Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hollandaise Sauce: I Can Whisk Up the Devil and So Can You!

A Lego display I saw in a mall here recently. I don't know about you, but I typically wouldn't be smiling in that situation.

Two notes:
  1. There are no sauce-related pictures for this post because, well, I just didn't think about it during the process (or before it was all consumed). Your reward for visiting (in addition to all this lovely text): random photos from Singapore!
  2. In celebration of my last post, I just left a semi-embarrassing "you're my hero" comment on David Lebovitz's post on how to make ice cream without a machine. He initially wrote the post over three years ago and is still dutifully replying to people that leave questions today.
  3. Okay, maybe three notes. This sauce is wonderful with savory things, which I will go over in the Reflections section.
Why do I refer to Hollandaise sauce as the devil? It's simply because I find it hard to believe that something comprised of that much cholesterol and fat and deliciousness is not the handy work of Lucifer himself. I'm not a religious person, but something spooky is going on here, along the same twisty-whisky path as mayonnaise.

Hollandaise Sauce
Adapted from the

Yields maybe 1/2 C or so, I'd guess (I didn't measure it, I ate it)

2  yolks
1/2 T  lemon juice
1/4 C (55 g or so) unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt
the following to taste:
whipping cream
black pepper
  1. Combine the yolks and lemon juice in a heat-resistant bowl and whisk until the volume is doubled.
  2. Simmer a few inches of water in a pot and place the bowl over it; whisk vigorously until the mixture is slightly thickened, removing and replacing the bowl over the pot to keep the mixture from scrambling.
  3. Stream in the butter while continuing to whisk until the mixture is doubled in volume and thickened.*
  4. Remove the mixture from heat and whisk in the "to taste" ingredients as you please.
  5. Serve with savory things to add richness and sauciness and sinfulness and enjoy.
*Alternatively, since this impromptu double boiler can be steamy and precarious, you can remove the bowl from the heat, drizzle in some butter, whisk whisk whisk, return to heat, and repeat. There, that wasn't so scary, right?

Hollandaise Sauce Reflections

I tempered the lemon flavor and slightly overly thickened mixture with whipping cream, then added a generous amount of red chili powder (the cheap and therefore less potent substitute for cayenne from my nearby grocer), then a few dashes of the rest of the "to taste" ingredients to add body. I suppose these additions veer from the more traditional recipe I started with, but all the flavors made sense to me. Cooking shouldn't be about hard and fast rules, it should be about what feels and tastes right; that will bring you the most satisfaction in your meals.

The idea for making Hollandaise sauce sprung from excess egg yolks, memories of a brunch weeks past at House, and the prospect of brinner. We love brinner. Last Friday evening, The Resident Taste Tester and I feasted on eggs Benedict with grilled asparagus and pear cider (and sampled the latte ice cream that was still in the process of freezing). The following Saturday, we dined on T-bone steaks with grilled zucchini and microwave "baked" potatoes, with finally set latte ice cream for dessert. Eggs Benedict and steak are lovely ways of consuming Hollandaise sauce, but feel free to have it with salmon, steamed vegetables (it is mighty good with asparagus), and whatever else pleases your palette.

I've read and heard a couple times that Hollandaise sauce is difficult to make, but, um, I didn't have any issues in the grand one time I made it. This is not bragging, believe me, this is simply something that came out fine the first time. So don't be weary of the process, cooking is about eating and learning, but rather the potential cardiac arrest that's in store.

A picture of one of many, many comfy looking kitties that are no doubt being fed left overs around town. This specimen is specific to Arab quarter. I hope this makes up for the lack of goopy sauce photos.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

[[UPDATED 31.07]] Brace Yourself: Thanks-a-Latte Ice Cream

Cafe latte ice cream, with wonderfully pronounceable and easily accessible ingredients.

Hey all! I'm still alive! When I initially wrote this, I was just about to dash off to yoga class (See? The baker does not just magically consume vast quantities of delicious home made goodies without doing something to counteract such tasty foolishness), so you were left with unlinked names and absolutely no monologue on ingredients and process. Well I have returned to fill in the blanks and equip you to make ice cream sans ice cream maker as best I can.

