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Things you want to try making

In the 1950s and 60s Seville oranges were used extensively as a landscape tree here, and I think I want to make a "limoncello" out of them, since they're now getting ripe and their peel is just heavenly-smelling . I do like using their juice in marinades.

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  1. Two things: Hum Bao (Chinese pork buns) and rice like I can get at nearly any Mexican restaurant, but the recipe seems elusive.

    For the Hum Bao, it's more complicated than I first imagined. It's a three-parter, first getting the pork right, (cut of meat, marinade, glaze, cooking method), then a sauce for the filling, then the dough. I've been through four marinade/glaze recipes, none of them anywhere near authentic, I'm hoping the one I'm trying later today is better—it seems to be after reviewing the differences from past efforts, and the first one to incorporate maltose, for that sticky coating. Most recipes recommend honey, which isn't authentic at all.

    For the Mexican Rice, I don't seem to get why such a common item can't be easily documented and reproduced. I've come very close, rice cooked in chicken stock, lime juice and tomatoes blitzed in the Cuisinart until pulverized, but it still isn't right!

    16 Replies
    1. re: RelishPDX

      Have you tried toasting the rice in oil or butter before cooking? I find a little bit of toasting and a little less liquid produces close results. I sometimes saute the rice with diced onions before adding the liquids.

      Back to the OP: I have lots of things I want to try making. Problem is my list is ever changing. I find something different to challenge my skills and then make it.

      1. re: RelishPDX

        tomato paste and chili powder definitely helps with the rice!

        1. re: IndyGirl

          I've made it with fresh salsa from the Mexican grocery store, whizzed and then combined with some chicken stock.

          1. re: IndyGirl

            Yup, you see how frustrated this has made me, I forgot to list everything I did in the latest batch, LOL.

            I used the CI or ATK recipe I found online, and it combines sauteeing onion with the rice, then adding finely diced jalapenos, then the broth/tomato blitz, plus I think the lime juice went in at the end. It was also oven-baked, and I lovingly washed the rice under cold water exactly as described. The lime juice was certainly one of the missing components.

            I realize that Mexico has many refined cuisines, but rice seems to be a universal recipe once it hits our shores. The same rice is served in the Jalisco-style sit down restaurant as the 24-hour joint loved by night owls just down the road a piece, as it is in the food truck downtown. It's even the same rice I knew at the great Mexican restaurant on Lemon St. in Vallejo that closed eons ago which served tostadas on small, crisp corn tortillas with diluted white vinegar swimming underneath on the plate (oh, if I just had a time machine!).

            But can I reproduce it at home? Of course not! One day I was so desperate for some, I even paid an outrageous $4/lb. or something at the deli of a Mexican market on the other side of town for enough that I could bag up a few portions for when I next made enchiladas. I felt both extravagant and disappointed in myself at the same time.

            1. re: RelishPDX

              Knor or Maggi Tomato-Chicken bouillon powder (or Goya seasoning). Also don't forget to cook it pilaf style - saute onions, then the rice, then add the seasoning and water.

              The oil may be seasoned with anchiote - though that is more for color than flavor.

              People try to make the rice too complicated.

          2. re: RelishPDX

            You might also try using red enchilada sauce thinned with chicken stock.

            1. re: AntarcticWidow

              !!!!! What a brilliant idea. Enchilada sauce goes onto my shopping list. :)

              1. re: AntarcticWidow

                Alrighty, a quick update.

                At the store tonight I found something called "Salsa de Chile Fresco" or "Tomato Sauce (Mexican Hot Style)" under the El Pato brand. The enchilada sauces didn't look particularly heavy on tomatoes, one of the base ingredients in the ATK recipe. This has tomato puree as the first ingredient plus "Water, Chiles, Onion, Garlic, Salt and Spices." I can add some of the leftover tomato paste sitting in the fridge from a different dish if it needs more tomato power when stirred up with the chicken broth.

                This is the ATK recipe I used: http://mexican.food.com/recipe/mexica...

                It says to omit the tomato paste if using canned tomatoes, which I was, so perhaps that's part of what's missing in this. Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I'll give this a try later this week and report back. (I just realized I'm out of canned tomatoes, LOL)

                1. re: RelishPDX

                  You're going to report back that El Pato is amazing, but HOT. Seriously, it's kick doesn't mess around. (I use it as a base in a quick salsa I make with Rotel & stewed tomatoes plus lime juice & cilantro. Sounds terrible, tastes wonderful.)

                  1. re: shanagain

                    El Pato (the duck) is very hot, and I like hot, but the first time I thought I'd use it in rice it was way too hot.

                    1. re: Barbara76137

                      Aha! Thanks for the head's up. I'll thin it out with some tomato sauce if needed.

                      Good news to report on the Hum Bao front. I was up early this morning and pulled the marinating pork from the latest trial and roasted it. Woohoo! I'd say I'm 98% of the way there, good enough to put it into a trial sauce and dough later on.

                      Two things I'd change in the next batch to make it 100%—I'd use some sweet bean paste instead of fermented bean water in the marinade, and also cut the honey in the glaze. The maltose is sweet and sticky enough on its own, with the honey leaving an aftertaste.

                      This maltose is amazing stuff. I'm going to use it in a recipe for Peking Chicken next. I wonder how it would work with Sticky Buns. Stick-to-your-fingers Buns? LOL

                      1. re: Barbara76137

                        I use it in rice too (with Mex. oregano, cumin, a bit of chili powder and chicken broth for "Spanish" rice - or is that "Shanish"?) and have made that mistake as well.

                    2. re: RelishPDX

                      I once watch the cooks at one of San Diego's most beloved taco shops put a large metal strainer full of rice directly into the deep fat fryer and leave it there for about 90 seconds before taking it out to drain...the rice had noticeably changed color...nearly toasted in appearence.....I think this long toasting in plenty of fat is what gives the rice the allusive texture that is hard to duplicate at home....

                  2. re: RelishPDX

                    Hungarian food-- food of my grandparents, a better version of rouladen than I've made, and plum dumplings which were my father's favorite dessert. Help anyone on this last item? And Beef Wellington just for the hell of it.

                    1. re: berkleybabe

                      My father was Hungarian and he also made the plum dumplings in the late summer when the Italian plums were cheap and in season. Any good Hungarian cook book should have a recipe.

                    2. re: RelishPDX

                      Tempura, but it scares me. I'm sure the batter would fall off of mine(like it does when I try fried oysters).

                    3. Eclairs or profiteroles. I've heard that pâté a choux isn't difficult, but have never tried. I will definately try soon.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: silvergirl

                        If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, it is quite simple. Otherwise, you just need a strong arm and it seems difficult to incorporate the first egg but it gets easier....we make gougeure often.

                        1. re: silvergirl

                          It's so easy - I make cream puffs all the time and they're a breeze! (I don't use my mixer, just a wooden spoon, and it's not that much exercise. ;)

                          1. re: shanagain

                            Ooh, cream puffs are definitely on my to-do list as well. I have a recipe in an issue of Cook's illustrated (which I bought b/c of the cream puffs), but it's a bit intimidating. Plus, it's dangerous b/c I love cream puffs and would want to just eat them all. What's the recipe you use?

