Monday, August 27, 2018

Hemp Milk Banana Pudding

Get ready for this all-American dessert!

Banana pudding is one of those dishes that don't seem like they can be elevated. You think of them for potlucks or maybe something your grandmother might toss together for a family dinner. Most think of them as the kind with the vanilla wafers (you know what I'm talking about) with the Jell-O banana pudding mix and some cool whip. And hey! There's nothing wrong with that. But if you're in the mood for something that's homestyle and yet a little more nice, keep going...

A banana pudding as we Americans know it is mostly - for all intents and purposes - a sort of trifle. Trifles are often a star on The Great British Bake-off with a 400-year history. Trifles have to have compatible flavors, as the great Mary Berry says, but to me the flavors of banana pudding are just...banana, vanilla, and sweet cream. My fiance, B, is highly lactose intolerant and eating dairy-free is kind of the only saving grace I sort of give myself for not keeping kosher. 

So, for my Jewish readers, this is pareve! Woohoo! 

American regional cuisine and the study thereof is a sort of passion of mine. I think it's so interesting to see how we, all in the same country, can be so different. We've got a beautiful melting pot of cultures that has evolved because of the many different cultures that came from other places. If you ask me, the American South has one of the most-interesting ethnically  historical stories to tell. New Orleans alone brought ethnic diversity from all over - all because the nobility of a certain time shipped criminals and enemies of the state off to another land. Hilarious! 

Alton Brown has a fun skit to tell you all about it...

(Start the video at 9:01 - my html player is being weird)

Speaking of Alton Brown, we're adapting his recipe today for the custard. But! We're of course using my recipe for spongecake, as spongecake is what this particular banana pudding is using. Here's why I like spongecake in trifles instead of cookies/biscuits:
  • Cookies/biscuits are for dunking
  • Cake is a same-textured lovely thing that's ideal for soaking
  • Cake can be cut into many different shapes, be they cubes or strips
  • I'm going to eat half the sleeve of cookies before I eat half a cake, so I know that I'll have enough for the recipe
See? Plenty of good reasons. Here's how to make a basic - and I do mean basic - spongecake:

Basic Spongecake
yields one half-sheet pan or a perfect square cake in a 12" tin
  • 240 g whole eggs(4 or 5)
  • 120 g sugar (granulated cane OR coconut sugar)
  • 135 g AP flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp flavoring**
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. A spongecake is different from your standard cake in the sense that it needs to not be greased in the tin, as the bubbles need somewhere to climb. I used my square pan, so I lined it with ungreased parchment paper. And, yes, this does mean that you can use this recipe to make cupcakes, but I'd recommend adding in half a teaspoon of baking powder if you do so, just for a little insurance.

**In this recipe I used about half a teaspoon of key lime essence, which came in an oil form.You can use vanilla extract, orange zest, just about anything! This is such a basic sponge that you can even pulverize some nuts in there and fold it in. The sky is the limit.

Whip your eggs and sugar together using the whisk attachment of your standing mixer, and when I say whip it like a cyclone, I mean whip it like a cyclone. This should take about four minutes in your standing mixer, starting on medium and ending on high. The volume should triple, of course, and while that's whipping, go ahead and measure your flour and salt together.

Fold in the flour in little shimmy-shakes, ideally through a sifter/strainer. Fold them in gently, please, as we don't want to disturb the bubbles too much. Add in your flavoring and pour into your prepared pan.

If you've spread this evenly in a sheet pan, you'll only need 10-12 minutes tops for this. I had a square cake tin, so I did 20 minutes, or just until it was set. I'm not going to be rolling this cake, though, for a roulade so I'm okay with having it be a hair drier than the average bear. The cake will bake beautifully, but please be sure to allow it to cool before removing it from the tins for at least 15 minutes while you make your custard. Otherwise, the bubbles could risk popping and you could risk your cake deflating.

Now for the custard!

Warm Vanilla Custard

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour(gluten-free flour is fine, or 3 Tbsp cornstarch if you prefer)
  • 2 cups hemp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract, whatever you have)
Clean out your standing mixer bowl and whisk thoroughly and dry. Separate your eggs so that the yolks go in the bottom of a saucepot and the whites go in the bowl of the standing mixer. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and vanilla paste to the pot as well and whisk until homogeneous. This will take a hair of elbow grease, but I believe in you - you're strong and you can do the thing. 

Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking in until everything is quite smooth. Introduce some medium heat and whisk constantly, being sure to get the corners. You're going to want to cook this custard without boiling it, so make sure that you keep a thermometer around to watch for 180 F/82 C degrees. You'll know when it's thick, of course, to turn down the heat while you check. Once it's ready, remove from the heat and set aside. 

Whip the egg whites and the 1/4 cup sugar together on high to create stiff peaks. What do stiff peaks look like? Well...


They should be glossy and smooth and should not be lumpy or look dry. If you do, however, overwhip your whites, don't panic. Just add one more egg white and stir/whip in. It will salvage the meringue enough to use it. Presto! Keep that oven on at 400 degrees while we assemble this pudding!

Banana Pudding
  • 1 batch Warm Vanilla Custard
  • 1 batch Basic Sponge cake, cut in strips or cubes
  • 5 -6 bananas 
  • A dash of rum, if you like
  • Meringue
Glass bowls are preferred for this endeavor because you can both see the layers and most glass is extremely durable. Your standard pyrex bowls that you get at the grocery store is oven-safe, but please be diligent and check the bottom of the bowl to see. You may also use a metal bowl, but let's be honest, you want to see the layers.

