Fifi’s Lunch Box

Either you love bacon, or you are wrong.

This post is about a bacony place, called Fifi’s Lunch Box, in Terre Haute Indiana. I hadn’t set foot in the United States since 2002, when I was only an eleven year old girl. So, when my trip was booked after a decade, one of the items on my bucket list was to find a bacon themed place to eat. But it seemed that my list was way too long, I had too much to do with so little time to spare. Finally, on my last day, I begged my nan to drive me to this place my aunt had told me about, that had everything with bacon, even bacon soda!

Off we went, through Terre Haute’s chaotic Lafayette Ave., got lost a couple of times, nearly got hit (at least once), even stopped by the police (no ticket thank goodness – people in Indiana seem to be very kind and unusualy nice, police likewise, even if you turn on a red when you’re not suppose to).

We were about to give up, when my baconstinct said “No Megan, you are too close to just go back home now – what if you only come back after another twelve years?!” and asked around at a gas station. Obviously, everybody knew about Fifi’s, this was a good sign, and back on track we went, to find The Bacon Utopia.

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There it was, shut. I panicked, but knocked, and Jaqueline was there so kindly to open the door and question my curiosity. I think I might of gotten of as some type of lunatic, Nikon around my neck, wanting to take pictures of everything, and asking “where are the Bacon Cupcakes?”. I suppose americans are used to this, so in I went, and got talking to Jaqueline, who was just getting prepared for an event of 300 people the next day (so.much.bacon.arrghh). Their food truck was off elsewhere catering to other customer’s bacon needs in some nearby event. I questioned about their products, complimented on the bacon donut burguer (yes, they do it!) and got lost in all the bacon merchandise stacked up neatly on the shelves.

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I had to say that I was desperate into trying something, as I was from Portugal, where nowhere you can find much bacon enthused people nor places (alghtough I think if anybody would open up that type of business oversees, it would be me), and was eager to write about the shop on the blog. In the end, I took three cupcakes home and a box of bacon candy. Tempted into also buying a bacon lipbalm, and a pound of their homemade bacon (but highly doubted that customs would let me go through with that in my suitcase) I curbed my enthusiasm by sticking to my main plan – to take a few pictures of the yummy bacon sweet goodies, because bacon goes good with everything. Jaqueline was so kind into offering a sample of gooey bacon butter cake, which really tasted like bacon. It was delicious.

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My next mission was to get home with three intact cupcakes, so I could try each one of them, take notes, shoot some mouthwatering pictures and show the rest of my bacon crazed family (who lives in Terre Haute) that bacon sweet tooth works very well.

Jaqueline informed me that they are about to open a new shop, in a new location. North Terre Haute ends up being a bit out of reach, and it is a small place to cater to their upcoming fans. I hope I can check it out next time I go back, and actually enjoy having a meal there.

 So what you should know about Fifi’s is:

– They make their own bacon, applewood smoked, also have a great pork purveyor who caters to big orders, with top notch quality suine;

– The menu is amazing;

– It is a humble enviorment with a friendly vibe;

– “Bacon makes everything better” and “Keep Calm and Eat Bacon” are signs posted on the wall;

– Home of the Bacon Latte (omg);

– Bacon, Bacon and, well, Bacon.

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I hope you guys become international and think about visiting Portugal in the near future, I would definitely become a regular customer, and drag all my bacon friends there.

 About the cupcakes I tried:

Beer batter dough, cheddar cheese and bacon buttercream frosting: wow! Loved the frosting and the density of the cupcake, which was more like a muffin.

bacon cupcake with cheddar cheese

bacon cheddar 2 bitten

The Elvis Presley, banana bread base, peanut butter frosting, chocolate chips and a bacon piece on top: anything peanut butter, thumbs up, with bacon? Even better.

elvis presley cup cake

elvis presley up close

elvos presley up above

Dark chocolate and buttercream frosting with a cute decorative salty piece of bacon on top: lovely fluffy texture, great color contast between the black, white and the rosie piece of bacon.

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close up all bitten

Beyond recognition, all cupcakes were a success. My favorite was the Elvis Presley, the peanut butter goes so well with the banana and the bacon gives it that extra flavor experience, as salty savory just becomes the “cherry” on top of the “cupcake”.

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3 in a row

Before I go, I have to tell you about this awesome bacon magazine I found in Rural King (the only place in the states where you can take your pet – even a snake, as long as it has a leash on it. Oh! And free popcorn!). Only in ‘murrikuh! Everything bacon related is in it, from how to make it on the comfort of your own home, amazing recipes and plenty of delicious bacon photos.

