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.

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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.

Brioche


When I first started researching recipes on brioche on the internet, it became immediately apparent that there are not many bakers any more who have the cojones (or ovarios) to make this bread by hand.

What is so special about this bread that it makes eunuchs of all these bakers? Well, most people who have tried to make this bread talked about how difficult it is to knead butter into the dough. The butter seeps out of the dough and makes an oily mess all over the work surface. This, apparently, doesn’t happen with bread machines. But just when all hope was lost, I came across this youtube video:

Brioche by hand. The emasculation of bakers everywhere averted by an Asian man with the voice, mannerisms, and body shape of Julia Child.

This video is great because unlike many other bakers on the internet, he is willing to actually show his kneading process in detail and for a fair length of time, which is absolutely crucial for a video designed to teach people how to make and develop their bread dough properly.

So without further ado, this blog is about how to make brioche by hand, using the recipe adapted from the youtube video above.

Ingredients

Brioche, for when you must have rich, buttery bread. Side effects include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a slight increase in overall unattractiveness to the opposite sex. Batteries not included, utensils sold separately.

Prep & Wait time: ~12 hours (mostly waiting)

3 cups all-purpose flour[1]
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tbsp yeast
1 cup (2 sticks) butter[2]
5 eggs, + 1 more for eggwash

Tools that you will need: A rolling pin or rolling pin-like object, a dough scraper, or otherwise small rectangular sheet of plastic/metal that can scrape sticky dough off a work surface, some parchment paper.

[1] Bread flour might work, but haven’t tried it. Brioche is so rich it’s practically half cake so all-purpose flour should be fine. You will also need a tablespoon or two more for dusting your work surface.
[2] Non-negotiable. You can kick and scream about it being unhealthy, but if you’ve ever bought cake or brioche or whatever from a bakery they’re pretty much using as much if not more butter.

Baking

The most important thing to get right when making good bread is to get the dough right. And to get dough right while working by hand, you must practice making bread many times. But do not worry! Even if your dough does not come out perfect, you can still bake it, and the end product will still be tasty.

Dough or dough not, there is no try. Well you’re WRONG, Yoda. You have to keep trying until you can dough it right.

Begin with a large bowl and a smaller container. Crack all five eggs into the smaller container and measure out two tablespoons of milk into it. You do not need to beat the eggs. In the larger bowl, measure out all your dry ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Keep your butter in the refrigerator for now. Use a spatula to mix together the dry ingredients until homogenous.

Dump your eggs and milk into the dry ingredients. Mix with your spatula until you get a sort of shaggy looking mass.

OK great! You’ve made it this far! Ramping up the difficulty in 3… 2… 1…

Lightly flour your work surface and dump your dough onto the surface. Knead the dough for a while (check out the youtube video if you need some assistance on how to knead. You are essentially pushing the dough out a little bit with the heel of your hand, folding the dough back in on itself, and rotating the dough to repeat the process). The dough should be fairly easy to work with right now. It might stick to your hands a bit. Refrain from adding any more flour, just go with the flow and keep kneading until the dough is somewhat smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Bring out your butter now.

Why have bread and butter when you can just have bread, with an ass-ton of butter already mixed in.

Roll out, with a rolling pin or your hands, your dough until it is an oval roughly 5 inches by 8 inches, or ~13 cm x 20 cm. Unwrap your cold butter and beat it to flatten and soften it with a rolling pin or some other blunt object.

What happened to your butter? It…. it fell.

Place the pieces of butter on top of your flat dough. Fold the dough in half around the butter, encasing the butter completely around the dough, and start kneading. Push the dough out (about half an inch to an inch or so at first, so as not to tear the dough), fold the dough back on itself, rotate, fold again, push dough out, and so on. Now is the time to bring out your dough scraper. It is [i]extremely[/i] useful at this point in time, so if you do not have a dough scraper, look for a flat piece of plastic or metal that you can use as a substitute.

As you are kneading, bits of butter will inevitably seep out of your dough, start melting, get sticky, etc. Do not worry about it. Keep kneading, occasionally bringing bits of butter back into your dough as you go along. As time goes on, the butter will melt more and more, and goop up around your work surface. That’s fine, keep kneading. Now is the time to use the scraper to scrap the goopy butter back into your dough as you knead.

