Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Bruschetta can be many different things.  It literally means "roasted over coals" [isn't grilled bread so amazing?!].  I want to show you how I make really quick bruschetta, which is now my lunch of choice.  Until I move onto something else, that is.
You will need a couple slices of bread [whatever you have is fine], tomatoes, salt, pepper, herbs, garlic, and parmesan cheese.  Rather than roasting over coals, I get my cast iron up to a medium heat and toss in some olive oil and a little butter [don't judge].  Then you'll cook the bread on both sides and take it out of the pan.  Rub it with a garlic clove if you like that sort of thing.

Next throw in some halved graped tomatoes with oregano, basil, or whatever you like, and a crack of sea salt.

At this point the pan is so hot that you don't have to cook them very long, just until they start to burst.  Then top the bread with these, add some pepper, and grate some parmesan cheese on top. 


Monday, February 14, 2011

On Valentine's Day...

"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."  I've never read the book [Pride & Prejudice] but I love Mr. Darcy's proposal, especially the last line.

Speaking of things that we love, I thought I'd share some of my favorite dessert recipes today. 

Molten Lava Cakes - Can't go wrong!  It's probably what I'm making tonight.

Chocolate Bundt Cake- Got lots of people coming over?  This will cure their chocolate fever!

Mocha Silk PieFeel like pie?  My oh my!  Ok, maybe I'll have to make this tonight because it is definitely magical. 

Red Velvet Cupcakes- A festive and delicious way to celebrate Valentine's Day!

The *best* Chocolate Chip Cookies- Maybe cakes and pies aren't your thing.  These are gooey and amazing!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart- Just in case you're not in a chocolate mood [although I topped this with drizzled chocolate].  This is as decadent and rich as any of the other recipes I've shared, but peanut butter takes center stage.

I know it can be tempting to just pick up a dessert at the store, or order it out at the restaurant you're eating at tonight...but don't!  Imagine how your sweetie will feel when they come home to a delicious sweet treat made by you!  Have fun!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Microwaved Cupcakes

Sometimes you just need a sweet treat.  And sometimes you want it now.  I'm not promising that these are the best cupcakes you'll ever eat, but I am promising that it will satisfy a chocolate craving in a hurry.  I saw a recipe for microwaved cupcakes on Paula Deen's website, but didn't really like all the ingredients.  So here's my take on it.  Five minutes from the mixing bowl to your plate, I promise.

2 tbsp All-purpose flour
2 tbsp sweetener [sucanat, brown sugar, white sugar, perhaps maple syrup?]
5 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder [I always add this to anything chocolate, and so should you]
5 tsp milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, whipped
Prepared whipped cream for the topping

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  Then add in the milk, butter, and egg.  Combine but don't overmix.  Divide evenly into lightly oiled silicone cupcake cups or glass ramekins.  I used the latter because that's what I have.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Check and see if they spring back when you touch them; if they don't microwave another 30 seconds.  Mine went for two rounds [60 seconds], but you never know.  I flipped my cakes over on a plate, but if you use silicone cups feel free to leave them in that.  I let them cool [for about 5 seconds!] and then topped them with whipped cream and cocoa powder.

Don't have any whipped cream???  You could just dust some powdered sugar on top, or drizzle with melted chocolate and fresh raspberries.  The options are limitless and it's really up to your tastes.  But seriously, every good cook should have some heavy cream in their icebox for just such an occassion.  If you don't know how to make whipped cream....just pour some into a bowl that you've had in the freezer for a few minutes and whip it into submission.  Add in a tablespoon or so of sugar if you want before you finish whippping it.  It's done when you've got stiff peaks.  You'll know you went too far when you get butter....but that's not really a problem.  ;)

I would say that the texture of these is more like sponge cakes.  Justin said he thought they were "gummy"...just a fair warning.  I loved them, and I'm betting you will, too!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Granny's Jelly Pockets

Sometimes you just want a sweet treat without a lot of effort.  My Granny gave us a ton of blackberry jelly when we were in NC for Christmas.  I also had a pie crust in the freezer, just begging to be rolled out.  "What to do, what to do?" I thought.  "Make little pockets, that's what!"  These won't win any awards for beauty but they are really, really yummy.

