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How To: Creme Fraiche.

30 May

Alrighty. Creme fraiche. So it turns out creme fraiche is ridiculously easy to make. All you need is some heavy cream, culture, and a warm-ish windowsill. Emphasis on the warm-ish windowsill. I made this stuff in early May and Boston was still dealing with some shitty weather, so although I left my jar out for almost two and a half days the creme fraiche did not thicken correctly. I ended up sticking it in the fridge and then leaving it out for again for about an hour when the sun finally showed up, and it thickened almost immediately. Bacteria yay?

It is very fun to make. Very. It doesn’t involve much active process, but you feel triumphant anyway. Like an ass-kicking pioneer woman who is about to blow your bloody MIND.

1 container heavy cream

1 TB buttermilk or 2 TB yogurt – I used yogurt

jar

This picture makes me believe that the cream is ready to conquer the WORLD.

So. Pour all of your cream into a jar and add the buttermilk or yogurt. I used 2TB of greek yogurt. I had read that the cultures in yogurt aren’t as “strong” as the ones in buttermilk so I doubled the recommended amount. The yogurt you use will impart a slight flavor to your finished creme fraiche. For example, I used a tart greek yogurt and my creme fraiche was likewise slightly tart.

Stir in the yogurt/buttermilk and leave it (preferably uncovered, unless you’re worried about bugs) at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken slightly once you move it to the fridge.

I left it out longer (2.5 days).  On a warm day I would probably leave it for 12 and then check on it to ensure that it is thickening correctly, but you likely won’t need to leave it out for so long. Mine, even after 2.5 days, was initially very thin. I then left it out in the sun for maybe an hour and it thickened right up.

This is how it looked after 2.5 days.

As you can see, it wasn’t coagulating correctly. It still tasted good, it just didn’t quite have the texture I was after. If you end up with runny creme fraiche, remember that you can always whip it like whipped cream if you wish. I was actually planning on doing that until the sun finally showed up.

You can use the finished product in so many ways, just be sure to use it up in a week-ish. (I’m a little lax with expiration dates…I basically use something until it starts to smell.) (TMI?) Things I made:

Scrambled eggs

Pancakes

Creme fraiche/nutella strawberry dipping sauce (you just swirl the two together).

Enjoy!

❤ stef

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Recipe: Pepper Cheese Ball

21 Nov

I am a vair vair bad food blogger. Keeping up with posting really shouldn’t be as difficult as I make it. I cook EVERY day. Yesterday I made some nom-tastic eggplant parm, without a recipe (which I’m still sort of amazed I can do). Today I’ll probably make some butternut squash soup. I should take pictures, but I probably won’t start until it’s dark and then the pics will be crap (I prefer to use natural light) and I’ll be annoyed. To be perfectly honest, I’m probably only getting around to posting today because I have a paper due tomorrow and I am diligently procrastinating. La de da!

A few years ago my friend Nisi got me a copy of I Like You by Amy Sedaris. It’s one of the most perfect gifts I’ve ever been given. I heart Amy Sedaris, and I heart cooking, and I heart weird humor. Perfecto. There are many different recipes in this book and lots of different ideas for party themes and for party food. (Not to mention a recipe contributed by Stephen Colbert! Squee!) One of the items that is usually always included in a party menu is a cheese ball. First reading the book, I’d never seen a homemade cheese ball before. It was one of those weird retro items I’d only seen strangely prepackaged and sad looking, like fruitcake, and it had never occurred to me that a cheese ball could actually be good. You probably know why. You’ve seen the shrink wrapped monstrosities sold in supermarket deli departments and lurking in holiday gift baskets.

I decided to try making one for a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house, and the lucky cheese ball was Cluster Haven’s Pepper Mill Cheese Ball, chosen because of a friend’s nut allergy. I didn’t want him to be denied the cheese-y delicious. All went exceptionally well, and hey, turns out cheese balls are AMAZING. Since then (NYE 2006) I’ve made the same cheese ball for almost every party I’m invited to. Once I bring it that first time, people request it! Basically, you want to make this cheese ball. It makes you popular and everyone wants you at their parties. In fact, I am doing myself a great disservice by giving you the recipe at all, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because I Like You.

