Thursday, April 24, 2014

Czech Please!

The first Czech immigrants arrived in Texas in 1850 seeking land and camaraderie along side the German immigrant populations. In fact, according to the 1920 census of foreign born population, Mexican immigrants comprised the largest percentage at 69.2%, Germans at 8.6%, and Czechs third at 3.6%. Even today, Texas is home to the largest population of Czech descendants in the US. The Czech influence can still be felt today with Czech speaking radio broadcasts, the eternal popularity of polkas and accordions (which spurred the creation of conjunto music in south Texas that crossed into northern Mexico creating the norteno sound), and kolaches! 

Kolaches (ko-lah-chees) are a sweet yeast bread with fillings of poppy seed, apricot, cottage cheese, or prune being the most traditional. However, crafty Czexans have created new sweet flavors like raspberry, blueberry, pineapple, and strawberry, as well as savory versions like jalapeno sausage and cheese, barbecue beef, and even sauerkraut! So what's my favorite flavor? Cream cheese with crumb topping! Yum! This recipe (adapted from Texas Monthly/April 2014 from Sweet on Texas) makes very delicious kolaches! You will need to allow about 3 hours to complete, but it is well worth the effort! So plan a leisurely afternoon in the kitchen and perhaps a little polka!


Cream Cheese Kolaches

Makes about 27

Ingredients:
For the Dough
1 1/2 teaspoons + 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
4 1/4 cup bread flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

For the Crumb Topping
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:
For the Dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, yeast, and warm water. Set aside until the yeast starts to bubble, about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it just begins to simmer. Stir in the shortening and stir until just melted. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add the salt, egg yolk, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whisk well.

Add the milk/egg mixture to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. With the dough hook, on low speed, add one cup at a time of the flour until incorporated. Turn the mixer speed to medium and mix until a soft, moist, glossy dough forms (about the time it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl).


Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. After the dough has risen, punch it down to remove any air in the dough. 

Lightly flour a work surface. Using a spoon, remove small portions of the dough and drop them onto the flour surface, rolling them into egg-size pieces with the palms of your hands. Place them on a parchment or silpat-lined baking pan in rows about 1" apart, about 16 per pan. Brush the dough balls with the melted butter. Cover with a tea towel and place them back in a warm, draft-free area to rise another 20 minutes.


For the Cream Cheese Filling
Beat sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Set aside at room temperature.

For the Crumb Topping
Combine the flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Finishing the Kolaches
Make a deep, round impression (I use the back of a tablespoon and swirl it around) in the center of each ball of dough and fill it with a tablespoon of the filling. (Don't press through the bottom of the dough or filling will ooze out!)



Let the kolaches rise again, uncovered, for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle the kolaches with the desired amount of crumb topping. Bake until lightly browned, 20-30 minutes.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Cooking with your Peeps!

Cakespy: Peeps Fluffernutter

Got marshmallow peeps? Instead of just eating them, put them to work in your kitchen with some fun and creative recipes, like this one for "Peeps Fluffernutter" from seriouseats.com! In addition, you can find more fun recipes from marshmallowpeeps.com, like
PEEPSicles and

How to Make Peepshi = Peeps Sushi

PEEPSHI! So cute!

Or you could make Peep-Infused Vodka from Foodbeast.com.
peep marshmallow vodka
(Sounds gross to me, but you never know!)

And finally, if you don't want to cook with your peeps, you can check out 9 Alternative Uses for a Peep from babble.com!


HAPPY EASTER!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Swiss Chard isn't Swiss!

Swiss chard, the leafy green plant with beautifully colored stems, has been popular in the Mediterranean since the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Ranking second after spinach, it is one of the most nutritious vegetables around, aiding in blood sugar regulation, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and with an impressive supply of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K, it is excellent in aiding bone support! So, what's with the name? Swiss chard was named by a Swiss botanist named Koch, who in the 19th century named it in honor of his homeland. Swiss chard is also known as silverbeet, Roman kale, spinach beet, seakale, and mangold, just to name a few. Along with spinach, it is one of my favorite leafy greens.

So when I saw this recipe for "Creamed Swiss Chard with Lemony Breadcrumbs" tucked modestly on page 37 of the March 2014 issue of Bon Appetit, I had to try it! Don't let the name fool you, this is not the heavy bechamel-laden version of traditional creamed spinach. Rather, it is a lighter version that includes shallots, lemon zest, and crunchy breadcrumbs. Yum! My entire family loved it, even the kids! It was delicious alongside grilled steak and potatoes, but it would also make a refreshing addition to my Easter table and yours! 


Creamed Swiss Chard with Lemony Breadcrumbs

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup torn fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches Swiss chard, main ribs and stems cut into 2" lengths, leaves torn into 2" pieces (I would recommend cutting the ribs and stems in half and into 1" lengths, because they were a little awkward to eat at 2" lengths.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, sliced
3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss breadcrumbs, oil, and lemon zest on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Toast, tossing once, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook chard leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 1 minute. Drain; transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and squeeze well in a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.

Heat butter in a large saucepan (or skillet) over medium heat. Add shallots and chard ribs and stems, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until tender, 5-8 minutes.


Add cream; bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 4 minutes.


Add chard leaves and cook, stirring, until warmed through and coated with cream sauce; season with salt and pepper.

Top Swiss chard with breadcrumbs just before serving.

*For more of my favorite recipes using Swiss chard, see Italian White Bean, Pancetta, and Tortellini Soup and Savory Swiss Chard Tart!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Kool sla, Kohlslau, Coleslaw!

Cabbage is low in calories, helps prevent cancer, is thought to aid in weight loss, and is very inexpensive. People have been eating cabbage as far back as the ancient Romans and Greeks. As the Roman empire spread northward, so did the love of cabbage. As cabbage spread, each culture added their own local ingredients to create diverse flavor preferences. The Romans liked it bathed in vinegar, the British liked it quartered and stewed in broth, the Germans liked it shredded and pickled to make sauerkraut, but it was the Dutch who brought it to the American northeast with a boiled cream and flour dressing by the name of "kool sla." Yes, we can thank the Dutch for cole slaw, one of our favorite sides to any barbecue, with sandwiches, and picnics! However, according to Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook, by Robb Walsh, "American cole slaw comes from the German kohlslau," and was brought to Texas by a steady stream of German immigration during the 1800s. We can also thank NYC deli owner Richard Hellman, who in 1912, began selling his bottled version of mayonnaise. The classic blue bow bottle became an instant bestseller and cole slaw has never been more popular!

The variations of recipes from country to country is truly impressive, but I like mine Texas barbecue joint-style, which is made in it's purist form. Shredded and simply dressed with vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and pepper. No celery seed, no mustard, no celery salt, no onion, and definitely no peppers! The result is a perfect balance of creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet that tastes exceedingly fresh and surprisingly delicious. I like to serve it with Jerk Pork Tenderloin, Mrs. Ps Cornbread, as well as Memphis-Style Spareribs.


Cole Slaw

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

6 cups shredded cabbage (about 1 head)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
*Additions: Shredded carrots are a traditional addition that I like. Shredded apples are a German addition that is particularly good with pork.

Directions:

Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and allow to mellow in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.

Recipe from Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook, by Robb Walsh.