Archive for the ‘Breads’ Category

Pumpkin Bread

October 27, 2011

For those who read my blog, know it has been a long time since I have posted. A few months in fact. And the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t because of my lack of time to blog. It is my lack of time to cook. Apologies to all who blog, but the latter is much more concerning.

Cooking and baking is part of what makes me calm, helps me keep things in perspective, allows me to feel control when other things feel out of control. And, most importantly, it allows me to share my food with others, and therefore share my love through the gift of food.

But, my busy job and travel schedule has resulted in nights of take out, frozen pizza and late night visits to our favorite local restaurants.

So, this past weekend I was finally in town. No work trips. No packed social calendar. Just a weekend to enjoy fall and reset for the busy week ahead. And fall being my favorite culinary season, I knew I had to take this opportunity to get back to what I love.

So, after 8 mini loaves of pumpkin bread that filled our house with the scents of fall, and was shared with neighbors, coworkers and friends, I rekindled what had been missing in my hectic life.

Although I love my job, and feel blessed every day that I go into work, I remembered the many other things that make me who I am. I had been missing going for a run, reading the latest Bon Appetit and spending the time with my husband that we both deserve.

So on Sunday, with the aroma of cozy and spicy fall filling our house, after delivering a loaf to our neighbor and packing up the others for coworkers, after making my butternut squash risotto with a glass of red wine listening to Italian music…..I knew that my life needed to shift. I needed to go back to what makes me happy, and prioritize it, no matter how hectic my life becomes.

So, this pumpkin bread symbolizes my commitment to spend more time doing what I enjoy doing – and that is spreading love through food.

And, it was only fitting that the pumpkin bread recipe I found was that of Bobby Flay, who I surprisingly met the weekend before at Keeneland. A sign? Maybe.

So besides the emotional connection I now have to Bobby Flay’s pumpkin bread, it is quite possibly the best recipe I have ever made. Granted, there is more sugar than in a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but his mixture of spices (especially All Spice, my favorite cold weather spice) make this a  comforting taste of fall.

So, for those who need to rekindle their love of cooking, or those just looking to make a great fall treat for the ones they love, I thank Bobby Flay for giving me the recipe that made me realize what I had been missing.

PUMPKIN BREAD
1 9-inch loaf or a 4 small loaf pan

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* Scant 1 cup canned pumpkin puree, not flavored pie filling
* 2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (if you are using a small 4 loaf pan bake for only 45 minutes). Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Banana Bread

October 10, 2010

Impromptu baking has become somewhat of a new hobby of mine. By impromptu, I don’t mean feeling the desire to bake an apple pie on a Saturday, going to the grocery store to get the necessary ingredients, then turning a food craving into a reality. I mean looking at my kitchen and saying – hmmmm, I have everything I need to make this yummy sweet treat at this very moment – so I will! It started with cookies, because let’s face it, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t have all the necessary ingredients for cookies on hand. It generally happens about 10pm at night in conjunction with a chocolate craving.

But lately, I have had a bit of a banana problem. We eat them weekly, but the bunch doesn’t always get consumed before good old oxygen takes over and turns them brown and mushy. This baking, as you may have guessed, stems from the sick feeling in my stomach I get when perfectly good ingredients go to waste. When I know that if I just add a few eggs, flour, sugar, etc., I can turn those unwanted bananas to a warm and inviting loaf of banana bread.

But, the dilemma that generally follows is the fact that I rarely have milk or buttermilk on hand. So, one day when I was searching for a recipe that didn’t require those two “moistness ingredients” I found this recipe using something else I would hate to have go to waste in my fridge – creme fraiche. I had half a container left, and it was the perfect use for it.

The result was an amazingly moist, flavorful and delicious banana bread. And the best part is, it would be amazing with a few cups of chocolate chips – for those late night cravings.

Thanks to Gourmet for this perfect go-to recipe for when I can’t bear to see overripe bananas and creme fraiche go to waste!

