Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Attack of the Killer Waffle Batter

Just in case you were wondering... yes. The rumors are true. Our Bee Sweet Bake Sale for Earth Day last week was a sweet success (probably one of our biggest in-office bake sales to date) with a menu consisting of such treats as:

Honey Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
Banana Bread with Honeyed Cream Cheese
Chocolate-Honey Mini Cupcakes
Spicy Ginger Brownies (honey-free)
Honey Peanut Butter Cookies
Whole-Wheat Honey Fruit Squares
Honeyed Hot Masala Chai

...and an ambitious (and delicious) Spicy Caramelized Onion and Fontina Cheese Pizza on Wheat-Free Teff Crust with Kalamata Olive & Honey Glaze (it was delightful).

Bee Sweet Bake Sale

My contribution came in the form of Honey Sourdough Waffles with butter, powdered sugar and a homemade Honey-Berry Syrup. And I'm going to tell you right now, the waffles turned out to be light, crisp and quite tasty, but they scared the hell out of me.

Let me tell you a little waffle story, then I'll give you the recipe to try... if you dare.

Based on the wild success of freshly cooked waffles at previous bake sales, I figured I'd bring out the waffle iron once again for this bake sale.

This time I thought I'd let the batter go overnight to give it extra flavor and y'know... personality. Well, this waffle batter had personality to spare.

When I woke up and opened the refrigerator door, there was a batter fountain flowing down the side of the refrigerator and across all the food below. Wow. That's not the nicest way to wake up.

After a 25-minute clean-up job, the batter was still bubbling, still threatening to erupt across the kitchen... but it was all worth it, right? Delicious, no?

Actually, no. I had a little sample and it tasted terrible. Simply horrid. Like spoiled milk. I wanted to cry.

I took it to work anyway. What was I supposed to do? I had a bake sale to support. And I had this irrational thought that cooking it might make it taste better. In waffle form, maybe it'd shape up and taste tangy and delicious. But I really didn't have much faith.

In any case, I stirred it up to keep the burbling growth at bay, put the lid back on it and carted it to work, terrified it would explode in a sticky, globby mess on the way.

Erupting Waffle Batter
Even at the office, it's threatening to spill over the edge of the jar...

Then at work, well... I wish you could have been there, because it was a waffle miracle. I fired up the iron. I ladled the batter. There was sizzling and steaming. And wonder of wonders — it tasted fine. Better than fine. It tasted terrific. Airy, crisp and full of yeasty flavor. A delight with melted butter.

Dozens and dozens of waffles were made. Money was donated. People were happy.

Would I do it again? Yes, but I'd either increase the size of the jar or halve the recipe.

And I'll give you the warning I should've given myself: if you let the batter burble overnight, you must give it the opportunity to triple in size. My jar was 3/4 full when it went into the fridge and that was a big, dumb, messy mistake.

So this recipe isn't officially sourdough, since it's not made with a sourdough starter, but since the batter is awfully sour, I'm calling it sourdough and nobody is going to stop me.

If you're paying close attention, you'll notice it's loosely based on the "My Mother's Waffles" recipe by Ruth Van Waerebeek that I posted a couple of years ago.

Honey "Sourdough" Waffles (Makes about 20)

2 packages active dry yeast
4 cups milk, warmed to 100°F
3 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
1/2 cup honey
Pinch of salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites

To Serve (choose one or more)
Fresh whipped cream
Berries or cut fruit
Powdered sugar
Maple Syrup

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in one cup of the milk.
2. In a large, rooomy mixing bowl (the dough will double or triple in volume), whisk the egg yolks, melted butter, yeast mixture, honey and salt.
3. Gradually sift the flour into the batter. Alternate additions of flour with the remaining milk, stirring the batter after each addition.
4. Loosely cover and let the mixture develop overnight in the refrigerator.
5. The next morning, stir the batter, adding a splash of water if it seems too thick.
6. Beat the egg whites into soft peaks, then fold the egg whites into the batter.
7. Heat the waffle iron and bake your waffles according to the manufacturers' instructions. I use a ladle to portion the batter, but some recommend transferring the batter to a pitcher and pouring it into the waffle iron.
8. Immediately serve baked waffles with butter and powdered sugar or whipped cream and fresh fruit. To store leftover waffles, make sure you cool them completely before wrapping well and freezing.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

Labels: , , , , ,


Bee Sweet: A Bake Sale to Benefit Bees

What: A bake sale to benefit bee research (items containing honey encouraged!)
When: Earth Day: April 22, 2009
Where: At work, at school, out on the street
Who: You, perhaps? And anyone else who'd like to contribute.

Why: Thanks to dedicated research, honey bee populations seem to be on the mend, but the specter of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) still looms. Funding for more study will help our tiny pollinators thrive.

I'll be hosting a Bee Sweet bake sale at my office on Earth Day this year, with the benefits going to the UC Davis Honey Bee Research Facility.

I've also made a handy Bee Sweet graphic in case you'd like to join in and do your own bee benefit. Just click on the graphic below to get a printable PDF.

Bee Sweet
Click for the larger version.

This bake sale will also be a great opportunity to highlight honey as a star ingredient. I've found it's enormously popular for treats in Mediterranean cuisine, being the sweetener that happened to be on hand for hundreds of thousands of years.

Honey can be used in place of sugar in some recipes, but keep in mind: it's best to go conservatively at first, and the liquid in your recipe may need to be reduced. The National Honey Board has a few tips on usage.

I'll be posting a few honey-based goodies in upcoming days to get you thinking sweet thoughts, but in the meantime, here's a few honey treats from the archives:

  • Moist & Sticky Fig Cake
  • Honey Mead
  • Frybread
  • Hot Honey-Ginger Toddy
  • Sugarplums
  • Nutted Halvah

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

    Labels: , , , , , , ,

  • 4.08.2009

    Off the Hook Maple-Nut Death Bars

    How do you know if you've met with bake sale success?

    Sometimes, all you need are pure, simple, organic raves from coworkers. Here's three from my office's recent "raise funds for Wagga the injured cat" bake sale:
    "ohmygod so good. I don't even want to know what's in those."

    "Not right! Maple walnut OFF THE HOOK!!! Pairs with Camel Lights and black coffee..."

    "Those maple bars are lethal. Can you give me the recipe??"

    Coconut Maple Bars

    Will I give the recipe?

    Yes, of course I will give the recipe. Just don't tell anyone.

    In the wrong hands, Maple Nut Bars could be used for evil purposes. (Or maybe even evil porpoises... you never know what creepy things villains are up to.)

    Coconut Maple Bars
    They don't look like much, but gosh, people sure like 'em.

    Dead Tasty Chewy Maple Nut Bars (Makes about 21 deadly bars)

    Shortbread Base
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup brown (or white) sugar
    1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened

    Deadly Nut Topping
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup maple syrup
    1 Tbsp vanilla extract
    2 Tbsp butter, melted
    2 large eggs
    1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
    1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
    1/2 to 3/4 cup dried coconut (preferably unsweetened)

    1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 11 x 7" baking pan.
    2. For the shortbread, blend together the sugar and flour, add the butter, and mix until the mixture is a crumby dough. Press the dough gently across the bottom of the baking pan.
    3. Bake the shortbread until it begins to color around the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
    4. Meanwhile, make the topping by beating together the sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, butter and eggs. When blended, stir in the nuts and coconut.
    5. Spread the maple-nut topping evenly over the cooled shortbread.
    6. Bake in the center of the oven until the top is browned and set, about 25-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before cutting and serving. Don't let people eat more than one. Like I said... deadly.

    Happy baking!
    Miss Ginsu

    Labels: , , , ,


    Not actually baking for the bake sale

    the cupcake meeting

    I mentioned a while back that I was heading up a weekly office bake sale to raise funds for SOS (Share Our Strength).

    Not surprisingly, summertime makes for some tough recruiting. From an operations standpoint, I can't really think of a worse time to run a bake sale. It's hot. It's humid. People are on vacation. People are seeing themselves in swimwear and reconsidering the wisdom of noshing on cookies... even if said cookies happen to be for charity.

    Despite all that, it went pretty well. We made over $1020. (Not including a very generous online donation from my mom... thanks, mom!)

    But truthfully, I have a shameful secret... for most of the summer, my own oven didn't work. The landlord kept putting off getting it fixed, and I kept forgetting to call that repair guy I saw on Craigslist, so I found myself heading up a charity bake sale without an operational oven.

    Thus, as you might imagine, I've come up with a few great strategies for not actually baking for the bake sale:

    1. Let someone else do the cooking. I don't mean purchasing premade cookies and bars and passing them off as your own stuff (though I've seen this done). There are actually a lot of recipes in which store-bought graham crackers, pound cake or cereal provide texture without requiring oven time on your part. Consider, for example, the graham crust in no-bake cheesecake bars or the ladyfingers in tiramisu. Still tasty... just not oven-dependent.

    2. Cool desserts! One caveat: Do you have on-site refrigeration? Icebox Cakes and the like tend to get melty if they're not kept cool.

    3. Think modern appliances. My waffle iron, untouched at home, became the belle of the bake sale ball. I used the "My Mother's Waffles" recipe from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek (see below). The beguiling yeasty scent of sizzling DIY waffles drifted throughout the office and the accompanying bowls of sliced berries and fresh-whipped cream made for easy advertising.

    4. Rice Krispy Treats. The classic. They take 12 minutes to make, they use three ingredients and the nostalgia factor dives widespread love (not to mention cravings). Dress 'em up with a handful of chocolate chips, a dollop of peanut butter or a sprinkling of dried cranberries for color and zip.

    5. Buckeye balls, peanut brittle, taffy and other stovetop candies also make good no-bake candidates. Now that it's fall, I'd throw caramel apples in the mix. Mmm... caramel apples...

    And now: The afore-mentioned awesome waffle recipe:

    My Mother's Waffles
    by Ruth Van Waerebeek
    (Makes about 40)

    4 packages active dry yeast
    6 cups milk, warmed to 100°F
    6 large egg yolks
    12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) margarine, melted and cooled to lukewarm
    1 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    Pinch of salt
    8 cups all-purpose flour
    6 large egg whites, beaten to soft peaks

    1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the lukewarm milk.
    2. In a large, deep mixing bowl (the dough will double or triple in volume), whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the remaining milk and the melted butter and margarine. Add the yeast mixture, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
    3. Gradually add the flour to the batter by sifting it in. Alternate additions of flour with the remaining 4 1/2 cups milk. Stir with a wooden spoon after each addition.
    4. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
    5. Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place. Let rise for 1 hour. The batter should double or even triple in volume. (While you wait, you have time to brew the coffee, set the table, and heat up your waffle iron.) Check the batter from time to time to make sure it isn't about to erupt like an impatient volcano. Stir it down once or twice.
    6. Bake the waffles in a hot waffle iron. The easiest way to get the batter onto the waffle iron is to do what my mother does. Transfer the batter (by batches) into a water pitcher and pour the batter from the pitcher.
    7. Serve the baked waffles with confectioners' sugar and butter, or whipped cream and fresh fruit. Allow any leftover waffles to cool on a rack before storing.

    (PS: If you happen to be anywhere near Cooperstown, NY this weekend, Brewery Ommegang is doing their annual Waffles & Puppets fest. Belgian waffles, fantastic Belgian-style beers and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow interpreted with puppets. Crazy fun. Really wish I could be there. Cheers!)

    Labels: , , , , , ,


    Happy SSZoYNP Day!

    zucchini  with blossoms

    Yes, friends... it's once again Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors' Porch Day (or Night — your preference), one of those obscure and frivolous holidays we rootless Americans create out of festive necessity.

    That said, I think the concept is solid. The zucchini (or courgette, for you Europeans) tends to hit a point of outrageous surplus right about now. Once you've already sautéed, puréed, broiled, grilled, fried and stuffed them, there's a risk of becoming bored with zucchini. Since it may be difficult to offload a stack of squash on a bewildered random citizen, "gifting" the neighbors seems like great fun.

    A suggestion for would-be squash sneakers? Slip a quality recipe into that bag or basket.

    In addition to the savory stuff, like ratatouilles, stews, tagines and summer succotashes, zucchinis tend to play well in sweets. Zucchini bread is a popular choice, but why not try Zucchini Blondies?

    I use a variation on the recipe in Victoria Wise's Gardeners' Community Cookbook, and it's proved to be popular at my office bake sale.

    Zucchini Blondies
    5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
    1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 medium zucchini, peeled and grated
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
    1/2 cup white chocolate chips

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom of a 9" square baking pan.
    2. Mix the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla in a large mixing bowl, and beat together until blended.
    3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the same bowl and stir to blend. Incorporate the zucchini and nuts. The blend should be thick.
    4. Spread the batter across the baking pan, and sprinkle the chips over the top.
    5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
    6. Remove, cool and slice into squares.
    They'll keep for about 3 days at room temperature, or wrap individually and freeze for future snacking.

    zucchini needlepoint kit

    But if, like me, you lack both garden and porch (alas!), you can always soothe your great green envy with a kitchy needlecraft kit like this one, uncovered on a recent web foray. Those crazy crafters! No stone unturned. No zucchini unstitched.

    However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a very happy SSZoYNP Day, and many tasty returns.

    Labels: , , , , , ,