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Uncrushable Laser Monkeys! (or, what I had for dinner)
Pie
Sunday, March 23, 2008, 06:43 PM - comfort food, dessert, breakfast, holiday
Lately, I've been making a lot of pies. As usual, I have made up a recipe based loosely on 5 other recipes, only completely different, and its sitting in my head and I've realized I need to write it down because at some point it will be summer and I won't want to bake for a few months and I don't want to start from scratch making up a new recipe in the fall.

crust
ingredients
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
.... damn... or maybe switch those... I don't remember... I'd err on the side of what I've written, since it won't go wrong if there's not enough wheat flour but it can go wrong without enough white flour. All I know for sure is that you really can't do it all wheat. However, maybe I'll try 3/4 wheat 1/2 white next time, since I like to have as much whole grain as possible...
1 stick of unsalted butter
a spray-bottle with water

process
Leave the butter out until it's soft. Cut it into smallish pieces---maybe 1 TBS. Use a pastry blender (a device that looks like a slinky held sideways... functionally it's a huge, round fork) and moosh the butter into the flour until you have a bowl of little pieces of butter coated with flour. Spray the surface of the flour until it's lightly moist, wait a few minutes, then moosh it a bit. Repeat the process until it clings together and you find that most of it balls up and sticks to the pastry blender. Transfer all of the dough into plastic wrap, press it together into a ball, and stick it in the fridge.

Leave it in the fridge for half an hour.

Cut the dough in half and roll the two halves into circles. I find it's easiest to do this between two sheets of waxed paper. You have to pull up the paper each turn. I usually roll a few times on one side, remove the paper and put it back, flip and rotate and roll on the other side, then remove the paper and put it back, etc. Unless you are my grandmother, you will find it impossible to roll an actual circle. She had special superpowers. The rest of us have to cheat. You won't get a circle so much as you'll get something shaped like Australia (if you're lucky) or South America (if you're less lucky). To cheat, cut off peninsulas, rotate them so the smooth edge that you cut is on the outside, and slap them over inlets and fjords. Give the dough one more roll and you've got something that looks shockingly like a circle.

If you're my grandmother, you can use your superpowers to attach the pie crust to the rolling pin and roll it into the piecrust, where it will fall perfectly into the place. Me, I peel off one layer of waxed paper and flip it over into the pie pan. Then I carefully peel off the other layer, accidentally rip the crust, and pat it back together with my fingers and hope no one notices.

Make the filling, roll the second crust, and put it over the top. Cut the edges off the crust so that it just comes up to or a little past the edge of the pie plate. Then roll the bottom crust over the top crust and squeeze it together into a ridge around the pie. Then, take two fingers from one hand and make a v, and stick it on the edge of the ridge. Take one finger from the other hand and pull it through the v so you get a W shaped ridge. Move up so that one of your two fingers is in the indentation left by the previous one, and repeat the process around the pie until the edge is all ripply. wwwwwww

Take a sharp knife and stick lots of holes into the top of the pie. This lets steam escape. I like to make cool patterns like this:
>>>>><<<<

Cover the edges of the pie with a strip of aluminum foil so just the wwwwwww is covered. Stick it in an oven preheated to 325 degrees. Come back in half an hour and remove the aluminum foil. Come back in another 10 minutes and remove the pie. Turn off your oven to avoid burning your house down.

pie filling
Anything can go in a pie. I've been making fruit pies, mostly. I made an apple pie, an apple/pecan pie, several blueberry pies, and several cherry pies. All fruit pies are basically made the same. Add enough fruit to fill the pie. This varies by pie pan size. I don't know how big my pie pan is, since I've been reusing a cheap aluminum one that a pie was once purchased in. But I'd guess it's a 9" pie pan. It takes 3 cans of cherries or blueberries to fill it, and 8-10 apples (peeled & sliced), depending on how big they are. When filling a pie, apples should be heaped up, whereas berries should only come level to the surface of the bottom crust.

