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Everything posted by browniebaker

  1. Does anyone who lives in the D.C. area for more than half a year still believe this mag's restaurant recommendations? I have a friend who just moved here from L.A. and who went to a Thai restaurant in Bethesda because of this magazine's recommendation. Bwa-ha-ha-ha! I think she's learned her lesson. I tried to tell her.
  2. FIVE?! Say no more -- I'm buying a copy today!
  3. I get very light and fluffy pancakes from a recipe I derived from the one in The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook (written by Christopher Kimball, editor of Cook's Illustrated), and it's a lot like the Cook's Illustrated recipe some of you have mentioned, above. The keys, I think are: (1) a soft, low-gluten flour, like White Lily, (2) some melted butter (as Danielle points out is key for flavor and texture), (3) the right amount of baking powder and baking soda, for lift, (4) buttermilk, real and thick, for flavor and texture, and (5) folding in egg whites separately, for fluffiness. Here's the recipe I use: PANCAKES 2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour (using dip-and-sweep method of measuring) 2 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 2 large eggs, separated 2 cups buttermilk Preheat cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Place butter in separate, large bowl. Separate eggs, adding yolks to butter and placing whites in separate bowl. Whip whites until soft peaks form. Whisk together butter and egg yolks. Add buttermilk. Beat until well blended. Stir dry mixture into wet mixture, just until all dry ingredients are moistened but lumps remain. Fold in whites. Ladle (do not pour) onto hot skillet, spreading quickly into round pancake. When bubbles appear on top, flip over and cook until pancake is puffed and set. Serve hot. Makes 12 five-inch pancakes.
  4. I think I might have had one of these last month, at the De Fresh bakery in Richmond, B.C., just outside Vancouver. The bakery calls them milk buns, I think, and I asked what was inside, as I wondered how they differed from my favorite, the custard-filled baked buns. The salesperson said the filling was made from dry milk powder. So I bought one. The filling was like a grainy paste, not a custard. And I would guess the ingredients are dry milk powder, sugar, cream, perhaps some butter, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt, all rubbed together into a firm paste. I have not seen a recipe for these baked milk buns in any of my Chinese cookbooks. I would just try mixing together the above ingredients and baking it in a sweet-roll dough. Who knows --the quest to develop the recipe on your own could be fun!
  5. I agree re the Magi-Cake strips. But then, how can one disagree about brownies with an eGulleteer named browniebaker? I also have experienced more of a differential when using a glass baking dish, but that might be just me. ← Believe me, it's not just you! I love my Pyrex, but not for brownies. Glass heats up too fast, cooking the edges quickly. ← Isn't the problem really not that glass heats up so fast, cooking the edges quickly, but that glass cools down so slowly -- and keeps cooking the edges after you take the dish out of the oven? Glass actually has extremely low thermal conductivity compared to most metals, so it take a long time for the inside of the dish to get hot, but it keeps imparting heat to the brownies for a long time after you take it out of the oven. ← The radiant heat that glass conducts to the batter at the edges causes the edges to cook more quickly. That's why recipes always say to lower the thermostat by 25 degrees F when baking in glass rather than metal pans. Pastrymama, I'm going to try your method of heaping the batter high in the center. Sounds like a good idea!
  6. I agree re the Magi-Cake strips. But then, how can one disagree about brownies with an eGulleteer named browniebaker? I also have experienced more of a differential when using a glass baking dish, but that might be just me. ← Believe me, it's not just you! I love my Pyrex, but not for brownies. Glass heats up too fast, cooking the edges quickly. For the least differential, I use light-color, aluminum pans, not dark-color pans, which cook the edges faster. In fact, the best pan is the square cheesecake-pan with perfectly square corners and removable bottom, made by Magic Line/Parrish.
  7. Gosh, I think a pan of brownies is supposed to slump in the middle. Baking until the middle puffs up and sets like the edge would mean overbaked, dry brownies. For aesthetics, I just take a square spatula and press down on the raised edges while the brownies are still warm and uncut in the pan. To minimize the differential between the edges and the center, try this, which I always do: wrap a soaking-wet Magi-Cake strips (metallic-fabric strips, sold in kitchenware shops) around the outside of your brownie pan before baking. The strip retards the baking of the edges so that they do not set so much quicker than the center.
