Wednesday, July 29, 2009
A cool, refreshing drink I enjoy when I find it being served at the local Mexican restaurants is Jamaica - sweetened iced hibiscus tea.
When it comes to Mexican foods and recipes, I look to Rick Bayless. He's an American chef that specializes in the various cuisines of Mexico. Fortunately, I found his recipe for Agua de Jamaica.
Ref: Rick Bayless's Jamaica Cooler
The recipe is straight forward 2 ounces of dried hibiscus flowers, 1 1/4 C sugar and 3 quarts of water. I only purchased 1 ounce of Jamaica I approximately halved the recipe.
I started with 5 cups of water. I know 4 cups makes 1 quart, but that didn't seem like enough water. Also, via some quick and erroneous math... I calculated 75 g of sugar.
My recipe is as follows...
Hibiscus Tea - Jamaica (Phonetically: ha-my-eek-ah)
1 cups (1 ounces) dried jamaica “flowers”
6T (75g) Sugar
5 C Water
1) Bring two cups of water to a boil.
2) Add the sugar and the hibiscus. NOTE: I gave the flowers a quick soak and rinse to remove any dust.
3) Stir until the sugar dissolves.
4) Steep about 1 hour
5) Strain the liquid and press/squeeze the flowers to extract the liquid from the flowers.
6) Chill before serving... over ice.
The raw ingredients - Sugar and the dried hibiscus flowers
Wow! This is a stronger drink than what's found in the Mexican restaurants.
Typically, in the restaurants the flavors are more restrained.
This batch has the flavor of tea leaves with the tartness of cranberries. A slightly musty, earthy aroma and taste too. I'm glad I miscalculated the sugar.... the 75 g of sugar is more than enough.... which makes sense. 5 cups of water and a little over 1 T sugar makes for a sweet drink. It's almost like a coffee with 3 or 4 cubes of sugar.
Next time I could probably get away with 2 quarts of water per 1 ounce of jamaica while only using 75 g of sugar (which works out to about 2 t per cup).
The flowers naturally colors the drink a pleasing red.
On a hot day, this is a cool and refreshing drink.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Hard to believe that a year ago my fingers were developing a callous and aching. I was cussing out the hazelnuts I was skinning. While spending the whole day (it was a hot day too) in the kitchen making a tremendous mess, I was asking myself, "Geez! What have I gotten myself into?"
That was the July 2008 challenge, a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. If you're interested, take a read of the challenge, July 2008 DB Challenge.
What a difference a year makes!
I'm more at ease with the DB challenges, but I still make a mess, use every pot, pan, baking dish and utensil I can find. It's a guy thing.
Moving forward to 2009...
The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milano Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.
For the challenge, you choose one or do both recipes. Of course, I daringly made both recipes. :-)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract [I opted to use 1 T Almond Extract. I was leery of using 2T of almond extract so I used 1 T. I could have gotten away with 1.5 T]
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped [I used semisweet chocolate chips]
• 1 orange, zested [I left out the orange zest]
The recipes implies using a stand mixer. I used a hand mixer instead.
1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
The flour being mixed into the batter. Yes, the cookie dough was like a thick batter... instead of being a firm dough.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
I don't have a 1/4-inch plain tip so I used my favorite tool - the Ziploc bag with a 1/4-inch corner cut off. Using the real Milano as a guide, I piped a swirl pattern.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
The dough spread out and the swirl all melded together. This resulting cookie is reminiscent of the tuile challenge from January. Darn... I was hoping to get the little pip like the real Milan cookie.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
The thin coating of chocolate is applied. One coat for the cookie. One lick for me. One coat for the cookie. One lick for me. Oops... for a second I thought I was Paula Deen. :-)
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.
The second part of the challenge had a cookie component and a marshmallow component.
I've always wanted to make my own marshmallows, but I just didn't have the time. However, for the challenge I made time.
Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies
• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows
The recipes implies using a stand mixer. I wanted to try making the cookie dough in a "less mess", self-contained, easy to clean method... In other words, I just threw everything into a plastic storage bag and squeezed the bag to mix. It actually worked nicely.
1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
Softened butter is a must for this "all in the bag" method.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
This shot was taken to show the crumb texture of the flour-butter mixture.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
Looking at my cookie cutters, they were 2 to 2.5 inch in diameter. I found that the cap to the spice jar was just a touch over 1.5" diameter. The cap was used as my cookie cutter. :)
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.
Onto the fun part!
