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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 50

This was my first time making pita bread and it was a huge success. I followed the recipe directions exactly and the dough was a breeze to work with. I can’t even explain to you how much better this is than any store bought pita bread. It’s so soft and has that delicious homemade bread flavor.

Brandon asked if it would have a pocket and honestly, I had no clue. But while it was baking it puffed up and we were excited to cut into it and see that the pocket had “magically” appeared. I served this with kefta, homemade taziki and zucchini. I’ll be sharing that recipe tomorrow!

We’ve really enjoyed the leftovers for sandwiches this week and I’m already planning on adding this to the regular rotation. It would be so easy to make a big batch on Sundays and use if for the week. Also, The Gourmet Cookbook says they freeze well.

The only complaint I have is that Gourmet calls these whole wheat. But with only 1-cup of whole wheat flour and 2-cups of white flour, I didn’t feel like I could really call it whole wheat. I’m going to experiment next time with increasing the wheat to white ratio.

If you’re a pita lover this is a must try! :)

One year ago: Grilled Chicken Salad

Whole Wheat(ish) Pita Bread
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook, published in Gourmet May 2003)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115 degrees F), divided
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

Directions:

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer if using), stir together yeast, honey and 1/2 cup warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. If mixture does not foam, start over with new yeast.

While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free/warm place (I like to use my oven – I turn it on for about a minute to get it warm – about 80-82 degrees and then turn it off and place dough in oven) until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms. Either turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, or use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and on low speed to knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.

Form dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free/warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by sprinkling with cornmeal. Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, flatten the ball and then roll out into a 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to prepared baking sheet. Make 7 more rounds in same manner, arranging them on baking sheets. Loosely cover pitas  with clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to the lower third of oven and remove other racks (I left the other racks). Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack (alternatively, I think you could bake these on a preheated baking stone so they don’t get wire marks from the oven). Bake until puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more.

Cool pitas on a cooling rack 2 minutes, then stack and wrap loosely in a kitchen towel to keep pitas warm. Bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 pitas

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 43

It’s funny how certain recipes get really popular in the food blogging world. I saw these Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites on Pink Parsley a couple months ago and thought they looked fun. Then I noticed the original recipe was from Gourmet – even better! I thought these would be a kid and adult friendly snack at my niece’s second birthday party a couple weeks ago. Since seeing the recipe on Josie’s blog, they’ve been popping up everywhere. So for my food blogger readers – I apologize if you’ve seen this one several times already.

I am sorry that I’ve been so slack with the blog this week. I’ve had a lot going on and no time to sit down at night to update. We have friends coming to stay with us tonight so I’ve been a busy bee trying to get our tiny apartment presentable and ready for guests. Also, we’ve been dealing with house hunting drama. Thought we finally found something we were excited about making an offer on this week but it didn’t work out. I am seriously sick of looking at houses! It’s been a long process.

It’s been a pretty lackluster week on the fitness front too. More rest days than I’ve had in a long time – which maybe isn’t a bad thing considering the injury and general soreness I’ve had the last several weeks. I taught BodyPump Monday, hot vinyasa yoga Tuesday, rest day Wednesday and taught BodyPump last night. Today is looking like a rest day too. I set my alarm to go to yoga this morning but we didn’t make it to bed until midnight last night (so late for us) so I was not ready to get up at 5:45 a.m. Hoping to get some good yoga classes in this weekend and test my leg out with an easy run.

Update on 68 Days of Gourmet: I’m on day 43 and ready to get this project wrapped up. I did some work this week planning out the rest of the recipes that I’m going to make. Trying to look back to make sure that I have a good balance of all the different recipe categories and a good mix of old and new. I still have a few recipes left to pick so let me know if there’s something you really want to see. I’m happy to take requests. :)

These Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites were a good snack for the birthday party but not something I think I will make again. This was my first time making soft pretzels and I enjoyed the process of making them. It was fun and different. But in the end I didn’t think these were worth all of the work. There just wasn’t enough ham and cheddar flavor to them and I think the dough itself could have used a little salt. I even added more ham and cheddar than the original recipe called for.  Also, I will say that they were much better warm out of the oven than served room temperature.  I’m really surprised that I didn’t love these because they did receive great reviews from the other bloggers who made them?

Promise more updates over the weekend and next week! I’ve got some good stuff planned!

