28 September 2017

Sloppy Joes - Not Just for Kids Anymore

Sloppy Joes - Not Just for Kids Anymore / www.delightfulrepast.com

Sloppy Joes were never on the menu at our house when I was growing up, due to my father's aversion to ground meat. And a bad version of them was on the school lunch menu. So I didn't get off to a good start in life with Sloppy Joes.

Sloppy Joes originated in the US in the 1940s. Packaged Sloppy Joe seasoning mix and canned Sloppy Joe sauce came out in the 1960s. I'm sure the packaged and canned sauces are very tasty, but they are not organic; so I must make my own.

They might more often be thought of as kid-friendly food, but adults enjoy them as well. Though I'm just cooking for two most nights, I make a big batch and divide it into four meals (three for the freezer). In case that bit of math doesn't add up, Mr Delightful has two!

Sloppy Joes - Not Just for Kids Anymore / www.delightfulrepast.com

Sloppy Joes

(Makes 12)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium (about 8 ounces/227 grams) yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium (about 4 ounces/113 grams) green bell pepper, finely diced
1 medium (about 4 ounces/113 grams) red bell pepper, finely diced
2 pounds (907 grams) lean ground beef or turkey
4 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground dried chiles
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon country Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 14.5-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
12 buns, split and toasted
Garnishes: shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapenos, sliced dill pickles

1 In large skillet (I use this All-Clad 4-quart sauté pan), heat oil and cook onion for about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers and continue cooking for about 2 minutes.

2 Add ground meat and continue cooking, breaking up the meat, until done and liquid is evaporated. If you're not using lean meat, you may have to drain off some fat; but wait until the liquid has evaporated.

3 Stir in tomato paste, ground chiles, salt, cumin, pepper, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; cook for about 1 or 2 minutes.

4 Stir in crushed tomatoes and water. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Note: Can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. Or freeze in meal-size portions for up to a month.

5 I use my own Homemade Hamburger Buns or similar ones from the bakery, split and well toasted on the griddle with half organic unsalted butter and half extra virgin olive oil, and 1/2 cup of meat mixture for each.

21 September 2017

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightulrepast.com

Parkin is, I think, generally considered a Yorkshire thing; but some say it's a Lancashire thing. So let's just call it a Northern (England, that is) thing. It makes me think of my grandfather, who was from right on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

(For another Northern treat, from Yorkshire, try my Fat Rascals. And don't forget Yorkshire Pudding,  though it's not a dessert.)

There are similar cakes from much earlier, but Parkin has been around at least since the 18th century; so I like to think of it as a Georgian thing. It's sort of a gingerbread with the addition of oats. There are all sorts of formulations, but I like to use an equal weight of butter, flour and oats. 

It's definitely a make-ahead thing because it improves with age. You should wait a few days, and some say a few weeks, to eat it. I've never tried to keep it for a few weeks; have you? But I like to give it at least a few days for the spices to mellow and the cake to get stickier.

This has a lot of sugar (three forms of it), less than some recipes, but still a lot. But it's cut into 16 squares so comes in under my self-imposed daily sugar allowance. I'll be experimenting with cutting back more on the sugar and will keep you posted.

I'm also going to be experimenting with "mellowing" times. I've cut this into 4 squares, so I can wrap it up in portions to be tested at 1 day, 3 days, 1 week and 2 weeks. If you don't already have a wonderful family Parkin recipe, I hope you'll give mine a try and let me know what you think.

Update 09/26/17: Though it "kept" for a week, I don't think it improved in any way. And it was great on the very first day. So I won't be waiting to eat it, but am happy it does keep well, making it ideal for packed lunches for work or school.

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com
Can be eaten right away but is said to improve when wrapped and stored for anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks. I cut this one into 4 squares in order to test different storage times. Stay tuned for the results!

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(Makes one 8-inch/20cm cake)

1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces/142 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 packed cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (114 grams) honey or golden syrup
1/4 cup (71 grams) unsulphured molasses or black treacle
1 1/3 cups (5 ounces/142 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (I use Bob's Red Mill organic extra thick)
1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces/142 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) milk

1 Grease 8x8x2-inch/20x20cm baking dish or tin with butter or spray it with cooking spray; line the bottom* with parchment paper, and grease or spray it as well. Preheat oven to 275F/135C/Gas1.

* I tear off a 7.5-inch piece of baking parchment that is 13 inches wide so that it covers two of the sides with a bit of an overhang to make it easy to just lift out of the pan after running a knife along the two "bare" sides. 

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

2 In 3-quart saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, honey or golden syrup, and molasses or black treacle. Remove from heat as soon as melted together--do not boil--and cool slightly.

3 In 1.5-quart bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, salt and spices.

4 Add dry mixture to saucepan, along with beaten eggs and milk, and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 1 1/4 hours, or until cake is firm in the center and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

5 Cool in pan on wire rack for about 15 minutes before turning out onto wire rack, removing parchment and turning cake topside up to finish cooling on wire rack. Or, if you've lined the bottom with an overhang, just run a knife along the two unlined edges and lift the parkin out of the pan. Wrap the thoroughly cooled cake in baking parchment and then in foil and store for at least 3 days or up to 1 week* before cutting into 16 squares.

* Some people let their parkin age for about 3 weeks before cutting it, but I've never tried it.

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com


14 September 2017

Fresh Fig Galette

Fresh Fig Galette - Rustic Tart with Figs and Frangipane - In an Easy Shortcrust Pastry / www.delightfulrepast.com

A fresh fig tart was what I came up with when I decided I couldn't waste fresh figs on the fig rolls ("newtons") I've been craving but that can be made any time of year with dried figs. When a friend brought me a basket of organic figs the other day, I knew the little beauties would have to go into something where they would show a bit.

