"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Over the Top About Bibimbap

Bibimbap in Stone Pot - Photo by You Know Where You Are

Bibimbap! Bibimbap!! Bibimbap!!!

Such a fun word to say...even if you don't know how to say it!  

How is it pronounced? Well from local Koreans, I've heard it pronounced as [pee-beem-bahp]. Sometimes the first syllable will be pronounced with a "b" sound, but I've been told that the latter pronunciation is proper.

So, what is bibimbap? 

Traditional - Photo by Say Kimchi News
Bibimbap is one of my favorite Asian dishes. I could eat it every day. The dish is Korean and its name means “mixed meal.” It’s very hearty, healthy, filling, and tasty - a complete meal fixed with complex carbs and protein through a serving of various vegetables and select meats. The dish is also perfect to customize for vegetarians and vegans.

As far as some of the ingredients used, bibimbap can be prepared in a number of ways due to its diversity. It’s traditionally served in a hot stone pot, called a dolsot, in which the rice is cooked. The rice is considered the base of the dish and characteristically becomes crispy at the bottom of the dolsot. It's frequently flavored with sesame seed oil for taste and to help along the scorching of the rice as it cooks along the sides and bottom of the stone pot.

The rice is layered with generous but radially arranged and color-orchestrated helpings of fresh and sometimes seasoned vegetables and a select meat, such as bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, minched beef (usually) or slivers of salmon, carrot julienne, kimchi (yum!), and bok choy or spinach.

This vegetable-laden portion of the meal is referred to as namul (without the meat selection). Namul is a Korean term for a dish or serving filled with a variety of seasoned vegetables. It can be served on its own or as an accompaniment to or inclusion in a meal, such as bibimbap.

Bibimbap is fabulously topped with a fried egg. The egg can be fried or it can be raw or semi-cooked. When the dish is mixed together, the runny and slightly gelled yolk from a semi-cooked or raw egg provides a divine taste, although it might sound weird to some.

Gochujang - photo by Korean Food
A red pepper paste referred to as gochujang is usually added to the dish or served on the side in a small condiment vessel. Gochujang has a spicy and slightly sweet flavor that compliments bibimbap very well. It is meant to be mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, as bibimbap is eaten with a spoon rather with chopsticks or a fork.

Some people love to sprinkle sesame seeds, dried seaweed flakes or even dried bonito flakes over the bibimbap for added texture and flavor.

You can find bibimbap on the menu in most Korean restaurants. If you haven't had it, you should definitely give it a try! Korean food is delicious!

Spicy BBQ Chicken Bibimbap - Photo by Closet Cooking
I personally would love to try my hand at making this dish at home. It seems rather easy, requiring the freshest of ingredients.

I don't own any dolsots (stone bowls), but I am sure I could find such serving pots at local Korean grocery stores or ethnic food supply shops. Or bibimbap can made and served in a basic ceramic bowl such as the one shown in the above photo.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The World According to...Buttercream

Classic buttercream icing

I dream, you dream, we all dream about buttercream!

I simply can't get enough of this stuff...on cakes, cupcakes, pettis fours, cookies, you name it, I love it!

This is the real creamy crack.

What can I say? Buttercream leads to sugar bliss! And any fan of buttercream knows they can have it in so many ways. That's THE icing on the cake!

What is buttercream, really? And what self-proclaimed sugar god or goddess decides what real buttercream is?

My macarons w/ hazelnut butter buttercream
I mean, who am I kidding here? A great deal of writing can be done on just this subject alone. Enough to compose a small book!  Now only if the pages were made out of cake, that would be something truly special and most fitting!

Hmmm, well historically boiled icings, which were some of the first icings, were used on yeast cakes. Yeast cakes were popular before the introduction of baking powder. Boiled icings were similar to today's royal icing and they consisted mainly of sugar and egg whites boiled together with added flavorings. The icings would harden on the cakes and create a sugary, candy-like coating, but around the very early part of the 20th century, buttercream icings began to appear in cake recipes, and over time, many cultures adapted their own versions of buttercream icing for their pastries.

Today, classic buttercream is known to contain a sweet, short, and simple list of ingredients: definitely sugar, almost always butter, possibly eggs, and sometimes milk or cream.

Various versions of buttercream icing are created by using a combination of these ingredients in a multitude of ways.

