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Pressure Cooker Navy Beans

Fissler Stove-top Pressure Cooker

 

For some reason, I decided to buy a bag of dry navy beans the last time  went to the grocery store.  I guess I had the idea to use my Fissler stove-top pressure cooker and was having some nostalgic feelings about my Mother cooking a “big pot of soup beans”. She usually added a big ham bone from a recently cooked ham supper. I used to complain about these meals that had no “main dish” focus…in my mind, the should have been meat. Mom would say, “If you want meat, fish that bone out of the beans. It has plenty of meat left on it!” When I objected to that, she would say, “Then make yourself a hamburger.”

I think these meals were a piece of nostalgia for Mom, too. She’s a bona fide coal miner’s daughter from Harlan County, Kentucky, born and raised during The Great Depression. Sometimes, she would make navy beans, and sometimes, it would be pinto beans; but the way she ate them was always the same: the beans has a some generous dashes of Texas Pete hot sauce. A bite of beans, a bite of onion, and a bite of good ole’ white bread. Though I’m sure beans were a cheap way to feed a lot of people in hard times, you could tell that she truly enjoyed her beans ritual.

Years later, I would try my first “real” Boston Baked Beans. Of course, I had eaten Campbell’s pork & beans; but I had never really had baked beans, from scratch. My Mother in-law was from Upstate New York and did some dishes that I didn’t get much in North Carolina. She made rare roast beef, instead of pot roast. And she made baked beans. She even had the real deal bean pot to cook then in the oven. A few years later, she would learn some German recipes. She and my Father in-law lived near Stuttgart for a couple of years, when he worked for IBM. During that time, she bought her Fissler stove-top pressure cooker…which she recently gave to me, when she found it while cleaning out a closet.

So, here we are with a pound of dried navy beans, a pressure cooker, and years worth of memories from two families. I have to admit that, while I like a bowl of navy bean soup, really prefer baked beans as a side dish, when it comes to dinner. And I still want meat. Sorry, Mom. I’m probably going to make that hamburger.

I started by soaking the dried beans in plenty of water, overnight. I started yesterday afternoon, and changed the water before I went to bed. This morning, I drained and rinsed the beans, added them to the pressure cooker pot and covered them with water. I added a few carrots, a little onion, a couple of bay leaves, a tablespoon of oil, and some salt. I have been warned not to salt beans, before cooking them, because it would make them tough. I have recently heard that it is not a problem, and that the dried beans can even be soaked in brine. I didn’t go that far, but I did salt them for cooking.

Soaked beans, water(too much), bay leaves, carrots, onion, celery, garlic clove, and salt.

Consulting some online sources, I found that navy beans should be pressure cooked for six minutes. There were also cautions about not overfilling the cooker with water…no more than halfway for items that expand, like beans or rice. The oil, by the way, is supposed to help suppress the foam during the cooking process. At this point, I have to admit that I must have overfilled with the water. I thought it was about halfway, but a couple of minutes into full pressure, the cooker started sputtering and spitting. After the six minutes, I released the pressure and tested a bean. It was obviously not nearly done, so I’m assuming that the pressure had be lost for most of the process. I carefully poured out some of the liquid (I didn’t measure how much, but the beans were still covered.). After a little clean-up and washing the cooker’s lid and seal, I repeated the cooking cycle for another five minutes. Now, they are soft and creamy. I hope they are still going to hold up to the process for transforming them into baked beans.

Cooked beans.

After cooking the navy beans, I discarded the celery, carrots, and bay leaves. The onions and garlic pretty much dissolved. To the beans and remaining liquid, I added about 2/3 cup molasses, 1/2 cup ketchup, a handful of thickly sliced onions, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbs. cider vinegar, and about 1/3 cup real bacon crumbles, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.  I also had a pinch of Coleman’s English dry mustard powder…I wanted to add a teaspoon, but ran out. I was going to use some kind of smoked or salted pork product, but didn’t have any; so I substituted the bacon crumbles. One last missing ingredient is Worcestershire sauce. I thought I had some, but I’m out. Wanted a couple of tablespoons. So, I mixed all of the ingredients thoroughly and poured everything into a deep, round souffle/casserole dish.

Ready to be covered and baked.

