Thursday, May 17, 2012

Earl Grey Blueberry Muffins

Let me say up front that the addition of earl grey into this recipe is still within the experimental stage. Even without the flavor of tea that I tried to extract, this muffin recipe is certainly wonderful and is my favorite (and reliable) muffin recipe. Thank you to Smitten Kitchen for sharing it!

A word about tea

Besides the green tea tofu chocolate pudding that I made years ago, I have little experience incorporating tea into cooking. With pudding, a recipe that required liquid, it was easy to steep the tea and extract those flavors. But it's a bit more difficult with muffins. In this recipe the closest you get to liquid is yogurt, but of course you'll denature yogurt if you try to heat it up. Fortunately I recalled a conversation that I had with a friend who told me about what was involved in making cannabis brownies. While the properties of tea are much different, it did make sense to attempt to steep the tea in heated butter. Sure enough, a few minutes of loose leaf tea submerged in hot butter produced a very pleasing aroma. Unfortunately this flavor did not translate as well as I hoped into the final product. 

The second method I tried was to create an extract. However, again, the results were less than stunning. This is likely due to the short length of time I allowed the extract to form. I also did not have vodka on hand so I used rum which, of course was too fragrant in its own right. Despite these shortcomings, the extract I produced did carry the scent of my tea, but perhaps it was not potent enough. Another variable could also be the strength of tea. Something that I would also like to experiment with. 

Nevertheless, I really am intrigued by the idea of cooking with tea and I think it is worth further experimentation to produce a tea muffin. If any readers have any ideas about using tea I would love to hear about them. 

This recipe comes straight from Smitten Kitchen, unmodified by myself (nothing wrong with these guys), originally adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

Makes 9 to 10 standard muffins
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces or 71 grams) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces or 191 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces or 105 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting)

To steep tea, measure 7-8 tablespoons of butter (you'll lose some when straining it) then heat over the stove until it becomes fully liquidized. Then add in about 3 tablespoons of your favorite loose leaf tea.
Let the mixture steep over low heat for 5 mins (you may want to try more). Pour mixture through fine strainer press, quite hard, the leaves, to extract as much butter as possible. Let butter solidify.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then yogurt and zest. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter. Mix until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries. 

The dough will be quite thick (and even thicker, if you used a full-fat Greek-style yogurt), closer to a cookie dough, which is why an ice cream scoop is a great tool to fill your muffin cups. 

You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full, nothing more, so you might only need 9 instead of 10 cups. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (you know, except for blueberry goo). Let cool on rack (ha), or you know, serve with a generous pat of butter."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hot Dog Buns

For whatever reason it is hard to find a good set of hot dog buns at the grocery stores nearby our apartment. Sometimes we have to settle for New England style buns (see photo here if you're not familiar) which, as intriguing as they may be, just don't do it for me. It was about time I tried making my own buns. So I came across this recipe from With the addition of our bagel bomb seasoning mix, this turned out to be a great batch of buns. 

Hot Dog Buns
Yield: 9 buns

1 tbsp. sugar
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
¼ cup warm water (105-110˚ F)
1 cup warm milk
1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour (aproximately)
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Top with a mixture of: 
    Black Sesame Seeds, White Sesame Seeds, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, and Poppy Seeds. 


In a standmixer bowl combine, sugar, yeast and warm water. Then add milk, oil, salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix on medium low with a dough hook, slowly adding flour until you get a tacky consistency where the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Keep adding flour until you achieve this consistency. In total you should have mixed for about 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Tacky not sticky. 

Spray or spread a bit of oil in the same bowl and replace dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk. About 1 hour. 

On a lightly oiled work surface, divide dough into 9 equal pieces. If you have a scale, each piece should be around 80 grams. Shape each piece into a ball first then roll into a cylinder 4 1/2 inches in length, flattening the tops a little. 

Please each bun on a cooking sheet prepared with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. I made the mistake of placing the buns too closely together, which created more of a New England style bun. Try placing buns about 1/2 inches away from each other side by side. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. Ideally the buns will bump up against each other a bit during this final rise.  

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. After the buns have finished rising, brush the tops with the egg wash and then sprinkle the seasoning mix on top. 

Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Garlic Tofu Sandwich

One of my fonder memories of the Northwest is eating at Paseos in Seattle. It is an amazing place to eat and definitely worth standing in the line that almost always pours out onto the sidewalk. I always enjoyed eating their tofu sandwich. It is a relatively simple sandwich consisting of tofu, caramelized onions, some romaine and a good slathering of their garlic mayonnaise but the flavor is immense.

This recipe is similar to Paseos but could use some work to get closer to their flavor. For starters, I chose not to go with the garlic mayonnaise spread, but a replica of this spread can be found here for those interested. Call me a hypocrite but while I may indulge in mayonnaise at Paseos, making it and seeing what goes in it is less than appetizing for me. However,  I would recommend trying this recipe with a product like, Vegenaise. Unfortunately I don't have access to such a substitution so I opted for a non-eggy condiment instead making more of an oil sauce:

Makes Two Sandwiches

The Bread:
A fresh baguette sliced in half
or a Pita Pocket
or your other favorite type of chewy bread

The Dressing:
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 block of tofu, cubed
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons of lime juice
1/2 Tablespoon of relish (optional)
1 Teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 pinches of salt, or to taste
2 Turns of Pepper, or to taste

The Innards: 
Caramelized onions (about 2 medium onions)
Romaine Lettuce, Fresh OR Kale, lightly steamed

Instructions for making the dressing:

In a medium size bowl, toss cubed tofu with oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, relish and crushed red pepper flakes.

Then pour concoction into a small oven safe bowl. Cover with lid, and roast at 425 for 40 mins.
Spoon tofu onto the bread, making sure to drizzle the excess dressing onto the bread.

Pile on a good dose of caramelized onions and top with the green of your choice.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pita Bread

Every now and then we have the tendency to think that any recipe involving flour will be an ordeal and not worth making for the everyday occasion. Of course some recipes are impractical to whip up for lunch, many bread recipes require a minimum of two days of preparation. Even good pizza dough falls into this category. Fortunately there are breads that can be made quickly. This pita bread recipe only requires a 30 minute rise, making it the perfect recipe if you don't have a lot of time. It is an extraordinarily simple recipe and fun to make. It is perfectly well suited for those days when you just don't feel like taking a bike ride to the bakery or making a loaf of bread yourself. I like to celebrate pita bread's versatility and sometime use it outside of the hummus/falafel circuit. Why not wrap up a veggie dog in it? Or even make a pocket of peanut butter and jelly? Today I ate my pita with black beans, cheese and salsa, but tomorrow why not try stuffing it with a spicy garlic tofu mix (like Seattle's Paseo wonderful sandwich)? On thing is clear, this is a bit more versatile than your basic sandwich loaf.

The Recipe:

1 tablespoon Instant Yeast
1 ¼ cup warm water
(about 100 degrees F)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of Bread Flour (or all purpose flour, unbleached)
1 cup of Whole Wheat Flour (or white flour if desired)

Dissolve yeast in water for about 5 minutes in the bowl of an electric mixer. 

Add salt and 1 cup of the white flour and 1 cup of the wheat flour and mix with the dough hook. Then slowly add additional AP flour until a rough, shaggy mass is formed. Continue to knead with the dough hook or by hand for about 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Feel free to use enough flour as it takes to achieve a tacky, not sticky, dough.  

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into six pieces for large pitas or ten for smaller. Shape dough into balls, then flatten with a rolling pin into ¼ inch thick discs. Try to make the thickness as even as possible. 

Let rest on the floured surface 30-40 minutes, they will slightly puff. Meanwhile Preheat oven to 425F.

With a large spatula or dough knife/paddle, flip the rounds of dough upside down on to a b
aking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes until light golden. 

These store for up to two days well wrapped or frozen for three weeks.

Adapted from under the highchair

Stuffed with black beans, salsa, and cheese, burrito style.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pizza Tourism

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a conference at Yale University which meant a trip down to New Haven, CT. Now while the trip was mostly business, my friends and I had intended to make this trip a pizza tasting trip. We had hopes of eating pizza all weekend. Unfortunately we only had the chance to eat at one of New Haven's classic pizzerias. We chose to go to Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (The Spot location) or better known as Pepes Pizzeria.

Now what is interesting about Pepes is that it is known for originating the New Haven style pizza. While it is similar to Napoletana style pizza it has its own specific qualities because it is baked in a coal fired brick oven. Since Pepes opened in 1925 other pizza places have opened and serve this style pizza, even New Haven's BAR serves a similar pie. Next time I visit, I plan on checking out Sally's Apizza which is also said to serve some amazing pizza.

We left late, just after closing.

White Spinach, Mushroom & Gorgonzola Pie

Margherita Pie

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reinhart Cinnamon-Raisin Bagels in Montreal

      New York or Montreal? While the debate over which city has the best bagels persists, I suggest that you just make your own. Whatever happens it will taste great and if it doesn't live up to your expectations then try again after tweaking your recipe a bit. 
      A few weeks ago while showing a guest around Montreal we stepped into Fairmount Bagels. It wasn't my first time there, but this was the first time we picked up a bag of freshly baked bagels. Biting into a cinnamon-raisin bagel hot out of a wood fired oven while walking around in 10˚F weather did just the trick to rekindle my interest in bagels. Of course to indulge in a fresh bagel is not always a possibility or convenient, so why not try making them at home?
      Like a lot of other types of bread recipes this one involves a two day process or could possibly be condensed into one long day. Peter Reinhart, the author of this recipe, stresses the importance of the delayed fermentation to allow the bread to develop more complex flavors and cannot be recommended enough. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Portland Poutine

       Before we came to the poutine capital of the world we first experienced poutine at a Portland food cart. Over the past couple years, we have tasted some fine poutine in Montreal, specifically La Banquise, yet Hollin will argue that the Portland food cart Potato Champion beats all. Potato Champion does Portlandize Quebec's traditional dish. Their gravy is vegetarian and there is even a vegan option (made with faux cheese curds). Vegetarian poutine is the furthest I have seen Canadians venture. Naturally we were excited to find Potato Champion's gravy recipe. 

I hesitate to recommend eating poutine - Fries, gravy and cheese curds does not exactly fit with the Eating for the Rest of Us motto of healthy living. So eat in moderation! The upside to making your own poutine is that you can moderate what goes into your gravy. 

See Hollin whip up some poutine on a Saturday night in the video below: