Sunday, January 13, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
You want the oven and the pot extremely hot. Carefully remove the very hot pot from oven. Take the towel off the bread. Pick up the parchment paper with the dough on it and carefully lower both into the hot pot. Sprinkle with Kosher salt if desired. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. (The parchment paper won’t burn.) Remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes
Saturday, January 5, 2008
My younger daughter and boyfriend were flying in Christmas morning, and I had my Christmas dinner menu ready to go. Everything was going smoothly when The Don decided the tamales had to be done on Christmas day to keep with tradition.
1-drive to the airport at the crack of dawn in the middle of a horrible windstorm to get the kids.
2-rush home and open presents, fast.
3-put all the dinner makings aside to make room for the assembly line.
4-make massive amounts of tamales, steam them for hours, vacuum seal them for travel back to Washington in 2 days.
5-begin dinner preparation of crown pork roast with the trimmings while drinking copious amounts of wine.
We had a wonderful day.
We accomplished the tamale marathon but ran out of masa (dough) before running out of meat. A week later using the leftover meat I made tamales again with some girlfriends. This time of course we ran out of meat before running out of masa. Are you sensing a pattern here? So back at home I finally used up the masa with fillings I had in my refrigerator. By this time I had made hundreds of tamales and wanted nothing more than to use them as target practice.
Instead I hit the homemade Kahlua as a reward!
Our fillings of choice were pork, chicken and a vegetarian take of chiles rellenos. We used Ortega style canned green chiles, frozen corn and grated cheddar cheese. All three taste great but my favorite is the vegetarian one.
Prepared masa dough
1 or 2 bags of dried corn husks
Meat filling, pork roast or chicken (you can use cheaper cuts since you will basically be making stew with the meat)
1 whole seeded black olive for each pork or beef tamal, 1 whole green olive for each chicken tamal. I don't know why, that's just the way it is.
Vegetarian filling, cheese, corn and green chile
any cheese you like, except soft ones
Ortega green chiles
Sweet filling, pineapple and raisins
1 can each of Pineapple chunks and Pineapple tidbits
This recipe has no set amounts given, the amount of filling needed is in direct correlation to how much masa you have and vice versa. All you need are guidelines and a short tutorial of smearing, filling and tying.
The purists will treat this whole process with military precision and no flexibility...pretend to listen to his instructions, then give him a beer and kick him out of the kitchen.
Tamal fillings--Fillings are either savory or sweet and contain anything you want. I put an inexpensive bone-in pork roast in the pressure cooker with a bit of water and seasonings. Half an hour later the meat was falling off the bone, the stock was used to help flavor the dough. I also made a thin chicken stew for another batch. We flavored all the savory masa with the same ingredients. It's important to be a bit hot spice aggressive with the seasonings while cooking the meats, lots of cumin/chili powder/garlic/pepper/etc. The more flavorful the meat filling the tastier the tamal.
We made different flavors, you can chose just one favorite filling. I have a friend who whips them up the night before, the next morning she pops them in the crock pot before going to work and they are ready for dinner.
Tamale dough--In a perfect world you would have access to a tortilleria or an authentic Mexican market where they sell prepared masa. That means that the dough is already mixed and fluffy, which translates to saved arm muscles on your part. If you must buy your dough in a regular store, it will be quite solid and firm and up to you to aerate it.
If you have a stand mixer, add the room temperature dough along with a bit of shortening, lard or oil and seasoning, begin mixing until light and fluffy. (as fluffy as corn dough can get I guess) If you don't have a mixer, you will use good old arm muscle and mix until both arms give out then turn it over to the next person.
Once the dough feels lighter, add some stock from your meat and test for seasonings. Cumin, salt, pepper, red chili powder, paprika, etc. The dough should be flavored so that you like the taste of it raw, some of the saltiness will be steamed out in the cooking process. For the sweet tamales, once the dough is soft, add pineapple bits, pineapple juice, raisins and sugar. I like to use one can of pineapple bits to add to the dough, and a can of pineapple chunks to add to the middle as the filling.
Add your liquid flavoring slowly, you want the dough pliable, not runny.
At this point, your masa is divided into 2 bowls, one savory, one sweet. You will also have your fillings in bowls ready to use.
The corn husks will come bagged and neatly folded onto each other in bunches. Carefully peel apart and soak in a sink full of very hot water until pliable. By now you should also of broken out the wine, for self consumption. Take a few minutes to pick thru the leaves and separate the wider ones, so when you start filling you already have some nice leaves ready to go.
