Tuesday, August 16, 2016

BBB makes Beignets - my first deep fried experience

Well this was a first for me, I've never actually deep fried before.  Pan-fried, but not deep fried.  My kids were excited to try these out and started quoting lines from Disney's Princess and the Frog, about "man-catching beignets".  They both really liked how they turned out too!  I made mine with light spelt flour and ended up having to add twice as much almost to end up with something still sticky but at least not like batter.  I thought I had reduced the liquid enough but apparently not.  So they turned out slightly chewy.  Great flavor, but I am thinking they should be more tender and melt in the mouth, like a raised yeast donut.  Having never had one, I don't know what the texture should be!  They were delicious though.

I have a gas stove and wasn't all that keen on the thought of deep frying over an open flame source, so I grabbed an inexpensive and small deep fryer from amazon.  I was very pleased with how it worked, especially the fact that it didn't heat up the kitchen at all, since it is sweltering this week.  Next time I may leave the dough super sticky and just make sure to flour the board extremely well.  I kind of did my own thing with the recipe, hardly reading the directions for forming the dough and just throwing it together as usual.  It was pretty forgiving considering the crazy morning I had while making it.  Our kitty, who had escaped and been missing for three days, turned up in a neighbor's yard, they called us, and she promptly disappeared.  So we called and tapped food cans for her for half an hour while my dough sat out, forgotten.  I had made it the night before anyway though and just stuck it in the fridge, so all it did was happily come to room temperature.  Then, an hour later, she turned up in a live trap that our friends had lent us, so my cut squares again were forgotten for 20 minutes.  Our family was noticeably happier today with kitty safely back inside.  We thought, (the adults at least), that she was gone for good.  All that to say, even with all the abuse, the recipe still turned out some great fried dough!

If you want to try your hand at deep frying and see what all the other babes have come up with for their beignets, please bake along with us as a buddy this month!  You don't have to turn on the oven even!  Perks are bragging rights for awesome beignets, tasty fried dough treats, and a buddy badge to add to your post.  All you have to do is make some beignets between now and the 29th, and send your picture and/or post to the host kitchen at Feeding My Enthusiasms.  There are many options, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, banana filled, savory, whatever you can imagine.  Ooo, Nutella filled...  Yes, I felt it prudent to only make half a batch.

makes 16-18
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 (¼-oz) pkg. active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
¼ cup sugar
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and baking sheet
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I used non-dairy margarine)
½ cup whole milk (I used soy creamer)
1 large egg

8 cups safflower oil for frying (my little fryer uses 2 cups oil - I used a combination of refined coconut, canola, and avocado oil)
1-2 bananas (optional)
Confectioners' sugar and/or cinnamon sugar, for coating

For the dough:

Activate the yeast with the water and sugar, in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let it stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and nutmeg.  Add the soft butter and egg to the yeast mixture and whisk lightly with a fork before adding the milk.  Mix in 1½ cups of the flour mixture to combine, then add 1¾ cups more flour mixture and mix until incorporated.  The dough will be quite sticky.  Turn out the dough onto a well floured surface. Knead in remaining ¼ cup flour mixture by hand until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. 

Place dough in a bowl, covered loosely with plastic wrap.  Let it stand in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.   (I stuck mine directly in the fridge overnight and let it come to room temperature in the morning.)  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch down. Use a bench scraper to cut dough in half if making two kinds of beignets. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out one portion of dough into a 9-inch square.  Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into approximately 3-inch squares.  Transfer squares to a floured baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes.  (I've seen some of the refrigerated recipes call for frying the dough while still cold.  I am glad I let mine proof until puffy.)

Roll out the second portion of dough into a 9-inch by 18-inch rectangle.  Place banana slices in square groups of four slices on one half of the dough, leaving a small space between groups of bananas.  Fold the other half of the dough over the bananas.  Press down using the edge of your hand between the groups of bananas to seal.  Cut between the groups using the pizza wheel or a sharp knife. Transfer banana squares to a floured baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium pot or deep-fryer until it registers 350ºF on a deep-fry thermometer. 

