Food Fight #3: Lentil Soup

February 17, 2008 at 4:07 pm | Posted in events, savory things, soups | 9 Comments

lentil soup

It’s been awhile, but Allen from Eating Out Loud is back with another Food Fight, and this time it’s a pantry raid.  That phrase makes me giggle in a juvenile sort of way…one of the lingering side effects of having seen Revenge of the Nerds a few too many times. 

My pantry isn’t super-well stocked.  I don’t have a huge’s just my husband and me (and I guess now my brother since he’s been “visiting” for four months!), and several nights a week I am working at the restaurant and not home to make dinner.  I tend to do my shopping on an as needed basis so I don’t have too much junk lying around.  Poking through what I do have in the pantry the other day, I was wondering how I could combine Craisins, wild rice, peanut butter and golden syrup into something delicious. Perhaps I could encase them in that puff pastry that’s been in the freezer for several months. Yeah, maybe not.  Then I discovered something I’d forgotten about…a bag of lentils. 

Rather than concoct something potentially disgusting, I decided to go with a classic lentil soup that I could easily put together with things I had already.  I’d say this particular pot of soup fit the definition of a pantry raid.  It was made only from items I already had in the pantry and fridge (and wine rack).  I didn’t go to the store to get any additional ingredients for it, and nothing was bought in advance with the intention of making lentil soup with it.

lentil soup

I used a recipe that I’d made once before from my most favorite cooking magazine, Cook’s Illustrated.  I modified it slightly to use up what I had at home…dried thyme instead of fresh, a chicken chorizo sausage instead of bacon.  (The other time I made this recipe, I turned it into a vegetarian soup by sauteing my veggies in olive oil rather than rendered fat.)  I had a few small new potatoes hanging around from the previous week…there weren’t enough of them to do anything else with, so they went into the pot, too.  The chicken chorizo gave it a wonderful smoky flavor that we all loved.  Even my brother, who was quite suspicious of lentil soup, asked for seconds!

Allen asked us to also include a photo of our pantries.  How personal!  I bet you aren’t going to get any organizational tips from mine–what’s in there is a total mess!  This photo is of a large pantry closet in the kitchen.  I have a few shelves dedicated to food items and the others are for cake pans, the salad spinner, etc.  Stuff is kind of all over the place, but I could close my eyes and still be able to pull out exactly what I need when I need it–sort of an organized chaos, I guess.  I also have a smaller cupboard with my expansive vinegar collection, honey, jams and stuff like that.

my pantry

Lentil Soup- makes about 2 quarts
modified from Cook’s Illustrated

Note: Instead of chorizo, you can use 3 slices bacon (about 3 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces, or for a vegetarian version, use olive oil.

1 chicken (or other) chorizo sausage, cut into slices
1 large onion , chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium carrots , peeled and chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 T)
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1/2t dried thyme leaves
1 cup lentils (7 oz), rinsed and picked over
1 t salt
 ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
4 small new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
3 T minced fresh parsley leaves

-Fry chorizo in large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and chorizo crisps on the outside, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer chorizo to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Leave the rendered fat in the pan (although you can pour some off if it is excessive).  Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in lentils, salt, and pepper to taste; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vegetables are softened and lentils have darkened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Uncover, increase heat to high, add wine, and bring to simmer.  Add chicken broth and water; bring to boil, cover partially, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add in the diced potatoes.  Continue to simmer until lentils are tender but still hold their shape and potatoes are cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes more.

-Discard bay leaf and puree 3 cups soup in blender until smooth, then return to pot; stir in vinegar, add the chorizo back to the pot and heat soup over medium-low until hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with some of remaining parsley and sour cream or yogurt, if desired.

Time To Make The Doughnuts: Crullers with Rum Glaze (Spritzkrapfen)

February 10, 2008 at 2:53 pm | Posted in breakfast things, events, other sweet, sweet things | 37 Comments

crullers with rum glaze

What time is it?  It’s time to put on my disposable paper cap and make like Fred!  Two of my favorite food bloggers, Peabody and Tartelette, have teamed up to host Time To Make The Doughnuts, and I couldn’t not participate.  I must say, I love doughnuts but  I rarely allow myself to have them because I can quickly spiral out of control.  This is embarrassing, but if you have a box of Entenmann’s chocolate glazed things in the fridge (those MUST be eaten cold!) and invite me over, do not turn your back on me because I will sense their presence and they will magically disappear!  And back when Krispy Kreme was just a southern thang, it was so fun to go to the big shop near Grandma W’s and watch as they plopped off the line and into the vat of fat!  Oh, and have you ever had one from the Doughnut Plant?  They are the schiznit! 

