Friday, July 6, 2012

What's been going on in our kitchen lately...

I haven't been posting as often recently, but I've still been cooking quite a bit! I thought a link round-up might be a fun way to give you an idea of what's been happening in our kitchen. 
 Some things we've enjoyed:

This blueberry skillet cake - it's quite healthy, vegan, and tastes like a blueberry muffin. I used whole wheat pastry flour and fresh blueberries (I skipped the cornstarch). We'll definitely make this again.

Grilled corn.  No link for this one - we just brush the shucked ears in some butter and throw them on the grill. We've also been grilling just about every other vegetable that comes through our kitchen.

This soy and maple glazed tempeh - I cook it in a skillet, but it can also be prepared on the grill. I used a pinch of smoked paprika instead of cayenne.

Honey curry hummus - the recipe I mentioned in this post. I hadn't made it in a while, but I'm glad I did!

This maple cinnamon almond butter, a perennial favorite. 

I finally made my own sourdough starter, and I've been working on some sourdough breads and buns. I'm not a huge sourdough fan, but Nick loves it and assures me it is delicious. 
 Homemade Challah - this is one of my favorite breads.  I just use the Joy of Cooking recipe, and it turns out great.
I've also been making some broiled tofu, stir-fries, and other simple dishes. Summer isn't the season to spend piles of time in the kitchen, so we're enjoying simple, fresh things for the most part. 

What have you been enjoying lately? 

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

We're gearing up for a Fourth of July cookout here, and I'm pretty excited.  I always see crazy patriotic dishes showcased in various cooking and homemaking magazines this time of year - and I must admit, I don't have the patience required for the intense, intricate assembly some of those things require.  Baking my own bread? No problem. But carefully placing rows of berries to form a flag? Please, no!

So I decided to take a more historical twist on patriotism. (I was a history major in undergrad, so I love stuff like this.) Coffee, of course, is deeply ingrained in America's history and has close ties to patriotism.  Aside from that, it's just plain tasty, and can really liven up baked goods.  These cookie bars use a small amount of coffee to really highlight the flavor of the chocolate chips - and because it's just the American thing to do.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
I call for whole wheat pastry flour here to try to make these a bit healthier.  You can use all purpose if you prefer. 
Yield: about 16 bars (depending how you cut them)

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softenend
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8x8 or so baking pan - whatever your standard brownie pan is.
2. Cream together butter and sugar, then beat in egg and vanilla.
3. Combine remaining ingredients except chocolate chips in a bowl and stir to combine. Slowly add to the wet ingredients, mixing just to combine. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
4. Spread the dough into the prepared baking pan, pressing into corners and making sure it's an even thickness.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden.  Let cool, then slice.  Enjoy!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

The idea of no-knead bread was introduced by Jim Lahey, in this New York Times article a few years ago. All credit for the idea goes to him, of course. I've made variations on this recipe over the course of those years, but I've found I like the simplest version the best. This loaf uses 2/3 whole grain flours and produces a wonderfully crusty, bubbly loaf with extremely minimal effort.

 The idea of no-knead bread is that an extended rising time lets the gluten develop without kneading. You only use a small amount of yeast (otherwise you would have a dough explosion!).  I love this recipe for its hands-off nature. I've discussed bread-making before, and how it really only takes a few minutes of effort, spaced out over time, but this recipe takes that a step further. You mix the ingredients, cover and let rest for 18-24 hours (longer is better).  Punch it down, let it rise another hour or two, then bake. You're hands-on for all of 10 minutes to produce a bakery-quality loaf.

This requires some pre-planning of course - because the rise time is so long, you need to be prepared to wait for your bread. Probably no big deal - but if you want something to make for dinner tonight, this recipe isn't it.  But if you can plan ahead, this recipe is so easy that it's well-worth the extra wait time.
 The other special requirement here is a cast-iron dutch oven. I use this one from Lodge (who makes great cast-iron cookware), but you could use another brand, including an enameled version. If your dutch oven has a plastic handle, remove it before placing it in the oven (it can melt!) - there are metal replacement knobs available for Le Creuset dutch ovens.  If your dutch oven is small, you can bake two smaller loaves; I bake one large loaf in the Lodge oven. If you don't have, and don't want to purchase, a cast iron dutch oven, you can try baking this loaf on a regular old baking sheet - it's likely that it will turn out fine, but the crust will not be the same.

I've written the directions below the way I make this bread, which differ a bit from the original method, but feel free to follow the NYT instructions if you prefer.

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread
You can use different flours or proportions of flours here if you like - but stick with gluten-containing flours (like wheat) to ensure good texture. And yes, the tiny amount of yeast is really all you need.
Yield: 1 loaf

1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 cup bread flour
1 cup whole grain spelt flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
Additional flour or cornmeal, for dusting

1. Stir together flours, yeast, and salt. Make a well in the center with your fist, then pour in the water. Stir to combine, until a dough forms. If it is too dry, add additional water 1 tbsp at a time. If it is too wet, add additional flour 1 tbsp at a time. This should be a sticky dough.
2. Place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise 18-24 hours. (I place it on top of the fridge.)
3. After the rise, punch down the dough and shape into a round loaf. Place on a baking sheet dusted with flour or cornmeal, cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise 1-2 more hours, until at least doubled in size.
4. Place a covered cast iron dutch oven in your oven (adjust the racks as necessary first).  Heat the oven to 450 degrees, allowing at least 30 minutes to pre-heat. 
5. Carefully uncover the dutch oven, place the dough in the bottom, and re-cover. Bake 30 minutes, until golden brown. (The original recipe says to bake an additional 15-30 minutes uncovered, but I found the loaf was done at 30 minutes. If you like a darker crust, let it go uncovered a bit longer.)  

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