Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Back when I was still in the Mitten, I didn’t eat too much red meat.

In that area, ground beef was pretty cheap before and when I first started cooking but almost directly after that, it suddenly became…not so cheap. And other cuts like chuck, eye of round, steak and whatnot were hardly ever within the price range of what was do-able for a girl who regularly peruses the sale ads and basically gets what most inexpensive. So, I didn’t eat it too much because I didn’t get to buy & cook it myself too much.

Figures.

It didn’t bother me ‘too’ much. If you guys have been following me for a while, you’ll know that my favorite protein, by far, is chicken. It’s not only delicious and better for you, it’s also usually more inexpensive than red meat. The last of which, really matters to yours truly.

However, I do like red meat. And in spite of not having quite as much of a chance to cook with it than with white meat, I do think I walk away with pretty tasty results. When I get the odd craving for it, I REALLY get a craving. It’s a stronger one than the one I get for chicken, to be honest. It can be satiated by one of three things:

An epic humongous, juicy burger, an epic humongous steak salad, or an epic humongous steak sandwich. Either will do: just so long as I get it.

While I was living in the Mitten, (since red meat wasn’t the most inexpensive choice in the grocery store when cooking for a family) I would usually just treat myself to one of the dishes at a take-out place or sit-down restaurant every once in a while and my craving would be satisfied and that was the end of it.

As it turns out, things are somewhat different on the west side. There are of course going to be certain things that are going to be pricey anywhere, at any time of year, guaranteed. However, since coming here I’ve discovered that for some reason, certain cuts of red meat are just cheaper than they are in the Midwest. I mean, REALLY good deals when and if you know how to find them. As a result, I’ve been able to flex my beef-recipe muscles out and giving them more experience than they’ve ever had before in the Mitten.

One of the meats that we’ve been able to get at a really good deal is Tri-Tip beef. The tri-tip is a cut of muscle; in diagram terms of the cow, it’s in front of the Round portion, beneath the tenderloin and above the flank. It’s kinda shaped like a boomerang, and is a really beautiful piece of meat. It’s got the lean cut of tenderloin, with just enough marbling of fat to give it the moisture and tenderness that’s on the fattier cuts, like round. I’d never heard of it at all since coming out here, but let me tell you: since we’ve been here I’ve prepared it three times.

Two out of three of those times was using this recipe.

Whenever I’m not largely familiar with a dish or an ingredient, I do prefer to keep things simple so as to not mess it up. That’s what I did here and even though it’s a simple enough recipe, the flavors more than make up for it. I looked up the standard way to cook a tri-tip in the oven (since me and the grill don’t get along), then I assembled together some of my favorite spices, blended the two together and came out on the other end with what you guys are seeing here.

There is one tool that I HIGHLY recommend you use when cooking this (and frankly, I think it’s something every home cook should have in their kitchen anyway): an instant read thermometer. Why?

Regardless of how you like your steak/burger cooked, the tri-tip is a cut that IS supposed to be cooked on the red/pinkish side. I don’t want to say it should still be bleeding by the time it’s done (after all I do take my steak/burgers  medium to medium well). But, this should still be somewhat…leaky. You cook it past medium and you’re in the danger zone of nuking it into leather. Now, if you’re a professional chef you MIGHT be able to guess-timate the exact moment when to take this out of the oven, let it rest (during which the temperature of the meat rises and continues to cook while the juices redistribute and settle), and slice it. But, most of us aren’t pros, and therefore, should rely on the trusty instant read thermometer that will tell us EXACTLY when the beef is at the right temp to take out of the oven. (Plus they’re very inexpensive and can be found at Target/Walmart/Marshall’s/Amazon so there’s really no excuse for you not to have one.)

I don’t know which I love more about this recipe: that it was an inexpensive way to hit the spot of my rare but strong craving for red meat, that it was so easy to put together with minimal ‘labor’ involved, or that it tasted so good. Why don’t we just call it all three?

Coffee and beef are a great combination and the coffee in this rub really does stand out nicely. The paprika and cumin give it an earthy, smoky flavor, while the other ingredients balance it out with sweetness and spice.  What this yields is a slab of meat that will more than deliver either an epic steak salad, steak sandwich or just a killer hunk of beef.

Believe me, I’ve had them all.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #168, co-hosted by Petra @ Food Eat Love and Lina @ Lin’s Recipes this week.

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Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Recipe Adapted from NYT Cooking

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole Tri-tip steak, about 2-3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons ground coffee; a dark blend preferably (I used French roast)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • About 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • About 2 tablespoons beer (I used Guinness)
  • About 1 tablespoon Canola or vegetable oil

Directions

Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl and set aside

Remove the silver skin and trim the excess fat from the steak; it’s fine if there is still some marbling on the surface.

 Rub the soy sauce and beer into the meat so that it seeps inside. Rub the spice mixture evenly into both sides of the meat. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch Oven or pot over high heat. Sear the Tri-Tip on both sides until a dark crust has formed, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Spray a  broiler rack or oven rack with cooking spray and place it over a sheet pan that you line with aluminum foil.

Place the meat on the rack and roast in the oven until the thickest, most center part reads about 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t allow it to cook for too long: this cut of meat is supposed to be reddish/pink.

Allow the meat to rest for about 10-20 minutes before slicing against the grain.

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Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

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Easter Sunday’s in a couple of days. When I was growing up, it was a huge to-do. Me and my sisters all got brand spanking new dresses (most of which were pretty ugly because, 90’s kids fashion) and shoes. I had a great mom who usually made sure we also got Easter gift baskets to wake up to. We’d go to church, where the services were specially centered around the Resurrection.  Then it was back to my grandparents’, or a restaurant where there was a nice brunch or dinner that would give us all food comas for the rest of the day and evening.

Nowadays, things are much… quieter. But if there’s still something I do try to keep going for myself at Easter, it’s good food. That, you never grow out of.

Making Easter bread is something that’s become somewhat of a yearly tradition for me. I do it because there are quite a lot of different types from various cultures and places to try. I do it test and improve my bread making skills. I do it because most of them are really yummy and not too difficult to pull off. I do it because I like it.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for hot cross buns ever since I was a kid and heard about them for the first time in a British nursery rhyme. They just looked yummy in the picture and for years, I always wondered what one would taste like. I recently read a comment on another food blog that called them the first and earliest ‘food fad’, which I thought was funny.

It was two years ago I think, when I took my first shot at making Hot Cross Buns for myself. Mine had a slight twist on the original with the addition of chamomile tea to the dough, which gave them a delicious flavor. I decided then and there that it wouldn’t be the last of my hot cross bun baking. This HAD to happen again.

I briefly considered just making plain Hot Cross Buns, but then I noticed a recipe on Williams-Sonoma’s blog that looked very intriguing; Hot Cross Buns translated into a a single loaf of bread.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I have trouble sticking to the ‘script’ of a recipe if I feel comfortable with it. I just can’t leave well enough alone. The original recipe just called for a single rectangle of dough to be rolled up then placed in the loaf pan and baked off to form one swirl.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t do that.

Look guys, I know it looks complicated, but it isn’t. Really.

I started with the one cylinder, then randomly took my bench scraper and split it in half. I then used it to split THOSE halves in half. Then, I just arranged the individual cylinders side by side in the loaf pan with the cut side facing the pan. That’s it. You let the loaves rise and get puffy, then bake them off where they actually rise and get even MORE puffy. Then by the time they’re done and cooled off, BAM. You’ve got a loaf of bread that not only smells amazing, it’ll have everyone you share it with scratching their heads wondering how the heck you pulled this off.

(Which never fails to be great feeling by the way.)

Now, let’s get down to taste. I added a cup of whole wheat flour to the dough, which gives it that hearty, nutty flavor that I personally love. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg give it an ‘umph’ of warm comforting spice that will make your kitchen smell like a bakery. The sweetness of the dough’s cinnamon brown sugar filling is also very well balanced from the tartness of the cherries and/or currants and the orange zest. You don’t have to add the icing, but come on: why WOULDN’T you add it? Icing is one of life’s pleasures and don’t you try and say it’s not; no one believes you.