Working in batches, add a few squares to the oil and fry, rolling them around constantly with a slotted spoon or spider, until golden brown all over, 1 to 2 minutes.  (I just fried them one side at a time and flipped when they were light golden.  Too dark and they got a bit too chewy in the crust.)

Transfer beignets to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Coat with confectioners' sugar (regular beignets) or cinnamon sugar (banana beignets), and repeat process with remaining dough and more confectioners' sugar.  (If you want them to be perfect squares, you can slice off any rounded edges and fry them up for tasty testers!)

Beignets are best served fresh and warm.  We really enjoyed them.  All in one day.  As it should be.  Again, half batch for a reason.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What's a Bialy?? The BBB make Bialys!


Our challenge this month comes from Poland!  I've never been to New York much less Poland, or anywhere you might find a bialy, so this was my first exposure to these oniony delights.  You might liken it somewhat to an onion bagel, but that would be selling it quite short.  My prejudice against bagels is that they are too dense and chewy.  Almost universally hard on the jaw from my experience.  Bagels are boiled and then baked, which is what gives them their characteristic shiny crust.  Bagels and bialys are both Polish pastries, but the bialy is baked only, and has less flour.  This gives it a matte crust and a lighter texture, though it is still nicely chewy.  It also has a depression instead of a hole.  This is almost always filled with onions, garlic, poppy seed, breadcrumbs, or some combination thereof.  

My variation was traditional onion and poppy seed and based largely on the classic bialys recipe posted by King Arthur.  I used half all purpose flour and half light spelt flour, plus a bit of sourdough starter.  Delightful flavor and texture.  It was absolutely stellar dipped in our stew for lunch!  My youngest really liked the bread, but not the filling, so when I found cast off bits of bialy that had filling touching them from the ones she had been sneaking, I banned her from the bread board and made them disappear.  Really, imagine not liking caramelized onions, whose child is this?!  Maybe it was the poppy seeds.  If I left them plain or tried breadcrumbs, I'm sure she would be noshing on these constantly.  My kids have always liked chewy breads.  Eldest raved about them, especially after dipping in the stew gravy.

To see the variations presented by the host kitchen, go to judy's gross eats.  She tested two versions, one with a sourdough starter/poolish, and one with a preferment.   My version utilized an overnight rise in the fridge, and it filled my stand mixer bowl by morning.  These won't last quite as long as bagels, but they freeze and reheat wonderfully and are supposedly great split and toasted with butter.  As to whether to eat around the filling and save it for last, or dig straight in, I ripped mine apart and savored the filling part first, then enjoyed the chewy roll part.  We would love for you to bake along with us this month!  Just pick a day or two between now and the 29th to bake them up, then send an email to our host kitchen with your post and/or picture to be included in the buddy round-up.

Classic Bialys
Adapted from King arthur
makes 12 bialys

843g flour (I used 400g light spelt and 443g all purpose)
2 ¾ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp instant yeast (I used 1½ tsp active dry because I'm out of instant, boohoo!)
½ tsp onion powder
510g water (I used about 490g water and a large spoonful of unfed sourdough starter.)

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
¼ teaspoon salt
3 to 4 grinds fresh black pepper
14g olive oil (I ended up using three to four times this much)
farina or cornmeal for pans

For the dough:  Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and onion powder in the bowl of a stand mixer.  With a dough hook, add the water (and sourdough starter) and mix until just combined, 1 or 2 minutes at low speed.  Stop the mixer and let sit for 20 minutes, covered. (This is perfect treatment for spelt flour)

Now uncover the bowl and knead at medium speed for 4-8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  (Less time for spelt, longer for all purpose.)

Cover and refrigerate the dough overnight for a slow rise that will develop the dough's flavor.

(Start the filling before taking the dough out of the fridge.)
Next day, divide the dough into 12 pieces (I divided mine by weight) and round each into a ball.  Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet or oiled parchment, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

For the filling:  Pulse the onion in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped, but not liquid.  Mix in the poppy seed, salt, and pepper.  Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion mixture for a few minutes over medium-low heat until the liquid cooks off and the onion is very slightly caramelized.  (A few minutes is simply not correct, this took at least 40 minutes for me and much more oil to help the onions move and caramelize, even after moving the heat closer to medium.)  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  (This is why you start it before taking out the dough, so you don't burn your fingers filling the first batch with your just caramelized onion mixture!)

To shape and bake: Lightly sprinkle 2 baking sheets with farina or cornmeal, or line with parchment paper.  Take each dough ball and stretch it into a bagel shape about 6" to 7" in diameter, without puncturing the center, and leaving a wide, flat indentation where the hole would be. Place a few inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, 6 per pan. 

Place a scant teaspoon of the onion filling in the indentation and spread it out with your fingers. Don't overfill; a little goes a long way.  (I technically used a bit too much with a generous tsp instead of a scant one.)

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove the bialys from the oven and serve warm, or cool on a rack and save for toasting later. 

A little tip from the bakers at King Arthur:  "Resist the temptation to be generous with the onions: the moisture in them can keep the center of the bialy from cooking at the same speed as the edges, causing the center to puff up like a topknot."

(My youngest happily ate an entire reheated bialy today, after I had scraped the filling out.  Oy vey.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The BBB bakes Bran Bread

I laughed when I saw my title for our Bread Baking Babes recipe was BBB BBB.  It's kind of funny, right, or am I just too easily amused?  Well, our challenge was to go healthy this month.  Fiber and whole grains are a nutritional buzzword, pushed by doctors and the AHA for their health benefits.  However, they are not necessarily easy to eat.  I decided to make it easier on my tummy with all that whole wheat and bran, and did a soaked version.  Same recipe, slightly different method.  The soaking gives the phytase enzyme, already there in the grain, time to deactivate the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid in the wholemeal flour that will bind minerals and prevent absorption.  It also makes the protein easier to digest and makes nutrients more bio-available than conventional short method baking.  My girls and I tested wheat sensitive, which is why I usually go with spelt or all purpose flour which has fewer of the reactive proteins.  But we can eat a soaked method loaf without a tummy ache.  Here's to traditional methods, I guess they knew what they were doing!  It also seems that the soaked method, for me, has been less likely to produce a brick.  You know, what people expect from a 100% whole wheat loaf:  a heavy, dense bread with perhaps a bitter flavor, and not the most palatable thing to eat.  Of course modern palates are not used to that flavor any more either.  I choose hard white wheat flour for that reason.  It is still 100% whole grain, but the flavor profile has less of that red wheat bitterness and its baking properties are closer to all purpose as well.  You can use orange juice to successfully offset and neutralize some of the whole wheat flavor in many recipes though.

I did use a portion of wholemeal emmer flour that actually has a rather coarse grind and much darker color, but is not reactive to us because it is an ancient grain like spelt.  They're all related - spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn; early forms of wheat before the hybridization that has risen to our modern wheat.  The protein was not nearly as strong, which is why they can be tricky to work with if you're only used to all purpose flour.  The bran in whole grain flour also has a tendency to cut the gluten strands that give a loaf structure.  This is one of the reasons whole wheat bread tends to be heavy.  There are ways around that, such as sifting out the bran and adding it in later, proper hydration of the dough before kneading, folding instead of kneading, things like that.  I think that is why soaking helps lighten a whole meal loaf.  I used oat bran instead of wheat bran in my loaf and found that it does not absorb nearly as much water as wheat bran.  So I ended up having to add in another 100g flour and ¼ cup sprouted rolled oats to make up for the extra water I added for the bran.  I let the dough stay on the slightly sticky side, but it was still willing to mostly clean the edge of the mixing bowl.  On the next day, I added three additional folds to strengthen and align the gluten so it would be able to rise and give a nicer dome to the loaf.  Since I ended up with two loaves, I gave one to a friend for her family to try out.  They messaged me the next morning saying that they had really liked it and thank you!  Hooray, success!  I tried it toasted and it was very good.  My mom would really love this bread, especially since I used dates instead of raisins.  (Didn't have enough raisins.)  I made sandwich loaves, but the original recipe actually called for free form rounds.  Oops.  Turned out fine anyway.

If you are hankering to try out a nice, healthy whole grain bread, please bake along with us!  You can try my soaked version, or go to the host kitchen at Notitie Van Lien to see the original.  Bake it and submit your picture and/or blog post to her by the 29th and you will get a Buddy Badge to display and be included in a buddy round up.

Whole Wheat Bran Bread
makes 2 loaves

500g whole wheat flour (I used 100g emmer and 400g white whole wheat + an extra 100g for my extra water)
350-400g water (I started with 350 and added 100 for the bran.  Didn't need that much for oat bran.)
2 tsp (10 ml) apple cider vinegar (more for soaked method, but also helps strengthen gluten in whole wheat loaves)
50-100g (organic) wheat bran (I used 50g oat bran + ¼ cup sprouted rolled oats.)
  • up to 200g extra water per 50g wheat bran used (oat bran may only require equal portions water)
20g fresh yeast, or 6-7g instant yeast
1 tbsp malt flour, light or dark (or honey) (I used ½ tbsp barley malt + a tsp of honey and tbsp muscovado sugar) 
30g butter
1½ tsp fine sea salt
50g milk powder (optional, or use a portion of milk for the water) (I used my whole goat milk powder)
200g walnuts or raisins (or both, ½ and ½) (I used chopped deglet noor dates)

See the original post for standard recipe instructions.

Soaked method:

Combine flour, water, bran, malt or honey, butter, salt, and milk powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix until fully incorporated and let rest for 10-15 minutes.  Check the consistency to see if it needs more water for the bran.  (Mine needed more flour because of the difference in absorption between oat and wheat bran.)  Mix until the dough starts to clean the edges of the bowl and pull away.  It should still be slightly sticky but more interested in sticking to itself than a finger.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until next day.

The next day, dissolve yeast in a small dish with a tbsp water and ½ tsp honey until foamy.  Mix into the dough on low speed until evenly incorporated and dough pulls away from edges again.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.  Turn out onto a floured board and press out and gently pull into a rectangle.  (For me, the dough was slightly slack but not too sticky with a floured board.)  Fold in long edges to the center, turn and press down slightly, then fold in the other edges again to the center.  Place, seam side down, in the bowl again.  Repeat this twice more for a total of three folds.

Divide the dough and dates in two and place one dough back in the bowl.  Give the first dough another fold, then roll out into a rectangle, 8 inches wide.  Sprinkle with 2/3 of the chopped dates for that loaf.  Lightly press them down and fold the dough in half.  Gently roll it out again and sprinkle evenly with the remaining dates for that loaf.  Roll up the dough, jelly roll style and pinch the seam together.  Place seam side down in a buttered 8x4" loaf pan.  Cover.  Repeat with remaining dough and dates.

Preheat oven to 400º F.  Let loaves rise, covered, until dough has crested the edge of the pan by about ½-¾".  These are not huge loaves.  Throw some steam on for the first 5-10 minutes if desired.  (Heat a metal tin in the oven while preheating and toss some water in it and quickly close the door.)  Bake for around 30 minutes until well browned and done.  (At least 190-200ºF internal temp.)  You may turn down the heat to 350º during the last 5-10 minutes of baking, or tent with foil if the crust is getting too dark.  Turn out the loaves to cool on a rack.  Make sure the bread has completely cooled before slicing.

