Friday, May 01, 2015

A Different Green Salad


Recently I was looking at a lot of restaurant menus online, trying to find a good place for Sweetie and I to have an anniversary dinner out. One of the things I noticed is that if you love kale you can always find a salad on contemporary menus. Arugula is also popular, and so are beets. The standard, at least around here, for salad greens seems to be field greens or spring mix. While I love all of those salad ingredients, they are all off the list of things that I can eat, along with spinach, Swiss chard and the like.

While I know that having salads more interesting than chopped iceberg with shredded carrots and maybe a few coins of radish is a good thing, I do know that there are lots of other kinds of salads that could be on the menus and maybe they will be once we all get tired of kale.

Years ago in Berkeley I came across a salad in a deli case that has been a favorite ever since. It's a pretty simple one, so it didn't take much effort to figure out how to make it at home. It is green, has some very healthy ingredients, goes together fairly quickly and uses an ingredient that seems to be available almost year round these days...broccoli.


Now I know there are folks who don't care for broccoli. To those folks I say...give it a chance! In this salad it gets dressed up in a nice creamy dressing, is complemented by sweet red bell pepper, salty feta cheese and nutty pecans.

The florets of the broccoli are cut into bite sized pieces. If you are frugal, and if you like the stems, include some of them, sliced. Put them in a microwave safe steamer, or in a steamer basket in a pot with a little water in the bottom. Before you start cooking them, dump a couple cups of ice cubes into a large bowl and add a few cups of water. That way the water will get icy while you deal with steaming the broccoli.

Steam the broccoli only long enough for it to become tender enough to bite in two. For my microwave that's 2 minutes on high. The color will be a fairly bright green. Immediately drain off any hot water and dump all the broccoli into the bowl with the ice water. Stir it around with a spoon or your clean fingers. The idea is to cool down the broccoli quickly. Then drain the broccoli completely.

While the broccoli drains, slice a half the fleshy part of a sweet red bell pepper in strips and cut the strips into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

In a small jar place 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, the juice and zest of one small or 1/2 large lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, some garlic powder or minced garlic (amount varies depending on how much you like garlic). Put a lid on the jar and shake briskly for a minute. Take off the lid, add 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, put the lid back on and shake again. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. You now have a creamy dressing.


Now you're ready to put together the salad. Place the broccoli, red pepper strips, a couple tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, and 2 tablespoons toasted, chopped pecans. Gently mix these ingredients together. Add the dressing and gently mix to coat the ingredients with the dressing. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.


It's a good idea to serve this salad with a slotted spoon to keep your plate from having a pool of dressing, but if you forget, it's really delicious dressing. The salad is even better and has lots of vitamins and minerals and fiber and all those 'healthy' things, but mostly it's a nice green salad that is absolutely delicious...and different than kale.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Happy Buddies Made Beautiful Filled Breads


When choosing a bread to bake as Kitchen of the Month, it's almost always a balancing act of finding something that presents a bit of a challenge, but not making it something that will not seem worth trying. On top of that, it's Spring! At this time of year when holidays, the garden, the end of school and similar things make it tougher to find time for baking, it's a wonder if anyone bakes the bread of the month, so I thank each of the Buddies who took the time to make these beautiful breads.

The main challenge of the Romanian Easter bread was to fill the braid strands. Those filled strands make lovely swirls in the finished bread, help keep the bread fresh longer, and taste so good, too.

All in all, it sounds like the Babes who baked the bread liked it and the Buddies did too. There were some great fillings and even some different shapes. One of the things I think we all found out is that this bread has tremendous oven spring!

So, in alpha order, our April Buddies!:

Carola of Sweet and That's It made a beautiful, long braid with a nice drizzle of icing on top and she used some spelt flour and flaxseeds in the bread and made an almond filling that included raisins. Look at those swirls of filling!



Judy of Judy's Gross Eats baked a picture perfect braid using organic coconut sugar, two rises, and an almond filling that made lovely swirls in the slices.



Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories baked Cozonac! She is a bread geek and loves that a Romanian likes her Romanian braid. I would love that kind of comment, too. She had awesome gluten strands in her braid, partly from the oven spring, and she used hazelnuts for a very European filling.



