Thursday, January 29, 2009

The tuile goes round and round

So that you can read this entry - tuile is pronounced (roughly) "tweel". It is a French word that means "tile" since the traditional cookies resemble roof tiles.

The Daring Bakers started 2009 off "light" with tuiles; both savory and sweet:

Perhaps to make up for missing the last 2 months - I went a bit crazy this month and made 2 different kinds of tuiles, 3 different ways!

Thomas Keller's cornet tuiles filled with spicy salmon or creamy crab

Vanilla tuile cups with homemade mocha ice cream topped with grandma's
hot fudge and crushed Heath Bar (um, I didn't make the Heath Bar)

Butterfly vanilla tuile topping meyer lemon mousse with raspberries

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

They threw in the savory option for us as well with Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame)'s cornet tuile recipe!

You've seen a tuile before. Often they're served at fancy meals with a dollop of some type of mousse or tucked into the side of a terrine. They're very light and crispy and can be flavored with sugar and vanilla or salt and parmesan (or LOTS else!) To make the shapes, you need stencils, but instead of paying $20 for 1 repeated shape, I bought a .06cm thickness cutting board from a Japanese [dollar] store, freehanded my own stencils and cut them out with a utility knife. I got a 4" circle, a 7" circle, a heart, a butterfly and an oval! For $3.00 and about 1 hour!

My $3.00 cutting board ------ It was .06cm thick ------ One of my 5 stencils I made!

I was so excited to tackle January's Daring Baker's Challenge since I missed both November and December first preparing for my Africa trip and then recovering from it! The announcement came that we'd make tuiles and I was very pleased! -- plus we were given TONS of freedom with the only requirement that we do 1 of 4 given recipes! There's a part of me that loves it when we're given a lot of freedom and another part that hates it. I love it because I can get as creative as I want and tailor the challenge to my and my loved ones' palates. But I hate it because I will often think and research and ponder and plan and create WAY more than one really should.

I could have made a meal on these alone!

When I start my planning and creating it usually begins with what I feel like eating. Once I come up with that I think about whether there's an upcoming event I could prepare my challenge for. If there's not - I create my own! So I invited Mom, Dad, Auntie Betty and Uncle Bruce over one weekend and proceeded to treat them to a nice dinner just as they've done for me so many times in my life. Dungeness crabs were on sale for $2.99/pound -- can we say, easy-as-pie cracked crab dinner? That way I had all the time in the world for my appetizers and dessert!

Cracked crabs are SO EASY to prepare, there was
plenty of time for making appetizers and dessert!

I am fortunate enough to have dined at the famous French Laundry. So I've actually eaten Thomas Keller's cornet with tuna tartar made my the man himself. It was absolutely delish - so I wanted to try my hand at them. However, those cute little cones were the most time consuming element of the entire 3 course meal! Right up to even finding a Sur la Table with cornet molds (aka. cream horn molds) in stock. I'm lucky to have 3 Sur la Tables within 15 miles of my home so mission was accomplished within a day's time.

Cream horn molds are those metal cones you see - they're about 4" tall

Those tuiles must be the PERFECT doneness to mold around the cones though. And even with latex gloves on - my fingertips were feeling a big fried by that night. But all was worthwhile! Would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Making Thomas Keller's cornet tuiles (and burning my fingertips!)

I've been making a lot of spicy salmon lately and decided to pair the cornet with that instead of Keller's tuna tartar. First problem though - I have only recently gotten my mother to put raw fish into her mouth (she enjoys it, as one should - but it took me a LONG time!) And I will not even ATTEMPT to talk my father into doing this. Just no way in heck, boy. So I whipped up a hot crab filling (with some of the crab I steamed for dinner) with green onions and cream cheese. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!

Savory tuile cornets filled with spicy salmon tartar and hot creamy crab with scallions

For dessert that night I had pre-made a lot of items the day before: mocha ice cream (combo of this recipe and one from this book) and my grandmother's hot fudge sauce. My mom actually altered grandma's hot fudge recipe so that it is now not only RICH but when it's poured over ice cream - it solidifies just the slightest bit to a soft, slightly chewy, fudge...OMG it's amazing! I crushed up some Heath Bar and was ready for my tuile bowl making!

This is what mocha ice cream starts as --- Ready to firm up in the freezer overnight

For the bowls I used ~7" circle --- Gotta move fast to shape them

I would recommend to anyone attempting to make tuiles - for the first baking do ONLY 1. It will not turn out right so you'll learn from it. It will either be overdone or underdone and will either break when you try to mold it or end up chewy after you do.

Oh SOOOOO good - crispy, chewy, crunchy, fudgy... all in one bite

I've mentioned that I'm a freak before, yes? Well this just proves it. After a delicious and (what my relatives stated was) impressive meal I still had one last tuile idea in my head and could not live without fulfilling it. Here I had drawn and created all these stencils and essentially only used the 2 circles for my meal. I just HAD to use that butterfly!!

What do lemon curd and whipped cream have to do with a butterfly tuile?

