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We chat with Great British Bake Off judge and author of “BAKE” Paul Hollywood about the best and worst parts of his job, his secret to perfect scones and what a bin lid is—and why it's so delicious. Plus, journalist Alex Beggs tells us about cookbooks for pets; J. Kenji López-Alt takes wok cooking outdoors; and we make Spicy Chinese Beef Skewers.
Questions in this episode:
"My fiancée and I just bought our first home together and need to stock our new kitchen. Are there any fun specialty items you can recommend to add to the new kitchen?"
"I have recently gotten into making macarons. My question is this: if I’m using an Italian style recipe, other than the method, are there any other changes that would need to be made if I want to use the French technique?"
"Any suggestions on a sweeter-lemonier cookie?"
"How can I sell my baklava to stores?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX and I'm your host Christopher Kimball. So, what do you feed your pet maybe some kibble and some wet food or maybe leftover burgers as a treat. On tick tock Shaun McDonald cooks gourmet food for his pet.
Sean McDonald: Choosing the new dish three for my baby puppy Hazelnut. Hazel ready for more food obviously has a refined palate but she also loves modern minimalistic art, so I'm going to try to incorporate that into his dish.
CK: When Sean a restaurant chef cooks at home for his chocolate lab Hazelnut he doesn't use any seasoning or salt. But he does think about technique and the best ingredients
SM: I did Tournedos Rossini once were just like beef bordelaise sauce, which is like a bone marrows ___foie gras. I put a little bit of truffle on there. And then on like a piece of sourdough. I did. prawn with the celery and the prawn broth. I did puppy friendly sushi. So, I put all these like weird things on sushi. I did like some traditional sushi, but I also did some where it was like duck liver, chicken heart, like all these dog friendly kind of raw foods.
CK: Like many restaurant chefs, Sean says he doesn't really cook for himself, but he'll always cook for Hazelnut.
SM: Always. Of course. I remember saying it before I got her. I was like, I'm going to feed her. She's going to be the best fed dog ever on the planet. I want her to eat the tastiest food even though everything probably tastes the same to her because she's a dog.
CK: That was Sean McDonald. You can find him on Instagram at Shawnee Mac D. To help tell the story of cooking for pets. I'm joined now by journalist Alex Beggs. Her article for taste is called Bone Appetit: The short and happy history of cookbooks for dogs. Alex, welcome to Milk Sreet
Alex Beggs: Oh, thanks for having me.
CK: So, here's my question before dog food before cookbooks for dogs. You know, what do people feed their dogs like 100 years ago?
AB: My understanding is that people fed their dogs the cheapest possible meat they could find.
CK: Okay, that makes sense. But then just after the First World War, you could actually go out and buy commercial dog food. And then eventually a few people had this great idea, you know, why not do a cookbook for dogs? When did that happen? And why did that happen?
AB: Yeah, I was I was kind of surprised. It took until the mid 60s to have a cookbook for dogs. The first book that I was able to track down was Martin Gardner's book, The Secret of Cooking for Dogs. And he also did The Secret of Cooking for Cats. And I tracked him down to talk about it to confirm yours was the first book, right? And he said, yes, that was the whole reason he did it. He went to the library, he made sure it hadn't been done before. That was very important for him to be trailblazing. And so, his is the first and it's absolutely delightful.
CK: And this comes hard on the heels of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So yes, just a few years before, yes.
AB: I don't know if they have much in common, but I'd like to think I could find something if had to
CK: Well, I love MFK Fisher she wrote her I think a review of the cat book.
AB: Yes, of both books. Yeah, in the New Yorker of all things. No pet cookbook has been reviewed in the New Yorker since.
CK: She has this great quote, “Mr. Gardner as soon as the cats will eat soup. I've been trying to prove this for 50 years with no luck at all. And even his persuasive hints about it. Do not convince me”. So, she had some fun with this notion of you know, cooking for your pet.
AB: Yes. And there's a fabulous picture. I don't know if you've seen with her. It's a black and white photo and she's holding her cat almost up to her face.
CK: No, I'd have not seen that.
AB: Big cat lady.
CK: So, the chapters you know, Hurray for Filet, Soups On, Pregnant Pause. Senior citizens. Was this all just tongue in cheek or were any of these recipe’s things that people might actually make for their dog or cat?
AB: They were very legit. Martin told me the recipes were from his friends who had dogs and from some vets and they're very simple blended up liver and cottage cheese and things like that. So, it seems like easy enough to be realistic to do and that there's always an audience out there is willing to try it.
CK: Then this trend continues. My favorite title Bone Appetit from Susan Olsen in 1989. But by this time, things are getting weird. I mean, I mean, this isn't just like, you know, mix up some liverwurst. This is canine carbonara, baked ziti onions, mushrooms, parmesan, and anchovy filets. A delicacy for dogs quote, who go wild over the fish aroma. In that book, Bone Appetit. There’s a recipe for golden skin elixir, which I think is, is a category of sort of medicinal dog foods. Is that something that sort of runs through these books too
AB: Definitely, I'd say most people who start cooking for their dogs are usually doing it out of medical necessity. The author Rick Woodford, whose books sell really well have a health focus, and he told me that his dog had cancer and he started cooking for it and the dog lived another four years and was healthier than ever. So yeah, there's the old kind of start with a medical seeming necessity and then become a fun hobby that people want to share with others.
