Posts tagged ‘food’

May 8, 2012

Overdue – Egg Whites, Priapism, or My Swiss Buttercream Love

So in October I received the following email:

So, I just made coffee cake! It was super fun. Can you tell me everything you know about egg whites? Such as the consequences of failure to whip egg whites to stiff white peaks in recipes which call for it?

NOT AT ALL RELATED FACT: Whisking egg whites by hand is like jacking off a guy with priapism.

And (huge apology to Re!) I am now answering it, in May. So, without anymore waiting…

I love coffee cake – I went through a whole coffee cake phase at work last fall: lemon-berry, pumpkin and cream cheese, just cream cheese, pecan and cinnamon, blue berry and cream cheese (I like cream cheese and coffee cake)…

Now, as for egg whites, what are commonly referred to as egg whites are properly known as albumen. The albumen of an egg protects the delicate yolk during embryonic growth. Egg whites are mostly water with a little protein thrown in for good measure, and make up about two-thirds of the liquid weight of the egg (the other one-third being the yolk). Truth be told, Wikipedia explains the process of what happens when whisking egg whites perfectly here. Everything else I can tell you is anecdotal. So, let me proceed by first relating the story of my first (failed) ever batch of chiffon cake. A Chiffon Cake is a spongy cake leavened with egg whites and a small amount of baking powder (the egg whites do most of the work). The whites are whisked up to stiff peaks with some of the sugar and incorporated into the rest of the batter via folding. My mistake was in not allowing the whites to stiffen enough, and when I folded them in, they were unable to stand up to the heaviness of the rest of the batter, and the air bubbles all collapsed. Since incorporating air into the batter is how you obtain the lovely, spongy texture, the cake falls in the oven (or feels depressed about its self-worth and doesn’t bother to rise at all). I was left with a bunch of one inch thick disks of lemon-flavored fail that I cubed and tossed into bread pudding (ahhh bakers, the great recyclers of the kitchen). So, to answer your question – not whisking them stiffly enough means your baked product fails to live up to its potential just like any young child who fails to “fill their father’s shoes”. Or something like that. Maybe.

I admit, I used to be a little afraid of egg whites. I just didn’t realize how tough the buggers are. The more I’ve worked with them over the years, the more I’ve come to love them and just get excited about them. There are so many hidden ways you can utilize an egg white’s potential! In fact, I would say that the best cure for albumen nervousness is to make a lot of buttercream – I got over mine soon enough after making 8 1/2 lbs. of the stuff every week. Since most people don’t need that much buttercream hanging around their kitchens, the recipe below is incredibly scaled down.

As to your note about whisking whites by hand, I definitely agree. In fact, this is directly related to my failed chiffon cake mentioned above (at the time there was only one bowl for the stand mixer, and we were backed up. Now we have three bowls, so yay!). The only cure for this is to invest in an electric mixing device. If you don’t want to drop 200-400$ on a super awesome shiny kitchenaid stand mixer (HOLY SHIT THEY MAKE CLEAR FUCKING BOWLS NOW), you can always go with a nice handmixer that has a whisk attachment; this is the culinary equivalent to a battery-charged sex toy. Cuisinart makes a nice one with a whisk attachment that runs about 40$, and the motor isn’t going to burn up five minutes later, so it’s a good deal that won’t break the bank. If you DO decide to splurge on the stand mixer, buy TWO BOWLS. You will be a happier person, trust me.

Buttercream:

There are four main types (or rather, methods) of buttercream out there: Swiss Buttercream, Italian Buttercream, French Buttercream, and American Buttercream. Swiss Buttercream calls for sugar and egg whites to be heated over a double boiler before they are whipped up to meringue, allowed to cool and further whipped with butter. Italian and French Buttercream both call for a method wherein boiled sugar is poured slowly down the side of a bowl as egg is whisked, the difference between them being that Italian calls for egg whites and French calls for yolks. If you haven’t guessed already, American Buttercream is uncooked, does not have eggs, and is often not made with butter, but shortening (yum). There is a German Buttercream, but that’s really just Swiss Buttercream and Pastry Cream mixed together.