Mmm caaaaaaaaaake

Take your sponge cake from the tin and peel away the parchment. I sliced mine in half lengthwise because I didn't want large cubes, but you can cut them however you want. I cut mine in about 3/4" strips to fit the bowl. I did have some leftover, but that's okay - you can spread jam between the layers and eat it like a sandwich later this evening. 



Drop a wee dollop of custard in the absolute bottom of the bowl just to keep the spongecake in place. Layer on the sponge, then the bananas, then the warm custard. The reason you want to layer this on while it's still warm is so the bananas will cook. By letting them cook, you get away with using less sugar, and you don't have to soak the cakes in rum if you don't want to. If you want the rum, however, sprinkle it on each spongecake layer while you build up. Live your best life.

I mean, don't add booze if you're going to be serving this to kids. Or do. Whatever your laws are.
Keep layering up and up and up until you reach the topmost point of the bowl with custard being your top layer. You want moisture, of course, but if you must have that extra kick of rum, please layer with a thin bit of spongecake and give it a good solid drizzle now.

Oh yeah. Seal in that goodness. Do it. 

Spread the meringue thick atop to cover. It is of the utmost importance that you scrape the side of your spatula to secure/seal the sides of the bowl. You're creating a protecting layer of meringue, here, to keep your custard safe. Give it a few swirlies, though, with your spatula for the aesthetic. While you can broil this with a torch, I think you should keep it classic and just bake it for 5 minutes.

I think this lovely dessert should be served warm, so it's excellent to make ahead and then bake for dinner parties. I just want you to remember something:

Glass, while extremely durable, gets fragile and will explode with drastic temperature changes. So please, oh please, do not take your glass bowl from the fridge and then immediately put it into a screaming hot oven. I know that most Pyrex bowls are safe for this, but the last thing I need is a lawsuit. Let the glass come up to room temperature before you bake it. Or just make this right before your party, cook everything else, and then bake. You'll be fine, especially because it's nondairy.

The reason I love hemp milk in this recipe is because it's very high in fat. It has a whopping 5 grams of fat per serving, and has a wonderful complex taste as well. I think that the depth of hemp milk is perfectly appropriate for this dessert, and I encourage you to try it out as well. Please experiment with all different types of milks and tell me how it went!


I had a craving for banana cream pie for some odd reason. 🍌🍌🍌 Oddly, though, I didn't feel like making pie, so I just baked a sponge cake and sliced it into strips to use instead of your standard vanilla wafers.☺ Banana pudding is very different depending on what region you're in. If you are north of the Mason Dixie line, you're probably used to the refrigerated kind topped with whipped cream. If you're in the South, however, you most likely prefer a warm banana pudding topped with meringue. The biggest difference is between England and France, who initially colonized those places. I prefer the French version a pretty much everything, so of course I did the warm version with the baked meringue. 🀩 (#dairyfree of course) #foodiechats #foodblogger #wannabgourmande #bananapudding #meringue #french #pudding #pastry #spongecake #cheflife #desserts #custard #banana
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Thanks so much for reading! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Easy Potato Latkes

You can practically hear the sizzle, can't you?
I go to the Brookside farmer's market every Saturday during market season and always get produce from my favorite vendors is Urbavore Urban Farms, run by Brooke Salvaggio, who has become a friend. In the early seasons she has plants as well as produce, but she always has something that I want to buy, usually the eggs from the heritage breed chickens. That being said, I'm a big fan of the later season, when potatoes come up.

While only 200 different varieties of the noble potato grows in Northern America(yes, I did say 'only'), over 4,000 different varieties grow in Bolivia. Potatoes, like tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados, coffee, and chocolate, are an American crop. Why? Because they originate in South/Central America!

Image result for hot tea
This tea is BOMB
Yes, yes, you hear about the miracle crop being tied to Ireland all the time, but a little digging in the world of culinary anthropology will tell you that potatoes originate right here in the Americas. Pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, coffee, and chocolate - yes, chocolate, are categorized under all-American treats. In fact, the only reason that Italy has tomatoes, and therefore marinara sauce, is because of its expeditions to the Americas.

I'm sure that there are some among us that would like to believe that America itself was cultivated from all over the world, but the truth is that they had their own culture and unique biodiversity before Europeans came to colonize and spread syphilis and smallpox and introduce slave labor to the indigenous peoples. But I digress, this blog is not about tea.

This is about potatoes, and specifically the brand/breed of potato called purple viking. Yes, potatoes have different breeds. We've established this, please keep up.

It kind of looks like a dinosaur egg, don't you think?
This is a purple viking potato. It can grow to be nice and large, and has a creamy white flesh. I love the color, of course, and am always a big fan of unusual things. Did you know that the best way to  be healthy is to have a diverse diet? This doesn't always mean entirely different things every day - sometimes it's just trying a different variety of a vegetable/root you already love! Do you love orange carrots? Try white ones, roasted. Try purple ones, steamed. Eat the entire rainbow without every changing around.

Generally, potatoes can be set into two categories: starchy and waxy. A starchy potato, such as a classic Idaho/baking potato, will have a thick skin and will go a sort of pinkish brown if peeled and left out. They're high in starch but quite low in moisture, and are rather fluffy when cooked.

The starchy potatoes are considered to be the best for making french fries and - by some schools - mashed potatoes. The trouble, though, is that from starch comes glue if over-agitated, which is why sometimes your mashed potatoes might go gloopy if you stir them too much. The skin on said starchy potatoes, as well, are best for doing twice-baked potatoes and, in general, being vessels for other things. They don't exactly hold their shape well, however, so it's best if you do not use them for gratins, casseroles, or potato salads. For some reason, however, they're considered to be a classic for latkes by many.

The waxy potato is it's thinned-skined brethren, which are very low in starch and generally hold their shape quite well when cooked. When it comes to nearly every application, I'll take a waxy over a starchy any day of the week. I think that they're much more versatile, and I can whip the ever-living bejeezus out of them when making mashed potatoes and they won't go gloopy unless I screw something up. They're suitable in gratins, fries, and - of course - latkes.

See? CREAMY white flesh!
There are many schools of thought when it comes to these classic Ashkenazi potato fritter, and some will swear that a starchy potato is the best. I assume that this is because it's the tradition, but I find that this isn't true.

When you grate the potatoes, you must soak and rinse them to get rid of as much starch as possible, otherwise the latke will go gloopy. Now, why in the world would I start with an already-starchy product that might not hold its shape so well were I to use a not-so-starchy product in its stead? I tell you, dear reader, that I wouldn't, especially because the purple viking potato only needs one good rinse to get rid of the starch versus the four or five that your standard Russett or Idaho might need.

Many say you can grate in lots of other flavors into the potato - and you can! You can grate in half an onion, some garlic, plenty of herbs, and more. This is your latke and you can decide what to do with it. Yes, it was created by the Ashkenazi peoples (or so I'm told) but everybody can agree that these are delicious and that deep-fried potatoes can and should be for everyone. I like to use a 2:1 ratio if I'm adding in white onion to the fritter. Say, I do two large purple viking potatoes and one medium white onion with just a touch of salt and pepper - delicious! But this is the basic recipe, so just do what you like after you've tried this one.

Nowadays, you would mostly eat this around Hanukkah and serve it with apple sauce and/or sour cream. I like them with breakfast, any day of the week. Sue me.

Easy Latkes
yields 6 fritters
  • 1 large Purple Viking potato
  • 1 egg
  • A touch of salt
  • Neutral oil to fry in, such as canola or grapeseed 
Grate the potatoes using the largest side of your box grater and pop them into a mesh strainer. Rinse them quite thoroughly until the water runs clear, and then ring out the water in small handfuls to get them as dry as you can. Pop these in a medium bowl and season generously. Crack in one fresh egg and mix well, breaking up the yolk and white and coating absolutely everything in that bowl. As mentioned previously, you can add fresh herbs to this - I like parsley and dill, personally, but that's me.

Heat a thick yet shallow skillet with about an inch of oil to medium-high heat. Test the heat by dropping in one or two shreds of the egg-potato mixture. If it floats and sizzles, you're good to go. 

Gently lay in heaping spoonfuls of the latke mixture into your oil and press gently down in the middle to create a flat pancake. Swirl it carefully to just make sure that it didn't stick to the bottom, and then add in another. I can fit up to three latkes at a time in my pan, but don't you overload your oil because it lowers the temperature. 


Protip: You want the oil to be rather hot because things only get greasy when the oil is too cold and the oil seeps in. If it's hot enough, the water on the inside of the item you're frying will turn to steam and create a barrier for the oil to not get into, kind of like it when the footballers of the sportsball team do that head-butt thing at the beginning of the plays. 

Flip them gently with a fork or a pair of chopsticks, taking care not to splash yourself wit hot oil, and cook on the other side. The entire process shouldn't take more than two minutes in total, and the finished latkes can hold in a warm oven while you cook the rest. 

Please also make sure that you save the fat in a jar or a metal can and allow to cool before disposing of. Please don't throw it outside as it's bad for your homestead/garden, and please don't dump it down the drain. You can strain it and reuse it once or twice, but you can just pitch it in your can safely in a garbage bag once it's all used up. 



Serve these with breakfast, lunch or dinner! Latkes are truly a diverse food item and I encourage you to try them using all potatoes. (Just maybe not all at once.) Please also be sure to make an effort to get down to the farmer's market! This is, of course, to get better food, but it's also to get to know your growers. I'm going to let you in on a little secret...

The people that are making an effort against big chain grocery stores and taking food back to basics are the people you want to have a conversation with. Ask them questions, have them tell you the story of that crop. Connection with your fellow human is what the world needs right now, and the fellowship over food is truly what can unite us, instead of divide us.

Here in America, we are dealing with political turmoil unlike any in recent memory. If I have any international readers, I want them to know that we all want this to end, and that we are not horrible bigots. We Americans are loving and welcoming and we believe that immigrants make America great. As someone who's worked in the culinary industry her entire professional life, you would be starving were it not for immigrants and migrant workers. They cook your food, they harvest your crops, they do all of the hard jobs that you don't want to do, often with a smile. I welcome the immigrants and I want them to know that I'm an ally. I am an American, and hatred has no home in my backyard.

Happy cooking and happy eating! 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

New-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie


Okay so it's not real buttermilk, but you can use this recipe (if you so choose) to do so, but I used entirely dairy-free options. As always, Blue Diamond's Almond Milk is my dairy of choice in my home for drinking, and I cannot praise the virtues of Earth Balance's vegan butter enough. But why make a buttermilk pie without buttermilk? Because I wanted it, Karen. Geez.

Let me start off by saying that when it comes to cooking and baking, you won't go to prison for trying something new and experimenting for yourself. A buttermilk pie is a wonderful thing, and there's something just so summery about it. It's a American Southern Classic and oughtn't be forgotten. There are tons of pieces of American Southern culture that are just awesome - not the racism and the slavery, of course, but things like fried chicken, cornbread, and buttermilk pie? Oh yes.

