Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cheddar Parmesan Biscuits

Since I make all of the bread that we eat, it is nice to have a variety of options, both for taste and convenience. When I don't have time to make bread or tortillas, I make some variation of biscuit.  This recipe is based on a Bakewell Cream biscuit, and rises beautifully. You can make this plain or flavored. Thanks to this recipe, and a tip from King Arthur Flour, I found that I can actually have a convenience food: homemade bake-and-eat biscuits from the freezer (this recipe makes at least eighteen 2½" biscuits, and while they reheat alright, they are so much better freshly baked).

These are the plain version (no cheese). I try to keep some of these
on hand, in the freezer, but they never stay around for long.

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp cream of tartar 
1 tsp salt
½ cup butter (cold, cut into pats)
1½ cups cold milk
~The following ingredients can be omitted to make regular biscuits
1 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tsp white cheddar powder
¼-½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
generous ¼ cup shredded white cheddar (plus an additional ¼ cup to top the biscuits before baking) 

Preheat ovens to 475°F (app. 245°C*). Lines a cookie sheet with parchment.
Whisk dry ingredients and cheese together.
Cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly.
Add milk and mix until all ingredients come together and are moist.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface, pat it out a bit and fold over onto itself once or twice. Pat the dough into a ¾" thick piece, ready for cutting.
Using a sharp cutter (I use a 2½" round), cut biscuits and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Pat any scraps of dough into another ¾" mass, cut, repeat until all dough is used.

At this point I like to decide how many I want to bake and eat. I place the remaining biscuits on a second, small cookie sheet (covered with parchment) and slip these into the freezer. When these are frozen, I put them in an airtight container or bag and leave them for last-minute heat-and-eat biscuits. When cooking frozen biscuits, preheat oven to 475° (app. 245°C*). Bake 5-7 minutes, turn off heat and leave them in the hot oven for 5-7 more minutes, or until golden brown.

If you want to, you can brush the biscuits with melted butter or milk right before you put them in the oven.
Bake for 5 minutes, turn off the oven, and leave them in the hot oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.
Enjoy the biscuits with molasses, jam, honey, gravy, soup, etc.

‡ Here is a link to an explanation of what cream of tartar is, and how it is made and used.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

As I previously posted, I have a huge batch of sweet potato purée. Since I have been wanting to experiment with Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls, I decided that today was the day. I sat down and wrote out what I wanted to do and headed to the kitchen to test my recipe. This is not a fast recipe, but it isn't difficult, and the resulting rolls were so worth the effort. Unlike some of the heat and eat rolls, these did not seem as overly sweet, the cinnamon sugar caramelized into candy in the spots where it oozed onto the parchment. This produced more than a dozen huge rolls.
I'm pretty sure I heard Hubby purring while he ate one of these, and then after a few minutes he announced he wanted another, LOL

Dough ingredients:
2 (¼ oz) envelopes dry yeast
½ cup warm water (100°-110°F/app. 37°-43°C*)
1 Tbsp sugar
5½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sweet potato puree
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
¼ cup melted butter
zest from 1 orange
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Filling ingredients- mix until well-blended
2 cup light brown sugar (or 2 cups of sugar blended with 2 Tbsp molasses)
¾ cup melted butter
2 Tbsp cinnamon

Glaze ingredients:
1½ cups confectioners sugar
4 Tbsp orange juice
zest from 1 orange

1. Stir together yeast, ½ cup warm water (100° to 110° F/app. 37°-43°C*), and 1 tsp. sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes. While you are waiting, you can:
~reserve ½ cup of flour for kneading, then whisk remaining flour, zest, sugar, baking soda and salt together
~whisk the egg and milk together.
2. Combine yeast mixture and ½ cup flour in a mixing bowl; blend well.
Gradually add butter, mashed sweet potatoes, flour mixture, and egg mixture. Alternate wet and dry ingredients until everything is mixed.
3. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead in remaining ½ cup flour. Continue to knead until smooth and elastic (app. 4 to 5 minutes).
4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with oil. Turn dough to coat the surface. Cover the bowl with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place (85°F/app. 30°C*), free from drafts, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
5. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Roll it into at least a 10'x18' rectangle. Leaving a 1" border along one long edge, spread filling evenly on the dough. Roll the dough at the long side (toward the 1" of dough that does not have filling) to create an 18" long (or longer) log of dough. Slice into 1½" pieces (you can use thread to cut the dough- run thread under the dough, cross the ends and pull).  Arrange on a parchment-lined 13"x9" baking pan and let rise in a warm area (app 85°F/app. 30°C*) for 30 minutes. 
6. Part-way through the last rise, preheat oven to 400°F (app. 205°C*).
7. Bake rolls for 10 minutes, remove at this point to drizzle half of the glaze on the cinnamon rolls. Allow that to soak in, then return the rolls to the oven for 7-10 (until lightly browned and a tester-wooden toothpick comes out clean.
8. Slide parchment onto another baking sheet, allow to cool 20-30 minutes, drizzle remaining glaze on the rolls and serve warm.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

Sweet Potato Pizza Sauce

I am always so glad to see sweet potatoes and winter squash in our deliveries, since they keep well, with little or no fuss. Some of the fruits and veggies are little divas. They must have just the right temperature, their labels must be removed before they ripen, else the label removes the skin, some don't get along well with others, etc. As much as I love the delicate treats that have to be eaten quickly before they try to go good, I adore my stalwart squash and sweet potatoes. Is it any wonder that they show up so often on my pages?

I guess this was an inevitable progression, but I decided to try sweet potato purée for a pizza sauce. In talking to people about this sort of experiment, I have gotten very mixed reactions. Some people refuse to consider anything other than tomato sauce, but I was surprised to find that some people don't like the old stand-by. They have to order either  light sauce or no sauce. I like tomato sauce, but I have been having a blast switching up the line-up, and I would love to hear from you. Is it tomato sauce for you all the way, or do you also like to try something different? Is there something that you think I should try? Post a comment and tell me what you are thinking.

This is where I usually post a recipe, but since there isn't really one, I'll just tell you what I did.

While I roast squash, I prefer to boil sweet potatoes. I gave four large organic sweet spuds a light scrub, put them into a pot with a lot of water and set them on the stove at a little over medium heat, and let them cook until I could easily pierce them deeply with a fork (if you aren't careful the outside is done and the middle is raw). You can cut them up to reduce cooking time, but when I have done that in the past the mash was more watery. When I decided that they were done, I drained the water and put the potatoes on a couple plates to cool. Once I could handle them, I removed the skins, and puréed them in batches. This resulted in well over four cups of mash.

Once the crust was ready, and rolled out, I scooped several spoons sweet potato purée directly on to the dough, and spread it to make sure I had the coverage that I wanted. On top of that, I sprinkled thyme and basil, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, onions and pepperoni. This went into a 450°F (app. 230°C*) oven for approximately 15 minutes.

Both dear hubby and I really liked the result, and even I went back for a second serving when our ten minutes had expired (we wait at least ten minutes between servings- this helps keep us from overeating. . . . as much). By the way, the leftovers were even better.

*I use an online conversion chart and round up or down, as seems appropriate. Please adjust according to your judgement, and send me a message if you find an error. Thank you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lime zest salt

I have been experimenting with flavored sugars for a short while, and I have to say that I have been really excited about the results. Orange and lemon sugars (see this post on making orange zest sugar) have been a great way to brighten up cream of wheat and add a splash of citrus to my tea. When a recent NGD co-op delivery brought us organic limes,  I just had to do some more experimenting.

Hubby asked about making a lime salt, and I was hit by the memory of my past addiction to lime flavored corn chips. Several years back, I was enamored with this tangy, salty snack, and even my MSG intolerance didn't completely kill my craving for them.  Although common sense trumped taste bud, I could still almost be tempted when I see these in the store, if it weren't for my larger addiction to oxygen. Mastering the lime salt could be my first step to ruling the world. . . or at least being able to duplicate another long lost snack in an all-natural form. ;)

lime zest (preferably finely grated and from organic limes)
1/3 cup kosher or sea salt per lime

Add lime zest to salt and process until well-mixed. I chose to make this first batch a fine grind.
The picture doesn't show the pale green color very well- the only dish that I had on hand that was dark enough to show the salt, is this blue dragonfly plate.

Allow salt to dry and then put into a clean dry jar. Besides thinking that this would be amazing on chips, it would also be a nice complement to fish or Mexican food. I am also planning to try this mixed with a pinch chili powder and sprinkled on popcorn. 

As with the sugars, other citrus zest could be mixed with the salt, especially lemon. I have seen a blend of orange, lemon, and lime for chicken and fish. If you want to try to make such a blend, I recommend making each kind of salt separately, allowing them to dry, choose the ratio of each flavor to add, and stir them together.