Coconut Beef Curry with Garlic Naan

Today’s recipe is about taking a shortcut, but also going the extra mile.

That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

It’s also become my cooking lifestyle.

Once you start cooking and baking things from scratch, it can be hard to go back to taking certain shortcuts. When I was a kid, I loved eating canned stews–nowadays if I want stew, then I’m going to just make one myself that will have five times the flavor and ten times less sodium. I literally cannot eat box mix cake anymore. Break and bake cookies are a HARD pass. I admit that the biscuit dough you can buy in a can aren’t awful ….but mine are still better.

On the other hand–sometimes, I’m not above taking a shortcut in the kitchen. For example, (in full disclosure) making rice is a stumbling block of mine. I just cannot get it right. Minute Rice is my remedy for that. Whenever I get a craving for sweet potato waffle fries, do you think I’m above going to the frozen foods section and picking up that bag? Tuh. Sometimes the shortcut is just the way to go.

A traditional curry recipe will likely have up to ten or fifteen different spices in it that are also usually freshly ground. It’s then cooked and stewed for HOURS. I’ve seen some that take all day long. On the day that I made this dish, I didn’t have all day long. I also didn’t have ten to fifteen spices that I ground up from scratch. I took a shortcut.

Instead of 10 to 15 spices, I used jarred, pre-ground curry powder. Quite a lot of it, since we’re trying to make up for the loss of flavor from the fresh spices. Mine also won’t take you all day long to cook–a slow braise in the oven for bout 90 minutes to two hours is all you should need. That’s the shortcut.

Now for the extra mile.

There are a lot of stores and delis that sell pre-made naan bread. I’m not above buying Trader Joe’s brand myself. But the truth is, I’ve never had naan bread that I enjoyed as much as when I made it myself, from scratch. I just haven’t. So far as bread baking goes, the difficulty is on the lower end of the ladder. Because it is so easy, if you have the time and the inclination I STRONGLY recommend you go the extra mile and make these naans. You’ll taste the difference.

I’ve got to say, the shortened cook time and curry powder did nothing to skimp on the flavor or tenderness of the beef. Having the freshly baked, fluffy naan bread to dip into the sauce was the perfect accompaniment. I may or may not have *completely* cleaned the plate.

This meal is worth both the effort and the shortcut–so take both.

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Coconut Beef Curry with Garlic Naan

Recipe Adapted from Epicurious and Cook with Manali

Ingredients

For Beef Curry:

  • 2 lbs beef chuck, chuck roast or tri-tip, cut into large chunks
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1 large yellow sweet onion, thickly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons of finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup curry powder (preferably Indian)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken broth (like TJ’s)
  • Rice, for serving

For Naan:

  • 450 grams (About 4 cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus more if needed for kneading
  • 2 large garlic cloves (grated or extremely finely minced)

For Garlic Butter to Brush Over Naan:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or ghee)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

Directions

For Beef Curry:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the beef chunks on a sheet pan. Sprinkle both sides of the beef with a thin coating of soy sauce and use your hands to rub it into the surface. Sprinkle an even coating of pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder on top of the meat on both side.

Melt a few tablespoons of canola oil, or ghee in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over high heat. Sear the beef on both sides until deeply browned all over, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Deglaze the pan with a little bit of the chicken broth if need be, then add the sliced onion. Cook until softened and translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger cook just until fragrant. Add the curry powder and stir it together until it begins to stick to the pot, about 3 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, coconut milk and about 2 1/2 cups of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

In a small bowl dissolve about 3 heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour in 1 cup of the chicken broth, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add it to the pot.

Season the sauce with additional pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and curry powder to taste. Allow it to cook for about 5-10 more minutes, until it reaches the consistency you like.

Add the beef back to the pot. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the beef is fork tender. Serve curry spooned over white or brown rice.

For Naan:

Place the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer or another large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the sugar on top of the yeast. Allow it to sit for ten minutes, until proofed and frothy.

