Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Twice-Baked Potato Pie

This potato pie is from Gluten-Free Girl. We thought it was delicious, and it’s a really wonderful, warming winter dish (I know that Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow yesterday, but winter ain’t over just yet). It’s easy to make, albeit somewhat long. The problem I ran into making this recipe was that there was no weight specified for the potatoes, simply “6 large russet potatoes”. So I ended up with “Texas-sized taters” (I’m not even kidding, it said so right on the package), but they weighed about 1 lb. each and that was way, way too much! They weren’t even cooked all the way through after 90 minutes in the oven… I used about half for the pie (and the rest became a side dish for the remainder of the week), so I’m going to write 3 lbs. potatoes total below. Even then, the pie was very good, so with the right amount of potatoes (and concentrated flavor), it would have been really great!

For the potato crust and mashed potatoes
3 lbs. russet potatoes (see note above), divided
1 large egg, beaten
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1 cup lactose-free whole milk
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
4 oz. lactose-free cream cheese
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Pierce the potatoes with a fork and wrap them in foil. Bake until they are soft to the touch, about 60 minutes (for an average-sized potato).

When the potatoes are done, unwrap the foil and run about 1 lb. of the potatoes through a ricer. (This really does give the best texture, although you could mash them if you don’t have a ricer. I ended up getting one because I saw too many recipes like this and I haven’t regretted my investment.) Mix the riced potatoes with the egg; season to taste. Press the mixture into a greased pie plate, making a crust. Bake in the oven until the crust begins to harden and slightly brown, about 20 minutes.

Rice the remaining potatoes and put them in a large bowl. Set a large saucepan over medium heat. Heat the milk and butter until the butter has melted and the milk is simmering. Fold the milk and butter into the potatoes until the potatoes are creamy and the milk is fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cream cheese and olive oil; mix until all is combined. Set a kitchen towel over the bowl and put it in a warm place (for me, that was my microwave with the door ajar).

For the rest of the filling
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
5 slices bacon
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (I had about half as much)
1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar
1 cup grated parmesan
½ bunch green onions, sliced

Set a medium-sized skillet on medium heat. Add the oil and bacon. Render the bacon until the bacon is crispy and the fat is glistening.

Once the bacon is cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion and garlic into the pan and place it back onto the heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and garlic are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme. Once you smell the thyme, add the kale and stir it around the pan. When the kale is wilted, and the bacon back in, then fold this mixture into the mashed potatoes along with half of the cheddar and parmesan (save the rest of the cheese for topping).

To assemble the pie, put the mashed potato mixture into the shell gently, without destroying the shell. Top with the remaining cheeses and bake until it has a lovely golden brown color on top, about 10-15 minutes.

Top with green onions and serve. (This can be made a day ahead. To reheat, simple cover with foil and bake at 400 °F for about 20 minutes. I’m throwing in a picture of a slice on its side so you can see how flaky the crust came out – it really works.)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Deep-Dark-Chocolate Pudding Cake

This is the second recipe I try from Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar (the first one was vanilla honey rice pudding). I’m a sucker for molten chocolate anything, so her low-sugar version intrigued me. The very first dessert of the sort that I made was Nigella Lawson’s Choco-Hoto-Pots, but in my recollection, those are very sweet, so I was looking to update the recipe a bit. Joanne Chang’s chocolate pudding cakes only contain the sugar already in the chocolate, and they are gluten-free to boot; I only adapted them to be lactose-free. We really liked these! I didn’t miss the sugar at all.

10 oz. (280 g.) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup vegan margarine
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
½ cup coconut milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 °F. Butter six 4-oz ramekins.

Bring a saucepan filled partway with water to a very gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Place the chocolate and margarine in a medium metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl over (not touching) the barely simmering water in the saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and margarine are completely melted and smooth.

In a large bowl, by hand with a whisk, whip the eggs and egg yolks. Whip in the coconut milk, salt and vanilla. Whisk in the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.

Divide batter evenly among the prepared ramekins and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until the outsides of the cakes start to set and feel firm to the touch and the insides are still wiggly and soft when you poke them in the center. (You can bake the cakes further, but if the center is no longer runny, they aren’t really pudding cakes.) Remove the cakes from the oven and let them sit for a few minutes to firm up.

