Saturday, November 30, 2002
really, it's just the best stuff. so simple to make -- stir together some egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar, cream and vanilla over medium heat until it thickens. whisk till your arm falls off and let cool.
the result is serious heaven. you have to fend off family members with a heavy spoon lest they eat it all before it can make it into your finished product. needless to say, chocolate pastry cream is even better. your loved ones will turn on you to get at it, it's that good. . .best put your batch under lock and key.
this is the basis of the banana cream pie. the pastry cream. i tell you, tears could well up just thinking about the wonders of fresh, home-made pastry cream. it is far better than that stiff tasteless stuff you get in your average bakery cream puff. dear readers, do your family a favor this holiday season and make some pastry cream thing for them!
next on my holiday list -- a true napoleon, filled with home-made pastry cream. the problem will be the icing. most napoleon icing is woefully deficient. must find a recipe for a truly delicious icing to glaze my chocolate napoleon!
in a comic moment today, i received a holiday brochure from a local chocolate firm i just can't recommend. the problem is not only their crummy couverature, but also that they have no sense of flavors. for example, they are pushing this really ludicrous flavor for a chocolate truffle: dried cranberries with peppermint schnapps. a new twist on sweet and sour maybe? i've already savagely mocked this place previously, so i won't do a big reprise here. . .
Friday, November 29, 2002
holiday chocolate. . .
of course the first day after thanksgiving is traditionally the day people begin thinking about and shopping for holiday presents. it's sobering: the amount of time, money, and effort this consumes. just thinking about it is waay stressful. instead, take my advice: win the love of friends and family, bask in their unending admiration, do almost no work, have fun, and save a lot of money.
how? make your own truffles to give away as gifts. (use cocoa and splenda for those on your list who object to real chocolate for whatever reason.) for example, nothing could be simpler than alton's brown's coconut truffles. and for simplicity and great taste, richard donnelly really does offer you step-by-step ease to master incredible results.
plan now, order a kilo or two of high-quality couverature, stock up on good cocoa, and go hunting for attractive gift tins. melt the chocolate in the microwave, cool it to the correct temperature in an ice-bath, and start dipping at leisure. suddenly you're done! miraculous! make 'em whenever and chill 'em until it's time to give 'em.
his simple recipe alone makes more than 12 dozen truffles! so choose a saturday afternoon, make a batch. choose another saturday, make another. that's it -- you have about 25 dozen truffles, more than enough for everyone, friends, family, work, church, yoga class, whatever. if you use an acceptable chocolate, say a kilo of callebaut or something, you can do all this for about $35 in ingredient costs, and another $35 in gift tins and wrapping. total.
what's great about the next week or two is that we have more holidays to celebrate. we here at bccy love everyone's holidays, not only because we are devoted to world peace and increased human understanding, but also because they are all excellent reasons to eat more chocolate. please, if i ever miss a holiday that involves chocolate, email me. i do try to celebrate every possible holiday i can, preferably with a nice bar of valrhona manjari! please help me help others do the same.
in this spirit, i would like to note the upcoming holidays of hanukah and the feast of eid. of course, hanukah is traditionally celebrated by playing with a dreidel for chocolate coins. how to find quality chocolate coins is the problem. in the distant past, i have used droste pastilles. but i'm still in search of the premium-chocolate coin wrapped in gold foil. perhaps next year i will use richard donnelly's gold-foil-wrapped chocolate-smothered apricots. . .
as to ramadan & the feast marking its end, eid -- it seems as if dates stuffed with rosewater-flavored marzipan, with an edge dipped in chocolate, are catching on in places like brunei and dubai. honestly, i have no idea where to acquire this exotic treat. i must check out brooklyn's own atlantic avenue. . .
Thursday, November 28, 2002
what he really wanted to eat
usually for thanksgiving, mr. right's relatives all gather in philadelphia and we just amtrak down. however, this year it wasn't happening -- people were going all over the place. so we were faced with dinner at home. "no problem," i said. "i can cook a turkey." mr. right's face fell. "turkey. . .," he sighed as if it were a life sentence.
