Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dinner Rolls

The best dinner rolls I have ever made are from a recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  This recipe makes 18 good sized rolls, which for a family of four seems like a lot.  So when I tell you that there were no leftovers, you will know just how good these are.  I used whole milk instead of water and sprinkled poppy seeds on half and left the other half plain. You can use this same recipe to make 2 loaves of white bread or hamburger buns, or even hot dog buns. 

These rolls are very lightly sweet.  Not as sweet as Hawaiian rolls or Portuguese sweet bread, but just the tiniest bit which is perfect with any meal.  They are soft and tender, but have just the slightest bit of chew.  I made these pull-apart rolls by setting them on a baking sheet just barely touching.  You will only need one baking sheet if you are planning on making these pull-apart.  My oven cooks rather unevenly, so as the outer rolls became brown, I removed them to cool and set the other center pieces back in the oven to cook further.

Dinner Rolls
from the cookbook The Bread Baker's Apprentice

 4 3/4 cups (21.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 ounces) salt
1/4 cup (1.33 ounces) powdered milk
3 1/4 tablespoons (1.66 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons (.22 ounces) instant yeast
1 large egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
3 1/4 tablespoons (1.66 ounces) butter, margarine, or shortening, melted or at room temp
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon to 1 3/4 cups (13 to 14 ounces) water, buttermilk, or milk, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)
Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)

  • Mix together the flour, salt, powdered milk, sugar, and yeast in a 4 quart bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer. 
  • Pour in the egg, butter, and 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water and mix with a large spoon or on low speed of electric mixer with paddle attatchment until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball.  If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle in more water until the dough is soft and supple.
  • Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading or mix on medium speed with the dough hook, adding more flour if necessary to create a dough that is soft, supple and tacky, but not sticky.  Continue kneading or mixing for 6 to 8 minutes.  (In the electric mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever so slightly to the bottom.) The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 80 F. 
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl in plastic wrap.
  • Ferment at room temp for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size (the length of time will depend on the room temp).
  • Remove the fermented dough from the bowl and divide it in half for sandwich loaves, into eighteen 2 ounce pieces for dinner rolls, or twelve 3 ounce pieces for burger or hot dog buns.  Shape the pieces into boules for loaves, or tight rounds for dinner rolls or buns.  Mist the dough lightly with spray oil and cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
  • For loaves, lightly oil two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pans and place the loaves in the pans.  For rolls and buns, line 2 sheet pans with parchment.  rolls require no further shaping.  For hamburger buns, gently press down on the rolls to form the desired shape.  Transfer to sheet pans.
  • Mist the tops of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel.  Proof the dough at room temp for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it nearly doubles in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F for loaves or 400F for rolls and buns.  Brush the rolls or buns with the egg wash and garnish with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. 
  • Bake the rolls or buns for approx 15 minutes or until they are golden brown and register just above 180F in the center.  Bake loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through for even baking.  Internal temp of loaves should be close to 190F and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  • When loaves are finished baking, remove them from pans and cool on a wire rack.  Rolls should cool for 15 minutes on a rack before serving.

Cut into 18 pieces
Shaped into rolls and set to proof on baking sheet
Risen rolls, ready to bake

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crisp and Spicy Chicken Tenders with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

This is a super quick and easy recipe that I have used several times and is always appreciated by my family.
Instead of chicken tenders, I actually use whole chicken breasts.  I have 3 people in my family who are very particular about their food and tenders have a big tendon running through them which grosses them out.  So I cut out the tendon from the breasts and cut the breast into tender-like pieces.  These are really different from your average chicken strip and so good.  They are moist and are reminiscent of buffalo wings in flavor.  The panko gives them a nice crispiness which I love.  These are a hit with the kids as well as us older kids.   And the blue cheese dipping sauce is to die for!

