Monday, April 30, 2012

Momofuku is Not a Dirty Word

And she's back! I survived the big work event I had been stressing about for the last few months and man does it feel good to have it behind me. Beyond survival, it actually went extremely well and we raised a significant amount of money for our charity. I also met two very handsome and famous men in the process. The things we do for work...

Chef Ludo Lefebvre of LudoBites
Joel freaking McHale!

Before event day I was often stuck working long hours and weekends to pull this thing together in time. After one of those dreadful Saturdays at work, my bestie suggested I come over and bake with her for a break. Enter the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.

If you aren't familiar, Momofuku is a restaurant group with locations in New York. Milk Bar is their pastry counterpart, serving all kinds of funky sweet creations like "crack pie" and cookies with potato chips in them. Shannon visited Milk Bar herself during a business trip to New York and was kind enough to bring me B'day Cake Truffles that changed my life. They were uh-mazing to say the least. Sweet, doughy, cakey and festive, they must have changed Shannon's life too because she bought this cookbook in hopes of savoring cake truffles again without having to board a flight to NYC.

Since we didn't have the energy to make a grocery store run, we perused the book for something we could make with the ingredients already on hand. Sadly, Bday Cake Truffles were out. As were most of the complicated cakes and pies, many of which required multiple days of prep. We spied a Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow cookie and set out to make it with Rice Krispies because that's what the pantry held. The best cereal is the cereal you have with you, don't you know?

Cheeky Christina Tosi, the creator of these Milk Bar treats, also called for powdered milk to create the cereal crunch for our cookies. Because we all have powdered milk laying around... So don't tell Ms. Tosi but we substituted powdered sugar and forged ahead with our Rice Krispie crunch.

Straight from the oven this component was addictive. Think rice krispies sweetened to the max with an added hint of toastiness. Ms. Tosi also exclaims something along the lines of "you can make cookies without a stand mixer, just not these cookies," but you guessed it, we improvised there as well.

Good old stirring by hand! We took turns because there was a lot of stirring to be done and my arm strength is pathetic. We mixed the cereal crunch, chocolate chips and marshmallows into the dough and refrigerated for an hour. After tasting the delicious dough that hour went by very slowly as we waited to taste the finished result. 

Perhaps due to all the substitutions we made or perhaps because we aren't professional bakers, it took us three batches before we got the cookies right. The first batch of cookies melted into each other, the second batch burned, etc. When we finally got them just right, it was magical.

Our cookies were somehow extremely crunchy on the outside, with a perfectly chewy interior. After all the trial and error though, I became a little frustrated with the Milk Bar cookbook. Our cookies looked nothing like those thick, melty marshmallow cookies pictured. In fact, our poor marshmallows seemed to melt in the baking process. Christina Tosi's cookbook is beautiful and contains highly creative sweets, but seems more geared towards the hardcore baker, willing to procure a variety of uncommon ingredients and purchase expensive baking equipment. One adventurous day we might attempt the Birthday Cake Truffles, but based on this cookie experience it might be easier to fly to New York the next time I have a craving for those.

Idea! If you find yourself in NYC in the near future, remember that I love gifts that taste like birthday cake and sound like a dirty word.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happenings Lately

Oh boy, things are getting wild over here. My biggest event of the year (professionally speaking) is only two weeks away, and the biggest event of my life (wedding!) is only five months away. Eeeep! Needless to say, my days have been busy. I doubt you want to hear about work so let's talk about the things that have been keeping me sane. Things like making delicious food in the kitchen and visits from family.

When my parents were visiting in March, my mom helped me make my first ever batch of popovers. Popovers are super light and fluffy rolls made with an egg batter so they rise high and fill with airy deliciousness while baking.

I had registered for a popover pan for the wedding and we ended up receiving it as our first gift from the wedding registry. I hear you can use a regular muffin pan for popovers, but the special popover tins have deeper pockets that allow for the tallest possible roll and the separated cups promote even heat distribution. Since I was itching to put my pan to use, my mom whipped up the batter, adding Fontina cheese for fun, and let the rising begin.

Just LOOK at that height. Popovers would actually be the perfect addition to an Easter meal so you could shout, "The bread has risen!"

I recommend pulling the popovers out of the pan as soon as possible after removing them from the oven. Popovers are very delicate and start to deflate if not enjoyed immediately. But oh boy are they worth the precision! Airy and soft on the inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside, popovers are so much more fun than the regular dinner roll.

Fontina Popovers
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 6 popovers

2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of whole milk (I used half and half)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup of Fontina cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place popover pan in the oven while it preheats.

Whisk the eggs until light and bubbly. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Do not boil. Slowly add the warm milk to the eggs, while whisking constantly. Stir in the flour mixture. Add most of the grated cheese to the batter, reserving some for topping each roll, and stir to combine.

When oven is preheated, remove the heated popover pan from the oven and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the popover pan, filling each cup all the way. Top each with a pinch of cheese.

Bake until golden, 40 to 50 minutes, keeping the oven door closed for the duration of baking to keep heat from escaping. When the popovers are completely baked, remove from oven and gently turn the rolls out onto a wire rack to cool. Once cooled slightly, serve immediately.

Besides eating delicious meals, while my parents were in town my dad helped us tend to Chula's surgery foot.

Look at that baby! She's like putty when you hold her. I'm glad to report that she's since had the stitches taken out of her foot and is doing well. However another little infection, un-surgery related, has popped up on her neck in the last week. I suppose Chula's getting to the age where small health complications start popping up and we spend more time than usual at the vet's office. It's a reality we have to face, but she seems just as happy and energetic as always so it's nothing to get down about.

I hope that you are all having a lovely Easter holiday and will perhaps make some popovers soon. I'm off to enjoy an Easter massage to get me through these next crazy weeks. My tense neck and shoulders will thank me for it in the long days spent hunched over the computer ahead. Bring it on!