  8. I live by that book, and by the other dim sum book published by Wei-Chuan, Chinese Snacks (Revised edition).
  9. Great binder for making soft and chewy granola bars. Follow the recipe for Rice Krispies Treats, but substitute 3 tbsp oil for the butter, and any combination of toasted oats, toasted chopped nuts, toasted seeds, wheat germ, bran, and chopped dried fruit for the 6 cups Rice Krispies. I add spices like cinnamon and ginger. To make chocolate-chip granola bars, I add vanilla extract and frozen chocolate chips that are sprinkled in evenly as I scrape the hot mixture into the greased pan.
  10. Oh, granola! I'm the granola-queen. I make 20 cups every two weeks or so, and it's all for me. You can substitute anything, really, for the ingredients in my rather open-ended recipe: GRANOLA 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 cup honey 12 cups rolled oats 3 cups chopped nuts 2 cups seeds 1 cup shredded dried coconut 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cloves 2 cups chopped dried fruit Place two oven-racks at second-highest and second-lowest levels in oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil and honey until warm. Stir in oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves until well coated. Spread evenly onto two light-colored aluminum 13” x 18” jelly-roll pans lined with non-stick silicone baking mats. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden-brown, stirring granola and switching positions of pans halfway through baking. Remove from oven. Cool to room temperature. Granola turns crisp upon cooling. Mix in dried fruit. Makes 20 cups. Store in airtight container. For granola that is chunky, press flat with spatula immediately after removing from oven; and break into small pieces after cooling to room temperature.
  11. Worcestershire sauce for soy sauce. Makes me mad, every time. Big ol' kidney beans for small red beans.
  12. In April last year I took tea at four different places in London. I did not choose the Orangery at Kensington Palace because I had indeed heard about their stale cakes, cold scones, and indifferent service. Here are my rankings and impressions: FIRST PLACE: TEA AT THE LANESBOROUGH Tea at the Lanesborough hotel was my absolute favorite, and I have decided I must take tea there whenever in London. Tea is taken at dining tables in the rarefied atmosphere of the beautiful Conservatory, where the sky-lit, pink-and-green, Oriental interior and sounds of water trickling from fountains seem a world away from the gray of the city. The tea selection was superb and diverse, including special teas such as the subtle and smooth yet invigorating Earl Grey Blue Flower and the peachy-fragrant Lychee. I was most impressed by the service, which was attentive, unobtrusive, and impeccable. No one in my party of four was allowed to lift a finger to pour. In fact, the waiter must have been discreetly watching because, whenever my teacup was tilted more acutely because my tea was getting low, I saw him rush off and later return with a new pot of perfectly brewed tea. He did this for each of the four persons in our party, even though we each had different teas, in individual pots. The finger sandwiches were the best I have ever had, very fresh, finely made, beautifully presented under a light sprinkling of green sprouts, and delicious. Especially tasty were the smoked-salmon, chicken-salad, egg-and-tomato, and cucumber (best I had in London) sandwiches. The waiter asked whether we wished to have more sandwiches; only when we said we were done with the sandwich course, did the kitchen bake our scones and griddle-cook our crumpets (the only crumpets I found at tea in all of London during my stay). The just-baked scones were fantastic, buttery and light, the perfect base for the perfectly silky Devonshire clotted cream and excellent strawberry jam, which was my favorite of all the tea places we tried. The lemon curd was also delicious. The last course was tea breads and pastries, and the five different pastries were utterly delicious, almost too beautiful and fine to eat, though I devoured them. To all who are visiting London, I say to take tea at the Lanesborough if you possibly, possibly can. SECOND PLACE: TEA AT THE DORCHESTER Tea at the Dorchester hotel was excellent. Tea is served in the English style at low tea-tables while you are seated in cozy sofas and armchairs in the Promenade, a long, magnificent room lined with peach-colored marble columns, at one end of which a pianist plays. The waitress took our orders for tea, and then brought around a tray laden with finger sandwiches from which we chose, ad libitum. The smoked salmon in the finger sandwiches was delicious, definitely the best among the four tea venues I tried. The waitress kept bringing trays of sandwiches until we had had as many as we wished. Then a plate of warm scones and hot cross buns (a special, because it was Easter weekend when we were there) was placed on our table. The famed Dorchester scones lived up to their reputation, nicely crisp outside and soft and light inside. The silky-smooth Devonshire clotted cream was wonderful, and the strawberry jam was my husband's favorite of the four tea places we tried. The final course was several, maybe seven or eight, different French pastries presented on a tray, from which one chooses one or two because innate modesty and the size of one's