A Harmony of Flavors

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Ingredients - Using Tomatoes and Apples

Fall has been here in South Dakota for quite a while already. We barely had a summer at all. I had lots of tomatoes all summer, but mostly by buying them from the Farmers' Market. I did get some from my plants, hosted at my sister-in-law's house, but not all that many altogether. Temps kept dipping into 50s and even high 40s enough times all summer to really slow down tomato growth. So a couple of weeks back, when night temps were supposed to dip into freezing and below, my sister-in-law opted to just pick all remaining tomatoes and bring them in. Some, maybe most, will ripen eventually. Many larger ones were ripe when she brought a huge box to me a few days ago. 
Tomato Apple Balsamic Relish

Scrabbling to think of a recipe to use so many tomatoes all at once, I came up with an idea using tomatoes and apples together. It is a relish with some sweetness to it, and I feel it will be wonderful to use as an accompaniment to a nice strong cheese as an appetizer, or mixed with cream cheese to create a dip for crackers or tortilla chips. Another way I am looking forward to using this relish is to pour over chicken or pork chops while cooking, or just to serve as a relish "side" for these meats. 

Originally I was thinking in the vein of a chutney, and of course, this could also be used as a chutney; it has all the criteria. It is sweet but not overly; thick enough, but not completely thickened; has great texture. I used up 4 pounds of the tomatoes I had received, plus 1 pound of the apples that are STILL on my counter. And now I have 2 more large bags of apples from my sister-in-law's trees. One thing at a time!

In making this relish, I opted to remove the seeds from the tomatoes before chopping. Slice the tomatoes, and then over a sink or a bowl, just run a finger around the seed pockets, removing most of the liquid parts and keeping the meatier parts for chopping. Leaving in all the seeds would have required much longer cooking times to reduce the mixture to the thicker consistency I wanted. Also, I left skins on the tomatoes. If desired, you might plunge them into boiling water and peel them first.

I had lots if ideas for flavors to add to this relish. I used many of them, like balsamic vinegar, coriander seeds and even some Garam Masala. I wanted it to have a nice vinegary bite also, so along with the balsamic, I also added cider vinegar. For sweetness I used brown sugar. I wanted onions in this relish, but opted to cook them to golden before adding in any other ingredients. Pomegranate was a flavor I thought about, and went back and forth in my recipe creation: Should I...? Shouldn't I...? In the end I did add in a little pomegranate concentrate. I thought of using raisins or sultanas (white raisins), but finally opted not to use them. Altogether I was quite pleased with the outcome and am really looking forward to testing it in some of ways noted above.

Tomato Apple Balsamic Relish
Chopped apples added to golden onions

Makes 4 pints

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large onions [1 1/2 pounds / 6 cups], chopped
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound apples [about 3 apples or 3 1/2 cups], peeled, cored and chopped
4 pounds tomatoes, seeds removed, chopped very small (8 1/2 cups)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate, optional

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 - 2 teaspoons more salt, as needed

In a large nonreactive pot, melt the butter and olive oil together and add in the onions and the salt and saute slowly, over medium low heat, stirring often, for about 20 or more minutes, until they are soft and golden.

Have a large canning pot of boiling water to sterilize pint canning jars and rings.

While onions are caramelizing, prepare the tomatoes. Slice them and remove seeds, then chop the remaining "meat" of the tomatoes until you have 8 1/2 cups. Peel and core the apples and chop them into small bits. Once onions are caramelized, add in the tomatoes, apples, sugar, vinegar and pomegranate concentrate if using. Add in all the spices and 1 teaspoon of the remaining salt. Stir well, bring to a boil and cook over low boil for 40 or 45 minutes, until much of the liquids have cooked out. Once the mixture is beginning to look a bit like preserves, pack the relish into pint jars. Cover with sterile lids and rings. 

