Nooks and Jammies

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As a child of the ’80s, I can recall watching some of the best commercials like it was just yesterday. Remember this one? Thomas’ English Muffins were a breakfast mainstay when I was a kid. The “nooks and crannies” are key–they’re like little pools collecting all the butter and jam or whatever you put on the bread.

I’m a breakfast person but I’m always on the go in the mornings, so it’s sometimes difficult to have a decent breakfast before I start my day. Making these homemade English muffins ahead of time is a great option when you’re on-the-go like me. And the best part is, you can top them with whatever butter, jam, or spread you like. Or you can make your very own breakfast sandwiches. Endless options, really.

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Homemade English Muffins
Recipe slightly adapted from The Woks of Life
Yields 14 muffins or 7 sandwich-size muffins

INGREDIENTS
3 2/3 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup plain yogurt
semolina flour, for sprinkling
canola oil, for frying

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METHOD

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add water and yogurt, and mix into a soft dough. Knead the mixture for about 10 minutes, until smooth, adding more flour if it gets too sticky. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

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Roll out the dough to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Cut out 14 circles with a 3-inch round cutter (I used a Mason jar lid). Sprinkle a sheet tray with semolina. Cover the portioned muffins with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size.

For sandwich-size muffins (like the ones pictured above)  pair up the muffins and stick them together my pinching the side creases with the tips of your fingers to create a seam for one large muffin. Repeat this process for as many larger-size muffins you want to make.
(Cook’s note: I do this step after the muffins have been proofed because the slight separation of the two muffin halves post-proofing makes it super easy to cut them in half at serving.) 

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a flat griddle pan to medium-high heat and brush with oil. Add the muffins and cook for 6 minutes, three minutes per side, till golden brown. Once both sides have been seared, transfer to a sheet tray and finish in the oven for about 3-6 minutes. Serve with butter, jam and coffee.

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Tom Tom Club

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Feels like I’m dreaming but I’m not sleeping.

My mom introduced me to Thai cuisine at a young age. She and I frequented a local family-owned Thai restaurant almost monthly. We’d always order the Tom Yum Soup and Pad See-Ew dishes. Those were our favorites. We’d crave them all the time, discussing the delightful sourness of the soup and the tender bites of Chinese broccoli in the noodle dish. We became such regulars that the owners of the restaurant had already placed our orders by the time we sat down and got our drinks (I always had Thai Iced Tea with my meal).

My first obsession was Tom Yum soup, then came my meeting with Tom Kha Gai. In Thai, the dish literally translates to Spicy Galangal Chicken Soup (Tom = Spicy Soup, Kha = Galangal, Gai = Chicken). Thai cuisine reminds me so much of my mom, so I crave this food when I’m missing my family most. I’ve tried Tom Kha Gai soup in almost every Thai restaurant I’ve visited, but this recipe (with my own personal tweaks) is the closest to the authentic Thai flavors I grew up tasting.

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Tom Kha Gai
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
1 each galangal, peeled and cut into 3 2-inch pieces*
3 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
10 each kaffir lime leaves*
6 each Thai bird chiles
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves
Hot chile sauce (such as Sriracha), to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

*Cook’s note: Galangal is a rhizome related to ginger, although it has a tougher skin that’s lighter in color. It also has a distinct peppery flavor much different than ginger’s.
 Kaffir limes are native to the Southeast Asian countries and have astringent qualities. Their leaves carry a lovely and distinct aroma. Galangal and kaffir leaves may be difficult to find, depending on where you live. Check out your nearest Asian markets for these speciality items.

METHOD
In a large saucepan, bring the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai bird chiles and broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are well pronounced, about 30-45 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard the galangal, but keep half the amount of chiles and half of the lemongrass.

Add the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the mushrooms, skimming occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are softened, about 20–25 minutes.
Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and fresh herbs. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
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Crunch Time

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One of my fondest memories as a kid were frequent outings with my family to get ice cream at Thrifty’s. Those cylinder-shaped blocks of ice cream that were scooped atop another were irresistible. My parents would ask me how many scoops I wanted, and I’d always ask for two. Ice cream was a lot cheaper back then–.59 cents a scoop. My dad remembers them being .10 cents a scoop at Thrifty’s when he was a kid. Now, Thrifty’s sells their ice cream for about $1 a scoop. Oh, how times have changed. But my love for their Chocolate Malted Crunch ice cream has not. Those little bits of chocolate chips and mini crunchy malted bits in the creamy malted chocolate ice cream were to-die-for! The weather has been heating up here in the Bay, so my best attempt at recreating this retro favorite was very fun and hugely successful.

Two scoops, please.

Two scoops, please.

And because I love a good ice cream sandwich (who doesn’t?), CLICK HERE for my Whoppers Cookie recipe. These cookies are good on their own, too. Just sayin’. Then follow this LINK for NSFW ice cream sandwich assembly pics.

Chocolate Malted Chip Ice Cream
Recipe slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Yields 1 quart

Ice cream mis en place

Ice cream mis en place

INGREDIENTS
2 cups heavy cream, divided
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided (chocolate chips work, too)
1 cup whole milk or heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup brown sugar (I prefer it taste-wise to white sugar)
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups malted milk powder (Please please please use real malted milk powder! Many brands like Ovaltine contain added sugars and don’t produce the same results. The original recipe called for 1 cup of the powder, but I found that adding a 1/2 cup more produced better results.)***

METHOD
Combine 1 cup of the heavy cream with the cocoa powder in a medium-size saucepan and whisk together until there are no lumps.

