Thursday, April 16, 2015

Green Olive and Pimento Bread with a Hint of Cheese

Cutting board courtesy of J.K. Adams: 1761 Large Rectangle
I've been on a little bit of an olive binge lately, so it was inevitable that some would fall into a loaf of bread. I had my choice of a few different types, but decided to use green olive stuffed with pimentos, mostly for the color.

Then I decided to add just a little bit of cheese. For the fun of it.

The resulting loaf is rich, with little bursts of salty-savory olives and sweet-savory bits of pimento. I used a white cheese, so it mostly disappeared into the loaf, but you can see brown flecks in the crust where the cheese was near the surface. If you use an orange-colored cheese, it will be more visible in the bread itself.

The one funny thing about this loaf is the green olives that are close to the surface, but barely covered by a film of dough ... they look a little odd because they're a greenish-white color. So make sure everyone knows that they're looking at green olives and not something evil growing on the loaf.

To make this bread, I used a crisping mat made by Mrs. Anderson's and supplied by Harold Import Company via 37 Cooks. Hmmm. Is that unclear? I belong to a group blog called 37 Cooks, and we're doing a challenge using the Mrs. Anderson's crisping mats (and standard silicon mats) that Harold Import Company sent to all of us.

I've tested the crisping mat quite a bit, and I have to say that I'm really pleased with the results. The surface is nonstick, so there's no need for cornmeal under the dough. The mat is actually a very fine mesh, so there are holes that allow air circulation under the baking bread. It's really a great idea.

Even if the bread is a little sticky - like a sweet bread that might ooze sugary stuff - or a cheesy bread like this one - the bread doesn't stick and the mat is easy to clean. It's dishwasher safe, but things like this are awkward in my dishwasher, so I've only washed it by hand.

If you bake a lot of bread, pastries, cookies, or other baked goods where a crisp, non-soggy bottom is preferred, I suggest you give one of these mats a try. And although I haven't tried it, it should be pretty awesome for reheating things like pizza, where you really do want a non-soggy bottom.

Green Olive & Pimento Bread with a Hint of Cheese

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces shredded cheese (your choice)
16 pimento-stuffed well-drained green olives, sliced or roughly chopped

Combine the water, yeast, sugar, bread flour, salt, and olive oil in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Add the cheese and olives and mix until well combined.

Cover the mixer bowl and set aside until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

When the dough has risen, flour your work surface, place the crisping mat on a baking sheet, and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Knead the dough briefly, then form it into a tight ball. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Or, what I did was use the empty mixing bowl as a cover. Set aside until the dough has doubled in size and if you gently poke the dough with a finger, it leaves an indent or slowly fills in rather than bouncing back quickly.

Slash the dough as desired and bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned, about 45 minutes.

Let the bread cool completely on a rack before slicing.

I received two baking mats at no cost to me from Harold Import Company via 37 Cooks.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Homemade Sour Mix

I've been making a lot of cocktails lately, so it makes sense that I'd want to make my own mixers. I have a soda siphon for making fizzy water, and I've made flavored simple syrups. But for some reason, I never thought about making a sour mix.

Which is sort of silly, since I like tart cocktails. Usually that means I'm squeezing limes for my drinks. But wen I got a copy of Summer Cocktails to review, I decided to make the sour mix recipe from the book.

But of course I had to put my own twist on it.

The standard recipe had one cup of lemon juice and one cup of lime juice, but there were options for sour mixes with more lime, with orange juice, and with grapefruit juice. I had a brand-new bag of limes and a bag of lemons, but I also had some ugli fruit from Frieda's Specialty Produce, so I decided to use one of them. Then I squeezed all the limes, and I got the rest of my two cups of citrus from squeezing lemons.

The resulting sour mix is tart and a little sweet, and it tastes fresh because it is fresh. I decided that I wanted the clearest possible cocktails, so I strained the juice before I mixed it with the sugar. If you want a thicker juice, don't bother straining.

Homemade Sour Mix
Adapted from Summer Cocktails by Maria Del Mar Sacasa

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons finely grated citrus zest (from the citrus you've chosen to use)
1 cup water
2 cups fresh citrus juice (your choice)

Pulse the sugar and zest in a food processor until the zest is very very fine.

Put the zesty sugar and the water in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring, until the sugar melts. Take the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Add the fruit juice and stir to combine. Transfer to a bottle or jar for storage. You can strain it if you like, or leave it pulpy.

About the Book

I've acquired a few cocktail books, and some are for fantasizing about, and others are for making cocktails whenever I feel like it. This is the latter. It's less about hunting for exotic brands of liquor and more about having some fun with tasty combination.

There are some classics, and there are some more modern drinks. And there are variations of the drinks, so you can experiment a bit. There are classics like martinis and margaritas, and there are some new creations as well.

I have to say that I'll probably be using this book quite a bit. And I'm probably going to make the sour mix again and again, whenever I see citrus on sale.

I received the book from the publisher at no cost to me. I regularly receive produce from Frieda's Specialty Produce for my use.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Baked Potato Soup with Hatch Chiles

When I got the Hatch Chile Cookbook from Melissa's I was pretty excited about diving in and making some recipes. But there was one little problem. It's not Hatch chile season.

I considered using other peppers, but that seemed wrong.

Then the lightbulb lit. Canned.

The hardest part was trying to figure out how to convert a fresh chile recipe to use canned chiles.

After a bunch of hunting around to try to figure out how much a single Hatch chile might weigh, I decided that a 4-ounce can of diced Hatch chiles would be equivalent to one fresh pepper.

Whether that's right or not, that's what I used, and the soup was really good. But of course, pepper is one of those things you can add to taste - so a little more or a little less isn't going to kill a recipe.

I had both hot and mild canned chiles, so I used one can of mild and one can of hot. It gave a nice amount of heat, but the soup was still easy to eat.

The instructions said to use the cheese as a garnish, but I think it makes more sense to add the cheese to the soup and let it melt in, and then leave the sour cream as a garnish. That's how I have it written below.

But hey, it's your soup. You could use both the cheese and the sour cream as garnish, if you like.

One reason I like the idea of using the sour cream as the garnish is that it could potentially curdle in the soup. The recipe cautions against letting the soup boil at the end after the sour cream is added, but that's a little risky, because if you step away for a second and the soup boils, you could end up with a grainy soup. It's not ruined, but it's not the best it could be.

Another reason to leave the sour cream as a garnish or to let people add their own, is that sour cream tames the heat from the peppers, so people can add as much or as little as they like. Or make the soup as rich - or not - as they like.

A sprinkle of fresh chives would also be a nice garnish, and would add some extra color and freshness to the soup.

Baked Potato Soup
Adapted from the Hatch Chile Cookbook by Sharon Hernandez and Chef Ida Rodriguez

2 potatoes, baked and cooled
3 cups chicken broth
2 4-ounce cans diced Hatch chiles or 2 fresh Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons sour cream

Peel the potatoes. Cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. Reserve half and put the other half in your blender along with the chicken stock - or, if you have a stick blender, put the potato and stock in the saucepan you'll be using to cook the soup.

Blend until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan (if you used a blender). Add the chiles, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese in several additions, stirring each time until it's melted into the soup.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.

Stir a dollop of sour cream into each portion before serving, or pass the sour cream at the table for diners to add their own. You could also pass extra cheese, if you like.

Serve hot.

I received the cookbook at no cost to me from Melissa's.
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