Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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.


Cinnamon Knots

1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup honey divided
2 eggs
1/2 cup scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes
3 cups (15 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar (more as needed)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (or to taste)

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the water and yeast. Dip a spoon into the honey, and use that spoon to stir the water/yeast mixture until the honey dissolves off the spoon. Set the mixture aside for ten minutes until it's foamy.

Add the rest of the honey, eggs, milk, instant potatoes, and bread flour. Knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and butter and continue kneading until the butter and salt are completely incorporated.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a zip-top bag. Form the dough into a ball (it will be very soft; that's fine) and put it into the bag, making sure that it's coated with oil all over. Put the bag in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, remove the bag from the refrigerator, knead the dough a bit, still in the bag, to knock out the air in the dough. You might need to open the bag to let the air out; reseal it. Let the bag sit out until it has come to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a flat rimmed plate or pie pan. Flour your work surface. Remove the dough from the bag and knead briefly. Divide the dough into 16 roughly equal pieces.

Roll each piece into a rope about 6 inches long, flouring the work surface only as much as needed to keep the dough from sticking. You want the finished ropes to be a little sticky.

Roll each rope in the sugar/cinnamon mixture to coat, then tie each rope into a knot and place them on the prepared baking sheet. When all the knots are formed sprinkle any remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture on top of them. (You can add more cinnamon/sugar, if you desire).

Cover the pans with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned, about 25 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool if you aren't serving them immediately.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.
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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.

Crunchy Seedy Breadsticks
Makes 4 dozen breadsticks

1 1/4 cups water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons seeds*
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the water, yeast, and roughly 1/3 of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir to combine, and set aside until it is bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining flour and the potato flakes, and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt, oil, and seeds, and continue kneading until it is combined and the seeds are well distributed.

Form the dough into a ball and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Return it to the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside until it has doubled in size, about an hour.

Flour your work surface and have 3 baking sheets ready. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead it very briefly, then form it into a rough square. Roll it to approximately 11 x 20 inches. With a pastry cutter or pizza cutter (or a knife, but a rolling cutter is easier) trim the edges so they're straight. You'll use those scraps as well. After trimming, mine was about 9x18 inches.

Cut the dough into 9-inch long strips, about the thickness of a pencil, and place them on baking sheets leaving them a room between to expand a little during baking. You should need about 3 baking sheet to fit them all. You can twist the breadsticks, or leave them straight.

When you're done with all of the uniformly-shaped breadsticks, cut the scraps as well, combining smaller pieces if needed.

Bake at 275 degrees for one hour, rotating the pans and moving them to different racks as needed for even cooking. After an hour, they should be dry and crisp; a sample should snap in half and be completely dry in the center. If they haven't browned to your liking, raise the heat to 325 and bake for another 4-7 minutes, watching carefully to make sure they don't over-brown.

Let the cool completely on racks, then leave them even longer before you store them in any sort of closed container - any residual moisture can make them soft. I usually let sit for several hours, if not overnight, before I store them, or I store them in bakery bags that "breathe," so there's no change of dampness.

*I used one teaspoon each of toasted sesame seeds, brown sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, nigella seeds, poppy seeds, and white poppy seeds. Use any combination of your favorites.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.
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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.

This cheese would also be great in puff pastry shells. Hey, we're getting back around to the original idea!

Instead of brie, I went with more ... common cheeses, and the idea itself is a riff on pimento cheese, is a staple in the southern US. The addition of olives makes it different than the usual, though.

Besides using this on crackers, it would make a savory filling for celery sticks. Or you could loosen it up with a bit of mayonnaise or sour cream, and use at as a dip.

For something with this much flavor, it's simple. Just four ingredients, and if you make it in a food processor, there's not much effort. If you don't have a food processor, you can still make it, with just a tiny bit more effort - but still easy enough that you can whip it up at the last minute for unexpected guests or a sudden snack attack.

If you don't want to roast your own red bell pepper for this recipe, you can use jarred roasted red peppers.  Use 4-5 average-sized pieces, or more, to taste.

