Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sweet Potato Bread

When I go to a grocery store, after I've found the things I came for, I always scout around for interesting new ingredients. When a new ingredient is something I can use in bread, I silently "squeee" a little bit before I toss my prize into my cart.

My latest find was at Whole Foods and the ingredient was at the same time exotic and familiar. Sweet potato flour. Squeeeee!

I've used white potatoes in bread, and I've used instant mashed potato flakes. And I've used winter squash puree. For no good reason, I've never used mashed sweet potatoes in bread, but this was even better. This is flour, so it's shelf stable. And since it's dry there's no need to make late adjustments for the unknown amount of liquid in mashed potatoes.

White potatoes make bread fluffy but they add no flavor. When I added squash to bread dough, it made the bread a very pale orange, and the flavor was very subtle. But like dried herbs that are stronger than fresh ones, the dried sweet potatoes in the flour added a very distinctive flavor. The color wasn't a bright orange like my double-tomato flatbreads. Instead, it was an earthy orange-tinted light brown.

I let this dough rise twice, but you could skip that second rise and proceed directly to forming and baking. I used active dry yeast here, but instant would be fine as well.

Sweet Potato Bread

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup sweet potato flour
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons softened butter

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, yeast, and sugar, and set aside until it becomes frothy, about 10 minutes.

Add sweet potato flour and bread flour and knead until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and becomes smooth and elastic. It will still be a little bit sticky.

Add the salt and butter and continue kneading until the the butter is completely incorporated. It may still be a little sticky, but don't worry about that. The elasticity is the important thing to look for.

Form the dough into a rough ball, drizzle with a bit of olive oil to coat, and put it back into the bowl (or a clean one if you prefer). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about an hour.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down, form it into a ball again, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it aside to rise until doubled again, about 40 minutes.

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

When dough has doubled, lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough briefly, then form it into your preferred shape. Put it on your prepared baking sheet (or you could use a loaf pan, if you prefer), cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Slash the dough as desired. I used the same scissors-snip method that I used for this bread, but in a different pattern. Slash yours any way you like.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until browned. Cool completely on a rack before cutting.

This appeared on Serious Eats and has been submitted to YeastSpotting

And... if you want to see a really cute idea using this technique, check out these adorable hedgehog buns that hmw0029 made.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nightcap Tart from "The Boozy Baker"

Boozy baking here! No, I’m not talking about drinking while baking – I’m talking about adding booze to your baked goods. And “The Boozy Baker” by Lucy Baker is the perfect guide, with recipes that use everything from beer to vodka.

What I really liked was that most of the recipes offered alternatives for the liquor used in the recipes, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use something you like, or you can use up some of what you have on hand.

This chocolate tart was particularly tasty. It called for coffee liqueur like Kahlua, but I used a Colorado-made coffee liqueur instead. The suggested alternate was a cream liqueur like Bailey's.

The filling is somewhere between custard and creamy fudge – very rich, so a little goes a long way.  

Nightcap Tart
Adapted from “The Boozy Baker” by Lucy Baker

For the crust:
32 chocolate wafer cookies, slightly crushed
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the tart:
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup coffee liqueur

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Pulse the cookies in your food processor until you have fine crumbs. Add the butter and salt and continue pulsing until the crumbs are evenly moistened.

Press the cookie crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a nine-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Put the tart pan on a cookie sheet and set aside.

Put the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepot until it just begins to bubble. You don’t want it to come all the way to a boil.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the sugar and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and liqueur together until thoroughly combined, then gradually add the egg mixture to the chocolate, whisking until it is completely combined, and smooth. Pour this filling into the prepared tart pan.

Bake the tart on the sheet pan at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the edges are puffed and the center is barely set.

When the tart is done, move it to a wire rack to cool completely, then store in the refrigerator. This is best served at room temperature, but cuts easier when chilled.

This tart is nice garnished with a bit of whipped cream, but it’s also fine just as it is.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The $10 Tomato

Well, not really. Because there ought to be more tomatoes coming.

And really, I thought this was a great deal. At a garage sale, I bought an early version of the Aero Garden. It had never been used, and included the seeds. All for $10. I thought the seeds might be too old to sprout, but there were no problems at all.

I really wanted this to grow herbs in the winter. This time of year, I don't really need to be growing tomatoes indoors, but I wanted to see how well it would work, so I set it up and let it go.

