Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Blackberry Chip Froyo Breakfast Pops

I signed up for my first marathon the other day and this week marks the beginning of an intense and strict 18-week training schedule. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I told myself for many many years that I didn’t want to attempt anything beyond a half, but here I am.

So I’ve bought new running shoes, stocked up on electrolyte drink tablets, and equipped myself with a plethora of post-run snacks including peanut butter (obviously), kind bars, orange juice, and these popsicles!! These are blackberry chip froyo breakfast pops. Yes, breakfast. Though I’ve had them at several points in they day and they work there too.

If you imagine waking up a 6:30 in the morning, followed by an hour of running in the already-sweltering July heat, a cool and creamy popsicle does sound nice right when you walk in the door, doesn’t it? And when it comes down to it, this popsicle is no different than having yogurt and fruit for breakfast with a handful of chocolate chips thrown in for good measure. Maybe you could even dip it in a bowl of granola on the side as you go too or take it in the car with you if you’re in a hurry, lots of options here.

The flavor here takes inspiration from one of my favorite ice creams, Edy’s Slow Churned Raspberry Chip Royale, and flavor which is unfortunately no longer around as far as I’m aware. When I was in high school, a time when I was running aggressively 6 times a week, my best friends and I would tear into a giant container of this stuff on a regular basis and without restraint. I remember us polishing off one of these monstrosities the night before a ten-mile run and the next day we felt amazing so obviously the ice cream did good things for us. Hopefully it’ll have the same effect on this marathon training too.

While these popsicles are not exact replicas of my favorite ice cream, they are very satisfying in their own way. Made with a base of vanilla greek yogurt, the resulting popsicle is more icy, as opposed to a creamy ice cream bar, making it more refreshing on hot days. I added blackberry sauce made by heating frozen blackberries with sugar in a pan until they break down and straining out the seeds. This gives them a deep berry flavor and their awesome merlot color. And of course the chocolate chips. No explanation needed there.

Blackberry Chip Froyo Breakfast Pops
Makes 10 popsicles (using this mold)
Adapted from Little Spice Jar

12 oz frozen blackberries
4 Tbs sugar, divided
2½ cups vanilla greek yogurt
¼ cup milk or almond milk
1/3 cup chocolate chips, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan combine the blackberries and 2 Tbs of sugar and place over a medium heat. As the blackberries heat up use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture and mash the fruit into a sauce. Once the fruit is warmed and broken down, remove from the heat and strain using a sieve set over a medium bowl. Use the spoon to press down on the fruit to get out as much of the juice as possible (This step is optional but I really hate seeds in things so I take the time to separate them).
Set aside to cool.

While the blackberry sauce cools, combine the yogurt, milk, and the remaining 2 Tbs. of sugar in a medium bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add in the cooled blackberry sauce and stir to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips as well. Transfer the mixture to your popsicles molds using a ladle making sure to evenly divide the chocolate pieces as they may sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Place the molds in the freezer until completely solid. Run them under warm water to remove from molds and serve immediately.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sticky Rice Bread

One TV show that I was recently sad to see ending was Downton Abbey. For a glorified soap opera about the lives of the exceedingly rich, I actually really enjoyed it. I mean, it’s no Game of Thrones (The King of the North!) but good enough to keep me emotionally invested for about 5 years and move me to tears perhaps more than once. And as much as Mary’s character annoyed me, I guess I’m glad she got a happy ending along with the rest of them.

There is one specific element of the show’s extraordinary production design that always stuck out to me. No, it’s not the lavish ballrooms in the Crawley’s house nor the elaborate table settings for their fancy dinners. It is much more minute than that but its allure would drive me insane regularly. There were many morning breakfast scenes that took place around the dining room in the servant’s quarters and in each scene a perfectly picturesque half loaf of the squishiest plushy white bread was placed atop the table.  The kind that is both dense and incredibly soft, bread that you can really sink your teeth into, bread that seems like it would be best served with a swipe of salted butter and a drizzle of honey alongside English cheeses and apples.

