Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BOTD: Cinnamon Knots

I was out shopping and out of the corner of my eye, I saw some tempting "Cinnamon Pretzels." They were in the shape of pretzels, and huge, but it looked like they might have been made from a sweet dough. I almost bought one, then changed my mind, The last time I gave in to a sweet dough temptation, I was disappointed. Instead, I put it on the list to bake at home.

I didn't want to replicate the giant pretzels I saw - something smaller made a lot more sense to me. And I didn't want a super-sweet dough, either. I wanted it a little bit rich and eggy, and with honey instead of sugar for a bit more depth of flavor.

That was the plan, but it took me a couple days to actually eat my creation.You can't say that I'm not patient. Fortunately, the wait was worth it. The resulting rolls were sweet, the luxurious flavor of honey was evident but not overwhelming. and the cinnamon sugar topping was just right.

These rolls were best when warm, and they were still good when fresh but fully cooled. What surprised me most was how good they were a day or two later, microwaved for thirty seconds and eaten warm. Not quite as good as fresh out of the oven, but they were soft and tender. If I wasn't in such a hurry, they'd probably be even better gently re-warmed in the oven, but I used up all my patience before the were baked.


BOTD: Crunchy Seedy Breadsticks

I love holiday food. It's different from usual meals, with more rich, creamy, comfort-food qualities. But the one thing that's often missing from that special-occasion plate is crunch. It's all nice homey food, but I like a little texture as well.

Breadsticks to the rescue. These are a perfect companion to the buns in the bread basket, and they'd be welcome with the appetizers as well.

As much as I love a fluffy dinner roll, there's so much other food on the holiday table that a roll seems like a lot of food to commit to. Breadsticks are smaller - almost just a nibble - so it's easy to make room on the plate for one. Or two.

Not only are these breadsticks crisp, they're filled with seeds that add even more texture. And since these are dry crispy breadsticks, you can make them ahead of time and they'll last for a long time afterward. No need to worry about getting them eaten with the rest of the leftovers, these can wait for you to get around to them.

When I make breadsticks, usually I don't bother trimming the edges of the dough before I cut the sticks, which means the ends of the breadsticks are always a little knobby looking. This time I decided to be neater about it, since there were for a holiday.

These bake at a low temperature for a long time, so they dry out before they brown. The slow baking also eliminates the need rearrange the breadsticks as much during baking.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Olive Pimento Cheese

Okay, so I'm addicted to cooking contests. They inspire me to make things I might not otherwise think of. The Kitchen Play contest this month is sponsored by Lindsey Olives, and I certainly had olives on hand after the Thanksgiving holiday.

I decided to take one more look at the menu on Kitchen Play before the month was over, and see what else I could find and (of course) modify. This time I decided to work on the Amuse Bouche course which was a baked brie.

Cheese and olives are a great pair, but my post-Thanksgiving plans didn't require something as fancy as baked brie. But I had plenty of other cheeses. And ideas. So I went with something a little less geared for entertaining, and went with something a little more geared towards hanging around and snacking.

The cheese is still there and the olives are still plentiful. And there's baking. I served this cheese two ways - atop home made Fire Crackers, and inside pastry as mini turnovers. The pastry was left over from making pie crust for Turkey Pot Pie, but if you're entertaining a crowd and want a lot of turnovers, you might want to make a whole batch of pastry just for this recipe. Or buy pastry crust.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

BOTD: Cranberry Yogurt Biscuits

Cranberry sauce is great on the Thanksgiving table, but what can you do with the leftovers?

Like jelly or jam, it can last a while in the refrigerator, but eventually there's no more turkey left to pair it with, and you've got to find another use for it or get rid of it.

These biscuits are so good, you might want to make more cranberry sauce, just to make more biscuits. I used my own homemade cranberry sauce, but any chunky cranberry sauce will do.

The pan you choose for baking your biscuits will determine the type of crust they will have. If you bake on a cookie sheet, leaving room between them, they will have a crisp exterior. If you bake them in a cake pan, close together, they will have a soft, tender exterior. A dark pan, like a cast iron skilled will produce a darker top and bottom.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Technique: Deciphering Refined Wheat Flour

Wheat flour is a lot more complex than most flour labels would have you believe. While some companies do a halfway decent job at defining what type of wheat is in the bag, others require a little more research. Before you start that research, though, you need to know just a little about the different types of wheat, and what they’re good for.

The three major distinctions that matter to most bakers are the color, season, and hardness of the wheat.

Red vs. White: This refers to the color of the bran, which is the outer protective coating of the wheat kernel. Bran color is less important in refined flours than in whole wheat flours.

Winter vs. Spring: While it probably doesn’t matter to you when your wheat was planted or harvested, it’s useful to know that flour from winter wheat has an average protein content of 10-12 percent and medium gluten strength, while flour from spring wheat has an average gluten content of 12-14 percent, and high gluten strength.

Hard vs. Soft: This is the most important category. Flour from hard wheat has a higher protein content and stronger gluten-forming proteins, making it better for yeasted products. Flour from soft wheat has less protein, low gluten strength, and is are better for chemically-leavened products like cakes, muffins, biscuits, and cookies.

Any flour can be any combination of those three categories, so you could have a hard red spring wheat or a soft white winter wheat, for example.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Quesadillas with Cranberry Salsa

So what else can you use your home made leftover cranberry sauce for?

If you've already used it along with the turkey, and you've used it for a spread on your turkey sandwiches, and you've spread it on toast, and you've made the cranberry muffins I posted earlier, then maybe it's time for something a little bit different.

I used it for salsa. Yes, salsa. The hot stuff. 

And then I used the salsa to make some quesadillas. The dark magenta cranberry sauce looked good next to the cheese, and the flavor was great.

Cranberry sauce supplies that same sweet-tart flavor combination as tomatoes or tomatillos, so it makes sense that cranberries would work in a salsa. I mean, really, people are making mango salsa. Cranberries make just as much sense.

I went the easy route making the salsa - I started with about a half-cup of cranberry sauce and added a couple spoons full of Hot Heads Pepperspread. Perfect! Hot, spicy, sweet, tart ... and dark magenta/red. The green of the Pepperspread didn't made a dent in that cranberry color.

Besides the quesadillas, the salsa was also great on tacos.

I've still got some left, and I think it would work well as a companion to a pork roast. Or a condiment on a roast pork sandwich. Or even on a turkey sandwich, if there happened to be some turkey around. Or... turkey tacos!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Eggplant Putanesca

After trying out one of the recipes for the Kitchen Play contest sponsored by Lindsey Olives, I decided to see what else I could find and (of course) modify. This time I decided to riff on a recipe for Squash Putanesca Cruda which itself is a play on Pasta Putanesca.

This contest recipe was written as a salad course, and used spaghetti squash as the base. Which makes sense, since spaghetti squash is sort of like spaghetti. But I didn't have any spaghetti squash on hand. I did, however, have some eggplant that needed to be used.

I used most of the same ingredients that were in the topping in the original recipe, but I didn't make the dressing that included ricotta cheese. Instead, I used just a bit of shredded parmesan cheese.

There's not a lot of work required to make these, and you could assemble them ahead and heat them up later, if that works better.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BOTD: Rye Again

I wanted rye bread, so I made it. Simple as that. One small gaffe in the making of this bread. I had the oven cranked up to high heat for another recipe, and although I turned it down before this one went in, I think it was a bit too high. I should have waited a little longer, but the bread had risen enough, so it was go-time.

No problem. The bread was good. It cooked a little faster than usual, but I pulled it in time. I've adjusted the recipe instructions for what the timing should be for this loaf.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


King Arthur Flour just emailed me this promo. with a note that I can use it for myself and also share with my friends and readers, so here it is:

Follow the link and get 15, 20, or 25 percent off your order, depending on how much you spend.

To be clear, this isn't a an ad where I get something if you click through. I don't get any credit or glory if you click the link or if you buy from them. They haven't paid me anything or offered me anything or bribed me to pass this along. I like the company and its products, so I'm happy to pass along a deal.

Being frugal myself, I usually look for deals like this before I spend big bucks stocking up and splurging, particularly before the holiday baking frenzy. So, what the heck. You've got the link, you can have the discount, use it if you want it. It's good until Friday.

BOTD: Cranberry Muffins

After Thanksgiving, it's always interesting to see which leftovers disappear first, which get transformed into something else, and which stragglers remain after everything else is gone.

When we're done with turkey sandwiches, and the carcass and leftover vegetables have made their way into soup, there's usually one straggler left in the fridge: cranberry sauce. It lasts a long time before spoiling, like any jam or jelly. But there comes a point where I've had enough cranberry-smeared toast and it's time to get creative with the last of it.

Fortunately, cranberry sauce makes a great addition to muffins. The color is pretty, the sweet-tart of the berries is interesting, but the flavor doesn't scream "Thanksgiving leftovers." You can coax the flavor along with new ingredients, if you want to transform it even more. Ginger, orange zest or cinnamon would be lovely depending on what's already in your sauce, or just use it plain. If your homemade sauce was good, it will make very nice muffins. So nice, in fact, that you might want to grab a few extra bags of cranberries and freeze them so you can make this again when the berries have disappeared completely from the stores.