CK: So, I read with some shock and amusement, the Judith Jones who I do a little bit back in the 80s, who edited Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and other books, she did a cookbook for dogs.
AB: Yes. And that was the genesis of this story. My editors at Taste came across Judith Jone’s book, which is called Love Me, Feed Me Sharing with Your Dog the Everyday Good Food You Cook and Enjoy.
CK: There's also though, a line that gets crossed here. And if you go back to Judith Jones, and her cookbook for dogs, mentions that her dog has a taste for Gorgonzola Dulce. So, look, I can understand if you think your dog deserves more than canned or dry dog food. But Gorgonzola Dulce. I mean, is that crossing a line?
AB: I'm not going to be the dog food line cross, please. I think it's all wonderful. But I'm thinking about how the dog cookbook authors I spoke to I would say, what was your dog's favorite recipe? Or what did they like? What did they not like? You know, as if it's a kid who who doesn't eat cauliflower. And they almost all said, my dog does not have a discerning palate. They'll eat whatever's in front of them. So, you start to think about, you know, why are you doing this? Are you doing this for the dog? Are you doing this for feeling that sparks inside you and if so, what is that feeling?
CK: When you did research for this article? Did you get a sense of where the world of dog food stands today? In other words, I know that dog food has become a gourmet category now, right? Is dog food viewed as something that people don't like feeding their dogs anymore or has the world changed and dog foods you can get really high quality food?
AB: I think it's a bit of both. I think it's interesting how it mirrors our current human skepticism with some things in the food world. So Rick Woodfords books, for example, he's talks about you know, you don't want all this processed stuff in your dog's food. I'm giving you options in the way that we have people at the grocery store who are scared of buying Cheetos because of all the processed ingredients that may be in them to preserve them. So, I think those those anxieties that we have over our own food, kind of reflect over and the dog food world too
CK: Were their recipes, we mentioned a few were the recipes in any of these books that really stood out to you as either being actually quite reasonable or being totally insane or something else.
AB: Well, some of the like sardines on toast in Martin Gardner's book from the 60s, sounded like nice little crostini’s to me, but Judith Jones, you know, she made moussaka for her dog, like beautiful red lentils, asparagus and mushrooms zoto. One was a pizza recipe for a dog, and I asked the author, how does the dog eat pizza? You know, it doesn't have opposable thumbs, she said, well, I kind of had to hold it there while he's eating it. And I really liked that image.
CK: So, is this really a big trend cooking for your pet? And after you finish your article, do you have a better understanding of why people you know, go to all these lengths?
AB: Well, as far as is this a thing? A lot of people do know, this is an extremely niche hobby. But one thing I was thinking about as far as like society in this moment in time we're in and what it all means. What does dog cooking for your dog mean about humanity? Have you ever read about this happiness course at Yale?
CK: No, I missed that one.
AB: So, it's this class at Yale that anyone can take now about how to be happy, and it's based on a lot of evidence about what makes people happy. And one of those things is taking care of people and taking care of others and recognizing your own act of kindness can boost your own happiness. So, I think it's coming from a place of to me very beautiful, outsized devotion and love for this other being, and it's not a human being, and that's fine. It's coming from a place of feeling like you did something selfless for someone else today and that boosts your happiness. And maybe there's too especially if you cooked the turkey pate, right. However, I don't cook for my cat, so I just kind of feel like a jerk.
CK: But here's what I liked. There's this idea of why are people cooking more for dogs than cats. But I think you you were quoted as saying we don't even bathe cat, so why would you cook for them? So yeah, I guess there is no cat lovers are going to send 1000s of emails to Milk Street. But I take your point. Alex, thank you so much. Now I maybe I have a new project do a cookbook for pets. Thank you.
AB: Thank you for having me.
CK: That was Alex Beggs author of the Tastes article. Bone Appetit: The Short and Happy History of Cookbooks for Dogs. Next up is time to answer some of your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television, also author of Home Cooking One on One.
Sara Moulton: Well, hello Chris. How the heck are you? I
CK: I'm good.
SM: Good. What is your favorite way to eat an egg?
CK: You mean for breakfast?
CK: Let me count the ways.
SM: Count them.
CK: I love poaching them and I use poaching cups. The little metal thing that sits on the side of your pot. Well, you spray it or oil it, put the egg on it goes down sits above the water put the top on you essentially steam it works perfectly every time. That's great. I do scrambled eggs using hot olive oil instead of butter. It's a Spanish technique. They cook really fast, and they fluff right up because oil is hotter than butter because butter has water in it of course and fried eggs. I like them crispy
SM: around the edges
CK: I don't want the salt that I like some real crisp to it. Those would be my three go to and you?
SM: Oh geez. I almost never met an egg. I didn't like cooked almost anyway. But I'd say fried is right up there.
CK: Yeah, fried is good.
SM: You know because I like runny yolks. I see them as part of the sauce, whatever. So, I'll throw it on top of a sandwich or put it over some noodles, noodles, soup, a stew. And then it just becomes part of the
CK: Yeah, it's my go to cheat.
CK: And one last thing is za’atar. The spice mix with the herb and the sesame seeds and sumac (yeah), really goes well with eggs.
SM: Oh, you know, I haven't tried yet.
