Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's the French Word for FAILURE?


I am NOT a baker. I may be DARING. But screw that baker part. I'm a cook goddammit.

I hate that I allowed this challenge to f*ck with my head. I over psyched myself from the beginning. I got scared. Over what??? A few egg whites, some nuts and sugar?? WHAT THE FUCK?

I watched an excellent video on how to make macs about eleventy gabillion times. I read that damn forum and looked at photos for the entire month. I read and REREAD the recipe a 100 times. But nothing helped me. I was doomed from the start.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Ami, you know how smitten I am with you.. always have been, so please take no offense. But uhmm... Claudia? Claudia can bite my ass. I hated that recipe.. and it hated me back with a burning white heat of a 1000 suns. I didn't even take photos of it - and ya'll KNOW how much I love to embarrass myself. It was that bad. :(

Yanno, this ain't my first rodeo. I made macs years ago with my Guru! The first time she came to visit. And although she did most of the work, she taught me well - she showed me the correct way to fold. She showed me how to grind the nuts and the sugar. But, that was a long time ago, and even if she hadn't done most of the work herself, if I had done it all.. I still would have been just as lost this time. It was just too long ago.

But I was inspired by ya'll. Like I am every month. I knew the exact flavors I wanted to make and I was ready to DO THIS again. On the few days I was home on vacation, I woke saying "Today I make macarons!" And I knew which recipe I wanted to try next.. but then I'd find an excuse not to torture myself and I wouldn't make them.

So, obviously, yesterday was my DO OR DIE day. Actually Sunday was, but I ended up taking an improptu nap. Hey, it was the last day of my vacation - DO NOT JUDGE ME.

After a chat with my sister, Veronica.. who makes the dreamiest macarons, I felt like I could not only make her recipe, but end up with 48 perfect macaron shells. It was her video that I watched over and over again, her voice I listened to.. her technique I felt I could replicate. Yeah. No. Another failure, but by far, not as epic as the first try.

I know exactly where I screwed up. I knew exactly when I screwed up. It's all about the f'n "magma". I overbeat this batter. Frankly, this batter had every right to report me to the authorities and take a bed at the nearest women's shelter. Seriously. My "magma" turned out more like a slightly thick version of muddy river water in like a nano-second. Oh it flowed alright.. but nothing, including several hundred bags of sand, was going to keep this stuff in place.

I decided to look upon them as if they were "multi-tasking". After I piped several circles, I watched them splooge into each other. But at that point, after I wiped away a renegade tear from my cheek and then sucked down a few glugs of a bottle of Jack Daniels we keep in the house for guests.. I turned my back on my over beaten and abused macarons. I left them to splooge and "dry" at the same time. I threw up my hands and screamed "UNCLE" (but it was more like "YOU FAH-HAUL-AKIN IZEHOLES"). I fully expected to return in 40 minutes and find one giant rectangular mac, threatening to escape the sides of the jelly-roll pan it rested on.

During that 40 minutes, I pondered how this could have happened. What amazes me is how many times I sucked in that video. I knew I was going to stop beating the batter at the exact right time (Magma time!) because I had watched the video so much that surely by osmosis alone, I would know when.

OHMYGOD don't even get me started on the 2nd panic attack when my nuts wouldn't grind down small enough. I was so careful! I ground, I sifted, I ground some more, I sifted some more.. and I still ended up with 107 (ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN) grams of almonds that were way too chunky. Finally, I called Veron back.. "what do I do??" I said between a hiccup and another slurp of my new best friend, Jack. She suggested I grind them in small batches in my coffee grinder. Bless her. That worked.

I also ground down the Canadian Vanilla Maple tea I used to hopefully get a good maple flavor in the shells. I ground down what was already miniscule pieces parts of tea and natural and/or artifical flavors into powder, for crissakes!!! And the top of my wee coffee grinder has a hole in the plastic, so I had to keep the palm of my hand slammed down on it and regardless of how long I waited for the contents to settle back down, I still inhaled a tiny poof of powdered vanilla maple tea! That stuff could have been asbestos laden - but I took one for the team so my maple flavored macs with cream cheese and BACON filling would be THE BOMB.

So as I'm replaying all of these extra steps I took to make sure my macs would come out beautifully.. it all came down to one stroke. One paddle of the pud too many. Over confidence at it's finest. I left my zen place and lost my concentration and that one extra stroke of my spatula turned all of my hard work into... muddy river water.

And here is what I got for my efforts.. they've got feet alright. But barely breathe on one and you'll watch it implode. The first batch wasn't baked long enough, so they ended up being a huge mass of tissue thin crackly crust and ooey gooey innards that stuck to anything they touched. I now know what to do if I can't find the super glue when I need it. No running to the store, I'll just underbake a batch of macarons! You could build a bridge with that stuff!

You'll also notice that apparently, I can pipe a perfect Thresher Shark, but cannot pipe a simple circle to save my life.

The 2nd batch was a bit better.. I baked them for a few minutes longer and they popped right off the paper, but they were still really thin and the tops crack really easily.. like move your finger 1/16th of an inch over them and they crack.

