Remember how I was singing the praises of flour not that long ago? Well, flour must also be on other people’s minds because I opened up one of my favorite blogs the other day and there was this gorgeous picture of flour in action.

It seems Michael Ruhlman was also reading the same issue of Saveur I was but instead of chicken paprikash, the recipe that caught his eye was one for buttermilk dinner rolls baked in a cluster in a springform pan. He adapted the original recipe, which itself was an adaptation of one found on The Fresh Loaf. Funnily enough, in following Ruhlman’s recipe, I ended up having to make some adaptations of my own, including sticking the dough in the fridge when I had to leave for a Super Bowl party. When I got home and was assembling the cluster, I took a little extra time to rewarm each of the dough balls by working the dough with my hands before rolling them into little tight boules.

Lately, I’ve been working from home every so often when I don’t have to go into lab for meetings. I love that not only do I actually get more work done from home, I can also multitask and make bread during the day. It takes all of 15 minutes to mix up some dough in the morning and then while I’m being the good little worker bee all day, the yeast is also working hard in the kitchen. By the time the sun is setting, you’re ready to stick the dough in the oven and look forward to freshly baked bread for dinner. I predict this recipe will come in handy during one of these future work-from-home days.

(more…)

Advertisements

You know what amazes me?

Flour.

Yup, just that – flour.

I mean, think about it. You take flour, add in just a few other ingredients, and you get everything from bread to pasta to dumplings. On top of that, you can use flour to make crunchy, crispy coating for fried chicken or really fried anything. And when a sauce is too thin, you mix up some flour with butter to make a roux and your watery sauce will turn silky in no time. Or you let the roux brown and you’re well on your way to making Louisianan goodies like gumbo and etouffé, which let me assure you, is on my must-cook list of 2010.

So when I was browsing through the latest issue of Saveur and came upon this ridiculous (as in ridiculously gorgeous) photo of chicken paprikash, with a recipe that uses flour to both make the dumplings and coat the chicken, I did not hesitate. One glance over at my bin of flour to check that I have enough at hand and off I went to shop for the other ingredients. Although the recipe calls for a whole chicken cut up into pieces, it would work just as well if you bought an equivalent amount of whatever chicken parts you like. I’m personally a dark meat person, so next time I make this, I may just buy some thighs, drumsticks, and wings.

(more…)

Lemon Berry Scones

Right before our wedding, Nathan and I were invited to brunch at our friends Amar and Aliza’s house. Amar’s parents were in town and Auntie likes to treat us kids to dosas whenever she’s around. After (not) much consideration, we decided that even with a list of wedding to-dos staring at us, we of course could not resist the call of homemade dosas. I mean, a wedding is serious stuff but so are homemade dosas! So off we went … with a plate of scones in hand.

I love making scones. I love them not only because they’re tasty and delicious, but also because they’re easy, fast, way better when fresh and warm from the oven, and most importantly, the perfect baking project for us lazy people. Why? Because you actually want to mix as little as possible to ensure light, flaky, and tender scones. Oh, and they’re also the perfect thing to bring to parties because honestly, you don’t want a whole batch of them sitting at your house tempting you with their buttery goodness.

I’ve tried this recipe twice now and it’s worked out well both times. The first time was in the middle of blueberry season so I used fresh blueberries. This time, no blueberries were in sight at the store, so I experimented with chopped-up fresh strawberries and it still worked out quite well. Frozen berries should also work splendidly. I think in the winter, I might try this recipe again with dried berries to see if this is a recipe for all seasons.

(more…)

Baumkuchen
Photo by Ben Rhau

One night last week, I sat at home wondering about wedding presents. It was the night before two of my friends were to be married at City Hall and I had no good ideas. The wedding was to be minimal and casual (both the bride and groom are from Germany and they are planning to have a more elaborate celebration back home later on), so good ol’ standbys like blenders and fancy plates just seemed wrong. In fact, the “reception” would just be a bunch of friends drinking at a bar, so imagine how out-of-place a gift of say, a giant silver serving platter would have been. Then suddenly, a brilliant idea!! I will bake them a cake!

