White Bean and Sage Dip

This dip I made to accompany my cracker challenge from Daring Bakers.  The rules were it had to be vegan and gluten free.  I decided my best bet was to peruse my Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone pilfered from my mother (I’m after her bread cookbook next).  I found a number of recipes that sounded super tasty, except it called for something dairy or an egg.  Clearly, I’m not cut out to be vegan.  But part of Daring Baker Challenges are to make something outside my usual recipe repetoir (they had that covered with the crackers), so I decided I’d take a stab at the White Bean and Sage dip.  Besides, I had a growing sage plant in my herb garden that I had no idea what to do with and this recipe called for 10 leaves!

It’s a pretty straighforward recipe:

1. Roast a head of garlic
1b. Boil beans and sage leaves together for 1.5 hours… 1.5 hours! Hell no! Luckily my roomie who owns the pressure cooker was in ear shot and suggested I use the pressure cooker.  “It’ll take 20 minutes!”  Half an hour, actually, but still super quick.
3. Blend everything together and season to taste.

I recommended NOT skimping on the lemon or the olive oil, both add a great depth to the flavor.  The end product reminded me a lot of humus in texture, and color, but with a slightly different flavor.  I might make this again for a party, but the recipe made a little too much for me to get through.

White Bean and Sage Dip
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

-1 1/2 c Cannallini beans
-5 Cloves garlic
-10 sage leaves
-2 bay leaves
-3 T Olive oil
-1 whole head of garlic
-Juice of one lemon
-1 T chopped thyme
-Salt and pepper

1. Roast the whole head of garlic in a baking dish with a little water at 350 degree for 45 minutes.  You should be able to squeeze out the garlic.

2. Boil beans in a pot of water (covering beans by 2 inches).  Lower to a simmer and add the bay leaves, sage, and 5 cloves of garlic, and 2 T of oil.  Simmer for 1.5 hours, or 30 minutes in a double boiler.  Cook until the beans are tendor.  Remove the bay leaves.  Drain and save the extra bean broth.

3. Blend the roasted garlic and pot of beans (sans bay leaves), lemon, olive oil, adding enough bean broth to the desired consistency.  Season to taste.  I suggest not skimping on the olive oil or the lemon.

4. Stir in the chopped thyme and serve warm with crackers.

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Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 8:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Going Crackers!

Med school hasn’t made me crackers yet, at least not before I could make crackers.  Har Har! I crack myself up… no pun intended (yeah right!)

Enough with the cheese, on with the baking!

I never thought making crackers could be so easy, and so delicious!  I was a little intimidated by this month’s Daring Baker Challenge, but one evening when I wasn’t so inclined to open my books I thought I’d give it a shot.  The ingredients were simple:

1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 Tb sugar
1 Tb vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup water, at room temperature

Mix all together, adding enough water to bring the dry ingredients into a ball and knead.

The kneading, not so simple.  My roommate and I took turns taking out our aggressions on the dough, and giving our hands a workout!  The recipe says knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test: stretch a piece of dough thin enough so you can see light through it, but if it tears you need to keep kneading.  I was kneading for 20 minutes.  Then the dough sat for an hour in an oiled bowl set in a warmed oven and then I got to rolling. This recipe specified for one sheet of crackers, but I decided to cut the dough in half for some super thin crackers.

You need to roll the dough on an oiled surface.  It sticks a little more, which helps to combat the elasticity of the dough.  Floured surfaces do not work.  I was surprised how easy it was to roll out.  I thought I’d have to let the dough rest frequently, but it wasn’t a problem… until I baked it and found how unevenly I had rolled my dough.  The dough bakes on parchment paper at 350 for 10-20 minutes, depending on how thin it is.  Areas of my crackers got quite brown while other parts never quite cooked enough for a true cracker crunch.  I let them finish up on the pan for 10 minutes out of the oven before I started breaking them apart.  Despite variable textures, they were very tasty with the sesame seeds I sprinkled on top.  You only see a few in the pictures because sesame seeds don’t like to stick.  I later found suggestions on the Daring Baker forum that you really need to roll the sesame seeds into the dough to get them to stay.  Before baking I scored them with a pizza cutter for easy separation.

The crackers were accompanied with a White Bean and Sage dip (vegan and gluten free as directed).

