Monday, June 01, 2020

Uzbek Sambusa and My Cooking Class with the League of Kitchens

A few weeks ago, I got to participate in an online cooking class from League of Kitchens. LoK is an organization in New York that works with women from many different countries to teach how to cook their food. The class my husband bought for me was with Damira, from Uzbekistan. For a long time, these classes were taught in person, but our current situation forced them to move the classes online, which also opened them up for a wider audience. Lucky for me, who lives far from New York. I had been following them in Instagram already, just because I was hoping they would come out with a cookbook, since many of the women are from places I have been reading about and trying to learn how to cook from.


Last year, I read a novel from Uzbekistan in my year of the Stans (The Devil's Dance by Hamid Ismailov), and at Thanksgiving I tried to make a dumpling that was similar to the ingredients of the recipe we made together in this class, but not the final result.

For courtesy sake, I will not be posting the recipe here, but I encourage you to check out their website (not a paid advertisement) and take a class yourself. They are super organized - they sent the recipe, background information, and an ingredient list ahead of time, telling you what to prep and what to leave alone. There is a person who isn't the teacher running all the technology so the cook can focus on those instructions. She checked in with us and continually made sure we were ready to move on to the next phase, and weighed in on whether or not our sambusas were cooked enough. The class was long enough for us to prep and cook the meal, and there is even time at the end to eat together. In the class I took, some family members were sharing the experience from different states.


Uzbekistan was part of the very well known silk road, an important avenue for travel and trade. It should not be too surprising that the sambusa is related to the samosa and many other dishes of similar names.

The dough was interesting because it was possibly more similar to cong you bing, the Chinese scallion pancake I had previously attempted. It is made in a way that makes a quick lamination which results in flaky, crispy dough in under an hour. I was impressed with myself! The filling was butternut squash, onion, and cumin seed. I did not know if it would cook but it was perfect, not crunchy at all (again, unlike my Thanksgiving dumplings from Turkmenistan that failed.)


We made a radish and yogurt salad with a lot of herbs in it to go on the side. I ended up scooping some up on my sambusas because they went well together. I think the filling options are endless for these, and I hope to make them again soon.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Classic Apple Tarte Tatin - now with more nemesis

This post is really long, but it's all in service to this recipe, and isn't just a random story about what I watched on tv or anything like that. 

Caramel has long been a problem in the JennyBakes kitchen, from failed cakes to frustrating tarts. But caramel is a key element in a tarte tatin, and I couldn't read Ducks, Newburyport, whose narrator thinks frequently about tartes tatin, without making the attempt. Not to mention that she specifically uses Pink Lady apples and the Instacart person picking my apples for me had ended up bringing me a 3-lb bag of the same kind of apple!




The other appeal to the recipe I decided to use as my basis was that it made use of a "rough puff" for the puff pastry. Anyone who has sat through a season of the Great British Bakeoff (aka Great British Baking Show in the states) knows about a rough puff. But yet I had never had the opportunity to make one. I'll be honest that I was most excited about that!



I will share what I am certain is a lovely recipe outside of user error, and then discuss my thoughts on the recipe.

Tarte Tatin with Homemade Rough Puff Pastry Dough
(recipe from Brooklyn Supper, with great detail and lovely pictures, please refer to that site) 

Ingredients

Rough Puff Pastry
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons ice water
Tarte Tatin
  • 6 medium apples, peeled and quartered with cores cut out (go with a crisp, flavorful variety like Jonagold or MacIntosh)
  • 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar , divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 recipe puff pastry (above)
Instructions
  1. To make rough puff pastry dough, use a fork to blend flour and sea salt. Grate in frozen butter. Use fingertips to rub butter into flour, though not as thoroughly as you might for a traditional pie dough. Drizzle in half the ice water, turn dough until it’s absorbed. Add remaining water, turning dough once more. Gather dough into a loose mound; there will be a few dry bits, but that’s fine. Turn mound out onto a sheet of plastic, form a loose disc, and wrap tightly. Set in refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. On a very lightly floured sheet of parchment, roll the disc out into an 8 x 15-inch rectangle. Dough will still be quite crumbly; just do your best. Fold sheet of dough into thirds, folding each third into the center, so you have something resembling an envelope (pictured above). Press an indentation into the upper corner of envelope with your fingertip, to indicate one turn. Wrap tightly with plastic and chill 30 - 45 minutes.
  3. Continue this process of rolling, folding into thirds, marking number of turns with a fingertip, wrapping, and chilling, for a total of 5 turns. As you can imagine, it’s best to give yourself a day when you can make this ahead. When you’ve completed the fifth turn, wrap dough and chill until needed for the tarte.
  4. Use a sharp knife to trim angled edges from the apple quarters, so they’ll sit flat, with the rounded side facing up. Toss prepared apples with lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar, and set aside to co-mingle for 20 – 30 minutes.
  5. To make caramel, set a 9-inch, deep-sided heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add butter, and once melted, the remaining cup of sugar. Keep a close eye and stir constantly. First, things will hold together, then slowly, the mixture will darken and butter will begin to separate. Stay strong. Next, sugar mixture will bubble and spit a little. You may want to edge heat down slightly here, as you’re going for a light caramel color and things still have a ways to cook. Finally, caramel will come back together, smooth out, and cook quickly. As soon as you have an even, light caramel, remove pan from heat, about 10 - 15 minutes total.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  7. Toss apples one more time, and then carefully spoon into hot caramel. Things are going to spit and bubble a little, so go slowly. If there’s a lot of excess juice (it varies according to the kinds of apples), leave it behind. Set caramel and apples back over medium, or slightly medium-low heat, and cook 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently to turn apples in the caramel mixture. Apples and caramel are ready when the apples have taken on color without being mushy and the caramel is a dark, golden brown.
  8. Arrange apples with rounded sides facing down in a nice circle, with several apples more in center.
  9. Roll the prepared puff pastry into a 10-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Set on top of apples and tuck sides down into edges of the pan. Cut four 1-inch vents in center with a sharp knife.
  10. Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet and slide into oven.
  11. Cook tarte for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and is a nice golden brown.
  12. Set tarte aside to cool for a minute, then cover with a large plate, and use two potholders to flip. Slice and serve immediately.
     
