Archive | March, 2009

Yay, A Ward! And the World Needs More Wards.

31 Mar

honest-scrapDon’t you think First, Make a Roux is a lovely blog title?  I rather do.  It’s the perfect name for someone from Louisiana.  The first time I wandered over there, I even said so in the comments section.   I went over there this morning to find that I have been awarded A Ward.  An award!  Nice!  It is called Honest Scrap.  I don’t know why it’s called that, but it’s orange, and there’s a hammer, so that’s cool.  Regardless, I am happy to be the recipient of Such a Thing.  Go check out First, Make a Roux; it’s nice over there.  Plus, she likes chick peas, which makes me like her even more.  I do enjoy a good chick pea.

At any rate, back to the award.  I am supposed to tag folks and then tell 10 honest things about myself.  I guess that’s where part of the Honest Scrap comes from.  Since I would never tell you anything dishonestly, I’m going to bend the rules and tell you my Ten Favorite Pastry Tips/Tricks, etc.

  1. Rolling dough out between parchment is one of the best tricks ever.  It’s a great way to roll out gingerbread, graham crackers, and chocolate wafer cookie dough,too.  Since your rolling pin doesn’t stick, you don’t need to add more flour, and this equals a more tender end product.
  2. Leaving cookie dough in the fridge for a day or two equals better cookies.  Hard to do, I know, but it’s true.
  3. Use metal bowls for ice baths.  Metal will conduct the heat out of whatever you’re cooling quickly.  Glass, on the other hand, is an insulator.
  4. Quick and dirty chocolate sauce:  equal parts corn syrup and cream heated to just below a boil.  Whisk in excellent quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate until the mixture coats your finger spoon.
  5. To thicken standard buttercream made with 10X and butter, don’t keep adding sugar.  Sugar will just attract moisture and you’ll end up with soupy icing.  Thicken by adding a bit more butter and refrigerating, instead.
  6. The lower you can bake a custard, the creamier and wonderful-er it will be.  If you have the time, try 200F in a water bath.  It’ll take forever, but the Reward will be Great.
  7. The cookbook writer has no idea how hot your oven runs.  Use your senses to let you know when the cake is done.
  8. Even though baking is a precise science, you have some room to play:  change up spices, add some herbs, stir in some dried fruit, add some citrus zest, substitute extracts.  Just a couple of pinches of nutmeg in a yellow cake make a huge difference.
  9. Plastic wrap stretched over a pot on the stove will give you a very tight seal–much tighter than the lid.  Poke a hole in the center for steam to escape.
  10. Steep herbs, spices, ground nuts or citrus zest in cream overnight and then strain, pressing down on the solids.  You now have a flavored cream for making custard or panna cotta.  Steep herbs or spices in ice cream base overnight, strain and spin for subtly flavored ice cream.

Blogs I Enjoy or Bloggers I Appreciate

So, the second part of this award is that I am supposed to pass this on to seven other blogs.   All of us are out here doing our part to provide Honest Scraps, in one form or another.  If this describes you, take this award with my blessing and pass it along, if you’d like.  I’m sharing this with all of you Scrappily Honest/Honestly Scrappy bloggers out there.  You know who you are.

I’ve Been Hiding Something From You: Chocolate Stout Cake Rocks. Sorry; I Should Have Said Something Earlier.

30 Mar
Guess what?  I don't have a picture of my cake.  This particular stout cupcake has Bailey's Irish Cream Icing.

Guess what? I don't have a picture of my cake. This particular stout cupcake has Bailey's Irish Cream Icing.

Niko from over at Damn Cute Bunnies asked what I thought about Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake.  Specifically, she wants to know if the Guinness is just there for shock value or if it really Does Something.  Friends, I am a bit embarrassed.  I have been holding out on you guys.  I have in my possession a fantastic chocolate stout cake.  I have made it many times.  It was the “signature cake” at the restaurant–if someone wanted a birthday cake, this is what they got. I should have told you about this Miracle Cake long ago, but I just didn’t.  I will now make amends by telling you all about it now.

First and foremost, the stout Most Definitely Does Something.  Do you guys remember the Maillard Love Story I wrote awhile back?  Well, it was all about why chocolate and coffee go so well together.  You might as well just throw stout into that story and make it a Manage a Trois.  Stout goes so well with both chocolate and coffee because it is based on roasted grain–deep, caramelized, malty goodness.  As we know coffee beans and cocoa beans are roasted as well.  These three flavors have a natural affinity for each other because they share a lot of flavor compounds.

What stout tends to do in a cake is reinforce the chocolatey goodness of the cake, turning it more fudgy.  It can also give just a slightly bitter edge, cutting the sweetness of the cake by just a hair.  In layman’s terms, and to channel Martha just a bit, “Stout in chocolate cake?  It’s a Very Good Thing.”

As to Nigella’s cake, here are the ingredients:

  • 1 cup Guinness Stout
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBSP pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt

And here are the ingredients from my chocolate stout cake

  • 1 cup stout (whatever was on tap)
  • 8 oz. butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. plus 2 TBSP creme fraiche

Sorry for the whacky measurements–some in ounces, some in cups–this recipe is In Transition.  Guess what?  Mine and Nigella’s ingredient lists are almost identical.  The big difference I see is that she calls for soda and I call for baking powder.  That’s because we used Dutch process cocoa powder at the restaurant, and it was already neutral.  No need for all that soda to neutralize the acid.  The first time I made this cake, I did use baking soda (I can’t remember where I got the original) but the cake had a faintly soapy aftertaste from an excess of baking soda.  Not many people could taste it, but I could.  Switching to baking powder solved that problem.  If you are using regular cocoa powder, go ahead and use the baking soda. The other big difference is that my ingredients contain a Real Amount of salt.  Believe me, the salt will temper some of the stouty bitterness and really enhance the chocolate flavor.  Regarding the difference between sour cream and creme fraiche, it is minimal in this application.  I used creme fraiche because we made it 3 gallons at a time at the restaurant, and we never had sour cream.  Fear not, if you choose to use sour cream.  It will turn out just fine, I promise.

Nigella’s method and my method are identical.  You can see her method here, where I also happened to borrow her ingredient list.

