Ah yes, the macaron.
It’s a picturesque little beauty of almonds, sugar, and egg white. It contains a handful of ingredients that is deceptively simple and easy.
There are many, many blog posts about the macaron. Why? I think they are so popular because of a few things: they are incredibly photogenic, they lend themselves to many variations of flavors, it’s a high-technique method, and yes, I think it’s because it’s French. There is admittedly something appealing to foreign desserts, even if at their core they are similar to something you already know.
After making it, I can see the appeal to why many bakers love to blog about it.
It’s a technique challenge.
I failed the first few batches.
And by first few, I mean at least 6 or 7 tries.
And many more.
So much so that I spent a few weeks straight baking macarons, making failed batches, and rage eating the bad ones.
I will not provide a macaron recipe but instead a few tips and tricks that helped me along my macaron journey. By no means have I perfected the technique, but I feel like I’ve isolated at least some of the variables that plagued my misadventures.
I highly recommend reading Brave Tart’s articles about macarons. She takes out the myth, mystique and quite honestly some of the reverence and pretentiousness that has plagued the macaron.
In particular, read this article before continuing. Yes, macarons are pretty but ultimately they are meant to be eaten. If you have hollow shells (like me) that doesn’t magically make them inedible.
Another highly recommended read? Not So Humble Pie’s troubleshooting guide. She goes through and lists the common problems found in macarons and offers possible solutions or issues why you are having that problem.
So let’s start with some tips and tricks for macaron I learned, starting with ingredients. Disclaimer: by no means have I mastered the cookie, however I hope these will help you!
Egg whites and almond flour.
I really recommend the egg whites are out at room temperature. For me the whites beat up higher and create a bigger meringue. It’s not necessary but if you can, just take your eggs out of the fridge the day before you bake them.
Yes you can use whole blanched almonds, or even almonds with skin, but you will not get a smooth texture if you do, even if you do sift it (which you should!). Be aware of this when you are going whole hog into the recipe. If you want a smooth macaron with no lumps or bumps, then you should try to splurge on the almond flour.
Technique time. The method I used is the French method. There is an Italian method for macarons as well but I have not tried.
For me there were a few crucial points that improved my macaron.
1): Beat the egg whites until stiff.
Also, make sure there is not one bit of egg yolk floating around in those egg whites. Don’t even think about trying to make a meringue with yolks in there. Throw them out and crack open some new eggs!
Beat the tar out of those egg whites and really get them high and fluffy. If you can’t turn the bowl upside down without fear of them flopping out, then you didn’t beat them high enough. Get them to stiff peaks. A stiff peak is when you dip down into your egg whites with the electric mixer beater, pull up and the tips of the egg whites on the beaters don’t fold or wobble over.
2): Sift that almond flour and confectioner’s sugar.
Sift it three times for good measure. You want a silky smooth powder to easily fold your meringue into and you want smooth tops on your macaron. The method I follow asks you to buzz it in a food processor a few times really well, and then to sift it three times to get out any almond granules that might mar the texture of your macaron. Do it! You won’t regret it. It’s a few extra steps but with baking, precision is everything.
3): Macaronage. Yes, that’s actually a word.
This is the simple but not easy point of macarons—you want to fully incorporate the egg whites into the nut sugar mixture, but you don’t want to overmix it so that it’s runny like pancake batter. You also don’t want it undermixed where the batter is too stiff.
This video helped me with visual cues when the batter is ready.
It should flow like lava and sort of squish around and move slow like a blob when dropping the batter from your spatula.
Fourth point: Bang the piped macarons on the sheet on a hard surface to knock out air bubbles.
This guy does it like a boss.
Knock all of those air bubbles out if you can. Preferably not at a late hour. Rap your baking sheets against a wooden or hard surface.
5): Let the piped macarons rest before baking.
For me this always has helped. I like resting the macarons until the tops are no longer tacky. Lightly tap the top of the macaron with your finger. If it sticks to your finger or ripples when you touch it, let it rest longer. You want a thin skin to form on the tops.
6): Oven temperature and calibration.
Get an oven thermometer. I am guilty of not having an oven thermometer. It helps with controlling consistency in baking your macaron.
7): Time to cook.
I used to only bake macarons at 300 F for about 8 to 10 minutes. That is probably one of the largest factors in my many batches of failed macarons. After reading Not So Humble Pie’s troubleshooting FAQ, I upped the baking time to 15 to 18 minutes.
That instantly solved the hollow macaron problem for me. Another timing tip: if you cannot easily pick up your macaron while it is in the oven, it is probably not finished baking.
8): Let them cool when they are finished baking!
Let them cool for at least an hour before you try to pry off the cookies and pipe them with filling. I speak from personal experience! If you don’t wait the buttercream or filling will melt, and that will make for a very sad macaron.
So those are my macaron tips. I hope they help you on your baking journey!
*note: I’m alllllive. I apologize it has taken me so long to make another post. This blog is not dead, just limping along. :D Most of the writing takes place much more quickly than the time it takes to create the doodles for each post. Thanks everyone for your patience!
I have heard that a Roast Chicken is simple and easy.
I am relatively new to cooking and more familiar with baking. One of the things I have a hard time doing as a newbie cook is to trust my instincts rather than rigidly following a recipe or merely using it as a guideline.
Make no mistake, I think whomever says that a roast chicken is simple and easy is telling you a filthy, dirty lie.
Maybe their heart is in the right place, maybe they are trying to show you how accessible it is (and it can be, if you follow a few rules to start), but as a newbie cook, I’m going to tell you from my own dang personal experiences is that it’s not easy.
Simple? Yes! It’s absolutely simple.
