Posts Tagged With: Bread

Croque-madames with Swiss Cheese and Dijon Mustard

Every once in awhile, someone will comment that they, “haven’t seen any new recipes on the food blog in awhile” – and I sheepishly look anywhere but in their eyes when I explain that I let scratchbatch slip off to the sidelines while I did “more important things.”  I’ve been cooking like the rest of us, but finding the moments to record those kitchen expeditions somehow became increasingly difficult.

In the time that’s elapsed since I discussed scones in all their glory, I have written many papers, earned a degree, lived abroad, and returned home.  With time on my side and a desire to jump back into my little culinary universe, I thought a second attempt to rejoin the blogosphere might not be such a bad idea.  To get back in the groove, I’ve got an easy and deliciously messy sandwich suggestion that might just redefine your concept of “breakfast for dinner.”  I present to you:  the croque (et oui, with a French name, it sells better !) or upscale, reinvented grilled cheese.

Doesn't look like a bonnet to me...

Perhaps this is a surprising choice – why make something that might equate diner food ?  The answer is fairly simple: it’s easy and you almost always have the ingredients hiding in the fridge to make it.  The other evening, I was sitting with the living room with my parents.  My mom looks up from her computer, pouts a little, and starts to brainstorm what to have for dinner.  A certain paresse has prevented any new groceries from entering the premises and creativity will therefore play a large role in whatever dish we dream up to devour.  Mom whines, “I have all this cheese just sitting in the fridge and I don’t know what to do with it !   Hey, maybe we can have grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner!”

I wasn’t impressed or tempted by the idea of hot soup on a hot night.  Voicing my opinion, we somehow started discussing the croque madames we’d eaten in France. I thought about it for a moment…when Mom declared, “If you can make it, that would be great !” Dad, behind two pairs of glasses, nodded his consent.

So off to the kitchen I went to make this classic, French-inspired snack.  Any bar/café in France will likely have a croque monsieur or a croque madame on their menu.  It’s standard quick eats, a sort of Frenchie fast-food that may have gained it’s popularity in the Paris of the late 40’s. The essentials stand as such: thick slices of bread, a little béchamel sauce, ham, and melted cheese.  The madame, in somewhat Gallic humor, is topped off with an egg (so named for the hat styles fashionable at the time…though I could think of other reasons…) while the monsieur touts but ham and cheese.

Usually, this sandwich is made with gruyere or emmenthal cheese, but those are less likely to be in an American refrigerator.  I used pecorino/parmesan, swiss, and provolone to great effect.  Don’t let the béchamel scare you off – it’s very easy to make and takes little time.  Put on the Amélie soundtrack, open a red wine, and whip up these fancy (and filling), French-inspired sandwiches.

The sauce: 

– 1 1/2 tbsp butter (unsalted or salted is fine)
– 1 1/2 tbsp flour
– 1 cup milk
– 3/4 cup grated cheese (I used parmesan and a little swiss)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– A few sprinkles of nutmeg

NB: Have the milk and cheese at the ready before beginning the sauce.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.

Melted butter

Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth and lightly browned. It’s important to incorporate the flour and the butter; the flour will be the thickening agent for the béchamel sauce. You also want it to change color (becoming somewhat golden in hue) in order to remove some of the floury flavor. This will all happen fairly quickly, so don’t dawdle and keep mixing !

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Pour in the milk, continuing to mix constantly. Let the mixture come to a boil before reducing the heat until thickened. I usually continue to whisk and before my sauce has begun to fervently bubble, it has adopted the viscosity of molasses (desired).

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Add the cheese by handfuls, mixing until smooth and melted. Taste – if you want more cheese, add it now.

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Season with a little salt, cracked pepper, and nutmeg. Be sure to sample before setting aside.

