Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Of Swiss meringue buttercream, date-almond cake and a bright, red scooter

This image. It's significant. Not because it's been sitting on my desktop, strangely calling me out for not writing a line or two about it...YET.  But that it comes from the recesses of an overactive, over optimistic mind; set in a recurring scene that flashes off and on...given the condition of the week I may be facing. Me. Zipping through quaint roads of the Mediterranean coastline. On cobblestoned pavements. With who-ville hair. Steering a red Vespa. I believe I should be doing this one day. Until then, it excites me that I could have some of this vision manifest itself via edible clay...fashioned by my own hands... and placed on cake. While the landscape and backdrops, of how/when/where can be left as the imagination deems. Yes, people,  I dream vivid. It helps me transport to experiences my physical self one day surely will. That said, it makes updating this gig all the more compelling. In addition to reminding some that, of course, I do still have a blogging gig.

So, I' ll begin by confessing the urgency to have you informed, a need as strong as the one that makes me want to stock up on eggs for the rest of my life and wax lyrical on how fine those eggs foam up to build the smoothest of confection. 

Manufacturing Swiss meringue buttercream is not for the fainthearted, nor is it that easy of a task. It requires diligence and purpose. Together with sufficient patience, perseverance and prayer, frosting comes full circle and ultimately, we can all see light at the end of the icing tunnel. For real.

Cake fails are a part of life. Frosting fails; not quite so. At least not the mere comingling of butter and sugar, aka, American buttercream,  and the easiest way to stack and beautify cake. It's Swiss counterpart requires those 4 more steps, along with slight more ambition. 

Living through my few flop attempts had me actually question two things: the desire to continue and whether all combinations of butter and sugar were truly a gift from Heaven. Yes, to the former and of course, they are(!!), in case you doubt, to the latter.

It was at the 3rd practice batch (phew) of Swiss buttercream, things finally fell into place:
The egg whites stayed white. 
The butter creamed and blended. 
The sugar dissolved and ceased being sand.

Fifteen to twenty five minutes is, in the least, mandatory frame to whisk, cool, beat and blend. What you will end up with is an ethereally smooth and well structured cream. Luxe Swiss is padded with enough butter that gives it the appearance of silk and pipes extremely well. I should know, after having produced a weekend's worth of buttercream florals for a double layer cake.

It's an event, this stove-whisked frosting. A manifold step endeavor to create icing that is light yet tastes as rich as a cake accessory should honestly be. Suddenly, the gushing reviews and jubilant taster comments of SMB become as clear as the noon day.  Just as many other things in life shall one day be.

It is so worth it. Even when it means fashioning bright red scooters out of sugar dough to prove your point.

For the buttercream~
(Adapted from Epicurious.com)

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cup , unsalted butter, softened (but not too soft)and cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a slight pinch salt
  • In a wide medium bowl (big enough to hold your mixer bowl as it double boils), bring about 2 inches of water to a simmering boil.
  • Place egg whites and sugar in steel mixing bowl of your stand mixer and place this over the bowl of simmering water, but not touching the water.
  • Whisk intermittently until sugar grains are fully dissolved and the mxixture is smooth and comes to 160 °F .
  • Immediately place mixer bowl on mixer stand and whip with whisk attachment until frosting becomes thick, glossy and increases in volume-about 10 minutes). If not yet cool, allow mixture to come to room temperature.
  • Once bowl is cool to the touch, change to paddle attachment, reduce to medium speed and add butter one tablespoon at a time, allowing it to absorb into meringue after each addition.
  • Once all butter is in, scrape down the bowl and continue beating until buttercream has reached a thick, whipped consistency. Continue beating if it appears lumpy or runny.
  • Add vanilla and salt. Mix another minute on medium-high until incorporated.
Notes~ Butter should be cool to the touch and not left at room temp for more than 45 minutes.
If too soft, refrigerate for about 7-10 minutes.
If using a hand mixer, it will take longer to beat to form buttercream. 

Mid-beat, before adding butter.

 For the date almond-cake~ I used my fruit cake recipe( halved it- use a scale for accuracy), omitted all the other fruits, except for the chopped dates, to which I added 100 gms more. Sliced almonds replaced the crushed cashews. Caramelized sugar syrup stayed the same as did most of the spices, but in lesser volume.
For the oddest reason, these pictures were compressed to a lower resolution and size by my camera, so this was the best I could glean from the sd card. I will update with a brilliantly whipped Swiss soon up.
"Don't try to be like those who shoulder their way through life. Why be a bully? "Why not?" you say. Because God can't stand twisted souls. It's the straightforward who get his respect. God's curse blights the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.  He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder, but if you're down on your luck, he's right there to help. Wise living gets rewarded with honor; stupid living gets the booby prize." Proverbs 3:31-35 (Message)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Cornflakes-masala chicken

You'd think the first food script of the year would happen in, like, the first week of the first month of same year. Yet, for the longest time, it never makes it past... these. few. words. You digress. Perhaps, recipe writing isn't for you. Then again... it could be just the thing for you, always keeping your mind lucid and ideas animated. If you believe your words/ pictures/ directions/ foolery absolutely inspire yourself and the dozen others that drop by to read, then surely this is your charge- at least part of it. Moreover, it triggers thoughts, such as, "if I can do it, then you most definitely will". So, of course, it's imperative to dust off writer fog, if things seen here manifest in your kitchen there, come 2018. And it's totally why, that at the fourth week of January, I am ferociously typing, to run this text out before the end of January. You deserve it. So do I. 

