Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bread Tips and Pointers

After over a year of making bread multiple times a week, I've found some easy tips.

You can proof your dough in a pitcher- much easier to see when it's "doubled."

You can also scoop it out of the mixing bowl, spray the whole thing with PAM, and plop it back in. No cleaning necessary.

If you use another container to rise the dough in, you can easily make multiple batches of bread in one morning and freeze the unbaked loaves. It takes me about 10 minutes to go from cupboard to proofing, including grinding the wheat. Raise the dough and then punch down and form into loaves. Wrap loosely in a few layers of saran wrap and freeze. Obviously, I didn't wrap these loosely and they cooled down much slower than I anticipated. They exploded. Once I put them back together and re-wrapped, they behaved beautifully. If you made the bread at night and let it rise overnight in the fridge, that would be wonderful too. You could wrap them in the morning and pop them in the freezer.

When you want to bake one, unwrap and let it thaw completely on the counter in your loaf pan. Mine takes 3-4 hours to thaw and rise.

When the bread has reached the top of the pan, bake as normal. I find that I get a softer crust this way- the gluten has more time to develop, but it doesn't have the beer-y flavor of bread that has been risen multiple times. (I like to rise just twice, once in the bowl, once in the pan.)

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Top Round Roast, a la Casa LoLo

I've always liked to cook, and I consider myself a Proud Cook. Meaning...I'll try making almost anything, once, if someone tells me they want to eat it. When I found a good deal on some roasts at Stew Leonard's, Lo Gung asked me if I knew how to cook it. Actually, the conversation went something like this:
Lo Gung: Ooooh...that sounds yummy. Mmmmm.
Me: Yeah, it does....
Lo Gung: Do you know how to make it?
Me: (looking at the marbling, fat layer, etc...and figuring that it's meant to be roasted) Umm...sure!
Lo Gung: We're getting it!

And that's how we came to have a 4.5 lb roast in our fridge. And subsequently decided to serve it to our dinner guests on Sunday night.

(Which, incidentally, did not go well. I mis-timed the roast, and it was ready to eat at 7 pm. With 5 kids under the age of 8 in attendance...that just wasn't going to fly. So, unfortunately, we ate spaghetti instead...and the adults all had a slice of this delicious roast as our "dessert." *sigh* I think Lo Gung's exact words were, "This dinner should go on Fail Blog!" It was a rough night.)

Aunt LoLo's Top Round Roast

Preheat your oven to 325.

Prepare your pan with a roasting rack.

Dry your roast beef with a paper towel. Rub first with olive oil (approx 2 tsp.) and then seasonings. (I used Montral Steak Seasoning, available in the Baking aisle at Costco. It is a mix of salt, dried garlic, dried onions and cracked peppercorns.)

Place your roast (on your rack) in the oven. One hour and twenty minutes should get you a rare roast (for a 3 1/2 pound roast), or 120 degrees. I roasted my roast to 130 degrees (about 1 hour 45 minutes), and got a medium-rare.

Enjoy! And fear Roasts no more.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Spicy Black Bean Eggplant

Every once in a while, I will make a dish that even my Chinese-food-raised husband will sit up and notice. This eggplant? One of those times.

Don't let the "spicy" in the title scare you - the fine chili sauce in this recipe is very mild. Even my toddler loved this dish!

In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add one eggplant, sliced into thick strips (approx 3" long) and toss to coat. Add enough water to coat the bottom of the pan, cover and cook over medium heat until the eggplant is cooked through. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup water, 1 tsp. cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. black bean and garlic sauce (available at Asian grocery stores - Lee Kum Kee is our favorite brand), 3 tsp. fine chili sauce (very mild, like spicy ketchup), 1 tsp. oyster sauce, 1 tsp. soy sauce and 2 tsp. sugar.

When the eggplant is cooked through, remove the lid and add your cornstarch slurry. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken. If the sauce looks too thick, add a little more water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Serve over rice.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

A New (Old) Apple Cake

My son celebrated his birthday in December, and for his party with his friends I made his (new) favorite cake - an apple cake. The recipe originally came from my Great-Grandma Susie. Story is that, should you happen to find yourself in her front room during the autumn or winter, more likely than not you'd find yourself in the company of this particular cake. The secret, I believe, is that the cake is heavy handed on the oil...meaning that you have a cake that is as delicious, squishy and moist on Sunday evening as it was on the Monday before. Brilliant, right? It's almost a cross between a pudding, a bread and a cake.

