Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bread Baking Day 14: Colored Breads

There are moments in life when Inspiration truly and suddenly smacks you in the face. I had a moment like that the other evening. I had just discovered the challenge theme for Bread Baking Day #14 and within seconds I knew what I was going to make. In all fairness, I came up with my idea before Zorra (1x umrühren bitte aka kochtopf) had posted the results of World Bread Day, and while there are some related breads, they weren’t mine. The theme? Colored breads. How cool is that?

I decided to play around with my recipe for Rosemary Raisin Sourdough bread, turning it into Pink Cranberry Sourdough Bread, and because I wanted to see how the bread turned out, I baked it early. Entries aren’t due until December 1, but I’m ready now, and November is shaping up to be a busy month, so for once, I’m slightly ahead of the game.

I made boulettes – four small boules, and I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins and beet juice for the water.

Risen and ready for the oven:


While the inside isn’t overly pink, it is moist and has a sweet, fruity flavor. The only evidence of beets is the color.

This challenge provides lots of creative opportunities, and even though I’m early, I may play around again if I have the time. Final results will be posted in early December on Boaz’s site, Grain Power. Colored breads – a terrific choice!

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the cooked beets.

Pink Cranberry Sourdough Bread

14 ounces bread flour

4 ounces whole grain flour

1 teaspoon dry yeast (instant or active dry)

½ ounce Kosher salt

1 ounce honey

2 ounces olive oil

2 ounces dried cranberries

1/16 cup chopped fresh rosemary

8 ounces beet juice

8 ounces sourdough starter

Instructions can be found here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: A Study in Three Pizzas

For the last three nights, I’ve had pizza for dinner. Each one has been an experimental palette and a test of physical ability. I have learned that tossing a pizza into the air must be a special art.

This month’s Daring Baker challenge was simple at first glance. Make a pizza. I’ve done that many times using different recipes, so how difficult or daring would this challenge really be? But wait. The rules stated that we needed to use the recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Bakers Apprentice. Fine, I have that book and the recipe seems straight forward enough. But wait again. What’s this? We have to toss the pizza? And photograph the act of tossing? Well, that definitely is a daring challenge. My tossing skills were untested and my photographer was across the country. Maybe I should just sit this one out. Maybe.

I pondered this challenge for most of the month. Finally, I decided that I was no wimp, so I went ahead with the challenge, halving the recipe so I would only ruin 3 pizzas instead of 6. So, I made the pizza dough on Saturday in preparation for creating three pizzas in as many days.

The second part of the challenge was more, uh, challenging -- photographing the toss. My kindly neighbor, who is the happy recipient of much of my baking, volunteered to be the photographer. Do you know how difficult it is to photograph a tossing pizza when both people are laughing hysterically? Because one person doesn’t know how to toss and the other doesn’t know how to use the camera?

So, one photo was too low.

One photo was too high.

One caught the aftermath.

It was exhausting.

In all fairness, I only did the photographs on the first night, so you’ll just have to accept my word that I tossed the pizza on the following two nights. All you have to do is look at the shape, though, to verify that.

Pizza #1: The first pizza, on Sunday night, was one of my most favorite flavor combinations. I carmelized onions and pears, laid them on the crust, and sprinkled toasted hazelnuts and gorgonzola cheese on top. I baked the pizza on the back of a sheet pan. When it came out of the oven, I topped the pizza with greens that had been tossed with a gorgonzola ranch dressing. It was really good, but the crust was a bit soft on the bottom.

Pizza #2: Monday night. I tried the tossing bit again with disastrous results. During the final toss, the pizza sort of folded in on itself, leaving me with a long strip of pizza that had a pleat in the middle. No effort on my part could get that pleat out there, so I baked it the way it was. This pizza was topped with a thin layer of pizza sauce, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. I also cooked it directly on the heated pizza stone, although as I tried to slide it on the stone, it decided to stick and fold over on itself in places. This was one frustrating pizza, although it ended up with a nice toasty crust and tasted surprisingly good.