"how about, um, goose?" he remained downcast. "ok, what do you want? what do you really want?" mr. right, being a guy, 'fessed up right away: "porterhouse." his face brightened as he said the magic word. porterhouse. let's face it -- probably 90% of the guys in america would rather eat porterhouse than turkey. so give him the honesty prize.
ok. no problem. we can create the peter luger experience here at home and so, dear readers, can you. just close your eyes and drop $50 on the steak. then to cook it -- check out james beard's theory and practice of good cooking. james is perfect for this. i have an old and much-battered copy i lug around life mostly for old times sake, because nobody eats like that anymore. but today it saved my life. . .
for the sides -- the creamed spinach, the scalloped potatoes. . how to, how to? again, nobody really eats this diamond jim brady fare in real life, so i had to turn to another venerable antique, louis diat's 1946 french cooking for americans (la cuisine de la mere). good old louis. anything with the name "farmer's wife style" (fermiere) in the title is perfection. so naturally i made the farm wife style potatoes and spinach with cream. i took some not modern liberties -- adding a clove of garlic, several branches of fresh thyme, a pinch of cayenne. you know.
all good. thanks louis! for dessert -- with a retro menu like this, it had to be the chocolate banana cream pie. completely unfashionable menu. almost embarrassing. mr. right loved it, and on thanksgiving, that's all that counts, right?
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
even the capitalist tools lay it out for ya
you often hear me discuss the coffee crisis, the falling quality and rising debris in most supermarket brand coffees (how many twigs and rotten, insect-laden beans do you want to drink every morning?), how these coffee-brand owning multi-nationals are ripping off consumers with overly high prices for such low-quality product, the fate of the impoverished coffee farmers and workers. . .all that liberal blah-blah-blah. which's why i get the stray email from various types suggesting i check out fidel's cuba, etc.
but, oh conservative readers, you might want to think again; even the engines of darwinian capitalism are now with me on this one:
"the switch to cheaper beans in the past five years has provided a windfall for the big four [sara lee, kraft, p&g, nestle, who own the major supermarket coffee brands]. though none of the companies releases financial results for its coffee divisions, all acknowledge they have enjoyed record coffee profits."
and where does this little bit of dangerous sentiment originate? at my favorite magazine, fortune. can our favorite self-proclaimed capitalist tool be far behind? after all, we saw an article on the subject last summer by the wsj.
but don't despair, loyal readers! you can avoid this situation and alleviate human misery. you can buy fresh-roasted, high-quality coffee from your local coffeehouse. you can donate this holiday season to coffee kids. your vote may not seem to count much, but your dollar still does. . .
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
pizza in space. . .
long-time reader, groovy yoga teacher, and pure rock star (and here!) paula carino clearly remembers that i'm big a fan of space. outer space. space-is-paradise. and not just in the sun ra sense either. thus she forwarded to me a little item destined to warm my heart:
a group of food science and human nutrition students created ez crust, which may someday allow astronauts to enjoy pizza in space.
yup, this brainchild of iowa state college students shows that someone at nasa is thinking practically. what's great about this crust is that it's made from okara, a soybean product. and it turns out soybeans can apparently be grown in space. what's bad about this crust is that it's made of okara, a soybean product. if you know what i mean. . .still, the soy fans at soy daily seem thrilled.
but the whole idea is just really cool. . .it took 2 years of study to develop this, um, delicious stuff.
Monday, November 25, 2002
vandalism or participatory art?
while you do sometimes hear of artists working with chocolate -- perhaps the best known and most serious attempt was andy warhol's striking rothko-esque field paintings in chocolate dry-brushed on untreated canvas -- although artists like ed ruscha and dieter roth have also ironically used chocolate -- this latest chocolate exhibition is worthy of interest.
dutch artist george moormann is currently exhibiting an installation featuring more than 200 chocolate letters against a video backdrop. this work is showing in a public gallery in haarlem, the netherlands. the exhibit was slated to last a month, but it appears this is not to be, as gallery visitors have quickly proceeded to eat the art.
the artist, who made a few extra letters just in case some were stolen, appears unprepared for this turn of events, and in news reports seems quite upset. personally, i think it is a triumph on his part, and a stellar example of participatory art. bravo, george moormann!
i have no doubt the dutch public will welcome another work with equal appreciation.