Monday, April 20, 2015

Coconut Bites

Sometimes some of us just want coconut.

I'm well aware this does not apply to everyone, but I think for some people there may be an actual need.

Coconut candy can be made at home, it's relatively simple, and can be made well.
All that, plus you know what's in it.
The interior here has four ingredients- that's it- and they're four things you might already have in your pantry. 

As for the outside, it's just dark chocolate.
Now, you can choose to go ahead and temper the chocolate, but if that's too much for you to deal with, you can just melt it and keep these little bites in the fridge. A cold coconut and chocolate combination isn't such a bad thing. In fact, it's quite nice.

Normally, I would say you definitely don't want your chocolate to make it's way to your fridge- this is one of those chocolate caveats as it's not the best way to treat good chocolate. However, an exception (to me, anyway) is when dealing with coconut. At this moment, it's not about the chocolate. It's about the coconut. Certainly, use good chocolate (make no mistake, bad chocolate is a bad thing), but remember that the chocolate is there to elevate the coconut a bit, make it a little more special, and contain all that coconutty goodness.  That chocolate is not the main attraction, it's got a functional job that happily ends up being something more than merely functional.

There are people out there that may balk at that comment about chocolate, but it's true. Chocolate chip cookies in their "regular" form are not chocolate cookies. True, the chocolate may be the purpose and the cookie part just be a vehicle for some. Chocolate and cookie work together.
What a team.

(For some reason this is reminding me of a saying my mother likes to use that never makes sense to me. It's about alligators, a swamp, quick thinking and focus- but frankly, I never understand it. It won't matter how many times I hear it. And then I wonder how often people in Indiana really need to think about alligator confrontations, which I imagine to be almost never. And why discuss it? It doesn't apply so well in the Midwest.
I guess my point was that some people will never be able to make sense of the need for coconut, or the sacrilegious reasoning behind someone feeling the need to discount chocolate.)

Anyway, if you choose to go the tempered chocolate route, you can find some information here.
Just remember that the coconut will be cold and affect the setting of the chocolate somewhat. Tempered chocolate stiffens more quickly than that which is untempered. It will set up even faster on something that is cold, and sometimes this causes the chocolate to crack. 

After being dipped, you may choose to top the coconut bites with a bit of shredded coconut as decoration or to help identify the interior. Fleur de sel is also a nice topping for a little sparkle as well as a contrast and flavor burst. Of course, they're still just fine unadorned

Coconut Bites
(makes about 25, 1 tablespoon/15 ml capacity confections)

14 oz (400 g) shredded coconut
1/2 c plus 1 T (135 ml) maple syrup
1/3 c (75 g) coconut oil
1/4 t (1 g) fine sea salt
12 oz (340 g) dark chocolate, chopped

(*Note: if you have a drier, more natural and without extra sugar type of shredded coconut- my preference here, you may want to add about 1T more each of maple syrup and coconut oil, 15 ml and 20 g, respectively. These can be added after the initial blending after checking the consistency and whether the mixture will be sticky enough.)

In the bowl of a large food processor, place the shredded coconut, maple syrup, coconut oil, and salt. Process in several long pulses until well-combined, but only just so. You don't want the coconut mixture to turn into a paste. Scrape down the sides once or twice and re-process.

Scoop the coconut mixture into tablespoon-sized portions, tightly packed, and place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. (A cookie scoop or mini ice cream scoop does a great job of this.) Refrigerate the tray about 2 hours before removing to dip the coconut mounds. 

Right before you are ready to dip, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl placed over a simmering pan of water (bain marie). Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally until smooth. 
(Alternatively, follow instructions to temper the chocolate.)
Dip each coconut mound into the warm melted chocolate, and using a fork, remove to a parchment paper lined sheet pan.

Refrigerate until the chocolate is stiff, or let set at room temperature (untempered vs. tempered chocolate). Keep the coconut bites refrigerated in a covered container.

(Addendum: If the chocolate is tempered, of course the bites don't need to be stored in the fridge as the chocolate will have completely set. Also, they're best if not served directly out of the fridge- at least a few minutes sitting at room temperature will help. The bites are better if they're given time to take the chill off a bit- if you can wait!)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pumpkin Donuts with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toasted Hazelnuts

I don't care that it's March and spring is officially here: I could eat pumpkin anything at any time of year.
Besides, it's been a little chilly the past couple days- thus all the more reason to work on this cozy flavor.

Besides, I'm trying to only eat "fun" things that I make myself instead of purchasing them. Buying everything can just be way too easy, and this way I can also have more control over everything in the finished product.

