Archive for the ‘food’ Category
My wife has an open invitation to make requests for things for me to make. It might be a general request (“you should make more pasta”), or a specific request (“make cookies like these”). Recently, she made two requests, the first of which was a hybrid. She tried some multi-grain bread from a small bakery at a farmer’s market, and asked for me to try to find a recipe. I dug around, found one and played with it.
The recipe calls for a multi-grain cereal. Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal was recommended, but I couldn’t find it. I found a seven-grain cereal in bulk at a new market in town, which is just as well. When trying a new recipe with special ingredients, I don’t like to invest in too much. In both cases, it looked like “pinhead” oatmeal. You definitely feel it when eating a piece.
It was a pain to make. The dough is very sticky from the get-go, and, after the first rise, an additional half-cup of honey only made it stickier. I never feel like I got it off my fingers until well after I made it. My dough blade was used repeatedly to move it on the counter as I did some of the kneading by hand. I swore I would never make this bread again!
Then we had some.
It is an incredible bread. We definitely liked it, though I was still not sure it was worth the hassle.
Then I had some with peanut butter. I would find myself craving it mid-morning, as I entered that time that was too late for breakfast, but too early for lunch. It became a go-to snack when driving to a cyclocross race.
My wife and I have started calling it “crack bread,” to suggest our addiction. Describing food as “crack” is a phrasing that has been criticized, but it is part of the contemporary vernacular. Embracing the slang, it’s weird how much stuff is like crack. It really has become an addition, making it worth the effort to make.
My wife bought some of the bread that inspired my making this, and called out that it was different. She then did a side-by-side comparison with a bit we had left. Even though my loaf was nearly two weeks old, she declared it the winner.
- ½ cup multi-grain cereal (seven grains or more)
- ½ cup cool water
- ½ cup warm water water
- ½teaspoon yeast
- 1 cup wheat flour
- 1½ cup white flour (plus a little extra)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 medium eggs
- ¼ cup olive or vegetable oil
- ½ cup honey (170g, as I find it easier to use a kitchen scale for this)
- In a small bowl, let the cereal soak in about ½ cup cool water for 30 minutes. In another bowl, dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water and let it sit until it starts to foam (about 10-15 minutes.)
- In a large mixing bowl, put flour, sugar, and salt and mix well. Make a small well in the center of this mixture, and dd the yeast, eggs, oil, and cereal to the well, and stir together. At this point, flour your hands and start to knead the dough inside of the bowl (or use the hook of your stand mixer). The mixture will be very sticky, so add a extra flour as needed, until it is no longer sticky. Continue kneading for 10-20 minutes.
- Put a tablespoon of oil in a bowl and rub it around the entire bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl, and flip a few times to coat in oil. Cover and let rise about 45 minutes in a warm place, or until doubled in size. I like to use the work bowl of the mixer.
- Once dough has doubled, punch the dough down until most of the air bubbles are out. Pour honey on top. The dough will be extremely sticky. Knead it for about five minutes, until the honey has been incorporated. Shape into round ball again. Cover and let rise until doubled for about 45 minutes.
- Once dough has doubled in size, divide in to two loaves. Form the dough into desired shape. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 while dough is rising. Cook for about 25-35 minutes, or until the crust starts to brown.
| Saturated Fat
| Monounsaturated Fat
| Polyunsaturated Fat
| Dietary Fiber
|The Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
The gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin famously said “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Food can be a defining characteristic of a culture, and a great portal into it. It is reflected in the ingredients available to a people, how they cook it, or the history tied to a food. When I try something new–even things I’ve eaten but not started making myself–I often find myself down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, learning of a food’s origins.
Case in point: when I posted about World War Two Oatmeal Molasses Cookies, fellow blogger Aussie Emjay commented that they reminded her of ANZAC biscuits her grandmother made. I skimmed the recipe she linked to (“Anzac biscuits, No 2”), and saw I needed golden syrup, a cane syrup popular in Australia. Once I got some other baking done and eaten, I took on the challenge.
ANZAC biscuits are associated with ANZAC Day. Observed on April 25, this day commemorates the sacrifices of the military of Australia and New Zealand during all wars. It is tied to the start of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War. This campaign saw major casualties for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (the acronym giving birth to the term “ANZAC”). The biscuits are often sold to raise money for veterans’ charities.
I had to explain to my daughter that, in the British Commonwealth, “biscuit” doesn’t refer to the southern style quick bread I make for breakfast, but for what we, in the United States, call a “cookie.” In Australia, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs controls the commercial use of the term “ANZAC biscuit,” ensuring the recipe is consistent with tradition, and referred to as “biscuits.” I’ll honor that convention.
