Bouchon Bakery Banana Muffins!

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New York’s Bouchon Bakery has a really special little place in my heart. Even in my high school days, I was constantly there, enjoying their baked goods (the gigantic pistachio macaron is my favorite) & deliciously strong coffee. This bakery is always my first and last stop during my New York visits, and I am almost always bringing back a bag full of treats for my friends. So when Thomas Keller released his Bouchon Bakery Cookbook with Executive Pastry Chef Sebastien Rouxel, I was thrilled. All of my favorite treats in one book!

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I bought it as a birthday gift for my boyfriend last November. But let’s be honest, I basically half-gifted it to myself. So far, we’ve enjoyed the oatmeal raisin cookies, shortbread cookies, double chocolate chunk & chip cookies, TKOs (Thomas Keller Oreos), bacon cheddar scones, and the Multigrain seed bread.

I had no intention of tackling a recipe from this book this week (I’m still trying to catch up on sleep from last week…), but the brown bananas sitting in my kitchen begged to differ. So, I scratched plans for basic banana bread and decided to go with Bouchon Bakery’s Banana Muffins with a streusel topping. I had almost everything that the recipe called for, so I decided to substitute the few ingredients I could and save myself a trip to the grocery store. I used chopped pecans instead of walnuts, vanilla extract instead of vanilla paste, and sour cream instead of creme fraiche.

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Adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook:

Ingredients

BATTER
1 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (168 g) cake flour
3/4 teaspoon (3.6 g) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2.4 g) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon (4.4 g) kosher salt
4.2 ounces (120 grams) unsalted butter at room temp [1 stick of butter + change]
3/4 cup (144 g) lightly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (80 g) eggs
1 1/8 teaspoons (7 g) vanilla extract
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons (24 g) creme fraiche
1 cup mashed bananas (approx 2 bananas)

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Note: the recipe calls to use a mixer, but I had no issues doing it all by hand.
Sift cake flour, baking soda, baking powder together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk in Kosher salt. Cream the butter to the consistency of mayonnaise (should be fairly easy at room temperature). Add sugar and mix until fluffy, scraping down the sides as you go. Add eggs and vanilla extract until just combined.

Add dry ingredients in 2 batches until just combined. Add the creme fraiche & mashed banana to the mixture until evenly distributed in the batter. Transfer the batter into an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight (up to 36 hrs).

Note: When I told the bf that I was going to make banana muffins over dinner, he told me to ‘read the entire recipe carefully’ beforehand. I did not. Therefore, I did not know that the batter needed to be chilled overnight. And was so so so sad that I would not be munching on something sweet after dinner…

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if you own a scale, definitely break it out for super exact measurements

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PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons (100 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (100 g) pecans (finely chopped)
1/8 teaspoon (0.4 g) kosher salt
3.5 ounces (100 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces.

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Combine all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the butter, incorporating well until there are no more large chunks. Transfer mixture to a covered container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line large 6-cup muffin pan with muffin papers and spray with nonstick spray. Spoon batter evenly into cups, stopping about 1/2 inch short from the top. Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of the streusel topping on top of the batter. Or, even more if you’re feeling generous 😉
Place pan into oven & lower the temp to 325 degrees. Bake for 35-38 minutes, until golden brown. Insert a toothpick or skewer into one of the muffins – if it comes out clean, you’re done! In first read through, I also ignored the lowering-heat part of the recipe… Don’t do that, unless you want them to be a teensy bit dark on the bottom….

Delicious Sour cream/creme fraiche + not too many bananas = perfectly moist and fluffy muffins. Not the banana-overkill dense muffins I’m used to. Takes a little bit of planning ahead (oops), but so worth it!
Store in a covered container. Should last for up to 3 days in room temperature or up to a week in the freezer.
Enjoy!

Miran

Butternut squash couscous & Radio!

Every once in a while, you come across a week where everything somehow happens at the same time. Between a zillion rehearsals, 5 concerts, and a radio segment, I’ve hardly had the time to catch my breath. I’ve seen the boyfriend for about 30 mins each day, I’ve run out of clean clothes, and I’ve been eating like crap… But here’s the thing, I would not trade it for anything else. Yes – It has been an incredibly challenging week. And I am ready to sleep for about 20 hours straight. But as a really awesome person once told me, “it’ll make the muscles bigger”.

Today started a lot earlier than I’m used to. I’ve been preparing for a recital with a couple colleagues from the symphony. We were given the opportunity to promote this recital by Houston’s classical radio station, Classical 91.7FM. I wanted to feel warmed up enough for the live performance segment, as well as alert enough for the interview portion. So yeah, not much sleep. Nonetheless, the radio segment went smoothly and we were out of there before lunchtime.

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Here’s what I learned from today’s radio adventure:
1. It is totally possible that you will have a brain fart when asked a question on the spot. It’s also possible that you will involuntarily say, “uhhhhh… I got nothin!” (smooth) But that’s all ok. Because luckily, your host is incredibly understanding & generous. He will simply pause, then repeat the question. And by that time, your brain will be working at turbo speed, and you’ll have formulated some semblance of an answer!
2. Always always always bring one person who is a natural storyteller. Radio gold.
3. I have the voice of a newborn baby.
4. Bring a sweater!!

After the radio segment, I found myself with a few hours off before the next thing! So I decided that I was going to cook myself something delicious & comforting. I should probably mention that this week has been so much more bearable because of the weather. It is finally starting to feel like FALL in Houston! I have been wearing boots, sweaters, and scarves all week! Makes me insanely happy 🙂

What else makes me happy? Butternut squash! It is one of my faaaaaavorite veggies, so I thought I would feature it in a rich and comforting couscous! PS- about 2 weeks ago, I discovered that I really like Israeli couscous – but had no idea what to do with it. So, I asked blogger extraordinaire, Molly Yeh for some help. She suggested this deliciousness, which I devoured. Then I just began to play around with it.

