Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nothing is Impossible: Homemade Croissants

Croissants are one of my all time favorite pastries to devour. This "devouring" has become an art. First step, to make sure the pastry leaves an apparent footprint of grease in my carry away bag . . . this is the true test of home baked goodness. Next, peel off layer by layer of the flaky dough until you are left with the delicate center, let each piece melt in your mouth. Savor the last couple bites for as long as possible, for nothing is as good as the center of the croissant. But of course, my three steps to devouring a croissant are only truly enjoyed with the homemade variety. Don't ever waste your time on imitations.

In all seriousness, for me, the croissant brings along a sense of intrigue and complexity. I always envisioned a baker slaving away in the kitchen, rolling out layer after layer of dough, with no end in sight, only to achieve perfection. No normal, sane person could ever assemble something so complex and time consuming. But in October 2009, I am so happy to say I proved myself wrong.

With the help of my new trusty Baker's Cookbook (and Jose, the ultimate taste tester), our first attempt at Croissant baking turned out pretty darn delicious.

Happy Croissant Hunting:
The ultimate croissant I've ever tasted comes from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. A truly delicious experience, one unmatched to any other. This croissant sets the highest standards. If you live in Ventura, check out My Florist. They have consistently proved to be quality bakers of breads and pastries. Renaud's Patisserie in Santa Barbara is a small French cafe with some tasty croissants and quaint, french ambiance.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Festive Rum Pumpkin Cupcakes

Every weekend I have this little obsession of browsing through the recipes of Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Martha Stewart & Sunset magazines in search for a little inspiration or a recipe that is unique and fun. This Sunday I had a hankering for something Fall, Halloween themed and Sassy. Something that I could easily ship to work to feed my coworkers and something that I could add a personal twist too. There's nothing like the personal twists!

My eyes fell upon the mini Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes in this month's Bon Appetit (Page 52 to be exact). I noticed they mentioned the cupcakes were "kid-sized" so I decided to add some Rum to the batter as there are no kids in this household! These are now the Working Girl's "bite-sized" Sassy Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes that will wow any adult crowd.

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes
Bon Appetit, October 2009

1 cup self rising flour
(1 Cup flour + 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/8 teaspoon salt)
2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
(1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ginger + 1/8 tsp nut
meg + 1/8 tsp cloves)
1 large free range egg
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (pure! pumpkin)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use Spectrum Canola Oil)
1/3 cup organic Greek yogurt (substitution for sour cream)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Dark Rum (or to your discretion)
1 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger (optional, but worth it)
1 cup powdered sugar
nonfat milk
1/2 lemon

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line your mini muffin pan with paper liners (I skipped this step . . . no motivation to drive to the grocery store)

In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking
soda, salt, golden brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice. In a medium bowl mix together the wet ingredients: egg, canned pumpkin, vegetable oil, Greek yogurt, rum. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir to combine. Spoon batter into paper liners (or just the muffin tin).

Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. I baked my cupcakes at 335 F convention bake for 12 minutes, they turned out perfect. The Bon Appetit bake time is 16 minutes.

In a bowl combine the powdered sugar, a drop of nonfat milk and just a small squeeze of a lemon. Combine with a fork to the texture you desire. I wanted my frosting thick so didn't add too much liquid. (If you enjoy the cream cheese butter frostings, go right ahead and use the one in Bon Appetit)

Once the cupcakes have cooled, gently spread on the frosting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Paleo Diet

For the past two weeks I have joined a group of Crossfitters in the attempt to eat like a "caveman" for the entire month of October. Supposedly the Paleo Diet is the healthiest diet in the world - removing all dairy, sugar, alcohol, wheat, rice... you get the picture... from your diet. Yes, this has been very very difficult.

I work the typical 8 to 5 with occasional overtime days just because life err work gets busy. A diet like this could seriously damage your routine. I've realized all of my vices were affecting my day to day existence; however, with these changes my life is healthier and my body is happier.

There has definitely been some cheating... drinking my favorite brew of dark coffee in the morning and a glass of wine last Friday night. There have also been some amazing recipes exiting my kitchen. Forced to cook my own food each night, I've surrounded myself with the freshest produce making my creations endless.

Fish in a Pouch (en Papillote)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 red onion roughly chopped
1/2 bell pepper roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped dill
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 small fillets of any white, flaky fish (I used Tilapia)

Preheat oven to 350 F

Cut out a large piece of parchment paper (about 12'' by 12''), this will be the Pouch for the fish, etc. Chop the garlic, onion, bell pepper, dill and anything else you find suitable for flavor. Place the clean fillets of fish on the parchment paper and top with the other ingredients. Squeeze lemon over the top and add a dash of sea salt (no table salt).

Fold & twist up parchment paper creating a pouch. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Cooking en papillote is a different way to steam your food. No oil is needed and your dish always comes out moist and flavorful. I try to add as much intensely flavored ingredients to a white fish en papillote so I won't need to use salt in the end. In fact, you could even top off the steamed fish with this lemony pesto . . .

12 more days to go . . . wish me luck!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rest in Peace, Gourmet

The economy has definitely gone bust as one of the nation's oldest culinary magazines is saying goodbye... Gourmet Magazine.

Ahhh . . . The memories of sifting through these monthly subscriptions as a little girl were forefront on my mind after I read the sad decision by Conde Naste. At my office I couldn't help but contemplate, why Gourmet? As a food blogger you are immersed in a community where people absolutely love food . . . cooking, eating, photographing, illustrating, musing, conversing food. But then I'm taken aback and realize could this, the internet, be why Conde Naste would choose Gourmet to walk the plank? In the midst of the quick click, selective reading, and opinionated lifestyles that we live can we no longer enjoy the old school magazines like Gourmet? Are they going out of style? Or is this the next step to something better?

Whatever it is, I vow to hold on tight to my subscription of Bon Appetit. I will dog ear every page I find to be inspiring and post-it every recipe worth trying. I will savor the photography and amuse myself with the content. I will never take it for granted.