Guinness Stew with Puff Pastry

Hubby and I were watching some obscure British tv show from the 70s or 80s and one of the characters made reference to marinating beef in Guinness overnight for a steak and kidney pie. We looked at each other, put the TV show on pause, and started brainstorming a Guinness Stew. For some reason Hubby added that it needed puff pastry; so we were really talking about a beef pot pie. He was thinking of Beef Wellington. He traipsed off to the grocery store the next day to get potatoes as that was the only thing we did not have on hand. Here’s the result:

Please don’t look at the less than pristine clean stove!

First, I have beef stew meat in the house thanks to my neighbor who overbought on her meat delivery system. I did send the Hubby out to look for frozen puff pastry when he bought potatoes but since we go to the discount grocery stores there was none to be found. Hubby is concerned, as am I, that it could be considered a waste of good beer to put too much Guinness in the stew. And I needed to decide whether or not to marinade the stew meat.

  • 2 pounds stew meat, already cut into chunks; I chose not to marinade this.
  • approximately 1/2 cup flour for divided use
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fine Herbs
  • 2 large red potatoes, scrubbed with skin on
  • 1 large onion
  • 3-4 medium carrots; I had one large one and two medium
  • 1 garlic clove
  • about two cups beef broth
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) Guinness stout, divided use
  • oil for the pan; we use olive oil
  • one sheet Puff Pastry; for some reason I decided to make the real thing by hand!

Chop the vegetables and mince the garlic in large bite size pieces. The exact amount of vegetables is not important in stews and soups. More can be added for large families. Dredge the stew meat in about 1/4 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Put oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet and brown the meat. Stir this around a bit to get all or most sides. Add the vegetables and 1/2 the can of Guinness. Pour other half of beer into glass and serve to Hubby. Add the beef broth to the pot along with the Fine Herbs unless you thought in advance to mix the herbs with the flour that dredged the beef. At this time rinse the beer can and add that water to the pot. Why not? Add more broth or water to almost cover the stew mixture. Stir this and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes or so. Test the carrot for doneness. Mix the rest of the flour with a bit of cold tap water and stir into the stew. This will thicken the stew and you can use more flour for a thicker broth.

Prior to all this I made Puff Pastry using Jacques Pepin’s recipe for the real thing. This is not a rough puff. This is three cups (one pound flour) and one pound butter. The only thing else is ice water and a little salt. This is made with four turns of the dough which I may have miscounted and done five. This will give your upper arms a work out rolling this stuff out so many times. But look at the layers!

When the stew was complete and the puff pastry had rested in the refrigerator for an hour, I turned the stew out into a casserole dish. Actually Hubby did this as I sometimes have difficulty picking up heavy objects on occasion. Getting older is not just getting wiser. It also means recognizing that one does not always have the capability of one’s youth, and it is nice to have a partner.

I rolled one-third of the pastry into a rectangle. This was a bit of work so the resulting rectangle was not quite as big as I had hoped. I placed this on the stew and popped it into the oven that was heating to 425 degrees F. Thirty minutes gave the pastry a nice color and crusty outside. The part on top of the stew was not crisp and one would not expect it to be if you think about it. In hindsight, Hubby suggested baking the pastry on a sheet pan and then placing it on the stew. That would insure crispy all the way through.

It was absolutely delicious. The taste of the stout came through for a subtle difference for a beef stew.

I now have two pound of puff pastry in the freezer. It needs to be used within a few months. What to make next?

Happy Pi Day

What kind of pie to make for Pi day? This I asked Hubby. I had recently made an apple pie which we proceeded to eat 75% of in one sitting. Mincemeat is not seasonal. Pumpkin is a standard. Finally we settled on a Chocolate Cream Pie. No meringue. I went through at least half a dozen cookbooks to find a Cream Pie and not a Meringue Pie. So it was back to basic Betty, Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, page 302 in my edition.

Most of the recipes for pudding pies that I found use egg yolks. This allows the whites to be used for the meringue. I had to make a decision as to how to use whole eggs or have 4 egg whites sitting about the fridge for who knows how long? The next decision was to use cocoa or chocolate. I have these 85% chocolate discs and wondered if these would serve. I also had an 82% Belgian Dark Chocolate bar available. The third decision was about pie crust. Should I make homemade or use the “emergency pie crusts” in the refrigerated box. I had already made the decision to use canned whipped cream. It is easy enough to make it from scratch but then I would have a half-used carton of whipping cream sitting around in my fridge for, you guessed it, who knows how long? But as I write this I am envisioning cream puffs with crème patisserie. Darn! I did not think of that when I was at the store.

