Sunday, October 25, 2009
I spent this last week preparing for my great comeback in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. After an unsuccessful first attempt at Anadama Bread, I spent this past week preparing for round two. Like someone preparing for a marathon or climbing Mt. Everest I did my homework, spent some time soul-searching and mentally prepared myself for the upcoming challenge.
This time around I did some things differently. First, I started the process much earlier in the day than the last time. After the soaker has sat overnight it takes about 4 or 5 hours to make this bread. While most of that time is spent waiting for the dough to proof, it's still a significant amount of time. Starting earlier definitely paid off because I felt calm through the entire project, unlike the last time which can only be described as 'frazzled', and I wasn't worried about having to bake the bread at nine o'clock on a Sunday night.
The first part of the recipe was, again, a breeze. After allowing the soaker to sit overnight I combined it with the flour, yeast and water. Once it started bubbling I added in the molasses, flour, salt and butter.
Hooray! I remembered the butter...
The last time I got personal with the dough by kneading it myself. This time around I decided to use the stand mixer and I didn't feel like I missed out on anything. It was so much easier and much less messy to use the mixer. While some might think it's not as authentic to use a mixer, I decided that if Mr. Peter Reinhart thinks it's okay than I think it's okay.
First I used the paddle attachment to mix everything together. Once it was combined I switched it out for the dough hook and let the mixer go on medium until the dough was ready.
To be honest, my dough never passed the window pane test, which means I couldn't stretch it really thin to see light through it. I let the mixer knead the dough for 20 minutes, twice as long as the book instructs, and it still didn't pass the test. However, the dough did have a nice pliable consistency and wasn't sticky so I figured it would be okay.
I transferred it to an oiled bowl and left it at room temperature to proof.
After about an hour and ten minutes it had doubled in size...
At which point I divided it in half to make two loaves...
Again, I let it proof for about and hour and fifteen minutes until the dough looked like this...
Finally, it was ready to bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
This is what it looked like when it was done...
No need to buy sandwich bread now! This bread is soft on the inside with a nice crust on the outside-- it tastes better than any bread I've bought at the store. I can't wait to make sandwiches this week for work and I'm sure we'll go through this first loaf in no time at all.
It's exciting to have the first recipe done in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge!
Stay tuned for the next baking adventure...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
While strolling through the park one day, I found myself preoccupied thinking about a recipe I had read earlier that same day posted on one of my favorite blogs, Memorie di Angelina. This particular recipe's tastiness potential held my mind hostage and I was forced, upon my return home, to make it.
Unfortunately, I didn't have some of the ingredients on hand to make Pasticcio di pappardelle al radicchio rosso di Treviso (try saying that once--don't even try it three times fast!), so I substituted a few things and followed the method described in the post.
What followed was comforting, delicious and soul-satisfying. I hope Frank doesn't mind my 'riffing' on his original-- isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
Sunday, October 18, 2009
It's good to have goals. For example, one of my goals is to learn how to bake bread, so I decided to join the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge hosted by one of my favorite blogs, Pinch My Salt. The challenge is simple: make every recipe, in order, from Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
This book is serious business-- the first hundred pages are all about the science and art of baking bread and there is a lot to learn. Sponges, soakers, dough scrapers, measuring, ingredients, yeast, proofing, retarding, forming, kneading-- it's all covered. The first recipe, Anadama Bread, doesn't even show up until page 108.
With much excitement I kicked-off my BBA challenge this weekend by starting at the beginning with the first recipe Anadama Bread. It all started Friday night with the soaker, which was very easy. All I had to do was combine some corn meal and water in a small bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature over night. Done.
The next day, following the recipe, I added the flour, yeast and water to the soaker so that it would turn into the sponge. I knew the sponge was ready once it started to bubble after about an hour...
...so far, so good.
Once the sponge was bubbling I added in the rest of the ingredients and stirred until it was a big sticky mess in the bowl. At this point I had a choice-- I could knead the bread by hand or use the stand mixer. I chose to knead by hand mostly because I had a romantic notion that I wanted to really feel the bread come together as a true artisan bread baker would.
The book says that it will take 10 minutes of kneading to achieve the desired result-- a pliable, smooth ball of dough that passes the window pane test (that is, you can stretch a piece of the dough so thin that you can see light through it without the dough tearing.).
So, I started kneading. Ten minutes went by and my dough was still sticky. Another ten minutes passes and the dough was still tacky. At this point I started losing my patience and told my husband, "I'm about to give up on this bread." He kindly stepped in to help knead.
Despite adding A LOT more flour to the dough it just didn't feel right. I tried the window pane test-- not even close. Frustrated I walked away to check the book to see if I could troubleshoot the issue. That's when I discovered a giant mistake.
Mr. Reinhart makes a big deal about being organized when baking. One should have their mise en place, which means everything is in it's place. All ingredients should be premeasured and all tools within easy reach. All good advice and advice I should have followed.
Two important things would have happened if I had followed the advice-- first, I wouldn't have destroyed my kitchen and, second, I wouldn't have forgotten to add the butter...
Butter is very important in bread.
There was no going on after realizing the butter mistake... bread without butter is sad.
This is what happens to dough that is missing ingredients...
Sadly, this was how my debut ended in the BBA Challenge. Are my dreams of mastering the art of bread baking over? Of course not! Will I revisit the first hundred pages of the book? Probably. Am I the only person in this challenge who miserably failed the first recipe? I'm not sure, but I'm going to find out!
Are you participating in the BBA Challenge? If so, let me know in the comments and, please, share your advice! Do you want to participate in the challenge? Click here to learn all about it and find out how you, too, can join in on the fun!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This is a tale of three 'firsts' and it all started with bok choy.
Yes, it's true, I have never cooked with bok choy and, to be honest, if it hadn't shown up in our CSA basket this week I might never have cooked with it. The bok choy's arrival, the first of the 'firsts' sent me straight to Google to research what I should make with it.
I had the idea to make a noodle bowl because, strangely enough, I already had sesame oil, ginger and soy sauce on hand. I just needed a recipe because I wasn't about to trust my own instincts with ingredients I hardly ever use. Enter the Washington Post and the recipe for Udon Noodles and Baby Bok Choy.
The second of the 'firsts' was tahini-- a mysterious ingredient I have only read about in other blogs and had never used. I thought it was some complicated mixture of ingredients so super secret one has to have culinary super powers in order to cook with it. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed to discover it's just ground up sesame seeds and now I wish I had tried it earlier because I realize I've been missing out.
The third, and final, 'first' was using chow mein noodles only because I couldn't find any udon noodles, which was called for in the recipe. Although, I am wondering if these noodles are the same kind used in those little packages of raman noodles-- the ones with the little silver packet of flavoring that I lived off of when I was in college? If anyone knows, please share in the comments--
The recipe is pretty easy and the whole thing is quick to put together-- even if you're like me and the three main ingredients are ones you've never worked with.
First, cook the chow mein noodles according to package directions. Drain and then rinse. Toss with a tablespoon or so of sesame oil and set aside.
Get two bok choy heads ready by cutting off the bottoms and then seperating the stalks. Be sure to wash each one because there most likely will be grit-- no one wants a noodle bowl with a little grit mixed in! Cut the stems and leaves into bite-sized pieces.
In a small bowl mix 1/2 cup of tahini with 1/4 chicken stock, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and the juice from half a lemon. Whisk it all together and then set it aside. I ended up using only half the sauce, but depending on how saucy you like your noodles you may want to use all of it.
In a large pan, toast two tablespoons of sesame seeds until the are golden and are fragrant. Set aside and then heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in the same pan over medium heat. Once hot add the bok choy, 2 chopped scallions, and a teaspoon of finely minced ginger root. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bok choy starts to wilt about 3-4 minutes. Don't over cook because you still want the stalk pieces to have some crunch. Add in the noodles and the tahini sauce tossing to combine. Add in another tablespoon of sesame oil and season with salt, to taste. Allow it to heat through a minute or two before removing from the heat.
So, the tale of three 'firsts' has a happy ending-- I mean, what is there to really fear when you have access to amazing blogs and Google to help guide you when faced with unfamiliar ingredients? After this experience, I feel there's really no reason to fear the unknown in the kitchen.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Left to my own devices this past weekend I spent most of it curled up reading My Life in France by Julie Child. After turning the last page late Saturday I found myself so moved by the book that I set my sights on roasting a chicken for Sunday-- a French classic and, in my mind, a fine way to honor Mrs. Julia Child and her wonderful book.
I was all about roasting a chicken until I got to the store and came face to face with the rotisserie chickens-- you know, the ones that are already cooked? Whole chickens just sitting there begging to be taken home. It's hard to resist-- I'm pretty sure they pump the heady cooked chicken aroma all through the store just so it's that much harder to walk past them.