Process the jars in boiling water to cover for 10 minutes up to 1,000 feet, 15 minutes from 1,001 to 5,000 feet, and 20 minutes from 5,001 feet and up.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Great Fall Soup with Parsnips and Pears

White Chocolate and Triple Dark Chocolate Friendship Breads
Before getting to my soup idea and recipe, a couple of days back it again came time to make Friendship Bread from my active starter. I still have the starter on the counter, merrily bubbling away. This time, the flavors I used were chocolate and white "chocolate". I knew our friend Rich was coming to town for pheasant hunting season, which starts today up in these parts. Rich is a real, true, chocoholic. My husband and I - not so much. I had planned to take a starter to my friend Deb, and while doing that, also took her a loaf of the freshly baked Triple Chocolate Friendship Bread. Both of these breads turned out exceptionally wonderful. I prefer the white chocolate one myself, but I can also truly say the dark Triple Chocolate is also really good. For the white chocolate version, I used white chocolate instant pudding mixes and a whole bag of white (fake white chocolate) baking chips for the two loaves in the recipe. For the second batch with actual chocolate, I substituted 1/4 cup of cocoa for 1/4 of the flour in the recipe, used chocolate instant pudding mix and added in a whole bag of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate chips. Yum! We had them for dessert last evening.

On to the Soup!

I saw a recipe for a parsnip and pear soup in my latest Food and Wine Magazine, but the flavor ingredients didn't appeal to me. The thought of parsnips, which I love, and pears, which I don't love, but tolerate, sounded good together. I like a little natural sweetness mixed in with savory at times, and this seemed a good combo. I also wanted to use fennel bulb, if I could find one (last time I looked, there were none at either of two stores I tried). I thought leeks would be a nice idea, to keep the onion flavor, with less harshness to this delicate flavor combo. However, I had not planned to go out of my way to buy leeks. That said, I already had some in my fridge, after having used them during my cooking demo at the Methodist Church; see my blog of October 5th. I was demonstrating where to cut the leeks, how much of the light green parts to use, and how to clean them of dirt and grit.

Parsnip, Pear and Leek Soup
I generally have a very developed ability to combine flavors in my mind, making it easy to make a really flavorful final dish. While I loved the whole idea of parsnips and pears, I was having a little bit of trouble with combining those flavors in my mind. Still, I went forward with the recipe yesterday. I did find fennel bulb, so that did become a part of the mix. When sauteing the leeks I used butter, as it gives such great flavor, although olive oil or any less flavored cooking oil would work fine. I used a little white wine, cooked to complete evaporation, just to give the flavors a boost. The wine could be omitted. I used unsalted chicken stock, though a vegetable stock or even plain water could be substituted. These alternatives would make the recipe vegan. It is already gluten free, egg free and easily dairy free if using oil instead of butter. If using salted stock, do be careful before adding salt to the recipe.

One other thing: I left the skin on the pears. They may be peeled if desired, but I felt that since I was going to puree the soup, the skin would not affect texture, and only add in a little fiber, never a bad thing.

Parsnip, Pear and Leek Soup

makes about 10 cups

3 tablespoons butter (or oil of choice)
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced in 1/2-inch bits, or 3 cups
2 stalks celery, chopped, about 1 cup
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, about 2 cups
1 - 2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons salt, or as needed
1 hefty sprig of thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine, optional
2 Bartlett pears, cored, chopped, 3 cups
3 - 4 parsnips, peeled, chopped, to make 3 cups
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1 bay leaf
4 cups unsalted stock or water

vegetables and thyme in pan to saute  |  remaining ingredients added to pan
In a 4 to 6 quart pot, melt the butter and add in the leeks, celery, fennel, garlic and the thyme sprig. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt (this brings out sweetness and moisture). Allow the vegetables to "sweat" and soften for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the wine, if using, and allow the mixture to cook until all the wine has evaporated, about 8 or 10 minutes more. While vegetables are sauteing and wine reduces, prepare the pears and parsnips, then add them to the pot once the wine has evaporated, along with the tarragon, bay leaf and stock. Bring the mixture to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig and puree the soup in two batches. Serve immediately or make up to 3 days ahead and reheat slowly before serving. 