Cluster Haven’s Pepper Mill Cheese Ball

1 stick of butter

1 8 oz package of cream cheese

1.5 C grated cheddar cheese (though really, you could use anything)

2 T grated onion (I usually use 1 tsp onion powder and 1/2 tsp garlic powder)

2 T coarsely ground pepper

The pics in this post are of a cheese ball I made for a Halloween party, so I tried to make it scary. He’s supposed to be some sort of Cthulhu/Octopus hybrid. Mostly he just looks cute. If you want to give you cheese ball a face like I did here, you need some pimiento olives and some carrot shavings.

Make sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature, or you’re going to hate your life.

Combine the butter and cream cheese.

Add the grated cheese and the onion (and garlic, if using). Mix thoroughly.

Pop the whole mess back into the fridge to firm up a bit, maybe 20-30 minutes, then take it out and form into a ball. The original recipe says to roll it in the pepper, but that’s never worked exceptionally well for me because I always end up with one side coated in pepper and the other bare. I’ve started just using my regular pepper mill and cracking pepper on one side of the ball, turning, cracking some more, until the whole thing is coated. It really helps if you have someone help you with this, but I live alone and I usually manage so I have faith in you.

Awwww!

If you want to give your cheese ball a face, use two whole pimiento olives for eyes (I used a teeny knife to make two hollows before I inserted the olives) and three olives for the tentacle things. Cut three olives in half and use three halves for each side of the cheese ball. Then, use carrot shavings for the nose and mouth.

I think he looks hilarious in the fridge.

Serve at room temperature with crackers.

❤ stef

Recipe: Goat’s Milk CHEESE!

28 Feb

I finally got around to hauling out my kit from Urban Cheesecraft and making some queso.

And it was AWESOME.

I love making things that you usually have to buy (marshmallows, anyone?) because it makes me feel oddly powerful. Like, eff you world! I can MAKE SHIT. If the zombie apocalypse came tomorrow, you would definitely want me with your roaming band of survivors. I’m not a big fighter, but I can knit (which means I carry pointy sticks, more conducive to vampire slaughter, but still), I can sew, and I can cook. I know how to make bread and butter, though we will have to find a suitable lactating animal for the latter. You know, cow or goat. When the zombie apocalypse hits you won’t want to be too picky. For all you smartasses who think you can’t make butter from goat milk, YOU’RE WRONG.

So my cheese-making experience was fantastic, except that I almost over heated my milk. One of the crucial steps in cheese making is separating the curds from the whey, which occurs when you heat your milk. I assumed that I would be able to very visibly see the curds separate, that they would be able the size of cottage cheese curds. Not so! The curds were so tiny I could hardly see them and I thought I hadn’t heated the milk enough. Fortunately I read the FAQ over at Urban Cheesecraft and discovered that not all curds are large. In my case, I ended up dipping a metal spoon into the heated milk, and when I pulled the spoon out it was dotted with tiny white specks. Curds!

So, what follows is your basic goat cheese making technique, found in the recipe book that came with my Urban Cheesecraft kit. You can find online recipes, too, but I highly recommend buying a kit from the good people at Urban Cheesecraft! It’s not as though you can’t make cheese without it, but they make it so much easier. Mine came with yards of butter muslin, molds, a thermometer, vegetable rennet, citric acid, cheese salt, and recipe booklets.

Soft Goat’s Cheese

I cut the original recipe in half.

1 quart goat’s milk

1/2 tsp citric acid

1/4 C water

cheese salt (which is just flaked kosher salt). Make sure the salt you use doesn’t have iodine or anti-caking agents.

butter muslin (very fine cheesecloth)

thermometer

colander

big bowl

cheese mold (optional)

Grab your goat’s milk.