Z's birthday was last weekend, which left me with an outrageous excess of 18 egg yolks. What the... What am I supposed to do with 18 yolks? I've previously made pudding and my dad's leche flan comes to mind (the recipe of which you will never see because it's a secret, sort of), but 18 yolks???

I settled on making a bit of hollandaise sauce, which is the devil (and yes, I am suggesting the devil is made of egg yolks and butter because the combination is inherently evil and may cause your arteries to instantly clog), but then what?

The answer lay quietly with my friend M: ice cream. But but but - I don't have an ice cream maker! Well, not to fear - David Lebovitz assured me that I can, indeed, make ice cream without a machine.

A little help from DL and Ina Garten ... Lo and behold, ice cream!

Cafe Latte Ice Cream
Adapted from and

Yields about 4 cups or 1 quart or 1 liter/litre, depending on your favorite measurement system and ideas on spelling

6  yolks
2 C (470 mL)  whipping cream
1 C  milk
pinch of salt
2 1/2 T espresso powder (nicely ground coffee beans)
2/3 C (125 g)  caster sugar
1 tsp  vanilla
2 T  Kahlua

  1. Grab two heat-resistant bowls: place the yolks in one and the cream in the other.
  2. Mildly whisk the yolks, just enough to break them.
  3. Combine the following in a pot: milk, salt, espresso powder, and sugar. Heat until it bubbles and froths at the edges (it's okay if it bubbles over the whole surface, no worries).
  4. Resume whisking the yolks (but this time with vigor) while streaming in the warmed milk mixture. You only want to add maybe 1/4 to 1/2 C of warmed liquid; you'll see the yolk mixture become more pale.*
  5. Return the pot to medium-low heat and begin whisking the contents while streaming the yolk mixture back into the pot. Continue whisking until you can coat the back of a spoon with the mixture, run your finger through it to make a line, and no mix dribbles down (see for a nice-ish photo of this). You pretty much just made custard at this point.
  6. Sieve the pot mixture into the bowl containing the cream and stir (I bought a drum sieve and dough scraper just for this, but you needn't get all fancy).
  7. Add the vanilla and Kahlua, give it a quick stir, and chill the mixture in the fridge.
  8. Once the mixture has cooled to refrigerator temperature, throw it in the freezer.
  9. Check it after about 45 minutes; a layer of frozen mixture should be building up around the edges of the bowl. Scrape it down and stir/whisk the mixture until homogenous. Repeat until the ice cream is set (David said this takes about 3 hours, but mine took forever and I abandoned it after about 5 hours of care in trade of sleep and dreams of ice cream for breakfast).
  10. Eeeeeeeeenjoy thoroughly.
*The idea with streaming (a.k.a. gradually and gently pouring) the warmed milk mixture into the yolks is to cook them without scrambling them. If you're finding it difficult to wield a hot pot in one hand and whisk at the same time, feel free to quickly pour in a little of the warmed milk mixture, set down the pot, whisk, and repeat. There's no need to freak yourself out by the prospect of severely scalding your hand and not even getting any ice cream out of it to sooth your pain.

Cafe latte ice cream made without a machine, showing off its scooping capabilities.

Cafe Latte Ice Cream Reflections

I feel pretty darn good about making my own ice cream, especially without a fancy machine or exotically-named powders that improve the texture and consistency of the finished product. That being said, the vanilla I used was of low quality, and I think it imparted a slightly artificial taste to the whole batch, especially pre-freeze time. I've broken myself of the habit of buying artificial vanilla "essence" but this was leftover from the baking frenzy last weekend and I haven't had the chance to replenish my kitchen with much of anything since.

I've found that the ice cream does have a bit of an icy texture, but can you blame a sister without a churning machine? No. No, you can't. And if you feel like you can, well then I just won't share my home made ice cream with you until you decide to come off your pedestal. Besides, this is just a tiny tiny detail that can definitely be forgiven when you think of all the love that went into making this (I might just kick your pedestal, FYI).

The Resident Taste Tester and I are very much without such pedestals and have since forgiven the barely noticeable icy texture as well as the shoddy "vanilla" traces, so all that was left to do was enjoy the hell out of this stuff (and yes, I did eat some before yoga today, thanks for asking).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Where Do The Hours Go?

Sooo... I haven't posted in a while. Sorrrrrrry!

