Dutch Baby

Dutch baby

Here are creative ways to experience Dutch babies-German pancakes-as well as information concerning their background.  (For more on the history of pancakes, see Norwegian Pancakes.) Indeed, this Dutch baby will tantalize your tongue!

The Famous Original Pancake House in Portland, OR

My first experience with this treat was at The Original Pancake House here in Portland, OR, which James Beard recognized, as number ten in his 1970’s list, of America’s top ten restaurants.  (For more on this eatery, see Tabbouleh.)  In the 1990’s, I attended The Original Pancake House several times a week, sitting at the community table with my friends-the regulars-I’d met there.  Here, I often indulged in this lemony, puffed-up pancake, which was only slightly sweet; there were always doggie bags of leftovers to take home.

My Family History with Dutch Babies

Unbeknown to me at the time, this creation played an important part in my family in the latter part of 1981: My aunt Sheila was caring for my bedridden sister Maureen-pregnant with her sixth child-by cooking for her family several times a week, as my brother-in-law was in Wyoming, with his work.

To the delight of all these children, Sheila most often made multiple Dutch babies in pie plates, cutting them in sixths, and serving them with four or more toppings.  The kids would take several pieces at a time, choosing from these various toppings, among which were numerous berries, home-canned apple sauce, and a creamed chipped beef (jars of thinly sliced dried beef in a homemade cream sauce).

The memory of Aunt Sheila’s making Dutch babies is indelibly set in my nieces’ and nephews’ hearts; when either the person or the food is mentioned, the above story spills forth.

Recipes for Both Small and Large Dutch Babies

I wasn’t aware of this ministry at the time, and I knew nothing about Dutch babies, until I moved to Portland in 1986; here I discovered them as huge, massive pancakes made in a cast iron skillet (served with fresh lemon, butter, and powdered sugar).  Thus, I have always made them in this same manner; though now I prefer to use Swerve Confectioners Sugar Replacement.  Below you will find this large pancake receipt, as well as directions for making Aunt Sheila’s smaller pie-pan version, in case you are baking numerous pancakes for a crowd.

Savory and Apple Dutch Babies

There are multiple variations of Dutch babies online; some of the best savory options can be found at https://www.allrecipes.com/article/savory-dutch-baby/  There are many recipes for a German apple pancake on internet as well.  I, however, feel my Apple Pancake is by far the best.  Unlike all these other receipts, mine has the fresh apples-mixed in cinnamon sugar-baked on top of the puffed-up Dutch Baby.  This provides perfect, moist caramelized apples, as opposed to the other versions’ drier, smothered apples, which are baked underneath the batter.  Note: as with the Dutch baby, I first experienced this German apple pancake at The Original Pancake House, beginning in the 1980’s.

German Pancake’s Past in American Cook Books

In my rather extensive cook book collection, there were no recipes for Dutch babies-German pancakes-present in cook books published in the early days of our nation.  In fact, I didn’t find any receipts for this German pancake until 1930, with The Settlement Cook Book, by Mrs. Simon Kander.  The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, also boasts of directions for a German pancake, or pfannkuchen; this cook book was first published in 1931, with multiple printings following-my edition is copyrighted 1964.  A healthy version of a German pancake is present in Jean Hewitt’s The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, published in 1971.  1

I found a Dutch apple cake in two of my mid-twentieth-century cook books: Fannie Engle’s Cook Book, 1946, and The New Century Cook Book, 1949, by Demetria Taylor.  This cake is quite similar to the apple pancake, with sliced fresh apples arranged over the top of a pan of cake batter, which is then dusted well with cinnamon sugar and baked.  2

As a side note, Margret Visser points out in The Rituals of Dinner, 1991, that it is considered impolite to cut pancakes with a knife in Germany, as it could appear that one thinks they might be tough.  3

Lessons Learned

We should be aware how our acts of kindness may leave lifelong-in some cases eternal-influence on others, as seen above in my family.

Likewise, our words and deeds can also leave bad impressions on those around us; thus, we are careful to guard ourselves in both speech and actions.  This, however, can only be done effectively, if we bring our thoughts captive, not letting strife or bad memories rule and reign in our hearts.  (We cry out for help in doing this!)

In this way, we are set free from captivity and bondage, and we can be used subsequently, to help bring our loved ones and others into freedom.

References:

  1. Simon Kander, The Settlement Cook Book (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Settlement Cook Book Co., 1930), p. 83.; Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, The Joy of Cooking (Indianapolis, Indiana: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1931, 1936, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1962, 1963, 1964), p. 214; Jean Hewitt, The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook (New York: Avon Books, 1971), p. 304.
  2. Fannie Engles, Fannie Engles’ Cook Book (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946), pp. 126, 127; Demetria Taylor, The New Century Cook Book (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1949), p. 727. A revised and enlarged edition of Phyllis Krafft Newill, Good Food and How to Cook It (New York; D. Appleton-Century Company, 1939).
  3. Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991), p. 186.
  4. https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/german-apple-pancake/ and https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/23900/german-apple-pancake/

serve it forth-a Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby (German Pancake)  Yields: 2-3 servings, when made in a cast iron skillet.  For larger crowds, may make multiple, half-recipes in 9″-pie or cake pans. Total prep time: 35 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  baking time: 25 min.

 

 

 

Receipt for a cast iron skillet, or half this recipe for a 9”-pie pan:

4 lg eggs

1 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is of high quality; available in bulk, or 5-lb bags, at our local New Seasons.)

1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lb.)

1 c milk  (May substitute alternative milks, such as almond or oat.)

6 tbsp butter, plus more for serving

2 small lemons, quartered  (Inexpensive organic lemons can be purchased at Trader Joe’s for $1.69/lb, or 6 small lemons.)

Powdered sugar  (May substitute Swerve confectioner’s sugar, which is sugar-free; for information on Swerve, see Great Keto Citrus Cookies).

  1. batter lightly beaten-somewhat lumpy

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl; stir in flour and salt.  Mix in milk gently; do not over beat-batter will be somewhat lumpy.  (Optional: may refrigerate batter overnight.)  See photo above.
  3. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, or if using 9” pie plates, place in oven to melt butter-may cut butter in small pieces, so it melts quickly and evenly, without browning on edges.
  4. smaller Dutch baby in a 9″ pie pan

    Pour egg mixture into hot skillet, or pie pan, and place in preheated oven.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  (See photos of smaller Dutch baby here, and larger, cast-iron-skillet pancake at top of entry).

