The Kids Cook Monday – February 21, 2011 “The Baker”

This weekend we had a great time in the kitchen. I have been wanting to cook fresh brioche bread for some time and we finally got around to doing it. Brioche bread doesn’t take long to make, but it does need plenty of time for the dough to rest and rise before baking. Due to a “dad” mistake, I got a little too excited about baking the bread that I failed to let it rise for an additional 8 hours. Alessandra did awesome.

The way that we cook together is that Alessandra is 100% involved with every step. Our recipe came from Ideas In Food and it’s fairly simple. First step was measuring 6 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast into a very large bowl. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Alessandra scooped every cup of flour and sugar, and every teaspoon of salt and yeast. We use a scale and the recipe from the book has gram equivalents. For a child, it’s easier to obtain 975 grams than 6 1/2 cups of flour and it’s great for number recognition. She’s not 4-years-old yet, so it’s a good way to indirectly teach numbers.

Then we mixed in the wet ingredients, 8 large eggs, 1 cup of room-temperature water, 1/2 of whole milk, and 1 pound of unsalted butter. For the first time I had Alessandra crack eggs into a bowl, and she would have made a French chef happy. One handed and ‘POW’, cracked the egg on the bowl without one piece of shell getting into the eggs.

Honestly, she did a better job than I did. The cutest part was when she promptly said that “she needed to wash her hands so she wouldn’t get ‘nella.”  I was a happy dad, for the cleanliness, but also impressed that she knew the word salmonella. Once she came back to the kitchen we mixed the rest of the wet ingredients together. Alessandra made sure to stir all of the eggs together to make sure they were properly blended together. When she finished, we mixed in the melted butter and stirred again. We then poured the wet ingredients into the dry and started to mix. This is where I had to help since it’s hard work to stir dough.

In the end we had enough dough to make two 5″x9″ loafs after the rising period. The first period is after 3 hours you will want to fold the dough into itself, turn it over, and let it rest for an additional 8 hours at room temperature. This was the step that I missed so the bread was a little dense, but very flavorful. Below you can see the finished product where Alessandra had little, but was happy to share with mom and dad.

The source of the recipe is an affordable and approachable book. I bought a hard cover and electronic version of this book because I use it all of the time. I highly recommend Ideas In Food.

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The Kids Cook Monday – February 14th, 2011 “Alessandra Impresses 12”

Sorry for the delay in writing this post. We had quite an event last weekend where I cooked a multiple course dinner for my anniversary dinner. There were a total of 12 people at the dinner, including my wife and I. After a busy week I can finally write a short note on our special night and dinner. Would you believe Alessandra had a big roll in the most successful dish of the night?  Pan seared Pacific Halibut with a mustard vinaigrette. Her vinaigrette made the dish amazing. recipe is from the legendary Eric Ripert, executive chef of Le Bernadin.

Going back several days, Alessandra made a very nice mustard vinaigrette and we saved it for the upcoming dinner party. After cooking some halibut and mashed potatoes, it all came together with her dressing. “Can I lick the plate?”, was one of the quotes we heard. It’s touching when your 3-year-old daughter can contribute to a very special dinner and have a big impression. She got her first glimpse of how her cooking can make other people very happy.

I promise that we are going to cook this week and the plan is making fresh brioche bread and have a ton of fun doing it.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

The Kids Cook Monday – February 7, 2011 Anniversary Dinner

Today is my wife’s and I wedding anniversary. Instead of going out for dinner Alessandra and I are cooking dinner for her mommy. I look forward to sharing the experience later this evening, but we plan on having a salad with mustard vinaigrette, steak, and brussels sprouts. If  we can manage it, maybe make a loaf of brioche bread.

Alessandra did a great job tonight, and I just adore how she loves to eat the food she makes. We started off making the mustard vinaigrette. Getting a large bowl she placed 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar, pepper to taste, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, and then 1/2 cup of olive oil. Alessandra then whisked the salad dressing until this was fully mixed.  Note: we left out the pepper since Alessandra doesn’t like it, and you can easily cut the recipe in half or by a 1/4. We really like this vinaigrette and making more is easier for kids to make.

Recipe:

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • fine white pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients together except for the olive oil. As your child whisks away you can drizzle the olive oil into the mix to help maintain a smooth mixture. Taste and if it’s too acidic add a little more olive oil. The cutest part of making the dressing was when Alessandra dipped her finger into the dressing and took a taste. She nodded in approval and I knew the dressing was ready. I also tasted it, and I agreed with Alessandra’s evaluation.

For the salad I choose a spinach leaf  variety. To clean we placed the leaves into a container with heavily salted water and mixed vigorously.  Salted water will do a great job in cleaning organic produce. We poured the leaves into a colander and let dry.

Getting a 3-year old to eat green leafy produce is a little difficult, but we put a little of Alessandra’s dressing on the salad, and she asked to eat two servings.  Alessandra helped with most of the meal, and the only thing she didn’t do, was cook the steaks. It was another great cooking moment for Alessandra and I.

 

 

Alessandra Helps Buy Pork and Homemade Pesto.

My poor 3-year-old sous chef had the flu this weekend so we didn’t cook together. On the bright side, we did manage to take a trip to visit our supplier of freshly harvested pig. My daughter had a good time and it really wasn’t different from going to a butcher. While we didn’t cook we did share that time together buying a key ingredient for our future dishes. I am also hoping that the intrinsic value of knowing where her food comes from will benefit her since I truly believe that  young children want to know what they eat. To her credit, even with a 102 degree fever she still wanted to watch me cut the meat into smaller sizes. Her open mind and willingness to observe is priceless.

The type of pork we buy is Mangalitsa pig and it is a very special pig, in my opinion.  These pigs age naturally, are fed with high quality ingredients like acorns, and they are not subject to any unnatural chemicals or hormones.  I couldn’t be luckier to have a local supplier, but this pig is available through quality retails outlets. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or recommendations.

One of my favorite cooking moments with Alessandra was when we made homemade pesto. Very easy for children to help with and very tasty. To keep it healthy for children put a small amount of pesto in a plastic bag and then add the cooked pasta. Shake it and coat the pasta to serve.

Here is the recipe and the story behind Alessandra and I making pesto. [Link]