Tuesday, December 30, 2008

biscuit sandwiches


It's been months and all I've got to show for it are three biscuit sandwiches.

For basic training fare like southern-style biscuits, Alton Brown's my go-to guy. That obsessive, know-it-all attitude of his has got to be effective for identifying the best biscuit recipe out there from the many thousands that exist.

Southern Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

Easy, fast, and good for your periodic savory flaky pastry fix. As for those sandwiches...those happened after we cured our fix and still had 8 biscuits left over. We've crammed each biscuit with a slice of heirloom tomato, a slice of cucumber, a couple sweet "bread and butter" pickles, and a generous helping of roast beef (from Whole Foods). A swab of dijon mustard and some fresh cracked black pepper made for a spicy finishing touch.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

i designed a cookie label


Cookie Baker, I claim to be on occasion. Cookie Label Maker, I had never thought to try.

But when I received word from my friends at Haley House (my favorite non-profit Bakery Cafe in Boston) that they were in dire need of a cookie label, of course, I felt compelled to reach for my inner wannabe designer and see what I could do.

Boston College had agreed to sell Haley House chocolate chip cookies in packages of 5 (a la Dancing Deer), at one of its dining halls. The business case had been done (good market opportunity), the recipe tweaked and finalized (delicious), but, alas, no Cookie Label.

Now, for someone who claims to have worked at a design firm for 2 years, it's rather shameful that all I had by way of a design application was Microsoft Publisher (this is the type of program kids use to make their lemonade stand banners). Nevertheless, I managed to play nice with its eccentricities, and together we got the job done.

And so, the Cookie Deal closed successfully, and now you can find the most satisfying chocolate chip cookies at Boston College, fresh from the ovens of Haley House Bakery Cafe (Roxbury, MA):

Lower Campus Dining Facility
60 St. Thomas More Road
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
[Off Commonwealth Ave.]

Chocolate Chip Cookies - 5 Pack - $7

Thursday, May 01, 2008

banana muffins to the rescue


There are few things I find more bothersome than a bunch of neglected bananas. They become more freckled by day, and not before long, bruised and squishy. Their peels thin and overpower the air with a disturbing overripeness. Soon, I know, I will be raising fruit flies in my kitchen.

This is why banana bread is fantastic. It captures so gracefully the concept of "sustainable" baking - taking what otherwise would have been tossed out and turning it into a valued treat. Furthermore, mashed bananas provide moistness to quick breads, so that you can use significantly less oil/butter than you would for, say, something of the lemon poppy seed or cranberry walnut variety. (Of course you know, a banana muffin is really just banana bread with the cheerful disposition of a muffin.)

I recently came about a new cooking website called eatNation, where I scored a great Banana Crumb Muffin recipe from someone named Sprocket. There are actually a number of great recipes and cooking tips on the site. The concept itself is neat - it's a meeting place for people who love to cook (eatNation calls us "homechefs"), where we can exchange information about our experiences and epiphanies in the kitchen - whether in the form of recipes, photos, videos, etc. As more people get on the site, I can see eatNation becoming a go-to place for cooking inspiration and advice - for "mastering the art of the everyday meal".

I posted my favorite Classic Pancakes recipe. I've tried many-a pancake recipe out there, and this is by far the best basic pancake you can make for a lazy Sunday morning. (If anything - check out the site because I somehow made eatNation's "Star Chef" of the week. :)

CLASSIC PANCAKES (with strawberries)

Anyway - the Banana Crumb Muffins by homechef "Sprocket" were easy and delicious - I highly recommend them for the next time you encounter a overripening banana crisis of your own.

Recipe notes: I added 1/4 cup toasted, chopped almonds to give some texture to the crumb topping. And as always with muffins, I tried to mix the batter as little as possible to ensure that the muffins come out light and moist.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

coconut pecan dream bars

There is this guy I used to work with - we used to get Barbecue for lunch (there's only one Barbecue when you work in West Newton, MA, and that's Blue Ribbon). He was the first to discover the Dream Bar. The Dream Bar was very sweet and just a bit over the top, smothered in coconut, chocolate, and nuts. I don't think either of us cared for its taste all that much, but we liked it for its name..."Dream Bar".

