Monday, December 14, 2009

<Good> Stuff in Pastry

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.
For our first pass, we made the Beef Wellington exactly per the recipe. There were a number of things to like about the recipe, including the  addition of a crepe between the filling and the crust to help prevent the whole thing from getting too soggy. Even better, the filling was wrapped in prosciutto, and of course the more cured pork product in a meal the better.  This recipe includes a shortcrust pastry as well – I liked that idea, as puff pastry, which we’ve always used in the past, gets really rich, really fast.
Here is our beautiful beef filet before and after cooking in a mustard coating:
Sautéed mushrooms and pancake:
Assembling the Wellington (note corpulent monkey on top, who seems to have had a bit too much beef wellington… :-)
And finally – the finished product!
To be honest, the results were OK, but... there was easily enough pastry for another 2 dinners (more on that later). I had to add a lot more water than the recipe called for even though I consider myself pretty adept at making pastry – this was a common theme amongst the other DCers. It definitely needed more salt, and somehow, just more flavor.

For our second pass, we made a Vegetable en Croute, filled with Celery Root (aka Celeriac), Leeks, Potatoes and Mushrooms. And a bonus slice of prosciutto in each parcel!  For once, we planned ahead and took the leftover shortcrust dough from the freezer two days in advance and I left it on the counter most of the day. However, it was still hard as a rock at dinner time. Puff Pastry to the rescue. This was absolutely delicious and honestly quite easy to make – count me a fan of meals that look impressive but can be made with less than 30 min of effort.

We used:
1 small celery root
1 large russet potato
3 small-medium leeks (white part only)
12 oz mushrooms (more or less, who's counting?)
thyme, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to taste
1 sheet puff pastry or shortcrust pastry
2 slices prosciutto

Peel and dice the potato and celery root into 1/2” cubes. Roast in olive oil with the thyme, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for roughly 30 min or until lightly browned. Dice the mushrooms and slice the leeks. Sauté them in butter until softened. Mix all the veg together, add a dash or two of Worcestershire if desired. Let cool a few minutes so that they don’t melt the pastry.
Cut the pastry sheet in half. Place the prosciutto in the center of each half and then top with a generous scoop of vegetables. Seal the pastry and bake seam side down at 400 for 25-ish minutes until nicely browned. We suggest following the directions on the pastry packet.
As a Christmas gift to you who have bothered to visit, I’ll share what remains my favorite food-in-pastry recipe: Duck and Olives en Croute.

In keeping with our tradition, here is the ultra-detailed recipe :-)

Duck and Olives en Croute

serves 2
1 duck breast
green olives (not the martini ones, real green olives..)
orange zest
1 sheet puff pastry or shortcrust pastry

You just need enough of the olives, onions and bacon to make a little topping for your duck.
Sauté the duck until browned – about 4 minutes.   Don’t cook it thoroughly as it is going to bake longer. I overcooked it a bit in the picture below.
Chop the bacon and onions and olives. Steep the olives in brandy for at least 30 min. Sauté the bacon and onions together. When they are softened, add the olives, brandy and orange zest.
Let the ingredients cool to room temperature.
Slice the puff pastry in half. Slice the duck breast in half and place on the pastry sheets. Top with the bacon mixture, seal and bake at 400 degrees for for 25-ish minutes until nicely browned. (Actually, this time we made it, we used 2 sheets of puff paste, sandwiching the duck between them and cutting out appropriate-sized shapes - I think that this was because the duck was just ever so slightly larger than we thought would fit on half a sheet. Go with what's going to work for you.)
Enjoy! Happy Holidays from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen!
stuffinpastry 012

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pie Oh My!

pear tart
Those who know me know that pie is my go to dessert. Unlike my arch-foe cake (hiss!), pies usually come out well, and feature fresh fruit with minimal adornment.
This year the pears seem to be exceptional. Every single one I’ve tasted has been terrific. So when friends asked me to bring dessert to dinner the other night, nobody should have been surprised with I turned up with a pear pie. Well, to be precise, a pear tart with brown butter and anise.
This one blew me away. It looked as good as it tasted, which isn’t really always the case with pies. Or things that I cook in general. I even liked the anise flavor, which I often take pains to avoid. In fact next time I make it, I may up the amount of anise just a tad, then I am going to make this yet another time and spice it with cardamom.
Unlike most tarts, this recipe claims that the crust doesn’t need weighting. It also doesn’t require an hour of chilling time before baking so the procrastinators among us have something to cheer.
This recipe is one that I clipped from the San Francisco Chronicle years ago. My heartfelt thanks to whoever originally created it.