You can find my never-fail pie crust recipe here.  First I took the pie crust out of the freezer and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour [while we cooked and ate dinner].  As always, you want to make sure your crust is chilled before rolling it out to keep the fat in its place. 

Next, I rolled it out and cut it with my fluted biscuit cutter.  Because I'm fancy like that. 
As you can see, I topped it with a generous teaspoon of the blackberry jelly.  But you could use whatever you have on hand.  Apple butter would be outstanding.  In fact, I think I'm going to have to make that today.  It's ok because we actually ate these little jelly pockets a few weeks ago. 

You'll want to fold them over and crimp them with a fork.  Also, brush them with eggwash.  Eggwash, the way I do it, is one egg and a splash of water all scrambled together.

You can see that some of the jelly will try to ooze out.  It's ok.  It's actually better that way. 
More primitive.
I baked them at 350 for about 12 minutes, or until they got all melty and golden.  They were delicious, even if they weren't little beauty queens. 

As always, thanks for reading my humble little blog.  Happy baking!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Have you heard of this book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day?  This book was preceded by the authors' first, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking.  I was curious when the first book came out, but wanted to focus more on whole grains so you can imagine my delight when the second book was released.  I received it for Christmas and started baking the bread a couple of weeks ago. 

Here's how it works.  You put together the dough just like you were going to bake bread in the same day, except you don't actually bake it.  Well, you can, but it's easier to just wait until the next day.  The master recipe [which I will share in this post] makes enough dough to produce 3-4 loaves and should be used within 14 days.  The "proof" [haha, yeast joke] is in the storage.  I'm going to adapt pages 56-59 for you as the authors describe their Master Recipe.  From this recipe there are many other things you can make, like pizza dough and hamburger buns.  But you'll have to get the book to find out how!

Before I tell you what to do, I want to tell you what you don't have to do. 
1. Make a new batch of dough every time you want to make bread
2. Proof yeast
3. Knead dough
4. Rest/rise in a draft-free location--it doesn't matter!
5.  Figure out how to double or triple the volume if you need multiple loaves
6.  Punch down and re-rise: NEVER punch down stored dough.
7.  Poke rising loaves to see if they've proofed.

I know you're excited, so let's get started with what you need to do. 

Here's what you need:
5 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 cups of all-purpose flour, unbleached
1 1/2 Tbsp [or 2 packets] of granulated yeast
1 Tbsp of kosher salt
1/4 cup of vital wheat gluten [can be found on the baking aisle in Whole Foods or ordered from King Arthur]
4 cups of lukewarm water
Cornmeal of parchment paper for resting the dough

Carefully measure the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten and whisk them together in at least a 5-quart bowl.  [You'll be using this bowl to rise the dough later on.]  Next you're going to mix in water.  Kneading isn't necessary.  You want the water to feel slightly warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees.  Add it in all at once using a spoon, 14-cup food processor, or heavy-duty stand mixer.  I transferred the flour mixture to my stand mixer and pulsed it to get some of the water incorporated so I didn't splash it all out.  It worked fine for me.  When everything is uniformly moist without dry patches, you're finished.  This step should only take a couple minutes. 
Next, transfer the dough into what you'll be storing it in.  I used a large bowl but the book recommends a lidded plastic food container or food-grade bucket.  You want it to be covered, but not airtight.  I just covered my bowl with plastic wrap.  For the first 48 hours you'll want to leave a little crack in your storage container lid/cover to prevent the buildup of gases; after that you can seal it up completely.
Once the dough is in its final resting place, cover it with a lid [again, not airtight].  Allow it to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapes or gets kind of flat on the top.  For me it took 2 hours, but it depends on the temperature in your house and initial water temperature.  The book says that you can even leave it overnight [in case your forget!] and it won't hurt the end result.  After rising, refrigerate in the lidded container and use over the next 14 days.  Here's what mine looked like after the rise:

Fully refrigerated wet dough is much easier to work with than dough at room temperature because it isn't as sticky.  It's so much easier to shape!  Once it's refrigerated, it seems like it has kind of deflated but it feels heavy.  It will never rise again, which the authors say is normal.  No matter what, don't punch down the dough!  It's hard not to if you're used to making bread a certain way.  Remember, with this method you are trying to keep as much gas in the dough as possible.  I did this first part on a Sunday evening so I could have fresh baked bread on Monday morning that would be ready for lunch.

