30 October 2010

Recipe: Chili Cheese Scones

At the request of my colleagues, who GREATLY enjoyed the scones I brought in Friday, and HEAVILY adapted from a recipe from Epicurious.com. (Sorry there's no photo - I didn't think to take one.)

Jalapeno Cheese Scones

Preheat the over to 375 degrees F.

2 c. all purpose flour (I like King Arthur unbleached white myself)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder

Dump them all into the bowl of your food processor, fitted out with your plastic blade and pulse a few times to combine. Julia was the first person who introduced me to the concept of using the food processor in baking breads, and it definitely makes the early stages go faster.

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter

Slice the butter into the bowl of the food processor (thin slices), and again, pulse several times until it gets to "coarse meal" stage.  That link will take you to a picture if you're not sure what "coarse meal" looks like.

8-10 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
1-3 jalapenos, finely diced

Cracker Barrel Vermont extra sharp white works fine - you don't have to get fancy, unless you want to. Choose the number of jalapenos based on how spicy you want these and how big the chilies are. Pop the grated cheese and diced chilies both into the bowl of the food processor, and again, pulse several times to distribute everything evenly.

3/4 c. heavy cream
1 large egg

Whisk the two together, then pour them into the bowl of the food processor, and pulse until the dough starts to form.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead just until it all forms together.

Divide the dough in half, form each half into a round a little less than an inch deep, and cut each round into 6 triangles.

Space the triangles out on cookie sheets and bake about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them after 15, though. You don't want them to overcook.

These things are awesomely delicious. Seriously. And they go great for breakfast or on the side of a soup or Tex-Mex dinner.

21 October 2010

Tales from the CSA: Week 20

(I just realized I never posted this!)

The final box:

4 apples
5 yams
5 red potatoes
8 white potatoes
1 green bell pepper
2 turnips
1 head Boston Bibb lettuce
4 chilies

So in the final analysis, what did I think?

With the exception of a turnip that had a bad spot and most of one head of lettuce (both of which got composted), we used everything, and without breaking a sweat.

For a number of items, I really didn't taste a major difference between what I got from the CSA and what I get from the local supermarket.


Fresh peaches. Fresh strawberries.  Fresh tomatoes. Fresh corn.

Every week, Chef Spouse keeps asking: "Is the CSA really over?"

And that, to me, is the real answer: the fun of not knowing what's going to show up every week.

Next year? It's ON!

11 October 2010

Food Lab 5: Butter Doughs

We're now into our High Holy Days - aka, the NFL season - so we decided to switch over to two day food labs, so we can start Saturday and then have everyone come back to watch the games on Sunday.  This weekend marked our first two day lab, taking place October 9 and 10.

The thing about butter-based doughs is that, in most cases, you don't HAVE to rest them over night.  But they definitely benefit from it.  We had decided on brioche and croissants.

For labbing brioche, we picked two recipes: I made the one from Julia's The Way To Cook (which is basically the Mastering recipe, only she found religion on using food processors to start a variety of bread doughs since Mastering) and Mad Kitchen Scientist focused on the poolish-based brioche from Bread Alone.

Mad Kitchen Scientist had given me an excellent sealed brick of live yeast a while back, and I was waiting for a special time to open it up.  This was it.

We both used regular King Arthur unbleached white all-purpose flour, which is pretty much the perfect baking flour, although Mad Kitchen Scientist supplemented with some King Arthur wheat pastry flour.  He swears by it for pie crust.

The two recipes were fairly similar, other than the fact that Julia calls for more butter, and Bread Alone uses more eggs.

Now, the thing about brioche is that it can be almost more of a batter than a dough.  And actually, that's the problem I had the last time I tried to make it (using the Joy recipe) - too dense (so not batter-y enough).  Anyway, I think my "large" eggs might not be quite what Julia was thinking of when she said "large" eggs, since I had to throw in at least an extra half cup of flour (maybe more) to even render the dough workable.  But I got to use my new pastry scraper, and after that, it went like a dream.  After the first two rises, I rested it overnight.  Sunday morning, I brought it to cool room temperature before forming a small loaf and some small and large a tetes, going through one more rise, and baking.

Mad Kitchen Scientist followed pretty much the same pattern, although he started his dough in the mixer rather than a food processor.

We discovered that you want the dough to be just this side of too wet to work.  More butter is definitely preferable (surprise, surprise).  The wheat pastry dough didn't add anything, and in fact, detracted from the pretty pale yellow color you get in a good brioche.  I didn't think the poolish really added anything, either.  Mad Kitchen Scientist said he might've enriched the Julia recipe with one more egg yolk, although that obviously would've required even again a bit more flour.

We also cooked it at too high a temperature.  Julia, oddly, didn't specify.  Bread Alone advised 400 F, but the edges were browning too fast.  In retrospect, I think I would've gone with 400 for the first few minutes, then turned it down to 350 or lower for the remainder of the cooking time.

We also ran into some problems with shape formation.  Our tetes all looked  somewhat to fairly drunken.  Considering that we'd gone wine tasting before starting on Saturday, and then started off Sunday morning with bourbon milk punch, though, that's probably apropos. 

With the croissants, we didn't lab them - we just wanted to see if we could make them successfully. We used the classic Mastering recipe, and did it all by hand.  You start with a smallish amount of fairly wet dough that you knead just a little - that pastry scraper will come in handy - and then it's a LONG first rise (3 hours). The second rise is the point at which you can refrigerate it (which we did), which gives you a long, cold rise - or you let it rise for 90 minutes and then chill it thoroughly before proceeding.

Sunday morning was all about banging in the butter.  You roll your dough out into a rectangle, beat your butter into a thick rectangular paste, and fold it in.  The first round, you do two folds, then you rest and chill for another 90 minutes.   Two more rolls and folds leaves you with 55 layers (according to Julia) of dough separated by 54 layers of butter.  After the final roll and fold, you chill for another 2 hours.  This is another place where you could refrigerate overnight.

Or you move on to forming the croissants.  We discovered that, although you don't want to over-flour the dough, if it gets sticky at any point in any of this, you're done.  We also discovered that the smaller the triangles you cut to roll, the better.

Then it's one final 90 minute rise (before or after which you can freeze them, which if you want them for breakfast, I recommend), an egg wash, and 12-15 minutes in a hot oven (about 400 F, although Julia once again didn't specify - maybe she thinks we'll all just *know*?).  After that?  Buttery, flaky, warm delicious heaven.

Seriously, though, were they worth 12 hours of effort?  Are they that much better than store-bought?

Yes.  No contest.

06 October 2010

Tales from the CSA: Week 19

In the penultimate week's box:

1 butternut squash
1 small pumpkin
2 winter squash that could be a variety of acorn
2 turnips
6 potatoes
pile of green beans
4 apples
2 jalapenos
1 head Boston Bibb lettuce

The box was delivered while I had my door closed for lunch, and when I opened it, I discovered the week's box...and a bag of 10 apples. I figured that constituted a request from my colleagues for more pie, so I obliged.

I'm hanging onto all the winter squash and, after next week's final delivery, plan to roast it all, puree it, and freeze it to be used later this winter in muffins, quick breads, pies, soups, etc.  One of my favorite winter soups is a curry pumpkin - can't wait to make it using CSA pumpkin rather than canned.