Friday, December 20, 2013

Gingerbread loaf (copycat Starbucks gingerbread loaf)



I find myself in a seasonal quandary the last quarter of the year. Don't we know that Starbucks sells three months of Christmas in steamed cups, all sweet syruped, candycane drenched, salted, foamed, chocolate sprinkled and flecked? Which is absolutely not what I walk through their doors for. My obsession lies behind the glass windows, love I've found in those double rows of sugary displays, with special regard to the topleft corner of neatly stacked treats. The waitallyearlong rings its bell and I cue in for a slab of light copper bread, iced with white and ornamented with golden bits. Yes, Starbucks iced gingerbread lies in wait for me to score off its remaining four slices. I can do without the latte.

I'm not clear if it's only a matter of flavor that catches me, I believe it maybe more so. Perhaps the effects of a cleverly scented (and well marketed) season? You understand how then the peppermint/cinnamon/smellsliketheholidays dial is tuned to its peak in the last three months of the year and your olfactory, in timely fashion, responds tremendously well to that sugarspice window of time. With my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in full swing, the same condition that demands boxes of glitter-gold ornaments, came a new revelation that those few squares of SB's gingerbread loaf will never and not be enough. So, the idea to googlesearch began, following a viewing of several URLs that held the possibility of impressive imposter creations.

It didn't take much time, really and I stumbled upon it right here. With a smidge of adjustment,  and not demanding a great chunk of time, the recipe created itself, right before my eyes, into this beautiful block of spiced bread. The need to make a second came right after I "tested" my way through the first.

Of course this will offset your  cookies and candy curriculum a bit, no worries though, since it nods to a well understood and tradition oriented coalition of spicecake/cream cheese. And when you get to baking a loaf so intermingled with great notes and quality elements, you create a masterpiece a cut above the original (deemed sacrilege). Moreover, while the world is trying to make sense of ninja gingerfolk, you effortlessly conquer a stupendously delicious and likeminded bread.

My word of caution in this; all Starbucks(!) copycat(!) recipes are not equal, adding elements that may not be needed and eliminating ones that are vital to the cause of an exceptional loaf. The only component that most of these agreed on was the need for natural applesauce (read:make your own) which renders that customised paler than molasses hue and does much in lending to GBloaf's sturdysoft structure. This is intense yet delicate, heated but not aggressive, ending any quest for  outstanding copycat of the year .

As such, sweetened cream cheese amplifies just enough the not so overly sweet cinnamon/ clove/ ginger ensemble. The frosting makes a wee bit more than an actual loaf's spread though I'm not bothered in the least as to what its destiny holds. Lastly is the accessorizing, a top adorned with scatters of sugared bits makes for an utterly gorgeous feast for the eyes.

Will yourself to hide this in the depths of your refrigerator for next day purposes, (or double the batch to compare and contrast). The undertones of spice progressively shine brighter, granding up the show several notches. 

So we reach the end of today's segue, where visions of gingerbread loaves demand out of your heads and into the hollows of your homeovens. And in that there exists much comfort and joy. Now, if you'll excuse me,  I'll go grab that coffee.

For the loaf~
(Adapted from A Cup of Mascarpone)
Ingredients:
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 cup natural applesauce *

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 9"x5" bread pan. You can also divide and conquer by using smaller loaf pans/ bakeware; just place them on a large baking tray, as I did.  
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, orange zest and salt.  Set aside.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. 
  • Stir in vanilla extract. Mix in egg.
  • Combine baking soda into the applesauce. Stir into creamed butter mixture.
  • Add the flour mixture into this and beat until smooth.
  • Spread the batter into prepared loaf pan(s).
  • Bake 40 to 50 minutes, rotating pan halfway during baking, until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.  If baking smaller loaves, check at 30 - 35 minutes.
 You'd be bereft of a grand experience if you forgot to smell the air 30 minutes into bake time. The loaf's insane aroma is almost as good as its velvety crumb. 


For the frosting~
Ingredients:
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp orange zest (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 ½ cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp of chopped candied orange peel or crystallized ginger for garnish

Directions:
  • Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Add zest and vanilla. Slowly beat in confectioner's sugar and continue on medium speed, until light and fluffy
  • Once the cake has cooled, spread the frosting over the top of the loaf/loaves (you might have some extra which I'll leave you to decide the fate of) 
  • Sprinkle frosting with a few pieces of chopped candied orange peel or ginger.
  • Frosting sets well once chilled. Cover the loaf in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for upto 3 days (bets if you get it past day one). 

