Recommended Baking Adventures June 2015!

June was a month of applications, travel, and more baking! Here are some of the top experiments: Moving along in my James Beard bread book, I decided to attempt Myrtle Allen’s Brown Bread. The resulting bread was dense, a little sweet, and completely delicious! I used regular whole wheat flour. IMG_4921

Ease was a theme this month. I wanted to make bread, but didn’t want to go shopping for interesting ingredients and didn’t want anything too complex. After searching various “easy bread” related terms in Google, I ended up with a very basic one. (I can’t find the exact recipe, but suggest kneading the bread for a solid 8-12 minutes always, and letting it rise for more like an hour each go.) One thing I’ve worked on with bread is shaping and being aggressive with showing the seams who’s boss!

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The prospect of making bagels at home is a little stressful. People, especially New Yorkers, are very particular about the quality of their bagels, and they seem fairly complicated with a two-step cooking process. My native New Yorker swears by this recipe. If you follow the straightforward directions, you’ll be fine! And everyone will be very impressed at the taste and texture. It works well to invite friends over before baking the bagels so they can help shape and top them before digging in!

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My dad loves rhubarb, so a rhubarb dessert for his birthday seemed perfect! I went with this rhubarb cobbler recipe, following the steps from the video over the recipe, except for adding the oats to the crumble topping. Yum! (Go lighter on the orange juice and zest than recommended.)

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Two Bittman recipes to finish it off! I hosted a tea party on short notice and these basic buttermilk biscuits were simple and came off beautifully! I’ve recently discovered powdered buttermilk, which can be stored pretty indefinitely in your fridge and used for baking. It’s brilliant! It’s good to make sure it’s actually blended in to your dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients as it clumps a little.

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The basic brownie recipe from How To Cook Everything has a typo in my edition (discovered too late), asking for 2oz of chocolate rather than 3oz. I’ve noted it in my cookbook for the future. As a result, my brownies were kind of meh. My reason for including it is to encourage you to go to great lengths to rescue underdone baked goods. I baked the brownies for more than double the recommended time and they still seemed underdone, but I figured it was just how they were supposed to be. Wrong! As noted in the image below, the top completely came off when I tried to extract the brownies from their pan. I scraped the top back into the pan and continued cooking until done. Yes, they looked a little crinkley, but no one knew anything had been amiss when I served them later.

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Happy adventuring!

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!

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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!

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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 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.