Don’t forget to check out Fifi’s website, facebook page and if ever in the vicinities of Terre Haute, or thinking about going to a nearby festival, check out if you are close to tasting a bit of bacon heaven. With homemade bacon, what else?

 Thank you Fifi, for making my overdue trip to the states worth while, and putting up with my everlasting curiosity about meeting your shop. I approve this vittle, as a luso-american foodie! Keep up the good work!

 Bacon is life!

Profiteroles

Today is the day that my dear friend Daiane Lopes and I publish our first recipe together, in a portuguese online magazine called Umbigo. I’m very excited about this, because our first recipe is a mix between both of our cultures. Being brazillian, Daiane makes her famous “brigadeiro” (mixed condensed milk, butter and chocolate) and my american vein is bond to add a bit of peanut butter to it. So that is how our first profiterole topping/filling came about.

Even if you do not understand portuguese, please do take a look at our publication through the following link – http://umbigomagazine.com/um/2014-09-29/profiteroles.html – and appreciate one of the best PT magazines, with so much information on art, cultural events, and many outstanding writers and editors. It recently won a bronze award at Festival do Clube de Criativos de Portugal.

This is where some of our recipes will be posted through the following months, and we have enjoyed very much trying out some new recipes, just like this one.

So, first of all, the 101 Profiterole lesson. This is another recipe adapted from Sebastian Rouxel and Thomas Keller’s book (Bouchon Bakery) and it is a very easy, accessible thing to bake. A few tricks and details however, but surely no rocket science on how you come about to cooking a golf ball sized puff of 85% air and 15% delicate ready-to-fill pastry. The filling is really up to your personal taste, and you can use various types of cream, glazes, anything worth setting inside a little golden puff of hollowness, ready to ooze out after the first bite.

profiteroles 1

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams water
  • 125 grams salted butter
  • 138 grams flour
  • 250 grams eggs, beaten

Preparation:

Start by combining the water and the butter in a pan, over a medium heat until the butter is completely melted and the water starts to simmer. Do not let it boil, as it will reduce necessary moisture. Mix in the flour, with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes. By this time, the dough will become a paste and will start to unglue from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the dough into a bowl and with a mixer, beat for about 30 seconds to release some of the leftover moisture. Add in the eggs, in 5 stages of 50 grams each. Make sure that each previous addition is well incorporated before adding the next. At one point, you might freak out because the dough will look grainy and uncontrollably destroyed – don’t panic, this will soon disappear with the constant egg addition, which is responsible for the gooey elastic texture and appearance.

Let the dough cool down a bit, for about 15 minutes, before gathering it in a pastry bag (choose whichever tip of your preference, just make sure it has a big opening). Slightly dab the corners of a cookie sheet with any remaining dough and lay a piece of parchment paper over the top (this will keep the paper stuck to the tray while in the oven, and not fly off and wreck the profiteroles). Start forming the pâte à choux disks, about 2/3 cm diameter, by pressing and slightly elevating the pastry bag to give it some volume. Stop pressing when you mean to start another one, otherwise the dough will just keep on going while you stretch the bag up and mess up the pretended format. Keep about 2 cm of distance between each disk.

Dab a finger in cold water and smooth out any tips that remained from your marvelous piping techniques (it happens to me, to you, everyone, and you just can’t prevent that tiny little bump from forming). Lay the tray(s) in the freezer until the disks are removable. This is another great freezing technique combined with patisserie excellence, first of all because profiteroles should be eaten fresh, within an hour after baking; second because by gathering the already frozen disks in a bag, you have some ready to pop in the oven whenever your sweet tooth desires (without having to defrost them); third because it stabilizes texture by preventing them from melting before “popping”.

frozen profiteroles

This is what the frozen profiteroles look like. They will last up to a month in the freezer, inside a zippy bag.

To bake: preheat the oven to 190ºC, the best setting is the convection one, but if that is not a possibility for you, then try the one you are most comfortable with. Spritz the profiteroles with water, into the oven and reduce the temperature to 170ºC. Cook for 25 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160ºC and bake an extra 10 minutes. Makes 45-50 profiteroles.