  5. Cut pancakes in desired number of pieces; I cut the larger pancake in halves, or thirds, and then serve it to my guests, with butter, lemon slices, and powdered sugar.  (For larger crowds, the multiple, smaller pancakes can be cut into sixths, so your guests can choose from numerous toppings, such as: various berries and fruits, applesauce, and creamed chipped beef.  This latter is a blend of cream sauce and dried beef.  Five-ounce jars of these thin slices are available for $4.39 at our local Fred Meyer’s.)
  6.  Serve immediately and be wowed!

Chin Chin of West Africa

plate of chin chin

This last receipt in my African repast is chin chin, or doughnut-like pastries.  Here are easy instructions for making them, as well as the colorful history of various fried pastries.  This chin chin recipe came to me in the early 1980’s, along with the declaration that no Nigerian wedding would be without them; I can see why, as they are so good!

Chin Chin as Found in West Africa

Originally this treat was prepared only for special occasions throughout West Africa and Nigeria, but now it is sold there in supermarkets and on street corners.  In Africa, the texture of chin chin varies greatly from fall-apart-softness to teeth-breaking-hardness; it comes in various shapes, though the most common are one-inch squares.  (My 1980’s receipt calls for wedges, made by rolling the dough in two eight-inch circles, then cutting each into twelve pieces-the quickest method.)  1

Chin chin are known as African croquettes; for example, in Cameroun these pastries are called ross, or croquettes du mboa.  In Guinea, however, they are referred to as gateaux secs.  They come with flavors specific to each country and region, with nutmeg being popular in Nigeria; though, those known as akara in this country are prepared with black-eyed peas-croquettes africaines in West Africa often include this legume.  2

Wikipedia compares chin chin to the Scandinavian snack klenat.  It states that eggs, baking powder, and nutmeg are optional in this fried wheat-flour dough, made up of flour, sugar, butter, and milk.  3

Early World Development of Cooking Techniques

In Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson puts the technique of frying in context, noting that in cooking the development of pots mark the leap of mere heating, to the new status of “cuisine”.  From early times, roasting and barbecuing have been present; this is the direct and unequivocal form of cooking, where raw food meets flame and is transformed.  Boiling or frying, however, are indirect forms of cooking, for in addition to fire they require a waterproof and fireproof vessel.  Here we see that the food only takes on the heat of fire, through the mediums of oil in frying and water in boiling-an advance on crude fire.  4

Doughnuts and Such in America

I am not sure how long Africans have been transforming dough into delectable chin chin croquettes, using vessels of hot oil.  James Beard, however, declares in American Cookery, 1972, that doughnuts, crullers, and other fried cakes have been standard fare in America for centuries.  The New Englanders, the Pennsylvania Dutch, and practically all other settlers adopted the habit of eating doughnuts for breakfast or lunch or as a between-meal snack, during the forming of this country.  (For more information on the history of doughnuts in early America, see 1950’s Butterscotch Cookies.  5

In describing various fried pastries, Beard stated in the 1970’s that cake doughnuts were the most popular of all; he also notes that the Dutch and Germans brought raised doughnuts here.  Out of these raised doughnuts, evolved the famous rectangular shaped ones, with maple icing.  Crullers are richer than cake doughnuts; Beard’s receipt has double the eggs and butter and a third of the milk.  He also gives his version of the great New Orleans dish called calas-fried rice cakes-for which the famous “calas tout chaud” is shouted in this city’s streets early in the morning.  6 (America’s famous The Joy of Cooking calls these calas rice crullers.   7)

Croquettes by Julia Child and Careme

Julia Child gives techniques for making croquettes, in her well-known Mastery of French Cooking, 1961, a decade before Beard provided his teaching on doughnuts.  Her croquettes differ vastly from our above croquettes africaines, for they are various fondues, chilled and cut in balls or squares, rolled in egg and breadcrumbs, then browned in deep fat.  Her fondues consisted of eggs, cream, cheese, ham, or shellfish, and seasonings, thickened with a roux made of several tablespoons of flour and butter.  These are the more standard croquettes, while the doughnut-like chin chin that Africans call croquettes are atypical.  8

Croquettes have been popular in Europe for a long time.  In his first book Le Patissier Royal, 1851, Careme includes such excellent croquette receipts, as Rice Croquettes a l’Ancienne and Chestnut Croquettes.  As related by Esther B. Aresty in The Delectable Past, the first is a concoction of eggs, cream, butter, cheese, rice, and chicken or ham, which has been chilled first, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, then deep-fried.  The second employs boiling chestnuts and then making a chilled puree out of part of them; this puree consists of eggs, butter, cream, and the mashed boiled chestnuts.  Once this mixture is cold, it is used to encase the remaining boiled chestnuts, which are then dipped in egg wash, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried in hot oil.  9

Carame also notes in Le Patissier Royal that rum-banana fritters were made by Napoleon’s cook on the desolate island of Saint Helena.  Aresty elaborates on Careme’s sketchy recipe, with detailed instructions of a banana dipped in batter, fried in oil, then drizzled with a rum sauce and finally baked in an oven.  10

Lesson Learned by Moderately Indulging in Sugar Treats

There is nothing health-redeeming about the above African chin chin croquettes, but oh how addictive they are!    This fried sweet is loaded with the wrong kind of fats (for more information on healthy and unhealthy fats, see Balsamic EggsNutty Coconut Pie, and 1880’s Ozark Honey Oatmeal Cookies .

Indulging in these fried pastries makes me think of the old saying: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  Indeed, there is a proper way to eat sugar: infrequently and gratefully!  We must apply moderation with the intake of this food, allowing for it only on special occasions (according to your medical requirements, of course), but when allowed, how we savor this treat!

Likewise in life, troubled feelings resulting from correction can be balanced with the sweetness of proper thoughts and words.  Always, we need to slow down carefully and be led by the Spirit, when either receiving or giving corrective direction.  (Webster’s definition of correct is to make things right.)

When correction comes to us, it may not feel like there was a spoonful of sugar in the mix.  We, however, have authority over our minds, wills, and emotions, which together make up our souls, with its voice our thoughts.

We need humble ourselves, in this restorative process.  Of most importance, we must forgive the deliverer of this needed direction, taking no offense, which is critical for our optimum mental health.  This also includes forgiving ourselves, if any mistakes are made in our delivering help to others.

