Posts tagged ‘cooking’


Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls in a glass baking dish

I had one or more Parker House Rolls somewhere once, at some time in the past, and recently something reminded me of them, and today I made some!

Basically this is just a slightly sweet buttery sticky yeast-raised dough, not kneaded, divided into sixteen small loaves and baked all together in the same baking dish so that they grow somewhat back together again and you can have the fun of separating them.

(Even a non-yeast leavened dough might work; I wonder what would happen? This is the kind of thing I wonder about.)

Various recipes on the interwebs (pretty much all of them, really) call for stuff that I don’t have at hand, like sea salt, kosher salt, potato flakes, vegetable shortening, whole milk for that matter, and so on; and also stuff that I don’t have the patience for (or for cleaning up after), like separating eggs, or using very specific attachments and settings of an electric mixer. None of these appear to be necessary.

Here’s the recipe that I roughly actually used; it’s probably closest to this one, but with anything that seemed like too much work or I didn’t have in the house left out.

Parker House Rolls (makes 16)

1 1/4 Cup milk (any kind really; if you use skim, maybe add some extra butter), warmed
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 Cup sugar
Some salt (I dunno maybe a tsp.)
2 Eggs
8 Tbsp (one stick) butter (unsalted if you have it), softened
4ish Cups of flour

Warm up the milk to room temperature or a bit more, in the microwave or whatever. Similarly, soften the butter by mashing it with a fork, putting it in the microwave on Defrost, or whatever. You can even melt it, but it may impact the consistency of the finished product if you do, I dunno.

Mix the warm milk, yeast, and 2 Tbps (half) of the sugar in the big yellow bowl or other largish mixing bowl. Let that sit for 5-10 minutes. It may or may not froth up and get foamy if the yeast is feeling especially active; don’t sweat it either way.

Add the rest of the sugar, the salt, the eggs, and 6 Tbsp (three quarters) of the butter to the bowl, mix briefly.

Add two cups of flour, and mix until incorporated. You can use a stand mixer or anything else you like in this step, or just a sturdy spoon and main strength. Continue adding flour, about half a cup at a time or whatever you like, until you have a sticky dough that is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, but still sticking to the bottom, or at least showing signs that it would like to. Depending on how soft you softened the butter, there may be lumps of butter in the dough; squash some of them if so, but don’t worry about it too much.

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or house-rules equivalent, and let sit for say 90 minutes in a cozy place.

After 90 minutes, remove the cloth and gently punch down the dough. Flour your hands because it will have gotten even stickier while rising! Divide the dough into 16 pieces, without unnecessary kneading or other roughness.

For traditionally-formed rolls, flatten each piece and fold it in half; or divide the dough into four pieces and for each piece fold it in half and cut it into quarters, similarly resulting in 16 folded pieces. Or look up various other more elaborate forming methods on the interwebs.

Put the 16 pieces in a four-by-four array (folded edges down) into a 9×13 inch lightly greased (lightly cooking-sprayed is simplest) baking dish; they should be touching each other.

Cover with a damp cloth or equivalent again, and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350°F while the dough gets a final few minutes of rising, then remove the cloth and pop the baking dish into the oven. Cook for 25 minutes or until looking pleasantly (but not darkly!) brown on top, or whenever your intuition tells you they’re done.

Brush tops with the remaining 2 Tbs of butter. Let cool for a bit in the baking dish, then tear apart to serve.

May be kept or frozen like any bread that has butter and milk and eggs and no preservatives, but really you’re going to eat them all almost immediately, aren’t you?


Mushroom, Apple, and Cherry Pie

So on Christmas itself (which was I think just yesterday) we had all the traditional stuffs, including presents and a nice and relatively simple ham dinner. On a whim I got a Sweet Potato Pie from the grocery, and that was good (and less work). And experimentally I prepared the partly-computer-generated Mushroom Pie from All Reality.

