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Showing posts with label FoodieChats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FoodieChats. Show all posts

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Last Single Cabbage Roll

These were the star of #Foodiechats last Monday
A little less than a month ago, I married the most wonderful, kind, generous, sensitive, intelligent man I've ever met. Our wedding was beautiful, the food was lovely, and I was so happy to take this next step in my life with someone that I was so proud to call my husband. This journey has been a long one. B and I have been together for over four years now, and he's now lovingly taken to telling me my favorite line from his wedding vows:

"From now until forever."

I look forward to many years together. In my vows, I promised that he'd always get the last slice of pizza, the big piece of fried chicken, and that no matter what, his home would be full of good meals, as would be the rest of his life. I show love by cooking, and he's my favorite person to cook for. Now,  you would think that I'd have chosen something a little more loving and poetic than Lithuanian cabbage rolls as the last meal I cooked for him before he moved out of our house the week before our wedding. You would think that I'd take "the last meal" before our wedding day with a little more thought. You'd probably think that I'd put something a little more photogenic on the table, wouldn't you? Well guess what!

I didn't. I put dumb old cabbage rolls on the table and looked across to my then-fiance and realized: this is the last meal I'll cook for him until we're married. As you can imagine, I about cried. The next meal we'd have together would be our rehearsal dinner, of course, and then our wedding tacos, but I didn't make those. Oh, sure, I made the cake, but that wasn't a meal. The last meal I had made for my husband before we were married were dumpy old cabbage rolls. And you know what?

He loved them. He loved the cabbage rolls, ate them heartily, and kissed me lovingly and thanked me for taking the effort to cook him such a nice meal. I was near tears with how embarrassed I was over the silly things and he loved them! Looking back on it now, I can only assume that it was the stress and jitters of everything all coming to fruition. He'd proposed on Valentine's Day and we got married on October 21st. I'd planned the best wedding I could and I'm so happy with how everything turned out.
I'm making a funny face but I love the movement in this shot.
Those veils are hand-sewn and hand-embroidered by yours truly!

And I looked freaking fabulous, too.

Anyway, on to the cabbage rolls! These won foodiechats and had the most-response out of any photo I've posted in recent memory. It turns out that cabbage rolls are an emotional food for many! It's a humble dish by nature and one that's seldom found in restaurants. You get cabbage rolls from grandmother's table, not the gastropub in the hipster part of town. (Or maybe you do nowadays? I don't know, I've never seen them there.)

Holishkes are the traditional Jewish stuffed cabbage that are usually stuffed with a minced meat of some kind, sometimes with rice to fill it up, and then simmered in tomato sauce. It's a pretty common dish at Sukkot, which is a fall harvest festival in which you eat like a pig for seven whole days. Balendeliai (which means 'little doves'), or Lithuanian stuffed cabbage rolls, are eaten just because.

While you can stick to the traditional recipe of forcemeat with rice, I honestly like to make cabbage rolls using leftovers. No, really! You take you leftovers, roll them up in a sturdy veggie burrito, and simmer them in a sauce...then boom! Your leftovers have been reincarnated into something that looks like you did it on purpose. This is what I did for the last single cabbage roll.

Chicken Cabbage Rolls
yields a dozen cabbage rolls, plenty for two with leftovers
  • 1 young cabbage, quite small - or a regular-sized cabbage using only the more tender leaves in the middle
  • 1 lb shredded chicken meat (this was leftover from the chicken tacos I'd made the other night)
  • 1 cup onion, diced quite fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced quite fine
  • 1/4 cup fennel, shredded fine
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
This doesn't sound like a whole lot, but trust me, it'll be plenty! You're only using it to stuff things, and each roll won't take more than three tablespoons of filling safely. Then again, I had a rather small, young cabbage that I'd grown. These ingredients sound like a mishmash of leftovers. I have news for you: they were. This was a dish I'd thrown together without even thinking about the fact that it was the last meal I'd cook for my wonderful partner before we were separated then married.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix your chicken, diced veggies, and rice in one large bowl. Don't worry about seasoning this part, you'll season the broth vigorously. Meanwhile, bring to boil a medium sauce pot of salted water, and prepare the cabbage. You'll want the younger, more tender leaves so be sure to peel away the larger layers. Trim the hard stem part away, only an inch or two of it, with a paring knife. Using tweezers or your bare fingers - only if you haven't any feeling left in them anymore, like me - blanch your cabbage leaves for about 30 seconds per leaf, just enough to bring out the color and make it soft enough to roll. I suggest doing all the leaves at once so you can lay them flat on a warm plate, ready for rolling.

See? Nice and tight, like little cigars!
When ready, take a spoonful or two of your filling and smash it into a cigar shape. You'll roll by rolling up the bottom, just to cover, and then folding in the ends/sides, nice and tight, to look like an envelope. Roll it up firmly yet gently, almost like you're swaddling a baby bird, and then store them on another plate with the seam down. Repeat until you have no more filling!

