Saturday, December 22, 2007

holiday cookies

Hi! Remember me? I haven't been posting much, but I've definately been kinds of cookiies, to be precise. I feel like Martha Stewart or something.

Molasses crinkles, cantuccini, x cookies (my favorite!!), cornmeal-cherry cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate blocks (dark chocolate, cashews, apricots, and cranberries), and chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons.

Whew! (I've linked the the recipes I adapted from)

I think the tins looked really pretty.

See? This stuff is xxx, people!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pumpkin-Black Bean-Chipotle Soup

Ok, so it's not much of a looker, but this soup was good. Really good. If-I-ever-wrote-a-cookbook-this-would-be-in-there kind of good. You should try it!

I saw this post over at smitten kitchen, which made me want to try a pumpkin soup other than the coconut milk and red curry one I usually make. Deb describes her soup as "big, beefy, and bold", with toothsome chunks of ham. Well, obviously my soup isn't beefy or ham-filled, but I think it has a similar feel, though it tastes very different than the recipe that inspired it! It's thick and hearty and packed with flavour-- in this case, chipotle and cilantro, two of my very favourite flavours. I left some of the beans whole to give it a bit more texture.

I hope you'll give this recipe a try!

Pumpkin-Black Bean-Chipotle Soup (serves 4)

4 1/2 cups black beans (about three 15 1/2 ounce cans), rinsed and drained
1 15 1/2 ounce can whole tomatoes, fire roasted if you have them
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tsp good chili powder
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced, with 2 tbsp of the adobo sauce
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
16-ounce can pumpkin pureé (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 to 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

Coarsly pureé 3 1/2 cups of the beans and the tomatoes tomatoes.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and salt, and cook, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Add the chipotle and adobo sauce and cook for another minute. Stir in the bean pureé. Stir in broth, and pumpkin until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Just before serving, add the rest of the beans and vinegar and simmer soup, stirring, until heated through. Season soup with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped cilantro.

Serve soup garnished with cilantro sprigs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pumpkin challah

Hi everyone. Happy December. I didn't mean to disappear for such a long much for nablopomo. Oh well. At least I can say that I posted more in November than in any other month! Anyway, last week I was really busy writing a paper about metaphysics in German. It was really hard-- re-writing it in German was almost as hard as writing it in the first place-- which was kind of discouraging. Though to be fair, I don't use metaphysical German in my daily conversations.

Anyway, on to better things: pumpkin. I'm still working on using it up! I only have 3/4 cup or so left, which I think I'll eat for dinner. Thank you for your suggestions. I made pumpkin waffles, a really, really amazingly yummy pumpkin-black bean-chipotle soup (I'm definately posting the recipe for that) and this....pumpkin challah!

I'm so pleased with this bread. Pumpkin challah is a Sephardic challah, which I'd never made before. It's really good. It has the same texture as normal challah, but with a hint pumpkin-spice flavour. But it's not too sweet or overpoweringly spicy-- I had some today with baba ghanoush, for example, and it tasted great.

When I make challah, I always, always make a 6-strand braid. First of all, it looks much prettier than a 3-strand braid in my opinion, and it's really fun to braid. It also makes a higher loaf than a 3-strand braid does, which I like. I hope you won't be intimidated, and will try to make a 6-strand loaf, too! It's really easy. I know thoughts of having 6-strands tangled in front of you can seem dizzying, but there are only 4 steps, so it's not that hard. Just look at this diagram, print it out and have it in front of you, and you'll be all set. If you google, you can find lots and lots of videos on how to braid 6-strand challahs, too.

Anyway, the recipe. It's adapted from Maggie Glazer's A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking from Around the World.

Pumpkin Challah (makes 1 large loaf)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup warm water
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy yoghurt

Mix the yeast in the warm water along with the spices and 2/3 cup of the flour. Let the mixture stand for 10-20 minutes. Whisk the sugar, salt, oil, yoghurt, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast sponge. Stir in about 2 cups of the remaining flour, then start incorporating the rest with your hands. You might need a bit more or a bit less. The dough should be soft but not too sticky. Knead for 10 minutes. Dough should be smooth. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm place until it has tripled (2-3 hours).

Punch the dough down. On a lightly floured surface, cut it into 6 equal balls of dough. Roll each one into a rope about 3/4'' in diameter. Try to make the ends of the ropes taper. Braid into a 6-strand braid-- see link above. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and rise until at least doubled in size, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush the loaves with soymilk, and bake then for 40-45 minutes, until they are deep golden brown and hollow when tapped on the bottom. Take them out of the oven and brush them again halfway during baking.