Sunday, July 3, 2011

Anti-vampire kitchen how to: The trials of garlic butter

     Sometimes, I get really excited about projects or plans.  This weekend's big hullabaloo? Not, as one might think, grand plans for the 4th of July. (Though I am indeed excited for fireworks!)  I'm cooking dinner tomorrow night for my boyfriend, and am using recipes all completely new to me.

     Sounds completely foolproof, right?

     ....Yeah, and that's about how today's preparation stages went.  Well, sort of.  Game plan for tomorrow is a light mushroom lasagna, borrowed from Smitten Kitchen (whose author in turn adapted from Ina Garten) with a side of garlic bread. (Bread=Pillsbury french loaf.  Just pop in the oven and bake! Don't judge, they're absolutely delicious and almost impossible to mess up.)  To go on this bread I wanted to make this delicious sounding butter I found called Kräuterbutter (German if I've ever heard it) online.  The recipe itself is a bit of a simplified version of this butter already, and by the time I was done with it I'd say it wasn't so much "Fancy German Butter" as "Lump of Garlic Butter That Does Not Spread Like Butter".  I'll go ahead and say up front that this was not a success. Read on to find out about the 8 million difficulties I had trying to make this super-simple recipe.


     In theory, this recipe is actually quite, quite easy.  Calls for three ingredients.  Gives nice, clear instructions on how to follow through with those ingredients.  Trouble, my friends, seems to come to people who attempt to "tweak" these things.  People, it seems, like me.
     My trouble started while simply shopping at the grocery store.  This recipe, you see, calls for one green garlic bulb & scape.  First of all, I have NO idea what a "scape" is. None.  Neither did my mom when I pestered her about it that poor saint got literally about 5 calls today as I continually failed at this but I eventually deduced from the picture that it must be the stem/stalk of the garlic bulb, which, by the way, looks identical to a green onion bulb.  After working this out, I ran into the problem that my grocery store--a rather large Kroger that generally has everything you could EVER want except EXTREMELY exotic things, though it does have a great selection of those too--did not HAVE any of these mystical 'green garlic bulbs'.  I was a bit taken aback. If not here, in that monstrously huge Kroger, then WHERE?  Truth be told there's one other Kroger, a Marsh, 1+ Asia-marts and two Sahara Marts in my town that I could have checked, but I wasn't particularly in the mood to go hunting for ONE bulb.  (Also elusive, but finally captured: a cheesecloth, which I had never really even seen in person before...luckily a store manager dug one up, because I couldn't find them for the life of me!)

     So, I went ahead and just substituted with some regular garlic cloves, seeing as I needed them anyway for my lasagna tomorrow.  However, the original recipe looked so pretty with those little green pieces of garlic floating about...I wanted mine to look pretty too! (And to think I ask myself why things go wrong...) So, I looked for a greenish element that would complement the taste of garlic butter.  All I could really come up with was chives...which frankly, while I have had them many times, I've never really had them in an isolated dish.  Like with most herbs, I don't ACTUALLY know the individual flavor, so I was a bit timid about throwing some in (much less since there were no instructions for how much).
After initial whipping, 3ish minutes (but should've been 5).
     So, I compromised.  I was already making half of the recipe (since I had exactly half of the amount of heavy cream needed) so I just decided to go ahead and divide the ingredients in half again and make two miniature butter balls, one with the chives and one without, just so that the whole thing wouldn't go to waste if it tasted god-awful.  I was already risking a lot, you see, since I was now making up the amount of GARLIC to add to the recipe (you know, the whole flavoring of it).
After second round of whipping. Should've had more liquid separation.
     Fast-forward through grocery store dilemmas, I got home to find one even LESS pleasing.  After setting up camp, taking pictures, and doing such a painfully slow job of mincing the garlic (professional chefs worldwide shed tears at the butchery), pouring my first round of heavy cream into a too large mixing bowl and adding the salt, my progress came to a grinding, screeching halt.

     My beloved, almost-40-years-old hand mixer that my mom let me make off with, would not work.
     I did not initially panic, as this is not an uncommon occurrence with that mixer. Like I said, it's OLD, and often you need to jiggle the cord into place somewhere since it loosens.  But no matter what I tried, the thing would not turn on.  So I mournfully was forced to come to accept that it was the end for that little guy.  However, I was highly irritated, because I then either had to abandon my project or go buy another hand mixer, which I really had not thrown into my budgeting for this one meal. (Not that I wouldn't have used it many times again...but still).
     But, seeing as the heavy cream was already in with the salt and there was no simply "putting it back", I opted to head over to the local Big Kmart and invest in another.  Happily enough, it only cost me about $21, less than I had been expecting.  I scurried on home, yanked it out of the box, grabbed & unwrapped my paused creations from the fridge, plugged in, and...


     Nothing happened.  And that's when I realized I had made a grave mistake.  It wasn't my hand mixer at all...though I had tried two sockets previously, both were close enough to use the same power source, I suppose, which I discovered could be "reset" by pressing a very tiny button next to one socket.
Garlic & chive butter!
     Well, I was EXTREMELY irritable after that, as you might imagine.  All these roadblocks, and I hadn't even started making the stupid thing!  Long story short, I went back to the old hand mixer and returned the new one.  
     Then came the challenges of the recipe itself...or rather, the challenges of more or less making my own recipe for something I've never actually tried to make before.  Guessing ingredient amounts aside (more on that in a moment) I definitely screwed up the whipping times.  By which I mean, the recipe said one thing, and I didn't trust it and did it for less time on the first ball of butter (the plain garlic).  It still came together, but once I made the second ball (which had SO much more liquid separated from the butter curds, like it's supposed to) I realized how much I'd under-done it, and the texture when you try and slice into it is annoyingly crumbly; a bit like feta cheese.  Of course, it's still butter, so when applied to hot bread it'll melt right on there, but it's an annoyance I would have rather done without.  The garlic-chive butter is smoother to slice into, and a little more compact.

Garlic on left, Garlic-chive on right!
     As for the ingredient guessing, I'm still not sure whether or not I got it right.  Just kidding, I was never able to bring myself to eat more of it, so we're going to go with a 'no'.  When I was tasting it, something was definitely lacking, and I originally thought it was the garlic.  But, truth be told (and I know this isn't a lovely image), I could taste the garlic so long afterwards that I'm not sure that was it.  Actually, I kind of wonder if perhaps all it needed was a bit more salt-something to give a little kick, rather than the flat garlic taste.  As for the chive butter, I have to say the garlic seemed lessened there, and the chives seemed to make it a little...sweeter?  Honestly, someone tell me if that sounds off, and perhaps I'll have another sample later to really nail it down.  I'd like to try this recipe again and get it right, because while it was certainly edible (though strong), I couldn't make myself go back for seconds...which tells me it wasn't good. Which tells me I've had failure #1 on this blog.

For kitchen beginners:  Don't underestimate the size of a bowl you'll need for this, as the cream with froth and expand quite a bit during the first part of the whipping process.
For kitchen experts: Alright. Do any of YOU know where to locate this magical "green garlic bulb & scape"?  Also, any general advice on butter making?  Like I said, the textures here weren't quite what I'd hoped for...

Here's the REAL recipe that probably tastes good, incase you all want to try:

Garlic Butter from Wee Foodie Fashionista 

(I'm just going to leave out the failed version I made so that no one has to suffer as I did. Wah. Wah. Waaaaaaaah.)

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