CK: Or Aleppo pepper. You know the red chili Yes. Also goes really well with eggs.
SM: Okay, I love eggs. Yes
CK: A message from the Egg Board. Well, thank you.
SM: Let's take our call. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hello, this is James calling from Salt Lake City.
SM: Hi, James. How can we help you today?
Caller: My fiancé and I are getting married next month. And we are moving into a new house. We've got our first kitchen that we're outfitting together.
SM: How exciting.
Caller: Yes, it's very exciting. Thank you. We're wondering if you have any tips of tools or equipment or ingredients we should add to our new kitchen.
SM: Well, do you have the basics?
Caller: Yes, we cook quite a lot already. So maybe just things that are basic in your kitchen but might not be basics in my kitchen.
SM: All right. I love gadgets. I'm sort of a gadget nerd. But they have to be useful. So okay, one thing I love is my spittle maker. They are pretty cheap and they're really great. They're not electric and it's fresh pasta. It looks like a washboard that you put over you know, a plank, and you go back and forth. So that's really easy. My favorite and this is really silly. And you may already have one it's referred to as the giant cake lifter. It looks like a giant bench scraper a metal and it's supposed to be used to lift cakes and yeah, it does that pretty well, but it also moves massive amounts of chopped vegetable from your cutting board to your sheet pan. So, I love that I use it for everything. Another thing I've discovered because I grind my own beans for my coffee, so I do a burr grinder instead of a coffee grinder. And I want to mention an ingredient that I also discovered from Milk Street garlic confit. Okay, Chris?
CK: Here's some really weird things. In Japan they use drop lids. They're often made of wood but they also have them of metal when you're cooking vegetables, steaming or boiling them. It fits inside the saucepan and keeps everything cooking evenly, which is nice. There's a cutting board called the Hasegawa H-A-S-E-G-A-W-A and they're very expensive. They're like $120 but it's the best cutting board it will not warp. It has sort of a cushioned surface. It's just great on your knives. It's a pleasure to use. It's heavy, is terrific. There's a ginger grater called the Moha M-O-H-A, it's a bronze metal fairly cheaply made, maybe four or five inches in diameter. The top is rounded, concave with little holes in it. And you can move the ginger around in a direction instead of going in one direction, and it grates really fast and then underneath as you turn the top, the top opens from the bottom. It has a little windshield wiper, so it cleans off the underside of the grater. It's just amazing. I wouldn't say it's a work of art, but it works really well. A small offset spatula may be five inches long or four inches long. And it's good for taking cake batter. Even in a Bundt pan where you don't have a lot of room to maneuver and evening the top it's absolutely essential. And finally, Aleppo pepper is my new favorite ingredient. It's not harvested in Syria anymore, but in Turkey. It's a red, very fruity peppers not too hot. And I basically have given up black pepper corns mostly now and use that. Oh, one last thing. There's a bread knife out of Japan called Sesegei S-E-S-E-G-E-I that has three different kinds of serrations on it. And it's not very heavy, has a great wooden handle. And it is amazing. The best bread knife I've ever used.
Caller: These are all great. Just ideas for a wedding registry, right?
SM: Yes, yes. I'd like to get married all over again. If for no other reason than this.
CK: James, thank you for calling.
Caller: Yeah. Hey, thanks so much. Y'all have a good day. Bye.
SM: Bye. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are ready to answer your culinary questions. Give us a ring anytime our number 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or you can email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Emma Whitlock, from Columbus, Georgia.
CK: How can we help you in the kitchen.
Caller: So, I love to bake. And recently, I decided that I wanted to try to challenge myself and start making macarons. I found two different types of recipes, the French style, and the Italian style. And I've had mixed results. So, I was wondering if there's one method that tends to have better results than the other one? And then if I find a recipe for one style, can I use that same ingredient ratio to make that other style? If that makes sense?
CK: Excellent questions. And we don't know the answer no. Well, I mean, the French style is egg whites and sugar. Obviously whipped together Italian style is egg whites with sugar syrup, which is heated obviously, and drizzled into the whites as you beat them. You know in Italian meringue for example, I used as frosting for cakes, it's pretty stable. So, the Italian version gives you a more stable meringue which means when you fold in other ingredients, it's easier. The French method is simpler to do because you're not heating up sugar and water. But when you fold in the other ingredients, the foam is not as stable. And you're more likely to disturb the foams. Is that a French pastry chef term to disturb the foam So French is easier Italian is more stable. And then I think they're a little different. I think Italian meringue’s probably a little more powdery. I think French meringues tend to be a little chewier to me, but that's just my personal take Sara, you're the French expert here.
SM: Yeah. Although I'm not really a big baker but I agree with what Chris had to say. The French meringue is easy to beat the whites you know sometimes you add a little acid to them and then when they get foamy and start to get soft piece and you add the sugar and etc. so it's pretty simple. The Italian reminds me of a buttercream I used to make with my sister this cake every year he used to make for my mother, and this will make Chris nervous too because he feels the same way about this cake. It was a genoise PTSD Yeah, we hate that we hate the genoise with this buttercream and then with praline
CK: the cake that never turns out well
SM: Well, the cake that made us cry, that's what we call it. But the thing about the Italian meringue is you have to get the sugar syrup to a certain temperature between 235 and 240 which is soft ball stage. And then you have to drizzle it on top of the egg whites, and you know you can get caught in the beater and so it is a little bit fraught you know, the more you do it, the better you'll get. And it is more stable. The one thing I would say is I wouldn't take a recipe for one no and use the method of the other. It just won't work. (Okay) It's just not the same ratio of sugar there's water in the one and not in the other.
