Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homemade Ginger Ale

I haven't blogged for a while - for some reason, having a baby and moving to another country kept me too busy to blog. But now that life has settled down a bit, time to keep track again of the recipes I have tried. Made this today - homemade ginger ale is so much better than what you get in a can. This ginger ale is fantastic - refreshing with a bit of bite. I skipped the lemongrass and the chiles - the ginger flavor is great on its own or with a little lime squeezed in. It makes a lot of syrup, so you have plenty for a party or for a few days for yourself! A perfect cold drink for a hot summer's day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homemade Bagels

I'm moving overseas in a few months, and found out recently that sadly, bagels are not available in the country I am moving to. Now, I do not eat bagels all that often, but now that I know I will not be able to get them there, it makes me want to eat bagels every day for the rest of my life. Happily, I learned that bagels are not that difficult to make from scratch. I did a search on Chowhound and someone suggested this recipe on a homemade bagel thread from a few years back. I couldn't find bread flour at my local grocery store, so I bought some vital wheat gluten, which increases the protein content of the flour so that the bagels are more chewy.

I used my stand mixer to knead the dough, using the dough hook, since I never seem to get satisfactory results when I try to knead by hand. The recipe calls for 6-8 cups of flour - I started out with 6 cups of all-purpose flour and added another cup while mixing the dough. I probably could have done with less, since my dough was really stiff after I added the additional cup (my stand mixer was starting to overheat, and I was a little worried that I was going to burn out the motor). I added 6 teaspoons of vital wheat gluten (1 teaspoon for each cup of flour - I forgot to add an additional teaspoon when I added more flour, but the bagels turned out fine). I used sugar instead of malt syrup - white sugar for the dough, and brown sugar in the water used for boiling. I just made plain bagels, but you can always add whatever toppings you want.

These bagels turned out great. They were best when they were right out of the oven - nice and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Perfect with a little bit of cream cheese. I stored half of them in a Ziploc bag and half in a brown paper bag overnight - the crust on the bagels in the Ziploc got soft, so the paper bag is the way to go. By the second day the bagels were getting stale - still quite edible but a little too chewy - next time I will freeze half of the bagels right away. I'm quite pleased that now I can have bagels any time I want - now I just need to learn how to make cream cheese. :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pizza Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

I had a bunch of local Roma tomatoes at the end of the harvest season and needed to do something with them. I decided to make homemade pizza sauce. I used the olive oil dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for the pizza dough, which was fabulous and really easy. I found this recipe for the sauce - it was actually kind of hard to find a recipe that did not call for canned tomatoes or tomato puree. I wanted to find a recipe that I could use when we live overseas, where I can't just run over to Walmart for a can of tomatoes.

This sauce was great and pretty easy to make. I used dried oregano because that's all I had, fresh basil from our patio garden, and added salt and pepper to taste at the end. I seeded the tomatoes, but did not bother peeling them, which I liked about this recipe. I used my immersion blender to puree it at the end. My husband was very impressed that you can make good pizza sauce from scratch (goodbye, Walmart pizza sauce! At least when we have good, fresh tomatoes).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

My coworker brought in a bucket of apples from her yard a few weeks back. Never one to turn down free local produce, I took a bunch of apples home and figured I would find a use for them. We went to a potluck a few days later so I made this crisp, which was delicious. I still had a bag of cranberries from last Thanksgiving in my freezer, so this was a perfect recipe to use those up.

I made a few adjustments based on reviewer's recommendations - I doubled the topping, halved the cranberries, and doubled the apples. I also added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the topping mixture, and used water instead of cider since I didn't have any cider on hand.

This was delicious. I thought doubling the topping was a little much, though my topping-loving husband thought it was just perfect. Doubling the topping also made it a little too sweet for my taste. I think next time I would use 1 1/2 times the topping rather than doubling it. Other than that, I thought this was excellent, and it went really well with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Wrigley Field-esque Frosty Malt

I have blogged before about my longing for the frozen chocolate malts that you get at Wrigley Field. My first attempt earlier this year was quite disappointing, so I hadn't tried again since then. Now that it's Cubs season again, I decided to give it another try, and found this recipe from Cooking Light. I had to make quite a few modifications to get it right, but I think I've gotten pretty close. The first time I made it, I used water as the recipe instructed, but this makes the end product as hard as a rock, rendering it impenetrable to the requisite wooden spoon (we didn't even try to use wooden spoons the first time). The second time I used all milk, and the consistency is perfect. I used quite a bit less cocoa powder too - with the amount in the original recipe, the frozen malt comes out way too dark and chocolatey - for you Cubs fans, as you know, the real thing is just the palest shade of brown, and the chocolate flavor is there but not overwhelming.

I made so many modifications that I feel like I can consider this my own recipe. Now, I have not had the real thing at the ballpark in over a year, so this may not be an exact replica. I do think the color and texture are very close, and the taste is pretty darn good. You can find malt powder in the coffee and tea section of your grocery store. I used my ice cream maker, but if you don't have one - well, you should get one. But if you want to try to make it without one, David Lebovitz has instructions on his website on how to make ice cream without a machine.

Here it is, fellow Cubs fans!

4 1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Nestle)
2/3 cup malt powder (I used the Carnation brand - Horlicks is another good brand. Do not use Ovaltine!)

Whisk together 1 cup of the milk, the sugar, and the cocoa in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until hot but not boiling. Add the malt powder and the remaining milk and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

When I made this, I was a little dismayed that there was still a bit of liquid in my ice cream maker after it was all churned - I guess because the recipe makes a little more than my canister can handle. However once this goes in the freezer for a night, everything solidifies and all is well. And then you have plenty of frozen chocolate goodness to enjoy. Because there is no cream in this recipe, it does come out fairly hard when you first take it out of the freezer - it helps to let it sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes prior to serving. Feel free to serve in paper cups with wooden spoons if you like!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Five-Minute Artisan Bread

I have had a love-hate relationship with homemade bread over the years. I love the taste of homemade bread, but I hate kneading. I just can't get it right. I have tried using a breadmaker, and also the dough hook on my stand mixer, to avoid the whole kneading problem - but I just haven't been able to make bread with the texture that I want.

Then I found this recipe online. Fancy looking bread that you don't have to knead - really? Am I dreaming? I had to try it. The recipe looked pretty easy, and reviews online made it sound like you couldn't mess it up. I tried it for the first time last week. One word: wonderful. This bread is so easy to make, and it is delicious. Baking it on a pizza stone gives it a lovely crust. We were very happy with the flavor. I love that you make a big batch and just store it in your fridge for whenever you want fresh bread. We had our second loaf tonight, and it was even better than the first. The flavor changes a little over time, becoming more sourdough-like the longer it sits in the fridge.

One tip that I have found helpful - since the dough is pretty wet, it can be difficult to transfer to the baking stone. I don't have a pizza peel, so I just put a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and put my dough on there to rest. When it's time to put the bread in the oven, I slide the dough and the parchment paper onto the stone. I let the bread bake for three minutes, then open the oven and pull the parchment paper out from underneath the bread.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chocolate Fondue

My husband and I got a fondue pot as a gift when we got married five-plus years ago. We used it a few times during our first few years of marriage, but then it just sat in the cupboard collecting dust for a while. Until we discovered a few weeks ago how incredibly easy it is to make chocolate fondue. Since then we have had it whenever we have guests over! The recipe we found takes only a few minutes to make, and you just zap it in the microwave and then transfer it to your fondue pot. You really don't even need to use a fondue pot for this, if you are going to eat it right away. We skip the wine, so this fondue only has four ingredients - cream, bittersweet chocolate (we just use Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips), butter, and sugar. We have dipped angel food cake, strawberries, and bananas in it, all of which are very good. This is a great dessert for entertaining - it looks so fancy, but it takes less than five minutes to make.