                            1. re: mahlzeit_yumyum

                              Yes, they are dangerous, you will eat more than you planned. You just will. But they truly are so easy, and not intimidating at all.

                              I don't recall if I wrote this down from one of my cookbooks here (which I do sometimes, just to be able to grab a known-good recipe) or online, but here's what I use (adding the pastry cream recipe - I'm a firm believer in pastry cream wherever you can use it):

                              Cream puffs, yield roughly 20-24
                              Pastry Cream:
                              2 cups milk
                              1/2 cup sugar, divided
                              1 vanilla bean, halved
                              6 egg yolks
                              4 tablespoons flour (all purpose)
                              4 tablespoons butter
                              1 pinch salt

                              Mix the milk, vanilla bean (you can sub with good quality vanilla extract stirred in at the end instead) and half the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. While bringing that to a boil, whisk the yolks and remaining sugar until light yellow. Whisk in flour and salt.

                              Just as milk and sugar come to a boil, remove from heat, remove vanilla bean (some ppl prefer to strain some of the seeds, or bouquet garni the bean, I don't - I like them in there). Temper your eggs by slowly drizzling a ladle-ful of hot milk into your bowl of eggs. Then another ladleful and another to be on the safe side. I usually repeat this until the jadeite bowl I use for the eggs is very warm to the touch. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly, until mix comes to a boil. Cook and stir for one minute while boiling. Immediately remove from heat and stir in butter (and about a tablespoon of vanilla if you didn't use the bean). Remove to a bowl, cover the cream directly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to cool, at least four hours or overnight. (You may strain, but I've never had any lumps with this recipe, knock on wood, because I just decided to make them for Easter.)

                              Cream puffs

                              1 cup butter
                              2 cups water
                              1/4 tsp salt
                              2 cups all purpose flour
                              8 eggs

                              Preheat oven to 400. Bring butter, water and salt to a boil. Add flour, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a thick paste that pulls from the side of the pan. Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously to incorporate. (I use a wooden spoon and it works perfectly every time.)

                              Drop choux batter onto a greased baking sheet by heaping tablespoons, about 3 inches apart. Bake 30 minutes or until a pretty golden tan (I don't go brown, just dark tan). Immediately upon removing from the oven, either poke a large hole in the side with the end of a wooden spoon, or split in half, to remove any residual steam. If you have any overly-doughy center, just pull it out and discard.

                              Fill with cooled cream, dust with powdered sugar if desired.

                              Eclairs are also super easy to make with this recipe, piped through a pastry bag or ziploc with the end cut off. You're going for about 4inches long, 1 inch wide, 1 inch high. Then cook as above and use your favorite thick chocolate glaze on top after assembly.

                              1. re: shanagain

                                Thanks! You're awesome.
                                I tend to cut recipes, but not this one. I'm making the full batch. Of course, I blame you entirely if I gain back the ten pounds that I lost recently. ; p

                                wow, it sure uses lots of eggs.

                                1. re: mahlzeit_yumyum

                                  You're welcome, enjoy! And yeah, it really does when you type it all out.lol You can cut the eggs in the pastry cream to 4 and it won't suffer much, I know I've done it to make it an even dozen used.

                                  And you "can" cut the cream puff part in half. I'm thinking I've done that also, and made tinier ones so that you end up with as many, but smaller portions. (Like that matters. lol)

                          2. re: silvergirl

                            I made eclairs when I was a kid & was shocked at how easy they were & how well they turned out. It was loooong ago & I don't remember the process, but it was probably a Betty Crocker recipe or something similar. Go for it!

                            1. re: thymeoz

                              Since there are only two of us, a whole recipe is too much so we make the basic dough and then split it in two. One half gets cheese for gougere--the savory. The other half gets sugar for profiteroles--the sweet. I like them with coffee ice cream, my husband likes vanilla--we both like the bittersweet chocolate sauce on top.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                I'm adding eclairs and gougeres to my list. Years and years ago someone made an eclair ring at a party and tried to convince me how easy it was by writing the recipe by heart on a tiny notepad for phone messages. I still have the recipe. Never tried it. And having tried gougeres a few years ago for the first time, I love the idea of making half sweet/half savory. Added to 2012 goals. :)

                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                  They're fun. And once you make them, you can graduate to a St-Honoré, that lovely cake.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    Oh, that would be QUITE the graduation--that cake is serious business!

                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                      Just pastry, a bunch of cream puffs, pastry cream, and whipped cream. "Simples."

                                2. re: escondido123

                                  Once they are baked they freeze beautifully!

                                3. re: thymeoz

                                  I definately will. I'll probably wait until I have until I have guests though. The two main reasons I haven't yet are that there's always something else I want to make and second, if I make them, I will eat them. All.

                              2. I would like to make the following:
                                Croquembouch with a spun glass cage
                                buch de noel
                                roast goose - problem.. I can't bring myself to pay $60 for a goose or work hard enough to hunt and butcher one.

                                roast duck
                                sauteed duck breasts
                                a bombe dessert
                                pot stickers

                                multi-tiered wedding cake my plan will make a few. Once like the product, I will volunteer one at a small wedding, then we will see.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  Hank,
                                  I found myself agreeing with most of your dishes. I have actually made a few of them. Pot stickers are a little time consuming, but fun to make and not at all difficult. I have ( along with my best friend) made two multi tiered wedding cakes. The first one we made was for my daughter, and the second one we made was for her son. She has one more son. I am willing to make one more multi-tiered wedding cake in my life time, for the second son. They aren't hard to make, it is the getting them to the venue that is extremely nerve wracking. The ones we made were chocolate cakes, with raspberry or strawberry filling, buttercream and then covered with fondant. Decorated with fresh flowers. Three tiers. They were beautiful and they tasted good. Still...one more time and then never again. (BTW...same best friends we shared the Mardi Gras dinner with this past weekend, from another post, and it was her husband (soberest person there:) who was the designated "flambe-r" of the bananas foster.
                                  Also agree about the goose...not paying $60 for any bird, and not hunting one either
                                  croquembouch with spun sugar is intriguing...maybe when I retire:)
                                  same with buche do noel....although I detest mushrooms, so can't really imagine wanting to make fake ones:)
                                  I am with you on the duck and the bombe though
                                  Can't really think of anything else I have always wanted to make, because usually, if something strikes me that I want to make, I do. Lately, I have been avoiding rich desserts and my husband was served apple cider doughnut bread pudding, which did sound like something I would like to make.
                                  Also chianti braised beef short ribs, but I will probably actually make them soon.

                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                    Pot stickers are fun and easy, although there are a lot of steps. I used the recipe (from the last century) in Cecilia Chang's Chinese cookbook.

                                    I understand you can have a party where your guests make the pot stickers and you cook them. Sounds like a good deal to me.

                                    1. re: sr44

                                      I have gotten together with friends to make: potstickers; gnocchi; and tamales. Many hands make light work and it was fun!