Do you know what else is simple? Running! You just move your two legs, back and forth, very quickly. So does that make running also easy?
Simple does not mean easy. Simple and easy are two separate catagories.
At its core, taking a whole bird and throwing it in the oven is simple. To make a tasty, juicy bird that isn’t undercooked or with flabby, sad skin is another thing altogether.
As of the time I am writing this post, I am on my second week of nothing but roast chickens for dinner. Roast chickens for dinner is appealing as it is relatively inexpensive for a whole bird, and I am able to crank out bird after bird and to practice and get better.
I don’t have a recipe for a chicken that works for me, because at this point in my (lack of) experience, I haven’t found something I’m comfortable sharing with you. I do however have a nifty little recipe for root vegetables that you can apply to whatever cooking method you have for your chicken!
I’m on my 5th chicken, and I wanted to say here a few things to consider before tackling a roast bird:
1) Allow yourself to make mistakes and don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect. Keep trying (like me, heheh)!
Sure, I’d love to have made a perfect crispy outside juicy inside chicken on the first try, but that just ain’t happening. Roast chicken is all about execution and timing. Execution is something that you will get better at the more you do it and inevitably more failures you make.
2) Everybody and their mother has their perfect roast chicken recipe, but start with a recipe you feel the most comfortable with!
I have looked extensively at many, many chicken recipes. Some recipes blast high heat, then lower heat. Some recipes call for air drying the chicken and salting it the night before. Some call for brining. Some people truss the bird. Some call for butterflying or spatchcocking the chicken. Some call for upright roasting. Some have just high heat throughout. Some have breast side down to start, then rotating breast side up for the remainder.
In spite of all of this variety, stick with the roast chicken recipe you can actually want to make. Stick with whatever recipe/method and keep practicing it. Switching between recipes does not allow you to isolate variables if potential issues come up while roasting your chicken.
3) Cooking times are not a rule, they are a guideline—set your timer just a little bit ahead of time and be mindful of your oven.
Because you probably WON’T be able to get the same exact weight of chicken every single time you go to roast one, just make sure that you can be mindful of the chicken and check it every now and then. I usually set my timer a little bit ahead of its cooking time if the bird is smaller, or a tiny bit longer if the bird is bigger.
4) Even with a meat thermometer, let your instinct be your guide—it is okay if your instincts do not carry you through to good execution.
I just made a bird that was slightly undercooked. I used the meat thermometer and stuck it in the fattiest bit of its thigh, and the temperature did not register at the desired doneness—165 F for me. I even pricked the leg with a fork, and the juices seemed to run clear, and I pulled the chicken out of the oven.
So most of it was undercooked. The worse case scenario for a failure? It’s a failure! That’s it. Move on and keep cooking. I nuked the chicken breast in the oven for leftovers until it was cooked properly. I’m storing the leftovers to use as a protein in salads. Being able to trust your instincts and act with conviction is important!
5) DO NOT MAKE A ROAST CHICKEN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FRONT OF PEOPLE FOR COMPANY!
I have another post I need to write about general cooking/baking guidelines, but unless you’re really close to your friends (and they don’t mind take-out if your first attempt is a collosal failure), don’t invite them over while trying out a new recipe. Sometimes terrible but funny things can happen. I speak from personal experience.
6) So most recipes will say the chicken is done when you stab it with a fork in between the thigh and torso until the “juices run clear.”
This simple phrase means so much. What do they mean by that? Well here, I’ll show you:
Absolutely, clear, like water, with maybe a tinge of yellow. No traces of pink or creamy biege should even exist when you poke your chicken with a fork. If your juices are running pink, and red, and not absolutely clear water, the chicken is not done!
I know I don’t have a lot of experience with cooking or roasting, so maybe because of my inexperience I’m exaggerating about the terrors of roast chicken. I don’t want to scare you away, but I also don’t want you to think or expect (like I foolishly did) that it would be simple and easy.
With that being said, I hope those of you new to roast chicken will not be scared but at least more mentally prepared for the (wonderful, delightful) undertaking you are about to go through. And I commend anyone that at least tries.
I had avoided it for a very long time because I was simply terrified of messing up. And now I’ve made mistakes. The world didn’t explode. Neither myself or Tubbs have had to go to the hospital because of food poisoning (yet). The worst is that I have to microwave my chicken or I enjoy chicken jerky for the next few days.
One of my favorite things about roast chicken is I get to have field day with roasted root vegetables. This method can be applied probably to any way you roast your chicken provided you have a roasting rack and pan, or you can simply set your chicken on top of the root vegetables.
1 bunch of celery
1 lb of carrots
2 yellow onions
1 uncooked roast chicken
Roasting pan and rack (if applicable)
1. While your uncooked chicken is out, thoroughly wash and pat dry the chicken.
2. Seriously, thoroughly dry the chicken with paper towels. Make sure to get the inside of the cavity and dry that out too.
3. Breast side up, look at the chicken and look at the cavity. On the left and ride side near the legs should be a big, flabby piece of chicken fat.
4. With kitchen shears, trim the pieces of chicken fat and set them aside in a bowl.
5. With your celery, carrots and onions, I listed the quantity you should start with. Depending on the size of your roasting pan and/or how much of each specific vegetable you want, adjust your quantities.
6. Take your celery and with a vegetable peeler, peel the backs of the celery ribs. Trim the tops and bottoms and place in the large colander.
7. Completely peel your carrots and trim the tops and bottoms. Place in the colander as well.
8. Wash the celery and carrots and dry thoroughly.
9. Cut the celery and carrots in half horizontally.
10. Then cut each half into half vertically. See image.
11. If some of the carrot tops are too fat, cut them in half or quarters so that they are all roughly the same size—the goal being is that the carrot pieces cook somewhat evenly, so avoid drastically big or small carrot pieces.