Now it turns out that we may not be at home all afternoon/evening, so I’m popping this into the refrigerator, for now. If I make it by the store, I’ll grab some Worcestershire sauce and Coleman’s English dry mustard. Otherwise, I’ll go with it like it is.

Game show countdown music….

Okay, so I never made it to the store for the additional ingredients, and I forgot to add the brown sugar. Ugh. But honestly, my blood sugar probably benefitted from that omission. I went ahead and baked the beans for an hour at 350°F, covered with foil. Then I stirred them and baked them another hour at 275°F, uncovered. They did not turn extremely dark, like some Boston baked beans that I’ve seen. With the omissions, they probably don’t qualify; however, they were tasty anyway! Generally,  I’m happy with the learning process, the lessons learned, and the results. I’ll definitely  give it another try, soon!

 

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Making Bagels

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So, I’ve made bagels once before, but it’s been awhile. For some reason, I just felt like making a batch. Who knew that today (February 9th) is National Bagel Day?! Was there something subliminal going on there? These won’t be baked until the following day, though…but I made the dough and shaped them on National Bagel Day. That still counts, right? Right.

To give credit, where credit is due, I am using a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by way of a website: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/. The recipe makes 12 bagels. It begins with a “sponge”, which is similar to a sourdough starter, except all the ingredients are fresh. About half of the flour is used with all of the water and half of the yeast. After a couple of hours, the sponge is combined with the rest of the ingredients to make the dough. After the dough is made, kneaded, and portioned, it is allowed to rise. Once formed, the bagels relax briefly and then are refrigerated overnight. The process is finished in the morning.

BAGELS

Sponge:

1 t. Instant yeast

4 c. Bread flour

2-1/2 c. Water

Dough:

1 t. Instant yeast (original recipe calls for 1/2 t., but mine has been in the fridge for awhile, so….)

3-3/4 c. Bread flour

2-3/4 t. salt (why not 3? I don’t know, but I followed directions here.)

2 t. malt powder (not malted milk powder) You could substitute a tablespoon of malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar, according to the recipe. (I used a tablespoon of molasses.)

1 T. baking soda (to add to boiling water for cooking)

Corn meal for dusting the baking sheet

Toppings, if desired. Poppy seeds, dehydrated chopped onion or garlic, salt, sesame seeds, etc. (I don’t do sesame, due to an allergy in the family.) I made my own mixture for Everything Bagels.*

Day or Evening Before

Make the sponge. Combine the ingredients and mix to combine. It will be wet and sticky. Cover and allow to rise for about 2 hours.

Sponge for making bagels

Sponge for making bagels

The sponge has risen!

The sponge has risen!

Make the dough. After rising, add 3 cups flour, yeast, salt, and malt powder (or substitute) to the dough and mix as well as you can.

Turn out on a clean, floured surface and begin kneading, using the last 3/4 c. flour to keep from sticking, incorporating it as you go. Knead for 10 minutes.

Kneading the dough.

Kneading the dough.

Immediately after kneading, divide the dough into 12 equal portions (about 4-1/2 oz). My scale is broken, so I had to eyeball it. Line a sheet pan with parchment and lightly spray with non-stick spray. Shape the portions into balls and put them on the cooking sheet. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel or damp paper towels and let rest for twenty minutes.

Divide the dough and shape into balls.

Divide the dough and shape into balls.

After resting, use your thumb to punch a hole in the center of each dough ball, and rotate the dough around to widen the hole. Try to maintain even thickness all the way around the bagel.

Shaping the dough.

Shaping the dough.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You are done until tomorrow morning!

Ready for the refrigerator, overnight.

Ready for the refrigerator, overnight.

The Next Morning

Preheat the oven to 500F. Prepare a baking sheet with a sprinkle of corn meal. Bring a large, preferably wide, pot of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and stir to dissolve. This helps the dough brown properly, when baked. The original recipes from many, many years ago, called for lye. For some reason, that is frowned upon these days. (Seriously, don’t do it.) While the water is boiling, drop bagels in, one at a time, until the surface is covered. Boil for one minute, flip over carefully, boil for another minute.

Boiling the bagels.

Boiling the bagels.

Place the boiled bagels on the baking sheet and, if using toppings, apply them at this point, while bagels are still moist. Continue until all bagels have been boiled and topped.

I did half "Everything" and half plain.