Lots of layers of flavor made this soup really spectacular. There was a lot going on, with no real ability to discern which vegetable or fruit was the main player. Like a fine wine, it just kept on giving. I highly recommend this soup!  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall Apples and Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Fall brings lots of apples. A sudden deluge. What to do with all of them is the question. I still have a lot of apples both dried slices and frozen slices from last years bounty. And here we are in Fall again. Recently I made an Apple Fritter Loaf - twice. It was so amazingly good. With the bag of fresh apples still on the counter, a couple of days ago I wondered about making an upside down cake. I have made peach and pineapple and even spiced pear upside down cakes, but all with cooked/canned fruit. Thinking about apples, I couldn't imagine any reason that using fresh apples in an upside down cake. While the cake bakes, there is plenty of time for them to cook through. 
Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake, just turned out onto the plate

Granted, this cake barely used up two apples, total, so it is not really about using up lots of apples. Still, it uses a couple, so that's something. Instead of just mixing the usual butter and brown sugar for the topping (which goes in the bottom of the pan), I added in some dark corn syrup, cinnamon and vanilla, to further approximate the "caramel" part of this cake. In all, it was simple to make and unctuously good, with the caramel dripping down the sides and soaked into the cake. This will certainly not be the last time I make this cake! 

Place apples rounded edge down
One thing to keep in mind when placing the apple slices onto the caramel: if you set them cut edge down, this will be the edge that shows when the cake is turned out and the bottom becomes the top. So, when setting the apple slices onto the caramel, set them in with the outer, rounded edge down into the caramel. layering them with the sharper inner edges up. 

Nuts, raisins or even dates could be added to the cake, or layered in with the apples on the caramel, if desired. I was going for simple caramel apple flavor this first time.This cake can easily be made gluten free. Simply substitute your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour mixture and add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum with the dry ingredients.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

makes one 9-inch cake

A slice of Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons water

2 apples, peeled, sliced into thin wedges lengthwise

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

CARAMEL: In a small saucepan, combine all the caramel ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer for a few minutes, until the sugar has melted. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray. For complete insurance the cake will come out cleanly, line the bottom of the pan with parchment and spray the parchment. Pour in the caramel sauce. Set the apple slices in a pattern in the caramel sauce and set aside. 

CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). In a bowl, sift or whisk together the first 6 dry ingredients and set aside. In another mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in 2 or 3 batches, stirring well after each. Do not over beat. Using a spatula or spoon, slide small dollops of the thick batter gently over the apples, in order to not disturb the apple pattern. Once all the batter is on top, very gently spread the batter to cover the apples and reach the edges of the pan. Bake the cake for 40 or more minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake rest in the pan for about 5 minutes. Have a serving plate ready. Invert the plate on top of the cake pan. Using hot pads, grip both the cake pan and the serving plate firmly and flip them over, so the cake falls onto the serving plate. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Pizza is a Hit

Buffalo Wings can conjure up mental images of excruciatingly hot flavors, inspiring a fear of trying them out. Or, such is the way my husband has imagined, to date. In all the many years since these wings have taken over the appetizer menu everywhere, my husband has yet to even taste them.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza, fresh from the oven
Now, I can understand that, up to a point. I mean, if you cannot tolerate almost any heat in a food, then this fear would keep one from trying something out. But really, when Iasked him yesterday if he had EVER tried Buffalo Wings, he said no. Absolutely. 

As for myself, I think I only ever once ordered Buffalo Wings once as an appetizer somewhere, and I really loved them, flavor-wise. I am not overly keen on messing with bones and eating too much of the skin. Not because of health purposes. Too much of that rubbery skin in my mouth just gives me the willies, a little hangup of my own. I have, in some distant past, even bought frozen Buffalo Wings when I craved them. I also love the flavors, done up in a sandwich or wrap. In Florida we ate often at Beef O'Brady's, a sports bar with exceptionally good food. I ate their "Buffalo Chicken Wrap" more times than any other thing on their menu. It was delightfully good. I also have made a version of the Buffalo Chicken Dip for parties a couple of times, and which my husband also never tried.
One beautiful slice of Buffalo Chicken Pizza

So I was thinking of those flavors last week, and trying to think of a way to present them. I had used Sweet Baby Ray's Buffalo Wing Sauce and Marinade in the past for the dip, and really like the flavor. I haven't used any other brand, since I know that while this one has a little heat, it is not fiery. I thought about trying a version of the Buffalo Chicken Lasagna I am seeing around the internet recently. That was my plan, but the more I thought about it, the more I started leaning toward pizza instead. So yesterday was pizza day.

First off, I wanted to make just one pizza. I know I could freeze the remainder of a recipe for pizza dough, or just keep it refrigerated till needed, but decided to make a small recipe and just make one large pizza. The recipe I created will make one 15 inch pizza with a nicely puffy crust. Doubling the recipe will make (obviously) 2 large pizzas, or three smaller ones. 

Pizza Dough for One Large Pizza

Start about 4+ hours prior to serving
dough still sticking to bottom of bowl

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water, 80 - 90 degrees
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 to 1 1/4 cup flour
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 - 2 tablespoons water, only if needed
the Sponge (above)

Sponge: In a heavy duty mixer bowl, or in another large bowl, combine the flour and yeast and mix together. Add the lukewarm water and oil and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (80 degrees) for 1 1/2 hours, until bubbly. (When in a cooler climate, setting the bowl in the oven with just the oven light on creates a nice warm environment. Some oven lights are too hot and will begin to cook the dough. In this case, leave the oven door ajar so some of the heat escapes.) 

Dough drizzled with Buffalo Wing Sauce
DOUGH: Once bubbly, if the sponge was made in a heavy duty mixer bowl, add in one cup of flour and salt to taste. Set the dough hook in place and begin kneading on low speed until combined, 2 - 3 minutes. If making by hand, add the flour and salt to the sponge and mix by hand. Once well mixed, determine if more flour is needed. If the climate is very dry, you may even have to add a tablespoon of water or two. Once the flour and salt are mostly incorporated, knead for 4 to 5 minutes more with the dough hook, or 5 to 7 minutes by hand, until the dough is smoothly elastic and not too sticky. In the mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom. Grease a bowl and set the dough in, turning once to grease all sides and set in a warm place to rise for another 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size. 

The dough can be patted out and placed on a cornmeal coated piece of parchment (to later slide on to a pizza stone) or on a greased 15 inch pizza pan. If the dough wants to spring back too much, allow it to rest for 10 minutes and try again, stretching to desired diameter. Top with your choice of flavorings and bake at 475 degrees (450 on Convection Bake) for 13 to 15 minutes.

My husband and I both love blue cheese, so I went ahead and used blue cheese dressing and blue cheese crumbles for my Buffalo Chicken Pizza. If you are not a fan of blue cheese, use Ranch dressing and another cheese crumbled over top, such as Feta or even goat cheese crumbles.

All toppings in place, ready for baking

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

makes one 15-inch pizza

pizza dough (above)
1/3 cup Buffalo Wing Sauce (not plain hot sauce)
2 cups cooked chicken, diced (rotisserie chicken is great)
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
1 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 cup Blue cheese dressing
4 ounces Blue cheese crumbles

Drizzle the Buffalo Wing Sauce over the pizza dough. Top with the chicken, celery and green pepper. Dot with the Blue cheese dressing and then the Blue cheese crumbles. Bake in a preheated 475 degree oven (450 degrees on Convection Bake) for 13 to 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

I am going to be making this again, and soon. My husband LOVED it, though it stretched his spice/heat tolerance to its limits. The flavors were sublime. But.... 

A couple of notes. I coated the pizza dough with olive oil. I used 1/2 cup of Buffalo Wing Sauce. The center of the finished pizza was a bit soggy. Next time I am not using the olive oil and I am using the 1/3 cup of sauce as listed in the recipe above. My hope is that the sauce can soak into the crust a little bit this way. The center of the pizza was too wet, so the other thought is to use the lowest oven rack to bake the pizza rather then the second level up, in hope it will better brown the bottom. I baked the pizza on a pan, so possibly setting it on a parchment and pizza stone would have yielded better crust-baking results. Despite this, the recipe is well worth making again. 

October 18, 2014 Pizza Repeat with Changes
Calphalon 15-inch Perforated Pizza Pan

To amend the recipe above, I made this pizza a second time and followed my idea, using 1/3 cup of the buffalo wing sauce, over a pizza dough with no olive oil. I did use my large, 15-inch perforated pizza pan. I lined the pan with parchment, though this would not be strictly necessary. I used the bottom oven rack to bake the pizza, for the full 15 minutes. The crust came out perfectly crispy, with a most satisfying crunch, despite the sauce and Blue Cheese Dressings. The flavors were equally great the second time, but the crust came out as it should be. I truly recommend this perforated pizza pan!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What to do with Friendship Bread Starter

I am going to leave off the "Amish" part of the title, because my understanding is that it had nothing to do with the Amish. Regardless "Friendship Bread" and the starters that are passed along to friends have been around for a long time. This is my third go-round with it, my first being back in the 1980s, when it was called a "Herman" Starter. 

This bread used the addition of 1/2 teaspoon butterscotch flavor and a bag of chocolate covered caramel chips
The second time I worked with this Friendship Bread Starter was about 4 or 5 years ago, when I was visiting my sister Barb, in Tucson. She had a starter going and was making the breads and coffee cakes repeatedly. She has a family with a lot of friends and extended families, and always has someone visiting at meals. Since my only experience prior to this was back in the 1980s, I really had little recollection of what I had done with the Herman starter, so Barb's breads were a revelation. Moist and delicious and with varying flavors as she would switch out the instant pudding flavors and other additions. The basic bread recipe calls for 1 or 2 vanilla instant pudding mixes to be added, along with cinnamon. Barb varied this, at times using Butterscotch instant pudding and nuts, or pistachio instant pudding and adding pistachios. Dates or other dried fruits can be added, and the spice does not always have to be cinnamon (though everyone loves cinnamon).

About a week and a half ago, while  helping out at The Granary, at the Dacotah Prairie Museum's Fall History Festival, someone brought in a few bags of Friendship Bread Starter (FBS, from here on out), with the instructions for feeding and making the bread. It had been a while since last making and working with the FBS, so I took one of the starters and the instructions, eager to come home and see how they compared with Barb's recipes. 

While Barb originally got her recipe online, she made some small adjustments, in order to avoid constantly looking for someone new and unsuspecting whom on to foist a FBS. This is a great way to find all your friends are now unavailable! On Day 10, when adding in the last starter ingredients, prior to dividing the starter into "one cup for bread, one cup to keep and 2 or 3 cups to give away," she added in an extra half cup of the milk, sugar and flour. What Barb did then was use 2 cups of starter per loaf, where most recipes call for only one cup per loaf. She made two bread recipes, using 4 total cups of the starter, making 4 loaves, thereby leaving only 1 cup of starter to begin the cycle again for herself. Freezing the spare loaves was one way to keep the loaves, and the other is to give them away - a much more palatable option than gifting the starter, for most people.

Using pistachio instant pudding + 1 cup of chopped pistachios + 1/4 teaspoon pistachio flavoring

What Else Can I do With my FBS?

All that aside, if you are interested in making the Friendship Bread, or Herman Bread, making the starter at home is simple enough: yeast, flour, sugar and milk. The recipes abound on the internet. I wondered though: 
  1. Can the Starter be made gluten-free?
  2. The breads and coffee cakes are so sweet; is there anything savory possible with this FBS?
Yesterday while visiting at the Dacotah Prairie Museum, I asked Marianne, who is gluten intolerant, if she knew if the FBS could be made gluten free? She had no idea. Okay, I had planned to go online and look anyway. This morning I first went online to search for Herman Bread. While no place I looked seems to equate the Herman starter with the "Amish" FBS, for all intents and purposes, it is the same thing. When I looked up "Herman Bread Starter or Amish Friendship Bread", I came to a site called Friendship Bread Kitchen, exclusively dedicated to all things Friendship Bread related. While perusing the site, comparing Barb's recipes and seeing what differences there were, I found a whole section on making the starter and the breads gluten-free!

I am not gluten intolerant myself, though I know people who are. Marianne at the Dacotah Prairie Museum is one of them, so when baking something to take there, if it is made with anything gluten, she cannot taste it. As a cook and baker, I love so much to give food to people. When someone cannot even try it, I feel bad. When making things to take to the Museum, I try to always keep that in mind and make all or at least some things gluten free where possible. For this reason, I try and keep this concept in mind. I keep a variety of GF flours and all-purpose GF flour blends on hand, just so I can experiment. I know my kitchen is not a totally GF kitchen, so if baking for others this must be kept in mind. A very gluten intolerant person would likely have difficulties with my foods, even though I try to be careful. Thankfully Marianne is not so extreme and can try the things I make.

