Friday, April 29, 2011

French Baguettes

I want to be one of those people who knows everything about something totally useless. Like knowing all the vice presidents of the United States, in order. Or maybe being able to name all the fish living in the Gulf of Mexico. Or I could know how to count to ten in fifty different languages. Wait, I like that last one, maybe I’ll be one of those people. So far I can count to ten in five languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian & German), I’ve got some learning to do. If you speak other languages leave me your one through ten in the comments! I’d be forever grateful.

I’m sure you know people who are bastions of useless information. I’m sure that you have an immense amount of information in your head about one topic or another. Boyfriend knows lots about string theory, he could go on for hours about it. Why is this strange? He’s a businessman, not a physicist. My brother could go on and on about fruit trees and bushes, he’s an IT professional. I could retell the entire series of Gilmore Girls for you, right down to my favorite quotes.

In working toward the goal of knowing too much about something, I’m about halfway through my Bread Bakers Apprentice challenge. Today I present you with French bread! I put off making this bread for a while because I thought it was tricky. The dough itself is so soft and the instructions are so long I kept flipping past it in the cookbook. Rather than put it off anymore I decided to dive right in and I was not disappointed.

I wouldn’t recommend taking on French bread as your first yeasted bread. It takes a little understanding of yeast and you need to have a feel for dough. So, if you have been putting off French bread, don’t wait any longer. And don’t leave it under the broiler for ten minutes, unless you like smoke.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maple Mousse

I have been such a procrastinator this month! Well, mostly when it comes to cooking. Although in life I tend to be an inadvertent procrastinator.

I would always begin my projects, assignments and homework with the best of intentions. I loved the first week of classes in college because it held such promise. The professors would hand out their syllabus and I would look it over with the precision of a ketchup bottle. Hmm, that’s not right, but for some reason that is the first thing that popped into my head. So yes, like a precise ketchup bottle I scanned the calendar. I would transfer the dates of exams, papers and other assignments into my assignment notebook. Purple for English papers, green for inorganic chemistry, blue for calculus, it was very colorful and organized.

As the weeks of the semester wore on my assignment notebook would become more and more cluttered. I would start the year with very specific to do lists, I’ve always been a list maker, and I would try to get everything done each night. If something wasn’t accomplished it would get moved to the next day, some things floated along for a few days. Example – “Read chapter two of Inorganic Chemistry textbook – Molecular orbital theory.” Snore… In a worst case scenario it would get pushed back until the note read – “Read chapters two AND three of Inorganic Chemistry textbook.” Uh oh…

I always wanted to be one of those people that would write a paper ahead of time. Finish it early with enough time to look it over and make corrections. That almost never happened. In fact, I usually write my posts as a running thought process (hence the ketchup bottle) and usually don’t proofread (hence the occasional text message from my mom to inform me of a typo, thanks mom!).

My procrastination takes center stage today as I post my Daring Baker’s challenge! I have several excellent reasons for procrastinating this month. First, I only shop twice a month for groceries. It is because of this that I did not even have the ingredients until April 14th. Second, I’ve been spending weekends at boyfriends house. Boyfriend lacks all of the fancy cooking tools that I own, examples? Boyfriend does not own mixing bowls. As I write this, my maple/gelatin mixture is cooling on the stovetop. I am getting ready to whip the heavy cream and my chocolate shells are chilling in the fridge. In twenty minutes I will have completed this challenge, a mere hour before the deadline! I’m such a slacker.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mango-Lime Muffins

I’ve gone a little mango crazy recently! Last week it was mango curry, today it’s mango muffins! I know the same thing has happened to you. You discover something new and delicious. After a little while you notice that this new ingredient is making its way into all of your recipes. You’re eating your new favorite ingredient morning, noon and night. Mangoes are my new favorite ingredient.

If you have never tried a mango before, now is the perfect time to give them a try. Mexican mangoes are in season now and Florida mangoes are approaching their peak. In season, the mangoes are sweet and full of flavor. You’ll find yourself wanting to eat it straight out of the skin, neglecting to save some for your recipe. Maybe you should buy two, just in case you eat the first one.

Not sure of what to do with a mango? Follow these simple directions and you’ll be able to coax the fruit from the skin, leaving you with perfectly diced mango.

I'm a mango!

I have a flat pit in the middle!  Slice out the center section.
Gently cut the fruit into cubes, being sure not to cut through the skin

Flip the fruit inside out!