Pizza #3: Tuesday night. The last pizza. The tosses were better this time and I quit while I was ahead, before it crumpled in on itself. I spread a thin layer of caesar dressing over the dough, followed by a grated cheese mixture, and sauteed chicken pieces. I baked this one on the stone as well, only left it on parchment paper because, again, it wouldn’t slide off. (Note to self: invest in a peel.) The crust came out nicely again, and I topped the finished pizza with a caesar-salad type mixture. It may have been my favorite.

So, in the end, this Daring Baker challenge was challenging and fulfilling (and filling). Thanks to Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums, and her co-conspirators, Sher (may she rest in peace) and Glenna (A Fridge Full of Food), for creating an interesting challenge. I tossed, ate good pizza, and didn’t break the camera.

There are at least 1000 or so Daring Pizza Makers out in the universe, so when you have a moment to spare, take a look at their creations.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

There was quite a bit of discussion this week about the Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes, chosen by Clara of I Heart Food4Thought: they were too dry, they sunk, or they were just right; there were many suggested ingredient substitutions. With very few exceptions, for the first time through, I usually make a recipe by-the-book. That’s the only way I know what actually does or doesn’t work, or whether I’d change the flavor in any way. After that initial run-through, my benchmark if you will, then the recipe is fair game. Of course, all those comments were like a line in the sand to me – I had to bake it straight just to see for myself.

The verdict? For me, they turned out perfectly. They were moist, they didn’t sink, and the flavor was fine. This could be because 1. I weighed my KA flour (4.5 ounces); and 2. I baked them for 20 minutes. The ganache frosting was quick and easy, especially when I just dipped the cupcakes into the bowl. It was probably my favorite part of the cupcake, so I will definitely use it again for future cupcakes.

These were good enough, and simple enough, that I will make them again. Then I’ll play with flavors, kicking it up a notch, adding coffee or mint, or adding a filling, or using a different icing. (It seems I missed the suggestion about decorating for Halloween. Ooops. Well, they didn't last that long anyway.)

For sure, this time, there will be as many opinions as bakers, so I’d suggest settling in and reading the results on the TWD blogs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blood By Mail. Oh. No. Wait. Blogging By Mail.

Once again I signed up for the Blogging By Mail fun event, hosted by Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness. It may be silly, but I get so excited doing mystery exchanges, wondering what's going to be in the special box, wondering who the sender will be. Who got my name?

A few days ago my box arrived and the surprise sender was revealed. Any guesses?

Buffyfest, lover of all things Buffy!

Yes, I am familiar with the Buffy phenomenon, and with Halloween only a few days away, this was a perfect package.

Details follow:

Let's see. Group One contains vampire/bat-related items. A set of fangs with a black, bloody tongue (yum); a witch-topped Pez dispenser (do you know how many years it's been since I've had one of those?); an orange hand towel adorned with a handsome face; batty self-stick note papers; glow-in-the-dark scary faces; and a bar of Buffy Body Butter from Lush (how did you know I like Lush? The last time I was in London, I bought a bunch of soaps from there.)

Group Two is next. You can't go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, can you? Especially with green jasmine tea. Ginger and chocolate provide a great pick-me-up for those slow afternoons. Garlic croutons? Caesar salad, here they come! Vampires beware. And that small can on the right? So cool. Buried Pomegranate soda, made with Real Cane Sugar. None of this high-fructose garbage. Oh yeah. I'm gonna chill that baby and chug away on Friday night.

All of these goodies were carefully packed in this beautiful hat box-container. I love it! It won't be long before it's full of project-related items. (By the way, I also enjoyed the packing material -- sheets of WWD.)

Thanks to Buffyfest for sending some fun and thoughtful gifts. All the anticipation was worth it. And thanks to Stephanie for being such a brave hostess.