Makes wonderful toast!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pretzel Stuffed Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salty and sweet is a combination I have loved since high school.  A friend introduced me to the joy of dipping french fries into a chocolate shake.  Now that friend also regularly ate peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.  I'll have to pass on that one.  This recipe is a complete rework of one I had previously posted as pretzel crusted cookies.  When I went back to it, I decided I didn't really like the way the cookies turned out as much as I thought I had.  They were pretty, but more like candy, and not tooth friendly.  I completely reworked the ratios and tweaked ingredients.  It's a whole new cookie and after a few tries, I absolutely love it.  If you wanted to bump it up and add some peanut butter chips, it would be like a Take 5 Candy Bar cookie!  They were quite popular at a recent homework club meeting for dessert.

Pretzel Stuffed Chocolate Chunk Cookies
make 2½ dozen large cookies

2¼ cups light spelt flour
1 cup rolled oats, finely ground
2 tbsp arrowroot starch
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups light brown muscovado sugar
¼ cup evaporated cane sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup (heaping) white chocolate chunks
1½ cups pretzels, chopped

Combine melted butter and sugars in a mixer until completely incorporated.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then mix in vanilla.  Mix in the ground oatmeal.  (Oatmeal may be ground with a blender, food processor, or coffee/spice grinder.)  Sift together the flour, soda, baking powder, starch and salt, and add to the creamed mixture gradually until incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips, white chocolate chunks, and pretzels by hand.  Let the dough stand for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line baking sheets with parchment and place 2 tbsp scoops of dough on paper, 3 inches apart.  Press a mini pretzel on top of each scoop if desired.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges are lightly golden. Allow to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container when cool.  These cookies also freeze well.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Spring Focaccias with the BBB

When I first saw the beautiful picture of a spring herbed focaccia with fresh garden greens and pansies, I still knew I was going to look for spring fruits and not vegetables.  I'll never get rid of my sweet tooth so I might as well make the best of it.  I looked up seasonal fruits for April and May.  Some of these may be a bit early in some areas, but here they are starting to be seen in the farmer's market.  I quickly narrowed my choices down to nectarines, blackberries, and goat cheese with honey.  I was thinking of some complementary flavors as well and confirmed them along with some extras, in my hitherto unused Flavor Bible.  Such a cool resource, check your local library!  The original recipe used a sourdough focaccia, which is cool and would probably last well.  I was going to do that, but then found my recipe for Dan Lepard's focaccia and I love his breads!  So I went with that.  I did end up having to add a tbsp more water to my American flour because the original recipe I was using called for tipo 00 flour which has a lower water absorption.  The King Arthur flour I used made a very strong dough.  I could have done one less stretch and fold because I was doing double folds where you do the thirds both lengthwise and width wise.  So really I ended up with six folds instead of three.  But it made a fabulously chewy focaccia with plenty of holes, wonderful texture and crispy crust.  I love how the whole thing turned out and would make it again in a heartbeat.  We had it for dessert.

While I hadn't planned on doing another flavor variation, I was inspired by the contents of our CSA bag that morning and stuck the other foot in.  The Flavor Bible helped me out there too.  I had lovely little spring onions and asparagus to use.  Add a leek, garlic, potatoes, and some fontina cheese and we had dinner, further topped with basil and shaved Parmesan.  Almost didn't need the Parmesan, the fontina was great on its own.

This made a great light, but filling dinner.  I recommend making sure it comes out of the oven at dinner time, or is reheated right before dinner.  It is at its best when it is nice and hot.

Youngest daughter wasn't convinced by the nectarines in the sweeter focaccia, but she was obviously delirious.  The whole thing was phenomenal.  I might bump up the candied ginger because it mellowed wonderfully in the oven.  It really was one of those things that practically makes you swoon when you taste it.  Hubby even said it could replace coffee cake for breakfast.  He prefers less sweet anyway.  The lime zest gave a perfect balance of bitter and a subtle hint of flavor, beautifully rounded out by the lime thyme.  That thyme goes so well with the fruit, I could cry.  Tempted to try it in an ice cream.  If you can get your hands on some lime or even lemon thyme, I highly recommend it.  I love the brightness of it, and that hint of citrus flavor it adds is just subtle enough.

