National Burger Month 05/26/2010: Housework

I probably won't be able to eat burgers or burger-like food today so I will take this time to point out some wonderful burger links.

But first, here are some cupcakes I made some time ago:

Burger cuppies!

I took a vanilla cupcake recipe, and then I took a chocolate cupcake recipe and then I stuck them together with some buttercream icing that I saturated with primary colors. More of my cupcakes can be found here.

Today's New York Times has Mark Bittman's newest take on burgers. He's done this in the past and I loved all his burger recipes. Even did a couple the last time I did this Burger Month thing.

This year, he goes beyond the basic burger with recipes for a pork fennel burger, a beef tartare burger, a curry lamb burger, and a pork shumai burger.

I think the pork shumai burger looks familiar. Not saying I came up with it first or I'm the original or anything... just saying, you know, we come up with good stuff in our kitchen too (though the prawns in his recipe are a masterstroke). I think I shall be trying the curry lamb and the beef tartare sometime. Perhaps before the end of this month?

June 6 is National Doughnut Day: Beignets New Orleans-style

Beignets from scratch

Spending my last afternoon of vacation just sitting on my ass, I decided that I could be more productive with my ass-sitting by injecting my ass-sitting activities with some ass-growing assistance. In a fortuitous twist of fate, I heard it through the grapevine that June the 6th is National Doughnut Day. And so for the sake of ass-sitting/ass-growing multitasking (and perhaps fueled at a subconscious level by my hosting of two Canadians at my house the previous night), I decided to celebrate this great day by making donuts.

But which donuts to make? I've always loved how airy Krispy Kreme donuts are, and I knew that they make yeast-raised donuts, as opposed to the cake donuts common at Dunkin Donuts (which are painfully absent in California). But for today, I decided beignets were right. Donuts need not have holes after all.

My trusty Joy of Cooking by Rombauch and Becker, et al. had a recipe for beignets that called for butter and four eggs. Additionally, I found several recipes online, most notably this one at the New Orleans Cuisine Blog. These were two very different approaches to the beignet-- the Rombauchs' recipe would no doubt be cakier and denser. And the NOLA Cuisine Blog recipe would be fluffier. I chose the latter-- I like the fluff. My only change was an increase in the required sugar because I like my donut dough on the sweeter side.

And just in case those flopped, I also got a box of the famous New Orleans Cafe du Monde beignet mix as an emergency backup.

I invited Elsa and Sean over so that I could have companions in my celebration, and so that I could have people around to keep me from eating all the donuts myself and passing out in the kitchen, waking up in the morning on the floor with powdered sugar all over me.

1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 Cup Shortening
About 2 -3 inches of vegetable oil in a saucepan
Loads of powdered sugar

I won't reproduce the instructions anymore as they can be found in the blog post I refer to above. It seemed in the end that my donut dough didn't flop. And I found myself with a boxful of Cafe du Mond beignet mix unopened. I decided to make those anyway so that I could compare the homemade to the mix. The ones I made from scratch were definitely fluffier and plumper. But they also tasted yeasty. Maybe if I switched to a different yeast I could lose the sour undertones produced by the yeast, and I'll have to look into that in the future. The cakemix donuts were also tasty and did not have the yeasty flavor. They were also less sweet. I don't know which ones I prefer. My from-scratch beignets I feel more warmth towards because I pored over them, urging the yeast to bubble and froth, but the New Orleans French Market Cafe Du Monde beignets made me want to have crawdads and okra. So in the end, it's a toss-up.

All told, I think I ate about a dozen donuts in the past twelve hours. I have powdered sugar all over my clothes and all over my kitchen and I'm still sitting on my ass.

Cake-mix beignets

Lychees and Almond Cream in Puff Pastry with Raspberry and Lime Syrups

This is my entry to The Leftover Queen's Royal Food Joust. Other entries can be found at the forums. This is my first entry into a food blog event. Anxious to make something other than hamburgers I was excited to do something different from what I've been cooking all month. It was fun to make em.

There are a couple of components. Here's the stuff:
1 can lychees in juice, drained (we're really just going to use 9-12 lychees in this recipe)
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Stuff for the raspberry syrup:
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch

Stuff for lime syrup:
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp water
1 tbsp cornstarch

Stuff for almond cream:
1 cup roasted almonds
1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup sugar
5 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 to 1 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract

To do:
First do the almond cream. Except for the milk, put all the ingredients for the almond cream in a food processor. Let it run for a minute or so. Once you have a paste-like mixture-- it's actually now a marzipan -- you can start drizzling in the milk to lighten the consistency, while still processing. The final mixture should be creamy and smooth, yet still thick (I would say, about as thick as mascarpone cheese). Set aside.

Now, work on the syrups. For each of the syrup, mix 3 tbsp water with 1 tbsp cornstarch in a small bowl. For the raspberry, place the fresh and frozen berries, 1/4 cup water and sugar in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Once it begins to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture until the sauce is no longer runny. Do the same for the lime, beginning with the lime juice, 1/4 cup water and sugar. Once that boils, stir in the cornstarch mixture so that the sauce thickens. Run the raspberry sauce through a sieve to separate the seeds and other solids.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Now that the key components are finished, pour the almond cream mixture into a pastry bag and fill each individual lychee with the cream. The puff pastry sheet should be cut into 3 inch by 3 inch squares. Place one lychee in each pastry sheet square, folding opposite corners together to make little dumplings. Arrange dumplings on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Before the pan is placed in the oven, brush each dumpling with the beaten egg and poke each dumpling to make little vent holes.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. To plate, drizzle with syrups. I like to keep the syrup on the plate so the diner can control the tartness of the lime and the sweetness of the raspberry.

Here they are! This recipe makes about 9 stuffed lychee pastries.

That's it! Total prep and cook time was about 1 hour.