CK: Well, look you're mixing French and Italian. That just never works, it's just not going to happen especially when it comes to desserts.
SM: Yeah so, I mean if you want to make your life easy, just do the French one. If you want to get a little more sophisticated, then I would continue working the Italian one
CK: I found with making Italian meringue’s I do it a lot for cakes, getting it just the right temperature I don't think it met. It's not like making candy. It's pretty forgiving.
SM: There's a range yeah
CK The temperature is pretty forgiving. But you know, try both and see what you like.
Caller: Okay, and instant read thermometer I’m assuming.
CK: Yeah, and it's good to tilt the sauce pan up so you get a good reading with the depth of the sugar syrup. And also take a reading in more than one spot. Yeah, because it'll come up with a different temperature every time. Yeah, that's the fun of pastry By the way, so so when you make your meringues do they turn out well?
Caller: It's been mixed. Sometimes I've had some that turned out just great. And then other times I haven't been they have, you know, the big holes in the middle of them. So, I'm trying to kind of narrow down and figure out what my issues are
CK: I think anyone who makes meringues eventually has issues.
SM: It's a challenge, I think.
CK: But good for you.
SM: Yeah. And the more you do it, the better you're going to get. We applaud you
CK: And we’ll eat your meringues anytime.
SM: Yes. Okay. Thank you.
Caller: Thank you
CK: Yeah, pleasure.
CK: Do you know, I remember back in the 80s, you and I were kind of starting out in this field, and there was this. I don't think it was the Time magazine cover, but it was like Is Cooking Dead. Like is God Dead. Remember that? That was one of those themes. And now 30- 40 years later, people are making meringues at home. The answer is no. You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, a new way to think about baking with Paul Hollywood. That's coming up in just a moment. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Paul Hollywood. He's been a judge on the Great British Bake Off since it premiered in 2010. On the show, contestants compete for fame, glory, and a rare handshake from Paul, which is now known as the Hollywood handshake. His new book is called Bake: My Best Ever Recipes for the Classics. Paul, welcome to Milk Street.
Paul Hollywood: Thank you very much indeed. It's a pleasure to be here.
CK: So, let's start with the Great British Bake Off. What is that actually like? In other words, what's the fun part of that show and what's the not so fun part that nobody actually sees?
PH: I think they'll start with the not so good stuff is when you're forced to eat 36 bites of something that's extremely sweet. Even though it sounds amazing. You're filling yourself you feel bloated, it's not a very nice experience. But having said that, I think ultimately being on the Bake Off is a real treat because to be paid to judge some of the most amazing bakes I've had during my time and meet some incredible bakers as well. It's obviously almost tended to a cult at the moment the Bake Off It's a strange sight when you first see it because it's this colossal and it is big, huge white tent looking like an alien spacecraft that just landed in the middle of a field.
CK: Okay, let's let's talk about baking. So, you say that margarine you use that with butter or instead of butter like in a chocolate fudge cake you think that gives you better texture overall.
PH: Margarine can give you texture gives you more of a flake and butter gives you the flavor. I mean butter tastes nicer than margarine or shortening. You know, obviously, because its butter is the purest thing. Whereas margarine tends to give more of a flake or lard actually is the other thing I mean, you can make a great lardy cake, a very, very old recipe using lard, and it's beautiful, absolutely beautiful. And it creates a flake it creates a beautiful bliss and it creates a nice crunch. But then butter will add this gorgeous lusciousness to it and this richness to it, and obviously more flavor. And so, it's horses for horses, I mean certain recipes it's nice to have just butter others it's good to have just margarine, and then others I like the idea of blending because then you get the best of both worlds
CK: Weighing ingredients, you actually weigh your eggs, which is interesting because here in the States, we rarely do that we just say six large eggs, you find that egg sizes vary enough so that weighing them is actually critical.
PH: I think it is I think the crack an egg, drop it in normally weighs about 60 gram. You know some of the small ones can weigh 50 or 40 and some of the large ones can be 70. Also, if you've not done 120 or 180 gram of egg into a bowl and you've wasted up a little bit to break it up. You can easily add a little bit of a time to a mixture rather than a whole egg 60 grams straight in and then it could curdle so I think doing it this way is more accurate and certainly safer.
CK: In your scone recipe, which I guess was the queen mother's favorite. You use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour and that's It's kind of interesting. Can you talk about that?
PH: Well, that's because in my professional career, that's all I ever used was gone. So, I've never it never used the plain flour so it actually creates more of a bloom in the oven so it grows. And what it does is creates an amazing balanced growth and gives more of a kick so it opens up the texture a little bit inside the scone. The thing is with that when you're using strong flour, you cannot over mix it because if you over mix it, what will happen is it'll get too tight. And then it gets a bit rubbery on the mouth. So, you want to be able to just bring it together, and then cut rest it for about five or 10 minutes in the fridge preferably, and then pop into a nice hot zone. And it just blasts up perfect level and it's crispy, and then beautifully soft on the inside.