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Ingredients:
1 butternut squash (peeled & cubed)
3 slices thick cut bacon (sliced into small 1/2 inch slivers)
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 2/3 cup chicken stock
3-4 cups chopped brussels sprouts
1 shallot minced (approx 2 tbsp)
1/2 lemon
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a large mixing bowl, coat the butternut squash with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Mix in a good pinch of salt & pepper. Pour into oven-safe pan, and cook for 25-30 mins until tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Cook bacon until done and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked bacon and set aside (keeping the fat in the pan). Couscous into pan. Toast couscous in bacon fat until slightly browned (4-6mins). Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and allow the couscous to fully cook, stirring occasionally. Fluff with a spoon, remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour a little olive oil (or bacon fat!) into pan. Shallots into pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until they start to brown. Brussels sprouts into pan. Cook until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine the couscous, bacon, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, shallots and remaining olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Add in a generous pinch of salt & pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and the chopped parsley. Mix until everything is evenly distributed.
You can enjoy this as a side dish, or devour a bowl of it on its own (like I just did) 🙂

I leave you with this gem my mom sent me last night. Because what says HAPPY FALL more than this picture??

 

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Miran

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The first one

Here goes – Welcome! I am not entirely sure what kind of blog this will turn out to be. It’s likely that this will revolve around food. But mostly, it will be ramblings from a New Yorker who has somehow ended up in Houston, TX.

A little bit about me:
1. I am a violinist. Have been for most of my life. I just started working for the Houston Symphony, and have been loving every minute of it.
2. I absolutely love food. The boyfriend is an incredible home cook, who spoils me rotten with incredibly delicious meals 🙂
3. I grew up in Manhattan, so I am a city girl through and through! (Never thought I’d be a Texan, but here I am!)
4. I am Korean American. The older I get, the more I am in love with my Korean heritage (especially the food!)
5. I have loving parents, an awesome little sister who is way cooler than me, a badass boyfriend, and a really solid group of friends. You’ll meet all of these people soon, hopefully!
6. I watch an insane amount of TV. But only because it’s so good….

That about sums up the important stuff.

SO

On to more interesting things….

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Kimbap!

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Now that I live so far away from home, I find myself intensely craving my mother’s cooking. Though the Asian markets and Korean restaurants are aplenty in Houston, nothing comes close to mom’s. My Korean cooking is pretty good – my mom’s cooking is stellar. No comparison.
The other day, I found myself craving one of my favorite comfort foods: kimbap. My mom used to make these for road trips – it was and will always be our travel food. She’d pack a cooler full of these sweet and savory rolls at 6AM, just so they’d be ready for our annual trip to Cape May. I have great memories associated with kimbap, and I’m so glad to feature it as my first food-related post!
I suppose you could call it the Korean version of sushi. It originated from the Japanese futomaki roll during the Japanese occupation of South Korea. Japanese sushi rice contains rice vinegar, giving it that delicious slight sour taste. Kimbap rice is made with a little bit of salt, and a generous drizzle of sesame oil.

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Ingredients:
4-6 sheets packaged seaweed laver
1 cup white rice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 package pickled daikon radishes
1 package imitation crab meat
2 cups carrots (julienned/matchsticks)
12 oz. spinach
1/2-3/4 lbs. ground beef
3-4 eggs

*Note: It might be challenging to find the daikon, imitation crab meat, and/or seaweed at your local grocery store. Most Asian (specifically Korean/Japanese) markets will carry these items.

Prepare rice by rinsing. Place rice in bowl and cover with an inch of water. Use your hands to mix the rice around (you will see the starch in the water). Drain the water. Repeat 2-3 times. Put rice in saucepan or rice cooker with 1.25 cups water. Bring to a boil and allow rice to fully cook. Once cooked, transfer to a mixing bowl, and use a spatula/spoon to fold the rice around, releasing as much heat and steam from the rice as possible. Once cooled, add a pinch of salt, drizzling of sesame oil, and sprinkling of sesame seeds. Warning: the rice is delicious, may be hard to move past this point.

Heat nonstick pan or well-seasoned skillet over medium heat. Beat eggs well. Give the pan a glug of sesame oil. Drop eggs in pan, and basically cook as a frittata. Let one side cook until you can flip and finish the other side. Remove from pan and set aside. Turn pan to medium-high. Carrots into pan; sauté until softened. When done, set aside. Spinach into pan; wilt (add another bit of sesame oil if needed). When done, set aside. Beef, honey, and soy sauce into pan; sauté until well-browned. When done, drain off fat and liquid and set aside. Allow all ingredients to cool to room temp before assembling the kimbap.

Cut egg pancake into long strips, about 1/2 inch wide. If needed, cut other ingredients (pickled radish, crab meat) into strips as well.

Assembly
Place one sheet of seaweed on top of a bamboo sushi rolling mat. Spread rice evenly onto bottom half of the seaweed sheet. Lay ingredients toward the bottom of the rice.

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Once you’ve arranged all of your ingredients, use to the sushi mat to start rolling from the side nearest you. Press firmly (but keep in mind that the seaweed is still fragile) as you roll up. This should feel like you’re rolling a towel tightly. Once you’ve rolled your way up to the top of the seaweed sheet, use a few spare grains of rice (on what will be the inside of the seam) to seal the roll up. Brush evenly with sesame oil, and give it one more firm press to seal the deal.

Slice into 3/4 inch pieces, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and enjoy!

Yields: 4-6 Rolls

If you’re a fan of spice, you can add some traditional Korean kimchi (sliced to match other ingredients) to your roll!
Feel free to mix up the ingredients inside. Let me know what you end up doing!

Miran