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Roux Awakening: Broccoli Cheese Soup

December 12, 2009

(Isn’t that the greatest title ever? I’ve had it in my head for a month and I am so proud to use it!)

Let’s be honest here, folks: Panera has the best broccoli cheese soup EVER. I apologize to all the non-Americans out there who have never experienced the awesomeness of dipping a baguette into Panera’s broccoli cheese soup, but take my word for it: this is the soup to aspire to. However, it is definitely not the healthiest item on their menu: a 12-ounce (~350mL) serving has 390 calories and 1500mg of sodium. I am not a fan of all the added sodium in restaurant food. This recipe is slightly healthier because there is no cream, but there is lots of milk to make it creamy – would you eat broccoli soup if it wasn’t creamy?! I know I wouldn’t.

Anyway, I was a little nervous about tackling this recipe because it requires making a roux, which is a mixture of equal parts butter and flour. Roux are the basis of many sauces and gravies, so it’s important to be able to make a simple one well. But they are also slightly tricky, because if not done well they can end up lumpy instead of smooth. I don’t know why I was afraid of making a roux, but I am not alone; this recipe book I have from the 1960s says:

“It is strange that the most feared recipe by a young homemaker is, perhaps, the easiest and most simple recipe to make – the basic sauce, the basis of all creamed dishes, scalloped potatoes, chicken gravy, and a thousand other dishes. From it springs a myriad of other sauces, all the essence of simplicity, once the technique of making the basic sauce is mastered.”

And after watching my mom make a roux, then making it on my own, I can say that it truly isn’t that difficult and I am confident you will have success! Besides, a few tablespoons of butter and flour aren’t expensive, so if you ruin the first try, you can pick yourself up again and re-try!

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Pies 103: Apple Streusel Pie

December 5, 2009

I know Thanksgiving is long gone, but I made – and consumed – so many delicious pies that now’s the first time I can even contemplate talking about pie again. I also didn’t take many pictures of this pie, which is a testament to how popular it was and how lazy I was feeling after baking six or seven pies in a 1 week timespan. In fact, there were almost not enough slices to go around… I had to keep making the slices smaller and smaller!

A few weeks ago on Twitter, I put out a call to borrow someone’s French rolling pin. I have a regular one, but I really want a French rolling pin (I hope my mom is reading this!). One follower, a writer for our local paper, responded with an offer to GIVE me one of her rolling pins. So off I dashed to the Enquirer’s offices downtown, where she gave me not only her rolling pin, but also her apple pie recipe! And can I just say it was totally awesome to meet a tweetfriend? 😀

I did modify her recipe, because I have to make it my own somehow. Not because I was a little afraid to make a double-crust pie, nope, not at all. I replaced the top crust with a layer of crumble topping. Really this turned out amazing, a combination of apple crisp and apple pie! My family said it might just become a new must-have pie at Thanksgiving, along the pumpkin and chocolate pecan. Why do we even do turkey anyway?!

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Pies 102: Fillings for a single-crust pie

November 24, 2009

So, in my last post I made a pie crust (well, two of them technically) and blind-baked it before adding the fillings.

Now it’s time to fill them with something delicious and yummy! My family traditionally serves two pies on Thanksgiving: pumpkin and chocolate pecan. Pumpkin is far and away my favorite, so my pie quest this year has been in search of the best possible pumpkin pie. But I am still going to tell you about chocolate pecan pie- you just have to wait til the end of this post.

Okay, so this pumpkin pie recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen. It is a pretty fussy recipe, what with the canned yams, maple syrup, and pulsing in a food processor. However, it is mind-blowingly delicious. How delicious? I made one this weekend and it was gone in 15 hours. And people who are not related to me even told me it was the best pumpkin pie they had ever had. So if you, like me, think Thanksgiving isn’t really about the turkey but the pumpkin pie… this is YOUR pumpkin pie!

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Pies 101: Making the Dough

November 21, 2009

Coconut Dreamz 2009 Holiday Edition continues…

Do you remember my post about the apple galette? That was the first time I ate a pie (okay, it was close enough to a pie) with the crust.

I am not joking.

I have, for nearly all of my 24 years, hated pie crust. Whenever I was served pie, I always scraped the filling out of the crust. I was teased mercilessly by my family for this. It also meant double-crust pies were entirely out of the question.

I blame refrigerated and frozen dough for this. I am pretty sure the number of times I have consumed a homemade pie crust can be counted on one hand.

However, I volunteered to cook the pies for my two Thanksgivings this year, and I do not do things in halves. I hope you all know this about me by now. This means I am making the pies entirely from scratch. I decided to break up the stages of preparation so that the prospect of baking between 3 to 5 pies is less daunting than if I made them at the last minute. Sometimes I’m such a perfectionist!

So today I am just going to introduce to you the pie crust. There is one secret ingredients in my pie crust, and it’s the best EVER.

Vodka!

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Black Bean & Corn Salad and… Pizza!

November 14, 2009

Tracey brought up a very good point in the comments of the last post – we have been posting quite a few dessert recipes late. So I thought I’d share two recent dinner-style dishes I’ve made. The good thing is that they share some common ingredients so you won’t be throwing away half-used vegetables! They are also pretty flexible, which is something you know I love!

The first recipe is… pizza! I know pizza is not that healthy, but doesn’t it feel virtuous to load it up with crunchy veggies?

pizza

Pizza dough is kind of a bitch to work with (pardon, mom!). It’s so sticky and messy! I used this recipe (from Once Upon a Plate) for the dough. Here is a list of my caveats and warnings to go with this recipe:

  1. Flour is your friend. I added more than the recipe states AND liberally floured my hands. A lot. If you don’t flour your hands, you will have Dough Monster Hands. This is where the cursing comes in.
  2. I stretched it out onto a normal size round pizza pan, and it was a little thicker than I wanted it to be. So be bold and free-form it to your desired thickness.
  3. Also, since I wanted it to be crispy, I par-baked it for about 5 minutes.

I topped my pizza with:

  • You should probably spread a little red sauce on the par-baked dough, but I forgot to do this because I am not the biggest fan of pizza sauce!
  • Caramelized onions: cut up half a red onion, and throw into a hot pan coated with hot olive oil. Cook for 30-40 minutes on medium heat, throwing a little salt over after about 10 minutes. Do not stir too often. (There are better resources out there if you want to learn about caramelization.)
  • Half of a red (or orange or yellow) pepper, sliced into strips.
  • About 8 ounces or 1 cup of mozzarella. Fresh is best of course, but make sure you blot it well to get as much water out of it as possible.
  • A sprinkle of blue cheese on half, because I am the only one in the house who likes it.
  • A few slices of pepperoni for the men in the house who turn their noses up at anything meatless.

There you have it, a relatively quick pizza dough, and of course you can put any topping you wish on there. I just like caramelized onions and blue cheese together because it’s similar to a pizza from Buca di Beppo (but, shhh, don’t tell my dad they put blue cheese on that pizza! He loves it!).

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Berry Cobbler

November 11, 2009

cobbler 017

Cobbler was one of my favorite childhood desserts. We had a blackberry bramble at the back of our yard, and every June my fingers would be stained purple from picking the berries off the bush. Every empty storage vessel would be filled with big fat berries. Then, a few weeks later, raspberries would be in season, and my dad would bring home coffee cans full of small wild black raspberries. My mom would go crazy trying to use them all. There was jam and jelly, crisp and crumble, and… berry cobbler!

My mom would sprinkle some sugar over the washed berries, stick them in the fridge overnight, and voila! Berries in syrup. You can freeze berries like this, which is where the berries for this recipe came from. I defrosted them and drained the syrup off. If you don’t have a blackberry or raspberry bramble in your backyard, you can just use store-bought frozen berries. I GUESS.

My recipe is a combination of two other recipes. Basically I had a recipe from a slow cooker cookbook that I liked, but I wanted to adapt it for the oven. It’s got a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter. And yes, this is a batter-type cobbler. What I like about a batter cobbler instead of one with drop biscuits is that you get berries AND batter in one bite. Because, really, cobbler is all about the batter.

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Banana Bundt Cake!

November 5, 2009
by

dd

I made a bundt cake once before and it was disastrous because it would not come out. It put me right off and I didn’t use the pan  for years.  Conveniently enough my dad came back from a weekend trip with an abundance of ripe bananas. He was only  gone for 2 days but that didn’t prevent the typical Asian survival instinct setting in.

This cake is looooooooovely. It really is bananas. Buttery, moist and soft. The blog I got the recipe from is here!

Ingredients

  • 4 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour/ 280 grams
  • 3/4 cup sugar/175 grams
  • 1 cup walnuts chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 125 grams butter/4 oz -Reserve 3 tbsp for the pan [I melted the butter cos I’m not patient enough :P]
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F/Gas Mark 4 /180C
  • Add the melted butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and stir well.
  • In a separate bowl, sift the flour and add the baking powder and salt.
  • Crack your eggs and add them to the butter/sugar mixture. Make sure the melted butter isn’t too hot or it’ll cook the eggs :/
  • Mash your bananas with a fork and make sure the lumps aren’t too big and add them to your eggy mixture!
  • Slowly add in the flour mixture a little at a time, whisking well to incorporate the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.
  • Now here comes the important bit, preparing the pan. You’ve got to use your fingers to cover the entire pan with a generous dose of melted butter.  Next coat the entire pan with a teaspoon of flour. I added half of the flour and whacked the bottom of it while moving it around to evenly distribute it on one side of the pan and used the remaining tablespoon of flour on the opposite side and did the same so I ended up with a greased and coated pan! If you use a good amount of butter the sucker will slide right out! But you’ve got to wait for it to cool a little cos I didn’t and a little bit didn’t come off so I had to do a DIY job 😛
  • Cook for 1 hour or when you can extract a clean toothpick from the cake.

It’s also an excuse to post a clip from a beloved film of mine – My Big Fat Greek Wedding!! Don’t shake your head at me. I love that film to death, I quote it to death and I’ve seen it about 45 times and have not got tired of it yet! You say Bundt and I immediately think of this :

There’s a hole in this cake!