Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Carbs Galore

Hey there cupcake!

Wow, today has been a really INTERESTING day. I was watching the Kathie Lee & Hoda morning show and they were talking about Michelle Obama's shorts. WTF?! And then my boyfriend shared this article with me about Archie Comics...he proposed to Veronica?! I was so confused!! But then again, just because he proposed to Veronica doesn't mean he's going to marry her right? Archie and Betty are supposed to be together!! Or at least that's what I thought when I was reading these comics years ago. Okay, so enough with my ranting and denial, let's get down to business!

See that cupcake up there, the cute little red one with a swirl of frosting on top? It's a Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. I got the recipe from Joy the Baker's blog. I made it as a wedding cake sample for my sister, yes, the one I decided to make the wedding cake for. The cake was pretty good, light and tender, but maybe I could have gone without the color. The frosting on the other hand was a little too buttery, most likely because I ran out of powdered sugar. So I'll need to give that another try some time. This cake recipe is definitely going on my list of possible cake recipes for a wedding cake.

So you're reading the title of this post and you're wondering where all the carb is right? Well here it is, I introduce you to Alton Brown's Soft Pretzel's.

I'm not too big of a fan of the salted pretzel.

What is there to say? Alton Brown is a genius. They looked beautifully dark and they tasted pretty good, but maybe a little too baking soda-y, since there was 2/3 cup for 10 cups of water. Would lowering the baking soda not give me that great of a color? Or was the color just all from the egg wash? Anywho...I would definitely recommend this pretzel recipe to anyone who's looking for one. It's pretty simple, but shaping them is another story, I need more practice with that. Ready for the next round of carbs?

Croissants et un pain au chocolat.

I don't know why I decided to make these yesterday. I guess I've been intrigued by them, like the macarons, I just needed to try making it so I can say that I know how. All I have to say is CROISSANTS. Delicate, flaky, fluffy, crisp, buttery, and light. These can't really be made in a hurry, most of the recipes I came across require letting the dough rest from 4 to 18 hours. So please be patient when you make these, you'll be completely satisfied with the effort it took to make them when you taste a fresh, hot, croissant. I got the recipe here, it's quite long I'll copy it here, I read it over about 3 times for it to make sense. I started this yesterday and finished it before noon today.

Classic French Croissants

adapted from Epicurious and the District Domestic

1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to warm (105°F–110°F)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp plus 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) really cold unsalted butter

This was after I made the dough, wrapped it, and chilled it.
Crazy yeast-y air bubble action going on!

Start by making the dough: Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over – the yeast was dead.) Add 3 3/4 cups flour and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7-9 minutes.

Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until cold, about 1 hour.

I drew the 8x5 rectangle on the wax paper I used just to make it a little easier.

Prepare and shape butter: After dough has chilled, arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a work surface. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Scrape butter into a block and put on a kitchen towel (flour sack towels work best), then cover with other towel. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in towels, while rolling out dough. (Don’t skimp on the chilling – it’s important to not let the butter “melt”)

Buttery goodness waiting to be transformed.

Roll out dough: Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush.

Roll out dough: Turn dough so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends.

Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first “fold.”) Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour.

It looks like this for a while, when you're rolling and folding over and over again.

Make remaining “folds”: Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.) Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).

Check out those layers of dough and butter. This is for the final rolling out.

Roll out and cut dough: Cut dough in half and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out other half on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and stretching corners to maintain shape, into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush and trim edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.

Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut remaining half vertically into thirds, forming 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half to make 2 triangles, for a total of 6 triangles.

Shape croissants: Holding short side (side opposite tip) of 1 triangle in one hand, stretch dough, tugging and sliding with other hand toward tip to elongate by about 50 percent.

Return to work surface with short side of triangle nearest you. Beginning with short side, roll up triangle toward tip. (Croissant should overlap 3 times, with tip sticking out from underneath; you may need to stretch dough while rolling.)

Put croissant, tip side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. (Curve ends inward to make a crescent shape if desired.)

Make more croissants with remaining 5 triangles, then with remaining rolled-out dough, arranging them 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Repeat rolling, cutting, and shaping procedures with chilled piece of dough.

Let croissants rise: Slide each baking sheet into a garbage bag, propping up top of bag with inverted glasses to keep it from touching croissants, and tuck open end under baking sheet.

Let croissants rise until slightly puffy and spongy to the touch, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Rising in the oven, instead of a garbage bag with glasses...

Bake croissants: Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425°F.

Remove baking sheets from bags. Spritz inside oven generously with spray bottle and close door. Put croissants in oven, then spritz again before closing door. Reduce temperature to 400°F and bake 10 minutes without opening door.

Switch position of sheets in oven and rotate sheets 180°, then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake until croissants are deep golden, about 10 minutes more.

My camera sucks...I don't think this captures the glory of fresh croissants.

You know you want some!

I really hope you guys try this sometime! There is no way you would regret it. It might take a few diagrams and lots of waiting, but it is SOOOO worth it! Have fun and enjoy!

I really don't know when I'll be making these again though ;)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eating Vegas and Other News

A bag full of goodies!

Wow, it's actually been quite a while since my last post...Well I was basically computer-less last week because of a Vegas trip I took with my boyfriend and another couple. It was a pretty awesome trip since I haven't been there for about 8 years?

We got into Vegas in the evening last Monday, we checked in at Tahiti Village, and took a dip in the really awesome lazy river! We decided to go out for food a little after 9:30, first we though we'd check out the restaurant at the place called Tahiti Joe's. But apparently they were closing at 10, so we didn't get in. Tummies grumbling we decided to hit the Strip, of course being the foodie that I am I did plenty of research for which restaurants I we should check out. We were craving burgers so we went to the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay. Sorry about the blurry pictures! It was kind of dim in there and I didn't want to take a picture with flash because I didn't want people to stare..haha..So here is what me and the bf ordered.

