Category Archives: Beach Hippie Kitchen

Recipe: Constitution Day Cookies.

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People react in wildly different ways when they find out I’m Tea Party. Many are surprised. A few unfriend me on Facebook. Others say something along the lines of Good Christ, you finally snapped out of it. About time. On that topic I will just say that my heart is liberal, but I learned long ago that pragmatism has got to trump idealism every time. My conservatism is fiscal first, and Constitutional second; I do love me the Constitution. Lawyers take an oath to defend it. (I wish more of them would remember that.) I am opposed to government having too many of its tendrils infiltrating my life, with the result that I am pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-gun, and pro-Capitalist. What I really am is a libertarian in the most literal, rather than political, sense of that word.

But I digress.

These are called Constitution Day Cookies because they didn’t have any other name; Tony and I invented them, or more accurately I riffed off a number of other recipes as I am so prone to do. He added the crowning touches, being my number one taster and critic. And the first time we made them was on Constitution Day 2011, September 16. This recipe makes about 72 cookies — and uses six eggs and over a pound of chocolate (not counting the chips!), but less than two cups of flour. That right there should tell you something of what they will be like.

Two bits of logistical advice:

  • (1) Be sure to use the parchment paper. You can find it in the area of Target or the grocery store near the tinfoil and waxed paper and such, and it really makes them come out so much better and not stick. Spring for the pre-cut sheets of parchment if you can, because trying to cut the shit makes you want to kill yourself. Silicone liners or silicone cookie sheets also work perfectly for this purpose.
  • Get yourself a cookie scoop, one of those mini ice cream scoop looking things, and use it. These things are a real pain in the ass as drop cookies because of the texture of the dough, which is so much like a certain strain of baby shit I don’t even want to speak of it shit, I spoke of it. It gets all over your hands and makes you want to generally die. When I stopped using a tablespoon and started using the cookie scoop, I was able to lay down my batches in a third of the time.

Okay, okay. Finally: recipe.

Constitution Day Cookies

18 oz. unsweetened chocolate
12 tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) butter

¾ tsp. baking powder
12/3 cup flour

6 extra large eggs
4 cups sugar
1 tbsp. ground espresso powder (optional)
3 tsp. vanilla
dash salt

3 cups any combination of white, butterscotch and chocolate chips

melt together chocolate and butter in 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup or bowl, or top of double boiler, and set aside. combine dry ingredients and set aside. Blend together eggs, sugar, espresso, vanilla and salt thoroughly. blend in chocolate/ butter mixture. fold in flour mixture. fold in chips. allow to set in refrigerator for as long as necessary to reach drop cookie consistency.

drop with cookie scoop or by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone. bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until tops crack. cookies will be soft; allow to set before removing from pans.

Recipe: Butterscotch (Or Not) Bread Pudding.

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I’ve been so remiss — I put up the recipe for the instant bread pudding only, which is a sad, mousy cousin of real home-baked bread pudding.  For about 120 days I’ve been working at developing the ultimate bread pudding recipe based on concepts culled from dozens of recipes I’ve pulled from absolutely everywhere.

My theory of bread pudding is that it mustn’t ever contain cinnamon; cinnamon just makes it taste like apple pie custard, and if you want apple pie, what are you doing fucking about with bread pudding? What you want, instead, is lots of vanilla. (Me and vanilla are getting to be quite an item.) And the best bread pudding I’ve made contains Nestle’s butterscotch chips. But leave them out if you want; the whole idea of bread pudding is to make it your own. Just avoid fruit and cinnamon like the plague, and you’re on the right track.

The other thing you need to know is how to properly chunk the bread. I always use a sourdough or French for texture. If you chunk it too finely, all your butterscotch or chocolate chips or whatever will sink to the bottom and form a dispiriting mass. Chunk it too large and you’ve got a mouthful of custardy cardboard.  The key size for soughdough and French is a chunk about 1″ in diameter; crust pieces should be chunked about half that size.

So, now that you’re educated and without further ado, I give you:

Ultimate Basic Bread Pudding

  • 12 oz. day-old sourdough or French bread, torn into chunks
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 0.5 cup butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
  • 2 cups sugar: I use about 1.5 cups brown and 0.5 cups white, but you can use any mixture of white and brown
  • 4 cups cream (I use 2 cups heavy whipping cream and 2 cups half & half)
  • 0.25 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons Singing Dog vanilla extract; or 1 teaspoon Singing Dog vanilla paste

Chunk your bread into a large bowl and allow to sit uncovered for a while and get a bit dry. While the bread is sitting, beat 3 eggs in a large bowl; beat in sugar, cream, salt and vanilla; beat in butter last, because if it’s too hot it will partially cook the eggs.  When this entire mixture is well blended, stir in the bread chunks. Your mixture should be about the consistency of thick oatmeal. Then stir in any add-ons: semisweet or milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips are my favorites.

