June 10, 2006

Recipe: Buttermilk Biscuits


These biscuits are really, really good. I didn't have chives or old cheddar for this batch, but I've made it since with both and it really is much better with the chives. The recipe comes from Fine Cooking magazine (Winter 2005) by Carolyn Weil and is only slightly modified.

Edit: I've added modifications to make them even better! Check here for the changes that are incorporated here and a picture of the higher, flakier results! The tri folding sounds hard, but is actually easier than kneading. The tri-fold mixing technique is something borrowed from puff pastry and makes the biscuits even higher and flakier.

Preheat oven to 415F

Whisk together:
9 oz (2 cups) flour (stir and spoon into measure, if not weighing)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (reduced - more for swiss cheese)

Cut slices of very cold butter into the flour Then briskly press the slices even thinner in the butter with your fingertips:
1/4 lb (1/2 cup) cold butter cubed

Toss lightly in, in order:
1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar or swiss
1/2 cup finely chopped chives

Stir in:
2/3 cup buttermilk

The dough will be sticky and shaggy. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured parchment lined baking sheet.

Pat and shape the dough into a 2-3 cm thick rectangle (proportions a bit stubbier than a sheet of paper). Don't worry if there's a lot of unincorporated flour and wet spots.

Using the parchment to lift the dough, tri-fold the sheet into thirds like a letter that's going into an envelope (bottom edge to two thirds up, the top third over top of the 2 first layers).

Pat the dough back out into a rectangle (it'll be longer the other way now) and tri-fold again (left to 2/3 across, right third over the 2 first layers).

Pat the dough out one last time and tri fold one last time. This is creating exponential amounts of thin layers of butter - almost 250 layers! This doesn't take much time, but if your mixture starts getting oily or warm at any point on a really hot day, stick the whole tray into the fridge for 20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.

Pat the packet of dough into a squarish kind of shape, about 2-3 cm thick.

Trim the edges of the square with a sharp knife and cut what's left into 9 squares. (Trimming all edges allows the biscuits to rise fully.) Take the trimmings and form into another biscuit, trimming the edges again. Take the new trimmings and just bake in a tiny ball.

Space the biscuits out on the parchment / baking sheet and put it into the preheated oven. Turn the heat immediately down to 390F.

and bake until firm and golden brown on top and golden brown on the bottom - 15-18 minutes.

Serve warm.

Posted by JAY at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2006

Lemon Meringue Try


I don't have a great recipe for lemon meringue. It's always a bit of a hassle, because the filling has to be just right - just barely set enough to hold its shape. Too soft and it's a mess. To solid and it tastes pasty. The acidic lemon juice interferes with the gelling properties of the corn starch. As well, it's hard to gauge how thick the filling will be when fully cooled. Finally, getting the right balance of sweet and tart is also hard - high temperatures while cooking over-emphasize sweetness.

Getting a crisp crust under a liquid filling is almost impossible. Add a mostly uncooked meringue topping that's prone to weeping and collapse and you have a recipe that's really hard to get right. This picture was taken maybe a couple of hours after baking and it's already lost some of its loft. Perhaps an italian meringue beat with hot sugar syrup might solve that problem.

More research needed...

Posted by JAY at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006

Furniture Delivery

I call it... modern-cheap! Nono, Malaysian-chic! Er, Malaysian-cheap, I guess. Apparently, all my furniture so far has come from Malaysia. I've talked about the awesomely discounted dining chair ($30!) before and ottoman ($100!) previously, but there wasn't a picture. The couch came from The Brick ($400, inexpensive for a sofa, but not really discounted...boo!) and was a pain in the butt to assemble. Now I just need window hangings and a chair and lamp or two. Maybe some cushions...

My appliances were also delivered - stove, fridge, washer and dryer, all from The Brick. The delivery went smoovely... they gave a 3 hour window that they would be arriving in and came pretty early into it.

Oh, and you can see some of the view from my back door.

Posted by JAY at 06:45 PM | Comments (5)

June 21, 2006

Whups.

Jen told me yesterday that I'd not been publishing comments - apparently some got junked inadvertently (I get a fair amount of spam comments I guess they kinda got lost in the crowd!.)

Posted by JAY at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

Board Games

Thanks to Jen and Dan I've been playing a lot of board games that I haven't tried before. They're a lot of fun - Settlers of Cataan (and the variations, which I don't really like as much), Tigris and Euphrates, Power Grid, Modern Art, Heave Ho and others that escape my memory for now. Unfortunately, a lot of them require a lot of math (Modern Art) and planning (Settlers/Tigris) - not my areas of expertise. So I kinda suck :-) but I have fun anyway.

Posted by JAY at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

10 Minute Banana Anything Cake

Jen and Dan seemed to like this, my parents maybe not so much - there was a lot left when I got home. I kind of like it too, and it's not very much work. The idea of using the potato masher came from a cooking show. Basically, you just mash everything together. As long as the flour/rising ingredients are close, you should be fine

Recipe follows...

Banana Anything Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mash with a potato masher:
(2-) 3 bananas, very ripe

Mash in:
2 (-3) eggs
3/4 cups veg/canola/safflower oil (can be reduced to 1/2)
1 cup brown sugar (or demerara, or white)

Gently mash in a mixture of:
(you can just dump it on top of the mashed stuff, flour first, and mix the dry stuff on top before mixing it in)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Optionally mix in (1/2 cup to 1 cup total):
nutmeg (as much/little as you want)
cinnamon (few tsps)
raisins
walnuts
chocolate chips
orange/lemon zest

Line the bottom of a 9" round non-stick cake pan with parchment, pour in batter and bake for about 30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a plate.
Remove paper and invert again onto a rack to get the flat bottom of the cake downwards.
Cool for a bit, then serve.

Posted by JAY at 12:56 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2006

Gassing

Spent today hooking up gas to the stove with my father. Yeesh. What a lot of work it was! We spent the morning taking measurements and the afternoon trying to make our measured pipes fit. What makes it difficult is that you kind of have to start at the end and work back to where you want to add a 'branch' in the gas line.

In our case, that meant unhooking the furnace and the water heater. The actual work wasn't difficult, just tedious and physical. The measurements actually worked fairly well - but we ended up being short a 3 inch pipe that we'd paid for but the gas vender people forgot to include in our package. A quick trip to Home Depot remedied that.

We haven't turned the gas on yet - going to test it all out tomorrow. *fingers crossed*

Edit: It's aliiiive! Yay!

Posted by JAY at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2006

Ikea

Headed to Ikea this morning to pick up a kitchen table and a chair. I also picked up some minor stuff - including some cheap window curtain thingies (rods-$10 each and drapes-$10/panel). When I got home to unload, however, I found that my driveway had been paved and I couldn't drive on it. So it's all still in the car.

Posted by JAY at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2006

Nanoo Nanoo!


TD Bank is having a promo where you can get a free iPod Nano. I learned about it at Red Flag Deals, my favorite deals site. The trick is to sign up for a TD Visa Gold and get the fees waived by opening a Select Service account. Of course, to do that without fees, you have to put $5000 in the account. There have been reports of some branches waiving the fees on the account for 3 months - but not mine. Couldn't hurt to ask, though!

The new iPod is SO nice - it's tiny, has a very clear, bright color LCD which can display photos and a customizable interface. VERY cool. In the background, you can see my old school 2nd gen iPod - I think they're on 5th gen by now!

Posted by JAY at 09:11 PM | Comments (4)