I definitely go for cake-style doughnuts over yeast-raised; usually cinnamon-sprinkled or chocolate-frosted.  But there is another type of doughnut that really makes my heart race (yes, this is probably actually because of sugar content)…glazed crullers.  I love them, but I had never made them myself and had no idea how they were made either.  So I decided to find out, and fry them up for Peabody and Helene.

Turns out they are just pâte à choux, the same dough you’d use for eclairs or creampuffs, fried and glazed.  I found a recipe in the book Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers.  They are a Viennese treat, properly called spritzkrapfen.  As an aside, I drool over everything in this book.  I went to Vienna, Budapest and Prague as part of a backpacking trip in college.  It’s too bad that I didn’t know anything about anything back then, because I would have loved to experience the kaffeehaus atmposphere (and pastries!).  I will have to go back sometime and do it right.

Back to the doughnuts…My crullers came out very homemade-looking (if not for the label, would you have mistaken them for onion rings in the photo??), but they were totally melt-in-your-mouth, and the rum glaze was sensational.  They were easily the best crullers I’ve had…probably because they were so fresh, and of course dripping with rum.  My brother had two suggestions for improvement–make them bigger (I couldn’t agree more) and make more of them (I only made three so as not to be piggy)!

Be sure to visit Peabody and Tartelette on February 15 to see a great round-up of fried and baked doughnut delights!

Crullers with Rum Glaze (Spritzkrapfen) makes 14
adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers

1 cup water

8 T (4 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
1 t sugar
pinch of  salt
1 cup unbleached  flour
4 large eggs (3 whole and 1 beaten), room temperature
Vegetable oil, for frying

Rum Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
2 T golden rum
1 T water, approximately

For the crullers:Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally so the butter melts. Remove from the heat, add all the flour at once, and stir hard with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and it forms a ball. Return the pan medium-low heat and cook.  Stir continuously to evaporate some of the moisture, until the dough films the bottom of the pan, about 90 seconds.

Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.  Using a handheld electric mixer (you could do this by hand or in a stand mixer), beat in the three whole eggs one at a time, making sure they are completely incorporated and stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add as much of the fourth beaten egg as needed so the dough is thick and hold its shape, but falls slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift it out of the bowl.  It should be smooth and shiny. 

Cut out fourteen 4-inch parchment squares and place a wire rack over a sheet pan for draining.  Using a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip (Rodgers recommends a 9/16-inch-wide tip, like Ateco #825, but I’d go even a bit wider), pipe the dough into 3-inch circles onto the parchment squares.

Pour the vegetable oil into a large pot or Dutch oven to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 360°F. Working in batches, without crowding, place the dough circles (still on their papers) upside-down in the oil.  After about 15 seconds, use tongs to pull off and discard the papers.  Fry, turning once, until golden on both sides.  Using a skimmer, transfer the cooked crullers to the rack to drain, and repeat for the next batch.  Try to keep the oil at 360°F  throughout.

For the rum glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl.  Whisk in the rum and enough water to make a glaze the consistency of heavy cream.  Dip each cruller upside-down in the glaze and place right side up on the rack to cool and set.

CH#5: Cappuccino Cupcakes

January 21, 2008 at 11:11 am | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 25 Comments

cappuccino cupcake

In my dream life, I spend my mornings sipping cappuccinos in a café while reading The New Yorker and watching the world go by.  In my real life though, The New Yorkers pile up on the kitchen table, and a cappuccino is a rare treat usually consumed on the go.  Laurie of Quirky Cupcake had her husband, Jaos, pick Cupcake Hero’s theme this month.  He chose coffee, so I thought I’d celebrate my favorite morning drink in cupcake form.

Now, I heard that Jaos likes his cupcakes kept simple, and since it is his birthday (happy 29th!), I kept that in mind.  This is a simple little cupcake (no filling this time), but it has great flavor, thanks to a double shot of espresso in the batter.  A little bit Kahlúa soaking syrup boosts the flavor and keeps them really moist.  The “foam” on top is just whipped cream, sweetened and flavored with an extra splash of Kahlúa.  And finally, because I like cinnamon and coffee, I sprinkled a bit on top.  I made a small batch of just six cupcakes, but the recipe could easily be doubled for a whole tin.

cappuccino cupcake

 Cappuccino Cupcakes makes 6 regular-size cupcakes

-Start with a batch of Kahlúa syrup (recipe below).

-Bake the espresso cupcakes (recipe below).  Lightly brush warm cupcakes with Kahlúa syrup, then cool completely.

-Whip some cream, sweetening to taste and adding a splash of Kahlúa (or other coffee liqueur) to flavor.  Note that, because whipped cream doesn’t keep well, it’s best to just top the cupcakes you will be eating that day.  If you have extras, make new whipped cream to top them as needed.

-Top with whipped cream and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Kahlúa Syrup– makes more than you will need, but keeps for a long time and has many uses (like sweetening iced coffee)

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
splash of Kahlúa, or other coffee liqueur

-Combine sugar and water in a small saucepot.  Mix gently with your finger so sugar isn’t stuck to bottom or corners of pot.  Try not to get a lot of sugar on the sides of the pot above water level (cooking time is short, so it shouldn’t crystallize, but just to be safe…)

-Bring just to a full boil, at which point all the sugar should be dissolved.  Shut off heat and add in a splash of coffee liqueur to taste. 

-Transfer to a jar or airtight plastic container for storage.  This will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

Espresso Cupcakes makes 6 regular-sized cupcakes

1/2 c plus 3 T all-purpose flour
1/4 t plus 1/8 t baking powder
pinch of salt
3 T brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
1 T milk
1/2 t instant espresso powder
2 oz butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 egg

 -Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a muffin tin with six paper cups. 

-Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

-Combine the espresso and milk.  Dissolve the instant espresso powder in the mixture and set aside.

-Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth, fluffy and pale.  Add the egg, beating well. 

-Add the dry ingredients and espresso mixture in three parts, alternating and beating smooth after each addition.  Add the liquid additions a little at a time to avoid splitting the batter.

-Divide the batter among the paper cups, and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  

Taste&Create V: Turkey Chili with We [heart] Food

January 13, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Posted in events, savory things | 8 Comments

turkey chili

I’m starting off the new year with another round of Taste&Create hosted by Nicole from For the Love of Food.  This month, Nicole paired me up with Chris and Lisa from We [heart] Food.  One look at Chris and Lisa’s blog and I knew I would have a hard time deciding which of their dishes to make myself.  They like some spicy food, and that’s right up my alley!

turkey chili

I finally decided to go with a recipe for turkey chili that they made in September.  I hadn’t had chili in forever, and I always equate it with football season.  I thought my husband would be pleased if I made him a little dinner-time tribute to the playoffs, especially seeing as how his team (the Chargers) is in the mix this year.  Never you mind that when you live in Australia, the American football games are on at five in the morning. 

Ground turkey, beans, and peppers simmered in tomatoes and lots of spices– this was perfect with a hunk of cornbread and a cold beer.  And it was easy to make, too.  I do admit that I forgot to buy the scallions for garnish…not that it is really a substitution, but I grated a little cheese on top instead.  Thanks Nicole, Chris and Lisa!

CH#4: Minty Chocolate Cupcakes

December 17, 2007 at 10:02 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 19 Comments

minty chocolate cupcakes

Mint is a really friendly herb.  It gets along with so many things…coconut, almond, citrus, berries, melon, blah blah blah.  So when Laurie of Quirky Cupcake announced that this month’s Cupcake Hero theme is mint, I really had a hard time deciding what to pair it with.  In the end, I maybe went with the most predictable thing–chocolate– but only because I love it so. 

