4/28/2014

raspberry ricotta scones

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I'm often taking notes. If not physically jotting them down, than always tucking them away in my head. I'm storing bits of information to save for later use, and when I'm without a pen and paper (not often, really), you may find me somewhere later that same day asking myself, "What was that thing I wanted to write down?" This is how I end up with a lot of nonsense scribbled onto Post-It's and old envelopes. You get the idea.


However, when I'm taking notes on food, mental or otherwise, I almost (ALMOST) never forget. So if you mention your favorite dish or the amazing cake you had for your 10th birthday party, I will probably remember. Food notes just seem to stick.

So when a dear co-worker announced that she'd be parting ways, and since I had squirreled away that she was an überfan of raspberries, I had to make my own take on these raspberry ricotta scones. Sweet breakfast pastries have been knowing to make goodbyes only mildly easier, and they certainly couldn't sum up the honor it's been to work with this person, but nonetheless: scones were coming to the office.


I've never had a whole lot of luck with scones, to be honest. They tend to be about timing, and can pretty easily get over-mixed and become tough. The beauty of these, however, is the addition of ricotta and cream which negate any chance of a too-chewy scone. Sorry, vegans. I'll get you next time.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen can work)
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup heavy cream


Okay. Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, add your butter (I find it easier to cut the butter into cubes first, but either way will work) into the flour mixture. This will take a bit of doing, but keep going until the butter is broken down into smaller pieces (still having some small-ish chunks is totally okay and delicious). Next add your raspberries and use the pastry blender to incorporate. Don't be afraid to break them down, as with the blender you will find this to be unavoidable. It actually makes for a very pretty, pink scone. Nothing wrong with that.


Next, using a spatula, add your ricotta and your cream and stir until your mixture starts to come together. Transfer (quickly) to a well-floured surface and knead into a more consistent dough --- without overdoing it, of course --- a few swift movements and then quit should be all you need. Or knead. Get it?


Flatten the dough into an slightly imperfect square (about 7 inches long/wide and 1 inch high). Using a pastry cutter (one of my favorite kitchen tools), divide the dough into even squares. Depending on the size of your scones, this is really up to you. I'm not sure what I ended up with in total (though I did make my square a tad flatter than I should have), but small cute scones make it easier to have more than one. Per sitting. Just saying.


Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. If you're feeling so inclined, quickly brush with a little extra cream to give them a pretty sheen --- who doesn't like that? Bake for about 15 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges.

Listen --- I don't mean to brag. I really don't. But not only are these the only scones I've ever successfully pulled off, they are one of the best baking results I've ever achieved. Who knows what that is, other than that Deb's a genius (duh), the love that went into their existence or you know. All that butter and cream couldn't hurt. Amazing. I had two right out of the oven and the only reason I stopped myself from having a third is because I had to have at least a handful to take to work.

Let's ease more pain via breakfast. (We miss you already, D!)


4/21/2014

cinnamon raisin challah

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Okay, I've been getting a little gutsy with yeast-risen doughs these days. I don't know what it is, but I seem to be on a supreme bout of serious luck, which I am taking full advantage of until the 100% humidity of summer sets in. So I've got about 8 more weeks to do some serious bread-baking, starting with another (and more classic) take on challah: cinnamon raisin.




For this recipe, you'll need:

1 seven gram packet of active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 large eggs (plus 1 more for an egg wash)
4 cups all purpose flour
About 3 tablespoons vegan butter (or regular butter), softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins


Whisk your yeast packet and 1 tablespoon of honey into a warm (but not hot) 2/3 cup of water. Let it stand for a few minutes or until the yeast starts to look foamy. In a large bowl in a stand mixer, whisk together your remaining honey, olive oil and 2 eggs. When your yeast mixture is properly foamed (about 5-7 minutes), add that and continue to whisk. Next, add your salt and flour (1 cup at a time) and about halfway through adding your flour, switch to your dough hook attachment. Once you've added all four cups, allow to run on a medium speed for 5-8 minutes, or until the dough starts to come fully together.

Transfer your dough to a large, well-oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for one hour. (Remember to try my warm oven trick to ensure getting the perfect rise).

Meanwhile, though this should hardly take an hour, whisk together your two sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside to reserve for the glorious part of this bread baking adventure.


After an hour has passed, turn your (most likely very elastic) dough onto a well-floured counter. Divide in half and roll out each half into a mostly imperfect rectangle. Quickly spread some of your room temperature vegan butter (or regular butter) onto your rectangle and then sprinkle with about half of your cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then distribute 1/4 cup of your raisins over this half and roll up (carefully, making sure you don't squish all the raisins into one row). Gently stretch your roll until about double the size. Cut in half and set aside. Repeat with the second half of your dough, but be sure to reserve a tiny bit of your cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling on top of the loaf.



