Homemade Buttermilk and Buttermilk Biscuits

So what do you do with all that milk anyway? We’re just in the beginning stages of establishing our dairy here at the farm – our processing room is fully functional, but our milk machines lay dormant in the garage, the milk parlor just an outline on sketchbook paper. In the meantime, we’re all scrambling to use up the milk before it turns.

So what do you do with all that milk? You make buttermilk, a whole bunch of buttermilk. It’s incredibly easy: heat the milk to 86 degrees, stir in the culture, and let sit at 72 degrees for 12 to 24 hours.

With buttermilk you have a baker’s dream. Think buttermilk cookies, buttermilk scones, buttermilk muffins… And of course, buttermilk cake. 

This amazingly easy cake recipe is courtesy of the great Smitten Kitchen. It’s even simple enough to whip together after evening milking (think 11 PM, swollen hands, milky hair, etc.) and bake in our toaster oven, which is a true test of a recipe’s feasibility. Try substituting the raspberries for another of your favorite toppings like strawberries or chocolate chips.

Easily our favorite buttermilk recipe is Mark Bittman’s buttermilk biscuits. They’re perfect for greasy breakfast sandwiches, and yes, even sustainably-minded farmers eat fatty foods.

Buttermilk Biscuits from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 to 5 tbsp. cold butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk

Preparation

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl or food processor. Cut the butter into bits and either pulse it in the food processor or, if you’re using a bowl, pick up the dry ingredients and rub them with the butter between your fingers and drop them again. All the butter should be thoroughly blended into the flour mixture before you proceed.
2. Pulse a couple of times or use a large spoon to stir in the buttermilk, just until the mixture forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 10 times, no more. If it is very sticky, add a little flour, but very little; it should still stick slightly to your hands.
3. Press the dough into a 3/4-inch thick rectangle and cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Put the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the biscuits are a beautiful golden brown. Serve within 15 minutes for them to be at their best.


Harvest-Time Cookies

I was on a fall-inspired baking spree this weekend – our farmers market is bursting at the seams with pumpkins and hot apple cider; there are even a few leaves on the sidewalk here in Brooklyn. To celebrate the season, I made a tray of pumpkin-spiced salted-caramel bark (which I’m mailing to a few new moms in my life) and these Harvest-Time Cookies. They have that fall-weather feel, with rich, dark maple syrup, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Best eaten with a steaming cup of hot apple cider or spiced hot chocolate.

Harvest-Time Cookies
Makes 16 cookies

Ingredients:

8 tbsp. (1 stick) of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. of milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup broken pretzel pieces

Preparation:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. With a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until well blended. Add the vanilla, maple syrup, milk and egg.
3. In a separate medium bowl, sift together and mix the baking soda, flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Fold dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.
4. Fold in the chocolate chips and pretzels. Form the dough into ping-pong sized balls and flatten slighty with the back of a spoon.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy!


Hurricane Ginger-Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

As you may have heard, there was a hurricane this past weekend. Maybe you had no idea, but here in Brooklyn things were tense. The subway shut-down and we found ourselves stranded in Bushwick watching as our neighbors taped their windows and pulled in their garbage cans or left the neighborhood all together. After all the hourly storm tracking and filling our bathtub full of water (I don’t know, someone suggested it…) we slept through the whole thing and woke up Sunday morning to a mere 4 inches of water on our balcony due to a clogged drain – nothing a broom couldn’t fix.

Being stuck inside all weekend is not necessarily a bad thing. We caught up on movies, old magazines, and even managed to brew 5 gallons of chocolate stout. And of course, I made cookies. We had some Taza chocolate discs lying around our apartment, so I decided to add a little twist to classic chocolate chip cookies.

Taza is a pretty cool company. On top of having delicious chocolate, they use only organic ingredients and ensure that coco-bean laborers receive a fair wage. I used their Ginger-Chocolate discs, which have the perfect amount of gingery-bite. Their Chipotle-Chili Chocolate would also make a great cookie.

{Original recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen}

Hurricane Ginger-Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
makes 18 cookies
Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg (or egg replacer)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 discs of Taza Ginger-Dark Chocolate chopped into chunks
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preparation:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat sugars and butter until creamy and smooth. Mix in egg or egg replacer, vanilla, and baking soda.
3. Add flour and salt. Mix in chocolate chunks and chips.
4. Scoop out two-tbls rounds, nine to a sheet, about two inches apart. Bake for 16 minutes or until just slightly browned around the edges.