The plants grew well, and then I got flowers. And look! A teeny little tomato.

Later, I'll buy an herb kit or maybe one of the plant-it-yourself kits and I can plant my own selection of herbs. If the tomatoes do this well, I'm sure I'll have plenty of fresh herbs this summer.

Well worth the $10, I think.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gelato: Stracciatella

A while back, I had a discount at Williams Sonoma and at the same time their gelato mixes were on sale...and coincidentally, I had just read comments from people who were raving about how good these mixes were, and that they were just like gelato served in Italy. Add all that together, and I had to give them a try.

I had no idea what flavor Stracciatella was supposed to be, but the ingredients listed chocolate, so I knew it couldn't be too bad. According to Wikipedia, the name comes from a word that means "torn apart" and it refers to the shards of chocolate in the white gelato.

The interesting thing about this mix was how fast it is to make. With most of the ice creams I make, you have to wait for a custard base to cool, or at least you have to chill the combined ingredients - and I usually chill them over night. With these mixes from Williams Sonoma, you mix milk with the base, dump it in the ice cream maker, and give it a whirl. The only waiting time is after it's done and you put it in the freezer. The instructions suggest three hours, but it's not going to be ruined if you dive in sooner.

The flavor was good and the texture was good, but I wasn't head over heels about it. I'm used to a creamier - okay fattier - ice cream. But that certainly could be remedied by using half-and-half instead of milk.

Gelato is supposed to have less fat than American ice cream, and less air is whipped into gelato than what's in commerical American ice creams, but I have no idea how that relates to the ice cream I make at home. It doesn't seem like I'm whipping vast amounts of air in.

I've never had real Italian gelato, so I can't say for sure authentic this mix is, but people who've been to Italy claimed that this mix is exactly what gelato is like in Italy. I'll take their word for it. Maybe some day I'll have a chance to try it in its native environment. Meanwhile, this is a quick, easy way to have a frozen dessert.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fire Crackers (version 2), Cherry Bombs and Grape Grenades

Cherry Bomb!
On Saturday, my friends from Hot Heads (the guys who make the very addicting Pepperspread) will be at Cayenne Kitchen in Longmont, talking to people about their product.

Since I'm their pet pepperhead, I'll be there with them, handing out samples of some of the spicy creations I've made that use their product.

First, there will be the ever-popular Cherry Bombs, which proved to be so popular when I first blogged about them that David Lebovitz put a link to my blog on his FaceBook page, and according to Site Meter, I got a visit from the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

I'd like to think that the White House Chef was looking for recipes, but my husband pointed out that it's more likely that the word "bomb" prompted a visit from a government security bot.

Fire Crackers, Version 1
This time, I'm using cream cheese instead of goat cheese in the Cherry Bombs, but the basic recipe remains the same. I'm thinking about trying a slightly different technique for pitting and stuffing the cherries, as well. We'll see if it's an improvement or not.

The second sample will be my famous Fire Crackers. These little guys surprised me when I found an optical illusion in one of the photos I took.

I revised the Fire Crackers recipe for Saturday's demo, tripling the amount it makes and adding more Pepperspread for a spicier cracker. I also decided to use my stand mixer for kneading.

If you like spicy food, give the new version a try. They've got a good kick when you eat them plain, but you can tone them down depending on what you top them with.

Atomic Tomato
Last, I decided that I wanted to play with some grapes. Sweet and spicy is a good combination.

For the trial version, I used the same turkey injector that I used for my Atomic Tomatoes, but this time I injected nothing but Pepperspread into some green grapes. You can't inject a whole lot of Pepperspread into a little grape, but that stuff packs a lot of heat, so a little is all you need.

To fix the problem I had with seeds getting stuck in the injector, I strained the Pepperspread through a medium sieve and the problem was solved. Easy peasy.

For an extra contrast, I tested some of the injected grapes frozen. The texture of the frozen grape is like a Popsicle, and the contrast of cold and spicy is interesting. The downside is that the grape flavor is muted when they're frozen. So if you're thinking about making them, try them both ways and see what you think.

Fire Crackers (version 2)

Fire Crackers - they look innocent, but they're spicy.
1 1/4 cups room temperature water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Hot Heads Pepperspread
3 1/2 cups (15 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer, and set aside until the mixture becomes foamy. Add the Pepperspread, flour, and salt, and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the olive oil and continue kneading until all the oil is incorporated. Form the dough into a ball, drizzle with a little olive oil, and return it to the bowl.

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

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Flour your work surface, and knead the dough briefly. (You might consider wearing gloves for this. Your choice.) Divide the dough into three pieces.

This rolling pin makes divots in dough.
Roll the first piece to approximately 12 x 15 inches. It should be about the thickness of a dime. It's easiest to move the dough to the parchment at this point. You can trim the ends so the dough is square, or leave it uneven - it's up to you.

Use a fork, a dough docker, or whatever pointy object you like to poke holes all over the dough so it won't puff too much during baking. I have a rolling pin that I use for this, but a fork is just fine.

Using a pizza cutter, pastry cutter, knife, or whatever else you like, score the dough into the size and shape of crackers that you like. There is no need to separate the pieces; they will snap apart crisply when the crackers are baked.

There's no need to let these rise, they go into the oven right after they're formed. Roll out the second and third pieces of dough in the same way.

Bake at 325 degrees until the crackers are browned and completely dry and crisp. I find that the first ones will crisp up after about 25 minutes, and after that I check them about every 5 minutes, removing them as they're done.

Let them cool completely before you store them. If they're at all warm when you seal them up in a bag or container, they'll get soft and weird. Once they're completely dry, they store well for a long time. If they last.

This has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


This guacamole was inspired by one in Rick Bayless's cookbook Fiesta at Rick's. I had planned to make his recipe as-is, and had the avocados waiting. I also had the required sun-dried tomatoes. And I always have onions, usually in multiple colors.

When I went to the store for other things I needed for dinner, I completely forgot about the guacamole that was going to accompany the fajitas and chips.

So, no cilantro.

As I re-read the recipe, I realized that cilantro wasn't the only thing I forgot, and at that point I decided to abandon the recipe entirely and just use what I had on hand to make an inspired recipe instead.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I generally don't like tomatoes in guacamole. A little is fine, but mostly I leave them out. Maybe it's because there is usually a tomato salsa nearby when guacamole is on the table. But Bayless's recipe sounded interesting to me because he used sun-dried tomatoes, and he specifically recommended the type that is sold by the dried fruits rather than the oil-drenched ones in jars.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tomato Salad (again)

When I was a kid, I'd eat tomatoes plain, like the fruit that is is. Sometimes I'd add a little salt. My dad would usually grow tomatoes, be we went through so many, we'd buy them in large boxes from a market. None of them got canned, we just ate them.

When my dad's tomatoes were ready for picking, there would be arguments about when they were ready. My dad wanted them completely ripe, and my mother liked them when they were still a little bit green, because she liked the tartness. And then she'd want some green ones to fry, but my dad would refuse to pick them green until the very end of the season.

Me, I liked them any way I could get them. I still eat them fully ripe, part ripe, and I fry the green ones.

I missed the farmer's market over the weekend, so I stopped at a farmstand for my tomatoes. Compared to the photos from the other day, these look pink. For one thing, the last tomatoes were a very dark heirloom variety, so they were a deep, deep red inside. And second, these were just a little bit short of being fully ripe.

But that's fine. I'm an equal-opportunity tomato eater.

The salad was simple: tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, Real Salt (It's a brand name. It's pink and has flecks of darker colors. Allegedly has more minerals or something.), basil-infused olive oil, pepper, and a teeny sprinkling of brown sugar. Nothing was mixed, it was just sprinkled on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Almond Rolls

Ripped in half, you can see the filling and the layers.
These rolls have a layered dough, sort of like croissants, but they're as easy as pie crust. Or, if you think pie crust is difficult, disregard that last sentence. They're pretty easy, considering the result.

This dough is actually pretty hard to mess up. If you process the butter too much or let it get too soft during the rolling, it will incorporate more into the dough and you'll end up with a sweet, buttery soft dough with lovely layers. It won't be as flaky as one where the butter was kept chilled and stayed separate from the dough, but neither result is bad.

Almond filling can be found at most supermarkets. It's been sold since I was a kid. It's the flavor that I remember from bakery almond confections way back when. I've tried some boutique brands of almond spreads, but they just aren't the same as the old-fashioned grocery store brand.

If you don't like almonds, you can substitute your flavor of choice. These would be nice with a simple sprinkle of cinnamon or a nice dollop of thick jam in the center.

And if you really like almonds, you could sprinkle some on top, after the eggwash.

While these were very tempting right after they came out of the oven, I actually liked them better after they cooled completely. While they were warm, the filling seemed a bit too sweet for me. After it cooled, it was just right. But you be the judge. Just let them cool a little before you tear into them. That filling can be very hot.

Almond Rolls

You can see a bit of filling peeking out the center.
1 cup cool water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup sour cream
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (1/4 cup) cold butter
1 can (12.5 ounces) almond paste
1 egg, beaten with a little water for an eggwash

In a medium bowl, mix water, yeast, sugar and sour cream. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and set aside.

Put the flour and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Cut the butter into about a dozen chunky pieces, and drop the into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse the food processor a few times, as you would for a pie dough. You're looking for pieces about the size of a chickpea. Some larger chunks are fine, and it's also fine if some are smaller. It's not an exact process.

Transfer the flour mixture to the bowl with the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the mixture gently, just to moisten all the flour, trying not to break or mash the butter chunks any more than necessary.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, generously flour your work surface and turn the dough out. You'll probably need to use more flour as you roll out the dough, so keep it handy.

Pat the dough into a rough rectangle, then roll it out to about 12 x 16 inches. You don't have to be exact. Rough dimensions are fine. The butter will be chunky and clumpy in the dough. That's fine.

You can see the clumps of butter in the dough.

Fold the dough in thirds, as you'd fold a letter.

Folded like a letter.

Roll the dough again to the roughly the same size, and fold in thirds again.

Work quickly, so the the butter doesn't soften too much or begin to melt. Do the roll-and-fold twice more, then fold the dough in half, wrap it in plastic wrap, and toss it into the refrigerator. It should rest there for at least an hour, but you can leave it until the next day.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, cut it into two pieces, and return half to the refrigerator while you work on the other half.

Flatten the piece of dough a bit, then cut it into eight roughly equal pieces.

Here's a cut piece. You can see the layers in the dough.
 Roll the first piece to about 3 x 6 inches. Take about a tablespoon of the almond filling and spread it on the lower part of the dough then spread it about halfway up, leaving most of it at the end.

It doesn't matter if it's all a little rough and uneven.
 Roll the dough up and place it, seam-side down, on the prepared sheet pan. Leave plenty of room between the rolls.

When all eight rolls are finished, cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. You can continue rolling the next eight or save the dough for the next day.

Here they are, feeling a bit puffy.

After 30 minutes, the rolls won't have risen much, but they will feel puffy. Brush the rolls with the eggwash and bake at 400 degrees until they are nicely browned.

Baked. A little sticking to the parchment, but not bad.

Let them cool (at least a little bit) before eating - or risk burning yourself on the hot filling.

This has been submitting to YeastSpotting.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tomato Salad

The Caprese Salad is becoming old hat, but I've been making dishes like this for a long time, and I think I'll continue to do so even after it falls out of fashion.

The tomatoes were a dark heirloom variety from Ollin Farms, the (very very) fresh mozzarella was from Deli Italia in Lakewood, the basil was from a pot growing in my back yard, and the black and white flake salt was from Marczyk Fine Foods. There was a drizzle of balsamic vinegar that I had on hand.

A perfect summer feast.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lunch: Gyros in Denver

Pete's Gyros Place.

Gyros and fries.

'nuff said.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hummus with Cashew Butter

The first time I encountered hummus, I had no idea what I was eating, but I liked it. Later, I found it pre-made at grocery stores. I still didn't know what was in it, but it was interesting. I might have glanced at the ingredients list, but back then I probably didn't know that garbanzo beans and chickpeas were the same thing.

And then I forgot about it.

The next time I ran into hummus, it was one of those slap-yourself-in-the-head moments. The dip that I thought was so mysterious and exotic and probably difficult to make was little more than mashed chickpeas.Sure, there are flavorings added, but it's not a difficult dish, particularly if you've got a food processor or blender to do the work.

Recently, I've seen all sorts of things called hummus. Green pea hummus, for example. Okay, if peas can be hummus, what about using other beans? Butter beans? That might work. Pinto beans? Um, isn't that sort of like refried beans?

I've also read recipes that claim if a hummus doesn't include tahini, it's not real hummus. And I've also read recipes that say it's fine to leave out, but you shouldn't substitute.

Tahini, if you're not familiar with it, is a paste made from sesame seeds. Personally, although I love sesame seeds, I have a love-hate relationship with tahini. Sometimes it's too bitter. And even when it's good, I always end up with too much of it. Hummus recipes use just a little tahini, and I don't make hummus often. So no matter how much tahini I have, it's too much.

