Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Black Walnut Extract

Black walnuts are hard to open, expensive, and they have a relatively short shelf life. When I bought a whole lot of black walnuts for an article I was working on a while back, I made a few recipes with the nuts, but then ... I was done.

I had eaten enough black-walnut-flavored baked goods, and I was ready to move on.

I could have frozen the rest of them, of course, but sometimes things that go into the freezer disappear. The big things, sure I know they're there. But a little bag of walnuts could vanish.

So ... I decided to make an extract.

Or it could be a liqueur. It's good for baking or for use in cocktails. Wherever you want to add that black walnut flavor..

Black Walnut Extract

2 cups chopped black walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
Vodka, as needed

Put the walnuts and sugar into a quart jar. Add vodka to fill the jar up to the neck. I used Smirnoff Honey because it's what I had and I figured the honey flavor would be compatible. A plain vodka would be jut as good.

Put the lid on the jar and shake until sugar is dissolved, Or, you know, shake it occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. You don't need to shake like crazy to get it all dissolved right away.

Stash the jar in your pantry or another out-of-the-way spot and let it sit for at least a month. Or more.

Strain the walnuts from the liquid. You can use the walnuts in baking, if you like, but keep in mind that they've absorbed quite a bit of alcohol and they're pretty potent.

Strain the liquid again through several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter for a completely clear liquid. Transfer to a bottle or jar for storage.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Malted Milk Ice Cream

The weather here is still swinging wildly between nice and chilly, and my cooking has been keeping pace with the weather. The other day, I made soup from leftovers (no recipe for you there, sorry!) and a batch of ice cream.

This is a quick and easy recipe - no need for cooking anything. Just mix, refrigerate, and churn. And if you've got an ice cream maker with its own compressor, like the Breville ice cream maker that I have, you don't even need to chill the mixture.

If you have an ice cream maker with a bowl that needs to be frozen before churning, you'll get the best result if your ice cream base is cold before you start to churn.

Malted Milk Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 can chocolate sweetened condensed milk (this is sold seasonally - I stocked up - if you can't find it, use regular sweetened condensed milk and add chocolate syrup to taste.)
1/2 cup malted milk powder (the kind you mix with cold milk - not the one you need to heat)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Combine all of the ingredients, mix well, and chill until cold.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pickled Spicy Cauliflower

A local restaurant serves a small side of what they call pickled vegetables. They're mostly cauliflower, with a few bits of other things, and they're spicy.

I've become sort of addicted to them. Every time I go, I ask for extra.

I figured they'd be easy to make, but wasn't motivated to work on the recipe until I got some Chicken Salt through the blog group 37 Cooks. Upon doing a little sniff test of the different varieties, I decided that the Red Pepper Chicken Salt had enough of a kick to make my cauliflower spicy.

Because I like the color that turmeric adds to pickled vegetables, I added turmeric salt, as well. The first time I made it, I thought it was good, but not quite spicy enough. So I made it again, with more Red Pepper Salt. Now, it's perfect.

Since this is so simple to make, I decided to make just a small jar of it, but if you decide you love it, you can double or triple or quadruple the recipe.

These are quick pickles, so they stay nice and crisp. Since they're not preserved, you'll need to store them in the refrigerator.

Pickled Spicy Cauliflower

Cauliflower florets to fit pint jar
2 teaspoons red pepper Chicken Salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric Chicken Salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup water

Cut the cauliflower into bite-size pieces and fit as many as possible into a pint jar. Add the red pepper and the turmeric Chicken Salt.

Put the vinegar and water into a microwave-safe container. I used a glass measuring cup, so just one container for measuring and heating. You could also heat this on the stove in a pan. Heat to boiling.

Pour the hot water into the jar and screw the cover on firmly. Shake the jar to make sure the spices get nicely mixed in. Let the jar come to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.

This is done as soon as it's chilled, but it continues absorbing flavors as it sits.

