Monday, May 25, 2020

McVities-Style Digestive Biscuits

My first encounter with digestive biscuits was reading about them in old Agatha Christie novels. I can’t remember which one it was in particular, but there was an office where the staff had digestives with their tea and only on Fridays (or possibly twice a week) did they get chocolate ones. I had no idea what a digestive would be like. Fast forward a decade when I did a study abroad near London and I quickly discovered the magic that is a digestive biscuit, ideally with plain chocolate (never milk). They say that it’s like a US graham cracker, but I find digestives to have a more buttery tender texture and a slight saltiness. And you can’t buy pre-chocolated graham crackers! Though McVities is the most famous brand, I will say that my friend Stacey and I felt that the Sainsbury’s own-brand digestives were even better. They were probably made in the same factory but they were ever-so-slightly different.
Now that I’m firmly back settled in the US, digestives have been a rare and expensive treat. I’ve tried a few recipes over the years but never found one that was anywhere near as good the storebought UK ones. When a food is primarily enjoyed in its packaged form, I do find the reverse-engineer into homemade to be tricky. I got my daughter on the case, as well, and she reviewed the Serious Eats recipe in our newspaper,  The Daily Excitement Worldwide.  As her review states, we found them mediocre. Last week we tried the King Arthur Flour recipe. I am a big fan of KAF and have loved other of their recipes but this one is a complete clunker. You use room temperature butter and there is no chilling, so the dough was impossible to roll out. You also use icing sugar, which is both bland and gives the completely wrong texture. They were much more like chocolate-covered rich tea biscuits than digestives. Did we happily eat them? Yes! Would we even consider making this recipe again? No!
The whole time I lived in the UK, I never ate a homemade digestive nor did I know of anyone who made them. Why would you when you can buy something delicious at a low price? But when I went searching for a new recipe to try, I went straight to UK sources on the idea that at least they’d have a better idea what they were aiming for. I finally hit upon Felicity Cloake’s recipe in The Guardian. The reason I liked and selected it was because she had done research of a variety of different recipe and went into detail about the choices she made to create her ultimate version. She also used cold butter and got nowhere near the icing sugar.
We made her recipe as-written the first time and they are definitely closer than any we’ve tried so far. My local shop didn’t have dark muscovado so I used light—I figured that would be better than regular dark brown sugar since she goes on about the difference muscovado makes. In a taste test the kids couldn’t really tell the difference between light brown sugar and muscovado and there are only 55g in the whole batch so if all you’ve got is regular light or dark brown sugar, I’d say don’t bother with a special trip to the store (especially if you’re still in lockdown).
We had a few quibbles overall. She calls for medium oatmeal, which I believe translates to rolled oats in the US. I appreciated their flavor, but to me whole rolled oats in a biscuit makes it more like a Hobnob. She also has an odd mixing method. Instead of putting all the dry ingredients together and then cutting in the butter, she has you cut the butter only into the flour and then add the baking soda, salt and sugar. This seemed unnecessary to me and led to some bites tasting saltier than others. I also felt that once the chocolate went on the biscuits, they were missing a bit of tang, so I took a tip from the Serious Eats recipe I’d otherwise rejected and decided to use runny yogurt instead of milk to bring the dough together. I also added a bit more soda and salt.
While the end result is not a carbon copy of a McVities, the biscuits are light and crisp and flavorful and more-ish. I want to try using half whole meal spelt flour next time as well as dark brown sugar, but I certainly won’t feel I have to buy them the next time I want to savor of taste of my former home.

85g soft white wheat berries or spelt berries, ground
85g hard red wheat berries, ground
170g rolled oat or steel cut oats, ground into a flour (or the same amount of oat flour)
55g light or dark muscovado or regular brown sugar
Heaping 1/2 tsp baking soda
Heaping 1/2 tsp table salt or fine sea salt
150g cold butter, cut into pieces
2-5 TBSP runny yogurt, milk, or a 1:1 mix of milk and whey

Chocolate for the top, if desired, maybe 100g or so or 200g if you like a thick layer of chocolate