                                      1. re: sr44

                                        Many years ago a friend and I decided to make 200 pot stickers for a group dinner. We decided after making the filling--we bought the wrappers--that smoking one joint would make it all go better. And it did. Until we got tried to separate our pile of pot stickers--we had not separated the rows with paper of any kind. The final dish was noodles with spicy pork.

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            Hey Escondido - LOL!!! Seriously.

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              Similar problem only ravioli. A neighbor brought over the largest pan he had and we all ate wedges of ravioli pie w/ tomato onion sauce! Glad I'm not alone with that one.

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                Thinking back the same thing happened making homemade potpie squares for PA dutch potpie. Sans joint.

                                            2. re: Hank Hanover

                                              croquembouch! Would be on my list, but got to try cream puffs first! I do however volunteer to help eat your croquembouch. If we had ordered a wedding cake, that's what I would have ordered.

                                            3. There's plenty:
                                              - Croissants
                                              - Confit de canard
                                              - Peking duck
                                              - Hand-pulled noodles
                                              - Biryani
                                              - Fessenjoon
                                              - Yogurt
                                              - Cinnamon rolls
                                              - Alfajores
                                              - Mole

                                              and the list goes on...

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Juniper

                                                Best cookbook biryani I've made was from Madjur Jaffrey. Have a home recipe, too, that's quite good. Can post if you'd like, but Jaffrey's is also decent. Best I've ever eaten was a homemade one from a caterer in Bangalore--even the host had it catered from the "official" biryani lady in the neighborhood!

                                                1. re: pine time

                                                  Could you share your biryani recipe, please?

                                                  1. re: pine time

                                                    I would LOVE your biryani recipe... :)

                                                    1. re: Juniper

                                                      Sorry for the delay. Here 'tis...

                                                      Biryani

                                                      2 lbs lamb (can use beef, goat, shrimp or chicken--if using chx or shrimp, omit the 1st cooking step)
                                                      Marinade:
                                                      3/4 - l c yogurt
                                                      2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
                                                      2 tsp chile powder (can use ground red pepper, if Indian powdered chile isn't available)
                                                      12 or more small red chilies (dried or fresh), split in two (use seeds if more heat is desired)
                                                      1 c chopped mint leaves (can omit, if using chicken)
                                                      1 c chopped cilantro
                                                      salt to taste
                                                      Garam Masala:
                                                      10 peppercorns (Indian, if available)
                                                      10 whole cloves
                                                      1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
                                                      1/2 tsp shah jeera (black cumin)
                                                      1" cinnamon stick
                                                      1 large onion, sliced
                                                      1 lime
                                                      1 c oil (can use 1/2 oil + 1/2 ghee) (NOTE: I use much less, probably total of 1/2 c)
                                                      1/2 - 1 tsp good quality saffron threads
                                                      1/2 c hot milk
                                                      4 c basmati rice, soaked for 30"

                                                      Spices for boiling rice:
                                                      6 cardamoms
                                                      3 whole cloves
                                                      2 bay leaves
                                                      1 tsp shah jeera
                                                      1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste
                                                      1 tbsp oil
                                                      salt to taste

                                                      Cooking:
                                                      cut meat to bite size bits. Grind all garam masala ingredients to fine powder
                                                      Mix all ingredients of the marinade & marinate for minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
                                                      Cook meat w/ 1/2 the oil in a pressure cooker, using no extra water when cooking OR can cook meat on stovetop until tender, about 1 hour. (Omit this 1st cooking stage if using chicken or shrimp. Just marinade and bake as directed, later)
                                                      Squeeze lime juice over meat & mix well.
                                                      Heat oil and fry onions until light brown.
                                                      Soak saffron in hot milk.
                                                      In large pot, bring water to boil. add all spices for boiling rice, mix well. Add rice, continue to cook until nearly done, about 8-9 minutes. Drain rice & keep aside.
                                                      Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
                                                      Arrange rice & meat in layers, beginning with rice. Sprinkle between layers w/ a bit of oil, 1/2 of saffron milk. Try for 2 layers of rice and one layer of meat. Top off with remaining oil, fried onions, and remaining saffron & milk. Cover with aluminum foil and lid.
                                                      Bake for 10 minutes on 400, then for 20 minutes on 350. If using chicken, bake until done.

                                                      Note: can put spices into cheesecloth bags & fish 'em out before serving to avoid biting down on whole spices! Recipe can be 1/2'd, but I usually still use about 2/3 of the called-for spices rather than just 1/2

                                                      1. re: pine time

                                                        Thank you! I'll have to give this a try sometime! :)

                                                          1. re: EM23

                                                            You're welcome. Let me know how yours turns out. There are probably as many biryani varieties as there are Indians!

                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                      blue room, you are AMBITIOUS! I love sfogliatelle, but they look like a world of trouble to make! Someone talented I "know" from the blogging world made them last year. I read her post, then promptly went to buy one. HA HA! :) I know my limits. Though I do have candied orange peel!
                                                      http://pegasuslegend-whatscookin.blog...

                                                      On my to-make list:
                                                      - almond paste - a great idea suggested to me recently and something I'd never considered
                                                      - sourdough starter--or buy it so I can make other sourdough THINGS!
                                                      - a yellow cake from scratch that I love as much as Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden
                                                      - galaktoboureko - when I have enough people around to save me from eating the whole pan, MOO!
                                                      - real biscuits with layers instead of the crack-a-can kind I usually roll with

                                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                                        Love galaktoboureko but have never made it for the same reason!
                                                        Almond paste I've made is not anywhere nearly as good as the store-bought, I gotta say. Those crushers bring out the best in the almonds.
                                                        As good as DH? Surely you jest!

                                                    2. I am jumping on the recently-revived yogurt thread wealth of advice, and making my own -hopefully fage-worthy organic yogurt this week. Excited!

                                                      Also going to try the no-knead bread soon there have been various threads about... quite intreaged to see how that one turns out as well.

                                                      There are always new things to try, but these are the most recent interests.

                                                      1. I've never made confit, but this week I plan on doing a variation of the slow cooker method described in Cooking for Geeks.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                          Always wanted to ake croissants and puff pastry.

                                                          Also sourdough bread, no knead bread, homemade pickles and jams, and cheese.

                                                          1. re: Miri1

                                                            me too on almost l your list!

                                                            Croissants
                                                            Cream puffs
                                                            Sourdough bread and German breads
                                                            Homemade jam
                                                            as I told a friend. . ."milk a cow, churn some butter. .. and maybe make cheese"

                                                            In addition, Indian food - in particular Saag Paneer and Aloo Gobi. I'd like to do Indian cooking at home because I cook mostly vegetarian and Indian food is so flavorful. I just need take the leap and invest in all the spices first.

                                                            Oh and as someone else mentioned, hand pulled noodles! For making a Korean-Chinese dish of noodles in black bean paste. I used always make it with dry noodles, but ever since I've had it with fresh noodles at a restaurant I haven't bothered. I also want to make a more flavorful meatless version of the sauce than what I've been making.
                                                            I'm sure there is more.

