Archive for March, 2010

Weekly Roundup: Roll Out The Red Carpet Edition

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints

These salty chocolate thumbprints will be making an apperance at the Food Bloggers Bake Sale for Haiti this Sunday!

I felt like I was reading about Hollywood and not the DC food scene this week. Nominees for The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s RAMMY awards and the James Beard Awards were announced this week. Well, okay, that’s only two awards. But still – there was lots of internet buzz this week about the DC nominees. In fact, several of the Beard and RAMMY nominees have been interviewed on this very blog – David Guas’ cookbook, Dam Good Sweet, was nominated for a Beard Award, and Pastry Chefs Travis Olson, Anthony Chavez and Josh Short received RAMMY nods.

Before you get all distracted with thoughts of sparkly dressed and red carpets, I want to put in a final plug for the Bake Sale for Haiti that’s happening this Sunday at Zorba’s (1612 20th Street NW) from 9-11. All proceeds will go to benefit Doctor’s Without Borders Haiti relief efforts, and many local food bloggers will be showcasing their best baking talents. Speaking of which, I’ll totally be spending tomorrow making lemon cupcakes and salty chocolate thumbprint cookies for the bake sale. So don’t be shy! Come out and get the baked goods you’ve been craving.

Okay, roundup time. Recipes I want to try, from this week’s Internet offerings:

  • Bacon cornbread. Bacon. Cornbread. I don’t need to say anything more. From Biscuits and Such.
  • Trash Bars from A Measured Memory. Dear God – they’re stuffed with everything one could want in a bar cookie – rice chex, muddy buddy’s, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and marshmallows. Oh, and butter. Don’t forget the butter.

And in other news:

  • Metrocurean rounds up all the DC peeps who were nominated for James Beard Awards, where DC made a strong showing. As I mentioned above, Pastry Chef Amanda Cook of City Zen received a nod, as did DamGoodSweet, the cookbook by DC Pastry Chef David Guas. And City Paper food writer Tim Carman was nominated for his piece about restaurateur Andy Shallal’s disastrous top-chef style competition to hire the new chef at Eatonville.
  • Whoo hoo! The food blogger bake sale for Haiti made it to the Young and Hungry blog!
  • Florida Girl in DC ponders what to make at the Food Blogger Bake Sale. I’m glad that someone else thought about this as much as I did! I willingly admit to having bake sale anxiety.
  • A new wine bar opening up on 14th street sparks a blog war with U Street Girl. The blogger removed a comment from her initial post about the restaurant’s opening date after the restaurant owner threatened her with legal action because he found the comment to be libelous. Wow. Well, now I really don’t want to go there, and I love a good wine bar.
  • No, I couldn’t attend Le Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris – Paris’ annual contest for the best bread in the city. But you can get an inside look at the competition – one of the judges was an American living in Paris, and wrote about the experience on her blog. Found via Chewswise.
  • Gradually Greener takes a look at some unexpected RAMMY award categories – the best neighborhood gathering place, hottest bar scene, and restaurant power spot. I can’t quite believe these are award categories, but they’re very interesting to think about.
  • Rather liked this post from The Lancelot Sturgeons about finally getting to that point where you have enough pantry items improvise a gourmet weeknight meal. Haven’t we all experienced that moment when you realize you can actually make a nice meal from random things stuffed into your fridge and pantry? It’s a good feeling.

Happy Friday!

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Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

The whole wheat flour makes these better than regular biscuits.

I don’t often make biscuits. They’re something that are really best right out of the oven, and it’s rare that I want to eat a dozen biscuits in one sitting. Actually, that’s not true – I often want to eat a dozen biscuits in one sitting, but it’s rare that I would allow myself to do so. Instead, I like to save them for brunch or dinner parties or other large gatherings. And the good thing is, once you’ve made them, they’re something you can easily whip up in 20 minutes.

Ever since reading Good To the Grain, By Kim Boyce, I’ve been inspired to bake more with whole-grain flours, and I’ve been enjoying the hearty flavor they bring to baked goods. So the last time I was baking biscuits I thought – why not try them with some whole wheat flour and see what happens?

Well, I may have created a new go-to biscuit recipe. Since I still haven’t managed to pick up white whole wheat flour, I went with the recommendation from The Bread Bible, and used part all-purpose and part whole wheat flour. I decided that I wanted bring out the nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour, so I added some honey to the dough. Finally, I used buttermilk as the liquid, which brought a nice tangy note to biscuits. They were crisp and buttery, and I found the light sweetness from the honey, the tang from the buttermilk, and the hearty note from the whole wheat flour completely addictive.

But did I eat all these biscuits in one sitting? I’ll never tell.

Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits 2

Maybe I need to make these again. Like, right now.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

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Next Food Blogger Happy Hour: Wed. April 7, 6-8 at Art and Soul

Get your food and drink on with fellow food bloggers.

Are you a food blogger? A reader? A lurker? Thinking about starting a food blog? Then you should come out for the next food blogger happy hour on April 7th. We’ll be heading to Art and Soul on Capitol Hill (415 New Jersey Avenue NW). Come meet, mingle, and chat with fellow food bloggers. I can attest that it’s a very nice, welcoming group of people – so please don’t be shy!

RSVP on the DC Food Bloggers Facebook Fan Page.

Are you interested in helping us plan these shindigs? Then shoot me an email so I can add you to the planning committee – a very informal group of bloggers who keep these events rolling. And thanks to the planning committee for their hard work in making these events happen:

Arugula Files
Beer Spotter
Biscuits and Such
Capital Cooking
Capital Spice
Common Man Eats
Dining in DC
Girl Meets Food
Gradually Greener
Thrifty DC Cook
We Love DC

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Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

Passover Tart 2

Chocolate, almond, orange - perfect for Passover.

If you’re really looking to rile up your Jewish friends, ask them about their most detested Passover desserts. We got into just such a discussion at my book club this weekend, and our Jewish members were quick to trot out a litany of complaints. Cakes made with matzoh meal are coarse, sponge cake is dry, cookies taste weird without flour – the kvetching went on and on.

Now, as some one who really likes to show off at the holidays, I feel a great deal of sympathy for Jewish bakers. It’s really difficult to bake something delicious – or even halfway tasty – without two of the most basic ingredients in baking – flour and leavening. Matzoh meal just doesn’t have the same properties as cake flour and, no matter how finely it’s ground, it never will.

Still, with a little bit of planning, some high quality chocolate, and a love of almond flour, you can make a Passover dessert that’s both impressive and delicious. This tart is an adaptation of a recipe for a chocolate torte, which I found in Joan Nathan’s excellent Jewish Cooking in America. The recipe originally calls to bake the torte in a buttered springform pan, but I baked it in a tart shell made from ground almonds and flavored with sugar and orange zest. I also added orange juice and zest to the dense filling, which compliments the intense flavor of the chocolate. Finally, to help dress it up for the holiday in appropriate style, I topped it with a chocolate glaze and pieces of homemade almond praline. FYI: while the tart contains no leavening, it does use butter, so it can’t be eaten with a meal where meat is served.

Yes, the glaze and praline aren’t exactly necessary – but they add a note of grandeur to an otherwise fairly simple dessert. And, for those who like to impress, the extra half an hour of work is well worth it.

Passover Tart 4

No one could possibly kvetch about this tart.

Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

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My Style: Banana Whoopie Pies With Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana Whoopie Pie 1

I think these pies are my style.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about style. One of the questions I always ask the pastry chefs I interview is “what’s your approach to pastry,” which is another way of asking “what’s your style?” Well, these banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese frosting? They’re my style.

Whoopie pies aren’t fancy – unlike cupcakes, they can’t be topped with fondant hearts or elaborate swirls of frosting. They’re unassuming, simple – even a little homely. And yet you can’t deny the power of a great whoopie pie. This one, with two sweet, fragrant banana cake rounds that sandwich a sweet, tart filling, speaks to the great satisfaction one can take in simple things. The flavor of the bananas really sings through the cake, and is tempered by the fresh bite of the homemade lemon curd in the filling.

I was even more pleased with this recipe, because I actually adapted it from a recipe in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes for a banana cake. Rather than using someone else’s recipe, I wanted to see if i could make my own modifications and have it actually work. And I’m happy to say that it did. Slightly decreasing the oil and upping the flour amount to mimic that of another whoopie pie recipe meant that the batter held together well enough when scooped out on the baking sheet, and baked into light and fluffy rounds.

Simple, unassuming, great tasting – I think that’s my pastry style. So what’s your pastry style? Do you go for the fancy French pastries? The down-home desserts from the south? Or do you prefer your baked goods to be cute and whimsical?

Banana Whoopie Pies 2

These were a hit at my book club's two year anniversary party. Two years ladies!

Recipe: Banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese filling

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Weekly Roundup: Spring Is Coming – Let’s Cook

Elena's Birthday Cake

A secret cake - revealed.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter – you might remember that I was doing a “secret” baking project on Wednesday, which I promised to reveal in today’s weekly roundup. Well this is it – a surprise birthday cake for Elpis and Justice! It’s red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and I was very pleased with how even the cake layers came out. Slowly, but surely my piping skills are improving. Just ignore the writing, please. Also, I’m putting it out there that my cake making skills are for hire. Email me for the scoop.

And, in other news it’s finally Spring in DC.