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 2009)

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely chopped country ham or regular ham, divided
1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, divided
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Directions:

Stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast). In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the following steps but you can definitely just follow these directions: add 2 1/2 cups flour and the milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary (which it probably will be – this is an extremely sticky dough). Turn out dough onto a floured surface and gently knead with floured hands a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room (ideally around 80 degrees) until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours. Tip – I like to let my bread rise in the oven. I turn it on for a minute or two then switch it off and place the bread in there to rise.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and cut into four equal pieces. Working with floured hands, gently roll and stretch one piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you. Roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Make three more ropes using the same method. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if cheese oozes out a bit.

When you remove pretzels from oven, brush with butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with a honey mustard dipping sauce, if desired. (See original Jalepeno Honey Mustard in original recipe or see my favorite honey mustard here).

Yield: 4 dozen pretzel bites

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 32

It’s been a busy week! I’m so looking forward to the weekend. We are heading to Georgia to visit my grandmother – can’t wait to see her! Growing up and in college I was usually able to visit once every week or two. Since graduating college, we’ve lived 4+ hours away so we don’t get down there nearly as much as we’d like to.

One of my favorite things my grandmother made growing up was French toast. It was a breakfast treat when I visited! I made an overnight French toast last weekend for breakfast. We usually try to have more traditional, sit down breakfasts on the weekends. This recipe is great because it’s very simple, requires minimal prep work and results in a nice Sunday breakfast.

Tonight’s been busy, busy trying to prep for our visit. I taught BodyPump at the Y after work. It was my first night teaching at the Y. I’m so excited to finally have my own class! I taught in Birmingham and have been waiting for a class to open up here.  I’m teaching twice a week – Monday mornings at 6 (eek!) and Thursday evenings.

I have a Cranberry Pear Cake in the oven (will be blogged about soon!) to take down to my grandmonther’s. I always like to take a treat :) I’m heading to yoga tomorrow morning to get one last class in before we leave. I will most likely miss my Sunday class that I always attend but Mema’s worth it!

Overnight Baked French Toast
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 (13-14 inch) long loaf soft Italian or French bread)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons butter) softened
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar

Maple syrup
Powdered sugar

Directions:

Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cut 12 diagonal slices of bread. Reserve ends for another use (I made croutons for our salads this week). Generously butter one side of each piece of bread. Arrange bread buttered sides up in one layer in prepared dish. It will be a pretty tight fit.

Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until combined. Pour evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate until bread has absorbed all of custard, at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and bring soaked bread to room temperature. Sprinkle bread with sugar and bake until puffed and golden, about 20-25 mintues. Serve immediately sprinkled with powdered sugar and with maple syrup.

Yield: 6 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 27

I love, love, love banana bread and banana muffins – one of my favorite things to bake! So naturally, I had to try Gourmet’s Banana Bread recipe for 68 Days of Gourmet. I usually just make a small batch of banana muffins because I rarely have three ripe bananas on hand. But a couple weeks ago I found myself with three ripe bananas and knew it was the perfect opportunity to make this bread.

We enjoyed this banana bread but decided that our favorite recipe is still Cooking Light’s Classic Banana Bread. The Gourmet recipe is very moist and has a great banana flavor but I think the Cooking Light recipe produces a more tender cake with a nice crust.

I sliced this bread into individual slices, wrapped and froze them for a great breakfast on the go. I just pop it in the microwave at work for 20 seconds or so and I have warm homemade banana bread for breakfast!

Check out my other banana muffins:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Easy Banana Muffins
Banana Nutella Muffins

Banana Bread
(Recipe source Gourmet, August 2003)

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
1/4 cup crème fraîche, sour cream or plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups walnuts (4 ounces), toasted and chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 (9 x 5) loaf pans.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together eggs and sugar at medium-high speed until the mixture is thick and pale and forms a ribbon when paddle is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream. Then mix in bananas, creme fraiche (or sour cream or yogurt) and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture and walnuts until just combined.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly. Bake until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center  comes out clean, about 60-75 minutes.

Cool loaves in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Yield: 2 loaves

*Note: I halved the recipe for 1 loaf.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 18

Brandon had been requesting Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken Pot Pie for dinner for several weeks. I browsed through The Gourmet Cookbook and found this recipe for Chicken Pie with Biscuit Crust. Kind of a hybrid of Chicken and Dumplings and Chicken Pot Pie – perfect.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I mean, I knew it would be a good dinner but I’m really not a pot pie kind of person. I know that sounds strange…but in general I’m not really so into comfort food. I was wrong. This was amazing. So amazing that I insisted that I didn’t need any help with the cleanup so I could shovel down more as I was putting away the leftovers :)

This can be a relatively quick dinner if you use leftover chicken, a rotisserie chicken or pre-roast a chicken. I put my chicken in to roast that morning while I was out on my run and getting ready for work. Really cut down on the prep time that night.

The biscuit crust was so delicious and the addition of cheddar cheese to the dough really made it special. The filling was a nice consistency and seasoned perfectly. This chicken pie will definitely become a winter tradition in our house!

Chicken pie with Biscuit Crust
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, printed in Gourmet magazine – January 1991)

Ingredients:

FOR THE FILLING
4 cups chicken broth
3 carrots, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 pound red potatoes (about 2 medium), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (the meat from around a 3 pound chicken)
1/2 cup green peas
1 onion, chopped
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

FOR THE BISCUIT CRUST
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup grated sharp Cheddar
1 large egg
1/3 cup buttermilk

An egg wash of 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of milk

Directions:

FOR THE FILLING
Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the carrots, potatoes and celery and simmer, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes. Vegetables should be tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a large bowl, reserving the broth. Add chicken and peas to the bowl.

In another saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and transparent. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes to create a roux. In a slow stream, add 3 cups of the reserved broth. Whisk constantly and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg, parsley, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken mixture and stir gently until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a greased 2-quart shallow baking dish.

FOR THE BISCUIT CRUST

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Add the butter and blend mixture with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the cheese and toss to coat. Beat together egg and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just until the mixture comes together and a dough forms. Into a liquid measuring cup break the egg, add enough of the buttermilk to measure a total of 1/2 cup, and beat the mixture with a fork. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until the mixture just forms a dough. At this point you can either spoon 2-inch balls of dough onto the chicken mixture (drop biscuit style) or gather the dough into a ball, and on a floured surface pat out 1/2 inch thick. Cut rounds with a 2-inch cutter dipped in flour. Gather scraps and repeat until all dough has been used.  Arrange the rounds on the chicken mixture.

Before baking brush tops with an egg wash or whole milk. Prick holes into the biscuits with a fork. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are puffed and golden and the filling is bubbling.

Yield: 4 servings

NOTE:
* Filling can be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Bring the mixture to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 12

I came across this recipe while flipping through the Breakfast/Brunch section of The Gourmet Cookbook. I thought it would be perfect to have on hand during the holidays, as a breakfast treat or an afternoon snack. Brandon and I decided that this bread is definitely less coffee cake and more pound cake. The flavor of the cake itself was extremely reminiscent of pound cake. The fresh cranberry ripple added a nice touch of fruit flavor. This would be perfect to have around the house for guests to snack on or as part of a holiday breakfast or brunch. I sliced and wrapped the bread in individual slices and put them in the freezer for a quick (and indulgent) snack on the go.

Fresh Cranberry Coffee Cake
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)
Printable Recipe: Fresh Cranberry Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Optional: confectioners’ sugar for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Place cranberries and 1/2 cup of sugar in food processor and pulse until cranberries are finely chopped and sugar is incorporated, careful not to puree. Place in a sieve and let drain while you prepare the cake batter.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together butter and remaining 1 1/3 cup sugar for about 3 minutes on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to medium and add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and alternately add flour mixture and milk in three parts, beginning and ending with flour.

Spread 1/3 of the batter in bottom of prepared loaf pan. Spoon 1/2 of the cranberries over the batter, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges (see picture below). Top with another 1/3 of batter and remaining cranberries and finally, top with last 1/3 of batter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Yield: 8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 6

buttermilkbiscuit

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is cook a big breakfast. We usually either have waffles or pancakes and bacon or eggs, grits, biscuits and sausage or bacon. I’ve been trying different biscuit recipes the last couple months in an attempt to perfect my biscuit making skills. I figured I’d try one from Gourmet since I’m doing 68 Days of Gourmet.

Overall, I was pleased with how these buttermilk biscuits turned out. I loved the size of them and they were a nice mix of tender on the inside and sturdy on the outside. You could definitely make a breakfast sandwich biscuit out of these and they wouldn’t crumble or fall apart.

They were a nice accompaniment to our breakfast and very tasty topped with apple butter. Brandon has requested an egg and cheese biscuit tomorrow morning with the leftovers.

biscuitdough

Buttermilk Biscuits
(Recipe source Gourmet, June 2005)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing tops of biscuits

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Sift together twice flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until dough just forms (dough will be moist). Do not over mix.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently 6 times with floured hands. Pat out dough into an 8- by 5 1/2-inch rectangle, reflouring work surface if necessary. Using a floured knife, cut rectangle in half lengthwise, then into thirds crosswise to form 6 (2 1/2-inch) squares. Using a spatula, transfer biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each biscuit. Brush tops with milk or cream and bake on middle rack until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Yield: 6 biscuits

biscuitapplebutter

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