multigrain bread

I have been baking bread since February. The same recipe. And I’m not even tired of it! Why am I not tired of this recipe? Well, quite honestly, it’s the challenge. Bread is just flour, water, yeast and salt, but these four simple ingredients can be so temperamental that making a good loaf of bread is almost elusive. To be good, the bread must be moist, tall and tender, and be springy to the touch. So here we are, the first day of October and I think I have finally nailed it.

This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen which has never disappointed me if I follow their recipe strictly–until now. The dough was so appallingly sticky and the gluten stubbornly uncooperative. For the last eight months I obsessively maintained a Dough Diary, writing down every deviation, experimentation, failure, and success. I decided it must be the flour, so I switched from all-purpose in the recipe to bread flour, and got better results. I did my research and learned how to knead bread by hand, a very enjoyable activity. Still, I didn’t get a tall tender loaf until I learned that I need to weigh the dough to fit the pan I’m using. In baking bread, weighing is everything. Now that I’ve worked that out, here is the (almost) perfect multigrain sandwich loaf and boule. Ta-DAH!

Multigrain Bread (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
Minutes to Prepare: 30 minutes
Resting Time: varies, from 5 hours to 6
Minutes to bake: 35 minutes
Yield: 1425 grams of dough or 1 sandwich loaf and 1 boule**
**I converted all measurements to grams because it’s more accurate.

Special Equipment
1 8.5×4.5 loaf pan
Stand Mixer
Scale
Dough or Bench Scrapers
Instant Read Thermometer

Ingredients
135 grams multigrain hot cereal mix (in Thailand use McGarrett’s 5 grain cereal)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
360 grams bread flour, plus more for dusting (all-purpose originally)
170 grams whole wheat flour (also called hard wheat)
91 grams honey
59 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon fine table salt

Optional Additions to the Dough
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, OR
1/2 cup flaxseed or chia seeds, OR
3/4 cup chopped nuts, after sifting out the powder

Topping
Egg yolk wash (1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water)
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats, quick oats, or multigrain cereal

Place cereal mix in the work bowl of the stand mixer and pour boiling water over it. Let it stand, stirring occasionally to cool the mixture to 100-115˚F. The grain will swell and absorb some but not all the water. This takes from 20-30 minutes. Measure the flours into a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

Once the grain mixture has cooled, add the honey, melted butter, and yeast. Attach bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on low speed (Level 1-2) to combine. Still beating on low speed, add the flour mixture a half-cup at a time, mixing the flour into the cereal. Once all the flour has been added, switch the paddle for the dough hook, and knead on Level 2-3 until the dough forms a ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Without removing the bowl, cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt. Knead the dough in the machine 3-4 minutes on Level 2 or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom. If it doesn’t clear, add 2-3 tablespoons additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading on Level 2-3 for 5 more minutes.

Touch the dough. It will be sticky–some of it will come away on your finger. It is tacky if your finger is clean. If it is tacky, most likely the kneading is done. Cut away a walnut-size piece of dough and stretch it as thin as it will go without tearing. It will be flexible and translucent when held up to the light. This is called the windowpane test. Add the nuts/seeds, if using, and knead for 15 more seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes to disperse the seeds. The dough is ready for the stage called bulk fermentation.

If the dough is sticky, and it always was for me, this means the gluten is undeveloped. I recommend kneading it by hand, a process that can take up to 30 minutes, but is oddly satisfying. The slap and fold method works well for this sticky dough. Oil your hands (keep a bowl of oil nearby) and try not to add more flour, though the dough can take up to 6 tablespoons more. Shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Lift it up and slap the dough firmly on the work surface, stretch it back towards you, then fold it over on itself. Repeat and repeat. It may seem like forever, but the dough will eventually come together. You can see demonstrations of this technique on YouTube. Stop and do the windowpane test after 10 minutes. If it’s not stretchy, keep slapping and folding.

Once the dough passes the window pane test, it will become tacky and not stick to your hands or the work surface as much. Lightly flour the work surface and shape the dough into a ball. Oil a 4-5 quart mixing bowl and put the dough ball in it, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Put it in a warm draft free place to rise. This is called bulk fermentation, and is one of two rises that the dough will need. I put the bowl in the microwave (off, of course) with a cup of boiling water. Or you can heat the oven on low, turn it off, and put the bowl in the oven. The dough will need 45-60 minutes to double in bulk. It will rise to the top of the mixing bowl but not over it. If it only rises 2/3 of the bowl after 45 minutes or one hour,  let the dough have 15 minutes more.

When the dough has risen weigh it. I get about 1425 grams of dough after fermentation. I cut it half, roughly, one piece weighing 770 grams will make a sandwich loaf in the pan. The smaller piece I roll into a boule. I don’t have a banneton and you don’t need one to make a boule. Use a medium size bowl. I use a bamboo rice steamer basket.

Making a sandwich loaf. Pat 770 grams of the dough into a rectangle. Roll it into a tight cylinder so there are no holes. Pinch the seams closed and roll it back and forth on the work surface to smooth it out.  Spray the loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. Brush egg wash on the sandwich loaf and roll it in a 1/2 cup of oats or cereal spread in a plate. Place it in the center of the prepared loaf pan.

Making a boule. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Keep doing this until you get a taut ball. Dust a little flour on the work surface and put the ball seam side down in the flour. Cup your hand around it and smooth out the ball. Line your banneton with a clean dish towel and sprinkle some flour inside it. Don’t use the egg wash on the boule just yet. Put the boule in the bowl with the seam side up. Sprinkle some flour on the dough then cover the boule with the ends of the dish cloth.

Proofing the dough. Put the dough in the microwave (off) to proof, 30-40 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic and a kitchen towel. The loaf will rise 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the rim of the pan. The boule will increase 50%. While they are proofing, heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Put a baking tray on the oven rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the bread. Unwrap the boule and tip it out of the bowl onto a piece of parchment paper. Take the hot baking tray out of the oven and place the boule with parchment on  one side. Brush top of boule with egg wash and pat oats/cereal on it. Put the loaf pan next to it on the baking tray. Put the baking tray in the oven and watch the magic. We have bread! After 35 minutes, take the baking tray out of the oven. The loaf and the boule will have reached an internal temperature of 200˚F which means the bread is cooked inside. Transfer the boule with parchment to a wire cooling rack. Put the loaf pan on another cooling rack. After 10 minutes, take it out of the pan. Cool completely for at least 3 hours before slicing.

PS I got a new brand of yeast that’s recommended by bread bakers. I’m so excited. I can’t believe I’m excited about yeast.

brazilian fish and shrimp stew with pepper sauce and rice and peas

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This fish and shrimp stew cooks up very quickly, and is light, piquant, and full of the fresh flavors of coconut milk and peppers, both sweet and hot. I served it with the coconut-flavored Jamaican rice and peas that I had put up in the freezer. Rice and peas is a robust accompaniment that holds its own with spicy main courses such as this stew.

Fish and Shrimp Stew/Moqueca (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Pepper Sauce
2-8 Thai chili peppers, or to taste (pickled hot cherry peppers in original recipe)
1/2 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Large pinch sugar or to taste
Salt to taste

Stew
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
1 pound skinless white fish fillets about 1 inch thick, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (e.g. cod)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1 (14.5 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 leek, both white and green parts, sliced into thin rounds
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
Juice of 2-3 small limes, or to taste

Make the pepper sauce: Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Season with salt to taste and transfer to a separate bowl. Rinse out processor bowl.

Make the stew: Toss shrimp and fish with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

Process onion, tomatoes and their juice, and 1/4 cup cilantro in food processor until finely chopped and mixture has texture of pureed salsa, about 30 seconds.

Heat oil in large Dutch pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Add red and green peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add onion-tomato mixture, leeks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until puree has reduced and thickened slightly, 3-5 minutes. Pot should not be dry.

Increase heat to high, stir in coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Mixture should be bubbling over the entire surface. Add shrimp and fish with lime juice, and stir to evenly distribute seafood. Make sure all pieces are submerged in liquid. Cover pot and remove from heat. Let stand until shrimp and fish are opaque and just cooked through, 15 minutes.

If desired, gently stir in 2 tablespoons pepper sauce. Be careful not to break up the fish too much. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice, passing the remaining pepper sauce separately.

