Monthly Archives: March 2016

Happy Easter!

After a modest meatless Good Friday meal, Easter is a celebratory occasion and this meal reflects that.

Soup was re-purposed from the salted cod, cannellini bean dip with the addition of egg noodles and ham broth.

Ham glazed with a plum balsamic reduction, mashed potatoes and peas with cherries jubilee

Washed down with strawberry lemonade.

I made a batch of crepes and paired them with the cherries jubilee sauce.

And drunken strawberries (strawberries macerated in sugar and Cointreau) over crepes with French vanilla ice cream.

And then, cause I had some cream puffs in the freezer and fresh strawberries, I sliced half open and filled them with sliced strawberries and sweetened whipped cream. I made a chocolate glaze to finish the presentation. Pretty but a bit messy to eat.

So, I piped the whipped cream into the rest of the cream puffs and served them with chocolate dipped strawberries.

Pick the one you want or eat one … or 2 of each.

Good Friday Meal Pan fried Panko breaded sole fillets, sauteed kale and a re-purposed white cannellini bean dip over dried salted cod. (No recipe cause I’m still working on getting it as good as my dad’s. After last year’s under-seasoned dish, this year, I didn’t soak the cod long enough and the dip needed to be baked longer as it was a bit too watery from the moisture in the cod. Eaten with the semolina sourdough bread, however, the saltiness was reduced somewhat. I started the meal with clam chowder.

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Semolina Sourdough Bread

Yes, this is another sourdough recipe.

(WARNING: DO NOT buy or create a sourdough starter. It’s addictive to play with.)

After using up some excess sourdough starter for the hot cross buns, I was left with the remaining jar staring me in the face every time I looked toward the top of the fridge. I’m still searching for the perfect starter only/no commercial yeast recipe but ran across a recipe for a semolina sourdough bread. Semolina is a golden, very high gluten flour used mainly for pasta. The recipe still used commercial yeast but I have had this semolina in my pantry for a couple of years so I decided to use it up.

And it was a much more successful bake than previous ones.

I had a nice rise in the final proof … even if oven spring was so-so. I’d probably try a higher temperature (400-450 deg F) on a future attempt. Even 500 deg F. I was concerned about the baking because I forgot to proof my yeast (the original recipe called for the dough to be made in the bread machine with instant yeast and I wasn’t paying attention when I made it by hand with regular dry yeast granules) and I still found yeast granules in the dough before the first proof. I ended up kneading for a second time after letting the dough rise for one hour in a warm locate and then letting it rise for a second hour. And then I deflated the dough and shaped and proofed for a third time. That probably accounted for my poor oven spring.

I wrote up the recipe as I would do it next time with the yeast proofing instructions. 🙂

Hybrid Semolina Sourdough Bread – makes 1 x 1 1/2 lb loaf

1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups #1 semolina flour
3/4 cup sourdough starter

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp cornmeal, to coat proofing bowl
1 1/2 tsp sesame or poppyseeds (optional)

In a medium bowl, add warm water and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the semolina flour and salt. At the proofed yeast mixture and sourdough starter. Stir well.

Transfer to a working surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Coat a large bowl with a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil, add the ball of dough to the bowl, rotate a bit to coat the dough, cover with saran wrap and place into a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hrs until doubled.

Turn the risen dough onto the working surface, punch down and form into a round shaped loaf. Dust a bread rising basket with the cornmeal and place your loaf into it.

Preheat oven and a pizza baking stone (or a metal baking sheet if you don’t have a baking stone) to 375 degrees F

Cover dough with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place, about 1 hour or until double in size. You can sprinkle the top with sesame seeds, if you wish.

After dough has risen, carefully turn it out onto the hot pizza stone and bake. (I turned it out onto a sheet of parchment paper, scored and then transferred the bread, paper and all, onto the preheated metal baking sheet.)

Bake for about 45 minutes. Check that it’s done by knocking on the bottom of the bread and listening for a hollow sound.

Nice, golden brown bread loaf bottom on the metal baking sheet

Cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

I like the IDEA of hot cross buns better than the ones I’ve had, even those bought from a bakery. So this year, I decided to try to make my own. I threw in a half cup of sourdough starter because I had it handy.

Generally, my first tries of new recipes have been spot on but that’s not always the case.

This recipe is a work in progress for various reasons ie. I chose to reduce the amount of sugar asked for in the recipe I used. I was too lazy to grate fresh nutmeg when I ran out so I used half the amount called for. It turned out that my jar of allspice was empty so I left it out. I KNEW I shouldn’t use the full tablespoon of ground cinnamon called for (I started with 2 tsp) but decided to compensate for the nutmeg/allspice. Next time … I’m only using 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. 🙂

In the interest of full disclosure, it was a tasty hot cross bun. I’ve paid good money for worse. But it’s not a recipe I’d make again. I’d try something else first.

That said, someone else might really enjoy the sweetness level and cinnamon amount so I’m including the recipe below.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns – makes 15 buns

3 – 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
1/2 cup warmed milk
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar (use the full amount next time)
2 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 – 4 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
1 – 3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice (didn’t have any)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup dried cranberries, soaked overnight in 1/3 cup rum
~1 tsp finely minced candied orange peel.

Soaked fruit and peel

For the flour paste

1/2 cup all purpose flour
4-5 tbsp cold water

For syrup glaze

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish or spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warmed milk. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and salt. Stir in sourdough starter, activated yeast mixture, eggs, and butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, smooth batter.

Add spices, drained raisins and cranberries and minced candied orange peel. Stir well.

Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir then turn out your dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Knead for another 5-10 minutes until your dough is soft but not sticky. The egg yolks will give a golden colour to your dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add your dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Cut the dough into 15 equal pieces and roll each one into a ball.

Place the rolls in the pan and cover with a clean damp towel and let them rest for another 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Making the flour paste for the cross

Place the flour in a small bowl and add the flour a tablespoon time until you form a smooth, pipeable paste. Stop with the 5 tablespoon and wait a while for the mixture to loosen up before adding another tsp or so. (I added a sixth tablespoon right away and ended up with a mixture that was thinner than I would have liked.) Pour the paste into a small freezer bag. Seal and cut an 1/8th to a 1/4 diameter hole in the bottom. Pipe straight lines horizontally and vertically

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Making the sugar syrup

While baking make the syrup by mixing the sugar with the water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over low heat. Continue boiling for 4-5 minutes or until syrup thickens a bit. Set aside.

When the buns are out of the oven, brush with the sugar syrup.

Bang Bang Shrimp (and Chicken) version 2

I’ve made Bang Bang Shrimp before but simply sauteed the raw shrimp in a garlic butter and then coated them in the sauce. This time however, I went for the more challenging version and tempura battered the raw shrimp and then deep fried them. I was disappointed with the pale look of the shrimp even after several minutes of frying so, for the rest of the batch, I dipped the battered shrimp into Panko bread crumbs.

Oops!!

I had forgotten that Panko browns … very quickly. I reduced the cooking temperature and time and ended up with much prettier shrimp.

At this point, you can do anything you want with your shrimp, including just eating them with a seafood sauce. I decided to serve the Bang Bang sauce (equal parts sweet Thai chili paste and mayo, with some Sriracha for heat) on the side. The poor pale ‘tester’ tempura shrimp were tossed with the sauce and sprinkled with sliced green onions for a nicer presentation.

Bang Bang Shrimp tossed with sauce

I had extra tempura batter so I diced up a chicken cutlet and made the chicken version of the dish. If you wish to serve this as a shared dish, provide a container of toothpicks and let your friends spear their own.

Bang Bang Chicken drizzled with sauce and garnished with green onion

For the tempura batter, I used a Bonefish Grill copycat recipe. There are several out there.

Bang Bang Shrimp version 2
(Bonefish Grill Copycat recipe)

1/2-1 lb of large shrimp

Sprinkle shrimp with about 1/2 tsp of salt. Let sit for 12 minutes in a large bowl.

Tempura Batter

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk or water (add 2 tbsp of water and then more as needed)
1 large egg

2-3 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
2 cups Panko (optional)
1 tbsp sliced green onion for garnish

Pre-heat oil to 350 deg F in a medium sized pot.

In a second bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, milk and egg. Whisk together until smooth. Add additional milk or water if needed until it is thin enough that it will coat the shrimp.

Drain off excess batter and fry, 3-4 at a time, depending on size of container, for 3 minutes, turning so both sides get browned.

Fried shrimp … a little pale looking for my taste

For a crunchy crust, drain off excess batter, place the battered shrimp into a large shallow bowl with the Panko, turning over to coat both sides.

Fry for 2-3 minutes or until the coating is browned and the shrimp are curled up. Place onto a tray lined with paper towels to drain off the excess fat and let cool.

Bang Bang Sauce – makes about 1/2 cup of sauce

1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sweet Thai chili sauce
Sriracha to taste

Mix together well and either toss with the shrimp before serving or serve on the side. Garnish with green onion.

Hybrid Basil Pesto Couronne (Crown), Asparagus and Broccoli Soup and Sesame Seed Crackers

ETA (06/21/2016) : Sesame Seed Cracker Recipe

When you’re a grown-up, you can’t play with Play-Doh but bread dough is just as much fun. And you get to eat it afterwards. Which is why I made this couronne (crown) or wreath filled with basil pesto. I briefly considered adding sun dried tomatoes to the mixture but then didn’t bother. Maybe next time.

