Friday, December 30, 2011

Sticky Buns

An early Happy New Year to all.  I like to make a special breakfast on Christmas, since I know I don't have to go to work.  These breakfast rolls can also be that special New Year's treat to get up to in the morning.

This is an adaptation from my first year pastry class.  The professional recipe makes several dozen.  This one is closer to my chocolate rolls, and gets to use the now-infamous 8" square pan.  I use that thing at least once a week.

A note about cleaning said pan.  The parchment lining keeps it mostly clean, but there's bound to be some topping dripped onto the pan surface.  You're basically making caramel, which will harden on the pan as soon as you take out the rolls to let them cool.  Don't panic.  Fill the pan with boiling water and let the sugar dissolve.  You may have to do it more than once, but don't bother scrubbing.  Elbow grease will not get off the caramel, but the Universal Solvent will.

Like the chocolate rolls, you can do the first half the evening before and place the shaped rolls in the fridge until morning.

2/3 C milk
2 Tb butter
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp yeast
2-3 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 C butter
1/2 C brown sugar
1 Tb honey
1 Tb corn syrup
*1/2 C chopped walnuts or pecans

1.  Warm milk, butter, and sugar to 100º.  Butter does not need to melt.  Stir in yeast and let rest until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2.  In stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine salt and 1 C flour.  Beat in milk mixture to make a thin batter.  Beat in egg and 1 C flour to make a thick batter, about 2 minutes.  Beat in 1/2 C flour to make a soft dough, another 2 minutes.  Pour out onto floured board and knead until smooth, about 5-10 minutes.  Place in lightly oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hr.

3.  Punch down dough and let rest.  In mixer, cream together second butter, brown sugar, honey, and corn syrup to make a paste.  Line an 8" square pan VERY WELL with parchment paper.  Smear paste on bottom of pan, then sprinkle with chopped nuts.

4.  With a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 9" x 18" rectangle.  Dust surface with cinnamon, leaving one inch on one long side clean.  Roll up dough starting on the other long side, and ending by sealing the clean side.  Cut nine 2" lengths.

5.  Place pieces cut-side up in pan with space for them to rise and expand.  Either cover and refrigerate until morning or put in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hr.

6.  Bake at 400º for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan until no longer bubbling, then invert onto serving plate and remove parchment paper.  Start soaking the pan now.

Makes 9 rolls

Difficulty rating :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cha Siu Bao

My first foray into steamed Chinese food.  As adorable as bamboo steamers are, you don't need to go to extra expense for this.  Get out that big soup pot and fill it with an inch or so of water.  I used a wire pot stand, but you could poke a lot of holes in a sturdy pie tin with a Phillips screwdriver to make a steaming platform.  Use your inner MacGyver to improvise until you know that steaming is something you want to do often.

I cheated on the sauce.  There was actual cha siu (Chinese barbecue) sauce at 99 Ranch.  To do it yourself, see the original recipe I used as my source.  I can't think of why I would need 12 ounces of oyster sauce, so I went for the easy way out.  You'll also notice in that recipe that the dough recipe has somewhat different amounts.  I made one batch following the 24 serving amounts and split it between the red bean buns and these bao, so I estimated the quantities here to match the amount of filling.

I didn't grill my pork, I did it in the oven.  Maybe it was a fluke, but it came out really well.  I'm definitely going to make it that way again.

1/2 lb pork shoulder roast
1/2 C cha siu sauce, divided
4 C flour
3 Tb sugar
1-1/3 C water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tb shortening

1.  Cut pork into 2-inch thick slices and coat with half of the sauce.  Marinate for several hours.

2.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Roast pork for 20 mintues, until thermometer reaches 155º.  Remove and allow to cool slightly.  Chop into 1/2" cubes and toss with remaining sauce.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

3.  Add sugar and yeast to warm water and let sit until foamy, about 10 mintues.  Combine 2 C flour, baking powder, and shortening in a large bowl.  Add water mixture and beat into a batter.  Add another cup of flour and beat into a dough.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth, adding flour as necessary, about 10 minutes.  Set in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until tripled, about 2 hours.