Here’s where Nigella and I differ.  She wants you to use whipped cream to garnish this thing.  Hey, that’s fine; I’m not going to stop you.  But that’s not what I do.  Before I tell you, here was my thought process:  I wanted to play up the roasty-caramelly flavor of the stout–not contrast it with sweet and creamy.  I wanted something to underscore it, to reinforce the caramel, to take it from stout cake to Stout Cake! Enter, my burnt caramel buttercream.  Making this buttercream is a Dangerous Enterprise, but it is highly worth it.  This icing is well worth a couple of sugar burns.  Not that I want you to burn yourselves, of course!  I just want you to understand how much you Need to make this frosting and put it on your stout cake, or any stout cake.  Or apple cake, for that matter.  Here it is.

Crazy Good Burnt Caramel Buttercream
This recipe makes a lot.  It scales easily, though.  Plus, you can refrigerate it for a week or two or freeze it for a few months.

  • 1 pound egg yolks
  • 21 oz. sugar
  • 23 oz. corn syrup
  • 4 pounds butter
  • salt, to taste (make sure you use enough.  Add a bit at a time, tasting as you go)
  • coffee extract to taste (this just helps underscore the caramel–add as much or as little as you want.  You can leave it out, too)

This recipe involves many Balls in the Air.  You have to caramelize sugar, bring corn syrup to a rolling boil and whip yolks simultaneously.  Maybe you should make it with a friend.

Place yolks and some salt in your mixer bowl fitted with the whip attachment.

Bring corn syrup to a full rolling boil, and then slowly stream it into your beating yolks.  Try to keep it off the whisk so it ends up in the icing, not on the sides of your bowl.

Heat sugar and about 1/2 cup of water to a boil, stirring to dissolve all the sugar.  Bring it up to a boil, slap on the lid and let the steam wash any sugar crystals off the side of the pan.  Remove the lid and turn the heat to high.  Once the sugar starts to color, you can swirl the pan to keep the color even.  When the sugar is very light amber, turn the heat down to medium.  At this point, you can stir the caramel with a wooden spoon (most of the crystals have broken down sufficiently that they won’t recrystallize).  Take the sugar to a dark caramel.  It will start to smoke a little and your eyes will sting. That’s how you know it’s done.  Take the pan off the stove and briefly dunk the pan into ice water.  This should cool thinks off enough to keep your sugar from continuing to cook while you’re doing the next step.

Once you’ve dunked your pan, slowly pour the caramel into the still-beating yolk/corn syrup mixture, again trying not to sling it all over the sides of your pan.  Whip until cool.

Add in the cool butter, a bit at a time, and then add a splash or two of coffee extract, if using.

This is not kid frosting.  It is a bit bitter and mysterious.  As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t necessarily want to eat this off of a spoon, although it is very good.  This icing shines when eaten as part of the cake.  If you want to make this a more kid friendly icing (or if you’re not into very dark caramel) feel free to stop the caramelization a little bit earlier.  The lighter the sugar, the sweeter the icing, but the less complex the flavor will be.

So, Niko, whether you knew it or not, your question forced me to share the stout cake recipe.  I’m glad it did, too, because I really should have shared it long before now.

PS  Yes, they make very good cupcakes, too.

PPS  You’re welcome.

Sunday Suppers: Chicken and Dumplin’s

29 Mar
The lone photo.  I'm sorry I am such a terrible Chronicler of The Feast.

The lone photo. I'm sorry I am such a terrible Chronicler of The Feast.

Before we get started:  In this case, the apostrophe takes the place of the g in dumpling.  Please do not think I don’t know the difference between a plural and a possessive, because I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight.  Thank you.

So, yesterday, we again made the trek down to Pinehurst to visit with Auntie Ev, Uncle Ray and Auntie ‘Leenie.  As we often do, we took a lunch for us all to enjoy.  I asked Uncle Ray what they would like, and he said salami sandwiches.  Let me just say that Uncle Ray is taking some serious diuretics right now, and even I, the Salt Queen, couldn’t agree to that.   It wouldn’t do to be taking coals to Newcastle, giving the cobbler’s child shoes or giving more salt to Mr. Water Retention.  And if I haven’t told you, he’ll be 93 in October.

The Beloved and I went to the store, saw some lovely organic, free range chicken and some frozen (the horror!) dumplings with all natural ingredients–no hydrogenated fats; no HFCS (of course I checked the label).  Add some broth to make it double-chickeny and some vegetables because they don’t eat enough of them, and chicken and dumplings avec veggies it was.

We took our bounty with us, and all were very Pleased with the meal.  Of course, since I’m me, I forgot to take pictures of The Making of the Meal.  I figured that I’d just take my camera and take pictures in Pinehurst like I did on Chicken Noodle Soup Day.  I took the camera and didn’t take any pictures.  The only picture I have is from our twice-reheated early supper today.  (Sorry)  We rounded out our meal with some whole grain bread and goat cheese.  And wine, from North Georgia, of course.

Underdocumented Chicken and Dumplin’s

  • one whole chicken
  • a box of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, cut up
  • 2 stalks celery, cut up
  • 2 carrots, chopped (I thought “cut up” would be redundant)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • about 15 peppercorns
  • Old Bay, to taste  (I just can’t get enough)
  • a judicious amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 20 frozen dumplings, the flat noodle kind that look like mini-lasagne noodles
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed organic veggies from TJ’s
  • 6 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup half and half or cream (optional)
  • cornstarch slurry
  • lemon juice

First, I put the chicken in a pot with the chicken broth and cut up vegetables, garlic, thyme and enough water to barely cover.  I threw in the peppercorns and about a teaspoon of salt, as well.

I simmered the chicken until his skin was softened and some of the fat had rendered into the broth.  Then, I pulled out the chicken, deprived him of his skin (thanking said chicken for helping to make a lovely meal for the relatives) and then placed him, skinless, back into the pot.

I let him simmer for another 45 minutes or so then removed him again and let him cool just slightly.

While he was cooling off some, I skimmed the fat off the stock and strained it into another pot, bringing it to a boil.   I added some Old Bay, because I like it.  Then, I tossed in the dumplings and simmered them on low-ish heat until they were done, about 30 minutes.  I also added the mushrooms and frozen veggies.  While everyone was cooking, I sliced all the meat off of the chicken carcass, freezing him for stock another day.

Once the dumplings were cooked, I added a few splashes of half and half–not a lot.  I tasted and corrected seasonings, leaving it somewhat under-salted.

Then, I added in the cut up chicken and thickened the whole thing up quite a bit with a cornstarch slurry.  I brightened up the flavors at the end with some lemon juice (to wake it up and to make up for the Lack of Salt).

And that’s how that went.  I must say, it reheated beautifully, although the dumplings tended to lose their Attractive Long Rectangular Shape in the process.  If I were making this just for ourselves, I would have increased the salt and the dairy and left out the veggies.  Then, I would have served it with a side of veggies.  The way I did it this time seemed the path of least resistance to get Uncle Ray to eat carrots, though, and he didn’t even complain!

Of course, you could certainly make your own dumplings–the biscuit kind or the noodle kind.

This brings me to a story.  Please don’t roll your eyes; you’ll enjoy it.  It is a funny yet Cautionary Tale.  About 20 years ago, an old boyfriend and I decided to make chicken and dumplings.  We were unaware of the whole “simmer” concept, so after boiling for 30 minutes, our lovely homemade noodle dumplings had completely disintegrated and joined Team Broth.  Traitor Dumplings.  We looked in there, didn’t see any dumplings, looked at each other in horror and were all “Where the hell did they GO?!”  Ah, youth.  We ended up eating Chicken a la King from a can.

The good news is that a)I can warn you of the Perils of Boiling Dumplings and b)we wrote a country song to commemorate our Sad Experience.  Here is the chorus:

Dumplin’s, oh dumplin’s!  Oh why did you depart?
Why did you leave us standin’ here by the stove with a broken heart?
Oh, we followed the directions and did just what they said,
But when we checked the dumplin’s, we found that they had fled!

I can’t remember the rest, but I do remember the last line:

“So we opened up the cupboard…..and made Chicken a la King!”

Catchy, n’est-ce pas?!  I hope that you learn from our Dumplin’ Disaster.  Enjoy, all!

Now I’m Going to Tell You About Our Weekend

27 Mar
The most excellent Cedar House Inn & Yurts.

The most excellent Cedar House Inn & Yurts.

Not this weekend.  Last weekend.  The Beloved and I went to Dahlonega, GA to stay at Cedar House Inn & Yurts.  “Dah-where?!” you ask?  Dah-LOH-neh-guh is in the Georgia mountains.  And yes, there are mountains there.  Not craggy Rockies-type mountains, but the age-softened rises of The Appalachians.   Anyway, we first stumbled across Cedar House when we decided to take a long weekend trip from The Bad Place (Orlando) to Somewhere with Mountains.  I love the mountains, and Florida, oddly enough, doesn’t have any.

From Orlando, the drive was about 9 hours, but it was worth every second in the car.  There are wineries in the Georgia Hills!  Some are good, some are not so good, and a couple make wines that even a wine snob would enjoy.  But the cool thing is, they’re all doing it.  They had a weird dream to have a winery in the Georgia mountains and make the best wine they could.  So they did.  Lots of the wineries are beautiful, and they are popular Hitching Posts (places to get married.  I just made up the Hitching Post thing.  Sorry).

Since that first trip, we’ve been back two more times.  We’ve yet to stay in one of the yurts, but we probably will on our next visit.  Now, normally, The Beloved and I don’t visit the same place twice.  Our philosophy is that there is so much to See and Do that we need to try and maximize our exposure rather than going to the same place over and over again.  So, why the exception?  It’s the Inn, really.  Yes, surprisingly there are enough things to do in the area that we haven’t had to repeat activities (except for the wineries), but we love it at Cedar House.  They are all about eco-friendly lodging and sustainability in general.  It’s an impressive place.  Even if you never intend to go, to stop by their site and see what they are doing–it’s very progressive, and we love being a part of that.

Fun fact about Dahlonega.  There used to be a US Mint minting gold coins in Dahlonega.  Those of you who are numismatists already know that.  I know it because my brother was One and he and the other guy at the coin shop were always excited when they got a coin with the Dahlonega mint mark.  Right smack in the middle of town is the Dahlonega Gold Museum.  Pretty keen place.  We went there on our first visit.

Okay, now you have to look at pictures.  I took them for you.

I couldn't fix this; it was behind glass.

I couldn't fix this; it was behind glass.

So that picture was from Downtown Dahlonega.  The Beloved thought I was mean to take the picture, but I couldn’t not take it.  At least I didn’t let you know the name of the store.  Oh, the shame!  This was on Friday afternoon.  Saturday was Winery Day.  It was the Georgia Wine Weekend, and every place was jam packed with folks.  I hope the wineries made a lot of money, ’cause it was a good deal.  Buy your glass for $20, and then have free tastings at All the wineries you could get to in a weekend.  And there are a lot of wineries on the Georgia Wine Highway.

The newest winery, Montaluce.  It's so new it can't actually make wine, yet, but they have a restaurant and such.  Beautiful place, if a wee bit pretentious.  Montaluce?  Seriously?!

The newest winery, Montaluce. It's so new it can't actually make wine, yet, but they have a restaurant and such. Beautiful place, if a bit pretentious. Montaluce?! Seriously, y'all.

Lovely water garden outside of Frogtown Winery.  They had koi and everything.

Lovely water garden outside of Frogtown Winery. They had koi and everything.

Frogtown Winery is a very cool place.

Frogtown Winery is a very cool place.

See?  Grape vines!  Not all leafy and beautiful, yet, but still.  Grape vines!  In Georgia!

See? Grape vines! Not all leafy and beautiful, yet, but still. Grape vines! In Georgia!

We went to a couple other wineries, too, but we didn’t take pictures.  I’m sorry.  Our favorite, and the one we think is the most beautiful is Wolf Mountain Vineyards.  They’ve been in operation over ten years, and they produce a couple of wines that we really like.

Sunday was Nature Day.  It was also Up Day.  In the mountains, one frequently has to walk upUp and I are Not Friends.  I sweated and whined a little, I admit, but overall it was a good day and Nobody Got Hurt, much.

The Beloved likes to take pictures of signs.  Here is an informative one for you to read.  We hiked to the top, not from the very bottom, but still.  I sweated.  "Up" is unavoidable when you're going to the highest point in a state.

The Beloved likes to take pictures of signs. Here is an informative one for you to read. We hiked to the top, not from the very bottom, but still. I sweated. "Up" is unavoidable when you're going to the highest point in a state.

So, I have to tell you a little about the Hike to the Top.  It was just over half a mile.  How hard could it be, right?  It was like climbing a ladder without being able to hold on.  A half-mile long ladder, leaning against a building to which it was Very Close.  It was the uppest up hike ever.  My lungs actually Jumped Out of My Body at one point, and I had to stop and shove them back down.  And then, another time, my heart actually Spoke to me and said, “I was not made for this, you jackass.”  My heart is very surly.  I am pathetic, but there you have it.  At least I made it to the top, all organs intact.

Once I clambered my way to the top, I was rewarded with this view from the Observation Tower.

Once I clambered my way to the top, I was rewarded with this view from the Observation Tower.

I could look around and enjoy the stroll down, after the Bataan Death March up.  We saw a lot of these guys.  We have them in NC, too, and I think they're lovely.

, After the Bataan Death March up, I could look around and enjoy the steep stroll down. We saw a lot of these guys. We have them in NC, too, and I think they're lovely.

We also saw Wildlife.  Nothing big or dangerous–no mountain lions, no Clemson Tigers, no wolves from Wolf Mountain.  We did happen upon some little gray guys burrowing around in the leaves at the side of the trail.  Maybe they were moles, but they didn’t really look like the moles I have seen.  And there have been many.  The Beloved has read The Wind in the Willows to me.  They didn’t have those paddle-like paws, and I could see their cute-but-beady little eyes.  We thought that maybe they were mice, but they didn’t have long tails.  We decided that they were Wild Gerbils.  Here is a picture.  For Proof of our Discovery.

Some sort of feral gerbil.  Perhaps we have discovered a new species.

Some sort of feral gerbil. Perhaps we have discovered a new species.

Since I only get exercise um, infrequently, The Beloved suggested that the Bataan Death March was Insufficient Outdoor Activity for one day, so off we went to find some more Nature.  We ended up at Vogel State Park.  It was quite nice, and the hike around the lake was flat, so that was good.  Incidentally, Vogel has a bunch of cottages folks can rent and spend a week or two or three.  And there’s a miniature golf course, made out of Astroturf and concrete curbing.  For in case you get bored with all the nature.

Beautiful lake + flat trail = happy me.

Beautiful lake + flat trail = happy me.

Look what happened near here in 2005.  Very sad, but how cool of the family to put up a marker thanking the people who helped.

Look what happened near here in 2005. Very sad, but how cool of the family to put up a marker thanking the people who helped.

Below the lake, the water runs white.  They built an observation deck over the falls.  Very cool.  And damp.

Below the lake, the water runs white. They built an observation deck over the falls. Very cool. And damp. People wrote on the railing. People sometimes suck a little.

Thank you, unknown upside down writing person for letting us know this.  I can now sleep soundly at night.

Thank you, unknown upside down sucky writing person for letting us know this. I can now sleep soundly at night.

And, just so you know that I was really there for all of this, here are a couple pictures of Our Actual Selves in Nature.

On the observation deck over the falls.  "I like cheese snacks" lurks right behind me.  In this picture, I have yet to discover this fact.

On the observation deck over the falls. "I like cheese snacks" lurks right behind me. In this picture, I have yet to discover this fact.

Nice people took our picture.

Nice people took our picture.

So, that concludes the slide show.  Chris, catch the lights, please, on your way out.  Thanks.

Dymystifying Mona

26 Mar
We have ways of making you talk, Mona.

We have ways of making you talk, Mona.

Thanks to Niko from Damn Cute Bunnies (I love that) for sending in her particular Mona Lisa, Double Chocolate Layer Cake.  Apparently, some have claimed it to be the Best Cake in the Hinternet.  Not that she’s mystified necessarily, but she wants to know if this will turn out to be a good cake–if it is balanced and all the ratios are correct and all the other Cakey Scientific things.

Well, I am quite a fan of Cake, so I thought I would Go the Distance and check out this Storied Gateau.  I won’t print the recipe here, mainly because the link is up there.  See it?  I clicked on the link Niko sent and printed the recipe off, the better to Look at it.  And we’re off.  First, I’m gonna split up the ingredients this way (the ingredients in parentheses don’t really count for this part, since their measurements are so small):

  1. Liquids=1 1/2 cups coffee + 1 1/2 cups buttermilk + (3/4 tsp vanilla) + 3 egg whites
  2. Dry=3 cups sugar (sometimes sugar is considered a liquid, but not in the mixing method this cake prescribes) + 1 1/2 cups unsweetened, not Dutch process cocoa powder + chocolate liquor from the 3 oz. of chocolate + 2 1/2 cups flour + (2 tsp baking soda) + (3/4 tsp baking powder) + (1 1/4 tsp. salt)
  3. Fat=3/4 cups vegetable oil + 3 egg yolks + cocoa butter in the 3 oz. of chocolate
  4. Chocolate (dry + fat)= 3 oz. semisweet

My first thought when I looked at the leavening was, “Whoa, 2 teaspoons of baking soda?!”  Friends, in a “normal” cake, it takes 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to leaven 1 cup of flour.  Baking soda is Powerful.  Since I don’t see 8 cups of flour, and even when I add in the 1 1/2 cups of cocoa powder I only get 4 cups, there has to be another reason for that much soda.  There is.  Baking soda is a base–it’s probably one of the most basic ingredients in your kitchen, unless you have some lye ly(e)ing around.  It has a pH of about 9 (7 is neutral, if you are far away from your chemistry class in space and/or time and/or care).  And look at all those acidic ingredients:  coffee, chocolate, buttermilk and non-Dutch processed (non-alkalyzed) cocoa powder!  Heavens.  So, the extra 1 teaspoon of soda is basically in there to neutralize the acidity of all of those ingredients, bringing everything nicely more-or-less in balance again.  Then, the baking powder does its leavening thing, but not by much–there’s only 3/4 teaspoon, and baking powder is generally used 1 tsp to 1 cup of flour.  In this cake, the soda is definitely doing most of the leavening work.  By the way, slightly acidic batters will set more quickly, so trying to substitute Dutch process cocoa (neutral pH) for the regular (acidic) will only result in a cake pan of hot pudding and despair.  Unless you want to eat your cake with a spoon.  Which probably wouldn’t suck, unless you wanted to actually slice it.

Now, I’m going to split them up between tougheners/driers and tenderizers/moisteners.  Watch this:

  • Tougheners/Driers=2 1/2 cups flour + 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder + 3 egg whites + chocolate liquor in the 3 oz. of chocolate
  • Tenderizers/Moisteners=1 1/2 cups coffee + 3 cups sugar + 3 egg yolks + 3/4 cups vegetable oil + 1 1/2 cups buttermilk + cocoa butter in the 3 oz. of chocolate

If you take a look at the two types of ingredients, you’ll see that there are waaay more tenderizers than there are tougheners.  So, right away you know that this is going to be an ooey, gooey cake.  Since it is decidedly heavier on the tenderizers, it is not technically “in balance.”  Think of traditional pound cake as truly balanced:  one pound each of flour, sugar, eggs and butter.  Most of us haven’t really had a traditional pound cake.  Neither have I, but Shirley tells me that they aren’t very sweet and are kind of dry with a very tight crumb.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want even a pretender to the throne of the Best Cake in the Hinternet to fit that description.  I’m all for moist and sweet when it comes to chocolate cake.

So, after I split up the ingredients and Looked at them, I broke down the mixing method.  I Distilled it.  Here it is:

Step Zero:  Combine hot coffee and chocolate.  Stir until smooth. Roger that.

  1. Whisk dry ingredients, including sugar together. This sounds like the start of the two-stage method.  Let’s see what comes next.
  2. Whip eggs until pale and light. This is kind of like the egg foam method.  What is going on?
  3. Slowly add all the wet ingredients, including the coffee mixture, to the eggs.  Beat well to combine. Huh.  My first thought was, “Why am I taking the trouble to whip the three eggs when I’m just going to be deflating them by pouring in almost 4 cups of liquid?” Maybe the answer is “because they told me to,” but that is an answer that will just keep us in the Dark.
  4. Beat in the dry ingredients, including the sugar. Wow, that’s 7-ish cups of stuff to beat in.
  5. Bake at 300F for an hour or so until done. Low oven=gentle heat.  Maybe because this cake is baked in 10″ pans the heat is lower so the outside doesn’t get hard and crusty/burny before the insides have had a chance to set.

So, what they want you to do is whip the eggs, slowly add in all the liquid and then add in the dry ingredients.  Pretty much it’s just three steps.  Honestly, the only reason I can think of that they’d do it this way is to distribute the emulsifiers (lecithin) in the egg evenly.  Since they want us to add liquid next, perhaps even distribution of the lecithin helps to maintain an emulsion when you add in all that liquid.  It’s a thought, but I don’t really know the answer.

Let’s go with the emulsion theory; I rather like it–but if anyone would like to put forth an Alternate Reason, please do so.  Once we have our emulsion of liquidy/fatty items, we’ll beat in the dry ingredients until well combined.  In a weird sort of way, this is like the Muffin Method, but with more mixing of the dry ingredients.  Interesting.  But does that mean we can’t use a different method?  Probably not.

Creaming Method

Step Zero from above

  • cream oil and sugar (it won’t get light and fluffy because the oil isn’t plastic)
  • whisk all dry together
  • whisk all wet together
  • alternate, beginning and ending with dry

Two-Stage Method

Step Zero from above

  • whisk all dry, including sugar, together really, really well.
  • whisk together oil, eggs and chocolate mixture.  Beat into dry for 2 minutes or so.
  • add the buttermilk in 3 additions, mixing for about 20 seconds between each addition

If I have left you confused by all of this blithering, just know that you can apply 3 different mixing methods to the same list of ingredients.  The method you choose depends on the results you’re looking for.  I am hoping that that is a liberating Thing to Know.  I’d go with the creaming method for a sturdier cake (more gluten formation because the flour isn’t coated with the fat at the beginning), the two-stage method for a more tender cake (dry ingredients get coated with the oil at the beginning, limiting gluten production) or the hybrid muffin method that came with the recipe to achieve, and I quote, “…[a] chocolate cake [that] made our staff swoon!”–Epicurious

I’m tired now.  I apologize to those of you whose eyes crossed halfway through.  I apologize to those of you who wanted more complete science.  And to those of you who are beaming right now, you’re welcome.

PS If anyone would like me to break down their own Mona Lisa, keep those cards and letters coming.

The Tyranny of the Recipe

25 Mar
She's hiding something, she is.

She's hiding something, she is.

How many times have you heard yourself say, “I need to find a recipe for (fill in the blank).” There should be a question mark in there somewhere, but I don’t know where to put it.  Alas.  Remember waaay back when we talked about the Road to Automaticity?  I think that, when we say “I need to find a recipe for…” we have pretty much just started out on our journey.  A recipe is safe.  It provides us with structure:  lists of interesting ingredients, cooking times, temperature settings, Rules for Success and a description of the End Product.  That’s all well and good, but recipes maintain a Suspicious Silence when it comes to teaching us how to cook.

What a recipe really is is a marriage of an ingredient list to a set of techniques and procedures.  Except, recipes don’t tell us that.  No, they just smile a mysterious, small smile.  They don’t allow us to generalize, or rather they hope we’ll generalize on our own, even though we are sometimes Nervous in the kitchen.  And nervous folks don’t generalize very well.

Go look at your favorite cookbook right now.  Look at the section on cakes.  The ingredient lists change at least a little for every cake, sometimes more and sometimes less.  There might be some cocoa powder in one or maybe some spices and diced fruit in one.  Maybe the fat is butter; maybe it’s shortening or even oil.  Maybe one is made with 3 eggs, one with 4 eggs and one with nothing but whites.  Maybe the liquid is water or whole milk or sour cream.  If you look past all the minor differences, though, almost all will contain the Basic Four:  flour, fat, sugar and eggs.

Now, look at the procedure section of the recipes.  Repetitious, repetitious, repetitious.  I bet that most of them start in one of two ways:  1)”Cream together fat and sugar until light and fluffy.” or 2)”Combine dry ingredients, including sugar, softened butter, eggs and 1/4 of the milk and beat for two minutes.”  You might have a couple in there that start with “Whip egg whites and sugar to medium-stiff peaks.” Rather than taking the time to teach you the mixing methods at the beginning of the book, the cookbook author has chosen to repeat the same instructions with every single cake.  Granted, this is partly a product of our busy lifestyle.  It is kind of nice to have the rules printed up right underneath the ingredient list, and I know many people who wouldn’t buy a cookbook that wasn’t set up like that.