Regardless of what fruit you're using, the process is the same. Add 1/4 cup of flour and a bunch of spices to the fruit, stir it up so it's coated, and put it in the pie crust. With apple, I often add lemon juice as well, since I cut the apples into a bowl with lemon juice in it so they don't go brown while I'm cutting the rest of them. As for spices, use desserty spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, corriander, cardamom, allspice, ginger, etc. I don't always use every spice I can think of... just whatever mood takes me.

What to do with pie crust scraps

Pocket Pie
Last time I made a pie, I rolled the scraps out into a circle, topped it with chocolate chips, nuts, spices, and some mild cheese. I folded it over and crimped it up like a calzone and baked it with the pie. It didn't need to bake as long as the pie.

Almost but not completely unlike rugulach
Roll the scraps out as thin as possible. Top with cinnamon sugar. Roll back up. Put in the oven with the pie. It should be done in 5 minutes or so.


Rice Pudding
Wednesday, June 27, 2007, 05:59 PM - comfort food, dessert, breakfast
Rice Pudding
Today I made rice pudding for dinner. I know nothing about rice pudding. I have never had rice pudding. But we had leftover rice from Chinese food the other night, and I had a sudden hankering for rice pudding. So I perused multiple recipes online, and discovered that most people think you're actually going to make rice from scratch in milk instead of using leftover rice. This seems dumb. In my ignorance, I thought the whole point of rice or bread pudding was to use up leftover rice or bread before it went south. And to presumably use them in a different format, because if people wanted them in their previous format, they would have just gone ahead and eaten them and not left them hanging out in their fridge as leftovers.

I also discovered that most people think you're going to make rice pudding in your oven. Since it's unbearably hot, this also seems foolish. Sure, it'd be great in the winter, but it's not a June activity (unless you're down under). Fortunately I found one great recipe for quick and light rice pudding that said you could make it with leftovers and you could make it on the stovetop, which will heat your kitchen a bit, but not to the degree of running your entire oven for over an hour. However, this recipe didn't fit my preconceived notions of pudding, which involve more creamy, eggy goodness. So after eyeing a bunch of other recipes, I thought I'd just make something up and use the stovetop cooking method and hope it turned out ok. Here goes:

ingredients
1 small takeout Chinese food container almost full (but not packed) of rice --- this is probably somewhere between 1 and 2 cups, but I didn't measure because the measure was in the dishwasher. I don't think the quantity matters if it's in the ballpark.
1 can of evaporated milk
1/4ish tsp of salt
3 rounded TBS of brown sugar (not packed or messed with in any way that might involve effort, just scooped out of the container and dumped in)
1 glug vanilla extract
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste (I use more cinnamon than nutmeg, since nutmeg is very potent)
1 egg

process
Dump the rice in a saucepan. Add everything else. Stir it up really well so the egg is beaten and everything is pretty homogenous. Turn on the saucepan to high. Stir frequently until it boils, then turn it all the way down, put a lid on it, and go off and play video games and make a few phone calls. Come back periodically and give it a stir. This process should take half an hour to 45 minutes... shorter if you don't care about letting it oook---you do need video games you'll be able to pause once every 15 minutes or so. When it looks good and rice puddingey, either eat it or stick it in the refrigerator to have it cold for breakfast. It makes enough that 2 people could have a big serving now, and a little serving cold for breakfast. Or 4 people could have moderately sized servings whenever.

serving suggestions
Serve with fake breakfast sausage and salad... because salad is easy to throw together really fast and you've got to have a vegetable. If you're clever with your dressing, a salad can go with this. I convinced someone else to make the salad and they dressed it with oil, malt vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and coriander, which tied nicely with both the spice of the sausage and the spices in the rice pudding.

It might also be nice with one of those froofy apple sausages.

If I were the planning ahead sort, I might pick a different vegetable, but I don't know what that would be.



Gluten Free Griddle Scones
Thursday, August 31, 2006, 03:09 PM - breakfast
My sister and her husband are visiting and she has celiac, which is a gluten allergy. It's not an allergy strictly speaking, but it means that if she eats anything containing wheat or some other grains in it, she gets horribly ill. If you're interested, you should probably go looking at some medical site instead of a cooking site for the gory details. She's actually incredibly sensitive, so she can't eat a lot of things that you might expect---canned beans, for instance--- because maybe someone got near something somewhere in the manufacturing process who might have eaten a sandwich for lunch and the whole canning factory was contaminated. Ouch.