You can make sweet versions too filled with everything from Nutella, chocolate spread or nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) to dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), with or without a glaze.

The ‘crumb’ or inside of the crown

Hybrid Basil Pesto Brioche Couronne (Crown) – makes 1 loaf

3- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
1/2 cup warmed milk
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup basil pesto, home made or purchased
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish with another 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warmed milk. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and salt. Stir in sourdough starter, activated yeast mixture, eggs and butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, smooth batter.

Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir then turn out your dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Knead for another 5-10 minutes until your dough is soft but not sticky. The egg yolks will give a golden colour to your dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add your dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.

Turn your risen dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper, flatten and roll out into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving about 1/2 an inch clear on the top and bottom of the long edge. Roll up, pinch the seam tightly and turn the roll over so it’s seam side down. With a pizza cutter, cut the roll in half. Turn the roll halves, cut side up and braid together, making sure you keep the cut side up. Form your braid into a circle, pinching together the 2 edges.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg. Fahrenheit.

Lightly cover the crown with a sheet of food wrap and let rise for 30-45. If you poke the dough gently, it will spring back up when it’s risen sufficiently. Sprinkle another couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the crown.

Bake the crown for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom is browned and set. (Check carefully after 10-12 minutes and if the top is getting too browned, cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil.)

I was really pleased with the oven spring I got on the crown.

Serving a wedge of this flavourful bread with a bowl of soup is a perfect pairing. I had a small bundle of fresh asparagus (and some broccoli stems in the freezer) so I made a small pot (3 servings) enriched with half and half. No potatoes and I strained the pureed veggies through a sieve so I ended up with a thin soup. The asparagus tips were blanched and added to my soup for texture.

Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

If you don’t want to make the bread, some home made crackers (sesame seed in this case) are a nice accompaniment to the soup. I’ll post the recipe later.

Sesame Seed Crackers cut into 1 inch squares and baked for 16 minutes.

Crispy Sesame Flatbread/Crackers – makes 12 flatbreads

1 2/3 cup / 200g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp each of black and white sesame seeds
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup / 120ml water

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

In a bowl add in the dry ingredients, mix and then add in the wet ingredients. Mix and knead with your hand until it’s a smooth dough. You may have to add a bit more water or flour to reach a perfect non-sticky dough like in the photo.

On a lightly floured baking sheet roll out the dough as thin as possible. Make sure it’s evenly thin so it bakes evenly.

Cut around the frizzy corners with a pizza cutter and then divide the dough into separate flatbreads. You can make them bigger, longer or whatever you want!

Bake them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (until they get crispy and golden spots).

Serve for example with some homemade hummus or with soups. Enjoy!

Storage: Store them in an air-tight jar or zip-lock bag (after letting them cool off completely) to keep them crispy!

Placinta (Strudel) Redux

ETA: The post dropped before I’d finished adding the pictures. I made it several weeks ago … and lost track with RL stuff.

Strudel/phyllo/burek dough is found in many cuisines under a wide variety of names. My Romanian parents called it “placinta” and my mom’s cheese (placinta cu branza) or apple (placinta cu mere) versions were eagerly anticipated at my house. She also made a pumpkin version (placinta cu dulete or dovleac) which wasn’t bad … if that’s all that was left, IMNSHO.

I’m only made it once before, successfully. I don’t think this try was as good as that one and I messed up a few things, but everything was, at least, edible.

NOTE: I just discovered that I had only made a half recipe on that previous attempt so it’s possible that my stand mixer just wasn’t able to knead it well enough to get the gluten development it needed. It’s hard to imagine that my mom did all this by hand.

Because I didn’t have a lot of cheese (feta and ricotta) in the freezer, left over from previous projects, only enough for 2 mini coils, in fact, I thawed a container of filling for Jamaican beef patties and filled the remaining dough with it. My filling estimates were a bit uneven and the first roll was too meaty, while the 2nd was a bit too doughy. Oh well, it just means I need more practice.

Recipe in Pictures

Dough balls, coated with oil and allowed to rest covered with food wrap. After 1-2 hrs, each ball is stretched, carefully, over a linen covered surface, before being filled. Extra oil or melted butter is generously drizzled over the dough to help with the browning. Don’t skimp.

The thickened edges are trimmed off before rolling up into a long ‘snake’. The resulting ‘snake’ can then be coiled or shaped into a U onto a baking sheet before baking

The inside of the cheese strudel was a bit gummier than my mom’s ever turned out though it WAS cooked.

Cheese Strudel

Meat Strudel

My goal is still to be able to stretch the dough to cover the entire kitchen table, as she did.