Friday, March 20, 2020

Roasted and Marinated Beets with Charred Kale and Hazelnut Vinaigrette

First, I hope anyone stopping by to read this is doing well. All is well in my home, and we’ve been staying in other than going for walks and runs since the weekend. I apologize for the irony here, but the terrific new book I want to tell you about today is Cooking for Good Times: Super Delicious, Super Simple [A Cookbook] by Paul Kahan. These are most certainly not good times, but we are all cooking more at home right now. Here’s my suggestion: rather than thinking about this book in terms of cooking for guests and parties and family get-togethers as it’s intended, instead maybe the dishes I mention below will inspire some new ideas to try for yourself and your family at home in the coming days. All the great suggestions from the book for entertaining can be kept in mind for future gatherings. I had the pleasure of visiting one of Kahan’s restaurants in Chicago, Avec, a few years ago. This book is inspired by the kind of conviviality and sharing of dishes that restaurant has always nurtured. So, the dishes in this book are more straightforward than chefy. I especially loved that the first chapter is called Make Some Food to Eat While You Cook. That implies the fun begins during the cooking, and maybe everyone is helping or at least hanging out while the cooking happens. The suggestions include marinated olives, things to spread on bread or crackers like beet and walnut dip, a charred summer squash-sesame dip that I can’t wait to try, two versions of hummus, and recipes for homemade bread and crackers. Each chapter begins with ideas for what drinks to pair with the following recipes. And, the chapters go through categories like cured meats as appetizers or parts of a meal, greens for all seasons, root vegetables, one devoted to versions of panzanella, and one just for grains, raclette, pizza, fish, chicken, pork, steak, and a few simple desserts. The Buy Some Greens chapter drew me in with the cold salads and warm dishes. The concept of charring greens in a ripping-hot cast iron skillet or on a hot grill was intriguing because you’re not fulling cooking the leaves. The goal is to just get the edges browned here and there while leaving the rest in a raw state. The charred kale with beefsteak tomatoes and pine nuts with a lemony vinaigrette sounds delicious. One of the salads on my list to try is the greens with tzatziki vinaigrette, potatoes, and green beans. The very next chapter, Roast Some Roots, also held me captive. The beet dish shown here today is from this chapter, and the roasted and marinated root vegetables with oranges, black olives, and feta as well as the roasted and marinated root vegetables with strawberries, ricotta, and pistachios caught my eye. In Toss Together Some Old Bread, you’ll find panzanella with Brussels sprouts, grilled onion, and crumbly cheese and Nicoise-style panzanella with tomatoes, green beans, olives, and anchovies. In the pizza chapter, I loved the suggestion for resting the dough in the refrigerator for up to three days. When you have the time, mix up a big batch of dough, divide into pizza-size pieces, shape the pieces into rounds, let them rest at room temperature for an hour, and then refrigerate to use any time in the next few days. The smoked whitefish, garlic cream, and marinated kale pizza recipe sounds especially good. I just realized I’ve mentioned charred and/or marinated kale in a few dishes, and I want to tell you more about it. 

To start the dish shown here, roasted and marinated beets are needed. At the beginning of the chapter with this recipe, there are instructions for roasting and marinating all kinds of root vegetables. My beets were very large, and I roasted them the day before making this dish. On the day I planned to serve it, I peeled the beets and cut them into wedges and marinated them in a mix of olive oil, orange juice, and crushed red chile flakes. The kale was washed, dried, and marinated in a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, crushed red chile flakes, and black pepper. Grated parmigiana reggiano was to be added, but I skipped it to keep the recipe vegan. The beets and kale were marinated at room temperature for two hours, but they could have been refrigerated overnight instead. For the plated dish, a hazelnut vinaigrette was made with toasted and finely ground hazelnuts, walnut oil, red wine vinegar, minced shallot, salt, and pepper. I didn’t find hazelnut oil while shopping that day, and I used walnut oil instead. Next, a large cast iron skillet was heated for five minutes over high heat. Yes, it gets very hot. The marinated beets were added and cooked on one side for just one minute before being removed. Then, the marinated kale was added to the hot pan to char for one minute before being removed. In the book, burrata is recommended, and it would go on the plate first. I used a cashew yogurt mixed with a little minced garlic and salt and pepper and made a schmear on the plate. The kale and beets were scattered over top, everything was drizzled with the hazelnut vinaigrette, and chopped, toasted hazelnuts were sprinkled on for garnish and crunch. 

