Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I promised...

I promised on twitter that I'd post recipes of two of the most delicious kosher for passover, gluten-free cookies ever thought of (at least in my experience). I think I've come through with that promise, but feel free to comment as to whether you do or don't agree with me. The first recipe will be in this post today. The second will be up tomorrow, so check back, quickly-- passover won't last forever! (Although I'll admit, these cookies are terrific passover time and non-passover time, unlike the "baked goods" they sell in the stores for this Jewish holiday.) The only thing is, you have to NOT have a nut allergy. Both recipes are loaded with nuts, but in a very balanced way. That is, nuts compose a large part of the ingredients for each, but there's a lot more to these than just nuts.

Moving on, here's the recipe for the first one.
I adapted from Fran├žois Payard's Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies. Although his recipe is probably great, I wanted more cookies and the kosher for passover confectioners sugar I had looked kind of gross. I did some improvising, next time will improvise more, but the cookies turned out amazing. When I brought them out at last night's seder, several people asked, in awe, if they were really kosher for passover. It's true. They are. Shock your friends, go ahead, try 'em.

Chocolate Walnut Chews 
recipe makes about 40-50 cookies

1 1/2 c cocoa
2 c granulated sugar
2 c superfine sugar
1/4 c potato starch
3 1/2 c walnuts
1/2 t salt
8 egg whites
1 T really good vanilla

While you preheat oven to 350, toast walnuts in a single layer on a sheet pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. Roughly chop walnuts, set aside. In a large bowl, mix cocoa, sugars, and potato starch. Add walnuts and salt, stir to combine. Add egg whites, two at a time, until batter is moist. (If you add them all at once, it's not the end of the world--if batter ends up being too liquidy, as mine was, you may put it in the freezer for 20 min, then scoop and bake.) Add vanilla, and stir to incorporate.

Lower oven temp to 320. Scoop dough by the tablespoon (or half of an ice cream scooper) onto parchment lined pans. Bake 12-15 min. Let cool on pans, slightly, and then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely, then plate, and shock your guests.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

POPOVERS!

I already explained that I made my brother a beer cake for his birthday. He'd also mentioned one day that he really loves popovers. He'd said, "Hey, do you think you know a good recipe for Popovers?" I took this subtle hint and acted on it.


The day before the broski left for Yale, I whipped up an easy batch of popovers. Quite an interesting baked good, I admit. Puffy, light, yet substantial as a breakfast food, or snack. And I think it's seriously cool to see the height these things exhibit once they get to the right temperature. Next time I think I'll add some grated hard cheese into the batter. I'm also working on a mixed popover/blueberry muffin recipe. I think it will be perfect.

But for now I just have the super simple popover recipe for you.

1 1/2 T melted butter
2 eggs
1 c flour
1 T agave

Whisk all ingredients well. Pour into well-greased muffin tins - mini or regular (I used both, for variety!). Bake for 30 min on 350. Remove from muffin tins, eat!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is there such thing as chocolate beer?


I'm sure. That question came from my brother, who turned 20 today. We gathered for birthday celebration and, without a clue of what to buy him for his special day, I made a cake. So I don't know if there's really a "chocolate beer" (there must be), but there is a beer-chocolate... in this cake.
Of course, Austin's birthday is the same day as St. Patrick's Day, so I could've just done Guinness cake, which I've done before, as cupcakes. I almost even ran out of the house last night to buy Guinness. I'm not sure if my reason for not doing so was to not seem like a teenager tryin to get my hands on some Irish Car Bombs, or because I found this other great Brooklyn Brown Ale in my fridge and therefore didn't have to leave. Either way, I made Brown Beer Chocolate cake, topped it off with cream cheese frosting (homemade, of course), and served it for dessert, after a too-filling Mexican feast.
I'll have to try it again tomorrow when my stomach doesn't feel like it's about to explode, but as far as I can tell, all family members (who I can only assume were as full as me) ate a piece, and gave good feedback (isn't a clean plate enough?).

