Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lingonberry Hamentaschen

Pretty in pink!
I love lingonberries. I'm obsessed with them, especially for spring. I love lingonberry poptarts (homemade, of course, using my favorite pie crust), lingonberry lemonade, and just plain lingonberry jam on toast. I go through phases of obsession. Currently, I'm obsessed with a little show called Allt fΓΆr Sverige. It's where they take the children and grandchildren of Swedish immigrants and bring them back to Sweden, and put them on a journey of discovery. It's a wonderful competition reality show that shows Swedish culture, the story of how we came to be, the history of a country, and the winner at the end gets to be reunited with their Swedish family in a big party! You can find most all of the episodes on Youtube. Check it out here!

Since we're talking about Youtube, I'm going to go ahead and link you up to Mayim Bialik, to give you a quick rundown on an amazing spring holiday, Purim! I'm obviously not 100% full-blooded Jewish, but I still love enjoying the culture and part of that is celebrating the holidays and eating the foods...and even better, I love sharing the culture with friends! In fact, I'm throwing a Purim party this evening! We're going to have masks, eat hamentaschen, and more.

Purim is upon us on the 21st, which is this Wednesday, so I've decided to show you how to make my absolute favorite Jewish ritual treat (yes, I love it even more than freaking latkes) the Hamentaschen. These are triangle-shaped cookies that are filled with just about anything your heart desires, although jam seems to be the favorite for most. You can fill them with pistachio paste, chocolate chips, citrus curds, ganaches...whatever floats your boat! For this, though I've chosen lingonberry.

Lingonberries are a magical kind of berry that miraculously thrive in cold areas. They do incredibly well in moist, acidic soils from ranges that are from Massachussetts to Alaska. I live in the Midwest, so it get's way too hot for lingonberries. If you live in a more northern state, please consider growing them! They have an incredibly pleasant taste, and although resemble a cranberry are only the size of a garden pea. When cooked into a jam, they give off a beautiful red-pink color, and are even prettier when swirled into a sour cream sauce.

yields about 2 dozen cookies
  • 3 medium eggs, room temperature
  • 200 g sugar
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 2 oz vegan butter, room temperature (Earth balance is my fave, but any non-dairy butter/margarine will do)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 375 g AP flour plus more for dusting
  • A smear of pink gel food coloring
  • Lingonberry jam, as needed
Whisk together, by hand, the butter and oil along with the vanilla paste and sugar until the sugar appears to have dissolved, or at least lightened in color. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking wholly until completely incorporated. Add in your salt, baking powder, and smear of pink gel paste. I like Wilton's "rose", but you can use whichever you like. If you want to go an all-natural coloring way, you may use beetroot powder, which will give a beautiful red. For this crazy holiday, though, I like to go for more electric colors.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in your flour. Turn out onto a cold, floured, marble surface and knead gently, until everything comes together smoothly. Divide in two discs, wrap each in plastic, and chill in the freezer for at least 1 hour. 

Flour your surface again and roll out thin. I like to go to 1/8 inch, because these cookies can get tough if too thick. Be generous with flour on the rolling pin, too, as this dough is rather loose so it likes to stick. The oil is nice and makes it a kosher fat, and it also makes it more pliable so you can mold it. This is ultimately the reason I don't tend to use all oil or all butter; butter makes the dough too short and not-so-easily pliable, and oil makes the dough too runny so I have trouble shaping it and end up using way too much flour. 

Cut out circles with a ring cutter. I like 3" rings! To fill, hold the cut disc in your left hand draped gently over your fingers (or right, if you're a leftie) and fill with a generous teaspoon of your lingonberry jam. If it's not too cold, it should fall off the spoon with ease. Gently separate your index and middle fingers just enough to allow the dough to fall in and help you create a crease. Pinch this closed and use the thumb of your opposite hand to push the bottom up. Gently place these on a silpat-lined sheet pan and pinch the three corners together to create the shape. If you're having trouble, find this awesome tutorial on Tori!

 Pop these in the freezer while you're waiting for your oven to heat up to 400 degrees. The reason you don't want to have your oven preheating while you're rolling these out is because - in my experience - they do better when they start from cold, and it's hard to keep a cookie dough cold when  you're heating up your kitchen with a hot oven. Besides, this recipe makes at least 2 dozen cookies so you're going to want to make them all at once, freeze them all at once, and bake only as needed. I've found that you can store the raw cookies, frozen, for up to two weeks if kept in an airtight container. To accomplish this, simply freeze on a tray until hard, put them in an airtight container, lined with parchment, and store until needed. 

Pop your cookies in the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges just barely begin to brown. You want a super hot oven to start with , but want your more standard baking heat so the corners don't burn. The reason  you want it to be hot is because you don't want your fat to melt and therefore your cookies will lose the shape. These are tricky because they can get really tough if overcooked. 

Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Please keep in mind that this dough is incredibly versatile. You can add in shaved chocolate and fill with nutella to make chocolate hazelnut hamentaschen. Heck, make a tiramisu hamentaschen where you use coffee extract instead of vanilla, fill it with a cheesecake filling and dust them with cocoa powder. The sky is the limit! You can even do what I did for the second offering at my part, and divide the dough in half, add lime zest, dye them green, and fill it with lime curd to make a zesty zingy lime hamentaschen.

Of course you can enjoy hamentaschen year-round, but because they take multiple steps, I recommend doing a lot all at once, with the help of family. Little ones, especially, love the idea of folding cookies. I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit about Purim! As always, if you've tried my recipes, please tell me all about it in the comments below. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Lemon Layer Drip Cake

Happy birthday to me! I'm 31 this year, and my favorite German Shepherd, Howl, turned 8 along with me! His birthday is the day after mine, and we're both Pisces Scorpio rising. He's my special dude and we always like to celebrate our birthdays together. (I actually have no idea what he likes other than belly rubs and treats, but he seems to be happy when I'm happy, so hey.)

My favorite birthday cake is lemon cake. I've posted about lemon cakes before, here, but I felt like a loaf cake this year. One thing I dislike deeply, though, is cutting a cake more than I need to. What's the solution? Sheet cake! That's right...all you have to do is make a sheet cake and cut it in strips to create a loaf shape. Bam!

So I do love cake but one thing that I don't love about cake is how heavy it can get, especially with something like a chocolate ganache or an especially thick or stodgy buttercream. Mostly, it's a rarity that I like buttercream, since many that I've had are just too sweet or too thick and gloppy for me. The solution, of course, is lemon cake. Lemon is nice, bright, acidic, and when made into a delicious curd, it's the best. Fat + Acid = good times in this chef's book. When you are cooking something or baking something and you think to yourself:

"Hmm, it's good, but something's missing..." 

