Post #562 Lemon That Goes On Forever

February 18, 2018 at 10:41 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I really like lemons.  Matter of fact, I’ve probably mentioned it many times before.  Like most people, my earliest memories of lemon are drinking KoolAid Lemonade in the summertime, and sucking on lemon drop candy whenever they were available.  There used to be a store on the corner in this one place we lived that sold penny candy from a counter.  I remember buying fifteen pieces of hard candy for a nickel and sucking those things all day long.  The lemon usually disappeared first.

When we moved to Arizona, I found myself in the middle of citrus heaven.  Oranges, tangerines, gigantic grapefruit (whose flavor I detest and never ever eat them), limes, and lemons were so common, people had trees in their yards and begged people to come over and take the fruit.  Where I once was used to pulling a ripe apple off a tree, now I could grab an orange.  Roadside fruit stands were common.  One time after I’d graduated from high school, I stopped at a stand that was open year round that belonged to a friend’s family.  I was looking for a half gallon of fresh orange juice.  The younger sister and I were chatting while she was eating something citrus.  She handed me a section.

“Here, try this.  It’s from one of our new trees.”  They had a large orchard that stocked their fruit stand.

“What is it?”  It looked pale yellow, almost white.

“It’s a white grapefruit.”

I declined.  “I don’t like grapefruit.  Tastes nasty to me.” I explained.

“You’ll like this.  It’s sweeter than normal grapefruit.”

I shrugged and popped it into my mouth.  A burst of strong, overpowering lemon flavor exploded in my mouth.  When it’s not what you’re expecting, it will come as a surprise and I almost spit it out.  I know my eyes were watering.  But it was lemon and I ate it and eventually enjoyed it.

When I was a kid, and had extra quarter to spend, I more often than not would get one of those terrible hand pies from Hostess and the only one I’d consider getting was lemon.  I still eat those things.

When we moved to Maryland, we found a dairy that made lemon ice cream.  It wasn’t a sorbet or a sherbet or a frozen ice.  It was vanilla ice cream, but they blended lemon zest and some pulp into the ice cream.  They also found the best lemon sandwich cookie which they broke into small pieces and mixed into the ice cream.  We must have eaten forty gallons of that stuff before we moved.  So so good.  Especially with chocolate sauce.  Yum!

Back in my early twenties, my sister in law decided she wanted to make a home made lemon meringue pie from scratch all by herself with no help from anyone.  She grabbed my mom’s old cookbook and went to her house.  We didn’t see her all day.  Since the pie was the star for the day, my brother and I put together a quick cookout  of hot dogs and hamburgers and an afternoon of splashing in the pool.  His wife showed up later in the afternoon with a pie that looked like it came from a professional bakery.  One thing about lemon meringue pie.  It will always look spectacular as long as you put enough meringue on top and brown it right.  Hers was crunch, though.  I glanced at the filling and noticed seeds and white rind suspended in the yellow curd.  I really wouldn’t have been surprised to see leaves and twigs floating in there, too.  Later, when I suggested next time she strain the lemon juice, she giggled her high pitched embarrassed giggle and said she forgot and hoped no one would notice.

So, the best ever lemon pie I’ve ever had or made comes from America’s Test Kitchen.  As always with ATK, follow the directions to the letter.  They run the tests to make certain that the results are reliable and delicious.  This one uses a LOT of lemon juice so have plenty of lemons on hand.  One trick to get more juice from a lemon is to roll it vigorously on the counter while pressing hard on the fruit.  It will break up the fibers inside and help release more juice.  And don’t forget to strain the juice.  ATK encourages people to share their recipes, just give proper credit and don’t change the recipe.  So try the pie and share if you want to!

ATK’s Mile High Lemon Pie

  • Lemon Filling
    1 ¼ cup sugar
    1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated zest (see note)
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 large egg yolks (4 whites reserved for the meringue)
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
  • Note: Zest the lemons before juicing them.