These little devils are surprisingly light and very flavorful.
(They're also, sadly, easy to eat.)

The donuts can easily be turned into cupcakes if you haven't got donut pans. However, the baking time may need to be adjusted.

I will say that pumpkin donuts don't technically need the frosting, and in fact they're great plain.
Warm donuts could also be tossed in cinnamon sugar or confectioner's sugar if you'd prefer.
Your prerogative.

If you don't have, don't like, or can't find hazelnuts, pecans also work well.

Pumpkin Donuts with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toasted Hazelnuts
makes 12

8 T (114 g) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 c (200 g) sugar
3/4 c (75 g) brown rice flour
1/3 c (42 g) quinoa flour
1 t (6 g) baking powder
1/2 t (3 g) baking soda
1/4 t (2 g) salt
1 generous t (3 g) cinnamon
1/2 t freshly ground nutmeg (too small a measurement for a regular scale- just estimate)
pinch ground cloves
3/4 c (160 g) pumpkin puree
1/2 t (small splash) vanilla extract

Toasted Hazelnuts:
1/2 c (70 g) whole hazelnuts
Cream cheese frosting:
4 oz (114 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 c (60 ml) whipping (heavy) cream
3/4 c (84 g) confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 175 C.

Grease 2, 6-hole donut pans well with baking spray (I prefer coconut spray here).
Cream the butter, eggs, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment a few minutes until lightened in color and texture. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. 
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat together until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the pumpkin and vanilla. Beat the mixture again for a minute until fully blended. Once again, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything has been distributed throughout. Pipe the donut batter evenly into the prepared pans (or carefully spoon it in).
Bake the donuts at 15-20 minutes, or until set, lightly browned, and the donuts spring back when lightly touched.
Remove the pans from the oven and let the donuts cool/set a couple minutes in the pan before carefully running a small spatula or a dull knife around the outside circle of the donuts. Turn the pans over and tap the pans onto a rack to release the donuts. Let cool completely before frosting.

To toast hazelnuts, place the hazelnuts on a pan in the already hot oven (350 F). Toast the nuts 8-15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to help the nuts toast more evenly. Remove the pan from the heat and place the warm hazelnuts on a towel. Rub the hazelnuts between two sides of the towel to remove most of the skins. Transfer the skinned nuts to a cutting board and chop when cool. 

To make the cream cheese frosting, slightly cream the cream cheese over low speed in the bowl of and electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the whipping cream and confectioner's sugar. Cream and whip the mixture on a low speed until creamy and combined. 

Spread the frosting on the cooled donuts and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lentil Soup, Plain and Simple

When I say this is plain and simple lentil soup, I mean that it's not flashy. However, that does not mean it isn't good.
Lentil soup may not be the most gorgeous potage of all time, but it can really be nice and comforting when it's cold outside.
This version of lentil soup is thick, not too brothy, as some lentil soups can be. I suppose in a way it's like split pea soup, but the lentils won't break down very much as those peas tend to do. 
And not being a puree, there's just a bit of tooth to it.

The other thing about this soup is that it contains what I consider staples. The carrots, onions, garlic, celery and olive oil, plus broths are things that should be present in a well-stocked kitchen. Maybe not everyone has lentils laying around, but they're not a bad thing to have in the pantry. Dried and easy to store, they're just waiting to be used.  If they're not already present in your cabinet, perhaps they should be considered as you can easily create a meal without having to run out to the store.

Besides being low in fat and high in fiber, a thick and hearty lentil soup is filling and fabulous in winter. It has a way of really hitting the spot on a frigid day.

Possible soup accompaniments:
olive oil
plain yogurt or sour cream
minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or sliced green onions

Lentil Soup 
serves 6-10

3 cups (620 g)  French lentils
3 T (75 ml) olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 T (40 g) tomato paste
6 large cloves garlic, minced
9 cups (2. 12 liters) vegetable broth
1 T (17 g) kosher salt
3/4 t (less than 1 g, so to taste) freshly ground black pepper
1 t (1 g) dried thyme
1 t (1 g) dried oregano

Rinse the lentils well and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and saute several minutes until the onion is translucent and just begins to color. Add the tomato paste and continue to stir about 2 more minutes. Add the garlic and saute about 30 seconds, until it warms through and begins to smell garlicky.