After about 5-10 minutes, the butter will have been completely incorporated into your dough. You should have a very sticky, un-dough-like mass. Well done! You are exactly where you should be! Now continue to knead to the best of your ability, scraping often to gather the muck that has stuck to your work surface. Do not use any flour, do not add water or oil. Simply keep kneading and scraping. After 10-15 minutes, the dough will start becoming more coherent, and no longer stick to your work surface or your hands as much (but it will always be a bit sticky).

The dough will also become increasingly elastic, so you can pull it out about 3-5 inches before having to fold it back on itself. When you get to this point, the dough is pretty much done. The test that many bakers like to use for the dough is to stretch a bit of it out. If you can stretch a bit of dough out so that part if it looks translucent (partially lets light in from the other side) and not tear the dough, your dough is done. Fold it in on itself and shape the dough into a nice soft ball.

He’s got big balls, and she’s got big balls, but we’ve got the biggest balls of them all.

Lightly oil a large pot and deposit your ball of dough into the pot. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least eight hours. The most difficult part of making brioche is done!

Eight hours later, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Fold the dough on itself a couple of times, then divide it equally into at least three pieces. You will notice that the cold dough is considerably less sticky and easier to work with,

Don’t dread the kneading. Have a sip of mead, get relaxed instead, tread lightly but don’t stop making bread until you’re dead.

Fold the pieces in on themselves a bit- this increases the surface tension and improves the quality of the crust. Then, shape your pieces into balls. This will allow you to create large ball-shaped loaves of brioche bread, which can be consumed either as-is or be used as parts of other recipes (future blog nudge nudge wink wink? maybe).

Shape each piece of dough into a ball and place them, evenly spaced, onto a piece of parchment paper. Leave them in a warm place for 2-3 hours to rise.

So you see, the dough has doubled in size. And you can double in size too, from eating this bread.

Now you are almost ready to bake. Pre-heat the oven to 350F (175C) Beat an egg in a small bowl, and brush the egg wash over each ball. If you do not have a brush, just use a paper towel. Crumple it up into a rod-like shape and use one end to soak up the egg wash. Brush the loaves once, wait for the layer to dry, then brush them a second time. Cut a cross shape on the top of the loaf. You should make your cross shape larger than I made mine, since mine did not prevent the loaf from splitting elsewhere due to expansion during the baking process.

You should also space the loaves further apart than I did to avoid making Siamese brioche twins.

Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, depending on your oven, rotating the pan once during the baking process. Start checking in as early as 20 minutes to make sure you do not burn the egg wash.

I love the smell of brioche at 1 AM in the morning. It smells like… victory.

Wait at least five minutes to cool before consuming.

The Result

I heard that bread always lands butter side down, so I dropped a slice of brioche. It couldn’t decide which side had more butter so it just spun around in mid-air.

You can probably see that I need to work on getting a better oven and probably finding a more attractive way to shape my loaves. But I was very satisfied with the way the brioche turned out. First, the smell of fresh baked bread, of eggs and butter, permeated the entire house. Second, the crust had a gentle crunch to it, while the inside was fluffy and soft, somewhere between a bread and a cake. Brioche is great eaten as is (or as part of a sandwich), but it can also be used as a component in various other dishes both sweet and savory.

Conclusion

Bread, despite being a staple food, is surprisingly time consuming and complicated to make. Good bread is tricky. It requires thorough understanding of how the ingredients work in relation to each other. It requires repeated failures to build up experience on how to handle and knead dough.

But god damn is it satisfying to make. Every time you make bread you learn something new, and you unravel more of the secrets of bread making. And even if it does not come out absolutely perfect, it still tastes pretty damned good. If you enjoy learning new things with ample rewards during the learning process, bread making is for you.

Oh, and fuck bread machines.

French Onion Soup


Every francophile I’ve ever met has sung praises about French onion soup. THE French onion soup, because you have to assume that there’s more than one type of onion soup in French cuisine (and there is). But it’s just called French onion soup in the United States. Even before I had any idea what the soup might look or taste like, it has carried some kind of mystique about it, like it was the ambrosia of soups.

Now I finally have a chance to make the soup and taste for myself what all the fuss is about. French onion soup, like many French dishes, can take either a really, really long time to make or not that long at all, depending on how thorough you feel like proceeding. It can also be quite cheap to make, or quite expensive. For this blog, I have chosen the “very thorough and long” route, and a “middle of the road” budget. Along the way I will point out where you can make cheaper or more expensive substitutions as appropriate. Of course, you can always use store-bought shortcuts for any step you feel necessary.

