Thursday, October 23, 2014

Eclairs!

Fleur d'Eclair!
I made eclairs! Ever since I saw Joanne Chang, of Flour Bakery in Boston, demonstrate how to make choux pastry at Book Larder in Fremont, I’d had them on my list of things to try. The way the dough is cooked on the stovetop, starting all gloppy and then pulling together suddenly into a big cohesive ball, reminded me of making homemade play-dough for my kids when they were young. Joanne made the pate a choux look easy, of course. So I didn’t figure it would be tricky after having watched her (which was more than a year ago now). But my first attempt was not successful. The pastry wasn’t thick enough; they were super flat out of the oven. They browned too much on the outside, but were undercooked and doughy on the inside.

So I did some research online and consulted Jacquy Pfeiffer’s cookbook, The Art of French Pastry. I realized that adding the eggs is a critical last step; you can overdo it and end up with a soupy pastry that isn't easy to fix. The recipe had called for four eggs. Alas, it was too many. Next go round, I added them slowly, one at a time, until the dough reached the right consistency, described as holding a V shape off the paddle, or in another source, as pulling apart between two fingers easily without breaking up yet holding its form. The next batch was usable after coming out of the oven, but still not quite where I want them to be. It’s apparent that mixing, piping, and baking to the correct done-ness will all take some practice to perfect.  The good news is they are quick to make and require only simple ingredients, so practicing can be done without too much investment in time or materials.

The pastry cream from Joanne’s cookbook, eponymously titled Flour after her bakery, worked beautifully. She calls it St. Tropez Cream. It was easy to make using her directions, and turned out smooth and dreamy. I tried adding a wee dash of cold brew espresso into part of the batch, which gave it a nice coffee flavor. The chocolate ganache recipe also worked flawlessly and is astonishingly easy. How is it that I've never made ganache before? Sheesh. Chocolate, cream. Heat, melt, mix. Come on!

The pastries don’t keep very well after putting them together, so you should eat them ASAP. Which is a dangerously easy feat, even alone, because they absolutely melt in your mouth. They are aptly named. According to Wikipedia: “The word comes from French éclair 'flash of lightning', because it is eaten quickly (in a flash)."
I brought all the components in to work and built them in the break room one morning. Before I could finish assembling them, I had several people lingering around waiting for one. Love that feeling when people are so excited for a sample!




To sprinkle or not to sprinkle, that is the question...
 
The 5th Avenue Theater stage is ready for the talented cast and catchy music of KINKY BOOTS!
"Ladies and Gentlemen, and Those of You Who Have Yet to Decide!"
Immensely enjoyed this show  - what an awesome birthday gift! Merci beaucoup!


A thick swatch of a marine layer is all nestled in on Elliott Bay, hiding the Seattle skyline.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Orange Nut Bread (aka Elsa's Bread)



This recipe came from my Grandma’s box of recipe cards. My sister and I got to browse through some of her recipes recently, months after she passed away. This is one that I plucked from the box because I was intrigued by the amount of finely cut orange peel it calls for. I really thought it would be overpowering and maybe bitter, so my curiosity compelled me to bake it up. It was so tasty! Just the right amount of orange flavor and so good with the walnuts. Lots of things my Grandma made had nuts and dried fruits in them, so as I snacked away happily on the bread, I got flashbacks of that old feeling of comfort while at Grandma’s.

Orange Nut Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup finely cut orange peel
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted (measure then melt)


Mix the dry ingredients together, then stir in the egg, milk and butter. Bake in a loaf pan at 350 degrees until top is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (I used a small bundt cake and it worked fine. I also added Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and that worked just fine too!)
The recipe card noted that this recipe was from Elsa-someone, who had the same last name as my Grandma’s father. I am on a quest to find out who she is and how I am related to her. I wondered if the bread was a staple in Elsa’s home, or maybe more of an occasional treat. And did I ever snack on this as a girl without remembering it now? How often did my Grandma make it? How will I ever know? Perhaps I should start writing short anecdotes to go with some of the things I bake, for my posterity. But hey, that’s exactly what I’m doing on here! Perhaps I should actually tell people about Ze Blog, n’est pas?