Brown Butter Pear Tart with Anise

makes one 9" tart
1  1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz. unsalted butter
pinch salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

2 oz. butter
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp anise seeds
3 small ripe pears, preferably Bartlett or other squat-shaped pears

Make the pastry:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor bowl, add the flour, sugar and salt. Process just to blend, then cut the butter into pieces and add. Process in short pulses until just mixed - about the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the egg and vanilla and process until combined.
Roll the dough out into a roughly 10" circle - about 1/8" thick. lift the dough and place in a 9 inch tart pan. (I used a 9 inch springform, as I don't have a tart pan in that size and draped the dough over the to try to keep it from sinking down. this worked perfectly - just trim the drapey edges once you're done with the pre-bake and you're good to go).
Prick the dough on the sides and bottom with a fork, then bake for 20 minutes or until set.
Place the pan on a wire rack to cool while you work on the filling.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Make the filling:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it starts to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and pour it into a bowl to help cool it down. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, then whisk in the sugar. Grind the anise seeds in a mortar and pestle, then add to the mix along with the flour and vanilla. Gradually whisk in the brown butter until the butter is fully incorporated.
Peel and halve the pears, then cut each pear crosswise in 1/8 inch slices. Try to keep each half intact, as this is the secret to the pretty fans.
To assemble:
Pour about half the filling into your pre-baked tart shell. One at a time, lift the pear halves into the tart with the narrow end facing center. You might find a spatula helpful for this. Gently press down on the pear to separate and fan the slices so that the half occupies one radius or spoke of the pie. Once all the pear halves that will fit are in place, pour the remainder of the filling around them (try to avoid pouring directly on top of the pears).
Place on a baking sheet, then into the oven for 50-60 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 min before removing the tart ring (or springform ring if you're me..)
You could serve this with whipped cream or caramel ice cream, but it is so good plain that you really don’t need to.
brown butter pear pie

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No-Sea Sushi

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge. They provided an outstanding recipe for the rice and three variations of sushi forms. Our challenge was to make (at least) a dragon roll, a decorative spiral roll and nigiri.

When the challenge was first announced, I think our collective reaction was 'uh-oh...' - since one of us (she) does not eat fish, and sushi means fish, right? Well, no - as Audax and Rose told us, sushi actually means vinegared rice, and the other ingredients can be many and varied. That did it - our creative juices started flowing, and over the next few days we thought up and wrote down all kinds of ideas for wild and crazy sushi creations. Having bought some sushi rice at our favorite local Asian market, we set out on our sushi adventure.
He's not kidding - the ideas wouldn't stop! Laquered duck sushi, Sukiyaki rolls, Carpaccio, Beef Stroganoff rolls, prosciutto and tomato; the list was endless. If it goes with rice it will probably make good sushi

Here's the sushi rice recipe as described by our challenge hosts:

SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)
Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes

· 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
· 2½ cups water
· For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

Optional Ingredients
· 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours (we didn't use this)
· 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing
· 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
· 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
· 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

Rinsing and draining the rice
1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice
1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing
1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
2. Heat on low setting.
3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked

Cooking the rice
1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Turning out the rice:
1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

Dressing the rice with vinegar:
1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.
Fanning & Tossing the rice
1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

Keeping the rice moist
1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

Whew! Although it sounds like a lot of work, the actual process wasn't too much trouble, though it was really helpful to have two people for the fanning and turning part.
Finally a use for junk mail - it made a good fan.
Now on to the specific recipes: Since we made 3 separate attempts at sushi preparation, we'll divide this up into 3 parts in chronological order.

Part I: New Orleans meets Japan

Our first idea was inspired by some of the classic dishes of Southern American cooking - jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo. However, we thought that disaster had struck when I forgot to turn down the heat under the rice (see step 3 under 'Cooking the rice' above). Remarkably, it seemed to come out OK, though we did lose quite a lot of rice that stuck to the pot.

The first dish was a deconstructed Jambalaya. There were some ebi nigiri sushi, some andouille sausage nigiri (with 3 little coins of sausage), ham-wrapped nigiri with a topping of red beans, and an inside-out (nori) roll filled with vegetables - red bell pepper, green bell pepper and celery. To accompany, we made a spicy tomato sauce with thyme, oregano, and white, black and cayenne pepper. (The sauce recipe was pretty much made up on the fly, but here is an approximate version:

1 tbsp butter
1/2 small onion, finely diced
2 tsp tomato puree
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp each black, white and cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp each oregano, thyme
1 bayleaf
salt to taste

Fry the onion in butter and blend in the tomato puree. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 20-30 min until the tomatoes are soft. Puree using a hand blender, goblet blender, or pass through a chinois/food press.