The pie crust is pre-baked for this pie. I used one of the emergency crusts. I have a pound of dried navy beans that I use for pie weights. Just let them cool and keep them for next time. Betty says to pre-bake the shell, well-pricked, in the oven at 475 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. I had never used that high of a temperature but gave it a go. Other than it taking longer than 10 minutes it worked well. It took my crust longer because I had also weighted down a tin pie pan with the beans for additional weight. This did not let the crust brown for the first 8 minutes.

So the first step in the recipe is to bake your pie crust for a 9-inch pie.

  • 1 cup sugar; Betty wanted me to increase this from 2/3 cup to 1 1/2 cups if making the chocolate version of the cream pie. I only increased it a bit. This probably matters depending on what type of chocolate is used. The chocolate I used had some sugar in it.
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk; I bought 2% milk and now have half a half-gallon sitting in my fridge for who knows how long? We usually drink/use/cook with nondairy “fake milk”.
  • 3 whole eggs; I decided this would work just as well as 4 egg yolks
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ounces chocolate; I used the chocolate discs.
  • Sweetened whipped cream

First, melt the chocolate with the vanilla. Slightly beat the eggs in separate bowl, medium sized, so that half the hot milk mix can be poured in this. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a good sized sauce pan. Pour in the milk slowly and bring this to a boil, stirring constantly. This will take at least ten minutes of standing by the stove. Betty intended for the chocolate mixture to be added with the milk but I forgot to read that part of the instructions. Let this boil for 1 minute, still stirring. Now pour half the hot milk mixture into the eggs, stirring those so as not to have scrambled-egg pudding. it was at this point I read about when to put in the chocolate so I put it in the sauce pan. I thought I might have chocolate-spotted pudding but it did blend all-together when put all back into the sauce pan. Now boil for one more minute. Remove from heat.

Pour into the waiting pie crust. Cover top of pudding with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. Betty says not more than 48 hours, not sure why. Top with whipped cream for serving. Be sure to remove the plastic wrap!

This was very delicious and rich tasting. I added more whipped cream on each slice.

Maple Oat Soda Bread

I was looking for something to bake and wanted to do something from my many cookbooks, etc. and not from the internet. I noticed that I had mini loaf pans under my counter with a recipe collection notebook on top. Here I found a King Arthur Flour recipe that I had saved from their magazine/sales flyer. By the name of the recipe this one must have been sent out about this time of year maybe several years ago. It sounded delicious so I baked it.

Typical me, I have substitutions to make. I have mini loaf pans that make 4, not the 8 mini loafs pictured in the recipe. I also substituted quick cooking rolled oats for their old fashioned rolled oats; and all-purpose flour for the Irish-style flour. Who knows what that is?

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (or 276 grams; I used my new kitchen scale from Pampered Chef)
  • 1/2 cup dried buttermilk powder (this should be a staple in any baker’s kitchen)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (and I had real Vermont Maple Syrup just like the recipe!)

Make the oats with the oatmeal and boiling water. This will depend on what type of oats used. My oats cooked in 1 minute. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the wells of the mini loaf pan.

Mix the maple syrup and melted butter in a bowl. Set aside 1 1/2 Tablespoons.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter/syrup mixture and the oats. Mix together until smooth-ish. Remember this is a quick bread so it will come together looking like biscuits or scones. Divide evenly into the mini-loaf pans.

Bake breads until done: toothpick test is clean and/or 200 degrees F internal temperature. I used my handy dandy digital food thermometer gotten reasonably cheaply from the internet. Immediately brush the tops of the breads with the reserved butter/syrup mixture letting it soak into the breads. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then turn out on wire rack to cool.

Declared yummy when eaten.

I also baked something chocolate. I went to a favorite snack cake. However I was running low on flour. So this was made with coffee instead of the water and a mixture of all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, and almond flour. I thought putting these in the large muffin pan would make it easier to freeze a few for later. Well, not so fast! These did not want to come out of the pans. They had nice “muffin tops” which came off and I had to scoop the cakes out with a large spoon. I’m thinking that the almond flour makes a tender cake crumb and that baking this in the standard 8 x 8 inch pan would have been more successful with the combo of flours.

Hey it’s chocolate!

Baking with Pears

I had some beautiful red pears in my produce delivery. I put them in a paper bag for a few days and they were ready to eat. This had given me time to research what to do with them. These pears would be good for eating but I wanted to bake. The goal was to make the Pear Tatin recipe from my Essential Pepin cookbook.  I do find that I make alterations to the recipes that I have used. This one however I did not. Oops, yes I did. I did not have apple cider, but no worries, the Tarte Tatin recipe used water and lemon juice for the same purpose.

