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Mrs. P.L. Travers

The Oscars are on tonight, and that means the last of the 12 Days of Oscar over here.  Today’s film is only nominated for one Oscar, and many agree that it should have been nominated for more.  Saving Mr. Banks is nominated for Best Original Score.  If you haven’t seen it- and you really should- Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins.  Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is reluctant to let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) turn her book into a film and in the course of her negotiations with Disney, we learn about her childhood as well.

During what becomes a series of meetings, Walt Disney’s secretary routinely wheels carts of food into the meeting rooms.  Travers objects nearly every time that this is too much food, and at one point tells Dolly (Melanie Paxson) to turn the cart full of food right back around and to not leave it in the room.  More than once we see plates full of doughnuts and other sweets:

Yes, those are Hostess Sno-Balls on that tray.  Chocolate cupcakes with a cream filling covered in marshmallow and rolled in pink coconut- it doesn’t get much more “spoonful of sugar” than this.  Sitting in the theater watching this movie, I knew this was the perfect excuse to make my own Sno Balls at home.  They are more time consuming that I previously thought, definitely more of a kitchen marathon than a sprint, but they are well worth it.

sno balls

Sno Balls

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:

  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 oz. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 oz. cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 oz. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for the marshmallow coating:

  • 1/2 oz. gelatin
  • 10 oz. water, divided
  • 7 oz. corn syrup
  • 18 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for cream filling:

  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream

for coconut topping:

  • 8 oz. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • red food coloring

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a cupcake pan and set it aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder for 3 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Add the egg and mix for 1 minute until fully incorporated.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour all at once, then add the cocoa powder.

Drizzle in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Continue mixing just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cavities of the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool for at least 2 hours before filling and frosting.

Make the marshmallow coating and filling by combining the gelatin with 5 oz. of the water in a small bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Stir with a fork to ensure there are no lumps of gelatin, then set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the remaining water, corn syrup, and sugar over medium heat.

Stir gently with a spatula to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, then shut off the heat and let the mixture cool to 210 degrees.

Once the mixture has cooled to 210 degrees add the sugar syrup to the gelatin mixture and whip on low speed until the gelatin has fully dissolved.

Increase the speed to medium high and whip until light, fluffy, and tripled in bulk.

With the mixer running, add in the salt and vanilla.

Using a spatula, transfer all but 4 oz. of the mixture to a pastry bag and set aside.

Return the remaining 4 oz. of fluff to the mixer and set to low speed.

Add the cream all at once and continue mixing for another minute. The fluff and cream will have a broken appearance.

Increase the speed to medium and continue whipping until they gradually become homogeneous, then increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until stiff.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and refrigerate until needed.

Release the cupcakes from the pan and place them upside-down on a parchment paper lined baking pan.

Use a paring knife to poke a small hole in the bottom of each cupcake.

Using the piping bag filled with the whipped cream mixture, insert the star tip about 1″ into the cupcake and pipe one good squeeze (about 3/4 oz.) of filling into each cupcake.

Take the bag of marshmallow fluff and hold it directly above a cupcake.

Pipe a generous amount of marshmallow onto the top of the cupcake so that it flows down the sides of the cupcake and encases it.

Repeat until all cupcakes are covered in marshmallow.

Tint the coconut by putting the coconut into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add a few drops of red food coloring and process the mixture for 30 seconds, check for color and add more food coloring if necessary, then process for another 30 seconds.

Coat each cupcake generously with coconut and let sit for 1 hour.

Use a paring knife or round cookie cutter to trim away any excess marshmallow from around the bottom of the sno ball.

Roll the newly exposed edge of the sno ball in the pink coconut.

Source: Serious Eats

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Night Into Day

Now that the Winter Olympics are over, we’re at the halfway point in the 12 Days of Oscar series.  Today’s film is the 2001 film Monster’s Ball.  Halle Berry won the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Leticia, who falls for a widowed prison guard (Hank, played by Billy Bob Thornton) following the execution of her husband.  The film is so much deeper and more complicated than I can explain here without giving too much away.  Monster’s Ball was also nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen but lost to Gosford Park.

Early in the film, Leticia works as a waitress in a diner that Hank frequents.  He orders chocolate ice cream, and it is served to him in a white bowl with a white plastic spoon.  This is just one of the many encounters he will have with Leticia, and one of the many ways color is used in the film.

This chocolate ice cream recipe is my new favorite thing.  It blows away any other ice cream I’ve ever had or ever made.  Use a good cocoa powder, because that’s the star of this show.  Chop the chocolate fairly finely so that it melts a little more quickly and save yourself a little elbow grease.  Also, be sure to have enough ice on hand to make an ice bath for the mixture, to cool it before it goes in to churn.

chocolate ice cream

Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 C. whole milk
  • 4 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 1 C. evaporated milk
  • 2/3 C. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
  • 3 oz.  bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Mix a few Tbsp. of the milk in a small bowl with the corn starch until smooth.

Heat the remaining milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4 quart saucepan.

When the mixture comes to a moderate boil, whisk in the cocoa powder, then let the mixture cook at a modest boil for 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes, whisk in the cornstarch mixture then continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until completely melted and smooth.

Stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer the ice cream mixture into a resealable plastic bag, then submerge the bag in a bowl full of ice.

Let it sit until completely cool, about 30 minutes, adding more ice during the cooling period if necessary.

Remove the bag from the bowl of ice and wipe off any excess water.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions.

Source: David Lebovitz, originally from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

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Bang the Drum

In Olympics news yesterday, U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin won gold in the ladies’ Alpine skiing slalom event, making her the youngest person ever to win a medal in a slalom event.  U.S. men’s speed skating team won silver in the 5000 meter short track relay competition.

Our second-to-last installment of the 2014 Winter Olympics feature brings us to the last Winter Games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  In Vancouver, freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada’s first gold medal on home soil.  The Canadian men’s hockey team also won gold.  U.S. snowboarder Shaun White debuted his move, the “Double McTwist 1260″ and won gold.

I remember two things about the Vancouver Winter Olympics very distinctly- the famous red maple leaf mittens, and Nanaimo bars were on food blogs everywhere.  While the exact origins of the Nanaimo bar seem to be unknown Nanaimo, British Columbia has claimed these bars as its own.  I made a peanut butter variation for this entry, but you can find recipes for bars with plain vanilla custard, or mint, or chocolate . . . .

nanaimo bars

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

for the base:

  • 3/4 C. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 C. shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/3 C. cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

for the filling:

  • 1 1/4 C. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter
  • 3 C. powdered sugar
  • 1/3 C. milk

for the topping:

  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. butter

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, and eggs.

Use a wooden spoon to stir in the graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, and coconut until combined.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan and press evenly into the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until firm and no longer shiny.

Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before preparing the filling.

To make the filling, microwave the peanut butter and butter in a large bowl until completely melted and smooth.

Whisk in the powdered sugar 1 C. at a time, alternating with the milk and whisk until smooth.

Spread the filling evenly over the base and refrigerate for 1 hour until firm.

To make the topping melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (or in a microwave on 50% power).

Spread the chocolate mixture over the peanut butter filling and leave at room temperature or refrigerate until set before cutting and serving.

Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Source: Brown-Eyed Baker

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Winter Flame

In Sochi yesterday, U.S. skier David Wise won the gold medal in men’s halfpipe, an event that is making its debut as an Olympic sport at these Winter Games.  Tina Maze of Slovenia won her second gold medal of the 2014 Olympics in the women’s giant slalom.  For the first time in seventy-eight years, Norway won silver and gold medals in the men’s Nordic combined event.

The 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics are the next in the Winter Olympics series.  This year, NHL players were allowed to play on the men’s ice hockey team due to a three-week suspension of the NHL season.  Women’s ice hockey was an Olympic event for the first time in Nagano, along with curling and snowboarding.

Oyaki are a popular street food in Nagano.  These dumplings start out with a simple dough that can be stuffed with just about any filling imaginable.  They are then fried, or steamed, or baked (or some combination of the three).  Red bean paste is one popular filling, as is a seasoned ground meat.  I also saw a pumpkin and a sweet potato variation that look fantastic.  I should have plenty of opportunity to try them all because we are hooked on these things.  I made these with a simple apple filling because Nagano is also famous for its apple crops and it was like wrapping the best apple pie you’ve ever had in a soft fried dough.  I can easily see why these things are so popular- as soon as you have one, you want another.

apple oyaki

Apple Oyaki

Ingredients:

for the dough:

  • 200 g. all-purpose flour (1 1/2 C. to 1 3/4 C.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 C. water
  • oil, for cooking

for the filling:

  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, and water in a mixing bowl.

Knead with your hands until a soft dough forms, adding more flour as necessary.  The dough will have a consistency similar to pizza dough when it is right.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest refrigerated or at room temperature for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine all of the filling ingredients in a small saucepan.

Stir to combine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved, and the apple has softened.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten the ball into a circle 3-4″ in diameter.

Divide the apple filling evenly among the 8 dough circles.

Stretch the dough to wrap it around the filling and pinch to seal up the dumpling.

Pour enough oil (canola is suggested) into a skillet to just cover the bottom, and heat over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, place the dumplings into the skillet, seam-side down.

Cook for 1-2 minutes until the bottom browns, then flip over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to brown the other side.

Pour 1/4 C. water into the skillet and place a lid over the top, allowing the water to steam the dumplings.

If the dough isn’t cooked through by the time the water has evaporated, add more water and continue to steam until cooked through.

Remove the dumplings from the skillet and serve warm.

Makes 8 dumplings.

Source: dough adapted from Macrobiotic Kitchen

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Fire in Your Heart

In Olympics news yesterday, Steven Holcomb and Steven Langston won the U.S. its first two-man bobsleigh medal since 1952, a bronze.  Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first-ever U.S. gold medal in Olympic ice dancing.  The U.S. women’s ice hockey team beat Sweden 6-1 and will face Canada for the gold medal.

Day twelve of the Sochi Olympics brings us to the thirteenth installment of our Winter Olympics feature.  Today we look at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.  These Winter Games were the first to not be held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, and the first to be held just two years after the previous Winter Olympics.  U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won a silver medal in the ladies single skate, just seven weeks after an incident in which she was clubbed in the knee by an associate of her rival Tonya Harding (who finished eighth in the event).

Today, to celebrate Norway, we have skoleboller.  Skoleboller are a bun, filled with vanilla custard, then frosted and sprinkled with coconut.  Apparently, you can find skoleboller (or “school buns”) at school cafeterias, coffee hours, grocery stores, and birthday parties all over Norway.  After making them, it’s not hard to see why.  These are as fun to eat as it is to say “school-ah-bowl-air.”

skolleboller

Skoleboller

Ingredients:

for the buns:

  • 2 C. milk (preferably whole), lukewarm
  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast.
  • 1/2 C. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 6-7 C. all-purpose flour

for the custard:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 3/4 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

to finish:

  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 C. shredded coconut for topping

Directions:

In a large bowl, or the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk.

Add the melted cooled butter, sugar, cardamom, and 5 C. of the flour to the milk and mix well.

Slowly add more of the flour until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes until a smooth soft dough is formed.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, make the custard.

To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly.

Whisk in the vanilla.

While the custard mixture is at a simmer, add the cornstarch a little at a time, whisking briskly as you add it.

Allow the cornstarch to dissolve and for the custard to thicken, stirring constantly.

Let the mixture simmer and thicken for 3-5 minutes.

Pour the custard mixture into a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice water bath to cool completely.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 12-14 evenly sized balls of dough.

Form each dough ball into an evenly round and flat bun.

Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking sheet with at least 1 inch of space between them.

Cover the buns with a clean dish towel and allow them to rise again for 20 minutes.

While the buns are rising, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the final rise, use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the center of each bun.  A soup spoon is a good size, and press down almost all the way to the bottom of the bun but do not press all the way through.

Place a generous spoonful of the custard into the center of each indentation.

Bake the buns for 10-12 minutes until they are slightly brown on the top and the egg custard is just starting to set.

Allow the buns to cool on a wire rack.  The custard will set as the buns cool.

Once the buns are cool, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar and water together.  The glaze should be white and should drizzle on but not be runny.  Add more sugar or water as needed to reach the correct consistency.

Spoon glaze around the bun, avoiding the custard center.

Sprinkle on or dip the bun into the coconut, being careful not to ruin the custard center.

Source:  The Transplanted Baker

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Give it All You Got

The U.S. swept the men’s slopestyle ski event yesterday in Sochi when Josh Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, and Nicholas Goepper won gold, silver, and bronze in the event.  The U.S. men’s hockey team beat Slovakia 7 to 1 and Russia beat Slovenia; the two teams play each other on Saturday.  In the ladies’ 1000m speed skating event, Hong Zhang became the first athlete to win a gold medal in speed skating for China.

Our next stop in the Winter Olympics feature is the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.  This was the first Winter Olympics to make use of artificial snow.  These Olympic Games are perhaps best remembered for the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the Soviet team, with the U.S. team going on to win the gold medal.  Lake Placid, New York is home to one of two or so Howard Johnson’s restaurants still in operation.  It seems this Howard Johnson’s is rich with Olympics associations.  According to the restaurant’s history, ABC television crews filled up most of the rooms at the motel portion of the “Ho-Jo” and the restaurant was open round-the-clock for the duration of the Olympics.  Howard Johnson’s also hosted a party for the U.S. and Czechoslovakian men’s hockey teams after a game they played against each other.

Howard Johnson’s is a cult favorite, with many favorite foods on the menu.  Fried clams, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and twenty-eight ice cream flavors seem to be among the most memorable.  I had a really hard time narrowing down which one to tackle, and I decided to combine a few of my favorite things and make a replica of the orange sherbet Megan Draper doesn’t care for in an episode of Mad Men.  The server reminds Megan and Don “it isn’t for everyone, that’s why we have twenty-eight flavors.”  If you don’t want to squeeze two or three pounds of oranges (it sounds like way more oranges than it really is), you can use two cups of store-bought orange juice and it will work just fine.

hojo orange sherbet

Orange Sherbet

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 C. freshly squeezed orange juice (from approximately 2-3 lbs. of oranges).
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C. ice cold whole milk

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients except for the milk in the bowl of a food processor and process for about 1 minute until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and whisk in the milk.

Cover and refrigerate the mixture for about 1 hour, until the mixture is 40 degrees or less.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions and process until it reaches the consistency of soft serve ice cream (this takes about 1/2 an hour in my ice cream maker, yours may vary).

Pour the mixture into a lidded container and freeze until firm, approximately 3 hours.

Makes 8 (1/2 C.) servings.

Source: Alton Brown

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