Buckeyes

Happy Thanksgiving!  I took these into the office today along with a pumpkin pie to so that my non-American colleagues could finally taste some authentic American classics.

Buckeyes are the nut off of the state tree of Ohio (and mascot of Ohio State University) and this might as well be the official state candy because every good Ohioan knows how to make a mean buckeye.  I’m not from Ohio but learned how to make them from my Stepdad’s family in Ohio and I’ve been making them for Thanksgiving potlucks and holiday parties for the past few years.

I’ve always made the traditional buckeye candy recipe but this year decided to try Smitten Kitchen’s because she uses less powdered sugar and adds graham cracker crumbs, which I thought could add some extra texture.  Since I am living in Australia and can’t find graham crackers anywhere, I did quite a bit of research (including taste testing with my few remaining imported graham crackers) and discovered that digestive biscuits are almost identical in taste to graham crackers.  Win!

My boyfriend’s mom loaned me her #70 scoop that came from Uncle Stan Wigley’s Charters Towers Café in Northern Queensland who used the scoop to make milkshakes in the 1950s.

Buckeye Candy Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: I made 77 with a #70 (1/2-ounce) scoop – and I measured the first few to make sure they were ½ ounce.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup digestive biscuit crumbs (or graham crackers if you are in the U.S.)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preparation

  1. Beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until combined with an electric mixer.
  2. Add the digestive biscuit (or graham cracker) crumbs and beat for 10 seconds.
  3. Add the sugar and butter, and mix on the lowest speed, then increase the speed until the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the whole bowl well, then mix again. The mixture will be quite sturdy and a little dry — perfect for shaping.
  4. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out ½ ounce scoop of filling and use your hands to form it into a ball (make sure it is sturdy enough to withstand being poked with a skewer and dipped in chocolate).
  5. Place the ball on the prepared sheet and repeat the process until all of the candies have been shaped.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before dipping in chocolate (optional but really makes them a lot more sturdy against the skewer and melted chocolate).
  7. Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler, stirring until it is completely smooth or in a microwave in 30 then 10 second increments, stirring before you start it again until it is completely smooth.
  8. Let it cool to tepid (about 100 degrees, though I’d go a little cooler next time for a thicker coating).
  9. Using a fork or large skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and roll it about so that almost the entire candy is coating, leaving a small circle uncoated. Smitten Kitchen recommends sticking the skewer in the side, angling the bowl towards it and making sure it is submerged as you roll the candy around.
  10. Chill the buckeyes until they are set, about 30 minutes.

Do ahead: Buckeyes will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or I’ve had highly restrained friends keep a stash in their freezer for a year!

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Cornbread with Bacon

Cornbread is one of my all time favorite side dishes because it’s so versatile and it’s easy to play around with different additions.  Since it’s Thanksgiving week I thought I’d post about this in advance of the big day in case anyone wants to have a little slice of Americana on their table, whether or not you actually celebrate Thanksgiving.

I’d never thought about adding bacon and a hint of maple syrup to cornbread before this recipe and it was great. I usually go the Barefoot Contessa route and add lots of cheese and jalapenos, which I do recommend if you are feeding a crowd, but this bread was a perfect sized loaf for a family dinner.

If you are in Australia you can find yellow cornmeal at specialty food stores (Fundies in Brisbane and Byron Bay) or you could try polenta if you don’t feel like hunting for it, just know that it will be a slightly different texture.

I didn’t add as much bacon as the recipe called for but wish I had in the end because it needed that extra moisture.  I would also consider using creamed corn instead of just canned corn for some extra moisture.

Cornbread with Bacon adapted from Food Lovers Lunch

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 12oz (350g) bacon, chopped
  • 2 scallions (spring onions), finely chopped
  • ½ cup (120g) canned corn kernels, drained
  • ½ tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 2 cups (350g) cornmeal
  • 2 1/3 cups (350g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups (375ml) buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) and grease a loaf pan.
  2. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet and cook the bacon until crispy.
  3. Add the scallions and cook with the bacon for about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the corn kernels and pepper flakes, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal with the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. Add the buttermilk, eggs, cooled bacon mixture, melted butter, maple syrup and pepper and mix until just combined.
  7. Spread batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.
  8. Slice and serve warm with butter.

Choko Sautéed with Bacon and Mushrooms

Choko has gotten a bad wrap over the years as a lowly peasant food, but since peasant food has been making a come-back on restaurant menus the past few years with the resurgence of dishes like oxtail I decided I decided it was time to give the choko a chance, especially since it has such a vibrant color.

It is commonly found as a vine hanging off of fences in Australia but is actually native to Central America and Mexico and was spread to many areas of the world after the Spanish conquest.

