A Little Weekend Food Porn

While my third attempt at macadamia nut cream pie chills in the refrigerator, I thought I’d share a few pictures of other things I’ve recently cooked.

P1070343

In Hong Kong, my host Dr. Chris prepared a sesame seed encrusted salmon served on top of cold soba noodles for his dinner party.  The next day I asked if he would send the recipe to me and he hasn’t yet got around to it.  However, since I was his sous chef, I was able to recreate the dish pretty closely.  The secret is that the skin side of the salmon is given an egg white and soy sauce wash so the seeds adhere and form a nice crisp crust.  You can see the original here.

P1070354

I also did some baking.  Leftover white bread, which Tawn had bought while I was in Hong Kong and subsequently forgotten in the refrigerator, was reconstituted as a bread and raisin pudding.  Could have used some more egg, but was still quite tasty.  A loaf of half-rye bread is in the back, along with a few dozen oatmeal raisin cookies.  I brought those along for a dinner with friends at Soul Food Mahanakorn (since they haven’t much on their dessert menu) and then gave the remainder of them to the restaurant staff.  Good way to make friends!

Have a nice Saturday.  I’ll let you know how the pie turns out.

 

Macadamia Nut Cream Pie – Attempt 2

Please feel some sympathy for my tough plight.  My attempts to find the macadamia nut cream pie of my childhood is forcing me to bake and eat pie after pie after pie.  Oh, the horror!  Yes, the quest continues and this past weekend I made another MNCP (let’s abbreviate, shall we?) using a recipe that Aaron graciously sought out from his sister.

Just looking at the recipe, it struck me as being pretty close to what I had in mind.  The custard filling has cornstarch to thicken it and the ground nuts are added at the end of the process, so they aren’t cooked too much.  Macadamia nuts seem to lose their flavor when cooked.  The one thing I wanted to change was the shape.  Her recipe is made with a shortbread crust in a 9-inch square baking dish but I wanted to use a traditional pastry crust in a pie plate.  Other than that, though, I followed the recipe religiously.

P1060981

The ingredients are simple: milk, sugar, corn starch, pinch of salt, eggs, vanilla, macadamia nuts, and a pre-baked pie crust.

P1060977

I have a lot of trouble with pie crusts and need to practice more.  This one shrunk on me something fierce.  Too much water, I think.  Maybe time for a food processor.  (Wishful thinking with my lack of counter space.)

P1060993

The larger portion of the milk and sugar are heated until near-boiling.  The smaller portion of milk along with the eggs and corn starch are mixed together.  Then you add a bit of the hot milk-sugar mixture into the milk-egg mixture to warm it up.  This is called tempering.  Then you pour the milk-egg mixture into the milk-sugar mixture, cooking for another five minutes or so until it thickens.  Add the vanilla (there was too much at two teaspoons – tasted too vanilla-y) and the chopped nuts.  It is then added to the pie crust and allowed to set in the fridge for at least six hours.

P1070015

Looks pretty, despite my lame decoration with whipped cream.  Maybe I should buy a more decorative tip for my pastry bag?  But the real question is, how did it turn out?  A short video answers that question:

P1070023

In short, good taste but still not set.  Thinking this through, I have a theory about the problem.  I think it is the eggs.  The eggs here look smaller than the ones in the US.  It that is the case, then the recipe doesn’t have enough of the protein from the eggs to help give it structure.  The two egg recipe probably could use a third egg.  Anyone want to validate that theory or am I going to have to cook  yet another pie and suffer through the experience of eating it, just to test the theory? 

Yeah, woe is me, right?

 

Macadamia Nut Cream Pie

The final days of September were crazy busy for me so I had to take a few days off from posting.  Nonetheless, September was a productive blogging month for me.  I managed to post 25 times, my busiest month since April.  And I feel good about the quality, not just the quantity.  There was a lot I wanted to share, from Tawn’s 30th birthday to old time-exposure photos, with lots of lemon, lavender, and dates thrown in!