I should add, that as much as I like receiving, I also like giving. One of my readers will be the lucky recipient of my BBM package. Now I have to wait some more, but at least the box is on its way!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

MKMW: Cambodia

My Kitchen, My World underwent a change recently. Susan handed over responsibilities to Lauren of I’ll Eat You. Being in charge of several blogging events is very time-consuming, so it’s understandable.

For Lauren’s first event, she chose Cambodia, rather a mysterious country with lots of history. While there are many Asian-themed restaurants in most communities, it’s difficult to find one that showcases Cambodian, or Khmer, food. I had to do some searching in various places, and finally found a recipe for which I had all the ingredients on hand: Khmer Coconut Pork Skewers (Saik Chrouk Ch’ranouitk). I won’t even begin to pronounce that.

I made one major change. Because I don’t have a grill, I just marinated the meat and stir-fried it. It was still delicious. I also dug into my stash of unsweetened coconut, although I can be somewhat generous with it now. When I was in Nebraska in September, the local HyVee grocery store had a whole shelf full of unsweetened coconut, both grated and shredded. I stocked up.

I’m not sure how many of the MKMW bloggers “went” to Cambodia this week, but it’s certainly worth a visit to find out.

Khmer Coconut Pork Skewers (Saik Chrouk Ch'ranouitk)

  • 1 stalk Lemon Grass, thinly sliced
  • 1 large Onion, chopped
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • The grated Zest of 1 Lime
  • 1/2 teasp Ground Turmeric
  • 90ml/3fl.oz. Water
  • 25g/2oz freshly grated Coconut or unsweetened Desiccated Coconut
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 teasp Salt 400g/14oz Lean Pork, cut into 2.5cm/1-inch cubes

1. Place the lemon grass, onion, garlic, lime zest, turmeric and water in a food processor and process to a paste.

2. Transfer the lemon grass paste to a mixing bowl

together with the coconut, sugar and salt and mix well.

3. Add the pork and mix to coat well. Cover and marinate for at least an hour at room temperature. (If longer, refrigerate.)

4. Preheat the grill to hot. Thread the pork cubes onto skewers and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning frequently and basting with the marinade. Serve immediately.

Also very good on the barbecue.

Serves 4.

BBB Buddy: Challah

About one year ago I made the challah bread from Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice. It's such a stunning bread, and a delicious one at that. So when the Bread Baking Babes presented challah as their October challenge, I was ready for the task, both for baking and comparing recipes. As I recall, I made two loaves from the BBA recipe; Reinhart calls the double-stranded loaf a Celebration Challah, with good reason. Also, the BBA recipe doesn't use saffron. I'm not sure it added anything to the bread, certainly not flavor or color, so I'd be inclined to omit it in the future.

My lucky neighbor has been visiting family in Las Vegas all week, but she did arrive home late yesterday afternoon, just in time to receive one of my fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves of challah. She terms it Comfort Food and gladly accepted. I suspect that's what she had for dinner last night.

I love playing around, even on the peripery, with the Bread Baking Babes, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the next challenge will be. This month's bread recipe was selected by Sara of i like to cook, so you can check out the challah recipe and the breads of the other BBBs at her site.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Vegetable Pot Pie

So, I'm a bit late in preparing and posting this week's Vegetable Pot Pie from the Barefoot Bloggers. Truth is, I'm still trying to recover from the cold-like illness I've been fighting for nearly three weeks. Over all I'm getting better, but every few days I have a "set back" day. Yesterday was a set back day where the mere thought of food was difficult. Therefore, I postponed my baking by one day in the hopes I would feel better.

This morning I had arranged an outing with one of my friends. We drove to Santa Barbara to view an art quilt show, stopping for lunch along the way. I love art quilts, and many of these were very inspiring.

When I returned home, I knew my appetite had returned, so rather than go to work (tsk tsk), I decided to take my time and prepare the pot pie for dinner.

