Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lazy Sunday

One thing that I really look forward to on weekends (aside from the obvious: sleeping in, not having to go to work) is breakfast. After a week of surviving on fast standbys like oatmeal, cereal and toast, I can't wait for a good old weekend breakfast - bacon and eggs, french toast, pancakes...pretty much anything that takes longer than 3 minutes to prepare.

The problem is that often these delicious meals take some time and effort. And some days, I'm not really looking to slave away in the kitchen for my first meal of the day when my stomach has already been growling for half an hour (generally the reason I'm even out of bed). But that doesn't mean cereal is on the menu again. Some days you try out a little gem of a recipe that is easy, painless and fast! The pancake was ready in about 30 minutes which is a huge improvement compared to spending an hour flipping batches of individual pancakes. And did I mention really tasty? Not too sweet, (I might actually add a bit more sugar next time, but I don't like a lot of syrup on my pancakes) nice and crispy-browned on top without being dry and some deliciously caramelized flavour from the apples.

The best part was that I had all the ingredients in the kitchen AND I got to use up that stray apple in the fridge that had been getting dangerously close to mealy. Sweet deal.

Oven Pancake with Apples
adapted from deliciousdays; the book

Serves two

125 ml milk (1/2 cup)
150 g flour (just over 1/2 cup)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 small apple
Large pat of butter
Splash of vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 390 degrees Farenheit, 200 degrees Celsius. For the pancake batter, mix milk, flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and eggs with a whisk until smooth. The batter shouldn't have any lumps in it, but also be sure not to beat it any longer than absolutely necessary.

2. Peel and core apple; cut into wedges and little slices.

3. Melt butter over low-medium heat in a 10-inch cast iron or oven-proof skillet and add apples. Saute for a minute and stir so that the apples are all covered in butter. Remove from heat and pour batter into the pan. Bake in oven until golden brown and puffy, about 20 minutes. Try really hard not to peek during this time or the pancake will deflate! Though either way, it will collapse quickly like a souffle. Serve immediately with some butter, powdered sugar or syrup.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yum. Just Yum.

I've been meaning to write about these since I made them for a Christmas party back in December. But then there was that slew of Christmas baking and I felt it was more seasonally appropriate to post the toffee and cookie recipes first. And then I just got really lazy, and was somewhat unmotivated by the lack of pictures (this picture above is the ONLY semi-decent one I have, and was taken AT the party before anyone was allowed to try one). But anyway, late is better than never and these were wayy to good to leave undocumented.

It's funny - the first thought I had when I tried one was "Hey, they taste like pretzels!". Well, duh. I don't know why I was so surprised, but either way, these pretzel bites have that wonderful chewy, salty goodness of a delicious soft pretzel and are SO good when paired with a melty cheese dip. The recipe does take a bit of work but it's so worth it. They were a huge hit at the party and disappeared in record time. I'm itching to make some more in mini pretzel form...just need an excuse so that I don't eat the entire batch myself in one sitting! Maybe for Superbowl Sunday?

Soft Pretzel Bites
Adapted from SmittenKitchen and theKitchn

2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees Farenheit)
1 tbsp + 2 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

1. Pour warm water and 1 tbsp sugar into a bowl, and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast and let sit for 10 minutes until foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and stir with a wooden spoon or using an electric mixer until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined. You're supposed to continue mixing until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but at this point I just started using my hands. Start kneading and add the last cup as necessary until the dough is smooth. I actually found that I didn't need the last cup of flour at all.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit, 230 degrees Celsius. Set a large pan with about 2 inches of water (I used a large wok) on the pan to boil. Hopefully by the time you're finished shaping the pretzel bites it will be boiling.

5. Lightly spray a few baking sheets with cooking spray (or use parchment paper, new love of my life! I had some issues with the bites sticking to the pan so I would probably go with the parchment next time). Heavily flour a work surface and dump dough out of bowl. Flour hands and shape into a large rectangle roughly 3/4 of an inch in thickness. Using a bench scraper, knife or pizza cutter, cut off 1 long strip, 1 inch wide and set aside. Cover remaining dough with a damp towel. Cut dough strip into 1 inch pieces and set aside, covering them with a damp towel.

6. Repeat the process until all dough has been cut into pieces and has been placed under a towel.

7. Once water is boiling, add baking soda and 2 tbsp sugar to it (careful, it will foam up!). Once the foam goes down, reduce heat to a simmer (there should be a few bubbles rising to the surface but not a rolling boil). Add enough bagel bites to fill about half the pan; they will swell up and you don't want them to crowd as it will be difficult to flip them if this happens. Simmer for 60-90 seconds on each side. I had some issues trying to figure out how long exactly to simmer these for as theKitchn makes a comment about making sure not to undercook these, just make sure the bites look like they have plumped up a bit before removing.

8. Once each side has cooked, remove from pan and place on cookie sheet and make sure the pieces do not touch, but fit as many as you can onto the pan at once (I think I ended up with three pans full of pretzel bites)

9. Beat egg with 1 tbsp water. Brush pretzels with the egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, rotating the tray once halfway through. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack for cooling. They are best eaten fresh, or the day of but they'll keep at room temperature for another day or so uncovered (I just kept a paper bowl over the bowl of leftovers). You can also freeze some as soon as they're cool and reheat until warm in an oven later.

Beer-Cheddar dip
This is more of a guideline than a real recipe - really I just kept throwing in more beer and cheese until I thought it tasted right.

1 part beer (any light pale ale or lager will do)
1 part cream cheese
1 part grated sharp cheddar

1. Heat cream cheese in a small saucepan until it is melty. Add beer and mix until combined. Slowly add grated cheddar while whisking the sauce to ensure there are no lumps. Add more beer/cream cheese/cheddar to taste.