Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

A little while ago I was looking in my freezer and found a pie crust in a ziploc bag.  Since I didn't recall making pie crust in the recent past (in fact I realized that this had been made last time I posted about pie crust, which was December!) I decided I'd better see if it was still good.  It was!  Delicious, in fact.  And I made what has long been my favorite pie.  Or one of my favorite pies.  My mom swore off making this pie when we were little.  We had it once or twice and then she declared it "too rich."  But it isn't, not really.  I adjusted the recipe a little so it would be not quite as gooey-buttery (but still, quite sufficiently gooey), and so it would have a little more fluffiness and less oiliness.  Slice it thin and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it's as delicious as you could wish for.  The top forms a chewy, caramely crust that is UNBELIEVEABLY good, and then there is the soft buttery filling beneath, and the melted chocolate, all underpinned by that delicate, flaky bottom crust.  It's just the thing to cheer up a cold day.  Like today.

We call it Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie.  Or my brother (he always has to be contrary; he called our cat Pussywillow "Ivan" for the duration of that cat's life) calls it "Chocolate Chip Cake Pie."  I don't know why.  I suppose it's really "Toll House Pie," but what information does that give you?  None.  Or worse, misleading information.  Do you have pay a toll to eat this pie?  Or live in a house?  You do not.  Or maybe it takes its toll on you by making you as big as a house.  But don't think of that; just think of:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

1 unbaked pie crust (use this recipe)

½ c. butter, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. flour or so (about 5 oz.)
1/4 t. salt
2 T. milk
1-1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips*

Heat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugars; add eggs. Beat in vanilla, flour, and salt. Blend in milk (filling may look a little lumpy), then stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour filling into prepared pie shell and smooth it with a spoon. Bake for about 50 min. When done, top will be dark golden brown and filling will be set except for the very center, which may jiggle when you tap the pan. Serve warm, with ice cream.  Or it is also quite delicious cold, sliced and picked up and eaten with your hands like a cookie.

*If you want, you can stir the chocolate chips together with the dry ingredients first, before adding them to the egg mixture.  This is supposed to coat the chips with flour and make them less likely to sink to the bottom of the pie.  But it doesn't really work that well.  Maybe it helps a little, but they still don't distribute throughout the pie evenly.  Anyway, I kind of like the two-layer look myself, so I usually don't bother.

(Another pie, warmer.  More chocolate chips in this one.  I like both ways.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hyacinths

The hyacinths in my yard are pretty this year.  I like the yellow and orange ones.

Aaaand . . . I don't have anything else to say.  Except wouldn't it be awesome if you got to heaven and God told you, "All of your bad behavior was caused by hormones and all of your good behavior was a result of your own good choices.  Frankly I'm amazed you weren't grumpy MORE often!"

I'm not holding my breath for such a conversation, though . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A yellow petticoat and a green gown

from Mother Goose, The Original Volland Edition (1915), edited and arranged by Eulalie Osgood Grover and illustrated by Frederick Richardson
Daffy Down Dilly
Has come to town
In a yellow petticoat
And a green gown.

Do you know that nursery rhyme?  I told you there would be more daffodils!  These are also from Red Butte Garden.  (That links to their "What's Blooming" blog, but frankly you are going to get better pictures here: they need to update more often.  I wish I could have that job!!)  I couldn't get over how many there were!  And all SO beautiful!

"You probably don't need to get a picture of EVERY variety," said Sam (gently) as I stopped and exclaimed over each one. :)  But there were so many different kinds!  Look at the one on the top left, with the extra-long nose!  (I think it's actually called a "throat," but I prefer "nose.")  And the tiny ones at the right of that top row are so sweet!  I also like the frilly one on the middle left, and isn't the opposite-colored one (2nd from right, bottom row) interesting?  And I like the snub-nosed orangey ones on the botttom right.  All of them are SO lovely!  I do love the traditional gold ones best, I think, but I love them all.

The gold+green color combination is so stunning en masse!