I know that the conventional wisdom is that people want to hole up in their apartments and cook during the winter, and then go out and party in the spring, but I think it’s the opposite. At least, it’s the opposite at the end of winter, when everyone’s sick of the root vegetables and apples they can get at the farmers market, and can’t stomach the tasteless imported produce in the grocery store. But Spring? Spring brings asparagus. Spring brings rhubarb. Spring brings weather in which we can eat dinner on our balconies and have people over for parties without asking them to trudge through the ice cold  in the rain. Spring is an excellent time to cook.

And I can feel the excitement in the blogosphere this week – Spring is here, and we’re ready to to raise our knives, put our pans on our burners, and get cooking.

Recipes I want to try, from this week’s Internet dabbling:

  • Homemade meatball subs, from The Arugula Files. Man, I love meatballs. Man, I love bread. Meatballs on bread? Heaven.

And in other foodie blog-ish news:

  • Hillary at Lancelot Sturgeon has a roundup of her experience at the Food and Sports blogger happy hour, that, as a co-organizer, totally warms my heart.
  • Melissa McCart, of Counter Intelligence, is back! She’s moved to Tumblr, where she laments the lack of a really good hotdog stand in DC. I was a fan of the Hot Dog at Againn when I had it off the happy hour menu. But that’s not exactly a stand.
  • Oh my god! A comment I made on Young and Hungry about Top Chef (because, you know that Tim Carman plays it all cool like “oh, yeah, Top Chef DC, no big deal” but seriously, he has to be excited about it – who couldn’t be?) actually inspired a post! I feel like this is a special moment in my food-blogger-career – to be (gently) teased by Tim Carman.
  • So, like, there were many reasons to be jealous of all the peeps on my Twitter Feed at SXSW, but the write ups of the Bacon Throwdown over at One Bite at a Time and FloridaGirlinDC really take the cake. Or should it be take the bacon?
  • Tim Carman ponders the beauty of the changing seasons. Yes, I’m talking about the advent of Food Cart season in DC. What splendors will the sunny weather bring to your plate?
  • Executive Chef, Brian Robinson of Restaurant 3 is making homemade peeps for Easter. Get the details on Dining in DC.
  • Endless Simmer investigates a little known farmer’s market find that’s currently in season: the cherimoya, or custard apple. Well, I mean, I am a little tired of apples and pears.
  • Did you read that big article in the New York Times about how Katie Lee, former wife of Billy Joel, is about to become a Food Network Star? Then you’ll enjoy this piece from The Internet Food Association, which pretty much tears the article apart. I’ll admit, I totally forgot until I read the IFA piece that Katie Lee was the awful host on Season 1 of Top Chef in the pre-Padma Days. They want to give that piece of wood a cooking show? Seriously?

Happy Friday!

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Feed Your Cravings: Two Upcoming Food Blogger Bake Sales

What you've been wating for.

My God, there are just so many food blogger events on the horizon. Besides our regular monthly happy hour, and the just-past food and sports blogger happy hour (which was awesome, by the way – and I didn’t even really have to talk about sports!) there are two food blogger bake sales coming up in the next few weeks. Yes, while it’s lovely to discuss the finer points of grilling a steak over cocktails at a happy hour, wouldn’t you rather have a chance to eat some of that lovely food that everyone’s been writing about? Well, now you can.

Sunday, March 28 – Food Blogger Bake Sale Fundraiser for Haiti
The lovely Stephanie of Adventures in Shaw has put her baking and “make it happen” skills together, and has organized a food blogger bake sale to raise money for Haiti. From 9-11am at Zorba’s Cafe (1612 20th St NW), DC’s food bloggers will be selling their finest baked goods to benefit Doctors Without Borders Haiti relief efforts. Please stop by! Sadly I can’t help sell, but plan on donating some lemon cupcakes and salty chocolate thumbprints to the cause.

Saturday, April 17th – DC Food Bloggers Share Our Strength Bakesale
Eastern Market, 9:00am-12:30pm
Colleen of Foodie Tots is heading up the DC Food Bloggers participation in The first annual National Food Bloggers Bake Sale, which is part of Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale. The national bake sale is the brainchild of Gaby Dalkin of WhatsGabyCooking.com, and you can check out her blog to see a list of national participants. All the proceeds of the bake sale will benefit Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America. If you want to join up and contribute, you can join our team here.

So please come out! Buy the delicious baked goods you’ve been craving – and donate money to a good cause in the process

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Kitchen Basics: What Is White Whole Wheat Flour? And How Can I Substitute it?

busy day cake

The Busy Day Cake, which first brought White Whole Wheat Flour to my attention.

I recently was asking people about their kitchen and baking quandaries on Facebook (yes, there’s actually a ModernDomestic fan page now, where I can ask people these types of questions. You, too, can be a fan!) and Amelia had an excellent question – what exactly is this white whole wheat flour that she’s been hearing about?

