Friday, February 27, 2015

Hey 1995: Here's Your Foccacia

I remember when I was first introduced to foccacia. It was 20 years ago and it was delicious. The current flat bread fad would do well to remember it's forefather. Sometimes fluffy has a place that crunchy bread or fatty crackers just doesn't fill.

So here's a foccacia I recently made one night after work for an early evening pot luck. You can make this, rise it and be out the door in less than 90 minutes.

1.5 cup warm water
4 teaspoons instant active dry yeast-bread machine yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or turbinado sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup high gluten flour (or use all purpose, I just happen to have both.)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

In the bowl of a stand mixer place warm water, yeast and sugar. Add two cups of flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix lightly. Add the remaining cup of flour. Mix for about a minute until you have a cohesive ball of dough. It will be a little sticky. Add 1/4 cup of flour if needed. Remove the bowl from the stand, and paddle from the bowl. Pour a little oil over the dough and move the mass around the bowl until it is coated lightly with oil.
Oil a 13x9 cookie sheet well. Manipulate the dough into a rectangle and spread it out on the sheet the best you can. It will be a springy. Stretch the dough without ripping it. Cover with a clean dish towel and leave to rise 40 minutes.
Preheat oven 275 degrees. 
Remove the dish towel, make dimples in the dough with your finger tips, pushing the dough into the corners of the pan. Press your fingers to the bottom of the pan, without poking holes completely through. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the dough, as evenly as possible. Distribute the oil best you can with your fingers without deflating the dough too much. Sprinkle with sea salt. black pepper and paprika. Now you'd add other flavorings, cheese and caramelized onions for example. Put bread in oven and bake 35 minutes. Up the heat to 350 and bake 5 minutes longer. Or bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Pour over the remaining olive oil. Remove from the pan to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

Siopao-Daring Baker's Challenge

Filled with seasoned ground pork, onions and ginger.
Where a Siopao or a Bao start and a Kolache end I'm not so sure. How about a Piroshki? Maybe a Calzone? They are all yeast doughs wrapped around deliciousness. Yes, they can be savory and sweet. I might have to make all of them to see really why they are different. Egg in the dough? Rising times? It will be a hardship, but I'm willing suffer in the name of science.

Why I made these in particular is because I've lurked too much on the Daring Baker's Challenge and if I don't participate again they are going to kick me to the curb.

 The dough is straight from Julie E's recipe. I only needed 4 cups of flour and my dough was fairly dry.
Dough balls, each weighing in near 3 ounces, unfilled.

1/4 ounce (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast (1 packet )
1-1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter cut into little pieces
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 egg for egg-wash for the buns

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
1 lb ground pork 
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sugar

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 green onion, minced 

In a stand mixer combine the yeast, water, sugar, butter and salt. Allow the yeast to get foamy. Add the flour. Mix until combined. Cover the bowl and allow it to sit 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Cut into 12 equal sized balls roll tightly.
The dough filled and waiting to rise.
Starting with the ball you rolled, press flat. I used a rolling pin. Is that cheating? I don't know but that's how I roll. Haha. The dough is like pizza dough. Use about 1/4 cup room temperature or cold filling. Pinch the sides together and place seam side down on a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with all the dough and filling.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Brush with egg and bake 20-25 minutes.

To make the filling:
In a large skillet brown the onion in the oil. Add the garlic and ginger. Sautee 2 minutes. Add the pork, cook until brown. Add the sauces, sugar, salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Thicken with a cornstarch slurry. (Add the starch to the water and that solution to the pork and cook until clear.) Add the minced onion, cool.

These are the perfect size to pack for lunch. My daughter is not a fan of the sandwich, but these, these she loves. What's your non-traditional lunch idea?
Warm out of the oven.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Best Biscuits-Southern US Biscuits

Quick and delicious biscuit!
I love a quick bread. Mostly because it's bread and it can be made quickly then I can pop it into my mouth.
We were talking about the ability to whip something up out staple ingredients in the kitchen being a blessing or a curse. You know if you can make a delicious biscuit or cookie with what is on hand, how do you not give into that whim and make yummy stuff all of the time. It's a curse! The real answer is you control what you eat like everyone else.
It really is a blessing to be able to cook. This recipe should be in everyone repertory. The basic cutting flour into fat is good thing to know how to do. See pie crust.

