Catching Up on Baking (October – Present)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted Recommended Baking Adventures, so it’s time to catch up!

Most recently, I’ve fallen in love with a braised cabbage recipe from an article on braising. The cabbage gets silky and smooth, and we’ve been eating it with a little feta crumbled on top– best warm or at room temperature!

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I’ve also been baking bread and experimenting with sourdough. My family took a bread baking class together, where we each got a bit of starter at the end to take home and play with. I’ve made sourdough several times since then and have enjoyed the results!

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Part 1: Mix 2T ripe, stiff, culture, 1 3/8 cups water, and 3 cups whole wheat flour. Let ripen for 14-18 hours.

Part 2: Combine mixture from Part 1, 3 5/8 cups bread flour, 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, 1-2t instant dry yeast until shaggy and let stand one hour. Add 1T salt and knead for 8-10 (or longer) minutes until moderately elastic. Let stand in a covered bowl for ~1 hour to double. Divide and shape into two loaves, and let rise again for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Bake at 460 for 15 minutes, then at 440 for additional 20-25 minutes.

Cool and enjoy!

Another fun bread adventure has been bagels! Who knew you could make delicious bagels at home? We use this recipe and have always had success. Even if it looks a little scary, it’s totally easy and they are actually delicious.

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Last and not least, who doesn’t love a good excuse to get the tube pan out? This Sally Lunn bread from our dear James Beard is easy, delicious, and versatile. It’s slightly sweet and rich, but can be served alongside any meal or for breakfast as toast. And it’s really pretty.

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Honorable mentions:

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Recommended Baking Adventures: September 2014

This past month I’ve found myself in full pantry stocking mode, moving toward canning and big batches of soups. It must be fall! It continues to be difficult to find the time to make bread, but I have high hopes for this weekend!

We were lucky enough to have a ton of fresh fall vegetables from our CSA box from Driftless Organics! We ordered an extra box of tomatoes and roasted them!

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We cut them in half, and placed them cut side up in the oven for about 8 hours at 325 degrees. Before putting them in the oven, we sprinkled them with roughly chopped garlic, salt, and olive oil. Most went into the freezer for treats this winter! SO. GOOD.

Onto the bread! We had farm fresh potatoes, so I went for this potato bread.

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While I really wanted to break out my good friend James Beard, I couldn’t find a version of his potato bread that didn’t involve refrigeration, so went with this recipe, which was quick and easy. The dough was easy to work with and the bread was delicious! It didn’t rise a ton in the first or second rising, but made up for it once it got into the oven! Either my house was too cold or the dough was heavier with the potato. Or both.

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Because I can’t bear to be separated from James Beard for long, I tried his Parker House Rolls next.Rolls

The shape is a little awkward (baker error), but the fold made them easy to tear open and fill with jam and butter. I found them best when fresh out of the oven. The Parker House also apparently invented the Boston Cream Pie!

An early morning walk in support of the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA) was a great excuse for scones!

Scones

This Mark Bittman recipe was my inspiration, but I used all whole wheat flour, substituted sour cream for the heavy cream, and added raisins. These were also mini scones, so needed a little less time to bake through. I also skipped the topping step. I’d definitely recommend baking with sugar on top though, it would have made them feel more special. The substitutions worked well!

p.s. September was ovarian cancer awareness month. It’s a pretty scary cancer, and there aren’t any great diagnostic tests. The disease is often diagnosed late and is difficult to treat at that stage. Unexplained bloating, weight loss, feeling full quickly, frequent urination, and/or constipation? Check into it. More information.

A couple of quickies:

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Baked brie! One with jam, one with honey and sliced almonds, and one with caramelized onions and garlic. Impressive and easy. Great for entertaining. Don’t forget to take the phyllo dough out of the freezer in advance!

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Mark Bittman’s oatmeal cookies from How To Cook Everything. I upped the cinnamon and added chocolate and butterscotch chips. A solid winter treat!

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Rosh hashanah was a great excuse to try out the tube pan! A silpat underneath guarded against leaks, and the honey cake recipe was very good. Not too sweet, but that may have been a product of too much coffee and not quite enough honey.

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A fun weekend breakfast treat: Baked eggs! Surprisingly easy and healthy for how decadent they feel. They’re a perfect platform for fresh herbs, which we’re trying to use up before they freeze out in the garden!

