Bakery Review: Craftsman and Wolves (San Francisco, CA)


There are so many great bakeries in the Bay Area like Tartine, Bouchon, and Sandbox, and Craftsman and Wolves is my new favorite.  C & W opened last year, and what I like about it is that almost everything has a modern twist.  They are famous for the “Rebel Within” a sausage and scallion muffin with a soft-boiled egg in the middle, the yolk oozing out as you cut into it.  How did they do that?  There are bold flavors, like a Thai scone with coconut, dried mango, ginger, and green curry, or a peppery smoked cheddar gougere.  There is a decadent “Devil” chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache and bitter chocolate toffee, and a refined and delicate chocolate caramel eclair. The brownie had a layer of delicious, gooey salted caramel.  The blueberry muffin was moist with a hint of lemon. The croissants are on point, filled with proscuitto, tomato jam, and other rotating flavors.  Oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip cookies are done well, especially the valrhona chocolate chip cookie, where it appeared like there was a sheet of chocolate that ran through the middle of the cookie.  They also have a great hot chocolate.  The Banana cube cake is maybe one of the best pastries I have ever eaten.  Basically everything has been truly well crafted and delicious, and I look forward to trying other items on the menu, such as their sandwiches, cakes, and breads.

C & W is located on a very trendy block of Valencia between 18th and 19th in the Mission, right next to the Dandelion Chocolate factory, a small batch artisan chocolate shop, and Mission Cheese, a cheese tasting bar.

Link to Craftsman and Wolves here.  There is a great video of Chef William Werner putting together one of his precise cube cakes here.

Craftsman & Wolves on Urbanspoon
 

Restaurant Review: Ramen Shop (Oakland, CA)


Baby spot prawn miso ramen with ground pork belly, soy marinated egg, corn, torpedo onions, wood ear mushrooms, and shungiku

Baby spot prawn miso ramen with ground pork belly, soy marinated egg, corn, torpedo onions, wood ear mushrooms, and shungiku

Ramen Shop in Oakland just might be serving the best ramen in the Bay Area right now.  This restaurant opened with a lot of hype due to the pedigree of its chefs, alumni from Chez Panisse in Berkeley who had gone to Japan to train in ramen.  Write-ups appeared in Bay Area publications and even the New York Times, and crowds quickly followed.  Ramen Shop is known for taking a Northern California approach to ramen, sourcing their ingredients locally from NorCal and making everything from scratch, including their noodles, which is something not many local ramen places do.

They typically serve three different bowls of ramen, a vegetarian broth with Meyer lemon, and miso, shoyu (soy), or shio (salt) broths.  The toppings also rotate but typically include chasu (pork) and seafood.  I had the miso ramen  with baby prawns, corn, and a soft cooked egg.  I added chasu for an additional $3, and I am glad I did, because it was smoky, rich, tender, and delicious.  The broth was excellent, complex and flavorful without being overly fatty like some ramen places.  The homemade noodles were toothsome and perfectly cooked and definitely make Ramen Shop unique.  Really great.

I have tried Santouka and Kahoo in San Jose, Orenchi in Santa Clara, Santa and Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, Namu Gaji in San Francisco, and a few more that were unmemorable.  I think that Ramen Shop ranks right up there with Ramen Dojo as my favorite.

The restaurant is located in the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, right across the street from the famous Zachary’s Pizza.  There is an open kitchen with counter seating as well as lots of tables.  Ramen Shop opens for dinner at 4pm, and it’s a good idea to go early, because they do not take reservations and the restaurant is very popular.

Link to Ramen Shop here.

Recipe Review: Thomas Keller Bouchon Pain au Chocolat, Pain aux Raisins


Pain au chocolat

Pain au chocolat

Pain aux raisins

Pain aux raisins

Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook has an amazing, meticulous recipe for croissant dough, which can be used for classic French pastries: traditional croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), and pain aux raisins.  This is a weekend project, and I literally mean the whole weekend.  I complained about the meticulousness of some recipes in this book in a previous post, but I actually really appreciated the level of precision in the recipe for the croissant dough.  Everything worked out exactly as described, and it would have been frustrating to put in all that work and have something not turn out correctly.  Case in point: rolling out the croissant dough to 19 x 9 inches, so that one could trim the edges for a 17.5 x 8 rectangle that could then be divided into ten equal rectangles for the chocolate croissants.  Also, the trimmings made a nice bonus traditional croissant.

