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Showing posts with label kosher baking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kosher baking. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Maple Rosedale Pumpkin Pie

 


Maple Rosedale Pumpkin Pie

yields 1 9" pie

  • 15 oz roasted squash puree
    • Mine was from my special Rosedale pumpkin!
  • 4 oz (a generous half cup) granulated sugar
  • 3 oz (about 1/3 cup) grade A maple syrup
  • 3 eggs, ideally organic
  • 1/2 c almond milk
  • 10 coriander seeds or 1/2 tsp dried coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 spicebush berries, dried
    • If you can't find these, use 2 allspice berries plus 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 Chinese long peppercorn 
  • 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
    • Check out my Partners page for good resources!
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and prepare a sheet pan lined with either aluminum foil or a Silpat mat. Roll out your favorite pie crust into a glass pie dish (I prefer glass because I can see the bottom and make sure it's all cooked) and decorate as you like. I have these adorable cookie cutters that resemble leaves, and one of them looks like a pine cone. Since I tragically couldn't find my maple leaf cutter, this was the perfect alternative! All I did was let them hang out on the cool marble slab until I was ready to use them. I didn't feel the need to refrigerate the pie piece cut-outs since this pie is so quick to put together. 

Combine your hard spices into a spice grinder and blitz until wholly powdered. You can also use a coffee grinder, in a pinch! I much prefer to use whole spices in this way, as they store much better.  Then add about 2 Tbsp of the sugar and blitz together with the spices. This really helps perfume the sugar with the spices and lends more flavor to your pie!

Whisk together the squash puree with the sugars, maple syrup, and spices until well-combined. Next, mix in the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined. Add in all the rest of the ingredients and taste. If it needs a bit more cinnamon or you'd like to add a dash of cardamom or clove, that's perfectly fine. This is your pie, after all!

Once everything is combined and well-mixed, pour your mixture into your prepared crust. If you've chosen to decorate your pie with leaf or pinecone cutouts, like me, now is the time to attach them with egg wash to the sides and let the other half float along the custard top. Please remember that this is, in fact, a custard pie so I don't recommend a lattice top to finish. Go and have some fun with the outer crust, instead!

Bake at 325 for 3(three) twenty-minute intervals in which the pie is rotated gently in the oven. The pie sets up beautifully when baked low-and-slow, so be sure to not try to rush it! Now that I have your attention, and while the pie bakes and cools, let's talk a bit about the brand new Rosedale Pumpkin and the complicated world of cross-pollination. 

Everyone, meet the Rosedale Pumpkin Squash!

When you grow your own produce, either in a small Victory garden or a decent-sized homestead, there's always the possibility of cross-pollination. While there are many ways to avoid it, there is a not-insignificant amount of us gardeners that simply allow the thing to happen and see what comes of it. I noticed this strange thing growing on one of my squash plants. I got several small butternut squashes from my vines this year, but nothing was quite as big as this weird little monster. It was clear that the butternut and acorn squash had cross-pollinated, and while I could have simply cut it off and let the plant continue to make more...I was frankly too curious to not let it grow. I began taking pictures of it and telling my friends about it. We racked our brains trying to come up with a name for the squash, and it never came...I settled on 'Rosedale" squash since I live in Rosedale and that's where it grew. When I harvested it on the morning of Halloween eve and told my husband about the mysterious squash, he groggily looked at the green monstrosity and said: "So, what, it's like a ... buttercorn?"

OH, MY GOURD.

Oh, come on! We've been trying so hard to come up with a cool name and you just pull that out of the air?! Jerk. 

I actually did a live opening of this thing on Instagram. 

I've decided to call it a pumpkin because of the stem, which is woody and quite stiff once it was dried! I was so curious as to what this tasted like. I documented everything about its cooking. It had a gorgeous bright-orange flesh when cut into that quickly beaded up with drops of diamond-like dew. I roasted it slowly at 300 degrees for about 4 hours with some canola oil so it wouldn't dry out. I didn't add salt or sugar, since I wanted to taste the real thing. Sadly? It didn't taste like buttered corn, so I chose to not name it 'buttercorn.' It tasted incredibly mild, and had a texture almost akin to spaghetti squash. It had plenty of moisture in it, still, so I don't know if this wall of text is masking my disappointment well enough at the lack of distinct flavor of my little green monster. 

Oh well. I still stand by my decision to save all of the seeds for next year's planting! Who knows if the seed will be viable or not? I simply know that I'll be starting them all in seed trays and letting them hang out in the garage by the window to keep them warm and safe until they're ready to be transplanted outdoors. Maybe the second generation will be better? 

This method can be used to roast any winter squash for the sake of preserving the puree over the long winter. I highly recommend doing this, if you don't have access to a cellar (or basement) that's pest-free and is relatively climate-controlled. My deep freezer will likely see a good portion of many bags of winter squash puree this season, even though I have a good cellar that will keep all of my produce fresh over winter. These are the things you really need to think about with a global pandemic going on, and the numbers getting worse. 

I know we're all sick of hearing about Covid-19, but with everything escalating and with hospitals getting overwhelmed again, it would be irresponsible to ignore it and not talk about it. I encourage all of you to contact local farms and see what kind of winter squash they're growing and if they're willing to sell you any or do a trade for them for whatever you may be able and willing to give. I'm fortunate to have partnerships with awesome farmers here in Kansas City that have paid me in produce for doing PR work for them. There are also many farmers markets out there that are participating in a Covid relief program to get good seasonal produce to families that really need them. 