I'm very glad I did.

I really loved this pot pie. It came together nicely, and I only made a few minor changes. First, I cut the recipe in thirds, giving me just enough for two meals. Next, although I had no licorice-flavored liqueur, I did have anise oil, so I substituted a few drops of that. Finally, I used Brussels sprouts instead of asparagus. I love asparagus, and I'm sure that butternut squash and asparagus make a tasty combination, but really, one is a fall/winter vegetable and one is a spring vegetable. I try to eat seasonally, hence the switch to Brussels sprouts.

The end result was delicious, with a great pot pie feel to it. I suspect that it would be equally tasty by adding chicken or sausage or tuna to create more variations. Please check out the other Barefoot Bloggers to see their takes on this pot pie, and a big thanks to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen for a good recipe choice.

(Joke's on me: I just realized as I typed this up that I forgot the cream. Shoot. Well, it was still delicious!)

Oh, and that's a carrot-shaped cutout on the top of the crust. Not a slug.

SHF: Spicy Desserts

After many years of searching for the perfect gingerbread recipe, I finally found one, although technically it was the result of combining the best parts of two different recipes. I like my gingerbread spicy and dark. (I like my pumpkin pie spicy and dark, too, but that’s a different post.) This recipe fits the bill, and I’ve served it many times for fall and winter dinner parties.

As a result of a recent bread challenge, I had a small jar of homemade crystallized ginger and I used it all in this recipe. It certainly added a spicy punch because of the freshness.

As a special addition, I’ve included a recipe I used for a spicy pumpkin custard. I make this when I have leftover pumpkin and don’t want to waste it.

I’ve decided to enter both of these desserts in this month’s Sugar High Friday event, created by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess, and hosted by Anita, of Dessert First. If you choose to make them, I hope you enjoy them.

Gingerbread with crystallized ginger

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup packed, dark brown sugar

½ cup dark molasses

1 large egg

½ cup pear nectar

¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger

Powdered sugar

Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour either an 8x8x2-inch baking pan or a 9-inch round cake pan. Mix the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Add molasses and egg and beat to blend. Beat in pear nectar, then the dry ingredients and chopped ginger. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake about 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 15 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over the cake. Cut into serving pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature, with or without whipped cream.

Serves up to 16.

Spicy Pumpkin Custard

½ cup mashed cooked or canned pumpkin

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk (evaporated milk, regular milk, heavy cream, half&half, etc.)

1 egg

2 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar

1 ½ teaspoons butter

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch each of ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice

Heat oven to 350°F. Beat all ingredients together. Pour into two custard cups. Place in a pan of water 1-inch deep. Bake 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. (This may take longer than 45 minutes depending on the size of the custard cups.) Cool at least 20 minutes. Invert on dessert plates or serve from custard cup. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

Fall is definitely here. You can tell by all the pumpkin recipes swirling around the blogiverse. For the Tuesday with Dorie bakers, pumpkin muffins were on order, chosen by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp.

I love any pumpkin and spice combination, so I was looking forward to baking these, with only slight modifications. Again with the raisins! Not for me. I substituted currants instead because they add the fruitiness but are low key. For the topping, I sprinkled on chopped pecans instead of the pumpkin seeds which I don’t stock in the pantry. I also only made half a batch, but did end up with 9 muffins, some of which I will freeze for future enjoyment.

Judging from the other TWD bakers’ comments, these muffins can be dressed up in many ways. The ones containing chocolate sound fine to me, so that is definitely a possibility for the next batch. I’ll be checking out what others have done over the next few days.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

MKMW: Two for the price of One

Today I gave myself permission to take the day off and do whatever I felt like. Most of the time I work every day of the week, which is what happens when you run your own business, but my brain was fried from trying to comprehend chemometrics, so decided enough was enough. One of my tasks is to catch up on some blogging, so here goes.