12. If using an onion, cut the onion in half, then cut into quarters.
13. Place all of the vegetables into the roasting pan. Add the chicken fat pieces and lightly salt and toss the vegetables together.
14. Roast the chicken with whichever method you prefer. I’ve done this at 350 F for an hour and a half and at 450 F for an hour with good results. If you baste the chicken or have to turn it, make sure to toss the vegetables around. Taste it halfway through cooking and add a little bit of salt.
These make glorious roasted vegetables. Even with all of my roast chicken mishaps, these vegetables have not failed me!
With all of that being said, good luck for those of you embarking on the roast chicken journey, and those already experienced feel free to send any tips or corrections on the guidelines I wrote! Happy cooking!
Authentic. It’s a word I’ve been letting sit in the back of my brain. I’ve been picking at it like a sore, wondering what it really means in terms of food.
My knee-jerk reaction to the word, in terms of food? I hate it. I despise it.
What does it really mean? According to Merriam Webster: “[…]made or done the same way as the original.”
So, what if the original way preparation of a dish sucked? Or it was just mediocre? I understand that a dish is prepared in the original way for a reason, but sometimes there are better ways to prepare a recipe, even if it isn’t authentic.
I want to address this, because I had some not-authentic refried beans.
And I liked them; no, I loved them. I thought they were better than any of the other stuff I’ve had, as far as refried beans goes. I’ve seen refried beans recipes and methods claiming theirs are the best; the most authentic. Only use leaf lard, soak the beans overnight, don’t use xyz bean. Fooey.
I’m going to go out on a limb and get skewered for my opinion. You know what? Sometimes, authentic doesn’t guarantee the best tasting results. To me, what tastes good is the most important thing about cooking, more than presentation, more than craft and technique, more than anything else in the whole damn world.
There was a restaurant I used to go to, a little Mayan place, which had delicious, creamy, refried beans. Every time I went, I ordered it, no matter what.
After becoming a regular, I casually mentioned to one our server how good those refried beans were.
He raised his eyebrows and said, “Oh yeah? It’s pretty easy to make.”
I paused for a moment. Did he know how to make them? What was the secret? Was there a secret?
"So," I laughed, "how is it made?" I took a sharp intake of breath, hoping I hadn’t crossed a line by asking.
"Oh well, we wanted our refried beans to be vegetarian, so we just add soy sauce and garlic to the them." With that statement, he glided away to take care of some other tables.
I was with my spiritually fat dining companion Tubbs. I looked at him.
"I wonder if I can replicate the flavors at home?!" I whispered.
"Do it," he nodded.
Below is a thoroughly Jon Snow recipe. And by Jon Snow, I may mean his lineage, or lack thereof,and that he also knows nothing.
It uses stuff from a can. I might try to prepare the beans more authentically one day, but in the meantime this is pretty straight forward. It’s recipe that is quick to make and produces some pretty decent results.
Jon Snow’s Refried Beans:
1 15 oz can refried beans
Light soy sauce, to taste
3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced (Don’t have time for that? Use garlic powder!)
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cups water
1. Add vegetable oil to medium sauce pan, over medium heat.
2. Swirl oil in pan and when it sizzles when water is flicked onto it, add the garlic and stir occasionally, until fragrant.
3. Add refried beans and 3/4 c of the water. Stir well.
4. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Add soy sauce to your taste preferences. Let simmer for 20 minutes or until desired consistency.
Yes, these are very very much not someone’s grandma’s refried beans, but I still like them.
I am fickle when it comes to desserts. I lean more and more towards chilled desserts and farther and farther away from warm desserts. I’m not sure why, but I love that chilled desserts usually have a much more muted taste and aren’t a burst of sugar when you eat them.
One such dessert that I make and SHOULD make more frequently is almond jello.
It’s a simple, plain looking dessert. It is to me, one of the most perfect desserts. It is light and refreshing; not too sweet with a delightfully big almond taste depending on how much extract you use. It’s a perfect ending for heavy dinners such as roasts or steaks. You can eat or snack on it during hot days and it requires no oven.
Tubbs always smiles whenever he sees a batch cooling in the fridge. Only second to chocolates, this is his next favorite dessert.
My almond jello is a recipe that I had to modify. The source is here!
Blubs’ Almond Jello
Equipment: 1 large pot, 1 wooden spoon, 1 ladle and 6 small bowls that can hold 1/2 cup worth of liquid, plastic wrap
3 cups of any percent milk or whole( have not tried it with non-fat so YMMV)
3/4 c to 1 c sugar (err on less if you don’t want it super sweet)
1 tsp almond extract (or more to taste)
1 0.25 oz packet of Knox Unflavored Gelatine OR about 1 and 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatine
Have your small bowls on stand by and spread out.
Pour out and measure all of your ingredients before hand.
Dump the sugar, milk and gelatin into the large pot.
Turn your stove top to heat on very low.
With your wooden spoon, stir occasionally and try to break up the gelatin if it clumps.
Stir occasionally and heat until the sugar and gelatin is thoroughly dissolved, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat.
Add in your almond extract.
Stir thoroughly again.
With your ladle, spoon approximately half a cup of the liquid into each bowl.
Cover with saran wrap and chill over night or at least 6 hours minimum.
I love lemons.
I am a lemon princess.
I want you to be a lemon princess too. There are four variations of the lemon princess: Lemon Princess 1, Lemon Princess 2, Lemon Princess 3, and Lemon Princess 4. Download one or all. You can put your head there and be a lemon princess too!