4.  Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes.  With a food scale, measure out 2 oz portions.  Round pieces into balls and let rest 5 minutes.

5.  Press each ball into a 4-inch circle.  Place 2 Tb pork filling on each and pinch up sides to make a dumpling with a puckered top.  Place on a small square of parchment or waxed paper and let rise 10 minutes.

6.  Boil 1 inch of water in a large pot and set up a steaming rack.  Place bao in steamer at least 2 inches apart.  I got 5 in at a time.  Put lid on pot and steam for 12 minutes per batch.  Don't worry about the ones left waiting their turn.  A little more rising time won't hurt them.  Serve immediately.

Makes about 12

Difficulty rating :-0

Monday, December 26, 2011

Red Bean Buns

I have been wanting to go to dim sum for a few weeks.  No one else is quite as interested, and I don't want to go alone.  Part of dim sum is trading around the dishes.  Besides, that's way too much food.

I picked up some dried azuki red beans at 99 Ranch, before learning that you can buy the paste pre-made.  It isn't difficult to make the paste, especially if you're used to making beans from dried.  I've also seen azuki at Marina Farms and Sprouts.  Look in the Asian aisle of better grocery stores.

I was also surprised that the dough for these buns and bao are just plain white bread.  I always assumed there was some special ingredient like rice flour.  The white fluffiness of steamed buns is just because there isn't a crust.  I decided to bake these instead of steaming them, to make them different than the bao.  It was a good choice.  Despite being just mashed beans in bread, they taste like a pastry.

A Chinese friend warned me that dim sum is time-consuming, but I found that these and the bao required less effort than hamantaschen.

1 C red bean paste (see below)
2 C flour
2 Tb sugar
2/3 C warm water
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp shortening
oil for bowl
1 Tb honey
sesame seeds

1.  The day before, start the bean paste:
  • 1/ 2 C azuki beans
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 Tb oil
  Soak beans in 2 C water for at least 8 hours.  Drain, add fresh water, and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 2 hours, until soft.  Drain.  Purée in food processor or blender.  Stir in sugar.  Heat oil in a frying pan.  Cook bean purée in oil until most of the moisture is gone.  It should look like dark pink refried beans.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

2.  For the dough, add sugar and yeast to warm water and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Beat in 1 C flour, shortening, and baking powder to make a batter.  Add 1/2 C flour to make a soft dough.  Knead on a floured board until smooth, about 10 minutes.  Lightly oil a bowl and place dough in it.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until tripled, about 2 hours.

3.  Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes.  Get out the food scale and cut 1 oz pieces off the dough. Round them into balls and let them rest 5 minutes.

4.  Flatten each dough ball into a disc about 4 inches across.  Place 1 Tb of bean paste in center and enclose to make a ball.  Place buns on a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment or a silpat, seam-side down.  Let rise for 30 minutes.

5.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Add 1 tsp warm water to honey and brush tops of buns.  Sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top of each bun for garnish.  Bake for 25 minutes, until browned.  Cool on racks and serve at room temperature.

makes about 12

Difficulty rating  :-0

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oreo Truffles

My hostess at Thanksgiving made these.  She didn't have to give me a proper recipe, just the basic how-to.  Really, that's all you need.  However, I did double-check on the Kraft recipe site for quantities.  If you dare, scroll down to the bottom of their recipe page.  Don't some of those recipes sound good?

1 8-oz brick of cream cheese, softened
1 package of Oreos
*1 lb semisweet baking chocolate

1.  Make Oreo crumbs by processing in the blender or food processor.  This is easier if you freeze them for about an hour first.  The White Stuff hardens and doesn't get as pasty.

2.  Whip the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.  Combine with 3 cups of the crumbs.  It will make a grey, grainy paste.  Chill for about half an hour.

3.  Melt the chocolate.  I recommend the microwave at half power, stirring every 60 seconds, until smooth.  Line two baking sheets with wax paper.