I first learned how to make the classic buttermilk pie when I was working at an assisted living facility while I started up my bakery, which allowed me a lot of freedom to make what I liked, so long as the folks living there had enough to eat. Working with the elderly has some drawbacks, but a lot of rewards - some of them were alive during some crazy times, and I even had one lady that told me stories of her travels all throughout Budapest, Prague, Italy. I had many that had come 'up north' from the deep south and grew up during the Jim Crow segregation era. One of the women specifically requested a buttermilk pie, so I made the classic version. It was delicious, of course, but I can't have that in my house with the amount of dairy that's in it. So? What's a gal to do? Make up her own version of course!
"Yaaaaaaaay pie!"

This recipe is adapted from a blog I love called Spicy Southern Kitchen. Try hers for the old-fashioned version!

Oh, and if you want to master pies for yourself on your own accord with a little more instruction, one of my favorite reference books is Pies and Tarts, written by the Culinary Institute of America - or CIA, if you like. You can pick it up here! It's an excellent reference book and has many different recipes inside, both sweet and savory, and has plenty of info on the hows and the whats and the whys. I've adapted their all-butter crust to suit my needs in this particular application. I find that it's just excellent, especially for decorative motifs on pies that you must pull together in a pinch. Honestly, it's the fastest pie dough I've ever made, and I recommend it - especially if you don't have a food processor or an entire afternoon to devote to this project.

New-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie
yields 1 9" pie, serves 8

Whole wheat crust
  • 14 oz locally ground whole wheat flour
  • 10 - 12 small mint leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 oz cold vegan butter substitute, cubed rather small
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • Ice water as needed
Buttermilk Custard
  • 3 large eggs
  • 10.5 oz (1 1/2 cups) fair trade cane sugar (you can also use brown sugar or honey, if you like!)
  • 4 oz (1 stick) vegan butter substitute
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 3 Tbsp flour or 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream substitute (I like tofutti)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
To make the crust simply bring together in either a food processor with pulses, or use your fingers to pinch and push in the fat to the flour. Once the fat is small enough and incorporated enough that it looks to be about the size of a pea, you're ready to add your liquids. Add first the vinegar, then the water, a few drops at a time, until everything just barely comes together. Turn out the dough onto a cold marbled surface. Starting from the edge, use the meat of your thumb and palm to smear a bit of the dough out. Continue to smear and push until everything is homogeneous. This is a technique I like most called 'frasier.' Watch this video below to see for yourself! 



Once that's all together nicely, divide in two and wrap one of them in clingfilm for later use. You're going to place the other half between two sheets of clingfilm and roll it out that way. Simply gather together in a disc, sandwich between the film and roll out gently, turning and rotating as needed, to roll out to at least a quarter-inch thickness. Pop this in your pie pan by simply peeling off the top layer, putting the pie pan over it upside-down, and then carefully flipping everything over! Gently peel away the now-top layer of plastic and ever-so-gently lift up the edges so that the dough can sink into the crevices of the pie dish. Let it sit in there for about five minutes, in the fridge, so that the dough can relax and therefore won't shrink on you. 

Once rested, trim the edges and save the dough to make decorations. I love making leaf shapes using cookie cutters, but you can crimp the edges, scallop or prick with a fork...the sky's the limit! This is your pie, so you can decorate it how you please to do so. 


Prick the bottom of the pan and pop this in the freezer while your oven heats to 350. Move your oven rack to the bottom of the oven, as low as it'll go. Once it's come up to temp, par-bake your pie crust for 10 minutes at the bottom of the oven, sitting on another sheet tray that's been lined with aluminum foil. I suggest blind-baking using aluminum foil or parchment paper filled up with beans, pie beads, rice, lentils...whatever you have lying around. You'll only want to bake this for 10 minutes because it's going to hang out in the oven for another 50 after this. You just want to ensure that you don't have a soggy bottom.

Now, to make the custard! Scrape the insides of the vanilla bean into the butter and melt gently over medium heat. Make sure you either put your scraped vanilla bean in either the sugar container or into a bottle of cheap vodka or bourbon with other scraped vanilla beans to make either vanilla sugar or your own homemade vanilla extract! (Yes, you CAN do that.)

While that's melting, combine the vinegar, sour cream, and almond milk. You can use coconut, hemp, or oat milk as well if you have a nut allergy. Let this sit near the stove to take the chill off of it, and let sit for at least 5 minutes. Your butter should melt within that time. Once it's melted, set it aside while you whisk together your flour/cornstarch with the sugar of your choice. Add in your eggs and whisk quite well. Add in the vanilla butter and whisk to incorporate quite well. Add the nutmeg, 'buttermilk' mixture and whisk quite well, ensuring that every single last bit of everything is incorporated quite well. If I were you, I'd take my time to pop this mixture into a large pitcher (the one on your blender works just fine) before continuing with this next step.

Carefully open your oven door and - using oven mitts - remove the blind baking instruments you've used, if any, be they beans, rice, or baking beads. Set them aside to cool. Pull our the oven rack that holds your pie dish out just enough to safely pour your custard in without burning your hands. Pour your custard mixture in very slowly indeed, and then very gently indeed push the rack back into the oven, trying to not jostle the custard so it won't spill. Shut the oven door, lower the temperature, to 325 and bake for 50 minutes, or until the custard wobbles just barely in the middle. The pie will have quite a dome on it, which is fine, because it'll collapse once it cools. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least two hours in the fridge - one hour on the counter, one in the fridge.