Lemons have both savory and sweet applications. It is quite handily used as an acid in savory applications (just be careful that the lemon doesn’t overpower everything) and is also handy to make a quick batch of buttermilk/soured milk for baking purposes.
To 1 cup of milk add 1 Tablespoon or just do a quick squeeze of half a small lemon and let it sit for 5 minutes.
I always keep a few (hundred) lemons in the fridge.
Almost every single dessert that I have made that was originally vanilla I would tweak just so slightly by adding some freshly grated lemon zest.
I love toe-curling, teeth clicking, mouth puckeringly tart lemon anything.
Here are some things that I’ve made that you might like if you’re a lemon princess like me. I’ve made these before (multiple times) and they each have their own applications.
Good Basic Lemon Curd
I have eaten it out of the fridge, spoon in jar because I know I will be the only one consuming it. It’s very thick, almost like a pudding. I use it as a nice solid filling between cakes and cookies.
For the zest part of the recipe, I put it into a bowl with the sugar and rub the back of a spoon against the bowl, grinding the zest so that the oils rub onto the sugar. I strain it out after cooking because I prefer a smoother texture.
Delicate Creamy Lemon Curd
This is a creamy, delicate delight. It has the texture of silk and can also be eaten with a spoon. It’s soft, pliable and honestly, I found this a little bit too delicate to work with when incorporating it into layer cakes and cookies. This is better used as a spread for scones or biscuits than trying to work into pastry layers.
Lemon Souffle Pudding
This is hands down one of my favorite lemon desserts. It’s from Joy the Baker, and this is a no-punches pulled pudding cake. It’s got a pillow soft cake texture that separates on top and a delicious creamy lemon pudding on the bottom.
You can serve it warm or cold. Overall, I prefer chilled desserts simply because in this case the sweetness becomes more muted but the lemon is front and center and pulls at your hair.
Want more depth of flavor to lemon desserts? Feel free to add chopped fresh rosemary or thyme. It balances the tartness of lemon with deep earthiness from the herbs. I have also unashamedly added chopped fresh rosemary and thyme to cakes, cookies and curd. I have no regrets.
The above mentioned makes pretty good lemon bars. My only quibble is that there is an equal ratio of lemon curd to crust, so in the future I would just half the recipe for the crust base so that there’s more lemon. Always more lemon.
There’s this lovely lemon posset which has a texture similar to panna cotta. It has 3 ingredients and is very simple to make. The dessert is thick, creamy and rich. You should probably add some chopped fresh rosemary or thyme too. This is not intensely tart, so you can serve it to non-princesses as well.
Lemon Cake Roll
For those that don’t want to be punched in the face by a lemon, the lemon cake roll is a perfect light dessert. It’s for non-princesses and princesses alike.
Hello! This post will be about crunchy, delicious egg rolls! Before that, I wanted to say that I turned my salads and chocolate post into handy dandy prints!
Chocolates and Tempering Print
I also have other stuff sold at my Society6 page too. Thanks and enjoy this post :)
My mom would enlist my help as a kid (ie: free labor and there’s nothing wrong with that) when she’d make her egg rolls.
Her egg rolls are really, really good. Her friends love them and she is known for them. In no way do I claim for them to be truly authentic (considering she immigrated from Vietnam, I don’t really care if they are). Whatever they are, she adapted them from her mom and they are really good.
She gave me the very fun task of exercising fine motor skills of tearing apart the incredibly delicate spring roll skins from the brick of existing ones. When I was a kid, this felt like an exercise in frustration, a step up from shelling pounds of shrimp for my mom and removing that little “line” from the body.
That’s one of the things that makes these egg rolls really tasty. It is almost a creepy, Buffalo Bill skin-like texture of the spring roll skins that make them crispy crunchy—not floury, puffy or thick.
You can tell you’ve picked the right ones if one spring roll skin is whisper thin and translucent, like these guys. Scroll down to Spring Roll Wraps. Those are the droids you’re looking for. Click here for image!
They come frozen and you have to heat them for about 30 seconds to a minute to loosen them up. As a kid my mom took particular delight and sometimes frustration at seeing me inevitably muck the first few up prying them apart from the thawing brick.
My mom would then step in and show me how to do it properly. With her years of experience on mine, she made it look easy. She’d pull, gently tug at a corner with one hand and somehow flick her wrist and the skin would easily fly up, freed from the brick.
Later on, I first made my mom’s egg rolls for a few of my friends and Tubbs.
They really liked it.
They wanted me to make them as much as possible.
There’s a reason I don’t like making them. While they are tasty, I’m in no way good at frying them. The sizzle and crackle of oil leaping everywhere as you gently lower those suckers into the pan is still slightly stressful. I should probably take a few tips from Steamy Kitchen’s excellent post on egg rolls.
They also stink up the house. Now you might think that’s a good thing, but after that smell (or any food type smell for that matter) lingers for a week it becomes more than a little unpleasant.
Not to mention the rolling. I just spent 4 hours the other day cranking out 75 of them. I thought I should take my trough of 5 lbs of meat and skins to the dining table and make A Game of Thrones marathon out of it, but I decided against it and used it as a meditation therapy instead.
I became zen-like, trying to peel and pluck the skins from the skin brick then roll them as quickly and neatly as I could. Eventually I was pulling the spring roll skins as quick as my mom, finally getting it. After still, messing up the first few tugs at the spring roll brick.
However, after taking them out of the hot oil, letting them cool on a cookie rack and rolling it up in a crisp leaf of lettuce and dipping it into fish sauce, I decided maybe these are worth making.