000010-2
Taro plants growing on Kaua’i – circa 1986

For my first entry in October, I’d like to share my adventures trying to make macadamia nut cream pie, which I prepared for a small dinner party last Saturday.  This pie holds a special place in my childhood memories.  I can’t vouch for how accurate or authentic the memory is, though.  As a child in an airline family (my father worked for United) we had the opportunity to vacation in Hawai’i several times while I was growing up.  One of the treats we would enjoy while in the islands was macadamia nut cream pie.  One year in particular, we had an especially good pie from one of the local bakeries and so macadamia nut cream pie entered the mythology of my childhood.

Macadamias are also grown here in Thailand and are relatively inexpensive – a 500 g (about one pound) bag of unsalted whole nuts is available for about $12.  Recently, I started thinking again about macadamia nut cream pie and decided it would be fun to make.

Searching for recipes, almost all of them seemed to be based on the same recipe from University of Hawai’i.  Something about the way the recipe was written just didn’t seem right to me.  Perhaps not clear enough, perhaps the proportions seemed off.  I don’t know – but I had a bad feeling from the start.

Sure enough, the first attempt on Friday night didn’t work out.  Macadamia nut cream pie is basically a custard filling chilled in a pre-baked pie crust.  The custard, though, never came together and thickened.  By the time I cleaned the kitchen at midnight, all I had was a finished pie crust and a bowl of sweet, macadamia-flavored egg soup.

P1060700

Saturday morning I pulled out Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and perused the recipes.  A crème pâtissière – a basic pastry cream – sounded like a good start because one of the options included stirring in some ground almonds to flavor it.  Surely I could substitute ground macadamias?  And as I read some of the other variations, a crème saint-honoré – a crème pâtissière with meringue (whipped egg whites) folded in – sounded like it would make a very nice, light and creamy filling for my pie.

Since I hadn’t made a cooking video in quite a while, my trusty cameraman Tawn set about filming me.  Here are the results.  Let me apologize right now for my repeated mispronunciation of “crème pâtissière”, which I pronounced as “crème pâtisserie”.  My bad.  Je suis très désolé.

P1060693

The pie after being filled.  I had quite a bit of extra filling, so I ended up filling two martini glasses, too.

P1060698

Those were kind of difficult to store in the refrigerator.  There you go – a chance to see what is in my fridge.  Maybe that is a future blog series?  “Refrigerators of Xanga!”

P1060723

The finished product once plated.  What I learned is this: while the filling is very tasty, a crème saint-honoré does not have the structure or stiffness to stand firmly on its own.  Once sliced, it spilled forth from the pastry shell.  Quelle domage!  But it was very tasty and my guests, even those without major sweet teeth, cleaned their plates. 

Next time, I may try just the crème pâtissière.  Or, better yet, one of my guests who lived in Hawai’i for fifteen years asked an auntie of his to share her recipe, which turns out to be from Sam Choy’s cookbook.  Reading it, it sounds much more like what I’m looking for.  I guess this calls for a second attempt.  Any volunteers to taste the results?

P1060762

As for the filling in the martini glass, that actually made for a very pretty follow-up dessert the next few days, dressed up with a dollop of whipped cream and some bittersweet chocolate shavings.

P1060772

The chef didn’t seem too disappointed with the outcome!  I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

 

Lavender Lemon Buttermilk Scones

This is turning into some sort of an Iron Chef thing where I get inspired by a certain ingredient or combination of ingredients and return to them day after day.  In this case, I had pulled the lavender from the back of the cupboard and resolved that I had better start using it before it went bad, combined with a good price on lemons at the Gourmet Market at Emporium.  Continuing on the theme, I decided to try a recipe for Lavender and Lemon Buttermilk Scones.

Now, buttermilk biscuits are one of my specialties, one of the few recipes that I can make (and actually follow the recipe!) from memory and that I can turn out consistently, time and time again.  Scones and biscuits are relatives and the biscuits I make reminded a former British roommate of mine of scones, so I figure I can move from one to the other pretty easily.

The recipe I used was from the EatLocal blog on WordPress, but like many similar versions of the recipe I found online, this one was credited as being adapted from Leslie Mackie’s “completely fabulous” Macrina Bakery Cookbook, so that’s maybe where credit is really due.

Lemon Lavender Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp dried lavender, divided use
4 tbsp chilled butter
½ cup nonfat yogurt
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Heat oven to 400°F.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and 1½ tsp of lavender.

Cut butter into pieces and cut into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, or crumble in with your fingers.  Separately, whisk together yogurt and buttermilk. Combine wet and dry ingredients to form a dough that will be wet and sticky.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times, then shape into a square about 1′ thick. Using a kitchen knife, cut the dough into eight triangles.  (As you can see, I used a biscuit cutter for a round shape.)

Transfer to an oiled baking sheet (I just used parchment paper instead of oiling and brushed the tops of the scones with cream) and bake 20 minutes, or until scones are golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet. Meanwhile, dissolve powdered sugar in lemon juice and mix in ½ tsp lavender, then drizzle over scones.

I wasn’t terribly patient – we were hungry and had a condominium juristic meeting to attend – so I put the sugar-lemon glaze on while the scones were warm, so instead of glazing it just absorbed.  Still, they tasted really good.  The tops also cracked, which leads me to believe I should have turned the oven down a little.  My oven is a convection and I think you’re generally supposed to cook at a slightly lower temperature but I don’t always heed this advice.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy these scones as you begin your weekend!

Sunday Date Brunch

This is going to be the final word on dates for the time being.  I invited two couples, Doug and Bee and Ken and Chai, over for Sunday brunch.  Since I had been on such a roll this week with date-themed recipes, it became something like an Iron Chef challenge.  This meal’s challenge ingredient: dates.  In all humility, it turned out pretty darn good.  Let me share the menu with you.

P1060366

An amuse bouche of sedai dates stuffed with a little French chèvre (soft goat cheese) and a sliver of almond.  What a tasty combination!  The orange rind, which I should have salted, was more for presentation than flavor.  Had it been salted, I think it would have been a nice contrast and would have really stimulated the appetite.

P1060374

Two of our four guests – Doug and Bee.  Doug is a fellow American who lives in our neighborhood.  Credit goes to Tawn for the elegantly understated table setting.

P1060360

Two types of flatbreads.  Both were brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.  The one of the left has freshly chopped rosemary.  The one of the right has za’atar, a Middle Easter spice mixture that contains oregano, thyme, basil, savory, and sesame seeds.

P1060357

Greek style salad with fresh romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives and Feta cheese.  Served with a homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing.  (The dressing recipe is here)

P1060371

The main course was the Moroccan style braised chicken.  This picture doesn’t quite flatter the dish, which I thought was the standout of the meal.  Wednesday’s Moroccan Pork Chop dinner (my blog entry about it and the original recipe I followed) was the starting point.  Based on what I learned from that recipe, I repurposed it for chicken.  Zakiah suggested a recipe for tamarind-date sauce (thank you – what a great idea!) and I extrapolated from that and braised the chicken instead of just pan frying it. 

The chicken was brined for four hours in a mixture of buttermilk, salt, and cayenne pepper.  While it was brining, I created a tamarind-date sauce.  This was a learning experience as I haven’t worked with tamarind paste before.

Tamarind paste comes from the flesh of the ripe fruit of the tropical Tamarind tree.  The flesh is very sour with just a hint of sweetness.  Mashing the paste in a little warm water, you can extract a thick liquid with which you cook.  A little goes a long way!  To make the sauce, I sauteed an onion with the same spices I used for the chicken.  Once the onion was soft I blended it with chopped dates and the tamarind water.  Then I thinned this mixture with broth and cooked it down for a few minutes.

While the sauce reduced, I rinsed, patted dry, and dredged the chicken pieces with a spice mixture, then pan fried them a few pieces at a time.  Once all the pieces had formed a nice crust, I returned them to the pot and added the tamarind-date sauce, covered the pot and cooked for an hour at low heat until the chicken was tender and cooked through.  The nice thing about this recipe was that it could be prepared the day before then reheated.  Tender, flavorful, and convenient.

P1060367

To accompany the chicken, I made another batch of the Moroccan style rice.  (Recipe I started with but I modified it a lot as I don’t cook with a microwave.)  I was out of apricots so used dates, raisins, and dried mango to accompany the rice.  Interestingly, this batch turned out much softer and mushier than the one I made Wednesday.  I used the same type of rice and proportion of rice to liquid as before, but the rice was from a new bag.  All I can figure is that this bag of rice was younger and didn’t need as much liquid.  Still, plenty tasty!

P1060375

For dessert, we has two items.  The first was a date nute bread (recipe) from Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa series of cookbooks.  This is a quick bread similar to banana bread or zucchini bread.  I think I overcooked it a little as it was dry.  Tawn, however, likes his food drier than I do, so he thought it was perfect!  Toasted, I think it would make no difference.  On the side is a tub of butter whipped with a little honey and orange zest.

P1060381

The final dish was a Greek Yoghurt Panna Cotta with dried apricots reconstituted in a white wine and honey sauce.  (Recipe) This turned out very nice as the panna cotta is not overly sweet and has a nice tanginess from the yoghurt.  Of course, by this point we were stuffed, and smaller servings would have been fine!

All in all, the brunch was a success.  Pleasant company and conversation, most importantly, and the food turned out nicely, too!

Miso Glazed Fish Fillet and Apple Cobbler

When trying to think of what to make for a meal, I often turn to cookbooks.  Not so much for the recipes themselves – I have a habit of not following those very closely – but for an idea, an inspiration of something that sounds good and fits the constraints of time, money, and interest.  So it was that Thursday afternoon I was flipping through Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home which Tawn had left out. 

“Menu 8: Tofu and Scallions in Mushroom Broth; Miso-Glazed Fish Fillets; Seasame Brown Rice and Cabbage; and Caramelized Persimmons.”

Two words from that over-ambitious menu leapt off the page: Miso-Glazed.

The concept was simple enough: prepare a glaze made of just four ingredients: mirin (Japanese sweet rice cooking wine) or, not having that, sake; rice wine vinegar; miso paste; and sugar.  I keep miso paste in the fridge because it lasts pretty much forever and is a handy flavor enhancer.  Sake and rice wine vinegar are nice items to keep in the cupboard.  And instead of sugar, some maple syrup would add a nice touch.

Salmon would have been a fantastic choice of fish, too, but Martha suggested black cod.  I went with her suggestion, taking a single good sized fillet, placing it on a baking sheet.  To make clean-up easy, I lined the baking sheet with some parchment paper and lightly oiled it so the fish wouldn’t stick.  Brush a generous coating of miso glaze on the fish and then put it under the broiler for about 6-8 minute, or until the top is nicely browned and the fish is opaque throughout.

P1050868

I served the fish on top of some mashed potatoes with a chopped salad on the side.  I make my mashed potatoes with butter, an ingredient that some people like to demonize but I think a little butter will go a long way to making your potatoes nice.  I also added some leftover sour cream and some chopped fresh rosemary to give it a tang and a nice piney aroma.

P1050878

For dessert, an apple cobbler.  I used pink lady apples, chopped small with the skin still on.  Cooked them in a saucepan for a few minutes with a little bit of sugar, a little bit of water, a little bit of corn starch, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Cook until starting to soften and add a little more water if necessary in order to get a bit of a not-too-thick sauce with the apples.