NOTE: The reviews on the Web site show that sour cream is a great substitute for creme fraiche. if you don’t have it on hand. So they seem to be interchangeable!

BANANA BREAD
Makes 2 loaves (can easily be cut in half, which I did)

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
1/4 cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups walnuts (4 ounces), toasted and chopped (optional)
2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and walnuts (if using) and chocolate chips (if using) gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Overnight Baked French Toast

September 2, 2010

I will admit, I don’t make breakfast much. It isn’t that I don’t like it, or don’t have time – it just always seems on the weekends after sleeping in, we would rather just relax with a bagel and coffee in our sunroom or go to our favorite local coffee shop or diner.

But, last weekend my husband biked 150 miles for MS over two days, and after day 2, I wanted to feed him a huge feast for brunch. I have always wanted to try an overnight french toast, especially because if it was good, it would be the perfect recipe for company (since it doesn’t include spending time in the kitchen making to order).

This particular recipe came from the cookbook Blend It! from Good Housekeeping. It is a great book of dips, smoothies, baked goods and drinks all using your handy blender.

Not only did this taste fantastic (almost like dessert!) but it looked beautiful, especially with fresh fruit on top. Word of advice, don’t panic when you look at the bread in the oven and it looks like it is going to pop out of your glass dish and take over your kitchen – when you take it out and it starts to cool, the whole things puffs back down.

Thanks again to Good Housekeeping for this great brunch recipe!

OVERNIGHT BAKED FRENCH TOAST
Serves 8

12 slices firm white bread
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Arrange bread slices in four stacks in 8-inch square baking dish. In blender, combine eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and blend until mixture is smooth. Slowly pour egg mixture over bread slices; press bread down to absorb egg mixture over any uncoated bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, stir brown sugar, butter and maple syrup until combined. Spread evenly over each stack of bread. Bake until knife inserted 1 inch from center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh fruit and additional syrup (if desired). Sift with powdered sugar.

Pork Kebabs (Souvlaki Hirino) and Feta Tart (Alevropita)

August 28, 2010

As if I don’t read enough foodie magazines, I saw the magazine Saveur the other day in Fresh Market and was intrigued. The whole issue was featuring Greek food, and since I love ethnic food, I thought I would pay the $5 to see what it was all about. And, of course, as of last week I now have a 2 year subscription to this fantastic magazine!

I tried this recipe combo first as part something I thought I could easily do, and part something I was scared of. The kebabs looked easy enough as long as I remembered to marinate in advance. And I know how to grill pork. And kebabs are a breeze. But, the feta tart looked a bit scary. It was an egg batter that you pour into a hot pan and bake. Now don’t get me wrong, the recipe itself didn’t look too challenging, but the thought that I would make my own bread did scare me a bit.

I can honestly say this was the best meal we have had in weeks. The pork had a great flavor (and the oregano made it very Greek!) and the feta tart was amazing (and the perfect complement to the pork)! Definitely a wow dish, and it was surprisingly so easy! Don’t be alarmed that the batter spreads really thin, it ends up forming a great, crispy crust.

Thanks to Saveur for giving me a great, new Greek menu. If these recipes are any indication, I will be blogging many more from this magazine!

PORK KEBABS (SOUVLAKI HIRINO)
Serves 2-4

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. dried mint
1 tbsp. dried oregano
8 cloves garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
1 bay leaf, finely crumbled
1 lb. trimmed pork shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄4″ cubes
4  9″ wooden skewers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, wine, lemon juice, mint, oregano, garlic, and bay leaf; add pork and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. Meanwhile, soak skewers in water.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, arrange an oven rack 4″ below the broiler element and set oven to broil.) Thread about 4 pieces of pork onto each skewer so that pork pieces just touch each other. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the grill (or, covering exposed ends of skewers with foil, put skewers on a rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet). Cook, turning often, until cooked through and slightly charred, about 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

FETA TART (ALEVROPITA)
Serves 4-8

6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. vodka
1 egg
1 1⁄4 cups flour, sifted
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄8 tsp. baking powder
10 oz. feta, crumbled
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

Heat oven to 500°. Put an 18″ x 13″ x 1″ rimmed baking sheet into oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tbsp. oil, vodka, egg, and 1 cup water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.

