Saturday, March 28, 2015

success at last: mini German pancakes

Finally gaining some momentum in my not so favorite Australian apartment kitchen.  I'm starting to get the hang of baking with my tiny little oven.  Fairly certain I need to buy an oven thermometer (one in celsius)*.  And pretty sure I need at least the Aussie version of my immersion blender with the beaker, bowl and whisk.  The food processor I bought off gumtree (like Craig's List) is too big for small jobs (and also unhappily, not very powerful).  Oh, I miss all my tools from home.  The motors would die sad deaths here with the different current, so they are all living in someone else's kitchens while I am away.

My baking failures have possibly as much to do with hand creaming butter and sugar as they do with the giant eggs I was buying.  But after a 0 for 3 start on baking, I have turned the corner and built up some arm strength.  Greg's been away and I'm good at hauling things home on my bike and on foot, but I had to draw the line on small appliances.  Just a luxury that could wait. Groceries (still learning to buy less to carry less), table lamp (yep, missed the delivery and I had to carry that big box home by the beach which was lovely and funny), new Birkenstocks (yes, they are ugly but supremely functional at the beach), print leggings (right,  I do not need more leggings but the ones here are so much lighter and well, they are prints so they are, you know, cuter) and a new bikini (yes, bikini, I am telling you no one cares here and they are just easier to layer) can all find their way home.  But small appliances, no.  So I've creamed butter and sugar until light and fluffy with a wooden spoon and whisked egg whites into meringue all by my own power and the baking success ratio is now evened up with 3 wins.  March Madness I tell you.

Here's a super quick recipe that you can whip up for breakfast now, but it's probably dinner time where you are and sunrise here.  You have what you need and if you have a blender, that luxury kitchen item,  you are golden.   Maybe you've made a Dutch baby pancake before in a big 9 x 13 pan where it puffs high in the oven and immediately falls when you take it out.  This is the same idea, but little individual serving pancakes get all cute and puffy in muffin tins and then fall leaving a well you can fill however you see fit.  You could go savory with a little cheese and cooked bacon or sausage and some fresh herbs or a chutney.  Or you could be me and go sweet with jams and or nutella. Pretty sure kids would find this whole process fun.  

Blend away and be thankful for your well-stocked kitchen, but if you have to use a whisk like me you'll be fine.  You can also easily half this recipe.  I did.  Better fresh than to have leftovers.  If you do, just freeze them right away so they don't get too heavy.  

Mini German Pancakes
1 cup milk (skim is fine)
6 eggs
1/2 C flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour (all white flour is fine too)
2 tsp honey (optional, especially if you are filling with savory things)
1/2 tsp vanilla 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C melted butter
powdered sugar
jams, nutella or whatever for fillings

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.  
In a blender (or vigorously with a whisk), blend together the milk, eggs, flour (s), honey (if using), vanilla and salt pulsing until the batter is smooth and without lumps (scrape sides with motor off, as necessary).  Add melted butter slowly, blending until incorporated.  Pour batter into muffin cups a little more than half full.  Bake at 400 degrees until puffy and golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Make sure you peek to see how cool and puffy they look before you open the door and they start to fall. Carefully turn them out of the tins and dust them with powdered sugar (if going the sweet route).  Fill and serve while warm.  

Makes 16-18 in a standard size muffin tin

the old-fashioned way and the ingredients 

whisking away

tins filled

super puffy half batch

dusted with powdered sugar (note the little pool of melted butter, nothing wrong with that)

filled, yum

breakfast with a view
*credit Steve Flood of Australian reality television My Kitchen Rules (aka MKR) fame for the oven thermometer tip.  Greg texted me he was in the same barber shop in Manly and I hopped on my bike to get this shot and as it turns out, to have a nice long chat about the show, our kitchens and baking.  I hope Steve and Will win this season, but if Steve was not telling in case you want to know.

MKR's Steve Flood (Brit, but Manly local now just like me)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

adopting a new kitchen: corn fritters with roasted tomatoes for brunch

mediocre at best corn fritter photo from my old iPhone 4S,
please note I made these for dinner, not brunch (hence the red wine)
"I write a cooking blog", I say when I'm meeting people during the expat adventure in Australia. "Well, it's been on hiatus.  But I'm ready to get back to it", is what I usually say as the conversation continues.  We're pretty settled now.  Greg's in the middle of more than 3 weeks out of the country. So I'm really out of excuses.  

I did manage to blow up our microwave/oven thing last week.  Big bang, the whole apartment without power.  But the repair man came today.  Nice guy (of course, everyone's been super nice here).  He asked how I was employed here.  "Oh, my husband's employed, I'm just here enjoying life, but I do have a working visa and could get a job".  He said, "No, if you don't have to, you should just enjoy life.  Enjoying life should be your job".  I'd have to agree with him there.  It's easy to enjoy life living on the ocean between two beautiful beaches.  I'm writing a blog all about the parts of living abroad that do not involve cooking (well, that will probably sneak in there too).  Please follow "BlueSkies Abroad" too if you are so inclined.  