I specifically remember one scene where the character took a large wedge of the bread, fixed it up with butter and jam, and then was called upon so he hurried off before even taking a bite. I may or may not have been crying internal tears over that poor sad uneaten piece of bread for a long time. But let’s not talk about that moment anymore. Why? Because I no longer have to long for that bread. My dreams for it have come to fruition and for the past week I have been enjoying the tastiest morning toast and some bomb ass sandwiches thanks to a recipe for this sticky rice bread.

Despite what the title implies, this bread is not gluten free. In fact, it is full of it. However, a thick paste made of boiled glutinous rice flour and water joins the rest of the standard bread ingredients making for a final texture that is best described as stretchy. The two flours seem to join forces to create these ultra elastic strands of gluten giving the bread a very satisfying chew when soft. It kind of has that Wonder Bread appeal where the bread sticks to the roof of your mouth a bit when you take a bite. I mean this is a really good way by the way.

This all translates to toast really well in that it soaks up melted pools of butter without becoming soggy and the subtle sweetness that the rice flour gives turns into a caramelized flavor when the edges get just a little bit burnt. I obviously cannot speak highly enough of this bread and although it requires some planning ahead, more than a few steps, and an unusual ingredient that require a trip to the Korean supermarket, it is worth it. Trust me.

Never before have I been so excited about eating breakfast, and breakfast was already one of my favorite times of day. And guess what? It freezes really well so you can slice it up and pop it into some freezer bags as soon as it cools so that you can hoard this bread as long as you like and savor it at your leisure. The Crawleys can keep their fancy 7-course dinners, I’ll be down with the servants eating all of their bread, thank you very much.

Sticky Rice Bread
Makes 2 loaves
Recipe from Lady and Pups

1¼ cups plus 1 Tbs. sticky rice flour (Also called glutinous rice flour. You can find it at an Asian supermarket)
1 1/3 cups water
3½ cups bread flour
3 egg whites
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 1/8 tsp instant dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1¾ Tbs. softened unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the rice flour and water and place over a medium heat. Stir constantly until it forms a gooey mass. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to let out some more of the heat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook, add the bread flour, egg whites, sugar, yeast, salt and the cooled rice flour and water mixture. Mix on a low speed until the ingredients form a dough, scraping down the bowl occasionally as needed. Once it forms a solid mass of dough, increase the speed to medium high for 5 minutes.

Slow down the mixer and add half of the softened butter. Once it’s incorporated add the rest and knead again on medium-high speed for 15-20 minutes. The dough will be smooth but still pretty sticky. This is okay. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof at room temperature until doubled, about 1-2 hours. In the meantime line 2 large loaf pans with parchment paper.

Scrape the dough onto a floured countertop and divide in half. Then divide each half into 3 pieces, dusting with flour as needed. Roll the 6 pieces into long strips about the length of your loaf pan, pushing out any air bubble as you go. Take 3 of the strips and braid them together, pinching them shut at the ends. Repeat with the other 3 pieces of dough. Place the two loaves into you prepared pans and cover them very well with plastic wrap.  Place them in the refrigerator for 12-18 hours.

Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats to 350 degrees. Place the bread in the oven and cover them loosely with a piece of parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove the top piece of parchment and bake for another 20 until golden. Remove from the pan and place the loaves on a cooling rack for 30 minutes before having at it.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Baked Peaches with an Almond Crust

Um, hi, happy solstice! Apparently while I’ve been off running half marathons, going to bridal showers in Boston, pride parading, and sun basking by my apartment’s pool, it’s turned into summer over here. I guess this means we can start going peach crazy, right? Ok, good. But really though, I got some ripe white nectarines at the store the other day and all it took was eating the first one cold and over the sink for some sort of switch to flip in my brain and signal this unending need to eat as many peaches/nectarines as possible.