Kelly of A Messy Kitchen created a group of coiled buns instead of a braid, similar to shaping of ensemaidas. Changes included using some spelt flour, some sourdough starter, some olive oil for part of the fat and pecans for the nuts! Beautiful buns with the filling peeping out.



Sandie of Crumbs of Love made her own poppy seed filling which included milk, honey, sugar and butter. Short braid strands made a beautiful compact loaf with luscious ribbons of poppy seed filling running through. Very much the kind of filling that is typical for Easter breads in Europe.


Again, thanks for Baking with the Bread Baking Babes Carola, Judy, Karen, Kelly and Sandie! Look forward to baking again with you next month.  XO, Elle

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pizza or Calzone...or Both


One of the great things about having pizza dough in the freezer is that you can make a quick and creative meal without a whole lot of trouble. Well, quick once the dough has had a chance to thaw and warm up a bit. Yesterday I knew that I would want pizza for dinner, so I too a couple of portions out of the freezer and they thawed while I did some weeding and stained glass work and read a little more of a book I'm enjoying. The author? Louise Penny, a Canadian writer. If you haven't read any of her work yet, start with Still Life. You can blame me when you fall in love with a little village and want to move there, even though an amazing number of murders happen there for such a small population. Perhaps just visiting is fine.


I made the pizza dough last week when I decided to make calzone, mostly to use up some pasta sauce I'd made a couple of days before. When there are only two of you dining and you were raised to cook for at least eight people, leftovers are a way of life. A calzone is really just a pizza folded over on itself before baking. I like mine with ricotta cheese on the bottom, layers of sauce and meat or veggies, and plenty of cheese.


I made two kinds. One had a filling of the ricotta, some roasted butternut squash,a little bacon, some Italian parsley, and garlic, plus shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan. The second one had less ricotta, the tomato rich pasta sauce, slices of pepperoni, more mozzarella and Parmesan. Both were delicious in their own way.

For yesterday's pizza I was using up some leftover chicken thigh meat. That's the photo at the top of the post. On went the ricotta, the chicken, some local bacon, crumbled, some caramelized onion, Italian parsley, mozzarella and Parmesan. It was tastiest when cooled just a bit and was a mellow flavor combo, smokey with the bacon, but if you like more flavor, add some hot sauce.

The nice thing about both these is that you hand form the dough, stretching it gently to get a nice thin crust, thicker around the edges. If the dough fights you when you are stretching it. Just let it sit a few minutes and try again. Sometimes the gluten needs a brief rest before it cooperates.

In loading the pizza or calzone, keep the toppings light in weight. When I knew I was going to use fairly heavy pasta sauce, I went very light on the ricotta for the second calzone. When I made the chicken pizzas, I went light on the chicken. One thigh was more than enough for two four-slice pizzas.

The final tip is to use a pizza stone, if at all possible, in the oven and to preheat the oven so that it is really hot when you put the pizza in. I found for my oven that baking each one on the stone, then transferring it to the rack to finish baking was just the thing so that the crust was crispy and the fillings fully heated through.

I still have two more bags of dough in the freezer. Looking forward to the next great pizza/calzone meal.


BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~ To Use for Calzone or Pizza
Original recipe for the dough taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes six pizza (8-10 inch) crusts or six 4-slice calzone

Ingredients: 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

 DAY ONE Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 pieces. NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap. 7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days. NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make calzone or pizzas, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator, or you can thaw the dough on the counter for about 3-4 hours before you bake.

DAY TWO
8. On the day you plan to eat calzone, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan. Note: In case you would be having trouble rolling the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.

On a lightly floured surface roll each dough ball into a circle about 8 or 9 inches in diameter. Place on a sheet of baking parchment paper.
Fill as desired. To assemble the calzone, roll out as described above and place on pieces of baking parchment.

If making as I described at the top of post, spread about 1 - 2 tablespoons of ricotta on half of the dough circle. Top with other ingredients, remembering to keep filling light.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Fold the plain half of the dough over the filled half. Run a finger that you have dipped in water around the edge of the filled section and press the top dough to seal. Use the tines of a fork to press all around the edge to seal further. If desired, glaze the dough with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

Set aside and make the other five calzone. If there are dough balls left, save for pizza or more calzone. They can be frozen to be used later, too.

Once all the calzone have been filled, check to make sure that the pre-heated oven is hot. If you are using a baking stone, slide the calzone, still on its parchment onto the stone and bake until the dough is golden brown. Repeat with each of the other calzone. Let cool a couple of minutes, then remove from the paper to a cutting board and cut each into four pieces. Serve at once.

For pizza, follow the same steps, but fill the whole shell and don't fold over or seal.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why Is It Called Coffee Cake?


April keeps flying along. Having reached the 20th we have landed on the magical day of the Cake Slice Bakers reveal. This month the Cake Slice Bakers had an awesome choice of cakes to bake from the book we are baking from the Southern Cake Book.

From many delicious choices, including cheesecake bars, a decadent carrot cake, a different green tea cake and a brown sugar and pecan coffee cake, I went for the one for which I had the ingredients on hand...the coffee cake. Very glad I did. I was questioned by a friend however. Since there is no coffee in this cake, why is it called a coffee cake. All that I could figure out is that it goes very well with a hot cup of coffee.

This is a simple cake to make. You don't need a mixer, but a pastry tool to cut the butter into the dry ingredients is essential. I know they say you can do it with a couple of knives, but I've tried that and trust me, a pastry blender is a much better tool. Sur la Table has a nice OXO one for $12, but you can ususally find one anywhere that kitchen gear is sold.


Sweet brown sugar, a touch of cinnamon, and chopped pecans are the obvious flavors here, but there is plenty of butter and sour cream in the recipe to add richness. I made a little extra of the crumb mixture and combined it with the pecan mixture for the topping to make it more like the New York Crumb Cake they have at my local eatery. I baked the bottom crust for just a few minutes, too, which made the bottom crust more solid than it might have been otherwise. 

Both of these changes made for an interesting textural contrast. The bottom layer had snap, the middle one with the sour cream was soft and almost pillowy, and the top layer combined both crunch and crumb. I really liked this dessert and so did Sweetie. Surprisingly it kept quite well for a week. I kept it on the counter, wrapped in foil. It makes a big pan of cinnamon sugar goodness, so we gave about half of it away to friends. Probably should have given away more, but it was too delicious to not eat ourselves.

Be sure to check out the other Cake Slice Bakers this month to see which of the selection they chose to bake. You'll be glad you did!


Here is my variation of the Brown Sugar Pecan Coffee Cake from
The Southern Cake Book

This coffee cake has crumbs in the crust, filling and topping. Makes for a quick and delicious cake.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, cubed
Shortening
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together the flour and brown sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly and butter is is very small pieces. This mixture will be divided into three parts:

Press 2 3/4 cups crumb mixture on the bottom of a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch pan (that's where the shortening gets used), spreading evenly and packing down. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While crust is baking, remove 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture remaining and put it in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add the baking soda to the main crumb mixture and stir to combine. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg and vanilla. Add to the crumb mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour sour cream mixture over the crumb crust in the baking pan.

In the small bowl that has the 1/2 cup crumb mixture, mix together that crumb mixture, the granulated sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter in the baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into portions and serve.
Makes 12 servings


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Romania Spring Braid with the Babes


Welcome to my Kitchen! This month it's the Kitchen of the Month for the Bread Baking Babes. After spending some very delightful time looking at various bread recipes, I decided that since Easter and spring were going to be here during the bread baking time for April that I would invite all of the Babes around the kitchen table to have fun with a Romanian Easter Braid. Even if Easter isn't your thing, this braid is delicious with its nut filling and spring time flavors of butter, egg, and lemon. I like the idea of filling the braid ropes. Wasn't sure how it would actually go, but that's part of the fun, isn't it?

The description of the recipe in The Festive Bread Book, by Kathy Cutler talks about "The delicious walnut filling" but the recipe calls for ground almonds. I suspect that you could use any ground nut you desire...walnut, almond, pecan, hazelnut...and you will get a nice filling. The full description is, " the delicious walnut filling of this bread helps make it a Romanian classic. Serve it as a snack or with Easter dinner." It doesn't have any icing, so it may be a bread that is somewhat unsweetened. You can always add a sweet glaze and/or nuts once the baked bread has cooled if you prefer it a bit sweeter.