Notes from JennyBakes:

Reader, there are so many places I made mistakes.

First, I decided to make a half recipe. I would be the only person in my house eating it and I figured I could just cut everything in half and use a smaller skillet.

The rough puff was going fine, and fit the skillet I had chosen, but...

The caramel followed the steps described in step 5, but by the time the mixture started to bubble and spit after separating, it was already a pretty dark reddish brown which quickly turned to BLACK BLACK BLACK hahahaha. I definitely over cooked it but to be fair, that was prior to even 10 minutes. Perhaps the lower amounts, perhaps using a nonstick pan, perhaps my infernal electric flattop stove.

So I pressed on. I did not cook the apples long, just arranged them and tried covering them with caramel at least partially (it had the texture of pulled sugar and I definitely knew it was already over but for SOME REASON I decided not to start over.

I had it all arranged in the 6-inch skillet and on a cookie sheet but I kept having this niggling thought in my head... nonstick skillet...plastic handle... IF I PUT THIS IN THE OVEN IT WILL MELT.

So I quickly and sloppily transferred the concoction to a lovely but oval-shaped ceramic baking pan. There were no longer exactly the right number of apples, and the puff pastry was no longer the right shape and covering everything. Yet I pressed on.

There was just no coming back for the caramel. And the lack of heat in the apples I didn't cook plus the late-in-the-game relocation of the puff pastry didn't do it in any favors and I didn't see the layering like I thought I should (in a few select pieces it was perfect and lovely but most of the time it was a lump of unscorched delight in a pool of burned and blackened apple-shaped corpses.

Will I try this recipe again? Oh probably not. I'm not sure it's worth the end result. I'd much rather have an apple pie or apple crisp, one of which is easier to make than a tarte tatin. I take some consolation in remembering Julia Child's episode of the French Chef where she turned her tarte tatin over and it fell apart and loosely spread beyond her serving platter. And she just tucked it all back in and declared it good enough. I suspect she had the opposite problem of me - not enough carmelization! Plus her apple choices seemed a bit willy-nilly and it's clear from the narrator in Ducks, Newburyport, who bakes for a living, that the apple matters. I enjoyed the Pink Lady apples in their slightly baked manner, once the charred caramel was cut off.

I might make the rough puff again, but of course anyone who bakes probably knows that once you see how much butter puff pastry has in it, you don't particularly want to eat it.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Lemon Drizzle Cake Disaster

I have been hosting a readalong of Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann. It is a stream of consciousness type book of over 1000 pages with very little sentence breaks. The narrator is a mother and bakes pies and cakes for a living. She kept going on about lemon drizzle cakes so I had to do some research. 
“I was delivering my cakes to the coffee shop in New Philadelphia, and that manager guy, Mark, accused me of changing my lemon drizzle cake recipe and said he liked them better before, the fact that I never felt so insulted, the fact that I left there almost in tears, the fact that I felt so mad he didn’t like my lemon drizzle cakes anymore, … the fact that my recipe let me down and I had to change it, lemon drizzle cake disaster….” (page 388)

“I internalized something negative about my drizzle cakes and that’s what’s stuck… it’s made me hate making lemon drizzle cake…” (pages 389-90)
The entire first page of results for a recipe were all UK websites, which means recipes with grams and self-rising flour. I took the one that looked the best to me and decided to adapt it which resulted in a few problems. I was double checking substitutions on a webpage, just picked one at random, and while it said you would use 1.5 tsp baking powder and .5 tsp salt for every cup of regular flour, when it listed cake flour it said baking soda... and even though I know better, I hesitated and instead of using my brain took this random website as somehow knowing more than me (where are my librarian skills!?) and so of course the first lemon drizzle cake really was a lemon drizzle cake disaster. The soda instead of powder meant the cake sank instead of rising, and all together it had a bit of a savory character to it.  I'm sure cake flour wasn't the right choice either but I had some and have been trying to use little of the all purpose flour in case I can't get any more!


Well I will not be defeated by a simple loaf cake. So I bought more lemons and tried again. This is when I noticed that the recipe is equal weight eggs, flour, sugar, and butter - which means this is a pound cake recipe - which means I probably won't like it made correctly. To me pound cakes are just too dry. But I made the thing, I used baking powder with the flour, I followed the recipe... I didn't think it was great. Like the narrator in Ducks, Newburyport, I was agonizing over a cake recipe that wasn't even one I particularly cared for to start with.


But I do think my attempts at finding cup equivalencies is about right. You can refer back to the original recipe if you prefer to weigh your ingredients. I'm a bad baker; I just can't be talked into finding the scale for a stir and bake recipe.

Lemon Drizzle Cake
(recipe from The Londoner, adapted by me)

Cake:

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (12 tbsp/6 oz) butter, at room temperature
Zest of 2 lemons (rubbed into the sugar, if you want)

Drizzle:

Juice of 2 lemons (the ones you zested)
1 cup powdered sugar

Line a 9x4 cake pan with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350F.

Cream together your cake ingredients until you’re left with a nice smooth cake batter. Pour into your pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes.* While you’re waiting, mix together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until totally smooth. After 30 minutes, check the cake by inserting a skewer into the middle, if it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, give it a few minutes more. As soon as it's removed from the oven, use a skewer to poke holes all over the cake, all the way down to the bottom. Pour over the lemon glaze and leave to cool.

*I found I had to bake at least 40 to get the middle baked but then it felt overbaked. This is an ongoing issue with loaf cakes. Maybe it's my oven?

Monday, May 11, 2020

DoubleTree Cookie Recipe

When it comes to trending recipes, I'm a sheeple, I'm a lemming. If 99 bakers jumped off a bridge, I would too. So it should come as a shock to nobody that I also made these DoubleTree cookies! I have stayed at many Hampton and Hilton hotels, but I don't think I've stayed at a DoubleTree, so I don't have the memory of these cookies to compare anything to. The recipe looked like the standard Toll House recipe with a little lemon juice, cinnamon, and oats added, and yet I had to make it! You also bake them at a lower temperature than most cookies, and for longer - I think if I made these again I'd just do the normal 350 for 10-12 minutes, as I didn't see any advantage to lower and longer.


I tried to use the original recipe as published by Hilton because I've also encountered many "takes" on the recipe, so it gets confusing. One person blitzed the oats, rendering them more like a flour (this is the territory of a previous internet cookie legend, the Neiman Marcus cookie. So I followed this recipe to a T except where I didn't... I didn't chop the walnut halves (making them super obvious in the cookie, and I only had mini chips, so used the same amount of minis, which was a LOT.)


DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

(from the source)

Makes 26 cookies

½ pound butter, softened (2 sticks)
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ¼ cups flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch cinnamon
2 2/3 cups Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups chopped walnuts

Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, blending with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl.

With mixer on low speed, add flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, blending for about 45 seconds. Don’t overmix.

Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Portion dough with a scoop (about 3 tablespoons) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and center is still soft.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 1 hour.

Cook’s note: You can freeze the unbaked cookies, and there’s no need to thaw. Preheat oven to 300°F and place frozen cookies on parchment paper-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is still soft.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Fudgy Veggie Packed Brownies

I've discovered another great source for recipes that bakes similarly to how I bake for us at home - grain free, lower-sugar options, etc. It's Gather and Feast out of Melbourne, Australia. I came across one of their recipes from another blog and down the rabbit hole I went. I came out with these veggie-packed brownies, which they originally made with zucchini, sweet potato, and beet. Since quarantine baking is the name of the game these days, I didn't have a beet so I substituted a carrot. And I would do it again, these are super chocolatey and moist.