This was baked/cooked in a ten inch cast iron skillet as instructed. The first batch of caramel was burned so I started over. I sliced the pears instead of using pear halves. And I doubled the dough as there was no way I was going to get a ten inch circle from the original amounts using only ½ cup flour. Here is the result:

In future I would revert to brown sugar and butter and not make a caramel. I would slice the pears the same. I would then use a short crust tart pastry on top and bake in the oven until done. Or make it an upside down cake and use cake batter. Or use Pepin’s Meme’s Apple Tart dough and top with pears.

I had two pears remaining. I found a copy from a diet book for a Peach Flat Cake. I can use pears! Here are my ingredients, slightly modified from the recipe page.

  • Two pears, sliced; I did not bother to peel them.
  • ½ stick butter
  • ¼ cup dry milk powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons,  approximately, almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

This called for a round cake pan but did not indicate size. I selected an 8 inch pan and am very glad I did. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray the pan with cooking spray.

In mixer bowl, beat the butter the dry milk, sugar and almonds until creamy. Add the eggs and beat for a few minutes to aerate the batter. Add the flour and baking soda until well blended. Pour the batter into the pan and place the pear slices on top in a circle. Or as my grandson said, “looks like fireworks!” Bake for 20 minutes until golden. I added a few more minutes.

The description of this recipe says the dough “rises slightly as it bakes to embrace the fruit”. Well it did, very slightly. Hubby and I enjoyed this. It did not have the texture of cake. It was more like clafoutis or dense custard. It was much less sweet than the Tatin above and prettier too.

Soupe a l’oignon a la Julia!

I have been enjoying cooking from my “French” cookbooks, one by Julia Child and one by Jacques Pepin. Hubby bought beef broth hoping for some onion soup. We get lots of onions each week so had all the ingredients. Hubby prefers beef broth as it gives a different taste and mouth feel.  I think that is umami.

I chose to go with Julia’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My goal is not to master the art but to experiment with different combinations and ways of preparing food. I really like soups. Hubby likes soups to be more stew-like.  I have adjusted very few items in this recipe. I use slightly less butter than she suggests. This is what I used.

  • 5 cups sliced onions
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 3 Tab flour
  • 1 quart boiling beef broth
  • 3 cups homemade chicken broth, also boiling
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start with the butter and oil and onions in a heavy saucepan. This needs to be big enough to cook the whole soup. And needs a lid. A 4 quart pan is suggested. Slow cook the onions for 15 minutes. Then add the salt and sugar and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently.

Did I mention Julia writes to count on 2 ½ hours to make this soup?

Now add the flour and stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the boiling liquids and the wine. Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes.

For serving, add 3 Tab cognac. Now pour the soup into bowls lined with baguette and cheese.

The first time I made this soup I also made baguettes from Jacques Pepin’s Essentials. Real bread made with flour, yeast, salt, and water. We ate 2 ½ baguettes with the soup. And this tasted like “real” French onion soup, not just onions sautéed in broth. And we had gruyere cheese.

The second time I made the soup I halved the broth to just the beef broth, heated not boiling, cooked for the minimum times, forgot the cognac, and did not serve over bread and cheese. It was just as good but did not have that fabulous first taste of “Ahhhhh, this is good soup!”

Stay safe and be well!

Failed Christmas Cookies

Happy Saint Nicholas day to all!

I wanted to make cookies. I had found and kept available the Santa Hat cookie cutter. I had a plan to find red paste food dye and/or use beet juice for a deep red. I would make Santa hat cookies and carefully write all the family names on one for each. Well, this did not happen.

First of all I needed a recipe. I did not want to have to stand and cut out a million cookies  so wanted a recipe that made 2-3 dozen.  We were running low on eggs so did not want a recipe that required more than 1 egg (we had three in the fridge) so I thought a shortbread would work nicely. So my new Essential Pepin cookbook has an almond shortbread and I had all the ingredients. But then I thought that my daughter is allergic to almonds and she would not be able to eat any of these.

I did not take into consideration that this would most likely be a virtual-physically-distanced-for-social-solidarity-type Christmas anyway. So the search for the recipe continued. I thought Dark o’ Moon cookies but they require two eggs. That would mean no breakfast of eggs with the leftover roasted root veg this week. I paged through my mother’s recipe notebook’s cookie section. These are clippings that she collected and tried over the years. I found Cinnamon Crisps which were a cut out cookie and required no eggs. Bingo!

Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, butter, and milk. Pet milk is a brand of evaporated milk, or my mother would have used Milnot. The recipe was put together similarly to a cake recipe. It made a soft dough. Too soft to roll out but I gave it the old college try anyway, adding flour to the rolling process. Finally I gave up and rolled it out on the parchment paper, put that on the cookie sheets, and baked.

Here are the results:

I had to cut the one blob of cookie apart for the final few minutes of baking and if you look closely you can see the Santa hat shape I was going for. They are actually tasty. I should have made the decision to make them drop cookies when I saw that the dough was too soft to roll.  And then squashed them slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in cinnamon sugar.  Ooh, that sounds good. But too late for that now.

I will wait until the grocery shopping Hubby fills up my baking pantry with eggs and brown sugar and more butter. That way I can choose from more recipes than I did when I chose Cinnamon Crisps. Meanwhile, these are tasty, although unsightly, nibbles.

Let them eat cake: chocolate cake!

Well, I saw this recipe from The Telegraph for a chocolate cake with a kick of ginger. Sounded good to me so I thought I’d give it a try. First let me check for ingredients. No muscovado sugar but I do have brown sugar. No double cream but I do have evaporated milk. No golden syrup but I do have light corn syrup. No chopped dark chocolate but I do have dark chocolate chips. No dairy milk but I have nut milk. I’m good to go!

Spoiler alert: This essay is about process and not the recipe. I will show you the end product and review the taste. For fans of the GBBO this did not come out as a signature bake, a show stopper, nor would it have passed the technical. I would have to leave the tent!

First of all I pulled together the ingredients for the cake. This cake used oil and not butter and had more sugar than flour which I thought was interestingly different.  So I am standing in my kitchen with Google on one hand, a cookbook open to a chart of conversions from  Metric to Imperial and vice versa, a calculator, and pen and paper. I have to convert grams to cups and portion of cups, weight to volume.  This takes quite a bit of finagling since Siri says one thing and the chart says one thing and the calculator says another thing. Finally I decide on a formula and measure out the cake ingredients. Luckily my liquid measuring cups have ml markings. The batter comes together and is very thin, and there is not a lot of it either. This is to be baked in 20cm round pans which to my measurement were the 9-inch pans. I fit parchment paper, pour in the batter, and bake.

(I have just now double checked the 20 cm measurement and find that it is 8 inches. There is a reason for the “measure twice, cut once” truism.)

The cakes were very thin. Clearly the result of the above mentioned measurement error. But they were raised so I put them on racks to cool. They smell and look good.

While the cakes were baking I had put aside and prepped the ingredients for the ginger caramel as well as the chocolate frosting. But for the frosting I figured the cocoa would make it chocolate enough and did not put in chopped chocolate chips. Boiled (was to only melt) the frosting ingredients and set aside to cool and thicken. Which it did not do. I put the frosting in the fridge. Still liquid. I melted some chocolate chips to try to thicken it which did not really work. So I have fudge sauce for the frosting. Great.

Meanwhile I am looking at the very thin cakes and decide I’ll bake another set of cakes from a tried-and-true recipe, Best-Ever Chocolate Cake (https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2016/02/18/best-ever-chocolate-cake/) that my mom always made. I whip this up. This cake uses a cup of butter and has more flour than sugar. I bake this in two layers in the 8-inch cake pans. Why? I was not thinking properly? I wanted a cake with good height? There was much more batter than the other cake and the 8-inch pans took longer to bake than I expected and I was afraid the edges that were trying to overflow the pans would burn. They didn’t and finally the cakes were done. I now have these cooling on the racks and turn my attention to the caramel.

I do not make caramel. I cannot recall ever making caramel. The instructions did use the word “stir”. This turned into a sauce that did not thicken to drizzle state when cooled. I wondered about that when I was pouring in the ginger cream (ginger infused evaporated milk) and remember almost all GBBO bakers commenting on NOT stirring the caramel while bubbling. Live and learn.

Now I have four cake layers, fudge sauce, and caramel sauce. I put the two thin cakes together by drowning them with the fudge sauce and a few spoon of caramel. I now add the first layer of Best-Ever. This is tall enough and would be too tall with the fourth layer. So I now have to use the rest of the fudge sauce for the top of the third layer. I’m drowning the cake and the sauce is overflowing the cake plate. I busily scoop around the cake and try to spread some sauce on the sides.  Then I pour the caramel over the top of it all. It dawns on me that I forgot to add the tiny bit of sea salt to the caramel so I sprinkle that on top.  Cake is complete. It looks a mess. And after all that, we don’t even have a slice until the next day. I put it in the fridge overnight.