The Wiki information is interesting: " In Romania, the recipes differ rather significantly between regions in what concerns the trimmings. The dough is essentially similar throughout the country: a plain sweet bread made with flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar and salt. Depending on the region, one may add to it any of the following: raisins,... grated orange or lemon rind, walnuts or hazelnuts, vanilla or rum flavour.

Cozonac, (the Romanian bread for Easter similar to Italian pannettone), may be sprinkled with poppy seeds on top. Other styles dictate the use of a filling, usually a ground walnut mix, ground poppy seeds mixture, cocoa powder, rum essence and raisins. The dough is rolled flat with a pin, the filling is spread and the whole is rolled back into a shape vaguely resembling a pinwheel. In the baked product the filling forms a swirl adding to the character of the bread."  Apparently there is also a Christmas version with dried and/or candied fruit included.

It sounds like this version is the braid that uses lemon rind and a nut filling. Maybe the author prefers almonds to walnuts or poppy seed. I know that we Babes are a creative bunch, so this recipe leaves plenty of room for creativity and should yield a nice loaf for any spring celebration.


Be sure to check out what the other Babes have done with this recipe, then make it yourself. To become a Buddy and get a badge for your blog, just e-mail me by April 29th at elle dot lachman at gmail dot com. Include a photo of your bread and a short description of your baking experience and I'll include you in the round-up. I know Easter has come and gone, but it's still spring and this bread is one your family will love...and pretty. Come join the fun...I know you want to.


This braid has a fairly rich dough, including both butter and eggs, and it has a nut-based filling. After making it and eating a slice the morning I made it, I think the next time I make it that I will spread a thin layer of softened butter on the dough before putting on the filling and I will increase the filling by half as much again to allow for a thicker layer of filling and a bit more flavor. In addition I'm going to increase the citrus zest (I used orange) to twice the amount called for in both the dough and the filling. I might also increase the salt by a 1/4 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon...the dough was just a tiny bit flat tasting and I think that will take care of that. The crumb was great and so was the crust. I made a quick glaze of a small amount of hot milk, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and a few drops almond extract to be drizzled over the top, then scattered on a few sliced almonds. Made for a pretty loaf and went well with the other flavors in the braid.

After reading over the recipe I just couldn't add yeast to a mixture that was going to be heated to such a high heat, so I put the yeast in 1/4 cup tepid water to proof, then added it to the milk/butter/egg mixture when the mixture had cooled to 100 degrees F before adding all of it to the dry mixture as the recipe calls for. I did mix everything by hand (no stand mixture) and it really is a lovely dough to knead for a while. I let mine sit in the fridge for a day before rolling out and shaping, then again overnight so that I could bake it this morning (it warmed up and did the final proofing this morning) which worked well. Nice oven spring, too. Because I used a little additional liquid in proofing the yeast, I decreased the milk by the same amount. As a result the flour called for was just about right.


Really yummy still slightly warm and taken with a nice hot cup of coffee! Love the swirls of filling...but I wanted more filling. My original plans to bake it again with friends was ruined by my coming down with a case of the flu.



Here are the links for the other Babes:

BakeMy Day  -  Karen
Blog from OUR Kitchen -  Elizabeth
Bread Experience -  Cathy
Girlichef -  Heather
Life's a Feast -  Jaime
Lucullian Delights -  Ilva
My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna
Notitie van Lien - Lien


Romanian Easter Braid
makes one loaf
from The Festive Bread Book, by Kathy Cutler
 
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour, divided
1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (or use orange zest)
2/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Filling:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup finely ground almonds (or walnuts, poppy seeds, etc)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (or use orange zest)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze:
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk


Preparation:
Combine 2 cups flour , the yeast, and lemon zest in mixing bowl.

Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt until butter melts; remove from heat and let cool until it reaches 105 - 115 degrees F.

Add milk mixture and eggs to dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth - about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double - about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each into a 7 x 16-inch rectangle.

Use 1/3 of filling one each rectangle, spreading filling, but leaving a margin around edges; roll up jelly-roll style. Seal seam and ends. You will have three filled and sealed ropes.

Braid ropes; place on greased baking sheet.

Cover; let rise in warm place until double - about 30 minutes.

Make glaze and brush on loaf.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack.

(Optional: Make a sweet glaze with 1 tablespoon warm milk and enough powdered sugar to make a drizzle glaze. Drizzle cooled bread and then sprinkle with sliced almonds, for decoration, while glaze is still wet. Let dry.)


Monday, April 13, 2015

Using Sweetie's Sandwich Press

Sweetie loves panini type sandwiches and recently bought a sandwich press that is similar. I think true panini presses put grill marks on the sandwich and this one has flat plates, so you get a good golden brown crust but no grill marks. It is electric and very light and we even found a place to store it right below the microwave oven.

Today I decided to see if I could concoct a sandwich for lunch that would use up some grilled chicken breast. I put a very light coating of butter on two sides of the bread, then stacked them butter sides together. I built the sandwich on the top, unbuttered side. First I spread on a thin coat of pesto, then crumbled on some feta cheese. This was topped by some roasted red pepper and then the chicken breast. It was thick, so I sliced it through the middle and put each piece on half the sandwich. Ready for the grill.



It was the work of only a few minutes to use the sandwich press to not only grill the bread (buttered sides), but to flatten the sandwich, too. I love my grilled sandwiches flattened.



The result was delicious! Melted feta, warm pesto and pepper and chicken, crunchy toasted bread on the outside. Easy and fun.



For those who are following things, Sweetie is now over his cold/flu and out mowing the grass around the house. I'm almost over it (just a slight cough left) and I got in some weeding today. Eye glasses are ordered in should be here in a couple of weeks. This week I'll be posting a wonderful bread (and I'm the Kitchen of the Month, so I got to choose the recipe) on the 16th and a delicious cake on the 20th, so be sure to check back on those days.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Amazing


When I was growing up pancakes were part of a special breakfast, but not rare, at least as far as I remember. Waffles, on the other hand, were very special, perhaps because my Mom made the recipe that included stiffly beaten egg whites for giving the waffles both crispness and height. When you make the batter that way, it takes extra time to separate the eggs and an extra bowl to beat up the whites, so it is not the easiest thing to do. Pancakes depend on a chemical reaction, usually baking powder, for their loft, so they are quick and easy.

Now that it is finally strawberry time with local berries available on Hwy. 12, in my mind it is also waffle season. My lovely neighbor brought us a basket of berries and a jar of freshly made strawberry jam. Those are all the toppings necessary for the right waffle. So what's the right waffle? A waffle that is made with yeast and that you start the night before gets my vote. It's a Mollie Katzen recipe and it is called, with good reason, The Amazing Overnight Waffle. Because the yeast causes the batter to rise once it hits the hot waffle iron, no extra work with beaten egg whites is necessary. You do have to melt some butter before plugging in the waffle iron in the morning, and, once the butter cools, add an egg, then stir that mixture into the batter, but that is the work of just a few moments.


The waffles are really crisp and lovely on the outside and tender on the inside. They are just fine with maple syrup and butter, have been made by me with blueberries scattered over the batter once it goes into the hot waffle iron (as in photo above), would be super with crumbled bacon used the same way, but are out of this world wonderful topped with strawberries...and a few dots of fresh strawberry jam.

These waffles are amenable to having part of the flour be whole wheat if you want a more earthy flavor. A sprinkle of flax seeds would add some heart healthy nutrition, too. I've even made these in a gingerbread version! Just remember to start the batter the night before and leave it, covered, on the counter so the yeast has time to work it's magic. Once you see how easy they are and taste your first bite, you'll agree that they are amazing.

Amazing Overnight Waffles
from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe' Cookbook

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg (I used ¼ cup egg substitute)
Nonstick spray
Butter for the waffle iron
Sliced strawberries – optional, but nice

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl Add the milk and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature (or put in the fridge if room temp. is over 70 degrees F.)

The next morning, preheat the waffle iron. Melt the 6 tablespoons butter and let cool a bit. Beat the egg is a small bowl (unnecessary if using egg substitute) then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter. The batter may be a bit thin.

Lightly spray the hot waffle iron with non stick spray, top and bottom plates, and then butter a piece of bread and use that to rub some butter on top and bottom plates.

Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface…this varies by waffle iron…about 2/3 cup. Lower the top and cook until golden brown…it’s OK to check now and then, but while there is still a lot of steam coming out the sides of the iron, you may want to wait before lifting the lid. It takes about 2-3 minutes. You want it golden brown, but not too dark a brown.

Serve hot, right away, with strawberries and jam, or maple syrup, or toppings of your choice.


Note; If you have too many waffles for the number of people you are feeding, bake the leftover batter a little less than the ones you are eating, let cool on a baking rack, then freeze and store in the freezer tightly wrapped. Re-heat in the toaster.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Rice As A Craft Medium - Who Knew?


There are lots of ways to enjoy creativity. Baking is one of mine. Crafting is one of my daughter's. This year she found an new way to add painterly depth to colored eggs that is easy and cleans up beautifully. The original idea came from seeing a video of a kit being used. The kit had dry rice, small tubes of dye, small foam containers with lids and instructions. Hard boiled eggs were added to the cups of dyed rice, the cover put on, and the container shaken until the dye had transferred from the rice to the egg shell.

We did a variation. You should probably get used to the phrase "a variation" since it gets used a lot on this blog. We dyed the cooked eggs with standard tablet style Easter egg dyes, but then did the rice bit. Instead of using cups, we used self-closing baggies (ziploc bags), with about 1/3 cup dry rice and a generous amount of gel food color added.



First we mixed the dye and rice, then added the egg.



Shaking gave them the dappled and speckled finish.




For the red one we even put it in the blue dye bag briefly, so there are little bluish specks here and there...really pretty. Of course there is a fluffy (fake) chick to go with the eggs since it is Easter time.



I think my favorite is the yellow egg that went into a bag with orange dyed rice. It has an almost sponge painted look and is very cheerful.

If you do this yourself, get plenty of rice and a variety of gel colors. Make sure that they are food safe gel colors.

Have a sandwich baggie for each color.

Dye the eggs ahead of time or just start with white.


Either should give you an interesting finish.

Mix the gel color into the rice just before you plan to use it. The dry rice eventually soaks up all the dye and then not much gets transferred to the egg shell.

To clean up, put the dyed eggs in the fridge and seal and toss the dyed rice. Easy, not messy, and fun!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Achooo


Chicken soup...the time worn remedy for a cold. 

Well, I'm now to day six of a bad cold or the flu. Couldn't be the flu since I got my flu shot...or maybe this is a strain they left out. Hmmm. The doctors office said I should feel better in another couple of days, but good chicken soup would be insurance, right?, so it seemed like a good idea to have some. The packaged soup I've been having  just doesn't have the mojo that homemade chicken broth does, so I asked my sweet neighbor who raises chickens if she had any broth in the freezer...and she did. Wonderful, rich, organic broth that is as local as you can get.

Sweetie thawed out the broth for me and heated it up, too. I really don't have much energy, so I decided to go with a few items from the fridge and freezer, plus herbs.

I ladled some of her broth, heated until it almost boiled, on top of some frozen peas and frozen corn, then put in about 1/4 cup left over mashed Yukon potatoes, another ladle of broth, a few chunks of grilled chicken from last night (thanks Sweetie!), some dried thyme and a pinch of poultry seasoning and it looked just right. I added some more of that amazing chicken broth and heated the bowl up a bit in the microwave, then dug in. It might not cure me, but it sure made me feel loved.



You don't have to be sick to enjoy a simple, delicious soup like this (although it really helps to have a neighbor who is as good a cook and as nice as mine).

Achoooo. Excuse me...more tissues needed.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Orange Complements Chocolate In These Cookies


One of the pleasures of being a baker is spending time paging through cookbooks and surfing online on cooking sites to find ideas and recipes. Many experienced cooks then make little changes to the recipes they find to make the recipe their own. The important thing with baking recipes is to keep the proportions very close to or exactly like those in the recipe since baking is really chemistry and the right proportion of leaveners and salt and liquids to starches is important to avoid baked bricks or items that run all over the pan. An easy change is to swap out flavorings. Often you can jazz up a recipe by just exchanging almond extract for vanilla or coconut extract instead of lemon extract. Citrus zest...the colored part of the skin that has lots of essential oils...is another way of perking up a baked good.

