Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pinterest

Seriously, how cool is this site? I had been hearing about Pinterest for a while now and I vaguely recall my friend, Christy, talking about it while we were both in the midst of wedding planning last year. However, it wasn't until today that I decided to jump on this bandwagon and give it a try. I think I was bored at work waiting for a program to compile, and decided it was the prime moment to do some pinning. Yes, that must have been it. After all, I would never be randomly searching the web or reading facebook at work unless it was for a good reason. ;)

So I signed up for Pinterest and was told I'd have to wait a few days for my invitation. Wait?!? What is this "waiting." No no, my Type-A personality just wouldn't stand for that. So I jumped on Facebook, while still waiting for my program to compile, of course, and requested that one of my friends (aka - 30 friends, and 70 people who I knew at one time or another) send me an invitation.

And this is what I love about Facebook. BAM! Within 15 minutes I had a nice invitation sitting in my inbox from Tracy. Thanks Tracy!

Before long I was pinning away. This site is awesome! I've already gotten a bunch of great food ideas for everything from desserts to dinners to appetizers. And the best part about Pinterest is that everything has a picture associated with it! I very rarely will use a recipe from a book that doesn't have a picture with it. What can I say, I eat with my eyes first.

I also love that I can add the "pin it" icon to my bookmark bar and pin from whatever website I happen to be on. It's especially great for sites like Tastespotting, because I can just link those links all to one of my Pinterest boards.

Finally, I love that you can select which boards of your friends that you want to see. Most of the people who I follow I go in and selectively "unfollow" any board that I'm just not that interested in. This especially helps to narrow down the pins that you see when you go to the "people I follow" section.

I hope that you get a chance to join Pinterest soon, and when you do, follow me so I can follow you!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Making Palmiers

A few weeks back I decided to make puff pastry from scratch. It went well and tasted great, but I couldn't help but think to myself this one thought: "This is really good, but how does it compare to frozen puff pastry?" After all, if it tasted only 'as good' or 'mildly better,' then why spend the 8 hours it takes to make your own puff pastry?

So two weeks ago my parents were in town and I decided to make Palimers using frozen puff pastry sheets. The recipe I used came from one of my mom's cooking magazines and was as follows:

2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 sheet puff pastry
2 tbsp melted butter

Okay, so really, 4 ingredients, can't be that difficult... right?

Wrong.

I pulled the puff pastry out of the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw. About 5 minutes laster it was ready. I floured the surface and started to roll out the dough. One word for you: STICKY! Yea, it was super sticky; not at all what my home made puff pastry was like. As I start rolling out the dough I realize that it is so much harder to work with than mine was. I suppose this was because when you are making the puff pastry you are constantly working it in your hands. The frozen stuff hadn't been worked at all.

I finally got my dough rolled out to about 12" x 18"


Painted with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar


And rolled up like a scroll


And cut into tiny 1/4" pieces


They seemed a bit small to me, but having just done some puff pastry work, I was sure they would puff up to a nice size. So I stuck them in the oven at 375 deg. for 15 minutes.

When I pulled them out, I was a little shocked. They were so tiny!



I thought for a little while and decided it must have been because I rolled them too tightly. After all, they had no where to "puff." So out came another package of puff pastry and again I repeated the above process. Only this time, I didn't roll them so tightly.



Again I waited my 15 minutes and pulled them out. They were a little better, but still tiny! What the hell. As you can see below, they got to only about 1.5x the size of the other ones.



Well, at this point in the story I'm sure you are all expecting me to tell you some grand revelation that I had to making these things puff up to the size of an elephant. Well I'm sorry to tell you, I didn't have that revelation. I still have no idea why they didn't puff up. I can guess that it had something to do with the amount of butter being spread onto the dough, but I think that is only half the story. I am planning on trying again some day with my own from-scratch puff pastry, but for now I will just have to be satisfied with this fact: they may not have looked right, but you can't beat the taste of cinnamon, sugar, and butter!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Scary Clown

Music courtesy of DC3

Scary clown found off the side of 290 in Brennam

Enjoy

video

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Weekend Baking - Puff Pastry from Scratch

The day after Christmas I really wanted to just relax at home and bake. We spent the morning working out and then after a quick shower I was ready to start baking something yummy. I decided to try my hand at Puff Pastry from scratch!

I browsed all around the internet and found one that I liked. A recipe from Emeril that seemed pretty reasonable but also authentic. I didn't want any shortcuts but I also didn't want anything crazy that would require me to go to the grocery store.

5 hours! Did you know that it takes over 5 hours to make a puff pastry from scratch! And that's just the "resting" time. Yep, it took the whole day. Fortunately its mostly resting and as long as you can stand to have a dirty counter for a few hours, there's really not much to making the actual dough. I've copied the recipe below from the food network, but before I get to that, I'll show you some pictures.

First, the base. It's not hard to make the base and I pretty much just followed the recipe below. I did have a large bowl, so it made mixing the dough base much nicer than if I would have tried on the counter. I used ice water (but not the ice, of course). And I also used a hand. Using a fork just seemed like it would be so much more work.

After being in the fridge for an hour, came the part that even disgusted me a little. The butter block.

OMG. A 5" x 5" block of BUTTER. Yep, just butter. I pulled some butter out of the fridge and just pounded it down with the rolling pin and the palms of my hands. You don't want to over work it and you want to make sure it is about the same temperature as the dough you are pulling out of the fridge. After you've got your 5" x 5" block, you wrap the dough around it and roll it out. Smooshing all the delicious butter into the dough, and folding over and over again.

Before I get into the pictures, I should put a disclaimer. Yes, I own an awesome camera, and yes, my husband just bought me an equally awesome flash, but it's just so much easier to post pictures from the iphone. Sorry, it's true. I'll work on that more in the future.

Butter Block in the dough

Dough wrapped around the butter block

Rolled and folded the first time.

After the first rolling and folding (or second, cause you have to do it more than once) I put it in the fridge and waited one hour. Then I repeated the process. Here is the second (or 4th or 8th) rolling. After a while I couldn't keep track.

You can see it looks much better

So you repeat this process of resting and rolling and folding about 6 times and after 5 hours of resting, you finally have puff pastry dough, from scratch, that is ready to use!

I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with the dough once I had it, so I started experimenting. I made some pastries with apples and then I had this great idea to make a raspberry compote. I took some raspberries and sugar and brandy and cooked them together. Mmmmm it was so tasty. See



Here are some pictures of the final products. These I really should have posted with the good camera, but again, I'm feeling lazy tonight and the good camera with the good pictures is just so far away. So deal.


The first ones out. The chocolate is a chocolate pastry filling that I made but I wasn't super impressed with, so I'll spare you the details.



Just out of the oven. Glazed with a powdered sugar/milk/vanilla mixture.


Ta Da! The final product all presented on a festive holiday tray. And they were delicious! Though I sit here and wonder how much better they were (or weren't) than if I had just used frozen puff pastry out of the freezer section of HEB. I mean, they were good, but man, 6 hours for home made puff pastry. That's just a lot of time.

So much time in fact, that I decided to make some macaroons while I was waiting for the dough. Here are the macaroons. All vanilla bean cookies filled with chocolate raspberry, salted caramel, and lemon curd. The salted caramel ones turned out AMAZING.


And here is the recipe that I promised for the puff pastries. Actually, I was going to copy it below, but since it's so long, I figure I'll just link it to you. HERE. I didn't make the apple tart tatin that is in the first half of the recipe, so I'm not sure how good it would have turned out, but I bet it would be pretty tasty!