I found two copies of the recipe - the one I copied from my grandmother's recipe files, and the one that my great-aunt published in their church cookbook 30 years ago. For the first run through, I made the cake as my grandmother taught me. However, with 3 cups of flour, two cups of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of was a bit of a once-a-year-treat. Since I had already made it that way once (for a party at church), I decided to put a bit of a LoLo spin on it. The results were delicious and, for some of the guests who sampled both cakes, actually preferrable! My version is by no means a diet version, but certainly less oil-some than the original. It is perfect plain, for breakfast, or topped with a dollop of Cool Whip. (I can't break tradition, guys - sorry! It was always Cool Whip at Grandma's house.)

Aunt LoLo's Fresh Apple Cake

Serves 12-15


3 cups AP flour (unsifted)

2 cups white sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon (Saigon, please!)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup oil

1 cup apple juice

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

4 medium sized apples, cored and chopped. (I used two Granny Smith - tart- and two Cortland - sweet. Peels on, please. No need to be fussy!)

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan well. Really, really, really well. Some of the cake will still stick...but don't let that discourage you. Just do your best!

In a LARGE bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt).

In a 2 cup measuring cup, pour in 1/2 cup oil and then 1 cup apple juice. (You could, of course, do this in two steps - but I'm trying to save you time here!) Pour that into your dry ingredients. In the same cup, crack two eggs and whisk them lightly. Dump them into the flour bowl. Squeeze in your vanilla (one short squeeze is about right) and your lemon juice (one long squeeze). (Just trying to keep it real here!).

Stir that all together. I like using a spatula, so I can make sure all of the flour is mixed in. Fold in your apples.

Give it a taste. Yummy? Great! Now spoon it into your prepared Bundt pan. (Trust me - if you try to pour it, your arm will get tired and fall off, and your cake will end up all over the counter. This is definitely a spooning operation.) (Heh.)

Put your cake into the oven and set a timer for an hour. It won't be done after an hour - it will take closer to an hour and a half - but you really don't want to leave the kitchen for that last half hour, as this is not an exact science. The cake is done when a toothpick stuck into the deepest part comes out batter-free. A few crumbs are ok. You don't want this cake to get dry!

Enjoy with just a dollop of Whipped Cream...or not, as the case may be.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Butternut Pear Cake

I've posted about this recipe before, but now...I've had some fun with the recipe, and would like to preserve my take on this. This is absolutely one of my favorite muffin recipes - so fresh, so different.

My original post is here. The original recipe is here. (The original recipe includes one for icing. It looks tasty, but I've never tried it. We're not big Frosting People here.)

I had a butternut squash and a pint of pearsauce that had to be taken care of. The first thing that came to mind was this recipe! A few tweaks...a few close calls...and out came an enormous cake. I'll most likely freeze half of it.

Since I had to get rid of an entire butternut squash, I went ahead and seeded and chopped the entire thing. Then I mixed it with enough sugar for a double batch, and pulled out a third of it to make a batch later. Leaving me with...enough for a double batch. (After tasting the cake, I'm not sure I put enough sugar in. The pear sauce is rather sweet, but...use your own judgement.) Applesauce could, of course, be substituted, or (as the original recipe suggests) olive oil. (I think I might prefer the olive oil - it gives a more pleasant crumb.)

Butternut Pear Cake
(Adapted from Jamie Oliver's "Jamie at Home")
Makes 1 large sheet pan, or approximately 4 dozen muffins
(If you'd like less than 4 DOZEN muffins, cut this recipe in half!)

Approx. 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, seeded and roughly chopped (skin on)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
8 large eggs
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
2 scant teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pearsauce (or equivalent applesauce or olive oil)

Preheat your oven to 350 and spray a large sheet pan well with Pam.

1. Put your butternut squash chunks into a food processor, and grind into small pieces.
2. Remove the butternut squash to the bowl of your mixer. (I used my spatula-edged beaterblade and really can't say enough great things about that product.)
3. Carefully mix in the eggs, salt, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and pearsauce (or equivalent). Do not overbeat! (Note: if you cut this recipe in half, to the original size, this entire process can be done in your food processor.)
4. Pour your batter into your prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out batter-free. (A few crumbs are good.)