Take your favorite dutch oven (I've got mine that I inherited from my great-grandmother) and get it nice and hot on the flame. Add a tablespoon of a neutral oil and let it heat. Once you're good and hot, sear the cabbage rolls, seam side down, to seal, and then on the other side to get some flavor. You will most-likely have to this in batches, but that's okay. Once everything's all seared, you'll reintroduce your cabbage rolls, arranged as tight as you can arrange them, to your pan. Pour in the beef stock, the tomato paste, dill, bay leaf, and whole smashed garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and adjust seasoning. You want to make sure that your cabbage leaves are wholly covered. While you can keep it simmering on the stovetop, I like to use the oven.

Pop the lid on your dutch oven and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. Traditionally, you serve this with lots of sour cream and fresh dill, maybe even some scallions if you're feeling fancy. We don't do dairy in the house, so we like Tofutti's sour cream substitute. The best part about this food is that you can set the pot on the table (with a pad underneath that hot pot, of course!) and serve straight out of the cooking dish. I also love that you can make these a day ahead and just heat up as needed, which - trust me - I did, all throughout the week of the wedding. Fortunately, I had my best friend and Maid of Honor Riley there to keep me sane while she lived with me for the week. Bless her.

Riley, you've saved my life so many times. Thank you so much for being my best friend.
So that's it! That's the delicious cabbage roll, that made a spark of interest on the #Foodiechats chat! Thanks so much for reading. If you try any of my recipes, subscribe to me and comment below on your results.

Thank you so much! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ice Dyed Holiday Eggs

I probably used way more pink than I intended to.

Tis the season for egg-dying and I must say: it's one of my favorite springtime activities. Since we've now designated them as "holiday eggs" instead of Easter Eggs, everyone can enjoy them!

(And can I just say how beautiful it is that Easter/Ostara is on April Fool's Day this year? I mean, come on. The possibilities are endless. Chocolate-covered brussels sprouts for cake pops? Covering grapes in chocolate egg wrappers? Telling your kids that you hid the eggs outside when THERE ARE NO EGGS?!?! Come on. It's too easy.)

The cool thing about decorating eggs is that you can go crazy with things. Thanks to Pinterest and curious crafters all over the world, there are about a million different ways you can do the egg dying thing! I have a pinterest board that's just full of holiday ideas (four or five of which out of the near 100 pins I've actually tried out) that proves just this. And, hey, those are only the ones I've found.

One of the things that I've noticed about the few pins on egg dying that I've tried is that they take too long. I am, admittedly, one of the most-impatient people on the face of this planet; that being said, I wanted to try a technique that was fast-ish, and let me do other stuff while it sat all in one place. Enter the ice dyeing.

Ice dyeing is a really neat technique that you use on clothing to get neat tie-dye effects. The cool thing about ice dyeing is that you don't need to mix a bajillion different buckets worth of dye in all of your different colors; you just dump a bunch of ice all over your fabric, sprinkle the dye where you want it in whichever patterns you want it, and then go do something else. Another cool thing about dyeing with ice is that (I hear) it yields brighter colors. The design aspects get a little better with that as well, as you don't have to worry about something bleeding over. You should definitely try ice dyeing the next time you feel like giving life back into an old pair of sneakers or a tee shirt or white dress that's too stained to do anything with so you just dye it instead.

Since I didn't have any powdered food dyes (or, rather, I only had green) I used liquid food dye. After boiling my eggs for precisely 11 minutes, I evacuated them and set them in a strainer over a pot. Once my eggs were drained, I layered them between ice and dye. All I did was put down a single layer of eggs in the strainer, cover with ice, and drop in dye here and there. I repeated until all of my eggs were covered with ice and dye, and then I went off to clean the kitchen.

Since the eggs were hot, the dyeing process took a mere 10 minutes. Granted, I had a lot of ice - but the point is that it was relatively fast and it was fun to see a transformation happen right before your eyes.

I used a lot of pink and red in the lower layers, so a good portion of the eggs turned out rather pink. The marbling on the bottoms and tops were just glorious, and it's a great way to do a large-ish batch of eggs at one time. Fun! Oh, and here's a tip:

If you boil your eggs with a pinch or two of baking soda, and then shock them with ice, your eggs will peel MUCH easier than they would have otherwise. And if you feel like making it into an egg salad, press the peeled eggs through a cooling rack for a quick-and-easy chop.

Hope you all enjoyed. Happy dyeing and happy eating!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Drunken Strawberry Cobbler

The booze cooks out. Or does it...?

I know, I know - I just did a strawberry pastry recipe blog! But today's National Strawberry Day...you couldn't expect me to let it pass up, could you? I love cobblers because they can cover the same flavor profiles of pie with less-than-half of the struggle. They're the ultimate fast food when it comes to dessert! The best part is that it can be just thrown together with nigh-anything and turned into something delicious.

What makes a drunken strawberry? Soaking it in rum, of course! I have spiced rum in my cabinet (leftover from the holidays) but you can use bourbon, too, if you have it. Just make sure that your liquor of choice has a flavor of its own; otherwise, what's the point?
Yeah. All that. 