BONUS: Refrigerator Pickles!

Pickles

We started with this recipe and used mustard seed, fennel seed, juniper berries, and peppercorns for the brine. We stuck with thinly sliced cucumber for the veg. They have been great on sandwiches, in salads, and on relish trays!

Recommended Baking Adventures: August 2014

It’s been a pleasure to continue baking even as I start working. Unfortunately, this means that more pictures are taken at night, resulting in less attractive images overall. Quick and easy recipes are the new name of the game, and there are several to try!

First: Tomato Cobbler. I made this recipe for a potluck, because it’s perfect: savory, simple, good at room temperature, and vegetarian. It is also a great way to use up a ton of tomatoes. Note: It’s important to add additional flavor to both the tomatoes and the cornbread topping.

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Before baking on top, after on bottom!

There’s also less time to bake bread, so I’ve been searching for easy and fast bread recipes, and found this one: Savory Oatmeal Pan Bread. The oats and the eggs make it super dense, not a substitute for regular bread, but it was delicious. Highly recommended. No rising time, no kneading, easy to put together and only 30 minutes in the oven.

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We’ve also wanted to try our hand at making granola bars, thinking they would be good for care packages and for keeping us full and healthy throughout the week. The Five Ingredient Granola Bars from the Minimalist Baker came together in a snap. We substituted prunes for the dates, peanuts and sliced almonds for the almonds, used chunky peanut butter, and added chocolate chips to the mix. After chilling, they were easy to chop and not a big mess.

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And, because some people go to work the Friday before a three day weekend, I figured we deserved a treat, and brought these flourless chocolate cookies into work. Gluten free and basically dairy free, they are pretty consumable by everyone. The texture is less like a cookie and more like a french macron, with a crunchy shell on the outside and chewy on the inside. They don’t rise a ton, but the crackle of the shell and sprinkle of salt makes them very pretty.

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This month’s bonus feature: Gazpacho! The NYT ran one of those lovely Mark Bittman features on gazpacho that has a ton of options. Go make one now. So easy, so delicious, so summery. Great to pack for work, to eat on the deck, or to have a mug of for an afternoon snack. We’ve made the classic version a few times and will branch out to avocado and pea this week.

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Recommended Baking Adventures May-June 2014

So many fun things to celebrate in May and June! We got married a few weeks ago and have a whole new set of toys to play with, which is a GREAT excuse to get adventurous.

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New stand mixer!!

First up: Barb’s Banana Bread

I got this great recipe from a family friend as a wedding shower present and it’s incredible. Easy, delicious, flexible.

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Cream: 3/4 cup butter

Add: 1 1/2 cups sugar gradually, cream well.

Blend in:

  • 1 1/2 cup mushed ripe banana (should be 4-6)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Add:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Blend until just combined, bake for 50-60 minutes at 350.  Makes two loaves.

Julia Child’s Boef Aux Oignons (Guest kitchen post!)

While in California for graduation, I wanted to make a delicious thank you meal for the friends I was staying with, and this seemed like a good stretch for me (I don’t usually cook meat) but fairly foolproof. It turned out deliciously– very hearty. Yum!

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After returning home from California and lots of scrumptious happy graduation, happy birthday, happy vacation meals, we wanted to lighten up and turned to Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s awesome Appetite for Reduction cookbook. The vegan lasagna in it is suburb! If vegan lasagna isn’t your thing, just go for the cauliflower ricotta.

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With too much rhubarb and no time to shop, these Rhubarb Bars were a no-brainer. The recipe calls for strawberries as well, but I went full-on rhubarb. Originally, the recipe is from a book called One Bowl Baking. In this case, the only dishes used were the pan and the bowl I used to melt the butter. Brilliant and delicious. Super easy.

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Last, but certainly not least, I discovered baked risotto. It looks and tastes like stovetop risotto, but you don’t do much to it after you mix everything together. This is going to be my new potluck recipe– everyone loves it, it looks impressive, and it’s super flexible. I used veggie broth, corn, and spinach. I think I also fudged the cheese and used whatever was in the fridge and it was great.

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Bonus recipe: Marc’s Sangria

On our wedding weekend, we wanted to see as much of our guests as possible, so we hosted a wine and cheese party at our apartment. Marc made some killer sangria.