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The sandwich:

– 6 slices of bread, toasted (I used a multigrain bread but anything that isn’t Wonder Bread should be fine…)
– Coarse-grain Dijon mustard (for spreading)
– 6 slices ham (any cold cut could substitute well)
– 6 slices swiss or provolone
– 3 large eggs

Heat broiler. On a large baking sheet (you may cover with parchment paper if desired – I did not, and had no trouble removing my toasts), place the 6 slices of toast. Spread a generous spoonful of mustard on each slice of bread. If mustard isn’t your favorite condiment, butter is a likely substitute…but really, trust me on the mustard front. It’s delicious). Top each toast with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. We were cleaning out the fridge, so I did three with swiss and three with provolone. It was so good, I might always do it like that…but you may choose whatever cheese cocktail you like.

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Top each toast with a generous dollop of béchamel sauce. Place tray in oven for 1-3 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned. Please note that it is wise to cover the toasts as completely as possible so as to prevent them from burning when facing the heat of the broiler.

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Remove from oven and get ready to fry some eggs.

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add salt and pepper to melted butter. Once the pan is hot (I test this by flicking a bit of water at the pan. If it sputters madly, it’s ready to go), crack an egg into the pan. It will cook fast – I like to run the edge of the flipper under the egg about midway through the cooking process to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny…maybe 3 minutes in the pan. If you prefer the over-easy approach, go for it.

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Assembly:

I placed ours on a bed of greens (like arugula) but one may just as easily leave those out. Take one toast and place it on the plate. Top it with a second toast. Just as the egg is cooked, place it on top of the sandwich and devour right away !

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The best part is watching the yolk drip down over the combination of melted cheese, bread, and béchamel. Bon appetite !

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Banana Bread

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What do little Italian men love most of all ?

Really though, what do you think ?

Perfume ?   Pasta ?  Wine…breadsticks…music…candlelight…Milan….

Well, no.  I hate to break it to you, but the real way to the heart of a wee italian man is with BANANA BREAD.  Yes, Petri, this one’s for you.

For the past month and a half (give or take), we’ve had the pleasure of hosting the famous Petri Dish in our apartment.  I arrived in late August, mentally preparing myself for a semester of ESTROGEN when POP !  Out of nowhere this charismatic, loud, and endearing italiano appeared on the scene, fully moved in (yes, toothbrush and all).  Skeptical at first (a who living in my what ?!), Petri quickly grew on me.  He is a walking party and always greets me with a “Hello Lizzzzzz, how are you ?” spoken as if my answer is actually important (Petri, if it isn’t important, don’t tell me.  I want to continue romanticising you).

It is slightly intimidating, living with an italian, because they cook so well.  Sometimes, I would come home from class and the apartment would smell divine – Petri was making homemade vegetable broth, a smell I associate with home.  (To my credit, I insisted on bay leaf usage.  This little american lends a hand every now and then).  I watched him make pasta, pasta, pasta, risotto, pasta, pasta and tiramisù.  Being the fellow chef in the kitchen, it was fun to have some cooking banter flying about this college setting.

At one point, Petri revealed his love (obsession ?) with banana bread, which surprised me.  Often, Europeans are “not convinced” of putting fruits/vegetables in quickbreads (carrots, zukes, sweet potato, banana, pumpkin…) as it just seems contrary to tradition.  Or something.

I decided that before he left, I’d make him banana bread.  I think it’s safe to say my bread passed muster.  Pietro, we’re going to miss you !  Here’s the recipe I used (and perhaps you’ll woo an italian, too) !

Petri’s Banana Bread

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp cream (or buttermilk, or greek yogurt, or sour cream)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Dash cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves.  Just a sprinkle.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease or line the bottom of a standard loaf pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.  I prepared two but only used one (not enough time to cook a double batch !)

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Peel the bananas and place them in a large bowl.  Mash with a fork (or a masher) until nice and squishy – it will look rather disturbing as a texture – you want the lumps no bigger than chickpeas.

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Add the sugar and the oil to the mashed bananas, whisking to combine.  I will admit, the batter for banana bread is probably the most disgusting thing you’ll ever see.  Persevere, because it tastes awesome when cooked.

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Add the eggs and vanilla, whisking again to incorporate.

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In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Stir together to combine – you wouldn’t want random patches of baking soda, would you ?  So give it a good stir.

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Add the flour mixture and the cream (or dairy product of choice…) and mix well – the batter shouldn’t have any flour clumps hiding about.

