Tag Archives: baking

Keepin’ it real

16 Apr

Burnt mini-quiche on a plate, with a cup of coffee and rumpled napkin in the background

One of the things that ticks me off about most blogs out there is that the author makes themselves out to be an expert on the subject.  Let me be the first to say that I am NOT an expert.  I can cook well enough to get by and often enough have a pretty tasty meal but I definitely still make mistakes.  Do you see where this is going..?

I made about 500 of these crust-less mini quiche for our wedding reception last summer.  Not only are they really tasty but they freeze and reheat really well.  We were having a super casual, DIY brunch for our reception so they really were perfect.  The recipe is such that you can adapt the flavors to whatever suits your mood.  The recipe on TheKitchn is for zucchini and basil quiche, but for our wedding I made three different kinds: cheddar and (veggie) chorizo, green chili with jack cheese and cilantro, and spicy jalapeno with cotija cheese.  I churned out a ton of them all by myself over the course of a couple days and they all turned out great.

After that, it took a while before I wanted to see, much less eat, quiche again.  But on Saturday when we found a bunch of good looking chanterelle mushrooms at the Corvallis farmer’s market, the first thing that came to mind were the mini-quiche and how easy/tasty they were.  We decided to make up a big batch of chanterelle, Swiss cheese, and caramelized onion mini-quiche.

Grated swiss cheese on a plate, with a piece of cheese and grater in the background

I caramelized half of a chopped onion while prepping the egg mixture and grating the cheese.  I chopped up the mushrooms roughly and sauteed them briefly.

We assembled the quiche in our mini-muffin pans: cheese on the bottom, some onion, a little sauteed mushroom, and then poured the egg mixture over the top.  Would could go wrong with that?

Well, the flavor combination was great but I forgot one very important step: to grease the muffin tin.  Don’t these lil’ quiche look so cute still in the pan?  Good, because they didn’t look so hot after we scraped them out.

Mini-quiche, still in the muffin tin, with a cup of coffee in the background

Mini-muffin tin with remnants of quiche, due to forgetting to grease the pan

This just about breaks my heart.  These would have been such a success, if only I hadn’t messed up!  I would definitely recommend you try this recipe, with one of my flavor combos or your own.   Just don’t forget to grease your pan, and grease it well!  I think I’ll be chipping quiche out of this muffin tin for the rest of my life.

I put one tray of the quiche back in the oven to see if they would release from the pan easier if they cooked a little longer.  They didn’t! I just got burnt quiche that was stuck in the pan.  Thankfully, it still tasted good.  It sure ain’t pretty, though.

Burnt mini-quiche on a plate, with a cup of coffee and rumpled napkin in the background

The next time you mess up in the kitchen, just remember me and these mutilated, burnt-to-a-crisp quiche.  And jeez, I have the audacity to have a food blog!  But now there’s proof that having a blog definitely does not necessarily make one (or at least, me) a pro in the kitchen.

Happy spring

7 Apr

They say that sex, politics, and religion shouldn’t be discussed at parties.  But what about on blogs?

Tomorrow is Easter.  While both Nate and I were raised in fairly religious families, we aren’t currently practicing any religion.  However, we never turn down an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, so we’re planning on attending multiple Easter festivities tomorrow.

It’s always seemed weird to me that non-Christians would celebrate Easter, for some reason far stranger than celebrating Christmas.  I guess it’s because Easter hasn’t been quite as commercialized.  I’ve also always seen Easter and the story of Jesus’ resurrection as being a pillar of Christianity, a confirmation of Jesus’ position as the son of God.  It seems weird to me, then, that non-believers would celebrate such a religious holiday even if their celebrations are supposed to be secular.  Can you really have a secular celebration of a day that is so tied to a specific religion?

That said, now that I’m guilty of “joining the party,” it hasn’t really been bothering me all that much.  I’m just seeing it as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones and partake in some fun traditions.  Can you say hypocrite?!

But today the sun is out and the weather is beautiful.  It looks like spring is here (at least for now) and that is definitely a reason to celebrate!

Anyway, Nate is almost solely responsible for this asparagus gallette with goat cheese.  All I did is assemble it and snap some photos.  It’s super easy (I’m not just saying that because Nate made it) and would be perfect for your Easter festivities or just to help welcome the spring season.

Asparagus galette with goat cheese

Adapted from a recipe from Feast on the Cheap

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of pre-made puff pastry
  • 1 half of an onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 3 oz. goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 400F degrees.  Roll out puff pastry into a rectangle approximately 15″ by 10″.  Make a score mark around the edge of the puff pastry, about 1 inch from the edge.  Pierce the puff pastry inside of the score mark with a fork, place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp of the oil, and then the chopped onion.  Saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the balsamic vinegar, if using.

