Wednesday, December 5, 2012

French Bread

 



Everyone deals with stress in different ways, some exercise, some go shopping, some talk to a friend. I deal with stress by baking. Which means, since it's the end of the semester and finals are upon us, I have been baking up a storm. In the past week I've made:
A double batch of bagels
Pumpkin muffins
2 different kinds of cookies
A pumpkin roll (recipe to come!)
French bread

Thank goodness I have a big family who likes what I bake. And about half of everything gets put in the freezer. Well, except for the pumpkin gingersnaps I made yesterday. They're already almost gone.
I tend to make things with yeast when I know that I have other things to get done, such as studying. I justify baking by telling myself that I'll study while the dough rises, bakes, etc. Usually I end up cleaning the kitchen or starting another baking project (yesterday it was cookies) while the dough rises. But it's the thought that counts, right?
I've made bread before, quite a few times. Not the same as this, though. I really thought I was messing it up terribly until I looked it up online. Ooooh the wonders of google! I found a wonderful post here about how to make better french bread. Definitely a good article to read if it's your first time making it.
This is not a bread you make if you don't have much time... total rise time is about 6-7 hours. But, there's very little hands-on time so if you're going to be home all day doing other things, it's a great recipe to try. And it's absolutely lovely, I'm so excited about it!
I changed the recipe a bit, as I was a little low on AP flour and had an excess of bread flour, so I switched that and it seemed to work out very well. I proofed the yeast in half a cup of warm water with 2 tsp of sugar for five minutes as well as mixing it into the flour first as well.
This dough was super, super sticky. It made me pretty nervous when I was first making it, but it turned out well. I am, of course, not even close to an expert on whether or not this is anything close to real French bread, but it is delicious and definitely worth making.


French Bread
Adapted from Barbara Bakes

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 packet fast acting yeast
2 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water

Grease a bowl for rising, set aside.
Proof yeast in a small bowl with sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Pour flour, salt, yeast mixture, and the rest of the water into the bowl of a mixer and mix with dough hook and knead until dough is formed, adding water and flour as needed. Once dough has come together (it will be a bit sticky), put in prepared bowl and loosely cover. Let sit at room temperature until about tripled in size, around three hours.
Punch dough down, cover, and rise again for another hour and a half to two hours.
On a floured surface dump the dough out and cut into three equal pieces. Form loaves and place on parchment paper to rise. Cover and let rise at room temperature for about two hours.
Preheat oven to 500 or 550*, whichever your oven will go to. Transfer loaves on to pan or baking stone (I used a pizza pan), slash the tops with a very sharp knife, put bread in the oven, and turn heat down to 450. Take about a 1/4 cup of water, pour it on the oven floor and close it quickly**.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes (the original recipe said 25, I baked mine for 20), until golden brown. Remove and let cool for at least two hours before eating.

Notes:
* This was in the post listed above, to turn the oven up to a high heat and then turn it down. It helps form a better crust.
**Be suuuper careful with this. I found it here, it creates steam which also helps a good crust form. It's cool but kind of scary so be careful that you don't burn yourself.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Grilled cheese sandwich with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions


There are fewer things in life better than cheese. Seriously. Well, I guess unless you're lactose intolerant. In which case, I am so sorry for you. But other than that! Cheese is the bomb. Always and forever. Whenever I'm in need of some extra comfort (middle of the semester with three tests, a lab practical, and a paper all in one week... yeahhh I need some cheese!), I always crave grilled cheese. But not the gross disgusting grilled cheese with that nasty prepackaged stuff and the chemical filled white bread... ugh. I didn't even eat that nonsense when I was a little kid. Seriously. All rye bread and deli cheese for me! I was spoiled when it came to grilled cheese.
Sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions make everything better... I have a weird family, half of them hate mushrooms, half of them hate onions. One of my best friends hates both! Craziness. This stuff is freaking magic. I can eat both with a fork, standing over the stove, and not feel badly at all. Yum yum yum.
You don't need a recipe for grilled cheese, this is more me bragging about this epic sandwich I made the other day. It was inspired by the wonderful and amazing Joy the Baker and an incredibly delicious looking sandwich she made a few months ago... I am crazy jealous of her skills. Baking, cooking, photography, and writing skills, she is amazing. Please do not compare me to her in any way because I will never match up... but that doesn't matter because this sandwich is still amazing. So! Listen to the wonderfulness of this sandwich and drool.