The answer is almost always going to be 'acid.' Add a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon. Maybe even some sour cream or a sour fruit. There are quite a lot of things that are on the acidic spectrum. I encourage you to explore them all!

Lemon Genoise Spongecake
yields 1 half-sheet pan or 2 8" rounds

  • 240 g eggs (4 to 5 large eggs)
  • 120 g sugar (I like cane sugar for this application)
  • 135 g AP flour
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Zest and Juice of a whole lemon
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
Favorite Lemon Curd
  • 3 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 c lemon juice, freshly-squeezed (about 4 large lemons)
  • 4 oz vegan butter (you can use dairy butter if you like)
  • 3/4 c + 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
Lemon Buttercream
  • 8 oz butter or vegan butter substitute, cubed (I love earth balance)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 heaping spoonfuls Favorite Lemon Curd
  • Powdered sugar, A/N
White Chocolate Glaze
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 400 g white chocolate
  • Gel food coloring of your choice

Prepare your pans with either a silpat baking sheet or a parchment round-cut sheet in the bottom of your pans. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. You actually want a rather hot oven for this stuff to go into. Do not grease your pans unless you have the kind of pan-spray stuff that has flour in it. This is because spongecakes need to be able to stick to the sides of your pans to climb and retain their volume. If you grease the inside at all, the sponge will collapse and become quite dense and rather disgusting. Use paper, trust me. 

Get a medium saucepot about halfway full of water and bring it to a simmer. Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer and set it over the water. Whisk constantly, but don't whip, to break down the albumins but also to warm the egg mixture. You're not wanting to cook it, of course, but to bring it up to at least body temperature. If you were doing a genoise the old-fashioned way with a Mrs. Patmore type of situation, you'd have to bring it up to a higher temperature, but since we've mostly got electric mixers happening, you only have to bring it up to warm and to dissolve the sugar. 

Once everything is all dissolved, bring it over to the standing mixer and bring up to a full speed whip until the eggs are wholly tripled in volume and of a quite pale color. You don't want it dry, but you want it quite stiff. This takes up to ten minutes, but keep careful not to overwhip things as you'll have to start all over again.

To get the most juice out of a lemon, I suggest zesting it first, then zapping the lemon for about 10 seconds in the microwave. Roll it gently on your cutting board before cutting in half, then squeezing generously, fishing out the seeds. Whisk together the juice, zest, salt, and coconut oil until you get a sort of thickened vinaigrette consistency. Take a fairly large dollop of your meringue-like egg mixture and fold it in. It's okay if it deflates a touch.

Sift your flour into the large amount of meringue mixture first. It's a fair amount of flour, but do take care to be gentle and not to knock out any air. You're not using any baking powders or leavening agents, so your egg foam is all your leavening. Once everything is quite well incorporated, take a large dollop of your mix and fold it into the lemon mixture. Finally, scrape the lemon mixture gently into the egg-flour mix and give it a few folds to make sure everything is wholly incorporated. 

Pan the batter gently and from a low height so as to not knock out too much air. Spread the batter as evenly as possible with your spatula, and then gently tap the bottom of your pans with your fingertips to pop any large bubbles. Remember, you don't want big bubbles like you'd find in an artisinal bread. You want tiny bubbles for your spongecake.

Bake this at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until the color is golden-brown and springs back gently to the touch, and pulls gently away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely before using. I used the sheet pan application for this cake just because that's the look I wanted. Meanwhile, let's make the rest of the stuff!

To make the lemon curd, simply whip together your egg yolks with your whole egg with a pinch of salt until it's all homogenous. Melt the butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar together and bring to a simmer. Splash a little bit of the hot juice mixture in with the eggs and whisk quickly to warm. Remove from the heat, add in all of your tempered egg mixture, and return to a medium-low flame, whisking constantly. You want it to thicken, but you do not want it to curdle. Once it's quite thick but not boiling, remove immediately from the heat and strain into a bowl to remove any lumps that may have curdled. Cover with plastic wrap by putting the film directly onto the surface of the curd. This way, you won't get a skin!

To make the chocolate glaze, simply scrape the coconut milk into a glass bowl and pour in with the chocolate. You can add some vanilla paste, if you like, to this but it's not wholly necessary. All you have to do is heat up the glaze in the bain marie (that double-boiler we used earlier to heat your eggs and sugar) until it's quite smooth and melted, and then dye it as many colors as you want! Keep the colors separate, of course, and let them set at room temperature for later. 

Wash our your standing mixer quite well and use the bain marie to heat half of the butter for the buttercream until it's almost completely melted. Add in the rest of the butter in and fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip your butter until quite light and fully incorporated into one lovely texture, then add in the zest and lemon curd. Continue to whip until all nicely together, and then finally add in a little powdered sugar at a time at medium speed until it's thick and the right amount of sweetness that you want. It's going to be amazingly flavorful, and even better the longer you let it sit!

Invest in a rotating cake stand! I know it's strange, but I much prefer the plastic to metal ones. They don't squeak!
Once everything is cooled down, take your spongecake and cut into four equal pieces, crosswise. Spread each layer with plenty of lemon curd (please be generous) and sandwich them to create a gorgeous long loaf. To get extra lemon curd on the inside, pop some of your buttercream in a piping bag and pipe a border along each side of the cake and then fill your cake with as much lemon curd as you like. Keep in mind, it's a very bright curd, so don't overfill lest your border burst! Spread buttercream all around and chill until firm to the touch. Your cake must be rather cold in order for the glaze to not run off everywhere.

Use either gel or powdered food colorings. Please don't use the liquid!
You'll want your glaze/ganache to be a little warmer than body temperature to be flowy, so a quick zap in the microwave will do you good. I did four colors for mine, but you can do as many or as few as you like. When doing a drip glaze, I advise you to do your edges first, and use less than you think you need. Remember, you can always add but you can't take away. Once your edges are about where you like them, fill in the middle with random globs of glaze. You can now use sprinkles around the border, all over the top, decorate with candy, cherries, chocolates...pretty much anything your little heart desires! I chose amarena cherries, white chocolate curls, honeycomb candy, and sprinkles.

Please go crazy with your own decorations, and then tag me at @wannaBgourmande or #WannaBGourmande on Instagram/Twitter to show me what amazing creative souls you are!

Thanks so much for spending my birthday week with me. It was great. I'm looking forward to what my 31st year of existence on this planet does for me. Next week is going to be a fun recipe for Purim. Stay tuned!