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Mix:

  • Two bottles of cheapish red wine
  • Chopped fruit (we used an orange, a couple of nectarines, and a couple of apples)
  • Chopped sour citrus (we used one lemon)
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • Sugar to taste
  • Lots of ice when you serve it

Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Add more wine, brandy, grand mariner, etc. throughout the night to keep it full. We used a box of Trader Joe’s wine and it worked well. (And was cost effective.)

 

Recommended Baking Adventures February 2014

In the cold, cold winter, there is nothing more satisfying than a slice of warm bread. It certainly feels like we’re hungrier for heavy, warm food in the winter months. There’s also something pleasing about using your whole body to make something– especially when going outside to exercise is inadvisable.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard

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I moved to the second recipe in Beard on Bread, Home-Style White Bread. This bread was richer with the addition of milk and butter to the dough. Overall, it was much easier to work with than the basic white and had a nice, thick crust. Delicious!

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Home-style white bread crust shot

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Cornmeal bread

Feeling inspired by the success of the home-style white, I moved to another recipe in the James Beard book, Cornmeal Bread. Not to be confused with corn bread, this bread incorporates some cornmeal into a traditional bread dough and comes out with a slightly crispier texture with a little grit. It’s delicious, and perhaps the best recipe yet. Next time, I plan to incorporate a little more cornmeal– maybe 3/4 cup rather than the suggested 1/2 cup.

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Starting place of the most decadent lasagna ever.

This Valentine’s day, we revisited a delicious but complex lasagna recipe from Sam Sifton in the NYT. We’d made it once before, for guests, and were impressed but the recipe was too expensive, rich, and time consuming to make a regular.

The lasagna combines herbed olive oil, four types of cheese, béchamel, and mushrooms. Truly a pleasure. The herbed olive oil is especially worth making and using regularly.

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Voila!

Recommended Baking Adventures January 2014

Oofda! It’s been a busy busy winter, but it’s high time I posted again. Stay tuned for a design-related post later this weekend. For now, an update on baking adventures!

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One of my best Christmas presents this year was a vintage copy of “Beard on Bread.” James Beard leads the willing cook through a variety of bread recipes– mostly yeasted breads, but others as well. I started out with the basic white bread. I’ve determined that the liquid to flour ratio that he recommends is far too dry, and have ended up adding almost a quarter cup of additional water whenever I make it. Outside of that issue, the bread crusts nicely and makes delicious toast with a consistent interior.

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Voila! The final time I made this recipe, I added about 2T of herbs de Provence and about 1T of garlic powder. The flavored bread went excellently with jam.

This might not count as baking, but we had a ton of fun ringing in the new year with paella!

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We used this recipe, and swapped out some of the fresh seafood for the pack of frozen seafood from Trader Joe’s. The dish was somewhat time intensive, but not technically difficult. It was delicious at dinner, but the leftovers (there wasn’t much, unfortunately) were even more delicious the next day. Highly, highly recommended.

Some amazing recipes that I didn’t take photos of, but highly recommend from this month:

 

 

Recommended Baking Adventures Oct 2013

Fall is officially here. It’s been a great excuse to make some delicious food, and even host a fancy birthday dinner party!

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Oatmeal Bread: My mom gets most of the credit for this one. Recipe to be posted/linked soon!

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Apple Pie: We were lucky enough to go apple picking on a gorgeous fall day, and a good portion of our haul turned into apple pie. Loosely based off the Mark Bittman Apple Pie Recipe, but with a crumble topping. We even made several little ones (6 inchers) and froze them, so will be able to enjoy them for the next couple of months!

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Chocolate Ginger Bark: Inspired by one of my classmates, this treat was the perfect end to an epic dinner party. (Full menu below) I took the minimalist approach: chop candied or otherwise preserved dry ginger (I did about 1/2 cup), melt dark chocolate  (I did 1.5 bags of chocolate chips and it made 70% of a pan) in a faux double boiler, and pour melted chocolate into a baking pan that has been coated with wax paper. My goal was to make the layer as thin as possible without making holes. Some of the ginger went below the chocolate, and some was sprinkled on top. This then cooled in the fridge for a couple of hours before being broken up. Super easy, very pretty, and delicious. Win!

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Epic Dinner Party: Full list of recipes may be included at a later date. Suffice it to say that Julia Child’s creamed spinach and her hollandaise are killer.