As I said, the key unique ingredient is golden syrup. It is a cane, rather than a corn or maple, syrup. Straight up, it reminded me a bit of corn syrup combined with honey and a dash of vanilla. This was mixed with coconut, sugar, oats, and flour. The dough was surprisingly dry, but I could get a solid mass as needed by squeezing.
The recipe called for a moderate oven, and didn’t have a clear cook time. Cross referencing other recipes, it tending to be 15-22 minutes in a 350° F oven. My first batch was baked towards the high end of that time, and, for me, was a bit long. Once cooled, they were very hard, but several seconds in a microwave got them to a softer texture. The second batch, cooked for 15-17 minutes, stayed reasonably soft, though warming them was still nice, as is usually the case for all cookies.
The flavor is quite good. As I was preparing the dough, I thought chocolate chips would be a good addition, but once out of the oven, I felt they were plenty sweet. It reminded me a bit like granola, only sweeter. It almost tasted healthy. Almost. It was very good.
As I said, food is a good gateway into a culture. Making the ANZAC biscuits inspired learning more about these nations’ role in World War One. I’m sure their unique flavor will find their way into future goodie boxes. Overall, it was a fun thing to make.
I have a small list of food things I want to make. It could be a recipe on a blog post I like, or a request my family makes, or something that just looks good on TV. Unless it is for a holiday or other occasion, there is little priority to it–just whatever strikes my fancy when I feel like making something new. Angel food cake has been on my list for a while, added initially by my wife.
I decided to use Alton Brown’s recipe. The episode which highlighted that taught me a lot, most importantly how to fold, which I use all the time. It also clued me in to the sort of pan I needed–more on that in a bit. I bought it on a binge at Bed, Bath and Beyond with a 20% coupon that was about to expire. This past weekend, having cleared the house of hamentaschen, French silk pie, macaroons, and other goodies from spring holidays, I decided it was time to try it out. It proved to be a bit of a saga.
Angel food cake takes a lot of eggs, or, more specifically, egg whites. I’m less-than-awesome at separating eggs. To get the dozen egg whites, I went through fourteen eggs. I mixed them to medium peeks, folded in the flour, and put it into the pan.
What makes a “tube pan” for angel food cake special is that the tube comes up higher than the edge of the pan, allowing the cake to cool upside-down. As pointed out in the episode of “Good Eats,” until the cake complete cools and sets, it can’t support its own weight. After I was sure it was cooked, I pulled it out and set it on the waiting cooling rack. I then started to flip it.
“Everything OK?” my wife called from upstairs.
“Yeah.” My wife knew it was my “no one was hurt, but I did something stupid” tone.
The whole pan had fallen to the floor. It wasn’t sudden–I had a second where I thought I could catch it, and save the day with minimal damage. Then there was the moment where I could see it tumbling, but realized there was no salvaging it. All I could do was scoop it up with a cutting board.
My wife came down, and we tasted the output. The texture was off–probably because it hadn’t gotten to cool inverted–but the flavor was good. My daughter, in bed but still awake, came to investigate the commotion, and got a taste. I thought this was fair, as otherwise, she would have been denied a sample.
The next day was to be a rainy day–no bike ride for me. My wife brought home a new dozen eggs. Twelve egg whites (out of fourteen attempts) were produced. Medium peeks achieved. Flour folded into the eggs. The batter reminded me more like ice cream base prior to churning than a cake. Into the oven went my second attempt.
It came out looking good. I paused for a photo, and to ensure I had a good grip. The first time I used two hot pads; this time, a dishtowel. I think the latter ensured I was able to grab more of the pan.
We let it cool inverted for two hours while the storm passed through. It was 11:30 PM when I gently used a knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Another feature of the pan is that the base and center of the pan separate from the sides, further easing depanning. It looked perfect.
Just as I started to cut a slice to taste, the power went out! Fortunately, I had taken my pictures, and had everything set to put it away when we were done without having to stumble in the dark. I brought my wife the piece, and the texture was perfect–much nicer than the fallen cake. My wife cut a sliver, and, in the light of a flashlight, I saw a blissful look appear on her face.
Spring comes, and with it, the start of the fun holidays. We had Mardi Gras earlier this month, and St. Patrick’s Day coming up. Floating among them is Purim. For that, we make hamentaschen.
The recipe is my wife’s grandmother’s. Transcribed over the phone, I made it, then typed it up to share within the family. As my daughter’s skills in the kitchen improve, she’s taking on a greater portion of the work.
I somewhat expected to be one of the threads maintaining and handing down some of my family’s recipes. It never occurred to me I might also be doing it for my wife’s. However, when I think about it, as the primary cook in my house, it makes sense. I’m honored to be taking it up.
Besides, the hamentaschen is delicious!
My office’s annual bake-off was this week. Each year, me and my coworkers bake treats, with two winners selected. Two years ago, I won with a French silk pie. Last year, I made brownies with peanut butter frosting. I didn’t win, though they didn’t exactly come out the way I wanted. This year, I decided to try something a bit different, my take on macaroons.
I felt it was not a choice without risks. Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, for instance. However, coconut can be a bit polarizing–not as much as carrot cake, but I know plenty of people who will turn down something because of it. However, based on past entries, I thought they’d be a bit different, and I knew they were fairly reliable.
I made two batches, for a total of three dozen, to ensure there were plenty. Three were sampled by me, my wife, and my daughter, for quality control, and another three were kept for us. My wife and daughter had a very blissful look on their faces as they ate them.
When I brought my case of macaroons to the office, I had to fill out a tag. I was writing “Coconut Macaroons” when I was asked if it has nuts, and, if so, write “Nuts” on the tag (an allergy thing). I was somewhat amused by the redundancy.
The judging happened, then the remaining deserts were offered to the office for a donation, a fund raiser for a charity my office supports. There seemed to be a bit of a buzz about the macaroons–I started to feel confident. Around 2 PM, it was official: I was one of the two winners. As before, I was given a nice gift basket.
I do want to thank the Salt and Serenity blog, where I got the recipe. I love the recipes and associated memories. She makes things that look a hundred times better than what comes out of my oven.
I’m not quite sure why, but I’ve been on a brussels sprouts kick lately. Maybe I’ve just been able to get my hands on them a bit more readily lately. I have noticed they seem to be appearing on more menus when I go out lately. Somehow, I seem to be converting my wife and daughter to tentatively start to enjoy them, too.
For vegetables, I prefer using dry cooking methods to wet ones. Steaming is about as wet as I go–it adds as little moisture as possible. Instead, I go for stir fry, grilling, or, in this case roasting. I start with a rub, give it a bit to coat and soak in the sprouts, then cook.
- 2 Cups Whole Brussels Sprouts
- 2-3 Cloves Garlic
- 1.5 Tablespoons Whole Mustard Seed
- 6-8 Whole Peppercorns
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
First, I like to make the rub. In my mortar and pestle, I combine the garlic, mustard, peppercorns, salt, and 1 teaspoon olive oil, and mash it until it becomes a nice paste, with few of the mustard seeds remaining whole.
Mortar and pestle?
Yep–I think it’s a great way to combine spices and, in some cases, herbs. I got mine at the Ohio Renaissance Festival, from someone who deals in herbs, spices, and teas. It was a hand-made ceramic one, yet fairly inexpensive. The texture on the side, along with the material I put in, helps to grind the rub.
OK, what if you don’t have one? I’ve kludged it by using a plastic or metal bowl and a flat-bottom cup. It will take a bit longer, but it will get you there. If you go that route, I would just grind the mustard and salt with some of the olive oil, mince the garlic with a knife, and grind the pepper in a pepper grinder. I suppose dry mustard powder could be used, though I am not sure how much you want.
Once this is ground to a paste, add the rest of the olive oil. and stir. Cut the very end off each sprout, then cut in half. Place in a mixing bowl. Once all the brussels sprouts are cut, pour the paste/oil over them, and toss to coat. Let rest for 30 minutes or so. Preheat your oven to 425°.
Arrange the sprouts on a flat or shallow pan, such as a cookie sheet, cut side up. We have a small pan that came with our toaster oven which works quite well. I like to line with foil, to simplify clean-up. If any of the rub is left in the bowl, it can be sprinkled on top.
Place in the oven on the top rack for about 20 minutes, until the center of the bulb (where the leaves join) becomes tender. Turn on the broiler, and cook until it gets a bit of color. I check it every minute. Set a timer–the line between “color” and “charcoal” is fine.
One alternative way of preparing them is, after the rest, skewer them and cook on a grill.
January 19 is a celebration of my favorite food, popcorn. Yes, it’s National Popcorn Day. As I’m sure you can imagine, at least one bowl will be popped in my household before the clock strikes midnight.
As the years have gone by (and I’ve become more careful about striking the right balance between a good snack and health), I’ve become increasingly snobby about my popcorn. For example, I stopped doing pre-packaged microwave popcorn. The dust has been known to cause problems for workers, and it just tastes somewhat artificial. Movie popcorn was a former favorite, but it has around twice the fat and calories of what I can produce in my kitchen. Between that and a good TV, we don’t feel the need to go to the theater as often as we once did.
These days, I have settled on my own popcorn as my personal gold standard. Popcorn is a seemingly simple thing to make: put some kernels and oil in a pot and apply heat. However, I’ve learned a few subtleties that I believe make a tremendous difference:
- The quality of the corn makes a difference.