Here are some snapshots of happy October moments:
Here's what I saw as I walked to my car after work a couple weeks ago, taken from inside the parking garage.
One of the trees is already full of beautiful glowing golden leaves.

I have an October birthday! The glow from the numerous (gulp!) candles helps
prevent you from knowing exactly how young I am. My boyfriend made
this for me -- there are pumpkin cookies hidden inside and pumpkin
puree added to the frosting. Wow-sers! He knows me well. I love me some pumpkin!

A slice of delicious cake with vanilla gelato, salted caramel sauce and hot fudge on the side? Don't mind if I do!

Awesome birthday gifts!
Tickets to see KINKY BOOTS! at the 5th Avenue Theater in downtown Seattle this weekend,
and THEEE COOLEST little antique Japanese teapot. Made of cast iron and enameled on the inside.
Plus it's sitting on its own matching cast iron trivet. Sturdy as a rock yet dainty and graceful. Genius.
How did I not know I should've been wanting one all this time?!?  



Friday, August 15, 2014

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes



These turned out to be blue ribbon cupcakes! I made them for my son's wedding rehearsal dinner. There are four parts to them: graham cracker crust, cake, lime curd, and whipped cream. A bit more involved than a traditional cupcake, but well worth it. Here is a link to the recipe onlime, I mean, online: Key Lime Pie Cupcake Recipe on Tracey's Culinary Adventures

Things I would change about the way I decorated them:
• I sprinkled lime zest on top of the whipped cream topping. It was a bit much, because if you got a large amount in a mouthful – overbearing and very tart. I wouldn’t top with lime zest again. But I do like the idea of lime-green colored traditional sprinkles, as a hint to what the flavors are.
• The frosting is basically a whipped cream. Next time I would experiment with folding something more substantial into it, like a bit of whipped cream cheese in a small amount, so it would stand up a little taller on top of the cake. It worked as called for, however.

Things I would change about the cupcakes themselves:
• Absolutely nothing! All elements of the crust, cake and curd were excellent. The cake was dense and succulent, the curd was a really nice balance between tart and sweet, and the graham cracker crust was a very tasty surprise at the bottom of a delicious bite.
These are a notch above a traditional cupcake, and though they may look simple on the outside, they sure do please the crowd when they peel back the wrapper, revealing the crust, and bite into the cake, revealing the hidden lime curd.

Side note: I was practically giddy about my pink boxes from the bakery department of a local grocery store. The restaurant where the dinner was held had a rule, as I'm sure they all do, that any dessert I brought in had to be from a commercial bakery. So these pink boxes were my way of cheating to make them look professional. But they did make me feel like a 'real' baker as I boxed them all up.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why is this blog called Christopher Morninggood?


When I was growing up, we took a lot of road trips with my dad. He loved to get an early start, hitting the open road with a fresh cup of coffee as the sun was rising. He also loved to make up funny songs, singing them loudly as he sat up even straighter in the driver’s seat to belt them out. And I admit, he also loved to occasionally fart really loudly, and would exclaim “Well, I didn’t know there was a spider in the van!” (replace spider with duck, or other animal who apparently makes loud farting noises). In short, he loved to make his kids smile. I remember him looking back at us in the rearview mirror, his face aglow with a big smile of his own, happy to see that his antics were making us giggle.

During one of these adventures, he made an impression on me when he said, “Well, if I could call myself whatever I wanted, I believe I would call myself Christopher Morninggood!” He probably repeated the name several times in various voices, with a sing-song tone. Kind of like an announcer shouting the names of the boxers about to step into the ring. “CHRRRRISTOPHEEEEEEEERRRRR MORNINGGOOOOOD! King of the road! Rise and shiiiiiine!” And then maybe it would become a little singing ditty, something like, “Got my coffee in my cup, in my cup, and I’m ready to hit the road, hit the road…so watch out all you toads on the road…” Head bobbing, maybe a little finger pointing, or fake drumming on the steering wheel.
Yep, that’s my dad. So many great memories of those road trips. His self-appointed moniker is perfect. He is a total morning person, and, his grandfather and great grandfather on his Dad’s side were both named Christopher.  I loved the idea of it, and it always stuck with me.
The name also seemed just right for this blog.
Mornings are for fresh pastry with your coffee, for getting started on your baking, for making your dough so it can chill and rest during the day, for getting an early start on whatever adventure you’ve got planned. Mornings are bundled with a feeling of potential..you can feel the whole day ahead of you. I think some days I keep drinking coffee just because I don’t want that fresh morning feeling to go away.
The sun is new each day….rise and shiiiiiiine!! Here’s to you, Padre, and to all the Christopher Morninggoods of the world.

