Category Archives: Totally Not Pastry

The Flavored Coke

I wanted to finish with my favorite soda fountain drink, which is also one of the simplest: the flavored Coke. My dad first introduced me to these at a historic diner in West Lafayette, Indiana, a place known as the Triple XXX, and no, not for pornography. He ordered me a simple vanilla Coke and to this day I don’t think I’ve tasted a better soft drink. Made from genuine Coca Cola syrup with a shot of thick vanilla syrup added, it was served cold with no ice (as soft drinks usually were back in the heyday of soda fountains) and I savored every last drop.

It’s hard to replicate the experience without the real fountain syrups, but this comes fairly close. Here I have an ounce of cola syrup, which you can get online or in the States at Bed, Bath & Beyond stores which sell those SodaStream machines. I also made up some heavily-scented vanilla syrup, about an ounce of simple syrup plus half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Again, you can buy real fountain vanilla syrup from soda supply shops on the web, but this worked well. I combined one with the other…

…gave it a good shot of ice cold soda water, and…

…near perfection. Friends, a deeply good soft drink doesn’t need ice.

They understand that at the Triple XXX, which to this day serves its famous root beer without ice, in frosty mugs. I stopped in there yesterday as a matter of fact and had one. The bottled stuff is nearly as good.

Triple XXX root beer “Makes Thirst a Joy”. Speaking as an ad man, they don’t write taglines like that anymore, friends. Nope, that was the golden age.

Filed under:  Pastry, Soda Fountain Drinks | 19 Comments

The Lime Rickey

The lime rickey is a sleeper soda fountain delicacy that I love. Not terribly sweet, not too citrusy, but with a sophisticated twang that comes from the addition of cocktail bitters. It’s a snap to make if you happen to have a little simple syrup lying around. Add to a glass about an ounce of lime juice…

…and ounce or so of simple syrup…

…about 3 drops of bitters…

And 6-8 ounces of soda.

Insert straw and drink!

Filed under:  Pastry, Soda Fountain Drinks | 12 Comments

The Black Cow

The black cow is another fountain staple, and the favorite drink of my father-in-law. It goes like this. Pour about two tablespoons of chocolate syrup into your favorite glass.

Pour in about a cup of root beer.

Stir to blend.

Top with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And that’s it, baby. Serve with both a straw and a spoon! A brown cow substitutes Coke for the root beer. A white cow substitutes vanilla syrup for the chocolate and milk for the root beer.

Filed under:  Pastry, Soda Fountain Drinks | 27 Comments

The Egg Cream

Of course it has no eggs nor any cream, which you know, are expensive. This drink is sometimes known as a “phosphate” since once upon a time soda jerks put dabs of diluted phosphoric acid in them to give a little extra kick. Sound scary? Actually it’s not, though when I went to look for phosphoric acid in the pantry I found I was fresh out. So I made do with the usuals: chocolate syrup, whole milk and soda. You start by adding about two tablespoons of chocolate syrup to a glass of your choice (Fox’s U‑Bet syrup is the classic).

Next about half a cup of whole milk.

Stir that to blend. Here’s where a long spoon comes in handy.

Then add maybe another half to three-quarter cup of very cold seltzer water.

Insert straw and drink!

Straws are critical to consuming fountain drinks, for not only is there a foamy head at the top that gets all over your nose, there’s always a little residual chocolate syrup hanging around at the bottom of the glass waiting to be slurped up. Talk about a June day luxury.

Filed under:  Pastry, Soda Fountain Drinks | 25 Comments

Making Banana Leaf Tamales

Rick Bayless calls these Juchitán-style tamales, which is a word I love to say: “hoochie-TAHN.” Juchitán is a city located in the southeastern Mexican state of Oaxaca (also fun to say: wah-HOCK-ah). It’s a town known for food, art, cross-dressing and indigenous languages. Don’t ask me about the third thing, it’s a long story…Mrs. Pastry will tell you all about it if you ask her, she was in Juchitán in November on a research project.

The differences between banana leaf tamales and their better-known corn husk brethren are a.) the look, but also b.) the flavor. Banana leaves impart a green-banana-like flavor and aroma to tamales, which works surprisingly well with corn masa and grilled chicken (or refried beans). Here I’m doing a bean version which is the simplest.

