Category Archives: Cooking

Homemade Crackers

I’ve been taking advantage of the lack of easily accessible baked goods to be a bit more experimental with my baking and crackers have been one of my ongoing projects. I came across the recipe in How to Cook Everything which claims they are really easy. In my experience, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The recipe, at least, is super simple:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water (plus more as needed)

Combine the ingredients together and kneed until the dough sticks together and feels a bit stiff. Then roll it out until it’s about 1/8″ thick. I don’t bother to make it look pretty, but that’s a personal call.

The first tricky bit is something I’ve noticed in all of the How to Cook Everything baking recipes: the recipe as written is boring. You definitely need to add seasoning to make it interesting. I’ve been doing sea salt and fresh ground pepper because it’s what we have and it goes well with a variety of toppings. Once I add the salt and pepper, I run the rolling pin lightly over the crackers a couple of times so that the seasonings don’t fall off when it bakes.

The next tricky bit is scoring the crackers. The instructions say “lightly score”, but you really need to cut through it at least 75% and then let the crackers cool completely before you try to break them apart. I’m still trying to perfect this part. Making progress, though! Then bake at 400 F until lightly golden brown. About 15 minutes.

Once you break apart the crackers, serve with your favorite topping. They’re use up relatively few resources and make for a tasty snack. I’ll definitely be making these again!

This is what my latest batch looked like before I put it in the oven.

This is what my latest batch looked like before I put it in the oven.

The crackers are ready to come out of the oven when they're just a little golden brown.

The crackers are ready to come out of the oven when they’re just a little golden brown.

Ready to eat! With guacamole!

Ready to eat! With guacamole!

Coffee!

Are you working from home in our new distance economy? Does that daily grind get you down?

yes :(

yes :(

Well you need some coffee! After having discovered that I actually like coffee a while ago, especially cafe drinks, I spent some time learning how to make coffee at home that I like. You will need a 12 oz french press, a burr grinder (yes a burr grinder or buying pre-ground is much better), a whisk, and some boiling water. Oh yeah, a cute assistant doesn’t hurt either.

2 mugs, whole milk, french press, whole bean, burn grinder, pot o' water.

2 mugs, whole milk, french press, whole beans, burn grinder, pot o’ water.

Cute assistant.

Cute assistant.

Grind 1/4 cup of beans (I like medium roasted, but you do you) into 1/4 cup of ground beans. Add to the french press, then add 1/4 cup of water just off the boil. Bloom the coffee by stirring, then letting sit for 30 seconds. Next, fill the french press 90% full with water and steep for 4 additional minutes. During this time, heat up 1/2 cup of milk, occasionally whisking on medium heat. Split the coffee and milk evenly in the two cups, and there you go – coffee for two.

Blooming.

Blooming.

Coffee

Coffee.

Finally, you want to enjoy the coffee sometime in the next half hour. Longer than that and it will taste meh. So that is how I make coffee at home, which I have to say is a large step up from a communal pot.

Enjoy.

Enjoy.

Froyo (You can take the transplant out of California but not the California out of the transplant.)

Alternative title is “or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cali.” We received a mixer as a present when we got back into the country a couple of years ago and, while Jasmine has been using it for some time for baking, I decided to get in on the act. And what better way than with ice cream! After some experimenting, I found this recipe works the best both for my taste and the ice cream maker as the yogurt adds tang but there is still enough cream to get good mouthfeel and creaminess.

-2 cups heavy cream

-2 cups whole milk yogurt (PLAIN)

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/2 cup of sugar

-1/4 to 1 cup of chopped up fruit (strawberries or cherries are my favorites).

Mix 1/4 cup of sugar with the fruit and let macerate for 2+ hours. Mix all other ingredients and put aside in refrigerator. Mix the fruit mixture with the cream and immediately add to the ice cream maker. Wait for it to get firm, plus and additional 5 minutes because you are probably wrong and it will get more firm. Enjoy! It lasts about 3 days in the freezer before it gets hard so you’ll have to eat it sooner than that – for shame.

The mixer in all of its churning glory.

The mixer in all of its churning glory.

MMmmm, frozen yogurt.

MMmmm, frozen yogurt.

Blackberry Cobbler Crisp

We’ve been a bit busy of late, but the posts are now back. To celebrate, I’m posting on blackberry cobbler crisp! This is one of our favorite desserts during blackberry season so I thought I would share. The recipe is written for blackberries, but it could also be made with raspberries, blueberries, or similar berries. This recipe is basically two recipes combined together so there are three parts to the recipe.