Crisp & Spicy Chicken Tenders
from Fine Cooking magazine

2 1/2 cups panko
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
1/4 cup mayonaise
1 tablespoon Frank's Red Hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

  • Trim off any exposed tendon ends from the wide tips of the chicken tenders.  In a medium bowl, whisk the mayo with the hot sauce, cayenne, and 1/8 tsp salt.  Add the chicken and toss with your hands to coat well.  Coat each tender in the panko and arrange in a single layer on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet.  Refrigerate while you heat the broiler and make the sauce.
  • Broil the tenders, flipping once, until they are crisp and golden brown in spots on the outside and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side.

Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)
3 tablespoons milk

  • Whisk all ingredients together until well combined and only small bits of cheese remain intact.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Gooey, rich, buttery, and sweet.  Baklava is a dessert that is claimed by many cultures as their own.  Whether it is Greek, or Turkish or even Chinese, makes no difference to me.  All I know is that it's good, really good.

Walnut Baklava:

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
4 cups chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed in refrigerator

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • In a food processor, pulse walnuts with the cinnamon and sugar, set aside
  • Place stack of thawed phyllo sheets on a work surface
  • Brush the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch lasagna pan with butter
  • Lay one sheet of phyllo dough in the pan and brush it with butter. 
  • Repeat until you have 4 layers on the bottom of the pan, brushing each with butter as you layer
  • Sprinkle phyllo stack with 1/3 cup walnut filling
  • Lay another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with butter.  Repeat until the filling is used up, reserving 5 sheets of phyllo for the top layer.
  • With a sharp knife, trim the edges
  • Using a sharp knife, cut unbaked baklava into squares, or triangles, or diamond shapes
  • Bake until puffed and golden 30 to 35 minutes.
  • *While it is baking, make syrup by bringing all of the syrup ingredients to a boil and letting it simmer until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is syrupy (approx 10 minutes)
  • Transfer the baklava out of the oven onto a wire rack and let it cool slightly
  • Pour hot syrup over the baklava and let it stand at room temperature until syrup is absorbed, at least 3 hours. 
  • To store, keep at room temp for up to 3 days.

Brush each layer with melted butter
Sprinkle in walnut mixture
Trim the edges

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tangy Meatloaf

I've never been much of a meatloaf fan.  I don't know if it's just the name, "meatloaf" that sounded unappealing to me.  Nah, I just never had meatloaf that was anything other than greasy yet surprisingly dry, and full of gristle.  I thought I would give it another shot since I'm an adult now (in age anyway).  I pulled out my "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" cookbook and made this.    The white-ish chunks inside the loaf are not fat. Those are chunks of bread.  Apparently I didn't smush it up enough.  But I was pleasantly surprised. This was very tender, not greasy and flavorful.  I used a good quality, organic beef and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  If you are a meatloaf fan, or even if you aren't, you should try this recipe...if only for the meatloaf sandwiches you can make with the leftovers.  The meatloaf was good, but the meatloaf sandwiches were awesome! 

from the cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 cup milk
6 bread slices
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley
4 eggs, beaten
8-12 thin bacon slices

Tomato Gravy:

1 1/2 cups ketchup
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Dashor two of hot sauce

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Pour milk over the bread and allow it to soak in for several minutes
  • Place the ground beef, milk-soaked bread, Parmesan chees, salt, seasoned salt, black pepper, and parsley in a large mixing bowl and pour in the eggs.
  • With clean hands, mix ingredients until well combined.
  • Form the misture into a loaf shape on a broiler pan, which allows the fat from the meat to drain. 
  • Lay bacon slices over the top tucking them underneath the meatloaf
  • Make the tomato gravy by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl
  • Pour a third of the tomato gravy over the top of the meatloaf
  • Bake for 45 minutes, then pour another third over the meatloaf again.
  • Bake for another 10 minutes
  • Serve with the remaining tomato gravy on the side as a dipping sauce

Friday, March 26, 2010

Easy Stromboli

As some of you know, I pack my family's lunches for work and school.  I try to pack them things that will keep them eating because they tend to get bored quickly and easily.   I used a big shortcut for these stromboli...frozen pre-made bread dough.  Hey, I made these at 6:30 this morning...dont judge me!!!  You really can't tell the difference in this recipe because the bread is not the stand out ingredient.  So if you can save yourself some time, why not?