The fillings and/or toppings:

Peanut butter “brigadeiro”:

Ingredients:

  • 395 grams condensed milk (1 can)
  • 300 grams smooth peanut butter
  • 300 grams dark unsweetened chocolate
  • 30 grams salted butter
  • 150 grams whole cream
  • 60 grams caster sugar

Preparation:

Combine the peanut butter and the condensed milk in a pan, on the stove, and bring up to a simmer. In another pan, melt the chocolate with the butter, the cream and the sugar (just until the chocolate is completely melted). Mix both concoctions and set aside.

brigadeiro

Whipped cream: do I really have to give you a recipe for this? I didn’t think so, but just in case, whip 250 ml of whole cream, two tablespoons of sugar and a few drops of lemon juice. Or just use whichever recipe you are used to.

profiterol recheio nata I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream in desserts, but when in the right amount and with a good contrast (like this sweet and smooth peanut butter chocolate Snickers tasting goodness), it tastes rather nice. 

profiterole recheio choco

You can always invert the topping/filling idea. Top with crunchy salted peanut for texture and flavor contrast.

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Lime merengue: So this was another idea I had for filling the profiteroles, as I have so many of them in the freezer just waiting to be pimped with awesome flavors. And so the pieterole was born! I am feeling quite eager into trying new pie transformations into this tiny format. Just you wait!

alone with backgound profiterole

How the profiterole was invented: a patisserie professional, a french one (of course), one day forgot to add sugar into his pastry cream. He therefore hid it in the oven, and only later on he remembered that the oven was actually hot. And puff, that is how pâte à choux was born.

up profiteroles

Lime curd

Ingredients:

  • 325 ml water
  • 30 grams cornstarch
  • 30 grams flour
  • 360 grams caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 75 grams lime juice (lemon if lime isn’t your thing)
  • Lime zest

Preparation:

Stir and cook the water, cornstarch, flour and sugar. As soon as it starts to bubble, cook for two minutes, always stirring. Gently poor this into the egg yolks, and stir fast so it doesn’t curdle. Cook for a further minute before adding the lime juice and zest. Once this starts to bubble, cook a further 3 minutes. Take off the stove and gently incorporate the butter.

If you think it is lumpy, by all means, pass it through a strainer.

Cover the curd with plastic wrap, contacting directly with the surface, so it doesn’t form an outer layer of unwanted skin.

Merengue

Weigh the leftover egg whites from the previous recipe, and measure double the amount of sugar. This is a recipe for an italian merengue, I find it quite stable as it lasts two days in the fridge without separating, and if you have any leftover just pipe the remaining on a tray and bake in the oven, like mini pavlovas.

Ingredients:

  • x grams egg whites (I used 70 grams)
  • 2x grams caster sugar (so 140 grams as in double the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 5 drops lemon juice/lime juice/vinegar (this prevents the merengue from crystalizing while in the fridge)

Preparation:

Heat sugar, water and acid option on the stove, till 121ºC. A bit before reaching this temperature, make sure you start to beat the egg whites. As soon as they are formed, start poring the sugar syrup, and beat until cooled down (about 5 minutes, if you have a stand mixer, even better, just let it beat a bit more).

This is a very very sweet merengue. If you want to make something lighter, just do it the traditional way (no sugar syrup, but a few spoons of sugar while beating), but remember that that sort of merengue won’t last long, if not cooked. This can be good if you are willing to scarf all of the profiteroles down in one day, the fresher the better. If you have to make this the day before serving, I advise this technique as it holds pretty well overnight in the fridge. It is a truly reliable recipe as the high temperature reached by the sugar syrup allows the egg whites to actually cook into the merengue form. Obviously after a few days it is not at its best, after two it already lacks a bit of substance, but guess what – you can beat it again, and again, and again! Because merengue never over beats. This is true. Google it if you must.

I am in the process of trying out low calorie versions of merengue whilst using gelatin powder, so it is stable without the excess sweetness, but the results so far have not been satisfactory. I have also used, in the past, alternative sugars like isomalt, but it just doesn’t taste that good, and it is not very hygroscopic (keen to holding on to moisture/water) so it acts very differently and ends up separating faster than the caster sugar version. It is beneficial for weight watchers and diabetics, because as an alcoholic sugar, it is only partly absorbed into the body. The negative side: it isn’t as sweet.

side profiteroles

bitten profiterole

To fill the profiteroles: make a little hole on the bottom side with a knife, anywhere the dough is most fragile so it is easy to poke without destroying much of the puff. Use a thin tip and a piping bag to help, and don’t overdo it with the filling – otherwise it will get too rich. I usually weigh them after filling, and between 10-15 grams of filling is perfect.

If you prefer, you can open them, fill them, and shut them again. Whatever is easiest for you, but keep in mind that maintaining the filling a secret is the best part of eating a profiterole in the first place!

For the merengue, the funnest part of all, use a torch to slightly brown the topping, it will taste like a roasted marshmallow.