Oh Figs!

April 6, 2012

Tee-hee. Polite swearing is so cute.


Today we’re going to talk about the awesomeness known as figs. I LOVE figs. Fresh figs are floral and juicy, dried figs are sticky and sweet. As a kid I loved Fig Newtons, something we didn’t have much. So flipping through a cookbook, I wondered if we could make our own. Turns out…you can!

Start by cutting up two packages of figs. I diced ours, but after making a batch I’d be inclined to mince them. I’d also be inclined to increase the amount of figs for a thicker layer. Ours wound up kind of cakey.

So, take your figs, put them in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup honey and a teaspoon or so of lemon juice. Cook it gently over low heat for approximately ten minutes, or until the figs soften up. Stir occasionally.

While the figs are rehydrating, go ahead and make your “cookie” dough. We made it with 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup honey, 1 egg, 1/2t lemon zest, 1T lemon juice, 3 cups whole wheat flour, 1t baking powder, 1/2t baking soda, 1/4t salt.

Ours was a crumbly texture; however, similar to a graham cracker crust texture, when squeezed it held its shape.

We took the crumbs and pressed them in to the bottom of a sprayed 9×13 glass pan. In hindsight, I think our layer was a little thick.

By this time, the filling should be about set, so dump that in to the pan and spread it out. I left an edge of about a half inch so that we’d get a good cookie seal instead of being leaky.

Then place the remaining cookie crumb on top and press it down.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until starting to look toasty.

You can see that ours are slightly crumbly, but they tasted delicious. I’d add a touch more liquid, a little less crumb, and a little more filling. Best served warm!

Cracker Redux

April 2, 2012

Okay so we all saw what happened with the last cracker challenge and ultimately we were not super satisfied with the end result. They were too puffy and doughy. Katie and I both like super crispy crackers, so we tried something new.

Our basic recipe was flour, salt, and enough warm water to bring it together in to a dough. Like other doughs (think biscuits), you need a soft hand with it – work it too hard and it will get gluten-y and tough. Instead work it gently until it just pulls together. It should be springy to the touch and look about like this:

As you can see, I have some flour left over, but it came together with the right consistency without being too sticky. I let it be at this point. If it is still sticky and you’re out of flour, sprinkle in a tablespoon at a time and work it until it feels good. If it’s dry, do the same but with water instead of flour. Also for fun, we added sesame seeds to the dough, which added a nice toasty flavor.

Once your dough is ready, roll it out to whatever thickness you want. Because this has no leavening in it, they will be about as thick as you roll them with a very very slight increase in size maybe.  So roll roll roll.

You can see in the top corner I have a small bowl of flour for sprinkling, and a square-shaped cookie cutter. We did our crackers two ways: One was to cut out individual squares. The other was to roll a large slab and throw it on the pizza stone. Both ways worked equally well, although the pizza stone was faster.

Each cracker or cracker-slab was docked (poked with a fork – this lets the steam out), brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with crushed rosemary and a little salt.

Also because we had more space on the big slab cracker, we added cheese to see how that would work. Turns out it’s flippin DELICIOUS. Once the slab cracker is done, break it up in to shards. A pizza cutter worked okay too if you want more uniform pieces, but I’m impatient so ripping them up worked as well for me.

These crackers turned out to be delicious, crisp, salty, and amazing. I’m NEVER paying $4 a box of crackers again.

Lately the BurbEx team has done a lot to change diet, including eliminating unnecessary carbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some carbs. But we didn’t need quite as many as we were consuming. One way of compromising about this was to start making our own cereal, granola bars and today..crackers.

I eat crackers with everything. Tuna. Cheese. Egg salad. You name it, I cracker it. But I thought to myself, why not try and make our own. Brilliant!

So the basic recipe is 2 cups flour, a little salt, a tsp of baking powder, herbs, 1/3 c oil, 2/3 cup warm water.

All the ingredients went in together, so don’t worry about form or figure. I did crush my herbs up with my mortar so that they would be more fragrant.

Once everything was in, I mixed by hand into a soft dough. DON’T overmix. If it starts to feel tough, let it rest for a few minutes and gently begin working it again.

Now there are two ways you can go about making crackers. You can roll it out in to a thin sheet all in one go and either slice with a pizza slicer, knife, or bash-n-chop. You can also do it as a big sheet and break it after cooking.

I chose to roll it out as thin as possible and cut out square shapes.

We oiled and salted our crackers, as well as docked them (forked). We then baked them for 8 minutes until starting to brown. Delish.

Catching Air

December 9, 2011

Air. It’s one of those things we need.

See also (at 1:19):

Anyhoo, air is awesome for a number of reasons, none less than because it is the essential ingredient to many other delicious things. (Marshmallows, meringue, or nougat anyone?)

Today, however, I want to talk about pitas. They are amazingly easy to make, and amazingly fun to watch. Here is the basic recipe:

Pita Bread

Makes 8 pitas

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

If you are using active dry yeast, follow the instructions on the packet to active it (see the note on yeast above). Otherwise, mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water (I had to add an extra 1/4 cup).

You might have to play with the flour/water ratio until you get a good consistency (springy), especially depending on climate. We usually need more of both in Denver.

Once the ingredients are balled up, knead the dough by hand or machine for about ten minutes. Not only does this combine the ingredients well, but it helps develop the texture of the dough.

Place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas. It’s important that this is screaming hot so that your pitas cook quickly.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough.

Spray a light mist in to the oven when you are ready to begin baking your pitas to reduce blisters on your pita.

The pitas will only take a couple minutes to cook- you should see them start to expand and then pop!

That picture is blurry, but you can see it puffed up with air. When you take the pita out it will immediately deflate. Not all will pop nicely so don’t be bummed out if a few don’t work. They keep well for several days.