Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kale Chips... Hmmm (Yuck?)

Apparently, from the few minutes of internet reading I just did, I am behind on the craze.  I was first introduced to this healthy snack in Baked kale chips by Gena on A Bluebonnet in Beantown.  I've been waiting to make them ever since, and our first week's delivery from Full Circle Farm gave me the opportunity when a good-sized bunch of kale was in the box.

The ingredients are mostly the same from recipe to recipe, with a few suggested variations for spices.  The baking temperatures and times, though, vary widely from baking at 250 for 30 minutes to baking at 425 for 5 to 7 minutes.  I even saw mention of dehydrating, which, I'm guessing would take a couple of days.

I figured the result I wanted was crisp, but not burnt chips.  This indicates some drying time, so a lower temp for longer seemed reasonable. 

Baked Kale Chips
Adapted from the recipe in Baked kale chips on A Bluebonnet in Beantown

1 bunch (12 leaves or so) Kale, washed and dried, stems and center rib removed, then cut into chip-size pieces
1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt or other seasonings

Preheat oven.  I set mine at 260 degrees on Convection, since I could see I'd have more than one baking sheet of chips, and I was too impatient to do them one pan at a time.

 Note: Just in case you don't know, it's important that the kale is dry....that any food you want to brown or crisp nicely with the use of oil is dry.  I don't remember where I read it, but the explanation was that the oil will trap any wetness in, and the food will steam before it gets the chance to brown.  Reader, JC, says she lets her kale dry overnight.  I used my OXO Salad Spinner, and then spread on paper towels and blotted.

I put the chip-size pieces of fresh kale in a large bowl and tossed them with the olive oil using my hands. It seemed fastest and easiest, and least likely to bruise the kale any more than necessary.

I spread them in a single layer on baking sheets and sprinkled them very lightly with Kosher salt.   Gena and others mentioned using parchment paper, but also said it wasn't necessary.  Since the oiled kale couldn't create that much of a mess I elected to save my parchment for pizza making, where we really need it.

I baked the kale pieces for 20 minutes.  Besides over-salting, the most common error people among my internet search reported was over cooking, so I checked mine in 15 minutes.  They seemed crispy, but when I tried one, it had an intense kale flavor that told me it still had some 'life' left in it, and I put it back for the remaining 5 minutes, then took them out and put them to drain any excess oil on paper towels.  

The chips shrink a lot, so I won't be so careful about not crowding them next time.

Result?  Not so great.
I'm not sure if the type of kale may make a difference, or if, perhaps, I still didn't bake them long enough... or too long?  They have an appealing salty-crispness at first, but get a little tough and bitter at the finish.  Prince CuddleBunny says "The aftertaste tastes burnt."  I'm still not sure that they're overcooked, since they almost seem to rehydrate in my mouth.  Hard to describe.  Also, as light as I went on the salt, it needed to be lighter.

Since I had 3 pans in all, for the 3rd, I added a tiny bit of garlic powder and Parmesan cheese.  I also cooked them 5 minutes longer.  A little better, but I think it's because the cheese is overpowering the kale taste.

I don't think my kids are going to be running for these.  I wouldn't have any trouble believing they're kale, and would never believe they're potato chips.  Did I do something wrong?  Any suggestions? 

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