Receiving healing directives readies us to grow exponentially, best equipping us for our ordained service here on earth.  Note: only when our obedience is fulfilled, are we wise enough to correct our fellows, applying all this sweetness to their given situations.

May we learn to live this way, receiving and giving correction with a spoonful of sugar, with all the freedom this brings.  In like manner, may we indulge with proper moderation in the spoonfuls of sugar in our physical diet, as we enjoy these incredible chin chin to the maximum!

References:

  1. https://www.africanbites.com/chin-chin/
  2. https://www.196flavors.com/nigeria-chin-chin/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chin_chin
  4. Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), p. 3.
  5. James Beard, American Cookery (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1972), p. 799.
  6. , p. 801.
  7. Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, The Joy of Cooking (New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1931, 1936, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1973), p. 707.
  8. Julia Child, Louisette Berholle, and Simone Beck, The Mastery of French Cooking, vol. 1 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961), pp. 201-204.
  9. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 139-144.
  10. , p. 144.

finished product

Chin Chin (Nigerian Wedding Pastries)  Yields: 24 wedges.  Total prep time: 40 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  cooking time: 20 min.  Note: a fryer, electric frying pan, or thermometer will be helpful to regulate temperature, while frying.

2 2/3 c unbleached white flour

2/3 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

1/2 c sugar  (Organic sugar is available at both Costco and Trader Joe’s.)

1 tsp nutmeg, optional

1/4 c butter, at room temperature

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 c milk

48 oz oil, for frying  (May use any vegetable oil, such as canola, which is inexpensive.)

  1. kneaded dough

    Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl; cut in softened butter with a pie cutter or two forks.

  2. Heat oil to 350 degrees.
  3. Stir eggs and milk into dry ingredients, until all flour is incorporated.
  4. cutting dough in wedges

    Knead dough on a floured board for about five minutes, until elastic and relatively smooth, adding more flour as needed (see photo).

  5. Divide dough into two balls. Roll out one ball into an eight-inch circle; cut into twelve pieces, see photo.  (Note: the more traditional way to make chin chin is by cutting dough into small one-inch squares; this takes more time.)
  6. three chin chin turned over, the rest ready for turning

    Cut off a third of one pastry and place in oil, to test for proper heat; if dough floats immediately, oil is ready.  (If dough quickly turns dark, oil is too hot.) When temperature is right, fry other eleven pieces.  Edges of dough will be light golden and dough slightly wet in center, when it is time to turn pastry over; drain on paper towel.  (See photo.)

  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6, until all chin-chin is fried.
  8. Enjoy this delicious treat.

Chocolate Scones

chocolate scones

All confusion about the raw sugars (demerara, turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat) is resolved here, with the following detailed information and outstanding receipt.

In the mid-1990’s, I got this chocolate scone recipe from Cindy Mushet’s highly appraised Baking with the American Harvest.  I have adapted it by grinding my own flour, which is totally optional, as well as by adding some time-saving tips.  1

Ms. Mushet calls for sprinkling crystallized sugar, on top of the unbaked scones, after washing them with egg; I use demerara here.  This is a form of large granule sugar that gets its name from the location in Guyana, on the northern mainland of South America, where it originated centuries ago.  Today rather than Guyana, this form of cane sugar comes from a number of countries, such as Mexico and India; in the States it is produced in both Hawaii and Florida.

Demerara can be compared to turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat; these are all types of cane sugar, which are classified as raw, even though they do indeed require some processing.  Of these, the first three were originally known as “factory” brown sugars; all are produced during the initial processing of cane juice into unrefined sugar.  2

Most sugar cane grew in colonies or developing countries.  Sugar refining required expensive machinery to be produced; thus, its production came to be divided into two stages.  The initial stage of the crystallization of raw, unrefined sugar took place in factories near the plantations in these poor countries.  Industrial nations-the consumers-performed the expensive final stage, of refining this raw sugar product into white sugar.  3

The making of raw sugar requires two basic kinds of work: crushing the cane to collect the juice, then boiling off the juice’s water.  Originally the crushing called for hard physical labor, which in the Caribbean was accomplished by slaves, and the boiling called for large amounts of heat; thus, deforestation occurred there.  4

Three 19th century innovations helped make the production of raw sugar a more affordable luxury.  First, the application of steam power made this initial crushing process easier.  The next step, heating, was aided by the vacuum pan, which boils the syrup at a reduced pressure and therefore at a lower, gentler temperature.  Also, the multiple evaporator was added, which recycles the heat of one evaporation stage to heat the next.  5

From the Middle Ages until now, there was a clearing of many organic impurities; in the pre-industrial age, this was accomplished, at the beginning of the boiling stage, with the introduction of lime and a substance, such as egg white or animal blood.  These substances would coagulate and trap the coarse impurities.  Today, heat and lime only are generally used to coagulate and remove proteins and other impurities.  6

Then and now, with these boiling and clarification processes, dark brown syrup has resulted, to which seed crystals have then been introduced to bring about crystallization.  The final step, in making these factory sugars, has been the drawing off the molasses from the crystals, which originally occurred slowly-merely by the force of gravity.  For some time, refiners have used centrifuging-much like spinning lettuce-to quickly do this final step, producing raw sugar and the by-product of the first molasses.  7

Beginning in the 19th century until recently, this raw sugar has next been refined in refineries in industrial countries, where white sugar has been consumed.  Now it is produced in such developing countries as Mexico and India.

Today, the making of refined sugar starts with refined syrup being introduced, to wash the raw sugar.  Next, hot water dissolves it; then, a carbon absorbent clarifies and decolorizes it.  Evaporation and crystallization follow, with centrifuging being the final stage, producing white sugar, with the bi-product of cane syrups.  This last crystallization process is carefully controlled, giving individual sugar crystals a uniform size, with an astonishingly pure content of 99.85% sucrose-our white sugar.  8

As opposed to white sugar, “brown sugars” are sucrose crystals coated with a layer of dark syrup, from one stage or the other of sugar refining.  This provides them with a more complex flavor than white sugar.

There are several types of brown sugar.  The first type is factory brown sugars-produced during the initial processing of the cane juice into unrefined raw sugar, as defined above; the second is refinery brown sugars, or sugars produced at the refinery using this raw sugar as the starting material, not cane juice.  There are also what might be referred to as whole sugars, crystalline sugar still enveloped in the cooked cane juice from which it is formed (such as Indian jaggery or gur and Latin American piloncillo, papelon, or panela).

