30 September 2014

Alice Medrich's Cinna-Grahams

Today I'm going to encourage you to make Graham Crackers. Cinna-Grahams, as a matter of fact. This is my second batch of these in two weeks. I just had to make them again and this time I added cinnamon to the dough and sprinkled the tops with cinnamon-sugar rather than plain sugar. These grahams are special, authentic and healthy and brought to you by none other than Alice Medrich. They come together quickly, and have no white flour. Yes, that's right. Alice Medrich, author of my favorite brownies is also known to kick around in the whole grain flours realm. She's coming out with a new book soon, but this recipe is actually from her old book and was recently posted on Food52

To make Grahams, you'll need some graham flour, which is a nuttier, slightly coarser form of whole wheat flour, and some oat flour ( just grind rolled oats until powdery in a coffee grinder) and the rest, I'm sure you have already: milk, honey, vanilla, sugar and optionally cinnamon. The dough is mixed in a food processor but I don't see why doing it by hand wouldn't work if you don't have one. I found the process quite streamlined, very similar in technique to the Ivy Manning Rye Crisps I posted a year ago on here, and the results ideal: homey, crispy, rustic and available to be kept in the pantry several days for afternoon or mid-morning snacking or to dole out to anyone you see, which is always, you know, nice. 

You can keep the dough patties wrapped a day or two. Ideally, with cookies or crackers that are new, I like to make a  batch or two to understand the dough, before sharing with you. Having made these twice, I tweaked a few things in the process. Since I have a small oven and subsequently small sheet pans, I found it best to work with a half batch of dough at a time. This helped in the rolling out and let them have a bit more room on the sheet pan. You need to be sure the big cracker you roll out is uniform in thinness, and having less to roll helps with this. Lastly, I baked for the full 25 minutes and found them to be just right on the crispness front. And, I don't think I have to tell you this, but grahams are perfect as they are as a snack, particularly if you add the cinnamon, but they also don't mind a thin schmear of peanut butter and a dollop of honey atop if you're feeling fancy. And one bit of Housekeeping: I'm on ShopRite's Blog this week with delish raisin bran muffins. They actually appeared on here a year ago, and when life gives you raisins...you make these muffins. They are super-good. 

Cinnamon Graham Crackers 

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen grahams

notes: I used the grams measurements! These are grahams after all : ) Below is a half recipe from Alice's original. I recommend this amount if you have a small processor or want to take your time with getting to know the dough. If you're cooking for a lot, the whole recipe can be found via Food52 via Cirspy Crunchy Melt in Your Mouth.

3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp (113 grams) Graham flour 
1/4 c + 1.5 tsp (26 grams) oat flour
2 Tbsp (25 grams) sugar + 1-2 tsp for sprinkling
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp for sprinkling (optional)
3 Tbsp (42 grams) cubed cold butter, unsalted (if you only have salted on hand, use half the amount of salt above)
1.5 Tbs (32 grams) honey
1.5 Tbs whole milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Place both flours, sugar, salt, cinnamon if using, baking powder and soda into a food processor and blitz a few times to combine (or whisk well). Drop the butter cubes atop and pulse until you have a cornmeal texture. 

In a small bowl or cup, blend the milk, honey and vanilla, until the honey disolves. Pour into the processor and blitz a few times until the dough is moistened and comes together as a uniform mass. It does not have to form a ball, but moistened clumps are good. Dump out dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

Pat the dough into a square patty about 6-7 inches. Divide this in half with a knife or bench scraper, and wrap both in plastic.

Place patties in fridge 20-30 minutes to rest (at this point dough can be stored up to 48 hours in fridge well wrapped. Let sit out 10 mins before using). Heat the oven to 350 while dough rests.

If baking both dough patties at once, set racks in top and lower third of oven and get two sheet pans and two sheets parchment. If baking one sheet, set oven rack in center. 

Unwrap a dough patty and place it on a sheet of parchment. You'll transfer this to the pan momentarily. Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness rectangle, making sure the center is not thicker than the edges. Prick dough with a fork all over and sprinkle with cinna-sugar. Score dough evenly into roughly 2x2 cuts. Repeat with the other patty if using. 

Bake 20-25 minutes, turning tray 180 degrees halfway through and switching both pans from top to bottom. Grahams are done when the edges are darker brown and the crackers are a nice golden brown throughout. Important: let cool on rack completely. Let cool for a bit as a sheet, then break the crackers at their score marks and continue to cool. Store airtight for a week or so. 

*if not completely crisp after the cool, Alice says you can return them to the oven at 325 for 10 mins. I didn't have this problem because I baked for the full 25. 

22 September 2014

A sauce from the past

I asked my mother the other day if she had made tomato sauce in the past, and the answer was along the lines of what I expected: I have, or I used to, citing two ways off the top of her head, involving long simmers and chopping of things. "This involves no chopping. Just slicing an onion in half and coarsly cutting maybe 10 roma tomatoes," I replied. She nodded, indicating consideration, surprise, even. The conversation made me think of how today's younger folk learn to cook versus our predecessors. We Pin, look at pictures and read comments. Therefore, things seem very accessible, ever-changing, even. But I want more things in my back pocket. For the majority of people, homemade tomato sauce connotes images of an Italian grandmother who cooked by intuitive handfuls and had lots of time to taste, simmer and adjust. But Marcella Hazan's classic recipe won't ruin your manicure and can be completed in under an hour, while you sit on the couch nearby on the Internet, listening to the simmer. And who knows, maybe this was the one in grandma's back pocket. 