Slice off the fruit and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mango Shrimp Curry

From Mondays post I learned two things. First, deep fried foods appeal to everyone! Second, apparently I’m the unusual one for my lack of running and arm-flailing in the presence of bees. Most people seem to cringe at the sight and sound of bees. I’m more of the slowly saunter away from the bees-type of person. I say “Hey bee, you’re cool over there. I’m cool over here, but why don’t I get a little further away from you? Thanks!” Bees and wasps totally freak me out, but I try not to let them know, it’s my little secret. To show you I’m normal, how about some bug stories from my childhood? Always a good time.

Gather your ingredients
My childhood home is beautiful. A cream and brick tudor that sits on a hill, it overlooks an acre of bright green grass. That room with all the windows on the second floor? That’s my room. It sits on the corner and gets a nice breeze in the summertime. It also has gaps in the baseboards.

We had lived in the house for at least ten years before the Japanese beetles invaded. One year, no bugs, the next year, swarms of red beetles. And they bite. They smell like lettuce when you squish them. How do I know this? Read on.

Bring them all together
For some reason, the Japanese beetles decided to take up residence in my room. The beetles were in no other room in the entire house, just my room. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and I was into Bath and Bodyworks in a big way back then. Maybe the beetles had heard about the nice breeze that flowed through the room. Maybe they are just stupid and I hate them. For whatever reason, the bugs started their migration.

Just a few bugs showed up, at first. I would find them crawling along the wall, flying around the light and generally beetling about. Until one night, when it all went down. Me versus the beetles! Or, as it turned out, the Shop Vac versus the beetles!

Late one summer night I returned home from what I can only assume to be a day full of rollerblading and Dorito eating. I walk into my bedroom, flick on the light switch and I’m greeting to a veritable swarm of Japanese beetles! Hundreds of the little buggers (ha!) beetling all over my stuff. Screams and cries ring out and I run from the room. Here’s the fact – I don’t do well with LOTS of bugs. Especially not in my room. Not cool Japanese beetles.

I run downstairs and find my dad, inform him of the situation and wait for rescue. “There are bugs! Lots of bugs! In my room! Help!” Waiting, hoping for dad to come to the rescue. That’s what dad’s do, they kill bugs. What does dad say? “Shop vac is in the garage.” Humpf, not what I was hoping to hear.

I spent the next hour sucking up Japanese beetles with the Shop vac. I also discovered they were sneaking in through the gaps in the floorboards. A whole box of tissues later my room has been beetle free for the past ten years. You’re welcome parents!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cookie Dough Egg Rolls

I know, I’ve been missing a few posts recently. It’s been a busy time here in the Wilde household and lab. Deadlines abound at work this month and I’ve been spending weekends in the city, thereby cutting down on my cooking time. Don’t worry, I’ve brought you something extra special today. Thanks for waiting!

I have so many great memories from my five years in Madison and so many places that I miss. I wish that I could head to the terrace after work to enjoy a brat. The Dunkin Donuts are barely donuts in comparison to the heavenly pieces of deliciousness you can get at Greenbush Bakery. Connecticut pizza can’t hold a candle to the Southwest pizza at Glass Nickel. And no other restaurants dessert menu has the creative crazy choices as Bluephies.

What's hiding in there?  What's with the ice cream?
I was originally introduced to Bluephies at the Taste of Madison. It was my first summer in the city and also my first summer away from home. Boyfriend was visiting for the week and we went to the Capitol square for the annual Taste of Madison. The plan was to hunt around the vendors and find some great new places to eat around town. With over 80 local restaurants represented, we had many options for eating. What we weren’t counting on, were the bees.

Yep, bees. Lots of them. Madison, Wisconsin is lousy with bees. Something about the perfect combination of water, heat and flowers? Maybe, I actually just made that up. All I know is there were a ridiculous number of bees at the Taste of Madison. And do you know who has an irrational fear of bees? Boyfriend. He’s not deathly allergic or anything, he just had a traumatic bee episode as a child. Now he runs around erratically when there are bees in the air. There were lots of bees at the Taste, so there was lots of running.

Once we discerned that the bees liked to congregate around the trash bins we were okay. Just avoid the trash and we’ll be mostly bee free. Thankfully we figured this out, otherwise boyfriend might have sprinted right past the Bluephies tent. I might have never known the amazingness of their chocolate chip cookie dough egg roll.

