Unfinished Business

January 22, 2011 · 37 comments

Author Michael Ruhlman (author of Ratio – which is highly recommended!) posted on his blog about Unfinished Business. The topic was about unfinished business in the kitchen…things people have always wanted to make or do to the kitchen, and haven’t gotten to yet.

And it got me thinking. I have SUCH a list of goals and things I’ve always wanted to make. But I just haven’t gotten to them yet. So I figure, I would make a list, here and now, and it will be a reminder of what I want to do….

So many unfinished things in the kitchen! I LOVE reading everyone’s list! It inspired my own:

1. A Tiered Wedding Cake. I’ve been asked three times if I do wedding cakes (to varying degrees of seriousness). I’ve always gently turned the friend down, as I’ve never made one and I refuse to make my friend’s “big day” the experiment. But perhaps one of these days I’ll make a tiered decorative cake. If I’m successful, I’d love to contribute to my friends’ wedding by being the person who makes their cake.

2. Laminated dough. Puff pastries and Croissants here I come! Though I may cheat and use Nick Malgeri’s Modern Baker shortcut first before I do it the old fashion way. [DONE! I took a class on laminated dough and a recipe for classic kouign amann will be in my cookbook. The shortcut version for kouign amann is here on my site.]

3. Fondant and Gum Paste. I’m not a huge fan of overly decorated cakes, but I’d love to have the ability to do it for those certain occasions.

4. Chocolate decorations. I’ve been experimenting with spun sugar and caramel decorations. Now I want to do the same with chocolate. Chocolate ribbons, chocolate leaves, chocolate clay, chocolate piped decorations, decorative transfer sheet, etc. Again the ability to play with chocolate as decorations will widen my skill set for when I need to create that show stopper dessert.

5. French Macarons. I’ve gone down the path several times, but never finished it (in fact I went so far as to make my own dehydrate vegetables to make them into a powder for the macaron flavor I wanted). I will do it. In fact, I need to do. I have 25 egg whites in my freezer waiting to be used and I don’t want to just make boring angel food cake.

6. Donuts. Always wanted to. Never gotten around to buying the oil for it. DONE!

7. Bûche de Noël. Always wanted to make it, never had an excuse to.

8. Biscotti. Homemade biscotti. Sounds delightful. DONE – Sweet and Savory!

9. Canning – homemade jams, marmalades and preserves. I make my own, but I’ve never actually canned them. The sterilizing of the jars seems like so much work, and I’m just lazy. DONE!

10. Baumkuchen. A traditional layered cake popular in Europe and Japan. One of these days I’ll make it.

8. Bread. I’ve done variants of the no-knead, as well as soft pretzels and pretzel buns. But I haven’t conquered other yeast risen bread. I’d love to make my own bagels – which has been on my to do list FOREVER. DONE! I have a recipe for bialy on my blog and make bread at home now an dthen.

9. Cheese. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I want to make my own cheese.

10. Fresh Pasta/Gnocchi. I’ve always had dreams of making my own ravioli to freeze. Never got around to it (even though I bought ravioli molds years ago). And my one attempt at gnocchi years ago post-college came out like lead bullets. DONE! Made pasta at my week at Le Cordon Bleu and posted my recipe for gnocchi.

12. Sous Vide without the machine. Sounds dangerous but one of these days…

13. Shellfish. Strangely, I’ve never made it at home. Love to make lobster. But my partner is scared of live animals in our kitchen….Guess I’ll be doing that on my own. DONE!

14. Ribs. I bought ribs once. They languished in my freezer until they burned so bad we had to throw them out. Is this summer the summer that we actually make them? We shall see… Done! Recipe for oven baked ribs on my blog.

15. Taiwanese cuisine. A broad subject, but it’s my heritage, and I haven’t made anything specifically Taiwanese. Reading an article in the April issue of Saveur about Taiwanese cuisine makes me want to start. I should give my mom a call about this…. This is ongoing but I’ve made a few different Taiwanese dishes, one of which, Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken is here on my blog.

