armadillas


Technical conspiracies

I’m so upset! As you all know, my lowly yet trusted camera phone stopped working the other day. It’s a bad thing, a very bad thing for my style of blogging. My poor photos may not be high quality, but at least they are instructional. So how, pray tell, am I supposed to make regular updates without photos? I suppose we’re just going to have to use our imaginations for a while. Or, I can attempt at doodling…which has never been my strong point.

Yeah, the doodling is not working out so well. Anyway, the reason I really wanted to post some pics today is because I finally finally finally attempted to make a dough that turned out perfectly. What a feat! I mean, remember my last few attempts with dough? They weren’t very pretty. But today I stumbled upon a fairly simple recipe for homemade pretzels and it was an absolute success. I was ecstatic!

Recipe courtesy Joanne Ozug at Fifteen Spatulas

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons quick rise yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Sea salt
  • Baking soda mixture (see below)

When I said this recipe was simple, I really meant it. Take all your ingredients and dump them into a bowl. Your warm water should be around 110 degrees.

Mix it all together with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to form.

Knead the dough. This surely is not my strong point so after a few minutes of trying to figure out if the dough was doing what it was supposed to be doing I decided to stop.

Dust the dough with flour and seal into a Ziploc bag. Allow to rest for half an hour.

After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the bag and divide into however many pretzels you want. The original recipe makes eight. I decided to make six small ones for snacking and two big ones for sandwiches. Who doesn’t love a pretzel sandwich?!

Once the dough is divided, roll and  form into little pretzel knots  on a lightly oiled surface. Dunk each knot into a Baking Soda Mixture, which consists of a cup of water mixed with a tablespoon of baking soda microwaved in a bowl together.

Place the dunked knots onto a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Indulge!

These were pretty good, especially for my first try. I sincerely apologize for not having any photos. Next time I want to experiment and make garlic pretzels. Maybe I’ll even throw some herbs into the dough, too.


A good disaster?

Alas, the life of a baker may not be in my future. It’s the dough, I tell ya, the dough. We are not fast friends. No ma’am! Okay, okay. It’s me, not the dough. I don’t have enough patience and haven’t taken the time to master my technique with frequent practice. I want all the homemade flavor without all the homemade work. Well as someone once told me, you can’t always have your cake.

Remember the other day when we made those cheese and onion pasties? Today, I decided to give the beef ones a try. You know, for authenticity’s sake. Oh, but how these pasties have turned me into a raging bull. I’m bout ready to rip my stove out of the kitchen and throw it into the backyard. Maybe I’ll toss the counter out while I’m at it. Relieve some stress!

When I sit back and think about it, it’s rather a miracle that my last attempt to make a pasty turned out at all. At the time, I thought my dough was too delicate. Wrong! This go around my dough was so soft, it kept tearing before I could begin to roll it out. I even stuck it in the fridge for awhile.  Wrapping the meat mixture in it was down right impossible and instead of having a cute little half moon…I ended up with some strange ball with pieces of potato and carrot peeking through.

The only good thing about the whole thing is I turned the rest of the filling into a lovely beef stew. And discovered that I like rutabaga. And, of course, it was a humbling experience. You aren’t born a chef. You gotta earn your skill, learn it and master it. No worries! One day I will learn to work with dough. Just give me time.

And the lover really liked the stew. Points to me! Needless to say, I have no real recipe for you today and my pictures are limited. But hopefully you’ll be inspired to cook something up anyway. We all have our off days.

But if you like, you can whip up a stew/soup quite easily. Chop up some veggies- onion, potato, carrots, rutabaga, garlic.

 

Whoa! What’s that giant thing…? It’s a rutabaga! Yummy yummy turnip. Now mix your chopped up veggies with your stewing beef

Drizzle some olive oil in a stock pot and dump your mixture in. When the beef turns slightly brown, add your stock of choice. I used a little more than a cup of chicken stock with just over a cup of water and added in a bouillon cube for a boost of flavor. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, and ground mustard. Once everything boils together, turn heat real low and let simmer until your ready to eat. I had to mourn my lost pasty. It took some time.

