Monthly Archives: April 2010

patara thai in london

patara thai in london shares owners with the patara in bangkok.  the one in london is absolutely delicious, although my friend who introduced me to patara  london says the one in thailand is even more amazing. until i board a 20 hour flight to bangkok, patara london will do, very well and nicely that is.

hubby and i have been to patara several times now in the past few years, and always to the one on maddox street — london friend tells us that it’s the best one and we haven’t eaten any of the other locations to advocate on their behalf.  while we sometimes try new dishes, like the grilled beef salad in the first picture, we invariably find ourselves drawn to the gang kua goong–prawns stewed in a curry of kaffir lime, tumeric, scented coconut with betelnut leaves–and nua tom kati–beef, slow braised in a coconut milk reduction with fresh lime, lemongrass and chili.  hubby detests coconut milk, but he makes an exception for patara, where he literally drinks the herb-laden coconut milk based sauces in which the prawn and beef have simmered.  there’s just something so surreal about the flavours — at once tangy, refreshing, spicy and harmoniously rich.  i’ll usually tack on a steamed mango sticky rice to the end of the meal — my sweet tooth can’t resist.

Patara Thai
7 Maddox St.
London
Tel 0207 499 6008
Mon-Sun: Noon – 2.30; 5:30pm – 10:30pm

(Note: they also have locations in Soho, Knightsbridge and South Kensington)

fig crumb muffins

i came across a bag of frozen figs i harvested from my fig tree last fall, while cleaning out my freezer the past weekend.  remembering the delicious fig muffins that they serve at locanda verde for breakfast, i decided to re-create the recipe at home.  i started with dorie greenspan’s recipe for allspice crumb muffins and adapted from there.  i thought they tasted really good, but then, what doesn’t taste good fresh out of the oven?

Fig Crumb Muffins
(makes 12 dozen muffins)

Crumb Top
Flour ½ cup
Light Brown Sugar ½ cup
Nutmeg ½ tsp
Butter 5 tbsp, cold and cut into bits.
Muffins
Flour 2 cups
Sugar ½ cup
Baking powder 1 tbsp
Nutmeg ½ tsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Light brown sugar ¼ cup
Butter 1 stick, melted @ room temp
Eggs 2 large ones
Whole Milk ¾ cup
Vanilla extract 1 tsp
Fresh or frozen figs 1 cup, chopped into thumb-sized pieces.
  1. Make the crumb top and set aside.  To do so, sift together dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Toss in the bits of cold butter and use your fingers to work the ingredients until small crumbs form.  Place in refrigerator until ready for use.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375ºF.  Place paper muffin cups in a muffin pan, and set aside.
  3. Add flour, sugar baking powder, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed.  Mix together until well-combined.
  4. Then add in melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla extract.  Mix together on lowest speed until just combined.
  5. Add in figs and stir until evenly incorporated.
  6. Drop the batter into the muffin cups.  I use an ice cream scooper with a lever to distribute the batter into the cups.
  7. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of the muffins and press in gently with your finger.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

the baked brownie with pink himalayan salt

the brownie at baked (a bakery in red hook, brooklyn) has got quite a pedigree. its one of oprah’s favorite things, and got voted best brownie on the Today show and the venerable America’s Test Kitchen.  the folks at baked credit Lesli Heffler-Flick for having developed the recipe.  it’s super chocolatey, moist and dense.

a few months back, hubby and i took a mini road trip to check out baked in red hook.  we bought a slice of cake and a pre-packaged brownie.  i really wanted to try their salt brownie but they were out of stock that day.  alas!  the past week, i finally got around to baking up their brownie recipe at home and sprinkling on a touch of salt — i didn’t have sea salt, but i did have a jar of pink himalayan salt in my pantry.

i don’t know if it was the  just-out-of-the-oven freshness or the addition of salt, but the brownie really knocked my socks off!  i highly recommend whipping up this recipe at home.