The mix of the nutty vinaigrette and the creamy yogurt were exactly right with the earthy beets and kale. And, I loved the browned edges resulting from charring. This book gives you lots of great ideas and flavor combinations, and more importantly, it gives you techniques to apply in lots of different ways. The charring step adds flavor and texture and can be used in a variety of dishes, the panzanella chapter opens a door to creativity with bread and vegetables in salad form, and the grains recipes work with any type of cooked grain you’ve got. I’m looking forward to cooking more from this now and in good times to come.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Golden Cashew Sauce with Chile and Lime Served with Black Rice and Panfried Tempeh

I have a vacation fantasy wherein a personal chef prepares all of my meals with fresh, nutritious ingredients put together just the way I like them. I have all the time in the world to explore whatever surroundings I’m visiting, do lots of yoga, go for long runs, and every lovely locally-sourced, organic snack, beverage, and meal appears perfectly-prepared just when I want it. In this particular fantasy, the food and drinks would look a lot like what you’ll find in the new book from Amy Chaplin, Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the Way You Eat with 250 Vegetarian Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Refined Sugar of which I received a review copy. As I read the book, the same thought kept coming to mind: this is what I want to eat every day. The twenty chapters each present a base recipe or two followed by several variations on that main idea. The one exception is the Vegetables: Land and Sea chapter that includes a variety of dishes with different ingredients. The recipes are gluten-free, sometimes grain-free, and mostly vegan, but some options call for eggs and goat cheese is suggested here and there. This book gives you building blocks for putting together nutritionally-dense and variety-rich meals that completely bypass highly refined, processed, and artificial foods. Throughout, there are suggested ways to customize the recipes and ideas for what to pair them with for creating interesting twists and complete meals. The photos showing all the flavor variations in each chapter made me want to try every option. Among the chia bircher bowls and porridges in the first and second chapters alone, there are sweet, savory, simple, elaborately-garnished, spring, summer, fall, and winter directions to try. The gluten-free breads, with toppings options, had me longing to fill my freezer with them. I started with the Black Rice Sesame Bread made after soaking black rice and black sesame seeds overnight before grinding them with the remaining ingredients in the food processor to make the dough. The nutty, toasted slices of bread were delicious with smashed avocado and sliced hakurei turnips. There are nut and seeds milks to try, compotes, soups, bean dishes, dressings, sauces, crackers, bars, cakes, and more. I’ve made nut butter before, but I’d never thought of making coconut butter by grinding dried, unsweetened coconut in the food processor. The dressings, made mostly with vegetables and just a little oil, have inspired me too. The artichoke dressing with meyer lemon and chives is on my list. My second stop in the book was for the Berry Chia Pudding made with frozen strawberries cooked with orange juice to soften before being mixed with cashews, coconut butter, and vanilla. The puree was whisked with chia seeds and left in the refrigerator for serving with cacao nibs and freeze-dried strawberries. I also tried the Matcha Berry Muffins made grain-free with dried coconut, sunflower seeds, almond flour, and coconut flour. They were tender and light with just maple syrup and orange juice for sweetness. I couldn’t pass up the Date-Sweetened Granola made with a puree of softened dates and no other sweeteners. I loved that it included buckwheat groats since that’s become one of my favorite additions to granola. But, the dish I want to tell you all about today is from the Sauces chapter. 

All of the versatile sauces would work well for noodle dishes, paired with vegetables, or as dips. I quickly fell for the photo of the Golden Cashew Sauce with Chile and Lime shown served with black rice, panfried tempeh, and a tangle of sprouts. I set about recreating it. The base recipe for a Creamy Nut Sauce was followed with some additions. Chopped onion was sauteed in olive oil until golden, and then garlic was added along with grated fresh ginger and turmeric and chopped red chile. Mirin and water were added for deglazing and allowed to simmer. The mixture was transferred to a blender along with raw cashews, more water, tamari, and lime juice. The sauce can be made warm by adding boiling water to the blender, or it can be made at room temperature and reheated before serving. I browned some slices of tempeh, steamed some black rice, made a quick pickle of kohlrabi and carrots, and did my best to mimic the presentation shown in the book. 

The thick sauce added great flavor as each bite of tempeh was pulled through it. I’ll make it a bit thinner with more lime juice when I use it for a rice noodle dish with lots of cucumber and chiles. First, there’s so much more I want to try here. The crackers, waffles, bars, and cauliflower bakes all look so good. With all the recipe variations, meal plans, and prep tips, this book makes it easy to eat like this every day.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Panini Press Bread and Vegan Panini

I’ve been a fan, and customer, of Easy Tiger since it opened in Austin in 2012. And, I couldn’t have been more delighted when a second location opened closer to where I live. I routinely buy the Easy Tiger breads sold at Whole Foods with the big, levain loaf being a personal favorite. Obviously, I was thrilled to learn of the new book by David Norman, head baker and co-founder of Easy Tiger, and to receive a review copy of Bread on the Table: Recipes for Making and Enjoying Europe's Most Beloved Breads. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David, talking a bit about bread, and comparing notes on sourdough preferences. I enjoy making a sourdough baguette while he prefers the simplicity of a baguette’s flavor without sourdough. He puts a lot of thought into the flavor and texture of different types of bread and knows of what he speaks. Full disclosure: I volunteer on the board of the Slow Food Austin chapter, and Easy Tiger has generously donated to our events in the past. In fact, one of our events is even mentioned in the book. The book traces David Norman’s journey through bread appreciation with chapters for regions he’s learned from over the years. It all began with an introduction to Swedish breads when he was a foreign-exchange student. The dramatic difference between Scandinavian breads and American-style white bread was eye-opening. He later began an incredible career in baking that has taken him to bakeries all across the US before finding his way to Texas. Each chapter highlights a place in the world and its style of bread with sample recipes followed by dishes to make using those breads. The first chapter covers French-style breads made with and without starters made with yeast and two loaves naturally fermented with levain. The Croque Monsieur recipe will make you want to make a homemade pain de mie right away. There are also chapters for Scandinavian Bread, German Bread, Italian Bread, and Bread in Central Texas. I want to get a rye sourdough starter going so I can make the Danish Rugbrod for smorrebrod and Swedish Vortbrod made with wort or porter. Of course, I want to try making the pretzels even though I can, and do, drive a few blocks for them any time I get a craving. And, the Smoked Flour Fougasse recipe, complete with instructions for smoking the flour, has me very interested. The photo of the thin, delicious-looking panini in the Italian chapter, however, is what made me bake Panini Press Bread first. 