Factory brown sugars originally got their name, because of their production in factories near the plantations in cane-producing, tropical countries.  The first, demerara, then and now, has been a partially refined, large, somewhat sticky, yellow-gold grain, produced from the first crystallization stage of light cane juice into raw sugar.  It has a delicate, caramel-like, toffee flavor that augments certain baked goods (it is especially good for sprinkling on top of them).  9

The second, turbinado, has been raw sugar partly washed of its molasses coat during the centrifugation, resulting in large golden crystals that are not as sticky as those of demerara.  Though more refined than demerara, turbinado is less refined than what we now call brown sugar (refinery brown sugar), which is generally white sugar with molasses added back into it.  10

The artisanal muscovado, appearing to be very dark form of our refinery brown sugar, actually has been the product of the final crystallization from the dark mother liquor, or first molasses, in the making of raw sugar.  It was and is an unrefined cane sugar in which all the molasses is not removed, like it is with what we call our regular brown sugar.  11

This muscovado sugar, however, is more refined than demerara and turbinado, with a small-grained, wet, sticky texture that has a sweet impression at first that dissolves into a rich, floral, bittersweet note, leaving a slightly smoky aftertaste. Most of the muscavodo sugars, of which there is both light and dark, come from Mauritius, a republic made up of islands off the southeast coast of Africa.  12

On the other hand, sucanat, which stands for “sugar cane natural”, is the most unrefined of the raw cane sugars; it is merely evaporated cane juice, which has been handpaddled; this cools and dries the dark syrup, which is obtained by heating the extracted cane juice in a large vat.  It is a much finer grain than the demerara and turbinado crystals, and it is the healthiest of all the cane sugars, with an intense, dark, rich flavor, which is ideal in spicy baked goods.  13

With their minimal processing, all these raw sugars retain some minerals and vitamins, making them somewhat healthier than refined white sugar.  They, however, contain large amounts of sucrose, which is a composite molecule made up of one molecule each of glucose and fructose; thus, they should be eaten cautiously, as they may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, among other health issues.  14

How we treasure comfort foods, of which these scones are one of the best.  Our words, much like food, can comfort.  We are instructed to comfort those with the comfort which we have received; these opportunities delight our souls.

We are only equipped to do such, as we learn our lessons in life’s trials.  Slowing down in the midst of these storms allows for this equipping to best be established.

Webster’s describes establish, as to order, ordain, enact (a law, etc.) permanently.  Reading recipes isn’t required once our “muscles” have kinetically learned all the required movements, through multiple times of preparation.

Much like baking, establishing life’s lessons-and the laws they represent-is a process; we are perfected (matured) through practice, as we repeatedly go over the given steps, until the means for victory is indeed fixed in us.  By necessity, such progression requires patience, just like following a receipt, but once achieved we can share words of comfort with those in need around us.

I recently made a batch of these scones, with the following recipe, which I completed with clotted cream (I purchased a jar of imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream, from World Market).  Being unaware, my plans to take them to my regular prayer meeting, however, were thwarted, for it was the fourth of July, and prayer had been cancelled.  Quickly I decided to bless various neighbors with this treat, which brought great joy (and comfort) to all.  I also highly recommend my receipt for cocoa bread (see Cocoa Bread) to please your soul.

 

References:

  1. Cindy Mushet, Baking with the American Harvest, 5 volumes (Santa Monica, CA: Cindy Mushet, 1993-1996) Vol. 4, #1, p. 12.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 674.
  3. Ibid., p. 673.
  4. Ibid., p. 671.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., pp. 670-672.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., pp. 671, 672.
  9. Ibid., pp. 672, 674.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. https://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-is-demerara-sugar.html
  13. http://shop.wholesomesweet.com/Organic-Sucanat/p/WHSM-305000&c=Wholesome@GranulatedSugar
  14. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/demerara-sugar

prepped scones

Chocolate Scones  Yields: 8 scones.  Adapted from Cindy Mushet’s Baking with the American Harvest, Vol. 4, # 1, Spring, 1996.  Total prep time: 1 hour (only if grinding flour fresh, an additional 3/4 hr resting time is needed)/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 20 min.

Note: best served with clotted cream, though butter and jam are also good; an imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream is available at World Market.

1 2/3 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached flour is ideal, or may grind 1 1/3 c organic soft winter wheat berries; this makes 2 c whole wheat pastry flour, with which 1/3 c flour must be removed after grinding-set this aside for flouring board.)

1/3 c cane sugar or coconut sugar  (Coconut sugar is healthier, with a lower glycemic index-for details see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder  (Trader Joe’s carries a brand of high quality, reasonably priced.)

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 stick (4 oz) cold unsalted butter

3/4 c heavy cream

To Finish

1 lg egg, lightly beaten

Demerara sugar, or crystallized sugar  (Demerara sugar is available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. grinding fresh flour with Kitchen Aid attachment

    If grinding flour fresh, do so now; see photo.

  2.  Preheat oven to 425 F (if grinding your own flour, wait to preheat oven).  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a sealed storage bag, shake together: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  4. cutting butter easily

    Easily cut cold butter into small pieces, by cutting stick in fourths length-wise; keeping cube in tact, rotate this stick and cut in fourths again; then, shave small pieces off end.  See photo below.

  5. Place butter in bowl with flour.  Using a pastry cutter, or two forks, blend until mixture is like a coarse corn meal, and flour is incorporated.  See photo below.
  6. Add cream and stir just until dough forms what Ms. Mushet calls “shaggy clumps”; flour will be barely incorporated.  See photo at bottom.
  7. mealy dough mixture

    Place this loosely formed mixture on a lightly floured board and knead several times, until dough is formed.  Do not over knead.  ONLY IF FRESHLY GROUND FLOUR IS BEING USED, place dough back in bowl, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 45 minutes.   (Freshly ground flour is a coarser grind, which doesn’t absorb the moisture as readily as the store-bought white flour; thus, this resting time is required.)

  8. Pat out into a 7” round; cut into eighths.  Holding individual scones in hand, brush top and sides of each with egg wash and sprinkle top with crystallized sugar.  Place on parchment-covered pan (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. dough in “shaggy clumps”

    Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until edges are firm, but center is soft to the touch.  As you press on the edges, there will be a yielding, due to its high concentration of hot fat; scones, however, firm up as they cool.  Note: if using freshly ground flour, 18-20 minutes will be required for baking.

