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Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Go Crazy with Psycho Donuts

In by Deanne, Dessert First, Foodies on the Town, Foodies Take-Out/Bring-It-Home on March 26 at 11:58 pm

Do you go insane for donuts, candy, and all things sweet? If you do, then you should be put in a straight-jacket and tossed straight into Psycho Donuts, a donut shop with an insane asylum theme. The entire Psycho Donuts store is decorated with a freakish sensibility, from the twisted, Tim Burton-esque pictures adorning its white walls to its employees dressed in white nurses’ and doctors’ uniforms. There is even a booth with white, padded walls and a box of assorted masks for you to take memorable pictures in like a patient. Of course, one wonders how politically-correct this all is, but the atmosphere is reassuringly colorful and light-hearted.

As for the donuts themselves, it is as if the milquetoast Krispy Kremes we have come to know and love have been manhandled and pumped up with a Frankenstein treatment (in a good way). This means that Psycho Donuts pulls out all the stops when it comes to combining sugary, fried treats with bombastic creativity:

The Kooky Monster: crushed Oreos and white frosting

Feng Shui: green tea frosting with dark chocolate chips!

Key Lime Pie: tastes like the name. A donut with a bit of a sour zing to it.

Crunch Hunch: packed with chunks of Crunch bar!

Manic Malt: crushed malt balls

And my personal favorite…

'Smores: crushed graham crackers on top of marshmallow on top of chocolate icing!

And these are just about the tamest donuts available. If you want to see the zaniest creations (which include the “Headbanger”–a donut that leaks red jelly when you bite into it), log onto http://psycho-donuts.com/ to check them all out!

Psycho Donuts is located 2006 S. Winchester Blvd, Campbell, CA 95008.

I give this shirt my seal of approval.

In by Katherine, The Internets on March 25 at 5:19 pm

John and I were just talking about making our own fruit preserves, so I was rather jarred to see this shirt design featured on The Kitchn yesterday.

yes we can shirt etsy black sheep heap

Unfortunately, there was a web traffic jam after the post, so the shirt is sold out.  Which is too bad, because it’s pretty a-mason’.  If you preservere, you might be able to snag one from the second batch, though.

The shirt is made by etsy seller Black Sheep Heap, who also purveys “Beet the System” onesies and “Avant Gardener” totes.

Freezing fresh herbs

In by Katherine, The Everyday Foodie on March 25 at 1:42 am

If you’ve cooked with fresh herbs, you already know that the dried variety in a jar doesn’t even come close in flavor and scent.  But how do you keep bunches of herbs from wilting before you use them?

freeze fresh herbs

Most fresh herbs actually freeze quite well.  I’ve had good experiences especially with parsley and green onion, both of which have hardy leaves.  Eggplant and other vegetables work well also, if you have extras.

To preserve your herbs, wash the leaves and remove them from their stems, where applicable.  Pat thoroughly dry with paper towels to prevent ice crystals from forming; place in labeled individual ziplock bag and store with all your other herbs in a larger freezer-safe meta-bag.  That’s it!

To use them, simply take out a few leaves from the freezer and use them as you normally would, such as for stir-frys or for garnishes.  I am especially fond of placing a few mint leaves and ice cubes in my glass of water on a hot summer’s day.

Karyotype Birthday Brownies

In by Katherine, Dessert First on March 22 at 11:03 pm

My sister, who you may recall was the mastermind behind a certain very famous birthday cake, made these equally nerdy birthday brownies for her friend:

karyotype chromosome birthday brownies cake

My favorite piece is chromosome 23.  I’m just going to go ahead and place an order for one of these at my future baby shower.  Forget those lame diaper cakes; pregnant ladies need chocolate.

Bakery Mexico No. 2

In by Katherine, The Traveling Foodie on March 21 at 4:46 pm

(Cured jamon ham + chorizo + salchicha + fried egg) + (cheese + avocado + tomato + onion + jalapenos) + lightly toasted sesame roll = the absolutely monstrous cubana torta at San Jose’s Bakery Mexico No. 2.

cubana torta from bakery mexico no. 2

Just one of these babies is enough to stuff you for an entire day, not to mention take care of your sodium and cholesterol allotment neatly.

