Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Buttery Semolina Rolls - A Quicker Recipe

It's funny how much kitchen tools have changed since I was a kid. I can remember when my mom got her first blender, and she didn't get a microwave until I was an adult. She had a countertop broiler that I'm sure was a fire hazard.

And I don't ever recall her using a thermometer. Not for meat, not for anything. Somehow we managed not to eat undercooked turkey, but overcooked meat sometimes happened.

Now, it seems like I use a thermometer just about every day. Or at least every day that I cook. I use it to check meat temperatures, and I use it when I'm making fiddly things like candy or custard. Or when I'm making sure I'm not killing the good bacteria when I make yogurt.

When I'm making bread, I can be a little ... imprecise with my temperature-checking, but I'll have to admit that things often turn out better when I am paying attention.

When proofing yeast, or when I'm giving it a head-start in warm water, the yeast like a temperature of about 110 degrees. A little lower is fine. 110 is safe. But when temperatures rise too much hotter, yeast goes from happy and frolickly to cooked and dead.

But did you know that you can also test whether your bread is done based on internal temperature?

A lot of recipes suggest thumping on the bottom of the loaf, or going by time and crust color. That's fine if you've got a lot of bread experience or if you don't have a thermometer handy - but these days, doesn't everyone have a thermometer of some sort?

Sweet and enriched breads are done baking when they're somewhere between 190 and 195 degrees. Regular white bread is done at somewhere between 195 and 200 degrees. It's much easier to stab a loaf of bread with a thermometer to read the temperature than it is to turn a hot loaf out of a pan to thump its bottom.

I've owned way too many thermometers over the years. Way too many. I actually have a box of them tucked away for the next garage sale. But a while back, after a turkey said it was done too quickly because of a faulty cheap thermometer, I decided to invest in something better. Yup, I bought a Thermapen.

Now, the nice folks at Thermapen have sponsored this post, and one lucky reader will get a brand-new Thermapen AND an autographed copy of my cookbook, Make Ahead Bread.

Plus, there's a recipe here. Because I like recipes. And bread. This one isn't a make-ahead version. Instead, it's a slightly speeded up version, with a shorter first rise.

Mom wants you to make these for you for Mother's Day. And then leave the Thermapen for her. Because Mom needs a good thermometer!

Buttery Semolina Rolls

1 cup water, at 110 degrees
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons Red Star Active Dry Yeast
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Baking spray (optional)
Cornmeal (optional)

Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. If you start with 110-degree water, it will drop a few degrees when you put it in the mixer bowl and add the sugar and yeast. That's fine.

While proofing isn't really necessary if you know that your yeast isn't old and dead, it does give the yeast a little jump start, which means that the bread tends to rise a bit quicker. You don't always want a fast rise because a slow rise gives the buns more flavor. But in this case, the buns have extra flavor from semolina flour and from butter.

Let the water-sugar-yeast mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it's frothy.

Add the bread flour, semolina flour, salt, and butter. Knead with the dough hook attached to your stand mixer until the dough is elastic.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover, and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes. the goal is to find a place that's about 90 degrees.

Meanwhile, spray a 10-inch round cake pan - or anything similarly sized - with baking spray. It's not necessary, but it's extra insurance. Sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom of the pan, if you like. And onto the sides, if you like. Again, it's not necessary, but I like the flavor and crunch.

Divide the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces and form them into balls. Place the balls in the pan so they're somewhat evenly spaced.

Cover the pan and set aside for 30 minutes. The buns should double in size and fill the pan.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the buns are risen, remove the cover and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the buns are golden brown and the internal temperature is about 195 degrees.

Remove the pan from the oven, flip the buns out of the pan, and let them cool completely on a rack.

Well, okay, you can rip one off and sample it while it's warm. Or three. I won't judge.


The nice folks at Thermoworks have graciously offered to give away one of their amazing Thermapens, and I've thrown in an autographed copy of Make Ahead Bread as well.

Click HERE to enter.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Bourbon-Lime Fajitas - and a cocktail to match!

The Kentucky Derby is approaching, which means bourbon is the liquor of choice for those who like tradition. Of course, there are also foods that are typical, but I decided to something ... less traditional.

I suppose I could have made a Kentucky Hot Brown ... but I was in the mood for fajitas. And bourbon marinated beef sounded awfully good. I used Four Roses Bourbon, which was provided by this post's sponsor.

The longer you marinate, the more flavor the meat will soak up.

Meanwhile, the cocktail has the same flavors, which makes them the perfect pair. Or, you know, make one or the other.

Ginger beer is getting easier to find these days, so use it if you can find it. It's similar to ginger ale, but with a sharper, more ginger-forward flavor. A more adult soda, perhaps. If you can't find ginger beer, of course you can use your favorite ginger ale.

Bourbon-Lime Fajitas

1 pound skirt steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Four Roses Bourbon
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt, to taste
2 cups mixed sliced bell peppers and onions
Flour tortillas
Sour cream, yogurt, or crema
Sliced avocado

Combine the steak, olive oil, bourbon, lime juice, and salt in a zip-top bag. Massage the bag a bit to get the meat evenly coated. Let the meat sit at room temperature for an hour, or refrigerate up to 24 hours before cooking.

When you're ready to cook, heat a grill pan or cast iron pan on medium-high heat. Cook the skirt steak until done to your liking. Set aside to rest before slicing.

Meanwhile, cook the peppers and onions - you can cook in the same pan - until done to your liking - they're fine cooked crisp-tender, or until they're cooked through.

Serve the fajita ingredients separately, so people can assemble their own. Or serve the fajitas assembled on flour tortillas with meat, peppers and onions, sliced avocado, and a small dollop of sour cream.

Bourbon, Lime and Ginger Cocktail

1 ounce Four Roses Bourbon
1/2 ounce lime juice
Ginger beer, as needed
Mint sprig, to garnish

Fill a glass or mug with ice. Add the bourbon and lime juice. Fill the glass with ginger beer and garnish with a spring of fresh mint.

Thanks to Four Roses Bourbon for sponsoring this post.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Apple Ginger Fizz Cocktail

Quite a while back, I sampled some Piehole Whiskey flavors and listed them in a holiday gift guide. Recently the company sent me more samples, so instead of sipping it over ice, I decided to start having fun with cocktails.

I decided to use the Apple Pie Whiskey (the other flavors are Pecan Pie and Cherry Pie). But what other flavors could I put in the cocktail? I had some ginger beer - the non-alcoholic type - and then I decided I needed a little extra sweetness to counter the spice of the ginger beer.

The result was pretty darned tasty.

Apple-Ginger Fizz

1 ounce Piehole Apple Pie Whiskey
1/2 ounce creme de cacao
Ginger beer, as needed

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add the whiskey and creme de cacao. Fill the glass with ice. Stir and serve.

I've received product from Piehole Whiskey several times. It's always tasty!
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