* Recipe for applesauce~

  • 5 medium apples  peeled, cored, and quartered (I use Fuji or even red delicious)
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp butter
In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar and cinnamon stick. Bring to boil on high heat. Lower to medium and cover for 20-25 minutes until apples are soft and cooked through. Take out cinnamon. Blend with room temperature butter in a blender or with immersion blender.
If you're like me and can't wait, know that it crumbs up a great deal straight from oven. Practice patience and let it do its thing in the fridge for an hour or two. You'll have a firm, rested loaf. 
 I know what would go best with this...a cup of chai. Don't you think? 

Why not give the plumcake a try? You won't be disappointed.
******
"Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually,
“Let God be magnified!” Psalm 70:4(KJV)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Green rice pulao with mint, cilantro and peas

You may consider me a tad bit weird when it comes to mind confessionals, but I have to tell you, I believe the Internet talks to me on a regular basis. Sometimes its more than once a day, repetitive reminders from my superbright screen. It boldly interrupts any productive, read:all, thoughts I have, setting offkey my routine and schedule, while  gladly straightloading customised ideas and plans for my day. It turns extremely vocal during this time of year, pointing out the need for 100 new cookie recipes, in an all favorite(!) cookie publication. Baking trays that have seen better days, got chumped over for the ones on my Amazon wishlist, with air venting and all, and should be at my door, tomorrow, right? Of course, I'd be saving myself a ton of money and trips to Michael's if I just weborder the massive supply of nonpareils (does it make a difference that they're neon?) now invading every nook of my kitchen floor. Imagine the creepy realization that your sidebar has a mind of its own, periodically suggesting the magnetic measuring spoons and itsasteal parchment replacing silicone liners. You see where this is going?
Even still, I wasn't going to be bullied into blatant consumerism (*ahem, cough, cough**) . That's when the Grinch put it into perspective. In all his antiheroness, he said it right... "Christmas doesn't come from a store (screen ones included), Christmas, perhaps means...a little bit more?"And yes though the meaning and the gift will never leave the very beings of my soul, even I require common thought intervention, away from the routineness of flour and baking soda.
And so it came to be, my revelation, maybe unconventional, this consideration of sharing colored rice that may put aside your baker's rhythm and steers the head clear lugging into its parallel a great grains frame of mind.
So people, let's talk about this, because that's all I want to do today. It's the rarelyconsidered main that can help you in your days leading upto and after Christmas menu planning. Perhaps it might stage its way into earning centerplace, where pegs of grinchcoloreed rice become noteworthy and trump mighty protein on any night's dinner prospect .

Empathize with me here. I'm a little overobsessive over rice, owing to a cerealandgrains genetic input, a salute to those worldparts where I'm from, places where its unimaginable to meal-do without it. And though there will always be a louder, more universal rant for big slabs of meat and servings of fish, my experience knows a heaping plate of hot rice can achieve greatness with some coercing, and can scream as much good cheer as a decked out pot roast. Do I hear any calls of agreement on that? Please?

This onepan dish is a result of a tremendous mishmash of my imagination. I could write a thesis on the many ways to flavor rice. And its a shame I haven't shared one with you here, except in the form of these stuffed sweetened spheres,  ground and battered for a breakfast, even taking the beaten form of an addictive snack. But trust me on this, I will dig through and present some gems from my many accidental imaginative kitchen discoveries in days to come.

For the matter at hand, today's rice story relies on a simple five ingredient merger: garlic, ginger, cilantro, mint, lemon juice, which become the foundation of a chunky dream sauce for each  kernel to hinge into, bite by bite. Thus, oryza sativa is brought to its higher calling, dazzling emerald beauty on a plate, surging with flavor and reaching its destiny of a dream-come-true in cereal preparation.

I say you should. Share some love. Your friends will consider it divine providence to be on your guest list with green rice on the menu. Not to stop there, because it will totally fit that inapinch dinner bill, you know, where you can't miss Linus narrating the Christmas story, so mesmerising that you unresistingly reach for recurrent helpings. 

