An Ostrich from Österreich

IMG_1978For my birthday, I received from the darling hubby this beautiful ostrich egg. Locally grown from an ostrich farm in a nearby village and carefully hand-painted by my brother-in-law, this was possibly the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received.

The shell is pretty thick –  and for good reason: an ostrich lays its egg standing up. One ostrich egg is equal to 24 chicken eggs, so naturally, I couldn’t wait to make a quiche. Rather than making one giant quiche, I thought it would be easier to make four so that I could have better control in baking them.

PASTRY CRUST: YIELDS ONE 9″ CRUST

1 1/4 cups flour

1  COLD stick butter, or 113 grams COLD butter, cut in squares

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup ice-cold water

1. Pulse salt and flour in a food processor. Add cold butter a few squares at a time and pulse.

2. Take out the crumbly mixture and add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, forming a ball as you go. Try not to handle the mixture too much as the butter will melt and you don’t want to do this. The key to a buttery, flaky crust is making sure that you leave small chunks of butter intact in the dough.

3. Flatten the ball in a disk. Put plastic wrap around it and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

4. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Roll out the dough to fit a 9 inch pan. It will be a little crumbly in the beginning, but keep at it – it will eventually fall into shape.

5. Place the dough inside the pan and prick a few holes. Place aluminum foil over the dough and put some dry beans on top. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake another 5 minutes so that the dough browns a little. Set aside.

OSTRICH EGG QUICHE

1 ostrich egg

2 cups milk

500 grams Raesekaese or Appenzeller cheese, grated.

4 tablespoons paprika

250 grams chopped lardons or speck

4 leeks, chopped

2 tablespoons nutmeg

1 small container sour cream

Pepper, to taste

Brown lardons or speck in a pan over medium heat. Drain and set aside. Place leeks in the same pan. Using the oil derived from the lardons, sweat leeks over medium flame until softened. Set aside.

Drill a small hole on the bottom of the ostrich egg and a slightly bigger hole on top. Stick a chopstick inside and scramble the egg a bit. Blow into the smaller hole to help force the contents out into a large bowl.

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Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, forced fan.

With your hand mixer on low, beat the egg on medium for 5 minutes. Add sour cream and milk and continue beating on low until well mixed. Add paprika and nutmeg. Add leeks, lardons and cheese and mix with a wooden spoon.

Distribute mixture over four prepared crusts. Bake each pan for 30 minutes.

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Home is where the bagel is.

 

IMG_0012  To say that it’s been a while is a gross understatement. Since my last post, I’ve switched jobs twice, moved to Florida – and here, I will go on a tangent: to those thinking of making that move, with dreams of sand, sunshine, margaritas, perma-tans: don’t do it.

There’s a reason Florida has face-eating zombies, crocodiles in their sewers, questionable election ballot procedures, this, hurricanes, etc. etc. etc.

I had accepted a job offer to open and head up a public relations and social media department for a private equity firm’s hospitality portfolio – my dream job, or so I thought. I thought that by leaving New York, I would finally be able to leave behind the rat race; that I would finally have time to take a deep breath.  That never happened.

I found myself doing 90 hour weeks to make up for what others weren’t doing. Call it the control freak in me; if someone trusted me enough to take such a huge undertaking, I wasn’t about to drop the ball, even when others didn’t seem to give two flying fucks. But after a year in, that same sickness- that same lack of motivation from my team members- sank in. Florida grew to feel like a bad trip that the hubby and I couldn’t escape.

But escape we did – back to Austria. The job opportunity that I had hoped and wished for back in 2011 finally materialized.

But with it – we are back to what I complained about on my blog’s very first post: that feeling of discontentment; of missing the familiar; of wanting something that just can’t be found.

This time, it’s bagels. I never really appreciated  bagels until I left New York. And now that I am living in a little Austrian village where they have every delectable bread or pastry imaginable except a bagel, I see how wrong I was for never giving the bagel a second glance.

