Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cast Iron Biscuits!

Why bake biscuits on a cookie-sheet, when you could bake them in a cast iron pan?! I didn't even roll out the dough, I just pinched off biscuit-sized balls, arranged them in a cast iron skillet and them until they were golden brown.

...I don't have a lid for my skillet, so I used the lid from our tagine instead...

Finished biscuits:

What's better than cast iron biscuits? Biscuits covered in sausage gravy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tiny people. Foody landscape.

There's an art showing going on in Seattle right now until Dec. 21 that I hope I have the chance to see! It's at the Winston Wachter Fine Art Gallery, and they are showing foody art work by Christopher Boffoli. It's very reminiscent of one of my favorite childhood books; Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi & Ronald Barrett.

Here's the NPR article where I originally heard about it with a slideshow of even more photos!: A Photographers Mini Food Fascination

And now for the foodscapes:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why it's awesome to have a lemon tree in your yard

Dark, cold, and rainy out? Want a hot toddy? No problem - lemme just go grab a lemon from MY LEMON TREE.

I might have grown up in California, but nearly 27 years later, I'm starting to understand why California is awesome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Savory Pie!

On Sunday we went over to our friends house for a breakfast pajama party. Riva made some awesome hand-held cheddar and broccoli pies ...something like these. They were crazy good, and watching Riva easily make pie dough, fill it, and bake it right in front of me made me wonder why I wasn't eating everything inside of pie dough! ...it's also been getting cold and rainy here, so perhaps the season also has sometime to do with my sudden lust for pies. Anyway, Monday night I made Italian sausage pot pie with a regular pie dough, then on Tuesday I decided to mix it up and use a biscuit dough.

I just used the standard Joy of Cooking recipe, cut in half:

1 cup All Purpose Flour
11/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/3 cup Milk

Meanwhile, I made a stew out of what we had lying around...

Pork cutlets seasoned with Alex's chili powder

Once the pork was good and brown, I deglazed the pan and added chopped onions, garlic, carrots, and peppers. Then I diced the cutlets and put them back in the pan with some chicken stock, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon. Everything simmered until the pork was tender and the stock had reduced down to a sauce.

While the stew stewed, I rolled out the biscuit dough about as thin as I could get it and laid it a baking dish. Then I finished the stew with a ton of chopped cilantro and transferred the it to the dough covered dishes...

...I wrapped the dough around the stew and liberally brushed the tops with garlic oil.

These baked at 375 until the tops began to brown!

Mmmmmmm pie!

P.S. Biscuit dough totally still tastes like biscuits even if it's disguised as a pie shell.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Roasted Garlic Scones

I swear if it weren't for my culinarily inclined department I would have nothing to post on my food blog during this first year of grad school!  A grad-student club, the Plant Student Group hosted a Garlic Festival a few days ago. Considering I have a garlic plant tattooed on my back, I felt rather obligated so show up.

At the last minute, I decided to attempt some roasted garlic scones to contribute to the garlicy potluck, and they turned out to be a great success! I peeled two whole bulbs worth of garlic, submerged the cloves in canola oil, and roasted them in the oven for about an hour. By roasting garlic in oil, not only do you end up with roasted garlic, but also roasted garlic oil! 

I strained the roasted cloves out of the oil, mashed them up, and added them to my favorite scone recipe, which I've blogged about before (here). Below is the full recipe, which originally comes from Chef Jones, who taught pastry classes at the CIA:

20 oz. All Purpose Flour
1.25 oz. Baking Powder
6 oz. Butter
4 oz. Sugar
4 oz. Milk (maybe more)
2 Eggs (okay to use extra milk instead of eggs)
pinch salt

Start with cold butter and cut it into the flour and baking power - mix just until everything is evenly combined, you don't want the butter to melt! (see my previous post for my favorite method for cutting butter into flour).

In a separate bowl combine the sugar, milk, eggs, salt, and any other ingredients (i.e. roasted garlic, fruits, nuts, etc.). The original recipe says to mix these together until it has a "shiny" consistency... I've never quite figured out what this means, just thoroughly mix these ingredients together! Also, I sometimes add an extra splash of milk if all the dry bits are not getting moistened.

Then mix the wet stuff into the dry stuff, being careful to just combine these and not over-mix it. You want an even consistency without kneading the dough too much - the more you knead it, the tougher your end product will be. I like to rigorously mix everything together with a fork, then squeeze a handful of dough in my had to see how it holds together. If it falls apart easily, add another 2 oz. or so of milk and mix it in with the fork and do the squeeze test again. To avoid kneading, just press the entire dough together in the bowl, then flip the bowl over on a floured work surface so the dough falls out. Press the dough together in any places where it's crumbling apart, otherwise proceed with rolling out the dough!

