Saturday, April 28, 2012

Simple Rhubarb Jam (No Commercial Pectin)

At the end of the month I am teaching a canning rhubarb jam workshop and I need to settle on a recipe.  I have been making a Rhubarb Apricot Jam for the last few years now, but in that jam the rhubarb only plays a supporting role to the apricot.  The workshop schedule was set in early March, so I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do before there was any rhubarb to play with.  Looking through my cookbook collection and online for rhubarb flavor pairings I found the ubiquitous strawberry rhubarb, ginger rhubarb, vanilla rhubarb, rhubarb and beer etc but nothing that inspired me.  Earlier this week I finally found rhubarb at my local food co-op and I bought enough for one test batch of jam along with several ounces of loose tea I thought I might add.

In the end I decided to highlight the subtle flavor of the rhubarb instead of cluttering the jam with lots of other noise.  The sugar is scaled back from many traditional rhubarb jams, allowing the subtle tartness to blend with the sugar instead of being drowned by it.  The more I play with rhubarb, whether it is in a savory rhubarb recipe or a simple jam the more I fall in love with its complexity.  This jam has a lot going on, especially for such a simple list of ingredients.  I will be making many more batches of it before the end of the rhubarb season, not just for my own toast.  Sebastian, my 9 year old declared it his second favorite jam.  His first favorite will probably always be Tomato Orange Marmalade.  For now, it is the only jam I want on my toast.

Before I make another batch of jam I need to wait for the plants in my yard to cooperate.  Although while waiting I need to find a use for the tiny stalks I picked for the photos!

Simple Rhubarb Jam
Yield 4 half pint and one 4 oz jar

1 Kilogram rhubarb, stalks halved lengthwise and then chopped into 1/2 inch or so pieces
600 grams sugar
juice of one lemon (I like to microwave my lemon for 40 seconds before squeezing it to get the most juice out)

Combine all the ingredients in a non reactive pot or bowl (non reactive means, anything but copper, aluminum or cast iron).  Stir well and cover with a lid or a towel before placing in the fridge at least over night, I usually allow mine to rest for 24 hours.

Remove the pot from the fridge and uncover it, stir well and place over high heat.  Heat the jam over high heat, once the fruit is boiling stir constantly until the setting point is reached.  With this jam I used the cold plate test to test the set: Place a dollop of  your jam on a plate you have previously set in the freezer. Place the plate and jam in the fridge. After about 5 minutes test the jam by pushing it with your finger, if it wrinkles up it is gelled and it's time to can your jam.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel or cloth and place on 2 piece lids and tighten by hand. Place filled jars in a water bath canner with water covering the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring water back to boil. Boil for 10 minutes more, when the 10 minutes is completed turn off the heat, remove the lid and leave the jars in the canner for another 5 minutes. Remove jars and place on a towel, dish cloth or receiving blanket or a cooling rack, with at least 1 inch between jars. Allow to cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Once cool take off the bands, test the seal by pushing up on the lid with your thumbs. Any jars that have not sealed properly can be placed in the fridge. Clean the top of the jars, label and store in a cool dry place.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Last week was not a week dedicated to cooking.  Sebastian, my oldest was in the school play and Lewis was handling the lighting.  Dinner was about the balancing act of late rehearsals and bedtime, not experimenting with new recipes and playing in the kitchen.  However the first night of the play the boys got out of school at 11:30 am and I decided to bake cookies while they played outside.  Who needs a balanced dinner when there are cookies?  These cookies are actually low enough in sugar they could be served as a bread serving in the school lunch or CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program). so they could even be dinner!

When I gave both boys a cookie to eat I told them I was finally done looking for new peanut butter cookie recipes because I had found my favorite.  Sebastian, who apparently knows me well replied, "Unless you find one you want to test."  So yes, unless I find a peanut butter cookie recipe I want to test these are my new favorite.  Chewy without being crumbly, full of peanut flavor and chunks of peanut for crunch, a depth of flavor that comes from the oats and wheat flour and then pools of dark chocolate to contrast with the peanuts.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living April 2012

These cookies can also be made with other nut butters and matching chopped nuts (or use sunflower seeds and sunflower butter for a nut free version).

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup or 12 Tbsp) butter, divided use
1 cup rolled or old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 peanut or other nut butter
1/2 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts (or other nuts)
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat
3/4 cup white flour

Preheat your oven to 350° with the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Melt 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp) butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the oats to the melted butter and continue to cook over medium heat, while stirring, until the oats are toasted, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir for a little longer until the pan cools down a little, just a minute or 2.  Alternatively you can dump the toasted oats onto a parchment lined baking sheet to cool.

Beat one stick of butter (8 Tbsp or 1/2 cup) in a mixer on medium high with the sugars until pale and fluffy.  If you are not using a self scraping beater blade, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat until well incorporated before adding the nut butter.  Beat on medium speed until the mixture is well combined.  Add toasted oats chopped nuts and chocolate, beat on medium speed until combined.

Add both flours and beat until just combined.  Scoop out dough using a 1-1/2-Tablespoon scoop or roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls.  Place cookie dough 1 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden, switching the pans front to back and between racks after 6 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets.  Be sure to eat several cookies while they are still warm.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Matzo Oven Pancake

Last night instead of attending a seder we went out for tortillas.  Our seder this year is tonight.  Tonight we will gather with friends and family to read through the Haggadah, eat matzo and ask the 4 questions.  As we ate our tortillas I mentioned that it was the first night of Passover.  "What!" Said Sebastian in horror as he looked at his dinner.  "I don't want to eat bread during Passover this year."

 "Don't worry honey."  I replied, "It is still light out, Passover has not started."  He looked at the bright sky, sighed happily and finished his quesadilla.  I did not think much more about Sebastian's observance of the Passover holiday until this morning when I recognized we had a problem.  I have not bought any matzo yet.  Normally for Passover we as a family add matzo to the food we regularly eat, without subtracting anything.  Clearly without matzo, matzo brei was not an option.  Besides, for Lewis and I matzo brei has alway been our traditional breakfast the morning after our seder.  All we had for Passover provisions was a canister of matzo meal.  So what could we make for breakfast that Sebastian could eat?

Then I had an inspiration, matzo meal oven pancake.  I have played enough over the years with modifying recipes to use matzo meal, so I had a good idea of what to do.  However Lewis is usually in charge of making the oven pancakes.  So I began preparing the dough as Lewis watched, often disapprovingly.  However in the end it turns out I did know what I was doing as I pulled a golden brown and puffed pancake from the oven.  With fresh lemon juice squeezed on top, our preferred way to serve oven pancake, it was a delicious breakfast.  It would have been delicious even if it was not Passover.

Sebastian happily ate his share.  However as he ate it he informed me that the regular oven pancake would have been fine.  "I don't want to eat any bread with yeast in it this week.  Flour is fine though."

Matzo Meal Oven Pancake: Kosher for Passover

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°

Combine the eggs and milk in a large bowl and beat well to combine.  Add the matzo meal and mix well before stirring in the melted butter (don't worry about over mixing the dough, because matzo has already been baked the gluten is set and cannot make the mixture tough).

Add the salt, sugar, and vanilla extract and mix well.  Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes so the matzo meal can absorb some of the liquid and soften a little.  Near the end of the dough resting place 2 to 3 Tbsp butter in a large cast iron skillet (10 to 12 inches wide) or a pyrex dish (9 x 13 or a little smaller).  Place the skillet or pan in the oven until the pan is hot and the butter is fully melted.  Pour the dough into the pan and place in the oven.

Cook for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and set.  Do not check on the pancake until it has cooked for at least 15 minutes so it does not deflate.  I often place an oven mitt over the handle when I remove a hot skillet from the oven.  When I don't I always seem to forget and grab the burning hot handle.

Slide the pancake out of the pan and onto a cutting board.  Slice into wedges and serve with fresh lemon juice squeezed on top and if you wish a sprinkling of powdered sugar (I never use the sugar).  To get more juice from your lemons place them in the microwave on high for 40 seconds before slicing into them.