baked crusts may be ready. Remove them from the oven. If at this time your filling mixture is already done, do not pour it into the molds right away! Let the molds sit for at least 5 minutes to cool down, or it will instantly cook the part of the filling that touches it, and you will receive the game-over screen have a disaster-flavored cheese cake, which doesn’t taste very good.

I know I listed "cream" on the ingredient list, but your mother just happened by, and I noticed she was lactating... two for two, yeah?

Now prepare (or add to your cream cheese/sour cream mixture) your beaten, separated egg yolks and egg white. You can add a bit of half-and-half or cream to the egg parts at this time to make it easier to beat. Add the eggs, salt, and vanilla extract to your filling. Mix everything until smooth.

I was kidding about the above image caption. The flavor of this cheesecake would be totally ruined if I added sour milk. MUHAHAHA

While you are doing all this, you will want to reduce the oven temperature to 250F (120C) and prepare a pan filled partially with water as a water bath. Filling your muffin molds to the brim with cheese cake filling. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Okay, I was kidding about the above comment also. I'm sure your mother is a very nice woman. And if she smacked you while you were young, well, you deserved it.

After 25 minutes, check your cheese cake. It should still appear soft, but solid. At this time turn off your oven heat and leave the door open for about a minute. Then, close the door and leave the cheesecakes in the oven for another hour. This will let the cheesecakes finish cooking to perfection.

Meanwhile, you can start on your spiced apple topping! First juice your lemon/orange into a container. This is so you can dunk your apple pieces into the juice as soon as they are chopped to prevent oxidation (browning). Peel and core your apples.

Have you seen how Sakai peels his apples on Iron Chef? He uses his chef knife, does it 3x faster than I do it with the small knife which is what most people use, it's fucking ridiculous.

Chop them into bite-sized pieces (preferably 1/2 inch, or even smaller than what I have chopped here). Dump them into the citrus juice and toss them around. Add all the spices, flour, salt, and sugar. Mix together. Chill for at least half an hour to marinate.

When people call other people the apple of their eye, I wonder if they think of all the terrible things we do to apples that involve sharp objects or intolerable heat levels.

Take your apples out of the refrigerator. Cook your apples over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken, then add as much water as needed to thin out the sauce and partially cover most of the apple pieces. Once the liquid comes to a boil, bring the heat down to low. Put a lid over your apples and simmer them for 8 minutes or so. The steam will cook through your apples. Add water as necessary.

Let me just say here that apple sauce tastes like shit. Apples have nice texture as well as nice flavor. It's like bacon in that way. Would you puree bacon into bacon sauce? Of course not, you lose the crispy texture. Don't fucking puree your apples and make it into mush.

Once the apples are cooked to your desired texture remove them from the heat and set aside. At this point in time your cheesecakes may have finished cooking. Deposit them into the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour. If, like me, you have only a single muffin tin, you may move onto making your second batch of cheese cakes. Otherwise, top your chilled cheesecakes with your spice apples and enjoy.

The Result

Cheese, or cake? Cheese, or cake? For millenia have men struggled to answer this question. But now, you can have both at the same time.

4.9 / 5  Cheesecakes are one of those things that take a long time to make, but the procedure is rather easy and fool-proof to producing a great tasting product. It is also flexible enough to allow for easy experimentation. In this case, apple crisp cheese cake. Apples are one of the cheapest fruits in the United States, next to bananas, navel oranges, and occasionally grapefruit. To work them into a cheesecake is a natural step in the logic of a budget cook. If you have most of these ingredients in your house, consider investing in a bit of cream cheese and sour cream to make this dessert. You won’t regret it.

Conclusion

…Thus man and cake were united, first at the lips, then through the esophagus, and then into a bath of hydrochloric acid, then…. the tale doesn’t end happily every after and becomes a bit disgusting. Well, at least the beginning of the tale is deliciously sweet. And what more can you ask for? We’re born with taste buds on the tongue and not around the rectum for a reason. The end. Happy cooking!

Cheesecake & How to Learn to Cook


When I first started learning how to make pastries, I promised myself that I would make cheesecakes if strawberries ever went on sale. Well, here it is.

In previous installments of Food in Mind, I have always presented an item, its ingredients, and the cooking process. For this installment, however, my main goal is to share the learning process of how I approach learning to cook a new dish. I will do this using this attempt at making cheesecake as an example.

In a Day9 Daily-esque fashion, this blog will detail my research and thinking process during my first attempt to make cheesecake. Total time for prep, cooking, and waiting is about 4-5 hours.

Step One: The Idea

The first step to learning to cook is to picture in your mind how you wish for the dish to turn out. This is much easier if you are trying to learn to cook a dish you’ve eaten before. You should try be as specific as possible when you attempt to identify all of the salient features of the finished dish that you wish it to have: the taste and texture of the various components, which ingredients you might need, the effect you are trying to achieve with the combined ingredients, and the colors and smells your finished dish will have.

