Saturday, October 25, 2014

Browned Butter and Apple Bread #ThreeLoaves

Fall is here - and seems like it showed up early this year. And fall always makes me think of apples.

I'm guessing that when you start talking about apples, the next things that most people think of are pie and cinnamon. Or apple pie with cinnamon. Or maybe applesauce ... with cinnamon.

I know that cinnamon is the perfect companion to apples, but they don't always have to be paired. One of the best apple pies I ever made didn't have a single speck of cinnamon. The flavor of the apples was predominant, and there was just a hint of vanilla to add warmth.

So, when I agreed to make a seasonal bread recipe for #ThreeLoaves, I decided to use apples without cinnamon.

This bread isn't sweet - in fact, it's a little tart because of the apples. It's great for toast, fantastic for French toast, and amazing as a breakfast or brunch bread. But because it's not sweet, it's also perfect for sandwiches, particularly ham or roast pork. Or chicken or turkey or bacon.

Browned Butter and Apple Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
1/4 cup dry milk
3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour

Melt the butter in a saute pan and let it bubble up a bit. Let it cook until it begins to brown a bit, then add the diced apples.

Note: You can dice the apples any size that pleases you, but I suggest 1/4 inch or smaller, so they distribute throughout the bread and you'll have some in each slice.

Cook the apples, stirring as needed, until the apples are cooked through, but not soft - you want them to hold their shape in the bread. Turn the heat off, add the vanilla, and set aside to cool.

Put the bread ingredients in the bowl of your food processor, or into a large bowl if you intend on mixing and kneading by hand. If you're using an active dry yeast brand other than Red Star, and it has large granules, you'll want to let it soften for a minute or so in the water before you mix; if you're using Red Star, you can toss it all together without pausing.

Knead the dough with the dough hook until it becomes elastic. Or, mix in a large bowl, then knead by hand.

Once the dough is elastic, add the apples and all of the butter. Knead until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough. Cover the bowl and set aside until the dough has doubled in size - about an hour.

Spray a 9x5 bread pan with baking spray and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Knead briefly, then form the dough into a tight log about 8 inches long, to fit into the bread pan. Cover the pan and set aside to rise until the dough rises slightly above the top of the bread pan - about 30 minutes.

Uncover the pan and slash the dough as desired. Bake at 350 degrees until the dough is nicely browned and the interior of the loaf reaches at least 195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer - about 45 minutes.

Removed the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chicken-Fried Chicken

I absolutely love chicken. Fried, baked, braised, stewed. Hot or cold. Breaded or not. It's all good.

So when I got some boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Frontiere Natural Meats, I had a whole lot of options, But I decided that chicken-fried chicken needed to be made.

If that name sounds confusing, chicken-fried chicken is a riff off of chicken-fried steak. Which is a riff off of fried chicken.

But chicken-fried chicken isn't just chicken. It's flattened and then breaded (or battered or crumbed) and then fried.

Since the chicken pieces are an even thickness and they're also thin, they cook quickly and evenly, So there's less risk of having the chicken dry out.

Although these are fried, you can use a healthy oil, like olive oil, and you don't need a lot of oil.

When it comes to coatings, you have endless options. I like the idea of double-dipping the chicken - first in flour, then in eggs, and then one more dip. Flour is one option for that second coating, but you can also get more creative. Bread crumbs are nice, but my favorite coating is potato chips.

Have you ever bought a new brand of chips and then thought they were too salty, or the flavor was a little too in-your-face for snacking? Those are perfect for crusting this chicken-fried chicken.

If you don't like potato chips, the process is the same whether you're using cornflakes, bread crumbs, or any other crust-worthy crunchy stuff.

This is also the perfect way to use up the last bits from a variety of chips and crumbs, mixing them together. Or use seasoned flour. Have fun with it!

Because the chicken is pounded thin, it looks a lot bigger than it really is, and because it's an even thickness, it makes really pretty slices. And those slices are nice for topping salads or for tacos. Its also great served with a gravy - I suggest a mushroom cream gravy, if you're looking for something particularly decadent.

And then one flattened chicken breast is enough for two.

Of course, it depends on the size of that chicken breast, but the ones from Frontiere were a nice size for two, along with some sides.