Slice and serve with some sweet tea and sit on the veranda to enjoy maximum flavor. Please let me know if you do try this, of course! It's one of my favorite custard pies, and I think the whole wheat crust adds to it by balancing out some of the sweetness. I've also made this recipe with half parts AP flour and rye flour with great success. Don't be afraid to experiment!

Happy cooking and happy eating! 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Beet-Dyed Deviled Eggs with Mint and Curry



This post has been blowing UP on my Instagram! Apparently, purple deviled eggs are a revelation, and I coined it. Yay, me!

Early in my culinary training, I worked in an upscale French bistro establishment that did beet-pickled quail's eggs for an amuse bouche. I remember it so clearly, and how it looked so beautiful and pink. When I volunteered to make deviled eggs for a summer solstice celebration, I couldn't resist going a little overboard with it and giving it a twist.

I've had a change in employment recently, which has allowed for more money and more flexibility on my end, so my quality of life has definitely had a shift. That being said, I can't help but feel a little gutted at not cooking high-volume every day. I think I've more-recently realized that I'm quite blessed to have a fiance that is an adventurous eater and is so good-tempered that he'll eat just about anything that I put in front of him. I also have some awesome friend that'll try anything once.

Anyway, here's how to make these awesome deviled eggs! I made this for a party of 14 friends, assuming that each friend was going to eat more than one.

Devil-Red Eggs with Mint & Curry
yields 36 individual deviled eggs, so like 12 servings

  • 18 eggs (mine were from the farmer's market so they were ungraded - I'd say medium is fine, though)
  • 1 cup red wine, leftover from last night is fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium red beet, chunked
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c mayo (sour cream works, too)
  • 1 Tbsp spicy mayo
  • 2 Tbsp hot curry powder
  • Plenty of mint sprigs, fresh from the garden
We'd like a red beet for this application, please!
Take your eggs and pop them in a sauce pot with just enough water to cover. Bring them to a boil, turn the water off, and cover it with a lid. Set your timer for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, take your beet and chop off the greens. Combine the water, wine, chopped beet, and the cinnamon and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let cook for about 15 minutes and turn it off. You can add in a pinch of salt at this point, then add the vinegar. Let it hang out on the back burner.

Once that 15 minutes for your eggs is up, drain the water and dump on quite a bit of ice. Ice will make the eggs easier to peel once cooled. Don't you dare throw away those egg shells, though! Chuck them outside for birds in need of calcium, or to give your garden a nice boost. You can also keep them in a jar and use it with a scouring pad to really scrub cast iron pots and be a nice abrasive for burnt-on stuff. There are about a million different uses for egg shells, and we are in a time of 'waste not, want not.' Don't you think?

Cut each of the peeled eggs in half. Put the yolks in a medium bowl and put the whites in a large bowl with high sides. You can also put them in a high-sided sauce pot for this next step, or a large pitcher or jar that will fit in your fridge. Cover the whites with the red wine liquid, adding a little water if you need it to cover them. You're going to now leave them for at least two or three hours, ideally overnight to really allow the color to penetrate.

"That's not a good enough reason to use the word 'penetrate.'" - Name that movie.

Use a fork to smash up the yolks and mix with the mayo, garlic, curry powder, and mustard. Taste for salt. If you feel that you need to add a spoonful or two of mayo to get the consistency you like, go right ahead. Taste it, of course, to make sure it's got enough salt, curry powder, mayo, etc. If you feel it's a bit thick, add a drop of vinegar. If you feel it needs a little more of an aromatic touch, add a pinch of ground coriander. Either way, you're going to scrape all of this into a piping bag (or a large ziploc bag) and set in the fridge. 

Tomorrow morning, put together a platter to present. I used kale and large mint sprigs from the garden, trimming off the smaller leaves to garnish my eggs. You'll want a nice full-looking presentation, especially if you don't have a serving dish with divets on it for deviled eggs. If you do, good on ya. If you don't, no big deal. You just don't want to let these things slip and slide around and fall onto the floor. Arrange the larger mint leaves here and there, and keep the smaller mint leaves aside. 

Cut off the tip of your piping bag or cut a corner in your ziploc bag and pipe in the filling with a firm hand. You ought to have plenty, so be sure to fill it up nice. Garnish each one with a small mint leaf and arrange accordingly. I have apple mint growing in my front garden, but I used the peppermint that grows in the back. 

Please note that peppermint is sometimes seen as a weed. It's not, even though
it grows like one. It will be prolific, and it will spread everywhere, but responds
just fine to pruning and harvesting. It's an extremely versatile plant and I, for
one, love it. I think you should love it, too!
Sidebar on why you should grow peppermint:

Not only is it a perennial herb that spreads EVERYWHERE, you can use it in just about everything...and I do mean everything.

I've used it in foods, ice creams, soaps, and more. I will also hang it by the windows in the spring and summer, as it repels many biting bugs. You can even use their nice scent against a pesky mosquito by crushing up fresh leaves and rubbing it all over your skin. You'll smell minty fresh and be mostly bite-free throughout the day! (It works for me for about 3 hours; results will probably vary.) Either way, I highly recommend growing mint in your garden. Peppermint, which is the kind that I grow in the back, repels fleas, moths, ants, mosquitoes, and most flies. Snip sprigs and hang it by your door in warmer months. Word is you can even toss mint sprigs in with your clothes in the clothes dryer in lieu of buying dryer sheets. Granted, this is only practical if you actually grow your own and have a surplus of it, like yours truly. Please don't buy fresh mint sprigs in neat little plastic containers for $3.49 at the grocery store just to toss it in the dryer. Buy fresh mint sprigs to put on these deviled eggs, if you're not growing your own, and prepare to wow your friends and family with this show-stopper.