If you'd like to try out your own idea for a spring focaccia, check out the host kitchen's post at Bread Experience.  Bake it and submit your picture and/or blog post to her by the 29th and you will get a Buddy Badge to display and be included in a buddy round up.  She used a fabulous sourdough based focaccia recipe, but your favorite focaccia will be just fine.  I was thrilled with Dan Lepard's recipe.  No surprise there, I had high expectations for it.  I think I did use almost all (like 75-80%) if not all regular all purpose flour instead of my usual spelt.  Maybe I will try it with spelt next time and see if I can coax that wonderful chewiness and thin crispy crust out of it.  This time I wanted insurance!  Here is the recipe I used, it takes a while but is mostly hands off time so it can be started in the morning and be ready for dinner.

Dan Lepard's Focaccia with a Spring Topping
makes 2 9x13" flat breads or one half sheet flat bread

200g water, room temp
150g flour
2.5g instant yeast (That's about ¾ tsp, or a generous 1 tsp active dry yeast)

150g water, room temp (I needed one more tbsp than this)
15 ml olive oil plus more for folding
375g flour
10 g fine sea salt

In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the preferment.  Cover and leave in a warm spot for an hour.  Give it a stir, then cover for another hour.  It should be bubbly and increased in size by almost double.  It may take more time in a cool kitchen.

Mix in the water and oil for the dough, then add the salt and flour until roughly combined.  Cover and rest for 10 minutes.

Oil your hands and the work surface with a little olive oil.  Work the dough by holding with one hand and gently stretching out with the other hand.  Fold it back on itself and then rotate the dough.  Do this folding knead about 10 times.  Re-oil the surface if it starts to stick.  Cover and rest for 10 minutes.

Repeat the kneading process twice more with 10 minute breaks.  The dough should now me smooth and elastic.  Cover and rest for 40 minutes.  (Divide dough now if making two smaller flat breads.)

Now the dough will go through some stretch and folds to promote the big holes in the finished bread.  Stretch and press the dough out into a rectangle.  Then fold into thirds, one end in first and then the other.  Try not to degas the dough too much as you do this.  Cover and let rest for 40 minutes.

Stretch and fold the dough twice more, waiting 40 minutes between folds.  When the dough has been folded 3 times, cover and rest for 30 minutes before final shaping. 

Line baking tray(s) with parchment and rub the paper with olive oil.  Place the dough in the center and lightly flatten with the tips of your fingers.  It's okay if it springs back.  Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425º F.

Gently pull the dough out by the corners toward the edges of the tray, lifting and stretching.  Press out from the middle with fingertips if needed, just don't deflate the dough.  To make a plain flat bread, sprinkle with a little water and oil.  Otherwise, drizzle with a little oil and arrange desired toppings before baking.  Bake for 15 minutes, (I added a bit of steam initially), then reduce heat to about 390ºF and bake for another 15 minutes or until done.  Cool on a wire rack.  The topped focaccias are delicious when eaten warm, like pizza.

What I used for my toppings:

Spring Fruit Focaccia:

Drizzle of olive oil
1-2 tbsp candied ginger, minced
zest of half a lime
1 medium nectarine, sliced
1 small pkg blackberries
Goat cheese
1 tbsp fresh lime thyme, chopped

Mix the ginger and lime zest together and sprinkle over the dough.

Arrange the nectarines on top of the dough.  If the blackberries are the huge, cultivated ones, they may need to be cut in half before adding them.  Mine were that type.

Break small chunks of goat cheese and sprinkle them evenly over the top of the fruit.  Drizzle a small amount of honey (like a teaspoon or less) lightly over the top of everything, avoiding the edges.  (It will burn on the pan if it drips over.)

Bake the bread.  Remove from the oven and drizzle all over with a good teaspoon or so of wildflower or blackberry honey.  Then sprinkle evenly with the lime thyme.  Enjoy warm.  It reheats wonderfully as well.

Potato Asparagus Leek Focaccia:

Plan ahead and cook the potatoes while the dough is resting.

2 small yellow potatoes, thinly sliced
4-5 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1 inch chunks
4 spring onions, sliced
1 small leek, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
fontina cheese
fresh basil, chiffonade
Parmesan cheese, shaved (optional)

Put the minced garlic in a little dish with enough olive oil to cover and set aside.  Put the sliced potatoes in a small pot of lightly salted water and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 8 minutes, just until al dente.  Add the asparagus the last minute or so to blanch.  Drain and set aside in a pot of cold water to hold until ready to use.  The leeks and onions can go in the cold water pot as well and drain all before topping the bread.

Spread the garlic and olive oil over the dough.  Arrange the potato slices evenly over the dough.  Repeat with the asparagus, onions and leeks.  (I ended up with a little too much topping and overloaded my bread a bit.  Still tasted good though!)

Arrange thinly sliced fontina over the top and bake the bread.  When bread has cooled slightly, top with basil chiffonade and shaved Parmesan if desired.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Chicken Noodle Soup in Under an Hour

This updated chicken soup is one of our all time favorites.  We've always loved it and it was the first recipe my eldest learned to make almost all by herself.  But sometimes when we used store bought stock, it just seemed to be missing something in the way of flavor.  I finally found what that missing element was and can't believe I didn't figure it out before.  A simple bay leaf makes all the difference in the world.  Turmeric is another addition to the old standby that we have been using for a year or so.  The turmeric adds warmth and color, and bay leaf adds supporting notes that range from a hint of balancing bitterness (the uegenol compound)  to a round, subtle, tea-like quality.  They both make it taste rich and long simmered and we wouldn't go without them again!  Using rotisserie chicken makes this dinner even more quick and easy. You can pick up a rotisserie chicken and pick it yourself, or get the pre-picked meat in a nice big package worth three dinners if you happen to have a Costco close by.

Another way to make this soup and still have it be quick and convenient is to just drop in a few frozen chicken tenders with the broth. By the time the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, they are perfectly done and can be fished out and chopped quickly.

Recipe first posted March 17, 2010.  Updated ingredients and pictures.  We usually like to DOUBLE this recipe!

Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
About 4 servings

2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken meat
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water
1 Qt chicken broth or stock (32 oz. pkg)
2 medium celery stalks, chopped
4 small carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
¼-½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
¼ tsp lemon pepper
1 dash tabasco
1 cup fusilli or farfalle

In a 4 qt saucepan, saute the carrots, celery and onions in the olive for a few minutes until they start to soften.  Sprinkle with turmeric and cook for another minute.  Add the broth, water, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon pepper, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  Add chicken and return to a boil.  Add noodles and cook for the time listed on the pasta package or until noodles and vegetables are tender.  Taste and adjust your seasonings if desired. 
The tabasco brightens up any soup, but you could add a splash of lemon or vinegar of your choice if you don't want that extra heat.  This is a simple soup with basic veggies.  Feel free to customize and add your favorites.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thai Chicken Soup

This is one of our favorite soups from a well loved magazine of soups and stews by Better Homes and Gardens.  I have made it many times and it's always eaten with happy noises and taken in thermos containers for lunch the next day.  I finally availed myself of the option of getting some of the big packages of cooked roasted chicken meat that Costco makes from its unsold whole rotisserie chickens.  I never even knew about that until last year, but it sure makes throwing together a last minute meal that much easier.  Easy enough to dispel the possibility of falling back on fast food.  If you pre-portion the chicken pieces and freeze them, you can thaw them fairly quickly for a meal, or even just dump the frozen chunk into a soup to thaw and heat through in about 10 minutes.  I made another favorite soup from the previous page last night with the first chicken portion and avocados that I had also picked up at Costco.  Those, I had prepared ahead for that soup by mashing with lime juice and freezing.  So yummy, I'll have to share that one next time I make it since there is still one more pack of avocado in the freezer.

