Sunday, December 6, 2009

What do 7 dozen gingerbread men look like?

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I used the cook's illustrated gingerbread cookie. They are really delicious and if you make them like drop cookies they are fluffy and soft. If you roll and cut them out thin then they are good as ornaments to hang from a tree.

My friend Karen and I spent five hours making these cookies. Our work is doing a benefit where we auction off trees that have been pre-decorated, the proceeds are going towards breast cancer screening. The theme for our unit's tree is "an old fashioned Christmas" so the organizer's knowing that I and Karen both like to bake asked us to make seven dozen gingerbread men for them.

It was messy and tiring but quite fun.
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I quadrupled the recipe and I had a batch left so I made drop cookies and they were delicious! The neighbor who got the container of cookies below chased me down the next day and raved about how tasty they were.

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Best Gingerbread Cookies
from the November 1999 issue of Cook's Illustrated

THICK AND CHEWY GINGERBREAD COOKIES

For about twenty 5-inch gingerbread people or thirty 3-inch cookies

If you plan to decorate your gingerbread cookies and make ornaments out of them, follow the directions for Thin, Crisp Gingerbread Cookies. Because flour is not added during rolling, dough scraps can be rolled and cut as many times as necessary Don't overbake the cookies or they will be dry. Store soft gingerbread in a wide, shallow airtight container or tin with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper between each cookie layer. These cookies are best eaten within one week.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons milk

1. In food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade, process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds. Alternatively, in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.

2. Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)

3. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.

5. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.


THIN, CRISP GINGERBREAD COOKIES

For 2 1/2 to 3 dozen gingerbread people
or 4 to 5 dozen cookies

These gingersnap-like cookies are sturdy and therefore suitable for making ornaments. If you wish to thread the cookies, snip wooden skewers to 1/2-inch lengths and press them into the cookies just before they go into the oven; remove skewers immediately after baking. Or, use a drinking straw to punch holes in the cookies when they're just out of the oven and still soft. Store in an airtight container. In dry climates, the cookies should keep about a month.

Follow recipe for Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies, quartering rather than halving the dough, rolling each dough quarter 1/8-inch thick, reducing oven temperature to 325 degrees, and baking cookies until slightly darkened and firm in center when pressed with finger, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Note: The easiest way to poke a hole in the gingerbread men is to use a straw and pop a hole out near the top. Poking a hole after baking was difficult and the first method gave us the most professional look.

Icing Recipe

1 egg white beaten until peaks form
1 tsp cream of tartar
3 cups powdered sugar

Beat the egg white until it is stiff. Add the powdered sugar and cream of tartar to the egg white. Mix well, you may have to add less or more powdered sugar to get the consistency you want for the icing. If the icing is too thick add 1 tbsn. of water. I used a #2 piping tip and a bag.

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Outtakes from our gingerbread baking:

Not all gingerbread men are happy...
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Some are downright special looking!
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Happy Holidays Everyone!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!

I've been up since 5 a.m. cooking and baking. It's me and my dear husband's first thanksgiving together so I am trying extra hard to make everything perfect. Our families are in Michigan so we are having a few friends over to enjoy the feast with us!

On the Menu:

Fattoush
Chipotle scalloped sweet potatoes
Parmesan Garlic mashed potatoes
Corn sliced fresh off the cob
lamb chops
Turkey brined and baked using Alton Brown's recipe
Stuffing using The Pioneer Woman's recipe
Fresh cranberry relish
homemade rolls

Here's to hoping your thanksgiving day is wonderful and filled with love and tasty things to eat!

Monday, October 26, 2009

SouthWestern Egg Rolls and an apology

Before I post the recipe for these delicious babies I just wanted to apologize to my blog readers for my lack of posts recently.

I am very picky about the recipes I post here and I only want to share ones I've tried multiple times and absolutely love. Perfectionism is a good thing but sometimes it can be self defeating. I have to pick between output and quality and I've decided that I'll always choose quality. I hope all of my readers understand.

Without further ado!

Southwestern Egg Rolls


1 pkg. Egg roll wrappers*
1 lb chicken breast cooked and shredded
Taco Seasoning to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz. canned corn
4 oz. canned black beans
Canola oil for frying

To seal the egg rolls:
Mix equal parts flour and water so that you have a paste to seal the egg rolls.