4.  Make 1" balls of cream cheese (the larger end of a melon-baller) and dip them in the chocolate.  I made a dozen at a time, dropping them in the bowl as they were shaped, then warmed the chocolate between batches.  I recommend using two forks and rolling the balls between them until coated, so the excess can drip out.  Place truffles on baking sheets and dust with remaining Oreo crumbs before the chocolate sets.  (I skipped that step, but they probably look better if you do it.)  Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

5.  If not serving immediately, keep refrigerated.  Because of the cream cheese, they cannot be left out indefinitely.  4 hours maximum at room temperature, and do not freeze.

Makes about 4 dozen

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seven-Layer Bars

This is my year of the cookie.  After realizing how few varieties I made last year, I have promised myself to make at least one batch of cookies or finger desserts a week for the rest of the year.  It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.  The project is progressing rather well, and my co-workers look for my little green cookie tin every time I have a shift.

My godmother introduced me to these.  While not technically cookies because there's no dough, they are about the right chewiness.  (Wow, spell-checker actually recognizes that as a word.  Quinoa - nope.)

Yes, there are a lot of ingredients in this one, but it's all in small amounts.  Odds are, it will use the last bits of the bag that you bought for something else.  And yes, apparently the butter counts as a layer.

To serve these, you need to put them in paper muffin liners.  Otherwise, they'll fall apart.  This makes them excellent for packing in tins to give as gifts or laying out on a platter at a party.  And because they are made from pre-cooked ingredients, they stay moist and fresh at room temperature for at least a week.  Yeah, right, a week.

6 Tb butter
1-1/4 C graham cracker crumbs
*1 C chocolate chips
*1 C butterscotch chips
1 C shredded coconut
*1 C chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

1.  Melt butter and combine with graham crumbs.  (Make crumbs by pulverizing graham crackers in a ziplock with a rolling pin.)  The crumbs don't have to be entirely moistened.  Spread across the bottom of an 8" square pan.

2.  Start making the layers by evenly distributing the chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, and nuts.  Pour the condensed milk evenly over all and let it soak in while the oven is preheating to 325º, at least 15 minutes.

3.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Let sit in pan for 10 minutes, then cut into 2" squares.  Allow to cool thoroughly before removing squares from pan.  Store in a sealed container.

Makes 16 2" squares

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peppermint Mocha

Sure, you could get dressed, spend $4, and make a half-hour run to Starbucks.  Or, you can make this every morning for pennies while you're deciding what to wear.  It's also an excellent after-dinner party drink, easily jazzed up with kahlua, creme de menthe, or chocolate liqueur.  To make it easier for the latter, I'll give the four-serving version.

And for those who have noticed, yes, I am working the peppermint extract overtime this month.  I like mint.

2 C French roast coffee, brewed double-strong, or 4 shots espresso
2 C milk
1/2 C chocolate syrup
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
whipped cream and crushed candy canes for garnish

1.  Once coffee has brewed, add milk directly to coffee pot.  Let sit five minutes for the burner to warm the milk.  Carefully stir in chocolate syrup and peppermint.  If necessary, leave on the burner a few more minutes.

2.  Pour into coffee cups and top with whipped cream and candy cane pieces.  Serve immediately.

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, December 18, 2011


My favorite part of a visit to Solvang is watching them make fudge on the marble table at the fudge shop.  It looks like really hard work, turning 20 pounds of fudge with a paddle and working in the air to a creamy texture.  I'm not sure if I buy a pound because it looks so good, I know it's fresh, or I want to make the cooks feel valued.

You don't have to go to that much effort to make fudge at home.  You can, but you don't have to.  The simplest, creamiest, most fool-proof recipe for fudge I know is on the back of a jar of Kraft marshmallow creme.  One note: I used chocolate chips instead of chopping 12 ounces of baking chocolate.  They didn't melt entirely.  After five minutes, I decided to give up and call it a fold-in, and the small chocolate nubs that were left were a really nice addition.  Alternatively, you could melt them in the microwave on half-power before stirring them into the fudge.