Thanks so much for reading. I hope you try this recipe, and hope that you let me know if you do. It's so easy, you're able to make it ahead, and so beautiful to look at. Totally #InstaWorthy. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Rum Bundt Cake


There's nothing quite so fun as a birthday party, and just because you're a grown-up doesn't mean you can't have one. I wholly disagree with the creed that adults aren't allowed to do birthday parties because they're considered childish. What in the world is the point of being alive today if you can't find little reasons to celebrate? I will say, though, that I'm now 30 and I still don't know what you're supposed to do while people sing "Happy Birthday" to you.

This rum cake has come to be my favorite birthday cake. I baked one for my own birthday just last March and it was a fan favorite. I baked two different cakes, of course, and folks seemed to shockingly prefer the rum cake over the avocado oil cake - at least, that's how it seemed, just because I hadn't any left over and I had plenty of the other to spare.

The rum cake I make is an adaptation on a Kentucky Bourbon Cake. This historical confection from the great American recipe book was the prize-winning entry by a certain Nell Lewis at the 1963 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Platte City, Missouri. What's neat about using alcohol to bake is that it is a liquid that won't form gluten, no matter what. You can mix and mix and mix the flour with any kind of rum, vodka, or bourbon and it won't go gloopy. You do need gluten in cake, of course, to trap all of those lovely air bubbles and therefore make your cake rise, so you only use about a quarter cup in this recipe, which was from one of my favorite cookbooks, Vintage Cakes.



When I think of bundt cakes, I think of classic Americana. What better to bake for your Memorial Day celebration? Give this a go. You can find so many funky bundt pans in different designs, especially if you comb thrift stores. There are many bundt pans out there, sitting on shelves, just waiting for you to take them home and use them.

Rum Bundt Cake

Cake
  • 12 oz AP cake flour (or 10.5 oz AP flour and 1.5 oz cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz lard or shortening
  • 13 oz coconut sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 cup coconut milk, almond milk, or hemp milk plus 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Rum Simple Syrup(optional but recommended)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar, brown sugar, or honey
  • 1/3 cup rum
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Icing
  • 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • Rum, as needed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your bundt pan with a bit of oil and a light dusting of flour. Prepare your glaze by boiling together the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Once it's come to a boil and all the sugar has dissolved, add in the rum. You want to add it in now because otherwise all the alcohol would cook off and I don't think we want that. Set it aside. Sift all the dry ingredients for you cake together.

Whip together the shortening and sugar using the whip attachment of your standing mixer until light and quite fluffy. Coconut sugar is an excellent one-for-one substitute for cane sugar. It's a less-refined (but just as dignified) form of sugar that's far more sustainable than many alternatives. It takes quite a bit less processing, as well, and it has a nice note of depth in it, which is appropriate for this cake. Add each egg, one at a time, until each one is fully incorporated. Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape one half of the beans into the egg mixture. Save the other half for your icing, which you'll make later. If you like, you can put the scraped pod in either the sugar container (to make vanilla sugar) or into your still-warm syrup for a kick of extra flavor.

Add in your dry and wet ingredients, going dry-wet-dry-wet-dry. Stir gently, of course, just to let the batter come together. Make sure to really scrape the hell out of the bottom and make the batter homogeneous. Pour into your bundt pan, give a few tap-tap-taps to make sure everything is spread evenly, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Take this time for yourself to read a magazine and drink the rest of the bottle. You're at home, so I'm assuming nobody is there to judge you.

Once your cake is baked - springing back when touched, and all - remove it from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before turning it upside-down on a cooling rack, set inside a baking sheet to catch the glaze. Once your cake is turned upside-down to continue its cooling, you may assemble the glaze. However, if you are using the simple syrup...

Straight out of the oven, with your bundt pan facing cake-side up, poke plenty of holes into your cake with either a wooden skewer or a toothpick. Spoon half of the syrup straight over the cake and allow to soak in, being sure to spread it evenly. Wait your designated 15 minutes and then flip the cake over onto your cooling rack. Once your cake falls out  of the pan on its own, glaze the remaining syrup over the top of the cake. This should help it cool. Now, for the glaze...

Simply scrape the other half of that vanilla bean into the entirety of the glaze ingredients and whisk together until it's a sort of medium consistency - not gloopy but not at all runny. Dampen a paper towel or clean tea towel and cover the bowl so it won't go dry. Your cake should cool and fall easily out of the bundt pan, and should be  no warmer than body temperature (and seriously that's the absolute MOST it should be) when you ice this cake. I wouldn't recommend it, of course, as it should be at least room temperature so the glaze won't fall straight off, but your simple syrup should have helped to cool it at this point. 

Once your cake is cool enough, spoon over globs of the glaze, in whichever fashion you like. I decorated this cake with fresh flowers from my garden. Pansies, dandelions, and roses were in plentiful supply for me on that day, but make sure you check that your own flowers at your own disposal are edible, and not poisonous. 

