Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Which I Scoff

My honor has been challenged.  
 While I will admit to drinking tea now and again, I refuse to consider myself a tea-o-phile like he is.  I use Splenda.  I frequently forget to remove the tea bag (YES, I use tea bags) from the cup.  I do have "tea flowers," but I don't think they count, since I think they are made from clovers and grass clippings and such.  

And now?  Steeeve? Makes the cruellest of accusations.  
I would like to submit the following in response.
that is all.

"More-Than-Broccoli Soup"

I love broccoli.  Yes, I do.  And as luck would have it, it is quite good for you! 

[Kate here, several hours later.  Why oh why did I channel my inner Doctor Seuss just there?  I should have written this whole thing in rhyme. "Would you like to chop onions up?   Chop enough for half a cup.  How to make it like a dream? Add a blop of heavy cream!"  Ok, maybe not.]

Oh, dear darling broccoli, how I love thee.

This morning, I was thinking over what yummies I could make for myself to eat at lunchtime this coming week.  You see, we just had Thanksgiving and I'm feeling a bit sluggish.  Also? I had bought a bunch of broccoli to go with our Thanksgiving dinner and I forgot about it, so it's starting to wilt.

1/4 or so of a white onion, pretty well chopped.  (I could have used more, but I was saving some for potato soup later this afternoon).  I'd vote for 1/2 of a big onion.
2-3 ribs of celery, well-chopped
1 TB of butter
2 big bunches of broccoli (with stems)
6 or so cups of chicken broth
a few TB of heavy cream (or milk)
Some Wondra flour if needed

Chop up your onion and celery.  Plop into a pot with the butter and saute.

NOw, listen to me here for a second.
KEEP THE HEAT NO HIGHER than medium.  Really.  Trust the Kate.  You want it to "sweat," not to sizzle and burn and get all brown and stuff.  Your soup will look weird if you brown the veggies.  Like you pureed a brown paper bag into the soup.  Yick. You do NOT want this.

While this is cooking CAREFULLY, cut the florets off of the stalks of the broccoli. (Stalks? Stems? Whatever. The big branchy-things.)
Now, cut off about and keep the top half of the stems.  Toss the bottom parts.
Get a big sharp knife and SHOMPSHOMPSHOMP cut off the outer peel of the stems, revealing most of the white part inside.  This is good stuff, here.  Discard the outer tough stuff.
Cut the white part into long slices, then turn it and cut again into long matchsticks.  THEN? Dice up the sticks into little teeny pieces.
Add your stem pieces in with the onion/celery, and cook a bit until softened.

Then, add your chicken broth (reserve maybe a cup just in case) and cook on medium-ish until all the veggies are pretty soft.
Puree it all with an immersible blender.

Cook again, and add the florets this time.
Cook until they're not quite cooked soft. Puree a bit with your immersible blender (all the way if you like it smooth, less if you like it chunky).

Taste.  Season if necessary.
If your soup is thin, sprinkle with some Wondra flour and cook on high for a few minutes. If it's too thick, add more broth.
Add a dollop of cream, then remove from the heat.  Stir and taste.  Season if necessary.

Muy, muy awesome.  The celery adds a lovely, light, fresh taste.  The onion provides a bit of sweetness, and the stems ... who knows?  I just like not wasting them.

I suspect the cream can be left out, but it adds a nice mouth-feel, and really, it's only a little bit of fat for a big pot of vitamin- and fiber-rich soup.

This soup gets a solid A in my book.
Oh, and it freezes awesomely.

Journey From Sloth and Despair, Soup To the Rescue!

I have gotten to the other side of Thanksgiving with not too much regret.  Most of our food that day was made from actual ingredients.  The eggnog was NOT made simply of egg and nog, but I only had a small glass.
How weird.  I have this actual glass.

Today, I have been re-aligning my mind back to clean food.

Breakfast was oatmeal (the awesome non-processed kind, made from scratch) with dried cranberries and cinnamon.  And a cup of coffee.  Mmmmcoffee.

Lunch, you will be proud to note, was homemade broccoli soup* with wholewheat crackers.  No, I didn't make the crackers myself, but they're still pretty healthy.