This is the first time I had ever bought goat’s milk. I was understandably curious.

Tastes just like moo cow milk. Yum!

Dissolve the citric acid into the water and put aside.

Pour your goat’s milk and the citric acid/water mix into a large pot and clip a thermometer to the side of the pot. You want to make sure your thermometer tip is not touching the bottom of the pot, it should be suspended in the middle of the milk so it can take an accurate reading. Don’t use an aluminum pot, either.

Slowly heat the milk to 185˚F, stirring occasionally. Keep the heat at medium-low. You do not want to over boil the milk, nor do you want to over stir. (So, just make sure you aren’t stirring constantly and you’ll be fine!)

Once the temperature reads 185˚ the curds should have separated from the whey. If you can’t tell (and like I said, I couldn’t), grab a metal spoon and dip it in to the milk and take it out. If it has little white dots on it, the curds have officially separated.

These are curds. I know, I can't see them either.

Turn off the heat and let the milk sit for about 10 minutes. While you are waiting, grab your colander, line it with the cheesecloth, and put it over a large bowl.

Slowly pour the milk into the cheesecloth lined colander, and allow to drain for 15 -30 minutes.

Once it has drained, add the salt and herbs if you like. I added a bit of rosemary, but although it flavored the cheese well, the rosemary itself was a little bitter. If I were to do it again, I would use something sweeter like basil or thyme.

Gently stir to combine.

Line a cheese mold with cheesecloth and place it over another bowl or a plate. Scoop the curds into the mold.

If you don’t have a mold that’s ok. You can just scoop the curds into a piece of cheesecloth and tie off the top. This way would probably work better if you suspend the bag over a bowl somehow, maybe by tying it to a cabinet handle with a bowl on the bottom. The reason you’re scooping the curds into the cheesecloth bag or mold is to further drain and shape the cheese. The longer you leave it to drain, the more firm your cheese will be. Regardless of which method you choose, allow to drain anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours. I left mine for about an hour.

Now that your curds are chillin’, you’ve got lots of whey to worry about.

Pour it into an airtight container. It will keep for about 2 days. Urban Cheesecraft gives lots of suggestions for how to use whey. You can feed it to your kitty, use it in place of broth in soups and stews, or make hot chocolate with it instead of using milk or water. Basically, you can use it in any recipe in place of milk or water. They do give this warning, though-whey has LOTS of lactose.

When your cheese is ready, remove it from the cheesecloth or mold and put it in a container. The cheese will keep for a week or two.

You can use it however you like! The first thing I did was put it on some leftover caramelized onion pizza.

I also made two batches of pasta – sun dried tomato and goat cheese, and brussels sprout, sausage, and goat cheese. Yum!

❤ Stef

Recipe: 5 Minute Microwave Cake

21 Jan

Weird. That’s what you are thinking, I know. Microwave cake?? Intriguing and yet dubious. So many questions – will it taste good? You can make cake in the microwave? Should this recipe be trusted?

Fear not! For I am here to answer your questions.

It all started when I got back from my break in San Francisco (which was lovely, thank you!) and found that the pilot light in my stove wasn’t on, and I couldn’t light it. I called the gas company and they said that they gas wasn’t off, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong remotely so they would have to send someone out. Thanks, gas company. I’ve been living without a stove for the past two days, which resulted in my discovering alternate uses for my waffle iron and eating a lot of microwave food. Last night I googled “microwave oven meals” and I happened upon the microwave cake. WHOA.

Microwave Cake

4 TB flour

4 TB sugar

2 TB cocoa powder

1 egg

3 TB milk

3 TB oil

1/2 square of bittersweet chocolate, chopped OR 3 TB chocolate chips, both optional.

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Microwave safe mug

Mix together all of your dry ingredients.

Add the egg, milk and oil.

Now is the time to MICRO!