Though delicious, French Buttercream is the least stable of the BIG THREE cooked buttercreams, with regards to time and keeping temperature. If made, it’s best used right away, and refrigerated. It does not stand well against high humidity and temperature here in Coastal Georgia. There seems to be some debate over the superior stability of Italian and Swiss Buttercream. I believe it is more to do with personal preference, but I have found that Swiss Buttercream tends to stand up much better at an outdoor wedding in June than Italian. Plus, it’s easier, less messy, safer, and best of all, there’s no guess work! If you don’t want to do the skin test (see below), just buy a digital probe thermometer. Bonus: use the thermometer to test your bread – when it reads 200F in the center of the loaf, your bread will be perfectly done every time.

Swiss Buttercream

Egg whites: 8 oz.

Granulated Sugar: 1 lb. (not as much as it sounds, I promise!)

Unsalted Butter: 5 sticks + 2 Tablespoons. Allow it to soften to room temperature

Set a large pot on the stove with about two inches of water in the bottom, and turn the stove top on to medium-low, or whatever setting you have that will allow the water to steam without boiling. Boiling here means scrambled egg sugar, so we want to avoid that. Whisk together your whites and sugar in a bowl large enough to sit over the top of the pot without touching the water (stainless steel bowls are nice, but any heat-proof bowl will do so long as it is big enough for the top of your pot). Be sure to use pot holders or a thick rag to handle the bowl, as it will heat up. Now, just keep an eye on the mixture, whisking it and scraping the sugar down the sides of the bowl every couple of minutes. Check the water now and again to be sure it’s not boiling. This will take about ten to twenty minutes, so chill. Using a probe thermometer, probe the liquid and check to see when it reaches 145F; remove the bowl, and wipe down the bottom of it with a cloth. **Skin Test** For those who are serious cooks/bakers or Julia Child only: Stick the tip of your most sensitive finger in the sugar mixture. If it is uncomfortable hot but not scalding it’s done. This is how I learned to test buttercream in school, and since I don’t want to be slapped with a law suit please use discretion, don’t be a N00b and don’t blame me if you burn your stupid ass. Also just use a thermometer please.

Pour the mixture into a clean, dry mixing bowl and immediately begin whisking on the highest setting, about seven minutes, until you have stiff, glossy white peaks of meringue. Continue whisking on low until the bottom of the bowl has cooled to room temperature. When cooled, add in your butter and mix at a medium to high speed until you have fluffy, smooth, spreadable buttercream perfection! What does that look like?  There are visual stages you can watch: first, the meringue will deflate slightly, and the mix will look a bit runny as the butter is whipped in. Later, it’ll take on a stiff, lumpy appearance, but persevere and you will eventually obtain a satiny, pale ivory-colored state of fluffy goodness. Some recipes will have you whip up the butter before adding it to your meringue, but this is unnecessary – we’ve totally cut the step out at the bakery. After that, you’re done – add a pinch of salt and vanilla to taste, or add various flavorings and colors (use gel colors, water-based doesn’t mix well with the butter), or whisk in a little melted, room temperature chocolate at high speed for chocolate buttercream (most delicious). If you don’t use it up right away, don’t refrigerate it, just keep it in a covered, tightly wrapped container and out of direct sunlight in a cool spot and it’ll last about a week. Swiss Buttercream pipes out beautifully, looks divine and tastes heavenly. It’s perfect on cakes and cupcakes, pumpkin pies, fudgy brownies, sandwiched between cookies and petit macarons, whoopie pies, and whatever else you can dream up. If you want the most perfect meringue for, say, a lemon pie, just skip the butter, frost on a cloud of meringue, and torch it. Cooked meringue stands up to refrigeration AND humidity way better than uncooked.

Some other delightful uses for egg whites:

  • Pipe out meringue on parchment and dry in the oven at 150F overnight for meltaway cookies
  • allow a little egg white to dry on your face for a natural face peel (there are loads of recipes online)
  • In flourless chocolate cake: whip up the egg whites separately with a third of the recipe’s sugar, then fold in at the end. It’ll make it less dense and more melt-in-your-mouth.
  • Egg whites will fluff up pie fillings!
  • Add a ribbon of egg white to a lemon cheesecake.
  • Poached meringue is a bizarrely delicious dessert – serve it with a little warmed creme anglaise.

Of course the best source of information on eggs is French chemist Herve This, who by deciding to find out how eggs and egg protein worked sort of started that whole Molecular Gastronomy thing.