Brush remaining oil over bottom of hot pan and add batter, smoothing batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary. Distribute cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Cheddar Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread

February 13, 2010

So, I never had really thought of putting cornbread with chili until I met my husband. He always baked up some cornbread muffins and dipped them in the chili, so I thought I would give it a whirl. Once I did, I found it hard to eat chili without it.

So when I bought my prized cast iron skillet (I know I have said it before, but if you don’t have one, you need one) I started looking for great skillet cornbread recipes. Because after all, that is the best way to make it!

This recipe actually came from Gourmet and is intended for cast-iron stick pans. Well, I don’t have those, so I used the little note on how to bake in a cast iron skillet. I recommend sticking with one tablespoon of jalapenos unless you like your cornbread extra spicy.

CHEDDAR JALAPENO SKILLET CORNBREAD
Makes one 9-inch round cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 large egg
1/4 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 cup)
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion (white and pale green parts only)
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped drained pickled jalapeños
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat skillet in oven 10 minutes.

Whisk together cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and egg in another bowl, then add to cornmeal mixture along with Cheddar, scallion, jalapeños (to taste), and 2 tablespoons butter, stirring until just combined.

Remove skillet from oven and add 2 tablespoons butter until it melts. Pour in batter. Bake until top is golden and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve warm.

Butterscotch Coffee Cake

January 7, 2010

I am the first to say this is not an original recipe. I didn’t think of it. Paula Deen didn’t even think of it (although she did put together this great butterscotch rendition). For years, people have used frozen yeast rolls to make an amazing coffee cake. The crazy thing is, I just learned it this past Christmas!

If you want a REALLY easy coffee cake for entertaining, this will soon be your go-to recipe. There is literally no work involved, but you do need to take a little action the night before. The yeast rolls puff up overnight as the yeast rises.

Word of caution (and I am warning you as a woman who did this) – PLEASE get the right kind of rolls. Don’t get refrigerated rolls. Don’t get rolls that are not yeast rolls. If you wake up in the morning and they look the same, try try again.

I made this and brought it to my in-laws for Christmas morning and it had that great “wow” factor I was going for. And, the best thing was it didn’t take the kind of work it looked like to do it!

Thanks again to Paula Deen for this one!

BUTTERSCOTCH COFFEE CAKE
6-8 Servings

16 to 18 unbaked frozen yeast dinner rolls
1 (3-ounce) package regular butterscotch pudding mix, not instant
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

The night before place frozen rolls in well greased Bundt pan. Sprinkle dry pudding mix over rolls. Sprinkle brown sugar over pudding mix. Sprinkle chopped pecans over brown sugar. Pour melted butter over all. To prevent the dough from forming a hard crust while its rising overnight, cover with a damp towel or tightly wrap with plastic wrap. Let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Turn pan over onto a serving platter to remove. Serve by pulling apart chunks with forks.

Coffee cake the night before - before it rises

Coffee cake the night morning - after rising

Sunday Gravy with Onion-Herb Focaccia

November 14, 2009

IMG_1711_1With an Italian husband and a great love for Italian food, quite a bit of it gets made in our household. And as I continue to look at recipes from his family, Bon Appetit and various sources, there is a lot of talk about the San Marzano tomato.

I have always wondered if it was merely another brand, or something organically grown? Will it really change my sauce into something more delicious? I had always doubted a tomato type could do such great things until I finally went into my International food aisle and bought some. Yes, this tomato does indeed have powers beyond your imagination. I am a believer, and may never go back.

The story goes that the first seed of the San Marzano tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area that corresponds to the present commune of San Marzano. For those who know Italy’s geography know that this area contains volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. It is believed that this soil acts as a filter for water impurities. The result – a strong, sweeter, less acidic tomato that will give your sauces a “wow” factor.

