ASHLEY SANS ENNUI

Professional Hobbyist

Dealing with Doughnuts

Atelophobia and blogger’s remorse is enough to make me tease the delete button regularly. Just like everyone else, I am a victim of emotions and the fear of stagnancy. Comes with the territory I suppose.

So I walked outside. The garden was still wet with morning, sky still silent, save the cicadas. It’s a goddamn jungle. Pulling weeds back there is as futile as stopping my self-deprecation.

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With all that bad there is good and, much to pessimists’ dismay,  I like to think that it all balances out. Like a toothache from a sugar glaze, heartburn from crushed red pepper pizza and beer + shot combos, or morning heartbreak after euphoric embraces.

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Sometimes I feel guilty for being grateful for the unfortunate experiences in my life. Sometimes I think it makes me a horrible person to find the bright side to the bad stuff.

“Beauty means the scent of roses and then the death of roses.” 

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Maybe you recognize this guy? He survived being pummeled with snow while crookedly suspended 40 feet in the air off my balcony at my old apartment.

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Now look at him go. 

You have to start somewhere, and I figured a sponge was as good a place as any.

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Sponge for Yeast Doughnuts 

4 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3.5 oz lukewarm water
1 egg

1. Fork together in bowl.
2. Ferment at room temp for half an hour.
3. Rest in fridge overnight.

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While the sponge comes to life, you can kill some fruit.

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I had apricots and they pair well with lavender…

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…both in color and in taste.

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Apricot Jam

1 pound apricots, pitted and chopped
2 pounds sugar

1. Boil, then simmer for an hour.
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Yeast Doughnuts

5.75 oz all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp instant yeast
1/2 oz milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 oz sugar
1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla
4 tbs butter, room temp

1. Dump sponge in mixing bowl, followed by all other ingredients except the butter.
2. Mix on medium speed with dough hook, scraping sides periodically, for 10 minutes.
3. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time.
4. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm spot for an hour.
5. Roll dough on a floured surface to about 1/4″
6. Cut with cookie cutter until left with scraps, which you can also save for frying.
7. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for an hour.
8. Bring oil to 370 degrees Fahrenheit and fry about 30 seconds on each side.
9. Scrap dough can be rolled into balls and fried as pseudo doughnut holes.

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Don’t bake doughnuts. That’s like drinking non-alcoholic beer. Dumb.

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But feel free to cook the pseudo doughnut holes in a takoyaki pan. 

Lavender Glaze

1/4 – 1/2 C milk
2 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Leaves and flowers of lavender

1. Warm milk.
2. Whisk in sugar.
3. Steep lavender for 10 minutes.

While the glaze steeps, stab a small hole in the sides of the cooled doughnuts and fill with apricot jam using a small piping tip and pastry bag.

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 Strain glaze and pour over doughnuts.

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Manhandled doughnut:

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Womanhandled doughnut:

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Mouthfeel

This is late, really late. Sorry about that, but I told you I would do it – partial mash, mother f*@#rs!

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I was expecting a partial mash brewing kit to be noticeably more difficult than its precursor (extract kit), but that wasn’t the case whatsoever. The method didn’t vary too much and it was only slightly more time consuming, taking away what little right I have to bitch about never having enough time to do anything.

With a partial mash, you soak the grains and some malt extract for a certain period of time to allow the sugars to break down. After that, running hot water over the mixture, called sparging, a super fun word that pretty much makes a partial mash kit worth it, rinses the sugars out leaving behind the wort, to which the hops and additional malt extract is added. This method is supposed to result in a more complex beer. As the style I chose was an oatmeal stout, I was expecting lots of depth and a substantial silkiness. But I’m convinced the key to happiness is having no expectations.

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The oats do make the beer smooth and seemingly rich, and despite popular belief, way less sweet than other styles.