* I found the egg roll wrappers at Sprout's farmers market. It cost around $3 for 12 egg roll wrappers, the brand was Wing Hing.


Cook and shred the chicken breast. Add taco seasoning, cilantro and water and cook on low until the chicken is well seasoned. Take one of the egg roll wrappers, fill it with a scoop of the chicken mixture, a scoop of beans, a scoop of corn and top with a sprinkling of cheese. Take the flour/water paste and apply it to one of the edges of the egg roll wrapper. Fold two of the sides in and then roll downwards until closed. Rub the flour/water side a few times to make sure it's sealed.

Ways to cook these:
1. Deep fry
2. Pan fry
3. Bake

The best method hands down is to deep fry them, the second best is pan frying. Just fry the egg rolls until they are golden brown and then put on a paper towel to drain. I wouldn't recommend baking them. I tried to bake them for 30 minutes and they were completely mushy and gross. I baked them longer and they were dry and tough, I even took a picture to demonstrate how unappetizing these looked and believe me they tasted worse.


How to roll them:

































Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Daring Bakers Dobos Torte



The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

I want to preface my post by saying that I really, really, really wanted to like this cake. I was so excited to make it and I thought it was probably going to become a dessert that I would make again and again. Unfortunately this cake was a massive disappointment. My dessert-loving husband even suggested that we throw it out because he thought it was much too bland. The only part we both liked was the tasty chocolate butter cream frosting.

The sponge cake is relatively tasteless, the caramel is way too lemony and the butter cream is much too soft. That pretty much sums up the problems I encountered with this recipe. I truly wish I was able to say something nicer about this cake but I can't.

Their of course is the very real possibility that I might have ruined the recipe through an error of my own so perhaps I'll take another stab at it. But for now I am just going to relax and nurse my wounded ego.

In case anyone is wondering I changed a few slight things from the original daring baker instructions; I made hazelnut-caramel spikes and decorated using those (I am planning to do a tutorial on those at a later date) and I just drizzled some of the caramel on the top instead of doing the caramel cake layer because I was running short on my cake layers. Otherwise the recipe was followed exactly.

For anyone who is curious:

Dobos Torte Recipe

Equipment
  • 2 baking sheets
  • 9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
  • mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
  • a sieve
  • a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
  • a small saucepan
  • a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
  • metal offset spatula
  • sharp knife
  • a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
  • piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times

  • Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
  • Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
  • Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
  • Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.

3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.

2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Batata Harra

literally translated: Spicy Potatoes

These potatoes are great when you are getting bored with the same old side dishes; they are intensely flavorful and completely different than a typical potato dish. I like to make these if my hubby and I are going to have leftovers because it spices things up and adds some much needed freshness to what would otherwise be a recycled meal.

The amount of Cayenne I add makes these only slightly spicy; you can add more Cayenne pepper or less if you are a wimp (that's okay because I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to spiciness so I won't judge you). You can even substitute Parsley instead of Cilantro for a different flavor.

Here are a few tips:

  • I've made these with Russet and Yellow potatoes successfully so any potato should work.
  • These are really garlicky so adjust as needed. If you don't care for Garlic I'd recommend going with 1-2 cloves not 4!
  • These are so flavorful they tend to compete with a well seasoned main dish so don't serve them with one. I usually serve them with leftovers or some marinated chicken but your mileage may vary. They'd be really great with some hamburgers off the grill and cut in wedges instead of cubes. Yumm!

Recipe for Batata Harra
adapted from "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food" by Claudia Roden

5-7 Red Potatoes cut into chunks
1/2 tsp. Red Cayenne Pepper
4 cloves minced Garlic
fresh ground Pepper to taste
1 1/4 tsp. Salt (adjust to taste)
1/8-1/4 cup Olive Oil
juice of half a Lemon
1/2 cup of finely chopped Cilantro

Place potatoes on a cookie sheet covered with greased aluminum foil. Bake in the oven until they are cooked through and slightly crispy on the outside, about 30 minutes at 400 degrees Farenheit.

When the potatoes have about five minutes left, add the oil, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and cayenne into a large skillet. Cook on low until the garlic is cooked, then add the cilantro and mix together well. Finally add the potatoes into the pan and combine them. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tiramisu Cupcakes



I made these for a work potluck and they were a huge success. Everyone wolfed them down and went for seconds. I found the recipe online and these cupcakes are even made from *gasp* a boxed mix. They do take a lot of elbow grease and determination but they technically aren't hard to make, just labor intensive. It took me five hours of pretty constant work to make 22 of them but they really were worth it. They had a completely different flavor and were much tastier than any cupcake I'd ever eaten.