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch and salt together in a large nonreactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture becomes translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in egg yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Pour into cooked and cooled pie crust. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

  • Meringue
    ½ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium to high heat. Once syrup comes to a rolling boil, cook for exactly 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside while beating egg whites. The 4 minute time frame was stressed in the show to get the sugar syrup to the right temperature.

Beat egg whites in stand mixer at medium-low speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and cream of tartar, and beat gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until egg whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into whites. Add vanilla and beat until the meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 7-9 minutes).

Using a rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches the edges of the crust. Use the spatula to create peaks all over the meringue. Bake until peaks turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Serve.

 

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Post #561 Pasta’s the Bomb!

February 11, 2018 at 3:01 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the constant search for  quick and easy nutritious meals for the weekdays, I often turn to pasta.  It’s inexpensive; it’s amazing versatile; it’s delicious; and it’s the subject for today’s blog post.  Wading through the various types of pastas can take days and more words than I could manage in a month.  There’s long pasta, short pasta, round pasta, flat pasta, hollow pasta, shaped pasta, filled pasta, and even pasta from the leftover of making the above pasta.  Fresh pasta cooks in seconds; semi-fresh pasta cooks in a couple of minutes; fully dried pasta cooks in several minutes.  Some pasta is added directly from the cooking water into the sauce.  Some is drained first.  Others are drained, cooled, dried, and added to salads.  Like I said, amazingly versatile.

Most typical for pasta is to add it to a tomato based sauce.  Right now, I’ve got a chunk of beef roast in the slow cooker with two chopped up tomatoes, some chopped onion, garlic, and salt.  Tomorrow, the roast will get shredded and some more ingredients will be added.  Cooked pasta will be added and we’ll eat it up.

Growing up, pasta meant two things:  spaghetti which we loved because it was guaranteed to be messy as we slurped it up off the fork, and macaroni and cheese which we loved because it was macaroni and cheese.  What’s not to love?  As I grew older and started reading about other dishes, and going to different types of restaurants, I learned about other kinds of pasta.  I had ravioli, and lasagna, and beef a roni, and for a very short period, even ate a ton of spaghetti-Os.

Fortunately, palates grow wiser and more refined; cooking skills increase and become more deft.  Shortcuts are not to be sneered at when there’s a family to feed and no time to create things by scratch.  Many of my pasta shortcuts have found their way into the blog and I’m going to re-share them now.  And I’m going to add a couple of new ones.

When I was in college, I lived with my sister and her husband for a while and one of their go-to recipes was a tuna-noodle bake.  We used whole wheat macaroni boiled to barely al dente.   One can of tuna in water was drained and added to it and a can of cream of celery soup was used to bind it together.  A half cup of cheese cubes, fresh chopped broccoli, fresh chopped mushrooms mixed in then it’s all put into a standard loaf pan and topped with a mix of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.  Bake at 350 until cheese melts and bubbles and golden crust forms on the top, about 30 minutes.  Let it cool for a few minutes before digging in.  I made this with leftover chicken, pork, ham, beef, steak, whatever protein I had at hand.  I mixed up the soups I added, too.  It was good and filling.  And as all pasta dishes are, it was very versatile, lending itself to whatever was on hand.

Another go-to pasta meal I ate a lot of in college, and still make pretty often now over three decades later is a home version Hamburger Helper’s Macaroni and Cheeseburger.  Only better.  I started off this recipe using boxed macaroni and cheese with the sauce, not the powder.  While the pasta is cooking, I cook up a pound of hamburger well done.  I tend to season it pretty well, more than I normally would so when it’s mixed, the flavorings don’t get lost.  I drain the hamburger completely.  Once the macaroni is done, I make the mac and cheese, then dump the hamburger in and mix it up.  I try to cook the burger into large lumps so there’s something to bite into.   That’s the basic version.  Sometimes, I added freshly steamed veggies, or sometimes raw.  Other times, I put all in a casserole dish and bake it for about twenty minutes at 375.  Sometimes,  mostly now, I don’t use the box mix but make my own mac and cheese.