I would like to say that I resisted, but I didn't. Buying one meant I could watch a movie while waiting for Dan instead of dealing with roasting my own. It also shortened my shopping list. I had a weird guilty feeling placing that chicken in my cart-- kind of like I cheated on Julia...
Oh well, c'est la vie!
Originally, I planned to roast the chicken and then write a post about the experience and my thoughts about the book. There's not much to write now since the rotisserie chicken took over-- how interesting would that be? "Hi. I bought a rotisserie chicken. It was good. The End." So, I switched gears and decided to make green chili chicken enchiladas.
It isn't French, but, in a weird way, it was inspired by Julia Child. If I hadn't read the book I wouldn't have wanted to roast a chicken. If I hadn't wanted to roast a chicken I wouldn't have been tempted by the rotisserie chicken. If I hadn't bought the rotisserie chicken I wouldn't have thought of making enchiladas.
So, here are my green chili chicken enchiladas inspired by none other than the great Julia Child. Bon Appetit!
Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas
I'm not a fan of corn tortillas, but feel free to use them in place of the flour tortillas. One rotisserie chicken is enough for this recipe (with a little leftover) using both the white and dark meat.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
2 heaping tablespoons mild chili powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground oregeno
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces diced green chilis, drained
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1 and 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
6 flour tortillas
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To make the enchilada sauce first heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Add in the garlic and cook and additional 2 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and continue cooking for another minute or so. Pour in the tomato sauce and stir well to combine. Stir in the chili powder, cumin and oregano, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer until the sauce starts to thicken. If it gets too thick add in a little more chicken stock to thin it out. Season with salt and pepper and remove it from the heat once it's reduced. Using a brush, spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese and green chilis. Stir well. Divide the cream cheese mixture among the tortillas, spreading it evenly over them. Top one of the tortillas with about 1/4 cup of chicken, 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese and then roll it up and place it in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Pour the sauce over the top of the tortillas and top it off with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
Cover the dish with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continuing baking it for 10 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Until this week I hadn't ever heard of kohlrabi. When it showed up in our CSA basket I spent a few moments inspecting it before going right to Google to figure out what the heck it is. Thank goodness for Simply Recipes-- there I found a great post about the mysterious purple vegetable, as well as some links to recipes. I was happy to learn that it goes well with cauliflower and, with that discovery, decided to make soup. I had a small head of cauliflower that, by itself, was not enough for a decent batch of soup, so I turned to the kohlrabi to make up the difference. Of course, I didn't take any pictures of it before cutting it up, so check out Simply Recipes if you're wanting to learn more. If you like cauliflower soup I think you'll like this one with kohlrabi!
Cauliflower and Kohlrabi Soup
1 head of cauliflower, quartered
3 or 4 kohlrabi bulbs (green or purple), cut into pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the kohlrabi and cauliflower. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
Once the vegetables are tender remove them from the oven and allow them to cool a bit. Because I used purple kohlrabi I decided to peel them-- I didn't want purple soup. They're easy to peel once they've been roasted.
In a large pot heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes . Add in the garlic and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Next, add in the roasted vegetables, chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf. Give it all a good stir, turn up the heat, and bring it to a soft boil. Then reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Using a blender, puree the soup (may need to be done in batches, unless you have an immersion blender) and then return it to the pot. At this point you will want to check the seasoning. Add in salt, a little at a time, and keep tasting until you like the flavor. Also add in some pepper. I don't like to give exact measurements because I think it's important to season it how you like it, so be sure to take time on this step. Finally, stir in the cream. Serve with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil as garnish, if desired.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
In our last CSA basket we got these three little patty pan squashes, which, I am assuming, are the last of the season. Their appearance in the basket reminded me of an idea I wanted to steal to try from our friends Jeremy and Kelly. Earlier in the summer, after giving them a rather large zuchinni from our garden, they told us about zuchinni treats, which are simply slices of roasted zuchinni topped with parmesan cheese.
Ah, but the summer came and went and I never made the treats, so I was happy to have a second chance with the arrival of the late season patty pans. So here is my patty pan version of zucchini treats--
These are so easy...
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the patty pans and place them on a baking sheet. Drizzles them with olive oil and them sprinkle them with dried rosemary and dried thyme-- don't go too crazy, a little of the herbs goes a long way.
