Monday, September 19, 2011

Feeling fat and sassy

The theme of today's entry is laminated doughs. For that you have a Mr. U. Hockey to thank. On his blog Endo Edibles, which sounds like it might be about cooking with marijuana but is actually about eating Michelin-starred cuisine and celery, he claimed that a butter pecan croissant from Knead Patisserie at 24th and Folsom was superior to all other food that he consumed on his most recent visit to the Bay Area, including several $150 ten-course tasting menus. Well, I thought $4 might be a little pricey for a croissant, but put in those terms it sounds like a real bargain.

So Jeff and I decided to go on a walk yesterday morning to investigate. It's autumn in San Francisco, which means that things are getting warmer, the fog is burning off earlier, the sky is bluer, and it's so clear at night that you can see three or four stars. What could be better than munching on a croissant sitting on the curb in a parking spot in front of House of Brakes? After all, Friday was official munching on things in parking spaces day.

Well, munching on a chocolate croissant from Knead anywhere on Earth is a good thing; the parking spot in front of House of Brakes is not ideal for this task but serviceable. Shatteringly crisp is the de rigueur foodie stock phrase for croissants like this. Also: creamy, flaky, caramelized. So much going on in there that was so apart from any croissant that I have ever seen and known. A cheese roll, morning bun, and a hazelnut scone rounded out our breakfast--hey, we walked two miles each way--and of these, only the scone was an imperfect specimen. The other three were among the best I've ever had. I'd call that a bargain.

At some point in blogger school--actually it's blogger camp--somebody told me that if you are going to post pictures on your blog, only post pictures that are good, because then everyone will assume that all the pictures you take are good, and, in fact, everything you do in your life looks exactly like the ridiculously good-looking pictures of it that you post on your blog. So here, maybe you assume that I made this outstanding peach pie that held together perfectly when I took it out of the oven. Well, of course it did--I used the old pie filling trick from Ad Hoc At Home. You make the filling by taking seven cups of stonefruit, pureeing two of those and cooking them down with some cornstarch, and then tossing them with the other five. That sounds like something Thomas Keller would have you do in order to make a pie, doesn't it? Oh, don't forget to peel the peaches, one-by-one so they don't oxidize.

In fact, this is what the first slice of that pie looked like. Well, both slices ended up tasting absolutely delicious--the filling not too sweet, spiked with a little rosemary, thyme, and vanilla. The crust tasted like rye and beer (how bad can that be?) and also benefited from Pim's pie crust technique, which is basically to take the dough out of the fridge after 30 minutes and roll it out like it's a laminated dough. She also has something about a bench scraper and assembling the dough with the palm of your hand, but I cheated and used a food processor because I already know how to do that and it takes forty-five seconds. I think most of the trick is in the rolling, anyway. The dough indeed turned out doubleplusflaky and rolled out more easily than any pie crust I've ever tried before. Very nice, Pim; sorry that I didn't use a bench scraper or try to spell your last name.

Then yesterday morning I did perhaps the ultimate Bay Area thing. Are you ready? I took my bike [1] on public transit [2] to attend a pop-up [3] food cart [4] brunch [5] in a warehouse [6] owned by James Franco's kombucha-brewing older brother [7-10]. Whew. Grilled Cheez Guy, whom I met at a birthday party a few months ago, was hosting a Behind the Cart brunch bingo thing-o in Berkeley, and once we'd heard about it, Jeff and I just couldn't pass up the chance to attend. Apparently he's been doing this for a while. This was the first one I'd attended, and I have to say that I would do business again. It was inspiring to see all these people with food carts so passionate about whatever little thing they were doing--hangover remedy tortas, tea sandwiches, 60-degree poached eggs, mochi, herbal teas--their devotion to all these esoteric but delicious pursuits reminded me of that story about the unlikely monk who juggles at the statue of the Virgin Mary but does it so beautifully that it makes her cry. Oh, spoiler alert.

Also sufficient to make the Virgin Mary cry was the sheer volume of brunch served yesterday afternoon. Somehow I had had the impression that each cart would be serving, say, a bite or two of brunch, and that all of these bites would assemble together into Brunch Megazord over the course of the afternoon. NOPE! With the understandable exception of Blank Tea and of the aforementioned kombucha, each of the nine carts basically served as much food as I would have on a typical Sunday morning, and then also had leftovers. So just take a look at that plum galette up above (neither grilled nor cheesy, but still excellent), and imagine eating it eight times, two or three of them wrapped in bacon.

The two completely unrelated morals of this entry are (1) laminated doughs are really great and (2) I think I need to start running again.


Recipe roundup...

The pie was inspired by a nice berry pie from 101 Cookbooks. I really dug Heidi's idea of putting beer in the crust and adding some herbs to the juicy fruit. I made the crust using a method popularized by Chez Pim. I made the filling by adapting Thomas Keller's recipe for cherry pie from Ad Hoc At Home; that recipe is paraphrased here but you should really just buy the book yourself.

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