When these kinds of fruit cravings hit I turn, of course, to Nigel Slater’s Ripe. With each chapter devoted to one singular fruit, the book is filled with more variations of fruit-filled cakes, crumbles, trifles, and custards than I can even dream of making in my lifetime. But at least this makes for plenty of options when I get a bit farmers market happy. Originally wanting to make grilled peaches, it was actually the recipe on the page next to it that caught my eye the most. Baked peaches with an almond crust. I know, hard to resist right, because even though crust is inherently not the loveliest sounding of words, there is nothing in the history of food that has not been improved by a crust. So there.

It’s also nice that Nigel usually opts for super easy recipes where the fruit takes the main stage and the add-ons are only a few staple ingredients. Here, peaches are sliced in half and tucked into a square casserole dish. They then get a generous coating of almonds, sugar, butter, and oats that have been quickly blitzed into a gravel with a food processor. I added a splash of amaretto atop the peaches before adding the crumble for good measure. I’m sure Nigel would approve. As the peaches bake they become intense, soft and sticky while the topping creates a toffee-like shell. And as with anything crumble-like, vanilla ice cream on the side is an obvious choice.

Baked Peaches with an Almond Crust
Serves 4
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe

4 peaches or nectarines
1/3 cup raw skin-on almonds
¼ cup sugar, cubed
3 Tbs. butter
¼ cup rolled oats
pinch of salt
amaretto liqueur (optional)
vanilla ice cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut your peaches or nectarines in half and pull out the pit. Nestle the 8 halves into a baking dish, cut side up.
In the bowl of a food processor add the almonds, butter, sugar, oats, and the salt. Pulse the mixture until it takes on a gravel-like appearance and no big pieces of almond remain.

If using the amaretto, glaze the tops of the fruit with a drizzle of that. Spoon a mound of the crumble mixture onto the top of each peach or nectarine. Bake for 45 minutes until the fruit is soft and the topping is crispy and golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cinnamon Bun Cruffins

Now I know they can be a bit overrated and overdone, but I actually have quite the appreciation for hybrid desserts. I mean, when I call out a few examples like the cronut, the cookie cake, the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, it’s hard to deny that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Baking is a science after all, so I say why not let it undergo some experimentation? At least, that’s what I thought when I saw a recipe for a cruffin recently.

The cruffin – one part croissant, one part muffin – takes after its predecessor the cronut but presents itself in a slightly more “home cook friendly” way. The cruffin gets its crispy, multi-layered quality by running laminated dough through a pasta machine until paper-thin, coating it with butter, and rolling it into a log. The log of dough is sliced lengthwise, exposing its many layers, before being tucked into a muffin tin. While cooking, the butter releases steam and puffs up the cruffin, creating a muffin with the croissant-like layers of crispy and flaky dough.

But when I saw the cruffin recipe I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a way to mix yet another dessert element into this already crossbred recipe. And all at once I had it. It only seemed natural. A cinnamon bun of course! What warm and flaky pastry would not be made better with the addition of cinnamon sugar and a sweet and sticky glaze? I could already imagine how the sugar inside of each layer of the cruffin would caramelize, making the final product even more ethereally crispy. And what should I call it? Cinnacruffinbun? Ok, yeah, bad idea. Maybe something simple like cinnamon bun cruffins.

So what was the result? Even better than expected I must say. My apartment filled with the smell of cinnamon, creating an alluring effect not unlike that of the Cinnabon in the mall. Compact in its muffin form, the pastry was caramelized and crispy on the outside but once pulled apart, revealed the soft and stringy brioche-like bread and cinnamon infused center. To be honest, it was less croissant-like and more so reminiscent of those pull-apartflaky Pillsbury biscuits, but this made it no less delicious in the least. So lesson learned, although risky and tricky, the 3-in-1 dessert thing can very much happen, with impressive results!

