Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's An ANZAC?

If you're from New Zealand or Australia, you probably know the answer. Those two countries combined armies for a time during the First World War. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. They were disbanded after that battle. In Greece in 1941 during the Second World War they also fought together under that name and again in the Vietnam conflict.

They are also a delicious biscuit (cookie in America) which was sent to soldiers and also sold to raise money for the troops and later the veterans. (Recipe at the bottom.) At the website they give this info:

"During World War 1, the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometers per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of two months. A body of women came up with the answer - a biscuit with all the nutritional value possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats. These oats were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.

The ingredients they used were: rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers’ Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.

A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus, eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle. Eggs that were sent long distances were coated with a product called ke peg (like Vaseline) then packed in air tight containers filled with sand to cushion the eggs and keep out the air.

As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women’s Association), church groups, schools and other women’s organisations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins, such as Billy Tea tins. The tins were airtight, thus no moisture in the air was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft. Most people would agree there is nothing worse than a soft biscuit.

During World War II, with refrigeration in so many Merchant Navy Ships, the biscuits were not made to any great extent. It was now possible to send a greater variety of food, like fruit cake.
ANZAC biscuits are still made today. They can also be purchased from supermarkets and specialty biscuit shops. Around ANZAC Day, these biscuits are also often used by veterans’ organisations to raise funds for the care and welfare of aged war veterans."

We had a visit from an Australian friend and his sister today, so I made some anzac biscuits using his wife's recipe to go with our tea. I have fond memories of watching her make them in their kitchen in Perth. This is a really easy, quick recipe as long as you have all the ingredients on hand. Your house will also smell wonderful with the butter, sugar, coconut, nuts and oats fragrances. Best of all they are irresistible. Hard to only eat one.

Anzac Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup dry coconut
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Combine the melted butter, hot water, golden syrup and brown sugar in a mixing bowl (or the pot you melted the butter in if it large enough to hold the batter). Stir to blend well.

3) On a sheet of waxed paper combine the oats, flours, salt and soda. You could also combine them in a mixing bowl.

4) Add the nuts, coconut, dry ingredients and dried fruit to the butter mixture. Stir to blend well.

5) Pack dough into greased small tart pans or make into drop cookies on a cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minute until golden brown. (New note: Check cookies at 10 and 13 minutes :)

6) Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in airtight container. These cookies ship well. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Comfort of Buttermilk Biscuits

It's true that I get revved up thinking about making new recipes, especially the ones that the Bread Baking Babes and Cake Slice Bakers make each month. New ideas and techniques really get my creative juices flowing and it's fun to discover foods that can become favorites.

Sometimes, though, it's so nice to make a recipe that I've made over and over again. The process is usually faster and calmer and somehow comforting. I've made these biscuits since I was a young girl. My Dad loved his biscuits for breakfast and he loved them with stew. He loved them with ham and they make a great topping for chicken pot pie. Best of all they are great with some butter and honey, just out of the oven, with nothing but a cup of coffee. Well, I like them that way.

I haven't made biscuits for a long time, but this morning I was in the mood and I had all the ingredients ready to go. It's a short list, just self-rising flour, shortening and buttermilk. I keep my Crisco in the back of the fridge because I use it so rarely that it goes rancid in my cupboard between uses. That also makes it nice and cold for cutting into the biscuit flour. The essential thing with these biscuits is to avoid over handling the dough. You don't want a lot of gluten for these, just tender flakiness. I only knead the dough a few times; just enough to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. I do roll out the dough to about half the thickness I plan on having, then fold half of it over the other half. This makes it easy to split the biscuits when baked. Pushing straight down on the biscuit cutter is another tip. These really are easy as child's play, so try them soon. I bet you'll enjoy them as much as my Dad did. Don't forget the honey. I'm thankful to my newest neighbors who gave us a jar of local honey with comb in it for Christmas. They made these biscuits just perfect!

