Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tea Biscuits

My parents, like many Indian people, make tea every day, and we have nasta (nah-s-thah) which are Indian snacks, and invariably some kind of biscuit or what other people call cookies. They weren't very fancy, but they were delicious with the tea -- particularly Parle-G glucose biscuits. Sounds odd, tastes delicious. Tyler would go through packets of these when my dad first introduced him to them. Needless to say, I don't keep them in the house much.

But I recently had some tea from a pre-mixed indian tea-tea spice that I use, and had a hankering for some biscuits. So I went back to the basics, equal weight butter and flour with a pinch of salt, and any flavoring you want.

So far I've done parmesan cheese and black peppers, chipotle pepper with habaƱero cheese, and vanilla scented-vanilla glazed. They are simple, and go really well with your cup of tea. Make them, keep them around.

The parmesan and black pepper dough that I rolled out between two pieces of parchment paper
Chipotle Habanero Cheese biscuits (and one parm/black pepper bunny biscuit!)
Vanilla glazed, vanilla scented biscuits (these were awesome)
Basic Biscuit
from Paul Hollywood's recipe

75 g (0.75 cup flour)
75 g butter
pinch of salt
A little cold water
Whatever flavoring you want to add (vanilla bean seeds, almond, some sugar, parmesan, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, go crazy!)

With your hand, or more easily in the bowl of a food processor, mix together the butter and flour and salt until it resembles coarse sand. Then add in your flavoring choice, start the food processor, and slowly add a little water until the whole thing just comes together. Dump the contents onto cling wrap, flatten it into a disc, and place in the fridge for 30 min - 1 hr.

Turn on oven to 375F

Then roll it out on a floured surface or my favorite, in between two pieces of parchment paper so your counter doesn't get messy. You don't want to handle the dough too much or the butter will melt, and you'll get mediocre biscuits. After you roll it out, if it feels too warm, just pop the whole thing back into the fridge for another 10 minutes, then you can either cut it into squares, use shape cutters, etc. to make your biscuits. Put them on a tray lined with parchment paper or silpat. Put them in the oven for ~10-18 minutes (check to make sure they are not getting too brown based on the size you cut them). Pull them out, and allow them to cool before icing or just eating! 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Raspberry Rose Profiteroles

I've been watching a bit too much of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO). It's rather devastating to me that Netflix has only one season, but nevertheless I've watched the season twice. Twice. I don't think it's really the show, but rather the time off from working/studying that has allowed me to regain my baking and cooking inspiration. So here is what I'm going to try to do this year -- a weekly post with a round-up of what we've eaten. It's partially to share, but mostly as a way for me to document some of the things I make (i.e. miso-encrusted tofu with a spinach and blue cheese salad, yes it was delicious). That way when I am lacking in ideas, I can look back and see what I made!

They went so fast..we didn't get to take a picture of the inside of these...
But for now, these profiteroles. I've become obsessed with choux and biscuits since watching GBBO. I tried making a choux for eclairs a few years back made a few key mistakes: 1) I added all the egg at one time, making the dough too runny and therefore the eclairs too flat. 2) I didn't "dry them out." In order to maintain the crispiness inside of an eclair or profiterole (aka cream puff) you need to poke a hole in them part way through the bake to allow the steam to come out and dry out the inside. That way when you fill it, it doesn't immediately become soggy. The dough itself is quite simple to make.

But these are the blueberry lavender ones we made after...they were delicious. I did learn the valuable lesson that skipping the "make the puree from the berries" step is definitely not wise though! 
Choux, meaning cabbage in french, is a mixture of flour, water, butter, and egg brought together on a stove-top. When you know how to make this, you can make eclairs, profiteroles, gougeres, or even beignets (though I haven't been bold enough to fry mine yet). They are pretty easy to fill, you can go with a basic creme patisserie, whipped cream (which I prefer), lemon curd, etc. From start to finish, the whole thing takes about 2hrs to make, including cooling and filling time. Try it out!

