Category Archives: Cooking

City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate

This hot chocolate recipe is no, sugary Swiss-Miss like drink. No, this is the kind of rich, dark hot chocolate the texture of pure melted chocolate, so rich you could bathe in it. Behold: City Bakery’s (Very) Decadent Hot Chocolate

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VERY DECADENT HOT CHOCOLATE
Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups whole milk
2 tsp corn starch
about 2 Tbsp sugar
generous pinch sea salt
splash vanilla extract

Directions:
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the dark chocolate with a splash of milk over medium-low heat. Stir. Whisk corn starch with rest of milk (vigorously or else you’ll end up with clumps of corn starch in your drink) and slowly add it to the melted chocolate. Add sugar to taste. Keep stirring until it reaches a low simmer and becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla.

Divide between two cups. Top with giant marshmallows.

Recipe from: www.thetarttart.com.

1 Week, 6 Dishes

With an entire free week on my hands, I began collecting recipes that I wouldn’t be able to pull off in a weeknight or weekend. And what better way to learn from it all than documenting it? So here is a week’s worth of adventurous cooking, from making gnocchi from scratch to sprouting lentils over the course of four days.

Day 1:

On the first day of the week, I had planned to make roti, an Indian-style flatbread interpreted by the chef of The Progress in San Francisco. Unfortunately, I did not read ahead in the recipe and failed to notice that the dough must rest overnight. Nevertheless, I made the dough substituting the 1 cup pastry flour/ 1 cup AP flour for all AP flour. I also switched the 1/2 cup creme freiche for sour cream because that’s all I had. The dough didn’t completely come together, but I proceeded with the recipe while anxiously awaiting tomorrow’s meal.IMG_3128

Before I realized the dough had to rest, I had already made what I planned to serve the roti with. At the restaurant, it’s served with a black-truffle ranch dressing made with oil infused with sunchokes. They shave black truffles, pecorino cheese, and sprinkle chervil on top. But, because black truffles were more than a little out of my price point, I devised my own toppings to smother the flatbread with: a creamy eggplant spread with a “mousse”-like texture and a homemade mayonnaise flavored with a basil oil.

The basil oil recipe (via ChefSteps) took some time and didn’t result in the smoothest product, more like a very thin pesto, it still tasted clean and herbaceous, just as I had wanted.

I used the freshest, smallest eggplants I could find at the farmer’s market which may not have been the best idea. Using four (minus the skins) resulted in only around 1/4-1/2 cup of puree, however I can assume they’re probably somewhat more flavorful than the supermarket variety.

Not feeling the satisfaction of having made something I could eat that day, I went about making a tomato salad with minuscule tomatoes and spindly mitzuna from SCLT. I halved and quartered the tomatoes, scooped out the seeds, and filled them with the basil mayonnaise. I took some ricotta cheese, thinned it with some half and half (you could use cream) and schmeared it across the plate. I dressed the mitzuna with a dash of olive oil and lemon arranged on the ricotta cream and garnished with the tomatoes. Maybe not a from-scratch roti, but still pretty delicious!IMG_3127

Day 2:

Starting the day off…Well, I didn’t actually have much of a start, beginning the day at 12:00. There goes plans for making gnocchi!

I did however make peanut milk, or at least begin to make peanut milk.  Another two-day process, the milk production begins with roasting off unsalted peanuts to provide an aromatic, darkly roasted product. Add them to a saucepan with some cream, milk, half a vanilla bean, and some dark brown muscavado sugar. Simmer for 45 minutes and then into the fridge, with vanilla bean and all (I failed to notice this) for an overnight steep.

I also made the roti, fully rested all night and day. The end result? Awe-some. I seared the flatbread off in a cast-iron pan for 30 seconds on each side, resulting in a blister-y soft texture bringing to mind naan with a denser chew. I topped it with the basil mayo, eggplant mousse, grated pecorino cheese, and some parsley. Pretty darn tasty.
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Day 3:

On Wednesday, I set off on two dessert dishes. First up, completing the peanut milk. I took the milk and peanuts and poured them into a blender (now would be the time to discard the vanilla bean, unless you already did like me) and whizzed them together for a few minutes. I then strained the milk, but it had a slightly gritty, just barely chunky texture. So, I blended it and strained it again. It was still a little thick but I figured that there wasn’t much else to do to change that, so into the fridge it went.

While not included in the recipe, I’d seen pictures of the milk and read a glowing article dedicated to it, so I knew it was served with a couple teaspoons of the muscavado sugar. I made my own caramel-y syrup by simply dumping a bit of the sugar into a sauce pan, adding a splash of water, and a tablespoon or two of water. I cooked it just until it started to bubble and thicken.IMG_3151-2

The finished peanut milk was good, but certainly not “world peace”. A drizzle of the syrup added sweetness to the nutty, creamy milk. If I made it again, I would certainly pay more attention to the cooking of it.

