Bobby Flay: Love/Hate

Bobby Flay and the finalists of The Next Food Network Star.

At Toastmasters, they teach you not to start a speech without an opening joke, so:

Q: What do you get when you spell “Bobby Flay” backwards?
A: Tyler Florence.

Get it? Of course you do.

Like a lot of people, I have a love/hate relationship with Food Network. I adore the brainy didacticism of Good Eats, the goofy travelogue of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, and the stoner vibe of Ace Of Cakes. On the other hand, five fingers: I cringe at the encroaching blight of cooking competition shows, wonder why so many people tune in to Food Network Challenge just to watch a cake fall over, and if I have to sit through one more factory tour on Unwrapped, I’m gonna hurt somebody.

This week, Endless Simmer was invited to sit in on a conference call with Bobby Flay; New York native, television chef, and host of the fifth season of The Next Food Network Star. A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Flay. They admire his passion for cooking, drool over his baby-fat good looks, but still hoot when he loses on Throwdown. Like it or not, Flay has become, along with several other single-name chefs, the new face of a post-Emeril Food Network.

Fortunately, we were able to eke out a little insight into the man’s mindset towards his profession and what the world thinks of him:

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Fix The Fuck Up: It’s A French Thing


Editor’s Note: Fix the Fuck Up is an occasional series in which we try to look like we actually know what we’re doing, well, after we’ve already fucked up. Here’s the original massacre.

Eggs are evil.

Not misguided evil, like Darth Vader. Or megalomaniacal evil, like Dr. Moriarty. Or naturally evil, like cats. More like an oblivious, self-centered, lah-de-dah kind of evil; like Q. Eggs just do their own thing, often in spite of your best efforts to tame them. They collapse when you whip them into foams. They turn into waterlogged mush when you overcook them. They force you to blame your significant other for your own emission control problems. But the evilest thing eggs can do is fuck up both baking and cooking; sometimes both at the same time, as was the case with Allyson’s recent quiche quatastrophe.

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Cupcake Rampage: Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

gf mint
a. k. a. Bunraku cupcakes. Get it? Of course you do.

I know several people who have the bad luck to suffer from celiac disease, a disorder of the autoimmune system that manifests itself as varying degrees of wheat intolerance. The impact of this affliction is that they can’t enjoy a lot of the foods that some of us might take for granted; breads, beer, cupcakes, etc.

Vegans and celiacs are like kindred spirits in this sense; we take forever to shop because we inspect every ingredient list in the grocery store aisles, we don’t make any friends at restaurants when we viciously interrogate hapless servers, and we both suffer when we screw up, albeit in different ways. For most vegans, the lifestyle is a conscious choice; celiacs don’t really have a say in the way their bodies behave.

Baking gluten-free isn’t as difficult as it’s been made out to be, although it does require a few extra ingredients and involves an additional step or two. Most gluten-free recipes will call for the use of two or three different kinds of gluten-free flours. The reason for this is that while wheat flour is, for the most part, bland and flat; flours made from other grains and seeds each have their own distinctive flavors and textures that can easily overwhelm and throw off the final result. A good example is corn flour, which has a very identifiable taste and works great for corn muffins or tortillas, but not so much if you’re trying to utilize other flavors, like chocolate.

Recipe after the jump.

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Cupcake Rampage: Frosting 101

o minis
Mini vegan orange vanilla cupcakes with orange buttercream, adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.

Even though I’m only a recent arrival to the home baking scene, I’m an even more recent convert to the merits of frosting. Like any newbie fumbling and grasping about for a culinary bra clasp, I started out with a battery of failures, but once I got the basics and the wheels came off, an iconoclastic cockiness set in. Paper liners? We don’t need no stupid cupcake diapers! We’ll bake these bad boys commando! Sprinkles? Say “sprinkles” again! I dare you! I double dare you! Frosting? Pah! Frosting is the opiate of the baking world! People’s tongues have become numb with sugar and can no longer appreciate the subtlety of pure, unadulterated, naked cupcake meat!

Of course, I learned my lesson. Paper liners don’t just ease cleanup, they can provide a color accent and give people that Christmas morning feeling of unwrapping a gift just for them. Sprinkles and other garnishes may be little more than pieces of flair on the uniform of a baked good, but remember, half of your score comes from presentation. And frosting? Well, if cupcakes make the world go around, then frosting is the axis upon which it spins.

Making your own frosting is one of the easiest things in the world to do. While it isn’t necessarily cheaper than store-bought frosting, it does allow you to control the quality and quantity of the ingredients that go into it. My basic guide, after the jump…

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Cupcake Rampage: Hummingbird Cakes

I know what you’re thinking: Hummingbird cake? WTF? That’s okay, I’d never heard of it, either.

You could call this the third leg of a twisted Triple Crown of Southern-style baking, following the Kentucky Derby day mint julep cupcakes and the beloved red velvet ones before that. To carry the analogy further, if red velvet is Man o’ War, and mint juleps are Secretariat, then hummingbird cake would be Seabiscuit.

Get it? Of course you do.

Hummingbird cake is another creation peculiar to the Deep South with an even more convoluted and obscure history. Also called “granny cake” and “cake-that-doesn’t-last,” some sources claim the original recipe hails from Australia, where it’s also popular for some reason, while others say it started in Jamaica and was bastardized into its current incarnation along the way. The oldest recorded appearance of hummingbird cake is 1978, when it appeared as a reader-submitted recipe in Southern Living magazine. However, Jamaican newspapers have mentioned something called “Doctor bird cake” as early as a decade before that. The national bird of Jamaica is the red-billed streamertail hummingbird, also called the Doctor bird because its long tail feathers and top-hat-like crest makes it look…kind of, sort of, maybe if you squint and pretend it has a tiny birdie stethoscope around its neck…like the nappily-dressed Victorian doctors of old.

What all this has to do with a cake, no one seems to know. The Jamaica story is a stretch, at best. It could just be called what it is because this cake is so sweet, thanks to sugar from three separate ingredients, even a hummingbird would be attracted to it. However it came to be, the recipe is after the jump…

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Fix The Fuck Up: Balance Of The Force


Editors Note: So clearly by creating a series called FRIDAY FUCK-UPS, we’ve acknowledged the fact that this blog is about the creation of food and not the perfection of food. But, we’re come a long way since our early days of just messing around on the stove top and have acquired some serious food talent. Here’s CCC and her explanation on why gansie can’t bake for shit. If you’d like to read the fuck-up, click here for the original blondie recipe.

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who can bake, and those whom baking hates.

Baking, unlike cooking, is a lot like math; it’s all about proportions and balance and equal sums. Cooking is more like poetry or music; there’s a structure that should be followed, but there’s a lot more wiggle room for improvisation and last-minute additions than baking. When you’re cooking a casserole or a pot roast or just mucking around with a sandwich, you can always add stuff here and there, dilute and reduce, taste and re-season. But when you’re baking, it’s live or die. Once your cake or pie goes in the oven, it’s boarded a one-way time train to the future, and when it comes out, it’s either spot-on or sudden death. Yoda summed it up nicely when he philosophized, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

In the case of Gansie’s recent fuck up, it’s a matter of balance. Substitutions are just as workable in baking as they are in cooking, but it’s important that the proportions be taken into consideration. If an ingredient is removed or reduced, there has to be compensation somewhere else, or the whole mix can be thrown out of whack.

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