Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese and amaranth flour

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

I’ve been throwing this idea around in my head for awhile. Ever since I made Kim Boyce’s Muscovado Sugar Cake and caught my first whiff of fragrant amaranth flour.

What would happen if this grassy amaranth flour was paired with earthy leeks, in some sort of buttery bready concoction? Like, say, biscuits? Ooh la la.

I did some research and found a few biscuit recipes that involved wild leeks (a.k.a. ramps), but I couldn’t find any that involved both regular leeks and amaranth flour. I decided to do a combination of this smitten kitchen recipe for prepping the leeks and this recipe for biscuits that utilizes pencil leeks, making appropriate changes and substitutions. I also decided to add some nutty gruyere cheese. Just because.

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

I made the biscuits tonight, to serve with Alton Brown’s curried split pea soup. And they were very, very good (the soup was very good as well). The flavor of the leeks was strong and pronounced, likely enhanced by the amaranth. And as expected, the gruyere came through strongly as well – one day, I would like to make these biscuits again, with either less gruyere or none at all, to see how well the leeks and amaranth perform on their own.

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese and amaranth flour
Adapted from smitten kitchen and Crumbs On My Keyboard

Leeks:
1 cup leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and chopped, rinsed and drained
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground pepper

Biscuits:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup amaranth flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter cut into small cubes
Prepared leeks (above)
1/2 – 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, position a rack in the center of the oven, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium-sized pan, saute the leeks over medium-high heat with a little cooking spray and a pinch of kosher salt until softened (about 5 minutes). Lower the heat to medium-low, stir in the butter, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pepper and more salt to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.

In a medium/large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (or a food processor, or your fingers). Gently stir in the cheese and the prepared leeks. Pour in the buttermilk and fold until just combined.

On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough four or five times, adding a bit more flour if the dough sticks. Roll the dough until about 1/2 inch thickness with a rolling pin. Using anything with a 2-inch-ish circumference (I used an old jar), cut out the biscuit rounds and transfer to the prepared baking sheet (around 12-15 rounds). Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

Biscuits with leeks, gruyere cheese, and amaranth

30 before 30: Chana masala + naan

Chana masala

I made this at the end of a very busy Sunday – Jeffrey and I went shopping for a whole new bed setup, which resulted in us driving all around and picking up and assembling the various components from the late morning until the late evening. It was entirely worth it, however. Our new bed is divine. And HUGE. My goodness.

But here’s the downside: I’m a little disappointed that this is the first official post for my 30 before 30 project. I was sort of hoping to emerge powerfully from the gates, kitchen tools blazing, with a perfectly tasty and satisfying dish to triumphantly cross off the list.

But here’s the honest truth: while this chana masala was ultimately good, it was way, waaaaay too spicy. As in, we couldn’t finish our servings because our mouths were on fire – and this is after stirring in some plain yogurt and taking timid bites along with generous portions of naan.

Naan

And then there’s the naan. The naan was very good. However (and I expected this to happen), it was quite different from the true restaurant style – mostly because I didn’t have a Tandoori oven at my disposal. Additionally, the dough was very sticky – it proved difficult to pull and stretch the dough pieces into the ideal shape/thinness. But fresh from the oven, these were pretty great.

It’s worth noting that I used a recipe that bakes the naan in the oven. However, there are other recipes that involve cooking the naan on the stove, which may help in mimicking traditional naan.

Naan

Oh chana masala. Why so spicy? Most likely, I wasn’t precise enough in my measurements of the hot chili pepper or the various spices, and used too much as a result. Lesson learned.

Chana masala

I have some leftovers that are too spicy to eat, sadly. My plan is to make a batch of plain lentils and then mix in the chana masala for flavor. We shall see.

So, while this wasn’t a huge success, I learned quite a bit, and for that I am thankful.

Chana masala

Chana masala + naan

Here are the recipes!

Chana Masala
Adapted from smitten kitchen

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 hot green chili pepper, minced (I used a pepper from my frozen stash)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lemon (juiced)

Measure all the spices (coriander through garam masala) into a small bowl and mix together (this is an optional step, but will save you time and stress later).

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté until browned/soft (about 5 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the spices mix, cooking for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any extra tomato juice. Stir in the water and chickpeas, then simmer uncovered for 10-20 minutes (until thickened). Stir in the lemon juice and salt.

If you’re not serving right away (i.e. if your naan dough has finished rising and is ready to bake), you can remove the skillet from the heat and cover until ready to eat.

Naan
Adapted from Mark Bittman

2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine yeast, milk, yogurt, and sugar in small bowl and set aside. Add the flour, egg, and salt to a large bowl, and mix on low with an electric mixer until just combined (I used my stand mixer). Pour in yeast mixture and mix briefly (about 30 seconds), and add 1.5 cups of water a bit at a time until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky. Mine, unfortunately, was still too sticky at this point, so I had to add about 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough was usable.

Lightly flour a work surface and briefly knead the dough to form a smooth, round ball. Lightly oil a bowl with a neutral oil, put the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (1-2 hours). My “warm place” is our oven, turned off, since the pilot light keeps the oven warm at all times.

When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and place a baking sheet (or a baking stone if you have one – I don’t) on a rack positioned on lowest shelf of the oven.

Punch the dough down on the floured work surface – feel free to use more flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the work surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (Mark Bittman suggests rolling the dough into a “snake,” then tearing the snake into 12 pieces). Let the pieces rest for 10 minutes, covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel.

Depending on how many pieces will fit on your baking sheet, stretch out the pieces individually into a teardrop-shaped oval, 6-8 inches long, 3-4 inches wide. Do this as best you can, but don’t go too crazy if the dough doesn’t stretch and keep its shape perfectly.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven and place the stretched pieces on to the sheet. Put the sheet back in the oven on the lowest rack and bake for 3 minutes. Flip the pieces over and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes. The finished naan will be nice and puffed, mottled and brown. Brush the hot pieces with the melted butter and serve.

I waited until after we ate to bake the remaining pieces of naan dough. If I were to make these again, I would likely halve the recipe – this made 12 pieces of naan, and the leftovers don’t keep especially well (although they’re decent when microwaved or lightly toasted).

Cooking on my day off: rye multigrain soft pretzels and lemon-strawberry yogurt cake

Rye multigrain soft pretzels

I had the day off from work yesterday, for Cesar Chavez day. In between cleaning out an old box of CDs (Amoeba gave me $90 for them! Unbelievable!) and other miscellaneous household stuff, I cooked a lot. I made rye soft pretzels with multigrain flour, as well as lemon-strawberry yogurt cake, and also chopped up and threw a bunch of stuff into my slow cooker to make shrimp and lentil curry. We enjoyed all three last evening while watching more episodes from season 3 of Veronica Mars.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Pretzels. The main theme here.

Rye multigrain soft pretzels

This recipe comes from Good to the Grain (again). I couldn’t resist, since I had a bag of rye flour just hangin’ out in the freezer, begging to be used.

I had already mixed the yeast and warm water and rye flour, however, when I realized I had barely 1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, and the recipe calls for 2 and 1/2 cups plus more for kneading the dough. Thinking quickly, I grabbed my multigrain flour mix from the fridge and filled in the flour gaps accordingly. The pretzels came out great, regardless, although I’m curious as to whether they would taste significantly different with more all-purpose flour. I also had to use the remains of my whole wheat flour for kneading the dough, which proved to be a little tricky.

Rye multigrain soft pretzels

Rye multigrain soft pretzels
Adapted from Good to the Grain

1 tablespoon butter, melted (for the bowl when the dough is rising)
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup rye flour
1 cup multigrain flour mix
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup baking soda
Coarse sea salt (for sprinkling)

Pour the yeast into a large bowl, then add 1 1/2 cups of warm water (around 100 degrees, warm to the touch), then add the honey and stir together. Slowly add the flours and salt and stir again. The dough will be very sticky – add a little more all-purpose flour if the dough is too sticky to remove from the bowl (I didn’t do this and my dough was almost too unworkable to start kneading – I had to get creative with pouring more flour onto my work surface when my fingers were covered with dough).

Slowly pour the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 12 minutes, adding more flour  as needed, until the dough is tacky and soft. Lightly brush a large bowl with the melted butter. Add the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. The original recipe says 1 and 1/5 hours – I let mine rise for at least 3 hours, while I ran errands and such.

When the dough has finished rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (preferable the butter kind), or rub with real butter if you feel so inclined.

Slowly dump the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and cut into 12 equal pieces (as equal as you can get, but some discrepancy in size is fine). Take each piece of dough and gently roll into roughly 17-inch-long rolls, with thin tapered ends. Form the dough pieces into pretzel shapes and place on the baking sheets, then let them rise for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the pretzel pieces are rising, bring 10 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Once the water is boiling (should be around the time that the dough pieces have finished rising), slowly add the 1/2 cup of baking soda. Don’t do it too fast – my pot of water almost overflowed entirely when I just dumped in the soda all at once. Whoopsie.

Gently add the pretzel pieces, 3 or so at a time (don’t crowd them), into the pot of boiling water. Let them boil for 30 seconds on each side, then gently move them back to the baking sheets (lightly pat dry). Sprinkle the boiled pretzels with the coarse sea salt.

Bake the pretzels (with the baking racks positioned at the bottom and top thirds of the oven) for 15 to 18 minutes, switching the sheets halfway through. The pretzels will be dark in color, like in the photos. Transfer them to a plate or wire rack to cool, and enjoy sooner rather than later. I had another pretzel the day after making them, and could definitely taste the difference in freshness (not bad, just not nearly as good).

Rye multigrain soft pretzels

From there, I made cake, just for the heck of it. Since I had Meyer lemons and plain yogurt, and because in-season strawberries taste like amazing red nuggets of heaven right now, I decided to take smitten kitchen’s lemon yogurt anything cake, add strawberries and double the recipe in order to bake into bundt form.

The result was pretty good. Not great, however. It was a little oiler than I like my cakes, and I should have used more chopped strawberries (I added 2 cups, and probably should have added 3). The recipe was still worth trying out, however, and was very easy to execute.

Lemon-strawberry yogurt cake

Lemon-strawberry yogurt cake

Beer bread with whole wheat flour, cheese and rosemary

Beer bread

I was randomly searching my Google Reader for recipes yesterday and came across beer bread via Everybody Likes Sandwiches. I made some alterations based on what was available at my parents’ house – using half whole wheat flour, regular cheddar cheese (as opposed to aged), and fresh rosemary instead of dried (since my mother’s garden is overflowing with fresh sprigs). For the beer, I used Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale, which added a very strong beer taste that was a great compliment to the cheese and rosemary. Any beer will do, however.

The extra great thing about beer bread is that it’s so easy – measure out the dry ingredients, slowly add the beer and mix until just combined, bake, and it’s done.

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar [I only had access to powdered sugar, and it worked fine]
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fresh or dried rosemary
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 bottle/can of beer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together all the dry ingredients (everything except the beer). Slowly pour in the beer and stir until just combined. Spread batter into a loaf pan (at least 8 inches – I think a 9 inch pan may have been a little better), greased with either butter/flour or cooking spray.

Optional step: I melted about 1/4 cup of butter and poured over the top of the batter after spreading the batter in the loaf plan.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until the top of the loaf turns golden brown and a toothpick or knife inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes before removing loaf from pan, then let cool for a few additional minutes before enjoying.