The recipe was inspired by bread David Norman saw being used for panini in Italy. The bread used was pale, flat, and round. The loaves are underbaked just a bit so they can become crisp when pressed and grilled. The panini as described are thin with a drizzle of olive oil on the inside of the sliced bread and just a couple of slices of filling. I couldn’t wait to try them. I’d also just recently visited our brand new, artisanal, plant-based cheese shop, Rebel Cheese. I was excited to use their all-plant smoked provolone, olive mozzarella, and plant pepperoni in the panini. The bread was started the night before by making the biga which sat for 12 to 16 hours. The next day, the dough was mixed with the firm biga being added in parts so it would become incorporated more easily. The process for making the dough is not a no-knead process, but it’s a minimal-knead one. The dough was stretched and folded a few times with 15-minute rest periods in between each turn. During the first turn of stretching and folding, I added some chopped rosemary just for fun. After the last stretching and folding, it was left to ferment for 30 minutes before shaping. After dividing and resting, the dough was shaped into 12-inch rounds and left to proof. Just before sliding each loaf into the hot oven, the tops were docked for steam to escape. For oven steaming, I stick to my old method of placing a cast iron skillet on the oven floor and adding some ice just before closing the oven door with the bread in it. Once the loaves were cool, I carefully sliced them horizontally and then quartered each loaf. I used some homemade carrot top pesto to brush on the inside of each piece before adding slices of cheese and pepperoni. 

I love learning new things about making dough for bread. The stretching and folding with periods of rest was a fun process for building the dough’s structure. And, the thin loaves were perfect for crisp, tender, grilled panini. The plant-based cheeses melted surprisingly well and delivered great flavor. I can’t wait to make panini again with grilled eggplant when it’s in season. Until then, I have more bread to bake. 

Panini Press Bread
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Bread on the Table: Recipes for Making and Enjoying Europe's Most Beloved Breads. 

Many types of bread, from sliced sandwich breads to rolls, can be put in a panini grill to make a toasted sandwich. Ciabatta, though popular for panini in the United States, is not my first choice for grilled sandwiches. With its crisp crust and floury surface, it is better for cold sandwiches. In Italy, I remember seeing stacks of ready-to-grill sandwiches on pale, flat round loaves of bread. This is my approximation of that bread. With a little bit of olive oil in the dough, it stays soft and flavorful, and underbaking them a little means they crisp up nicely in the grill press as the cheese melts inside and the other ingredients warm up. To use these for a sandwich, split the rounds in half horizontally, lightly drizzle with olive oil, and line with a single layer of prosciutto or pancetta followed by thin slices of a complementary cheese like fontina or provolone. Cover with the top half of the bread and grill in a panini press until the bread is well marked and crisp and the cheese is melted. 

all-purpose flour - 90 grams or 3/4 cup 
instant yeast - 1/2 gram or pinch 
water - 45 grams or 3 tablespoons 

Put the flour and yeast in a large bowl and blend together with your fingers to evenly distribute them. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water. 
Using your hand, draw the flour into the water, stirring and blending with your fingers. As it begins to come together, squeeze the dough with both hands to better incorporate the water into the flour. You can use a more traditional kneading action with the heel of your hand, as well, to push down and bring the biga together. This is a stiff dough, so it will take some time and a little more effort to incorporate all the flour. Add up to 15 grams (1 tablespoon) more water if you are really having trouble. 
Because this dough will ferment a long time, you do not need to develop the gluten much; just squeeze and work the dough until it is fully combined with no lumps. 
Form the dough into a ball the best you can. Return the ball to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap, or place it in a container with a lid. 
Let the biga sit at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours. 

all-purpose flour - 210 grams or 1 2/3 cups
salt - 6 grams or 1 teaspoon 
instant yeast - 2 grams or1/2 teaspoon 
biga - all from above 
water - 135 grams or 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon 
olive oil - 12 grams or 1 tablespoon 
rice flour - for dusting 

Mixing and Kneading 
Put the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and blend together with your fingers to evenly distribute them. Divide the biga into three pieces and scatter them on top of the flour. 
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water and olive oil, holding back a small amount of the water (7 grams or 11⁄2 teaspoons) until you see if the flour needs it all. Make sure you have a plastic bowl scraper at hand, then start to blend the water and biga into the flour with your hands. As the flour begins to absorb the water and the mixture starts to thicken, plunge both hands in and squeeze the dough between your thumbs and fingers. Work from the side of the bowl closest to you across to the other side, squeezing with both hands. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and squeeze your way through the dough again.
You will feel the dough starting to come together as a more cohesive mass, and the water and starter will become more fully incorporated. Use your bowl scraper from time to time to scrape the sticky dough from the sides of the bowl into the center. Keep rotating the bowl and squeezing the dough until everything is fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. It will remain a shaggy and sticky mass. 

The dough should be medium-stiff, having some give like a rubber bouncy ball. Add the reserved water if the dough is not soft enough. Add the water a little at a time, squeezing it into the dough as you have been. You may even have to add more water to get the right consistency if it still feels too stiff. It is better to have a dough that is a little wet than one that is too dry. 
Turn out the dough onto an unfloured work surface, using the bowl scraper to get it all out of the bowl, and scraping as much off your hands as you can. Resist the urge to add flour to the work surface or the dough at this stage. Starting with the edge closest to you, grab the dough with both hands, palms down, and pull it gently toward you. Stretch it up and flip it over the top of the dough mass by 2 or 3 inches and press it into the surface. Grab the new edge closest to you and stretch it gently up and flip it over the top. Repeat this stretching and folding of the dough four or five times, working your way to the far side of the mass. The stretches should be gentle enough not to tear the dough apart. As you continue this process, the dough will hold together better and be easier to stretch. 
Scrape up the dough with a dough scraper, rotate it a quarter turn, and repeat the stretching and flipping through the dough mass four or five times, 3 to 5 minutes. With each stretch and flip through the dough, you will feel it developing, becoming more cohesive and less sticky. When most of the dough holds together and pulls off the work surface as you stretch it, slide the dough scraper under it and gather it into a ball. The dough will not be fully developed yet and will still be a little sticky. 
Cup your hands around the bottom of the far side of the ball and pull it gently toward you, allowing the dough to grip the work surface, then move your hands to the left, rotating the dough counterclockwise. Return your hands behind the dough and pull and rotate again one or two times. This will tighten the surface and help shape the dough into a smooth ball. Return the ball to the bowl with the smooth side up and let it rest for 1 minutes. 
Dust your work surface lightly with all-purpose flour and turn out the dough so that the smooth side is down. Gently press out the dough to flatten it into a round about 2 inches thick. Grab the edge closest to you and stretch it up and over the top of the dough, about two-thirds of the way to the opposite side, and press into the surface. Grab the edge opposite you and stretch and fold it toward you over the first fold, about two-thirds of the way to the closest edge, and press into the surface. 
Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat two more folds, one away from you and one toward you. Turn the dough over so the seam side is down. Form a ball by cupping your hands around the bottom of the far side of the dough and pulling toward you, rotating the dough counterclockwise. Repeat one or two times to form a ball. You will notice that the dough is more developed and will stretch tighter than before. Be careful not to stretch too tight; if the surface starts to tear, stop tightening. Return the ball to the bowl, smooth side up, and let rest for 15 minutes. 
Repeat this stretching and folding three times at 15-minute intervals for a total of four folds over an hour. This will develop into a smooth, elastic dough with a good gluten network. 

After the final fold, return the ball to the bowl, smooth side up, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume and feels airy when gently touched, about 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 475ºF with the baking stone and steaming pan in place. 
Dust the work surface lightly with all-purpose flour and turn out the dough so the smooth side is down. Divide the dough into two equal pieces with a bench knife or bowl scraper. Gently press one piece of the dough to flatten it into a round about 2 inches thick. Grab the edge opposite you and stretch it up and over the top of the dough, about two-thirds of the way toward you. Gently press into the surface with the heel of your hand. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and grab the edge opposite you, stretching and folding it over the first fold, about two-thirds of the way toward you, pressing it gently. Repeat two or three times until you have a loose ball shape, then turn the ball over so the seam side is down. 
Cup your hands behind the ball with your pinkie fingers and the sides of your hands on the table, then gently pull your hands toward you. At the same time as you are gently pulling, move your hands to the left, causing the ball to rotate counterclockwise about a quarter turn. The dough should grip the table and the surface will tighten. Move your hands behind the ball again, pulling gently and rotating the ball. Set aside and cover with a tea towel, repeating with the second piece of dough. Let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes so the gluten relaxes a bit. 
When the pieces have rested, dust a cutting board lightly with all-purpose flour or line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust it lightly with flour. 
Dust the work surface again with all-purpose flour. Flatten one ball on the work surface with your hand and use a rolling pin to roll into a 12-inch circle, always starting in the center and rolling outward in all directions. Bring the pin back to the center with each stroke and use plenty of all-purpose flour so the dough does not stick to the pin or work surface. Transfer the circle carefully to the floured board or parchment. Repeat with the second piece of dough. 

Cover the circles with tea towels and let rise in a warm, draft-free place, about 30 minutes. 