                                                        2. I'm looking forward to making a lot of different savory dishes, but the one thing I'm dying to try is a cake with a rich, thick peanut butter frosting. I need to find a recipe.

                                                          One of my all time favorite food memories is eating a vanilla cupcake thickly slathered with that frosting on top. A classmate's mom brought them to school because it was his birthday. Oh, man.

                                                          Now that I think about it, I may try to duplicate that frosting - very very soon!!

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: breadchick

                                                            Sour Cream-chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-peanut Butter Glaze
                                                            --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                            Recipe By: Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes (Alisa Huntsman, reposted on Smitten Kitchen)

                                                            Summary:

                                                            This cake is INTENSE. Serve it in the thinnest slices possible, and keep a glass of milk handy.

                                                            Ingredients:

                                                            2 cups all-purpose flour
                                                            2 1/2 cups sugar
                                                            3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
                                                            2 teaspoons baking soda
                                                            1 teaspoon salt
                                                            1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
                                                            1 cup sour cream
                                                            1 1/2 cups water
                                                            2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
                                                            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                                                            2 eggs
                                                            1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)
                                                            Peanut Butter Frosting
                                                            Makes about 5 cups
                                                            10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
                                                            1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
                                                            5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
                                                            2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
                                                            Chocolate-peanut butter glaze
                                                            8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
                                                            3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
                                                            2 tablespoons light corn syrup
                                                            1/2 cup half-and-half

                                                            Directions:

                                                            1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

                                                            2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

                                                            3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

                                                            4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

                                                            5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

                                                            6. Making the peanut butter frosting 1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

                                                            7. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

                                                            8. Making the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze Makes about 1 1/2 cups 1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

                                                            9. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

                                                            Notes:

                                                            http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/08/cho...

                                                            1. re: IndyGirl

                                                              IndyGirl, you rock! This sounds incredible, and my husband LOVES chocolate - so we will both be happy. I love that you added notes and a link for this. That cake looks awesome!!

                                                              I can't WAIT to try this - the peanut butter frosting looks exactly the way I remembered it!

                                                              1. re: IndyGirl

                                                                Made this for myself for my birthday a few years ago. Truly ridiculously decadent. Glad I'm missing a few ingredients, or I would be rushing to the kitchen for a sudden, irrational baking spree.

                                                                1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

                                                                  I made it for a birthday a few years ago--it's truly amazing!!! I hope you love it, Breadchick.

                                                                2. re: IndyGirl

                                                                  I made this for my roommate's birthday last year. It was insanely rich, you had to force yourself through the 3rd layer, but it was awesome.

                                                              2. i want to start making homemade bbq-based marinades. a lot of ones at the store are high-sodium and sometimes high-calorie, so i'd like to make a version that's healthier.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: jamieeats

                                                                  Hi, I use a very simple marinade for chicken wings now after observing a guy at a BBQ Chicken Wings stall at a Chinese coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur. It really is more a brine rather than a marinade, but it is pretty tasty! Unfortunately, I go by taste when making this and by the look of the brine too, so I've never measured it and never asked the guy at the stall for a recipe. It's basically a soy sauce brine with a lot of water, some soy sauce and some sugar. If you mix it up before adding it to the chicken, taste it...it shouldn't be salty or sweet. It should almost be like a soup or a broth and not strong in flavour like normal marinades. So it shouldn't be so salty you can't drink it as a soup, for instance... The trick to this isn't really the marinade but the brining. Allow the chicken to "marinate" in this soy sauce brine for at least 3 hours. Then grill or barbecue. It should come out evenly browned but just a lighter shade of brown, but still tasty despite the lack of salt or other seasoning. Next time I make this, I'll measure what I put into it and post a proper recipe lol.

                                                                2. I want to make a cassoulet this winter, before it gets too warm to even contemplate doing it. It's a three day long process, but I know it won't be that difficult. I just need to do it.

                                                                  Related: I want to bone a duck and make a pate de canard en croute. Mostly because it sounds challenging and a little ridiculous.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: caseyjo

                                                                    caseyjo, I made pate de canard using a whole duck I boned exactly once. Since then I have been more than happy to pay for exorbitantly priced boneless duck breast to make duck pate. :) Funny, that, because I came onto this thread to say that a friend served me a chicken ballottine this past weekend, which is a whole chicken completely boned out and then rolled around a stuffing and roasted (his stuffing was spinach, cremini mushrooms, bread and gruyere and man oh man was the whole thing fabulous). Inspired by that, I would like to bone out a whole chicken to make a ballottine stuffed with a rich terrine. Jacques Pepin has a CD with his latest book that shows the technique needed to bone out a chicken and I think there is an online version as well. You might find that helps with the duck exercise.

                                                                    1. re: GretchenS

                                                                      I made a duck ballotine once about 4 million years ago. The duck's geography is a bit different from a chicken's but it's not hard to do, just fiddly.

                                                                  2. The list of things I'm keen to try out is ever expanding; I do make things, I just add new things faster.

                                                                    The list currently includes the following:
                                                                    croissants and puff pastry
                                                                    doughnuts and Berliner (jelly doughnuts)
                                                                    waffles
                                                                    glass noodle salad and other Korean dishes
                                                                    Marcella Hazan's lasagne
                                                                    chocolate hazelnut spread
                                                                    chocolate bars
                                                                    filled pasta
                                                                    makizushi
                                                                    bread in a pullman loaf pan (using a normal loaf pan with a weighed down cookie sheet on top)

                                                                    I would also like to make my own tortillas from fresh masa but I don't think that's feasible in New Zealand without going to great expense.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ecclescake

                                                                      once you make your own Nutella, you'll never go back... i made it because the commercial version has dairy, so mine is dairy free, but that issue notwithstanding, i'd still make my own.

                                                                      i feel the same way about mayonnaise too... never was a big fan til i made it.

                                                                      1. re: Emme

                                                                        It's never even occurred to me to make my own Nutella. What an interesting idea. :)

                                                                      2. re: ecclescake

                                                                        I can help and be your cheerleader with the Korean dishes and a Korean version of the makizushi = to a Futomaki roll. I grew up eating and cooking Korean food so for me it's comfort food and I love introducing it to people who've never had it before.

                                                                        Are you familiar with Maangchi?
                                                                        http://www.maangchi.com/recipe

                                                                        I just started a blog and plan to eventually add some of my mother's version of Korean dishes. I also don't eat meat so I tend to adapt recipes into seafood or vegetarian versions.

                                                                        What kind lasagne is Marcella Hazan's? I love lasagne, especially one loaded with lots of veggies.

                                                                        This is an excellent waffle recipe.
                                                                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...
                                                                        It's a little more effort because the egg whites are beat separately, but creates a wonderful light texture. As much as the recipe is important, I think the waffle iron is key.

                                                                      3. I've done fairly well with croissants and puff pastry. My troubles are with donuts - I've had varying results the few times that I've been willing to use so much oil at once! The timing/temperature for the right doneness inside and out is my biggest problem.

                                                                        1. Hungarian food -- food of my grandparents -- better rouladen than I've made and plum dumplings which were my father's favorite dessert. Beef Wellington for the hell of it.

                                                                          1. There's a long list of things that I want to make...

                                                                            1. Homemade pasta. It's supposed to be easy and my gramma just gave me her old manual pasta maker- I just need to find a kitchen with enough counter space to borrow.

                                                                            2. Homemade seafood stock. I occasionally have fish bones and shrimp peels so there's no excuse not to do it. I just haven't gotten to it yet.

                                                                            3. Homemade bread. I used to make/freeze baguettes but haven't done it in forever.

                                                                            4. I forget what they're called but those delicious Greek-style lima beans. *Swoon*

                                                                            5. Stuffed cabbage, using my grandmother's recipe. It takes forever but is so wonderful.

                                                                            I'll end up with a huge list if I keep monitoring this topic!

                                                                            1. I guess I'm a wimp since I'm intimidated by making tamales! Every Christmas I hope some Mexican friends will "adopt" me and put me to work!

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. Okay, I've decided upon my next trick:

                                                                                Demi-glace!

                                                                                I spent half of this morning reading up on how to make it, what to use it with, etc., and it's not just boiling down some of this beef stock that's sitting in the fridge. I've got to make an Espagnole as well. Some recipes say use Madeira, some don't. Julia Child in MTAoFC doesn't even give it more than a single paragraph.

                                                                                Hmm, this should keep me busy between other projects.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                  Oooh! Thanks for reminding me! demi-glace AND consume!!! They have both been on my list for years. Anyone noticed the restaurant trend (TV, too) towards calling it demi-glaze?

                                                                                  1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                                    Relish, making a demi glace actually is just a matter of boiling down. And boiling down. And boiling down some more. There is a fair amount of variation on methods. Careme (and there's not much in modern cooking that tracks back before him) briskly boiled his demi glace, used truffles and mushrooms but no tomatoes, and a special wooden spoon to stir and NO roux. Escoffier and Julia Child both used roux, and at least Julia (can't remember whether Escoffier did) used tomato paste and a clarified butter roux, except for every day cooking she often used corn starch or arrowroot because it was a LOT faster. The sauce Espagnole step is used by some chefs and not by others. It's a matter of personal preference. There is a movement today to make demi glace without using a roux. Back to Careme! The most critical thing in making a demi glace is the bones you use. The more gelatinous/cartilagenous the bones, the better! In days gone by, a LOT of veal bones were used with some beef bones. Today veal bones are so expensive they require that you indenture your children! Some add chicken feet (readily available in Asian markets) to their demi glace because they're very gelatinous and give great velvety texture. Because of allergies I have to make my own demi glace using only organic bones, regardless of the animal they come from. It's EASY to find organic chicken. Organic chicken feet are a major challenge!

                                                                                    The bottom line: use LOTS of joint bones with maximum cartilage and ask your butcher to cut them into halves or quarters with his saw. Marrow bones! An added milder flavored source of gelatinous bones in addition to beef are veal (ridiculously expensive) or chicken feet (ridiculously cheap). Roast the bones alone first (but I would omit roasting the chicken feet), then add chunky onions and carrots and roast some more. SOME chefs use celery, but it can be a rather assertive flavor, especially if you also use the leaves, so some chefs leave it out. I use maybe a stalk with no leaves. I don't use any salt until the very last "tuning" of the demi glace because it can seriously concentrate in the reduction process. Do use a good grade of kosher or sea salt. That round box salt is toxic! Madeira wine is traditional, but there are some perfectly delicious demi glaces made with red wine. The key is always reduction, reduction, reduction. The more gelatinous/cartilaginous the bones are that you start with, the more astoundingly delicious and rich the demi glace you end up with will be.

                                                                                    When you're through, do NOT throw the bones away yet! Discard the veggies but put the bones on a tray with some fresh veggies and roast again and make a second stock. To enhance the richness, this time coat the bones -- especially the cut surfaces -- with some tomato paste before roasting. This stock will not be quite as rich as the stock you reduced to make the demi glace, but it will be good and will make a comforting base for soups and daubs and even gravies.

                                                                                    It's really NOT a difficult process. But it *IS* a time consuming process. And one last thing: Careme boiled his stock at a full rolling boil all the way through. He must have had an industrial strength straining method because the boiling tends to suspend tiny bits of protein in the broth. Subsequent chefs have championed the simmer process which doesn't produce as much floating bits of cooked protein in the final stock so it's a matter of how much straining you're willing to do. You should strain the stock into a clean stock pot at least once during the process. I'll be doing this two or three times because I'm planning to boil instead of simmer. I suspect the heavy boiling produces a bit richer flavor AND it reduces and concentrates the broth a lot faster, so I'll be buying some extra cheesecloth for straining when I make my demi glace next week. And I am going to make mine without benefit of a roux this time. Good luck with yours!

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      Ah, thank you, Caroline, what a timely post! I was just making up my shopping list for the espagnole. A week or so ago I roasted beef and pork neck bones to start, and a distinctly fishy smell erupted from the oven, not something I wanted to take to fruition, so in the trash it went. (I gather there must have been some cross-contamination at the market.)

                                                                                      My thought was to go with beef neck bones and pork riblets, plus plain pork bones (from another market) this time in lieu of veal. Thanks for the tip about chicken feet, I wasn't sure if anything from a poultry carcass would be appropriate, but I see where you're headed with the gelatinous angle.

                                                                                      I'm willing to experiment a bit to see how I like it prepared, with or without Madeira, with or without tomatoes, with or without a roux, etc. Should be interesting!

                                                                                      BTW, what type of cheesecloth do you use? I've read a number of places that I should look for lint-free at a fabric store instead of what's sold for turkeys in the fall, but I wouldn't know the difference if they all dressed up like Casper and lept up from behind yelling "boo!".

                                                                                  2. To the OP, I've also been meaning to try my hand at an orange limoncello-type liqueur to use in place of the cheap triple sec I usually buy for margaritas. And I plan on doing my own vanilla extract while I'm at it. In fact, I've been collecting pretty bottles to use for both and I just ordered a bunch of vanilla beans.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                                      Ooh, like this? NIIIICE!
                                                                                      http://www.goodcocktails.com/liqueur_...

                                                                                      I have that very bottle pictured top right of the page, too. :)

                                                                                    2. Gravlax has been on my to-do list for awhile, and I just tried it this week. Came out a little salty after curing 2-1/2 days, so next time I'll test it sooner. It's so easy I can't believe I haven't done this sooner, esp. considering how expensive lox is to buy.

                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Niblet

                                                                                        I cure my gravlax for 3 days - might be your ratio of salt/sugar/fish is off rather than the number of days. Maybe look up a few more recipes and work on it until you get the result you like. I always use a recipe that has a bit of gin in it along with juniper berries and dill. I am also lucky enough to have a husband that catches salmon so I usually only make it in the summer when we've got the freshest fish. I love that stuff!