Here's the finished jambalaya platter:
I am mortified by the ugly, wrinkly tablecloth..

Close-up of the different components:   

We also made a vegetable roll with ham instead of nori, and decorated the outside with little stars of okra

Finally, since we’d just made some pork chile verde for later in the week, we decided to take our sushi from New Orleans to Mexico. We made a dragon roll filled with chile verde and wrapped in thin slices of avocado.
Of the 3, the chile verde was maybe my favorite. It was wonderful with the avocado. Next time, though, no nori. it added a fishy taste that I didn't like.

Part II: Sushi Sandwich Saturday!
For our second attempt, we decided to make sushi versions of some classic American sandwiches. This time, we remembered to turn the heat down after the initial boil and the rice came out perfectly!

BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) nigiri:
OMG these were good. I am now a sushi convert, in my own way.

Reuben (pastrami-wrapped nigiri with sauerkraut topping, garnished with caraway seeds and served with mustard and Russian dressing; I think a Reuben is usually made with corned beef, but the pastrami in the store looked better)

Philadelphia Cheese Steak Rainbow Roll (We used thinly sliced roast beef in place of nori; the roll is stuffed with grilled onions, wrapped in roasted bell peppers and served with a provolone cheese sauce)
This also was beyond good. The sliced deli beef made a great substitute for nori.

 And finally, in honor of our challenge host Audax and the other Australian daring cooks, a cheese and green tomato pickle spiral roll!

Sushi Part III – Finally some fish!

After weeks of pleading, The Monkey finally got his way and included some fish on the menu. We found some nice-looking smoked salmon at the farmers market and made this into potlatch salmon nigiri. (Potlach is a  festival held by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest). In our interpretation, we flavored the sushi rice with a few juniper berries, ground up with a little extra salt and sugar. To accompany this we made a sake-infused shiitake mushroom roll. Also in keeping with the seafood theme, we made an inside-out roll with smoked oysters and cucumber, coated in tobiko roe and served with a sour cream and dill sauce. (I thought this was a really nice combination).

Close-up of the salmon nigiri and and oyster roll - I know the salmon slices are too thick for traditional sushi but it was really good salmon and I almost never get to eat it at home!
I had a rerun of the BLT sushi.

For dessert – what else but rice pudding, served in a cinnamon tuile cone. This was our first attempt at making tuiles; they may not be the prettiest or crispiest on the planet (no sirree, they aren't) but they tasted pretty good.

Made with sushi rice of course

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sourdough with Wild Rice and Chives

I am a real dork about Thanksgiving. Seriously, the menu planning begins as early as September, with many revisions and trial balloons until I feel that it's just right. I love Thanksgiving and I guess maybe the planning helps me to extend the pleasure of the holiday.

I had been trying to decide what bread to make, possibly a repeat of the butternut squash brioche that I made last year? It was very wonderful. As I was flipping through this month's Bon Appetit, I saw it. Wild Rice Batards. They had me at hello. Well, maybe. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Bon Appetit that I won't bore you with, but figured I had better test-drive the recipe. Or just use the title as inspiration and do my own thing which is what usually happens..

So instead of the yeasted bread flavored with buttermilk, I used sourdough, which I have on hand. This bread is really delicious. Very savory, makes excellent toast. Would probably make a good stuffing, though this year I'll be serving it plain, with butter. I also fermented the dough overnight, which is now my habit, but is probably not as important in this bread as it is in others. Because this recipe is really a mashup, some of the ingredients are in grams, others are in cups. If you make this bread - and I hope you do - feel free to make your own adjustments as you see fit.

Sourdough with Wild Rice and Chives
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Norwich Sourdough and from Bon Appetit magazine
yield 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves


450 g white flour
60 g whole rye flour
300 g water
180 g ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter
15 g salt
1 cup fully cooked wild rice (this takes about 1/3 cup raw rice + 2/3 cup water)
1/2 cup minced chives (you could substitute lightly sauteed minced onion if you prefer)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.
  2. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the salt, rice and chives and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled container.
  5. Ferment at room temperature for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes. Or ferment an hour at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it if making multiple loaves or rolls, then pre-shape. Let rest 15 min.
  7. Shape as desired and let proof 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until nearly doubled.
  8. Preheat the oven with a baking stone if you have one to 450 and prepare to steam. I put a cast iron skillet in the oven while its heating, and then boil 2 cups of water when the temperature gets close.
  9. Place the loaves on the stone, then pour 1 cup of the boiling water into the skillet and close the oven door as fast as you can.
  10. Bake for 15 min with steam, then another 15 min without.
  11. Let cool completely before slicing. 