So I created a whole new dessert idea JUST to make my butterfly. Ali brought dinner over after work one night and I served us dessert. I made a lemon mousse for my first Daring Baker's Challenge and l-o-v-e-d it. So I did a repeat performance with a handful of raspberries and a couple flat round tuiles. It was truly delicious. I tend to cook more for others than for myself - but this, I loved! Instead of folding equal parts of whipping cream with lemon curd (as a few of my mousse recipes call for) I did more like 25-75 cream-curd. It was much more lemony and tart and - PERFECT!

SO pleased with this one - delicious and adorable; can't ask for more!

So as you see - the tuile really does go 'round and 'round. From appetizer to main course to dessert to coffee to snack -- a tuile in any different shape or flavor will fit in perfectly. And there's something about it that will make you smile as well!

Check out all the other creative tuiles by my fantastic fellow Daring Bakers!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Birthday to Steb

I said I probably wouldn't be able to wish all my friends Happy Birthday on my blog - but I have the time today... and this friend is different. This is Debbie. Today is Debbie's birthday. And it's her first birthday far away from me in well, about 19 years actually. Deb and her new husband, Nick just moved to Hawaii. She's never lived farther than a drive from me since we met almost 20 years ago. Even through college we managed to celebrate almost all our birthdays with each other; and had I been able to stay up until 3am last night - I would have called her at midnight to be the first to wish her a Happy Birthday.

Not sure what's funnier here - us or the NKOTB poster? Spring 1991

If you squint you can see Stonehenge in the distance! March 2003

But we're all "growed" up now. Doing adult things like moving far away for a husband's job. So a phone call, an IM session and perhaps this blog post are all the celebrating I'll be doing with Debbie today. That's okay Deb - we'd never last very long out at a club like we used to do anyway! (at least I wouldn't - you know I'd get a headache.)

Shanghai, November 2002 (yes, date is wrong)

Celebrating my birthday June 2001

People don't always GET IT when I call Deb my best friend. She's more than a friend. She's like a sister. But perhaps even more than that since we don't [really] bicker like sisters or have [a lot of] those sibling rivalry feelings. She knows how I feel about something sometimes before I do. We dress alike without confirming it first. We even have the same speech patterns and mannerisms. (Someone asked us if we were twins once!)

We've come a long way together, Deb! October 2008

Happy Birthday to my bestest friend in the whole wide world! I wish I could be with you today - but I'm with you in my heart.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Just a quickie...

Cong Hei Fat Choi!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Sun Nien Fai Lok!

Xin Nian Yu Kuai!

新 年 快 乐!


Mom is yelling at me to hurry and fold the won ton as I write this, so must be quick.

Happy Prosperous Year of the Ox to all of you!!!

note: I do not own the above illustration -- hopefully no one cares too much :)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My tiptoes hurt

For obvious reasons, I don't release much information about where I live or ever have lived on my blog. But one place I think I'm okay mentioning now is Danville, CA. I don't live there anymore but my family does. I grew up in Danville. I absolutely love Danville. When I have 2.5 kids to raise I'd love to do so in Danville. I love the small town feel while only being a 40 minute drive to San Francisco. I love how safe it is. I love the open expanses of land. I love the small boutiques and high quality restaurants. I love the big parks with soccer in the Fall and little league in the Spring. I love the Christmas tree lighting celebration and the 4th of July parade down Hartz Ave. And now I have another reason to be so proud of my little town. Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger.

Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger

Danville's Hometown Hero - Captain Sullenberger is welcomed home

Captain Sullenberger is of course the humble hero who executed the first ever successful airplane ditch (aka water landing) on the Hudson River a week and a half ago. Successful, meaning - not a soul was critically injured and the fuselage remained intact. Sullenberger is from my home town of Danville, CA. And today under dark threatening skies, on the lawn of the Danville Library, there was a huge celebration welcoming him home.

The crowds had been gathering since the morning

I spent most of the 45 minutes on my tiptoes trying to view past the gluteus maximum of the Press. Those lucky ducks with press passes were generously given chairs.......that they then used to stand upon. My family and I arrived on what we thought was the early side ~12:30 (for the 1pm ceremony) so I thought I had a good vantage being basically in the front row behind the press. Until they got on those darned chairs! But it was a nice feeling to be there all the same.


You can see why I had trouble getting good shots.
Had to hold up the camera to even get the stage here.

Danville is a very close-knit community and one could feel it in the air. People chatted with each other as we stood packed together waiting. My high school's marching band preceded the speakers: mayor, fire chief, chief of police and local congressman. It felt "small town" even though I had evidence right in front of me that it was being recorded for the national news.

Fans old and young --------------------- My high school band

There were about 3000 people gathered; waving flags and taking pictures and holding signs. As we surveyed the crowds, my dad made a comment that I'm certain is accurate: "If I were Sullenberger I would absolutely hate all this attention for just doing my job." And the captain's concise 30 second address very much held that sentiment. He thanked his crew and reminded all of us that they were "just doing what they'd trained to do." A hero all the more in my mind, for being so humble.

