Monday, June 14, 2010

Best Buttermilk Pancakes

Saturday mornings were "pancake and eggs" day growing up at my house in upstate, NY. With no rush to get six kids out the door for seminary or school my mom would wake early and make a giant breakfast. Sometimes we'd make breakfast for dinner, a tradition I still do at my own house, and we all loved it. Sometimes waffles were on the menu, sometimes jiffy mix muffins, and sometimes my dad even made a pancake or two. Dad made giant pancakes we called flapjacks. One flapjack would fill up a 10 inch cast iron pan!

As much as I loved pancakes, my one and only complaint was how they stayed with you all day! Even after only two pancakes I was full and done until at least dinner. If only I could find a sumptuous pancake with out the "stick to your ribs" feeling. Welcome Best Buttermilk Pancakes!

No only do these pancakes cook up fluffy, golden and super tasty they are surprisingly not leaden weights in your stomach! I say surprisingly because with the addition of buttermilk and sour cream I thought these would be super rich and heavy. No so! Here's how you make 'em!
Whisk flour,sugar,salt,baking powder and baking soda together in a medium bowl. This is the first step to light pancakes as it evenly distributes your leavening agents throughout the flour.

In a second bowl whisk together buttermilk,eggs,sour cream and melted butter. A word about buttermilk... Yes, you can sour milk by adding on tsp of vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of milk, however, I find the flavor and fluffiness to be wayyyy below that of using buttermilk. No substitutions, please!

Next, dig a well in the center of your dry ingredients and slowly add the wet. Then gently combine. Here is where a lot of pancake makers make lead weights instead. Don't over mix the mix. Mix until the wet combines with the dry and then walk away! It will still have flour lumps and in pancake land, that's OK! Look at my mix below.

See! Lumpy and OK! Keep saying "Over mixing, heavy pancake" over and over if you need too. Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes. This is a good time to get your griddle or pan ready. BTW, don't be alarmed when you return to the mix. It will look a bit bigger and fluffier after it's brief proofing.

Next, get you griddle or pan ready. After years of saying I didn't need one I finally broke down and got a griddle and discovered that I did, in fact need one. It makes pancakes,grilled chesses sandwiches and life in general so much easier. But if you don't have one get out a fry pan of choice and put it on med heat or set your griddle to 350. Pan or griddle is ready if you drop a few drops of cold water on the surface of the pan and it sizzles. No sizzling, not hot enough, instant evaporation too hot! Place a teaspoon of oil on the surface and wipe down with a paper towel. Please, don't burn yourself.

Cook pancakes until bubbles just start to break over the surface then flip. Once this batch is done you can move them into a warm oven and cover with foil. I find just lightly wrapping in foil minus oven retains the heat just as well

                                                             Next, feed to hungry people

                                                          And watch them disappear!

Best Buttermilk Pancakes 
makes 16 4 inch pancakes.

You will need: mixing bowls, foil,oven heated to 200 (optional if you want to keep them warm in the oven), whisk, spatula

2 C all purpose flour
2 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 C Buttermilk
1/4 C sour cream
2 larges eggs
3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted cooled slightly
1-2 tsp veg oil

Do This:

Whisk, flour,salt,baking soda, and baking powder in med. mixing bowl. In second bowl whisk, buttermilk,eggs, sour cream and butter.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet ingredients. Gently mix until just combined. There will be flour lumps. That's OK. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat griddle to 350 or fry pan on med heat. Drop small amount of water on heated pan or griddle. If water sizzles and "dance" on pan surface it's hot enough. Put tsp amount of oil on the pan and wipe over with paper towel. Do this with each batch.  Using a 1/4 cup measure pour batter onto griddle. Cook until bubbles begin to break on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Flip pancake and cook until bottom is golden brown about 1-2 min. longer.  Wrap in foil and place in heated oven to keep warm. Serve ASAP.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Make your Own Bagels

I love bagels. I know that in the world of carb counting, calorie watching, and whole grain mania I should love those extra fiber super food breads. I've tried and tried but I can't deny my feelings any longer. I love chewy, bready bagels, toasted with butter or cream cheese. I suppose it comes from growing up in Rochester, NY where Jewish roots grow strong and deep. Rochesterians were dining on bagels long before the Bruggers Bagel chain showed up sometime in the  90's. For a long time local favorite and all time awesome grocery store, Wegman's, made their own bagels right in the store as well as many other local bakeries. 

Sadly, when Carl and I lived in San Diego there was not a decent bagel to be found anywhere in that town. Einstein Bagels did offer something that looked like a bagel but Carl declared them "a roll with a hole in the middle" after the first bite. We begged family flying in to see us to bring bagels. I know family was much happier when we moved back to NY so they wouldn't have to come off a plane smelling like an onion and garlic bagel!

So when friend Toni T was getting ready to head out west I decided to try my hand at making a real bagel. Something hearty, chewy and could handle a road trip without being messy. I turned to The Bread Book by Betsy Oppenneer one of two bread books I have on hand. 

Add your wet ingredients, salt  and yeast and mix vigorously until combined and nice and soupy. A word about yeast: I use rapid rise. You don't have to proof it and it cuts your proof (rise) times in half. If you using regular yeast proof it before adding to the wet ingredients.
Here is the nice and soupy mixture. Paddle attachment or low tech wooden spoon work equally well for this task.

Add 3 cups of flour and beat again. I used my paddle attachment for my mixer. You can use all purpose flour (I did) but you will have a much chewier texture if you use bread flour or a combination of all purpose and bread flour.
Keep adding flour to the mixture, about 1/4 C at a time, until the dough is smooth and elastic and has a bit of a "tacky" feel. If you're doing this by  hand it will take you about 10 minutes. That's why I have a giant mixer. It only takes about four minutes. 

Place your dough in an lightly oiled bowl with room for your lovely dough blob to grow. Turn your dough over so both sides are coated with the oil (it prevents sticking later on).  My bowl of choice is ceramic. I also cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. I then preheat my oven to 350 and rest my dough on top of the oven. You want your dough to double in size. If using rapid rise yeast this should take about 30 minutes. 
OK, next your going to put your big dough ball on a lightly oiled surface and then divide it into 32 equal pieces. Each piece should fit into the palm of your hand, roughly. See my instructions below for more detail.

Roll each piece into a ball and then, with your finger make a hole in the middle and then stretch the hole to about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place on flat surface and cover with towel to rest the dough. (I had to re-stretch some as the holes started to close with the resting process). Night Night little bagels!
The great thing about making bread is you can give the kids extra dough and it keeps them very happy while you are busy making bagels.
After a brief rest wake those sleepy bagels up with with a boiling bath. Don't worry, they puff up in their boiling water bathes.  Bagels are space hogs and don't like crowding. 3-4 in a big pot at a time please. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or oil very well and place so they aren't touching sides. Bagels that are touching have soggy sides when they come out of your oven. Very Yuck!

Super efficient Carl came up with the plan to have two pots going at once as well as all 3 baking sheets with bagels at different stages, two baking , one cooling. We used 3 timers to keep track of everything. It was great to have an extra pair of watchful hands.

OK, so was it worth making your own bagels? Well, they come out about the size of a Lender's bagel. So not overly large. My bagels were not as chewy as I would like but that could be fixed by a heavy dose of bread flour. Making bagels is work intensive and is much easier if you have a helper. Hmmm, unless I'm living in California and no decent bagel can be found I think I'll stick to buying my bagels.

For those of you who like great adventure here is the recipe:

Time: About two hours from start to finish. About 45 min. more if using regular yeast.
Grab all your baking sheets and line with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

You will need:

2 scant TBSP of rapid rise yeast or 2 pkgs of rapid rise yeast
2 C WARM water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
3 large eggs at room temp. Two eggs for dough, one egg for wash.
2 TBSP vegetable oil.
3 TBSP sugar 
5 1/2-6 1/2 C of flour ( I'd recommend at least a 50/50 mix of bread flour and all purpose)
2 TBSP Milk ( for the egg wash)
2 quarts of boiling water for each pot you plan to use.
poppy, caraway, or sesame seeds, optional.

Do this:

1.Add warm water, yeast TWO of the eggs, oil, salt and ONE TBSP of the sugar. Mix until soupy. Add 3 C of flour and beat vigorously with a spoon until nice and soup, about two min

2. Gradually add more of the remaining flour. 1/4 cup at a time until dough forms a mass and starts to pull away from the bowl.  Continue mixing and adding flour as needed until a ball forms and stays around the dough hook. If doing by hand, remove dough and knead on floured surface adding flour as needed. Knead by mixer for about four to five minutes. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Dough should be elastic, smooth with "blisters" popping up as you knead.

3.  Put the dough in a large oiled bowl. Turn dough over to coat both side. Cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel. Place in a warm area and let rise for 30 min or until double in size.

4. Turn dough onto lightly oiled surface.  Use a knife to divide into 32 equal pieces. Do this by dividing dough in half, then that piece in half and so on. Shape each piece into a ball. Insert your finger into the middle of each ball and stretch to make a 1 1/2 in hole.  YOU MAY HAVE TO RE-STRETCH THE DOUGH AS IT RESTS. Cover the bagels with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes. 

5. Preheat oven to 425. Beat the remaining egg with milk to make the wash.

6.  In a 12 inch dutch oven or large pot dissolve the remaining two TBSP of sugar in boiling water. Keep the water to a slow boil.

7.  Drop 3 or 4 bagels at a time. Don't crowd them! After 1 minute turn bagels with slotted spoon and boil 3 minutes longer. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on parchment lined or well greased cookie sheets.  Put them upside down. This gives a nice crust. Make sure sides of bagels are not touching. 

8. When you have poached enough bagels brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if desired. 

9. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned.

10. Immediately remove the bagels from the baking sheet and cool on a rack.

Cool all the way before storing. You can freeze or store in a bread bag in a cool, dry place for up to four days. It does taste super when toasted!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Strawberry Blackberry Coconut Muffins

My friend Toni. made the most delicious strawberry muffins and I begged her to post the recipe for me on her blog. So, she did as she was packing up her entire house to move all the way to Arizona! What an awesome friend.  And I promptly made them for my other friend,Sarah, who drove 3 hours for a final goodbye visit with Toni. I should also state that not only did Sarah drive 3 hours she did so with a four year old and an 18 month old, by herself! So naturally, I wanted her trip to include these DIVINE muffins. What makes them DIVINE? Tender crumb, loaded with juicy berries, sweet coconut , beautiful to serve,and the most wonderful smell as they are baking. I changed the original recipe slightly by adding a blackberry/strawberry mix.

First select your berries. Fresh or frozen will work just as well. It being summer, and an abundance of berry crop lead me to the fresh option. But imagine eating these bits of heaven in the middle of winter. Thank you frozen berries!

 Next gently toss the berries with a little lemon juice and set aside.
Beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Add egg yolks, vanilla, half of the dry ingredients,buttermilk, rest of the dry stuff, berries, and coconut.
Beat the egg whites with cream of tarter until soft peaks from then carefully fold into the muffin mix. It's not tricky but takes just a bit of patience. Make a gentle circling motion with your wrist. Carefully scooping mix and folding in the egg whites

Fill those cups! Fill -em right up to the top. I know this goes against muffin convention but remember, these are not conventional muffins! Bake at 350 25-30 min. Toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin should come out clean.

I suggest you try this muffin on your harshest food critic. Looks skeptical doesn't he?

Wait for the rave reviews and save your smug smile for later when said critic is eating another muffin!

I chose to celebrate with the two hottest cooks I know, Sarah C and Toni T! Thanks Toni for introducing my new favorite muffin!!!!

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with papers or spray with cooking spray.