The ingredients for these egg rolls are really basic. This is an adaptation of my mother’s recipe so it’s even further distilled down to a handful of ingredients.
The food list is as follows: spring roll skins, carrots, onions, green cabbage, oyster sauce, eggs, lean ground pork, and cracked black pepper. Also, a few cartons of canola oil for frying.
Accompaniments: fish sauce, sugar, white vinegar and water (to make fish sauce), crisped red leaf lettuce (read my Salads post..eh? :D), cucumbers, cilantro, and mint.
Equipment: at least 2 inch thick pan for frying, a pair of chopsticks or metal tongs, vegetable peeler, cutting board, chef’s knife, a cookie sheet wrapped with aluminum and a wire rack on top, and a food processor (for your sanity), colander, a few plastic ware at least 9 inches width and 4-6 inches high, and at least 75 pieces of parchment paper cut up, large container (holds 40 cups or 9.4 l) .
Fish sauce: makes 1 cup
5 TB sugar
3 TB water
1/3 c fish sauce
1/2 c white vinegar
optional: chile paste, lime juice, lemon juice, siracha, chopped shallots and chopped garlic for more moxie
Throw everything into a small pot, heat on low heat and stir occassionally until sugar is fully dissolved. Taste. Add more stuff to your liking. Store in glass jar and be careful not to spill any on you, because it stinks.
Eggrolls: makes approximately 70 slightly chubby egg rolls
-2, 50 count packages of Spring Roll Pastry, frozen (keep them in the freezer)
-6 eggs at room temperature
-2 3/4 c Oyster Sauce (you’ll need about 2 18 oz bottles)
-5 small onions
-2 lbs of carrots
-2 lbs of green cabbage
-5 lbs of lean ground pork (90% lean)
-lots of freshly ground black pepper
-2 cartons of oil for frying
So about the ground pork—I grabbed 70% ground pork and it has a silkier, richer texture but doesn’t have the tang and oomph that is normally present when I make them. You can choose to make it with 70% fat but I prefer the leaner stuff.
I like to get my little ducks in a row, so first thing we’re going to do is prep all of those vegetables. The most bothersome being the carrots. Peel all of your carrots, then chop off the ends. Wash thoroughly in the colander and then wipe dry.
Use the grate attachment of your food processor, or use a box grater, and grate all of the carrots.
Empty them out into the large container.
On to the cabbage. Peel outer skin and discard. Cut the cabbage in half. Remove the core.
Cut again into quarters. Then, cut horizontally into 8 small pieces per quarter.
Using the food processor again, throw the cabbages pieces in the shredder until they are all finely grated. If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop them up finely with a chef’s knife.
Throw the cabbage in with the carrots in the massive food trough.
On to the onions! Cut the onions in half, and then cut the tops off. Then peel all of the skins, and chop finely.
Try not to cry like a little baby in the process. I consistently fail at this part.
Throw them into the food trough with the carrots and cabbages.
At this point, it’s a good break for clean-up. I usually wash everything up (the food processor, knives, cutting boards and vegetable peeler) and dry it and put it away.
A certain someone, that oh I dunno, will remain unnamed, likes to cook as if an atom bomb exploded in the kitchen.
The certain someone can cook some pretty darn well so it always slides that you could hide a dead body in the aftermath. I still brace myself before peering into the kitchen.
I like cleaning up as I cook.
With the vegetables prep finished comes the more fun stuff. Crack all 6 eggs into a large bowl, then tip them into the food trough.
Measure out the Oyster sauce (if you haven’t already) and also tip into the food trough.
Add some crack blacked pepper, maybe 20 turns or so of the pepper grinder.
At this point, if you might want to swap into a slightly crappy short sleeved shirt or whip an apron on. Wash your hands and then tear open the pork and add that to the massive trough.
With your bare hands, get all up in there and mix it thoroughly by hand. Swoop your arm down in there and squish the meat, eggs, oyster sauce and veggies all together until it is one homogeneous mixture. This make take a few minutes and some elbow grease.
Wash your hands.
Now dip a teaspoon sized amount out of the massive glob and plop it onto a microwave safe plate.
Nuke it in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds (always err on the lower side of cooking times).
With a fork, cut open the meat and make sure it’s thoroughly cooked, no pink(if it’s still pink, nuke it in 5 second spurts so it doesn’t burn). Wait a few seconds to cool.
Add more black pepper or oyster sauce to your desired taste. The heating of a tiny bit of meat mixture makes it easy for me to know what it will taste like. The measurements I provided are to my own taste, so adjust for yours or even add other stuff if you so choose.
Have your meat trough ready with a plate and a tablespoon nearby. Have a big, clear working counter space. Line your sheet pan with aluminum and put a wire rack on it. Have a few Tupperware containers at hand and your parchment pieces ready. Also have a plate large enough to hold the spring roll skins.
Here comes the fun part! Rolling and picking out those finicky skins one by one from their defrosting, clumped brick. I’ll do my best to describe how to pry those skins apart from one another.
First, take one of the packages of frozen spring rolls and put it directly into the microwave oven. Don’t open the bag, don’t cut it, just throw it in there.
Nuke it for about 30 seconds.
Nuke it for about 10-15 more seconds.
Cut open the package and discard. Place your clump of spring roll skins onto a plate.
Look at one of the corners.
This is where you will pick and flick with your fingernail like a scab, the very first spring roll skin. Find space between the dough and dig gently with your finger and your fingernail—don’t tear, just flick.
With your thumb and index finger, very, very gently tug back in the opposite direction.
The stack of spring roll skins are still defrosting, so the first bunch of skins are going to still be rigid and difficult to pry apart without tearing. It’s okay if you tear a few (I certainly did).