I don't think Danville's ever seen satellite trucks or crowds like this before!

"We were just doing our jobs..."

As the days slip by and the weeks turn to months, this hullabaloo will fade away and cars will once again be able to drive through the Sullenberger's neighborhood without encountering a news van. Danville will fall off the map again and will resume being the small, safe, oak tree sprinkled town in San Francisco's East Bay. But Danvillians will all be a little bit more proud when the Hudson plane landing pops up in conversation and we can mention "oh that captain's from Danville!"

And I'll be glad that I went to see the big hero from our little town...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I could eat oodles

Handmade noodles
Freshly made noodles, out to dry

I could pretend to be healthy and state that I steer clear of refined carbohydrates. But I don't. I just couldn't ever. I try where I can, like how we eat this rice instead of this rice. But one thing I just can't cut out - noodles. I absolutely, completely, totally {heart} noodles. Chinese, Italian, Thai, Korean, Singaporean, Japanese - country doesn't matter, I will eat them.

Mmmm can't wait to boil those up ---- To sample, just a bit of butter, salt & pepper

Perhaps roughly 20 years ago (*gasp* I hate that I can say that when recalling vivid memories) my mom bought an Atlas Marcato pasta maker. We used it a couple times, oohed and ahhed over the pasta, and then it was put away on a top shelf in the den, left to gather dust. It seems like this so often happens with new toys - the novelty wears off quickly. But while I was home over the holidays, I decided it was time to dust off that box and whip up some pasta. And it was FUN!

The Atlas Marcato 150 (circa 1980-something)

We used a simple recipe I found in Mom's pasta book. Something roughly like 4 eggs, 4 cups of flour and a few tablespoons of water. I really think that was it. Mom suggested I use a bowl - but I insisted on doing it the "traditional" way: right on the butcher block.

4 eggs + 4 cups of flour + enough water to hold it together

The ingredients combine a bit messy but after
thorough kneading - it's really beautiful dough

I have the Pasta Roller Set for my Kitchenaid, but haven't used it yet. On this day I used the trusty Atlas with the hand crank and I can really see why it'd be nice to have that extra hand free and allow the mixer's motor to run the rollers! You have to feed and catch the pasta as it goes through!

Rolling thinner and thinner --- It really sorta takes 3 hands --- I made thin and thick noodles

Mom has this fantastic drying rack that I can't find for sale anywhere anymore. The pricetag is still on the box and apparently back in the day, Macy's was selling it. But no longer... It doesn't take very long to dry the pasta, and really it doesn't need to be dry so much as it needs to not stick together.

Just waiting to be gently boiled and gobbled up

It's just absolutely fantastic. I can't explain how good fresh pasta is - you have to make it and try it yourself!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Birthday to TLD

I'd like to state right now to my "beloved blog followers" - there's just no way I'll be able to shout birthday wishes out to each and every one of my friends on my blog. I'd love to think I could coordinate that, but I know I won't be able to. HOWEVER... if I do find the time I will - even if it's a few days late!

Happy 2-day late Birthday to Tracey!

When I called my oldest friend, Tracey to wish her a happy birthday on Tuesday, I asked her what she was doing for dinner that night. She normally would have plans. But she paused and (as if just realizing herself) then said she had no plans. Well that's just ludicrous! I don't care if it's your 16th, 21st, 30th, 47th, 63rd or 85th birthday - you should HAVE dinner plans with someone you love. Realizing I was on my way to the office for a full day of work I knew I was taking on a challenge in making her a "nice" birthday meal. But who am I to take it easy in the kitchen in light of ANYTHING?

Tracey is a pollotarian - primarily a vegetarian but will partake in some chicken or turkey when she's feeling a little crazy. It is EXTREMELY difficult for me to cook for a non-meat eater because... I just cannot even fathom. But at least with a good friend, you learn to know their faves. One of Tracey's faves I knew - was gnocchi. Gnocchi with pesto to be precise. I'd never made either - but it seemed a busy Tuesday afternoon/evening after a full day of work was the time to try!

Pesto is SO easy to make! LOVE my food processor!

I started with this "moist" yellow cake batter. I put "moist" in quotes because it did not bake up moist. At least not a cupcake version with the time cut by 60%. I tried cutting the time even more for the second batch, but still quite dry. Dare I say - I like cake mixes better overall? Can someone point me to a truly moist yellow cake recipe? Anyone?
I had a few extra... none of my other friends complained

In 3 hours I made up the cupcakes, frosting, gnocchi, pesto - in that order oddly enough. I was very happy with the result - as was Tracey! I'm not a gnocchi connoisseur but I tend to think they should be chewier than the ones I made. Perhaps next time I'll knead a bit more flour into them.

It was fun making these - and making that little indentation!

The best part of pesto is how the Parmesan melts
when you toss it with hot pasta/gnocchi!

So Tracey got her nice birthday meal. I got to try making some new goodies. We spent some quality time. And all was good. Happy Birthday Tracey Leeupatree!