Thursday, November 24, 2011

Product Review: Star Wars Pancake Molds

My family has a tradition of making pancakes on Thanksgiving morning. "Make Your Own Pancakes" involved my mom standing behind her electric griddle, surrounded by bowls of various toppings--nuts, pineapple, coconut shreds, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, crushed Andes mints...enough to make your teeth ache just thinking about it. Mom would pour out the batter (buttermilk, buckwheat, or ricotta cheese) and we would add the toppings--quite the smorgasbord for all of us kids. This tradition is so delicious and easy, I want to continue it with my little one, but this year he was too little to get near the hot griddle.

So it was with fortuitous good timing that I received a gift of Star Wars™ pancake molds for my birthday. I knew Thanksgiving morning would be the perfect opportunity to try them out, while carryong on a multi-decade tradition.

I mostly followed the recipe on the packaging, figuring that the folks at Williams-Sonoma had probably tested that particular batter with the molds. After one practice round, here is how they came out:

Not too shabby! With an extremely thorough coating of non-stick spray, I still had to jiggle the molds more than I expected to get the pancakes loose, so the edges were a bit jagged and the batter smooshed together if I wasn't extremely careful. Also, Darth's eyes form a point of weakness that breaks the pancake in half if jostled too much. But these are definitely recognizable! And with more practice, and perhaps a slight change to the consistency of the batter, I imagine they would come out even better. The main flaw is that if the pancake does not come out cleanly, then you have to wash or wipe down the mold after each batch of three pancakes, which slows things down a bit too much for me (especially with a hungry toddler running loose).

The recipe turned out to be delicious, reminiscent of the cakey pancakes served at my husband's alma mater. (Oh how I have missed them!) Here are the ingredients I used:

2 eggs, beaten
1.5 C bread flour
0.5 C white whole wheat flour
3 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t vanilla
2.5 C buttermilk
4 T butter, melted
cooking spray for molds and griddle

The only differences from the original were doubling the vanilla from 0.5 t and using different flour: They called for 2 C all-purpose flour, but I wanted to try something a tad healthier. I couldn't even taste the whole wheat, so I plan to substitute a whole cup next time.

Overall, I would give the product a B+ grade. I think we will get a lot of use out of these over the years, especially as the little one gets older.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quick Meals: Lemongrass Stir Fry

My go-to chicken dinner is a simple stir fry of chicken, red bell peppers, and onions in a "teriyaki" sauce. I find teriyaki tastes fresher, yet just as aromatic, when I leave out the sugar and salt and just use ginger, low-sodium soy sauce, and garlic. I use this premade ginger paste to save on time and reduce waste, so the meal is delicious and fast, but I was looking to change things up.

And then I happened upon lemongrass paste. I have enjoyed lemongrass flavor when I've gone out to eat and tried to cook with it a couple of times. Starting from fresh or using thinly sliced lemongrass in a jar both worked well, but I didn't care for the fairly woody texture of the rings. Perhaps I am missing something in my technique? But the paste solved this problem--all the flavor ready to blend, and quickly. I wasn't sure what to pair it with, but settled on roasted ground cumin and soy sauce and my taste buds were singing. As was my toddler: "More chi-chi!" I suspect he ate more of the chicken than I did, and the leftovers were all gone before the end of the next meal. Success!

Doing some additional research, it appears that lemongrass is commonly paired with garlic, ginger, and turmeric. (Though I don't recommend turmeric when feeding a toddler as it stains clothes rather effectively.) Do you make any recipes that use lemon grass?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Recipe Review: Pear Torte

Tonight my good friend and I tested out a dessert recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The recipe is similar in technique to an apple torte my mom makes, and overall this recipe gets five stars: It is both easy to make and delicious.

WARNING: Do NOT keep reading if you are hungry.

The semisweet chocolate is melty and rich, the pears are almost molten, and crust is golden with a flavor of caramel. It takes 20-30 minutes of active preparation and the full 40-50 minutes to bake, just long enough to cook and eat a simple dinner.

This recipe will most likely reappear on our holiday table, reincarnated: Having followed the recipe fairly faithfully this round, I plan to make a couple changes and report back. I found this dessert to defy one of the basic laws of desserts: It had too much chocolate. We used 130 grams of chocolate(the measurement of 3/4 C is imprecise because it relies on the size of the chips/chunks), and I plan to reduce that to about 100 g so that the pear and chocolate will be better balanced. I am also planning to try white chocolate instead of the semisweet as well as adding vanilla and possibly honey to lighten the dish and pair with the pear. And for the merriment inclined, I could definitely see getting some rum involved.

I have one more fiendish idea, and if it works out, you'll get to read about it here. Stay tuned.

(I apologize for the unartistical frontal shot of the torte, but we couldn't wait to eat, and after we ate, we were too contented to care. Yes, it was that kind of delicious.)