Since we thought she might want to eat once in a while while she was hear, we bought some brown rice flower and some cornmeal that were certified gluten free. If you're cooking for company with celiac, this is very important. You shouldn't buy bulk because some people go and scoop out of the wheat flour bin, then scoop out of the corn meal bin, then the whole thing is contaminated. We bought some chocolate chips but didn't put them away in the chocolate chip container, because I strongly suspected we'd contaminated our container by making false pie (which involves chocolate chips, graham crackers, and amaretto). I'd bought canned beans for another meal, but um... I'll be having a decent amount of canned beans for a while because she told me we had to go buy bulk beans and wash them very carefully before soaking them because canned beans can't be trusted. It's best to find out how sensitive the person you're cooking for is before you go and buy a lot of stuff for their visit.

But back to the griddle scones. It's easiest to adapt recipes for breads that gluten will destroy. Buiscuits come to mind. People who make bad biscuits usually ruin them by over mixing, which activates the gluten. So no gluten equals better buiscuits. You can't go wrong.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup salted butter
1 cup hazlenuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup maine blueberries
1 1/2 cup milk

Process

1. Measure the rice flour, cornmeal, and baking powder into a bowl. Stir it up.

2. Wait for people to wake up because in a 1 bedroom apartment with company on an air mattress without much wall between them and you, chopping stuff in the kitchen can make lots of noise. You migh start a pot of coffee.

3. Grate a cube of frozen, salted butter into the flour. If the grating process draws blood, don't worry. Even if your guests are vegetarians, they usually won't mind a little human blood. Everyone needs some iron in their diet. But do try not to hurt yourself. I'm a little dubious about this grating technique. Alton Brown recommends it. I bet he has a grater attachment on his food processor or some special grater with hand guards, because we've tried this twice and on both occasions someone (a different person on each occasion) grated their thumb knuckle, which doesn't seem to happen when you're not grating butter. You might just use a fork, even if it takes longer. You do want the butter to be pretty solid, as one of the things that makes biscuits fluffy is the melting of butter as the biscuits cook.

4. Chop hazlenuts. If I were in a city with the right stores, I'd use 3/4 cup of hazlenut flour instead, so chop it pretty fine. Add it to the bowl.

5. Chop chocolate chips. Why? Because we get the ghirardelli's 60% cocoa chocolate chips, and they are pretty large as chocolate chips go. Again, if we were in a city with the right stores, we'd have a bar with a higher percentage of cocoa mass and it would be very quick and easy to shave. Add these to the bowl also.

6. Add a cup of blueberries and stir.

7. Add 1 1/2 cup of milk. Stir.

8. Preheat a couple of large frying pans on the stove. They should be hot enough that water splattered on them dances around before vaporizing.

9. Spray with anti-stick spray where appropriate. We were running out because we never think to buy more so I just sprayed the non-nonstick pan; the nonstick pan turned out better even without spray.

10. Transfer the contents of a heaping tablespoon of batter into the pan. Pat it down with the back of a spoon until it's about 3/4 of an inch thick. Do this repeatedly until you have a bunch of them cooking in your pans.

11. Cook until they're cooked half of the way through. You can tell just by looking at it. The uncooked portion will remain moist; the cooked portion will dry up and stop bubbling. You can watch the matteness creep up the side of the scone. Flip it and give it about the same amount of time as you gave the first side. Transfer it to a plate.

12. Repeat process until they're all cooked.

Results
They were slightly lame. Usually we make them with sour cherries. Even though we used the wild maine blueberries instead of the really lame sweet blueberries, they didn't have enough kick. Next time we're going to use a combination of blueberries and cranberries. We also thought they needed more salt. Either I accidentally used unsalted butter, or it needs even more salt than that. Next time I'll add a teaspoon or so of salt.

We also thought all the chopping was a bit tiresome. We do have a blender, so next time we'll probably throw the cranberries, the hazlenuts, the chocolate chips, and the milk in a blender and blend it up nicely. That will give the batter an infusion of cranberry-chocolate-hazlenut goodness. Then we'll put in some blueberries to provide the fruity chunks scattered throughout.





