Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

Look how yummy and crunchy that crust looks........

So I know that every food blog out there in the blogisphere has posted a recipe for Irish Soda bread within the last week or yeah. Here is my version. I have been happily snacking on my lovely loaf of Irish soda bread these last 2 days...sadly, it is all gone now. Guess I will have to make another loaf. My version is taken mostly from Ina Garten, and barely from my own idea. The best way to enjoy this crunchy yummy loaf is by slicing, toasting, and buttering it. One of the things I love most about this bread is that it is not too sweet, but still sweet...does that make sense? Other Irish soda breads I have made in the past have been too dry, and too crumbly...and no bueno. I decided to add cinnamon to my recipe...I know that isn't a very "Irish" thing to do, but I am not Irish so I do not feel bad...maybe I will wear green and dance a jig to make up for it...maybe not. Last St. Patrick's day we were on Spring break in Park City, Utah. We spent the day skiing, and then went to an Irish pub in town and had some yummy lamb stew for was fun. This year I worked all day, and then came home and made dinner because the mom is sick with the evil bug...I did however wear a green tank top under my uniform all day, so I guess that kinda counts as "celebrating"...not so much. At least I got to eat some yummy bread. : )

Irish Soda Bread:
Adapted from Ina Garten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (I used 1 tsp. orange juice instead)
  • 1 cup dried currants (or raisins, or a combination of the both)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk, egg, and orange to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet. Do not over mix!!!

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. The dough is super sticky, so just get it into a somewhat round shape and then plop onto pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound. The crust will be fairly dark, do not be afraid.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Neiman Marcus Cookies

I can't remember where I found this recipe, but I know it is posted on the Neiman Marcus website. The texture on these came out super great. They call for espresso or coffee powder, which I used and I liked the taste....but I was more impressed with the texture, so next time I plan on leaving the caffeine flavor out. I really need to find a place that sells quality chocolate chunks, because these would be awesome with chunks instead of chips. On a side note, of no importance...I am watching the weirdest version of Snow White right now, with that chick from Smallville. I think I need to read the "real" Brother's Grimm stories because I have heard they are wicked insane, creepy, and not all that rainbowish and butterflyish.

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mumbo Gumbo!!!

Vegetables browned in the roux

In the past I have not had luck with my gumbo making attempts. I decided the problem lay in my was just too darn greasy. I was using unclarified butter, but now I use canola oil and it is all good. Roux is traditionally equal parts flour and fat browned to your desired color...white for maybe a bechamel sauce, blond for a veloute sauce...etc. Learn more about the "Mother sauces" of French cuisine here... Gumbo is thickened and flavored with a dark brown roux. The longer you cook your roux the darker it will be. Although people claim "gumbo" was a well thought out creation, I think someone was trying to make one of the mother sauces, darkened the roux too much and in an attempt to save their job they called it gumbo. Nice save. The word "gumbo" comes from the Angolan word meaning "okra." Gumbo can be thickened using either the vegetable okra, file powder (dried sassafras), or by a brown roux. This gumbo recipe uses a roux, but next time I plan on trying it with okra instead. The more modern recipes use a combination of two of the thickeners...most commonly roux and okra. If you really want good gumbo go to Lafayette and get one of my Aunts to make you some, my gumbo does not even stand on the same playing field as theirs

My humble attempt at gumbo recipe:

In large saucepan brown:
2 large links of andouille sausage chopped (or if you can't find that a smoked sausage will do)

Remove from pan and then brown:
6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs chopped

Remove from pan and then make the roux in the same pan:
1/2 cup canola oil (or clarified butter) (only use 1/2 cup of oil because the drippings from browning the meats should be about 1/2 cup...therefore you end up with 1 cup of fat)
1 cup flour

- using a whisk continuously stir flour and fat over med/high heat until roux is a dark paste...basically the color of chocolate. You will think you have burnt it, but you haven't...unless it is black, you should be good. It took me about 10 minutes to get mine dark enough.

Once roux is dark brown add vegetables and brown about 5 minutes over medium heat, constantly stirring:
2 onions chopped
6 celery ribs chopped

2 bell peppers chopped
1 jalapeno diced fine

2 cloves garlic diced fine

Once vegetables are browned put the meats back into the pot and then cover with 8 cups of chicken broth. I used Tony's to season my gumbo, but if you don't have access to that season with salt, pepper, and some cayenne pepper. Everyone likes different degrees of hotness so season to your own liking.

Bring gumbo to a boil and then simmer for 40-60 minutes over medium heat.

Serve over rice accompanied by a large hunk of French bread.

At the end of the dinner, If you can see the bottom of the pot, consider the yourself a winner!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Crispy Crunchy Pancakes

Oh how I love pancakes! A typical Sunday at my house consists of my niece waking me up asking me if I am going to make pancakes...if I'm not making pancakes I must be sick. I am not a morning person, but in my home of hard core sleeper in peoples I am considered the early riser on the weekends. I have many pancake recipes that I love and often fall back on, but as I continue my quest for better food I came across a new favorite! I got this recipe from an old Southern family cookbook, Talk About Good 2. I find it funny that there are only 2 recipes that we grew up always making from that 98, Don's famous french toast, and pg. 212, Peanut Butter Cookies...needless to say those pages are worn down and covered with love. I of course modified the buttermilk pancake recipe from the cook book, mostly because I really love my pancakes to have texture and not just be fluffy and smooth. This is a thin pancake with a nice crusty crust all around, so if you like the fluff I would skip this recipe.

Crispy Crunchy Pancakes:

Whisk together in large bowl:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground oats (grind in a food processor or blender)
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 TBS brown sugar or rapadura sugar

Whisk together in small bowl and then add to large bowl with dry stuff:
2 eggs
2 cups whole milk mixed with 1 tsp. lemon juice(let it sit a few minutes before adding other stuff)
1 tsp. baking soda

Add and mix:
6 TBS. melted butter

Heat griddle to medium/high and lightly coat with butter before each batch. Enjoy with maple syrup!!!

I keep a bag of ground oats stocked in the pantry, I use it so much that it just makes sense.