Second dessert of the day: buttermilk panna cotta from the Mission Street Food cookbook. Ingredients: heavy cream, buttermilk, sugar, lemon, gelatin. Pretty simple, especially after making the laborious peanut milk. All I had to do was heat up the cream and sugar until the sugar dissolved, stir in the gelatin, and then add it to the buttermilk and lemon juice. Then, simply portion into some containers (I used ramekins) and refrigerate overnight.

I only waited a few hours to try it which resulted in a deflated, yogurt-like consistency that puddled on a plate. (Note: Wait longer next time.) The taste was good, much higher on the lemony, tangy flavor than the creamy, sugary richness. I might cut down the lemon juice next time, but garnished with some macerated berries and muscavado syrup, it was still delicious.

Day 4:

Having wanted to make scones again this week, fresh blueberries from Schartner’s Farm proved to be the perfect incentive. They gently deflated into the dough, perfectly complimenting the caramelized scones‘ lightly sweet flavor.

Ricotta gnocchi from J. Kenji Lopez Alt sounded dead simple. Not so. The dough was loose, barely holding together and my scale shut off the moment I looked back at the recipe. The taste? Not quite as I imagined, but still delicious. Ricotta is barely held together by eggs, flour, and parmesan, begging for a flavorful sauce that clings to the tender pasta.IMG_3156

Day 5:

By far the most labor-intensive dish of the week, Bar Tartine’s Lentil Croquettes are not something you whip up on a weeknight. In fact, it’s not something you’d be able to make on a weekend. Sprouting the lentils takes three or four days (a week if you did it wrong, like me). I didn’t make every component myself; a unique aspect of the cookbook is that it reads like a restaurant bible of recipes for sweet onion powder, farmer’s cheese, kefir cream, fermented honey, and more (and those are just the from-scratch ingredients used for the croquettes). If you try to follow all of the sub-recipes, you’ll probably drive yourself crazy or just give up on it before you start. But if you substitute ricotta for farmers cheese as they suggest, use supermarket spices, etc. the book becomes an exacting, yet rewarding challenge.
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The finished croquettes were super-crispy and worked well with the yogurt I substituted for the kefir sauce and the beet puree I made instead of the watercress sauce. Garnished with some of the sprouted lentils and whatever fresh herbs or greens you have, the dish becomes truly memorable (it brought to mind falafel).

Best Dish: Lentil Croquettes

Biggest Surprise: Roti

Biggest Letdown: Peanut Milk

Try Again: Ricotta Gnocchi

Scones, Any Which Way

IMG_2938 copyThe British pastry known as scones may have a lesser reputation here in America than that of muffins and the like, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be made delicious. And when they are, I’d dare to say they surpass most other bread-y pastries lining bakery shelves here in the states. Their contrasting crisp exterior reveals a moist interior that will instantly erase any memory of dry, over-baked ones from bakeries. Making them is not particularly difficult: ingredients required include all of the pastry staples that are probably lining your shelves and whatever else you want to mix in. This is where the fun begins.IMG_2934 copy

As long as you’ve mastered a basic recipe for the dough with a simple filling, which even for a novice baker will only take one or two attempts, you can mix in anything. Currants are an iconic British choice, both classic and stunningly delicious at once. A grating of orange zest delivers remarkable depth of flavor with its citrusy undertones and warming scent. Apples provide a certain moist sweetness and pecans or walnuts complement them perfectly. If you’re trying to win over someone who really just wants a blueberry muffin, well, use blueberries. They’ll explode as they bake, releasing a fruity flavor that they won’t in muffins. You can swap the white sugar for light or dark brown or even forgo all sugar for 1/2 cup maple syrup or 1/3 cup honey.  And this is only a jumping off point: whether savory or sweet, the list of things that taste good in scones might just outweigh those that don’t.IMG_2936 copy

Basic Scones Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • Optional mix-ins: Dried fruit, blueberries, rasberries, apples, pecans, walnuts, orange/lemon zest,  canned pumpkin puree,  etc.

7 People, 6 Courses, 3 Chefs: Tasting, Pop-Up Dinner

A few months ago, a friend, Chez Pascal bartender Deb Hickey, knowing that I loved to cook, suggested I prepare a meal for some friends with perhaps a few courses (for experience, excitement, and risk) and a suggested donation to cover the cost. Instantly enamored by the possibility of cooking a high-stakes, all-out meal, I immediately began hashing out the menu and test-running dishes. This past Sunday, the idea came to fruition, thanks to my brother as pastry chef and a former chef (Nate Kelly) overseeing it all.