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Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1h20 minutes – it takes a long time to cook, but you’ll know it’s almost done when the top splits.  Let cool 10 minutes before removing from the loaf pan.

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Feed to your favorite [italian] housemate(s) and buon appetito !  🙂

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Du pain et plus de pain et seulement le pain

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Mon amie et moi avons visité l’Italie l’été dernier, et nous l’avons adorée! Alors, nous avons décidé que nous aimons le pain! Tout le pain! Nous faisons le pain tout le temps, et maintenant, nous avons un magasin de pain. Beaucoup de gens l’aime et notre pain est toujours très réussi. Notre magasin s’appelle “Du pain et plus de pain et seulement le pain”. Nous sommes très connus pour nos baguettes. C’est notre pain préféré. C’est très amusant de cuisiner!  Une classique!

Les ingrédients:

4 tasses de farine
3 tsp (c.à.c) de levure boulangère
2 tsp (c.à.c) de sel
1 1/4 tasses d’eau chaude
Un peu d’huile d’olive

Les étapes:

1. Mettez la farine, la levure boulangère et le sel dans un grand bol. Mélangez rapidement avec une cuillère.

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2. Dans une tasse, ajoutez l’eau chaude (1 minute dans le micro-onde devrait marcher).

3. Ajoutez l’eau chaude au mélange de farine et travaillez le tout avec vos mains. Quand la pâte commence à faire une forme (comme un cercle), versez le tout sur la table.

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4. Travaillant avec les mains, pétrissez la pâte pour 10 minutes. Mettes la pâte dans un saladier pendant 1 heure pour reposer.

5. La pâte devrait être gonflée; frappez-la pour faire échapper le gaz de la levure. Diviser la pâte en quelques morceaux afin de modeler de petites cercle.

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6. Faites un baguettes avec la pâte. Pliez les deux “coins” de ce cercle pour faire un triangle. Roulez le bas du triangle pour faire la forme d’une baguette, comme un cylindre.

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7. Mettez les baguettes sur une plaque à four. Laissez reposer la pâte pendant 30 minutes, puis mettes-les dans un four chaud (475F) pendant 30 minutes (à peu près).

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Bon appétit ! 🙂

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Onion Oregano Bread

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While at school, I think I earned the reputation of being the breadmaker.  For various events, I was always bringing (or offering to bring) homemade bread, simply because it’s something that 1) I miss a lot when at school and 2) I truly enjoy making.  Yes, it takes a long time.  I am aware of no-knead recipes and shortcuts, but I think the best part about bread is the process itself: MANUAL LABOR.  ELBOW GREASE.  Those are just whiny words for KINESTHETIC THERAPY.  (See, when I put it like that, the ordeal adopts a medical sound.  I could probably open a bakery an employ anyone who needs to vent frustrations and just have them knead my bread all.day.long.  Brilliant business model, no ?)

In any case, while home for winter break, I noted this recipe for Onion Oregano bread (from Bon Appétit, 2005) thinking it sounded tasty and would use two ingredients rarely lacking in my pantry: oregano and onions.  The original calls for fresh oregano but I used dried to great effect.  However, as summer is upon us, those with access to an herb garden should go pick a nice handful of oregano to use with this recipe – the flavor will be fresher, more intense, and a nice compliment to a grilled meal.

I left mine in a hot oven for a smidge too long, as the color is very dark.  Ideally, you want to lower the temperature of the oven just as the outside begins to brown so that you don’t have a charred crust and a doughy interior.  Lucky for me, the inside was perfectly cooked – just the outside was a little too dark for my liking.

Ingredients :

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115F)
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 tsp sugar or honey
4 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp sa;t
1/4 cup chopped, fresh oregano
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp H2O
Directions :

Heat the olive oil in a heavy, small skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion, sautéing until translucent.  This will only take about 5 minutes, but you are welcome to cook them longer.  I love caramelized onions, and I think this bread would be great if it called for an entire cup of onion, caramelized.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and let cool.