Raspberry-Rose Profiteroles
inspiration drawn from the GBBO 

Choux dough (read all the directions before making, it makes your life easier)
120mL water
50g salted butter
65g plain white flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1.5 tsp rose water (appropriate for food)
0.75 cups frozen raspberries
2 tbsp sugar, granulated

Over the stove, heat water and butter together, but do not boil (you don't want to reduce the water content here). When all the butter is melted into the water, bring the water to a boil, and add the flour in one go, take off heat, and mix vigorously with wooden spoon or spatula. It will come together. Bring back to heat on low, and keep mixing until it comes together in a shiny ball. Let it sit and cool to warm

Once cooler, add the beaten egg a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. It will look lumpy and weird when you first start mixing, but it will come together. Keep adding until the dough looks shiny, and falls off your spoon with a little shake. I usually end up adding all but a little bit (maybe 1 tsp) of the egg.

Either spoon onto a pre-prepared baking sheet (silpat or parchment paper) or pipe it by using a piping bag or heavy duty ziplock back onto the baking sheet.

Put in a pre-heated oven at 400F for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170F for 4 minutes, then pull out and poke a hole in your eclair or profiterole to allow the steam to escape. Put it back in the oven at 170F for another 3-5 minutes. Pull them out, and let them cool.

While it's cooling, make the filling. Puree the frozen berries with a hand blender or food processor, and run it through a fine sieve mesh. The point is to get the berry puree without the seeds. If you don't have a food processor/blender, you can do the same thing by heating the berries over the stove or in the microwave and mashing them up with a spoon or fork and then running it through a sieve to get out any of the seeds. 

Put the heavy cream, sugar, rosewater, and raspberry puree into a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, and let 'er rip. When you get the whipped cream to your liking consistency-wise, put it in a bowl, and pop it into the fridge to cool. You can also do this process by hand for a mini-workout.

Then fill a piping bag/ziplock bag filled with a small round piping tip, put the tip into your cooled pastry and fill! If you don't have a pipping tip, you can just cut your pastry in half length-wise, and fill 'er up manually. No shame in that.

To dress your pastry, you can do a chocolate glaze, tempered chocolate (which we did), chocolate drizzle...really anything you like. Either way -- try this pretty simple dessert and enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

So that was 2015

2015 is done and over -- we are now a whole four days into 2016. It's a new year. We rang in the new year in Buxton, ME at a home with a few friends. It was strikingly beautiful -- an old schoolhouse restored to be a home, complete with a spiral staircase. It was cozy, relaxing, and a great place to think and eat an obscene amount of food. Take a foodie on vacation, you're going to get a lot of food. That's right, I've embraced my foodie nature.

2015 was a big year, year in review:

1. I turned in my residency applications.

2. Started my last year, last year of medical school

3. Broke and finally bought a kindle and regret NOTHING

4. Took up acrylic painting

5. Turned my house inside out cleaning it and throwing things away after reading this book. It's life changing.

6. Made some wonderful friends

7. Visited some of my friends in their new homes

8. Found my favorite restaurant in Cambridge. This love is real. 

9. Started family dinner with my brother and sister-in-law, and love it.

10. Appreciated my family more.

11. Discovered burrata. Nothing has been the same.

12. Saw my best friend marry. This was an incredible experience I feel privileged to have been a part of.

13. Acquired and lost a selfie stick. May your new home be as good as the one I provided you oh selfie stick.

14. Experienced the kindness of my fellow Wellesley alums who housed me on the interview trail. Thank you Ale and Christine.
15. Spent time with friends in new cities.

16. Learned how to spend time with myself.
17. Fell more in love with my husband. And his beard.

18. Fell more in love with my dogs.

19. Realized how unbelievably proud I am of Tyler.

20. Made this freaking awesome yule log.

That's the short list. Who knows what this year will bring...will I match? Where will I match? What is Tyler going to do? Where will we be? What adventures will we have? Who knows, but I'm excited to find out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

DIY Candy Gifts 2016

Hello world! I'm doing a gift post before January! I'm so happy, it's an accomplishment really. The joys of being a fourth year medical student. Anyways, this year I've tried using the phrase "holiday gifts" or "winter gifts" rather than Christmas gifts to be more inclusive to those people that don't celebrate Christmas. I don't, but I grew up celebrating "commercial Christmas" with my family, so we would always say Merry Christmas to people. I didn't think of the religious connotations till college when a friend of mine said, oh, I don't celebrate Christmas. So I tried switching my vocalizations to Winter Celebrations, or Happy Winter! It's a small correction, but it costs me nothing.