To review:

  • I used the wrong sized pans for both cake batches.
  • I stirred the caramel.
  • The chopped chocolate was essential for the texture and thickness of the frosting.
  • The fudge sauce (supposed to be frosting) was absorbed by the thin bottom cakes so they became very dense. It did not saturate the Best-Ever cake layer all the way through so there was a bit of cake texture there.
  • The ginger only came through from the sauce on the top of the cake.
  • The chocolate was too intense and although very rich did not result in the best tasting chocolate flavor.
  • It would be helpful to have a kitchen scale.
  • We’ll be eating chocolate cake all week!

Does this ever happen to you? You try something new and are disappointed. It is not certain that it is the recipe or how you carried it out? That does not mean I will stop trying. There are those home bakers who have tried-and-true cakes, pie, cookies that they consistently bake. The only one I have is Best-Ever Chocolate Cake. But I like to try new recipes and they sometimes do not turn out a well as I had hoped. I have a trove of cookbooks, I follow cooking blogs, and the internet has almost everything else. The adventure continues.

quiche

So I was going to have some friends over for lunch. I picked the day of the week that was supposed to be sunny and reasonably warm so we could sit and visit and eat outdoors. Outdoors is more Covid-safe than indoors. As 2020 would have it though, the day was rainy, rainy, and rainy! So the lunch visit did not come together which is probably just as well. Indoor eating venues are not particularly the smartest choice these days. So it worked out that two friends weren’t feeling well (Covid negative, no worries!), another one was having a crisis in her work environment, so we cancelled.

I had already made a pumpkin cake to which I had added chocolate chips, walnuts, candied ginger, and dried cranberries. I was planning a crust-less quiche for lunch and decided to go ahead and make this.

My quiche “recipe” is two cups milk/cream and 4 eggs. Everything else is up to the cook. This was made with evaporated milk as I did not have “real” milk and am not certain “fake” non-dairy milk sets well in custards. I fried up some bacon for this and added the red pepper since only Hubby and I would be eating this.

  • 4 eggs
  • 12 ounce can of evaporated milk, topped up to two cups with plain unsweetened almond milk
  • about 6 ounces frozen spinach
  • one smallest red pepper, chopped
  • about four inches of bacon, diced; I hacked off a section of frozen bacon.
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Start oven to 350 degrees F.

Fry up the bacon. Drain the fat and put the bacon bits in the bottom of the 8-inch square baking dish. Add the onion, red pepper and spinach to the pan and sauté until the onion is softened. Add this mixture to the pan with the bacon and stir together. Meanwhile beat the four eggs with a fork and add the milk and stir until combined. Pour this over the veg and bacon mix in the dish. Oh, before that sprinkle the cheese over the veg. Bake for 35 minutes until nicely set. Let cool in pan about 10-15 minutes and then cut and serve. Yum! The leftovers made a nice breakfast the following day.

tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms

These aren’t really recipes but comments on throwing ingredients together to make meals. Yes, I suppose that is what makes  a recipe. Anyway the amounts of the vegetables in the following meals will be entirely up to you and what you have and want to use.

This is a bunch of tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms served over egg noodles. My Hubby likes egg noodles. When he makes pasta he cooks bunches of it. He does this for tuna-noodle in the summer and with spaghetti which then becomes his spaghetti pie. I try to cook just enough for the meals I am planning.

I have vegetables delivered weekly from Imperfect Produce. You can google that and see if it would be right for you. I may have mentioned it in a previous blog but am not sure. So I had a bunch of tomatoes that arrived green. I let them sit on my counter for a couple of weeks and they did turn red. Meanwhile I had 3-4 other tomatoes in a weekly delivery. And the mushrooms have been very nice lately. I am still trying to put more vegetables in our meals. We’ve done a lot of big roast ups of whatever vegetables are on hand but Hubby has let me know that he is done with broccoli!

  • 6 or so smallish tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  •  8 ounce package white mushrooms
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • Egg noodles or pasta of your choice
  • Grated Romano or parmesan cheese to serve

Boil water and cook the noodles. This will take 5-8-10 minutes depending on how al dente you like your pasta. You can use whatever pasta you have on hand. This might be nice with bowties.

Slice the garlic and sauté in oil or butter. Slice mushrooms and add to pan. Roughly chop tomatoes and add them to the skillet and stir together with a few shakes of the seasoning. The garlic will take about 3 minutes; the mushrooms add 5, and then the tomatoes for about 5 more.

Drain the pasta. We put our pasta in the bowls and then add the tomato mixture. Serve with grated cheese. Enjoy!