Submitted for YeastSpotting. Check out the latest collection of lovely treats on Wild Yeast. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Salted Plum Dessert Wontons

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. Part 2 of the challenge was to come up with some sort of fried wonton dessert, and Jaden provided a recipe for chocolate wontons as an example. The challenge was to pick a creative sweet filling and shape.

Our version the fried won ton dessert is a testament to the fact that sleepless nights sometimes do have their uses. We spent several days trying to come up with novel ideas for sweet won tons, and had some promising thoughts (pineapple was a recurring theme, with either mint or a little jalapeno pepper) – however, it didn’t quite have the novelty and Vietnamese influence that we were seeking. Then, at about 3am one morning, The Monkey remembered that when he eats at one of our favorite local Vietnamese places he often orders the plum soda: salted plums mashed up with a little sugar and topped with soda water. So, why not make some sweet and salty plum won tons?

We found some sugar plums at our local Farmers’ market – apparently the last week they would be available, so we were lucky with the timing of this challenge! Here is the recipe:

Sweet and Salty Plum Wontons

1 lb sugar plums (about 16)
1 tablespoons kosher salt
2 oz granulated sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
¼ - ½ tsp Li hing powder* or other spice(s) (optional)
Thin, square won ton wrappers

*Li hing is a sweet-and-sour tasting powder flavored with plums; it’s used among other things for making salted plum candies (li hing mui) and is particularly popular in Hawaii. (We obtained ours from a local Hawaiian store; I expect it can also be mail ordered)

Wash and de-stone the plums, cutting them into quarters, and spread out in a non-reactive baking dish or tray. Mix together the salt and sugar, and sprinkle liberally over the plums, tossing to coat them. Roast the plums ar 325F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, shuffling occasionally; they should get soft but not brown or caramelized. Remove to a chopping board, add a squeeze of lemon juice and roughly chop until they form a chunky paste. At this stage you can add the optional li hing powder; I think other spices might be nice too, such as cinnamon, clove, star anise or five spice powder.

We chose to make them into candy roll shapes (caramella in Italian?). To assemble these, place the wonton wrapper on a clean surface and put about 1 tsp filling in the middle, in a roughly cylindrical blob with about ½” at either side. Roll the wonton so that it forms a cylinder; moistening the un-rolled edge before you complete the cylinder so that it sticks together. Crimp the ends with your fingers, twisting slightly to make a wrapped candy shape. You’ll probably end up with about 16-18 wontons, depending on how generous you are with the filling.

To fry the wontons, heat 1-2 inches of oil in a thick-bottomed pan until it reaches 350F. Lower the heat and test with a small piece of wonton wrapper; it should sizzle and stat to turn brown in 15-20 seconds. Carefully drop the prepared wontons in the hot oil in small batches (no more than 3 at a time) and flip them around occasionally so that they get evenly browned – this should take about 20 seconds. Remove to a plate covered in kitchen paper and drain off any excess oil.

In keeping with the Vietnamese theme, we served the wontons with some lemongrass-scented crème anglaise.

Lemongrass-scented Crème Anglaise
1 cup whole milk
1 egg yolk
4 oz granulated sugar
1 stalk lemongrass

Chop the lemongrass into small pieces, a bit larger than grains of couscous. Heat the milk in a saucepan until almost boiling, then remove from the heat and stir in the lemongrass. Leave to cool; it’s OK if it’s still a bit warm when you add it in the next step below. In a separate saucepan, cream together the egg yolk and sugar until pale and smooth-looking. Put the egg and sugar pan over low heat and gradually add the milk through a strainer (to remove the lemongrass), stirring well with a wooden spoon. Bring almost to the boil and keep stirring. Don’t panic! It will seem like it’s going to be way too runny, but after a few minutes the custard will thicken so that it forms a viscous coat on the back of your spoon.

Arrange the wontons around a little pool of the lemongrass-scented crème anglaise and sprinkle with a dusting of li hing powder (or one of the other spices suggested for the filling). Delicious, if we say so ourselves!

Daring Cooks do Pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. We were delighted to learn that this month’s challenge was pho (even though we’ve been pronouncing it wrong all these years, turns out its 'fuh'. who knew?).

We made the Pho Ga essentially as described by Jaden.  A few suggestions – the recipe does not explicitly call for toasting the spices, so you’ll have to remember to do that before adding them to the broth. Also, if you put the spices in a sachet it’ll make it a lot easier to skim the broth – as we found out the hard way…

The broth was fantastic – fragrant and delicious without being overpowering - and the final assembled dish was very satisfying. In our customary pushing it just a little too far tradition, we also made some mini Imperial rolls to go with our chicken. (yum!!)  The Monkey even eschewed the Sriracha, which he usually adds liberally to his pho in restaurants!

Here are the flavorings, ready to go into the broth, and the broth being cooked:

Mise-en-place for the Imperial rolls, and the finished product:

Noodles, chicken and accompaniments, awaiting broth:

The finished dish:

Fried dessert wontons, a bonus challenge, to follow in a separate post…

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Granary Bread

Although I have been baking bread pretty much weekly for a year now, the monkey's requests for a simple granary bread like he could get growing up in the UK had gone unheeded. Partly (OK largely) because I couldn't find a recipe for it, partly because I'm just a sourdough gal, and also because there is a lot of yucky bread out there under the guise of wholemeal or granola or other crunchy-healthy sort of name.

A basic granary loaf has certain richness of flavor that is not generally found in a US whole wheat. It contains a blend of cereals and just the faintest sweet note. It makes terrific toast and sandwiches. It is dense, but doesn't weigh a ton, it never feels gummy, and it doesn't have what appear to be ground chair legs and other distracting bits in it. Just a nice, friendly basic bread. How hard could that be?

Finally I threw caution to the wind (such a daredevil!) and tried my hand at it. I used a 5-grain cereal from Bob's Red Mill for my grains. I am sure could make something similar from scratch, but I am never averse to taking shortcuts when I can....

Woo hoo! Success in one go! I can say definitively that this bread makes good toast, good sandwiches and even tastes good plain. So without further ado, I am pleased to be able to publish a recipe for British Granary Bread. I have no idea how the recipe itself compares to a real recipe, but it passed the monkey test. He's eaten half the loaf already.

One note: this is an overnight recipe, so start it a day ahead of when you want to bake.

Granary Bread
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes

makes 1 large loaf

6.4 oz   5 Grain Cereal
8 oz   Bread Flour
6.4 oz   Whole Wheat Flour
1.6 oz Rye Flour
14.4 oz   Water
.4 oz Salt
1 Tbsp   Molasses
1 tsp   Active Dry Yeast

In a small bowl, mix the cereal with 8 oz. water and the salt. Cover and let soak for an hour or more.

Mix all the ingredients on first spped for about 3 minutes, then on second speed for another 4 minutes. The dough will probably still be somewhat shaggy. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container and fold once. Cover and ferment at room temperature for an hour, then fold again.

Place the dough in the refrigerator and continue to ferment overnight. (Mine fermented about 18 hours all told, as I made it mid-day, then baked the next morning). Fold two or three times during fermentation until the dough has firmed up and feels smooth. 

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator, shape as desired, cover, then proof for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.  

Bake at 450 degrees and with steam for 10 minutes, then without steam for another 25-30 min. Let cool thoroughly before slicing.

This bread has been submitted for inclusion in YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast Blog. Check out the other delicious and yeasty items featured there every week!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Makin' Bacon

A couple of months ago, I connected over to imafoodblog where I saw a post about home-cured bacon. From that moment, I was obsessed. Even though I make my own pickles and cure my own corned beef it had simply never occurred to me that I could make my own bacon.

Now I can say that:

    a) it can be done
    b) it's wonderfully easy
    c) it is inexpensive
    d) it's delicious (well duh!)
    e) mmmm.. bacon...

Because it was the first time, we stuck with fairly tried and true - made a slab of pepper bacon and one of maple bacon. Now I understand what my parents meant when they said that they loved both us kids differently but equally.

We followed the basic technique described by Nick, Sara and Geoff in their post How to Cure and Smoke Bacon with a few modifications:
  • I alternated applications of salt and additional flavorings, so one night I salted one slab, then the next night I rubbed in some additional maple syrup.
  • Since we don't have a proper smoker, we smoked our bacon in a Weber kettle. It worked perfectly.