Drunken Strawberry Cobblers
yields 3 small cobblers or 1 regular cobbler

  • 1/2 quart strawberries, sliced
  • 1/3 c spiced rum
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vegan gelatin 
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • For struesel topping: 1/2 cup EACH of flour, sugar, and vegan butter substitute

While you can quite easily throw this together in moments, I like to let the strawberries soak in the rum while the oven preheats to 350 degrees F. Honestly, simply toss everything together and let sit until the oven is hot, and you're fine. For the struesel topping, you can simply stir everything together with a spoon. If you want a touch of extra crunch, crush up some vanilla tea biscuits (I like Kedem's kosher pareve biscuits) quite fine and stir in. 

Simply grease your ramekins, divide evenly, add topping, and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool to gel in the fridge, if you like, or eat warm. Yum!

See how quick that was? You didn't even need to scroll. Enjoy this rapid-fire recipe - and, as always, share around and leave comments below if you try it!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cushaw Pumpkin Soup

I don't even need a filter for this gorgeous-ness
I am not vegan. I just happened to make a lot of vegan recipes because we're quite strictly dairy-free in this house. I feel like I should say that before we go any further, just so no poor, unsuspecting vegan follows my blog or twitter or instagram and then gets freaked out when they see a whole brisket on my feed.

Last summer, I grew my new favorite pumpkin, the noble and wondrous Cushaw pumpkin, to whom all other pumpkins should bow. I mean, come on.

Look at this magnificent thing. Look at the size, the lovely shape. Look at this gorgeous color.

So I had a ton of plans this weekend (some of which I didn't actually get to do) and one of them was to clear out at least a good portion of the #garden. Out of it came this monster. It is by far the biggest pumpkin I have ever grown and I'm kind of dumbstruck at it. It's called the #crookneck #pumpkin, or a #Cushaw pumpkin, and it is excellent for #pie, #soup, and pretty much every other classic pumpkin application you might think of. It's definitely one of the lesser-known varieties, but I don't know why. It's extremely prolific as a plant, and the #fruit itself is really cool-looking. Imagine that I would have had a lot more had the weather not been so weird, and I had not been battling squash beetles the entire season. I managed to get rid of a good portion of them today, so that was good. Anyway. Phew. #homestead #midwestlife #wannabgourmande #cheflife #foodiechats #foodblogger #KansasCity #localvore #gardening #heirloom #bakerseeds
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

And just look at the color of the flesh! Let's not forget about the flavor, which is - by the way - out of this world. It's so mild and gentle, like an autumn breeze. If Pumpkin Spice, the flavor, was a person who got up in your face and made you take selfies with them, dragged you out to pumpkin patches and feed you apple cider and made you hold their phone and take a million photos of them playing in the leaves for their Insta, then Cushaw is your actual chill friend that wears flannel because it's warm and plays the guitar for fun, and loves nothing more than to curl up alone at home with a good book while they watch the leaves fall from inside. Pumpkin Spice has her place, but she's so in your face sometimes. Cushaw just wants to have a good time. Pumpkin Spice is Gryffindor, while Cushaw is Hufflepuff. See the difference?

As you can see, I processed it so I could save it. It was too big to use my oven at home, so I used the oven at a wonderful commercial kitchen I know. I roasted it with oil and just a touch of salt at 325 for about an hour and change, until it was fork-tender, almost spreadable, like butter. Once cooled, this made it rather easy to scrape the flesh out of the skin and puree it in a food processor.

Cushaw pumpkin's flavor is deliciously mild, and has a fresh and sort of tangy note, almost reminiscent of cheese. It doesn't smell fermented, of course, or especially sweet, but when pureed, it tastes of the most-amazing pumpkin cream cheese you could ever imagine, all smooth and luxurious, like a warm cashmere sweater or socks fresh from the dryer. It honestly tastes to me how velvet feels. That's how much I love cushaw pumpkins, and I didn't even know it.

When the pumpkins were growing in my garden, they were taking over, and growing bigger and bigger every day. I wasn't sure exactly what they were, especially because I hadn't ever seen a pumpkin that size or shape or color before, and was concerned about it. Nearing the end of that summer, I went to a local farmer's market and inquired about it. I showed a picture of the pumpkin to the woman running the squash stall and she sort of laughed.

"Yeah, that's a cushaw," she said. "The farmer's best kept secret."

"'Best kept secret?'" I said, feeling a bit like I'd struck some kind of lottery. I had gotten the Cushaw seeds at a seed exchange that hosts locally, but by the time I had planted them I'd already forgotten what kind they were, only that they were recognisable as pumpkin plants. "I take it they're tasty, then."

Mine was actually quite small as cushaws go, and I'm just a
home gardener! 
"Tasty and prolific," she said. She then went on to explain that the cushaw, in her opinion, had a much better flavor than your typical pie pumpkin did, and was a gem because it was so incredibly versatile. The flavor was sweet and mild, she said, but was gentle enough to be used in both sweet and savory applications. She liked them best because they were extremely prolific, and that it was a shame that nobody sold them. When I asked why, she said simply: "nobody knows."