plate keeps one from taking more, although I saw one lady across the room have a waiter place three on her plate. The service was flawless, polite and unobtrusive yet attentive; waiters peek from behind folding screens to see whether you are ready for another cup of tea or need a replenishing of milk in the pitcher. Tea at the Dorchester was the favorite of my seven-year-old son because, he says, he enjoyed the pampering service and the bounty of trays of delicious food to select from. The Promenade is said to be a place to see and be seen, but I did not see any notables while at tea there, maybe because it was Easter weekend. I would definitely take tea there again -- and not just because I am hoping to see some celebrities next time. THIRD PLACE: TEA AT THE RITZ Tea at the Ritz is legendary and almost has to be experienced at least once. However, I must say that once will be enough for me. Afternoon tea is very expensive at £32 per person, but you are paying for the experience of taking tea in the famous, beautiful, Louis-Seize-decorated Palm Court while a pianist plays, and you are offered endless quantities of food and will not need dinner that evening. The Palm Court is gorgeous, although smaller than I had expected, and my party of four was lucky to be seated at “Table Number One,” as I heard the maitre d' say, near the beautiful fountain. Tea is taken at dining tables. Although the service was sincere and polite, our waiter was a little clumsy, dropping and bumping things. First a plate of five different types of finger sandwiches was served. Our finger sandwiches would have been delicious if the bread had not been already curling from drying out. It seems that, because all the parties at each seating enter the room at about the same time, the sandwiches have to made up ahead of time. But there are ways to wrap sandwiches to prevent curling before service. We were offered, almost encouraged to have, more sandwiches until we had had our fill and were ready for the next course, scones. Plain and fruit scones are brought on a plate, with strawberry jam and clotted cream. The jam was very good, but the scones were heavier and denser than I like, and the clotted cream was of the grainy style, which I do not like as much as the satiny-smooth variety. The tea breads and pastries, though, were absolutely delicious, and, uniquely among the four places where I took tea, were offered endlessly until we cried uncle. My favorites were the dark and rich and fruity Dundee cake, the three-chocolate mousse, and the apricot-mango-and-passion-fruit mousse. If you go, definitely choose the last seating of the day, at 5:30 and not at 1:30 or 3:30, so that you do not have to feel rushed to vacate your table for the next seating, and so that you avoid the busloads of tourists that (I am told) often book the earlier seatings. With a 5:30 seating, we had a leisurely tea and stayed as late as we wished. No matter what good or bad you hear about tea at the Ritz, you just have to go and experience it for yourself. LAST PLACE: TEA AT FORTNUM AND MASON Tea at Fortnum and Mason was a real disappointment. In the St James's Restaurant upstairs of the store, tea is taken at dining tables in a large room that lacks ambiance. A pianist plays during tea, but the ambiance is not helped by the sound of guests yakking on cell phones, and the sight of tired shoppers with their coats draped over their chairs (no coat-check available) and heaps of shopping bags around their tables, or the sight of people with their work papers spread all over the table. After we were seated, it was fifteen minutes before anyone came to take our order. The waitress claimed that they were short of staff. Indeed, all the waiters seemed to running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I could swear our waitress was actually a charwoman called in to pinch-hit, for she kept forgetting what teas we had ordered and could not talk intelligently about the menu. None of the four different teas that we tried were very distinctive. My husband ordered one of the rare teas offered on a special menu at extra cost, and this rare Darjeeling Chamong was terribly bitter, probably brewed too long. Most surprisingly, the finger sandwiches were bland and dry triangles cut from Wonder-bread-like sandwich slices with the crust left on. Paying £18.50 per person not including the 17.5 % VAT and a mandated 12.5% service charge, I expected better. The plain and fruit scones were fine, but nothing special, and the Cornish clotted cream was of the grainy variety. The strawberry jam was good, though. The one thing they did do right was the pastries, which were delicious. We wished we could have had more pastries because nothing else had been very enjoyable, but additional servings were not offered of anything. After all I had read of tea at Fortnum and Mason including their claim that their afternoon tea features the best comestibles sold in their famous store, I was disappointed.
  13. All the above tips are great. I might add that sometimes, because of a draft in my oven at the rear right corner, some of my drop cookies spread into an oval no matter how perfectly round the ball of dough was. My trick is to use the edge of a knife or spatula to push the cookie into a round shape while it is still hot and soft on the cookie sheet -- the first 30 seconds or so out of the oven. Yes, I'm working fast!