Now comes the weaving part, which I've gotten a bit better at doing but no better at explaining. So here are some photos from the fig challah I made last week, and here are Deb's original instructions on weaving. Of course, you could also weave it into the more traditional long loaf challah shape, which you can find here.


Once you've woven into your shape of choice, transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet (or you could also bake on a traditional baking stone. Brush your loaf with your egg wash and set aside to rise for another hour.


About 45 minutes into the final rise, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If you're doing the oven-rising trick, make sure you remove the loaf before turning the oven on. Brush again with your egg wash, getting all the nooks and crannies, and sprinkle the loaf with the remainder of your cinnamon-sugar. Bake for about 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 195 degrees.



Transfer to a cooling rack, which is a massive joke considering your kitchen and most likely entire home is now filled with the beautiful smell of cinnamon sugar eternal love. When you finally slice into this loaf, the cinnamon sugar filling will be slightly oozy and the raisins will have plumped up a bit during baking. It's basically a massive cinnamon roll, the queen bee of cinnamon rolls, if you will. It would have made some to-die-for French toast, if only it had survived past day two, and making it to day two was a feat unto itself.



4/14/2014

dino pasta with dino kale + roasted almond pesto

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One of my favorite things about pesto, besides the fact that you can make it with pretty much anything, is that it's one of those dishes that tastes fancy but takes about two full seconds to make. Seriously, in the time it can take you to cook a pot of pasta (or rice, or maybe even roasted potatoes would be good), you can have an intensely flavorful, satisfying dinner.

Made even better, of course, if you happen to have cute-shaped pasta that looks like dinosaurs and are made in bronze casts in Brooklyn, NY. Because then you can do fun combos like apastasaurous noodles with dino kale pesto and then everything is tasty AND funny, which is pretty much the best way to do anything.


Dino kale (also called Tuscan, Italian or Lacinato kale) is actually my kale of choice, though I've never been known to turn down the dark green stalks in any variety. It's a little bit sweeter than its curly counterparts and, in my opinion, just a tad easier to work with, massage and break down. But of course, you could use any sort of kale (or chard or spinach or carrot tops or traditional basil) for this recipe and it will all still come out amazing.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 pound of pasta, preferably in a super-fun shape though we'll forgive you if you're the plain penne type
4-6 large stalks of dino kale
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup of almonds, toasted
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

The end. That's seriously it. And when you taste the end result (or serve it to friends who come over for dinner), they might say something like, "I hope you didn't go to too much trouble," because it will totally seem like you did.



The first thing is to get your pasta water rolling. Salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil, cooking pasta according to package directions. In the meantime, you can quickly whip up your pesto sauce. In a food processor (though, as always, Italian-grandmother style is an option), pulse your kale, garlic and almonds (if you don't have them pre-toasted, about 8-10 minutes in a 400 degree oven will do the trick) until chopped but not completely puréed. Pesto with a little texture is always better. Transfer to a medium size bowl and stir in olive oil one tablespoon at a time until you've reached the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Note, if you plan on adding Parmesan, go lighter on the salt. If you intend to keep this pesto vegan, salt away.)



Okay, now, the end, that's seriously it. Drain your al dente pasta, return to pot and stir in the pesto. Serve immediately. Eat with a big, toothy dinosaur smile. I'm pretty sure that's the only way we can allow such silliness.


4/10/2014

trail mix cookies

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Sometimes you just need a serious cookie. None of these flimsy, wimpy ones that don't really hit the spot. I mean a serious, crunchy-but-chewy, hearty cookie that says, hey: it's not all bad.


And it really isn't when you decide to create these lovelies inspired by a big bag of trail mix. My favorite version of trail mix is closer to granola than your traditional peanut, raisin, chocolate candy mash up. Don't get me wrong, that stuff is delightful. But something about being on the actual trail with a ziplock full of nuts and berries feels a lot more, well, right.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup of brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup of dried fruit and nuts of your choice

It's hard for me to imagine you choosing a dried berry or nut that I would disapprove of, so I leave the option to you. In order for them to really resemble trail mix, however, variety is key. None of this handful of raisins nonsense. If you're looking for a little inspiration, I went with some banana chips, chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, almonds (whole and slivered), dried cherries and golden raisins. Whew. That's a long list and man, was it good. If only I had added coconut chips. Next time.


To start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Add your egg and whisk together for one minute. In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until evenly combined. Add your golden trail mix mashup and fold in until just combined.