Pour in the vegetable broth as well as the rinsed lentils. Add salt, pepper, the thyme and oregano, and stir everything through the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Place a cocked lid on top of pot and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding extra broth or water if the soup becomes too thick.
Season to taste and serve as desired.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yogurt-Covered Raisins... Or White Chocolate Yogurt Dip

So, I recently saw a little post on Food52's Instagram with yogurt-covered raisins. There it was, and it included ingredients by name, but there were no measurements or instructions, and no recipe on their website either. 

Now, I would never say yogurt-covered raisins are an all-time favorite, but sometimes they might be what you "need"... as you might tell yourself. 
Although, thinking about them right now, they're sort of a strange food.
At the time I thought they sounded really good- especially imagining them with salted peanuts or tossed in as part of a nutty dried fruit trail mix.

Seeing everything covered in winter white might have been an extra inspiration.  

I can't say I crave white chocolate- mostly because it's overly sweet. Although there are times when it's not such a bad thing. It pairs nicely with buttery macadamia nuts, for instance.  Most of the time, I think that if you have white chocolate in a cookie, also having some dark chocolate helps to balance things out.

That said, yes, I am aware that white chocolate isn't chocolate because it doesn't have the cocoa solids. It's a different animal, and used for different purposes than dark chocolate much of the time.

Well, by no means are yogurt-covered raisins a health food. No way.
If someone chooses them over the chocolate-covered variety thinking they have some sort of an advantage, it's far from the truth. 
It's not only yogurt that covers those raisins. There's quite a bit of sugar, too. And there could be plenty of other stuff. 
(For instance, other recipes that I found included gelatin- not something I'm overly interested in for this particular application.)
The reason one really goes for them is their taste: a bit of yogurt-y tang cutting through some of that over-the-top sweetness.

As with that initial inspirational photo, the ingredients here are white chocolate, yogurt, and a touch of cream. While we could say there's plenty of junk in white chocolate, I would recommend when dealing with any type of "chocolate" (white, milk, or dark), look for something with 5 ingredients or less. Sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, soy or sunflower lecithin (acting as an emulsifier) plus cocoa solids for the dark and milk for the white (well, milk chocolate has both, so in that case it's technically 6 ingredients). There are bean to bar makers that do not include the emulsifier- but I don't know that I would purchase something like that for cooking unless it was something very special, as the expense could potentially be a deterrent. 

White chocolate blended with yogurt helps to make the chocolate more "healthy" perhaps (while cutting some of the sweetness), and the yogurt more decadent.

Not a raisin fan at all?
Maybe dried cranberries could be dipped, or prunes could get half-coated.

If you're looking for something that would be more of an interactive dessert (a version of fondue?) pretzels or strawberries could possibly find their way into warm dip. 

Off camera, there were strawberries consumed with the white chocolate and yogurt.
And they were good. 
Though as a fresh fruit, I can say I would not recommend waiting for the dip to dry. Refrigeration however may be another story. Just make sure everything is dry before dripping. 
The same goes for pretzels: they'll likely become stale more quickly if you try to store them.

Perhaps add a little extra cream to facilitate pouring the dip as a sauce over a bowl of mixed berries? 

Yogurt-White Chocolate Dip
(covers about 2 cups of raisins)

1/3 c (70 g) Greek yogurt
4 oz (114 g) white chocolate
2 T (30 ml) heavy (whipping) cream
small pinch of salt

*Preliminary step
Place the yogurt in a fine mesh strainer or a piece of cheesecloth, suspended above a bowl in the refrigerator at least 2 hours to rid the yogurt of excess whey. The longer it drains, the shorter the time the raisins will require to dry. However, if you don't plan to use the dip as a dried coating, rather fresh and warm, you could probably skip this step completely.

Remove the yogurt from the refrigerator so it warms a bit before proceeding.
In a bowl over a small pan of gently simmering water (bain marie), place chopped pieces of white chocolate, the cream, and salt. Stir until just melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool slightly, stirring a few times to help the heat dissipate. Add the yogurt and stir until completely incorporated.

If you plan to dip raisins, let the mixture cool a few minutes so that it thickens slightly. If you plan to use the dip with fresh fruit, you can do so at any time. 

To dip raisins:
Place several raisins at a time in the yogurt mixture. Using a fork, scoop the raisins out and remove excess dip by tapping the fork against the side of the bowl. A toothpick also comes in handy to scrape excess chocolate off the bottom of the fork. Place raisins on a parchment paper lined sheet pan, perhaps again using the toothpick to ease them off of the fork.
Let the raisins set and dry, undisturbed. When the tops are no longer tacky, ease the raisins off the paper so that the undersides can dry as well.

From start to finish, the drying time at room temperature took about 20-24 hours (that is, with the minimal 2 hour yogurt draining time). 