Thomas Keller recipes often have one or two ingredients that are quite specialized, which makes for quite the scavenger hunt.  For the croissant dough, a small amount of diastatic malt powder is added to the dough.  Malt powder comes from malted barley and contains the sugar maltose.  Diastatic refers to the presence of enzymes such as amylase, which are preserved if the malting process is performed below a certain temperature.  The presence of maltose and the enzymes works together with the yeast to make the dough more complex and also contributes to the color.  Diastatic malt powder is not available at Safeway, Whole Foods, Draeger’s, Berkeley Bowl, Bi-Rite Grocery, or Rainbow Grocery in the Bay Area.  Dry malt extract, found in home-brewing supply stores, I am pretty sure is not correct.  I found “malt powder” in a Korean grocery store in Santa Clara, but I have no idea whether it is diastatic or non-diastatic.  Regardless, the pastries turned out great using this malt powder.  I found Bird’s brand custard powder, used to make pastry cream, at The Milk Pail in Mountain View.  Finally, chocolate batons or chocolate pieces used for the chocolate croissants can be found at Spun Sugar in Berkeley.  I think everything could be found on-line, but what’s the fun in that?

The croissant dough starts with a poolish, a yeast, water, and flour mixture that ferments overnight and is used as a starter for the croissant dough.  The croissant dough contains flour, water, sugar, salt, butter, and the poolish.  A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment makes kneading the dough easy.  The dough rises for about an hour.  Then a 330 gm (11.6 oz) block of European-style butter is enrobed in the dough and then laminated several times (rolled out and folded over itself to create layers).  This takes a lot of time and work, because the dough has to be put in the freezer after each fold to keep the butter cold, and the cold dough is a bit difficult to roll.  One can then use the dough right away, but I kept mine in the refrigerator overnight.  I used half of the dough to make the pain aux raisins, and half to make the pain au chocolat.  To make the pain aux raisins, there are two sub-recipes, Rum-soaked Raisins and Pastry Cream.  Rum-soaked raisins are easy – raisins are soaked overnight in simple syrup and a splash of rum (actually, 30 gm to be more precise).  The pastry cream uses egg yolks, vanilla bean, whole milk, and custard powder and requires constant attention over low-heat for the thickening process.

The croissants had shatteringly crispy outer flaky layers, and were buttery, rich, and delicious.  Pretty much perfect versions of pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins, fresh out of the oven were incredible.  I might have liked a little more pastry cream in the pain aux raisins, but this is a minor complaint.

Cost: about $20 for 10 chocolate croissants and 10 pain aux raisins.  This includes ingredients that were used in limited amounts, like the diastatic malt powder (3 gm or about one teaspoon), custard powder, and chocolate batons.

Time: minimum time 22 hours.  Mine took about 34 hours from start to finish with active time of about 7-8 hours.

Level of difficulty: Thomas Keller.  I have a new scale for level of difficulty: easy, moderate, difficult, and “Thomas Keller”

Deliciousness: incredible (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: although the pastries were really good, this is probably a one-off due to the amount of time required.

Link to Bouchon Bakery cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Sambal Chicken Skewers


Sambal Chicken Skewers

Sambal Chicken Skewers

I always look forward to the grilling issue of Bon Appetit that arrives every July.  Last year’s Grilled Turmeric and Lemongrass Chicken was absolutely delicious and one of the best recipes I have made in the past couple years.  In 2013, the cover recipe is for Sriracha-Glazed Sambal Chicken Skewers.  Sriracha is a fiery, vinegary hot sauce – a thick, Asian version of Tabasco.  Chicken is marinated in sambal oelek (chile and garlic paste), sriracha, fish sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar.  The marinade is then reduced to a basting sauce that is applied to the chicken as it grills.  This is very good recipe and is quite spicy with a lot of flavor.

Cost: about $10

Level of difficulty: moderate

Deliciousness: great (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Lobster Summer Rolls


Lobster Summer Roll

Lobster Summer Roll

For a different take on lobster rolls, here is a version by David Tanis published in the New York Times that uses lobster meat in a Vietnamese summer roll preparation.  It is relatively simple to make after steaming the lobster and removing the claw, knuckle, and tail meat.  The lobster is tossed with ginger and scallions, then wrapped in a rice paper roll with avocado, cucumber, basil, and cilantro.  There is a dipping sauce with lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, chile, and peanuts.  This is a very light, refreshing lobster roll, different from the richness of the New England-style lobster roll.  Try both!

Cost: market price for lobster

Time: about one hour

Level of difficulty: moderate

Deliciousness: delicious (4 out of five stars)

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

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