Let's go down a stellar and fascinating list, shall we?
  • French Buttercream (aka pâte á bombe): This icing is made by making sugar syrup from boiled sugar and water and beating it into egg yolks until the mixture is very cooled, airy and creamy. Butter and any flavor extracts or oils are added to the creamed yolk batter to make the final result.
  • German Buttercream (pastry cream-based) : This icing base uses pastry cream (same filling used for choux pastry desserts such as profiteroles, eclairs, and cream puffs) or other custards. Butter is beaten into the pastry cream along with any additional flavors to create the icing. Extra sugar can be added to make the icing even sweeter.
  • Russian Buttercream: This is also a custard or pastry cream-based icing fused with soft butter, however it is further thickened with cornstarch or flour. 
  • Roux Buttercream (aka Heirloom Icing): This is a flour-based buttercream icing. It is made by cooking milk and flour together (roux) and then cooling the roux. A creamed combination of sugar and butter are then added to the roux to make a roux buttercream. 
  • French Meringue Buttercream: This is a meringue-based icing. Meringues icings are icings that incorporate egg whites. This icing is traditionally made by whipping egg whites, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar together to form a creamy meringue base. Butter and flavors are then beaten in to finalize the recipe. Some recipes call for the use of whole eggs.
  • Italian Meringue Buttercream: Italian meringue buttercream is made by adding hot sugar syrup to beaten egg whites. The sugar syrup's heat cooks the egg whites, and the mixture is then beaten until it cools down to 100 degrees (Fahrenheit). Butter is then added for completion.
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Swiss meringue is somewhat similar to Italian meringue, however, sugar (can be brown or white sugar) is cooked with egg whites on a double boiler (bain marie). The mixture is taken off the stove and whipped into stiff peaks. Butter and other flavors are then added to create a Swiss meringue buttercream.
  • American Buttercream: American buttercream is also called classic or decorator's buttercream. It is one of the longest-lasting buttercreams, especially if shortening or margarine is used over butter. It's also the simplest to make and no cooking of the ingredients is required. It's made by mixing together butter and powdered sugar. Milk is often added to further cream the base, and buttermilk, cream, nut milks, coconut milk can be substitutes. Cornstarch is sometimes used to further stabilize the icing and in some cases, small amounts of whole eggs, egg yolks or egg whites are used to compliment the texture and taste. Some people still argue that American buttercream made with margarine, shortening or lard is not real buttercream.
  • Buttercream Fondant (also called Rolled Buttercream): This icing is great for topping cookies and for creating decorations on top of cakes, as the icing can be shaped and cut with cookie cutters. It is sometimes also used to cover cakes as a tastier, albeit shinier, alternative to traditional fondant. It is made by combining a very large amount of powdered sugar with vegetable shortening, glucose or corn syrup, and any flavors, to create an "icing dough,"which can be molded and kneaded.
  • Fruit-based Buttercream: This buttercreams is similar to classic or American buttercream and is sometimes best used as filling or spreads. The icing base is structured around a fruit juice, jam, puree, and the like. Fruit juice, butter, powdered sugar are creamed together to create a fruit buttercream with a strong fruit flavor. Jams, purees, and spreads give fruit buttercreams a fabulous texture. These are especially great used as filling in cake rolls.
Creamy Vanilla French Buttercream Icing
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 cup butter, cubed and cold (4 oz. / 1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  1. In a saucepan, pour in 1 cup of water and 1 cup of granulated sugar and bring to a boil for about 10-15 minutes or until sugar syrup is reduced by half and thickens.
  2. Turn off heat for sugar syrup and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl with a stand or hand mixer, beat 4 egg yolks until they are blended well. Beat on medium speed.
  4. Add in 1 whole egg and continue to beat the eggs.
  5. Take the hot sugar syrup in the saucepan and slowly pour it into the eggs as they are beaten. Beat approximately 10 minutes until the eggs and syrup mixture is cooled, creamy, and light.
  6. Add in 1/2 cup of cubed, cold butter and continue to beat the buttercream into smoothness.
  7. Include 1 tsp. of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and blend into the buttercream icing.
  8. Use right away for cake, macarons, or cupcake icing or fillings. Store icing in the fridge if used for later. Also great for layers in sponge cake parfaits or trifles.

Photo of buttercream icing from Baking Bits & Bobs
As you can see, the world of buttercream has many citizens, and although what I listed covers most types of buttercreams, there are still more varieties out there to explore.

I, for one, am glad that buttercream fans have so many styles to choose from. Every person will come to have their favorite by trying different ones.

So, buttercream addicts, what's your favorite kind of buttercream? 

Do you know of any other buttercreams that I haven't listened? I'd love to know!

Friday, January 14, 2011

7 Dessert Trends for 2011

Allyson N. Jason ©
What will fall out of dessert heaven for 2011?

The is the hot topic right now.

I have my own predictions about what dessert trends will develop this year, and although some of these predictions might turn out to be wrong, it's still very fun to play Prediction Faery.

Let's take out my large, candy-colored, crystal, jawbreaker globe and talk about the sweetness of the near future.