What you’re going to want to do next is with your thumbs and index fingers grab the skin, and pull and tug gently in very, very tiny increments, with the most resistance being at the base where the skin is closest to the rest of the stack, in the opposite direction.
Use your thumb underneath one side of the skin, with the rest of your fingers on the top side, to brush up against the bottom of the stack to loosen the skin from the rest, making sure to gently, in small tugs, pull, pull, pull at the corners and the center as well of the skin.
I hope the images help. After you get the first one done and pulled (with no tears hopefully, if not don’t sweat it. Try again and remember the skin is desperately clinging on to dear life to avoid being the vessel for porky goodness) place it in diamond shape, with a corner facing you.
Filling time. Take your tablespoon and scoop into the meat mixture about 2-3 TB generous meat and place it just half an inch from the corner of the spring roll closest towards you.
Shape it into a log with the back of your spoon by mushing it around.
Now take that corner closest towards you and turn it so that it folds on top of the meat mixture.
Place each hand on one side of the egg roll. With your thumbs, cradle the bottom and roll the spring roll around so that all you see is the top, left and right corner. It should look like a meat filled envelope with the top opened.
Take the left corner and pull to the right so that it lays on top of the meat part.
Take the right corner and pull it to the left so that it lays on top of the meat part.
Roll it into a log shape.
Now open back up the only corner visible, and about one inch downward take the back of your meat spoon and slide it against the roll so some of the remainder meat juice/moisture seals it up. Alternatively, you can use a beaten egg and brush to seal it up as well.
Wrap the bottom of the egg roll in parchment place in Tupperware container.
Turn into a Zen-focused, spring-roll-skin-picking, meat-rolling-machine-until it is all gone.
Currently I have two large Tupperware containers filled with frozen egg rolls. I’m not sure how long they keep. For the rest, you can fry them up. Here’s the frying part!
Have that pan with the wire rack and aluminum foil ready? Good. Get your pan with the 2-inch thick depth and your cartons of frying oil. Get your tongs. Oh, you might want to put on an apron too at this point if you didn’t tear it off after rolling all those darned things.
Heat your oven to 200 F too.
Turn on the heat in your pan to medium-high and add oil until it’s about 1 and a 1/2 inches in depth.
Ideally you should wait until oil is 350 F(see Steamy Kitchen’s post), or you can wait until oil begins to ripple and a flick of a few droplets of water causes it to sizzle and sputter.
Gently lower your egg rolls into the oil and make sure not to crowd the pan. They should start sizzling and crackling away. Set the timer for 2 minutes.
Flip and fry again for 2 minutes.
Flip again, and fry for 3-4 minutes.
Flip and fry again for 3-4 minutes.
Take one of the egg rolls out and let it dry on the wire rack for a few seconds. Take a knife and cut the egg roll in half. Look at the insides. Is it pink? No? Then they’re done. This is how my mom checked to see if they were done and by golly that’s how I do it too.
Take the remaining egg rolls out onto the rack. Place it into the oven to keep warm while you cook off the remainder.
Get some paper towels handy to absorb the grease. You can either just eat them as is or you can eat it how my mom likes to eat it (and me too).
Get some red leaf lettuce, chopped cucumber, cilantro and mint. Put it on your dinner plate. Put some fish sauce in a dipping bowl.
Cut up the egg rolls with a knife into one-inch pieces.
Tear some red leaf lettuce, place an egg roll piece into the red leaf. Then take some cucumber and herbs and roll it up into the leaf. Dip into fish sauce.
Eat and enjoy.
For the cooked egg rolls, you can store them in Tupperware in the fridge. To reheat, preheat your oven to 425 F. Microwave your egg rolls for two minutes. Then place them on a wire rack on a cookie sheet lined with foil and bake for 10-12 minutes a side.
I hope you guys try these egg rolls. They’re pretty tasty. You can certainly halve the recipe if you don’t want massively scaled egg rolls, but I can’t vouch for the ratios. If you do half it, I’d err on the lower/smaller quantity of oyster sauce since over salting it would pretty much ruin the batch. You can always add more oyster sauce later.
These egg rolls were a part of my childhood and ( slightly begrudgingly) my adult life. While I do enjoy them after I make them, these are a big factory labor of love. There is nothing more gratifying though when I hear the crunch of the skins as I bite into one, surrounded by mounds of lettuce and herb and the tang of fish sauce as it hits my tongue.
Note: Hello readers! I am flattered so many of y’all liked the Chocolate and Tempering post! I will keep that in mind for the upcoming posts.
In the meanwhile, I’ve followed up with the opposite of chocolate: Salads. (at this point I expect most people to continue scrolling through their dashboard :D) Salads need some love.
I love salads. There was a time when I used to hate salads.
I was fortunate in growing up to have home cooked meals, but my family also had convenience meals. Salads and my exposure to them as a child, were lumped into the convenience category.
I type this because I remember as a child, a salad looking like this:
It was all I knew as a child. Refrigerated tomatoes (because they kept longer that way), a head of iceberg lettuce roughly chopped (because it was inexpensive and my family wanted food to stretch) and ranch dressing (also inexpensive).
Tubbs on the other hand, had a wider vegetable knowledge base to draw from when making salads.
When Tubbs and I were dating early on, he had stated he was going to make a salad for dinner.
My inner thoughts:
It didn’t seem filling, that kind of salad, the one I was raised with, for dinner. But, I was interested to see what he would make. I didn’t know his definition was vastly different from mine.
Red leaf, green leaf and romaine lettuce. His family would buy whole heads of lettuce, soak them in a large bowl of water for a few minutes (so the grit and dirt would sink to the bottom), drain, then crisp them in between sheets of paper towels.