Ingredients

Note to self: napalm flamethrower not a viable cooking utensil.

Prep time: 1.25 – 3 hours
Serves 4-5

4 yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 5 cups of sliced onions)
5 cups beef stock[1]
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cooking oil
salt
pepper
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 medium baguette[2]
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp oil (preferably olive)
1/2 cups Swiss cheese[3]
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley or scallions (optional)

[1]You can make your own from beef bones or buy beef stock or use bouillon, which is significantly cheaper and faster.
[2]This is to make the croutons. Of course, you can always make your own baguettes too, like I do 🙂
[3]Most recipes call for Gruyere, which is quite expensive. Use generic Swiss as a substitute.

Cooking

French onion soup has three base components which must be assembled before the soup itself can come together: the baguette, the beef stock, and the caramelized onion.

Baguettes can be bought or made. I have made my own baguettes ahead of time for this recipe. If you have never made baguettes before and are unsure on whether or not you wish to make them, try reading through a few recipes online. Baguettes are cheap but rather tricky to make, and are one of those things that require repeated attempts to understand and improve upon. You will need one medium-sized baguette to make about 3-4 cups of croutons.

I see your baguette is as big as mine. Now let’s see how well you use it.

Next up is beef stock. Beef stock is not difficult to make, but costs significantly more than a few blocks of bouillon. You can make it by browning a couple pounds of beef bones and scraps along with some chopped carrot and onion, and covering with 6 cups of water to simmer for about 90 minutes. Remove the bones and strain the vegetables from the stock when ready.

Slick product placement on the lower left corner.

When you have both the baguette and the beef stock, you are ready to start making the soup! Begin by thinly slicing about 4-5 yellow onions. You want about 5-6 cups of the stuff. And yes, that shit will make you weep.

No woman no cry? Bob Marley never chopped any fuckin’ onions.

Melt two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of oil on high heat in a pot. When the butter foam has subsided, add your onions and cook with a lid on the pot for about 5 minutes. This will steam and wilt the onions to prepare them for caramelization. After 5 minutes, uncover the pot and switch heat down to medium (medium-low on gas stoves). Add 1 teaspoon of salt and just a pinch of sugar to help the onions brown. Cook the onions, stirring with a spatula every 2 minutes or so, for about 40 minutes to caramelize the onions.

This isn’t something you can hurry along. Fast equals premature.

While your onions are cooking, you can start working on your croutons. Chop your baguette into 3/4 inch (2 cm) medallions, then cut them into approximately 1 inch pieces. In a separate bowl or container, add 1 minced clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of oil (olive oil is best), and about half a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Dump all of your bread pieces into this and shake around to coat.

Make precise cuts. Think premeditated murder, not crime of passion.

Bake your croutons in a 275F (135C) oven, turning them every 10 minutes for about 40-50 minutes. These croutons need to be dryer than regular croutons because they need to withstand being placed in onion soup without falling apart.

While your croutons are in the oven, your onions should caramelizing nicely, and look something like this:

Interestingly enough this is also an effective dog poison.

Cook for about five more minutes. At this point in time, the caramelizing process will give significantly diminishing returns the longer you cook it. Sprinkle in two tablespoons of flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in about 5 cups of hot stock to cover, and 1/3 cup of white wine. Season well with salt and pepper- you will need approximately an entire tablespoon of salt to counter the sweetness of onion. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Not that I’ve ever poisoned any dogs with this. Really.

Sometime during when your soup is simmering, your croutons should be done. Taste a crouton to make sure that it is completely dry throughout. It should not be moist or soft in any part.

If you have bad teeth you should probably not chew these without soaking in the soup first, or without first stealing granny’s dentures.

When the soup is almost done, turn the broiler on in your oven. Prepare as many bowls as you are prepared to serve. Ladle your soup into the bowls, then top with croutons and Swiss cheese. Stick the bowls into the oven under the red-hot broiler for 30 seconds to melt the cheese. I left mine to broil for a full minute, and the croutons burned. Top with your herb of choice and serve immediately.

The Result

The title of this soup has French, onion, and soup. The soup itself has two out of those three things. Oh well.

How wazzit? Wouldn’t you like to know? Well, the soup has an interesting dynamic. The first bite is delicious. There is the crunchy, aromatic croutons (which are slightly soggy on the bottom), the rich beef broth, the sweet caramelized onions, an entire symphony of flavors and textures. Then the next bite isn’t quite as good, and the next is a bit less good, and by the fifth bite you’re wanting to finish the soup and move on to something else. So, I wouldn’t recommend serving more than 1 cup’s worth to anyone for any one meal.

