Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Mixed Bag

I have to get back on track to blog more regularly. These posts are unwieldy. 

Matt is the king of homemade pancakes. Before I met him, I didn't even know you could make pancakes from scratch. I can rock a Krusteaz box, but I usually leave the pancakes to him. Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes (pg 20 of The Food You Crave) nabbed my attention, because I still have a whole bag of buckwheat sitting around from when FFwD did buckwheat blini, and because I feel better about feeding some good flours to Charlie instead of delicious Krusteaz. Believe me, I love my Krusteaz, but they aren't especially nutritious.
With syrup, these pancakes were good. Without, they were a little buckwheat-bitter. Ellie only adds 1 tb of honey to the batter, and that's not really enough to sweeten it to the point where you'd want to eat it without syrup. I say the batter could also use a hit of vanilla.

Conclusion: Liked it, and Charlie Approved. The recipe made a lot of pancakes, so I happily now have a freezer full of them, for easy breakfasts.

For a nostalgic snack, I made a Chocolate Egg Cream (pg 307). I shouldn't have. Yuck. My favorite diner meal is a BLT-without-the-lettuce, fries, and a vanilla egg cream. I've never seen them outside of New York, and when I asked for one once in a "New York Style" diner in Rhode Island, the waitress made me repeat it 14 times, and then said she didn't know what I was asking for. Sigh. Before I blame Ellie for how bad this was, I may have used the wrong fizzy. I couldn't find any seltzer at the store. Weird, right? Ellie explicity says not to use club soda, so I settled on bubbly mineral water. Is that different than seltzer? This proportion of mineral tasted really harsh and was not nearly sweet enough. Boooo!
Conclusion: Dislike. If mineral water and seltzer are different, I blame me. If they're the same, I blame Ellie.

Between the anchovy paste, the capers, and the olives in Pasta Puttanesca (pg 158), there were many layers of briny flavor. When my Mom was visiting last weekend, she bought a bag of arugula at the Farmer's Market, which we didn't use for anything. Arugula isn't my favorite thing, and this fresh stuff was exceptionally peppery. I picked this recipe because you wilt arugula down into the sauce at the end, so it would use up some of my stash. The arugula actually worked well with the other flavors.
Conclusion: Liked it.

Finally, to accompany last night's roast chicken, I made Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange Essence (pg 267). With buttermilk, orange juice and zest, nutmeg, brown sugar, and a little butter, it looked good on paper. The outcome was unremarkable, though. I tripled the buttermilk, and it was still a dry mash. The buttermilk curdled a little when the orange juice hit it, so there were little flecks of white mixed into my potatoes. To top it all off, the orange flavor wasn't even especially pronounced.

Conclusion: Disliked.

Every year for the past few years, I've made marshmallows at the holidays, using Alton Brown's recipe, here. His marshmallows are off the hook delicious. Dense, chewy, vanilla-ey. They have an actual presence, and retain their shape in hot chocolate, so that by the end of the mug, you have chocolate-soaked creamy marshmallows that have managed to still retain their shape.

This year, instead of going tried and true, I figured I'd make Dorie's Marshmallows (pg 404 of Baking). I really need to stop turning to her for recipes that I already have perfectly wonderful recipes for. As with the chocolate chip cookies, these marshmallows were no match against the idea I already have in my head of the ideal.

The process was much different from Alton's. Dorie's involved egg whites; Alton's do not. Dorie's involved a scant 2 tb of corn syrup, Alton's uses a cup. Dorie makes up the difference with a ton of sugar. Alton says to coat them with a mix of corn starch and powdered sugar, which makes sense in terms of retaining sweetness. Dorie just coats hers in corn starch.
I love how they look, but they're no good.
I knew these would be different from Alton's, as soon as I dolloped spoonfuls out onto my pre-powdered cookie sheets (a presentation I learned from David Lebovitz's blog, as opposed to cutting the marshmallows into squares). The concoction was wet, instead of dense and sticky. Dorie's recipe produces light, melt-in-hot-chocolate types of marshmallows. Eaten plain, they have a weird under-taste that I can't identify. I'm not sure what to do with them. Matt ate one, wrinkled his nose, said, "It just tastes like sugar," and then asked me if I could still make my normal recipe, too. Yes, I sure can.

Later, I made a microwaved smore out of one, thinking that surely that would be a respectable use of them. This is going to sound weird, but after it's round in the microwave, the marshmallow reminded me of farts. Not good.

After a day, the marshmallows started to melt in their bag. I threw them out.

Conclusion: Hated them. What a bummer. Alton, I'm coming for you!


  1. marshmallows like farts!...
    RFLMAO!!! :-)

  2. if you still have fresh (not wilted) arugula try making a salad with some diced figs or raisins, diced apples,a few crushed walnuts, diced proscuitto or ham, and a dressing made out of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a very small amount of maple syrup and dash of o.j- then serve it with a lot of shaved parmesan...all these flavors combine so well! arugula on its own can be bitter (although I like it) I also think its great served just with a squirt of lemon or balsamic, a drizzle of olive oil and lots of shaved good quality parmesan cheese. In any event it def. needs that shaved parmesano!

  3. I'm going to track down that buckwheat pancake recipe myself because I, too, have leftovers from ffwD!

  4. Great idea, I just pulled the pancake recipe off the food network site and I'll definitely give it a try. I'm always trying to sneak more grains into my pancakes and I think that I too still have a bit of buckwheat flour lurking in my cupboards.