Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Buttermilk" type biscuits (non-dairy, vegan)

This year my Thanksgiving "assignment" was biscuits and cornbread. A non-dairy cornbread didn't present any difficulty and a year ago, with some experimentation I found that its possible to bake a baking powder biscuit that mimics buttermilk biscuits by using a vegan milk substitute and both baking powder and soda.

This biscuit is simpler than the baking powder/baking soda combination I use for Cheese & Veggie Bacon biscuits sandwiches. In this version I used self-rising flour, shortening and soy milk with a bit of vinegar to further acidify the soy milk. The dough must be handled gently and as little as possible.  I made the biscuits using a biscuit cutter and found that by baking them in a round cake pan the dough rose better than on a cookie sheet. I'm assuming that the additional heat along the walls of the pan, surrounding the biscuits, helped them rise a bit more. They are not as substantial as the biscuits used for sandwiches.

After several tries with various baking pans, my preferred choice turned out to be a well greased mini-muffin pan. Spoon or scoop about a tablespoon of loose dough into each muffin well.  The resulting mini-biscuits were a bit crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, just right as an accompaniment to turkey or fried chicken.

measuring cups and spoons, silicone spatula
kitchen scale
flexible baking scraper (optional, but helpful)
baking pans (2 round cake pans or a mini-muffin pan)
hand pastry blender , or two butter knives
rolling pin

9 oz  (2 full cups) self rising flour (I use King Arthur)
1/4 lb vegetable shortening (margarine, shortening or coconut oil)
6oz (3/4 c) soy milk
1 Tbsp vinegar
spray oil and additional flour for dusting the cake pan

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease the baking pan with oil spray. Dust the round cake pans with additional flour.
2.Measure the ingredients. Cut the shortening into small pieces.
3. Cut the shortening into the flour using the hand pastry blender or two butter knives, holding each at at a 90 degree angle to the other. Blend until the shortening is broken into small pieces and the flour-shortening mixture resembles lumpy flour.

4. Once the shortening is blended in handle as little as possible.
5. Add the vinegar to the soy milk, stir slightly and add to the flour. Mix lightly with a large spoon, you needn't incorporate all of the liquid into the flour yet.
6. Once the mixture is almost blended together turn the dough a few times using the flexible scraper gently incorporating the liquid into the flour mixture. The flour (and therefore the resulting dough) is low gluten, don't expect it to act like bread dough, it will not hold together in the same way that bread dough does.
7. For round biscuits, cut with a biscuit cutter or glass of about 2" diameter.  Flour the work surface and rolling pin liberally. "Push" rather than roll the dough until it is about an inch thick. Pat down any portions that are too thick. Cut with the biscuit cutter and use the scraper to lift the rounds onto the greased cake pan. You'll have 12-14 biscuits. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Lift with a narrow spatula and cool on a rack.

8. For mini muffins, use a spoon and silicone spatula or a 1 Tbsp cookie scoop and drop into each of the 24 mini muffin wells. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Cool for five minutes or so and tip out onto a cooling rack. See photos below.

9. Store the biscuits in a closed bag or container. Rewarm for a few minutes before serving. They will stay well at room temperature for about 3 days. Double wrap and freeze if you plan to keep longer.

                                                      Round Biscuits 

Mini Biscuits

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Asparagus- Ricotta Ravioli (using pre-made wrappers)

Ravioli made with pre-made frozen ravioli dough 

Sometimes I'm looking for an interesting dinner but I don't want to work quite that hard. This dish was made during the week, on a work night. I used shortcuts including ravioli wrappers instead of home-made dough and a jar of good quality sauce (vodka sauce in this case). I did not use a ravioli maker - the equipment I used is quite basic. In a pinch you can use won-ton wrappers, although the resulting dumplings will have less "body" than typical ravioli. (See photo at the end of the recipe, which shows this recipe made with won-ton wrappers.)

Its difficult to find interesting filled pasta in the ready-made kosher freezer aisle, so give ravioli making a try. The sky is the limit with fillings you can create and you do not need a ravioli form or maker.

I crimped some of the ravioli with a fork, the others between my fingers.
They all held together equally well after using an egg-white wash

The baguette I served with the ravioli were made at a different time,  frozen and defrosted.  I usually need to triage cooking projects and wouldn't usually try both projects for one meal.  I'd suggest that it's just as good to purchase a good quality loaf of bread to serve with the pasta. However, if you feel you want to give the baguette a try, I adapted the recipe from Dan Leader's 4 Hour Baguette found on The baguette comes out of a home oven looking very much like a rustic artisan bread with a great crust.

There is a rhythm to making dumplings that repeats itself, no matter which dumplings you are creating. Ravioli is no different: make the dough (or use ready-made), mix the filling, assemble the dumplings, cook and serve. Home made pasta is wonderful, but it's often too demanding. If you choose to skip making the pasta from scratch, using the ready-made wrappers saves at least an hour of work.

If I'm planning this kind of dinner for midweek, I'll prep the vegetables before leaving for work. On this particular day I also sauteed the onion and asparagus, placed in a bowl, covered and placed it in the fridge. The filling took very little time once I got home and finished up.

Cutting board, knives
Measuring cups, spoons , small bowls
Frying pan, large stock pot
Small silicone pastry brush

Ingredients: (Makes 25-30 large ravioli)

1 package ravioli (square or round, 50- 60 pieces). Thicker wrappers are preferable, although in a pinch you can use a won-ton wrapper (which will yield a less-substantial dumpling).
If you want to make the wrappers, my kreplach wrapper will work well.

1 medium large onion (approximately 5 oz), diced
3-4 Tbsp olive (or vegetable) oil
1-2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 lb bunch asparagus, wash trim the tops and set aside. Trim the woody bottom, discard.  You should have 12-14 oz of cleaned asparagus stalks.  Dice the stalks and set aside.
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese , drain in a colander  if the cheese is watery
2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese
2 large eggs (one whole plus one yolk for the filling, 1 white for the ravioli assembly)
1/8 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/8 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg                                                                 
Cornstarch for sprinkling on a flat surface,                                        
to lay down finished stuffed ravioli

1 1/2 c of your favorite tomato sauce,  homemade sauce, or crushed garlic sauteed in a bit of olive oil, with fresh herbs that can be drizzled on the drained , hot pasta.

1. Defrost the wrappers if you are using pre-made wrappers. Sprinkle cornstarch on a flat surface (this is where you'll place the finished formed ravioli before cooking them).
2. Add the asparagus tips and saute for 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

3.Prepare the filling by sauteing the diced onion in 1-2 Tbsp oil until translucent (3-4 minutes) and add the diced asparagus stalks. Continue to saute for another 3-4 minutes, the asparagus should still be firm.

4. Add the vegetables into a large mixing bowl, add the cheeses, parsley and seasoning. (you can taste it for enough salt, add other seasoning as desired).

5. The mixture should be just warm to the touch before adding the egg and yolk (you do not want to "cook" the eggs when you mix them in. Mix well.
6. Fill a large stock pot (5-6 quarts) 3/4 of the way with cold water, add a heaping tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil while you are preparing the ravioli.
7. Add 1 tsp of cold water to the egg white and mix.
8. Using a silicone brush or small spreader, spread a film of egg white on ONE side of 2 wrappers.

9. Place a heaping tsp of filling in the center of one of the wrappers. Top the filling with the 2nd wrapper, egg washed side facing down. Press the edges with your fingers or a fork. The egg white will help "glue" the edges.

crimp the edges with a fork or

use your fingers to press the edges together

either system will work well

10. Place the completed ravioli on the cornstarch sprinkled surface.  The egg-white will dry and form a sealed filled pasta/dumpling.

11. By the time you have repeated the process and made a dozen or so ravioli, the water should be boiling.  Add a tablespoon of oil into the water and gently drop 10-12 ravioli into the boiling water. Don't crowd them.  Once the water returns to a slow boil, cook for 10 minutes.

12. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool on a flat surface (single layer).
13. Repeat the process, you'll have enough filling for 25-30 large ravioli

14. You can serve immediately, top each serving with a few of the reserved asparagus tips.
The ravioli can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for a day or two.
15. To re-warm, spray oil in a frying pan and warm the ravioli in the pan.


Want to try to make another kind of dumpling?