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Cheesecake Tart with Candied Walnuts and Pomegranate Honeycomb

This is a little fancier than my normal posts, but I've been doing so many 'homestyle' cooking things at home and on my blog lately that I just had to do something chef-y. Wedding season is coming up which means lots of wedding cakes for me, and it's far too cold for ice cream so I can't sell that at the bakery. This means it's a lot of time for experimentation, which is good for me and the cookbook.

I wanted to talk a little bit about how I decide what to write and when to write it. Like the cookbook, I try to write, cook, and eat seasonally. Each chapter in the book will be about the wheel of the year and how the seasons will turn. This will have some fun history and neat things there in the margins, but it's mostly going to be about cooking sustainable and with the seasons. March is here, and it's my favorite month of the year. The full moon is the Chaste moon, and it carries the time of fertile Pisces, perfect for planting your garden. Another one of the reasons for my love of this month (or, rather, this season of spring) is a little holiday called Purim.

Purim is a sort of Jewish Halloween - and we all know how I love Halloween. There are plenty of religious bits about it but honestly this is the one holiday of the calendar that's easily the most-fun. It's a holiday in which we're encouraged to cross-dress, get drunk, and throw a rocking party. As always, you donate money to charity, or do a mitzvah, a good deed. There's, of course, a ritual food that comes with it, but we're not covering that in this blog. That post will come on March 16th, the weekend before the holiday on the 21st. (Spoiler alert: it's my own version of hamentaschen.) The whole month of March, though, is going to be full of fun foods that you can make for Purim! What's that? You'd like a little backstory as to what this holiday might be? Well...

Disclaimer: this is a super trite version that I'm about to tell you, but I think you'll get the reason it's a celebration.

In the ancient Persian empire there was this King called Ahasuerus who had his wife Vashti executed. Apparently, he asked her to dance naked for him and she was like "um, no???" so of course she was beheaded. He then goes on a search for a new wife in his kingdom and finds this smoking gal called Ester (whose Hebrew name is Haddass), whom he then weds.

Ester slays the game as a royal until she overhears the plan of this really gross and creepy royal adviser, Hamen, who has this plan to kill all the Jews because that's just kind of what seems to happen, historically. Ester's uncle, Mordecai, overhears this plan and goes to see his niece in secret and tells her all about Hamen's plan. She comes up with a really brave and brilliant plan: throw a party!

She throws this massive ball where there's food and drink and lots of fun ancient world shenanigans going on. At some point during the dinner, Ester says to the King: "Hey so Hamen is wanting to exterminate all the Jews and you totally can't do that because I'm a Jew." His mind is blown but instead of having her executed he has Hamen executed instead and the Jews are saved.

Ester saves the Jews! Hooray!

Of course, there's the proper version of this story, but all you need to know is that every spring, Jews have this amazing holiday called Purim where it's encouraged to get drunk, cross-dress, wear costumes, and just have a rocking good time. The idea is to get crazy and have fun with this topsy-turvy holiday, so where you can't tell who's the hero and who's the villain. Purim is a story of bravery and redemption, and that you're more-likely to get what you want if you know how to throw a good party.

What does this have to do with cheesecake?

Everyone loves cheesecake because it's delicious, so it's easy to get people to like it for a party. This cooks exponentially faster than your normal cheesecake would (3-4 hours) and so it'll be perfect for a party if you forget that you have one in the evening. This recipe is easily made pareve, which is known as a neutral food. This means it contains neither meat nor dairy and can be consumed with or after consuming either. As I'm sure some of you are aware, kosher law dictates that meat and milk shouldn't be on the same table.

There's a lot of debate on exactly how long you have to wait between each meal before it's acceptable to eat meat or dairy, but the point is that if you have cheese on the table then it should either be a vegetarian meal or have fish. If you have meat on the table, you should have vegetables but no milk or cheese or butter. If you're going to a party with people that keep kosher or even just are lactose intolerant, it's a nice thing to do to keep it a neutral food. My husband is severely lactose intolerant, so I don't even keep dairy in the house. But that doesn't mean I can't have cheesecake still!

With a tart, there's quite a bit of surface area that you can decorate it in any way you like. Purim requires lots of sparkles and decorations, so feel free to use bright colors. I'll be showing a couple of great little garnishes you can make, not just for this but for any item you want to add a little pizzaz to.

Cheesecake Tart with Candied Walnuts and Pomegranate Honeycomb
yield 1 11" tart

Pie crust
  • 8 oz butter (or vegan butter substitute, such as Earth Balance)
  • 14 oz flour
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • Spiced rum as needed
Cheesecake Filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese ( or tofu cream cheese)
  • 4 oz sour cream (or tofu sour cream)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Pomegranate Honeycomb candy
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
Candied walnuts(recipe follows)
Gilded raspberries

For the crust, make a pie crust as usual. Cube the butter into very small pieces and rub it into your flour mixture. Once the pieces are about the size of peas, add in some spiced rum, a spoonful at a time, until the dough resembles a sort of damp sand that stays together when clumped. Turn out onto a marble surface and gently knead together. You don't have to worry about gluten forming because you've used alcohol, not water, so bring it all together into one nice disc. Wrap it in plastic and let chill for at least 30 minutes in the freezer. 

In the meantime, you may preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and make your custard mix. 

Using a large bowl and a whisk, whip together your cream cheese and sour cream. You want it to be very smooth indeed with absolutely no lumps. Add in both sugars and the vanilla, stirring quite well. Don't worry about whipping air into this mixture, otherwise the texture won't be quite right. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, and being sure to not move on until each egg is 100% fully incorporated. This is very important with a cheesecake mixture that you don't rush and curdle your batter, so please don't rush it. After all, you have a crust that's cooling and that's something you don't want to rush. 

Once all the eggs are absolutely without a doubt mixed in, you may add in the remaining ingredients and whisk gently. You're not looking to incorporate air, but to create a very smooth custard. Set aside.

Between two sheets of parchment that have been liberally sprayed with pan spray, roll out your tart dough disc. You'll want to beat it up a little bit, just to soften it, using your favorite rolling pin. I like these French-style rolling pins because the less moving parts you have, the less you might have to repair later. Plus, it makes me feel like Julia Child when I whack stuff, and these are the kinds that she used.

You want to roll out your dough between parchment sheets because:
  • It's just about the quickest and easiest cleanup in the world
  • You already have enough flour in the dough, so why add more
  • Because you have less flour in there, the risk of overworking anything is far less

I personally like to use these round fluted tart pans from Sur la Table, but this 11" fluted tart pan on Amazon will do you just fine if you don't have a Sur La Table anywhere near you. For the record, I do encourage you to shop at businesses that actually pay their taxes and don't exploit their workers the way another company might. The best part about these tart pans is that they have a removeable bottom, so you can take it out and flip the dough over onto it and then lower it inside the fluted edge with a great deal of ease. Please note that the dough will be rolled quite thin, almost a quarter of an inch thin. You want this!

Once your tart pan is lined with your ultra-thin dough, fill it with your cheesecake custard. Open up your oven and place it on the bottom rack. (Remember, we always put pies on the bottom rack of the oven.) On the top/middle rack, place another pie dish full of ice and then lower the temperature to 300 degrees. This will help to create some steam and keep from forming too much of a skin, as well as having this lovely stuff bake evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is wobbly while still being a touch firm. If the filling puffed up a little, that's absolutely okay. Evacuate the tart from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes before refrigerating. It's now the time for you to make your garnishes!

Add the sugar meant for the pomegranate honeycomb with the water and honey to a pot fitted with a candy thermometer. Start it on high and then bring it down to a rather low boil until it comes to 300 degrees F. Turn off the flame. Meanwhile, take some whole walnut kernels on wooden skewers and stick gently, yet not all the way through so you won't break the nut. Dip each nut in the molten sugar, being very careful, and lay the skewer atop the rim of a glass, which is atop a silpat mat or a parchment sheet. You want the hot sugar to sort of drip down and form a point.

You can do this as many times as you like to make as many candied nuts as you like, so long as the syrup is warm. You can also make candy floss with this by using two forks and whipping them over a mat to create threads. Don't do this, though, if you don't feel like a mess to clean up. When you're satisfied with the amount of candied nuts you've made, turn the heat back on and add in the pomegranate molasses.

Bring your sugar syrup up to a nice boil and add in the baking soda. Stir it with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula and pour out onto a silpat mat. Work fast and work carefully!

I cannot stress this enough: Work fast and work carefully! Sugar syrup, when cooked to 300 degrees, is quite dangerous, so please don't attempt it with small children, who like to stick their fingers in everything. If you do get some hot sugar syrup on your hand, here's what you must do:

  1. Put everything down and turn everything off immediately
  2. Get safely to the sink and turn on the hot water
  3. Cuss a lot, because it hurts
  4. Let the sugar dissolve and then go to cool water, not cold
  5. Let the cool water run and then dab, not wipe, with a paper towel.
  6. Apply mustard to the burn
  7. Apply a bandaid.
  8. Cry a little, if needed.
  9. Continue working.

So honeycomb candy is known by that name because of the gorgeous texture it creates. You can snack on it on its own or dip it in chocolate when cool and dry. You may have even heard of candy bars using honeycomb!

Please be mindful that the aeration will make everything grow, especially considering the acid in the pomegranate molasses will react with the baking soda, so do be sure that you've got plenty of room on your silpat mat. Allow to cool entirely before breaking off into pieces. We'll talk about later storage in a few minutes.

For the rest of the decorations, you can use fresh berries, gold can even roll some fresh raspberries in luster dust of any color of your choosing and decorate. You want a lot of different textures, of course, but you want it all to be cohesive. Every component in any composed dessert must be harmonious, even if it looks a little crazy. The idea, though, is to create interesting textures that will elevate a dish to the best it can be. I chose lots of crunchy things for this because the cheesecake itself is rather soft.

I love these color combinations of red and gold on a white background. You can add anything you like to dress this up for a party. You'll only need a few pieces of the honeycomb, so store the rest in an airtight container, ideally with a silica gel packet in the bottom to keep it from melting. You won't let the candied walnuts last, I assure you - they're too tasty of a snack. You can do this technique of candying with any soft nut!

Now, you can talk about assembly. If you aren't travelling far for the party, I highly suggest traveling with the components separate. If you're hosting, feel free to assemble up to 20 minutes before the guests arrive, after you've showered and made sure you're done cleaning, but before you've set out the chips and dip. Gather all of your components together and take a look as to what you'd like to do. I chose honeycomb, candied nuts, and fresh raspberries. You ultimately can choose whatever you like, but I chose these for color, for texture, and for flavor in mind. If you do go with something else, please post it on instagram and tag me! Just remember to stay organized and you'll do great!

Invest in some tweezers and a small offset spatula that's dedicated to helping you garnish cakes, pastries, and more. 
One tip I can't stress enough is that restraint is often a little better to exercise than excess. Even though you might make this for Purim, it'll look far more elegant and composed if you make use of negative space. This just means that you can always add, but you can't always take away. I think it's far more beautiful to have clusters of garnishes here and there instead of having it all over, because it's going to have a little more of an impact. Pay attention to height, especially, when thinking about your presentation. To serve, have more garnishes available if your guests really like them!

I hope you've enjoyed this post! For the month of march I'll be posting a lot of topsy-turvy fun things. March really is the best month, as it often contains some of my favorite holidays. Purim, the first day of Spring (or Ostara), St. Patrick's Day, and - of course - International Women's Day, which happens to be my birthday. Of course, there will have to be a great birthday cake post. I'll be 31!

Happy March! Happy cooking! And, as always: Happy Eating!

Monday, February 25, 2019

White Chocolate Cardamom Ice Cream

I'm a huge fan of combining strong flavors. The one of the basic lessons of good cooking that you learn first is you want to find a balance between components. I once saw a node chart that showed all of the different components of recipes when looked at on the international scale. It showed that most western/Eurocentric recipes combined components and ingredients that shared the  same compounds. This meant that things like butter, potatoes, cream/milk were combined along with salt and pepper. What it showed on eastern/Asian recipes was that it was most-likely to combine things of opposing components, such as sweet honey and hot chilies, or sharp vinegar with sweet and fermented oyster sauce, which creates something very dynamic. Check this out!

You can read the article about it here!

To make a western pork dish, say a pork chop, you would likely marinate in buttermilk or just a nice oil-spice rub if you were feeling fancy. You'd likely do minimal processing because you want to let the ingredient speak for itself. If you were creating an eastern pork dish, there would be a lot more processing to do. You'd likely combine mellow scallions with hot ginger and sharp garlic with salty soy or miso. You might chop finely or in chunks, then marinate it and deep fry each piece in a batter, then drench it in sauce. The point is that these cultures have different ways of cooking and eating, and understanding it a little better might help one understand why in the world I'd put cardamom and white chocolate together.

I realize it's possibly unusual to most, but you'd be surprised at how popular a combination of these flavors of white chocolate and cardamom are! A quick search will show you the many recipes with this flavor combination. The idea is that white chocolate is so super-sweet but cardamom, which is slightly pungent, incredibly aromatic and almost fruity, gives a wonderful new depth. If you think this is a spice only for South Asian or Middle Eastern, consider that one of the countries that use the most cardamom globally is Sweden. This is likely because the Swedes opened up trades to the East Indies first, with their Viking days!

