Monday, June 27, 2016

Soft & Quick Hamburger Buns

These hamburger buns took only about 40 minutes, start to finish--no lie!  They're soft and sweet. If you're a regular baker, the ingredients are all in your pantry and they couldn't be easier.  I made them for some bean/veggie burgers that need a soft bun so that the burger doesn't get smoosh out (too much at least).  I found the original recipe on a blog called Girl versus Dough.  I followed that recipe fairly closely, substituting honey for the sugar and using my stand mixer to knead the dough instead of by hand.  These are not big, big buns--they're about three inches wide.  You could make bigger buns if you wanted and then bake them a bit longer.

Soft and Quick Hamburger Buns
2 tablespoons quick rising yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 egg, beaten
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds and poppy seeds, option (about 1 teaspoon each)

In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk yeast and water to dissolve.  Whisk in the honey and oil and let sit for about five minutes.  The yeast will start to go to work.  While you're waiting, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, place an oven rack in the top third of the oven, and line a large cookie sheet or two smaller ones with parchment paper. (You could also lightly oil the sheets if you don't have parchment.)   Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on low and add the egg, salt and 3 1/2 cups of flour.  Increase the speed to medium high and let the dough hook do its work. Knead the dough for at least five minutes, adding more flour a little at a time until the dough leaves the sides and bottom of the bowl and is only slightly sticky.  

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide into 16 pieces.  Shape/roll each piece into a nice, round ball and place on the prepared cookie sheet(s).  Cover with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rest for 10 minutes.  

Remove the towel and brush the buns with the egg wash.  Sprinkle the seeds on top.  Bake for 10 minutes, switching the cookie sheet half-way through for even browning.  Remove from the cookie sheet and let cool completely.  


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Refreshing Strawberry Sparkler

This recipe is an adaptation from a Martha Stewart recipe for Berry Saft.  Saft is a Swedish syrup (elderberries are often used!) that is then mixed with still or sparkling water to make a refreshing summer drink.  I swapped the sugar for honey (of course) and used the strawberries that are taking over the garden.  You can use any berry (or any combination of berries) that you like.  You can also use other herbs--basil would be nice!

Strawberry Sparkler
4 cups strawberries, washed,  hulled and halved or quartered
a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
2 cups water
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey
4 sprigs of fresh mint

Bring the strawberries, ginger and water to a simmer and cook until fruit is very soft--about 10 minutes.  Let the mixture cool and strain through a cheese cloth (or fine mesh strainer). Return to the pot and add the honey--start with 1/4 cup and taste until it's sweetened to your liking.  Bring the pot to a low simmer.  Add the mint sprigs and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture is reduced to a light syrup.  Cool completely.  Pour into sterilized bottles or jars.  It will keep in the refrigerator for several (3?) months. This makes about four cups.

To make the sparkler, fill a glass with ice, add sparkling water and then stir in the syrup--as much or as little as you like.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Great Banana Cake/Bread with Honey!

This delicious banana bread/cake recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, a great source for recipes.  It has a wonderful, deep banana flavor and a great, dense crumb.  It's almost like a banana pound cake.  It includes tablespoons of jam or marmalade. I used some lovely plum jam that friends gave us--a very nice addition!

I usually bake quick breads in a ring cake mold.  It holds the same amount of batter as a 9x5  loaf pan, and avoids the problem of an under cooked center that I sometimes experience with quick breads, especially when baking with honey.  Baked goods with honey tend to brown much more quickly and so the outer crust starts to get too dark before the center is completely cooked. 

Banana Cake/Bread with Honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium or 2 large bananas)
3 tablespoons jam or marmalade (optional, but makes it very special!)
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan or ring cake mold. 
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add the mashed bananas, jam, honey, and eggs, again beating until smooth. 
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir into wet ingredients just until smooth.  Fold in the walnuts if using.  
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Bake the bread for 45 minutes.  Check and then gently lay a piece of aluminum foil across the top, to prevent over-browning if necessary.  Bake for an additional 10 or 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing. This cake keeps for several days.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pretty (and pretty easy) Pickled Red Onions

These little beauties are easy to make and wonderful to have in the refrigerator for all kinds of things:
  • add them to any salad where you'd use onions (they're not as sharp as raw onion)
  • put them on a cheese or tuna or other savory sandwich 
  • pile them on a grilled burger or hot dog
  • set them out in a bowl with a cheese plate to have with cheese and crackers
  • place some on top of roasted veggies, like asparagus, broccoli or beets
  • use them as a garnish for baked beans
When the jar gets low, I simply slice some more onions and add them in.  They need to sit for about an hour before they're ready, so a little advanced time is needed.  The only other labor is thinly slicing the onions. If you have a mandoline, now's the time to use it! If not, just try to slice them as thin as you can.

Pickled Red Onions
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Stir  (or shake) the vinegar, honey and salt together in a jar with a lid until the honey and salt dissolve.  Add 1 cup of water and stir.  Add the sliced onions and push them down to be sure they're in the brine.  Sprinkle the mustard seeds on top.  Place the lid on the jar and let sit at room temperature for an hour.  After that, refrigerate.  Will keep for at least a few weeks--maybe more!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Granola Your Way Recipe--with clusters!

This recipe for granola is a mash up from two sources.  The first is from an Epicurious article that offers a granola ratio "recipe" that gives you the basic ratios and lets you decide what ingredients to use.  The other is a recent recipe by Melissa Clark at the New York Times for how to get granola with some nice clusters in it, so that your granola doesn't seem too much like bird food.  The trick?  There are two:  use an egg white with the liquid and also take about a cup of the oats and maybe 1/2 cup of coconut and whirl them in the food processor until they're like flour. The ground oats and coconut help to form the clusters and egg white gives it all a bit of an extra crunch.

The basic granola ratio:
6 parts dry ingredients to 1 part wet, plus dried fruit

Here's what I used:
4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place a piece of parchment paper on a large, rimmed cookie sheet (or two smaller ones). Parchment paper is really essential for preventing the granola from sticking!

Take about 1 cup of the oats and 1/4 cup coconut and whirl in a food processor until they're ground into a flour.  Add the ground oats and coconut to a large bowl with all of the other dry ingredients, including the cinnamon and salt. Combined the coconut oil, honey, egg white and vanilla mixing well.  Pour onto the dry ingredients and mix well with your hands to be sure all of the dry ingredients are coated well with the wet ingredients.  Spread out onto the cookie sheet and, with your hands, pinch blobs together to help ensure clusters form.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and scoop/stir (being careful not to break up clumps) with a spatula to promote even browning.  Return to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to over-brown.  When granola cools, add the raisins and toss.  Place in a well-sealed container.  Keeps for at least a week and makes about 7 cups of granola.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Two Avocado Recipes with Honey

Open-faced toasted avocado sandwich with honey and Parmesan
Two for one recipe day!  In the first, an open-faced toasted avocado sandwich with honey and Parmesan cheese, the honey serves as a garnish.  It offers a little bit sweetness to the salty Parmesan.  It couldn't be simpler.  In the second, the avocado is the garnish for a delicious lentil salad. It takes a bit more time to make than the sandwich, but is worth it!

Open-faced Toasted Avocado Sandwich
1 slice of good quality bread
1/2 avocado, cut into slices to fit the bread
1-2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
Arrange the avocado slices on the bread.  If you have a large avocado, you might use less than one half.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese to cover the avocado and drizzle the honey all over.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top.  Toast in a toaster oven for about a minute (maybe two) until the cheese is nicely browned.  Voila!  Serves one.

French Lentil Salad with Rhubarb & Honey
French Lentil Salad with Rhubarb and Honey
In this recipe, I used black "beluga" lentils.  French (Puy) lentils would also be good.  Both are smaller than brown lentils and hold their shape well for a salad.  Brown lentils will still work.  If you use them, watch them carefully while boiling to be sure they don't get too mushy.  Rhubarb is now ready in the garden and I tossed a few stalks into this salad.  I hope to post some other rhubarb recipes soon.

2 cups lentils
5 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 large onion, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 stalks celery, cut in 1/4 inch dice
3 medium carrots, cut in 1/4 inch coins
3 rhubarb stalks, minced
1 head of garlic (about 4 or 5 cloves), each clove thinly sliced
another pinch of salt
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (if you have it)
1-2 avocados, sliced (for garnish)
salt and pepper to taste

Place the lentils in a large sauce pan, add the water and bay leaf and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the water starts boiling, turn the heat down a bit to keep a steady simmer going.  Boil the lentils until they are just done--about 15-20 minutes, checking regularly after about 10 minutes.  The lentils should be soft yet firm--no crunchy bite, but still holding together (kind of like "al dente").

While the lentils are boiling, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute or frying pan over medium high heat and add the onions. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  As the onions begin to soften, add the celery, carrots and rhubarb, stirring well to coat with oil.  At this point, you might need to turn the heat to medium to keep the vegetables from burning.  When the celery, carrots, and rhubarb begin to soften and give off some juices (about 5 minutes or so), add the garlic and another sprinkling of salt.  Stir to distribute and continue cooking for another five minutes or so until the juices evaporate, the vegetables are tender (but still a bit crisp).  Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the dressing:  Combine the vinegar and honey. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify.

When the lentils are done, drain them well and place in a large bowl.  Add the cooked vegetables and toss.  Pour the dressing over all, gently tossing to distribute it well.  Taste the salad to see if it needs more salt and add if needed along with about 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper.  If serving right away, sprinkle parsley on top--but hold off if you're waiting for the lentils to cool to room temperature (or to be chilled in the fridge).

To serve, cut an avocado into thin slices.  Place one serving of the salad in a bowl and garnish with avocado slices.  Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top.  

Can be served hot, room temperature, or chilled.  Makes about 8 servings.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Spinach Sauteed with Garlic, Dried Figs, and Honey

Here's a delicious side dish recipe for sauteed spinach, straight from Emril Lagasse and the Food Network website. Bam! I didn't do much fiddling with it, other than to add a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes to give it a little heat and a handful of chopped almonds for some crunch.  It is both sweet and savory. Besides being delicious, it's also fast and nutritious.  Makes a nice side dish.  This recipe serves four as a side dish, maybe two if this is the main dinner feature.

Spinach Sauteed with Garlic, Dried Figs, and Honey
2-3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely sliced dried figs
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 pound baby spinach (or grown up spinach, chopped)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

Add the olive oil and garlic to a large saute pan (one that can hold the pound of spinach). Place on medium heat, stirring as the pan starts to heat up and the garlic begins to cook.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring often and taking care that the garlic doesn't burn.  Add the figs and the broth and continue to cook, stirring, until the broth reduces considerably.  This will soften the figs and create a sweet, thickened broth.  Add the spinach, salt, black pepper, and hot pepper flakes and cook, tossing the spinach to wilt it. You may have to add spinach in batches as it wilts so that there's room in the pan.  Continue cooking until all of the spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat, taste seasonings and add more salt, pepper or hot pepper flakes if desired. Place in a serving bowl and drizzle with honey.  Just before serving, sprinkle the chopped almonds on top.