Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hiatuses are for people who can't spell 'hiatuses.'

Duddddddes. We're coming back. It's been a while--Amy is living in Iowa City, and Caleb is living in Boston--but we're coming back. And packing heat. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fresh Baked Boules

Of all the man made creations, there are few that rival bread. This category encompasses everything from the baguette to wonder bread. A miracle of nature, wild yeast propagated mixtures of flour and water for thousands of years, leaving superstitious bakers to wonder which God let their bread rise. Although I will be doing a post on using wild yeasts to leaven your bread soon, let's start with perhaps the simplest loaf you can make: a rustic boule with no kneading involved. Think about it: commercial mixers have been around for scant a century, and people have been making bread for several millenniums. Sure, people needed bread, but often they just allowed the bread to sit and naturally develop gluten through long slow rises, producing a chewy and slightly sour flavor that is perfect on its own.

In a bowl mix:

-2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup AP flour (I suppose bread flour would be better but I don't have any)
-1/4 tsp instant AKA rapid rise yeast
-1 1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl or large liquid measuring cup mix:

-1 1/4 cup warm water OR 3/4 cup warm water and 1/2 cup mild crappy lager beer (This is the Cooks Illustrated method, which is good, but I rarely have a beer like this open, and usually don't want to open one just to make bread. I have made it with the beer and didn't feel like it made that big a difference in the flavor but YMMV)
-a good squeeze of honey
-2-3 tablespoons white vinegar

Mix the wet into the dry until a shaggy ball appears and cover with plastic wrap and let sit 8-18 hours.

2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Good luck, once you get the hang of it, it's really easy! Also if you're intereted in slashing, the secret is right before you put it in the dutch oven, rub flour all over the top of the loaf THEN slash and that's how you'll get a great looking top.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Heart-Healthy Apple Crisp

This is a basic, no-brainer, but it’s still worth writing about. Apple crisp! I love it—who doesn’t? It includes all my favorite ingredients: fresh fruit (I love me some tart Granny Smiths!), cinnamon and sugar. Plus, the whole wheat flour is good for your heart (yes, even when covered in sugar—yes it is!, trust me on this). I normally make this in the fall, when there’s an excess of Biglerville apples, but what’s wrong with a taste of fall in February? Nothing! In fact, it’s downright delicious!

Apple Crisp:

2 Granny Smith apples

3 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. white sugar

4 Tbs. whole-wheat flour

½ c. old-fashioned oats

2 Tbs. cinnamon (I really like cinnamon; if you don’t, it’s not a bad idea to curtail this otherwise unnecessary and maybe even unhealthy amount)

½ stick of butter

Peel and cut apples into chunks. Place in a greased 8x8 pan. Mix oats, flour and sugars in bowl. Cut butter into half-inch chunks. Place in mixture and combine. Spoon over apples. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until apples are soft. Serve over vanilla ice-cream.

Chinese-Style Teriyaki Tofu and Broccoli Stir-Fry

After nearly four years of strict vegetarianism, I cracked last fall while studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. The poulet roti, the moules frites, the escargot: it was all too much for me. But after a year of binging on chicken wings, greasy turkey burgers and fried chicken (oh, why in the world are the meats I love so terrible for me?), I’m back on the wagon. Or, kind of. I have one foot hanging off the wagon? In any case, I’m trying to eliminate meat from my diet, and the easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is to open yourself to meals without meat. For me, this just means bringing back all the meals I used to make religiously. I loved them then, but when you replace tofu with chicken in stir -fries, or black beans with chicken in fajitas, it gets difficult to go back. But I’m doing it!

Tonight I made one of my old favorites: Chinese-style Teriyaki fried tofu with broccoli over brown rice. It’s healthy, it’s easy and it’s delicious. And, I have to admit, it made me remember how tasty vegetarianism really can be, even if it doesn’t involve buffalo sauce or char-grilled taste.

Chinese-Style Teriyaki Tofu and Brocolli:

1 pkg. extra-firm tofu

1 head of broccoli

½ c. brown rice

1 c. water

4 Tbs. flour

3 tsp. paprika

1 c. cooking oil (I use vegetable)

Teriyaki sauce (I’m a big fan of Soy Vay’s “Very Teriyaki,” seen here).

In a small pot, add water and bring to a boil. Add rice and cover, simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut broccoli into florets and open and drain tofu. Cover in paper towels and apply pressure. Discard wet paper towels and repeat. Cut tofu into thin chunks.

Heat oil in a separate pot on high. When hot, put tofu in flour and paprika mixture. Coat and place tofu in oil, one-by-one. Let each piece cook 30-45 seconds, remove and place on a paper-towel lined plate.

When all tofu is finished, put broccoli in a stir-fry pan and heat on high. Cook broccoli and add tofu. Add teriyaki sauce. Serve over rice.

Yum! Who knew vegetarianism could be so yummy? (Well, I did…four years ago…)

Valentine's Cake, Vegetarian Stirfry and Apple Crisp

Well, I was hopeful after my last post, in which I “caught up” on recent cooking adventures, that I’d post regularly, but again the life of a student, intern and devoted long-distance girlfriend have caught up with me! Nonetheless, I’m back and best of all, I spent the whole weekend in the kitchen. An early Valentine’s Day cake for my roommates on Friday, Chinese-style tofu and broccoli Teriyaki over brown rice on Saturday and a homemade apple crisp tonight! The jury is still out on the crisp, which will be broken into at my friend Lindsay’s during the 9pm showing of Bret Michaels Rock of Love show (what goes with white trash television better than apple crisp? You’ve got me…), but everything else has received raved reviews! And best of all, with Valentine’s Day, spring and Easter just around the corner, there’s lots more cute baking to come. But first, the Valentine’s Day cake!

Valentine’s Day Sweethearts Cake:

1 cup milk, room temperature

6 egg whites

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter (6 oz), softened

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. In a small bowl, combine milk, eggs whites and extracts with a fork. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in an electric mixer and mix at slow speed with a paddle attachment. Add butter. Continue beating at slow speed until mixture looks like wet sand (if you're doing this by hand, sift the dry ingredients together and rub in butter). Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and beat for an additional 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Do not over-mix.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and gently shake to smooth batter. Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes then invert onto racks to cool completely before frosting.

(I frosted the cake with a simple buttercream, adding red food dye rather than milk.) The recipe is as follows:

Simple Buttercream Frosting:

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 1/2 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

Food coloring

In a bowl with an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 4 1/2 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Tint with food coloring as desired. Makes about 4 cups.