Baking with my husband or Apple Berry Crumble

I made this crumble with my husband.  HE suggested it.  That we make it together.  Well actually it started as a pie, but ended as a crumble.  You see my husband has not cooked for us in a VERY long time.  He used to, back when we were dating, whip up pasta-roni from the box.  But it’s been a long time since we’ve had pasta-roni, and even longer since he has cooked.  Or baked.  I’m fairly certain the extent of his baking experience begins and ends with Jiffy corn muffins.  He did work in a bread shop.  Somehow none of this knowledge remained with him.  At all.Needless to say, when he suggested we bake together, I was shocked. So I picked a crumble.  Pie seemed a little tough to start.  With the crust and the chilling and the rolling.  But there had been talk of berries and ice cream, so crumble seemed appropriate.He made the topping.  I may have told him what to do, but he did it.  And mixed the berries while I added the cornstarch, lime and vanilla.  He helped me layer the entire thing in the dish.  It was pretty great.I asked him later if he thought he could make it again on his own, if he had to.  He asked why he would have to, I suggested I could be working or out of the country, which he thought was funny.  I think he could make it on his own, but to be honest, why would he bother, when he’s got me.Apple Berry Crumble

Ingredients

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed

1/2 cup raspberries

1/2 cup chopped or small strawberries

1/2 cup blueberries

2 medium apples (I used Macintosh), thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 of a vanilla bean

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl mix sugars, flour and chilled butter with your hands until mixture is the size of small peas.

2.  Mix berries, cornstarch and lime juice in a medium bowl.  Scrape the half of a vanilla bean with the side of a knife and add to berries.  Mix well.

3.  In a buttered baking dish, make 1 layer of sliced apples.  Top with berry mixture.  Top with another layer of sliced apples.  Cover with crumble topping.  Bake for 40 -50 minutes, until topping is golden brown and juices had started to bubble over.  Allow to cool 10 minutes,  serve topped with vanilla ice cream