But friends, the time for change has come.  How great would it be to learn the mixing methods and then just apply them to ingredient lists?  This applies to “hot side” cooking as well.  Do we really need cookbooks dedicated to pizza?  Aren’t we creative enough to come up with cool combinations of toppings?  If we know how to make a basic dough (or can buy some from the local pizza joint), and we know how to make a sauce, and we know how to grate cheese and Place Toppings Attractively, isn’t that really all we need to know?

Here’s another thing that makes me just a little crazy.  The folks who have gotten past the “I need to find a recipe for (fill in the blank)” generally move to this step:  “I have x,y and z in the fridge.  What can I make with them?”  That’s wonderful, but then where do they end up?  At a recipe search site, looking for recipes that contain said ingredients x,z and z.  Once they have the recipe in hand, they’re catapulted back to being dependent upon the recipe.  And it just smiles its little smile, because it just knew that they’d be back.

I contend that, if you pay close attention to the procedure sections of recipes, you’ll start to see patterns of preparation.  For example, if the first four ingredients on your ingredient list are carrots, onions, celery and oil, it’s a safe bet that in Step 1 of the procedure section, you’ll be dicing up the veggies, 2 parts onion to 1 part each of carrot and celery and sauteing them up in the oil.

I think it’s possible to move beyond “I need to find a recipe,” and “Can I find a recipe that uses these items?” and on to “Oooh, I have x, y and z in the fridge.  I know the technique(s) necessary to make them into dinner!”  It’s not necessarily an easy leap, especially with FN and others droning on about where you can find the recipe for this, that or the other.  But it is a leap that you can make; it’s one that I made, partly because I was forced to by my job.  Let me tell you that after a brief period of discomfiture, just breaking down and learning the techniques was ultimately liberating.

Next time you come across a really great sounding recipe, you’ll know why it’s smiling a Mona Lisa Smile–it’s hiding something from you.  Don’t throw it away in disgust, though.  Study it and make it give up its secrets.  It might take you an extra few minutes, but you will come away understanding the techniques and procedures used in creating that dish and can now generalize it to other lists of ingredients.

So, a challenge to you all:  go out into the Hinternet and find a fancy-schmancy recipe, one that seems confounding but tasty.  Send me the link, and I’ll break it down for you, live on the air tomorrow.  If I don’t get any takers, I’ll go out and find my own Mona Lisa and interrogate her.

Acid: The Barbara Hershey of Ingredients

24 Mar
Citrus, today is your day

Citrus, today is your day

So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name — for so long,
a beautiful smile to hide the pain.–Bette Midler

I’m sorry, acid.  I’ve let pushy Bette Midler, salt, steal all of the glory, lo these many years.  I know you are important.  You have about you a quiet strength, the strength that allows you to go on without a husband, raising a young daughter all alone.  The strength to look her in the eye and calmly say with a smile, “Mommy has a virus in her heart.”  Salt could never do that.  Salt would have a Fit of Histrionics that would scar the child for life.  I realize it’s time to let you have your day in the sun.  You know, before the virus kills you and salt raises your daughter.

One of the prime directives of fine dining cooking is balance–they try to balance salt against sweet, fatty and unctuous against sharp and biting, earthy against bright.  I’ve been to many restaurants that miss it by that much.  Often, just taking a couple of extra steps in preparation can mean the difference between good and truly great food.

While I rarely cook in fine dining mode at home, there are some principles to which I adhere (unless I’m feeling lazy, I admit).  One of these is using a combination of salt and acid to bring flavors into balance and make them pop. There are some things that salt just can’t fix all by itself (sorry, pushy Bette, but it’s true)–there’s a certain “muddiness” of flavor that you can get, especially in dishes that are cooked for a relatively long period of time.  Salt can take you to a certain point, neutralizing some bitterness and generally making the flavor more complex, but acid is often what is needed to un-muddy things and brighten a dish.  Have you ever tasted plain mashed avocado?  Kind of boring and maybe a little soapy.  Add some salt, and it gets better, but add some lime juice too, and you’re well on your way to making the Perfect Guacamole.

One of the best examples of the way salt and acid works together is in the case of sorbets (or their hot cousins, fruit sauces).  Heat some fruit in simple syrup and you get sweet, hot fruit.  There’s nothing wrong with that–you have a great base for a fruit sauce to pour over pancakes or to dress a plate.  But, take an extra 7 seconds and add a pinch of salt.  Now taste.  See?  It’s fruitier and somehow sweeter–the salt gets rid of any bitterness.  You’re almost there.  Actually, you could serve it now, and people would be Impressed.  Salt would love it if you stopped there, but, take another 4 seconds and squeeze a little fresh lime juice, lemon juice or even a tiny bit of vinegar into your sauce. (Be judicious with the third option–if you use too much, your sauce will sail past balance and right into sour).  Taste it now, and your sauce will sparkle.  I’m serious.

Some Ideas

The “base” for all of these is fruit heated in simple syrup.

  • Strawberry base + salt + balsamic
  • Raspberry base + salt + lime juice
  • Blueberry base + salt + lemon juice
  • Cherry base + salt + lemon juice
  • Pomegranate base + salt + white balsamic

You don’t even have to cook it

Macerate (fancy term for “soak”) the uncooked base with a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of acid.  This is a great idea for a fruit salad–just use mixed fruit.

Try adding herbs and spices

Folks sometimes get squidgy about pairing herbs with fruit, but why not add some minced or chiffonade (wee, thin ribbons) mint, lemon verbena or even basil to your stewed or macerated fruit.  It’s easy and tasty, and people will think you are Gifted.  As far as spices, there’s no reason not to add a wee hint of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg or clove.  The key is “wee hint.”  It doesn’t take much.  Also consider adding a bit of lemon or orange zest.  The possibilities are endless.

So, again, let me apologize to acid, who has stood quietly to the side while salt got all the glory.  But acid is the wind beneath salt’s wings.  Take that, Beaches.

Sunday Suppers (Monday Edition): Lamby Goodness

23 Mar

I think that it has been well established that I am not a planner.  So, when The Beloved and I decided that lamb would be in order for St. Patrick’s Day, I didn’t really expect that we would actually consume it on St. Patrick’s Day.  Rather, I thought about making it on St. Patrick’s Day, made it on Wednesday and then ate it on Thursday.  Then, we had to freeze a whole bunch of it because we went out of town.  And that is why Sunday Suppers is on Monday this week:  we were in the mountains of north Georgia, enjoying a High Time at our favorite bed and breakfast, Cedar House Inn & Yurts, an eco-friendly, ovo/lacto vegetarian menu Keen Place to Stay.  You can follow them on Twitter, if you want.  Very cool people.  The Beloved and I eat meat, but we really support what Fred and Mary Beth are doing to reduce/reuse/recycle and in general minimize their carbon footprint while running a great B&B.

At any rate, back to the Lamby Goodness.  We had always envisioned a sort of shepherd’s pie type deal, and this was my take on it.  Next time I make it, I’ll probably do it differently, but if you’re interested, this is how it went down this particular time.

Lamby Goodness Shepherd\’s Pie

  • a TJ\s boneless marinated leg of lamb (that’s what they had)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • some Italian seasoning (I didn’t have any Irish seasoning lying about.  Sorry).
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups beef stock that I had previously used to braise some tri-tip for chili.  It had been in the freezer for a week or two
  • 1/3 bottle cheap red wine (I used Two Buck Chuck from TJ’s, purchased expressly for this purpose)
  • cornstarch slurry (made with water)
  • 4 Russet baking potatoes
  • lots of butter
  • half and half and some milk (because I felt guilty about using straight half and half)

First, I browned the meat in some olive oil.

I think I did it in three or four batches.

I think I did it in three or four batches.

Then, I sauteed the onion, celery and shallot with a bit of salt and pepper and Italian seasoning.

It's very steamy in there.

It's very steamy in there.

I threw the lamb back in, along with the wine and the stock.

Next up, the braising.

Next up, the braising.

I covered the whole deal with foil and braised in the oven at 275 degrees for about 2-2 1/2 hours.

I covered it with foil because my Dutch oven has a glass lid with a gasket.  I don't trust that gasket in the oven.

I covered it with foil because my Dutch oven has a glass lid with a gasket. I don't trust that gasket in the oven.

And this is what it looked like after braising.  It smelled Wonderful.

I skimmed off a lot of the fat (but not all of it).

I skimmed off a lot of the fat (but not all of it).

See–easy!  Hardly any work at all.  I wanted to thicken it up, so I added the cornstarch slurry (probably a total of 3 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in some water.  I let it boil to cook off the raw starch taste.  Look how thick and lovely:

See?

See?

I tasted and adjusted the seasonings.  I think it needed a bit more pepper.  Then, it was on to the potatoes.  I peeled mine, cut them up, boiled them in salted water until tender and then drained them.  I let them sit, covered for a few minutes to dry out and then mashed them with salt and pepper.

I like very smooth mashed potatoes, so mashing them with just the seasonings helps make sure that I get out the lumps before adding liquid.

I like very smooth mashed potatoes, so mashing them with just the seasonings helps make sure that I get out the lumps before adding liquid.

Then, I mashed them again with the Very Lot of butter I put in.  Last, I added my half and half (and then milk when even I couldn’t take it anymore) and mashed them some more.  Here’s what they looked like when they were done:

Creamy, smooth, buttery, rich and lovely.  Everything I think mashed potatoes should be.

Creamy, smooth, buttery, rich and lovely. Everything I think mashed potatoes should be.

Then, everything went in the casserole dish.  First, the lamby goodness:

Steamy and wonderful

Steamy and wonderful

And then, the potatoes.  I just dropped them on top by big old spoonfuls.

The almost-finished product

The almost-finished product

I refrigerated the guy at this point (after letting him cool on the counter for awhile).  The next day, I let him sit out for about half an hour and then threw him in the oven at 350F until his center was at 160F.  Then, I turned on the broiler for a few minutes.  This is what I ended up with:

Hello, lovely shepherd's pie.

Hello, lovely shepherd's pie.

Now, I could have served the lamb stew over the potatoes the day before, or I could have served them over noodles.  Or, I could have smeared a thick layer of potatoes in the bottom of the casserole, browned it and then added the stew.  There were lots of ways I could have gone:  adding more veggies, more spices, piping the potatoes.  But, I didn’t do any of those things.  You can, if you want–like most everything I make and share, I want you to focus on the technique, not the “recipe.”  This was a braise that I thickened and topped with mashed potatoes.  Take the idea and run with it.  By the way, this meal was Seriously Good.  Seriously.

PS  In the future, if I run out of time, I’ll refrigerate the stew alone and mash the potatoes the next day, top the lamb and then bake the whole thing.  I’m really not a fan of refrigerated-then-reheated mashed potatoes.  I don’t know what I was thinking–it all comes from lack of planning.  It was still good, though.  Really.

PPS  Glad to be back!

I Must Digress for a Grammar Rant

19 Mar
G2 commercial, I hate you with the burning passion of a thousand suns.

G2 commercial, I hate you with the burning passion of a thousand suns.

Okay, I’ve tried to hold this in.  Partly because I don’t want all of you to leave here whispering “oooo, she’s Crazy” as you leave, and partly because if I post some random rant about a Thing that Makes Me Mad, I will have another Mrs. Paul’s Incident on my hands.  I post about that awful commercial, and all of a sudden, folks are finding me by searching for “you feed me minced?” “Mrs. Paul’s whole filet commercial” and “little girl minced fish.”  And guess who these people are?  They are people who like the commercial!  So then they want to yell at me because they just came to “ooh” and “ah” over Little Miss Minced Fish and somehow I forced them to read my post. Deep breaths.

Well, I cannot hold it in.  Before I Unleash my Wrath, I need to tell you two things about myself.  Thing One:  I ran for class secretary in the 5th grade.  I stayed up late making campaign buttons with the Catchy Campaign Slogan “Vote for me.  I can spell.”  Because, seriously, shouldn’t Good Spelling Skills be at the top of the list of Secretarial Job Requirements?  I lost.  My own campaign manager voted for Jennifer Jones.  Who, incidentally, is one of my facebook friends.  Thing Two:  I laughed out loud when I read Eats Shoots and Leaves.  I laughed A Very Lot.  I laughed until my face hurt.  (Yes, I know, it’s killing you.  You’re hilarious.  Can we move on, please)?  If you do not know of this book, it is a hilarious Treatise on Proper Grammar.  And in my world, those two things go together quite nicely.  If you want to fix Inappropriate Apostrophes wherever you see them, then this book is for you.  I read it in bed, and every 7 seconds, I would howl with laughter and force The Beloved to listen to me gasp my way through a hilarious passage.  He was underwhelmed.  He would say things like, “That’s amusing, but I’m trying to read.  It’s just not that funny.”  God love him, he means well.