The combination of chocolate and mint around the holidays makes me think of Andes mints.  My mum rarley bought us candy, but for some reason every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she’d bring out Andes with dessert.  My brother and I would go nuts and eat them by the dozen, accumulating a huge mound of the shiny green wrappers next to our plates.  I haven’t had them in at least a decade…I wonder if they would taste so good to me today.  They probably would.

I made a plain chocolate cupcake, from a recipe (called “Peerless Chocolate Cake”) in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book that I have made a zillion times.  I worked the mint flavoring into both a white chocolate whipped ganache frosting and a pudding filling.  For the ganache, I infused a bunch of fresh mint into the cream.  I swirled a couple drops of red gel coloring gently through the finished frosting before putting it into a piping bag in hopes that it would look a little candy cane-like.

minty chocolate cupcakes

For the pudding, I’m not embarrassed to admit to taking a shortcut (hey–cupcakes should be easy, right?). I have this giant tub of Bird’s custard powder in my pantry from when I made Nanaimo bars. I followed instructions on the package to make what I needed for filling, and then mixed in some melted bittersweet chocolate and a couple drops of mint extract. At that point, it tasted pretty good on its own. You could use any brand of packaged mix, or make homemade if you can’t stand the thought of it.

minty chocolate cupcakes

This cake recipe makes a great cupcake.  And mint and chocolate really are perfect together.  The frosting had an earthy mint flavor from the fresh herbs, while the pudding had a snappy mintiness to it.

Natalie from Bake and Destroy! is co-hosting with Laurie this month. Thanks Natalie and Laurie…I’m looking forward to the round-up!

Minty Chocolate Cupcakes makes 12 regular-size cupcakes

-Make and chill some minty chocolate pudding, using your favorite chocolate pudding recipe with mint extract added to taste, or prepare custard powder according to package instructions, flavoring with melted chocolate and mint extract.

-Bake and cool a batch of chocolate cupcakes (recipe below). 

-Make the minty white chocolate whipped ganache frosting (recipe below).

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Fill each cavity with minty chocolate pudding.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Top with whipped ganache and decorate as you see fit.

Chocolate Cupcakes makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes
adapted from Marion Cunningham’s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

1.5 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 c water
1 c plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c buttermilk

-Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a muffin tin with paper cups. 

-Combine the chocolate and water in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat, stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Set aside to cool.

-Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

-Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth and well-blended.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well.  Add the vanilla and chocolate mixture and beat until blended.  Add the sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk in three parts, alternating and beating smooth after each addition.

-In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry.  Gently stir one-third of the beaten whites into the batter.  Fold in the remaining whites.

-Divide the batter among the paper cups, and cook for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  

Minty White Chocolate Whipped Ganache makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

1 cup heavy cream
couple handfuls of fresh mint leaves, picked from stems
7.5 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
7 T butter, very soft

-Put mint leaves in a medium bowl.  Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepot.  Pour hot cream over the mint leaves and let stand until room temperature to infuse.  

-Strain the cream into a measuring cup, pressing gently on the leaves to extract as much cream as possible.  Discard the leaves.  Measure the infused cream…if you have less than 1 cup, add cold cream to make up the difference.

-Put chopped white chocolate in a medium bowl.   Reheat the cream to a simmer in a small saucepot.  Pour hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes to begin to melt.  Gently whisk chocolate and cream together to form a perfectly smooth ganache.  If the taste of mint is not strong enough for your tastes, you can boost it with a couple drops of mint extract.

-Cover and refrigerate for about 45 minutes, until the ganache  is cool and begins to firm up, but is still soft enough to whip.

-By hand with a whisk or with an electric mixer, whip until fluffy frosting consistency.  Whip in the soft butter, piece by piece.  If it starts to look split (mine did), chill it a couple more minutes and it should come together with a bit more persistent beating.

CH#3: Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes

November 30, 2007 at 2:47 am | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 26 Comments

cranberry bliss cupcakes

A couple of months ago, my cherry lime rickey cupcakes were chosen buy Quirky Cupcake Laurie as the winner of the first-ever Cupcake Hero event!  What an honor!  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come back and defend my title for last month’s clove edition.  I did make two different types of cupcakes for it and both were awful!  Well, I’ve put that mess behind me and come back with a vengeance for this month’s event with a cranberry theme.

My inspiration for these cupcakes is the Cranberry Bliss bar that Starbucks sells around the holidays.  Yes, even in Australia you can find these in the display case at this time of year.  If you are a seasoned Cranberry Bliss bar eater, you will probably recognize me for the fraud that I am.  I have never had one…don’t even know what’s actually in one.  So this is a loose interpretation, containing things that I think are blissful with cranberries!

cranberry bliss cupcakes

I seem to be a fan of filled cupcakes lately (there were the rickeys, the Bostinis and the linzers), and I knew I wanted to make a cupcake that would be filled with Thanksgiving-style cranberry sauce.  I actually even used my leftover sauce for this!  The bar from Starbucks has a cake or cookie base that looks to contain brown sugar, so I went poking around for a brown sugar cupcake recipe.  I found one from Nigella, the beautiful Domestic Goddess, for burnt butter brown sugar cupcakes.  I liked the sound of that–brown butter gives beautiful flavor to baked goods.  I also liked that the batter is quickly blitzed together in the food processor…not a lot of technique involved there.

cranberry bliss cupcakes

The Bliss bars also appear to have a white chocolate topping, so after baking and filling my cupcakes, I frosted them with a white chocolate whipped ganache, into which I had folded toasted pecans and dried cranberries.  I sprinkled some toasted unsweetened coconut flakes and more dried cranberries over the top to finish.  Lush!  The tart cranberries really balance out the sweet frosting and cake.  And the next day, cold out of the fridge, OMG!  My brother declared the cold cupcake to be “f-ing amazing” (please excuse his language).

I don’t find the pictures of cupcake insides to be all that appealing, but here’s a picture of the “guts” anyway…

cranberry bliss cupcakes

Thanks, Laurie, for another fun event!  Can’t wait to see December’s theme!

Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes makes 12 regular-size cupcakes

-Make and chill the cranberry sauce filling (recipe below).

-Bake and cool a batch of burnt butter brown sugar cupcakes (recipe below). 

-Make the white chocolate whipped ganache frosting and flavor it with pecans and dried cranberries (recipe below).  

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Fill each cavity with cranberry sauce filling.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Top with whipped ganache and garnish with lightly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes and more dried cranberries.

Cranberry Sauce Filling– makes about 1 cup

just under 1/2 cup sugar
just under 1/2 cup water
2 t orange zest
pinch of salt
6 oz whole cranberries, fresh or frozen

-Bring sugar, water, orange zest and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepot.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add in the cranberries. 

-Simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries pop. 

-Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until using.

Burnt Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes
modified from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess

1/2 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup self-rising cake flour
3 T sugar
5 T brown sugar (I used dark, but light would be fine, too)
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
2-3 T milk

-Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C and line a muffin tin with paper cups. 

-To brown the butter, put it in a small saucepan on medium heat, leaving it until it turns light golden and has nutty-colored brown bits on the bottom (will only take a couple of minutes).  Take the pan off the heat and pour the butter into a bowl or cup, scraping the brown bits (if you have accidentally gotten your butter too dark, strain it, leaving the dark sediment behind). Let the butter begin to solidify again, but you need it to remain soft for the cupcakes.  You can do this by either leaving it at room temperature, which will take awhile, or putting it in the fridge for about 10 minutes.   You want it to be the consistency of regular softened butter.

-When the butter is solid but still soft, put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz to a smooth batter. As normal, add the milk down the funnel, pulsing sparingly to form a soft, dropping mixture.

-Divide among the paper cups, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  FYI, this does not make much batter, and the cups will not be very full.  Don’t worry, as the combination of self-rising cake flour and baking powder give it a lot of oomph in the oven.  They should rise to normal cupcake size!

White Chocolate Whipped Ganache with Pecans and Cranberries makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

7.5 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
7 T butter, very soft
handfull toasted pecans, cooled and roughly chopped
handfull dried cranberries

-Put chopped white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepot.  Pour hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes to begin to melt.  Gently whisk chocolate and cream together to form a perfectly smooth ganache.

-Cover and refrigerate for about 45 minutes, until the ganache  is cool and begins to firm up, but is still soft enough to whip.

-By hand with a whisk, whip until fluffy frosting consistency.  Whip in the soft butter, piece by piece.  If it starts to look split, chill it a couple more minutes and it should come together with a few more strokes.  Don’t overbeat the frosting, however, or it may make it too firm.

-Gently fold in pecans and dried cranberries before topping the cupcakes.

Daring Bakers in November: Tender Potato Bread

November 26, 2007 at 12:00 pm | Posted in daring bakers, events, savory things, yeast breads | 60 Comments

potato bread

Ahhh…finally, today is the day when I can reveal my experience with the latest Daring Bakers challenge– it is something I really look forward to every month.  This go-around Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups had us roll up our sleeves and bake bread!  She chose a recipe for tender potato bread from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  This is a book I have on my own shelf, so I was extra-excited to give the bread recipe a try.

Besides being true to the base recipe, we had to knead the bread by hand (I hadn’t done that in forever!) and it had to be savory.  But other than that, Tanna really encouraged us to play around with the shape of our bread and the flavorings used.  I did cut the recipe in half, which is my usual MO, because R and I can’t (or shouldn’t) eat sooo much bread.  I used the maximum amount of mashed potato suggested by Tanna (16 ounces for a full recipe, or 8 ounces for my half recipe), and I can say that kneading the dough was definitely a sticky process.   But it wasn’t impossible on a well-floured surface…as the additional flour was worked in, I could feel the dough gaining structure and becoming easier to handle.

potato bread--focaccia

I split my dough into one small loaf and one small focaccia.  I kneaded some grated aged cheddar and cracked pepper into the loaf portion just before placing in the pan for its second proof.  The cheese bread was soft and had great flavor.  I still have half the loaf in my freezer, just waiting to be eaten with a bowl of soup.  The dough made for a fantastic focaccia as well– I put olive oil, olives, rosemary and Maldon salt on mine.  It had a nice, crisp bottom crust from baking it on a ripping-hot pizza stone.

Thanks Tanna for giving us a good break from the sweet stuff.  If you are afraid of yeast, don’t be– bread-baking is a truly satisfying experience!   You won’t believe how delicious warm homemade bread is!  If you want the recipe for the basic potato bread, look here on Tanna’s site.

potato bread--cheese 

And before I go, I’d like to wish a very happy birthday to Daring Bakers!  This not so-little-anymore group turned one this month.  Started by Lis and Ivonne, just two buddies wanting to make their own pretzels, the group is now more than 300 strong!  To see how we all interpreted this month’s potato bread challenge, take a look at The Daring Bakers’ Blogroll.

DB whisk

Taste&Create III: Sushi with Sushi Day

November 18, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Posted in events, savory things | 6 Comments

sushi- crunchy shrimp roll

I am always drooling over the fantastic things that you make, photograph and write about on your blogs.  There are probably hundreds of recipes that I’ve seen on other sites that I’d like to try myself someday.  Unfortunately, sometimes I need a kick in the seat to do things.  Well, Nicole from For the Love of Food has come up with a food event called “Taste&Create“, pairing up food bloggers to try out each other’s recipes.  How perfect! 

Nicole paired me up with Allison from Sushi Day.  Sushi!  I love sushi!  It is something that I get intense cravings for that must be satisfied quickly.  But uh-oh.  Sushi is also something that I’ve always gone out for, and never tried to make myself. 

Allison has a lot of great info on her site to get a grasp of the basics of sushi-making, and a lot of great ideas for combinations, many of them inspired by trips to her favorite Japanese restaurants.  While I am crazy about unagi (eel) and anything involving raw tuna, I decided to play it a bit safer for my first foray into sushi-making and make her Crunchy Shrimp Roll.  I also knew that both R and my brother would happily devour anything with tempura shrimp and avocado.

After picking up a bamboo rolling mat at a local Japanese grocery, I had to read up on preparing the rolling mat and how to roll maki sushi.  And I needed to start with some sumeshi, or sushi rice.  Slightly sweet and vinegary, I think the taste and stickiness of the sumeshi are what’s responsible for those sushi cravings I get every couple of weeks.  Then I had to fry off a few pieces of tempura shrimp, following Allison’s instructions for how to make tempura, before prepping my scallions and avocado.  Assembling and rolling the maki wasn’t hard at all, thanks to Allison’s step-by-step photos and advice.