The first time I made this soup, my youngest wasn't so sure about the mushrooms.  That was over two years ago though and now she loves them, I think in no small part due to this recipe.  It has nice color from the carrots and peppers, and even more if you garnish it with some fresh cilantro or parsley.  A great soup for any time of year.

Thai Chicken Soup
Serves 6
From Soups and Stews by BHG

2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about a cup)
1 32 oz. carton chicken broth (or 1 Qt home made)
2 cups carrots, sliced on the diagonal (4 medium carrots)
1 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups cubed or shredded roasted chicken
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (8 oz)
1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½" pieces
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts (optional)
¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro (or freeze dried, 2 tbsp)
Lime wedges (optional)

In a large soup pot, cook and stir ginger  and garlic in hot oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds.  Add the onion and cook and stir for 4-6 minutes until the onion is tender.
Add broth and bring to a boil.
Stir in carrots, lemon peel, and red pepper flakes.  Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes until the carrots are tender.
Add the chicken, mushrooms, coconut milk, and red bell pepper and heat through.  Add dried cilantro at this time if using.
To serve, top each bowl with a sprinkle of peanuts and cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges on the side if desired.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Simply Delicious Butter Pecan Ice Cream

I mentioned before how pleased we were with the Cuisinart Simple Chocolate ice cream recipe.  My kids absolutely love it and it is certainly the very best of all the many chocolate recipes I have tried.  But I found one I like even better:  Butter Pecan.  It is so simple, just their vanilla recipe with buttered pecans added in, but I found it absolutely divine.  You can find the recipes online through Cuisinart and the manuals, and while I mention that, I must say that I am extremely happy with the new ice cream maker we got from them.  I upgraded from our old one because Williams Sonoma had a special for the machine and two freezing bowls.  I used to have a compressor style gelato freezer, but the compressor died sooner than I liked and I was not going to invest that much money again for such small capacity and lack of durability.  So having two freezer bowls meant I could still make a least two flavors in a short period of time.  You can make a full batch of simple vanilla ice cream and a half batch of the buttered pecans and stir them into half of the finished vanilla after scooping it out, and you get two flavors for one churning!  The recipes only make 5 cups worth, so there will be a generous pint of each that way.

Buttered Pecan Ice Cream
makes about 5 cups
from Cuisinart

4 tbsp unsalted butter (or use a bit less salt if using salted butter)
1 cup pecans, broken into large chunks
1 tsp sea salt

1 cup whole milk
¾ cup cane sugar
pinch sea salt
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Melt butter in a skillet.  Add pecans and 1 tsp sea salt.  Cook and stir for about 6-8 minutes over medium low heat until pecans are toasted, golden and fragrant.  Remove from the heat and remove the pecans from the butter.  Cover and chill them in the refrigerator.  You may save the flavor infused butter for use in another recipe, like pecan waffles or pancakes.

(What follows with the remaining ingredients is also the recipe for Simple Vanilla ice cream.)

In a medium bowl or in a blender, mix with hand mixer/blender on low speed to combine the milk, sugar, and salt until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Stir in the cream and vanilla.  Cover and chill for 1-2 hours until cold, or overnight.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  Just before mixing is finished, add in the reserved pecans and mix in completely.  The ice cream will be soft and creamy.  To cure and have firm ice cream, store the ice cream in an airtight container and freeze for about 2 hours or overnight.  Remove from freezer 10-15 minutes before serving.

I have found that these simple ice creams stay fairly scoopable, even straight from the freezer.

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