Archive for August, 2011

So. You bought the book. Now what? Here’s how to make perfect gobs every time!

August 31, 2011

First you had gobs from Gobba Gobba Hey. And then you bought the book. And now you’re ready to bake. So. What happens next? I wondered the same thing myself over two years ago after my parents gave me a recipe for gobs. It wasn’t that there was anything especially complicated about the ingredients or the steps. But some of the measurements threw me off a bit.

“Why do the steps say ‘2 to 4’ tablespoons of milk? And what’s up with this: ‘1 cup of water, use sparingly?” I asked my Mom.

“Keep an eye on your batter,” was her reply.

Keep an eye on your batter? It reminded me of when I’d asked for recipes in the past, and a step would simply read “Add paprika. Saute til brown.” When I’d call them for clarification, either my Mom or Dad would say “Oh, just eye ball it.”

I thought about Catherine Beecher, Sarah Josepha Hale, Fannie Farmer and everyone who worked to standardize the kitchen’s techniques, recipes and measurements. And as I reworked my parents’ gob recipe, I thought about other instructions I’d been given over the years for dishes of theirs. One of my favorites was a tip my Dad had once given me about making an Italian Pot Roast: “Cover it with water… How much? Wha’dya mean how much? Enough to cover it! Just make sure that damn piece of meat isn’t swimming in there!”

My parents’ recipes, and their instructions, reminded me that you can put a tablespoon in a drawer, but you can’t make a cook use it.

But if there was one thing I learned from watching my family cook, they didn’t always need institutionalized measurements yet their meals were perfect almost every time. My grandmother and both of my parents cooked in a very instinctual way. You listened. You sniffed. You watched. You tasted. If you were stove-side with them, you received an incredible education. But if you were on the other side of the country, on the other end of the phone line, things could get complicated.

So when I began writing down my own gob recipes, I kept this in mind. In the past I’d often jotted things down on scraps of paper with notes that made perfect sense to me – just like my parents’ recipes did to them – but could I really ask people to “Mix until you hear a thwopping noise” when instructing them to make frosting? In a book, probably not. But in a blog post? Yes!

In that spirit, here are my Top Five Tips for making perfect gobs every time!

1. Listen. Food is very noisy. And I don’t mean the sounds made by the equipment and utensils we use to make it. I mean ingredients, when mixed together, can be almost musical. When you’re making your frosting, listen for a soft “thwopping” sound as the confectioner’s sugar thickens the dairy. It will leave peaks. It will be thick enough to hold onto an inverted spoon. But for me, that sound is what I always listen for. If you need to add an additional tablespoon of sour cream or one of the flavoring syrups, go right ahead. If it appears too loose you can always firm it up by adding another tablespoon or two of confectioner’s sugar and sticking the mixing bowl in your fridge for twenty minutes. Just be careful not to over mix it. Cream cheese can separate and then all bets are off.

2. Sniff. A lot of the recipes call for cinnamon or ground ginger or ancho chile powder or other ground aromatic spices. I sift mine together with the flour into the bowl, but the way I can tell if everything has been properly integrated is that the light powdery smell of flour is no longer present when I’m whisking.

3. Watch. This is where my parents would say “Eyeball the batter.” I’ve replaced the “1 cup of water, use sparingly” in my batter recipes with two tablespoons of sour cream (in recipes that needed it.) If you’ve added it and your batter still seems too thick, don’t even hesitate to plop in another tablespoon of the cream or buttermilk. You want to be able to dig out a thick scoop of batter, but you don’t want it too dense. Likewise you don’t want it too runny. Here’s what to look for: After you’ve added all of your ingredients, turn your mixer back on, let the paddle or beaters whir around a few times, then turn it off. The batter should very, very slowly start to drift from the sides of the bowl back to the center. SLOWLY! If it’s stationary, add the above mentioned additional tablespoon of sour cream or buttermilk. If it’s moving like a mudslide, add another tablespoon of flour.

