Thursday, June 28, 2012

Clotted Cream (homemade) and jam

This is what I want...

I am relatively confident in my biscuit and scone abilities.  I have been perpetually frustrated by the lack of high fat milk and cream in this town.  I think all the dairy here is a little limp.  I have had a hankering for a good old fashioned cream tea and the number one attendee has to be clotted cream.

Clotted cream is insanely expensive in the stores and I am sure it's full of preservatives.  I have sampled it and even the imported stuff isn't the same as across the pond.  I am sure there's some importing rule about adding things that the Devon cows just don't have.

I'm simply going to smile, nod, and make my own.  Hell, I make everything else myself these days, bread, cheese, eggs (well, soon, the chickens are very very happy and I have total faith in their ability to keep us in eggs) so adding clotted cream to the mix isn't a stretch.

Clotted cream is thick and has a pale yellow tinge (in my memory) which *I* think I'll get by a very very very long and slow roast.  I went and did some online research and it appears I am right.

So, the day before I anticipate clotted cream, cream tea nirvana, I turned my oven to just shy of 200 degrees, poured a quart of the best quality (least pasturized) heavy cream I could find into a 9x13 crock and shoved it in the oven.

Timer set for 8 hours.  Now, we wait.
Ok, so, this is the saddest 'beauty' shot ever...  I put this in the oven and...we wait...

After 3 hours, it's doing SOMEthing...  (seriously, I do not have this sort of patience, next time I put it in at bedtime!)

After 8 hours, this smells INCREDIBLE!  Smells like caramel, buttery caramel.

It is taking EVERY ounce of my (substantial) being not to poke around with this.  I moved it to the counter, covered it lightly and walked away.  When it's room temperature, I'll put it in the fridge and we'll play with it in the morning. It needs to set up and every thing I do to it now will impede that and I care more about what's going to greet me in the morning than the satisfaction of futzing now.  

Seriously, this is agonizing. 


Ok, I took it out of the fridge and it looks the same but the 'crust' is thick and feels like leather.  This can't be good.  But WAIT!  I shoved a spoon, gingerly, on the sides and it began to roll up!  IT'S CLOTTED CREAM! The whey is pale and the solids are totally clotted and, well just LOOK!

it looks like ice cream but it's not!  It rolled up in one piece and I plunked it in a bowl, a little edge scraping and this is all that wasn't in one piece!

Fresh mound and then after I stirred it up, the crust incorporated nicely.  You still get little pieces that sort of disintegrate when you eat them.  This stuff is the bomb!  I think it's pretty authentic and all this only cost me $1.75.  I can't get a can of it for that price.

This is how much liquid is left from the pint of heavy cream.  I'm going to use 1 cup of it in the scones that will be under this cream in a couple of hours.  So, no waste! (like there ever is here).  This is my $1.75 investment.  Not bad if you ask me.

Sure, it takes time but it's not time that you have to DO anything. I think it's worth doing for friends coming or a cream tea.  Luckily, I have friends coming today AND tomorrow so it'll be well used up and sampled by the "Yanks".  I'll convert them one at a time!

Yeah, I'm a happy camper.  DO THIS!



I made a quickie homemade jam to go on the scones and under the clotted cream:

1 lb strawberries, hulled and chopped
a few scrapes of lemon zest and the juice of 1 good lemon

BOIL until it the strawberries are cooked, 5 minutes?

Add 3/4 cup sugar and boil for 10-15 minutes, until it passes the wrinkle test.  Put a little blob on a cold plate, if, when you push your finger on the side toward the middle, it wrinkles, it's done!

Pour into a glass blown and shove it in the fridge.  After a it's cooled down a bit, cover it and eat it when it's cold, on scones, under clotted cream :)

Quickie jam!


Oh and the picture at the beginning of what I wanted... it's EXactly what I got.  Joy!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Caramel rice with spices (an experiment)

I have been cooking a lot lately.  I am supposed to be sewing but I have the culinary bug big time and I've had hankerings I simply cannot shake.  The unfortunate thing about me getting a hankering is the fact I immediately walk into my kitchen and wonder, "seriously, how hard can this be?".

I have had an Asian food hankering lately. I can't seem to get enough Chinese food.  I went on a Banh mi hunt last week and found the best in town...I love Thai food.  I was thinking about spice and sweet and rice.  Sticky rice to be exact, I was thinking about sticky rice with coconut and mango and it sort of went off course and turned into rice with caramel and spices and nuts...  it was an experiment on a Wednesday morning when I had time and tastebuds to kill. 

I wanted something sweet and savory.  I seem to recall seeing something about frying meat in caramel and wondered if you could do it with rice. I did some internet cruising, couldn't find that which struck me as a hankering satisfier so ventured out on my own. This is what I did, I think I like it, a lot.

Caramel Rice with Spice

Amounts are approximate, this is a method rather than a recipe.

I grabbed a large handful of nuts (hazelnuts, cashew, pistachio, almond)
Fry them lightly in butter or ghee (I actually HAD ghee) and remove them to set aside.

Fry a large handful of basmati, about a cup, until it's toasty, remove and set aside.

Throw a handful of sugar in the pot with a splash of water and boil like crazy to make a caramel.  When it's the color you like and can smell it, add about 2 1/2-3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Add the rice to the boiling liquid along with a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp mace, 1/8 tsp allspice.  I wanted cardamom but didn't have it.  I was going to add turmeric but forgot.

Cover and turn to lowest setting, cook until rice is done, 15 minutes?  Uncover and fluff with fork then put a towel over the pot with the lid and remove from heat.  Leave it to steam about 5 minutes.

Toss with the nuts (and any dried fruit you like) and serve.

It's warm and savory and sweet and crunchy and soft and it feels as though it hits all the flavors I had a hankering for.

I think it's worth a try, add your favorite spice, favorite dried fruit (I'd add them in with the rice to cook/soften)  It's a totally different culinary experience than I've had lately and I like it.  I think it'd be fantastic served with some poured cream or yogurt (slightly sweetened) over it.

I'm going to continue to tweak this but I wanted it up as something a little different to try.

These are the action shots:

Roast/fry the nuts and set them aside.  TRY not to eat them all before the rice is cooked.

Fry the rice in some ghee or butter until it's nutty smelling and toasty.  Set it aside too.

Toss some sugar and water in the pot and boil it down to a caramel

boil boil boil, that's the color I'm looking for!

Add water quickly! Caramel steam bath! Add the toasted rice and the spices (and any dried fruit you want)

When it's back to the boil, cover and cook.  Then let it steam for a few minutes.

Fluff it with a fork and combine with the toasty nuts and/or raisins (a new addition we just thought of) and dried fruit.  This stuff is definitely "more-ish".  A friend and I had a long conversation about it and think it might be nice stuffed inside a pork loin or roast.  I think it's on my short list of things to try. 

I also think it's nice with a drizzle of yogurt/honey or unwhipped unsweetened cream.

I can't decide if this is dessert, lunch, a snack or a side.  I do know, however, that I keep sticking my fork into it and am thoroughly enjoying the flavor signature.  (oooooh, I got all chef-y there!)

I think it's worth a try.  Let me know what you think.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Soft Pretzels

A friend of mine went to the 'fancy' grocery store in town and posted a picture of soft pretzels.  She got one and showed it with a slathering of mustard.  Way to get my juices flowing! 

It's 100+stupid degrees here in Austin, TX, this week so I had no intentions of going out to get a pretzel.  I also refuse to give the "fancy" store my business so it was up to me.

Before I came to the States, I used to make pretzels just for me.  I haven't made them for years.  Not one to be beaten by a little thing like heat and memory loss, I dove headfirst into my enormous pile of papers that I call recipes but really are lists of ingredients.  FOUND IT!

These aren't authentic but they're delicious and they seriously satisfy my pretzel hankering. 


In the bowl of the kitchen aid, dump (all together) 

3 cups (VERY LOOSELY measured) all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons soft margarine (really, it works better than butter but use it if you have it)
1 cup warm water

Combine with the dough hook and let it knead for you until a very soft, smooth, dough forms.  Mine took about 3 minutes.


Look how soft and lovely this dough is: 

Put dough back in mixing bowl, see how it cleaned the sides?! Cover it with a damp towel and leave to double, mine took about 40 minutes.  Ok already, this is WAY more than doubled.  I ran to the UPS store while this was rising.  I will wager mine would double in 20 minutes.  I must add that my friends think that dough rises faster in my house because of the yeast in the air ?  I do bake bread virtually daily so there might be something to that.  In a nutshell, this doesn't take long to double.

Cut the dough into 12 pieces and roll each into a ball.  Leave the balls under the damp towel while you work.

Roll each ball into a long log, 12-16 inches long maybe? *Connor stepped in to help roll*

Bring the edges up and cross them at the top.  Then cross it again. Fold the top down and pinch it to seal. Form them all and cover what you're not using with the towel to stop it from drying out too much.

Ah, rolling and twisting and flipping and sealing.

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil with 5 teaspoons baking soda added (I told you these weren't authentic, I don't have Lye here to cook with) Boil 3 pretzels at a time for 2 minutes, flipping half way through.

boil boil boil

Carefully remove them to a rack to dry for a moment. Salt them with some crushed sea salt!  Transfer them to a baking sheet (with a Silpat or greased) and bake at 475 for 12-15 minutes.  Just bake them until they are beautiful.  I bake mine on the upper third of my oven so the tops get as brown as the bottoms.

Oh, my goodness gracious me, they DO look rather pretzel-ly, don't you think??

They have a beautiful crumb.  Look at that pull!  They are light and salty and pretzelly! They stretch and are chewy but still soft.  The crust is hard and crisp on the bottom but softer on top.  I love these. I just had to add the beauty shots:

I spent the next while pulling them apart and dipping their salty, chewy, goodness into plain old mustard.  Oh yes, this will do nicely to make me this happy.  They might be my new party trick.  I may make them sticks next time but pulling apart the twist is sort of addictive.

So, don't get dressed and drive to the fancy grocery store for an overpriced pretzel.  Throw some flour in your kitchen aid and make an entire batch for a fraction of that.  As I said these aren't the Lye soaked beauties of years ago but they're delicious and have the right flavor and mouth feel.

I'll make them regularly again, thanks fancy grocery store for reminding me.