Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eating My Way Through NYC

Hi, it's Karli again. My husband, Travis, and I were lucky enough to spend the past weekend in New York City and I wanted to share some of the amazing food I got to eat. We arrived Saturday morning and made our way from Midtown to the Upper West Side navigating the subway all by ourselves. That is what three master's degrees between two people will get you. Once we go to the Upper West Side I had to go to Zabar's, a gourmet grocery store and New York legend. We picked up a freshly-baked baguette, salami and provolone, blueberries and some Boylan Cream Soda and headed over to picnic in Central Park.

Later that evening we went on an adventure to find the reportedly best burger joint in NYC. It is in a swanky hotel in Midtown and only denoted by a neon sign of a hamburger and the line of people waiting by a velvet curtain in the hotel lobby.

(Sorry for the poor image quality. It is difficult to take a picture of a neon sign while trying to look nonchalant.) Once inside it was as if you were part of a cool club that not many people knew about. It was a small room and you ordered at the back.

If you were not ready with your order they admonished you to the back of the line. Then you tried desperately to get a seat. I happened to sit where Duffy had apparently sat before me.

So let me just tell you, it was worth all the trouble. Delicious, juicy, no-fuss burgers, perfect french fries with a smattering of salt and an ice cold beer to wash it down. Travis and I were in heaven. Plus our whole meal was under $30 which is pretty unheard of in Manhattan.
After dinner we made our way to the Magnolia Bakery.

I had heard that Magnolia has the best cupcakes on the planet and being a major cupcake addict I had to find out if all the hype was true. IT WAS!!! Apparently there is such a run on cupcakes at Magnolia that they are putting out new batches every 15 minutes. There is a team of people in the back just icing the cupcakes once they have cooled. We ended up getting red velvet with whipped vanilla icing, chocolate with chocolate buttercream and vanilla with whipped vanilla icing. Those cupcakes were freakin' heaven! Rich, dense cake with a delicate crumb and whipped icing that was light and airy, yet packed with intense flavor. You must try these cupcakes.

After that Travis and I found our way back to our hotel in a sugar-induced euphoric state and waiting in anticipation for the following day's trip to Brooklyn which I will write about on Monday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Corny Pancakes?!

Hello all! As you may know, I've been a spring cleanin'. Sorting and finding and tossing and organizing. I found my old cookbook/binder from my FCSFN 110 course. (That's a cooking class for college kids.) It's loaded with simple, easy recipes. I found a recipe for Corn Fritters or Corn Pancakes. It gave the option of deep frying the batter for fritters or frying the batter on a griddle for pancakes. I have made an oath to myself to never deep fry anything. I know if I do it once, I'll see how easy it is and how delicious and then I'll be the size of Jupiter. So, pancakes it is.

The recipe asked for 1 and 1/2 cups of flour. I was going for something gluten free, so I used buckwheat flour, but I believe that any flour would work. Whole wheat or oat would be great, but of course all-purpose would turn out the best.

On top of the flour, salt, and baking soda, I poured in a can (14.75 fl oz) of creamed corn, 2 eggs, and a tiny dash of vanilla bean paste. Mix well, but don't over mix. No one likes tough pancakes.

On to a hot, greased griddle they go. Buckwheat tastes really good, but man, it makes an ugly pancake.

Silly me, this was not a silicone brush. Poor brush, you've been good to me. Note to self: get a silicone brush to evenly distribute oil on griddle.

Dones! These guys were a bit tall. Next time, I'll toss in a dash of liquid. You can use some crazy liquids in pancake batters. I've used Sprite even, but milk is a safe bet.

Storage for left over pancakes: layer them with wax paper and put into a freezer bag. They'll keep for a few months. Pop them into a toaster to warm them up.

Corn Pancakes
-1 1/2 cup of flour
-2 tsp. baking soda
-1/8 tsp. salt
-1 (14.75oz.) can of creamed corn
-2 eggs
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
-1/4 cup of sugar (optional)
-splash of milk if you like thinner pancakes

Mix all ingredients together. Cook on greased griddle. Serve warm with copious amounts of real maple syrup.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Julia Child's Crème Anglaise

One evening while finishing dinner, my roommate, feeling cheeky, pulled my Mastering the Art of French Cooking from my bookshelf and said, "You will make the thing that is on the page I open." He then closed his eyes and turned to page 588 - Creme Anglaise.

The recipe looked easy enough, but I didn't even know what a creme anglaise was supposed to look like. I didn't let that bother me and just went on anyway. A creme anglaise is a light custard sauce apparently. Beat 4 egg yolks and a half cup of sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Beat until the color is light yellow and forms "the ribbon".

Pour, very slowly and gradually, 1 and 3/4 cup of near boiling milk into the egg and sugar mixture. Do not pour too quickly or you will cook your eggs. That would be gross. This photo is blurry because I was accidentally pouring hot milk on my foot. The things I do for food and friends!

Return this mixture to the stove on a very low heat setting. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the mixture thickens.