But! Before I reveal to you the recipe for this creation I must first give you a few warnings:

1: Without meaning to undermine anyone’s baking ability, I will say that this is not exactly a recipe for beginner bakers. As much as I love universality with recipes this one is definitely complicated. Baking experience plus a high level of comfort with bread-baking is definitely recommended.
2: Its high degree of difficulty also naturally comes with a high degree of mess-making. There will be a trail of cinnamon sugar across your floor. You will find lumps of butter in random places in your home long after you are done cleaning up (for me with was on the part of my trashcan that you step on to open the lid. Random, I know). And you might as well just accept that you will need to do some serious swiffering before the day is done.
3: Your dough and your pasta machine will invariably fight one another. Rips and tears will happen, curses will fly from your mouth, and frustration will ensue. But just roll with it. The rips can be patched, the jams can be fixed, and your final muffins may look distorted and deformed as a result. But in the end it will taste great all the same.
4: You will experience a full-blown case of sugar shock and will spend the next 2 hours wondering why your heart is beating so fast and your eye has developed a slight twitch. It will go away, don’t worry. You just ate a cinnamon bun cruffin, life could be far worse.

And one final note. If any of your muffins look a little less pretty than desired right before you put the pan in the oven, no need to worry. Just pop these ones into a waffle iron instead. You won’t be disappointed ;)

Cinnamon Bun Cruffins
Makes 8 cruffins
Recipe adapted from Lady and Pups
Glaze recipe by Paula Deen

For the Dough
1 cup plus 1 Tbs (150 grams) bread flour
1 cup plus 1 Tbs (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1½ tsp instant dry yeast
1½ tsp salt
½ cup (130 grams) lukewarm water
3½ Tbs. (50 grams) room-temperature unsalted butter

For the Filling
1 stick plus 3½ Tbs (165 grams) room-temperature unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
2 Tbs. cinnamon

For the Glaze
4 Tbs room temperature unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extra
2-6 Tbs boiling water

2 hours or the night before you start, set out all butter for the recipe so that it can come to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flours, yeast and salt. Add the water and use the dough hook of the mixer to knead the mixture on low for three minutes. You may need to help it along a bit by mixing things together with a spatula. The result should be a stiff and shaggy dough but add a little bit more water if it’s not coming together. With the mixer speed still on low, add the 50 grams of butter, a little at a time until it is fully incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and let the mixer knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. You may need to add pinches of flour to the edges of the bowl at the beginning if the dough still looks really buttery. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 30-40 minutes.

Have your 165 grams of additional butter handy and mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. Butter the cups of a muffin tin. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time (keeping the others covered with plastic wrap in the meantime) and run it through the pasta machine. Flour both sides of your piece of dough and flatten it into a square shape a little less wide than the pasta machine. Starting on the widest setting, run the dough through the pasta machine. After a few times, connect the two ends of the dough so that you have a continuous ring of dough that you are feeding through.

Continue feeding the dough through the pasta machine, while gradually working towards the thinnest setting of the pasta machine. If it starts to get sticky, just dust the dough with a little more flour. Once the dough is long and paper thin, cut it into two same-length pieces, removing it from the pasta machine, and laying them flat on your workspace. Using a quarter of your 165 grams of butter, use your fingers to spread the butter in a thin layer across both pieces of the dough. Then evenly sprinkle with 3-4 Tbs. of the cinnamon sugar.

Once finished, start rolling one of the pieces into a log. When you reach the end, place this log at the end of the other piece of dough and continue rolling it into one log. Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife, cut the log lengthwise into two pieces. Take each piece and tie it into a semi-knot shape with the cut side facing outward so you can see the layers. Place these two knots into 2 cups of the muffin tin. Repeat this process for the three other pieces of dough. Loosely cover the muffin tin with plastic wrap and allow the cruffins to rise for 2-3 hours until about double in size. At this point you can also place your pan in the fridge to bake off later but it may need more time to rise.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake the cruffins for 20-22 minutes. While they bake, make the glaze. Place the 4 Tbs. of butter, the powdered sugar, and the vanilla in a bowl. Add the boiling water 1 Tbs. at a time while mixing the ingredients with a spoon until it reaches a smooth and creamy consistently. Remove the cruffins from the oven when they are golden and caramelized. Let them cool in the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a plate before spooning the desired amount of glaze onto the cruffins.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Strawberries with Cream and Pistachio Cardamom Crumble