Also, we're exactly at that point in the calendar where we find ourselves deep in irresolute resolutions...chomping much too much on leaves and tubers...inhaling bounteous forms of protein. Take heart. Today's treatise may be an easier way to overcome, and still usher in a bettered/improved you, without having to try nearly as hard.

I realize chicken is the most versatile substance staple, the world over. It is a notable part of our food spectrum, the meat most of us serve more nights in a four week rotation. So, adding to the number of poultry recipes may never be excessive and, right now, at this moment, I feel, today's might be one to seriously consider.

It is essential to marinate chicken. To marinate and coat it soon after with popular breakfast fare is more than genius. To have it taste as good as the two-doors-down-mom-pop fried chicken shop could be an outstanding feat. Doubtless, it's as cravesome as fat laden, calorie pegged counterparts might aspire to be.

Though, really, a batch of these might be a bit farther in essence than batter-dipped pieces cooked in oil (which I'm equally a fan of).  Enveloped in distinct Indian-esque flavors,  there is  a tornado of taste lent to the terrific texture of toasted maize (alliteration was not intentional, but sounds cool. Right ? :)). It's the great mouth feel you get when you sink teeth into juicy pieces, covered in a mosaic of  cornflakes over well seasoned skin that makes you come back for more. 

Points to specifically note in making c. masala chicken:
➢There are three parts to this recipe, that you must diligently go through in the order of: (a)making the marinade and smearing chicken with marinade (b) shaking marinaded pieces in cornflakes (c) baking the coated pieces.
➢You'll have to press marinaded chicken onto the cornflakes, purposefully. They will not all stick on when put into the bag. But once they adhere, flakes obligingly gather in some places more than others, which is ok. Really.
➢ For a distinct fusion between spice and crunch, you need to be generous on the former in order for the latter to stand out and complement. Otherwise, it's just chicken and cereal. Not good.
➢ Half of an 18 oz box of cornflakes should be enough to cover 12 chicken leg drumsticks; also feeds 6,  but often 4 very hungry people.
That being said, you can use any parts of the chicken; bone in, boneless. I like bone-in and my kids (even the one month-short-of-adult) fight for the drumsticks. 

From preparation to consumption, cornflakes-masala chicken takes a little over an hour and a half, where after your initial tweakings and coverings, 80% of time is spent in pieces cooking to that extra special finale.

It will hold up to many culinary expectations. Don't minimize options on how, when or why. Regardless of the regional palate it intends to please or where your fancies take you, know that a piece or two is as gratifying sided to curry and rice, as might be over, roast fingerling potatoes, tucked with garlic scented couscous, and/or a green salad.

Maybe this is that bit of perfection needed to set the course for 2018. Don't you think?

Hoping you a fantastic year And, no doubt, a tasty one too.

Always, thank you for listening. 

The South Indian plate. With rice and a small pool of sambar.

  • 1 ½ tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • pinch turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 pinch mace powder
  • 2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp plain nonfat yoghurt
  • salt
  • 6 skinless chicken drumsticks
  • 3 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • cooking spray
Once upon a time, during a bitter  Minnesota winter...when I had leftover cornflakes, a pack of cut up chicken thighs, and not much of a budget, this happened. That was more than 12 years ago. Ever since, buying a box of Kelloggs elicits a whole different response with my people here.

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients from cayenne pepper to salt. 
  • Coat chicken pieces thoroughly in the spice-yoghurt mixture. Keep aside in marinade for 30 minutes.
  • Place cornflakes in a large Ziploc bag and crush with rolling pin.
  • Preheat oven to 385°F.
  • Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.
  • Take a marinaded chicken piece and place in the ziploc. Seal the bag and shake up and down or move so that the piece gets coated in cornflakes. Place coated piece onto baking sheet.
  • Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces. Spray pieces with cooking spray.
  • Bake for 8 minutes. Then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until chicken is done and meat is no longer pink.
  • Serve hot with rice, roast vegetables, side salad.
When increasing the quantity of chicken, be mindful of spice and seasoning ingredients. Do not increase all these in direct proportion, but test and taste, to suit individual palates and tolerance levels.

Of Januarys past:

 "But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
 that all who love your name may be filled with joy." Psalm 5:11