Doughnuts from Doughnut Plant
1. Doughnuts - Doughnuts will come back into the fold. They never really left, but cupcakes took over and slapped doughnuts out of the spotlight. The low-carb diet craze that peaked during the early 2000s is also to blame, but that diet trend has long since died down, and sugar and dough addiction have come back in the game, full throttle.

I am specifically thinking of gourmet, artisanal, and wedding doughnuts. We'll probably see doughnuts in many novel shapes such as squares. Doughnut Plant, a stylish and popular doughnut shop in New York is creating a lot of buzz with their delish and large square-shaped doughnuts.

In doughnuts, we'll also see new and innovative glazes and fillings (think of doughnuts that resemble macarons!) and doughnuts that feature original and toothsome flavor profiles.

The doughnut will be redressed and embellished. People will become more creative with these classic treats and rediscover their greatness. Wedding and event planners will have a lot of leverage here in helping to bring back the fame of doughnuts across the nation. For weddings, cake doughnuts will bring more versatility for decoration and flavors.
Dessert Display by Amy Atlas
2. Dessert Tables - I know what you're thinking. Dessert tables are already commanding the scene, you say, but I feel that dessert tables will continue to soar in popularity, and we'll see even more edgy and imaginative concepts blossom.

Dessert table pioneers like Amy Atlas have shown how brilliant these displays can be. Dessert tables are dream vessels for many artists to showcase their professional skills and talents in the culinary and event planning society. They are a gateway for connecting numerous people from different industries with one another.

Desserts tables command the help of event planners, bakers and cake-makers, graphic designers of many stripes (including arts-and-crafters), illustrators, confectioners, food photographers, specialty food ware shop owners, even food writers, and more. So much goes into planning and setting up a dessert table for any event and the level of creativity that can go into constructing them presents endless imagineering possibilities.

photo by Cake Monkey Bakery
3. Bite-size Treats - We'll see more culinary artistry in the realm of bite-size or individual desserts. New bakeries such as Cake Monkey, which is known to specialize in small desserts with packaging that evokes childhood memories, are becoming more pervasive and trendy.

People love having something special made just for them in cute, little, custom, sugary packages.

Not everyone is always ready to buy an entire cake or a pie, so (big inhale) tartlets, macarons, cookies, cake balls, the ongoing fame of cupcakes, little muffins and teacakes, truffles, petits fours, puff pastry miniatures, chocolates, gourmet candies, parfait cups, and many more tiny delights will continue to present colossal appeal for the masses as they explore both old and new bakeshops while looking for their dessert fixes. (exhale).

Photo from Cook Your Dream
4. Artisan Desserts - There will be an increase of popularity in artisan desserts such as ice creams (big time!), gelatos, frozen yogurts and custards, pies, dessert breads (sweet rolls and sticky buns), chocolates, and other candies.

People everywhere are starting to appreciate more quality ingredients in the foods they consume. More artisan dessert shops and bakeries, such as Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, are opening up across the nation and they're becoming both more affordable and accessible to many large metropolitan locations, which promise bigger target audiences and opportunities for businesses to catch on and grow. The strong growing support of fresh local ingredients chiefly contributes to this growing trend.

I, for one, hope that it's a trend to stay. High quality should never be a fad.

Photo by Cannelle et Vanille
5. Seasonal Sweets - Many assume artisanal is interchangeable with seasonal. Although sometimes both terms go hand in hand, they are different. Therefore, I feel that seasonal desserts deserve mention in their own category.

Artisanal, to me, means handcrafted and made with natural rather than processed ingredients. However, seasonal desserts are made when ncessary ingredients are in season.. This means the ingredients will be at their best in texture and flavor, thus giving desserts a higher quality in taste when they are served. This also means that specific desserts and flavors won't always be available year round and their prices will be cheaper and fresher when they are season.

These days, more bakeries are offering seasonal desserts and customers are more than happy to wait around for their favorites. Customers also enjoy the diversity and intrigue of seasonally-based menus. Menus in such shops are switched up often and seasonal desserts are appreciated even more when they are finally featured again.

I must mention that fruit jams, jellies, spreads, and dessert relishes are becoming popular as seasonal items that are preserved for year-round purchase from small food shops and housemade dessert sellers. Blogs such as Punk Domestics are showcasing just how starchy this trend in preserved seasonal foods is becoming. I could even give canning and preserves a category of its own as a dessert trend prediction, but I'll keep my list of predictions to lucky number 7!

Chocolate fondue at The Melting Pot
6. Fondue Bars and Parlors - Fondue-centric restaurants and dessert bars will pick up in popularity.

I feel that in 2011, more people will have a desire to explore and seek out new dining experiences. Fondue bars and parlors offer patrons the ability to be super tasteers and entertain their palettes with mix-and-match flavor options..

This year is the best time to open up a fondue dessert bar or visit one in your local area, because the distinctive and fun dining style provided in most fondue places is catching on.