CK: So, here's a quote from your book Bake. I can assure you that all the cookies in this chapter fully stand up to the dunk test. What Why are you obsessed with dunking cookies?
PH: It's a tradition in the UK to donate your biscuits. And obviously when I say biscuits, I'm talking cookie, but I love dunkin a ginger note or a ginger biscuit into tea or very hot cup of tea. If you put it in once that's enough then you eat eggs is beautiful and soft. If you put it in twice, you could lose it. That's a problem. So ultimately, I love it's just been a thing. It's quite a big thing. I suppose it's only the Brits that do that. Although the Italians do dunk their biscotti and the French with their croissant in their coffee.
CK: Except it's hard to find a good croissant in Paris.
c I think it's hard to find a good croissant anywhere. I think they've gone down the mass produce route now which is all done in factories, and they throw them out to the little bakeries and all they do is bake them off and I think they've lost their way slightly.
CK: Lemon drizzle cake is one of your favorites. It's one of those things that I don't think we make here very much we so is this basically a drizzle pancake or a sponge cake or what
PH: It is the sponge cake basically with a slightly watered-down lemon curd if you like sugar mixture which it gets put into the cake when it comes out the oven. And all you do is you pierce it and then let the soak drip through and it wets and introduces a more intense lemon flavor. And it also introduces a slightly sugar crust on the top of the cake. So, as you break into it. We used to do it for afternoon tea for all the big hotels, you know whether it's fruit cake, cherry cake, walnut cake, banana cake, and it was always certain teas went with certain cakes. It was you know whether it's Lapsang su Xiang or it was Assam or Earl Gray. And that's what it's all about. It's about getting the senses involved with some intense flavors and doing the lemon drizzle, which is a very classic British cake. It's been around for many, many hundreds of years. It is one of my favorites. And I love them
CK: Only the British would name a roll after a trash can lid. So what is it with bin lids? I never heard of this.
PH: Basically, a bin lid is a large, soft roll so you can get soft rolls in the states, you know that like burger buns, if you like? Yeah, well then, a bin lid is four or five times bigger than that. And the where I grew up in Liverpool, in our chip shops are fish and chip shops used to get you could get a portion of chips. And then you get what they call the bin lid. So, you get this huge soft roll, which you can fill with lots and lots of chips and have the biggest chip bun_ in your life. And it tastes amazing. And that's where it came from. It came back from my working class roots in Liverpool,
CK: Wait, wait so you have this huge roll and you fill it with chips.
PH: Fill it with chips. Yeah, Chip.
CK: Yeah, you guys. I mean, it's the best of times and the worst.
PH: Absolutely yes.
CK: So, let's go back to growing up. So, you grew up above the bakery. Your dad was a baker. And you did not want to go into that business but he bribed you. Which I guess was very effective. What was that like? What kind of bakery was it? You didn't like it? You did like it?
PH: Oh, I loved it. I think the smell of a bakery. I think when you lived above it, it sort of seeped into your life, you know become part of you. My dad always coming back from the bakery from downstairs upstairs need smell of bread and cakes. I ended up coming into the industry, obviously. And I smelled like bread and cakes. But initially, I do remember sort of disappearing often sitting in the shop with my mom helping serving the bread and cakes. But it was great. I mean, just wander up and pick up a cream cake and eat it.
CK: But that's, you know, one of my kids actually did this for a while. It's if you want to pick a hard profession, getting up at two in the morning you know, it's not. It's not an easy life though. So, what what was your conclusion after having your own bakery?
PH: I think during the bakery times I was approached for TV works as someone who put my name for I think Sue Perkins had put my name forward for Bake Off. I was asked to good to do an audition, which I did and fortunately I got the job. And in the end, I realized I couldn't do All this TV stuff and run my business at the same time. And I couldn't honestly sell my own bread under my name without me actually making it myself. And then the end, the Bake Off took over my life. And that is that middle ground. I'm still involved with my trade, but more as a teacher, now an evangelist and I was, you know, as an actual baker.
CK: What is your job at the Bake Off? In other words, what did you have to learn to get really good at it?
PH: I think I've always been quite judgmental with the lads that have worked for me and guys that have trained and worked for me. And I was always on their case, I'd walk past the rack and say, what's happened with this one. So, when it came to judging amateur bakers, that was fantastic. What's changed is it's more of a almost tutorial because the bakers themselves when when you're critiquing their work, you're trying to offer advice on going forward, how they can better themselves in the kitchen. And I like to think that that does help.
CK: Do you ever start giving advice and criticism, and you'll see the tears welling up? Yeah, some people don't take it too well.
PH: All the time and that's because sometimes you got to think of it from their point of view, maybe all the people around them have never actually told them the truth about their baking. So maybe that recipe that they've been making for 10 years, if someone bakes you a cake and brings it to you, you're not going to turn around and say, That's the worst cake I've ever had in my life. Or that's too salty, or that's too sweet. You know, because you just got someone's actually baked something for you. And they think of you that much. They've made you something which you should appreciate, like it or not, in my job. I don't have to follow that rule. I have to be honest with them. And therefore, they end up getting a little bit better anyway. It's a learning process.
CK: Once in a while, you must get surprised right by one of the contestants it they've been cases where someone produce something absolutely amazing. You didn't expect or something so vile, you wanted to spit it out after taking a bite? Yeah.