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In another bowl, pour 1 1/2 cups warm water.  In order to warm the liquid properly, I measure it then microwave it for about 45 seconds.  Then, I stick my index finger in the water.  If I burn myself, it’s too hot and must cool.  If the temperature is pleasantly warm – it’s go time.  If it’s still just lukewarm, microwave it again (in smaller increments).  Of course, if you possess a kitchen thermometer, then just use that.  🙂  The water has to be a comfortable temperature for a few reasons, the most important of whihc being that yeast will die if the water is too hot.  You will become a yeast killer if you throw these little dormant bacteria into water above a certain temperature.  If you murder the yeast, their revenge will be sweet – your bread will not rise.  However, if you find a good temperature, the little yeasties wake up and, like any organism, begin to feed.  This is why to the water mixture, you add 2 1/2 tsp of sugar or honey – that is the nourishment we, the baker, provide for the yeast, the workhorse of the breadmaking operation.  Once you’ve combined the water and sugar, and stirred until dissolved, add your yeast and stir a bit.  Then, let the mixture sit and watch what happens:  the yeast begin to eat and release waste.  That waste ?  It’s what makes bread rise.  Might be a little strange to think about, but breadmaking relies on yeast farts.  If you smell the measuring cup while it’s proofing – a word the might as well be missing the “r” as poofing is a more accurate term – you’ll notice a distinct odor.  That’s the combination of air and alcohol made by the yeast as they devour the sugar we gave them.

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But this is just the beginning.  While that yeast is enjoying itself, mix together 4 cups of flour and the 2 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Stir in the onions and any oil remaining in the pan – there should be a little and if there isn’t, I’d add a slug of oil to the dough.  Grab your poofy yeast, give it a quick stir, and pour it into the flour mixture.  Add oregano and mix well.

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Knead briefly in bowl, just until everything comes together, then turn out onto a well floured surface (this is what the remaining 1/2 cup flour is for).  Knead until dough it smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls as necessary to keep dough from sticking – about 10 minutes of kneading.  Kneading is essential to bread because it allows for the creation of gluten networks.  Gluten, found in flour, is responsible for creating the structure of bread.  Kneading rearranges the proteins in gluten (glutenin and gliaden – fancy little things), creating a setup that traps the gas released by the yeast, allowing bread to rise and contributing to its fluffy texture when baking.  There used to be a hysterical youtube video about this but I can’t find it anymore…it actually animated gluten.

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In any case, once you’ve kneaded the bread to a silky consistency, shape it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl.  Let rise, covered for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.  (I usually went to class while bread was rising.  Made the time go by faster.)

Once risen, punch it down.  Ka-pow !  Turn out onto work surface (again) and divide into two even lumps.  Working with these, first stretch them into a circle.  Fold the top two corners down, making a triangle shape.  Roll the tip of the triangle towards you until the bread resembles a baguette shape. Roll to finish the seam.  Place both loaves on a well oiled cookie sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again until just about doubled in size – it should take about 45 minutes.  During this time, preheat the oven to 450F and add a bainmarie if you feel like it (essentially fill a brownie pan with a low level of water and place in the oven while it preheats.  It will create steam and crisp the outside of the bread).

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Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg and water mixture. Using a serrated knife, make three or four quick cuts in the  top of the loaves – this will help when the bread expands.

Bake the bread for 10 minutes at this high temperature before reducing to 350F.  Bake until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes.

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Cut and serve with dinner (or butter) and enjoy !  Bon appétit 🙂

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Homemade Pretzels (with rosemary and sea salt)

A few nights ago, we decided to continue our trend of hosting little fetes with a theme.  This time, we decided to head to Germany and embrace Oktoberfest (deemed “Oktobeerfest” by my oh so clever roommate) by dedicating an evening to drinking songs, pretzels, and various types of beer. (…joyeux enfants de la Bourgogne…)

The premise was simple : come prepared with EITHER food, beer, or a drinking song and you are welcome to our home.  My contribution, as I don’t know much about beer, was to make soft pretzels…

I will admit, I’d never made these before.  I didn’t really know how to fold a pretzel or the process by which pretzels are created.  Bread – I can do.  Pretzels ?  The seemed so…beyond my reach.  But that has never stopped me in the past, so I said I’d make pretzels and pretzels I made (à la “so it is written, so it shall be.”  I’m currently writing a theology paper.  Can you tell ?)

