Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flour Fully Folded

So, I made this recipe for brownies the other day. The recipe was in the NY Times, and the accompanying article said that Julia Child raved about them, so hey, good enough for me, right? But this note is not about the brownies, believe it or not (though I threw in the recipe below in case you want to try it, the brownies come out insanely moist and light, and intensely chocolatey, but not as chewy as I like, nonetheless, if you want to make something lighter on the palate (but not on your belly, as these suckers are chock full of sugar and butter), this is the way to go (I also feel compelled to observe the massively run-on nature of this sentence, with not one but two, count 'em, two, embedded parentheticals within a parenthetical, good grammar be damned, right?).

What I'm actually wondering about, is how do you do a good job of folding your dry ingredients into your batter? Whenever I'm baking, I usually have some concoction of flour/baking soda/baking powder/salt to mix in, and I seem to have decent folding technique, slicing down the middle of the batter with the edge of the spatula and then folding it over, followed by giving the bowl a quarter turn and folding some more, but, alas, I always seem to leave a few flecks of white in the final version before baking, which I find less than easy on the eyes afterwards as I'm sampling the final product.

How do you avoid these flecks of white in your baked goods and get your flour fully folded into your batter? How do you know when to fold 'em (Yup, I'll take any excuse to combine "The Gambler" with The Muppets)?

***UPDATE*** These brownies are amazing of you refrigerate them overnight. Nice and chewy with a fudgey texture.

*** NOTE . . . Non-Pertinent to Post Bonus Recipe Appears Below . . . END NOTE ***

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

The recipe says to go with a 350 degree oven and a 9 inch baking pan. Whisk the flour and salt, then melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler while throwing in the vanilla at the end, then take it off the heat and whisk in half the sugar. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, drop the sugar and eggs in your mixer and beat at medium high speed for around 3 minutes or so. The mixture should turn pale yellow in color and greatly expand in size. The big air bubbles you're beating in will give the brownies that light and airy feeling. After that, fold this mixture into the chocolatey goodness, fold in the dry stuff and dump it all in your baking pan. I like to use two layers of parchment paper, each with its ends draping over opposite sides of the pan, and then giving the paper a good butter rubdown (to prevent sticking). Bake for 25-28 minutes and it should be done. Let the whole pan cool on a rack and cut them in the pan when you're done, they are so delicate they'll probably fall apart if you try and lug them out. You can snag the whole recipe and accompanying article here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

EnPIEclopedia - Tasty Pie Recipes

By Cameron Nordholm (originally posted to Flickr as DSC_0029)
[CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The New York Times has a big article up today on the new pie wave gripping San Francisco and New York (read it here), arguing that this trend is a harbinger of the rise of the pie age and the end of the cupcake age. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing, as who can't accept pies and cupcakes peacefully co-existing? Can't our desserts just get along?

Nonetheless, the article offers up some darn tasty looking recipes, so I thought I'd share them all with you here. Go forth and make pies, my good friends.

Pie Recipes
Rye Pecan Pie from Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC

Butter Pie from Butter Love Bakeshop in San Francisco

Apple Green-Chili Pie With Cheddar Crust and Walnut Streusel from Chile Pies and Ice Cream in San Francisco

Groovy Pie Places
The NY Times also raved about Mission Pie in San Francisco, Momofuko Milk Bar and Hill Country Chicken in Manhattan, and Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn.

One Pie Dough To Rule Them All
I would, however, be remiss not to mention Chez Pim's admirably arrogant claims regarding her ultimate pie dough, the One Pie Dough to Rule Them All (grab it here). It makes me imagine her cradling her rolling pin in the kitchen while moaning, "My Precious!"

Happy pie making to you all. Yes, even you, Golum.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Fork and Screen at the Essex Green

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today we have our first guest post, by the inimitable Caroline Cole, who weighs in with a review of the new AMC Fork and Screen cinema/eatery at the Essex Green shopping center in West Orange, NJ.

With great anticipation, I have been waiting to see exactly how the AMC movie theater at Essex Green would transform into one of the 5 Fork and Screen Movie Theaters in the country. This weekend, they offered free admission to films and full service food/drink service.  Here's the scoop!

Firstly, the renovations are beautiful!  When you enter the foyer, there are some ticket kiosks to make credit card purchases and pick up your online tickets.  There is no  ticket counter for purchases at the theater from a human being.  Technophobe alert :)  Inside the lobby is a Guest Services counter to assist you.  The MacGuffin bar/lounge fills the new lobby -lots of comfy chairs/sofas and a beautiful full service bar.  There are tables to eat if you choose.  The menu is pretty straight forward Fridays/Applebee's type fare- at comparable prices. Apps, entrees, kids menu is $7 and includes choice of pizza, chicken fingers....with drink, fruit snacks, and choice of side ( fruit, or homemade potato chips- which are thick and delicious!)