And please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WEAR A DAMN MASK.

Squash - winter squash particularly - are incredibly nutrient-dense. Usually, quite high in fiber, they're a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Pumpkin and squash are oddly acidic, so that means they're great at encouraging white blood cells to get amped up and protect you against disease this fall and winter. Who doesn't need that? 

Most eastern medicine - seen specifically in Chinese and Ayurvedic principles - have what are known as warming and cooling foods. There's a lot that could be said about this, but all you need to know right this moment is that a "warming food" is based on the internal nature of the food product. You should have nothing but warming foods if you are recovering from an illness or surgery. Foods like chicken, chestnuts, fresh ginger, and - you guessed it - pumpkin or squash are quite warming. It's no wonder we like it in our baked goods, the most-warming kind of food you can usually have! So, really, eating a whole pumpkin pie could be good for you...

When your pie is set to room temperature, you can cut and serve immediately, but I think it's better to chill it for a couple of hours first, just to help set the custard. After that, I do suggest letting the pie come up to room temperature to serve it. This is because the squash and spices are quite fragrant, and cold temperature dulls the beautiful aromas. This is also because eating cold foods can suppress your immune system so it's better to just let stuff be at least room temperature before you eat it. 

If you're curious about more warming and cooling foods, I invite you to have some fun researching it on your own and making informed decisions on it, all with a grain of salt! My mom, a Filipinx woman, always made sure to put extra ginger in her chicken soup whenever I got sick, and I will say it seemed to kick whatever crud I was experiencing out of my lungs. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Persimmon Cinnamon Rolls


 

These are fabulous. You want these. You want them in your mouth, right now. These persimmon cinnamon rolls - or per-cinnamon rolls, if you will - are an excellent application of this beautiful fall fruit. I don't think it gets enough credit, but I'll talk about why I think that a little later... For now? Let's get to the recipe!

Per-cinnamon rolls

Dough

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 g dry active yeast
  • 125 g sourdough starter
  • 150 g sugar
  • 30 g coconut milk powder
  • 200 g warm water, a little warmer than body temperature
  • 2 eggs
Filling
  • 1 cup persimmon puree
  • 2 tsp dried spiceberry bush berries, crushed
  • A few grinds of white pepper
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • A fat pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon 
Icing
  • 2 oz vegan butter substitute
    • I really love Earth Balance, or Miyoko's brand!
  • 6 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 1/3 c persimmon puree
  • Powdered sugar, as needed
    • Mine took about a cup and a half to get the right consistency
The night before...
Start by combining all of your dough ingredients, except for the eggs and salt, into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook attachment. Stir to combine and only to combine, which shouldn't take more than ten or eleven turns. Set a timer for 10 minutes and let everything sit together until the time has passed. When the timer goes, off, add your eggs and salt, and turn on your mixer to a low stir. Let this stir for about 5 minutes! Next, turn the speed up to medium and let stir for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until the dough is incomparably silky and smooth. 

Oil up a large plastic Tupperware container or a good-sized clean bowl that you can seal well with clingfilm. Turn your dough into this container, seal shut tight, and then let sit out for about 30 minutes, or until you can clearly see or smell that the yeast is working in your dough, though it should be noted that you shouldn't keep it out for longer than 45 minutes. While you're waiting, let's get you to prepare our cinnamon roll filling by simply combining everything with a whisk and storing in a large piping bag overnight with your dough. A ziploc plastic bag is fine, too!

Pop this gorgeous dough into the fridge and let sit overnight! It's important to note that if you want to have cinnamon rolls for breakfast, you must wake up early to do so, at least a couple of hours before everyone else eats breakfast to be safe. If you just want them as a morning snack, then wake up at your normal time and do this at your leisure. Shall we take this break to talk about persimmons?




First of all, I should tell you that I personally believe that they do not get hardly enough credit as a fall fruit. They possess a wonderfully sweet and complex flavor with a most-pleasant tang to finish. They're hard as rocks when they're unripe, but when they are ready they get almost squishy. I suppose you could describe their taste to be somewhere between a banana and a date, with an almost citrus-like tang to finish. They almost taste, to me, like good pie filling that's already been sugared and spiced. 

Second, I think it's only fair to warn you that they can be a little hard to find, but with local farmers and the local CSAs being so amazing, you're likely to find at least one or two folk growing them. Wild persimmons are the kind that I got, and although they were incredibly, especially delicious, they were quite small and rather labor intensive. If you can, don't get the wild kind, unless your plan is to dry them and have them in a tea blend. If you've already gotten your hands on wild persimmons, here's how to clean and process them:

Simply take them all in a bowl and let them come up to room temperature. Then, pour boiling water over them and let them sit until the water is cool enough to stick your hand in, remove and crack open the peel, one by one, before pressing the entire fruit into a fine mesh strainer. I like a good tamis, but if you have a food mill on hand then that'll do just fine! I put all of my puree, along with some of my skin, into my blender before pressing it through my tamis strainer once more. I think it's only fair to tell you that it did take me the better part of my afternoon.

Is it the next morning, yet? Are you ready to roll some stuff out? Let's do it! Just so you know, if you want to have this for breakfast, you should wake up a couple of hours before you are ready to bake and turn on the oven. If you work from home, and time doesn't matter anymore, just get up and go! Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and let's get ready.

