Thursday, July 26, 2012

BK Swappers, Thank You!

Who knew that you could spend a couple hours baking and come home with breakfast, lunch and dinner , drinks to share with your roomates and flavors to savor for many months to come. I got a tart pan, wild rice salad, hard cider, hot sauce, dried chipotles, cider, ginger beer, watermelon jelly, granola and garlic. All of it local, all of it homemade, all of it an utter DELIGHT. I couldn't have met nicer people. Thank you BK Swap! Thank you Krrb & Local Roots NYC, thank you to all the amazing home chefs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bait for Tasters

Two important events this week prompted the creation of these little sample bags...the first of course is BK Swappers, an event in Williamsburg this Thursday night where I'll be trading my homemade Biscaitie for various other homemade delights. I can't wait! To find out more, check out this link:

It's not too late to sign up if you're interested in joining in the bartering fun!

You'll be hearing more about the first soon so stay tuned... :)

(GF) Banana Muffins

Moist, flavorful and fluffy. I was so eager to eat them that I practically burned my mouth with the first bite. There's something to this whole, wait until they cool thing... Overall, a big yum for the gluten free muffins! Here's hoping we get some more old bananas soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Your Eye-ppetite

As I edited the photo of my peanut butter brownie sandwiches, I played around with hue saturation. It's a lovely tool I discovered while photo editing in college. Move one little tab and the color scheme of the entire image changes from "normal" to pop-art. My housemate stared in disbelief, "it looks so gross in other colors" he observed, "only peanut butter can have that texture and be appetizing." It's true. Not only that, but the honey spilling onto the plate turned into a ghoulish drool in other colors. The angle, the texture, the shapes...they all play into our visual food vocabulary, or eye-ppetite, and wrong combinations disgust our mental taste buds.

We recognize texture and color and associate them with flavors, how we portray and consume visual food is a science. It makes me wonder, knowing the iffy flavors that are inevitable through experimentation, how many of the visually stunning photos of food that we look at are actually crappy tasting? Well, I've certainly had my share of exquisite yet flavorless birthday cakes.

I visited Perugia in the week I had off from my Florence abroad experience and my friends brought me to a bar that is famous for their tiramisu. When the platter was set in front of me I was surprised. Accustomed to square blocks of painstaking pastry layers, this tiramisu was a blob of freshly whipped cream with shavings of chocolate atop sloppy lady fingers soaked in rum and espresso . It looked decent, but presentation compared negligibly to the rich flavors that engulfed my taste buds. Whenever I see tiramisu in bakeries I wonder if they are all show and no flavor. I haven't found any that compare.

I am a strong believer in the power of presentation, but how we read something as good and know it, relies on two different senses. Although great looking food is not always great and vice versa, perking people's visual cravings is a skill just as finessed as fulfilling those cravings. There's no denying that eye candy is an easy addiction. So, here's to a growing eye-ppetite.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Peanut Butter Brownie Sandwich

Does it get better than chocolate and peanut butter? I'm a fiend myself, especially when the chocolate is dark and rich and the peanut butter smooth and all natural. I borrowed another idea from my Simply...Gluten Free inspiration but added a trendy twist: dessert sandwich. I've seen a lot of small time bakeries making more of their treats by stuffing them. The peanut butter in this gluten free dream bite has honey trickled on it for smoothness. I will definitely make this again. Yum!

Oatmeal Cookies...Like Never Before

I've found a gluten-free guru. The complexities of baking with different blends of flours impacts the texture and "gluten free-ness" of a given dessert. With the right combinations, so says Carol Kicinski in Simply...Gluten Free Desserts, you yield an unrecognizable and at times even better dessert than the gluten-full option. I found the cook book in the library amidst my "it's too hot to do anything but find AC" walks. I slipped into the baking section and had a lot of fun snooping around the cook books until closing. Kicinski was by far my best find! These cookies are delicious and were gone as soon as I could make them (I filled two tupperware containers). The best tip I learned? Grind half of the oats in a food processor before mixing them in. The finer texture works wonderfully to thin the cookies out, making them a perfect blend between the traditional crispy chocolate chip and flavorful oatmeal raisin.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Caramel Chocolate Biscaitie

Odradeks is now sporting a fancy jar of freshly made Biscaitie on its counter and lucky for me, I have new ingredients to play with. Their dark chocolate morsels go fantastically with swirls of caramel. I sampled them for customers today, we'll see how long they last!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gateau au chocolat

My friend, Clara, is from France and she visited Saratoga frequently while I lived there. A couple times she baked what she calls "Chocolate Dripping Cake" for me and my housemates. It's a delicious rich and flour-less cake with a thin crust and gooey center. I combined her recipe with some of the gateau recipes I researched online (I was attracted by the idea of whisking egg whites: a great way to let out your frustrations from the day). I also used some of the 100% cocoa my friend, Gabby,  made at Suenos Farm in the Pinchincha region of Ecuador. The extra bitterness was countered with a little white chocolate and some semi-sweet baking chocolate. Naturally, I was impatient and didn't let the cake cool long enough so it wasn't perfectly formed when I plopped it out of the pan. I substituted a tea strainer for a sifter to decorate and improvised two pots for the double boiler. It worked well! Overall, the flavor is rich and the texture just right.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Peanut Butter Cocoa Cookie Crisps

