Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Black Bean-Chipotle Falafel Mini Burgers

Beans seem to be having their heyday as they’ve been flying off the shelves, and everyone who had never tried Rancho Gordo before is now placing orders. That has made it good timing for a new a cookbook devoted to beans. I was delighted to receive a review copy of Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein by Joe Yonan. As someone who has always been a fan of beans, I think it’s great there are so many new bean enthusiasts even though it’s made availability a little more challenging right now. My hope is that everyone continues to enjoy them, and supply and variety increase to meet demand. This new book offers a wide array of dishes to use just about every type of bean there is. There are snacks, salads, soups, handhelds, main dishes, and even drinks and desserts. You can choose to cook your own or open a can or two, and there’s a list of what beans are similar and can be substituted for each other. Yonan presents the recipes as entirely plant-based, but ingredient options include dairy-based butter and cheese. I’ve never met a bean dip or spread I didn’t like, so I loved seeing options like Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Dip and Garlicky Gigante Bean Spread in addition to several takes on hummus. The salads all look fresh and hearty at the same time. The Charred Zucchini, Corn, and Ayocote Bean Salad seems perfect for summer. And, I can’t wait to get my hands on some sungold cherry tomatoes for a weeknight meal of Quick Sungold Tomatoes, Chickpea, and Greens Curry. The Chickpea and Quinoa Chorizo sounds like something I’d like to have in my refrigerator at all times for use in tacos, especially breakfast tacos, and grain bowls. The Cannellini Cannelloni is fun to say and must be delicious to eat with a creamy bean filling and tomato sauce. The desserts involve sweetened beans and bean purees in inventive combinations and aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas, stands in for eggs. I have my eye on a cocktail made with aquafaba instead of egg white for a foamy top. As soon as I open another can of chickpeas, I’m saving the liquid for the Salty Margarita Sour. First, I wanted to try a new-to-me technique for a bean burger. Rather than making a burger from cooked beans, these were made like falafel with soaked but not cooked beans. It makes all the difference in texture. 

As with falafel, beans, black beans in this case, were soaked overnight. The next day, the drained beans were added to the food processor with chopped onion, garlic, salt, and chipotle and pulsed. Mashed sweet potato was added to the mixture. In the book, the mixture is made into regular-size burgers, but I made mini burgers instead. They were placed on a baking sheet and chilled for a couple of hours before frying. I doctored some store-bought mayonnaise with chopped cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and salt and pepper, and gathered the other toppings including sliced pickled jalapeno, sliced tomato, and chopped lettuce. I served the mini burgers bunless with the toppings on the side. 

The soaked-but-not-cooked-beans concept definitely produces a good result and avoids mushiness. The falafel burgers were crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. Of course, chipotle always adds great flavor too. Next time, I’ll make them regular-size and maybe even use buns. And, there will definitely be a next time for these.

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Hummingbird Cake

Early February seems like a lifetime ago, but that was when I came upon the recipe for this hummingbird cake. I had cut the page from Living magazine years ago and stored it in my magazine recipe files. When I saw this cake again, I decided at that moment that it would be my birthday cake this year. Little did I know that when my birthday arrived in late March, grocery shopping would be a completely different situation than what we all usually experience. I had no idea that I would be lucky to procure a fresh pineapple, canned pineapple, confectioners’ sugar, and even flour. This month, things seem to be settling a bit in availability of groceries. Although, some items are still either difficult to get or hit or miss at best. I am thankful that once upon a time, I made homemade confectioners’ sugar from granulated sugar in the blender just to see what I thought of the result. The result was great. It can be done if I find myself in need of it when there is none at the store. Recently, I’ve made homemade cold-brew coffee and oat milk, and now I wonder why I wasn’t always making those things myself. Both are quick, easy, and involve a lot less packaging when made at home. Scarcity at the stores brought about a positive outcome in those cases. But for this cake, getting all the ingredients wasn’t a sure thing. It felt like winning a prize to finally have everything I needed collected and ready for baking. The photo of this cake in the magazine is one of those food images that has been stuck in my memory since first seeing it. I knew that someday I would attempt the oven-dried pineapple flowers that decorate the top. Surprisingly, they were easier than expected, and I’m glad I went ahead with the project. My birthday this year was a necessarily quiet, little celebration at home, but there was cake! 

I made the pineapple flowers a couple of days in advance. You begin by cutting away the pineapple peel and cutting out the eyes all around. Then, the pineapple was turned on its side and sliced as thinly as possible. The slices were placed on baking sheets and dried in a 225 degree F oven for an hour or a bit longer. After 30 minutes, the slices were flipped, and the baking sheets were rotated. The dried slices can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. The cake itself is similar to my favorite carrot cake recipe, but there was mashed banana instead of grated carrots. The batter also included cinnamon, crushed pineapple, chopped pecans, and unsweetened shredded coconut. I was able to get canned pineapple chunks but not crushed pineapple. So, I chopped up the chunks until they were similar in size to crushed. The frosting was a simple cream cheese frosting with just vanilla for flavor. I actually only made half the amount of frosting called for in the recipe, and it was plenty for my taste. The best part, of course, was setting the pineapple flowers on top. 