2 cups white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven 400 degrees.
Start making these 30 minutes before you're going to eat them.
Pastry Cutter
In a bowl combine the dry ingredients, toss briefly. Cut the shortening into the flour mix. I use a pastry scraper, you can use a pastry cutter, which most people have kicking around in the back of a drawer. If you have neither you can use two butter knives to get the job done. Two knives will take a little more time. If it's cool outside and your quick and light with your touch you can rub the butter into the flour. All of these techniques do the same thing, which is evenly incorporate the fat into the dry mixture. 

Create a well in the mixture and pour all of the milk in at once. Quickly mix together. The dough will be fairly soft. Fold it onto itself 6 or 7 times. Do not knead like a yeast bread. Dump onto a floured surface, fold one last time in half. (This is where your biscuit will split with a fork once it's out of the oven.) Pat it into a disc that's one inch thick and cut. Use a round metal cutter (or a glass with a very thin lip) or if you don't mind squares and want to be even quicker, cut with a knife. Put them on a parchment lined pan, spaced about an inch apart, and pop the pan into the oven for 25 minutes.

Make 6 giant biscuits or 9 modest sized ones.

This is a good recipe to riff from. Add chives and parmesan cheese; brush with garlic butter.  Add sugar and cinnamon and call it a scone. Use buttermilk instead or use part sour cream for your milk. The ratio of flour, fat and milk is what you want to keep as closely to as possible.

What are your "whip it quickly together" recipes?


Friday, February 20, 2015

Your Meatloaf?!

My daughter asks incredulously if the kids at the school where I work get to eat my meatloaf, like the one I feed to her. She is terribly jealous as she would like to have meatloaf at her school, served hot by the lunch ladies.

It's true that my last school kitchen was a throwback to the 1950s. They hadn't given into the trend in public schools in the 1980's of using processed food exclusively. It was a residential school and the food was cooked on site, by cooks, from scratch, regularly. I developed a fantastic meatloaf recipe there. I make a home sized version at home.

Now that I'm at a typical public school which followed the processed food trend, I'm incorporating scratch made food into a menu. The meatloaf has made a showing. I've been thinking of doing a series of Throw Back Thursday meals. Maybe chicken and noodles, sliced turkey? The kids are enjoying it. The only difference between home which you'll see below and work, is that I add pork at home. The school is a pork free joint, so it's all beef there.

Throw Back Meatloaf

4 slices of bread
1 cup of milk
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 onion, diced super finely
2 eggs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
The most important thing is the bread soaked in milk. In a bowl mush the bread and milk together. It needs to be totally saturated. Soak it while you combine everything else down to and including the Worcestershire sauce.  I once heard someone call it "whoseyersistersauce", which I can not unthink when I see a bottle of it now. By the time all the stuff in in the bowl the bread should be good and saturated. Grab a handful of bread at a time and squeeze out the milk. Add the bread to the meat and discard the milk.
Mix together with a gentle touch. It needs to be well combined but not over mixed. If you dying to adjust the flavor, make a tiny patty, like a teaspoon full and fry it in a skillet. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Put into a loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until the inside is 165 degrees. Pour off the fat. There will be a lot of fat.

Combine the ketchup and brown sugar. Spread ketchup mixture over the loaf and return it to the oven for 10 minutes. This would be good time to mash some potatoes and pull the green beans off the stove, because mashed potatoes and green beans (or peas if you'd rather) are nearly an absolute must for meatloaf for a throw back meal. Makes 12 modest servings. 6 for bigger eaters which is good because you'll need to save some for meatloaf sandwiches for the next day's lunch.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Peanut Coconut Caramel Corn

This is what you'll be getting for Christmas for the next 5 years.

I have given up cookies because this is so freaking delicious.

3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted in the oven

1.5 cups popcorn

4 cups peanuts
.025 cup coconut milk
0.25 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups dark brown sugar
1 pound butter
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven 250 degrees

Toast the coconut.  Pop the corn. Oil a roasting pan with spray and dump the popcorn into the pan to cool. Try to remove all unpopped kernels.

In a deep skillet candy the peanuts with coconut milk, brown sugar and salt. Stir constantly over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Cool.

In a dutch oven combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Have the salt and baking soda ready to drop into the hot sugar. Boil to 255 degrees. Stir in the salt and baking soda. Do it quickly. Pour over the popcorn. Quickly add the popcorn and the peanuts. Stir until all the popcorn is coated.

Bake for an hour removing every 20 minutes to stir. Allow to cool. Makes 8 8 ounce bags.