You missed out bro

I first tried blending cheddar cheese and a regular cake together in a blender, but that didn't work.

When I first tried to make bread pudding, I had never tasted bread pudding in my life, so it was a blind venture where I had to first simply follow a recipe I found online just to find out what it might look and taste like. Fortunately, I have had cheesecake a few times in my life. For my first attempt, I wanted to make something simple: a classic cheesecake flavored with vanilla, a golden graham cracker crust, and topped with a bright red strawberry sauce. Three isolated components, none of which I have ever made before.

Step Two: The Research

When you are truly trying to learn a dish, simply finding and following a recipe is not enough. You must dig deep into the components to find out why each ingredient is used, and what effect do these ingredients have in the dish. There are many, many cheesecake recipes out there, each with their own slight differences in ingredients. It is important to identify these differences.

First, I googled around and read through a bunch of recipes. Be careful when you look for recipes online! There are many sites where your average cook can post their own recipes which often contain errors or things you are not supposed to do. Even on Youtube there are hundreds of cooks far worse than I am skill-wise who confidently put up video walkthroughs for dishes when they in fact have no idea what they are doing. Generally, recipes posted on Food Network are decent, since they are crafted by established cooks and chefs. I have also recently come across the food blog Smitten Kitchen, where all the recipes, underneath layers of housewife babbling, reveal very lucid descriptions of the cook’s reasoning process behind her cooking procedure and choice of ingredients. Finally, Good Eats has hundreds of episodes uploaded on Youtube, which is always a good source of knowledge for whatever you may want to cook.

Ultimately I reduced by search down to four main recipe sources which I found most helpful:
http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/01/key-lime-cheesecake/
http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/04/new-york-cheesecake/

http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_cheesecake/
And of course,

From these four sources I could craft a recipe that meets my own needs for all three components of my cheesecake: a graham cracker crust, strawberry compote, and cheesecake filling. Of course, I still lacked a proper pie tin, so I will be falling back on that old muffin tin to make mini-cheesecakes. I will have to guestimate the bake timings and temperatures for my cooking process.

Step Three: Planning the Ingredients

Who the fuck ever came up with the phrase "when life gives you lemons"? Lemons are fucking expensive, nobody's going to give anybody fucking lemons. See that half-grapefruit there? That's lemon substitute. At 3 for a dollar they're about six times cheaper than lemons.

Here is the ingredients list I compiled, and my reasoning for them below:

Crust:

16 graham cracker squares, crushed*
3 tbsp butter**
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

*You need about 32 squares for a full-sized cheesecake crust. But since I’m using a muffin tin, I estimated I only needed half. Also, no parchment paper is involved, since I plan to “wall off” the filling from the muffin tin using the crust.
**5 tbsp for standard crust. Again, this number is adjusted for my muffin tin.

Filling:

8 oz (one block) of cream cheese*
8 tbsp (1/4 cup) of sour cream**
6 tbsp sugar
salt
1 egg + 1 egg yolk***
vanilla extract
1 tbsp flour****
1 tsp vanilla extract

*You need anywhere between two to five blocks of cream cheese for a full-sized cheese cake, depending on the recipe. The reduced amount takes into account the reduced amount of filling muffin mold crusts can hold.
**New York style cheesecakes do not use sour cream, but many other recipes do. Sour cream makes for a lighter, tangier filling. Exactly what I am looking for.
***You need about three eggs to three eggs plus five yolks for a standard cheese cake, depending on the recipe.
****Some recipes call for flour, some do not. Some also call for heavy cream. Since I did not have heavy cream but did have flour, I decided to add some to see what happens. It wasn’t until later that I learned what purpose flour serves in cheesecakes; more on that below.

Strawberry Compote:

1 cup fresh strawberries, diced
juice of 1 lemon OR 1/2 grapefruit*
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

*Lemon juice is traditional. The acid is supposed to prevent sugar from re-crystalizing after melting. At first I was afraid that the fragrance of grapefruit juice would overpower the strawberries, but that did not happen.

Step Four: Planning the Execution

The ingredients list has been assembled. Now is the time to plan how the cheesecake will be made. No detail is too small to be unaccounted for. From a combination of the four source recipes, here is the amalgamated process:

Crust:

And so I says to the terrified graham cracker, I will crust you with my bare hands.

Graham cracker crusts are very common among cheese cake recipes. They are generally a mix of graham crackers, melted butter, and a little sugar. I added a pinch of salt because salt adds a nice balance to sweet things.

First I stuck all the graham crackers into a ziploc bag and crushed them into small pieces with my hands. You do not need the pieces to be as small for a full-sized cheesecake; but for mini-cheesecakes, the pieces of crust must be smaller.