I have a few tips for you all if you decide to make this recipe (learn from my mistakes pretty please!!)

1. If you are planning to pipe the frosting on top; double the butter/cream cheese frosting. If you are just going to spread it with a knife, a single batch should be sufficient. I ran out of frosting midway through and had to run out and buy more cream cheese. Then I had to mix the frosting up by hand once again. I think whipping the second batch of frosting gave me mild carpal tunnel. I swear one of these days I will buy a mixer and be cool and wrist pain free like the rest of America.



2. Do poke more than three holes in the tops of the cupcakes with a fork. About five or six should do. Three wasn’t adequate enough to allow the coffee mixture to soak in.



3. Don’t try and just pipe the filling into the cupcakes without some form of a hole. Without a hole all I could get to fit into the cupcake was about one microgram of the tasty filling and then it splooshed out the top; it would have been a complete tease.

"Oh wow these cupcakes have filling, this is so great! Wait where'd the filling go?!? I swear I just tasted some! Wahhh!!!"

Little teaser bits of filling are a disappointment and you don't want your cupcakes to disappoint. I solved the problem of too little filling by using an apple corer and removing a good chunk of the center of the cupcake and then filling it.



4. Tiramisu is supposed to be a coffee soaked dessert, now I don’t like squishy but my first tester cupcake was dry with the tiniest tease of the coffee, it wasn’t even damp. Tiramisu has to be damp. So I solved this by putting a good amount of the coffee mixture on the bottom and sides of the apple corer hole, then filling it with the Mascarpone/whipped cream mixture. I didn’t even bother re-plugging the hole with the core because if you’ve ever had traditional Tiramisu you would know that it’s normally about 50:50 lady fingers and mascarpone mixture. Therefore leaving the hole filled with the filling and not re-plugging brings the cake/filling and frosting ratio to a much more pleasing 60:40.



5. Use aluminum cupcake holders, paper ones will get soggy.

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Recipe from here (Makes 24 cupcakes):

Cupcake


* 1 (18 1/4 ounce) package white cake mix prepared as directed on box. I used Duncan Hines extra moist french vanilla cake mix.

Liquid Coffee Layer


* 2/3 cup water, boiling
* 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee

Mascarpone Filling

* 1 cup mascarpone cheese (from tub)
* 3 tablespoons Kahlua (or coffee extract)
* 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
* 1 (8 ounce) container french vanilla cool whip or regular cool whip with some vanilla extract added in.

Frosting (double this if you are going to be piping the frosting on top)

* 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 2 cups confectioners' sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* chocolate shavings or cocoa powder (to garnish)

Directions

1. Make Mascarpone filling mix first & allow to chill 4-6 hours or overnight.

2. Mascarpone filling: Beat mascarpone, Kahlua and condensed milk until well blended. Fold in cool whip. Chill 4-6 hours.

3. Prepare cupcakes as directed on box of white cake mix & bake accordingly. While these are baking prepare the liquid coffee as below.

4. Liquid Coffee: Boil 2/3 cup water in microwave (or boil on stove) and stir in instant coffee then powdered sugar & allow to cool to tepid.. Once cooled, use a fork to poke holes into cupcakes so that they will absorb the liquid coffee & then brush liquid coffee onto each cupcake using silicone baking brush.

5. Fill pastry/icing bag with Mascarpone filling & inject about 1 spoonful via bag directly into top-center of each cupcake.

6. Prepare Cream Cheese/Buttercream Frosting: Beat butter and cream cheese until creamy with hand mixer on low. Slowly add powdered sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and increase mixer to medium. Blend until frosting is fluffy.

7. Frost each cupcake with frosting & garnish with chocolate shavings (use dark chocolate bar & cheese grater).


Enjoy!!!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Katie Kinser's French Bread (No Knead)



Baking bread always reminds me of my Grandma; she was a really wonderful baker and would always make beautiful Foccacia and Challah bread. When she was going through chemotherapy for Leukemia my brother and me spent a lot of time with her. She was too sick to do much besides lay on the couch and she didn’t have much of an appetite. She would always get a hankering for one thing at a time and we would do our best to make it or buy it for her.