 

Fudgy Veggie Packed Brownies 

(recipe from Gather and Feast)
 
Brownie
  • 130g coconut oil, softened or melted & cooled
  • 2 cups coconut sugar -OR- 1½ cups if don’t mind it less sweet*
  • 1 tbs vanilla paste or extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200g raw sweet potato, finely grated*
  • 150g raw zucchini, finely grated*
  • 100g raw beetroot, finely grated
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ¼ cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder
  • ½ cup dark & rich dutch processed cocoa powder 
  • ¾ cup thick cultured coconut yogurt -OR- thick greek yogurt*
  • Extra cocoa powder for dusting

Chocolate Ganache (optional)*
  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup coconut cream
  • 3 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch sea salt
     
Toppings (optional)*
  • Veggie chips
  • Cacao nibs
  • Freeze dried strawberries

Method

Brownie
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Whisk the coconut oil and sugar until combined.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the grated veggies and fold through.
  5. Next, add the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  6. Fold through the yogurt.
  7. Line a 20cm brownie pan with baking paper.
  8. Pour the brownie mixture into the pan smoothing it out with a spatula or spoon.
  9. Bake at 180C/350F for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  11. Once cool, remove the brownie from the pan, cut into pieces, and dust with cocoa powder and top with desired toppings -OR- top with the ganache and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set - then cut into pieces.
  12. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!

Chocolate Ganache (optional)
  1. Place all ingredients into a medium sized saucepan and melt over low heat.​
 Notes from JennyBakes:
  •  I used 1 1/2 cups and found it to be just fine
  • I didn't measure my veggies, just went with one of each... as such ended up with 4 cups shredded veggies which felt like too much. More than anything I wish I'd left out the zucchini seeds because they added so much moisture!
  • I had Icelandic style plain yogurt which is definitely thick, and worked well here.
  • I used a 9x13 pan because I don't have a "brownie pan"
  • I didn't make a ganache or put toppings. They didn't seem to need it. They look pretty that way.
  • I cut mine into rather large pieces and would have gone smaller if I was bringing them somewhere.
  • I neglected to store mine in the fridge and the last two molded. There is a lot of moistness in these brownies!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Quinoa Chocolate Cake (lower-sugar, grain-free)

Some recipes sink into my brain and won't let go until I've tried them, and this quinoa chocolate cake is one of those. It uses no flour, but pre-cooked quinoa is pureed/blended along with dry ingredients to make the base. The recipe developer also said it was gluten-free and refined sugar-free, which of course is an asset in my house. I was also drawn in by the beautiful presentation and photography over on her website so please check it out - she makes 2.5x this recipe, all in 6-inch rounds, and creates quite the party cake. I just baked one batch and did it in a 8x8 square pan, making it more of a snacking cake. Save your leftover quinoa, kids. You only need a cup for this cake.


Chocolate Quinoa Cake
(from The Kitchen McCabe)

FOR THE CAKE:
  • 1 cup Quinoa (cooked)
  • 2 large Eggs
  • ½ cup Unsalted Butter, melted
  • ⅛ cup Milk (plant based milks work great)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • ¾ cup Coconut Palm Sugar
  • ½ cup Dark Cocoa Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • ¾ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
FOR THE GANACHE*:
  • 1 cup Chocolate Chips(preferably 60% cacao content or higher)
  • ¾ cup Heavy Cream (coconut cream can also be used)
Instructions

FOR THE CAKE:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f.
  2. Grease the sides of two 6" round baking pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
  3. Place the quinoa, eggs, melted butter, milk, and vanilla in a high speed blender and process on high speed until smooth - quinoa should be undetectable.
  4. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to the blender and process just until combined.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Remove from pans, peel off parchment, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until chilled.
FOR THE GANACHE:
  1. Place the chocolate in a bowl.
  2. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium high heat until it begins to steam. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for two minutes. Whisk until all of the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes to firm up a bit.
  3. Unwrap cake layers. Place on layer on a plate and spread a bit of ganache evenly across the top. Place the second cake layer on top of the first and use the remaining ganache to frost the top and sides of the cake.
  4. Serve in slices cut with a hot, wet knife for cleanest cuts.
  5. Keep refrigerated. Will keep, covered, for up to a week.
 *I didn't make the ganache - for most of this cake we just ate it plain. I did whip up a tiny recipe of espresso cream cheese icing for the picture and stacked two squares on top of each other.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Peanut Butter Cookies (grain-free, gluten-free, lower-carb)

Recently Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted a peanut butter cookie recipe that she originally blogged about in 2007, an adaptation of a recipe from Magnolia Bakery. Well I took Deb's recipe and used lower-carb ingredients to see if I could satisfy my husband's low-carb sweet tooth. He liked them! I tolerated them but ultimately I'm just too aware of the taste of the sugar substitutes, if I'm being honest. If they do not bother you, I bring you this cookie.


Peanut Butter Cookies


1 1/4 cups almond flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 oz, 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature
1/2 cup Swerve granulated sugar substitute
1/2 cup Swerve or Splenda brown sugar substitute
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (we use Lily dark chocolate Stevia-sweetened)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugar substitutes and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.