Cook’s Note: I did not add the pepper sauce to the stew, instead, I served it at the table with the remaining chopped cilantro.

Herbed Pan-Fried Pork Chop

Reblogged from More Than One More Day.Blogspot.com November 13, 2010.

I always like to try new recipes. This one is from America’s Test Kitchen, which seldom disappoints. It had good flavor without being either too salty or too oily. The only question I had was, what do I do with the crisp bacon bits?

Blended spices (or use your own blend)
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sage
pinch of ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour
3 strips of bacon, chopped
4 center cut, bone-in pork chops
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Make the spice blend. Pour blended spices in a shallow pan or pie plate. You may find you will need to make another batch after two pork chops. I did. Pour flour into another pan or pie plate.

Season the pork chops. Dip each chop in the spice blend, then lightly dredge in the flour. Let the pork chops rest in a plate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry up the bacon in a large 12 inch skillet. When crisp, remove the bacon to drain but reserve the bacon fat. Start wth 1/4 cup of oil to the fat and heat until just smoking. Add more oil if necessary.

Fry the pork chops. Put each pork chop in the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side. Mine came out over done so I would reduce that to 2-3 minutes per side instead. Drain on a greased wire rack set over a baking tray in a warm oven. Don’t discard the pan drippings.

Still no idea what to do with the bacon bits but since I was making pan fried asparagus with tomatoes and black olives, I decided to dress that up with the bacon. Ta-dah!

Pan-fried Asparagus with Tomatoes and Black Olives (and bacon bits)
2 pounds thick asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
2 -4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon bacon, chopped and fried until crisp, drained (optional)
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Trim the asparagus. Hold up one spear and snap off the end. Cut all the other spears to the same length.

Make the tomato-black olive dressing. Use the pan drippings from the pork chops to make the dressing. Over medium heat, fry the garlic in the pan drippings until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and olives. Cook until the tomatoes “spring” water and become wilted. Pour the dressing into a bowl, cover with foil, and reserve.

Cook the asparagus. Rinse out the skillet and dry it with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Lay half the spears in the pan in one direction. Lay the other half in the opposite direction. Cover and cook over medium heat until the asparagus turns a bright green, about 2-4 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and pour the dressing on top. Top with cheese, basil, or bacon bits.

lime skillet soufflé with caramelized bananas

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This recipe may seem complicated but it is actually quite easy to make. It is first cooked on the stove top then allowed to finish and brown in the oven. This is only the second time I’ve made it. The first time I made it in New York I used lemons. It has an intense citrus flavor which lessens somewhat as the soufflé cools. I served this version with caramelized bananas. I used the stubby fat Thai banana called kluay nam wa (กล้วยนำ้หว้า) which has an intense sweetness. If the bananas you use are as sweet, reduce the amount of sugar used to caramelize them by half.

Lime Skillet Soufflé (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 12 minutes

5 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice plus 1 teaspoon lime zest (about 4 small limes)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Special equipment:
10 inch aluminum skillet (do not use nonstick)

Cook’s note: Wipe out the bowl and beaters with vinegar before whipping the egg whites. I used an8 inch skillet so I reduced the heat to 325˚F or 150˚C.

First, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375˚F (for 10 inch skillet). In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together with an electric mixer on medium low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium high and whip the white to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually whip in 1/3 cup of the sugar and salt and continue to whip the whites until they are glossy and form stiff peaks, 2-6 minutes. If using a stand mixer, gently transfer the whites to a clean bowl and set aside.

Cook’s Note: No need to wash the whisk attachments for the next step if using a hand-held mixer.

In another large bowl, whip the egg yolks and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar together on medium high speed until pale and thick, about 1 minute. When you raise the beaters, the egg yolks form a ribbon. Whip in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Using a wire whisk, fold one-quarter of the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until almost no white streaks remain. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated.

Cook on the stovetop. Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium low heat. Swirl the pan to coal evenly with the melted butter, then gently scrape the soufflé batter into the skillet and cook until the edges begin to set and bubble slightly, about 2 minutes.