Store the dried raisins in an airtight container up to a week.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snowy Day Sauerkraut

One of yesterday's projects...

Instructions here

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chocolate Hazelnut Madeleines

I decided to make this one a small(er) batch. While it can be a good thing to have something sweet around, it can also be a bad idea when they end up staring at you.
Better to have someone (or two) over to tea or coffee and share.
And besides, they're nicer within a day or two- another good reason not to make a huge batch.

When I first worked on this chocolate and hazelnut madeleine concept,  I only had one madeleine pan, which can be a bit of a nuisance when you have enough batter for 24 or more cakes. The pan is hot, you need to re-butter and dust the indentations...
They end up tasting great, sure, but the finish isn't quite as sharp on the lovely little shells.

I have since been (extremely) happily gifted a few madeleine pans from someone else who was going through their baking arsenal. She asked if I would like them, of course not knowing I was contemplating a purchase. The great thing about these is that they're used. They have a bit of character and a finish.

Well... I've made many variations of these over the past year or so.
Egg whites vs. whole eggs, with and without baking powder, increase some of this, decrease that, etc., etc.

Not to say that this will officially be 'IT'- I truly cannot promise that.
However, these aren't bad (and I don't think anyone would know they were gluten free, which certainly is a goal... and besides, it's kind of fun to experiment with different flours).

Chocolate Hazelnut Madeleines
Makes 12-18 (depending on the size of the moulds)

8 T (114 g) salted butter (or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
2 oz (57g) dark chocolate
1 T (15 ml) honey
1/4 c (20 g) hazelnut flour
2 T (18 g) tapioca flour
1 T (12 g) rice flour
1 T (8 g) corn starch
1 T (8 g) cocoa powder (plus extra for dusting the moulds)
1/4 t (2 g) baking powder
2/3 c (77 g) confectioner's sugar
2 large eggs 
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Melt butter, chocolate, and honey together over low heat, or in a bain marie until just melted. Mix well to blend and set aside to cool until just warm.
In a bowl, blend together the hazelnut flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Set aside. 
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the vanilla seeds until frothy and slowly add the confectioner's sugar. Continue beating over medium-high speed several minutes until thick and pale. 
With the mixer running on low speed, steam in the warm chocolate mixture. Increase the speed and beat just until blended. 
Carefully fold in the flour mixture until the batter is uniform. 
Cover and refrigerate the batter 1 hour. 

Remove the batter from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
While the oven is heating, brush a madeleine mould with softened butter and dust with cocoa powder. Divide the batter among the prepared madeleine indentations. 
Bake the madeleines 10-15 minutes, or until the tops spring back when poked lightly.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes, then turn the madeleines out onto a rack to cool completely. 
Store any extras in an airtight container. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hot Toddies and Such

I wanted to go over a few more "fortified" cold-weather beverages here, beverages that can warm you from the inside in more ways than one (Irish Coffee has been covered).

A simple, Hot Toddy base has just a few ingredients, and you can dress it up from there to taste.

a shot of whiskey or bourbon= 1 oz = 2T = 30 ml
1T (15 ml) honey (or to taste)
boiling water

In a glass, mix the whiskey and honey, just to dissolve the honey a bit.
Top off with boiling water (6-8 oz or 177-236 ml) and stir to combine.

Add spices and citrus as desired:
Lemon slice
Orange slice
Cinnamon stick
A piece of fresh peeled ginger
A few whole cloves
A couple allspice berries

Let the mixture infuse with the spices a couple minutes prior to drinking. 

Hot toddies can be especially nice when you're feeling a bit under the weather.

Some other ideas:

Make it a Whiskey or Bourbon Cider- omit the honey and add hot cider to the bourbon along with spices as desired.

Hot Buttered Rum:
Now, I have no clue where the idea to add butter to a warm drink came from.
I'm hoping there was never anyone who said to themselves. "Gosh, a nice mug of warm butter sounds good right about now."
It has the potential to become a very slippery slope. One mug of butter leads to another, and then...?

Anyway, to make an individual hot buttered rum, blend 1 T (14 g) softened butter with 2 T (36 g) packed brown sugar along with a nice dash of cinnamon, a grating of nutmeg, and a touch of ground cloves if desired (plus a bit of salt if you're using unsalted butter here).
Place the compound butter in a mug, add about 4 T (60 ml) rum, and top off with boiling water. 
Stir and enjoy!

Granted, it's a little more decadent, more like dessert in a glass than a hot toddy, but sometimes that's what you need.