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Archive for the ‘Food and…’ Category

Note to self: Do not bake sweet potato fries, then put the half-sheet pan on top of Mr Man’s high-powered toaster oven and forget about it. 

Today’s fun fact: “When oils or fats are heated in cast iron at a high enough temperature, they change from a wet liquid into a slick, hardened surface through a process called polymerization. This reaction creates a layer of seasoning that is molecularly bonded” to the pan.

Good for seasoning cast iron, bad for baking pans and the person who has to chisel scrape scrub off that bonded oil.

Go ahead, ask me how I know.

The fries were really good though.

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Photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash

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Today I am going to caramelize white chocolate, and then use it to make white chocolate passionfruit tofu pudding. 

There are a number of ways to caramelize the chocolate, the most traditional being a 250F oven for 45–60 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so. A second option is to sous vide the chocolate at 90C for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, but that’s a long time and I have dessert-making to do now.

I think I’ll start with the quickest of the options I’ve found so far: the microwave.

… (time passing)… (muzak from your preferred era)… (stepped away to make a lemon meringue pie because it’s Mr Man’s favorite and, you know, Valentine’s Day)…

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Success! It took seven minutes of microwave time total, plus all the opening the microwave and stirring and closing the microwave door and … you get the picture. I’m glad I tried it but next time I will test the sous vide method. It takes a lot longer but it’s all hands off.

Yes, that is my handwriting. Yes, it is terrible.

That said, all that microwave time paid off. Caramelized white chocolate is freaking delicious. 

I made another batch of tofu chocolate pudding, subbing in the caramelized white chocolate for dark, passionfruit simple syrup for plain, and lime juice for the vanilla. It is quite good but a little too sweet straight form the blender. It may balance out once it chills. If I try it again I’ll reduce the amount of syrup considerably (half? less?) and up the lime. (Actually, next time I’ll probably just toss a block of tofu in the blender with the white chocolate and go from there.) 

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I recently tried a variation on the previously-posted tofu chocolate pudding recipe, based on Mark Bittman’s Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding. It uses simple syrup, which makes it easy to add any flavor boosters you might like. I took the opportunity to make both plain for the pudding and a batch of passion fruit syrup to try with caramelized white chocolate later. (I may also try this with maple syrup. Go Canada!)

This recipe is gluten and lactose free (vegan too, depending on your chocolate). Don’t let that deter you, the final result is rich and creamy.

Right now I’m only able to find silken tofu in Tetra Pak boxes that hold 12.3 ounces and the easily available chocolate comes in 6 ounce packages, so I tweaked the recipe to match. I also left out Bittman’s cinnamon and chili but that version’s good too.

And hark, Valentine’s Day approacheth!

If your local store has silken tofu and decent chocolate it’s hard to find a quicker, easier dessert that’s still delicious. (It’s also possible to use the pudding as pie filling with a graham cracker crust, but I haven’t tried that yet.)

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Tofu Chocolate Pudding v2.0

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 oz. silken tofu, firm
  • 6 oz good chocolate, dark to semisweet
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  1. Heat sugar and water over medium heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Blend all ingredients together until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Chill for at least 30 minutes, although longer gives a denser texture. Serve straight, or with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Serves four. Or two. Or one. You’ll find no judgment here.

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Photo by Max Griss on Unsplash

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After a long hiatus, I have returned to the world of waffle making. They really are delicious.

My father used to make us the best weekend waffles. Even the batter tasted great. The leavening made little bubbles that popped on the tongue.

For whatever reason, this week I got it in my head to make waffles. We had a cream-based seafood stew and as I pulled it out of the fridge I thought, “Chicken and waffles!”

For the uninitiated among you, chicken and waffles is a thing. A delicious, savory, creamy Pennsylvania Dutch dish that etched itself in my culinary memory from childhood.

The traditional Pennsylvania Dutch version consists of a plain waffle with pulled, stewed chicken on top, covered in gravy.

Chicken and waffles – Wikipedia

Obviously, seafood is not chicken, but hey, I thought, close enough. I want waffles! Crispy outside, fluffy inside, what’s not to love? After a deep dive into the long-term storage situation I excavated the waffle maker from the bottom shelf of the basement cupboard. A not-so-quick cleaning* and dinner was served.

I made extra because waffles freeze well and if you want a quick dessert, say, don’t need more than visit to the toaster and a healthy dose of maple syrup.

Have we taken advantage of that fact?

Maybe!*

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* Sadly, in my experience waffle makers tend to be plagued by poor design and are difficult to maintain. Our current version is no exception. 

* * Um, yeah. Hundred percent yes.

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I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but studies have found evidence that temporal landmarks can help overcome motivation problems. You may have seen it referred to as the fresh start effect. It’s not a panacea (as gym members everywhere can attest) but whatever, if it helps me to rethink my process in a productive way, great.

As New Year’s rolled around I started thinking about trying new things. Today I’m thinking about new recipes. 

Be it bread, brownies, cake, yogurt, or a magic wand, I like working out the best way (for me) to make something. And knowing that my birthday cake is going to come out exactly as planned? Priceless.

But I also like working on new projects, triangulating resources, experimenting with techniques or components. Making something new.

So far this year I’ve tested new ways to make cinnamon sugar bread, lemon cake, and mushroom soup. Next up? A quick trip to the tropics.

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Mr Man brought home a box of fresh passion fruit yesterday. I’ve tasted it before, most recently in a collection of holiday Chocolates by Enid.* Passion fruit also appears frequently on the Great British Baking Show, where bakers treat it like your average ingredient but might go bonkers for recipes I consider excellent but everyday, like Key Lime Pie. 

My lack of experience means I have questions. Why are the fruits I’ve got two completely different colors? How can you tell when they are ripe? Do you just scoop out the pulp or is there bitter pith to be avoided? How do I keep from thinking about runny noses and other gelatinous goop while engaging in said scooping? Does the goop need to be strained? And why are those seeds looking at me?!

So much to learn, and all of it sounds like fun. Wish me luck!

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Not Enid’s chocolates but hey, close enough! Photo by Massimo Adami on Unsplash

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* These chocolates appeared as a temporary holiday treat at a local farm store but the source is otherwise mysterious. Who is Enid? Where did she come from and why won’t she make chocolates past December? Has she now retreated back to Choclandia with the other chocolate fairies? And where can I find more of those passion fruit cream-filled chocolates?! 

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Today’s numbers: 18, 6, 4, 2.

  • 18: pounds of mushrooms*
  • 6: pounds of pears
  • 4: quarts of mushroom soup
  • 2: loaves of bread

I made cream of mushroom soup, fresh bread, plus pears poached with lemon, cinnamon and cardamom. And that was pretty much my day:)

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Photo by Dmitry Kovalchuk on Unsplash

* That was a lot of mushrooms.

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Today, a recipe that has an important place in our family history.

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Swedish Pancakes
(Mike Johnson)

Mike: The history of this recipe begins with Olga, my father’s father’s (far far in Swedish) sister. For most of her life she was a live-in maid and nanny for a rich family across town, from the time when Swedish girls were brought over to replace other ethnicities in the service industry. She also cooked for her brother and his children, and later grandchildren on the weekends. After that she took care of her son. She worked all her life, living with the same family for 30 years and only retiring at 85. She died at the age of 99, tired and more than ready to go.

Jen: My father often spoke of Olga and how she would stand at his grandfather’s stove flipping seven thin pancakes at a time in the special cast iron pan, piling plates high on Sunday mornings. She didn’t have a recipe, just mixed the ingredients together until they “looked right.” Dad finally made up his own and still uses it to play the role of Swedish grandmother, eating over the stove as the rest of us spread butter and sugar and lemon or lingonberries on the pancakes,* then roll them up to eat. Delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ C. milk
  • ¾ C. flour
  • ¼ C. sugar
Photo by M Draa on Unsplash

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* We do the dishes after so Dad can relax. We’re not monsters!

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Here’s a memory that would have been perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving, but just came to me when I ran across the video below.

The first thing I planted in a garden (aside from myself) was okra. I’d never eaten it but knew that it was a staple in the South by way of some African food traditions. Once grown, I didn’t know how to cook it. The resulting dish was… ok. (If you’re wondering, I recommend using okra in stew or breading and frying the bejeezus out of it. Very good.)

The first thing I grew that I was really proud of was a pumpkin. This was a year or two later and I was still vertically challenged. That may explain why the pumpkin remains a giant in my mind, but maybe not. I’d read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and somewhere in there, probably Farmer Boy, they discuss milk-fed pumpkins. Well, who wouldn’t want to try that?

And it worked. Huge, that’s how I remember this pumpkin. Between the vines and the body the plant took up a whole section of the garden. I would ease down the little hill, through the tall grass and into the tilled area, basking in the hot summer sun while hoping to raise a monster.

A strong, bright, delicious monster, of course. A girl’s got to have standards.

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I’m working today but I’d rather be baking. While in Montreal last week I picked up some sugar cookies. Mediocre, not good, stale cookies. They were, to put it mildly, a disappointment.

I hate disappointment. What do I like? Recipes that are satisfying, easy enough to make whenever I want, and showcase flavor rather than perfection. A little flash doesn’t go amiss, either. 

We’re watching The Great Canadian Baking Show and I am reminded that there are so many interesting things out there to learn. So while I’m looking for the perfect sugar cookie recipe, I may also start building a list of essential* recipes and methods I don’t already know.

And then start baking.

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* My definition of essential will almost certainly differ from yours, but I’m aiming for techniques that can be used in a wide variety of recipes, help build flexibility into both recipes and bakers regardless of skill level, and eschew fiddly for fun. That said, how have I never made a pithivier? Also, buying puff pastry is absolutely acceptable in my book.

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Oh look, time for lunch. That means it’s also time to show you what happened when Mr. Man made lunch over the weekend.

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So cute!

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