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October 22, 2011

You Pick: Apple-Stuffed Pork Rolls Katsu Style

This year is turning out to be a great year for apples on the East Coast. And besides that – fall is THE season for apples. Crisp, cool, tart and sweet – they are turning out in hues of red and pink, burnished gold, pale winter yellows, bright greens… ::sigh::

Apples are possibly my favorite fruit – they are generally durable, easy to handle and to cook with, versatile and perfectly delicious in any number of recipes – pies, salads, roasts, soups, sandwiches – and (unless you are seeking the delightful Honey Crisp variety) inexpensive. I love apples in savory dishes especially – apples are great for brightening up a dish, and they pair well with both chicken and pork! You can still wander into older forested areas across the United States and find apple trees growing wild. Historically, it wasn’t that long ago that well over 1,000 varieties of apple were grown in the U.S., and though the majority of these are now extinct (thank you, mono-crop farming and a certain seed company), there are still several hundred known varieties, many heirloom, that are actively grown today.

This dish is a great way to use up spare ingredients if you happen to have a bunch of odd bits and pieces of Asian cuisine languishing in your fridge. Otherwise, it’s a great opportunity to experiment with ingredients that aren’t terribly expensive and that (for the most part) can hang out in your fridge for a VERY VERY LONG TIME.

I love otsukemono – assorted pickled vegetables – because there are so many colors, flavors, and textures! They can really dress up a dish (even just a quick bowl of rice porridge), and while I used my favorites in this recipe, don’t be afraid to experiment, especially if hot and spicy is not your scene.

Now, as for rice – if you want to cheat and use some form of parboiled rice, that is your prerogative – but every time a person uses a package of pre-cooked rice a puppy gets kicked. True fact. Don’t be afraid of preparing rice, and don’t feel as though you have to have a rice cooker – most inexpensive rice cookers are like quick-cooking crock pots anyway. You can prepare rice in a pot of water on the stove no problem, and it really is as simple as following the directions on the bag. And if you’re still not sure what to do – measure one cup of rice grains into a pot/rice cooker, fill the pot with cold water until the rice is just covered, and rinse the grains by swishing them around in the pot with your hand. Do this for about thirty or forty-five seconds and then drain the water and repeat three more times. ALWAYS wash rice, even if the bag says it’s cleaned or treated – washing your rice this way will rinse off extra starch that would otherwise make it mushy and gross. After you’re done rinsing, fill the pot up until the rice is covered about three-fourths of an inch. If you’re using a pot, set it on the stove (if you’re using a rice cooker, follow the cooking directions that come with your device), turn it to medium heat, and stir with the stick end of a wooden spoon every once in a while to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. If you want to salt the rice, salt the cooking water before it starts to boil, just past the point where you would enjoy it (when you think it’s too much salt, it’s probably enough). When most of the water is absorbed and the rice is swelling, turn the heat off and take the pot off of the hot eye, let it sit a few minutes, and fluff it with a fork. For this recipe I’ve left the rice unsalted – instead , I added about a quarter cup of Rice Wine Vinegar while fluffing. If you’re nervous about making rice, then do the rice first, before you prepare the pork rolls – otherwise, just start the rice when you start chopping up the pickles for the filling (see recipe below).

Please keep in mind that this is an inspired interpretation of Tonkatsu – fried pork cutlet – and while these are not the ingredients you would traditionally fill the pork with, I hope you find the taste yummy and comforting (it IS a comfort food, after all) when you try the recipe. ^_^

Apple-Stuffed Pork Rolls Katsu Style

  • One Green Apple (Suggest: Granny Smith)
  • One Red Apple (Suggest: Fuji)
  • Rice Wine Vinegar – 1/4 cup for apples, 1/4 cup for rice
  • 6-8 Korean Salted Pickled Green Peppers
  • 1 Large Clove of Garlic
  • 2 Red Umeboshi (Pickled Plums), Pits Removed
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons Aka Miso Paste
  • 4 Thin Pork Cutlets, Cleaned and Trimmed (There may be a bit of connective tissue, but they usually come clean at the supermarket)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Eggs, Well-Beaten
  • Most of a Package of Panko Crumbs (if you are concerned about waste, the best thing is to store any leftover crumb in a plastic container labeled with the meat you have used it for)
  • 1 Cup Short Grain Rice (I use Han Kuk Mi Sushi Rice – it’s not terribly expensive for a five pound bag, and it has a nice texture when cooked)
  • Vegetable Oil – Enough to fill about an inch and a half on the bottom of a deep pan or wide-bottomed pot
  • Optional Toppings: Katsu Sauce, Tempura Dipping Sauce, Pickled Daikon, Shin Shin Parikko (pickled Spanish Cucumber), Leftover Cooked Apple, Umeboshi, etc.

