21 August 2014

Popcorn and Caramel Corn

Popcorn / www.delightfulrepast.com

Stovetop popcorn used to be my culinary nemesis (you can read about it in Popcorn - My Culinary Nemesis). That was two and a half years ago, and I'm back to let you know I can now make flawless popcorn! My skill improved a lot after that post because I tried all the helpful hints readers left in the comments. 

In choosing a pan, I had always thought the heavier the better. I thought I'd be even more likely to burn the popcorn if I used a lighter pan. Wrong! Using a lighter pan meant I could actually lift the pan and shake it. I don't like just scraping the pan back and forth on the stove, so I lift it up an inch or less and give it a shake several times during the popping. 

Then just recently someone told me the one thing that finally turned me into a popcorn master! Are you ready? Drumroll, please ... See Step 2 below. (Really, you need to read Step 2 and then come back for the next paragraph.)

Yes, those 30 off-heat seconds made all the difference. Now I have few to no unpopped kernels, ever! Now that I have popcorn confidence I'm venturing out into variations. Like this caramel corn. I must tell you, I have no idea what exactly is caramel corn, kettle corn, etc. This is just something I stirred up one day, and I had to call it something. 

If you have a better-slash-more accurate name for it, do let me know. And do share your likes and dislikes and tips for popcorn and its variations. I should tell you, my caramel corn is much less sweet than most, and I hope you'll try it this less-sweet way. Also, for those who care about such things, it contains no corn syrup.

Caramel Corn / www.delightfulrepast.com

(Makes about 3 quarts) 

1/3 cup popcorn kernels 
2 tablespoons organic canola or coconut oil 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
Optional: 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1 Put 4 popcorn kernels ("test" kernels) in 3-quart saucepan (I use the Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 3-Quart Covered Saucepan) along with the oil and salt. Heat over medium high heat. 

2 When the 4 kernels pop, add the rest of the popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from heat, and count 30 seconds. 

3 Return the pan to medium high heat. When it really starts popping, shake the pan gently back and forth over (or slightly above) the burner, holding the lid askew (at least from time to time) to let the soggy-making steam out. 

4 As soon as the popping slows to several seconds between pops, dump it into a wide 4- or 5-quart bowl. If you like butter on your popcorn, melt 2 tablespoons of it in the hot popcorn pan and drizzle it over the popcorn, tossing well to distribute the butter evenly. 

Caramel Corn 

(Makes about 3 quarts) 

1/3 cup popcorn kernels 
2 tablespoons organic canola or coconut oil 
2 tablesoons unsalted butter 
1/4 cup dark brown sugar 
1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon water 
1/8 teaspoon salt 

1 Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Measure popcorn kernels and oil. Before starting to pop the corn, in 1-quart saucepan start melting together the sugar, butter, tablespoon of water and the salt over low heat, stirring a few times.

Note: You can probably skip lining the pan, but I can't guarantee it!

2 Pop the corn as directed above, but don't use salt and don't add butter. Pour into a very large bowl (to give you room for tossing). 

3 Increase heat to medium and cook caramel until it has been bubbling for one minute. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of water and salt; it will foam up. 

4 Immediately drizzle the foamy sauce over the popcorn, tossing well to coat. Spread out on prepared half-sheet pan. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet.

13 August 2014

Coq au Vin - Chicken in Red Wine - In Honor of Julia Child

Coq au Vin / www.delightfulrepast.com

Coq au Vin - Chicken in Red Wine - is one of those "oven things" I like to cook during fall and winter. But since today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Julia Child, who made the dish so popular with Americans, I made it, at the height of summer, in her honor.

When I went out to the shops yesterday, there were not any organic bone-in skin-on chicken thighs or whole legs to be found. Not feeling up to cutting up a whole chicken, I decided to try it with the organic boneless skinless thighs that were available.

I also could not get my hands on any fresh or frozen pearl onions, so I had lots of modifications to make. So this is not Julia's recipe, though I was inspired by her. I met and chatted with Julia on several occasions years ago, and I know she'd be the first to tell me to just go for it.