Summer Green Tomato and Tomatillo Fresh Salsa

Summer is lazily winding down, and yesterday’s rain over Brooklyn was a refreshing break from the heavy, sweaty days of August. But before we begin trading in our beach towels, there’s still time to appreciate the bounty of summer’s harvest at your local farmers market. Our market here in Bushwick was teeming with exciting produce this past weekend: mini bitter melons, okra, and a few varieties of eggplant, just to name a few.

My favorite veggies of the moment, however, are the tangy tomatillos and green tomatoes. Tomatillos are funky little guys: they look a bit like tiny onions, taste like sour tomatoes, and are actually members of the nightshade family (shared with potatoes!). Green tomatoes are simply under-ripe tomatoes, but they’re prized for their tangy, fresh flavor.

On their own, these guys have a bit of a punch, but throw in some salt, fresh garlic, and vinegar and you’ve got a delicious, fresh and flavorful summer salsa, which tastes great on some toasted, buttered leftover baguettes.

Green Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa


Ingredients
1 pound tomatillos
2 medium green tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
1. Peel the outer skin off the tomatillos, and rinse to remove the sticky film.
2. Roughly chop both the tomatillos and tomatoes. Place them in a medium bowl, add salt and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
3. Mince the garlic and mix into the salsa. Add the vinegar.
4. Eat it with tortilla chips or on toasted bread like bruschetta!


English Sweet Scones

My final attempt at English scone perfection. I’ve made many a daring try at re-creating the classic English scone in my NYC kitchen – a near impossible feat. However, on my recent trip to Europe, I thought, what better place to bake the previously un-bakeable but in its origin country: merry ol’ England.

Of course, being in Englad gave me the home-team advantage. While watching an episode of the coveted on-farm-cooking show River Cottage, local-food enthusiast and charming chef Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall just happened to feature the tiny treats. Thankfully, I had my moleskin on hand (What, you don’t take notes during cooking shows too? Oh…) so I feverishly scribbled down every bit of advice the sage had to offer. I was determined to bake scones in the true British fashion, with double cream measured metrically, and with a scale.

Arguably the greatest thing about baking scones in England: clotted cream. True, viscous, buttery clotted cream. Sigh. Scones are not complete without the addition of clotted cream and (preferably) strawberry jam, also known as “cream teas.”

OH, and how could I forget: fresh eggs. The eggs for these scones were from real free-range chickens, clucking around the garden and squawking to the high heavens post-lay. The eggs were large, heavy, and produced a very yellow (and flavorful) omelette.



English Scones
yields 6-7
recipe after the pictures!










Ingredients

300g (2 2/3 cup) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g (5 tbls) unsalted butter (at cool room temperature), cubed
50g ( 1/4 cup) granulated sugar (use up to 100g (1/2 cup) for a sweeter scone)
1 egg
120ml (1/2 cup) double cream – a must for delicious scones. If you can’t find any, just substitue a little less than 1/2 cup heavy cream.
1 tsp vanilla extract
milk, for glazing

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, do this in a food processor before transferring the mixture to a bowl. Mix in the sugar.
3. Beat the egg and cream in a small bowl. Add the vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and bring together lightly with your hands into a dough. The key to great scones is NOT over kneading or mixing! Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly to form a fairly smooth ball.
4. Pat or gently roll the dough out to a thickness of about 4cm. Use a 6-7cm diameter cutter to stamp out scones from the dough. Put them on the prepared baking sheet, brush the tops with a little milk, and bake for about 15 minutes until risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes, then serve slightly warm.

Finally, I have to include a picture of my messy bowls just to balance out all these glorified pictures of food. Think of it as reassurance that every cook’s kitchen, even the ones that may appear flawless on the blogosphere, has some element of the chaotic.


In Preparation for France, Grapefruit Macarons!

So, I have to admit, yesterday was my birthday. The big 22. I didn’t do anything crazy, but it was definitely a crazy day: American Folk Art Museum Quilts exhibit by day, Robertas by dinner, picking-up craigslist furniture by sundown, and a surprise ice cream cake with my friends on our new balcony by night! And, as if that wasn’t enough, they surprised me with a copy of Tina Fey’s Bossypants and, wait for it, a beautiful Cuisinart ice cream maker! The day was more than I could have dreamed of in the best of all birthday dreams.

