Monday, May 28, 2012

Put Some Butter On It!!

     You might say I have a slight obsession with dairy products.  You might also say I look like Gisele Bundchen but you'd be wrong and maybe a little high.  It's not so much milk itself I'm obsessed with, but the things you can do with it.  I've been making my own yogurt for a while now.  I haven't bought a tub of whipped cream in years.  I gave you a peek into my foray into cheese making (I want to try cream cheese next.)  And I have been known on occasion to buy a pint of cream to make butter.  I seriously just need to suck it up and buy a couple of cows.  Cows won't scratch up my hardwood floor much, right?

     I can't even begin to tell you how simple it is to make butter.  Which is to say, I totally can tell you exactly how simple it is.  It's extremely simple.  All you need is two bowls, a mixer, a strainer, a spatula, and some salt which is optional.  Start with heavy cream.  This one looks lumpy, I know.  The brand I buy is a local one and almost always has a heavy plug of cream at the top of the bottle.  I know they don't homogenize their milk.  I don't know if the plug is a result of that or because it travels far enough to begin churning in the bottle on the way to the store.  At any rate, it doesn't effect the outcome at all.

     Start whipping your cream at the top speed of a mixer.  This stage is whipped cream.  You could stop here if you want.  I encourage you to actually...  Stop, taste it, wonder why anyone would ever buy store-bought whipped cream. Forge ahead.

A moment later it will cease to be whipped cream.  It's crazy how fast this happens, actually...

Almost done here at the "scrambled eggs" stage.  Notice how much yellower the cream has gotten.  I swear, there's nothing here but cream!

At this point, the milk begins to separate from the cream.  You're almost done! This process from pouring the cream to milk separation takes about 5 minutes.  Maybe less.

At this point, drain the buttermilk out of the butter.  Keep it!  It's great for cooking with!  I pressed mine a little with a wooden spatula not enough to mash the butter through the strainer, but enough to push out a good bit of milk.

     You can stop here if you like.  It tastes fantastic!  I find that butter at this stage will only keep for a few days.  Of course, it's so delicious you will probably eat it up before it goes bad anyway.  If you'd like to save yourself from needing to eat a half pound of butter by yourself in two days, that's where washing comes in.

 Pour cold water over your butter and push the butter with a wooden spatula, wooden spoon, or rubber spatula to squeeze out as much buttermilk as you can.  I actually bought this spatula specifically for butter making but you certainly don't have to.

 Drain and rinse again.

This is how the final rinse will look.  You can see the water is very clear and I'm not getting any more out when I squish it with my spatula.

     For a little more longevity insurance, I add 1/4 tsp sea salt.  The amount of salt you will want to use varies with the type of salt you have.  Try an 1/8th of a teaspoon first and then add more to your liking.  I store mine on my counter in a butter crock which keeps it soft without going bad for up to a week and sometimes a week and a half if it lasts that long.  You can also keep it in the freezer if you want to keep it for months at a time.  One pint of cream yielded 3/4 C buttermilk and 7 oz of butter this time, though yours may vary some.

 You just made butter, my friend!

Quit drooling and go make some already!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crackers on the Couch Culinary Academy...

On Mother's Day, my oldest son (who's 6) decided to make me breakfast in bed.  He brought me a hand full of raw almonds, an apple, a sandwich with jam on it "with no peanut butter because I couldn't find it," a biscuit with jam on it, and a glass of water with lemon in it.  (That was really great water!)  All week he has been sharing everything he eats with anyone who will take it including the cat and people passing by on the street.  OK, not really on that last one, but he did share his cookie with three different kids at lunch today...

This morning, this was waiting for me on the kitchen table:

It's a "MI-NOO."  And yes, the logo is an oven with smoke coming out of it.  He has clearly been paying attention in this house...

Inside was a mouthwatering assortment of breakfast items.  Cereal, peanut butter and jam sandwich, an orange, a banana, peanut butter and jam on a different kind of bread, hot milk, two eggs, grapes, an apple, and toast.

