Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spinach and Mushroom Hand Pies

Of course I've been cooking and baking since my last post, but nothing's really been noteworthy. Last weekend I moved into an apartment; before then it felt pointless to create more things to take with me, and I've been building up a baking cupboard since I got here. I did make a potato soup a few nights ago, but that's not as exciting as hand pies.

I got the recipe from the King Arthur Flour website, which I've found to be an excellent source in general. Made quite a few changes, mostly blandifying, but they still came out very well!

To start with the dough, where you really ought to: since I had no "Hi-Maize Fiber" or powdered cheese, my final recipe was

  • about 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt (not really, just a prolonged burst of salt-grinding)
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • a bit of grated Parmesan cheese, maybe 1/4 cup or a little less
After these were mixed reasonably well in my antique mixer, I added 6 Tbsp of coldish water (the tap would not oblige me with ice water) and mixed some more by hand. The resulting dough I divided and chilled as directed.

I made up the filling very simply: about 8oz. of mushrooms and about 8oz. of frozen spinach, sauteed in olive oil with a pinch of salt, marjoram, and coriander. You can see that this is less interesting than in the recipe, but I didn't have any cheddar (parmesan can be overpowering, so I didn't use it) nor an onion.

The rest I did as directed! And the end result was fabulous - the pastry flaky and buttery, the filling savory and delicious. I ate the one cut in half below, as well as the ugly and patched one. Five stars, would make again, etc.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Toffee Squares

It's been a long time since I posted - in the meantime I've made two kouign ammans that I didn't think were good enough to post here. The trouble with living with just myself and my mother (who can't eat most of what I make as there's flour in it) is that anything I make takes forever to be finished, so I don't have a justification for baking frequently!

But I finished the last kouign amman and looked around for something to make. There are a number of cookbooks in our kitchen, and I selected Betty Crocker's Cooky Book (1963).
I went in very skeptically. 1960s cooking and baking doesn't generally do it for me, and nothing was catching me as I went through the recipes. The illustrations along the bottom of the pages were not appealing - they all looked like spritz cookies. Everything's very pale and dry. But then I found the Toffee Squares, a rich cooky that looks and tastes like toffee candy. Promising! I love toffee.

The Recipe

  • 1 cup butter (I do 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup shortening as a matter of course, so you get the good butteryness but can feel like you're doing a good thing because of the shortening)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • chocolate chips
The Baking

When you beat the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla together, it looks like ordinary cookie dough wet ingredients, but when you add the flour and sugar it becomes very dry and crumbly. (Still tasty, though. I probably ate a full cookie square of this before baking.) And a thing you may have noticed about this recipe is that there's no rising agent. This is because it's basically shortbread with brown sugar instead of white.

Instead of being a deliciously thick batter, it's a slightly unappetizingly dry powder. But once you press it into a greased 13x9 pan, it gets better. And once you bake it at 350 degrees ("moderate", according to the book, which I think is aimed partly at an audience used to measuring oven heat via testing with a hand)) for 25-30 minutes, the butter melts and it's shortbread.

While it's still hot, sprinkle chocolate chips or bits of chocolate bars on top and let it stand. Give it a few minutes to let the chocolate melt, then spread it around. Once it cools, or mostly cools anyway, cut the cookies into squares.

... That napkin didn't look so crumby to me when I took the picture, but I'd already eaten one because they're irresistible.

At first I thought these might do better with light brown sugar as they tasted a bit molassesy - I'm not a big fan of molasses - but after eating several by now it's grown on me. Brown sugar shortbread! It's delicious!