Thursday, December 27, 2012

BBB Holiday Apple Kuchen

This was such a yummy challenge for December's buddy time.  I baked mine the weekend before Christmas and it held beautifully until then.  We reheated individual pieces in the toaster oven.  The original BBB post was for a lovely apple kuchen.  I had some cranberries leftover to use up and decided they would be just perfect in a holiday kuchen.  I mean don't these colors just shout out their festiveness?

I did change the topping just a hint by adding in some oats.  So the result is somewhere between a yeasted coffee cake and a crisp.  Just delicious.  Since I used spelt, I ended up putting in another half cup of flour so it wasn't too thin a batter.  It was much more a batter and less a dough than I was expecting.  But still turned out fabulous.  We had ours with butter melting on top but it would be great with a powdered sugar lemon glaze or the yummy sounding cream cheese topping in the actual recipe.  (Mascarpone or creme fraiche would be great there too.)  And here is the recipe to try it out as provided by Provecho Peru:

Holiday Apple Kuchen [BBB]
Yield: 12 servings
Source: Adapted from BH&G Holiday Baking 2009 Magazine

    Crumb Topping  (I added ¼ c oats)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter (I used 4Tbsp)
  • Apple Kuchen
  • 2 1/4 - 2 3/4 cups flour, divided
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Demerara // granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups apple slices (I used 3 plus 2 cups chopped cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup panela // brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon quick cooking tapioca (I don't do quick tapioca - I used 2Tbsp flour)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (I used a homemade whatever I thought was good blend)
  • Cream Cheese Topper
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  1. CRUMB TOPPING: In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
  2. APPLE KUCHEN: Grease a 13x9x2 baking pan; set aside. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the yeast; set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat and stir milk, granulated sugar, butter and salt just until mixture is warm (120F-130F) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture and eggs to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Beat in as much of the remaining flour as you can without the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour to make a stiff batter.
  4. Spread batter into the prepared baking pan. In another large bowl, combine apples, brown sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and apple pie spice. Place apple mixture on top of the batter. Sprinkle with Crumb Topping. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  5. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes or until top is browned and apples are tender. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
  6. CREAM CHEESE TOPPING: In a small bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in whipping cream and powdered sugar.
  7. Cut into 12 pieces and serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of Cream Cheese Topper on each piece.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shepherd's (Cottage) Pie with Garlic Mashed Potato Topping

Trying to clean out the freezer a bit, needing room for all the holiday goodies.  I wanted something rustic and comforting.  A while back I made a tater-tot casserole, something I grew up with and adored.  Liked how the bottom came out but wasn't pleased with the tots, interestingly enough.  It really is best with Ore-Ida tots but we can't get those because of the ingredients; the acceptable brand just isn't the same.  So that's out.  What else do the girls like?  Mashed potatoes.  Bingo, shepherd's pie it is.  I combined a couple recipes to make it without the canned soup.  I am very happy with how it turned out, S even requested seconds.  Hubby is not as much a casserole guy so this didn't make the leftovers stand, but he did enjoy a huge helping with a thumbs up.  And I have been enjoying the leftovers for lunches this week.  Use more or less meat depending on how frugal you wish to be, or make up the difference with mushrooms.  Leftover roast, shredded, would be an awesome addition to the filling as well.  You can make it in a deep dish pie plate or a 9x13" baking dish, depending on how deep you want it to be.  I made mine in a pie dish; let me go measure... 10-inch.   

So I guess this is really a Cottage Pie as I found that Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb and Cottage Pie is made with beef.  Still good regardless!

