Monthly Archives: January 2011

Herb Ciabatta

After weeks of trying every Ciabatta recipe I could get my hands on, I think I’ve found something that works! Ciabatta is one of favorite breads — after sourdough — but it’s been really difficult to bake because of its unique traits: crunchy crust, light and holey on the inside. It’s also an incredibly wet dough that has to proof at least overnight so working with it requires some patience, something I’m not quite familiar with.

after 18 hours out at room temperature, the dough about doubles in size

Tip #1: When working with this dough, be gentle and only touch it when necessary. Be efficient. Unnecessary movement in the dough will cause the gas bubbles  to collapse and you’ll lose the big holes Ciabatta is known for in the final product.

Look at those gluten stands! If you see this, you're doing something right :)

I can’t share the recipe I am using, but I will leave you some tips and a video that I found to be very helpful. A lot of recipes out there require you to make a sponge beforehand, which makes baking Ciabatta a two-part, two-day process with two mixes. I didn’t find that this extra time or energy was worth it.

Shaped, proofed and ready to bake

Tip #2: Proofing bread is much, much easier during the summer time or when your kitchen is warm. My kitchen is, sadly, always freezing! Good thing I have a proof box. Google make-shift proof boxes.

Tip #3: Get a cooling rack. They say the cooling process is the actual last step and not to be skipped! So even though it’s hard to resist, hands off until the bread is cooled.

I initially started baking just plain, white Ciabatta, which is great for sandwich bread – especially if you have a panini grill! But I also wanted a bread that stood on it’s own so I needed a little more flavor. If you’re interested in herbs, find any dried spices that you like or already have in your kitchen. Rosemary, basil, or oregano all work. Just mix in with the rest of the ingredients until incorporated.

Tip #4: Always have butter on-hand. Spread generously on bread and enjoy!

Good luck! Let me know how it goes :)

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I Love Mushrooms

I was planning a picnic with a girlfriend and decided this would be the perfect opportunity to make Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms, a recipe I saw on Smitten Kitchen.

I love mushrooms. Anyone who knows me even just a little bit about me will know this. Crimini mushrooms, Portabello mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms and most of all, truffles! I preface this post with this because how delicious I think this dish is may be very skewed by my mushroom-bias. I mean I’d pretty much eat mushrooms cooked plain. So… yea, take my words with a grain of salt… then take that salt and season your mushrooms with it :)

This recipe is really easy, from start to finish in about 20 minutes. I didn’t follow the recipe’s measurements though because I’m trying not to take the measuring utensils out anymore. My mom never uses them, her mom doesn’t, and so forth. Soon I will be married, in my own kitchen, and I must learn to cook by taste, by experience. No more measurements!

So I was actually really nervous about how these would turn out. I knew I had put in waaayy too many capers the moment I took them out of the jar, but oh well. Waste not, want not, right?  The recipe calls for 2 Tb but if I had to guess, I think I doubled that. I’m also really bad at estimating. The worst.

What you’ll need:
2 packages of crimini mushrooms ($1.69 each at Trader Joe’s!)
minced garlic, lots of it
capers, juice drained
salt and pepper for seasoning
butter, sliced
juice from half a lemon
chopped parsley

Here is what I did but feel free to follow Smitten Kitchen for exact measurements. First, I wiped mushrooms down with a damp paper towel and threw them in my 9″ x 12″ Pyrex. I chopped the capers up a bit (make sure not to use the juice) and threw them over the mushrooms. Threw in a couple spoonfuls of minced garlic. Twisted a couple rounds on my sea-salt grinder as well as my pepper-grinder. More pepper the yummier :) Slice up a couple Tb of butter (btw, I LOVE how there are markers dividing the stick for you) and place them around the dish. Stick in the oven at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes. Stir the mixture about 5 minutes in and again around 10 minutes in.

I like my mushrooms really soft and fully cooked so I think I let mine bake for 18 minutes. After you take them out of the oven, this would be the optimal time for the lemon juice and chopped parsley but I was simply way too excited about this dish to even remember those ingredients. It wasn’t until I was halfway through them that I realized I had totally forgot about them.

They were great right out of the oven but I saved half  and stuck them in the fridge. At the picnic I served them cold and they were still de-lish!

I think next time I’ll need to add a little wine though. And maybe some yellow onions. And more mushrooms – two packs wasn’t enough for me :)

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Failed Pralines

The other day I was suddenly in the mood to make something in the kitchen, as I often am. I flipped open one of the pastry magazines that are sent to me and came across a simple enough praline recipe – or so I thought.