  10. Cool on wax paper at least 10 minutes before serving.  Ideally served with clotted cream, but butter and a good jam are also great.

Healthy Date/Apricot Bars

date/apricot bars

Here is a receipt for a great date/apricot bar, sweetened with a monk fruit sweetener; it is complete with information on this great alternative sweetener.  This makes a healthy breakfast bar.  The recipe is another one of my sister’s notes of grandeur, derived by her ingenious cooking skills, which she originally made with sugar.  Today, however, her cooking is inspired by the keto diet (therefore this bar no longer fits in her diet plan).

Recently I have begun investigating this keto way of eating for myself, which promotes a diet of high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carbohydrates.  I am looking to it for its over-all health benefits, rather than for weight loss.  The more I read, the more convinced I am that the avoidance of sugars, as well as a high intake of the right kind of fat calories, is beneficial for our bodies both to maintain health and loose weight, but it is essential that they be the right kind of fats.

Dr. Don Colbert has an excellent plan, the keto-zone diet, in which you bring your bodies into a state of ketosis, burning fat for energy, rather than glucose (sugar), by using premium fats for 70% of your daily caloric intake.  Presently I am exploring in depth his teachings on the multi-health benefits of his diet.  Not needing to loose weight, I don’t restrict my carbohydrates quite as strictly as his diet requires-until I learn otherwise.  Therefore I partake in this bar, which is made with organic whole wheat pastry flour, oats, butter, and monk fruit sweetener.

Indeed, high quality fats (avocado, olive oil, grass-fed ghee, MCT oil, krill oil) are important also for those of us who aren’t in need of shedding pounds,.  Rather we have a need to take in enough calories to maintain weight and acquire optimum health.  Consuming lots of rich desserts and empty starch calories to keep weight can lead to diabetes among other serious conditions.  1

The use of good alternative sweeteners is equally important, as eating the right kind of fats; these bars are made with butter and Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener, which is available at Costco.  Monk fruit sweeteners are typically a mixture of monk fruit extract and other natural products such as inulin or erythritol;.  This Costco product is a blend of erythritol-the first ingredient-and monk fruit, also known as lo han guo, or Swingle fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii), which is a small round fruit, native to southern China.  2

Costco’s Monkfruit has a sweetness equal to sugar, though other blends may have a sweetness ranging from 100-250 times greater than table sugar.  The intensity of sweetness depends on the amount of mogrosides present.  Mogrosides are the compound-a unique antioxidant-in monk fruit extract, which are separated from the fresh-pressed juice of this Asian monk fruit during processing.  When separated they are free of calories; these sweet-flavored antioxidants-mogrosides-are mainly responsible for the sweetness of this fruit, rather than its other natural sugars, fructose and glucose.  Fructose and glucose are actually totally removed during the processing of this extract.  3

Though more research is needed to verify the health benefits of mogroside extracts from monk fruit, there is some evidence that they may have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, as well as possibly having positive effects on cancer and diabetes.  Current studies, however, use much higher doses of monk fruit extract than that consumed in this sweetening product.  4

We find the satisfying of our need for pleasure is much needed in healthy eating, but how this calls for balance.  Indeed, balance is a key to all that concerns us about food, and it is imperative that we make the effort to discover what works best for us individually.  Our bodies are unique and complex.  Food can work as a medicine, as well as be a rich blessing to our souls, when consumed properly.

Eating with an attitude of reverence is a key to tapping into gastronomic pleasure.  One simple tool in reaching this goal is to focus on that childhood instruction “chew carefully”.  In order to do this, it’s imperative to slow down.

We find the need to slow down and “chew carefully” is present in all of life’s endeavors, in order to reap the maximum goodness promised; as the old adage goes “slow down and smell the roses”.

To achieve this, it is important to give thanks to our Creator for our food, as well as for all the daily blessings and trials that come our way.  Such insures our joy.  We apply this gratitude to the not-so-good, not for the trouble itself, but rather for our resultant growth that develops out of overcoming hardship.  Such a heart bent on thanksgiving pleases our God immensely; it guarantees a prosperous life.  (For more on heightened pleasures of proper eating, see Parmesan Dover Sole, 2017/04/10.)

Enjoy this delightful recipe!

References:

  1. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/
  2. https://foodinsight.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-monk-fruit-sweeteners/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/monk-fruit-sweetener
  4. Ibid.

finished product

Healthy Date/Apricot Bars  Yields: 2 dozen.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 50 min.

2 c pitted dates, packed down firmly, chopped  (I suggest taking a measuring cup to the store, thus pre-measuring fruit, as you buy in bulk).

2/3 c dried apricots, cut small

1 1/3 c butter, softened  (Plus several additional tbsp, as needed for moistening last of crumbs.)

1 c Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetner, cane sugar, or coconut sugar  (This Monkfruit is available at Costco.)

1 2/3 c old-fashioned oats (Organic is only slightly more expensive in bulk; available at most grocery stores.)

3 c flour (Organic whole wheat pastry flour is best.)

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.99/5 lbs.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is preferable for quality and taste.)

  1. thickened fruit-sauce

    Beat 1 1/3 c butter in a large bowl; blend in Monkfruit sweetner or sugar, beating until light.  Set aside.

  2. Measure dates in a measuring cup, packing down firmly; with a chef’s knife, chop into small pieces.  Repeat these steps with the apricots.
  3. “sifting” in sealed plastic bag

    Place fruit in a medium saucepan.  Add 2 1/4 c of water, cover, and bring to a boil over med/high heat.

  4. Remove lid, lower temperature and boil softly, uncovered, until a thick sauce is formed.  Be sure to stir about every 5 minutes.  Watch fruit carefully as it thickens, so as not to burn (see photo above).
  5. mealy crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  6. In a plastic sealed storage bag, place flour, oats, and salt.  Close the seal and shake vigorously (see above photo).
  7. Blend flour mixture into butter, until mealy; see photo.
  8. Place 3/5 of flour/butter mixture in bottom of a 9” x 13” pan, which has been lightly sprayed with oil.  Pack down evenly with hand, being sure to pat edges and corners really well.
  9. initial baking of crust

    Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes (see photo).

  10. Remove from oven and gently spread thickened fruit-sauce over top of crust.  Then, taking the rest of the flour/butter mixture, firmly pat rounds of dough between your two hands, placing these solid masses on top of date/apricots, until all is covered.  (May add a little additional soft butter to dry crumbs in the bottom of bowl, to moisten them and facilitate the last of the forming.)  See photo below.
  11. forming of top crust

    Return to oven and bake 30 minutes more, or until golden brown; see photo at top of recipe.