That will get you as far as basic chocolate fudge.  While yummy, there's all sorts of things you can do to it.
  • Nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds.  Just make sure they are chewable size
  • Mini-marshmallows: don't stir in until the fudge is almost cooled, or they will melt
  • Extracts: 1/8 tsp of peppermint extract, and the whole batch will be minty.  Add crushed candy canes on top to give a visual cue (that's what I made this time, but using my peppermint-flavored candy cane sprinkles)
  • Candy: mini M&Ms, a contrasting chip, or crushed hard candies add flair and flavor
  • Peanut butter or pre-melted white chocolate, swirled in at the last minute

3 C sugar
3/4 C (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 5oz can evaporated milk
*12 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
1 7oz jar marshmallow creme
1 tsp vanilla
fold-ins of choice

1.  Line 9" square pan with foil.

2.  Bring sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 4 minutes, or to 234ºF on a candy thermometer, stirring constantly to avoid boiling over and scorching.

3.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and marshmallow creme.  Stir until combined and chocolate is melted.  Add vanilla and fold-ins.

4.  Pour fudge into lined pan and allow to cool to room temperature.  If it's a warm day, chill in fridge ten minutes before cutting.

5.  To cut:  Remove fudge from pan by lifting entire foil lining and place on work surface.  Peel down the edges to lay flat.  With a warm knife, cut 1-1/2" squares.  Place in paper liners before serving, especially to kids.

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, December 16, 2011

Grenadine and Candied Pomegranate

This was going to be Pomegranate Jam, but it didn't quite work.  I quickly realized that the syrup part was grenadine, which I will add to absolutely any ordinary soda or lemonade.  I still order Shirley Temples when I'm the designated driver.

You can liven up the syrup with a shot of vodka, which also serves as a preservative.

1 pomegranate
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp lemon juice or 1 oz vodka

1.  Cut open pomegranate and remove the seeds.  I could go into detail about this, or you can watch this highly entertaining video:

2.  Stir together arils and sugar in a saucepan, breaking as many of the seeds as possible to release the juice.

3.  Heat over medium to boiling, stirring and breaking open more seeds with back of spoon.  Allow to boil for 5 minutes, stirring to avoid it boiling over.

4.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice or vodka.  Strain syrup into a jar, pressing the seeds to get as much of the syrup as you can.  Place seeds in a separate container and use on salads, ice cream, or anything else that you would use dried or candied fruit on.

5.  Refrigerate both jars once cool enough to handle.  Syrup lasts one month, seeds one week.

Makes about 3/4 C syrup and 1/2 C seeds, depending on size of fruit.

Difficulty level  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


One thing about the holidays is that you always end up with a lot of leftovers.  They can be great for lunches and snacks in the following days, but you have to be careful about what you re-serve.

First, make sure the food is safe before deciding it is leftover-worthy.  If you left out a bowl of dip most of the night, toss it.  An all-vegetable dip may still be safe, but not anything with dairy, meat, or fish in it.  Many people leave out dinner platters when they serve dessert.  Try to find room for them in the fridge while you're changing plates and putting whipped cream on the pie.  It's ok if the guests spend an extra ten minutes chatting before dessert.

How long can you keep food in the fridge?  My general rule is that cooked dishes are good for five days.  Uncooked veggies (like salad) get two.  And cream pies need to be eaten within a day or two.  They start to separate and get icky.  If you know you won't finish a cooked dish, like stuffing or a roast, in under a week, freezing is a good solution.  First, get the product down to refrigerator temperature to minimize freezer burn.  Get as much air out of the freezer bag as possible, using a vacuum sealer if you have one.  Label it with the date it was made and put it in the deep freeze.  You can enjoy your holiday meal again in January.  Fruit pies and most kinds of cakes are freeze-able.

Basically, don't re-serve anything that was sitting out longer than four hours unless it's bread, nuts, or uncut fruit.  Everything else requires refrigeration for future meals.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Butterscotch Poppy Seed Cake

One of my co-workers made this for our Thanksgiving pot luck.  When she said she was bringing a poppy seed cake, I assumed it was lemon, nodded, and hoped someone else would bring a dessert.  But I love butterscotch, and this was great.

This counts as semi-homemade, but no one is going to care.  If you don't have the time to make every single treat from scratch, use this one as the last-minute hostess gift.

It doesn't have an icing in the recipe, and doesn't really need it.  However, if you are the sort of person who can't take a Bundt cake somewhere without icing, I'll put one here.

