We had our annual apple picking event at a local orchard yesterday! Every Saturday in September, the orchard is open for people to pick their own — and while they sell the apples really cheap, they are even cheaper when you pick them yourself! And of course, apples fresh off the tree are delicious!
We were joined by friends B & J and their dog. We finished up picking just in time before the rain set in in earnest, and then retired home to start baking apple pie.


Dressed for rain, enjoying an apple fresh off the tree.


We got two bags like these: one with Goudreinet (which goes all mushy when cooked) and one with Wellant. The bags were sponsored by the market leader for baking products, and you got a free package of their apple pie mix with every bag of apples. That was a first, but perhaps that was to mark the occasion of the national fruit picking day. I don’t think we’ve had that before, but I don’t think we’ve been there at the ‘main’ day before. It wasn’t extra busy, but that must have also been because of the bad weather that was


First pie. It fell apart after cutting it up, but that didn’t really detract from the taste!

Sjekladebollen

Half an hour drive away is the city of Den Bosch. Their regional speciality is Bossche Bollen, a choux filled with heavy whipped cream and coated with chocolate. They are also called ‘chocoladebollen’ (‘chocolate balls’) or, phonetically, sjekladebollen.
All throughout my teenage years, I rode horses at a pony club tucked away in the village where I lived, and they had a rule: if you fell off the pony, you had to treat everyone in your lesson the next week. The ‘default’ treat was a Bossche Bol (though very few people actually brought them, because they are expensive for a teenage budget — often it was just a bag of mixed candy). Many a time, in that split second between feeling you lost contact with the saddle and actually landing on the ground — in that moment of airtime — you’d hear people shout “Chocoladebollen!” in celebration of the treat they’d get next week! (Also to make it more lighthearted: you don’t want your pupils to fall and be afraid of horses afterwards!)

We got discount tickets for a workshop to make these, and yesterday was the day! We met up with babarage, gertvr and xaviar_nl, and after catching up for a bit, it was time for the workshop.
The whole room was filled, but we had the best seats in the house. A little downer was that we didn’t get to make the choux ourselves — it would take too long and the process is too finnicky. In fact, the baker told us that the four bakeries that make the real thing get their choux made together in a central bakery! So we would make the chocolate layer — on the way there, I had speculated with xaviar_nl whether the chocolate would be tempered or not, but it turned out that we were both wrong. It’s fondant: chocolate molten in sugar syrup, so it sticks well to the pastry and still has that shine. We mixed those together and dipped the choux into the chocolate, after which they were put in the cooler. (Normally you’d let them harden out for at least half a day at room temperature so they’d get that shiny gloss, but again, in the interest of time, they were put in the cooler.)

Melting the chocolate into the hot syrup.


Dipping the choux into the fondant: take the choux by the underside, because that gives you the best grip.


Meanwhile, we whipped the cream (by hand!). They use 40% fat cream, which makes for a bit of a heavier cream.


The choux with the chocolate layer, ready to be filled!


Use a knife to make a little ‘cross’ at the bottom of the choux, and just fill it all up with cream! You know the choux is full when it starts to expand! 😉


Done! You present them with the chocolate side up, of course, but you eat them upside down, because otherwise every bite would force out the whipped cream down the underside, and that just makes a mess.


And if you eat them correctly, you’ll get whipped cream at the tip of your nose. 😉

Everyone had two: one we ate there, and one to take home. They’re delicious, and I think we might make them at home every once in a while, for special occasions…

More spaghetti

The cooking store in town has the molecular cooking kits on stock, so we swung by yesterday to get an additional spaghetti kit: twice as many tubes means that producing the spaghetti is twice as fast! Turns out they had a sale, and the kits were 50% off. So we got two! (When we got home, we found out why: the kits had a best-by date of mid-2016… I guess they’re not the big moves in the store.)
I had also been thinking about the bland taste of the white chocolate spaghetti. Adding all that water just diluted the taste of the chocolate (which doesn’t have a strong taste to begin with) — so what would happen if we’d make spaghetti from something that’s a liquid itself? Then we wouldn’t have to add water as a ‘carrier’ for the agar-agar, and we wouldn’t be diluting the taste.

Hence: coffee spaghetti. I made a cup of really, really strong coffee, we added some sugar and a packet of agar-agar powder. With our tripled capacity, it took only three “runs” to use all of the liquid for spaghetti.

And with the second syringe we could work in parallel: one of us would pump air through the tubes to get the strands out of the tube, the other could then immediately fill that tube up again.


This is all of the coffee spaghetti that we made. We tasted a single strand, and it was really bitter (like strong coffee). So we needed something to go with it…

We also wanted to experiment with spherification. We had bought honey to make honey caviar.