                                                                                        1. re: Sushiqueen36

                                                                                          Thanks guys -- these were skin-on fillets, and ratio was about 3T salt, 2T sugar, plus pepper & dill. Meant to add vodka or gin but forgot. If you have a better salt/sugar ratio suggestion I'd be interested (half-and-half? Or 1T salt to 2Tsugar?). I looked up a bunch of recipes and some even called for more salt than I used.

                                                                                          1. re: Niblet

                                                                                            The cure time will vary with the size - thickness in particular - of the chunk you're trying to cure. One pound that's very thin will cure much faster than one pound that's short but thick.

                                                                                            I don't have the recipe in front of me, but I usually go 24 to 48 hrs, and typically use 1 to 2 1/2 pound filets. Some folks cut off the tapered ends, because if you cure so that the thickest part is cured, the ends will be over-cured - saltier and drier. I keep those bits on, and usually cut them off after curing and save them to throw into a egg or pasta dish, because they can "reconstitute" somewhat, and their imperfections are well hidden in dishes. The remainder will either be sliced as is, or smoked.

                                                                                            Forgot - with skin.

                                                                                            1. re: Niblet

                                                                                              The recipe I use - that I know I tweak but can't find the notes - calls for 1/3 cup kosher salt (that would be important.. .you're not using table salt, right?) and 2/3 cup sugar with 1/4 cup gin. That's for a full 3# fillet and I don't increase the amount of salt/sugar/gin when I sandwich the dill and juniper between two 3# fillets. I wrap the whole thing tightly with plastic wrap and put in a glass casserole then weight with a second casserole filled with canned beans. Flip every 12 hours. I have also used 1/2 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup sugar but I remember liking the mixture heavier on the sugar - it doesn't come out sweet but I think it's harder to come out overly salty that way.

                                                                                              1. re: Sushiqueen36

                                                                                                I think that'll do it: heavier on the sugar. And nope, I wouldn't even think of using table salt. This is helpful, thank you very much.

                                                                                                1. re: Niblet

                                                                                                  Report back! I love gravlax to the point that I can eat the whole fillet over the course of 3 days. If I make a whole fish I make sure and give away half to save myself from my gluttony.

                                                                                          2. re: Niblet

                                                                                            Was it a skinless salmon fillet? Without skin it cures too fast. With skin, 3 days is the norm.

                                                                                            1. I just found a recipe for fresh goat cheese that I can't wait to try. I just need to find some good goat's milk and replenish my supply of cheese cloth (I've actually got everything else on hand).

                                                                                              1. I have wanted to cook a whole fish for years but avoided actually doing it because of the ick factor. Last week Costco had some nice looking whole red snappers and I took the plunge. So glad I finally did it - it was delicious. The cooked fish eyes freaked me a bit but I just covered them with a napkin and carried on eating.

                                                                                                Thanks to Pine Time for posting their biryani recipe above - that's next on my list to conquer.

                                                                                                1. Cheesecake. For the first several years that we lived in this house, the wall oven didn't work when it was humid out (summer) which was when I had lots of free time to attempt such a thing. I guess I just forgot about it over the years. I do still have the unused springform pan in one of the cabinets, though.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: Njchicaa

                                                                                                    I recommend Tyler Florence Ultimate Cheesecake recipe. It comes out so light and fluffy! Yummy!
                                                                                                    Here's the link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...

                                                                                                  2. Corn tortillas starting from fresh corn
                                                                                                    Tofu starting from soybeans
                                                                                                    Coconut milk and coconut cream starting from a whole coconut
                                                                                                    Idlis and dosas
                                                                                                    Spring rolls. Beautiful spring rolls.
                                                                                                    Injera

                                                                                                    1. Something I want to try to make? That's easy. Dong po rou! It's a traditional Chinese dish -- I forget which province it's traditional to, but I do know it is not Sichuanese -- that is little cubes of perfect pork belly tied with string as if they were little gifts for your mouth, and then cooked in a clay pot in a magic broth and finally served with a side dish of plain rice. You can see one recipe for it here:

                                                                                                      http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/20...

                                                                                                      I first saw it on a food show that was taped in China. Just watching set off a crave! So I began collecting the ingredients for it about a year ago. Chinese golden sugar. Shaoxing wine that is 8 years old. Researching the "best" brand of light soy sauce. The perfect slab of pork belly. Trying to find pork belly in Plano, Texas, is like trying to find the proverbial teeth in a chicken! I found it in the fifth ethnic market I went to, curiously enough it was a Chinese market and the first butcher I tried to talk to only spoke Chinese. It took me a while to collect all of the ingredients. Probably a couple of weeks.

                                                                                                      I was getting close to actually cutting the pork and tying it with string when my daughter and son-in-law dropped in for a couple of days. They wanted Chinese take-out for dinner. So my daughter and I were scouring all of the take-out menus on the web we could find. I was on my fifth or sixth one when whoaaaa, Nellie! Right there on the menu of the Sichuanese Cuisine Restaurant, nestled between "Sichuan Smoked Tea Duck" and "Pork Bung & Pork Blood Cake" sat Menu Item C-53, "Dong Po Pork Elbow $11.95." Well, so what if it's not cut into little cubes? So what if it's not native to Sichuan Province? For twelve bucks?

                                                                                                      It was sublime. I had no expectations for what a "pork elbow" might be, other than it would be the exception to the no-elbows-on-the-table rule of my childhood. It was a HUGE ham-like joint of pig, much of the skin still on, cooked until it was succulent, rich, mouth-happy goodness that made you glad to be alive. For twelve bucks!

                                                                                                      Bottom line is.... the Chinese golden sugar is on a pantry shelf, the special light soy sauce is in the refrigerator, and the very special pork belly is still in the freezer. The pork belly is vacuum sealed, then wrapped in aluminum foil to provide maximum preservation. When am I going to make it? Who knows... But I do know that tomorrow we're having Chinese take-out for lunch...! Twelve bucks!!!! THEY do the work!!!! What could be better than that?

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                        An addendum to my tale. We did do take out for lunch today. Don po pork elbow. I shoulda listened to my mother and allowed no elbows on my table. They obviously have a new cook, and this guy doesn't have a clue! No golden sugar, star anise, or anything else in this guy's version of the sauce. Major major major disappointment. <sigh> Doncha just hate it when a restaurant gets a new cook and nothing is the same anymore? <sigh>

                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                          That has happened to me, before, too. It is very sad....like a treasure is lost forever.

                                                                                                      2. The current project is a prosciutto. After salting for 7 days, and being rubbed in lard and black pepper, it's now wrapped in cheesecloth and hanging in my basement. Results will be in sometime in July or August.

                                                                                                        Will probably try a bresaola sometime in the next month.

                                                                                                        Up soon will be merguez sausages, just need to find sheep casings.

                                                                                                        Goat cheese would be great, probably try that this spring.

                                                                                                        Lastly, a whole roast pig (backyard project). Just need to convince ms FH that I can pull it off without permanently damaging the backyard (I plan on using a modification of the "3 guys from miami" method).