I've only tried this recipe with my own homemade sauce, so I'm not sure how it would work with a store-bought sauce. I'm guessing that a chunky sauce would work much better than a plain jelly that would throw off liquid ratio too much.

This recipe isn't super-sweet - these muffins would be perfect with breakfast, brunch, or dare I say it? - even with dinner.

Monday, November 22, 2010

BOTD: Olive Rosemary Bread

One again, I decided to throw my hat into the ring for another Kitchen Play contest. This time the sponsor was Lindsey Olives. I looked over the menu items and saw that the dessert course was French toast made with bread that included olives.

I decided to forgo making the French toast and just made the bread. Once that's made, of course you can do anything you want with it.

I'm thinking it would be great for turkey sandwiches, if it lasts that long. Or it would be pretty in the Thanksgiving bread basket. Or toasted and used as the base for an olive tapenade.

Of course, I added my own little twists to the original bread recipe. I decreased the recipe to make just one loaf, and I fiddled with a few of the other original ingredients, adding semolina flour and using bread flour instead of the all purpose and whole wheat flours.

For the olives, I used regular black olives instead of the kalamatas, and I used the sliced rather than chopped. The stand mixer beat them up a little bit more, but it left large, dramatic chunks. It's a pretty loaf of bread, with a light golden crust.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ingredients: Salt

Salt isn’t absolutely required to make bread or pizza dough, but most people would say that saltless bread is unappetizing. Most people would say that bread without salt tastes dull or flat. That’s reason enough to add that little bit of salt that most recipes require.

Besides enhancing flavor, salt also strengthens and tightens the gluten and regulates the yeast. Without any salt, some breads can rise unpredicatbly.

Some sources say that since salt toughens the gluten, it’s best to add it at the end of kneading, to make the chore easier. Others say that it should be added at the beginning, for better distribution. I’ll leave that decision up to you.

All salt is chemically the same. The differences are in the structure and size of the crystals, and in the additional ingredients, whether those are natural or added during processing.

As far as add-ins, recently I’ve seen an item marketed as Bread Salt that looks very much like the salt marketed under the brand name Real Salt. It’s mostly pink with flecks of darker reds and looks pretty in a container. This salt is said to contain extra minerals which may be better for you or for your yeasty friends. I’ve used it and I can’t say that I noticed a difference in the finished product.

Non-branded pink, red, black, gray and smoked salts are also available, but most of these are relatively expensive and are intended as finishing salts – that is, you sprinkle them on finished products where they’ll have the most impact. Many of these specialty salts are sea salt. And of course you can buy plain old sea salt as well.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce

I didn't measure anything, but here's how it went:

I pulled out the grinder, and in went:

Lamb stew meat

That all went into a bowl and I added:

1 egg
Penzey's Greek Seasoning
Penzey's dried red and green peppers
Cracked rosemary
Salt and pepper

I mixed it up, formed meatballs, browned them in a pan and finished them in the oven.

The sauce was:

Greek-style yogurt (home made)
Onion, finely diced
Cucumber, finely diced

Everything was "to taste" and when it was all done, it tasted pretty good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chopped Chicken Livers

Liver is a love-it or hate-it food. I happen to love it.

When my mother made chopped chicken livers, she sometimes chopped them by hand, and sometimes she used her blender. The hand-chopped version was obviously chunkier, but how chunky depended on how much frustration she needed to unleash. The blender version was silky smooth. I liked both.

When I was dating my now-husband, we used to go to a restaurant that served appetizers in the bar area for customers who were waiting for tables. There were vegetable sticks and dip, a giant cheeseball and crackers .. and chopped chicken livers, cocktail rye bread, and chopped onion for garnish.

There were times when we got to the restaurant and there was no wait, but we'd duck into the bar for those chicken livers anyway. They were that good.

Now, when I make chicken livers, I use the food processor to chop them. The result is smoother (and easier) than hand chopping, but it has more texture than when mom used her blender.

The local grocery store sells chicken livers in pint containers, and they weigh about a pound. That's a lot of livers. When I buy chicken, I usually buy it whole and I might use just the one liver to make a little bit of chopped chicken liver for a little snack, but if I'm working with that little bit it tends to be a lot more simple.

If you don't have poultry seasoning, sage works well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Noodles - by hand

I was lucky enough to get some Italian 00 pasta flour (sometimes it's good to be me) and of course I had to fo old-school and make the pasta entirely by hand.