There are so many ways you could eat & enjoy this bread. Plain and all on it’s own. Toasted & smeared with butter & jam. Sliced very thick and used for FRENCH FRIGGIN TOAST. You could even use the leftovers (should there even be any because, I mean, come ON)  as the base for a delicious bread pudding.

Quite simply guys, this bread hits allllll the right spots. Find out which one is yours, asap.

Happy Easter, Resurrection Sunday, Passover & Fiesta Friday #167.

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Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup dried cherries or currants
  • 1 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon water

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • A few tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the whole milk and white sugar and heat to 110°. Pour this into the bowl of a standing mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for about 10-20 minutes, until mixture is frothy and proved.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the flours, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. After yeast mixture is ready, add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl, and combine using the dough attachment, about one cup at a time.

Add the eggs, cherries and orange zest and continue to allow to mix/knead on medium for about 10 minutes until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and is smooth. Grease the bottom of the bowl, place dough back inside. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Meanwhile, spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans with cooking spray and line with one wide strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil each; spray the paper/foil as well.

Sprinkle a small amount of flour or powdered sugar on a clean surface. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Keep the other half covered with the plastic wrap while you work with the first. Flour a rolling pin & roll out the half to an 8  1/2 inch rectangle.

Combine the softened butter, light brown sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Divide the mixture in half.

Using a spatula & your fingers, spread and press the half of the sugar mixture over the dough evenly. Starting from the short end, roll the rectangle into a cylinder as tightly as you can, pressing the seam securely to seal. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, divide the cylinder in half, then divide each half into four rolls. Place the rolls, cut side up in the bottom of the loaf pan in two rows of four. Repeat the above process with the other half of dough. Cover both pans with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until rise and puffy, 60-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Place a shallow pan of water on floor or bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg and the water. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture over both loaves. Place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, covering with foil if browning too quickly on top, until inner temp of the loaves reaches 195°-200°.  Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then use the sides of the parchment paper or foil to lift out of the pan. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, for about one hour.

Combine the powdered sugar with the milk and vanilla until slightly thick. Use a fork to drizzle the icing over the top of the loaves. Allow to set for about another hour before slicing thick and serving with butter or jam.

Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

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When I was a little girl, there was no food, (and I mean absolutely NO FOOD) that I loved more than sugar cookies.

Not french fries. Not chicken nuggets. Not chocolate. Not mac n cheese (which I never liked and still don’t actually…hush). Not even chocolate chip flavored cookies.

Sugar. Cookies.

To me they were just… the best thing ever.

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If I’m being completely honest, there’s a part of me that still thinks they are. The ingredients of the typical sugar cookie are deceptively simple, yet the recipe itself is still easy to miss the mark on. A poorly made sugar cookie can come in the form of one that’s dry, too crisp, bland, too thick, too crumbly and dozens of other ways that things can go wrong. To date, the worst excuse for a sugar cookie I’ve ever had came from those abominable premade break and bake refrigerated cookie dough. The cookie is just barely palatable in a precious window of time of about….10 minutes after you take them out of the oven. Then, well…they cool/dry into pretty much inedible, bland sawdust.

Blegh.

Stay away. Far, far away from break and bake dough when making sugar cookies, I implore you. Scratch really is the only way to go. I will take a well made, from-scratch sugar cookie over say, creme brulee or a slice of cake any day. I will fight you for the last sugar cookie on a dessert tray. (You think I’m playing. Heh. Go ahead and try me, Buttercup.)

A well made sugar cookie is a perfect dessert, whether eaten all on its own or say, dipped in ice cream or whipping cream or chocolate (try it sometime if you haven’t). Once you know how to make a good one all on its own, it might be a good idea to start branching out and experimenting with creative twists to it…like this one.