This recipe came from Food Network Magazine with some improv – feel free to tinker with the recipe as I did. Also, the simple to make focaccia recipe (also Food Network Magazine) is a great complement.

Note: don’t make the mistake of not letting it simmer all day (hence the “Sunday” in its name). It helps the flavors blend and results in a richer sauce.

Another Note: Yes, the Italians call it gravy and yes, I didn’t know this until I married one. Don’t confuse this with the turkey gravy you get at Thanksgiving – this is your hearty meat sauce for spaghetti!

SUNDAY GRAVY
6 Servings

3 slices white bread, toasted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup milk
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
10 cloves garlic; 2 minced, 8 smashed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds Italian sausage (half sweet, half hot), halved
1 medium onion, quartered
3 28-ounce cans San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
6 bay leaves
1 pound orecchiette pasta (or any pasta you like)

Soak the bread in the milk until the liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the ground beef and pork in a bowl with the egg, cheese, minced garlic, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the soaked bread and mix with your hands until combined. Form into 16 meatballs.IMG_1707

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add sausage to the pot and cook until browned, turning, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large bowl.

Add the onion and smashed garlic to the pot and fry until soft, about

4 minutes. Crush the tomatoes into the pot with your hands and pour in the juices. Stir in the tomato paste, season with salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes.

Add 5 cups water and the bay leaves, then return the meatballs, beef shin and sausage to the pot, stirring carefully. Bring to a low boil, stir, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 2 hours, or until the shin meat is very tender. Uncover and simmer until the sauce thickens and the shin meat is falling off the bone, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer all the meats with a slotted spoon to a bowl and cover with foil. Simmer the sauce to thicken, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain and toss with enough sauce to coat lightly, then top with more sauce and the meat. Garnish with parmesan, if desired.

IMG_1710ONION-HERB FOCACCIA
4 Servings

On a floured surface, roll out 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle; press into an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary and/or oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and a big pinch of sea salt. Brush half of the herb oil over the dough, then set aside until puffy, about 1 hour. Make dimples in the dough with your fingers and top with thin onion slices and shaved parmesan. Bake at 400 until golden, about 20 minutes. Brush with the remaining herb oil.

Glazed Lemon Bread

February 23, 2009
Lemon bread cooling...

Glazed Lemon Bread

I hear people quite often say, “Do you like to cook or bake?” It seems to be commonly an if/then statement. Either someone has the personality of doing things on a whim, inserting creativity, tasting as they go, and expressing themselves in a unique way. Or, they like to follow things by the book, knowing that every time the dish will come out the same.

Perhaps because my personality seems to span the two spectrums, I love to cook AND bake. They are different, sure, but they each have their own unique pleasures.

But I truly believe that even though baking does have a specific formula – there IS room for creativity. Granted, you do have to make sure you have the correct egg count, put in a levening agent, etc. But, if you know the purpose of each ingredient, you can start seeing the options. Spices can be added, you can alter white vs. brown sugar, butter vs. shortening – all to get different results.

The following recipe is a great baking example of following by the book but also being creative. The recipe came verbatim from Bon Appetit, but if you are more into orange bread than lemon bread, you could alter it a bit – using orange zest instead of lemon zest and orange juice instead of lemon juice.

This bread is great for breakfast, a snack, dessert and also makes a beautiful and delicious gift.

The glaze is the best part, so make a point to take the extra step of making it, as well as puncturing the bread with a toothpick to let the glaze permeate into the bread. It forms a sweet and tart glaze that truly makes the bread unique.

Glazed Lemon Bread (one loaf)
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter/spray a standard size loaf pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat one cup sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in lemon peel. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with milk in 3 additions each. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center of bread comes out clear, about one hour.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice in heavy small saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.

Transfer bread in pan to rack. Pierce top of bread all over with a wooden skewer. Gradually spoon lemon glaze over hot bread, adding more as glaze is absorbed. Cool lemon bread completely in pan on rack.


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