Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baking Up A Storm

I admit, I might have gone a little overboard this week. And by "a little overboard", I mean I have totally been eating myself fat this week. I don't know what it is (hormones maybe?), but I just found so many recipes that sounded fantastic, I decided I had to make them all. So be prepared for quite a list this week. And I'm featuring some pictures finally. I am by no means a food photographer, but I do my best with what laziness I have to work with.

I wasn't really in the mood for meat this week. Between the pork two weeks ago and all the chicken last week, I needed a meat-cation. Surprisingly, so did Husband. He's a big meat and potatoes kind of guy, so I was surprised, but proud, when he said he wouldn't mind being sparing with the meat this week as well. So everything on my lis
t this week is vegetarian (well, there are eggs if you count that...I never know the rules), but just about everything has tofu or legumes or dairy incorporated in some way for added protein.
  • I started off with some quick buttermilk biscuits, courtesy of Pinch My Salt. I had been craving buttermilk baked goods like nobodies business all last week, so I punted these out early. Thankfully, they are seriously simple and fast. It only made about 8 biscuits, so if you're planning a dinner party, you might want to double (or triple! yum!) the recipe. It ended up being the perfect amount for snacks for the weekend. A note on cake flour. I had never used cake flour before trying this recipe (I made these once before several months ago), and every time I went to a grocery store I would check out all the flours, looking for cake flour, and never finding any. Finally, I emailed Nicole, blogger extraordinaire, and asked where in the world she gets her cake flour. She was nice enough to email back and let me know it's in a red box (with a white swan) with the cake mixes and such. The next time I was at the grocery store I looked, and sure enough, there it was! I had been just a few feet off in my searches all those weeks! Just in case anyone else is as clueless as me out there, I thought I'd save you some trouble.
  • I topped my mouth-watering biscuits with some plum and earl grey preserves, courtesy of The Kitchn (I've posted the recipe before, but dagnabit, I'll do it again!). I've been itching to make this again ever since plums started popping up at the grocery store. I love, love, love this recipe. It's easy and it tastes good on just about any carb-filled breakfast food you can think of. This batch turned out a bit tart because my lemon ended up yielding the juice of about three large lemons! Seriously, it was all over the place. So I also topped the biscuits with some orange blossom honey to off-set the tartness from the preserves. Alton Brown mentioned preferring orange blossom honey on an episode of Good Eats last week, so when I saw it at Whole Foods, I thought I'd splurge. And boy am I glad I did! It's the best honey ever! I can't stop eating it! It's good stuff.
  • Next, I decided I would undertake my own bagels, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. My mom is of the philosophy "why make bagels when you can go to a bagel shop and buy them?" This is true, but I like to know what's in what I'm eating. I like the satisfaction of knowing I've made what I'm eating from scratch. I like to try and dirty every dish in my kitchen each weekend and make my husband wash them all. Ok, just kidding on that last note. Mostly, I just wanted to try it. I have to say, bagels are no challah. This recipe was hard. First off, it's a two day process. Keep in mind if you try this that most of the work is done the first day. The second day is just boiling and baking the bagels. Day 2 was easy, day 1 had me questioning my place in the world. It started with the sponge. I mixed the ingredients, covered the bowl like the recipe said, and waited for it to rise. No risening action followed. I was peeved. About an hour in I decided to move the plastic wrap from the top of the bowl to directly onto the sponge. That worked. Apparently the air between the top of the bowl and the actual ingredients was my problem. Psh! It never rose to twice its size, but it rose enough that I figured it was ok to move on to the next step. The next step was the kneading. Thanks to my trusty kitchenaid mixer, I had the ingredients incorporated and kneaded on the dough hook in no time. Then I tried the windowpane test and failed miserably. It pretty much went downhill from there. I kneaded in the machine, I kneaded by hand. I added flour, I kneaded some more. 30 minutes later, it was still failing the test and starting to get tough (the dough had continually felt tacky, which was why I was still adding flour). So I called it good enough and formed my bagels. I was bummed, and convinced they would turn out disgusting, so I was happily surprised when they easily passed the float test. Yay! They ended up coming out fine. Not fabulous. Not delish. Fine. They're good, but not ten times better than a bagel shop. I wonder if they would have turned out better if I hadn't gone wrong with my first rise in the beginning. I've have to try again sometime.
  • Phew! That was a lot to say just about the bagel-making portion. I haven't even talked about the bagel-eating portion! I did veggie sandwiches with them this week. I spread some roasted red pepper and garlic hummus (see next bullet) on each side of the bagel. Then I added a little parsley (hey, I had it, so I figured I'd take the kitchen sink approach), some sliced tomato, very thinly sliced red onion (a little goes a long way for me), avocado, arugula, alfalfa sprouts (in moderation, I love this addition), and finally, some cheese. Oh my goodness it is veggie heaven! Sorry, I didn't manage to get a picture of the sandwich or even of a finished bagel. Whoops!
  • Hummus, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. I saw this recipe last week, but since hummus doesn't really go with Mexican food, I had to wait a week. I decided to do roasted red pepper and roasted garlic in mine. I ended up adding about 3 medium red peppers and 2 whole heads of roasted garlic (though they were really small). It actually turned out...quite bland. I think I might have added too much water trying to get the consistency right. Also, I didn't really taste the tahini, so maybe some more was in order. I definitely want to try again. I don't think there's anything wrong with the recipe. It's very similar to a few others I've seen. I think I just need to tinker with it. I ended up buying some really nice dark and heavy whole wheat pita bread at Whole Foods. This hummus actually goes very well with it because the flavor from the bread makes up for lack of flavor in the hummus.
  • When I tend towards a carb-heavy week, I'm always in the mood for soup to go with it. This time I tried lentil soup, courtesy of Alton Brown. A very simple and easy recipe, which was nice to go along with all the baking. I've never even heard of grains of paradise, so I left that spice out. I also wanted more veggies, so I ended up using 2 medium onions, about 2/3 of an entire bunch of celery, and about 2/3 of a bag of baby carrots. It also ended up a little bland, but Husband discovered that a little Cholula hot sauce cleared that problem right up. I added just a few drops (to my bowl, not the whole pot), and it ended up morphing the flavor into something completely delicious, though not at all hot. Go Husband!
  • That's right I'm not even close to done. I still didn't think I had enough veggies in the mix (I eat a lot of vegetables), so I tried this recipe for grilled spinach and goat cheese stuffed portobello mushrooms, courtesy of Serious Eats. This one is a keeper.Another easy recipe. Just mix some frozen spinach (after thawing of course) and goat cheese, hollow out some portobellos, stuff 'em, and grill! I used my indoor grill pan, and it worked great. I ended up doubling the amount of spinach because 1) I wanted a higher vegetable to cheese ratio to make it healthier, and 2) because the portobellos I bought were definitely more medium/large than small and I didn't want to run out of filling. It was a good call because I had just enough filling. Also, as the recipe says, I used a goat cheese that's rolled in herbs. It gave it a really nice understated flavor. On my way home from work yesterday I was thinking about having one for dinner and I got the bright idea to add a fried egg on top. Oh man, these things are good on their own, but with a runny egg yolk on top... I think I need a moment alone.
  • So this episode of Good Eats I mentioned was actually an episode on bars. Specifically, granola bars, protein bars, and rice crispy bars. Husband and I drooled through the entire episode and decided we had to try all three! Thus, the trip to Whole Food last weekend, which is actually about 25 miles away from where we live. All three recipes were super quick and easy. I think I was done with all three in about an hour. If you can catch the episode online or on the food network, I would definitely recommend it. He actually gives you the nutrional information for each of the bars, so you can see for yourself how fantastic they are for you. Or at least in the case of the more dessert-y bar, how not so bad for you.
  • First was the granola bars. I went with shelled sunflower seeds because the thought of eating the shells weirds me out. Taste-wise the granola bars are delicious. I couldn't stop eating it. Unfortunately, they didn't stay in bar form so well. They pretty much crumbled into just regular granola straight out of the pan (and yes, I let it cool first). That's ok, because it's still just as good when you eat it with a spoon, but I was a little disappointed it didn't stay together. It's probably a problem with the proportions. Alton's recipe is by weight. I'm far too lazy to weigh out all the ingredients on a food scale. Do you see all that I had going on this weekend? So I followed his approximate measurements. If you measure, you'll probably get better results.
  • Next, I made the protein bars. These are ingenius! They have soy protein powder and silken soft tofu for the protein, and peanut butter and dried fruit for the flavor. The tofu also provides a really nice creamy texture to the bar. The flour and eggs make it light and bread-like almost. When I say they have tofu, it seems to put people off, but really, tofu is a tasteless food. All I taste when I eat these is the peanut butter, fruit, and sugar. They are delicious and filling, though admittedly, not so great to look at.
  • And lastly (I know, I thought it would never end too), the brown rice crispy bars. I've since discovered that my body rejects marshmallow in my system like a disease, but they're so tasty I've been eating them anyway. Flavor-wise, these are quite different from traditional rice crispy treats. The puffed brown rice is, of course, more pronounced than those tasteless rice krispies (not to mention the traditional treats are overloaded with sugar), but the dried fruit, almonds, and honey definitely keep it tasting sweet and dessert-y. At first, I didn't think they tasted all that great, but after I let them set longer (I tend to dig in sooner than I should...I'm a wee bit impatient), the flavors really came together into deliciousness. Now I can't stop eating them (and my body is hating me for it).
  • Pictured from top left to bottom center: brown rice crispy bar, protein bar, granola bar:


Spectater said...

sigh. i miss putting a fried egg on top of things. SO YUM!

JuLo said...

LOL! I was definitely channeling you when the addition came to me.