So there it is, my very first maki roll!  Not too bad looking, and certainly tasty!

sushi- crunchy shrimp roll

Since I had prepared a lot of rice and had extra pieces of tempura shrimp and avocado, I also went ahead and made Allison’s Spicy Tempura Roll as well.  Its zippy, peppery kick made it another big hit at the dinner table!

sushi- spicy tempura roll

Thank you Allison for teaching me how to make sushi myself– armed with my rolling mat, I will be back for more!  And thank you Nicole for hosting such a cool event!

Stop the Traffik: Toot-toot

November 7, 2007 at 3:21 pm | Posted in events, other stuff | 7 Comments


So I didn’t mention this before because I felt a little weird tooting my own horn, but the white chocolate and almond tartufi I made won last month’s Stop the Traffik chocolate competition, hosted by Rachel from R khooks.  I didn’t think I could be more excited when I heard the news a couple weeks ago, until today when I received my prize in the mail! 

Stop The Traffik prize

Rachel sent four bars of fairtrade chocolate and a beautiful card (maybe she even took the photo herself?)!   I am holding both a milk and a dark bar from Monoprix Gourmet and mint (yay!) and almond bars from Alter Eco.  I have never tried any of these, so I’m looking forward to getting down to business and doing some sampling.

Thanks so much, Rachel, for the chocolate bars and for hosting the event!  I’m sure it’s helped to open a lot of eyes to the issue of forced labor in cocoa farming and chocolate production.  And if you have a second, please check out Stop the Traffik’s site for more information on “Traffik Free” chocolate and where to find it.

Risotto Relay: Baked Risotto

October 20, 2007 at 10:07 am | Posted in events, savory things | 11 Comments

baked risotto

How do you make risotto without all that standing over a pot and stirring?  You cheat and bake it in the oven!  Baked risotto is a technique I have read about in a few places, and I thought I would give it a shot for the Risotto Relay being held by Sathya and Liz, authors of the lovely blog The Baker & The Curry Maker.

All the recipes I’ve seen follow a very similar process.  Cook the onions on the stovetop first, add in rice and liquid and bring to a simmer.  Then chuck in your other ingredients and pop it in the oven at 400°F/200°C for about half an hour.  I went ahead and riffed on a recipe for baked risotto with zucchini, tomato and parmesan from superstar Sydney chef Bill Granger, whose food I love.  It is in his book bills food.

I obviously made a few additions to recipe I provide below.  I sauteed a clove of minced garlic along with the onions.  A splash of white wine went into the pot at the same time as the stock and chopped tomatoes.  And finally, halfway though the oven-baking process, I stirred in some raw, peeled and de-veined shrimp.  I know that seafood and cheese breaks the rules (so does baking your risotto, really), but I used the parmesan in the recipe anyway.

baked risotto

OK, I admit that this is doesn’t really give you that creamy starchiness that a traditional risotto has, but I will definitely make it again.  If you are feeling a little lazy, it is a perfectly delicious and acceptable substitute for the real thing, and it is so versatile.  Next time, I think I’ll try it with chicken and mushrooms…maybe I’ll add a little extra liquid partway through the cooking process and stir in a pat of butter when it’s done to see if I get a creamier end result.

Baked Risotto with Zucchini, Tomato and Parmesan– makes 4 servings
from bills food by Bill Granger

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 t sea salt
1 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
14 oz can chopped Roma (plum) tomatoes
3 small zucchini, finely sliced
2 1/4 oz freshly grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
2 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
shavings of Parmesan, for serving (optional)

-Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Heat a 3-quart/3-litre capacity ovenproof dish (with a lid) over a medium heat.

-Add the olive oil, onion and sea salt and stir for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

-Add the rice to the dish and stir for another minute. Add the stock or water and the chopped tomatoes and bring to simmering point. Stir in the zucchini and sprinkle with Parmesan and black pepper.

-Cover the dish and bake the risotto for 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Scatter parsley over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan shavings if desired, and serve in the dish.


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