Recipe Write Up: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb is an interesting fruit. For someone like me, who until a few days ago had never even tried it before, the taste is one that can catch one off guard. It’s sweet, kind of. It’s also tart, but not too tart. When paired with strawberries, the two play off the others distinct flavor profiles, creating a new flavor that is just makes your mouth water. Throw in a buttery crumb topping and you have a summer dessert that anyone should be proud of.IMG_4188

This dessert is a milestone moment for me: it is my first time making a crisp! Needless to say, I as a bit worried about mucking the recipe up. While I wasn’t bracing myself for another food disaster (unlike a certain chocolate cake), I was a wee bit worried about preparing the rhubarb. As you will see below, the recipe asks for four cups of peeled rhubarb. Not totally sure about peeling rhubarb, I went to my go-to source, Baker’s Illustratedjust to verify that peeling was indeed the right way to go. Although BI insisted that peeling rhubarb was the correct thing to do, I wasn’t 100% convinced so I sought aid from the internet. Apparently, there is a big debate surrounding rhubarb. To peel or not to peel. Some sources say yes, others say don’t, that peeling rhubarb will remove some of the flavor. Slightly worried about what to do, I decided to go with the directions in my BI. The process was a bit tedious since I did have a quite a bit of rhubarb to go through and a cat that wouldn’t stop playing with the shavings but an hour later, the rhubarb prep was over!!!! Throw in my slices of strawberries and the two made quite the pair. IMG_4200

In the end, peeling seemed like the right choice. The flavor was still there though I am curious about trying it the other way next time. As for the family? They loved it, marking this as a new family favorite. Except for my older sister. She is allergic to strawberries. Ooops. Sorry D.IMG_4202

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

From The Back in The Day Bakery Cookbook (serves 8 to 10)

For the Topping:
1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon of canola oil

For the Filling:
2 cups of strawberries
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled rhubarb
1 1/4 cup turbinado sugar*
3 tablespoons of unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch

*If you do not have turbinado sugar like I didn’t, you can substitute it with brown sugar. Don’t worry, the required amount stays the same.

Method:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Topping: In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, cornmeal, cinnamon, salt, butter, and oil with a fork hand mixer on low until completely blended. Set aside.

Filling: In another bowl, combine the strawberries and rhubarb with the turbinado sugar, flour, and cornstarch, stirring to coat the fruit.

Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared pie plate. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit mixture. Place the pie plate on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown and crispy. Let cool slightly.

Serve the crisp warm. It is best served the same day, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Enjoy!!!!

Advertisements

Cake Fail: Hey, it Happens

Sometimes we forget that we were all novices at one point in our lives.

As the great Julia Child once said:

No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” –My Life in France (2007)

In the last two years, I have been highly fortunate to have unusually long run of baking successes. Of course there has been some failures, the majority of them related to appearances rather than taste. But don’t get me wrong, I have experienced some considerably nasty baking failures. Personally, I think my most memorable failure just so happens to be my first. It was junior year of college, a little more than two years ago. I had only begun seriously baking, having started the summer before. Until that early spring afternoon, I had never known the sensation of failure, at least in a baking context. That was until I decided to take my baking up a notch and try something new. The recipe? S’mores cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes with a gram-cracker bottom topped with a homemade marshmallow. While the cupcake itself was relatively easy to make, the marshmallow was another story entirely. Going into it, there were three signs that failure was going to be imminent.

http://www.52kitchenadventures.com/2013/05/23/homemade-smores-cupcakes/

From 52 Kitchen Adventures. I later tried this recipe and it worked perfectly.

1. I didn’t understand how egg whites worked. The whole notion not getting any yolk in the whites was beyond my comprehension.

2. I lacked an small, candy, thermometer. The recipe asked me to heat the eggs to a certain temperature before removing them from the heat. A slightly hard things to do without a thermometer.

3. I didn’t know the difference between over beating and under beating. Even if I had managed to get this far along, I lacked the knowledge to distinguish a difference.

Putting all three things together, it would be safe to say that I was doomed from the start. What resulted was a minor breakdown. Ok, maybe a bit more than minor. But after the tears were done, I was able to step back and take note of where I had gone wrong. I learned something that day: never bite off more than you can chew, especially if you don’t totally understand the task you are about to undertake. It was a lesson that I have since taken to heart.