Other items are customizable as well, so you can make this from pantry ingredients if you need a quick appetizer and don't have time to shop. Use any combination of cheeses you like, for example. As for the olives, you can use any pitted olive you like. No pitted olives? It's very easy to pit your own with an olive pitter.

Olive Pimento Cheese

4 ounces cheddar cheese, cubed
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup pitted olives (I used a combo of Lindsay green and kalamata olives), chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded.

Put the cheddar cheese in the food processor fitted with the chopping blade and process until it is finely chopped. Add the cream cheese and process until you have a smooth mixture. Add the olives and red pepper and pulse until the mixture is as smooth as you like - smooth, chunky, or in-between, it's up to you.

If you don't have a food processor, finely shred the cheddar cheese, and finely chop both the olives and peppers before combining with the cream cheese. Mix thoroughly.

You can serve immediately, or make it ahead and refrigerate until you need it.
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

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.

Cranberry Yogurt Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
1/2 cup milk, divided.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and whisk to combine.

In another bowl, combine the yogurt, cranberry sauce, and 1/4 cup milk.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the wet mixture into the well. Stir, starting at the center and pulling flour into the wet mixture, just until all the flour is moistened and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If there is still unmixed flour, add milk, as needed, so that it all is incorporated. If it seems too wet, you can add more flour during shaping.

Flour your work surface and turn the dough out, and sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough. Fold the dough in half and shape it into a circle, then pat it down until it's about 3/4 inches high. Brush excess flour from the top.

Dip your biscuit cutter (or cookie cutter, or a thin-edged glass) in flour and cut circles from the dough and place them on your chosen pan. When you have cut all the biscuit, gently re-form the scraps and cut more biscuits. These will be a little tougher than the first batch, but still good.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your biscuits, until lightly browned. When they're done, you can brush the tops with melted butter, if desired. These are best served freshly baked and warm, but are fine at room temperature or reheated.
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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.


On thing to keep in mind is that protein and gluten are related, but not exactly the same. The proteins in the flour create gluten, but a high-protein flour may not always create the best quality gluten. So the strength of the gluten is as important as how much protein there is to start with. However, the more protein there is in a flour, the more potential gluten there is as well.

Flour quality isn’t just about the grains themselves. Milling plays an important role. When grain is milled, the first product is straight flour, which contains some bran and germ. Bakers in France might use straight flour, but it’s uncommon in the US where straight flour is sifted into other categories that you’re more likely to see on store shelves.

Patent Flour is the name for the white flour that’s sifted out of the straight flour. The only flour I’ve seen labeled as to the type of patent flour is Hudson Cream short patent flour. Other bread companies tend not to name the type of patent flour in their products. The short patent used by Hudson Cream is just one of five types of patent flour; it’s made from hard wheat and is good for bread.

Clear Flour is what’s left over after the patent flours have been removed from straight flour. It is darker than the patent flours and has a higher ash content. The only clear flour I’ve seen marketed is first clear. It’s made from hard wheat and blended with lower-gluten flours. First clear is good for whole wheat and rye flours, where the darker color isn’t a problem. Because higher mineral content in first clear flour, many people like to use it to feed sourdough starters.

Speaking of ash content, that doesn’t mean there’s burned crud in the flour. It’s really all about the amount of mineral content in the flour. Basically, when a flour sample is burned in a lab, the ash that is left is the minerals in the flour.

European flours are more likely to be categorized by ash content, while American flours are more concerned with protein content. In theory, as ash goes down, protein goes up, but it also depends on the protein level that was present to begin with.

Italian flours are classified by the fineness of the grains and the amount of bran and germ removed. Type 00 flour is the finest grind, is very powdery, and has the least bran and germ remaining. Following Type 00 are Types 0, 1 and 2 with Type 2 being the coarsest flour. Since this is all about milling and not about protein, it’s possible for 00 flour to have varying amounts of protein depending on the original amount in the grain. However, since the Type 00 flours have less bran and germ, they would have a higher percentage of protein than a Type 1 flour milled from that same grain.

