Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers/Puff Pastry Vols-au-Vent

I would like to welcome everyone to the new TBD. Since our last challenge I have revamped the look and feel of my blog and I really hope you all like it; I would like to send a shout out to Ellie from Rainy Day Templates for all her help. Ellie's templates are beautiful and affordable and she could not be nicer and more efficient, for all of you looking for a blog facelift, I highly recommend you check out her site. What better time to reveal my blog's new look than during a Daring Baker's challenge?

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I was so excited when I found out that we would be making our own puff pastry this month, it is one of my favorite ingredients and I am so happy that I finally learned how to make it myself. I feel like I have always heard horror stories about puff pastry, all the turns, the rolling, the arm pain and so on. The truth is, it was pretty manageable and I found it was all about enjoying the process. Steph require that we make Vols-au-Vent, which is not the first thing that I would think to do with homemade puff pastry. This requirement definitely left me a bit stumped, I spent hours thinking and brainstorming about what to do with it, and in the end I was unsatisfied with all my ideas.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Welcoming the Fall/Apple Buttermilk Bread Pudding

For better or for worse, it seems that fall is officially here. Fall, that bittersweet time of year when courageous souls are still wearing shorts and flip flops, holding on to the fading thoughts of summer and pushing out the thoughts of impending midterms and another winter to come. Luckily, it is during this uncertain time of year that apples come back in season, timed perfectly with the need for ultimate comfort foods.

I am not sure I will ever understand why apples make the most comforting of foods, instead I just embrace the rich smell of cinnamon that swirls around my apartment when I cook them, their crisp sweet-tartness and the buttery sweet goodness that usually encases them. My love for this fruit is endless and I always have some on hand either as a snack or as an ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cultures/Challah Bread

I guess I should be starting off this post by telling all of you that I am not actually Jewish, but sometimes I think I am. Actually, I went to a small all-girls Catholic school. Once in university, I found myself surrounded by a lot of wonderful Jewish friends, so my appreciation for the religion as well as for the classic foods grew tremendously. That, and the fact that I am from New York City where Jewish food reigns, means that for me it is comfort food, well some of it (sorry gefilte fish, I am just not ready to try you yet). This weekend while many of my friends were home for Rosh Hashanah, I decided to honor the holiday by trying my hand at Challah Bread.

I am notoriously (kinda) awful at bread making, I never knead enough or correctly, the bread always comes out as a heavy brick, and so I usually choose to accept my weakness and buy bread. Well, not anymore. Today, I realized that bread making is more or less a cinch, now that I am out of my Milanese pseudo-kitchen and have a decent counter to knead on.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dinner for One/Spicy Stir Fry

I like to believe that I know what I am doing in the kitchen, I guess that really is the mentality that drives me to make new things and care enough to photograph them and write about them.

My friends always ask me, "Frenchie, what do you make on a normal night?" That question always makes me laugh, because to me my everyday dinner is not that different from anyone else's. I realize that maybe this is not the case, the other day I prepared a salad for dinner and my roommate looks at it and asks me why it looked so good. It really made me think, I am a college student with a tight budget just like anyone else, so why do my dinners turn out differently? I think I have the answer. First, for me, food is not just a means of survival but a treat, with each dinner I make I am rewarding myself. Second, I take the time to make my food look beautiful, a huge part of flavor and enjoyment comes from sight and I try my best to entice all my senses. The last and probably least significant part is that in some ways I do know what I am doing. That doesn't mean that I know it all, but certain techniques or flavor combinations that might seem intuitive to me all come from the knowledge I have acquired in years of cooking.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Daring Cooks/Indian Dosas

I have officially been shoved right back to reality, and I don't like it one bit. In August when I was still reveling in the joys of vacation and studying abroad I made this month's Daring Cooks challenge: Indian Dosas with Chickpea filling. The September Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Debyi from Healthy Vegan Kitchen. She choose Indian Dosas. This was a huge hit, I made it out of the beach for a big family dinner and everyone just could not get enough. Luckily I doubled the recipe and we had leftovers for days, so they really had no choice but to keep eating it.

The only aspect I struggled with was the dosa pancakes themselves which for some reason were not cooking and just wound up being soggy and somewhat flavorless. I also made jasmin rice to go along with this dish, so I would say that that was a much better accompaniment. I absolutely LOVED the curry sauce, I made 4 quarts of it and froze it because it was just so tasty and versatile that it is something I always want to have on hand.