I made these as a result of still having an excess of ginger from my homemade ginger tea I was making to ease my stomach issues. I took the leftover ginger from the syrup I made and candied it by rolling the pieces in white sugar and letting them cool until they’d crystallized. It’s a MUCH easier alternative to buying the premade stuff in the spice aisle and it’s quite easy to do. I was VERY curious to see what the spicy, slightly sweet ginger would add to the base of a sugar cookie.

Textures abound in this here recipe. The cookie itself is slightly crisp at the edges, with just the right amount of softness in the center so that biting into it, you get a slight crunch & a chew at the same time that’s intensified by the texture of the candied ginger. I won’t lie, the ginger REALLY does pack a punch; there is both crystallized and ground ginger in the dough and it’s definitely noticeable. The cookies are both sweet and spicy, but I enjoyed the contrast of flavors. Sometimes sugar cookies are stuck between either being too sweet or too bland; the doubled use of ginger here ensures that these are neither. They’re the perfect balance.

As usual, I’m linking this post to the Fiesta Friday for this week, #166, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugalhausfrau and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Food and Wine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (3 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, crystallized ginger, ground ginger, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand held mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to evenly combine. Fold in the dry ingredients, about 1/3 a cup at a time. Mix just until dough comes together.

Shape dough into a long log and freeze log for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a bench scraper, cut off cookies about 1/8 inch thick and place them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar if desired.

Bake the cookies in batches until golden and just barely set on top, 8-10 minutes.  Switch the top and bottom racks midway through baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on pan before moving to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

I went to a huge, popular science museum recently where there was a planetarium theater. The show I saw there was about the relationship between different ecosystems and consumers in the environment. The screen of the theater was huge; it felt like you were actually apart of the movie itself, which was nice. It was the overall message of the movie itself that had me feeling kinda, well…meh.

In a nutshell, the whole thing was one giant guilt trip for the way that humans burn through resources on the planet. Food, just about any and every kind of food takes a lot of energy, work and effort to produce. Humans not only eat too much of it, we waste too much of it. It’s more than the planet’s got to offer and if we don’t cut our consumption, alter our methods of collection and chill out overall, it’s all going to run out and we’ll be royally screwed.

No joke, that was legit the underlying, not-so-subtle point.

The movie heavily emphasized that to alleviate this concern, one of the main things we can all do is severely cut our consumption of meat–especially beef, and up our consumption of plant-based foods. Essentially, we should all become vegetarians.

Sigh.

Alright, so…listen. It’s not that I don’t get it. I do. Humans suck. We consume too much and produce too little. Heck, the US has a president, a whole damn administration and quite a few supporters who want to pretend that climate change is one big hoax that we don’t actually have to worry about.  It’s awful. I won’t deny it.

But. You see. Here’s the thing. Keeping it one hundred…

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I’m not giving up meat, B. It’s not gonna happen. I will likely be eating meat until the day I die an old lady in my bed, (or the day the president of my country gets us all killed in a nuclear war with Russia or North Korea). I tried to go vegetarian once. It ended badly for me and turned me into an…unpleasant person to be around to say the least. For all the vegetarians who follow my blog, I wish you nothing but the best and even thank you for lessening your planet footprint/ resource consumption.

But personally? The vegetarian lifestyle ain’t my ministry. I’m a carnivore, damn it.

Today’s recipe is one of those things that when I eat, I’m immediately reminded of how much I love meat and how hard (close to impossible) it would be for me to go without it. Apart from being pork shoulder (my favorite cut of the pig in general), the flavor combinations here are really unique and complex. Star anise is a sweetly fragrant, almost floral spice. It’s hard to explain the flavor if you’ve never used it before, but it’s something that goes well with both sweet and savory applications provided you don’t go overboard with it. It provides a great compliment to the saltiness of the soy and fish sauce that gets rubbed into the meat then set overnight in the fridge. I added a few of my other favorite spices to the mix to liven up the flavors, then the next day roasted the shoulder in the oven until it was tender and the aromas filling the kitchen were making me slobber.

We ate this dish with my recipe for Baked Egg Rolls that’s already on the blog and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. Do yourself a favor and try it out for yourself.

