Sunday, January 8, 2012

Other things you can eat in the morning:

This is a pretty simple quiche.  The variations should be pretty easy to figure out— substitute fresh steamed spinach for canned spinach, use mushrooms, vary cheeses, substitute cream or whole milk for half and half, etc.  You can make your own pie crust if you like, I’m suggesting buying a deep frozen crust here.
   This dish needs to cook fairly slowly, so preheat your oven to just 350 degrees.  You will start with half a bar of cream cheese, about 4 ounces. If you knew you were going to make this dish in advance and left your cream cheese out to attain room temperature, use it like that.  If you are starting with cold cream cheese, put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Use a mixer to start beating the cream cheese, and add three eggs in one at a time until it’s all blended together. Mix in half a cup of half & half.
   Now put in a cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Use mild or sharp, according to your taste.  Add a cup of other shredded cheeses.  I have used what the grocery stores call Mexican Blend and also what they call Italian Blend.  I don’t notice a lot of difference.  Add diced onion, about a quarter cup or so, and half a can of drained chopped spinach or the equivalent of frozen spinach thawed.  Pepper liberally.  Don’t add salt, since the cheeses and spinach often have salt in them and you can always salt your food at the table if it isn’t salty enough.
   Now pour this mix into a deep pie crust and slide it in the oven.  Start checking it after about a half hour.  I wait for the quiche to rise up and to brown a bit on top, which is usually closer to 45 minutes than 30, but different ovens will have different quirks and you don’t want to scorch your quiche. 
   Let the quiche cool for at least 10 minutes or so before cutting it.  This dish keeps well in the refrigerator as long as it is covered and makes a good breakfast on the go.

Fried apple pies
If you are cooking these in the morning, you might want to have the apples cooked and the dough mixed in advance. Spending the night in the fridge is probably best for the dough that will make your crust. I add no sugar and find that the pies are great and sweet enough that way.  The crust is very rich and a lot of the tartness of the apples will be cooked out, so I like to use Granny  Smith or other tart apples to make sure that the filling is not flat tasting.
   To make the crust for the pies, measure out 2 ½ cups of plain flour. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder and mix in.  Take 6 tablespoons of very cold butter (or margarine if you must) and grate it into the flour mix and work it through thoroughly.  Add a quarter cup of ice water and mix until it makes a thick dough, then put the whole thing in the refrigerator
  Peel and cut five apples into chunks about the size of the last joint on your thumb or so.  Cook in a covered pan filled to about two inches depth with water.  It’s okay if some apples boil and others steam.  If you like cinnamon in your apples, add some, but I don’t recommend it. Once the water has reached a boil, put a quarter stick of butter in turn it down to a simmer. Let it simmer for a while, adding water when necessary, until it reaches a consistency you like.  It can be reduced down to something like applesauce or left fairly chunky, but the apples won’t get much cooking in the frying process, so make the filling what you want it to be before you fill the pies.
  Once your filling is cooked, let it sit until it is room temperature or cooler.  The colder the filling, the less likely it is to heat the crust dough and make it fragile and hard to work with.
  Work the dough enough to make it pliable but not warm enough to lose its ability to hold together.  On a floured rolling board, place a ball of dough about an inch in diameter.  Roll it thin, then spoon in two heaping tablespoons of filling and fold over into a half moon.  Use a fork or your fingers to seal the edges of the pie.  Most recipes tell you to ventilate the pie, on the theory, I suppose, that they might ‘splode if you seal them too well.  I’ve never ventilated them and never suffered a pie ‘splosion.
  The oil that you are going to fry in needs to be hot enough to brown and create a layer on the outside of the pie rather than to soak in.  I generally try to keep the oil just below the smoke point and allow it to reheat a bit between batches, since each batch will lower the oil’s temperature. 
  Fry the pies until they are brown, turning if you are using shallower oil rather than a deep fryer.  If you want to dust them with granulated sugar and cinnamon, feel free.  I like them plain.  They are good right away or good to drop in the bag with your lunch.

Sticky buns
Sticky buns are like cinnamon rolls plus 25% extra sin.  So I like them half again more than cinnamon rolls.  There is some exponential law of pleasure at work, but don’t ask me to explain the math.
   Make these the night before, cook them in the morning.
   Start with the yeast dough.  Mix a couple teaspoons of sugar into 1/3 cup of very warm water.  Dump in a package of yeast.  Let it sit while you measure out two cups of White Lily all-purpose flour into a big bowl.  Mix in half a stick soft butter, a cup of milk, three egg yolks, a teaspoon of salt, 1/3 cup of sugar.  Mix together with a mixer and add the yeasty water as you go.  It ought to be foamy by the time you pour it in.
 Now add another cup of flour and keep mixing.  It should be getting pretty thick by now, so take out the mixer, clean the beaters into the dough, and add in another ¾ - 1 cup of flour, mixing with a strong wooden spoon.  If you are keeping track, you see that that makes up to four cups of flour.
  Knead the dough on a board or counter covered with flour until it makes a stretchy firm dough, six or eight minutes usually. Now put the dough aside in a greased bowl in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
  While it is busy doing its work, take the other half of your stick of butter and melt it in a saucepan.  Add a quarter cup of honey, a couple tablespoons of karo syrup, 2/3 cup of brown sugar (light or dark, depending on your preference).  Cook it together, then pour into a greased 13x9 baking pan.  Sprinkle a cup and a half of coarse chopped pecans over the top.
  Now go back to your dough.  If it has doubled in size, punch it down and let it sit for about ten minutes.  The put it on a board and roll it into a rectangle about 12 inches by 20 inches.
  Melt another half stick of butter and brush it over the surface of the dough.  That’s a stick and half of butter for the entire recipe.  Sprinkle a cup of loose brown sugar over the surface, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon over that, then roll the whole thing up along the long side.  Cut the roll across into 20 slices. Put them side by side in the pan with the nut mixture in it.  Cover the pan and put it in the refrigerator overnight.
   In the morning, heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.  Take the rolls out of the oven and flip the pan onto a serving tray and pull back the pan, leaving a big mess of sticky buns that need to cool some before you take them apart.

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