Part I:

This is the easiest step! Clean and drain 5 cups of berries. Pour evenly into a 9 x 9 in glass pan and sprinkle with cinnamon. Set aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Part II:

Make the cobbler.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Drop onto the fruit in spoonfuls. Do not mix with the blackberries or spread it evenly. The mixture will sink in naturally. Set aside.

The blackberries covered in cobbler.

The blackberries covered in cobbler.

Part III:

Make the crisp:

  • 8 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • Pinch salt

Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spoon over fruit and cobbler mixture so that as much of the top is covered as possible. Don’t worry if it’s even or if you don’t cover the whole top.

After the crisp is added.

After the crisp is added.

Put in the oven and bake until the fruit juices are boiling and the crisp is slightly browned (about 30 minutes). Let cool before serving and enjoy!

Mmmm, cobbler crisp!

Mmmm, cobbler crisp!

Blackberry Lemon Squares

It’s officially blackberry season here in the Seattle area so prepare for some blackberry-related posts! First up is a modified lemon square recipe. Lemon squares make a nice, refreshing dessert during the summer, so I decided to add in some fresh blackberries. It turned out really well so I thought I would share.

Crust:

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour

Preheat the over to 350 F and mix the crust ingredients together. Press evenly into greased 9 x 9 inch baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with blackberries.

Pressing the crust into the pan.

Pressing the crust into the pan.

Blackberries!

Blackberries!

Lemon Filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 eggs
  • juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Mix together the filling ingredients. The baking soda will react immediately with the lemon, so I mix it in last after I’ve already stirred everything else together. Once everything is thoroughly mixed, pour the filling over the crust and blackberries. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.

Caution: blackberries may shift during pouring.

Caution: blackberries may shift during pouring.

Let cool before serving, then cut and enjoy!

The finished product.

The finished product.

Red Velvet Cake

Last weekend I decided to get creative and do a different dessert: red velvet cake. Normally, this isn’t our sort of thing since it involves a lot of food coloring, but we recently learned that this cake originally came by its red color because it used beats instead of sugar. We were intrigued and decided to try it.

The first step was to research recipes. I looked through a lot before I found one I liked, but finally came across this one. Still, I decided I liked my cream cheese frosting recipe better and used that instead. On the whole, we were pretty happy with how this cake turned out. We will definitely be making this again!

The cakes fresh out of the oven.

The cake assembly has begun!

Making the cream cheese frosting. With a coffee grinder to turn regular sugar into powdered sugar of course!

Making the cream cheese frosting. With a coffee grinder to turn regular sugar into powdered sugar.

Cutting the cake.

Cutting the cake.

It's not as red as the kind with food coloring, but it was more red than I expected it to be.

It’s not as red as the kind with food coloring, but it was more red than I expected it to be.

Cinnamon Rolls

For Christmas breakfast, I made cinnamon rolls. They are one of my breakfast favorites and are very similar to Lloyd’s family’s Christmas tradition (Monkey Bread), so we thought this would be a nice Christmas tradition of our own. I originally found this recipe in my bread machine cookbook and have been making it, with some variations, ever since.

Step 1: Plan ahead. The rolls need to rise in the fridge over night and the dough needs to rise by itself for a couple of hours before you put it into roll form so start early. (This is why I don’t get cinnamon rolls as often as I like.)

Step 2: Make the dough.

  • 1 egg plus enough water to equal one cup
  • 3 tbl oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well mixed and the dough forms a soft ball.

Step 3: Wait. Cover the dough with a wet cloth and let it rise for 2 to 4 hours.

Step 4: Make the filling:

  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbl cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Melt the butter before adding the rest of the ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Step 5: Make the rolls. Roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 12 by 6 inches.

Spread the filling evenly on the rectangle of dough.

Spread the filling evenly onto the rectangle of dough.

Starting at a long end, roll the dough tightly into a roll.

Starting at a long end, roll the dough tightly into a roll.

Step 6: Prepare a pan. Grease either a standard muffin tin or an 8 by 12 inch baking pan. For this batch, I used a muffin tin because I’d heard they were good for cinnamon rolls and figured I’d give it a shot. It actually bakes them much more evenly than when I use my regular rectangular baking dish so this will probably be my new standard.

Step 7: Slice the rolls. Cut the roll into 1 inch slices and place them in the baking dish.

The rolls sliced and ready to place in the muffin tin.

The rolls sliced and ready to place in the muffin tin.

The rolls fit nicely into the muffin pan.