PH: Both camps. Yeah. I mean, fortunately, it's more sublime than the ridiculous. I think when I started shaking someone's hands, because I was genuinely surprised. I was really wow. Wow, that's incredible. That's almost professional, you know what I mean? So that's where I shook their hand and said, thank you well done. You know, that's a great job. So, some years, I'll get more handshakes out some years, I won't. But it comes down to the quality of what's on that plate. And sometimes it is absolutely stunning.
CK: If you had to pick one recipe, and I think your favorites, probably lemon drizzle cake, but is there one recipe you think should be part of everyone's repertoire here in the States?
c Do you know what I've always said the lemon drizzle cake is a very basic cake. But actually, it's not. In a sense of when you eat it, it's not a normal sponge. It's a very enriched, it's heightened. It's quite tart. It's full of lemon, and it is absolutely delicious. And I'd love every American household to get it. improve it if they wish, once you've mastered it, if you want to add a little bit of tangerine, or maybe some other fruits in there or layers of apple and make it your own. Make it a family tradition.
CK: Yeah. But then eventually someone's going to add rosemary to it or that then you're off to the races.
PH: Oh, yeah but I'd say if you like rosemary in it, you go for it.
CK: Paul, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. Really enjoyed talking to you.
CK: Thank you, Christopher. You take care.
CK: That was Paul Hollywood. His new book is called Bake, you can find his recipe for lemon drizzle cake at Milk Street Radio.com. In 1938, Freddie Grisewood hosted the spelling bee and became the very first game show host. The genre soon took off with To Tell the Truth, What's My Line? Let's Make a Deal, The Gong Show, American Idol, and today a dozen or more cooking competitions. But to attract a large audience, these competitions have to push the boundaries from guy's grocery games to Cutthroat Kitchen. Bake Off, however, is a little more Dickens than YouTube. It's a kinder, gentler take on humanity. Or as Vera Lyn once sang, they'll always be an England. This is Milk Street radio coming up J Kenji Lopez Alt teaches us how to cook outside with a wok. That's after the break. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now let's chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. Spicy Chinese beef skewers. Lynn, how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm doing well.
CK: You know, one of the great pleasures in my life is interviewing interesting people on radio and I spoke to Jason Wang owner of Xi'an famous foods in New York. Great story is a great cookbook. And he was telling me when he was a kid in Xi’an, with his dad they go to the Muslim Quarter and order meat skewers, spicy meat skewers, and he really associates those flavors with the cooking of Xi’an. So, you got busy, we got busy and decided to make these spicy beef skewers at home.
LC: So, I think actually Jason said that when they would go to the Muslim quarter I buy these, they buy them by the 10s. So, like 10-20 at a time. So, as you can tell, this is something you're going to want to make and want to make a lot of. Well, the key to this recipe is pretty simple, it comes down to spicing twice, so we're going to coat them with some toasted spices, we toast all of those cumin seeds, such as one pepper corns, and fennel seeds. Then grind them add the pepper flakes and the salt. The meat takes a little bath in some soy sauce, some shouting wine and oil, we throw them onto the skewers and then coat it with the spice mixture that gets cooked on a hot grill takes literally like five minutes. It's the fastest thing you'll ever make. And then we coat it again with that spice mixture. So, you're getting two layers of flavor, you've got the first round that gets kind of toasted when you cook it over the grill gets a little bit of char on the meat. And then that second layer is a little bit fresher, a little brighter. Those peppercorns are really kind of mouth numbing, and you've got that really aggressive heat from the pepper flakes.
CK: So, this is a twofer. We often marinate meat, and then reserve part of the marinade before we use the rest of it on the meat and then the mayor now becomes a sauce at the end. Right. So, a similar concept.
LC: Yeah, same kind of concept here. These are great tips for any kind of grilling. We're using flat iron steak here, which is one of my favorite cuts. It's very well marbled. cooks really fast has a pretty decent amount of fat on it, which you should not trim away. We like that fat for the flavor and also for the richness. You could use this same method with the spice twice or marinade and reserve on chicken. You could use it on fish and certainly beef or pork or lamb.
CK: I need to give a commercial for flat iron steak now, if I could have 10 seconds, I hadn’t had in years bought it last weekend it a local butcher and I just grilled it i salted a grill that none of the fancy stuff you're doing. It was the best steak I ever had. It was unbelievably tender, but flavorful. The steaks are either tough and flavorful or tender and tasteless. Yes, this did both things really well. And _____wine is not something most people have on hand. It's not hard to find, but you could use sherry or something I guess as a subsidiary.
LC: And also, I know you say I'm doing fancy stuff here. This is not fancy stuff. This is a quick toasting of some spices and just kind of sprinkling it on. The whole recipe will take you maybe a half an hour at the most.
CK: Lynn thank you, spicy Chinese beef skewers, inspired in part by Jason Wang's childhood in Xi'an Excellent, as you said, quick meal. Thank you.
LC: You're welcome. You can get this recipe for spicy Chinese beef skewers at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now, Sara and I will be taking a few more of your calls.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Alice Taylor from Toledo, Ohio.
SM: Hi, Alice. How can we help you today?