Easy Stromboli:

*This makes 4 almost foot long stromboli
2 loaves of pre-made frozen white bread dough (I used Rhodes brand)
Filling of choice

  • Defrost the bread dough overnight in the refrigerator
  • In the morning or day  of:
  • Preheat the oven to 400F
  • Dust the work surface with flour
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle, divide the dough in half crosswise
  • Roll each piece of dough into a larger rectangle, approx 1/4 inch thick and 11x14 inches wide, with the wide side facing you
  • Cover the dough with the sauce or mayonaise and mustard, sprinkle the cheese and add the filling
  • Roll from the wide side, from bottom to the top and seal the edges and the sides by pinching them with your fingers
  • Lay them seam side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat liner
  • Let them sit for about 20 minutes (this is not absolutely necessary, they will not rise anymore, just get kind of puffy.) and then cut slits on top to let air escape..The seam cutting part is very necessary!
  • Bake until the crust is golden brown (about 20-30 minutes), rotating occasionally for even cooking. 
  • Let it cool on a baking rack for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
Below are the fillings that I used this morning, but as with most of my recipes, you can use your favorite ingredients and personalize this.

Pepperoni filling:
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Marinara or pizza sauce
Mini pepperoni

Deli filling:
Swiss chees
2 slices of deli ham
2 slices of deli turkey
Dijon mustard

Mediterranean (not pictured, but I am eating it as I am writing):
Marinara sauce
Feta cheese
Kalamata Olives
The dough
Rolling up with pepperoni filling
Deli filling
Ready to bake
Deli stromboli

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carmelized Onion, Wild Mushroom and Cheese Ciabatta

Fresh ciabattas are crunchy on the outside, pillowy and tender on the inside.  What could make such an incredible bread better?  How about carmelized onions, wild mushrooms and Parmesan cheese?  That seems like an awful lot to pack into one batch of bread, but oh my, the flavor is awesome.   I used the biga version of the ciabatta recipe from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"  and combined three of the variations he listed.  I made a few adjustments on the filling only because I was using all three.  It is a two day process to make this bread.  But I think you will agree with me when I tell you that it is worth every minute.

Ciabatta, Biga Version
from the cookbook The Bread Baker's Apprentice
3 cups (16 ounces)  biga
2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (.37 ounces) salt
1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 ounces) instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons t 1 1/8 cups (7-9 ounces) water (or substitute milk or buttermilk for all or part of the water), lukewarm
1/4 cup(2 ounces) olive oil-optional

  • Remove biga from refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough.  Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife.  Cover witha towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour.

  • To make the dough, stir together the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the biga pieces and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water and the oil.  **If you are adding reconstitued wild mushrooms, you add them here. On low speed with the paddle attachment, mix until the ingredients form a sticky ball.  If there is still some loose flour, add the additional water as needed and continue to mix.

  • Mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth sticky dough.  Switch to the dough hook for the final 2 minutes of mixing.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom.  You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to lear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should be soft and sticky.

  • Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 8 inches square.  Using a bowl scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and proceed with the stretch and fold method. Divide the dough into 3 loaves.  Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

  • Let it rest for 30 minutes and stretch and fold again, mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover.  Allow the covered dough to ferment for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  It should swell but not necessarily double.

  • Set up a couche (towel covered in flour to use as separators for the loaves).  Carefully remove the plastic from the dough and shape the dough.  Mist the top of the dough with oil and dust the dough with more flour, the cover the cloth with a towel.

  • Proof for 45-60 minutes at room temp

  • Prepare the oven for hearth baking.  Preheat oven to 500F.  Make sure to have an empty steam pan in place.

  • Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the dough pieces to the peel or pan, using the pastry scraper if you need support.  Lift the dough frome each end and tug the dough our to a length of 9 to 12 inches.  if the dough bulges too high in the middle gently dimple it down with your fingertips to even out the height of the loaf.  Slide onto a baking stone or bake directly on the sheet pan.   Pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan and close the door.  After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the side walls of the oven with water and close the door.  Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals.  After the final spray, turn the oven setting down to 450F and bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the loaves 180 degrees, if necessary for even baking and continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes loger or until done.  The bread should register 205F in the center and should be golden in color (but the flour streaks willalso give it a dusty look).  The loaves will feel quite hard and crusty at first but will soften as they cool.

  • Transfer the bread from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for ath least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.
2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 cup (7 to 8 ounces) water, at room temp

  • Stir together flour and yeast.  Ad 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball.  Adjust the flour or water, according to nedd, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (it is better to err on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading.)
  • Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer teh dought o the counter.  Knead for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  The internal temp shou ne 77 to 81 F.
  • Lightly oil a bowl and trasfer the dough to the bow, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap andferment at room temp for 2 to 4 hours, or until it nearly doubles in size.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to de-gas, and return it to the bowl.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator, covered overnight.  You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months.

***5 dried shitake or porcini mushrooms, broken into pieces and reconstitued with 6 tablespoons warm water***If you are going to use these, they need to be added when you mix the dough for the ciabatta.
4 cups sliced onions
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup chopped fresh herb blend (I used thyme)
Salt and pepper
2 cups shredded parmesan

  • Prepare the onion herb mixture at least an hour before making the dough or the day before.  In a large pan, saute the onions in teh olive oil over medium heat until they start to caramelize or turn brown.  Add the sugar and continue to cook until until the sugar melts and the onions turn golden brown.  Add the balsamic vinegar and stir until the onions are evely coated.  Turn off teh heat and add the herbs, tossing just until they are evenly distributed and wilted.  Season with salt and peper.  Set aside to cool.
  • Make the dough as directed.  When performing the stretch and fold steps, spread some onions and cheese over each piece of dough each time and fold them in. 

If you have any questions about this recipe, the method or techniques, shoot me an email and I will try to explain it better:)

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables.  Easy to prepare and goes nicely with just about anything.  This is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to make it.  It really doesn't require a recipe.  Just buy as much asparagus as you plan on eating or serving, wash it, snap off the tough ends or use a vegetable peeler to peel off the the tough skin on the ends.  Assemble by creating little bundles of 4 or 5 asparagus and wrap with half a piece of bacon.  That's it.  No need to secure with a toothpick, just lay the bundles, seam side down on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400F until brown. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Banana Pudding

This dessert reminds me of banana cream pie.  It has all of the same components except instead of a pastry crust, it uses Vanilla Wafers.  The flavors are so good together.  It is the perfect lightly-sweet ending to any meal.  This is another Joy of Cooking recipe.  I use this book so much, one would think it's the only one I own.  I'm just so excited to have it back after such a long time that I can't put it down.  Don't let the simplicity fool you, this is a winner.

Banana Pudding
from cookbook Joy of Cooking

2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
3 or 4 large egg yolks
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
60 to 70 vanilla wafers
4 to 5 ripe, firm, large bananas
  • Mix first three ingredients together in a medium heavy saucepan
  • Gradually stir in milk, making sure to dissolve the cornstarch
  • Whisk egg yolks in thoroughly
  • Add the butter
  • Cook on stovetop over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer, stirring constantly
  • Reduce heat to low, stirring briskly, bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla
  • Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and set aside
  • Peel and slice bananas
  • Line the bottom and sides of a 2 to 2 1/2 quart dish with the wafers
  • Cover with half the pudding and bananas. Arrange a layer of wafers over the top, then cover with more pudding and the rest of the bananas.  Spoon pudding over any exposed bananas to prevent browning. 
  • Press plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 
  • Just before serving, top with whipped cream.
Make the custard and cover it with plastic
Layer bottom and sides of dish with Vanilla Wafers (I only layered bottom)
Alternate with pudding, bananas, more wafers, pudding, bananas
Cover with plastic and chill
I also made some individual ones in small glasses
Top with whipped cream