That's the thing, about "being PC" it's really just me saying that this thing that I'm doing/saying hurts/offends/excludes you, and it costs me nothing or very little to change, but it costs you a lot when you hear me say...make a joke about women, minorities, immigrants, etc. So I might as well change it. I don't understand the whole "our country is too PC" rhetoric that seems to have taken over some political stages. People are mad that they can't tell an off-color joke?

Frequently I find that people make hyperbolic examples to make their point that being "too PC" is a problem. For example it would not be unreasonable to hear someone say "Well, pink socks offend me/trigger me, so stop wearing them." This makes no sense not only because of the obvious hyperbole that usually the product of not being able to find a real example, but also because the issue of offensive jokes, etc is not that it affects one person, but rather an entire group of people that live a similar experience. Rather it seems like the polite, empathetic thing to do is to, when called out, think about why someone is saying they don't want you to tell that joke/say that thing/whatever else rather than just roll your eyes about having to "be too PC."

Now! On to these totally awesome DIY Winter gifts. During the winter months, no matter where you are, it gets colder...and for me that means time for hearty soups, casseroles, and candy.

So I figured what better way to help celebrate the coming of winter and the ringing in of the new year than with some simple to make candy that you can gift away to people!

Below are the recipes for: Chocolate spoons, Chocolate wreaths, and my personal favorite, the Sweet and savory toffee
Last year's DIY candy gifts can be found here.

Chocolate Spoons: A simple, but elegant gift you can give to your friends that they can use to sweeten up their morning coffee with or simply pop in their mouths for a pick me up. They're also lovely because you can decorate them any way you want.

What you need: Plastic spoons, bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (8-16 oz), toppings (marshmallow, sprinkles, cocoa nibs, peppermint pieces, more chocolate, toffee, etc.) 

Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or double boiler. Dip just the spoon part of the spoons into the chocolate getting a good coating. Place the spoon on the parchment paper. Top it with whatever toppings you like. Place them in the fridge or freezer to cool, and then pack them up!

Chocolate Wreaths: Round pretzels (I used Utz that I bought from Costco), 16 oz chocolate, toppings (cocoa nibs, sprinkles, peppermint pieces, toffee) 

The key here is to buy pretzels that you'd want to eat just by themselves. If you buy pretzels that don't taste good, or are stale, you'll get beautiful wreaths that taste not so good.

Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add pretzels to the melted chocolate until you feel you've "saturated" the chocolate. You don't need each pretzel to have a thick coating, just enough that it coats it. Then give the pretzels a good toss in the chocolate. I used a spatula to do them. Then one by one, using a fork, pull out the pretzels and lay them on the parchment paper. After a row is done, go back and add the topping to your "wreath." Tossing the pretzels and using the fork adds a texture to the chocolate that makes it look more "wreath" like.

Savory and sweet toffee: This is my favorite. In fact I'm munching on some now as I write this. It's exactly the same recipe that I used last year for the Pretzel Toffee but instead of pretzels I used saltines and I definitely prefer the saltines. Seriously, make this. It's so easy -- you don't need a candy thermometer, you don't need anything fancy, you just need the ingredients, a baking sheet, and some parchment paper.

What you need: 1 cup salted butter, 8oz chocolate, 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, salt, toppings (cocoa nibs, marshmallows, sprinkles, chia seeds)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 baking sheet with parchment paper. If you don't have 9x13, use what you have and modify the recipe. Line the parchment paper with saltines. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just have to cover the bottom.

Then in a saucepan, heat up the butter and the sugar until it melts down and turns into a toffee. Should take about 2 minutes, watch it so it doesn't get too dark, you don't want it to burn. 

Then pour it carefully on top of the saltines, and spread it out. Don't worry if it doesn't cover everything, it'll spread in the oven. Put it in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Check to make sure it's not burning at 8 minutes. Pull it out, let it cool for a minute or two, then pour the 8oz of chocolate/chocolate chips on top.The heat from the toffee with the melt the chocolate. Spread it around in a thin layer.

 Then put your toppings on top! This year I went for a "messy" look, and mixed cocoa nibs, marshmallows, salt, chia seeds, and sprinkles on top. Pop it in the freezer for an hour to let it cool, then break it into pieces by hand and eat it or package it up to go!