Ingredients: 
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1" piece ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4-5 large sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 4 mint stems, with leaves, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice - rinsed 2-3 times
  • 3 ¾ cups hot water
  • 2 tsp salt or enough for flavor
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
Directions:
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse  garlic, ginger, lemon juice, cilantro and mint till blended with the consistency of thick paste, not too drippy.
  • In a deep set saucepan or dutch oven(large enough to cook rice), heat oil over medium heat. If using, add bay leaf.
  • If needed, reduce flame to medium-low and stir in blended green paste. Saute until ingredients are cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
  • Mix in cleaned, drained rice. Stir in with the ingredients until well coated.
  • Take heat to high. Add hot water and salt. Stir.
  • Bring rice to boil. Reduce flame to medium- low and keep rice covered. Simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Open lid and add the peas. Turn off heat. Cover tightly and allow the frozen peas too thaw and plump and rice to cook through (all water absorbed) with the remaining heat of the pan, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Fluff with fork before serving.
* You could swap 1 tbsp ghee or butter for the oil.
* What is pulao? Pulao, also known as pilaf refers to a steamed rice dish. It may include meats, seafood and/or a variety of vegetables. Its known for its fragrant aroma, due in part to the spices/herb ingredients and rice used.
To side this with plain yogurt would be great. To serve alongside masala fried chicken takes it to the phenomenal and beyond realm.

So pinterest just figured out how I should create some rustic love for our trees, at the same time covering lots of inbetween branch space.  Good times indeed, especially getting my midteen and almost twodigiter interested in putting together gnomes and bells. Hurrah, hurrah!

Your oven need not feel any neglect, since I have some Christmas appropriate cookies in the archives. Try the ultimate oatmeal cookies, sandwich cookies, or piped shortbread and snowcaps. Nomnomnom.
******
 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. " 
Micah 5:2

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Peanut butter Oreo blondies



Blondies weren't part of my vernacular until pretty recent, we go back not more than 5 years. Being a knownoother Brownie loyalist I  had no room in my tastebud horizon for any bar outside the dark and intense. Therein, I had a maddeningly hard time in accepting those pale types, something almost-like-but-not-quite chewycrusted one. Finally I came to, fonding often for a newfound coffeeshop version, having me realize, there really is no competition, both could coexist in harmony, perfect in their own ways, and totally putting my mind to rest. 

The middle sunk a bit, and still so *gasp gasp* good.

Moreever, I did notice that numerous blondie recipes on the WWW were on the most part decent. Whereas, 99 % of brownies I came across, fell into 1 of 2 categories: dry-cakey air or bitter-fudged gunk. No worries here, since I've had my fair share of gold from the swamp. Further to that, a certain fair bombshell did a one up in my mind- that's when a high appreciation for the bars came into being. I now see you can't do much wrong with this toffeelike treat and its variant possibilities.

Browned buttered bar introduced by Martha is where I truly and first fell prey. A disarmingly yummy one, that I hope to unload with thoughts, right here, possibly after I find it it from my zillion point list of  HaveTo's, WantTo's and MustDo' s. But that's talk for another day.

Today, I want you to not only get excited about my subject, that had me do a once over, this blondie spiel which requires a more- than-glimpse- and- go. Instead you should ogle, dwell until resoluteness hits and mental-up the ingredients, one-by one. This is for you. Can I hear you squeal?

Centered horizontal, you should place the cookies soclosetoeach, that there is ample assurance of scoring an Oreo on every bite.

PbO blondie is a dense one, so stinking fabulous that it kind of screams it with every slice.  In its name is key ingredient peanut butter, which gets whipped in, giving ethereal fluff, providing blondie's pronouced flavor, and perhaps height. And these ones probably need that extent upward due to an overambitious padded midsection. With more than 2 rows of Oreos marking the best point territory, this surprise-in-the-center is almost the final gilding of the lily. Almost. A freeform layer of white chocolate chips withered across milk's favorite cookie takes the insane eat to its ne plus ultra destiny.

And here, the sugar-to- sugar ratio hits perfect proportion, allowing for a gooey middle and crisp edges. 

