Monday, November 30, 2009

BBD 24: Mixed Breads

November marked the resumption of the monthly Bread Baking Day, created by Zorra. Challenge #24 is hosted by El Aroma de Idania.

This challenge gave me the opportunity to bake another bread from the ABin5 cookbook by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg.

I chose the Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread so I could use both a variety of grains as well as some leftover pumpkin puree.

Using one third of the dough, I made a loaf. While it didn't rise very high, it was very moist and especially delicious toasted.

The second third of dough was made into dinner rolls. These rose just fine and, again, were delicious split and toasted.

The remaining third of dough is still in the fridge. It will either become rolls (again) or a small boule.

Anyway you bake this bread, it is tasty and healthy.

Look for all the other entries in the coming days.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread

(Makes 3 1 1/2-pound loaves)

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rye flour
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix yeast and salt with the water, melted butter, and honey in a 5-quart bowl or lidded food container.

Mix in the oatmeal, pumpkin, and flours without kneading.

Cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours.

Refrigerate, loosely covered, and use over the next 9 days.

On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2-pound piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn each time.

Shape the dough into either a loaf, rolls, or boule, or any other shape you desire.

Place on prepared surface or in a lightly greased pan. Allow to rest and rise for about 2 hours, depending on the temperature conditions.

Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves or rolls. Bake until the crust is browned and firm.

Cool before slicing or eating.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

YWPWT: Pumpkin Pie with a Twist

It finally happened! It was my turn to choose a theme for the pie-baking group, You Want Pies With That?

But, oh, the difficulty of deciding. You would think this would be an easy task. You would be wrong.

After several false starts, I finally made up my mind. In honor of the holidays, I chose Pumpkin Pie with a Twist. You see, I always make my favorite pumpkin pie recipe every Thanksgiving. It's a dark and mouth-tingling spicy pie, which I dearly love. Every year, though, I wistfully imagine myself breaking out of the box and trying a new version, but it never happens. So, I figured if I challenged myself, along with everyone else, there would be a bunch of new pumpkin pies to try next year.

Meanwhile, as the month of November progressed, quite a few alternative pumpkin pies began showing up in blogland. I know that the YWPWT pie bakers will be ever so clever, so I'm really anticipating the results.

For my entry, I "baked" a Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie.

First, I prepared a 9" baked pie shell.

Next, I spread one pint of softened ginger ice cream on the bottom of the shell and placed the pie in the freezer to harden the ice cream.

While the pie was in the freezer, I prepare the next layer.

I combined 1 cup of canned pumpkin, 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. (Told you I like it spicy!)

To that mixture, I folded in 1 cup of whipped whipping cream.

I spread the pumpkin/whipped cream mixture over the frozen ginger ice cream, then returned the pie to the freezer.

After freezing the pie for several hours, I removed it from the freezer and let it soften for about 5-10 minutes.

The end result was a frozen, spicy, delicious pumpkin pie with a surprise layer of ginger ice cream on the bottom, a nice way to end a rather traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Over the next few days, I will be looking forward to seeing the other pumpkin pie variations created by my fellow bloggers at YWPWT. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to choose!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving feast review

Before time gets away from me, I wanted to give thanks for a wonderful family Thanksgiving. I'm grateful that my little family puts up with my culinary adventures. My older daughter was spending the holiday with her in-laws in New York, so this year it was my younger daughter, me, and my mother. Today is my mother's birthday, so we had two days of celebration.

I rarely do a traditional Thanksgiving, even though I try to have turkey, in some form, as the main event.

This year I tried out a dry brine of salt, rosemary, and lemon zest, on a turkey breast half. Easy to prepare and easy to roast. I wasn't really wowed by the results, however, so next year I will search out another variation on turkey.

The side dishes were more exciting. We had caramelized butternut squash, roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and walnuts, salt & vinegar potatoes, which my daughter said were too vinegary and my mother said were just right. Oh, and I can't forget Megan's Cranberry and Orange Chutney -- my absolute favorite part of the meal.

The wine was a 2007 Petite Syrah. One of my mother's friends has a son who has a winery (Linebarier Vineyards) in the Gold Country of California. This vintage was one of his first, so we were lucky to have the opportunity to taste it and give him our feedback. The wine is fruity with a kick. Personally, I think it would benefit from aging a bit longer.

Dessert was a variation on pumpkin pie. Stay tuned -- it'll show up in a few days.

Now it's time to gear up for the next round of birthdays and holidays.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

BB: Company Pot Roast

Later today we will be having our Thanksgiving feast, but for now, the treat of the day is Company Pot Roast, a dish truly acceptable for guests.

