Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookie Scoop: Quack's Bakery on 43rd

Giving up all attempts to narrow my hips and letting the pastry flour hit the fan. I've decided not only to bake cookies in my own kitchen over the holiday but to eat cookies from local bakeries and other kitchens too! Yea, its nothing novel, but I need a break from writing my thesis and from senior year at UT.

First cookie scoop: Quack's 43rd Street Bakery
Location: 43rd St. and Duval, Austin, Texas
Provisions: coffee served in mammoth sized ramekins, cupcakes the size of your face, cinnamon rolls (sugared or frosted), jalapeno croissants, salty oatmeal cookies et plus.
Featured: handcrafted works of baked art in the form of shortbread, sugar and gingerbread cookies.

Running to my thesis adviser's house I stopped and picked up a few bribes treats to share. It is our routine to meet once or twice a month for tea at her lovely old west Austin home. My thesis revolves around Jane Austen so tea and sweets are appropriate, but then again who needs girlie literature as an excuse to indulge! Upon arriving, I found out that her daughter had just taken a major crash while biking earlier that morning. I like to think that the gingerbread helped her recovery. In the end, biker and bike are doing fine, thesis was not ripped to shreds, learned a few things about graduate school and the rigors of scholarship, and we devoured these lovely cookies below.

Royal Frosting gingerbread house with a few gingerbread inhabitants.

Better view of the sprinkle-pocked gingerbread men.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Irwanh Banshee Special Blend

Some say it’s the beginning of the end. Others say its an epic way to start off the holidays. Personally, I find it an excuse to wear my robe in public and drink butter beer like a grindylow. Here in Austin, the Alamo Drafthouse not only has butter beer, but serves both an alcoholic and an mugglebaby-friendly version. MWI (Magic While Intoxicated) FTW.

That is Brasnose.

Some butter beer links:

Fox News thinks they've found THE recipe for butter beer here.

Gastronomy Blog has actually been to Hogsmeade (aka Orlando, FL).

The Huffington Post also boasts of a prized butter beer concoction. I just want to say I've always thought the Huffington Post sounded like a wizarding publication.

Witches Duel: my thesis adviser and her daughter

I’m renaming my cat Crookshanks and I’ll be sporting an extra messy head of hair for the weekend a la mode Hermione. The creaks and groans of my old house will be attributed to Peeves and I might slip and call the boyfriend Ron. When I studied at Oxford I may or may not have pretended I was at Hogwarts and that the staircase to my little room changed between breakfast and class. Our meals at Hogwarts Brasenose College were served on long wooden tables complete with benches, a headmaster’s table, and crocks, bowls, and pitchers of fascinating foods and drinks. This was less an issue of magical gastronomy and more of a British- American culture clash. Stewed sausages, choco-“qwasants”, bacon that looked nothing like bacon, bangersnmash, shredded cheese sandwiches, prawn flavoured crisps, maltesers, bounty bars, garlic soups, squash drink, chocolate penguins, barley water, and figgy pudding to name a few. Mind you, these are muggle British foods. While in Oxford, instead of befriending the locals, the cluster of proper Brasenose students or my fellow Americans, I snuck into the kitchens. My room, conveniently in the tower, yes tower, above the kitchens, seemed to draw up he intoxicating scents from below.

Just add the stupid 3/4

I would rush down the stairs before breakfast to peek through the grease stained windows, past the stocked larder and to the stoves hot with bubbling pots and cauldrons (maybe). I was caught a few times when some of the sous came out for a smoke. They couldn’t understand why I would be interested in the kitchens when I was there to study stuffy Jane Austen. They should take a look at my current thesis. During my last week in Oxford I mustered the courage to ask for the head chef and her recipe for the sticky toffee pudding we had been served a few nights earlier. The next day, by way of proper oxford student named Tom, I was delivered a cleanly folded piece of notebook paper with a hand written, personal recipe for the Brasenose pudding. Tom thought it a little weird that I would want a recipe but I knew the other students were a little jealous of my acquisition (maybe).

In the kitchens

In the spirit of the holidays and peeing-in-pants excitement for HP 7 here’s my secreted recipe for sticky toffee pudding straight from the house elves that work in the kitchens at Brasenose.

Sticky Toffee Pudding: 6 portions

50g margarine

150g granulated sugar

250g Flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

150g stoned dates

½ pt boiling water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda, yanks)

1 tsp vanilla essence

65g brown sugar

35g butter

2 tbs double cream (heavy cream)

Cream the butter and sugar together. Sift the flour and baking powder. Beat the whisked egg into the creamed mixture with a little of the flour. Continue beating for a minute or so before mixing in the rest of the flour.