I have to admit that I haven’t actually used white whole wheat flour myself, although it first came to my attention when I made the Busy Day Cake (an Orangette recipe that originally called for white whole wheat flour). But after doing some research, white whole wheat flour looks like the solution for those who like the nutrition of whole wheat flour, but dislike its bitter flavor and heavier texture.

So what exactly is so special about this white whole wheat flour? First, a quick biology lesson. A grain of wheat is made up of three parts:

1.) The wheat bran (the hard, outer coating);
2.) The endosperm (the soft, starchy stuff inside); and
3.) The germ (the part at the bottom of the wheat grain, which has a high oil content and a sweet and nutty flavor).

Regular whole wheat flour, which contains the wheat bran, endosperm, and germ, is made from “red” wheat varieties. Red wheat gets its color from a pigment in the bran. This pigment also contains phenolic acid, which has a bitter flavor – it’s what gives whole wheat baked goods that slightly bitter taste.

White whole wheat flour is made from varieties of softer “white” wheat. Because the white wheat germ doesn’t contain that red pigment, it doesn’t have that bitter taste – making its flavor closer to that of white all-purpose flour. So you can get the nutritional punch of whole wheat flour, with the sweeter flavor of white flour.

Whew. That was a lot of science writing.

As for substitutions, white whole wheat flour can be used in place of all purpose flour or whole wheat flour in any recipe – at least, according to the King Arthur Web site. If you want to be conservative in your experimentation, I’d suggest using substituting half the flour called for in a recipe with white whole wheat flour, and seeing how you like the difference. After all, baking is a highly personal experience, and you should experiment to see what you like the best – both for taste and health reasons.

Sources (and for more reading):
The Bread Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum
Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours, By Kim Boyce
King Arthur Flour: White Whole Wheat Flour

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Reminder: Food and Sports Blogger March Madness Happy Hour – Tuesday, 3/16!

SBinvite-3

Food Bloggers + Sports Bloggers = Happy Hour

Yes, this is my final reminder – the food and sports blogger March Madness happy hour is Tuesday night (3/16)! Come drink with us from 6-9 pm at Clyde’s of Gallery Place. Just a note – we’ve been moved from the sports room to the oyster bar, but don’t worry. There will still be happy hour-ing. Fellow food and sports bloggers, readers, lurkers, sports fans, food fans, and friends all welcome.

RSVP on the DC Food Bloggers Facebook Page.

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Alex’s Chocolate Chunk Banana “Brownies”

Banana Brownies 2

Yes, I realize they look like muffins - but they're actually intended to be brownies.

My brother has always had a thing for bananas. I don’t know what it was about them. I mean, I liked them as a kid, but Alex loved them. One of his favorite snacks to make was a “banana milk shake,” a term that I think my mother came up with to re-brand banana smoothies as something much more indulgent. He was a fan of the banana ice cream they served down the street at Prince Puckler’s, still my favorite ice cream shop in the country. And now that he’s a post-college grad trying to make it as a playwright in Chicago, one of his more bizarre frugal dinners it to make banana omelets. Yes. Bananas. In an omelet.

Okay, so I’m not sold on the banana omelets, although Alex will defend them to the death. But I started thinking about bananas when I was wondering what to get Alex for his birthday. Usually, I’m a pretty boring present giver – I go for the amazon gift certificate, or, once in a while, a book. But I decided to do something different this year – I decided to make him his very own banana baked good recipe.

Now, you’ll notice that the title of this post is for banana “brownies” and yet the photo clearly looks like muffins. But consider this discrepancy merely a deficiency of my kitchen – I actually don’t own a square baking pan, and it just didn’t seem right to bake them in a round pan. Plus, for shipping purposes, the individually packaged muffins are pretty sweet. But, rest assured, while you can bake these in muffin tins, they are intended to be baked in a 9×9 inch square cake pan.

I adapted this recipe from my own banana bread recipe, as well as a butterscotch brownie recipe from The Joy Of Cooking – one of the few sources I could find that had recipes for “brownies” that didn’t actually contain chocolate. Since Alex is such a banana fiend, these are heavy on the fruit – they’re best made with really old bananas that are beginning to blacken on the outside. They’re chewy and moist, sweet with the banana flavor, and punctuated with chunks of chocolate. I used bittersweet chocolate but I’ll actually use milk chocolate when I make these again – the sweetness of the milk chocolate would be a more harmonious compliment to the banana flavor.

So, happy birthday Alex. And yes, I realize that I’m writing this a week after your actual birthday. But, um, can having your very own handmade recipe make up for that?

Banana Brownies 1

Oh, and I also ate two.

Recipe: Alex’s Chocolate Chunk Banana

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