Off I go, then, to search for some sort of German wedding cake recipe on the internet and that’s how I came upon Baumkuchen or to us Americans, “Tree Cake”. Apparently known as the “King of Cakes” (not to be confused with King Cake), this multi-layered cake is usually baked on this crazy, spit-like contraption that some professional bakeries have that result in a cylindrical cake with rings in it like a tree. While I might be an engineer, I’m also not about to fashion a spit in my kitchen and risk personal (and Nathan-al) injury. So thank goodness there’s a revised version where the layers are built vertically in a cake pan – even someone as clumsy as me can manage that!

This cake was so delicious and so much fun to make that I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime, for another special occasion. Except, next time, I won’t underestimate the amount of time this recipe takes and will start before 11pm. That is, unless I’m mentally prepared to stay up until 2am again.

(more…)

Many apologies for the severe lack of posts, but weirdly enough, I’ve been traveling an extraordinary amount lately. I find this turn of events quite strange because on the job description of a grad student, travel is usually at the bottom of the list (unless you’re in anthropology and work for someone Indiana Jones-esque, of course). I left in early October for two weeks in Hong Kong (3 days of conference, then 1.5 weeks of touristy fun with Nathan interrupted by 1 day of laying in bed with stomach flu – bleh!). Then, while still recovering from jetlag, I had to spend a weekend at Asilomar for my graduate program’s retreat. Now, I’m off again to Boston for another meeting next week. Whew!

It seems that while I was gone, summer has officially left us and we’re well into the rainy season here in SF. As much as I will miss the bounty of heirloom tomatoes, I’m excited for the arrival of winter squashes, which have already started appearing in our CSA box. I have grand plans to go totally soup-crazy soon enough, but until I have time to fill the freezer with tub after tub of chicken/vegetable stock, I have to think of other fun things to do with squashes.

So how about a simple butternut squash lasagna, to start?

(more…)

On this sunny Sunday, Nathan and I joined some friends (as well as the entire city of San Francisco, it seemed) in Golden Gate Park for some free live music, courtesy of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Really, how can we turn down a line-up of Bonnie Prince Billy, Iron & Wine, and Gogol Bordello? And of course, you must know by now that I would never even think of setting out for a day in the park without packing some rations. Due to lack of time, though, we decided to just walk through the Sunset and buy some Vietnamese sandwiches to snack on. Which then reminded me that I have delayed blogging about Banh Mi for far too long.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t discover the glories of Banh Mi until I started living on a grad student budget. Until I tasted my first Banh Mi, I would never have believed that a hearty, delicious lunch can be had for $3-$3.50 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now that my eyes have been opened, I’m totally obsessed and can seriously eat one of these every day and be happy as a kitty.

You might wonder with Banh Mi already so cheap, why would you even want to make your own? Well, because this cruel, cruel world has decided not to put Vietnamese sandwich shops anywhere near my school! So until the school’s cafe wises up, I either have to trek downtown every afternoon or to take more drastic measures and make Banh Mi at home.

(more…)

In order to get my sister and I to finish every single grain of rice in our bowls, my grandmother used to tell us that leaving rice grains would mean our future husbands would be ugly. “What do you mean ‘ugly’, grandma?” we asked. “Lots of pockmarks. Or freckles. Or both!” exclaimed my grandmother.

Unfortunately for my grandmother, marrying yucky boys was the last thing on our minds. So she quickly revised her strategy: not finishing all your rice would mean we would grow up with lots of freckles! Yikes! From then on, not one grain of rice was seen in anyone’s rice bowl. Funny thing is, little did she know that we would one day grow up and live in a country where people actually think freckles are cute!

(I hope I’m not giving anyone the impression that my grandmother was cruel because she was the sweetest and kindest woman. She just had a funny strategy of asking us to finish our dinner.)

Thanks to my grandmother’s efforts, the philosophy of not wasting food is now permanently etched in my brain. So, what does that have to do with flatbread? If you’ll remember (from what seems like ages ago), the creation of a certain sourdough starter (admit it, you thought I killed it already, didn’t you!) and its continual maintenance (ha! but I didn’t!) generate enough leftover starter that I can feel the onset of freckles just from thinking about dumping it in the trash.

What to do … what to do? Thanks to a recipe from breadtopia, slight modifications, and an expectation of something more like flatbread than a fluffy pizza, not one grain(?) of wheat will go to waste!

(more…)