Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Up until last year, I had never tasted a macaron.

I always thought people were referring to coconut macaroons, which I hate; the texture of shredded coconut just really bothers me, After I tried one, I knew I'd found a special friend. They are so light and airy, with the perfect combination of crispy outside and slightly chewy inside. They were everything I always knew a cookie could be.

Typing up this post actually really made me crave some; I made these over the summer at my parent's house. I filled the first batch with one of my other favorite things in the world, guava paste. For the second batch I cheated slightly and instead of making something from scratch, I bought some Dulce de Leche. In case you're not familiar with Dulce de Leche, it is a sort of caramel made from cooking down whole milk/cream and sugar. I've actually made my own before, and it comes out much better than the can, but for this recipe the canned version works great.

I actually had an opportunity to make macarons for the first time with a friend last year and I learned most of my techniques from her. As for the recipe itself, I ended up amalgamating various recipes I found online. I might tweak the proportions a bit in the future, but these gave me a damn near perfect cookie. As for the guava filling, that was totally my own idea. You will notice that the measurements are in grams; this is one of those recipes where a food scale is almost a necessity. The structure of the cookies is so delicate that being off by even a little will alter the final product drastically.

Macarons
60g almond meal
50g egg whites
100g powdered sugar
30g granulated sugar
wilton food coloring of choice

Guava Filling
Guava paste
water
lemon juice



It always amazes me how few ingredients it takes to make these delicacies. The first step in this whole process is aging your egg whites. You want to separate your eggs, making sure you get absolutely no egg yolks in it. To be on the safe side, I would recommend three (even though you won't be using all of it). Mix the whites together for about two seconds, then cover with plastic wrap. Either leave on your counter for two days, or store in the fridge for four to five days. This really helps the meringue build nicely. Be sure to bring the eggs back to room temperature before using.


The next step is to combine your powdered sugar and almond meal. You want to sift them together a few time, or even just put them in a big zip lock bag and shake it vigorously. If you happen to find some blanched, slivered almonds on sale like I did, you can also make your own almond meal. Essentially, you want to use a strong food processor to grind your almonds down into a fine powder. You can add some of the powdered sugar as you go to make it easier to grind. If you use this method, you have to strain it as you go and re-grind anything that is too big to go through. The texture will never be as fine as the store bought version, so your cookies will have minuscule pieces of almond, but I actually enjoyed that.


Next, you need to make your meringue. Take your aged egg whites (only 50g) and put them in the bowl of a mixer (a hand mixer works fine here). Start whipping up the egg whites. Once they have started to turn white and foam up, you want to slowly add your granulated sugar a tsp at a time. This gives the meringue structure and ensures that it won't fall on you. Once soft peaks start forming, add your food coloring and continue whisking. You are looking for almost stiff peaks in the final product. Because of the sugar you drizzled in, the meringue will be very solid and almost resemble gooey marshmallows.


Once you have your meringue, add it to your bowl that has the almond meal and powdered sugar mixture. Use a rubber spatula to incorporate them together and smash the mixture against the wall of the bowl. You want to deflate your meringue and actually take out a lot of the air we just beat in. The best way I can describe the final consistency is what I imagine lava would flow like. Once you have it ready, pour it into a piping bag. I like to put the piping bag inside a big glass/plastic container to make filling it easier.


After you have your piping bag ready, line a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper. I like to put a little dab of the batter under each corner of the piping paper to keep it from moving while I pipe out the cookies. Snip the corner of your piping bag and pipe out the little cookies. You really don't need a lot of batter, and the cookies will shape themselves into those perfect little round shapes. Another critical step here is now resting your batter. Let these trays sit out for at least 30 minutes before you bake them. You want the batter to set slightly and develop a slight crust on the outside. The best way to tell if they have rested for long enough is touching the tops: your finger shouldn't make an indent and should come away clean.


While the better is resting, you can prepare your filling. I just took some store bought guava paste and heated it up with a little water and lemon juice. When it gets hot, it gets really runny (and be careful, it can REALLY burn you if you get it on your skin) but once it cools it solidifies again (which is perfect for the cookies). Once the guava has completely melted and combined with the water, take it off the heat. Let it rest until it is just warm to the touch and put it in a piping bag (or in this case, a ziplock bag).


