Posts Tagged ‘flour’

Recall Madness

June 6, 2016

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In the last few weeks, there have been massive food recalls, as a result of potential listeria contamination. Not only are the recalls vast, they are also turning up in food products we may have deemed to be safe, and often healthy.

Once such recall stems from contaminated sunflower seeds, which were purchased by many different producers of granola bars and trail mix. The list of products being recalled seems to grow daily, with companies such as Nature Valley, Kashi, and Clif Bars being affected by the voluntary intiative.

Many ready made salads are joining the list, with Trader Joe’s being among the companies involved. They also have had significant issues with frozen vegetables, frozen fried rice mixtures and sunflower seed products.

 

5035600025_compThis weekend’s recall of General Mills flours is an especially alarming one, as the recall goes back several months, and the flour has likely been used to make other products, which could trigger more issues in the immediate future.

UPDATE: Hostess recalling donuts and snack cakes, based on potentially contaminated flour used to make them. Here we go…

Why are there so many recalls lately and what can we do about it?

An article by Tiffany Thomas on the website Romper suggests that the scope of the recalls could indicate progress within our food saftey system. According to Elliott Ryser, a professor at Michigan State University, the fact that a relatively small number of people actually became ill and the recalls were triggered by red flags during routine inspection, means our food inspection process is improving.

In fact, the CDC has new tools to track the genome sequences present in the bacteria. Listeria is also a hearty bacteria, sticking around and taking up residence in food processing plants. It is also able to survive extreme conditions, such as freezing. It can be killed if food reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees, but it best to avoid contaminated foods altogether. Even listeriosis symptoms can take up to 2 months to reveal themselves, although they often show up within days of consuming contaminated foods.

For a list of all food recalls, check the FDA’s website for the latest information.

Photos: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Cutting Tips

January 19, 2016

 

4326400712_compLately, I have been cutting through lots of different things that are dense, sticky, gooey or hard, often using a shape cutter to do it. After much frustration and a little trial and error, I have come up with some solutions to getting a good, clean cut.

Often super sticky items need something dry to keep the knife or cutter from getting stuck. For doughs, that means always dipping your tools and your hands into flour ( cookies, bread doughs and gnocchi ). For my marshmallows, I use a blend of confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch to absorb some of the sticky moisture and give me a clean edge every time.

When cutting through a dense chocolate item, such as a flourless chocolate cake, or fudge, dipping the knife into hot water allows you to slice through more easily. The heat melts the chocolate slightly, letting the knife or the cutter glide through. If that melted edge isn’t clean enough for you, try spraying your tools with cooking spray. Make sure to wipe the blade between cuts to avoid build up to keep your slices much cleaner.

Flakey items, such as tart crusts, benefit from a serrated knife and a gentle sawing action at the edges so that crust doesn’t crumble. Once you have gone through the edge,more assertive slicing is usually fine. This holds true for anything delicate, like cookies, or breads and cakes with a fine crumb.

When cutting through hard things, like a big block of chocolate, use a heavy knife and cut with a rocking motion. This will allow you to gradually slice through it, without it snapping and cracking.

Happy Cutting!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Gnocchi

December 28, 2015

We were so excited to receive the Gjelina cookbook for Christmas this year. It is filled with simple, delicious vegetable and grain-centric recipes from acclaimed chef, Travis Lett.

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We tried the ricotta gnocchi tonight, and it was recieved with rave reviews. Like any dough recipe, this requires using your sense of what the dough should feel like, vs. a hard and fast recipe to follow to a tee. The result was light, pillowy gnocchi that we devoured with nothing more than a pool of pomodoro sauce and some Parmesan cheese. The best news: it didn’t take much more than 30 minutes to create. Go ahead and give it try…we’ll guide you through the process.

Ricotta Gnocchi adapted from Gjelina:
Spread about 1/2 cup of flour onto the counter in a circular shape. Top with 1 pound of strained ricotta cheese. ( we used part skim from the grocery store.) and then top that with another 1/2 cup of flour. Sprinkle it with a pinch each of salt and ground nutmeg.

