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July 16, 2012

Old Cook's Tale: You Can't Whip Egg Whites With a Speck of Yolk in Them

You can't whip egg whites if there is even a tiny speck of yolk in them. It is known.

According to the common wisdom, that tiny drop of yolk in the photo is enough to stop a bowl of egg whites in their tracks and reduce them to a weepy, watery mess.

Ask any baker and they will tell you this is true. They may go on to recite the rest of the basics, described here by King Arthur Flour:

  • The bowl and beaters must be clean and grease-free.
  • Use a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl, not plastic.
  • Egg whites will whip higher if they’re at room temperature before beating.

Admonitions to ensure everything is dry, lest a drop of water render the whites too runny to whip, are often included.

Truth be told, this isn't a particularly onerous list. If you wash your dishes, they won't be greasy; separating eggs is not rocket surgery; most of us have glass or stainless bowls; and a few minutes in warm tap water fixes cold eggs.

Still, it bothered me. Such exacting instructions coupled with dire warnings if not complied with exactly.

Continue reading "Old Cook's Tale: You Can't Whip Egg Whites With a Speck of Yolk in Them" »

September 07, 2010

How to Deep Fry Bagels and Bagel Holes

Deep-fried Bagel

Late summer is fair time round these parts. Our tiny county fair has the essential treats: corn dogs, cotton candy, elephant ears...but the whole fried-thing-on-a-stick phenomenon has passed us by.

Whether this is good or bad is debatable - fewer calories v. no deep-fried snickers, you make the call - but it leaves a gaping hole in my excuses to eat deep-fried food. Were it not for the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Rings that Burgerville tempts me with each summer, I might go a year without anything cooked in boiling fat.

While shaping bagels today, I was struck with a thought I am blaming on my proximity to the local fair: deep-fried bagels. Yeah, I said it. Deep-fried bagels. 

We will now pause for a moment as our various bubbes plotz about this meshuggah idea. 

Continue reading "How to Deep Fry Bagels and Bagel Holes" »

July 07, 2010

Technique: No-cook Ice Cream Base (yes, with eggs)

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream

A few years ago, I happened upon a sale and bought a really good ice cream maker, which has led to more than a bit of creamy, frozen goodness around my place. It really doesn't take much effort to whip up a batch of ice cream base and with my machine, which doesn't require pre-freezing a bowl, I can have ice cream almost on a whim.

Amazon was smart enough to put a number of their ice cream machines on sale, just in time for the heat wave! That's marketing for you. So if you don't have a contraption of creamy goodness, head over to the 25% (or more) off ice cream machines sale .

There is a downside to making ice cream, however: making the custard base. Merely the thought of standing over a hot stove attentively stirring a pot of cream and eggs lest it scorch is enough to make me melt on a day when the mercury hits 90, as it's predicted to. (Yes, here in my ten feet of rain a year fog valley.) This means the odds of my making ice cream the traditional way rapidly decreases as my desire for ice cream increases. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

At least it was...

Continue reading "Technique: No-cook Ice Cream Base (yes, with eggs)" »

January 30, 2010

Food Photo Props: Cleaning Clam Shells

01.09.10 steamer shells

Every food photographer I know is on an eternal quest for good props for their photos. Over the last couple of years, I have collected a lot of dishes; some days it seems the plates multiply when I leave the room...and still I want more. You, too?

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December 21, 2009

How-to Shape Christmas Tree Bread

I really dislike posting a recipe I have only made once. What seems to be a simple bit of culinary magic one day may fizzle on second try. Even well-tested recipes can run into problems when moved from one region of the country to another: the moisture level of flour changes noticeably from a wet climate to a dry one, for example, and altitude screws with baking and boiling, not to mention your alcohol tolerance. (My brother-in-law who works as an EMT a mile up in the mountains tells great stories.)

There are, however, a few writers whose recipes I trust enough to go with a single pass at a recipe when I am short on time and I turned to one of them for the sweet roll dough I used for the tree. Modifications were made, of course: I zested an orange, toasted and ground cardamom, sprinkled in cinnamon, and tipped in a splash of vanilla; milk became buttermilk; sugar was reduced a little bit - there was a LOT of sugar. Ten minutes after I put it in the oven the house was filled with a heady mix of spices and I was regretting not putting an extra 'tasting' loaf in the oven. (After I took photos, I tore into a golden ball of dough; I can report the flavor lived up to its aroma-vertising.)

The crumb, sadly, did not. Dense and chewy, not tender and light. Totally wrong.

Continue reading "How-to Shape Christmas Tree Bread" »

February 25, 2009

Adapting bread recipes for cold, slow fermentation

I realize this outs me as a huge bread geek (as if A Year in Bread hadn't already) but I found the coolest little formula today. It's a quick way to convert the quantity of yeast in a regular bread recipe to make it using a longer, slower rising process.