For awhile she liked a cool glass of buttermilk, then she wanted fresh baked bread. For about a month we made bread all of the time using her Baking with Julia book.

The longer she was sick the more she missed cooking and baking for herself and others. Because Grandma was good at whatever she did, she of course became the world’s finest backseat baker. If I let my mind go back that far, I can still hear her feeble voice calling from the couch as she supervised the bread making:

“you’re kneading it too much, that’s enough.”

“Add more flour.”

“It needs more liquid.”

Baking bread always reminds me of those days and nights in my grandma’s house. They are bittersweet memories but the more time goes by the sweeter those memories become.

A lot of times Grandma wouldn't even eat the bread after it was made, but she liked to watch us make it. I think it made her proud that her Grandchildren were making bread and she was helping us even when she was sick. Before she became sick she loved to show us how to make different dishes in the kitchen. To grandma being a good cook was very important. She had a golden rule that she taught everyone, "never return a dish empty." and she always stuck to that.

I think if she had been born a little later and been a bit more tech savvy she would have been a food blogger. I know she'd be thrilled if she knew I was doing this blog and she'd probably have a bunch of recipes picked out for us to do for it.

In honor of Grandma I went hunting for a good French bread recipe about a month ago and found this recipe at La fuji mama’s blog here. I pretty much followed it exactly with a few, slight modifications: I oiled the bowl while waiting for the bread to rise, I didn’t stir while the dough was rising, and I also added the yeast before the flour on accident. It’s different than most bread recipes because their isn’t any kneading involved, I was a little hesitant but it turned out to be very tasty. It’s a really good bread recipe, soft and moist on the inside with a nice crust. I know my grandma would have approved.

The yeast, frothy and bubbly


I used 5.5 cups of flour and it made a very sticky dough, I would highly recommend greasing your bowl well because the dough will be very sticky. I set my dough outside because I live in the desert and dough rises really, really well in 110 degree heat. Also don't worry if you don't have a mixer, I don't. It takes a bit more elbow grease but that just means you get to eat a few more pieces of bread because you worked out. At least that's what I tell myself. I recommend using a non stick spatula like the pink one pictured below.

I apologize for the following pictures, I don't have any windows in my kitchen so these have bad lighting.







Look at this monster dough! The yeast is alive and doing well, it liked it's patio rising spot.









Enjoy your freshly baked bread!




Recipe
From La Fuji Mama

1 1/2 Tbsp. or 2 packets (1/4 oz./7 g each) dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 cups hot water
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup oil
5 - 6 cups all-purpose flour

1. Dissolve yeast, warm water, and 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar in a small bowl.

2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine hot water, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, salt, and oil. Add 3 cups of flour to the mixture in the large bowl/mixer and mix well. Stir in yeast mixture.

3. Add 2 - 3 cups more flour and mix until well blended. (At this point your dough will still be quite sticky) *. Leave in bowl and let rise for 1 hour, mixing a few strokes a couple of times during the hour.

4. Divide the dough into two or three equal portions and roll out. Then roll the dough up like a jelly roll and tuck the ends in.

5. Slice the dough across the tops diagonally a few times and then brush egg whites across the tops.

6. Let the dough rise for thirty minutes before putting it in the oven.

7. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes.

* I added approximately 2.5 cups and that worked well.
** Make sure to grease the bowl well or you'll have a sticky mess. I also didn't mix the dough at all while it was rising.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Favorite Salad, Fattoush



For my first ever BeckysBaking blog post I decided to post a recipe near and dear to my heart. I grew up in Michigan outside of a city called Dearborn which has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Little Lebanon’. While dating my husband we ate at some of the best Arab restaurants in Dearborn and maybe in the entire United States.

One of my favorite things to order was Fattoush, it's traditionally made in the Middle East as a tasty way to use up stale pita bread. It’s healthy, refreshing and incredibly flavorful. My life was wonderful until I moved to Arizona and realized with horror that their was no decent Fattoush to be found in the entire state. I would be at home planning my next meal and nothing roused my appetite except the thought of Fattoush. Just contemplating the delicious crispness of the lettuce paired with the fried pita bread and the savory dressing would have me drooling uncontrollably.