I did decide to halve the recipe and use a hefty beef chuck roast from the local grocery. While it was cooking in the oven, the house was filled with the most delicious aroma, thanks to an abundance of aromatic vegetables, some homemade chicken stock, some good quality red wine, and a dash of brandy. (It wasn't much brandy, but I'm sure it made all the difference!)

When time was up, I removed the casserole from the oven.

It was time to let the meat rest a bit and prepare the sauce.

Rather than transfer back and forth from pan to blender and back, I just used my hand-held stick blender to puree the mixture to my preferred consistency, and then add some beurre manie to slightly thicken the sauce.

The end result was tender pot roast and some fabulous sauce. There was enough left over to provide at least one more meal, and any extra sauce will be excellent over pasta.

Ina's Company Pot Roast was selected by Lisa of Lime in the Coconut, and it's one dish I highly recommend. Hop over to the Barefoot Blogger site to see more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National Homemade Bread Day

Squeaking in under the wire here -- today is National Homemade Bread Day. It's said that only a very small percentage of people bake their own bread. I guess my universe must be skewed, because, among the people I know, nearly all bake their own breads.

At the last minute this evening, I decided to make some focaccia to go with dinner.

Dinner was buttermilk baked chicken from issue #2 of Everyday Food, published back in March 2003. This is a quick standby, never-fail recipe that I've been using for over 6 years now.

In addition, we had brussels sprouts. I know this is an iffy vegetable for many people, but I've always liked them. My daughter, however, needed convincing.

Tonight, I finally achieved success. The brussels sprouts were oven-roasted in bacon fat. The message was clear: bacon makes everything taste better.

One nice thing about this meal was that everything baked in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. Easy and efficient.

If you want to try the focaccia, here's the recipe:

Quick Focaccia ( adapted from Gourmet, June 1996)

3/4 cup warm water (105°-115°F.)
a 1/4-ounce package (2 1/2 teaspoons) fast-acting yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
coarse salt to taste

Lightly grease a baking pan, 13 by 9 by 2 inches.

In a bowl stir together water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl stir together flour and table salt and gradually stir into yeast mixture until mixture forms a soft dough. On a lightly floured work surface with floured hands knead dough 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, and shape into a ball. Invert bowl over dough and let dough rest 10 minutes.

On lightly floured surface roll out dough into a 13- by 9-inch rectangle and transfer to baking pan pressing into corners. Let dough rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, in a warm place 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Lightly rub some olive oil over the top of the dough. Press indentations about 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart all over dough with lightly oiled fingertips. Sprinkle with Parmesan, rosemary, coarse salt, and pepper to taste. Bake focaccia in middle of oven 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool focaccia in pan on a rack.

TWD: All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake

Lucky for me that November's TWD posts can be all mixed up. With my copious amounts of free time (not), it made life easier to bake all these yummy things out of order.

This week, instead of the luscious molasses cookies, I tackled the Holiday Bundt cake. It was actually made in time for Sunday's National Bundt Cake Day, but, of course, I had to stay mum until today.

I only made one teensy change to the cake. In an act of subterfuge, I grated the apples instead of dicing them, since I wanted my cooked-apple-hating daughter to eat and enjoy the cake, unaware that her nemesis was contained within. Ha Ha! Success!

I also put a fairly thick maple syrup-flavored glaze over the top. (That's my favorite part. Call it maple and I'm all over it.)

Both the texture and flavor of this cake improves with time. The grated apples provide moisture without a lot of texture since they practically melt into the cake itself. The cranberries add a nice tang, and the nuts give it a crunch. The pumpkin is a subtle flavor, mainly adding color.

Thanks to Britin of The Nitty Britty for choosing a nice, festive cake for the season. Wander over to the TWD site to see all the delicious November offerings.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

BB: Crème brulée

The first Barefoot Blogger recipe for November is an Absolute Winner! Crème brulée was the choice of Suzie from Munch + Nibble.

It was so easy to make, too. While my egg yolks and sugar were gently mixing, I heated the cream in the microwave, using my 1-qt glass measuring cup.

Then I slowly poured the cream into the egg/sugar mixture.

When it was blended, I poured the cream/egg/sugar mixture back into the measuring cup. It was a piece of cake to fill the glass ramekins.

Just before serving, I use my handy little torch to caramelize the sugar topping.

The texture on these brulées is fantastic -- so velvety and smooth. Although there's a bit of Triple Sec in mine, it was barely noticeable. May have to use more next time, because it does add a little something extra.

