Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Politics and Cooking...

Have you heard that Joe Biden, theoretically Obama's top choice for VP, loves to cook?

I have to say, I'm not sure what to think about this tendency to attribute "home cook" status to our presidential candidates and their associated flocks. Is this supposed to make them friendlier? More "American"? More approachable and down-to-earth? Because honestly, it would be more American to admit you eat out 6 or 7 nights a week and use your refrigerator to store extra clothes. And also, nothing about Cindy McCain makes me think "approachable and down-to-earth," least of all her cookie recipes.

But I guess I see their point. After all, American's have a long history of believing one thing and doing something completely different.

Monday, August 18, 2008

KitchenAid Mixer Follow-Up

KitchenAid agreed that the lift mechanism should NOT sound like a portcullis, and they're sending me a new mixer! They were so pleasant and nice on the phone, and didn't even make a big deal out of the problem. They said the new mixer should arrive in about a week and will include a mailing label for returning the other mixer.

Sweet! Thanks, Carla from KitchenAid!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"M" is for Mixer! An Apartment 3.0 Upgrade...

A KitchenAid Pro 600, in fact! Wheee!! Thanks, Internets, for making it oh-so-very easy to locate and acquire expensive pretty things! Thanks, Food Writing Career, for providing me with the suitable justification for this purchase! Thanks, Engineer, for making me hit "Purchase" and also validating my color choice!

This is a shot of its maiden voyage kneading some ciabatta. I've been longing to make ciabatta forEVER. It's such a sticky, wet dough that it's near impossible to make it without a standing mixer. I'm happy to say that it mixed and whirred and kneaded without missing a beat! (More on the ciabatta itself later)

For interested parties, I decided on the KitchenAid 600 over the 500 only after much weighty thinking and wringing of hands. 600 has a slightly larger capacity (6 qts to 5 qts) and a stronger engine. There are other small differences, but since I plan on doing a lot of bread baking with this mixer, these were the two selling points. You can check out the full breakdown on the KitchenAid website.

The price difference is about $100, no small sum for someone relatively unemployed such as myself. But in the end, I decided that down the line I'll be more grateful to have the mighter power of the Pro 600 than the extra $100.

One small problem I've noticed so far--the mechanism for lifting the bowl up to the mixer-head really jerks and clunks. It locks in place and unlocks again without any problems, but the lifting and lowering reminds me of one of those creaky portcullises (portcullisi?) from medieval castles.

I've never had this experience with any other KitchenAid, and at first I just thought it needed some time to let the lubricant work into the gears and whatnot. But after raising and lowering the lift several dozen times and talking to a few fellow KitchenAid owners, I think this is actually a problem. Maybe the lifter-belt-thingy got thrown off the track during shipping? Who knows. I poked around the internet this afternoon trying to see if anyone else had this problem, but didn't come up with much. In any case, I'm going to call KitchenAid tomorrow and see what they think.

I'm not actually all that worried about it. KitchenAid has a great reputation for both their mixers and their service, and I'm sure it will get sorted out. I'm just happy it works and that I can still play with it in the meantime.

So...yay! Mixer! Ciabatta! Bing...Level Up!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Master Recipes: Sweet

I've had it on my list to write down all these master recipes FOREVER, but kept procrastinating for one reason or another. Why procrastinate something that you actually want to do? Something that you know will be darn useful to you in the future? And that you will probably kick yourself for if you don't to do and then end up forgetting everything in the fog of post-culinary school life?

Humph. Eeenyways, here are all the master recipes that I memorized for my culinary school final practicum. Apologies for the short-hand--goal #1 is to get the recipes down, goal #2 would be to flesh them they, you know, make sense to more people than (In the meantime, if you feel like making one of these, give me a hollar and I'll flesh out the instructions for you).