You're right, it is an outrageously overdone piece of confection, a jampacked hunkabar, beyond awesome, and very picture pretty. Supertraits indeed, considering the same earns some Blondies  beateuous capes and flying hammers. Just saying.

Serve these with milk and your kids might throw you a cape, maybe a crown too. Or be like me, test a few on your own. Though, it could be hard to stop at *cough, cough* 3 . Oh well, expectations of fixed Thighmaster intervals and some quality stretch pants fill my future. Worth and worth it, I tell you, except maybe for the pants.

Ingredients:
  • ⅔ cup soft butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • ½ c sugar
  • ¾ c peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ c  half and half
  • enough Oreo cookies to spread side by side (probably about 16-18), and depending on size of pan
  • ½ (12 oz) bag white chocolate chips 
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish, or for thinner bars a 9×13 pan will be fine.
  • On medium speed using an electric mixer beat together butter, brown sugar, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Reduce speed, a flour and baking powder and mix till incorporated. Add the half and half and mix. 
  • Spread half the batter in the prepared dish; layer Oreos evenly over the batter. Top with white chips. Then top with remaining half of batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on the size of your pan (less time for a rectangle, more time for a square) until golden and wooden pick inserted in center comes clean, with maybe a few sticky crumbs, since the effect is for a chewy soft center.

This time, last year: Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake. A dessert repeat for Thanksgiving again this year. So very good.
******
"The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom." Deuteronomy 28:13

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dulce de leche sandwich cookies~ Hello again with Alfajores

Where do I start? Perhaps more pertinent is how do I start? The picture right up top, maybe? Does that work? It should because that would lead me to the weather, which, in effect, will carry on to where I went for nearly two, no, three months.

So. These are cookies. AlfajoresAwesome sweet sandwiches with crammed insides of luscious dulce de leche. Two cookies are needed to eat it as one. And you probably won't stop with just that one. These beauties come from Latin America, are practically the national food of Argentina and have numerous derivations from all parts of the Spanish speaking world. Here is where I was smitten. It was an absolute glorious shout to my soul, yes, I was to make these.

Our season of Autumn is well on its way to being over, and we really have no show of flametouched trees or crunchyleafed sidewalks here in these Southwest reaches of the U.S.. No, we scene it up by creating our own Fall colors. Brilliant rusts, far- out burgundies, burnt siennas come easy with the help of compartmentalized Wilton jars, the right throwin of brights for a blah pre-winter existence. So, this  now declared my new favorite cookie has thematically been dredged in color and fanciful texture. And even if the Autumnal spell of time is almost over, I can customize my delicate alpha-hoar-ay to a countless whereafter, whenafter, whatever it may be.

So where did the season I missed a good two thirds of go? Why so long a break in my food banterings? Was I lost? No. Did you miss me? I hope so.

There leads me to my next point in task. Explaining "what the(?),where the(?)"after buttermilk and cheddar biscuits?


Cut to the short. It was lightning quick- the decision to go on a trip, the vacation that was long past, and maddeningly overdue. A chunk of The Sojourn was spent on the wee Southern tip of India, Kerala, homeland of ours, which some call God's own country. Huh? Yes, I've sung the ballad of the native, once-upon- a- time habitat of mine and JZ's on numerous pages. Look through and maybe you'll find something; here, here ,here and maybe even here.


Now what do you think our multi-month trip involved?

Spot on you are. It did involve a plane (s).

About 400 lbs of bags.

Fun with family.

Eating. 

 Kissing elephants.

Shopping. *SMILE. SMILE*

More eating.

Clanning with those siblings in Dubai. How does it go(?)...." a family that eats together..."

Viewing big buildings.

To back again. God's own country and commerce beckon. I do my part to rightfully answer.

Saying goodbye without squeezing in some more? Not done. Not ever.

And there you go. This my people is what led to a major PTMM (post-trip-mind-muddle). My "maybe tomorrow"stance that led to a followup month of procrastinating funk.

Wow, that was totally not what this post was supposed to be about, right? I know, the audacity, you say, practically outlined a whole month and half's journey from a not-enough-pixel phone camera when all you wanted was a recipe.

