Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lemony Cornmeal Shortbread

One thing I've learned as a member of Tuesdays with Dorie is to expect the unexpected. Even if I think I know how a recipe will taste, this isn't always the case. Take this week's pick, cornmeal shortbread cookies, picked by Valerie of Une Gamine dans la Cuisine. My last experience with cornmeal in cookies was with these biscotti, which I made when I first joined the group. I was still pretty clueless, I just didn't know it.

The crunchiness of the cornmeal in the biscotti was texturally challenging for me, and this time I wanted to overcome that issue. So I made the dough two days ago and let it rest - and hydrate - in the fridge. I rolled it a little too thin, and baked the cookies a little too long, but they were delicious. The lemon zest lent a lovely floral back note. The cornmeal added a pleasant crunch without being distractingly hard, a real win-win.

If you'd like to make these unusual cookies, Valerie has the recipe (and cookies look the way Dorie intended!) for you here. And you can see what the other TWD bakers thought by checking them out here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maple Oatmeal Wheat Bread

Not to overstate it but this recipe underscores the beauty of the recipe sharing that happens among bloggers.

I first saw this bread on my buddy Margaret's blog Tea and Scones (recipe here). I made it and my coworkers flipped for it. Mags saw my post, and she reworked the recipe to use whole wheat flour (you can see her post here). When I saw her version, I wanted to make it but I wanted to make it even better.

In this case, better means easier. I am in love with Dan Lepard's kneading technique, which involves three 10 second kneads, each followed by a rest period. I wanted to revise this recipe so it would be easy for yeast phobics (I used to be one of you!) to make a flavorful, healthy bread without a stand mixer or big muscles. Although I think this version is just about perfect, I hope you'll make the recipe your own just as Mags and I did.

This bread is wonderful while still warm from the oven, great dipped in a little maple syrup or with maple butter, and makes a spectacular turkey sandwich.

Maple Oatmeal Bread
Printer friendly recipe
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup (80 g) rolled oats
2 1/4 cups (300 g) whole wheat flour
2 3/4 cups (415 g) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup (50 g) dried milk powder
3/4 cup maple syrup, at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Maple syrup for brushing (optional)
Oatmeal for sprinkling (optional)

In bowl of stand mixer, combine boiling water and oats. Cover and let sit for one hour. It's OK if you leave it a bit longer.

In a medium sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the whole wheat flour, the bread flour, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and dried milk powder. Set aside.

When the oats have cooled for one hour, add the flour mixture and mix in with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour in the maple syrup and stir together with your wooden spoon or spatula then with your hands to bring together as a soft, sticky dough. Pour the warm melted butter over the dough and mix into the dough with your hands. Cover the bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.

Grease a flat clean surface with olive oil (or, use a Silpat as I do). Remove the dough from the bowl (it will be a bit damp and very sticky) and knead for ten seconds, then form the dough into a smooth round ball. Wipe the bowl clean and grease with olive oil, then return the dough ball to the bowl and leave for 10 minutes. It's OK if you leave it a few minutes longer.

Repeat this ten-second kneading and resting process every 10 minutes twice (a total of three kneadings), then let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Grease two loaf pans (you can use 8 x 4 or 9 x 5). Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape into two loaves (which I do by dividing half the dough into two pieces and forming each into a ball, placing them side by side in the pan) and place each in a loaf tin. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour, or until the dough crests about an inch over the top of the pans. If using the larger loaf pan, your dough may not crest as much. It should feel lightly springy to the touch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If desired, brush tops of loaves with maple syrup and sprinkle with oatmeal. Place loaves in oven and bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Remove loaves from the pans and cool on a cooling rack for one hour before slicing. Warm bread is pretty irresistible, but your loaf will have the best texture if you wait until it cools completely. That said, if you cut off a few slices to try, only the cut end will be a little moist, the rest of the loaf will completely normal.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wheat Berry Salad

When you're as big a fan of chocolate and cookies as I am, you need to eat a healthy meal that reverses the effects of too many brownies. I can always count on recipes from Ellie Krieger to be delicious in a way that "healthy" becomes an afterthought. That's what I had in mind this week when I made this because this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was chosen by me!

I love wheat berries and yet I'd never prepared them at home. The preparation is easy - cover with water and boil for about an hour.

I changed up the recipe a bit, substituting toasted pine nuts for the walnuts, cilantro instead of parsley (which I hate), and I added some chopped red bell pepper for color. This one needed a lot of tinkering, which may be a result of using 1 3/4 cups of wheat berries because that's how much I bought.

Here are a few suggestions:
  • When making this recipe, you can do as I did and cook the wheat berries one day and assemble the salad the next.
  • I salted the water the wheat berries cooked in. One thing I've learned from making Ellie's recipes is that they always need salt -  and I'm not a food salter.
  • My dried cherries weren't old but they weren't as soft as I wanted. You could substitute chopped dried apricots, quartered grapes or diced mango for a completely different twist.
  • If you have walnut oil, it would be a great substitution for the olive oil if you're using walnuts.
  • Speaking of the walnuts, toast them in the oven or in a skillet. It will intensify the flavor.
  • The completed salad needed a lot of seasoning. And more lemon juice. An maybe a tiny clove of garlic smashed into a paste and combined with the oil and lemon juice before adding to the salad. Or 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder or smoked Spanish paprika. 
Can you tell I found this a little lacking in flavor? Sad but true, this one was a little boring for me. I'll probably play around with it before I serve it for dinner tonight, just because it needs something else to keep from being blah. If you'd like to see what my fellow Ellie cooks thought, you can find them here.

Wheat Berry Salad - serves 6
1 1/2 cups hard wheat berries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (I used pine nuts)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup tart dried cherries, chopped
1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves (I used cilantro)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot combine the wheat berries and enough water to come 2 inches over the wheat berries. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 1 hour, or until tender. Drain and let cool. Toast the walnuts in a medium dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the wheat berries, walnuts, celery, dried cherries, scallions, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Per Serving:
Calories 360; Total Fat 17 g; (Sat Fat 2 g, Mono Fat 6 g, Poly Fat 8 g) ; Protein 9 g; Carb 46 g; Fiber 8 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 15 mg

Excellent source of: Fiber, Vitamin K, Manganese

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pecan Banana Bread

As the weather gets warmer, I am often left with spotty bananas as my warmer kitchen makes them ripen faster than we can eat them. Sometimes they get cut up for smoothies, but often they get made into banana bread.

This recipe is adapted from the Flour Bakery recipe. I recently bought the Flour cookbook and I'm discovering the wonderful recipes, which include many of the measurements in grams as well as cups.

This banana bread was delicious. The chocolate played well with the banana, pecans and slight hint of cinnamon. Healthy and delicious don't always go together but this one was a winner. Here's my take on Flour's recipe.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Banana Bread (adapted from Flour Bakery)
Printer-friendly recipe
1 1/2 cups/210 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/230 grams sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup/100 grams canola oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed (about 1 1/3 cups/340 grams)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup/75 grams pecans, toasted and chopped
3/4 cup/125 grams semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9x5" loaf pan with cooking spray.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with the whisk attachment of your mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly drizzle in the oil. Add the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture, pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until it tests done. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out on the rack to cool completely (unless you don't mind if your banana bread looks as mangled as mine, which was cut 10 minutes out of the oven.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chocolate Pudding Cake

It's Wednesday. Time for some chocolate. Chocolate so deep and dark that it made a frantic workday muuuuch better. It was much easier to eat that it was to get a decent photo against the darkness of my desk.

This chocolate cake is so easy that the steps are melt, whisk, stir and bake. It came from a cookbook that has multipage recipes for grand concoctions. And this humble, moist in the center, crunchy on the outside, melting chocolate cake. Topped with a simple chocolate glaze that had as many fans as the cake did, it was a wonderful way to scratch a midweek chocolate itch.

My dear blogging buddy Peggy of Pantry Revisited chose this recipe for Chocolate with Francois last month. I'm late posting (I'm late in almost everything these days) and I was so grateful to her for choosing such a simple and delectable recipe. If you'd like to make it yourself and scratch that chocolate itch, Peggy has the recipe for you here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Espresso Ice Cream Tart

When life gets busy, I head to the kitchen. Lots of you do rational things (like laundry), but I'm driven to bake and share the bounty of my stress.

When I saw this week's TWD recipe, I thought "This one's easy!" Naturally I had to make it harder, so I pretty much revamped the recipe to suit my whims. This didn't exactly fit in with the time I had available. Oh well!

It seemed like a good idea to make my own coffee ice cream, and when I went to buy the coffee for it, expresso seemed even better than coffee. Making hot fudge seemed like a better idea than melting chocolate over the bottom of the warm tart shell. And making a chocolate shortbread tart shell seemed like an upgrade over the crust in the recipe. The embarrassing photo at the top of this post is proof that this tart made my afternoon (and that of lots of my coworkers) much better. Although it was hard to serve, it was happily attacked and disposed of before it could melt. All of our happy tummies thanked Jessica of Domestic Deep Thought of the Day for her timely pick for Tuesday with Dorie. Jessica has the recipe for you here, and you can find what the other bakers did with this one here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Salted Butter Break-Ups

What are salted butter break-ups? Easy, fabulously delicious butter cookies. They're also addictive. Make them and you will find it impossible to pass up breaking off a piece every time you pass through the kitchen. The recipe, which is from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan, couldn't be easier. The dry ingredients get pulsed in the food processor, then you add the butter pieces and pulse, then a little cold water to bring it all together. Pat the dough into a disk, refrigerate, then bash it into a roundish, thinish giant cookie.  Brush with egg wash and score with the back of your longest knife (I used my slicer). The scoring is optional if you're in a rush.

I've made these twice and have a few of tips to share:
  • If you like the sweet/salty flavor profile, you could up the salt or even use fleur de sel. I love how these taste with fleur de sel.
  • I roll mine out on a sheet of parchment on the BACK of a sheet pan. I use the plastic wrap I stored the dough in on top, and never have to clean my rolling pin. Yes, I am lazy. Using the back of the sheet pan offers a few advantages: no repositioning to roll around the lip of the pan and it's easier to score the dough when the lip isn't in your way. If I need the cookies to cool quickly, I can very easily slide the parchment and giant cookie off the back of the pan onto the cooling rack (or my granite counter top, if I'm in a big rush).
  • Make sure you roll them thin enough, or the middle will be more like a bread than a cookie. Still good, but the star of these cookies is the crispy edge.
  • Experiment with flavors! You could use Dorie's method of rubbing citrus zest into the sugar for lightly lemony cookies (or orange, lime or grapefruit!) Dip them in melted chocolate before serving. Finely chopped nuts or, gasp, cocoa nibs, would take these in an entirely different direction. So would finely chopped rosemary or thyme leaves.
  • My blogging, Twitter and Words with Friends buddy Di suggested dividing the dough in half to make two smaller giant cookies. Her rationale is you would end up with more edge area, and the best part of these cookies is their edge. 
  • Let them cool completely before eating them. The cookie needs cooling time to crisp on the edges. Are you sensing that we like the edges?
Guess I should have taken the photos before sampling the cookie. Next time.

I made these for French Fridays with Dorie. The group made them a couple weeks ago, but I am so behind I'm just getting to posting them. If you want the recipe (after all, who doesn't need an easy butter cookie??), you can find the recipe here.