Drop Biscuit Pancake Type Things
Sunday, July 16, 2006, 12:30 PM - comfort food, flatbread, breakfast
This morning we made drop biscuit pancake type things. Why drop biscuits? Um... too long since I'd gone to the grocery store and there were no other viable breakfast options. Why pancake type things? Because it's wicked hot and using the oven is unthinkable.

Ingredients
3/4 cup ground nuts--I used hazlenut meal. You can substitute flour if you don't want nuts for some reason.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup milk
4 blocks very dark chocolate, shaved
3/4 cup diced cherries--I used frozen, but you could probably use dried. Or you could pit some fresh ones if you're particularly masochistic.

Directions
Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them up. The dry ingredients would be nutmeal, flour, salt, baking powder.

Next, do whatever it is you do with butter to get it into the dry ingredients. If you have one of those sproingy pastry mixer things, you could probably use that to cut in the butter. If you own a food processor, you could probably throw the lot into there and pulse it until you have itty bitty bits of butter coated in the flour mixture. If you're me, you'll just have to use a fork to cut/squoosh/whatever the butter into the flour. Just to be experimental, I tried freezing the butter and dicing it with a knife, then throwing it into the dry ingredients. It worked pretty well but I don't know if it saved time over the fork method. Once you've done that, use your hands to work the butter into the flour a little better. If you're using white flour, be very careful here because they will be tough if you activate the gluten. It's a little safer with wheat flour, and the hazlenut is even safer. I bet if you're on a gluten-free diet, you can make pretty amazingly fluffy biscuits with your special flour.

Then throw in the cherries and get them well coated with flour. This keeps them from sticking together later. Then add the chocolate. Then add the milk and stir it up. You probably want to use a spoon for this instead of your hands, as it gets pretty messy otherwise. I use a soup spoon.

Take your lefse griddle and heat it to 450. If you don't have a lefse griddle, you'll have to use a frying pan and turn your stove to highish. If you're going to want coffee with this, which you will, you should heat the water before turning on your lefse griddle. Probably turn it on when you start prepping the other stuff. If you try to make hot water and run the lefse griddle at the same time, it will throw the circuit breaker. But you won't notice you've thrown it for a while because the griddle will still feel hot, but you'll wonder why nothing's cooking right.

Grease your lefse griddle with something. I use some variety of canned, sprayable, vegetable oil. With the soup spoon you mixed with, scoop up a mound of biscuit dough. Use another soup spoon to push it off onto the griddle. Pat the top down a bit with the back of the spoon. Repeat until the griddle is covered, leaving about an inch between biscuits. Let them cook for 5 minutes or so, then come back and flip them. Let them cook another 3 minutes or so, them remove to a cooling rack (or plate). Repeat the process until you're out of dough. It took me 2 griddles full to cook all the biscuits.

Eat with coffee.

Buckwheat Pancakes
Saturday, January 14, 2006, 09:08 PM - flatbread, breakfast
This morning we had buckwheat pancakes for breakfast... or whatever you like to call the meal you eat at 1pm on saturday. They turned out a little texturally wacky. Next time I will use half wheat flour/half buckwheat flour instead of all buckwheat. Somehow I got into the habit of doing all buckwheat when I was trying to figure out if I was allergic to gluten or not. And I'm not so I can use all the wheat I like.

Ingredients


1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 egg
a shake or two of salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 of water

Directions


Put a pan on the stove at medium heat. Beat an egg. Add everything else. Stir well. Don't stir well if you're using flour + buckwheat because you might overstir things and make the gluten tough. But you don't have to worry about that with buckwheat, you just have to worry about weird texture.

The pan is heated when water drops bounce on the surface instead of sticking and slowly evaporating. Spray it with de-stickifying stuff. Spoon 1/4 cup dollups of batter onto the pan. Let them cook until bubbles form on the surface. After the bubbles have formed, flip them. Continue until you've used up the batter. Butter them if you like. Serve with syrup. This makes enough for two people to have 4 1/2 pancakes.


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