Sunday, February 20, 2011

Convenience is not my thing

I always say that I love recipes that take at least three days to complete. Think: mole; homemade turkey stock; sourdough bread; pandoro. The more time-consuming and labor-intensive, the better. I even say as much in my little blog manifesto. Convenience is not my thing. I might have some kind of an illness. Please don't judge me.

It is in such a context, then, that my head nearly a'sploded when I saw a recipe for barbecue sauce that called for homemade coffee liqueur. After its ingredients are mixed together, the homemade coffee liqueur takes at least a month to mature, sitting on cool, dark shelf, allowing its component parts to mingle and become awesome. When I began making the liqueur early last December, I actually thought to myself, "Bitchin'. I can have homemade crispy chicken nuggets with coffee-liqueur barbecue sauce in February." And this thought was appealing to me.

As I said, some sort of illness.

Anyway. I realize that you can just use Kahlua to make the barbecue sauce, and that way you can have a finished product a mere hour after you decide to make it. That is a completely reasonable route to take. But if you're like me and you like to imagine what you'll dip nuggets into long after winter is gone and the tulips are blooming, you've come to the right place.

This sauce is dynamite: multi-layered, spicy, sweet, boozy, onion-y. It has depth: the depth that a food should have that was several months in the making. We've really enjoyed it over the past few nights as a dipping sauce for the aforementioned crispy chicken nuggets, which come from Cook's Country and are so good that you will not be able to stop thinking about them (I'm not exaggerating). Of course this barbecue sauce has a million applications that don't involve dipping: baste grilled chicken with it, use it to enliven an everyday turkey sandwich, eat it with a spoon.

As for the remaining homemade coffee liqueur: you can always invite Husband over. He loves "Caucasians." He'll finish it off for you in no time.


Coffee Liqueur Barbecue Sauce + Homemade Coffee Liqueur
Adapted from Southern Living

A note about ingredients: the homemade coffee liqueur recipe calls for two tablespoons of chocolate liqueur (a la Godiva). If you don't want to buy a whole bottle for two tablespoons, do what I did: ask your favorite bartender or server for a shot from behind the bar. Maybe it says something about me and my relationship with food service professionals, but I had no qualms about asking our favorite Saturday morning breakfast waitress Becky for a shot and she didn't even charge me. Never mind that the people at the next table wondered why I was asking for chocolate liqueur at 8:15 a.m. They can judge all they want.

Another note: the barbecue sauce recipe only makes about one cup of sauce. Frankly, that is not enough. I recommend doubling it; it will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for a week.

For the homemade coffee liqueur:

4 c. sugar
1/4 c. instant espresso
2 c. vodka
2 T. chocolate liqueur (optional)
1 8-inch vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, then whisk in sugar and instant espresso, whisking until completely dissolved. Let cool 10 minutes.

Stir in the vodka and chocolate liqueur (if desired), whisking until well-blended. Pour the mixture into a 2-quart glass bottle (or any glass bottle that's large enough and has a lid). Cover tightly with the lid and shake thoroughly.

Let stand in a cool, dark place at least one month, shaking at least once weekly.

After one month, you are ready to make barbecue sauce. Rejoice! This process has taught you the beauty of patience and anticipation.

Makes 6 cups of liqueur.

For the coffee liqueur barbecue sauce:

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1/3 c. homemade coffee liqueur (recipe above; store-bought coffee liqueur may be substituted)
1/4 c. red onion, finely chopped
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 t. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. chili powder
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepan, whisk together all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 5 or 6 minutes. Cool completely before serving (about 30 minutes).

Makes 1 cup of barbecue sauce.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: layered chocolate fudge cake
Two years ago: baklava
Three years ago: tomato sauce di Piazza Sant'Eulalia

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An annual thing

OK, so technically A Stove With A House Around It is three years and one month old.

My goal was to celebrate the old girl's third birthday in a more timely fashion, like, on the birthday itself (January 10, 2011). But it's February 13 and I'm just now getting around to acknowledging the milestone. What can I say; I am lame. But I am not so lame that I didn't bake pretzels in honor of the occasion!

For the site's first and second birthdays, I made pretzels. I decided it should be an annual thing: The Ritual Baking of the Pretzel in Honor of the Weblog's Birthday. Last year I wrote, "
Yes. I believe I shall make birthday pretzels a yearly tradition: each year this blog grows a little older, I'll share another pretzel recipe I've found. Because I do believe a full life is one lived in the presence of many pretzel recipes." And I'm nothing if not true to my word.

And so! How fortuitous that I spent so much time during my maternity leave catching up on magazines that had been sitting on the shelf, languishing, for years. And how fortuitous to come across, in the course of this culinary publication backlog-clearing endeavor, an article in a five-year-old Food & Wine about the homey side of Grant Achatz, titled "Comfort Food from a Rebel Chef." "I've always been a fan of any food high in salt and starch," the adorable little molecular gastronomer says, "and soft pretzels right out of the oven are awesome."

Hey, if they're good enough for the man behind this, they're good enough for me.

I'm pretty psyched about the blog's turning three, even if I can't post as often as I used to, or as often as I'd like. It's still a labor of love, and I hope that a few of you out there find inspiration or humor from this space -- or maybe just a way to pass a little time. Thank you for stopping by, and here's to year four!

P.S. If you were wondering if I had mentally ranked the anniversary pretzel recipes from 2009, 2010 and 2011, well yes, I have. These Achatz beauties are clearly number one, followed by Alton Brown's from last year and Martha Stewart's from 2009. I wonder what next year will bring!


From Grant Achatz's recipe as it appeared in Food & Wine

Though Mr. Achatz says he likes to eat these pretzels with ranch dressing (?), I'd go for a bit of mustard or just plain. They are delicious all on their own.

1/2 c. light brown sugar
2 c. warm water
4 1/2 t. instant yeast (or 2 envelopes active dry yeast)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
5 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (plus more, potentially, for kneading)
3/4 c. baking soda
1 large egg beaten with 1 T. water
Maldon salt, for sprinkling

In a large bowl, stir the brown sugar into the water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and mix in with a whisk; let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable oil and 3 cups of the flour. I use my dough whisk to bring the dough together, but a wooden spoon will work just fine. Knead in the remaining 2 3/4 cups flour; the dough will be slightly sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and knead until the dough is silky, about 3 minutes. If the dough is very sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour. (I did not need to use any extra flour.) Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line three large baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a work surface. Knead the dough lightly, then flatten it out and, using a bench scraper, cut it into 24 pieces.

Roll each piece into an 6-inch stick about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer the sticks to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. Let stand uncovered until puffed, about 25 minutes.

In a large, deep skillet stir the baking soda into 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate. Using two slotted spoons or spiders, carefully transfer 6 pretzel sticks at a time to the simmering water for 30 seconds, turning once. Transfer the sticks to paper towels to drain, then return them to the parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them as before.

Brush the pretzel sticks with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake until richly browned, about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 24 pretzel sticks. The sticks can be stored in a plastic bag overnight then reheated in a toaster oven the next day, but they are never as good as they are right out of the oven. So, prepare to gorge yourself on pretzel sticks or invite a few people over for snacking.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: layered chocolate fudge cake
Two years ago: pine nut cookies with rosemary
Three years ago: egg rolls

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bread Baker's Apprentice 19/43: marble rye

"I could see why Seinfeld would steal one of those," Husband said.

He was, of course, referring to the time Jerry stole a marble rye from Mrs. Choate in order to sneak it into the Ross house so George could replace the one his parents took back when Mr. and Mrs. Ross didn't serve it with dinner. "Shut up, you old bag!" Jerry shouted, tucking the swirled rye under his arm.

Though I would consider committing a crime in order to procure a marble rye, now I don't have to, thanks to Peter Reinhart. Which is good for many reasons, not the least of which is: should I ever be brought up on some charges related to a Good Samaritan law in New England, the prosecution won't be able to haul any marble rye-spurned old ladies before the jury to disparage my character.

The most difficult part about making this bread is getting your hands on the specialty flours. Well, it's not difficult, per se, it just involves a bit of planning. To achieve the bread's lovely dark-light mottling -- as well as the distinctive, wonderful rye flavor -- you'll need white rye flour, clear flour and caramel coloring. Thanks to the ever-stellar King Arthur Flour, these flours are only an Internet order and a few days' wait away. (For the record, Reinhart's recipe calls for liquid caramel color to dye the dark portion of the marble rye. King Arthur Flour only had the caramel powder. It worked just fine and didn't leave behind any of the bitter flavor that coloring the dough with cocoa or instant coffee would.) The day I ordered my flour I decided that I would spoil myself and load up on all the specialty flours I'd need for the remainder of the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge. The following bounty arrived on my front porch 72 hours later. You don't necessarily have to be this ridiculous, but I'm not gonna lie: it was glorious. And yes, I lined them all up on my counter like the massive nerd that I am.

Of my two-loaf yield, I ate one marble rye right away and stashed the second in the freezer for a snowy day. The crust was shiny and rich, with a sturdy but soft crumb inside. I usually enjoy thick-sliced and dark-toasted bread, but the marble rye was very tasty cut thinly and toasted lightly. L
ike seemingly everything else in my life, I loved this bread even more with a little bit of fancy salted butter.

And because I baked it myself, I didn't have to fish for it out the bedroom window of my in-laws' townhouse. Hey, it's a Schnitzer's.


The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not share Reinhart's recipes on the dot-com. Meanwhile, you don't need it anyway, because you've already purchased the book. (And if you haven't done so yet, go do it now. I'll look the other way and pretend you've had it all along.) The marble rye recipe starts on page 183.

I've submitted these marble rye loaves to Yeastspotting because they are so lovely, if I do say so myself.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: layered chocolate fudge cake
Two years ago: graham crackers
Three years ago: whole-wheat spaghetti with Meyer lemon, arugula and pistachios