Then, I combined the crushed graham crackers with melted butter, salt, and sugar, and mixed everything together. Do not worry if the crumbs appear to be dry when all the butter is absorbed; all is as it should be.

Construction in progress, wear a hardhat.

I preheated the oven to 300F. Meanwhile, I took out my muffin tin and lightly buttered the insides. I poured about 3 tablespoons of crumbs into each mold and used a tiny butter bowl to press the crumbs into the sides of the bowl. This was more difficult than anticipated, since the crumbs preferred to stick to the small bowl than the sides of the muffin pan. I was worried that the crust would simply fall apart during the blind baking process.

Once the oven reached target temperature, I blind baked the crusts for 8 minutes, which is 2 minutes shorter than the time it takes to blind bake a full-sized cheesecake crust. The graham cracker crusts came out golden and perfect.

Murphy’s law states if I don’t fuck up here, I’ll definitely fuck up somewhere later on.

Filling

Here’s the tricky part. As someone who has only tasted cream cheese and sour cream maybe only once or twice in my entire life, I am far from comfortable with the ingredients required for the filling. All recipes I found online called for the use of a mixer to combine sour cream and cream cheese; I have a plastic container, some forks, and some spoons.

First, as per instructions from Good Eats, I measured out the sour cream and spread it around the container to prevent the impending arrival of cream cheese from sticking to the walls. Then, I put the cream cheese in…. and discovered why people recommended using a mixer. Mashing cream cheese into sour cream is fucking hard work. Oh well, time to lose some calories since I’ll soon be gaining a lot of it. Using a combination of fork and spoon, I slowly worked the cream cheese into the sour cream, and added sugar and salt and flour.

In a separate container, I beat together an egg and an egg yolk with some vanilla extract and just a splash of milk to aid the beating process. I then dumped this mixture into the sour cream/cream cheese mixture.

The most unappetizing photos of food before it's cooked, just for you.

Everything eventually came together nice and smoothly, except there were still small lumps of cream cheese within the mixture. I found out later from here that the cream cheese must be at room temperature before you use it in order to prevent lumps. It just shows that some things you’ll only learn by doing, and not from reading alone.

When I removed the crust from the oven, I reduced the temperature down to 250F, and placed a pan full of water into the oven. I planned to cook the cheesecake in a water bath as per Good Eats’ instructions. Meanwhile, I let the crust cook for a few minutes before spooning my filling into each crust. I then lifted the muffin tin about an inch off the tabletop and let it drop a few times to even out the filling and let the air bubbles surface from the filling. Then, I put the cheesecakes into the water bath. My estimated reduced cooking time for mini-cheesecakes was about 45 minutes; I checked first at 35 minutes, and the filling had already solidified, which signified slight overcooking, but there were no cracks on the top of my cheesecakes, which meant I was still doing okay.

Cheesecakes, in your future is only death, destruction, and the gnashing of teeth.

I shut off the heat for the oven and left the oven door open for a minute after baking, then closed it with the cheesecakes inside for another hour. This is the process of gently letting a water-bath baked cheesecake finish cooking. Once the hour is up, I chilled the cheesecakes in the refrigerator for another hour. Onto the compote.

Strawberry Compote

Some of the red pieces might have been the spleens of small children.

Finally we come to the easiest part. I combined diced strawberries, sugar, grapefruit juice, and salt in a small pot over medium heat. Then I simmered everything until the sugar was melted and enough water evaporated to create a glossy, slightly thickened sauce, which took about half an hour. Then I shut down the heat and let the sauce cool.

Step Five: Assembly, Consumption, and Post-Mortem

Can't believe you missed this picture, brah.

Urgh, at this time of writing I've already eaten three of these things trying to get a decent photo.

I ran a knife around the edge of each cake and removed them from the muffin molds. Just before serving, I topped them with the strawberry compote. They came out pretty good, despite all the small mistakes I’ve made along the way. But you can be sure that the next time I make cheese cakes, they will turn out even better.

Here are the things that I will take note of the next time I make cheesecake:

-Bring sour cream and cream cheese to room temperature before mixing.
-For water bath cheese cakes, no flour is needed.
-I should start checking mini-cheese cakes at about 25 minutes.

A relatively short list overall, thanks to all the research done ahead of time. Through this single process of making cheesecakes, and in taking the time to read through multiple recipes, I have gathered all the information I need to create fantastic cheesecakes of any type I wish in the future.

Conclusion

Thus concludes this demonstration of my approach to learning how to cook. I hope this will help some of the readers who are also serious about learning how to cook, and learning how to cook well. The general steps are to 1) construct a clear idea in your head of what you want the dish to be like, 2) do research on various recipes for the dish, 3) craft your own recipe based on these other recipes, 4) plan your ingredients and execution), 5) follow through on your plan, and 6) analyze what you have learned after the cooking process.

The next installment will return Food in Mind to its regularly scheduled programming of how to make random food items from whatever ingredients I have on hand.