Pumpkin Scones

25 11 2009

 
Tis the season to bake shit with pumpkin in it. This is a good one for Thanksgiving breakfast. Or breakfast on any other day, really.

People go bonkers for scones and I’ve never been entirely sure why because to me they’re usually dry and boring. But what do I know? Anyway, at Stef’s request, I agreed to make some, with one caveat – they had to have icing. So I broke out the Cheese Board book and we went to town. If you’ve ever cooked with me, you know I have a serious aversion to using recipes. But baking is different – baking is the one time when, at least the first time, I (almost) follow the recipe exactly.

These little suckers turned out great but I knew before they even came out of the oven that there would have to be icing if I was gonna be eating them. We went for a super simple, Cinnabon-like icing that was just powdered sugar and a little bit of milk. Literally, 2 tablespoons of milk for like a cup of powdered sugar? Something like that… experiment.

 

 
Turned out they were alright without the icing, but with it they were something else. Not bad… I could actually eat those… every day. The batter is pretty similar to cookie batter and it’s seriously so easy to make it’s almost a joke.
 

 
 
Adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works:

1/2 c cream (they say heavy cream but we used “table cream” and it worked just fine)
3/4 c buttermilk
1 c canned or homemade pumpkin puree
3.5 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c sugar
1 c unsalted butter, cold & cut into cubes

 
Preheat the oven to 375f.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, a baking mat, or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl whisk together the cream, buttermilk & pumpkin.

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add the butter and cut into pea sized pieces with a pastry cutter, two butter knives, or the paddle attachment if using a mixer.

Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix just until it all comes together. There should still be some loose flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Spoon 2-3″ balls of the dough onto the pan about 2″ apart.

Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Cool on a rack and then spread or drizzle on icing.





Mayo Clinic

24 11 2009

Knowing that there’s a lot of leftover bird on the way in a few days, I’m stocking up on the secret ingredient for good turkey salad – homemade mayo.

It’s all about simplicity… there’s really nothing to it. Egg yolk, a little bit of liquid & some oil. That’s all you need. There’s plenty else you can add and actually… the possibilities are pretty much endless. Once you have the base, you can flavor it however you want… chili paste, curry powder… We’re making Belgian fries now on the Pie Truck and I’m experimenting with all kinds of crazy mayos…

Yeah sure – old news, bla bla, making mayonnaise… but it’s such a cool transformation I can’t help but geek over it a little bit. I know it’s one of the food-nerdiest things I could say, but – I love emulsions! Every time I’m still amazed that it works.

Tips:
All ingredients should be room temperature. This helps speed up the emulsion.

You don’t need any more than one or two egg yolks* (unless you want to make gallons of mayo) More yolks will just make it more colorful & more rich.

The key isn’t the yolk-to-oil ratio, it’s the water-to-oil ratio. The yolk just gets you started. As you add the oil, you have to make sure you have enough other liquid in there to keep it stable. According to Harold McGee, for every volume of oil you add, there should be about 1/3 as much in combination of yolk and water-based liquid (water, vinegar, lemon juice, etc)

You can use extra virgin olive oil to flavor your mayo but it shouldn’t be the only oil unless you plan to eat it all right away… start with something else (vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, etc) and then flavor it with olive oil at the end. Unrefined, extra virgin olive oil is unstable and the mayo won’t hold up unless you plan to eat it all right away.

It’s easy to make with a whisk, but a food processor makes it even easier – the only catch is that it’s tough to do a small amount if you have a full-size food processor because the blade just doesn’t pick up the liquid in the beginning.

Steps:
1. Start with yolk and salt – mix oil in a drop or two at a time at first and then more little by little until it starts to thicken. Starting it this way makes a more stable emulsion. Trust me, it works.**

2. When this starts to get thick, add your liquid to thin it out and then continue with the oil, a little at a time. The amount of liquid at first should just be enough to thin it out a little bit. You can increase the amount of oil you add at once as the volume of your mayo grows.

3. As the volume increases, continue to go back and forth between thickening with oil, and then thinning with a little more liquid until you have the amount you want and the consistency you want.

4. Adjust the seasoning with salt and whatever else you want to add and then put on a movie, grab a spoon and go to town.

There are so many things you can do with mayo and once you start making your own, I promise you’ll be way less grossed out about using it in your food. You can thicken sauces and soups with it, add it to dressings to give them body, spread it on fish before roasting… or, do what I’m gonna to do – chop up your leftover Thanksgiving bird and twist up a batch of turkey salad… if I can keep myself from putting it all in my cereal in the morning.

