Sunday, March 27, 2011

Freshly Baked Bread

Several months ago, a friend's blog introduced me to a fantastic recipe for artisan bread.  I LOVE bread.  I love the way that it makes the house smell.  I love cutting into a steamy loaf fresh from the oven (although if its too fresh it's really hard to cut and gets all smooshy).  I love the crisp crust and the soft yeasty taste.  My girls both love bread.  My husband loves bread.  This is the perfect recipe for us.  And, I'm just guessing here, this is the perfect recipe for you.

It's a yeast bread recipe that isn't a bit scary.  It is the easiest bread recipe I've ever come across.  A yeast bread that is easier than a quick bread.  No. Joke.

Eat this bread plain.  Eat it with some butter.  Or...maybe try this delightful Peach Butter (I'll add this recipe later in the week).  But please, try this recipe if you've got a hankerin' for some homemade bread.  

Artisan Bread
From: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Here's my version of the recipe.  But if you make this, I recommend following the link to the article and reading through the "real" recipe.
(makes 4, 1-lb loaves, the pictures above show a 1-lb loaf)
3 c. lukewarm water (about 100 degrees, but I never measure)
1-1/2 Tbsp. yeast (1-1/2 to 2 pkgs)
1-1/2 Tbsp. kosher or coarse salt
6-1/2 C. flour
Mix water, yeast and salt together, but you don't need to disolve the yeast all the way.  Add the flour and mix until all flour is mixed in and a ball (a slightly sticky ball) forms.  I use the dough hook on my stand mixer.  Dump in a 5-qt container.  If it has a lid, all the better, just leave one corner open.  Let this sit on the counter for at least 2 but no more than 5 hours.  Put in the fridge until you're ready to use.  When you're ready to use it, cut off about 1/4 of the dough (it will be sticky, so throw some extra flour on the dough and incorporate so it is manageable).  Gently knead in your hands a few times and form into a ball or loaf.  Put it on a cookie sheet (I line the sheet with parchment so it doesn't stick) and let it sit for 30-40 minutes (more is better).  about 15 - 20 mins in, put a pan of water in the oven and heat to 450. Just before baking, cut a couple of long slits in the top of the loaf with a cerrated knife. Bake @ 450 for 30 mins. 
Dough stores in the fridge for about 2 weeks. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

*I needed to iron my napkin.  I didn't.  I'm sorry.

It's been awhile since I've had some home-baked goodness.  We've been pretty busy around the house, and with work, lately and it's been hard to get into the kitchen for something more than utilitarian.

This morning I flipped through some cookbooks and magazines looking for inspiration and I was stirred by the sound of cheesecake brownies.  I found a couple of recipes that had this combination...but unfortunately I didn't have all of the ingredients for any one recipe.  But once I had this idea in my head, I just couldn't let it go.  Instead, I improvised.

First, I was in the mood for more of  cake-like brownie, as opposed to a fudgy brownie.  My traditional go-to brownie recipe (the one I was raised on) is more of the fudgy-type, so I would have to alter that.  Add baking powder - problem solved.  And then I had to do something to create the cheesecake.  I saw one recipe that called for just cream cheese and sugar...but I wanted something with more a real cheesecake texture, so I added an egg and some vanilla (which didn't do anything for the texture but was good for the flavor).  As I was getting the vanilla out of the pantry, I saw my giant bag of chocolate chips sitting on the corner of the shelf, looking very loney.  What the heck...add them too.

The result?  YUM. 

When I cook I use a recipe usually only as a general guide, but when I bake I feel like I don't know the science of baking well enough to do a whole lot of altering or changing.  This, however, is making me change my mind on that...I might be getting more adventurous here in the future!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

2 C. sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 C. cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

1- 8oz package cream cheese (or neufchatel), softened
1/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
3/4 C. chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 375, and grease a 9x13x2 in pan.

2) Mix the brownies: melt the butter, then add to a large mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer).  Add all other brownie ingredients, then mix until well blended.

3) In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg until smooth.  Add chocolate chips and fold in.

4) Spread about 1/2 to 2/3 of the brownie batter on the bottom of the 9x13 in pan.  Pour the cheesecake mixture over the brownie layer and spread evenly.  Take the rest of the brownie batter and drop by the spoonful over the top of the cheesecake layer.  (Note: it will NOT cover the cheesecake layer completely - this is good.)  If you want a "marbled" effect, slowly drag a knife through the layers, going back and forth either vertically or horizontally in the pan.

5) Bake for 40 - 45 minutes (until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean).

Friday, March 4, 2011

Quinoa Casserole

Have you tried this grain yet?  If you haven't,  you should.  It's kinda like rice, only better.  I'm pretty sure that Quinoa is one of those "super foods."  Not only is it 100% whole grain - not a refined grain - but it is also a complete protein.  How great is that?  So, unlike rice, you don't have to mix it with beans or something to make the protein complete. 

Here I am, talking about nutrition stuff as though I know all about it.  I know a little...but I wish I knew more.  If I could go back in time and re-do college, I think that I would become a nutritional anthropologist.  That would be the coolest job EVER.

I might do some studying on my own and pick that up as a hobby.  I'll consider making and eating food like this a step in the right direction.

Quinoa Casserole
Adapted from "Make it Fast, Cook it Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea

1-1/2 C. uncooked Quinoa
1 T. olive oil
3 C. chicken (or veggie) broth or stock
1/4 C. chopped or sliced almonds
3/4 C. dried cherries
2 1/2 C. diced chicken
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
several handfuls spinach or baby spinach
1 C. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
1/2 C. feta cheese

Rinse quinoa and add to slow cooker.  Drizzle olive oil over the top, then add the broth/stock, almonds cherries, chicken, cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Cook about 4-6 hours on low or 2-4 hours on high. If you can fluff it with a fork, and it is tender to bite, then the quinoa is done. 

Add the spinach, tomatoes and cheese to the top of the crock, close the lid and cook on high for about 20 minutes or until the spinach is wilted.  Stir to distribute ingredients and then enjoy! 

***Note: I added chicken to the recipe and served as a main dish casserole.  However, if you want to omit the chicken, it would also make a wonderful side dish to a roast, meatloaf, etc.