Shepherd's Pie
Serves 6-8

1-1½ lb ground beef (grass fed if you can get it)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped mushrooms, optional

1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp light spelt flour
1 cup milk
3 dashes Tabasco
1 can green beans (or tender cooked green beans)
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar (or more Parmesan if you prefer)

2 lbs russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
5 cloves garlic, pressed
butter ~ 2-3 tbsp
whole milk ~ ½-¾ cup

sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Begin browning ground beef in a large pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add carrot and onion and cook until beef is no longer pink.  Add any leftovers at this point.  Add garlic and mushrooms and cook another minute or two.  Scrape into baking dish and set aside.  (Start boiling the potatoes while making the sauce - 15 minutes.  Lightly salt and pepper the water.)  Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In same pan as the ground beef, melt butter and stir in flour.  Cook for a minute, then slowly add milk.  Whisk and cook for a few minutes until thickened.  Season with salt, pepper and the Tabasco.  Stir in the desired cheeses until melted.  Taste and salt if necessary.  Stir in green beans.  Pour on top of ground beef mixture.  You do not have to combine it.  Just spread it over top.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Mash with butter and milk, the consistency should be between fluffy and creamy.  More on the creamy side.  Stir in the garlic and season to taste with salt and plenty of pepper.  Spread over the filling, close to the edges.  You don't have to seal it.

Bake at 350ºF for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is lightly browned on the peaks and the sauce is starting to bubble up around the edges.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.  Serve as a one dish meal or add a side salad of greens or apple carrot slaw.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Garlic Ginger Stir Fry (Soy free optional)

I've been trying to be better about meal planning, but I don't seem to have a talent for planning more than two days out.  Remembering to thaw stuff out is not my forté, I'd do better to shop every other day.  At least we have multiple grocery options within ½-5 miles distance.  One of the easiest things to whip up is a stir fry and fortunately for me, hubby and girls would happily eat this three to four times a week.  This is a soy free version but you can also make it with a good tamari or naturally fermented soy sauce.  The miso is a special order but totally worth it for soy allergy sufferers.  It keeps practically forever under refrigeration.  Check out South River Miso Company to see all their offerings.  (I am not affiliated, I just love their product!)  The coconut aminos seems to have gotten better since I started using it a couple years ago.  It is an even closer taste profile to soy sauce, less sweet and more salty than it used to be.  Double check your sauce just in case though, sometimes it can use a hit of salt.  The miso tends to alleviate that need, which is another reason I love it.  This got two thumbs up from hubby.  He said it even beat out chowder and definitely made it to the "happy to take leftovers to work" category.  (A huge portion of the leftovers too!)  ☺

Garlic Ginger Stir Fry
serves 5-6

1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite sized pieces
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1½ cups sugar snap peas, halved
1 tbsp oil (refined coconut oil is my frying oil of choice)
½ cup Coconut Aminos or soy sauce (I recommend a good naturally fermented tamari for soy version)
1 tbsp South River Chickpea and Barley Miso (optional but awesome for authentic flavor, omit if using soy)
1½ tbsp light brown muscovado sugar (optional)
1 tbsp chili paste 
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2" knob of fresh ginger, peeled, grated with microplane
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp arrowroot starch

Steamed rice 

In a glass measuring cup combine the coconut aminos or tamari, vinegar, brown sugar, miso if using, chili paste, arrowroot, garlic and ginger.  Mix well and set aside.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and fry until lightly browned and done.  Remove from pan to a bowl and set aside.  Add onions and peppers; cook and stir for a minute or two and then add the snap peas.  Cook and stir until veggies are crisp tender or to your liking.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the sauce and cook until thickened and everything is nicely coated; one more minute.  Serve over steamed rice.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup

I made this soup once long ago.  It was great except for one thing: Velveeta.  Blech.  It was novel as a child but aside from the horrid ingredient list, it wasn't incredibly palatable.  I mean, it wiggles.  The one thing it excels at though is being creamy.  The stuff doesn't break like regular cheese and roux does.  So the soup was nice and creamy and not grainy like my old favorite cheddar chowder recipe.  And the velveeta flavor mellowed out the next day so leftovers were even better.  But I haven't made it in years because the processed cheese is not an okay ingredient for us.  Until...  

