Thursday, May 27, 2010

Figgy Buckwheat Scone Failure

I have been waiting forever to make the Figgy Buckwheat Scones from Good to the Grain - even before the book came out, when the recipe was posted on 101 Cookbooks.  I knew it would be time consuming and although I wanted to eat them, I was putting it off longer and longer.  Today, I decided, would be the day, and had I known what I was getting myself into...

I got started on the fig butter while watching some TV.  If you read each of the recipes (the Fig Butter recipe as well as the recipe for the scone itself) you would think the fig butter would be the rough part.  Even with the specific directions and concerns outlined in the recipe, preparing the fig butter went smoothly.  It is delicious too - after I moved it to a container to put in the refrigerator, I licked the spoon.  Yum.  I might make bread soon JUST to have this on my toast.  It is DELICIOUS!  Even if you don't want the scones, you should make the fig butter.  It keeps for about a month in the fridge (and that's good, because it makes probably about 2 cups, maybe more) so I will be using it on my toast, waffles, etc.  I'm thinking it might even be good spread on the Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes I have in the freezer.  I'll probably give the scones another go as well with the proper ingredients.

That brings me to the main problem of this endeavor (or at least, I think it is).  The scone dough was coming along nicely, even though my hands were coated in gritty nubs of butter.  I opened my fridge for the next ingredient, heavy cream, which I should have known I didn't have.  I didn't want the butter in the dough to melt, so I used half and half.  That was a bad idea if I've ever had one.  The dough instantly became liquidy goo.  I added 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, thinking it would return to a pliable state, but it didn't work.  I was about to add another 1/4 cup, when I decided I would keep the ratios at least closer to equal and use 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour instead.  This firmed up the dough somewhat, but it was ridiculously sticky.  I put it out on a large, heavily floured cutting board and tried to smush it out with my hands instead of - another missing "ingredient" - a rolling pin, which I don't think I have, at least not in my kitchen.  This, too, was a disaster.  My hands were covered in dough almost immediately and I had to wash them off.  I tried adding more flour.  No go.  I tried to scrape the dough off the board to make sure it wasn't sticking.  It was basically not happening.  I'm fairly certain it was the half and half that caused this problem as I know heavy cream is a different consistency.  Normally I'm good about using the ingredients the recipe calls for, at least the first time, but I had started before I realized.

I wanted to see if this was a total or just partial failure, so I decided to bake the dough.  Because of the viscosity of the dough, I decided to make muffin-shaped scones.  That way, they wouldn't spread out too much.  I sprayed the pan liberally, then baked them at 350* for about 25 minutes. 

Interestingly enough, it worked.  The scones are actually pretty good.  I split one in half to try, and spread some fig butter on it.  It was yummy!  At least I now have an interesting little treat to spread my fig butter on.  Next time I will be using the correct ingredients for sure.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Molasses Bran Muffins

I am working my way through Good to the Grain, in case you haven't noticed.  It's going to take me a while, but at some point I'd like to try everything in the book.  Ken has been eating the Fig-Bran Muffins from So Easy and wanted me to make another bran muffin for when those run out.  My mind immediately snapped to these.

Like most of the recipes in this book, this is more time-consuming than most other recipes I've made or even read, but like the rest of the book, you're trading some extra time for extra quality.  The first step here is making a prune puree, which keeps the muffins moist.  You have to cook the prunes in orange juice, then puree them with an immersion blender.  I wasn't able to squeeze out enough OJ from the few oranges I had left, so I had to scale down the recipe, which made it much more difficult to puree.  Finally, though, with a little help, I got it pureed down enough.

The other minor roadblock I ran into was an error in the actual recipe.  One step mentions warming buttermilk on the stove to lukewarm.  Later, softened bran is mentioned with no indication as to how to soften it.  I put two and two together and mixed the warmed buttermilk into the bran, letting it sit for a few minutes before continuing with the recipe.  Next time I might let it sit a little longer.  I also messed up a little when adding the prune puree - I was supposed to mix it in thoroughly with the wet ingredients before adding them to the dry, but I forgot (oops) and added it in after.  I'd like to try it again the right way, though.