This week’s Fiesta Friday #165  is co-hosted by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes. I’ll be sharing this dish at the link up. Have a good weekend, all.

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Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 7–8-pound skin-on, bone-in pork picnic shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions 

Grind star anise and coriander seeds in either a coffee grinder or with mortar and pestle. Slice the  garlic, then mash to a paste using the side of a chef’s knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the dry spices, soy sauce, fish sauce, and paprika.

Lightly score pork skin crosswise in a tight pattern with a very sharp knife, cutting through the skin and some fat, but taking care not to slash the meat itself. Transfer pork to a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid or a roasting pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper and rub with marinade. Cover (use foil if using a roasting pan) and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place pork, covered, in oven; reduce oven temp to 300°. Roast pork, basting with juices every hour, until meat is fork-tender and bones are very loose, 5–5½ hours.

Uncover pork and increase temperature to 450°. Roast, basting every 5 minutes and adding water by ¼-cupfuls if juices become syrupy, until pork is dark brown and skin is crisp, 15–20 minutes.

Carefully transfer pork to a platter. Skim fat from pan juices and pour remaining juices over.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

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A few weeks back, I shared my first attempt at making crackers with you guys. They were a huge hit with my taste buds, and because they were just so easy to put together, I said that it made me enter into a cracker-making spree for the next few weeks or so where I tried out several other flavors & recipes.

You didn’t think I was playing, right? I’ve definitely tried like…three different cracker recipes and probably made close to about 100 since then. I’ve loved them all. And now, you guys are going to love them too. Trust me on that.

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So I did a quick Google Shopping search and as it turns out, pumpkin cinnamon flavored crackers are something that aren’t exactly in huge supply from the major cracker name brand producers. Triscuits has a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavored Triscuit that they put out, but it’s a limited edition release that only gets exposure at, you guessed it: autumn.

It’s not autumn right now though. And suppose you’re like me and want to cure that pumpkin spice itch now and don’t feel like waiting for August?

I’ll tell you what you’re going to do: you’re going to make these and thank me later.

And if any one of you start to object and say that making your own crackers is too hard, time-consuming and a waste of effort–just…hush. Making crackers from scratch is actually simple. It’s worth it, guys. It really is. We’ve established that already with these curry and ginger crackers. That was my first attempt, it was a success, and to this day I still don’t know what took me so long to start doing this for myself.

It gets a bad rap from being so mass marketed in the fall, but I love pumpkin spice baked goods and there’s not a person who can make me feel bad about it.

A few tips: I used a teddy bear cookie cutter I had, but you can feel free to use any shape you like. You could even just cut them out into rough squares with a pizza cutter if you want, just don’t skip the step of pricking your shapes with the fork. You need the holes in the dough to help the heat circulate through the dough as it bakes and for air/steam to escape it, which will help them to crisp up better and avoid air pockets in the crackers themselves.

If you have a broiling pan, I’ve found that the top tray with the slats works REALLY WELL for baking crackers, even better than normal cookie sheets. The holes in the pan help the heat circulate better through the dough and nowadays, it’s my go to for them in general.

These are, of  course, ready to eat just as soon as they’re given time to cool crisp up, but I’ve found that the flavor does improve after they’ve sat for a few days. So if you can possibly help it and be patient, I’d put the cooled crackers in an air tight jar or bowl for about 2 days, then come back to them and go ham.

They’re not overly sweet as I wanted the flavor of the pumpkin and spices to come through, but you can always add about a tablespoon or two of extra sugar if you’re making them for kiddies or you just have an extra large sweet tooth yourself.

Oh, and yes: they are very yummy. I may or may have had trouble with portion control when eating them. I couldn’t possibly confirm, though.

Linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #164, co-hosted this week by the lovely  Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Pearls on a String

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Ingredients

  • One cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • Two teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
  • Pinch cloves
  • One tablespoon brown sugar
  • Four tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • One cup pureed pumpkin (from the can is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar for sprinkling

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter together with the pumpkin and vanilla extract until evenly combined (it’s fine if there are still bits of butter showing).