Many bakers choose to substitute lower-gluten American flours for the relatively higher-gluten Type 00 flour used in Italy for pizza. For one thing, the gluten quality in those Italian flours is not equivalent to the gluten in American hard red wheat that’s typically found in bread flour. The gluten in American bread flours is hard and springy and results in a very elastic dough, whereas the Italian gluten is firm but not as elastic, making it better for stretching or rolling pizza and pasta.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Italian flours have less gluten overall, with an average range of about 7.5 to 11 percent, and generally not much higher than 9.5 percent. Lower-protein Italian flours are often labeled as grano tenero, while the higher protein flours would be grano duro.

The “Italian-Style” flour made with American wheat sold by King Arthur Flour has a protein content of 8.5 percent, putting it in the same range as Italian flours. Other types of American flour vary in protein content by manufacturer, but in general, cake flour has 6-8 percent protein, pastry flour has 8-10 percent, all purpose flour has 10-12 protein, white whole wheat flour has about 13 percent, bread flour has 12-14 protein, and first clear flour has about 15 percent.

Unfortunately for American bakers, flour labels aren’t always very forthcoming about what sort of wheat is in the bag or exactly how much protein or ash it contains. However, much of that information can be found at product websites or by emailing the companies.

While bread and pizza-makers concern themselves with the amount and quality of gluten in flour because of the structure it provides, that protein also has another effect on dough – higher-protein flours absorb more water. What that means to the baker is that a 67-percent hydration dough might feel wetter or drier depending on the brand and type of flour being used.

For commercial bakeries or die-hard bakers who use the same suppliers consistently, the inconsistencies among manufacturers aren’t an issue. But for casual home bakers, it’s just one more reason why the same recipe might have different results on different hands or on different days.
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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!
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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.

Eggplant Putanesca

2 medium/small eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 2 1/3 ounce can Lindsay sliced black olives, drained
2 tablespoons capers
Seasonings (to taste): Salt, oregano, basil, fennel, red pepper flakes
Shredded parmesan cheese, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch thick rounds.

Salt the eggplant and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, until it exudes moisture.

Squeeze the eggplant to release more liquid, and rinse briefly to wash off extra salt.

Pat eggplant dry.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the eggplant slices on both sides, then transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet or shallow casserole.

Top the eggplant with fork-fulls of tomatoes, leaving the liquid behind in the can. Top the tomatoes with the drained olives.

Add the capers and spices to the liquid left in the can, then spoon that liquid over the top of the olives.

Top with a bit of parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes to warm everything through and begin to melt the cheese.

Top with a little more cheese, if desired, before serving.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Medium Rye Seeded Bread

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.

Medium Rye with Seeds

1 cup water
1 tablespoon honey crystals (or sugar)
2 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) pumpernickel flour
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the water, honey crystals, yeast, and pumpernickel flour. Set aside until it gets bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Add the bread flour and knead until the dough becomes elastic. Add the caraway, salt, and olive oil, and continue kneading until it is completely incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Knead briefly, then form it into your preferred shape. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Slash as desired and bake until browned and done, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely on a rack before cutting.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coupon!


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:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/landing.jsp?go=WEB1101C
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.
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Browned Butter 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.

Browned Butter Cranberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup home made cranberry sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with papers. Or, if you prefer, skip the papers and spray the pan with baking spray.

In a small pan, melt butter over low heat, and continue cooking until it browns, stirring as needed. Watch it carefully - it goes from brown to burned quickly. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool while you assemble the rest.

Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a small bowl, and whisk to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and milk together, then add the melted butter.

Add the dry mixture and the cranberry sauce to the wet, and fold together, just until it is combined and the cranberries are well distributed. Portion the mixture into the muffin pan, filling about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the muffins bounce back when touched in the center, and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove muffins to a rack to cool.
Yum

Monday, November 22, 2010

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.

Olive Rosemary Bread

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast
1/2 cup semolina
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon cracked dried rosemary
1 /2 cup sliced Lindsay black olives, drained
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, yeast, and semolina and set aside until it's bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Add the bread flour and rosemary and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough might seem a little bit dry, but the olives will add more moisture, so there's no need to worry.