Conclusion

Fuck. I’m fairly certain that hearing all these people talk about how great French onion soup is has ruined French onion soup for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good (for the first bite especially), but it’s not the mind-blowing epiphany that I was expecting. Long story short is, don’t let people tell you how great some food is. It’s far better to just assume that something is “pretty good” in a modest sort of way, so you can always leave more impressed than you were prepared to be.

How is French onion soup? It’s pretty good. You should give it a try some time.

Coq au Vin


You wouldn’t visit Egypt for the first time without visiting the Pyramids. Likewise, you wouldn’t learn French cuisine without making coq au vin at least once.

Coq au vin translates to “rooster with wine” in English (or cock with wine, but in this day and age that phrase is easily misconstrued). It’s basically a chicken stew made with a ton of wine. There are many ways to make coq au vin. For my inaugural attempt(s), I decided to go with Julia Child’s version, which is designed for the American supermarket. It certainly requires more work than some of the other versions, but all of its ingredients are readily acquirable in a supermarket.

This is going to be a long blog for a long recipe. I will be showing you how to make everything in the recipe from scratch, which takes anywhere from 3.5-5 hours depending on your hardware and multitasking skills. I strongly encourage you to read through the recipe before attempting the dish in the event that there is some hardware or ingredient requirement you do not meet. Of course, if you do not feel like spending much time/effort, feel free to take any store-bought shortcuts you deem necessary.

Last but not least, a ton of thanks to www.teamliquid.net member endy for answering my newbie questions and lending his vast culinary knowledge.

Ingredients

If you consider yourself a mature individual, you’ll probably want to skip the captions ahead. Coq talk incoming (aren’t you glad I tipped you off?).

Prep Time: 3.5-5 hours
Note: I know this looks like a lot of ingredients, but there’s a lot of repeats. And yes, you need all parts.

I: Brown Chicken Stock

Chicken giblets & bones
1 medium carrot
1 yellow onion
3 cups water
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
few sprigs of parsley
cooking oil

II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions [Oignons Glacés à Brun]

~ 2 dozen mini (or pearl) onions*
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp oil
1/3 cups brown chicken stock**
2 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
salt
pepper

III: Sauteed Mushrooms [Champignons Sautés au Beurre]

1/2 pounds (~225g) mushrooms (button or brown is fine)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
2-3 tbsp minced shallots OR chopped scallions
salt
pepper

IV: Coq au Vin

A 4-5 pound chicken, cut into pieces***
3-4 oz salt pork OR bacon****
1/2 cups cognac
3 cups wine*****
2 cubs brown chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
3 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
2-3 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp flour

*Do not use large onions. You should be able to find some small or pearl onions that are roughly 1 inch in diameter or smaller. They do cost about 10x the price of regular yellow onions though.
**The original recipe says 1/2 cups of stock, but if you “simmer slowly” as the instructions direct you’ll never be able to simmer away all the liquid by the end of 50 minutes. 1/3 cups should be more than enough especially since the pearl onions I (and probably you) use are smaller and should cook faster than those in the recipe.
***Try to procure a good chicken, like a free-ranged type. Since you will be shelling out a lot of money for all the other ingredients, it doesn’t make sense for the star of the show to be of low quality.
****What you really need is a lump of high-fat salt pork that hasn’t been smoked. If you cannot find these, use bacon. Full instructions will be included below.
*****You want a full-bodied red wine. White wines also work, but my personal experience is with red. Merlots are a good choice for a cheap wine that is still full-bodied. If you have money to spare, a Burgundy, a wine from the Vallee du Rhone region made from Pinot Noir grapes, or a Chianti should also work.

Cooking I: Brown Chicken Stock

The cooking process for coq au vin begins and ends with the chicken. If you purchased a whole chicken, it should come with some giblets and a neck. Set these aside and de-bone your chicken. You should end up with two breasts, two thighs, two wings, two drumsticks, the spine, a few extra pieces of skin and fat, and the ribcage. Cut the spine in half to produce two additional pieces of dark meat chicken.

I’m not exactly an expert deboner. But your grandmother is, when she’s naked.