Driven by desperation I attempted to recreate the salad I loved. My first two attempts at formulating a recipe for Fattoush were not satisfactory but the third time was the charm and my tastebuds rejoiced. It’s about as close to the real thing that you can find outside of an authentic, high quality Arabic restaurant and it’s incredibly delicious. I don’t even really like salad especially not enough to crave it, yet I adore this. So come on give it a try! I promise it won’t disappoint you.

What you need:




Sumac is a seasoning made from ground up sumac berries used in Middle Eastern cooking (no it’s not poisonous, I swear!). It has a really odd bitter, salty taste which I love. In my opinion Sumac is pretty darn essential to a good Fattoush. If you can’t find it the salad will still be very tasty but it won’t be an authentic Fattoush. You can find a decent sized bag for cheap at most Middle Eastern grocers. To find a Middle Eastern grocer near you go to www.zabihah.com



Combine all of the ingredients in the second picture and pulse in the food processor until it’s well combined. To be honest the dressing isn’t going to be pretty and it doesn’t even taste that great on its own. I am just forewarning you all before you stop at this step and pitch the dressing because it tastes funny. As wrong as this sounds it's going to taste odd and that's okay. I pinky swear it is. The smell though will be vibrant and garlicky so give it a taste, if it’s too sour add a bit more sugar or if you want a more intense flavor add more garlic, salt or mint. The dressing needs to sit and let all of the components meld and dance together for a few hours in the fridge. Once it’s drizzled on the salad and combined with the fried pita bread it will become an amazingly delicious metamorphosis. Trust me on this.



I like to use the combo of veggies above but you can do anything that will make your heart happy. The only essentials are the tomatoes, parsley, cucumbers and romaine so go ahead and be creative. Now chop up your choice of veggies, combine them well and put the salad bowl in the fridge to get nice and chilly. The only thing worse than bad Fattoush is good Fattoush that is served lukewarm.



Finally you are going to fry up some pita bread. If you have the ability, try to buy Arabic Pita bread. It’s called Khobs or Aish in Arabic and it’s thinner and larger than the typical pocket pita bread you find in the U.S. supermarkets. If you can’t find it pita pockets will work fine, just pull the layers apart before frying. You can try and bake the bread in the oven to be more healthy but it’s just not the same. I swear it’s not and trust me you want the full, delicious, crunchy experience.


I don’t have a deep fryer so I just take a pan and fill it up with vegetable or canola oil and tear the bread into 1” pieces and fry them in the oil until they are golden. Pat the oil off of the pitas with a paper towel and let them cool completely. The awesome thing about these little chips is that they will keep for a very long time. I can make them up and store them in a Ziploc baggie in the fridge for around a month and they remain crisp and tasty.



Once your salad and dressing are cold combine the dressing, pita chips and salad then serve immediately. You’ll also want to sprinkle some sumac over the top as a garnish.

I make up the Fattoush in single servings when I want to eat so that I don’t waste any of this lovely creation. The fried bread, like all good things has a short life once it gets drenched in the delicious dressing. I recommend the single serving method but if you are having company it’s a really pretty and impressive salad to serve up in a big, fancy bowl with the beautiful red Sumac sprinkled over the top.



Fattoush Recipe

Ingedients:

Salad
3-4 tomatoes
2 bunches of Romaine lettuce
2 salad cucumbers
2 green peppers
1/4 of a Sweet yellow onion
1 bunch parsley

Dressing
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice about 3-4 lemons
2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp. dried mint
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
10 twists of a pepper shaker (about 1/4 tsp.) fresh ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp. Sumac
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley (just grab a handful, don't worry about only getting the leaves. Some stems are fine because they'll be chopped up super tiny in the food processor)

Pita Chips
2 cups canola oil
2 large Arabic pitas torn into 1" pieces

Chop up the salad fixings and combine well, put in the refrigerator to get cold. Take the dressing ingredients and place them all in a food processor. Process until the ingredients are well combined and their are no large pieces. Place into a container and let sit in the refrigerator for two hours. Heat the canola oil in a pan until the oil is rippling, place the pitas into the hot oil and fry them until they are a golden brown. Let them drain on a paper towel. When they are cool place them in a ziploc bag and store them in the refrigerator.

To prepare the salad, toss the dressing with the salad mixture and then top with a generous helping of the fried pita chips. Sprinkle sumac generously over the top. Enjoy!