Saturday, October 12, 2002
pizza again & zoka!
yes, today was as gray and drizzly as expected. naturally, pizza was the only thing keeping us from despair. fortunately, i had received an emergency friday shipment of more first clear flour from king arthur.
now first clear flour is supposedly not as good for baking and eating as the "patent" flour we are all more used to. what's the difference? well, you might say it's like olive oil -- the patent flour we see most often is like extra-virgin olive oil, from the first pressing. the merely virgin oil is from the second pressing, just as first clear flour is from the second grinding of the wheat.
first clear flour's generally considered to be good only for adding to jewish-style rye bread, to give it that chewy, springy texture we all love. it's a little grayish-beige in color and has a high mineral or "ash" content. but i have to say, i think it makes tremendous pizza dough, and i toss a good amount in with my usual sir lancelot pizza flour.
actually, i would love to use actual new york flour, for the ultimate in "eating locally," but i can't find any. i don't think new york grows wheat -- any more. . .
i also splurged on some prosciutto and a juicy galia melon. i was desperate for something that tasted of sun. then, i ran across yet another brownie recipe. long-time readers know of my tortured quest for the perfect, killer brownie. will this recipe raise my hopes only to dash them cruelly, as have so many other highly touted formulae?
you dear readers, will know tomorrow. . .and as for yesterday's pear, fig and cranberry compote in marsala, i ended up with about 3 quarts of it! um, guess i should downsize that recipe, hmm? but spooned over some fresh ricotta, it made a great breakfast. . .
and then in the late afternoon the day got really better, as the coffee from zoka came. yes, i have espresso paladino in the house. review tomorrow!
Friday, October 11, 2002
cozy comfort on a cold wet friday
the weather here today is just waaay too english -- chill drizzle, cold slap-in-the-face breeze, and damp, clingy fog without any of the pretty glow you usually see here in new york. this ugly fog slumps around the skyline like a dirty old horse blanket.
as my shoes and i squished on into work today, i looked forward to nice pot of french press coffee made with the illy medium-roast my colleagues prefer. but as i was drinking some, i suddenly had a completely atavistic desire for a hunk of old-fashioned crumb-top streusel-type coffee cake to go with it. that's right -- i wanted some cozy comfort on this miserable day. and since tomorrow is supposed to be even worse. . . .
naturally, i never make anything like this, so i had to search around for a truly retro-50s style recipe. it's very simple; another with berries can be found here.
but being myself, i would naturally improve these recipes -- use plugra butter, better vanilla, etc. as well as maybe make a winter fruit compote in my glorious still-kinda-new kuhn rikon to eat with it. that would be a tremendous cuddle-up-in-your-jammies-breakfast-at-home treat.
in fact, as i post this, the kuhn rikon is making its cute little whuffle in the kitchen, filled with pears, figs, dried cranberries, spices and florio marsala. what will i think of next?
Thursday, October 10, 2002
can tea be decadent?
when i saw the recipe for this flourless chocolate decadence cake, i was completely bowled over. because it includes earl grey tea. and i think it's obvious that tea is not on our agenda here.
but felchlin gran cru maracaibo 65% chocolate most certainly is, while the brix restaurant, from which the cake comes, certainly has a decent reputation.
i might make this cake once with the tea as a novelty. but i'm more likely to substitute espresso, frankly. still, the recipe looks great and pretty easy. . .will put on my "must try" list.
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
she should try a straw
america is the most astonishing place sometimes. while it's a well-known fact that lawsuits are out of control in many states here, i have to say that the successful suit awarding a Florida woman US$28,000 because coffee discolored her teeth amazed even me.
is she the last person on earth to have heard of the US$650 britesmile? my dentist swears by it. to preserve her brand-new pearliness, of course my dentist also drinks her two daily cups of coffee through a straw. . .
oh, and ms. florida complained of a headache if she didn't get her coffee in the morning. frankly, i would think the maxwell house she was drinking is the stuff that's giving her the headache.
but actually, i'm surprised kraft couldn't defend itself against the canard that caffeine is physically addictive. actually, studies show that only 5% of people quitting caffeine experience anything at all. and this small group of people can avoid even their mild symptoms by simply reducing their caffeine gradually over 2 or 3 days.
in fact, kraft should have argued all the health benefits of coffee; for example that it has more heart-healthy polyphenols than green tea. really, they should know better. . .