Bake the macarons at 310 for about 13-16 minutes. You really have to watch them carefully and start checking every 30 seconds after 12 minutes. The best way to tell when they are ready is that they come of the parchment paper with just a tiny bit of force and don't leave anything stuck to the parchment paper. Let them cool for a few minutes, fill them, and sandwich them. If you want them to look as pretty as possible, take some time to pair them up with the one that is closest in size and shape (I line them up in pairs to make filling foolproof).


Finally, because why not, take your leftover macarons and fill them with some of the Dulce de Leche. Just be careful, these can disappear before you've had a chance to taste one if you put them out at a party.
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Saturday, September 22, 2012

  

This year has been incredibly busy. I have to say, I was not expecting it. I was hoping this year would be easy, and that I would be cooking and posting new recipes four or five times a week. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. I've barely had time to cook for myself and when I have, I've been so rushed that I don't have time to take pictures and post. This not only ends up being unhealthy, but also expensive. So I've decided to make a renewed effort to eat at home.

This is going to involve finding and coming up with recipes that will keep for a few days in the fridge so that I only have to cook a few times a week. And, it just so happens that this potato recipe I came up with last week is perfect for that. They taste good the next day heated in the microwave, even better if you have the time to heat them in the oven, and (I might be alone here, but) I love them as a quick snack cold from the fridge.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Masterchef Australia. I was watching this summer and multiple times I saw them make something called Fondant Potatoes. I had no idea what these were, but the judges made them sound divine. Perfectly crispy on the outside and an inside that is so soft and tender it almost has the texture of mashed potatoes. I looked online and couldn't find a recipe that seemed like it would give me the results I wanted. So instead, I took tips and methods from multiple sources and combined them in a way that I thought would work. I actually think I came up with the perfect potato.

When I was younger, my parents would make this amazing pollo con papas (roasted chicken and potatoes). What I loved most about this meal was the potatoes. The side touching the pan would get completely browned and crispy, and the potato would absorb all the fat and juices the chicken released. They were phenomenal and I think I achieved this exact same result with my recipe. As always, the amounts and ingredients are all suggestions. You can use chicken stock instead of bullion, any sort of spices you think will taste good, and can even use less butter if you want (but the butter makes them so delicious).

Fondant Potato
2 very large russet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter (for pan)
3 tbsp butter (for oven)
2 tablespoons bullion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 cup water


One of the most important things about this recipe is getting every piece of potato as close to the same size as possible. This ensures that they all cook through fully without having some fall apart. Unfortunately, this means there will be some potato waste. I chopped these pieces up, boiled them for a couple minutes, stored them in the fridge, and then used them to make an awesome hash the next morning.

I found that the best way for me to achieve uniform pieces is to cut each potato into 6 equal disks, and then use a round shape to cut out the inside of the disks. You might be able to tell, I don't actually have a pastry or cookie cutter, so I used the top of a cocktail shaker. Sometimes, you've just gotta find a way to get it done even if you don't have the correct tools.


The next step is getting both sides of the potato nicely browned. Start off by heating up the olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter in a heavy bottom pan. Salt and pepper the potato disks and brown for a few minutes on each side. As you can see from the picture above, I under-browned the first side a little. This is acceptable as long as you make sure that the under-browned side is the one that ends up submerged in the liquid.


While they are browning, you want to soften up the other 3 tbsp of butter and spread it around the bottom of a small casserole dish. Then, lay the browned potatoes on top. This makes sure they won't stick and the butter ends up being absorbed by the potatoes.


Next, you want to mix up your liquid. I didn't have any chicken stock on hand so I just used bullion, all the spices listed in the recipe, and water. Really, the only thing that matters is that the liquid you use taste good; that is what the potatoes are going to taste like when they are done. Once you have your liquid with spices mixed together, pour it into the casserole dish. You want the liquid to go about 3/4 of the way up the potatoes (it is critical that the liquid doesn't cover the top, otherwise they won't stay crunchy).


