Monday, March 26, 2012

Cheddar-Chile Biscuits

So it all started with a bowl of chili. It was meant to be vegan and three-bean. It ended up being beef with chipotle. I was going to make cheddar biscuits to go alongside, but I was running late, the husband was on his way home and I had some fingerling potatoes in my grocery bags. You can probably guess how this went.

We had homemade chili cheese fries for dinner. It was awesome.

But you know when something gets in your head and you can't get it out? Or when you have several hours to kill so you decide to make a gigantic mess of your kitchen?

No? You don't do that? neither.

Cheddar-Chile Biscuits
9 ounces (2 scant cups) all-purpose flour + more for rolling out
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chile powder (optional)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2-3 dashes Tabasco (optional)
2 eggs, beaten + one for washing
1/4 pound (4 oz) shredded Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar, or whatever)
4 ounce can of green chiles or jalapenos, drained

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and chile powder in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix together. Add butter and pulse in short bursts until the butter is chopped up and the size of lima beans. Open the top and dump in the wet ingredients: sour cream, buttermilk, Tabasco and 2 eggs. Pulse until it starts to come together and form a wet, shaggy dough.
Looks pretty gnarly at this stage...
Open the top one more time and dump in the cheese and chilies. Pulse a few times more until it is thoroughly combined. Ideally, you'll still have visible lumps of butter in the dough. Remove dough from processor to a floured cutting board and pat the dough into a square about an inch thick. You may need to flour your hands if the dough is particularly sticky. Cut the dough into squares and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the biscuits with the last beaten egg and then put in the oven. Bake until puffed and golden, about 15-18 minutes. Serve with chili, or any other stew dish that needs bread for mopping up.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Carrot-Zucchini Bread

I've got a lot of really dingy looking produce. Not just bashed around and beat up, but really questionable "this might be growing hair" veggies. How did this happen?

I forgot about them. Well, actually, I conveniently forgot about the juice cleanse I was going to use them all up on.

Normally, I'd toss the vegetation, lament my failures as a wife and secretly hope that none of those starving children in China hear about this little oopsie. But then two weeks worth of freelance work up and walked away and I had a little more in common with those starving children in China than I wanted to.

So, in the words of the oft-misquoted Marie-Antoinette, "Let them eat cake made with vegetables (that very closely resembles bread)!"

That's not what you learned in high school? Well....I did go to private school. It's not your fault.

This is a regular old quickbread, that takes a couple of cues from carrot cake - namely the raisins and chopped walnuts - and combines them with the ever-popular applesauce/oil swap out. You could easily use applesauce instead of the carrot applesauce that I used, but it'll taste more like apples and less like carrots. And that's OK.

1 cup carrot-applesauce (I used 3 packs of Trader Joe's Crushers)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 small carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
3 small zucchini and/or crookneck squash, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan, and line it with parchment paper. Whisk together applesauce, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth and well-combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon.

Now, what I did next is not "proper." You're supposed to add the dry to the wet and mix until just combined - which means no white streaks of flour/don't beat the hell out of it. But I did it backwards because I had two different sized bowls and the dry stuff was in the bigger one.

It happens. My bread still tasted good.

So drop your carrots and squash, raisins and walnuts in the flour and toss it around with your hands. This will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the bread. Think of the flour as little Velcro fingers keeping the zucchini elevated. It works.

Then pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Just get rid of the white streaks of flour. Pour it into the loaf pan - it will be very, very full. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted comes out mostly-clean. (It's OK if there are bits of bread sticking to it - you just don't want it to be raw or gluey.)

Let cool, slice and serve. I like it slathered in butter.