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Friday, March 27, 2015

Crunchy Cornmeal Crust for Cookies

I recently caught @srealsimplefood's post on barley chocolate chip cookies. Knowing her history of wonderful ideas and well thought out recipes, I had no doubt they would be delicious. I also couldn't resist spinning my own version.

Barley Teff Chocolate Chip Cookies with Plantain Miso

One key to a great chocolate chip cookie is the combination of textures. Each of us has our own favorite balance between chewy and crispy. Aside from the main event, folks have added cornmeal for a micro crunch accent.

The recipe called for barley flour and I didn't have any on hand. Fortunately, I had a bag of barley and a food processor with a milling blade. If you've spun grains before, you very well know that you get to a point when there's a small portion of bits that aren't quite flour.

Barley Teff Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough with Miso

As I stared at the coarse barley meal sitting in the fine mesh strainer, I had a light bulb moment. This stuff was no different from the khao khua, toasted ground sticky rice, crunch I've enjoyed on larb gai before. It went right into the dry mix.

Coarse Ground Barley Bits Embedded Cookie Bottom

Of course, I couldn't wait until they were fully cooled. I broke one in half and looked inside. The evenly distributed specks of barley looked like the night sky. The balance of the external crispy shell and internal chewy core was delicious. The micro crunch of the grain bits was a nice accent.

Cookie Dough Ball Rolled in Cornmeal

I pulled that idea thread and started thinking about the crunch of a pizza crust. I couldn't help but roll cookie dough balls in cornmeal and bake them off. The bottom crust of the cookie developed a serious crunch that was an amazing compliment to the chewy core. I'm not sure I can go back to the standard now. This method definitely deserves further investigation.

Cornmeal Crusted Cookie Bottom

Next time you experience a texture that you enjoy, don't be afraid to inject it elsewhere. Even better if it ends up using a by-product that you would otherwise throw out.

As always, keep the ideas bouncing...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chewy Caramel Popcorn Potential

Inspired by @maxfalkowitz's tweet a while back about buttered popcorn caramels, I investigated some possibilities.

Huge Chewy Caramel Popcorn Ball with Coffee Dust

We all know and love caramel popcorn. Aside from the obvious flavor charm, the butterfly and mushroom shaped puffs have awesome texture. The crispy crunchy thin candy coating over all the nooks and crannies is what makes us come back for more. So why mess with a good thing? Because that's what we do here.

Chewy Butterscotch Popcorn with Sumac

The first attempt was a chewy butterscotch coated popcorn. I took the final candy temperature to the soft-ball stage. It tasted fine, but the candy drowned out the delicate popcorn. The bite was too compliant so hard-ball stage needed to happen. Also enrobing was clearly not the way to go. Then I began to think about how to change the ratio.

Popcorn on a Thin Sheet of Caramel

The answer was simple. Create a thin layer of caramel for the popcorn to rest on. It only made sense to form a roulade. I was imagining a pinwheel slice lollipop or even squeezed onto a scoop coffee ice cream. I put it into the freezer to harden it up a bit to make it easier to cut.

Chewy Caramel Popcorn Roulade

The balance of caramel to popcorn worked nicely. The candy was still cold when I tasted it and the brittle to chewy transformation was a bonus. The only issue was the roulade not holding together when it was cut. Next time...

Sticky Caramel Popcorn Spirals

Sometimes experiments take a lot more iterations than you'd like. Fret not! There are always discoveries along the way that will be more interesting than what you originally intended and expected. That's the beauty of the creative process.

As always, please share your investigations to keep the ideas bouncing.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Furikake Peanut Brittle (AKA Dashi Candy)

Sweets deserve the fifth taste dimension of umami. It only made sense to continue my furikake kick inspired by @tavallai's peanut butter. I also got encouragement from the label on the container that read, "SPRINKLE ON ANYTHING". Who am I to argue?

Dashi Brittle on Popcorn

Furikake is a Japanese rice seasoning that typically consists of dried fish flakes, seaweed and sesame seeds. That simple description doesn't do it justice. It's a savory flavor bomb that's highly addictive. If you haven't tried it, go get some and thank me later.

As my first investigation, I happened to be whipping up a batch of Madeleines and decided to sprinkle some into the last bit of batter. A citrus seaweed scent hit the nose as I broke one open hot out of the oven. Dashi cake is the best description I can come up with. I was wishing for a bowl of tomato soup at that moment.

Split Furikake Madeleine

Inspired by spiced nuts and Chinese sesame seed candy, I gave peanut brittle a spin. I added furikake (10g per cup of peanuts) just before the final baking soda mix in. My intent was to see if I could maintain the aeration as with a honeycomb candy. Dashi peanut brittle was born. As you crunch away, the flavor starts as expected and finishes reminiscent of rice cracker mix.

Furikake Honeycomb Peanut Brittle

Adding furikake to sweets allows them to have an umami thread that can easily be tied to a driving savory component. I hope this inspires you to think more about how to blur the lines between sweet and savory because it's damn delicious.

As always, keep the ideas bouncing...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fermenting Kumquat Hot Sauce

I was out in San Diego and couldn't help but indulge in all the citrus at the farmers' markets. At Imperial Beach, I came across the most delicious kumquats I have ever eaten. The popping sensation of the tart juice contrasting against the more sweet than bitter peel as you chew is unforgettable.

Kumquat Pasilla Hot Sauce

I brought some home with the intent of preserving them to remember that moment. I wanted to harness the essence of the kumquat without going sweet. Inspired by the salty air of the beach and vicinity to Mexico, I decided that fermenting with sea salt and dried pasilla chiles would be a great combination.

Pasilla Chile Ribbons on Kumquat Puree

I weighed one dry pint of kumquats and measured out 2% sea salt. I cut four large pasilla chiles into ribbons. Next I pureed the kumquats then added the pasilla and salt for a final spin until the chiles were well incorporated. Now I'll need to wait at least a few months to see if the preservation brings me back.

As always, feel free to share your flavor discoveries to keep the ideas bouncing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Coffee Butter

After a recent success with using finely ground coffee in a streusel topping for crumb cake, it only made sense to make a compound butter.

Coffee Compound Butter

Everyone knows cinnamon butter and how delicious it can be. If you think of coffee as a spice, there isn't much of a stretch to make the swap. Straight up it tastes and smells like buttery coffee toast. The espresso dust gets immediately infused as you mix so there's no wait. Of course, beurres composes get better with time. We'll see if this one follows suit.

Coffee Butter on Teff Rye Sourdough Toast

It's simple to make. All you need is unsalted butter, finely ground coffee and salt. Cut up 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) of butter up into small chunks, add to a medium bowl and lightly dust the butter with coffee. Sprinkle over a bit of salt. Mash the ingredients until the coffee is combined. Taste as you go and add more coffee and/or salt to your liking.

Chai compound butter anyone?

As always, keep the ideas bouncing...