Sunday, May 31, 2009

Homemade Pop Tarts = Delicious

Someone on eGullet posted a recipe for making your own pop tarts. A lot of pop tart recipes just have you use a regular pie crust dough, but he tried to develop a crust that was akin to the original (although much tastier). So I decided to give them a try, and the result was delicious!

First batch ready to go in the oven.
First batch out of the oven: chocolate, blueberry and strawberry.
The "money shot." This one is blueberry - my favorite. The filling is homemade blueberry jam I received as a gift.
For the second batch, I had some friends over, and we made a bunch of mini-tarts, all in different flavors. I frosted them in different colors so I'd be able to tell them apart.
L to R: caramel, apricot, raspberry, thimbleberry, blackberry. All from random half-jars of preserves, jam, etc hanging out in my fridge.
To tell them apart while they were baking, we docked the top pastry with a letter to represent the filling. These are two of the three savory ones we made - the P is pesto & parmesan, and the M is mango chutney. There was also a sundried tomato & parmesan one. We thought tapenade would be great, but didn't have any - next time!

One of the things that makes pop tart dough different than you'd expect is that it's not sweetened. There's just 1 tsp of sugar to 3.5 cups of flour in the recipe. This makes it perfect for playing with savory fillings as well as sweet. And I love the visual fun of having a savory that looks sweet. To really play the trompe l'oeil card, I just need to figure out how to mimic the frosting and sprinkles in a savory application.

I've been pretty staid in my sweet fillings so far, just because I have so many jars of jam in my refrigerator. But there's lots of possibility for creative applications there too.

The other thing that's different about pop tart dough is that it's kind of dry. So you'll want a glass of milk to wash them down - it's the perfect pairing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cocktail Challenge: The Sazerac

As foreshadowed in my last cocktail challenge post, I did head into the Absente drinks, starting with the Sazerac - Jim Beam Straight Rye, Absenté, and Peychaud's Bitters with simple syrup, lemon oil, and a twist. I thought this might be okay, because I'm a big fan of Jim Beam Straight Rye. But this cocktail was a little aggressive for me... Strong - not a lot of mixers in there. It was reasonably good for careful sipping when it cold, but as it warmed up the anise taste from the Absente started to become much more prominent. So I just kept slipping ice cubes in, and found that it started to grow on me a little bit, especially once the ice diluted it a little more.

Still, this isn't one that I'd order again. But I didn't expect to like them all, so that's okay!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Introducing the TT Supper Club

Summer is a tough time of year for chocolate making, so Tammy's Tastings (the business) always takes a summer hiatus from regular sales. But while I love making chocolates and confectionery, I also love to cook. So this summer, I've decided to use my hiatus a little differently.

I'm pleased to introduce the TT Supper Club. Once a month, from June through September, I'll be hosting a fundraising dinner in my home to benefit different local food organizations. My inaugural dinner will be June 6 and will benefit Preserving Traditions:

Preserving Traditions is a non-profit club based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We aspire to keep old-time foodways alive and well, to build and support our local foodshed, and to make really good food for our families and neighbors!
If you're not familiar with the group, I think they're really exciting. It's a grass roots, bottom-up effort, with people getting together to learn skills from each other that encourage eating well and seasonally and locally. They host their events at the Pittsfield Grange and are planning to use the funds raised to better outfit the kitchen there so that they can offer a wider range of classes and to more people. Local foodblogger Emily from Eat Close to Home is the founder of the group and will be helping me cook the dinner. She'll talk a little about the organization at the meal, so it's a great opportunity to learn more or get involved.

Each dinner is limited to eight people, and will feature a tasting menu designed to highlight seasonal and local foodstuffs. In order to be as flexible and market-driven as possible, I won't be posting a menu in advance; you'll just have to trust me. (Edited to add: here's what I'm thinking about for the June dinner.) The menu will take into account food restrictions (vegetarian/gluten-free, etc) and preferences/dislikes. Here's a sample menu, so you'll have some idea of what you can expect:

Wild Mushroom Tartlette
Seared Scallop with Tarragon Leek Sauce
Salad of Baby Greens with Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Lake Perch with Beurre Blanc and Roasted Asparagus
Roasted Quail with Yellow Oyster Mushrooms, Pea Shoots and White Grits
Cheese Plate with Garnishes
Rhubarb Galette and Vanilla Ice Cream
Petit Fours

Dinners are designed to be wine-friendly, but are BYOB (or better yet, bring some to share). A minimum donation of $50 is requested per person.

