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Monday, September 26, 2011

A Strange, Strange Dream

So, I had a very strange dream last night... it wasn't really a nightmare, but it was a little stressful. It actually woke me up!

This last month has been a whirlwind of travel. First I went home to Washington to visit family and friends for a week. Then my husband and I went on our first real vacation in the last five years. We went on a lovely cruise up the New England coast. For the most part, it was a great time. It was a nine day trip. Unfortunately, on day six, we both woke up and went, "Ugh." Apparently, hanging out in a confined space with 2,400 other individuals from all over the globe was more than our immune systems could handle. Fortunately, we still managed to have some fun.

Anyway, we got home Saturday afternoon. Sunday, I slept a lot, trying to kick this stupid cold's you-know-what. I didn't even go out to get any groceries, even though it was some serious Mother Hubbard's cupboard around here. Then last night, I had this strange dream.

Like most dreams, some of the details are fuzzy. As you might imagine, the "why" is a little mysterious, but in this dream, I was tasked with preparing a three dish "meal" in a limited amount of time. While I had two other dishes in the bag, for some reason, I felt compelled to make eclairs.

Perhaps it was because I partook of a substandard eclair on our trip. In Boston, we ate in the North End Italian district and stopped in a pastry shop afterwards where I purchased an eclair that was so unsatisfying, I threw most of it away. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that this is a rare event indeed. Actually, come to think of it, I also had a very substandard profiterole on the cruise ship. I think these two disturbing events may have prompted my dream... that and the fact that there was no heavy whipping cream in my refrigerator last night.

So, here I am in my dream, attempting to make eclairs when I realize that I do not have enough time to make pastry cream, let it cool, and pipe it into said pastries. Being the resourceful gal I am, I decide to go for making whipped cream filled profiteroles, but - I didn't have any whipping cream! I became so distraught in my dream that I actually woke up!

I lay awake for some time, trying to calm myself enough to fall back asleep, which I finally did. However, when I woke up this morning, the first thing I felt compelled to do was go grocery shopping! Apparently, I cannot rest (literally) until there is at least a pint of whipping cream in my fridge awaiting the call of duty.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Croissant Dough Gems

These little gems were devised out of necessity while I was making all those croissants. What was I to do with those dough scraps I cut off the ends? I certainly couldn't throw them away! I mean really, duh! So, I thought that I might toss them in some cinnamon and sugar and see what happened.

Wow! I mean, double, triple, holy fantastic, wow. Wow, like, I may just make batches of this croissant dough to make these, wow. I made these twice. The first time I had the proportions more right than the second. The first time, I had more sugar than butter and the end result was an almost crunchy, caramelized crust on the outside of each dough ball. The second time, I must have used less sugar and, while they were still good, they ended up a bit too rich and did not have quite the tasty crunch from the sugar. Moral of the story? Use more sugar and less butter.

Snip your left over dough into one inch pieces using a pair of kitchen shears. Mix together a small amount of soft butter with a lot of sugar and cinnamon. Obviously, how much you need would depend on how many scraps you have. I think a ratio of butter to sugar of 1:3 is probably good. Add cinnamon based on your taste preferences. I would err on the side of too little... cinnamon is pretty strong and a little goes a long way. Add the butter mixture to the dough bits and stir to coat.

Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking oil. You want the dough bits to only be one layer thick, so plan accordingly. Let the dish sit in a warm place for 30 minutes to let the dough rise slightly. Place in a preheated 425° F oven. Bake until very golden, maybe 20-30 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating. That sugar will be hot!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oiling Utensils

Like most people these days, I use a lot of wooden utensils in the kitchen. I love them for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is they are relatively cheap, don't mess up my non-stick pans, and are fairly durable. I even put them in the dishwasher with great success. I do this mainly because wood does tend to absorb stuff and I like to think that my utensils are free of any bacteria and food odors.

A key step in improving the life and utility of your wooden utensils (and cutting boards) is to periodically oil them with mineral oil. As you can see in the picture above, there is a big difference between that gnarly, feathery fork like thing and the freshly oiled spoon behind it. And after oiling my cutting boards, it never ceases to amaze me how much easier they are to clean (I hand wash them). I love to see the water bead up on the surface! Just don't forget to be sure you use a food safe mineral oil. I got mine at a kitchen supply store for less than five bucks. It's lasted me years and there is still plenty left.

I simply use a pastry brush to apply the oil and then use a clean rag to wipe off the excess. Suddenly, my wooden utensils look brand, spanking new!

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