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Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Classic Croissants

Fine Cooking is a helpful fantastic magazine for technique education.  They don’t just spotlight a recipe for a perfect pie crust.  They include step by step photos and instructions and explain why the methods and ingredients were chosen.  I’ve made croissants once before (and ate them all up rather quickly), but when I saw Fine Cooking had featured them in an instructional piece I knew it was time to try again.  Oh and my baby was finally sleep trained so yes, it was time to try again.

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Fantastico were the results!  Perfectly crunch outside, perfectly flaky inside.  Gobs and gobs of buttery goodness.  They gave measurements and guide to make 15 large croissants and this was the only part I ignored because I wanted croissants of all varieties.

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Classic croissants

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Vanilla sugar croissant clusters

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And never to be left out, pain au chocolat

Instead of including the recipe, I’m sending you straight to Fine Cooking where you, too, can benefit from the purty pictures and long, long, long instructions:  Classic Croissants at Fine Cooking

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Polenta Bread

If only every bread could have the perfect bread-making day like this one did.  The temperature in my kitchen was perfectly set to help this beauty rise quickly, but not too quickly.  Successful bread-making always leaves me feeling content.  The fact that there are two more not-yet-risen loaves (one with fresh rosemary added) in my freezer makes me pretty content too.

This bread was not what I expected when I bookmarked the recipe from my friend Shawna’s site.  I expected crunchy texture, similar to a crust on a cornmeal pie.  But there is just the slightest hint of cornmeal to this dough.  Just enough to give it some corn flavor without adding much heft.  The crust is soft enough to be equated more with a basic white bread than a french bread.  And due to the 1/2 cup of sugar, more than most bread recipes would call for, it is delicately sweet without being overly sweet.  It’s a delicate balance that would work perfectly with honey-butter, but can also carry-off the addition of a savory herb like rosemary.

Polenta Bread
Taken from Shawna’s Kitchen, who took it from Taste and Tell

2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup polenta (or cornmeal)
2 teaspoons salt
6 1/2 cups bread flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water (around 100 degrees, or slightly warmer than room temperature).  Let mixture sit until it bubbles slightly on top to show that the yeast has activated.

Combine polenta, salt and bread flour in mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook. Add olive oil and yeast mixture and mix well. Knead dough with dough hook for 8 to 12 minutes (the temperature of your kitchen will make the difference in the timing.) You know that the dough has been mixed enough when it clears the sides of the bowl and all ingredients are incorporated. Turn off mixer and let dough rest for 1 minute in bowl.

Divide dough into thirds and shape into loaves. Place on greased cookie sheets. Cover dough and allow it to rise until the loaves have doubled in size. This took 45 minutes for me. You know that your dough has doubled when you lightly press it with your finger and the dough springs back, but not all of the way-a slight indent will remain.

Bake for about 30 minutes at 300F.

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Cute looking pizza, right?  I thought so when I saw it in a magazine.  I also thought it might be kind of genius to have a runny egg yolk act as the “sauce” for the pizza.  After having tried it though, I’m feeling very lukewarm about this topping concoction,  Maybe if it did have some crushed tomatoes underneath that cheese it could have worked.

What did work, though, was the crust.  I took that from another recipe, thinking the polenta texture would work well against the eggs.  We both loved this crust and since, through an unfortunate (read: fortunate for Nate) misreading of the term 5/8 c. I ended up almost doubling the dough, we’ve been able to use it with other pizza toppings as well.  It’s delightfully crispy and full of crunch.  And I’ve never had an easier time time rolling a dough out super thinly without having it stick to the counter, shrink back to much smaller, or fall apart transferring it to the pizza stone.

Polenta Pizza Crust
Adapted from the Costco Connection cookbook

2 t. active dry yeast
2 T. olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
1.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 c. fine-ground polenta

Combine yeast with 1/4 c. warm water in a mixing bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.  Stir in 5/8 cup warm water, olive oil, and salt.  Mix in flour and polenta.  Knead for 7 minutes on a floured work surface.

Place dough in a large, oiled bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1.5 hours.  Punch dough down and let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Roll dough out as thinly as possible and place on a pizza stone.  Bake for 10 minutes, brush with additional olive oil and then add desired toppings.  Place back in the oven til crust is crispy and cheese is melted.

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Here was Saturday morning’s result of the 80 lbs. of cinnamon roll dough I accidentally made.  Maple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls.  Take your basic recipe and add a touch of maple flavoring to the dough, some chopped walnuts to the filling, and top it with a maple glaze.  After all, despite being a firm believer in the fact that there is nothing better than the original cinnamon roll dough, when you’ve got 80 lbs. of it … it’s time to get a little creative with some of your pans!

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A Simple Spread

As much as I love rolling up my sleeves and digging my hands into a sticky yeast dough or bringing out the rolling pin to turn butter and flour into a delicate pastry, I don’t always have time for these things.  These days it’s not only time but energy that is keeping me from some of my favorites.  Luckily, I’ve always been an “eater” who can find pleasure in many different styles of cuisine.

So here’s where I found myself Sunday night: on the couch with my husband, my feet up, and a salivatory spread in front of us.  Sigh.  It’s been a too long since this scene has entered our house.  The best part was that we were able to create this scene within minutes of walking in the door from birthing class with just a few basics.  The most “cooking” involved in this dinner/snack/dessert involved turning on the oven and shoving a pan of sliced baguettes into it just long enough to let them become crispy and warm.

This is all you need: a rustic baguette, a good quality, soft cheese (we used a pasteurized brie), and some nutella.  Oh and okay, some salami for those non-pregnant, meat-eating people out there.  Then you just cut and assemble any of the ingredients that sound good together.  My favorite was the original intention: a toasted baguette slathered with nutella and topped with a bite of creamy brie.  Mmmh.

See?  Sometimes the good things in life really can take no effort at all.

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Almost-Famous Cheddar Biscuits

This is not the first time I’ve worked with a copy-cat recipe for Red Lobster’s famous biscuits.  Having had only two Red Lobster experiences, with about 11 years in between, I never had much of an impression one way or another about their biscuits.  But I’m up for trying almost anything that the general public raves about (um, except meat slathered in gravy, green bean casserole or most potluck foods.  Okay).

My first attempt at a copy-cat recipe came from allrecipes.com and left us both less than impressed.  So unimpressed that I didn’t try again for about three years. This new recipe from Food Network was far more successful than the first.  In the end, both Nate and I agreed that these biscuits are, in fact, a bit better than the originals.  They are far less greasy feeling and tasting.  They had a few complaints about being “not as garlicky as the original” but we found them to have just enough garlic flavor.

Probably my favorite part about these biscuits was that you can drop, splat them onto the pan in any fashion and throw your rolling pin out the window while you’re at it (which I just might do since my sister just bought me a super, duper beautiful rolling pin to replace my old, leaky one.)

Almost-Famous Cheddar Biscuits
Originally from foodnetwork.com
Serving size: 12-14 biscuits

For the biscuits:

Cooking spray
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 ounces grated yellow cheddar cheese (about 1 1/4 cups)
3/4 cup whole milk

For the garlic butter:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Lightly mist a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Make the biscuits: Pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the shortening and pulse until combined. Add the butter; pulse 4 or 5 times, or until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Add the cheese and pulse 2 or 3 times. Pour in the milk and pulse just until the mixture is moistened and forms a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently knead until the dough comes together.  (Mine came together through just stirring so I felt no need to knead.) Do not overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough.

Drop the dough onto the baking sheet in scant 1/4-cup portions, 2 inches apart, and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the garlic butter: Melt the butter with the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Brush the biscuits with the garlic butter and serve warm.

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Now remember those delectable little pumpkin rolls?  You know, the recipe that yielded 36 whole rolls?  Well, I promised you that they could come in handy later on.

Like later on when you are getting ready for a Saturday morning brunch and you realize you have EVERY ingredient on hand to try out a new Upside-Down Orange French Toast recipe … except the french bread that is called for.  Well, I’ve never met an orange flavor that couldn’t handle a little bit of pumpkin so the solution was simple and the results just tasty.  As most overnight french toast recipes are, it was simple to put together, flavorful and filling going down.  And using up freezer fare and eliminating a trip to the grocery store makes me just downright giddy.

Upside-Down Orange French Toast
From Taste of Home, December/January 2010, p. 78
Servings: 6

1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. chopped pecans
2 T. grated orange peel
2 t. ground cinnamon
12 slices French bread (3/4 inch thick) OR 12, torn pumpkin rolls
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
8 eggs
1 c. orange juice
1 T. orange licqueur, optional
1/2 t. butter flavoring

Place butter in 9×13 baking dish.  Combine sugar, pecans, orange peel and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over butter.  Arrange bread in the dish.  Dot with cream cheese.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oj, liqueur, and butter flavoring; pour over bread.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.  Bake, uncovered, at 325 for 25-30 min. or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  To serve, invert slices onto plates.

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