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
Mixing the gelatin into the hot syrup. The bowl below is my original gelatin mixture. For some reason, I got into my head that the gelatin is bloomed in 2 Cups of water. It didn't make sense and fortunately I reread the recipe. 2T of water! NOT 2 cups! lol! I must be on a sugar high!
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
This marshmallow recipe called for using egg whites.
Gasp! Raw egg whites!!! Are you Crazy???
Well... pouring in the 230 F syrup and mixing takes care of any beasties in the raw egg.
That mixture was very hot! I could feel the heat on the bottom of the bowl.
Heating to 160F for a few minutes kills off any bacteria. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
Hot syrup and eggs being mixed together! Whipping the eggs to soft peaks took about a minute. Whipping this mixture to something stiff took about 10 to 15 minutes!
10 to 15 minutes later! Whew! I thought I messed up when the mixture didn't stiffen up. I just kept mixing and mixing and mixing. Finally, I noticed the beater was leaving a trail in the marshmallow so I knew I was getting somewhere!
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil
1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.
Assembling the Mallows
1. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
Another Ziploc with the marshmallows!
The cookies baked with the top a little rounded/dome-like. I wasn't sure if the marshmallows would be soupy and runny when I piped it or it would retain it's shape. The cookie was flipped over for the marshmallow kiss. I reasoned the bottom, being flat or slightly concave, would hold the marshmallow better than the top.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
I only baked 1/3 of the cookie dough and the yield was about 36 to 42 cookies. The recipe states it makes only 2 dozen. Hmmm... I made 3 to 4 dozen using only 1/3 of the dough. There's a disconnect somewhere.
3. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
The chocolate dipping process! The chocolate was in a double boiler and was still rather thick. I used the fork to roll the cookie in the chocolate.
4. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
5. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.
A few done and hundreds to go! LOL!
These cookies are best made during a cool day... which I didn't have. The chocolate took about 4 hours to set.
The Final Results
So how did these cookies compare to the commercially available products?
Let's take a look.
On the left, the homemade Milanos.
On the right, the store-bought Milans.
The cookie of the real Milanos are more like a shortbread cookie, while the homemade Milanos are softer more Tuile=like. Also, the homemade Milanos become softer when exposed to the air.
The flavor of the homemade Milanos are actually better with complex and pleasing flavor - vanilla with a hint of almond. The store bought Milanos are mainly sweet and crunchier.
The mallows turned out to be my favorite! The cookie has a nice cinnamon flavor without being overpowering. The marshmallow turned out very well - light and fluffy.
As the day went on, I was running out of chocolate. What I opted to do was coat the bottom of the cookie and use a little parchment coronet to pipe chocolate on the top (the cookies on the right). One thing I found out about cooling chocolates, if you cool too fast like I did by using the refrigerator (the cut sample), the chocolate will bloom which results in a dull, sandy appearance. This is due to the chocolate forming large crystals. Blooming doesn't effect the taste, it's more of an appearance thing. At least, I didn't notice a change in taste. :)
Overall, a fun and easier challenge for my one year anniversary challenge. Both cookies turned out nicely, but my favorite is the mallows.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Ballard started out as a Scandinavian neighborhood where the residents are proud of their Nordic heritage.
A restored replica of a Viking ship that was sailed in Lake Washington in the early 1900's.
The folks in Ballard worked the sea. Salmon being the common catch.
The trademark dish at the festival - smoked salmon.
Salmon (and Halibut) are brushed with butter (?) and a secret seasoning mix.
An improvised sand pit is created where an Alderwood fire is started and the wood is allowed to burn down.
The metal box is moved over the wood and the fish is smoked/cooked on a grate.
We also walked the festival to see what else was cooking.
Cajun blackened salmon caught our eye.
Served with grilled onions, tartar sauce on a soft bun.
The salmon was slightly spice from the seasoning, still moist and delicious.
A couple other things caught our eye... Food on a stick!
Roasted corn and Alligator on a stick.
Yes, alligator. It's not Nordic nor is it very Pacific Northwest, but looked interesting.
The old saying is mystery meat tastes like chicken... Actually, the alligator tasted like pork especially with the spicy coating. The texture was a little chewy like beef.
We split the corn.
Can you tell which half was my half?
The portion eaten to the core... lol.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Per the instructions, 1 t on each side.
Pan-fried on one side on medium for 4 minutes.
Flipped over and broiled for another 4 minutes.
Served with a Veloute sauce.
