Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Vanilla, Rum, and Salted Cashew Shake


Summer isn't over yet! Milkshakes are still totally acceptable drinks/desserts/snacks for any occasion. With Labor Day barbecues in the forecast this upcoming weekend, I can't imagine anything more decadent to serve alongside your burgers than this spiked, nutty milkshake.

Hailing from the ultimate milkshake book, this vanilla, rum, and salted cashew shake is quite the treat. Intense vanilla flavor sets the base, from both French vanilla ice cream and pure vanilla extract. Creamy cashew butter takes this milkshake to the next level, along with a fun rim of crushed salted cashews. Add a generous splash of rum, and this is an adult-friendly treat is ready to go!

I rarely make milkshakes (mainly due to guilt), but on the occasions when I do indulge, they really have to wow me. Otherwise it's not worth all those calories. This milkshake really is a treat. Cashews are probably my favorite nuts, so having them shine in this boozy milkshake is fantastic.

Vanilla, Rum, and Salted Cashew Shake
Makes about 3 1/2 cups (28 ounces)
(From Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes)

1/2 cup (about 3 ounces/85 grams) salted cashews
1/4 cup cold whole or lowfat milk (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup dark or amber rum (about 2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons cashew butter (about 3 1/2 ounces/100 grams)
Pinch of salt
8 medium scoops French vanilla ice cream (about 1 quart/24 ounces/680 grams), softened until just melty around the edges

Finely crush the cashews, moisten the rims of your glasses and dip them into the crushed nuts so they adhere like the salt on the rim of a Margarita glass.

Place the milk, rum, vanilla extract, cashew butter, and salt in a blender and blend to mix thoroughly, about 30 seconds.

Add the ice cream and pulse several times to begin breaking it up. With the blender motor off, use a flexible spatula to mash the mixture down onto the blender blades. Continue pulsing, stopping, and mashing until the mixture is well blended, thick, and moves easily in the blender jar, roughly 30 to 90 seconds. Pour into prepared glasses and serve at once.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread with Oats and Pecans


Have I mentioned recently how much I love the recipes from my Amy's Bread cookbook? I've made and shared several recipes over the years including the amazing Focaccia with Fresh Rosemary, Picholine Olive Bread, Pumpkin Pecan Knots, and Fresh Thyme Bread with Olive Oil (a riff on Amy's Fresh Rosemary Bread).

I'm a fan of the book overall, but have complained about some poor editorial issues. I highly recommend the book, but suggest actually reading it from front to back because there are some important tips that are only included in the introductory sections.

With that said, I recently decided to whip up some more fantastic bread from Amy's. This was the first pan loaf recipe I tried from the book, and I must say it turned out fantastic! Per usual, like the other recipes in the book, this dough is quite wet and challenging to work with.

From top to bottom: biga starter, dough before proofing, dough after proofing

It says to add minimal flour when kneading it, but especially considering the humidity levels on the day I made the bread, I know the dough needed a bit extra flour to really make up for the extra moisture. It was stick quite sticky and tacky, but not a total nightmare to work with after dusting more flour on the board and dough as I worked to knead it together.

Shaped and ready to proof

Making any bread from Amy's Bread is a big waiting game. These are not fast breads that only need an hour or so to proof. They require planning and waiting. The results speak for themselves, however. I don't think I've ever made pan loaves that have puffed up quite so beautifully! This bread is truly stunning.

After proofing

It boasts a really nice crust on the exterior and a wonderfully chewy interior. It's studded with toasted pecans and a nice balance of oats, making this sandwich bread anything but basic. It's hearty and nutty with a delicious complexity. It's a bit denser than the typical fluffy sandwich bread you'd purchase at the store, but that means it will stand up well however you choose to use it.

This is a great bread that can sway in either the sweet or savory direction. Cut in thick slices, it's perfect for French toast, and serves at a wonderful sandwich bread for tuna or chicken salad sandwiches, and even PB&J. It's also great as a simple toast with your bacon and eggs.

The original recipe is below. The only things I did differently were to slightly decrease the amount of molasses to 25 grams instead of 35 grams because I was using Blackstrap molasses which has a stronger flavor than regular molasses. I didn't want to take a chance of having it be too strong, so I scaled back just a bit to be safe.

I also didn't use an old cast-iron pan to create steam. In the fine print of the book it mentions to use a pan you don't mind getting rusty, but that's not repeated anywhere else in the book. I added boiling water into a regular small baking pan to create some steam, although spritzing water against the walls of the hot oven will also successfully create steam.