Bake for 20 minutes and then remove the pan from the oven. Top the slices with sliced tomatoes and a little pile of parmesan cheese. Return them to the oven and let them roast for another 7 minutes or so. Season with a little salt and pepper before serving.
Monday, October 5, 2009
When we were in Telluride, CO, after riding the gondola up one side of the mountain and down the other, we ate at a little restaurant called Poacher's Pub. It was there that Dan ordered some seriously good chili mac and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind ever since.
Chili mac is the marriage of two of my food cravings-- chili and mac n' cheese. It's hearty, comforting and a perfect meal for a crisp fall evening. My version uses chicken and is really easy to make.
Chicken Chili Cheese Mac
Serves 4 with some chili left over
The chili is so easy to make that you don't even need a recipe. Feel free to add things in or take things out to suit your own taste.
First, heat 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add in about 1 pound of chicken-- I used boneless chicken thighs and boneless chicken breasts. Cook the chicken until it's cooked through. Remove it from the pot and set aside.
Next, add in one diced onion, one diced red pepper, and three chopped garlic cloves. Allow them to cook for about three minutes before pouring in a 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all the browned bits. Let it all cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.
Add in a 24 ounce can of squished whole tomatoes (you will need to do the squishing part before adding). Stir to combine. Next, add in 1/4 cup of mild chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, and 2 teaspoons of dried oregano.
Now add in two more cups of chicken stock, bring the pot to a simmer and then reduce the heat. Allow it all to simmer for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the cooked chicken and continue cooking it for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the mac n' cheese first cook a box of pasta (I used rigatoni) according to the package directions. Drain and then return to the pot. Add in about a 1/4 cup of butter and a 1/2 cup of cream. Stir in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Keep stirring until the cheese melts and evenly coats the pasta. Add in about 2 cups of the chili and stir to combine.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I believe in pantry karma. How you treat your pantry has a direct effect on what comes out of your kitchen. In a moment of clarity this weekend I discovered a big reason why I have had a case of "kitchen avoidance" over the last few weeks and it doesn't involve the new job. Sure, the new job has been stressful, but no wonder I haven't been cooking a lot-- who would want to after looking at this mess? I'm not sure why it took me this long to notice, but it wasn't until this weekend that I really saw the truth-- I have been sending some really bad karma into my pantry.
It's a little embarrassing to even post this picture. I don't really want to publicly share my temporary lack of respect for such an important room in our house. However, I am a big believer in personal accountability and felt compelled to post it as a reminder of what can happen when I let the pantry go wild.
The best part about realizing you have a problem is realizing you can do something about it. It's very therapeutic to take control, which is exactly what I did. With Dan's help it didn't take long and before we knew it the pantry was back to it's normal state. In the thirty minutes or so it took to accomplish the task I felt my own mental clutter start to clear up, which reminded me of something someone once said about your house being a reflection of your life-- if your house is a mess than your life might be kind of a mess, too. I'm pretty sure I heard that bit of wisdom from my mother.
With a de-cluttered pantry I also made another realization--I have a lot of stuff hidden in there! So much, in fact, that I have decided to forgo grocery shopping this week and use only what I already have on hand. I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll make it through the week without stopping by the store, but , then again, it's only Sunday and there are six more days to go. Stay tuned to see if I make it!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I'd like to interrupt the regular programming on this blog to share a special message...
This week has been long and very stressful. A new job, new responsibilities, steep learning curve, office politics drama, too little sleep and eating bad food makes April a not-so-cheery girl. The "Girl Gone Gourmet" feels more like the "Girl Gone Crazy" lately.
So what a nice surprise it was to arrive home to discover that Simply Life had given me a blog award!
It's my first and so I'm excited to pass it along to some of my favorite bloggers. Apparently you're not supposed to give it back to the person who sent it to you, but be sure to stop by Simply Life and check out her site-- it's definitely one of my favorites.
The food blogs that I'd like to recognize are ones that are always at the top of my "must read" list because of their great pictures, recipes and content... be sure to check out these blogs!
Beautiful pics and great recipes...
Down home cooking-- southern style!
Love the whimsical art featuring one of my favorite subjects-- food!
The name says it all...
Amazing recipes and another southern favorite!
My first stop for authentic Italian recipes
I always learn something from Andrea...
I'm happy to recognize these great blogs, so be sure to click on the links and pay them a visit!