My satisfying-as-tepid-bathwater excuse is that I've just been lacking time and access to my photos. The Resident Taste Tester conveniently ran off to China this weekend with my fabulous transition pictures of brioche, amazing brunch spreads, and other things.

I promise I'll post again. Maybe not in a timely manner, but it will happen.

Also, Z's birthday celebration is THIS WEEKEND. I've made a game plan to space out the cupcakes, macaroons, and meringue so I don't turn into a pile of mush by Saturday evening.

In other news, I've been spoiled by Valrhona chocolate. It's sort of tragic that I can't enjoy a lot of crappy chocolate delights anymore, save for Oreos and Nutella. To ease my embittered heart, I'll continue to eat bits of Valrhona. Vicious, delicious cycle.

In conclusion, sometimes I wish I had a blog where I could feel free to emotionally vomit all over and ramble on in a catty, cryptic way, but that's just not what this is about. So if you're looking for some amateur baking and food blogging, I'm your girl and I promise promise to have some real posts soonish. If you're still feeling a little dissatisfied, this might make you feel better.

Until next time!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sort of Make You Sick: Lemon Bars

 A bit too sweet and lacking a firm base. I should have pressed the crust into the pan a bit more.

I have fond memories of lemon bars from when I was a kid. I remember helping my mom make some out of a box for a piano recital (gasp on both accounts - we all have to start somewhere), a touch of powdered sugar on top.

 The crust just after cutting in the butter. This is not the method Ina suggested, though I like doing crusts this way.

Fourteen years and several instruments later, I am playing with the big kids and making stuff from scratch. I tested out Ina Garten's lemon bar recipe at the I was a little short on butter, but that was alright. I sort of wish I had read the reviews beforehand, which would have prepared me a little better for some of the imperfections, but I don't know that it would have prevented them.

Lemon Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten at the 

Yields, um, far too much for me to eat on my own

1/4 C  sugar
1 C  flour
pinch of salt
6-7 T (100g)  unsalted butter, cold

3  eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 C  sugar
1  lemon's zest
1/2 C  lemon juice (about 2 1/2 lemons)
2cm diameter, 1cm height  ginger, grated (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C).
  2. Toss the first three ingredients together and then cut in butter.
  3. Press into the pan, chill for 5-10 minutes, and then bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Remove from oven and cool.
  5. Whisk all remaining ingredients together and pour over crust.
  6. Bake 30-40 minutes until set (you may want to cover the top with foil to prevent over-browning a.k.a. burning before the goo is cooked nicely).
  7. Cool, dust with powdered sugar if you like, and enjoy!
Lemon Bar Reflections

  Filling goo with too much sugar and not enough ginger.

I could definitely feel the sugar grains in the lemon sticky goo top; that might be resolved with some sugar and juice pre-cooking on the stove top. I would reduce the sugar by 1/2 C and maybe compensate with cornstarch to keep the same soft goo consistency; they're just a bit too sweet and sort of make you want to stop after a small piece, which is abnormal for me. I would triple the ginger because it's pretty wow when you get a bite of gingery spice with the lemon. A 2:1 ratio of crust to goo would be cool instead of the other way around, but that's just me.

 The crust post baking. Those funny holes are from bits of butter that were on the larger side. Heh.

The crust was a bit whack; it may have been due to my altered prep, but one batch had crumbly I-wanna-stay-with-the-pan crust and the other popped away just fine from the pan, but it also separated from the goo.


Like a good chef and a procrastinating blogger, I let this post simmer... for about a week and a half after I originally wrote it. Over the five-ish days it took to consume nearly all the lemon bars, they surprisingly got better. The grainy sugar texture faded and the flavors melded in a way that would suggest you should leave food laying around for days. Even problems like the crust separating from the goo settled with time. I would still reduce the sugar, but maybe only by 1/4 C, and I would definitely up the ginger. These only made me sort of sick because I was merrily eating them all.

The Resident Taste Tester is back. Thank goodness! I need some help eating all these things and I'm sure the charm of grainy built-in web cam photos is wearing off (look forward to the transition post on brioche!).

In other news, I'm conducting a taste test with my friend Z tomorrow; he's having his birthday in a couple weekends and I will be providing the baked goods de jour. Look forward to a new post on pavlova soon.