I love this---browns, with the pale pink set off so delicately among them!

A real Hyacinth Garden!  You could almost see the scent of them in the air.  Heavenly.

Star magnolia with daffodils.  I have one of these trees.  Such lacy white blossoms!  Again, set off beautifully against the filigree of the brown branches behind.

Evening sun through the daffodils.  Makes them glow like little suns themselves.

Chortling.

This section goes right up into the foothills.  I love the contrast of cultivation and wilderness.  But really, the daffodils look quite at home among the rocks.  They are a such a brave, cheerful, tenacious flower, I think!  They must have evolved their deer-resistance so they could grow in wild areas.

I love this picture.  Boys running ahead excitedly, eager to see what's around the next bend.  And golden evening light through the barely-awakening trees.

Another abundant hillside.  And those silent trees on top, keeping watch.

You can see, can't you, why yellow is my favorite color?  It glows from within.  And the delicate, fluted edge on that daffodil's "nose"!  It looks like a tissue paper silhouette snipped with tiny, delicate scissors, or like a lace hem peeking out under a skirt.  So lovely!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lemon Quinoa with Asparagus and Feta

Spring weather means it's time for asparagus.  I can't get enough of it.  Roasted to tender crispness in the oven, folded with Hollandaise sauce into crepes, added to vegetable lasagne---everywhere you use it, it elevates the dish into something magnificent.  So here's what you should make for dinner tonight.  It's one of my favorite recipes, and best of all it only takes 20 minutes to make.  You'll love it!

Lemon Quinoa with Asparagus and Feta

3 c. water
1 1/2 c. quinoa
1 t. salt
2 t. chicken bouillon (or use broth for liquid)
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed* and cut into bite-size pieces
olive oil
kosher salt
parmesan cheese
4-8 oz. feta cheese
2 T. lemon juice

1. Combine water, quinoa, salt, and boullion in large pot and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until all of liquid is absorbed, 15-20 min.
2. Meanwhile, spread asparagus pieces in single layer on foil-covered cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with kosher salt.  Roast in oven at 500 for 10 min. or so until asparagus is tender and just starting to brown on the tips.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
3. Stir roasted asparagus into quinoa.  Add crumbed feta cheese and lemon juice.  Stir until combined.

This is good served with poached eggs and a fruit smoothie.  Mmm, a perfect dinner!

*To trim asparagus, just hold it in your two hands and break it.  It will break naturally where the stem gets more tender.  Discard the lower half (or save to make stock for soup) and use the tender upper half to roast.  The upper part will still be long enough to need cutting, if you want to make bite-size pieces.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Daffodils

The daffodils (one of my favorite flowers) are spectacular right now.  I'm sure you'll be seeing more of them from me, so be forewarned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lark Rise to Candleford

I can't recall if I've mentioned Lark Rise to Candleford here before?  It's a period series on the BBC (We started watching it on YouTube, but the first couple seasons are on Netflix so we've been getting it that way lately).  It's SO good, and I just keep liking it better the more I watch it.  The characters are so interesting and multifaceted---Sam and I keep marveling at how they manage to be funny and exasperating and loveable at the same time.  It seems like many times, characters in a movie are trying so hard to be complex and dimensional that they end up just being unfathomable, and you stop caring about them because you can't understand them.  These characters, by contrast, may fit into stereotypical roles (the strong-willed spinster, the loveable drunkard, the overly-principled idealist, etc.), but they surprise you---not the easy way, by simply doing the opposite of what you expect, but by enlarging your understanding of their motivations and ideals.  They end up being very sympathetic even when they are infuriating. 

Robert and Emma Timmins.  This guy IS my brother-in-law Steve.  I can't get over it.

Queenie.  I love her.

Lady Adelaide

Laura


Dorcas.  Yes, she's Lydia from Pride and Prejudice.  But her role is SO different in this show.  I really, really like her.