The actual recipe says to microwave for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. I have a 950 watt microwave, and I microwaved for 2 minutes and that was plenty of time. In fact, if I’d left it in for the 3 minutes suggested I probably would have had sad, rubbery cake. So, I’d say to start with about 1.5 minutes and go from there.

The cake will puff up and make it look like your mug is wearing a square-shaped afro. This is ok, and is in fact very entertaining.

It gets taller.

Remove from the microwave.

Most recipe say to take it out of the mug, but I didn’t. Why bother?

But is it delicious? you ask.

This is not the most incredible cake ever, but it is good. I would recommend eating it with some nutella, cool whip, whipped cream or jam because it gets a teensy bit dry if you let it cool (dude, if you poured caramel or melted chocolate on this cake right when you take it out of the microwave and let it cool like that, it would be AMAZING!) but this is something that I would definitely make – and eat – again. Just don’t over cook it! Overcook BAD.

Now go and eat tasty five minute cake!

❤ Stef

UPDATE!

I finally got around to eating my entire mug of cake (that was really fun to say!) and I have to say that it was surprisingly delicious. It might help that I am slathering it with nutella (I totally recommend this) but still. Cake in five minutes! I can’t get over the awesomeness.

Recipe: Garlic Aioli

3 Jul

One of my favorite cookbooks is called Fanny at Chez Panisse, by Alice Waters. It is actually the only Alice Waters cookbook that I own, and it was my introduction to her as a chef/food activist. The book was originally given to my little sister Jesslyn for Christmas a few years ago, but I ended up using it more than she did. The first roast chicken recipe I ever made was from this cookbook. I made it with roast potatoes and this aioli.

Last week I was at my mother’s house and I went through her bookshelves and grabbed back my childhood cookbooks. Fanny at Chez Panisse was one of them, and I thought I would share this recipe with you because it has so many good memories for me. Aside from that, it is totally delicious. I use it to dip roast potatoes and chicken into, but it would also make an awesome sandwich spread. In fact, tonight I made roast chicken and potatoes with this aioli on the side, and I plan on making sandwiches with the leftovers tommorrow. Mmmm.

Ingredients:

1 egg, yolk and white separated.

1 C olive oil

1 clove of garlic, or more if you prefer. I used around 3.

Salt and pepper

1/2 tsp lemon

First, smush up the garlic with the flat of a knife and chop it very finely. Add it to a bowl with just the egg yolk.

Get your cup of olive oil, and make sure you have it in a container with a spout.

Slowly whisk the olive oil into the yolk, about 1 TB at a time, making sure to fully incorporate the oil into the yolk each time.

Once you have added about half of the oil, add a splash of water, whisk to combine, and continue adding the oil. At this point you can add a little bit more oil each time because the mix will be generally cohesive.

Once you have added all of the oil, add the lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever you feel like! It is best eaten the same day, but it will keep in the fridge for a few days, too.

❤ Stef

Recipe: Clafouti Cutie!

26 Jun

A clafouti is a French custard/cake-y dessert baked with fresh fruit. According Wikipedia (which is my handbook for life) the traditional fruit is cherries, though I decided to use plums because my mom has a tree and I am inundated with them. Santa rosa plums are taking over my LIFE!

This recipe is a bit like the ricotta cake I posted last week. It is certainly just as easy, but it has a different texture. It isn’t as cheesecake-y, more cake-y, plus it has all of that awesome fresh fruit. If you thought I was crazy calling ricotta cake breakfast material, you must accept that this clafouti definitely qualifies. It has fruit! FRUIT!

Oh, and as a side note, I’m visiting Boston for a few day this coming Monday and I would love food/sight/must see suggestions, if anyone’s got em!

Recipe adapted from Almost Vegetarian by Diana Shaw.

Ingredients:

1/2 C milk

1/2 C ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 C sugar

1/2 C flour

1 tsp vanilla

2 C fresh fruit, your choice. Cherries, blueberries and plums are all great options!

Set oven to 425 degrees.