I highly recommend this particular Crème brulée recipe, both for the ease of preparation and the deliciousness. Go on over to the Barefoot Blogger site for more opinions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Healthy Breads: Pumpkin Pie Brioche Braid

One of my summer projects involved working on a new bread baking cookbook, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Michelle, at Big Black Dog, formed a baking group for all the HBin5 aficionados, and Pumpkin Pie Brioche was the first bread out the gate. (Regular baking events will begin after the first of the year, when members have had time to acquire a copy of the book.)

With the HBin5 technique, this bread is easy to prepare. All the ingredients are mixed in a large container (you only have to wash the spoon!), then left to rise for a few hours before refrigerating. The next day, the dough will be ready to form, although it can be refrigerated for several days. The original recipe calls for a standard loaf pan, so you don't have to get all fancy with shaping.

The pumpkin and spice flavors are somewhat subtle, so quite a few of the bakers are doubling the spice amounts called for in the recipe. The color is already lovely because of the pumpkin, and when toasted, the spiciness pervades the room.

If you haven't already seen a copy of this cookbook, head to your local library or bookstore to read and drool over all the great recipes.

The recipe can be found at either Susan's or Michelle's blogs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisp

Overheard at the library last night:

If a cookie is baked not cooked, why isn't it called a bakie?

Good question.

Now, on to the topic at hand. Crisps.

Let me go on record as saying that I love apple crisps. I've been making them for 30+ years. I still use the apple crisp recipe from my 1964 edition of Betty Crocker's New Dinner for Two cookbook, even though both the front and back cover have become detached. Actually, I still use quite a few recipes from that book.

I also make individual crisps using a creme brulee dish, one sliced apple, and crumb topping mix that I keep in the freezer, and then bake in the toaster oven. Sort of an on-demand dessert, and one that I made regularly at the restaurant where I worked.

So, I was really looking forward to making Dorie's version with the addition of fresh cranberries and golden raisins. While the topping called for sweetened coconut, I used some of the unsweetened coconut from my stash, which was a nice balance to the filling.

All I can say is Wow or Yum or some combination like that. It took every bit of self control I had not to eat the whole lot at one sitting.

Since I don't have individual baking dishes, I used my trusty long-time friend, the 9x9 Pyrex dish that I acquired from my Mother when I left home.

I managed to get a few photos of a crisp serving before it disappeared. Please note that the cranberries weren't nearly as lurid in person as in the photo.

I finished the remaining bits last night. Lucky for me, my daughter doesn't like cooked apples, so this was all mine. I'm not sure she even tasted it. Her loss.

Thanks to Em at the Repressed Pastry Chef for a super delicious choice. Stop by the other TWD blogs to read about their opinions.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cook the Books in France

I'm down to the wire here, but I'm still legal. It will still be November 8 for 3 1/2 more hours. Enough time to quickly post my entry for the latest Cook the Books Club choice, French Lessons by Peter Mayle.

I enjoyed reading about the various food-related events that take place in France. How I wish I'd known about the restaurant in Avignon when I was there!

But, what really brought a smile to my face was the story about the Marathon du Medoc, the connoisseur's marathon. How civilized to jog through the countryside, wearing outlandish costumes and sipping local wines.

Why, it reminds me of the few times I participated in San Francisco's infamous Bay to Breakers race.

I don't recall any wine stands, but the outlandish costumes were certainly there.

Even un-costumes.

My younger daughter, who was about 14 at the time, saw more naked people during the race than most other people have seen in their entire lives. (But, then, she also went bar-hopping in Portugal at 14, which is yet another story.)

Along with the undressed runners and the serious runners, there were runners bedecked costumes of every imaginable kind. One of my favorites was the group of runners dressed like a salmon. You guessed it -- they ran the opposite direction of everyone else. Upstream.

Those were the days. . . .

For my French meal, in honor of Mr. Mayle's adventures, I made a Gratin Savoyarde

and Porc a la Normande.

Our reading choice was courtesy of Johanna.

Here's to good food, good stories, and good memories!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

TWD: Yummy Molasses Spice Cookies

Indecision is a terrible thing.

For instance, in trying to decide which Dorie delight I would make this week, I waffled back and forth until Wednesday. On Wednesday, I decided to bake the molasses spice cookies, and I'm glad I did.

They are absolutely delicious. And that's according to everyone who had one.

I rolled the cookie-dough balls in my large crystallized sugar bits and sprinkled more on top just for kicks.

I only baked 6 cookies per sheet because I knew they would spread. I also let the baked cookies sit a few minutes on the baking sheet so they would be easier to remove to the cooling racks.

These cookies will definitely go on the bake-again list. Thanks to Pamela of Cookies with the Boys for a top-notch choice. Visit the TWD blog to learn more.

(Yes, I did include the black pepper. It adds a nice depth to the spicy flavor.)