All the recipes for savory stuff to come...eventually...I mean VERY SOON

From my noggin to yours:

Pate a Choux

oz butter (1 stick)
1 c. water
1 c.
4 eggs
pinch of salt

Bring butter, water, and pinch of salt to a rolling boil. Off the heat, add the flour all at once and stir until it's like mashed potatoes. Put back on the heat and stir to dry out the paste. It's ready when the paste glistens, there's starch build-up on the bottom of the pan, and the spoon stand straight up.

Dump paste into a bowl and work it until it's cool. Combine the eggs and add them into the paste in four additions. Stir completely each time until the egg is completely absorbed and it's like mashed potatoes again. Read when you see motion in the dough when you hold a bit upside down on the spoon.

Ready to pipe/shape/form. Bake 425-degrees, then lower to 375, prick holes in puff and then 300 to dry out.

Pate Brisee / Pie Crust
3:1:1/2 = 2 crusts (top and bottom)

3 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup ice water
1 tsp salt

Cut butter into flour until crumbly. Make a trough in the middle, add in a tablespoon of water, fluff with fingers. Repeat until dough is heavy and cool. Smoosh against countertop once or twice to just bring the dough together.

Bakes at 425-degrees, lower to 350-degrees when golden.

Pate Sucree / Sweet Pie Crust
Same as pate brisee, but replace 1/2 cup of flour with sugar, and replace the water with eggs.

Creme Anglaise

1 1/2 c. milk, cream, or half and half
4 yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla or other flavorings
pinch of salt

Scald milk. Whisk together yolks, sugar, and salt. Whisk in milk. Return to medium heat and stir until silky, thickened to coat the back of a spoon, and about 170-degrees. Strain over ice bath. Stir in flavorings. Yum.

Ice Cream
Same as creme anglaise. Probably have to double it to fit into the machine.

Creme Patissiere / Pastry Cream

1 1/2 c. milk or half and half (NOT CREAM)
4 yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla or other flavorings
pinch of salt

Scald milk. Whisk together yolks, sugar, flour, salt, and flavors. Whisk in milk. Return to heat, stir constantly, and bring to a boil (mixture will start 'plopping' with big bubbles). Strain over ice bath.


1 1/2 c. milk, cream, or half and half
4 yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla or other flavorings
pinch of salt
1 1/2 T. gelatin
2 c. heavy cream

Scald milk. Whisk together yolks, sugar, and salt. Whisk in milk. Return to medium heat and stir until silky, thickened to coat the back of a spoon, and about 170-degrees. Strain over ice bath. Stir in flavorings.
Dissolve gelatin in 6 Tablespoons of hot water. Stir into the cream base while it's still warm and stir until it gets thick and is just starting to set. Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks and fold it in before the base is completely set. Pour into molds and refrigerate until firm.

Puff Pastry and Semi-Puff

2 cups flour
1 cup butter
2/3 cups ice water
1 tsp salt.

Instructions for full puff later.

For semi-puff, cut butter into flour/salt, but leave in large chunks. Fluff in water as with pate brisee. Form into a square and give it 4 turns.


6 eggs
1 c. sugar
1 c. flour
6 T. butter--melted
1 tsp flavorings
pinch of salt

Combine eggs and sugar. Put over bain marie (or VERY low heat). Whisk constantly (electric mixer preferred) until mixture is lemon yellow and tripled in volume.

Transfer to a shallow mixing bowl. Fold in flour and salt in three additions. Lighten melted butter with a little batter and then fold it in. Pour into pan gently. (Pan must be greased and floured)

Separated Sponge Cake

Same ingredients as genoise but the butter is optional.

Separate yolks and whites. Mix yolks and sugar, ribbon until light lemon. Don't need the same volume.

Whip whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of whites into yolks/sugar. Put remaining whites and the flour on top, and fold it all together. Pour into pan gently.


