Beater Blade

beaterbladeI am a cheapo.  For years I could not understand why anyone would spend $300 for a KitchenAid Mixer when you could get a handmixer at the grocery store for about $10.  Until I used one.  There is no better way to get a professionally consistant result.  The only pain was the constant scraping down of the bowl.  For everything to be properly distributed in the batter, you have to stop the mixer, lower the bowl, scrape the sides and the blade with the spatula, raise the bowl, and mix some more.

Until I found the Beater Blade.  To quote the website, “Patented BeaterBlade “wing-system” design acts like a wiper blade that continuously scrapes the sides and bottom of bowl while it mixes. Oh, and BeaterBlade is also a Spatula!” 

If you have a KitchenAid or love somebody that does, the Beater Blade is a must have!

Taste of Austin

TASTERESERVEDTaste of Austin is held every year in January to showcase Austin’s restaurants and give diners a chance to perhaps try something new.  I actually kind of like the challenge of negotiating the crowds and I have my own system for making the most of these foodie events.

Rule # 1-  Always bring a swag bag.  They usually hand ones out there but that is just another line to stand in.  Come prepared.

Rule # 2-  First priority is finding a table.  The extra $5 is well worth it to get reserved seating and your table will be home base for this foodie mission.  You want a table near an entrance for quickly ducking in and out of the crowds.

Rule # 3-  Get a map.  Most years they have them but they are not always easy to find.  Ask for one as you come in, ususally the volunteers know where to get one from.

Rule # 4- Plan your attack from home base.  Note which restaurants you really want to try.  The more popular restaurants usually have long lines but those ebb and flow, so if the line is really long, do a sweep back later.

Rule # 5-  There is no rule saying that you have to start at table one and follow the crowd in clockwise order between booths.  In fact, that is a great way to spend your time in lines instead of sampling. 

Rule # 6-  Try to load up as much as possible and carry it back to the table where you can relax and sample at a more leisurely pace.

Rule #7-  The good booths will run out of food, probably about an hour before the end of the event, so get a good nosh to nibble on and brave the line if you have to.

Rule #8-  Have a blast!!!  Toss all rules out the window as needed to make sure you enjoy hanging out with a few thousand of your fellow foodies.

2 Words- Bacon. Doughnut.

GordoughsWhat is better than fried dough?  Fried dough with a maple glaze topped with bacon! 

Before the economy collapsed, I was working with a guy that was trying to start a sorbet business out of a trailer.  Back when Hey Cupcake was only in 1 Airstream and you could only get Chicken Cones during ACL.  So I really understand the logistics and complications of these little gems that have become so prolific, especially  on South Congress and Lamar.  And gourmet trailer food is just so damn Austin.

Gordough’s is located 1219 S. Lamar between Barton Springs and Oltorf next to a couple of other trailers that also look interesting but I was there for one thing only, the Flying Pig.  Gordough’s serves up huge, fresh fried yeast doughnuts with your choice of toppings for $3.25 plus $1 for meat.  The Flying Pig has a thin maple glaze and is topped with several slices of bacon.  DEE-LISH-US.  I think I’ll try the Porkey’s next time-  Canadian bacon, cream cheese, and jalapeno jelly.

“Baked” Brownies

baked browniesMy bff’s Ethan and Michelle have a house out in Buda, TX with a wonderful wraparound porch.  After a stressful week, there is nothing more relaxing than kicking your boots up on the rail and having a cold one.  Sometimes, after an especially stressfull week, a cold one is a tall glass of milk along with my favorite brownies.

This recipe is from “Baked:  New Frontieers in Cooking”  by Matt Lewis and Reanto Poliafito.  It is the perfect combination of fudgey and chewey.  It also closely resembles another of my favorite confections, Miles of Chocolate, although Miles’ are gluten free and these are not.

Parchment paper "sling"
Parchment paper "sling"

I would also recommend making a sling for the brownies by lining the pan with parchment paper or tin foil with enough overlapping the edges to pull the brownies out of the pan AFTER they cool.

THE BAKED BROWNIE
Yield: 24 brownies

The Baked brownie is a beautiful thing. It has won the hearts and minds of many people, been featured on the pages of O Magazine as a favorite thing, and won best brownie by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and the Today Show. Our brownie really owes many kudos to our friend and superstar pastry chef Lesli Heffler-Flick. She created the original ultimate brownie for us. It is dense, chocolatey, and slightly fudgy, and we are forever grateful to her for letting us adapt her recipe.

Baked Note: A great brownie is easy to make, but you have to be aware of several factors. 1. Use a dark cocoa powder, like Valrhona. A pale, light-colored cocoa does not have enough depth. 2. Make sure your eggs are room temperature and do not overbeat them into the batter, and 3. Make sure you check your brownies often while baking. Once the brownies have been overbaked slightly, they have reached the point of no return.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
8 ounces butter (2 sticks), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.

Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (DO NOT USE A WHISK) fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.

Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

Best So Far Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

One of the first things I learned to bake was chocolate chip cookies off the back of the yellow Tollhouse package.  Every time I made them, they seemed to turn out different.  Sometimes crispy, sometimes chewy.  Sometimes cakey, sometimes perfect.  I have since learned that recipes are more about technique than a list of ingredients.

For example, “Beat until creamy.”  Creamy with my KitchenAid is way different then creamy by hand or even with a hand mixer.  I now know that over-beating the butter and sugar can cause the too much air to be incorporated  into the batter and  the cookies will overspread and flatten.  Over-mixing when you add the flour causes gluten strands to form which makes cookies tough.

I have tried many different chocolate chip cookie recipes and my favorite so far is Alton Brown’s “The Chewy.”    It is important to follow this recipe EXACTLY to achieve the perfect combination of the crispy edge with the chewy center.

Ingredients

Hardware:

  • Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheets
  • Mixer

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

 

Personally, I like to scoop before I chill onto a parchment lined baking sheet, placing them as close together as possible so I can fit almost a double batch on one sheet.  Once they are chilled, you can bake as many as you like and save the raw dough already scooped in the freezer.  Nothing says “love” like fresh, homemade cookies.

Wink

winkcircleOne of my favorite restaurants in Austin is Wink.  Mark Paul and Stewart Scruggs do upscale with a certain casualness that is required in Austin.  The restaurant is small and can feel a little cramped but the service is adept at making you feel comfortable. 

The menu changes daily to highlight the best available ingredients.  They feature many artisan products and local farms like Pure Luck Dairy and Boggy Creek Farm.  Portions are on the small side to encourage multiple courses.  They also have a wine bar next door which has a fantastic happy hour.

I dined at Wink recently with a couple of ladies I had met at a Gonzo dinner.  One of my dinner companions was a foie “virgin” and I told her we must go to Wink for your first time!  They serve it as an appetizer AND as a dessert.  Unfortunately on the evening we were there they had run out of the foie dessert but it is spectacular and I highly recommend it.

We started off with the foie gras appetizer portion served on cubes of brioche with a marvelously tart-sweet balsamic gastrique.  The liver was perfectly seared, giving a slight crunch to the buttery velvet texture.

Next came the scallops.  They were large U10’s with a carmelized sear that gave way to a meltingly tender interior.  I wish I had kept better notes because I remember this being served with a rather unusual mushroom that lent an interesting textural contrast. 

Since we couldn’t have the foie dessert, we went for another culinary adventurous course with the sweetbreads.  Wink is the first place I ever tried this delicacy of thymus and pancreas glands.  I am not an eater of all things disgusting nor do I enjoy the Fear Factor type shows where contestants have to eat pig testicles.  But I do love some offal when it is cooked right and Wink does it RIGHT.  A crisp exterior with a creamy interior perfectly seasoned.  Almost as good as the foie.  Almost.