Its been more than two years since that dark day in my personal baking history and once again, failure has come knocking on my oven door. This time around, I wasn’t trying to make something challenging. It was to be a simple birthday cake for dad, who turned 61 this past Sunday. While the s’mores cupcake fiasco was caused mostly due to ignorance, this time around, it was due to a faulty cake pan and our oven.

Taken from one of my mother’s beloved Cusinart cookbooks, she assured me that this was something that couldn’t go wrong. Well, it did. And boy oh boy was I surprised when the thing crumbled apart. Initially, we thought it was because we only put in 1/3 cup of brewed coffee instead of 1 cup, leaving the batter too dry.

Hard to believe that a minor difference could affect the final result.

Hard to believe that a minor difference could affect the final result.

An hour later, we shifted blame to the cake pan it was baked it. “I guess that’s what you get when you buy a cheap pan at the store.” Now my mom mentions that. But it was true, something was wrong with it. After I coated the pan with butter, which I did generously, and later flour, not enough of it seemed to stick. We later compared this to a pan I bought of amazon.com and it was true; her pan seemed unable to be coated correctly.

As for our oven, its quite possibly the slowest oven ever. It takes forever to reach the designated heat and then as soon as you open the door to turn the pan, it has to reheat to get back. When the timer went off and I went to check to see if it was done, my tooth pick came out with moist batter on it. I shut the door and added another five. Second time around, it came out clean. Ten minutes later I went to separate and this was what I got.

Happy Birthday daddy!

Happy Birthday daddy!

Half the cake came out, and the rest stayed in the pan. Not good at all. How about the taste? After all isnt’s what matter’s? Dry. Very dry. Was it the lack of coffee? The recipe also called for sour cream so the batter was plenty wet. Was it the oven? Who really knows? Despite the inopportune timing of this cake fail (9:30pm) it was kind of nice to be reminded of what I learned two years ago. Never underestimate a recipe, ever! Even if it seems simple, read the directions carefully and be prepared for all sorts of outcomes.

Since I started today’s entry with an inspiring quote from one of my personal idols, I think its fitting to end with another quote, one that I think perfectly fits with this post’s theme.

Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy” -Miss. Frizzle.

I think that applies to cooking and baking quite nicely.

Till next time,

Litbaker

Recipe Write Up: Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes (kind of) and Lemon

There is nothing more wonderful then receiving a birthday present from a friend. Especially if your birthday happens to occur right at the start of what some would refer to as ‘Academic Hell’ aka spring finals and you are so stressed that you’ve forgotten completely about the fact that you’re turning twenty-two because you have a final in your Weapons of Mass Destruction chem class and still have to memorize the top ten deadliest animals in the world. But then, amidst this male-storm of exams, presentations, and papers, your friend from freshmen year pops over to wish you a happy birthday and then hands you one of the most beautiful cookbooks you have ever seen. IMG_20130609_171634_20130616150445203Beautifully written and photographed, this cookbook is a food porn addict’s dream. If you are acquainted with food porn than I you know what I mean. If you have never ever heard of food porn before, click this link right away, foodporndaily.com, now. I can promise you, it’s worth it.

Ironically, my mother had purchased this book for my older sister some months ago. When I saw it before she handed it off to her, I asked my mom why she hadn’t gotten me a copy. This is how the conversation went.

Me: You know that I’m the sister who cooks and stuff. Where’s my cookbook?

Mom: Your sister cooks, she just doesn’t have as much free time as you do. Besides, I think your sister would appreciate this book more. She did spend a lot of time there.

Me: I went to Israel too mom.

Mom: I know, but this doesn’t really seem like a cookbook you’d like. Anyway, if you want a copy, buy one yourself.

In summary, what she was referring to is the fact that 1). my sister did spend a lot of time in Israel (about 6 months) and really fell in love with the country and 2). she has a closer connection to our Jewish culture than I do. What this is has to do with whether or not I’d appreciate an attractive and unique cookbook like Jerusalem its beyond me but clearly, my mom saw it differently.  Needless to say, you can guess what I didn’t get as a holiday present from my mom.