Home made mac and cheese is another one we have on occasion.  I don’t usually fix it with a sauce since neither of us like milk or cream so we don’t generally have it on hand.  But what I do it boil up a cup of macaroni and drain it.  I put it in a casserole dish and put about two tablespoons of butter in it and stir to melt and coat.  Then I add two cups of shredded cheeses, mostly cheddar.  The pasta is usually still warm enough to melt the cheese a little.  Then I cover it and put it in a low oven for about twenty or thirty minutes so the cheese melts completely.  Remove the cover and allow to cook for another ten minutes if you want a golden crust on the top.

Finally, here’s a recipe I haven’t tried yet, but it sounds really good.  It involves cooking the pasta in butter.  I haven’t had much luck cooking pasta in anything but water, but this sounds intriguing.  It makes a portion for one, so multiply by how many you’re feeding.

Butter Lemon Angel Hair Pasta

  • 2 oz angel hair pasta, broken to bite size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth, heated
  • Juice from one small lemon
  • Zest from one small lemon
  • Pepper to taste
  1. Melt butter in medium sauce pan. Put broken pasta in and toss to coat well.
  2. Add chicken broth and pepper and stir. Cover and let simmer over low heat for ten minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  3. Remove from heat add lemon juice and stir. Garnish with extra pepper, and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

I see this as a side dish with grilled chicken or fish.   But it’s very easy and quick to make and sounds wonderful.  Looking forward to trying it.

So what are some of your go to pasta dishes?  Feel like sharing?  I know we’d all like to hear about them.

As always,

Post #560 Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting – A Special Request

February 4, 2018 at 4:45 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I don’t usually struggle for topics to write about, and this week wasn’t any exception.  I had two or three good ideas and was ready to plow into it when I read an email I got from the host site of the blog.  They automatically forward any comments on the blog so I can read them immediately and this was from a new reader who asked me to post the recipe for the best yellow cake ever.  As I looked through the blog, I realized the recipe was there, and so was the frosting recipe.  But they weren’t together in one post, and that seems like a crime.  So here it is.

I’m not a cake expert, but the cakes I do I think I do pretty well.  I’ve never had a complaint.  But it didn’t start out that way.  When I decided I wanted to learn how to cook, I approached my mom with the simple request, “Will you teach me how to cook?”  After she stopped spinning cartwheels of delight, and shouting her hallelujahs, she said, “Sure.”  She grabbed her beaten up cookbook and told me to search for a recipe I’d like to make.  After nearly an hour of looking and puzzling, I chose a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  She made me read through the recipe three times so I’d be familiar with the steps, then made me go to the kitchen and pantry to make certain we had all the ingredients.  Then she made me line everything up and get ready to start.  I didn’t know it at the time, but she was actually teaching me some pretty basic cooking principles.

I started measuring out the ingredients when she stopped me.  “What’s that?”

“It’s a teaspoon.”

“You sure about that?”

“Well, it’s the size you guys use for your coffee and coffee and tea are basically the same thing, so I figured this was a teaspoon.”

“It’s not.”  she said.  “These are your measuring spoons.  The largest is a tablespoon, the next is a teaspoon.  Below that is a 1/2 teaspoon, and then the 1/4 teaspoon.  When you’re baking, you have to be precise with your measurements or things will turn out wrong.”

So I measured everything out into small or larger bowls to make sure we had enough of all the right ingredients.   Then I read through the recipe one more time.

“Mom?  What’s sifting mean?”

“It’s mixing all the dry ingredients together to make sure they’re well combined.  Tear off a large piece of waxed paper and put it on the table.  Put a cup of flour in the sifter and sift it onto the paper, like this.”  She walked me through the process, then left me to get on with it.  I measured out the flour, put the other dry ingredients with it, and sifted the result three times.  Today, I’d just put it all in a bowl and take a medium size whisk and whisk it all together for a couple of minutes.  But that’s what she knew and that’s what she taught me.

