Sunday, March 18, 2012

Holy crap, we made a challah!

Phredward and I had a little bit of cooking insanity yesterday. In chronological order, we made cornbread, a crustless broccoli-spinach quiche, cranberry sauce, bbq chicken, steak fajitas, and grilled asparagus. But the most crazy thing that we made is this challah.
It's crazy because neither of us have ever made bread before, and the whole time, I was pretty sure we were screwing it up, but it turns out, we are freaky bread savants! Bread geniuses! Or maybe it was just beginner's luck.

We followed the Challah #1 recipe from California Kosher, but subbed whole wheat flour for the white that the recipe calls for. The main reason I was pretty sure we were doing it wrong is that neither of us knew anything about how to knead bread dough. We just kind of rolled it into a ball and then mushed it down and then repeated. Also, we didn't really know when it might be done, so eventually we just stopped and put it aside to rise.

But then, while we were waiting, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos about kneading dough, and they all said that it's important to stretch the dough out as you knead, so as to lengthen the glutens. But.. lengthen the glutens? That doesn't sound like a real thing. Nonetheless, I was nervous, so I insisted that we knead it again after the second rising, and then let it rise some more. And then I was sure that I had ruined everything.

We braided the challah according to the instructions in this video, and as you can see, it turned out amazing. I think next time I will bake it a little less. The recipe called for an hour, but we pulled it out after 50 minutes, and I think even 45 would have been plenty.

I didn't make enough changes to the challah recipe to justify copying it into my blog, so instead, I'll give you my mom's recipe for broccoli-spinach quiche. This is really easy and really delicious.

Crustless Broccoli-Spinach Quiche

  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2T onion soup powder
  • 2T mayonnaise
  • 2T flour
  • 1T oil
  • bread crumbs
Mix together all of the ingredients except the bread crumbs. If you drained the frozen vegetables, you will probably need to add a little water, so don't do that. Pour into a greased 9-inch pan and top liberally breadcrumbs. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Best hamentashen ever

It's a little late for Purim, but I thought you all should know that I made the most delicious poppy-seed hamentashen ever. I was pretty excited to make these for a couple of reasons. First of all, I bought a huge bag of poppy seeds at the shuk the last time I was in Israel, and then let them sit in my freezer for a long time because I couldn't find a recipe that I loved to use them in. Secondly, last weekend I finally bought a hand mixer and a rolling pin! I know I can't be the only one who has ever tried to cream butter and sugar with an immersion blender, or roll out dough with a wine bottle. Actually, maybe I am the only one. Anyways, if you've ever tried to do either of these things, you know it's not awesome, and using the right tools for the job is infinitely superior.

So, right ingredients, right tools, right time of year. Time to find the right recipe. I read a lot of recipes, both in books and online, and in the end, decided to do a hybrid of two different recipes. I slightly modified the "Easy Hamentashen" dough from California Kosher, and adapted the filling from Smitten Kitchen.

Extra-Buttery, Soft and Delicious Hamentashen Dough

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
You know the drill. Cream the softened butter and sugar together. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract, and then the dry ingredients. The original recipe called for margarine instead of butter, but I think we all know that is bullshit, and it also wanted 1 tablespoon of orange juice and 1 tablespoon of grated orange rind, but who has time for that sort of thing? You are supposed to knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in saran wrap, and then chill in the fridge for 2 hours. In actuality, I left it in the fridge until well into the next day, and nothing bad happened. I found this dough a little sticky to work with, so flour your surface well when rolling it out.

Poppy Seed Filling of Awe

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • big splash of lemon juice
  • big splash of vanilla
  • big splash of bourbon
Again, the original recipe calls for fancy-pants ingredients like orange rind, fresh lemon juice, orange liqueur, brandy, butter, and on and on, but I just do not have that kind of patience or pantry. And the recipe said to first grind the poppy seeds into powder and then cook them in only one cup of milk, but that is not how we roll. Basically, roughly chop up the dried fruit and then cook it in milk with the poppy seeds and sugar until most of the liquid is gone. Then, add in the flavorings and keep cooking. It's ok if there's still a little liquid left at the end, because then you put this in the fridge to cool and forget about it for about a day, and the liquid will be gone by the time you remember.

I liked Shiksa in the Kitchen's instructions for forming hamentashen, so I followed them, more or less, and then baked my cookies in a 350 degree oven for really not a very long time, maybe 15 minutes. They got brown on the bottom and corners, but stayed soft and not-crunchy. And were delicious. Really. Everyone said so.