The other thing I love about this show is that it is absolutely GORGEOUS.  The English countryside is lovely, of course, and the whole place has this LIGHT to it that is just exquisite.  Serene and peaceful and luminous.  It transports me back to my Idyllic Youth when I was in England---I can remember specific golden mornings with that quiet, misty air and the unbroken green of the meadows trailing off beyond the road.  So beautiful.

If you like Pride and Prejudice and Cranford (and who doesn't?) you'll like this series.  Try it out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ah, Wheat Bread, thy name is . . . wheat bread.

I learned to make bread at my mother's knee (really), so I've been making it for years and years.  I make all kinds of bread, and I particularly love this artisan bread I learned to make recently [and I've made a few adjustments to improve my method in that recipe too, but that's another post]---but for my all-purpose, make-every-week, toasting/sandwich bread, I always make whole-wheat.  And I like my whole-wheat bread recipe, I really do . . . but . . . I think it could be better.  I was talking to my friend Karrie about this quest we're on to find THE perfect wheat bread.  We feel that it might be kind of greedy, in a way.  Or ungrateful to our mothers'/grandmothers' "tried and true" recipes which we've inherited---to want something MORE.  But we do.

And lately there has been something "off" about my bread, anyway.  Humidity changes?  Oven calibration?  Bad batch of flour?  I don't know.  But I've been doing a lot of experimenting lately, trying to make things better.  I should say right now that I really, really need a wheat grinder, so I can grind my own wheat.  It's been on the list of things I'd like for a long time, but you know how it is---other things always end up coming first.  So I know I could probably get the best results with my own ground wheat (I'd like to try the white wheat I see at Macey's), but for now, this is what I've got.  Here goes:

First of all, I have wanted to see if I can use the artisan bread method to get a nice wheat sandwich bread.  I like being able to keep dough in the fridge at all times.  I found a recipe here (the King Arthur Flour blog---see my post on KAF here) which looked great, but I'm sorry to say it was an utter failure.  Mostly because it tasted DISGUSTING.  I don't know what it is, but every time I've tried the slow-ferment method with wheat, it smells and tastes like SOAP when it's done.  Could be my flour, but I got the same result on two different occasions, using flour from three different bags/brands.  I'm still hoping to find a no-knead whole wheat recipe I like (maybe mixing some other flours? rye? spelt? etc.) but this isn't it.

Regular King Arthur Whole Wheat flour.  Lumpy and yucky.  And tasted like soap.

KAF White Whole Wheat flour.  Looks lots better and smoother.  But still quite dry/crumbly, and tasted like SOAP!

So, back to my good old bread recipe, the one I've been using for 25 years.  Or at least 20. :)  Now I was interested in trying the white wheat with my recipe.  With the lighter-rising results of the white whole wheat, perhaps I would be able to leave out the vital wheat gluten I usually add to wheat bread?  No, it turns out, the gluten is still needed.  My loaves without it did not have enough elasticity.

The following pictures show the same recipe, gluten added this time, (and I do weigh my flour, and try to keep all other elements constant---I can't stand a poorly designed/sloppily executed experiment; it's my Dad's influence) using King Arthur red whole wheat flour, and King Arthur white whole wheat flour.  (To eliminate the brand variable, I used KAF brand for both wheats.)
You can see that the white whole wheat (on the right, in all pictures) is smoother and rises up higher.
Same thing after baking.  A much more even crumb, and a higher rise, from the white whole wheat.

Inside, the regular wheat flour was much denser.  But the white wheat was not as light as you'd like, either!  Both were kind of dry, I thought, and not very elastic in spite of the extra wheat gluten I added.  Perhaps the two kinds of wheat absorb different amounts of water, and the regular whole wheat could be adjusted to make a lighter loaf.

I repeated this experiment with my regular, generic-brand whole wheat flour instead of the KAF red wheat.  The results were the same: both breads dry; the red wheat more so.