Full directions from Natalie of Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl:

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers [I made two sheet pans]

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings
[Sesame for me!]

1.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball.  You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2.   Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.  Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed.  The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled.  Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4.  Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter.  Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.  Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches.  You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax.  At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down.  Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes.  When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes.  Line a sheet pan with baking parchment.  Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment.  If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.)  Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough.  You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking.  If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

6.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough). [After 11 minutes the thin areas were pretty brown.]

7.  When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 8:44 am  Comments (6)  

Complicated Chocolate Eclairs

Eclair filled with almond pastry cream

Eclair filled with almond pastry cream

(Eeee, I’m posting a day late… That’s what I get for spending 12h in the library studying!)

It’s my first time as a Daring Baker and we’re taking on eclairs (click for challenge recipes) this month. I’m home for three days before I head back to NY and med school. I decided to tackle this challenge here at home because it’s the last time I’ll have time for a big baking project, mom has a bigger kitchen and it’s better stocked with equipment (including a more reliable oven). It’s also my brother’s birthday at the end of this visit, so I’m making a Genoise cake with buttercream frosting as well. It’s taken some careful planning to make it all happen. Since I’m not allowed to post until the end of the month, I’m going to try to write this up daily and post it all at the end.

I decided to keep the chocolate frosting for the eclairs but use Julia Child’s pastry cream filling with a little Italian Meringue folded in (since I had to make some anyway for the cake’s buttercream frosting). It was my brother’s suggestion, and my mom agreed I should try a classic eclair. I’m not the biggest fan of classic eclairs because of the custard filling (it’s a texture issue I have with custards and smooth puddings). Luckily Julia also offers an almond custard variation so I’m trying that one too. I really need to buy my own copy of “The Way to Cook.”

Here’s what’s on the schedule:

Wednesday: Creams, Glazes, Sauces, Meringues and a Brittle

Julia’s Italian meringues
to add to…Julia’s pastry cream
and for…Julia’s buttercream frosting
Chocolate sauce
to make…Chocolate glaze
Almond brittle
to pulverize into Praline… just for the hell of it.

Thursday: Baking Day

Two Genoise cakes
Choux (Cream Puff Dough)
Assemble Eclairs

Friday:

Assemble the birthday cake and play around with cake decorating

I compiled the ingredient list for everything and went to the store to buy:
17 eggs (2 dozen, really, since I’m bound to mess up)
1 lb of butter
12 oz of chocolate
1c heavy cream
2c whole milk
… and I don’t even want to know how much fat that adds up to.

Wednesday:

I started with the custard. This I whisked by hand because it was all on the stove. Mom has a hand held mixer, but it didn’t seem like it would be that much whipping. I didn’t count on how thick the yolks, sugar, and flour would be. I need to work on my whisking arm. The only thing I would recommend is a third hand for dribbling in the hot cream. I made a bit of a mess trying to whisk with one hand while pouring with the other. The batter was so thick at first that whisking tended to move the pan around instead of the batter.

The Italian meringue came next, and this is always a bit of a nightmare. It requires boiling sugar syrup to soft-ball stage. Mom has a candy thermometer, but its accuracy is questionable. Thankfully we hit the upper end of soft ball stage and the meringue was perfect.

Next I folding in some meringue into the pastry cream, which really altered it’s custard-like texture and flavor. Next time I might use less meringue… or maybe I’ll just try the chocolate pastry cream from the challenge. I’m also looking forward to trying it with the praline (aka, pulverized toasted almond brittle… which doesn’t really remind me of praline all that much).

The chocolate sauce and glaze came together very easily. The glaze might be a bit lumpy, but I’m not too worried. It’s in the fridge right now and I hope I don’t mess up the mixture when I heat it up to glaze the eclairs.

At the end of the afternoon of cooking my dad came home and was impressed with all I had made, but he did point out that I still hadn’t learn to clean up as I go. Tee hee.

Recipes:
I’m writing up the recipes from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook.” She gives more detail than I do, and this book is seriously a huge help for some scary recipes. It even has step-by-step photos for some of the more complicated techniques. If you can’t buy it, or don’t own it, just swing by a bookstore and flip through some of the recipes for some great pointers.

Italian Meringue: From Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”
2/3 c egg whites (4-5 egg whites)
pinch of salt
1/4 t cream of tartar
1 1/3c sugar
1/2c water

The eggs:
Beat the eggs slowly at first until they foam, and salt and cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form.

The sugar:
Meanwhile, you want to make the sugar syrup so it’s ready about the same time as the eggs. Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved, then boil until it thickens to soft ball stage. Check it with a candy thermometer or by dropping a bit into cold water and checking that it’s soft when cool.

Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the eggs while the mixer is running on medium. Continue beating until stiff white peaks form.

Pastry cream: From Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”
Julia offers some variations. I’m writting up the recipe I made.
6 egg yolks
1/2c sugar
pinch of salt
1/2c flour
2c milk
1T vanilla
1T unsalted butter

Heat the milk. Whisk eggs, sugar and salt until lemon yellow in color. Whisk in flour. Slowly add the heated milk while whisking so the eggs don’t cook. Heat the whole mixture over medium until it boils. Whisk out any lumps that may form after it starts to boil, then you can switch to a spoon. Cook about 2 minutes to cook the flour. Pass through a sieve, then add the vanilla and butter. Allow to cool. Fold in one cup of the meringue. Technically this is called Creme Chiboust with the meringue in it, which lightens the custard and give it more hold.

Praline (pulverized toasted almond brittle): Scaled down from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”

1/2c blanched and slivered almonds, toasted in a pan on the stove
1/2c sugar
1/6c water

Boil the sugar and water until it starts to turn golden brown and caramel color. Leave it on the stove a few more seconds. Mix in the almonds and try to spread it out on an oiled baking sheet. Brittle is supposed to be thin, but if you’re pulverizing it anyway (I used a food processor), I doubt it really matters, as long as you can get it off the baking sheet. Julia suggests having a metal spoon and spatula on hand.

For the Chocolate Sauce and Glaze, I send you to the original recipe (link to come).

Thursday:

This day started with two genois cakes for my brother, and then the choux. The batter really did come together quite quickly. I pipped mini-size eclairs which were perfectly two-bite sizes. With the bit of choux left over, I made a few round eclair shells, too. I made two sheets of mini-eclair size, which each baked up very differently.

Choux pastry

The one on the left, with the crack down the middle, was baked on a heavy, thick pan, started on the lower shelf in the oven, and when turning pans and shifting shelves during baking, I set this pan down a little hard and it looked like it caused these choux shells to collapse a bit. They puffed up again beautifully in the last 8 minutes of cooking. The choux on the rest of that pan has beautiful cracks all over the place that really reminded me of eclairs.

The one on the right, with the very smooth top was baked on a thin pan, started on the upper shelf in the oven, and wasn’t jostled at all during the pan rotation. Every eclair on this pan had a similar smooth top with some cracks around the bottom where the choux touched the baking sheet. I ended up flipping these over to remove the bottom “pedestal” of the choux (which came away very cleanly) to coat with chocolate. You really can’t tell that these eclairs are upside down. In fact the few I didn’t flip kept tipping over with the heavy pastry cream.

I wish I knew a little more about how choux worked so I could figure out why this happened.

I took over the entire kitchen table to put these together.

Setup to glaze and fill choux

Setup to glaze and fill choux

The pastry cream kept very well in the fridge. The chocolate glaze was nearly solid when I took it out of the fridge, but a quick turn in the microwave on a very low power setting softened it right up. I folded the praline into some of the cream. Perhaps I folded in too much, or the damp day added some moisture to the praline, because the almond pastry cream lost a lot of it’s hold. Really, it was a runny mess… but a very tasty runny mess. The pastry cream on the other hand help up quite well in the choux. For the round choux, I just stick the tip of the pastry bag into the middle and filled up the puff with cream. I added some slivered almonds on top of the eclairs with the almond filling. I was having so much fun piping the custard I accidentally piped it into some intended for the almond pastry cream.

Filled and glazed choux

Filled and glazed choux

Photographing this was a lot of fun. I didn’t let anyone eat any of them until I had all my pictures… until the camera tipped over on it’s tripod and fell on two of the eclairs. Those were up for grabs. And thankfully none got on my lense!

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 7:11 am  Comments (4)  
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