Friday, April 10, 2015

Sweet Potato Chips

Half of the family loves sweet potatoes. Of the other half, Gwendolyn basically rejects them in all forms and has done since she was about a year old (before that she loved them). I just prefer them in the form of oven fries or chips. I have tried roasting them to crispy perfection and failed many times. After too long at high heat, they just get too burnt-tasting to be pleasant (though the sweet potato loving contingent would still eat them).

I decided to try a high-low method of roasting at high heat, covered, for a while and then finishing at low heat to achieve crispy goodness. This worked very well now I can have baked sweet potato chips with minimal effort. Not quite as light as the deep-fried store bought ones, but still very good.

INGREDIENTS
2-3 medium or large sweet potatoes, well scrubbed with the pointy ends cut off
1 TBSP oil
Salt and pepper to taste (or try using other spices such as sumac, smoked paprika or chipotle)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F and line two baking trays with parchment or Silpat
  2. Ideally using a mandoline, slice the sweet potatoes evenly into rounds of your desired thickness (I use the medium setting on my mandolin)
  3. Toss the sweet potato rounds with oil and seasonings (I usually do this in a bowl rather than directly on the trays)
  4. Distribute the rounds evenly over the trays and cover with foil
  5. Roast, covered, for ten minutes at 425
  6. Lower the oven heat to 300F and remove the foil
  7. Continue baking until the sweet potato rounds are crispy but not too brown. It's a good idea to stir them a few times. I think this took an additional 20 minutes or so; I'd start checking around 15 minutes. Note that the sweet potato chips will crisp further once out of the oven, so when they stop looking wet, take one out and let it rest a minute or two and then taste for desired texture
  8. Store in an air tight container. If they're well-dried they should last several days

Friday, April 3, 2015

100% Whole Grain Hot Cross Buns with Dried Cherries

Having spent time in the UK, I have a fondness for hot cross buns, though I never had a homemade one there, just the storebought ones. I've tried a few different recipes here at home, and by far the one I liked the best was the Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns with Dried Cherries and Lemon from Cookin' Canuck. This year, of course, I'm grinding my own flour, which causes a few modifications to the original recipe. I used a combination of hard red wheat, soft white wheat, and spelt in these just because I could.  Cookin' Canuck using volume measurements so I converted to weight for the flour and used a standard of 4.5 oz per cup.  I also converted the coconut oil and honey to grams because I hate having to fill and scrape a measuring spoon multiple times (honestly, you'd think I could be consistent with my grams vs. ounces but since my scale goes back and forth, I use the easiest conversion I can find on the Internet). In addition, because I am using instant yeast, I can streamline the mixing method a bit. I am also going to try making a paste cross instead of just using yeast: for years I've copped out and done glaze but since the paste is just flour and water, I think I can handle it and then just put the glaze over the entire bun. Omit as you please.

INGREDIENTS
4.5 oz spelt
7 oz hard red wheat
6.5 oz soft white wheat
OR any combination of grains/flours adding up to 18 oz (1 lb 2 oz)
2 1/4 tsp or one package instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
78 g coconut oil (6 TBSP) melted
3/4 c. (6 fl oz) buttermilk or kefir or yogurt/milk combination
64 g honey
3 large eggs
2/3 c. dried tart cherries, chopped roughly if desired

FLOUR CROSS PASTE
1/4 c. flour (I'd just use white all-purpose)
2 TBSP water (start there and add more as needed)

GLAZE
1/3 c. powdered/icing sugar
1-2 tsp lemon juice
A few gratings of lemon zest
Pinch of salt
Water or milk

DIRECTIONS
  1. Combine the flours, yeast, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer
  2. Warm the kefir/buttermilk until quite warm but not over 140 degrees. I just use my glass measuring cup in the microwave
  3. Stir the coconut oil and honey into the buttermilk and then add to the dry ingredients, stirring by hand a bit to combine (so flour doesn't get everywhere)
  4. Using the same measuring cup if you like, crack the eggs and lightly beat them before adding to the mixing bowl. Again stir a little by hand
  5. Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium until it is quite stretchy, scraping once or twice. I think I kneaded mine for 6-8 minutes
  6. Add the dried cherries and run the mixer for a minute or so to blend in and then finish mixing them in by hand
  7. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter or board. My dough looked too sticky in the bowl, but when I turned it out to and kneaded by hand a few times, the texture was just right and I didn't add any more flour--your mileage may vary
  8. Place the kneaded dough into a large bowl (I didn't grease mine) and cover (I used a tea towel) until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I was surprised at how readily my dough rose even though it was 100% whole grain
  9. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 roughly-equal pieces that you then roll into balls
  10. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and space the dough balls evenly, leaving a bit of room for them to expand
  11. Let rise an hour or two until it has doubled and the balls are touching each other
  12. Preheat the oven to 350F
  13. When you're ready to bake the buns, make the paste, mixing the flour and enough water to get a pipeable consistency
  14. Put the paste into a pastry bag or plastic bag and snip of the tip. Pipe a cross on each bun (I did all one direction first then all the other)
  15. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden. Expect the buns to be smooshed together in the pan
  16. While the buns are baking, whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, lemon juice, lemon zest and water until you have quite a thin glaze
  17. As soon as the buns come out, brush the tops all over generously with the glaze, which will make them super glossy and lovely
  18. Cool on a rack and serve warm or store in an air-tight container and warm or toast to serve