Friday, April 22, 2016

Coconut Wafers

Coconut Wafers
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s “Flavor Flours” by Blue Heron Kitchen

These simple coconut cookies are crispy, buttery, flourless, don’t look anything like a macaroon, are gluten-free, and are open to variations. Just in time at the last minute, here’s a Passover-friendly dessert that you’ll want to bake anyway, anytime.

Banned from gluten, I’ve been in a downward baguetteless, donutless  croissantless vacuum. It was kismet that I opened this poppy field, “Flavor Flours”. You'll want a copy for your library. Medrich is a master pastry chef.  

For the cookies: If you have vanilla sugar, use it. There are three basic ingredients: vanilla, butter and coconut, nothing less than a patisserie ménage à trois. Truc:I keep several ‘flavored’ sugars in my pantry: cardamom, rose and vanilla. Throw the pods from vanilla beans you’ve used (or if you have vanilla beans that are old and expired and you’ve never used them, put them into a jar of sugar and leave them there for a few weeks!)

Coconut? I like Bob’s Red Mill. Whatever brand you use, be sure it's fresh and unsweetened coconut.

I’ve always used Kosher salt when I bake, but for these recipes, where the batter is ‘fine’, and mixed by hand, I prefer ‘fine’ sea salt, but either will do.

We’re going to my friend Rick’s seder again.  He’ll make the famous “Molly Kugel”, his “Chrain”, and this year, he’s sous vide-ing brisket. 

Charoset truc: Add a teaspoon of Lyle’s Golden syrup to the apples, cinnamon, walnuts and (don’t laugh) Manischewitz Concord Grape wine. Splash in a bissel of balsamic vinegar (mine's flavored with fig) and some freshly grated or chopped ginger. 

To freedom and breaking through power, laced in corruption, greed and xenophobia. Three cheers and at the very least four glasses for Harriet Tubman!

peace and love,

Coconut Wafers

Aluminum foil lined baking sheets, dull side up, buttered, or use non-stick aluminum foil

3 Tbsp./45 g. unsalted butter, melted (more for greasing the foil, if you’re not using non-stick foil)

3 egg whites, size large

1 c. plus 2 Tbsp./100 g. unsweetened dried shredded coconut

½ c./100 g. granulated white sugar (or vanilla sugar, or ‘other’ aromatic sugar)

Optional: ½ cup finely chopped toasted and cooled pecans
Optional: melted chocolate for drizzling

Line baking sheets (you’ll have three, in all) with regular or non-stick foil. If using regular, dull side up, brush with melted butter.

Mix egg whites with coconut, sugar and salt until well blended. (By hand is fine.Take time to beat and really blend the batter.)

Stir in the butter. 

Let batter rest for at least 15 minutes to allow coconut to absorb moisture.
Even better: cover and store in the fridge for several hours or for up to 3 days!)

To bake: If you’ve refrigerated the batter, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (an hour.)

Position racks in upper and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 300º F.

Stir batter well. Drop level tablespoons onto baking sheets, about 3” apart. Flatten each into a round, about 1/4” thick.

If you’re adding pecans, sprinkle (generously) each flattened round with the toasted and finely chopped pecans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (or longer), until nicely golden, rotating baking sheets, top to bottom and front to back, half way through the bake. Be sure they are nicely golden, or the cookies won’t be crispy.

Move to cooling racks. Leave on foil until easily transferred to cooling racks. Cool completely before storing in airtight container as soon as they are cool. If you don’t store them as soon as they’re cool, they’ll lose some of their crispiness.
If you’re drizzling or dipping them in melted chocolate, melt some great quality chocolate in a small bowl over barely simmering water or on a lower power in the microwave, stirring every 10-15 seconds. Using a small pastry bag or if you know how to make a paper cone, drizzle chocolate to make a basket weave pattern. You can use the tines of a fork, but you’ll have less control. If drizzling sounds arduous, dip. Place on waxed paper or parchment until chocolate is set. For a quick set-up, place in the fridge! Cookies dipped in chocolate are best served the same day.

Without additions, these should last, stored airtight, for 1 month.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen cookies

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate Molasses (or Syrup)
Adapted from Alton Brown by Blue Heron Kitchen

You can buy pomegranate molasses, but I think it tastes better when you make it at home. Sweet and tart, you're going to find more uses for this condiment than perhaps any other condiment in your fridge. It's a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine; and how about a well-deserved break from balsamic vinegar and its oh so 90's reductions. 

Drizzle some on salad, fish, shrimp or on fried fish or shellfish. It complements chicken, game and pork. Try it on steamed or roasted vegetables, fried or broiled cheese (or vegan fare like seitan or tofu), baked potatoes, toast, yogurt, cottage cheese, pancakes or waffles, ice cream or sorbet, watermelon(!) or on fruit salad. If you made syrup, swirl it into drinks and cocktails.

Here's the thing: you don't have to be a pro to make pomegranate molasses. You do have to be vigilant, attentive - report, hound and harass any Republican who turns his back on his legal obligation to uphold due process by refuting due process in putting a new judge on the Supreme Court.  Oh, sorry. I meant to say it's essential you stand by the pot toward the final stage of reduction. My first attempt rendered pomegranate tar.

Once you've reached a reduction of one liquid cup, you've got molasses (in not just July.) For syrup, reduce to more than a liquid cup - figure 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups. Molasses (and syrup) will thicken as it cools.

paix et amour,

Pomegranate Molasses (or Syrup)

4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice (organic, preferred)
1/2 cup sugar, preferably palm sugar (jaggery) If you don't have palm sugar, white is fine. 

