New Year/New Beginnings

Hello, everyone!

As the title of this post suggests, it’s a new year and it’s time for some new beginnings. To that end, I have decided to start a new blog in order to follow my foodie passion. Rather than the mix of things that Rough Draft has become, Fearless Kitchen will be dedicated to my love of making, eating, and sharing good food. I would greatly appreciate if those of you who would like to continue reading my posts head on over to fearless-kitchen.com and subscribe.

The content hosted on Rough Draft will not be deleted. I may still update this site with my random musings. Please note, however, that all food-related posts will be updated exclusively on Fearless Kitchen.

Thank you all for your endless support– you have made my experiences so far in blogging enjoyable and rewarding. I hope I can continue entertaining you and exciting your taste buds over at Fearless Kitchen!

Chicca

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Hazlenut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache + Mastrad Kit Review

First of all, happy new year to everyone! I appreciate all the support I received from all of you in 2013 and hope to give you an even better blogging experience in the coming year.

I’ve got to be honest about the past few weeks. I’ve missed some prime blog posting time by not blogging about Thanksgiving or Christmas. Thinking about all the pie and cookie opportunities I have passed up is saddening. But I hope that these little, heavenly, sweet and delicious New Year’s beauties might make up for some of it.

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Instead of doing Thanksgiving this year, I went to Paris to visit the boy and fell in love with all the food. One of my favorite parts of the trip was the macarons—light and yet moist, sweet and yet not overly so, these cookies are what is served in baker heaven. Because I loved them so much, my family gave me a macaron kit for Christmas. Secretly, I think they wanted in on some of the delicious fun, too! It turns out that the secret that makes these cookies so extravagantly delicious also makes them wicked difficult to make.

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I’m sure most of you already know that macarons are a hard cookie to master. I had heard this before, but it didn’t really hit home until I started to make them. The cookbook that came with the kit basically told you to mix the batter thoroughly, but not too thoroughly! Bake them until done, but not too done! Everyone’s oven is different and only experimentation will tell you how is best to cook your macarons! There is even an entire page dedicated to what you can do with your “imperfect” cookies.

Again, I had heard this, but I am the kind of person to think that because I am resourceful if not sort of experienced, things will turn out differently for me. I even decided to up the ante by adding ground hazlenuts to the cookies. This time, I proved myself right. With what may have been a severe dose of beginner’s luck, I ended up with a good number of cookies that are not cracked, are cooked well, and that taste delicious.

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To make these guys, I followed the basic French Merengue recipe in the Mastrad French Macarons cookbook. I added 1 tablespoon of ground hazelnuts and filled the cookies with a simple chocolate ganache. Before baking and before the cookies set, I topped some of them with clear decorative sugar crystals.

I am not being paid to write a review of the Mastrad Macaron Kit, so I can say with a good conscience that it is flippin’ awesome. It comes with a silicon macaron baking sheet with little wells that help keep your cookies looking fly (and, well, circular), a reusable silicon pastry bag that is lovely to use, a pastry bag stand, and a variety of shaped piping tips. The kit also comes with the cookbook. Really, the only extra tools you will need are a flat metal baking sheet on which to put the silicon mat and the mixing bowls for your ingredients. I have only two small complaints: one is that the silicon baking mat is slightly too large for a standard baking sheet. The second is that I haven’t yet figured out how to fill the pastry bag without whatever I’m filling it with oozing out the bottom. There very well may be a way to stop this, but I haven’t yet figured it out. If anyone has tips, I would very much appreciate them.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the kit and I look forward to using it to continue perfecting my macaron skills. Given how happy my family and the boy were to sample my new skill, I think I will have some willing taste testers!

Pumpkin Bread & The Long Hiatus

Hello! Happy holidays and almost happy new year to all my readers!

Every time I come back from some sort of break I feel an urge to write a witty yet apologetic blurb about where I’ve been. This time, I’m going to keep it short and sweet so we can get to the good stuff: I’ve been busy, busy, busy– senior year is the craziest I’ve ever been in my entire life– but thanks to winter break I’m back for at least a little bit. It’s a couple of days early, but my New Year’s resolution is going to be to blog more, bake more, and knit more.

The good thing for all of us is that I’ve already started this resolution! I left my sweater at school, but I’ve been working on a pair of fingerless gloves for my cold dorm. I’ve also been doing quite a bunch of baking, like this lovely pull-apart cinnamon-sugar pumpkin bread:
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I don’t know what it is about pumpkin, but I could eat it pumpkin baked goods all year round. Maybe it’s the spices used with pumpkin, the feelings it conjures, or the aura of fall that surrounds it. Whatever it is, pumpkin baked anything just makes me feel at home.

The recipe for this pull-apart bread (found here) is wonderfully easy, even though it’s a yeasted bread. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience working with yeast; I’m the type of girl who usually to whip something up, pop it in the oven, and be done with it, and usually can’t be bothered to wait for something to rise. This bread has taught me that the waiting is worth it.

This bread was everything I look for in something with pumpkin. It was spiced, sugared, and the yeast gave it a depth that pumpkin pie doesn’t have. To top it all off, the sugar in between the layers got gooey, sticky, and scrumptious in the oven. The original recipe calls for an additional sugared glaze on top, but the bread is sweet enough that it’s prefect without the glaze. It was so good, in fact, that when I made it this past fall, Clara and I ate the entire thing in one sitting.

If you have some time to bake bread over these holidays, I would highly recommend baking this. It might not be fall anymore, but it’ll make any place feel like home.

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Next up: New Year’s cupcakes!

Foodie Confession + Quiche Bliss

Okay, I have a very important confession to make to you all.

I know I bill myself as an adventurous eater. It’s true– I love food, and I will try almost anything at least once. But I feel like I would by lying to you all if I didn’t come one hundred percent squeaky clean:

There is one food that I absolutely cannot stand. It is my food nemesis. If this food were a villain, it would be the most evil of all villains and the thwarter of all my plans.

My food nemesis is eggs.

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of weird reactions from people when I tell them this. “Eggs?? You don’t like eggs??” is the most usual one, but it’s ranged from incredulity all the way to unadulterated disgust. Most people just don’t understand it. I don’t eat them for breakfast, I don’t eat them for lunch, I don’t even eat them green with ham. Unlike the Dr Seuss character I have tried eggs before making up my mind; my mom tells me that when I was a kid I used to eat an egg sandwich every morning for breakfast. I was way too young to remember this, and sometime between then and my first memories some great change came over my body to make it rebel against all things eggy. I can’t eat french toast that has been soaking for too long because I can taste the egg in it. Breakfast sandwiches are off limits, and even egg drop soup is sometimes too much for me. Hell, I can’t even stand the smell of eggs cooking. It makes me want to hurl.

It might come as a huge surprise to you, then, that one of my favorite foods is quiche. That’s right. I can’t stand eggs but I love a food that’s essentially egg pie. In reality, though, quiche is so much more than that. It’s veggie-filled, cheese-gushing goodness that’s been poured into the mother of all baked things– a pie crust. There is so much deliciousness that radiates from quiche that not even eggs could taint it. Really, what more could you ask for from a food?

 

Seriously. Is it not the most delicious-looking thing you’ve ever seen?

 

I have been going absolutely crazy with my internship this summer (which finally ended yesterday, by the way, and while it was a great experience I’m also glad it’s over), but I did have time recently to have a fun cooking day. And– you’ve probably guessed it by now– I made a quiche.

The recipe I used was (highly) adapted from the McCall’s recipe for Quiche Lorraine, but considering I had a ton of spinach and onions in my fridge I decided to do something completely different from what the recipe said. I ended up putting so much filling into the quiche that I had  bunch of the extra egg/cream mixture left over (whoops), so the measurements that I used are in the recipe below with what I guess would be better measurements in parenthesis.

So, without further ado:

Spinach and Onion Quiche

(Crust secret: I had some time to be in the kitchen, but not a lot of time. So I cheated and used a store-bought pie crust. Shhh. I recommend Trader Joe’s but the Pillsbury ones are also good!)

6 eggs with 1 white separated (4 would probably be better)

3 cups light cream (I used a mixture of cream and skim milk, and 2 cups would probably be better)

1/2 lb gruyere, shredded

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

dash of red pepper flakes

1 large onion

1lb spinach, washed and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Saute the spinach until wilted, then let it cool.

3. Slice the onions, then throw them in a pan with a little oil. When they’re close to being finished, add a little white wine and let it reduce.

4. Place your pie crust in a sprayed or buttered pie plate and brush the entire surface with the egg white. Throw the leftover egg white into the bowl in the next step.

5. Combine eggs and dry ingredients in a bowl, and beat together.

Ahh, my nemesis. You are so delicious when baked in a quiche.

6. Beat the cream in slowly until just combined– don’t let it get frothy.

7. Layer about half the cheese evenly onto the bottom of the pie crust.

8. Drain your spinach. Seriously, you want to get it really, really dry– I recommend actually wringing the water out with your hands. Get your spinach as dry as you can. Drain your onions, too!

9. Layer the veggies into the pie crust, then coat evenly with the rest of the cheese.

10. Pour the egg mixture in.

11. Cook for 50-55 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is firm.

12. Let sit for 10 minutes to set, then enjoy!

Bon appetit, everyone!

Projects Projects Projects!!! Part I

So after a brief (month-long) hiatus I am back! With lots and lots of things to share!!

Since the last time I’ve posted I have successfully completed:

1. A delicious experimental pie (for which I finally have the pictures)
2. A cuddly bear
3. My February Beret
4. Birthday wonderfuls

And am working on a pair of hand warmers to match my beret that will be done soon. Exciting, huh? And now you all know that even though I may not be writing I am certainly keeping busy.

First, the pie.

I found a spectacularly delicious-looking plum pie recipe over at Savour Fare quite a long time ago but I was afraid to start it because I’d never made a pie crust before, and all I’ve ever heard about them is that they’re more finnicky than delicate machinery. The boyfriend, who is apparently the king of pie crusts, talks all the time about how he’ll sit there and cut the butter into perfectly-shaped squares so it’ll melt perfectly because otherwise the dough will be lumpy and your pie will be ruined oh noooooooo!!!!

But really, this recipe was super easy. Basically you just throw some ingredients in a mixer, whip it up, and chill it overnight. Then tada! After a bit of shaping you’ve got yourself a pie crust! A beautiful, tasty, and deliciously flaky pie crust.

I’m glad I finally worked up the courage to tackle this. I visited the boyfriend and a bunch of other friends at school a few weeks ago and finally had the guinea pigs necessary to try something new, so I figured, why not? Thanks to all my guinea pigs… and look how wonderfully it turned out!

Okay, so… secretly the only picture I have of the pie is the one above. I was rushing out the door and didn’t snap pictures when it got out of the oven. D’oh. Instead I will give you a picture of the hardest part of the whole pie: the plums.

You know how with pitted fruit it’s generally pretty easy to cut it in half and remove the pit? Well, yeah. I was working with mutant plums.

See how those pits are only sort of existent??? It added so much time to the cutting process!! There wasn’t a full pit to pull out, and I was stuck with all this nasty hard stuff that I had to cut out with my paring knife. Gross.

All in all, though, this was a wonderful experience. The crust is like the crostata (tart) dough in that if it’s out of the fridge or too long the butter in it will start to melt, so I’d recommend keeping the lattice dough in the fridge while shaping the base. It’s also missing sugar (and we definitely noticed its absence), so I’d add some next time. It’s a super versatile recipe, though– I also made a scrumptious blueberry pie that I kind of made up the recipe to but that I didn’t take any pictures of (shame)– and is something I would love love love to do again!

Next time: Part 2, and maybe parts 3 and 4, depending on how loquacious I’m feeling. Stay tuned!

>There is almost nothing as good as a cold glass of milk.

>Seriously. A glass of milk so cold that as you pour it the outside of the glass starts to sweat, and you want nothing more than something sweet to go with it. And really, that sweet thing is what knocks your glass of milk totally out of the water. Think about it– imagine eating a piece of tart, or a heavy-duty brownie, or a red velvet cupcake with your tall, delicious, creamy glass of milk.

Which brings me to an announcement– I’m baking this summer! Here’s the sample plate I brought in to a local market:

Don’t they just look scrumptious? This plate has sour cream cupcakes, chocolate sour cream cupcakes, heavy-duty brownies both with and without nuts, and a tart with black cherry jam, and they’re only some of the many goods I bake. I don’t ship orders (yet), but if you’re in the tri-state area feel free to contact me for orders and we’ll work something out.
And now…. back to the kitchen!

>Don’t be fooled by molasses, guys.

>My parents sent me the most delicious cookie sampler for my birthday from Dancing Deer Baking Co., and as I sit here eating a molasses-clove cookie I am realizing I shouldn’t have chickened out on molasses cake over winter break. I found this recipe for dark molasses gingerbread cake and immediately wanted to make it– I mean, look at it! It just looks so gooey and rich and inviting that my taste buds simply quivered and ordered me to start baking. However, because I found it pretty late at night I figured it wouldn’t be such a good idea, so instead I went to bed with my midnight snackies unsatisfied and put the cake on the back burner (ha).

My plan was to make it the next day, but as I was gathering ingredients I’d realized that I had no idea what a molasses cake tasted like. Both my dad, who was my sous chef for the day, and my mom, who was taking a break from playing with me in the kitchen, warned me that molasses was certainly not for everyone– I already knew that my mom wasn’t going to eat this cake (she really doesn’t care for molasses), and so to see if I would like it my dad had me lick some off a spoon. Sounds like a good idea, right? To give me an idea of what the cake might taste like?

WRONG. MOLASSES BAKED GOODS TASTE NOTHING LIKE STRAIGHT MOLASSES FROM A SPOON. DON’T BE FOOLED, GUYS.

The molasses-from-a-spoon experience unfortunately pushed me away from baking that delicious-looking cake and I opted for a chocolate gingerbread instead. Chocolate gingerbread is a masterpiece in its own right and is actually one of my all-time favorites, but I now realize the error of my baking ways. Because when I bit into this Dancing Deer molasses-clove cookie it was moist and reminded me faintly of gingerbread, but tasted nothing like the gross, viscous, dark substance I ate from a spoon.

The moral of the story is, don’t be fooled by its sticky texture, weird color, and strong smell. Molasses cookies are spectacular. So when I find ingredients and a willing oven, guess what my next project’s going to be?