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A deciding factor in my choice of beer to brew this time around came from my pastry school background. I made oatmeal ice cream before, and I also made stout ice cream before, so it was only natural that my manic little self wanted to have the best of both worlds, have her cake (and ice cream! and beer!) and eat it (and drink it!), too.

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Lo, oatmeal stout ice cream.

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Silky, nutty, toasty, stouty – yada yada. IT’S JUST FREAKING GOOD.

I just had a bottle in the shower because I needed some creative lubricant. Yeah, I made this beer when there was still snow on the ground. Let’s just say that I’ve been going through some quarter-life analysis and reading way too much Fitzgerald the past few months.

Here’s a note on that ^ as well as today’s post and my choice of words, the mouthfeel, if you will:

Too much of my life is spent anxiously weighing decisions to the point of deciding to not make one; erasing, backspacing and hiding behind a keyboard. A device I use to battle this issue is my professional hobby-ism. I am kind of good at a lot of things, a very well-rounded novice. Distractions – I thrive on them.

However beneficial this coping mechanism may seem, I unfortunately abandon my new projects and interests because of a slurry of perfectionism and fear…of never being good enough, or that I can’t be myself, or that in being myself I will bore my audience.  By this I don’t only refer to my weak attempts at a literary presence, but also the ‘audience’ of daily life: my relationships, professional and otherwise. I want to impress everyone endlessly.

Unfortunately this self-consciousness affects my actions as well as my footprint on this cyberspace. I am new to this blogging game so I must let my real personality out before I resent the whole goddamn thing and erase its existence and settle into yet another fleeting hobby. So here I am in all my pervy, nerdy, and foul-mouthed glory.

More good stuff soon, promise.

Until then:

[Oatmeal] Stout Ice Cream

530g  milk
105g cream
185g sugar
85g yolk
100g stout
pinch of salt

1. Heat milk, cream, salt and half of sugar in saucepan to near boil
2. Whisk yolks and remaining sugar in bowl
3. While whisking, pour half of hot milk and cream into the yolk bowl
4. Pour yolk mixture back into pot; intoxicate that custard [add beer]
5. Remove from heat once the ice cream base coats the back of a wooden spoon
6. Cool in ice bath and store in fridge for quite some time
7. Churn away

If you do not like or do not have an oatmeal stout, Keegan Ales Mother’s Milk Stout is an excellent alternative.

Roots: Juiced and Battered

What did you ask for on your 16th birthday? A set of wheels? To go to that Red Hot Chili Peppers concert with your friends? Not A.B. Corbett. I asked my family for a power juicer.

From a pretty early age it was apparent to myself, and everyone who knew me, that I was slightly obsessed with food. Not only was I a little chubbster, but I also could get slightly demanding with details…for example, spaghetti dinner wasn’t complete without bread and butter, and a McDonald’s breakfast pancake combo absolutely had to have the “butter with the corn on it”. Please tell me that someone remembers the margarine from McDonald’s with the corn imprint on it? My brother is the only one who can vouch for this, until some spirit-whispering medium can get a confession from my dad.

So it came as no surprise the summer after I visited my aunt in London, who is always way ahead on the latest culinary trends and kitchen gadgets, when I asked for a juicer as a gift. Just like spaghetti dinner when I was five, momma delivered. Seven years ago I got a Jack LaLanne and it still works as well as it did when I made my first raw beverage:

Apple, carrot and ginger juice, Auntie Pam’s specialty and my favorite.

Juicing makes me really appreciate fresh produce as ingredients. With just two roots and one fruit, you can make a delicious and invigorating beverage, my breakfast of champions. And the “waste” produced can be used to create something to reward yourself for at least trying to be healthy: carrot cake!


But this isn’t your iconic, comforting, childhood carrot cake. It is not the kind you can get with your coffee at any American diner. It’s the kind of cake that would piss off your grandfather. The kind of cake that moved to New York City, threw on a wig and platform heels, and changed his name to “Jen Derbinder”.