Dust the peel with rice flour (see page 17) and transfer one of the loaves onto the peel with the seam side down. 
Dock the surface of the dough with a roller docker if you have one or a notched rolling pin, or use the blunt end of a wooden skewer or even a chopstick to poke holes in the top to let out steam. 
Using a funnel, steam the oven with about 60 grams (1⁄4 cup) of water. 
Open the oven and place the tip of the peel on the center of the baking stone. Quickly pull the peel out from under the loaf, letting it gently drop onto the baking stone, leaving room for the second loaf if the stone is large enough; center the loaf if it is not. Close the oven door immediately. If your stone can fit two loaves at once, quickly dock the second loaf and slide it onto the stone. 
Using the funnel, add 60 grams (1⁄4 cup) more water to the steaming pan (less water than larger loaves). Close the door tightly as soon as the water hits the steaming pan. Lower the oven to 425ºF. 
After about 10 minutes, check the bread. The top should still be pale, while the bottom will just be starting to color and the crust will be set. 
Cool the bread on a wire cooling rack until completely cool.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Salad of Roasted Carrots, Apple, and Lentils with Chile and Preserved Lemon

I’m always excited to flip through the pages of interesting flavor combinations in a new Diana Henry book. Her latest is From the Oven to the Table, and I received a review copy. She writes: “If you’re a throw-it-in-the-oven kind of cook, whether by necessity or desire, then this book is for you.” With these recipes, the oven does most of the work for you. The stovetop gets used a bit here and there to start a dish or to prep components to go with what’s roasting, but the real stars are the lovely things coming out of the oven. There are options that include whole meals roasted together on a sheet pan, a chapter just for chicken thighs, others just for vegetables, recipes for special occasions, and desserts. I have little flags sticking out of several pages in the vegetables, grains, and legumes chapters. And, I haven’t even marked pages for summer vegetables yet. Let me give you some examples of the mix of flavors I enjoyed seeing. There’s a whole roasted cauliflower with pistachio and preserved lemon relish and tahini, baked sweet potatoes with avocado and chimichurri, and roasted Indian-spiced vegetables with lime-cilantro butter to name a few. I want to roast some plant-based sausages with lentils and make the herb relish to spoon on top, and I definitely want to try to the baked rice with green olives, orange, feta, and dill. I got inspired by the roasted squash and tofu with soy, honey, chile, and ginger recipe and made it with sweet potatoes instead of squash. In the head note, there’s a suggestion to serve this with a hot Asian dressing, a lot like nuoc cham, found later in the book, and I happily followed that advice. And, I can’t wait to bring home some blood oranges and try the pomegranate molasses-roasted beets with oranges, walnuts, dill, and labneh, and I keep turning back to the page with roasted cabbage wedges with XO crumbs that's topped with seasoned sourdough rye breadcrumbs. I need more flags. Every time I turn the pages, I’m tempted by another recipe. Baked potatoes with smoked trout, dilled beets, creme fraiche, and salmon roe needs a flag. Before I get any more distracted, I want to tell you about the roasted carrot salad. 

This dish does involve cooking lentils on the stovetop unless you happen to have some already cooked and ready to use. With lentils at the ready, it all comes together very quickly. The carrots were trimmed but left whole and unpeeled. They were tossed with olive and salt and pepper before being arranged on a baking sheet and popped into a 400 degree F oven. They roasted for about 30 minutes until tender and well-browned. A dressing was made with apple cider vinegar in my case but white balsamic is suggested, olive oil, garlic, and grated fresh ginger. The cooked lentils were placed in a bowl with some finely sliced red chile and finely chopped preserved lemon, and that mixture was tossed with some of the dressing. An apple was cut into matchsticks and tossed with lemon juice. The roasted carrots were added to the apple matchsticks along with more preserved lemon and chile, some mint and cilantro leaves, and the remaining dressing. The carrot mixture was placed on top of the lentils to serve. 

In the book, it’s noted that the real surprise here is how good the apples are with the other flavors. I have to agree, but I couldn’t pick a favorite part of the salad. It was all delicious, and all the parts worked together so well. The book is full of great ideas, and I’ll be pulling it off the shelf often for meal inspiration.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Power Bars

I’ve been a fan of Joanne Chang since her first book, Flour, was published. So, I knew I was going to enjoy reading her latest, Pastry Love: A Baker's Journal of Favorite Recipes. I started flagging pages right away and feel like I haven’t put the book down since receiving the review copy. The recipes are ones developed since that first book appeared. They’re based on items sold in Chang’s eight Flour bakeries in Boston, and some are inspired by the pastry chefs at those bakeries or might be things she bakes at home. The chapters corral types of pastries, and in each, the recipes progress from easier to more challenging. It’s interesting to find so many vegan and gluten-free options, and they’re not token additions. There are some delicious-looking things that just happen to fit into those categories. One of the first things I tried was the Sticky Bun Popcorn which of course is gluten-free. Joanne Chang is well-known for making the best sticky buns, and the flavors easily translate to a caramel popcorn. Next, I zipped back to the breakfast chapter for the Vegan Carrot-Ginger Muffins made with whole wheat flour, golden raisins, and carrot cake spices. Also in the breakfast chapter, I haven’t gotten to the Mushroom and Thyme Brioches or the Apple-Vanilla Pound Cake yet, but they’ve been on my mind. The I Knead Bread chapter also has me itching to try several things like Alina’s Milk Bread, Multigrain English Muffins, and Housemade Nutella Babka. For one of my home-baked holiday treats, I had to try the Mocha Chip Cookies made with rye flour, and they were delightfully crispy, chocolaty, and coffee-flavored. I’ve made the homemade Oreos from the Flour book, and now I have to try the Chocolate-Caramel Oreos included here. The cakes, pies, and tarts all look delectable. Then, the Time to Show Off chapter combines some items for plated desserts and has me very interested in the Rum Butterscotch Pudding Parfait with Ginger-Molasses Crumble. There’s even a chapter full of treats that make perfect gifts, and I still have the page marked for Almond Pistachio Cherry Honey Nougat since I ran of time to make that for the holidays this time. I’ll have to come back to it later. But, when January arrived and I needed something on hand for grab-and-go breakfasts, I turned to the Power Bars. 

I’ve lost count of how many variations on granola bars I’ve made over the years. I remember making the jam-filled granola bars from the Flour book. Those were cut into bars after baking in a sheet pan. Some are formed into bars before baking. And, I’ve made granola bark that’s broken into shards after baking in one large, thin piece. I was excited to try this recipe because it involves yet another method. First, almonds were toasted and coarsely chopped and added to a large bowl with toasted sunflower seeds. Next, cashews, dates, oats, and cinnamon were added to a food processor and chopped to a fine meal. That mixture was added to the almonds and seeds. Golden raisins, chia seeds, and maple syrup were also added, and it was stirred until completely combined. The mixture was pressed firmly into a parchment-lined loaf pan, and it was covered and refrigerated overnight. The next day, the parchment was removed, and the loaf form was sliced into bars. I hadn't made granola bars with that technique before. The bars were then baked on baking sheets and flipped halfway through baking. There’s a note pointing out that the bars don’t have to be baked if you prefer them raw, but I couldn’t resist the golden crisp edges. 

The bars are crunchy and chewy at the same time, and they’re more filling that you might expect. I loved that the sweetness came from just the dried fruit and a little maple syrup. I’ve always found Joanne Chang’s recipes to be well-tested, and that’s been true of this book too. Everything I’ve made has been fantastic, and I can’t wait to try more.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

Spicy Carrot-Grapefruit Juice

Happy New Year! I didn’t really mean to take a break from the blog, but that’s what happened when things got busy during the holiday season. Of course, I was still reading lots of food-related books, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them. Up first is the Cannelle et Vanille: Nourishing, Gluten-Free Recipes for Every Meal and Mood book by food blogger and photographer Aran Goyoaga. Early in my food blogging days, I became a follower of Cannelle et Vanille and always loved the beautifully presented dishes. I also enjoyed learning bits and pieces of Aran’s life like her upbringing in in a Basque town in northern Spain where her grandparents operated an artisanal pastry shop. She eventually moved away from Spain and from a career in food before later settling in Seattle where she now works as a food photographer and stylist. Her cooking is entirely gluten-free, but you’ll find lots of lovely baked goods here. There are sourdough breads, pies and tarts, cakes, homemade pasta, and even doughnuts. The ingredients are fresh and straightforward with something for every season. I’m looking at the Roasted Cauliflower, Swiss Chard, and Hazelnut Pasta dish right now and making plans to try it. There’s a chapter for entertaining called The Gathering Table, and it’s no surprise to find a delightful Chicken and Seafood Paella on an Open Fire recipe complete with instructions for building a fire. There are also options for Grilled Backyard Pizzas like the Leek, Fennel, and Pesto Pizza that I’ve been craving. Salads kept catching my eye including the Shaved Beet and Lentil Salad with Tahini and Preserved Lemon Dressing, and I keep flipping back to the Morning chapter to look at the Egg Tostada with Fennel, Radishes, and Yogurt made by cooking an egg directly on a tortilla as it fries. But, I couldn’t pass up the Spicy Carrot-Grapefruit Juice since it’s citrus season, and the first carrots were just appearing at farm stands. 

This is an easy beverage to prep provided you have a juicer handy. It’s a simple blend of three carrots, one peeled grapefruit, a half-inch piece of fresh turmeric, and a half-inch piece of fresh ginger. Now, I simplified the process a bit because I left the juice mixture at that and stirred in the half teaspoon each of cayenne and cinnamon. However, to follow the recipe precisely, the juice mixture should have gone into the blender, and the spices should have been added along with a tablespoon of sunflower seed or almond butter and a half teaspoon of honey. I liked the thinner, simpler juice as it was, but the added ingredients would have made it more filling. 

First, the color of this juice makes it impossible to resist. And, the flavor is fresh, bright, zesty, and delivers a kick from ginger and cayenne. It’s a great way to boost your energy level during a mid-day slump. 

And, what else have I been reading? One more food book I want to mention today is Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry by Leah Garces. Often, books pertaining to the food industry point out problems and offer information about why we should be concerned but offer little in the way of workable solutions. Here, the problems of the chicken industry are made clear as are some positive wins in improving standards. Much of the book focuses on broilers or chickens grown for meat. Consumers became aware of the suffering and disease caused by the crowded, filthy conditions in which the birds are raised, but there was a lack of understanding of the genetics of the birds and how they were bred to grow too big too quickly. As a result of the tireless work of animal advocates, some of the largest companies controlling chicken farming are beginning to make changes to how the birds are housed and bred. The next step is to improve on the agriculture processes involved in growing feed for all those chickens. In April 2018, Tyson agreed to one of “the largest ever sustainable grain commitments for a US protein company.” They set a two-million-acre land-stewardship target for grains raised for chicken feed. One thing we all can do to improve conditions for animals raised for food and reduce climate pollution caused by animal agriculture is to cut back our intake of meat and support small-scale farms producing pasture-raised meats. The book mentions: “a drop in consumption of beef, pork, chicken, and milk contributed the most to the reduction of greenhouse gases over the period (2005-2014).” By finding ways to effectively communicate concerns and by having vocal consumer backing for such concerns, advocates and food policy organizations have convinced large companies to make improvements. Some positive steps have been taken, but there’s still more to do and every reason to keep up the good work in 2020.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Spiced Apple Strudel

When I was deciding on the layout of my new kitchen, I wanted a big island in the middle of the room. I didn’t want a cooktop or a sink or different levels on this island. I wanted the biggest, flat work surface I could fit. I wanted space for racks of cooling cookies, space for rolling out long sheets of fresh pasta, and space to someday stretch out a big piece of dough for strudel. I finally got around to trying my hand at that last item on the list. I received a review copy of Cathy Barrow’s latest book When Pies Fly: Handmade Pastries from Strudels to Stromboli, Empanadas to Knishes. And, when I saw the recipe for Spiced Apple Strudel, I knew that was the first thing I had to make. I’ve had lots of fun baking from her previous book, Pie Squared, and this new one has even more ways to enjoy pie. In the new book, there are rustic galettes, hand pies, little snack-size pies, tarts, empanadas, kolaches, knishes, and more. All of the above are presented with both sweet and savory options. It’s clear that Cathy Barrow has spent a lot of time working on pies given the details included throughout the book. First, all the options and flavors are inspired. The recipes for types of dough and how to use them are thoughtful. And, the fillings are created to work well specifically with the type of pastry being made for the recipe. She writes in the introduction: “a filling’s flavor can be overwhelmed by the richness of the pastry. I found that the smaller the pies became, the more I had to make the fillings dynamic to deliver big taste.” So, following these instructions is going to result in delicious pies, but they also lead you to new possibilities with whatever ingredients you may have on hand. For instance, the Hot Crab Dip Galette got me thinking about an artichoke and spinach dip galette. The Mocha Cream Hand Pies look like the best pop-tarts ever made. The Sunday Lox and Schmear Tart would be amazing for a brunch party. Crispy Samosa Cigars are filled and rolled spring roll wrappers that are fried and served with cilantro chutney. Now, I was determined to attempt the strudel, but I was worried about the outcome since this was my first go at it. I decided on a back-up plan just in case. If my strudel dough didn’t stretch, or if it all fell apart as I tried to roll it, or if it just didn’t look good from any angle, I was going to make the Antipasto Stromboli for this post. The stromboli is made with homemade puff pastry, and it’s filled with all the delicious things that might appear on an antipasto platter. I was almost sad when I didn’t need to resort to the back-up plan. But, I’ll circle back to that recipe another time. 

Planning ahead is required since making the strudel dough requires a bit of extended kneading, and then it needs to rest in the refrigerator overnight. At the beginning of the Strudel, Puff, and Phyllo chapter, there’s a detailed introduction to working with strudel dough and how to stretch it complete with photos. The apple filling is classic, but there are also some lovely savory options including a Kale, Mushroom, and Gruyere Strudel. For the apple version, butter was melted, and bread crumbs were added and toasted. Sliced almonds were also toasted and added to the bread crumbs. A lemon was juiced into a large bowl, and apples were thinly sliced and tossed with the lemon juice. Sugar, rum, cinnamon, and nutmeg were added to the apples, and the mixture was tossed to combine. The dough was coming to room temperature while the filling was prepped. To make the dough, you stir together flour and salt in a bowl. Oil is added and stirred in with a fork, and then water is slowly added while stirring. Next, you mix with your hands until the dough begins to feel smooth. The dough is then transferred to a lightly floured surface and kneaded for 10 minutes. Yes, keep kneading for all of 10 minutes before letting the dough rest for 30 minutes. After resting at room temperature, the dough is sealed in an airtight container and refrigerated overnight. Then, the fun of stretching begins. You’ll need a linen or cotton cloth that’s at least 24 inches by 28 inches. The cloth should be placed flat on a work surface and generously floured. The strudel dough should be removed from the refrigerator one hour before using it. When it’s at room temperature, the dough is flattened and floured. Using a rolling pin, it’s rolled out to about 10 inches square. Then, you lift the dough with fists under it, spinning a bit like stretching dough for pizza, and let the weight of the dough stretch itself. You continue to lift and stretch in all directions until the dough is very thin and measures 20 inches by 24 inches. The bread crumb mixture was spread across the stretched dough. Next, the apple slices were lifted from the bowl while leaving the liquid behind, and the slices were placed along one short edge in a log shape. The dough was then lifted and rolled while using the cloth. The sides of the dough were tucked in, and the shape was kept as tight as possible. The strudel was transferred to a baking sheet with the cloth, and the cloth was removed. The top and sides were brushed with melted butter before baking. Last, the liquid from the apples was reduced to form a syrup that was served with the strudel. 