I’ve found something far more reusable than paper towels, salad sacs . I have 3. They are great if you want to make it easier to incorporate salads into your life. No, I was not paid endorse their product.
Needed texture and crunch? Get red cabbage (also for beautiful color).
More texture…sweet bits and other things? Tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, or roasted jarred red peppers. Want fruit in it? Berries, sliced apples and pears work too.
Use some raddichio if you want more color and bitterness in your salad.
If you are fortunate to be in an area with abundant produce, there are different types of tomatoes you can choose from.
What about protein and fats? This is a dinner salad. Tubbs would add one or more, depending on his mood, of these: avocado, feta cheese, goat cheese, cheddar cheese, sliced deli meats, rotisseree chicken, nuts, seeds, and beans. I almost forgot: soft-boiled or hard boiled eggs!
The world is your oyster with a salad. You can throw the kitchen sink and it still taste great, or cherry-pick any items for a very restrained, specific taste.
Salad dressing? Either a bottle of your choice vinaigrette—Tubbs likes Wishbone Red Wine Vingairette or you can make one from scratch (very tasty).
And so at his place, for dinner I saw him lay down a plate of beautiful things, things I had never recognized in a salad or that .
After exposure to and eating one of Tubbs’ beautiful salads, I knew that salads could be far more nutritious, far more FLAVORFUL and enjoyable(!) than I could ever imagine.
EDIT: Created a lovely Salads prep and components idea poster on Society6! Salads Poster
I used to not really be a chocolate kind of person. There are friends I know that hold chocolate as a sacred gift, a holy thing.
Not to be messed with, not to be dissed or dismissed or spoken of negatively in any kind of way whatsoever.
A few years ago, I would shrug and go “Meh, chocolate. I’ve got citrus. I’m a citrus kind of gal.”
I still am. I love anything so tart that it makes your toes curl and your hair stand on end.
But that’s another post!
I’ve been casually learning how to temper chocolate. And I say this on a non-professional, amateur noob level.
Professional level stuff is kind of scary. I’ve peeked at a few recipes and they are not the recipes that you or I know of. It’s weight, grams, ratios and a few blurbs of lines.
They assume you know and have memorized basic stuff. Techniques, temperatures..all memorized. The chemical reasons WHY you are doing certain things or manipulating heat to change crystal structures of sugar and chocolate. My hats are off to you professionals! You guys are awesome.
I am a souless robot, and I will always, at the very least, need to look at a recipe for SOME kind of inspiration. And I’m ok with that. For now.
That being said, being able to temper chocolate at home is pretty awesome. I feel like a tiny creator of a magnificent, shiny treasure.
It takes your home baking to Another Level. It also elevates chocolate rather as a mere flavor into its own delightful course. It’s shiny, brittle, crisp and it snaps and makes this wonderful noise when you bite into a tempered chocolate piece.
On the other hand, it’s a HUGE pain.
Things I have learned (the hard way and the easy way) when you want to temper chocolate:
I think I started getting into it because chocolates are the only dessert that Tubbs has a weakness for. I have made cakes, cookies, pastry and puddings, and almost always he can pass on them.
Which made me sad for a while because I love baking. I love putting in effort and seeing a direct result, be it a failure or success, of my efforts.
Now that I can make chocolates on a basic level, I think Tubbs has a fear for his waistline.
I’ve looked up quite a few (see here, here, here, here and here) methods in to how to temper chocolate, and what I will detail is sort of a mix of two methods as well as some of my own tips and tricks.
If you haven’t read the links, tempering pretty much results in crisp, shiny smooth chocolate that snaps when broken and does not melt at room temperature (room temperature defined as 60 to 65 degrees).
Tempering usually consists of a first heat to a very high temperature, then a rapid cool down, then a gently heat towards anywhere from 87-91 degrees F depending on the type of chocolate.
You can tell your temper is successful if you dip a tiny nip of parchment, or slather the back of a teaspoon with a thin layer of chocolate and place it in the fridge for a few minutes. If it is shiny and smooth, and snaps when broken, then you have successfully tempered.
Do not proceed without a fairly accurate digital thermometer, plastic/silicone or polycarbonate molds if you’re a high roller and really want to get into it (or plain ol parchment paper placed on a baking sheet), spoon for stirring, one bowl for water, a bowl to melt and hold your chocolate, cutting board, chef’s knife, a plate to hold your thermometer and wooden spoon and a few paper towels.
Also, make sure EVERYTHING is BONE DRY. No water whatsoever should touch the chocolate and if it does you pretty much can’t temper with it or make chocolates. You’ll have to use new chocolate and start from scratch.
In case it does seize.
Also make sure you have some uninterrupted time. DO NOT WALK AWAY from anything when tempering chocolate. It’s a fickle beast that is very sensitive to temperatures. If you are uncomfortable with the thought of spending dedicated time (upwards to half an hour to an hour) then DO NOT proceed! Tempering chocolate is DEFINITELY not for the impatient OR the unfocused. I know it sounds overly paranoid but it’s true.
Since Tubbs and I are unabashed chocolate snobs, the following method and temperatures are listed for dark chocolate. Shirley Corriher mentions other temperatures if you want to temper milk or dark, so refer to those temperatures if you are doing anything other than dark.
The above is what I used to temper chocolate. It’s a combination of the microwave and a bowl of tap cold water (filled VERY low) with a few ice cubes thrown in.
Since I’m using a bowl containing water to alter the temperature, I made VERY sure that the bowl I have that is holding my chocolate is very high so that there is no chance of water from the shallow bowls reaching it.