Next I tried changing the amounts of liquid.  Well, actually changing the amounts of flour, but the effect is the same as increasing the liquid.  I only used the whole white wheat here, since I already knew I liked that flour best.  If I'd had another brand of white wheat besides KAF, I'd have used it for comparison, but I didn't (and, as we've established, no wheat grinder to make my own).  I changed to amount of flour to 21 oz. instead of 24.  I didn't measure it in cups, but it's 4-5, I believe, depending on how you measure it.  The dough was stiff enough to form a ball in the mixer, and when prodded with a finger, it didn't stick.  But it was still sticky enough to require a light flouring on the counter before I did my final kneading, and to leave residue on my hands.  Basically, about as sticky as you could have it and still have it be workable.  I wanted to go as light as possible on the flour.
Much better crumb this time!  Look how much more spongy it is---can you tell from the pictures?  When I grabbed it and squeezed the loaf, it just sprang back to its original form instead of tearing or crumbling.

These nice, even, round air pockets (above) are what I like to see.  That's pretty unusual in a whole wheat bread---I have rarely (if ever) gotten that nice of a texture with whole red wheat.  It's the extra liquid's doing, I think, along with the extra gluten---but I don't think even adding extra liquid would give you this result with a red wheat flour.

Compare that with this white wheat (above) from the previous batch (the one with less liquid, or that is, MORE flour).  Still nicely risen, but so much denser!  (Ignore the little hole in the middle---that's Baker Error.)  And a lot less moist.  Not so good for sandwiches and so forth.

Still with me?  Here's the final recipe, then. 

Wheat Bread
2 c. warm water
2 T. instant yeast
1 T. salt
2 T. sugar or honey
1/4 c. canola or olive oil
1/4 c. vital wheat gluten
21 oz. whole wheat flour (I used KAF whole white wheat)--about 4-5 cups

Mix everything together in a stand mixer for awhile, till dough comes together and forms a ball.  Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead by hand a few times.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till doubled.  Form dough into two loaves (this makes smallish loaves, to fit my smallish loaf pans---if you have big loaf pans, you might want to 1-1/2x the recipe to make 2 bigger loaves), place in greased loaf pans, and let rise another hour or until doubled.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Turn loaves immediately out onto wire rack to cool.
I will keep you posted if I try any other recipes or variations!  I know there are lots of other options (Karrie mentioned adding lecithin, for example?) but I'm pretty happy with this current iteration.  It's light, moist, elastic, and tasty, and it keeps well.

King Arthur Flour (white whole wheat flour)

I'm about to post some wheat bread recipes, and I realized my thoughts on the flour brand should maybe go in a separate post.  I had heard of King Arthur Flour before, as kind of an accepted "best flour" in the baking industry.  Lots of people swear by it.  (They have a great baking blog also.) It comes in all kinds, but I was most interested in their White Whole Wheat Flour because it's supposed to be a softer, lighter-rising flour that PERFORMS more like white flour in recipes.  (White whole wheat is an albino wheat---it tastes less "bitter" [although I don't think it's bitter] than traditional red whole wheat, but is nutritionally just the same.) 

I have really liked this flour, but I don't know that it's so much the King Arthur brand, as just the white wheat that's so great.  I'll test that when I have a wheat grinder and can grind my own white wheat flour. (I cannot find any other commerical white-wheat flours in the store, but they sell bags of white wheat grains at Macey's and Lehi Roller Mills, I think.)  I've used the KAF all-purpose and red wheat flours, and with those I don't notice a substantial difference from my usual brands.  In fact in a side-by-side test of the basic artisan bread, I preferred my Western Family white flour to the KAF white flour.  But I have yet to do a side-by-side test of how the KAF all-purpose flour performs in, say, cookies, compared to other brands of flour.  It may be that it is better---some people certainly think so. 

I do definitely prefer the KAF white whole wheat for my basic weekly wheat bread recipe, but as I said, the KAF brand may be less important than the fact that it's white-wheat.

