Cooking Wishlist 1.0

I've decided to start a Cooking Wishlist. It's a goal-setting exercise of sorts, something to help my brain focus while I teach myself the techniques I frequently admire when eating out. This first list is relatively short and made up of baked goods. Just trying to keep things manageable so that I can actually reach the finish line.

The pastry that finally pushed me to get serious was Tartine's morning bun (pictured below). Believe any hype that you've heard. First off, Tartine's croissants are fantastic. The wizards behind the aprons then take their 100-layer dough and create a hybrid croissant/kouign-amann that is <choir sings> the morning bun. When you eat this golden goodness, your flaky-caramel-dreams are realized. To top things off, my best girl texted me the other day with a picture of a croissant loaf and captioned it, "Make me this!!!"

Yes. I will make all the buttery things.

Potato Hash with Fava Beans, Green Garlic, and Leftover Short Rib

About a month ago, Rob and I went out for dinner and ended up with a box of leftover porcini-rubbed steak. Letting something that delicious go to waste would be a crime punishable by a year of bad coffee <shudder>, so the next day I sifted through my random assortment of ingredients in the hopes of assembling a meal. I had the basics - potatoes, onions, eggs - and decided to go with an easy potato hash.

To put some spring in our dinner's step, I threw in fava beans and a small bunch of green garlic. When green garlic is in season, I make it a point to always have some on hand. It's sweeter and milder than mature garlic and can give a subtle boost to just about any savory dish. On the flip side, I hadn't ever cooked with favas until this recipe. Not only does their creamy texture and nutty flavor shine in a simple potato hash, but shelling broad beans is pure cooking zen. An empty brain is a happy brain. My spring hash was such a hit that I made it again this past weekend with the same ingredients, substituting leftover short rib from Belcampo for the steak.

Once you master the basics of home fries, it's easy to add a wide variety of leftovers to them. The key is achieving a crispy exterior and fluffy interior and that boils down to food science. So many food puns, so little time.

Full disclosure...this egg was fried a little too long.
Though it was still runny, you generally don't want it to look quite this "cooked".

Irish Soda Bread Revisited + How to Make a Cake Flour Substitute

While we were lazing around on Sunday, my half-Irish husband talked me into making Irish Soda Bread a couple of days early. Unfortunately, I didn't have cake flour and wasn't interested in going to the store since the LA Marathon finish line was in our neighborhood. I asked The Google for a solution and discovered that you can replicate cake flour with a mixture of corn starch and all-purpose flour. As luck would have it...I didn't have corn starch either. What's up with these pantry deficiencies?? I finally managed to locate some potato starch that I had recently used in a stir fry. Several people on the Internets actually suggest that potato starch has a cleaner flavor than its corn cousin. Good to know.

I incorporated the cake flour substitute into an old recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated and also changed my kneading method to ensure that the dough wasn't overworked (notes below). Since starting my sourdough journey, I'm more in tune with gluten development and how it can help or hurt a recipe. With Irish Soda Bread and flaky pastry, you want to work the dough as little as possible so the gluten doesn't develop and toughen up the final product. On the other hand, sourdough bread benefits from stretching, folding, slapping and the like. Food science at its best - be one with the gluten.

Thai Chicken Soup

We had a few days of rain recently and the temperature was in the 50s. I quickly partook in all winter activities - wore boots and a jacket, two scarves (at once), lit a fire, and made 5 different kinds of soup and chili. Winter-adjacent weather lasts for approximately 72 hours in Southern California so you need to make the most of it. East Coast folks who happen to visit during a "cold spell" have likely looked around and thought, "Are these people nuts? Who needs a beanie when it's 60?" Yes, we're definitely crazy (sweaty) hipsters.

This Thai Chicken Soup is adapted from Cook's Illustrated's The Best International Recipe. As with most soups, the key to tying all the flavors together is homemade stock. I highly recommend making a batch of chicken or vegetable stock for the freezer since you can throw just about any ingredients into a rich broth and it will taste fantastic.