You can tell when it's done because it turns a darker shade of yellow and coats the back of a spoon well.

Important: strain the custard through a fine sieve just in case you cooked your eggs. (I did a little bit.) I'm so glad I strained it. No one wants eggy chunks in their custard. Now is the time to flavor your custard. Julia suggests 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract (I used 2 tsp of vanilla bean paste.) or 1 tsp of vanilla extract AND 1 Tbsp of rum, kirsch, cognac, flavored liqueur, or instant coffee.

After making and tasting my creme anglaise, I thought of many ways to eat it: over ice cream, pound cake, or tarts; for using fruit in which to dip; topped with nuts or granola, etc. It can be served hot or cold and adds a bit of fancy to any dessert.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Perfect Roasted Potatoes

Flipping through my list of favorite blogs, I found the answer to all of my roasted potato questions on Chocolate & Zucchini. After I read her post, the clouds parted and the sun shone down on me. I set to work immediately, scrubbin' and choppin' my potatoes.

All kinds of potatoes will work for this recipe. Fill up a large pot with salted water while you clean and cut your taters.

Cut them into bite sized pieces.

When the water reaches a boil, toss them in and let them cook for 5 minutes. They won't be fully cooked; this is just a head start. Turn your oven on to a very high heat around 450 degrees.

Carefully toss your hot potatoes in a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste. I made these spicy with chili powder, pepper, and chili pepper. Don't forget the salt.

After 15 minutes, toss and turn the potatoes and cook for another 15 minutes. They will be crispy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside. I'll never struggle with potatoes again! Thanks Chocolate & Zucchini!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lowery's Candies: Muncie's Sweetest Specialty Store

In the little ol' city of Muncie, there is one of the sweetest places on earth: Lowery's Candies. Upon entering this humble shop, a wave of delicious scent hits like brick, like a brick of chocolate to be exact. Lowery's Candies is a family run company and has been in business for 69 years. It has been a cornerstone for the Muncie and Yorktown communities for decades. Every single piece of candy has been handmade and hand-dipped the old fashioned way. Their love and effort shines through in their delectable chocolates.

Having grown up in the area, Lowery's was a big part of gift giving and receiving in my family.

Inside, peer through the glass and pick out your favorites. Assorted boxes are available to satisfy all tastes: Nuts & Chewies, Assorted Cremes, or both.

I used to get one of these giant chocolate eggs from my grandma every year at Easter. They were always filled with chocolate covered toffee, my favorite.

I love sending these Indiana shaped chocolates to my friends from afar. Lowery's was one of the first places I would show off to foreign exchange students. They became immediate fans.

I cannot leave Lowery's without a Tiger Paw (you might know them as a turtle.) What could possibly be better than chocolate, caramel, and pecans? That's right, nothing! The little item on top was a new discovery for me. (I was shocked myself; having been around Lowery's all of my life.) It's called a Dark Secret. Dark, obviously because it's covered with dark chocolate, and secret because the thick creme's recipe is unknown to most of the staff. Those sneaky chocolatiers!

I know you're drooling because I am, too, but please know that Lowery's Candies close up shop or the summer. The heat and humidity are very unkind to the candies. Lowery's is open for Mother's Day and then usually shut their doors soon after. They reopen sometime in September. Give them a call if you're wondering. It truly depends on the weather. Lowery's will ship all over the US, and you can order online! Hooray for the internet! Hooray for Lowery's Candies in the mail!

Monday, April 12, 2010

This Only Happens in Movies...or on MTV!

I have to tell you about our wild Saturday. It's one for the books; a roller coaster day full of twists and turns. The day begins very early (well, very early for me) at 7am. I loaded up my car with a bunch of crap to sell at Karli's yard sale. I was grumpy and still half asleep when I was trying to shut the door with my hands full - broke a hand-blown glass vase. Grrr! In my angry fit, I tossed a box into my car/fell into my car and clothes-lined myself in the car door frame. Ah, a pleasant way to start the day.

Things got better when I arrived at Karli and Travis's house. We set up shop in their front lawn. We had visitors even before all of our stuff was put out. THEN, while we were selling and customers were buying, one of the customers collapsed and had a seizure. Karli called 911, and a fire truck and an ambulance full of paramedics came to help. The woman was OK. Thankfully she didn't hit her head too hard when she fell. She recovered after a few minutes with a peanut butter sandwich and milk - hypoglycemic apparently. She actually returned later in the afternoon to thank us and continued shopping!!!

Our yard sale went very well, but at noon we had to cut out and head to a TV shoot produced by a handful of lovely folks from MTV!!! Because The Hot Cookie is a member of the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange, and Amanda and Neal Tafflinger won one of the Pepsi Refresh Everythinggrants for their future store, Homespun, we got to participate! Renowned MTV corespondent,SuChin Pak conducted interviews with all of the Handicrafters present. It was very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. All of the crew members were very nice, and LOVED our cookies. We are honored to have been a part of it.
Here we are being interviewed by SuChin.