Run a knife around the cakes and carefully invert onto serving plates. Serve immediately. (In my case, I took these pictures immediately, but since the Little Prince can’t eat anything too hot and since the Engineer likes his pudding cakes cold, I held off on serving them. Once these cakes are refrigerated, they become very dense because of all the chocolate they contain.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Vegan Truffles

I love truffles. It’s like dark chocolate, taken to the next level. But I hadn’t gotten around to making my own, even though I’m stockpiling recipes. Not only do I need my truffles to be lactose-free, but I also really don’t feel like tempering chocolate… Enter Minimalist Baker’s truffles, which basically only call for two ingredients and, as it turns out, are stupid-easy to make. This is a great recipe for beginners! We loved them over the holidays; I’m probably only going to make them if we have guests, and my waistline will thank me.

Of course, you can use this recipe as a jumping-off point: replace the vanilla with finely chopped orange zest, add a tablespoon of nut butter or a shot of espresso, roll them in hemp seeds or coconut flakes or cookie crumbs, sprinkle on some vanilla fleur de sel… Personally, I like my truffles to melt in the mouth, so rolling them in cocoa was the way to go for me. For the chocolate, use something that you like eating on its own (I used Ghiradelli, though I can’t remember if it was semi-sweet or bittersweet – it isn’t vegan, but I can digest it just fine).

9 oz. (255 g. / 1 ¼ cup) dark chocolate, very finely chopped
7 Tbsp. coconut milk, well shaken
½ tsp. vanilla extract (optional, but recommended)
¼ cup (24 g.) unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder, for coating (optional, but recommended)

Place finely chopped chocolate in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Finely chopped chocolate will melt more easily and facilitate the process.

In a separate small mixing bowl, add coconut milk and microwave until very warm but not boiling, about 25 seconds (alternatively, heat in a small saucepan over medium heat until just starting to simmer).

Immediately add coconut milk to chocolate and loosely cover with a cooking lid or towel to trap the heat in. Do not touch for 5 minutes, then lift cover and use a mixing spoon to gently stir, trying not to incorporate air. Continue stirring until completely melted, creamy and smooth. (If, for some reason, you have unmelted pieces left, you can microwave the mixture in 10-second increments until completely smooth – just be careful not to overcook or it can affect the integrity of the chocolate).

Add vanilla at this time and stir (optional).

Set the mixture in the refrigerator to chill uncovered for 2-3 hours, or until almost completely solid. A good test is dipping a knife into the middle of the bowl to see if any chocolate sticks. If it comes out mostly clean, it’s ready to scoop. If there’s still wet chocolate in the center, continue refrigerating.

Once the mixture is chilled and firm, prepare a small dish of cocoa powder for rolling (optional).

Use a tablespoon-sized scoop (I used my cookie scoop) or a tablespoon to scoop out small balls, then use your hands to gently but quickly roll/form the chocolate into balls. Toss in cocoa powder to coat and shake off excess (or leave bare), then set on a parchment-lined serving dish. Continue until all chocolate is scooped. There should be about 16 truffles, depending on the size of your scoop. (If any of the chocolate near the center of the bowl was too soft to form, refrigerate that portion for a bit longer before proceeding.)

Enjoy truffles immediately, or refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight. This allows them to set and firm up. Store truffles covered in the refrigerator for best freshness. To serve, let come to room temperature for 10-15 minutes for optimum creaminess.

On a side note, I decided to transfer my dark chocolate almond butter cups to a bite-sized format by using silicone candy molds. This was my first attempt and I ended up making the filling a bit too big (it was almost the diameter of the molds, but in hindsight, it should have been even smaller). As a result, the chocolate didn’t always settle all the way around each candy properly – I’ll know better next time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Duck Fat Cookies

I finally, finally got around to making David Lebovitz’s duck fat cookies for Christmas. They’re the kind of cookies where you roll the dough into cylinders, then chill it before slicing it into discs for baking. I sliced the first cylinder into 15 cookies, but unfortunately, they spread enormously on the baking sheet and looked like the sad ghosts of cookies-that-might-have-been. I was expecting *some* spread, especially since I had used margarine instead of butter, but not to the point that the cookies would be flat and burnt and very unappetizing (even though the thicker ones were really very good). So for the second batch, I let the dough come to room temperature and mixed it with additional flour and baking soda (the proportions being based on one of my mother’s recipes), then shaped it and chilled it again before slicing it. Now *those* cookies were fantastic, so that’s the version I’m giving you below. The yield should be around 3 dozen cookies, depending on how thinly you slice them – mine tend to be on the thicker side.