Bakery Mexico No. 2, located in the heart of downtown San Jose on E. Santa Clara between 2nd and 3rd, is a combination deli and bakery with friendly service and huge portions.  I went there yesterday with my parents before our excursion to the Tech Museum of San Jose’s free family day.

Tortas and liquados menu at Bakery Mexico No. 2

Recommended: My dad ordered the monstrous cubana torta ($6.00), which tasted as amazing as it looks and was my favorite torta of the three, especially because of the fried egg.  I found the salchicha (Vienna sausage) to be an off-putting addition, but the overall torta was so good that I rolled with it anyway.  I was pleased with my pork loin lomo torta ($5.50) as well; the meat was slightly dry but flavorful nonetheless.

From the bakery, we ordered some of the pan dulce (sweet breads) Yelpers were gushing over — our cashier’s two personal favorites, the pound cake with chocolate crust and the cheesecake.  Both were super delicious; I’m normally not huge on cheesecake, but this version was much denser than American cheesecake and just sweet enough without being cloying.

bakery mexico no 2 san jose

Not recommended: The flavor of my mom’s breaded steak milanesa torta ($5.50) was, sadly, overpowered by the greasiness of the breading.  They were out of the mango liquados we ordered, and had to give us strawberry liquados instead, which essentially amounted to a regular strawberry milkshake.

Overall: A decent tortas joint; not worth a special trip to San Jose, but I’d come back if I was in the area with a huge appetite.  I’d combine the best of both worlds by ordering a combination torta with lomo (pork loin), pierna (smoked ham), and huevos for a trifecta of awesome.  I would also definitely go back for the pan dulce selection.

tortas from bakery mexico no 2 san jose

Bakery Mexico No. 2

87 E Santa Clara St.

San Jose, CA

(408) 920-2518

Bakery Mexico (original)

2811 Story Rd.

San Jose, CA

(408) 272-3838

Lemon Meringue Pie

In by Katherine, Dessert First on March 20 at 3:55 pm

My dad’s favorite pie is lemon meringue, hands down.  When he was a strapping teenager, he’d mow neighborhood lawns all morning until he earned enough to buy a whole pie, which he would sometimes polish off the same day.

lemon meringue pie

Thankfully his days of beast mode pie-eating are over, because I got to have a slice of the lemon meringue I helped my mom bake last night.

Meringues are essentially egg whites and sugar, whipped until light and airy.  I added vanilla extract to mine for flavor; my mom is far more pro than I and uses thin shreds from whole vanilla beans.  They can be used as a pie topping, made into cookies, or folded into other desserts for added lightness.  For example, THE MACARONS I WILL BE ATTEMPTING TO MAKE THIS BREAK NOM NOM:

macarons lemon

Many meringue recipes call for cream of tartar; it’s not strictly necessary, though it does help to stabilize the meringue, and according to Martha Stewart “mimics the chemical reaction that occurs when egg whites are whisked in a copper bowl” by the really hardcore meringue chefs out there.

Mauviel Copper Beating Bowl williams sonoma

Though they have a reputation for being finicky, a few tricks will ensure a successful meringue. Martha has a plethora of tips for guaranteeing a successful meringue, including preventing beading and weeping of moisture, shrinking, and overbaking.  I’d like to add that to prevent your meringue from shrinking to the center of the pie as it cools, you should:

(a) apply the meringue while the lemon filling is still hot;

(b) seal it all the way to the edge of the crust around the circumference of the pie;

(c) do this sealing in several layers so that if one fails, the others back it up; and

(d) cool your pie as slowly as possible in multiple steps by first turning off the oven, then opening the door to let heat escape, then letting it cool on the counter, then putting it in the refrigerator covered by a protective bubble of foil.

Next time, I think I’ll try taking the pie out of the oven earlier and completing the browning of the meringue with a creme brulee torch.

using a creme brulee torch to brown meringue

My mom baked the crust for our pie because, again, she’s pro.  The recipes for the filling and meringue are from our well-loved 1981 copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, an essential part of any kitchen.

Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 1/2 c sugar

3 T cornstarch

3 T all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c water

3 eggs

2 T butter

1/3 c lemon juice

1 baked pastry crust

Meringue for pie* [which you should make after you add the hot filling to the pastry crust]

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch flour, and a dash of salt.  Gradually stir in water.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly.  Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Separate egg yolks from whites; set whites aside for meringue.  Beat egg yolks slightly.  Stir about 1 cup of the hot mixture into the beaten yolks.  Return mixture to saucepan; bring to a gentle boil.  Cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter or margarine.  Gradually stir in lemon juice, mixing well.  Pour hot filling into pastry shell.  Spread meringue over hot filling; seal to edge.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue is golden.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cover; chill to store.  Makes 8 servings.

*Meringue for Pie

3 egg whites

1/2 t vanilla

1/4 t cream of tartar (optional)

6 T sugar

In a small mixer bowl, beat the egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar [BUT NOT THE SUGAR] at medium speed of an electric mixer about 1 minute or until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar, about 1 T at a time, beating at high speed of electric mixer about 4 minutes more or until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks and sugar is dissolved.  Immediately spread meringue over pie, carefully sealing to edge of pastry to prevent shrinkage.  Bake as directed in individual pie recipe.

Pi Day Pie Bake-Off

In by Katherine, The Internets on March 17 at 4:20 am

We at Foodie Friday celebrated 3/14 with an absolutely bitchin’ coconut cream pie, but we weren’t the only ones baking.  Serious Eats and ScienceBlogs co-hosted their 2nd annual Pi Day Pie Bake-Off on Sunday, and Claudette’s hundred-digit berry pie is far and away my favorite:

Pi Day 3.14

Check out the rest of the finalists and vote for your favorite at ScienceBlogs before Thursday.

Not So Humble Pie

In by Katherine, The Internets on March 10 at 5:10 pm

Alex recently introduced me to Not So Humble Pie, a food blog featuring the most delightfully nerdy baked goods I’ve ever seen, with gorgeous photography.

Gel electrophoresis cookies

binary cupcakes hostess

Binary code cupcakes

controller cookies xbox ps3 wii

Game controller cookies

Mrs. Humble describes herself as “your typical  nerdy biological anthropologist turned stay at home mom and baker of sometimes strange goodies.”  Her posts are not all Xbox this and Wiimote that, however.  Some of my favorite posts of late include:

Chocolate mascarpone brownies

Macarons

Peanut brittle

Arancini

Not So Humble Pie makes me almost wish I was a stay at home mom with time to bake all day long.  Who’s up for making macarons?

This Was a Triumph

In Birthday Parties, by Katherine on March 10 at 2:53 pm

When it’s a CS major’s birthday, and you’re in charge of baking the cake, there’s really only one thing to do.

the cake is a lie portal cake

For you non-Northsiders, this is a birthday cake I made last weekend in replica of the (in)famous cake from Portal.  I’m not much of a gamer; my first (and last) game of Halo 2 ended prematurely when I chucked a grenade at a wall and then mashed buttons frantically in a futile attempt to run away just before it bounced back in my face and blew me up.

I have a special place in my heart for Portal, however, because it’s a first-person shooter but with puzzles and physics instead of blood and guts (mine).  You should really play it if you haven’t; it takes only about a day to finish, or a few hours if you are one of those people capable of running straight through a portal without smashing into the doorframe.

The excellent recipe is from arbitrarylogic at Instructables.  Protips: The amounts in the recipe are halved, so be sure to double them; you can trim the cake flat easily with dental floss; cut the chocolate with a sharp knife to make nice pieces rather than a grater or peeler; remember set aside a bit of your whipped cream at the end so that you don’t have to use a can like I did.  Special thanks to Bonnie and Kaushik for helping me put on the finishing touches!

Check out this combination Portal/Rickroll cake from Papersatan a few years back for a cake that really is a lie.  And, just to save you some time because you know you were going to go listen to it anyway: