Lemon Squeezer and other friendly tools

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lemon Squeezer
I think I'm in love with another kitchen product. Again!

This time, it is my new lemon squeezer. Damn, it is great. I've seen them in the store for years. And I always thought it was a gimmick. Sorta like 50% of Bed, Bath and Beyond's inventory. Really, do you need a "soda can holder" for the refrigerator?

But I was so wrong.

This lemon squeezer is my new best friend. Seriously.

It is heavy, but not too heavy. I thought it would be an ergonomic trap - leading me directly from the kitchen to the hand-therapist in 10 seconds. But, no! It is so much easier to use than a standard (manual) juicer...and it drains the lemon of all their juice.

Lemon Squeezer Lemon Squeezer Lemon Squeezer Lemon Squeezer
The lemon squeezer. It's a good thing. And I'm sorry I mocked you.

Please note though...this method is not useful if you want lots of pulp. It keeps that contained, so I would never get the orange squeezer. I don't know if I'm supposed to place the lemon half convex or concave, but my way forces the juices down into the drain holes, and juice doesn't "bubble up" the top of the squeezer.

Lemon Squeezer Lemon Squeezer
I made some lemonade and dropped in a few California strawberries. See my cute new hot water kettle? After about 7 years, my old electric water kettle finally boiled its last cup. I found this cute red one at Target!

I've had an annoying sinus infection this past week and I finally broke down and bought the buzz word/item of the damn flu season: the neti-pot. I must admit it is not as disgusting as I thought it would be and there is no pain...just lots of saline pouring out of your nostril. Let's just hope it helps me get over this! I have used about 3 boxes of Kleenex so far...and I can't bake!!
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Coroner Apple Cake

Williams-Sonoma Apple Cake
I've made this cake before. It is from the Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook...It came out yummy the first time...and then it fell apart a few weeks ago. Last week, I tried again.

This time, I let the grated apple drain for a longer period of time...and although the directions tell you not to push on them to squeeze out extra juice, I did it anyway because I was paranoid. The result was a little less cinnamon flavor in the cake, but at least it was fully cooked! :)

Apple Cake with pencils from Los Angeles County Coroner

What are these body outline pens?! They were purchased at the Los Angeles County Coroner's store, Skeletons in the Closet. Funds go toward the Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program. They have some great beach towels too. My friend had to go there and picked up these pens (the visit was business-related, not for, well, you know...) Here is the store.

Williams-Sonoma Apple Cake
Apples. Cinnamons. Yum.
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BCAM at LACMA

(I'm catching up on some activities I did before I got sick again with sinus yuckiness)

Jami and I went to the opening public weekend at BCAM @ LACMA (Broad Contemporary Art Museum at Los Angeles County Museum of Art). This large three story building houses much of Eli and Edy Broad's massive, massive collection of contemporary art.

My favorite pieces were Jeff Koon's blue balloon dog and the oversized table and chairs by Robert Therrien.

Visit to LACMA's new BCAM
Side of the new building designed by Renzo Piano.

Visit to LACMA's new BCAM
This is an installation on Wilshire Blvd. It was a beautiful day! (Feb 16, 08)
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Happy Birthday Q-Tip!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It's my cat's 12th birthday today! I can't believe she is that old...84 in people years. I adopted her when she was only 6 weeks old. She is black and white, and has a little white tip on the top of her tail...like a little q-tip. She loves to sit in my windowsill and sunbathe.

Q-Tip's 12th Birthday

Happy Birthday Q-Tip!
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Los Angeles is Sad to See You Go Dessert Tray

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lydia's Austrian Shortbread Cookies
A loyal reader of my blog (who reads all the entries and commits them to memory :) is leaving Los Angeles soon for the wonders of Kentucky. Angelenos are sad to lose this smart librarian who is a devoted foodie as well.

But Jennie has never eaten any of my desserts so I wanted to send her off with some baked goods.

First, I made the Lydia’s Austrian Raspberry Shortbread from Gale Gand’s book, “Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs.” There is a unique technique to make this delightful cookie. Here is the recipe on Epicurious.

First, you make the shortbread dough with a bunch of butter, flour and even more butter. Wrap up in plastic and put in the freezer.

Lydia's Austrian Shortbread Cookies Lydia's Austrian Shortbread Cookies

Instead of rolling out or pressing the dough into the pan, you grate the dough to create a delicate layer of shortbread. First, I started to grate it by hand…but that was like grating a really hard snowball. I switched to the food processor to grate the dough. Next time, I’m going to freeze the dough in a log so it will easily fit into my food processor. I had to cut up my frozen ball to fit it into the processor…not very easy or safe.