Popcorn is $ 7 - unlimited refills.  You just have to keep pressing your red button at the seat for the server to keep fillin' you up...more on that later. Candy is priced between $3 and 4.

There is no concession stand. The only thing you see for sale in the theater is BOOZE. The other stuff is available and delivered within the darkness of the movie theater.  Allergy ALert!  i did not enquire whether it was a peanut free facility.  All cooking is done on premises- so you should check to see about specific allergen contaminants.

There is not  a Movie Only Option.  You can't buy a ticket to see the movie without paying to get the food/bev credit.

AGE REQUIREMENTS:  In order to see a  movie at this theater complex, you must be  at least 18 years old OR accompanied by another adult.  The Cinema Suites  have a strict 21 years old and older policy.  This is because the lobby is one giant bar.  Where there is alcohol, limits must be in place.  Once in the  theater, the servers card everyone ordering alcohol.  I know some of you will appreciate getting carded in the dark as a "kid" says "well, any birth date over 1989 is good!"  

This means that there are no more teenagers "running amok" in the theaters.  This also means that if you are a parent of  teens who are trying to take their dates to movies w/o a chaperone--you have to drop them off in Montclair or elsewhere.  Or else, buy a ticket to the movie so you can "accompany them" into the theater.

There are 9 theater screens in the complex.  Three of these are Cinema Suites. They have full reclining red leather seats and individual oversized table trays that pivot.  Stadium seating layout. The seats are very comfortable.  Parents, beware- you might just fall asleep because you can recline fully horizontally and in a dark room....ZZZZZZZZ :)   Cloth napkins, metal silverware, ketchup are located between every 2 chairs with a button to call your server.  The suites also offer some bonus menu items like sirloin steaks, calamari, and a few other "upscale" foods.  These theaters only seat about 58 people by my count of chairs.  

Ticket Price: $25/person - includes $10 for movie admission and a $15 credit for food/drink to be used during that movie ONLY.  The side tables have a dim light that remains lit so that you can see your food/drink/bill/wallet....kind of annoying to the traditional movie watcher, but not too distracting in my opinion.

The other 6 theaters are stadium seating with traditional movie theater chairs (w/ cup holders) which share a long table.  Think of Medieval Times but with more aisles :) The table has a raised lip with lights so you can read the menus, etc.  This also is a nice place to store your cell phone, reading glasses and wallet :)  The chairs are rather far away from the table, so that when you are eating, you need to sit straight in order to reach the table.   Cloth napkins, metal silverware, ketchup on tables. The red button to call your server is on the top ledge of the table.

Ticket Price: $20/person-includes $10 for movie admission and $10 food/bev credit to be used during that movie only.

So......our family saw a total of 4 films over the weekend.  Two in the Cinema Suites, and two in the other theaters.  The food/bev service in the Cinema Suites seems very intrusive, because the server has to cross in front of the entire row to serve anyone in that row.  When a person in your row is served, the server is crossing in front of you.  If you are fully reclined in your leather seat, this is a big viewing obstruction.

The food/bev service in the other theaters is better because there are more aisles for the servers to access your individual seats. Before the film, the servers come to take your orders,and deliver the food before the film begins.  If you need other items during the movies- you press the button and the servers appear w/ their handheld computer systems to get your order.  The check is delivered about 20 minutes before the film is over so that you can settle the check before the movie is finished.

File:RedButton DownArrow.png
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
THE RED BUTTON - Okay. so whatever you need during the film, just push the red button.  The server appears and communicates with you. By Talking.  If you are bothered by people talking in a movie theater, this service aspect will make you crazy.  Because, no matter how quietly people whisper, they are still talking in the movies....While we attended the soft opening as the staff worked out kinks, the bottom line is that there is still talking during the film. Sotto Voce or otherwise.

LIGHTING - Because you need to see the menus on table and because the servers need to see you- there is alot of ambient lighting in the theater.  The lighting is located along the tables, chairs and aisles.  If you like seeing movies in total darkness, this could be distracting.  Let's put it this way:  When I saw Inception by myself in the Cinema Suites- I was annoyed.  When I saw Toy Story 3D with my boys-  it was a blessing.

Now, if you do the math, you need to figure out if your family /friend unit will enjoy this type of film experience for the $$$$.  Is it better for your family to eat before the movie?  Do kids fall asleep, therefore leaving extra $$ on the table for parents to consume?  My 2 boys saw 2 movies, devoured their pizza meals and thought the whole thing was fantastic.  When I saw a grown up movie, I was annoyed by the extra service activity around me.

