Friday, December 19, 2014

koldskål holiday hack

I've written before about my love for the Danish treat koldskål. In Denmark, the refreshing sweet buttermilk dessert flies off store shelves during summertime.  But since we lack cold weather seasons here in Southern California, I tend to crave koldskål year round.  Right about now in the city of Copenhagen, people have started to open up their bottles of gløgg (mulled wine), port, and traditional holiday party schnapps, all popular cold weather beverages.  Yet while Copenhagen's cyclists make their way around town on the rainy, chilly city's bike paths, southern Californians sneak in beach days and barbecues in December.  Often the only sign of winter involves when people change from wearing flip flop sandals to wearing actual shoes. Even our Santas have swim trunks and surfboards, examples of the seasonal confusion that leads to winter's koldskål cravings.

In any Danish market, a quart of koldskål is as common as a gallon of milk.  In America, on the other hand, koldskål doesn't exist.  Now, normally you could try to make your own version using pasteurized egg yolks, buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, and whatever other approximations of ingredients you can get your hands on.  But during the busy holiday season, why not try a little koldskål holiday hack?

Try mixing 3/4 cup of buttermilk with 1/2 cup eggnog, then mix in a little sweetened vanilla bean paste, and there you have a quick version of koldskål.  Crumble your crunchy cookie of choice over the top and enjoy. No, it probably will not taste exactly like your favorite Danish version, but tinker around with eggnog brand, add ingredients like lemon or cardamom, and adjust the sweetness level, and I dare say you'll have something close to the real thing.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

reflections on kitchen immersion

This January will mark my third semester of culinary school.

Since enrolling in a culinary and baking program, life has been an exciting blur of deli cups, non-slip shoes, chef's whites, and French cooking terms.  While all of these details may or may not sound glamorous to you, they are thrilling to me.  I have long dreamed of changing careers and fully immersing myself in this world, so I still find excitement in even the routine parts of the profession.  Before this journey started, I used to relish setting aside a full weekend day for a baking or cooking project.  Since entering the realm of professional cooking, I spend more of my time in kitchens than outside of them.  Days of wearing normal non-flour-dusted fashionable shoes or clothing uncloaked by aprons are rare: I'm a citizen of the kitchen now.  

Aside from avoiding cuts and burns, another challenge is finding time to reflect on it all while one's brain is taxed with remembering mother sauce methods, recipes, ingredient ratios, and food safety principles.  Having the opportunity to study food is an empowering experience, and one I'm eager to write about.  But often the sheer physical demands of kitchen work steal the energy I require to articulate these adventures to the outside world.  There are only so many hours in a day, and lately I've been spending this precious time with my nose in a book or over a stove.

Luckily, through my patented method of aggressive note taking involving many pocket sized moleskin notebooks, I've been able to file away some excellent information from instructors and chefs who have guided me thus far. I'm looking forward to sharing more of that content in the New Year, with a resolution to find the time to reflect on what I'm learning along the way. Until then, I'd like to thank all of the friends, family members and mentors over the years who recognized the passion I have for all things food and asked me "have you ever considered going to culinary school?" I'm happy to finally be past the consideration stage and actively developing so many new skills. Lastly, I'd like to extend a very special thanks to AAUW, a generous organization who awarded me a Career Development grant to support two semesters of school expenses.  I am so grateful, and I feel beyond lucky to be learning this trade.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bread fulfillment

Every cookbook lover knows the feeling: that thrill of discovering a new book to cook your way through, the promise of a new adventure, and the disappointment when your schedule gets in the way. If you have felt guilty, like me, for letting a prized cookbook collect dust, don't lose hope.  Even if you only have the time to gather the ingredients one by one, week by week, one day you'll seize control and find the few extra hours you need to pull it all together and make flour into bread.

Even if it takes you a month in between when Amazon fulfills your order and when your oven gets preheated, carry on! This "Saturday white bread"from the book Flour Water Yeast Salt is my first attempt to conquer this beautiful book written by Portland-based baker Ken Forkish.  I've always been fascinated by bread making, so when I was lucky enough to dine at a friend's house and eat incredible pizza and bread made from this book, I knew I had to have it in my library.  It's a pretty exciting moment when you bake that first loaf and hear the crackle of the bread, the room still and quiet because you can hardly wait to slice into your science experiment.  The bread must rest before you indulge, just like sometimes our cookbooks must rest on the shelf, as the bakers within us gain momentum.  But don't forget the inspiration that made you buy that intriguing cookbook in the first place.  Dust off your cookbooks, one by one, my friends.  We're in this together.   

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A Paris Moment in LA

Selecting a variety of fresh french macarons gives me a rush of excitement that I imagine other women might reserve for things like designer jewelry or handbags.  But maybe there's others out there like me.  Those forever drawn to the beauty of the multi-colored rows, full of different flavors and ready to be plucked out of the case as the perfect two-bite accompaniment to a cappuccino.  Those more concerned with pastry tips and piping bags than pearls and diamonds. 

So it was quite the treat when I picked up a family member from Los Angeles International Airport and they greeted me at curbside pickup with a "bonjour" and a surprise box of Laduree macarons. 

The macarons are protected by their petite carrier-- a lavender box with silver embellishments, just sturdy enough for a stop through London Heathrow on its way to the west coast, security and all.  The truth is, I'm not sure if this particular trip involved a direct flight from Paris, or a connecting flight. But regardless of itinerary, I challenge you to find a more thoughtful gesture than a loved one transporting delicate sweets across international borders.  It's never an easy feat!       

Each box from Laduree is wrapped like a little gift-- creating a ritual for the lucky recipient.  (Who doesn't love the feeling associated with unwrapping a present?)  There's an unmatched elegance to it.   As much as I love a perfectly executed donut hole or oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, these treats will never outshine the macaron's style-saavy image.  And then there's the element of surprise.  What flavors will you unwrap this time? 

And fear not: If you don't happen to have a relative or friend passing through Paris anytime soon, you can still have a Paris moment in LA by trying this domestic version from Bottega Louie.  Even if you only try one, it's worth a stop. After all, two bites of attainable luxury in your everyday life can make all the difference.