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Switch to the dough hook and continue to beat until a ball of dough forms (it shouldn’t take very long)

Mold the dough ball into a thin disc, wrap the disc in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes. Prepare 2 baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a clean work surface  (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour, and flour a rolling pin as well. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a small cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out desired shapes for crackers and place the crackers on the prepared parchment paper baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing through the dough to make holes. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse turbinado sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. (You can bake them longer for extra crunchy crackers, just be sure to cover them with foil so that they don’t get too browned or burn.)

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

honey-wheat-harvest-loaf1

I don’t really remember when exactly it happened, but somewhere along the way, I stopped liking straight white sandwich bread. I don’t mean *all* white bread; I still bake with white flour when making biscuits, rolls, challah and whatnot. I mean that when it comes to specifically eating sandwiches, I will give a hard pass to white bread.

I don’t even know how I ever ate white Wonder Bread at all anymore, there’s such a sour, acrid after taste to it for me now that is just…nah. These days I prefer whole grain, wheat, five seed, or oatnut flavored bread when building my epic sandwiches. I like the nutty earthy flavors in the whole wheat flour much better.

Whenever a long time passes where I don’t make homemade bread, I start getting an ‘itch’. Suddenly, bread baking becomes all I think about, where my thoughts automatically start to wander, all I want to do. My taste buds suddenly crave bread more than anything else.

Actually, no. That’s not one hundred percent accurate. My taste buds want and crave bread/carbs ALL the time, in general. Which is simultaneously annoying and glorious. But y’know, whatever.

This time around to satisfy my bread baking itch, I turned to this recipe from King Arthur Flour that I’d had my eye on for a while. The original calls for it to be made in a bread machine. I don’t have one of those, but bread machine recipes aren’t that difficult to adapt to using with standing mixers, so that’s what I did here. The ingredients were all things I had on hand in the house at the time. It made a single loaf and it was all very easy to throw together.

Honey wheat breads are probably my favorite, flavor-wise. There’s a perfect balance of the nutty grains with a slight sweetness from honey that just works. I will say though that breads that are based in whole wheat and bread flour (like this one) do tend to be more dense than those made with white. They’re often not light and/or fluffy; think chewy, heartier textures. Because they’re denser, they also can require longer proof times before the dough will rise. Just be patient with it because if you do it right, the results will be worth it.

Apart from being made with whole wheat flour, there’s also 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potato in the dough, which is a sneaky yet tasty way to get a serving of vegetables in; y’know, just in case the angel on your shoulder is trying to make you feel guilty for eating carbs instead of a carrot stick.

Not that EYE would know anything about that, I’m just trying to help you guys out.

I really wish there was a way I could transmit the smells of this loaf baking in the oven to each and every one of you guys. It just smelled SO good. It took a lot of patience on my part before it was cooled down and I could cut into it. I toasted two thick slices, smeared them with some  Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, made some eggs & sausage and had myself a delicious Breakfast for Dinner. Although, this bread would work very well for french toast too, methinks.

Linking this post with this week’s Fiesta Friday #162, co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons.

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Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup mashed cooked yam or sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins, packed
  • melted butter for brushing on top, optional

 

Directions

Combine the warm water and milk with the instant yeast. Sprinkle the 1 tsp of white sugar on top. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, bread flour, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer use the whisk attachment to combine yeast mixture with the unsalted butter, mashed sweet potato and honey and mix until well blended.

Using the dough hook attachment, fold in the flour mixture. Half way through, add the raisins. Mix until dough is smooth and surface of bowl is clean, about 8-10 minutes.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan.

When dough is finished rising, gently turn out on a floured surface and deflate it. Divide in half and roll each half into a log. Wind the two haves together in a loose braid, pinching the ends together. Place braid in the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap/damp towel and allow to rise for another hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the bread and brush with the melted butter. Bake for about 45 minutes, tenting with foil if browning too fast. Bake until golden brown and the inner temp reads 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cool completely before serving.