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Archive for the ‘pastry’ Category

I am extremely prone to jet lag. Back in February, after a particularly long overseas flight, I had the worst bout yet. At one point, a day or two after arriving home, I was wide-awake for a good 36 hours with surprising amounts of energy. It was strange. So I did something I’ve been meaning to do for months – I reorganized all my cookbooks. I have hundreds of cookbooks and over the years, they’d gotten a bit messy. I prefer to organize my cookbooks by subject but they were willy-nilly all over the apartment. The pile next to my coffeetable was taller than the table. It drove me crazy but I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything about it. Now I had the energy so I decided to attack the piles.

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Researching the foods of Africa in an effort to learn more about this recently maligned continent, I found so many things that sounded delicious. Too many. One day, I googled “African snacks” curious to see what came up for any of the 54 countries. I immediately perked up at the results which were far better than I had hoped. A litany of amazing things – meat pies, fritters, meat on sticks, and fried dough in all kinds of shapes and sizes and glazes. Among these were a few things with really great names that caught my attention immediately … chin chin, puff puffs and fat cakes. What?!? How much fun do these sound?!? I want to eat them all. Obviously I started with puff puffs. How could I not?

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A chef friend recently stayed with me for a few weeks and we had an interesting chat at the grocery store. She was raised in Switzerland, is currently working in Hong Kong and was in town to work at a Michelin starred restaurant for a short time. We’d made a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some food and she stood in front of the yogurt display, baffled. “Why is there so much yogurt? Why do you have so much yogurt?” Good question. I looked at the display and was a little embarrassed. Have you taken a good look at the yogurt selection at your local grocery store lately? It’s absurd. Why do we have so much yogurt? My store is on the smaller side and has a 7-shelf display that is at least 10 feet long. Hundreds of containers and more than half of it is Greek yogurt. It’s really ridiculous.

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3.14159265, the ratio of the distance around a circle to the circle’s diameter. Guess what? Today, March 14th, is “Pi Day” the day to celebrate math and science, very important things we need to understand the world around us. Quite clever, I think. We bakers also celebrate Pi Day though we tend to think of it as Pie Day. We are funny people. Pastry dough, a sweet or savory filling and most of the time, a little heat to crisp the whole thing up. No surprise, this can go in many directions. Today, I chose to celebrate Pie Day with lovely little hand pies.

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Humble ingredients often make the best dishes and onions are the secret weapon in everyone’s pantry. What is not improved by adding an onion? I start nearly every dinner with a diced onion, some olive oil and a hot pan. Every culture’s cuisine has a similar starting point – mirepoix, Cajun trinity, sofrito, battuto, recaíto – a starting base of onions and a mix of other vegetables that create a flavorful base. There may be carrots and celery, or green pepper, or include chilies or maybe herbs but it always starts with the humble onion. Cook onions nice and slow and entire dishes can be built around those deeply caramelized, flavorful strands. French Onion Soup is just one example that illustrates the magic of a caramelized onion. This is another one of those recipes.

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Cream puffs. Oh my. I am thoroughly convinced we do not eat enough cream puffs in life. No way. We all need to change this immediately. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had a cream puff. Éclairs, certainly and I even know when I last had a Paris-Brest (because that happens, am I right??) but a cream puff? No idea. What’s up with that? Éclairs are so refined, so pretty – just look at what L’éclair de Génie in Paris does with a humble choux paste – but cream puffs seem more informal, more casual, more fun. So in my one-woman quest to change this situation, today I present to you a dark, triple chocolate cream puff. Lent is a whole week away; get it in while you can. Yes indeed.

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I picked up this recipe from Chef Carrie Nahabedian, from a class I took years ago. I was attempting to “organize” my office recently to no avail and came across a thick stack of papers, recipes from classes I’d taken pre-culinary school. Most held little interest now but this one stuck out … as I recall, they were quite good. Crispy thin layers of phyllo filled with creamy, slightly salty cheese. No spinach, no vegetables just that gorgeously salty cheese with a little parsley for a bit of color. She called them Phyllo Cheese Triangles but being of Armenian descent, I suspect she calls them boeregs at home. Many Mediterranean cultures have something similar; the Greeks call them tiropitakia. Salty cheese wrapped in layers of crispy pastry have universal appeal.

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