In 2014 I did the recipe 4 times. 5 pounds of peanuts (bought at the Asian grocery), 8 bags of brown sugar, 4 pounds of butter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Apple Pie

Pie Love
The first baking thing I mastered is apple pie. I mean most pies are a variation on a theme, so if you can get a pie crust down and the fundamentals of filling the pie you are good to go.

Honestly, my mother who is not the kitchen kind of mom who was raised by a not a kitchen kind of mom recited the recipe for pie crust as the golden standard when I was in my teens. I was so startled by her knowing this nugget of information that I can tell you where we were when it happened.

In a world where people want a better, easier, healthier, etc. ways to do things, this is the old standard. I'm not going to lie and say that I've not been tempted with replacing some water with vodka or using a different fat, but this is the best tasting recipe. Period. And the ingredients aren't fancy.

Pie Crust
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
3-4 tablespoons water

Double by 2.25 for a double crusted 10 inch, deep pie pan. The recipe easily gives you one standard issue 9 inch crust.

In a roomy bowl toss the flour and salt together lightly. Add the shortening. Take your time here and cut the shortening into the flour. Make sure there are no lumps, you can even rub the flour and shortening together so long as you move quickly and don't let the mixture get too warm from your hands. Add 3 tablespoons water and toss lightly. Take a walnut sized piece and squeeze it together. If it doesn't hold easily add additional water. Form into a disc. Chill 30 minutes.

Roll between 2 sheets of parchment. Loosen the pie dough from the parchment as you roll it flat. Flip it into the pan as quick as you can.

Apple Pie Filling
1 lemon
3 pounds apples, less one you eat to see how much sugar is needed. Peel and core
3/4 cup sugar, more if the apple is very sour
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Juice the lemon in a big bowl. Peel and core the apples, tossing in the lemon juice as you go. You can get all up into which apples are good for what but Golden Delicious are readily available and they make good pie. Add the sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Toss thoroughly.

Apple filling ready to be topped.
Pour apples into pie shell. Dot with butter. Top with a second pie crust.Flute the edges.

2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon sugar, AA big fatty crystals if you have them.

Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut slits or get decorative with vents in the top of the crust. One tip for bakers wanting to look a little more fancy than average, buy some giant crystal white sugar and top things you bake with it. It adds sparkle and a little something that elevates your baking.

Fluted and sugared
I put the pie pan on a cookie sheet line with a piece of the parchment I used to roll the crust. This catches the drips and makes for easy clean up.

Do you have a recipe you know by heart?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Plum Cake

It is very lightly lavender in color, once you cut it.

My new favorite joke is, "Why did the grape ask the prune out? Because he couldn't get a date!"

I suppose canned plums are what you do with too many plums when you don't dry them out to become prunes.The cake is very much like banana bread with a moist, spongy texture and very flowery in flavor.

In my effort to economize and really be debt free in 5 years, I went to a new to me discount grocery. They had 30 ounce, giant cans of plums in syrup for 0.53 cents. That is so incredibly cheap! And I love plums though honestly I've never had a canned one.

I thought, how bad could it be? Do you know that most US states have fruit growers associations? Actually probably all the states do, but I don't want to make an absolute assertion. My inspiration came from Oregon, from this recipe to be exact, but I changed things. I wanted to make this a penny pinching as I could lus cinnamon is a no go for a colleague who will be tempted with my cake. So no nuts, margarine instead of butter, and the use of nutmeg and allspice were the changes. My stand mixer was in the basement so I used the food processor, because one should really be able to make a reasonable cake in food processor. The basement is my itty bitty kitchen's annex. Sometimes walking down the stairs is just too much effort on a weekday night.

I give you:

1 cup sugar
0.25 teaspoon allspice
0.25 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup margarine (being thrifty here)
2 eggs
0.5 cup sour cream
1-30 ounce can plums in syrup, remove pits, drain.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

350 degree oven.
In the bowl of a food processor combine sugar and margarine. Scrape sides 3 or so times. Blend until fluffy. Add the eggs and sour cream. Combine well. Add the plums and pulse a few times. Do not blend too much, they will get minced further with the remaining ingredients. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pulse until combined. Scrap sides and run 30 seconds.

Pour into well sprayed Bundt pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Once cooled invert on a cake plate and dust with powdered sugar.  The cake is very moist and doesn't need a glaze or frosting. That too is an economical choice. It saves time, calories, and ingredient costs. So yeah that!

I've just proof read this and it sounds like I'm cheap and lazy! I suppose we all have those days! What's your indication that maybe you could do a little more?