Monday, March 29, 2010

My First Challah

OK, I get that it's Passover and one is not supposed to be eating the most delicious leavened bread ever, but I just got the Peter Reinhart Bread baker's apprentice book today (from a most delightful friend), and a proper bread knife, so I had to make some bread that I could eat today. Plus, I'd been away from blokey for 4 days, and it's good to give the fella reminders of why it's so awesome to have me around. This was the only loaf that looked yummy and only required about 4 hours. Granted, I started this around 7 so we sat down to eat at midnight, but he's on Hawai'i time most of the week, so it worked out well.
I made a few variations. Like, I subbed one cup of whole wheat for a cup of unbleached flour. I have no instant yeast, and so I multiplied the amount by 1.333 and used the regular yeast. I used 3 eggs instead of 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks. I didn't quite cook it for 40 minutes. I fugded the rising times and failed to do an egg wash (I'm stingy with my cage free vegetarian fed eggs). Instead, I sort of did an olive oil rubdown instead. (Try not to think too hard about it).

"I can't believe it's Passover" Challah bread (adapted from Peter Reinhart)
3 c. of unbleached white flour (King Arthur, if possible)
1 c. of whole wheat flour
2 Tbs of sugar
1 tsp of salt
about 2 tsp of active dry yeast
3/4 c. plus 2 Tbs of lukewarm water (90 degrees. I just mixed boiling water with Brita water and tested it with my wrist)
3 eggs
2 Tbs. of olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Combine the two and start kneading away. You may need to add more flour, but it will be a pretty wet dough. Knead for 6 minutes if you've got a dough hook. I do not, so I did it for 10. The book said that the bread should pass the windowpane test. (Not even close for me. But we had to run to the store before it closed for split peas, so I covered it with a cloth napkin and hoped for the best, and ran off.)
One hour later, punch down the dough and form into a ball, cover, and let rise another hour or until 1.5 times larger.
after second rise

After second rise, divide the dough into 3 balls. The book says to look it hang out for 10 minutes, but I was impatient, as usual. Roll the balls into rolls that are pretty long and thin (as long as you can make them on your cutting board). Pinch the three rolls on one end on a cookie sheet, and braid the rolls, like you would hair. Lightly brush with olive oil or egg wash (or grease it up with your hands, if you're low rent like me).
Cover with a damp tea towel/cloth napkin and let rise another hour or until 1.5 times larger. Before that's all over, preheat the oven to 350.
post rising

Bake for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan in the oven and let bake another 20 minutes.
after 20 minutes (and rotating)

done baking

I can't believe it's a real bread knife!

This tasted great with just plain butter. We ate it with split pea soup, made in the new pressure cooker (thanks to my coworkers), and some fancy cheese (the cheese was not necessary).

Crumb shot

I hear that challah makes great French toast. We'll find out tomorrow.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ohio cooking

I've been in Ohio the past few days, working as a visiting assistant professor at a small, adorable liberal arts college. Since it's one the college's dime, we've done alot of eating out at nice places, but last night, after a large lunch with great students, we were fed up with dining out (ha). You know, restaurant mouth from a little too much salt and too much food.

Since Professor G is a vegetarian, we decided to make vegetarian Indian food, something that I often do on this blog. However, I was lacking my usual set of spices, so we made do with what was available at the local grocery store, mostly spice mixes. Flipping through one of her cookbooks, we choose the veggie biryani, lentils, and a raita recipe. I also saw pretty sprouts (which are woefully out of season but still called my name). I haven't been in a huge grocery store like that since I visited my parents over Christmas.
I also learned that small town video rental stores on a Friday night can be as slow as Brooklyn.

Veggie biryani (adapted from Girl Can't Cook)
1 1/2 c. of basmati rice
4 tables of biryani spices (found in the glass jar in the "ethnic aisle" of a larger grocery store)
1 onion, diced
garlic and ginger, diced
1/2 c. of raisins
1/3 c. of slivered almonds
1 yellow squash, cut into thin coins and sliced in half again (they should look like half-moons)
2 carrots, also cut into 1/2 moons or 1 red pepper, cored and sliced
1/2 head of broccoli chopped
Juice of one lemon
3 c. Water

Cook the onions in the ghee/oil until soft, over medium heat. Add the spices and stir, another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the kernels are well coated. Add the vegetables and water, and stir over high heat until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover for 30-40 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid gone.

Raita (also adapted from Girl Can't Cook)
1 1/4 c. of plain yogurt
1/2 teas salt (or to taste)
1/2 teas of cumin
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, cored and grated
2 Tbs of cilantro
lemon juice

You can skip this step if you don't mind a water Raita (I don't), but if you do, combine the cucumbers, tomatoes and salt in a colander and let the excess water strain out (maybe like 10 minutes). Add the tomato/cumber mixture to a medium sized bowl with the yogurt, cilantro, cumin, and lemon juice. Add more salt to taste.

Roasted brussels sprouts with garlic
Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic chopped
about 20 Brussels sprouts, with the ends trimmed off, cut in 1/2

Preheat the oven to 400. Add the chopped garlic and sprouts in a shallow baking dish, with the cut sides down. Drizzle with oil oil (about 1 1/2 Tbs) and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops and bottoms of carmelized (we overcooked ours just a bit but they tasted delicious). Add salt to taste when done.

Quick and easy dal (that I always make and force Blokey to eat)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlice
1/2" of ginger root, grated (we didn't have that, rural Ohio seems to be missing this ingredient)
2 tomatoes chopped (or 1/2 of a tetra pack of chopped tomatoes)
1/4 c. of plain yogurt
1 1/2 T. of Madras curry spices (in a glass jar from the supermarket)
1/2 teas. red pepper (spice, not the bell variety)
lemon juice
1 c. of dry lentils.

While the rice is cooking, bring 4 c. of water to a boil. Add the 1 c. of lentils and bring to a boil again, and then lower heat to a simmer and cover. They should be done in about 20 minutes. In a medium sauce pan, saute the onions in oil over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir, another 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down into a mush. Add about 1 1/2 Tbsp of the curry spices and stir. Remove from the heat until the lentils are done. Drain, and add to the tomato-spice mix. Cook again over medium heat until the spices and lentils are well incorporated. Add lemon juice, red pepper, and yogurt and stir.
The pictures aren't as appetizing as the food. As G said, it was a bit monochromatic, but the taste was anything but boring. We all ate too much and had to hold our bellies as we watched "Funny People."