As you roll out the dough, keep it moving to ensure it's not sticking to the surface. Roll it out to about 1/2inch thick and then cut out scones. The chef I got this recipe from always cut his into circles (using a circle cookie-cutter), but you can cut yours into whatever shape you want.

Bake at 350F until they are golden brown on the bottom (about 30 minutes?). 

After my garlicy scones came out of the oven, I tasted one and though it did not taste garlicy enough (or were my senses just saturated by garlic at that point?). Anyway, I brushed the top of each scone with garlic oil and sprinkled them with some Murray River Salt.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You don't need no teef to eat this beef!

The man at Fallon Hills Ranch has been trying hard to sell us a brisket at the farmers market every Sunday. A whole brisket is quite a commitment, but a few weeks ago, he had half-briskets and we decided to go for it. Alex did a bunch of research on traditional Texan barbecue and then spent a day while he worked from home making this incredible BBQ brisket!

It began with a dry rub the night before:

The Rub
2 Tbsp Roasted Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp Spanish Sweet Paprika
1 Tbsp California Paprika
1 Tbsp Hungarian Sweet Paprika
1 Roasted Dry Ancho Pepper (stem and seeds removed)
1 Tbsp Crushed Red Pepper
1/2 tsp Mace
1 Tbsp Alaea Hawaiian Salt
1 Tbsp Salish Smoked Salt
2 Tbsp Black Pepper

Grind everything above in a coffee grinder without cleaning any residual coffee grounds out of the grinder! Then add a whole bulb of chopped garlic to the ground spice mix and rub it in to the meat. The rubbed meat sat in the fridge for 11 hours, and then moved to the counter to warm up to room temperature for about 2 hours. Sear the meat in a cast iron pan with a sliced onion. Remove the meat from the pan when it's good and brown and place it fat-side-down in a tagine (or dutch oven). Let the onions caramelize in the cast iron pan and then add the sauce mixture below. Cook the sauce for about five minutes and then pour it over the seared brisket.

The Sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1/4 Cup Black Coffee
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Molasses
1/2 Cup Water
1 Shot Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Cup Rub (see above)

Cook the brisket for 6 hours in a 250F oven. Take the brisket out of the sauce to let it rest while you make the rest of the sauce. Use an immersion blender (or a normal blender) to blend the sauce with 2 large tomatoes, about a teaspoon of fresh ginger, juice from half a lemon, and a tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds. Then cook the sauce on the stove for about an hour until it's thick. Pour the sauce over the brisket and it's ready to eat!

I whipped up some cornbread and a slaw out the veggies we had in the fridge - carrots and poblano peppers. I grated the carrots and peppers, chopped some cilantro, and mixed it all up with  big splash of apple cider vinegar, a few scoops of mayonnaise, and a dash of cumin, paprika, and salt.

Alex made Black & Tans by mixing 1:1 Peregrin Pilsner and Sierra Nevada Porter.  Supposedly you can get the porter to float on top of the pilsner if you pour it over the back of a spoon into the glass... we didn't have much luck with this, perhaps the density of the beers we used was not right. Either way, it was darn tasty!

 When all was said and done we had a fabulous BBQ dinner!

And Alex even paired the meal with some music from Reverend Payton's Big Damn Band:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Epic Tale of Pear Croissants

Chapter 1: On the Origin of Pears

At UC Berekely, Steve Lindow's lab studies naturally occurring bacteria on the surface of fruits, in particular, pears. Many of you may be aware of the natural yeasts found on things like grapes and plums (it's that fine white powdery stuff), so it's not surprising that friendly bacteria can also live on the surface of fruits. Some of these bacteria are "bad" in the sense that they grab water molecules and hold them in such a way that catalyzes the formation of ice crystals at temperatures above freezing -- this is how frost occurs!! There are other "good" bacteria on the surface of pears that produce the plant hormone, auxin, and somehow this is what creates all those cute little speckles on pear skin.

So why am I posting this on my food blog? Because each year, the Lindow Lab gets dozens of cases of pears from a nearby orchard - they look at the pears for various types of speckling, and then they set them in the lobby of the Plant & Microbial Biology building for anyone to take and eat. They also organize an official Pear-Off to encourage use of the pears and a little friendly competition between labs.

After much deliberation, and a brief experiment with tempura pears (delicious!), I decided that I would represent the Glass Lab by making pear croissants.

Chapter 2: An Evolutionary Dough

I've always followed the croissant dough recipe in Baking with Julia. As near as I can tell, it's fool proof. I divided the work up over several days so I could fit this project in to my already busy schedule.