Sometimes I add sesame oil to the hummus, but lately I've been leaving it out and going with other flavors.

This was my most recent mix:

Hummus with Cashew Butter

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Cashew butter
Roasted garlic olive oil
Meyer lemon olive oil

Chickpeas went into the food processor with a nice pinch of salt, and I started whizzing them up. I added the cashew butter - about a quarter cup, and then added water until it got close to the right texture, then added just a little bit of both the olive oils for. It was about a tablespoon of the oils all together, and more lemon than garlic.

If I had made the chickpeas from dried, I would have used the cooking liquid, but I don't care for the liquid in canned beans, which is why I used water. If you like the liquid in the can, use that; If you use freshly cooked chickpeas, use the cooking liquid.

I tasted it for seasoning and added just a bit more salt. And that was it.

I served it with the wedges of the tomato flatbreads I made yesterday.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Double-Tomato Skillet Flatbreads

These flatbreads are a pretty orange color; perfect to impress company and easy enough to make any day for sandwich wraps - or to go with dinner. The tomato flavor is there, but it's not overwhelming, so these won't clash with other dishes on the menu.

But of course, this recipe is infinitely adaptable to make it mesh better with your meal. Add any herbs or spices you want. For most, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon would be right.

The sundried tomatoes I used were the ones that are sold in grocery stores near the dried fruits. They're soft and pliable, and in the package I bought, each piece was half of a tomato. so I used eight of those pieces.

 I also saw smoked sundried tomatoes, which looked interesting. I'm sure those would be fine as well.

My instructions have the sundried tomatoes added at the end of processing, since the food processor could break them up too much if they were added earlier and I wanted larger pieces. If you prefer smaller bits, add them earlier and/or chop them finer.

If you really want a smokey flavor, use smoked paprika instead of the sweet paprika in the recipe. If you want a little kick, use a sharp paprika. The choices are yours.

I made eight flatbreads about 6 inches in diameter with from this recipe, If you wanted smaller flatbreads for appetizers, you could keep dividing and make 24 or more smaller portions. One thing to keep in mind is that these don't expand in diameter when they cook, but they do get a bit thicker, so roll them a thinner than what you want to end up with.

You can find tomato powder at spice shops online if you can't find it locally. Tomato paste could be substituted, but it won't have as much tomato flavor, and you might need to use a bit less water or add just a little flour.

Double-Tomato Skillet Flatbreads

2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato powder
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
3/4 cup cool water
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sundried tomatoes, chopped

Put the flour, tomato powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and paprika in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the dough blade. Pulse a few times to combine.

Add the vinegar to the water and pour that through the feed tube of the processor while it is running, pouring just as fast as the liquid can be absorbed. When it forms a ball, stop the processor and see if the dough is properly elastic. It should be completely smooth and silky, and very elastic. It might be a little sticky; that's fine. If it's not stretchy enough,  process again in thirty-second increments, checking it each time. If the dough starts getting warm, stop for a few minutes to let it cool down.

When the dough is properly elastic, add the sundried tomatoes and pulse a few times, then add the oil through the feed tube while the processor is running. Stop when the oil has been incorporated.

Leave the food processor covered and let the dough rest for at least ten minutes, or up to 30 minutes.

Flour your work surface and knead the dough briefly, then divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten each ball into a disk.

Heat a cast iron skillet or comal over medium heat - no oil.

Roll the first disk to about 6 inches in diameter.

Place the dough on the preheated pan and cook until browned on the bottom, about one minute. The browning will be spotty and dappled. That's what's supposed to happen. (If the flatbreads are burning in that minute, turn the heat down.)

Meanwhile, bubbles will begin rising on the top surface.

When the bottom is browned, flip the flatbread over and cook for another 20-30 seconds.

Remove the flatbread from the pan and put it on a clean kitchen towel and cover with the ends of the towel.

You should be able to roll a new flatbread as the previous one cooks. Pile them up on the towel and keep them covered as they cool.

These are best served fresh, but they're also good cold or reheated briefly on a hot pan.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cool as a Cucumber Salad

On a hot day, a cool, refreshing cucumber salad makes a great side dish. This one couldn't get any simpler. You can certainly add seasonal herbs and spices, but I think that incredibly fresh pickling cucumbers don't a lot of extra flavors.

