Friday, January 27, 2012

Daring Bakers : Scones (aka Biscuits)

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

Anyone who has been cooking with the Daring Cooks or the Daring Bakers knows the name Audax Artifex.  Audax is always extremely helpful to anyone that needs help with anything like ingredient information or techniques.  He is also typically the first to complete a challenge and post about it - many times within hours after we get the challenge recipe.  He is also extremely knowledgeable about food and ingredients and uses that knowledge to come up with some very creative variations on the challenges - many time doing at least three or four versions.  Knowing all of this about Audex I would have guessed that any challenge that he would come up with would be extremely technical and time consuming - something really crazy.  Well, I couldn't be more wrong, for this months challenge he challenged us to make biscuits - a recipe that takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.

Audex is from Austrialia so the first thing he did in the challenge was to explain what they call scones is the same as what we call biscuits in the United States and what we call scones is what they call rock cakes.  My father's side of the family is from Kentucky so I have eaten my share of biscuits - we will see how the Australian version compares.

Audex did challenge us to try a few different batches of biscuits so we could see how different techniques vary the final result (Audex made 16 batches).  Well I waited until the last minute to make these so my intent was to only make one batch.  I decided to just make his base recipe exactly as written.  They were pretty easy to put together, although this is probably the first time I have ever triple-sifted anything.  I only got four 3 inch biscuits (the recipe said five) from the recipe and still the finished result was a little flatter than I was used to.  They were very good biscuits - they could have been a little fluffifer but Audex gave us a lot of ideas on how to fix that - maybe after my 16th batch I would get the exact biscuit I wanted.  I served the biscuits covered with some Chicken Ala King so the slightly heavier biscuit didn't really matter anyway.

The whole family loved the biscuit and after supper my wife says "So are you going to make some more so I can have some more for lunch tomorrow"?  Well I had only planned on making one batch but I jumped at the chance to make a second batch.  I decided to try the buttermilk variation - a version very common in the southern United States.  For some reason with the buttermilk version I got a full five biscuits and I think they still rose higher and fluffier than my first batch.  Not sure if it was because of the different recipe or if my technique changed a little but I think it was an improvement.  I like the taste of the buttermilk biscuits a little better too.  Both batches were nice flaky good tasting biscuits but I have to give the edge to the buttermilk version.  Of course maybe I just liked them better since I ate them Southern Style - covered with honey-butter.  I wish I could test out my technique with 16 batches like Audex but I don't think it would be very good for my waistline.

Thanks to Audex for this months challenge.  Go check out his website Audex Artifex.  If you would like to try out the recipe you can find it in the Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Daring Cooks: Tamales

Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

When I grew up I was not really exposed to a lot of ethnic foods.  There were some Mexican restaurants but at the time they were pretty Americanized and I don't remember ever seeing a tamale on the menu.  I do, however, have fond memories of my dad making tamales.  Well, not really making tamales, but preparing a jar of tamales.  It was kind of a special occasion thing that my dad made just for himself.  I always thought it was very cool - the way they were all individually wrapped in paper.  They took forever to heat up (this was pre-microwave).  I am not sure if I would still think these jarred tamales were any good, but in my memories they were very tasty.  As Miranda says in her description - "Tamales are not so much about the food but about the memories created when making and eating them".

Well now it is not so hard to find a good Mexican restaurant with good tamales so I have them quite often.  I had never tried making them though, so this this looked like a fun challenge.  I am not sure I have ever had chicken tamales but I decided to try out Maranda's recipe for Green Chile Chicken Tamales.  My first mistake was not reading the full recipe (cooking 101).  The ingredients said cooked chicken so I went about roasting a chicken.  After I had that started I checked out the rest of the recipe where it said to boil the chicken.  Oh well, I am pretty sure that roasting can only help.  The rest of the recipe went nice and smooth.  I had always thought tamales were difficult to make and required a lot of technique but it seemed pretty easy to put these together.  I made a simple enchilada sauce to serve on top of the tamales.

I made the tamales for a small family gathering at my mom and dad's on New Years Eve since I thought my dad might enjoy having one.  I was really expecting to bring a bunch home since I didn't think everyone else would eat them but I was very wrong.  They went over very well and got eaten up - I would have loved to brought some home - but it is even better to see others enjoy them.  The tamales were delicious - I can definitely see myself making these again.  My father told me about how his mom used to make tamales.  I had never heard this before and I wish I knew where it came from.  My father's family was from Paducah, KY and I am not quite sure how she would have got into making tamales.  Will have to ask my Grandfather if he knows next time I see him.

If you would like to try your hand making tamales yourself check out the recipe in the Daring Kitchen archives.  Thanks to Miranda for this fun and delicious challenge.