Flour the dates lightly and chop them finely. Pour the boiling water over them. Mix in the bicarbonate of soda and vanilla. Add this mixture to the batter and blend well. Turn it into a buttered cake tin. Bake for about 40 mins at 160C ( 320 F).

For the Topping:

Heat the brown sugar, butter and cream and simmer. Pour over the hot pudding. Place under a grill until it bubbles.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Service Announcement: In effect through the end of Winter

Smelling slightly putrid yet fresh and grass-like at the same time. Leaving stringy bits, impervious to soaps, oils or lotions, and staining the hands a happy shade of orange. At this point, ethics begin to meddle with holiday festivities. It boils down to one question: Do you relish being squash-stained up to your elbows or do you carve-and-run?

I speak of innards-abuse. A terrifying annual occurrence that rips families apart, literally reeks havoc on your garbage bin, litters your lawn and frightens pumpkin purists like myself. If you find yourself in the carve-and-run category you cannot claim environmental management; there is no catch-and-release in the pumpkin world. Do not fall for the common misconceptions of gourd rights or pumpkin mistreatment. Take a cue from our hunting forefathers: if you kill it, use all of it. The common pumpkin can be rendered down into pounds of fresh meat, pulp and seeds. The outer shell makes an acceptable jack-o-lantern, soup receptacle or cat house. The stem of course can be whittled down to toothpicks, carried around as a lightweight weapon, or glued to other non-natural products to make it appear as if you grew it (i.e. TV, fake pumpkin bought lacking stem, vehicles, small or large cats).

You ask then, "what am I supposed to do with all those pumpkin guts?!" Scoop them, Cook them and Save them. Then you can go back and do any number of these fun things:

1. Bake the pumpkin seeds like so, so (salty)or so (sweet).
2. The traditional pumpkin pie from Martha Stewart, she's a fellow pumpkin purist and encourages you to use a real sugar pumpkin.
3. pepita (pumpkin seeds) brittle
4. Salted Pumpkin Caramels from
5. pumpkin soup from The Merry Gourmet
6. pumpkin mac n' cheese from (never home) maker
7. pumpkin souffle from everyfoodfits
8. pumpkin face cream

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In the Cooking Tent: Texas Book Festival Part I

Amanda Hesser told me that I should venture to try old classics such as Shrub (a late 19th century drink), Tomato Figs, and Apple Snow. I listened wholeheartedly but then she recommended that we absolutely must make our own Dulce de Leche. Abrupt halt. Did it just get a slight warmer in this uninsulated tent full of easily excitable Central Texans, mostly Austinians no less? Did someone from New York City (please refer to Southerners' opinions about NYCity dwellers here) just imply that we might not know about Dulce de Leche, a common treat of Hispanic heritage from a country we not only share a border with but we also pride ourselves as the breakfast taco capital of the world! I jest of course, Mrs. Hesser can tell me to do anything related to the culinary world and I will not only believe her but brag about that fact that she told me in person (I can say I was there...a mere four rows back) and thus this blog post. Truth be told, I bet her version of Dulce de Leche would knock the calcetines off any local abuela.

Nevertheless, her bold comments intrigued me. She explained Food as something fashionable that has changed as often as our costume trends throughout the years, however staples remain such as all things chicken and dessert. Hesser felt that the entirety of her newest endeavor included these two main categories with a smattering of fish, meat and veggies; personally I feel that America has spoken. Allow me for a moment this little aside: preferred categories of consumables = chicken and dessert; it only follows that the two most popular categories should be combined to eliminate waste and encourage efficiency resulting in chicken + dessert = chicken and waffles. End aside.

Hesser prides her book, despite its lack chicken fried meats or authentic queso, on being a mix of crowd-sourcing and curation, an alliteration I can quite agree with. She spans the past 150 years to include the classic Craig Claiborne recipes, the historic jewels that came almost a century before him and the newest breed of culinary creativity. A literal tome of cooking knowledge, timelines and recipes comes packaged in such an attractive and infamous red that it made the boyfriend ask why they had changed the cover from the red and white checked pattern. He definitely won points for that one. However, Hesser won me over with promises of straightforward recipes, novel delights, and a sweet little online project called food52. She left us with one assignment for the day: dare to deep fry as there is a significant fear of frying these days that surly must be fixed. I think we Texans have that covered.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jane Austen liked Good Apple Pies and Cold Beer.