The Baked Brownie with Pink Himalayan Salt
(makes about 24 square or 32 rectangular brownies in a 9×13 inch baking pan; adapted from Baked – New Frontiers in Baking; as with all things, i’ve reduced the sugar quantity from the original)

Flour 1 ¼ cups
Salt 1 tsp
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 2 tbsp
Dark chocolate couverture 11 oz
Butter 1 cup (2 sticks)
Instant espresso powder 1 tsp
Sugar 1 ¼ cups
Light Brown sugar ¼ cup
Eggs 5 large ones @ room temp
Vanilla Extract 2 tsp
Himalayan Pink Salt Sprinkle for taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan, line bottom with parchment paper and butter on top of the paper.
  2. Melt chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in the bowl of your stand mixer by place it over a hot water bath.  Stir until completely melted and smooth.
  3. Add the sugar to the chocolate mixture.  Stir until well-combined.
  4. Fit the bowl with the chocolate mixture into your stand mixer and continue to stir using the paddle attachment until it is a room temperature.
  5. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture one at a time.
  6. Add in vanilla.  Mix until well combined.
  7. Whisk together flour, salt and cocoa in a separate bowl. Then fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture using a rubber spatula.  [Ok, you can actually cheat here.  I just put the flour mixture direct into the bowl of my stand mixer and turned it down to the lowest speed.  I let it mix for about 15 seconds — some bits of flours were still visible — before turning off the machine, and pouring the batter into a prepared pan].
  8. The batter is quite thick.  Pour it into a prepared pan and smooth the top with your spatula.
  9. Baked for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. When cool, invert from pan and slice into desired shapes.

Baked
359 Van Brunt Street
Brooklyn, New York 11231
Tel: 718.222.0345

thomas keller’s brownies

i thought i would kick off my brownie exploration with a recipe from thomas keller’s adhoc cookbook.  these brownies are absolutely delicious. i might add that they taste quite similar to the chocolate bouchons that he sells at his eponymous time warner center pastry counter!

Brownies by Thomas Keller
(adapted from adhoc at home; makes about a dozen rectangular brownies)

Flour ¾ cup
Cocoa powder 1 cup, unsweetened
Salt 1 tsp
Butter ¾ pounds (3 sticks)
Eggs 3 large ones
Sugar 1 ½ cups
Vanilla Extract ½ tsp
Chocolate Chips 6 oz.
Confectioners’ Sugar For dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour a 9-inch square pan, and set aside.
  2. Microwave the butter for 30 seconds or until it is about half melted.  Stir with a spatula until creamy and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together eggs and sugar until thick and pale on the highest speed.  Add in vanilla.
  5. On the lowest speed, add in the butter (from step 2) and dry ingredients (from step 3) in thirds until just incorporated.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.  (The batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 week).
  7. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.  It is very thick and you may need to use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.
  8. Bake for ~45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Cool in the pan until it is around room temperature, flip and cut into 12 rectangles.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

earl grey mixed berry jam new way linzer torte

sometimes when i’ve got a ton of jam sitting around the house, i bake it into cakes, cookies, bars and tarts!  i started out aiming for a rendition of the classic linzer torte, but with a lot of changes:

  • pâte sucrée instead of hazelnut flour
  • covered in hearts rather than the usual basket lattice
  • earl grey mixed berry jam instead of raspberries
  • the addition of pecans

by the time i finished, i don’t think it resembled the linzer torte very much at all but it tasted good to me, and i suppose that’s all that counts in my book.