I started with a pile of flour on the counter, about 2 cups. I made a well in the center of the pile of flour, and dropped in one egg yolk.

I broke the yolk and started mixing it with the flour, then added water and kept bringing in more of the flour a little at a time until al the flour was incorporated and I had a nice stiff dough.

I floured the counter lightly, and kneaded the dough until it was smooth and then wrapped it up and let it sit while I worked on other things.

I floured the counter again and rolled the dough out to an reasonable thickness, then rolled it up and cut it into strips.

I unrolled the strips, dusted them with flour to keep them from sticking, and left the on the countertop until I was ready to cook.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

BOTD: Sourdough Fast-Rise

I had some excess sourdough starter, and I had some rapid-rise yeast that I didn't have plans for, so  I decided to put them together and see what might happen. I wanted a loaf of bread, I didn't have time for sourdough, but I didn't want to make a typical somewhat-flavorless rapid-rise bread.

It worked better than I thought.

I hesitate to call it a sourdough bread, since it used commercial yeast to rise. But it tasted like sourdough. On a day when I didn't have time for anything more leisurely or complicated, it was pretty darned good.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BOTD: Ethereal Crisps

These lighter-than-air crispy crackers make their way to my holiday table quite often. They aren't always the same - sometimes I change out the flour, or I add seeds. This time, the interesting ingredient was cooked grits. Or polenta, if you prefer.

You can use these crisps for appetizers, to accompany a cheese or dip. Or put them in the bread basket to add some crispness to the dinner table. They're light and airy, and people will be amazed that you made your own crackers, particularly crackers that are this amazingly thin.

You can make these a day or two ahead, if you like. They're a bit fragile, but if they break, it's no problem. Sometimes I leave just one or two of them whole for presentation, and break the rest into smaller pieces for serving.

These need to be rolled very, very thin to get the proper effect. But that's not the hard part. The hard part is that they cook very fast, and it's a fine line between done and burned. You don't have time to check your email when one is in the oven.

The cooked grits in this version added a slightly corny flavor to the crisps, but it's not like eating a corn chip - the flavor is subtle enough that it won't interfere with whatever you're serving with these chips, but it adds a bit of complexity to what it otherwise a very plain cracker. It also adds an interesting visual element.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cranberry Relish

When I was growing up, cranberry sauce was all about the canned jelly-like product. Everyone took a little bit, but no one ever took seconds.

For years, I kept up the tradition. It seemed like such a part of the holiday that I couldn't figure out how to get away from it. I'd open the can, the jelly would slither out, and it would go on the table.

Now, I understand why cranberries are part of the celebration. For one thing, they're in season. For another, the tartness cuts the richness in the rest of the meal. But they don't do any good cutting the tartness if no one's taking any.

My opinion of cranberry sauce changed when I found some recipes for sauce - or relish or chutney, whatever you want to call it - made from fresh cranberries. Not only did I like it better, but I found uses for it after Thanksgiving. That jelly stuff usually just languished in the refrigerator until it I got around to throwing it away.

This relish can be used uncooked; simply refrigerate it after mixing it. In that case, it's better after at least a day, or even two. That's great because you can make it in advance. Personally, I like it better after it has been cooked to meld and mellow the flavors a bit. Try it both ways if you want. And you can combine it one day and cook it the next day, if that works better for you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ingredients: Sugars and Sweeteners in Bread

Sugar is an oft-misunderstood ingredient in bread. Some people believe that it's necessary to include sugar to feed the yeast. In truth, yeast is perfectly happy munching on flour. If you don't want to add sugar, you don't have to, and there are plenty of breads where sugar is completely unnecessary.

The Role of Sweeteners in Dough

On the other hand, sugar plays several roles in dough besides that of yeast-food. Like salt, it's a flavor enhancer. White sugar, honey, brown sugar and all the other variations add their own subtle flavor to bread. Which one is absolutely right for a loaf of bread depends on what you're looking for, and fortunately, you can usually substitute any sugar for any other in bread recipes. Of course, the results won't be exactly the same, but things won't go horribly wrong.

Sugar is hygroscopic, which doesn't have much affect with a small amount of sugar in the dough. Large amounts can draw up so much moisture that the yeast becomes less active. It can also compete for the water against the flour's protein. Without enough hydration, it makes it difficult for the gluten to develop.

Because of the effect on the yeast, very sweet doughs sometimes use more yeast. To counteract the effect on gluten, they require more kneading to become elastic, and some recipes call for additional gluten.

Sugar helps create a fine crumb and also tenderizes dough, making it more extensible. In large amounts it can over-tenderize to the point where the gluten structure collapses. Sugar also promotes browning, and in larger amounts improves the shelf life of the bread product.

Chances are that you aren't making super-sweet pizza dough, so you won't be using large enough quantities to cause adverse reactions, but it's something to keep in mind for bread doughs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Copyright, Cooks Source, and Contests

If you've missed the recent Cooks Source debacle, let me summarize. A small magazine published an article they found online. When the writer of the article found out, she contacted the magazine. The magazine issued a snarky response about how everything on the Internet was public domain. So there. Pffft.

A virtual firestorm of ensued, with tweets and blog posts and Facebook fury. It all got a little out of hand, with random people calling the magazine's advertisers and bombarding their email addresses. Many innocent electrons were sacrificed to make the point that copyright is assumed unless right are specifically handed over. The Internet is not Public Domain, although it is the domain of the public. And sometimes the public becomes an angry mob.

Cooks Source apologized. Whether this will suffice to keep them out of further trouble, it's hard to say. Not only did this publication use one writer's article, it seems they used a lot of articles as-is from a lot of sources including NPR, Martha Stewart, Food Network, and others. Whether there was permission to use them, I don't know, but it seems unlikely for a lot of reasons. Whether it might have been considered "fair use" is another argument.

But that's not the point I'm meandering to. The point I'm interested in at the moment is whether bloggers (and food bloggers in particular) really care about the rights to their own work. How many bloggers are just doing this for grins and giggles and how many are hoping - however fruitlessly - that they will be the Next Big Thing and get offered a book contract, a movie deal, or a TV show?

Bloggers who have any background in writing probably know that their creations are copyrighted from the moment of creation. So there's some security in that. Recipes, however, are not protected, in terms of the list of ingredients and the basic instructions. There are only so many ways you can say, "cream the butter and sugar..." so that sort of thing isn't protected. The prose around the recipe and any unique language used in writing the recipes are protected. So some of it is safe, and some is unprotected by its very nature.

That's mostly unclear as mud so far, right? 

But still, most food bloggers who have writing background and aspire to the Next Big Thing probably hope that if fame ever sneaks up upon them, they will be able to use the backlog of recipes they have amassed on their blogs. If they formulated the recipes and wrote the prose around it, they should be able to use their own recipes however they see fit, particularly if someone comes along and offers them a big burlap bag full of money and a shiny new cookbook contract, right?

Makes sense. You wrote it, you own it unless you give it away.

Sure. But that's a big "unless" lurking on the page.

Are some bloggers giving it away? I'm not talking about technical errors or pages that don't display copyrights or lack of copyright registration. The fact that copyright exists from the moment of creation takes care of most of that when it comes time to sell the publication rights.

The problem is that bloggers might be actively giving away their content. Giving permission. Handing it over. For nothing. No recompense. Nada.

How? Are these bloggers being duped? No not really. It's all in the fine print. If said blogger has entered any contests and has clicked the "I agree to the terms and conditions" button without reading, this might be what was hidden behind the button:

By submitting any content, you simultaneously and automatically grant a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, fully sub-licensable and transferable right and license to use, record, sell, lease, reproduce, distribute, create derivative works based upon, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, publish and otherwise exploit the submitted content as we, in our sole discretion, deem appropriate. We may exercise this grant in any format, media or technology now known or later developed.

I've seen this same boilerplate text on several sites and in print contracts. Basically, by simply submitting to a contest, you could be granting all rights that exist now and forevermore.

If Betty Crocker or the Food Network or the Pillsbury Doughboy knocked on my door and handed me a briefcase full of twenties for the rights to one of my recipes, I'd sign the papers, take the post off of my blog, and promise to never republish it without their permission. 

I see nothing wrong with selling the rights to my writing. Sheesh, it's how I get paid outside the world of blogging. I write, someone pays me, they get the right to publish. Although, admittedly, everyone I write food articles for now has agreed that I have the right to republish anywhere I want, as long as it's not a competing publication.

But if I'm handing out rights, I want something in return, besides the joy of entering a contest.

Okay, maybe I'd give up one recipe to a recipe contest if the prize was big and prestigious. But in that case, I'd be handing over a formula that isn't copyrightable anyway, so it's not like I'd be giving away a heck of a lot.

But considering how many contests demand the same sort of rights I detailed up above, a blogger could give up a lot of rights just by posting recipes to a site that's hosting contests. The bloggers get nothing in return, and in a year the site owns a huge number of recipes that could be compiled into a cookbook. "Yay!" the bloggers say, "My recipe is being published in a cookbook!" Which is fine for the ego but does nothing to pay the bills. And I doubt that publication credits like that are very impressive to future editors and publishers.