Bag the breasts and stick them in the refrigerator. They will not be used for this dish. Set aside the giblets, skin, and bones, and refrigerate the other pieces for now. These random pieces of chicken will be the base for the brown chicken stock.

Taking chicken stock to brown town. Coqs are involved.

Chop one onion and one carrot. Pour a tablespoon of two of oil into a pot and brown the chicken, onion, and carrot. After browning, add three cups of water, bay leaf, thyme, and a few sprigs of parsley. Salt and pepper isn’t necessary at this point. Bring the water to a boil then turn the heat down. Simmer the stock for about 90 minutes. Strain the solids out and keep the stock for later.

I dub it the coq stock

Cooking II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions

Wash and peel your mini-onions (you can do this while your stock is simmering). Place your butter and oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. The butter will melt, then begin to form foam bubbles on the surface of the oil. Wait until the foam has subsided; this indicates that the oil is ready to receive your food. Dump your onions into the hot oil and brown them on all sides to the best of your ability, rolling them around to brown all surfaces.

Pearl onions, because you can’t have coq au vin without the family jewels.

Once the onions are suitably browned, pour 1/3 cup of your brown chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste, thyme, bay leaf, and sprigs of parsley (you may notice a pattern in the herbs involved). Turn the heat down to low and cover the onions. Slowly simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated. If you are using a dark (teflon) pan, it may be difficult to discern if there is still any liquid left or if there is only oil. You can always tip the pan a bit to find out, or taste an onion. It should hold its shape, but be soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Cooking III: Sauteed Mushrooms

This step can be done ahead of time, or later while your chicken is simmering in part IV. Wash and thinly slice your mushrooms. Meanwhile, melt your butter and oil in a pan (medium on gas stove, high on electric). Again, the way to tell that the butter is ready is when the foam rises then subsides in the pan.

Bubble pop, bubble pop.

Toss the mushrooms for about five minutes. The mushrooms will first absorb all of the oil, then gradually release it to coat all the mushrooms with a nice slick sheen. There should never be any water or juice in the bottom of the pan while you are sauteeing. If you do see water collecting, turn your heat up.

Chop some shallots or scallions while you are tossing the mushrooms. Add them to your sauteed mushrooms and toss for another two minutes. Salt and pepper to season. Remove from heat and set aside for now.

Up until now neither coq nor vin have made their appearances yet. But hold your fucking horses, it’s coming. By which I mean the coq.

Cooking IV: Coq au Vin

We are now ready to assemble the dish! Bring about 5-6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Cut your bacon into pieces and boil them for 10 minutes to remove the smoky taste. If you are using salt pork, you can skip this step. Once your bacon is boiled, drain the water.

To do this step completely from scratch, first smoke your pork to make bacon, then boil the bacon to remove the smoky flavor.

Fry the bacon in a pan with two tablespoons of butter until the fat has been rendered from the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan.

Take your dark meat chicken pieces out of the refrigerator. Use 6-8 pieces of paper towels to pat them dry. This step is very important! It may seem wasteful, but it is essential to dry the surface of the chicken so that you can brown them without steaming them.

Heat the bacon-infused butter oil until it is smoking, then brown your chicken on all sides. Salt and pepper them at this time. Make sure to cook your chicken on a single layer, and do not crowd your pan. If you have a small pan like I do, brown your chicken in batches.

Cutting it up and frying it in butter, the French sure have a way with coqs.

Once your chicken is browned, collect them in a pot. Add the bacon back to the chicken and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, turning the pieces once.

Pour it on your coq and set it on fire.

Now, take the lid off the pot. Pour 1/4 cup of cognac all over the chicken and light that shit on fire, using either a match or a lighter.

It’s like that scene in the park in that movie Baby’s Day Out. You know what I’m talking about?

Carefully shake the pot from side to side while it is on fire, making sure not to catch on fire yourself. Now, add to the chicken two cups of brown chicken stock, three cups of wine, one mashed garlic clove, a tablespoon of tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some pepper. Cover the lid, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Coq and vin, finally united.

At the end of 30 minutes remove the chicken from the pot. Yes, the pieces will be a dark purple. And that’s fine. There should also be a brownish film over the soup in the pot. Use a ladle to skim all of this off- this is most of the fat that have been used so far in the dish. Then, turn the heat as high as it can go. Boil the liquid down until you have about 2 cups left skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, then turn the heat down until the sauce is at a bare simmer.

That coq residue right there ain’t good for eatin’

Mash together 2-3 tablespoons of room temperature butter with equal parts flour. Dump this mixture into your reduced sauce, and whisk (use a plastic spatula if you are using a non-stick pot like I am!) the butter into the sauce to incorporate. Simmer for a few minutes more. Return the chicken to the pot, and add the mushrooms and onions. Fold into the sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve hot with potatoes, pasta, or rice.

You know a dish isn’t half-coqed when you’ve been cooking it for the past 5 hours.

The Result

Les filles, elles adorent mon coq.

A lot can go wrong when someone as immature as I am has to talk about tasting a dish called coq au vin. I’ll say that it is pretty good. Cooking all the ingredients separately means that they all have a unique identity in the dish. The chicken is nice, tender, and chickeny. The onions, sweet from caramelization, melt in your mouth. The mushrooms are nice and mushroomy, and when you chew them the rich flavor of butter come bursting forth. The rich wine sauce ties everything together nicely.

Conclusion

Man, this writeup was really long. It’s probably really long for you to read too, so I’ll keep this short. French cuisine is fucking fun to cook, I enjoyed every minute of the five hours or so it took to make the dish. Sure, if you’re not so into cooking you can buy stock from the store and significantly cut down on the cooking time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the near future I have some baked goods projects planned, so stay tuned!

Chicken, Green Pepper, and Mushroom Stir Fry


One of my greatest self-professed weaknesses as a cook is that I have a hard time tasting any big difference between the allegedly “flavorless” fryer chickens in American grocery stores and their vastly more expensive, free-ranged counterparts. I mean, god damned everybody runs around talking about how flavorless your overfed, hormone pumped fryers are compared to the free rangers, but I can’t taste it. To me, even regular chicken breasts, which are the most flavorless parts of any chicken, can be flavorful enough if you season it with enough salt and pepper, marinate it in wine for a while, and avoid overcooking it.

This time around we are making a simple home style stir fry using the “flavorless” chicken breasts. This is a fast dish that takes mere minutes to assemble and is great for a summer lunch. The three main ingredients are chicken breasts, green bell peppers, and mushrooms. It is a light yet flavorful combination that draws influences from both traditional Chinese cuisine and Western style Chinese cuisine.

Ingredients

More ingredients than you can shake a stick at? I don’t think so. You can shake a stick at all of them if you wanted to.

Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes, plus ~2 hours hydration/marination time
Serves 2-3

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 green bell peppers
7-8 button, brown, or shiitake mushrooms*
Chinese cooking wine**
salt
pepper***
1 garlic clove (optional)
cooking oil
1 tbsp corn starch or 1 1/2 tbsp flour

*In the picture I had some hydrated shiitakes and a few leftover button mushrooms. You can use all of one type, a mixture, or however you like. Of course, shiitakes and mushrooms aren’t exactly cheap. If you’re on a shoestring budget you can omit mushrooms altogether.
**The brown kind. If you buy Chinese cooking wine from an Asian goods store it should be far cheaper than the cheapest grape wine you can find. Otherwise, substitute the cheapest white wine you can find.
***White or black pepper can work. White pepper is quite expensive in Western supermarkets for whatever reason, you can probably find it cheaper in the same Asian goods store you buy the Chinese cooking wine.

Cooking

This time we’ll start with the cooking first and move on to the prep later! Just kidding. We always prep first.

At least two hours before you make the dish, cut your chicken breasts into about 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces. Season them with about half a teaspoon of salt and douse with 5-6 tablespoons of wine. Set the breasts in the refrigerator until cooking time. If you are using dried shiitakes, use this time to submerge them in some water as well (cold water if soaking overnight, warm if on the same day). Both marination and soaking can be done up to a day ahead of time.

These days chicken farmers are obsessed with large breasts.

Just before you are ready to cook, chop your mushrooms and green peppers into bite-sized pieces, also roughly 3/4 inch (2 cm). Mash your clove of garlic. If you plan to serve this dish with rice, you should start on it roughly 10 minutes after the rice has started cooking to ensure that both items finish at the same time.

NOTE: If you are using rehydrated shiitakes, squeeze the excess juice out of them after removing from the soaking liquid. This is a very mild dish and the strong flavor of shiitake can easily overpower everything else.

If you know karate, feel free to chop the vegetables by hand.