I've resisted adopting my new home's kitchen as my own.  Our apartment is lovely, the location leaves us in wonder and awe on a daily basis.  But, our apartment is tired.  All the gorgeous kitchens I've seen, but I did not get one.  Small price to pay for the view.  The flat grey laminate countertops are stained and the seams are sealed with the ugliest, bumpiest, caulk job ever.  The stainless steel backsplash is scratched, the cabinets worn leaving sawdust on the floor, the floor never looks clean. It's got to be the German in me (I'm half German), but it just never seems clean and it's been hard for me to spend much time in there.  Ah, but now it's pretty much my dirt which is a little easier to handle mentally (we all have our challenges).  We have a cute little barbecue so I've been grilling, tossing salads and just avoiding the kitchen.  I am three for three on baking fails which is an all-time record. Everything has been flat.  I clearly need to buy some kind of mixer because I have yet to achieve light and fluffy by hand.  The eggs are giant and the yolks are very rich and orange and everything tastes to "eggy".  Greg would really roll his eyes at that, but I think the eggs are part of the problem.  Anyway, despite my efforts I can't post a good recipe yet for flourless macadamia brownies or mixed berry ricotta muffins, two of my big and expensive fails.  

Then there is the whole opposite season thing.  It's actually fall here now, but the produce is still says summer.  Which is delightful.  But while you are thawing out and still enjoying comfort foods, I'm eating avocado toast and salads.  But enough of the excuses.  I do cook.  I do eat.  There has to be something here.  We'll wind back to the nice kitchen I had in the charming Airbnb I stayed in before we found our apartment.  The hosts have become friends which is a delightful turn of events. Anyway, she has a very well-stocked and equipped kitchen and a good cookbook selection.  I stumbled upon brunch at a rather famous Sydney restaurant when I lived in the CBD (the city, our first apartment stop), "bill's".  I enjoyed their corn fritters with roasted tomatoes and was so happy to find the "bill's Sydney Food" cookbook on the shelves of the Airbnb.  It's still a few months away from Indiana corn (cherish it, Australian's don't do corn nearly as well), but when it's in season give this recipe a try.  Serve it with greens, avocado (or guacamole) and bacon (if your brunch is not complete without bacon).  Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt would be nice dolloped on top too.  The roasted tomatoes are good even with standard grocery tomatoes, in fact it's a good way to use less than high season tomatoes. Fritters are a common brunch food and brunch is a big deal in Sydney. Food is a big deal in Sydney. Good news all around for me.  

Corn Fritters with Roasted Tomatoes

1 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked is a nice twist)
1 T sugar
1/2 C milk (skim is fine)
2 C fresh corn kernels
1/2 C red pepper, cut in small dice
1/2 C scallions, sliced
1/4 C chopped cilantro (leaves only) or a combination of cilantro and flat leaf parsley 
4 T canola or other neutral vegetable oil

Roasted Tomatoes
4 medium ripe tomatoes (Romas or Campari or whatever you have), halved lengthwise
2 T olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Start the roasted tomatoes first by heating the oven to 350 degrees and tossing the tomatoes with the olive oil and 1/2 tsp of salt and a few good grinds of pepper.  Spread the tomato halves on a baking sheet lined with parchment (or on a seasoned stoneware pan, but the parchment trick is good for fast clean-up).  Roast in the oven until caramelized and brown, about 40 minutes.

Make the fritters by first whisking together the flour, baking powder, salt, paprika and sugar.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Whisk together the milk and eggs.  Pour the egg mixture into the well and whisk together with the flour mixture until lump free.  

Place the corn, red pepper, scallions and cilantro (and parsley, if using) in a mixing bowl and add just enough batter to bind them.  In my case, since I didn't actually measure my corn and red pepper, I used all of the batter and all was well.  

Heat about 2 T of oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Drop about 2 T of batter per fritter into the hot pan and cook for 2-4 minutes until golden on the bottom and then flip to cook the other side another couple of minutes.  Transfer to a serving plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining fritters.  

To serve, put a handful of greens on each plate (if desired), stack two fritters on the greens and top with a couple of roasted tomatoes.  Add some diced avocado or a good serving of guacamole and a couple of pieces of bacon , if desired.  Serve with some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt on the table and if you're inviting Greg, get out the hot sauce too.  
vegetables, herbs, wine and the Aus Open on my iPad (photos from January 30th)

dry ingredients and wet ingredients side by side in front of borrowed cookbook

batter all nice and smooth in the prettier Airbnb kitchen

fritter batter ready

first flip

waiting for the others