Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chocolate Babka and blogger bleh

I now remember why I took such a long, unintentional hiatus from blogposting. It's blogger. To put it lightly, I don't love it. After a few months away, I was motivated to post a delicious Thai dish just a couple days ago. As you can probably see if you scroll to the bottom of this post, I did (successfully?) post it. You might also notice that the font size is different than previous posts, because lovely blogger doesn't have actual numerical sizes, but rather "smallest, small, normal, large, largest" and somehow those still can't correspond from post to post. Interesting. I've had that problem in the past with a few posts, and I just try and ignore it because, honestly there's not really much I can do. A new fun function I was introduced to upon my most recent post was not being able to drag my pictures after uploading them. At all. The mouse turns into a little hand, pretending it will move them and place them in between bits of text exactly where I want them, but it's all a lie. It just continued to highlight the pictures. I used my noggin though, and decided to copy and paste the text in between the pictures, but I still couldn't control picture order. There was also the little problem of not being able to un-bold my font if I bolded it one time. I'll leave my ranting for now, but this is just my forewarning in case this post turns out with five unrelated pictures all at the beginning, followed by randomly sized font, half of it being in bold.

Now onto the food, which brings me to Martha Stewart. God love her. Her Baking Handbook was another recently acquired cookbook, and after flipping through it multiple times, I've found that there actually are a lot of recipes that I need to explore more. At first I just wanted it for this one cake recipe that I made, with pistachio extract (although I couldn't find that) and a trusty stand-by swiss meringue buttercream recipe.

I went to a brunch a couple weeks ago and after lots of debate and narrowing it down, I decided on a recipe that I probably never would've given a second thought to, if I didn't have Martha's book, and hadn't passed the recipe numerous times, and it had chocolate, so that helped. It's a chocolate babka, and down in Texas, we don't really do babka, so for me it was kind of a 'meh' option. But after further inspection, it looked pretty darn good, and I always love playing around with yeast.

Verdict: I can't wait to make this again. It was delicious, and a big hit at the brunch. I actually got a compliment a couple weeks after the brunch from a girl who had told her family how good it was. Dunno if it was me or Martha, but it worked.

Chocolate Babka
Martha Stewart's The Baking Handbook

makes 3 loaves (I just made one, easy--kind of--to divide in thirds)
A babka can be frozen in the pan for up to a month before baking. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about five hours. be careful not to underbake; otherwise, the center may not set properly.

1 1/2 c warm milk
2 envelopes (1/4 oz each) active dry yeast (I actually combined fresh and dry)
1 3/4 c plus a pinch of sugar
3 whole large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 stick butter (1 3/4 c), room temperature, cut into pieces
2 lb semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp heavy cream
streusel topping (recipe follows)

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and a pinch of sugar over the warm milk; stir until dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a meduim bowl, whisk together 3/4 c sugar, 2 eggs, and the yolks; add yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add the egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter, and beat until completely incorporated and a smooth, soft dough forms, about 10 minutes. The dough should still be slightly sticky when squeezed. (All this can actually be done by hand, as I did not have an electric mixer. I also accidentally added all my butter, things got confusing with the dividing measurments and then adding in parts, etc. Yet I worked in a bit more flour and turned out fine. Too much butter is never that bad of a thing.)
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead a few times utnil smooth. Place dough in a well-buttered bowl, and turn to coat with butter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
In a bowl, stir together chocolate, remaining sugar, and the cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until combined; set aside filling.
Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1 1/2 inch overhang along hte long sides. Brush more butter over the parchment, and set aside. Punch down the dough, and transfer to a clean work surface. Let the dough rest 5 minutes. (As you'll see, I didn't have a loaf tin, mine's more of a round loaf).
Meanwhile, beat the remaining egg with cream. Cut dough into three equaql pieces. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to a 16-inch square, about 1/8 inch thick. (Keep other pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work.) Brush edges of dough with the egg wash. Crumble one-third of the chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch border on the long sides. Roll up dough lengthwise into a tight log, pinching ends together to seal. Twist dough evenly down the length of the log, a full five or six times. Brush the top of the log with egg wash. Crumble 2 tablespoons fillin gdown the center of the log, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold log in half into a horseshoe shape, then cross the right half over the left. Pinch ends together to seal and form a figure eight. Twist two more times, and fit into a prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Preheat oven to 350F, with a rack in the lower third. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash; sprinkle with one-third of the streusel topping. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until dough has expanded and feels pillowy, about 40 minutes.
Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F; bake until loaves are deep golden, 20 to 30 minutes more. (If the tops begin to brown too quickly, tent with aluminum foil. I say I don't think I had to cook mine nearly that long.) Transfer pans to wire racks to cool completely. Babkas can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.

streusel topping
makes enough for 3 loaves (3 cups)

1 2/3 c powdered sugar
1 1/3 c flour
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c) butter, room temperature

Combine sugar and flour in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger clumps remaining.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kaeng Keao Wan Kung

And I’m back. I never left, but got lazy, fashion week(s) happened, weather in Barcelona has been conducive to sitting around, and doing nothing, wanting to blame the government or something. I still need to write that letter, as today, mid-Spring, was in the 50s I think, but I didn’t want to depress myself by actually confirming it.