Bring mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 30 seconds whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and add in half of the chopped chocolate (2 ounces) and whisk till it’s completely melted and smooth. Stir in the other cup of heavy cream and pour into a large bowl, using a rubber spatula to scrape all of the mixture from the saucepan.

Properly tempering the eggs into the milk reduces clumps.

Properly tempering the eggs into the milk reduces clumps.

In the same saucepan, warm the milk, brown sugar and salt. In a separate medium-size bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Add a cup of the warmed milk to the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper the yolks. Once the egg yolks have been tempered, add them to the saucepan and whisk on medium heat. Continue to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir until the egg mixture thickens to a custard-like consistency and coats the back of the spatula.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer and str into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract and malted milk powder, whisking until the mixture is completely combined.

Cool the chocolate custard base in the refrigerator till it’s completely chilled. This should take at least 4 hours.

Almost there!

It’s happening!

Pour the chocolate malted custard into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While churning, add in the remaining 2 ounces of chopped chocolate to the mixture.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap atop the churned ice cream mixture to avoid freezer burn or forming ice crystals while it freezes.

If you ask me, I'm ready

If you ask me, I’m ready

***COOK’S NOTE: So what is malted milk powder? Besides its use as a base for beer and whiskey, malt is used to add a sweet, nutty flavor. It’s a grain (oftentimes barley) that’s sprouted and quickly dried. The grain is finely ground with the addition of wheat flour and powdered milk.

13 Going on 30

Birthday "Ding Dongs" with Salted Caramel Ganache

Birthday “Ding Dongs” with Salted Caramel Ganache

Hostess Ding Dongs were a common mainstay in my She-Ra lunchbox during grade school. I remember the excitement from opening up my lunch to find that little foil-wrapped cake waiting just for me. Some of my classmates would attempt to “trade” a Ding Dong for something like a baggie of chocolate Teddy Grahams or a bottle of Squeeze-It Juice. As tempting as it was, I never succumbed.

Nearly 25 years later, I still have that taste memory of those cakes fresh in my mind. For my former roommate Gina’s 30th birthday I decided to make her a batch of homemade “Ding Dongs.” Seeing as how Gina favors a salty-sweet taste aesthetic, the cakes are dipped in a salted caramel ganache, inspired by this recipe. And to make her “30, Flirty and Thriving”-themed surprise birthday extravaganza even more special, I cut the cakes into heart shapes.

Cook’s Note: These cakes are super-moist and airy, and the marshmallow filling isn’t as sweet as most recipes I’ve come across. The recipe yields about 12 “Ding Dongs” with plenty of cake scraps to snack on for later, as well as extra caramel ganache that can later used to top ice cream sundaes.

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Surprise!

Surprise!

 

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Allow the cakes to cool before cutting them into shapes (if you decide to do so)

Birthday “Ding Dongs” with Salted Caramel Ganache

FOR THE CAKE
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Beantown Baker

INGREDIENTS
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup hot brewed coffee
2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 ea. eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

METHOD
Preheat oven to 300°F and grease 2 10-inch round cake pans.

Finely chop chocolate and add into a bowl of hot coffee. Stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In another large mixing bowl beat the eggs until thickened slightly and lemon-yellow in color. Slowly stream in the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Divide the cake batter between pans and bake in the middle rack until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, roughly one hour.

Cool cakes completely in pans on racks. Run a small knife or palette knife around the edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. You can make the cakes one day ahead and wrap them with plastic wrap and left out in room temperature.

*Cook’s Note: If you’re prepping the cakes for the following day, do not place them in the refrigerator, this causes the cake to dry out, no bueno! If you’re prepping a few days in advance, thoroughly wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and into the freezer. Defrost accordingly.

filling

Save your leftover marshmallow filling to top hot chocolate.

FOR THE MARSHMALLOW FILLING
Recipe adapted from Epicurious

INGREDIENTS
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 each large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

METHOD
In large mixing bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Set bowl over a double boiler of simmering water and mix with a whisk or handheld electric mixer at low speed. Gradually increase speed to high, beating until mixture holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

Remove bowl from double boiler to a rolled up kitchen towel (this helps to keep the bowl in place) onto your counter and continue beating until mixture is cool and billowy, about 2 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla. This filling can be made ahead 4 hours before assembly, just cover with plastic wrap and chill.

FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL GANACHE
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

INGREDIENTS
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sea salt for garnish

METHOD
Place chopped chocolate and salt into a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Stir the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a deep medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally (don’t stir! It will cause the sugar to crystallize!) and brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush if you have one. You want to cook the sugar till it is a deep amber color, this takes about 10 minutes. Once you achieve the amber color, remove the pan from the heat and stream in the heavy whipping cream. The mixture will bubble vigorously. Return the pan to cook over medium heat and stir until the caramel bits dissolve. Then pour over this mixture into the bowl of chopped chocolate. Add the vanilla and stir until the chocolate has melted and is smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

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Assembly gets messy, but it’s so worth it

 

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Salted caramel ganache! What?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASSEMBLY
Once the cake layers have cooled completely, use a small round cookie cutter (in my case I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter) to cut small circles of cake out of the layers. Reserve the cake scraps for future sweet treats!

Using the cone method, scoop out a small portion of cake from each circle. Fill with the marshmallow filling and replace top of cake.

With a pastry brush or spoon, cover individual cakes with salted caramel ganache. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt flakes over cakes for garnish. Allow ganache to completely set up before serving.