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
healthy chocolate; pizza topping; shala review
major food companies are finally getting on the bandwagon to promote chocolate as a health food. look for SoBe chocolate bars near you soon. SoBe plans to market these "functional" chocolate bars as healthy, good-for-you products. well, we'll have to see what the quality of these bars are like before we make any judgements. . .
but i'd say the cocoa quality will be low. they appear to be marketing solely to teen-age boys, and are offering only milk chocolate products. but long-time readers know that high amounts of quality dark chocolate offer the greatest health boost. the various herbs and such they are putting in these bars appear the focus of their health marketing, not the chocolate itself. which is odd -- the health benefits of the other stuff have yet to be proven, whereas the benefits of cocoa itself are now clear scientific facts. strange!
i know it's hard to believe, but i understand that some people do tire of the classic pizza margherita. this blows my mind -- it's like saying you're bored with oxygen. but for these people, i am offering a link to a mushroom and cream sauce topping. not that i would personally eat it! the standard tomato-based pizza sauce is loaded with the wonderful anti-cancer and anti-heart disease chemical lycopene. . .making, yes, pizza a health food. need to lower your cholesterol? eat pizza with tomato sauce!
finally there's a nice review of the shala, the yoga school started by many of the teachers who left jivamukti in the big brouhaha earlier this year. the verdict: major relaxation with less attitude. if you've been missing rhana and cliff -- yearn no more.
Monday, October 07, 2002
very nice article in the new york times yesterday on the famous paris chocolate club, les croqueurs chocolat. membership includes chocolatiers like hevin, constant, and herme; renowned artisans like the baker poilane; society figures like fashion designer sonia rykiel.
again, it's one of those rare articles that makes registering for the times website worth it. the question is when the croqueurs will discover chocolatiers like richard donnelly and then chui foong.
it's great to note that all of these personalities are devoted to eating preimum chocolate on a daily basis. and they should -- everyone knows how good chocolate is for your mental health!
alas none of our favorite commodities dwell apart from the world. they all have their origins in the crazy messed-up situations we all know. thus it is with some dismay i note, with a hat-tip to long-time reader m. simoni, the possibility of blood cocoa in the ivory coast. . .
Sunday, October 06, 2002
torrone, as promised
ok, anna del conte's soft torrone, but made my way. this recipe is the epitome of the italian ability to take various bits of leftover stuff and make something fabulous out of it before you give up and feed it to the dog:
8 oz. (16 tablespoons) plugra
8 oz. (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) superfine sugar
4 oz. (2/3 to 3/4 cup) valrhona cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 oz. plain cookies (marie biscuits, oldish 'nilla wafers, stale savoiardi ladyfingers, or i used some past-their-prime jules destrooper waffle cookies), coarsely crushed
3/4 cup slivered almonds, coarsely chopped (hazelnuts or pistachios could be good too)
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons dark rum, armagnac, kahlua, kirsch, whatever
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey vanilla paste
attach the beater to your stand mixer and cream the butter and sugar together at around setting 6 until light and fluffy. turn the mixer down to about 4 add the cocoa gradually. add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well-incorporated, about 2 minutes.
turn the mixer down to about 3 and add the almonds. mix for 1 minute. add the cookies and mix for another minute. add the liqueur of your choice and mix for a final minute. it will have a texture very much like cake icing. don't overbeat or you will crush the nuts and cookies too fine. you want 'em chunky; think rocky road ice cream.
take a loaf pan -- at least 4 cups -- and line it with wax paper. using a spatula, press the torrone mixture into the loaf pan. fill it out nicely, all even, smooth into the corners. pat it down well to avoid any air bubbles. when its all packed nicely into the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down onto the surface of the torrone. ensure that the plastic really covers the whole thing tightly so no off-flavors or odors sneak in. refrigerate for at least 5 hours until serving; you may even want to freeze it for 30 minutes before slicing.
this should serve 16 in thin slices. the texture of this is interesting -- somewhere between soft fudge and frosting. it's rich alright and really yummy. serve each slice on a plate with an extra dusting of nuts and/or cookie bits with raspberries. the truly decadent will add a tiny touch of whipped cream. it's a grown-up dessert for the kind of people who always had to lick the bowl when grandma made them a cake. . .sophisticated and homey at the same time.
this will keep in the fridge for a day or two. if you haven't finished it by then, you should slice it and freeze it in pieces. since the eggs are absolutely uncooked, either use eggs from a source you really trust or buy those wacky pasteurized eggs.