What I really want to encourage you to do with this though, is use fresh tomatoes. At the end of their season now, low-water tomatoes like romas, are primed for this. I used a pound of fresh romas, which were being sold by the dozen in little plastic bins at the farm market. I quickly blanched them then peeled their skins off before giving them a rough chop and pouring them into a pot with half an onion and a little over two tablespoons butter. Since I had to taste it just after cooking to check for salt, I stole a spoonful as a condiment to fried eggs at lunch. Which makes ever having put ketchup on eggs seem preposterous. Tomato sauce, in fine dollops, is a fine complement to lacy white and slightly molten yolks. If you make this sauce some day when you haven't pasta around, try a spoonful of tomato sauce and a few shavings of parmesan on your eggs instead, and be impressed. That said, the sauce was delicious the next night reserved for its intention: stirred into penne with sweet sausage and showered with lots of fresh basil and parmesan. I think I'm going to fetch another basket of romas at the market now to make this again and stash in the freezer, before the month is over. I hope you do, too. 

Marcella's Tomato Sauce with Fresh Romas, Onion and Butter
Adapted from Food52 via Essentials of Italian Cooking

1 lb roma tomatoes*
1/2 a large yellow onion
2.5 Tbsp / 35 grams good butter
1/4 tsp salt + more to taste
Few grinds black pepper

Blanch tomatoes: 
Plunge tomatoes in boiling water for a minute (boil a bit of water in the same pot you intend to make the sauce). Drain, and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin and cut into coarse pieces. 

Set the tomatoes into the dry pot with the onion half and the butter and salt and cook uncovered at a very slow, steady simmer for about 45-55 minutes, until thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir every 10 minutes or from time to time, mashing larger pieces of tomato with the back of a wood spoon. Remove from the heat, taste and add a little more salt and pepper, store a few days in the fridge in a jar or freeze for longer.

16 September 2014

Seasonal Corn Muffins

Cornbread was one of the first things I'd bake after moving into our apartment almost 2 years ago. I made it in my cast iron skillet since I was still sourcing a muffin tin and other pans, delayed buyer I am. I remember pulling leftover slices from the freezer during Hurricane Sandy when the power went out and letting them defrost, thinking, if there's some kind of shortage, at least we have cornbread. At that point I made Mark Bittman's easy classic skillet bread, always savory, sometimes with scallions and cheese and cayenne and such. It's good, I just reminded myself to make it again. But, it's rare to find that muffin or quick bread that borders right on the sweet and savory line, one that you can spice to your liking, one that can fare well at breakfast, alongside a salad for lunch, smeared with honey-butter at afternoon tea, or as a dinner appetizer, and one that includes the option of beloved late summer fresh corn kernels. 

11 September 2014

Tupperware party

Been a little longer than usual since I've last writ, but I like to think of this as a journal. I'll tell you the things that stand out. I've been cooking, of course, much of it done after 7 pm and enjoyed on tired feet and lit candles nearby for good measure. The nights go fast when you work and the time is precious. Then, I tuck some things into working glasses , and pull together lunch the next morning. I love a good dinner out in New York every now and then and a nice lunch date too, but one thing I don't find sustainable is buying takeout lunch. With daily kitchen production as it is, all it takes is a few extra steps, and faith that things keep, and you're on your way to a public Tupperware party in Madison Square Park.That is if you can brave the seat you stumble upon.

Moving on. It was just August, so I've been cooking a lot of corn and I'm really not ready to give it up. Check out my post on the ShopRite Blog for a quick way to enjoy corn so fresh you barely need to cook it (and a reminder to roast your cherry tomatoes). The cooked corn kernels keep a few days and I think are particularly great in lunch boxes stirred into whatever other protein and starch you have around, and sprinkled with feta. Corn + feta...yeah. And now it's September! Which makes everyone want to pack snacks...right? Even if school days are far gone. Work is like school in that it requires snacks. Alegria is a stable choice. So are brownies. And I recently made Sneh's turmeric and chia roast cashews. These cashews are very good. In the midday, in the evening, chopped into salads...you will go through them more quickly than you expected. That said, turmeric + chia via cashew? I'd call that an antioxidant trifecta. Add some wine on the side and that's a quad.  

In other news, as the weather is cooling a little, turning the oven to 400 degrees for scones and biscuits will soon be a necessity craved rather than a sacrifice. I've been willing to make the sacrifice over the past few weeks though with these very vanilla rustic drop scones via The Clever Carrot. I love them, as they are the perfect vehicle for jam, and my last few peaches became jam. Which goes very well with the crumbly, fluffy scones. I freeze the dough raw, and bake from frozen, which makes them magically appear the next morning with no bowls to wash. The recipe is from the NYC bakery Once Upon a Tart's cookbook, and probably the only time besides with when dealing with peanut butter, that the food processor is a must. You don't want big chunks of butter here, but for the mix to look very sandy and moist like Parmesan. I promise you the biscuits taste nothing like cheese. They taste like vanilla and are very good. I even sneak a few tablespoons of spelt flour into them. 

Have a great weekend guys.