"What's the big deal?" you might say. It's only one recipe. The big deal is that someone's making money from that publication, or they wouldn't do it. The contributors should get a share. Let's put it this way - I had a short story published in a paperback anthology in 1993, and I still occasionally get a royalty check. At this point it's pretty insignificant, but it's still recognition of my contribution. People who give up all rights to their recipes will never see a dime from them, unless they're one of the lucky ones who wins the contest.

Of course, while the bloggers are giving away their rights merely by submitting something to a contest, the contest holders are saying things like this: 

You must not use, copy, collect, reproduce, alter, distribute, create derivative works based upon, publish, sell, publicly display or otherwise exploit any information or content ...

So, hmmmm... you handed over your rights, and now you can't even create derivative works based on your own content that you just gave them. That's a little restrictive, isn't it?
I've entered a couple contests recently, and lemme tell you, I hemmed and hawed and made sure I wasn't handing over anything I was unwilling to part with. 
Kitchen Play has a nice thing going where you don't even give them your recipe, you blog about it and links go back and forth. It's a good deal even if you don't win anything, since the links bring people to your site.
Okay, the fact that I won something in their first contest makes it a little nicer. But, heck, it was the kind of contest I like to enter. Cook, blog, link. Easy peasy.

Then I found Foodie Blogroll which sponsors contests for members. For some contest, you blog about stuff and link. For others you tweet or "like" sponsor pages on Facebook or make comments about the company products. Some people might scoff and say that all that linking and tweeting and liking is free advertising for the site and the sponsors. Well, yeah. But I won't be jumping on the bandwagon for products and companies I don't like. And heck, I link to companies and products that I like, whether there's anything in it for me or not. Yanno, like the links I put in this post.
I like entering contests. They're fun. In the past, I entered contests that required entry fees, and those fees funded the prizes. Now, sponsors are looking for clicks and tweets. I don't see a problem with that. A link or a tweet or a "like," particularly if it's a site or a company that I actually do like, is very little to ask for. Much better than giving up all rights to my work.

Oh, and if you were wondering what the photo has to do with this post. Nothing. I just like it.


Friday, November 12, 2010

BOTD: Baking Bread with Fresh Yeast

I pulled a cube of frozen fresh yeast from my freezer for a photo, and decided I might as well use it.

I knew it probably didn't have the rising power it would have had before I froze it, so I decided to make a smaller loaf.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tuna Pot Pie

Everyone knows about chicken pot pie, but have you ever heard of tuna pot pie? I remember it from when I was a kid, but even then it was pretty rare. Stores would have them sometimes, but not often. And, weird kid that I was, I loved them.

I told my husband that I was going to make tuna pot pies, but he'd never heard of them. And we grew up in the same area. So those pot pies were pretty rare, indeed.

The tuna pot pies I remembered were a lot like the chicken and turkey pot pies, with a creamy sauce and vegetables in a pastry crust. But, of course, with tuna.

I made a standard pastry crust, but with less sugar than I'd have used for a sweet pie. Since I was working with 5-inch pie dishes that I hadn't used for pie before, I wasn't sure how much pastry crust I'd need so, I made a bit extra. I used 3 cups of flour, 2 1/2 sticks of butter, a teaspoon each of salt and sugar and enough water for it to come together. That was enough for 2 pies, and probably would have been enough for three - I had plenty of scraps left.

On the other hand, the filling I made fit perfectly into the two pies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BOTD: Medium Rye with Seeds

I love rye bread with caraway seeds, but this time I decided to add something different - a little bit of anise seeds. The flavor isn't so noticeable that most people would be able to pick them out, but they do add that subtle extra "something" that makes this bread a little more interesting than the usual rye.

I only added a small amount of the anise - feel free to increase the amount and see if you like it better.

I used whey in this bread, because I have it left over from making yogurt. Water would be fine as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BOTD: Harvest Buns

Pumpkins just about scream "fall," and pumpkin pie is a regular feature at Thanksgiving. If you're anything like me, before all the Thanksgiving prep is over, there's some canned pumpkin left over from another recipe, or an extra can in the pantry "just in case."

Why not get creative with some of that pumpkin?

I often add mashed potatoes to my bread recipes when I want them to be fluffy. Pumpkin plays that same role in these buns, but it also add wonderful color, moistness, and subtle flavor.