I received products from Chicken Salt via 37 Cooks.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Langostinos with Black Garlic and White Wine

This was a super-simple recipe, and it can be on the table really quickly, particularly if you have rice, polenta, or another starch ready to go.

Black garlic is a fun ingredient - it is truly black. I starts as regular white garlic, but it's fermented, which makes the flavor milder and makes the garlic cloves sort of jammy in texture.

Langostinos with Black Garlic and White Wine

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
Pinch of salt, plus more to taste
2 cloves black garlic, peeled
1/4 cup dry white wine or white cooking wine
1 12-ounce package frozen langostino tails, thawed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a saute pan on medium heat, then add the onions and salt. Cook, stirring as needed, until the onions have softened and are almost fully cooked. Add the black garlic and mash them - they're very soft - until they're well distributed in the pan.

Add the wine and continue cooking, stirring as needed, until the wine has mostly evaporated.

Add the langostino tails, and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the tails are warmed.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired.

Serve over polenta or rice.

I got this black garlic from my friends at Frieda's. Look for it at your local grocery store.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Cheese and Scallion Enchiladas with Salsa Verde #sponsored

I didn't grow up eating Mexican food. I was on a date when I first tried it. And I fell in love.

With the food. Not so much the date.

Tacos have become my go-to food when I have leftovers. I pretty much always have tortillas here, and I have cilantro growing in my herb garden. There's always some kind of salsa, too.

So it's easy to turn leftover steak or chicken or pretty much anything into a quick taco dinner.

But enchiladas are still one of my all-time favorites. They're a tiny bit more work than simply tossing food bits into a tortilla. On the other hand, they're great for times when I want to make enough food to have leftovers for a meal or three. The best thing is that enchiladas reheat really well.

This recipe makes 12 enchiladas, with some extra green sauce. You can serve the extra sauce at the table, use it as a salsa or dipping sauce, or make a few extra enchiladas later.

This post is sponsored by my good buddies at OXO who sent me a really sweet 14 Piece Glass Bake, Serve & Store Set that I used for both baking my enchiladas and for storing and serving all the extras. The round containers are sturdy and they look nice enough to use for serving, which is a huuuuge bonus. Fewer dishes to wash!

The lids for the SNAP containers are interchangeable between the OXO glass and plastic containers, so I don't need to worry about which ones I'm grabbing - I already have some of the plastic ones that I use all the time, and the lids fit really tightly. I haven't had one that has leaked yet. The containers nest when they're empty for storage and they stack well in the fridge when they're full. And they're microwavable for reheating. Even the lids can be used in the microwave, if you want to leave them on to contain splatter (but loosen them, first!)

The glass is a thermal shock-resistant borosilicate, so the bakeware can go from freezer right into your oven or microwave. That's not something I do often, but it's nice to know that it can withstand up to 250 degrees of temperature change without cracking, so I don't have to worry about taking something from fridge to microwave. The lids on the bakeware are handy for keeping foods neatly contained for travel or storage, and the handles are big enough to be able to grab while wearing oven mitts. Which you really do need.

One thing I really like is how clear the glass is, so I can see how things are cooking. As far as cleaning, I just rinsed the baking dish and put it in the dishwasher and it came out perfectly clean.

Cheese and Scallion Enchiladas with Salsa Verde
Makes 12 enchiladas, plus extra sauce

Salsa Verde
Salsa verde simply means green sauce. This one is tart from the tomatillos and a little spicy from the jalapenos. 

2 pounds tomatillos
4 jalapenos
1 onion
1 yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tablespoons adobo seasoning
Salt, as needed

Remove the papery skin from the tomatillos and rinse well. There's a sticky coating on the outside of the tomatillos that can be bitter, and you don't want that in your sauce.

Quarter the tomatillos and place them in a blender or food processor. Remove the stem and seeds from the jalapenos and add them to the blender. Peel the onion, cut into quarters, and add to the blender. Remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper, cut into chunks, and add to the blender. Add the cilantro and adobo seasoning.

Blend until smooth.

Add the sauce to a saucepan and cook on medium heat until it simmers. Continue cooking until the sauce loses the raw onion flavor. Taste for seasoning and add salt, as needed. If your adobo seasoning was salty, you might not need additional salt.

Set aside until needed.

Cheese and Scallion Enchiladas
The first enchiladas I ever had were cheese and onion, and it's still one of my favorites. This time, I used scallions. They're a little milder, and the green adds some extra color.

8 scallions
4 cups shredded mild or medium cheddar (plus more for garnish)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
Salsa verde, as needed
Cilantro, as garnish

Remove the roots and any wilted or damaged green parts. Slice the scallions thinly. Combine the cheese and scallions in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan on medium heat. One at a time, dip the tortillas into the hot oil, cooking just a few seconds on one side before flipping over to cook another few seconds. This softens the tortillas and makes them easier to roll without breaking. You don't want to cook them so long that they start to become crisp.

Let the tortillas drain on paper towels and pat off any excess oil on top.

Put about 1 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish. A little more or less is fine - you just want to make sure the bottom is covered.

One at a time, add about 1/3 cup of the cheese and scallion mixture to a tortilla and roll up. Place it in the baking pan, seam-side down. Continue rolling the cheese in the tortillas and adding them to the pan until all the tortillas are used up.

Pour another cup or more of the sauce on top of the enchiladas, as desired. If there is any cheese and scallion mixture left, sprinkle that on top of the enchiladas. Add extra cheese on top, if desired.

Bake the enchiladas in a 350-degree oven until the cheese is melted and the sauce around the edges is bubbling, 25-35 minutes. Sprinkle cilantro on top, as a garnish, if desired.

Serve the enchiladas with your favorite sides and toppings. I served mine with black beans and seasoned rice as sides. Guacamole, and sour cream were the extra toppings for the enchiladas.

Thanks to OXO for sponsoring this post!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Baileys Rice Pudding (non-alcoholic)

I adore rice pudding, and after I demolished the last batch I made, I was planning on making the same recipe again. Well, okay, maybe with some little tweaks.

But then when I looked in the fridge, I saw that I didn't have quite enough milk. But! I had a bottle of Baileys French Vanilla coffee creamer.

My first try was a supreme fail. Way too sweet. But that didn't stop me. I thought that the Baileys flavor would be perfect in rice pudding, so I fiddled with the recipe until I worked it out.

This is actually a little less sweet than my previous rice pudding, but it has nice flavor from the creamer. While I chose the French vanilla version, I'm sure this would work as well with any flavor you like - as long as you think it would work in a rice pudding.

And since I'm still working out recipes using my Instant Pot, this is a pressure cooker recipe. I'm really loving the Instant Pot ... can you tell?

Baileys Rice Pudding

1/2 cup arborio rice
1 cup Baileys French Vanilla coffee creamer
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients in your Instant Pot. Put the cover on and make sure the knob is set for sealing rather than venting.

Press the porridge button and make sure the timer is set for 20 minutes. When the time is up, let it sit for 30 minutes on the "keep warm" setting, then turn the machine off and vent any remaining steam.

Stir the rice pudding well. It will look a little bit soupy, but the rice will plump up and continue to absorb liquid as it cooks.

Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate.

I received the Instant Pot through 37 Cooks for a post on the group blog. I am not obligated to continue posting about it on my blog. I'm just having fun.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

To All the Moms - A Banana Baileys "Milkshake"

Mother's Day has always been a weird one for me. To say that my mom and I didn't get along well is an understatement.

If my mother had been a species of fish, she would have been the type that eats as many of its young as possible, as soon as they are born. It's good for those species in the evolutionary sense, since only the strong survive. The weaker fish, and the unlucky ones, help to nourish mom, I guess.