These cookies are ones I found online at bettycrocker.com. They were called the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie and I was drawn to them because they make a soft cookie and that's the kind that Sweetie likes. I wasn't feeling like having nuts in them and I had a beautiful orange sitting on the window sill almost begging to be used, so I took out the nuts and added orange zest since I think that orange and chocolate is a great pairing. You may get a few less cookies without the nuts, or you can add in 1 cup chopped nuts of your choice as well as the orange zest, but these were really nice just the way I made them...soft, a little cakey in the center, crisp at the outer edges and truly delicious.

Because the garden continues to demand attention, today I planted some sprouted seeds of blue morning glories into pots. I had saved the seeds last fall from the plants that grew and twined around the tomatoes and the beans on the netting. They seem pretty vigorous so I hope to get enough plants to set out around this year's veggie seedlings in the next week or so. Hope you are thinking of growing something too. It's a great way to honor the coming of spring and having the mindfulness to keep plants going is a handy skill to develop. If you plant flowers you'll get something beautiful to make you smile and if you plant veggies, herbs or fruits you get the added bonus of something to eat.

Betty's Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies
a variation of a recipe found at bettycrocker.com

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Make sure you have a couple of baking sheets/cookie sheets
.
In a large bowl, cream the sugars and the butter. Add the vanilla and egg. Mix thoroughly. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and orange zest. Stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by generous 1 tablespoon dollops onto an ungreased baking sheet/cookie sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake 8 - 10 minutes until light brown. The center will be soft. Cool slightly on the pan, then transfer with a spatula to a cooling rack and finish cooling. Store in an airtight container.


Makes about 48 cookies.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Almost Like A Banana Split


It's almost spring! Yesterday I planted the first seedlings...snap peas...out in the garden and the rest of the seedlings are getting so big that I may just cross my fingers and hope there isn't a late frost and put them into the garden soon.

Another fun thing I did yesterday was to bake a cake for the month with the Cake Slice Bakers. My first plan was to make the Cinderella Cheesecake for Sweetie's birthday because he loves cheesecake and who can hate chocolate and peanut butter together? Unfortunately first I got sick and then he got sick and no cakes were made. The one that I made today, Banana Split Cake, had a lot of ingredients but it was much easier to put together than the cheesecake, plus I had all the ingredients.

This sweet little cake has all the flavors of a banana split...coconut and pineapple and nuts and the dairy flavor from cream cheese in the frosting, plus, of course, banana. I used dried cherries instead of the neon red ones in the jar because I'm not happy with eating all those chemicals, but otherwise kept to the recipe. I baked half the recipe in a small Bundt pan and gave half to the firemen next door who had been training so hard today, kept a piece for myself and gave the rest to neighbors. Sweetie is still feeling poorly so he didn't want any.


This is a moist cake with a loose crumb and it's very flavorful with all those yummy add-ins. You don't even need a mixer because the cake batter gets stirred together by hand. The frosting called for using a mixer but I went with a small whisk instead and it worked fine. That cream cheese frosting with the flavor of pineapple really goes well with the cake and looks pretty, too. I decided to top the cake simply with just chopped pecans, but you could go wild and use coconut, chocolate syrup or hot fudge, those neon cherries or anything else you like.

Do check out the other Cake Slice Bakers to see which of the recipes they chose to bake. There is a really nice assortment this month!



Small Banana Split Cake
based on recipe in The Southern Cake Book by Southern Living magazine
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries (the original recipe calls for an 8 oz jar maraschino cherries, drained)
10 oz crushed pineapple in juice (7 oz when drained)
4 oz. packaged cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Garnishes: grated milk chocolate, chopped pecans, hot fudge sauce, maraschino cherries with stems, toasted sweetened flaked coconut

Note: I used dried cherries instead of the maraschino and added them with the pecans and coconut instead of with the pineapple. I added the vanilla to the egg mixture instead of after the bananas.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan. (If using a full size Bundt pan, double the ingredients.)
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl combine eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir well with a fork to combine. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in mashed bananas, pecans, coconut and dried cherries.
Drain pineapple, reserving the juice. Gently press the pineapple between layers of paper towels. Stir pineapple into banana mixture. Spoon into prepared Bundt pan. Even the top and rap pan on counter or table twice to settle ingredients into Bundt grooves.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack until completely cool, about 1 hour.

Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in  1 tablespoon of the reserved pineapple juice (and use rest of juice for another purpose). Pour frosting over cake and garnish as desired. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Playing in Tanna's Sandbox


If you have been following the Bread Baking Babes journey of bread making and fun, you know that Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups is our ringleader, calling us to play with bread and experiment with flours and seeds and techniques and then maybe even find a nice bottle of wine to go with that bread. This month Tanna invoked spring by inviting us to play in her sandbox and make a delightful loaf, Granary Bread. This is actually a sort of trademarked bread since there is a company in England that sells Granary Bread flour. The recipe calls for malted wheat flakes, too. Who knew that those flakes would be difficult to find?

A little sidebar on my month might be helpful here. Sweetie has been ferrying me around since late February because I finally had cataract surgery and the new glasses I will need in order to be safe to drive won't get to me for a while yet. I've also had a series of minor illnesses, so he was a trooper and actually hunted for the malted flakes for me...from store to store, with help from their workers. I really appreciate his help and am grateful that he did find some lovely crimped barley flakes, which made a lovely loaf. Barley malt syrup added the malt note and I had a bag of King Arthur Irish whole meal flour which I used, too. 

It may not have been the same as what I would get with the Granary flour, but it made a delicious loaf. Slices were awesome toasted and made great sandwiches, too.

Thank you Tanna for a wonderful recipe! All you potential Buddies, this is a great bread to have in your playground, too. Bake it up, take a photo or two and send an e-mail to Tanna before the 29th to be included in the round-up.



Be sure to check out the beautiful bread made by my fellow Babes:
Bake My Day  -  Karen
Blog from OUR Kitchen  -  Elizabeth
Bread Experience  -  Cathy
Girlichef  -  Heather
Life's a Feast  -  Jaime
Lucullian Delights  -  Ilva
My Diverse Kitchen  - Aparna
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna
Notitie van Lien - Lien

I enjoyed making the Granary Bread but goofed when it came time to put it in the oven. It had a really nice dome over the top of the pan, but when I scored the top with the lame, the top deflated and didn't re-inflate in the oven, so the top was lop sided. Otherwise it was great - nice crust and moist close crumb inside, with lots of grain flavor.

Granary-Style Loaf

Recipe By: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/granary-style-loaf-recipe#reviews
Yield: 2 loaves

Summary:

This is a bread beloved by the British. We call it "granary-style" loaf because Granary Flour is a proprietary brand sold by a specific company in England. But it's reasonably easy to replicate by the savvy bread baker. Here's our version, close to the English, a full-flavored bread with a hint of sweetness and a bit of crunch.

Ingredients (this is the list that I used, not the original...go to Tanna'ssite or King Arthur for the original):

2 cups lukewarm water
1 to 2 tablespoons barley malt syrup
1 cup barley flakes
1 cup King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup KA Irish whole meal flour
1 scant tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 to 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose
1 cup KA 9-grain bread

Directions:

1. Pour the 2 cups of water into a mixing bowl. Stir in the barley malt syrup, barley flakes and white wheat flour plus whole meal flour. Mix in the yeast, and allow this sponge to work for 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the butter or oil, salt, 1 cup 9-grain flour and about 1 1/2 cups of the all-purpose or bread flour. Add flour slowly until you have a shaggy mass that begins to hold together and pull away from the sides of the bowl.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or lightly greased work surface, and knead until it's cohesive. Give it a rest while you clean out and lightly oil your bowl. Continue kneading for several minutes, adding only enough flour (or oil) to keep the dough from sticking to you or the work surface.

4. Return the dough to the bowl, turning to coat all sides, cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until it's doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Gently deflate the dough, cut it in half, and shape each half into a log. Place the logs in two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch bread pans. Allow the loaves to rise, covered, until they're about three-quarters of the way to doubled.

5. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf registers 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, remove it from the pans, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool. (I took the bread out of the pan and placed it in the oven for another 5 minutes to get a good crust on the lower part before putting it on a rack to cool.)