Add the salt, olive oil, and olive, and knead until the olive oil is incorporated and the olives are well distributed in the dough.

Form the dough into a ball drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and return it to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled, about 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet.

When the dough has doubled, flour your work surface lightly and turn out the dough. Knead briefly, then form the dough into your preferred shape. Place it on the prepared baking sheet, seam-side down. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Slash the loaf as desired and bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ingredients: Table Salt vs. Kosher 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.

For everyday use, most people rely on table salt or kosher salt, both of which usually come from rock salt. That is, they’re mined rather than harvested from salt water.

Table Salt
  

Table Salt is fine-grained salt, and comes either iodized or not. Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function, but most people get plenty through other sources, so it might not be necessary to use iodized salt. Table salt also usually contains anti-caking ingredients, to keep the salt from clumping.

Canning and Pickling Salt is much like table salt in form – small uniform grains that dissolve quickly. But it doesn’t contain the iodine or the anti-caking ingredients which turn the pickles dark or cloud the pickling mixture. You can use this instead of table salt, although it does tend to clump a bit if it's left undisturbed for long enough.
 
Kosher Salt

Morton's Kosher Salt
Kosher Salt has larger grains, but not all kosher salt is the same. Morton’s Kosher Salt contains an anti-caking agent, whereas Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt doesn’t have any additives. The bigger difference between salts, however, is what the different types of salt weigh compared to their volume.

Diamond Crystal Kosher
Of course, if you’re weighing all of your ingredients, the volume of the salt doesn’t matter. The difference in crystal size melts away when the salt dissolves. But if you’re reading a recipe designed with one type of salt in mind and you use another salt, your results may not be what you hope for.

My kitchen scale weighs in grams and ounces, in increments of 1 gram or 1/8 of an ounce. Using that scale, a teaspoon of table salt weighed .25 ounces, or 7 grams. Here’s how the salts compared


Of course, measuring inaccuracies and scale rounding errors could mean your weights for the same salts could be a little different.

There’s one last salt to consider when making bread: Sour Salt. This isn’t a salt at all, but is actually citric acid crystals. It’s useful for adding a bit of sourness to your bread – really nice in rye.
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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
Onion
Bread

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
Salt

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

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.

Chopped Chicken Livers

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pint (about 1 pound) chicken livers
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning, to taste
splash of brandy (optional)
1 hard boiled egg, quartered

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the livers. Cook, turning as needed, until they are cooked through. Remove to a bowl. Put the onions in the skilled and cook until they are soft and lightly browned. Add the salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning, to taste. If you don't have poultry seasoning, a little bit of sage will do just as well.

Take the pan off the heat, add the splash of brandy, and put it back on the heat to cook off.

Put the livers, onion, and egg in the bowl of your food processor, and pulse until it is the texture you want. Remove it from the food processor and chill before serving.

Serve with rye bread (or crackers, if you prefer) and diced onion.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homemade Noodles - completely 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.


For the sauce, I made a light creamy mushroom sauce.


These were darned good noodles - the kind of noodles that don't need a whole lot of sauce.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sourdough-Flavored Fast-Rise Bread

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.

Sourdough-Flavored Fast-Rise Bread

3/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) rapid rise yeast
8 ounces (by weight) sourdough starter (at 100 percent hydration)
3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the yeast and water, then add the starter and flour. Knead until the dough is silky and elastic. Add the salt and olive oil, and continue kneading until both are fully incorporated.

Form the dough into a ball, drizzle with a bit of oil, and return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour, or until the dough has doubled, if it rises faster.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet.

Remove the dough from the bowl, and for it into your preferred shape. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap, slash the dough as desired, and bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely on a rack before cutting.

And here's another yeast/sourdough hybrid.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Super-thin bread 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.