Vanilla Rum Cake with fresh flowers - no mirror glaze, just a classic glaze. 🌹 This is one of my favorite cakes to make for birthday parties πŸŽ‚, especially grown - up ones. 🍾πŸ₯‚πŸ˜†There's rum in the #cake AND the glaze! You can also make a rum simple syrup and soak it in for an even more boozy treat. I didn't do that because I didn't know if there were going to be any little ones at the party I attended. I'm loving that simpler cakes are starting to have a moment. Simple doesn't mean plain, of course! When I say simple, I mean the kind of cakes that the great American baker made before us. I find culinary anthropology fascinating - this cake is modified from a "Kentucky Bourbon Cake" which won a #baking contest in Platte City in the 1950s! I think it's great that those kinds of things survived long enough for us to try them today. #foodiechats #wannabgourmande #foodblogger #cheflife #instacake #vanilla #midwestlife #KansasCity #classic #flowersofinstagram #cakedecorating
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on


Take this cake to your next grown-up birthday party, or make it for your own. It's quite festive with all of the flowers, but you can decorate it however you like. It looks especially festive with plenty of candles! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pomme Frites


Look me in the eye and tell me that fries aren't amazing. America is the only country I've spent considerable time in, and I know that they're a staple here, but they're definitely a staple in many other parts of the world. From Canadian Poutine to American Chili Cheese Fries, we love us some deep-fried starch. I knew that they originated in France, so imagine my excitement when I learned that making them was going to count as a traditional French dish in culinary school. I thought "I get to actually focus on fries for school? I was so excited that I started dreaming about writing an essay on fries, knowing that I was going to tear it up. Tragically, I didn't write a thesis on fries (my thesis was on American Regional Cuisine) but I still remember learning to make them.

Now, there are several different preparations and all yield different results. Everyone has their own opinions on which potatoes are best, whether to blanch or not, whether to soak or not, whether to freeze or not before frying. I'm going to show you the simple method that I learned in culinary school and you can go from there. Cool?

Here's one thing before we start:

While there are over 4000 different varieties of potato, they can be sorted into two categories: waxy and starchy. A waxy potato will be the yellow or red kind you might find at the grocery store, with skin that's quite thin and that peels easily away after boiling. A starchy potato is, well, rather starchy and stick-to-your ribs, your standard Idaho potato, which is often the chosen kind to use for baking and for pasta applications. Gnocchi, for example, are often made with starchy potatoes. A lot of folks like to use the starchy kind for mashed potatoes as well as gratins. They're sturdy, and that's why I personally think that they're the better kind for fries. That being said, I've seen Gordon Ramsay make a Chip Butty using waxy potatoes, called desiree.

Pomme Frites
yields enough for 2 people, or just 1 if you're feeling a tad hangry


  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes
  • 1 quart frying oil
  • Salt & fresh chopped parsley to taste


Fill up a medium saucepot with cool water. Take two starchy potatoes and peel them, making sure to compost the peels, right along with your coffee grounds and your eggshells. Use a knife to slice thin batons of potato, a little bigger than 1/8" of an inch. You can do 1/4", if you like, just know that cooking is going to take much longer. It doesn't matter what size you choose, so long as your batons are the same size. Place them all in the pot and use your hands to swirl them around. See all of that cloudy white stuff? That's the starch. Drain the water and fill it up again, swirling and rinsing until the water is clear, then bring up to a boil. Since they're so thin, they barely need to cook for more than 1 minute before you take them off the heat and drain them. Lay them flat on paper towels to let dry out a bit while you bring up your oil. Do not have wet fries when you put them into hot oil; you will make it splatter up and you will get hurt. Seriously.

Protip: Use a bigger pot than you think you need. Seriously. I use my 4 qt stock pot when I'm barely going to be using a quart of oil. Oh, and let's talk about oil while we're here!

See, no two oils are alike. There's such a thing as smoke point, which is just a fancy way of saying "hey this is really hot, all the water that was ever in here is now 100% gone and the flavor profile of this is now changing because it's cooking a bit too high. It might catch fire if you keep it going. For real. Because like, I'm oil. And I'm hella flammable."

I use the lard that I render from beef, combined with coconut oil. This is because it's just the fat that I have in the jar in my fridge. Yeah, I have a dripping jar. Yeah, I reuse it and filter it when I can. It's flavor. So whatever you choose, be it shortening or grapeseed oil, be careful and heat it to 350
degrees F. Make sure that you have plenty of room for expansion, otherwise you could start a fire.

Once your oil is hot, gently drop your fries in and fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes for me. I drained it by using a slotted pasta spoon (I couldn't find my spider) and tossed with parsley and salt. You can season it with whatever you want, of course, but I wanted to keep it simple.

You can use steak seasoning, truffle oil, whatever you like!

Serve these fries with a steak, with a burger, in a bowl with cheese and gravy and veggies...the possibilities are endless! Use these fries just as you'd use any fries. They always say that you should eat whatever you like so long as you cook it yourself. So? Wanna eat fries? Make them yourself!



Thanks so much for joining me. Happy cooking and happy eating.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Vegan Palmiers




So here's the thing about a classic pastry like a palmier: it requires what it known as lamination. No, no, not like the plastic stuff that goes over documents. I'm talking layers. Specifically, layers of dough alternating with layers of butter. You can see all sorts of snippets and examples of this on a lovely show called The Great British Bake-off (or The Great British Baking Show for we Americans) does puff pastry week with each season and it's always great to watch everything they come up with. In culinary school, laminated doughs were a lesson in patience for me. It's a very fiddly and finicky thing to keep everything just the right temperature and just the right texture in order to have it successfully bake. The idea is that you have the dough - which is cold - and the butter be the same consistency and thickness when rolling. This is often a dance between time and temperature. I was convinced that I'd never be able to do it with a vegan butter substitute, that it wouldn't ever be the right temperature or consistency to hold up like dairy butter would.

Image result for earth balanceFolks, meet Earth Balance. This is the single best vegan butter substitute I've come across. It acts just like butter in every single cake and pastry application I've yet to throw at it. It makes great ganache, it does a beautiful pie crust, and emulsifies in an extremely similar fashion to the real thing. It's yet to fail at a task I've put it to - and this includes laminating doughs. Trust me, I'm just as shocked as you are. Your move, America. We're out of excuses. If vegan croissants aren't soon a thing in every vegan bakery across this great nation, SO HELP ME. 