Put the trimmed asparagus to a large bowl and toss with the remaining olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the par-baked puff pastry from the oven.  Evenly distribute the onion mixture over the crust, followed by the cottage cheese and goat cheese.  Place the asparagus on top.

Bake in your 400F degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Bella offered to act as a taste tester for you.  That’s so nice of her, isn’t it?

Slice and serve warm.  I bet squeezing a little fresh lemon juice over the top would be good too.  Happy spring!

Probably not perfect pie crust

19 Mar

March 14th was Pi Day!  3.14, get it?  I love pie but don’t take the time to make it very often.  Nate and I had just picked up some frozen organic blackberries to stock the freezer with; what better way to use them than in a pie?

As I was looking online, I found a number of pie crust recipes that claimed to be the “perfect pie crust.”  I’m not sure how there can be so many different perfect pie crust recipes.  You would think that some of them would only be “amazing” or “wonderful,” but not quite perfect.

But I digress.

I had been eying the Pioneer Woman’s pie crust recipe for a while because it’s supposed to be super flaky, a trait that I most enjoy in my crust.  The key is a tablespoon of white vinegar, which you aren’t able to taste in the final product.  I had intended to follow the PW recipe to the letter but it’s a shortening crust.  We didn’t have any shortening in the house, but we did have a pound of organic unsalted butter in the freezer that I snapped up while it was on sale.

So, I searched out found a perfect all-butter crust recipe on Simply Recipes.  This recipe suggested smooshing the dough (this is a technical cooking term ala Meggie) on your counter to achieve maximum flakiness.  I was feeling lazy so I couldn’t help but think, what if I just replace a tablespoon of water with a tablespoon of vinegar instead?

Blackberry pie with lattice crust

Thus, the crust for this pie was adapted from these two “perfect” pie crust recipes.  Because of that, you could probably consider it to be double perfect, although realistically it’s probably not really perfect but merely wonderful and amazing.

For the filling, I mostly followed this recipe for blackberry pie.  I added extra lemon zest and juice because we like things tart around here and used vanilla extract instead of almond.

Slice of blackberry pie with lattice top

This was my first attempt at a lattice pie crust and I’m quite pleased with myself and the results.  We drizzled a little good half-and-half over the pie, but vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would be, well… perfect!

Banh mi, baguettes, and me

13 Mar

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Only people who know me incredibly well know that I can be a perfectionist.  I try my best to hide it with cloak of nonchalance but sometimes people still get a peek.

Probably the main way that my perfectionism comes out is that I have the hardest time challenging myself.  One time I won a Guitar Hero contest at a bar in the medium level bracket.  I got 100% on a song I’d never even heard before.  (I won a rubik’s cube and about 20 minutes worth of bragging rights.)  I’m so ready for a harder level that it’s borderline pathetic but I just can’t bring myself to make the leap!

Basically, I have the hardest time bringing myself to do something that I might be mediocre or even (*gasp*) fail at.  I’d rather not attempt something than risk the possibility of failing at it.

For a while, it’s been time for me to take the next step in my bread-making.  It’s been time for me to tackle the world-renowned baguette.

Two freshly baked baguettes in a metal baguette pan

The first time I tried my hand at making baguettes, I tried the technique in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book that I won’t stop talking about. (It was even recommended to a caller by Lynn Rosetto Kasper on this week’s episode of The Splendid Table, so it must be good!)  They recommend rolling some refrigerator dough out into a 2-inch wide tube, letting it rise for 25 minutes, and then baking it on a preheated baking stone.

Well, I tried this technique but I don’t have any photos of the results.  I don’t have any photos because, quite frankly, the baguettes were awful!  They were horribly lumpy and misshapen and far too flat.  To top it all off, they had neither the crunchy crust nor the soft interior that baguettes are known for.

What was that I said again about how I feel about failing?

Thankfully, this is one kitchen mishap that can be avoided with the proper tool.  A baguette pan.

Freshly baked baguette in a metal baguette pan

We received this baguette pan from Nate’s uncle Mark as a wedding gift.  It’s non-stick, perforated and it will cook up the crustiest, tastiest baguettes you’ve ever made (although I confess that in my case that’s not saying much).  What I especially love about this pan is that you proof and bake in the same pan; there’s no need to make a complicated transfer and clean up is easy (just remember to hand-wash it)!

My baguettes still aren’t the prettiest things ever.  They’re still a little knobby and misshapen, or as Nate said “funky and chunky.” I prefer to think of them as “rustic.”  Whatever their looks may be, they definitely taste like winners.