My Kitchen, My World

There was a change afoot at MKMW this week when Susan handed over the responsibilities for this event to Lauren. So, a big welcome to Lauren, and a thanks to Susan for getting us going. Keep baking those cookies!!

Part One: Argentina

This week, Teresa of I’m Running to Eat chose Argentina as our target country. While I’ve never been there myself, two of my close friends lived in Buenos Aires for several years on assignment. Through their eyes and letters, I received many colorful impressions of the country, the people, and the food. It’s not uncommon, even nowadays when I visit them, that they will grill steaks and serve them with chimichurri sauce. (I must get that recipe from them!)

So, in honor of Argentina and my friends, I chose to pan-grill some small steaks and smother them with chimichurri sauce. It beats steak sauce any day!

Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce:

1 cup lightly packed chopped parsley (ideally, flat leaf "Italian" parsley)
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons shallot or onion, minced
3/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Place all chimichurri sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed. Reserve.

Part Two: Morocco Revisited

Last week, when I was searching for the right recipe for Morocco, I completely overlooked one of my favorites that I cook from time to time. It works especially well for potlucks and it utilizes the wonderful slow cooker. I decided to include it this week as sort of a bonus recipe.

Moroccan Chicken (Slow Cooker)

(from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely)

2 16-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained

1 12-oz can diced tomatoes

1 small red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1” squares

1 small red onion, chopped

½ cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons tomato paste

¼ cup chicken broth

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1” cubes

2 tablespoons peanut butter

Place garbanzo beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, raisins, tomato paste, broth, garlic, and cumin in slow cooker. Mix until well combined.

Place chicken on top of bean mixture. Cover. Cook on low heat setting 6 to 7 hours, or until chicken is tender. Stir in peanut butter, blending well.

Serves 4-6.

This coming week we get to visit Cambodia, so I’m off to do some research (which is a heck of lot more fun than working!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Weekend Cookbook Challenge 33: Fall Vegetables

After making last week’s butternut squash risotto with the Barefoot Bloggers, I still had half a squash left, prepped and ready to be used. I decided to search through some less-frequently used cookbooks, hoping to find a good recipe for the squash and to locate other potential recipes for future use. I have a collection of Best of Gourmet’s, and, as luck would have it, found a likely candidate in the 2000 edition. In the chapter on Vegetables and Beans, there was a recipe for Lentils with Butternut Squash and Walnuts. Perfect.

So, for lunch today, that is what I made, roasting the squash with shallots and curry powder, and tossing in the walnuts towards the end. I did use fresh parsley rather than cilantro, but that’s a personal choice. It did make a tasty lunch, a nice change from the usual sandwich or leftover.

Lentils with Butternut Squash and Walnuts

(adapted from Best of Gourmet 2000, p. 166)

1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)

1 large shallot

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons curry powder

½ cup walnuts

1/3 cup lentils (any color will do)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)

fresh lime juice to taste

Halve, peel, and seed the squash and cut into ½-inch pieces. Mince the shallot. In a bowl, toss together the squash, shallot, oil, curry powder, and salt & pepper to taste until combined well. Pour into a shallow baking pan and roast in a 425°F oven for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is barely tender.

Chop the walnuts and sprinkle over the squash mixture. Continue baking for about 10 more minutes, or until the walnuts are lightly toasted and the squash is tender.

While the squash is baking, cook the lentils until just tender but not too mushy, about 15 minutes. Drain lentils and transfer to a bowl.

When the squash mixture is finished roasting, remove from oven and add to lentils along with the cilantro or parsley, lime juice, and salt & pepper to taste.

Makes 2 large servings.

This is great as a side dish or a main dish, and because there no animal or wheat-based products in it, people on non-meat or gluten-free diets can enjoy it as well.

I’m going to use this dish as my entry for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge #33, Fall Vegetables. October’s hostess is Lisa at Confessions of an Apron Queen, and Sara at I like to cook is the WCC creator.