That being said, also be careful when you are using your hands to move the bowls and that condensation from outside of the bowls does not reach your fingers, which could also accidentally brush up against the interior of the chocolate bowl. Also make sure your chocolate bowl fits into the shallow bowl.
Have your shallow bowl filled very low with cold tap water. Throw a few ice cubes in. Keep it at a low level, since when you put your chocolate bowl into the shallow bowl, the water will rise and you don’t want the water to accidentally spill over.
First, take whatever amount of chocolate you have. If it’a chocolate bar/brick, chop it up into evenly small pieces as you can with a chef’s knife on a cutting board.
If you have chocolate chips (discs/callets) then you’re pretty set. It’s highly recommended to get the best quality you can afford. At the moment I’m using Trader Joe’s 1lb brick of 72% dark chocolate. It doesn’t nearly have the depth of flavor say Guittard or Callebaut has, but since I’m a noobie and it’s also quite inexpensive I’m fine with it.
Now that you have your chopped pieces of chocolate, set aside 1/3 of it in a bowl or a cup. We’re going to be using the 1/3 for the cool down part of the tempering.
The remainder 2/3 chocolate put in your melting bowl with high sides. To heat the chocolate, I used the microwave. I have a 950 watt microwave and I heat the chocolate at 30 second intervals. Please adjust and err on the side of LOWER time so you do not accidentally scorch or burn your chocolate. YMMV with these intervals, adjust accordingly to your microwave!
Microwave your chocolate for 30 seconds or less.
After EVERY 30 seconds of heat, take the bowl out of the microwave and gently stir with your spoon. Stir for about 10 seconds. Residual heat from the bowl will continue to raise the temperature.
There is no set amount of times that you have to do this, but after EVERY blast of heat, take it out of the microwave, gently stir, and use your thermometer to check the temperature.
You’re looking for 120 f. If you get close to 117 it’s probably fine, just keep stirring since it will most likely keeping crawling upwards. Microwave at lower power and/or lower time. That’s the first heat!
The next part is rapid cool down. With your chocolate bowl on your counter, next to the cold shallow tap water filled bowl, add the 1/3 set aside chocolate into your melted chocolate.
Now, stir gently and not too quickly (to prevent getting air bubbles in your chocolate). Keep stirring until all of the chocolate is thoroughly melted. This may take a few minutes.
After the chocolate is fully stirred, CAREFULLY set your chocolate bowl into the cold tap water bowl, making sure not to get any water into the chocolate bowl. If you’re concerned you’ve got water on your hands, have a towel nearby to wipe your hands dry.
Stir the chocolate in the cold tap water for a few seconds, and check the temperature again.
You’re going to Cool down the chocolate to 82-84 F. As the temperature nears 85-86 F it’s safe to take the bowl out of the cold tap water and keep gently stirring.
Now back to heating it up, but gently and at 89 F. I microwave at 20-30% power at 5-7 second intervals, stirring after EVERY interval and checking the temperature with the thermometer.
I know it’s more of a pain this way, but you get to control the heat. It is FAR better to have it slowly rise upward in temperature to 89 F than it is to jump up past the desired temperature, otherwise you will have to start the WHOLE tempering process again. I have been impatient and done it once, I promise you you do not want to do it again!
To test the tempered chocolate, dip the back of a spoon into the chocolate bowl. Then set the spoon in the fridge for a few minutes. If it is shiny and glossy, the chocolate is probably properly tempered!
Congratulations! You have probably done one of the most fickle, pain in the butt things to do. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I first did it. It’s not professional, but in relative terms of the home baker I think it’s a pretty great achievement.
The possiblities are endless from here on out.
If you have chocolate molds, you can fill them and then also make say, a Fondant filling and add oils to suit your tastes. The only downside is you’d need to do a second temper to cap off the chocolate molds.
You could also make a ganache and add flavorings to that as well. You could infuse the cream with herbs or oils then make the ganache as directed.
Or a peanut butter filling.
You could also just use it to cover fruit like strawberries, raspberries, or apples.
When covering fruit, make sure the fruit is at ROOM temperature and absolutely bone dry.
I made the mistake of adding tempered chocolate to strawberries directly out of the fridge and well, the result wasn’t too pretty. It was still tasty, but definitely not appealing visually.
I hope this helps you decide in whether or not you want to decide to temper chocolate on your own, or run away screaming in the other direction!
If you are intrigued by the process and wish to proceed further into chocolates, I highly recommend Andrew Shotts’ “Artisan Chocolates.” It is an incredibly detailed, thorough book on making chocolates. I have made quite a few of his recipes and they are stellar with very clear instructions!
So if there are any professional bakers please feel free to ping me with corrections, I admit that I am human and might’ve made mistakes, so sorry in advance!
I hope this helps for those interested in learning the tempering process!
EDIT: I turned this post into a quick cheat sheet that you can purchase as a poster from my Society6 page if you so choose! Treats and Meats Tempering Poster
*disclaimer: I’m not a professional cook/baker, nor was I bribed/paid by Campbell’s Soup Company or Prego to promote or advertise their brand.
This is a recipe that Tubbs made up. He’s pretty cool like that—he’s the cook and I prefer to bake. He cooks from the hip and loves to improvise.
One of his favorite store bought things is Prego sauce. He used to heat it up for us and just serve it over pasta for dinners, but then he decided to add some meat to it.
I don’t think I ever have, or ever will find the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
I’ve seen perfect cookies proclaimed by many food sites or blogs as their newest (note: NEWEST) favorite recipe. Is it an elusive goal that we purposefully will never reach? An ideal cookie? It’s pretty deep, man.