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I recently tested two new recipes. One worked, one (through no fault of its own) not so much. I’ll start with the less good.

Butterscotch Peaches Recipe – NYT Cooking

The recipe is fine, the butterscotch flavor excellent, and it could have turned out great. Emphasis on “could.”

If you don’t have access to the New York Times recipe collection, here are the ingredients I used:

  • 6 medium or 5 large ripe peaches
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ C. cream
  • ½ C. sugar
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ t. vanilla
  • In sum: peel and chop the peaches, brown the butter and sauté the peaches for three minutes, then let rest. In a second pan, add all remaining ingredients except vanilla. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then raise heat to medium and let simmer/boil for 12 minutes or until browned. Add to peaches and stir to combine.

The result? My peaches were a bit of a disaster. The first peaches of the season often are, but I held out hope. They were beautiful, I‘ll give them that, but after washing and scoring and boiling and peeling (a pain, I’d skip it next time) and slicing, I had to accept the facts.

The peaches were decidedly mediocre. All but two had at least some internal brown spots, and three were nothing but mush. And eaten fresh, even the prettiest fruit was mealy and low on flavor.

I cooked them up and made the butterscotch. Then, as I was nearing the finish line, I waffled over the final product. Should I go ahead with the subpar peaches or skip the fruit and just eat the butterscotch? While I considered my options, the butterscotch started to harden. By the time I decided to say what the hell, I was on my way to Candyland. As in, the butterscotch was hardening into delicious-yet-difficult-to-mix candy.

I went with it in the end. The final product tasted good, actually, but there were chunks of semi-solidified butterscotch throughout. (It would have made for a delicious addition to ice cream, in fact. Maybe next time.)

* * *

On to the good:

So there I was, stalking Felicia Day’s library on Goodreads (as one does), when I ran across this book:

I picked up a copy last week.

I need to start testing some of the thousand (!) recipes here, but if there is a more perfect type of cookbook for me, I don’t know what it is. I love the ease, reliability and reach of books like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, but this new book’s approach not only tests the many (many) variations of each recipe, it also tells you what they tried, why, and with what results. Then you get the finalized recipe.

I made the banana bread. Mr Man’s double helping for dessert say it was a success.

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Photo by Tusik Only on Unsplash

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I recently had a request for an update on the baked milk situation so here we go.

Short answer: The first version was pretty good.

Longer answer, one that will surprise no one who knows me: I made a few tweaks.

* * *

Here’s my previous post with the original recipe link: Baked What Now?

I kept the proportions but used 2% milk and kefir because that’s what I had. It worked fine, but:

  • the final result wasn’t as caramel colored or flavored as the store-bought version
  • it wasn’t quite as thick as I’d hoped
  • with summer on the horizon, I wasn’t enthusiastic about keeping the oven on for six hours at a time.

Over several iterations, I now have a version that addresses these issues and works for me. Between this, biweekly yogurt, and air-quality concerns, we may have used it as an excuse to pick up a portable induction burner (on sale, totally reasonable!).

The new alternative uses whole milk, kefir plus sour cream, and skips the oven in favor of the induction burner. We have a remote thermometer for yogurt so we use that, but keeping it at temperature can be a bit of a hassle. If you have a slow cooker that will maintain a steady ~210F, try that. (I’ll try that next time if I can find my slow cooker.)

* * *

Baked Milk

4L whole milk

  • heat milk to a simmer, then maintain temperature at ~210F for 6 hours
  • let cool to 115F, add:

7 T. kefir

1 T. sour cream

  • mix well, jar and close with vented lid (cheesecloth, fermentation caps, heck, paper towels would work, whatever you’ve got)
  • let sit on the counter at room temperature for 36 hours or until set; I put mine in an insulated grocery bag but it’s not required.

Is it good? Yes. Keeping the milk around 210F using a burner gave me a better depth of caramelization than 225F in the oven. The process is a bit more of a hassle than I’d like so I’ll continue to look for improvements.

Is it even better when mixed with guava juice and lemonade? Yes, it is.

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Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

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My father texted the other day to say that he was making a dish from my childhood, Mrs. Chiang’s Eggplant with Chopped Meat. The name brought back memories of hot chili and flavorful meat with rice. I should make that too, I thought. Where is my wok?

Several days later I made the dish with what I had or could get. Two eggplants became one, eight scallions became two huge handfuls from my bag of pre-chopped and frozen, peanut oil became avocado and pork became turkey. Fortunately, the recipe is quite forgiving.

The chili paste stayed the same, as did the complex and satisfying taste. And the fond memories.

I still haven’t found my wok.

* * *

Eggplant with Ground Turkey
(adapted from Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook)

  • ½ lb. ground turkey, pork or beef
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 8 scallions
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 5 Tbsp. peanut or other high-temperature oil
  • 2 Tbsp. hot chili paste
  • 1 to 1½ tsp. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • ⅔ cup water
  1. Put the meat in a bowl and stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil.
  2. Clean and chop the scallions into small pieces. Mix half the chopped scallions into the meat. Reserve the rest for later use.
  3. Peel the eggplants and cut into ½-1 inch cubes.
  4. Smash the garlic, peel, and chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.
  5. Peel the ginger and chop into pieces the size of match heads.
  6. Heat the pan on high until the oil just begins to smoke. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the hot chili paste and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
  8. Add the chopped meat mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to break up any large lumps.
  9. Add the eggplant and stir-fry everything for another 4 minutes or so.
  10. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the eggplant mixture, stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Stir stir stir stir stir.
  11. Pour in the water and add the reserved scallions. Wait until the water comes to a boil, then cover the pan without reducing the heat. Cook for another 15 minutes, until the eggplant is soft.

* * *

Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

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I spent much of the day in the kitchen, enjoying the fact that my oven works. Now that we have electricity again, I decided to make some “thank you” gifts for the neighbors and some “stay strong” gifts for friends who are still without power.

Menu: brownies, blueberry torte, and a new recipe from Stella Parks via Serious Eats: Sunny Lemon Bars.

The new lemon bar recipe is a win, as tangy as I like with what is essentially a shortbread crust. I needed a double batch and I won’t lie, it was a little shocking to go through six whole eggs plus sixteen egg yolks for one 9 by 13 inch pan. I also ran out of lemon juice at about 90% of requirements and had to make up the difference with Meyer lemon and lime juices, but it worked well.

Nom!

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Photo by Auguste A on Unsplash

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I took a little time today to test out a recipe for baked milk.

Sounds funny? A little, but I’m hoping it will also be good. Baked milk is one of those niche products that spark my culinary curiosity. We had some a couple of years ago (thanks, Costco!) but haven’t been able to find it since. It’s both fermented and naturally sweet, somewhere between milk and yogurt in thickness, with an interesting caramelized depth and slight tang.

I’m using this recipe via The New York Times as a springboard, but it will be a couple of days before I know if it works. Fingers crossed!

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Friends gave us a batch of chili this weekend and I thought:

1) Thank you! So kind. And spicy, delightfully spicy!

Also:

2) Fantastic, an excuse to make my favorite cornbread recipe.

* * *

My Favorite Cornbread

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients

  • 275g / 1¼ C kefir (or yogurt, buttermilk, or 1¼ C milk warmed with 1 T white vinegar)
  • 50g / ~3.5 T butter
  • 183g / 1½ C medium-grind cornmeal
  • 62g / ¼ C all-purpose flour
  • 7.5g / 1½ t baking powder
  • 6g / 1 t salt
  • 50g / ~3 T sugar
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  • preheat oven to 375F
  • add butter to an 8×8” pan, put it in the oven to melt*
  • whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl
  • whisk together kefir and eggs, add to dry ingredients and mix well
  • pour the batter into the pan with preheated butter
  • bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  • serve with more butter, because delicious.

* Alternately, melt butter and add to pan right before baking but why make more dishes? Getting it hot but not burnt is the goal.

* * *

This is not my cornbread. It may be cake, for all I know, but it looks about right. The important thing is that this is not my cornbread because my cornbread smelled delicious and we ate it before I remembered that I might want a photo. Photo by Jose luis on Unsplash

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My doctor may not agree* but some days you just need to go all in. This recipe is one example**:

Mom’s Mashed Potatoes

Peel, cook, mash, mix. The secret to success is lots of everything good; more butter, more milk, more salt.

Simple. Good.

* I use this rule in moderation, which makes the times when I do even better.

** Lest one accuse my mother of writing an incomplete recipe, I admit that there was originally more to it than this. I’ve stripped it down to the essentials:)

* * *

Photo by bernard buyse 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)…

* * *

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 from 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.)

* * *

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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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

* * *

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

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