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

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Bee Smart: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Honey

In honor of Earth Day this week, we'll be doing the Bee Sweet Bake Sale at work to benefit honey bee research.

With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to review some fascinating facts about our favorite bee-stuff: honey. Bet there's at least a couple you didn't know. (Unless you're a beekeeper, in which case I really hope you do know all ten.)

Bee Smart

1. There are four honey grades (Grade A = Good; Grade B = Reasonably Good; Grade C = Fairly Good; Substandard = Poor), and although the USDA sets up the standards, the way a beekeeper grades honey is completely subjective. So it may pay to give your honey an eyeball and grade it yourself before you buy.

Better yet, seek out and support your local beekeepers.

2. Untreated honey seems to have powers of preservation and protects against some kinds of foodborne pathogens.

3. Honey is an acid (with a between 3.2 and 4.5), which also helps prevent bacteria... yet another reason why you can keep it at room temperature in your cupboard.

4. Honey absorbs moisture and odors. So keep it sealed tightly and don't store it near smelly things.

5. Honey can be used in place of sugar in some recipes, but it's important to be careful with the quantities. According the the very useful guide on cooking with honey at the University of Minnesota, "if a recipe calls for 1/2-cup sugar or less, omit the sugar and use the same amount of honey instead." But be careful with larger substitutions. Honey brings both liquid and flavor to the recipe.

6. Research indicates that honey can be used to effectively treat minor to moderate burns, helping to bring healing up to four days earlier. That's good to know as sunburn season approaches...

7. Honey was used in ancient times to brew mead, a treat enjoyed across the ancient world from China through Scandinavia.

Here's an entertaining quote from The Theft of Thor's Hammer in World Mythology in which Viking god Thor, dressed in drag to pass as the goddess Freya, demonstrates an appetite worthy of an immortal:
"Evening arrived, and with it Thrym's beloved. The giants set a feast of food and ale before the bride. She quickly consumed all the sweet dainties that had been reserved for the women, plus a whole ox and eight large salmon. She drank more than three horns of mead."

8. Most of the world's honey is produced in... surprise! China.

9. Honey makes sweet guest appearances in the texts of the world's major religions. It's memorably mentioned in the Christian book of Exodus to describe the Promised Land as a place "flowing with milk and honey." It's key for Jewish celebrations at Rosh Hashanah, for Buddhists in the festival of Madhu Purnima and for followers of Islam, there is both mention of honey and also a chapter in the Qur'an called al-Nahl (the Bee).

10. Used in cosmetics since the time of Cleopatra (she was reported to bathe in honey and milk), honey continues to be a popular ingredient in skin and hair treatments.

The National Honey Board suggests you make like Cleo and add 1/4 cup honey to your bath water "for a fragrant, silky bath." Find more NHB beauty recipes at their Beauty Fact Sheet PDF.

Sweetly Yours,
Miss Ginsu

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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

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  • 4.08.2009

    FoodLink Roundup: 11.10.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, Cupcake was called out (by everyone, seemingly) at a Gotham Girls Roller Derby home game. So, where in the world is Cupcake this week? Yeah, I know this one's a softball, but be a peach and post a guess in the comments anyway.

    Feds try to get students to eat fruit and veg
    "Not to brag or anything," 10-year-old Harrison Saling said, "but I've always been pretty good about my fruits." Hilarious...

    'Clean-up' bees could save endangered hives
    Scientists tinker with bees in the hope of saving agriculture. Go, Scientists, Go!

    Purple Reign
    Snapdragons + Tomatoes + Genetic Tinkering = more flavonoids?

    When Money Is Tight, Eating Healthy Can Be a Struggle
    Newsflash... healthful eating is a class issue!

    Pizza From Scratch: First, Bricks and a Trailer
    My friend Dave rocks the outdoor oven for the Times. Woot!

    New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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    Make Mine a Mead

    Apparently, it's the American Homebrewer's Association Mead Day. And as it's sweltering summertime out there, I can't think of a better day to highlight the pleasures of DIY beverages, not to mention the plight of the threatened honeybee.