Using your fingertips, lightly mix the flour and ricotta and gather it into a mound with a well in the center. Add 3/4 to one whole egg,which has been lightly beaten into the well, and combine it with a fork until it is roughly held together. Using a bench scraper, gently fold the dough repeatedly until it has come together into a ragged mass. Sprinkle it with small amounts of flour and delicately knead the dough, adding more flour as you go until it comes together into a ball. Delicate is the operative word here, and the more assertively the dough is handled, the more the gluten will develop and make your gnocchi tough, or gummy in texture. Handle the dough as little and as gently as possible to attain the results outlined above.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it sit about 20 minutes.

Cover the surface with flour and gently shape the dough into a large disk about 1″ thick. Cut the disk into strips.  Take each strip and roll it into a log about 1/2″ in diameter. With a knife, cut each strip into 1″ segments, and press the tines of a fork into one side of each piece. Don’t flatten them with the fork, just create an impression. Place the pieces of gnocchi on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with flour until ready to use.

Boil a large pot of salted water. Place the gnocchi into the pot and cook for about 2 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss them in the sauce of your choice. Keep sauces on the lighter side, so you don’t overpower the gnocchi. We recommend a simple pomodoro sauce, or even butter and sage or basil and Parmesan cheese. Serve while hot and enjoy!!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

August 5, 2015

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Summer berries seem to be at their peek right now. They are plump, juicy and sweet, and don’t need much to turn them into a delcious dessert. We love making these little mini sweet biscuits, which we fill with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. They are just sweet enough to make the transition into dessert territory, and the perfect foil for the rich cream and fruit. They are like your very own miniature strawberry shortcake, and we bet you’ll opt for more than one!

Mini Shortcakes | a.k.a. Sweet Dessert Biscuits:(adapted from Ina Garten)

Sift together 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar,1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt and place it in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Add 1- 1/2 sticks of butter, diced into small pieces and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

Add 2 eggs (slightly beaten with a fork ) and 1/2 cup heavy cream. With the mixer running on low, add them to the flour/ butter mixture and mix until combined and a sticky dough forms.

Dump the dough onto a well floured surface and knead so that it comes together and is workable. Roll until the dough is about 1/2″ -5/8″ thick. Using a lightly floured round cutter, or a drinking glass with a diameter of about 2″, cut the dough into rounds and place on sheet pan. Brush with an egg wash (beaten egg and a little milk or water) and sprinkle the tops with sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked all the way through. Allow to cool.

To serve, slice open and fill with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. You can substitute ice-cream or frozen yogurt for the whipped cream, and use any fruit you like. If you want to get “fancy,” marinate the berries in Grand Marnier or a little aged balsamic vinegar before serving, and enjoy!!

Photo: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Cake Flour

June 2, 2015

 

If you are a baker, you might see a recipe specify cake flour. Cake flour is similar to all-purpose flour, except that its lower protein content makes for a lighter, loftier product with a much finer crumb. It is often used for more delicate cakes ( think Angel Food Cake ) and can be mixed with regular flour to achieve a desired texture. It isn’t something the average home baker always has in the pantry, and isn’t carried at every store. It is however, something you can make yourself in a pinch, without too much extra trouble.

To transform all purpose white flour into cake flour, measure out the required amount of cake flour, substituting regular flour. For each cup of flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour, and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Use this formula for subsequent amounts. For instance, if the recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour, remove and replace 7 tablespoons of flour. Whisk the mixture together and sift several times to  integrate the cornstarch, and aerate the flour to be the lightest it can be.

Use the blend in place of cake flour, and enjoy your lighter, airier baked goods!

Photo:  Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Funnels

February 3, 2015

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Funnels are a useful kitchen tool, but one that not all of us have. I mean, how often do you use a funnel?
No worries! There are several options that you do have laying around the house.

When looking to transfer something like rice, or beans into a smaller container, or even pour flour into the running mixer, simply take a clean envelope and cut a hole in the corner, just large enough for the item to pass through.

For oil, or liquid items, roll a piece of parchment paper into a cone, and set the small end into the cup or bottle you are transfering to. Small quantities of liquids shouldn’t soak through paper, if you pour carefully. This also works for dry ingredients.

If you have a wider opening in your container, pour the ingredients into a pitcher, and then slowly pour from there.

When you’re done, toss the faux funnel into the trash, and enjoy your mess-free kitchen counters.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Sifting

January 6, 2015

I have a confession to make. I don’t own a sifter.