The masa in Bayless’ recipe is different from that of classic corn tamales in that it omits the baking powder and includes a little puréed epazote leaf. I can’t get epazote in Louisville. I can get cilantro, which makes a nice substitute, but neither of my girls like it so I omit it. If you want the full delicious complexity of a hoochie-mama Juchitán tamal, add a purée of ten epazote leaves (or half a bunch of fresh cilantro, puréed) to your stock when you’re making the masa. I suggest leaving the baking powder in for a lighter product.

But before you even begin, you need to source some banana leaves. They come in large, flat packages like this and can be found in international food stores in the freezer section (they’re used in Indian and southeast Asian cooking as well).

To prepare them for tamal-making, tear them into pieces about 10″ x 10″ (discard any stiff stems), then pass the pieces slowly over a gas or electric stove burner to soften them. You’ll see them change from drab to shiny as the waxes on the leaf melt — that tells you they’re done! For about 12 tamales you’ll need the wrappers, a recipe of corn masa and about two cups of refried beans (preferably homemade).

As with corn husk tamales, you’ll want a bowl of water nearby to dip your fingers. Spoon about 1/4 cup of filling onto the banana leaf. Pat it into an oblong strip about half way up your section of leaf and all the way to one side.

Add couple of teaspoons of refried beans on one half.

To shape, bring up the edge of the wrapper…

…and fold it over, thus enclosing the filling.

Fold in the other side and wrap it around the tamal.

Fold the bottom up…

…and the top down.

The tie it up with a strip of banana leaf. You’ll find that banana leaves can be less uniform than corn husks with all their tears and folds. Get creative with your wrappers. As long as the filling can’t leak out you’re doing well!

Steam them for 75 minutes (60 if you’re using fresh masa).

Remove them from the heat and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes before serving — then serve warm straight from the steamer. They’ll keep very well in the refrigerator for several days and freeze beautifully for several weeks.

Refried bean tamales go great with a little tomatillo salsa. What, you didn’t know you could put salsa on tamales? You can!

Filed under:  Banana Leaf Tamales, Pastry | 10 Comments

Making Classic Tamales

Now just to be clear, I don’t have to eat the wrapping too, do I? I remember quite clearly asking that question when I was first confronted with non-convenience store tamales. How the heck do you eat these things? It’s a fair question for any inexperienced tamale-eater, since very few foods land on our dinner plates still in the wrapping…unless of course Dad got lazy dishing up the Happy Meals at the kitchen table this week (something you can pretty much count on at our house).

Tamales are members of the “anything goes” family of hand-held foods, along with pasties, pies and sandwiches. Just about anything can go in them. They’re a superior (if somewhat time consuming) way to use leftovers like grilled meats and vegetables, refried beans, cooked or rehydrated fruit…you name it. Soak a few corn husks, whip together a little masa and you’re in business.

Of course there are several more “formal” recipes for tamales, one of which I shall now show you. It’s for classic pork tamales of the kind found in Mexican restaurants all over America. Before we begin I must credit Rick Bayless, a world class chef and all-around great guy, from whom I’ve learned most of what I know about tamales. His recipes have been my inspiration all week. So then, for the filling we’ll need:

2 ounces dried ancho chiles (before rehydration, about 4 large ones)
half a white onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8 ounces pork stew meat (shoulder, say)
1 recipe masa for tamales
about half a package dried corn husks

Begin by placing the corn husks in a large pot. Put in a plate (to weigh them down), cover with water and bring to a simmer. Once the water has been brought to the boil, turn the heat off and let them sit for an hour.

Now then, place the rehydrated chiles, onion, garlic cloves and pepper in a food processor. Add enough water to come most of the way up the ingredients (the exact amount isn’t terribly important).

Give it all spin…for maybe a minute.

Now pour the mixture through a medium sieve.

You’ll need to press it through with the back of a spoon. Discard the last couple tablespoons of solids, they’re mostly the tough skin of the anchos. Those peppers — poblanos in their former life — have particularly tough skins.

Now add the meat. There should be plenty of sauce to cover them. If not add some water and stir! Simmer all that for a good hour until the meat is very tender. Meanwhile make your masa batter.

Remove the meat from the sauce and pour the sauce into a small bowl. Shred the meat and put it into a separate bowl.

Now for assembly. Select one of the longer corn husks and tear off about a dozen very narrow strips. These will be your ties.