     He has been watching me cook and photograph our food for the past year now, and has recently become very interested in the whole thing.  Today my budding chef learned how to make toast.  He fed our whole family a breakfast of buttered toast that he cooked all by himself!  Naturally, I photographed it!

He is so proud!

Buttering it up.

Toast.  In all its buttery glory...

He was so proud he even made himself a toque!

If you look closely, you can see the puffy lines he drew for the top.  (I gotta get those kids some new markers...)

Mr. 4 wanted to be a waiter, but didn't want to stand still for a photo.  Instead of holding the towel like I wanted him to, he stuffed it into the back of his shirt and ran off shouting, "I'm SUPER waiter!!"   

     Like any good chef, Mr. 6 is constantly updating his menu (he's been at it all day, I never know what's going to appear next!)  So far, he has mostly picked food he can actually prepare himself.  He's downstairs right now making some last minute adjustments.  I know who's helping me with dinner tonight!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shall I Compare Thee to A Hummus Pizza?

You may recall from my Hawai'i post that I had a rather disappointing encounter with a hummus pizza.  

He was gorgeous, but I wanted more from the relationship than he was willing to give.  You know, flavor-wise.  

     Well, my friends, I have whipped out my brand new pizza stone for this and holy crud is it worth it (insert de-flouring joke here).  I do not have a pizza peel however.  For those of you who don't know, a peel is that big fancy wooden board thingie they show in the commercials that looks like a big flat shovel.  Apparently, it's handy for getting your 'za into and out of the bloody hot oven.  So, while this bad boy tasted beautiful, this is the shape it turned out:

He may not be all that much to look at, but he's got it where it counts.  Ooooohhh yeah...

No matter what shape yours turns out you will want to eat a lot of this as fast as you possibly can.

     Here's a couple of things about a pizza stone.  They're not too expensive.  The one I bought was about $25 and was made in the USA, too.  Love that.  You have to heat your oven really high (500 degrees and up) and you need to heat your stone at least 30 minutes before inserting the pizza.  I used a spatula and the bottom of a baking sheet as the "peel".  It worked great with a thicker crust, but not so much on the super thin one.

     Find a pizza crust recipe you like.  This one called for the oven to be heated to 550°.  It's probably a good medium for any dough you choose.

Ugly But Worth It Hummus Thin-Crust Pizza
Pizza dough
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 small squash, cubed
1/4 small zucchini, cubed
Sundried tomatoes packed in oil
Feta cheese

One half hour in advance, move the middle rack down to the bottom third of the oven and put the pizza stone on it.  Preheat to 550°.  While the stone is pre-heating, roll out your dough very thinly (1/4-1/8 inch).  Flour your peel or dust it with cornmeal.  Transfer the dough to the peel and brush the top of the crust completely with olive oil.  Using a garlic press, crush the garlic over the crust and brush it around as evenly as possible.  Transfer the crust to the stone and bake it for 2 to 4 minutes depending on how thinly you've rolled it.  It will start to bubble almost instantly.  When the crust has bubbled up, dried a bit, and has turned just a tiny bit tan, remove it from the oven and as quickly as you can, spread with hummus, add the veggies and lightly sprinkle the cheese.  Return it to the oven for another 2-4 minutes until the edges have begun browning.  Remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly until it's just above room temp.  This won't take long with a thin crust pizza.  It is still wonderful once it's at room temp, but too warm, you can't taste the hummus as much.

I could take or leave the tomatoes.  Hubby liked them.  In a previous incarnation of this recipe, I used sweet little peppers cut into strips, those were wonderful but I forgot when I was making this one.  Next time I want to try shredded carrots.  To veganize this, you could easily leave off the feta.

Also, upon further experimentation (and a little hint from America's Test Kitchen) I found that a little parchment paper under the thinner crust pizza helps it keep its shape during transfer.  Just slide the pizza off, paper and all.  Don't worry, the paper won't burn in the oven, which was my original fear...

The boys both approached this with a little hesitation.  But once they had a bite, they were hooked!  I also made an additional crust covered in olive oil and garlic and cut it up into strips to dip into the hummus.  They liked that even better.  None of those pesky vegetables to get between the bread and the hummus... =)
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