The thing that delighted me most, perhaps, was that I grabbed the wrong bottle at first, and ended up cooking a cup of mushrooms in brown sugar, corn starch, and Ricard anise pastis, which apparently smelled rather memorable. The little daughter noticed I’d grabbed the wrong bottle, and so I did it again with rum per the recipe (see below), but ending up with a cup of mushrooms cooked in licorice liqueur on the side was definitely a highlight. As I pointed out on the Twitters, if one had just paid say $32 for them at a fancy restaurant, one would say “oh, these are exquisite”.

For those who somehow haven’t memorized the recipe, or even somehow haven’t read the book (I’m kidding here; probably no one has read the book), here it is:

Farmer McDowell’s recipe for her famous Midpoint Mushroom, Apple, and Sour Cherry Pie

1 pie shell, to bakea pie
1/3 cup brown or molasses sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup rum
1 cup morel or similar mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Qualification sour cherries
2 Midpoint green apples, sliced thinly
1 hen’s egg, beaten
1/2 cup nuts or as you will

Heat the oven to 375°F or Mark 5.

While the pie shell is baking, heat together the brown sugar, cornstarch, and rum in a small saucepan. Cook until they are smooth and bubbling. Add the morels and cook until they’re tender. Let it cool slightly.

When the oven is up to temperature, remove the pie shell, and fill with the brown sugar rum morel mixture. Top with the cherries, apples, egg, and any nuts. Bake for another 30 minutes, until the egg is set and the top is golden.

As I’ve mentioned somewhere or other else recently, I don’t remember how much of this was me and how much was GPT-3 the AI. I think I gave it the title, it produced a version of the ingredients and instructions, and I adjusted the language but not the underlying recipe (i.e. the same amounts and basic ingredients and steps).

Half-baking the pie shell first was a bit odd; the edges folded in on themselves a bit. That may have been my own lack of experience in baking an empty pie shell though.

If you cook the mushrooms in the rum and cornstarch for long enough, it rather suddenly stops having any liquid in it, and becomes rather tender mushrooms coated with a thick sweet rum glaze, which is interesting. Stopping a bit before that might have resulted in there being more moisture for the apples especially to participate in later on.

I didn’t have morels, which might have produced a (what?) smokier flavor, but the baby Portabellas that I lazily got pre-sliced from the grocers worked fine. I didn’t have Qualification Sour Cherries, as they are fictional, or any sour cherries for that matter, but random red cherries also worked fine. Similarly about 1.75 Granny Smith apples worked in place of the Midpoint Greens. I didn’t add any nuts.

The result is interesting, somewhere between a pie and a tart, with a novel layer on the bottom, and then cherries and slightly dried-out apple slices with random bits of them coated with cooked egg on top. It might have worked better to mix the cherries and apple slices and egg all together for a more even coating, or even to mix everything with the rum and mushroom mixture before putting into the crust.

As it was, the cherries and apples were good, but I thought rather in a “one might just as well have eaten the ingredients separately” sort of way. Although they did go well with the rum and mushroom part, flavor-wise. The little daughter, who has standards and does not mince words, said that she thought it was pretty good, so that’s basically a triumph.


Basic Bagels

Yes, these are New York Style bagels, because there are no other bagels. Anything else is just small toroidal loaves of bread, with which one might as well not really have bothered. This is similar to the way that one can get some rather tasty Chicago-style cheese-and-tomato-sauce-bread, but not actual pizza.

(I’ve been reading Nancy Mitford, and there may be the odd little Britishism sneaking into my diction here and there.)

This recipe for six; it can be straightfowardly doubled for a dozen, or two-thirds’d for four.

Three bagels in dough formSix Bagels

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs or ~2 packet active dry yeast
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs veg oil
1 tsp salt
5 C or so (bread) flour
One pot of water
2 Tbs or so of barley malt syrup (or honey)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, gradually add flour, oil, and eventually salt, until it begins to be dough. Do not add the entire 5 cups of flour; stop when the dough is kneadable but not dry.