Lay out your shredded pork, the sauce and the ties. A small bowl of water isn’t a half bad idea either. Take one of the husks out of the water and give it a wipe-off with a paper towel.

Spoon about 1/4 cup of the masa batter onto the husk, in the center about two thirds of the way toward the top. It’ll be sticky so dip your hand in the water to spread the batter…just gently pat it into a rough square.

Spoon on a heaping tablespoon or so of the meat, then about a tablespoon of the sauce. Don’t overfill the tamales, since it’s important that the masa enclose the filling (otherwise the sauce will just run right out during cooking).

Now to shape. Notice that both my hands are in the photo. Normally they refuse to appear on screen together (bad blood from a past royalty dispute), but both hands have graciously agreed to put aside their differences on this very important occasion. So then, grasp the husk in such a way that your fingertips are positioned at the edges of the filling (on the underside of the husk, of course).

Bring your hands together until your fingertips meet, thus enclosing the filling in the batter.

Now flip both of the edges over in the same direction…left or right makes no difference…

…and wrap them around the tamal.

Fold up the bottom of the husk and you’re finished.

Just tie the tamal closed. Notice I’m down to just one hand again. Sadly my right hand unexpectedly stormed off the set in a huff for who-knows-what reason (puh…talent!). The left hand somehow found a way to soldier on and get the knot tied anyway. That’s what we in “the business” call professionalism.

Place the tamales in a steamer and steam them for 75 minutes (if you used fresh masa reduce the time by 15 minutes).

This recipe makes about a dozen tamales. Above I’m using a very small steamer insert. If you don’t have enough tamales to fill your steamer (whether it’s small or large) you can pack in any empty space with spare corn husks, so the tamales don’t fall over while they cook. The true pros use very large steamers and make dozens and dozens at a time.

Once the tamales are done, let them rest about ten minutes off the heat to let the masa firm up. Serve warm…right from the steamer. I should add that they keep very well in the fridge for a few days, and freeze very well. They can be reheated in the steamer for best results. The microwave fine works if you’re in a rush!

Filed under:  Classic Tamales, Pastry | 30 Comments

Making Mieliepap

“Mielie” in Afrikaans means “corn.” As for “pap”, that’s not hard to figure out: “porridge”, “gruel” that sort of thing. This version is clearly not a gruel, souped up as it is with honey, but more than that bacon and cheese (which make everything taste better). My 4-year-old, who’s mad for all things corn — cornbread, tortillas, tamales, arepas, you name it — couldn’t get enough of this and had to be restrained lest she exploded. Begin by turning your oven on to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Next combine the milk, buttermilk, honey, butter, salt and corn meal in a saucepan.

Set it over media-high heat, whisking it every so often until it comes to a boil.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to simmer it for about five minutes, until it takes on a thick texture, about like hot cereal.

Allow that to cool until it’s just warm to the touch. Meanwhile, prepare your bacon. Cut it into pieces, the size is up to you. I make mine a little large knowing they’re going to shrink up as they cook.

When the bacon is lightly crisped (but not quite done to the degree I want) I take out about half. This is the bacon I’m going to sprinkle on top toward the end. The rest I’ll keep cooking a bit.

When the remaining bacon is done to the degree you like, strain it and remove it to a medium bowl. Add half the cheese, the baking soda and the beaten egg.

Give it a good stir…

…and add the cooled corn meal mixture.

Stir all that together and press it into a 8″ square baking pan or a small 8″ cast iron skillet.

Bake 15 minutes until it’s starting to brown, then sprinkle on the rest of the bacon and cheese.

Bake about another ten minutes until well-browned and crusted around the edges. Scoop it onto plates and serve.

Mieliepap can go anywhere mashed potatoes go. A hearty version like this is a stellar accompaniment to grilled meats. A lighter version without all the dressings (no bacon or cheese and perhaps just a touch of honey) is a classic match with cooked cabbage, vegetable stew or with chakalaka spooned all over it.

Filed under:  Mieliepap, Pastry | 3 Comments

Mieliepap Recipe

This a pretty dressed up version of the South African classic. Some call this a cornbread but a baked pudding or porridge is really what it is. Save for the cheddar cheese, this could easily be a classic southern American preparation. Check it out:

1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup milk
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped slab bacon

Begin by preheating your oven to 375. In a saucepan combine the cornmeal, milk, buttermilk, butter, sugar, honey and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes until the mixture is quite thick. Allow it to cool. Meanwhile place the bacon in a small fry pan and cook to render the fat and crisp it lightly.