"Once you have mastered a technique, you hardly need look at a recipe again." ~ Julia Child  
Turns out I like it even more with the boneless skinless chicken thighs! Oh and I don't flame the brandy. I have cabinets and other flammable things too close to the stove to be messing about with fire! How about you? 

Coq au Vin - Chicken in Red Wine

(Serves 4 to 6)

3 ounces bacon (about 3 slices)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
6 to 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1.5 to 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 pound carrots, in 1-inch diagonal slices
2 cloves garlic, coarsely smashed, optional
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup drinkable Burgundy or Pinot Noir
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, halved or quartered
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

1 Cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces. In a 4- to 5 1/2-quart enameled cast iron French/Dutch oven, sauté the bacon pieces in 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp. With slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan. Drain off all but a tablespoon of fat and reserve it to use as the recipe proceeds, unless you prefer to use all olive oil.

2 Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels, and season with pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Brown the chicken in a single layer (might need to do it in two batches), about 10 minutes, using as much of the bacon fat or olive oil as needed. Remove to platter.

3 Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add chopped onions and sliced carrots to pot. Cook for 5 minutes, until onions are very soft. Sprinkle flour over vegetables. Cook for 2 minutes, working flour into the fat. Whisk in broth. Simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened. Whisk in tomato paste.

4 Add wine, bay leaf, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt to pot. Add chicken and bacon back to pot. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Cover with foil and lid and place in oven to cook for 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees.

5 Take pot from oven; remove bay leaf. If not serving it today, let chicken cool to room temperature in the sauce, up to 2 hours, then cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.

6 On serving day, set pot over medium high heat and bring to simmer. Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Sauté mushrooms over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in brandy. Add to pot. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

07 August 2014

7 Favorite Peach Recipes to Celebrate Summer

Peach Pie with Lattice Crust / www.delightfulrepast.com

Here are 7 Favorite Peach Recipes to celebrate the height of peach season. Let's start with my favorite, Peach Pie with Lattice Crust; then Gluten-Free Peach Pie, Peach Galette, Peach Cobbler and Peach Pie for Two. 

If you love peaches as much as I do, you'll want to preserve your summer bounty to enjoy throughout the year; so I'll show you how to Freeze Peach Pie Filling and make Peach Freezer Jam.

What is your favorite way to enjoy peaches? Do you prefer yellow or white peaches? Peach season will be over soon, so be sure to get your fill and share this post with your friends on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Just click on the name of the recipe to go to that recipe post. 


Gluten-Free Peach Pie / www.delightfulrepast.com

Peach Galette/Crostata/Rustic Tart / www.delightfulrepast.com


Peach Cobbler / www.delightfulrepast.com

Peach Pie Slice / www.delightfulrepast.com

Peach Freezer Jam / www.delightfulrepast.com

Peach Pie for Two / www.delightfulrepast.com

Peaches are my favorite thing about summer. I hope you're having a wonderful summer!

31 July 2014

Easy Artisan Bread - Foolproof Artisan Bread

Easy Artisan Bread / www.delightfulrepast.com

Not everyone has the time, or the inclination, to make homemade bread; but everyone loves it. If you are one of many who liked the idea of the easy baked-in-a-pot no-knead bread but didn't like the idea of hefting a really heavy pot when it's smoking hot, this method is for you. 

If you have a pizza stone, great. If not, think about getting a Lodge Pro-Logic Cast Iron Pizza Pan 
instead. I've had mine for several years and use it like a pizza stone for both pizza and rustic loaves. It's much easier to get the dough on and off a flat surface than in and out of a deep pot. 

This is so easy to make, you can stir up a batch every day if you like. We don't use quite that much bread usually, so I just start a batch every other day. It just sits on the counter, so you don't have to find space in your refrigerator for a big bowl.

Yes, it's easy, even foolproof; but more important, this is some seriously good bread. And it makes really great toast for breakfast or bruschetta or crostini.

My name is Jean, and I am a breadaholic! How much do you like bread? What kind? When?

Artisan Bread / www.delightfulrepast.com

sy Artisan Bread - Foolproof Artisan Bread

(Makes one round 32-ounce/907-gram European-style boule)

4 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (22.5 ounces/638 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 cups water, room temperature

1 Start dough 22 hours* before you plan to serve the bread. In large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and stir with dough whisk or large spoon until the dough just comes together into a sticky dough with no dry flour left in the bowl. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let stand 18 hours* on countertop.

* If that doesn't suit your schedule, you can make that a couple hours less or more.

2 Line a rimless baking sheet (or a rimmed one turned upside down) with a square of parchment paper. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and press out lightly with your fingertips to a 10- to 12-inch square. Fold it in thirds, like a letter, then in thirds again. Round off the square, tucking edges under to form a ball. Place smooth side up on parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a large clear bowl or, as I do, with a 10-inch-diameter cake dome. Or spray the dough lightly with cooking spray and cover lightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Let rise 1 1/2 hours. The dough will spread more than it will increase in height. 

Bread Dough Second Rise / www.delightfulrepast.com

3 After an hour, place pizza stone or cast iron pizza pan on top shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven and pizza stone or pan at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

4 Using a lame (pronounced l
ahm), razor blade or very sharp knife, score the top of the loaf. Holding the blade straight, make each cut quickly and about 1/4-inch deep. You might have to make the cuts twice. I like a simple tic-tac-toe pattern (see photo above the recipe) or the pattern pictured below. If the blade seems to be dragging, wet it before each cut. Brush the dough with a little water.

Note: Brushing the dough with a little water with my OXO silicone pastry brush is much simpler than filling up a spray bottle and spraying the loaf.

Artisan Bread Boule / www.delightfulrepast.com

5 Carefully slide the dough (on the parchment) onto the stone or cast iron pizza pan and reduce heat to 425 degrees. Bake about 45 minutes, or until the crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf registers 210 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

6 Slide the rimless baking sheet under the bread to remove it from the oven; let cool on wire rack for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If not eating right away, you can re-crisp crust in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. It's best the day it is baked but can be kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Or keep cut side down covered with a towel to preserve the crust's crunch.

Note: Check out Homemade Bread - A Roundup of 10 Favorite Yeast and Quick Breads.

24 July 2014

Apricot Upside-Down Cake

Apricot Upside-Down Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

Apricot upside-down cake, especially this one made with almond meal (also called almond flour or, in the UK, ground almonds) and just a dash of almond extract, is the perfect midsummer dessert. If you don't eat almonds, simply replace the almond meal with an equal measure of flour and leave out the almond extract. 

Apricots and almonds have an affinity for each other, so unless you're allergic to almonds I hope you'll try it. Just don't increase the amount of almond extract as it can be quite overpowering. As you know, I appreciate subtlety rather than being slapped in the face by heavy-handed flavors. 

As I poured the batter into the pan, I was regretting putting "plus 2 tablespoons milk," thinking the cake was going to be too light to support the apricots. I needn't have worried. The cake didn't collapse even a smidge when I turned it upside down and lifted the pan away. 

Summer fruit is just about the only thing I like about summer! How about you? I hope you're having a super summer!

Apricot Upside-Down Cake / www/delightfulrepast.com

Apricot Upside-Down Cake 

(Makes one 8-inch cake, 8 servings) 

3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
10 smallish apricots, halved and pitted
3/4 dip-and-sweep cup (3.75 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond meal
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mace or 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg 

Note: For a gluten-free cake, replace 3/4 cup flour with 1/4 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, 1/4 cup tapioca flour and 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum. 

1 Halve and pit the apricots. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the sides and bottom of a 2-inch deep 8-inch round cake pan with vegetable spray, line bottom with a round of parchment paper, and pour the melted butter in the pan. Add the brown sugar to the butter and blend. Starting at outer edge, arrange apricots, cut side down, in single layer in bottom of pan and press lightly to make them stick; set aside.

2 In large mixing bowl, combine flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, salt and mace; mix on low speed for 1 minute to "sift.". Add the softened butter; mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add milk and extracts; mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the egg; mix 1 1/2 minutes longer. 

3 Spread the batter carefully over the apricots with a rubber spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for just 3 minutes, loosen edges with knife and invert onto a platter. Carefully peel off parchment paper. Let cool about 45 minutes, or up to several hours, before serving slightly warm or at room temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

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