As a bonus, my kitchen smelled amazing while the pineapple flowers dried in the oven. And, any extras are delicious with yogurt for breakfast. While this year won’t be remembered as my favorite birthday given the circumstances, this cake might be my favorite birthday cake ever. I hope you’re finding everything you need or overcoming grocery shopping challenges however you can, and I hope you’re still celebrating every occasion in whatever ways are possible.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Rye Loaf with Currants

My memory is fuzzy on when I became a fan of Poilane. I remember seeing the shop in Paris on a TV show and immediately becoming enamored with the breads and the bakery’s process, but I don’t recall what show that was or when I saw it. I’ve read a lot about this famous bakery over the years, and I recently read more in Apollonia Poilane’s own words. I received a review copy of her new book, Poilane: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery. She writes about her grandfather who opened the bakery in 1932 and began making the large sourdough loaves, how her father took the reins in the 1970s and expanded capacity by building La Manufacture Poilane outside of Paris, and the tragic loss of both of her parents in 2002 when she found herself in charge of the business. At the age of eighteen, she was running Poilane while attending college at Harvard. The book explains the changes the bakery has made from one generation to the next and the things that have never changed. The starter is maintained the same way it always has been, the bakers know by feel when the dough is mixed correctly and when it has risen enough, and the ovens are wood-fired as they always have been. The book includes all the information for creating and maintaining a starter just as they do and for baking sourdough loaves, and there are lots of other recipes too. There are other breads like the Black Pepper Pain de Mie and the Rye Loaf with Currants shown here. There are recipes for using bread including one for toast. Of course, Apollonia Poilane has a preferred way of making toast! And, she shares it. She pairs two pieces of bread and toasts them in one toaster slot so one side stays untoasted for texture variation. There are also croissants and brioche and jams for topping them all. One chapter is for main dishes that include bread or croutons or breadcrumbs, and the Savory Pain Perdu topped with chopped tomatoes looks like a great summer lunch. It was interesting to learn more about the Punitions. Those are the little butter cookies left in baskets for customers to nibble while waiting and are also sold by the box. In the bakery, they range in color from just golden to darker brown so each person can choose his/her preference. A generous, fellow food blogger once sent me a box of these cookies from Poilane as a gift. In the box, they were all light golden, and I didn’t know they’re usually intentionally baked to varying degrees of doneness. The recipes also include tarts, quick breads, crepes, and even an oat milk used in a rice pudding that I have to try. But first, let’s get back to the Rye Loaf with Currants. 

This loaf is made with some sourdough starter in addition to commercial yeast. The publisher was not able to provide the recipe and instructions for the sourdough starter, but I can tell you that my starter that I’ve used for ages and maintain at 100% hydration worked fine here. To begin, the currants were soaked in hot water before being strained while reserving that soaking liquid. The starter was mixed with rye flour, and I was fortunate to get some locally-milled rye flour from Barton Springs Mill. Yeast was added, and some of the currant soaking liquid was mixed in a separate bowl with salt before it was added to the flour mixture. The dough was shaped into a ball and left to rest before being shaped again and left to rise. After rising, it went into a loaf pan to proof for about two hours. Just before baking, the top of the loaf was brushed with the remaining currant soaking liquid. 

This is a delightfully easy bread to make once the timing is planned. The slices are delicious toasted and topped with butter, and all those currants make it taste like a sweet treat. I was surprised to read that Apollonia became interested in cornbread while living in the US and went on to develop a Corn-Flour Bread with hazelnuts that’s gluten-free and vegan with corn sourced from the Basque region. I’m looking forward to trying a Texas version of this with local cornmeal and pecans. I think she’d approve. 

Rye Loaf with Currants 
Recipe excerpted from Poilane Copyright 2019 by Apollonia Poilane. Photography Copyright 2019 by Philippe Vaures Santamaria. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

Makes one 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cM) loaf 

My father regularly ran home from the bakery before we went to school to drop off a small version of this loaf for our morning snack. He would cut it in half, add a generous pat of butter, and pack it for us to enjoy in his car. Today I still love to have a few slices—buttered or not—for breakfast or as a midmorning treat. We make this in metal loaf pans, but you can also shape it freeform. 

1 1/2 cups (240 g) dried currants 
2 1/2 cups (595 ml) hot water 
230 g (1 1/4 cups) starter  
435 g (3 cups plus 2 tablespoons) rye flour 
3/4 teaspoon (2 g) active dry yeast 
1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) fine sea salt 
Neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower seed, for the pan 

Put the currants in a medium bowl, add the hot water, and let soak for 10 minutes. 

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and drain the currants; reserve the soaking liquid. Pat the currants dry with a paper towel and reserve. 

Put the starter in a large bowl. Add the rye flour and yeast. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) of the reserved soaking liquid (save the rest for brushing the loaf) and the salt, stir to dissolve the salt, and add to the flour mixture, along with the currants. With wet hands, mix and knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together in a smooth, homogeneous mass. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a ball. Return it to the bowl and let rest for 15 minutes. 

Reshape the dough into a round, return to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours. Brush a 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm)pan with oil. Turn the dough out and, using wet hands to prevent sticking, shape it into a 9-by-4-inch (23-by-10-cm) log. Transfer to the oiled pan. 

Brush a piece of plastic wrap with oil, drape it over the loaf, and let it rise in a warm (72°F to 77°F/22°C to 25°C), draft-free place until it rises about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) above the sides of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Meanwhile, about 25 minutes before baking, position a rack in the lower third and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). 

Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the loaf with the reserved currant-soaking liquid. Bake until the loaf is golden and firm, 45 to 50 minutes; if you carefully remove it from the pan, it should feel hollow when you knock on it. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. 

Remove the loaf from the pan, return to the rack, and let cool completely before slicing. Stored in a paper bag or wrapped in linen at room temperature, the loaf will keep for up to 1 week. 

NOTE: As with our sourdough, you will either need to have the starter on hand or plan ahead to make it, which takes a couple of days.

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