The slabs just prior to smoking

What I would do differently next time: I followed the directions and rinsed both slabs before smoking. Next time, I would pat them dry, but rinsing washed off that gorgeous pepper crust we had going and probably some of the maple flavoring. So maybe they're right and I'm wrong, but I look forward to the next time to test it out!

On the grill - we built the fire on one side only to keep it cool and circulate the smoke.

Oh yeah, and I would make more. We made enough, but it is so tasty and lean that I know we'll get through it. You can't really ever have too much bacon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


We were thrilled when Debyi of Healthy Vegan Kitchen announced the Daring Cooks challenge this month: Dosas. And they had to be vegan. And gluten free. This seemed exactly like what I wanted from participating in the Daring Cooks - the impetus to make something that we really like to eat, but would never have considered cooking on our own. Not to mention the additional dairy/meat/gluten constraints.

So Debyi published a lovely recipe which we intended to follow, honestly - and our fellow Daring Cooks that did follow it closely reported that it was good. But there were parts of it that didn't feel authentically Indian (as if I would really know, but oregano???). Furthermore, the traditional way of making dosas with ground lentils and rice seemed more authentic and true to the spirit of challenging ourselves. And then I saw a recipe for rava dosas, which involve rava (semolina I think - at least that's what I used) and rice flour. We had to try those too - so we ended up making 2 different types of dosa, two fillings, and then a sambar, two chutneys and an avocado sauce (thus contradicting ourselves, since I don't know that avocado sauce is authentically Indian either. Oh well.) It was all vegan, though the rava dosas fail the gluten-free test.

Marvellous. Every last bite. Even though I always have to try to decide which item I like best, I couldn't pick a winner. If you like Indian food, you'll love these. If you don't think you like Indian food, I honestly bet that you would like these. I personally am gun-shy about Indian food as I have had so many bad curries. This isn't one of them; no curry powder was involved in the making of this dinner. Just try it.

Neither dosa recipe is a good choice for getting a meal on the table in the next 30 minutes, but neither requires a whole lot of fuss and attention, just time. If you're in a hurry(ish) go for the rava dosa - it can be made in a much shorter time than the other (nameless) one. It's pretty much like a crepe: make the batter, let it stand an hour, then cook away. The others take about 2 days just to get to the point to cook. Still, try them sometime. it's easy, tasty, healthy, cool, possibly something new. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

So, the recipe line-up:

Rava Dosas
Onion-Potato Subji (filling)
Curried Garbanzo (filling)
Avocado Sauce
Tamarind Chile chutney
Mint ginger chile chutney

Note on quantities: we made the recipes below as described and I think that all told it would have served at least 10 people. Some of the ingredients do require a trip to the local Indian store if you have one, otherwise, substitute as you think is appropriate.

left: "Regular" Dosa
right: Rava Dosa


This recipe was from Indian Food Forever.  To the gringo like me, the closest analogy to these guys would be a buckwheat crepe. Not that they taste like buckwheat, but they had that solid texture and a similar color.

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1/2 cup uncooked urad dal (black lentils)
1 Tbsp salt

Soak the rice and the dal separately overnight or up to 24 hours. Scoop some of the rice and some of the dal into a blender and puree with just a bit of water (less than covering the solids but enough to not choke your blender) to puree the mixture. You want it to be reasonably smooth. Mine came out pretty much like a thin milkshake. Pour into a clean bowl and repeat to blend all the rice and lentils. Add salt. Cover your batter and then leave it on the counter for another 12 hours or so.

Overall, I wish our dosas had been thinner, so I would shoot for a thin pancake batter in consistency - add water as you see fit. To cook, heat the oil in a cast iron skillet or large griddle if you have one. Pour the batter in a spiral from the outside in, don't immediately worry if there are gaps. To fill in the gaps we found it best to let the base cook just a bit, then use the ladle to smooth batter into them.

Cook until lightly browned, then flip and brown the other side (Or not; we did, but I have read that there are those who only cook them on one side). This will take about 4-5 min. Be patient. Once cooked, fill, and then pop them in the oven to keep warm until you're ready to serve.

Rava Dosas
This recipe was adapted from Sailus Food, where there is an excellent description of how to cook the dosas. These dosas were much lighter in texture and slightly holey, though not in a bad way. These are a bit more like a traditional french crepe.

2 cups semolina/rava
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 scallions, sliced paper thin
1 red chile pepper, sliced thin
2 tsp salt
6 cups water

Combine all ingredients except for the oil and then let sit for an hour. It should be the consistency of buttermilk.

Add water as needed to thin it, or let it sit a little longer if you need it to thicken. The flour settles out quickly on this one - you'll want to stir it occasionaly and to keep it stirred during the cooking process.

To cook: heat oil in your cast iron skillet or griddle, and then cook as directed above. These dosas may take a little less time, but you still want to brown them like a pancake. It may help to brush a little oil around the edges if they are a bit sticky.

left: Curried Garbanzo filling
right: Potato Onion Subji

Potato Onion Subji
This recipe is adapted from Indian Food Recipes from Bharathi's Kitchen. It is the filling for the classic Dosa Masala. Like many dishes with complex flavors, this one is best if you can make it in advance then reheat at serving time.

3 medium russet potatoes
1 medium onion
1 jalapeno pepper
10 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 1/4 tsp split peas
1 tsp urud dal
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp oil
2 tsp salt

Peel the potatoes, cut into large chunks and boil until cooked through.

Slice the onions into radial cuts and slice the pepper thinly. In a saucepan, toast the mustard seed, split peas and dal until browned. Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the curry leaves and cook another minute.

Drain the potatoes, then dice into roughly 1/2" pieces (smaller than a typical potato salad). Stir into the oinion/spice mix, add salt and make sure that it's all blended. Add water if you need to moisten it.

Curried Garbanzo Filling
Again, this one is best if made ahead a bit. No worries if you don't have time for that though.

2 cups dried garbanzo beans (or 2 cans of garbanzos)
1 large tomato
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp tomato paste
2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp salt
1 anaheim chile, diced

Soak the garbanzo beans overnight. Rinse and then cook in a saucepan until soft, about an hour.

Dice the tomato and saute in oil with ginger until it thickens slightly. Add the tomato paste and chile peppers and saute until the peppers have softened.

Separately, toast the cumin and fenugreek seeds, then grind in a mortar and pestle. Add spices, salt and coconut milk to the beans, then cook another 10 min.

Avocado Sauce

2 medium avocados
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup soy milk (remember, this was vegan, you can use whatever you want)

Bash up the avocadoes. Puree with the lime juice, add cilantro and salt to taste. Dilute with soy milk until it is very thick but pourable.

Tamarind Chile Chutney
This recipe is adapted from Indian Food Recipes from Bharathi's Kitchen.
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1 Tbsp cilantro
1 long red chile
1 tsp red lentils
4-5 curry leaves

Toast the lentils, then crush with a mortar and pestle. Add the chopped chile and mash to a smooth paste. Add the curry leaves (removing any stalky bits) and mash. Add the coconut, tamarind and cilantro, then mix well. Salt to taste.

Mint Ginger Chile Chutney

1/2 - 1" knob of ginger, peeled
1 cup mint leaves
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 jalapeno chile
1/4 - 1/2 cup soy milk

Mash up all ingredients except for milk in a mortar and pestle until you get a smooth puree. Add the milk to achieve a just-pourable consistency.

Top: Sambar
Bottom Left: Tamarind Chile Chutney
Bottom Center: Mint Ginger Chile Chutney
Bottom Right: Avocado Sauce

This recipe was adapted from If you can't obtain sambar powder to season the soup, check this website out for a recipe to make the powder.

This soup customarily serves as a sort of dipping sauce for the dosas (assuming you haven't smothered them in avocado sauce like we did). However, mine came out pretty thick and chunky, so not so good for dipping, but even tastier than the restaurant versions that I've had if I say so myself.

1 cup red lentils (toor dal)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp oil
2 tsp tamarind paste
8 curry leaves
5 small dried red chiles
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
1 large tomato
2 Tbsp sambar powder
1 1/2 cup vegetables of choice (I used eggplant, tomatoes and green beans)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Wash the lentils thoroughly. In a large saucepan, heat 2 cups of water, then add the lentils, turmeric and 1 tsp
oil. Cook gently until the lentils are soft - 40-60 min.

In a separate pan, heat 1 tsp oil, then tear the chiles into chunks and add them to the pan. Add also the mustard seed, fenugreek and curry leaves and sautee for 2 minutes. Add the diced onion and cook until lightly browned. When cooked, add to the pan with the lentils (once they are cooked too, of course). Dice the tomato and the vegetables and add them also to the soup. Mix the tamarind paste with 1/4 cup of water and stir into the soup. Add in the sambar powder and cook about 10 minutes until the vegetables have all softened. Add water as needed to achieve your desired consistency.