Soft meringue: 2 T sugar per egg white
Hard meringe: 4 T sugar per egg white

Mousseline Buttercream

1 c sugar
1/2 cup water
6 whites or yolks
pinch salt
2 c. butter--room temp
1 T vanilla

Heat sugar and water to softball stage (238-degrees). Meanwhile, beat yolks and salt until thick (or whites until soft-peak). With the beaters on, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Continue beating until the mixture is cool (bowl is cool to the touch).

At medium speed, beat in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Beat until buttercream holds soft peaks. Add flavorings.

Whew. You're welcome! Next up: master recipes for savory...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Apartment 3.0: Help Me Choose a New Desk!

This is my old desk. It has been abandoned for the past month or so since the Engineer moved back in and our "office" was temporarily relocated to the dining room table.

Obviously converting our dining room into an office space has not been an ideal situation for many reasons--the topmost being because we have no where to actually sit down and dine. But it was necessary evil
while most of his belongings (particularly his desk) were still at his old apartment awaiting a free weekend (plus motivation) to move them here.

It's a long story. Needless to say, the Final Apartment Transfer arrived in the form of last weekend, and now we can actually start setting up our office. Let us rejoice.

And now I'm looking at my old desk and thinking, "No. This will not do." You see, it has become apparent to me over the past few weeks that as a freelancer, one spends an inordinate amount of time at one's desk (or dining room table). It has also become apparent to me that, as a freelancer, I require a lot of space. This is evidenced by the piles of cookbooks, dictionaries, copyediting manuals, random paperwork, pens, post-its, and other detrius that have collected on my side of the table and nearby environs. (The Engineer's side is pristine. Let's not talk about that right now.)

Also, work space is important to me. I like to feel comfortable, organized, inspired, and relaxed while I'm there. And it's true: I am spending an inordinate amount of time at my desk, so I'd prefer to be happy while I'm there. Makes sense, yes?

Side note: When I was living in Portland, I had this incredible old teacher's desk that I'd salvaged from a junk pile at Marylhurst University. It was solid oak, a behemoth on legs, with some sort of slightly resistant rubbery top. I loved it to death and am still sad about our parting of ways during the Great Relocation of 2004. (Don't worry--I gave it to a writer friend of mine, so it had a good home.)

Since then, this architect's drafting table (also salvaged) has served just fine. But times are changing. And it's Apartment 3.0.

Here are my requirements: solid wood, at least 5 feet long, simple and unadorned with tomfoolery, and
options for short legs or adjustable legs (cuz I'm short).

And here are a few options that strike that fine balance between creative style and budget, all from
Ikea, that seductive epicenter of style and budget:

Option 1-- the Vika Furuskog: This is a 6.5-foot long plank of pine wood, $55. The advantage is, well, it's 6.5-feet long and made of pine, one of my favorite woods. The disadvantages are that it's a bit flimsier and requires 5 legs (which doesn't make sense to me, but who really understands the Swedes?). I'm also not completely sure that it will fit in our current design scheme...hmmm...I swear it was only 6-feet when I looked at it before. Moving on!

Option 2-- the Vika Byske: A more respectable 5-foot long plank of solid maple, $79.99. This guy's at the upper end of what I'm willing to spend, but I like the length and the sturdiness of maple

Option 3-- the Vattern countertop: A little over 5-feet in length, slightly more shallow than the actual desks, made of birch, $50. Oh, and it has a water resistant surface. Which is nice because sometimes I spill stuff. I'd have to drill holes to add my own legs, but I used to be a stage hand and my boyfriend's an engineer, so I think I'd be ok.

You can customize the legs on any of these desks. I would most likely chose the Vika Kaj legs (LOVE these names!), which are adjustable to height.

I've also thought about looking into buying a regular old plank from somewhere like Home Depot or Lowe's. Except that I only last about ten minutes in places like that before I start crawling the walls. The idea of being able to order these desks off the internet and having them arrive at my doorstep a few days later is so very nice.

What do you think? Anyone have experience with Ikea desks and/or legs?