Ethereal Crisps

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 cup cooked grits, cooled slightly
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons warm water (more as needed)

Put the flours, grits, and salt into your food processor and pulse several times to distribute the ingredients. With the processor running, add the water through the feed tube, slowly, until the mixture comes together in a ball. You might need more or less water, depending on how wet your grits were. Don't add the water too quickly, or you could add too much and end up with a sticky dough that requires a lot more flour to compensate.

Continue processing until the dough is relatively smooth and elastic. It will be bumpy from the grits, but the dough itself should be smooth and stretchy.

Set the dough aside while your oven preheats to 550 degrees. It's best to make these on a pizza stone, but if you don't have one, a baking sheet preheated in the oven will work.

When the oven has heated, divide the dough into 12 pieces. Keep them all covered except the one you're working on. Flour your work surface and roll the first ball until it is very thin and shaped like Minnesota. Okay, really you're shooting for something vaguely round, but the shape is less important than the thinness. It doesn't matter if these are round, square, or anything in between, but they should be about 8 inches in diameter, and very, very thin.

Brush off any excess flour and carefully transfer the first piece to your hot baking stone. Set a timer for one minute. Flip the cracker over after the first minute. It should be somewhat stiff but still pale.

Set the timer for another minute and check the cracker. It should be almost crisp enough, and possibly starting to color. Set the timer for another minute and check the cracker at intervals.

Bright spots are the grits in the dough.
It's nice if your oven window is clean enough to see through so you don't have to open the door. You're looking for a crisp cracker with some brown spots, but not burned. Once it starts browning, it goes fast, so check the time and use that to time the rest of your crackers.

You might find that subsequent crackers cook a little faster as the stone continues to heat up. My first crackers took nearly three minutes, but the final ones were done in 2 1/2 minutes.

If you're fast enough, you should be able to roll the next cracker as the previous one bakes. As they're done, let them cool on a rack before you begin stacking them. There's still a little moisture in them, and if you stack or package them to soon, there's a risk they'll lose their crispness.
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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.

I've given instructions for making this in a food processor, but you can do this by hand or with a manual food chopper.

Cranberry Relish

1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
Zest of 1/2 orange
Juice from 1 orange
2 medium apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wash the cranberries. remove any that are soft or mushy, and put them in your food processor. Add the orange zest and juice. Peel and core the apples, chop them roughly and add them to the food processor.

Pulse the processor several times to chop the apples and cranberries into small bits. Scrape down the sides if there are large pieces, and pulse again until there are somewhat uniform small pieces. You don't want it smooth, just a small chop - like the size of pickle relish.

Put the chopped cranberries and apples into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the sugar and salt. Heat on low until liquid begins to exude, then turn the heat up to medium. Continue cooking, stirring as needed, until the apples are pink and the liquid has just about disappeared again, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool, and refrigerate until needed.

This recipe appeared in my column, The Curious Cook in the Longmont Ledger.
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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.

Types of Sweeteners


There are a few things to consider before you substitute one form of sugar for another. In a recipe that uses just a little sweetener, there's no problem substituting a wet sugar - like honey or agave - for a dry sugar. The small amount of extra moisture isn't going to throw the recipe out of whack. But in a sweet dough, substituting wet for dry or dry for wet will affect the hydration. It can be compensated for, but it's something to keep in mind.

Sugar, Sugar

Many bread recipe call for white sugar. It's cheap and easy and doesn't add much flavor except pure sweetness. Raw cane sugar and brown sugar add a little more flavor and color. They also contain trace minerals not found in refined white sugar.

Cane syrup and molasses add even more flavor, color, and trace minerals. Whether it's appropriate for your dough is up to you. Molasses contains an acid created by the fermentation that occurs naturally, and that acid is also present in a smaller degree in brown sugar.

Whether the extra minerals and the acid in molasses and brown (or less refined) sugars have any effect on dough is up for debate. Their greater impact is on taste.

Tequila Sunrise

Agave nectar comes in a variety of grades, from very light, neutral flavored syrups, to darker, more full-bodied flavors. It is thinner than molasses or honey, so in larger quantities, you'd need to adjust hydration even more. Unlike honey, it doesn't crystallize when stored.