1 box white or yellow cake mix
1 box butterscotch pudding mix
3/4 C vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 C water
1/4 C poppy seeds

1.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Beat for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

2.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease a Bundt pan.  Pour batter into pan and bake for 45-50 minutes.  Cool for ten minutes in pan, then turn out onto serving plate.

3.  Ice when cool:  Beat together 1/2 C powdered sugar, 1 egg white, and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

Difficulty level  π

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies

I didn't make these last year?  I must have been distracted by all the batches of Dirty Snowballs I ended up making in a vain effort to win the cookie contest.

These are probably the quintessential Christmas cookie.  They make the whole house smell like the holidays.  And the dough is versatile enough to make crispy ginger snaps, supple gingerbread men, or solid pieces for house construction.  The creamy icing is not necessary, but often helps to cut the tang for those who prefer a more mild cookie.

2-1/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C shortening
1/2 C molasses
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

icing and decorations

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Beat at medium speed until well mixed.  Wrap in waxed paper and chill for 1 hour.

2.  On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll dough 1/8" thick.  These are the thickness which dries best for ornaments.  (1/16" for crisps, 1/4" for softer cookies, and 1/2" for construction pieces)  Preheat oven to 350º.

3.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  If making ornaments, poke the string hole before baking.  Reroll trimmings to cut out again, but keep in mind that they will get tougher the more times you roll them out.  What I usually do is roll out a handful of dough, then add another handful to the scraps, etc, until it has all been used.  That will minimize the toughness.  Place cookies 1/2" apart on cookie sheets.

4.  Bake for about 8 minutes, until edges turn brown.  (You'll have to adjust the time for various thicknesses, and ornaments can be slightly overbaked, since they're going to go stale on purpose.)  Remove to cooling racks and cool completely before decorating.


1-1/4 C (or more) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 egg white

1.  Combine ingredients with a whisk.  Let sit in the fridge for 5 minutes for the powdered sugar to absorb the liquid, then beat again.  If you want thicker icing, add more powdered sugar.

2.  Icing can be spread over cookies, piped into designs, or dipped.  It can be colored with food coloring.  You can also top the icing with sprinkles that will stay on once the icing is set.

3.  It can take as long as 8 hours for the icing to set, even if it is applied thinly.  It's best to decorate the night before and to place waxed paper between layers of cookies.

Yield depends on size of cookie cutters and extent of decoration

Difficulty level  :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rabbit Tagine

I finally had the chance to go up to the 99 Ranch in Van Nuys.  Compared to my old one in Anaheim, it isn't as new and fancy.  The bakery is smaller and there isn't a food court.  But the deli is awesome.  They had whole fried ducks the day I was there, looking like they had just come from a swim through lava.  Heads and all.  If you wanted one of the very healthy crabs, you practically had to chase it across the store. Those suckers move fast.

Since I had to put the groceries in a cooler in the back seat, live crab was not on my list.  But I checked out the deep freezers, where you can find unusual meats and fish.  I finally found the seafood medley that I had wanted to use for the risotto.  They also had a pound of pre-steamed baby clams for $1.99.  And they had whole rabbit, frozen solid.

Um, I didn't notice the "whole" part until the onions were sautéed.  It isn't hard to cut one into pieces.  It's like quartering a chicken.  You just don't want to do it at the last second.  At least there weren't any giblets.

Rabbits don't have a lot of meat on them.  It's like a Cornish hen, where you think you're getting more than you really are.  Plan a healthy serving of sides, like veggie couscous and some harira.

I'm going to lie a touch in this recipe.  I planned to use chicken broth, then forgot to buy some.  Subbed in 2 cups of Chardonnay.  All that Two-buck Chuck isn't going to drink itself.

2 lb rabbit, cut up
1 Tb olive oil
1/2 C chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C (about 8) dried dates
2 C water
2 C chicken broth
2 tsp cumin
2 Tb lemon juice
1 tsp kosher salt
pinch saffron

1.  In a deep frying pan with a lid, sautée onion and garlic in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add rabbit pieces and sear for one minute.  Turn over and sear other side for a minute.