Classic Self-Rising Flour Buttermilk Biscuits

3 cups sifted self-rising flour
 ½ cup shortening
1 cup buttermilk ( you can also use plain milk)

Cut shortening into the flour until consistency of coarse meal. Add enough milk to make a soft dough (may be slightly more or less than one cup).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently about ten strokes. Roll 1/4 the thickness desired for finished biscuit height. Fold half of the rolled out dough over the other half. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter (or drinking glass rim) pushing straight down. Don’t twist the cutter.

Place biscuits on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 4000 F oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes about 14 two-inch biscuits.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hot and Savory Chicken Pot Pie

At some point in November right around Thanksgiving Sweetie gave me a recipe that he had seen in the Sunday newspaper supplement. It was for Turkey Pot Pie and these little pot pies were baked in individual ramekins and each was topped with puff pastry. They looked delicious!

It took a while (but life has been unusual this winter) and some thought, but I made something similar a few nights ago. I went with Chicken Pot Pie because I had some already cooked chicken thigh meat and no turkey. I chose to make one big casserole instead of the individual portions, which worked out well. The filling stayed nice and moist and the line up of golden rectangles of puff pastry looked really nice. Best of all, this pot pie is delicious.

You start by cooking some cubed potatoes in chicken broth. I leave the peel on mine, but feel free to peel the potatoes before cubing them if you like. Chopped onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery are sauteed in a little butter, then seasoned with poultry seasoning, thyme, salt and pepper. Flour is added and cooked a bit to take the 'floury' taste away, then a mixture of chicken broth and milk are added and cooked to make a thicker sauce. Some peas and corn are lightly cooked and added, along with the chicken and cooked, drained potatoes. It smells really wonderful by this time. You could substitute out green beans or asparagus for the corn or peas and could add in mushrooms or those tiny onions if you like. This is a recipe that allows for variations.

In the past I've tried making dishes like this with the puff pastry baked right on top. It rarely works. I just get melted puff pastry drooping over the filling. This time I baked the pastry rectangles on a baking sheet and then put them on top of the hot filling. That worked beautifully! The softness of the filling was a good foil for the crisp golden pastry.

If you are trying to increase your veggie intake, you can put a lot of veggies in this and it will still taste delicious. Feel free to increase the amounts.

I kind of made up this recipe as I went along, so there is no source for it. If you go online you might find some that are similar. The photo is terrible, too, but I find that my new kitchen makes photography after dark very difficult. There is something about the light. It tastes far better than it looks.

Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Topper

3-4 yellow Finn potatoes, washed and cubed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2-3 carrots, sliced into coins
1/4 yellow bell pepper and 1/4 red bell pepper diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper
about another 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2  - 2 1/2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (I used skinless thighs)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 sheet (half package) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon milk or 1/2 and 1/2

In a large pot with a lid, add the chicken broth to the cubed potatoes. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

Meanwhile,  prepare the onion, celery, carrots and bell pepper. When potatoes are cooked, drain them, reserving the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt the butter in the pot the potatoes were cooked in. Add the onion, celery, carrots and bell pepper. Over medium heat, cook, stirring often, for 5-8 minutes or until onion is translucent.

Add the flour, poultry seasoning, dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste to the cooked veggies. Stir for 1 minutes to allow the flour to cook a bit.

In a large measuring cup, measure the reserved potato cooking liquid. Add additional chicken broth to bring the level up to 1 3/4 cups. Add the milk. Stir this mixture, all at once, into the veggie/flour mixture and continue stirring over medium heat until the mixture thickens slightly. It's OK if mixture bubbles a bit once it has thickened.

Add the cubed chicken and stir to combine.

In a microwave safe container, cook the peas and corn for 1-2 minutes to warm. Add warmed peas and corn to the pot with the chicken and veggies. Add the cooked and drained potatoes. Stir to combine everything, then spoon mixture into a greased 9" x 13" casserole.

Cut the sheet of puff pastry into 9 rectangles. Place pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving at least an inch between them. Bake puff pastry in preheated oven. When pastry has puffed but is not yet brown, put the casserole into the oven to heat (I put it on a lower shelf).

When puff pastry rectangles are puffed and golden brown, remove them from the oven. Remove the casserole from the oven. Place the rectangles on top of the casserole mixture. Serve at once.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Chocolate Velvet Swirl

This month the choices for recipes for the Cake Slice Bakers included Whoopie Pies, a decadent Ambrosia Cake, a classic Italian Cream Cake and my choice, Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes. We are baking from Southern Living's The Southern Cake Book, so all the recipes looked amazing. It was really hard to choose. I finally settled on the Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes because I decided that was the perfect recipe for using the mini-swirl Bundt cake pan that was a Christmas gift. These little cakes aren't cupcakes, but they are not too far off. A tender chocolate cake baked up beautifully as small swirl cakes and looked so pretty with a decoration of melted chocolate mixed with whipping cream.

We were supposed to make a cream cheese based browned butter frosting, but the recipe made 5 cups! That would have been perfect for 36 cupcakes, but I cut the recipe down and made 1/3 or it, so that much frosting was too much.

These little cakes made the perfect treat to celebrate our daughter's birthday. It is really, really early to be celebrating, but she will be gone for work on her actual birthday, so we celebrated over the weekend.

I made the cake batter as described with one small change (other than the portion). I could have sworn that I bought sour cream, but couldn't find it, so I substituted plain yogurt. Worked like a charm.

Do try this recipe if you like chocolate cake. The crumb of the cake is tight and tender, the chocolate flavor is just assertive enough and your kitchen will smell heavenly while you make these treats.
I'm including the full recipe for 36 cupcakes in case you want to go big.

Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 36 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare enough cupcake pans to hold 36 cupcake papers.

Melt 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels in the microwave at HIGH in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about a minute at a time, stirring well after each, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup soft butter and 16 oz. of brown sugar until well blended (about 5 minutes). Take three room temperature eggs and add them, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate. Beat until well blended, scraping beater(s) and bowl as needed.

Sift together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add this mixture to the batter alternately with 8 oz. sour cream, adding a third of  the flour first, then half the sour cream, a third of the flour, the rest of the sour cream and the final third of the flour mixture. Scrape beater(s) and bowl as needed. Blend thoroughly , then gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow, steady stream at low speed, mixing just until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Fill prepared baking cups 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven for 18 - 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans to wire racks and cool completely (about 45 minutes) before frosting.

Pipe frosting on cupcakes. (you will need about 5 cups frosting).

Browned Butter-Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat cook 1/2 cup butter, stirring constantly, for 6-8 minutes or until butter begins to turn golden brown. Butter will start to smell nutty. Immediately remove from heat and pour butter into a heat proof bowl. Chill butter 1 hour, or until butter is cool and begins to solidify. Beat butter and two 8-oz. packages of softened cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add two packages (16 -oz each) powered confectioners; sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Makes 5 cups.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bread Baking Babes Get Puffed Up

It's the 16th of the month, and reveal day for this month's Bread Baking Babes bread. Our kitchen of the month, the ever popular and witty Elizabeth of Blog From OUR Kitchen, has gathered us around the table to make Chapatis, that wonderful staple of Indian cuisine. I'd never made these before and got a thrill when the first one I cooked puffed up just like it was supposed to when I turned it over to cook the second side and held it over the gas flame. It didn't really get brown when it puffed, but the flame caught an edge, so there was a bit of burning. Dangerous stuff this Bread Baking Babes baking!

The results were delicious and the texture was awesome with firm outer surface and almost flaking interiors. Sweetie ate most of them before I noticed, but I did snag two. My plan had been to have some butternut squash biryani and chicken cooked with coconut milk, but my late morning eye exam was brutal and so I didn't have the energy to do anything more than make the chapatis. Glad that I did and I'll make them again soon and do the full meal.

One of the things that I discovered while mixing up the dough was that it takes a little while for the flour to be absorbed. Glad that I stopped adding the boiling water long before all of the flour had gotten wet. I kept stirring with the fork and gradually all of the dry flour found its way into the dough and it seemed to have that silly putty texture. The kneading was relaxing and there was no need to add very much flour to the board, although my hand did stick a few times.

Do try this easy and fun recipe yourself! Check out the experiences that the rest of our BBB crew had to get tips for creating this wonderful and fast hot bread.

Bake My Day - Karen, Blog From OUR Kitchen - Elizabeth, Bread Experience - Cathy, Girlichef - Heather, Life's A Feast - Jaime, Lucullian Delights - Ilva, My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna, My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna, Notitie van Lien - Lien, Thyme for Cooking - Katie (who does the round-up).

If you do make these, consider becoming a Bread Baking Babe Buddy by making the recipe by Jan. 29th and sending Elizabeth an e-mail with a photo and a description of your experience making chapatis. She'll do a round-up shortly after that.

Here are the wonderful directions and recipe that Elizabeth gave us. Have fun!

based on "Flat Wholewheat Bread - Roti" in A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey

After struggling for months trying to make these, I now understand why all the recipes I looked at seemed to be so vague. Here is how we have finally managed to make pretty good rotis, using an electric stove and North American flour. I apologize in advance for any vagueness and urge you to keep trying even if your rotis don't turn out perfectly the first (second, third, fourth...) time(s). As Shehzad Husain says in Entertaining Indian Style:

Do not get disheartened [...] you will improve with practice.

  • stove
  • open wire rack (single burner open wire rack on feet that set the rack about an inch off the burner)
  • rolling pin
  • heavy carbon steel shallow frying pan (tava)
  • tongs
  • lidded pot
(We went to our local India town to get the tava and wire rack. They are not very expensive items. You can probably use a flat heavy griddle in place of the tava.)

Ingredients to make 8 rotis

  • 1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ c. whole wheat flour 
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • up to 1 c. just-boiled water

  1. In a bowl, mix flours and salt. Add hot water gradually, stirring with a fork until you have a soft dough. The amount of water will vary drastically depending on air temperature and humidity. You just have to play with it. You are aiming for dough that resembles silly putty.
  2. Using as little extra flour as possible, knead on a board or in the air for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and silky.
  3. Put the dough back in the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth or plate and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes to one hour.
  4. Put the tava on medium heat. Do not oil it. Put the wire rack on another burner at the highest heat possible. (I used a cast iron skillet. The tava would be better, but it worked.)
  5. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Lightly flour each one and put 7 pieces back in the bowl. Cover the bowl. Form the piece of dough into a ball and flatten it. Roll it out into a round til it is quite thin but not too thin (this is again is one of those infuriating things where you will just have to practice to find out what thinness works best for you) - about 2 mm?? As you roll out the dough, make sure it is not sticking to the board and that there are no holes. Keep the rolling pin lightly dusted with as little flour as possible and the board the same way.
  6. Place the round of dough on the hot tava (griddle). As soon as you see little bubbles form, turn it over using tongs. As soon as there are little bubbles on the reverse side, lift the bread off the tava with the tongs and place it on the wire rack. It should puff up. Turn it over once or twice to ensure that it puffs up completely. Don't be worried to see a few dark brown spots on it. (If you are lucky enough to have a gas stove, you can hold the bread directly over the flame. - I did this and supported the other side with a spatula. Worked OK, but then I put the chapati back into the hot skillet to brown a few spots.)
  7. Put the finished bread into a pot and cover it with a lid. Keep it in a warm oven. Roll out the next piece of dough and repeat til you have 8 rotis. As you put a new roti on the stack, turn the finished rotis over to keep the bottom ones from getting wet. (I kept the finished rotis on a paper plate set on a heavy pot holder and covered it with an inverted paper plate. That seemed to work well and was easy because it was on the counter next to the stove, readu for the next rotis to be added.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sweet Cookie Fingers with Raspberry Jam and Meyer Lemon Glaze

Christmas cookies never happened this year and I had two appointments that prevented me from baking cookies for the funeral of a friend on Friday. Thought we might bake cookies when my daughter came on Friday, but I was too tired. Finally felt up to it late this afternoon.

It was good to be baking again. These sweet cookie fingers have a butter base and some raspberry jam sweetness, plus a little crunch from the almond slices and the tang of Meyer lemon (or any lemon, really) in the glaze. The dough was crisper than I had expected, but that might have been because I forgot to add the 2 tablespoons of milk that went in before the flour mixture. I also only made a half recipe because even though I was wanting to eat some cookies, I really don't want to eat 40 of them. You can easily double the recipe if you do want to make 40. That's how the recipe was actually written.

On the good news front, my nephew in Colorado and his wife are the proud parents of a beautiful baby boy. Congrats to grandpa NoName!

Raspberry Ribbons
from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book
makes about 20 slices

5 tablespoons (about 1/3 cup) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
about 1/2 cup raspberry jam
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Lemon Glaze (see below)

Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, and beat until well blended. Add the egg yolk and the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat until light in color.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt (I used a sheet of waxed paper and a whisk), then add to the butter mixture. Beat well until mixed. Mixture will be firm. Divide into two pieces as close to the same size as possible. Wrap each and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (I chilled them for about an hour and a half and that was still fine.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet. (I used a half sheet pan.)

Work with one piece of dough at a time, keeping the other refrigerated.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll one of the pieces of dough into a rectangle about 11 x 3 inches.
Transfer the dough to the cookie may need to use a spatula, but I didn't.

Using your fingers, press a 1-inch wide trench down the center of the rectangle. Spoon about 1/4 cup raspberry jam in the trench, smoothing with a wet finger.

Repeat with the second piece of dough. The cookie sheet should hold both rectangles of dough.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges just start to take on color. Scatter half of the almonds on each rectangle, sprinkling them over the hot jam. Return to the oven and bake another 1-2 minutes, or until the edges are light golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and brush or drizzle the Lemon Glaze over the rectangles. Slice each rectangle into about 10 slices.

Store in an airtight container with waxed paper between the layers, or carefully place in a plastic bag, tie snugly, and freeze.

Lemon Glaze
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (Meyer lemon here, too)
1/3 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

Mix the lemon juice and zest. Put the sugar in a small bowl. Add the juice mixture and stir or use a small whisk to combine until smooth and well blended.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Fine Clementine Slices

Continuing with post without actual recipes, today we have directions for a wonderful little dessert or snack, perfect for winter because the main ingredient is clementine or tangerine segments. This treat is brought to you by my wonderful daughter. Not sure where she discovered this combination, but she made up a few trays of these for our post-Christmas gathering.

First you divide your clementine or tangerine into segments. She carefully removed all traces of pith and thin white strings on the segment membranes, leaving nice and pretty segments. Then she dried them and laid them out in rows on parchment paper which was laid on baking sheets.

In a microwave proof bowl she melted enough chocolate chips to coat the ends of each. One at a time she dipped the end in the warm chocolate, then set each segment on the parchment. Before the chocolate had time to dry, she sprinkled on just a bit of sea salt of the finishing salt variety. The segments dried and then were enjoyed by all. Since she dipped quite a few, I do know that she reheated the chocolate a few times in the microwave to keep it liquid.

I would imagine that you could do the same thing with orange segments, but I can tell you that the smaller clementine segments treated this way were a delight to indulge in.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

What New Year?

Whoops! Looks like I missed the opportunity to do a review of the blog posts of 2014 and to welcome in the New Year of 2015. Late wishes still count, right?

Happy New Year!

Perhaps I'm just resisting getting into the second half of this decade, but I have another post related to 2014. That wonderful rum cake that the Cake Slice Bakers made has another chapter here at my house. Not only did I make the cute pecan and cherry decorated little rum cuties, but I also baked a round layer with the rest of the batter. It has been languishing in my fridge, waiting for it's turn.

Last night Sweetie and I had a healthy meal of stir fried veggies over rice, with a little duck thrown in for protein. Since it was mostly veggies I felt that we could have a more decadent dessert. Anyone for a dressed up rum cake with tropical overtones?

The slices of rum cake (single layer) were topped with a scoop of rum raisin ice cream, then I layered on some bananas that I had warmed in a little butter and brown sugar. On top of that I scattered cubes of fresh pineapple. It was a great combination! No recipe, but I'll bet you could duplicate it without problem if you bake the rum cake.

This is the last of the 2014 related recipes, so soon there will be a whole new year of yummy food.