These muffins were yummy and I'm sure I'll be making them again.  Next time I'll prepare better so that I have the right amount of prune puree and can freeze the other half to make another batch of muffins.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pork and Mango Stir Fry

I love Asian food, mostly Thai, but I get the occasional craving for Chinese as well.  I also love stir fry, but every time I try to wing it, it comes out disastrous.  When I saw this Pork and Mango Stir Fry recipe in So Easy, I had to try it.  When I saw that one of the ingredients was Chinese five spice powder, I was even more intrigued.  I had first heard of it when my next door neighbor used it in her cookies for my mom's annual holiday cookie exchange, and I hadn't heard of it since.  I was curious to see how an ingredient in cookies would work as an ingredient in stir fry.

The first bite was interesting.  I tasted a lot of spice and a lot of flavor.  I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  A few bites later, though, I was really enjoying it.  The recommended portion size of 2 cups was HUGE and filled me to the brim.  When I ate the leftovers I had less to save some calories.  (You can also save a bunch of calories if you skip the rice altogether.)  I thought the leftovers were actually better!  The flavors kind of mellowed out, particularly the spice.

This was really delicious, and I will definitely make it again.  I might try it with pineapple instead of mango sometime too.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Barley Brownies

I made brownies for a party the other day.  From a box.  I know, I know, way to go against my own principles.  (Even worse was how many I ate...)  When I was putting away my bag of Bob's Red Mill barley flour yesterday, I noticed a recipe on the package.  A brownie recipe.  With barley flour.  Whole grain brownies.  YUM.  (Note: they are still not healthy.)

They came out delicious.  Brownies from a box, although they are probably full of things that I don't even want to know about, have a certain chocolatey deliciousness to them.  These definitely performed as well as a boxed recipe.  I like the dark chocolate fudge brownie mixes, so I'd like to play around with adding a little more chocolate to this recipe - maybe some melted dark chocolate.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wild Rice Medley with Braised Chicken in Balsamic-Fig Sauce

It's time to get back to cooking real meals.  There have been times when I could plan an ambitious week-long menu stuffed with recipes to try.  I never got to all of them.  Now, I can barely think of something for tonight's dinner, let alone lunch and dinner for any other day this week.  I've taken to making brief shopping trips almost every day to pick up just what I need.

This one was planned.  In an effort to get back to making dinners, I have been flipping through some of my books.  In the same book where I found my project, teff waffles, I found this lovely recipe for a wild rice medley with chicken and a delicious-sounding sauce.  I planned to make it on a day when I had a lot of time (Friday), because a quick glance at the cooking times showed me that it was going to take a while (which it did - I was working on this for about 1.5 hours).

It was worth the work.  I put a lot of time and effort into this and was rewarded with something delicious.  I have never braised anything and it came out fine.  We had a nice dinner out on the balcony :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes

I have been wanting to try something with buckwheat flour since this post on 101 Cookbooks.  I bought the flour to try that recipe but haven't gotten around to it yet.  As I was thinking about what to make for dinner with the minimal ingredients I have on hand (due to not having cooked in a long while since baking is my thing right now) I got to thinking about breakfast for dinner.  I peeked in the fridge and saw the buckwheat flour.  Hmm.  I looked around a little more and saw two pears.  Hmm.  Didn't I see this somewhere?  I went to The Book (if you've read ANY of my posts in the past two months, you know which book) and there were the Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes.  What a coincidence.

This was an easy recipe.  You just grate in the pears, right over the bowl so that the juices fall in, mix wet into dry, and make as pancakes.  I, however, am bad at pancakes.  This was not always so.  Once upon a time I could flip a pancake and it would work out just the way it was supposed to.  Now, for some reason, they are always falling on top of themselves.  You would think I would have gotten better, not worse, but oh well.

The pancakes tasted good.  They were nice and moist.  The buckwheat flour has a strong taste, but the kind where you keep taking another bite trying to really figure it out.  The recipe calls for a honey butter to be poured over the pancakes, which I would love to try sometime, maybe for guests, but I felt it was too indulgent for something I was eating right at the stove.