This dry rub is similar to ones I've made in the past. The main difference is the smoked paprika, which Tom Douglas smokes in-house.
The flavor was slightly sweet with the paprika giving a little smokiness. I only used 1 t per side since I didn't know if the brown sugar would burn. Now that I've gotten one under my belt, I'll probably use 1 1/2 tsp (1/2 T) the next time around to increase the flavor.
Friday, July 17, 2009
For parking we arrived early to this event. The main draw for is what's called, "The Alley" where local restaurants provide a small taste of a dish. A nominal admission is charged where the proceeds are donated to Food Lifeline.
While we waited for the event to start...
The fountains are just turned on... water pressure is building.
It's going to be a bright sunny day.
Since we were early, we strolled down to the local donut show for a raspberry old-fashion and tea. I had a hot chocolate.
Walking back we spied this view of the Space Needle nestled between a tree and the Monorail.
Inside the Center House, a Lego Statue of Liberty. Legos are cool!
We're the first in line. While we waited, I snapped a few pictures.
In an hour from now, people will start hitting the food booths and the lawn area will become crowded. The artwork represents Orcas (Killer Whales) swimming on the surface.
My attempt to be artsy with the stairs.
And the big round granite balls!
The running fountains looks like the whale spouting water.
The Alley is now open!
Starting at the 9 o'clock position and going clockwise....
Taste: Butterscotch Sundae--Madagascar vanilla ice cream and housemade pecan brittle
Taste: Thai Seafood Salad—Calamari, Shrimp and Octopus with sweet white onion, Kaffir lime, mint, cilantro and peanuts in a spicy Thai sweet-n-sour dressing
Taste: Lamb Dolmas - Lamb, basmati rice, dill, pine nuts, lemon olive oil sabayon
Restaurant: Cellars Restaurant & Lounge
Taste: Camarones Ahogados - Prawns in a cilantro-lime and serrano pepper sauce over crostino topped with salsa criolla
Restaurant: Dahlia Lounge
Taste: Wood Grilled Painted Hills Beef Rib Roast Steak – served with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Chimichurri Relish
Restaurant: Seattle’s Little Italy
Taste: Sicilian Sailors Bruschetta—Peasant Bread topped with tuna, olives, capers, celery, tomato, extra virgin olive oil, oregano and basil
Restaurant: Daily Grill
Taste: Mini Chicken Pot Pies
We find that his makes for a nice meal. Also, it gives us a chance to try different foods and cooking styles.
Since we were the first in line, the chef/host Tom Douglas gave us a container of his dry rub.
A nice little surprise. :)
Did I mention it was a hot day? 90F... in other parts of the US and the world, 90F is not a problems. Here in Seattle where used to cool and overcast. 90F might as well be 110F.
Later in the day... People are enjoying the cooling spray of the fountain.
Fun time had by all!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Challenge is Skate, traditional flavors powdered (slightly altered)
This is a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook - page 230.
First, thank you Sketchy for hosting this month's challenge and providing a different angle on a way to cook.
I deviated from the challenge by substituting skate with sea scallop and lingcod.
Two primary reasons:
Skate isn't readily available on the West Coast and, more importantly, skate is on the Seafood Watch List as overfished. [Ref: Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch]
Researching the internet, I found that skate was used as a sea scallop substitute (a substitute carried out by shady fish mongers) so using real sea scallops was a logical substitution. I, also, picked lingcod to try out a neutral tasting fish.
The challenge can be viewed as three parts - making the flavorful powders, poaching the seafood and plating/assembling the finished dish.
Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered - with changes
4 skate wings
300g fresh green beans
sea salt/kosher salt
454g butter - 4 sticks
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
100g dried banana chips
300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
100g cup minced red onion
200g capers (brined, not oil)
Making the Powders
Four powders are used for this dish
caper / onion
'brown butter' powder
In lieu of a dehydrator or the microwave, I used my oven set on WARM which is about 150 degrees. The items were placed on parchment paper and allowed to dry overnight... about 5 to 6 hours.
The zest from 300g of lemons (Not 300 g of zest... that's a lot of lemons!)
1000g simple syrup (I used a 1 to 1 ratio of water to sugar)
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet (Ironically, I tossed some citrus acid I used when I went through a cheese making phase. I went out and purchased some more... lol.)
zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest (I found my trusty potato peeler did the job really well) and poach in the simple syrup three times. dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray. 130 for 12 hours. pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.
If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder. Once dried, follow the other instructions.