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice


For Syrup: 
Put the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a large (3-4-quart) saucepan set over medium heat. 

Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups, approximately 30-45 minutes. It should be the consistency of syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator. 

For Molasses: 
Place the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a 4-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1 cup, approximately 40-60 minutes. 

It should be the consistency of thick syrup. Take care, especially towards the latter part of reduction, to not let the reduction burn. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pumpkin Rum-Raisin Loaf

Pumpkin Rum-Raisin Loaf
Blue Heron Kitchen
For Mom

If you have leftover canned pumpkin that's staring at you, here's a great recipe that's perfect for these winter days when it's black outside at 4:30. While waiting for the sun, make some tea, coffee or hot chocolate and have a slice (or two) of this delicious spiced loaf that's loaded with spiked raisins. With or without alcohol, it’ll lift your spirits.

You might want to allow for some time to soak raisins. (Do this in the morning, or overnight, covering the bowl and leaving it on the counter.) If you haven't allotted soaking time, no worries .. it’ll work out.

For the oat flour: I made oat flour with regular oats in my Vitamix. You can use any “power blender” to make oat flour. Or: put the oats in your food processor, and although they won’t grind into flour, the result will be a more textured, but still excellent loaf.

Why oats? Th-oat you’d never ask. Oat flour has no gluten (that protein that holds stuff together, but when there’s too much, often produced by over-mixing, it can make pie crusts, muffins, cookies and cakes tough.) If you're rolling out a pie crust and it's resisting your effort to enlarge it by shrinking back, that's gluten! (You can 'relax' the gluten by returning the dough to the fridge and letting it rest.) You can't always 'fix' gluten's sinews. Especially when it comes to cakery. In this cake, the addition of oats softens the texture. But don't think you're off the hook. If you overmix, there's plenty of gluten in the wheat flour. Gluten isn't evil (for those with Celiac it is; and for those with sensitivity to it, it is). It's necessary to bind together baked goods. And it's what you want when you knead bread. 

If you don’t have oat flour or any of this equipment, (or you don’t feel like washing another container), add whole oats. Oats from Ireland, the U.K. or Scotland are great choices. Bob’s Red Mill is also a great resource for oats and...

Baking soda: Bob’s Red Mill baking soda is worth the $3.00 (don't gasp - it's a one pound bag.) I'm grateful to my son, who advised me how great this stuff is. When you open the bag, you can see the difference. It's far less processed.  Buy the stuff in the orange box for cleaning and use Bob’s for cooking.

Rum? I’ve used both dark, spiced rum, and clear, ‘white’ rum. Either will do. If you don’t have rum, use bourbon. Maker’s Mark is great to have in your liquor cabinet. It's great for bourbon pecan biscotti, and great for chocolate bourbon pecan pie. 

Theory: alcohol evaporates during the baking/cooking process. Reality: I don’t think it all goes away (I hope not.) If you don’t use alcohol, use water. Try adding a tsp. (or more) of rum extract to the raisin soak. If you’re omitting the alcohol, double the vanilla extract, or split it with rum extract.

Canned (plain) pumpkin is best. I buy the organic stuff. If you roast or steam your own, make sure it’s drained extremely well.

Your spices matter. New Year's (easy) resolution: If spices are more than a year old, replace them. Write the date on the new labels.  (When you open the new batch, compare their aromas. New=fresh and pungent. Old=dull and muted. If they're really old, they're pointless.  If you’re interested in a great spice-monger, try Penzey’s.

Of cloves: If you’re using freshly ground cloves, you may want to reduce the amount by about an 1/8th to ¼ of a tsp. Until the oils of the cloves dissipate, the spice, freshly ground is “oily” and concentrated.

Truc: Opt for the larger bowl.

Another day home from work is another day closer to springing back to musical life. Until then, there’s always my Blue Heron Kitchen.

peace and love,

Pumpkin Rum-Raisin Loaf
1 c./5.5 oz./156 g. dark raisins (organic Thomson are great)
¼ c./4 fl. oz./118.29 ml. rum, (dark or light) or bourbon
¼ c./4. fl. oz./118.29 ml. water (room temperature)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (double if omitting alcohol or rum extract)
            or 1 tsp. vanilla + 1-2 tsp. rum extract, if omitting alcohol.
2 eggs, size large, room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 ¼ c./8.8 oz./250 g. granulated white sugar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
¾ tsp. ground cloves
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 ½ c./200 g. unbleached white flour
¼ c./28 g. oat flour or oats (not quick cooking), ground, processed or “as is”
1 ½ tsp./6 g. baking powder (use aluminum-free)
½ tsp./2 g. baking soda
Turbinado sugar for top of loaf (optional)

When ready to bake: preheat oven to 350º F. and prepare two small or one large loaf pan by greasing with vegetable oil.

Soak raisins in rum or water. Do not drain.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together: flour, oats, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer (Kitchen Aid or “other”) or by hand, in a large bowl, beat the eggs.

Add pumpkin and sugar and mix well.

Add oil and mix well.

Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Dump in raisins and liquid that they were soaking in. Stir until combined.

Fill prepared loaf pan(s) to 2/3 full.

Sprinkle optional Turbinado sugar on top of loaf.

Bake in center of oven, until tester comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes. Do begin checking after 30 minutes (especially if you’re baking several smaller loaves.

Cool completely before serving. This loaf seasons and improves with age. Wrap well in plastic and then foil. Leave for a day (or two.)

The loaf keeps well in the fridge and freezes for a couple of months.