Oh and they don't taste of maple. Not in the slightest. They are just nutty and sweet. Just like their maker! If you can compare batshit crazy and grumpy to nutty and sweet, that is. :P

So I decided to flavor the cream cheese with maple syrup instead of powdered sugar. At first taste there was no maple, but after it sat in the fridge for a while, the maple finally came through - thank the baby Jebus. I added crumbled applewood smoked bacon to the mixture, leaving some out for "garnish" - cuz we all know how fancy pants I am. Some I just lightly brushed with maple syrup and sprinkled some extra bacon on top.. some I left plain.. and some I rolled the edges in bacon. Those, I think, were my favorite. At least, that's the only one I've actually tried and AT THE VERY LEAST I was RIGHT ON with the flavor combo. The filling wasn't too sweet since the cream cheese leaves you with a nice tang. And the bacon.. well.. I dunno, kids.. roll a fresh cat turd in bacon, and call me to dinner. You just can't go wrong with crispedy bacon.

So there ya have it.. another long ass story of yet another catastrophe in my kitchen. But I'm semi-happy with them, if for the taste alone. And they've got feet. God bless them, they've got feet.


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What the Pho?

I wonder how many blog entries will be titled that today? hehe

So this morning I felt fanfarkingtastic. Tonight? Not so much. Lots of talk of flu and the cold weather setting in.. and hubbs doesn't feel good.. so I dunno if this is psychosomatic or if my wonderful husband has shared a germ with me.. but I feel like poo. So this is going to be short and sweet! :)

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Ah-mazing. That's all I can say about this Vietnamese Beef Pho soup. I was a lil iffy with those spices.. anise and cinnamon in a savory beef soup? *shudder* But boy were my eyes opened after that first taste. I couldn't have been more surprised or more happy with the results.

I went with the long version of the Beef Pho from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen because Hubbs had just made his world famous (not really) chicken noodle soup 2 days before. Jaden's quick version of Pho Ga, which is found in her brand spankin' new KICK ASS book, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner is on the menu next week while I am on VACATION! WOOOO HOOOOO!!!!!! Actually quite a few of the recipes in her book are on the menu next week as I am reviewing it for this blog, so keep an eye out! :) (It will also be reviewed on The Daring Kitchen TWICE! So look for those reviews too. ;)

Anyhoo.. this month's challenge was about learning how to toast spices and how to make a KILLER stock. Both of which I'd never tackled in the kitchen before. That stock.. oh that stock.. so rich, so flavorful.. so freakin' delicious. Just the right amount of saltiness and beefiness. AND another weird ass thing was creating a bowl full of noodles, bean sprouts, thinly sliced red onions (chilies and cilantro too.. but we omitted because we didn't have any and I couldn't talk Mr. Chicken Soup Two Fakkin Days Before I'm Suppose To Cook Vietnamese Chicken Soup into running to the grocery store for me. Gah.) LIME and RAW BEEF. Seriously. I decided to use London Broil as it was on sale, and figured hell, if it's raw, it won't be tough right? I mean.. don't get me wrong.. I like my steak still mooing, but even rare is at least seared, yanno? This was raw as raw can be.. sliced thinly and laid on top of all the other ingredients.. then the broth was poured over and it "cooked" the beef. But it didn't cook it enough to make it tough as a well done London Broil will be.. nope, it was cooked just enough to take away the raw flavor but left it tender and amazingly flavorful. And the lime just added another incredible flavor layer that makes me wanna.. GAWD DAMN I WANT SOME RIGHT NOW. I'M SICK, I SHOULD HAVE SOME. SOMEONE MAKE ME SOME. PWEASE??? *sob*

'kay well I might not really be sick and wasn't I suppose to keep this short?? Jebus.

Alrighty then.. this recipe got a huge THUMBS UP from both of us. I have froze the remaining stock and can't wait to use it again. I am so looking forward to the quick version and then somewhere down the road I'm going to be roasting a chicken or two and will save the carcass to make the longer traditional Pho Ga, you can betcher sweet patootie. As a matter of fact, it's been decided that no longer will we be making our soups with store bought stock when it's SO SIMPLE MR. JENKINS to make it at home.

Jaden, huge huge huge thank you for the time you gave all of us at The Daring Kitchen this month. It was a pleasure seeing your smiling face in the forums and listening to you during the conference call. Thanks for so generously sharing these recipes and your new book (there's a contest.. 3 lucky winners will win a copy of Jaden's new book!) and we hope you stop by every once in a while and say HI! Oh yeah and once you've finished your 2nd book.. uhmm... we'll so test 'er out for ya again! :D

Kids.. buy this book. It's filled with gorgeous photos and amazing recipes. Check out Jaden's blog for the traditional Beef Pho recipe and the traditional Chicken Pho recipe. Also, check out the The Daring Kitchen for the Quick Chicken Pho recipe.. something to tantalize you while you are waiting for your book to be delivered to your doorstep. ;)

Oh and all of you Daring Cooks out there.. I'm not going to spill the beans right now.. but Jaden is going to be offering a new contest which will be announced in the private forums on Oct. 17th.. :D

And before I leave this "short" post (BAHAHAHAHAHAA) I couldn't forgive myself if I didnt plug another AMAZING contest being hosted at The Daring Kitchen from Oct. 10 to Nov. 9 - It's a cake decorating competition! The good folks at The New York Cake Convention and The US Confection Connection are giving away an all expenses paid trip for 2 to the NY Cake Convention Jan. 2 to the 5, 2010! That includes airfare, hotel accomodations, tickets to the convention and SO MUCH MORE. Check out the details HERE. This contest is open to the public as well as our Daring Kitchen members. Enter! You've got nothing to lose and so much to gain! :)


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