Flour a surface generously, and that includes your hands! Turn your now-risen dough out onto your chosen surface, be it your counter or a marble slab, and roll out to an even rectangle that's about a quarter-inch thick. Take your filling and simply pipe it in lines all across your dough, and spread evenly with a spatula. The piping bag isn't absolutely required, but it does make it a little easier on you when it comes to even distribution. 

Roll up your dough, nice and tight, and pinch the sealing ends hard when it comes around to the end. Roll over on the seal side to let the weight help you out when cutting. I personally like to slice mine so that they stand up to be about 2 inches tall, and with this recipe, that method yields 15 rolls. Ultimately, if you're a bit of a novice, all you should really do is evenly slice them with a serrated knife and leave to proof on a sheet pan lined with either parchment or a silpat mat. An easy thing to do is to simply cut your whole roll in half, then in half again, then in half again...and voila! You have a whole tray of cinnamon rolls!





Next, arrange all of these on your chosen tray so that there's a decent amount of space between each one. This yielded 15 rolls for me, so I arranged it ina 3 x 5 on my half-sheet pan, sprinkled generously with flour, and then gently laid plastic wrap over the top while I preheated my oven to 325 degrees F. I usually set my rolls next to the stove and rotate them every 15 minutes or so, until they've doubled in size. You might as well make your icing while you're waiting!

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and delicious. Let them cool for about 5 minutes in the rack, and while your rolls are still warm, dollop over your gorgeous persimmon cream cheese frosting. 

And there you have it! You've just made incredible cinnamon rolls with a gorgeous autumnal twist. Not only are they delicious, but they have a beautifully gentle orange color that's perfect for fall. They're tasty with a hint of the date-like flavor of the persimmons, that is at once comforting and bright...and it all spells magic. 

Thanks so much for reading, today! Happy cooking and happy eating!






Friday, September 25, 2020

Best Ever Sourdough Focaccia



Favorite Sourdough Focaccia


  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g sourdough starter
    • I'm sure all of us started this thing when the quarantine began but if you don't have one, you can just omit this and up the yeast to 5 g
  • 260 g water, a little warmer than body temperature
  • 3 g yeast
  • 125 ml olive oil plus more for the pan
  • 3 g kosher salt
  • Herbs and such as needed
  • Salt and water for the brine
Combine the flour, sourdough starter, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer using the hook attachment and mix until just combined. Let it sit for about 10 minutes in the bowl to let the flour hydrate and the yeasts to get to know each other. When that timer is up, turn the mixer on to low speed and add in your salt and oil, and mix for five minutes. Then, mix for another 5 minutes on medium-high. Oil a clean bowl or a plastic container with a lid generously with more olive oil, using your hand. Use that same hand to scrape out your dough (so you won't stick) into the container and stick it in a warm place for about two hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

While we're waiting, let's get to the fun part...

Oil a new sheet pan quite generously and turn your dough out, as gently as possible, and pull it out to spread evenly. Oil more, and add your pretty ingredients. I cannot stress this enough if you are going to make lovely focaccia art, but it is absolutely imperative that you set in your picture now so that it can rise and stick when baked.

Focaccia art began circa April/May 2020, when the pandemic was really kicking into high gear. The trend has gone from Instagram to being all over Good Morning America, and even Buzzfeed's Tasty got in on the fun! Basically, you take a gorgeous focaccia loaf and create a lovely landscape using herbs, flowers, vegetables, and more. Now I was skeptical of this idea before because I subscribe to the belief that "every bite should taste the same" when it comes to bread. Once the boredom and existential dread set in, however, and I had more and more sourdough starter piling up, I frankly cracked and made one for myself. It was a big hit!




The reason I'm telling you this now is so you can look ahead for some inspiration! The flowers here on mine are made of sliced leeks and I used sliced green bird chilies here and there...and added leaves of spinach, parsley, cilantro, dill, and more. Many people use lovely fresh peppers and other vegetables to be atop their focaccia art, and I've joined in the fun on a couple of occasions. I do admit that I still believe that above all else bread should be tasty and while putting slices of raw peppers on a focaccia dough to let rise looks pretty cool I don't know how well it's going to taste. The taste of your item should absolutely reign as the supreme factor when it comes to food, leaving looks to be a close second. 

I'm sure that plenty of folks out there will tell you that you really need to think about what you want your garden landscape on the focaccia to look like far beforehand, and that's definitely true when it comes to just about any art project. Mise en place is a lifestyle/mentality that many chefs and cooks subscribe to! When it comes to this particular application, however, I personally prefer to let it develop organically, leaving it all dependant on what herbs I have in the garden that are ready to go. 

It's currently late September and I live in the North-Midwestern Americas, so I still have quite a few herbs, but the cooler weather of the midwest means that I have pansies. This means I get to put edible flowers on my focaccia! I invite you to look around in your own garden and see what edible flowers are available to you immediately. You likely will have pansies, marigolds, and roses...all of which are absolutely edible. 



As I mentioned before, the trick with focaccia art is that you must put on your flowers, herbs, etc., during the second proof so that when it rises, the herbs and flowers and such will really stick. Although I don't necessarily plan out everything meticulously, I certainly don't just slap stuff down willy-nilly either. To let it develop organically, I first decide on the visual orientation of the piece, be it portrait or landscape. Then, I take my biggest pieces or my most-colorful pieces of edible loveliness and pop that on first. In this one's case, the pansies were the biggest eye-catcher, so everything sort of developed around that. I also had these incredible nasturtiums that looked like tiny parasols, in a way, so that came on next. Then came the sage leaves, thyme, etc. 