Butter one of those oblong baking pans and pour in the pudding mixture. Set pan of pudding on a cookie sheet in the oven in case of overflow. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cover pan with tinfoil to keep top from getting too dry, and return to oven. Bake for another 40-60 minutes or until pudding looks done and is sort of a “jiggly thigh” consistency. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. May be served hot, warm or cold.

How to Serve: Screw that “serve cold” crap. The only way to eat bread pudding is piping hot — I reheat mine in the microwave in a shallow bowl — with half & half poured over it and then whipped cream over all that. I will waive the whipped cream if I absolutely have to, but eating bread pudding without a cream product poured over it is like eating cereal without milk or popcorn without salt: a hollow, empty experience.

How to Rationalize: Bread pudding contains eggs, milk and bread. So there you are with all your wholesome food group basics, except for vegetables. And fuck vegetables anyway — they’re not a real food group. Everyone knows the four basic food groups are dairy, grain, animal protein, and coffee. So you can live on a diet of bread pudding with impunity, and I swear to God, don’t worry about fat content. I have lost about 15 pounds since I stopped eating lowfat placebos. This bread pudding will not only warm your heart and your soul; it will make you thin.

Recipe: Homemade Soft Pretzels.

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Seriously: these are super easy to make, and fun — even when you’re in a hurry; even when you’ve got three kids underfoot.  This is a basic bread dough, really. What makes a pretzel a pretzel is the key step of boiling them in baking soda water, so don’t skip it.

Soft Pretzels

  • 2 packets active dry yeast (0.5 oz. total)
  • 2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • sea salt

Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp. sugar in warm water until bubbly, about 10 minutes.  Beat together egg, butter, salt and sugar.  Add in 2 cups flour and yeast/water solution and blend well.  Gradually add in  remaining 4 1/2 cups flour, switching from spoon to hands for mixing when necessary.  Knead for 5-10 minutes or until sort of rubbery and flexible: bread dough tells you when it’s ready.  Allow to rise 1 hour in large bowl covered with a dishcloth.

When dough has doubled in size, punch down and divide into 16 equal portions.  Roll each portion into a 20″ rope and twist into pretzel shape.  Boil 6 cups water with 1/2 cup baking soda added in.  Toss each finished pretzel into boiling water until it rises to the surface, <5 minutes.  Remove each pretzel and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake pretzels 4 at a time on oiled baking sheet on top rack of oven, or various bits will burn, for 10-15 minutes or until nicely browned.  Transfer to rack for cooling. Makes 16 awesomely delicious soft pretzels.

Startup.

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Doesn’t everyone want to go into business for himself? God knows I always have.  I’m a little too unconventional for the law firm environment, and just when I think I’m blending in I use a word like draconian in conversation and everybody starts looking at me funny. The problem is that I’m too yellow and too spoiled to go into business.  I see what Tony goes through with his receivables and his hired divers and so on, and I just don’t have the strength to sign on for it. I like having that steady paycheck and health insurance, even if it means I die a little bit every day. It’s only a little bit. I can handle it.

I’m back in the law firm environment after two months of unemployment, but while I was out of work I was one busy little beaver. I think I mentioned I was making sugar scrubs in my kitchen.  Those sugar scrubs have taken on a life of their own.  The first couple of weeks back at full-time employment, I could often be found in the kitchen at 1 a.m. concocting scrubs.  I couldn’t keep up that schedule for long, of course, so most of my unemployment projects have gone by the wayside.  But the sugar scrubs are going strong, and I think I may have developed my first keeper, the prototype.

And I’m thinking about trying to sell them locally on a small scale.  The marketing would have to be geared toward quality and economy — department store bath and body products at food co-op prices.  Something like that.  I have a package design in mind, and a brand name: Beach Hippie Botanicals.  Made by a hippie in a kitchen, not a corporate researcher in a lab! Something like that.

It’s a tempting sideline, because it’s pretty much a no-cost startup. The scrub I’m starting with is made from brown sugar, raw sugar, a touch of maple sugar (that shit is expensive), coconut, olive and hazelnut oils,vanilla and maple syrup.  Stuff from my kitchen.  My first batch was just too subtle as far as scent, so I boiled down my maple syrup and vanilla until it was thick and dense, and that made the difference. (Caveat: mix the syrup into the scrub as soon as it starts to cool, because it hardens into something like taffy and you’ll break your arm trying to blend it.)

