Recently in David’s Favorite Posts category

Showgirl Cupcakes

(I recent met Bryce Corbett, who wrote A Town Like Paris, a book about his life in Paris, where he found the girl of his dreams. Since he’s a terrific writer, I asked him to do a guest post, which included our visit behind-the-scenes at one of Paris’ most exciting attractions. -David)

There are many fringe benefits to being married to a Paris showgirl.

shay blog

Great tables at exclusive restaurants, never being called upon to fetch that hard-to-reach bowl from the top shelf (have you seen how tall these girls are?) and always stepping out with someone who knows how to accessorize with feathers (truly an underrated virtue in a woman).

But it’s safe to say that the greatest fringe benefit to having a showgirl wife is also one that you’d probably least expect: She makes the most amazing cupcakes.

Now at first blush, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a woman who high-kicks on the Champs Elysées each night in feathers, sequins and not much else would have a natural aversion to baked goods. You would imagine that eating like a glutton and baking like a demon would be two practices well and truly off-limits to your average showgirl.

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Triple Chocolate Scotcheroos

scotcheroos

Some people, when they travel, they look for hotels with amenities like spas or room service. Others look for hotels near restaurants or local attractions. Me? I look for ones near supermarkets. And on my recent trip through the states, my traveling companion was shocked that I’d managed to pack 3 empty suitcase into one larger one, the limit of our collective baggage allowance.

Not to mention our two carry-ons—”someone” was ready for some serious shopping…

I’ve been dying to make a batch of Scotcheroos for a long time and although I’ve become pretty adept at finding substitutions for American ingredients here in Paris, butterscotch chips had me scratching me head.

Continue Reading Triple Chocolate Scotcheroos…

Food Bloggers on Columbus Isle, the Bahamas

On my vacation, I loved posting updates about what I was doing, but I’m sure you can understand that I wasn’t all that keen on sitting in my room slouched over my laptop. Yes, I love and missed you all.

However every relationship has its limits. And there was something more important standing between you and I:

drinks

But on the 9+ hour plane ride home, I didn’t have much to do…especially since the in-flight entertainment was non-functional…so I gathered up my photos and wrote a lengthy wrap-up of the trip. And as soon as I got home, I published the story and pictures, only to check back a few minutes later and find that half the post was missing.

And no, not the part with the thong. You’re not getting off that easily. I’ll get to that later…

club med huts

Like the inhabitants of a tropical island on LOST, my post was equally without bearings, floating out there on the internet somewhere, adrift and listless, where no one could find it. So I cobbled it back together the best I could, republished it and poof!&mdashed;vanished again. Like the folks who follow that program, I’m sure I could start some sort of conspiracy theory about why it’s happening, but I think I should just move on and hope the third time’s a charm.

And if I keep comparing my blog to LOST, my part better not be played by the doctor-guy, because if it was, do you think I’d be rewriting my post? I’d be staring at myself in the mirror instead.

palmtrees

The note arrived in January, just as winter was wearing me down, an invitation to head with some of my favorite people to the Bahamas. In the history of Gmail, I don’t think anyone’s ever hit the ‘Reply‘ button so fast.

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French Train Mix

A lot of people love to travel. I am not one of them.

Sure I love wandering through exotic markets, exploring restaurants in new cities, and sitting under an umbrella on the beach. But the hard part for me to deal with is getting there. I know that travel used to be romantic and fun, but it’s not anymore. And people like the whiny woman sitting across the aisle from me who just couldn’t believe that her enormous suitcase won’t fit in the overhead bin just above her seat and was refusing to put it elsewhere, doesn’t add to the allure.

bag of mix

The main thing I don’t like about travel is this: I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t like being trapped in a plane, unable to move (even when seated), I never sleep well unless I’m in my own bed, and call me crazy, but I like the option of going to the bathroom when I need to go to the bathroom. I’d make a horrible prisoner. And after fifteen minutes trapped in my seat, one can only read about electric butter slicers, portable water washers, and the latest in nose-hair removal technology so many times in the Sky Mall catalog.

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Braised Short Ribs Recipe

ribs

When I was in the states last year, I was in a coffee shop and for some reason, the conversation with the folks turned to what I was doing in their city. I’m not sure how they knew I wasn’t from around there, but I can only assume it was my startlingly-good French accent, which is always a sure give-away. I mentioned I was a cook and was taping a television segment.

Right then, stopping the conversation, the woman who owned the shop asked me, “Are you the David Lieberman?”

Okay, before you get your panties in a knot, in my defense, I’ve had my name butchered to death on more than on occasion and we both cook and write cookbooks. So I said, “Yes, that’s me. Nice to meet you.”