Choko, which is also known as the vegetable pear, is from the gourd family, is low in calories and a great source of vitamin C.  When choosing a choko look for one that is small, bright green and without any brown spots.  The ‘meat’ of the choko can be cooked like almost any vegetable once the seed is removed from the core. Some swear that you should never boil it, and that sautéing is the best option so that’s how we cooked it – sautéed with mushrooms and bacon.  For more choko recipes visit Burke’s Backyard.

Ingredients

  • 1 small green choko, seed removed, skinned and finely sliced
  • 150 g mushrooms
  • 80g chopped bacon
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • ½ tsp lemon pepper (or seasoning of your choice)

Preparation

Heat the oil in a fry pan.  Add the bacon and sauté until it starts to brown.  Add the sliced choko and mushrooms.  Season with lemon pepper.  Continue to sauté until the choko and mushrooms are almost soft – with just a slight firmness.

Can be served as a side dish to chicken, pork, fish, or even as brunch with eggs!

ANZAC Biscuits

In honor of the Australia v. NZ Rugby World Cup game that’s on tonight I thought it would be appropriate to write about Anzac biscuits.  Anzac biscuits are the most traditional Aussie biscuit (or cookie) that I can think of, due to their Australian origins during World War I.  Anzac stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and these biscuits were the creation of Australian women during World War I who were looking for a food that would be able to survive the 2+ month Merchant Navy ship journey to the soldiers and still have the maximum amount of nutritional value.

In order to withstand the long journey, none of the ingredients in the biscuits are perishable.  Instead of eggs these biscuits used golden syrup or treacle as a binding agent.

They were first called Soliders’ Biscuits but after the ANZAC soldiers’ landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 they were renamed ANZAC biscuits and are commonly eaten on ANZAC Day, which is celebrated on 25 April to honor all Australia and New Zealand War Veterans.

This recipe is from an Australian Day to Day Cookery for “Home Craft” Students that’s from my boyfriend’s mum’s high school home economics class.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup sugar (raw sugar is best)
  • 4 oz butter
  • 3 level tbsp. golden syrup (or corn syrup in the U.S.)
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 level tsp baking soda

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C (320F)
  2. Sift flour into a bowl.
  3. Add rolled oats, coconut and sugar.
  4. Melt butter in a saucepan, add syrup and water.
  5. Add soda, allow to foam and pour immediately into dry ingredients.
  6. Mix well the take small pieces of mixture and press out thinly on greased baking trays, allowing space between each biscuit for spreading.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Poffertjes (Dutch Pancakes)

Poffertjes, also known as Dutch pancakes are a traditional treat in the Netherlands that resemble baby pancakes.  They are sold in market stalls all over the country, especially around holiday times, which is when I was last in Holland.

I wasn’t able to find much on the origins of poffertjes but from what I could find online it appears that they actually originated in a monastery in France around 1795.  There was a shortage of flour at the time so they monks started making them with buckwheat flour, which is why the recipe still calls for buckwheat flour today.  The recipe was passed down and it was eventually brought to the Netherlands region by marketpeople who marched with Napoleon.  Over the years they became so affiliated with Holland that they became known as Dutch pancakes!

Unlike silver dollar pancakes in the U.S. (or pikelets in Australia) that are made using a standard pancaked griddle, poffertjes are made using a special pan with indentations.  These indentations allow the batter to continuously rise during the cooking process, which gives the poffertjes a more rounded shape.

Aebleskivers are a similar German version but use pans with even larger indentations, which allows you to fill them with jam, cream or whatever suits your fancy.  My dad has been making ebleskivers for quite a while using a pan from Williams-Sonoma in the U.S.

We have an electric poffertjes pan at home and the recipe that we used, which turned out very nicely is just the one that came with the pan!

  Ingredients

  • 125g flour
  • 125g buckwheat flour (can also use plain flour but buckwheat is more traditional)
  • 1 egg
  • 250ml milk
  • 250ml water
  • 15g fresh yeast (or 1 sachet of dry yeast)
  • 50g salted butter
  • pinch of salt

Preparation

  1. Dissolve yeast in 3 tbsp of warm milk.
  2. Mix the flour with the buckwheat flour.  Stir the flour, yeast, milk and water together to make a smooth batter.  Adjust the quantity of the water to make sure that the batter doesn’t run too easily from the spoon but is also not too thick.
  3. Stir the salt, melted butter and beaten egg through the batter.  The batter should be lukewarm.
  4. Set the batter, covered with a moist tea towel, in a warm place (next to a heater, in the sun or in an oven at 50C) an allow it to rise for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Pour the batter into the Dutch Pancake Maker, but do not fill the batter to the brim of each hole.
  6. Flip using toothpicks or skewers halfway through cooking.
  7. Serve with your favorite sauce or icing sugar.