It has left me a bit of time to cook though, and nice warm and spicy things. Remember that Time Life series of cookbooks from the 70s that I just love? Well I got another one for Christmas and I finally put it to use. And then I made the same thing again because it was that easy and that delicious. This one is Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking. Honestly, when I got it I was expecting a little less Pacific and a little more Southeast Asian, because there’s almost an abundance of photos of crispy whole pigs with skewered pineapples sticking out of them, (heck, it even gives you a step by step diagram of “Carving a Roast Pig the Island Way”), but I’ve easily found many recipes that I’m ready to try.

I really wanted it for the Southeast Asia stuff, to expand my love of curries from India to other parts, and this book doesn’t fail at showing a different side to food that I pretty much have no idea about. I was happy to discover that there’s a Chinese shop here that has Cloud Ears, which after reading my handy glossary in the recipe booklet, I found out was a type of dried mushroom. That same glossary also taught me about ginger’s cousins, like laos, lengkuas, andkha, but unfortunately I couldn’t find those at the Chinese shop, so ginger had to suffice. And it did.

I chose to make a green curry. I’m mainly attracted to green foods over red, if we’re going to look at the food line like that. A nice green tomatillo salsa over a standard red tomato one? Of course. Basil pesto rather than ragu? Obviously. Green curry and not red? Now you get the hang of it…

I am a shrimp lover, but I almost never order it out here because a)it usually comes whole, meaning shell, head, antennae, everything, and I hate peeling my food while I’m supposed to be eating it, and b) it’s pretty expensive, especially for a coastal city where you think it shouldn’t be that hard to get. But I’ve found a couple seafood stands in the Boqueria Market (if you don’t know what that is, shame on you) that have normal sized shrimp for 10euro/kilo. None of this miniature-lobster like langostinas that I’m not even sure how to prepare and is more than twice the price, but good ole shrimp that I’m used to, and for about 5 euros, I can feed three people with it.

So I pinpointed the Green Shrimp Curry recipe and went to town. The reason it’s so easy is because you make the green curry paste yourself, which keeps in the fridge for at least a month , and then when the time comes to make the curry, you basically throw the paste in a pan with some coconut milk, shrimp, and ginger (or ginger’s cousin). I loved making the paste because I (or my parents) had just bought myself (or me) a new hand-blender with attachments to a mini-food processor and a whisk. Let me tell you, I love that little baby processor, and it’s actually not too small, but not too big, just the right size. Fits in my cabinets and holds the perfect amount of hummus or what have you. And the whisk ain’t bad either, she’s got some kick in her. Back to the curry though.

The worst part of it was deveining all those little shrimp, but as long as I don’t have to dip my hands into my bowl of food at the dinner table, I’m much happier. And, there were leftovers. We also had some corn tortillas and avocados handy, so I decided to be very coastal Mexican and make shrimp tacos. Also delicious.

Kaeng Keao Wan Kung (Thai)

Green Shrimp Curry

adapted from Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking (I changed things like making your own coconut milk. You can thank me now)

Serves 4-6

1 ½ lbs medium-sized uncooked shrimp

3 c coconut milk

2 Tbsp green curry paste (recipe follows)

1 Tbsp kachai, pulverized or finely chopped/grated (or ginger if you have never heard of kachai, like myself)

2 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp fresh hot green chili strips (I omitted this and enjoyed the spice as was)

Cilantro and lime to garnish

Shell the shrimp and devein them. Wash with cold water, pat dry, and set aside (in the fridge if it’s going to be a while).

In a heavy saucepan, heat one cup of the coconut milk until it boils and then simmer and stir until the liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup. Add the green curry paste and the kachai/ginger, and cook briskly, still stirring from time to time, until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.

Add the shrimp and turn them about with a spoon for 3 or 4 minutes or until they are firm and pink. Stir in the remaining 2 cups coconut milk and the fish sauce and, stirring occasionally, simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and garnish with cilantro and lime juice.

Serve at once from a deep heated platter or large bowl. Kaeng keao wan kung is traditionally accompanied by hot boiled rice (which I did, good to soak up all the sauce).

Green Curry Paste

makes about ½ cup

6 fresh green chilies, each about 2 inches long

2 Tbsp finely chopped shallots or scallions

1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic

1 Tbsp sereh (lemongrass’s cousin, of course)

1 Tbsp shrimp paste

1 tsp laos (ginger’s cousin)

1 tsp coriander seed, finely ground

1 tsp finely grated lemon peel

1 tsp salt

Wash the chilies, then stem and seed them (if you want really spicy, leave the seeds in). Slice them into rounds. In your mini-food processor (or whatever you may have), combine all the ingredients and pulse until well-combined, scraping down the edges as needed. Tightly covered and refrigerated, the paste may be safely kept for a month or so.