2014-10-08

what makes a chunky soup a soup?

The team doesn't like their soup to be more chunky stuff than broth.  For me, 1:1 is a good chunk:broth ratio, but I have a feeling they're looking for 1:2 or even 1:3 if the broth is especially good or the chunks don't involve pasta.

When the ratio is wrong, the "soup" is regarded with (at best) thinly veiled disdain as a shallow plateful of damp vegetables.  My goal is to improvise soups that elicit cries of joy and satisfaction; the team appreciates the food I make, but the joy's not always there.  Excelsior!



muffin lab 1: canned pumpkin and crushed seeds

As part of a pantry purge, I want to use up some canned pumpkin puree.  The family doesn't really dig pumpkin pie, so I'm turning it into muffins and trying to come up with my own recipe. 

Also, T had a go at some roasted, shelled pumpkin seeds in the mortar and pestle a few days ago for fun, and I promised I would bake the resulting "meal" into some future muffins.  That future is upon us.

This recipe is an experiment based on the overall proportions of ingredients in muffin recipes in The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen as well as the proportion of pie spices to pumpkin puree in The Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup stone ground rye flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground shelled, toasted pumpkin seeds
Whisk dry ingredients to combine.
  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp melted sweet butter
Whisk wet ingredients together until mixture is uniform.  Combine wet and dry mixtures using as few strokes of a fork as possible.  Using ice cream scoop, distribute batter into lightly greased (I use butter) non-stick (yes, I grease it anyway) 12-muffin pan.  Sprinkle additional pumpkin seeds on top. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes or until knife stuck in center muffin comes out clean

Result:  
Took more like 40 minutes to bake.  Smell was good.  Only muffins in outer positions were browned. Not nearly sweet enough.  A little bitter? Very moist, almost pudding like.  After cooling for 30 minutes texture had firmed up a bit but still too moist.

Discussion:
It is true that Mollie is quite conservative in her use of sweeteners (and flavour enhancers in general, including salt).  Whereas the 4 tbsp of sugar I used is only  60 ml, Cook's specifies 1/2 c (125 ml) brown sugar per cup of pumpkin puree in a pie, so maybe 6 tbsp of brown sugar and 2 tbsp fancy molasses would work better.  This comes to 8 tbsp or 24 tsp of sugar or 2 tsp per muffin, which is the same as, for example, a typical chewy-style granola bar and that really is the school-yard competition for these muffins.  I'm already taking a risk not adding chocolate chips, but I figured the Hallowe'en pumpkin angle might buy me some indulgence.

The bitter note might be the rye flour, so this will replaced with 1 cup all-purpose flour (for a total of 2 cups AP flour for 1 c puree + 1 sour dairy).  Increasing the flour should make the muffin a bit less puddingy.  I'm out of yoghurt, so I'll use 1 c whole milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice instead.

As for the salt and spices, I'll leave those as is.  I'm expecting a result more like banana bread this time.

Result of second version:
30 minutes at 350F, 2 minutes rest in the pan, 30 minutes cooling on rack.  Much better texture and still not too cakey (would need more butter and sugar to change the crumb).  Delicious...if you like gingerbread and pie spice, which I do.  Will see how the team reacts.  Team likes (ML not so much: she's the apple pie type).




2014-06-10

pewdiepie brofist pie (or Pewdie Pie)

Nathan asked for a Pewdiepie themed birthday party this year and no such party would be complete without a Pewdiepie Pie.  The birthday boy suggested a "bro fist" and PMC accepted the challenge.  The pie would be apple and needed to serve 15-20, so equivalent to about two regular 9" pies.

I sketched the iconic bro fist (thank-you Google image search) on the floor of a baking pan in Sharpie:

bro fist shape sketched in the bottom of baking pan


and built up the contour with slanted sides in regular clay


which was then covered in aluminum foil


and lined with regular pie dough.


I was worried about the difference in thermal conductivity of the metal and the clay and thought baking the bottom crust  blind before filling might be prudent. (Line pan with pastry and cover the pastry with foil.  Fill cavity with pie weights---I use dry navy beans which I keep for reuse.  Bake at 425F for 25 minutes.  Remove weights and foil and return to oven for about 10 minutes to brown crust.)  I made enough filling for two pies, filled the still-warm bottom crust, topped the pie and decorated.



Apple pie is lumpy and pie dough puffs and shifts on baking and none of this makes for easy sculptural effects.  As you can see, the result didn't exactly scream "bro fist", but a little paint (slightly diluted red food colouring)---and being six feet directly above the pie---made all the difference.  Hard to tell from the picture, but the thumb nail is sugar crust.  Also hard to tell from the picture is how delicious the pie was!

