Recession Chic

a down economy does not = ugly shoes

Dough Diaries: A Tale of Two Brioches August 27, 2010

Filed under: Dough Diaries — karakrautter @ 6:36 AM
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The Upper Crust Bakery in Austin, TX holds many childhood memories and baking inspiration for me: lunches of cheese soup and avocado sandwiches with my mom and coffee and cinnamon rolls on a Saturday morning.  Before I left Austin, I needed to get one last fix of fresh pastries from my favorite bakery. In addition to the usual cinnamon roll, I was struck by a beautiful, round loaf of bread topped with cheese. Brioche. Filled with cheese. Yum. The bread was so rich and filling, my breakfast partner and I decided to save the cinnamon roll for later and sliced the brioche loaf in half and dug in.

Now that I’ve been in Houston for almost two months, it was time to relive a little Austin and try my hand at baking brioche. I made the dough ahead of time since I’ve learned that letting it sit in the fridge for 24 hours after the initial rise seems to make for better flavor. I made enough dough for two different loaves and decided that one savory and one sweet brioche would be fun.

My first loaf was a classic brioche topped with a little Parmesan cheese. It was delicious and paired perfectly with a chilled cucumber soup. Once the bread started to get a little stale, I crushed up the leftover slices to create breadcrumbs for crab cakes.

I froze the other half of the dough and pulled it out a week or so later to make some chocolate-filled brioche. I just finished baking the second loaf for a weekend breakfast treat. Can’t wait to sample it!


Fresh Pasta, Fresh Pesto – Perfect for Summer August 18, 2010

Filed under: Cooking 101,Dough Diaries — karakrautter @ 8:44 AM
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The Cooking Channel is the best thing about TV this summer, hands down. Classic reruns of the original Iron Chef, Julia Child and hours of cooking shows (not reality TV) from talented chefs (not Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee). This weekend I was reminded of the greatness of simple meals with fresh ingredients.

Since I finally have a blender with a food chop option (instead of the sad mini chop from my college days), fresh pesto on some homemade pasta sounded like the perfect dish for a hot summer night. From an older episode of Jamie at Home, I realized that I’ve been working way too hard to make my pasta noodles. Although it makes some sense to use the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid mixer, using a food processor to create the dough is far more efficient. The processor roughly combines the egg and flour, creating a bread crumb consistency which requires far less water to form the dough.

For the pesto, I chose the classic recipe (garlic, basil, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan) and added tomatoes for a little extra color. Below are photos of the raw pasta and the completed dish.


Cooking 101: Straightforward Sichuan August 6, 2010

Filed under: Cooking 101 — karakrautter @ 8:21 AM
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When traveling to China in June, one of my favorite parts was experiencing real Chinese food. As a vegetarian it was a little challenging at times to find something to eat, but I quickly discovered that egg and tomato on noodles was often a safe bet.

While in Shanghai, I had some of the best food of the trip (big thanks to my boss who ordered for us) and some of the best Asian eggplant I’ve ever eaten. Now, the dish was ‘vegetarian’ — but in Asia that often means tofu/veggies and pork. Yes pork. Even after eating around the meat, I still loved it because the sauce was just the right thickness and finished just a little sour.

When I saw this recipe for Sichuan-Style Braised Eggplant right after getting back, I knew I would need to try to recreate some of the great food flavors from China. The recipe gives a lot of great substitutions for some of the harder to find ingredients. And, if you don’t eat pork like me, I substituted Morningstar Beef Crumbles for the meat to add protein to the dish. To round out the meal, I steamed some broccolini and served it with some white rice with a little rice vinegar to add a little punch of flavor. Not gonna lie, I was pretty pleased with all of it — as was my dinner companion.