Ice cream is a food product that has mostly fat in it. Fat is generous and gives you a lot of room to work. If a flavor is fat soluble, you can really get crazy with it. You can do chocolate ice cream with cayenne in it - the heat and flavor will be perfect with the fat of the ice cream. You can steep fresh mint in your milk or cream to get that gorgeous fresh-green color, and the cool-spicy of the mint will work with the fat. Smoky and pungent bacon flavor, even, can be done well with ice cream, so long as something really sweet goes with it, like caramel!

Understanding and having fun with the balances between the five flavors of salty, bitter, sweet, sour, and savory is at the core of cooking. Try this ice cream, and then get out there and try a bunch more. Once you've purchased your own ice cream machine, you've really no excuses to be timid anymore. Be bold and have fun!

White Chocolate Cardamom Ice Cream
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1 heaping Tbsp + 1 tsp ground Cardamom 
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 c (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c coconut milk powder
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c (4 oz) white chocolate callets (the good stuff, not chips!)
Pop the can of cream in the fridge. Add the salt, cardamom, and the coconut milk to a saucepot and bring to a boil. It's important that you whisk only a little of the coconut milk in at a time to ensure the cardamom doesn't clump up. Once it's brought to a boil, turn it off, cover it, and let it set for at least 10 minutes. 

Whisk together the coconut milk and granulated sugar, ensuring there are no lumps, and then whip in the eggs, one at a time, until it's quite smooth and light-colored. It'll be a little thicker than you think it should be, but trust me on this. Besides, it'll be a great arm workout! 

Protip: You might be whisking wrong. The motion should be with your bicep and shoulder, not your wrist. Your wrist is made up of lots of tendons with little muscle, so keep your wrist straight as a board and use that beautiful muscle in your upper arm and upper body to whip that stuff into shape!

When your coconut milk has steeped and your egg yolk mixture is quite light and smooth, splash in some of your warm milk into the yolks, just to warm it and slacken it. Whisk until fully incorporated, and then add a little more of the milk, no more than a half a cup. Whisk it all together until absolutely mixed, and then scrape everything back into the saucepot. Bring it back up to heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, or until 180 degrees F. 

In the pitcher of a blender, add your cold coconut cream and white chocolate. Pour your hot custard mix over all of that, scraping all the goodies from the bottom, and then letting that sit for 2 minutes before blending. Start on low and then gradually get up to high. You'll want it to be 100% smooth. Give it a taste and decide if you want more cardamom or more salt. Remember, cold affects salt to make it seem like there's less, and white chocolate is super sweet! Strain this custard into a tall pitcher and surround it with ice water to cool. Cold custard will whip up much more nicely in your ice cream machine!

Process this ice cream mix in an ice cream machine accordance to your manufacturer instructions. This machine is the one I use and it's fantastic! It's cheap, it's easy to clean, and has a large capacity. It's pretty perfect for the experiments I do at home, and if you're a home cook then I suggest this very much. If you're a chef and in a commercial kitchen, this machine is the one I recommend the most. Yeah, I know, it's stupid expensive. But when you don't have time to chill your mix, this still gets it done with a hot custard or a hot sorbet mix without it turning out gross and grainy. It's oddly easy to clean, as well, and will make ice cream from cold in about 10 minutes, with ice cream from hot in 30. That's pretty amazing.

I hope you've enjoyed this ice cream! It's not vegan, but you can use "JUST Egg" Vegan egg replacer with awesome results if you want it to be vegan. You can also use one half a teaspoon of agar agar per egg yolk, if you have that more readily available. 

Store the ice cream in cartons. You can use tupperware, but it tends to get rather brittle when frozen, so I recommend buying some cardboard containers. I like these little pint containers, and you can write on them with marker to see what you have in there. I advise you to write the date on the bottom of the carton, and to do so before you fill it up. This recipe makes three pints of ice cream. Serve it with toasted pistachios, warm raspberry jam, or chocolate sauce.

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and follow my tag #WannaBGourmande.

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Blue Sky Walnut Macarons

Oh hey. I remember how to do these. 
I hadn't made macarons in a long time when I got the idea to whip these up. I had an afternoon and decided to see if I still remembered how. As it turns out, I do. I'm a huge fan of eating macarons, but not a huge fan of how annoyingly fussy they are to make. They're really a marker of a skilled pastry chef, to make a perfect macaron. It must be first shiny on top, have good "feet" (those little bubbly bits at the bottom) be not hollow on the inside, be crisp yet chewy when bitten into, and be evenly round. They're, in essence, a deflated meringue that's held together with sugar and ground nuts. The fat of the nuts gently break the inflated bubbles and yet somehow hold everything together in this 'cookie', and thicken it just so that it it bakes in one lump.

Since 1792 when some French nuns began selling them, these crunchewy delights have been a well-kept secret to we ignorant Americans. It seems as if they've just sprung up overnight! I don't see why they wouldn't - they're a mark of great skill, they're a vessel for plenty of fun fillings and flavors, and they are adorably aesthetically pleasing. Watching videos on youtube and instagram of chefs piping, baking, and filling macarons is just one of those things that helps me check out and forget the nonsense of my day. If you aren't watching ASMR baking videos, I think you're missing out on some serious self care.

The thing about macarons is that there are no 'quick' ways to do it and there's no real 'fool-proof' way to do it. They require skill, patience and practice, and no matter what they end up looking like you'll still have the cookies at the end. Please be kind with yourself and allow yourself a few failures here and there. Please understand as well that you are going to mess up your home kitchen like crazy with several bowls and lots of different dyes as well. It's okay, guys. Part of these are the mess! And hey, it's okay to make a mess when you're learning.

Traditionally, macarons are made with almonds. Almonds are great, classic, and hard nuts to crack (har har har) but still soft and fatty enough to make the right way of crunchewy cookie. I like walnuts for several reasons, those being which they are softer and easier to hand-grind and that because I was allergic to almonds for a fair portion of my young life I tend to have walnuts in my house instead, especially for when I feel like whipping up a nice muhamarra. In the case of walnuts, I also like how they have a nicer texture and that they're just a little bit luxuriously soft. They're quite fatty, though, so if you don't have an airtight jar to store them in, I suggest freezing them, lest they go rancid.

Walnut Macarons
They're not perfect, but they're mine!