And really, this is a cooling side dish. Put your herbs and spices in the main dish.

I like either wine vinegar or rice vinegar for these cucumbers, but you could use something else. This time I used a red wine vinegar, and immediately gave the onions a nice pink tinge.

While this is an incredibly simple dish, it had several faces. When freshly made, the vegetables are crisp and bright. Let it marinate over night, and the vegetables become more like a pickle.

But then you've got another choice... you'll see.

Cool as a Cucumber Salad

1 small sweet onion
4-5 pickling cucumbers
1/2 teaspoon salt
additional salt for seasoning (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
1/4 cup wine vinegar (or to taste)

Peel and halve the onions and slice. I like them a little thick, but slice them the way you like them. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, and stir to combine.

Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, and slice.

At this point, the onions should have exuded some moisture. Rinse them, drain them, and add the sliced cucumbers to the bowl. Add the sugar and vinegar, stir to combine. Let it sit for a few minutes, then taste it to check for the tartness; add more sugar if it needs it. While some salt remains even after you rinse the onions, you can add more if you want it.

Now, here's the twist. After the salad sits overnight, I often turn it into a different salad. I drain all the liquid and add either sour cream or yogurt (preferably Greek-style for the thickness, but regular plain yogurt is fine.) Mix that in, and it becomes a different sort of salad. And while I often leave the first salad un-herbed, I like the creamy version with some fresh dill.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Caraway Rye Bread

This was sort of an experimental loaf. The ingredients were pretty standard, but I adjusted the way I combined them. I'm happy with the way the loaf came out. Flavor was good, texture was good, and elasticity was good when I was kneading and forming the loaf.

I'm not saying that anything I did was essential to making the bread, but it all made perfect sense at the time. Since I was using milk, it needed to be scalded before use, and then it had to be cooled before using so it didn't kill the yeast.

Since I keep my whole grain flours in the freezer or refrigerator, it made sense to add the cold flour to the warm milk to moderate the temperature.

Meanwhile, I mixed the yeast, yogurt and sugar while the milk and flour mixture was cooling off. I figured that it would give the yeast just a little bit of a head start at softening and activating.

Caraway Rye Bread

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon Greek-style yogurt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rye flour
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Heat the milk to just below the boiling point in a small saucepan, and set it aside to cool for a few minutes, then add the rye flour and stir to combine/ Set this mixture aside to cool until it is lukewarm.

Meanwhile, combie the sugar, yeast, and yogurt in the bowl of your stand mixer.

When the milk and flour mixture had cooled sufficiently, add it to the yeast mixture, stir to combine, and set aside for 10 minutes.

Add the bread flour and knead with the dough hook until the mixture becomes elastic.

Add the salt, caraway seeds, and olive oil, and continue kneading until it has all been incorporated.

Form the dough into a ball and put it back into the bowl (or a clean bowl, if you prefer) drizzle a little olive oil over it to coat, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and knead the bread briefly, then form it into your desired shape. I went with an oval loaf.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Slash the loaf as desired and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until nicely browned.

Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Decorative and Delicious White Bread

If you're going to serve a loaf of bread to company, why not make it pretty as well as delicious? This one looks impressive, but it's simple to do.

As far as flavor, I brought this one to a potluck, and one of the comments was that it was so good, it didn't need butter.

It's not a plain white loaf - there's semolina and oatmeal to add character and flavor - but it's also very approachable for diners who aren't adventurous.

And while it's a dressy-looking bread for dinner, the leftovers are perfect for breakfast toast or lunch sandwiches.

If you don't need a fancy loaf, you can skip the snipping and make it a plain loaf. Or use the snipping technique with your own favorite bread recipe. 

Dressed-Up White Bread

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) semolina flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to combine and set aside for 10 minutes until it is frothy.

Add the semolina and oatmeal, stir to combine, and set aside for another 10 minutes, until the oatmeal softens and the mixture is bubbly.

Add the bread flour and the egg, and knead with the dough hook until the mixture begins to get elastic.

Add the salt and the olive oil and continue kneading until the mixture is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. There may be some nubby lumps from the oatmeal, but the dough itself should be smooth and stretchy.

Form the dough into a ball and put it back into the mixer bowl (or a clean bowl, if you prefer) drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it aside to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle some cornmeal on a sheet pan. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Take the dough out of the bowl, knead it a bit, and form it into a smooth, tight ball. Place it on your sheet pan, seam-side down. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled, about 30 minutes.