OK, ok, now we backtrack to our real subject. Alfajores, the cookie that was my baking therapy, my mind projecting wonderment, after such a long time, as to their delightful sandwiched loveliness, even without the adornments. Brilliant be these, with the soft crumble of shortbread due mostly to a regimented amount of cornstarch thrown into the dry mixings. And yes, they are wonderful solo, but, why even, when you know a can of dulce is as effortless to make than possibly to buy.

Further a pair with caramel glue on the edges, and you have the next  level of jawdropping delicious. Sided with coconut, nuts or colorful others, there it takes on an ambitious, beyond scale confection. 

I want to really harp on the fact that these are so easy to put together, starting with a very forgiving dough, and the simplest filling ever. Your greatest feat, however, will be in prying off the fiending hands that have already decided the destiny of your newly assembled cookie.

( Cookie recipe adapted from here)
Ingredients:
  • 1 c cornstarch
  • ¾ c all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
  • ⅓ c sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • *1 c dulce de leche
  • Coconut, crushed nuts, shaved chocolate or anything you desire for toppings
Method:
  • In a bowl, combine cornstarch, flour, baking powder, baking soda and lemon zest. Combine; set aside.
  • Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted and mix on medium speed, until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
  • Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, then brandy, and vanilla. Combine well.
  • Reduce speed to low, gradually add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible lumps.
  • Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, about an hour
  • Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Alternatively you could roll dough between 2 sheets of parchment.
  • Using a 2" cookie cutter, stamp out  app 24-26 circles.
  • Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, at least ½" apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 10-12 minutes. Take out of oven, wait 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Flip cookies upside down and fill one cookie with about 2 tsp of the dulce de leche. Place a second cookie on top and press. 
  • To decorate outsides, spread a thin layer of dulce on the outsides of cookie sandwiches and roll in desired topping. We really loved the *toasted coconut.
Notes~ To toast coconut: Place coconut flakes in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the flakes are golden brown. Beware- sweetened will brown faster.
If in oven- preheat to 325° F, spread flakes on baking sheet in single layer. After a couple of minutes, take out and stir. Return and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on it the whole time.

*Ahh dulce de leche! You can either buy a can or make the caramel luscious all on your own. See for yourself how easy it is~http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Dulce-De-Leche

Just if... I had more limbs and the hands that were helping weren't eating faster than they were actually helping, I would've made hundreds of these Pretties, all assembled side by side. Then. Slowly. One by one.

Thank you all... you encouragers, helpful commenters, senders of inspiring messages and friendly inboxers on FB. Not to mention, you, silent readers, thanks for being such an accommodating audience- it was wonderful to see that readership did not die, though I was shamefully lax. I am very grateful for being able to write and finish this particular task, I know how long it had been edging on my mind. My soul sings, for great is My Enabler and His grace is sufficient. He busted me out of my mind/writer/blogger/whateveryouwannacallit funk, and transmitted my thoughts to this here screen. God is good. All the time.  

So we''ll meet again. And soon this time.

Why not ? One for the road and all alone :-)


******
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 John 4:4 (KJV)


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Buttermilk and cheddar biscuits


I have long been enchanted with Food TV and those amazing talented chefs, many possessing wizard, often alien capabilities. Forever, their knife skills, flaming grills, and beautifully propped "kitchens" had me pining, begging for more ; ahh those shameless memorable moments, even hours, bottom parked in front of channel 110. So, now I just say it. That this morning was no different. It started when Ina Garten went all sneaky on me and in her barefoot way, invited her breakfast party into my living room. The audacity! How dare she? More so, how dare I resist? ( honestly, how, can I be so weak?) 

On she went, convincing me that my breakfast making mastery needed much improvement. and of course didn't quite match up to the hooplah -hurrah of the Contessa's. There I was, mesmerised and in hallucinogenic straits, going from pantry to refrigerator, scavenging for ingredients. It was the second item on her day's special that had my brain tripping. After quieting the restless stirring in me, time being well past noon, I decided to make my breakfast bash happen, starting and starring those jawdroppingly good buttermilk cheddar biscuits.

Before my rant begins, a note to all health/ diet purists, those condemners of fat,  there is an almost half pound of butter, which Ina has you cube- cut chilled, like in pie dough style. This much needed element in turn is what brings on the resulting indulgence, as flaky a biscuit as you could dream up in your wildest. Further, those fatcubes carouse with a plentiful amount of grated cheddar. It is this same shameless cavorting that makes the whole show worthy, perhaps one with few regrets and nothing that a few hours at the gym can't solve. 