  1. Put all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor (I grind my grains right into the bowl). Pulse a few times to combine. The food processor won’t grind the oats fine enough so I used a coffee grinder dedicated to non-coffee applications—rolled oats don’t work that well in my Fidibus though oat groats or steel cut oats would work)
  2. Add the butter pieces to the food processor and pulse to combine until it starts to form clumps
  3. Tip out the mixture into a large bowl and make a well. Drizzle 2 TBSP dairy over your mixture and work it with your hands. Add more yogurt as needed until it forms a cohesive dough that is not too sticky and isn’t too crumbly
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  5. About 10 minutes into the dough-resting time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. I used the convection setting and prepare two baking trays with parchment or Silpat
  6. When the resting time is done, roll the dough out between sheets of plastic wrap until it’s about 1/4 inch thick (or whatever thickness you like)
  7. Use a biscuit cutter of whatever shape(s) or size(s) you like to cut biscuits then put them on the baking tray. They don’t spread so you don’t need a huge amount of space between them
  8. Reroll any scrap and keep going
  9. Poke with a fork or toothpick all over each biscuit
  10. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Go a bit longer if you like a very crisp digestive
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes on the trays and then remove to a cooling rack
  12. While the biscuits cool, melt your chocolate. I do it in the microwave at 50% power. I don’t do an official temper of the chocolate because I just don’t care enough but I do throw in some chunks of unmelted chocolate to the melted stuff in a very imprecise fashion
  13. Traditionally you dunk one flat side of the biscuit in chocolate to coat, but I prefer to put about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp melted chocolate on each one and use a small offset spatula to spread it all over the top
  14. Set back on the cooling rack and leave to set. Store at room temperature in an airtight container

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Homemade Corn Tortillas with Instant Pot Hominy

We are a corn tortilla-preferring family. While I don’t mind wheat tortillas, both of my kids really just don’t like them much. We always have storebought corn tortillas in the fridge. I’ve made my own a few times using dried masa harina, but I didn’t love the result enough to make it a regular thing. I also eat far fewer tortillas than the rest of the family and couldn’t muster up the energy to produce enough to replace storebought. But then a few things happened. First of all, I was reading the comments on the Rancho Gordo site for their white corn posole and a commenter mentioned using it to make tortillas. I had never considered this before. I bought some posole and tucked the idea away into my brain where it sat for at least six months.

And then Coronavirus lockdown happened. It took about two months but then I finally got enough energy to think about trying it. I was going to make some Pork and Hominy Soup so decided to use dried hominy this time instead of canned and I set aside some as a test case for tortillas. Well, it was such a success that I immediately soaked another pound of posole/hominy to try again at larger volume. One pound of dried hominy makes almost 3lb of cooked hominy to use for tortillas. You can get about 25-30 tortillas from this amount.

In my test batch, I used hominy that I had refrigerated for a few days. I processed it with hot water and enough masa harina to make a dough. This worked just great but I wondered if I would get a smoother, better texture if I processed the hominy while it was still warm from the Instant Pot. It was certainly different. I needed hardly any hot water or masa harina to bring it together. I think the dough does work best if you can let it sit for 30-60 minutes at room temperature, covered with a damp towel. This allows the water to be absorbed more fully.

Because I made such a big batch of dough, I didn’t cook up all of the tortillas at once. My grand plan was that I could keep dough in the fridge and we could cook tortillas to order for the week. This worked with the extra dough of my test batch but was an utter failure with the bigger batch made from warm hominy. I have no idea what the science is behind this but the good news is that I just broke the dough into chunks and put it back in the food processor and brought it back to the right texture with hot water and masa harina. While this worked, I do think it put paid to my idea of leaving the dough in the fridge. I think it’s going to work much better to cook up all the tortillas and then reheat them as needed. They won’t last as long as storebought but they should last us the week—the only problem being the family loves them so much that we are eating far more tortillas than usual! Alternatively, you could do what I did the first time, which is put the whole cooked hominy in the fridge and just process with hot water and masa to order. It all depends on how important that fresh-off-the griddle quality is to your family.

The good news for us is that the kids are older now and absolutely love pressing the tortillas. My 12yo is a fine cook and minded the entire last batch for me without me even having to ask so I could work with the younger one on the pressing part. I think we’ll be able to have a whole family operation so that tortilla-making is a pleasure rather than a chore.