Caller: Well, I had a question originally about lemon flavoring. I bake a old fashioned buttermilk poundcake. And it calls for two teaspoons of lemon extract and one teaspoon of almond. And it just seems like it bothers me something in that that I think is the lemon bothers me. And I was wondering if I could replace that with just pure lemon juice or lemon zest instead of the extract.
SM: Yeah, I'm not a fan of lemon extract either. I guess it's made with lemon peels and alcohol, and I think it can be sort of bitter, but for whatever reason, I'm just not a fan of lemon extract. So, I'd say ditch it I agree with you. I am a huge fan of lemon zest I add it to a lot of things not even just baking things. I just think it's got you know, it's sort of got the oil of the lemon from the skin and it's got a ton of flavor and it's very fresh. You can add a lot of it without screwing up the ratio of liquid. So, I would say definitely add some zest to the recipe and you know if you wanted to you could add a little bit of lemon juice as well. And that would be fine. Oh good. And also mix the lemon zest with the sugar in the recipe which will help to bring out its flavor. I mean depends on how lemony you want the pound cake to be. But if you want it to be really lemony, mix the two together and that will really help the sugar to pick up the oil from the zest.
CK: Well, there's one other thing they make instead of extracts their oils. I forgot the name of the company.
CK: And they make oils and those are much better than the extracts. And you’ll get a better flavor
SM: Yes, they are. Yes, I forgot about that. you might want to give Boyagen is B-O-Y-A-G-E-N
CK: Anyway, that's an alternative.
Caller: Okay. Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you. If I add the oil, should I add the lemon zest too or just Boyagen?
CK: I would just use the Boyagen. You won't need the lemon zest. (Okay) Just check online to see if it's an equal amount as extract but my guess is it probably is Yeah. So.
Caller: Thank you It’s really nice talking to you
CK: All right. Thanks, Alex. Thanks for calling.
SM: Okay, Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you want to change the way you cook, just give us a ring anytime our number is 855-426-9843. That's 855-426-9843 or just email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Adam Shatila from Philadelphia here at Walnut Street.
SM: Oh, yes, Walnut Street. How can we help you today?
Caller: My family and I have like a Lebanese restaurant, Plaza bakery. Very big lots of, you know, traditional Lebanese, delicacies and treats so like baklava, I've been the manager for a few years now and trying to start something new by selling our Baklava, wholesale. There is three smaller stores here. But I wanted to accelerate the growth and get into like a larger chain supermarket. And like, I was wondering if it's okay with you that offer some advice on how to do that. And we were approved for wholesale, we have all the licensing and all that.
SM: So, you're trying to figure out how to sell your baklava in, say, a Whole Foods or something like that? Well, I might have to defer to Chris on this one. Because I've never
CK: I have a few thoughts.
SM: Because Chris has been involved in some of this. So, I'm going to pass it right to Chris.
CK: Yeah, a few years ago, we had of coffee sugars, we had some products, and we were putting them into stores. They're two problems, the margins you get are slim, the grocery business has a very low margin business, usually have to go through a wholesaler, or distributor into the stores, everyone takes a piece of the action, it's a very difficult business. And then you also have to be able to provide enough volume, you know, to make it worthwhile. A friend of mine went into the wine business years ago, and they were losing their shirts, until they set up a little tasting room in their vineyard. And then they started selling it directly to the retail to the customer. So, I strongly suggest you find a way to sell it direct. Because you can control it, you make more money that way. If you get involved with supermarket distribution, there's just I just found that a very unsatisfactory business because there's so many people involved, and you make a little money. So, you know, in this day of E commerce, I wouldn't go the direct route if I were you control your your distribution yourself would be my quick business advice.
SM: Sounds like good advice to me.
CK: Well, I've been through it and now we sell direct too, and I just think it's much better so
SM: Adam, thanks for calling.
CK: Thanks for calling.
Caller: Thank you for the advice
CK: Take care. Next up, let's hear from J Kenji Lopez Alt. Kenji, how are you?
J Kenji Lopez Alt: I'm doing pretty good. How are you doing?
CK: Pretty good. What's up?
JKenji: So, it's getting into summer, and I thought we could talk a little bit about some outdoor options for cooking in a wok and why you may want to consider cooking outdoors in your wok if you've got the space for it.
CK: So, is this cooking on a grill? Or is this cooking on a butane burner or what?
JKenji: Yeah, so cooking on outdoor and a grill certainly is one option. I mean, first, you know, maybe we want to talk a little bit about why you might want to cook outdoors. There's there's a couple of reasons. So, first of all, if you live in a house or an apartment that doesn't have a great vent hood, you know, like I lived in a New York apartment for many years, and we had these little galley kitchens where the vent hoods all they did was recirculate the air back into your apartment. A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching a class in Seattle all stir frying in a room with no ventilation at all. We were making kung pao chicken in the moment, all the chilies went into the pepper spray, essentially everybody had to leave the room, (right) So, if you run into that problem also, you might consider cooking outdoors. You know, the other advantage of course of cooking outdoors is that if you have the right setup, you can actually get much higher heat, (right) But even just having a portable butane burner, you know there's a company called E Watani. That makes a 15,000 BTU portable butane burner
CK: butane means one of those small bottles of butane.
JKenji: Exactly, yeah, little camp stoves
CK: and that has enough heat really?