Lydia's Austrian Shortbread Cookies Lydia's Austrian Shortbread Cookies

It is important to not pat the shavings down into the pan. I placed my jam filling in a pastry a la Ziploc bag so I wouldn’t spread the dough while trying to spread out the jam. This was a very helpful hint from Smitten Kitchen.

Lydia's Austrian Shortbread Cookies

I made ½ the recipe and used a 7 x 7 pan (with Pam Jam) as well as two 4-inch tart pans (with raspberry jam). Next time, I will use all tart pans because the resulting little pie pieces were too cute.

Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcake & Chocolate Ginger Cookies
I also made some of my chocolate favorites:
Chocolate Ginger Cookies and Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes.

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Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Buttermilk, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, melted bittersweet chocolate = Yummy

I made Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes from Dorie Greenspan's book: Baking: From my home to yours (page 215).

The recipe was simple and the result was yummy. Isn't that what baking should be all about?!

Recently, I overfilled the cupcake holders and the result was ugly. This time, I didn't overfill the 12 muffin tins and had some batter left over.

Fresh from the oven!

The glaze was simple! 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate is melted and powdered sugar and butter is added.
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My hump, my hump, my lovely (madeleine) hump!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Honey Madeleines
Picture perfect...on their way into Mr. Trashcan

On my continuing and painful search for the perfect madeleine recipe...yeah, you know.

One of the problems with the other recipes was that although the madeleines were tasty, the nice shell pattern wasn't distinguished and the characteristic hump on the back of the madeleine was no where to be found.

I found yet another recipe in Simple French Desserts (page 37). In the instructions, author Jill O'Connor says the secret is to not overbeat the eggs. In all the other recipes, I've been beating the eggs for 3 minutes until "ribbony." Hum, perhaps this is the secret to the hump! (All recipes say you need to refrigerate the dough and I've been doing that.)

I made two batches of the Honey Madeleines. The first one, I followed the recipe and made brown butter. You melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter (to make 12 madeleines - it is best to NOT do the math on the butter intake)...and then allow it to boil while stirring. The milk solids get brown and nutty smelling. After a quick strain to remove the big bits, you let it cool off before adding to the dough.

Can you see the little brown flecks of the brown butter?

Seriously, I opened the oven, saw the madeleines, channeled Fergie (with her hottie Josh) and danced about My Hump. (Luckily for you - no photos)

Really, look at that hump!!

However, the taste was nothing to sing about. It was strangely spongey, sorta moist in all the wrong places, and too buttery or too sweet - I couldn't figure it out.

By the way, I made a second batch of Honey Madeleines to see if the first result was a fluke. This time, I used regular melted butter and didn't brown it. But, the butter wasn't the problem...these also ended up on an extended visit with Mr. Trashcan. (However, I did get another round of awesome humps).

But, as the song says, Big Girls Don't Cry [about yucky madeleines] and I'll try again. I think I might try the "don't over mix the eggs" method with my other recipes and see how they work out...
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Biscuits and a spot of tea (Guest Blogger Jessica)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Jessica is guest blogging for me. I ate these cookies, still warm from the oven and they were yum! - the food librarian

From Jessica: I never know what to do with myself when I am bored. On those occasions I have been known to rearrange all of the furniture in my room, empty and then reorganize the kitchen pantry, or some other crazy project. Another of my favorite boredom killers is baking, which, as it turns out, is great for guest blogging.

A few Sundays ago I had a lot of time to kill while I waited for the latest installment of Masterpiece’s (it will always be Masterpiece Theater to me) The Complete Jane Austen. As a girl who developed a deep-seeded love of Jane Austen’s stories this newest series of films is too fantastic – even in it’s less than shining moments, like Mansfield Park (don’t get me started.)

It also happened to be the perfect opportunity to use some cooking themed Christmas gifts that were wanting to make their debut. Big ups to B and E, thanks for the cool presents!

Christmas Exhibit A

Since Weight Watchers is reigning supreme in my house right now I wanted to make something of which everyone could partake. I turned to Cooking Light's December 2007 issue for a cookie recipe and I found Chai Shortbread icebox cookies. I’ve always wanted to make icebox cookies because I feel like the convenience of having homemade cookies easily available will cut down on me buying scary preservative-laden cookies from the market; plus, I happened to have cardamom lying around!

Mise En Place...it's a good thing

The cookies were really easy to make – I mixed all of the ingredients, rolled the dough into two logs, wrapped them up, and put them in the freezer to chillax.

Later I pulled out a log and baked it off.

An hour later I had the perfect* evening – homemade, spicy, delicious cookies; tea; and Jane Austen!