Being a huge fan of bread that spends its first night in the refrigerator, I am probably inordinately excited by this - and no doubt everyone else already knew this bit of math - but I just had to share.

Not here.

There: Adapting Bread Recipes for a Cold Rise.

May 07, 2008

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream Recipe

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream

This one's for Inv Robbins, who died on Monday after helping to make about a zillion kids happy by creating the first American food franchise: Baskin-Robbins.

When I was a munchkin, I loved Baskin-Robbins. There was a BR store within walking distance of all my usual haunts and they gave you free ice cream on your birthday. Even better, my older brother's best friend was a shift manager. For him, this mostly meant he, at 17, got to herd 15 and 16 year-olds, which I am sure was a pain. For him.

I, on the other hand, thought that the point of being a shift manager was free banana splits. Not for him. For me.

Since then, I have switched to making my own ice cream. Last year, I happened upon a sale which tipped me over the edge and I bought a really good ice cream maker, which has led to more than a bit of creamy, frozen goodness around my place. It really doesn't take much effort to whip up a batch of ice cream base and with my machine, which doesn't require pre-freezing a bowl, I can have ice cream almost on a whim.

There is a downside to making ice cream, however: making the custard base.

Standing over a hot stove attentively stirring a pot of cream and eggs lest it scorch may not be as painful as herding minimum-wage teenagers, but it's nowhere near as fun as eating a banana split.

Well, I've got the answer.

Continue reading "Nutella Swirl Ice Cream Recipe" »

November 16, 2007

Bread 101: How to cut an epi

baked epi

With the holidays coming up, dinner rolls take a step forward over at A Year in Bread. Susan, Kevin and I have posted recipes for three different takes on rolls suitable for your holiday table. We've got three tempting options for your holiday table, soup bowl or your Friday turkey sandwich.

  • Farmgirl Susan's Carrot Herb Rolls are absolutely gorgeous! Full of carrots, parsley, fresh rosemary and thyme, this recipe is from a new book that Susan got her hands on (and about which she has been taunting me) Bread:Artisan Breads from Baguettes and Bagels to Focaccia and Brioche. It's going on my seemingly endless wish list!
  • Kevin' Seriously Good Beer Rolls are not your grandmother's beer rolls. Dark porter plays off honey in a beer bread that, rather than the quick bread approach of most beer breads, has two rises and a starter! Golden brown and earthy looking, I am planning on making a batch of these for turkey sandwiches. (If it's a recipe from Kevin, I am guessing it makes great sandwiches!)   
  • kitchenMage's Rosemary Fans are a simple variation on a baguette recipe but the rolls are a big payoff for a little extra effort. The dough is very forgiving and shaping the rolls is an imprecise science at best so it is a great recipe to let the kids help with.  

Another option when individual rolls are called for is an epi, a traditional shape that represents a sheaf of wheat. While it is technically still a loaf, they have almost as much delightfully crust as a roll and individual sections break off easily in a perfect union of form and function.

Epis are also surprisingly easy to make. You start with a baguette shape and make a series of cuts with scissors. Since the implement of destruction is scissors rather than a knife, small people can help too. Speaking of children, you can start with a mini-baguette to make a child-size epi so the monstrrrs at the table get the fun of ripping off their own piece.

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October 29, 2005

Homemade caviar


Maybe I should call today's post Deep End Cooking (with apolgies to Deep End Dining) or Mage, Don't Make It! (wih a nod to Steve). At least I can be thematic with all the Halloween horrors out there.

I think I've eaten caviar three or four times in my life and, while it was okay—particularly
the Columbia River sturgeon caviar at the Herbfarm—I wasn't sufficiently bowled over to pay the rather steep price. So when a friend dropped by the other day with a fresh salmon and several skein of salmon eggs and asked if I wanted to make caviar I thought, "Ummm, errr, sure...?"

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October 25, 2005

Taming the wily leek


I didn't get in much of a garden this past summer, and a bit of what I did manage to get planted was either late or a gift from a generous friend with too many starts—or both. One of the late group of vegetables was leeks; a packet of seeds emerged during the move and, since they were dated for 2002, I tossed them into a bare patch of dirt to see what happened. Well, what do you know, leeks happened!

The leeks are just getting large enough to selectively harvest and, lacking scallions for a recipe the other day, I pulled half a dozen from the soil...along with an awful lot of the soil. Which brings us to the point of today's post. Leeks can be intimidating to the uninitiated, what with all those dirt-collecting layers. Cleaning them can be a challenge: if you cut them up much at all, they fall apart and while you can wash them, cutting is a pain; if you don't cut them up, there's no way to get them clean. What's a cook to do?

Continue reading "Taming the wily leek" »

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