Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Make Fresh Spring Rolls – Authentic is as Authentic Does

Based on the YouTube comments appearing under the newly posted spring rolls video, lots of people missed the part about this not trying to be a specific recipe, but simply a demo featuring the magic that is damp, rice paper wrappers.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the “authentic” spring rolls I so often order at my friendly, neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant. Loaded with sweet shrimp, and bursting with vermicelli noodles, they are among the most delicious things ever invented.

However, I do reserve the right to soak rice paper wrappers in water, and… (I hope you’re sitting down for this) ...not make those! What you see here is just what I had on hand that day, and the next time I do a batch of these, who the heck knows what they’ll encase. If I have a point, that’s it.

Speaking of soaking in water, many commenters suggested that I dunk these in warm water for just a few seconds to hydrate, instead of the longer dip in cold water. I’ve tried both methods, and had more issues with the warmer/faster approach. They seemed to get too rubbery, too fast, which I found made the rolling harder.

Anyway, to each his own, and that goes for water temperature, filling ingredients, and dipping sauce. By the way, there are no ingredient amounts below, since that’s up to you entirely. You should be able to get “rice paper wrappers” at any large grocery store with an Asian food section, but if not, they’re easily found online. I hope you give these, or something similar, a try soon. Enjoy!

Click here to see our peanut sauce recipe video!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Peach Financiers – Because French Bankers Hate Dirty Money

There are many different techniques used for making financiers, but as usual, I’ve chosen the easiest one. I would have been happy to try those other more complicated versions, but fortunately, I enjoyed this one so much, there’s no need.

I mention in the video that these are called “financiers” because they’re rich, and look like gold bars (if you use the traditional rectangular molds). Well, apparently that’s not quite right.

Word on the “rue” is that there was a bakery next to the Paris stock exchange that made these small almond cakes so bankers could enjoy them on the way to work, without getting their fingers dirty. I assume this is accurate, since I read it in the YouTube comments.

Anyway, not only is this an easy recipe, but it works beautifully with pretty much any summer fruit. Berries are popular, as are other stone fruits. Just don’t use too much. It’s merely a garnish, and adding too much could effect the texture and cooking time. I hope you give these delicious peach financiers a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 12 small cakes:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
3 tablespoons flour
3 oz unsalted butter (6 tablespoons), toasted to a golden-brown
12 small sliced of peach
- I used mini-muffin pans, so you'll have to adjust your time if you used regular muffin tins, or other molds.
- Bake for 5 minutes at 400 F., then top with fruit, and continue baking until browned, about 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Homemade Dill Pickles – Naturally Fermented, Whatever That Means

This is going to be an easy post, in that I know virtually nothing about fermenting pickles. The only thing I know for sure is how to make them, and for me, that’s enough. If you make a simple salt brine, add some spices, and submerge Kirby cucumbers in it for about a week, you get some fairly delicious pickles.

Maybe it’s dumb luck, or just overwhelmingly good karma, but fortunately I’ve not experienced any of the problems I’ve seen others lament; such as mushy texture, scary molds, or exploding jars. Apparently, cucumbers are one of the more finicky things to pickle, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Like I said in the video, I’ve only made these a handful of times, so maybe my time is coming, but I’m pretty sure if you measure your salt right, and store the fermenting pickles at an appropriate temperature, you should get something close to what you see here.

Having said that, I will refer any and all of your questions having to do with variations, troubleshooting, probiotics, and/or best practices, to the Internet. The purpose of this video is to simply show the process, and how ridiculously easy it is. If this seems like something you want to try, and it should, I recommend doing lots of research before starting, so at least you’ll have someone else to blame if things go horribly wrong.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that you have to use pure salt for this. Table salt can contain additives like iodine, which inhibits the bacterial growth necessary for this to work. I’m also giving you weight measurements for the salt, since the size of the salt crystal can really effect measuring by volume.

Other than getting your brine right, just be sure to get very fresh, very firm pickling cucumbers to make this with. If your cucumbers start off soft and mushy, your pickles will be terrible, and not have that loud crunch associated with the finest examples. I really do hope you give this a try. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
2 pounds very fresh Kirby cucumbers, washed thoroughly
Handful of fresh, flowering dillweed
For the brine:
8 cups cold fresh water
8 tablespoons Kosher salt (By weight, you wants exactly 80 grams. The brand of kosher salt I use weighs about 10 gram per tablespoon, but yours may not, so it’s best to use a scale if possible.)
4 cloves peeled garlic
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
2 teaspoon black peppercorn
3 or 4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves

- Ferment at room temperature (I hear that between 70-75 F. is ideal) for about a week. Check every day as these can ferment fast. They are done when you like the taste. If you go too far, they start to get soft, and the inside gets hollow. Keep the brine level topped off.
- This makes extra brine for topping off.

Pickling Spice Note: I tend not to like a lot of spices in my pickles, so I believe the amounts listed here are fairly puny compared to most recipes. Feel free to find one of the many pickling spices recipes online, and use that instead.