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.


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!


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.


Weekend Baking: Whole Wheat Chia and Flax Seed Buttermilk Bread


Phew, that recipe is a mouthful! That’s also a bad pun, my apologies. Last week was an absolute whirlwind. Between writing an intense paper on women and the industrialization of the food system (I think I’ve exhausted this topic by now), catching up on readings, and running around for NYU’s Earth Week, OH and very slowly recovering from a sinus infection/cold thing, my apartment turned into an absolute disaster by Sunday night (which also accurately reflected my well-being). Good news is, today is a gorgeous sunny day and the high is supposed to be 78 degrees. Albeit, I’m stuck in the office all day 9-5, the mere thought of sunny-78-degree-weather is nonetheless exciting.

Before I get to the recipe, I just wanted to share two things: Harney and Sons Royal Wedding Tea and the Atlantic’s Food Summit.

First, Harney and Sons. My good friend Meg, fellow Slow Fooder and tea enthusiast, turned me on to yet another wonderful Harney and Sons creation: Royal Wedding Tea. Considering my half-English heritage (father = born and bred English punker turned Los Angeles cruiser), I love all things English. Although I can’t really identify with the royal-family-fanatic-camp, I have to admit a slight affection for the whimsy of the Royal Wedding.

Meg and I can’t figure out if the Harney and Sons tea is specifically celebrating THE Royal Wedding, or if it’s celebrating royal weddings in general, but we love it either way. Royal Wedding tea is a delicious white tea with almond, coconut, vanilla, with pink rosebuds and petals. It only comes in a 30-sachet tin (I much prefer loose tea, so the sachets are kind of a bummer), but the tin is SO decorative and delicate that I’m ok with sachets, just this once.

And now on to academia, of sorts. Today is the Atlantic magazine’s Food Summit. As part of their “Intelligence Series,” the summit is an all day forum that will explore various food-related topics such as consumer behavior, health and nutrition, and sustainable agriculture. Alice Waters is the keynote speaker for the event, and is giving her presentation at 1:45. You can watch a live-stream of the summit here!

And now, the recipe. I used-up all my leftover buttermilk and some various seeds and what not we have lying around our kitchen. We have SO MANY chia seeds. Last year, Noah mailed me a FIVE POUND BAG of chia seeds. Why? Who knows. I ask myself this every time I open my baking pantry and see three pasta sauce jars full of chia seeds, and for some reason we keep finding the tiny black seeds scattered throughout our bed. I try to use chia seeds in just about every recipe, but you can easily replace the seeds with any other mix-in you like! Sesame seeds, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, etc. This is a great, really quick, no-knead, no-rise, recipe for a delicious and hearty morning bread. Enjoy!


Whole Wheat Chia and Flax Seed Buttermilk Bread
Makes one loaf

Ingredients
1 cup white flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
3 tbls. flax seed
2 tbls. chia seed
1 tbls. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour a standard bread pan.
2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the seeds or other mix-ins and whisk to combine.
3. Slowly add the buttermilk and mix well. This is a very sticky dough, so don’t be discouraged if it’s tough to handle! I actually rinsed out the inside of my buttermilk carton and poured the residue into the dough to make it even stickier.
4. Pour the dough into the bread pan and flatten as best you can with the spatula. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. It should also make a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the pan.


My Weekend Baking Part 2: Honey Whole Wheat Pound Cake

A continuation of my weekend baking – part two! Yes, that’s right, I spent all Sunday morning in my kitchen baking not one, but two different recipes. I was up at 8AM and still baking at noon. I call it “therapy baking.” Which I will be doing some more of tonight: I’m just beginning to come out of my week-long sinus infection (thank you roommate’s humidifier!) and last night I began reading the “History of Agricultural Price-Support and Adjustment Programs, 1933-84,” which is a 52-page historical report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service on, you guessed it, the evolution of agricultural legislation in the U.S. from 1933-1984. It’s dense, but the report is only the calm before the storm; my Food Systems professor assigned it as merely a prep document for understanding the actual 2008 Farm Bill, which is over 1770 pages long by the way. Yeah, no big deal.

