Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Word Wednesday...Tiers

Tiers of Joy! Congratulations to my brother and his wife on their marriage last weekend!

(No, we didn't make these cupcakes but they were lovely!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Foodspiration Retrospective: Lauren's Baking Favorites!

In celebration of one year of Foodspiration, we're revisiting our favorite posts from the past.

Okay, I was supposed to pick one post that represents my favorites from Foodspiration (and That Would Be Lovely- which was a separate baking blog before we combined the two). And I just couldn't pick one. So I'm breaking the rules and picking TWO! They are all about baking because I just love it!

My top two:
1. The most beautiful cupcakes I ever made: The Hello Cupcake cookbook inspired me with new ways to decorate cupcakes. I actually bought the book for this recipe alone! These cupcakes introduced me to the decorative world of candy melts. Click on the link to see the step by step and be inspired by the possibilities!

2. A must for crust: three ways to beautify your pie: Pie season is here and this was a fun post to explore ways to make your crust look spectacular! From egg washes to easy cutouts to serious Martha Stewart crust construction, there's something for everyone in this post. You should definitely take a peek for a few easy ways to impress the family over the holidays.

So, these are our favorites. Were there others that you remember and really liked?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Foodspiration Retrospective: Full Belly of Eggs

In celebration of one year of Foodspiration, we're revisiting our favorite posts from the past.

When I look back over the last year, I realize that my very first post Full Belly of Eggs is emblematic of what Foodspiration is to me . . . taking ideas about our food system (traditional, local, technical, cultural, culinary, etc), and mixing them all up in a point of view the peeks into the future, but also gives full recognition to how we got here. Foodspiration is about exploration, about taste, about sharing, about learning, and about eating. Foodspiration is about creating alternatives only made possible through engagement and dialogue.

What does a Fully Belly of Eggs actually look like? . . . this photo didn't make the original cut, but thought I would share it now. Click here to see the originals.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy First Birthday, Foodspiration! … and It’s Food Science Friday!

We are celebrating our first year of Foodspiration! (This was Justin's 2008 birthday cake, right about the time we started Foodspiration and my former baking blog--click here for the past post.) We are so excited to celebrate this past year of sharing our passion for food and our desire to inspire everyone to engage with cooking and eating in small daily ways.

We also wanted to say thank you for reading and commenting and trying our suggestions and ideas for yourself. Nothing makes us happier than to get an email or a comment that you tried a recipe or went to a foodie spot that we recommended. It’s all about the little things!

So in honor of our year of Foodspiration, we are each going to reminisce and link to our favorite posts for the next few days. You may have noticed that we’ve upped our posting frequency and added One Word Wednesdays and Food Science Fridays. We hope you like them!

And for today’s Food Science Friday . . . a fun fact about cake mix!

Do know what one of the most common reasons behind a failed cake from a cake mix is? Old-age! That’s right, even cake mixes have an expiration date. The leavening system (i.e. baking powder) which produces gas bubbles that create the rise and fluffy structure in cakes, can slowly react over time. Cake mixes that are past the expiration dates are likely to have problems rising due to reacted leavening.

Next Friday we’ll talk about the difference between baking soda and baking powder, why they can’t be substituted, and why you should pay attention to the expiration date.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We're Giving More Foodspiration...

Have you noticed? In the spirit of being food-spired in the small moments, we are going to have more short posts during the week. So, look for experience and recipe posts on Mondays, followed by One-Word Wednesdays, a bit of Food Science Trivia on Fridays and another experience and recipe post on Saturdays!

And feel free to send us suggestions for topics! We love to hear from you!

Lauren and Justin

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Banana Split Nostalgia

When was the last time you had a banana split? We used to have them when my parents were out and we would stay at my Aunt E's house. The banana split was said to be invented in 1904 at a soda fountain. It cost 10 cents, twice the amount of other ice cream sundaes but it obviously was worth the money.

The classic banana split is made with a split banana...

and three scoops of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream on top.

Pineapple topping is spooned over the vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup over the chocolate, and strawberry topping over the strawberry ice cream.

It's topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. And it's delicious! Perfect for sharing!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Last Taste of Summer and A Hint of Fall: Peach Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Ah, the last tastes of golden summer fruit are fading away and the warm spiced flavors of fall are simmering. That was the inspiration for this Peach and Brown Sugar ice cream made with touches of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Don't be fooled, the short paragraph of instructions for this recipe from Epicurious actually entailed quite a few steps. So don't commit unless you're ready.

Step number one: peel the peaches. This is my new favorite way to peel peaches that are going to be cooked: blanching them. It's so easy- just boil a pot of water and put the peaches in for a minute or so.
Rinse them under cold water and you can use your hands to peel the skin right off.

