Friday, 24 May 2013

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup warm water
2 Teaspoons dry active yeast
4 Tablespoons white sugar
2-3 Cups flour
1/2 Cup butter (more or less)
1/2 - 3/4 Cup brown sugar
2 Teaspoons cinnamon
1 Teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon all spice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a large cooking sheet, or a muffin tray.

In a large bowl gently whisk the warm water, white sugar and yeast together and allow the yeast to activate for about 10 minutes until it looks light and frothy.  Stir in the flour in by 1/2 cup additions until a soft dough forms.  Turn the soft dough out into a floured work surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding in more flour as needed until a elastic dough forms that isn't overly sticky anymore. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise in a draft free warm place for about 30 minutes until double in size.

While the dough is rising in a small bowl stir the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice together, and in another small bowl melt the butter.  Once the dough as risen, roll it out into a rectangle shape until the dough is about 1/8th-1/4 inch thick.  Next brush the butter onto the dough, right to the edges and covering the dough completely, then sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the butter and dough in an even layer.

Now is where things get a bit tricky, starting at the narrow side of the rectangle begin to roll the dough up tightly onto itself. You want the dough to be rolled as tight as you can manage it because otherwise all that delightful butter and brown sugar filling will just end up running out the bottom of your cinnamon rolls.

Once the dough is rolled up tightly, Chill the roll in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm it up, and then begin to cut the dough into the cinnamon rolls. I like to cut them to be about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the cut cinnamon rolls onto the prepared baking sheet or in the muffin cups of a tray and once they are all cut and placed bake them in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes.  Remove the cooked cinnamon rolls from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Ps, December 2013, if you can't get the sweet sugar to stay inside the rolls and all you get is black bottom buns, try melting the butter and mixing in the sugar and spices into the melted butter. then press the crumbly mixture into the dough after rolling it into a large rectangle.

Notes:

So another post another embarrassing story about how many ways I have failed at baking and cooking in the past. My grandmothers on both sides of my family and my mother have always made the most wonderful cinnamon rolls, they always had the filling actually stay inside of the roll, and the pastry was light and had a wonderful texture.

When I was a youngster and still lived at home I too was able to make delightful cinnamon rolls under the watchful and helpful eye of my mother. So when I moved out into the world on my own I felt pretty confident that I would still have the magic cinnamon roll touch.  It turns out I was wrong. Very very wrong.  My family had been using a traditional Scottish style pastry for their cinnamon rolls that it very similar to a biscuit or a scone.  If you have been reading my other recipes you might know that I was a total and complete failure when it came to making biscuits until I compiled this recipe for biscuits for myself. So when I set to making my family's cinnamon roll recipe I of course ruined the finicky dough and my cinnamon rolls ended up like cinnamon rocks. Very tough and hard and not very pleasing at all and there were much sad times about it.

This is why I have had to abandon my family recipe for cinnamon rolls and start trying to make up my own. A recipe that would be easier and yield more consistent results for me.  Here is my current working recipe for cinnamon rolls, keep in mind that it is a new recipe and hasn't been tested as much as my other recipes so I may decide to change it up later.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cast Iron Skillet, How to use and love with Pan Roasted Pork Recipe

Cast iron is a really old and really beloved cooking material. It is heavy and durable which is good for someone who plans to keep on cooking for a while. But the heavy part is also awesome, it heats evenly and holds onto heat for a long time. Meaning it can give near constant cooking temperatures which is ideal for even cooking.  If you have ever tried to cook with a pan or pot that has a wobbly bottom then you will appreciate this. When things don't heat evenly they do not cook evenly. It will take twice a long to boil water in a pot with an unstable bottom because the heat transfer from the stove to the pot itself is more inefficient.

Sounds pretty good so far, but cast iron is not the same as cooking with a non-stick pan, which is a mistake a lot of people make. Cast iron needs some extra love. So here I will put my tips and tricks for using cast iron, so that it always works out for the best.

How to Cook with Cast Iron:


  • Never put oil into cold cast iron.  Always start to heat up the cast iron with nothing in it, for at least 5 minutes, but I usually give it closer to 7 minutes of heating time.
  • Use a good quality oil that has a high smoke point as the oil coat. Good quality oil will make or break your final result, and it needs to be an oil that wont turn rancid at a low temperature or burn at a high one. Things like canola oil and sunflower oil are good to use as the oil coat. Something like olive oil will burn and discolor the cast iron.
  • Use about 2 tablespoons of the good quality oil as the oil coat. Pour it into the heated cast iron and use a silicone basting brush to spread the oil over the entire cooking surface of the pan. This process pretty much acts to make the cast iron behave more like a nonstick pan. Things can and will burn to it, but the oil coat is needed. Plus the iron molecules expand and take in the oil as it heats making a really good surface for cooking on. Not doing an oil coat is why people ruin and can't use cast iron. It's easy and doesn't take long and it seriously is required.
  • Seriously Do the oil coat.
  • Ensure there is a good oil coat in the pan, it should all look smooth and slightly shiny all over the cooking surface.
  • Confirm there is a good oil coat.
  • Allow the oil coat and pan to heat another 3-5 minutes.
  • The cast iron is now ready to cook with!