*A note on yolks – there’s always a slight risk of salmonella when using raw eggs but to easily avoid it – use fresh and, if possible, organic eggs and keep your mayo in the refrigerator when you’re not eating it. Vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

**”The salt causes the yolk granules to fall apart into its component particles, which makes the yolks become both more clear and more viscous. If left undiluted, this viscosity will help break the oil into smaller droplets.” –McGee. Aren’t you glad you asked?





Miso Dust

23 11 2009

This may be my new favorite seasoning… I got the idea from one of my Nobu cookbooks and adapted it a little bit, but the basic idea is simple and really pretty amazing. It’s kinda like taking regular miso paste and… turning it into crack.

Drying concentrates and intensifies flavor. You’re removing the water content, leaving behind the pure, undiluted flavor. It allows you to have the same flavors but in different textures and consistency. This can be applied to a lot of different ingredients to produce some pretty cool seasonings.

In the past I’ve often used miso paste as a substitute for salt when I have the opportunity to put it in soups or sauces. It’s a way of adding a salty seasoning while also adding some serious extra depth of flavor (and some extra protein and vitamins). This takes it to a whole other level – dehydrating the miso and turning it into a powder so that it can take over for your salt. This stuff is awesome, versatile and super simple. I really don’t know why I’d never thought of it before…

You can use whatever type of miso you want, depending on the flavor you’re going for. I used red miso in this batch because I wanted some of the extra saltiness and really deep, earthy miso flavor. Using the sweeter white miso would result in a more subtle flavor, but would still be plenty salty.

You could probably use a dehydrator to speed the process, but it’s definitely not necessary. If you live somewhere warm and sunny, drying outside in the sun is definitely the best way to go. Since I don’t, I went ahead and used a combination of drying in the oven at a really low temperature and drying at room temperature.

The first step is to spread a thin layer of miso paste onto a baking sheet. I would recommend lining it with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat if you have one.

The drying time really depends on your method. You can dry it in the oven on the lowest setting for about 24 hours, but you have to check periodically to make sure it’s not drying out too quick and burning. As the miso dries and loses moisture, the drying will speed and there’s a risk of burning. Near the end of the process you’ll want to either monitor the miso in the oven frequently, or take it out and let it dry longer at room temperature to avoid burning. I dried mine in the oven for about 5 hours, let it sit out overnight and the entire next day, dried it again in the oven for another 5-6 hours, and then let it sit out again overnight. This was enough time but it will really just depend on the temperature, humidity, etc.

I flipped mine (gently!) a couple of times throughout the drying after it was firm enough to hold. Once it’s dried out and crispy to the point where it cracks apart, you can break it into a bunch of little pieces and toss them in a food processor and whirr them around in there for a minute or so until you have a nice rough powder.

I found that the powder still wasn’t as fine as I wanted it to be at this point, so I ground it finer with my mortar and pestle in batches. If you don’t have a food processor you could just go straight to the mortar and pestle… if you don’t have that either… improvise. Toss the chunks in a paper bag or a plastic freezer bag and crush it with something else – a rolling pin, the bottom of a sauce pan, a wine bottle, a coffee mug – whatever you have. Just crush lightly until the big pieces are broken so you don’t puncture the bag. Be resourceful!

When it’s a consistency you like, that’s it. Sprinkle it on anything… fish, steak, chicken, pork chops, finish some vegetables with it… put it on your popcorn! I used it on salmon sashimi and it really gives raw fish an awesome little kick. The bigger pieces add some crunchy texture that’s pretty nice too.

Umami, bitches!





Busy Weekend

13 11 2009

So this past weekend was one of the more excitingly packed food weekends I’ve had in a long time. Lots of big events. Friday night we catered the Foodbuzz food bloggers convention opening night at the Ferry Building, which was really awesome. We were one of only a few caterers and got some really awesome feedback about our pies and it was pretty cool. I also got to eat 4505 Meats chicharrones and Hog Island oysters all night, so I was definitely not complaining.

Saturday was the very first Eating About Beer dinner. A group of homebrewer friends and I got together about six months ago and started talking about doing a dinner. We talked about brewing beer and pairing dishes and from all of this grew what we came to call Eating About Beer. It ended up as a nine course meal (3 of which were dessert!) and along with each course we paired a beer that we had brewed specifically for that course. We’d been brewing beer, testing dishes, pairing things up, planning menus, making menus, making napkins and all kinds of stuff for months. It went amazingly smoothly, for the first go. I think having six pairs of hands running around really helped. Everyone who ate seemed super happy with the meal and we all had a great time. We’re already discussing planning the next dinner. I’m posting a picture of one of the napkins with the logo on it. Hopefully I’ll have lots more photos soon. And there’s talk of a website… we will see. I created a little logo for the group that Chris and Olivia screened onto the napkins:

logo final

Apple cinnamon donuts… one of three dessert courses.