I mixed the cake together and poured it into a 13×9 sheet pan.  I didn’t want to attempt a layer cake at that point.  So I sat there watching my cake cook, then cool.  Then made up the frosting from a box mix, and spread it on.  Even though it was only an hour till supper time, I asked if we could have a small piece right then.  She grinned and indulged me and we each took a big bite.

“What did you do wrong?” she asked.

It was the densest cake I’d ever eaten.  “Nothing, I think.  I followed the recipe to the letter.”

“You sifted the flour three times?”

I nodded, reviewing all the steps mentally.  “I can’t think of anything I did wrong?”

“Tell me the steps.”

“I measured out three cups of flour and sifted the other stuff and the flour together.  Then – ”

“You measured out three cups of flour?  In addition to the one I did to show you how?”

I nodded suddenly seeing where it was going.  We both realized the cake had four cups of flour instead of three.

She shrugged.  “Still tastes good.”  And taught me another lesson.  If the results are good, the recipe is merely a guide.

Over the years, and there have been many (nearly 50), I’ve tried many cake recipes looking for that elusive “perfect” cake.  I’ve made cakes french style, italian style, american style, and “Joe” style.  Here’s the recipe I’ve come up with as the perfect yellow cake.  And I’ve included the chocolate frosting recipe this time.

Yellow Cake

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup milk or water
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (cake flour works best)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 – 8 inch round pans. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped. Cool 15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.

 

Chocolate Frosting

  • One pint heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • ½ cup butter (one stick) room temperature
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla, high quality
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 3-4 cups powdered or icing sugar

Directions

  1. Cream butter until light and airy. Add vanilla and mix till fully incorporated.
  2. Gently add cocoa to avoid major spillage. Once cocoa is fully combined, beat until fluffy.
  3. Add one cup of sugar and ¼ cup of cream and carefully blend until incorporated, then beat till fluffy. Add another cup of sugar and ¼ cup of cream. Carefully blend, the beat until fluffy. Repeat with one more cup of sugar and ¼ cup of cream.
  4. At this point, there will be a lot of icing, probably more than enough for a standard two layer cake or sheet cake. Add more cream in small amounts and beat into icing to get the desired consistency. If more icing is needed than what is made, add the additional sugar and use the extra cream to blend to spreading consistency.

As always,

 

Post #559 Menus O’Plenty

January 28, 2018 at 4:57 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now is focus on quick, fast, tasty, and nutritious meals.  When I was in college, I necessarily ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches due to budget and time constraints.  Once, I got home from work and was sitting on the couch and thinking about everything I still had to get done that evening, meal prep and eating being one of them.  Just as I was setting about getting my butt in gear, a plate of steaming lasagna appeared in front of me.  My roommate said, “Here.  You look like you could use this.”  It helped.  He could throw a pan of lasagna together fast than anyone I’d ever seen.  And he could make enough for two people only, or one person twice.  It was amazing.

Since I’ve started working full time, meals during the week tend to be on the fast side and I try to make them nutritious.  Here’s a typical day.  Partner/Spouse wakes up at 4:30am and gets ready for the day.  Neither the dog nor I rouse much although we’re both aware of his absence.  About an hour later, he shakes my shoulder, kisses me goodbye and leaves.  I get up cuz I’m awake and take the dog out, then feed him.  I get my breakfast and clean the kitchen if I left it messy from the night before.  About 6:15 or so I start working on my computer so I don’t get behind.  I get ready about 8, throw my lunch together, take the dog out once more, and meet my ride, and I’m at my desk about ten minutes before 9.  The day goes forth and I get off at 6:30, if I don’t get any last minute calls that take me past my end of shift, which happens fairly often.  I meet Partner/Spouse in the parking lot.  He may or may not have been home yet.  It’s 7 or later by the time we walk in the door.  Dinner has to be made, the dog has to be taken out then fed, we both have to change and get comfy, and because our day starts early, we usually want to be in bed by 9:30 or so.  So there’s basically two and a half hours or so from the time we walk in the door till trying to get some sleep.  Weekends are worse.  So.  Dinner needs to be fast, plentiful, easy, tasty, and help us sleep.

