Monday, November 26, 2012

Apple Cider -- Holiday Food No. 1

The holidays are upon us! After spending last Christmas alone in my flat in England, except for when my roommate sneak attacked me and brought her parents (visiting from Germany for the holiday) over, I'm really excited to be home this winter. We decorated the tree at my parents' house, and my housemates are beautifying our house and planning holiday fun times. I bought a Christmas-y shirt. This got me thinking about holiday foods, especially ones that I tried to collect last Christmas when I was trying to recreate home in a little way.
Apple cider is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about holiday foods.

I feel like I've always been fond of spiced apple cider (cider in the american "cloudy apple juice" sense, not the british "fermented apple juice" sense). My grandma has made mulled cider in a big electric percolator (like you get coffee from at church, with the little spigot, not the big pump ones at coffee shops, and yes, that is an important detail) for long enough that I associate the smell with the words holiday, family, and warm, in that order. It's a great all-purpose holiday drink, and it's possible that she's served it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, possibly in the same season. Then, I discovered that drinking Alpine spiced cider (and not that sugar free crap, no sir, it tastes like Theraflu, which tastes nasty), an apple-cider flavored drink that I'd enjoyed since childhood, actually helps me focus and perform well under stress.
Naturally, I tried to replicate my grandmother's cider for our flat Christmas party in England, since everyone was pining a little and bringing/making things that reminded them of Christmas at home. But mulling spices are expensive, and most of them smell like potpourri instead of holidays, family, and warmth, so I googled "mulled cider" and pieced everything together. The end result was a hot cider that smelled and tasted exactly how I'd hoped.

I'll attempt to replicate the recipe, although there was a lot of "dump half the bottle of cinnamon in by accident and scoop a bunch out" and "discover that you need to strain your cider; have tipsy flatmates help you slowly pour cider through a cotton tea bag" going on, and it was about a year ago. Actually, I think I'll ask my grandma what spices she uses and report that here later, and possibly add in an update if I attempt to repeat my England experience with less random dumping of spices (and fewer tipsy flatmates). This can be done with either cloudy apple juice type cider or probably non-carbonated hard cider, if that's a thing that exists. A significant amount of water (or, presumably, alcohol if you go the fermented route) will cook out, so be prepared to start with a lot of cider. A lot of this is based on personal preference. For instance, you could probably add ginger if you're a ginger fan. I don't really like ginger in my cider, so I don't use it. Besides, I don't think Grandma used ginger.

Starting with 1 gallon of cider makes about enough for 4 people to have two scant 8 oz mugs apiece. If you want to have a very specific number, it's 12 fl oz per generous serving, but just go with a quart per person if you're having a party. Nothing wrong with leftovers.
For a one-gallon batch:
1 gal cider
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 orange, sliced into rings
Generous splash orange juice, about 2 tbsp
Honey or sugar to taste, but honey is better

Pour the cider into an appropriately-sized saucepan and turn on the burner to medium heat.
Put spices into a fabric tea bag. If you have a favorite spice, add another 1/2 tsp of that spice. VERY IMPORTANT: The bag should be fabric, and not a tea ball or something metal because you will have to strain the hot cider if you don't start out with the spices in a fabric bag. Don't use a super fancy expensive bag, though, since it'll probably be unusable after this.
Splash in the orange juice -- the cider should be a little cloudy but mostly still apple cider-colored.
Toss the orange rings into the pot, rind and all. Just use as many orange rings as will fit comfortably on the surface of the liquid. You could probably use lemon or grapefruit if you want.
Drop in the bag of spices and make sure it gets all soaked through; pour some cider through it and close it back up if it's really stubborn. If you have cinnamon sticks or whole spices (whole cloves and presumably nutmeg and allspice can be purchased at your average supermarket in the baking aisle, check the bulk section if they have one), toss in a few now. They'll add some authenticity to your operation.
Heat on medium until it starts steaming and smelling apple-y and spicy (time will vary). Taste and add a few spoonfuls of honey (preferably) or sugar as needed. Add a few spices to the bag if needed, either to strengthen the general flavor or to balance the spices. It may also be a good idea to sprinkle a few pinches of your favorite spices straight into the cider if the flavor is really lacking.
Don't bring to a boil, but do get it good and hot and hold it there.

To break it down for just 1 serving, since that's a nice way to deal with a rainy day:
12 fl oz cider
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp each cloves, nutmeg, allspice
2 orange rings (eat the rest, they're good for you, or just chuck them in as well)
Small splash orange juice
Honey to taste

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Baking is hard when you're broke.

Fact of the day: life is expensive. If you haven't figured this out by now, you're either a very lucky person who gets all the jobs they can handle or you have rich parents. I have moderately well-off parents, but I'm kind of over asking for money, especially after I drained their funds when I went to England.
So, my grocery budget is shot for a while because I'm trying to pay rent and bills, and I owe my parents about that same amount for my computer. Bundled in with this is me not wanting to turn up the heat in the house because I am paying for 1/6 of it.
I'm baking more than usual because I can't really afford to buy new food. Unfortunately, the heat being on low means that yeast dough isn't really down with rising as fast as one might like.
My pita bread was supposed to double in about an hour, but an hour and a half later, it's still just a mostly cold lump of dough instead of a big puff of warm dough. It's even sitting on the stove.
However, I figured out the problem. I'd wrapped the bowl in a damp towel (instead of my usual dry towel plus plastic wrap because the instructions called for it; that's the last time I try to follow instructions like that) and tucked the ends under to keep in the moisture, then set it on the stove (warm because the oven is on with my housemate's strange experiment). The warm damp towel in the cold room had cooled almost instantly, and the ends of the towel under the bowl had insulated the dough from the warmth of the oven with incredible efficiency.
Next time I try to follow weird instructions about how to rise dough, remind me that saran wrap plus a dry towel works wonders and that other methods are probably less useful, especially given my propensity for screwing things up in little ways.
Update on the dough: it's doing great now that the damp towel is firmly pressed around the bottom of the bowl and keeping the oven heat focused into the bowl. My dough is all big and puffy.
You may be asking yourself, why is she making pita bread if she seems to think that she can't afford heat? That seems kind of fancy for someone who, by her own account, is about to become a vagrant who doesn't even own her computer.
Well, I don't quite have enough flour for regular bread for longer than one week and I'm unwilling to pull too much money from my savings account (really sick of debt), and I do have falafel mix and beans and all manner of pasta and plenty of sauce and some peanut butter and potatoes, so a small, easy-to-store bread as a vehicle for falafel and possibly bean soups is just what I want.
And I've been kind of taken with the idea of pita bread for a long time (it was the first thing I pinned on pintrest when I set up my account this summer) and happen to have all the ingredients AND something to put in it.
I used a recipe from a cookbook, but this is the one that I pinned: DIY pita bread. My recipe required more rising steps (the whole blob of dough rises until doubled, then you split it up, then you let the balls rest, then you roll them out, then you let them rise for 30-40 min), but I feel like this is an equally valid recipe. My recipe also doesn't call for a stand mixer, which I don't have anyway. It works okay, although they're a bit crunchy. Still delicious, though.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin All The Things and Pumpkin Apple Plum Bread

My housemate's family gave us a 75 lb pumpkin. This weekend, we tackled it. Well, C did the actual tackling. A (whose pumpkin it is) was at work, and no one else wanted to get in C's way.

Housemate Stabs Pumpkin
C has it in for that pumpkin.

We (by which I mean S) invited a bunch of people over (some of whom came), chopped it up, cooked it down in oven or on stove, strained the juice out and saved it (Harry Potter style!), and blenderized the cooked flesh.
That was the easy part. Well, I actually wasn't there for it, and L, S, and C did most of the work, but it can't have been too horrible compared to the hard part.
The hard part? I hear you cry. It's figuring out what to do with the tons and tons of pumpkin puree we have in our fridge and freezer. We also have a bunch of uncooked chunks of pumpkin in both locations.

Pumpkin Bread with cool lighting
Bread that I made up: Pumpkin Apple Plum Bread

Overly sugary pumpkin butter in a spaghetti jar.
Pumpkin butter that mostly tastes like brown sugar. Good in plain greek yogurt, though.

Pale, flattened pumpkin doughnuts.
Pumpkin doughnuts by C. She tripled the pumpkin, so they kind of went flat. Delicious, regardless.

Harry Potter food and british food in one delicious parcel!
Pumpkin pasties, made with pie crust instead of puff pastry.

Half-eaten heart-shaped pie.
Pumpkin Pie in the heart-shaped cake pan.

Pumpkin juice in a pitcher and glass, artfully.
Pumpkin juice! We just strained the cooked pumpkin and didn't add apple juice or any spices.

Way too much pumpkin.
All the stuff we haven't cooked, minus a pound of uncooked stuff C took to a friend.
Pumpkin chocolate bread in a parchment paper-lined tin
I'm a parchment paper convert.

Pumpkin chocolate bread looking artsy and decadent
Pumpkin chocolate bread! Decadent.

So far, we've made 4 pies, 9 10 loaves of bread, 16 doughnuts, 4 doughnut holes, 9 pasties, a soup, and a batch of pumpkin butter, and we still. have. so. much. We did give away a bunch of the baked goods, but still! I'm afraid that we'll start gagging at the smell of pumpkin before this is over, and I'd hate for that to happen.
[NB: Don't add so much sugar to the pumpkin butter if you do it in the crockpot; it'll end up tasting like brown sugar even though it smells like pie. Also, it will probably smell like apples for a long time. Adding some fresh puree at the end and cooking it on low for about an hour works pretty well.]
My goal (aside from bringing NB over to the west coast of the US) is to find creative ways to use this stuff up. I might try some savory recipes, even though I'm not a big fan of the "pumpkin as a vegetable" thing. Short of that, although my housemate did try with the soup, I'm thinking about putting pumpkin in things we don't normally associate with pumpkin.
I'm thinking pumpkin crepes and waffles, and more types of bread. There's a thing called "pumpkin hot chocolate" that I want to try. Possibly a cheesecake. I'll also push for more doughnuts, but I'm not confident in my baked doughnut-making skills so we're at the mercy of my knife-wielding housemate there.
And may I just say that I friggin' love The Post Punk Kitchen? Other than the veganism, which I adopt only when I'm out of eggs, butter, and normal milk, they're pretty much exactly how I want to be. I'm a college student. More than that, I'm a science major. I have no plans to be a stay at home wife, and only very vague plans of every being a mom, much less a stay at home one, so my culinary aspirations are strictly in pursuit of frugality and wickedosity. I don't have time or money to cook extensively, so when I do cook, it had better be pretty badass. I cook because I can't afford $3 for a slice of bread, but that free pumpkin and less than $3 for miscellaneous ingredients I don't already have is something I can afford. Mostly I cook pasta, but sometimes there's an explosion of old-fashioned cooking and baking and two weeks' worth of soup and bread. If I'm going to cook, I'm going to use the most effective recipe I can find, and it will be delicious.
Incidentally, the chocolate pumpkin bread linked twice already is delicious, and I felt badass chopping up the dark chocolate (which my mom bought me when she was in town) because I'm too lazy and poor for normal chocolate chips.

The word "pumpkin" no longer looks like a word. I hope you appreciate this.

I made a loaf of quickbread that does not follow the recipe linked above (which S picked because it was the first hit on google); in fact, I made it up by myself with minimal help from the internet. And that was months ago, so this is adapted from a recipe adapted from several recipes to the point of not looking much like any of them. Besides, there are only so many ways to combine flour, leavening agents, and fruit and have bread happen.
This recipe can be vegan if you use a cornstarch egg; I'm wary of flax eggs for the time being because my pear bread (which followed this recipe, more or less, and used a flax egg) was pretty flat. I also forgot the salt in the pear bread, so I'm not sure who the culprit was; in fact, I might just not know how to make flax eggs very well, which results in pudding-like bread when combined with a lack of salt. Who knows.
Don't forget your salt.

Pumpkin-Apple-Plum Bread


  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in this case)
  • 2 medium baking apples, peeled, one grated and one cut into small chunks
  • 4 Italian prunes or 2 plums
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 1 lb loaf tin (or 9" pie plate) or line with parchment paper.
Mix dry ingredients, up through the spices. Add more spices if you love cinnamon-y bread. I'm a little sparing with the spices because I hate it when all I can taste is cinnamon and I was hoping for pear or pumpkin, you know?
Peel and prep your apples into a bowl. I cut a soft gravenstein into small chunks and grated a hard granny smith. You could grate both, chunk both, or just use applesauce.
Cut your plums or prunes into small chunks. Leave the skin on, unless you hate color and beauty in your quick bread. Add to the apples. Alternatively, just use about 2 tbsp of your favorite jam.
Add pumpkin puree and the rest of the wet ingredients to apples and plums/prunes.
Mix wet ingredients well.
Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until mixed.
Add chocolate chips if you have them and feel especially bold. I neither had them nor would have felt bold enough to do this.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for at least 1 hr.
Poke occasionally with a toothpick to see if it's done. There's a good chance you'll stab a chunk of fruit, so don't worry about plum-colored toothpicks.
Let sit for no more than 10 minutes before taking it out of the pan.

Alternatively, you could just use pumpkin puree or a mix of pumpkin and applesauce if you're not up for a chunky bread or don't have apples. Prunes/plums can be omitted without substitution if you're not feeling the red fruit thing. I'd say add another half cup of smushed cooked fruit if you omit the fresh fruit entirely, but add it after you've made the batter in case you don't need it at all. Tossing in a tablespoon or two of jam wouldn't hurt anything, either.

Note: This is not a terribly sweet bread, courtesy of the baking apples and the prunes. Add another 1/4c sugar if you want a sweeter, chunky bread. Don't add more sugar if you use sweetened applesauce or sweetened pumpkin, unless you like it really sweet.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Italian Prune Butter

Remember those prunes I got?
Yeah, I made prune butter as soon as the crock pot was clean and I was awake. 
Here's the source: Eating Small Potatoes.
Here's what I used:
1 1/4 lb prunes (18 prunes)
Just about 3 oz sugar (approx 1/3 c)
1/4 tsp vanilla (actually about 1/3, but that measure doesn't exist, so I stuck with 1/4)
Here's the broken down ratio:
About 1/4 c sugar to 1 lb fruit, and 1/4 tsp vanilla per lb.

First, wash your prunes, halve, and pit them. Cut them into a bowl on a scale because you want to know how many prunes you used. End up counting the pits anyway.

Prunes halved and mostly pitted. They come out of the mix pretty easily if you can't get them out of the fruit itself.
 Second, work out the ratio of sugar from the website you found this recipe on. Decide that you'll use your scale to add sugar and not worry about tricky conversions between ounces and cups and pounds.
Add however much sugar you need. If you're using this website, put in 1/4 c sugar for each pound of prunes.

Prunes and sugar, tarting it up.
Prunes and about 3 oz sugar.
 Dump the mixture into the crock pot. Admire, and worry that the sugar will burn. Stir obsessively.

Prunes and sugar about to start cooking
Prunes and sugar in the crock pot. I was very anal about taking lots of pictures.
 The prunes will start making their own juice pretty much as soon as they get warm.  Feel relief, but still stir way too often.

Sugar and prunes gettin' busy.
The sugar has started to draw the juices out of the prunes.
 Become slightly enraged by the site of the crock pot with its lid on. Feel a deep, pressing need to remove it and observe its contents.
Resist this urge by going for a walk and then doing your housemate's workout DVD.

Crockpot with lid on drives baker insane.
This is the most maddening sight in the world. All I want to do is take off the lid and stir.
 Dance around the pot whenever you're not doing something else.
This is about a third of the way done. The skins are starting to come off and disintegrate, and the flesh is getting all smooshy.
NB: the flash on my camera was being dumb and made everything look much redder in the pot than it should have been. The flesh was a light yellow for most of the time while the juices were a purply brown that was pretty hard to distinguish from the black crock pot.

Prunes looking delicious
They're starting to stew in their own juices and make my pictures look funny.
 This is about half done. The flesh has almost formed a smooshy mass with some skins floating around and some juices still around the edges. By the end, you want those skins to be all the way dissolved into the smooshy stuff and no juice around the edge.

Mostly-cooked prunes
The fruits are all the way smooshified, with just some skins floating around.
 This is where I realized that I should probably have started this last night or woken up earlier. I don't have enough prunes to make a nice, thermally-stable butter that can sit in the crock pot overnight and not burn. I was thinking I would just set it to warm and deal with it in my mid-morning "lunch" break, but then I realized that I liked the taste and texture already.

Almost completely cooked prunes
This is more what the prunes looked like the whole time; but don't be turned off by the brown color. They are delicious.
 I added vanilla here. It adds a nice complexity to the flavor. I wouldn't recommend cinnamon, but if you have a thing for plummy things with a certain spice, go for it.
Then I let it sit for a few minutes and jarred it.

Homemade deliciousness in a borrowed jar.
The finished plum butter, in the ubiquitous used jam jar.
The butter that I got is less buttery and more jammy, with some half-dissolved skins still in it. It's tart, sweet, and tangy, with enough body to be a delicious spread. The vanilla blends well, but would not be required. I'd say that I got about 1 1/2 cups of butter; it might have gone down to 1 or 1 1/4 by morning.

EDIT: As a side note, I've decided that I NEED a tiny crock pot when I get my own place. I want a little one about half the size of A's so I can make 1-person jams and applesauces and suchlike. 

Fall Bounty

There's a co-op of farms near my university that J and I went to with her mom.
They're selling gobs of apples and also italian prunes.

Prune size comparison
Prunes as compared to a granny smith apple belonging to a housemate.

Also, huge "Flemish Princess" pears.
Pears in a bag
I'm going to bake with these because there's no way I could eat one in one day.

I have some big plans for my prunes and pears - slow cookers and ovens.

Pear size comparison
The same granny smith apple was used in all photos.
 I made applesauce from my housemate's slowly-going-off gravenstein apples and some other apples I scrounged from around my kitchen, which I'm not posting here for three reasons.

Homemade applesauce
1. Applesauce recipes, aside from being ridiculously simple, are a dime a dozen on the internet and in cookbooks. I used a different housemate's crock pot, cut a bunch of apples into it, poured a little apple cider because it kept seeming too dry, sprinkled in a little cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg (to taste, but start very small), and sweetened with honey as I went along.

Applesauce2. I did not use a recipe, and I didn't write down what I was doing.

3. I didn't take any pictures of the process.

 If you want a recipe, just type "crock pot applesauce" into your search engine of choice and pick one that has ingredients you have.

I suppose I have big plans for my apples, but I just got itty bitty ones so I can eat them raw the way I like. It's not as difficult as it sounds, but suffice to say that I have a complicated-to-explain-but-easy-to-do method for eating fresh apples that doesn't work well on normal American-sized apples. I have to buy the bags of tiny apples at the store for it to work. And I eat all my apples that way if I don't bake them, so it doesn't really as a big plan.

Apple size comparison
The red apple is one that I picked; the green one is the same one from earlier. I like tiny apples, okay?

Right now, I'm thinking about a carrot soup, prune butter (in the crock pot, no peeling required), pear bread, and olive oil bread (I just need a recipe for these last two).

Also, I'd like to elaborate on the prune/plum thing. I always thought prunes were just dried plums, which maybe they sometimes are. However, the prune fruit is similar but ultimately distinct from the plum fruit. Plums are big fat round juicy affairs, while prunes are skinny and comparatively dry. While I've never baked with plums, I can say that prunes are amazing in the oven. They're okay raw, but MAN are they good baked. I made a tart and it was pretty much a religious experience. They don't spread out via juices hardly at all, but that basically means that they keep all their goodness concentrated. I didn't even need to put in sugar or spices. In fact, had I done so, I'm sure they wouldn't have been as delicious.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tomato Tart

I've been on a tart-making kick lately. I think it's because school has started and I'm out of money, but I do have a lot of free produce around. I get bored with salads pretty quickly, and I never have enough fruit (or time to prepare it) for a pie, so I quickly turned to rustic tarts. They're all the rage in the blogs I follow.
Tomato tart
My housemate, S, brought yellow tomatoes from home.

The idea is that you make a small pie crust, set it on your baking sheet, add your filling to the middle (leaving an inch or two around the edge), and fold the edge over so the filling stays put. It can be as pretty or as goopy as you have the patience for. You can use any fruit or any pie crust you want, including puff pastry if you have it on hand. My current favorite crust makes a big enough circle for about one whole large fruit (tomato, in this case) or one and a half smaller fruit (medium sized pears).

The crust recipe I've been using, slightly modified, can be found at Eating Well. I didn't add the sugar or the oil for my pear tart, but I did add extra butter until the crumbles stuck together a little better. I added olive oil for the tomato tart (still no sugar; this is lunch, not dessert).
The olive oil makes the dough much crumblier, but it rolls out very nicely and hardly sticks to the wax paper.

I didn't use a recipe for the filling of the tomato tart, but I will attempt to provide one anyway. I also didn't take pictures along the way; sorry!

Rustic Tomato Tart

  • 2-serving tart crust
  • 2 small tomatoes (or 1 medium)
  • 1 oz mild cheese, like mozzarella
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 leaves basil, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Roll the tart crust into a rough circle until it's pretty thin, but not so thin that it breaks all the time. Set it on a baking sheet.
Quarter the tomatoes, the cut each quarter into 4 slices. Do this as you lay the slices on the tart crust, since you might have too much tomato.
Set the tomatoes in a visually pleasing pattern on the crust, leaving about 1.5 inches around the edge.
Crumble the cheese over the tomatoes. I just got fresh-ish goat cheddar curds at a famers' market, but you might not be so lucky. Mozzarella or soft goat cheese would work great as well.
Sprinkle the basil over the tomatoes and cheese. Use as much or as little as you like, and add other herbs as you please. I didn't have any other herbs. Also, don't be like me and forget about the garlic you have in your pantry. Chop up a small clove (or big if that's what you like) and toss it on.
Gently fold the crust over the tomatoes. Don't worry about tearing it, just pat it down after you finish. If it's stuck to the pan, use a spatula to pry it up. It's supposed to be open-faced, so the crust shouldn't cover all the tomatoes.
Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes and crust.
Sprinkle very lightly with salt.
Bake 20-30 minutes, or until crust is a light brown.
Let cool for about 5 minutes.

I'll be honest, I haven't made a tart since I wrote this ages ago until today. But I was inspired by my italian prunes (NOT plums, believe you me, these are prunes). Prunes bake up really lovely, especially in single-layer tarts, where they turn all jammy with chewy skins. I didn't even use sugar at all, or any spices, and it was DELICIOUS.

So yeah, tarts!

Saturday, August 11, 2012


This isn't about baking, but it is about things that someone, somewhere baked at one point.
It has gained a cult following, especially among japanophiles, a term I just made up for those people who love all things Japanese, at least in the modern sense: anime/manga, reading things right-to-left, etc. This doesn't really include classical japanese things like kimonos, samurai, etc, although they're a part of the background culture. I don't mean to demean them; I enjoy some webcomics that read right-to-left, took karate for two years, and am the proud owner of a kimono. I'm also a fan of Miyazaki films (like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, for instance), which I know doesn't make me a true believer.
Anyway, Pocky is the candy-coated biscuit stick of choice for many.

This is how eating pocky makes me feel:
Picture by Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half
 I would have taken my own picture of me eating pocky and looking blissfully happy, but I don't have a fancy enough setup here to get a good background and I also can't make hearts appear in my eyes. Yet.

Pocky was an escape for me sophomore year, and I carried that into junior year (the first half, at least, which was spent in England with a homesick roommate; I didn't really need it the second half). I kept a box in my desk drawer, or a drawer near wherever I did homework most often, and would take study breaks that consisted simply of slowly crunching away at a stick of pocky and pointedly not thinking about anything except the stick of pocky. You might say it was like meditation.
Oddly, with my much harder and more stressful class load this past semester, I didn't need to take hardly any pocky moments. I blame the roommates, since I don't have one anymore.

After a casual google search for pocky, I found a site that has a quiz for what kind of pocky you are.
I'm green tea pocky. I've never even heard of it, but now I want some.The strangest pocky I'd heard of until now is panda pocky, a box of which is in my room. It's like cookies and cream.

The box is so cute!

Panda pocky has a dark stick and is slightly shorter than the original pocky.

Anyway, here's the quiz, if you're interested:
Very Asia has an interesting pocky info page, and someone appears to have made a list of all the pocky flavors they could find on amazon.
I'm slightly pissed off by the "men's pocky," which is just dark chocolate. I love dark chocolate, the darker the better, and resent the implication that women don't like dark chocolate. My mom and I are the dark chocolate eaters in my family; my dad hates it because it's so bitter and my brother won't touch the stuff. 
In spite of kind of being angry at Glico, the company that makes Pocky, I'm intrigued by green tea, coconut, hazelnut, and any of the dessert/mousse types. I'm not much for fruit-flavored chocolate things. The only exception I make to this is chocolate oranges, sold around Christmas.

I recommend that you, yes, you, go to your local grocery store (closest or cheapest, whichever), find the "asian food" aisle, and get a small box of chocolate pocky. The box will be red. Don't get the strawberry kind unless you know you like strawberry-flavored chocolate-ish stuff.
Take this box home and slowly eat one stick, from the chocolate covered end up, in small nibbles. Focus on the crunching. Take your time. Breathe in and out slowly. Ponder the texture, and the flavor.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oat Crepes

Teaser of finished crepe with fruit

I stole the idea of Oat crêpes from Well Fed, Flat Broke, but the execution is fully mine. You see, Emily's recipe calls for 1/4 c butter and FOUR EGGS. I don't have any eggs right now, and that's a lot of cornstarch eggs to be dealing with. So I took my usual recipe of flour, 1 egg, some milk, and a buncha salt and adapted it to oats.
Unfortunately, oats absorb a lot more water than flour, so I ended up needing tons of milk after I started making them. I've adapted the recipe slightly, but please adapt it further to your needs.


1 c quick oats
1 1/2 c milk (at least)
1 tbsp cornstarch/1 egg
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt (at least)


Put your dry ingredients in the blender. I put my cornstarch in, but you don't have to if you've already mixed up your "egg".
Blender with whole oats and cornstarch
My blender is from the 70's, I think. Possibly the 50's. I got it at a yard sale.
 Blender that up. Shoving the oats gently down towards the blade with a spatula will keep things going.

Blender with ground-up oats

Once the oats are all smooth, add your wet ingredients: milk, oil, egg/"egg".

Blender with ground up oats and wet ingredients unmixed

Blender that up as well. Remember that the oats will absorb a lot of the milk, so don't add more oats until after it's sat in the fridge for at least half an hour. You WANT it to be really soupy.

Blender with blended oats and wet ingredients

Let sit in the fridge for half an hour or so. Then give it another go on the blender and add milk or oats as needed. Go small on the oats, though.
Then grease a pan and heat it on medium until it's pretty hot. Otherwise, your first crepe will be a pale, oily thing.
Pour about 1/4 c of batter into a small skillet and tilt gently in a swirl to get batter in a nice, thin circle. This should not be stressful.

A crepe in the pan

Ignore the crepe until the edges pull up from the pan (or turn golden brown if they're too thick to pull away) and the surface is mostly cooked through. Flip gently.
Very gently, with oat crepes. They're a bit floppier than flour crepes, and take a while longer to cook, so don't rush things like I did.

Broken crepe in the pan

Below is what a nice crepe looks like. Your pan is all warmed up and heating evenly, and you've destroyed enough crepes to be patient.

Nicely browned, whole crepe in the pan

The second side to cook will always be spotty and paler than the first's nice, golden brown. Don't let this bother you. These are not like american pancakes. If it really, really bothers you, get a crepe maker or something.

Second side cooked of a crepe

Fill or top your crepe with whatever you want: peanut butter, jam, whipped cream, nutella, greek yogurt, fresh fruit, all of the above, whatever. All are good. Combinations are great. I'll do cream cheese and jam sometimes, peanut butter and jam, greek yogurt and jam, etc. I guess you could use butter, but crepes are thin and a little greasy, so they don't really need it.
I always put the goodies on the inside and fold the crepe into thirds around the filling, but some do a tight roll, some do halves, and some fold the crepe into thirds and put the goodies on the outside. Whatever strikes your fancy.

Filled crepe on a nice plate.
Fancy fancy crepe with greek yogurt and fresh raspberries from the community garden down the road.
I make crepes almost every Tuesday, usually in the evening, but that's because I love them so much. It's a very relaxing thing for me to do, especially since I usually have a lot due on Wednesday. It's a study break, a time to focus on nothing except the gentle swirl of the batter in the pan and the sizzle of cooking crepe. It's an exercise in patience, which I desperately need during heavy study times.
Also, be warned that this will make far too many crepes to eat by yourself (as will most recipes that claim to make 8. I think they want you to use a big pan or something). Invite your friends to share, or eat them for most of your meals for the rest of the week.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Successful Bread

Bread sponges are officially the best thing ever.
Teaser image of the bread you can make.
This light, fluffy bread was made with a sponge.

I found this post about how to make delicious bread from a sponge on Well Fed, Flat Broke quite a while ago and have been wanting to try it since I saved a blob of dough from the slightly unsuccessful if still delicious whole grain "Healthy Bread" from a while ago.
Just to clarify, a sponge here has nothing to do with cleaning and everything to do with letting yeast ferment overnight before putting it in dough. It's a lot like sourdough starter, but with store-bought yeast instead of sourdough starter.
I halved the recipe for my purposes, but it's an easy halving to do as long as you know that 1 tablespoon equals three teaspoons, or have a 1/2 tbsp measure. I'd never heard of one before, but my housemates have one. I love it so much.
Anyway, that was leading up to me telling you that I won't be posting the recipe, although I did take copious pictures. It's Emily's recipe with no changes, so go there and check it out.

Bread sponge just after mixing up.
It all starts with milk, flour, and yeast, and a blob of dough if you saved some from the last time you made bread.

Sponge ready for sitting overnight, all covered in plastic wrap and a towel.
I'm not sure why the sponge needs to be covered with plastic wrap and a towel; maybe for insulation?

Sponge all bubbly after 12 hours or so.
Fermenting happened!

Sponge after stirring in the yeast, water, and sugar mixture.
The sponge was all gloopy even after I added the yeast/water/sugar mix. I used agave, actually, and it worked great.

All ingredients incorporated into the sponge, which is now a dough.
The dough seemed dry, but it really wasn't.

Dough pressed into the bowl to show amount of dough.
I kept stirring the dough, then pressed it into the bowl for a prettier picture.

The dough, kneaded and oiled and waiting to rise.
This is the dough after kneading. I used about 3/4 c flour while kneading, then made a ball and used a little melted butter but mostly olive oil to grease the bowl.

The dough, doubled in size.
The dough rises really well in hot, humid weather.

The dough, pre-second rise in its pan.
The dough is pretty easy to work with; just smoosh it into a smooth log and plop it into a greased pan.

Very puffy dough after about five minutes in the oven.
I forgot to take a risen picture of the dough, so I snapped one about five minutes into the baking time. It rose about another two inches in the oven.

The finished, browned loaf cooling on a rack.
Ta da! I rolled my dough into a loaf. I don't recommend this method.

Loaf of bread looking artsy with a slice cut off.
Isn't it gorgeous? Other than the way it falls apart because I rolled it up and it didn't mesh.
My doughs always collapse and go dense. This was super successful, and I highly recommend the method, even though you have to plan ahead.