The meal, titled “Tasting”, sprung from my personal love of cooking. Looking for a way to share my passion, the opportunity to cook a multi-course meal fit the bill. Cooking the volume of courses for the volume of people proved challenging, while still hugely rewarding. One highlight of the meal was the drink; wines were thoughtfully paired with each course by Deb and provided by local Campus Fine Wines. Keegan Bonds-Harmon, a local young artist, provided the menu’s stunning artwork. The delivery of the meal involved lots of hard work, including devoting the entire weekend to the final 3 hour dinner. But, based on the overwhelming positive feedback as well as the pleasure we received from the meal’s creation, we’re hoping to do it again in the near future… For now, a view behind the scenes of what was a thoroughly enjoyable dinner. Click here for the evening’s menu, including wine pairings.

Photo credit: Deb Hickey. Thank you to Deb for documenting the evening. You can see all of the photos from the big night here:
bSNMhOsiDAZr3wNKKu2Be0WH7dH2JjqC_UOpHlEBD9cKeegan’s stunning menu artwork.

osYhceEjUzpzbHUogsdDIWOAkM1sixF2LLcGe_bZvzQ Deb’s wine selection.

AJdhR7NchxfZAejLFvtNQvy6QfQ1tNTZfact3M9wH5EA layered vegetable terrine.

NWvJohSmH43oMLlm8BuA8djA1mLapZImT_vpan4kQncThe first course, plated at the pass.

aBulr3u5e3QD1Ly0BKJeD2Q0YqfD0PGLKqp5sY-slBg-1Seafood salad is garnished with chickpeas and chives.

rYvLFWI2sxdqzhmr27gqh0nb-3nkpICdBYcXHvSEYYYRich, brown-butter roasted carrots are glazed with butter and plated with crispy sage leaves, carrot pureé, and a sage pesto.

7n-Zxt7Wzt6_O2tLPCQLmv40y-ypgTriXC-ifgv8FpMDuck breast is carved.

nBnHdiB0NL500RmXhJDuVv0EzQv5zo0gh6_k7jY04ok-1The finished duck plate.

Iq4v3xm1psPgrkLRdV3g1eaV9eqa5XkGk4Lcinds4S0Pork tenderloin sitting in a beefy-cider sauce.

tEbVfxcVuLZrbdl__r4P730kSbzeCekrEvh77TXB37YPastry chef Dylan Itkin scoops cake batter into molds for the final course.

xJXWwmCzIp1DAgZZKyxZP9IGRJ0IXJ5AtgKMy3yEQWAChefs at work.

Wintertime Calls for Chili

The holidays may have passed, but the cold weather is here to stay. You’ll want some nice bowls of soup, large plates of pasta, and steamy cups of hot chocolate to keep you warm. Another great winter-y dish? Vegetarian chili. This recipe comes from Real Simple, a source that I might not usually be jumping to use. But throwing everything into a slow cooker/big pot and letting it simmer away all day is just about as good as it gets. For accompaniments, radishes, scallions, sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole pair well. If you want to lean more Southern, add a chunk of cornbread on the side. If you want to continue with the Mexican vibe, tortilla chips (pictured) are great. Either way, jacked up with toppings or simply spooned into a bowl, this chili is sure to warm you up.unnamed-1

How to (Scientifically) Make the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

As you transition your calendar to November, turn your clocks back an hour, and crank up your heat as you prepare for the winter, it can only be the brisk autumnal months. And all you really want is a glass of milk and a chocolate chip cookie, right? Well, that’s what I want and after faithfully following Serious Eats‘ blog award-winning test kitchen column, The Food Lab, I may have found the ultimate cookie. You can read their scientific journey here.

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If you’ve never heard of Serious Eats, you should definitely check it out. It, and The Food Lab in particular, dives into popular recipes ranging from kale salad to cassoulet, grilled pizza to hardboiled eggs. So of course, it’s only natural that the classic chocolate chip cookie should be tested to death. If you think there’s not much to the most classic of cookies you can think again. After testing the amounts and ratios of eggs, butter, brown and white sugar, cake and bread flour, baking soda and powder, temperature, chilling the dough, and salt, J. Kenji López-Alt settled on what he considers the ultimate recipe for chocolate chip cookies. His recipe has a few surprises including browning the butter, adding an entire 2 teaspoons of kosher salt plus more sea salt after baking, using only baking soda (no powder), and a 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar. It also involves chilling the dough overnight, making this recipe a bit more of a project than the average cookie eater may want to take on.

After faithfully following the recipe, I certainly think the cookies are great, wonderful even. But the best ever? Let me make them again…