In any case, I decided to try two different types : one with rosemary and the other plain with sea salt – just like at the fair.  Both were remarkably simple to concoct and the only slightly intimidating portion was the baking soda bath – I’ve never boiled bread dough before, but it was surprisingly simple and stress-free.   Needless to say, my trepidation about making a new food was unfounded, as everyone devoured these pretzels like it was their job – literally, there were NONE left at the end of the night.  I served mine with mustard (and beer…), but for those who don’t enjoy mustard as much as this little dijonnaise (ben, fausse dijonnaise mais c’est pas important), cheese sauce is also welcome.

Guten Appetit !

For the plain dough :

1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk (about 50 seconds in the microwave)

For the rosemary dough :

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
4 1/2 cups flour (potentially more)
2 tbsp rosemary

The procedure is the same for both of the dough varieties – I’ll probably intermix the photos but I promise, the process is the same.  Start by mixing the dry ingredients together.  Depending on the kind of yeast (ex active dry or rapid rise) you use, you can just mix it right in with the flour.  If you are unsure, you can mix the sugar, warm liquid, salt and yeast together in another container and let it proof for about 10 minutes or until nice and foamy.  I did NOT do this because I’m lazy and everything worked out just fine.

Make a nice little crater in the flour mixture and pour the milk in and oil in to the moat.

Stir together – I jumped right in and used my hands but if you have an electric mixer, that’s fine too.  If using an electric mixer, add flour until the dough naturally forms into a ball.  If using your hands and good ole fashioned elbow grease, add flour until you feel you can knead it on a countertop.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is nice and smooth and feel like (I kid you not) a baby’s bottom.

 

Place in a large, well-oiled bowl and let rise (covered) for 1 hour.

When doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a little bit to deflate. Shape into a log and divide into 7 (sea salt) or 8 (rosemary) even pieces.  I just used a sharp knife and eyeballed the sizes.  Cut with conviction !

Rolling the smaller pieces into dough can be a little challenging.  I made a video (!) but it’s sideways…and I don’t know how to turn it.  Basically, take the piece of dough and roll it between your hands until it starts to form a cylindrical shape.  Then, grasping both ends, spin it like a jumprope, pulling to lengthen.  Before you know it, you’ll have a nicely shaped cylinder.

You can even out the shape on the countertop, as you want them to be about the same thickness and to measure just overa foot – these will make a nicely sized pretzel.

 

Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes in this shape before reworking into pretzel form.

Roll slightly on the counter before turning up the two ends to make a U-shape.  Cross these two ends over one another, twisting once.

Secure at the bottom of the U-bend, pressing gently but not too hard – we want to keep as much air in the dough as possible.  Let sit on the counter and prepare a large cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper OR well-oiled) for baking.

Then comes the chemistry lesson.  Pretzels gain their unique flavor due to a special ritual completed before baking : a lye bath.  Lye is a VERY strong base than can cause burning of the skin, so I balked a little when I discovered this fact.  However, lucky for us, a common ingredient on bakers’ shelves is ALSO a fairly strong base…BAKING SODA !  Instead of using lye, I made a solution of baking soda and water.  I used a ratio of 4 tablespoons soda to 2 cups of water and the flavor of the pretzel crust wasn’t sharp, yet still retained enough bite to be called a pretzel.

Mix together the water and the soda in a pot on the stovetop and bring to a boil.  Using a spatula, scoop up the soft pretzel and immerse in the soda bath for about 10 seconds. Remove promptly, shake a little, and place on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt/rosemary.  Repeat for all the pretzels.

 

Place in a 425F oven for about 15 minutes or until the pretzels are a bronze color – these will be soft pretzels, so you won’t be able to tap them and know that they are done.  I found the best way to be sure was to sample them… 😉

Serve with some Dijon mustard (nice and grainy) or cheese sauce and a stein of cold beer – I recommend Grimbergen amber ale.  Delicious.