So then what do you do once you have fresh, homemade baguettes?  You partake in the current culinary craze and make banh mi.

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Everyone is always ragging on colonialism (myself included) but banh mi and other fusion foods are, I believe, concrete examples that there are some benefits to imperialism and globalization.  The combination of French baguette and Vietnamese fillings is awesome; if you haven’t had banh mi before, there is no time like the present to remedy that.

The banh mi you see here is a homemade baguette topped with mayo, sauteed mushrooms and onions, grilled marinated tofu, pickled carrot and daikon radish, plus chopped fresh cucumber, cilantro, and jalapenos.  Don’t worry, it sounds like way more work than it actually is!  That said, there is a lot of chopping so this recipe may be one to make with a cooking buddy if you aren’t super speedy with a knife.

Stack of grilled, marinated tofu and piles of chopped cilantro, cucumber and jalapenos.

Both the pickled carrots and daikon and the sauteed mushrooms and onions were made using a banh mi recipe from my lovely and hilarious friend Caroline.  We added grilled tofu to her recipe because we were hungry.  For the tofu, we grilled it in a grill pan on high heat after marinating a few large slices in a mixture of rice vinegar, Sriracha hot sauce, brown sugar, and light and dark soy sauce.  If, like us, you have left-over fillings, you can cook up a little jasmine rice and, wham-bam, you have a perfect lunch (or two) for the next day.

The coolest thing about this recipe is that you don’t even realize that it’s vegetarian.  If you leave off the mayo (or use a vegan product instead), this would be a very satisfying vegan meal.

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Actually, I take that back.  The coolest thing about this recipe is how freaking good it is.  Feel free to add extra Sriracha to taste (Nate certainly did)!

Breaking bread

27 Feb

Two loaves of homemade white bread on a cooling rack with a container of strawberry freezer jam in the background.

If you’ve been following along, you might recall that last month Nate and I threw a party that left me feeling like we probably needed to ask our neighbors for forgiveness.  At my house growing up, apologies and forgiveness could go a long way towards ending an argument and fixing a damaged relationship.  I’m not sure if keeping the neighbors up until two in the morning really counts as an argument but I was feeling guilty.  Apologies work wonders on that, too.  Never underestimate the power of a heartfelt apology, people!

And what could make a better apology than some homemade bread?

Two loaves of homemade white bread on a cooling rack with a container of strawberry freezer jam in the background.

The really awesome thing about this apology bread is that, while impressive, it’s really easy to make.  A few years ago for Christmas I picked up a book at a local used bookstore for Nate that has really changed the way that we bake bread at our house.  While Nate sometimes does things the old fashioned way, with all the kneading and multiple rises, I almost always use the method featured in “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

In all honesty, it takes me longer than five minutes to make this bread.  Still, I’ve found that it takes a fraction of the time of traditional bread-making. Also, just as a heads up, five minutes refers to the recipe’s prep time.

The general technique consists of mixing up a large batch of dough in a container (no kneading necessary) and letting it rise for 2-5 hours.  You can bake right away or keep it in the refrigerator up to two weeks.  Each batch of dough makes four 1-pound (medium sized) loaves.  You cut off a piece of dough, quickly shape it, and let rise for 40 minutes.  Baking in a hot oven takes about half an hour.  Let it cool.

Did you know that if you want to slice your bread, you should let it cool almost completely?  Warm bread will get squished and compressed if you try to slice it.  If you can’t wait to dig in, you should tear the bread.  Besides, tearing bread is way more “artisan” anyway!

Loaf of bread being torn in half

In respect for the authors of the book, I’m not including the detailed recipe here.  Lucky for you, a quick Google search returned a companion blog to “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” that features the master bread-making recipe.  I would definitely recommend that you check this out ASAP, even if you don’t need it for an apology.  If you have any homemade preserves, this bread is the perfect vessel for them.  It’s great for breakfast, served with something like an omelet.

As an aside, I have to confess that I haven’t had much luck with omelets in the past.  A while back I posted something on Facebook like “I’m pretty much the worst at making omelets.”  One of my school buddies (Hi, Patrick!) shared this Julia Child video and it changed my life.  Here’s the proof:

Salmon omelet with torn bread with homemade strawberry preserves

This photo is of an omelet made by yours truly, stuffed with cheese and some leftover salmon.  I’m still excited about this breakfast; the bread and strawberry preserves were homemade, the eggs were local, and the salmon was line-caught in Alaska by someone I’ve met before.  We aren’t able to eat like this every day, but it’s so awesome when we’re able to!