Ossobuco Alla Cipriani

Ossobuco is a classic Milanese dish that is made with slices of veal shanks that are braised in a tomato based broth until they are tender enough to be eaten with a fork. The name ossobuco translates to ‘bone with a hole’ because the cut of veal shows the circular cross section of the shank surrounded by meat.

This ossobucco recipe is from Harry’s Bar in Venice, which is famed for it’s invention of the Bellini and classic Italian food that have attracted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart and many others.

We tried this recipe on Sunday night and it was fantastic.

Tips:

Harry’s recommends for you to ask your butcher for the hind shanks because they are meatier and more tender than the front ones and not to remove the membrane that surrounds the meat.

Ossobuco Alla Cipriani recipe adapted from The Harry’s Bar Cookbook

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 1 ½ – 2 inch slices of veal shank
  • salt
  • pepper
  • flour for dredging
  • 3 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ lb mushrooms, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 to 4 cups hot chicken stock or beef stock

For the gremolada:

  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preparation

Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed casserole or Dutch oven large enough to hold the veal slices in a single layer (it’s very important to keep them in only 1 layer).

Season the veal with salt and pepper and coat the pieces with flour, shaking off any excess.  When the oil is hot, add the veal pieces and cook over medium heat, turning once, until they are browned.  Try not to let the veal curl up at the sides.  Remove veal from the pan and set aside.

Pour off the fat from the pan and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the celery, carrots, onion and mushrooms.  Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until they are soft – about 15 minutes.

Turn up the heat, add the white wine, and boil, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes and 2 cups of the hot stock.

Carefully arrange the veal slices in the casserole dish in a single layer and spoon the vegetable mixture over them.  If the liquid does not cover the meat, add more stock.  If you need more than 4 cups of stock to cover the meat, then you should transfer everything to a smaller casserole dish.

When the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat, cover the casserole tightly, and simmer gently for 2 to 2 ½ hours or until the meat is very tender when pierced with a fork.  Uncover the casserole during the last 30 minutes of cooking to reduce the sauce a bit.  (Alternatively, you could bake in the oven at 350F for the same length of time0.

While the meat is cooking, chop the ingredients for the gremolada and combine them.

Ten minutes before serving, remove the meat to a deep serving platter and keep it warm.  Boil the sauce to reduce it a bit more if it’s very thin.  Stir in the gremolada and simmer for a minute or 2.  Then spoon the sauce over the meat.  Serve with Risotto or other accompaniment.

US Southern Style Biscuits

I knew that I’d miss southern biscuits when I moved to Australia because their interpretation of the word ‘biscuit’ is a cookie.  The closest thing that I can find to a true southern biscuit here is a scone, but even they aren’t the same since they are sort of a cross between a dinner roll and a biscuit and have sugar in them.

I’ve resorted to making my own here so I thought I’d share the best recipe that I’ve found from Neal’s Deli in Carrboro, North Carolina – just down the street from my alma mater the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  On a recent trip back to Chapel Hill my friends and I decided to try out the biscuit at Neal’s deli to see how it stacked up against it’s local rival, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen – and boy it did.  The secret to their biscuits is using quality local butter and buttermilk from the Chapel Hill Creamery  down the road.

There are a couple of secrets that I have learned to making good biscuits:

  1. Use shortening and butter.  Using butter alone will not achieve the fluffy texture that you need.
  2. Freeze the dry mixture before incorporating the buttermilk – the colder the butter the fluffier the biscuit because cold butter will release more air than room temperature butter which creates pockets of air inside the biscuit.
  3. Folding the dough like a letter (as described in the recipe below) creates layers within the biscuit that are necessary to achieving the desired flakiness.

 Neal’s Deli Buttermilk Biscuits recipe adapted from Food & Wine 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (or bi-carb soda in Australia)
  • 2 tablespoons chilled solid vegetable shortening
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter—3 tablespoons thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk (can be made by mixing 1 tbsp white vinegar with 1 cup plain milk)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 475F (250C).  Position a rack in the upper third of the oven.  In a large bowl, whisk the 2 cups of flour with the salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Using your fingers, rub in the sliced butter, leaving large flakes of coated butter.  Freeze the mixture for about 15 minutes.
Stir in the buttermilk until a raggy dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and press or roll into a 9 in. by 7 in. rectangle, about ¾ inch thick.  Fold the rectangle in thirds like a letter, then fold the rectangle in half to make a little package.  Press or roll out the dough to a 9-by-7 inch rectangle again.  

Repeat the folding process once more, then roll the dough out one more time to a 9-by-7-inch rectangle.  Using a 3 ½ inch round cutter, stamp out 4 biscuits.  Pat the scraps together and stamp out 2 more biscuits.


Arrange the biscuits on a large baking sheet and brush the tops with the melted butter.  Bake for about 14 minutes, shifting the baking sheet halfway through, until the tops and bottoms are golden and the biscuits are cooked through.