Wednesday, October 31, 2012

foodie pen pals

The Lean Green Bean

while using my time productively...let's not go there.  when i was a kid, i had a pen pal.  the unknown stranger from across the country who would exchange letters with me.  it didn't last long but it did leave an impression on me.  so recently, when i happened upon a monthly event known as the foodie pen pals, not only was i reminded of my long lost "friend" i was compelled to sign up.  it seemed like fun, send a box of edible goodies to a person and receive a box of goodies from a different person.

the whole idea was put together by lindsay of the lean green bean in september of 2011.  it started with 30 participants and now has more than a thousand in the u.s., canada and the u.k..  the participants are paired by country; u.s. residents to u.s. residents, canadians to canadians and finally, u.k. residents to u.k. residents.  we send/receive our boxes and then we post them.  

 my box came from my partner mindy of just a one girl revolution.  the requirements include something written and mindy met that by writing a note and drawing flowers on the bag.  it was a lovely touch when i opened the box.

 she must have been spying on me because she sent some things that i love to snack on!  yogurt dipped pretzels, nuts and chocolate...darry has his eye on the flavored coffee.  it was hard to keep myself from digging in right then and there but i needed to take a photo first!

the hardest part about sending a package of food to a stranger-because we are all strangers at first, is that you never know what they might like.  we must be mindful of the obvious such as allergies, aversions or religious requirements and are required to ask that before we shop for goodies.  luckily for me, theresa of a spoonful of sunshine, my partner who would be receiving the box had no issues and i was able to send here what ever i wanted.
off to the international market i went.  i sent her some chinese 5 spice powder because it is wonderful to bake with-try it in any recipe calling for cinnamon.  japanese pepper, nanami togarashi is a red pepper blend that i love to sprinkle on stir fries.  thai green curry is a favorite dish of mine too so not only did i send her a can of paste, i met the written requirement by writing up my favorite curry sauce recipe so that she could try it out.  takis, guacamole flavored chips are the bomb!  one of my guilty pleasures.  and to round it out, seeds for herbs and flowers because i think everybody should try and grow their own food!

this was such fun that i will do it again!  join the fun, if you can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

onion-poppy seed bagels; twd/bwj

there is a bit of excitement and suspense for those of us who participate in the tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia challenges.  each month, we nominate possible recipes from the book and then we wait to see what our challenges will be.  for me, this weeks challenge of bagels, hosted by heather of heather's bytes was one i looked forward to.  as a jersey girl(originally), i have a certain fondness for true new york bagels.  then i read the many steps, so much to coordinate, so many factors to alter the outcome of said bagels.

to say that the recipe was a little daunting is an understatement.  mix the dough, let it rise, deflate it, refrigerate it for a few hours or a couple of days and then move on to the shaping/baking process.  all the steps to coordinate along with floured towels and extra pans and boiling water and an oven at 500 degrees while shaping the dough and boiling the dough and glazing the dough...definitely not a recipe for an impatient or inattentive baker-there are too many things to do.  

first thing i did, cut the recipe in half.  with just two of us in the house, i didn't need much less want 10 large bagels.  for the sugar called for in the dough, i simply used malt syrup.  then i added a generous tablespoon of dried onions.  since my favorite bagels are ones with seeds, i chose to add poppy seeds to the outside since they blend so well with onions.  

 the dough is easy to mix and next time(if there is a next time-the jury is still out on this one), i will add two tablespoons of the onions and a little extra salt.  i used my scale to weigh out 8 (3)ounce pieces of dough and began the shaping process.  it was a sticky process and i used very small amounts of flour on my fingers and the table to make it manageable.

 they do look like big rings while they are shaped but as soon as you set them onto the floured towel, they contract and fatten up a bit.  i did them 4 at a time so that they would fit in the pot with room to spare.

 they boiled up easily and i did not pay enough attention to the time on the first batch so i was sure to set the timer for the second batch.

 out of the water bath and onto the prepared peel for the glaze and seeds.  the cornmeal did nothing to stop them from sticking; i had to lift each one and place it on my stone in the oven.

 my oven needs to be calibrated.  the setting of 500 ended up at nearly 600 and the bagels came out a little crispy.  the process of baking for 25 minutes, oven off with door closed for 5 minutes and then door open for 5 minutes was enough to make that first batch really crispy-artisan bread crispy!  for the second batch, the shaped bagels rested in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and i skipped the 5 minutes with the door closed and 5 minutes with the door open.  i simply baked them for 25 minutes and pulled them out.  the reduced size should have triggered a response in me-they needed less time, but i was so caught up in all of the steps that it did not occur to me until just now...

they baked up an interesting ivory almost beige shade on the inside and had just a hint of onion flavor.

many thanks to heather for hosting this weeks bakefest!  to try this at home, visit heather's bytes for the complete recipe or better yet, buy a copy of baking with julia.  and if you want to watch the process, look it up on you tube-the video is split into 2 parts and full of hints and tips, look for it under baking with julia, bagels-lauren groveman parts 1 and 2.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

persimmon bread with cranberries

this recipe came up just in time for one of the best persimmon crops we've ever had.  last year was such a disappointment because there just wasn't any fruit on our tree or any of the other trees nearby.  when we started finding the ripe fruits on the ground last week, we were surprised; our first frost is still several weeks away.  we can only assume that the early spring and the month long drought had something to do with them ripening so early.

lucky for me, this weeks baking challenge for tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia is a loaf of bread that calls for pumpkin puree.  with all of these persimmons just begging to be run through the food mill, i couldn't help but substitute the persimmon pulp for the pumpkin puree called for in the recipe!

native persimmons are small, about the size of a walnut in its shell or smaller.  they are also full of large seeds.  they can only be eaten if they are dark orange and squishy soft otherwise, they are so astringent you will literally feel the insides of your cheeks seal onto the surface of your teeth.  the best thing to do with them is to wash the fruit you find on the ground under the tree-those will be so ripe that they have fallen from the branches.  drain the fruit and run it through a food mill, it will take a lot to get any kind of volume.  i collect them through the season, puree the fruit and store it in sandwich bags in the freezer.  then i can take it out and thaw it as i need to.

as with any heavy, sweet dough, this one took a long time-easily double the time called for in the directions.  it took at least 8 hours to come to 64 degrees and about 3 hours for the loaves to rise in the pans.  honestly, they didn't do much in the oven.  it seems to me that there is just too much in there to make it light and rise quickly.

 i didn't have any small pans so i used two 8x5x3 loaves.  they baked up in about 45-50 minutes, i used a thermometer and waited until the internal temp came up to 200 degrees.

this cheery loaf of bread brightened up a dark and dreary, rainy monday.  it was so dark that i couldn't get a nice color balance in the photo, my bread isn't nearly that orange!

special thanks to our hostess with the mostess, rebecca of this bountiful backyard!  bake on, may the force be with you...