Entourage and Urth Cafe

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Kevin and I watched Entourage (movie) earlier this summer. We used to be into the HBO show, aka Sex and the City for men, at one point in our lives but we lost interest at around Season 4 and we stopped watching it altogether.

We went to the movie anyway because we had gift certificates to iPic Theatre in Old Town Pasadena and it seemed like this was the kind of movie that we can watch care free, like, if we fall a sleep, we don’t have to kick ourselves afterward. The movie didn’t receive a raving review from the critic but I thought it was fun, and it was a nice way to catch up with our old buddies on the silver screen. It was also nice to see a cameo appearance by the Los Angeles Kings players, although I suspect that noone but Kings fans recognized them.

After we watched the film, Kevin and I decided to catch up on the rest of the TV show, so we purchased the remaining seasons on Amazon Prime and binge watched all the episodes that we had missed (which, by the way, became available for free on Amazon Prime Instant Video only a few weeks after we paid a pretty penny for each missed season. evil)

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One thing I noticed while salivating over Ari’s super hotness was how much those boys loved Urth Café! They frequented this organic coffee and tea house so much that it should have been the fifth character in the show. Well, the product placement totally worked because I’ve made a trip or two (well, four, but who’s counting?) to its Pasadena location in the last few months alone.  Here are the pictures from my last outing — Green Tea Latte and Egg Salmone.

And here are some from the other outing:

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Darn you boys!  This place is amazing but it ain’t cheap!

English Muffins on Griddle

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From the way I’ve been blogging about bread lately, you might think I spend every day in the kitchen kneading up these carb-y lovelies.  I wish that were the case but unfortunately it’s not.  It’s been a crazy hot, and uncomfortably humid, summer and the last thing I want is to convert my apartment into a sauna.

I did make English Muffins recently but that was because the recipe didn’t require me to keep the oven on for hours (they cook on a griddle!) and I was in the mood for some homemade breakfast sandwich with fried eggs or toasted ones smothered in Bonne Maman strawberry jam.

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The English Muffins was the third creation from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (first was Baguette, and the second was Focaccia).  I’m not sure if I should call this book a cookbook or a text book but either way, it’s excellent with detailed instruction and explanation.  During my Konmari decluttering phase, I got rid of almost all the cookbooks I owned, but, of course, this one stayed.  It was no brainer. I truly think this is the best bread-making book ever written.

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I think one of the most valuable tips I got from my recent bread-making adventure at Surfas Culinary District was mise en place, or “putting in place” in French, to have all the ingredients measured and prepped beforehand to ensure a smooth maneuver around the kitchen come cooking time.  I had the yeast, flour, and all the equipments ready to go and I’m amazed at the amount of time I was able to save!

And I’m so in love with the items that I picked up from Surfas Culinary District — plastic dough rising container, bench scaper, yeast, and a can of Vegalene.

I can’t wait for the weather to cool down so I can do this more frequently.

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English Muffins
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It’s still way too hot to write a detailed instruction, so … please enjoy these photos!

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Yep, strawberry jam!

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #5: Brioche

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I think it was my mother who once told me that if I want to quit eating sweets, I should make them myself. She said that if I see, first hand, how much sugar and fat are in it, I will surely quite eating it. Her point was valid because I no longer consume buttercream frosting after learning how much artery-clogging butter went into making the frosting during my cupcake-making days.

Because of that reason, I was very hesitant to bake Brioche at the bread workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City. I just wanted to forever stay in a sugar-coated world where I was completely oblivious to the amount of butter and eggs that were packed in those cute, seemingly innocent French pastry.

But I suppose I can’t stay sheltered forever. It was time for me to face the music.  Here I go!

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A stand mixer definitely comes in handy in making the dough. I can’t imagine trying to do this by hand.

First you need to dissolve the yeast by whisking it with milk. Then add the flour and mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add eggs and mix for 4-5 minutes.

Increase the speed to medium, and slowly add the butter (BUTTER!), tablespoon or two at a time. Continue to mix for 15 minutes to develop the gluten for a light, airy structure in bread.

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Now add sugar and salt and mix for 5-8 minutes. Conduct the “window pane” test (spread a tiny dough piece with your fingers into a thin translucent layer). If you can see through the layer without it ripping, you are ready to transfer the dough onto a buttered sheet pan and cover it with a plastic wrap.

Let it sit for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

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After the dough has rested for at least 6 hour, or overnight, turn the cold dough onto a greased pan. Divide the dough in half.  Then press one portion of dough into an even rectangle about 2 inches thick.

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Take the rectangle in half lengthwise and cut it crosswise into 6 equal portions. The recipe makes a total of 12 equal pieces.

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Roll the dough into balls.

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You have many option to shape the Brioche (i.e. in a loaf pan) but we made many small ones with little 2-3 balls per baking cup.

Place the Brioches in a pan.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set them aside for about 45 minutes until the dough has risen to the level of the pan rim.

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Unwrap the dough, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 350 degree F for 30 minutes, rotating the after 20 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degree F and continue to bake or 25-30 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top.

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Transfer to cooling rack and let them cool completely.

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Look at these cute little Brioche!  They look like baby’s little bums!

So making Brioche wasn’t as scary as I thought.  Yes, there are quite a bit of butter (almost two sticks, to make two 8-1/2 inch loaves) and eggs (three altogether) but it’s not that bad as long as you just eat only one or two of the little ones.  It’s difficult to stay disciplined though because these little morsels are lovely, so lovely that you really can’t decide if they are bread or actually pastry.

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I ate one in class while it was still warm, and another one with a cup of coffee when I got home that afternoon.

Everything about Brioche was a music to my ears … and my tummy.

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #4: Ciabatta

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When I was making Ciabatta in the bread-making workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City, I felt a sense of dejavu, like I’ve been here before. It was a new experience but everything somehow felt so familiar.

After thinking about it for a bit, I realize that I have been here indeed, when I made Focaccia several years ago. The process was almost identical so when I got home that night, I Googled “what the #@#% is the difference between Ciabatta and Foccacia?” and found this explanation from America’s Test Kitchen’s website:

Focaccia has a moist, tender texture and tooth-sinking chewiness. “Ciabatta” — Italian for “slipper,” a reference to the bread’s broad, flattish shape — is subtly tangy with large air pockets and has a pleasantly chewy texture.

Oh, now I know why Ciabatta goes so well as a sandwich, while Focaccia makes a lovely accompaniment to soups!

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Before starting the recipe, you must prepare the sponge, or a pre-fermented dough.  Luckily, it was already prepared for us.

To start, mix the yeast mixture, sponge, water, oil, and flour in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, at low speed until the flour is just moistened.  Continue to beat the dough, this time at medium speed. for 3 minutes.   Add salt and beat for 4 more minutes.

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Turn the dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1-1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

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Turn dough onto a floured work surface.  The dough is very wet and a bit difficult to handle.

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Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper (an amazing tool) and transfer them onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Now the fun part — dimple loaves with your fingers!

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Let the loaves rest for about 1-1/2 hours or until it doubles in size again. Cover with dampened kitchen towel.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped with fingers.

I went shopping (the test kitchen is inside a professional kitchen supply store) while Ciabatta cooled on the rack, which was a bad idea.  I wanted everything in the store!  I had to hurry up to get out of there before I ended up buying the entire store!

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One great takeaway from baking Ciabatta is learning about pizza stone.  It apparently helps absorb moisture for crispier bread … and crispy and flavorful it was.  I ate it when I got home and loved it.  I smeared insane amount of mayonnaise on the bread and devoured it.  Man, it was delicious!

Next up is, last but not least, Brioche!

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #3: Cream Biscuits

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The second quick bread we made during the two-day bread workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City (the first was Irish Soda Bread) was Cream Biscuits, perfect vessels to deliver gravy or honey into your salivating mouth. I don’t eat biscuits much at home but I do love me some of those crumbly goodness drizzled in honey, with an occasional (yes, occasional!) fried chicken from KFC.

The best part of it all is that these biscuits come together in a cinch, possibly quicker than trying to figure out how to safely unwrap Pillsbury’s air pressured can without exploding in your face.

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For the recipe, we used White Lily brand flour. According to the recipe, “The soft bleached gluten in the flour results in light, tender baked products.” If White Lily flour is unavailable, you can substitute it by simply adding 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt to each cup of White Lily flour.

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To start, make a well in the center of the flour ina bowl and slowly pour in the heavy cream.  Mix by pulling the flour into the liquid.

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Stir to form a sticky dough. The texture you’re looking for here is “shaggy” and “wettish.” These adjectives make me chuckle.

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Turn the “shaggy” and “wettish” (hee hee) dough onto a work surface.

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Fold the dough into half …

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… and roll it into a 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick round.

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Cut the biscuit using your favorite cookie cutter.  Make sure to flour the cutter and work swiftly, as the dough is super soft and crumbly.

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Brush each biscuit with cream.

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Finally, place the biscuits onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake in a 450 degree F oven for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown.

So, a little lesson learned here:

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My group partner Heather and I both fell in love with the square cutter with ridges and made our biscuits using it.  Big mistake.  The biscuits came out thick and doughy, and the finished product wasn’t as cute as we’d envisioned.

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We agreed that our biscuits would have came out crispier and more flavorful using the regular round kind, like the one you see here being used by Chef John.

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Despite our little hiccup, the biscuits were still very yummy.  We smeared the fresh butter and strawberry preserves and devoured them while they were piping hot!  Heavenly!

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All I needed to make these biscuits even more perfect was a bucket (or two) of KFC!

Next up:  Ciabatta!

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #2: Pain de Epi

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I love baguettes. For me, they are the epitome of bread, and Pain de Epi is just another variation, and perhaps the most visually appealing, of the famous French loaf family.

Its shape resembles an ear of grain, thus the name “wheat stalk bread,” and you can just place it in the middle of the dining table for everyone to tear a piece while they gather for supper.  No serving plates necessary. It’s so romantically rustic. Needless to say, I was most excited to bake this crusty bread during the two-day bread-making workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City.

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Making a Pain de Epi can be a two-day process because you need poolish that needs to be set aside overnight. Poolish is the French version of its Italian cousin, biga (or also goes by other names like starter and sponge), a fermented starter made out of flour, water, and yeast. Lucky for us, Chef John had already prepared poolish for us so we were able to go through the entire baking process in less than three hours.

To begin, mix bread flour, warm water, yeast, salt, and poolish in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for 3-4 minutes in low speed, and speed it up to medium speed for another 2-3 minutes.  Let the dough rest in a greased bowl, wrapped in plastic, for 45 minutes.

Two things I learned during this process is that: 1. Don’t mix salt with the yeast, as it can kill the bacteria, and 2. It takes about six minutes for the mixture to develop gluten.

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Remove the dough from the bowl and turn the dough onto a floured surface. Now, gently stretch the dough and fold it in third, then in third again, like you’re folding a letter. Repeat, this time starting with the bottom edge closest to you.

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Return the dough to the greased bowl, with seam side facing down and let it sit for another 45 minutes covered in plastic wrap.

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Place the dough in a floured surface and divide it into four equal portions (sorry, you only see three here). It’s best to use the scale to create an even portion. Gently pat down each dough to remove any large gas bubbles.

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Shape the dough, according to Chef John’s instruction,” by rolling short edge of dough toward center, then wind dough from the back edge forward to from a short log.”

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Place the dough log on a linen dish towel, with seam side down. Lightly cover the log with plastic wrap or the towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

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Return the dough to the work surface, seam side up. Gently but firmly press the dough to release large gas bubbles. Shape the dough “by turning up the bottom edge of the dough, then winding the dough from top down to meet the bottom. With heel of a hand, work from left to right to seal the same into the dough. Then using palms, applying even pressure, working from the middle of the baguette outward, roll the dough until it extends to approximately 14 inches in lengths. Pinch the ends of the loaves to taper them.”

I wish I can paraphrase it to make a simpler explanation but I’m not even going to attempt.

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Now, place the baguettes onto a baking pan. To create the Epi design, make a 3/4 cut through the baguette at a 30 degree angle and turn each piece of dough to alternating sides.

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Place pan filled with water on the bottom of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the baguettes become golden brown. Let them cool to room temperature before serving.

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Aaah, look at these beauties! The freshly baked Pain de Epi was absolutely incredible.

Up next: Cream Biscuits!