Month: December 2018

Sifting and measuring flour

Sifting and measuring flour

If you look at nearly any baking recipe, you will see something like “sift together the dry ingredients,” usually flour, baking powder and maybe sure and salt. Why do they do that? Well, because someone clear back to Fanny Merritt Farmer, in her Boston Cooking School Cookbook (you can read a digital copy here) said to. Flour in 1896 was probably much lumpier than today, and she said to sift all ingredients before measuring them.

Nowadays, flour isn’t usually very lumpy and we usually use it right out of the bag.

But we thought we’d try sifting some paprika into flour to see how well it mixes. This is about 1.5 Tb of paprika in 2 cups of flour.

 

 
 

As can see, it doesn’t really mix all that well. In fact, you could do better just using a wire whisk. But, if you are making a batter for baking, the mixing of the dry ingredients with the liquid will distribute them just as well.

Now about that cup

A measuring cup measures 8 fluid ounces: it is really for measuring liquids like milk or water. Flour, not being a liquid can be a little variable about how much fits in a cup. Fanny Farmer said you should scoop out the flour and level off the cup with a knife, and that works for 1 cup of flour. But for 2 ½ cups of flour, it gets messier and it soon becomes easier to weigh out the flour. We have an inexpensive kitchen scale, Ozeri kitchen scale (it cost $15.95), we keep right with our bowls and dishes, and can easily weigh anything we want.  If you don’t have one, ask someone to give it to you for Christmas.

So how do you weigh out flour? We found that 1 cup of King Arthur All Purpose Flour weighs 142 g (see above). We use grams because then there aren’t any pesky decimal pl aces to confuse you.

weighing



But what about sifted flour? The only thing sifting commercial flours does is to aerate them a bit so a cup of sifted flour weighs less. Sifted King Arthur flour weighs 126 grams, or about 8% less.

Cake Flour

Cake flour is made from a mixture of lower protein wheats that will give a light and tender crumb in cakes. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, all purpose flour has about 11-12% protein (mostly gluten) and cake flour about 7-8% protein. And U.S. cake flour is bleached as well, which causes “the starch granules to absorb water and swell more readily in high sugar batters.” Need less to say, cake flours weigh less per cup:

 All purposeCake flour
Scooped142 g120 g
Sifted126 g112 g

These weights are useful when you need some off amount of flour. For example, my waffle recipe requires 2 ¼ cups of sifted cake flour. It’s easiest to just quickly weigh about (2.25 x 112g) or 252g in a dish and mix it into the waffle batter. I keep this table posted inside my cupboard door, and write the weights into any recipes I use frequently.

So, get your scale out and you can do your baking quickly without getting a lot of measuring cups dirty. Happy holiday baking!

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Tuscan Chicken Pasta: Instant Pot or Not

Tuscan Chicken Pasta: Instant Pot or Not

This simple and delicious chicken pasta dish is a breeze in an Instant Pot, but since the cooking time is so short, you could just as easily make it in a 3 or 4 qt saucepan with a lid. We got the idea from this online recipe, but a quick search will bring up dozens of variations. Our recipe varies from that link mainly in we use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder, and we avoid the mysterious “Italian seasoning.”

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts (2 lobes of a single chicken breast)
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 2 tsp half-sharp paprika (Ours came from Penzeys)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 12-oz cans chicken stock
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 12 oz penne pasta (we used tricolored)
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 1 ½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3-6 oz sun-dried tomatoes, cut up
  • 4 oz baby spinach leaves

  1. Set the Instant Pot to Sauté, press adjust to set it to High.
  2. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika.
  3. Sauté the chicken breasts for 2 minutes on each side and remove to a plate.
  4. Sauté the onions for 1-2 minutes, until softened, adding more olive oil if needed.
  5. Mash the garlic with the side of a knife, remove the skin and chop them up.
  6. Add the garlic to the sauté and cook until fragrant.
  7. Turn off the sauté heat.
  8. Add the chicken broth, basil, oregano, salt ant pepper, milk, pasta and chicken breasts to the pot.
  9. Close the pot and set to Manual and 5 minutes.
  10. When the 5 minutes is over, do a Quick Release and remove the lid.
  11. Remove the chicken to the plate and cover with foil to keep warm. It will continue to cook on the plate, so be sure to cover it.
  12. Cut up the cream cheese and stir into the pasta liquid, until it has melted and the sauce is smooth.
  13. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into quarters or smaller and add to the pot.
  14. Add the parmesan cheese and spinach.
  15. Cut the chicken in to cubes and return it to the pot.

