The big new Capitol Hill branch of Cupcake Royale opened July 22 with free babycakes for everyone who stopped by to say the magic words: “Legalize Frostitution!” After visiting for the pre-opening party, tasting more of the revamped recipes I wrote about a while back, and seeing the jumbo mixers and the 15-rack oven in the back kitchen, I think they’ll be prepared for the crowds descending on the pretty place. (Early bird note: The store will open for business at 6 a.m., and it’s at 1111 E. Pike St.)
Here’s a video to show you their techniques — we saw a few examples, using slightly different methods, but all with the same polished results. (Even on the last example on the video, where the froster — what a great job title! — is repairing my own clumsy first attempt.) For those of you who aren’t in the area, or who prefer baking at home, we also have a recipe for the shop’s new vanilla cupcake, scaled down for the home baker, which CR owner Jody Hall kindly shared. (The Medosweet dairy products would be tough for the home cook to find, and if you’re not in Washington you probably want to substitute your own local brands to follow the money-where-your-mouth-is ethos, but here’s how it’s done in these parts.)
Vanilla Buttercake Recipe
makes 1 dozen
2 3/4 c. Shepherd’s Grain cake flour
2 3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. local egg whites
1/2 c. warm water
1/3 c. Medosweet sour cream
5 ounces Medosweet butter
3 tbs expeller-pressed canola oil
1 tsp Gahara vanilla bean paste
Line a cupcake tin with your favorite cupcake wrappers, and set your oven to bake at 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a mixer and mix on low speed. In a separate bowl, combine water and sour cream. Add vanilla paste and egg whites to this mixture and stir until combined. Add the butter, oil, and 1/4 of liquid mixture to your dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gradually add the remainder of the liquid mixture in three doses, beating for 20 seconds after each dose. (Editorial note: Do you see now why it took 57 tries to develop the new recipes?) Scoop batter into wrappers. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden. Set cupcakes aside until they are cool to the touch, then frost ‘em up with real buttercream.
It’s still hard for me to believe that Korean food is the next hot cuisine. It’s like finding out that the singer you always loved, the one who never made it really big, is suddenly on America’s Top 40. As I wrote here in the Christian Science Monitor, I’m crazy about Korean food, but it’s the one cuisine that has been too esoteric for nearly all my friends and relatives to join in. They’ve dubbed it too spicy, too aggressive, too unusual.
Breaking through that logjam of fascination and fear is writer/artist Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, who’s coming to town this week on tour for her new book, Quick and Easy Korean Cooking. The book, chosen for Gourmet’s cookbook club, lives up to its name, and could legitimately have tagged a “delicious” on the title too. But even Lee’s previous book, the autobiographical Eating Korean, made it clear that it was possible to get authentic and thoroughly satisfying Korean food on the table without a tremendous investment of time.
On the phone before her Northwest trip, I asked Lee if she’s been getting bigger crowds for her book signings, now that Korean is considered hot instead of esoteric. She doesn’t know yet — she’s starting the tour here. But she is glad to hear people saying, finally, “Oh, Korean food. We all love it. It’s like it’s been around forever.”
Look for Lee at book signings and cooking demos around town (schedule below). Here are also some highlights from our conversation, and a recipe for her spicy buckwheat noodles, which are fast becoming a summertime staple in our home. (more…)
I know how it goes. I talk about my favorite recipes, and I hear “Not photogenic!” “Not attractive!”
Funny, in an industry where people so freely use the term “food porn,” I keep hearing that there’s nothing pretty about a piece of meat.
So for this stew, (you’ll find the official recipe in Joan Nathan’s classic Jewish Holiday Kitchen), we’re trying something more seductive.
Cut two pounds of chuck meat into 1- or 2-inch chunks. (At most — ahem — meat markets, they will do this for you. Just make sure it’s chuck; the precut stew meat is sometimes a leaner cut.) Slice three onions. Sprinkle the meat with salt, and brown it along with the onions in a large stew pot. Brown it in margarine if you keep kosher; butter if you don’t. I use butter. (Sorry, dad, but you know you should have stopped reading at the headline.) Add water to cover the meat, and simmer, uncovered, one hour.
The winner has been announced in the Seattle Cheese Festival’s grilled cheese recipe contest, and it’s the “Grilled Suds ‘n Cheese” sandwich created by Cristal Ortiz. Ortiz will demo the sandwich during the festival, at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, and it will be on the menu at the cafe at DeLaurenti.
I’m in a hotel room right now and can’t test the recipe for you, but I’m willing to bet it’s good. Why? Because it calls for a half-stick of butter. Not good enough? It also calls for a pint of good German beer. Resistance is futile:
Preparing "Uighur Pastries" from Beyond The Great Wall
I meant the third day of the United Way Hunger Challenge to be fish night. I figured I would try to get around the conundrum of fish being one of the healthiest foods around (once you avoid the pollutants and environmental landmines) but also one of the most expensive. Instead, I found myself in my first experiment in deep-fat frying.
Searching through Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s “Beyond The Great Wall” for inspiration on spectacular dishes within limited means, I became hypnotized by the little vegetable-filled turnovers (”Uighur Pastries With Pea Tendrils”) the authors found in the Turpan oasis of China. The dough couldn’t have been simpler or more inexpensive — 22 cents worth of flour, water, and salt. The recipe called for a filling of peavines, but I decided against a trip to the Asian markets and instead used $1.15 worth of the chard that I had bought on my run to Trader Joe’s, along with a 25 cent onion and a bit of bulk cumin and cayenne and salt.
I made a batch of dough early in the afternoon, but by cooking time I was running into the dinnertime limitations I struggle with even when cost isn’t such a concern: Me needing to be around a sharp knife and a hot stove when time is short and the children are hungry. So I did this: I fed each one a banana (19 cents apiece). I fed the toddler, who we once nicknamed “BPB” (it sounded more polite than “bottomless pit baby”) a second banana. And I managed to remember that lesson I keep relearning, that cooking with kids is just another, more practical, version of playing with them.
An old friend was in town Monday, and I missed the regular meetup of former P-I employees at Aster coffeehouse. I didn’t skip it because of the United Way Hunger Challenge, but it did occur to me that I’d blow an uncomfortable percentage of my challenge budget if I did scramble to make the meeting. I missed the company as well as the coffee, though. Financial planners collectively ding the daily latte, but it’s a very enjoyable social ritual. And I came in enough under my $22 budget yesterday to loosen up and make some different choices today. At my beginning photography class, for instance, where I brought this egg picture today for an assignment, students often walk to Stumptown before class or during the break, and I decided to go ahead and join in. I used $2.75 of today’s food budget on that cup of French press. I enjoyed it more than caviar.
And the eggs? I invested eight of them in tonight’s dinner. Eggs cost more than they used to cost, but they’re still admirably inexpensive and versatile, and I was pleasantly surprised to see I didn’t have to fight my ethics to keep them on the menu this week. A dozen cage-free, Certified Humane eggs from Stiebrs Farms were on sale for $1.99 at PCC (regularly $2.39), or 17 cents apiece — no more than the cut-rate eggs I had guiltily picked up earlier for the photo shoot. Normally, I spring for organic eggs, at double the price, but I was satisfied by the description of the Stiebrs eggs to go for these. (Wilcox Farms, also local, is Certified Humane as well.)
I’ve been flipping through Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid books for ideas, and tonight’s dinner was a from-memory adaptation of their stir-fried cellophane noodles and eggs from Hot Salty Sour Sweet. (If you’ve got that wonderful book, you can let me know if I missed any key ingredients.) I sauteed two chopped shallots and a clove of garlic in olive oil in a big skillet, added eight lightly beaten eggs, and sprinkled on a few dashes of fish sauce. When the eggs were nearly scrambled, I added about 8 ounces of soaked cellophane noodles, and stirred it all together. I squeezed a lime on top and added a sprinkle of chopped bulk-bin peanuts.
For years, I’ve been saying that we could cut the chaos in our lives in half just by planning and cooking meals ahead of time. The first day of United Way’s Hunger Challenge proved me right in the worst way. Let me just confess up front that my kids had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, even though the adults did — well past the children’s bedtime — get a nice vegetarian stew. No one went hungry, but the diet could have been far better balanced.
I had a vague idea of what to cook for the $7/day challenge ($22/day in my case, for a family of four) but decided to food shop before making firm plans, under the theory of cooking whatever was on sale. I visited Fred Meyer, PCC, and Trader Joe’s for supplies, and later this week I’ll probably restock at Ranch 99. This is actually no more insane than my usual weekly shopping routine, but I realize it’s a luxury in itself — the time to visit multiple stores, for one thing, and a reliable car to get to them. When doing the actual cooking, though, time is a substitute for money in a lot of ways: Soaking beans, braising meats, baking bread… oh, the bread, which I put it out of my mind until Sunday night.