As always, this list is incomplete, and I’ll be adding and subtracting to it as I think of things and do things…

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Petoke December 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

How interesting! I enjoyed reading this list. What vegetable did you dehydrate for macaroon flavor?


Irvin January 26, 2011 at 9:33 am

Carrot. I was going to make Carrot Cream Cheese Macarons. I should get on those. I have about 75 egg whites in the freezer right now, that need to be used up.


Kristel Poole July 17, 2013 at 9:29 am

Glad I’m not the only one with a bunch of egg whites in the freezer!


ReL January 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

Just came across your blog today and in reading your list had a suggestion 🙂 You mentioned the sterilizing of jars in canning seemed like so much work… here’s a cheat: use the dishwasher. My mom taught me to stick the jars and lids in the dishwasher and right as your about to can pull them out hot. Saves time and effort 🙂


Irvin January 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

If I had a dishwasher, I’d totally do that. But sadly I live in an old (but beautiful) tiny one bedroom apartment in San Francisco. One of these days I’ll become a grown up though and get a dishwasher…


Tessa March 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I was surprised to find that canning isn’t as complicated as it sounds … especially if you do smaller batches (because you’ll already have pots big enough to hold all the jars and lids). I was pleasantly surprised when I figured this out because of the extra room in my fridge. 🙂


Jaime Chandra March 7, 2011 at 9:27 am

I had the same revelation as Tessa! Sterilizing isn’t all that difficult, takes less time than you think & the bonus room in the fridge makes it all worthwhile!


Irvin March 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm

It is definitely on my list! Sean over at Punk Domestics has offered on more than one occasion to show me how to can jams. I even went out and bought all the proper equipment. It’s more a matter of time. I just need to put aside a weekend day to do it!


Dina Avila January 25, 2011 at 6:50 am

This is a GREAT idea! I always have so much bouncing around my head that I never think to make a list (except for desired kitchen tools). I’m so going to do this now!

I’m not a big rib fan (don’t like food that gets all over my face. Weird, I know) but Adam loves them. In the summer, I toss them in the slow-cooker with a bottle of really good BBQ sauce and let it roll. Fall off the bone delicious!


Irvin January 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

It’s totally awesome. Ruhlman gave me the idea and I had seen it on various other blogs, but I finally got around to making the list. What’s sad is I haven’t crossed off more. I gotta get cracking!

Also, I hear you about the food on my face. But ribs are worth it for me! Yours sounds awesome…


Stephanie - Wasabimon January 30, 2011 at 4:08 am

Heh, I don’t know much about shellfish either. We should do a shellfish challenge where we try to build our skills!


Irvin January 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm

We should TOTALLY do that? How I’d fit that into my blog, not sure, but I’m up for it!


Nicole February 1, 2011 at 6:13 am

Hi, Irvin! I am sorry we never got a chance to formally meet at the wedding, but I am the girl who introduced Peter and Natatia – I’ve been following your blog and noticed that you want to make cheese.

I saw a simple recipe on Barefoot Contessa yesterday, maybe it would be a good start!


* 4 cups whole milk
* 2 cups heavy cream
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar


Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot such as Le Creuset. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. (I tend to like mine on the thicker side, but some prefer it moister.) Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.



Irvin February 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Oh thanks for the recipe! I didn’t know you could make cheese with just vinegar, I thought you had to go and get rennet. I should investigate. Your recipe (well food network’s recipe) sounds super simple.