In any event, I’ll probably be re-baking this recipe (since it was such a big hit at TBECC) for the NYU Earth Day Fair tomorrow where Slow Food NYU will be hosting a table along with the bajillion other green clubs at NYU (check out the line-up, it’s so awesome to see such a strong showing of environmentalism at NYU). This recipe is a Joy the Baker original. I used local eggs from Millport Farms in Lancaster, Penn (they also have AMAZING raw milk cheese) and local honey from Andrew’s Local Honey (a beekeeper I interviewed for an article I wrote a year and a half ago on rogue beekeepers – before NYC beekeeping was legal!) all gathered at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Honey Whole Wheat Pound Cake
Original recipe from Joy the Baker

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour (I used 1 cup white flour and 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour since I didn’t have whole wheat pastry flour and I didn’t want to use all whole wheat flour, which can be pretty dense and overwhelmingly wheaty)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons of butter)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whip the butter, sugar and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. (Again, I don’t have my dear Kitchen Aid, so I just used an electric hand mixer) Add the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about one minute after each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
4. Add the dry mixture and buttermilk in three additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Smooth the top down and bake the cake for about an hour. The cake will be a lovely golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean.
6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


My Weekend Baking, Part 1: Mini Cinnamon Buns!


This past Sunday was TBECC, a celebration of women talking, baking, eating, crafting, and cooking. I’m still recovering from the combination of too-much sugar, coffee, tea, and in general, excitement over such good conversation and company. I’m currently trying my hardest to fight off a sinus-infection-cold-hybrid thing that has been plaguing my life since Thursday, as well as catching up on papers and readings. The good news: it’s exactly ONE MONTH to my Gallatin graduation!

I’ll post more on the TBECC event later this week, but for now I just wanted to share one of the many recipes featured on my living room table for the day: Mini Cinnamon Buns! The recipe was adapted from the wonderful Smitten Kitchen.

Mini Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Glaze
Originally taken from Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 24 mini buns, with some leftover dough which bakes nicely in a ramekin for some cinnamon-sugary-doughy goodness

Dough
1 cup almond milk (SK calls for whole milk)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise or instant yeast (from 1 envelope yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Extra butter to slick the dishes, I usually just use the butter wrapper (SK called for non-stick veggie spray)

Filling
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar (SK called for 1 cup, but having made icing a bajillion times, 1 cup of powdered sugar ALWAYS produces an icing too sweet for my taste)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, about 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl and add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Mix thoroughly using a rubber spatula. (SK’s recipe called for a stand mixer, but mine is gathering dust at my mom’s house in upstate NY. However, me and my beloved Kitchen Aid will be reunited soon at me and Noah’s new apartment in Brooklyn that has a kitchen about 3 times the size of my current set-up! But more on that later…)
2. Add an additional 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl.
3. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.
4. Lightly oil large bowl with the butter wrapper. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
5. For the filling, mix brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in medium bowl.
6. After 2 hours of rising time, press down the dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife (I used a steak knife), cut the rolled out dough down the middle length wise. (If you don’t want minis, simply leave the rolled out whole and follow the same directions for the filling.) Spread butter over both sections, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over the butter for each section.
7. Starting at the longer side of one of the rolled-out doughs, roll dough into a tight log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, trim ends straight if they are uneven and cut remaining dough crosswise with a knife, each one about 3/4-1 inch thick.
8. Butter a standard glass casserole dish and arrange the buns cut side up, pinching the seam into the side of the roll so they stay intact as they bake. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes. (Mine did not rise too much, which may have something to do with the fact that I used almond milk instead of whole milk, but the buns were delicious and fluffy nonetheless.)
9. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.
10. For the glaze, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using electric hand mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature. (I served my glaze on the side in a mason jar with a icing spatula. DIY!)