Grilled cheese sandwich with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions
Inspired by Joy the Baker
Sauteed mushrooms
Caramelized onions
Parmesan cheese
Smoked Gouda cheese
American cheese
Rye bread
butter

I sauteed the mushrooms with some salt, pepper and garlic. I caramelized the onions with salt, pepper, thyme, and a bit of rosemary. Butter both sides of the bread (duh), and the make sure you put some kind of cheese over both sides of the mushrooms and onions so it keeps it all in, like glue. Tasty, tasty glue. Eat and be happy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tea Cake with Lemon Glaze




I hate tea... I really, really do. I think it's gross. I want to like it... But I just can't. I've tried. So when I got some wonderful smelling mint green tea from Joy the Baker and Lost Crates, I knew I had to figure out something to do with it. I tried grinding the tea up with a food processor... epic fail. Then I tried grinding it up with a mortar and pestle. That seemed to work slightly better... until I actually baked with it... Yeahhhh another epic fail. Bland cookies with bits of grittiness... not so tasty! So I gave up for a while until I decided that I absolutely had to bake with this tea RIGHT AWAY. Apparently, you can infuse butter with tea leaves (should have figured that out myself!). It's super easy. I'm definitely going to be trying this with all different kinds of teas. Locally grown tea with lemon icing? Yesss please!
This cake is about fifty two million times better than I think a cup of tea is... Since the tea I used was mint green tea, it was slightly mint-y. The tea taste isn't super obvious but it's definitely there. Super fabulously delicious! And I made this in about 15 minutes. So worth it!
Also, that little black dot is part of a tea leaf... a few pieces snuck through into the cake. Still delicious!!


Tea Cake with Lemon Glaze
Adapted from
Joy the Baker

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus one tablespoons butter
1/4 cup loose leaf tea

Lemon Glaze:
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 and butter and flour a 9" pan.

How to infuse butter with tea:
Melt butter with tea leaves and let cook on low for 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool with tea leaves for five minutes. Pour butter through a sieve, making sure to press out as much butter as possible. Set butter aside and discard leaves.
Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugars, salt, baking powder and baking soda, set aside.
Whisk together milk, two eggs, vanilla, and butter. Pour into dry ingredients and fold together until just combined. Pour into pan and bake about 30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice, set aside.
Let cake cool in pan for ten minutes before poking holes in the top with a skewer or fork. With the cake still in the pan, pour on the glaze, making sure the whole top of the cake is covered. Let sit for thirty minutes before eating. Yum! :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Couscous and Quinoa Salad

There are some foods that make you feel healthier and happier after you eat them. There are also some people that make you healthier and happier after you are around them (but don't eat them... cannibalism is generally frowned upon...). I am lucky enough to have a lot of really positive influences in my life. One of the most recent people that have made such a huge difference in my life is a woman I met while volunteering with Alzheimer's patients. Volunteering has been an amazing experience, getting to know such wonderful people who have lived such full lives has been awesome. At twenty years old, I have far less life experience than the people in the program, but there is still never a lack of things to discuss. I've learned so much in the three short months that I've been volunteering there.
The one person who has been such a great influence there is the program coordinator. She is one of those people who is just full of light, no matter what the situation. Talking to her about a vast array of things has been so helpful to me. Being around her, the other volunteers, and the participants of this lovely program is one of those things that just makes you feel so happy and mentally healthy.

While this salad might not be life changing, it is lovely to eat it on a quiet night just as the sun is going down, when you can reflect on the wonderful people that have affected your life.

This recipe is more like a general idea of what to put in this salad, as you can use so many different things. It would be lovely with lemon instead of balsamic vinegar, parmesan instead of feta, or a million different vegetables or herbs mixed in. This is just my take on it.

Couscous and Quinoa salad
Makes one very large serving

1/4 cup dry quinoa, then cooked according to package
1/3 cup dry Israeli couscous, cooked according to directions
1/4 of a red onion
1/2 of a tomato
2-4 tbs parsley
1/2-1 cup spinach
2 tbs crumbled feta cheese
1 tbs sun dried tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
1-3 tbs balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Chop all vegetables, cook quinoa and couscous, toss veggies, quinoa, and couscous and top with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Enjoy and feel happy! :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tomato soup with clams and couscous

I believe I've asked if anyone goes through food phases before... hmm. Maybe. I can't remember.
But anyway. I do. Majorly. Like I'll eat at least 2 apples a day for a month, or have cream cheese and tomato on rye sandwiches every day for a week straight (SO good!), often more than a week straight. That's also what I do with this soup. I made it about six times in a week. Not even kidding. I think one day I ate it for lunch and dinner. I'm a little obsessed. Maybe my body is lacking something that tomatoes have? I have no clue, but I have been craving tomatoes constantly lately. Thank goodness it's so warm here and they come in season early. I'm gonna  be eating nothing but tomatoes. And peaches. And that's all, all summer. Not even kidding.
But anyway! Back to this soup. It's kind of like a twist on pasta and sauce. It's so crazy good, cheap, and easy! Yum yum yum. It takes like, two seconds. I don't usually add spices spices other than salt and pepper, because I like the more simple taste of it, but it would definitely be good with other spices, too. It's a major comfort food. And it's pretty healthy and so filling, bonus!
Also, sorry for the lack of posts. What with school and work and everything it's been hard to find time to update!

Tomato soup with clams and couscous
Makes one very large serving
by me

one 14.5 (or close to that) oz can of tomatoes (can be diced, whole, doesn't really matter)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup of couscous
1/2 of a small onion, diced
one small can of clams, drained
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
olive oil for the pan

Pour the can of tomatoes in a medium sized pot and use an immersion blender to puree the tomatoes until it's smooth and there aren't many big chunks of tomato.* Stir in balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Put on stove turned to medium low.
In a small pot, cook couscous according to box directions, set aside.**
In a medium sized pan, warm olive oil, add in onions, garlic, and clams. Saute on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, until clams are cooked and onions are slightly opaque.
Stir the couscous, clams, garlic, and onion into the tomatoes and let simmer on low for just a few minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Notes:
* You also could use a food processor or blender of course, but I have an immersion blender that I LOVE and is so easy.

** I usually just cook the couscous in tomato sauce and it absorbers some of the tomato liquid and makes everything nice and thick, but it will take longer than it would in water.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meyer Lemon Curd Cake

This is not the prettiest cake, I know this. BUT trust me when I say, it is totally and completely worth making. The cake batter part is rich and vanilla-y, which goes really well with the lemon curd. And when baked, the lemon curd gets a lemon bar type consistency. SO good. I'm pretty sure I ate most of it myself. My family aren't huge lemon fans so whenever I end up making lemon things, I eat the majority of it myself (over a period of time of course). I have been known to eat an entire (large) pan of lemon bars by myself in two days... yeah, not a good life choice...
But this cake is one that I definitely do not mind eating all by myself, it's just that delicious. Also, it's totally easy to put together. It'd be delicious with other kinds of curd too of course. I'd like to try it with raspberry curd next.
So while this cake may not be the one you pull out to show off when guests come over, it is definitely a good cake to make for a night in, or a lazy weekend breakfast. Trust me, totally worth making. Don't judge a book by it's cover and all that jazz. Also, it's from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks and I'm pretty sure she's incapable of creating something that isn't totally delicious.
You can use store-bought lemon curd, but it's probably cheaper and way more fun/delicious to make it yourself. It may seem like a scary thing to make, but trust me, it's totally easy!

Lemon Curd Cake
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lemon curd
Sugar in the raw for the top (optional but definitely adds a good texture and flavor)

Preheat oven to 350, butter a 9" pan. Set aside
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients all at once and fold in to combine. Do not over-mix.
Pour half the batter into the pan, and using about half of the curd, drop spoonfuls over the batter. Pour the rest of the batter in. It's a thick batter so it's not going to smooth over the curd well, that's okay though. Do your best to get it over, then put the remaining curd on top of the batter. Take a butter knife and swirl the curd and batter just slightly, being careful not to get the curd too close to the sides of the pan (it will stick and be pretty messy after baking). Sprinkle sugar in the raw on top. Bake 32-34 minutes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Meyer Lemon Curd

Do you ever have specific words that gross you out? I never notice words that I don't like unless one of my sister's or my mother point out words that gross them out. Apparently, a gross word is "curd". You'd think that being 17, my sister would at least try it. Nope! She will have none of it, and neither will my boyfriend. Seventeen and nineteen years old and they refuse to try something because the name is gross... people are strange sometimes :P
But! Don't let the fact that this is called curd get to you. It's totally fabulous and delicious and SO easy to make. Super easy. I have to find more things to do with it, I swirled it into a cake (recipe to come!) and it was glorious. Going to put it on some pancakes later... yuuuum...

Meyer Lemon Curd
FromConfections of a Foodie Bride
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick butter, cut into 4 pieces

Whisk together lemon juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a bowl placed over a simmering pot of water. Whisk until warm and then add in butter one piece at a time until melted. Whisk constantly until thickened and smooth, will be about 165 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Pour through a strainer. Use or store in fridge with plastic wrap over the top of the curd (this prevents it from getting a "skin" like puddings do).