Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finnish Pulla Bread

This recipe comes from the illustrious and Finnish-American Natalie Johnson of Twin City Barbell. While protein is important for building muscle, carbs are essential for powering your workout--so what better than some tasty, home-made bread? This is essentially challah, a rich egg bread, with the added deliciousness of cardamom.

Don't fret about the braiding--it will look and taste delicious no matter what. Well, except if you accidentally use salt instead of sugar, which Natalie can tell you all about ;)

The best flavor is achieved by using whole cardamom pods. Remove the green husks and save the brown, irregularly shaped seeds from inside. Crush with a mortar and pestle (or in a ziploc with something heavy).

4 ½ to 5 ½ cups unsifted flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1 package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup water
½ cup (1 stick) butter
4 eggs (reserve the white of one egg for egg wash later)
2 Tbsp milk
2 tablespoons sugar
Slivered blanched almonds
Approximately 3 1/2 half hours

In large bowl, thoroughly mix 1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup sugar, salt, lemon peel, cardamom, and undissolved yeast. Combine 2/3 cup milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm (butter does not need to melt entirely). Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixture (or by hand), scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs, and ½ cup flour, or enough flour to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scrapping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make dough soft (1-2 cups).

Turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead for 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside. Shape remaining 3 pieces into ropes. Braid ropes together, pinch ends to seal. Place onto a large greased baking sheet. Divide remaining dough into 2 parts. Roll into ropes. Twist together. Pinch ends to seal. Place on top of braid.  Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for 1 hour, or until  doubled. Brush loaf with 2 Tbsp. milk beaten with 1 egg white. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and almonds.

Bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes, then in 5 minute increments, until the loaf is deep golden brown and 180-190°F internally (took 40 minutes in my oven). Remove from baking sheet and place on wire rack to cool.

Amazing with butter and honey on top. Or goat cheese and apricot jam. Or practically anything.

Tonkatsu - IMPROVED!

My original tonkatsu recipe has been tested many times, and I've learned a few things. Mainly I have improved the salad dressing. Also I include a more detailed description of how to make the cutlet.

Not pictured: mochi ice cream. Ganbatte!

Improved Salad Dressing

The key to the improved salad dressing is the miso. Hint: even if you are using the pre-packaged instant miso soup, you can repurpose one of the packets for the salad dressing.

2 Tbsp. white miso
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 dash roasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. roasted sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients and toss with lettuce and finely julienned carrots, daikon, and red onion. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds. I like to let it rest while I'm cooking the other things so that the veggies marinate a bit.

Grated Daikon

This forms the bed for the cutlet. I have found that if you grate the daikon, then squeeze out the water, sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, then in a few minutes squeeze out more water, you get the best result. The salt miraculously cancels out any bitterness. You can also use finely slivered napa cabbage.

Pork Cutlet

Could also be made with chicken or turkey. You can use any oil that tolerates heat well, but peanut gives it a nice flavor. You can use half peanut and half something else.

4-6 thin-cut pork chops
2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 c. flour
3 eggs
3/4 c. panko breading crumbs
3-4 c. peanut oil

Trim the chops so that only meat remains. Pound flat into cutlets ~1/4" thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Heat the oil to 350°F. Place the oven on warm and ready a platter with paper towels to drain the cooked cutlets as you work. Beat the eggs together until smooth.

Arrange 3 shallow pans (ie pie tins) in a row next to the stove for the dredging operation. Place flour in one, beaten eggs in the next, and then panko crumbs in the last. Dredge each cutlet in flour, then dip in egg, and last in panko before placing in the hot oil. Take care not to overcrowd the oil--you will likely only be able to fry one cutlet at a time. Fry each cutlet for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then 1-2 minutes on the second side, or until they are golden brown and crisp. Keep the cutlets warm and crisp in the oven. Chop into narrow strips (for easy chopsticking) just before serving. Drizzle with tonkatsu sosu or "Bulldog Fruit and Vegetable Sauce". It is essentially a sweetened, more mild Worcestershire sauce.
Made with real bulldogs!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Afghani Pumpkin Chunks

To be honest, I was inspired to make this based on a menu item I didn't actually order at an Afghani restaurant - something called a Kaddo Bouarani, sweetened pumpkin with Afghani meat sauce. Since Lillian already has a wonderful recipe for the latter, I decided to try making the pumpkin half, especially since pie pumpkins are easy to find in the store these days (and cheap - my 3# pumpkin was $1). There are various recipes online - some call for more of a candying process, but I wanted something a little faster and less indulgent, so I based my recipe on the one here.

The actual cooking of the pumpkin is easy, but skinning is kind of a PITA, so you might save this for company. However, the flavors mix fabulously well, so it is worth it to make, and I think that the pumpkin might also go well with a more Italian meaty marinara sauce.

Afghani Pumpkin

1 medium pie pumpkin
2 Tsp oil

1/3 c. sugar
A couple pinches/shakes cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove the stem of the pumpkin, then use a peeler (like for potatoes) to peel it - the Y-shaped ones probably work better, I had the normal swively kind. You'll find what works best with your peeler - I found a sort of half-moon motion peeled more quickly. 

Once peeled, cut the pumpkin in half, clean out the seeds and interior gunk, then cut it into 3-4" square chunks. In a large cast-iron skilled that you can put in the oven, brown the pumpkin chunks in oil for about five minutes. Remove the chunks from the pan, and toss with sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Return them to the pan, and cook for about thirty minutes, or until quite tender. Serve with Afghani meat sauce and yogurt dressing (make sure to add mint to the dressing, it really helps the flavor)

Pumpkin chunks

With meat sauce and yogurt