Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Kalach

My Mom, being a good sport, taught me how to make kalach, or kolach, the traditional Ukrainian Christmas bread this weekend. The recipe is my Baba's. Traditionally, this bread is braided into a ring. This ring has some special symbolism. But we just make boules - there are enough things to do at Christmas already.
Kalach is part of the traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal of 12 meatless dishes. My family celebrates Christmas on Christmas day and usually eat this bread for breakfast.

The dried cranberries are not traditional, but my Mom thought they would be a good idea to try out. The recipe makes four loaves. My mother has an exceptionally large bowl to make this in - it is about twice the size of a regular mixing bowl.

Christmas Kalach
To proof the yeast:
4 packages or 10 tsps of yeast,
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup

For the sponge:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour

Everything else:
1 cup sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
zest of one lemon
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
7-8 cups flour

1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Proof the yeast by dissolving the sugar in the water and adding the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve for about 10mins.
2. Warm the milk. Add to dissolved yeast with 1 cup of flour. Let rest for 45mins in a warm place. My parents keep there house very cool, so my mother turned the oven on for a few minutes to warm it up and then turned off the oven and let the sponge rise in there. The sponge is done when it is full of holes. According to my mom it should look like a sponge; thus, the name. See the picture below.
3. Once the sponge is spongy, in a separate bowl beat the eggs and yolk together, along with the salt. Add the remaining sugar gradually. Then add the melted butter, vanilla, zest and orange juice.
Add the egg mixture to the sponge, then mix in the remaining flour one cup at a time. My mom says the dough will be very soft. I found it very sticky. Knead the dough for 10mins. My mom's tip for kneading the dough is to keep flouring your hands. Once the dough has been kneaded I mixed in the raisins and cranberries.
4. Let the dough rise for about an hour and punch it down. Let rise again and form into four balls. Let the balls rise until double in size.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cook for 15mins. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, cover with foil. Then bake at 300F for 45mins. The bread is done when it sounds hollow if you tap the bottom.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday Night Chicken

I've been wanting to make a roast chicken for a while. I pre-salted Zuni style, you can read the Zuni Roast chicken recipe here. My Mom has made this roast chicken many times and is the most requested birthday meal by my brothers and me. I salted it the day before I made it, as well as stuffing thyme and sage under the skin. The salting makes the chicken very moist. I think it works the same way as brining a turkey. The herbs under the skin make the breast meat very flavourful.

After consultation with my Mom, I decided to cook it at 375, instead of 450. She says the chicken smokes a lot if you cook it at 450 and the oven is a mess afterwards. She also thought my whole apt would smell like chicken.
I didn't have a roasting pan. But I was very clever and make a rack out the carrots - okay, I saw it on tv. It took about 1.5 hours to cook. Off to the side are some simple roast potatoes with thyme.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Delicious - and Easy - Mushroon Sauce

This is almost too easy to post. But it was so delicious. I served it as sauce to go with some simple roasted chicken breasts and some egg noodles.

Mushroom Sauce

1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used a canola-olive oil blend)
1.5 cups of sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp flour
1/2 chicken stock
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

1. Fry mushrooms in oil until they get start releasing moisture.
2. Add flour and cook for another 2 mins.
3. Add chicken stock and thyme and reduce. (Basically, boil it a bit until it doesn't seem to soupy.) Taste sauce and add salt and pepper as you like.

I found that since the chicken stock is pretty salty already and I reduced it I had to add hardly any salt.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More bread

I mixed things up with the no-knead bread this weekend. I used 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat. I found I had to use less water - about 1 1/4 cups - and that my boule was also smaller.

My technique has been to mix the dough with my hands and add the first cup of water all at once. I then add the remaining 1/2 cup of water gradually, until I get the consistency from the video. This is how I figured out how much water to use for the whole wheat loaf.

And, just because I think this one turned out super pretty:

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Cuboards are Bare!

I was thinking so much about Paul's birthday dinner that kind of forgot I had to eat for the rest of the week too. On Tuesday I discovered I had zero fresh vegetables. I had two options: peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of the week, or I could get creative. I poked around the cupboard and found I had a can of white kidney beans and a can of tuna. I little googling came up with a recipe for White Bean Tuna Salad. I decided to use the recipe as a rough template.

But I cheated a bit and got a few more supplies. On my way home from school, I stopped at Whole foods on my way home and pick up some veggies, and a bagel: total cost $4.24. If you are careful, Whole Foods can fit on the grad school budget. And it has the nicest produce walking distance from my house.

Tuna White Bean Salad

2 tbsp finely chopped onion
19oz can white kidney beans
170g can of tuna
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper

handful of baby spinach

1. Place onion, and beans in a small bowl. Break up tuna coarsely with your hands and add to beans.
2. Mix lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, sugar, olive oil, and basil (I like to do this in a measuring cup) . Pour dressing over beans and tuna. I let this sit overnight to let the beans absorb some of the flavour of the dressing. Otherwise beans are a little dreadful.
3. To serve I mixed half of the salad with a handful of spinach.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Bake Off

The word on the internet is that holiday cookies are not the thing. The thing is home made pickles. Well, that's not how I roll. I love making holiday cookies. But I like it to be easy, because it's a busy time of year. Last year I was burned: I made type of cookie for gifts I had never tried before and they turned out dry, crumbly and tasteless.

This year I am baking what worked last year and was easy. I have a chocolate cookie and a butter pecan cookie from an ice-box cookie recipe. But two types of cookies is just not enough. I wanted something citrus. On Martha's website, I found Lemon-Currant Cookies. To make it a little more seasonal I used orange zest and dried cranberries. This was easy and delicious. I am freezing 1/2 the dough to see how well it freezes.

Orange-Cranberry Cookies

Follow the above recipe swapping:

1 tbsp orange zest for the lemon zest
3/4 cup dried cranberries for the currants
And add 1 tbsp vanilla with the sour cream and egg.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Birthday Paul

Last Friday was a special day. To celebrate Paul's birthday I made him a special meal.

The cooking festivies started Thursday. I made a chocolate bundt cake, from the recipe in the current Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking magazine.
The cake was fairly easy - but took a while to make - probably because I making it during the commercials in Ugly Betty. I had only two small problems when making the cake. They suggested painting on a mixture of cocoa powder and butter to grease the pan. I had no pastry brush and tried to do this with wax paper. Let's just say there's a reason they say to use a pastry brush. Also, I had to cook the cake another 15 mins. But the instructions on how to test the cake were very clear. Overall I have been really impressed with the recipes I have tried from Cook's Illustrated. The recipe is a keeper and would be good for a large party. I took the leftovers to my family.

To go with the cake I made mocha whipped cream. I modified this recipe.

Mocha Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream
3 oz bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate, chopped finely
1 tbsp instant coffee

1. Place chocolate and instant coffee in a small heat proof bowl. (If you don't like doing dishes, use a bowl large enough to whip the cream in later.)
2. Warm cream in a sauce pan until it is close to a boil.
3. Pour cream over chocolate. Let sit 5 mins then stir until mixture is homogeneous.

I let the chocolate cream mixture cool over night and then prepared it the way I would prepare regular whipped cream by beating it and adding about two tsp of sugar.

For the non-dessert potion of the meal I made something I saw on the cooking channel - and lamely, I made the whole menu. Well, not exactly, I made boilled potatos instead of mashed because Paul like boiled potatos better. I don't get it. Additionally, the snow peas and the green beans looked yucky at the supermarket so I got brocolli instead. I steamed the brocolli and tossed it with sesame oil - it was okay, but not something I will do again.

Now, the ribs. You may notice the recipe uses "good ale". I have never purchased beer, so aquiring this "good ale" was somewhat of an adventure. However, the LCBO near my house stocks the brand recommended and besides a sligh mishap when I enquired about getting a leaver to open the bottle the ale was purchased without incident.

Next step, buy the ribs. I had a hazy idea on what beef ribs were - but I wasn't expecting this.
However, they turned out very tender. The recipe was time consuming but easy. I might reduce the sauce a little next time.

Overall, it was a fun night.