Cook’s Note: I used an 8 inch skillet and had left over batter. I mounded as much of the batter as the skillet could hold. Next time, I will bake the leftover batter in buttered ramekins

Bake and serve immediately. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the soufflé until puffed, the center jiggles slightly when shaken, and the surface is golden, 7-11 minutes. Using a potholder (the skillet handle will be hot) remove the skillet from the oven. Dust the soufflé with the confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

Per serving: Cal 180; Fat 6g; Sat fat 2.5g; Chol 180mg; Carb 28g; Protein 6g; Fiber 0g; Sodium 105mg

Serving Suggestion:
Serve with caramelized bananas. To caramelize, melt two tablespoons butter in a skillet. Add four slices of medium bananas and 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar. Brown 1-2 minutes or until thick and syrupy. If too sweet, squeeze lemon or lime juice on the bananas. Serve bananas with or without syrup.

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potstickers

Potstickers

We talked to Taranee on her birthday yesterday, and she said she was going to make Chinese dumplings. It’s so cold in the States right now, everyone craves comfort food. I thought about these potstickers and so I reblogged the recipe from my old blog dated  Sunday November 28, 2010.

 A potsticker is a Chinese dumpling appetizer–or a snack. I only made these because they were an America’s Test Kitchen recipe but I wasn’t sure if they had an authentic Chinese taste! Having eaten potstickers before, I made some adaptations to the recipe. Diana and AJ both said they were “delicate” in taste,  because I had used the lighter-tasting ground chicken instead of an “earthier” ground pork. This recipe makes more than 24 potstickers–I have leftover filling and dumpling dough.

Three cups napa cabbage
Napa cabbage chopped finely down to two and a half cups
Salted napa cabbage draining in a colander
Ground chicken, ginger, scallion, napa cabbage, egg whites, and seasoning
The filling
Ready to make potstickers
A scant tablespoon of filling
Mound the filling in a slightly oval shape
Wet the edges with a fingertip dipped in water
Fold the dumpling in half, pressing out any air pockets and sealing the edges
Only two potstickers left!
Yum!

For the potsticker filling
3 cups napa cabbage, chopped finely
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound ground pork or ground chicken
4 teaspoons soy sauce (recommend white soy sauce since it won’t color the meat)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 large egg white (original recipe: 2 egg whites)
4 medium scallions, chopped finely
1 large clove garlic (about 1 teaspoon), chopped finely

For the potsticker dumplings
1 package round gyoza or dumpling dough (See photo above)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup water

Make the filling. Combine napa cabbage and salt in a colander and set over a large bowl to drain. Salting the vegetable releases excess water. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add the drained napa cabbage and combine lightly. The original recipe said to refrigerate 30 minutes or more until ready to fill dumplings, but I skipped this step.

Make the dumplings. Assemble dumplings as in the photographs above. Put each dumpling on a parchment lined baking tray. Be careful not to over lap the dumplings. The recipe said to make 24 but cook 12 at a time.  I froze the remaining 12 dumplings and refrigerated the leftover dumpling filling and dumpling dough. I will make more dumplings tomorrow.

Pan-fry the dumplings. Arrange 12 dumplings in a cold 12-inch skillet. Add oil and fry 2 minutes until the dumplings are browned on the bottom. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan by pouring it around the dumplings. It will sizzle, so be careful.  Cook, covered, until the water is absorbed, about 3 minutes. I found the water was not completely absorbed so I removed the cover and let the dumplings cook for another minute or so until the water cooked down to about a tablespoon. Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce (recommend Kikkoman’s)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chili oil, optional
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, minced

I recommend, for an authentic Chinese taste, or just to spice things up, crumble a dried red chili in your fingers or chop up a fresh chili pepper and add to the dipping sauce. To make the sauce less spicy, remove the seeds and veins from the fresh chili, if preferred.  Put up any leftover sauce in the refrigerator. Caution: if you add dried or fresh chilies to the sauce it will marinate and become hotter!

P.S. I made 17 additional dumplings out of the leftovers!

