Thursday, August 27, 2009

French Bread

Have you made your own french bread? Don't or you will have a hard time enjoying the dollar loaves at the store. This easy bread will for sure be a new family treat. This is another Steamy Kitchen recipe. She sure knows bread! This recipe is a total of 3 hours so you can have it for dinner TONIGHT!
makes 2 loaves the size I have in the pic
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp active quick rising dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
1. Put 1/4 cup of bread flour on your clean counter top and reserve. Place remaining 3 3/4 cups bread flour in your mixer bowl. Spoon the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt on the other side. Pour in the warm water and with your regular mixer paddle, mix on low speed until the dough comes together in a mass. Switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Dough should clear the sides but stick to the bottom. If it is too sticky, add 1 T of flour at a time. If too dry, add 1 T of water to dough to adjust. After 2 minutes, let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
2. Turn the mixer on again and mix for 3 minutes. Take the dough out and place on the counter. Remember that 1/4 cup of flour that we reserved? We’ll use it now. As you knead the dough by hand, incorporate more flour as you need. You might not need it all. Knead by hand until the dough is very satiny, smooth, tight and formed into a nice, compact ball. Place this dough in a large lightly oiled bowl (I use Pam spray). Turn dough over so that all sides have a thin coating of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Dough should almost double in size. Punch dough down and form back into a ball. Poke your finger on the surface – the dough should give into the pressure and slowly creep back up.
3. About 1 hour into the rest stage, preheat your oven to 450F (convection 425F). Place your pizza stone, inverted baking sheet or covered cast iron pot into the oven to heat up.
4. Ok, here’s the fun part. Cut the dough into half – you’ll shape one half at a time (keep the other piece under wraps) Pick up the dough – stretch it out until it forms a big rectangle. On your countertop dusted with flour, fold over the ends.
Now do a little “karate chop” lengthwise down the middle of the bread and stretch out the long ends again. Fold over in half. The karate chop helps get the middle tucked inside. Pinch all sides shut. This is important – you want to make sure that all ends including the short ends are pinched tightly to create a seal. This allows the bread to rise & expand up and out evenly. If the bread looks a little lopsided, you can try to fix it by letting it rest 5 minutes and gently stretching it out again. Just don’t knead the dough again – you’ll pop all the beautiful gas that took 1.5 hours to create!
5. Turn the bread over so that its seam side down. Cover the loaf with a damp kitchen towel. Repeat with the other dough halve. Leave the loaves to rest on your well-floured pizza peel or cutting board for 30 minutes. After resting, take a sharp paring knife and make 3-4 shallow, diagonal slashes on the surface of the loaf. This allows the steam in the bread to escape so that it expands evenly during the baking process.
Secret #1: Knead dough with dough hook for 2 minutes. Let it rest for 7 and then knead again for another 3 minutes. If you are doing this by hand, then your formula is 6 min-7 min-7 min. Letting the dough rest at this stage allows the gluten to relax, redistribute, and get all cozy. It results ultimately a smoother, well-mixed dough. After the brief rest, you’ll feel a difference in the dough. Its more supple and soft.
Secret #2: Pinch! When you form the dough into a loaf (see photo below) pinch all ends tightly to create a seal. Basically, you are creating surface tension so that the gas from the yeast (or as Alton Brown describes “When the yeast burps”) the dough expands up and out evenly. If I don’t create this surface tension, the dough in the oven will just go “blah” like Al Bundy on the couch. Something called gravity makes the dough expand down and flat.
Secret #3: Use a pizza stone, cast iron dutch oven or my favorite Pampered Chef Covered Baker. Just make sure that your loaf will fit into the vessel. Stone or cast iron retains heat and radiates the heat of the oven evenly. If you don’t have one, don’t worry, just use a good quality, thick baking sheet inverted.
Secret #4: Steam = thin, crunchy, beautiful crust. In the No Knead recipe, there is a high proportion of water to flour. Because the NK dough rests for multiple hours, lots of water in the recipe works. In this 3 hour french bread recipe, you can’t do that. To make steam (a.k.a. crust) – you have to do one of 2 things, depending on the baking vessel. -> Pizza stone or baking sheet: Once you put the bread in the oven, throw 1/2 cup of water on the oven floor (electric oven) and immediately close the door. No, it won’t harm the oven. Its a technique that professional bakers recommend for home ovens (professional ovens have a built in steamers). Once the water hits the hot oven floor, it creates steam, which creates the crust. -> Covered baker or dutch oven: You’ll need less water – about 1/4 cup. Once you put the loaf into the very hot pot, throw in the water and over the lid immediately. Put the pot directly in the oven. Because you’ve pre-heated the oven AND the pot for 1 hour, the trapped water in the pot will create steam. If you are shy about throwing water in, grab a pie pan or loaf pan, preheat it along with whatever you are baking on, and throw the water in that instead of the oven floor. Basically, cold water in hot pan + hot oven = steam. I have an electric oven (heating element is on the top of oven). Some bakers throw ice cubes in, but I prefer water.
Secret #5: Timing and temperature:
Have an instant read thermometer. The internal temperature of the bread should be 190-210F.
All ovens are different and I’m sure our loaves will be different shapes.
The timing in the recipe below is just a guide for you – this is what works in my oven and how I shape my loaves.
Please make sure that you check the internal temp of your bread to gauge doneness.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mint Brownie Bars