2.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and let the tagine cook slowly for 1-1/2 hours.  Turn meat over about halfway through cooking.  When done, the meat will practically fall off the bones.  Serve over rice or couscous.

Serves 3

Difficulty level  π

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Peppermint Meringues

Here's something easy to do with the leftover egg whites from the Chocolate Cream Pie, courtesy of December's Bon Appetit.

I can't stress enough the part about storing them in an airtight container.  Meringues will pick up all moisture from the air and get soft and sticky.  They are supposed to be crunchy.

*3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/3 C sugar
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
12 drops red food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 200º.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.  With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium-high until white and foamy.

2.  With mixer running, gradually add sugar in 3 additions, beating for 2 minutes between each addition. Beat until firm peaks form, about 2 more minutes.  Add powdered sugar and peppermint extract, beat to blend, about 1 minute.  You want the meringue shiny, but not dry.

3. Dot surface with food coloring.  Do not stir; it will swirl in the pastry bag.  Spoon meringue into a disposable pastry bag or ziplock with a 1/2" round tip, using a metal spoon.  (Between the peppermint and the food coloring, this will be the least damaging to your pastry equipment.)  Pipe into 1" rounds on baking sheets.

4.  Bake meringues until dry, about 2-1/2 hours.  Turn off oven, open door a crack, and allow to cool slowly for 1 hour.  Store at room temperature, placing waxed paper between layers, in an AIRTIGHT container.

Makes about 60

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pie

Because I wanted one.

This recipe is a lot like thickened ice cream.  Most cream pies are really pudding in a crust, but this one is more so.

I had a terrible time finding an Oreo crust.  I could have bought chocolate grahams or Oreos and made it myself, but the store-bought graham crust was on sale.

This recipe is courtesy of the Bible.

1 9" prebaked pie crust or crumb crust
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 C milk
2 squares unsweetened dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 egg yolks
3 Tb butter
1 tsp vanilla
whipped cream for garnish

1.  In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, flour and salt.  Add milk and stir until absorbed and there are no lumps.

2.  Stir in chocolate and warm over low heat.  Stir constantly to avoid scorching until chocolate is melted.

3.  Raise heat to medium and continue to stir.  Cook until mixture boils, about 10 minutes, and becomes thick.  Remove from heat.

4.  In a separate container, beat egg yolks until smooth.  Add about 1 C of hot pudding mixture and beat together to temper the eggs so they don't curdle.

5.  Pour egg mixture back into saucepan and stir rapidly to spread it through the pudding.  Return to a low heat, but do not boil or the eggs will curdle.  Cook until mixture becomes very thick and mounds when dropped from the spoon.

6.  Remove pudding from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.  Pour into pie crust and cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.  Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

Serves 8

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hand Washing

I consider this the number one most important part of food safety.  You can start with the best ingredients and follow every other rule of safe cooking, but if you contaminate the food with dirty hands, it is unsafe.

What is proper hand-washing?  It involves using soap and the hottest water you can stand.  It takes about 20 seconds of lathering, getting the palms and back of your hands, wrists, between the fingers, and under the nails.  Sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself three times.  And don't turn off the water with your now-clean hands.  Remember, a dirty hand turned it on.  Use a paper towel.

It also involves washing every time you have a contaminating event:
  • Before beginning to cook
  • After using the restroom
  • After blowing your nose or covering a cough or sneeze
  • After eating, drinking, or smoking (saliva contamination)
  • When transferring from raw to cooked food
  • When transferring from high-risk food like meat to low-risk like vegetables that will not be cooked
  • After touching your hair, face, body, or clothing
  • Both before and after doing dishes
  • After doing any sort of cleaning project like sweeping, taking out trash, or picking up something off the floor
  • After touching anything that may be unsanitary, like a damp sponge or used dish towel
  • Every 20 minutes, even if there have been no contaminating events
And now for my opinion on foodservice gloves.  I, and many professional chefs, don't like them.  They actually discourage hand sanitation.  When you can't feel debris on your hands, you don't realize they need washing.  Cooks also use them instead of washing, and often do not wash when they change the gloves. But the public thinks they look more hygienic, so it has become standard practice in many establishments to use them.  It is not California state law.  Proper hand washing is.