                                                                                                        1. Bought a pasta machine because I always wanted one and I had a WS gift card to use for the exact amount (and didn't need anything else). Made pasta one week later, making the dough by hand was a disaster and the clamp for the counter doesn't work anywhere in my house but it made amazing fettucine. Next goal is homemade ricotta and do a lasagna as much from scratch as I can.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                                                            Do you have a pull-out cutting board? That's the only place where my clamp will fit. It's not an ideal work surface but it works!

                                                                                                            1. re: Sushiqueen36

                                                                                                              No pull out cutting board :( will just have to be a two person job.

                                                                                                          2. I'd love to conquer baklava. Always trying, rarely satisfied. Worked through dozens of nut combinations and syrups. Just missing that wow.

                                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                              I think two things that have ruined baklava for me in the past have been stale nuts and lack of real butter. Don't know if that helps.....

                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                Actually my gripe is the pastry itself and sometimes the syrup more times than not, sandylc. I buy quality butter and go through lbs of nuts quickly.

                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                  So my reply was not helpful!!! Sorry....

                                                                                                                  For the phyllo dough, I find that the organic one is the best one for other uses...I haven't tackled baklava yet.....!

                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                    http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com/...
                                                                                                                    This was the thread I followed and played with for a while. I was focusing on scratch phyllo and the filling/syrup they outlined. But I wasn't wow'd. See what you think.

                                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                      Wow! What a fun challenge! I love this kind of fun...I am sorry to hear that you weren't as impressed with the results as you wanted to be...What specifically was it about the dough recipe that you didn't like? Did it get too elastic, maybe? Or not crisp enough? Good for you that you jumped in and tried it!!!!!!!!!

                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                        Uneven pastry. Some parts were crisp, the middle doughy. The nuts, syrup were too much for the fragile sheets. I tried this outline 4x's...and stopped because I didn't want to continue making the same un-impressive recipe.

                                                                                                                        It wasn't my ovens (tried home & work). It was the dough. I'm still questing for the right dough.

                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                          That's really too bad. Maybe you learned enough that someone else's recipe might fill in the gaps.....?

                                                                                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                HillJ, First off, I meant to get this up for you yesterday but life kept getting in my way. I hope better late than never still works. Anyway, I make baklava several times a year and it's always gone in a flash. I learned to make it decades ago when I lived in Turkey. I have NEVER had store bought, restaurant made, or Greek Orthodox Festival baklava in this country that was worth biting into.. It's always soggy and not light and flaky and airy. I think the difference is in the amount of butter. So maybe this will work for you. But be warned! Mine is a country version that uses honey. It's delicious! So here's how I make baklava:

                                                                                                                First off, I bake it in jelly roll pans which are basically a cookie sheet with a half inch rim on all four sides. I usually do at least two trays at a time, but this recipe is for one pan that is 11" by 17" inside measure. The current brand of Athens Phyllo Dough that I use comes now comes in "twin 8 oz fresh packs" which are a pain because it means I have to have a seam through the center of my tray. It still works, but I much preferred the old way where a one pound package of phyllo dough came in one set of large sheets. So check your pan size and figure out ahead if you're going to need to cut your phyllo to fit the width/length of your pan or if you have to have a seam. And if some sheets of phyllo tear while you're transferring them to the pan, don't worry, just piece them back together and glue them with the butter. It will be just fine. But meantime, I sure wish the food industry would stop with the downsizing their products and go back to upsizing their prices! So check your pans and the size of the phyllo sheets.

                                                                                                                Next, draw some butter! I stick about four cubes of butter in LARGE Pyrex measuring cup (4 cup size) and nuke it. Once it starts separating and the solids begin to build little rafts, it can froth and boil over and who needs to clean a microwave??? When I see mine boiling up, I open the oven door and let it settle down, then nuke it some more. Keep doing this until there is a clear layer of "cow oil" floating above the whey at the bottom of the cup. There will also be cooked solids floating on the top. Skim off the solids and pour the oil ONLY into a soup bowl or a clean measuring cup. Set it aside while you make the filling.

                                                                                                                Put two large bags of shelled walnuts in the bowl of your food processor. I use either Diamond or Fisher brands, but if you want to crack your own walnuts that works great! Don't waste your money on walnut halves. Go for the cheapest broken nuts because you're just going to break them some more! You can use any kind of nut, but I don't recommend peanuts. That's just wrong! But almonds or pistachios are very traditional in addition to walnuts. Never use black walnuts unless you want bitter baklava. So about two generous cups of nut meats in the bowl of your food processor. Cut a cube of butter into chunks and add it. Next add about a half cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. If you wish, you can also add a pinch of cinnamon, but go very light on it. This is more of a Lebanese tradition than Turkish. Now turn on the blender! The objective is to avoid making any kind of "nut butter." Ideally the filling will be chunky, but not in really big pieces. The filling should hold together when you squeeze about a tablespoon full in your hand. If it doesn't, add a little more butter and process lightly. If you wish, you can use brown sugar instead of white. Time to put it all together!

                                                                                                                Set your oven to 325F. And set up your "assembly line." You will need a large pastry brush to paint the butter on the phyllo sheets. I actually use a 2" wide food grade paint brush. I just can't remember if I bought it in a restaurant supply or a department store. It is a joy to use when making baklava, but a wire handle old fashioned pastry brush will work too. I work with my sheets of phyllo to the left of my baking pans. You also need a teacup or ramekin about half full of milk just to the right of the baking pan and the drawn butter and pastry brush sitting there too.

                                                                                                                Paint the bottom of the pan with drawn butter. Lay TWO sheets of phyllo pastry on the pan and paint it with butter. You don't have to pool the butter but you do want to completely cover every part of the phyllo with melted butter. The butter bakes into the phyllo and makes it "water proof" so it will not get soggy when you drown it in the final step. Trust me! So now that you have two sheets of phyllo in place and well painted with butter, put the tips of your fingers into the milk and flick it all over the buttered phyllo. You want evenly distributed small dots of milk scattered over the entire surface when you're through but go light on the milk. Don't let the dots of milk get too big. This step is very important! It is what makes the baklava layers stick together after it is baked. Without this step your finished baklava will have more in common with a stack of potato chips than it will with a pastry. Now put two more sheets of phyllo on top of the ones you've just spatter painted and paint them generously with butter. Spatter paint again, and add 2 more leaves of phyllo and keep doing this until you've used a little more than half the package of phyllo pastry. Well, acttually -- if you're using Athens brand phyllo in the two 8 ounce packs, use one whole 8 ounc pack on the bottom, and maybe a few sheets from the second pack.

                                                                                                                Next add the nut filling. It will be crumbly so just spread it around evenly and try not to press down on the layers of phyllo too much because the tiny bits of air between the layers are what will make it rise and keep you from having a dense bottom to your finished baklava. Try to cover the entire surface of the phyllo from pan edge to pan edge with the filling.

                                                                                                                Cover the nut mixture with two sheets of phyllo and continue the paint with butter and splash with milk process until all of the phyllo is used up, ending with a butter painted but milk free top.