photo from
These Mint Chocolate Bars were the cover recipe for Cooking Light last March. I have had a number of requests for the recipe. It is a "go to" crowd pleaser :) I thought I would share with all.
The dense base layer is like a rich, fudgy brownie, so don't overcook it or the dessert bars will be dry. Refrigerating the mint bars allows the chocolaty top layer to set properly. You can make the dessert up to one day ahead. For a more grown-up taste, you can also use dark chocolate chips for some or all of the semisweet chocolate chips in the glaze. Also, remember these were "lightened" by 1/2 from the original but they are by no means calorie or fat free :)
Ingredients Bottom layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1 (16-ounce) can chocolate syrup
Cooking spray
Mint layer:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 drops green food coloring
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 Preheat oven to 350°.
2.To prepare bottom layer, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and salt; stir with a whisk. Combine granulated sugar, egg substitute, 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 tablespoons water, vanilla, eggs, and chocolate syrup in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring until blended. Pour batter into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack
.3.To prepare mint layer, combine powdered sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, and next 3 ingredients (through food coloring) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread mint mixture over cooled cake.
4.To prepare the glaze, combine the chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Let stand 2 minutes. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut into 20 pieces.
Yield20 servings (serving size: 1 piece)Nutritional InformationCALORIES 264(30% from fat); FAT 8.7g (sat 5.2g,mono 2.5g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 2.8g; CHOLESTEROL 38mg; CALCIUM 12mg; SODIUM 139mg; FIBER 0.5g; IRON 0.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 45gMegan Patterson ,Cooking Light, MARCH 2008

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bread so easy a three year old can make it!

This recipe I saw originally on Steamy Kitchen. The whole post is of her 4 year old making this bread. Keaton is not 4 yet but LOVES to help in the kitchen. I got out the measuring cups for him. Read the recipe and he made it. I have to admit it was better then any bread I have ever made. Slightly sourdoughish, very crispy on the outside. He is thrilled now to help by "making the bread" whenever I need....SAWEEET!
Here we go:
3 cups of flour in a big bowl (it will raise and little mixers make a mess :)
1/4 tsp of instant yeast (yep, just a 1/ misprint)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
(please note you can use part wheat flour but wheat flour is more "thirsty so decrease the total amount of flour by about a 1/4 cup)
Mix it up. If the mama is doing the mixing it takes me under a minute. Keaton can mix this baby up in a couple of minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it "sleep" on the counter 12-20 hours in a cozy warm place. In the "morning" you will be amazed at how nice and holey it looks. Take it out a put it on a flour'd counter. Wet your hands (it is a sticky dough and that is how it needs to stay, the water on your hands will balance the flour on the counter). Take it up in your hands and pull and tuck the sides in to make it smooth on one side and pulled in belly button style on the other. Put it belly button side down in a greased bowl. Let it sit for 2 more hours.
30 minutes before the rest is up fire up your oven to 450 I put a camping 10" dutch oven in there to warm up too.
"The perfect pot for No Knead Bread
Let’s talk about the pot. So, you know you’re going to put the pot into a very very hot oven. Make sure that the pot can withstand 450F. Generally, if the pot is cheap, flimsy, has plastic handles and a remnant from your poor college days, it’s probably not going to be safe to use in that hot of an oven. Use a 5-qt or larger cast iron, ceramic, Pyrex, stainless steel or enamel pot.
Just check your pot collection – look for large, heavy, no plastic.
Round, oblong –does not matter. Should be at least 4″ tall. I use my Le Creuset emameled cast-iron. Yes, my cover has a thick plastic knob – but I did call Le Creuset’s customer service and they said while their literature says safe to 400F, it is still fine at 450F. Now, I don’t know whether the gal who talked with me really had the authority to tell me such a thing….but after over 30 loaves, my pot is still unblemished. After pre-heating, remove the hot pot from oven. Now plop this wobbly dough into the hot pot. Doesn’t matter how it lands – actually, the messier it lands, the more “rustic” it looks. Shake pot a bit to even out the dough.
secret: if you aren’t using a well-seasoned cast iron pan, you can put a piece of parchment paper in the pot first so that the No Knead Bread won’t stick to the bottom."
Back to me:
You then flop that bread into the pot belly button side up. If it flops out uneven no worries....think artisan. Cook covered for 30 minutes then uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. It is best warm but still yum later on :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Random Zucchini thoughts....