Sound good? If you'd like to reserve one of the 8 spaces at the June 6 dinner, please email me with your food restrictions and preferences. Early requests will receive priority, but I reserve the right to adjust the guest list in order to manage conflicting food restrictions.

If you'd like to be notified about future dinners, please subscribe to the TT Supper Club Mailing list by filling out the form below, and you'll be the first to know when I'm accepting requests for July and beyond. Your privacy is important to me, and I'll never share your email address or information.

I'm really excited to have a chance to use my culinary creativity to help our local food community, and I'm looking forward to cooking for you!

Photos courtesy of Kitchen Chick, who I've been lucky enough to cook for many times.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cocktail Catch-Up

Well, I had this theory about writing a nice blog post about each cocktail I've tried so far in my cocktail challenge. But I've fallen behind, and starting to lose track of what I drank. So I'm going to write one big catchup post with notes, and then hopefully will be back on track to do the one-by-one...

Manhattan - Trying drinks like this is one of the reasons I set myself this cocktail challenge. Because it's a true classic, and something that any budding cocktailian (is that a word?) should be familiar with. Zingermans' version includes Jim Beam Straight Rye (which I love), Vya Sweet Vermouth, Gary Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6, and a real maraschino cherry. With no non-alcoholic mixers, I was worried that this was going to be really strong, but it was really quite delightful, and not too sweet. The housemade maraschino was a treat when I got to the bottom of the glass.

The Knickerbocker - Brugel Dominican Dark Rum, Bol's Orange Curacao, muddled fresh raspberries and freshly squeezed lemon juice. This is a girly drink if I ever saw one. It's sweet and pink, and kind of like candy. Definitely easy to drink, but fairly unremarkable.

The Bronx - Plymouth Original dry gin, Vya dry vermouth, Vya sweet vermouth, freshly squeezed orange juice, Gary Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6. I like gin, and adore Vya dry vermouth, so this was an easy pick for me. It's been a while since i tried this one, but I'm sure I liked it...

Champagne Cocktail - A touch of sugar, a dash or two of Angostura Bitters, L Mawby Blanc de Blanc. And a lemon twist, though that's not listed in the ingredients. I love sparkling wine, and wasn't sure how I'd feel about having it "adulterated" but this was just a lovely, festive cocktail, with the bitters giving it a really nice complexity.

Ward Eight - Jim Beam straight rye, freshly squeezed lemon juice, freshly squeezed orange juice, superfine sugar, pomegranate grenadine. Knowing I liked the Jim Beam rye, when I started the cocktail challenge I tended to pick the rye drinks. This bears a lot of resemblance to my favorite cocktail, the Scofflaw.

Jack Rose - Laird's applejack, freshly squeezed lemon juice, pomegranate grenadine. Another girly drink, but the lemon juice keeps it from being cloying.

Buster Brown - I tried this one on the strength of Mom's Kitchen's comment on my last post. And I was not disappointed. Maker's Mark bourbon, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, Gary Regan's orange bitters No.6. Smooth and very easy to drink, but not too sweet.

Blood and Sand - The Famous Grouse scotch whisky, Vya sweet vermouth, cherry Heering, freshly squeezed orange juice. Not as sweet as I feared (but still pretty sweet) this had a nice complexity.

The Monkey Gland - Plymouth Original dry gin, freshly squeezed orange juice, Bénédictine, pomegranate grenadine. The Benedictine was definitely an interesting flavor component, and I'm looking forward to trying it in some of the other drinks.

So that's 10 out of 35 - making pretty good progress. However, not being a huge anise fan, I've been avoiding the drinks with Absente in them, and there are a LOT of them. I think I'm going to start working on them next, for two reasons - a) I suspect I'll like them more than I think I will, and b) if I don't like them, I don't want to have a whole lot of them piled up at the end!