Let cool on a rack, and enjoy!
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tatties & Neeps

Lo Gung likes Tatties & Neeps.
(He also told me not to post this picture. I didn't listen, because the picture made us both giggle. Sorry, sweetie. *grin*)

I have a fascination with all things ME related. That interest extends to dishes that come from countries that might have possibly housed my forebears.

This dish falls into that category.

Called Tatties & Neeps, short for Potatoes and Turnips, it's a simple mash up of the two root vegetables, and surprisingly tasty! There must be an assortment of turnips in this world, because many of the recipes I've seen warn of "bitter turnips" and "softening the blow with potatoes." The turnips that we can buy out here (waxed turnips) are sweet and delicious. (Our turnips are called Waxed Turnips because they are about 8 or 9 inches in diameter, and the outside is completely covered in wax, presumably to keep them fresh longer.)

Tatties & Neeps
Serves 6-8

1 large waxed turnip (approx. 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 3" chunks
Mashing potatoes (approx. 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 3" chunks
Milk (I used skim with no ill effects, but you can pick your own poison here.)

Place your cut-up turnips in a large soup pot and fill with water until the turnips are covered by an inch or two. Add three teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, keeping up a more sedate "boil", and cook until you can just get a bit of fork into your turnips, approx. 10-15 minutes. Add your potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes and turnips are both easily pierced with a fork. Cut the heat.

Using the lid of the pot, drain off the water and put your pot back onto your hot (but off) stove. Stir your tubers up a bit, to get rid of any extra puddles of cooking water. Grab a potato masher and go to town. As you mash, add a pat or two of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and a few splashes of milk to get everything all creamy-like.

Serve as a side dish to almost any meat. (The dish you see above was served alongside a pot roast and a green salad.)
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Roast Chicken

I might be the only one left who'd never roasted a chicken...but there you have it. I used a recipe from Serious Eats, which they shared from one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. I chose the recipe, over others available, because it was dead simple. Seriously.

Here's my adaptation.

1 3 1/2 pound -4 pound chicken
1/4 cup salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. seasoning herb rub (I used Williams-Sonoma brand)
Olive oil
2 carrots
4 potatoes
2 onions

1. Preheat your oven to 475. Wash your vegetables well, and chop them into 2" bits. (Except the onions. Just peel and quarter those.) Put your veg in a large bowl, toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt, and spread on the bottom of a roasting pan. Mix your spices in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Remove all the giblets from inside your bird. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Glug on a bit of olive oil and rub your bird all over. Then, start grabbing pinches of your salt rub and massage it into your bird, inside and out. Focus on the thighs and breast. When your bird is nice and salty, set it right on top of your veg. (Next time, I'm going to try using my rack. I'm hoping to get the Crisp to extend further around the bird. Mmmm.)

3. Put your bird in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 400. Set your timer for 1 hour and 20 minutes and walk away. Check it halfway through. Baste the bird, and add a splash of water to the pan if the veg look dry. At the end of your time, take the bird's temperature - it should measure about 170 F. Remove your pan from the oven and let the bird rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. (During that time, the bird will finish cooking, and should end up at 180F.)

4. When the bird is done resting, carve it up and serve! Remove the veg to a bowl, the chicken in another bowl. Serve a nice green salad and some soft french bread on the side. Delicious!
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Parmesan Garlic Monkey Bread

I monkeyed around with our favorite wheat bread recipe today and this is what I came up with.  After the first rise in the bowl, I shaped half the batch into a loaf to bake and half into this!  The exterior pieces had a really nice crust to them. It went well with our rice and beans.

Parmesan Garlic Monkey Bread

bread dough (one loaf worth)
1/2 cube butter
parmesan cheese
granulated garlic
dried parsley

Mix dried ingredients. Pull bread dough into small balls, then dip in butter and roll in dry mixture, and place in loaf pan. When all the bread is in the pan, pour the rest of the dry mixture and the butter over the top. Bake immediately, 350 about 25 minutes, or cover with saran wrap and put in the fridge. I made my bread in the morning, and pulled this out about the same time I put the rice on to cook. (Why yes, we DO like carbs! Why do you ask? Isn't wheat the staff of life?)
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