¼ cup (30 g.) dried currants or chopped dried cherries (I used the latter)
1 Tbsp. Armagnac, Cognac, or brandy (I used apple juice)
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) chilled duck fat
4 Tbsp. (2 oz./55 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used vegan margarine)
¾ cup (150 g.) granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups (175 g.) all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
½ tsp. baking soda

In a small saucepan, heat the currants over low heat with the liquor until the liquid is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a bowl, cream the duck fat, butter, and sugar on low speed just until well combined. Mix in the vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add it to the fat-butter-sugar mixture, stirring until the dough comes together. Then mix in the dried fruit pieces.

On a lightly floured countertop, knead the dough briefly until smooth. Shape it into a rectangle, and cut the dough in half lengthwise. Roll each piece of dough into a log 6 inches (15cm) long. (I did this differently because I started by separating the dough into two, then rolled each log until the diameter pleased me. My logs were roughly twice as long, so I’m assuming the diameter of my cookies was smaller.) If the dried fruit makes the dough crumble a bit, press the dough back together and continue to roll it into cylinders. Wrap each log in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 2 months.)

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 °F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Slice the dough into ¼-inch (0.75 cm) rounds and set them on the baking sheets, evenly spaced. Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheets midway through, for 12 minutes, until golden brown across the top. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheets until crisp. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Winter Salad with Kale and Pomegranate

For a few Christmases in a row, my sister has made this kale and pomegranate salad that we really like, so I made it this year when my parents spent Christmas Eve with us in Texas. Maybe subconsciously, it was a way to have my sister at the table with us. It’s also a great salad for Christmas, because not only is it red and green, but it has a great mix of acidic and sweet that can help offset some of the richer dishes of the holiday. I only prepare the apple right before serving; the salad keeps well in the fridge, dressing separately, and the almonds should be kept in an airtight container at room temperature. I served it with meat pie and butternut squash sweet potato casserole.

For the salad
¾ cup almonds (100 g.)
2 Tbsp. red wine balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
10-12 big leaves of kale (250-300 g.)
1 pomegranate
2 apples (I used Envy apples)

For the dressing
3 Tbsp. red wine balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Heat a pan and dry roast the almonds for 1-2 minutes. Add the balsamic and as soon as it is gone add the honey and stir for 1 minute. Transfer almonds to a baking shed lined with a silicone mat and let them cool until they are dry. Afterwards, chop them coarsely.

Wash and dry the kale. Remove the stems and use a food processor or mini chopper to chop the kale into a very fine texture. (You can use a sharp knife, but it takes longer.)

Prepare the pomegranate and cut the apple into thin boats and mix all of it with the kale. (I chopped the apples into bite-size pieces, which are less photogenic but more convenient to eat.)

Make the dressing by stirring everything thoroughly together (I like doing this in a small jar that I shake) and season to taste.

Stir everything together and serve.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Chocolatiest Cookies with Fleur de Sel

I got this recipe from Happy Belly, but it was adapted from a recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini. The main differences are that the former used a mix of white and whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose white flour called for in the latter, and it also used fleur de sel on top of the cookies instead of in the batter. In my version, I used white whole wheat flour and kept the fleur de sel in the batter while also sprinkling some on top. For the sugar, you can use either granulated sugar or brown sugar, or a mix of the two. Brown sugar tends to play well with chocolate, and it makes for cakier cookies, so that’s what I recommend (either just brown sugar or a mix of brown and granulated sugars). These small cookies are dense and intensely chocolaty, just the way they should be!

This recipe yielded 33 cookies for me; I baked half of the batch right away and kept the rest in the fridge.