As to the third part of that question, about making savory foods with FBS, this is also covered on the same site noted above. I want to take the time to peruse the recipes at leisure, but just at a quick glance I found two things I want to try; some Cheesy Dill Rolls and Cornbread. There are others. LOTS of others on that site. Once I begin experimenting, other ideas will come, and that's my plan. 

For now, in an effort to try and lessen the amount of sugar and oil, I used Barb's 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup oil, rather than a full cup of oil per FB Recipe. The starter itself is terribly sweet already, so I also lessened the full cup of sugar to 3/4 cup, though I believe it might be possible to bring that down to 2/3 cup or even a half cup. I will be experimenting with that also. 

Friendship Bread Starter

1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl. While yeast is activating, whisk together the sugar and flour in a non-metal bowl (glass or plastic). Add in the milk and the yeast and stir together with a wooden or plastic spoon. No metal utensils should touch the starter. Place this mixture into a gallon sized zip top bag and seal it closed. Mark the bag with the date and leave it on the counter at room temperature.

On days 2, 3 and 4, mash the bag around a bit. If the bag becomes very bloated, let the air out and re-seal. 

On day 5, mix together and add to the bag:
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

Mash the bag around well, then leave it on the counter for days 6, 7, 8 and 9. 

On day 10, pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic bowl. Add in:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk

Stir well, then remove 1 cup of the mixture to a new gallon sized zip top bag, mark with the date, seal and set aside.

Measure out 2 cups of the remaining starter to make Friendship Bread. There should be about 2 cups remaining in the bowl. Use the next 2 cups to make a second batch of Friendship Bread, thereby using the whole amount, or divide the remainder into 2 gallon sized zip top bags and give these away to two others, along with the instructions.

Friendship Bread (and Variations)

makes 2 loaves (make 2 recipes to use all the starter)

My Pistachio-Pistachio Loaves, fresh from the oven
2 cups Friendship Bread Starter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (snack cup size)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional, depending on flavor profile
2 (3.5 oz) packets vanilla instant pudding mix, (change instant pudding flavor for variation
1 cup nuts of choice, optional
1/2 cup raisins, dates or other dried fruit, optional
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the last 2 ingredients in a small bowl. Grease or spray with cooking spray 2 large loaf pans. Use the sugar/cinnamon mixture to "dust" the loaf pans. Reserve any leftover to sprinkle on top later.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (300 on Convection Bake).

In a bowl, combine and whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and instant puddings. In a separate bowl, stir together the Friendship Bread Starter, oil, applesauce, sugar, vanilla, eggs and milk until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix well. Add nuts or dried fruit if using. Divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle any remaining sugar ad cinnamon mixture (from dusting the pans) over top. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes before turning out.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Preparing for Another Cooking Demo

I was contacted last week by Vicky Frederickson, who wanted to have me do a cooking demonstration this coming Thursday for the First United Methodist Church here in Aberdeen. I am not affiliated with this church, but apparently my cooking demos around town are gaining a good reputation. It appears the church ladies hold about 4 of these cooking demonstrations, divided between late Fall and early Spring. It is on a volunteer basis, again, but instead of me having to do all the cooking for about 60 people, I only demonstrate how to make the dishes, while the lady's group will do the actual cooking for the attendees, using my recipes. When she told me what this demonstration's food selections would be, I was relieved; soup and sandwich. 

I mean. What could be easier, right?

Okay, so while I was not overly thrilled at another cooking demo in and of itself, this will not be so bad. A lot of carting things to and fro seems unavoidable. I will need to take a large pot, all the food, knives, cutting board, food processor, blender, measuring cups, bowls, spatulas, ladle and the list of little things is long. I do hope they have a cart to transport all this stuff inside. I am meeting with Vicki to see the venue tomorrow. 

Uniquely Fine Chicken Salad, served on Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread
Right off the bat, I decided on making my Uniquely Fine Chicken Salad for the sandwich part of the equation. As for soup, I am going to make the Butternut Squash and Apple Soup I posted here just a few days ago. I had made this soup previously, but not for a very long while, so it was great to do this again and get some nice photos. Plus, just brushing up on the recipe and technique, so it is fresh in my mind for the demo. 

