Category Archives: Doughs and Batters

Fritters: A Short Endorsement

Pan-frying corn frittersA simple definition.  Fritters are made from a simple batter that is garnished with meat or vegetables or fruit and then fried, either in a pan or deep-fryer.  They can be sweet or savoury.

Why you should care about fritters.  Fritters are an important preparation to master for the following reasons: you almost always have the ingredients needed to make them; they fry up quickly; and they are a fantastic way to use leftovers, whether it’s meat like ground beef or ham, or sautéed vegetables, or cheese.

The fritter continuum.  The degree to which the batter or the interior garnishes dominate varies widely.  Let’s explore the two ends of the Fritter Continuum using corn fritters.

You can make a … Continue reading.

Cornbread Stuffing and Cornbread Pudding

A casserole of cornbread stuffingIn the extremely unlikely case that you have leftover cornbread that is a couple days old and a bit too dry to be enjoyed, you have two choices.

Look deep into the tepid pond of your soul and ask, sweet or savoury?

If the response comes back sweet, you make cornbread pudding.  If the answer is savoury, you make cornbread stuffing.

Leftover cornbread and the dishes made therefrom are quite different than stale bread and its children.  As cornbread is a quick bread, the baker went out of his or her way to avoid gluten development, and no doubt added sugar and fat in the form of butter or buttermilk or sour cream.  This kept the fresh cornbread tender, but … Continue reading.

Choux Pastry

Choux pastries ready to be stuffed with whipped creamBefore the exciting conclusion of Custard Week, I want to take you on a quick detour to show you some applications for the custards we’ve been making.  Let’s talk about choux pastry.

Choux pastry is a bit weird.  First of all it’s weird because it’s not clear whether it’s a dough or a batter.  Next it’s weird because it’s cooked twice, once on the stove, and once in the oven.  Then it’s weird because when you cook it the second time it puffs itself up so that it’s entirely hollow.  And finally it’s weird because its name is French for “cabbage pastry”.  To my knowledge it is never eaten with cabbage, so I’m thinking that the name refers to the … Continue reading.

Stuffing, or Dressing

A casserole of Thanksgiving stuffing, or dressingI say this without exaggeration: I hold stuffing as one of the greatest culinary traditions of the New World.  I know the British and French and many others make similar dishes, but stuffing, or dressing, is an indispensable dish for the Thanksgiving table.  Technically it is an accompaniment to the turkey.  I often have to remind myself of this.

So.  What is stuffing?  Stuffing is bread.  As the name implies, it was originally crammed into the cavity of poultry, absorbing the juice and fat exuded from the bird during cooking.  While this method is still common in Canadian homes, it is giving way to “stuffing” that is prepared in a casserole instead of a bird.  There are two reasons for … Continue reading.

English Muffins: Best Toast Ever

English muffins make the best toast: much crispier than standard pullman loaves, but not overly-crunchy like rustic artisan loaves.  I think there are at least four reasons for their toasting superiority:

  1. The dough is enriched with a small amount of sugar and fat.
  2. The way they are shaped, as individual pucks instead of slices from a loaf.  A typical slice of bread is cut from the interior of a larger loaf, so the two sides are from the soft, interior “crumb” of the bread.  When you cut and toast an English muffin, one of the surfaces of each half used to be the exterior crust of the bread, making a crispier piece of toast.
  3. The way they are cooked.  Unlike
Continue reading.

Draff Bread – Spent Grain Bread

A fistful of spent grain, ready to be baked into breadI’ve been doing some all-grain brewing this spring.  After the mashing process the malt has given up all its caramel earthiness to the wort, and you are left with several pounds of spent grain, or draff.

There are lots of ways to use this stuff up.  Commercial breweries commonly sell or give draff to farmers as livestock feed.  It can also be composted so long as you have lots of other, greener compostable material to balance out the mixture.

Draff is also commonly baked into bread.  Realistically the home brewer will not be able to bake enough bread to use all of the spent grain – the bulk of mine still ends up in the compost heap – but it’s … Continue reading.

Egg Noodles

Making pasta using the flour well techniqueI call these egg noodles to distinguish them from the eggless, dried, commercially-produced pastas like spaghetti and macaroni.

Let’s get to it.

You’ve no doubt seen nonnas or professional chefs mix pasta dough together right on the workbench by mounding up all the flour and making a well in the centre for all the liquid ingredients.

This is more than a parlour trick.

If you were to combine all the ingredients in a bowl at once and stir them together, you would find that they don’t come together; the dough will seem much too dry, and will stay crumbly and separate.  It takes the flour a while to absorb the moisture in the eggs and milk.  Slowly incorporating in this … Continue reading.

Biscuits

Square biscuitsWhen I was little we called these savoury pastries “scones,” our pronunciation rhyming with the word “owns”, but they are much more like American biscuits than British scones (the pronunciation of which rhymes with “lawns”).

For the sake of clarity I’ve taken to calling them biscuits.  Whatever you call them, they are flaky quick breads made with butter, milk, and flour.  A little salt and a little baking powder.  That’s it.

My mom used to make a ham and cheese biscuit.  She made her dough with milk soured with vinegar (buttermilk would have been used when she was growing up, but we never had this in our fridge).  The dough was rolled into a sheet, covered with slices of ham … Continue reading.

Cornbread

Measuring out homemade cornmeal for cornbreadCornbread has developed a regional connotation in North America: the mere mention of the dish awakens borrowed images of the American south.  I resent this, because I know that my dad ate cornbread growing up in eastern Ontario.  They called it johnnycake, which is a very old, eastern North American term derived (we think) from “journey cake,” referring to the dry bread’s portability.[1]

The bulk of the transcendent cornmeal we made this fall was baked into cornbread and consumed with butter and maple syrup.  Below is my go-to recipe.  It makes a moist bread (mostly on account of the several types of fat in the recipe: full-fat milk and buttermilk, sour cream, canola oil…) with a fine texture and … Continue reading.

Beef Liver Dumplings

Liver!For me, the most shocking part of buying a side of beef was how much liver we got.

A lot.  I like liver more than most, and I thought it was too much.

If you have to get through a lot of liver, there’s no better way than to just sear it in a pan and tuck in.  When the distinct, glandular texture of liver wearies the palate, there are liver dumplings.

This was a staple when I was in Austria.  Lunch always consisted of soup, meat, and dessert, and the soup often contained some manner of offal.  Most notable were the soft, bready liver dumplings the size of a toddler’s fist, floating in beef broth.

The biggest problem with … Continue reading.