Bathrooms - located at the front of theater by the ticketed entrance.  They are big, lots of stalls.  at least 2 handicapped/family style stalls with sink and toilet contained in one area.  Paper towels only, I didn't see air blow hand dryers.

Monday Nov 15th is more free evening films.

Grand opening is Wed Nov 17!!!!

I know I probably left some things out of the mix here- but it will be interesting to see how this thing works out!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How to Slice Meat Against the Grain

Terrific video on knife skills - how to slice meat properly so that it will be tenderized via your slicing style.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

CakeMergency! Cake in 5 Minutes or Less + My Spork

So, I just discovered that Hulu is rocking it out with those groovy 70s heroes of maladies and mayhem: Emergency!

Sometimes you're sitting on your couch, late at night, reveling in the glories of 70s B level entertainment a la above, and you're overcome by the desire for cake . . . ya know . . . a CakeMergency! Now, I rarely am also simultaneously overcome by the desire for full out cake baking action, so, what to do? Yep, you guessed it, time to break out the CakeMergency! recipe:

Mugging: Grab a coffee mug.
Dry Ingredients: Code 4-4-2 => 4 TB flour, 4 TB brown sugar, 2 TB cocoa. Mix it all up but good in the mug.
Wet Ingredients: Code 2-3-3 => 2 TB whisked egg, 3 TB half & half, 3 TB oil. Chuck each in, one at a time, and mix between ingredients. Stir it up!
Candy Time: Chuck in 3 TB of your favorites: butterscotch chips, peanuts, chocolate chips, nonpareils, toffee, you name it, it'll take it. Some vanilla's nice, too.
Chernobyl It: Pop the mug in your 1000 watt microwave for 3 minutes, and boom! Cake!
Top It All Off: Run a knife around the inside of the mug to loosen the cake up, put a saucer on top of it and flip. Whack around the sides and on the top and it should drop to the saucer. Slice it in half and put one half on another saucer. Sprinkle cinnamon followed by powdered sugar on top, add chopped walnuts, and top it all off with a couple of mint leaves. If you have none of the above, just eat it, you'll still be a happy camper.

The finished result should look something like this (and check out my totally awesome metal spork there, too, cool, huh?):

Congratulations, you've officially saved yourself from a dangerous CakeMergency. Now you can kick back with your cake and watch the Emergency! medical staff pour over the 1970s version of the iPad. And if the show bores you, well, there's always Kojak. Who loves you, baby?

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Tentacle Pot Pie - Doc Ock's Favorite Meal

The follow the beat of one's own drum blog Not Martha has this original octo-pot-pie design up now. I assume that this is the perfect meal for Dr. Octopus, Spiderman's enemy so well portrayed by Alfred Molina in Spiderman 2. Or maybe it belongs in this James Bond movie that was all the rage back in 1983.

To bang it out, I plan on trying the tart dough recipe up on the NY Times right now here, though I may go back to my Institute for Culinary Education tried and true favorite. Either way, it should be fun slicing up everything into tentacles, right?

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Salt and Pepper Chocolate Bar

Like most people I am a huge chocolate fan. Most Saturdays I try and swing by my local chocolate store, The Chocolate Path (run by the friendly and helpful Susan Fine), and see what's new and exciting. Not too long ago Susan introduced me to Olive and Sinclair's fantastic southern artisan chocolate. Olive and Sinclair is a small batch chocolate maker in Nashville, and offers a variety of bars for the choosing.

I noticed a very odd looking Salt & Pepper chocolate bar. Salt, I can see (after all, sea salt on chocolate is a terrific juxtaposition and is mighty fine). But pepper? Hmmmmm . . . it definitely triggers one's reticence, and certainly sounds less than appetizing. But ever since I discovered the joys of the Vosges Mo's Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar, I'm definitely willing to maximize my adventurous spirit and suspend my initial prejudices in the cocoa arena.

In this case, I was rewarded. The Salt & Pepper bar is not too shabby. When at a restaurant with my newly placed dish just plunked down on the table, with the waiter staring me in the eye while leaning over the table brandishing one of those every so large pepper mills, I always say, "Yes, fresh cracked black pepper it up!" If you're like me and have a peppery fascination, then you'll love this chocolate confection.

Personally, while this may engender some small horror among the expert chocolate roasters of the world, my favorite way to eat the Salt & Pepper bar is to freeze it, break off a piece, pop it in my mouth, and let it slowly warm up, tasting the growing whirl of salt, pepper and chocolate as the flavors merge and amplify during the warming process.

So go grab yourself a bar, hope you enjoy it.

I have no association with Olive and Sinclair and receive no compensation for this post.

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