Happy fall !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pumpkin and Rosemary Braided Bread

Autumn has finally descended upon my neck of the woods (so to speak) and with it, the arrival of “all things pumpkin” as the Internet (and Starbucks…and Trader Joe’s) tends to tout.  I will freely admit that I have a sweet spot for pumpkin – its flavors hint at nostalgia without the tears.  My roommate, after a Trader Joe’s run, returned home with pumpkin soup, pumpkin chai tea, pumpkin rooibus tea…and then there was me with my gigantic can of pumpkin purée.

The question is, however, what can you do with pumpkin puree that is new and exciting ?  I’ve made the muffins, I’m made the quickbread, and the pie has a place on a Thanksgiving table.

So began the hunt for a new way to use pumpkin.  I knew I wanted something more on the savory side…like…a dinner roll !  A yeast bread !  Hm !

I found a great recipe from the King Arthur Flour webpage- a simple google search will bring you there (I may have misplaced the link…).  I modified it slightly – the recipe here is halved but makes LOTS of bread (I snuck two medium loaves from these quantities) and I added honey, rosemary, and salt to the mix.  An experiment, the work paid off (nibble nibble nibble) because it tastes just sweet enough to be paired with honey butter or even a marmalade OR a savory dish with chicken or a sauce.  Oo.  Asiago cheese would probably pair well with this concoction as well.  The possibilities are endless !

A wonderfully soft texture and a rich color to boot, this recipe is worth the time and will certainly have a spot on my Thanksgiving table…or my kitchen table.  🙂

For the dough :

1/4 cup warm water
1 package (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm milk
1 large eggs, beaten
1 cups puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
1 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 cups (approximately) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
A few shakes of ground ginger
3 pinches rosemary

For the glaze :

1 egg yolk,
Some water
Some honey
Some rosemary
Some salt

In a large bowl, combine the 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, yeast, ginger and rosemary.

Stir to combine well.  Add the warm water and begin to stir.  In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, oil, eggs, and milk.

Be sure to allow the pumpkin and eggs to reach room temperature before combining with the other wet ingredients.  Also, the milk should be warmed – yeast likes a warm environment because it stimulates their life cycle/reactions.  And we want those little yeasties to have a party in our bread dough !

Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add about 1/2 cups more of flour (or more) until the dough is tough enough to knead.  Mine looked like this and it worked out well.


Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.  This took me about 10 minutes for me, but knead until you can mold it into a ball without difficulty OR extremely messy fingers.

When you are kneading bread, you are creating gluten networks between the starch molecules.  This changes the texture and facilitates the trapping of the gas released by the little yeasties.  Food.  It’s snazzy.

Place dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a towel (or a plastic bag), letting it rise until doubled, about 1 hour.  If it rises for longer, it won’t be an issue.  But an hour is certainly enough time to get a fantastic reaction out of the dough.

When ready, turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Divide dough in half – I did not because I didn’t think I would have such a huge loaf of bread so I have two uneven loaves SO do yourself a favor and split it up). This bread can easily be shaped into loaves or dinner roles…but I thought a braid would be more elegant given the rich color of the dough.

Braiding is actually simple (though it looks tough).  Start by spreading the dough out into a large rectangular shape (photos to follow).  Using a sharp knife, make 4 long cuts in the dough – you are essentially creating a giant jellyfish, with the bit you are cutting turning into tentacles.  (Please excuse the metaphor.  I’m an English minor).  When you make the cuts, LEAVE THE TOP CONNECTED.  You’ll see what I mean in the photos.  Reshape the tentacles so that they are even and then braid them !  Braiding with five is easy – just pull the outside layer from the left to the inside, then the outermost RIGHT side layer to the inside, then left to the inside and right to the inside blablabla until BAM !  You have a giant braid on your hands.  For the last part, just twist them and tuck them under the end of the braid. (The photos are with four strands because I didn’t have an assistant when I did five…)  Pow.  Like magic, you have a snazzy looking loaf of bread.

Lay the bread on a well-oiled baking sheet.  Mix together the egg and water and brush over the top of the bread.  Drizzle honey over the top of the braid, followed by a sprinkling of rosemary and some sea salt crystals.

Let rise for about 45 minutes or until nice and puffy.  Place in the oven and let cook for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  The bread will NOT sound hollow when cooked, as it is very soft, but I just used my nose.  You can also use a thermometer to test the “doneness” of the bread (I believe it’s 190F….might want to check on that as I possess not such a thermometer.)

Serve nice and hot with melted butter…or place on your table (with a TARDIS !) and let your roommates devour it.  🙂

Bon appétit !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cinnamon Rolls

In an effort not to consume too many sweets, my roommates and I seem to have decided not to stock sugary goodies in our kitchen.  In theory, this is a splendid arrangement – if there are no naughty foods, we cannot eat naughty foods. Right ?

WRONG !

I simply love sugar too much to let that happen (probably to everyone’s chagrin) and therefore in a moment of weakness, whipped up some cinnamon rolls for a Friday morning breakfast (and a Saturday…and a Sunday…you get the idea).  I love these rolls because they do not require yeast and therefore a very simple to concoct.  Traditionally, these pair well with a sweet glaze made from mascarpone cheese and a little powdered sugar…but I’m not really THAT fancy (yet) here in my little apartment so I skipped that part.  Also noteworthy – the recipe calls for brown sugar but, again, I didn’t have any and therefore used turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw – thank you Trader Joe’s !).  It turned out JUST FINE 🙂

Filling :

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (or about 1 cup of raw sugar)
1/2 cup pecans (if available)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 stick butter, melted

This is the easiest part – combine all dry ingredients.  Set aside.

Dough :

3 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or regular milk)
8 tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425F and butter an oven pan.  Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, making a little moat in the middle.  I don’t know why you must make this little indentation, but my mother told me to do so when I was very small and I guess I never questioned her judgement until now…hmm….

In any case, heat the milk slightly so that it is warm to the touch.  Pour the melted butter into the milk and stir.

Pour this buttermilk mixture into the moat and stir with a spoon.

Add flour to the dough until it is easy to knead.  I recommend turning the dough out onto a floured surface and kneading a little bit – once you can fairly easily work with the dough – it has taken enough flour.  Three cups should be enough, however.

When ready, begin to stretch the dough across a FLOURED countertop.  I did mine right in the pan I was going to cook it in as I used a jellyroll pan.  I also have limited counterspace…so this was my solution.

Once you’ve stretched it out to a large rectangle size, pour half the melted butter on top of the dough.  Cover with an even coating of the sugar and spice mixture.  Finish with a final butter bath.  Mmm.  Butter.

Starting at the edges, begin to roll the dough from the bottom up, being careful not to press too hard as if you do so, the filling will eek out the edges of the roll.  No fun.

Once you’ve rolled it all the way up, pinch the sides a little to seal them up a bit and take out a long, serrated knife.

Cut the roll into sections, making a quick cut through the dough.  I like to pull the knife towards me in a speedy, downward swoop !  However, I didn’t have a serrated knife…so mine were a little lumpy BUT they tasted great just the same.

Place these closely together on a large pan (I like the jelly roll pan but using a cake pan or a square brownie pan works great as well !) and place in the oven.  Cook until the roll is just starting to brown, probably about 25 minutes.

Pour yourself a cuppa joe (or a spot of tea) and enjoy !

Bon appétit !

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Homemade Rosemary Bread

I was with my mom in the grocery store yesterday – she doesn’t love grocery shopping – and we were headed down the bread aisle when I saw the price of loaves of bread.  I steered us right out of that lane and said I’d make bread for dinner.  “Oh !  Great !  Scratch that off the list…”

We’ve been a bread-making family ever since I was little.  My dad was in charge of everything that required yeast as an ingredient.  We’d throw everything in the bread machine, let it rise, shape it ourselves, and let it bake.  It’s been awhile since the bread fairy paid us a visit, but that all changed after our chicken marsala dinner SO – here is the recipe for the bread shown with the mushroom dish.  (It was so good, I made more last night).

*This recipe makes two long loaves OR multiple little rolls.  If you have extra, cook it all and freeze the finished product – bread keeps well frozen.  In fact, it’s the best way to store fresh bread, as it won’t go soggy and it won’t dry out.  The French taught me this lovely trick.