Earl Grey Mixed Berry Jam New Way Linzer Torte
(makes 1 nine-inch tart)

Pâte Sucrée 300g or 1/3 of a pâte sucrée recipe
Earl Grey Mixed Berry Jam 3/4 to 1 cup
Pecans 1/4 cup, crushed
Confectioner’s sugar 1 tbsp (optional)
  1. Prepare blind baked tart shell following steps 1-6 of apricot-almond cream recipe.
  2. Sprinkle pecans on the bottom of the cooled tart shell.
  3. Then, fill the tart with jam until the jam is about 1/4 to 1/3 inch from the edge (i had underfilled mine in the picture).
  4. Roll out about 100g of pâte sucrée until it is 1/4 inch thick. Place the flattened pastry in the freezer for 5 minutes.  Then, cut out 20-25 1.5 inch heart shapes with a cookie cutter.  Arrange on top of the jam.
  5. Bake at 350ºF for about 40 minutes or until the crust has browned and the jam is bubbly.
  6. Cool on a rack.
  7. [Optional] When completely cooled and ready to serve, dust with some confectioner’s sugar.

apricot-almond cream tart

after my visit to the sono baking company, i got it into my head that i wanted to make an apricot almond cream tart at home.  i couldn’t find shelled pistachios, and so i substituted with sliced almonds; and because i couldn’t locate fresh apricots this time of year, i ended up using canned ones, which turned out to be not a very good substitute.  i don’t know if it was the brand (something from whole foods) or canned apricots in general, but they ended up being really mushy and fell apart as soon as i took them out of the can.  i’ll need to try this recipe again with fresh apricots when they’re back in season and hopefully, when i’ve found a source of inexpensive shelled pistachios.

Apricot-Almond Cream Tart
(makes one 9 inch tart)

Pâte Sucrée 300g or 1/3 of a pâte sucrée recipe
Almond Cream ~1/3 of an almond cream recipe
Apricots 1 16oz can, or if you can find it, 3 to 4 fresh apricots, skins peeled.
Sliced Blanced Almonds ½ cup
  1. Roll out the chilled tart shell and fit it into an 8 to 9 inch tart ring.  The tart ring should be set over a half sheet pan that’s lined with parchment paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 350ºF.
  3. Put the prepared tart shell into the freezer while you’re waiting for the oven to heat.
  4. Prick the frozen tart shell a few times with a fork.  Place a sheet of foil on top of the frozen tart shell and weigh it down with dried beans or other pie weights.
  5. Bake the shell for 15 minutes, then remove the dried beans and foil and bake for another 15 minutes.  Optional: in the last 5 minutes of baking, brush some egg white on top of the tart to make it waterproof.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool.
  7. When the tart shell has cooled, spread the almond cream evenly on the bottom of the shell using an offset spatula.
  8. Arrange apricots on top of the almond cream.  If using fresh apricots, you may need to sprinkle some sugar and butter on them to enhance their flavour.
  9. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of the apricots and almond cream.
  10. Bake at 350ºF for 45-50 minutes or until the almond cream has set.

earl grey mixed berry jam

there’s been a strawberry glut going on, such that stores and street vendors (even in manhattan) seem to be almost giving them away.  i bought too many the other day, couldn’t finish them before traveling overseas, and decided to freeze them for another use.  as i was cleaning out my freezer this weekend, i discovered that i had built up a pretty mighty stash of frozen raspberries, blackberries and blueberries in addition to the latest strawberry addition.  there was really only one thing to do:  make jam! and if i’m going to make jam, i might as well brew up a flavour that i really like and can’t find in stores — hence the earl grey, an ingredient which really seems to enhance to aromatic properties of all sweet goods.

seeing the jam delightfully nestled in a fido clamp jar, i thought it only made sense to display the unctuous delight on a piece from my liberty print collection.  yay liberty! yay fido! yay jam!