    Home-brewed mead
    Brett's homebrew. Great tiled countertop, right? I helped install that. :)

    Though oft dismissed as the stuff of Ren Fairs and the creative anachronism crowd, mead is actually not that difficult to do at home. And (bonus!) being a generous homebrewer is guaranteed to make you immediately popular in your neighborhood and totally valuable after the apocalypse.

    My college buddy Brett, a talented photographer and writer, brews all kinds of delights in his enviably large basement in Susquehanna, PA.

    And just what does he have down there? Rich molasses-y porters. Dark stouts. Light, spicy Belgian ales. And some new batches of crisp, effervescent mead.

    A cold glass beside the sandbox
    Nothin' like a cold glass of mead while you play in the sandbox...

    While I was out there on a recent visit, he confessed that he's been lazy. Truthfully, he's really only interested in making mead as of late. Why? It's simple. Who wants to fuss with a lot in the summertime?

    So here's to simplicity. And here's to the bees that make mead possible. Unfortunately, North America's bee populations are threatened by mysterious, deadly troubles that science is referring to as Colony Collapse Disorder.

    A number of honey-loving businesses, from cosmetics company Burt's Bees to ice cream maker Häagen Daz have recently joined forces highlight this issue and throw some money at CCD research.

    When honeybees die, we lose more than honey, beeswax products and mead. Bees are essential to agriculture and maintaining our food supply.

    Meanwhile, I submit to you a spiced mead you can do at home, if you have the patience, the space and/or your housemates are forgiving. This mead is technically a methyglyn, which is a mead with spices, while a melomel is a mead with fruit.

    Before starting, you'll need about 25-30 clean 12oz bottles, the same number of corks or caps and a capper, and primary and secondary fermentation buckets or a carboy that you've sanitized (bleach works well for this).
    Double-Fermented Citrus Mead Makes about 2 1/2 gallons, (about 26 12oz bottles)

    6 to 9 lb good quality honey
    2 1/2 gallons water
    1/8 oz freeze-dried wine, champagne or mead yeast
    Peels from 4 oranges or lemons (no whites)
    2" piece ginger, sliced
    2 Tbsp coriander seeds

    1. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and mix in the honey, sliced ginger, citrus peel and coriander.

    2. Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup of lukewarm water in a clean bowl with the yeast.

    3. When the pot is cool, skim out the peel, spices and ginger and stir in the yeast mixture. Transfer the mixture to a clean, sterile fermentation bucket or a carboy.

    4. Cap the bucket/carboy and let the mixture ferment for two to four weeks. The number of carbon dioxide bubbles emitted from the air lock should drop to one bubble every minute, indicating the first fermentation is almost complete.

    5. When the bubbling activity subsides the yeast is dead. Carefully siphon the mead the secondary fermentation bucket and cap it (try not to get the lees at the bottom of the bucket). Age for one to four months.

    6. Once the mead has cleared and matured, you can siphon it into sterilized bottles and cap them. Let the bottles sit for at least another week or two, then chill and serve.

    Brett is quick to remind homebrewers that, like most alcoholic brews, mead improves with age. Even if you're not crazy about the first bottle you sample, you might really love the same brew a few months (or years!) later.

    The Beer for Dummies guys offer this additional advice:
    Note on equipment: Making mead requires essentially the same basic kit necessary to brew beer at home: primary and secondary plastic-bucket fermenters with air locks and spigots, transfer hosing, a bottle-filler tube, heavy bottles, bottle caps, bottle capper, and a bottle brush and washer. You should be able to find these items for approximately $70 total (excluding the bottles) through a home-brewing supplier, such as The Home Brewery. Bottles cost from $6 to $20 per dozen, depending on style. You might instead buy a couple of cases of beer in returnable bottles, drink the beer, and — after sanitizing them! — reuse those bottles, for the cost of the deposit.


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