More photos to come…

And Monday, to finish the crazy weekend/start a new week, we catered pies to the Firefox 5 year anniversary party for Mozilla! It was awesome. A few photos here: Mozilla FireFox 5th Birthday





Table!

12 11 2009

I’m already deviating from the food theme, I know. I actually have a lot of new food things on my mind that I really want to post but I couldn’t resist this one because I finally finished this table that has been sitting in my basement for like… six months? Too long. But I finally finished it and it turned out pretty nice. It’s not quite perfect like I had hoped it would be, but it’s a start… the next one will be perfect. It’s made of an African wood that has a look similar to mahogany called Afzelia and has a few stripes of Zebrawood running through the top. For me it was meant to be an exercise in learning some new joinery so I took a chance and went for the finger joints that turned out to be… not nearly as simple as they look.

Joint

The legs and rails are both notched to allow the rails to surround and meet flush, while also pinning the legs in on either side as you can see in the picture below.

Inside

And the finished product in use:

books on table

More photos here: www.flickr.com/photos/billieve





Compost Terrine? MeatyBone Cheese?

5 11 2009

Ok so maybe I’m no good with names – compost terrine doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, I realize. But I’m finally getting this thing going either way. Sorry about the shitty image quality but the iPhone was all I had around.  Maybe I’ll take some better ones tomorrow to replace them with.

I decided I had to post tonight because I did something that to me was exceptionally cool and resourceful and something that honestly I’m surprised I’ve never thought of before.   In recent years I’ve become mildly obsessed with head cheese. I’m talking copa di testa, homemade, good stuff – not the jello mold you can buy in bulk at the grocery store. I’m talking melt-on-your tongue, fatty, delicious, gelatinous, gooey, meat-tastic head cheese. And this week we were making stock for The Pie Truck’s rapidly becoming famous meat pies and it cooked for a little longer than usual… the bones that we get from Marin Sun Farms come with a decent amount of meat on them and that is damn good meat that I hate to see wasted. All that meaty stuff had completely cooked clean off the bones and the mirepoix was good and mucked into it all and the stock had cooked down to a consistency that provided a solid amount of gelatin. So I thought “shit, let’s pull the bones out of this muck and make a loaf!” And so, that’s what I did. And it turned into some mighty fine loaf that we will be enjoying for dinner in the coming few days.  It ended up like a sort-of head cheese terrine made up of chunks of great meat and all the bits around the bone that you normally just toss in the trash along with a bunch of mirepoix and spices.

Meaty Bone Terrine

What you’ll need to do if you decide you want to make some meaty bone cheese:

Start by making a good batch of beef stock. I’m not going to go into the process of making stock now but you can research it, or maybe I’ll talk about it later at some point, because it’s actually a really useful and awesome thing to learn how to do properly. So when you go to make your stock, take the Thomas Keller madman for details approach and actually dice your veggies to a nice size. You’ll pull more flavor for your stock, for starters, your stock will be clean and you’ll end up with some nice veg to use in this terrine.

One thing that’s key about your stock is that the bones have some meat on them so if your bones are pretty clean, toss a couple chunks of a cheap cut of beef or another bone with some meat – just something for some substance. Second, make sure you have joints and bone segments. This should always be the case when you make stock but especially here. You want that deep marrowy flavor from the cut leg segments and you want that collagen from the joints to solidify this terrine and also to give your stock some nice body. Ok so I said I wasn’t going to go into stock specifics but I’m realizing that I can’t resist.  It’s important stuff, and I love making stock.

The essential point of this whole thing is that when you make a good stock and take the time to cut up the veggies like this, it allows you to use the whole lot of mess you’d normally toss after you’ve strained your stock.  So when it’s finished and your bones are coming out squeaky clean, strain the whole thing and pull out the bones and any other chunks of tough stuff or bunches of parsley that you don’t want to be eating whole.  While you’re doing all of this, take a couple cups of your new stock and reduce it down to about half of what it is so that it’s got some good body and is going to hold up nicely when it chills.

Back to that pile of crud that you’d normally toss in your compost heap…  When you’ve finished sorting through it (don’t be picky about cartilage and that – the whole point of this is that you’re not wasting anything) and add a little bit of seasoning to it.  Salt and pepper will do fine but you can also toss some freshly chopped thyme in there, some crushed red pepper, cumin, however you want to spice it – this is where you can get creative with the flavors.

Now line a loaf pan with plastic wrap with some excess hanging over the sides.  Fill it 3/4 of the way or so with your filling, and then pour that reduced down cup or so of stock over it.  Use your fingers and squish it through a little bit so you don’t have a complete pool on top and none of that good meat jello throughout the rest.  Now wrap pull that plastic wrap together on top, seal it, toss it in the fridge and go to sleep dreaming about chunky meaty jello.  Mmmmm.

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