I’m sorry, dear bagel, for taking you for granted for so many years. And while I’m at it: I’m sorry, New York, for not appreciating you while I was there. Forgive me?

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CINNAMON RAISIN BAGEL  

Ingredients:

12 grams fresh yeast

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 ¼ cups of warm water

500g bread flour or “griffiges” flour

3 teaspoons of salt

1.5 tablespoons cinnamon

2 cups of pre-rinsed sultana raisins

Pot of boiling water

1 egg white

Preparation: 1. Mix the brown sugar in a half cup of warm water, then mash in the fresh yeast. Let it stand for 15 minutes until it’s fluffy.

2. Meanwhile, mix the flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture.

3. Pour the rest of the warm water into the well and mix.  If the dough looks too dry, add some more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is moist and firm. Let it stand for five minutes to let the flour absorb the water.

4. Add your sultanas to the mix, then knead the dough for about 10 minutes on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball.

5. Brush a large bowl with oil and place your ball of dough inside. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.

6. Divide the dough into 10 pieces for medium-sized bagels.  Roll each piece into a small ball. After it looks smooth, stick your finger in the middle and start stretching the dough into a ring. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

7. Place the rings on a sheet lined with baking paper. Cover with a damp towel and let them rest for another 10 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 210 degrees Celsius with forced fan; 220 without.

8. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat. Lower the bagels into the water 3 at a time. Give it a couple of seconds and you will see them float to the top. Let them sit for 2 minutes, then flip them over and boil another 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining rings.

9.Transfer the boiled bagels back to your baking paper lined sheet. Brush both sides of each bagel with egg white.

10. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.   Let them cool on a wire rack. I love my bagels toasted with a schmear of plain cream cheese. Or, when I feel like being especially indulgent, with a little jam on top of the cream cheese.

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The WasteLand Re-Interpreted (Lavender Macarons with Orange Buttercream)

This month’s Mac Attack Challenge reads: “March welcomes the first changes from one season to the next, hinting at warmth and sunshine, the coming of springtime for some of us, the chilly days of winter for others,” which brings to mind the first few lines from T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland:”

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding  Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing  Memory and desire, stirring  Dull roots with spring rain.

From the hundreds of poems I’ve had to read while working on my various academic degrees, this poem, considered by many Lit geeks as one of THE most important poems of the 20th Century, has always posed  a challenge for me. Heavy with symbolism and seemingly unrelated literary, historical, and cultural references, the poem has haunted me not because of its complexity and its somewhat pessimistic and bleak approach to modernist society, but because of the end message – the glimmer of hope and possibility that redemption is within reach, by peace which comes through understanding:

Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

And on that happy note….

For the macarons:

100 powdered sugar

50 g fine sugar

2 aged egg whites

80 g ground almonds

4 drops purple food coloring

2 TB Culinary lavender

Follow macaron instructions as described here.

Before drying, sprinkle lavender over macaron tops.

For the filling:

1/4 c salted butter (room temp)

2 c powdered sugar

1/8 c cream cheese

2 TB orange essence

1 TB grated orange peel

Cream salted butter with cream cheese until incorporated. Add powdered sugar a half cup at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Add orange essence to taste, then add grated orange peel.

Refrigerate for a half hour, then fill macarons.


It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (or, Linus’ Lament)

After doing my own consulting gig for the past two years, I’ve had to exchange the freedom that came with it in exchange for the security afforded by corporate shackles. Thus explains my absence from my blog, and thus explains my longing for the familiar warmth of my kitchen.

This month’s Mactweets Mac Attack Challenge called for all things fall: fall flavors, colors, and memories evoked from falling leaves.

To me, pumpkins are the quintessential symbol of autumn. From the carved jack o’ lanterns of Halloween, to the scrumptious pumpkin pies of Thanksgiving, fall wouldn’t be fall without the great pumpkin.

