Technique Tuesdays: Double Boiler. Recipe: Creamy Lemon Curd

Technique Tuesday:

Double Boiler

Lemon Curd is a great companion to Irish Soda Farls that we make each St. Patrick’s Day. Curd is essential a fruit custard made with egg yolks. This recipe calls for a double boiler. I don’t know about you, I don’t know anyone who owns an actual double boiler. It isn’t even necessary as long as you have a sauce pot and metal bowl that fit together nicely. You’ll notice in the picture below the recipe my very dirty stove. You will also notice how the “double boiler” should look. You do not want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Essentially, the point of a double boiler is to heat something using indirect heat, to avoid it scorching or curdling. It’s used to melt chocolate and make custards, among other things. The custard is heated by the steam created by the boiling water underneath.

This lemon curd recipe results in a creamy curd, not the gelatinous kind many use for a lemon meringue pie. It’s perfect for a topping for breads or as a spread.

CREAMY LEMON CURD

5 eggs yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 TBS lemon zest
4 TBS butter, cut into pats and chilled

Fill a small pot with about an inch of water, place on the stove over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a metal bowl that fits on top of your pot, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk well, until light and creamy. For smooth curd, pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove any pulp. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. When the water comes to a boil, quickly reduce heat to low, to keep to a simmer. Place bowl on pot and whisk continually until thick. This takes about 10 minutes, but will vary. You know it’s ready when it thickly coats the back of a spoon or reached 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add in the butter, one pat at a time, stirring each until it melts before adding the next pat. Pour into a container or bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until cool.

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Asian Orange Chicken

I’m not much of a fast-food type gal. But, every once in a while I’ll strategically plan my errands around lunchtime in the area of a local Panda Express. I justify that it’s healthier than a hamburger, but it’s probably not. At least I’m getting veggies, right?

I have one son who is allergic to soy, so I don’t make chinese-style food all that often at home, but the rest of us love it, especially this recipe I happened upon thanks to allrecipes. It is one of our favorites. I pull some of the chicken aside before toss it in the sauce for my non-soy kiddo. Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make the sauce ahead of time and freeze it. This tastes the best with fresh squeezed juice from real oranges and lemons (one orange and 2-3 lemons).

ASIAN ORANGE CHICKEN 

Sauce:
1 1/2 cups water
2 TBS fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 TBS green onion, snipped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS cold water

Chicken:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBS seasoned salt
2 eggs
oil for frying

Make sauce by combining everything except the cornstarch and 2 TBS water in a saucepan. Combine well and bring to a boil over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 2 TBS cold water well. Pour the cornstarch/water mixture into the saucepan. Stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Prepare the chicken by placing two bowls side by side. Crack the eggs into one bowl and whisk well. In the second bowl, combine flour and seasoned salt. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot to 350-375 degrees. I usually throw a little piece of chicken in to see if it immediately starts bubbling around the food, that’s how you know it’s ready. Oil at a correct temp leaves less oil on the food, so it’s fried, but not greasy. If you put your food in too early, it will soak up oil before getting fried, leading to greasy food and higher calories. When your oil is ready, dip chicken in the eggs, then coat in flour and place in the oil. Do not over crowd the pan. At this point, I typically turn my heat down to medium. Your heat will changed based on how much you put in the oil and your stove. Watch how quickly they are browning and change your heat level as needed. Brown on each side. Check the first couple you pull out to make sure they are cooked through. Remove them to paper towels until all the chicken is finished browning. Toss in the sauce and serve with rice.

REAL food alert: Check the ingredients of your seasoned salt for MSG. Look for soy sauce that lists “soybeans”, not “hydrolyzed soy protein“.
ALLERGEN alert: make this gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and gluten-free soy sauce.
HEALTH alert: make this healthier by oven cooking your chicken.

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Baked Valentine’s Donuts

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that you either love or hate. I have found, since having kids, that even the most commercialized, purposeless holidays can be fun when seen through the eyes of a five-year old. Now if we can just get congress to ban the Kay Jewelry “Open Heart Collection” commercials, life would be great.

This year, I decided that baked heart shaped donuts, filled with strawberry filling would be a fun and tasty way to celebrate with the family. And, no…Jane Seymour is NOT getting any.

BAKED VALENTINE’S DONUTS

Donuts:

3/4 cup warm milk
2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, whisked
1/2 tsp salt
2 -3 cup flour

Combine yeast and warm milk in your stand mixer bowl, or in a large mixing bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Gently mix in butter, sugar and egg (make sure egg is well blended before adding). Add flour, 1/2 c at a time. Add salt in with the first batch of flour. Mix thoroughly after each flour addition. Stop adding flour as soon as the dough sticks together. You definitely want as little flour in your dough as possible. using your dough hook, or hands, if you’re more traditional, knead for 5 minutes. Watch the dough. If it starts to stick to the sides, sprinkle a little bit of flour as needed to coax it back into a ball. Again, use as little flour as possible. When I make this, I typically only use 2 cups of flour.

Remove bowl and place in a warm place to rise until double (about an hour, but this can drastically vary depending on all sorts of factors).

Once it has risen, dump it onto a counter that has been lightly dusted with flour. Roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick. Use a heart cookie cutter to cut the dough into hearts. Use as much of the dough in the first cut as possible, then collect the scraps and recut. If you must, you can do it a third time, but the resulting donuts will be tougher than the first.

Place the hearts on parchment-covered baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Let rise again until double, another 45 min- 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove when they are light brown on top. Immediately slide to a cooling rack.

Strawberry Filling:

3 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
1 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS cold water

Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor (be sure to thaw them first if you are starting with frozen). Add the sugar. Pour into a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Combine the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl. Stir the strawberry mixture until sugar is fully dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir over medium heat until thick and jelly-like. Pour into a container and refrigerate until chilled.

To assemble:

Take a donut and poke a hole in one side with a small knife or skewer. Carefully move the knife/skewer around the inside of the donut to allow room for the filling. (A clean finger does this well, if that doesn’t gross you out)

Scoop some filling into a zipper-topped bag. Cut a small portion off the corner, insert into the donut and squeeze the filling into the donut.

Spoon some powdered sugar into a fine-mesh strainer, lightly dust the donuts by tapping the side of the strainer as you pass over them.

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Mini Hootenanny Pancakes

Hootenanny…hootenanny..hoot, hoot, Hoot!

That’s what we say when eating these pancakes. I’m not sure where that came from, I think I read someone else’s story that their family did it growing up, and it kinda stuck. These are also called “German Oven Pancakes” or “Dutch Babies”. I am not biased against various European countries, so we’ve stuck with Hootenanny Pancakes.

There are also various ways to eat them. Traditionally, they are made in a pie tin, then sliced up kinda like a pizza. My husband likes it with syrup, butter and powdered sugar. I prefer it with fruit of some sort and whipped cream. One thing I love about breakfast is that it’s an easy excuse to eat dessert as a meal without feeling guilty.

This recipe uses a large muffin tin (the kind that makes six muffins, not twelve) to create cute little individual cups to be filled as your heart desires. The optimum fill portion for the best cups is about 1/3 full. if you fill it 1/2 full, they will be thick and not quite form into cups.

HOOTENANNY PANCAKES

6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 TSP butter, melted

additional melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend all ingredients in a food processor, blender, or with an immersion blender.  You want to make sure all the flour is well incorporated and the batter is smooth. Put a tablespoon of melted butter in each of the six muffin divots. Fill each 1/3 full with the batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown. Invert onto a cooling rack.

Fill with your favorite fruit, syrup, Nutella (ooh, that’s a great idea!), or whatever you please. I filled these with Easy Strawberry Topping.

EASY STRAWBERRY TOPPING

3 cups strawberries
1/2 cup sugar

Combine the strawberries and sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes. Mash with a potato masher, or puree.

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ALLERGY alert: These can easily be converted to gluten-free by using gluten-free flour. They can be made dairy-free by subbing an alternative milk, and using 100% vegetable margarine or oil in place of the butter.

You Will Roux the Day…

The secret to awesome and versatile from-scratch cooking is Roux (pronounced “roo”).

Roux is a classic french base used to thicken sauces.

It will revolutionize your dinners.

Can you tell I love Roux? It even deserves a capital letter, even when it’s not at the beginning of a sentence.

Roux is basically equal parts fat and flour, cooked to change the flavor into something nutty, instead of something, well…flour-y. You then add liquid to the mix slowly. Typically, the fat used is butter, although you can use oil, bacon grease, or rendered fat from various other meats, like sausage, turkey, chicken, beef…etc, depending on what you are using your roux for.

I use roux for gravies, condensed soup replacements, sauces and cream soups. It takes a little more time than opening up a can of condensed soup or gravy, but once you get the hang of it, it will be just as quick as using a powdered mix, and taste waaaayyyy better than any of those options, plus you’ll be avoiding a slew of dangerous preservatives and additives.

Basic Roux

4 TBS butter
4 TBS flour
2 cups liquid (chicken, beef or vegetable stock or milk)

Over medium heat, place butter in a sauce pot. Stir with a whisk until melted. Whisk in flour. Continue to whisk, checking every once in a while to check the color. The darker your roux, the more flavor, but be careful, because butter burns easily and it’s just a few seconds between toasty brown roux and a burnt mess. When your roux is toasty colored, start to add your liquid. You want to add your liquid about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring vigorously with your whisk continuously. Each time you have fully incorporated your liquid, add more liquid. You will see that each addition of liquid makes the consistency looser. Eventually the consistency will be more liquid than thick, and you can dump in the rest of your liquid. To ensure you have no lumps in your final product, be sure you whisk until there are no lumps before each addition of liquid.

Once your liquid is completely added, whisk frequently while cooking over medium heat until desired thickness.

Here are some pictures to help you through the process: (please excuse the blurriness, I was hurriedly taking pics while trying to keep my roux from burning…). The last four pictures are various stages you go through after each addition of more liquid.

Creamy Ranch Dressing

Ranch Dressing…it’s what makes the world go ’round.

Personally, I eat salad for the express purpose of having a reason to eat ranch dressing.

I will pick certain restaurants over others only because of their amazing ranch dressing.

It is the perfect condiment…

Unless it’s bottled. Years ago I gave up bottled dressing for the powdered mix…until we became an MSG-free home. So, I went on a quest. Luckily, this one didn’t involve dragons. The quest for the perfect homemade ranch dressing. This is it.

Creamy Ranch Dressing

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white sugar
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge for optimum flavor. This thickens as it sits, add milk to achieve desired consistency as needed.

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