- Oil choice makes a difference. It should have a high smoke point, and a relatively neutral flavor. While canola and corn do a good job, and olive oil is OK, my oil of choice is peanut oil. It can produce a crisp kernel and what flavor it introduces is pretty good. I’ve experimented with others, such as sesame oil, but while the flavor is welcome in an Asian stir fry, it doesn’t do as well in popcorn.
- This is one of the many situations where knowing your stovetop is important. My old stove would have to be at full blast during the whole cook process. My new stove was both more powerful than the old one, and likely the newness made it work better. Full blast for the full cook time meant that it would pop more violently, causing some of the unpopped kernels to get caught among the popped ones, resulting in more old maids. Now, I keep it at medium heat. However, if the popped corn fills the pan and I have to dump that out before cooking more, I’ll turn the heat up to help it recover from the time off the burner (and give extra heat to the ones that still need to pop).
- Shake the pan as you go to help any kernels that got up in the popped corn to get back down to the pan–again, to prevent old maids.
- Popcorn pops as the result of water expanding inside the kernel. This means a lot of steam will be present. unfortunately, this is the enemy of crispness. To combat that, I use as big and wide a mixing bowl as I have. This exposes more of the corn to air, allowing the steam to escape. If you can resist, give the popcorn a few minutes to rest before eating for this process to take place–I usually take the opportunity to wash the pan.
As I mentioned, I prefer homemade, and typically stovetop. However, I’ve experimented with homemade microwave popcorn. One method is to put some popcorn and oil in a brown paper back, seal it, and nuke it. I’ve had some success with that. Another method is to use a large microwaveable container (such as a large glass measuring cup
) with a plate on top. This will contain the corn while allowing steam to escape. Either way, keep an eye on the popcorn to make sure it doesn’t burn.
If you use healthful oils and skip the butter, popcorn can be a delicious, whole-grain snack. If you take the time to learn how to make it yourself, you’ll find it is both better and cheaper than any pre-packaged popcorn you can find at the store or your local movie theater.
On our way back to Cincinnati from Lake Charles, we decided to stop in New Orleans. Over the last couple years, my wife and I have become huge Latin food fans, exploring the cuisine of regions south of Mexico. We heard about a place called Maïs Arepas, which was well reviewed. We decided to make a stop and try it out. It was definitely worth our time.
However, we couldn’t stop in New Orleans without a stop at Cafe du Monde for beignets (especially for my daughter, not nearly the Latin food fan her parents are, was patient for our feast).
They were definitely enjoyed.
We spent a few minutes walking through the French Quarter prior to heading north.
Photo credit to my daughter. As she’s getting older, she’s becoming quite the photographer. She may need her own Nikon before too long.
We always like to make some goodies to give to teachers, coworkers, dance groups, and other friends. It used to be just pralines, but, as the list of recipients grew, we decided to add some variety to the mix. I spent the weekend making a lot of treats. The divvying up has begun!
Three years ago this month, there was a major outage at work. We had teams working more or less around the clock trying to first catch the issue as it was happening, then resolving it. It was not something in my area of responsibility, but my boss at the time wanted a member of his executive team on the call overnight. I drew two back-to-back near-overnight shifts.
The morning after the second shift, my last day before taking some PTO, I checked in with my boss as soon as I got into the office. He was British, and just returned from a trip to the UK. He offered me a piece of shortbread he brought back, which I gladly accepted–I was starving! I gave him my briefing, as well as some transition items for my PTO. He offered me another piece. “I was planning on it,” I said, as I took the cookie.
For that odd reason, I always tie the winter holidays to shortbread. The next year, a food blog I
follow followed, “I Really Like Food,” published a recipe for chocolate chip shortbread. It entered the Christmas goody rotation, along with pralines and other goodies. We’ve started to make a variety of treats to give to teachers, our offices, and family. I started that process this weekend. since they don’t have nuts, I wanted to make sure to make the shortbread.
I had forgotten that “I Really Like Food” is no more.
This happened with the peppered queen, but, between having it in my head and Google cache, I could recreate my version of it. All I had was blog post where I listed the ingredients. Google cache was no help, and it wasn’t in the Wayback Machine. I looked at recipes for shortbread until I found one that had the same list of ingredients. they seem to be as good, though there may be too many chocolate chips in them. Yes, there is such a thing.
I texted my wife about the situation. She texted back to make sure I had captured the Word War Two Oatmeal Molasses Cookies, which are our new favorite. I had just finished typing it in the format I like.
“Print it out & put it in your
binder, just in case your hard drive dies.” She takes cookies very
That’s the key lesson. The internet is a great source of all sorts of information, and it’s a great place to store you material. On two occassions, I’ve blogged about the risks of storing things in the cloud. I suppose a related risk and lesson, is to assume may be true of any information in the cloud. If it’s something that’s important to you–be it a recipe, a manual to a device, or something else, grabbing a local copy is wise. You may not be able to get it back.