Mix together the milk, ricotta, eggs, sugar, flour, and vanilla using a blender, food processor or handy-dandy immersion blender. (Have a mentioned how much I love my new immersion blender? Because I LOVE IT!)

Chop up your chosen fruits.

Spread the fruit onto the bottom of a pie plate or vaguely pie plate-shaped baking tin.

Pour the custard-y batter on the top of the fruit.

Bake until puffy and delicious looking, 30 to 35 minutes.

You can eat the clafouti warm, but it is much, much easier to cut when it is completely cold.

Eat for dessert, breakfast, or snacktime. Especially snacktime.

❤ Stef

Recipe: Lemon Thyme Donuts

5 Jun

Today is National Doughnut Day, which is pretty awesome. Every year I find out about more semi-obscure holidays extolling the virtues of all kinds of foods. Examples: National Popcorn Day, National Pie Day, National Candied Orange Peel Day, and National Cherries Jubilee Day. You should go look around on that website. There is a celebration nearly everyday.

So in honor of today’s holiday, I decided to make some donuts. Makes sense, yes? Though I do wonder, how does one officially spell “donut”, anyway? I see it spelled “donut” and also “doughnut” and am very confused. Which is correct? Does it matter? Is one more popular than the other? It seems to simply vary from one shop to the next, without rhyme or reason. I’ve elected to use “donut” because there are fewer letters. Also, the Donut Wheel, the best donut shop ever, utilizes that spelling. I bow to them as the donut gurus.

Donuts with Lemon-Thyme Glaze

Donut recipe from Secret Donut Recipe; glaze modified from their vanilla glaze recipe.

Donuts:

1 C warm milk

1 pkg yeast

2 C flour

1/2 C warm mashed potato

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 C sugar

2 TB oil

Yes, this recipe uses potato. At first I thought that potato was a very strange ingredient, but I decided to give it a chance because I love potato bread so much. It was not a mistake. These donuts are amazing! Very easy to handle and results in a fluffy and moist donut. Give the potato a chance!

So first, what you will want to do is prepare the potato. Prick it all over with a fork, and put it in the microwave to cook. If your microwave has a baked potato setting, use that. Otherwise, microwave for a minute or two at a time and check it . The potato should be soft to the touch. Let the potato cool and warm the cup of milk. Add the yeast to the milk along with a pinch of sugar and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Cut the potato in half and scoop out the insides. Add the flour, sugar, and salt.

Mix together and add the milk and yeast, and 2 TB of oil. Mix with your hands (or using a stand mixer, but I don’t have one of those) until the dough forms a cohesive ball. The dough will be a little sticky.

Spread a surface with flour, turn the dough onto the surface and knead a few times.

Spread to 1/4 – 1/2″ thick. I did mine about 1/4″ using just my hands and a cylindrical rum bottle. I don’t have a rolling pin, either!

Cut donut shapes using either a donut cutter (which I also do not have) or circular household objects. I used a drinking glass for the large circle and a bud vase for the small circle. I’m resourceful!

Let the donuts rise for 10 minutes. While you wait, fill a cast iron pan 1/2″ with oil and heat. I heated mine at about medium heat for 10 minutes and the oil temperature was perfect. During this time, you should also make the glaze.

Lemon-Thyme Glaze

2 TB warm milk

1/2 tsp butter, just a little shave off of a stick

1 C powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Warm the milk and the butter. Add to the powdered sugar and mix. Add the lemon zest, vanilla, and thyme. Mix together. Feel fee to leave out the lemon and thyme if you would prefer a simple vanilla glaze.

Cook the donuts until golden brown on each side. This only takes a few minutes, so be sure to watch carefully.

Let cool on a plate lined with paper towels. When the donuts have cooled, dip them into the glaze to cover and put them on a plate to allow the glaze to set.

Look at that deep fried glaze-y shine. Perfection! And yes, they absolutely do taste as delicious as they look!

Now excuse me, I have a half dozen donuts to eat.

❤ Stef