The bottom and top crust were well baked and browned and the pie cut just fine, but the sides were still a little softer than I would have liked.  If I had to do it again, when baking the bottom crust blind, I would take out most of weights after 25 minutes, pull the foil away from the sides (which will have baked enough not to collapse), return the pan to the oven for 10-15 minutes and then remove the rest of the weights and foil and  give it a final 10 minutes.  This would allow the sides to be fully cooked and more deeply browned before filling the pie at which point browning of that part of the crust clearly stops. The hot filling steams the side crust, which is up against the clay dam, whereas the bottom crust keeps browning on the outside, where it is in contact with the metal pan. (This is assuming I don't go into business making countless bro fist pies, in which case I would first have metal pans custom made in the correct shape and not have to prebake the crust at all.)

Happy 12th Birthday, Nate! Keep being awesome, like I know you will bro'.  Love, Dad.




2014-03-16

butter chicken

  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts split lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp alepo pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
Mix the yoghurt with the other ingredients and marinate the chicken in this for a few hours or overnight.

  • 2 extra-large onions (Spanish are good)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil (I use olive oil, not EVOO)
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground Ramshapatti pepper (or something else hot)
  • 1.5 c light cream (or 1 cup heavy cream and 0.5 - 1 cups of water)
  • 1/2 ground almonds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • lemon juice and salt
Peel and quarter the onions and boil until soft.  Drain onion and puree in a blender.  Fry the pureed onion in the oil over medium heat until it is thick (and slightly golden).  Add the tomatoes, salt and spices up to the cardamom.  Stir and fry for a few minutes.  Stir in the cream and almonds and garam masala.  Adjust balance of sauce with lemon juice and salt (if it tastes bland, add more lemon juice first to brighten the sauce) and granulated sugar (shouldn't need more than a big pinch).  Meanwhile, cook the chicken under the broiler or on the grill for about 10 min.  Dark spots (and charred edges if grilling) will appear.  Cut cooked chicken into chunks and add to sauce.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Adjust thickness of sauce with water.  The sauce should be rich with a good balance of salt, spicy heat and sweet (mostly from the onions and almonds) with a slight tangy edge (tomatoes and lemon juice).

Serve over basmati rice with naan.

2014-01-05

black-eyed peas

Trying to experiment with (and use up) leftover black-eyed peas, I put three chopped rashers of bacon, one small chopped onion, one cup of dried black-eyed peas into the pressure cooker. I put in 3.5 cups of water, 2 tsp salt, and 0.5 tsp of ground cayenne pepper. I took it to high heat for 24 min and then let it come down in pressure naturally.

They came out delicious, but next time I would (a) reduce water to 2.5 cups, and salt and cayenne proportionally, and (b) reduce cooking time by a few minutes.

2014-01-01

pressure-cooker hoppin' john

For New Year's, I fried up a quarter pound of chopped bacon, one chopped carrot, one chopped onion, and some chopped celery in the pressure cooker and then added 1.5 cups of rice and 1.5 cups of black-eyed peas, 3 cups of leftover turkey broth, 4 cups of water, less than a tsp of harissa, lots of pepper, and 1 tbsp of salt. I cooked it at pressure for 24 min and then let it come down in pressure naturally. We ate it with spinach sautéed with onions, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil, and some bacon bits.

We ate it with hot sauce and celebratory champagne. The crowd of four was very happy; it would have served at least six lumberjacks. Next time I would switch to 2:1 ratio of beans to rice, drop the liquid by at least one cup, and reduce cooking time by a couple minutes.

2013-12-03

pressure-cooker baked beans

Same recipe as usual (I used butter as the fat, and a 50-50 mix of maple syrup and molasses as the sweet), just 30 minutes at full pressure in the pressure cooker instead of six hours in the oven. It worked! Full disclosure: I began with the parboil step, so the end-to-end time was a full hour. But still awesome.

2013-10-14

lentils and lamb and... pumpkin?

I sautéed a chopped half-onion, half-carrot, half-parsnip, and half-pepper along with a small lamb shank in lots of olive oil in my pressure cooker. I added half a cup of french green lentils, one cup water, and a tsp each of salt and cumin. Then, in a refrigerator-clearing move, I added the flesh from a small pumkin-like squash (the 'fuzz says its name starts with a "k").

I put the lid on and took the cooker to high pressure for 14 min and then let it cool down for 15 min. I opened the cooker, pulled the meat off the bone, chopped it, and stirred everything together into pumpkin-lamb dal. I added more salt, as usual. The 'fuzz made couscous to go with. Slightly sweet and very delicious!

2013-10-07

black beans

The 'fuzz gave me a pressure cooker for my birthday and I am learning how to use it. I made great lentils and great vegetable stew, but bad beans. So I am trying again, with a very small quantity. Here's what I tried tonight:

  • three rashers bacon, cut into small pieces
  • one small onion, chopped
  • one clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried black beans
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp cumin

Fry onions and bacon for a few minutes, then add garlic and beans and water and cumin, bring to high pressure for 40 min, let cool off for 10 min. Add salt and pepper to taste.

They came out good. We ate some in quesadillas and ate some more mixed with corn and hot salsa. Next time I will make them with a lower bacon-to-bean ratio and a slightly lower water-to-bean ratio.