Well, perhaps not beer as she was a lady after all. Throughout her letters and her novels she consistantly hints about perferring alcoholic beverages to most other things and finds complete happiness in being an older chaperone because it allows her to be" put on the Sofa near the Fire & can drink as much wine" as she pleased. As holder of the keys to the "Wine & Closet," its obvious Austen knew her fair share about food and the processes that went into making a meal.

Austen's favourite dish included chicken feet and miniature Roman soldiers heads.

This article details the food related metaphors found throughout Austen's text, and few from Dicken's, but it refrains from assuming or even leaping to the idea that Austen might have preferred human brains, unlike some other people.

And, while everyone likes to think that Jane sat around all day drinking tea and licking pastry crumbs off her dainty fingers, I would like to present a different view: Jane One-mead-drinking- pie-eating-extreme-donkey-cart-riding-hell-of-a-woman Austen.

Jane Austen's flag of choice

For future ramblings on this food fancy, tune in next time for part two of KC's senior honors thesis: What did Mutton mean in the 18th century.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not your Mother's Sous Vide

Last night I attended one of my first foodblogger events of the Fall semester. The newly published Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, stopped in Austin on his self-financed book tour across America. In between cooking appliances and a box of Whole Foods chocolate chip cookies there was a smattering of Apple products, both the men in front of me and to the side wielded iphones and several people still wore their bluetooth headsets; geeks were definitely present. While its difficult to get past Potter's nerdish good looks, and yes that is a thing, he wowed the crowd with promises of unmitigated food safety and a perfectly poached egg.

His new cookbook combines his two passions of cooking and nerditry, also a thing. And by that I mean it has a page dedicated to customized cookie cutters in the shape of Tux the Linux penguin, an interview with Adam Savage from Mythbusters and uses the word "hack" without reserve. Styled a la biology lab report, the book itself reminds me of something you could find Used at the University Co-op, complete with a handwritten cheat sheet and a few mid-class doodles (notably, page 19 is an xkcd comic.)

The evening began pleasantly as I was greeted by Potter himself who then promptly removed his shoes. The discussion began with an introduction to his book's approach to culinary science and the various cooking methods available. An infrared thermometer was passed round as were words such as myosin and actin and discussions between Potter and friend Michael of Cooking for Engineers about $1000 hacks of the culinary sort led to the highlight of the evening: a crock pot.

Yes, the crock pot. While I'm not a big fan of this 1950's staple (I have an unexplainable fear of casseroles and other similarly homogenized meals) Potter demonstrated its obvious hackablity. Rice cookers, crock pots, and slow cookers alike are all easily converted into domestic-friendly sous vide contraptions with a few extra purchases and perhaps a quick lesson in Celsius conversions. For hundreds of dollars less, home cooks can now sous vide like the pros, properly cook a steak medium rare and make soft poached eggs that 1950's house wives could only dream of. The book similarly explains how to achieve this hack.

Without a doubt, this book is well work the $34.99. Cooking for Geeks has a nice balance of hacker humour, easy instructions and recipes, old timey illustrations and an adorable author who wondered if the wireless computer doc would work all the way from the downstairs parking lot.
You can find more information about Jeff Potter and how to purchase his book at his website.

Cooking for Geeks Lab Report
September 15th, 2010

1. With Potter's sous vide methods one can potentially cook an egg for multiple hours and it will still remain nicely poached and edible
2. We humans like our myosin proteins cooked and our actin proteins uncooked
3. There is a difference between melting and caramelizing sugar
4. Those who write code are the most innovative cooks
5. According to the Mindless Eating "What type of Cook are You?" quiz I rank somewhere between a giving and healthy cook and that I should only date someone from the same category. I think I'm safe, the Boyfriend does not cook.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Americans get ice but no free ketchup

Nam's first fish and chips and what does she want to order...salmon cakes.

We found a little slice of fried heaven tucked away in a small shopping strip, across from MACdonalds and joined to a thai dining hall. The cokes were warm. The napkins too thin to wipe our greasy fingers. But the weather was wonderful for an outside meal.

A huge filet of crunchy crispy flaky cod with a mound of peppered chips. We had to purchase ketchup packets for 20p a piece.

Interestingly, and happily, neither the ketchup nor our first UK sodas contained HFCS...just flavour additives, like caffeine.

She tried the malt vinegar, but decided she would prefer a few hush puppies and a side of nice cool cole slaw.