Some kind of burger my bf created with Kobe beef
and a side of sweet potato fries.

I got the sliders that were kind of like samplers of their
larger burgers with a side of skinny fries.

The Verdict: The sliders were so cuuuuute, but they were um..... blah, I don't think I'd order them again. The fries were really good when they came out hot, but after a few minutes, they were cold and hard. Maybe I didn't eat them fast enough? The buns for the sliders were not enjoyable, they seemed stale, or just too hard for a hamburger bun. However, the beef was cooked to a perfect medium rare. I wish I ordered a full size burger, just because I had a bite of my bf's. The bun was waaaay different and it was pretty good. Sweet potato fries were awesome too! I forgot what kind of sauce that was on the side though...but I know it was good.

I was dying to visit a Vegas buffet before the trip, but I don't think we were hungry enough for it on Tuesday. So instead for lunch we went to Earl of Sandwich at Planet Hollywood. And I couldn't have been more satisfied. And I knoooow, I probably should have taken a picture of the sandwich without the wrapper. Haha..but I was too excited to try the gorgeous looking sandwich.

Possibly the World's Greatest Hot Sandwich!

The Verdict: Despite the fact that I first ordered a BLT, which the cashier told me they ran out of, I had to make a quick decision because the line was growing pretty fast, I got the Earl's Club..and WOW was all I had to say when I took that first bite. I couldn't be happier that they ran out of BLT's. The bread was amazingly thick, yet soft, the combination of Roasted Turkey, Smoked Bacon, Swiss Cheese, Lettuce, Roma Tomato & Sandwich Sauce was perfect. But I was kind of confused though, the sandwich I had had all the components to make a BLT, so what was the deal? Do they make these sandwiches ahead of time and keep them under a lamp? I mean that would explain the really cool looking gold wrapper that also retains heat well. Ehh, the sandwich was still good but I just want to knooooooow! Oh yes, I also got some lightly salted kettle chips that were nothing too special, but always good with a sandwich. Definitely one of the best stops for great food at a great price on the Strip. I think the sandwiches are about $6 or $7.

Hmmm..I'm having a hard time remembering what we had for dinner that night. What I do remember is that we went to Chipotle one night for dinner, I just don't remember when that was! And I don't have any pictures of any dinners. So let's skip the day by day game play.

We went to The Wynn for lunch at The Buffet one of those days. I was pretty impressed with all the choices and the flavors. This buffet was no Sizzlers!

A tiny sample of what was offered for lunch.

Some desserts!

The Verdict: Choices were plentiful indeed! Possibly enough to please a variety of tastes. I had some chicken tortilla soup, a chunk of parmesan with parma ham (?) and good brown bread, grilled veggie salad, macaroni salad, scallop ceviche, gnocchi with peas and pancetta, pulled pork on a piece of cornbread with coleslaw(pork was too sweet for my taste), a tri tip slider (too fatty), some kind of fish with tomatoes, Thai beef salad (wasn't good at all, flavors weren't there and beef was tough), and bbq pork char siu bao. Desserts included lemon tart (awesome of course!), some kind of chocolate and banana thing that was pretty good too, chocolate dream tart ? (was soooooo gooood, great mix of something crunchy on the bottom, creamy chocolate mousse? ganache? with a candied hazelnut - YUM. So maybe I had too much chocolate, but that chocolate mousse or pudding in that tiny cup wasn't too interesting.

Bouchon. Amazing, definitely amazing. And interestingly enough, we found this place when we were on our way to get our tickets for Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular. Which is an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G show, if you are in Vegas, you NEED to go see it!! Get same day half price tickets through Tix4Tonight! I heard of Bouchon while I was still in NorCal, I came across it when I researching for places to go to in SF. Sadly their Northern California location was too out of the way for us. It's in Yountville (a city I never heard of until I came across Bouchon) near Napa. So I only have the pictures of the macarons that we bought because we saved those for last. Other goodies we bought and inhaled included their famous chocolate bouchon (kind of like a brownie), almond financier, pain au chocolat, chocolate and almond croissant, and raspberry jam filled beignets. Everything was amazing, I only wish I could have sampled every single thing there!! However, the lemon macaron was too sweet, raspberry and chocolate macarons were amazing!

Raspberry Macaron.

Lemon Macaron.

Chocolate Macaron.

And so the last place I have to review is Stripburger. I ordered some tomato gazpacho, a classic hamburger with garlic fries and a Sunburn Sangria. The burger and fries were perfect. The sangria wasn't actually a sangria, it didn't have any wine. It tasted like strawberry Torani mixed with vodka and lime soda.

As if this post wasn't long enough already, I need to mention that I saw Julie & Julia this past Friday...along with a bunch of other foodies of course! I loved it! I'll probably be looking into getting my hands on the dvd! That movie is sooooo drool worthy!! I was starving by the end...or just really wanting some French food. I have never wanted to cook French food so much as I do now, especially Boeuf Bourguignon!! But I don't have a Dutch Oven...and I really want to use Julia Child's recipe! I know I'm going to buy one someday, but I'm saving up for a new computer right now, I know I want a Le Creuset, but I need money!! does anyone have a recipe that doesn't require a Dutch Oven?!

My sister's wedding cake planning has gotten nowhere since I took a whole week off vacationing. But there a few recipes that I want to try out, but I might not get to that until later in the week since that's when she'll be dropping by. But yes, I'm still a little scared!