Chicken Fried Chicken

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup (seasoned or plain) flour, or more, as needed
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water, in a shallow bowl
2 tablespoons olive oil (or as needed)
1/4 cup second coating of your choice

First, choose what you'll use for your second coating. If you're using potato chips or similar products, crush them to fine crumbs.

If you don't have potato chips or other products to make crunchy crumbs, use flour. For more flavor, season the flour with with salt, pepper, and your favorite herb mix.

Put the chicken breast in a plastic bag, and use a meat mallet, a small frying pan or other suitable item to flatten it to an even thickness. You're looking for about 1/4 inch, but you want to stop smacking before the chicken starts to shred, fall apart, or get holes in it. Thickness is a personal preference - a thinner piece will cook faster, while a thicker one will take a little longer. But either way, it's fine.

Sprinkle in the flour. You're looking to coat the chicken evenly. If you need a little more flour, add it. Take the chicken out of the bag and shake off the extra flour.

Dip the chicken in the egg, coating both sides. and let the excess drip off.

Coat the chicken with your chosen crunchy breading, pressing it onto the chicken to make sure it sticks. Let the chicken rest on a rack while you heat the oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, cook the chicken on one side until the coating is golden brown, then flip and cook on the second side. Continue cooking, turning as needed, until the chicken is cooked through and the crust is golden brown. How long it will take depends on how thick the chicken is and how hot the frying pan is, but it's just a matter of minutes.

Let the chicken rest if you plan on slicing it for serving.

Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or ... yes, it's good chilled, too.

Disclaimer: I receive meat products from Frontiere Natural Meats for the purpose of creating recipes for my blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bonfire Wines

White wine pouch is skinny because it's mostly gone.
Hint: If someone offers me samples of wine or booze, there's a really good chance I'm going to take it. It's not that I'm a lush, but I like the occasional nip in the evening, and I like trying different brands and flavors.

I also like cooking with boozy things. Wine is good in tomato sauce, chili, and stews, among other things. If I don't care for the wine, I use it to make vinegar. Hard liquor works well in baked goods, ice cream, marinades, and more.

So when the nice folks at Bonfire Wines offered to send me wine, I said, sure, I'll take some.

The first interesting thing about the wine is the packaging. It comes in stand-up pouches with a spigot for dispensing the wine.

Since there's no oxygen - or very little - getting into the container, the wine stays fresh. It's a really neat idea, and the carbon footprint of this packaging is supposed to be a lot less than when glass is used.

When I was looking up places to buy the wine locally, I found a few websites that talked specifically about the packaging design so I guess it's pretty unique. I've seen plenty of boxed and bottled wines, but I'll admit I've never seen any quite like this before.

One thing I wondered about the packaging was how efficient it would be at getting all the wine out of the pouch, Would I need to cut it open to get the last 1/2 glass?

I needn't have worried, The bag was completely flat and and empty when I was done with it, and it emptied easily, with no need for scissors.

But, for me, it's all about the flavor. I received two different wines - a white wine called Ignite, and a red wine called Ember.

The white wine disappeared first. It was slightly sweet, but not as sweet as something like a moscato. I liked it a lot. I'm not enough of a wine snob to talk about intricate details, but it was a light, drinkable, happy wine.

I needed a little bit of red wine for a recipe, so I opened the Ember and sampled it. I'm usually not a red wine drinker because it tends to give me headaches, but I had no adverse reaction to this one at all, so that's a huuuuuge bonus.

Each pouch holds the equivalent of 2 normal bottles of wine, and since the pouch is so thin, it cools faster that a bottle. The really nice thing about the pouch is that since it's not an open bottle full of wine, you can use some wine for drinking or cooking and not have to fret about using it all as fast as possible. I really didn't notice any flavor change over the several days it took me to finish each pouch.

The other really nice thing about the pouch is that as you drink the wine, it gets smaller, so it doesn't take as much space in the refrigerator. I actually rolled up the top of the white wine pouch to make it fit in a less-tall space. You can't do that with a bottle, that's for sure.

I found one of these wine varieties locally for $15-18 for a pouch. So far, it's just available in a few states, but I have a feeling you'll be seeing it expanding into other markets.

So ... do you like the pouch idea? Or do you prefer bottles?

Disclaimer: I received this wine from the company for a review. I might be buying some for use in recipes as well. We'll see...
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