27 January 2012

Fat Rascals - A Yorkshire Thing

Fat Rascals - A Yorkshire Thing / www.delightfulrepast.com

Fat rascals have been around for a long time. Bettys Tea Rooms (they leave out the apostrophe), that beloved institution of the North (of England, that is), may be one of the few places a fat rascal can still be found. No, I'm not making disparaging remarks about tea room patrons! Fat rascals are tasty little buns, similar to scones, that go down a treat with a nice cup of tea. They are a Yorkshire thing, a favorite on the farm at the 10 o'clock tea break.

I have no idea how they came to be called fat rascals, but they've been around since the mid nineteenth century and are a popular item on the menu at Bettys six locations across Yorkshire. It's been eight years since I developed my recipe in honor of my Yorkshire grandfather (who may not have ever eaten a single fat rascal in his entire life, for all I know).

If I recall, the fat rascals at Bettys have glace cherries for eyes and whole blanched almonds for teeth, but I use dried cherries and slivered almonds because that's what I usually have on hand. And ever practical, like a good Yorkshire farmwife (or is that farm wife), if I'm out of whole wheat I just use all-purpose; if I'm out of dried cherries I use raisins.

If you've had a fat rascal at Bettys recently, do let me know how mine compare. I do like to be authentic (except in cases where authentic is not as delicious as it could be).

Fat Rascals

(Makes 10 buns)

1 1/3 dip-and-sweep cups (6.67 ounces/189 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 dip-and-sweep cup (3.33 ounces/94 grams) whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons (0.875 ounce/25 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons (0.875 ounce/25 grams) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces/71 grams) dried currants
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 large egg
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/177 ml) milk, approximately
20 dried cherry halves
30 slivered almonds

1 Preheat oven to 400F/205C/Gas6. Grease or line with parchment paper a large baking sheet (I use the Calphalon 14x16-Inch Insulated Cookie Sheet). In a medium bowl combine the flours, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the currants, being sure to separate any that are clumped together. 

2 In 2-cup glass measure, combine egg and enough milk to make 1 cup liquid; reserve 1 tablespoon for glaze and pour the rest into dry mixture and gently mix with wooden spoon until just combined. 

3 Divide dough into 10 pieces, each measuring 1/4 cup. Shape each into a ball. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten tops slightly. Brush tops with egg glaze. Decorate each with 2 dried cherry halves for eyes and 3 slivered almonds for smile. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter.

Note: To reheat room temperature cakes, wrap loosely in foil and heat at 300F/150C/Gas2 for 10 minutes. Cakes may be frozen, double-wrapped, for up to one month. Thaw at room temperature, wrapped, then unwrap and heat at 350F/180C/Gas4 for 5 minutes.


20 January 2012

Popcorn - My Culinary Nemesis

Popcorn is my culinary nemesis, the one thing I simply cannot make. Stovetop popcorn, to be more precise. Sure, I can put a bag in the microwave and have popcorn success in just a couple minutes. And, quite possibly, an electric popcorn machine might work for me. But I really don't want either microwave popcorn or another single-use appliance unless I really need it.

Why can't I make popcorn?

It doesn't matter whether I use ordinary supermarket popping corn that has been hanging out in the fridge for years or brand-new, fresh, organic kernels, I have had zero success. Zero. One batch was greasy. Another was dry and tasteless. Countless others were burnt. And those were the best of the batches! I didn't even attempt to count the unpopped corn kernels; I'm not sure I can count that high!

Can you help me?

These are my criteria for my perfect popcorn:

1. Made on a gas stove.
2. Made in an ordinary multi-use pan (heavy saucepan, skillet or Dutch oven).
3. Made without shaking the pan (I do not want to have to shake the pan). 
4. Made, not entirely without oil, but with the least amount possible.

If you yourself cannot help me, please send a link to this post to everyone you know; Stumble it, Pin it, Tweet it; do whatever it is that people who know what they're doing on the web do to get the word out. I seriously need help!

14 January 2012

Vegetable Beef Soup - A Bowl of Classic Comfort

Vegetable beef soup, served with nothing more than some good bread, makes a satisfying meal any time of year, but never more so than in winter. Nothing warms me up faster than a steaming bowl of homemade soup. They don't call it Soup Weather for nothing!

My basic recipe, delicious as is, has endless variations. Add in whatever fresh vegetables are in season in your area. Or throw in some frozen peas. You might skip the tomato paste and add in diced or stewed tomatoes instead. There are no rules.

You might season it according to the bread you'll be serving. With focaccia or ciabatta, add Italian herbs to the soup. With warm flour tortillas, add some Mexican seasonings. Don't like Worcestershire sauce? Use soy sauce instead. As always, I look forward to reading your comments. (Apropos of absolutely nothing is the kitty photo at the end of this post! Meet Lionel from Cranberry Morning.)

Vegetable Beef Soup

(Makes 4 main-dish servings)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound stew beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (Rocky Mountain Organic Meats)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups beef broth (I use Pacific organic)
2 cups water
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Any other seasonal vegetables you have on hand

1 In large pot (I use a Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven), heat olive oil. Season meat with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Over medium heat, brown meat well on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add onions and cook for a few minutes until softened. (If you have time, cook for a lot longer until onions are at least on their way to being caramelized.) Stir in tomato paste and cook for a minute to "toast." Stir in broth and water. Simmer for 30 minutes.

2 Add carrots, celery, 1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and marjoram and 1/8 teaspoon each thyme and crushed red pepper flakes. Maybe throw in a bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes.

3 Add potatoes and any other seasonal vegetables you like. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. If you add extra vegetables, also add another cup of broth and another cup of water. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sometimes I like to add in a cup of frozen peas during the last 5 minutes.

06 January 2012

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream - But It Tastes Just Like Regular!

Chocolate ice cream without the cream? Not even milk? The ice cream fans I served it to the other night said "I would never have known!" Yes, winter seems a crazy time to be making ice cream, I know, but I developed this recipe for a friend who lives in a winterless region.

Developing a recipe for nondairy ice cream had been on my to-do list for a long time. Just as I have no problem with gluten myself but develop gluten-free recipes for others, I have no problem with dairy but wanted to develop a recipe for a dairy-free friend. Her husband has recently come to think he has an egg allergy as well, so I developed a recipe that is both egg- and dairy-free. Perfect for vegans too!

Of course, I used all organic ingredients. It's especially important to get organic tofu, as soy products that are not organic are sure to contain GMO soy. And always get organic canola oil for the same reason. Say No to GMO! Jo, this one's for you!

Chocolate Ice Cream Nondairy Vegan Frozen Dessert

(Makes about 5 cups)

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons organic canola oil
2 cups rice milk
2 tablespoons Kahlua
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 14-ounce package silken tofu, drained

1 In 2-quart saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk in the oil and 1 cup of rice milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and bubbles for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup rice milk, Kahlua and vanilla extract. Pour into 2-quart glass measure (to make pouring into the machine easier).

2 In food processor or blender, process drained tofu until very smooth, about 1 minute. Add to cocoa mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

3 Assemble the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbert Maker; turn it on. While it is running, pour the chilled mixture through the spout. Let mix until thickened, about 15 minutes. Or follow the directions for whichever brand ice cream maker you have. If you have a KitchenAid, you can use their KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment.

4 Transfer the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe airtight container, and place in freezer for at least 4 hours. If it is super hard when you're ready to use it, remove it from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.