Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!


Well ahem, actually, by the time this publishes, I'll be in beautiful Vancouver (actually, according to the weather reports, it's supposed to rain or snow every day I'm there...) for a short break. I'm not sure what we'll be having for Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm sure it'll be good (and will not be turkey). So anyhow, since I am going to be out of town, I went home and had a little pre-Thanksgiving celebration with my family.

For the last couple of years, we've deep-fried a turkey; this year, my brother decided to go with roasting. The turkey was brined with salt, oregano, and a LOT of garlic. Okay, usually I'm not down with roasting, because in my experience, it results in a dry turkey, but this one was juicy and delicious! And because of the brining, the skin was really tasty (I kind of just wanted to eat the skin, actually).


Side 1, brussels sprouts, parboiled and then sauteed with olive oil and lemon. I probably should have let them brown a bit more.


Side 2, chorizo and mushroom stuffing (using a loaf of my brother's bread). I loooove stuffing, but my stuffing still needs work. I hate to admit it, but I kinda miss the plain old Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix that we ate as kids. Or maybe that's just nostalgia talking. Not pictured are sides 3 and 4, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce (with orange juice and zest)--oh, and gravy. Another thing I need to work on!


My first plate (you know how I complain about not having enough natural light to shoot pictures with during the winter? Okay, in this case, TOO much light.) I won't tell you how many plates this is the first of.


And of course, you can't have Thanksgiving without dessert--I'm very proud of this crust edge.


Not that it stayed that way after baking, HMPH. But oh well, taste trumps appearance, and hey, how can you go wrong with pumpkin pie? This one wasn't as rich as I usually make them, since I had no sour cream on hand. Which is probably just as well!


And with the crust trimmings, I decided to make a little freeform cranberry sauce tart (what was I saying about too much light? eek!)


Hey, presto! Bonus dessert!

Okay, I must run--gotta pack! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! And if you overindulge, I recommend some restorative ginger tea. :) Me, I hope I have time to hit up Panda Fresh Bakery and maybe check out some of the other food trucks on the scene (like Kimono Koi Crepes! Mmm, crepes.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Brother the Bread Baker


Hey, did you know that I'm not the only baker in my family? My brother is something of a genius with bread (to me, at least--I am okay but not great at yeast, so I am always super impressed with what he makes. I hope he is as impressed with my pastries, hehe.) and lately he's been experimenting with sourdough, and more importantly, finally taking pictures of the stuff he bakes (I will consider that to be my influence...can it be long before he starts his own blog??) So, anyhow, I thought I'd show off some of his bread here. All of these photos are his.


And here's the sourdough starter--I believe all of the breads on this post are sourdough based (well, maybe not the melon pan, but I'll have to confirm). He gave me some a couple of weeks ago that I used for sourdough pancakes and the rest is languishing in the back of my fridge. I should probably feed it...yeah, I'll go do that, you guys look at the rest of these photos :)


Bad lighting, good breads!


Oh, I lied--this is the one photo I did take. It's a little blurry because man, he works fast with shaping the dough.


Check out the lovely texture on this bread...this is a fig loaf. Actually he made a new loaf of it today, and I TOTALLY FORGOT TO BRING SOME HOME. Because I am an idiot :(


Speaking of texture, how's this for a crackly crust?


Fruit loaf.


I think these maybe are rye?


More nicely textured bread innards.


Melon pan, before baking! (Melon pan, if you've never had it, is a sweet bread baked with a thin layer of cookie dough on top. Popular in Japan (but also in the rest of Asia).


And here's what they look like baked. I had one this morning for breakfast and they are deeeelicious.


One more gratuitous shot, just because I love the way these look. I keep joking with my brother that we need to join forces and open a bakery, if only we could come up with a catchy name. Anyway, maybe I will give him some pointers in lighting when he takes his photos, but what do you think, shouldn't he start his own blog?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bread Failure=Delicious Pudding

Mini loaves

I was browsing food blogs last week when I came across this post from Ping's Pickings with a recipe for a really soft Asian-bakery style bread. I was also intrigued because it's made with what is basically a pastry cream base, and her photos reminded me of the loaves of super rich, super soft bread I get at Boloniya (a Japanese bakery). Well, I think I may be in need of some new yeast, because my bread came out surprisingly dense!

Custard Bread

I made a couple of mini loaves, and although the texture is nice and fine grained, it is almost like dense sandwich bread, instead of the soft bread that I was hoping for (the kind I buy just pulls apart into long bread "ribbons", if that makes any sense). I'm going to have to give it another try with some new yeast, and maybe a longer rising time because it would be awesome to be able to make this type of bread at home.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

But of course, I'm not just going to let bread go to waste, right? And hey, this bread was just perfect for bread pudding! And since I had half a can of pumpkin left in the fridge (from the muffins I made last time), it made sense to go with an autumn-themed pumpkin bread pudding. This baked up nicely, almost caramelized along the bottom, crunchy on top, and custardy in the center, with little pockets of hot sugary ginger throughout. Have some bread to use up? Try this.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
approximately 4 cups of bread cubes (3/4")

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg until smooth. Fold in raisins, ginger, and bread cubes, and let stand for 20-30 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Pack into buttered baking dish(es) (either an 8" square, or custard cups, or individual bakers, or whatever you feel like) and bake until an inserted knife comes out clean. I baked mine in two individual bakers and a mini loaf pan and it took about 30 minutes. Eat warm or hot. It would be great with a little maple syrup...or there's always ice cream!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Leisurely Sunday


Brr, it sure is getting cold here in NYC--the radiator occasionally kicks in but I haven't gotten around to taking my air conditioner out of the window, so it's still pretty nippy in the apartment. Fortunately I have lots of warm pajamas, and nothing warms the place up like cooking or baking. The farmer's market by me is still going strong, but the tomatoes and zucchinis of the summer have been replaced by potatoes (I picked up some gorgeously colored purple and pink ones), apples of an incredible variety, hard squashes, and jugs of cider. There's a great mushroom stand too, and I succumbed to a big handful of super fresh, beautiful mushrooms (they're going to be sauteed with olive oil and garlic and topped with an egg).

Brussels Sprouts

I also picked up a stalk of brussels sprouts. I know, this is a vegetable you either love or hate, or in my case, you start off hating it and end up loving it. I LOOOOOOOVE these now, especially roasted, and I extra love them when they come on a stalk like this. Not that I'm eating the stalk, but it looks cool--a brussels sprout spear! I also bought a bunch of carrots and some sweet potatoes, which I made into a sweet soup with a bunch of ginger. Perfect for fighting off any sniffles.

almost instant apple pie

I went a little nuts buying apples--there were just so many varieties to choose from, so I bought one or two of each. For a quick, almost instant pie, I chopped up a winesap, a Mcintosh, and a golden delicious apple, tossed them with a bit of cinnamon and lemon juice, and packed them into a small baking dish (bought these on sale ages ago--great for single portions!) and then baked it with a square of puff pastry from Trader Joe's. So simple, so good. The apples are so sweet that they didn't need any sugar added, and they baked down into a lovely sweet, sticky consistency. Actually I could probably dispense with the pastry and just eat the apples next time. But it was perfect to eat while watching movies (Kiki's Delivery Service, so good) with, you guessed it, a big cup of tea.

Sunday's winding down, and tomorrow's the start of another busy week. I've got some cookie testing to do, too, but that'll probably have to wait until next weekend! (In the meantime, are any of you watching the Walking Dead? I can't decide whether I like this series or not, yet.)