*Like so many things in my life, it’s not about perfection, it’s more about lessons learned. In this case I learned how double panning can save a batch of otherwise delicious baked goods from tasting (getting) burnt. So pay close attention fellow novice bakers – if you need to keep something you’re baking from getting too hot too fast, like when forced to bake on the bottom rack of the oven, use 2 pans together to delay the heat reaching your delicious treats.
- Guest Blogger Jessica signing out.

(edited 2/10/08 to upgrade resolution of photos-FL)
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I should have stayed in bed Apple Cake

Dang.

I've recovered from my stomach flu and am ready to bake. I set up all the ingredients last night for the Williams-Sonoma Apple Cake. I made this cake before. I thought it would be an easy, delicious Friday morning cake.

I should have stayed in bed.

I woke up at 4:00 AM. Yes, not only am I trying to teach myself how to bake, I've decided to keep baker's hours too. :)

Shredded apples.

Combined apples with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Beat together eggs, sugar, cake flour, oil, vanilla...yada yada. All that normal stuff. Layered cinnamon sugar mixture. Popped into the oven.

I went back to bed for 50 minutes. Let it cook for 60 minutes. I thought the cake tester came out clean, but it was hard to tell because of the hard shell on top...(hum, probably the start of my problem...)

After it comes out of the over, I let it sit for 20 minutes and then unmold from the tube pan. My plan was to invert to back to onto the rack....but the internal workings just totally collapsed. The center wasn't cooked. Ugh! You drain the apple-cinnamon-sugar mixture before adding it to the dough...perhaps they didn't drain long enough?

Oh well. I'll try again later! Luckily, Jessica gave me her guest blog entry so you can enjoy that instead of crazy disaster photos!

Happy Chinese New Year!!
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Happy Birthday Racheal Cake

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Good intentions don't quite mix with a sick two-year old.

Let me back up. My cutest-can-be nephew had the stomach flu...and I hung out with him on Friday night. Guess what happened to Auntie Food Librarian on Saturday night? Ugh.

But what happened in-between?!?!

Well, I volunteered at KCRW's pledge drive and then came home to finish a white cake with butter frosting for my friend Racheal. It was her birthday recently and I promised her a baked good.

I used the Classic White Layer Cake with Butter Frosting and Raspberry-Almond Frosting (sans the Almond) recipe from Baking Illustrated (page 352). Draft #1 (you know there will be Draft #2, don't you?!) followed the recipe exactly. It had 2 teaspoons of almond extract and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. When it went into the oven, it smelled like almond extract. All Almond. All the time.

It came out with a very nice crumb! I loved it......until I tasted it. The almond extract was so overpowering that it left a weird aftertaste in my mouth. I used a new bottle of McCormick's pure almond extract (not the imitation stuff)...so I don't know what went wrong.

Draft #2: Left out the almond extract and put in two teaspooons of vanilla instead. Yum.

Filled the center with seedless raspberry jam. Next time I'll place a buffer of frosting around the edges so the jam doesn't bleed out.

Decorated the cake with Butter Frosting. I tried to crumb coat it and then put a thin layer on top. I should have made more frosting...but it turned out okay. I don't know how to decorate so I turned to a old-time favorite...the dot.

After I dropped off the cake and a batch of peanut butter brownies at Racheal's house, I returned home and promptly got sick. I called Racheal and asked her to toss everything...I didn't want to get them sick!

However, I find out today that they didn't!!! Luckily, there are okay.

P.S. Sorry the cake photos are a bit yellow. I had to lighten them with photoshop because they were too dark...but they didn't capture how white colored the frosting was...
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Heavily Researched Madeleines

I haven't found the perfect recipe yet so I Googled the heck out of madeleines and found that nifty old Cook's Illustrated did a piece on it in March 1996. Oh, the excitement when you read the teaser description: "...and discover how to keep them from sticking to the pan!" My library didn't have it so I asked another library system to fax me The Secret. Nothing like using Librarian Powers for French cookie goodness!

I made the original madeleine recipe. The crumb was better than others - it uses 1/4 c flour and 1/4 c cake flour and NO leavening agent (all the others had baking powder). 2 yolks and 1 whole egg mixed for 3 minutes, and then 1/4 c sugar and vanilla beat for another 3 minutes seem to give the madeleines a lift. 4 T of melted butter is added at the end - that is much like the other recipes. I didn't get a hump...but that's okay. I think the flavor was a bit bland...I would add some lemon zest next time. I used the Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste to give 'em some little freckles.

Another tip is to turn them onto a clean kitchen towel instead of a cookie rack so they don't get those ugly lines. Great idea!

The main secret is to grease the molds with a mixture of two teaspoons melted butter and one teaspoon all-purpose flour. This sorta worked for me.

I also tried to make the chocolate madeleines but they turned out very tough. I'll stick to the classic recipe for now.
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