1 cup (120 g.) all-purpose flour (see above)
¾ cup (90 g.) cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
4 oz. (120 g.) quality bittersweet chocolate, divided
½ cup (1 stick) vegan margarine
½ cup (100 g.) brown sugar (see above)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. cocoa nibs
½ tsp. fleur de sel, plus more for garnish

In a large bowl, sift and mix together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.

Roughly chop 3 oz. (90 g.) of the chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl with the margarine. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water, without letting the water touch the base of the pot, and leave it to melt. Mix together and leave to cool at room temperature.

Finely chop the reserved chocolate and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the sugar together with the eggs until well combined. Fold in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla extract. Then fold in the flour mixture until well-combined. Lastly, fold in the reserved chopped chocolate and cocoa nibs, and ½ tsp. of the fleur de sel. The batter will be thick.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a baking tray with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Scoop tablespoons out the dough (I used my smallest ice cream scoop) and roll them into small bite-sized balls. It will get messy. And line them up, spaced 1 inch apart, on the cookie tray. Press down gently and sprinkle on fleur de sel. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes or in the fridge for 10 minutes, so that the cookies don't spread as much when they bake. Then put in the oven to bake for about 10 minutes (do not overbake). The cookies should feel a bit soft as you pull them out of the oven so that they're nice and moist on the inside once they have cooled.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowl

I love Buddha bowls, but for some reason I never got into the habit of making them. The Protein Salad I always order at Green is basically a Buddha bowl, after all, and it’s my favorite dish from that place. This Buddha bowl from Minimalist Baker really hit the spot for lunch: the kale and broccolini made me feel virtuous, while the sweet potato and chickpeas were comforting. The best thing was the tahini dressing, though, which both the Little Prince and I loved. I’ll have to keep that recipe handy to use with other similar dishes! I did change the recipe a bit by cutting the sweet potatoes into quarters so they’d cook more thoroughly; I peeled them once they were cooked; and I didn’t roast the chickpeas all the way because I prefer them chewy to crunchy. My onion was also a little less cooked than I would have liked, because I forgot to put it on the pan with the sweet potato. Next time, I’d consider doubling the sauce! Actually, I’ll probably use that sauce anytime I make a similar dish without a fixed recipe.

For the vegetables
2 Tbsp. olive, melted coconut, or grape seed oil
½ red onion, sliced in wedges
2 large sweet potatoes, halved
1 bundle (227 g.) broccolini, large stems removed, chopped
2 big handfuls kale, larger stems removed
¼ tsp. each salt and pepper

For the chickpeas
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 tsp. cumin
¾ tsp. chili powder (I used a pinch of Korean pepper)
¾ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. each salt and pepper
½ tsp. oregano (optional)
¼ tsp. turmeric (optional)

For the tahini sauce
¼ cup (56 g.) tahini
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
½ lemon, juiced
2-4 Tbsp. hot water, to thin

Preheat oven to 400 °F and arrange sweet potatoes and onions on a bare baking sheet. Drizzle both with a bit of oil, making sure the flesh of the sweet potatoes is well coated, and place skin side down on the sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven flip sweet potatoes and add broccolini. Drizzle broccolini with a bit of oil and season with a pinch each salt and pepper.

Bake for another 8-10 minutes, then remove from oven and add kale. Drizzle kale with a touch more oil and season with a pinch each salt and pepper. Bake for another 4-5 minutes then set aside.

While vegetables are roasting, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add chickpeas to a mixing bowl and toss with seasonings.

Once the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon oil and chickpeas and sauté, stirring frequently. If they’re browning too quickly, turn down heat. If there isn’t much browning going on, increase heat. How long you roast them is somewhat subjective – the original recipe said that 10 minutes on medium heat should do it, but I wanted to make sure they weren’t crisp, so I took them off the heat after roughly 5 minutes. Once the chickpeas are browned and fragrant, remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare sauce by adding tahini, maple syrup and lemon juice to a mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Add hot water until a pourable sauce is formed. Set aside.

To serve: Slice sweet potatoes into bite size pieces (and peel them if you wish). Divide vegetables between serving bowls and top with chickpeas and tahini sauce. This dish is best when fresh, although leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge.