Archive for the ‘bread’ Category

Life is sort of weird right now.  I’ve been serving on a jury since last week.  My new routine is wake up, take the D train to the Yankee Stadium stop and report to the Bronx Supreme Court.  On Sunday, I’m running a half marathon.  My dreams have been filled with the worst case senarios.  I show up without my bib or without running shoes or worst of all with no idea why I am there.  My life could use a little normalcy right now, before I start thinking of “juror” as my new job title.  It’s times like these that baking therapy helps.

Recently, I stumbled across A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg’s memoir-cookbook that is just incredibly lovely.  Remember when I made some pancakes from it?  Mmmm I have to make those again soon.  Anyhow, the banana bread recipe in that book had been in my recipe queue for ages and was beginning to sulk and fret and beg that I make it.  This is the post on Molly’s Orangette blog that the recipe originally appears in.  I love Molly’s description of the bread, it is probably close to the description in her book but the recipe in the book is slightly different.

Well I am here to tell you, if you ever happen to find yourself let out of jury duty early on a rainy March day during which you were vexed by race anxiety daydreams, this bread will do the trick.  This bread was a miracle worker for my mood.  Ok, so it’s not bread.  It’s cake.  Let’s just lay that out there right now.  If you eat it for breakfast, as I definitely did, don’t try to kid yourself–you are eating cake for breakfast.  But I’ve made my peace with that, and so should you.

Here is Molly’s recipe, my substitutions are noted:

6 tbs unsalted butter, melted

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( I used 1 cup whole wheat plus 1 cup white flour)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips)

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)

1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt (all I had in the house was raspberry yogurt from my CSA, it worked great!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside.  Make sure to melt butter first (in the microwave) and then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add chocolate chips and crystallized ginger, mix to combine.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly then add the banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir.  Molly stresses not to overmix….although the batter will be lumpy, you don’t want chunks of flour.  Pour batter into the pan you prepared and pop it in the oven.

Bake until the bread is golden and firm in the center.  This takes about 1 hour.  Cool the bread in the pan 5 minutes and on a wire rack until completely cooled off.  I ate it all before I had any to freeze, but Molly says it freezes very nicely as long as you cool it completely first.


Oh, and a little jury duty humor to brighten your day, you’re welcome!


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From Sharon’s Kitchen

Hello!!  Summer is in full swing here in the Bronx and boy is it hot hot hot!  I was lucky enough to be traveling for work during the heat wave last week.  I spent some time in Chicago and since I was staying at a hotel, I got to enjoy the luxury of air conditioning!  I’m back in New York and it is slightly cooler than last week, but not by much.  When I was in O’Hare airport catching up with my Mom, she was telling me about some pesto bread she had made that weekend.  We both decided it would be great to have the recipe on the blog, so here she is–my first guest blogger!  Straight from Sharon’s kitchen:
A Taste of Summer
Nothing speaks “Summer”to me like the scent of basil.  Whether it’s pinching a leaf as I weed my herb garden and enjoying its strong scent lingering on my hands, or chopping cups of basil leaves with garlic cloves and olive oil to make homemade pesto, basil “fumes” wafting through my kitchen means summer truly has arrived.
Each year  a few basil plants find a home in the garden, but last year I realized you can never have too much basil!  Pesto takes A LOT of basil; and if you want some leaves to dry as well at the end of the growing season, it’s a good idea to plant at least a row.   I planted two rows this spring, and voila! I am happily overrun with basil.
What to do with all of this abundance?  I made pesto and froze it (after enjoying it on whole-grain crackers with thin slices of sharp cheddar).  Then I happened to rediscover a book on herbs my husband gave me for my 39th birthday (eeek – that was 20 years ago!), and found a recipe for pesto bread.
From start to finish, this baking project was a joy.  I love baking bread anyway, and combining the pleasure of kneading the yeasty dough with spreading the heady scented pesto, then shaping the loaves knowing there was a hidden surprise inside and smelling them as they baked was a lot of fun – just what summer is supposed to be!  And of course, slicing that first warm piece fresh from the oven – well, if you’re a bread baker you know what I mean… Here’s the recipe I followed for both pesto and bread.  Enjoy!  And I wish all of you a wonderful summer!
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Puree the basil, parsley, oil, garlic and salt in a blender or processor.  Stir in the cheese.
Pesto Bread (2 loaves)
1 and 1/2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
cornmeal for the baking sheet
Dissolve yeast in the warm water in a large bowl and add the salt and sugar.  Stir (I use a whisk).  Set aside for a few minutes until foamy.  Using a wooden spoon, beat in the flour one cup at a time (I found 6 cups to be plenty), until a smooth dough forms.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board or counter and let it rest for a few minutes.  Knead until the dough is elastic.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl (I just scrape out the large bowl I already used and oil it), cover it with a towel and set in a warm place until doubled (about 1 and 1/2 hours).
Now turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, punch it down (that’s one of the fun parts!), and knead it again.  Divide the dough in half.  Pat out 2 rectangles, each about 10 by 12 inches, and spread a thin layer of PESTO over each, leaving about a 1-inch border all around.  Starting with the long side, slowly, roll each rectangle into a cylinder and shape into a loaf.  Let the loaves sit on the board to rise for another 5 minutes.
Sprinkle a baking sheet (I use a large pizza stone, which yields nice hollow loaves) with cornmeal and place the loaves on it.  Brush each loaf with cold water and place in a COLD oven.  Place a pan of boiling water (a cake pan will do) in the bottom of the oven and turn the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when rapped on the bottom (my oven runs hot and the loaves were done in under 30 minutes, so be sure to check them before 35 minutes is up).  Place the bread on a rack to cool slightly, serve warm for the most intense flavor.  Try to have just one piece!
What do you think of my guest blogger?  I can’t wait to try this recipe…I guess I better get to my garden soon and pick some basil!

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“Life is partly what we make it and partly it is made by the friends we choose.”

I had a fabulous time in Cincinnati.  Although the last leg consisted of canceled flights, plane de-icing, and taking a train instead of a plane at one point, I refuse to let the craziness of the journey home color the wonderful extended weekend I had.  What a joy to spend time with Carin, Chris, her parents, and their animals.  It was a nice mix of relaxing and sightseeing and of course, there was plenty of eating!!  Remember when I said I rarely eat meat? That went right out the window, especially since I had to try the famous Skyline chili.  Oh and of course trying it meant eating it on top of a mini-hot dog.  I can’t remember the last time I had one of those, but laden with meaty chili and cheese, it tasted pretty good!  Here I am, eating a “Coney” (after coney island I believe).

I decided to make chili tonight not only to honor Cincinnati, but because while I was there, Carin gave me her friend Kate’s fabulous recipe for vegetarian chili which Kate made while I was visiting St. Louis a few years back.  I’ve honestly had that chili in the back of my head since then.  There are just countless recipes for chili–I’ve made oodles of different versions over time but I’ve never truly loved a recipe.  I think this particular recipe will become my go to chili recipe because it is so unique.  Also, I made some cornbread that I’ve been wanting to try from 101 cookbooks called “Firecraker Cornbread” which I have eaten before but never made.
Both recipes are fairly straightforward.  Follow the above link to find Heidi Swanson’s cornbread.  I followed it as is, except I didn’t have buttermilk on hand (who ever does??!!) so I substituted plain yogurt.  You’ll just fall in love with it–yes, Jiffy mix is super easy, but this bread isn’t all that difficult and the taste is worth it!  
And here is Kate’s recipe…..you need to play around with the spices a lot since it’s not exact.  The spice amounts listed here are a starting point–play around with it and add more as you go and according to what your tastes are.  OH! and also there is a secret to the recipe–beer.  Today all I had in the fridge was Sam Adams Cherry Wheat (which actually tastes nice) but you can use whatever you like.
(Yes that is basil from my Mom’s garden, bottled with love)
Kate’s Great Chili:
3 celery stalks
1 green pepper, 1 red pepper   
2 medium onions
a bunch of garlic
First chop up everything and saute them in a little oil in the bottom of a big soup pot.  When they look like they’re getting soft, add the following to the pot:
2 16 oz. cans of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed 
2 16oz. cans of white (great northern) beans, drained and rinsed
2 32 oz. cans of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp cumin
3 tbsp. chili powder
dash cayenne pepper
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
1/4 c cider vinegar
 Let this mixture simmer with the lid on for about an hour and a half, then add a can or bottle of beer, and simmer for half an hour more.  Throw in some whole cashews just before you serve it, as well as some cheddar cheese.

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Monday was Yom Kippur.  I don’t know much about Judaism, but from friends who are Jewish I do know that the holiday is the holiest day of the year for Jews.  It means fasting from sundown of the night before to sundown the day of the holiday.  But it is more than just fasting–it is a day of atonement, of prayer and meditation about your sins against God.  I take that to mean you think about those places in your life where you feel far from God.  I like the idea of setting aside a day to be intentional about that.  And while I did not fast, I did help prepare the meal that my roommates and I shared with neighbors in order to break the fast.  My contribution was the challah bread.  I love challah!  It is a relatively easy bread to make and it looks oh so beautiful when it comes out of the oven.  It is slightly sweet and egg-y tasting.  Whenever I make bread, I get a lot of compliments because I think it seems like a very daunting task to create homemade bread.  I think many people would love to make bread from scratch but are a bit intimidated. Or perhaps people do not have quite as much free time as I do! 

If you have never made bread, you should try it.  I love everything about it.  I love getting covered in flour, I love the physicality of the process–all that kneading, and I love way the smell of flour and yeast permeate the entire kitchen and apartment.  Really I think there are just three main requirements to making bread: commitment, patience, and faith.  The rest is just following directions!

Commitment is very important since making bread can require that you allow the dough to rest and rise two or more times.  You see, making bread is really more of an event, or a process, than regular cooking or baking.  And it must be intentional and planned–I don’t usually make bread on a whim–because of the time it takes.  All along you must be patient, you simply cannot rush the rising or any other step along the way.  You must follow all the directions and wait (and wait and wait in some cases) for that dough to rise.  Most importantly though, making bread is an act of faith.  No one taught me to make bread.  I just saw lovely recipes and decided to jump head first into those accompanied by beautiful glossy photos of perfect loaves.  I simply had faith that somehow it would all work out.  Lo and behold, it usually does.  Of course there have been failures–of course there were times I killed the yeast and the dough didn’t rise.  But more often than not, I have success.  It isn’t always a perfect looking or tasting result, but I guess that’s life! 

The recipe I used came from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen (of the Moosewood Cookbook, I have 3 of her books, I love them!!).  I altered it slightly because I ran out of white flour, but I think I will keep the substitutions in the future because it turned out lovely.  Here are some pictures of the process and product and the recipe is below:

2 1/2 c warm/room temp water
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 c honey
4 tbsp canola oil
3 eggs (1 of those is for the crust)
1 tbsp salt
6 c unbleached white flour
2-3 c wheat flour
  • Place the water in a very large bowl (you want the water to be warm but NOT hot, you want it to feel comfortable on your skin, if it is too hot it will kill the yeast).  Sprinkle in the yeast and then use a whisk to mix in the honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt.
  • Start adding flour one cup at a time.  I started with the white flour.  At first you can just whisk it in and eventually, around the 3rd cup, you need to start using a wooden spoon.  Keep stirring!!  As you start adding in the wheat flour, you will need to start using your hands to stir.  If after adding 2 cups of wheat flour the dough is extremely sticky you should add another cup of wheat flour….but I think it is better to err on the side of less than more flour since you will add in more as you knead the dough later on.
  • Cover the dough to let it rest.  I cover it with an oiled piece of plastic wrap and then put a dish towel on top.  Let it rest in a warm area…..since our stove top is somehow always a little warm, I put it in between the burners (make sure the burners are off though if you do that!!).  Come back in about 1 1/2 hours or when the dough is doubled in bulk.  (Hint:  if the dough is not doubled after this time, wait a while longer, remember the patience part!!  But the dough should at least look like it is starting to bulk up after around an hour and a half.  Have patience and come back every half hour until it looks like it is doubled in size.  If you are still having issues, you may have killed the yeast…..it could be time to start over, remember to use just warm not hot water in step one.)
  • Punch down the risen dough and take it out onto a well floured surface.  Flour your hands very well and divide the dough into 2 then knead each half for 5 minutes….if the dough gets very sticky add a little to your hands and the dough.  Divide each half into thirds as you see in my picture above and roll out into a long snake-like log.  Aim for about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and then line them up next to each other and begin to braid!  Just keep crossing the outer pieces over the middle–just like braiding hair.
  • Oil 2 baking sheets and place a finished braid on each.  Cover with some oiled plastic wrap and/or a dish towl and let it rest and rise for another hour until they bulk up again.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375.
  • Beat the remaining egg in a dish and brush it over each braid once they are risen.  Bake for about 40 minutes (enjoy the wonderful smells!!).  You will know the bread is done when it sounds hollow if you tap the sides and bottom.  Take the loaves off the trays right away and put onto a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Last time I wrote about the cheese straws I was planning on making.  They were so fun to make and people really liked them!  I took some pictures that are below to show the process of that, I highly recommend them.  Next post, I’ll share a craft or a book (or at least a recipe that is gluten free)!

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