It's filled with gooey, melty cookie dough!
Yup, you heard me right. Cookie Dough Egg Roll. It is seriously the most delicious and simple dessert I have ever had. You take some cookie dough, roll it up in an egg roll wrapper and fry it to crispness. Then add some ice cream for good measure, maybe some chocolate sauce too. If you are ever in Madison, be sure to stop by Bluephies for dessert. Their lunch and dinner menus are also pretty amazing. Most of you will never get the chance to visit Bluephies, but here’s your chance to enjoy their signature dish.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chocolate-covered Cherry Fondants

In the washing machine, on top of the stuffed deer head, behind the mint green ball gown. What do all of these places have in common? They sound like a pretty random series of locations, but they have one very important thing in common. The Easter Bunny thought they would make pretty good places to hide my basket of chocolate.

These are the hiding places that I remember best, because it took forever to find my Easter basket those particular years. The Easter bunny is crazy sneaky, even hiding my brothers basket in his room while he slept. It took him hours to find it, even though his whole room smelled of chocolate.

Sneaky sneaky Easter Bunny, always hiding my candy. Well, except the year you hid it in the fridge. That was silly. A girl wakes up in the morning and what’s the first thing she’s going to do? Get a bowl of Lucky Charms! Ta-da! Basket full of candy in the fridge! Who needs cereal, I’ve got candy now! That was a very hyper Easter Sunday.

Now that I no longer live in my parents’ house, the Easter bunny has resorted to using the U.S. postal service. It’s a surprise in a big brown box! It’s just waiting in my mailbox, full of deliciousness and wanting to be opened and eaten. I know there is a Easter box on its way to me soon, but until then I will have to make my own candy.

I know, two candy posts in a row, but it’s Easter time! To me, that means pastel candies and daffodils. These cherry fondants are smooth and creamy. The chocolate coating gives them a great crunch and makes them look extra pretty!

Did the Easter bunny use to stop by your house and hide your basket?  Where was the craziest place the bunny hid your treats?  I love a good, basket in the oven story!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Banana Mallow Cups

In the words of Rachel Zoe, these mallow cups are totally bananas. I mean, I die.

I’ve been having a ball making candies this year during my Candy Challenge. Originally I started off with simple things, taffy, truffles, marshmallows. After several successful batches of candy I’ve gotten the confidence to try more and more complicated things. These mallow cups are pretty complicated, but worth the time you put into them.

The original mallow cup is something that I don’t see everywhere. It’s a milk chocolate cup, filled with creamy marshmallow and a slightly crunchy top. I’m not really sure what that crunchy top comes from, but it’s delicious. When I decided to take on the mallow cup I wanted to do something a little different, hence the bananas!

I brought these bad boys into work and put them in our break room without a note. Before I could send out an e-mail, a good portion of them were already gone and my coworkers were confused. “What was in those chocolate things?” They asked me. My answer? “Bananas! Or Bananas and peanut butter.” I had decided to take half of the batch and fill them with banana fluff and creamy peanut butter, but I neglected to label them differently. Two coworkers, who got two different fillings, were arguing about what was in the cups. Both of them were right.

Either way, these mallow cups were bananas. In such a good way! Whether you decide to keep them simple and fill them with just banana fluff, or you take a hint from Elvis and add in some peanut butter, they won’t last long. Personally, I ate at least a quarter of the batch.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rosemary Foccacia

Are you one of those people that likes to sing along to the radio? Are you driving along the road, blasting some “Life is a Highway,” and singing at the top of your lungs? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an automobile vocal superstar. People driving by me either think I’m a crazy person, or that I’m having a very animated conversation with someone on my Bluetooth. (hint hint people, I don’t have a Bluetooth, I’m a crazy person)

Boyfriend also likes to sing along to the radio, although he is more of a creative soul. He will not be constrained by lyrics or rhymes. You know all the words to California Gurls? So does boyfriend, but sorry Katy Perry, those are boring lyrics. Boyfriends songs are so much better, because they are about delicious sandwiches.

Seriously, no joke. Boyfriends songs are all on the same topic – Sandwiches, and how delicious they are. Cee-Lo Green wants to forget someone? That’s fine, boyfriend wants a ham sandwich. U2 thinks it’s a beautiful day? Great, boyfriend is going to spend that beautiful day making a pastrami on rye. Even Elvis gets in on the sandwich goodness in his blue suede shoes. I think it’s a whole new genre of music – sandwich.

With the seriousness of boyfriends sandwich serenading, you would think that his main food group consisted of something between two pieces of bread. You would be wrong. Boyfriends main food group consists of foods sold at Dunkin’ Donuts. Extra-large double doubles, vanilla sprinkle donuts, Big’n’Toasty sandwiches. Oh wait! That last one was a sandwich! I was wrong, he loves sandwiches!