Note: I reblogged this from my old blog dated  Sunday November 28, 2010.

green skillet pizza

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I used the electric pan as a pizza maker and this is what I found out: the top griddle does not brown the top of the crust when it is closed, so I will have to flip the crust over to brown the top. Basically, the pan fries the bread, and in the absence of clear instructions of how to cook a pizza in the electric pan, I had to experiment. To those of you who have the Homemate brand Double Electric Pans/Pizza Maker, this is what you will have to do: roll out or pat the pizza as thin as possible–about 1/4 inch thickness. Put about 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet part to heat up (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes) on maximum. Put the crust in and let it fry about 5 minutes. Flip it and let the top brown slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Then flip it back over, add the toppings and close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes on 180˚C. Pizza in ten!

Pizza Crust (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Proofing: 30 minutes

2 1/2 cups (312g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package instant yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup (200ml) skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 200˚F. Once it reaches the desired temperature, turn it off but do not open the door.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, and yeast in the mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, add the milk, oil, and sugar. Combine the flour, salt, and yeast on low speed, while it is mixing, add the milk mixture. Continue beating until just incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny and comes together in a ball.

Baker’s note: I used a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. It takes longer to make pizza dough with a handmixer because it’s not as powerful. So when the recipe says low speed, use medium low speed, and so medium low becomes medium high. My arm got tired holding the motor so I had to use both hands to hold it!

Lightly flour a board and knead the dough two times and form into a ball. Put dough ball in a large greased glass bowl, turning it several times to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to proof for 30 minutes.

By now the dough should have doubled in bulk. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper.

Baker’s note: I wrapped both dough balls in plastic and refrigerated them to stop the rising process. This is because I didn’t want to make the pizza right away. If you refrigerate the dough, use it within 24 hours. If you want a thick crust you will have to make the pizza right away when the yeast is fresh. For a thin crust pizza, where very little rising is involved, cooking the crust later is no problem.

To make the crust, roll out one dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Or use your fingers to stretch and tamp the dough into a roughly 10 inch round. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and add the pizza dough.  Prick the dough with a fork. Fry 5 minutes on one side, flip and fry 2-3 minutes on the other.

Green Skillet Pizza:
Prep time: 15 minutes (includes sauteeing the toppings)
Cook time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
6 cups spinach, chopped
5 ounces arugula,any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I used basil pesto, recipe to follow)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, lightly saute the mushrooms and garlic in oil. Add the spinach and arugula. Saute until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In the pan add the water and heat to boiling. Add the peas and cook until bright green. Drain the peas and discard the water. Add peas to the cooked vegetables.

Baker’s note: Prepare the pizza toppings ahead of time and refrigerate.

When the top of the pizza crust is browned, spread half the pesto. Add half the toppings and half the cheese. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second crust.

Andy complained that the pizza was slightly bitter. I think the arugula and the spinach were not a good combination. I should have used broccoli with either arugula or the spinach, not both. He said the crust was excellent–it was fresh, slightly crisp on the bottom but soft on the inside.

Basil Pesto (adapted from Skinnytaste)
Prep time: 10 minutes

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The easiest thing to do is to process all ingredients in a food processor. Since I’m in Salaya and not in my kitchen at home, I had to make the pesto by hand. For this, I needed one sharp santoku knife.

vodka pie crust apple galette with spiced sugar

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This is a delicious crust, but it’s hard to manage. It sticks to the board, the rolling pin, and it’s very hard to roll up and move to the baking tray. For the galette, it is best to roll it out on the silicone mat. I wanted to make an apple galette–I made two, actually, because this recipe makes a double crust. The crust really did come out flaky and tender, just as America’s Test Kitchen had promised.

Apple Galette
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into sixteenths

Spiced Sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind (1 small lime)

Vodka Pie Crust (America’s Test Kitchen)
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups (313g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (170g) cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch cubes, chilled
1/2 cup (95g) cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces, chilled
1/4 cup chilled vodka
1/4 cup cold water
milk for brushing
demerara or turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Procedure

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.

2. Scatter butter and shortening on top and process until incorporated and dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. Dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour.

3. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough as been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

4. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.

5. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or up to 2 days. Let dough sit on the counter 10 minutes before rolling it out.

Cake Baker’s Note: I wrapped and froze the dough for a week then thawed it for several hours in the refrigerator.

6. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425˚F or 220˚C. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll onto a silicone mat. Alternatively, roll it out onto a floured silicone mat. I had to scrape it off the pastry board with a bench scraper and pancake turner. I just don’t know if it’s supposed to be that sticky.