On baking day, you want to block out about 2 hours for shaping, resting, and baking.  Although, shaping only takes about 30 seconds.  The book gives several suggestions for what to rest the bread on, and I used a sil-pat that I sprinkled with a little cornmeal.  Pull up and cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using a serrated knife or kitchen shears.  It'll be the size of a grapefruit, roughly.  You can add a little flour to your hands to keep it from sticking.  Gently stretch it around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating as you go.  The bottom of your dough ball might be kind of rough but the top will be smoothe.  Try not to work your dough longer than a few seconds or else it can become dense.  Form a narrow oval-shaped loaf and let it rest.  You can stretch the ball gently to elongate it and then just taper the ends.  You'll want to let the loaf rest for 90 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap.  This is what my loaf looked like after I shaped it.  I think I need more practice. :)

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 with a baking stone placed on the mdidle rack.  Also, put a roasting pan or high sided metal [never glass!] pan below to hold water on a lower rack.  We're going to steam this baby! Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top with water.  Slash the loaf with 1/4-inch- deep parallel cuts across the top.  Use a serrated  knife for this.  I don't know if you can tell from the photo below, but my dough pretty much doubled in size during the rest.

After the 30 minute preheat you are ready to bake [the book says even if your oven's thermometer hasn't reached 450].  Quickly transfer the dough to the pizza stone, and then carefully pour in about 1 cup of hot tap water into the other pan.  Close the oven door to trap in the steam.  It requires some acrobatics, but you can do it!  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. 

Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack completely before slicing. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded container and use it over the next 14 days.  The texture and flavor actually improves over time as it begins to ferment and take on sourdough characteristics.

The bread is surprisingly light and not "earthy" tasting at all.  I was pleasantly surprised.  You can make in in loaf form by following all of the same steps except get about 2 lbs of dough from your starter and you can let it rest in the loaf pan rather than on a sil-pat.
I know it seems like a lot of detail [the authors left no stone unturned] but it really is so easy.  For just the two of us, I need about 2 loaves of bread a week [they aren't that big].  It's wonderful to just wake up and get fresh bread going in half the time.  I used to spend almost 7 hours making bread, and now I spend!  I hope you'll check out the book and try the wonderful healthful bread recipes for your family.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who dun it?!

I don't remember how I used to do it, working 40 hours a week [in 4 days, mind you].  Oh wait, I remember.  I was miserable, cranky, and never had any fun.  Last week, on Monday actually, was the anniversary of the day I was fired from the job I used to have.  I had forgotten about it but something brought it to mind so I thought I should commemorate it by living my life

I am so much more busy [happier, nicer, etc] now than I ever was when I worked outside the home!  I'm sure some of you can identify.  The last 4 days have been crazy.  Our weekends are nuts because of church things, for sure.  Then all the little things of the work week sometimes make me feel like I should be getting paid!  But I am getting "paid", even if it isn't a paycheck.  At least I don't have to pay taxes on that!

I have so many great tutorials and recipes to share, but I just don't feel like thinking today.  I feel like letting my fingers fly across the keyboard and post random things.  For instance, today I helped host a murder mystery breakfast.  Bet you've never done that before!  I was a little apprehensive, particularly about waking up at 6:30 [I'm a stay at home wife, not mom].   It was a lot of fun, really.  We had it at this mansion down from where we live called Clay Hill.  I wish I had taken photos but I was too busy pretending to be a Roman floosie and serving scones.  Here are some photos of the other characters.