On Brunch and the Subconscious

My goodness, what a busy past couple of days I have had.

Fine, I’m lying. Thursday was actually not that busy at all. Unless you count multiple naps and cuddling with a puppy to be busy—by that standard, I had a super busy day. So busy I neglected job applications that day. Oops.

What I did accomplish on Thursday, however, was making the most brilliant quiche ever. I had some eggs that I needed to use up before they went bad, so I bought some half and half and a couple of fillings, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, on a whim, and I declared Thursday night quiche night.

I had another accomplishment on Thursday night: I set off the fire alarm in my apartment. When I prepared the filling for my quiche, I made just enough, but “just enough” put in a 400ºF oven expands the eggs in the mixture to spill it over the edges and into the bottom of the oven, then it starts to smoke and set off alarms.

I’m terrified of fires (and luckily there was no fire whatsoever), and as a consequence of being terrified of fires, I am also pretty scared of smoke alarms. The puppy I’m watching for the weekend doesn’t like fire alarms either, and I think this ordeal temporarily traumatized the little guy, but it’s okay because I gave him cheese and he was my friend again.

Anyhow, I went through a lot to make this quiche happen, and as soon as it was finally done and my apartment was aired out, I took my first bite of this quiche, and suddenly my life made sense to me.

It wasn’t just a quiche. I had actually made a pizza.

We’ll compromise and call it a “pizza quiche.”

With the crust, tomatoes and mozzarella, it tasted just like my favorite deep dish pizza, Lou Malnati’s, with an extra layer of egg. So good. I decided to go all out and top it with oregano and red pepper flakes just to keep with the pizzaness, and halfway through my first slice of the quiche, I knew I would be making it again.

The fact that I had unintentionally made myself a deep dish pizza for brunch, combined with the fact that I have dreamt about pizza more than once, must say something about my subconscious and my inner need for pizza. I should maybe talk to someone about that. Or maybe just take it as a sign that pizza and I are soulmates.

Pizza Quiche

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tablespoon cold water
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

Filling Ingredients:
3 eggs
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
1 1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cup frozen spinach
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (soak them for a few minutes beforehand if they aren’t oil-packed)
Black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl, then cut in butter.
2. Combine water, 1 egg and vinegar in a small bowl, and add to flour mixture.
3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
5. Whip 3 eggs, then add cheese, half and half, spinach and tomatoes.
6. Roll out refrigerated pie crust dough and place in a round glass pie dish.
7. Pour egg mixture into pie crust.
8. Grind black pepper on top of the egg mixture.
9. Bake quiche for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and eggs are firm.

Spicy Chocolate Cookies

It’s weekends like these when I realize I don’t bake things nearly as often as I ought to.

There are a couple of reasons why I was in a baking mood yesterday. One is that I spent an entire day at work this past week writing a press kit for a soon-to-be released cookbook all about baking vintage cakes. Another is that a couple of weeks ago, one of my coworkers brought in a plate of her specialty cookies, which were spicy chocolate cookies cooked with cayenne pepper and grated ginger and topped with sea salt. They sound weird, but I couldn’t get enough of these cookies. That’s how I decided to bake these.

I never asked my coworker for her recipe—maybe next time she brings them in!—but I did find a promising one on Local Milk, a lovely food blog with gorgeous photographs (seriously, check it out if you have time!). This recipe definitely isn’t the same as the one Morgan used, since it definitely does not call for grated ginger, but I made my cookies using this recipe, adding a couple of extra ingredients, and they turned out wonderfully!

Spicy Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Local Milk)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger (I used the powder)
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 chocolate-chili bar broken into small pieces (I used Lindt’s Chili Excellence Bar)
1 dark chocolate bar broken into small pieces (I used Hershey’s Special Dark bar)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, sea salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cayenne.
3. Use a mixer to cream butter until fluffy in a separate bowl.
4. Beat brown sugar and sugar in with the butter.
5. Beat in vanilla and one egg at a time, then mix in with flour mixture.
6. Stir in chocolate chunks.
7. Refrigerate dough for at least a few hours if you’d like.
8. Roll into small balls and place two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.
9. Bake 12-16 minutes, and cool on a rack.

How to Make Yogurt

There are some things I love, like spending time in the kitchen creating delicious things to eat, and there are some things I hate, like spending money on things I like to eat too much. Lately I have been really into Siggi’s Skyr, a thick, protein-rich Icelandic yogurt you can buy at Whole Foods for a couple of bucks per cup, and while it is healthy, I had been feeling bad about spending so much money on my daily yogurt fix.

One day, I was aimlessly wasting time online when I decided to search “how to make skyr”. Couldn’t hurt, right? And I ended up stumbling across a great, instructional post by Jules Food regarding how to do just that. I quickly decided it looked easy enough and, lo and behold, I made my own yogurt.

My first batch was very much a science experiment, and while the yogurt came out perfect, the execution was lacking—namely my poorly rigged drainage system and my unfortunate toppling of a quarter of the batch of hard-won yogurt into the sink. (Yes, I did cry.)

I just finished preparing my second batch today since the first batch turned out so well, and it was definitely easier this time around. I did hardly anything except for wait for the yogurt to do its yogurt thing, and I ended up with 7 generously-portioned jars of homemade yogurt—one for every day this coming week—for the price of a gallon of milk ($3.19 including tax, if you’re curious).

I suppose I am now “that” person who makes her own yogurt, but really, it’s fun! If you know how to turn on a stove and can read a digital thermometer, then you can make it too.

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Start by slowly heating a gallon of non-fat milk up to a temperature between 190 and 195ºF, stirring often. Once it reaches this temperature, turn off the burner and cool to 110ºF. This will take a while, so you don’t need to hover over the stove. Just be sure to check the temperature every ten minutes or so.

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At 110ºF, add a few spoons of your starter (plain Siggi’s for me) into a measuring cup with a few spoons of warmed milk (added one at a time) until it seems like you can pour the starter into the rest of the pot. Once you pour it in, stir in 7-8 drops of liquid rennet. Quickly replace the cover on the stockpot and wrap it in a few towels to keep it warm, and leave it this way for 12-16 hours. I’ve done 12, and I’ve done around 18 hours, and it’s turned out great both times. Don’t sweat it.

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After this time, the mixture should have formed a solid cheese-like mass covered by yellowish whey. Pour off the whey, then transfer the yogurt to a cheesecloth-lined strainer. I use my salad spinner because it works great.

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Monitor the drainage for half an hour. You’ll need to pour it off a few times immediately, whenever you notice that there’s a lot of whey draining, but after pouring it out a couple of times, it slows down immensely. I like to transfer it, as is, to the refrigerator after a few hours of sitting in the salad spinner for cooling and a little more draining.

Whenever you’re satisfied with the amount of whey you’ve drained, and when the yogurt seems pretty solid, it’s ready. I like to take a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt to save as a starter for my next batch, then I stir half a jar of jam into the rest and portion it out into jars.

Check out Jules Food’s instructions for the most complete and in-depth tutorial. It’s really cool to be able to make your own yogurt and manipulate biology to your liking. Plus, the yogurt you get is really good and really healthy.

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