Stretching the dough was a fun challenge. Of course, there were a few rips and tears. But, it was so much more successful than I worried it might be. Once the strudel is rolled and baked, none of those tears are visible. The layers bake into crisp, flaky deliciousness. And, that reduced apple syrup was the best sauce to accompany it. I’ve checked off one more kitchen adventure from my to-try list, and I’m ready for the next one. 

Spiced Apple Strudel 
Recipes reprinted with publisher’s permission from When Pies Fly: Handmade Pastries from Strudels to Stromboli, Empanadas to Knishes

Apple strudel is a heavenly pastry to serve to a crowd. It smells like autumn should. Once the sugar hits the apples, they will begin to get juicy, which makes strudeling a little more challenging, so work quickly and with purpose. Feel free to omit the nuts, or substitute pecans or walnuts, according to your particular tastes. I like this just as much with firm, slightly underripe pears as I do with apples. Or try substituting quince for some or all of the apples for a heavenly, slightly pink delight. heavenly, slightly pink delight. 

1 recipe Pulled Dough for Strudel 
4 tablespoons (55 g) unsalted butter 
1⁄2 cup (60 g) dry bread crumbs 
1⁄2 cup (43 g) sliced or slivered almonds 
Juice of 1 lemon 
1 1⁄2 pounds (680 g) firm apples like Granny Smith, Pink Lady, or Pink Pearl 
3⁄4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar 
3 tablespoons (45 ml) spiced dark rum 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
3 tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter, melted 
Powdered sugar for decorating 

Bring the strudel dough to room temperature for 1 hour before stretching, keeping it wrapped until ready to use so it will not dry out. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment. 

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the bread crumbs, stir well to coat with the butter, and toast until scented and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the bread crumbs into a small bowl and wipe out the pan. Place the almonds in the pan, shaking and turning them over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Stir the almonds into the bread crumbs. 

Juice the lemon into a large bowl. Peel the apples, slice in half, and core (I use a melon baller); then slice into half-moons no more than 1/8 inch thick. Add the apple slices to the bowl and gently stir around in the lemon juice so they will not brown. Add only 1⁄2 cup of the sugar, the rum, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the apples and gently stir together. I use my hands. 

Prepare the work surface and stretch the strudel dough to 20 by 24 inches, until it’s possible to “read a newspaper through it” or some close approximation of that idea. The whole process doesn’t take long at all, just 5 minutes or so, once you’ve done it a few times. 

Pat the stretched dough into shape and then, using scissors or your fingertips, tear or cut away the thick edges and discard. 

Spread the bread crumb mixture generously over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over the bread crumbs. Transfer the apple filling to the dough, using your hands and leaving any liquid behind in the bowl. Shape the filling into a log about 2 inches from the shorter edge. 

Begin rolling by lifting and pulling the bare 2-inch edge of the dough over the apple log. Tuck in the sides and, using the strudel cloth, lift and roll the strudel into a right log with the thin layers of strudel dough encasing the filing. The goal is to make this log firm and tight, not loose and sloppy. 

Use the cloth to transfer the strudel to a prepared baking sheet, seam side down. 

Brush the top and sides of the strudel with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, shower with powdered sugar, and slice and serve. 

If serving later, reheat for a few minutes in a 350 degree F oven. 

Pulled Dough for Strudel 
Strudel dough is not rolled out with a pin, but stretched. Because of this, the dough needs to be very elastic, requiring well-developed gluten, which means active, extensive kneading. Kneading can be tiresome, so do as generations of Germans, Austrians, and Alsatians hav done, and slap the dough on the counter with vigor instead. Just lift it up and slap it down, turn, fold, and do it again. And again. In fact, most classic strudel dough recipes include the direction to lift and slap the dough on the counter 100 or more times. It’s a great way to get out that daily grr, and a good workout for the arms. But if you aren’t feeling the slapping, you can knead in the usual way, folding and pushing the dough away from you, and then turning it 90 degrees and continuing the fold and push and turn action for 10 minutes. Alternatively, put the organized dough ball in the stand mixer with the dough hook, and let the machine do the work for 10 full minutes. I like the dough slapping; it feels more authentic. 

1 1⁄4 cups (150 g) all-purpose flour 
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt 
3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil 
1⁄3 cup (80 ml) cool water 

In a wide bowl, using a table fork, stir together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil. Gather the flour into the oil with the fork. Pour in the water slowly, continuing to use the fork to incorporate the flour, until the dough is shaggy and wet. It will look impossible and you will be unhappy with me, but please persist. 

Let go of the fork, lightly flour your hands, and work inside the bowl to gather the dough (which, admittedly, is more like batter). Just lift and turn, fold and lift, and unbelievably the dough will begin to feel silky and smooth and come together after 5 minutes or so. It’s a miracle. 

Move the dough ball onto a very lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes; or slap it vigorously 100 times (see headnote); or place the dough ball in the stand mixer and, with the dough hook in place, let the mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes. 

Lightly coat the inside of a ziptop bag with cooking spray and place the dough in the bag. After a 30-minute rest on the counter, seal the bag and refrigerate overnight before stretching the dough. 

Strudel dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and cannot be successfully frozen.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 
Blogging tips