Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Toddler-approved Chinese fried rice on a weeknight

Fried rice has become a staple dinner in our house.  It's my go-to dish once a week, and it's great because it makes lots of leftovers and can be scaled up or down.  Our favorite Indian take-out place always gives us extra rice, and this recipe uses it up beautifully.  The recipe is best with pre-cooked and cool rice, not hot rice.  If you already have the cooked rice, the rest takes at MOST 15 minutes from start to finish.

Little Bread Toddler LOVES this recipe, which is great because I use it to sneak in all manner of vegetables and eggs for protein.

He's a messy eater.

You will need:

One yellow onion
One bag frozen vegetables
Three cups of cooked, cold rice (Jasmine is best, but whatever you have on hand is fine)
Three eggs (lightly beaten)
Three tablespoons each of mirin, sesame seed oil, soy sauce, and peanut oil

1. Dice the onion.
2. Pour the peanut oil into the skillet on medium-high heat.  When the pan is ready (the oil is shimmering) add the onion and saute until translucent.
3. Add the vegetables to the skilled and coat with the oil.  Cook for a few minutes until they seem not frozen.
4. Add the rice to the skillet and toss around to combine.  
5. Remove the vegetables and rice to a large bowl.  Use your spatula to scrape most of the rice and vegetables out of the skillet then return to the fire.  Add more peanut oil, about a tablespoon.
6. While you're waiting for the peanut oil in the skillet to heat up, add the soy sauce, sesame seed oil and mirin to the bowl of rice and vegetables.  Stir to combine.
7.  Add the eggs to the skillet and scramble them.  Then using your spatula, break the scrambled egg into small pieces and add them to your rice and vegetables.
8. Tada! You're done!  Time to eat!

How awesome does this look?  

Little Bread Toddler saw it in the skillet and said, "I want something else," then proceeded to eat four bowls of the stuff.  Again, he's a messy eater.  

It's that good!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sour cream pancakes - Best Pancakes EVER

I make a lot of pancakes.  This is my pancake journey.

Back when Little Bread Toddler wasn't drinking milk, it was a way for us to sneak it into his diet.  Now he alternates between scrambled eggs and pancakes most mornings.

For about years, I used the Joy of Cooking's pancake recipe.  It was pretty easy and I was able to improve my technique making a batch a week.  However, they weren't great.  They tasted good but they kept coming out flat.  I wanted nice, puffy pancakes.

I tried Smitten Kitchen's pancakes, which rely on beaten egg whites for lift.  While they have a delicious tangy taste and do puff up when they cook, they also immediately deflate as they cool, which means they are wonderful freshly cooked but the pancakes I freeze don't do so well.  Also the extra step of beating the egg whites to stiff peaks takes too much time.

Then a few weeks ago, I ran out of milk.  All I had was some sour cream, so I added it in and compensated for the decreased liquid by throwing in an extra egg.  I also added some baking soda to account for the added acidity from the sour cream.  The results were amazing.  So much so that I annotated my Joy:

These sour cream pancakes are so delicious, puffy and light.  They also keep really well in the freezer (more on that later).

To make these, you will need:

Sorry.  For some reason I pulled out the cream of tartar instead of baking powder when I took this picture.

The dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cup AP flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

The wet ingredients:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 eggs
3 tablespoons butter (melted)
splash of vanilla extract

1.  Pull out your griddle and get it heating up while you combine the ingredients.  I usually like the griddle to be at about 400 degrees F.  If you don't have a thermometer, you will know the griddle is ready when water or butter starts sizzling upon contact.

2.  Mix together your dry ingredients in a big bowl.  The dry ingredients can sit for a while.

3. Test the griddle to see if it's ready.  If it's ready or almost ready, you can start mixing together the wet ingredients.  Measure your milk into a large measuring cup.  Gently beat your eggs and add them to the milk along with the vanilla extract.

4.  Here is where the technique comes into play.  Presumably you've just added cold eggs to the cold milk.  And now you're going to add warm, melted butter?  That butter is going to congeal up right away, or the eggs will curdle.  Either way, not a good situation.  What you're going to want to do is temper the butter so it is lowered to the temperature of the eggs and milk.