This is my carrot cake with caramelized pistachios and Brie cheese frosting. Its unorthodox variations make it more American in a way, or something silly and precious like that.

Don’t you just want this in and around your mouth?


I was never a big fan of carrot cake’s traditional cream cheese coating…wouldn’t say I hate it, but I always peeled it off my slice and raked out the candied walnuts with my fork. It just seemed a bit overkill with all that powdered sugar beat into its already natural sweetness. Which is sad, because icing on cakes is supposed to be, well, the icing on the cake. Especially aesthetically – it’s like the front gate of a castle, the wrapping on a present, the foyer of a theater, the title of a novel, your lover’s leopard print bra. It gives the first impression of what’s on the inside, builds the excitement of what’s to come. So I gave it a dramatic and edgy garnish to celebrate its boldness.

Straight lines and even frosting layers are so overrated!
[Droopy Brie frosting really challenges my atelophobia.]


I make my apple, carrot, and ginger juice pretty heavy on the ginger. I love the spiciness with the sweetness from the other two ingredients, which is why I thought Brie would complement the flavor profile nicely, especially during fall and winter.

Stay true to your roots, but not too true; stray a little and try something new. It’s okay to be crazy.

Oh, and there is one more thing that makes this cake badass…

It’s baby-sized.

Two Roots, One Fruit

carrots
apples
ginger

1. Juice.
2. Consume.

Carrot Cake Gone Wild

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup of oil
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups/650 grams of composty, shreddy stuff from juicing (or just shredded carrots)
a handful of toasted, salted pistachios

1. Mix batter according to standard blending method.
2. Bake at 35o degrees Fahrenheit until cake tester comes out clean.

Brie Cheese Frosting

8 ounces Brie, room temperature, rind-less
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (helps the consistency)
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 cup powdered sugar, sifter (I used less because of my aversion to overly sweet cake icings)

1. Beat cheese in mixer.
2. Add in powdered sugar.
Warning: This cake is dense in every sense of the word. Baby-sizing it is cute and practical.

Warning, again: Don’t bake barefoot. More specifically, don’t caramelize sugar and nuts barefoot. During this reckless act I managed to drop liquid napalm (cooked sugar) on the top of my foot and big toe. Pictures from my smartphone for the curious people obsessed with looking at gross crap on the Internet.

Globe Bar Bitters


While walking home from the train station I came across a box on the streets of Jersey City, which was hosting a little literature orgy for a group of hospitality and culinary pieces. One of the members was The Art of the Cocktail by Ben Reed. Before I found that treasure I had already planned on making my own bitters to begin experimenting with cocktails, so I happily accepted the timely gift.

I definitely needed to use this book as a guideline, since my previous cocktail concocting went as far as “Old English Mimosas” (in forty ounce serving portions, of course). I was never much of a cocktail drinker, always preferring a good beer or wine. However, there is a mood set and an emotion felt when you let the inside of your hands and fingertips be caressed by the delicate stem of glassware. Even more so when the balance of flavors tickles your taste buds, and the alcoholic aromas shock your body into recognition, causing your pupils to dilate and your brain to titillate. Much like the warmth and comfort felt when you wrap your hands around a steamy cup of coffee or tea, and it hugs your hands right back.

Don’t let your morning cup of caffeine be just that. Don’t slam a cocktail down your gullet without some sort of recognition of your vitality.


Globe Bar Bitters – Cardamom, Mostly

[named after my favorite piece of furniture, wherein the bitters bittered and have taken residence]

Everclear or other strong liquor
Green cardamom pods, slightly abused and broken
Whole cloves
Dried lavender stems and leaves
Star anise
Dried licorice root
Small bit of cinnamon stick

1. Drown flavorings and spices in alcohol
2. Wait a few weeks; remove ingredients you don’t wish to be strongest in flavor
3. Strain completely


When making bitters there needs to be a bittering agent involved, naturally, and I was so damn impatient to get this project started that I used whatever I could find most quickly. All of the spices were already in my cupboard, the lavender from my garden, and the licorice root from a very convenient and budget-friendly Indian grocery store near my apartment. I was really just playing at this point, with no clue of how these ingredients would affect the final product, aside from being heavily spiked with cardamom loveliness and backed up by its seasonal entourage of the spice world.