Now we are ready to cook. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil into a pan and turn heat to high (if on an electric range) or medium/medium high (if on a gas stove). Dump your chicken minus the marinating fluid into the pan. Season with pepper and cook until just before done, about two minutes. Stir the chicken often to keep it going and cook all sides evenly. Do not worry about browning; it is not required for this dish.

The French will tell you this is poulet and the Chinese will tell you it’s ji, but they’re all lying. It’s actually just chicken.

Dump all of your vegetables into the same pan. Season with salt and cook until almost done, which should take about three minutes. The non-shiitake mushrooms should soften but the green peppers should stay firm and crisp. While you are stir frying, prepare about 6 tablespoons of cold water mixed with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (or 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour).

What if it’s possible to become fungitarian and not eat meat or vegetables?

When the vegetables are almost done, add both the chicken and flour/water mixture into the pan. Taste for seasoning. Cook for about a minute or two until the the sauce thickens and coats all the pieces of meat and vegetables.

To Westernize the dish further, add six cups of heavy cream and beat in four sticks of butter.

Serve hot with steamed short-grained rice. Although the dish is mild, it pairs well with other, strong-flavored dishes such as chilled kimchi for contrast.

The Result

Kimchi is like Wheaties for Starcraft.

4.5 / 5 Pretty good for a quick, fast meal. The crisp green bell peppers provide a contrast in texture from the juicy mushrooms and chicken. The chicken breasts are tender and juicy, not tough or overcooked. As you can see, I have a small side bowl with some kimchi topped with a bit of chopped scallions to balance out the flavors for the meal.

Conclusion

Unlike Western cooking philosophy, which considers a wide variety of flavors in terms of gauging a dish, Chinese cuisine prioritizes two main factors when determining how tasty a dish is: aroma and umame (or savoriness). For this reason, you will often find many dishes in true Chinese cuisine which are rather one-dimensional in flavor, but presents the flavor in an extremely assertive way. This is a dish that follows such a philosophy: both chicken and mushrooms are heavily umame-flavored and serve to enhance each others’ flavor in this dish. The overall taste is simple and direct. That is why it is good to have a small side of kimchi for palate cleansing if this is the only dish you plan to serve with rice.

Cabillaud à la Provençale


Welcome ladies and gentlemen! Were you surprised by the unintelligible gibberish in the title? It’s written in a language called French, and it says something like “codfish cooked in the Provence style”. In Mark Twain’s book “Huckleberry Finn”, the character Jim had the sense to ask why these Frenchies can’t speak Americanese like the rest of us sensible folk, and well, I don’t know. Anyhow, these French people are allegedly world renowned for their cuisine, topping even McDonald’s and Taco Bell in the techniques and flavors of their food.

I have once again been called to do some mercenary cooking for my room mate, who managed to bargain for a rather nice looking piece of cod in exchange for some mere pieces of green-colored paper. This Provence way of cooking codfish is what I decided upon, after reading through a couple dozen recipes involving frying, searing, poaching, and baking this fish. The recipe comes directly from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. It is unadulterated, since I am still new to the French way of cooking. If you plan to follow this recipe, please read through the entire recipe (or at least the recipe as it appears on page 219 of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”) so that you are not caught off-guard by any equipment required.

Ingredients

The Lona Misa

Yes, all these things just to pamper that small piece of fish on the left. Its 15 minutes of fame before disappearing forever into someone's gut.

Prep and cook time: ~1 hour
Serves Two

1 lbs cod fish fillet, cut into 3-4 pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 lb tomatoes, peeled and seeded*
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 cups white wine
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp softened butter**

*instructions will be provided on how to go about this below.
**must be at least room temperature! Plan ahead for this if you keep your butter in the refrigerator.

Author’s Note: normally I will say something like “feel free to leave out whatever you do not have or are not willing to shell out money for”, but if you are really interested in learning French cuisine, you should try to obtain as many of these ingredients as possible to really understand the full gamut of what each ingredient is trying to accomplish in the dish. Also, the cooking process is rather long and complex compared to some of the other dishes I have written about. Please follow the instructions as closely as possible because each step has a very specific reason. Omitting any step can result in a significantly different result.

Cooking

We will start by bringing a pot of water to boil. While the water is heating up, start on your prep work by mashing your clove of garlic, dividing and salt and peppering your cod, washing your tomatoes, and chopping your onions. Salt the cod more lightly than you would pork or beef. It is very easy to over-salt your fish.

Fresh herbs?!? This guy really sold out from his roots as a dirt-cheap cook. You bet your ass I did.