  12. Cut into bars, while still warm.  May freeze part of batch to have on hand for a nutritious breakfast bars.

Balsamic Eggs w/ Ghee Recipe

finished ghee

Discover here the health-giving attributes of the right kind of fats, such as grass-fed ghee in this delicious balsamic egg recipe, which is complete with the easy steps for making inexpensive ghee.

Increasingly, our mainstream culture is recognizing that dietary cholesterol is not a cause of heart disease or weight gain.  Mitochondria, the power plants in our bodies, either burn sugar or fat for energy.  A high carbohydrate diet makes the body go into a mode of burning glucose (sugar), while switching to a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet, allows the body to use fat for fuel.  This is why many people are achieving great success with the keto diet, which is high in fats.  Of key importance, however, is that one eats the right kind of fats!  1

Many vegetable oils, such as canola and soy oils (those most frequently used in restaurants and found on grocery shelves) are very unstable, oxidize quickly, and are almost always rancid; thus, they can be extremely detrimental to the nervous system and immune health.  They can be indigestible and lead to inflammation and free radical damage; inflammation is among the root causes of major diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and arthritis, according to Dr. Don Colbert.  2

In approaching a high fat diet, to either maintain health or loose weight, it is critical that one know the kind of fats that are healthy.  There are seven recommended healthy fats-avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, grass-fed ghee, MCT oil, and krill oil. Among these are three that I frequently use in my recipes: ghee, avocados (and their oil), and the king of oils olive oil, though this latter should not be heated, as it becomes carcinogenic at high temperatures.  3

Ghee made from grass-fed butter is highly health-promoting.  Dr. Axe states that the saturated fat found in butter (and coconut oil) provides the body with much needed fuel, as well as helping with blood sugar stability, when eaten in reasonable amounts.  It has 400 different fatty acids and a good dose of fat-soluble vitamins as well.  It is important that the cream the butter is made from is obtained from grass-fed cows, with their diet rich in beta-carotene (the form of vitamin A found in plants.)  When eaten in moderation, butter is very beneficial.  4

Butter made into ghee takes these health attributes a step higher.  Ghee is produced by gently heating butter to evaporate the water and milk solids from the fat.  Fat makes up about 80% of the content of butter.  The milk solids contain inflammatory proteins and sugar, which are detrimental to health, but when these are removed, pure butter fat (loaded with fat-soluble nutrients) results, providing a food good for healing and detoxification.  5

Following is a simple recipe for the preparation of inexpensive ghee at home, which I have perfected over time.  Note: my saucepan for making ghee was originally not quite heavy enough; thus, I could only produce clarified butter, when I used the high quality, European, grass-fed Kerrygold butter.  My not-so-heavy saucepan, however, was quite adequate for making ghee, with the lesser-quality, Trader Joe’s, hormone-free, regular butter; this ghee, however, is much lighter in color and isn’t as health-promoting.

The premium, grass-fed, European butter is higher in fat, making it impossible, without burning, to go beyond this first stage of clarifying the butter, while using my not-so-heavy pan.  Clarifying requires cooking only until the first foam arises and subsides; then, there is the removal of the skin of dry, milk solids.  Ghee is easily produced, when cooking continues after this initial stage and, following the subsiding of the first foam, a second foam arises.  Then the milk solids that have sunk to the bottom of the pan brown, leaving a nutty-flavored medicinal substance.

After several failures with Kerrygold butter, I bought a great, heavy, All-Clad saucepan at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  (Go to Laban Bil Bayd-2018/03/26-for more information on the differences between clarified butter and ghee.)  These great balsamic eggs, with ghee, are a steadfast part of my diet now!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://draxe.com/grass-fed-butter-nutrition/
  5. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/

balsamic eggs beginning to fry

Balsamic Eggs  Yields: one serving.  Total prep time: 5 min.  (or 25 minutes total, if making your own ghee.)  Note: though a thermometer may be helpful, it is not required.

1 tsp ghee  (May purchase ready-made at Trader Joe’s, or make your own inexpensively, following directions below.)

2 eggs, preferably duck eggs

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. first foam

    For homemade ghee, prepare a strainer, lined with a coffee filter, and place it in a heat-proof dish; set aside.

  2. Over medium heat, shaking pan, melt 8-16 oz of high quality, unsalted butter (Kerrygold is ideal).
  3. breaking of first foam

    When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo).

  4. Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (see above photo).  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.
  5. second foam rising

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until a second foam rises.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees; see photo.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  6. Immediately gently strain golden-colored butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish (see photo below).  Transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  7. straining ghee

    In an egg pan, melt 1 tsp of ghee, over medium heat.

  8. When pan is hot, add eggs and lower heat to med/low.  Pour vinegar over yolks, just as the white is starting to form on the bottom of pan; see photo at top of recipe.  Cover with a splash shield (available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, see photo below).
  9. splash shield

    When whites are nearly cooked, flip eggs over, cooking briefly, then transfer to a bowl, for easy spooning of these delicious juices.

Disguised Ham, c. 1857

disguised ham

Here is the fascinating history of the making of ham, with the differences between traditional and modern day industrial processing, as well as an early American receipt for holiday leftovers of this meat.

The Beginnings of American Cook Books in 19th Century

Eliza Leslie devised the perfect solution for the remains of our Easter dinners, in Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (c. 1857), with her disguised ham recipe.  There she recommended baking, on toasted bread, seasoned ground ham-mixed with mustard and egg yolk-and crowning it with a golden meringue.  1

Leslie started her prolific career in 1828, with her humble Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats.  Her writing had developed greatly by the time she published the above cook book, with her disguised ham; now the New Cookery Book included a thousand recipes.  Her cook books evidenced that Leslie was following the lead of the influential Amelia Simmons in her writing of American recipes for an American audience.  2

American Culinary Heritage Originated with African American Cooks

Prior to the influence of Simmons, the heritage of our national cuisine can be attributed greatly to African American cooks on colonial plantations.  Here, due to great rivalry, the colonial dames jealously guarded their well-provisioned tables; thus, the great recipes of their Native African American cooks were strictly handed down by mouth from generation to generation.  All the cook books published this side of the Atlantic-there were only a few-were really English cook books, which were merely printed in the States.  3

Amelia Simmons Initiated the Writing of American Cook Books

Simmons changed all this, when she ushered in our nation’s writings on American cuisine, with American Cookery in 1796.  She introduced the publication of receipts using New World foods, such as cranberries, clams, shad, and terrapin, as well as cornmeal in puddings, corn cakes, etc.  She included Indian pudding, Indian slapjack (pancakes), and johnnycake or journey cake-called thus because these flat corn cakes were frequently carried on journeys.  4

Meanwhile, a number of American ladies followed Simmons’ lead with the writing of American recipes for an American audience; the most prolific of these writers was Eliza Leslie, from whom we have this inspiration for using leftover ham.