Initially I thought it would be silly of me to post about something that I wasn’t successful in making but then I realized I’m not a huge fans of pralines anyway and thus probably will not be trying this recipe again. So I will leave you with the recipe in case you are interested and some notes that, evidently, both did and did not work out for me.

Recipe from the Culinary Institute of America:
350 g sugar
350 g brown sugar
180 g heavy cream
100 g milk
90 g butter
350 g pecans
1 t salt
1 t vanilla extract

toasting pecans

First, you’re going to want to toast your pecans. I popped mine in the oven at 350 for about 10-15 minutes, until they’re nice and crunchy. Then, combine the sugars, milks and butter together on the stove and cook until . I didn’t have a candy thermometer (which may or may not be the exact reason this recipe was a fail for me) so I estimated about 5 minutes after boiling.

You’re also going to want a big pot. The magazine suggested a 4qt. but I ended up burning myself when the pot came to a boil. I had always heard candy burns are the worst and can now speak from experience and say: lkjlkSJFLKSfd. But the hardest part comes next when you mix the nuts into the caramel mixture and “vigorously” stir for 45 seconds or until creamy. Vigorously meaning stir quickly and powerfully while simultaneously being careful enough to not get any of the 215 degree mixture on your clothes or worst, yourself. (Praline-1, Regina-0).

Mine took much more than 45 seconds and that’s when I knew this recipe wasn’t going to work out for me. Even after 2 minutes of stirring the mixture was still too liquidy and not at all sticky like caramel or pralines should be. I had scooped about half the mixture when I decided to give it another “vigorous” stir to see if I could stiffen it up a bit but this made the mixture even worse.

first half of the mixture vs the second half which I mixed again

I ended up having the pop them in the fridge overnight to dry. In the morning I took a bite and tossed them all in the trash :( Pralines-2, Regina-0.

Here’s a couple things I would’ve changed if I were to try this recipe again: instead of using whole milk (the recipe cleverly did not specify!), I would try some 1/2 & 1/2. I’d probably cut the milk a little bit too and definitely cut the white sugar. The end product literally tasted like spoonfuls of sugar with pecan bits in them.

In other news, my mom created a new product today! Aren’t they cute??

Chocolate and Espresso Mousse Verrine

I was online trying to find a new name for them when I came across Tartelette‘s verrines. Verrines. Verrines… I think this is my new favorite word. Verrines. Just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?

And how did I not know about verrines before? I’m giddy just thinking about them. My mind is already spinning with all the possible combinations I could try. Right now I’m drooling over Tartelette’s Milk Chocolate and Chestnut Mousse Verrines. No doubt they are what I’m going to try next.

Until then!

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Banana Cream Tart

A few months ago, a couple friends and I spent the day in SF just for… well, eats. We woke up at 9am (way too early for a Saturday morning), got in the car and drove an hour to the SF Flea Market for this glorious sandwich:

Porchetta Sandwich from Roti Roli

But in good foodies-fashion, after something savory we needed something sweet. The savory truffle macaron (yea, truffle macaron – you read that right) that we tried at the Ferry Building just couldn’t quite be classified as dessert in our books. After much searching and googling, we ended up at Tartine Bakery.

We ordered a few items, none of which were very memorable except for their Banana Cream Tart. What I remembered most about is was that it cost $6.50 for a tart of 4″ in diameter :( But I must admit that was rather beautiful, pretty good and sparked my own Banana Cream Tart creation.

I needed to make a few changes though to fit my liking. My main problem with the Tartine treat was that the shell was incredibly hard. I’m not sure if this was on purpose or if the tart shells were old, but to say that I was afraid for the utensils wouldn’t be a gross exaggeration. They used a napolean-like pastry dough for the shell instead traditionally using something like shortbread. It had a nice texture since pastry dough is very flakey, but I didn’t think the use of it in a tart was necessary. In addition, I found their banana custard too liquidy when I tend to like my custard nice and thick… and, well, fatty :)

The last change I made in my version was leaving their dollop of caramel syrup out. My heavier custard and sweeter whipped cream made this ingredient excessive. I did like how Tartine lined the insides of their tarts with dark chocolate though – a trick bakeries use to increase the shell’s shelf life – so I followed through with that step. It does give the pastry a nice, unexpectant touch.

one thin layer of chocolate, banana custard, whipped cream, chocolate shavings and powdered sugar

So I was out $6.50 but stumbling across this creation was well worth the money, the trip and even the few extra pounds I’ve put on since :)

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