5. First, take your whisk. This is very important.  Also a tablespoon.   Start gently whisking the melted butter.  Scoop up a tablespoon of the egg/milk mixture and drizzle it into the butter as you're whisking.  Add another tablespoon of mixture and keep whisking it in.  Keep whisking and adding milk until the butter is lukewarm.  Congratulations, that's tempering!

6.  Now that your butter has cooled off, you will do the opposite thing you just did: drizzle the butter into the milk and eggs while you are whisking to combine thusly:

7.  If the griddle is ready, now is the time to add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.  Whisk to incorporate all the flour but stop while there are still a few clumps.  The batter will be very wet.

8.  If the griddle is good and hot, take a dollop of butter and grease the griddle.  I use a paper towel to push the butter around.

9.  Using a serving spoon or ladle, pour some batter onto the griddle from a height of about one or two inches. That helps the batter form a nice round shape.

10.  You will know it's time to flip when the top has some popped bubbles but mostly when the top stops being slick and shiny.

The sides of these are also pulling away from the griddle, so I knew they were ready to flip.  It just takes practice for you to really tell when they're ready.

The second side takes less time than the first.  When they are done, put them on a plate to cool.  You can even put them in a warm oven until you are done with the whole batch and then serve them later.


Here is my beautiful set-up to showcase my lovely pancakes:

Attracting some attention

Wait. STOP.  I'm trying to get a picture here...

No no no... that fork was part of my beautiful tablescape ...

Oh well.  That's the way it goes with pancakes in this house.

Sometimes he drinks coffee and pretends he's a grown up

I know I promised some tips on freezing pancakes.  The easiest way is just to throw them in a ziploc bag and call it a day, but I have found that makes them stick together.  The BEST way is to lay them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then transfer them to a ziploc when they are a little frozen.  That way they don't stick together.

It's weird but it works.  And that way LBT gets pancakes any day of the week he wishes.

I hope you try these sour cream pancakes.  I bet they would work with yogurt too.  Go crazy!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Homemade cronuts

I hesitated to publish this post because those who are looking for a recipe for cronuts from start to finish are going to be disappointed.  However, it may prove helpful for those looking for clarification on how to take puff pastry and use it to make a fried doughnut-shaped but croissant dough-based delicacy.

First things first: what is a cronut?

 The Cronut (TM) is a trademarked name for a croissant-doughnut hybrid created by Dominique Ansel in May of this year.  It immediately sparked an international craze and fans flocked to his bakery, sometimes standing in line for hours, for the chance to score one of the limited number of treats made each day.  Many other bakers and bloggers have attempted to recreate the cronut.

Here is a picture of a Cronut (TM) from the website:

Also, Cronuts (TM) are filled with cream and topped with glaze, as you can kind-of see from the picture.  However, I don't want to give myself a heart attack and I don't really like super sweet pastries, so I limited embellishment to a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

I myself have never eaten a true cronut so I can't say for certain that what I made tastes anything like one, but it is tasty.  I ended up making these because my sister made a huge amount of puff pastry for a Thanksgiving dish she was making, and ended up with a lot leftover.

Here is how we took the puff pastry and made it into our version of cronuts.

You will want to start with cold but not frozen puff pastry dough.  Our dough was unleavened and made with salt, water, butter, and flour.

1. First, pour some oil into your pot so that it rises about two inches.  You are going to be almost deep-frying the dough, but not quite.  Let it slowly warm up to about 330-350 degrees F.

2. Now, take your puff pastry and roll it out.  I think the reason my cronuts did not rise as high as Dominique Ansel's is that I rolled the dough out too flat.  Maybe next time I will leave it thick.  Using one large and one small round pastry cutter, cut out the dough into circles.

3. When the dough and the oil are ready, carefully place the dough into the pot.

4. The first cronut was a little wonky, but I got better about timing as it went on.  Once the first side is nicely browned, flip it over.  The cronuts will puff up as they cook because of the butter trapped between the layers of puff pastry.

5.  As they finish, use the handle of a wooden spoon to remove the cronuts from the pot and let them cool on a paper towel over a plate or a cooling rack.  Sprinkle the hot cronuts with powdered sugar.