This is where the assembly line comes in handy. Holding the corn husk in one hand, use the back of a spoon to scoop out some dough and smear it onto the husk. Don't use too much, remember the husk has to closed. Pass it to the next person, who will take some of the filling, savory or sweet, and put it in the middle of the tamal along with an olive. Don't be stingy with the filling.
Working with the width of the husk, fold one side over to meet the opposite side of where the dough ends. Like a burrito. If your husk is not wide enough to close over the filling, get another leaf and overlap them so you can cover the dough. You should now have a fat little cornhusk roll resembling a burrito.
Again you pass it on to the next person, (usually the least coordinated or cooking impaired member of the group), depending on how many fillings you will use, will depend on how you close them. You need to be able to tell the different types apart later.
The easiest and fastest method is to hold the packet in one hand, fold the smaller thinner end up, and stack them standing up as you go. You can also tie one or both ends with torn husk strips. A much easier way is to use up different color curling ribbon to tie so you can tell the flavors apart.
After you have a couple dozen made up, get the steamer going. Use a large canning or turkey frying size pot. It needs to have a steamer insert at the bottom, or fasten one of your own with a cup and plate. Add water and bring to a boil. I like to stand the tamales in the pan as best I can, you can put them in a couple layers deep if you want.
Find an old clean hand towel, wet it and lay it over the tamales, then cover the pot. (the wet towel helps to keep the steam down low over the tamales) Keep at a steady boil, you should be able to hear it, but make sure it doesn't dry out. Trust me, if it dries out you will smell it! Steam them about 2 hours (that's why you want to put lots of them in), to see if done, pull one out with some long tongs and open it up. If it's not mushy and holds its shape, it's done and time for the next batch.
When you're done with all the steaming, throw the towel out, it's not worth washing.
Since tamales can be a chore to do, you want to do as many as possible and freeze them to enjoy later. Steam them before freezing, you will be more likely to pull them out for a quick bite if you know they are already cooked.
I will share with you the best way to eat tamales. Unless you're an intimate part of the culture, nobody thinks to tell you. Even if you buy some tamales, try this method. The following day, for any meal including breakfast, peel the husk off the cold tamal, heat up a bit of oil in a frying pan and fry it until golden and crusty. Enjoy.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
2 1/2 cups flour (I've used all-purpose or bread flour with success)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar (I've done some batches using 1/2&1/2 brown/white sugar)
1/2 cup butter, rm. temp.
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. almond extract ( I also add vanilla, substitute almond for anise oil or any other flavour you wish to try)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, I love using a baking stone. Combine sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat sugar, eggs, butter and extract together until light and fluffy. It's at this point I like to add my fruits and nuts because the dough is soft enough to accept the add-ins, see ideas below.
With mixer at low speed add the flour mixture, divide dough into 2 or 3 portions. I like to make smaller loaves which yield smaller but many more finished pieces.
Using floured hands, form logs lengthwise directly on the parchment paper, gently flatten top.
Whisk an egg white or use flavoured syrup to brush on the formed loaves. Optional, sprinkle logs with coarse sugar, it looks nice once baked.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes until light golden, remember you will be baking it even more once its cut. Cool.
Slice logs with sharp serrated knife (slice and press down to cut, it keeps the log from breaking apart) and return to baking sheet, laying the pieces on their sides. Bake another 10 minutes, turn biscotti pieces over and bake another 5 minutes (save your fingers and use tongs to turn the biscotti). Turn the oven light on and keep an eye on the biscotti during the last step to make sure you don't brown it too much. If your oven runs hot, take the temperature setting down a little.
Here is the fun part, the fruit, candy and nut additions. My favorite combination of all time is dried cranberry and sliced almonds, following is a list a some ideas to try.
dried cherries and semi-sweet chocolate
dried cocoa powder, spoonful of instant coffee (espresso powder if available) , almonds and white chocolate chips-opt.
anise seed with anise oil extract and almonds
The great thing about biscotti is that with the base recipe, you can add whatever you have on hand without going to great expense, it stores well and everyone thinks you've worked much harder than you really have.
Monday, December 31, 2007
My new cooking bible, on the advice of my daughter Xochitl, was to get Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I will admit I got it mostly to humor her, (plus I was able to get it at Lowe's with The Don's card) but as soon as I leafed thru it I finally understood The Power of the Martha. I've already made several of her recipes but for now I'll focus on The Cake! Just reading the name imparts its decadence, I got so caught up with it that I made 2 of these bad boys since it makes a huge amount of ganache. One goes to the party with me and the other will impress The Don's friends over poker and tamales.
DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE WITH MINT-CHOCOLATE GANACHE
Makes one 9-inch layer cake
3 sticks butter (1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted plus more to flour pans
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 cup sour cream
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 lg. eggs
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Mint Leaves
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 9-by-2 inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, butter parchment paper also. Dust pans with cocoa powder and tap out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk cocoa with hot water until smooth. Whisk in sour cream and let cool. Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar of medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each; scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla.
With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the cocoa mixture and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined.
Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto a rack; peel off parchment. Reinvert cakes; let cool completely, top sides up.
Transfer half of Mint-Chocolate Ganache (3 1/2 cups) to the bowl of an electric mixer; save the other half for another use. (reason why I made 2, I couldn't think of what else I would use it on) Let ganache cool completely, attach bowl to mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until ganache holds soft peaks, 5 to 7 minutes.
Trim tops of cakes to level out. Put one of the layers on your workspace, I put it on a cardboard round on top of a wire rack over the sink. Spread top with 1 1/2 cups of ganache, top with remaining layer, cut side down, and spread rest of ganache over entire cake, letting it run down the sides. (easier clean up with rack over the sink) Refrigerate until set.
Transfer cake to your serving dish and garnish with Chocolate Mint Leaves.
CHOCOLATE MINT LEAVES
18 fresh mint leaves (or as many as you want or have, with our weather I was able to go pick some fresh ones from the garden)
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Wash and dry the mint leaves, with a small brush coat the underside with chocolate and drape over the round handle of a wooden spoon. (it gives them shape) Refrigerate until set, using tweesers to hold the chocolate, glently pry the leaf away from the chocolate. Arrange chocolate leaves along with some fresh ones on top and around the bottom of your cake.
makes 7 cups, next time I would cut recipe in half.
4 cups heavy cream
2 pounds best-quality semisweet chocolate-chopped or use chips
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pure peppermint extract
In a saucepan over medium heat bring cream to a full boil. Turn off heat, add the chocolate and gently whisk until dissolved. Add corn syrup, salt and peppermint extract, stir until combined. Transfer to a clean bowl to cool.
I spent all day making both cakes, by the end of it, I along with all kitchen counters was covered in cocoa, but the results were impressive. I'll report back later with what the girls had to say.
NOTE: The cake was a success per Dana who is pregnant, Carlene who depends on chocolate for her sanity, Cheryl who knows what she's talking about since her daughter-in-law is a chef, and Belisa who is just incredibly picky and critical (it's part of her charm). Would I do it again? Yes, when I need to pull out another wow dessert. This is definitely not an every day kind of cake, too rich.
NOTE TO SELF-in the recipe, Martha says to whip the ganache until soft peaks form. I realized once I had begun this step, the whole purpose of ganache is it's silky smoothness. Next time I ignore that step.
I have spent the last year reading blogs from all over the world, some simple, some masterpieces. I have some favorites I keep going back to and would like to use as my guides, and possibly add as links. Since I have no idea how to get permission for all that it will have to be done at a later date.
I discovered the blogging world when my daughter, Xochitl, shared hers with me. As you know, you click on one thing, then the next and so on and so on. Pretty soon you've been to at least 2 continents before you finish your first cup of coffee.
I've spent the last month baking up a storm, in the process I've pretty much killed my beloved and aged KitchenAid. I was still a KitchenAid virgin when I bought it from a friend for $25, it wasn't much but she was my first.
It was worth it, I honed some of my forgotten kitchen skills, found some new 'stuff' I didn't know I couldn't live without, and can't wait to get back in there to do more.
My passion at the moment happens to be baked goods, sweet and savory. I'm excited and hesitant to begin this blog and keep a log of my endeavours, when I feel confident enough I'll share the site with my family and friends.
For now, my confidant shall be my new kitchen buddy, Pearl. My Christmas gift from my husband (bribery for staying home instead of going to Las Vegas), was a brand new KitchenAid Professional 600! She's a big girl, coming in at 6 quarts, 575 watts, and Pearl Gray... she's beautiful! What makes her even better is that I got a killer deal after a 20% off coupon and $50 rebate.
I now have the happy dilemma of not knowing what to grab if the house catches fire, my sewing machine, my dehydrator or Pearl. I hope my husband, The Don, can save himself.