Anyways, this all has a point! Monday I wooed you with a tortellini soup and I teased you with glimpses of foccacia. Today I make good on my promise of bread! Some things take forever and are totally not worth the wait. Standing in line for Space Mountain, only to go on a roller coaster in the dark, lame-o. Anticipating the movie release of your favorite book, just to discover they totally ruined the plotline (I’m looking at you Bourne Identity!). Spending hours on a recipe and being disappointed in the outcome? Not this recipe! This foccacia was amazing! Airy, herby, delicious. Go make this, but be warned that it will be a full day before you have bread.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tortellini Soup

Spring is starting to creep into the Northeast, at last! I was able to bust out my spring coat this weekend, although I paired it with a scarf. Fifty degrees just isn’t warm enough for me yet. Although, I have known many people who would claim that fifty degrees is shorts weather.

Rainbow chard, it's so pretty!
Living in Wisconsin, I met lots of people from the Midwest. I found that the people of the Midwest are of heartier stock than I. The people of Michigan are particularly hearty. Once the mercury would inch up past freezing, my Midwestern friends would break out their shorts and t-shirts. There could still be snow on the ground, but the streets of Madison would be filled with students wearing shorts. Crazy people, all of them.

My rainbow chard looks alive!
I am a fan of pants. It needs to be at least eighty degrees for me to have the desire to put on shorts. For this reason, I own approximately one pair of shorts. Maybe two, I can’t remember. It’s been that long since I thought to put on a pair of shorts. The second problem with shorts is my work environment. Wearing shorts in the lab is just a bad idea, especially for a girl, they just don’t cover nearly enough leg! Plus, it’s always about two degrees in the lab, I’d freeze to death.

So, while I’m enjoying the warmer days, I will still bundle up until the temperature stays at seventy. My winter coat will stay out until May and my shorts will remain in the dresser until July. And I will eat soup all year long, especially this soup.

Stay tuned later this week for that foccacia recipe!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sponge Cupcakes with Chocolate Swiss Meringue Frosting

Let it be known that I have never had a real job. Nope, not ever. I’ve never had a nine-to-five, five day a week, holidays off kinda job. Sure, I’ve been employed since I was thirteen, but I can’t seriously call any of my jobs a profession.

My first job was as a coat check girl at my mom’s hotel. I would take the coats and give out the tags. For the next three hours I would guard the coats and read a book. At the end of the night I would return the coats to the correct ticket holders and reap the rewards. Drunk people and guys with fancy hats were good tippers. Once everyone was gone my mom and I would head home, my pockets full of one dollar bills. And yes, jokes would be made as I paid for things, through the week, with lots of ones.

Eventually, I got myself a job with a paycheck. A job with tips. A job with an awesome title. I was a Soda Jerk. I spent evenings working at a diner, making ice cream sundaes, chocolate milkshakes and brown cows. I wore my hot pink t-shirt and a pony tail. I ate way too much ice cream every night and came home with caramel in my hair and down my leg and on my back. Not quite sure how it got where it did. I would inevitably slip on some ice cream, entertaining all of the customers with my mad falling skills.

The job I held for the longest actually started out as my senior internship. In high school, I decided that I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up. I was going to zip around the world and shoot for National Geographic. Since Nat Geo didn’t have a local branch, I got an internship at a portrait studio. I got to learn the ins and outs of taking portraits, camera equipment and running a studio. I learned so much more as the years went by and I became great friends with the owners. People I’m happy to say I stay in touch with, even though I haven’t worked at the studio for eight years.

Eight years ago is when I held my last real job. Now, I haven’t been unemployed since then, I entered into the world of academia. Academia is a totally different world from the industrial or consumer world. I’ve passed from undergrad in a lab to graduate student with a hood of my own to postdoc on a mission. Working seventy-hour weeks, seven days a week, getting one paycheck a month and eating very haphazardly.

The most noticeable thing about academia is the constant flux of people. Every year there are new people coming and old people leaving, someone never being around for more than five years. Your facebook friends list gets longer and longer as your labmates shift through the years. It seems like you’re either saying hello or goodbye to someone, just like today.

Ignore that missing one, I don't know what happened to that cupcake. 
Must have wandered off...
Today is the last day of a labmates academic life. I know, it sounds dramatic, but it is a great thing! He’s leaving us for a job in the real world, with all those real world benefits and pitfalls. It’s the day that everyone in the academic bubble dreams of. (Unless you want to be a professor, then you’ll live your life in the academic bubble!) To celebrate his departure I made him cupcakes. Good riddance! Get out of here! We won’t miss you! I’m just kidding, you’re awesome, but then again, you already knew that. It says so on your laptop.

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