JKenji: It does yeah, you know as long as you're not trying to do you know like a Cantonese style beef Chow fun or you're not trying to cook for 20 people at a time. You know the butane burners are great because they have small burners which is exactly what you want for a wok, and it concentrates the heat right in the center which allows you to stir fry properly.
CK: When I was in Thailand years ago, everyone cooked with like A 25-gallon propane tank, right hooked up to a burner. And that burner got really hot does that have high BTU?
JKenji: So, it depends on the burner. Yeah, so we can talk a little bit about outdoor burner options, you would think, you know, the higher the BTUs output, the better it was going to be, (right) But what I found was that once you got above around 150,000, BTUs or so, so that's about 10 times more than your average home burner. You know, once you get up to this really ridiculous range, it's pointless, you know, things get incinerated the second you put them into the pan. And moreover, you know, part of the design of a good outdoor burner, especially when you're cooking with a wok is the way that heat is concentrated. So, these big turkey fryers that are designed to heat up a giant pot of oil for crab boil or for frying a turkey, they actually spread the heat out too much. And so when you're trying to cook in a wok, you really want the heat concentrated at the bottom. And instead, what happens is the flame goes up the sides and you burn your hands, and you don't have any of the cool zones along the sides of the wok. So, there's a company called Power flamer that essentially takes Restaurant Style wok ranges and sets them up so that people can use them at home with the proper regulator and stuff you just plug in a propane tank or a natural gas line. Or there's a brand called Eastman Outdoors that makes a burner called the Big Kahuna, which is 65,000 BTUs. And that's that's ample and that one is a little bit more slick, you know, comes with nice legs that feel stable and all that stuff. So, if you know if you do want a restaurant style stir fry, which is not necessarily you know, but if you do want a Restaurant Style stir fry those would be the two I recommend. And you know, we also talked a little bit earlier about cooking in a walk on an outdoor grill. So, what I what I actually recommend is using a charcoal chimney starter but flipping it upside down. So, I've tried doing this in a regular chimney started the reset the normal way, you know, so I take out the great for my charcoal grill, I fill up the chimney starter with coals lighted the way I normally would and then put the walk on top. The problem is that when you put a walk on top of a chimney, sort of the normal way, there's no ventilation, and so you don't get that chimney effect anymore. And so, while the coals end up going out, if you flip it upside down, the vent holes that are at the bottom of the chimney starter are now at the top and so you're able to actually get that chimney action. So, it pulls air through the bottom, it circulates up through the top and it keeps the coals nice and hot during the stir fry. You know, it's a little bit more precarious than cooking on a dedicated burner, because a chimney starter is not the most stable thing in the world. But you know, if you do want to practice outdoor wok cooking, and you want to get some really nice concentrated heat, and you already have a chimney starter, it's a good way. It's a good way to do it.
CK: So, you have a two-foot-high flaming hot cylinder, which you put a large wok. You say, It's slightly unstable. Yeah, you want to be careful.
JKenji: Yeah, I recommend doing it like in a dry field.
CK: That's a good idea yeah. So, I do have a question. So, besides smoke, etc. Are there things you would choose to use a wok for outside in the summer, regardless of what your indoor kitchen was like?
JKenji: So yeah. So, you know, again, dishes that feature that wok K flavor, you know, that smoky flavor, where you really need a really high flame, and you want to get that flame kind of leaping into the wok. You know, the classic example of that would be beef Chow fun, right? Where the seasoning is very simple. It's a bunch of alliums and then soy sauce. But the major component of that seasoning is the smoke flavor itself, where you get the the flame to leap into the wok in you really searing the soy sauce as you head into the wok. And those are flavors that are relatively easy to get. I mean, it still takes practice, but they're relatively easy to get when you have a very high output burner but are difficult or impossible to do. When you're talking about indoor cooking
CK: Could you be more specific about the flames leaping into the wok?
JKenji: Yeah, you know, it's similar to the flavor you get when you're cooking a hamburger on a grill and a little bit of the fat drips down to the coals and you see like a little jet of flame come up and it deposits some soot on the food. And so that flavor when when applied properly and in moderation adds that smokiness that that you get from high heat wok cooking. So when I say you know the flame leaps into the wok, I literally mean you get your oil really hot. You put your noodles in there, or your onions or whatever you start stir frying them and you tilt the pan towards the flame you tilt the walk down towards the flame as you're tossing food in the air with the goal of getting that flame to leap across all the little aerosolized droplets of oil and the flame to actually jump down into the wok. And so when you do it properly, you'll see the flame literally licking the inside of the wok. And as you're tossing the food through it, it goes through like little kind of like a fireball.
CK: And if you do it badly the next day you're living in an Airstream, right? Because you just burn your house down. Yeah, kanji. Thank you taking your stir fry outside. Thanks.
JKenji: Yeah, thanks for having me as always.
CK: That was J Kenji Lopez Alt, he's the chief culinary consultant for Serious Eats, a food columnist for the New York Times, also author of The Wok Recipes and Techniques. That's it for today. We have over 200 episodes of Milk Street Radio on Apple podcast, Spotify, Milk Street Radio.com or wherever you find your podcasts to explore Milk Street and everything we have to offer please go to our website 177 Milk Street.com. There you can download our recipes, watch our television show, and check out our online store for everything from sitar to ginger graders. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter and 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and cooking questions and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis, audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media and Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Bernal Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is distributed by PRX