I'm not sure what poached 3 times meant... so I poached in the same liquid for about 5 minutes each time, but I rinsed the zest strips between the first and second poaching.
On the left, the triple poached strips of zest. Weight before drying about 39 g.
On the right, oven dried zest. Weight was around 20 g.
150g cilantro (I used only 75 g which was about 1.5 C loosely packed)
150g parsley (I used only 75 g which was about 1.5 C loosely packed)
I wasn't sure if we wanted leaves only or full stems and leaves were okay. I ended up trying to use leaves only.
Blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray. 130 for 12 hours. grind and pass through chinois.
If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and microwave for another thirty seconds. They should be dry by now, pulse in coffee grinder, pass through chinois and reserve.
On the left, the blanched parsley and cilantro leaves.
On the right, the dried leaves
No weight was takes since the leaves where water logged after blanching.
100g cup minced red onions
dehydrator - 130 for 12 hours
microwave at medium power for 20 minutes.
pulse in grinder, pass through chinois
On the left, 100 g of minced red onions.
On the right, 12 g remained after drying.
NOTE: Be sure to ventilate the house really well. The fumes from the onion had us coughing.
200g capers (packed in brine/vinegar) [I only had 100 g of capers]
run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees.
microwave instructions are unclear. Dry them as much a possible with paper towels, the microwave on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir them. repeat for 30 second intervals until they are dry. If you use this method, pleas post the time needed to dry the capers.
On the left, 108 of rinsed capers.
On the right, dried capers weighing 16 g
Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix the caper and onion powder together.
Since I only had 100 g of capers, I only added 50 g of onion powder.
Brown Butter powder
100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible - many are coated in honey - the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)
300g spray dried cream powder [I had no luck finding spray dried cream or any form of dried cream powder. Instead of non fat milk powder, I used instant whole milk powder.]
If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob's red mill non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea.
preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds.
grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a chinois and reserve.
For this challenge, the seafood is poached in oil, more exactly and butter emulsion known as a Beurre Monte.
Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.
Finishing the beurre monte. Uuuuuh! Creamy and buttery looking... Pass the popcorn! :)
Slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt
Cooking the green beans. When the water evaporated, it sounded like beans were deep frying.
The beauty of poaching is that food is cooked and can be held for long periods without drying. Poaching is done at temperatures below boiling. With boiling, you have evaporation. Evaporation in foods means drying and toughness.
Prepare the skate - 50G v shaped cuts are recommended
(I used Lingcod and Sea Scallops - the lingcod was cut into individual serving size filets)
Bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.
The seafood taking a dip in the butter filled jacuzzi.
Alternative Poaching Method:
When I think of molecular cuisine/gastronomy, I think of sous vide.
Sous vide is a method of cooking proteins in a vacuum sealed bag at low temperatures (under 140F) for a very long time (12 hours to 24 hours or even days).
Well... I don't have a vacuum bagging system or a fancy immersion circulator so I opted to just poach in bag (PIB). My pseudo-sous vide (PSV). lol.
Scallops were placed in a ziploc bag with about 1 T of beurre monte. I used a straw to suck out the air, which kind of-sort of worked. The main point is to remove the air so the bag doesn't float and the butter stays in contact with the scallops.
The same was done with the lingcod filet. About 2 T of beurre monte was used and a larger ziploc bag.
The bags were submerged in 170F water. The fork was used to weigh down the lingcod bag.
Cooking time was about 40 minutes (actually should have been ready after 5 to 10 minutes, but I lost track of the time). However, the end result was still a very moist tender fish and scallop.
Another advantage of poaching is a bag is that you don't need the massive amount of butter as used in the traditional method, above. Using the bag, you use less than a stick of butter.
Plating/Finishing off the Dish
Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion-caper powder, and the cilantro parsley-powder. Swirl these around in a hurricane type pattern. I found that it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.
Peel the remaining banana into very think slices (3mm) fan three slices on the plate, place green beans on top and place skate wing portion on top. On the tall edge, sprinkle the brown butter powder.
The plated sea scallop dish.
The Lingcod plate
The scallop and lingcod were moist and I enjoyed the bold flavors of the caper/onion power and the tartness of the lemon powder. The powder added flavor, but maybe not in a manner that I'm used to. My palate may not be sophisticated enough to fully enjoy this dish. I missed the flavors resulting from searing the scallop and the filet.
The reasons I joined the Daring Cooks' is that I try something new, push the envelop and try to learn something while having fun!
That's why we call ourselves, "Daring Cooks!"