Once you're happy with your focaccia garden landscape, spread olive oil lightly on the dough and cover with clingfilm and let rise again. You can let this hang out in the fridge for up to three hours if you did this early in the day and want to bake it freshly for dinner! If you just want to bake it soon, simply set it in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until it looks very puffy. Everything will have risen together and your herbs, flowers, vegetables, etc., will not fall off! Don't forget to preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

When risen after the rest, dissolve two tablespoons of kosher salt in three tablespoons of hot water in a cup. Oil your fingers her her her and press dimples between the spaces of the pictures you have created. Spoon in the brine to the dimples. Let sit for another 5 minutes and oil well with even more olive oil. Add a few grinds of fresh pepper and bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes, rotating your sheet pan halfway between. 

I like to let my bread hang out and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting, but make sure you get this off the sheet pan and onto a cooling rack sooner rather than later, lest you get a soggy bottom. 



Thanks so much for joining me here today! I hope this has inspired you. Please don't forget to share this around if you try it, and tag me on Instagram or Facebook to let me see your incredible creation. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Favorite Apple Pie

 



My Absolute Favorite Spiced Apple Pie

Favorite Pie Crust

  • 10.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz solid fat
    • Chilled butter, vegan butter substitute, cold lard, or cold coconut oil do just fine!
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • Vodka, as needed

Apple filling

  • 6 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp grand marnier
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/8 tsp freshly-ground Chinese Long Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground ancho chili powder
  • 9 small apples or 5 medium ones, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 oz all-purpose flour
To make the pie crust, simply combine your dry ingredients with a fork and rub the fat into the flour with your fingers. Add in some vodka until it's just moist...and mix together! How should you mix this all together, you ask? Well, lucky for you, I've discovered the joys of IGTV:




Isn't that great? I can do tutorials without having to get a youtube channel. 

Simply wrap and chill this dough for at least 30 minutes while you prepare your filling. All you really have to do is combine all the ingredients, except for the flour, toss well, and cover. Let this sit for the same amount of time you're letting your dough rest so the flavors can meld and mesh together. I like to let it all rest on the counter instead of the fridge because you tend to get a lot more juice out! A proper pie has a good dance of moisture and juicy filling, but we don't want to make our crust too soggy. When we can control the amount of moisture in our pie, we're going to have a good time.

When it comes to rolling out your dough, I prefer not to dirty up my counter with tons of excess flour, but to roll it out between two well-greased sheets of parchment paper. I do this for many reasons, but the main reason is that I don't want to mess with my perfectly-crafted ratio of fat-to-flour. After all, if we're going to be exact with our measurements, why screw it all up with more flour when rolling out? The other reason to do it this way is for easy clean-up. Simply give your counter a quick wipe and throw the parchment paper away! All you need is a good rolling pin, a good arm, and plenty of pan-spray to make this perfect. Even better, you can use the parchment paper to help you flip your flat dough into your pie dish. 

I love this glass pie dish because I can see the bottom, and therefore see when things are cooked or not. Glass is excellent at conducting heat, so for me, it is the ideal baking dish. All that must happen now is you gently line your pie dish with your dough and let it chill before adding the filling. I also like to let it chill before I trim it so that the dough has plenty of time to relax. This way, you can let any glutens that may have accidentally developed relax away. 

Your pie filling should have become quite juicy at this point, so now's the time to add your flour! You may need more than 1 oz, depending on how much juice has come out, but definitely don't use less than this amount. So long as the mixture has thickened slightly with the amount of flour but is still liquid, you should be safe. Add your flour, mix well, and fill your pie! 

Use your rolling pin to roll out a top crust and very gently let it fall over the top of the apples. You should have a nice high pile, which is exactly what you want! Don't stretch your pie dough too much, but be sure to let it sit atop your fruit for about 5 minutes before you crimp all the edges. Once the edges are crimped, with either your fingers or your fork, let it chill in the fridge until your oven comes up to 350 degrees F. Be sure to also cut some vent slits in the top. Get decorative at this point, if you like!

Line a sheet pan with tin foil and set your baking rack to the lowest possible setting so that the bottom of the pie tin is close to the bottom of the oven. Bake your pie on the lowest rack for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and your pie filling is bubbling slightly out of the vent slits. 

This next bit is the tricky bit, but it's absolutely essential. You have to - and I'm not making this up - wait to cut open that pie for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight. 

I know, I know! It's apple pie! What is better than apple pie fresh from the oven??? Well, how about an apple pie that stays together and won't flood out into a big juicy, sticky mess, that sogs up your bottom like no other? It's imperative that you let the apples do their thing and let the pectin rest. You must do this, so when you warm up the pie again, by the slice, it'll actually stay gelled together. Apple pie really is quite easy, but the real secret ingredient is time, and time well spent. 

While we're waiting, would you like to learn a thing or two about apples? 

We've all heard that phrase "as American as apple pie", but what if I were to tell you that apples themselves were not native to America? They are, in fact, native to central Asia, and have come to Europe by way of the Silk Road, which is the same trade route that gave Italy noodles, which would eventually evolve into the modern pasta we know today.  Apples were then planted in Europe, and then were brough to the American colonies by - you guessed it - colonizers. So, really...nothing is more American than apple pie, because apples - like most of us - are immigrants that have taken hold of the land and changed it forever!