Remove from heat, stir in the cilantro and serve.

We served our dosa feat with pappadoms on the side. These snacks we also purchased from the Indian shop. It was all I could do not to back up the truck when I took a good look at the label.

To cook, simply microwave 1 pappadom for about 40 seconds.


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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Gnocchi

Have you noticed that nearly every recipe for gnocchi starts with the preface that 'while other gnocchi recipes are gummy and horrible, this recipe is great'? If that's true, then why is it that if you order gnocchi, you have roughly even odds of receiving horrible balls of gluey glop?

I'll let you in on a secret: it's not the recipe, it's the technique. A few years ago I determined that it was time to overcome my fear of gnocchi and take a course in how to make them taught by Staffan Terje, now chef at Perbacco in San Francisco. He taught us to make 8 different kinds of gnocchi and I now make potato gnocchi, semolina gnocchi, ricotta-spinach gnocchi and even celery root gnocchi without a tremble in my heart. Still, until last night, the butternut squash gnocchi had eluded my grasp.

Now I too can say, other butternut squash gnocchi recipes may lead you to a plateful of glue, but this recipe is different. And I have the step-by-step instructions to back up that claim. Follow this recipe and you'll have richly squash-flavored and wonderfully light gnocchi. More importantly, you should be able to apply this technique to any other gnocchi recipe and also be reasonably confident of success.

Back to the technique: the trick is to barely mix the gnocchi. It is the process of overworking the dough that activates the gluten in the flour causes most gnocchi to become gummy. Treat your squash as if it is very fragile, then add just the barest amount of liquid necessary to get the dough to come together. This is where the butternut recipes I've tried have washed up - the squash, even when roasted, still had way too much moisture to ever transform into a good cloudlike dumpling. I also prefer to pan-fry my gnocchi, as I like the contrast of the slightly crispy exterior and creamy interior.

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Gnocchi
serves 4

2 medium butternut squashes
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup flour (if you have cake flour, use it. I don't, but the lower gluten flour is generally a good idea)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp white pepper
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh sage, minced
4 oz. goat cheese
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 baking trays with non-stick spray.

Peel the squashes, then halve and remove the seeds. Grate the squashes (the food processor is your friend on this one), and spread the squash evenly on the 2 trays. Pour a glug or 2 of olive oil across the tops of each tray to moisten the squash. Bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the squash is evenly cooked and is starting to dry out. It shouldn't be browned, just cooked down to about 50% of its original volume.

left: squash before cooking
right: squash after cooking

Set the squash aside to cool - don't cover it so that moisture can continue to evaporate. I just left mine in the oven with the door ajar for another 30 minutes then cooled on the counter for a couple of hours, since I had the time.

Put the squash back in the food processor and pulse a couple of times until the squash is more finely chopped. Don't try to make it into a paste, it should feel very loose and dry at this stage. Transfer to a large bowl. It should look like the picture on the right.
Add the flour, salt and pepper, and gently mix into the squash to coat it. I do this by sliding my hands to the bottom of the bowl and then lifting up through the squash (or potato if its potato gnocchi we're talking about). It's a motion a little like playing with someone's hair - try to avoid actively stirring the mix or mashing the squash.

left: squash mixed with the dry ingredients
right: the mixed cheeses

Separately, crumble the goat cheese and mix with the parmesan using the same coating-type motion. In both cases, you're trying to coat the wetter ingredients in the drier ingredients. It takes a lot longer to describe than to do, really. Add the cheeses and the minced sage to the squash and then again gently toss to incorporate.

Finally, beat the egg and yolk together in a small dish, then add most of it to the squash. I like to hold a bit back and see if it's really needed. As I said above, you do need enough liquid to hold the mix together, but not a drop more. Mix gently with your hands until just combined - there will still be small pockets of squash and cheese here and there.
the final mix

Take a handful of the dough and roll gently on a floured board. Again, the mix will be a bit rustic looking, with occasional cracks (though it should definitely be wet enough that you aren't fighting to mash it together either). I generally shoot for a rope that is about 3/4" thick and then cut it into 1" segments. Repeat until you've used all the dough.

To cook, heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add a dozen or so gnocchi, so that they fit easily in the pan without crowding. turn so that all sides are browned then transfer to the oven (on low) to keep warm. Repeat until they're all cooked. Alternately, you can boil them, but once you've tried the sauteed version I bet that you also never look back!
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