Dinner is likely going to be potato soup (homemade), plus some kind of raw-veggie/turkey/yogurt/curry salad thingy.  I don't expect the family will eat my salad, but that's their problem.  I may have to add some whole grain of some sort, like maybe quinoa?

I have been enjoying many cups of green tea and the occasional small glass of strawberry/yogurt smoothie (made by my daughter).
I love flower tea!

Now, the important question:  is Brie a "clean" food?  I sure hope so.

*Recipe to follow soon.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend Haiku

Thanksgiving Haiku Trio

Lots of wine and pie
But not enough to forget
I didn't vacuum.

Children high on pie
Flapping, squealing, slightly bored.
PS3 broken

You know your evening
Was a success when you find
Stuffing in your bra.

And, in other news:

Why are Spock's lips red?
His blood is green, so what's up?
Should be more verdant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kate's Croissant-Making Cocktail Hour! Now in REAL TIME.

Ok, it's not going to be real time to YOU.  But I am typing this with bread dough clinging to my fingers, and with flour speckling my top.  My "F" key is sticky from the dough, and I sincerely hope that I don't kill my keyboard, or my blogs will be seriously limited with no "f"s.

I am using a recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures (, but the photos are mine.

Now, you may be wondering WHY in the HELL I, a woman with absolutely no culinary training and NO BUSINESS attempting this advanced and complex, am doing this?  Well.  Over the next few days,I have more time than I have brains.  Also, a friend of mine (Robyn) can make them.  But she has training.  And she's insanely awesome.  But I'm trying to measure up.

I assembled my stuff:
Butter, Cream, Salt, Water, Flour (and yeast, which I forgot to show)

I started with:
ONE CUP FLOUR (the regular kind)
ONE CUP WARM WATER (also the regular kind.  No Diet Water for me!)
ONE TEASPOON ACTIVE YEAST (I get the kind in a jar.  Fleichmann's, I think)

Mix it up in a KitchenAid bowl.  (Actually, I let my 10 year old daughter do this part.)
You're supposed to get it all nice and smooth, then let it sit for an hour.
This is 1 C. flour, 1 C. warm water, 1 Tsp. yeast, then mixed up.

Naturally, with my vast experience in croissant-making, I decided that after 40 minutes, it was plenty done.

So then, I added:
2 1/2 CUPS OF FLOUR (just all purpose)
1/3 CUP HEAVY CREAM (got it at the Quality Dairy down the street, so it MUST be fab)

See? Cream. A third of a cup.
Also, see my sapphire engagement ring?  It wanted to be in the picture too, apparently.


Then, you're supposed to mix it all up for about a minute (the "about" is my addition, since I rarely actually time things).
Look how sticky!

THEN?  Cover it with some plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.
Saran Wrap.  I hates Saran Wrap.  It makes me feel like a spastic idiot.
Timer.  Set to 20 minutes.  Just in case you weren't sure how to handle this "sit for 20 minutes" thing.

That's where I am now.  And why I am typing.  It's rising, and I'm bored.
 OK. I'm back.  The timer pinged.
Really, it beeped.  And I ignored it and poured a glass of white wine.  Priorities, people.

Now, I need to go and turn the KitchenAid on LOW for 20 minutes.
See ya soon.
Time for a drink.

Well, it whacked around for 20 minutes and turned into a lovely smooth dough.
That's my daughter there.

I wrapped it in the deadly Saran Wrap and plopped it into the fridge for another 30 minutes.
Honestly, it had the weight and softness of a baby right after a bath.

Then began what LOOKED like it was going to be an easy step.  The butter-square step.  I think my problem was that I had left the butter out on the counter the entire time (for the last 1.5 hours, approximately), and it got mighty soft.

What you're SUPPOSED to do is take 3 1/2 sticks of butter, place them in a square on a piece of Evil Wrap, cover with another piece of plastic wrap, and then pound with a rolling pin until it's in an EIGHT INCH square.  Exactly.
I am butter. I am too soft.  I will take my revenge.

A nice ladylike little ruler, no?

What I ended up doing was placing the butter on the bottom plastic, covering it with the other, and smooshing it with the rolling pin into a 9-inch square.
SEE?  I am too big.  I told you I'd take my revenge.

Which is too big, you might notice.  It's because it's so soft. So I had to then (after much measuring and Yosemite Sam-like swearing) smoosh it into a SMALLER square.

Because of the moosh factor, I carefully folded the extra plastic around the butter (which finally gave in and became an obedient 8x8 inch square) and put it in the fridge to firm up.
And that's where I am now.  Also, I'm drinking wine.  Hey -- croissants are FRENCH.  Do you think that Parisian croissantieres* don't drink?
[* I made up that word.]

Oooh! I feel all "french baker chick" right now!

Isn't this the CUTEST dough you've ever seen?
Gettin' ready to roll.
After the dough had rested and the butter firmed up, I rolled the dough out on a lightly floured counter.  It was to measure 9x17 inches.  And it took some doing to get it perfect, but I did try.

Perfection, I haz it.

[Oh, may I just share?  As I was putting the precious, precious dough onto the countertop, I saw what I thought was A FINGERNAIL CLIPPING there on the counter.  EW! EWEWEW! But after further investigation, it was just a piece of long-grain rice from dinner.  It must have been hiding when I washed the countertops. I was horrified that a FINGERNAIL would get into the most ambitious bit of cookery I'd ever tried.]

The butter firmed up beautifully, and I then had to unwrap it from the Evil Wrap.
That's 3.5 STICKS of butter.  Oh yeah.
Then I plopped it onto the rolled-out dough and aligned it.  IT WAS PERFECT.  I'm so proud.

YAAAY!  Butter on dough!
Ok, so I had to adjust it a wee bit.
Then i folded it over. It was like Iron Chef and Breakfast At Tiffany's rolled into one, it was so awesome.

Side view.  See the butter? 
Then I had to seal the edges.  It said in the recipe that you're supposed to use the rolling pin for this, but I didn't trust it after the "Great Butter Smooshing" episode of November 2011.  Which was just earlier this evening.
I sealed the edges with my fingers.  I actually went around it a few times, just to be sure, since I didn't want any leakage like the Chicken Kiev Incident of 1998.

Then.  The great Rolling of the Dough begins.  The goal was to pound and roll the dough/butter into a 9 X 18 rectangle EXACTLY.  Ok.  Poundpoundpound.
I really did measure it right, not with the ruler all crooked. 
As it turns out, it takes considerably LESS FORCE to pound the dough/butter than one might suspect.  (OK.  I admit.  I saw "POUND" in the directions and I ... lost my head a bit.)
At this point, the dough is afraid of me.  "Don't pound me, bro!"
It took some nudging and squishing to get it to the right dimensions, but I thin k I did ok.

Now comes the FOLDING THE DOUGH like and ENVELOPE part.  I had been waiting for this!  IT was so awesome!
You're supposed to fold the bottom THIRD up, and then the top THIRD down.  Now, when you do this, each segment is SIX INCHES TALL.  I did the math myself, thankyouverymuch.

LOOK!  They actually were six inches each!  This is considered "One Turn" in croissantology*.
[*another invented word]
Now, you're supposed to rotate the dough so the closed edge is to the left, so ... 1/4 turn counterclockwise, or "widdershins" for all the Wiccans in the crowd.
Widdershins dough.
Now, pound/roll it out to 9 X 18 inches again.  I used greater self-control this time.
Can you say "Fabulous"? I knew you could.

Ooooh!  All 18-inches-ish!  But.  Needed to make it wider.
That's my Grandma Allison's rolling pin.
Now I did the "envelope fold" thingy again.
I'm serious, people.  This is fun.
Now, the website suggested pressing two fingers onto the corner to remind me that I've done two "turns."
The texture of this dough?  Like ... velvet, the best moisturizer you've ever used, baby butts, and maybe really nice gloves.  Rose petals.  Mmmm.
Then it gets wrapped up and tucked safely in the fridge for an hour, and then two more 'turns.'
Rest well, darling.  The Country Crock will keep you safe.
Rest in the fridge for one hour, or one glass of dry Riesling, whichever takes longer.  I'm guessing the hour.
I came back an hour or so later and repeated the roll to 18X9 inches again .  Then I did the whole "foldfold, turn, roll, foldfold" thing again.
And I refrigerated again.

I went off the grid here for a bit.  I could have been done, ready to rest for 8 hours or whatnot.  I decided against.  I REALLY want to make these so we can have them for breakfast tomorrow.

So here's what I did, and woe betide me if this causes them to fail.

I did ANOTHER turn (roll, foldfold, turn, roll, foldfold) and then I popped it back into the fridge briefly.
I decided "heck with it."  I cut the dough in half as suggested in the recipe.

Then I wrapped up half of it and put it back in the fridge like the recipe said.
The other half, I just jumped ahead in the recipe and:

ROLLED OUT.  Waaaaaay out.

Rolled to 6 1/2 inches X 20 inches.
Now, again, I veered. I was supposed to refrigerate until chilled (20 minutes), but I took my life into my own hands and just went ahead and started the cutting.
That is my very favorite knife.  I call her Vera.  (anybody get the joke?)

I measured 5 inches from the edge and made a mark (actually, you can see that I did not follow the 'measure twice, cut once' theory, and made a few errors).  Then another mark 5 more inches in and so on.

Then on the OTHER side, I measured 2 1/2 inches in (to get the point at the halfway mark), then 5 inches, then 5 and so on. 

I cut from mark to mark to make triangles.
See the errors?  I am not perfect ALL the time because then you'd hate me.

THEN, as per the recipe, I made slits in the wide side of the triangle.
Then I began the rolling.

Now, anybody who's made those "tube" crescent rolls can do this, I think.  It's the same thing.  But just WAAAAY cooler.
I had to do a little bending to make the typical shape.
The points didn't want to stay down, so I put them on the bottom.

AGAIN, I veered.  Instead of lining the pans with parchment paper (which I didn't have, but thought I did, hence some more swearing), I used baking spray.  Sue me.

Uh-oh!  There are two half-circles of dough left!  What to do?
Left over from making chocolate souffles

Pain au chocolat.  Or something.  Basically, I inserted some roughly chopped semi-sweet baking chocolate.  Then I folded them over and sealed the edges.  We'll see how that comes out.

Now, I'm going to let these rise on the counter overnight.  It's pretty cool in there, so I suspect it'll be fine.  The other half of the dough is in the fridge, and I'll follow the directions better tomorrow.  I'm getting tired.

Maybe croissants for breakfast?  How awesome would that be?
Well, I DID IT!
I woke up at 7 a.m. and turned the oven on to 375F.  Preheated for a good while.
I whisked one egg with a blop of cream, and -- lacking a pastry brush -- I used a folded-up paper towel to brush on the egg wash.

Popped them into the oven next.
See the two on the top left?  Those are the chocolate ones.
Set the timer to 25 minutes

And mere minutes later, it started smelling AMAZING in the house.
 I kept looking in through the window of the oven door, feeling a lot like a kid peeking around the corner to see if Santa's been there yet.
Note to self: clean the oven window.
Then, finally, the "reveal."
The two on the bottom right are the chocolate ones.

Eau. Mah. Gah.

I did it.
Teddy, in profile, on bottom right.

Now, the morals of this story.

I would try to keep the dough chilled MORE at the end (the final folds) because I suspect they would have been even flakier had I done that.

I could also probably try again with LESS BUTTER (I know, I know) and have it be successful.

The recipe said to let the croissants cool completely before serving, and they're right.  I had one hot out of the oven, and the center was rather wet and smooshy, but when I had a cooled one later, it was nice and flaky almost to the very center.

Finally, I think I'd bake them for a few minutes MORE.  While the pictures I have here don't show that the croissants were actually a nice honey/gold color, I think with maybe 5 more minutes, they'd have been a deeper gold/brown, so I'll try that with the next half (remember, I still have half the dough in the fridge!).

This project was started last night at 6 p.m. and it wrapped up at 7:30 this morning.  It should have taken longer (more resting time), but I pushed it.  But even saying that, I would (had I made the entire batch) have had 24 perfectly lovely HOMEMADE croissants in just over 12 hours.

Monetary cost:
Butter (4 sticks): about $4
Cream (one little pint thingy): about $3
Flour, salt, yeast: maybe $1

Actual hands-on time, probably an hour or so.
Baking time 25-30 minutes

I give myself a good solid A- for this!