where’s my hugger?!

SHEW. Yesterday was the last day of Baking and Pastry, which meant final exam time.

We had 4 hours to make whole wheat dinner rolls, pate a choux, buttermilk biscuits, cookies, and pastry cream. the pate a choux was piped into cream puffs, which we had to fill (with our pastry cream) and dip in chocolate ganache (which also had to be made). Oh and after scrubbing the kitchen from top to bottom, then we got to take the written exam. woof.

Despite the stress of the last day, the second week was a lot of fun!

There was pie

apple! it's hard to see, but there's a cute little apple cut out on the top that Poppa Bear made

There was cake

vanilla sponge with raspberry filling, american buttercream, and oreo crunchies

[sidenote: if you’ve got a thing for sisyphean tasks, you would be an EXCELLENT cake froster.]

There was quiche..ohhh was there quiche

carmelized onion, canadian bacon, sharp cheddar. and that's MY perfectly fluted pie crust thankyouverymuch

Eclairs and Cream Puff and Profiteroles, oh my!

profiteroles: filled w/ (hand-whipped) whipped cream. eclairs and puffs are filled with pastry cream and dipped in chocolate.

Sweet rolls (think parker house):

And on the 7th (ok 8th) day, God rested. And He created pizza. And it was good.

cheese and pepperoni

spinach and mushroom

Really good.

It was a little sad to say goodbye to our chef, who had an amazing balance of high expectations and understanding patience, but there was no time for dilly-dallying.  At 6:45am this morning, we were off to the races with Stocks, Sauces, and Soups!

Our professor is an ex-Marine with a thick Boston accent (and demeanor). It’s a lot to take before the sun comes up.  But he’s fiercely passionate about food and education–and it shows. He’s doing his PhD dissertation on the issue of the sub-par math skills of today’s youth and how it impacts their performance in professional kitchens. After my altercation with Baby Bear, all I can say is ROCK. ON.

So before class ended at 1pm today, i was known as “the hugger.” If you know me, you know I have the amazing capability to be completely devoid of all emotion. So, this was a change.

Chef asks the class, “who eats granola?” Silence. “I eat granola, chef.” “Perfect. There’s always one tree hugger in every class. You are now my Compost Queen.”

Christ.

“You are in charge of the compost buckets. Make sure there’s no trash in the compost or compost in the trash.”

Cue giggles and jeering.

“And if there is, you get to dump it on the freshly washed floor and let your classmates sort it out. And re-wash the floors.”

Silence. I giggle.

So then we made stock. I’ll spare you pictures of boiled chicken carcases and beef bones. But man it smelled good. We’re cleaning up and I’m untangling stacked chairs in the hallway (…teenagers) and all of a sudden Chef is in the window screaming–SCREAMING–“WHERE’S MY HUGGER??!?!” Time to take the compost out. Perfectly sorted, might I add.

Then I treated myself to an exciting sale item at the grocery store:

WHO NEEDS A HUG?

i am legend

This is the stuff of legends.  I had been hearing about this wonderful, mythical creation for a while.  Was it worth all they hype? I had only read glowing, GLOWING reviews of any of the momofuku restaurants in NYC, but it wasn’t until I saw the episode of No Reservations when Anthony Bourdain sits down with the man behind the myth, David Chang. He seemed like a dude. A cool dude who just liked good food. Someone you wanted to sit next to at a bar (not W. style, don’t get me wrong). I was sold, I had to make Crack Pie.

What better an occasion to try it out than the legendary event itself, Crabfest.  Every summer, Manfriend’s friends get a whole mess of crabs, and a whole mess of friends, and have a great time.

So what was it like? Did it actually taste like or have the addictive qualities of illicit narcotics? Who would I be to debunk this myth…you’ll just have to try it for yourself.

Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie
(from The Los Angeles Times)

Servings: Makes 2 pies (6 to 8 servings each)
Note: This pie calls for 2 (10-inch) pie tins. You can substitute 9-inch pie tins, but note that the pies will require additional baking time, about 5 minutes, due to the increased thickness of the filling.

Cookie for crust

Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour
  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats
Method
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

  • With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

  • Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes.

  • Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack.

  • Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.

Crust

Ingredients
  • Crumbled cookie for crust
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Method
  • Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together).
  • Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. * I used one round tart pan and one rectangular tart pan.
  • Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins.
  • Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 prepared crusts
  • Powdered sugar, garnish
Method
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.
  • Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.
  • Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells.
  • Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the pies and cool on a rack.
  • Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

quelle horreur

Hey Marky-Mark, we’re off to a bit of a rocky start.  I attempted Mark Bittman’s Pumpkin Pie with his Gingersnap Crust and well, lets just say it was a fall festive FAIL. It all started out quite nicely…but somewhere along the way went very, very wrong.

The crust came together wonderfully, pre-baked like a dream. The filling was easy as, well, pie, and the whole thing went in the oven lickety-split.  I gave it 5 more minutes than the maximum reccomended time, but the filling was still loose, and the crust had puffed up to three-times its orginal size. Cooling completely and chilling for 24 hours did nothing to reclaim it.  The flavors were all there, and quite nice, but it was mush.  The crust disintegrated under the filling and the filling was more like room-temperature pudding than pie.