  • 115 g walnuts, ground into flour using either a spice grinder, a food processor, or a mortar and pestle
  • 230 g powdered sugar, sifted
  • 72 g granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 fat pinch of kosher salt
  • Gel dye of desired color
Strawberry Ice Cream Filling
  • Your favorite vanilla buttercream
  • A good spoonful of strawberry jam
Start by prepping your baking trays. I like to use silpat mats. You can get them on amazon for pretty cheap, or you can find them at most specialty baking stores. You can also use parchment paper, but I like reuseable stuff, so that's what I use. This recipe makes two half-sheet pans worth of macaron halves so I prepare two silpat mats on two trays. Always give them a good wipe with a damp cloth or paper towel to make sure they're clean!

Sift together the walnuts, salt, and the powdered sugar to get rid of the bigger lumps. I like the mortar and pestle approach to breaking them down if you find a fair bit of them, and walnuts are soft enough to crush in your fingers so you shouldn't have too much of a problem. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pop two of the egg whites in. Stir with a spatula, starting in the middle and adding a little in as you go, until you have a paste, that will be rather tight. It is also at this stage you may add some gel dye. I used a pretty cornflower blue gel dye that I found at the craft store. For this galaxy effect above, I used a chopstick and smeared some stripes of the dye all up the side of my piping bag, fitted with a round tip. A little goes a long way, so don't go crazy!

Combine the other two egg whites and the 72 g sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip these together until tripled in volume and have stiff peaks, but aren't dry and lumpy. Take a spoonful of your meringue and stir in gently to your paste, just to loosen it. Take another large spoonful of the meringue and now fold it in, pressing and scraping gently, breaking as little of the bubbles as you can while still having it be a homogeneous mix. The remaining egg whites can now be scraped in and folded in, gently, until everything's just barely combined. You want the consistency of pahoehoe lava (which means the kind that's flowy and liquid) for this batter. 

Pop your mix into your piping bag and pipe in circles of equal sizes that are at least an inch apart. I usually count to three, out loud, while squeezing to ensure the sizes are equal. If they aren't,  you're going to have some funny-looking cookies to sandwich! This might take a minute and might take some practice, but don't worry if they're not perfect the first time. You're here to have fun and that's the joy of it. Finally - don't skip this - pick up the tray with both hands and lift it about three or four inches off the surface of the table and drop them once or twice. You can also slap them from the bottom, but you might not do this in a way that things hit evenly and will therefore screw the shape of your macaron up. This will also knock out any large air bubbles there might be lurking beneath the surface, waiting to destroy all that you have created. 

I did this on a day with about 60% humidity but it was also winter, and it took about 20 minutes for a skin to form. So.
You may now heat your oven to 300 degrees F, and while it's heating you should clean up the mess of your poor kitchen and your utensils that will have likely gone sticky with the sugary egg mixture. What you are now doing is waiting for the macarons to form a skin. This step is really fussy and very annoying for those of us - like yours truly - that are impatient and want our treats now. It is essential to do this step, however, because without this skin forming you might get a blowout in the tops and you might not get those pretty feet on the bottoms.

Sidebar: Please don't google pretty feet. Please google "macaron feet" instead. 

The skin forming takes anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes. This is highly dependent on the weather, the heat of your home, the humidity in the air, everything. I know it's rough but just wait until the macaron is ready. You'll know it's ready when the tops of the piped batter is dry to the touch. Bake all at once for 11 minutes and do not, for the life of you, open the oven during that time. A cold gust of air at precisely the wrong time will ruin everything and cause it all to collapse in the middle.

A few might have baked together in the oven. That's okay! You can still eat them.
If all was well, you should have perfect macarons! Now please don't try to move them until they're completely cooled. Use this time instead to make your favorite buttercream and stir in a generous spoonful of strawberry jam. I call this flavor "strawberry ice cream" but you can honestly use whichever flavoring or jam you like. I think I used about 3/4 c of buttercream to fill all of these, with some left over. Don't overfill. These must be consistently filled just like the macaron sandwich cookies must be consistently piped.

You can wrap and freeze these either in columns or in straight flat packs like this, so long as it's airtight.
The best part about macarons is that they freeze perfectly. Wrap them gently in stacked columns with lots of plastic wrap and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. You can also ship them to friends with bubble wrap and some dry ice! The freezer is the pastry chef's best friend next to the oven, so don't be afraid to use it. But what would you want with a frozen macaron?

They only take a short time to thaw at room temperature, because of the high sugar content, so I wouldn't dare put it in the microwave to defrost. You could give them as a treat to guests or save them as a light dessert for after dinner, if you pull out as many as you want as you're eating your evening meal. You could also use them as a garnish for a cake or milkshake if you use a lot of whipped cream. You can even take the unfilled shells that have cracked or broken, freeze them until quite hard, and then break them up and mix them in with ice cream or a cake batter for an extra-special treat. The possibilities are limitless!

Thanks so much for reading. We're getting more into desserts for the next few weeks, since I've gotten several requests for a few sweet things from a few sweet things. If you want to request something special, please feel free to leave a comment below, message me on Facebook or Instagram! If nothing else, I'll try my best to respond. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Saffron Drizzle Cake

Hand-embroidered tea-towel not included!
I've had a crazy week, and I do mean crazy. Honestly, and Instagram haven't been a priority for me at all. Thursday rolled around and I wasn't sure what I was going to post this week until I got a comment on my Instagram from a dear friend/follower, @VanessaBiglerArt, asking if the recipe for it was on the blog. I said "It can be!" and so it shall be.

I was still in the testing phases of this particular recipe when I got that comment, but I figured that it couldn't hurt to give to someone else with a hair of guidance. Besides, this is what writing a cookbook is all about, isn't it? Interacting with those that might one day read it gives me such a rush, and it helps me learn if I'm a good writer or not. I was so happy to text off the hand-written version of my recipe with a few simple instructions. We'll be getting to the recipe in a moment, but first, a little thing or two about saffron and why you should be cooking with it.

Saffron is, pound-for-pound, the most-expensive spice in the world, commonly known as "red gold." Saffron is so expensive, it's often sold by the gram, with the going rate of saffron by the gram retailing at $6.79 to $8.29. It's about 28 grams to an ounce, so by that math you're spending upwards of $190 per ounce. Why in the world is this?

Saffron Crocus
Learn more here!
Saffron is the little stamen that grows out of this crocus flower, which is a kind of bulb. It's a perennial, so a saffron crop will come back each year, but it's incredibly labor intensive to do. Each flower must be harvested by hand, and each stamen of each flower must be painstakingly harvested by hand and tweezers, and the longer the stem the better. It's obviously quite a long process. Harvesting your own saffron at home is a relaxing yet mindful morning for a dozen flowers or so, but doing it as work is going to not be so relaxing.

About 95% of the world's saffron comes from Iran, where it is grown and harvested. You'll notice saffron in a lot of Spanish cooking, of course, but that is the clear Moorish influence that's occurred over centuries of trade back in the day. You'll see a lot of Moorish/Muslim influence in their architecture as well as their eating if you ever go to Spain! So many things came from these cultures that we use today, and the benefits of these trades haven't gone unnoticed. 

Saffron is prized for the glorious reddish-gold color it gives rices, and the flavor is an almost indescribable gentle aromatic note that really perfumes a dish. Are there cheap saffrons you can buy? Absolutely! You can buy saffron with whole stigma and filament in them, but they're not going to yield the same color you would expect from the beautiful red threads. This is one of those things you shouldn't be stingy on and be sure to keep it in its original tin to preserve it as long as possible, if you buy it from the store. 

Saffron is one of those spices that holds great cultural significance in the world of culinary anthropology. It's quite obviously a symbol of wealth and opulence, and is an ingredient that absolutely demands respect. It's available year-round, but is it cheaper to grow and harvest yourself?You tell me! 

Saffron crocus is a wonderful bulb that is unique in the sense that it blooms in the fall, not the spring. I'm an avid fan of my beautiful spring tulips, but I always get a little sad when they die off. If you want bulbs blooming in the fall, I cannot recommend these more! These bulbs are quite hardy and can go as cold as -10 degrees F, but if you live in an area that dips below that, you should probably be kind and give them some straw or mulch to tuck them in to their beds to ensure they stay warm. The flowers themselves have an almost vanilla-like scent, in addition to their striking purple color. Nothing on your land or in your home should not serve you in some way, so I advise you to put this glorious flower to work for you.

Like most bulbs, they tend to love soil that's very well-drained and is high in organic matter.You should plant early in the spring, right at the start of Pisces, or just as soon as the soil is good and warm enough to work, and plant 6 inches below the surface. Each bulb will yield one flower, and each flower will yield three threads! It's highly recommended that you replant immediately once you dig up your bulbs to separate them, as they're touchy. Do this to yield a hardy crop, and you won't have your harvest affected next fall!

To harvest these threads, I recommend tweezers. Leave them to dry on a sheet pan lined with paper in a warm room until they crumble easily. Store them in an airtight jar, as you should with all spices once they're dried, and enjoy! I advise you to not consume any other part of the flower, as I hear it's poisonous. You can add a few threads to a steaming pot of rice to color it and add a very lovely flavor, to a soup to enrich it beautifully, or to this lovely pound cake. 

Full disclosure: I'm only calling it a pound cake in the sense that it acts like a pound cake when in reality it's a 'high ratio cake'. It's got a very fine crumb, is fatty and tender, and it is quite suitable for layer cakes should you choose to bake it in a round tin! Honestly, though, since you're using a simple-syrup drizzle, it's going to be a drizzle cake. The requirements for a drizzle cake must be that your cake is strong enough to take on that liquid, and that the drizzle penetrates all the way down, as far as it'll go, to make a moist finish. Yum!

Saffron Drizzle Cake
yields 1 loaf cake or 1 9" cake
  • 1.5 oz olive oil
  • 1.5 oz butter(I've used my vegan Earth Balance butter on this and it's just fine!)
  • 6 oz cane sugar + 1 oz aside
  • 4 oz warm water, at least 115 degrees F
  • 1 pinch of saffron (6 or 7 threads?)
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 9 oz AP flour
  • 1 oz cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 c almond milk (you may use dairy milk or hemp milk if you like)
For the Saffron Syrup
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c cane sugar
  • 1 small pinch saffron, 3-4 threads
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and prepare a loaf pan with pan spray and flour. This cake likes to climb, so please do allow it to do so! Prepare the Saffron syrup first. 

Bring your sugar and water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Immediately add in the saffron threads and cover your pot and leave it alone. This will be your simple syrup.  You're honestly only going to use a little bit of this to drizzle into your cake, but you'll definitely want the stuff left over! It's going to get a beautiful gold color and you'll definitely love it in your iced tea.

For the cake, take your saffron threads, that set-aside ounce of cane sugar, and a mortar and pestle. Grind the saffron into the sugar and then add it to the warm water. Let this sit for at least five minutes before you add this liquid to the milk of your choice, as well as the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. You can use cake flour for this, but I like having a little more control over the amounts of protein, and I also don't like cake flour taking up space in my already-crowded cabinet.

Using the whisk attachment of your standing mixer, whip the butter, oil, and 6 oz of sugar together. Start first on medium and then go to high until it's fully incorporated. Add in the whole egg, scrape, and then whip. You'll want it to be homogeneous and light-colored, not clumpy or separated at all. Scrape the bowl one more time and gather your remaining ingredients. 

Spoon the flour mixture in, about a third at a time, alternating with a glug or two of the liquid. You're going to want to do it in this order:
  1. Spoon in flour.
  2. Add liquid
  3. Mix for five or six turns.
  4. Spoon in flour.
  5. Add liquid.
  6. Mix for five or six turns.
  7. Spoon in the remaining flour.
  8. Mix by hand to incorporate.
  9. Add the last bit of liquid and scrape the bowl, especially getting the bottom.
  10. Mix for five or six turns.
This is the way I tend to mix cakes of this nature it and it seems to have served me the best over the years. Knock all the batter off the whisk attachment and use a spatula to scrape the bowl and give it one final stir, just to make sure there aren't any pockets of flour hanging out. If we're all good, scrape it into your loaf pan, give it a shimmy-shake to make sure it all of the batter is level, and pop it in the oven. Immediately lower your oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes, or until it pulls gently away from the sides of the pan and springs back when touched gently. 

Evacuate from the oven and place on a folded-up tea towel. Now comes the fun! Take a skewer or a toothpick and poke mercilessly all over the surface of the cake, making sure to get all the way to the bottom-third of your cake. While it's still warm, take a spoon and drizzle in the saffron syrup, at least a shot's worth, which is a couple of ounces. You can use a silicon brush if you like, as well, but I think this is a little better to start off with and then finish with the brush. Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack and allowing to cool completely. 

See that crack in the middle? You want that! This dome is a sign you've done your loaf cake right!
You may dust with powdered sugar or give it a touch of royal icing. Or, of course, you can make a saffron glaze. How? Oh, it's easy:

Saffron Glaze
  • 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp saffron syrup
  • 2 tsp coconut oil, melted
Whisk all of this together until lovely and smooth, and drizzle over your cake, doughnuts, tray bakes, whatever you like! It's colored a gentle yellow and is highly addictive. You can even use it to spoon over your experimental coconut-sugar cookies. Do you, man!