These buns are a little bit sweet and a little bit earthy. but they don't hit you in the head with pumpkin taste. Since they don't have the usual pumpkin pie spices they won't clash with dinner, and they'd make nice little sandwich rolls for the next day.

I'm suggesting that you divide this dough into 15 buns, which is sort of strange in terms of division, but when you put it on the baking sheet, it makes three rows of five buns. The easiest way to do this is first divide the dough into 16 pieces by cutting the dough into quarters, then cutting each of those into 4 pieces. Then find the smallest piece and use that to add a bit more dough to all of other smaller buns to even out the sizes. Because there are always a few that are just a bit smaller than the others.

Monday, November 8, 2010

BOTD: White Sesame Bread with Hi-Maize Flour

Hi-maize flour is a a corn-based product that's designed to add dietary fiber without being noticeable. I bought some a while back experimented with it a bit, then forgot about it. I figured it was time to take it out and give it another try, this time in a simple white bread.

Just like last time, the hi-maize didn't seem to affect the bread's taste or texture in any remarkable way. That's a good thing if you're trying to get more fiber but you're not all that fond of whole grain breads.

I also added sesame seeds to the dough for a little added texture and flavor.

They whey I use is left over from making yogurt. Water is a perfectly fine replacement

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Easy Beet Soup

Borscht was one of my mother's soups. Like any frugal housewife, she made plenty of soups that were all about using up leftovers and squeezing the last bits of flavor from bones, and getting rid of wilted vegetables. Those were good soups, but they were different every time.

On the other hand, there were a few soups that she specifically set out to make, and those tended to be a bit more consistent. Beet soup - borscht, was one of those soups.

The funny thing about borscht in our house was that we were sort of like the three bears. My dad liked his borscht steaming hot, my mother liked hers chilled, and I liked it best when it was right in the middle - not hot, but not cold, either.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spaghetti with Marinara

Simple meals sometimes are the best.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 carrot, diced small
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine, or more, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and carrot and cook until the onions soften. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Add the tomatoes, oregano and wine. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for at least 15 minutes; longer if desired.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti or other pasta in salted boiling water. When the pasta is almost cooked, add it to the sauce, along with pasta cooking water, as needed. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Yeasty Pizza Throwdown

I recently wrote about yeast for my Protips column at Serious Eats, and I had a three-pack of Pizza Yeast staring at me. I also had some sourdough waiting for me in the fridge. I was planning on making sourdough pizza, but then I figured that I might as well make two pizzas. I had plenty of other ingredients, so why not?

So I made one pizza using a sourdough dough that I made two days before that had been sitting in the refrigerator. The second pizza was made using Fleishmann's pizza yeast, which is a super-shortcut method. No rising needed - you just make the dough and use it right away.

The two doughs felt very different when I was working with them. The sourdough had that luxurious bubble-gum stretchy feel. Smooth and stretchy. The pizza-yeast-dough felt like dough. Just regular dough. But sort of puffy already, even though it had just been mixed. Like the yeasts were all using bicycle pumps to inflate their bubbles.

When it came to forming the dough into pizza, there was another difference, The pizza-yeast-dough was much more extensible than the sourdough. I didn't expect that.

I portioned the toppings as evenly as I could manage. Both had pizza sauce, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Coming out of the oven, they looked an awful lot alike.

But looks aren't everything. What did they taste like?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unstuffed Stuffing

After I made Stuffing Bread, I had to do something with it. Okay, turkey sandwiches. Since I tested this concept well before Thanksgiving,I wasn't ready for a whole turkey.

I looked at the lunchmeat-style turkey at the store and stamped my little feet and refused to pay that much money for that product. Sigh. So I bought a Butterball rolled turkey breast. Three pounds of turkey breast meat, rolled and tied.

And then it snowballed from there.

Sandwiches would come the next day, but what should I serve with the turkey? Duh. Stuffing!

But since you can't stuff a rolled and tied turkey, that meant it would be a casserole-type stuffing. Call it dressing if you want to, but it's still stuffing in my house. And since part of my plan with the creation of stuffing bread was to use it as sandwich bread, for croutons, or for stuffing, I decided to take the next step and make some stuffing and test the seasoning on the bread.

Normally I put celery into stuffing, but I didn't have any around, so I used dried celery flakes instead. If you've got celery, chop a stalk or two and cook it along with the onion.

Since I didn't have any stock sitting around, I used Better Than Bouillon to add some extra poultry flavor to the stuffing, and used milk for the liquid. Stock would be nice, instead.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Iron Foodie Contest? Oh yeah, I wanna be in on that!