Adding to an even more flaky outcome is the approach of the half cup of buttermilk (again cold) mixed into the butterspeckled dough. The moisture from these two alone, once dough hits heat will lift the surrounding parts to bring on layers of soft, rich, fluff-flakiness, mimicking an outcome similar to that of rank pastry.

Hit me over the head if I forget to mention the warm, fragrant awesomeness that comes toward, becoming the air you breathe, and breaking into every crevice of your home. This alone is reason that buttermilk cheddar biscuits are something you should not ever pass up. 

Finally, you could cut the dough into round cookie cutter shapes, but if desiring the rustic homestyle look, cut with knife into whatever shape your whim so desires.

This is easy, people. I goad you forward on, embrace your inner contessa and ye bake these utterperfect, soon favorite biscuits. 

Ingredients:
(adapted from Ina Garten's buttermilk cheddar biscuits)
  • 2 c all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tbsp baking powder 
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 12 tbsp (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ c cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 cold extra-large egg
  • 1 c grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • sea salt, optional ( this I omitted)
  • ½ c grated cheddar
 Baked and browned. Maybe try breakfast for dinner tonight?
Directions: 
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Sift 2 cups flour with baking powder and salt in bowl of electric mixer. 
  • On slow speed mix in cold butter cubes and allow mixture to resemble coarse crumbs, the size of peas.
  • Combine buttermilk and eggs in a small bowl. Add into the flour/butter mixture. Beat again on low speed until just moistened.
  • Mix cheddar with a small handful of extra flour. Add cheese to the dough. Mix all until roughly combined.
  • Take out and on floured surface, knead the dough about 6-7 times.
  • Roll dough out to a 10" 5" rectangle.
  • Divide and cut dough making eight smaller rectangles or use a 3' cookie cutter. (I made even smaller ones and got 12 total.)
  • Place biscuits on lined baking tray. Brush tops with egg wash.
  • Top with sea salt and cheddar if desired.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until biscuits are cooked and tops browned.
  • Serve warm.
And a week before school begins, my helper hands leave their cutting skills behind to master classwork. Not as much fun according to the two. Don't tell them I agree.
Polished and shiny. That's what good eggwash does.
Pretty, pretty props and delicious condiments illustrate just how far out a show it can be.

Last year, this time : why not have some pizza?
******
“... Do not be afraid.
    I am your shield, your very great reward." (Genesis 15:1)

These are the words the Lord spoke to Abram/Abraham. We are all Abraham. God is our shield, always in control and His promises forever hold true.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Savory crepes with spicy shrimp and white sauce

 Okay, okay. So I might not get the consummate time-conscious, blogger extraordinaire award for the year (though it would be super impressive, I must say). But as warnings go, and I did warn you a couple typings earlier that this time of year is slow. And by that I mean vacation time and hot weather do not make for meaningful moments in front of a stove. Let me tell you though, numerous possibilities that model themselves in my head dance away and result in great distress and much regret happens on recounting all my missed opportunities. But I make up for it, carrying on and waiting for the next "next time", all the while knowing this is the only time of year I can exploit make use of certain seasonal labor. You know, when JZ sets up his grill and pretends to be Bobby Flay. Great amusement and those yellout yipeee! episodes might get lost once camera, lights and computer screen come into action. Thus, I refrain. You can commend me later.

I should  also mention that I have given birth to two peculiars (ahem), those of the less-evolved palates  and who unanimously prefer fixed (often annoyingly so) meal rotations on a weekly basis. Their mostly non-experimental minds play pony to their not-so-long- lived, yet robust South Indian tastebuds. So I save you from the nonexcitement that comes from everyday starch and protein, especially since most of that has been hyped right here on these pages.

But I have to put a stop to it, a recess once in awhile. Right? Moreover it would be a crime to keep today's unbelievable tasty mise en scène from you. And personally I believe to err on the side of fair and honest. You know, being the good friend that I am.

It is a smilingly simple 3 component dish. A crepe, shrimp filling and bechamel-ish sauce which takes you on the quintessential savory journey, and a soaring one at that. Nothing like you've ever tasted, but that which you've waited for all your life - a conundrum you strongly desire to be part of.

The crepes come together in less than a handful of ingredients. The shrimp curry happens fast and furious. Of course the sauce creams up right before your eyes. Two of the components can be done and stored in advance. Which leaves the white sauce for the day of. Perfectly thin pancakes offer a soft platform for the bed of heated shrimp. The pouring of rich creamy velvet tips the scale favorably and smacks you right in the face. You like it because it is good and absurdly so.
Officially I don't know if you can call these "crepes", since that name more often than not bears eggs as number one ingredient. But I"ve been on the side of breaking a few, and have later come to the conclusion after a certain "mishap of omission" that my eggless route led to a much crisper edged crepe. I haven't looked back since and believe those eggs here add nothing. Especially if the padding inside becomes the utter and beyond.
Crepes~
Ingredients:
  • ¼ c water
  • ¾ c milk
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pinch sugar
  • 2 tbsp melted, unsalted butter 
  •  additional melted butted for coating the pan
Directions:
  • In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 15-20 seconds.
  • Transfer to bowl and refrigerate for an hour, or up to a day.
  • After batter has rested, heat a 9" nonstick pan or flat crepe pan. Using pastry brush, swipe on  the additional butter on entire surface of pan
  •  Ladle ¼ c batter into center of pan to one edge and swirl to spread evenly. ( If too thick add 1/2 tsp increments of milk to thin the batter).
  • Allow to cook, then flip. Cook for an additional minute or two.
  • Once done, lay crepe flat on surface or plate and cover with a clean dry kitchen cloth.
  • Repeat till all the batter has been used up.
Spicy shrimp filling~
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 pearl onions or shallots, diced
  • 1 medium plum tomato, diced
  • 2 tsp ginger minced
  • 2 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, cut small
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ lb medium shrimp, cleaned, deveined
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
Directions:
  • In a wide mouthed skillet on medium flame, heat oil.
  • Add mustard seeds. Allow to temper and pop, carefully shielding top of pan.
  • Wilt onions, then tomatoes. Cook until tender.
  • Add remaining ingredients to cayenne pepper. Allow to cook until blended, about two minutes.
  • Stir in shrimp, continue to stir and cook on medium high until moisture is absorbed and pieces are cooked through, 9-12 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Allow mixture to cool slightly.
Basic white sauce~
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 ¼c milk(more if needed), slightly warmed
  • ¼ tsp salt or enough to flavor
  • 1 tsp black pepper
Directions:
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. 
  • Stir in flour  until mixture cooks and becomes paste like and bubbles. Do not let it brown. 
  • Pour in milk, stirring constantly as it thickens. Add more milk depending on desired consistency. (All in all, I used 1¾ c milk). All the while keep stirring.  
  • Stir in salt and pepper.
  • Remove from heat.
Hot, Hot Hot! With 2 tsp of cayenne and unseeded serrano, it's how we here like it (speaking not for my youngest for whom I make a super mild alternative.)
Assembly:
  • Take a crepe and place flat. 
  • Drop in 1 to 2 tbsp of shrimp mixture down the length of  the middle. Fold over both sides. Repeat with the remaining crepes. 
  • If serving individually pour white sauce over filled crepe and serve or...
  • If serving a group, place in casserole or wide plate and line up finished crepes one after another. Pour white sauce over the assembled bunch.
~Likewise you could even pour some of the sauce into shrimp, thickening up the filling.
~You may end up with more crepes than filling. Refrigerate and save for later.
~This recipe is a brilliant blueprint for wrapping anything that you fancy. Other awesome filler options? Why not this chicken, shredded, no bones? Maybe some Kerala beef? Possibly try the sauce in some fish and vegetables?
Trust me they will, at least, be gone out twice before you even try to place a few in assembly. 

Thanks to all of you who faithfully read, those pretty follower pictures to the side and the silent readers that drop in from time to time. When vision is dulled on certain days, I go over the messages, mail and encouragement which brightens my day and makes photographing food fun again. All your feedback and connections charge me up, get my cooking engines ready, and set course for the next tête-à-tête. I'm grateful. Thank you over and again, friends.
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So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it."Colossians 3:12-14 (The Message)