I DID bake my bread in the pans atop my preheated baking stone. I figured since the recipe encourages you to use it if you have one, I'm sure it helps get an even better crust but absorbing more heat into the pan than if it was simply on an oven rack.

I'm very pleased with the results of this sandwich bread. It's a time consuming process to make it (mostly waiting for the dough to proof, etc), but it's definitely worth it. You really yield so much more character in your bread if you take the time to make it yourself. This incredible bread is a perfect example of that.

I'm submitting this post to Yeastspotting.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread with Oats and Pecans
Makes two 9 x 5-inch loaves
(From Amy's Bread: Revised and Updated)
Equipment: two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans, oiled

57 g (2.00 oz/1/4 cup) very warm water (105º to 115ºF)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
524 g (18.48 oz/3 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
354 g (12.50 oz/2 1/3 cups) unbleached bread flour
170 g (6.00 oz/2 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
20 g (0.70 oz/2 tablespoons) kosher salt
622 g (22.00 oz/2 3/4 cups) cool water (75º to 78ºF)
340 g (12.00 oz/1 1/2 cups) Biga Starter (recipe follows)
42 g (1.50 oz/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) honey
35 g (1.23 oz/2 tablespoons) molasses
20 g (0.70 oz/2 tablespoons) canola or vegetable oil
227 g (8.00 oz/2 cups) pecan pieces, toasted
Extra oats, for topping the shaped loaves

Combine the very warm water and yeast in a large bowl and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes.

Whisk the whole wheat flour, bread flour, oats, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Add the cool water, biga, honey, molasses, and oil to the yeast mixture and mix with your fingers for 2 minutes, breaking up the biga. The mixture should look milky and slightly foamy. Add the flour mixture and stir with your fingers to incorporate the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl and folding the dough over itself until it gathers into a shaggy mass.

Move the dough to a very lightly floured surface and knead for 7 to 8 minutes, until it becomes supple and elastic, using as little additional flour as possible. This dough should be very soft and moist but not mushy. If it feels too wet, add another tablespoon or so of bread flour as you knead. If it feels too stiff, add cool water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a pliable dough. It will feel sticky in the beginning but become compact and elastic as you knead it. Put the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with oiled plastic, and let rest for 20 minutes to relax and develop elasticity. You should be able to stretch it easily but you won’t get a transparent sheet with this dough, because of the chunky oatmeal.

Spread out the dough in the mixing bowl and evenly sprinkle on the pecans. Press them into the dough, then pull the dough from the edges of the bowl and fold it in toward the middle. Knead the dough in the bowl until the nuts are evenly incorporated, 3 to 4 minutes.

Gather the dough into a loose ball, lift it up and oil the bowl, then place it back in the bowl, along with any loose nuts. Turn the dough to coat with oil, cover the bowl with oiled plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature (75º to 77ºF) for about 2 to 2½ hours, until it doubles in volume. When the dough is fully risen, an indentation made by poking your lightly floured finger deep into the dough should not spring back.

Gently remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface, pressing in any loose nuts. Divide it into two equal pieces and shape each piece into a log.

Spread a thin layer of the extra oats for topping on a flat plate or baking sheet. Use a pastry brush or plastic spray bottle to lightly moisten the top of each log with water, then roll the tops of the loaves in the oats. Place each loaf seam side down in one of the oiled 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to proof for about 2 hours or until they have doubled in size (a finger pressed lightly into the dough will leave an indentation).

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450ºF. Prepare the oven by placing a cast-iron skillet and a smaller pan (a mini loaf pan) on the floor of the oven or on the lowest possible rack in an electric oven. Place an oven rack two rungs above the cast-iron pan, and if you have one, put a baking stone on the rack. Fill a plastic spray bottle with water. Fill a teakettle with water to be boiled later, and have a metal 1-cup measure with a straight handle available near the kettle.

Five to 10 minutes before the loaves are ready to bake, turn the water on to boil, and carefully place two ice cubes in the small loaf pan in the bottom of the oven. This helps to create moisture in the oven prior to baking.

When the loaves are ready, place the pans on the baking stone. (If you’re baking without a stone simply slide the bread pans onto the empty oven rack.) Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the skillet and immediately shut the oven door. After about 1 minute, quickly spray the loaves with water, then shut the oven door.

After 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400ºF and rotate the loaves if necessary to ensure even browning. Bake them for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the loaves sound slightly hollow when tipped out of the pan and tapped on the bottom (an instant-read digital thermometer should register around 210ºF). The sides and bottom of the loaves should feel firm and slightly crusty. If the tops are browned but the sides are still somewhat soft, place the loaves directly on the stone or the oven rack to bake for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Cool the loaves completely on a wire rack before slicing. This bread freezes well, wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag.