Serve warm, garnished with more parmesan if you like.

in bowl

In a saucepan

The recipe is pretty much the same, except that you should cook the penne pasta and chicken in the stock, covered, for 10 minutes. You may have to add more water if the stock boils down too much. It is also easier to reheat it, when everything is combined, but as it cools the sauce does become thicker.

The Barn Door: a great family restaurant in Branchville

The Barn Door: a great family restaurant in Branchville

signThe Barn Door has been at 37 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield (Branchville) for about two years now, and it looks like they have found a winning formula. The service is fast and gracious, and the food way better than you’d expect at a “family restaurant.” Everything we had was extremely good, and most of it excellent.

They started us with some delicious bread, served with a tomato coulis, in a beautiful presentation.

bread

Our appetizers were their crab cakes with corn relish and chipotle aioli, which seems to be a recurring special that one staff member told me was one of their most popular dishes. It’s easy to see why: it is full of crab and sufficiently spicy (mostly with mustard) to compare favorably with benchmark Baltimore carb cakes. And the two cakes give you quite a lot of crab. If you were planning of having a substantial main course, two people could split these crab cakes!

crab cakes

For one entree we had an excellent Lemon Chicken. It consisted of chicken breasts with pasta and Meyer lemon, sweet cherry peppers and a sweet, lemony sauce, decorated with parsley. This was an absolutely outstanding dish we recommend highly whenever it’s on the menu.

lemon chicken

Out other entrée was classic Fish and Chips, served batter fried with hot, fresh French fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce. Like all of their other entrees, the portion was substantial and some of the best fish and chips we’ve had anywhere recently. This one is on the standard menu and you can order it anytime. We will certainly have it again.

fish and chips

The Barn Door is a wonderful discovery for us: the prices are reasonable, and the food is outstanding. We are probably going to start going there whenever we want a moderate night out, because the service, atmosphere and cuisine are excellent.

Parking sometimes is crowded at the Barn Door, but if their lot parking is full, there are usually spaces in a lot across the street. The Barn Door is located on Route 7 just south of the intersection with Rte. 102 and pretty much across from the Branchville train station.

See you there!

bar

 

 

Where to have breakfast in Wilton

Where to have breakfast in Wilton

While our kitchen was being remodeled, we had ample opportunity to try various breakfast spots on the area, and all of them have things to recommend them.

Orem’s

Of course, Orem’s would be on our list since it is a well-regarded diner, recommended in Jane (and Michael) Stern’s Road Food. We have been going there for years, and have had quite a number of their breakfast items, from eggs, to pancakes, to French toast to omelets, and just about everything has been well prepared and served amazingly quickly. The wait staff is unfailingly friendly and soon recognizes you when you return. These photos show eggs and sausage, and blueberry pancakes.

Village Luncheonette

We had forgotten what a gem the Village Luncheonette is. It’s right there on Old Ridgefield Rd in Wilton Center, just across the driveway from Village Market. The staff is friendly and the food excellent. Our eggs were perfectly prepared, although they accidentally made us 3 instead of two and of course we had to eat all 3 because they were delicious. We liked the fact that they split the link sausages in half so they heated through. We’ll certainly go back more frequently. But beware: they don’t take credit cards.

Connecticut Coffee

bagel ct coffee

Connecticut Coffee and Grill does a brisk takeout business for their bagels and breakfast sandwiches, and they both conventional coffee and about 8 specialty coffees on tap all the time. Jimmy and his staff work quickly to hand you your order, and if it is the same every time, they may already have it for you in a bag when you walk in the door. We think their bagels are top-notch, and when we went there for a sit-down breakfast, we ordered them, buttered with cream cheese, and they were amazing. The French Toast the people at the next table had also looked fantastic. Their menu is extensive.  You can order breakfast sandwiches, eggs and pancakes and an huge array of lunchtime sandwiches. The place always seems busy, and has been for all of the 15 years they’ve been in Old Post Office Square, 16 Center St.

Uncle Leo’s

Uncle Leo’s Coffee and Donuts opened in Wilton (17 Danbury Rd) just a few weeks ago, and already has a substantial following. “Uncle Leo” is Leo Spinelli and the nephew is making excellent donuts and bagels using his recipes. The bagels are comparable to the ones at Connecticut Coffee but the donuts are far superior to anything else in the area. They have around a dozen tables where you can eat your breakfast, and their menu is the same as in the Georgetown shop, with breakfast sandwiches, Danish, muffins, turnovers, giant breakfast plates, omelets, eggs, toast and home fries. They also have a substantial lunch hot and cold sandwich menu.  Beware of their Boston Crème donut which is so full of custard you’ll need a spoon to manage it. But it is delicious!