Put the apples into an over-proof dish.  I topped it with a homemade sweet biscuit dough, similar to what I use for shortcake.  Flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and a little sugar.  Cut in some vegetable shortning (Crisco) to the size of peas, and then add either buttermilk (or, if you don’t have that, milk) and stir just until combined.  Put the dough on the top of the fruit leaving a few openings for steam to escape.  I put a few slices of butter on top of that and sprinkled on some raw sugar for a nice visual.  Bake in a 350 F oven for about 25 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden.  Serve once cooled to room temperature with ice cream, whipped cream, or just a little pour of fresh cream.  Key word here: cream.

 

Shanghai Style Minced Meat with Pinenuts in Sesame Pockets

One of my favorite places to find recipes is Joanne Choi’s Week of Menus website.  That’s where I found a nice recipe for Minced Chicken with Pinenuts served with Shao Bing, something like a Chinese sesame pita bread.  The chicken is prepared in a Shanghainese style with ginger, oyster sauce, and water chestnuts.  The Shao Bing, something that you can buy ready-to-bake in the US, was an unfamiliar bread I would have to make from scratch since I am here in Thailand.

The Shao Bing was a bit of a mystery.  Examples of it on the internet varied both in size, shape, and even technique.  I pulled three different recipes from presumably reputable sources, compared them, and decided to try the one from Ming Tsai on the Food Network.  After all, he’s Ming Tsai, so how could I go wrong?

P1050768

The ingredients are pretty basic: vegetable oil, flour, yeast, baking powder, water, sugar, sesame seeds, and salt and white pepper.

P1050777

You basically make three components to the dough: the first is a roux, a mixture of equal parts oil and flour, heated until the mixture thickens a bit.  The second is a sponge, a relatively wet mixture of flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder, and warm water, which is allowed to sit and begin to rise.  The third is a dry dough, a combination of just water and flour.

P1050781

After letting the sponge rise and the dough rest, you combine them and knead until completely integrated.  After another rest, you roll the dough out to about 1/16-1/8th of an inch.  The oil-flour roux is spread on the surface of the dough.  Despite following the recipe carefully, I found the roux was too runny – I’m not sure why this happened but it proved to be problematic.

P1050784

Roll the dough into one-inch thickness, then cut into four-inch lengths.  You can see that the roux was running out the ends.  The subsequent instructions involve sealing the ends, rolling the dough thinner, folding it into thirds, basically creating what amounts to a typical pastry dough with alternating layers of dough and fat.  The instructions for doing this confused me. Take a look:

Place 1 of the rolls seam-side up and seal the end using a small rolling pin (this will prevent the oil paste from escaping). Fold the roll into thirds, so that the seam is covered. Then roll this tripled roll into a flat dough about 5-inches by 2-inches. Fold this piece into thirds. The stack should be about 2 by 3/4 inches thick. Flip the piece over so that the seam and fold are on the bottom. Cover and set aside. Repeat the process for the remaining rolls.

Huh?

P1050785

I did the best I could, but wound up with roux everywhere and too much flour on the dough.  I sprayed one side of the dough with water and pressed it into the sesame seeds.  These were baked in a 350 F oven for about ten minutes on the bottom side, then flipped over for another five minutes.

P1050799

The interior of the resulting Shao Bing looked like this, with distinct layers.  The flavor was too floury and it was difficult to really open them like pita pockets.  Maybe too many layers?  After this meal, I tried cooking a leftover bread in a toaster and spreading it with peanut butter.  Worked out much better then!

P1050787

The second half of the dish was the filling you are meant to stuff into the pockets.  The original recipe calls for chicken but I used a mixture of chicken and pork for more flavor.  Instead of coarsely chopping whole pieces of meat, I used ground meat.  It was marinated in a mixture of garlic, ginger, sake (substituted for Shao Xing wine), and soy sauce.

The other ingredients are a mixture of chopped celery and water chestnuts, pine nuts, and a sauce composed of more Shao Xing wine (or sake), oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

P1050788

The meat is fried, then the celery and water chestnuts are added, then the sauce is added.  Add the pine nuts when the mixture is finished.  That’s all it takes.