One of the best things about the white whole wheat is the way it works in baked goods, even besides bread---like brownies or cookies.  In many recipes, you can do nearly a straight subsitution of white wheat for white all-purpose---certainly you could use half---without even noticing a difference.  This can really boost the nutrition of baked goods, as you can imagine, and for this reason I think I may add KAF white-wheat to my rotation of foods to buy (at least till I get a wheat grinder)---in spite of its high price tag. (Can usually get it for $3.89 or so, on sale at Smith's, for a 5-lb bag.)  Because of the cost, it won't be the only flour I use, but I like it a lot and will use it when I can.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Accusor

I don't know what I ever did to deserve this, but a lot of the time when Daisy gets mad, she gets mad very pointedly AT ME.  She looks around to wherever I am in the room and then she cries at me.  Accusingly.  (Some of my other babies did this too, which is how I know that it's worse when they can crawl: then they follow you around and cry at you.)  It's like she thinks that I, specifically, am the one who could help her, and that I am deliberately not doing so.  (Which I guess is true, sometimes.*)

I hope your conscience is clear as you look at these pictures, because otherwise how could this face not give you a twinge of guilt?
This poor child!  Will no one help her?  Have you no HEART?!

*That reminds me that Sam and I had an idea for a business we want to start.  It will be done by phone, like a 1-900 number type of thing, and it will be for parents who have a hard time telling their kids 'no'.  Since we are, apparently, quite heartless, and have no problem at ALL telling kids no (even if they are STARVING or SO TIRED OF DOING THAT or whatever), we would provide that service (for a fee) for other people's kids.  We'd be the bad guy so the parents didn't have to.  "I know you want a snack, dear, and I can see you ARE hungry . . . let me just  get Marilyn on the line and we'll ask her. . . "
"I'm hungry, I want something to eeeeeat!"
"Nope!"
"But I'm starrrrrving!"
"Too bad!"
And so forth.  Do you think it has potential?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lentil and Barley Soup

Since April seems determined to remain wintry, I'm posting a nice warm soup recipe for you.  But I'm afraid it won't sound as delicious as it is.  Does anyone besides me get excited about lentils and barley?  Oh, but they're so good.  And you know how much I like to make soup---the easiest meal there is.  This soup has a slight Indian flavor from the coriander, and reminds me of Allison's Dal Makhini.  ("And very good it is---DAL.")  We love it with yogurt on top, and fresh cilantro if we have it.  I hope you like it too! 

Lentil and Barley Soup

1 onion, chopped
3/4 carrots, chopped into rounds
1 sweet red pepper, chopped (opt.)
1 c. lentils (any color)
1 c. pearl barley
1 c. split peas/green lentils
2 cans any kind of beans (I like black)
2 cans tomato sauce
10 c. water
2-4 cubes beef boullion (or use beef broth for liquid)
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. coriander*

Saute onions, carrot, and pepper in a little olive oil.  Add water and boullion.  Stir in lentils, barley, and split peas.  Add tomato sauce and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour.  Serve with plain yogurt and fresh chopped cilantro on top.

*I'm still experimenting with the seasonings in this soup.  Next time I'm going to put a little yellow curry paste in with the oil.  I also think it might be good with some turmeric or cumin instead of the oregano.  But the coriander adds a great, fresh, almost lemony (?) flavor, so I wouldn't leave that out.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Snow is good for something

It's Spring Break.  We have a blasted foot of snow (okay, a few inches) outside.  And I have three barking boys.  So, yesterday we did what any reasonable person would do.

Bought flowers and made ice cream.  (Soothing both the soul and the throat.)
Have you made ice cream with snow?  You just use snow in the outside of your ice-cream maker, instead of ice.  It works perfectly.  (There is also this method, which you can do without an ice-cream maker.  I've done it, a long time ago, and it's fun.)  After making the custard (you may recall the recipe here) I just turn all the work over to the boys, who love such responsibility.
Seb thought the snow needed to be harvested from the VERY CENTER of the yard.  And he did get a coat on after this, in case you're worrying.

This is the creamiest ice cream ever.  I love these graceful swirls.  So beautiful!

And thus everyone was cheered up immeasurably.  Hooray!