Friday, February 26, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Dazed and Confused



Let me tell you this.  The older you do get the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin' man.  L-I-V-I-N.

Wooderson knew his stuff, man.  S-T-U-F-F.

There are high school movies.  And there's Dazed and Confused.  Director/Producer Richard Linklater (Waking Life, School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly) took a coming-of-age film, planted it in the 70's and turned it into a cinematic rite of passage. 

The cast (Ben Affleck is great as O'Bannion, the paddle-happy Senior whose calling in life is to instill fear in the backside of every Freshman boy), the soundtrack, the desperate measures taken to zip up high-waisted jeans...they come together to create a smart, funny flick.

It's only appropriate that we put together something easy.  Laid back.  Crunchy.

Homemade Granola! (thanks again, Alton Brown.)

Here's what you'll need:

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut and brown sugar.

  

Do you know how difficult it is to pose bagged items for a food family portrait?  I spent entirely too much time trying to get them to cooperate.  I should start buying everything in boxes or canisters.  Or just trust that you know what these basic ingredients are and not worry myself into an ulcer.

In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, oil and salt.

 

Now that's what I'm talking about.  That's how food items should pose.  You can tell the syrup, oil and salt are boys.  Or colleagues.

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture and give it a good toss.

  

Pour the granola out onto a large sheet pan and spread it out evenly.



Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes so that it browns evenly. 

Your kitchen should smell like heaven at this point.

Remove the pan from the oven and pour the granola into a large bowl.  Add the raisins and mix well.

 

Store in an airtight container.  After you've poured yourself a bowl.


Yowza.  This stuff is goooooood.

You will never want to buy boxed cereal EVER again.

Plain, with milk, sprinkled over Greek yogurt.  Take your pick.


Easy.  Summer breeze-y.  Like Seals and Croft.

Now me and my loser friends are gonna head out to buy Aerosmith tickets. Top priority of the summer.



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Class is in session.

In a perfect world, I'd have enough cash to send myself to culinary school, brownies would be a major food group and "My So-Called Life" would be renewed for one more season (to get some closure on the whole Angela-Jordan-Rayanne drama.)

But since it's not, I decided to take the next logical step:  baking classes!

Get your #2 spatulas ready.

Photo from cookologyonline.com

I discovered Cookology shortly after I had my "OMGIWANTTOBAKEFOR LIFE" epiphany last year.  Cookology is a recreational culinary school that offers a wide variety of classes to satisfy your every foodie desire: date nights, knife skills, different styles of cuisine, baking, even classes for kids.  Berry White and I have taken a few of their Date Night classes and I signed up for a 3-part fondant series.

(I just noticed they're doing a Food and Craft Beer Pairing class on March 13!  Woo hoo!  But sadly, I'm going to be out of town that weekend.  Un-woo hoo.)

Anyway, I snapped a few pics during the Intermediate Fondant session a few weeks ago.

Disclaimer:  this class was held in the wine tasting area, hence the mood lighting.  Great for a Jodeci concert, not so great for photos.

We were given a cake to level and frost.


We had the option to toss our cake scraps.

I chose to toss most of them into my stomach.

This is Chef Brad Spates.  You might remember him from this slice of awesome I posted last month.  He teaches all of the baking classes at Cookology and is the Executive Chef at Lola Cookies & Treats in Leesburg, Virginia.  Breads, pastries, cupcakes, pies, chocolate...he does it all.


Here, he's teaching us how to make a fondant rose.


So cool.


My go at it:


Each one weighed about as much as a duckpin bowling ball.  Gotta work on thinning out those petals.

They were also the color of salmon innards.  I got a little happy with the food coloring.

Ta daaaa!  The final product.


Okay, so I may or may not have split my cake in two when transferring it to the cakeboard.  And perhaps the icing is a little (or completely) lopsided.  I blame the temperature of my hands softening the buttercream. 

But not bad for a first attempt, right?

(Psst.  Reassure me.  Or at least distract me with some generic question about the weather.)

While it won't land me a job at Charm City Cakes any time soon (although I might be able to snag an honorable mention on Cake Wrecks), I still learned a lot from the class.  I've read and watched a ton of baking tutorials online and none of them come close to having things broken down for you in a classroom setting.

Until I'm able to reach my ultimate goal of culinary school, Cookology can help make that distance from point A to B just a little bit shorter. 

Now I just have to work on getting "My So-Called Life" back on the air.








Friday, February 19, 2010

Sugared Cinema: The Sandlot

 
"I was gonna put the ball back."
"But it was signed by Babe Ruth!"
"Yeah, you keep telling me that! Who is she?"
"WHAT? WHAT?"
"The sultan of swat!"
"The king of crash!"
"The colossus of clout!" (..."the colossus of clout!") 
"BABE RUTH!"

"THE GREAT BAMBINO."

"Oh my god.  You mean that's the same guy?!?"

Best part in the movie.  When the severity of the situation hits Smalls, the expression on his face is hysterical.  "YOU MEAN THAT'S THE SAME GUY?!?"  Priceless.