                                                                                                                With a very sharp knife (I use my 10" chef's knife) cut the baklava into diamond shapes by sinking your knife blade straight down through all layers. This is the hardest part of making baklava because the buttered layers want to stick to your knife blade. Wiping it off after each cut helps, but it's still not easy. Sorry. I just can't lie to you. I make diagonal cuts about an inch and a quarter apart all the way down the pan, then turn the pan 180 degrees and make diagonal cuts again that result in diamond shapes. Don't worry about some of the top layers pulling out of place. Just set them back where they belong and when it's all cut, pop the pan into a middle shelf in your oven. Both radiant heat ovens (gas or electric) or convection ovens work just fine, but the time will vary. What you're after is a light golden brown top on the baklava, and low and slow works just fine. In my oven, it runs in the neighborhood of bout 40 minutes, give or take five either way.

                                                                                                                When the baklava is a golden toasty brown on top, remove it from the oven and while it is still very hot, pour honey all over it. I buy my honey in 3lb/48oz bottles and it takes at least a half bottle to cover a full tray of baklava. When you're through pouring there should be no dry spots on the baklava at all, but the honey will quickly melt down into the layers of phyllo and the filling. Just be sure that all of the top is honey shiny and not butter shiny when you're through pouring. Allow to cool to room temperature.

                                                                                                                When it is cold, re-cut the baklava. You can use a smaller knife this time. Follow the pre-baked cuts exactly. And now you need a slew of cupcake cups or even large candy cups. Open the cupcake cups on two sides to sort of make a trough through the center. Place one diamond of baklava in each cup. Arrange the cups on a serving plate as you wish. I usually make a pinwheel effect by spiraling the diamond shapes together. Or you can pack the baklava in small boxes as gifts.

                                                                                                                ALTERNATIVES: For "city" baklava, replace honey with a syrup made with 3 cups of sugar and two cups of water and a flavoring of your choice. Rose water and orange water are two traditional favorites as is lemon juice, maybe with a small grating of zest. boil the syrup without stirring for a minute. Then pour it over the baklava instead of the honey. If you make city baklava and have not painted every leaf of phyllo completely with butter to seal it, your baklava is likely to get soggy. And that is my chief complaint against all of the made-in-America baklava I have had, except my own

                                                                                                                SAVORY VARIATIONS THAT ARE NOT CALLED BAKLAVA:

                                                                                                                Using the more familiar to Americans Greek names, to make:

                                                                                                                TYROPITA (cheese pie) layer the phyllo exactly as above but replace the nuts with a mixture of feta cheese and an egg or two. Check yuor feta cheese for saltiness. If it's very salty, use a mixture of half feta cheese and half drained cottage cheese. About a cup or more of cheese per egg. Mix it in the food processor, then add a bit of chopped parsley for the last couple of spings. Spread this in the same way youw would spread the nut filling for baklava and finish with more layers of phyllo as above. Cut into larger diamonds or squares and bake until golden. Do NOT pour honey or syrup over it. They're ready to eat when they're no longer hot. Room temperature is traditional, but a bit warmer if you wish.

                                                                                                                SPANAKOPITA (spinach pie) same as above but toss some wilted and WELL DRAINED fresh spinach over the feta filling before topping off with the phyllo layers. Again, cut into large diamonds or squares before baking, then bake to golden brown. Cool and enjoy! For a more spinachy version, skip the feta cheese and just use very well drained spinach (some use frozen spinach wrung out in paper towels to get rid of moisture) and mix it with a beaten egg (it helps the filling hold together) and maybe a bit of finely chopped sautéed onions. Both versions are delicious.

                                                                                                                If you prefer a less rustic presentation in your final tyropita or spanakopita you can cut the phyllo into long strips about 2 inches wide. Butter a couple of strips well and then place a teaspoon of filling at one end and fold that end to make a triangle, then continue with a "military funeral flag fold" until you have a finished packet. These can be either baked or deep fried until golden. The deep frying does lose some of the butter flavor, but some cooks like the trade off in cooking convenience. Your call.

                                                                                                                So go ahead and make some baklava, HillJ. Even if you fail, it's still gonna taste good! Or you can fold it into some whipped cream and call it a Greek Trifle. 'Opa! '-)

                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                  Well C1 you just kicked my morning into high gear. Consider your generosity cut & pasted and on the kitchen counter as assignment ONE for next week. This is exactly what I was looking for-method & flavor. Many thanks.

                                                                                                              3. I really want to learn how to make fresh pasta! I've tried a time or two on my own, but the results were disastrous.....coming from an Eastern European background, I don't have a shred of Italian in me! Anyone in the Phoenix area that would like to tutor me?

                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: riversuzyq

                                                                                                                  Are you using "00" Italian flour? If you can get it, I recommend using it instead of regular AP flour.

                                                                                                                  I've only made fresh (Italian style) pasta with an Italian friend of mine. The one time I tried to make it on my own was a complete disaster. It didn't help that:
                                                                                                                  1) I used the wrong semolina flour. It was too coarse.
                                                                                                                  2) Couldn't keep the pasta machine clamped down. Also, because of #1, the pasta was too tough to work with and wouldn't feed through the machine.
                                                                                                                  I was trying to make ravioli had to run to the market and use wonton skins instead.

                                                                                                                  Come to think of it, the one time I tried to make fresh handcut Korean noodles alone was a complete failure as well. I usually make it with my cousin or SIL.

                                                                                                                  Guess I need to add that one to the list.

                                                                                                                  1. re: riversuzyq

                                                                                                                    Marcella Hazan's recipe is, for me, perfect. Just do one thing she does not mention in her book: after kneading for 10 minutes, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave it on your counter 1/2 hr to an hour. Her recipe is only eggs and all purpose flour. (I like to use 1/2 all purpose, 1/2 00, but that is not so important.)

                                                                                                                    I did not have anyone to teach me so I had to experiment. Don't give up; I really believe "practice makes perfect." I often mix it in a bowl so I don't have to chase the eggs down the counter when they escape the surrounding flour.

                                                                                                                    1. re: walker

                                                                                                                      Yeah. The videos made it look so easy that the escapIng eggs were disappointing. Making the dough in a bowl ort mixer next time.

                                                                                                                    2. re: riversuzyq

                                                                                                                      I felt the same way until I started making the dough in the food processor. Quick and easy and no mess...disaster averted.

                                                                                                                    3. Ropa vielja (sp?). The Cuban version, which I used to love to get from a Cuban diner when I lived in Hoboken. Not so easy to find in Toronto, and the latest issue of Saveur reminds me how much I miss it. There's the Saveur recipe to try, of course. But do any of you all have recipes for it you love and can steer me toward?

                                                                                                                      1. I really just want to cook a pig. I figure even if I screw it up, it will still be amazing. Then I can try again, to do better!

                                                                                                                        1. One of these days, I am going to make some sort of Asian fermented meat.

                                                                                                                          1. Pho, I'm kind of intimidated by all the wide ranging recipes and long, laborious process.