And then again, I sometimes just cannot help myself. Vicky asked about what kind of bread to use for the sandwiches. My first thought was "oh please, NOT plain white sandwich bread!". This is probably one of my worst nightmares, shudder! She mentioned the possibility that since someone was making a trek to Sam's Club in Sioux Falls this week, maybe little croissants? Which was a perfectly fine idea. The chicken salad on a croissant is a most excellent idea, in fact. And then I opened my mouth. Again. I suggested that since I make bread all the time, I could certainly make some bread for the sandwiches. I was considering that I have eaten my Uniquely Fine Chicken Salad on Rye Bread and it was fantastic, so I suggested a rye bread of some kind, along with some white bread, so there is a choice. 

Marbled Rye, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice
And so, this is where I found myself this weekend; making breads. I made the rye bread first. It is another recipe from Peter Reinhart's, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, called Marbled Rye. I have wanted to try this for some time and hadn't gotten to it yet, but now was the time. It is one of the easier breads in this book, as it required no starter dough of any kind. Just make the dough, let it rise, shape, bake. I decided to leave out any caraway seeds, as I believe this is the flavor many object to when they think "rye bread." While it uses only about half the amount of rye flour as white, it makes a very nicely flavored bread, with a really great texture, firm, while still moist and tender. The only thing distinguishing the dark part of the bread is the use of burnt caramel color from King Arthur Flour, which I just happened to have in the cabinet! I bought it a while back, for precisely this kind of use, but hadn't gotten to it, as I said. 

Pyrex "Bake a Round" glass tubes
What I did choose to do is bake this bread in two glass tubes, making a nice round loaf and keeping the slices in all the same size. I sliced off the ends to take these photos (above and below). It had grown out the ends of the tubes a bit, so slicing off the ends made it easier to see what the slices will look like. Among the various things my sister-in-law brought me earlier in the year were these Pyrex glass tubes to bake breads in. They are probably about 4 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter, making what will be a nice size for sandwiches, without being too large. I had two of these tubes. While washing them after the bread was done, one slipped and just barely touched the counter top, shattering into tiny shards! Great Scott! When I told my husband, he promptly went to eBay and found a couple more of these for me!
My two kinds of bread for the cooking demo

Next I though maybe a nice sourdough bread would be good for the white bread part of the sandwiches. I used the same recipe as I had before, for 100% Sourdough Bread, which I wrote about in my June 1st blog post, but I believe last time I made this, I did add in a little bit of yeast to make the process move along more rapidly. This time I did not add yeast but used only the starter, which was plenty active, but the temperatures were extremely chilly that day and the house was far cooler than it had been. It rose in the time suggested in Peter Reinhart's recipe, but it just didn't quite grow as much as last time. No pretty rounded loaves this time. The bread tasted great, but it was wrong for what I wanted. Back to the drawing board.

Farm Fresh Eggs from the Farmers' Market
I finally just went with my usual adaptation of my Mom's and Grandma's bread, which I call My Kitchen Aid Mixer Bread. Looking for fairly rounded loaves, I made two long loaves in my French bread pans. I braided the bread and it grew beautifully. I now have more than enough bread for the chicken salad cooking demo. While baking this weekend, I also had some farm fresh eggs I bought at the Farmers' Market this past week. I just love the different sizes and colors. 

I made a repeat of the Apple Fritter Loaf that came out so excellently. We ate it at the luncheon held at ReMax Preferred Choice in the Gerharter Building, where my husband is currently working. They hold a luncheon every few weeks, potluck style. I usually bring dessert! This particular dessert was gone very quickly. That first loaf was made using a bag of 2 cups of frozen apples from last season and was excellent. We were given a bag of fresh apples that day at the luncheon, so I made this second loaf with these fresh apples to see what differences there would be. I can say it made little, if any, difference to how the loaf came out. Both were excellent. 