We ended up talking for a long while about the cushaw pumpkin, and other pumpkins, for that matter, and what would fetch a good price at the market. People do want unusual pumpkins, but seldom for eating and more for decoration. She said that in recent years it'd gone up to 50/50 for decor vs. eating, and that the cushaws weren't a high-dollar pumpkin. Something funny-looking like an Australian Blue would fetch a minimum of $7 at a grocery store, and more at the local farmer's market. The cushaws go won't sell nearly as much, because they're not as visually interesting, and frankly don't look like the American idea of a pumpkin anyway. They often get too big for the regular oven, too, so most don't buy it because they don't want to spend the afternoon processing it.

I asked her how to preserve it best, and she said that I could just let it be. It'll get sweeter as it sits in the pantry anyhow, as the sugars will develop during the steady warmth of your house and produce a much better flavor. It is, she said, better to let a squash sort of 'cure' in the home for a month or two to really ripen up. She even told me that she's harvested cushaws in the fall and kept some until January or February and it was completely fine. That being said, she recommended freezing it, as canning could result in the stuff souring, and there's always the risk of botulism with canning when not done in a professional facility. Simply roasting and pureeing the stuff and saving it in the freezer simply was best. When I asked what she used them for, she simply shrugged and said "anything."

Anything? I thought. Pumpkin butters? Yes. Pies? Yes. Pasta and soup? Yes and yes. This variety is hardy, prolific, and versatile, and that's what made it the best-kept-secret of the Midwestern farmer. I personally think this squash is highly underrated and that we, as a society, need to recognize its superior quality among others. I am having a moment with Cushaw, and I think you should, as well. You can buy the seeds for them right here.

The thing about pumpkin is that it's rather fibrous, and while that's great for a lot of things, it's not 100% the best thing when using it for the kind of applications I'd be using it for, especially in its most raw form, and especially saving it. I passed the pumpkin through a tamis strainer(pronounced like "Tammy"), which looks quite a bit like a tambourine with a very fine wire screen over the drum bit in lieu of goat skin. The tamis is a wonderful tool that a lot of chefs adore, as it's the key to creating fine purees and silky smooth sauces. A chinoix is nice, sure, but you can't pass things through with good pressure like you can with a tamis.

Want a nice and smooth aioli? Tamis. Looking for a silky smooth avocado puree for a splash of color on your toast, perfect for instagram? Tamis. Itching for the smoothest and creamiest mashed potatoes you've ever had in your life? Tamis. I bought mine at the Sur la Table on the Plaza, but you can get yours on Amazon.

Passing the pumpkin puree through the tamis not only smooths it out like crazy, but you catch all of the bits of skin and whatnot that you may not have noticed before. It's an excellent tool and essential, especially, if you're going to be pureeing fruits and vegetables for applications such as baby food. Yes, you can make your own baby food; in fact, people have been doing it for centuries, likely at a much lower cost than buying at the grocery store, and with significant less waste in those glass jars and plastic containers.

I took the puree and froze it in quart-sized freezer Ziploc bags. Out of that one squash, I got about fourteen bags of puree for my freezer, all pretty and orange-yellow, so deliciously tasty. A quart is equivalent to roughly two cans of pumpkin puree, so there you go - ready for making twice as many pies as you normally might make. It really is a winning situation all around; I highly recommend that you make your own pumpkin puree for pies, cakes, muffins, etc. You won't regret it.

On to the soup.

Vegan Cushaw Soup
yields about 3 quarts

  • 1 quart Cushaw puree
  • 1/2 white onion, cut in chunks
  • 3 orange carrots, peeled and cut in coins
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 small cayennetta pepper, crushed(or 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter substitute(we all know I love Earth Balance)
  • 1 cup almond-coconut milk blend(or soy, if you prefer)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp white miso
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Heat the "butter" in a soup pot to melt, then add the onion, carrot, and garlic along with the crushed dried pepper. I had some dried peppers from my garden, but you can use a pinch of cayenne instead. Sweat it on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Add a pinch or two of salt and pepper, give it a good stir, and then add the water, milk, and miso paste. Bring to a boil and reduce it to a simmer, then allow to cook for about 15 more minutes, or until the vegetables are quite soft. 

Add in your pumpkin puree. If you're working with fresh, awesome. If you're working with frozen, thaw just a little by sticking your bag under running water, just enough to soften it, which shouldn't take long. If you pop the stuff into the pot while it's par-frozen, it's not the end of the world. The trick is, however, to let it cook quite gently so as not to destroy the mild flavor of the pumpkin and scorch it. 

Once everything is quite smooth and soft, pour your soup mix into the pitcher of a blender and blend for 30 seconds to a full minute, ensuring everything is velvety smooth. Return your pureed soup to the pan, correct the seasoning, and bring up to heat once again, only to about 190 degrees F, stirring constantly to ensure that your soup won't scorch. It's also important to check the consistency of the soup, and if it's a bit too thick to simply add another splash of whichever milk substitute you've been using and gently bring up to heat again.