4. Touch. When you’re scooping your batter out onto your baking sheet, it should easily come out of the spoon. If you find that you have to dig it out, your gobs will be dry little domes, almost like cookies. This is where “watching” is a time-saver. If you see your batter is too thick, especially with the chocolate gobs, then add some additional sour cream or buttermilk, by the teaspoon at first, then up to two tablespoons if necessary.)

5. Taste. Your gobs will be delicious! I know it! Follow the recipes, but don’t be afraid to ad lib a little! If you want to dial back one of the spices, and pump up another, go ahead. Baking might be an exact science, but gobbing isn’t! Enjoy!

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Sweet Release! The Gobba Gobba Hey Cook Book is NOW in Stores!

August 30, 2011

Gobsters of the world, rejoice! The Gobba Gobba Hey Cook Book, a collection of 52 recipes and stories from my first year of gobbing in San Francisco is available for purchase online and in book stores NOW! Over the next few days I’ll be updating this site with news about book signing events in the Bay Area as well as sharing some how-to-tips to help your gobs turn out perfectly every time.

For now, here are some events to put on your calendar. I hope to see you at one, or two, or even ALL of these!

Omnivore Books, Saturday, September 10, 2011 3-4 PM

Stop by Omnivore Books on Saturday, September 10th, where I’ll be signing copies of the Gobba Gobba Hey Cook Book. I will also be sharing stories from my first attempts at selling gobs on San Francisco’s streets, talking a bit about the regional significance of the gob and its role in American foodways, and of course serving gobs!

The Booksmith, Tuesday, September 13, 7:30 PM

Come on over to the Haight on Tuesday, September 13th for some neighborhood-appropriate tales from my days of gobbing the streets of San Francisco! In addition to signing books, I”ll have buttons and T-shirts to give away. And, if all goes as planned, I might even have a new flavor of gob on the menu that night!

LitFest at Eat Real Festival at Jack London Square, Friday, September 23, 6 PM

The Eat Real Festival will always hold a special place in my heart. I’d only been baking gobs for about two weeks in the Spring of 2009 when I got an email from one of the event’s organizers asking me if I might be interested in coming over to Oakland to sell gobs for a new weekend-long event celebrating “real food.” I jumped at the chance! This September will mark my third year of participation as a vendor and my first year as a panelist for LitFest! I’ll have books to sign, stories to tell, and yep, gobs to gulp!

Gobs on Film (Two Years Later) Gobs on Film.

August 3, 2011

Good people of the Bay Area, please lend me a hand. And if you can lend two, well, that would be even better! As this post’s subject heading, and tweaking of the Duran Duran song’s lyrics suggest, the gobs are ready for their close up. Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cookbook will be officially be released by Bloomsbury, USA on August 31. The constant need to feed info into the Twitterverse and blogosphere has no doubt made this book seem like it’s been released three or four times by now, but I assure you, that’s all just been part of the process. Now that the big moment has almost arrived, there’s one last bit of PR that has to be teased out: Gobsters of the Universe, I want to make you all stars! Or at least your hands.

I’ll be shooting a trailer for the gob book in the next few weeks. In case you aren’t aware of what a book trailer entails, it’s pretty simple. Book trailers are just like movie trailers. They’re short commercials promoting books that are either about to be released or that have just been released. These are hopefully sweet, sometimes sassy, and meant to make you unable to think about anything else until you’ve finally purchased the book. (This trailer, for a book called High Before Homeroom I find to be well-done and amusing, though it’s production quality is way beyond my means.)

I will post the time and date and location soon. It will only take a few minutes of your time, I promise. No cattle calls, no violations of SAG laws for the extras. You’ll get in, get out, and walk away with a tasty treat, not to mention bragging rights!

Thanks in advance for your help and continued support! And until next time, here’s a pic of the finished book. Check out the gorgeous back cover photo, courtesy of Mr Jun Belen.