That comparison isn't much of an exaggeration. My twin, as well as my aborted twin brothers, two years older than I, were not survivors.

Meanwhile, my mother spent a lot of her pregnancy with me trying to deny she was pregnant. At first, I was menopause. The doctor was wrong, she said. She obviously couldn't be pregnant. Or could she?

When it became apparent that I was still hanging on, mom had dreams that my deceased grandmother was trying to hand me to her, but mom didn't want me. In the dreams, she tried to refuse to take me from grandmother, over and over again.

Even though mom tried to refuse to take me from my grandmother's arms, that wasn't enough to stop me from being born. And just like that ... I turned a woman into a mother.

That's not to say that my entire childhood was hell. Mom taught me lots of fun things, like how to play poker for money, how to bet on horses at the race track, and how to pick out the brand of whiskey she liked. I became a regular at the grocery store and drugstore, buying whiskey and cigarettes for mom, long before I was old enough to write my name in cursive.

She taught me many things unintentionally. I learned that fall-down-drunkenness was unattractive and disgusting. I learned that I never wanted to be so dependant on a substance that I would search through filthy ash trays to find a cigarette butt that was long enough to light.

I learned how to block out distractions because of her need to always have noise in the tiny apartment. I learned how to ignore the constant babble of TV and radio when reading or doing homework. I learned how to listen with half my attention while thinking about other things.

Now, I can actually watch television, listen to the dialog, and type completely different words at the same time. The downside to this talent is that sometimes I need the distraction of television when I need to do a lot of writing.

Mom, in her single days.
It could be worse.

I learned that when people tell you things, even if they earnestly believe them, these things are not always true. "They say that ..." is not proof that something is true, and "I don't believe in that!" is not a logical way to refute facts. I learned how to look things up and come to own conclusions.

These days, I spend a lot of time looking things up.

I learned that even if mom trusts someone, that person might not be trustworthy. Some people are pure evil in friendly-neighbor's clothing, and sometimes trusting your gut is best.

I learned that not all bad people go to jail or are even arrested or prosecuted.

Sometimes one has to hope that karma is enough.

I learned that the only person who can keep a secret is the person whose secret it is. Once the first person hears the secret, it is free to spread to neighbors, relatives, and even to the mom of your first-grade crush at a PTA meeting while your first-grade crush hides behind his mom's skirt. Literally.

I learned that liars are not as adept at lying as they think they are, and I learned to spot tells. Sneaky liars seldom get past me. Regular liars are totally transparent.

Speaking of lies, my dad had the good sense to never put me in a position where I would feel stuck between telling the lie my mother told me to tell, or being honest with him. If he knew my mom told me to lie and say we were at the grocery store instead of the bar, he wouldn't ask me.

Mom and Dad. Awwww ... newlyweds.
I learned that telling the truth was the easiest thing to do. Liars have to remember their lies, and which versions they told to which person. If you tell the truth, you only need to remember one thing.

I learned that a lot of people lie when they don't want to answer a question, and I figured out that I didn't have to answer every question asked of me. I didn't have to tell my secrets and let them into the world.

When confronted with questions I didn't want to answer, I grew confident enough to say, "Sorry, but that's private," or "I'm not really comfortable discussing that," or "Now is not a good time to talk about that."

Or, "If my husband didn't tell you, then I'll honor his decision not to reveal those things."

I learned not to rely on other people to make me happy. When, on the evening of my 16th birthday, my mother told me that I was too old for birthdays, I was devastated. I had hoped for a Sweet 16 surprise. Maybe a party. How about a cake after dinner, with candles? As the day wore on, my expectations grew lower. I would have settled for a card. But all I got was the announcement that I was too old for birthdays.

So, I decided that on my birthday from that year forward, I would buy something for myself, or do something for myself that was special. I continued that tradition well into adulthood. Most years, I got cards or presents from others. But I knew I didn't have to count on them to treat me well. I was allowed to do things for myself, because I deserved it.

I learned that I should not give someone money for safekeeping, or loan it to them, if it would bother me that I never saw the money again. Birthday money, spare change collected for carrying the neighbor's groceries, and nickels saved from redeeming soda bottles found on the street was said to be "safely put away" for me in mom's bank account. By now, it should be worth a tidy sum, right?

Because of my mom, I learned how to cook without recipes. When I was an adult and mom refused to give me the recipes I remembered from childhood, I figured them out based on my memory of the flavors. I became confident at creating my own recipes and replicating others that I tasted. I guess you might say that she's at least partly responsible for me becoming a food blogger.

Not quite the same smile after I came along.
I learned about marriage from mom's friends and relatives. Some were married and remarried with frightening regularity. They had ugly divorces in between, and bad relationships with many exes. I knew I didn't want that. Others stayed married even though their husbands were abusive. I knew I didn't want that, either.

I knew, without a doubt, that I didn't want to be like my mother. She was my role model of who not to be.

When mom broke her hip and decided not to do physical therapy or help herself get better, I watched her long decline. I took care of her, and I took care of her dwindling finances. For the first time, I wished that I had siblings to help bear the burden. And then she was gone.

I was sad, mostly for the fact that we never had the sort of relationship other people had with their mothers. She wasn't my friend, my mentor, or my idol. She was the woman who gave birth to me, and who consequently gave me enough care so I could grow up and move out.

This isn't a sad story. I have no regrets. My mom made me strong, inquisitive, skeptical, and independent. She made me a survivor.

But still, when Mother's Day rolls around and my friends talk about how wonderful their mothers are or how sad they are that their mothers are gone ... I feel a bit of loss. Not that she's gone, but that I never had the sort of mother that I would actually miss.

So if you had a mother who was your friend, inspiration, and confidante, be happy that you had her in your life. If your mom is still your best buddy or if she now needs your help and support, enjoy your time with her.

And if your mom was like mine, celebrate that you were one of the strong little fish that grew up to be the person you are today.

Thanks, mom. This one's for you.

Baileys Banana Milkshake
For the record, my mom would have hated this drink. This is all about the flavor. She preferred whiskey and water for maximum kick and minimum fuss.

1 ripe banana
1 generous cup ice cubes
1 1/2 ounces Baileys Irish Cream
2 ounces heavy cream (you could use milk, if you like)
Tiny pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients in a blender (salt is optional, but it enhances the banana flavor), and blend until smooth. In a Vitamix (which is what I used) turn the knob to the frozen/ice cream setting and just let it do its thing.

Serve, slurp, enjoy.

You can make a non-alcoholic version by swapping the Baileys for milk or even water. You could simply eliminate it, but the extra liquid makes blending easier.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin over Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Once again, the nice folks at the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission asked to sponsor a post here on Cookistry, and of course I said yes. I love berries, and I like to have frozen ones on hand for smoothies or for cooking.

In season, fresh berries are a wonderful thing. But they're also very perishable. Frozen berries are great year-round, and I can use a few or a lot and not worry about having the rest go bad before I get to them.

Raspberries are actually one of my favorite berries, but I'm sort of a weirdo since I like them better cooked, juiced, macerated or otherwise manipulated than I like them fresh and raw. Yep, I'm odd.

I decided to use the berries two ways - or three, if we want to count the garnish.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin over Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

For the raspberry vinaigrette:
Frozen Oregon raspberries, to fill small jar
Cider vinegar, as needed
Olive oil
Salt, as needed

For the pork:
1 cup frozen Oregon raspberries
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 pork tenderloins

To make the raspberry vinaigrette:
Fill a small jar with frozen raspberries and add cider vinegar to fill. You can leave this at room temperature for a few hours, if you need it quickly. If you're planning ahead, refrigerate until needed - you'll have more raspberry flavor if you let it sit for a day or so.

When you're ready to make the salad dressing, combine 1 part vinegar with 2-3 parts olive oil, to taste. For example, 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 2 or three tablespoons olive oil. Add a pinch of salt, to taste, and whisk to emulsify. You can also combine the oil and vinegar in a small jar and shake it. Taste and add more salt, if needed. If you like a sweeter dressing, add sugar or honey to taste.

Serve this over fresh salad greens. Garnish with some thawed frozen berries, if desired.

To make the pork:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and have a baking sheet standing by.

Put the berries, along with about 1/4 cup of water, in a small saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat, stirring as needed, until the berries have fallen apart. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Set the sauce aside.

Put the butter in a saute pan and heat on medium until melted. Add the onion, apple, and salt. Cook, stirring as needed, until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the raspberry sauce, and stir to combine. Cook until the mixture is jammy rather than saucy. Add the thyme and give it one more stir.

If the tenderloins have any silverskin, remove it, then butterfly the meat and pound it flat. The thinner the meat is, the more of a spiral you'll have with the filling. You don't want to pound so thin that the meat will tear and shred, though.

Spread half of the filling on each tenderloin and roll each one up, jellyroll-style. You can fasten the seam with toothpicks, tie the rolls with kitchen twine at intervals, or just very carefully lift the rolls and place them on a baking sheet.

Roast the tenderloins at 375 degrees, until done to your likeness. I prefer tenderloins at 140 degrees, which takes about 30 minutes.

Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with salad greens drizzled with the raspberry vinaigrette. Garnish with a few berries, if desired.

Thanks to the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission for sponsoring this post! Oregon brands of frozen berries include Stahlbush Island Farms, Scenic Fruit, Columbia Fruit, and Willamette Valley Fruit Company.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Buttery Semolina Rolls - A Quicker Recipe

It's funny how much kitchen tools have changed since I was a kid. I can remember when my mom got her first blender, and she didn't get a microwave until I was an adult. She had a countertop broiler that I'm sure was a fire hazard.

And I don't ever recall her using a thermometer. Not for meat, not for anything. Somehow we managed not to eat undercooked turkey, but overcooked meat sometimes happened.

Now, it seems like I use a thermometer just about every day. Or at least every day that I cook. I use it to check meat temperatures, and I use it when I'm making fiddly things like candy or custard. Or when I'm making sure I'm not killing the good bacteria when I make yogurt.

When I'm making bread, I can be a little ... imprecise with my temperature-checking, but I'll have to admit that things often turn out better when I am paying attention.

When proofing yeast, or when I'm giving it a head-start in warm water, the yeast like a temperature of about 110 degrees. A little lower is fine. 110 is safe. But when temperatures rise too much hotter, yeast goes from happy and frolickly to cooked and dead.

But did you know that you can also test whether your bread is done based on internal temperature?

A lot of recipes suggest thumping on the bottom of the loaf, or going by time and crust color. That's fine if you've got a lot of bread experience or if you don't have a thermometer handy - but these days, doesn't everyone have a thermometer of some sort?

Sweet and enriched breads are done baking when they're somewhere between 190 and 195 degrees. Regular white bread is done at somewhere between 195 and 200 degrees. It's much easier to stab a loaf of bread with a thermometer to read the temperature than it is to turn a hot loaf out of a pan to thump its bottom.

I've owned way too many thermometers over the years. Way too many. I actually have a box of them tucked away for the next garage sale. But a while back, after a turkey said it was done too quickly because of a faulty cheap thermometer, I decided to invest in something better. Yup, I bought a Thermapen.

Now, the nice folks at Thermapen have sponsored this post, and one lucky reader will get a brand-new Thermapen AND an autographed copy of my cookbook, Make Ahead Bread.

Plus, there's a recipe here. Because I like recipes. And bread. This one isn't a make-ahead version. Instead, it's a slightly speeded up version, with a shorter first rise.

Mom wants you to make these for you for Mother's Day. And then leave the Thermapen for her. Because Mom needs a good thermometer!

Buttery Semolina Rolls

1 cup water, at 110 degrees
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons Red Star Active Dry Yeast
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Baking spray (optional)
Cornmeal (optional)

Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. If you start with 110-degree water, it will drop a few degrees when you put it in the mixer bowl and add the sugar and yeast. That's fine.

While proofing isn't really necessary if you know that your yeast isn't old and dead, it does give the yeast a little jump start, which means that the bread tends to rise a bit quicker. You don't always want a fast rise because a slow rise gives the buns more flavor. But in this case, the buns have extra flavor from semolina flour and from butter.

Let the water-sugar-yeast mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it's frothy.

Add the bread flour, semolina flour, salt, and butter. Knead with the dough hook attached to your stand mixer until the dough is elastic.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover, and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes. the goal is to find a place that's about 90 degrees.

Meanwhile, spray a 10-inch round cake pan - or anything similarly sized - with baking spray. It's not necessary, but it's extra insurance. Sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom of the pan, if you like. And onto the sides, if you like. Again, it's not necessary, but I like the flavor and crunch.

Divide the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces and form them into balls. Place the balls in the pan so they're somewhat evenly spaced.

Cover the pan and set aside for 30 minutes. The buns should double in size and fill the pan.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the buns are risen, remove the cover and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the buns are golden brown and the internal temperature is about 195 degrees.

Remove the pan from the oven, flip the buns out of the pan, and let them cool completely on a rack.

Well, okay, you can rip one off and sample it while it's warm. Or three. I won't judge.


The nice folks at Thermoworks have graciously offered to give away one of their amazing Thermapens, and I've thrown in an autographed copy of Make Ahead Bread as well.

Click HERE to enter.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Bourbon-Lime Fajitas - and a cocktail to match!

The Kentucky Derby is approaching, which means bourbon is the liquor of choice for those who like tradition. Of course, there are also foods that are typical, but I decided to something ... less traditional.

I suppose I could have made a Kentucky Hot Brown ... but I was in the mood for fajitas. And bourbon marinated beef sounded awfully good. I used Four Roses Bourbon, which was provided by this post's sponsor.

The longer you marinate, the more flavor the meat will soak up.

Meanwhile, the cocktail has the same flavors, which makes them the perfect pair. Or, you know, make one or the other.

Ginger beer is getting easier to find these days, so use it if you can find it. It's similar to ginger ale, but with a sharper, more ginger-forward flavor. A more adult soda, perhaps. If you can't find ginger beer, of course you can use your favorite ginger ale.

Bourbon-Lime Fajitas

1 pound skirt steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Four Roses Bourbon
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt, to taste
2 cups mixed sliced bell peppers and onions
Flour tortillas
Sour cream, yogurt, or crema
Sliced avocado

Combine the steak, olive oil, bourbon, lime juice, and salt in a zip-top bag. Massage the bag a bit to get the meat evenly coated. Let the meat sit at room temperature for an hour, or refrigerate up to 24 hours before cooking.

When you're ready to cook, heat a grill pan or cast iron pan on medium-high heat. Cook the skirt steak until done to your liking. Set aside to rest before slicing.

Meanwhile, cook the peppers and onions - you can cook in the same pan - until done to your liking - they're fine cooked crisp-tender, or until they're cooked through.

Serve the fajita ingredients separately, so people can assemble their own. Or serve the fajitas assembled on flour tortillas with meat, peppers and onions, sliced avocado, and a small dollop of sour cream.

Bourbon, Lime and Ginger Cocktail

1 ounce Four Roses Bourbon
1/2 ounce lime juice
Ginger beer, as needed
Mint sprig, to garnish

Fill a glass or mug with ice. Add the bourbon and lime juice. Fill the glass with ginger beer and garnish with a spring of fresh mint.

Thanks to Four Roses Bourbon for sponsoring this post.