Serve immediately and garnish with either parsley or some vegan parmesan cheese(I like Follow Your Heart's brand of parmesan). This is also a perfect soup to dip a grilled cheese in. Save whatever leftovers you have in either the fridge or freezer. Oh yes. You can freeze soup in tupperware containers, pop them in the microwave, and BAM instant dinner. See? Meal prepping can be easy. Your freezer is your best friend.

Thanks for reading. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Rustic Country Loaf

If you're a big researcher, like me, check out what Reddit has to say about making bread!
I believe that a simple bread recipe should be in the arsenal of every cook in America, be they home cook, broke student, or professional chef. There's, of course, an art and deep and wonderful science to bread, but this isn't the blog for that.

Bread, in essence, is air. It's far more air than bread; we're eating air that you can make a sandwich out of. A CT scan of bread will show you that it's mostly the skeleton of a gas that's been released during the cooking process, with starches and proteins freezing (or baking) in time with the transformative nature of heat to help it along. It's thanks to bread that we have civilization, and that's not even a hyperbole. Because of fermentation, we found a way to make more food out of less ingredients, and that truly is a magical thing. Here's how to make some magic in your own kitchen.

Simple Country Loaf
yields two small loaves or one big loaf
Adapted from Mother Earth News's Country Loaf recipe
  • 2 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 2 Tbsp sugar(honey works, too)
  • 3 Tbsp fat**(we'll get into details down in the recipe)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c water, body temperature
  • 1 cup liquid levain**

Turn on your oven to 250. Mix your flours, salt, and liquid levain in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook attachment, or just a large bowl if mixing by hand. If using a liquid levain, it is best if it's at least at room temperature before starting. Hmm? Oh, what's a liquid levain? Haha, sorry...

A liquid levain (or poolish, if you prefer) is essentially a sourdough starter. You can start it by mixing equal parts of flour and water and letting hang out for a few days to ferment on its own, or you can start it with a pinch of yeast and sugar, if you're a little desperate. That being said, it should be at least two days old before starting with it. After all, what's a sourdough starter if not a little funky, and funk comes with maturity. A levain should be fed every day with a little bit of water and flour, stirred, and allowed to rest; you can also keep them cool, in the fridge, to let them sleep. They say you can only keep them for a month before they go too dormant, but I've honestly let mine hang out for 2 months in the fridge before and it still comes back to life every time I bring it up to room temperature. Who knows? Since the fermentation comes from wild yeasts, perhaps I caught the kind that's super-resistant to cold? I am, after all, in the midwest. Anyway. A levain is the key to a good, complex bread, and if you're serious about baking breads and other yeasty stuffs, seriously consider starting your own liquid levain. 

And, yes, you too can use your liquid levain/sourdough starter to make delicious misshapen cinnamon rolls!
Once your dry (and not-so-dry) ingredients are hanging out in the bowl, whisk together the yeast with the sugar and water to dissolve. Let it sit near your oven, but not on the stovetop of your oven, just to let it warm up. When I say that the water should be body temperature, I mean that you should stick your fingers in the water and it should feel rather comfortable, maybe just a hair warmer than your body is. I like the cooler temperature for yeasts to ensure it won't be killed, and you'll also get a nicer flavor from a slower rise. You'll also be letting it be in a rather warm place, anyhow, so it'll bubble up nicely anyway, which usually takes five minutes.

While we're waiting, let's talk about fat and its role in bread. It's, in essence, a dough conditioner that will keep it soft and add some flavor. You can use an infused olive oil or coconut oil, but I prefer saturated fats in breads. Why? Because a saturated fat stays solid at room temperature(such as shortening, lard, coconut oil or butter) it has, by nature, a more solid molecular structure, and it ends up improving the end texture of the product, whereas an unsaturated fat(such as a plant oil, like olive oil) would be more for flavor than texture, and they may go drier quicker. And yes, yes, some fats are bad for you - but let's be honest, you need some fat in your diet so your body can process your vitamins. It's just a fact that certain vitamins are only fat-soluble. Besides, we shouldn't fat-shame bread anyway. You wouldn't do it to your friends, so you oughtn't do it to your bread, who is doing their best, by the way. 

When your yeast is bubbly and alive, stir the mixture into the flour using either a wooden spoon or your machine. Begin to knead with the machine or your hands, but for heaven's sake, knead in the bowl by pressing and pulling the dough. Seriously, you can do this, and it'll keep your counter all that much cleaner. About halfway through(2 or 3 minutes in) add in your chosen fat. I chose rendered drippings for my fat, mostly because it's what I had on hand, and also because it's such a great thing to have dripping. Oh, dripping is fat that's leftover from cooking bacon, or perhaps roasting a pork belly in your oven, or even roasting chicken skin for craquelins, all saved in a nice jar either in the fridge or in the pantry. It's a very flavorsome alternative to butter(which can be expensive) and honestly a rather common practice to have on hand anyway. Remember the can of fat that your grandmother had on the counter? Or the coffee cup full of bacon grease your dad kept in the door of the fridge? That's dripping - and you can use it to make bread. 

Once your five minutes are up, transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel, and let sit for 2 hours. It's at this stage you can clean up, go see a friend for lunch or go to the grocery store, and then come back. No, you shouldn't leave the oven on while you're out of the house, so please do turn it off if you're doing that, but leave the dough on the stove so it'll stay warm.

Oddly, you can pick these up at home improvement warehouses- many of them will sell you
the mis-cuts for a discounted rate, if they have them.
Now that you're back home, turn your oven to 450(not kidding) and put an empty metal pie tin in the bottom of the oven. Shape the loaves as you so desire, but I like the long and simple country loaf shapes for this particular application. I did two different shapes, mostly because I wasn't sure what I was in the mood for. Shape them on a well-dusted counter (or marble slab if you're a privileged jerk like me) of flour and cornmeal to either logs or boules(round loaves) and put on a sheet tray lined with parchment (or a silpat mat, if you have it) and cover with the clean tea towel once again. Let proof on your stovetop in that nice warm space for 45 minutes. 

Time for a nap, loves!
Open up your oven and put your bread onto the middle rack of your oven, and dump 3 or 4 cups of ice into the pie tin in the bottom rack of the oven. This will create steam and give you that wonderfully rustic crust that we associate with baker's bread. Shut that oven door and let cook for 30 - 35 minutes, or until deliciously dark and brown and temps out at 200 degrees. (Yes, bread has a temperature it should be at.)

Evacuate from the oven and immediately pick them up and put them on a cooling rack. This is because you don't want steam to be trapped on the bottom of your bread as it cools, so it's a good idea to let some airflow happen underneath your loaf as it cools. It's likely a safe assumption that you don't like having a soggy bottom, so it's an even safer assumption that your bread won't either - be considerate to your bread. 

I hope this has inspired you. Please don't hesitate to comment on my blog or my instagram on what you'd like to see next. Happy cooking and happy eating!

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Cranberry Nicecream

Last year, we spent the New Year by playing Pathfinder in my friend's basement. This year(or, I guess, last year) we did it at our home and I ran my first-ever campaign! It was just a one-shot, but I got the chance to do some real writing and explore a world I'd been building for the better part of 10 years. It's a wild world full of fun characters.

Anywho, I couldn't host a party without some party foods. I made a dairy-free 'parmesan' dip with crackers, some lovely cassoulet noir(made with black beans instead of white beans), and a delicious homage to a Baked Alaska using my cranberry nicecream. Wait, what is nicecream? Vegan ice cream, of course! Here's how it's done...

Cranberry Nicecream

  • 1 cup vegan coconut milk-based plain yogurt (SO Delicious is my favorite brand)
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract/vanilla paste
  • 2 tsp vegan gelatin(I love Druid's Grove, certified Kosher/Vegan, excellent 1:1 substitute for animal-based gelatin)

Put your cranberries and yogurt in the pitcher of your blender. I love using fresh cranberries, especially for my Ilvermorny Cranberry Pie, so it's an ingredient that I tend to have around the house during the winter months. You can, of course, use frozen cranberries - but don't thaw them! Put them frozen into the blender; that way, it'll cool faster!

In a medium saucepot, bloom the gelatin in the water for 3 minutes, then pour the sugar on top. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. This will, of course, dissolve the gelatin, but also dissolve the sugar, which is important. 

Pour the hot sugar syrup over the berries into the pitcher of the blender, and blend until completely smooth, about 30 seconds on High in my Vitamix, about 1 minute and 30 seconds for a standard blender, just so long as all of the skin is essentially broken up and pureed.

Process in your ice cream maker according to the factory instructions. Freeze to set in a container. Enjoy with whipped cream and meringue biscuits. Or just by itself! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Simple Popovers

My gunkles(gay uncles) are moving to Texas, so I get first pick of all the pastry/antique stuff they had from their St. Louis home. Of course, they gifted me a beautiful copper tea kettle that freaking sings...

Some gorgeous copper canele molds, a copper strainer, a copper bowl, and a new pan...

Shinyyyyy like a treasure from a sunken pirate wreck...
Oh, and three nonstick popover molds, along with a kiss on the cheek and a cheeky "I want popovers for Christmas brunch" before handing me everything.

So I must confess: I've never actually had a popover. The first time I'd even heard of them was when I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott when the March family shares their Christmas feast with the Hummels, and I think I was around six or seven when that happened. It happened again when I was watching a dubbed episode of Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network's Toonami when Serena/Usagi goes to the ball in search of the Silver Crystal disguised as a guest with the nomme "Duchess Popover" in a poofy pink dress. I don't think I even looked up what a popover was until I was already in culinary school, so I'm basically going into this whole thing blind.

A popover is described as an airy pastry that, to me, resembles a choux puff in structure. They're baked in a fairly deep cup pan that has high sides and seems to be structured as such to allow as much heat as possible to penetrate each popover as individuals, rather than as a unit, like a cupcake pan would.

