Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Things I Have Cooked Recently! also HR3

Well, a few days ago Alex and I made Cheddar and Parsnip Soup from the British Isles chapter of Sundays at moosewood. It was, um, bland. We still have a lot of it left, although we have been faithfully eating it for lunch with homemade rye (next on this blogular list), which improves it somewhat. I guess if we had thought about it much, we would have realized it would be bland - very few onions, no garlic, no relevant spices (aside from caraway seeds, which provide it with its only flavor, and ground fennel, which we left out because A. I hate the licorice-y aftertaste of fennel and B. we don't have anything with which to grind, anyway), a bunch of parsnips and potatoes, neither of which has much taste, and cheddar, which is delicious but relatively mild even when sharp. The cheddar is basically completely invisible in this soup. It contributes to the creaminess and the fullness, I think, but not to the color or the taste in any respect. I would make the soup again, but I would throw in a bunch of garlic and maybe some rosemary and probably use a stronger cheese - bleu, or Stilton, or something. And a bunch of salt and pepper. (Salt is of no use to it currently, because there is no taste for it to enhance, so it justs makes it taste like salt!)

Anyway, I mentioned that homemade rye complements and improves it significantly. This is true! I used this recipe (after the shopping-for-rye-flour-and-caraway-seeds ordeal detailed in the last post), and it makes a small loaf but delicious. It requires barely any kneading, and only a couple hours of rise time. The dough, if you use exactly the amount of flour they call for (I reserved the last half cup of white flour and used it during the kneading), may seem too stiff, but the finished texture of the baked bread was perfect; it is good for toast, good for scooping soup, and good for grilled cheese sandwiches! It has almost a commercial feel, except of course better. Heads up, though: At least double the caraway seeds it calls for! I used a heeeeeaping tablespoon on my first loaf, and it was not enough to get a real rye flavor (given that the flavor we associate with rye bread - we Jews, anyway, and probably most Americans - is actually the taste of caraway and not the taste of rye flour). I used two heaping tablespoons in the loaf I made today, and haven't tasted it yet but will keep you updated!

I actually found several goodlooking rye bread recipes on the internet with just a cursory search. I would love to try making sourdough rye sometime, but that requires making a rye starter - easy enough, but would be a big consumer of rye flour, which even at farmers' market price is a little expensive to feed to a finicky, glorified pet every day! I'd also like to make pumpernickel rye sometime, but I think I would have to buy pumpernickel flour. In the meantime, I'll try experimenting with light/marbled/dark rye and other recipes I can manage with basic ingredients - when I'm not still experimenting with sourdough, of course! And the occasional loaf of regular white, whole wheat, or sweet French bread. I love baking!

You will also know that I love baking, because I baked TWO desserts yesterday! I made chocolate nut cake, which I had forgotten how delicious it is, and substituted Tasmanian leatherwood honey for espresso in the glaze, which gives it some really interesting undertones without too much of the particular strength of this honey coming through. It complements the cake really well! And I also made pecan bars - I forget what they're actually called, but there's a shortbread-style crust that you bake for ten minutes, and then a layer of chopped pecans, and then a layer of butter and sugar boiled together, then it's baked for another ten, then chocolate chips on top, then another fifteen. Except I had some leftover maple sugar candy that I hadn't been able to finish before it got too hard to eat - the consequences of restraining myself! - which I thought I'd grind into sugar in the food processor and use to make shortbread. Except it was too hard for the food processor to grind, but I found that it melted into syrup with a little water in the microwave, so I thought it would probably melt in a pan with butter. So I substituted the maple candy for the brown sugar the recipe called for, and boiled it with the butter! It didn't all melt in time, but a lot of it did melt into the butter and boil properly, and it baked into the bars perfectly. The maple taste is very faint, but I think is really adding to the sweet pecan effect. Yay turning lemons into lemonade! (Not that I like lemons or lemonade...)

Anyway, since then, it's been a lot of popcorn for dinner. We were going to make stuffed cabbage today, but there's no regular bread and also no cheesecloth and also we ran out of time, so instead we ate popcorn and boiled beets and cake (hahahahaha who am I? where am I from? what is this meal?) and put off the cabbage for Friday (tomorrow the roomies and I are going out to a fancy restaurant - here - for Restaurant Week! so exciting!). I will let you know how it goes!

On an unrelated and more depressing note, HR3 is horrible. If you haven't yet, check out the posts on Tiger Beatdown, and sign the petition! Or call your representatives, or write to the paper, or tweet, or whatever it is that you do for activism. Because it is bad shit.