This is our honey-with-agar-agar at the bottom of a cup of cold vegetable oil. Next time, we need to let the liquid cool down before dripping it into the oil. The spheres were still so warm that they got stuck together. Not everything, but it was noticable.


Spoon of honey caviar! We had to add some water to the honey, but it still had that delicious honey taste with no discernable dilution.


So we thought of a way to build up a dessert of four layers. This is the bottom layer: vanilla custard.


The bitter coffee spaghetti on top of that.


On top of that, baked whipped egg whites (that we had left from making the custard) with a little sugar.


Honey caviar on top of that. The uneven surface of the baked eggwhites makes little ‘nooks’ that the caviar can collect in.


A cross-section of all the different flavours and textures. Next time, we’ll make the baked eggwhites proper merengues, so that they are crunchy instead of the marshmallow-like consistency they had, to add a more pronounced texture to the mix.

Interesting experiments, and I can see us using this as a ‘grand dessert’ in the future.

So of course I had to test out the molecular cooking kit! I decided to go for the chocolate spaghetti, to make a dessert for four, to be served at the new year’s eve festivities at our home.
I followed the recipe in the video I linked to in my previous entry. I had some reservations on just throwing chocolate into hot water: the two don’t mix, and chocolate ‘seizes up’ when it comes into contact with water. But whether it was because of the agar-agar that had already been dissolved into the water or because white chocolate is not ‘proper’ chocolate and thus has a different composition I do not know — but it worked out nicely. We are lacking in coconut liqueur, so I substituted Drambuie for that.

The mixture.

Then you have to suck up the warm liquid into the syringe, attach one silicon tube, squeeze, put into a bath of cold water, and repeat with the second and third tube. The kit came with only three tubes, so you can do only three ‘strands’ at a time, and each ‘batch’ (if you can call it that) takes three minutes…

The three tubes in the bath of cold water.


In the end, this is (part of) a single portion. It took about an hour, and you had to be in the kitchen every three minutes! It looks cool though, but because there is a lot of water added to support the agar-agar, the taste of whatever you’re using is diluted too! And white chocolate doesn’t have a strong taste of itself to begin with… In part this should have been compensated by the booze, but that was only partially. Next time, I think I’d add a generous splurge of vanilla extract or something like that to give the otherwise bland taste a bit of a kick.

With that first batch done, we got some more white chocolate and did three batches in one go. This took us the better part of a day! Of course, if you have more tubes (and we will look into getting more!) you can do bigger batches. But we didn’t have such narrow tubes of food-grade(!) silicon lying around…
Because the going is so slow, the liquid will also cool and solidify. This can, of course, be easily remedied by cooking it up again: agar-agar is solid when cool, but liquid when heated.


Of course, this spaghetti should come with a red sauce! We cooked up a batch of “summer fruits” and ran that through the blender. The slight sour note of the fruit complements the taste of the white chocolate quite nicely.


We served individual portions in lacquerware Japanese-style soup bowls, with whipped cream and a blackberry on top!

I’m really pleased with the end result, but it’s too much work to do casually. And the tastes have to be improved too. Still, fun to do, and I’m sure we’ll experiment with this again!

We regularly go to a culinary wholesaler: we got a card from klik’s company, and we regularly get supplies there that are cheaper than at the grocery store, or things that you can’t even get at our regular grocery. The previous time we were there, I saw a molecular gastronomy kit to create ‘pearls’ of foodstuffs using agar-agar, and There are two more of those little kits: one to create foam and one to create ‘spaghetti’. I put it on my Sinterklaas wish-list, because it looks really cool! Ever since, we have been checking out videos from that brand with cool recipe ideas.
I didn’t get any of the kits (I’m not complaining: I got lots of good things off my wishlist!), and today we had occasion to visit the wholesaler again. I got the ‘combined kit’ as a gift for myself.


The packaging.


The contents of the kit! It contains everything to make pearls, spaghetti, foam and for reverse spherification!

I really look forward to experimenting with it. Here’s some videos of the things you can do with it: make honey caviar, or chocolate spaghetti with the agar-agar. Or make some foam like Curry Wind. Or combine the gelling of the agar-agar with reverse spherification like with the Coco-almond Fondant!

Release macarons

Seven months ago, we released version 5.1 of our software. I can’t recall how we came to it, but I ended up treating the team to home-baked macarons. That was so popular that a tradition was born.
Monday evening, we released version 5.1.1, so that evening we were very busy baking up two batches of macarons so I could bring them to the office the next day. This worked out especially well because two colleagues who have been away on sick leave for a longer time had announced that they would swing by the office for a little while that day — so I could give them the macarons as well!

How to make macarons


The finished result! As always, they were a huge success. The vanilla ones more so than the green tea — though I actually preferred the green tea, because the bitterness of the matcha really complements the sweetness of the shells and buttercream.