This tells me that it is ideal to have a crisp crust on the outside and plenty of high sides for the dough to cling to as it rises and domes over the top. A quick google search of "popovers" will tell you that many struggle to get it just right, which tells me that it takes a certain amount of skill to do so, or at least have a basic understanding of baking/pastry chemistry.

To get a rise out of something - an angel food cake, for example - you generally do not grease your tins. This is because, as the cake/muffin/popover/whatever is baking, gas is rising and being trapped in the glutinous web that is generally the flour. As this batter rises, it must have something to cling to, and it can't stick to something that's been greased all to heck. That being said, most recipes I've seen tell you to grease your popover tins. This seems counterproductive to me, but whatever, I'll try it.

Most popover recipes comprise of four basic ingredients: milk, flour, eggs, butter. The ratios are different, but this seriously reminds me of a pate a choux dough in many ways. There are even recipes that tell you to heat up the milk before adding it to the flour - I mean, seriously, that's exactly what you do with a choux paste. The differences are ratios - a popover recipe yields a thin batter, thinner than pancakes but thicker than crepes. Also, there's not a lot of fat in popovers in comparison to choux buns. This intrigues me because it tells me that most of the gas and bubbles are going to come from the eggs and milk versus the evaporating fat, but hey.

So, what do all of these things tell me? High heat. Non-greased tins. Gluten is essential. Oh, and one thing most recipes seem to agree on: the batter must rest before baking. This is similar to canele batter, another thin-battered treat that requires certain pans and certain methods to be successful. Most recipes for six standard popovers are the same, but the methods all vary. I tried Ina Garten's first, which does not mention resting...

There was an attempt. 
Okay so these were tasty, but they were rather close-textured and a bit pale. They had some good bubbles starting, but I think that there were some factors missing: gluten, for example. I think these ones may have been a little high in fat - not butter fat, but milk fat - and were pale because of the lack of sugar. Also, upon watching the instructional video, I noticed that Ina had a 12-popover mini pan versus my standard 6-popover pan, so that honestly explained a lot.

so smol
Another thing I should probably mention is that there are no dairy products in my house. My partner, B, is violently lactose intolerant and I get mildly fart-y when I eat too much cheese, so it's just easier to have no dairy products in the house. I use almond-coconut blend because, to me, it works the best with most recipes and it tastes most-like dairy milk. I used the almond-coconut blend in this recipe as 100%, but I still suspected that the amount of fat in it may be the culprit. I decided that some lateral thinking was in order, so I switched it up to water.

With a mere 1/2 cup of the almond-coconut milk and the rest being water, I also decided to switch to bread flour with the second batch. The bread flour will allow larger bubbles, and react better with the water to create more gluten, and it will hold the steam in better for the fat from the "butter", which is really vegan butter substitute. The eggs and such were still the same - only the water and the type of flour were different. Oh, and this time I was going to let the batter rest. Most recipes say you can do this overnight or for up to 24 hours, but I just let this batch rest for 45 minutes - half because I'm impatient, half because I had work around 2:30 and didn't want to be late.

I filled up the tins(only lightly greased this time) a little more than 2/3rds full rather than the "less than half-full" instruction from a previous recipe, and preheated the pans by letting them hang out in the oven for about 2 minutes. I suspect that this is to allow an initial 'crust' to form on contact so that the popover batter will really have something to cling to as it goes up.


I added a longer baking time to ensure that these puppies do not collapse, while only lowering the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees instead of the 425. You want these to be crisp, after all, so the longer the better. When I opened up the first one, there was quite a bit of steam coming up, so a few more minutes in the oven wouldn't hurt, especially since it was still rather custardy in the middle. The final bake time was about 45-50 minutes. Seriously, the difference was phenomenal.

Me vs. you

Take the popovers immediately out of the tins and allow them to cool on a rack. I highly recommend eating them fresh and hot, because nothing will quite beat these babies when they're steaming and crispy.  They're great with "butter"(Earth Balance, that is) or with any kind of creamy soup to mop it up. I can't wait to try a blueberry popover for Christmas.

Simple Popovers
Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe
yields 6 standard popovers or 10 mini popovers

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c warm water
  • 1/2 c coconut/almond milk blend(any dairy-free milk will do)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 oz vegan butter substitute (roughly 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8.5 oz bread flour
Combine everything in the pitcher of a blender and blitz for 30 seconds, then scrape down, and blitz again for another 5 seconds or so. Pour into a container with a spout(a big measuring cup would be ideal, or possibly a pitcher) and cover with plastic wrap. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours. (Apparently, the longer the better.) If you plan on only letting it rest for 30 minutes, take this time to preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Prep your popover pan(yes, you need POPOVER PAN, not muffin tins) with a light bit of either pan spray or melted butter. Preheat the pan itself by putting it in the oven for 2 minutes. When the pans are ready, break out your batter!

Pour your batter into the molds to a little over 2/3rds full. Turn your oven down to 400 and then set the timer for 45 minutes. DO NOT PEEK. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR ANYTHING. TAPE IT CLOSED IF YOU HAVE TO. DON'T PEEK. Just let them bake until rather dark brown and crisp on the outside.