Basic bread recipe :

6-7 cups flour
1 tablespoon yeast (not Brewer’s yeast – active, dry yeast).
3 tablespoons granulated sugar OR honey
3-4 tsp salt
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups water (warm)
1 cup milk (warm)
3 pinches dried rosemary (this is optional, but I love rosemary and it pairs well with many dishes.  Leave this out if you want plain white bread.)
Extra flour

Put all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Stir together to incorporate the yeast well within the flour mixture.  Set aside.

Combine the milk and water in one container, and place this in the microwave for about 90 seconds.  This needs to be warm in order to activate the yeast.  Yeast is a cool little ingredient – it’s actually alive BUT purchased in a dormant state.  We have to wake all of those little yeast particles up so that they can get to work eating the sugar molecules in the flour and the sugar and start creating gas.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen – bread rises thanks to yeast farts.  Pretty fantastic. 🙂  Anyway, they need a little heat to kickstart the reaction HOWEVER BE WARNED : yeast is sensitive – if it’s too hot, you will kill the yeast particles.  Sad sad.  I use my finger to test the heat – if you can put your index finger in the milk mixture and it isn’t too hot to burn you, it’s probably fine.

Add this to the flour mixture.  Using one hand, mix together the flour and milk combinations.  It will be sticky and it will be messy but it’s not difficult.  Add the oil.

Once combined enough to hold a shape, dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface, such as a countertop.  Wash your hands and douse them in flour.  You many want to sprinkle a little flour on your dough as well.

 

KNEAD FOR 10 MINUTES.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  The bread’s texture is going to change as you knead it (you are forming gluten networks.  Cool, right ?).   The heel of your palm will be helpful – stretch the dough and then reform it into a ball.  Punch it.  Let out your emotions.  I don’t have a photo given that both of my hands were covered in flour but as long as you are stretching the dough out repeatedly, you should be all set.  You will need to constantly dust the dough with flour.  Once you’ve kneaded the dough for a good 10 minutes (no skimping!) it should look like this :

Forming it into a ball is usually a wise plan.  Put this in a large bowl (like the same mixing bowl as before…just cleaned and oiled) and let sit covered and undisturbed for anywhere between 45 minutes to 1h30.  The dough should double in size.

Now comes the fun part.  Dump the dough out onto the countertop and punch all the air OUT.  I like to use my fingertips and poke the dough all over.  You have two options at this point :  you can either let the dough rise again (this improves texture) OR you can prepare it for baking.  I’ve done it both ways and I think that even with one good rise, the bread tastes great.  If you let it rise a second time, just repeat the same steps as above.  If not…

Cut the dough in half using a serrated bread knife.  Form it into a flat round – like pizza crust.  Fold the top two corners of the round together so that you make a triangle shape.  Then, starting at the tip of the triangle, roll the dough down until you have a baguette-type shape.  It’s like making a snake out of clay or Play-Doh.  (Come on, we all did it.)  Roll to seal the bottom and shape the tips so that they are rounded (or pointed – it’s as you like).  Place on a well-oiled baking sheet and dust with flour.  Do this to both rounds of dough.  Cover with a tea towel and let sit for another 30-45 minutes.  Yes, they are going to rise.  At this point, preheat your oven to 500F.  Hothothot.  I use steam to help cook the bread by placing a jelly-roll pan filled with water in the bottom of the oven (on the second rack).  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS.  It will be fine if you skip it.

When the loaves have just about doubled in size, remove the tea towel.  Using the serrated knife, make a series of quick slashes on the top of the bread.  These help the dough to expand more while cooking.  Be confident and don’t cut too deep !  We want to keep the gas in.  I was nervous the first time I did this (a couple nights ago) but it all worked out.

I put a little salt and pepper and herbs on the top of the bread before throwing it (gently…) in the oven.  Let bake for 8 minutes at 500 before reducing the temperature to 400 (or lower, depending on the browning of the bread).  The bread is done when you knock it and it sounds hollow.  You’ll know what I mean.

Let cool on a baking rack.  It’s best to wait until cool to slice BUT if you are going to rip it…then it can still be warm.  🙂

Bon appétit !

Categories: English | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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