Q: Why did the mushroom always get invited to parties?

A: Because he’s such a fun-gi!

haaaa. get it? get it?

Well you guessed it. This entry is about mushrooms, but not in the way you think! Check these babies out:

So I made another batch of crème brûlée yesterday. Just as I said, perfect for a dinner party. Well it wasn’t a dinner party, but we had a guest over last night, and in his words it ‘hit the spot’. He threw  in a few compliments in French too. Woohoo. So… this morning my fridge had 8 egg whites in it. Normally I’d make an egg white omelette for my someone, but I thought I’d try something cool today. I shopped around for a meringue recipe on my three usual sites, and came across this one on allrecipes.com. I’m all for visually-appealing desserts, and this certainly looked like one of ’em.

Desserts with egg whites always make me nervous. I tend to get a bit overzealous and overbeat things. I have a 30% fail rate (and conversely a 70% success rate! ;)) when it comes to making angelfood cake, so I was a bit weary when I started this one. The recipe was simple enough, it was just a matter of executing it well. Everything went well, until I added in my sugar. The crystals were gigantic, so they did not mix very well. I needed fine sugar for sure. I find the basic crystal sugar here has much bigger grains than the basic sugar you buy in North America. To compensate for this, next time I’ll use what the Dutch call ‘fijn suiker’.

I also forgot how much of an advantage a chilled bowl affords you when you’re beating egg whites. Lastly, I don’t think my case was helped by a tin of cream of tartar that I’m sure was around when acid wash was in. The consequence of all my wrongdoings was that my batter didn’t ‘peak’ quite as it should’ve after the sugar was added. The mushroom tops turned out fine, but the bottoms weren’t as long as the ones pictured on allrecipes.com. For that, you need some good peaking. Fortunately I’ve got four more egg whites in the fridge, some fine sugar in the cupboard, and the knowledge that ‘cream of tartar’ is called wijnsteen in Dutch, and hopefully can be bought at a local supermarket.

I look forward to fooling small children and unsuspecting adults into thinking these are real mushrooms when I bake these again. They were tasty, and at 39 calories a pop, more or less guilt-free!

When life  gives you egg whites, make meringue!


Crème Brûlée

This weekend I got the chance to make a dessert I’ve been dying to make for ages–crème brûlée. On Friday I went to my favourite kitchen store in The Hague, DOK. I picked up a small kitchen torch that I’ve been eying for about  a month. The ramekins at DOK were a tad too expensive for me, so I went and found some small square dishes at Xenos. I wanted something a little deeper than the standard ramekin, so that I could have the option of making a larger serving.

I decided to go with Martha Stewart’s recipe, because I was too lazy to wade through everything on allrecipes.com. In any case, those who have made crème brûlée know that it’s a pretty basic recipe which doesn’t really vary too much… maybe an egg yolk less here, 1/3 cup of sugar there… nothing drastic at all. Wanting to do things on the cheap, I substituted vanilla bean for some vanilla extract (good extract, mind you, but I shall try it with the vanilla bean in the future).

This was my first time using a bain marie cooking method. For those who don’t know, it allows the custard to cook evenly in the oven. The instructions said to bake the custard for 30-40 minutes in the oven. After 40 minutes I started freak out. Then I realized: I had put 4 servings of custard into three dishes… of course it was going to take longer. My realization didn’t stop me from watching several videos on Youtube just in case, and watching the oven from the kitchen floor like a hawk. My diligence paid off, because after about 55 minutes, the custard came out looking good.

Now here’s the part where I admit to the stupid mistakes I made:

1. I halved the recipe, but accidentally put in the full amount of sugar.

2. I didn’t read the recipe beforehand, so I didn’t plan my time well, and so I was unable to cool the custard for the necessary amount of time in the fridge. In the end, I ended up alternating the custard back and forth between the freezer and the fridge in order to cool it adequately.

After about 90 minutes, we brûléed the crème and served the dessert. It turned out pretty good. There were no chunks or air bubbles, and the custard had set quite well–though it could’ve done with a longer stay in the fridge. I would say it was otherwise on par with stuff I’ve eaten in France. I look forward to making it again with actual vanilla bean. I think it’s a dessert that will serve me well in the future, simply because it’s one of those desserts that looks impressive, but is actually quite easy to master. I look forward to busting it out at a dinner party sometime.

Marietta’s White Chocolate Macadamia Biscotti

I decided the other day that I wanted to try my hand at biscotti for the first time. I’ve only ever had it at Starbucks, and thought it was about time to try some that wasn’t mass-produced. My usual go-to sites for baking are marthastewart.com and allrecipes.com. Since I’m on a punishing, mostly carb-free diet, it didn’t really matter to me which kind of biscotti I made, so i polled my mom and sis, and white chocolate macadamia came out on top. I decided to go with “Marietta’s White Chocolate Macadamia Biscotti” from allrecipes.com.

The original recipe’s cooking time caused the biscotti to have a very soft texture, almost like a chocolate chip cookie. I was going for a more traditional, harder texture, somewhere between Melba toast and a cookie, so I ended up baking it on convection after slicing it for about 8 minutes. It came out just right: crisp on the outside and a bit cookie-like on the inside.

I have to confess: I did mess up a little bit on the recipe. It called for amaretto, which is an almond or peach-pit based liqueur. For some reason, I threw in some Triple Sec (orange-based liqueur) in its place , and of course didn’t realize my mistake until the second it was mixed into the rest of my batter. Damn it, haha. I made up for it by throwing in a bit of almond extract. It turned out just fine!

The only other adjustment I made was to use salted macadamia nuts instead of unsalted. More a matter of lack of supply as opposed to purposeful substitution. I tasted the nuts beforehand and found that they were lightly salted, so I just omitted the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and it turned out well balanced.

Marietta’s White Chocolate Macadamia Biscotti

“A softer biscotti and a wonderful addition to your cookie platter.”

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups chopped macadamia nuts
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and amaretto. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Fold in nuts and white chocolate chips.
Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Place each 1/4 of dough on cookie sheet and form into logs about 14 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.
Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until very lightly brown. Cool and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange slices on baking sheet and continue baking 8 minutes, until golden brown.