Great Pumpkin Macarons
For the macarons:
100 powdered sugar
50 g fine sugar
2 aged egg whites
50 g ground almonds
35 g ground pumpkin seeds
Follow macaron instructions as described here


For the filling:
1/4 c salted butter (room temp)
2 c powdered sugar
1/8 c pumpkin butter
Cream salted butter with the pumpkin butter until incorporated. Add powdered sugar a half cup at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Refrigerate for a half hour, then fill macarons.

Vegans Eat Twigs, Branches, and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am a practicing yogini, but I will be the first to admit it: yogis can be sanctimonious pricks.

Perhaps it’s a byproduct of yoga’s commercialization and subsequent patents and trademarks (which essentially, is a violation of traditional yoga), but yogis sure do like to thumb their noses. While I respect the tenets of ahimsa, or non-harming of all living creatures, the whole “meat is murder” thing is a little over the top. I get that eating a nice, juicy steak is anathema to your constitution, but please don’t give me the stink eye just because I’m relishing every bite of my NY Strip.

At its core, yoga is about union. So with this in mind, I propose a cookie recipe to unite vegans and non-vegans alike.  The recipe offers guilt-free enjoyment for both parties. Vegans can rejoice in that there’s zero animal products or by-products used; meat-eaters can rejoice in its delicious low-calorie goodness.

This recipe uses two unique, heart-healthy ingredients: oat flour and walnut butter. To make oat flour, simply grind some rolled oats to a fine powder using your food processor. You can also buy it pre-ground, but it costs much more than doing it yourself.

Ingredients:

4 TB grapeseed oil

2 cups walnuts

1/2 cup dark brown agave syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups oat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups rolled oats

12 ounces bittersweet vegan chocolate chips (if you are not vegan, you can substitute 12 ounces of very good bittersweet chocolate. I usually take 12 ounces of Callebaut and chop it into chunks)

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Line two baking pans with silicone baking mats and set aside.

Blend the walnuts with the grapeseed oil in your food processor until you get the consistency of walnut butter. This should take about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add agave syrup and vanilla. Whisk in oat flour, baking soda, salt. Fold in oats and chocolate chips.

Shape the cookie dough into 2-inch balls (or however big you may like them) , placing them an inch and a half apart on silicon mat-lined pans. Flatten the cookies. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets.

No One I Think Is In My Tree; I Mean, It Must Be High or Low

Here we go – my first Mac Attack challenge!

This month’s challenge was to take your favorite tune and to turn it into a mac. Strawberry Fields Forever isn’t necessarily my Favorite.Beatles.Song.Of. All.Time, but it certainly does evoke delicious, beautiful images of juicy strawberries; fragrant fields of green basil; sharp, pungent notes of….vinegar??  Before you say “eew…naaast-eh,”  give it a try! Balsamic vinegar, surprisingly, brings out the flavor of strawberries.

For the strawberry balsamic basil filling, I first made an egg custard, using up the 3 egg yolks I would have otherwise wasted. (Zero waste! Woo-hoo!!) After the egg custard cooled, I stirred in the strawberries, basil, and balsamic.  To make the custard a tad thicker, I beat in 4 ounces of cream cheese. This yielded more filling than I needed, so I saved it and later used it to make some cream puffs.

For the Strawberry Basil Balsamic Custard:

1 tsp vanilla bean

3 egg yolks

50 g sugar

15 grams pastry flour

1 cup milk

6 strawberries, either fresh or thawed, pureed

8 basil leaves, chopped fine

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

4 oz cream cheese

Whisk vanilla, egg yolk, and sugar together. Add pastry flour and mix. Warm milk over the stove. Don’t let it get too hot. Pour milk over egg mixture and stir. Afterwards, pour the mixture back into the pot. Heat on medium and stir constantly with a spatula. The mixture will start to bubble and get thick. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Add cream cheese and beat on medium until incorporated. Mix in strawberry puree, chopped basil, and balsamic. Refrigerate until ready to use.