Once the water is boiling, dump (or dip individually with a ladle) your tomatoes into the water and submerge for 10 seconds. Remove them from heat immediately afterwards. This will allow you to easily peel your tomatoes.

Look how red those tomatoes are. You could wave this jpeg in front of a bull and he would charge.

Peel the tomatoes and remove that brown dot where the stem of the vine connects to the tomato. Cut each tomato in half across the width (the latitude). Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and soft juicy parts of the tomato. Either use these in another dish or discard them. Meanwhile, dice and collect the rest of the tomato. These will be used as the bulk of the sauce for this fish dish.

They're so juicy and plump and smooth. Then you GOUGE OUT THEIR INSIDES AND CHOP THEM ALL INTO TINY BITS.

It’s time to move on to the fish! Pour two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan over medium-high heat until the olive oil begins to smoke. Saute your fish pieces for 1-2 minutes per side to lightly brown each side. Remember, the fish should sizzle when you drop it into the oil. If you do not audibly hear the sizzle, take the fish out and wait for the oil to heat up further.

It's poissonous.

Remove fish from the heat and set aside for now.  In the same pan, gently cook your onions for about 5 minutes to soften but not brown. You will need to turn the heat down for the onions. Preheat your oven to 325F (160C) After five minutes add the tomatoes, garlic clove, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for five more minutes.

If it wasn't for human fixation on meat this could easily be a tomato dish with cod playing a supporting role.

Prepare a baking pan. Place your fish on the bottom and pour your tomato sauce on top. Cover the pan (use aluminum foil if you lack a lid). Bake at the bottom third rack for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Add 1/2 cup of white wine and return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes. In retrospect, my cook’s instinct tells me that this step is critical. The addition of wine half-way through the cooking process lowers the heat of the dish and prevents the fish from overcooking.

I wonder if some 10 year old will ever stumble onto this blog and go "What? They call this fish cod? Those fuckers totally stole that name from Call of Duty."

As your fish is baking, finely chop a tablespoon or two of parsley and mix together your flour and butter into a paste.

According to CSI if you zoom in closely enough onto the reflection in the spoon you could see my face.

After 20 cumulative minutes in the oven take the fish out. Separate the sauce from the fish fillets. Keep the fillets warm somewhere. Dump your sauce back into the pan and boil on high heat until you have less than a cup of it left. Don’t worry about the chunky tomatoes, the heat will reduce them into near oblivion by the time your sauce is done. At this point, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and your butter/flour paste and cook for another minute.

What if the reason why god isn't real is because there was a typo a long time ago, and we were supposed to be praying to cod all along?

You are almost done! Take the sauce off heat and dump in your chopped parsley. Mix. Prepare a number of plates. Arrange your cod piece(s) onto the plate and pour sauce onto the cod. Serve warm.

The Result

All that work for such a small portion. Oliver Twist would look at this and ask you for more.

 ??? / 5  Another mercenary effort so I am not entirely sure exactly how good it tastes. The sauce is pretty good at any rate. It is a bit tart, since I still can’t be arsed to grow my own tomatoes and supermarket tomatoes in the United States are typically rather poor in flavor compared to homegrown. If you have access to homegrown, ripe tomatoes, I highly recommend you try this dish with it. You will see a huge difference.

Conclusion

An interesting anecdote is that while I was growing up, raised in a traditional Chinese family, we always looked down on “Western” cuisine as rough and simplistic. My only contact with Western “cuisine” at the time being cafeteria food from school, I was inclined to agree. Steamed peas? Green beans boiled until they were turning yellow? Raw vegetable salads? These foods seemed so basic and flavorless compared to the stir fries of Chinese cooking which involved much washing, slicing, cooking, and saucing. And so I relayed these observations to my parents, who used these findings to reinforce their prejudices against western cuisine. To this day, many first-generation Chinese immigrants hold onto these same prejudices even after having lived in the United States for decades.

But you know, and I know, that these people, as proud as they are of their own cuisine, are missing an entire world of food. To me, right now, French cooking is still a bit of a novelty. It is exotic, complex, and a lot of fun. I, for one, do not want to miss out on what my fellow (ex-) countrymen are too disdained to try.

The moral of the story is to not be be afraid to try out new foods, even if you do not like it the first time you try it. At the very least you’ll leave the meal with an interesting story about that time you tried wild boar’s sphincter poached in the tears of seven year old children, or whatever that dish may be!

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.