For every insta-worthy picture I take, there are at least 300 hauntingly gross other photos on my phone, I assure you.
This cake is sweet without being too sweet, incredibly versatile, quick to do, and is incredibly accessible as a treat to give your not-so-adventurous friends. A loaf/pound/drizzle cake is something someone instantly recognizes, and when they taste it they'll all say: "Ooooh, what is in that cake?!" I especially love it because it keeps well, but you truthfully won't keep it around the kitchen for long. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe and have learned a few fun things about saffron. If you like this post, please feel free to comment on, share, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Mayonnaise Chicken

Sometimes simple (and by that I mean 'easy') is best.
Okay, okay - hear me out. I know that mayonnaise chicken doesn't sound tasty at all. I'm really sorry, but I'm committed to honesty and transparency in my cooking. Please just hear me out before you break out the torches and pitchforks and open your mind to mayonnaise.

I know that Millenials have been charged with 'murdering mayonnaise' their fair share of times. I think we all know how I feel about that tired old 'millenials kill' tag, but in case we don't, I'll share: I think that if an industry is dying out because it no longer serves the population, then let it die. Rotary phones weren't 'killed' by cordless or smartphones. Lamp lighters went out of the job because of electricity. We're evolving as a society and that means we're going to live in one that's shaped by our likes and tastes.

If you don't want to read the article above, just know that mayonnaise is being 'killed' because Millenials and GenZ's tend to have more global tastes. Most of us prefer sriracha, kimchi, things like that to mayonnaise. The globalization of our palette is what's letting other things fall to the side, much like mayonnaise. Furthermore, mayonnaise isn't exactly the sexiest condiment, and it's frankly a hard sell based on visuals alone. That being said, a lot of chefs love mayonnaise, if nothing else but for it's versatility.

Do you need to make a large amount of a new kind of dipping sauce but don't want to buy a ton of ingredients and jack up your food cost? Spice up the mayo and call it an aioli. Need a secret to making a super-moist chocolate cake for an 8-top that'll be celebrating a birthday tonight, but you don't have a trained pastry chef and just have a sous chef with a spare hour? Mayonnaise. What's that? Someone wants a fancy grilled cheese? Believe it or not, mayonnaise.

How to make homemade mayonnaise - Ever tried to make your own mayonnaise and it's been a complete disaster? Make mayonnaise the easy way with this failproof method! | Get the step by step tutorial at
Check out to find out how
to make your own mayonnaise at home!
What does this mean for you, for cooking?

To put it simply, this is nothing but a gorgeous whipped amount of fat that you can use in cooking and baking. Spread it on your bread instead of butter to make the most-beautiful grilled cheese you've ever seen. Use a dollop of mayonnaise instead of eggs for your cakes, to make it even more tender, because of the vinegar and how the acid sort of cuts glutens to make it less stodgy. My favorite, though, is to marinate chicken in it and then roast it.

Mayonnaise is an incredibly diverse substance that's able to be used as an ingredient and as a condiment, and I'm frankly a fan of it. I like the tang, the creaminess, and I like that it's cooling so I can mix it with really spicy ingredients to get the flavor without too much heat. Unfortunately, it's not enough anymore to have just mayonnaise, unless it's on a roast beef sandwich...and even then, I'm probably going to mix it with horseradish because  - hey - horseradish is good for you.

Why should you keep mayonnaise in your fridge? Its versatility, of course! It's not just great for sandwiches, or for being a base for a sexier version of a potato salad or devilled eggs. If you entertain, you're going to want mayonnaise, if nothing else to just help bulk up certain things. If you're busy but want something show-stopping, use mayonnaise as an ingredient and be surprised at its possibilities. But what is mayonnaise?

In essence, it's a salad dressing, not unlike a vinaigrette. It is an emulsion of egg yolks, vinegar, a little salt, and quite a bit of oil. You can make your own mayonnaise, if you like, out of any oil you like. Olive oil, sunflower oil, even chili oil. (No seriously, I've tried it.) One egg yolk can take up to a cup of oil without breaking the emulsion, and you can take that to the bank. I highly recommend using a standing mixer or a blender, though, and I advise you to warm the bowl slightly before whipping. Either way, it's easy enough to put together yourself, but it's even easier to just buy a jar, use it up, and keep the jar later for other uses.

Let's be real, though - we Millenials like stuff that's fast, yet impressive. Here's a fast and impressive dish we can make after a long day at work.

Mayonnaise Chicken
yields enough for 2
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp herbs de Provence (an herb blend of marjoram, savory, rosemary, thyme, and mint)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sumac powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • A few grinds of fresh pepper, ideally a peppercorn blend that has green peppercorns in it
  • Half a yellow onion, julienned
  • 2 stalks of celery, cut into long pieces to serve as a sort of rack for your chicken
  • 1 half chicken, usually found in most grocery stores. You can also use 4 breasts, or 4 thighs, two leg quarters, whatever is available to you
  • 2 cups frozen peas (do not get canned, so help me)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the onion and celery in a little oil, salt and pepper, and arrange the celery sticks on the bottom of a casserole dish and top with the onions. This will be your sort of rack that will allow the fat to drip off your chicken while simultaneously steaming and cooking and adding flavor that you'll want later, I promise. Make a dressing of the spices, vinegar, and mayonnaise. Add your poultry cut of choice and toss about, ensuring that you especially get some of this dressing underneath the skin of the chicken. Arrange on your celery-onion raft and let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes, or until the oven is totally hot.

I know it doesn't look great to start, but trust me - it'll transform itself beautifully.
Pop your casserole dish, uncovered, into the oven for 25 minutes and reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. When the timer tings, remove the casserole dish and place it on a wooden cutting board or just on your stove. Pour the frozen peas around the chicken, toss them in the lovely juices that have dropped and formed off your chicken with a spoon, and return to the oven. Bake for another 15 minutes. Serve immediately with couscous, pasta, or some other kind of starchy niceness that you like. I've been on a couscous kick lately, so I encourage you to try it as well. 

I'm sure you've noticed the gorgeous transformation that's taken place. The reason the chicken browns so nicely is because of the fat in the mayo, and it's become quite tender because of the acid. You've got a nicely cooked bird now, too, because hot air and flavorful steam was able to circulate all around, helping it to cook evenly. Salt, acid, fat, and heat, are the four elements of delicious food, as we all now know, thanks to the brilliant chef Samin Nosrat and her Netflix special of the same moniker.

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe! I'm writing a cookbook right now, and I hope you'll let me know if you can follow along easily with my recipes. Please keep touch with me on my instagram, comment below, and follow me on Twitter for requests for recipes! Thanks a million. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!