Cheddar-Green Onion Biscuits

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I’ve generally shied away from making biscuits because, quite frankly, I suck at it. I over-knead the dough, I don’t add enough butter, and my final product is usually hard baked disks of crumbly flour.

Except for these biscuits. Flecked with bits of cheddar cheese and green onions, they’re a cinch to make, even for someone like me. Good luck eating just one.

Cheddar-green onion biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus 1 tablespoon melted
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup buttermilk, divided

1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl until combined. Using your fingers, work cold butter into flour mixture until butter is in small, flattened pieces and mixture is crumbly. Stir in green onions and cheese. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk, and stir just until dough comes together, adding up to 1/4 cup additional buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. (Dough should be neither sticky nor crumbly.)

2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead 3 to 4 times just to bring dough together. Pat dough into an 8- x 6-inch rectangle; fold 1 short side a third of the way over toward center. Fold opposite short side over folded end (business letter fold). Rotate dough clockwise 90 degrees; pat out dough into a 8×6-inch rectangle, and repeat folding procedure. Pat dough out into an 8×6-inch rectangle (3/4 to 1 inch thick); cut dough into 8 rectangular biscuits.

3. Place each biscuit rectangle on baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake biscuits in oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Halvah-Stuffed Challah

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Growing up, one of my favorite after-school snacks was halvah rolled up with lavash flatbread: simple, sweet, and satisfying. Called halvardeh in Persian, Middle Eastern halvah is ubiquitous these days in well-stocked American grocery stores. But when I was a kid, halvah was precious: we’d make semi-monthly drives from Santa Rosa to San Jose to stock up on Iranian favorites, including halvah, sour cherry jam, lavashak (sour fruit roll ups), and spices and herbs for days.

This halvah-stuffed challah is a grown-up version of my childhood snack and make no mistake about it: this is a weekend project. Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe, this takes the better part of an afternoon to make, and the results are well worth it. This recipe makes two loaves so make like me and freeze one for eating later, when the craving strikes.

Halvah-stuffed challah

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup tahini
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
Salt
1 1/2 cups chopped halvah
Sesame seeds and more sugar, for sprinkling

1. Make the dough: In a small bowl, whisk the water with the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk 4 of the eggs with the oil and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Mix to blend. Add the egg and yeast mixtures and knead until the dough comes together, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth and slightly sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled large bowl and cover with wax paper and a towel on top.

3. Make the filling and topping: In a medium bowl, stir the tahini with 1/3 cup of the honey, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of water.

4. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Transfer 1 piece to a lightly floured work surface and keep the other piece covered with a damp kitchen towel. Divide the dough on the work surface into 3 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll out 1 piece into a 
14-by-6-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup of the tahini mixture on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the halvah over the tahini in an even layer. With a long side facing you, tightly roll up the dough into a log, pressing the seam and ends together to seal in the filling. Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough, 1/2 cup of the tahini mixture and 1/2 cup of the halvah. Arrange the 3 logs on one of the prepared sheets and braid them together. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sugar. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the remaining filling, egg wash and toppings. Bake the challahs for about 25-30 minutes on the middle and bottom racks of the oven, shifting and rotating halfway through, until deep golden. Transfer to racks to cool.


Miso Banana Bread

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Welcome to your new favorite banana bread recipe. Contrary to what you might be thinking, no, you can’t taste the miso in the final product here. Instead, it’s like someone took banana bread and amped up the taste, resulting in this deeply flavorful, showstopping treat. I’ve adapted this recipe from the original in Food & Wine, and my version is on regular rotation this days in casa yogurtsoda.

Miso banana bread

Ingredients:

5 overripe bananas
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white miso
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter and flour a 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch metal loaf pan. In a bowl, using 
a fork, mash 4 of the bananas until chunky. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

2. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the butter, sugar and miso at medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. At low speed, slowly add the buttermilk, then beat in 
the eggs 1 at a time until incorporated. Beat in the mashed bananas; the batter will look curdled. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Scrape into the prepared pan.

3. Slice the remaining banana lengthwise and arrange the halves on top of the batter side by side, cut side up. Bake for 
1 hour and 20 minutes. Let the bread cool for 30 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Green Onion Pancakes

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This might be the first bread I learned to make. I was practically a baby Yogurtsoda, obsessed with PBS’ roster of cooking shows in the 1990s. Martin Yan’s Yan Can Cook was one of my favorites and these chewy green onion pancakes looked like an irresistible snack, so I learned how to cook them.

Rolling out the dough for this unleavened bread takes a bit of getting used to but once you get the hang of it, the rest is easy. The accompanying dipping sauce isn’t authentic, but it adds a deliciously savory layer of flavor to the final dish.

Green onion pancakes

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup cooking oil plus additional for pan-frying
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons chopped green onions
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1. Place flour in a bowl. Add water, stirring with a fork, until dough holds together. On a lightly floured board, knead dough until smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons green onions, garlic, and chili garlic sauce in a bowl and set aside.

3. On a lightly floured board, roll dough into a cylinder, then cut into 12 portions. To make each pancake, roll a portion of dough to make an 8-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick; keep remaining dough covered to prevent drying. Brush with cooking oil. Sprinkle sesame oil, green onions, salt, and pepper on top. Roll dough into a cylinder and coil dough into a round patty; tuck end of dough underneath. Roll again to make an 8-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick.

4. Place a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirling to coat sides. Add a pancake and cook until golden brown on each side, about 4 minutes total. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add more oil as needed and repeat with remaining pancakes.

5. Cut pancakes into wedges and serve with dipping sauce on the side.

Cornbread Muffins

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I am a terrible baker. There, I said it.

I see recipes for bread and cakes and cookies that I’d love to try all the time, but I generally steer clear because more often than not, my “bread” comes out resembling cardboard and my “cookies” end up as hard as a tack. Take cornbread, for example. It took me four Thanksgivings and four cornbread recipes until I finally got it right. But now that I’ve found a recipe that works, I’m never letting go of this one. For the past two years, this has been my staple cornbread recipe. These mini-muffins are moist, crumbly and slightly sweet. Most importantly, they come out of the oven consistently every time I make them.

Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter mini muffin tray. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to combine. Stir in milk, egg and butter.

2. Working in batches and cooling tray before each batch, spoon two tablespoons batter into each muffin cup. Bake until pale golden brown on bottom, about 12 minutes. Turn muffins out onto rack and cool completely.