Knead the dough well, and then put into a covered bowl to rise for an hour in a warm draftless place, or a couple of hours in a cool draftless place, or (ideally) overnight in the refrigerator.

Punch down and form into six tori. I find the best way to do this is to make six spheres, and then flatten each one, poke a hole in the center, and spin it around a bit on your fingers to make the hole gently larger.

(There is also the “make a snake and then convince the head and tail to stick together” method, but I find (perhaps especially when the air is dry) that this results in croissant-shaped bagels distressingly often.)

Let these rest while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees (F), boil the pot of water, and dissolve the barley malt syrup in it.

Once the water is boiling, lower the bagels in (likely three or so at a time, depending on the sizes of your pot and your tori), and boil for about one minute per side, turning them over halfway through (obviously).

Put the boiled bagels onto a sheet of baking paper on a cookie sheet.

Once the bagels are boiled and the oven is hot enough, put the cookie sheet (the one that the bagels are on) into the oven (most likely on the middle rack) for something like 15-20 minutes, or until just before the bottoms get too dark. Let cool on a wire cooling rack (or, you know, whatever).

The boiling is the key part of the recipe, and what makes them bagels rather than just weird small bread loaves. The barley malt syrup is supposedly extremely key, but I admit I’ve done it with honey instead and I won’t swear that I could tell the difference. I’ve also entirely forgotten to put anything into the water, and they were still, I would say, actual bagels.

If you compare this recipe with yesterday’s Basic Bread, you may suspect that some of the quantities don’t entirely make sense, and you may be right. The amount of flour is especially approximate; purists will know that it’s really the weight of the flour and not the volume that matters, and I don’t know the weights that I use, I just sort of put in more flour until it seems about right.

All Purpose Flour may be used instead of Bread Flour, and it will be easier to knead and somewhat less chewy and bagel-like (but still bagels) as a result.

You may use barley malt syrup instead of some or all of the sugar. This is said by some to be even more authentic, but note that (1) the substitution ratio is for you to figure out, (2) barley malt syrup is considerably harder to obtain than sugar and if you do this you will run out faster, and (3) if you keep your syrup in the refrigerator after opening (which one in instructed to do), you will want to warm it up and dissolve it in the water, rather than attempting to incorporate a basically solid lump of cold syrup into your flour mixture.

And that’s it! It’s really not a big mystery, which leads one to wonder why the things sold as “bagels” in (for instance) Florida, appear to be small toroidal loaves of bread instead. Possibly it’s something about the water, in which case I can only advise using water from within say 80 miles of New York City in the above recipe, just to be on the safe side.


Basic Bread

I love baking, especially bread baking. I’m sure I’ve told the story before about how we came early to a friend’s party back in college to help with preparations, and she handed my a 3×5 card and said “Okay, you can make the bread”. I’d never made bread before, so that was rather terrifying, but the bread came out delicious. It did have some dense bands because the baker was clueless, but as it was a rich sweet bread the bands were good.

The recipe for that exact bread is a secret, but I’ve posted (long ago) a recipe that eventually evolved away from it far enough that I felt okay posting: Our Golden Bread. It’s a sweet buttery bread, and amazing both for dessert and for sandwiches. I’ve also made various cheesy breads and eggy breads and things over time.

The other month, for some reason, I decided to write down an extremely basic bread recipe (I think there was some reason, but I’m not sure what it was; maybe it was in the uncertain beginning of the pandemic, and I was figuring out the fewest ingredients we’d need to make our own bread if we had to).

It’s not the simplest possible bread recipe (it has more sweetening and oil than it strictly-speaking needs just to be bread), but it is simple. This is it:

Sun shining on a slice of breadBasic Wheat Bread

2 cups warm water
2 tsp or 1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vegetable oil
5-6 cups wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt

Sugar can be reduced to like a teaspoon if you really want to, and vegetable oil can conceivably be left out entirely. Up to half (or all, if you’re bold) of the flour can be Whole Wheat. The flour can be “all purpose” or “bread flour”, and you might or might not notice the difference. Salt is optional, but it’ll be a bit bland with none.

Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and let it sit for awhile if you feel like it, so the yeast can start doing its thing. Add the vegetable oil and enough flour (two cups or so) that the mixture is like thickish mud. Add the salt last (because it discourages the yeast to some extent).

Give this “sponge” (the muddy mixture) about 100 strokes with a wooden spoon (hey, I like wooden spoons), to incorporate a good amount of air into it (whatever that means, really), and then cover with a warm damp cloth and let rise at least 45 minutes somewhere warm and not windy; inside your oven (when the oven is not on) is good for instance.

Take it out and add more flour until it feels like dough; not quite sticky but not dry. Knead it (probably with floured hands on a slightly floured board) until it feels right; ideally sort of silken and alive. Put it back into the bowl (generally using a touch of oil or butter or cooking spray on both the inside of the bowl where the dough will be sitting, and on the top of the dough itself, for some reason), cover the bowl with a warm freshly-damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm and windless place for another at least 45 minutes.

Punch it down and form it into either one or two loaves (one will be quite large, two will be more normal), and put the loaf or loaves into the corresponding number of lightly oiled or cooking-sprayed or buttered bread pans. Let the loaf or loaves rest in the pan or pans while the oven pre-heats to 350 degrees F.

Put the pan or pans into the oven, on the middle rack I suppose, for 40 or 60 minutes, until it seems done, the bottom thumps nicely, and so on.

Remove from pan or pans and let cool on a cooling rack or whatever until you feel like cutting it open.

And that’s the recipe! You can play with pretty much anything from there; substitute an egg or milk for some of the water, fold in some cool butter instead of the oil, substitute honey for some or all of the sugar, add things like cheese and raisins and vanilla extract and so on.

I was going to include the bagel recipe in this post also, but I think that’ll be tomorrow.

(Partly because just getting WordPress to slightly indent the recipe (and then use a very slightly smaller interline spacing while I was in there) was such a ridiculously large amount of work; I had to convert the paragraphs to “Classic”, and then hand-enter a bit of CSS style separately into every paragraph element in the Code Editor. The new shiny “Blocks” style couldn’t deal with it at all, and kept telling me that I had Invalid Things. How does someone make an editor that has neither “indent paragraph” nor “search and replace” in 2020?)

So that is Basic Bread, and tomorrow-or-soon, I will put up Basic Bagels.


Fish and Kasha and Hardcore Heroes

So the little daughter, now out of college and a Certified Adult in her own right, has been cooking things. Cooking, from the look of the pictures she’s been posting to The Instra-Gram and other young-person places, delicious gourmet sorts of things.

Which is really cool. :)

This weekend she is home visiting, it being the weekend after her birthday and a convenient weekend for visiting, and she asked me to show her how to make Fish and Kasha, which was one of the things that I used to cook for the family back when I was myself young and energetic enough to cook on weekends. (Age is of course a feeble excuse; maybe I will start doing it again!)

I couldn’t find a written-down recipe on any of the many recipe cards in the various recipe-card collections in the kitchen, but I thought I pretty much remembered how, and M helped remembering the ingredients, and so the little daughter and I went out to the local vast cavernous A and P, and we bought fish and kasha and chicken broth and bread crumbs and broccoli and cauliflower and cheese and stuff, and came home and cooked it all, and it was all very yummy and nostalgic and successful.

(They didn’t have any really familiar-looking fish varieties, but the little daughter looked up “swai” on her “cellular phone” and found that it’s basically a kind of catfish, which is what it looked like, so we got that, even though it was “re-fresh” (that is, frozen and thawed) rather than actually fresh.)