I love this because you just remove the skin leaving all of the peach flesh for your pie or ice cream!

Step two: cook the peach with a bit of sugar and water. Mmm. That's all I can say.

Step three: blend the heck out of those peaches with a blender and put it through a sieve. Now, thank goodness we had the Vitamix which effectively pulverized most of the peaches...

so that it went through the sieve without much waste.

Step three: beat the egg yolks and egg until frothy and add some dissolved brown sugar. I doubted the ability of this mixture to thicken and turn pale. But it did with the whipping power of the Kitchen Aid.

Step four: Here's where things got a bit dicey. I scalded half and half in the microwave and added it to the foamy egg and brown sugar mixture. And I was supposed to heat this custard mixture until it slightly thickens and coats a spoon.

Well, even though I used the thermometer, I overheated the custard and it was so foamy that I didn't really realize it until I put it through the sieve. Oops. You can see the custard curdled, the proteins denatured or unraveled from too much heat, coagulated and separated. This is irreversible.

So I remade the custard. And just heated it until it coated the back of a spoon which was more like 160F instead of 175F in the recipe.

Step five: put it through the sieve, and let it cool.

Step six: mix the peach puree and nutmeg and cinnamon in and chill the mixture. I often do this rapidly with a ice water bath. Do not put a hot ice cream mixture into the mixer- it won't freeze.

Step seven: I put the cooled mixture into the mixer, with pre-frozen bowl, which freezes and scrapes the mixture to form small ice crystals and give the ice cream an appropriate, scoopable texture instead of making one giant block. Then the semi-soft ice cream goes into the freezer for the final harden.

And, the result was lovely. These peaches were very ripe and the blend with the brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon said farewell summer, hello fall!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Food Science Friday: Ice Cream

(Ugandan Vanilla and Ohio Heirloom Pumpkin & Mascarpone
Ice Cream from our visit to Jeni's)

Today's topic is ice cream! Here are three fun food science facts about ice cream:

1. Did you know that ice cream is actually a foam? That's right, a frozen foam of air dispersed in the frozen ice cream matrix. Air is whipped into the ice cream, which gives it a unique texture! Overrun is a technical term and calculation that describes the volume of air whipped into the ice cream.

2. The tasty bits of things that you find in ice cream like nuts, cookie pieces, chunks of fruit etc are called inclusions. So if you want to show off your ice cream knowledge, next time you eat cookie dough ice cream, feel free to comment on the delicious inclusions!

3. There is a federal standard that requires ice cream to contain a minimum of 10% milk fat. Premium ice creams often contain even more!

Hooray for ice cream!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One Word Wednesday...Oops!


This was supposed to be a custard ice cream preparation to go into an ice cream machine and to quote my mom who was looking over my shoulder, "that doesn't look right." She was absolutely correct.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Vintage Cake Lessons Learned: Lady Baltimore Cake

The Lady Baltimore cake was the very first cake I made by myself out of my mom's 1970s Betty Crocker cookbook and in the spirit of nostalgia, I wanted to make it again.

A Lady Baltimore Cake is a Southern specialty two layer cake with a white crumb (no egg yolks used) and a boiled frosting made with egg whites. The filling of the cake also has chopped walnuts, figs and raisins. This recipe from Martha Stewart and Amy Sedaris soaks the raisins in rum. For an in depth history on this classic cake, go to this link from The Old Foodie.

This cake was my first baking experience when I was 13. The cake was dry and dense but at the time I didn't have cake flour and I didn't make the special fruit and nut filling. I boiled over the seven minute boiled frosting and in a panic, I called my great-aunt E to help me clean it up and show me how to make the frosting properly. Thank goodness for great-aunt E!

My great-aunt E passed away this summer at the age of 97. We were very close and I was so pleased to receive her cut-glass cake plate. This was an occasion to remake this cake to see if my improved baking skills and proper ingredients would make this cake blossom.

And not to spoil the ending but...the cake was still pretty terrible. I would never recommend this for a first time baker because it uses a million bowls (ok, three), it has a beaten egg white step (which I messed up and had to redo), and it just didn't taste great. Can a recipe go out of style? I think this one just did!

But, this was a traditional cake that was a staple recipe for cookbooks, including this remake of this vintage Betty Crocker. Just for fun and to remind ourselves what the 1950s housewives were making, here's the step by step:

1) I mixed the dry ingredients which were pretty standard: Softasilk cake flour, baking powder, salt and also in a separate measuring cup, milk and vanilla extract.

2) I creamed the sugar and shortening, that's right, shortening. Hey, it's a vintage recipe and so I followed it.

3) Then I added the dries and the milk to the creamed shortening and butter. I then transferred this to a clean bowl and washed the Kitchen Aid bowl.

4) And now, my least favorite part, separating and beating the egg whites.

This is how the egg whites should look. This photo is from the second time I did this. As I mentioned, I messed this up and overbeat them the first time.

Here's the overbeaten photo. This part can't be fixed, just has to be redone. I felt bad that it was a waste of egg whites.

5) Then I folded everything together, put it in the parchment paper lined and greased square pans, and popped it in the oven until done.

As for the frosting, this took 4 more egg whites that were beaten to peaks.

A sugar syrup was boiled to 234-238 degrees F and whipped into the egg whites with a bit of salt and vanilla. It had a lovely gloss.

I took about a third of the frosting and mixed it with chopped walnuts, chopped figs and chopped raisins soaked in rum- yeah, it looks like tartar sauce, just like Martha said when she made it in her how-to video! That went into the middle of the layers.

The filling was spread and then the top layer placed, flat side down.

I spread the rest of the plain frosting making decorative peaks. And it was done. Phew!

So, here's what I learned from this vintage cake recipe:

1) Tastes have changed. I don't see this cake making any books' top ten list in this day and age. I really liked the frosting but the nuts and dried fruits just didn't add the right kind of flavor.

2) Women used to jump through a lot of hoops to make cakes like this. I can see why the cake mix was a huge hit after making this cake! What a commitment!

3) It sure looked beautiful.

So, I'm really glad I made this cake even though it didn't taste very good because it was a wonderful opportunity to remember my great-aunt E and her help with my very first cake initiative. If it wasn't for her, I might have been more discouraged and not learned to explore baking, which is a passion for me.

It also reminded me that not everyone likes the same thing and that some recipes just aren't great. I thought it was my lack of baking skills when I was 13 that made this cake not so tasty. Turns out, I just didn't like it. However, I am looking forward to making many many more cakes to grace this elegant plate.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why You Should Make This No-Knead Bread Recipe!

If you have never made bread before, you should try this recipe because it's easy and delicious. And if you have made bread, for a moment forget your previous knowledge and try this recipe.

Ok, so if you haven't heard about the NY Times no-knead bread recipe, it has been the subject of much debate...converts claim it is the easy and amazing recipe, purists believe dough needs to be kneaded. Now I have made a bit of bread and I think the tactile nature of baking bread is one of the best parts. The elasticity and smoothness of a ball of dough, it's potential to rise- it's wonderful to touch. Some many parts of cooking and baking is about using tools, not touching, not contaminating- but bread dough is about rolling, kneading, shaping, poking. That's how you know it's right!

And that being said, I AM A CONVERT. This no knead recipe is pretty fantastic. Here's the link to a video of making it and here's the link to the recipe. It's so easy, I'm going to show you how we did it and how you need to forget what you know about bread.

**This recipe has a 12-18 hour rise time so I recommend starting it on a Friday night so you can bake it Saturday morning and you need a cast iron pot and lid or dutch oven to bake it in. If you don't have one, check out this link for alternatives.**

The ingredients: bread flour, water, yeast and salt.

Measure the ingredients and mix into a very wet and sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 12- 18 hours.

The dough will be very sticky and undeveloped. Forget about what you think bread dough should look like.

After 12 to 18 hours, the yeast has been fermenting and developing wonderful flavors. There are little bubbles all over the surface of the dough. And the dough is still really sticky.

Take the dough out onto a well floured surface, gather it together and fold it on itself twice. This isn't that easy because the dough is loose and runny. So...

I used lots of flour and this scraper to help with the folding. After letting it rest, shape it into a ball...

and using lots of flour, wrap it in towel and let rise for 2 more hours. Use LOTS of flour. And preheat the oven.Put the dutch oven or cast iron pot with the lid in oven to preheat for 3o min.

Our "dutch oven" was actually a bit more oval than round but I hoped it would work. I actually was pretty concerned at this point. I had the wrong shaped pan, the dough seemed really wet and sticky, and I wasn't sure this was going to turn out at all.

Sorry for the bad lighting here, but you can see the dough . I actually had a really hard time unsticking it from part of the towel. Into the oven it went with the lid on for 30 min. It was supposed to bake for 30 min with the lid on and then 15-30 min with the lid off.

When I took the lid off, it looked like this!! Yahoo!! I let it bake for a few more minutes uncovered but it was done! I think the oval shaped pot made the loaf a bit thinner than a round one which needed less baking time.

And I sliced it open, and it had the most beautiful, open crumb and the most crispy, delicious crust!!!

Here's one more delicious, crusty shot. It was best right away before the moisture inside migrated to the crust and softened it. But even then, it had terrific flavor!

So, please...bake this bread!!! You won't be disappointed!