Canele, Take One



I made them. I feel deflated. They were not the magnificent, glistening, caramelized-encased pillows of custardy dreams that I had envisioned for two weeks while I waited for that dang silicon mold from New York. Yes, I read in multiple places that they are really difficult to perfect. But part of me didn’t really believe it. My roller coaster ride of cannele baking proves them right. In a nut shell, here was the process, after letting the batter sit for three days in the fridge:

1.       Butter the mini-cannele molds, using my fingers, with Plugra. Place in freezer for 5 minutes.
2.       Fill the molds, just barely below the top.
[transfer batter to something with a small pour spout]

[mini-canneles mold, silicon]

3.       Set mold on a baking sheet and place in pre-heated oven.
4.      Keep peeking through the oven window, which isn’t a very clear look, so sneak the oven open. Faux pas? I think yes, but I couldn't help myself.
5.       Smile as you watch them sizzle in the butter.
6.       Worry as you watch them rise way up out of their molds.
7.       Ponder if maybe they’re OK after all as you watch them sink back down to the level of the mold.
8.       Observe a level of “golden brown” that makes you wonder if they’re done.
9.       Let them cook a minute longer.
10.   Take them out and let them cool.
11.   Eat one.
12.   Be disappointed by all these things: crooked, not caramelized properly or uniformly, undercooked on the inside.
13.   Place back in the oven to bake longer.
14.   Be more satisfied that they’re not undercooked anymore….but wonder if maybe they could cook longer and they’d get crispier on the outside?
15.   Leave them be.
16.   Allow yourself to admit they are pretty tasty and it’s a good sign that you want to just keep popping one more in your mouth.
17.   Try baking two more of them with the remaining batter.

[two of them cooked up pretty straight and even!]

18.   Be happy these last two cook more evenly, and wonder if your oven temperature is accurate because you cooked them at a higher temp than the original batch.
19.   Notes to self – try a higher starting temp and a higher temp to go down to; try filling only the outside molds, allowing for more heat to circulate around each one, as you’ve read in a couple places; try adding rum next time versus going strictly vanilla; buy an oven thermometer.
20.   Finally – don’t get discouraged! Someone left me a nice note on the Instagram photo I had posted of my canneles, saying they were “super delicious” (someone who got to try a couple I had left with my son and his fiancée….my son’s future mother-in-law…that should make her something to me, no?)
21.   Just like Celine Legros says at the end of her recipe – they’ll be better next time!

On a side note, I used my leftover vanilla bean pod by placing it in some sugar in a small container. Every so often now, I crack it open and smell the vanilla-infused sugar. Ahhhh….that’s some aroma therapy. (If you live near a store that offers spices in bulk, look for a vanilla bean there. One vanilla bean at PCC in their bulk section cost me about $1.50. If you have to buy it in a brand name spice jar, it will be much more expensive.)

Canneles – je n’ai pas fini!
(Canneles – I am not finished!)
[mixing butter, milk and vanilla in a saucepan over heat; the seeds were scraped out of this vanilla pod eventually and the pod was re-purposed by placing it in a small container of sugar to make vanilla-sugar]
[in the midst of mixing sugar & flour with egg]
[the final batter...look at all those yummy vanilla bean seeds ready to infuse the batter with their punch of flavor...and into the fridge went the batter for three days before baking]
[the day after I baked them was Father's Day -- this was taken on the ferry leaving Seattle to go meet my padre for brunch]
 
And the sun will be new another day for Canneles, Take Two.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pre-Canele

I just got my package of silicon mini-canele molds that I had ordered through J.B. Prince. The package took 2 whole weeks to get here, Seattle, from New York. That is not fast. That is slow. But I should have started the batter a few days ago so I would be ready to bake. Doh!! Canele advice for a newbie, anyone? Yeah, that's right. I'm totally baiting for some comments. Is anyone reading this yet? Ack! Merde!