People loved apples because they're delicious, but more importantly they are incredibly prolific. They do not self-pollinate like peach or plum trees (also from central Asia), but need a partner tree to be next to in order to produce. Once they do, however, they'll give more fruit than you could likely know what to do with! I'm specifically and explicitly forbidden to have a pair of apple trees in my own garden because my husband's childhood was "ruined every late summer" because he, his brother, his sister, and his mother all had to stop everything and process every single apple into apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie, apple dumplings, and more. Now, if you ask, "why not just let the animals have it?" Well, dear friend...

Apples are naturally high in sugar. When sugar meets water, it's going to begin to chemically change, especially with time and the right bacteria. Long story short, they ferment. When you get a squirrel or a deer biting into a fermented apple and drunkenly stagger around your yard, it's likely going to be quite comical. When you get a bunch of butterflies, bees, and hornets flying around drunk, it immediately becomes less fun. Apparently, hornets are like yours truly when they've had one too many - they'll fight anything. 


Apples on the ground are not bad or rotten. In fact, apple trees are exceedingly clever in that they will tell you when an apple is perfectly ripe and ready for eating by letting them fall to the ground with only the slightest breeze to invite you to eat them. So long as they don't have a big bite out of them from a squirrel or bug, it's best to just gather them from the ground. You can store them in the cellar, if you have one, just as they are, in crates. Please keep paper between the layers, however, as they do better this way. I hear that they hold the best when not touching directly, and each apple is individually wrapped with tissue paper. This is the reason we have wax on our apples, you see. When apples touch, skin-to-skin, they'll begin to ripen and ferment. They say you should wash off the wax before you eat them, but I've eaten apples with wax on the skin for years and nothing's happened to me yet. 

You can, of course, make this all into apple butter, or freeze the processed slices in bags. You can make candy apples. You can make it into applesauce, which - by the way - magically replaces eggs in a cake if you are in a pinch and can't go to the grocery store right that moment. You can do all sorts of things! The point is that you must absolutely know that you love apples, that you'll never get sick of apples, and that you have neighbors that love apples before you get yourself a pair of trees. That, and you have an excellent apple pie recipe in your back pocket. 

Serve this pie with ice cream, if you like, but I like it on its own with some good coffee. 

I hope you've enjoyed learning about apples, the history thereof, and the silk road. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Sourdough English Muffins



I've had various phases of my life in which I've made a sourdough starter, all of which have either died or been neglected to the point of molding. I'd love to be this kind of person that just has a sourdough starter to give away, to use, to pass on to the next generation. Even the community pressure of being a chef to have a sourdough or ginger bug starter is ever-present! (Can you imagine how embarrassing it is to be the only chef in your city to not have a sourdough starter?) The fact of the matter is that I just don't eat bread enough to justify keeping a sourdough starter around. Rice is the preferred starch in my home, and we so seldom have bread with our meals that I frankly would forget about it when I was working 10-hour shifts.

Nowadays, since we're in a quarantined state of emergency, there's not much else to do than to maintain a lovely sourdough bread starter. I am a very fortunate person because my partner works a good job that he's able to maintain remotely while I occupy my time with volunteering, studying, and writing. There's lots of time for me to experiment with sourdough, and an English Muffin is a great way to use up some of it without heating up your whole house with a hot oven!

Sourdough English Muffins

yields 12 large square muffins

  • 600 g flour
  • 12 g yeast
  • 100 g sourdough starter
  • 40 g olive or grapeseed oil
  • 50 g sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 310 g water or soy milk, body temperature
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • Semolina, as needed

Mix your flour, yeast, sugar, sourdough, liquid of choice, and eggs together to create a soft dough in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a hook attachment. You aren't kneading at this point, just mixing so everything is homogenous. The idea of this stage is to hydrate the flour and activate the yeast. Let this all sit for 20 minutes, and then turn your mixer back on. Add in your oil and salt while this mixes at a low speed for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn the mixer on to high and knead the dough until it's smooth and silky, which shouldn't take more than five minutes.

Scrape your dough into a plastic container that has been well-oiled and cover. Let this beautiful concoction sit in a warm place for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It's summer right now where I am, so I love to let this sit in the shade outside for that time. In the winter, I like to set my proving doughs atop my fridge to rise. While we wait, I'd like to discuss some technical stuff!

First of all, n English muffin isn't exactly English, but an American invention. An immigrant known as Samuel Bath Thomas created the original "nooks and crannies" muffin - then called "toaster crumpets" - in the 1880s. A crumpet is very much like the bread that we all call and English Muffin, but the holes are on the top instead of being sandwiched and hidden within. These little lovelies seem simple enough to make, but there are a few tricks to them in order for them to be just right.

  1. The dough is soft, so don't try to add more flour to make it stiffer.
  2. Your griddle must be of an even heat before you start
  3. Don't rush; patience is a virtue!
The idea of a well-done English muffin is to have those big, beautiful, deep, craggy bubbles. These big bubbles only occur in the first stage of the fermentation process, so you don't want to handle this dough too much. A gentle hand is a real key here! If you knock out too much air, those big bubbles will pop and be replaced by small bubbles in the second proof, which is not what you want.

It is a gentle hand that will make your English Muffin perfect!

Another thing you need to know about this item is that it is not baked but fried on a griddle. You can use a frying pan if that's all you have, but a good cast iron griddle is a multitasking item that you should have at your disposal. It's great for searing steaks, cooking pancakes, and - of course - making the perfect English Muffin. No matter what you use, you'll want a thick-bottomed cooking apparatus that will help thoroughly cook your muffin at a low enough heat to not burn the surfaces. 