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Birthday dinner

For my birthday I went out to dinner with my family.  It was reallllly good.  Prepare yourself for a long winded detailed description of it.  We went to Steenbock’s on Orchard.  This pretty little dish was the amuse, and it was phenomenal.  I probably could have eaten 10 of these.  It was a shrimp salad on a tiny brioche crostini, and it was full of flavor.  It was possibly my favorite part of the meal.This amazing looking creation was the field greens my parents ordered.  The greens sit inside of a potato basket and are topped with a yuzu foam.  It was probably the prettiest thing that came to our table.Next my husband and I had the heirloom tomatoes.  Underneath the tomatoes was a mixture of Crème fraîche and burrata cheese.  There was a tiny bit of balsamic reduction and tomato pesto on the edge of the plate.  The tomatoes were drizzled with olive oil and topped with micro greens.Our next course was the poached egg.  It was served with a hefty portion of perfectly crisp pork jowl, chicken, baby asparagus and a garlic cream.  Although not listed on the menu I’m fairly certain there was a purée of potatoes underneath it all.  The egg was perfect poached.  The waiter mentioned early on that the menu features a number of items cooked via the sous vide method, which if you are unfamiliar means cooking something in a plastic bag submerged in water.
For this course my parents had the agnolotti pasta.  It was served with crawfish, peas, tomato and truffle butter.  I made the mistake of not tasting this course.  I think I was too focused of my perfectly poached egg.  If you are not familiar with agnolotti, get with it.  Like right now.  Agnolotti was the first recipe I made from Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry cookbook and it was amazing.  You simply can not beat fresh pasta.  Especially when you knead it yourself.  For 30 minutes straight.Up next were the entrees.  I had the halibut.  The chef decided he didn’t like the corn that night so he changed up the preparation from the menu.  It was served with greens, and topped with kalamata olives, capers in a slightly smokey chipotle sauce with a hint of a kick.My father had the red snapper.  It was served with calamari and clams, in a tomato saffron nage, which was poured table-side, as were most of the sauces.  The waiter described the flavor as similar to bouillabaisse.  My dad devoured it, so I’m guessing it was pretty good.My mother had the Fountain Prairie Farms pork loin.  It was served three ways but I only vaguely remember what they were.  I’m thinking it involved some sort of pork belly, some sort of sausage like patty and a piece of seared pork.  The madeira sauce was pretty tasty.My husband had the chicken breast.  It was served with rainbow chard, parsnip purée (which I’m pretty sure he thought was mashed potatoes, mushrooms and a garlic jus.  I ate the leftovers of this dish the next day for lunch and it was just as tasty.  That jus was sooooo tasty.Finally we had dessert.  One of our servers (we had two the whole evening) recommended the s’more.  After looking over the menu I decided to go with his suggestion.  It was a deconstructed interpretation of a s’more that was pretty tasty.  It somehow ended up looking a little odd in this photo, but trust, it was gorgeous.  They even put birthday candles to keep the piece of smoldering wood that it is typically served with lit.  There were smaller pieces of house made marshmallow and one larger piece, sat atop a chocolate ganache.  The server told us about how the chef sometimes switches the ganache up, alternating between a typical smooth consistency and a slightly brittle ganache.  There was a small brownie which had a lava cake like center.  There was vanilla bean ice cream, which developed an almost caramel like flavor with the other components.  There was a sprinkling of a graham cracker crumble as well.  I probably could have eaten this whole portion myself.  Can you tell I like dessert?  I was nice and shared with the table.  The staff was nice enough to comp the dessert for my birthday.This odd photo is a shot of one of the many interactive monitors in the building which houses Steenbocks’s.  It is in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery on the UW Madison campus.  A new high tech building, which many interactive features seems both an odd and fitting choice for this restaurant.  Clearly the chef uses molecular gastronomy along with traditional techniques.  The location however, is slightly odd and a bit difficult to locate unless you are looking for it.  I wonder if this fact will hinder their business, but being part of food fight maybe they don’t need to be as busy as a individual start up.  I quite enjoyed the experience, the service was the best I’ve seen, only comparing to the service out at Milkweed. I felt like our servers really cared if we had a good experience and were incredibly knowledgeable and always perfect with the timing.  They offered up interesting tid-bits of information without having to be asked and knew the answer to every question we asked.  I would go back to this restaurant any day and highly recommend it to anyone looking to try something new.  It made my birthday dinner feel special and the food made me a very happy girl!

Happy birthday

I’ve been coming down with a case of Peter Pan syndrome.  Today I turned 30, and I’ve been running and hiding and avoiding it like the plague.  I don’t know if it’s just my generation or if it’s always been this way, but I don’t think most of us really thought we would turn 30.  We all just kind of ignored it.  Like if we kept on pretending it wasn’t happening, maybe it wouldn’t.

And then it did.  Most of my friends are in their 30’s now, or very close to it.  We all still reminisce about our wild and crazy youth.  There’s something about the rebellious nature of my generation where turning 30 somehow seems like a betrayal.  Like we all saw people with 9-5’s and car loans and mortgages as evil.  Maybe we were on to something.

I’ve been having somewhat of a mini mid life crisis leading up to this day.  I’m not ready to be done living.  I’m not ready to settle down and bow down to a job and the grind and money for the rest of my life.  I’ve been rebelling against this passage of time by trying to recapture my youth.  I’ve been going to concerts and staying out late and not worrying so much about tomorrow. Maybe I’m being irresponsible, or maybe, just maybe I’m on to something.

I even got a tattoo.  As I’m writing this I’m realizing I forgot to tell my parents.  Sorry Mom and Dad.
 It’s a line from one of my new musical fascinations.  And no, I’m not going all crazy religious.  I got this tattoo for other reasons.  Ever since I graduated from college and became a real grown up I’ve been scared.  Scared to live, scared to die, scared to be poor.  Every single decision I’ve made since then has been financially motivated.  Not one single move, job change or big decision has been real.  I got this tattoo to remind me, to kick me in the ass, and tell me to start living.  Really living.  Making decisions from the heart, doing things that matter, things that really mean something to me.  Working for myself, not the dollar. So that’s the tattoo.  And the fact that it kind if weirds people out lets me know I made the right decision getting it.  I’ve always kind of been that girl.

So today I turned 30.  And even though it scared and still scares the crap out of me, it has kind of allowed me to realize what’s really important to me.  Family.  Happiness.  Living for the moment.  We won’t have them forever.

And I can’t forget that list I made.  That lovely 30 by 30 list.  I’ve done things!  I’ve accomplished goals!  Not a lot.  It is going to be a process that much is clear.  Here’s where I’m at so far:

1.  Make a soufflé.

I still need to do this.  I keep forgetting.

2.  Redesign my website.

Done.  It’s much better.  Re-subscribe if you haven’t yet.

3.  Find a way out of my job.

No ideas.  It needs to happen.  That place is pure evil.

4.  Create a small business plan.

The problem with this one is I’m not exactly sure what type of business.  Can I just get paid to write this blog?

5.  Start food blog.

Kind of obvious right?

6.  Write 30 new recipes.

I’ve written more then 30.  Go me!

7.  Animate Rocky.

I’ve decided I need a Wacom tablet for this one.  Want to buy it for me?

8.  Enter Iron Cupcake.

Done and doing again.

9.  Make baking business cards.

Way done.  Totally mini and adorable.

10.  Make crème brûlée.

I need a torch.  I might go buy one today.

11.  Learn to refinish my dresser.

Didn’t even think about this one yet.

12.  Learn to sew.

I bought fabric.  I’m making an apron.  Soon.

13.  Make my own cookbook by hand.

I have an adorable little book I’m using for this.  I do not have a working printer.

14.  Make a perfect poached egg.

I don’t know why, but I can never get this right.  They’re never quite perfect.

15.  Mail baked goods to 15 long lost friends.

I had great intentions of completing this one.  Not even started yet.

16.  Make a wedding cake.

I totally did that.

17.  Eat at L’Etoile.

Okay here’s the thing.  L’Etoile, totally not cheap.  Going to have to save some money.

18.  Plan a vacation to the west coast.

I’m thinking this spring.  It’s difficult, I have a husband who refuses to fly and 2 dogs that are hard to manage.

19.  Read 19 new books.

I’m pretty sure I did this.  I didn’t keep track.  I read a lot.

20.  Take 20 GOOD artistic photographs.  Not of food.

Ummmm yea…I like taking photos of food.

21.  Organize my computer.

Still needs to happen.  Still hasn’t happened.

22.  Watch every movie someone suggests from now until I turn 30.

This was easy.  Somehow people didn’t mention a lot of movies to me.  I did watch Anchorman and I now know why I avoided it for so long.

23.  Spend a night partying like it’s 1999.I did this.  A couple of times, including last night.  There was a brass band involved.  It was fun.

24.  Scan all of my old photos.

Nope, didn’t do this one.  It’s gonna be a biiiiig project.

25.  Make this beautiful cake for someone’s birthday.

No one has had a birthday who I make cakes for since I came up with this.  Soon though.

26.  Make a duo of homemade cheeses, ricotta and mascarpone.

This one is easy!  Why haven’t I done this yet?

27.  Make homemade dog biscuits.

Again, easy.  Do it!

28.  Take a cooking class.

Still need to do.

29.  Develop an exercise routine I can stick to.

Um yea, about that…

30.  Choose a cookbook and make every recipe in it.

Chosen, made recipes, it’s going to be a couple years before I finish this one.

 

So that’s it.  My 30 by 30 list is turning into 30 things for 30 years.  And then some.  But it’s good to have goal, even small ones.  So today I turned 30.  It wasn’t really as traumatic as I thought.  I had a great time with friends yesterday, and ate an amazing dinner with family tonight.  I’ll fill you in on that one later.  30 doesn’t feel any different then 29 did, so I’ll save my anxiety for 40.  Yikes.

Falling in love with a cookbook

I might be in love with a cookbook.  Really and truly in love.  This cookbook is quite possibly perfect.