I have so many other recipes I want to get to so we will with this say a fond farewell to the noble zucchini. Just a couple of extra ideas.... first remember those baggies I grated and put in our freezer to use through the year? I have gone through most of them. Where have they gone? I have snuck them in spaghetti sauce, lasagna, soup, taco meat, stir fry, the list goes on and on. If your kids fight you on eating veggies.....sneak it past them :) Another idea we tried was for zucchini cobbler. I cannot say we loved it. I have been blessed with a kid that eats anything. I decided we will save the cobbler for delicious fruit. IF you ARE trying to get your kids to eat veggies it did taste remarkably like apple cobbler. If you live nearby you can even come over and try it. We have PLENTY left over. The idea of the day if from Our Best Bites. Have you checked them out? They are a great tutorial site. They come up with the most wonderful fresh ideas and walk you through them. This week they posted grilled stuffed zucchini. YUMMY. Click HERE for that great one. Come back tomorrow for Keaton's bread recipe. It is a great no knead bread that is slightly sourdough, extra yum. The recipe is so easy he can mix it up himself in about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day Three...good old grilled Zuchinni

We will get to the chicken over cous cous (if you haven't tried cous cous it is one of the worlds best quick fixes) but today we are talking about the grilled summer squash. My Mother-in-law does it this way and it is DELICIOUS.
Here you go:
marinate your lengthwise sliced zucchini all day in:
2TBSP Balsamic vinegar
2TBSP Olive Oil
2TBSP Good Seasons Dry Italian mix
Squish it all up in Ziploc gallon bag. Grill 5-6 minutes on each side.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zucchini day two- Zucchini bread dressed up!

My friend Lisa started a food Blog recently too. One of her first posts was for THIS wonderful bread. I was looking for something that I could possibly make with frozen shredded zucchini. I had one or two of those HUGE zucchini a neighbor gave me weeks ago. They are not great for eating so I shredded them up, put them in 1 cup portions in my freezer and hoped for the best. I made this recipe using those. I took 2 out and put them in the micro for about a min and a half. They were VERY watery. I know you need that moisture to make the bread good so I threw it in and hoped for the best. I also used frozen blueberries. I have fresh ones from my produce co-op last week but those are Keaton and I's favorite treat so we used frozen ones. Lisa's Mom suggested coating them with flour if using frozen. I did and it was perfect. I have to tell you the recipe made not only the perfect 4 mini loaves but also a dozen mini muffins. Those are not pictured. Keaton and I will not tell you why :)
P.S. We hurried and shared the rest with neighbors. They were not safe in our house :)
Blueberry-Zucchini Bread
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries
DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans. Lightly sprinkle the tops with sugar.
Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zucchini day one- Zucchini Aubergine

Welcome to my new new new blog! I am excited for a place to store my recipes and to send friends who would like to borrow a recipe. I have had a ton of requests for zucchini recipes in the last week so I thought I would start with....ZUCCHINI WEEK!!!

When I found a recipe for Zucchini Parmigiana I thought I would have to give it a try (it's that time of year). The recipe was from Prudence Pennywise (click on the link to get the parm recipe). She had fried her zucchini. I really wanted to make it a little more healthy. I immediately thought of my Eggplant Aubergine recipe I got out of Cooking Light Magazine years ago. I made it both ways, 1/2 with the fried, 1/2 with the Aubergined (is that a word) Zucchini. Honestly, I fought Lee for the Aubergine leftovers for my lunch. It was SO much more flavorful. I want to use some more zucchini and not worry about the parmigiana and just consume to zucc's. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 cup light mayo
1Tbsp minced onion
1lb eggplant peeled and sliced (1/2 " slices)/ OR ZUCCHINI
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 grated Parmesan cheese (I never use Parm, I buy a big block of Romano at Costco and use it for months. It has so much more flavor so you use less and taste it more)
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
Vegetable cooking spray
-mix mayo and onion
-mix bread crumbs, cheese, and Seasoning
-dredge in mayo mix then in crumbs
-put on silpat, or sprayed pan
Cook at 425 for 12 minutes, then turn and cook another 12 minutes.