Thank you America's Test Kitchen for showing us how to make processed cheese at home!  It's just cheddar cheese, milk, gelatin, milk powder and a pinch of tartar.  It whips up in less than 10 minutes and I will happily make it again and again for this soup.  And the only flavor that comes through is wonderful, creamy cheddar.  Or whatever cheese you choose to process!  I will probably be making batches for my friend's favorite queso salsa dip as well.  I used the powdered goat milk I have as it is the most readily accessible whole milk powder - don't use nonfat, it will add an off flavor.  Mine looked just like the picture in the processor; it sets up fast so get it in your mini loaf pan quickly.

This is a nice, homey, and very filling soup that comes together in 30-40 minutes if you have the cheese in the fridge already.  The girls and hubby made happy noises as they ate it and the hubby actually took leftovers to work!  There are very few things he is willing to take as leftovers.  Win.

Cheesy Potato Soup
serves 6-8

5 cups chopped potatoes
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
dash Tabasco
¼ cup light spelt flour or all purpose
2 cups whole milk, divided
1 recipe homemade processed cheddar cheese, cubed (about 1 pound)
12 oz. good bacon, chopped

In a dutch oven, brown the chopped bacon over medium high heat until lightly crispy.  Remove and set aside.  Drain all but a teaspoon of the bacon fat and save for another purpose or discard.  Saute the vegetables in the remaining fat for a few minutes until beginning to soften.  Add stock, parsley, salt, pepper and Tabasco.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until potatoes are tender.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and ¼ cup of the milk until smooth.  Add to soup and cook and stir until thickened, one or two minutes.  Stir in the cheese until melted and add remaining milk.

When cheese is melted, add bacon and heat through.
Good as a side soup or main meal.

Adapted from TOH's Golden Potato Soup

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Spelt and Kamut Loaf

Up until now, I have been trying without really good results to make a 100% spelt sandwich loaf.  (Trying to get away from modern wheat as much as possible, though I do still love King Arthur flours.)  I did like Hildegard's spelt loaf but for some reason it wasn't a favorite of the girls.  I played around with spelt in a number of recipes and I have learned a few things.  My broad bread statement that bread dough would rather be too wet than too dry does not apply to spelt.  Spelt is highly water soluble and does not like to be over hydrated or the gluten will break down and give you dough soup.  The gluten is strong but delicate at the same time.  It doesn't like to be over kneaded or handled too much.  In my research I found that the qualities kamut flour provides to the dough are the perfect balance to the spelt, while still being a more ancient grain.  The buttery kamut is also a nice foil to the sweet and nutty spelt.  So I tinkered around with a couple recipes and found a balance that gave me a winning loaf.  (The girls like it.)  The loaf pictured was the first try and it had a couple handfuls of regular white flour thrown in for insurance, but subsequent loaves were as written and turned out exactly the same.  It's a nice loaf, somewhat delicate crumb, but holds up to peanut butter sandwiches and makes excellent toast.  Don't leave out the vinegar, it helps the dough structure.  A pinch of citric acid will do the same though, if you have it.  If you're trying to avoid modern wheat, give this a try.  A good general rule for conversion to spelt in a recipe is to reduce water by 25% and reduce mixing or kneading time by half.

Spelt and Kamut Sandwich Loaf
makes 1 loaf

¾ cup water
1 egg
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp malt (diastatic or barley malt syrup)
1 cup whole spelt flour
1¾ cup light spelt flour
1 cup kamut flour
2 tbsp butter, softened
2½ tsp instant yeast

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer or bread machine.  Knead with machine or dough hook for 7 or 8 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Cover and allow to rise for 70-90 minutes until double.  Shape dough into a loaf and place in a buttered loaf pan.  Allow to rise until not quite double, another 40-60 minutes.  Sprinkle or spritz the top of the loaf with a little water.  Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped on the bottom.  (This bread has a slow rise but lots of oven spring so try not to over proof or it will really bust over the top!)  Do not attempt to cut until completely cool.

Adapted from BigOven