Place 3 1/4 cups of the flour in a medium size bowl with the salt and stir together with a fork.

When the yeast is proofed, add the vegetable oil and grated garlic to it and stir together with the dough hook (or a large spoon). Add the flour in about 1 cup increments, just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. (You may not need to use all the flour, this is dependent upon the time of year and your location). Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour.

(The dough is ready when you can stretch one piece of it out very thin, and it’s translucent enough to see through.)

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours.

Turn dough out onto your clean work surface and punch down to deflate air bubbles. Divide it into 8 equal parts. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap and leave on the countertop to rest for about 10-15 minutes.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add minced garlic to it. Set aside for brushing on top of the naans later.

Oil your hands and a rolling pin to gently stretch and roll the dough balls out into oval shapes (they don’t have to be completely flat like tortillas, these are meant to be a tad thick).

Heat an iron skillet over medium heat. (Cast iron is best, but not completely necessary) Lightly coat with ghee (or butter).

Cook until lightly blistered, puffed, and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Immediately brush with garlic butter when you remove from the skillet.

Keep naans on a rack in the microwave or the oven to stay warm while you cook the rest.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #281.

3 Layer Coconut Sheet Cake

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So, before I get into the specific of this post, I feel I should make it clear that coconut cakes and I don’t really have much of a history of “getting along with each other”. I always tell people that ask me that I learned how to be a pretty decent baker through lots of trial and error. Best way to learn.

As it turns out, several of those “errors” have come through my attempts at making coconut cakes over the past few years. Sometimes it’s worked wonderfully.  Sometimes I’ve just blown it.

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Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve never really been that much of a coconut fan in general; I don’t like Pina Coladas (or getting caught in the rain by the way). I think Mounds Bars are disgusting. Shredded coconut on its own reminds me of tasteless confetti or wood shavings. I do like to cook with raw, unsweetened coconut milk very much but on it’s own? Meh.

However…my grandmother’s favorite kind of cake is coconut cake. Therefore for the past four or five years, every June when her birthday comes around, I set out to bake her a coconut cake.

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I’ve baked about 5 different coconut cakes over the past few years; they’ve ranged from ridiculously basic to EXTREMELY complicated. Some have taken little to no effort and others have took me all day long. The first one I attempted was when I had first started my foray into baking. I wanted to make my grandma a cake for her birthday and my mom (in her infinte wisdom) advised me that I should start with something basic and easy to do. I found a recipe an old cookbook of hers that she suggested I try. I had my doubts about it: first, it was supposed to be made in a 13 x 9 pan. Me, being the naive over-eager overachiever I was, thought that was “too easy”. Second I was worried that because the recipe was in a fat free cookbook, it wouldn’t be very tasty.

Turns out, it was DELICIOUS. Seriously. I didn’t and still do not even like coconut cake…and I still ate a big slice of that one.

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I’ve made subsequent coconut layer cakes for my grandma after that one that turned out well. Some VERY well. However, it was always that first fat free, easy-peasy coconut cake that I made for her as a novice baker that remained the crowd favorite.

This year, I attempted to make one that I bookmarked from Food and Wine magazine. I’ll make a long story short by just letting you guys know right off the bat: it didn’t work. In retrospect I don’t think that I beat the ten eggs that were in the batter nearly long enough to make it rise high and fluffy. The cake came out SUPER dense and flat. I knew right away I had messed up and would have to make a  hasty adjustment/save if I was gonna have a cake ready for my grandma’s birthday. Once again, my mom suggested I just go back to the “Old Faithful” cake I made for her the first time. I started to brush it off…the I stopped to think a little bit.

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Once I finished thinking and mulling it over for the night, the next morning I decided to go ahead and bake the first cake again; but this time, I thought of several ways to “doll it up”.

