chezpei.com

Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Soy Milk Biscuits

Soy milk biscuits were the result of a small kitchen emergency this morning. I ran out of milk, yogurt, AND toast! An intense craving for carbs this morning led to this take on more traditional drop biscuits. I won't lie; it's not as good as buttermilk or even regular milk biscuits. It has a slight soy milk flavor, but the texture is fluffy and if you're not planning to eat biscuits plain you probably won't notice the flavor difference at all.


For 8 drop biscuits:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small cubes 
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar for sweet biscuits 
  • 3/4 cup soy milk 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Dump in the cut butter, and press the flour into the butter with your fingers. Working quickly, press the flour into the butter until you have no large pieces. Some of the butter will disappear into the flour. Other pieces will look like flakes (kind of like rolled oats), some will stay pea sized. Just make sure you don't have any large chunks.

Pour the soy milk into the mixture, stirring as you go with a spatula or your fingers. Working quickly, fold everything together until the mixture just barely holds together and there are no floury lumps. Small patches of flour are fine. Using a spoon, drop onto a nonstick or lightly floured baking sheet, then bake for 20 minutes or until golden around the edges and top. As with most baked goods, don't start checking the oven until you can smell something! Before the kitchen starts to smell good, you're just letting heat escape from the oven if you check it again and again.

Cool until you can handle the biscuits, and eat with your favorite toppings!
  •  

Labels: ,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Banana Bread

Bread made from bananas: it's good for the soul.. It's a simple quickbread, but a really good banana bread is hard to find. I've been tweaking my recipe for years and always get great feedback from friends who try it. I have to admit, though, Sugar Cafe was a wake up call for me because their banana bread is the only one I've tasted that is clearly superior to homemade. Still, one can't pay $2 for a muffin every day. Here's a tweaked, one bowl, no fuss, no stand mixer version of the Chez Pei classic.


1/2 cup olive oil, any type
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cardamom
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped

Whisk together the oil and sugar until well combined. Let this sit while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees, mash up your bananas, and toast the nuts. Lightly grease a loaf pan.

Take your sugar and oil mixture and whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients, folding as you go. While you still have a few patches of dry flour left, add the bananas and nuts and fold gently just until you don't see any more dry flour. Pour into prepared loaf pan, and put in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Because ovens vary, I would say start checking at the 40 minute mark and remove as soon as a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is a very moist bread, and you don't want to dry it out!

Let cool in the pan for five or ten minutes until it's cool enough to handle, then flip the loaf out onto a rack to cool. I like thick slices served with a cup of milk or tea; it's a great breakfast or snack!

And for those keeping track, yes, that's my kitchen wall, and it's beautiful sage green! Three cheers for being close to done.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Popovers


Popovers are one of those charming breakfast foods that are impressive and yet deceptively easy to make. They are probably the easiest way to get hot bread on the table on short notice, and I think they’re a great way to get your toes wet if you’re thinking about baking bread but feeling a little wary of the whole process.

This recipe was named The San Francisco Chronicle’s best recipe in 1993, and it was pretty foolproof and easy.

For 10 popovers

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs (1/4 cup total)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is pre-heating, put a well greased cupcake tin on top of a baking sheet and let it heat up in the oven. You can also use popover tins, but who owns those?

While the oven is preheating, whisk together all your ingredients until the better is very smooth. Let it sit for a few minutes, then whisk it again. You can add also pepper and/or herbs at this point. When the oven is hot, carefully open the door and slide the baking sheet and cupcake tin out. Fill the cups with batter to about half full. If you’re not sure what half is, less is more for popovers. The batter will at least triple in volume as it bakes!

Slide the baking sheet back into the oven, close the door, and DO NOT PEEK for at least half an hour. At the 30 minute mark, check on the popovers. If they look like they are forming a crust, carefully stab each with a long knife. This will allow some steam to start escaping from the interior of the popovers. Bake for about five to ten more minutes, until they are golden brown. Turn the oven off, open the door a little, and let the popovers cool down a little in the oven. This, along with stabbing them earlier, will keep them from collapsing. You can eat the popovers as is,, top them with butter and jam, or slice them open and fill them with meat, cheese, or other fillings. The possibilities are endless.

The interior of the popover is similar to that of a choux, or cream puff. It's soft and almost pudding or custard-like when hot, and flakey and bready when cooled down. And it's mostly air, so feel free to indulge in more than one!

Labels:

Monday, September 14, 2009

No-Knead Bread

A great loaf of bread is a thing of beauty. I've had really bad luck with bread lately, partly due to my reluctance to throw out a batch of old yeast, and partly due to my curiosity about what turned out to be some pretty bad recipes. Last night, I decided to kick my losing streak to the curb with Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread, which created quite the sensation in Mark Bittman's The New York Times column a few years ago.

As expected, the bread turned out perfectly. This is probably the most perfect loaf of No-Knead bread to come out of my oven. Not only is it beautifully rustic, it's strongly scented with rosemary and sage from my family's house in LA. It's taken me awhile, but I'm ready to write down the recipe for myself in case the NYT article disappears from the internet. I've added adjustments, which were mentioned in a follow-up article by Bittman.

  • 430 grams or 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I substituted in about a cup of whole wheat flour)
  • 350 grams or 1 5/8 cup tepid water
  • 1 gram or ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 gram or 1¼ teaspoons salt (overwhelming consensus is that this bread needs more salt, especially if you use kosher salt. Two to two and a half teaspoons is a good amount)
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed (I always use flour because I don't like hard cornmealm, and wheat bran tends to burn)
Combine everything but the cornmeal/bran in a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until it all comes together in a shaggy mess. There's no need to scrape down the bowl or make the mix even. Just make sure there aren't lumps of dry flour. At this point, you can add things like a handful of fresh or dried herbs, chopped olives, toasted or raw chopped garlic or onions, nuts, raisins, whatever you like. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and leave for 12-24 hours.

After about 12 hours, your dough will look like a very wet mess. It's up to you to determine when you want to continue to the next step.

A good rule of thumb is this: if the glutens have formed long strings, you're ready to move on. Tilt your bowl. If the dough pulls away and you can see some stringiness clinging to the sides, that's perfect. If the dough moves as one mass or just site there you need to let the dough rest longer.

This part gets tricky. Rub a lot of flour into a silicon mat, then sprinkle generously with more flour, cornmeal, or bran. You can do this in a bowl or on a towel too. Whatever you do, make sure you also cover your hands in plent of flour. Scrape the sticky dough onto the mat, then using your floured hands quickly fold the dough over itself a few times. You will probably feel like this is a futile task, because the bread will retain its shape of a giant blob no matter how much you tug at it. Just try to get it into a circle or an oval. Dust the top generously with flour, cornmeal, or bran. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour. If you remember to, come back from time to time and lift the plastic gently off the dough and then put it back. This will help prevent sticking at the end.

Forty-five minutes into the second rise, turn your oven on to 450 degrees and put in a 5-9 quart pot with a lid. Cast iron, enamel, or Pyrex are best, but any oven safe casserole or pot will work. The smaller your container, the taller and rounder your bread will be. A 9 quart pot will result in a very flat, wide loaf. I used a 5 quart ceramic casserole this time and loved the shape.

Tricky step: when your oven and pot are heated, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Take the plastic wrap off your dough, then carefully but quickly flip the dough into the pot. There will be some sizzling, and the bread might all end up on one side of the pot if you have bad aim. Shake the pot a little, but don't worry. Usually the bread's shape evens out as it rises. Put the lid back on the pot, put the pot back in the oven, and don't open the oven door for half an hour. Then remove the lid from the pot and bake the bread for 20-30 more minutes, until the outside is golden brown and the internal temperature hits 190.

Remove the pot from the oven and put it on a heatproof surface. When the bread is hot enough to handle, put it on a rack to complete cooling. DO NOT cut into a hot loaf of bread fresh from the oven! Not only will you probably burn yourself, you will end up with gummy bread. Bread needs to cool down for at least half an hour so some moisture can escape and leave behind airy goodness. The really cool thing about No-Knead Bread is that as the bread cools, you can hear the crust crackling. It sounds delicious.


It's really best to let the bread cool for an hour or more after you take it out of the oven, but I confess I cut into it after waiting only 30 minutes. A little butter is all this bread needs, though of course the possibilities are endless.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Lamb Stew and Whole Wheat Buns

I hate to brag (lies), but tonight's "let's clear out the fridge" dinner turned out better than usual.

I took a few pounds of lamb stew meat ($2/lb at Whole Foods on sale!) and seared them on all sides. Then I added carrots, onions, and bell peppers and sauteed everything with a big dollop of tomato paste before adding half a bulb of crushed garlic and a generous amount of dried oregano. Then I added enough water to cover the meat, and simmered everything for hours and hours. Then I added half cooked garbanzo beans, simmered until cooked through, and added chopped parsley and moringa leaves. The dish isn't difficult to make, but it's time consuming and requires some tinkering to get the thickness just right. The resulting stew is best served with a squeeze of lemon, pine nuts, and some more parsley.

We also had fresh whole wheat dinner rolls. So cute!

And finally, our last tomato.

Labels: ,