Fondue joints are not only known for providing places for people to uniquely socialize, they also provide a do-it-yourself eating experience for customers.

Usually diners in fondue restaurants are expected to cook their own foods at the table, but since we are discussing dessert, diners can expect to serve themselves from an array of fresh slices of fruits, pieces of chocolates, cubes of brioche breads, and various other sweet items such as marshmallows, with an assortment of stimulating dipping sauces. Menus are usually open and they vary from one fondue place to the next.

Popular sauces are caramel, chocolate, butterscotch, marshmallow cream, hot fruit glazes, and warm puddings, custards and creams. In fondue eateries, diners can be as creative and experimental as they wish to be with many possibilities of creating custom flavor combinations. Again, this is a tasteer's fantasy.

It might be hard to find a place in your neck of the woods that specializes in just fondue, but fondue restaurants such as The Melting Pot are giving people a chance to see what the fondue dining experience is all about.

Pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Shop
7. Pies and Tarts - We've seen a lot of cupcake, doughnut, and ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato shops, but pie shops are becoming the new kids in dessert town.

These are bakeries completely or mostly dedicated to serving pies and tarts -- bakeries such as Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie shop, located in Brooklyn, New York.

I like to call them "pieries" [PIE-uh-ries] or [PIE - rees]. Don't you just LOVE the way that word sounds? I do!

Some pieries serve pies based on seasonal ingredients, but most up-and-coming pie shops tend to be artisanal. This means that pies are handmade, served with fresh, quality ingredients and customers can either dine in and share a pie or large tart around a table in a gathering or order for take out or special events such as weddings and parties. Event planners are hearing more about weddings that request themed tarts and pies, rather than cake or cupcakes, as the dessert focus.


Well, my fellow sugar adventurers, this spells the end of my predictions for 2011 dessert trends. I based on my predictions on intuition, paying attention to what seems popular in the food and dining industry, lately, and on what I feel would be cool to see more of in this promising new year.

So, what do YOU think?

Do you have any dessert trend predictions for the New Year?

If so, do tell!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baking Adventure 20: Old-fashioned Glazed Buttermilk Doughnuts

Glazed Buttermilk Doughnuts!

First, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

I hope everyone's year is getting off to a good start, as mine surely is.

It's been awhile since I've posted an update to my food blog. A lot has happened since my last entry in early December and I am feeling recharged and rejuvenated for 2011. There are lots of foods I'll be exploring, learning, and sharing, so I hope you guys are ready to continue this journey with me. :)

Although not technically a BAKING adventure, I finally got around to making doughnuts!

I love doughnuts, have always wanted to make them from scratch, and these days, it's hard to find a really good doughnut in most bakeries. Buttermilk doughnuts have always been my favorite amongst the vast assortment of doughnut types.

Doughnuts are as iconic as cupcakes, but the popularity of doughnuts has died down a bit in the last few years.  Before the cupcake craze in North America, there was the doughnut craze, thanks to the influence of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and various other doughnut chains. Although Krispy Kreme was established in 1937 and doughnuts have long been enjoyed by so many, widespread and rabid consumption of doughnuts began in the late 1990s and peaked in the early 2000s.

There are a bunch of ways to prepare and make doughnuts, and many cultures have their own spin on doughnut-making techniques and doughnut flavors.

Cake doughnuts and yeast dough doughnuts are the two prominent categories of doughnut types. Cake doughnuts can be fried or baked, but traditionally doughnuts have been fried for the best of taste and texture. I personally enjoy fried doughnuts over baked, and yeast dough doughnuts over specialized cake batter doughnuts (although beignets in the U.S, which are French New Orleans doughnuts, are traditionally made from choux pastry dough like éclairs).
What Do You Know?: Canadians consume the most doughnuts and have the most doughnut shops and bakeries per capita, compared to other regions globally.
Doughnuts can be made with honey, various fruits, custard, and cream fillings, buttermilk, butter, shortening (animal or vegetable), maple syrup, brown sugar, and so on. The list seems endless.

Doughnuts also come in a variety of shapes but the most common and traditional shapes are:
  • rings (the most classic shape of all, round with a hole in the middle)
  • twists (think of crullers; ring-shaped doughnuts made from twisted dough)
  • rectangular bars (these resemble flattened éclairs and are sometimes called Long Johns)
  • rounded squares (with or without holes)
  • round, flattened spheres (usually made to inject with different fillings)
  • knots or bits (usually doughnut holes removed from the middle of ring-shaped doughnuts)
I personally feel that a good old-fashioned glazed doughnut can never go out of style. The taste and texture is classic and this is the first doughnut recipe I decided to try. I plan to go on a "great doughnut expedition" in the next month or so, trying out various recipes to document and compare.

So let's start talking about my adventure in making glazed buttermilk doughnuts.