Where my creation bloomed for three weeks:


Bitters and friends.

The results: Pleasantly sweet and teasingly bitter. The licorice root is a fantastic asset to me now. Once I strained the soaked tidbits from the Everclear, I, much like a cat, examined the soggy bark of licorice, sniffed, approved, and chewed. Tasted like candy, felt like gnawing on a tree. I will definitely attempt to extract the flavor for other uses, perhaps ice cream, candy, or sauces.

Mr. Reed’s Vesper martini recipe was the basis for my cocktail:

Cardamom Martini

2 oz gin
2 oz Lillet
Dash of cardamom bitters

1. Add gin and Lillet into a shaker filled with ice
2. Pour shaken concoction into frosted martini glass
3. Add a drop or two of cardamom bitters

Drink expressively!

It is a delicate and soothing drink, as a bitter-alcoholic beverage should be, yet with just enough spice and burn to mess things up a bit – you know, for charm.

Anything You Can Brew I Can Brew Better

Yeast gobbles up sugar and farts out CO2 and alcohol.

Thirsty?

Since I am still waiting for the world to realize how awesome I am and give me lots of money, I have only experimented with an “extract kit”, the most noob and money friendly method of brewing beer at home. These kits are packages of ingredients which can be purchased online for decent prices or found at beer supply stores (and, word on the street, even at some Whole Foods).

My first kit to play with all by myself was the Petite Saison d’Ete extract kit with specialty grains from Northern Brewer. The word saison is French for season. This style of ale was named as such because it was the typical brew produced in the fall to be consumed by seasonal (summer) farmers in Wallonia, Belgium (hence it’s categorical street name, ‘Farmhouse Ale’). The ale was, and still is, designed to be light, refreshing, and as complex as the brewer wants it to be. The complexity can be said to be a result of the lack of rules constraining the beer. Specific recipes were not developed or followed for saisons by the ancient farmers. Their brews got whatever ingredients that happened to be available on the farm (wheat, rye, spelt, spices, herbs, etc). Today the styles can range from crisp, dry, and citrus-y to deceivingly sweet, bready, and malty. The latter flavor profile belongs to the Biere de Garde subcategory of this genre (Farmhouse Ales) which is more French than Belgian.

Northern Brewer’s Petite Saison d’Ete is definitely on the crisp, fruity side but with just enough earthy funk to remind me of a dark and nutty bread, charming my relentless sweet tooth. As long as you aren’t an incompetent bum, you can make delicious beer like this at home! The major bank-breaker could be the equipment but just like buying a new laptop or smartphone, once you have it, you’re pretty much set for a good while, unless you download a lot of naughty things and get a vicious virus. So save up those paychecks  and pretend to be a mad scientist.

Five gallons of wort, the unfermented beer liquid.

Hop pellets! One of the three hops that were in this particular recipe. I believe these are the UK Kent Goldings.

The beautiful, aromatic Belgian Caravienne grains! After soaking, I stored them in a container because I am addicted to their earthy, nutty scent. Maybe I can make a soaker for bread with them. Suggestions, bakers?

For extract kits, the grains come pre-crushed. 

The mash, after two weeks of primary fermentation.

And into the bottles for another two weeks (minimum) of secondary fermentation…

Here is the detailed recipe/instructions.

Once my skill and hobby budget has leveled up, I will pursue the following homebrewing kits:

– Partial Mash
– All Grain
– Pro Series [actual brewery recipes that were shared] or inventing my own.