Now then, before anyone gets on their high horse about dairy butter being a superior product and how homaigah there are so many other ingredients in this don't you want just butter it's ONE INGREDIENT and start crying and shitting your pants over it, let me explain something:

Dairy milk is considered a whole food because it contains every single vitamin you need to sustain life. Know why? It's breast milk. This is baby cow food, to grow baby cows up big and strong. Of course it's great for you and great for your children - provided they aren't lactose intolerant, which they probably are. The ability to drink dairy milk without consequence is an anomaly. 

Thanks, Reddit, for the image!

Genetically, I'm half East Asian and half Ashkenazi Jewish (and yes, that's why I have such glorious curly hair). Dairy hurts my tummy. My fiance is a pan-European mutt, however, and dairy still hurts his tummy. In fact, it hurts all of his parts because he's severely lactose intolerant. I frankly can't remember the last time I've had dairy products in my home. This makes me feel only slightly less guilty about eating pork and shellfish because meat and dairy have never touched since B. and I moved in together. And let me shout it from the rooftops: I don't keep kosher by even the most-liberal of estimates. It is definitely my fault that the messiah isn't coming. I'm terrribly sorry. I'm the worst. 

Okay, that's enough disclaimers and tragic backstory. Let's get onto the recipe.

Vegan Palmiers
  • 150 g cold vegan butter substitute, pressed into a flat square, then frozen
  • 5 g salt
  • 105 g cold water
  • 205 g AP flour
  • 45 g vegan butter substitute, quite warm, near-melted

Measure your first 150 g of vegan butter substitute and press between two sheets of either parchment paper or plastic wrap to create a square. I didn't measure, but I'm pretty sure my square was about 6 inches on each side, with about half an inch of thickness to go with. Pop that in the freezer and work on your dough.




Simply combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and begin to knead with your hand. You will have to knead this to create a fair bit of gluten so that the steam from the melted "butter" will catch and make everything puff up and rise. The kneading process shouldn't take longer than five minutes; you just want to do it until the dough is rather smooth and homogenized. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for about 15 minutes in the freezer.

Once your dough and butter are cool and quite firm, you're ready to work. Roll your dough out to a square that, when the butter pat is placed on it, it will envelop it wholly. Like this!


I think you can actually see the cuts I made in the butter to make it into a pat. Neat! Anyhow, take this cold mass and fold it over onto itself, like an envelope. Check out my visual representation below...






Easy peasy pumpkin sqeezy! Now comes the fun bit... the lamination bit! This is also called folding. There are letter folds, book folds...lots of them! You can google any tutorial on how to do folding techniques - I  personally like the letter fold. That's when you take the long rectangle of your dough and fold it over in thirds, like you'd fold a letter, and roll out! I snapped a photo of the tutorial out of my old culinary textbook from school for you to see. It really is quite simple!

Now, once you've folded your dough into thirds, brush off the excess flour and roll out longways. Then, fold that now long piece into thirds which would be going the opposite way from the initial fold. Basically, you're always rotating something one turn and folding. But never go more than two turns before letting the dough rest in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. I promise you that it's worth the wait! Once you've rested the dough, roll out the dough again and do another letter fold, and yet another. You've now done the letter fold four times, which means you have now made twelve folds, which means you have twenty-four layers of alternating 'butter' and dough. I think that's fair enough, don't you? I think that you're ready to make your palmiers. 

So, the palmier is a special French sort of sugar cookie. Luckily, you only need about a third of your dough to make a dozen or so of these cookies, which means you can let the other two thirds hand out in the freezer until you're ready to use them again. So, cut a third of your dough and brush off your counter because you're not going to be rolling your puff dough in flour - oh, no, you'll  be rolling it in SUGAR.

That's right, SUGAR!

Take your dough and roll it out to about 1/4" thickness and cut that in half. Roll up your first half of dough into a scroll long ways. This means that you have the short end facing you, and two long book-end type situations happening to make a big scroll. You then roll up your scroll on the long sides to have two scrolls meet in the middle. Do the same thing with your other long piece of dough, but only roll up halfway towards the middle. It's almost as if you're going to be reading it.

Place your first, tightly-wound scroll in the middle of the other and then squeeze gently together to get it to stick. Turn over this entire log of scrolls so that the rolled bits are facing down and that the bottoms are facing up. Using a rather sharp knife (serrated is my knife of choice for this particular application) and quite gently slice off scroll sections of the roll. Spread out your cookies, sprinkle even more sugar on top, and then ROLL THEM FLAT! I do mean flat. Roll them quite, quite thin so that they're basically tuiles of sugar. 

Pop onto a silpat mat or a parchment sheet and freeze until your oven reaches 375 degrees F. The trick of puff pastry is this:

*YOUR DOUGH MUST BE COLD. YOUR OVEN MUST BE HOT. YOUR DOUGH MUST BE RATHER COLD GOING INTO A RATHER HOT OVEN.

Write it down. Put it on your fridge. Tattoo it backwards on your forehead so that when you look in the mirror, you can read it legibly. 

Bake for about 12 minutes or until they're golden-brown. Let them cool. You don't want to get burned with hot sugar. Besides, this way they'll become crisp the way they're supposed to! Spectacular!




Happy cooking and happy eating - and if your mom is in town and you don't have a strained relationship with her, you should take some time and make them for her. You can get this ready for mother's day dinner if you start right now.