*Tips and Techniques*

We used unbleached bread flour with a protein content of 12.7% and regular whole wheat flour with a protein content of 14.5% for this dough. The biga was made with all-purpose unbleached flour with a protein content of 11.7%.

Use the same container for weighing/measuring the honey and molasses and the oil. Pour the oil into the container first, then pour the specified amounts of honey and molasses on top of the oil. When you add them to the ingredients in your mixing bowl, the sticky sweeteners will be released easily from the cup without sticking, giving a more accurate measure and an easier clean-up. (When using volume, measure the oil first, then use the same tablespoon to measure the honey and the molasses.)

If you want to duplicate the Whole Wheat Oat Pecan bread we sell in the bakery, add 290 grams/10.25 ounces/2 cups of golden raisins to the dough when you add the pecans; divide the dough into four equal pieces and shape them into bâtards before proofing and baking. You may have to bake two of the loaves on a sheet pan if they won’t all fit on your baking stone.

You can also refrigerate this dough overnight and shape and bake it the next day. After mixing, let it rise for 1 hour at room temperature or until it looks slightly puffy but has not doubled, before refrigerating. The next day, let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature to warm and soften before shaping it.

Biga Starter (Small Batch)
Makes 400 grams / 14 ounces / 1 3/4 cups
(From Amy's Bread: Revised and Updated)

200 g (7.00 oz/3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) very warm water (105º to 115ºF)
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
227 g (8.00 oz/1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour

In a medium bowl, mix the warm water and yeast together and stir to dissolve the yeast. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 1 to 2 minutes, until a smooth, somewhat elastic batter has formed. The batter will be fairly thick and stretchy; it gets softer and more elastic after it has risen. Scrape the biga into the container, mark the height of the starter and the time on a piece of tape on the side of the container so you can see how much it rises, and cover the container with plastic wrap.

Let it rise at room temperature (75º to 78ºF) for 6 to 8 hours. Or let it rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours to warm up and become active before use. Biga should more than double in volume. If you use the starter while it’s still cold from the refrigerator, be sure to compensate for the cold temperature by using warm water (85ºF to 90ºF) in your dough, instead of the cool water specified in the recipe. Use the starter while it is still bubbling up, but before it starts to deflate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Japchae (Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Meat and Vegetables)


Japchae is a traditional Korean dish made with stir-fried sweet potato noodles, meat, and vegetables. This lovely, colorful creation may be heavy on the veggies, but it's not exactly healthy--there's quite a bit of sesame oil in it as well as vegetable oil for cooking.

Korean sweet potato noodles, or dangmyeon, are gluten-free and made of only sweet potato starch and water. They are a grayish color until they're cooked, and then become chewy and crystal clear (they're sometimes called glass noodles).

When mixed together with the meat, vegetables, and seasonings, they become shiny and slightly sweet with a pretty intense sesame flavor from the sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.

Even though it's a bit tedious, cooking each vegetable separately is fundamental to this dish. Each ingredient has a different cooking time, and by cooking them individually, each one maintains its integrity, both in color and texture to make a beautiful and cohesive dish.

You can use several tender cuts of beef or even pork to add protein to the dish. I was able to get a small 4-ounce piece of grass fed non-GMO striploin (aka strip steak) on sale from Whole Foods.

Beef and shiitakes marinating

The butcher was nice enough to cut me a smaller slice than what they had on display, and even trimmed the fat off for me. Even though you're only using a tiny bit of meat in the dish, using the good stuff does make a difference.

Before mixing

If you'd like to make this dish vegetarian, omit the meat and use a few more re-hydrated dried shiitake mushrooms in its place.

Japchae (Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Meat and Vegetables)
Serves 2 to 4
(Adapted from Maangchi)

4 ounces beef, such as tenderloin, striploin or ribeye (or pork shoulder), cut into 1/4-inch wide and 2 1/2-inch long strips
2 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 2 to 3 hours or in cool water overnight, stems discarded and caps cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 large egg yolk (white stringy stuff removed from yolk)
4 ounces spinach or baby spinach, washed and drained
4 ounces Korean sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon)
2 to 3 green onions, cut crosswise into 2-inch long pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
4 to 5 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

To marinate the beef and mushrooms: Put the beef and shiitake mushrooms into a bowl and mix with 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil with a wooden spoon or by hand. Cover and keep it in the fridge.

To make the egg garnish (jidan): In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk and a pinch of salt with a fork.

Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to a heated nonstick pan. Swirl the oil around so it covers the pan, and then wipe off the excess heated oil with a paper towel so only a thin layer remains on the pan.

