Musings on Food and Life

Musings on Food & Life

Food is my passion. I create, read, write, breath, eat, photograph, love and live food. As a chef and culinary instructor, each day is a quest to learn something new about a food ingredient, recipe, history, or fact about all things edible. Three silly dogs share my passion for eating and I'm blessed to be married to my best friend Tracy. Tune in for my thoughts on food, recipes, dogs, travel, music and life.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What a Saint

I wasn't sure at first why the lady was carrying this large dog into the vet's office. Dogs usually go in on a leash and my first thought was, well, she had forgotten it at home. When I got to the front door with my dog and started in, they were right inside the door at the reception counter. It was a very busy place. The cute teenage daughter was knelt down, holding & petting the dog while the Mom talked with the receptionist. We gave our name and then Petey and I sat down to the left of the counter, away from the business at the front.

It was then that I saw it. I had only seen that devistating look before on a television "animal cops" program. It was was past heartbreaking and the more I looked, the more I began to wish I knew who had done this so I could report them. This was a crime of the worst type: neglect. She had such a pretty black and white face, and a sweet, calm demeanor. In spite of the extreme physical condition, with ribs sticking way out on her large mostly white frame, she still was a pleasant girl. The Mom explained that the dog showed up a the end of their driveway. She was almost unable to walk anymore, she was so weak. The teenage daughter called her Calli, since no name was written on the collar. To say Calli was emaciated is an understatement. Skin and bone. What type of person would allow this beautiful, sweet dog to become a skeleton with fur?

My vets were kind as usual, and carried her back to the exam room. I talked with the Mom and gave her my e-mail address, asking if she would let me know the outcome of the visit. An e-mail later that day confirmed the worst....Calli was in renal failure, which is not reversable. They were hoping for better news; another sweet, innocent doggie life lost. The good part? That someone cared enough to make a difference, to show her daughter that taking time to give yourself to something worthy is the right way. May God bless Calli and the family who showed her unconditional love in her last days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Divine Doughnuts

I haven't met many doughnuts I didn't like. As a child, I can remember trips to the local bakery with my Mom. The sweet, inviting smells were eclipsed by the difficulty of choosing just one doughnut to enjoy. As I write, doughnuts of days past flood my mind, especially the unforgettable peanut butter & chocolate doughnut from Concannon's Bakery. Back in the mid 80's when I lived in Muncie, Indiana, it was a special treat to bite into one of their cinnamon swirl doughnuts topped with thick peanut butter icing and a dollop of chocolate. Ahhhh. Food memories are some of the best.

Recently I taught a doughnut class at a local Cooks Warehouse store. The hardest part about developing the class was deciding which four doughnuts should go on the menu. Wanting to showcase different types of dough, I chose the Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnut, a Ginger Cream-filled Doughnut, a Maple Glazed Bar, and the cinnamon-sugar Churro with a Chocolate dipping sauce. These represent three doughs - leavened dough, yeast dough and a pate a choux dough. Each is fantastic in their own right. It just depends on your mood and how much time you have available to create the perfect bite. The churros were especially light and tasty and the ginger cream was to die for, but being a cake doughnut fiend, I just can't get past a fresh, homemade Buttermilk doughnut.

This past week I spent a few days in New Orleans with some chef friends, home of the infamous powdered sugar-coated beignet. It simply wouldn't be right to make a trip to the French Quarter without diving into a plate of piping hot beignets and a cup of cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde. What a delightful way to start your morning, sitting at an outside table on a cool day, noshing on these little beauties. It's like the potoato chip in that you can't eat just one.

In honor of the humble yet delicious doughnut, here is a recipe that's sure to please. It's from Elinor Krivens book called "Donuts", a tasty little collection of several types of doughnut recipes, fillings, and dipping sauces.

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnut

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
Canola or peanut oil for frying
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Sift together the dry ingredients in alarge bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and sugar together with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy and pale in color. Add the buttermilk, butter, and vanilla, and the beat until well blended.

Add the flour mixutre and beat on low speed just until the mixture comes together in a soft dough. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Pour the oil to a depth of 2 inches into a deep fryer or large saute pan. Warm the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 360 F.

To roll out the doughnuts, generously flour your clean work surface. Using a rolling pin or with your hands, roll or pat out the dough int a 10-inch circle about 1/2-inch thick. With a 3-inch round doughnut cutter, cut out as many doughnuts as possible, keeping the cuts as close together as possible. Gather up the dough scraps and repeat rolling and cutting. If you don't have a doughnut cutter, use one small and one large cutter.

Carefully lower 2 - 4 doughnuts or holes into the hot oil. Avoid crowding the pan or fryer. Fry until dark golden in color, about 1-1/2 minutes. Turn over and cook until dark golden on the other side, about 1 minute. Transfer the doughnuts to the towel-lined baking sheet and continue frying the remaining doughnuts and holes, allowing the oil to return to the starting temperature of 360 F between batches.

Using a small fine sieve or sifter, dust generously with confectioners' sugar. Serve immediately. These are always best enjoyed the same day they are made.