If they say that patience is a virtue, then I must not be among the virtuous most of the time. Though I did once spend 2 straight months knitting a blanket so I guess that’s not necessarily true. I suppose I do have patience when it comes to creative things – cooking, crafting, my job, etc. – and for some reason running long distances, but when it comes to patience for everyday life sorts of scenarios, it’s not always there. I don’t like surprises, many times preferring spoilers (but maybe not for Game of Thrones), will give gifts early because I simply can’t wait for the appropriate date, and drive myself mad during any waiting game; waiting for packages, waiting for events, waiting for answers.

And yet, the waiting game is inevitably hardest when the very thing you’re waiting for sits at the forefront of the mind. Funny how the world works like that.

I usually spend this time each year eagerly (and impatiently) waiting for the warmer days. Days where you run by the house of someone having their first backyard BBQ of the year and wish you could just jump in on the action, grab a burger, and see if anyone notices that nobody knows you. Uhhh maybe that’s a weird example? Ok, then let’s say waiting for the days where you can finally throw on a pair of shorts and head over to the Sunday farmers market for some seasonal produce and good old-fashioned people watching.

So when this past gloomy and chilly weekend arrived at the end of a long stream of general busyness, I forgot that we were already taking our first steps into May. That is until I saw that my nearby farmers market was in full swing and after a closer look realized that several vendors were selling strawberries. Wait, strawberries? Already? But there they were, baskets of red jewels gleaming bright on such a grey day. Somehow in the midst of many rainy days and hectic weeks, my impatience for wonderful things like strawberries faded away, and they appeared before I knew it and when I least expected it.

So what to do with a quart of perfect strawberries all to myself? Well I could eat them simply as they are, of course. And for many of them I did! But the rest deserved some degree of pomp and circumstance. Well cream had to be involved, because cream will never have a bad relationship with strawberries. And something crunchy and buttery, but nothing involving cooking the strawberries since that seems to make them soggy, greyish, and sadly unappealing. I looked to Nigel Slater’s Ripe for inspiration and settled on making a crumble, but without cooking the fruit. This of course means cooking an entire sheet tray of crumble topping and I saw nothing wrong with this at all.

The topping came together really simply. It’s a base of flour, butter and brown sugar and is filled with lots of earthy pistachios. Ground cardamom adds that warming floral note that goes so well with bright fruit flavors. It goes into the oven and what emerges essentially is a tray full of crushed pistachio shortbread cookies that I still can’t stop eating on its own. I cut up the strawberries and mixed them with a little sugar so they became syrupy and after waiting 30 minutes or so topped them with a generous dollop of whipped cream and a hefty sprinkle of crumble topping. It’s a light and refreshing dessert, one that lets the fruit do most of the talking and everything else just backs it up. I actually recommend it as an afternoon snack of sorts with a cup of black tea but I wouldn’t judge if you then had it after dinner too.  I mean, as long as the fruit that we’ve been patiently or impatiently waiting for all year is here, might as well eat dessert twice.

Strawberries with Cream and Pistachio Cardamom Crumble
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe
Serves 4 with leftover crumble topping

2 quarts strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and quartered
¼ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shelled raw pistachios
2/3 cup cold butter, diced
2 1/3 cups flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ tsp. ground cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, coarsely grind the pistachios until you have a pebbly mix. In a bowl, combine the flour and the butter. Use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the pistachios, brown sugar, and cardamom. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and evenly spread the crumble topping onto it. Bake for 35-45 minutes until toasted and golden brown in color, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Halfway through the cooking use a spatula to gently break up and redistribute the mixture. Once cooked, set aside to cool.

While the crumble topping cooks, mix the strawberries with the sugar in a bowl and set aside so it becomes syrupy. In a separate bowl beat the heavy cream to soft peaks. To serve, portion out the strawberries and top each dish with desired amount of cream and crumble.