The macaron recipe is adapted from Hisako Ogita’s book I Heart Macarons. I made a few adjustments, as I don’t like my macarons to be too sweet.

For the Macaron:

100 grams almond flour

120 grams powdered sugar

60 grams extra fine sugar

3 egg whites, aged overnight

1 tsp vanilla

4 drops green food coloring

Place a non-stick silicone mat on a baking pan and set aside. If you don’t have a silicone mat, line baking pan with parchment paper. Prepare your pastry bag and fit over a tall vase or over a blender pitcher. Sift the almond flour, along with the powdered sugar, through a sieve. Do this twice. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Take your aged egg whites and slowly start beating with a hand mixer on medium. After about a minute or two, beat on high until you get soft peaks. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites, while beating on high speed. Add vanilla and 2-3 drops of red food coloring and stir lightly. Continue beating until you have a stiff, firm, glossy meringue. Add half of the sifted nut flour mixture. Stir quickly with spatula until incorporated. Add rest of the flour and continue mixing. Press and spread out batter against bowl’s side and scoop batter from the bottom up. Repeat this 15 times or until the batter is nicely firm and fluid. Almost everyone compares the consistency to magma, but dudes. Really?? Unless you’ve experienced a real life Joe Vs The Volcano, I highly doubt any of us would know what the consistency of magma would look/feel like. OK. Moving right along. The take-away message when you macaronnage is that you don’t need to treat your batter with kid gloves, but at the same time, be careful not to overmix.

Attach a 1 centimeter tip to a pastry bag. Pour batter inside bag. Squeeze small circles, the size of quarters, on prepared baking pan, spacing about half an inch apart. Once completed, smack the living crap out of that pan against the counter. The OCD in me always does it 17 times. Why 17? Why not? I’ll tell you this much: the process helps the air bubbles escape from the batter and is essential to getting a foot. Pre-heat oven to 320 degrees F. Dry the batter at room temperature for 45 minutes, or until the batter feels dry to the touch, but not hard. On hot, humid days, it helps to have a fan blowing to speed up the drying process. Place the baking pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet from the oven and let cool. Once completely cooled, remove macarons from the baking sheet. Spread custard in between two shells. It’s best to store overnight in the fridge before eating, but if you can’t wait, go ahead and go to town!


I’m Down with OCD (yeah you know me)

For weeks—months, even—I’ve been lurking the web, reading post after post after post on macaron techniques.

More shameful than my stalking: Syrup & TangDavid LebovitzTartelette, and, of course, MacTweets,was the number one recessionista rule I broke in attempting to make these pernicious little buggers: Thou shalt not waste.

I shudder when I think about the egg-ocide I commited upon many organic eggs in order to whip up a perfect meringue. Let’s not even talk about the thousands of grams of almond flour I wasted—all because I could not get a proper foot.  Considering how expensive macarons run in NYC, however, I have made peace with myself because not only are these much cheaper once you master the art of macaronnage, these make such yummy presents for friends and loved ones. Also? It’s a great way to show off your mad baking skills without stating the fact.

My first taste of success brought out the OCD in me. It’s hard not to become obsessed when you are able to finally get that magic “foot.”

Funny enough, the instructions I found most helpful came not from a personne Française, but from a Japanese pâtissier. Of course, I am referring to Hisako Ogita. Admittedly, I was a little afraid to use her recipe and her methods —particularly, as some reviewers have pointed out, Ogita’s eggwhite-tant pour tant is counter to traditional ratios. Additionally, some illustrations in the book are out of order. Thus, you have to either have a mind that can put puzzle pieces together quickly and easily, or you will need to read the short book at least twice or thrice to get the technique down.

I am now comfortable enough to take on the Mac Attack challenge. Next up: Strawberry Balsamic Basil Macarons. Or, per Mac Attack 9’s Sing a Song challenge, Strawberry Fields Forever.

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