Now that you know where I’m coming from, I can tell you of my outrage over the new G2 tagline.  Here’s a link to The Commercial In Question, kindly provided by groovyoldlady.  I saw the commercial twice during Bones (no apostrophe).  Some basketball guy and some regular guy in a pool, each striving to be the best that they can be in their own way.  Each one, apparently, drinking G2.  Even the swimmer who got the pink slip and can’t pay the mortgage.  You know, because G2 is free and all.  Anyway, the tagline is “Less Calories for More Athletes.”  I heard this, and my head snapped up like I’d been hooked on a line.  “Seriously?!”  I yelled (sort of) at the television.  “What’s the matter, oh Beloved” calls The Beloved.  “The G2 people suck!  They said less calories.  It’s fewer calories.  Fewer!”  He stopped listening at that point, because he knows How I Get.

If you don’t know the rule, here it is.  You’re welcome.  If you can count it, it’s fewer.  If you can’t, it’s less.  Some examples, students:  Fewer M&Ms.  Less candy.  Fewer pennies.  Less money.  Fewer IQ points.  Less intelligence.  Fewer calories.  Less sugar.  Great taste.  Less filling.  Oh, sorry…

And that’s really all I have to say.  I tried to find the Offending Commercial on YouTube so you could see and share in the Outrage, but it wasn’t there.  It probably will be there tomorrow.  But I won’t be.  The Beloved and I (and my Sharpie, for correcting comma and apostrophe errors on signs at gas stations and Local Eateries) are going away for the weekend, so my outrage will have to endure over the next few days.  Sunday Suppers will probably be Monday suppers, but it’s a good one.  We had it tonight, which makes it a Wednesday Supper.  Whatever.  You’ll like it.

Remember your grammatical rules, children.  And listen to me; I know what I’m talking about.  I can spell.

Puff Lite: Rough Puff

19 Mar
Eeeek!  Puff Pastry!  Run Away!

Eeeek! Puff Pastry! Run Away!

Alright, folks.  I typed and typed until my fingertips tingled regarding the minutiae of making puff pastry, and what do I get?  Fear and loathing in the Hinternets.  Well, I’d like to think maybe not loathing, but the fear was definitely still there.  One comment actually contained the F word!  I’m not sure what it is about puff that ruffles feathers.  After all, probably some medieval cook made it as an experiment (I have no idea–I’m just making stuff up here), or maybe they forgot to put the fat in the dough and then rolled it in later.  They probably were a little trepidacious about it, but not because they didn’t think they could make it.  Rather, they were probably afraid that it wouldn’t work, and then, when it did, they were thrilled!  I want you to experience that same thrill, and you have a leg up on our medieval experimenter/forgetful cook:  you know it will work.

But, I understand that sometimes baby steps are in order.  So, I present to you the Nicorette patch of puff pastry:  rough puff.  Some people call it blitz puff, but I prefer rough puff because it’s rhyme-y.  Also, it takes less time to make, and it still will provide a fairly hefty puff.  I think you will probably like it too, for the same reasons.  This is such a reasonable alternative to true puff pastry that, unless you want to make some sort of really tall vol au vent or something, you can use this in place of puff for most applications.  No one will think ill of you, least of all me.  I’m all for short cuts (Cool Whip does not count).  However, I do think you should try to make the Big Daddy at least once.  You’ll find it easier than you think, and you can at least say “I’ve made puff pastry,” and Amaze your Friends.

This particular recipe is my take on my friend, Shirley Corriher’s newest book, Bakewise.  No, I haven’t met her; I doubt she knows that I Exist, but I like to think that we’d be friends if she did know.   You’ll need a bench knife for this–there will be lots of scraping.

Rough Puff

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 14.5 oz. bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • ice water as needed
  • more bread flour, for rolling

Here’s what you do.  It’s not hard.

  1. Cut butter into 1 oz. chunks, then, put it in the freezer.  Or, if you keep your butter frozen like I do, chop the frozen butter into pieces 1 oz pieces (cut each stick into 4 pieces).
  2. Whisk the bread flour and salt together, then toss with the frozen butter pieces.
  3. Dump this out onto a clean work surface and let sit for about 20 minutes, just to let the butter “unfreeze” a bit.
  4. Roll over the mixture, pressing down pretty hard to flatten out the butter a little.  To begin with, you might need to whack it rather than roll it.  If the butter sticks to the rolling pin a little, just scrape it off with your bench knife.  Scrape the pre-dough together and roll over it/scrape it up another two times.
  5. Scrape up the flour/butter mixture and dump it into a bowl.  Mix in the sour cream evenly, and then add ice water, just a bit at a time, until the dough comes together.  This isn’t like pie crust where it might be done if it still looks crumbly and dry.  You should end up with just a very slightly sticky lump of dough.  Cover the dough lump and put in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so.
  6. Liberally flour your work surface.  Put the cold dough lump on the flour, put a little more flour on the dough and roll it out into a big old square.  The dough will be sticky, so use your bench scraper for the next part.
  7. Fold the top of the dough into the center.  Fold the bottom into the center, too.  Now, fold the whole thing over like a book.  You should have 4 layers, and your square will now be a long, skinny rectangle.
  8. Roll this out a bit to flatten it, and then make the same folds again from the left and right sides so you have a square of dough about 5″ on a side.   Refrigerate for half an hour or so, just to keep things cold.
  9. Roll the dough into a rectangle, and then fold it in thirds, like a letter.  Roll again and fold into thirds a last time.  And there you go.  Chill, roll and use.

Brush off any excess flour before you make your turns.  Brush with a little ice water between the turns in step 9.

Yes, it’s kind of a lot of steps for something called “rough puff,” but you can make it and use it on the same day, which is a bonus.  And it does puff nicely, as long as you keep the butter cold.  Plus, it’s tasty–it has a bit of tang from the sour cream which also provides extra fat to keep things a bit more tender.

How to use it?  Make turnoversWrap it around some brie.  Make Beef Wellington.  Make a galette.  Use it for tarte tatin.  Roll it pretty thin and use it as pie crust.  Roll some cinnamon sugar or parm into it, cut in strips, twist and bake for easy sweet or savory “bread sticks.”

So, that’s it.   No fear, people.  No fear.

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