Okay, so I just joined the Foodie BlogRoll, because, well, why not? They didn't ask me to turn over the rights to my content or do anything abusive to innocent vegetables. Just put up a little badge, and post about food. I can do that.

And they have contests. Ooooo ... I like contests. And this one in particular caught my eye.

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

I'm a huge fan of Iron Chef, so anything that sounds like Iron Something-or-other has to be fun, right? The deal is that 25 lucky bloggers get a basket of food, and they have to use three items from the basket and then blog about it. Oh yeah, I can do that. Heck, it's a good bet that at least one of the items will end up in a loaf of bread. Or, maybe not. But when I go to the farmer's market or grocery store or any ethnic market, that's what my next few days of cooking turns into. Me and random food in the kitchen trying to work out our differences. Fortunately I'm the one with the knife, the fire, and the opposable thumbs.

Just being chosen as one of the 25 contestants is cool, because you get free food to play with. Yummy food. Even more to blog about after the contest, since you only need to use three items for your entry. And the winner of the contest gets a certificate to shop for even more yummy food from Marx Foods, who is sponsoring the contest. How can that be bad?

So anyway, to get picked as one the lucky 25, I have to post the answers to some questions. And here they are (this is fun already, isn't it?): 

Ingredients: About Yeast

I used to think that wheat flour was the most important ingredient in bread. I've since changed my mind. While flour (wheat or otherwise) provides the bulk, without yeast there would be no lift. Okay, you could make quick breads with baking powder, but when people think of bread, usually they're thinking of yeast bread.

When I'm bored, sometimes I think about what foodstuffs I'd bring along to an alien planet. Of course I'd want to bring along plenty of flour to make cakes, cookies, muffins and breads. I'd have my chemical leavenings in my suitcase, too, but what about yeast? It's a living thing. Would they let me bring that to my new homeworld, or would the alien version of customs police stop me at the border? And if I couldn't bring my own, would there be an alien equivalent that would allow me to culture a sourdough starter? Because without the help of yeast, my breads would be pretty dense.

Yeast is such a common thing here on planet earth that we don't give much thought to how amazing it is, and what a boon it is to bakers, brewers, and winemakers. And yeast is such a fun guy. Or, more accurately, a fungi. It converts the fermentable sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide and ethanol, and those bubbles, trapped in the matrix of gluten, are what cause bread to rise. When the dough is baked, the yeast dies but the pockets of air remain, which gives bread its unique texture.

The first yeasted breads were no doubt accidental, but records indicate that yeasted breads existed in ancient Egypt. Whether they were sourdoughs or a byproduct of beer-making isn't entirely clear. What is clear is that there were yeast-leavened breads long before anyone understood how it worked.

In the last 1700's, the Dutch started commercial sales of brewing yeast to be used in breadmaking, and in 1825 solid blocks were available after someone figured out how to remove most of the liquid. By 1872, granulated yeast became available.

Meanwhile in the US, wild yeasts were most commonly used until a commercial yeast was marketed by Charles Fleischmann in 1876. The Fleischmann company developed a granulated active dry yeast for the US military during WWII, and the Lesaffre company created instant yeast in the 1970s.

Today, home bakers have quite a number of options.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BOTD: Stuffing Bread

I've thought about making a stuffing-flavored bread for years, but it wasn't until recently that I actually got around to doing it. My goal for this bread was for it to have three different uses.

First, it could be the base for a stuffing. Second, because it tastes like Thanksgiving, it would make a great sandwich bread for the day-after turkey sandwiches. And last, the bread would make great croutons for salads.

Of course, if you like to make your stuffing from croutons (I usually start with bread that's a day or two old), you can make this bread well in advance and make croutons right away. If they're completely dry they'll last for a long time.

When I make stuffing, I tend to go a little overboard with sage, but I took a lighter hand with this bread. The poultry seasoning definitely flavored the bread, but it didn't overwhelm it. If you like a stronger flavored stuffing than this bread provides, add your own seasonings to taste when you're making the stuffing.

For this loaf, I used a chive-infused olive oil for a little more of a flavor boost, but it's not necessary. Regular olive oil would be fine. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Simple Dinner Rolls

This is the first article published in my new cooking column in the Longmont Ledger.

You don't need special equipment or ingredients to make good bread – or rolls. This recipe proves it. It's the simplest dough I've ever made, in terms of ingredients, equipment, and the work required.

One key to making bread is developing the gluten, which forms the network that holds in the bubbles that make breads rise.

Gluten develops as you knead, but it also develops over time, which is one reason this recipe is successful with so little work.
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