The next day when I stopped in again for my coffee, the same woman ran up to me, excitedly, “Oooh David, my friends were so excited that I met David Lieberman!” While I was thrilled to have someone happy to meet me, I’d never had someone that excited.

Continue Reading Braised Short Ribs Recipe…

89 random things about me

Over on Facebook, there’s been a thing going around called 25 random things about me. Inspired by Pim posting hers, I thought I’d do the same.

Except I got carried away, editing and adding a few more.

1. When I started my blog, I wished I have done it anonymously so I could really say what I wanted to say. Now I’m glad I didn’t, because I can actually say what I want to say, and stand behind it, too.

2. Whenever someone who smokes shrugs and says to me, “I don’t care. When it’s time for me to die, it’s time for me to die”, I wonder if they’ll say the same thing when their larynx is removed and they’ll have to say that through a hole in their throat.

3. I am very proud of all the Americans who started small-batch chocolate companies. I think it’s one of our proudest achievements and sums up the best qualities of America.

4. When people ask me how do I stay so thin, it seems like common sense that the answer is because I do the opposite of what people do who become fat.

5. If I have cookies around, I will eat at least one first thing in the morning, before breakfast.

6. I think Flickr is the best-conceived, and best-used, site on the internet. I hope it never changes.

7. I hate being served breakfast. Especially in fancy hotels. I’d rather stay in a dump than face a lavish hotel breakfast and fawning waiters in the morning.

Continue Reading 89 random things about me…

Why and When To Use (or Not Use) Corn Syrup

corn syrup

Because this comes up frequently, I’d like to take a moment to explain why and when one uses corn syrup in recipes. I use it judiciously, when I feel it will make a discernible difference in a recipe. For those of you who are regular readers of the site and my books, you’ll notice almost all of the time, I hardly ever use pre-packaged or convenience foods in my baking. So when I do call for something, like corn syrup, it’ll often be in amounts of one teaspoon or a tablespoon. And since most recipes feed eight-to-twelve people, proportionally, that’s a pretty small amount.

For example, the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies with Salted Butter Caramel has one tablespoon of corn syrup added to the caramel, to keep it smooth. Since the recipe makes fifty cookies, that means each cookie contains less than 1/16th of a teaspoon of corn syrup.

Yes, people who live in America probably do eat too much corn syrup. (High fructose, or otherwise.) That can be controlled and monitored by using less-packaged foods and reducing the amounts of fast foods that you consume. If you’re worried about corn syrup “hiding” in foods, read labels, cook for yourself as much as possible, and buy locally-produced products from smaller producers who are less-likely to put additives in foods, so you’ll be in control of how much you’re eating. I am a fan of natural and alternative liquid sweeteners, such as agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, rice syrup, and golden syrup, and do have recipes that use them, and encourage folks to give them a try, where applicable.

There’s a lot of studies, medical reports, advertising, propaganda, and all sorts of information being disseminated from a variety of sources. Evidence does point to high-fructose corn syrup contributing more than other sweeteners, to obesity and other health issues, and you can search around and come to your own conclusions. Since I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or medical researcher, I’ve provided some links at the end of this post for further reading and you can draw your own conclusions.

My personal philosophy about corn syrup consumption: Like other foods that don’t meet a nutritionally-ideal profile, I limit my consumption, but don’t obsess about it. I drink alcohol and coffee. I sometimes eat red meat and cheese, plus chocolate, ice cream, sugar, and marshmallows, all of which have their detractors, too. I walk and ride a bike as much as possible and try to eat a healthy diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and whole grains, which offset treating myself to those indulgences.

Corn Syrup FAQs

Why do some recipes have corn syrup in them?

Corn syrup is an invert sugar, which means that it prevents sugar crystals from forming. Microscopically, sugar has jagged edges and when you melt it, sugar liquefies. But if you keep cooking it to a syrup, those jagged edged-fellas want to re-attach themselves to others. Corn syrup acts as interfering agent, which ‘interfere’ with that process. Honey, agave, and the like, don’t have the same properties.

If making a caramel, and a recipe calls for corn syrup, you can substitute a dash of lemon juice or cream of tartar, which performs nearly the same function.

In other cases, like my Best Chocolate Sauce, corn syrup is used to give it a shine. (See below.)


Is the corn syrup one buys in the supermarket the same at high-fructose corn syrup?

No. According to Harold McGee, high-fructose corn syrup goes through an additional process to make it sweeter than standard corn syrup. Karo, the company that makes most of the corn syrup found on supermarket shelves in America, has come out with Karo Lite, which contains no high-fructose corn syrup. I haven’t used it so I can’t comment on how it works, or if its nutritional claims are sound or not.