P1050796

For the final result, serve the Shao Bing with the minced meat mixture, stuffing it into the bread like you would with a pita.  The dish was tasty, although the Shao Bing was a bit floury.  In absence of the bread, you could actually use lettuce cups, which would be very nice, indeed.

I’ll need to try a different recipe for Shao Bing and see what the results are.  The other two recipes I have for Shao Bing have different ratios of oil to flour for the roux.  This recipe I used was 1:1 and the result was too thin.  Another recipe is 3:2, which would be thinner.  The final recipe, the one I think I will try next time, is 1:4.  Amazing how different they are, no?

 

Mochi Cake

It is late Monday evening and I leave early tomorrow for Los Angeles and then continue on my way to Bangkok via Taipei.  A long travel day.  There are still some more pictures and stories to share from the reunion but those will have to wait.  In the meantime, I’ll share this Mochi Cake recipe (originally from Gourmet Magazine) that Joanne Choi at Week of Menus wrote about recently.

For anyone who doesn’t know, mochi is the glutinous rice that is pounded into a sticky semi-solid and used as an ingredient in several dishes, including various Japanese desserts like daifuku.

Mochi Cake
Gourmet Magazine | May 2005
Makes one 9X13 pan, or 24 squares

1 lb box of mochiko flour (3 cups equivalent)
2 1/2 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 14 oz cans of coconut milk – not lowfat (I used two cans of 13.5 oz)
5 large eggs
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup) melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

P1050170

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9X13 baking pan.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mochiko flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

P1050176

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup (4 cup capacity), beat eggs, then add coconut milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.

P1050174

Carefully pour the wet ingredients over the mochiko flour mixture and whisk until mixture is smooth and uniform in texture.

P1050177

Pour batter into greased 9X13 pan. Carefully smooth out the top. Bake for 90 minutes (yes, 90 minutes!), until top is golden brown and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Allow cake to cool for about 30 minutes on a rack, and then carefully flip it out and cut into 24 squares, or the size of your choice. Can store mochi cake for three days, covered.

P1050210

The texture is really fun – very moist and chewy.  I think it would be excellent topped with some fresh fruit like peaches, strawberries, or mangoes.  It also is quite nice just as a snack cake.  Try it out.

 

As Bangkok Burned, I Baked

In times of fiery stress, we all find different ways to cope.  Nero played his fiddle (supposedly) while I turn to baking.  Truthfully, I started my baking well before the Red Shirt leaders had surrendered and the angry crowd turned into arsonists.  But I knew the army was making their move on the protest site and also knew Tawn and I would be stuck at home for the next few days, so a little bit of preparatory baking seemed wise.

P1030091

The finished products: granola, oatmeal raisin macadamia and oatmeal chocolate chip macadamia cookies, and a loaf of rosemary-olive bread.

 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Based on a recipe for Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries in the May/June 2005 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I omitted the cherries and then divided the batch in two, half with chocolate chips and the other half with raisins.  And instead of pecans I used macadamia nuts.

P1030061 P1030062

6.25 oz all-purpose flour, .75 teaspoon baking powder, .5 teaspoon baking soda, and .5 teaspoon salt, whisked together.  Mix together in a separate bowl 3.5 oz old-fashioned rolled oats, 4 oz nuts (pecans, but I used toasted and chopped macadamias), 5 oz dried and chopped sour cherries, and 4 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate.  I used regular raisins and chocolate chips in place of the cherries and chocolate chunks.  Improvise!

P1030064 P1030068

Cream together 12 tablespoons of soft but still cool butter and 10.5 oz of dark brown sugar.  Once combined, beat in one egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

P1030069 P1030081

From there, add the flour until incorporated but be sure not to over-work.  Finally, add the mixture of oats and add-ins.  Before doing this, I divided my dough between two bowls, adding nuts and chocolate chips to one and nuts and raisins to the other.  But heck, you could combine all three together!