Finally, stick them in a 350 degree over for about 30 minutes. The best way to tell when they are done is if a toothpick goes straight through the center with absolutely no resistance. As you can see from the picture, the liquid and butter are going to reduce and make this great sauce to drizzle across the top of the potatoes. I'd actually recommend just squeezing half a lemon in with the remains and making that be your sauce.


6

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Once again, magical things happened when I use David Lebovitz's book, The Perfect Scoop, to make ice cream (even when I slightly modify the recipe). This time it was a butterscotch flavored custard ice cream with buttered pecans. I have never been a big fan of store bought ice cream with nuts; the texture just never seemed right to me. Thankfully, that is not a problem with this ice cream. The nuts stay nice and crunchy, and are a really nice contrast to the creamy ice cream.

Butterscotch Ice Cream
5 tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
6 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla bean paste


Buttered Pecans
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecan halves
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar 


You start off by making the butterscotch that is going to flavor the ice cream. Melt the 5 tbsp of butter and add the brown sugar. Mix with a wooden spoon until it is completely incorporated. Add the salt and stir. I let it bubble for a few minutes to develop the flavor.


Add half the cream, the milk, and the vanilla to the butterscotch and stir until combined. Heat this mixture up, but do not let it boil. You then want to make a custard. Whisk your egg yolks in a separate bowl. Then, you want to temper the eggs. Very slowly add about half of the warm cream mix to the egg yolks while stirring vigorously. The goal is to get the temperature of the yolks up slowly so that they don't scramble. Combine that with the cream left it in the pot and return to the heat.


Over medium heat, stir the custard continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom. You want this custard to thicken significantly. Keep an eye out on it because the thickening happens from one second to the next. The custard is ready when you can run a finger down the back of the spoon and get clean lines. Once it is ready, strain the custard into the remaining cream (which you have placed in a bowl over an ice bath). Chill this mixture in the fridge (or freezer) until very cold to make churning faster.


While the custard cools in the fridge, you want to make your buttered pecans. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and then add the pecans and just stir until coated. Lay out the pecans on a baking sheet and put in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes (they will smell nice and toasted when they are about ready). Be careful here too, because they can burn easily. This next step isn't from David's book, but I actually sprinkled the hot pecans with a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and mixed it. The brown sugar melted a little and gave the pecans a nice sweetness when they are in the ice cream. Cool these completely before using.


Finally, churn your ice cream according to your machine's instructions. When the ice cream is nearly ready, add your buttered pecans and churn for another minute or two. This will distribute the pecans and freeze the ice cream a little bit more around the pecans. Then scoop and enjoy.
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Thursday, September 6, 2012


Like every good Mexican, I absolutely adore churros. The sweet cinnamon sugar on the outside, the crispy exterior, and the soft, pillowy interior might just be the components to the perfect snack. Growing up in Southern California, churros were a special treat. I would have them from food carts after church (on the rare occasions I went), at the swap-meet, or at my dad's soccer games. I can't remember by family ever making them at home, so I didn't have a go to recipe or baseline when I decided to make them for myself.

About a year ago I made churro flavored cupcakes with a mini churro on top. While the cupcake was amazing, the churro was a little too crunchy and just didn't bring back the childhood memories I was hoping for. Then this summer I decided to try again and realized that there are two variations on churros: with or without eggs. The ones I made for the cupcake were egg-less, so I decided to try a new recipe that included eggs.

This is now my go to recipes. It does involve some deep frying, which can get a little messy, but the actual dough itself is incredibly easy to make. You don't have to cream any butter or worry about overworking the flour. If you want to impress your friends, I'd definitely recommend making these. I also decided to make a dipping sauce from abuelitas chocolate.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with abuelitas, it is a brand of mexican style table chocolate. The bars themselves are essentially shaped like hockey pucks. They are incredibly hard and granular if you try and eat them by themselves. However, once you melt it in some milk for a hot chocolate or use it to bake, magical things start to happen. The chocolate bar itself is infused with cinnamon and has a ton of raw sugar running through it. If you can't find abuelitas near you, you can simply melt some semi-sweet chocolate with cream and add a little bit of cinnamon. It won't be the same, but it will still be delicious.