You can actually taste the chocolate and the ale, and it's quite nice, subtle, complex.
Here you go. I made it in a springform pan, and only frosted the top. Simple. Good. (Usually I find myself partial to the 2-layer cake, filling and covered in luscious frosting; this time, I settled for frosted top only, and I'm glad.) I will say that the middle seemed it was about to implode. It never did, but it did sink mildly. You couldn't tell, though, with the thick frosting on top.

Brown Beer Cake
3/4 c cocoa
9 T butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c dark brown ale (such as Brooklyn Brown Ale)
3/4 c sour cream
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in cocoa and sugar. Pour into medium-large mixing bowl. Add eggs, beat well. Add beer and sour cream. Stir well. Separately mix dry ingredients, then add them to the mix. Whisk. Consistency should be thick but still liquidy, pourable.
Lightly oil a round springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper. You can dust with cocoa, too, if you want, but no pressure. I didn't. Pour in cake batter. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, exactly, or until a wooden skewer/toothpick inserted comes out practically clean.
Cool on rack. When TOTALLY COOL (next day is good, too), frost with your best cream cheese frosting (mine is: 1/4 c butter+1/4 c cream cheese+1-2 c confec. sugar, depending on your taste, beaten). Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moist, Light Bran Muffins


I recently bought some bran. I bought it because I thought it an essential ingredient in whole wheat or multigrain bread. And as soon as I had it, I remembered how good the banana bran muffins were that I made as a baker at San Francisco's Cafe Ponte.
Although I don't remember the Cafe Ponte recipe, I fudged my own. The result was a very moist, light, tasty, perfect texture muffin. I will definitely make them again.

6 T butter, softened
1/4 c sugar (white or brown)
2 eggs
1 c plain yogurt (I used fat-free Greek yogurt)
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 t vanilla
2 very ripe bananas, mashed or in small chunks
1 c bran + 1 c hot water, left to sit 5 min

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in eggs and yogurt. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until incorporated. Finally, add vanilla, bananas, and bran/water mush. Scoop into muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Remove from tins so the muffins don't steam and become mushy. Cool. Eat!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hell Yes, multigrain sourdough loaf


For a while there, in the beginning of the New Year, I was posting a lot. In the past week or so, though, I just haven't gotten around to it. So apologies, apologies. I haven't NOT been cooking or baking. Of course, I am always creating something in the kitchen. I just didn't have the time to blog it. So, over the last ten days, the most memorable food creations have been: Potato Leek Soup, Lavash/Squash/Jack Cheese layered baked thing and, drum roll, please, multigrain sourdough loaf!

One thing that is easily lacking in my house at any given time is bread. For some reason, loaves of bread are not bought. Not regularly, at least. You know, there's always some Eli's health loaf in the freezer, in case of emergencies, but no bread easily accessible in the rare occurrence of a craving for PB&J.
So today, I made use of my sourdough starter, which usually just sits in the fridge, waiting to be poked at and refreshed. I will start the recipe for multigrain sourdough loaf bread by assuming you have a mother starter accessible. If you do NOT have a mother starter, I will post one very very soon. It's easy to make, only takes about a week. I've had mine for a few months now, and it's very easy to keep alive, needing only minimal care now and again.


THE DAY BEFORE YOU BAKE:
So basically, you want to use some (2/3 c) of your mother starter to create a firm starter. To do this, mix 2/3 c of your mother starter with 1 c flour and 1/4 c water. Stir, by hand, adding water if necessary, and form into a ball. Let rise in room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, in greased bowl, 6 hours, then refrigerate overnight.
Firm starter is now ready to use.
You also want to mix some grains and let them soak, overnight, in minimal amounts of water. I used 3 T polenta, 3 T rolled oats, 3 T bran, and 1/4 c water.

