Monday, June 29, 2009

Mishaps in Baking

So, just when I thought I was on a roll with my baking skills I end up with a small baking mishap. It wasn't TERRIBLE...I mean it was still edible. It just wasn't what it was supposed to be. I know enough about cooking that I can usually fix what I think went wrong. However, when it comes to baking I'm seriously at a loss. I am purely at the mercy of the recipe I'm following.

For instance, I've made scones before. I actually made them a lot in Boston and they came out perfect and delicious. The last two batches I've made were barely tolerable. (Well, that's harsh...they were just not SCONES). The first batch I made a few months ago I threw out in frustration since the dough was completely useless. This most recent batch was better but they did not come out crumbly. They came out a little like spongy biscuits. Maybe it was the use of whole wheat flour? Maybe Florida humidity is no match for the scone? I haven't given up quite yet, though. I'll be trying again soon. First, I have to finish this batch.

Basic Scones
from Domino Magazine

1 lb all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup unsalted butter
4-6 level tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups of whole milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter into little pieces, and rub into the flour with the tips of your fingers as quickly as you can. Sift in baking powder; combine. Add milk and mix lightly into a spongy dough. Knead very lightly to make the dough smooth and roll out 1/2" to 3/4"thick. Cut scones and let it stand for 10 minutes. Brush with egg or milk before placing on to a greased baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes, then let cool.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Comfort Food- Pho

One of my favorite comfort food dishes is pho- Vietnamese noodle soup. One of my best college friends is half Vietnamese and she introduced this soup to me. I crave this soup when I'm unhappy; I crave it when I'm sick; I crave it when I don't want to eat at all. It is amazing how this one dish can make me feel better inside and out. It is also perfect after you've eaten poorly for a weekend and just need something light and satisfying. I usually force A to go out for pho, and he is kind enough always to indulge me. You see, he does not like brothy soup. I know! Who doesn't like soup? But, that is probably a whole other entry in itself.

After our anniversary trip to Amelia Island where we had AMAZING food (really, really amazing food like shrimp and grits and pulled pork pizza) my body just needed a moment to breathe. Instead of going to my favorite little Vietnamese restaurant, I decided to tackle this myself. I've been wanting to make pho on my own, but it always seemed so difficult. However, if you do my cheat way, it actually was really easy. I used store bought veggie broth and used all the pho spices to give it that little something. Add a little veggie and poached chicken, and voila! Yummy, comforting pho.

Deb's Pho in a Pinch

For the broth:

1 large box of organic veggie broth (no MSG!)
1 medium cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
2 star anise
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice
sprinkle of salt
1-1/2 inch chunk of ginger

Bring broth to boil. Place cinnamon stick, cloves, and anise in a tea bag or tea ball and add to broth. (Or, you can do as I did and fish it all out later.) Add ginger, coriander, and five spice. Let broth simmer on medium-low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.

For the soup:

1 bag of medium-width rice noodles (cooked according to package directions)
2 poached chicken breast, pulled (I poached the chicken in chicken broth with ginger and garlic. I also added the broth from the chicken to the broth above to not waste it.)
Variety of veggies (shredded carrots, snow peas, mushrooms...anything is good)
Fresh shredded basil and cilantro to top it all off
Lime wedges

Arrange the soup as follows: noodles, broth, chicken and veggies, basil and cilantro, and lime splashed on top.

I like my pho with some sriracha and hoisin at the end to taste.