This recipe will yield enough churros for about 10 people.

Churros

2 cups water
2 stick of butter
2 cup flour
pinch of salt
5 eggs
cinnamon and sugar (for coating)

Chocolate Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1.5 to 2 bars of abuelitas or ibarra chocolate


As you can see, there are very few ingredients in this recipe. Start off by heating up the butter, salt, and water over medium heat. You want this to get really hot, but not boil.


Once the water and butter are hot, turn the heat down to low and dump in the flour. Start mixing. It will be a little chunky looking at first and might not want to incorporate, but keep mixing.


Eventually it will start to come together and form something that looks like a wet dough. Keep mixing for a few minutes to cook the dough down sufficiently and not have the taste of raw flour. Transfer to a stand mixer bowl (or a bowl that you can use with your hand mixer). Start heating your oil while the dough cools down.


Once the dough is cool, start the mixer on medium. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each one is incorporated completely before moving on. Once you finish, the dough will have changed color slightly, will be much softer, and will stick together much better than before. Transfer the dough to a large pastry bag with a star tip attached.


By now, your oil should be right at 350. Squeeze out the dough and use your finger to drop the churro into the oil. Dip your finger in water before doing this to keep the dough from sticking to your finger. Fry until crispy and golden brown, a few minutes at the most, flipping halfway through.

What if you don't have a pastry bag with a star tip you ask? You can just use a ziplock bag, cut out one of the corners, and squeeze the dough through there. You won't have the beautiful ridges, but it will still be delicious. What if you don't have a ziplock back you ask? Well, just scoop teaspoons of the dough into the oil. It won't be a churro, but it will be the best donut hole you've ever had.


Drain the churros on a rack for about 30 seconds, and then add to a bag (in which you've already shaken the cinnamon and sugar). Give the bag a good shake until the churros are completely covered in deliciousness.


The chocolate sauce also couldn't be easier. Chop up the chocolate really finely (this is the most difficult part, use a heavy knife and just press it into a corner of the chocolate). Then just put it in a pot with the heavy cream until it all melts and thickens sufficiently.

And to finish it all off, one of my family members (can't remember who) eating a churro as it should be eaten: covered in gooey chocolate sauce.


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Saturday, September 1, 2012



Rajas are a traditional Mexican side dish consisting of roasted green peppers, usually poblano, with corn in a creamy cheese sauce. I love the flavor combination, but it is difficult to pull off at dinner parties because the creamy cheese sauce has a tendency to harden. Marcela Valladolid solved this issue by taking that great combination and creating a casserole that holds well and can travel.

Aside from how good it tasted, I also love this recipe because it is very easy to multiply the ingredients to make as much or as little as you'd like.

Creamy Poblano Rice Casserole (multiply according to desired yield)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 1 poblano or pasilla pepper (check out this chart to see what they look like)
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp mexican creama (you can also substitute sour cream)
  • 4 tbsp melting cheese (I use oaxaca if I can find it, but monterey jack works great)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
To start, you need to roast the peppers until they are completely charred and black, then peel them. Check out this post for step by step instructions.

Then, you need to toast the corn and cut it off the cob.

Once you have the roasted peppers peeled and chopped, mix them with the corn, the cheese, and the crema.


Set this aside while you cook the rice. Start off by toasting the onion in the olive oil, then add the rice and cook until it starts smelling and looking toasty.


Once the rice is nice and toasted, add the water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. This should take about 20 minutes to cook.


Once the rice is cooked, mix it with your original mixture.


Then place it in a buttered casserole dish and top with a little more cheese. Finish it off in the oven until it is bubbly and a little browned on top.


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Welcome to my blog, where you can join me as I revel in my love of food. Eating it, cooking it, baking it, watching it on TV and even learning about it. If it has to do with food, I am probably interested.

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