Monday, June 30, 2008

Danish Braids

This month's challenge was, I admit, a very fun one. I felt like a really real baker! Doing turns, marking them with special thumb prints, letting my dough proof- oh such fun. I only had one kinda major chaotic moment which I think I handled pretty well. But let's start off by grinding up some cardamon and zesting an orange (which is no east feat with a cheese grater...)


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough


For the dough (Detrempe)

  • 1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even.

Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain.

It was so horrible, that I had to recreate the scenario using a drawing...

With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. (What they mean is throw any dry flour into the liquid to keep it from running off the counter edge) When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky. (This dough was a sticky mess and I'm not sure how to fix that- but it all seemed to work out in the end)


1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

I apparently didn't quite get these direction correct... that whole right side should be slathered in butter. Also- you have to love that geometry. Look at those straight edges!

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Makes enough for 2 large braids


  • 1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)

  • 2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

  • For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

In the second braid I mushed the raspberries first and then laid the chocolate on top- Next time I would mix in about 2tbl of sugar.

Egg Wash

Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

Look! It's proofed! or pooffed even!

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

PS: A better picture of the complete Danish will be up tomorrow- because I'm just so damn organized... Here ya go!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Kris also forgot....

  • 2 Hammer House DVD's : "A House on Haunted Hill" and "The Devil Rides Out"
  • His π dish (another gift from my loving mother... )

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Annual Scavenger Hunt

Last Thursday night was the Annual Scavenger Hunt here at work (not that it's annual to me) and it just about killed me. We really had a great time running around London looking for ridiculous things to photograph. We visited all 4 Christie's branches, used all sorts of modes of transportation and the last 30 minutes were a whirlwind run down Old/New Bond street, past the Annual Ralph Lauren Wimbledon party and the Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art reception... A little embarrassing to say the least.. And after all that effort, we came in 5th- out of 7 (!!!!)- on a technicality. It was a bitter blow to our egos. Here are some of the highlights:

Number 28: Two team members with a man with a moustache

Number 67: Person from the crowd winking
(we got a few!)

Number 65: Gargoyle

Number 62: Reproduce this Image

The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck

Must be included in the photo: One team member with a hat and the same body position and one team member pregnant (or with a fake baby bump) caressing their stomach. Both team member must hold hands

Number 6: Harrods

Number 60: 2 team members doing a leap frog

Number 36: Busker smiling

And the most embarrassing picture...

Number 85: Reproduce this Image

Le Verrou by Fragonard

Must be included in the photo: Two team members in the same body position in front of a door

Monday, June 23, 2008

My favorite email of the day

"I have in my possession an object of fine art that is unprecedented by any other artist/s. Imagine statue of Jesus Christ, crucified, made of carpet."

Lets hope that he sends through some images

Friday, June 20, 2008

Things my boyfriend forgot..

And I think this list gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of a guy he really is-
  • A plaid Fedora style hat
  • Trivial Pursuit DVD Game- The Star Wars Edition
  • his check book
  • a communist party lighter*
  • 3 back issues of Empire
  • "Skeleton Crew" by Stephen King (although this wasn't really forgotten, it was forcefully taken when he locked me out of our flat- as he was leaving for the airport- at 7:30am- on a Sunday)
  • a wooden dragon trivet*
  • 6 pairs of fancy chopsticks*
  • Asian apron*
  • about 85 power adapters
  • shoe polish kit
  • a broken Mao watch*
  • an Excel Saga magnet
  • a Cyclops magnet
  • a fancy Kenneth Cole watch*
  • 1 leather glove

*These items were given to Kris from myself or brought over specially by my mother from CHINA. She will be sorely disappointed to see this list.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Garden Spells" By Sarah Addison Allen

I finished this book while waiting in the return line at Primark, because the line was that long and this book is that good. It was completely delightful and utterly delicious. The kind of book that makes me want to be more creative- in this case, I feel the need to make some Lavender Shortbread or Elderflower Champagne. I really only bought this book because the cover is pretty and the main character is named Claire, but it hit all the right chords. Whimsical, light and magical. Do yourself a favor and read it while it's still the perfect weather!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


In honor of Kris' moving back home to the good ol US of A, last week we made us some Galaxy Nachos for the last time. Kris found this "recipe" in a "cookbook" by one of his favorite online persons; Chris Omstad, who draws daily cartoon about a retarded Otter. A cookbook was the obvious next step for his career:

"This is a cookbook for people who are fed up with glossy, high-quality efforts by professional chefs who aren't forced to shop at lousy chain grocery stores and cook everything in a ruined Teflon pan." Would you be shocked if I told you this was Kris' first cookbook? no? me neither. But it did provide us with a cool name for our otherwise uncool hobby of not wanting to cook and settling for some sort of Mexican food to go along with a bad action flick. Now it's "Galaxy Nacho night sponsored by Die Hard"!