Then my favorite course at Wink, dessert!  Mark Paul is a freaking dessert genius.  My all time favorite dessert anywhere is his Chocolate Soup.  A bittersweet chocolate soup is paired with quenelles of milk chocolate ginger mousse and garnished with candied bits of ginger and orange rinds.  We also had the sampler plate of some of his other greatest hits which has a simple creme brulee, a flourless cake made with El Rey chocolate, and the divine lemon curd served in a crisp meringue shell with candied lemon zest.

I floated home on a cloud of foodie contentment, occasionally giggling as I recalled such a decadent dream.  (Yes, I realize this sounds like pretentious crap but an evening at Wink allows for a little self indulgence.)

The Zen of Zesting

Microplane Zester
Microplane Zester

My absolute favorite kitchen tool is my microplane zester.  There is something soothing about zesting then juicing a big pile of fragrant lemons.  Do not use your zester right side up as in this picture.  Turn it the other way and pass it over the lemon like you are shaving it.  The zest will collect in the microplane and it makes it a lot easier and neater to transfer the zest to the bowl.  I can do about half a lemon before it almost fills the back of the zester.  Dump the zest that has collected and finish zesting the fruit.  If you try to collect too much zest in the microplane at once it will spill and cause a mess. 

Now what should you do with all of this zest?  I say make lemon sugar!  Add the zest of 2 lemons to 4 cups of sugar, turbinado or raw cane work great but regular table sugar is fine.  Seal it up and let it sit at least overnight.  The fragrant sugar is great sprinkled over fruit for a quick fruit salad, as a substitute for regular sugar in your favorite cookie recipe, used as a topping for baked goods, and absolutely delicious in tea-  iced or hot.

Red, Red Wine

7-9-2007-2085
The "Good" Condesa
condesa_
"Not as Good" Condesa

Hi.  My name is Christy and I am a wine racist.  I know there are good whites out there and I have had a few of them.  But I prefer the deep, luscious, velvety reds.  Even in the dead of summer, I might choose a lighter pinot noir but you can bet it will be a red.  I’m not some wine snob that describes wine as scented with the sweet, sweet aroma of orphan’s tears with a hint of unicorn piss.  But I have had enough wine to know what I like.  My all time, price is no object wine is a Brunello.  At around $80+ a bottle I don’t get to drink much of that.  My favorite finds are the ones you can get for around $10 a bottle.   The absolute go to house wine has been the Condesa de Leganza Crianza 2001, from the La Mancha region in Spain.  Light enough for pork and complex enough for spicy foods, this jammy jewel has been served at many a dinner party with rousing success.  Lately I have only been able to find the 2004 which comes in a much spiffier bottle but the wine seems paler in comparison.  Beware the pretty label.  That is pretty much a truism in wine as in life.

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Eat Local Week from Edible Austin

eat-local-logoA couple of years ago I met Marla Camp at a Slow Food reception.  She told me she was starting a foodie magazine called Edible Austin.  Since then I have fallen in love with this gem  The photography is beautiful and the articles are educational and entertaining.  I seem to run into Marla wherever there are Austin foodies and artisinal local food producers.  She is a true champion for our local scene.  Edible Austin is sponsoring an Eat Local Week with some really cool events.  You can probably catch me at the Drink Local soiree.  Eat Local Week is an invitation to Central Texans to explore and celebrate the abundance of local food and to raise money for Urban Roots, a youth development program that uses sustainable agriculture as a means to transform the lives of young people and to increase the access of healthy food in Austin. More info at edibleaustin.com!

My first blog post!

Right now this is a work in progress. I hope to share with the world recipes and philosophies that have shaped my outlook on the world. I think this picture captures the spirit of my cooking and eating standards pretty well.

Turkey bacon=bad.  Bacon turkey=good.
Turkey bacon=bad. Bacon turkey=good.
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