And now for something completely different…macarons! For our last Slow Food NYU event of the semester, we hosted a potluck in Washington Square Park for all of the food and agriculture clubs on campus to get together and just hang. For my contribution, I decided to tackle macarons. (Why? I have no idea. I was feeling ambitious.) Now, I know that they don’t look like the puffy, delicate macarons that you’re probably used to, and I have to admit my disappointment when I was piping the dough and they spread out like frisbees, but they were absolutely delicious nonetheless. The texture was the perfect blend of chewy and flakey. My pastry and baking friends confirmed their tried-and-true macaron taste, so aesthetics aside, these little guys were definitely worth the trouble. TIP: make sure your kitchen and the meringue are nice and cool. Meg and I were baking at the same time and I don’t think my old, tiny kitchen handled the heat well, so that could explain why the macarons look more like tea-cup saucers.

I made two variations of the basic macaron recipe from the Gourmet Today cookbook. For the filling, I used the grapefruit curd recipe from the blog Desserts for Breakfast. And since I was all out of red food coloring (thank you red velvet cupcakes), I decided on pale yellow and baby blue macarons for Spring.

Grapefruit Macarons
Yields about 32 macarons (I made two batches)

Ingredients
for macarons
3/4 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
2 tsp grapefruit zest

for curd
1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 tbsp cold water
3 tbsp corn starch
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup boiling water
freshly grated zest of one medium-sized grapefruit

Preparation
for macarons
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Mix the almond flour and confectioners sugar in a medium bowl.
3. Beat egg whites with salt in a large bowl until you’ve reached soft peaks. Reduce speed to medium and add granulated sugar a little at a time, then continue to beat until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
4. Fold in the almond/sugar mixture in two batches until just combined. Fold in vanilla and almond extracts and grapefruit zest.
5. Transfer to a pastry bag. If the kitchen is too hot, cool the meringue in the fridge for a few minutes. Pipe sixteen 1 1/2 inch wide mounds about 1 inch apart (32 total). Smooth the tops of the mounds with a wet fingertip. Bake for 15-17 minutes. The macarons should be crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Allow them to cool completely before icing.

for curd
1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually blend in the cold water and grapefruit juice.
2. Add the egg yolks, butter, and food coloring, blending until smooth.
3. Gradually add in the boiling water, stirring constantly.
4. Place the saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a full boil, stirring gently with a spatula and scraping the bottom (to prevent burning). Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute.
5. Remove the curd from heat and mix in the grapefruit zest. Let cool and then use to fill macarons.


TBECC Round-Up: Recipes, Crafts, and Books, Oh My!

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” This is hands down my favorite quote from a novel ever. I’m a huge Virginia Woolf fan; there’s something about female, high-society writers that I can’t get enough of. (Edith Wharton, anyone?) I’m definitely no literary buff, not even by a long-shot, but I’ve always identified that simple sentence with my own notions of feminism and femininity (beyond the larger context of the book of course, I’m not married to a politician, nor do I have servants). So in preparation for TBECC, a celebration of domesticity and feminism of sorts, I just had to buy flowers…myself.

TBECC was more than just flowers and aesthetics, of course, and it lived up to its name: friends, women, eating, talking about food issues, sharing knowledge and just enjoying each other’s company. We had SO MUCH food. Meg baked a banana cake with chocolate sea salt caramel ganache (which she baked in a toaster oven!); Marlie brought salad (thankfully, some lighter fare) and bread from Hawthorne Valley Farm where she’s a market worker; Julia brought buttermilk pie and honey and jam; and I baked some honey whole wheat pound cake and mini cinnamon rolls. (More recipes to follow!) To drink, I sorted my out-of-control collection of Harney and Sons tea, and pulled out my bag of Counter Culture Jagong coffee (arguably my new favorite, although Crop To Cup’s Burundi is still up there).

Dani Walsh, the wonderful woman behind www.WomenEatNYC.com  (and Grub Street intern!!), a bee-yoo-ti-ful blog that includes recipes and pictures of women enjoying food, stopped by and helped out with some necessary lighting in my living room (no natural light, boo!). She also shared some really cute recipe cards (Dani, let me know where you found those little guys!). We discussed our favorite baking books including, The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (who also wrote the Cake Bible!) and The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Eventually (it was inevitable) the knitting needles came out and Meg, knitter extraordinaire, shared her go-to book for knitting: The Complete Guide to Needlework edited by Readers Digest. Meg’s copy is ancient, but it’s a gem of a reference book. The pictures are painfully 80s, but the instruction is invaluable, with pictures and clear descriptions of a bajillion patterns and stitches for all kinds of stitching crafts from knitting to quilting to needlepoint to embroidery.

We’re hoping to host another TBECC before the school-year lets out. My hope is that TBECC will encourage more women (men too!) to get together, share domestic knowledge and take back our food system!