Traditional Curing of Meats

Back then, cured meats were made by either dry-salting (dry-curing) or brining (wet-curing) large cuts for several days, giving them about 60% moisture and 5-7% salt by weight.  This process preserved them and they could be kept uncooked for long periods without refrigeration.  5

Modern Industrial Processing of Cured Meats

Today salted meats-ham, bacon, corned beef-are still popular, because of their great taste, even though salting is no longer essential for preservation.  The curing process has gone from several days for traditional, wet-cured meats to just hours for their modern, industrial counterparts-in the case of some bacon-processing, the pork is cut into slices, immersed in brine for 10-15 minutes, and packed the same day.  With their milder cures, industrial meats generally must be refrigerated and/or cooked.  6

Now wet-cured hams are injected with brine.  The pork pieces are then “tumbled” in large rotating drums for a day to massage the brine evenly throughout the meat, making it supple.  Finally they are pressed into shape, partly or fully cooked, and are sold chilled, with no maturing period.  7

No Salt in Modern-day Corned Beef

Modern corned beef is also injected with brine, and actually doesn’t touch any salt grains, as its name indicates-corn comes from the English word for grains, which includes salt grains.  (For the detailed beginnings of corned beef, see The Best Corned Beef .)  8

Dry Curing Then and Now

With dry-curing, salt is used to transform pig into sublime hams, a process that goes back at least to classical times.  Among our modern versions of dry-cured ham are: Italian prosciutto di Parma, Spanish serrano, French Bayonne, and American country hams.  Though it is possible to cook these delicacies, which are comparable to long-aged cheese, they are best when eaten raw in paper-thin slices.  With a vivid, translucent rose color, their texture is silken and their flavor at once meaty and fruity.  9

In the process of dry-curing, the raw meat is cleaned, and then covered with salt, while being gradually pressed to draw out the blood.  (Specific herbs and spices may be added for flavor at this point.)  Next the hams are washed and hung to dry in a temperature-controlled atmosphere; finally, they are hung to air for a period of time.  This period may greatly vary: in the case of Serrano hams the time may be as little as 9 months, while 12 months are required for the Parma; the Iberian ham may take up to 2 years.  10

Though comparatively rare, dry-cured hams may use salt only in curing, such as with the Parma.  Most modern dry-cured ham, however, employs both salt and nitrites (either sodium nitrite or potassium nitrate), which prevents bacterial growth and gives the meat a desirable dark red color.  11

History of Nitrates and Nitrites in Curing

Potassium nitrate was first discovered in the Middle Ages; then, it was named saltpeter because it was found as a salt-like crystalline outgrowth on rocks.  Later in the 16th or 17th century, it was being used to brighten meat color and improve its safety and storage life, as well as enhance its flavor.  Around 1900, nitrite (a derivative of nitrate, due to chemical reactions during the curing process), began to replace saltpeter in the cure, except in traditional dry cured hams and bacons, where potassium nitrate has remained preferable.  Both nitrate and nitrite can react with other food components to form nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic; thus, today we tend to read labels carefully to avoid both.  12

If you are celebrating this holiday with ham, utilize the historical Eliza Leslie’s disguised ham receipt for any leftovers.  Happy Resurrection Sunday!

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964) pp. 190, 192.
  2. Ibid., pp. 183, 187.
  3. Ibid., p. 183.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 173.
  6. Ibid., p. 175.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., pp. 173, 175.
  9. Ibid., p. 174.
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ham
  11. Ibid.
  12. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p173, 174.

finished sandwich

Disguised Ham (c. 1857)  Adapted from Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964) p. 192.  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 35 minutes/  active prep time: 18 min/  baking time: 17 min.

1/3 lb or 1 c ham, chopped to a coarse grind  (May use leftover baked ham or 8 slices of Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Ham, which is nitrite-free.)

2 tsp of mustard, or to taste  (Trader’s Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce is ideal.)

Salt and pepper to taste

4 lg eggs, 3 of them separated

4-5 slices of bread  (I use homemade Struan bread, see 2018/12/17.)

Spray oil, preferably coconut spray oil

  1. grinding of ham in food processor

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. With a food processor or Vita Mix, chop ham to a coarse grind, see photo.  Measure and place 1 c ground meat in a bowl.
  3. Season ham with mustard, salt, and pepper to taste (may not need salt, if ham is salty).  May refrigerate at this point and finish just before serving.
  4. ham/egg mixture

    Separate 3 eggs.  (If you are anticipating leftovers: when separating eggs, save 1 or 2 whites in a small container in the refrigerator to be used later.)  With a fork, beat yokes and 1 whole egg in a small bowl; mix beaten yokes/egg into ham.  See photo.

  5. Toast bread in toaster; spread ham mixture on top; place in a baking dish lightly sprayed with oil; bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until brown on top (see photo below).
  6. after baking ham mixture on toast for 12 minutes

    With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.

  7. Cover browned ham with 3/4” beaten egg white.  Return to oven and bake about 5 minutes more, or until whites are just beginning to turn golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Serve immediately.  Great way to use leftover ham!

Laban Bil Bayd (Lebanese eggs baked in yogurt/garlic/mint sauce)

laban bil bayd and tabbouleh

This last of my Middle Eastern receipts laban bil bayd calls for eggs, baked in a thickened yogurt, which is seasoned with mint and garlic cooked in ghee.  This delightful dish is commonly used as part of the mezze, or the first course of appetizers.  Great recipes follow, for both the ghee and laban bil bayd.

Butter vs Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oils are almost 100% fat, while butter is an emulsion of 80% fat, 15% water, and 5% milk solids; vegetable fats are most commonly used for sautéing, due to their high smoke points, or temperatures at which they burn.  It is misinformation that adding oil to butter raises butter’s smoke point.