The best homemade cookies in GF translation I've had are peanut butter. My theory is that peanut butter is a strong enough flavor (and craving) that you can satisfy with or without flour. There are some very simple recipes online that yield a delicious substitute to the gluten-full kind. I tweaked the recipe by adding a little crisco for body and cocoa for an integrated chocolate swirl. The outcome is a crispy, cocoa peanut butter cookie. They're great for dipping in coffee. Next time I'd like them a little sweeter and with more chocolate. Then again, can you ever have too much chocolate?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Arms Full of Veggies

The Saturday Farmer's Market is a jubilant ritual for many here in Sunnyside. Smiling locals flood the tented streets with "green" bags, baskets and carts. It's not just the people on the way back that are smiling, their arms full of colorful fruit and vegetables, but even the air grins as you approach; changing from stuffy summer to sweet harvest. I sampled some yellow peaches and couldn't resist buying a few, nor could I resist the purple and yellow peppers, carrots and beets. On my way home I sank my teeth into the soft flesh of the summer peach, still warm from the sun. A woman smiled as we passed, the peach juice had already made its way down my chin and arm.

The Rosetta

This is my somewhat successful attempt at a rosetta latte. This one was made with pumpkin spice mix (hence the slight orange twinge to the foam). I'm done with my third day of training now, on to more complexity and precision.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Important Addition

I puzzled some more over my invisible ingredients and realized I forgot a very important one (now added to the list). Who are you baking with? I find the company I keep in the kitchen is half the fun. Be it a housemate or two passing through, or an assistant baker with lots of catching up to do, some good conversation (while dangerously distracting) has wonderful side-effects on your baking. Many of my best baking memories have great conversations attached.

So while you're out shopping for butter, eggs and chocolate chips, be sure to send in the order for a friend's company too.

Latte Art

Hearts, lilies and swirls of smooth micro-foam are the coffee lovers' dream. Only the perfect softness of steamed milk, buttery-ness of fresh brewed espresso and confidence of pour can create the lattes and cappuccinos that I visit in dreams when I return to Italy. That was until today when I learned how to measure, brew and pour the perfect latte! I wish I could have taken a photograph of my first attempt at latte art. The over steamed milk and self-conscious pouring made for a sad lump of textures. After a couple tries however, I was delighted to see a heart appear from the initial creamy dot in my Spanish latte (a cappuccino with sweetened condensed milk). Let's just say, the art of coffee is not far from the science of baking. Here's to delicious taste in liquid form!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ginger Almond Biscotti

Its been awhile since I made hard biscotti and I was delighted to find that they are delicious extra crunchy. As I baked my "please hire me" cookies for my barista job interview, I considered that the owner might have a nut allergy or wouldn't be a fan of ginger: I never could have predicted that he is kosher and the manager gluten-free. The only person who tried my creation was the barista whose position I'm replacing...but the teaspoon of "please hire me" worked, I have a job!

Hopefully next week I'll start doing some baking. The small kitchen space is comparable to what I have here in Sunnyside, perfect! Our "trendy" diets will be covered at the coffee shop: kosher, gluten free and now me, the vegetarian.

Invisible Ingredients

I want to figure out the ingredients I add through intention. What are they? How can they be measured? "They" have no physical mass, but I know that intention pours from my mental measuring cup every time I bake. Part of it is experience, like "I remember learning how to make this from grandma" pie or "my childhood favorite" almond birthday cake; part is your mood, like "Today was shit I  need chocolate" cookies or "I just had a marvelous date" muffins; and of course the person/people you think about who are going to eat your creation. (Personally, that last ingredient is my favorite extract!)

Here's a break down of the factors that affect my intentions:

1. Nostalgia (memories attached to smell & taste)
2. Mood (love, frustration, excitement, etc.)
3. Recipient (who are you baking for? "Yourself" is not a bad answer)
4. Confidence (whether you know a recipe or not, a tentative baker yields tentative flavor)
5. Company (who are you baking with?)

So next time you bake, try analyzing what you're adding to your list of ingredients. I mix intention in with the dry and wet, and dust my hands with it before rolling out the dough. It's not a matter of controlling what you do, but recognizing what leads to the best baked goods and how to mimic those mental environments.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Banana Nut Muffins

There's nothing like baking when it's 93 degrees, but I had loads of time and four brown bananas calling my name. I substituted crisco for butter and added what butter I had for flavor. You can't taste the difference, although the texture is less moist. Walnuts add the perfect crunch and I spiced with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon, not immediately recognizable but I think they add a little "home" to the muffins. Also, adding some roughly mashed bananas with the nuts (after mixing dry into wet) is a great tip I learned from an online recipe. The chunks mean pockets of sweet cooked banana in the mix, as opposed to just flavored batter. Only thing I'd change: add some honey. These aren't quite as sweet as I like.

It was a sweaty endeavor having the oven on to bake them, but I lay in the luxury of our new AC afterward as a reward.