I did half “Everything” and half plain.

Place the bagels in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450F, rotate the pan, and cook for another 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and cool…until you can’t stand it any more! Note: my bagels took about 18 minutes, actually.

Done! How long can I wait? Not long!

Done! How long can I wait? Not long!

My “Everything Bagel Topping” without sesame seeds: I used about two tablespoons each of Roasted, salted sunflower seeds, minced dehydrated garlic, chopped dehydrated onions, and then about a tablespoon of poppy seeds. I used a mortar and pestle to break up the big stuff a little before adding the poppy seeds.

My "Everything Bagel Topping", no sesame seeds.

My “Everything Bagel Topping”, no sesame seeds.

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English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

I recently had a snow day. After getting the kids squared away with going out to play, I decided to make some English Sticky Toffee Pudding. I had been put in the mood for ESTP when I had some nice English Strong Ale from a local, new brewery that specializes in “English inspired Ales”. I had ESTP several times while in England for a vacation several years ago…it quickly became a favorite and “must have”. Well, I found a two-pack commercially available product in the grocery store…in the Britsh Stuff section. It was okay, to satisfy an immediate craving, but it wasn’t as good as I knew it could be. So, I jumped on Pinterest and read several recipes and found one I liked…one that used American measurements and ingredients. My only edits were adding a little more molasses, because I only had light brown sugar and substituting Half’n’Half for heavy cream, in the sauce.

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

(found at http://www.lafujimama.com/2012/08/sticky-toffee-pudding/ . Further credits referenced there.)

Ingredients:

Sticky Toffee Pudding ingredients

Sticky Toffee Pudding ingredients

For the cake:

6 ounces chopped and pitted dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons softened butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed (or light brown and add 1 T. Molasses)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Sauce:

2 cups heavy cream (or Half’n’Half)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (or light brown and increase molasses by 1 T.)
2 1/2 tablespoons molasses
1 pinch sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and then grease an 8×8 square baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

Line your pan with parchment paper, about 10-1/2" square for an 8"x8"x2" pan

Line your pan with parchment paper, about 10-1/2″ square for an 8″x8″x2″ pan

2. Make the cake: Combine the dates and water in a sauce pan.  Bring the water to a boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the baking soda, (It will foam up…don’t let it surprise you!) then set the saucepan aside.

Dates, brought to boil, baking soda added, stirred, set aside.

Dates, brought to boil, baking soda added, stirred, set aside.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Next add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.

5. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low.  Then add all of the date mixture and mix to combine. Then finish by adding the remaining half of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Mixing

Mixing

6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the cake is springy in the middle. (Test with cake tester or skewer…should come out clean…or almost clean. Better to be slightly underdone than over.)

Into the oven!

Into the oven!

Let the cake cool for 20 minutes and then poke holes in it with a skewer.  While the cake is cooling prepare the toffee sauce.

Poke the cake and top with sauce.

Poke the cake and top with sauce.

Toffee Sauce

Toffee Sauce

7. Make the toffee sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Let the sauce boil until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

8. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the cake and let it soak in until ready to serve.  Turn out cake onto a service plate and remove the parchment paper.

After the cake cools a bit, turn out onto service plate and remove parchment.

After the cake cools a bit, turn out onto service plate and remove parchment.

Serve in square pieces about the size of a cupcake.

Cut view

Cut view

Nap the cake with sauce on what has now become the top side. Use the rest of the sauce for serving along with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. This cake is best served warm!

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

I was very pleased with the results and I’m sure you will be too! Don’t be put off by the dates. if you just haven’t had experience with them before. They practically melt into the batter and just add a rich, sweet, caramel flavor. The little bits in the cake are pretty much indistinguishable…not like raisins or chips at all!  The only thing I may do differently in the future is look for a sauce that doesn’t use milk or cream. Technically, that would make it caramel. I know. But I seem to remember sauces more like dark caramel in England and I preferred them. I used Half’n’Half in this recipe, because I didn’t have heavy cream, but it turned out fine. I hope you’ll give it a try. Sticky toffee pudding is equally good with a nice English stout or strong ale, coffee or milk. A warm piece of Sticky Toffee Pudding on a cold day…mmm. Talk about comfort food! Drop a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top and really indulge yourself! Enjoy!!

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