The first way was based off the shape of a cake I saw on Pinterest. I did some Googling and baking science research and it turns out, that the same amount of batter that goes into a standard 9 inch two layer cake also goes into a 13 x 9 size cake. That amount of batter can also fit inside a 15 x 10 x 1 baking sheet without spilling over. The original recipe for the coconut cake was for a 13 x 9 cake pan.

It took me about .2 seconds to see how I could make this work rather nicely.

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Basically, what I did was bake the coconut cake in a sheet pan, cut the cooled & finished cake into 3 equal vertical pieces, and stack them on top of each other to form a square layer cake. For the frosting, I decided to adapt from the vanilla buttercream I made for my Funfetti Layer Cake; I swapped out vanilla extract for coconut extract, and plain milk for coconut water. Finally, I pressed coconut flakes I briefly toasted in a skillet to the sides and tops of the cake.

By the time I finished, I took a step back and felt pretty darn proud of myself.

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Let me just state again for the record: I do not like coconut.

I do not care very much for coconut cake.

But…. this cake. THIS CAKE.

I think what may blow my mind the most about this recipe is the cake itself; it’s a low fat cake, but holy cow is it MOIST and FLUFFY and yes, still plenty sweet. It’s perfectly complimented by the coconut buttercream–which I feel I ought to point out, is NOT low fat whatsoever. I mean after all, this is a birthday cake. Birthday cakes should never be completely low in fat. The sweetness of the buttercream is perfectly tempered by the subtle nutty flavor of the toasted coconut.

It went over like gangbusters with my grandparents and I gotta say, I was not surprised. This was just a great idea all around. I also think I may have found a new, preferred way of making layer cakes in general. Whoop Whoop.

Happy Fiesta Friday #124 and thanks to our co-hosts this week, Lindy @ Love in the Kitchen and Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons.

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3 Layer Coconut Sheet Cake

Recipe Adapted from Secrets of Fat Free Baking and Southern Living Magazine

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Ingredients

For Coconut Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups coconut water
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 tsp coconut extract

For Coconut Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (32 ounces.) package powdered sugar
  • 6 to 7 table tablespoons coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut extract
  • toasted coconut flakes, optional

Directions

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease, flour and line a large rimmed 15 x 10 x 1 baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Place the coconut water and shredded coconut in a bowl and stir together.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and stir to mix well. Add the coconut mixture, egg whites, vanilla extract and coconut extract and stir to mix well.

Spread the batter evenly in the baking sheet. Tap the baking sheet on a counter top a few times to release air bubbles.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 10-15 minutes before flipping out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For Frosting:

Beat butter and salt at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with 6 tbsp. coconut water, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Stir in coconut extract. If desired, beat in remaining 1 tbsp. coconut water, 1 tsp. at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency.

To Assemble Cake:

Place the completely cooled cake on a cutting board and cut into equal thirds. (About 4 1/2 inches) Make sure both cakes are evenly leveled before beginning to decorate. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one (evenly leveled) cake layer on the platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the frosting evenly across the top of the cake with a spatula. Place the second cake layer on top, then spread with just enough over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin). Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake. Gently press toasted coconut flakes onto sides and tops of cake.

Coconut-Almond French Toast Casserole

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Happy Easter everyone! I’m a Christian, so today I’m celebrating Resurrection Sunday (Jesus Christ’s resurrection), but if you’re not a Christian and just celebrate ‘Easter Bunny Easter’, or if you’re a Jewish and celebrating Passover, then I wish you a happy holiday with your friends and family. True to Cooking is My Sport fashion, I’m sharing some trivia with you guys:

  1.  The name, “Easter” comes from a goddess: Her name is Eostre and She was the Mother Goddess of the Saxons of Northern Europe. She was, according to Grimm (yes, one of those Grimms), “goddess of the growing light of spring.” 
  2. Hot cross buns come from the wheat cakes that were baked in honor of Eostre. As part of the adoption of traditions, Christians added the cross on the top and had the cakes blessed by the Church. In England, it was believed that hanging a hot cross bun in the house would protect it from fire and bring good luck for the coming year.
  3.  Easter eggs once acted as birth certificates. During the 19th century, when many families were unable to get to the closest town hall to file a birth certificate, an egg would be accepted as a method of identification. The egg would be dyed and inscribed with the person’s name and birth date. It was completely legal and accepted by courts and other authorities

