Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chocolate chip bread pudding

My friend Katherine sent me a recipe for the pecan bread she uses for French toast. (Side note: she is vegan and uses a chickpea flour batter for French toast. It's awesome.) My bread machine didn't do a good job of distributing the pecans, so the bread was good, but not quite what I was hoping for, so it didn't get completely eaten before it started to get stale. Luckily, there's this awesome little thing called bread pudding. When the bread was all torn up, the pecan distribution didn't matter. I went with a chocolate chip bread pudding, slightly modified from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. It was tasty and held up surprisingly well in the fridge over the course of the week we took to eat it. I think it would be really good with bananas in it too, so we'll probably add them next time.
Chocolate chip bread pudding

3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste
4 tbsp butter, plus butter for the pan
Bread, enough to fill the pan (we used pecan bread), torn into bite-sized chunks
3 eggs
3 oz chocolate chips or chunks
1/3 cup chopped pecans (I estimate that this is about how many pecans were in there, so you should add it if you aren't using pecan bread)

Put the milk, sugar, salt, and butter in a small saucepan over low heat and warm until butter melts.

Meanwhile, butter an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.

Put the bread in the baking dish and pour the milk mixture over it. Let it sit for a while, poking it now and then to submerge the top pieces of bread. Stir chocolate chips and pecans into mixture.

Bake at 350 F for 45-60 minutes, or until the pudding is set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (Bittman suggests using a bain-marie, but I forgot to do it, and it was fine.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Miso butter

I got this idea from an NPR piece about miso that referred to this David Chang recipe for roasted asparagus with poached eggs and miso butter. I heard the phrase "miso butter," and thoughts of complex fatty, salty, umami deliciousness filled my head. I didn't recreate the dish perfectly, but I got the idea across, and it was pretty good. For Valentine's Day, we had beet soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and steamed broccoli with miso butter. It was a great meal. (For those of you pooh-poohing grilled cheese for Valentine's Day, Jon makes great grilled cheese, so don't knock it until you've tried it!)
We even cleaned the table, put out some flowers (dried, not fresh, but still nice), opened a bottle of raspberry wine, and poured water from a pretty pitcher. What a fancy dinner!

Anyway, back to the miso butter. I'm not going to put a recipe up, because it depends a lot on your taste. The recipe called for a 5:8 ratio of butter to miso, which we thought had too much miso flavor. I added more butter to get the ratio probably around 1:1, but you can play around. I'm sure there is a wide range of acceptable tastes, and it varies based on whether you want it to be subtle or distinctive. To make it, just mash miso into softened butter until it's fairly well combined. To use, melt a bit for easier drizzling.

What to put it on? Obviously, we've gone with the asparagus dish and steamed broccoli. We wholeheartedly endorse its use on any green vegetable. It would probably be good on corn, mixed into mashed potatoes instead of plain butter, or thinly spread on a sandwich that was going to be grilled. We considered adding it to our V-Day grilled cheeses but didn't want miso overload. We still have a bit left, so we will be experimenting with other uses.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Buttermilk bonanza: maple-buttermilk pie

The last recipe of the buttermilk bonanza was a maple-buttermilk pie from 101 cookbooks, and I think we definitely saved the best for last. This pie received a lot of praise from mathematicians in two cities because I made it right before going to UIUC to visit one of Jon's collaborators. I've never made a buttermilk pie before, and it worked perfectly. It's a little tangy, but mostly sweet, rich from the buttermilk and egg yolks, slightly mapley and slightly lemony, and the part-rye flour crust added a little something too. I didn't use either of Heidi's recommended crust methods, just my usual: use pastry cutter to incoroporate fat into flour, add liquid (in this case beer) a little bit at a time until dough comes together, roll our, and transfer to pie dish. Her suggestions are probably puffier and better, but mine is easy and more than acceptable.

I really enjoyed the buttermilk bonanza. It gave me the impetus to try some nice new recipes and get a little more familiar with buttermilk. Plus, I pinned a bunch more buttermilk recipes that I can try the next time I find myself with 8 cups of buttermilk and no plan.