Using a tablespoon, scoop out your dough onto your prepared baking sheets. Give each scoop a little press down (this particular dough won't flatten out much in the oven on its own) and transfer to the oven for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. When out of the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Honestly, that phrase feels more like a joke every time I say it. Who on earth has ever let a cookie cool completely? What, I ask you, would be the point?



4/06/2014

pear dark chocolate yogurt cake

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I'm really into yogurt cakes. It's just such an easy method that results in something really decadent, really rich-tasting. Really buttery, without any butter at all, even. Not exactly virtuous, I guess, but still a little surprising. It works well with grapefruit (I know, even in a cake), with lemons, ginger. I suddenly had a vision of pineapple-yogurt cake with a cinnamon sugar glaze. Aloha: new recipes on the horizon.


For this particular combination of pear and dark chocolate, I had a slightly bruised though still delightful (and massive) Harry & David Royal Riviera pear. If you've never had one (and one may well last you for several sittings - this guy was nearly the size of a small cantaloupe), it's pretty much what all other pears aspire to, I would imagine. And if you think you don't like pears (too gritty, too soft), I'm afraid you are mistaken: get your hands on a Royal Riviera and report back. I'll be the one making cakes in the meantime.


Anyhow, too past its prime for afternoon eating, I decided to throw it into this super easy loaf cake with some 60% dark chocolate and tart, creamy yogurt. Why not, right? For this recipe, you'll need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large ripe pear, peeled, cored and cubed
1/2 dark chocolate chips or chunks (I used normal chips, though on my second round I might consider minis.)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a medium loaf pan (or two smallies). Coconut oil is especially nice for baked goods for the crisp outer layer it creates. In a smaller bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together your sugar, eggs and vanilla.


Add your yogurt to the sugar, egg and vanilla mixture and stir until completely combined. Then fold in your dry ingredients slowly. Once mixed, add your canola oil and fold until smooth and thoroughly mixed. This will seem pretty impossible until you get going, but give it a few solid folds and you'll start to see everything emulsify.

Pour about half of your batter into your prepared pan or pans. Sprinkle a layer of pear pieces and chocolate chips. Top again with the remainder of your cake batter, then sprinkle the rest of your pear pieces and chocolate. Gently press with the back of a spatula or spoon to partially submerge the fruit and chocolate.


Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. You may find that your cake starts to get a bit dark on top; if so, feel free to cover with foil about halfway through to prevent burning. A little browning around the edges is expected, though, and if you ask me, pretty nice.


What I love about this cake is that the majority of its sweetness tastes like pears, not just sugar. It's super airy with rich flavor, which is a crazy-good contrast that's hard to beat. Perfect for taking to work to share with hungry coworkers, by the way. It's a sturdy guy that knows how to travel.




4/01/2014

vegan chickpea cakes with dill, spinach and pickled beets

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Colin recently voiced that he's been on the hunt for vegan fritter recipes. Now the thing that usually keeps fritters from vibe-ing with vegans is the eggs that ultimately hold them together and give them their crispness in the pan. So I did an inspiration search for vegan fritters, cakes and patties and came up with my own version using ingredients we had on hand and took it one factor healthier by baking instead of frying: boom.



For this recipe, you'll need:

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup spinach, finely chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
1-2 flax eggs (1 tablespoon flax meal to 2 1/2 tablespoons water)
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 tablespoons whole wheat breadcrumbs
Fresh dill, chopped
The juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, make your flax eggs (simply add 1 tablespoon flax meal for every 2 1/2 tablespoons water) and set aside. In a large bowl, add your chickpeas and smash down with a fork or the back of a spoon. You don't have to completely purée them, but having an even mixture of whole and smashed will help the cakes hold together.


Stir in your onions, garlic and spinach. Add your dill (or any other herbs you might have), salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Coat the mixture with 2 tablespoons of your olive oil and 1 flax egg; fold together with a spatula. Add 2 tablespoons of your breadcrumbs and mix to incorporate. At this point, try to determine how well your cakes will hold together by attempting to form a small patty. They aren't going to be perfect, but if they completely fall apart, you'll know you need to add more olive oil/flax egg/bread crumbs. Go with 1 tablespoon of each at a time until you reach the desired consistency. They don't have to completely hold together, but they should at least resemble a circular shape. You get the idea.


Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the mixture into balls (about 2 tablespoons each) and transfer to the baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand or a spatula, but don't completely squash. Cook for about 15 minutes then flip your cakes (caaarefully), squash down again and continue baking for another fifteen minutes.


Serve these cakes over rice, with some pickled vegetables (golden beets, anyone?) or some stir-fried snap peas. These guys also work great with a tahini sauce, maybe a little mustard orrrr if you're not entirely convinced that the vegan life is for you (I feel you), some yogurt might be nice.