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Rye Bread (redeemed)

March 15, 2012

Last year in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, I corned my first beef brisket.  It was a smashing success, but the loaf of rye I made to sandwich the leftovers failed miserably.  It took an entire year to return to this challenge, but when Caroline at Grow It , Cook It, Can It suggested baking bread for Cook It, 2012, I knew this was the loaf for me.  So this year, with the beef corning in the fridge, I tried a new recipe for rye bread that turned out just as I hoped.

After scouring my many cookbooks, I settled on this recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. This bread is moist and chewy with a pronounced flavor of rye and caraway.   It includes two types of flour in perfect proportion to achieve the signature flavor of the rye and all purpose flour to supply the required gluten and keep it light. My family loved these loaves so much that they were devoured before I had a chance to stick one in the freezer for this upcoming weekend.  This weekend, when I bake another batch, I will roll the dough into shorter loaves to make larger slices more appropriate for sandwiches.  I also plan to toss in a cup of minced onion to flavor the bread.

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My search for the perfect banana bread ended years ago.  There are plenty of recipes out there, but none that fit my tall list of criteria.  So many have a dead bland banana flavor, others are too dry, or full of overpowering seasoning.  This recipe, which is my standby banana bread, is to my taste, the best. It has just the right amount of sweetness (not a lot), a crispy , crunchy, buttery crust, a moist bananay interior, and a delightful tang from the baking soda.   Chunks of dark chocolate melt into the bread making it just a little more special.

This is why, though I attempted to give another recipe a try last weekend, I simply could not find another one worth baking.  Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread, developed from years of tinkering, is the one for me.   We ate this bread for dessert after a disappointing football game, the rest served as a happy surprise in my son’s school lunch.

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Last weekend I was fortunate enough to gather for a potluck with a fantastic group of fellow food lovers.  We are all part of Food52, a fabulous online community of inspired home cooks and knew each virtually through viewing, cooking, and commenting on each other’s recipes.  The gathering celebrated  the publication of the first Food52 cookbook, in which many of the party-goers had their own amazing recipes published.  The cookbook is beautiful and I can not wait to cook my way through it!

Not surprisingly, we all had a lot in common, most notably our love of good food.  The table was brimming with amazing dishes, most of them made from recipes found on Food52. It was difficult to decide what to bring, but I opted for fresh baked bread.

Forbidden Rice and Green Onion Hearth Bread is based on a recipe from Montana Culinary Students on Food52.  The contrast in texture and color that the black rice brings the bread drew me in.  Wild rice works as well, but Forbidden Rice sounds irresistibly tempting!  The onion adds a deep savory quality and works beautifully with the aromatic rosemary.  A hint of lemon zest adds a pleasant brightness to this hearty loaf. This bread will definitely become a regular in my baking rotation.  I imagine that it would make great croutons as well, if you are able to resist the bread while fresh.  This bread would also be a tremendous addition to the Thanksgiving table!

Check out what some of the fabulous cooks I met are doing on their own sites!  TasteFood, Still Simmering, The Year in Food, The Wimpy Vegetarian, The Beet Goes On, My Kitchen Solo.

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Easter and the its accompanying sugar rush have past.  Now I am left with the daunting question of what to do with three dozen hard-boiled eggs!?!  Luckily, with the exception of my son, we all love eggs.  My daughter was peeling them and eating them as she hunted, but of course that only took care of 2 or 3.

One of my favorite ways to prepare hard-boiled eggs is to make an egg salad.  I happen to love egg salad, but admit that it can be somewhat bland at times.   Sunflower Millet Bread is ideal for egg sandwiches, because it has so much flavor and crunchy texture.  The millet toasts and pops in your mouth.  It has a nutty flavor, as do the sunflower seeds.  Topping the sandwich with pickled red onion adds a bright color contrast, as well as a tangy counterpoint to the egg.

I first fell in love with Sunflower Millet Bread when working at a natural food store in high school.  This recipe is from The Greens Cookbook.  Though it is almost completely based on whole wheat flour, it has a very open, light texture.  The bread slices and toasts very well.  I used the first loaf for egg sandwiches, then sliced and froze the second for breakfast toast in the coming weeks.

The Red Pickled Onions are also from The Greens Cookbook.  They are very easy to make and take only a day to sit and cure.  They are great with this sandwich, but also with sausages or any meal that you want to add a zippy condiment.

Find this and other delicious breads at Yeast Spotting.

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Whoever invented the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a genius.  What other meal takes only minutes to prepare, but is incredibly nutritious, and with any luck will inspire cheers from the happy and hungry youngsters (or more mature eaters) ready to devour their sandwich?   This sandwich has saved the day millions of times for mothers and fathers around the world, myself included.

As with any meal, the quality of the product is dependent on the quality of the ingredients with which you start.   In our house, PB & J stands for peanut butter and jam since the pantry is generally loaded with various homemade jams and very little jelly.  Our favorite is berry jam, either blackberry (as pictured above), ollalie berry, or raspberry.  The next layer is organic, natural peanut butter (surprisingly enough Costco makes a great one), and of course the bread.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread is my go-to slicing bread.  In the summer when my kids and I hide from the world (and the grocery stores) in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this is the bread that feeds us between the weekly trips to town for provisions.  It is very easy to put together and turns out beautifully every time. The bread is slightly sweet from the maple syrup which makes it perfect for peanut butter and jam sandwiches or even grilled cheese.  The bread also toasts beautifully, so in the off-chance you have leftovers the next morning, it will taste great toasted and slathered in butter and jam or honey.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

makes 1 loaf (enough for 6 sandwiches)

adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon  salt

Mix warm water with yeast.  Allow to sit 5 minutes while the yeast dissolves.  Pour yeast mixture into a mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients except for 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.  Mix until dough ball forms, then knead on a lightly floured board until dough in stretchy and supple.  Add some of the reserved flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft, but not sticky.

Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with a plate or plastic wrap.  Let rise 1 1/2 hours in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured board.  Press into a  8-inch square.  Roll the square into a log.  Place log seam side down in a buttered 8 x 5 x 3 inch bread pan.  Let rise 45 minutes until 1 1/2 inches higher than pan. (see picture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 30-40 minutes until center registers 180 degrees.  Cool 15 minutes, turn out on rack.  Bread will slice most easily if you allow it to cool completely.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe:

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

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Fresh Herb Chevre

February 15, 2011

Last weekend, I took my first cooking class! It was a  soft cheese making class taught by Mary Karlin, an expert in artisan cheese.  It was such fun to spend a day with other hungry folks trying to expand our culinary repertoire.  One of the cheeses we made was chevre.  It is incredibly easy to make by simply adding culture to warm goat’s milk and allowing the mixture to sit overnight so the curd can form.  I’ll admit my product wasn’t exactly as I dreamed, it was a bit too dry and crumbly instead of creamy.  Still, it was delicious.

I love the tangy creaminess of chevre.  I often serve it as an appetizer with caramelized onion relish or pepper jelly.  Another favorite preparation is simply rolling the log in fresh herbs, lemon zest, and ground pepper.  It is the perfect last minute appetizer because it is quick, inexpensive, and delicious.  It looks like something really special, even though it is incredibly easy to create.

Using fresh herbs for this recipe is crucial.  Fortunately, I live in a climate where my garden provides fresh herbs year round.  The following recipe is more of an idea and guideline than a recipe to strictly follow.  The precise mixture of the herbs is not crucial, but I like half of the herb volume to be parsley and the other half to be more intense herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, and the lemon zest.

The Fresh Herb Chevre is delicious with grilled or toasted bread.  I slice the bread, brush or spray it with olive oil, and then grill or broil until toasted.  Guests serve themselves slices of the herb cheese on the toasted bread.

Fresh Herb Chevre

makes one herby loaf of goat cheese

1 8-ounce log of chevre

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mince herbs and zest.  Mix thoroughly with black pepper.  Roll chevre in herb mixture.  Serve with toasted bread.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Fresh Herb Chevre

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Weeknight No-Knead Bread

January 28, 2011

OK, so I finally tried it.  I know I’m a little behind the times and most of you have already made or at least eaten the reputable “No-Knead Bread”, but for me this was a first.   Back in 2006, when New York Times published a variation of this recipe it created quite a fervor.  Multiple friends shared their success with the bread, but I was home with a baby who was not yet mobile.  I had nothing to do but bake bread, the other, more time-consuming way, by kneading it.  Truly, I paid little heed to the recipe.  Then later, when Cooks Illustrated published another version, I ignored it again.  At that time we were blessed with bakery seconds delivered to our door each week from an amazing local bakery.  Now that I am back to work, the kids are beyond mobile, and the free bread has long since stopped gracing our table, it was time to dig out this AMAZING recipe and give it a try.

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