Galaxy Nachos
  • Tortilla Chips
  • 1 pound of Ground Beef
  • 1 sachet of Taco Seasoning (or some sort of Mexican seasoning)
  • Monterrey Jack Cheese, shredded
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • Spring onions, chopped
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
  • Jalapenos, sliced
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • One bad action flick (try double features! Such as the totally awesome The Wicker Man Vs. The AWESOMER The Wicker Man)

Preheat oven your oven to HOT

Cook up your ground beef along with some of you spices. Layer your chips on a cookie sheet and bake them for a couple minutes- don't let them burn!

Layer some of the refried beans and cooked beef onto the chips and cover with cheese. Stick it in the oven until the cheese melts and it looks gooey and delicious.

We didn't have any spring onions, so we settled for chives.

Spoon on some guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

Top it all off with some shredded lettuce. These nachos should really only be eaten with a beer, directly from the pan, while sitting on the floor. I'm just saying...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gotta Love

While waiting at a crosswalk, overhearing an Italian gentleman: "yes, you can say traversiamo, but we would say attraversiamo!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Pho-tastic!

I printed off this recipe in the winter with plans of spending a cozy weekend making and enjoying some homemade pho. And then Kris made fun of me for making too much Asian food, so this recipe was sadly forgotten for months. UNTIL NOW. I'm not sure what finally made me step up and buy those beef bones but let me tell you that it felt good. The butcher had to ask another butcher and the woman behind me had to ask: "What is that? you're buying bones?" "Why yes! I'm making soup!" to which the butcher agreed: "Yes, Marrow bones are GREAT for making soup" to which the woman said: "They would be good for dogs, wouldn't they?" Now I love my dog and all dogs in general- but marrow bones for dogs? Only in London, I tell you. But I digress- This noodle soup is really fantastic- it's warm and cozy but I still want to eat 3 bowls in one sitting in the middle of spring because it's also light and fresh. This is quickly becoming a year round staple. So a big thank goes out to Jaden of Steamy Kitchen for this wonderful addition to my repertoire.

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup - Pho Bo
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 4″ nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
  • 5-6 lbs of good beef bones, preferably leg and knuckle
  • 1 lb of beef meat - chuck, brisket, rump, cut into large slices [optional]
  • 6 quarts of water
  • 1 package of Pho spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves - in mesh bag]
  • 1 1/2 tbl salt
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 inch chunk of yellow rock sugar (about 1 oz) - or 1oz of regular sugar


  • 2 lbs rice noodles (dried or fresh)
  • cooked beef from the broth
  • 1/2 lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thin as possible.
  • big handful of each: mint, cilantro, basil
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 2-3 chili peppers, sliced
  • 2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Cock sauce (Sriracha)
Although you have to parboil the bones and then boil the broth for about 3 hours, the amount of total effort involved is pretty minimal. It's mostly gathering with a little bit of cutting/chopping.

Char: Turn your broiler on high and move rack to the highest spot. Place ginger and onions on baking sheet. Brush just a bit of cooking oil on the cut side of each. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.

Some truly delicious flavors get boiled into this broth: star anise, cardamon, cinnamon sticks,fish sauce, fennel seeds, char grilled ginger and onions!

Parboil the bones: Fill large pot (12-qt capacity) with cool water. Boil water, and then add the bones, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 qts of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil broth: Add ginger, onion, spice packet, beef, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside (you’ll be eating this meat later in the bowls) Continue simmering for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the broth to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning - if you want a little more flavor, add a few dashes more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or large pinch of regular sugar).

Here we have some thinly sliced steak and TWO spice sachets (one is definitely enough)

Prepare noodles & meat: Slice your flank/London broil/sirloin as thin as possible - try freezing for 15 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier. Remember the cooked beef meat that was part of your broth? Cut or shred the meat and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Your guests will “assemble” their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles - there are many different sizes and widths of rice noodles, so make sure you read the directions. For some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 second blanch in hot water is all that’s needed. The package that I purchased (above) - needed about 45 seconds in boiling water.