Buttermilk use: 2 cups
Buttermilk bonanza total: 8 cups, and we're out of buttermilk.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Buttermilk bonanza: baby, it's cold outside edition

Of course, it was a requirement to try buttermilk biscuits during our buttermilk bonanza. There are a ton of biscuit recipes out there, but we settled on Alton Brown's because we like him. We split the work on this one: Jon did the measuring and mixing, I did the shaping and baking. They were really good fresh from the oven, but they didn't age well. We probably should have halved the recipe. I included a picture of the spread on our table that night because it makes us look sophisticated: biscuits, lentil-kale soup, grapefruit-avocado salad, and grapefruit-gin spritzers with rosemary.
The day after we made the biscuits, we took a day trip to the Indiana dunes. I am filled with trepidation about my first winter in the midwest, and I am trying to take opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in the cold so I will not become a lump on my Ikea chair during the winter. We packed a nice picnic, including a thermos full of buttermilk potato soup. I based it on this recipe from Homesick Texan, but I basically made it less interesting by omitting the jalapeno, bacon, and cilantro. I did add a bit of smoked paprika to get some of the bacon smokiness, but I wasn't sad that the soup wasn't popping with flavors. It was a nice, warm, thick, creamy potato soup that made a picnic on a snow-covered picnic table much more delightful. For those keeping score, the soup called for 1/2 cup of buttermilk. By the way, we had a fantastic day at the dunes. If you like looking at goofy pictures of us, you can look at our facebook album of the trip here.

Buttermilk in today's recipes: 1 1/2 cups
Buttermilk bonanza total: 6 cups

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Buttermilk bonanza: salad dressing

I didn't photograph it, but one of the things I wanted to try during the buttermilk bonanza was a salad dressing. I'm not really into creamy dressings, but this one was pretty nice. I based it on this recipe from smitten kitchen, but I adapted it to the ingredients in my fridge and my dislike of raw aliums.

This was pretty good. It won't become a staple because both of us prefer oil-and-vinegar or my lemon-sesame dressing, but it might appear again as a change of pace. It was pretty runny, probably in part because I subbed yogurt for mayo, and my yogurt batch was on the runny side, but I didn't mind the runniness.

Evelyn's buttermilk-dill dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp yogurt
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar (reduced from 1 tbsp in original recipe, but I would probably omit altogether in the future)
1 1/2 tsp dried dill, or more or less to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Shake. Taste. Adjust.

Buttermilk used: 1/2 cup
Buttermilk bonanza total: 4 1/2 cups

Friday, February 10, 2012

Buttermilk bonanza: the pancake edition

I made a total of three kinds of pancakes in our recent buttermilk bonanza. The first, which I did not photograph, was this buckwheat-buttermilk recipe, and it was probably my favorite. Jon and I really like buckwheat crepes, and this recipe is half buckwheat flour, so it really has a ton of buckwheat flavor. We put blueberries into a few of them, and that was nice, but not essential. This recipe used a total of 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk.

The second batch was a very classic buttermilk pancake recipe, sent to me by a facebook friend:
1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
These were just what you want in a pancake: fluffy and pancakey. I pressed raspberries into a few of them and was surprised that I didn't find them that great, considering how good blueberry pancakes are and the fact that I like raspberries better than blueberries.

The last pancake recipe I tried was this chocolate chip-buttermilk pancake. Once again, very nice, especially with banana and maple syrup. This recipe used 1 cup of buttermilk because I halved it.
I make pancakes very rarely because Jon claims not to like them much. In point of fact, he said he enjoyed all of the ones I made here, and the coconut ones I shared way back here. But he never requests them, my homemade granola and yogurt are our go-to breakfasts, and neither of us usually wants something sweet for lunch or dinner, so pancakes rarely make an appearance. But hey, they're fast, cheap, and easy, and I enjoyed trying a few new recipes for the buttermilk bonanza.

Buttermilk total for the pancakes: 3 1/2 cups
Buttermilk bonanza total: 4 cups