I use an old Cook’s Illustrated trick of brining my hominy. I have no idea if the hominy is the same as beans and takes on some seasoning from the brining, but it’s no more effort and if it can lead to a more delicious result it’s worth it.

I do use a few gadgets: Instant Pot, tortilla press, griddle and silicone tortilla warmer. You don’t have to have any of these things, but they work well for us and the IP definitely saves a ton of time.

UPDATE: We have been making tortillas 1-2 times per week for over a month now and I have a few discoveries. Thankfully it is not necessary to use the hominy steaming hot from the Instant Pot. Now I rinse it in cold water and use cold water to mix it in the food processor. Because I am imprecise and don’t know the exact texture I’m looking for, my tortillas vary from batch to batch, with we are okay with. I bought an 8 inch cast iron tortilla press to replace my 6.5 inch aluminum one and it is a vast improvement. Today I made a batch that seemed fine but was way too sticky—it wouldn’t come off the plastic bag I use in my press. I had already measured out my 60g balls (perfect for the 8 inch press). Undaunted, I put some masa harina in a bowl and took each ball and flattened it. I coated it on both sides with masa and then worked it and rolled back into a ball. The great thing about corn tortillas is that there is no gluten so you cannot overwork them. Don’t be afraid to work the heck out of them to get the right texture. This worked extremely well and the batch was saved. I’ve updated the instructions below.

1 lb dried prepared hominy/posole*
4 qt water
3 TBSP Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt

1 additional tsp kosher salt

Up to 2 c water (from the tap temperature or cold is fine)
Up to 1 c masa harina (do not use polenta or corn meal)
Up to 1 more tsp kosher salt

*prepared means that the corn has already been treated. You can make your own by nixtamalizing corn yourself but I will never go quite this far


  1. Dissolve the 3 TBSP kosher salt in 4 qt of water in a large container. Rinse your dried hominy then add to the container. Let sit 8-24 hours at room temperature, covered
  2. After the soaking time is up, drain the hominy and rinse well
  3. Place the hominy in the Instant Pot and cover with water by 3-4 inches. I am very generous with the amount of water because the hominy is going to swell a lot, even after soaking. Add 1 tsp more salt
  4. Using the Multigrain or Manual setting, cook at high pressure for 25 minutes. I always let the pressure come down for at least 10 minutes before releasing. It doesn’t matter if you leave Keep Warm on or turn it off
  5. Drain the cooked hominy. You should probably taste one to make sure it’s the right doneness level for you. Rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly. At this point you can refrigerate your hominy to process later or you can go straight to the next phase. Know that if you process from the fridge you’ll need both more water and more masa harina to get the right texture
  1. Put cooked hominy in the food process and process until you get as fine a texture as you can and it starts to come together. Add water through the feed tube slowly as needed and stop to scrape down. When the hominy is as fine as you think you’re going to get it, take the dough and turn out into a very large bowl. I used a giant stainless steel bowl. I like it because it gives me tons of room to work and it also allows the dough to get a lot of exposure to the air so it cools down enough to knead
  2. Knead the dough a bit and then test the consistently by making a small ball and squeezing it. If the sides crack, then your dough needs more moisture. If it’s extremely sticky, you’ll want to add more masa harina. I gave my dough 5-10 really good turns to make sure all the masa was integrated and it seemed like a nice texture. Give it a taste and add more salt if you like
  3. If you have the time, leave the dough at room temperature, covered with a lightly damp cloth, for 30-60 minutes (you could do this all in the morning or afternoon if you want tortillas for lunch or dinner). My latest batch was the best yet and I didn't let it rest, so you may be able to skip this step
  1. If you’re making tortillas for a crowd, a griddle is the best option. Otherwise you can use a cast iron or other pan. Heat on medium high until quite hot and oil the pan a bit if you like. You're not deep-frying the tortillas (unless you want to make hard-shell tacos), just making sure the tortilla can move around easily and browns a bit
  2. Make a ball of dough about 35-50g in weight. A 50g ball will give you about a 6-inch tortilla whereas a 35g ball will give you a smaller, but probably thinner tortilla. Use around 60g for an 8 inch press. When my 7yo presses them the tortilla ends up about the same diameter no matter how much dough is used--she's only got so much strength. Just experiment to see what works best for you. I don't mind the chew of a thick tortilla even if it doesn't fold as well
  3. I like to use a plastic bag that I’ve cut on the sides as a liner for my tortilla press. Put the dough ball in the bag and then press. If you wish, turn the plastic 180 degrees and press again. I most often do not bother with the second squish. If your tortilla is too sticky, take your ball of dough and dip into masa harina on all sides then work it back into a ball, making sure the masa is well integrated then try again. Repeat if needed
  4. Lift the top layer of plastic off the tortilla and take the tortilla in your hand, then place on the hot griddle
  5. Cook for a minute or two and then flip. If you’re lucky you might get some puffing but that’s been rare for me
  6. Cook another minute or two on the second side and then remove to a tortilla warmer or into a clean tea towel
Isn’t this the cutest baby tortilla ever? It was the last bit of dough so I made one the size of a sand dollar. I think the kids would love to have all of their tortillas this small if their appetites for them weren’t so big!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Thai-Inspired Beef and Rice Soup

This recipe is very much in the spirit of the Faux Pho Ga I make, but using beef. I based it on my beloved Beef Zap-Zap Soup that reminds me of the happy times when Evan and I were first dating. As with pho ga, I just found I didn’t make it because it didn’t lend itself to big batches and leftovers. Yet I love the flavors. Our eldest got braces this week and is desperate for something nourishing and satisfying yet that also is soft enough that it doesn’t require chewing. I thought a modified zap-zap might be just the thing and it was. In fact our youngest asked how many times we got to have it week after she ate two bowls of it!
While you could cook the rice in the broth, I think you’ll get a cleaner flavor if you cook it separately first. Because I didn’t plan super well, my Instant Pot was in use so I just cooked it on the stovetop. You could easily make the broth ahead of time and freeze it; then putting the whole soup together would be a snap. 
I chose vegetables based on what we had on hand and found I really liked the color that broccoli brought to it. In many ways it reminded me of a soup version of the Beef and Broccoli stir-fry I also reinvented from a previous incarnation. You can adapt grains and vegetables to your preference easily.

1 TBSP oil (any kind but olive oil might burn)
1 onion, quartered
3 to 3.5 lb beef bones, I used pretty meaty ones
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1/2 inch pieces or 2 TBSP lemongrass paste
2 star anise
8 cloves garlic, smashed
4 makrut lime leaves (I suspect mine were just regular lime, but they were at the store, so I bought them)
2-inch piece of ginger cut into 1/2 inch pieces (if you've got access to galangal, use that)
1 TBSP chopped cilantro or 8-10 whole stalks or to taste
4 TBSP dark soy sauce
1 TBSP light soy sauce
2 TBSP fish sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 TBSP dark brown sugar or to taste
(2 tsp red pepper flakes optional)
4-5 qt water (or until my 5qt Instant Pot was at Max)

1 c. brown rice, rinsed and picked over
1 1/2 to 2 c. water

1 TBSP oil
1 lb ground beef
1 large head broccoli cut into bite-sized pieces and pre-steamed (or you could cook in soup)
2-4 medium carrots, cut into a small dice and pre-steamed (or you could cook in soup)
Pre-cooked rice
2 Dashes light soy sauce
2 Dashes dark soy sauce
1-2 dashes fish sauce
De-fatted stock


  1. Put oil in Instant Pot and turn on to Sauté mode medium. Add the onion quarters and fry until starting to brown in places
  2. Add the beef bones and cook, turning so they’re browned on several sides
  3. Add remaining ingredients, close lid making sure it’s set to Sealing. Cook at high pressure for 60 minutes. I used the Soup setting. When it’s done, I unplugged and let rest for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure
  4. Strain the stock well and defat if desired. My stock was pretty fatty and I needed to use the stock the same night so I used my gravy separator and it worked like a charm
  5. Set aside
  1. While the stock is cooking, bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the brown rice and salt. Turn down to a low simmer and cook for 40 minutes. After the cooking time I like to put a tea towel on the pan with the lid on and let sit for 10 minutes. 
  2. If using the Instant Pot only add 1.5 c water and cook on multigrain mode for 20 minutes then let sit for 10 minutes before releasing pressure

  1.  Place the oil in a large Dutch Oven and heat on medium-high
  2. Add the ground beef and cook until browned and no longer pink
  3. Add the rice, carrots and broccoli and stir in the soy sauces and fish sauce
  4. Pour as much stock as you like. I ended up using all but about 3 cups. I didn’t use it all because as much as I love the flavor of the broth, I wanted something that would keep us satisfied
  5. Bring to a boil then a simmer (if your stock isn’t already piping hot). Taste and adjust seasonings
  6. We got 3 nights’ worth of dinner for 4 people from this amount

Beef Farro Soup

Our local co-op, PCC, makes some delicious soups in their deli, some of the only storebought ready meals that are made with ingredients similar to what I’d use at home. One of our family’s favorites is their beef farro and I have decided to make a homemade version of it, which is largely based on Lentil Barley Soup with Italian Sausage. I’m using ground beef instead of sausage, fewer lentils proportionally and swapping out the purple prairie barley for farro.
While I have long advocated for one-pot meals where the grains and/or legumes are cooked from dry right in the soup broth, I have recently realized that I appreciate the cleaner flavor that comes from pre-cooking them before adding. This also allows greater control over the final consistency of the soup because the pre-cooked grains won’t absorb as much liquid and thus it’s easier to gauge how much to add. I use my Instant Pot for the pre-cooking and, if I have enough, will cook the grains in stock for added flavor.

2 c dry emmer farro, spelt or other grain in the wheat or barley family
Water to cover
1/2 c French green lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 TBSP olive or other oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
4 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press (or food processor)
4 large carrots, chopped
1 1/2 to 3 c canned tomatoes of any texture you like, to taste—I go for more finely processed ones and use my own homemade roasted tomato purée if I’ve got any
8 c (approx) water or stock or a combination
1/2 head cauliflower cleaned and finely chopped or half a bag frozen riced cauliflower. You could also use kale or cabbage

  1. Put the rinsed farro in the Instant Pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Making sure the vent is closed, set the function to multigrain and cook for 12 minutes at high pressure. When the cooking time is complete, let the pressure release naturally then drain and rinse the farro and set aside
  2. Without bothering to clean your Instant Pot insert too much, put in the uncooked lentils. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Making sure the vent is closed, set the function to multigrain and cook for 10 minutes at high pressure. When the cooking time is complete, let the pressure release naturally then drain and rinse the lentils and set aside. I bet you could cook the farro and the lentils together at their cooking times are close enough
  3.  If you’ve got at least a 6 qt Instant Pot you can do the cooking in it, but mine is only 5 qt and I usually just use my Dutch oven on the stove. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onion is soft and slightly browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef is cooked through, breaking it up as you go
  5. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute
  6. Add the carrots and greens and cook another minute or two
  7. Add the farro, lentils, bay and thyme, water/stock and tomatoes along with the salt. Because the lentils are already cooked you can add the tomatoes now without making them tough
  8. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes to one hour
  9. Taste at 25 minutes and see how much longer you think you have to go. About 10 minutes before your estimated done time, add the cauliflower so it can cook
  10. When the cooking time is up, taste for seasoning. Add vinegar and/or soy sauce to taste. Smoked paprika might also be nice
  11. Serve with Delicious, Crusty Bread or Drop Biscuits

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Lentil Beef Barley Soup with Instant Pot Elements

A variation of the Lentil Barely Soup with Italian Sausage that reflects updating ingredient preferences and cooking methods. A very-slightly-different Barley Beef Farro soup recipe is also on the way.

1 c uncooked unhulled (pot) or semi-pearled barley, rinsed. We love Timeless Foods Purple Prairie Barley
1 c uncooked French (Puy) lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 TBSP olive oil
2 c onion (or 1 large onion), finely chopped or chopped in a food processor
1 lb ground beef
4 garlic cloves, chopped or put through a press
3 carrots, diced or chopped in a food processor
1 bunch greens, washed and chopped
2 tsp salt
2 dried bay leaves or 4 fresh bay leaves
3-4 thyme sprigs
9-12 cups water or any kind of stock
3 c tomatoes (this is a very flexible amount; I freeze tomato sauce in 24 oz jars but canned tomatoes of any kind will work. Purée them if you don’t want chunks)
1-2 tsp sherry, balsamic or red wine vinegar or to taste (optional)
Mushroom or regular soy sauce to taste

  1. Put the rinsed barley in the Instant Pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Making sure the vent is closed, set the function to multigrain and cook for 40 minutes at high pressure. Timeless is now selling only semi-pearled purple prairie barley. If you’re using semi-pearled reduce cooking time to 20 minutes. We never use fully pearled barley so you would have to look up the timing on that. When the cooking time is complete, let the pressure release naturally then drain and rinse the barley and set aside
  2. Without bothering to clean your Instant Pot insert too much, put in the uncooked lentils. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Making sure the vent is closed, set the function to multigrain and cook for 10 minutes at high pressure. When the cooking time is complete, let the pressure release naturally then drain and rinse the lentils and set aside
  3.  If you’ve got at least a 6 qt Instant Pot you can do the cooking in it, but mine is only 5 qt and I usually just use my Dutch oven on the stove. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onion is soft and slightly browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef is cooked through, breaking it up as you go
  5. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute
  6. Add the carrots and greens and cook another minute or two
  7. Add the barley, lentils, bay and thyme water/stock and tomatoes along with the salt. Because the lentils are already cooked you can add the tomatoes now without making them tough
  8. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes to one hour
  9. When the cooking time is nearly done, taste for seasoning. Add vinegar and/or soy sauce to taste. Smoked paprika might also be nice
  10. Serve with Delicious, Crusty Bread or Drop Biscuits

Saturday, June 1, 2019

New Method Small Batch Whole Grain Pizza Dough

So many pizza dough recipes! This one is a variation of the 100% whole grain pizza dough, still based off of  Patricia Wells’ pizza dough. Thanks to Stella Parks and her 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, I have learned the wonders of autolyse, letting the whole grain flour rest with the water for a while to let it absorb and foster gluten formation. Thus, I’ve changed my mixing method yet again for this dough, adding in the rest. I’ve also scaled back again to the single recipe instead of the double, as I tend just to make dough fresh as needed instead of relying on the freezer. A single batch of dough works much better in the food processor using the autolyse method. When I tried it in a larger quantity it slowed the food processor and the dough got spun up under the blade, making it super annoying to manage. Other than that, the ingredients and proportions are unchanged. I weigh my water now because 1/3 cup liquid measures are hard to come by—so much easier.

I’ve had excellent luck patting this dough into quarter or eighth sheet pans to make pan pizza. The crust is completely different in texture, of course, more bready than crispy, but it also makes a more satisfying work lunch and reheats better than the thin crust stuff.

225g hard red wheat berries, ground finely (or storebought whole wheat bread flour)
225g kamut grains, ground finely (or pre-ground kamut flour)
260g room temperature water
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (I used table salt but you could use any fine salt; if using coarser sea salt you'll need a bit more)
55g water
2 TBSP olive or other oil


  1. Grind the grains into a large bowl and add the 260g of water. Stir to combine and knead a time or two to make sure the water is fully incorporated. Cover and let sit for 2 hours
  2. After the resting time, break the dough into pieces and add to the food processor with the yeast, sugar and salt. You may want to mix the yeast with a teaspoon of the remaining water just to ensure it dissolves. This dough is less wet than Parks’ so there is more of a risk of undissolved yeast
  3. Process until dough is silky and you get a windowpane, about 75 seconds. This is not so easy with this dough so use your judgment. I’ve been known to dump it into the stand mixer to ensure proper gluten formation, but this last time I didn’t do that, didn’t get a full windowpane and all was fine
  4. Drizzle in the water then the oil through the feed tube while pulsing. The dough should start to form a ball. Keep pulsing until the dough is a smooth ball and expect it to be sticky
  5. Put dough in clean bowl and cover. You can do a room temperature first rise or stick it in the fridge. I usually do room temp for the first rise, punch down and then refrigerate until about an hour before I need it
  6. Portion out the dough into 3-4oz balls for personal pizzas and proceed with my pizza recipe or your own as desired

Monday, April 15, 2019

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Candies

After last year’s wild success with Homemade Crunch Bars, I set my sights on peanut butter cups. They’ve always been my favorite, yet as time has passed I have been less and less satisfied. Reese’s cups (or eggs or pumpkins etc) are too sweet and neither chocolatey nor peanutty enough for my current tastes. So I was already thinking about a way to make my own. And then the girls discovered the Great British Bake-Off and they’re hooked. They check out cookbooks and read them for fun and they’re super interested in experimentation. The eldest, in particular, is very excited about using silicone molds for candy making, to the point that she used her own money on our trip to Arizona to see my parents to buy herself a set of sweet little heart molds. This got me thinking and, sure enough, cat-shaped silicone molds do exist! The kids love cats almost as much as they do candy so the urge to put the two together (much like how the “two great tastes” of chocolate at peanut butter taste great together”) was irresistible. The Easter Bunny will gift them the molds as well, so they can have as much cat-shaped fun as they like in future.
I started with a New York Times recipe, mainly because it called for natural peanut butter. Sadly, I didn’t like it (though Evan and my work colleagues were impressed). The filling was too chalky and I didn’t like the flavor of the vanilla extract. Searching around, I found a recipe that cut the peanut butter with butter and also added some brown sugar. Since my ideal pb cup filling would be like egg-free peanut butter cookie dough, the brown sugar seemed a great choice. The author said that natural peanut butter wouldn’t work, but I ignored that and happily my instincts were right. I still don’t love the vanilla extract and think that next time I’d use vanilla powder instead. Other than that, though the filling it lighter, creamier and tastier than the NYT one. I did use 1/4 cup less powdered sugar than the recipe called for—it would have made my teeth ache if the filling had been any sweeter. Instead of the Trader Joe’s pound plus 72% dark chocolate I have been using as my standard, I have switched to the Trader Joe’s fair trade organic 70% which I feel tastes significantly better. It also has a better consistency when melted.
I made the full recipe this time and, because my molds are small, that makes way too many candies. The recipe below has been halved, which will still give the whole family enough chocolate peanut butter goodness to satisfy even though most ardent fans.

118 g natural peanut butter at room temperature (if using unsalted, add a 1/4 tsp salt to the mixture)
1 1/2TBSP unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
1 1/2 TBSP packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract or a good shake of vanilla powder
Up to 1/2 c powdered sugar (I used 3/8 c)
6 oz good quality dark or milk chocolate (you may need a bit more or less depending on how thick you like the chocolate layers), broken up or chopped
1 TBSP refined coconut oil, if desired, to give the chocolate extra snap


  1. Cream the butter and peanut butter together in a small to medium bowl until well combined. I use a hand mixer
  2. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth
  3. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1/8 of a cup at a time, and mix until thoroughly combined. When the mixture is reasonably stiff, stop adding powdered sugar and taste. Adjust as needed, adding more sugar if it doesn’t seem sweet enough. My mixture was about the texture of thick cookie dough and it worked well
  4. Make little peanut butter patties to go in your molds or muffin cups and have them lined up and ready to go. This can take some guesswork and that’s ok
  5. If not using silicone molds, line a 24 cup mini muffin tin with paper liners. Otherwise, get your molds ready. Ideally you should put the molds on a baking tray to make transporting them to the freezer easy
  6. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or using the microwave (2.5 minutes on 50% power, then stir and cook for a remaining 30 seconds to a minute on 50% power as needed)
  7. Put a thin layer of chocolate in the bottom of the mold/liner and spread it into the corners and up the sides. I like to do all the chocolate lining first and then I go back and put the patties on top. If you have extra time or are worried that the pb mixture will melt into the chocolate, you can freeze the bottom layer of chocolate before laying in the patties
  8. Freeze either just the bottoms or the filled cups until firm and set, 20 minutes or more
  9. Remove from freezer, re-melt the chocolate as needed and put a layer of chocolate on top, trying to get into the edges. Smooth out the top with a small offset spatula if desired
  10. Freeze or refrigerate again until set, then remove from molds or muffin tin. Keep refrigerated until eating just to help make sure the peanut butter doesn’t get too ozzy