1 1/2 Tbsp Yeast
3 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1+ cups Whole Milk

Combine these ingredients in a mixer with the hook attachment and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form a ball. Turn the speed up to high and knead the dough for about 4 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic, put it in a Ziplock bag, and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing it in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

If the dough is having trouble taking up all the flour at the beginning, add some more milk, one tablespoon at a time.  I ended using about 1 1/4 cups of milk in total. Also - play with the flour! The recipe only calls for 3 3/4 cups of regular unbleached all purpose flour, but you can absolutely divide up that 3 3/4 cups and use other flours, like whole wheat!
1# 2oz. Cold Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp Unbleached All Purpose Flour

Cut the butter into roughly 1/2-inch pieces. Beat the butter and flour in a mixer with a paddle attachment on high speed until it has a smooth, slightly fluffy consistency. Scoop the butter mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap and mold it into an oval roughly 5-6inches long and 1inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.


Roll the dough out on a well floured surface so that it is approximately 10inches wide and 17inches long. Brush any excess flour from the dough and place the butter in the center. Wrap the dough around the butter and seal the open edges by pinching the dough together.

The butter should be completely sealed by the dough. Now comes the fun part! Take your rolling pin and beat the dough. If everything is still good and cold you can really give it a good whacking. The goal is to have  1inch thick rectangle that is about 14inches long and 6inches wide.

Once your dough has sustained a good beating, it can be refrigerated if it's starting to get soft (i.e. if it's a warm day, you're working slowly, or both). Or if you're feeling confident, you can proceed to what is known as the "1st turn". Roll the dough into a rectangle that is 24-26inches by 14inches.

Then fold the dough in thirds, like a brochure.

 Put it on a floured pan, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Next is the "2nd turn". Place the dough so that the folded side is facing you and roll it out again into a 14x24-26inch rectangle. Then tri-fold and refrigerate for 2+ hours just like the 1st turn. At this point I refrigerated overnight.


Again, roll out the dough into a 14x24-26inch rectangle. Fold the ends into the center so they almost meet (leave a tiny bit of space between them), then fold it in half as you would close a book. This is known as the "3rd turn", "double turn", or "the wallet". Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours, or freeze for several months!

Chapter 3: Croissant Creation

While the dough rested in the refrigerator (still on Day 3), I started to work on the filling. I peeled and diced several pears (which turned out to be WAY too many) and cooked them on a low temperature on the stove with a dash of cinnamon, sugar, and lemon zest. I cooked them just enough to evaporate some liquid, without turning them into complete mush. 

I traded the cooked pears for my chilled dough in the fridge. This time I cut the dough in half and put half back in the fridge while I worked with the other half on a well-floured table.

I rolled out the dough until it was 24x18inches and then folded it half hot-dog-style:

Then I cut isosceles triangles and unfolded the dough!

Now they're ready to be filled! I made a couple other flavors besides pear, such as plain, chocolate, and chocolate-raspberry!

To roll a croissant, stretch and pull on the dough, rolling it as tight as possible. I used to be afraid of being too rough with my croissant dough, but it's okay - croissants kind of like it rough.

Repeated the above with the second half of the dough and place all the formed croissants on a pan, wrapped it in plastic in the fridge over night. Croissants can also be frozen at this point--freeze them spread out on a sheet pan, once frozen, then put them in ziplock bags to save space!

If you're making multiple flavors of croissants in one batch, it can be helpful to shape them differently depending on their filling, unless you want to be surprised later (i.e. straight croissant = chocolate, crescents = pear)

DAY 4:

This is the final day!  I ran home after class, took my croissants out of the fridge, brushed them with egg wash, and put them in the oven with a pan of steamy hot kettle water to create a warm humid environment inside my oven (the oven is not on). Basically I turned my oven into a proof box. Then I went back to school for several hours of happy hour while my croissants proofed.

Croissants need at least three hours to rise before baking. These got a little over four hours. Right before baking, I applied a second coat of egg wash and some edible pixie dust, which is surprisingly hard to photograph!

These guys baked at 350 for 12 minutes, then I rotated them and baked them for another 4 minutes. My croissants spent the night chilling out on a rack:

Chapter 4: May The Best Pear Win!

This was an impressive competition. I'm clearly part of a totally awesome department. No one made pear pie. There was pear tart, pear crisp, red wine and pepper poached pears, pear mochi, pear soup, pear margaritas, pear cider, pear jello, pear ice, pear bars, pear biscuits, boozey pear cake smothered in chocolate, and several other pear things I'm sure I'm forgetting

Each person was given three strips of paper with which they had to vote for their three favorite pear dishes. Here are all the votes for my croissants!: 

I ended up getting third place with 14 votes. First and second place went to my fellow first-year, Ben's incredible pear bars, and his lab-mate's boozey pear cake.