Initially, I thought about making several things on the weekend and freezing them, but our freezer space is limited.  I do have soups and sauces frozen.  But neither of us is big on leftovers.  I can make quick and tasty dishes but I’m always looking for variety in our diet.  So last week, this is what we came up with.

Monday – grilled pork chops and salad:  I took the chops out before I left for work so they were completely thawed out and waiting for us.  I started the pan heating before I took the dog out, so by the time I was ready to cook, it was blazing hot and cooking even thick chops was a matter of minutes in the sizzling skillet and then the oven.  Making a salad is even easier while the chops finish in the oven.  Partner/Spouse will cut all the meat off his chop and throw it on top of his salad, while I do it all on the plate while I’m eating.

Tuesday – Taco Salad:  I took the hamburger out of the freezer the moment I got up and put it into the fridge when I left the house.  By the time we got home, it was thawed and ready to cook.  I threw it into a skillet after taking the dog out and cooked it up quickly.  I drained it off completely, and added a half-full container of cilantro salsa we’d bought the previous week for tacos.  It was a chunky salsa and had loads of onions, chili peppers, and other great ingredients.  I mixed it all thoroughly and let the juices simmer off and the salsa thickened into a nice chunky sauce.  Then it was just a matter of putting our salads together and putting the hot beef mixture on top.  I had cut lettuce, cheese, fresh tomatoes, more fresh salsa, the beef mixture and cheese on top of that.  I forgot about tortilla chips, but didn’t miss them.

Wednesday – ham and eggs and biscuits:  A long while ago, we’d bought a spiral cut ham on the bone for an amazing price when it was on sale.  Then I cut it all off the bone and packaged it in portions we’d actually use.  So one of those came out of the freezer and into the fridge.  When we got home, I immediately started the oven and took the dog out.  While I’m walking the dog, Partner/Spouse always puts his dinner together and sets it on the floor so when we walk in the door and I unharness him, Buddy runs to his dinner.  I put the skillet on to heat and take four frozen biscuits out of the freezer.

Have I told you about these?

They’re one of the success stories of modern freezing technology.  Faster and better tasting than refrigerator tube biscuits or rolls, we keep them on hand all the time.  You can make as many or as few as you want or need.  We typically cook up four at a time.  While they were cooking, I was searing several thin pieces of spiral cut ham.   In between time, I was beating six extra large eggs for scrambled eggs.  That seems a lot, but some go to Buddy, and by this time of the evening, we’re really hungry.  Lunch seems like days ago.  By the time the biscuits are done, the ham is heated through and the eggs are cooked dry, the way we like them.  Time to chow down.

Thursday – Arroz con Pollo:  Arroz con Pollo is one of those things when done right is ambrosia, and when done wrong is still pretty darn good!  I took the chicken out of the freezer the night before and let it partially thaw then put it in the fridge before going to bed.  By the next evening, it was ready to be cut up.  We have a European style water heater for tea and coffee but we use it to boil up a few cups of water when we need it for something else.  I sprayed a casserole dish with a glass cover with vegetable spray and put a cup of rice in it.  I mixed in some garlic powder and dry chicken bouillon granules.  The water got to boiling while I cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces.  I put a cup and a half of boiling water into the casserole with the rice and stirred until all the flavors were mixed.  Then I added about a cup of basic jarred salsa and the chicken.  I stirred to combine everything, then covered it.  The oven was at 400 so it went in to cook for 45 minutes.  Make sure the chicken is completely cooked (which is why I cut into smaller pieces.)  You can stir to mix it up, or just scoop it up.  It was delicious.  The rice was cooked perfectly and the flavors were great.  I took a big bunch to work the next day for my ride-share friend and he said it was the one of the best things he tasted.