The Sandlot is one of those movies that makes you wish you were a grubby little kid on summer break again.  Back when calling someone a "butt sniffer" was a witty retort and when sleepovers were all about sharing moderately scary stories and having a sugary, sticky treat to accompany them.

By the way, can you guess what we're making today?  I'll give you 3 hints.

1.  It's not a papier mache cowboy hat.
2.  It's smaller than a bread box.
3.  It rhymes with zarshgallows.

No guesses?  The correct answer is marshmallows.

For my first venture into this seemingly simple confection, I decided to put my trust in Mr. Good Eats himself, Alton Brown.

Here's what you'll need:

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Ready?  Okay!  (cheer speak.)

Pour the gelatin and 1/2 cup of the ice water into the bowl of an electric mixer (keep the whisk attachment nearby.)

 

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt and place over medium-high heat. 


[pretend this is a picture of 1/2 cup of ice water.  Brrrrr.]




Cover and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.


Disregard the charred ring of death around the burner.  The homeowner before us apparently didn't like taking care of the stovetop.  Of course, with my luck, she'll probably discover this now that I've bad-mouthed her and egg my house.  

As long as they're cage-free, it's okay.

Take off the cover and place a candy thermometer into the pan.  Let the mixture cook until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7-8 minutes.

Once it reaches 240 degrees, immediately remove it from heat.

Almost there.

 

Bingo.

  

Attach the whisk to the mixer.  On low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.
 


Once you've added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture gets thick and lukewarm (about 12-15 minutes.) 

Got 12-15 minutes to kill?  Perfect!  Time to prep the pan.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Lightly spray a metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and tap it around the pan to coat the bottom and the sides.  

 

Pour the remaining mixture back into the bowl.  You'll need it later.

Back to the mixer, friends.

During the last minute of whipping, add the vanilla.

Look at that dreaminess.


 Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula to spread it evenly.  Dust the top with a light layer of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture.  Reserve the rest for later.


Let the zarshgallows sit uncovered for at least 4 hours (or overnight.)

When you're ready to consume mass quantities of these, pour yourself a beer as a reward for your hard work and for cleaning up that godawful mess.

Today's pairing: a decadent, slightly roasty chocolate porter from Legend Brewing Co out of Richmond, VA.  The cocoa used in this beer is really prominent...that's a good thing.


Now, dust a knife or pizza cutter with the sugar and cornstarch mixture and cut the marshmallows into squares.

You didn't really think we were going to eat these plain, did you? 

"Hey Smalls, you wanna s'more?"
"Some more of what?"  
"No, do you wanna s'more?"
"I haven't had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing?
"You're killing me, Smalls!"

A marshmallow just isn't the same without chocolate and a graham cracker.
 
 I could eat these FOR-EV-ER.


FOR-EV-ER.

 

FOR-EV-ER.

 




Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wakey wakey.

  
I don't care how much of a non-morning person you are.  You can't deny feeling at least a tiny bit of joy when those tired, bloodshot eyes see a fresh breakfast pastry.

Croissants, scones, donuts, muffins, rugelach...they want to be your friends.  They want you to get up and at 'em.  To get that worm.  To fulfill all sorts of morning-related proverbs and phrases.

I found this rugelach recipe on a sweet little blog called Dana Treat.  The recipe comes from Holly B's Bakery in Lopez Island, WA.  It's simple, versatile and the rugelach look really cute when piled on a plate.

Here's what you'll need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
4 ounces cream cheese
7 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup of jam (pick a flavor, any flavor)
6 tablespoons raisins
6 tablespoons nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans - any will work)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon


Using a mixer, cream the butter until smooth.

Add the cream cheese and stir until combined.


Mix in 1 tablespoon of sugar 


and the vanilla.


Gradually stir in flour.

Action shot! (announcing it makes the blurriness seem intentional.)


Try not to overmix it, mmkay?

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap (Press 'n Seal is such a great invention) and loosely wrap it.

Shape the dough into a disk until it's about 6 inches across and 1 inch thick.  Let it chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours (overnight would be fine, too.)


Preheat that big, ol' inferno of love to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface.

Mike.  Take off my slippers.


Anyway, roll it into an 18 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick, making sure that both sides of the dough are floured as you go.


I'm circularly challenged so I use one of these:

 

Such a cheetah.

Spread the jam (I used blackberry) over the dough up to the edges of the circle.


Combine the raisins (I didn't have these on hand so I omitted them), nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the jam.


Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut the dough into 16-20 wedges.


I suddenly have "That's Amore" stuck in my head.

Starting at the wide base of the wedge, roll up each slice of dough so that it looks like a miniature croissant.  Place the pastries 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.


Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan, then bake for another 5-10 minutes until they're golden brown. 

Using a spatula or two forks, transfer the rugelach to a wire rack to cool.

Like I mentioned earlier, the great thing about rugelach is their versatility.  You can make them sweet or savory and can fill them with pretty much anything: dried fruit, chocolate, herbs, crumbly cheese, cured meats...I mean, anything.

And yes, they really do look cute when piled on a plate.

Heeeeey there, morning.  I see you.  And I'm ready for you.


Folgers had it all wrong.  


This is the best part of waking up.