I read about a canele-only shop in New York and I read that the owner used to be a lawyer before becoming a canele shop owner of brilliant caneles. Why are pastry people so smart? That's a serious question and it deserves an answer/comment.

Canele by Celine. In New York. New York's first and only canele shop. It will be on my itinerary for my layover in New York, en route to Paris.

Funky Fremont a la Dimanche

Sunday was full of glorious sun! I decided to be a tourist in the quirky funky area of Seattle called Fremont. It started with a cruise through Fremont Sunday Market, where I found an Eiffel Tower and a Space Needle sitting together on a shelf just waiting for me. I didn't yet have cash in hand, so I booked it down the block to the local PCC Market to buy one apple, so I could get cash back without having to pay the ridiculous fees at the ATM. Then I booked it back to the stand where I'd seen them and whew! They were still in waiting. I'd been wanting them and they finally appeared! It felt graciously serendipitous.

My destiny for all things French-themed over the weekend continued.....I found many more Eiffels in numerous places throughout the day. It was getting weird! The French thing had started the night before... I had a dinner date at a French-style restaurant called 'Bastille' in Ballard. While walking there from our parking spot, we happened upon a shockingly fast bike race called 'Ballard Twilight Criterium' -- they were racing in laps around a small area of the neighborhood. They were decked out in pro gear on pro bikes and they were packed up and whizzed around the corners FAST! The streets were closed for several blocks. Seemed reminiscent of being at La Tour de France, or so I imagined since I've never been in person. People were cheering and clanging cowbells and it was raucous. (Really with the cowbells? Do I say that now as embellishment or ? I'm not completely sure, but either way, it was friggin' awesome!) Sadly, I got no pix! But if you search #ballardtwilightcriterium on Instagram, someone did.

Anyway, the French theme started there, where we had steak frites, steamed mussels, and expensive mixed drinks full of hard liquor. Mine was called a 'Black Mamba' -- I don't recall what was in it exactly, other than coffee liqueur, but it was a short list of liquors. It was GOOD. And for dessert: profiteroles with hazelnut ice cream and chocolate sauce. That stuff was BOMB!

Segue into Sunday in Fremont....as we ate Blue Moon burgers for lunch, I pulled my Frenchie hardware out of my bag and admired it like a kid with new toys. The end of our day was punctuated with a travel agency sign hanging from the side of a building, and on top of it? Mais oui! La Tour Eiffel. Everyone said it's definitely a sign. I mean, more than literally a travel agency sign. J'espere!




Mercedes Unimog Espresso Truck
I need my car to say this to me when I leave for the grocery store!


My prized Frenchie hardware + Space Needle....and 'Murican Beer.

Walking up the hill towards the popular Fremont Troll.
I don't know why I am hugging his fingers...he's about to crush a car with that hand!

The belly of the Aurora Avenue Bridge. Where trolls live. :)
Lenin is here! The story of how he got to Fremont is pretty interesting. Um....you don't need me. Guh-oogle. 

Appropriate juxtaposition. Naked Bike Ride is a traditional event at the Fremont Fair. The
mannequins in the window of the lingerie shop are almost dressed down enough to join in.

If it's over your head, just keep on movin'...

Not only does Fremont have its own Troll and Lenin, they've got their own rocket ship too. 


Theo Chocolate also resides in Fremont. This is a picture I took of their logo, painted on the wall of
their retail shop. I love their logo. It's genius. And their chocolate is on par. Plus, they even have classes: Chocolate University, I shall attend you perhaps in winter when it's not a sin to miss out on Seattle sunshine!

Creative merchandise display at an antique shop. Don't let the daily grind get to you!

More Eiffels!

Cute sign for a ceramic plant pots shop. But alas, it was closed!

Alors....the universe seems to be sponsoring a marketing campaign directed at me and Paris.
A little help in the pocketbook department is all I need. Perhaps bakes sales every weekend for a few years?

video
Fremont Sunday Market vendor dudes having some sing along fun....sing it! Like A Rhinestone Cowboy!!