6. I love seeing the layers of dough!

On the outside they mostly resemble doughnuts and doughnut holes.  But when you open them you can really see the difference:

So, obviously this is not a perfect recreation of the Cronut (TM).  But that didn't stop us from eating way, way too many warm cronuts the night we made them.  And Little Bread Toddler ate two this morning.   The nice thing about these is that they aren't jumbo sized, so you don't feel your arteries clogging as you eat them (sneaky cronuts).

I have to say, these are a fun, special occasion treat.  I'd probably still make regular doughnuts though.  Maybe I just need to try the real thing?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Using up Thanksgiving leftovers: cornbread stuffing mini muffins

I don't know if this is going to become a series, but with most people this week staring down a fridge full of leftovers, it seemed the thing to do.

These aren't really muffins.  Sorry if the title is misleading.

Technically they are mini frittatas, since they are mostly bound by eggs.  They are delicious though, which is the important thing.

I made them because I had a ton of crumbly cornbread stuffing made by my brother that wasn't going to eat itself.

This recipe is loosely based on one by Heather at Kitchen Concoctions.  I made them mini instead of regular-sized, used cornbread stuffing instead of regular stuffing, and skipped the spinach since I didn't have any on hand.

My motivation for making these as mini muffins (mini frittatas, sorry) was two-fold.  First, I wanted to use my new mini muffin pan which was an impulse buy at Harris Teeter last week.  Second, I am always on the lookout for breakfast foods Little Bread Toddler might like.

You will need:

6 eggs
about a cup of stuffing, any kind will do
1/3 cup milk or cream
1 cup shredded cheese
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
Butter or cooking spray

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Grease up your muffin pan using the butter or cooking spray.

3. Mix together your eggs and cream/milk. Add the salt and pepper.

4. Pour over the stuffing and mix to combine.

5. Now add the cheese.

6. Pour the batter into the muffin pan until each cup is about 3/4 full.

I had too much batter so I had to make a few regular-sized frittatas too.

7. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes for mini muffins or 12-15 minutes for regular sized, until the muffins start to pull away from the edges of the pan.

And there you have it.

I like them drizzled with tabasco sauce. It just seemed fitting with the eggs and cornbread.

Look how little they are!

Little Bread Toddler liked them with ketchup.  I think these mini frittatas were a hit!  We don't have very many left but I'll definitely be making them again.  I think they would be good as appetizers too.  I hope this post has inspired you to think of new ways to use your leftovers.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bread for communion by intinction part III: making the bread bowl

Now that I have detailed the process for making my "look pretty" and "be tasty" loaves, I will post here about how to make the workhorse of the whole intinction set-up: the bread bowl.

Again, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here to learn about the project and what communion by intinction looks like at my church.

If you just want a recipe for decent challah, click here.

If you want to learn how to incorporate fats while developing your own bread recipe, click here.

Ok, now that that's over, I will tell you why you need this bread bowl.  It will become your favorite vehicle for dips and soups.  Not to mention tiny pieces of bread, if you find yourself ever needing to prepare bread for communion by intinction.

What is great about this recipe is that it uses a combination of bread flour and AP flour, and doesn't have any fat.  These two factors make the gluten development really strong so it can hold more and won't fall apart while the inside crumb is being hollowed out.

You will need:

375g of bread flour
375g of AP flour
500g of water
14g of salt
14g of yeast

That's it!

Put the ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands until it forms a rough dough.

Let the dough sit for about fifteen minutes, then knead a little.  It should be much smoother.  Shape it into a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled in size.

After it has risen once, punch it down and transfer it to a piece of parchment paper and cover it with plastic wrap.  Throw your dutch oven into the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees F.

When the oven is preheated, take the plastic wrap off and put your dough (and parchment) into the dutch oven with the lid on.  Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and cook another 15 minutes until the dough is golden and hard when you tap it with your fingernail.

Let the loaf cool completely, then use a sharp knife to cut a circle around the top and remove it.  Use your hands to pull out the rest, working around the sides and the bottom to make it even.  Once you hollow it out, it will look like this:

If you accidentally cut through the bottom or sides of the bread bowl, don't worry.  You can hide a small bowl inside and no one will know!

Here it is all filled up with bread.  I had to measure it to make sure it held about 80 pieces of bread, about this size:

My brother and Little Bread Toddler ate all the hollowed-out bread.  So no saved bread crumbs for me.  That's ok though, I still have a lot left over from the last bread bowl :)