Actually, I got two Cornish pasties made before I gave up and started on the stew. They weren’t bad, per se. The crust was just super crumbly and refused to hold together. It was more like eating a casserole than a hand pie. But at least the flavor was there. We will try, try again!

 


Shadow

Do you know what a pasty is? Until just a few moments ago, I certainly didn’t. You see, I’ve been reading this book, American Gods, and the main character has been eating a lot of pasties in the last few chapters. Never having heard of such a thing and being the foodie that I am, I decided to investigate. After a little Google search, I came across this video which I think did a pretty good job at explaining to me what exactly a pasty is. I also added these guys to my foodies page.

The pasty, commonly known as a Cornish Pasty, has strong ties to Cornwall, England. It’s said to have been eaten by Cornish miners, who carried this all-in-one meal on the go with them around the world. Apparently, it is heartily consumed in the northern regions of the United States. Cool! Traditionally, the Cornish pasty is made with beef and root veggies- swede (rutabaga), potatoes, carrots plus onions. But after consulting a British friend of mine, it seems cheese and onion pasties are quite popular as well. Seeing that I’m a little low on stewing beef and just so happen to have both cheese and onions on hand, I think we are going to try and make those first. Vegetarianism for lunch!

You know, I did get to thinking and I’m quite positive that in the future we can play around and use all kinds of fillings in our pasty. After I try a traditional beef one, I think I would like to make a chicken and spinach pasty. You know, with some good cheese and maybe some artichokes to boot. Oh, the possibilities!

Ingredients:

The dough

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 4 tbs lard/shortening
  • Water (I used about 1/2 cup…6-8 tbs)
  • Pinch of salt

The filling

  • Half an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Dash of parsley

We will also need an egg to make an egg wash.

When it comes to making dough, I’m horrible. I just simply have not mastered the technique yet. So I am ever grateful that I have this lovely ninja to cut my butter and lard into my flour for me. Lifesaver! Well, it saves me some frustration anyway. Measure flour into your ninja (or food processor). Cut up your butter into chucks and toss that in too. Don’t forget to add the shortening! All this can be done by hand if you are better at it than I am

After several pulses, begin adding your water, only a little bit at a time. When your dough takes on the consistency of crumbs, you can stop. Presto done-o!

Dump contents onto your counter and gently work your dough crumbs into a dough ball by squeezing everything together. It doesn’t take much, just a few little squeezes. We don’t want to overwork the dough

(Your crumb-ies)

(Get your hands in there!)

(Beautiful!)

Now that your dough is nicely shaped, wrap it in some plastic wrap and send it to chill out in the fridge. Meanwhile, chop your onion and garlic. Combine with cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and parsley. Throw some other herbs in if you like. The more flavor, the better

Make your egg wash by beating one egg in a bowl. It’s as easy as that. If you want, you can add a little water or milk to your wash. I’m fine with just the egg. Look! I remembered my brushes this time

Make sure to flour your surface before rolling out your dough

Remember how I said I wasn’t very good at making dough? Well, I’m not very good at rolling it out either! Practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect. Commit to your mantra!

Mmm smell your hands. Nothing like dough scented fingers. Now, using a plate as your mold, cut a circle out of the dough. Use whatever size you want. I decided to make one big one, but I bet little ones would be so cute! And yes, food can be cute…

Brush edges of your circle with the egg wash, then place filling to one side of the circle. We’re going to be making a crescent moon so don’t glob your filling smack dab in the center

Looks like some ham wanted to join the party. I guess we’re not going vegetarian for lunch after all

Fold filling-free portion of your circle over the filling-filled portion of your circle. Crimp edges to seal everything into a bundle of love. My crimping is primitive at best. Oh well

Before you stick it in the oven, brush everything with your egg wash. This will turn it a glorious golden brown. I personalized mine with some of the leftover dough scraps

Pop your love bundle into a 400 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes until it looks so pretty you don’t know what to do with yourself

Be patient, grasshopper. These things are piping hot little ovens in themselves! Right now, your cheese is like molten lava and your onions like burning coals. Trust me. I scorched my tongue. Impatience is not a virtue.

Note: this cheese pasty was not too bad for my first time, but I’d bet a million fireflies it would taste even better with a little bit of chopped potato mixed in. Scrumptious. Food for champions, haha.

Tijuana