In large bowl combine the eggs, soda, half the bacon and half the cheese. Add in the cooled cornmeal mixture and stir to combine. Pour into a lightly buttered 8″ x 8″ pan. Bake for 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and bacon. Bake another 10-15 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Filed under:  Mieliepap, Pastry | 10 Comments

Making Chicken in a Salt Crust

Salt crusted chicken is a French preparation that makes up in razzle-dazzle what it lacks in presentation. A steamed chicken isn’t as golden and crispy-looking as a standard roast chicken, but the technique produces a subtly seasoned and extremely moist bird. Start by preheating your oven to 325. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of your mixer.

Combine the water and egg whites and whisk them together.

Add wet ingredients A to dry ingredients B. Stir them together until everything is wet…

…then switch to the dough hook and work the dough until it’s clumpy.

You’ll likely want to knead it by hand until it’s smooth and uniform. It should be roll-able but still a bit firm.

Apply the pin to the dough mass and roll, roll, roll…

You want a sheet that’s about 20″ x 20″.

Lay your herbs and lemon slices down in the middle of the sheet.

Place a trussed chicken 4-5 pound on them breast-side down.

Fold in the sides…

…then the ends and press the seam together.

Flip the whole package over and place it on a sheet pan. Patch any holes with dough pinched from the folds below. You’ll notice the leg bones poked a little hole in mine. No biggie.

After about 75 minutes, check the temperature by poking a thermometer through the crust. You want a temperature between 150 and 155 Fahrenheit.

When the bird is up to temperature remove it from the crust by either peeling the crust away from the top, or cutting around the bottom and lifting the entire top off. The crust at the bottom will be very moist and may have puddled juices in it.

Remove the chicken to a carving board, tent it with a sheet of aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes (so the meat will re-absorb some of its moisture), then carve.

Filed under:  Chicken in a Salt Crust, Pastry | 8 Comments

Next Up: Roast Chicken in a Salt Crust

Here’s something that’s well outside of what I normally do — and thank goodness because I sorely need a change of pace. Although thinking about it, this technique has a lot more in common with pastry than it does with, say, grilling. Technically speaking, it’s in the same spirit as Medieval pie bakery, which I’ll get into a little later. For now let’s get to the recipe. You’ll need:

1 large, 4-6 pound roasting chicken
1 medium onion
1 lemon
2-3 springs rosemary
2-3 sprigs parsley
2-3 springs thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic

3 pounds (about 12 cups) flour
9 egg whites
2 1/2 – 3 cups water
2 pounds (3 1/4 cups) table salt

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and pat dry the chicken using paper towels, inside and out. Cut the onion in half, remove the skin, and insert into the cavity along with most of the herbs and garlic. Cut three thin slices out of the center of the lemon and reserve them, stuffing the rest of the lemon into the cavity. Tie the chicken’s legs together with butcher’s twine and tuck the wings under the back.

To make the dough, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle. Stir the ingredients together until they’re moistened, then either switch to the dough hook or remove the dough to a board for kneading. You want to knead it into a uniform dough that’s soft but isn’t sticky, and that rolls out well (adjust with extra flour or water as necessary).

To wrap the chicken, remove the dough to a floured countertop or large board, and roll it out into a square that’s roughly 20 inches on a side. Place the remaining herbs and then the lemon slices in the center of the dough sheet, then place the chicken — breast side down — on the top. Fold in the sides of the dough sheet, then the ends to enclose the bird. Pinch the ends of the dough together to form a seal.

Turn the wrapped chicken over and place it on a sheet pan. Insert the pan into the oven and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. At that point insert a probe thermometer through the crust and into the breast to check the temperature. It should read about 150. If not, return the chicken to the oven until it comes up to temperature.

When the chicken reaches 150 – 155, transfer it to a cool sheet pan (it will “carry over” another ten degrees while it sits). Cut around the edge of the crust — about two inches up from the bottom — and lift off the crust. Carefully with tongs, lift the chicken out of the crust and place it on a carving board. Discard the crust and any liquid it might contain, which will be extremely salty. Cover the bird with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve.

And speaking of grilling, this recipe works great on a low grill (keep the wrapped bird on a roasting pan) or in a brick oven!

Filed under:  Chicken in a Salt Crust, Pastry | 6 Comments