While it’s entirely possible you don’t either, for someone who bakes as much as I do, it’s pretty surprising. It’s a relatively inexpensive item and sifting is often required for recipes. So what’s the deal?

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Sifting is defined as “put (a fine, loose, or powdery substance) through a sieve so as to remove lumps or large particles.” A sifter, for those of you who don’t have one either, is looks a bit like a large tin can with a handle on the outside, and has a mesh filter on the inside. There is some sort of mechanism to move the flour around, such as a crank, or a spring loaded device, serving to aerate the ingredients and propel them through the mesh filter.

Although I agree that the aerating and “de-lumping” is an important step in baking, I usually do it with a small wire whisk and a metal strainer. ( Truth be told, depending on what I am making, I don’t even bother with the strainer.)

If you are caught without a sifter when baking, simply place a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl and place the required ingredients into it, ( usually flour, and sometimes salt or a leavening agent, such as baking powder or soda) and whisk until it all passes through the sieve and into the bowl.

Nothing extra to store, or clean. That works for me!

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Unrecipe of the Week: Banana Bread

December 2, 2013

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We eat a lot of bananas in our house, but inevitably, there is always a few that get too ripe, despite the techniques we have employed to avoid it.

No worries, banana bread is so easy to make, that we are happy to have an excuse to whip some up!

Banana Bread

Mash up 3 or 4 over ripe bananas in a mixing bowl. Add 1/3 cup melted butter and mix. Stir in 1 egg,  3/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt over the mixture add 1 1/2 cups of flour. Mix well and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan, slice and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Measuring Dry Ingredients

July 30, 2013

Here at Indigo Jones, we are big on the “unrecipe.” When cooking, we like to be flexible and use instinct to get the right amount of flavor to suit our palate. Baking is another story. Being casual with measurements can prove catastrophic.

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When measuring dry ingredients, such as flour for baking, it is important to be consistent, to get consistent results.

We like to use the fluff, stuff and level method:
Fluff up the flour, scoop it into a measuring cup, and level it off with a knife. It’s easy, and effective.

Other ingredients, such as brown sugar need to be packed firmly into the cup when measuring, to ensure the correct amount.

Using these techniques will help ensure perfect baked goods every time!

photo: Glasshouse Images 

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Unrecipe of the Week: Fried Chicken

June 17, 2013

It was Father’s Day, and bandaged hand or not, I wanted to make a special dinner to celebrate. I usually shy away from fried foods…partially because of the health aspect, but more because of the mess. I have a commercial stove and even vigorously boiling water leaves spatters. The kitchen is open to the rest of our loft, and the thought of all of my guests hanging out in the kitchen while I hover over a pan of sizzling hot oil doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time. Tonight however, I persevered. I poked around on all of my favorite websites, looking for tips for the perfect fried chicken. Soaking overnight in buttermilk seemed to be a commonality. Many recommended adding a little baking powder to the flour mixture for a little extra crunch. Given my recent run of mishaps, most of my Facebook friends suggested ordering out, or baking it in the oven to avoid another trip to the burn unit. Instead, I donned gloves, put on an apron and some sleeves, and went for it.

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Fried Chicken:

Soak the chicken for several hours, or overnight in buttermilk, liberally seasoned with some salt and pepper.

Prior to frying, roll the chicken pieces, still coated in buttermilk, in a large bowl of flour, seasoned with salt, pepper, a tablespoon or so of baking powder, garlic powder,paprika and cayenne pepper to taste. Lay the chicken pieces out on a parchment or waxed paper covered baking sheet and return to the refrigerator until ready to be fried.

Place about 1” of vegetable oil in a large pan. The higher the sides of the pan, the less spattering there will be. Heat the oil to about 375 degrees and add the chicken, skin side down. Work in batches, and leave ample room between the pieces. Cook covered for about 7 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and cook uncovered for about 7 minutes. The time will vary depending on the size of the pieces. You want to cook it through, but avoid burning the outside. The drumsticks cooked faster than the breasts due to size, but generally dark meat takes a little longer than white.

Drain on paper towels. Transfer the cooked pieces to a rack placed on top of a baking sheet, and place it in the oven to keep warm. The rack allows air to circulate and keeps the chicken crispy. If you are unsure if the chicken is cooked through, leave it in the oven to finish cooking.

Serve and enjoy!!!

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I served ours with sweet and spicy corn salsa with pancetta, previously posted here.

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