It’s packed with knowledge.  Useful, easy to understand, information for any cook.  It’s simple.  It’s elegant.  The book it self is slick.  The dust jacket is beautiful.  There’s a drawing of a pig, divided into it’s delicious parts.  The texture of the paper is fabulous.  The hardcover itself is a rich bright blue, again with the pig on it.  And again, the texture of the book.  It’s smooth, almost satiny.  I have a thing for books, can you tell?  I really love a well-made book that becomes a tactile experience.

And the recipes.  Oh the recipes.  Family style, meals, meant to be served as such.  Condiments, from scratch.  Techniques for the basics.  This cookbook has style yet seems accessible enough for even beginners.

Did I forget to mention it’s a Thomas Keller cookbook?  It’s Ad Hoc at Home.  Yea, I kind of have a food crush on him.  Just a bit.  And I will be going to his restaurants, damn it!  I just have to get myself and a whole lot of money to California.

The first night I got this in the mail, I took it to bed with me.  Really.  I paged through it over and over.

Then I decided this would be the book for #30 off of my 30 by 30 list.  Choose a cookbook and make every recipe in it.  Considering the sheer size of this book, there’s no way I will accomplish this task by the end of the month when I officially exit my 20’s for good.  So I’ve decided to try and tackle 2 recipes a week.  There are 259 recipes in this book, so if you do the math that’s about 2.5 years before I finish.  However a number of the recipes are components of other recipes.  I’m going to see if I can complete it in 2 years.  I’ll keep you posted. So far I’ve made a few things.  The first recipe in the book is Keller’s barbequed chicken.  It was his father’s favorite.  He serves it with sautéed greens, mashed potatoes and shortcake.   With a few changes here and there, I did the same.I ran out of charcoal so the chicken was made in the oven.  I didn’t have strawberries so I used peaches and raspberries.  I’ve been on a peach and raspberry kick.  It’s a fall thing.  I used the rest of the chicken to make stock.  It was genius.  It was simple.  It was sooooooo good.  Definitely the perfect first recipe in this book.  The shortcake was amazing.Like buttermilk biscuits, but sweeter.The dough is a simple biscuit dough, which I sweetened with cinnamon and sugar.It rolled out easily and quickly.  It baked up in ten minutes.And then it got topped with the sweetest raspberries of the season and the juiciest peaches.  It was amazing.  I’m pretty sure this was my favorite raspberry peach combo of the year.  It was my answer to the last warm weekend of fall.

Dinner for Dad

 

Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller

     Ingredients

Bacon (about 4 ounces slab bacon, lardons or strips)

Approximately 2 pounds collard greens

Unsalted butter, approximately 1 stick, room temperature

Salt

1 pound potatoes (peel if you like, I left the peels on)

1 pound berries (I used peaches and raspberries)

Sugar

1-2 teaspoons Grand Marnier (I skipped this)

One 3-4 pound chicken

3/4 cup half and half

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup high quality barbecue sauce

4 shortcake rounds (I used Keller’s biscuit recipe)

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If you will be grilling the chicken start the coals too.

2.  Cook bacon in a heavy dutch oven.  Remove stems from greens and discard.  Wash and dry greens.  Add a few tablespoons of butter to dutch oven and add greens, turning occasionally to wilt.  Add a two-finger pinch of salt.  Once the greens are wilted, cover and place in oven.

3.  Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water and a three-finger pinch of salt.  Place over high heat until simmering.  Simmer gently until potatoes are fork tender.

4.  Meanwhile prepare fruit.  For me this meant cutting up the peaches and mixing with the raspberries.  Add sugar.  Set aside.

5.  Cut chicken into eight pieces (or ask your butcher to do this for you) wings, breasts, drumsticks and thighs.  Season liberally with salt.  Cook the chicken, I baked mine in the oven for about 25 minutes, flipping every 7-8 minutes and basting with barbecue sauce.

6.  Heat half and half with butter.  Drain potatoes and add to half and half.  Mash to desired consistency.

7.  The collards should be done after about 45 minutes.

8.  Whip the cream with the vanilla.  Add the Grand Mariner.  Top biscuits with fruit mixture and whipped cream when ready to serve.

Buttermilk Biscuits


Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller

Ingredients

2 cups cake flour

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 sticks of butter, cubed and chilled

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Directions

1.  Preheat over to 425 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Combine flours, salt, baking powder and soda, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor or mixer.  Add chilled butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas.

3.  Add buttermilk and mix until dough just comes together.  Pour out onto a well-floured surface.  Roll out until dough is about 3/4 inch in thickness.  Use a biscuit cutter (or the top of a small jar) and cut out biscuits.  Re-roll scraps and continue until you have used all of the dough.  Place biscuits together on baking sheet.  Bake approximately 10-15 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

Chocolate Pudding

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Tonight I ate some burritos. I made a sauce from sour cream and garlic. It was delicious. And lingered. For a looooong time. So I decided I needed some chocolate pudding.

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There were egg yolks involved.

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Then there was milk who made friends with chocolate, sugar and cocoa powder.

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Eggs meet cornstarch. Double thickening power.

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I managed to scribble out the recipe somehow between whisking.

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Presto change-o chocolatey milk turns into wobbly silky pudding.

Double Chocolate Pudding

3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean

1. In a medium saucepan heat milk, sugar, chocolate, cocoa powder and vanilla bean over medium heat.

2. Combine salt, cornstarch and egg yolks in a small bowl, whisking until smooth.

3. Add a ladle full of hot milk mixture to egg mixture whisking thoroughly to combine. Continue adding hot milk until you have incorporated all.

4. Pour through a sieve into another clean saucepan and return to heat. Whisking constantly bring almost to boil. Mixture will thicken. Allow to cool slightly and pour into glasses. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve topped with whipped cream if desired.

Summery Cocktails

Here’s the thing.

I’m trying to pretend it’s still the season of summery cocktails.

Remember this?

The drink I had that night was amazing.  It was simply the best drink I’ve ever had.  Hands down.  It was that good.

It’s deceptively simple.  And perfect.  It’s strong without being too strong.  You can taste the alcohol, but it doesn’t bite.  This drink is fruity, without being girly.  No umbrellas are invited to this party.  It’s loaded with fresh mint.  It’s light and refreshing.  It’s is the epitome of the summer cocktail.  And I’m going to keep drinking it all winter long.

I had planned to go back to Graze, to sit at the bar and order this drink so I could see exactly how they make it.  But I couldn’t wait.  Also I decided I would probably spend less on the ingredients to make 20 of these then I would going out.  I tried it a few times.  This was one of my first attempts.

The menu lists four ingredients: Cognac, Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, fresh mint and lemon.  I’m 99% certain there is club soda or some type of fizzy beverage involved as well.  If that were all it involved, it would be super alcoholic and tart.  Not the case.

So I went and bought Pimm’s, which I’ve been wanting to try since I saw it mentioned on Boardwalk Empire (which by the way is an amazing show.  You should totally watch it).  I bought some cognac too, which they keep locked up at the store I went to.  Apparently it gets stolen a lot.  I bought some lemons and some lemon lime soda. I have fresh mint in my back yard so that was a no brainer.  I used my pineapple mint, pretty much just because it’s fun.

So muddle, muddle, pour, pour and voila, you have a cocktail that tastes almost exactly like the one I had at dinner.  Sooooo good.  I could seriously drink these everyday.  They taste that good.

I’m still going back to see exactly how they make them, and also because they post their soup of the day on Facebook everyday and it makes me sooooo hungry.

This cocktail is definitely going down in my book as one of the best ever.

Here’s how I got there.

My own Mint Condition


1.5 ounces of Pimm’s no.1 cup

1.5 ounces of cognac

10 leaves of fresh mint

Juice of 1 lemon

1.  Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker.  Shake vigorously.  Pour over ice into a tall glass.  Top with lemon lime soda.

Warm fall breakfast

Raspberries fresh farm the farmers market.

Milk.  Whole milk.  The only way to go when you’re cooking.

Peaches also from the market.

Again, with the market.  Syrup.

Raspberry stuffed, peach french toast.  In case you were wondering, the bread, also from the farmers market.  And the eggs used in the batter.  Everything in this french toast came from the market.  And I didn’t even plan it that way.  Go me.