Friday – Take out Chinese:  I got chicken pad thai.  The place was busy so we didn’t get home till just after 8.  A glass of wine with the chinese, slightly later bed time, but all was good.

Saturday –  The chicken pad thai from the day before wasn’t sitting well with me.  We had the last of our frozen biscuits (bought more today) and the last of the ham (bought more today.)  We ran a ton of errands, bought some fun stuff, went to an antique store, took Buddy with us and generally had a good time.  We had planned to grab lunch during our travels but since my stomach still wasn’t feeling up to snuff, we had lunch at home, but late.  Late enough that we really didn’t feel much like eating any dinner, so dinner was foraging.  I had crackers, I think.

Sunday –  Today, we’re having the last of a prime rib roast we bought at Christmas.  We’re cutting it into two thick steaks and grilling it on our cast iron grill pan.  We’re also having Yorkshire pudding, and some fresh tomatoes and cucumber.  Gravy on the Yorkshire pudding.  Yorkshire pudding is basically flour, egg, and water stirred at intervals throughout the day and baked in an very hot oven to get a giant poof, then reduced to cook through.  It’s thick and gooey and very good with gravy.

So that’s our week of meals when time is critical.  Except weekends (Friday included in that weekend thing) when time isn’t critical, it’s usually less than 40 minutes from stepping in the door to dinner on the table.  This upcoming week I’m going to play around with some pasta meals and let you know how those turn out.  We’re not starving, and we eat balanced, nutritious meals.  Sometimes later than we should but it’s better than going to bed listening to our stomach growl.  If you have any favorite “go to” meals for a busy weekday, please share.  I’d love to hear about them!

And, as always,

Post #558 Yup, Bread Again!

January 21, 2018 at 12:48 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s no secret in this blog that I love bread.  I really do.  Yesterday, for breakfast, I ate two biscuits with butter and local raspberry preserves and was happy all morning.  Then for lunch, we had french bread slices with brie and veggies and sliced meats.  Dinner was a little heartier, grilled and sliced steak with salad, but there were croutons in the salad so that counts.  Pizza is one of my favorite things and it’s really just bread dough with cheese and tomato sauce.  And don’t even get me started on cheese sandwiches, hot or otherwise.  This morning for breakfast, I ate two pain au chocolat, basically french croissants with bittersweet chocolate inside them although rolled a little differently.  So, yeah.  Bread.  Good stuff.

I’ve had a search on for a couple of years now to find the easiest and most satisfying recipe to make “regular” white sandwich bread.  I found one from Julia Child that fit the bill, but was a little complicated.  I used one from America’s Test Kitchen that was good, but intricate though reliable, as all their recipes are.  I had just settled on one that made a good serviceable bunch of sandwich rolls in an easy manner, when someone from the food group I’m in on FB (Food Interactive, if you’d like to get involved) shared a recipe that made two loaves of a tender but well structured loaf.  It was an easy recipe, hands on, and versatile.  I took it on and I’ve made easily 50 loaves using this recipe.  We’ll go through the first loaf in a couple of days, and the second (when we start getting tired of toast and sandwiches) over the rest of the week.  Partner/Spouse doesn’t eat as much bread as I do, but eats his fair share.

So somewhere along the line, I decided I was a bread baker.  For Christmas this past year, I got two books on baking bread, three Banneton bread proofing bowls (French willow baskets used to create round or oblong rustic loaves), and a couple of other baking implements.  And I’ve been working on trying out various recipes.  Cuz that’s how I roll (mmm, rolls!)  When I wanted to learn how to make a good cake, I made cake over and over again.  I got so I could from an urge to make to cake to the finished product in under an hour.  I can throw together a batch of chocolate chip cookies and have them cooling on a wire rack in under 45 minutes.  Brownies from start to eating is about four hours because you have to add in the three hour cooling time it takes to keep from searing the inside of your mouth.  I did the same with spaghetti sauce and Italian cooking.  And there was a time when I used the gas grill outside far more often than the stove.

