August 14th, 2008

maple tuiles and homemade honey-peach ice cream

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when’s the last time you’ve been to the library? it had been more than a few years for me, not counting the five or so times i went during my college career. i’ve gotten into the habit lately of just buying books when i want them, and while i like owning and displaying them on my bookshelf, the practice has gotten a bit expensive. so the girl and i ended up at the west end library last weekend in search of recipes. it’s funny, after spending so much time in bookstores, you forget how amazing it is to walk into a library and just take a book home for free. for two hours i ran around the place like a kid in a candy store, realizing they stocked both cookbooks and comic books. walking out, my backpack bursting at the seams, i felt like a thief.

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this is how i ended up with a copy of dori greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. her name should sound familiar if you spend any time reading food blogs. i’ve only got the book for a few weeks, so i’ve been studying it intensely for new and interesting treats. she provided both (that’s right, a double dose of goodness) recipes this time. which brings me to the ice cream. the girl got an ice cream maker (still on sale at amazon if you’re interested) for us to share, and surprised me with it last week. we decided the first ice cream had to be refreshing seasonal fruit, and peaches are amazing right now. i really wanted to bake something to go along with with the ice cream and the girl found these tuiles while flipping through the book.

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they are virtually idiot-proof. the recipe calls for pure maple syrup, and while i don’t think the syrup that comes out of a giant log cabin shaped bottle is pure, the finished product was incredibly delicious and paired up well with the honey in the ice cream. my advice while baking is to stay on the conservative end of the 5-7 minute span. my first batch burned literally in a matter of seconds. that said, once they come out the oven, these little guys are fun to mold.  you can wrap them around anything and they’ll harden in seconds. and although they look brittle, the taste is buttery and rich. now to experiment with new ice cream flavors. i definitely see basil ice cream in our immediate future…

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continue reading and get the recipe »




August 9th, 2008

the most valuable tool in my kitchen, or, in defense of the wooden spoon

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have you ever seen those people in bed bath and beyond or sur la table wandering around the kitchen appliances? staring longingly into the stainless steel bowl of a kitchenaid mixer, drool pooling up at their feet – you know the type. well, stop staring at us, it’s not polite.

really, it’s harder than it looks to resist the shiny gleam of kitchen gadgets. how many times have you been walking through the store, hefted some industrial marvel of kitchen gadgetry in your hands and thought, “i make pretty a good sandwich, but if i had this panini press then i could make a really professional sandwich,” or “why get a regular toaster when i could have one that makes 10 slices at a time and cooks eggs and bacon for me when i wake up – and does my taxes while i wait!”

the at-home amateur cook is tempted by the promise that somehow an elaborate and expensive tool can help their cooking rise out of mediocrity. the only problem is that good chefs and bakers don’t get better by using gadgets – they get better by practicing and testing themselves, mastering simple techniques and experimenting to break through culinary barriers that they or others have put up. in other words, it’s got nothing to do with gadgets.

the only gadgets i need are wooden spoons. the three above have saved me countless times in the kitchen. the one on the far left is the longest, my soup spoon, used exclusively for my giant soup pot (it’s about time i made some summer corn chowder…). the middle one is…pink. why? black cherry kool-aid! this spoon is used only to mix kool-aid which, if you didn’t know, stains anything it touches before it’s completely dissolved.

the spoon on the far right – this is my best friend. this one, the smallest, was used in every single recipe on this site. even with a food processor and standing mixer, this wooden spoon is still my perfect kitchen tool. we’ve been through everything together – doughs, icings, sauces (tomato and alfredo), stir-frys, cakes, cookies, soups, custards, tarts – i’ve even whipped cream with it and gotten stiff peaks. i can say with confidence that no matter what the recipe says, it can be done with little more than a wooden spoon and a bowl.

so tell me, what’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?




August 6th, 2008

french baguettes

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simple french baguettes were a mainstay in my kitchen growing up. slathered with butter, pieces were used to sop up every type of sauce imaginable.

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it’s an all-purpose bread that can go with almost any meal. grab some cheese and have a picnic, toast it and add chopped tomato. the recipe itself is very simple, using a pre-fermented dough that gives the final bread the taste you would get from a professional bakery, who usually allow their dough to ferment for a longer period than the home baker.

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the dough is just as versatile with shaping. we made two traditional long baguettes and one spiky ring (made simply by forming a baguette, snipping the sides with kitchen scissors and meeting the ends).

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there’s something entrancing about the smell when you open the oven to these golden loaves of goodness. it recalls memories of hundreds of family dinners. get started tonight and begin making new memories tomorrow.

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continue reading and get the recipe »




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