I had planned on making a 3-loaf batch of Robin’s Bread to get through the week on budget. That was a problem. The bread needs to rise overnight before a second rise and bake. No way could I get it done in time for lunch sandwiches on Monday. My faster standby, the Buttermilk Honey Bread, called for, well, buttermilk and honey, and I didn’t want to incur the extra cost. So I went searching on the King Arthur Flour site Sunday night for a basic, reasonably fast recipe, and wound up with this “Classic Sandwich Bread,” then stayed up until 1 a.m. for it to come out of the oven. I briefly panicked when it barely changed shape on its first rise — it’s never a good idea to test a new recipe when you really need something to work — but it did fine on the second rise, and came out of the oven lovely and toasty and tasting great. I’ll be making it again (note that I used vegetable oil instead of butter, and substituted whole wheat flour for half the white flour). Total cost: About $1.50 per loaf, including 65 cents worth of flour from the bulk bins at Fred Meyer and 40 cents worth of organic milk I feel good about. Throughout the day, as expected, the fresh and organic ingredients wound up costing the most. (more…)
Small to large: Raw tapioca pearls, soaked tapioca, tapioca pudding/Photo by David Dickey
My mother never made tapioca pudding. I never ordered it in restaurants (if any restaurants even offered it) or bought it from Kozy Shack. Some recipe somewhere must have called for tapioca pearls, though, because I had a half-opened bag in the pantry the night I inexplicably got a craving for a bowl. Maybe I just finally got enough exposure to bubble tea that the texture of tapioca began to seem alluring rather than odd.
The night after eating the sweet, comforting, surprisingly light treat, I made another batch. I’ve gone through another bag or two of tapioca pearls since then. And I’ve decided not to toss the half-opened bags of hazelnut flour, ground flaxseed, almond meal, and more on the pantry shelves. I have a feeling they could come in handy for something good again.
For my tapioca pudding, I tinker with the recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill bag. I double or even triple that recipe, to start with, because it’s hard for my mixer to whip the two egg whites called for in its single batch, and because I like having leftovers. I use whole milk instead of 2%, and simmer the tapioca with vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks. It usually keeps its lift and texture for about 48 hours.
2/3 cup small pearl tapioca
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 cinnamon sticks
1. Separate eggs
Sunny separated yolks
2. Soak tapioca in water in a pot for 30 minutes. The pearls will quickly swell up.
Soaked tapioca pearls
3. Slit vanilla bean and scrape out seeds; add the seeds and the scraped bean to the pot (alternately, just add a teaspoon of vanilla extract).
Scraping vanilla bean
4. Add milk, salt, lightly beaten egg yolks, and cinnamon sticks to tapioca and stir over medium heat until boiling. Simmer uncovered over very low heat for 10-15 minutes.
Seattle Spice Company cinnamon sticks
5. Beat egg whites with sugar until stiff peaks form (the original recipe calls for soft peaks, but I like them better a little farther along).
Whipping egg whites
6. Fold 1-1/2 cups of the hot tapioca into the egg whites, then gently fold mixture back into saucepan. Stir over low heat for about 3 minutes. Cool.
A friend of mine in Israel used to argue that the country had no original ethnic cuisine beyond the infamous soy schwarma served in the college dorms, that most of the dishes we enjoyed, from Sabbath cholent to stuffed felafels, were carried over from European ancestors or borrowed from Arab residents and neighbors. It’s true that dishes that struck me as most intensely authentic during my time there were authentic versions of someone else’s food — the baklava from the Druse villages near Haifa, or the Yemenite stews at the restaurant near my bus stop in Jerusalem. The overflowing harvests of cucumbers and tomatoes that ruled so many meals came home with me only in European forms — cold gazpacho, say, or Greek salad.
It’s been years since that conversation, and it wasn’t until last week that I remembered the “Israeli salad”: Stripped-down simple, distinctive in its small dice, and ubiquitous even to the point of appearing on breakfast tables. A young cousin set out a bowl as part of lunch when we visited California last week, and it seemed distant but familiar, basic but so good we devoured every bite. It was so appealing, I think, partly because she used fresh lemon juice in it, from the ripe fruits hanging all over the backyard tree. They were so abundant, so matter-of-fact to everyone who lives in a citrus-growing climate, but so magical to those of us from colder zones. I haven’t smelled a fresh-picked lemon in so long, that alone made it feel like we were returning to a foreign land.
Several cucumbers (there were 10 small Persian cucumbers in the bowl pictured)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Dice cucumbers, seed and dice tomatoes, and combine. Drizzle with olive oil, add lemon juice, and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.
(Too simple for you? If you want to up the salad ante, try Smitten Kitten’s version with onion, sumac powder, and some other additions.)
Ethan Stowell's StarChefs crudo (recipe below)/Photos by David Dickey
Seattle’s “Rising Star” chefs got a chance this week to collectively show off the dishes that won them the honor from StarChefs, the online magazine that’s been called the industry’s Gourmet. Here’s the tough part, though: