Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pressure Cooker Applesauce

My wonderful wife bought me an early Christmas present. It was an Instant Pot. This is a very nice electric pressure cooker and worth the cost.


Since we had at least 30 apples in our refrigerator, I thought I'd follow the advice of her friends and use the electric pressure cooker to make applesauce. The step that makes applesauce making the biggest pain in the hairy dairy is having to core & peel all the apples. With a little help from the Internet, I found other people had success coring the apples and cooking them without peeling. Here is my experience.

First step is pulling off the dumb sticker from all the apples & washing them. Why do they have to put those stickers on there?

I dropped a single cinnamon stick in the Instant Pot's pot.

I quartered the apples and cut out the core then tossed the prepared apple pieces into the pot.
When it was 3/4 full, I covered it with parchment paper. This trick helps keep the pressure cooker's vent clean because those apples will splatter as they cook.
I added a cup of water and a few heavy splashes of lemon juice. After locking the lid in place, I cooked at high pressure for 10 minutes and used the natural pressure relief approach. Inside, the apples were heavily broken down.
 
I fished around & removed the cinnamon stick. Using my immersion blender, I blended the apples with their skins and everything came together to make a perfectly smooth sauce.

In the end, you can see little tiny specs of skin, but it looks just like apple fibers. I couldn't tell the apples were not peeled.

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.