With a small, sharp pair of scissors, starting at the top of the loaf, make a series of snips around the loaf. You can make as many as you like, make them as large or small as you like, in any pattern.

I made rows of concentric circles around the loaf, but you could do lines down the loaf, or a spiral pattern.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.

Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

This appeared on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Home Made Rigatoni

Fresh, home made pasta is a great thing, but most people stick to simple shapes like flat noodles. A few more might make filled pastas like ravioli or shapes like gnocchi.

But what about tubular pastas? Can you make those at home?

Yes, you can, if you have the right equipment.

Tubular pasta is extruded through dies, and I have an  attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer called the Pasta Press that's made to do just that. It came with dies for rotini, spaghetti, and several different sizes of tubular pasta.

I went with the die labeled "large macaroni" which made ridged noodles about the size of rigatoni.

I used the recipe from the KitchenAid manual that came with the Pasta Press. Unfortunately, the recipe uses cup measurements for the flour, so it's not as accurate as it could be. I estimated 4 ounces per cup, since it specified sifted flour.

The instructions about adding water is also just a bit ambiguous. I'm still not sure if the extra tablespoon of water is supposed to be to adjust the egg measure, or if it's in addition to that.

Basic Egg Noodle Pasta
adapted from the KitchenAid Pasta Press manual

4 large eggs
3 1/2 cups flour (I weighed this as 14 ounces)
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt

Break eggs into a glass (Why glass? I don't know. That's what the instructions said.) measuring cup.

Check to see that the eggs measure 7/8 of a cup. If less, add water to equal 7/8 cup.

Place flour and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer and mix with flat beater on speed 2, adding egg (and 1 tablespoon water?) gradually.

Mix for 30 seconds, then stop the mixer and exchange the flat paddle for the dough hook. Knead with the dough hook for 2 minutes at speed 2.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a clean surface. It may appear crumbly. Hand knead until the dough is smooth, pliable, and holds together in a ball.

Form walnut-sized pieces and feed them into the pasta extruder. Cut and separate the pieces, and dry as desired.

Cook in salted boiling water until pasta is al dente.

I served the pasta with Italian sausage and peppers I had cooked earlier for sandwiches, and added homemade tomato sauce and fresh basil to round it out a bit.

I've got to saw that the press makes it really simple to make complicated pasts shapes. I've got to get better at cutting the pasta in completely even lengths. Meanwhile, I'm still tweaking the flour/liquid ratio since the included recipe isn't as accurate as it could be.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

3-Ingredient Vanilla Frozen Yogurt from "The Perfect Scoop"

Okay...it's a couple of scoops.
I've never had an ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz go wrong, and this one from his book The Perfect Scoop is no exception.

Except, well, it's frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.

The Vanilla Frozen Yogurt recipe offered a few variations - use plain whole-milk yogurt, strain the yogurt for a smoother, creamier consistency, or buy Greek-style yogurt. I usually make my own yogurt and strain it, but didn't have any one hand so I bought some Greek-style yogurt.

My favorite brand is Fage, and I usually buy the Fage Total, but after checking two stores, I had to settle for the Fage Total 2%, which is lower in fat. Oh well.

Lebovitz noted that strained or Greek-style yogurt could be substituted cup-for-cup for regular whole-milk yogurt in any of his recipes without any variations in the recipes, but for the Vanilla Frozen Yogurt, he had two variations - one with plain and one with strained yogurt. I followed the directions for the strained yogurt, which required a bit less sugar.

The resulting frozen yogurt was a bit - shattery - after it was in the freezer for a while, and I was worried that it would have that awful crushed-ice texture that you sometimes get in ice creams. But after the yogurt warmed just a bit, it was smooth and creamy, with no nasty ice crystals.

Here's one scoop. Pretty as a picture.
It was also a very stark white. The vanilla ice creams I make usually end up being a bit more yellow from the egg yolks, but this was very, very white since the only coloring was the tiny bit of vanilla.

There was a bit of tang from the yogurt, but that was nicely balanced by the added sugar. So it was a sweet dessert, but not overly sweet.

If you're making this, use a yogurt that you like. Since there's not much else in there, you're going to taste that yogurt's flavor.

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

3 cups Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Mix all ingredients, and refrigerate for at least an hour. Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.