Aw, Honey, Honey


Honey creates a more golden crust than sugar, it helps to keep bread moist, and it adds a distinctive flavor. Because of its antibacterial properties, it retards mold which improves the shelf life of baked products. But that antibacterial property has a downside - some honeys can kill yeast. I've found that this is a rare occurrence, so it doesn't keep me from using honey. But it does mean that every time I open a new jar of honey, I use it to proof some yeast so I know it will be safe to use in all my yeast-risen doughs.

Honey powder is a fine power, somewhere between powdered sugar and granulated sugar. Since it's dry, there's no need to worry about adjusting for moisture content and it's easier to measure than liquid honey. You can find this at spice shops and online.

Similar to honey powder, I found honey crystals at an Asian market. They are small round balls that taste like honey, but the ingredient list also includes cane sugar.

Malted Milk

While not a sugar itself, diastatic malt (malted barley flour) converts starch to sugar and helps feed yeast. It also adds a distinctive flavor. This malt has active enzymes that affect the texture of dough. A little bit goes a long way - too much of it will result in a sticky, gummy bread and an overbrowned crust. Some brands and types of flour include malted barley flour.

The other malt, non-diastatic malt (barley malt syrup or malt powder) just adds flavor and sweetness. It doesn't covert the starch the way diastatic malt does, and it's not hygroscopic like sugar, so it has a lot less effect on the dough than other sweeteners. It does have a distinctive taste, however, which might not be appropriate in all recipes. It's pretty good in a milkshake, though.
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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.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

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.

Fresh yeast - about one ounce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

I had the frozen fresh yeast in a little bowl, thawing.

I added a little bit of water - maybe a teaspoon, and the sugar, and stirred it around until it got foamy and proved to me that it was still alive.


I put the flour and water in the bowl of my stand mixer and added the yeast. I let that knead until it was smooth. I added the salt and olive oil and continued kneading until it was smooth, shiny, and almost fully elastic.

I put some olive oil into a plastic bag, dropped the dough in, made sure it was coated with oil, and let it rest in the refrigerator over night.

The next day, I let it warm up on the counter, then floured the counter, formed the dough into a loaf, and put it on a cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet, seam side down. When it had doubled in size - about 2 hours later - I put it into the oven at about 350 degrees and baked it for about 40 minutes.

I've got to say that I don't see a whole lot of difference between active dry yeast and instant yeast, but there is a flavor difference with fresh yeast. I've got to remember to use it more often.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.
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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.

However, the two pies would have been enough for 4 people. Or maybe we're just not as hungry as we used to be. They looked like a meal-sized before I filled them, but we each ate half of ours, so there will be leftovers. If you have smaller pie pans, make four, and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

For the sauce, I made a white gravy (a roux, then added milk.) A vegetable or seafood stock would also be fine, if you happen to have one instead of the milk. Plain water might work if you didn't have any other options, since the tuna adds its own flavor. I used frozen vegetables, but this would be a fine way to use up leftover vegetables.

Tuna Pot Pie

Pastry crust (for double-crust pie)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound mushrooms
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk, water, stock, or a combination
1 6-ounce can tuna, drained
1 cup frozen mixed peas and carrots
1 cup frozen pearl onions
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Melt the butter in a medium pan and add the olive oil. Slice or chop the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces, and add them to the pan. Cook until soft and slightly browned. Add the flour and stir to combine. Since the mushrooms will have absorbed some of the oil, you might not have enough fat to make a roux. Add a little more olive oil, if needed.

Add the liquid and cook until thickened. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Take the mixture off the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Add the tuna and frozen vegetables and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.

The frozen vegetables should chill the mixture sufficiently to fill the pie shells without melting the butter, but if it's still warm, refrigerate it to cool it further.

Like the pie plates with pastry, then add the cooled tuna-vegetable mixture. Top with another sheet of pastry and trim and crimp the edges, and cut vent holes.


Bake at 425 degrees until the top is nicely browned and the filling is hot and bubbly.


I'm particularly pleased with how flaky the crust was on these.
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