One of the things that makes me insanely lazy is that I live so conveniently close to a number of awesome stores that sell amazing cheese. Bi Rite Market is only a block away and they have an excellent selection. But since I’ve already started curing my own bacon, making my own cheese is the next logical step I guess…


Perzen August 31, 2013 at 5:02 am

Hi Irvin,

It’s been two years since you posted this comment so am sure you have already made the ricotta cheese suggested by Nicole. I’d just like to add that the home-made ricotta just tastes fabulous and is an awesome replacement for cream cheese in cheesecakes – the home made ricotta gives it the creamy texture of cream cheese minus the high component = more excuses to eat cream cheese!
Here’s how I make it: http://www.bawibride.com/gher-nu-ricotta


Natasha February 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm

What a great list! My sister made bagels once and thought they turne out really well. I want to try them still.


Irvin February 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I made bagels once, and they failed miserably. But one of these days I will make them again! I have several recipes bookmarked….


vetmed March 14, 2011 at 6:58 am

You have GOT to check out Kenji in the food lab at Serious Eats. He has the recipes we crave and works out a great way to do them using scientific methods in the kitchen- Look up the archives. Right now he is making ketchup, mustard and other fun sauces but he has done ice chest sous vide and other cool stuff like that in the past. Can’t wait to see what you try next!


vetmed March 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

Forgot to mention Culinate- a website you should definitely visist as they have articles on everything from locavores right on down the line- Love your blog and the recipes!


Kim May 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I wanted to make my own cheese after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle too! Maybe some time this Spring we should get together and have a mozzarella-making day! I’ll host 🙂


JulieD May 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm


This is an awesome list. Can I steal your idea and do one of these? Love it!


Irvin May 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Steal away! It wasn’t my idea in the first place, I got it from Michael Ruhlman. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. 😉


Andrew @ Eating Rules May 30, 2011 at 7:04 am

Next time you’re in LA, come over to my place and we’ll cross #9 off the list.


Jaime September 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm

For the gnocchi try ricotta instead of potato, they are much lighter, quicker and easier to make and are still equally delicious!


Irvin September 22, 2011 at 12:28 am

Thank Jaime. If I ever get around to it, I’ll totally try that out. I love ricotta.


Adelina November 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Love this list!


olessya November 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

great idea! should use it too(: decided. right now!


Sara November 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Fun list–I have something like this, floating around on various post-its on my desk…whenever I unearth an old one I always hope I’ve at least done something from it!


Bambi November 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Wow! This inspired to make my own fun list too! Thanks for sharing! Love the honesty of your blog!


David February 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Laminated dough? I’ll help………Six months at Tante Marie got me over that hump. LOL


Sabine @ berrylovely March 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

Great list! You should make the laminated dough. I was surprised how easy it is when we did it with the daring bakers. It’s just time consuming, but mostly waiting time. It tastes fantastic, and you will never use store-bought again.


Jenni May 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm

If you’re interested in doing laminated dough–and it honestly isn’t hard, just repetitious–I made a couple of videos: One on how to make it and one on ways to use it. I hate to post links on folks’ blogs w/o permission, so let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll be happy to share them. 🙂


Irvin May 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I love how everyone is encouraging me to make laminated dough! I’m actually not intimidated by it, so much as lazy and never seem to have the time to make it. One of these days I’ll get to it though.

In the meanwhile, thanks everyone for the words of encouragement!


Mummy's Got a Job October 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Come on, biscotti is super super easy, fast and fun!

Ever since I stumbled upon Mona Talbott’s book Biscotti there has been a batch of home made ones every week…

I have sourdough bread from a home-grown starter on the top of my list…


Rosalie November 21, 2012 at 11:25 am

Nice thought to post this list, I liked reading it. And go on with the homemade biscotti, they’re very simple and totally worth the effort.


Stargirl December 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Bûche de Noël is so GOOD! And it is flourless! Hooray for naturally GF recipes!


Marisa Franca @ All Our Way July 22, 2014 at 5:04 am

You’ll love making bagels — so many flavors and they are so chewy! I finally conquered making ciabatta with the traditional holes. For years I’d make the ciabatta – cut into it — and not holes. What a disappointment. But finally got the great holes and taste so I know how much fun it is to get your “bucket list” checked off.


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