You will need:

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tea baking soda
  • 1 tea baking powder
  • 1/4 tea salt
  • 3/4 C sliced strawberries
  • 3/4 C blackberries 
  • 1 tea lemon juice
  • 1 tea vanilla
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 1/4 tea cream of tarter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk  (see tip below for souring milk if you don't have buttermilk)
  • 1 cup coconut
Do This:
Gently toss berries with lemon juice and set aside. Separate eggs saving both the yolk and whites separate bowls.  Whisk egg yolks with vanilla and beat whites with cream of tarter until soft peaks form. Beat butter and sugar until  creamed. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Stir with a spoon until incorporated. Add half of the flour all of the salt and baking soda. Mix with spoon until incorporated.  Add buttermilk or soured milk rest of the flour.  Add berries with lemon juice and coconut. Mix gently. Finally, add egg whites and fold gently into the mixture.  Mixture should be thick and a bit sticky.

Fill muffin cups to the top. Place muffin pan in preheated oven on middle rack and bake for 20-25 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean when inserted into a muffin. Remove from oven and remove muffins from pan and let cool on wire rack.  Muffins are best eaten the same day you make them but you can store them in covered container for up to two days.

Room Temperature eggs whip up faster and fluffier than eggs right out of the fridge.
Don't have butter milk? Since buttermilk flavor isn't essential to this recipe go a head and sour regular milk instead. Never soured milk  click here for a quick and easy tutorial!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fresh Tomato and Zucchini Tart with Mozzarella and Basil

OK! First this is sooooo easy to make. Don't let the "fresh" and "tart" intimidate you (although please feel free to use the name of this dish to impress friends or persnickety relatives!). It takes just a few ingredients easily obtained in your local grocery store or garden plus it uses REFRIGERATED PIZZA CRUST!!!! You can have this dish on the table, from start to finish, in less than an hour!

First, take a baking sheet and line with parchment paper (you can now buy this stuff at Wal-mart). Fold sides of paper to fit pan if needed and secure with masking tape. Sprinkle with cornmeal if you want to.

Next, unroll dough onto paper and let stand for five minutes. Pat into a 12 inch square. Tip: Only take your dough out of the fridge when you're ready to place it on the cookie sheet! TIP: I'd pre-bake the crust for about five minutes just to set it. I found the crust was a bit soggy on the bottom if you don't. The tart has a "rustic" kind of feel so don't go overboard on getting it exactly square.

Arrange tomato and zucchini over dough and leave a one inch border. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Bake until dough is browned (about 12-15 minutes). If you can't tell by now this is a great recipe for little helping hands!
Top with cheese and then bake until cheese melts (about five minutes). Drizzle with olive oil and top with basil leaves. Oooops, I baked with basil leaves on but it tasted just as good. Cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes.
Serve with a... Oh, I was going to say salad but hey, it's right in this little tart! How handy!

Yep, it really and truly looked this yummy right from my non-fancy oven!

This recipe comes from "The Best of Cooking Light" which has lots of really great stuff and pics as well.

Preheat your oven to 400. Grab a standard size baking sheet and parchment paper. Serves 4 Adults

You will need:
1 TBSP yellow cornmeal (optional)
1 10 oz can refrigerated pizza crust
1 C sliced zucchini sliced 1/8 in or really thin
4 plum or Roma tomatoes seeded and cut into 1/4 inch slices (I found it was easier to slice then poke the seeds out)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 oz whole mozzarella, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 C torn fresh basil leaves

Do This!
Sprinkle paper with cornmeal. Unroll dough and let stand for five minutes. Pat into 12 inch square. Pre-bake crust for 3-5 minutes to set if desired. Arrange zucchini and tomatoes over dough, leaving a 1 inch border all the way around. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Fold edges of dough over zucchini and tomato. Dough won't cover all the veggies. This is just the edge of the tart.

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until dough is lightly browned. Top with cheese, bake five more minutes or until cheese melts. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes .

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ranger Cookies:Chewy, Sweetness 1970's style

Anyone remember these: Ranger Cookies sometimes called Cowboy Cookies? After lots of research I think these may have come on the scene some time in the 70's. Following the model of transparency used by congress and the current Presidential administration my research consisted mainly,OK, solely, of asking a friend around my age if she remembered these cookies. Together we both remember eating them as children and since we were both children in the late 70's early 80's we decided they are a recipe from the 70's give or take a few decades. 

First start with great ingredients. Yes, that's butter flavor Crisco. I love butter, the real stuff, but find that with many cookies shortening lends a better result (less cookie spread) Plus BFCrisco does give baked goods a buttery taste that is missing if you just use vegetable Crisco. So, cream together your wet ingredients.

Next, add the dry and then the fun stuff, coconut, oats and cereal flakes. This is where you can let your 1970's creativity come through. You can substitute chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, or any flaked cereal ( I used bran flakes here). Old fashioned oats lend a chewy, toothsome texture so I'd stay away from instant oats as some of the texture would be lost.

Grab your sous chef, spoon, cookie dough and cookie sheets. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on your cookie sheets.
It should look something like this. But this being a recipe from the groovy 70's it doesn't have to be exact, especially if your sous chef is under the age of two.
It's always a good idea to have EXTRA sous chefs around to taste stuff like beaters and spoons. The rocking horse in the background is preheating my oven.

Sweet,chewy with a nice nutty flavor and boy, do they smell good baking. These sturdy little cookies make great take along snacks or have your kid be the envy at the lunch room by packing a few of these for school!

There are many, many forms of this recipe floating around. I grabbed this from

Monday, May 17, 2010


The guest chef, Mr. Carl Walker is back with a fantastic coconut flan. The best part? It's super simple!
 Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5-10 minutes
Cool down" 20-30 minutes
chill: 2 hours

4 Cups unsweetened coconut milk ( you can find this in 14 oz cans at your supermarket. I found it in the asian food section of our local walmart)
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C cornstarch
1/4tsp salt
Strawberries optional

In a small mixing bowl mix salt, cornstarch and 1/2 cup of coconut milk with a whisk until very smooth. Make sure there are no lumps and set aside.

In a large saucepan place the rest of the coconut milk, which should be 3 1/2 C and the sugar. Bring to boil over med heat. Add cornstarch mixture slowly and whisk steady so it won't lump.

Reduce to low heat and stir steady for five more minutes.

Pour mixture into wet 9 inch pie plate. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes then place in fridge for at least two hours.  Garnish with strawberries if desired.

If you don't want a "pudding skin" place plastic wrap over slightly cooled flan.
Before you cut it run a butter knife along the edge of the plate.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

Do not let the title of this dish fool you! I grabbed this quick one night while looking for a meatless dish. (We've decided to have a few nights a week be meatless).  I was expecting pasta and vegetables nothing fantastic. Trouble was I did find something fantastic! Fantastically easy and so gooood! The sauce is so light and creamy. Heavenly! I've made this twice and have had dinner on the table in less than an hour! This is a very flexible dish so feel free to try different veggies, like peppers, green beans or zucchini.

Just a few tips. Use a high quality cheese. Skip the Kraft stuff for this recipe. Look in your cheese shop section of your local grocery store for decent parmigiano-reggiano. Second, if you can't find fresh good looking asparagus try frozen (that's a tip from good friend, Toni). Last, if you can't find fresh basil just do without. Don't try using dried.

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 C. Shallots
1 C chopped carrots
1 C broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces
4 asparagus cut into bit size pieces
1/2 C fresh or frozen peas
salt and pepper
1C Heavy Cream
3/4 C fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
10 basil leaves stacked and cut into thin ribbions.
1 lb fettuccini

1. In skillet large enough to hold fettuccini melt the butter over med. heat. Add the shallots and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, five min. or until softened.
2. Bring two quarts of water to boil in a large pot.  Add salt to taste. Add the borccoli and asparagus and cook for 1 min. Remove with slotted spoon leaving boiling water in pot.
3. Put broccoli and asparagus along with peas and cream. Bring to a simmer . Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
4. Put the fettuccini into boiling water and cook unitl al dente. Drain fettuccine and add to the skillet. Add the cheese and toss well. Sprinkle with basil and serve immeadiately.