Then while we were eating and talking about when we had first, and last, had Fish and Kasha, I remembered where the recipe of course was, and found it in the old weblog, in the entry for 7 November, 1999. A while back! And reading the recipe, it turns out we followed it pretty much exactly, down to getting Wolff’s kasha at A and P, and it being Sunday. (Although we didn’t do the extra skillet-involving steps with the kasha, and it still came out perfect.)

Here it is again, just for fun (note somewhat twee Rocky Horror reference at the beginning there):

Sunday Dinner: Fish and Kasha

This is a great dinner, because it doesn’t have many ingredients. I don’t like a meal with too many ingredients (did somebody yell “slut”?).

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut two catfish fillets (about a pound) into bite-size chunks. Take two bowls, pour some milk into one, and some bread crumbs into the other. Dip each chunk of fish into the milk, and then into the crumbs, and then put it onto a baking dish (mine is clear glass or pyrex or something; I don’t know if that matters). Cook 25-30 minutes, until tender. Do not overcook.

While the fish bakes, take about one cup whole-kernel kasha (a.k.a. buckwheat groats). We used to get this in five-pound sacks from Walnut Acres, but they don’t seem to have it anymore. Now we buy two-cup boxes of Wolff’s in the “funny furrin foods” section of the A&P. You can just boil it in chicken broth for about 15 minutes, but for a fluffier result: in a small saucepan, melt two Tbs butter in two cups (one can) chicken broth, with a dash salt and a dash pepper. At the same time, heat the kasha in a frying pan or heavy skillet over high heat, until hot and toasty. Pour the boiling stuff carefully into the kasha, lower heat to simmer, and cook covered about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has vanished and it all seems sort of done.

Steam some broccoli. That is, cut off the parts of the stem you don’t want to eat, and arrange for the top parts that you do want to eat to be exposed to steam (preferably in a steamer rather than just sitting in boiling water), until it feels right when poked with a fork. “Right” is entirely up to you.

While all that’s going on, melt another two Tbs butter in another saucepan (yeah, you’re going to have some dishes to wash, later). Dump in enough flour to mostly soak up the butter. Gradually add milk, a little at a time, stopping between each addition to stir until smooth. When you’ve got a good amount (use more milk for more but thinner sauce, less for less but thicker; it will thicken up somewhat when you add the cheese in any case), grate in some cheese (we like sharp Cheddar for this, but anything gratable that you like will work). Stir until the cheese is all melted.

Pour the cheese sauce over everything else, and eat.

The only hard part about this is getting everything to be done at about the same time. That, and cleaning up afterwards. But it’s all very yummy! The little daughter eats everything but the broccoli. The little boy used to eat the kasha back when he was a baby, but won’t anymore.

Tonight, all four of us ate pretty much everything. :)

On entirely other fronts, I’ve been playing Diablo III more, which surprises me somewhat given my not very enthusiastic first impressions. Turns out there’s something soothing (or something) about wreaking havoc through the same landscape and the same story multiple times, with varying character stats and types and varying nastinesses of monsters.

Most recently I’ve been playing in Hardcore mode, which means that if the character you are working on dies, it stays dead, and you need to start another one (or go back to leveling your comparatively unexciting non-Hardcore characters).

My first one, Ulf The Doomed, made it to level 30 before I got careless and he ended up surrounded by monsters, which isn’t usually a problem, except that multiple ones were taking turns freezing him so he could neither fight not heal himself, which definitely was a problem.

The second one, and my first what do they call them Wizard or Magic User or whatever, was Mary Death (a brilliant name, I thought), and she made it only to level 14 before dying due to my not having swapped the latest level of potions into her action bar, and left-clicking rather than right-clicking on the potions in inventory once I realized that, arg.

And that was all good fun, but I think I might be tired of Diablo III for awhile now, we’ll see. And I haven’t been in WoW or Glitch or anything that I used to play alot and have now temporarily forgotten about entirely, for some time.

On the other hand I’m still in Second Life for at least an hour or two, at least five or six days a week, even when real life is moderately stuffed with things (as it’s tended to be). Which says something. :)