Ghee a Form of Clarified Butter

The flavor of butter is important in this recipe; thus, it calls for ghee, with the smoke point of about 400 degrees F (200 C), as compared to 250 degrees F (150 C) for regular butter.

Ghee is a form of clarified butter; ghee and what we typically call clarified butter differ in that the first is heated just a little longer, browning the milk solids.  This produces a subtle nutty flavor and aroma, with great resistance to rancidity.

Clarified Butter Made in Resteraunts

The most common form of clarifying butter, the one used by most restaurants, varies from the more efficient method suggested here for home use, which is actually the preparation of ghee, rather than clarified butter.

Because such large quantities of butter are clarified in commercial kitchens, it is easiest to gently heat the butter to the boiling point of water; the water then bubbles to the surface, where the foaming milk proteins form also.  The water eventually evaporates, the bubbling stops, and the froth dehydrates, leaving a skin of dry whey protein; this skin of dry milk solids is next skimmed off the top.  Finally, the pure butterfat is ladled out, to remove it from the dry casein particles, which have sunk to the bottom of the pan.

Clarified Butter-Ghee-Made at Home

This above technique, however, brings much wasted product when preparing small quantities, because this means of  separating the fat from the top and bottom milk proteins also scoops up the butterfat.  Therefore it is best to follow this quick, traditional method for making ghee, when clarifying little amounts of a pound or less of butter at home.

This takes the above process a step further, by raising the final heat and browning these sunken whey proteins, then separating them from the pure butterfat by straining.  In this way, the resultant clear fat is completely isolated by easily pouring it through a coffee filter, or layers of cheesecloth.

History of Ghee in India

The word ghee in Sanskrit means “bright”.  In India, it was traditionally made from butter churned from soured, whole cow or buffalo milk, known as yogurt-like dahi; this preliminary souring improved both the quantity and flavor-quality found in this clarifying process.  Today, Indian industrial manufacturers usually start this procedure with cream; nevertheless, it is said that sweet cream produces flat-tasting butter, which affects the character of the ghee.

Ghee in World Cuisines

Ghee is prevalent both in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.  My first encounters with it were in my early catering and teaching days during the 1980’s, when I was preparing East Indian foods, such as curries and dal (lentils).

How Best to Prepare and Use Ghee

Presently I like to make large batches of it, for storing in my refrigerator where it keeps for months.  Thus, it is readily available for frying eggs, searing meats and vegetables, making sauces-such as hollandaise-and popcorn, as well as using it as dips for lobster, crab, and artichokes.  It greatly enhances the taste of all these foods.

Note: it is especially helpful to utilize high grade butter-such as Kerry butter from Ireland-in making ghee for a hollandaise sauce or dip for shellfish, as the flavor will be better.  This is due to the higher butterfat content in European butters (82-86%), contrasted with 80-82% in that of its American counterpart.  (For more on the health qualities of fats and grass-fed ghee, see Balsamic Eggs .)

Join me in the great discovery of cooking with ghee, by first making this simple, seemingly innocuous egg dish that surprises with it powerful pleasure!

References:

Harold McGee, On Food History (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 36, 37.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/08/how-to-clarify-butter.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/08/clarified-butter-recipe.html

https://altonbrown.com/clarified-butter-and-ghee-recipes/

finished product

Laban Bil Bayd (Lebanese eggs baked in yogurt/garlic/mint sauce)  Yields 6 servings.  Total prep time: 45-60 min (the length of time depends on if you prepare ghee with recipe)/  active prep time: 25-40 min/  baking time: 20 min.

Note: may make third of the recipe to serve two, using a 5-oz carton of plain Greek yogurt.

 

1/4 c ghee, or clarified butter  (Prepared versions are available at Trader Joe’s and Costco; may follow step 2, to quickly make your own, out of grass-fed butter-in 15 minutes.)

2 lg cloves garlic, minced

finished ghee

1/4 c fresh mint, chopped  (May substitute 2 tsp dried mint.)

2 c plain Greek yogurt  (Greek yogurt makes this recipe great; it is important that milk products are whole and organic for optimum health.)

1 lg egg white, beaten to froth

2 tsp corn starch

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

White pepper, to taste

6 eggs

  1. foam subsides, after initial rising

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. May use a prepared version of clarified butter (an 8-oz jar is available for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s, but this is NOT grass-fed).  Better yet, for a homemade ghee: prepare a strainer, with a coffee filter in it, and place in a heat-proof dish.  Set aside.
  3. Over medium heat, shaking pan, melt 8-16 oz of high quality, unsalted butter (grass-fed Kerrygold is important-available most reasonably at Costco).  Note: 8 oz has less wastage.
  4. When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo below).
  5. Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides (see above photo); temperature will be about 190 degrees-it is not necessary to have a thermometer though.  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.
  6. To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until a second foam rises high in pan, and there is just a hint of golden color at edge; bubbles will have become dense and small (see photo in list of ingredients).  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.
  7. Immediately gently strain butterfat into a heat-proof dish, through a coffee filter placed in a strainer (see photo at very bottom).  Transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  8. ghee at first rising of foam

    Chop mint-if using fresh-and garlic.

  9. Measure ghee (samneh) into a small saucepan, heat on med/low, add mint and garlic, and cook until garlic is golden brown.  Stir this frequently, watching carefully so as not to burn.  Meanwhile proceed to next step.
  10. Beat egg white until frothy (see photo below); an electric mixer hastens this process.
  11. Place yogurt in a heavy saucepan, adding salt, cornstarch, and foamy egg white, to which a final beat is given (if making a smaller recipe of only two servings, be sure to use just one third of whites).  CAREFULLY STIR IN THE SAME DIRECTION, until thoroughly combined.
  12. egg whites beaten to froth

    Continuing to stir in the same direction, cook over medium heat until it starts to boil.  Lower heat and simmer gently until thick, about 3 minutes.  Greek yogurt thickens more quickly than regular yogurt; if making a smaller portion, this will thicken very fast!

  13. Pour hot yogurt in an oven-proof dish (or evenly divide into

    separated browned milk solids, along with golden butterfat

    individual oven-proof bowls).  Spread out to completely cover the bottom of dish.  Break eggs on top of this mixture, spacing them evenly if using a larger dish.  Pour flavored ghee over eggs.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until eggs are hard (see photo of finished product at top of recipe).  Serve immediately for an incredible palate-pleasing experience!