Sunday, February 7, 2016

Baked French Toast and Peanut Butter Syrup

I was looking forward to having several back-to-back meetings at work ("looking forward" is probably not the right phrase, but that is for another blog). We normally buy donuts or other baked goods for this long session of meetings, so I was thinking about what I could make at home instead of buy. We have a bunch of bread sitting on the counter, getting drier by the day. Since I normally turn that into French toast, I figured I could make this baked version and take it to the day-long meetings.

At our house, instead of using butter, we eat our pancakes, French toast, and waffles with peanut butter. I was trying to think of an easier way to take the PB to work to serve with the French toast, so I thought I could make it into a syrup. That's what you'd do, right? :)

Feel free to downsize this recipe; I made a lot because I was feeding a bunch of people.

Baked French Toast

Ingredients for toast
3 long French bread baguettes (or any type of bread you have around)
12 eggs
1 stick of butter, melted
2 C milk
3 T vanilla extract
1 C brown sugar

Ingredients for topping
1 C brown sugar
1 C all-purpose flour
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/4 t nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 stick cold butter, chopped


Instructions for the crumb topping:
  1. Mix together the brown sugar and flour. Mix in the spices.
  2. Cut in the butter to form small crumb balls. 
  3. Cover the topping and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Instructions for the toast:
  1. Butter your pan by coating the sides and bottom with butter.
  2. Chop your bread into about 1" cubes (bite sizes) and place in a really large bowl.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs. While whisking, slowly drizzle the melted butter into the eggs so they combine. While still whisking, slowly add the milk. 
  4. Whisk the vanilla into your mixture, then add the brown sugar. Combine thoroughly.
    TIP: My brown sugar typically has little hard brown sugar bits. In this dish, the bits are kind of nice to have. It adds a little candy feel to it.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into the really large bowl of bread and toss to combine. Make sure all the bread is coated.
  6. Add the bread bites to the pan. Pour evenly over the bread the remaining egg mixture. If you have more than a cup, consider chopping more bread. 
  7. Cover the pan and stash in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  8. When you're ready too bake, preheat the oven to 350° F.
  9. Remove the cover from the pan.
  10. Take handfuls of the crumble topping and spread it over the bread. Add as much as you want, but a level dusting is a good start.
  11. Bake the pan for about an hour. If you have a large pan, then it will take over an hour. If you broke it down into smaller baking dishes like ramekins, then bake for about 15 - 20 minutes. The French toast should be golden brown. If you are concerned about it being done, then stick a thermometer in the center of the dish. It is finished cooking when it reads 165° F. 

Peanut Butter Syrup

Ingredients
1 C water
1 C white sugar
1/2 C creamy peanut butter (increase to 3/4 C to increase the PB intensity)
1 T vanilla extract

Recipe for Peanut Butter Syrup
  1. In a medium pot, mix together the water, sugar, and peanut butter.
  2. Bring this mixture to a boil. Stirring occasionally, reduce the heat to maintain a medium boil. 
  3. Boil for at least 3 minutes. The syrup will thicken.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
  5. I pour the syrup into squeeze bottles. They are great for holding syrups like this as well as salad dressings and homemade sauces.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Granola

This recipe will produce loose granola with a few large clusters. We love to use this granola in our yogurt (homemade yogurt recipe), but it is wonderful to add a few spoonfuls to a bowl of cereal.

Before we get started, a couple of helpful tips:
  • If you want clusters, then the key step is to press the oat mixture down so it's nice and compact. This allows the oil and syrup to bind the ingredients together more tightly.
  • I use the slicer blade of my food processor to chop the almonds. It's faster this way, but if you don't have a processor then a large knife and careful hands will do fine.

Ingredients

1/2 C maple syrup
1/3 C brown sugar
5 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt

1/2 C vegetable oil

5 C (458g) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 C (240g) raw almonds or other nuts, chopped coarse
1/4 C (30g) wheat germ
1/4 C (30g) ground flaxseed

(optional)
2 C raisins or dried fruit, chopped small

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position. Preheat oven to 325°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick mat like a Silpat Silicone Baking Mat.
  2. Whisk together the maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the oil. Fold in the oats, almonds, wheat germ, and flaxseed until thoroughly coated. 


  3. Pour oat mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it across the sheet into a thin and even layer. Using a large spatula, press down on the oat mixture until it is very compact.
    Granola before pressing it down
  4. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until the granola is lightly browned. Be sure to rotate the baking sheeting halfway through the cooking process. 
  5. Remove from the oven and allow your masterpiece to cool completely at room temperature. This will take about an hour. 
  6. Slowly break apart the granola, being mindful that the granola may shatter and fly little pieces everywhere if you aren't careful. 
  7. Finally, stir in the raisins, dried fruit, or other toppings. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Apple Crumble

I subscribe to the Food Network Magazine and truly recommend it. I like to use the recipes as a base for my personal touches. They have a series called "Mix-and-Match" where they show a variety of recipes using just a few minor tweaks. One great article was their article on making a crumble. 

I want to share with you a few tips / tricks that have really helped me.

Read their posting on their website.

A crumble is a fantastic way to use a lot of apples. I like to use a variety or mix of apples when making this dessert. The focus for me is to mix hard apples like Granny Smith with softer apples like Gala. The final dessert will give you a unique texture and variety. The softer apples will give up more of their moisture which is then thickened by the flour to produce a well-bound filling.





Ingredients
Misc
  • butter for the pan and topping
Topping
  • ¾ C finely chopped nuts
    • walnuts
    • almonds
    • pistachios
    • pecans
    • hazelnuts
  • ½ C rolled oats
  • ¾ C flour (94 g)
  • ½ C brown sugar (100 g)
  • salt, pinch
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 7 T Butter, softened, chopped
Filling
  • ~10 apples (see notes)
  • Optional items
    • 2 C raspberries
    • 1 C dried cranberries
    • 2 C blueberries
  • 3 T sugar
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 t vanilla
  • salt, pinch
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • 1 t cinnamon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter one 2-quart shallow baking dish or eight 6-ounce ramekins.
 
Topping
  1. Finely chop 3/4 cup of the nuts.
  2. Whisk together the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Add the nuts to the bowl. Work in butter with your fingers until evenly moistened; set aside. (Alternatively, you could use a food processor. This will create a very fine crumb. Using your fingers will produce a larger / rougher crumb.)
Filling
  1. Peel the apples & cut into 3/4-inch chunks. These are “bite-sized chunks”. If you are using softer apples like Gala or they are just older apples, then cut them larger.
  2. Toss the apples with your optional fruit add-ons.
  3. Mix in the sugar, flour, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  4. Transfer the filling to the prepared dish(es) and dot with 2 tablespoons cut-up cold butter.
  5. Squeeze handfuls of the crumble mixture and scatter on top of the fruit. The purpose here is to create crumble balls. With you hands you are squeezing together the topping and it binds together. When you spread it on the filling, it should break up on its own. Whatever chunks remain will bake into crumble.
  6. Bake until golden and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes. Pay attention to the bubbling part. You should hear it. If you used apples that were on the softer side, then you might hear more bubbling.
  7. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes regarding the apples
  • I prefer using a mix of apples like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Galas, etc.
  • I don’t recommend really soft apples like Red Delicious
  • Amount depends on your cooking container. Keep skinning / chopping until your container is full.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ultimate Banana Bread

I really like banana bread. My biggest complaint about it is the lack of banana flavor. I've tried to put more fruit in, but the bread becomes too hard to eat. I basically gave up on having banana-flavored banana bread, until, I saw America's Test Kitchen's video "Ultimate Banana Bread". I strongly urge you to watch it also. Here is my recipe from their video.

Ingredients

5 bananas, super ripe

Dry Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Works
1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar

Topping
2 teaspoons sugar
1 fresh banana

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°C. Prepare 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pan or 3 mini loaf pans with non-stick spray or parchment paper.
  2. What is the condition of your bananas?
    1. Room Temperature Bananas: Put 5 bananas in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Punch several venting holes. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove the bananas and strain to separate the liquid.
    2. Frozen Bananas: Let 5 bananas defrost in the refrigerator. Strain the bananas from the liquid.
  3. Simmer the banana liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to about 1/4 C. About 5 minutes. Mash together the bananas and syrup. 
  4. While waiting for the banana syrup, in a larger mixing bowl, whisk eggs then slowly whisk in melted butter. Mix in the vanilla & brown sugar being careful to remove brown sugar lumps. Mix in bananas and syrup.
  5. In small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and soda.
  6. Pour wet ingredients on top of dry ingredients. Fold together being careful not to over mix. Pour into prepared loaf pan(s).
  7. Optional topping ideas. Do either or combination.
    1. Slice a banana on the bias. Lay each half of it on the edges of the dough, keep the center free & uncovered. 
    2. Sprinkle sugar on top of the loaf. When it finishes baking, it creates a nice crust.
  8. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Use toothpick to test for being done. Cool 15 minutes then remove from the pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hacking the Goldfish [cheese cracker]


My kids love those little cheese crackers that are in the shape of a goldfish. They are cute and yummy. (The crackers, not the kids) I don't care very much for the crackers. They need a little lift or boast, so I played around with converting the simple goldfish into a spicy pufferfish.




This recipe is one of those kinds of recipe where you add a little of this and a little of that. I made a really small batch, so you could scale up as you see fit. Since I was experimenting, I used my little toaster oven.

I'm looking forward to other variations.

Future ideas to try
  1. Soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil --> Koi
  2. Tomato, onion, cilantro --> Rio grande cuttrought
Spicy Pufferfish Recipe
2 T melted butter2 T hot sauce of your choice (see my yummy sauce below)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t garlic powder
1 t Penzeys Northwoods seasonings
1 C Goldfish crackers

Preheat your oven to 275°. Have a cookie sheet ready.

Mix everything except the crackers together. Toss the sauce with the crackers, but start with a small amount at first to make sure you don't drench your crackers.
My sauce mixture.

Lay the crackers on the cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Keep checking on these fishes. Once they are dried then try them out.
My brother-in-law picked up a bottle of Mamoun's Hot Sauce from their restaurant in New York city. It is fantastic! It is also the ONLY hot sauce I like that has vinegar in the ingredients. I loathe Tabasco sauce because of its too strong vinegar taste. Also in the picture is the seasoning from Penzeys. Did you notice it is suggested to go with fish ?!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Homemade Yogurt

There are two favorite items with my family: yogurt and popcorn. We don't eat them together, but we do go through a lot of each.

We used to buy plain Greek yogurt from Costco to keep up with the demand, until several years ago, when I learned how to make it myself. My first recipes for yogurt involved using combinations of different kinds of milk: powdered, fat-free and 2%. Over time, I have simplified my recipe to what is below. Honestly, it is going to look very complicated, but it is truly a simple process. It does not require crazy unitaskers like yogurt warmers. I will summarize the process before jumping into details with pictures. Hopefully, this approach will not scare you off, dear reader.

Quick summary

In a slow-cooker, add 8 cups of milk and set it on high. When the milk heats up to 180° (which will take about 2 hours), cool it down to 115°. Mix into the cooled milk 1/2 C of yogurt from a previous batch. Keep the mixture at about 100° for 6-8 hours. Done. You have yogurt at the cost of milk.

To make Greek yogurt, just strain the yogurt through a cloth for an hour or two to allow the whey to drip away. Stop straining when the yogurt is as thick as you want it to be. Done. You have Greek yogurt at the cost of, well, nothing.

Equipment List

  1. Slow cooker. The smaller models, which hold about 2 quarts, are best.
  2. Thermometer
  3. Oven with a light

Detailed / Photographic Plan

  1. Turn on the light in your oven.
    I'll explain later. Trust me.
  2. Measure 1/2 cup (100g) of starter yogurt into a large container.
    You need some good yogurt to get the process going. If this is your first time, then go buy a small container of yogurt, but make sure it says it contains live & active yogurt cultures.

  3. Measure 8 cups of milk into a slow cooker.
  4. Heat the milk to 180°.
    Set your cooker to high.

    This recipe is really a process of culturing bacteria. We want to make a safe & sterile home for the bacteria we want, in this case called Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These live in your starter yogurt.  By heating the milk to 180°, effectively sterilize the milk. This takes me just over 2 hours.
  5. Cool the milk to 105° - 115°.
    Now that the milk is mostly sterile & clean, we have to cool the milk down to a temperature range that supports life -- the life in your starter yogurt.

    Using 2 metal bowls, fill a large bowl with cold tap water. Pour the hot milk into a smaller metal bowl and have it float in the water. Since the metal is a great conductor, the temperature reduces to the safe zone in about 8 minutes. You want the milk to be between 105° and 115°.

  6. Mix the cooled milk and starter yogurt.
    Pour a little of the cooled milk into your starter yogurt to loosen it up first. Add enough milk and mix it up until it becomes fluid and will flow easily. Simply pour the loosened starter mixture back into the small metal bowl holding the cooled milk and mix thoroughly.
  7. Move the milk mixture (yogurt & milk) to a warm 100° resting area.
    We're almost finished. This part takes the longest amount of time.

    Pour the milk & yogurt mixture back into the crock that was used to heat my milk, put the lid on it and cover it with a towel. Place this little setup into your oven that has had its light on since step 1. The oven body is should be around 100°. This is a wonderfully warm temperature for bacteria where they will live and prosper and multiple and multiple and multiple.

    After about 8 hours, the milk will have so many Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus (that's yogurt, remember?) that it will become thick and gelatinous.
  8. Cool the new yogurt.
    At this point, you are finished. You have yogurt, albeit, warm yogurt. You could move the yogurt to containers and store in the refrigerator.

    For me, I take the crock out of the oven and move it straight to the refrigerator. Since I usually make yogurt 3 or 4 nights in a row to build up a supply, I'll wait until the evening to empty the crock.
  9. Make Greek yogurt.
    Greek yogurt is simply yogurt that has been strained to remove whey -- a high protein liquid.

    Lay a cloth napkin over the top of a tall container and secure it in place with a rubber band. Push down on the napkin to create a large pocket to hold the yogurt. Thoroughly whisk the yogurt before pouring it into the strainer. This will break up the yogurt and speed up the straining process. Depending on the thickness of your cloth, the whey will stream through it and into the container. I strain the yogurt for just over 2 hours.

    Personally, I haven't found a fantastic use for the whey yet. When I do, I'll post here. Leave a comment for your fantastic uses of yogurt whey.

  10. Repeat the whole process.
    First batch is finished. I'm lazy & I don't want to wash the crock, since I make yogurt several nights in a row, I follow a simple pattern. I start at 9 pm, so the yogurt is in the warm oven at about 11:30 pm. I pull it out at 8 am the next morning where it goes into the refrigerator while I'm at work. At 9 pm, I start straining the new yogurt while I make the next batch. That means, step 9 and step 1 are happening simultaneously.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Seared Lamb Loin Chops

Happy Easter


Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I don't recall ever having lamb before. I've had gyros, but that is for another story. This Easter, I thought I would cook lamb for the three carnivores in my family (the other three do not eat red meat). I bought eight lamb loin chops from a local butcher.

Since I have never cooked lamb chops before and they were very expensive, I watched many YouTube videos and let Google point out other blog postings to me. In the end, I used the technique from "Preparing Lamb Chops" to cook all eight chops, but I seasoned four of them with just salt & pepper while I took ideas from Giada De Laurentiis to create a garlic & rosemary marinade.

I think the best modification I can recommend to you is to use clarified butter instead of regular butter. As you can see from my other postings, my family loves popcorn and we use clarified butter a lot. Because its smoke point is so much higher than regular butter, I knew it would be great in my cast iron skillet for the lamb. If you want to follow what I did, just watch the videos above and use clarified butter instead of plain butter.

Clockwise from upper left: turkey ham (for the non-red-meat eaters) , salt & pepper chops and garlic & rosemary chops
Brussels sprouts preparing to be roasted using smoked paprika, salt & olive oil

Garlic, rosemary & olive olive make a simple, yet flavorful, marinade. Four loin chops with this seasoning

Four remaining chops were seasoned by applying kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper. While I should have used more pepper, the salt did a great job of pulling the water to the surface. The effect of this is a crust that you can see in a future picture.

Searing using medium high temperature in the cast iron skillet. The clarified butter is working wonderfully.

These are the garlic / rosemary chops. Before adding to the skillet, I wiped away most of the solid herbs to reduce the impact of them burning.

After 4 minutes, I flipped them to reveal a beautiful crust.

The very last minutes of cooking were in the soldier position: standing upright on the bone. I put all of the chops into one pan just so I could the stove for cooking the ham.

Everyone needs a nap - even my lamb. They rested for about 5 minutes while I finished up the meal.