Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cooking in Country

Armenia PC brings all the volunteers in for a conference around the time of Thanksgiving, and the volunteers gain access to the kitchen to prepare a Thanksgiving feast. This year, I decided to throw in my favorite dessert along with the traditional pies.

Ah, Truffles! Is there anything better?

I tracked down dark chocolate bars, 35% cream, unsalted butter, but alas, no light corn syrup. My recipe, gathered from the Tartine cookbook, calls for the syrup for texture. Having none in country, I made a simple syrup from brown sugar.

When finished, I poured the liquid truffles into plastic molds which had previously held cheap, Armenian chocolates. 2 days later, a few hours before dinner, I moved the truffles into a freezer to stiffen them up (they were far creamier than my US attempts), and popped them out.

How did they turn out? They were awesome. A bit melty in the hand, but delicious. And now I'm ready to start prepping for homemade marshmallows.

UPDATE: So, over the winter, I wanted to make them again, but was annoyed at the mess and the use of my brown sugar (has to be shipped from the US) and modified the recipe. But, the good news is it's even easier and made a superior truffle.


500g (~ 1lb) dark chocolate, approximately 75% is what I use.
400g (1 can) of sweetened, condensed milk
100g (7 tbsp) of butter, unsalted and cubed

Set up a double boiler, and melt the chocolate. Cut the butter while the chocolate melts, and stir in until completely melted and mixed. In quarter can amounts, pour the milk in while stirring. As soon as the mixture is well mixed, it's ready if you'll be using molds. If not, wait until stiff enough to roll into balls. Makes approximately 70 truffles.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Renewed Interest

So, my training for Peace Corps is coming to a close and I cannot wait much longer! I've been away from my/a kitchen for way too long. This summer I've assisted in 2 batches of granola, an order of pumpkin seeds, and a few fixings for a 4th of July barbecue (Armenian khorovats-style). This is less than an afternoon really back in my life on native soil.

But in just over a week, I move to my new site in Berd, Armenia. I'll still be living with a family, but my American site-mates are well versed in my cooking...ahem...prowess, and have promised to lend me kitchens as needed.

I finished Julie and Julia today and have found a renewed sense of vigor and need to be in the kitchen. I've yet to see the movie, which I suspect to be radically different, but found the book to be filled with the right blend of profanity, frankness, Whedonverse references, and <3 of cooking. I have no desire to start with the basics of French cuisine, but I do want to get my kitchen in some order. I'm already signed up to help with Thanksgiving meal.

So, I'm perusing recipes and I think I want to try this as soon as I'm able: Homemade Marshmallow.

Otherwise, Brown sugar and/or Molasses is impossible to track down over here. I'm going to be requiring a great deal to be shipped over. Feeling generous?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brown Sugar

When I first made this blog, well, it was to be my backup project. I had wanted my own cooking blog for a long time, but was waiting because I had applied for the Peace Corps. There came a very sad day in which I thought I was not going to pass the application process, and in an effort to remain positive, I registered as a home for my stories about cooking for and by guys. I'll go in the full reasons in a different post soon, but for the time being, I was pleasantly surprised when I was not rejected from the applications process.

But that meant giving up my ability to freely bake. So, my dishes are packed up, my kitchen is rented by another and I'm in Armenia, where I was told no men cook and there is no such thing as brown sugar.

This actually was the hardest thing to come to terms with. Baking was something I did for stress relief, to impress those I wanted to impress, and perhaps to win over those who were not as easily impressed by my awesomeness (my other means was to run, and well, this country wasn't built for runners, either).

And so, I set out on the great quest to find brown sugar! And you know what less than a month and a half in country, and I succeeded. One store in Yerevan (the capital) had brown sugar, though granulated, and I now feel ready to begin both my Peace Corps experience and baking under hardship. What shall I bake? My mom's blonde brownies. I can't think of anything greater that makes me think of home, and it's also something really great to share with American's who might not be enjoying the varied sweets over here.

Pictures and what-not to follow!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Welcome to

Welcome to, home of John Q. Doe and his friends.

I'm a baker by hobby and an eater by nature. This blog is an attempt to share what I've learned being a guy who can bake. I've recruited a few friends to help me, but ultimately this blog is about baking/cooking/candy making and in a way that isn't overly-complicated or delicate. Most of the recipes here will require some skill unless noted for beginners. And here are some basic things you should get right now beyond spoons, spatulas and mixing-bowls:

  • A cookbook you like. I am a big fan of The Tartine Bakery of San Francisco for Desserts, though it requires an intermediate level of knowledge. Beginners should grab something like The New Basics since it will give good advice on many of the processes that will be discussed.

  • An oven-thermometer. Cheap ones are about $5. Your oven's knob isn't accurate. And if it is, it was worth a couple of bucks to know for sure.

  • Baking stone and parchment paper.

  • Patience, because you will screw things up. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Baking Soda. Old Chemistry teacher taught me that a mixture of baking soda and water (in a paste consistency) helped to removed the sting of burns. He was right, and I've had lots of opportunities to experience it.
There will be more, but this is a good start. Stick around, I hope to teach you something new.