Will corn syrup make you fat?

Yes.

So will sugar, as well as other sweeteners. And so will French fries, red meat, chocolate, dried apricots, heavy cream, honey, nuts, beer, wine, maple syrup, martinis, croissants, and tacos, if you eat too much of them.


When can another liquid sweetener be substituted for corn syrup in a recipe?

Like the aforementioned chocolate sauce, the corn syrup is there for the shine and body. Not to prevent crystallization. So you can use another liquid sweetener, although I’d use one that was mild-flavored (like agave) or close to neutral, to keep the chocolate flavor pronounced.

I can’t think of any cake recipes that have corn syrup in them, but my Butterscotch-Pecan Cookie Cups uses it to keep the batter smooth and to make sure the cookies will caramelize properly in the oven. In a recipe like that, I would not use another liquid sweetener.


When can one not substitute something for the corn syrup called for in a recipe?

For candy making, I strongly suggest sticking to the recipe. If a recipe calls for boiling a sugar syrup, unless specified, stick to using corn syrup. Especially ones cooked to a higher temperature. Honey, and the like, tend to burn when cooked down, so care should be taken to avoid that.

If the recipe calls for cooking a syrup to a relatively low temperature (below 230F, or 110C), you can experiment with other liquid sweeteners, but I can’t advise in each and every case. You’ll just have to try it and see.


If one wants to substitute another liquid sweetener, such as corn syrup, honey, or golden syrup, for granulated sugar, what proportion can one use?

In general, liquid sweeteners should be used in a 3/4s proportion to granulated sugar if substituting. That is, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 3/4 cup honey, or another liquid sweetener. If baking a cake or cookies, lower the baking temperature 25ºF and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per cup of liquid sweetener you’re using.

If substituting another liquid sweetener for corn syrup, use equal amounts.


Why do some recipes for ice creams and sorbets have corn syrup in them?

I very rarely use corn syrup in sorbets, and don’t use it in ice creams. Because it has more viscosity than sugar, some recipes call for corn syrup to keep the churned and frozen sorbets and ice creams smoother and creamier.

In my recipes, this is infrequently done in sorbets that have a lot of water, such as lemon, lime, or grape sorbets, which tend to freeze very hard and get icy. If a recipe calls for corn syrup, it’s usually a minimum quantity. In those cases, another liquid sweetener can be used, or granulated sugar. If using sugar, increase the amount by 25%.


What can be used if corn syrup isn’t available where I live?

Glucose is what most professionals use and can be substituted 1 for 1. It can come from different sources, including corn or wheat. You can look for it online or visit a professional baking supply store in your area.

Further Reading and Related Links:

Looking at the Health Claims of Agave Nectar (Wall Street Journal)

Corn Syrup (Culinate)

A Recipe to Replace Corn Syrup: How to Make Cane Syrup (The Kitchn)

Corn Syrup vs HFCS (Serious Eats)

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

King Corn (Documentary film)

Care for Some Mercury with Your Oatmeal? (The Ethicurian)

Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Making Us Fat? (Seattle Times)

Karo Corn Syrup (FAQs)

A Few Favorite Sweeteners (101 Cookbooks)

Agave Nectar: the High-Fructose Health Food Fraud (Natural News)

The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollen

The Whole Truth About High-Fructose Corn Syrup (Consumer Reports)

A Sweetener with a Bad Rap (New York Times)

Agave Nectar: A Sweetener for Any Occasion (Popular Science)

Corn Syrup (Wikipedia)

Glucose (Wilton)

Agave Nectar (Amazon)

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Lyle’s Golden Syrup (Amazon)

American Baking in Paris

Gougères: A Recipe for French Cheese Puffs

gougères

One thing I learned during the last few days of the past year could be summed up in four words: Don’t ever turn fifty.

Do whatever you can do to avoid it. I’m still reeling from the trifecta, the one-two-three punch of Christmas, my Birthday, then New Year’s Eve, the last of which put me way over the top. And now that I’m in my declining years, recovery is much harder than it was just a mere week ago. I’m going downhill, fast, my friends.

The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning, my head clouded by a combination of Krug champagne, Château Lafite Rothchild 1964 and 1969 (not that I know the difference, but since the ’69 was in a 4-bottle, a gigantic double magnum with a funky-looking label…I knew we were drinking something special) was right from the “What on earth was I thinking?” file.

I was wondering why I invited five people over for dinner and drinks tonight.

Continue Reading Gougères: A Recipe for French Cheese Puffs…