Earl Grey Mixed Berry Jam
(makes ~1 quart)

Mixed Berries 900g or ~2 lbs
Sugar 600g (using ¾ the amount of sugar to fruit is usually a good rule of thumb to preserve the fruits; however, i like my jam less sweet and can usually get away with using 2/3rds)
Lemon Juice Juice of 1 lemon
Earl Grey Loose Tea Leaves 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp
Hot Water 1 cup
  1. Brew a very strong cup of earl grey tea using 2 tbsp and 1 cup of hot water, and set aside. I let my tea leaves steep in the hot water for 1 hour before straining out the tea leaves.
  2. Pour berries, sugar and lemon juice into a medium-sized bowl and combine with a wooden spatula.  Allow the mixture to macerate overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Place a clean plate in the freezer.
  4. The next day, pour the berry mixture, brewed earl grey tea and 1 tbsp of dry tea leaves into a clean wide bottomed pot.  I usually use my 5 quart dutch oven or my copper lined all-clad stock pot.
  5. Allow the mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring intermittently.
  6. When the liquid has reduced to half and the bubbles and foam begin to subside, stir more regularly and begin testing for “done-ness.” To do so, take your clean plat out of the freezer, put a small amount of jam on the plate.  Return it to the freezer for 1 minute.  Take your finger, and push on the jam slightly.  If it is done, you will see wrinkles appear on the jam.  If it’s not done, it will be liquid and run all over.
  7. Pour into a clean jar and close the lid. (Sealing in hot jam actually creates an airtight seal.  I get a popping sound when I re-open it later on). When cool, store in refrigerator.  (I’ve kept my jam in good condition in the fridge for up to 1 year.  For longer shelf-stable storage, refer to proper jamming techniques.)

a pail of coffee ice cream

it’s ice cream making season again! and there’s nothing like homemade ice cream in terms of freshness and custardy goodness.  i bought a new bag of coffee beans and decided to polish off the old bag by making it into some coffee ice cream.  the ingredients are quite simple, but there is a good deal of  simmering cooling, whipping,  simmering and more cooling involved.  so plan in advance!

Coffee Ice Cream
(makes  about 1-1.5 quarts)

Coffee Beans 3 tbsp  (i used black cat classic espresso)
Half and Half 4 cups
Sugar ¾ cup
Egg yolks 10
Rum 1 tbsp
Salt ¼ tsp
  1. Grind up coffee beans into fairly large chunks.
  2. Pour half and half into a large saucepan.  Add in 1/2 cup of sugar and the coffee beans.
  3. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Stir intermittently to ensure that the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Once it begins to bubble, turn off heat and let the mixture steep for 1 hour.
  5. After 1 hour, whisk together egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer at medium speed.  Whisk until the yolks are slightly thickened.
  6. With the mixer set at its lowest speed, add in 1/2 cup of the coffee-milk mixture.  Whisk for 20 seconds, then add in the rest of the milk mixture, rum and salt. Mix until well-combined.
  7. Set a strainer over a clean saucepan and pour the egg-milk mixture into the saucepan.
  8. Prepare an ice bath and set a medium sized bowl on top of the ice bath.
  9. Put the saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly, scraping the sides with a wooden spoon, until a custard forms.  The custard is ready when it coats the back of the spoon. ( To test, take your finger and draw a line through the custard on the back of the spoon.  The custard on the sides of the line will stay put. )
  10. Strain the hot custard into the bowl set atop of the ice bath.
  11. Keep stirring the strained custard until the steam begins to dissipate.
  12. Refrigerate until cold.
  13. Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and follow the machine’s instructions for making ice cream.

field trip to sono baking company

i purchased john barricelli’s baking book a few weeks back.  it was filled with such wonderful recipes that i convinced  hubby, g and i to take a little field trip up to his bakery south norwalk, ct. it’s about an hour drive from downtown manhattan.  the bakery itself is a full-fledged commercial facility located in what looks like an old warehouse/factory space from the outside.  i could smell flour while walking past its loading dock space.  once inside, the bakery is arranged rather cheerfully with yellow walls, brightly lit pastry cases for delicate cakes and off white wooden counters topped with granite for the freshly baked croissants and tarts.   i couldn’t decided what i wanted what inside.  should i get cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake, a tomato tartlet, an almond croissant or the whole store?  i ended up buying (1) an apricot, pistachio and almond cream tart and (2) a plum filled tart. they were both quite delicious, although i preferred the apricot tart.  (as you can see, i sneaked a bite before remembering to snap a photo).