So I have my first product: Beach Hippie Maple Blondie sugar scrub.  It’s named for my friend Tina, who is blonde and Canadian.  I’ll slap a maple leaf on the jar if I can afford it!  So now I have to develop some other varieties.  Pure vanilla, of course, although I have to make my own essential oils and it’ll be a while before they’re ready.  (I can make vanilla absolute for about $5 a fluid ounce; it costs about $15/ounce if purchased commercially.) Coconut.  And an all-purpose skin oil called Boolie Oil, because I dream big.  If this ever gets off the ground, it’s all for Boolie to have someday, so I want our little trick product to have her name.

And when they’re all perfected, I’ll get some packaging and start making ’em up — right here in my kitchen.  I have the jars all picked out; they cost $0.80 each, less if you buy in bulk.  The labels I believe will be in black and white, to keep costs down, and I have a vision of what that’s going to look like, although I will probably have to hire someone to do the actual artwork.  I have to get some brochures together or whatnot. I’ll probably start with the swap meets and Fish Fry, local stuff — I hope the tables don’t cost too much. For swap meet sales, I’m imagining a “design your own scrub” option — choose your sugar (white, brown, raw, turbinado, coconut, maple), your oils (coconut, hazelnut, jojoba, almond, shea) and your scents.  Come back in 15 minutes and pick up your custom scrub.  Ah, hell, it might sell.  Sugar scrubs are the best thing on earth for your skin, especially if you live in So Cal and are forever bombarded by the sun.

It’s a no-lose situation.  I’ll start out with small batches and keep it simple.  I’ll try a few tricks to get them to sell: see if a few of the local New Age or health food shops will carry the stuff, go to a few bed and breakfasts with free trial size scrubs they can leave in the guest rooms. Quaint local products: tourists like that. And if no one gives a damn, I’ll stash my stock and have enough sugar scrub to last me the rest of my life.

If, on the other hand, it was to take off — oh, I dream of it sometimes, although I don’t dare to dream very much. Getting out of the legal business couldn’t possibly be that simple.  But then I look at a number of other small local businesses: Hurley, Volcom, Urban Decay. They all started out the same way, and now they’re huge. Nationwide. It can be done, and if I don’t roll the dice, I can’t win.

Now to find the time to finish working on the damned things. And take out a fictitious business name. And run my little product up the flagpole. Maybe someone will salute. Project! I’m stoked.

O Brave New World!

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I have recently developed a bit of a dietary fixation on bread pudding, much as a toddler might eat nothing but Cheerios one week followed by nothing but Barbie shoes the next.  I think unemployment brought it on; I was baking a lot, sometimes two or three complete projects in one day, and decided I was sick of cookies.  I forget the exact thought process that brought me to bread pudding, but it was a flash of genius, because I’ve always loved it. Unfortunately, my mama and my mama’s mama have passed on, so I hadn’t been running into a whole lot of bread pudding. So finding myself with a lot of free time and suddenly remembering bread pudding!!! was a bit of an epiphany.

Dude, I practically live on the shit.  I bake a bread pudding about every three days and usually give some to Ben, although I’m usually sorry I did afterward when I run out of bread pudding.  The part of the pudding I don’t give away lies in state in the fridge, awaiting the hour for the midnight snack.

Last night I headed to the fridge in the small hours and suddenly remembered there wasn’t any bread pudding left.  This is a lot like a junkie discovering he already finished that bindle after all, I’m betting.  I paced around for a few minutes in a funk, determined to have bread pudding or starve to death where I stood.

And this is where the deus ex machina comes in, because isn’t the Internet a bit of that? I adore the Internet, research junkie that I am, because I can get the answer to any question in seconds anytime, anywhere.  And any recipe.  So I Googled instant bread pudding and came back with a nearly perfect recipe which took me 10 minutes to throw together and which was perfectly serviceable. And then I marched my satisfied ass to bed. And here is the tweaked version of the recipe. Don’t skimp on the vanilla. Trust me.

Microwave Bread Pudding

  • 1 cup cubed bread, preferably sourdough or French (1-2 slices)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 half & half or cream (use milk only if there is no cream and you are absolutely jonesin’)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or you can skip this and use 3 TB of white sugar instead of 2)
  • Chocolate or butterscotch chips if desired; cinnamon if you must; fruit at your peril

(1) Put the bread in a fairly shallow, single-serving, microwave-safe bowl.

(2) Whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, and sugar. Pour over the bread in the bowl, stirring gently to combine.

(3) Stir in chocolate chips and/or other add-ins if any

(4) Microwave for 3 minutes, uncovered. The very center can look slightly wet, but it shouldn’t be liquid.

(5) Remove from the microwave. Unless you are a complete oaf, serve piping hot in a shallow bowl with half & half poured over top and/or whipped cream.

(6) Put that fucking cinnamon down. I can see that.