7. Mound half the apples in the center of the dough circle. Sprinkle generously with the spiced sugar. Use a bench scraper to fold up the sides. Fold the corners. Brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with demerara or turbinado sugar. Place the mat on the baking sheet and bake 45-55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Repeat #6 and #7 for the second dough circle.

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cho-cho with scrambled egg, baby bokchoy, and crunchy baked pork chops

When I was growing up in Jamaica we had these green pear like vegetables we called cho-cho. It’s more commonly known as chayote in North America and choko in Australia. In Thailand it’s called fak miao which is really embarrassing to say as an English-speaker because it sounds like I’m swearing.  Cho-cho has a bland taste, and it cooks up soft, turning from a pale greenish white to a delicate jade green when fully cooked–which doesn’t take long at all.

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Cho-Cho with Scrambled Egg

1 cho-cho, peeled, seed scooped out,  and sliced thin crosswise
2 large eggs
1-2 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the oyster sauce. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, whisk the eggs one more time and pour all at once into the hot oil. Use a spatula to break up the curds. When the egg is cooked, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Using the same skillet, add the cho-cho slices and cook, stirring all the time until the vegetable starts to wilt and the slices turn jade green. Add the salt. Return the cooked eggs to the skillet and combine. Serve hot.

I had signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November so I wasn’t able to cook as often as I should have, especially when it got closer to the 30th and I was writing 3000 to 4000 words a day. Crunch time! I had bought baby bokchoy and winter melon (fak khiao or green melon in Thai) intending to cook them. Fortunately winter melon can keep in the fridge if it is uncut but the baby bokchoy’s outer leaves started to yellow after a week. So I plucked off the yellow leaves and washed the stems carefully. Dirt collects in the stems so I pulled the bunches apart to wash them. I had a sweet pepper too so I tossed that in too.

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Baby Bokchoy with Winter Melon and Sweet Pepper

1 pound baby bokchoy, stems washed and leaves separated from the bunch
1/2 winter melon, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 sweet bell pepper, seeded, thinly sliced and cut in half
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
salt and pepper
nampla (fish sauce)
1 tablespoon oil

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the sweet bell pepper and cook for thirty seconds. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the winter melon and cook 2-3 minutes or until softened but still firm. Season with a little salt and pepper, not too much to finish, but just enough to flavor the vegetables. Add the baby bokchoy and cook until the leaves turn bright green. The stems should be crunchy, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle fish sauce over all, about 1 teaspoon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at once.

I served these two veggie dishes and mashed cauliflower as sides for these pork chops. They are so crunchy and garlicky, tender and moist.

DSC02669

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
Serves 4

Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (I used whole wheat bread)
1/2 onion, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves (I used cilantro)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I substituted Coleman’s mustard)
Lemon wedges, optional

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in a medium bowl. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley. Set aside.

3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined.

4. Increase oven temperature to 400˚F. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Don’t forge to do the edges, too. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 135˚F, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges, if desired. The temperature at resting should rise to 150˚F.

no-fuss risotto with chicken and herbs

no fuss risotto with chicken and herbs

Since the Fourth, I have been prepping for the oral defense of my dissertation, and on Friday, I passed! So that’s why I’ve been absent from blogging, but I’m ready to come back now. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about cooking so I bought The Science of Good Cooking by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. Usually I try out a cookbook by borrowing it at the library first, but I was sure this would be a good one so I splurged on a copy from Amazon.com. In ATK’s inimical style, there’s a lot of text and sidebars explaining the cooking process for the recipes which have been grouped by “concepts” or cooking methods. Though the Test Kitchen recommends rinsing for some  varieties of rice, arborio rice, which is used in risottos,  is actually better without rinsing. The one thing that is daunting about making a really creamy risotto is standing at the stove and patiently stirring the pot. This recipe eliminates that step and still comes out creamy and flavorful. I adapted this recipe slightly by using boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Ingredients
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped fine
salt and pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced (I used scallions)
1 teaspoon lemon juice (I used lime juice)

Preparation:

I saved time by using 2 teaspoons chicken broth paste to make the broth. Boil paste and 7 cups water in a large pot over high heat. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, sear the chicken breasts on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken breasts and put them in the pot with the simmering broth and cook until the chicken registers 160˚F on an instant read thermometer, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Don’t discard the oil.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the oil remaining in the pot. Over medium heat, cook the onions with a teaspoon salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the rice and cook until the grains turn translucent around the edges. In the Dutch pot, this took about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 5 cups hot broth into the rice. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just al dente, 16-19 minutes. I stirred the rice after 8 minutes, then 16 minutes. It needed an extra 3 minutes for all the water to be absorbed.