Time to cook!

Your dough won't take very long to prove, as there's quite a bit of activity happening in the yeast department. My sourdough is quite active so it only took my dough 45 minutes to double in size. This is the tricky part!

Flour your rolling surface quite thoroughly with both all-purpose wheat flour. Prepare a sheet pan by dusting it with plenty of semolina or cornmeal. Use either a rolling cutter or a large, floured cleaver to gently cut your dough into shapes. As gently as you can, move your cut pieces onto your sheet pan and dust with semolina. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside to rise. I much prefer to cut my muffins into squares instead of circles because I don't waste any dough. This dough is not like biscuit dough where you can rework the scraps. The inner shape of the finished product won't be proper if you reuse uncut dough to rise later, so I think it's much better to simply pull your dough into a large rectangle and cut squares accordingly. I cut 12, but I could have gone as small as 18, as these will puff up to be rather large. 

My cleaver is the workhorse of my kitchen, and it's perfect for cutting dough!

I usually turn my cast iron griddle on to the lowest possible flame and let it all heat for about 15 minutes before I cook, so now is the perfect time to heat your chosen cooking apparatus. I don't let my muffins puff for more than 20 minutes at the absolute most, otherwise, the bubbles risk collapsing when you move the muffins to cook. 

Transfer your muffins with a spatula onto your hot surface and set the timer for 6 minutes. Do not, under any circumstances, touch these muffins until that six-minute timer is up! Your bubbles will rise and form and puff, and the dough will cook on this side. Once your timer is finished, flip the muffins as gently as you can to cook for another six minutes on the other side. If you don't flip it gently, you risk breaking the big bubbles that form the signature nooks and crannies of a proper English Muffin, which is not what you want.

A good cast iron griddle will last you generations. Mine is from Crate and Barrel!

When finished with your total 12 minutes, remove your muffins from the griddle and continue to cook all of your muffins in batches until done. This is a time-consuming process and does require a little bit of extra attention to heat management, but it will well be worth it in the end. 

I love this recipe because it's a quick way to use sourdough without the effort of making a whole loaf of bread. You can use English muffins for sandwich bread for an easy lunch. Best of all, English muffins freeze perfectly when wrapped properly, therefore making it a great project to wrap yourself in for an afternoon. Even The Kitchn agrees that the freezer is your best asset for the year!

I hope you've enjoyed learning all about English Muffins! Did you make them? Tell me in the comments below! I hope you're staying safe and healthy in this trying time. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Mini Apple Poptarts



I have a secret. Do you promise not to tell my friends? I hope it won't ruin me!

I love Poptarts. I really do! I know that I'm supposed to be this serious and sophisticated Chef at this point in my career. I know I'm meant to have a sophisticated palette. But what can be done when the heart wants what the heart wants? There's just something so amazing about a sugar-packed pastry filled with fruit and topped with frosting! Am I wrong for loving them? I don't know about that...but I do know that recently experienced a tiny tragedy a few weeks ago.

I bought a Poptart from a gas station. (I was in a rush and experiencing a sugar crash, so don't judge me.) I took a big bite of it while I was driving and felt like I was being kicked in the teeth by a tiny sugar monster. I was utterly heartbroken. Am I just too old for Poptarts? Have I outgrown them? But how can one 'outgrow' the perfect parcel of pastry and fruity filling, crisp and crumbly and delicious? It was just too horrible to be true. I set this experience in the back of my mind until I received my farm box from Prairie Birthday Farm and happily opened a bag of Windfall apples. 

Yes! I thought. These apples weren't the pretty things you see in the grocery store, but the real apples that you get off the farm. I could make apple pie, of course, but what if I could take the opportunity to right the wrong of that Poptart experience I'd had some weeks prior? These apples were perfect for baking, and I was about to do just that. Here's another thing you need to know: Not every single produce item you have has to be absolutely gorgeous, especially if it's going to be put in something, versus presented to guests as is. The truth of the matter is that apples will simply jump their way off a tree when it's ready to be eaten and if it's found on the ground that doesn't mean that it is any less edible. We can talk more about that later!

Mini Apple Poptarts
yields 12 mini pop tarts

Perfect Pie Dough
  • 14 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • 8 oz vegan butter/any solid fat
  • Vodka, as needed
Apple Filling
  • 6 small apples or 2 big ones, peeled and chopped
  • 3.5 oz raw or brown sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon or 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese long peppercorn
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Special equipment
  • A proper rolling pin
  • A fluted square cutter
  • A Silpat mat
Start with your pie dough. I know I've talked about it plenty of times, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to start with cold ingredients. Chop your cold fat, and put it into your cold dry ingredients. Rub your fat in with your fingers - not your palms - to keep it cool. Add cold vodka. Are you curious about what the actual mixing method is? Check it out - I've actually done a video about it!




Now that that's all settled, wrap your pie dough and chill it well! I like to let it chill overnight, but an hour will do the trick just fine if you don't want to wait. Are we ready to move on to the filling? I sure am!

Protip: The trick to doing good pop tarts is to chop the apples large enough to still have a sort of bite when eaten, but small enough to fit into your tart of size. I cut my pieces into thin slices and then had those slices cut to 2 cm in length. This, of course, all depends on the size you want, so please feel free to decide what size you feel appropriate! No matter what, make sure that your slices are all the same size, so they cook evenly.

Combine your apples with the sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, salt, vanilla, and spices, and stir well. Cover with a clean tea towel and let sit for about half an hour to extract all of those delicious juices and that wonderful pectin. This is called maceration, and it's used to soften fruits for sauces or fillings, while also making the flavors more intense. Keep in mind: the longer you let the apples sit, the more juices will escape and the more your flavors will meld...so feel free to start this the day before you want these treats! While we're waiting, let's talk a little bit about apples and the perfectly imperfect fruit that they are.

Apples originated in Central Asia. The apple as we know it was brought over by the European colonizers. Although technically an invasive species, we have plenty of delicious varieties that grow better in certain climates. Apples enjoy a temperate climate and require other apple trees nearby to cross-pollinate, which makes it difficult to grow and manage if you don't have a decent amount of space. The good news: you can dwarf an apple tree! This means that they'll grow out, not up, which is much easier to manage when harvesting! Shall we talk about harvesting apples, now?





The apple tree is an exceedingly clever plant, as it'll simply boot off any apples it deems ripe enough to eat instead of waiting for someone to pick it. This results in bruising, and bruised apples never get picked to go to the grocery store. This is not so great, since bruised apples are entirely edible. Apples do ripen quickly, however, so if you don't get them off the ground as soon as you can, they risk fermenting and trust me when I tell you this: drunk squirrels are funny, drunk hornets are not. 

I could go on and on and on about food waste and the problematic practices of how we harvest produce in this country. I'm guessing, however, that you are ready to cook your apple filling...so let's get to it!


Now that your apples have macerated, you're ready to add your tapioca starch! I love tapioca starch for this because it cooks quickly, is crystal clear when set, and mimics the jelly-like texture of pectin most naturally. Cook your apple filling over medium-low heat until most of the liquid has been reduced and thickened, about ten minutes, and set aside to cool. You'll want your apple filling to be at least room temperature for this next step!

Roll out your pie dough between two greased parchment sheets or between two long sheets of plastic wrap. This prevents you from making a mess! Roll it as thin as you can, about 1/8th of an inch, and use a cutter of your choice to cut shapes of equal sizes to make your tarts. Remember, each tart is going to use two pieces of cut dough. I had this gorgeous little fluted ravioli cutter that I found at a garage sale, so I decided to use that! You can use egg wash to help 'glue' your two pieces together, but water works just fine if you want to keep it vegan. 


Use a scoop or large spoon to portion equal parts of your cooled apple filling onto the bottoms of each tart and loosely sandwich the top piece to it. Allow the top dough to relax around the filling and press gently around the edges to get rid of any air bubbles. I used a fork to crimp the edges of my tarts, but you can use your fingers and pinch them together if you like. Make sure you poke some vent holes in the top!

At this point, you can freeze them for later. Why would you do that? So you can have them to either stick in the toaster oven in the morning for a quick breakfast! Even better, if you wanted to get a little crazy, you could deep fry these beauties at 375 degrees until golden-brown for an insanely indulgent take on the apple Poptart! If you're a traditionalist like yours truly, though, and you simply cannot wait to dig in, feel free to bake these beauties at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and delicious. Let them cool completely before you handle them. You can frost these with a simple powdered sugar glaze or buttercream, but I like them plain. They're a perfect little snack to beat the mid-afternoon slump!

I adore this recipe because it's easy to make ahead, and they're just oh so cute to look at and eat. It's got all the beauty of an apple pie combined with mobility. You can wrap these in paper and take them on a picnic, or pop them in your purse for an on-the-go sugar boost. You can grab one on the way out the door. Heck, put one in your pocket while you wander the wild and windy moors, lamenting over that handsome stranger that shot partridge on your land just Sunday last. The possibilities are endless!

Thank you so much, as always, for joining me today. I hope this has inspired you to try this recipe on for size. Now please excuse me while I help myself to some apple pie a la mode with my husband. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Favorite Kosher Carrot Cake

Have your cake and eat it too!
A lot of you are learning to bake. I've seen and joined groups called "Quarantine Cooking" and am absolutely loving your progress. I think it's a lot of fun to bake and that it's easy to do, and being a person that's classically trained, I suppose that I take quite a bit for granted. So many are intimidated by baking, so I thought it'd be fun to give you my easiest recipe that's also one of my most-delicious.

My favorite thing about cakes at home is that you have absolutely no pressure to make it look perfect. Is it nice to do it for the 'gram? Of course! But don't be brainwashed into thinking that there's only one kind of beautiful cake. You can dive headfirst into that rustic-looking style and use flowers and herbs straight out of your garden to decorate the top of your cake. You'll take the pressure off yourself, and you'll dirty fewer dishes.

Favorite Kosher Carrot Cake
yields 1 full sheet pan, or a 4-layer cake

Cake

  • 240 g all-purpose flour
  • 100 g tapioca flour
  • 275 g granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Chinese long peppercorns ground quite fine (or grate some off with a Microplane)
  • 198 g vegetable oil
  • 113 g/1 stick vegan butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican vanilla
  • 1 1/2 medium carrots, grated finely, roughly 300 g
  • ** You may add a few handfuls of chopped nuts to this cake. I like pecans, but walnuts are great in this cake too!
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 227 g vegan cream cheese
    • I like Daiya's brand the best for this application
  • 113 g/1 stick vegan butter
  • Roughly 2 cups Powdered Sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a half-sheet pan by lining it with either parchment or a Silpat mat. Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Melt the butter together with the vegetable oil and mix it together with the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon. This method is called reverse creaming, but please don't ask me why. 

This is one of those recipes that you can add different spices to suit your tastes, so please have fun!

Mix together the eggs and vanilla, and add to the flour-fat mixture a third at a time. Make sure this is wholly incorporated before adding in the grated carrots. The finer the grate on the carrots the better, so don't be afraid to use the smaller bits. The carrots in this recipe are what provide moisture, and the fine grate lets you get lots of it released into the cake. When all of this is combined, you can pour the batter into the pan, and spread evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake is done. Remove from the oven and let cool.

While it's baking, let's talk a little about what kosher and pareve are, since I tend to write about it a lot. I'd like to clear up quite a few misconceptions and with the rising amount of antisemitism online I think it's appropriate to be loud and proud about my culture. Why do I feel that way? I feel this way because ignorance leads to fear, and fear leads to hatred. It seems like everyone in America is at least playfully antisemitic nowadays, and I don't entirely think it's their fault. I think there's a lot of media bias and a lot of cultural bias against Jews, not to mention that a lot of folks seem to think that the Jew is some exotic creature instead of just the gal next door. This idea of the 'other' leads down many paths, but most of them are to genocide.

In the holocaust alone, approximately 11 million people were killed for this culture. This is not including the others killed by the Nazis. I read somewhere that if we were to take a moment of silence for every soul lost in the holocaust, we'd be silent for something like 10 years. Living loud and proud about the culture you inherited is going to not just empower you, but give others that share your culture the courage to live loud and proud themselves. Being your wonderful radical self is a defiant act in a society that tells you what to be. Being kosher or having pareve items may sound foreign; so let's just clear up what they are and why I cook that way.

To keep kosher is, in short, to keep to the strict dietary standards set by Jewish Law. Most have heard of "don't mix milk and meat," and that's one. Another is to not eat cloven-hooved animals, such as pigs. I don't always keep kosher, as I do consume pork products on occasion. I do, however, keep dairy and meat separate because both my husband and myself are lactose intolerant. Actually, he's severely lactose intolerant, whereas I just get really gassy if I have ice cream. 

When possible, and at home, I do try to keep kosher and tell myself that if G-d wanted me to keep kosher my entire life He'd have made a whole Jew instead of half-and-half. Yes, yes, I know there are going to be a lot of more orthodox Jews on here telling me that there's "no such thing as half a Jew." Genetically, there is where religiously there is not. The other half of me is a full-blooded native Filipino, and they are pork-heavy people. To balance the love of all of my cultures, I tend to not buy pork to cook in my home, and instead only eat it when I'm out. If I did have dairy in my home, I'd have to have separate plates, cookware, tools, and silverware for when I wanted to have dairy-based meals or meat-based meals. 

Pareve (or parve) is a food that is neither meat or dairy. These things are pasta, rice, eggs, vegetables, etc. When you have a pareve cookie or pareve cake, that means that this cookie or cake has no dairy nor meat in it. Do I still have eggs in it?  Yes, so it is therefore not vegan. One might look at pareve or kosher baking as the stepping stone towards vegan baking. All of the baking I do at home is pareve. I can remain pareve thanks to the many wonderful vegan products out there that replicate milk, butter, and cheese in a baking scenario. It is because of these products, I can quite literally have my cake and eat it too. 

Now, should you be eating pareve desserts? If you're even mildly lactose intolerant, I'd seriously suggest it. I don't know how much healthier it is for you than the dairy-laden alternative, but I can tell you that at least some calories are cut with non-dairy items, and there are certainly less saturated fats. I personally know I've felt much better now that I cut dairy almost entirely out of my diet. If you're baking at home more, that means you're likely eating more goodies at home. So why not eat some nice goodies by cutting back here and there, and inserting gorgeous vegetables...like carrots?

When your cake is cool, you may work on the frosting. Simply whip your butter using the paddle attachment on your standing mixer until it's quite soft, and then add the cream cheese, whipping slowly until wholly incorporated. Whip on medium-high to get some loft before adding the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Mix slowly to start, and then mix on higher and higher speeds. The trick is to get it to be your desired consistency without it being too terribly sweet. I like it a little thinner, as it's better to spread on this cake. 

I wish more folks would bake cakes in a sheet cake form. It's so much easier to layer!
My trick for getting layers on a sheet cake is thus: 

First, turn your cake out of the pan and then trim all the crunchy edges off. Measure with a ruler the length and width of your cake. My width ended up being 28 cm, so I knew to cut that in half to 14 cm. The length of the cake was 40 cm, so of course, I would cut it in half at 20. Next, frost your cake evenly with your smooth and delicious icing. Cut your cake into your 4 equal pieces, and layer each piece atop one another. Et voila! Now you have a four-layer carrot cake, with not too much frosting on it. 

See? There it is, just stacked atop one another! EASY!
You can garnish with carrot chips or candied nuts, if you like, or just have it plain like this. This cake is sweet enough to stand on its own merit, in my opinion, so I don't like to let it get too frilly and fussy. I think a good portion of what we like to see, especially on Instagram, is a cake that's too pretty to eat. Cake, however, is meant to be eaten, and with so many of you all learning to bake at home, I think it's more than fine to love the things that are delicious and without frills. 

Good luck everyone! Happy cooking and happy eating!