Then all you want to do is gather your accompaniments- Bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, peppers, lime wedges... a dash of Hoisin sauce and/or Chili sauce add a nice touch too.

Ladling: Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, shredded cooked beef and raw meat slices. As soon as the broth comes back to a boil, ladle into each bowl. the hot broth will cook your raw beef slices. Serve immediately. Guests can garnish their own bowls as they wish.

Kick back, relax and enjoy.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Somewhere in the Chinese Wilderness

Dear Padme,

You have now been missing for over a month. Once the parents moved from the cramped 15th floor apartment in funky downtown Sanya, to their fancy new beach cottage on Yalong Bay, you hightailed it out into the surrounding nature. And I can't blame you really. You hadn't been able to eat grass in 7 months! Although you're a really prissy cat, you do love roughin' it. Last summer when we moved into a smaller townhouse less than a mile from the old house, you spent the first couple days hidding in mom's closet until you garnered all your courage to sneak outside where you stayed for 4 days straight. We called your name from the porch every morning and night, hoping you'd return. And you did. Covered in travellers and smelling like a wet towel.

It was Thanksgiving weekend of my senior year in High School and my Meme Suzanne was visiting us for the holidays. I had been aching to get a cat, but since I'd be going to college in a few months, it didn't seem to make sense to my parents. I understood their position but couldn't get the thought out of my head. Now my Meme Suzanne is the one repsonsible for getting me my first cat when I was a kid. A guy on the corner of Monoprix in Pithiviers had some kittens in a box and Meme let me pick one out and then forcibly pay the man 10 francs, even though he was just happy the kitten had found a home. My parents were quite surprised with the new acquisition, but no one questions my grandmother. With Mem in town and my mom having suddenly developed a love of taking our labrador Nelly to Petsmart, I knew the time was right. I can't honestly say why I choose you of all the cats available that day. You were hidding in the corner of a pen with your mother and brother and we were told that you had been found on the side of the highway. I'm not sure I even held you before making my choice, but you were so little, beautiful and afraid of everything, that I knew you needed my help.

You had already been named by the kind people at the shop and although you might look like a "Daisy" you had a bit too much attitude to pull it off- which is a good thing really. Your coy looks and superior demeanor led to your name being chnaged to "Padme Amidala"- regal and feisty- and completely nerdy. My dad couldn't wrap his head around it so he refered to you as "notepad" for the first year of your life. Once you settled into your new home, you developed a deep love for the family dog, Nelly. While she laid on the landing, you would carefully sneak up and try to nuzzle her. For some unknown reason, Nelly never reciprocated your love openly. She would immediately walk away or violently shift if she ever noticed you being affectionate. You might even chase after her a bit but always had to fall back quickly in order to preserve your image. But if anyone were to turn on the stairway light in the middle of the night, we knew we would find the two of you snuggled up together- until Nelly noticed that someone was watching- then she had to get up and move quickly in order to preserve her image.

When I lived at home you were really my cat. Long after everyone else in the house had gone to bed, I would take my daily shower and I could always count on you to be leaning against the bathroom door and when I opened it you would give me a look of: "what took you so long? I fell asleep waiting!". You would then rub against my bare legs as I made my way through the dark house back to my room. You always beat me back and would leap onto my high sleigh bed and use the footboard to inch your way closer to my face, wanting nothing more than to rub your drooly little mouth all over my clean cheek. Once I'm finally lying in bed trying to read, you simply cannot stand to be behind the book but insist that I either hold it above your head or not read at all. And this is your favorite option because then you can sit high atop me, with a smile on your face and your paw extended, gently clawing my mouth. And it hurts. But for some reason that's when you look happiest.

I could probably keep talking about your funny ways and adorable nature ad nauseum. You're a really great cat and I can only hope that you're on an amazing adventure right now- chasing far cooler creatures than the birds, rodents and grass snakes you had conqured in Virginia. If you ever need a good cuddle, I hope you know that Mom will be waiting for you- I'll just keep sending you the Schwartz (as we say in our family). I hope you're happy wherever you are and thank you for the time you spent with us. I miss you.


PS: Dad made me sign a contract before he would allow us to adopt you (because he's just that cool), stating that "As soon as I lived somewhere that would allow a cat, I was to regain total custody over you immediately". So I'm sorry I moved to the UK and coulnd't bring you with me out of college- but I didn't think you'd be happy living in a small flat either...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

You gotta Love

The woman at Tesco buying nothing but a bag of Crispy Lettuce and a pint of Cherry Garcia Ben and Jerry's Ice cream.