P1030077 P1030080

Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the dough, forming a ball then mashing it slightly.  Cook in a 350 F oven for about 12 minutes, rotating to ensure even baking. Take out of the oven while the centers of the cookies still look a little undercooked.  Let sit on the pan for another five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  The cookies will remain soft and chewy this way, which is how I like my oatmeal cookies.  Cook for a few minutes longer if you prefer them crispy.  As my grandmother used to say, the world would be a boring place if we were all alike.

 

Rosemary Olive No-Knead Bread

I love making no-knead bread.  It turns out every bit as nice as artisanal bread and it fills the house with a wonderful aroma.  Oh, and it is easy because you don’t have to knead it!

I make mine with 20.5 oz of flour, roughly and even split between bread flour and all-purpose flour.  You could substitute whole wheat for about half the flour, but up the yeast a little.  I mix into that a scant 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and .75 teaspoon of yeast.  I stir it thoroughly and also add the chopped leaves from a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.  Dried rosemary does not work here.  Next, add one can of cold beer and stir the dough together.  You may need to add a little extra water, but only enough to pull together a pretty dry and stiff dough.  At this point you can add about a 1/2 cup of chopped olives, preferably kalmatta.

The secret to no-knead bread is time.  I fold the dough over a few times just to make sure there are no dry pockets and then coat it with a little bit of olive oil.  Put it in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, a lid, or aluminum foil.  Then put it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, folding it over once during the time.  This is when all the magic happens.  The dough kneads itself, forming beautiful, elasticky protein strands. 

P1030059

Then, take the dough out of the refrigerator, turn it over on itself another time or two, then place it covered in a cool room for another 8-12 hours until the dough has doubled in size.  Shape the dough into a loaf, deflating gently, and place on a parchment lined pie pan or oval casserole (if you want an oblong shaped loaf).  Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise at warm room temperature for another 2 hours or so until doubled.

Preheat a 500 F oven, preferably with a pizza stone in it to moderate the heat.  For the best effect, preheat a Dutch Oven (with lid) in your oven and, when ready and working very carefully, transfer the parchment paper with the dough into the Dutch Oven.  Spritz a half-dozen times with water and then place the lid on, returning to the oven.  After ten minutes, lower the temperature to 425 F and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until an instant read thermometer measures 210 F in the center of the loaf.  If you don’t have a Dutch Oven just cook it on the breadstone or on a baking sheet.  Will still turn out nicely but probably not as crispy a crust.

P1030072

Use extreme caution when handling the Dutch Oven as it will be very hot.  Lift the finished loaf out using the parchment paper and let cool on a wire rack. 

 

Granola

A few years ago when I was still living over on Asoke Place I got into a granola-making kick.  It is easy to make and relatively healthy, especially because you can control what goes into it.  Tawn wanted to have some granola and yogurt as a change in pace to our usual breakfast of oatmeal, so I pulled up Alton Brown’s recipe from the Food Network and made a few changes.

P1030089

Mix 3 cups rolled oats, 1 cup slivered almonds, 1 cup cashews (which I substituted with pecans), and .75 cup shredded coconut.  You can also add wheat germ or other whole grains here to have some variety.

P1030083

In another container, mix .25 cup vegetable oil, .25 cup maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener, I suppose), and .25 cup brown sugar.  I realized later that the brown sugar is supposed to be mixed with the dry ingredients but it seemed to work this way, too.  Please note that Mr. Brown’s recipe called for an additional 2 tablespoons of both sugar and syrup, which seemed a little too sweet for me.  In fact, you could substitute a little orange juice for some of the maple syrup to good effect.

P1030095

Pour the sugar-oil mixture over the dry mixture and stir for several minutes with the spoon until the mixture is evenly moistened.  Note that it will still seem pretty dry; you don’t want it sopping wet!  If you would like, you can sprinkle on some cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or ground clove to give it a little spice.

Then bake in a 250 F oven on some baking sheets, stirring every ten to fifteen minutes, for about 75 minutes or until there is a nice even golden color.  After the mixture has cooled you can mix in 1 cup of raisins and/or other dried fruit to taste.  Store in an airtight container once completely cooled.

 

Well, some might criticize me for doing something as trivial as cooking in the midst of Thailand’s worst political crisis in fifty years, but it seems to me that there is only so much depressing news a person can take.  After a while, it becomes an echo chamber and you just get overwhelmed by the rehashed images, sounds, and stories.  Best to do something productive in the kitchen, which nourishes both your soul and your body.

 

Ginger Macadamia Cranberry White Chocolate ANZAC Biscuits

P1020633 April 25th was ANZAC Day, the annual commemoration of the important role played by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp in World War II, especially in the bloody campaign in Gallipoli, Turkey.  To be perfectly honest, none of this would have been at the forefront of my consciousness, had Jacquie not sent Michael a box of ANZAC biscuits, an eggless cookie popularized by the wives and girlfriends of ANZAC soldiers.  These oat cookies had a long shelf life and could withstand the rigors of being shipped halway around the world to their loved ones on the front lines.

Jacquie’s version differed from the ubiquitous one on the internet by the addition of ginger powder and toasted macadamia nuts.  They looked scrumptious and since Tawn and I were going to have guests over for dinner last weekend, I decided to bake a batch.  Along the way, I spontaneously decided to add some left-over white chocolate that was in the fridge as well as a handful of dried cranberries.

This is the recipe Jacquie provided with only minor modifications by me.  An original recipe without nuts and ginger is located here.

Ginger Macadamia ANZAC Biscuits

1/2 c unstalted raw macadamia nuts
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t powdered ginger
1 1/2 c rolled oats
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c dried shredded coconut
2 T boiling water
1 1/4 T golden syrup (or corn syrup)
1 t baking soda
4 oz butter

P1020603

First step is to preheat the oven to 180 C / 375 F and, once warm, toast the nuts for a few minutes, stirring them to ensure even toasting.  Remove when golden brown and aromatic and let cool in the pan.  Then chop the nuts with a knife making the pieces not too large (they’ll fall too easily out of the cookie dough) but not so small that you lose the nice crunch of the nut.

P1020605

Next step is to mix all the dry ingredients – except for the baking soda! – together.  You may get the impression that there isn’t enough flour, but have faith that it will come together in the end.

P1020607

Melt the butter on the stovetop.  In a separate bowl, add the boiling water, golden syrup (which is a sugar cane based syrup – you can substitute corn syrup), and baking soda.  Whisk briefly to set the soda bubbling then stir in the butter.  Set aside for five minutes to allow it to cool slightly.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, stirring throughly to combine.  At this point, I decided to add a few more items: a handful of dried cranberries and about a 1/3 cup of coarsely chopped white chocolate.  These were wonderful additions although by no means necessary.

You can then wrap the dough tightly and place in the refrigterator for fifteen minutes to firm it up slightly, making it easier to handle.  If your kitchen is nice and cool and you aren’t having that problem, no need to refrigerate!

Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper then portion the dough onto the sheets.  A heaping teaspoon full of dough should be enough, although you may want to experiment with sizes should you prefer a larger cookie.  Bear in mind that these cookies will spread so don’t crowd them together.  If you put the trays back into the refrigerator until baking, it will slow the spread.

P1020614

Bake one sheet at a time in the oven for about 12 minutes or until golden brown, turning halfway through the baking to ensure even cooking.  Cooking for a little longer will make for a crispier cookie.  After taking the tray out of the oven, let the cookies rest on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.  Let cool and enjoy!

As for the rest of our dinner, I prepared some nice crostini as an appetizer:

P1020625

Balsamic-vinegar roasted sweet peppers on basil pesto.

P1020626

Black olive and caper tapenade.

P1020623

A fresh salad with feta, candied pecans, and cherry tomatoes.

P1020629

A ham, black olive, and fresh mozzarella pizza.

P1020628

And the real winner of the day, a white pizza with a simple white cream sauce, thinly sliced rosemary potatoes, a scattering of mozzarella cheese, and red onions.  Divine!