And with the release now done, I should have lower stress levels too, which is a nice added bonus.

Miso Katsu

When in Japan, one of my favourite things to eat is the tonkatsu: a fried breaded pork cutlet. On it’s own, it’s quite tasty: we’ve eaten quite a few times in the KYK tonkatsu restaurant at Kyoto station. They serve the tonkatsu with miso soup, rice and cabbage — and you can get free refills of those three too. But it also makes a perfect set-piece for a more complex meal, like the katsudon (tonkatsu gratinated with an egg on top of rice) or katsu-curry (tonkatsu with rice and the Japanese-style curry) — all very tasty!

Last time we were in Japan, we had lunch at a tonkatsu place. Their speciality was miso katsu: a tonkatsu with a special miso sauce. I really like the taste of miso, so I took a chance. It was amazingly good! The rich miso taste really complements the taste of the tonkatsu very nicely, and I was an instant fan.

So when we were making our menu, I looked up a recipe for miso katsu, and I found one — and it’s quite simple, and we had everything needed in our cupboards! We did ‘cheat’ and got a wiener schnitzel instead of making our own tonkatsu. We used white miso the first time, but for the second time I used red miso, and the taste was even better!
It’s quite salty though, because of the dashi stock that has to be reduced. Maybe if we make a larger batch, we can reduce the amount of dashi.


The miso sauce is spread all over the schnitzel, and it was amazing! We ate it with vegetable fries (carrot and parsnip) and pickles (daikon and cucumber). Definitely something we’ll be eating more often!

Anniversary

Last Monday, I had a day off — originally to be on stand-by in case an update on the webserver for klik‘s work would go wrong. But that had happened on the Wednesday before (and went off without a hitch). But I had already requested (and gotten) the day off, so I decided to let it stand. Only afterwards did we realise that we would be married exactly 12.5 years on that day! So we had every reason to spend the day together and do something pleasant.

In the afternoon we went to see An, a sweet taste of life. When we were getting the tickets, we noticed a little folder about the movie, and it had the recipe for the sweets that are made in the movie: dorayaki, fluffy pancakes with a filling of sweet bean paste (which is called ‘an’, the title of the movie). The movie itself is nice, I’m not going to spoil it!
Then we walked around the city centre for a bit, stopped for a cup of tea, and then we went to restaurant Ivory. We had a wonderful dinner there — we’ll be sure to return!

Of course, the recipe had to be tried out! We used store-bought an though (we’ve made it ourselves before, but it’s kinda finnicky). The end result was delicious! Klik had baked some for a gathering she had today, and there were two left which we had as dessert!


They were lovely!

There’s an apple farmer close to Nijmegen that allows people to come to the orchard and pick their own apples, every Saturday in September. We’ve been there before, and we thought it would be fun to go again. babarage and her husband came along!


Apples! We got some instructions on how to pick, and were advised to pick the biggest and reddest apples.


Selecting the best ones to make into apple pie. That tree with the little orange fruit (which is inedible) is there to attract bees and wasps for pollination, because the flowers smell much stronger than the flowers of the apple trees. Every tenth tree in the orchard is one of those ‘attractor trees’.


Our haul: eleven kilos of apples — a mix of goudrenet and elstar. Each pie would take about a kilo of apples, so we overshot our target by quite a bit!
We also visited the little supermarket with local products that was there, and the plastic sheep (now named “One”, because one is supposed to count sheep) will be used to annoy babarage‘s dog. 😉


Cutting up the apples. They were so fresh that they didn’t even get brown after being peeled for some time.


klik putting the finishing touches on the finished pie. We added more raisins than the recipe called for, because we could.


One hour later: fresh out of the oven!


Cutting up the pie made a bit of a mess — no beautiful portions but more of a ‘freestyle’ piece of pie. Perhaps this is due to the extra moisture from the elstar apples. One day later, the bottom of the pie has gotten a bit soggy as well. One of the tips we got was to use baker’s cream powder on the bottom to absorb the excess moisture, which we might try on a following pie.


We also baked a second pie for babarage to take home.


To supplement dinner, we also cut up some apples and warmed that up in the microwave. Smash it up with a fork (as fine as you wish, I prefer a bit chunky), and add a bit of cinnamon. Almost-instant applesauce, doesn’t even need added sugar!

Pavlova!

One of the cool things of having a semi-professional mixer, is that beating egg whites into a stiff mass is not really a problem: just pop ’em in the bowl, set the Kitchenaid on maximum, and within two minutes it’s done.
Which means that all sorts of recipes that rely on egg whites are suddenly within grasp. And knowing us, that means ‘sweets recipes’. The macaron shells are one example, but there’s so much more to try…

Today, we tried out a recipe that we want to do for dessert at klik mother’s Christmas dinner:

Pavlova!