Source

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Besides the Easter holiday, today also  marks the final day of the Challah bread series we’ve been doing this week. You guys finally get to find out what I did with the three loaves of braided Traditional Challah and the Vanilla Bean Challah that I made (y’know, besides just eat it warm and slathered with butter). This time, instead of finding another way of doing Challah, I wanted to use it as a main ingredient in another dish. I went with a recipe that my twin sister has been asking me to make for a while now that she saw on the Food Network.

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I love this recipe for so many reasons- not least of which is how awesome it tastes, which I’ll get to in a minute. What I really liked about it was that it let find a use for the ‘end’ pieces of the challah loaves. Don’t look at me like that. I know I’m not the only one that usually ends up throwing them out. Let’s face it: no one really wants them-until now that is. At first I was concerned that only 9 slices of bread wouldn’t be enough to make a substantial casserole. I was also worried that they would be overly soaked and ultimately soggy from the egg custard.  Fortunately, I was surprised. The bread puffed up really well when baked. Challah’s a pretty sturdy bread, so it was more than able to stand up to the egg mixture. I will say this though: if you’re using plain old Texas Toast bread, then I would think about bumping it up maybe two or three slices, as it’s much softer than Challah. It also doesn’t taste near as good, but you guys knew that already, right?

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Okay, now to the good part: what does it taste like? Well first of all, what really (and I mean REALLY) sets this dish apart from any normal overnight French Toast Bake is the Coconut Almond Crust that’s baked on top of it. It’s like a crunchy, sugary almost candied carmelized effect that is doubly awesome when contrasted with the soft texture of the baked challah. If you’re not entirely convinced, then let me say up front that I’m not even a fan of coconut at all. I don’t care for the texture or overall flavor…and I STILL couldn’t imagine eating this dish without the coconut almond crust. It’s that good.

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As you can see, I sprinkled powdered sugar on top of mine and added some berries and syrup, but my mom and sister said that they thought it was good enough to eat all on its own. If you’re looking for an easy dish to make for breakfast or brunch guests that will still knock their socks off, this is the one to try. Or maybe you’re like me and baked a crap load of Challah or other sturdy bread that you have to do something with to avoid letting it spoil. Make this. You won’t regret it.

And I guess that does it for the Challah Series. Until I find another one to try. Then it’ll probably get a reboot. Don’t put it past me.

Challah- 3 Ways

Traditional Challah

Sweet Vanilla Bean Challah

Coconut-Almond French Toast Casserole {Challah}

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Coconut-Almond French Toast Casserole

Recipe Courtesy of FoodNetwork.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing dish
  • 9 slices Texas Toast or other thick-sliced bread
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

         Coconut-Almond Crust:

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.

2. For the French toast: Lay the bread slices in one layer (it’s OK if they overlap a little) on a baking sheet. Bake the slices (to dry them out a little) for 6 minutes, then flip and bake for 6 minutes more. Set aside to cool.

3. Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Dunk each bread slice in the egg mixture to coat thoroughly and shingle the slices in the buttered casserole dish. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

4. For the coconut-almond crust: Put 1/2 cup of the coconut, 1/3 cup of the almonds, granulated sugar, flour and salt in a food processor and process until very fine. Add the butter, egg and egg yolk and process well to form a smooth paste.

5. To assemble the casserole: Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the coconut-almond mixture evenly over the soaked bread slices. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup sliced almonds and 3 tablespoons coconut and bake until puffed and lightly golden and the custard is set (the center of the casserole will no longer jiggle when shaken), 45 to 50 minutes.

6. Allow to cool for 1 hour before serving, or serve at room temperature. Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and berries if using.

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