I added 3/4 cup of the remaining broth to the rice to make it creamy, turning the rice gently until the rice became cream and soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan. Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Slice the chicken breast into thin slices. Add the chicken to the pot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, parsley, chives or scallions, and lemon or lime juice. Stir gently. If desired, add more broth mixture to loosen the texture of the risotto. Taste. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. I added a third cup more of the Parmesan cheese for flavor. Serve at once.

thai grilled beef salad (yum neua)

DSC02049 Thai Grilled Beef Salad (America’s Test Kitchen) America’s Test Kitchen has come up with another adaptation of a Thai recipe that tastes authentic. Even my husband says so, and for a Thai, that is true praise indeed. I was aiming for the beef to be undercooked  because putting it in the sauce after grilling cooks it further. It’s a combination of resting plus the lime juice that completes the cooking, I think. This salad serving suggestion is with cucumber, which lessens the heat of the chile. You can also serve it with tomato slices. Another idea is to plate the salad on shredded lettuce or serve it with lettuce on the side to made steak “sandwiches.” The Test Kitchen folks say to pass the paprika-cayenne and roasted rice at table, but this is never done in Thailand. Yum Neua always arrives at table ready to eat, juicy tender meat in a sauce that’s a perfect balance of sour, salty, minty and spicy. Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 5 minutes Serves 4 to 6 Ingredients 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon white rice (You’ll only use 1/2 tablespoon. I used roasted rice available in small jars at Asian groceries) 3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes) 2 tablespoons fish sauce 2 tablespoons water 1/2 -1 teaspoon sugar 1 (1 1/2 pound) flank steak, trimmed (I couldn’t find flank steak so I bought London broil instead) Salt and white pepper, coarsely ground 4 shallots, sliced thin 1 1/2cups fresh mint leaves, sliced into slivers 1 1/2cups fresh cilantro leaves, minced 1 Thai chile, stemmed and sliced thin into rounds 1 seedless English cucumber, sliced 1/4 inch thick on bias Instructions

  1. Heat paprika and cayenne in 8-inch skillet over medium heat; cook, shaking pan, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to small bowl. You will only use 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika mixture. Put up the leftover for another day.
  2. [Cook’s Note: Skip this step if you have roasted rice in a jar] Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat, add rice, and toast, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to second small bowl and cool for 5 minutes. Grind rice with spice grinder, mini food processor, or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1 tablespoon rice powder).
  3. Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon toasted paprika mixture in large bowl. Taste. If too sour, add another 1/2 teaspoon sugar and set aside. Lightly salt and pepper the steak.
  4. ATK’s directions FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes. Place steak over hot part of grill and cook until beginning to char and beads of moisture appear on outer edges of meat, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip steak and continue to cook on second side until charred and center registers 125 degrees, about 5 minutes longer.
  5. ATK’s directions FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s). Place steak over hot part of grill and cook until beginning to char and beads of moisture appear on outer edges of meat, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip steak and continue to cook on second side until charred and center registers 125 degrees, about 5 minutes longer.
  6. Foodie Joanie’s directions for an indoor grill: On my George Foreman grill, I found that 5 minutes was too long. The meat came out medium-well done and I wanted it medium rare. I recommend 2-3 minutes instead.
  7. Transfer to plate, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
  8. Slice meat against the grain  into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer sliced steak to bowl with fish sauce mixture. Add shallots, mint, cilantro, chile, and 1/2 tablespoon rice powder; toss to combine. Transfer to platter lined with cucumber slices. Serve, passing remaining rice powder and toasted paprika mixture separately.  I forgot the cucumbers and served this dish with two old favorites–sesame rice and tom khaa or coconut milk soup— and one new favorite, Thai cabbage salad.