Going back through the recipe just now as I’m posting, I noticed some conflicting directions that may have accounted for the aforementioned defects.  Now, in fairness, I can’t blame Mark entirely.  I’ll take the fall for maybe a little too much butter in the crust, and not properly respecting my cold-running oven.

So, I challenge you, dear readers, show me up. Make this recipe work.

Gingersnap Crust
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Ingredients

  • 3 T sugar
  • 6 ounces broken gingersnaps (or graham crackers), about 1.5 cups
  • 4 T melted butter, plus more as needed

Method

  • Combine sugar with the gingersnaps in a bowl or food processor.  Slowly add the butter, stirring or processing until well blended.  If the crumbs aren’t all moistened, ad a little bit more.
  • Press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate.

thank you, America's Test Kitchen, for teaching me to use a 1/2 cup measure to press the crumbs. Freaking brilliant.

  • To prebake, heat oven to 350. Bake the crust 8-10 minutes, just until it begins to brown. Cool on a rack before filling, the crust will harden as it cools.  (REMEMBER THIS LAST STEP.)

Pumpkin Pie
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Ingredients

  • 3 egs
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • pinch ground cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 2 c. canned or fresh pumpkin puree
  • 2 c. half-and-half or whole milk

Method

  • Prebake the crust and start the filling while the crust is in the oven.  When the crust is done, turn the oven to 375.
  • Beat the eggs with the sugar, then add spices and salt.

so instead of freshly grating my nutmeg, i used a generous shake of pumpkin pie spice. Call me Sandra Lee. I'll fight you.

  • Stir in the pumpkin and then the half-and-half.
  • While the crust is baking, warm this mixture in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is hot to the touch. Do not boil.

unconventional, but i went with it.

  • Put the pie plate on a baking sheet. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the still-hot crust (SEE!!! Do I let it cool, or do I not?? TELL ME MARK, TELL ME.)

  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the mixture shakes like Jello but is still quite moist. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

45 minutes later, we're late for a party and the center still looks like a swimming pool.

pie for breakfast!

My love for all things culinary was hatched at a young age when I discovered how to bake. Cookies, cakes, brownies, lemon squares, you name it.  As I got older (and left the busom of my fantastic cook of a mother), I began to cook more often.  Most recently, my baking has waned most severely because Manfriend never grew a sweet tooth and no one needs me to eat a whole pie.

So, when I saw a request for bakers for the Food Blogger Bake Sale this Saturday, I jumped at the chance to get back to my sugary roots.  As soon as the weather gets cold (or really as soon as it’s no longer August) I start dreaming about pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie, pumpkin anyyyyything. These little joys popped up on my Google Reader a couple times and I had been waiting for an excuse to try them out.  Charity and culinary adventure: a match made in heaven.

Pumpkin Pie Bars
Source: Dinner & Dessert, who took them from Joy the Baker, who adapted them from Kraft

  • 1-1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup  granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup  (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter or margarine
  • 1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup  chopped walnuts
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3   eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp.  pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)
  • a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips for sprinkling on top (optional)

HEAT oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides; grease foil. Mix flour, 1/4 granulated sugar and brown sugar in medium bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats and nuts.

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this lighting is quite emo...take that you martha stewart nesting bowls.

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i dont feel so bad skipping the gym after cutting this stuff togther...arms and core work out for sure.

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the nuts an oats in this crust was one of the first things that drew me to the recipe. Crunchy! Hearty! Delicious!

RESERVE 1 cup oat mixture; press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan.

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i love easy steps like this. its like writing something on your to-do list that you already did just so you can cross it off (oh come on, we've all done it).

Bake 15 min.

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another box checked! next time I'll definitely bake this longer. It was set, but could stand to be a little more golden.

Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla, bourbon, pumpkin and spice with mixer until well blended.

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emo ingredients strike again!

Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture and a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips (if desired).

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oh i desired.

BAKE 25 min.; cool 10 min. Use foil to transfer dessert from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

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so i missed the part about removing from the pan to cool completely. which probably contributed to my less-than-crunchy crust.

So, after a couple hours of cooling, my pan of bars were acting more like jello than upstanding bar cookies. I popped em in the fridge overnight, and when I went to slice ’em this morning, they were perfect! The crust was crusty! Magic! I cut out a piece to bring to the boss lady (1. because she hearts when i bake and 2. i owed her big time for taking the fall for a minor oversight of mine yesterday) and cut a little sliver for myself.

“Mmm…manfriend do you want to try a bite?”

“It’s pie? Can I have some later?”

“Uh why?”

“It’s 8:30 in the morning, I don’t want pie for breakfast. You don’t have pie for breakfast!”

[incredulous disbelief, indicated by a deep lounge-singer voice] “But whyyyyy not?”

 

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and now, an open letter from your editor: what exactly IS butterscotch? why does it pair so nicely with pumpkin? why do i forget it exists?

 

ps–I will be attempting a second batch of these tonight, sans nut, also for the bake sale. might try some dark chocolate chunks on top with the butterscotch chips. things could get a little crazy.