The rolls fit nicely. They’ll expand during the rising and baking process.

Step 8: Cover and refrigerate over night.

Step 9: In the morning, bake at 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

They looked really nice out of the oven! My prettiest batch yet.

They looked really nice out of the oven! My prettiest batch yet.

Step 10: Make the glaze.

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tbl milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Thoroughly mix all ingredients.

Step 11: Glaze and enjoy.

Merry Christmas morning!

Merry Christmas morning!

Garum

A couple of months ago I made cured smelt, which you can see here! As a result of that, we had a fair bit of fish guts and heads left over and I decided to do what I always do: make fish sauce! Also, nota bene, I love fish sauce so sorry for all the exclamation points.

Specifically, the fish sauce that I make is based off of Garum, the ancient Roman variety of fish sauce. For the faint of stomach, probably stop reading now. The steps are:

1) Clean a ball jar very well.

2) Fill a ball jar 2/3rds full of fish heads, spines, guts, and other not fleshy bits, such as you have left over from making cured smelt. Anchovies and sardines also work well.

3) Add enough salt to cover, roughly 30% by weight, being generous with the salt. Mix the fish and salt thoroughly.

4) Cover and leave out in the sun for 6 months. Shake it once or twice. It only needs to be in the sun for a week of it, mostly to ensure it gets up to at least 40C for a couple of hours.

5) Strain. First, use a slotted spoon or colander to get out the large bones. Next, use a course cheesecloth to strain the again – sometimes you need to push it through with a spoon.

6) Enjoy! It will be a brown, thick liquid with a fresh, saline, slightly fishy odor. It will taste a bit like pureed anchovies with an extra kick.

This is the start of the smelt and salt party. Not the prettiest of beginnings for its sublime ending.

This is the start of the smelt and salt party. Not the prettiest of beginnings for its sublime ending.

An after picture of the fermented fish, as well as the strainer set up.

An after picture of the fermented fish, as well as the strainer set up.

And the final product. Still not the prettiest of sauces but it adds a rich salty flavor to any meal.

And the final product. Still not the prettiest of sauces, but it adds a rich salty flavor to any meal.

Birthday Dinner

In the tradition of our lives, I made Jasmine a fancy dinner for her birthday. Behold!

Appetizer: Hamachi sashimi. One of our local grocery stores has a very good fish monger.

Appetizer: Hamachi sashimi. One of our local grocery stores has a very good fish monger.

Dinner dish #1: Miso eggplant with bonito flake.

Dinner dish #1: Miso eggplant with bonito flakes.

Dinner dish #1: Udon noodles with shrimp and Asian vegetables.

Dinner dish #2: Udon noodles with shrimp and Asian vegetables.

Desert #1: Latte and chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

Desert #1: Latte and chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

Dessert #2: Blackberry crisp. We have non stop blackberries in the backyard, and I needed to used them.

Dessert #2: Blackberry crisp. We have non stop blackberries in the backyard and I needed to use them.

We agreed that it rated about 3rd or 4th on the ranking of birthday dinners, so I’ll have to try harder to beat the orange chicken and the steak and mushrooms with tarragon.

Baking Day

A few weeks ago, I decided to make bread to go with the chicken soup Lloyd was making for dinner. Bread making is not a quick process. I like to make the dough at least eight hours in advance. So when Lloyd made his usual pate with the chicken liver, there was no bread to put it on. Something we didn’t realize until most of the way through the process. “Don’t worry,” I told Lloyd. “How to Cook Everything says crackers are really easy to make.” Of course, I’d never made them before, but I didn’t let that stop me.

It turns out that crackers are actually easy to make. The only problem that I ran into was that scoring the crackers only helps if you let them cool before trying to break them. We were a little impatient to try the pate and ended up ripping the crackers more like bread. As they cooled, they tasted more like crackers – not terribly exciting ones as I hadn’t added any seasoning other than salt. We were pretty happy with them and will probably make them again.

I probably could have rolled it out more neatly, but it tasted pretty good!

I probably could have rolled it out more neatly, but it tasted pretty good!

When the soup got close, I put a little sea salt on the top of the french loaf I had made and put it in the over. There’s just something nice about homemade soup and fresh-baked bread.

Sorry, no accompanying soup picture.

Sorry, no accompanying soup picture.

Because I had apparently not baked enough yet and it was a weekend, I also made a carrot cake that day. I think I used about 80% of my brand new 5 lb bag of flour in one day! Definitely a new record…

This is probably our favorite dessert.

This is probably our favorite dessert.