Tomorrow, I am going to make some Amish Friendship Breads. I got the starter a week ago Saturday while at the Granary volunteering at the Living History Fall Festival, held by the Dacotah Prairie Museum. Someone brought various bags of starter to be given out for free. It's been a while since I made this Amish Friendship Bread. Last time was after visiting with my sister Barb in Tucson, some years back. It is surely baking weather here, so that works well.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Swoon For this Apple Fritter Loaf

I saw a recipe online for "Pull Apart Apple Fritter Bread"; I even posted it on Facebook. It looked and sounded absolutely wonderful . . . except for the fact that it used one of those tubes of store-bought biscuits. I used to really love those biscuits, but as time went on, I began to react badly to the amount of sodium in most pre-packaged foods. This catapulted me even farther into the creed of "make everything from scratch" myself. I was already mostly there, after learning to cook in Guatemala in the 1970s, when there were no frozen foods, very few canned foods and almost nothing else pre-packaged. Returning to the States I reveled (for a while) in all the bounty of foods available. Once the reaction to sodium set in, I tried to stick to using foods where I could read the labels.

My Apple Fritter Loaf, ready to serve

The kind of recipe calling for one of those tubes of biscuits would be completely out, for me. I saw other recipes where a cake of a sort was used, mixing in the apples and sugar. This sounded better. I have one recipe for Luscious Bundt Coffee Cake that is just my most favorite. Unfailingly tender and moist and packed with flavor, I used a modified version of this recipe to create my own Apple Fritter Loaf.

To define "Apple Fritter," I mean the ones sold in many grocery bakeries, some gas stations and various other places. Those irregular lumps of fried goodness, with little apple bits and cinnamon, and drenched in glaze. Yum! I used to love eating those things! I even found a recipe that sounded like it might just come out like those store bought apple fritters, too. However, the catch is that I absolutely abhor deep frying. I do not abhor the results! I love French fries, apple fritters, and once in a great while, fried chicken. I just hate the mess of grease that spatters and fills the air, coating everything in a sticky film. And cleaning up afterwards, with the spent oil. I never know what to do with it. So I just do not deep fry anything at all. One of my foibles, I guess. 

Apples given to me today
Last Fall I was given so many apples I didn't know what to do with them all. I used my peeler/corer/slicer and made bags and bags of apples to freeze for either pie or my Best Apple Crisp, Ever. I bagged some smaller amounts for other uses like the Butternut Squash and Apple Soup recipe I posted yesterday and this Apple Fritter Loaf. Aside from my Best Apple Crisp, Ever recipe, I have never found any apple recipe that came close to that goodness . . .until now. I will most certainly be making this recipe again, and really soon, too. It is apple season right now, and I just received my first bag of apples today. A couple of these will go into my next batch. I took the loaf I made yesterday to a luncheon today. I had not tasted it, so I was really praying this experiment was a good one. It would be excellent as a breakfast or brunch item, or as a dessert at any time.

I needn't have worried; it was most spectacularly fantastic. Best of all, though I grant you I have not had a store bought apple fritter for years now - this loaf tasted like those apple fritters in my memory. Here is what I did:

Apple Fritter Loaf

makes one 9 x 5-inch loaf; 8 to 12 slices


2 cups apples, peeled, cored, chopped very small
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
milk or cream to make a not-too thick glaze

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. I lined the pan with parchment, though I believe it was not needed. Still, insurance!

In a small bowl, combine the apples with the 2 tablespoons of sugar, the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Mix well and set aside.

In another small bowl, combine the sugar topping ingredients and set aside.

Make exaggerated figure-8s in the batter with a table knife
In another bowl, whisk together the first 4 cake ingredients and set aside. In a mixer bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined, and then add the sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Pour in the dry ingredients in about 3 batches, mixing well after each addition.

This batter is relatively thick. Using a spatula or a large spoon, place about half the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing it to the edges. Top this evenly with half the apple mixture. Place bits of the remaining cake batter on top of the apples and smooth as well as possible. Top evenly with the remaining apple mixture. 
Hot from the oven with half the glaze

Now sprinkle the Sugar Topping over top of the apples. With a table knife or icing spatula, make exaggerated figure eights all along the loaf, letting the knife touch bottom. This swirls the topping as well as the apples all through the cake, giving the apple fritter look and consistency. Bake the loaf for 50 to 60 minutes. It should test done with a toothpick or knife just as with any cake. 

While loaf is baking, mix together the Glaze ingredients. Once out of the oven, drizzle the hot loaf with half the glaze, allowing it to soak in, as shown at right. Save the remaining glaze for when the loaf has cooled completely and drizzle it over top.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.