Those tiers increase in difficulty as well as creative capacity. I would love to lace my brews with my botanical babies and other goodies in the near future.


Crazy carbonation, alluding to even more thirst-quenching properties than by belonging to the Farmhouse family.

Best consumed while playing plant in your urban jungle during a summer sunset or enjoying as a post-rainrun-showerbeer, mmm.

One of my biggest gifts [and biggest curses, to my bank account at least] is my obsession with doing anything that I think is cool as hellWhen I was nine I wanted to be an ice skater. At 12, a painter. Fourteen, Catwoman. Seventeen, pastry chef. Nineteen, hula hoop dancer. Twenty-one, circus aerialist.

Today I want to become a Master Cicerone [beer version of a sommelier; there are only four in the world currently]. There are three levels of tests in the pursuit of hop-iness which would set me back  $1,009, assuming I pass each exam and don’t have to pay for retakes. A pricey little investment, isn’t it? [See previous statement regarding my lack of financial resources.]

July 2012 was National Beer Month; Cheers to beer, the proud product of the first written recipe recorded in history.

An Edible Time Capsule

I love my little nest. My apartment is on the third floor of a four story building which has a yard on the first level and private balcony space for each separate unit. Rare priveldge. So, here it is, my little garden in the sky.



There are many tutorials on how to build a wood pallet herb garden and can be discovered through a quick quest with Google.  The first one I saw that inspired me was created by Kate Pruitt and posted on Design Sponge. Her succulent-infested pallet is lovely but for once in my life and much to my gentleman companion’s surprise, I decided to focus on practicality rather than aesthetics. For the time being (a very short time, I am certain) my garden is solely edible. Although it currently lacks every color except green, it’s still a sight to behold.

Especially with my nighttime compensation:


The only thing I spent a significant amount of money on for my garden was the soil. For the pallet I went dumpster hunting and hit the jackpot at an electrical supply store near the mulberry tree forest. The dudes there didn’t mind me meticulously selecting the perfectly petite pallet and hauling it back to my apartment Atlas-style.

Currently harboring: sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, dill, parsley and basil. When I began this project I had a hard time finding cilantro seedlings so he has become the orphan child, perched up on the railing in a separate container. Sorry, dear. My mint is also secluded but he brought that upon himself. Perhaps one day he will learn to play nice with others and share soil. Until then, he remains in tin can-timeout. And I have plenty of other small pots I could have put the mint in but a rusty tin can nailed onto wood seemed more proper punishment.

I also have lavender whose home was custom made by yours truly. There was an espresso wood CD/DVD case laying on the sidewalk that I couldn’t pass by…so now it is laying horizontal with weed blocker stapled onto its now rocking-horse bottom. Fancy home for a fancy herb.

If it wasn’t for the curious population of stray cats in Jersey City, I would have a glorious overflow of strawberries from my hanging pot. But some furry jerk decided to take a nap atop the seedlings when I first potted them and left the basket laying on the balcony.

As for veggies, my Black Prince tomatoes are growing very quickly but I am becoming quite antsy with my zucchini (planted in an orange trough that the sidewalk also gave to me). That’s the great thing about gardening. It allows humans to put time into a medium and teaches patience. Someone soon is going to catch me kneeling over my plants, tugging on their  leaves in a cursing fit. I recommend growing things to people who “loiter in winter when it is already spring”.

Quintessentially, pickling foods is an attempt to keep something in its perfect form. Capturing time, never letting it change, in hopes of remembering something when things were better. Sorry for being so dramatic. [I am just broadening my audience; someone is going to eat that shit up. World domination, here I come.]

When the time is ripe for my vegetables to be consumed, I will definitely be reserving some bounty for pickling. Tug as I may on those stems and leaves, it is not in my control and I must wait. As usual, once I get something in my mind, I have to follow through, so I bought some beets from the market and made a ruby time capsule.