Evacuate them from the pans immediately and let cool for at least 5 minutes before consuming. You can eat them piping hot(which I recommend) or have them at room temperature with jam, with cheese and fruit, or just on their own. They're honestly perfect mid-afternoon snacks, and I really think that more Americans should be baking these on the regular. For as technical as they are, they're truthfully the quickest things ever to prepare. The batter takes mere minutes to prepare, and the longest time is the waiting. If you do try them, with success, without the resting period, please let me know - I'd like to meet a superior human. 

Have fun trying this one, you guys! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Triple-Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie was my shining star at the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale on October 7th, 2017!
We all need a standby recipe for chocolate chip cookies. This particular recipe is the modified version of my pistachio chocolate chip recipe for smaller batches, which is excellent when I'm baking for just myself. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes can be easily modified, so long as the dough remains consistent and the add-ins are accounted for properly. Baking can be art, so long as the science and chemistry of such are respected along the way.

The No Kid Hungry bake sale was a total success! The bake sale itself raised over $8000 against childhood hunger in the United States. Did you know that 1 out of 5 children in the USA don't know where their next meals are going to come from? Yeah, that's pretty messed up. I work as the chef for a hunger relief network, now, and the amount of hungry people in the United States is pretty staggering, especially considering that 2 out of 3 Americans are considered overweight or obese. What we see is a huge amount of inequality, and you can do something about it.

No Kid Hungry has made it easier than ever to combat childhood hunger. Did you know that you can host your own bake sale in your own community? Just sign up to host your own bake sale!

I realize that I'm a very privileged individual. Yes, I'm a woman of color, and a first-generation American...but I'm also from a good family, have a stable, salaried position, have a group of good friends, have a reliable mode of transportation, and I am a homeowner. I'm also privileged enough to own nice things like standing mixers, scales, fancy equipment and marble countertops, things that the average home baker might not have. In the spirit of checking my own privilege, I'm posting the recipe below in both weight and volume, so everybody can bake these cookies, because everybody deserves to have homemade cookies.

I love this recipe because you can do this one without a standing mixer and only the most rudimentary of tools. Yes, you do want either a food processor or a coffee/spice grinder for the oats, but you can honestly chop them by hand, or throw them in straight if you're feeling lazy. It's 100% cool.

Triple Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies
yield 3 dozen 1 oz cookies
  • 6 oz butter, cubed(Earth Balance butter substitute works great, too, or shortening, for the dairy-free option!)
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, sifted (4 oz)
  • 1 scant cup rolled oats (3.5 oz)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1/2 cup toffee chips/candies, crushed
Melt half your butter in either a saucepot or microwave, and then pour it over the remaining butter in a separate bowl. Stir gently with a whisk to allow the temperatures to come together nicely in a smooth mass and set aside. 

Meanwhile, blitz the flour and rolled oats together in a food processor (or coffee grinder, if you have one) and whisk them together with the baking soda and baking powder. Take out your ritz crackers and crush them by hand ; stir them right in! Don't worry about getting the crumbs to be especially fine, because you actually want larger chunks dispersed here and there. You can also substitute potato chips for this part, and get a very similar result - I've used original flavor and jalapeno, and both are pretty freaking delicious. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this - the salty and sweet work!

Now that you've taken care of your dry ingredients, let's continue on the wet side! Whisk in both of your sugars, and add in the vanilla flavoring. Whisk-whisk-whisk until quite smooth and fluffy; yes, you can do this in a standing mixer, but the appeal of this recipe is that you feel okay skipping arm day at the gym after doing these by hand. Also, not everybody has a standing mixer or a hand mixer, so let's check our privilege, okay, Nicole? 

Once the sugars are fully incorporated, whisk in the egg until fully blended. Now, let's get rid of that whisk and grab a spatula (unless you want to be dealing with a club of cookie dough). Gradually add the dry mix in thirds, alternating with the chopped chocolate and toffee bits, until everything is incorporated. You can proceed two ways from here:

  1. You can scoop out teaspoons of your cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets(as in, they've either been greased or lined with parchment paper) and chill them in the fridge by the batch 
  2. You can cover the whole bowl and chill the dough all at once
Either one of these you choose is fine; I prefer option two, just because it takes up less space in my already-crowded fridge. Also, waiting to turn on  the oven to 325 degrees F will give you no choice but to chill your dough. So, hey! Turn on your oven and heat to 325 degrees F while you're waiting.

Bake your cookies for 11 minutes, or until just brown on the outside, and let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. I know, I know, it's torture, but trust me on this one - if you don't wait, this wonderful cookie will crumble and fall apart into a big gooey mess. You'll want to wait, so you can dip this in an ice-cold glass of almond-coconut milk blend.

If you wait even longer, to let them cool completely, you can wrap them in groups of five in cellophane packages, instagram them with a special hashtag, and sell them for your own bake sale endeavors. It can be to end childhood hunger, to donate to the ACLU, or even to show your own child how to run a business.

Please comment below if you try it - and tell me all about the results! Oh, and I'm hosting my own bake sale soon...follow me on Instagram to learn details!