i did find somewhat remarkable that john so generously included in his book the recipes for so many of the baked goods actually sold at his store.  i will certainly be baking up some of his recipes that i didn’t get around to at home.

sono baking company also offers breakfast and lunch options, like omelets, eggs, sandwiches and soups — though the offerings tend to be more limited on sundays.  there’s some indoor and outdoor seating — strictly self-service. large windows are installed towards the back of the store, allowing us to peak in at the bakers at work.  while there, we watched on one of the bakers roll and shape croissants — talk about speedy!  — and i saw perhaps one of the largest stand mixers i’ve ever set my eyes upon.  commercial baking is a whole different animal from home baking.

Sono Baking Company
101 Water Street
Norwalk, CT 06854-3012
(203) 847-7666

Mon 7am-3pm
Tue-Sat 7am-5pm
Sun 7am-4pm

hojicha loaf bread

lately, i’ve taken to hojicha — it’s a tea typically made by roasting green tea or common tea leaves over charcoal fire to turn the leaves a reddish-brown and imbuing the slightest caramel flavour.  a lot of higher end japanese restaurants serve it at the end of the meal.  i usually cup my hands around it, let the steam rise into my nostrils, and breathe in the vapors like a warm embrace.

i picked up some instant hojicha powder in narita a few months back, and i happened to see it from the corner of my eye while i was preparing my bread dough.  i dropped a few tablespoons into my bread dough.  it ended up being a pretty neutral ingredient.  unlike earl grey tea, hojicha didn’t leave behind a strong fragrance.  its caramel notes blended harmoniously with the the bread flour.  i would like to believe that my hojicha loaf ended up tasting warmer and home-ier, but i’m sure that belief is unduly founded on my knowledge that the loaf contained a bit of hojicha essence.

still, if you would like to believe . . . here’s the recipe:

Hojicha Loaf Bread
(makes one 12 inch loaf)

Bread flour                                540g
Cake flour                                    60g
Active dry yeast                          10g
Milk powder                               30g
Sugar                                           80g
Salt                                                 9g
Egg                                                  1 large one
Milk                                           250g
Half & Half                               150g
Instant Hojicha Powder             3 tbsp

  1. Microwave milk for about 1 minute until it is warm to the touch.
  2. Dissolve yeast into the milk and add 1 tbsp of sugar (you can take it from the 80g that you had measured out).  Let stand until foam forms on top. About 15 minutes.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients in a large bowl. I use the dough hook on my stand mixer set to a low to medium speed.
  4. When the yeast mixture (from step 2) is ready, add it in with the other ingredients and mix on medium speed until the dough forms and begins to peel away from the sides of the bowl.  Around 3 to 4 minutes.  (Compared to pizza dough, this dough is rather moist)
  5. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled.  About 1-2 hours.
  6. De-gas the dough. Then, divide it  into 4 portions.
  7. Roll-out each piece of dough on a lightly floured surface, roll the flattened pieces of dough into a log, and then tuck the ends under so as to form a ball.  Place the 4 pieces of dough next to each other into a buttered, 5 x 5 x 12 inch (or whatever size is closest) loaf pan.
  8. Cover with plastic and let rise at room temperature or place into proofing oven uncovered.  To test if the dough is ready, make an indentation with your finger and see if it stays.  In my case, the dough had finished proofing when it puffed up about 1 inch over the rim of my loaf pan.  About 1 hour.
  9. Bake for 40-45 minutes at 350ºF.
  10. Remove from pan carefully almost as soon as it is out of the oven, and let cool on a rack. (If you let it sit in the pan to cool, the sides will get soggy as the bread expels steam from its sides while cooling].