To keep the jidan as yellow as possible, turn off the heat and pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan. Tilt it around so the mixture spreads thinly. Let it cook using the remaining heat in the pan for about 1 minute. Flip it over and let it sit on the pan for 1 more minute. Let it cool and slice it into thin strips.

To prepare the noodles and vegetables: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then take it out with a slotted spoon or strainer. Let the water keep boiling to cook the noodles. Rinse the spinach in cold water to stop it from cooking. Squeeze it with your hands to remove any excess water. Cut it a few times and put it into a bowl (no need to cut the spinach if you're using baby spinach). Mix with 1 teaspoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Put it into a large mixing bowl.

Add the noodles to the boiling water, cover and cook for 1 minute. Stir them with a wooden spoon so they don’t stick together. Cover and keep cooking for another 7 minutes until the noodles are soft and chewy.

Strain and cut them a few times with kitchen scissors. Put the noodles into the large bowl next to the spinach. Add 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix well by hand or a wooden spoon. This process will season the noodles and also keep the noodles from sticking to each other.

Heat up a skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil with the onion, the green onion, and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry about 2 minutes until the onion looks a little translucent. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Heat up the skillet again and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the white mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry for 2 minutes until softened and a little juicy. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Heat up the skillet and add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Add the carrot and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the red bell pepper strips and stir-fry another 20 seconds. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Heat up the skillet and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the beef and mushroom mixture and stir fry for a few minutes until the beef is no longer pink and the mushrooms are softened and shiny. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Add 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil to the mixing bowl full of ingredients. Mix all together by hand. Add the egg garnish and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. Mix it and transfer it to a large plate to serve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wonton Soup


Wonton soup is a comfort any time of year, whether you're battling a winter's cold, or braving a summer thunderstorm, it's delicious and simple. Wontons are simple enough to make using store-bought wrappers.

My 1-pound package of 3 1/4-inch wonton wrappers had about 82 skins (this can differ based on thickness of dough). I used some for siu mai and some for these wontons and then froze the remainder for another occasion.

These wontons are filled with pork, but I've seen recipes that use shrimp or even a combination of pork and shrimp. I kept these very basic with some ginger, scallions, and seasonings, and yielded about 18 plump wontons, but you can get more if you fill yours a bit more frugally.

The broth itself is also very easy to make. I used homemade chicken stock, but any good broth works since you're enhancing it with ginger and garlic. I also added some sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots (I had some leftover from an opened can), but you can play around with the mix-ins as you like.

If you aren't in a soupy mood, you can also simply make the wontons, boil and sauce them, or you can easily fry them up as well. They are very versatile. Enjoy!

Wonton Soup
4 servings

6 ounces ground pork
3 tablespoons chopped scallions, Chinese chives, or a combination
3 tablespoons chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons light (regular) soy sauce
1 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
Ground white or black pepper
About 18 to 20 wonton wrappers

2 quarts chicken stock
2 to 3 (1/4-inch-thick) slices ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
4 ounces sliced mushrooms (any kind you like)
1/4 cup canned bamboo shoot strips, drained and rinsed (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Homemade chili oil or sesame oil, for garnish (optional)

To make the wontons: in a medium mixing bowl, combine the pork, scallions, chicken stock, soy sauce, ginger, wine, sesame oil, and pepper. Stir until the mixture is well-combined.

Fill a small bowl with cold water. Take a wonton wrapper and lay it on your work surface. Place 1 tablespoon of pork filling into the center. Wet your finger and run it around the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper diagonally in half, pressing gently to make sure there is no air trapped inside. Either leave the wonton as is (triangle) or wet one of the folded corners and then bring the other folded corner together, pressing them together to make a pointy tortellini-looking shape.

The wontons can be covered and refrigerated at this point or frozen in a single layer and then transferred to a freezer bag for up to 2 months.

To make the soup: Add the chicken stock to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the ginger and garlic, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to infuse the ginger flavor into the stock. Remove the ginger pieces, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.

Add the mushrooms and bamboo shoots, if using. Bring the stock back up to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the wontons and cook until they float to the surface and the filling feels firm and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon or spider to strain out the cooked wontons and distribute them to individual bowls. Then ladle the soup over the wontons in each bowl. Garnish with scallions and chili or sesame oil, if desired.

*Variation* Alternatively, boil and drain wontons and then top with the sauce from the Sichuan Crescent Dumplings recipe and garnish with scallions (optional) for a delicious Sichuanese boiled wonton dish as opposed to a soup. You'll get about two servings instead of four if you decide to boil them instead of making soup. See photo below :-D


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