Cooking with cast iron:

The cast iron is now ready to cook with. It will do an excellent job of frying up mushrooms and onions with butter as a side with some grilled meat. Stir fry's all turn out well in the cast iron. But my favorite is to do a grilled thick cut pork chop or steak or even starting off a pot roast in the cast iron. The cast iron gives the meat a solid sear on the outside, which helps to keep all the juices locked inside the meat. The cast iron is also excellent for making a reduction sauce.

Only use wood or plastic utensils with cast iron, or the surface will be ruined. No sharps!

Seared Pork

Ingredients:

1 Onion, diced
2 Clove garlic, diced
1 Shallot, diced
Salt and Pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Thick cut pork chop, or loin chops

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°F

Prepare the cast iron skillet, and add the olive oil and the diced onion, garlic and shallot, season with salt and pepper.  Cook until starting to soften, about 10 minutes.  Season and prepare the meat as desired. Clear a spot in the center of the pan for the pork and place it in the center and cook for about 4-5 minutes a side. Trying to not poke at it too much, and keep as much of the juice inside the pork as possible.

Once all sides are seared, use plastic tongs to move most of the fried onion/garlic/shallots to on top of the meat and around the sides, this step helps add more flavor, and keep the meat moist and tender. If desired the pork can also be tented with tin foil. Transfer the entire cast iron skillet to the oven and finish cooking the meat to required done-ness. I always use a meat thermometer for this step.

Reduction Sauce

Ingredients:

1 Cup Stock (best to either use a veg stock or one that matches the meat)
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons corn starch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water, Mixed smooth
Other seasonings as desired
1/4 Red Wine, also good

Instructions:

Once the pork is cooked and out of the cast iron skillet, put the skillet back on the burner over medium heat.  There should still be some onion/garlic and shallots in the pan as well as all the pan drippings, and some burned little brown bits on the bottom.  Those brown bits are flavor gold my friends.  Basically all you need to do to make an excellent reduction sauce is add the stock, butter and any other seasonings and the red wine.  Stir the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula, trying to lift the burnt bits from the bottom and gathering up all the flavor in the pan.  Once the stock begins to boil reduce heat.  If you added wine allow the sauce to boil for about 5 minutes so the alcohol evaporates .  When the stock is ready, use a fine sieve and strain out the cooked veg bits.  Once strained, add the corn starch and water mixture and whisk quickly. the Sauce should begin to thicken but if it stays thin try heating it some more.  Taste the sauce and add any extra seasonings and serve!

Cleaning the Cast Iron

  • Do not use soap.
  • Allow the cast iron to cool completely. But don't let it stand too long
  • Do not use dish soap.
  • Using a soft cloth, not a scrubber and hot water wash out the inside of the pan.
  • Repeat washing until it almost looks perfectly clean.
  • Do not use soap.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry immediately.
  • All done! 
Vinegar can be used in small amounts to help make sure there aren't any bacteria left kicking around. But be sure to rinse and dry well! 

Enjoy!

Naan Bread

Naan Bread

Ingredients:

2 Teaspoons dry yeast
1 Cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1-2 Teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups flour
about 1/2 cup melted butter
oil for frying, I used Canola because it has a high smoke point and it works well in cast iron

Instructions:

In a large bowl whisk the warm water, yeast and sugar or honey together and let sit in a warm draft free place for about 10 minutes or until it is light and frothy looking.

Using a wooden spoon stir in as much flour as you can to make a soft dough.  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough ball is formed.

Grease the ball with olive oil and allow to rise until about double in size, which takes about an hour.

After an hour punch the dough down in the center to push out some air, and then allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Dough, especially a bread dough are finicky, they need some extra love and attention to come out perfect. Missing times by 10 minutes or so wont really affect the bread, but not letting it rest enough, or letting it over-proof (rise too long), or over kneading it, can all affect the final texture. It is a delicate art to learn what works for you, but it will come with practice.

After the dough has rested, divide it into 8 equal portions.  I did this by just dividing it into two, then each of those in two, and then once again dividing each into two. It worked out pretty well.  Gently cover with parchment paper and tea towel and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.  To get the most bubbles in the naan bread I suggest using a warmed oven for this step.

To get a perfectly warmed oven, set it to bake and turn it up to only about 200°F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the oven off, open the door for 30 seconds and the oven is now a perfect place to let dough rise.  Another bonus is that ovens are generally a pretty draft free place, dough's enjoy being in a draft free place.

While the dough is rising for the final time it is time to prep the cast iron skillet for frying and melt the butter in a small bowl and set aside.  Get a basting brush ready.

Heat and oil the skillet, I let mine heat on just to the low side of medium (about a 4/10 heat level).

When the dough is ready to be cooked and the skillet is ready, roll each dough ball on a floured surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick, and quickly place in the skillet and cook for about 4-5 minutes.

Once the other side is nice and golden and starting to puff, just use a set of tongs and check how done the bottom is, when it looks right to you it's ready.

Quickly flip the naan over and brush melted butter on the cooked side and cook the bottom till it is also a nice golden color and looks right to you.  Transfer cooked naan to a just warmed oven and repeat the process until all the naan is cooked. Serve warm and as fresh as possible to really impress people.

Naan goes well with any curry dish, with salsa, with cheese, with hummus with anything really.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Indian food of any variety used to be rather terrifying to me. I never ate any curries growing up, never had naan bread and the only rice in my house was the 5 minute quick rice.  Which if you are a fan of rice you will know is barely rice at all.  But since I moved out on my own and met people who actually had interesting food experiences  better rice was first on their list of things I needed to fix, then just eat more interesting things.  Naan Bread and a nice red curry with some Basmati rice has quickly become one of my favorite week day suppers. Most grocery stores have a decent naan bread you can buy, but I like to at least try making everything from scratch once, and Naan bread was surprisingly easy, and the results were fantastic.  So get the rice cooker out and maybe start making some butter chicken because we're having Indian food tonight!

One last thing, This is recipe does kind of require a cast iron skillet, Naan bread is traditionally made in a stone oven, but since I didn't have a functioning stone oven in my apartment I had to make some changes.

Cast iron is best because it is so heavy that the whole bottom of the pan gets a nice even hot heat on the go, which helps the naan bread cook and puff properly.  If you don't have a cast iron skillet try using the heaviest bottom frying pan you have.

Need help with a cast iron skillet? Cast Iron Tips and Tricks are here!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Is my Baking Powder fresh?

Ever question if your baking powder is still active and good to use in your recipe? Ever wonder how you are supposed to test that without just making something and seeing if it works or not? Well I learned a new trick and it's worth typing out.

Testing Baking Powder

Ingredients:

1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking powder in question

Instructions:

Simply pour the baking powder in question into the hot water, ideally in a clear glass. If the baking powder quickly dissolves away and fizzes then that means it is still perfectly great to use. If not, time to throw it out and replace it in your cupboard with a fresh container.

Enjoy!



Cheese Puffs

Cheese Puffs

Ingredients:

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
4 ounces crumbled/shredded cheese
8 bacon slices, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°F

In a heavy sauce pan combine the water, butter and salt. Heat and stir over medium heat until boiling and the butter is melted.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the flour and stir quickly until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a very soft dough.

Remove the pan from the stove and let stand 5 minutes.  Allow the mixture to stand for the full 5 minutes or else it will be far too hot still when you start to add the eggs, and they will start to cook too quickly and the texture of the puffs wont be as good.

After 5 minutes add the eggs one and a time and beat well after each addition. Dough should become thick and look glossy.  Finally add the cheese, bacon, green onion and pepper and stir well to combine.

Drop onto greased baking sheets, using about 2 teaspoons per puff and placing them about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Notes:

These are one of my excellent go to recipes when I have some notice about a nice party and would like to bring a snack.  They are super easy to make if you follow the recipe and they can be frozen and re-heated without any issue, although like most things they are best when served fresh from the oven if you can manage it.

When making cheese puffs there are a few things to keep in mind, first being that they will rise in the oven while they are baking, so only put a small dollop of batter on the pan for each one. Second these taste best if you use a strong flavored cheese like a British Stilton blue cheese, other blue cheeses, or not sure if you will be able to find it but my grocery store has a sharp Mexican cheddar with peppers and things in it that is my favorite to use in this recipe.  But truth be a told any sharp cheddar will work well, plus if you use a milder cheese you can serve them with a nice spicy ranch dip.  Either way, these are sure to be a hit at your next party.

Plus they can be made ahead, frozen, and then toasted in the oven at the party to reheat and they come out perfect.