Pickled Beets

3 large beets
2-3 C sugar
24-32 oz vinegar (white or cider)
fresh ginger root, to taste
fennel seeds, to taste
anise seeds, to taste
whole cloves, to taste
fresh dill, you get the idea
salt

1. Roast beets, cool, peel off flesh; cut into desired chunks or slices and place in jar (I swear I did not steal that from Serial Killing for Dummies)
2. Peel and slice ginger root into disks; add to jar with beets
3. Make a brine with vinegar, spices, and sugar; ascertain sugar is completely dissolved
4. Cool brine and pour over root fragments; store in fridge and enjoy until there is no longer a reminder of springtime’s service

Meet Morus Mulberry

Wild mulberry trees in Jersey City? Confusion was my initial reaction when I came across this berry graveyard on my way to the Hamilton Park Farmer’s Market. My second reaction: free shit?! The market can wait until next week.

I discovered several trees along a railroad near my apartment. My target of attack seemed to belong to somebody’s front lawn. Fortunately the resident was out shopping for bath salts or something so I was free to pick without bother.


These bad boys were as ready to go as a mathlete on prom night. With a wiggle of a branch, handfuls of  juicy mulberries dropped, gracing anywhere they bounced with a purple blemish, not denying my face and shoulders.

Others, not so ripe, sort of appealed to my taste buds more. The fully grown black mulberries have a flavor reminiscent of grocery store blueberries. (They are wild Jersey fruit, after all.) Just kidding. They are quite nice, just lacking that amazing wild bramble berry sweetness that I expected; this difference will come in handy for many applications though. The premature berries speckled with delicate pinks and reds however have more tartness which reminds me of Sour Patch Kids. I behaved myself though, and didn’t steal their youth. Grow strong, my nymphet candies, I will be back for you.

Jam is on the agenda but in impatient furies before work shifts the last two days, my mania got the best of me. I stole Lemon Fire Brigade’s recipe for Wild Blueberry Paste because I just could not resist making a berry blob.

A few obstacles were encountered.

1. As a recent graduate who just moved into her first big girl apartment, I lack any sort of chinois/strainer/cheesecloth, but not a problem for the resourceful A.B. Corbett. I used some leftover weed blocker from my wood palette herb garden.

2. Blueberries are brambles. Brambles have lots of natural pectin. Mulberries are from the Morus family whose fruits do not contain much pectin. Good troubleshooting for my jam date.

After following the recipe and allowing my liquefied paste to rest overnight, the result was not solid but rather a syrupy goo.  A velvety, delicious goo. The taste was outstanding so I could not be crestfallen because the product’s lack of structure.


Sexual.

I was feeling especially spry and married the mulberry with cheese and pastry. The two were made for each other, just ask the Brits.

 Pâte Brisée

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
1 stick butter, cubed and frigid
1/4 cup ice water

1. Mix dry ingredients
2. Add butter with pastry cutter (or pulse in food processor, leaving it coarse)
3. Add water until a dough is formed; lest rest in fridge

Havarti Cheese and Fruit Pies

1. Roll out pâte brisée (or puff pastry) and cut into desired geometrics
2. Pinch a bit of havarti cheese in the center of  dough and make a cozy well for
a fresh mulberry and some Morus goo to sit in (prevents leakage during
baking)
3. Either cap the dough piece with one of equal dimensions or fold over to seal
edges; crimp edges with a fork
4. Egg wash, snip a vent with scissors, and bake 10-20 minutes (varies on size
of tarts, mine were babies) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for pâte brisée and 450 for puff

My puff pastry version reminded me a bit of St. John’s Eccles Cake with Lancanshire cheese. Yes, I just compared something I made to the genius of Fergus Henderson. My sweet, earthy Morus goo was excellent with the tangy havarti and what better way to felicitate the happy couple than by hugging it with flaky, buttery dough.

I can get a little manic when I get excited about something. My ability to become obsessed easily is probably responsible for my abundance of hobbies.