Jump forward to May 3rd and there, in my hands was the very book my mom had denied me. Contrary to my mom’s initial theory I can honestly tell you that it was love at first sight. Just flipping through the well photographed pages bought me right back to my personal journey to Israel four years ago. Almost immediately, my memory started recalling all the delicious food that I had had there. And when I say food, I am talking about more than just falafel. There is just something about Mediterranean flavors that I love. They are both vibrant and subtle. IMG_20130609_194641_20130616150701693 The additions of saffron and tarragon really gave this mean a punch when combined with the lemon and its juices. As for the artichokes, I can proudly report that, unlike those wicked olives, I love them. I  can’t recall if I had ever had artichokes before I made this but I can guarantee that I will be eating more. There are only two things that I would do differently. The first is that next time, I will let the chicken marinate in the mixture (see below) for at least four hours or even over night. My mom and I were in a rush so we only let it sit for maybe two hours. The second thing is to finish off the chicken on the grill or leave it in the broiler longer so it can get a bit more crispy. When I make it again, I’ll let you know what happens.

Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes and Lemon

From Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yoyam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

1 lb/420 g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges 2/3 inches*
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 skin-on, bone in chicken thighs, or 1 medium whole chicken, quartered
12 banana or other large shallots, halved lengthwise*
12 large cloves garlic, sliced*
1 medium lemon, halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly
1 tsp saffron threads
3 1/2 tbsp/50 ml olive oil
2/3 cup/150 ml cold water
1 1./2 tbsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
1/4 cup/10 g fresh thyme leaves
1 cup/40 g tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

*Since I couldn’t find these specific artichokes, I used frozen artichokes from Trader Joes
*I used 5-6 shallots and about 4-5 cloves of garlic. Remember my mom hates intense flavor so using 12 cloves of garlic was absolutely out of the question

  1. Put the artichokes in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water and add halt the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, lower the hat, and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until tender but not soft. If you are using frozen artichokes it will be about ten minutes. Drain and leave to cool
  2. Place the artichokes and all the remaining ingredients, excluding the remaining lemon juice and half of the tarragon, in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Cover and leave the chicken to marinate in the fridge overnight, or for at least two hours
  3. Preheat the oven to 475F/240C. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, in the center of a roosting pan and spread the remaining ingredients around the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes. cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. At this point, the chicken should be completely cooked. Remove from the oven and add the reserved tarragon and lemon juice. Stir well, taste, and add more salt if needed. Serve immediately.

*Special thanks to my friend Therese for getting me this cookbook for my birthday. If hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be the foodie I am today*

Till next time,

Litbaker

The Ramblings of a Foodie Dreamer

There are two things in this massively complex world that I love: food and knowledge. Without one, we’d be dead. Without the other, well, let’s just say we wouldn’t be living in the wonders of the twenty-first century. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that I don’t have to say anymore to convince you why both subjects are important. We good? Good. Moving on now.

This blog, a rather rash idea suddenly spurred into action, is not going to be about me. Ok, a little bit of it will be about me, but I am not the star of the show. Food is along with the history behind it. Think of this blog as a research blog, one that has little crumbs of knowledge interspersed amongst recipes and the ramblings of a wanna be librarian and food-fanatic. Have I lost you? Let me try explaining this again. History is all around us, some of it more obvious than others. What I desire to do with this rather small piece of web-space is to showcase and highlight the history of food, its presence and impact on both my life and yours. How? By focusing on those that have made food what it is today. From the history of cookbooks in America to the [abridged] biographies of culinary heros and trendsetters, I wish to uncover and understand why our modern culture of food is the way that it is today.  Throw in some niffy parts about me learning how to cook while researching these food heavy-weights along with studying to become a librarian and I’d say you’re in for a grand old time!

Now before you comment, I am quite aware of the magnitude of this project. It is going to take a lot of perseverance, research, money, and a sturdy wall to bang my head against during times of frustration. Is it going to be easy? Probably not, though I’m grateful that I possess quite a few skills when it comes to doing research (thanks to my sociology degree and four year work experience as a student librarian). And I’ll also say this, I can cook (kind of) as well as bake, so I won’t be hopping into a kitchen completely clueless. That’s already half the battle right there. Additionally, I will try very hard not make my posts the same lengths as something like an honors thesis. My goal is to be informative, to inspire the readers to do some research of their own if anything that I write intrigues them. The same applies to the recipes that I will feature; please give them a whirl and let me know how it works out for you. I have a massive recipe list stored on my computer, Demyx  (I’ll explain the name later) that I’ll post eventually.

That’s all for now  though I can assure you, more will be coming and its either going to be awesome or just simply hilarious. Either way, you’ll have something that will amuse you.

Till next time in which I promise to have 1). something informative to say, 2). an actual recipe, and 3). cute cat pictures,

Litbaker