So here I am now with bread.  Cuz I love bread.  And bread, in its simplicity and complexity and variety, is truly one of the great challenges in the baking world.  It’s easy to learn and hard to master.  There are subtleties to making it.  The ingredients can change the finished product depending on their age.  And those changes can make the bread a tremendous success or a rousing failure.  It’s tough to tell what’s going to happen.  I used to keep a jar of yeast granules in the fridge to keep them fresh.  Now I keep the vacuum sealed packages instead so they maintain their freshness longer.  I imagine one of these days, I’ll be making my own sourdough starter.

So one of the books I got was from America’s Test Kitchen, their Bread Illustrated Book.  After devouring it with my eyes, I noted a recipe for brioche.  Brioche is a light textured bread with a crumbly interior and a very lightly sweet taste.  It makes a wonderful breakfast bread to toast or to eat plain with butter and jam.  It makes a good french toast, or a bread pudding.  I wanted to try my hand at it, just to see what I came up with.  Here’s how to make it.

  • 1 2/3 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temp
  • 1/4 cup water, room temp
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

In a medium bowl, stir the first three ingredients together with a whisk to fully incorporate.  When first putting the ingredients in the bowl, do not allow the salt and the yeast to touch.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together last four ingredients until well blended and the sugar is dissolved.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and using a rubber spatula, gently incorporate the wet into the dry.  The best way is to move the spatula under the flour and lift up through the egg mixture.  Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat.  Keep gently mixing until there are no dry ingredients, and everything is mixed.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temp for 10 minutes.  Then, using a plastic bowl scraper or your fingers, fold the dough into itself by lifting from the bottom of the bowl and pressing into the center.  Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat.  Keep repeating until you’ve turned the bowl a total of four times.  Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.  Repeat this three more times, allowing the dough to rest for 30 minutes in between each folding process.  Cover tightly and place bowl in the fridge to rest for at least 16 hours or up to 48.  (I let if rest for about 20 hours, overnight into about mid-morning.)  My fridge runs a little cold so at the next step, I allowed 15 minutes to make the dough more pliable.  Remove dough from bowl to a well floured surface and cut in half.  Cover one piece with plastic.  Using your well floured fingers, roll the piece into a ball then flatten into a four inch disc.  Fold the top into the middle and press firmly but gently.  Turn a quarter turn and repeat until all four corners have been pressed into the middle and a rough ball is formed.  Using your cupped palm, roll the dough into a firm ball and set aside.  Cover with plastic from other piece of dough and repeat process with that piece of dough.  Cover both dough balls with plastic and let set at room temp for 5 minutes.  Prepare an 8×4 loaf pan by spraying with vegetable spray.  When five minutes have passed, repeat the process of flattening each dough ball and reforming.  Place each dough ball in prepared loaf pan and cover loosely with plastic.  Allow to rise until they reach a half inch below edge of pan which can take 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Allow ample rising for lighter texture.  Just before rising is completed, heat oven to 350.  Brush loaf with an egg wash and bake for 35-40 minutes (I did 40 minutes but turned the oven off for the last 5.)  Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool for 3 hours.

Here’s how mine turned out.  I forgot the egg wash so it’s darker than expected.  The interior crumb was good, and the flavor was excellent.

It also didn’t rise as high as I’d hoped, but I put that down to my own inexperience and lack of technique.

So, that’s my latest adventure in bread.  Not sure what my next will be except I’m sure it’s going to feature our new stand mixer and the Banneton bowls in some way.  I’ll be sure to let you know what happens.

As always,

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