  14. There are many, different recipes for dan dan noodles, and they do vary by region across China, Taiwan, and other places in Asia with Chinese populations. Dan dan noodles are just noodles that were carried in buckets hung by the handles on the ends of a pole balanced across the upper back and shoulders of workers. So, you see, traditionally they were a dish made using just whatever ingredients one had on hand. Some use meat; some use sesame paste. The seasonings vary a lot. It's not a fancy dish, by any means.
  15. I have yet to taste an oatmeal cookie that bests the recipe given on the back of the Quaker Oats canister. And, believe me, I have tried to beat that recipe myself, to no avail. It's still the best.
  16. I don't know whether it's because I grew up in the South, and I know the breadcrumb-proponents will get me for this, but if I bite down on anything crunchy that interferes with the pure creaminess of my mac and cheese, I may as well be biting on fingernail clippings. edit: typo
  17. Cheap, young cheddar makes a creamier mac and cheese than long-aged cheddar (usually more crumbly and definitely more expensive). Chicken thighs are tastier and cheaper than chicken breast. Ditto: pork belly and shoulder over pork loin. Canned tuna and salmon are cheaper than fresh but there's no substitute for the canned stuff in tuna salads and salmon salads.
  18. I like a cobbler or pie after barbecue. Peach cobbler after barbecue would mean I had died and gone to heaven, but it's got to have lots of flaky tender pastry crust on top and maybe even laced through the filling (cooking up soft like dumplings), not a biscuit-like or cake-like topping. I particularly dislike a biscuit topping that is not piping hot -- nothing sadder than that. To my taste, the best pie following barbecue would be a custardy, spicy sweet-potato pie. Oh, my, just thinking about peach cobbler and sweet-potato pie, I need to go lie down now!
  19. browniebaker


    My favorite tofu dish, indeed my whole family's, is the Chinese dish ma p'o tofu, which I make using ground pork, cubed medium-firm tofu, garlic, ginger, hot bean paste, soy sauce, rice wine, red pepper, scallions, cornstarch for thickening the sauce, and salt. Anther favorite is to put in squares of fried tofu when making Chinese red-braised pork. The tofu soaks up the braising sauce and is wonderfully succulent. Every time I deep-fry the squares of tofu and battle the way they stick to one another, I vow to buy them pre-fried, but I haven't actually caved yet. Maybe I feel better knowing that my tofu and my oil are fresh. Another favorite is a sweet dish that my mother recently taught me: a sweet peanut-and-silken-tofu soup. It's delicious. My mother pressure cooks fragrant roasted peanuts until they are melting-soft, adds cut-up silken tofu, and stirs in granulated sugar to taste. It's good hot or cold. I also like silken tofu with bonito flakes and soy sauce on top. The flavor of tofu really comes through, and I feel almost virtuous eating this simple, healthy dish. To tell you the truth, I sometimes eat a cake of tofu plain. I just love tofu.
  20. I tried baking ham with Coke once, and the whole family hated it. It was too sweet, and the distinctive flavor of Coke just didn't do it for us. It's an acquired taste, I think.
  21. I still like a tiramisu when I come across one, but maybe that's because I didn't eat that much tiramisu in the '90s.
  22. I will never again make not enough mashed potatoes. My brother, visiting from out of town, asked for seconds and I didn't have any. Mashed potatoes are easy to make in bulk, taste good the next day, can be used to make shepher's pie and fishcakes and other things, so there's just no excuse for not making enough.
  23. Cassell's has the following pronunciation: "tast[upside-down "e", which I don't know how to type on my computer]-'v[backward capital "E," which I can't type and for which I used "EH(N)]." The last syllable definitely has a short "e" sound, not an "a." Look up "tastevin" in Casell's or Petit Larrousse, and you'll see what I mean. Maybe we are pronouncing it the same way!
  24. I think you have mistakenly inverted the "ah" and "eh" sounds in the word. It's in fact "tahs-tuh-VEH(N)," the last syllable accented and ending with a nasal sound. ← Clearly there are some inconsistencies when trying to phonetically spell out French words for the English speaker. Browniebaker "vin" prounounced "veh". What dialect of French did you learn? I'll change it to tes te ("e" sound like they pronounce at the end in the South of France) vah (nasal, no emphasis on the last syllable). Tes te vah. It can also be pronounced Tas te vah. The first syllable can be can be pronounced with an "ah" or "eh" sound. Maybe I'm explaining it all wrong. ← Parisian. Or as the Parisians would say, no dialect at all! What dialect are you speaking?
  25. Has anyone ever tried strawberry Koolaid? You would get the intense flavor and color that you get with Jello, minus the gelatin. (Is the gelatin a good thing?)
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