Showing posts with label event post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label event post. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My First Bread Baking Day, Their 24th (BBD #24)

BreadBakingDay #24 (last day of submission December 1st)

For a while now, I've been reading other bloggers' posts for Bread Baking Day (also known as BBD), but I've been too intimidated to join in myself. This month, I finally decided to take the leap.

This is the blogging event's #24, though it is my first, and the theme is "Mixed Breads," meaning a bread that uses at least two different types of flour. This month is hosted by El Aroma de IDania. Be sure to hop over there after December 1 to see the round-up of what other bakers made this month.

As for me, I knew I wanted to make a bread that used cornmeal and wheat flour. Mostly, I wanted to ease into this, and I knew that cornmeal was something I had worked with before. Given that the baby had taken my baking mojo for so long, I didn't want to make anything too intense, for fear that I wasn't as "back in the game" as I had thought.

In the end, I chose the Broa, from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. This recipe fit the bill for me perfectly, for a few reasons. First, it was an honest-to-goodness yeast bread baking experience, so I didn't have to feel like I had shirked my responsibilities. Second, the notes on the recipe said it went well with soup, and I planned to make soup to serve to Kurt and Doug for lunch when they took a break from working on finishing our basement. And, lastly, it was an international bread that I had never tried before, which means that it stretched both my abilities and my expectations of a "corn bread" a little.

The end result was good, if a little dry. Thankfully, we had the potato cauliflower soup (coming up in another post) to dunk the bread into. I'm pretty sure the bread was intended to be fairly dry and crumbly, and that it wasn't baker's error. So, I'm filing this under "soup breads" in my mind, as I couldn't really see serving it without some liquid for dunking.

Broa (Portuguese Corn Bread)

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 1/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (or more, depending on your dough's consistency)

Grease a baking sheet.

Pulverize the cornmeal in a blender or food processor until it is fine and powdery (I used the attachment to my stick blender).

In a stand mixer bowl, combine 1 cup of the powdered cornmeal, the salt, and the boiling water. Stir until smooth. Stir in the olive oil, and cool the mixture until it is lukewarm. Blend in the yeast.

Gradually add the rest of the cornmeal and 1 cup flour, stirring constantly with the flat beater of the mixer. Work the dough until it is a mass, adding 1/4 cup or more flour if necessary to overcome the stickiness.

Place a length of plastic wrap tightly over the bowl, and leave at room temperature until the dough has doubled in volume, 30 minutes.

Knead with dough hook for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary to form a firm but not stiff dough.

Shape dough into round ball, place on greased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Cover the ball with wax paper (do make sure it is wax paper--my plastic wrap stuck horribly to the surface of the dough) and leave until it doubles in bulk again, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Bake about 40 minutes, until bottom crust sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cottage Pie & Comfort Food

Tonight, it feels like November. It was dark out as I was leaving work. The air had a distinct chill to it. It felt like the kind of night where you want to stay in and make a comforting meal. So, I turned to one that my mom made all the time when I was growing up.

"Cottage Pie," as we called it in our house, had many incarnations throughout my childhood. It started out as the classic beef and mashed potato dish that it is expected to be--the meat sauteed with onions, then simmered with salt, pepper, and beef bouillon. Right before baking, tomato sauce was added to the meat. But, then it morphed. It seems there is someone in our family, who may or may not be me, who hated mashed potatoes. So, the cottage pie was baked without the mashed potatoes, but with American cheese melted on top, for a while. Then, it mutated again, and grew a crescent roll crust, over which the meat was spooned, and then the cheese melted. Eventually, I think it came full circle and the mashed-potato-hater among us agreed to allow them to top the dish once more--though I do believe the layer of cheese remained.

When I began making cottage pie in my own kitchen, the ground beef was switched out for ground turkey--I just like it better. The crescent roll crust was abandoned, as was the melted cheese layer. Essentially, I went back to the original recipe, except for the ground turkey aspect.

The thing about this dish is that as it cooks, I can close my eyes and be magically transported back to 8 Marwood Drive. Mike would be getting home from baseball practice. I would finally be finishing my AP U.S. History homework. Mom would whip this together, with something green on the side, and this is what we would eat together. This is the weeknight food of my childhood.

Now that I am 6-7 weeks away from having a baby of my own, I can't help but wonder what foods my child will come to think of as "home." Sure, chicken soup will probably top the list, just as it does for me. But, that is a big production and, at least for me, is associated with holidays and snow days and times when someone in the family was sick. I'm hoping pot roast will top the list--again, as it does for me--but, again, pot roast encompasses the tastes and smells of holidays and extended family gatherings--not of normal weeknight dinners when it is "just us." And so, I wonder what smells and tastes will transport my child, when he or she is in their 20s, back to our kitchen table. Will it be the smell of bread rising? Of garlic sauteing in olive oil? Will it be cinnamon in the middle of summer--not during the holiday season, as it is for most--as the zucchini bread bakes? What will our kitchen smell like in the coming years? And how will that shape the person we are about to raise?

While I contemplate these questions, I will share with you one of the quintessential recipes of my childhood, which, even while I am twenty-eight and far from New York, comforts me on a cold November evening.

Edited to add that I have found the wonderful, heart-warming Family Recipes event, hosted by Shelby, of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. While I've been reading through past round-ups, I decided to make my first submission. This recipe seems to fit the bill nicely, tied as it is to my childhood dinners. Hop on over to Shelby's blog to view the roundup after December 1.

Cottage Pie--the original recipe, before it morphed according to family tastes:

1 lb. chopped meat (ground beef or turkey)
1 small onion, chopped
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 lb. potatoes
2 Tbs butter
1/2 cup water
1 beef bouillon cube (or whatever flavor bouillon you have on hand)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brown onion and meat. Drain fat. Add salt, pepper, and beef cube that has been dissolved in 1/2 cup water. Cook for about 20 minutes. Add sauce. Bring to full boil.

While the meat is cooking, cook cubed potatoes in water. Mash the potatoes with 2 Tbs butter and salt and pepper. Make sure to taste them before putting them on top).

In a pie dish, put meat mixture on the bottom, and the mashed potatoes over it. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

I've been behind on my TWD baking. I actually made the Granola Grabbers, but they disappeared before I could take pictures of them, and my Tuesday got busy, so I didn't get to blog. Since I had a long weekend, I promised myself I would follow through with this week's recipe. I am so glad I did.

These cookies were easy to put together, and made the house smell amazing. They tasted incredible, too. There's something nostalgic in their flavor. I can't put my finger on it. I can't imagine that it is a childhood memory, since my mother didn't bake that often, and certainly would have shuddered at 2 sticks of butter. I don't think they have a Weight Watcher point value for that. There's just a giant red NO when you look it up, I suspect. Still, the taste reminds me of childhood, for some reason. Or maybe it just tastes like what childhood should taste like. I can't help but feel that these are ideal lunchbox cookies--they have protein from the peanut butter, fiber from the oatmeal, and kid appeal from the chocolate chips. Of course, all of this is overlooking the 2 cups of sugar (one brown, one white) and the 2 sticks of butter. It is easy to overlook such things when they taste so good.

My story has a sad ending, however. Tonight, Kurt and I went out to run a couple of errands--most important of which was to buy our dog a 40-pound bag of food. Feeling that she had been such a good girl all weekend, I also purchased a nice, meaty knuckle for her to chew on, and some premium kibble that had bigger bites to put in her saucer toy (which she rolls around, eating the bits until it is empty). All of that, and I come home to find a ziplock bag torn to shreds on my rug. I knew immediately that this was no ordinary ziplock bag. In fact, this was the very ziplock bag that held about 10 more of these luscious cookies (one of which I was anxiously awaiting as my dessert). My dog has not gotten her meaty knuckle. She has not gotten her bigger kibble. And she'll be lucky if she gets her regular food in her bowl. Of course, she's probably not hungry, anyway, after eating the last of my cookies. Let's hope the chocolate doesn't affect her, and that I return to speaking terms with her some time this week.
If you would like to check out the recipe, go to Stefany's blog, Proceed with Caution. I would warn you, though, if you do make this recipe, to keep it well outside the reach of your animal companion. Thank you, Stefany, for a wonderful recipe choice!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Pudding

I've never been a fan of chocolate pudding. It always seemed like a waste of dessert for me. If I'm going to eat chocolate, I'm going to eat CHOCOLATE. And if I'm going to eat my dessert with a spoon, I'm going to eat ice cream, and really eat my dessert with a spoon. Chocolate pudding was relegated to something to eat when I had teeth pulled (a common occurence when I was a child, unfortunately), or when my throat was so swollen that I couldn't eat anything else.

The thing that I never realized before was that there is chocolate pudding that is not Jell-O pudding. This chocolate pudding is not Jell-O pudding. This chocolate pudding does not deserve to have to share a name with Jell-O pudding. This chocolate pudding almost isn't's chocolate divintiy in a glass. It is like no other "pudding" I have ever tasted before.

So, the process. It was a little involved, and I made it while I wasn't feeling well. There were a lot of steps. Melt the chocolate. Bring the milk and the sugar to a boil. Pulse together the dry ingredients. Pulse together the eggs and sugar. Run the machine while adding the hot milk. Put the whole thing back over the heat. Pulse it all again. Add the butter and chocolate. Spoon it into glasses and refrigerate for what felt like an unfair amount of time. Why bother with all of this when you can just add some powder to some milk and have chocolate pudding?

The answer, upon tasting the results, is obvious. This is something beyong pudding. This is almost mousse-like. This holds its bittersweet flavor and therefore isn't cloyingly sweet like the boxed variety. This pudding does not need to be a component. It is a wonderful, satisfying dessert all on its own--yes, even without whipped cream. This chocolate pudding is well worth the extra steps. This chocolate pudding, it turns out, is anything other than a waste of dessert.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TWD: Mixed Berry Cobbler

For years, I never knew there was a difference between a crisp and a cobbler. As a matter of fact, I wasn't aware of the difference until this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe came out. Let it be known, there is definitely a difference.
Now, I'm not necessarily saying that a cobbler is fussy. But, I will say that cobbler is far more fussy than a crisp. A crisp is a 10-minute affair. You can chop the fruit, toss together the topping, and have it ready to bake before the oven is even preheated. Not so with a cobbler, which requires making a dough similar to a pie crust.

The end result was excellent, so I'm not complaining. The frozen mixed berries worked perfectly, and didn't require chopping, etc. The topping was crisp and crunchy, and just right under the mushy berries and melting vanilla ice cream. If I had to change anything at all, it would be the fruit. I have an aversion to anything that tastes too much like artificial raspberry flavoring--a lasting result of having Lyme disease at nine years old, and having to take a raspberry-flavored medicine that made me feel seasick all summer. The combination of the raspberries (which I have no trouble eating fresh) with the sugar and cornstarch came a little too close to hitting that old gag point. Next time, I might stick to blueberries and strawberries. Or, maybe take Dorie's suggestion in "playing around," and try it with apples and maple syrup. Yum!

Another note--you can ignore Dorie's pleas to eat this the day it is made. We did, of course. But, as a two-person household, we weren't about to finish it in one night. Unrefrigerated, it kept quite nicely and was very satisfying today. So, rest assured, if you do not finish it in one sitting, it will keep just fine overnight.

Overall, this was a great recipe. I'm definitely looking forward to using it for the base for many future variations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TWD: La Palette Strawberry Tart

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge was for a strawberry tart. It was an odd recipe for me, in that it was hardly a recipe in all. Instead, it was more, make a pie crust, put some jam and fruit on it, and serve, with something creamy on top. Easy enough.

The hard part was the strawberries. You see, I'm a bit of a stickler for the local/in season thing. I know that, for most places on the East Coast, this was a seasonal recipe. But, up in New Hampshire, strawberry season has not yet sprung.

So, I sat with my conscience to figure out how and if I could do this recipe. On Sunday, I determined that I could--I would just go to the local farm stand, which would have gotten the strawberries as locally as possible (they have sister farms throughout the East Coast). I resolved to start the crust when I realized that I was out of powdered sugar.

I went to the supermarket to fulfill my powdered sugar need (and, in the meantime, restock my butter supply, which it seems TWD quickly depletes). The heat got the better of me. It went from 60 degrees on Friday to 95 on Saturday, and it maintains, still today. At the supermarket, I got to thinking "do I really want to go all the way to the farm stand in this heat? Nah. Better to pick up the strawberries now, while I'm here." So, I did. My good, usually localvore self, bought California strawberries at a huge chain supermarket. Shame on me.

And, honestly, my dessert showed it. My tart would have been so much better with local, just-picked strawberries. The tart crust was wonderful (I've eaten pieces of the unassembled, leftover crust on its own since Sunday). The jam--which was locally produced in MA by Trappist monks--was wonderful. The fresh whipped cream, heavily dosed with vanilla, was wonderful. The strawberries...were okay. They were cold. And, in that point in time, this was a major attribute. But, they weren't strawberries. They were...well, strawberries.

So, I found myself a great recipe to use the next time that I have real, fresh, locally-picked fruit in season. At that point, this recipe will be nothing less than stellar.

As a side note, I did end up going to the farm stand later in the afternoon. So, this dessert followed the first all-local meal of my season--scrambled eggs with asparagus, spinach and blue cheese. Here's to the start of a season filled with ripe local fruits and veggies!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies

This past week, I joined Tuesdays with Dorie, a weekly baking group. I have been reading a number of blogs from people who participate, and knew it was something I would like to join. What could be better than the promise of weekly sweets, while stretching my culinary skills?

The first recipe, French Chocolate Brownies, chosen by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook, definitely did push me to try something I probably wouldn't have otherwise. First of all, there is the fact that they are homemade brownies. Now, I'm all for made-from-scratch. I'm probably too all for made-from-scratch for the tastes of the people around me. However, those brownies from the box are damn good. So, I leave it to other people around me to bring the brownies (made from the red box, of course), while I concentrate on made-from-scratch goods that are different, or at least where the box varieties kind of suck.

The second "stretch" for this recipe was the raisins. I love raisins. I stick them in quick breads, and yeast breads, and bread puddings. My husband, who was fairly anti-raisin when he met me ("Why ruin a good oatmeal cookie?"), has even come around to the raisin side of things, due to my baking. But, raisins in brownies even made me raise my eyebrows? Why embellish a brownie?

For those who know me, you know that I believe firmly in trying a recipe exactly as written the first time around. That way, I have a feel for what the author intended, and I can tell if the recipe, itself is worthy. All bets are off if and when I make the recipe again. Then, I improvise to my heart's content (my mother's chocolate 10-pound cake comes to mind, the latest incarnation of which was a pistachio-white chocolate chip 10-pound cake). So, with that spirit, I pushed down my doubts and tried this raisin-enhanced brownie recipe.

I'm really glad I did. The rum-flamed raisins (the flaming part was surprisingly fun) served as moist little morsels throughout the already-moist, very smooth brownie. As a matter of fact, the brownies were so smooth and melt-in-your mouth that I dare say the raisins gave me something to chew. Otherwise, the rest could just dissolve blissfully without much help from my teeth.

So, the end result was that the raisins were a good idea. The other end result is that these made-from-scratch brownies were far better than the red box ever even dreamed of being. So, the next time someone says, "Why don't you bring some brownies?" I might not be so quick to decline in favor of something more complicated. These brownies brought brownies back to something that I am willing to make, and with pride.