Thursday, September 5, 2013

Call It An Indefinite Hiatus

To anyone who reads this blog with any regularity, I apologize for not publishing with any regularity at all. In my defense, I just recently obtained my bachelor's degree in a fit of productivity and then proceeded to sit on my bum at my parents' house and not cook anything exciting. Then, I moved to Montana in order to do grad school and now live with three people I found on Craigslist who have a tiny kitchen. I'm not quite comfortable in the house yet, even after a month, so I think that hogging the kitchen and taking pictures of food in various stages of completion could generate unneeded tensions. 
In addition to this, I am at the moment a baker out of flour and sugar, not eggs and butter. 
Still, even when I get flour and sugar, the sixty gen-chem lab reports I'll have to grade each week, the gen-chem lab prep I have to do each week, the lab group rotations (and then the research), and the grad-level chemistry classes I'm taking should keep me way too busy to get elaborate in the kitchen. 
Just so you don't get jealous of me and start demanding that I disclose what I'm really doing, I make a lot of pasta with sauce from a jar, falafel from the dehydrated mix, and far too many peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I make a big (for one person) batch of rice, open a can of beans, and eat rice and beans for a week here and there. I also found highly discounted vegetable flavored vegetarian cup-of-noodles style soup in the damage and final clearance section of a local grocery store, and I'm embarrassingly excited about eating a cup of noodles again. It even has the dehydrated vegetables! And the tendency to collect flavor sediments and carrots at the bottom! And the peas are as bad as I remember! And the broth tastes like yummy salt! Just like in elementary school! Wow! 
These habits will probably continue for a while, since I'm sleeping on an air mattress and my furniture is either boxes or cost less than $10 at Target (a plastic drawer unit for a dresser and a TV tray for my fish). I'd also like a car and to pay it off before I get my PhD. 
So, if I end up living alone or having lots of free time, I might make a post here and there, but the rent is too cheap here and the "free time" thing you speak of? Yeah, I doubt it. 
In the meantime, I refer you to Trina of the Beans, who isn't me but is still witty, vegetarian, and broke/cheap. You can read through her archives and pray that she posts again someday.  
In the meantime, thanks for playing along.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Adventures in Butter

My house had a surplus of unclaimed whipping cream recently, left over from a bridal shower that someone who doesn't live here had.
I made butter, of course.
The first time, I didn't take pictures because it was pretty spur of the moment, so I took pictures the second time around. You can pretend it was exactly the same, but the first time was better because I put a little bit of sour cream to "culture" the ultra-ultra pasteurized whipping cream, acting on the advice of Sally Schneider that cultured cream is far superior to sweet cream. It is. The sour cream was also left over from the bridal shower, though, and it had turned pink by the time I decided to make the second batch. And everyone was out of yogurt, and they don't really sell much creme fraiche in eastern Washington. So just pretend the second batch had culture in it. It looked the same anyway.
I made my butter in old pasta and jam jars (canning jars work as well, I hear). If you have a stand mixer or some kind of mixer thing that doesn't scare the crap out of you and spit stuff everywhere, you can just turn it on and leave it until it makes butter.

I started with about a cup of cream; it doesn't really matter unless you have a specific amount of butter you need. This made 4-5 tablespoons of butter. If you have cultured milk products, put 1 tsp of stuff in with the cream. If you're using creme fraiche, try half and half like the recipe says and tell me how it works. 

 It expands as it turns into whipped cream; this picture is about 5 minutes in.

 It takes a while to get through the whipped cream stage.

 This is for sure whipped cream at this point. Whipping cream goes through whipped cream to butter. It took I want to say 15 minutes of shaking, excluding the breaks I took (leave the jar in the freezer for breaks).

 I think it's butter here; the fat fell out of solution differently with normal whipping cream than with slightly cultured whipping cream. With the cultured stuff and a smaller jar, it sort of thumped out. This one kind of slid out without me noticing, but it was definitely butter when I tested it.

Butter and buttermilk
 Next, you strain out the buttermilk, which is fantastic and you should save that, and plop the butter into a bowl of ice water (no icecubes, please, but you can use them to make it cold). From there, you knead the butter to get the buttermilk out. A spatula is an excellent tool here.

You leave a lot of butter behind when you knead it, at least I do. The clean butter is placed on a plate and chilled for a bit in the freezer, and then you can add salt or put it in the fridge. If you used a little more than a cup and don't salt it, you should have the exact amount needed to make half of Smitten Kitchen's Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits. You'll also have the exact amount of buttermilk needed.
The biscuits are delicious.