She had just taken a bite of one of our Sea Salt Chocolate Chunkers and is showing the camera. She nibbled on them between questions.
The rest of our mock Handicraft Exchange. We did a pretty good job. The wind was a bit naughty.
And if that weren't enough, one of the producers bought pizza for us all; and not just any pizza, but Jockamo's pizza! Could life get any sweeter? The one minute segment is supposed to run sometime within the next couple of weeks and (potentially) be on MTV, VH1, TeenNick, Comedy Central,, and SpikeTV.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ha Ha! Success! Buckwheat Bran Bread

Hello everyone! You may know the story of how bad I am at making yeast bread. That yeasty beast has been tangling with me for some time. I've had a break through I think. I made a more than edible, actually tasty loaf of hearty whole wheat bread. Check it out!
This bread contained a lot of fun ingredients such as buckwheat flour, whole buckwheat (kasha), bran flakes, milled flax seed, whole wheat flour, etc. Those ingredients gave the bread a distinct earthy, nutty flavor WITHOUT tasting like dirt. I'm so happy!
This was a very sticky stage. I decided to hand knead this bread - a test to see if hand kneading gets better results than a stand mixer. I tossed on quite a bit more flour. No need to get crazy messy.
Lookin' good right before the first rise. This dough is very easy to work with and has a nice color.
The second rise: it rose just like the recipe said it would, and while it was uncovered, too. The mysteries of bread! I'll never get over it.
I will never bake bread again without this thermometer. It really does take all of the guess work out. No more tapping on the bottom of the loaf. No more poking it with a fork. Thank you, thermometer, thank you.
I didn't burn it! A great success! A slathering of butter gave it this nice shine.
And it has an even crumb as well! I attribute that to hand kneading. I don't doubt that a stand mixer can do the job, I just haven't figured out how to do it. Besides, a little muscle work never hurt.
Ahhh, delicious! It tastes slightly nutty like a whole wheat bread should. I love how the little kashas give a little crunch. I am very pleased! This will be a bread to make again. Maybe next time I'll throw in some herbs, spices, or nuts. Oh, the possibilities!

Adapted from The Book of Bread by Judith & Evan Jones
  • 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup bran flakes
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup milled flax seed
  • 1/4 cup kasha (whole buckwheat)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 -2 1/2 cups white flour
In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and honey in warm water. Stir in the bran, buckwheat flour, oil, salt, flax seed, kasha, and about 1 cup each of the whole wheat flour and the white flour. Stir together - should be quite stiff.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to rest while you clean and grease your large bowl.
Knead the dough, adding more of the whole wheat and white flour as necessary. Knead for about 10 minutes. Put the dough into the greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise and double in bulk for about an hour and a half to 2 hours.
Turn the dough out and punch down. Form into a loaf and place in a greased 8 inch bread pan. Leave it uncovered and let it rise for exactly 35 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190. Turn out onto a rack to cool.
Makes 1 loaf, and can easily be doubled!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Hot Cookie's First Wedding!

Look how fancy Karli is. She put together these adorable sample packs for our first wedding clients, Ari and Valerie. We are providing cookies for their wedding in June.
Ari sought us out specifically because our cookies are all natural and because he's awesome and wants to support local business. When the guests arrive at their reception, they will be greeted with a tasty bag of cookies! What a sweet way to thank their friends and family for coming!
The sample packs allow the bride and groom to taste and choose the cookies that will best suit their guests. It's probably one of the hardest decisions of their wedding plans, I'm sure. Ari confirmed that this was true.
Karli and I are looking forward to this momentous occasion.

Also, more big news for The Hot Cookie: we've just been accepted into the Carmel Farmers' Market this summer! There were 55 vendors competing for the only two available spots at this prestigious market, and we got one! Please come and check out the Carmel Farmers' Market. We'll be looking for you!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fancy Colored Pasta!

Black spaghetti! Yes, it kind of looks like a pile of worms. I found this interesting pasta at Target. It's colored naturally with squid ink. Mmm, squid ink. You can't taste it at all. I bought it for a special Halloween dinner, but that was a very busy night and this sad pasta got pushed aside. I served it this week with a simple bolognese sauce and some garlic bread. (Actually, it was garlic naan bread. I'm a fan of crossing cultures.) My dinner guests were pleased.
AND check out this cool pasta that my very thoughtful brother brought me from Italy!

So many colors! The colors come from spinach, tomato, beet, turmeric, blueberry, and of course, squid ink. The pasta's colors bled into the boiling water while it was cooking. I drained off pink water. Weird!
I wanted a light sauce for this special pasta, so I thought a simple tomato sauce would do the trick. Into a small sauce pan, I poured 2 (15oz.) cans of diced tomatoes (my cans included basil, garlic, and oregano) and a small palm full of chili peppers...
...and this amount of dried shallots...
...and this much basil, from Mom's garden no less. I added a big pinch of pepper and a heaping 1/2 tsp of salt and let it simmer for a half an hour.
And no pasta dish is complete without some shredded cheese. Yay, colorful pasta!