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quick Southwestern Frittata

Frittatas are basically baked omeletes.  There isn't a pastry crust like a quiche.  There is no bread or custard base like a strata.  A Frittata is a quick alternative to those other egg dishes, yet is equally impressive when served to your family or friends.  I made a Southwestern version this morning, but just like the breakfast strata, you can customize it with your favorite ingredients and make it your own.

This is a quick assembly meal, so make sure you have all ingredients ready to go.

Southwestern Frittata:

10 large eggs
1/4 cup half and half
1 can of Rotel, drained
*optional 1 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 strips of bacon, diced and cooked
3/4 cup cubed plus 1/2 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese plus 1/2 cup shredded
1 cup crushed baked tortilla chips
*optional cilantro
Salt and pepper

Whisk eggs, half and half, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl (add optional chipotles if using).  Stir in cubed cheese.
Heat oil in a large ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. 
Add zucchini and rotel and saute until zucchini is tender and most of the moisture has evaporated. (you want this as dry as possible)
Add chips, cooked bacon and egg mixture and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula until large curds form but eggs are still very wet.
Distribute eggs evenly and cook without stirring until bottom is set.
Sprinkle cheese on top.
Put under a broiler until surface is spotty brown (3 to 5 minutes)
Remove, let it stand for about 5 minutes, and then slide the frittata onto a cutting board and slice into wedges.

Cook vegetables until tender and moisture has evaporated
Add chips, bacon, and eggs
Cook while stirring until you see large curds, sprinkle with shredded cheese
Slice and serve

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Crispy Crabcakes

Crab is so flavorful and succulent that one would assume crabcakes would be so as well.  So I have always been disappointed by the crabcakes that I have tried at various restaurants as well as the ones I have ordered online.  Instead of tasting crab, the dominant flavor in all of the crabcakes I have tried is red pepper.  And the texture like stuffing with hardly a trace of the succulent crab that I was looking forward to. 
These are different.  These crabcakes taste like crab.  Every other ingredient is a pleasant backdrop, but the crab takes center stage.  I use just a little bit of fresh breadcrumbs to pull the ingredients together and dredge them with panko to give them a nice, light crispiness.  No stuffing here, folks.

Crispy Crabcakes:

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives (you can substitute with dill or parsley, or omit altogether)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 splashes Tobasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2  1/2 tablespoons mayonaise
2 large eggs
3/4 to 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Panko crumbs
1 pound good quality lump crab meat
salt and pepper
Butter and olive oil

  • Mix together the first 6 ingredients until well combined. 
  •  Add the crabmeat (gently so you dont break up the pieces too much) and fresh breadcrumbs.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Divide the mixture into 6-8 portions and flatten out into patties.  (I made 7 patties)
  • Pour a small mound of Panko crumbs onto a plate or cutting board and dredge each patty.  Set the patties aside.
  • Refrigerate the patties, uncovered for at least 1/2 an hour up to overnight (to dry them out a little).
  • Heat a little olive oil with a pat of butter in a heavy bottomed skillet (I used cast iron, but I have made these in a non-stick skillet and that worked fine too)
  • Add the patties in small batches and brown on both sides. 
  • Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice
I used my little mini blender to make fresh breadcrumbs.  You can use a regular blender or mini food processor, or you can even crumble it up by hand.
This is the brand of crabmeat I use.

The first 6 ingredients

Add the crab and breadcrumbs
Dredge in Panko
Set aside and chill



Squeeze a little lemon juice on these and eat them while they are still hot.

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