MULTIGRAIN SOURDOUGH LOAF
6 oz firm starter, cut into 5-6 pieces
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c milk
1/2 c water
soaked grains (from night before)
3 T brown sugar
pinch salt
1 T honey

Mix with a spoon all the ingredients. Then knead for 15 min, or more, until dough is as elastic as possible (whole wheat flour is not exactly elastic, so just knead a lot until it doesn't tear when you bend it--tearing at the surface indicates less developed webs of gluten = bad bread). You can also use an electric kitchenaid mixer, which is super easy, but less "in touch" with your bread.
Once dough is mixed, put in greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 3-4 hrs.
Now shape the dough. You basically want to lay the dough out in the shape of a rectangle, and roll it up, lengthwise, or fold it on itself, lengthwise, and then sort of seal it that way, make a seam. Then lay this rolled up dough, seam side down, in a greased loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise another 3-4 hours.
Bake 45 minutes on 350, with convection on. If you don't have convection, just turn the pan 180 degrees halfway through cooking.
When bread is done, remove from oven, and invert loaf out of pan asap. Let cool at least one hour.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cinnamon Buns


No surprise, I enjoy food-blog-browsing in my free time. I found this recipe online and just had to try it, because I love breakfast foods! These easy to make breakfast buns are perfect for a grab-and-go start to the day. *Also, you can make the dough and retard the proofing by putting it in the fridge 45 minutes after mixing. Then, just remove 2 hours before you are ready to use it, let it come to room temperature and rise, and cut and bake as directed below!
I wanted to post them before I completely fall asleep after the longest day ever (referring to every Thursday, every week).
They are truly delicious as is, but with glaze or frosting, even better, taking away from the original author's namesake goal, but adding to my enjoyment!

Skinnymon Buns
adapted from The Skinny Chef

1 c all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 package yeast
1/2 c sugar
1 T butter, melted
1 c milk (any fat content fine)
1 egg
pinch salt
cinnamon sugar (2 parts sugar, 1 part cinnamon, mixed)

Pulse flours, yeast, and salt in food processor. Mix melted butter, milk, egg, and salt in bowl. With the food processor running, add to the dry mixture. Mix until well blended. Scoop dough out with spatula and place in lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size*. On a floured board, dump dough out, and roll into a rectangle of even-thickness, about 1/4" thick. Spray vegetable oil, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to your liking (I used about 1/4 cup, then decided I wanted more sugar and sprinkled some on top). Roll up dough into a long snake, and then slice, about 1-2" thick. Place slices on parchment paper and bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes. If glazing or frosting, do so right before cooled so it melts a bit, too.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Marmalade!


My grandma's boyfriend takes pride in his fruit trees. The San Diego climate keeps his garden producing abundantly. This year, he sent my mother home with two huge sacks of kumquats and one lemon. While the proportions are a bit off for me (I've never quite been a fan of the small, bitter orange fruit), I decided, someone's gotta do something here.
I've never made marmalade before, but I sure as heck like it. Pizzaiolo in Oakland's upscale Temescal district serves excellent marmalade as part of their weekday breakfast. I think eating their servings of Blue Chair marmalade made me really turn on to the stuff.
Anyway, so I turned my lazy Friday night through Saturday into marmalade time. I will admit, it was a bit more time consuming that plain ol' jam, but much more exciting. The labor that went into it made me value the end result a lot more than when I've made jam. The recipe below will yield you 1 1/2 pints, about. I filled 3 half-pint Ball's jars.

Kumquat Marmalade
2-3 cups sliced, seeded kumquats, some seeds reserved in a tea ball strainer
water to cover
equal amount sugar as fruit
1 cinnamon stick

Soak sliced fruit in the water to cover, along with the seeds in the strainer (or cheesecloth) overnight, for at least 10 hrs. Remove seeds from pot and add the sugar and the cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hrs, or until marmalade has thickened significantly, almost to the gel point (which means that when you dab some marm' on a very cold plate and tip the plate, it doesn't budge. It's gel!).
When it's almost done cooking, sterilize 3 half-pint mason jars and their lids. Fill jars with marmalade, and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.