I wonder how Dream Bar got such a very special name, when it sat alongside such plain-sounding desserts as "Sweet Potato Pie" and "Fruit Cobbler". The Dream Bar. What fun, what promise of hope! It was anything you wanted it to be.

I made a Dream Bar of sorts recently, with inspiration from Gourmet (December 1996). This version is slightly less sweet.

Coconut Pecan Dream Bars
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Brownie Layer:
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

Make topping:
In a 1 1/2-quart bowl stir together topping ingredients until combined well.

Make brownie layer:
In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat. Remove pan from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition. In a bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and stir into butter mixture until just combined well.

Spread batter evenly in pan and sprinkle with topping. Bake brownies in middle of oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack before cutting into 16 squares. Brownies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, 5 days.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

flambéed desserts

Chic Today, February 2008
"Two Scoops and a Flare on Top"
pages 25-26
By Genevieve Wang

My latest article is up. I had a lot of fun with this one. Thank you to the guys at my local BevMo who found me a most flame-worthy brandy for my Crepes Suzette.

Friday, February 01, 2008

vintage brews

Chic Today, January 2008
"Vintage Brews"
page 21
by Genevieve Wang

The thought of certain foods brings me immediate feelings of comfort and happiness: mac n' cheese...Tollhouse cookies...buttered toast with jam...coffee, espresso, latte, macchiato...

I first met coffee in the frozen aisle of Star Market, in the form of Ben & Jerry's Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz (honestly, couldn't Ben & Jerry's make anything taste good to a kid?). I developed a habit for after-school Frappuccinos in my high school years, and adopted my college dining hall's flavorless joe as the base of my nutritional pyramid every finals period. Needless to say, I entered my adult years as a junkie and have gotten no better since.

Though I've had many a cup in my time, nothing I've seen in my experience can quite compare to the obsession with coffee I've discovered in the Bay Area. Small in-house roasters are a dime a dozen. Organic "microroaster" Blue Bottle Coffee Co. draws long lines out the door. There are two camps firmly at odds with one another - "those who patronize Starbucks" and "those who patronize Peet's" (it all depends on which paper cup you hold).

Having moved so close to the birthplace of Peet's, where Arthur Peet himself opened his first store, I've been quick to align myself with Peet's brown colors and dark roasts. I've even spent the past year and a half steadily working my way through every single roast on Peet's menu (there are about 20, not including decaf and special blends). A recent trip led me to discover Aged Sumatra. Being in the wine business, this concept of aging coffee fascinated me, and I decided to investigate.

My article about aged coffee can be found in the January 2008 issue of the fashion/lifestyle magazine Chic Today.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

they named umami after all...


I believe that a great food culture is defined not by the number of Michelin stars it has received (though Tokyo did top the list in 2007*), but by the quality of an average meal that any individual - rich or poor, young or old - might expect to have on any given day.

Italy confirmed its place on my personal list of "great food cultures" when I was over my friend Cristina's house at age 15, working on math homework. Cristina's parents, who are from Turin and Sicily, were out for the night, and at any other friend's place, we would have ordered Domino's pizza for dinner. This didn't even occur as an option to Cristina; she made us spaghetti alla carbonara with salad.

I was in Japan in December, and I left believing that Japan could be the greatest food culture I have yet experienced. Great food is to be found, whether you are waiting at the train station, grabbing lunch on the 4th floor of your office building, shopping at a ritzy department store, popping into 7-Eleven...




My theory is that, it doesn't matter where you are, because Japanese people, in general, know their food. At least based on what I observed in Tokyo and Osaka, people have an elevated level of awareness and appreciation for high quality ingredients, subtle flavors, and careful preparation/presentation. And they use their yen to keep the good eating establishments places in business, allowing the less-than-stellar ones to die out (which probably doesn't take long, considering the price of property over there).

Inspired by the trip, we made mochi when we got home. We filled ours with azuki bean paste and rolled them in toasted sesame seeds.


By the way, I've started to write a monthly food+drink column for the fashion/lifestyle magazine Chic Today. My first article, which ran in the December 2007 issue, was about sparkling wines:

"Let Your Holiday Season Sparkle"
Chic Today, December 2007
pages 19-20

*NOTE: 2007 was the first year that Tokyo's restaurants were rated by the Michelin Guide. Tokyo was awarded 191 Michelin stars in total. This was compared to Paris's 98, and New York City's 54.