[You’ll notice I’ve left salt/pepper out of this recipe – that’s because you really don’t need it. The miso paste and green pepper pickles are salty enough in the dish that the pork really doesn’t need any help]

First thing’s first – peel, core, and slice your apple into longish pieces on the thicker side (no need for julienne here!). I like combining red and green apples in most dishes, for both flavor and texture (I also like leaving a bit of the peel on for color, but you’re welcome to strip it all or leave it all on!). In a pot or pan on medium-low heat, gently toss your apples in the Rice Wine Vinegar and allow to steam and sweat until they just begin to soften. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for later. Remove the stems from the green peppers and finely chop (alternatively, you can just dump the peppers, garlic and pickled plums in a food processor and pulse to a fine relish) finely. Finely chop the plums and garlic, stir in with the peppers, and set the relish aside.

On a flat, clean surface, stretch out two lengths of plastic wrap – be sure to squish out all the air bubbles so you don’t pop any holes while your pounding out your cutlets. When rolling a chosen cut of meat, it’s better to use as thin a piece as possible – not only will you have more surface area to spread filling on to, but the meat will cook much more quickly. It’s best to choose a pounding implement with a flat surface, you’re just trying to break up bits of muscle and spread out the surface area, not poke holes in your meat with a carryover from medieval weaponry. As it happens, I have an ice cream scoop that, while being perfectly useless as an ice cream scoop, is smooth and has just the right amount of weight for pounding thin cuts of meat – so don’t feel that you have to go out and purchase a proper meat mallet if you don’t have one.

Lay out your pork cutlets (you can do them all at once or one at a time) on the plastic wrap, cover with more plastic wrap, and commence pounding. The surface area should increase by at least a 1/3 to 1/2 of the original size of the cutlet. As you finish each cutlet, layer them in paper towels. You want to draw out as much moisture as possible before you begin rolling them up – your filling will stick better, and the meat will seal better to itself, instead of unrolling while cooking.

Now the fun part! lay out your cutlet, take a fourth of your miso paste, and using the back of a spoon spread VERY thinly over the whole of one side of the cutlet. Next, spoon a quarter of your pickle mixture and spread it thinly over the surface. Take four or five pieces of your cooked apple, lay them out on top of the relish, and tightly roll up your cutlet. The edge should seal nicely to itself. Set aside seam side down and repeat with the rest of your cutlets.

Depending on how quick you are about it, you may want to take this moment to go ahead and heat up your oil for frying. Set it to medium-high heat – when the oil shimmers in the bottom of the pot, it’s ready.

Set out three dishes – one each flour, beaten egg, and panko crumbs, in that order. In turn, roll each cutlet first in the flour, the egg, and then panko crumbs (you want to coat it well).

When the hot oil is ready, place two rolls at a time, seam side down, in the pot. The cooking time is not exact here, but it should be about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 minutes per side, or until the crumb is a deep golden-brown. Remove from the oil and set either on a paper towel or colander to drain and rest. Allow the rolls to rest about 5-10 minutes before serving.

To serve, slice each cutlet on a diagonal with a serrated knife, and lay out over a bed of rice. What you serve the dish with is up to you, but I like a nice squirt of katsu sauce, and my favorite pickles (daikon radish!!!) to go with it. The pork should be moist and the filling should be lip-tingling spicy. The apples won’t overpower the dish, but will add a richness and brightness (not unlike a good tomato sauce) that is surprising when you’re not used to apples in savory dishes.

Go and enjoy! And don’t forget to vote for next week’s recipe (below in next post)!

October 20, 2011

You Pick 10/20/11-10/26/11

The winning recipe… Is a tie! Fig, Goat Cheese and Onion Tart and Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Bread Pudding! More to come soon!

October 13, 2011

You Pick: 10/13/11-10/18/11

 

The polls are open, time to vote! Voting will close Sunday, 8pm Eastern.