I like any kind of tarts, rustic or refined, but decided to go with rustic because of the earthy quality of figs. They have a certain nuttiness as well, and so I thought they would go well with a small batch of my frangipane and a sprinkling of sliced almonds. I quartered them so that both their pink insides and blackish outsides would show.

For me, an unsweetened shortcrust pastry balances out the sweetness of the figs and frangipane. But you may also use this lightly sweet shortcrust pastry. Yes, a bit of softly whipped cream would not go amiss, but I just wanted to focus on the figs.

If you're more of a cake person than a pie person, you might want to try my Fig Upside-Down Cake. Or are you both, like me?!

Fresh Fig Galette - Rustic Tart with Figs and Frangipane - In an Easy Shortcrust Pastry / www.delightfulrepast.com
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Fresh Fig Galette - Rustic Tart

(Makes one 9-inch tart/6 to 8 servings)

The Pastry - Shortcrust

1 1/3 dip-and-sweep cup (6.67 ounces/189 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk plus white reserved for filling
1 tablespoon cream, milk or water

The Filling - Frangipane and Figs

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/57 grams) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) sugar
1/2 firmly packed cup (2 ounces/57 grams) super-fine almond flour (ground almonds)
1 egg plus the reserved egg white
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
About 11 ounces figs
A bit of cream or milk
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

1 Add flour and salt to work bowl of food processor; turn on for about 3 or 4 seconds to combine. Add chunks of butter; pulse to a crumb texture. Add egg yolk and cream; pulse until the dough starts clumping together. This is to be a crisp, more cookie-like crust, rather than a flaky pastry; so there's not quite the concern about over-processing. Flatten slightly into a 4- to 6-inch round disc, wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

2 Preheat oven to 400F/205C/Gas6. In 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Take off heat, and stir in the sugar, then the ground almonds, egg, almond extract and salt until well combined. Set it in the refrigerator for a few minutes while proceeding with the recipe.

3 Wash, dry and trim the stems off the figs. Cut them into quarters lengthwise.

4 Roll out the pastry to a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured 13-inch square of parchment paper. No need to trim the edges; this is supposed to be rustic. Lay it on a baking sheet; it will hang over the edges. Spread the frangipane over a 9-inch circle in the center and scatter the figs over it. Fold the edges in, sort of pleating as you go. Brush the pastry with a bit of cream or milk and sprinkle on the sliced almonds, pressing them in a bit to make them stick.

5 Bake for about 35 minutes. Leave on baking sheet to cool for 25 minutes before moving to serving plate. 

07 September 2017

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not)

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not) / www.delightfulrepast.com

I'm going to need your help on this one! Thin and crispy coconut cookies are no problem if you don't mind a cloyingly sweet cookie. Where the problem comes in is reducing the sugar to the bare minimum. So let me tell you the whole story, then I will welcome any suggestions you might have.

When I'm in the mood for a coconut macaroon or other chewy coconut cookie, I make these Swedish Coconut Cookies. But what I had in mind this week was a super thin and crispy coconut cookie. The first version I came up with resulted in the third sheet of cookies being close to what I was aiming for, though a bit dry.

So I added the step of moistening the coconut with a bit of water before proceeding with the recipe the second time. Organic unsweetened finely shredded coconut is quite dry; in fact, I think it's dehydrated. Supermarket coconut has added sugar and water as well as propylene glycol and sodium metabisulfite, and that just ain't happenin' in my kitchen!

I also increased the butter for the second batch. And now I'm thinking I might increase the sugar next time if it will help the cookies spread. (Sugar - Toxin or Treat? tells you about me and sugar.) If you've ever looked at any of those "Cookie Troubleshooting" articles, you know that most people are complaining about their cookies spreading too much.

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not) / www.delightfulrepast.com

The problem with these is that they won't spread. At all. If you roll the dough into a ball or use a cookie scoop, it just bakes in that shape. If you mash it down slightly, it bakes in that shape. So if I wanted these thin and crispy, I had to roll the dough into balls and then press the dough ball into a very thin round about 2.5 inches or so in diameter.

You know I never mind doing fiddly stuff in the kitchen, but this was a bit much even for me on most days. I use the bottom of a metal measuring cup to press down lots of cookies, but it didn't work on these. I tried everything on the bottom of that cup -- water, flour, baking spray. No go. The only thing that worked was my plain fingers. Pretty fiddly work.

Anyway ... I'm willing to increase the sugar to 3/4 cup if it will help them spread without my manual assistance. I figure that would come out to about 2/3 teaspoon of sugar per cookie. A cup of sugar would still be under a teaspoon per cookie, but they would be far too sweet for my taste.

Any suggestions? Higher temperature? Lower temperature? Loosen up about the sugar for once in my life?!

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies

(Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies)

1 cup (2.75 ounces/78 grams) organic unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/59 ml) water
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces/71 grams) coconut flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces/71 grams) gluten-free blend (or use unbleached all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces/142 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 In 2-cup glass measure, stir together coconut and water; cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

3 In 1.5-quart bowl, whisk together flours, xanthan gum, salt and baking soda.

4 In 2.5-quart bowl, cream butter and sugar together until sugar is dissolved. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture; combine well. Stir in moistened coconut.

5 Drop by level 2-teaspoon* scoops onto parchment paper. Roll each scoop into a ball and flatten it with your fingertips to about a 2.5-inch diameter. Bake until edges are browning, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

* This set of stainless steel measuring spoons is one of the few that include a 2-teaspoon spoon, something I've wanted for a long time, and the round shape makes it easy to push out a scoop of cookie dough with a finger.