Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Apple Pancake... That's Not

When I think of my childhood, the first thing that inevitably comes to mind is the countless number of afternoons I spent with Legos. While other little girls were playing House or wielding a naked Barbie, my sister and I were on a mission to create the ideal-but-blocky Lego Town. Those were good times, simple times.

But beyond that, a memory that comes in a close second - and makes my tummy growl - is this delightfully sweet breakfast treat, Apple Pancake.

I've never been a morning person, but there is nothing that can get me to 'rise and shine' like a good, hot breakfast. As a kid (and as a bigger kid) there were many chilly Fall mornings where the only thing that could coax me from under the warm covers was this magical little pancake, that's actually not really a pancake at all.

It's hard to describe, so really, you should just make it and thank me later. But for the skeptics out there, it's kind of like a cup of custard and an apple pie had a baby. But, heck, pancake sounds a bit healthier and more breakfast-y, so let's go with it.

I like to make mine in a cast iron skillet, while my mom prefers her favorite copper-plated pan. To each, his own, I say. Because regardless of the vessel, this dish will truly change your mornings from here on out.

Enjoy :)

Apple Pancake

5 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 heaping cup flour

6-8 small apples (I use a mix of Granny Smiths, Gala, Jonagold for a deeper flavor profile)
3-4 tablespoons butter

When the apples are browned and softened, add a good helping of cinnamon (teaspoon?) and brown sugar (1/4 cup?).

Cook for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Sprinkle more brown sugar (2-3 tablespoons) and butter (2 tablespoons?) over the top and place under the broiler until thoroughly melted.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Experiment #2: Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I've always wanted to like brussel sprouts, but until this past Christmas, couldn't get myself on board. But then, my mom - with the help of Guy Fieri - changed my perspective forever with his Bumped-Up Brussel Sprouts. I was skeptical at first, but alas, I succumbed to the allure of pancetta, capers and pine nuts. And boy, was I glad I did. The sprouts were, by far, my favorite part of the meal, and I wasn't the only one. Guy's recipe was so good, my relatives were eating leftover sprouts off of other people's plates, refusing to let a single one go into the garbage. That day I gained a new level of respect for him and for this humble vegetable. Kudos, Guy.

Now that I've seen the light, brussel sprouts are one of my favorites, and recently, I made a delightful version that I'd love to share. They were so good, Colin and I were literally fighting over the last bite.

Fighting over brussel sprouts. Huh. Never saw that one coming.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Maple Balsamic Glaze
adapted from Weight Watchers

1 pound uncooked Brussel sprouts, trimmed
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons salt (kosher's best)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a large nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice Brussels sprouts in half, if large; place on prepared baking sheet. Add oil, salt and pepper; toss well to coat. Roast, stirring and rotating pan halfway through cooking, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, maple syrup in a small saucepan; set over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes.

Spoon Brussels sprouts into a serving dish; drizzle with syrup mixture just before serving. 

Yields about a heaping 3/4 cup per serving.

And for those of you who may be curious about PointsPlus, it'll cost you 3, but I'd be willing to bet it will be the best three points you spend all day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Experiment #1: Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread

I've been dating my boyfriend Colin for a little over a year now, and ever since we met, I've been promising to master the art and science of gluten free baking. He loves sweets as much as I do, but the learning curve of turning my favorite baked goodies into something that wouldn't poison him always seemed too large to overcome.

But something changed last week. St. Patrick's Day was upon us, and I couldn't bear thinking that Colin would have to sit at the dinner table with me and my family, watching us partake in the wonder that is Irish Soda Bread without a version of his own. So I decided that - for good or for bad - my first foray into the world of gluten free baking would be with this quickbread I love so much.

After consulting a fellow blogger, whom I consider an expert on the subject, I ventured out to Whole Foods, with a list of foreign ingredients and a healthy dose of skepticism. An hour and $65 later, I was back in my kitchen, ready to embark on this culinary-favorite-gone-science-experiment.

To my surprise and delight, it went together quickly and without much trouble. At dinner we did a taste test, and although the textures were very different, the flavors of the breads were very similar - one guest even said he preferred the gluten free version over the 'regular' (thanks, Joe!). And most importantly, Colin loved it so much, he ate half last night and finished the rest this morning. I think I may have gotten over my fear of the strange ingredients with high price tags - and now I'm excited to tackle the next challenge.

Here's the recipe I used, adapted from Karina over at Gluten Free Goddess.

Gluten-Free Irish Soda Bread 

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients:
3/4 cup buttermilk 
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons light olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

Stir In:
2/3 cup raisins - soak in boiling water for a couple minutes to plump them

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Lightly oil an 8-inch round cake pan and dust it with cornmeal. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl- start with 3/4 cup liquid at first.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Start with 3/4 cup rice milk and slowly pour the wet into the dry ingredients, gently mixing as you go [I use a soft silicone or rubber spatula to do this]. If you need a little more buttermilk to moisten the dough, add a tablespoon at a time and stir in.

When the dough is evenly moist, add the caraway and raisins. Stir only briefly to mix them in. 

Scrape and spoon out the dough into the prepared cake pan; and using moist or rice-floured palms, flatten and shape the dough into a rounded loaf. Sprinkle with a very light dusting of cornmeal or rice flour.

Using a dry sharp knife, slice a criss-cross into the dough (not too deep!) to discourage the mischievous fairies from messing with your humble loaf of bread.

Place the pan into the center of a preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf is golden and crusty and sounds hollow when thumped. Insert a wooden toothpick into the center to test for doneness.

Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes; and turn the loaf out of the pan to cool to room temperature - although it's best warm and tender from the oven, I think, even if it tends to crumble a bit. Serves 8.

Yields one loaf of bread.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Luck of the Irish Soda Bread

Saturday marks the holiday known to many as St. Patrick's Day. The day celebrated by those descended from Ireland - and those that only wish they were. The day where green beer flows freely and bottles of Jameson are passed hand-in-hand. While the drinking and debauchery aren't the highlight for me, I virtually count down the days to the traditional Irish dinner my mom makes every year. 

Her wholesome - but inevitably, characteristically bland - Irish meal is on par with the epic holiday feasts like Thanksgiving dinner, Easter brunch and the best Fourth of July picnic I can dream up. That being said, my dad and I always joke that the only reason we enjoy it so much is because it only happens once a year. As good as it is, I'm not so sure I'd want to be eating corned beef and cabbage once a week, all year long. But for me, it's about celebrating a tiny piece of my heritage outside of an attribution to little magical men and pints of flat keg beer.

While I love every part of the meal, each for its own reason, my absolute favorite part is the Irish Soda Bread. According to the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, my definition of soda bread is quite far from the real thing. But whether we bake ours according to the authentic recipe from the motherland or an Americanized version fueled by traditions of the Chicago-based Kelly family, it's a tradition nonetheless. And I feel compelled to share the beloved recipe - in all it's simple deliciousness - with the readers of Chicago Foodies. 

Although I'll be dining at my parents house on Saturday night, I whipped up a batch of soda bread for some of my hungry coworkers to enjoy. Authenticity aside, this is a darn good quickbread that I would highly recommended trying. Who knows, it might soon become a tradition for you and yours as well.

Erin go bragh!

Grandma Kelly's Irish Soda Bread

1 cup raisins  (place these in boiling water for 5 minutes so that they will soften...then drain)
3/4 sugar
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 eggs
16 oz sour cream

Grease and flour a bundt pan or an angel food pan. Mix all dry ingredients together. Blend sour cream and eggs together until they are mixed well. Now add dry ingredients and mix just till combined. The batter will be very thick - just be patient. Now add raisins. Bake @ 375 for 1 hour. Serve warm with butter. YUM!