Thursday, 31 May 2012

Papaya Chutney Grilled Cheese

I think I'm a little late jumping onto the whole grilled cheese bandwagon- especially since its national month has already come and gone. Still, better late than never, right? Especially when you have homemade bread to submerge in cheese.

Is it just me or has grilled cheese become even more amazing over the past year? The different combinations of ingredients and flavours I've seen the food community chug out make my mouth water. I want to try all of them! I mean, just think back to when you were a kid and grilled cheese meant just two slices of white bread with kraft cheese. Not like there's anything wrong with that (best hangover cure, if you ask me). But now, I'm seeing sloppy joe grilled cheese, guacamole grilled cheese, even chocolate parmesan grilled cheese (now that I have to try).

I guess that just goes to show how even the simplest, most nostalgic dishes can be made into an explosion of culinary creativity. And that's just poetic. So here's my contribution: a mouthwatering, savoury combination of Caribbean chutney, sharp cheddar and caramelized onions, all on homemade bread. I came upon papaya chutney on my last day in Jamaica. My mom wanted to get rid of her last few hundred Jamaican dollars and told me to pick something to bring home. I spotted the papaya chutney and thought: 'now that sounds good'. I was wondering what it would taste like- whether it would be sweet or tangy- when I first did try it I was surprised. It has the almost same sort of taste as caramelized onions, but it's more savoury than sweet. The sweetness kicks in just a bit to give it a unique, addictive taste. This is the first time I've used it in a recipe, but, man, did it deliver! If you can find papaya chutney, buy it! It's the kind of ingredient that makes you want to experiment.

Papaya Chutney Grilled Cheese
Serves 2
• 4 slices of your favourite bread
• 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
• 2 tbsp papaya chutney (can be found at your local Caribbean store or Asian market. If you can't find it, I suggest using tomato chutney or any other savoury spread)
• 6 slices old cheddar
• 1 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
• 1 tbsp mayonnaise

Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let caramelize for 5-10 minutes, or until a deep golden. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix together the butter and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Set aside.

Spread 1 tbsp of papaya chutney on 1 slice of bread. Top with half of the caramelized onions and 3 slices of cheese. Close the sandwich with another slice of bread. Repeat with the second sandwich.

Heat a skillet at medium heat. Spread the butter/mayo mixture on the outside of each sandwich. Pan-fry on each side until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is gooey and amazing, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and enjoy.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Daring Baker's Challah Bread

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Oh man, to say I was pumped we were doing bread this month may be an understatement. I absolutely love bread, as I may have mentioned before. That, and I just got my very own copy of The Baker's Apprentice. Many other food blogs have worked their way through the book and I was itching to get my hands on it. Once I did, I decided that I was going to follow in my peers' footsteps and complete all the recipes. Hilariously enough, my friend got the same cookbook from her boyfriend, so turns out we're doing it together. We've already done the English muffins, which were mouthwatering, and when I saw that this month's Daring Baker's challenge was challah, I knew I had to try out the recipe from the Baker's Apprentice. 

Coincidentally, I made the loaf on the Saturday of Victoria Day weekend. I started out fine... But as the dough rose and the day wore on, my roommate and I decided to mix some cool drinks and sit outside in the backyard. Admittedly, my memory of finishing the bread is a bit fuzzy. I don't even remember braiding it, but apparently I did (and it didn't look half bad!). Though, by the time I got to take a picture of the finished loaf.... we had eaten half of it already:

Either way, by some miracle the bread was finished with no casualties. And, damn, did it taste delicious. I love the softness of the inside of the loaf, contrast to the crunchy crust. Just. Heavenly. I'll refrain from writing an ode about bread and my minor obsession with it. Just get in there and try it for yourself! It's really not that difficult; all you gotta do is follow the recipe. 

Challah, from the Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart 
Makes 1 large braided loaf, 2 smaller loaves

4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 tablespoons  granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 teaspoons  instant yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp to 1-1/8 cups  water, at room temperature
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and yolks, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon (or on low speed with the paddle attachment) until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add the remaining water, if needed.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead for about 10 minutes (or mix at medium-low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should register approximately 80°F (27°C).

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a boule and transfer into the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment for 1 hour at room temperature. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to degas. Re-form it into a ball, return the ball to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1-1/2 times its original size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 3 equal pieces for 1 large loaf, or 6 pieces for 2 loaves. (Or, for a celebration challah, divide it into 3 equal pieces and combine 2 of those pieces and form them into 1 large dough. Take this larger piece and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take the smaller dough and divide it into 3 pieces as well; in the end, you will have 3 large pieces and 3 small pieces.) Regardless of the size of the loaves you decide to make, form each of the pieces into a boule, cover them with a towel, and let them rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pieces into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid them using the 3-braid method. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and transfer the loaf or loaves to the pan. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan in a food-grade plastic bag.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the dough has grown to 1-1/2 times its original size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) (325°F (160°C) for the celebration challah) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. The bread should be a rich golden brown and register 190°F (88°C) in the center. When done, transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving (or, if you're impatient like me, wait 10 minutes and slice it, shape be damned).

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Costello's Famous Sour Cream Pound Cake

It's Mother's Day! What's everyone doing for their moms today? My day has been pretty full so far. Got up this morning and started on an epic lunch for mom. We made oxtail with peanut sauce, stir fry eggplant and bok choy, Jamaican festivals and rice. And also a calzone for my brother, who doesn't eat anything remotely interesting unless you have the patience to push it on him for years until he gives in.

And for dessert? Well, mom loves her pound cake. We have an old recipe from a family friend that is our absolute favourite way to make pound cake. Seriously. Whenever we make pound cake, it's a crime to use any other recipe that's not this one. Just look at it:

Stains = proof of deliciousness, if you ask me. If a recipe is dyed a different colour with food and time, that is a recipe to keep. It uses sour cream instead of milk, which makes it so very moist. It also gives it a nice tart taste that cuts through the richness. Also: cream cheese frosting = always. Any cake (or anything) I can get cream cheese icing on gets cream cheese icing. Pound cake is no exception. I may even be starting to convert mom from buttercream, which is saying a lot.

This cake is so easy to make. It's literally just mixing wet and dry ingredients together. But, man, does it taste amazing! If you guys ever need a simple, quick cake to make someone that tastes like all the love and appreciation you have for that special person, make this.

To all the mothers out there and to all of their dutiful kids who worked hard today to show their love for said moms: HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! Eat awesome food and go to sleep stuffed to the gill!

Costello's Famous Sour Cream Pound Cake
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
• 1 heaping tbsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 3 eggs
• 1 cup sour cream
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 2 tsp lemon extract
• 1 tsp orange extract
• 1/4 cup poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 325F and grease a bundt pan (mine was the standard 10"). In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a medium sized bowl) cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add 1 cup of the flour mix, 1/3 cup of sour cream and 1 egg to the butter and sugar.

Mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla, lemon extract, orange extract and poppy seeds. Mix until uniform.

Add 1 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of sour cream and 1 egg. Mix. Add the rest of the flour, sour cream and the remaining egg. Mix until everything is smooth and uniform and you're left with a creamy batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smoothing out the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a cooling rack. Top with cream cheese icing (recipe follows) and let it melt down the sides. Cool until you can slice it (15-30 minutes) and enjoy!

Cream Cheese Icing
• 3 tbsp butter, room temperature
• 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
• 2/3 cup icing sugar
• 1 tbsp rum
Beat all the ingredients together until it's a smooth, thick icing.