rosemary bread

When I first moved to Wisconsin I stayed in temporary corporate housing for the first month while I searched for an apartment.  The temporary housing was lovely and all but it had that kind of generic, sterile, hotel vibe to it.  Tan carpet, tan couch, beige walls, wooden fruit on the kitchen counter for decoration, sateen bedspread, that kind of thing.  The good news about the temporary housing was that it was within walking distance of a great produce market/speciality food store that immediately made me feel at home.

My first night in town I walked over and picked up the essentials: cheese, sausage, bottle of wine, fruit, and a loaf of bread.  And not just any bread but a fancy loaf of rosemary bread.  Best decision I made.  I ate it sliced with butter on it (delicious) and made grilled cheese with it (even better).  I had forgotten about that wonderful bread until I saw this recipe in a magazine I picked up a few months back.

This bread was very easy to make at home, though be aware that you have to do some serious kneading and allow plenty of time for the dough to rise so it cannot be made in a hurry.  But good things shouldn’t be rushed.  Also note that the original recipe called for 3 to 5 minced cloves of garlic so I split the difference and made mine with 4 and though I love garlic I found it too overpowering here.  If you’d like to add the garlic I recommend using no more than 3 cloves but certainly feel this bread would be great without it.

Rosemary Bread (from Homemade Bread magazine)

For the bread:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active-dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, snipped
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

For the tops of the loaves:

  • 1 egg white, beaten to a froth
  • 2 teaspoon fresh, whole rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

For the baking sheets:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal

In a large bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast, and let this rest until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the oil, sat, lemon juice, garlic and rosemary.  Stir in the flours; then knead for 10 minutes.

Oil a clean bowl, and then roll the dough around to oil the surface.  Let it rise until doubled, about one hour.

Once risen, knead the dough again for five minutes.  Let it rise for another 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two equal parts, and shape each into a small ball-shaped loaf.  Place each on an oiled baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal.

Brush the foamy egg white on the tops of the shaped loaves, and sprinkle with coarse salt and rosemary leaves, pressing lightly into the surface of the dough.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, make 3 ¼-inch-deep cuts in the top of each loaf.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust looks light brown and the loaves make a hollow sound when lightly thumped on the bottom.

Cool on wire rack.  Makes two 6-inch round or oval loaves.

awesome gluten free pumpkin muffins

Yesterday it was sunny and in the 70’s.  I sat in a backyard and enjoyed the sun whilst food grilled behind me.  There was frisbee tossing and cold drinks and small children running around in shorts.  What a difference a day made… today it was gray and in the 40’s.  I had to turn my heat on for the first time in over two weeks!  Boo.  But I also made you some weather-worthy pumpkin muffins that almost make the return to typical spring temps worthwhile.

A few months back, before Thanksgiving, I roasted some pumpkins from my parents garden and pureed them up.  I then conveniently froze the pumpkin puree in one-cup portions so that I could thaw them out whenever I felt like baking up a taste of fall.  (You can certainly use canned pumpkin here, I’m just bragging because my foresight was pretty awesome last November, though it was kind of a pain to puree up the pumpkin to be honest.  Do yourself a favor and buy it canned… unless of course you grow pumpkins in your garden and have a few spare hours next fall.)

These muffins are the perfect antidote to gray days like today.  A little spicey, sweet, and best served warm with butter.

Pumpkin Muffins (adapted slightly from Apple-Pumpkin Muffins recipe from “Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free” by Karen Morgan)

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoons guar gum
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • One 15-ounce can solid-pack unsweetened pumpkin (or 1 ½ cups pureed pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin cups with paper liners.  (Makes about 18 to 24 muffins.)

In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the sugars and spices, and stir with a whisk to blend.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until soft.  Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.  Using an ice-cream scoop, fill the prepared muffin cups three-fourths full with batter and bake for 25 minutes, or until cracked on top and browned on the edges.  A wooden skewer inserted into one of the muffins will come out clean.

milk & honey (and raisins too)

Last week I had a request for a bread recipe so this past weekend I leafed through a bread cookbook I was given for Christmas to make good on the request.  I was feeling for a slightly sweet bread so decided to make a loaf that involved milk, honey, and raisins.

The cookbook emphasizes whole grains and the vast majority of the recipes call for a mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour.  (There is an entire gluten-free section which I plan to experiment with over Lent as I have already decided to give up wheat this year.  Oh boy…)

The recipe is very simple, though not something you can whip up in a half hour because the dough has to rise several times throughout the process.  Which makes it a perfect weekend baking project!

The result is a dense loaf that is only mildly sweet which I quite enjoyed.  It is wonderful still warm with butter (as is all bread I’ve ever encountered) and coffee.  If you are a fan of light and airy bread then this is not the recipe for you as the whole wheat does make it a bit heavy (see use of the word “dense” above.)

And I discovered this morning that this loaf also makes a beautiful French toast.  Bake away!

Milk and Honey Raisin Bread (from “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)

Makes enough dough for at least two 2-pound loaves.  The recipe is easily doubled or halved.  (I recommend halving it unless you have VERY large mixing bowls.)

  • 4 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast, or 2 packets
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on the top
  • Raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten.

Combine the remaining ingredients and mix them with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle).  You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine.

Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 10 days.

On baking day, grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch bread pan.  Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Elongate the ball into an oval and place it in the loaf pan; your goal is to fill the pan about three-quarters full.  Allow the loaf to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 90 minutes (or 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack placed in the center of the oven.

Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash, and then sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until richly browned and firm.  Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.

Remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.

a tasty start to the new year

When I lived in New York I would sometimes motivate myself to workout by promising myself a trip to a bakery or takeout place on the way back from the gym.  It’s a lot easier to get up extra early before work or drag yourself after a ten-hour-workday if there is a reward waiting for you in the form of delicious food.  It works for me every time.

Sunday mornings I would often take a free class at the local Lululemon (Sidenote: those people are brilliant to offer free classes in their stores before business hours; people shopped with their eyes while doing warrior-one and downward-facing-dog.) which was within a few blocks of a then new place by the City Bakery people.

On my first visit to this bakery I was completely sold when I saw Maple Bacon Scones on their menu.  Um, yes please.

And I figured what better way to start the New Year then with a breakfast of champions where I would recreate said scones?

I started out by candy-ing some bacon.  Then I hunted all over town for pure maple extract.  That part wasn’t easy, but the hunt for the real stuff as opposed to the artificial stuff was well worth it.  I suggest you do the same as the imitation kind alters the flavor of the scones and doesn’t in fact taste much like maple at all.

Then I mixed together some flour, a lot of butter, some sugar, the usual baking suspects (baking powder, soda, and salt), an egg, a little cinnamon, buttermilk, and the star ingredient.  Once the dough was kneaded and formed into scone shapes I brushed them with the remaining buttermilk and dusted them with raw sugar and baked them.  Afterwards they got glazed with a little confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup.  Very tasty.  And better yet, no strenuous yoga was necessary to enjoy them this time!

Happy New Year!!!

Maple Bacon Scones (adapted slightly from Maple Walnut Scones recipe in “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple extract (do not use imitation extract as the flavor is not the same)
  • 1 cup candied bacon (or walnuts if candied bacon is not your thing)
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk until combined.

Add the butter.  Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the butter is pea-sized.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, ¾ cup of the buttermilk, and the maple extract.  Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then gently knead the dough with your hands until the dough starts to come together.  Add the candied bacon (or walnuts) to the dough and knead gently to incorporate.  Move the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Use your hands to shape the dough into two discs (about 1 ½ inches in height.)  Do not overwork the dough.

Cut each disk into 6 wedges with a knife.  Place the wedges onto the prepared baking sheet.  Brush each scone with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes (rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time) or until the scones are golden brown.

Transfer the scones to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the wire rack with the cooled scones over the baking sheet.

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup until the mixture is smooth.  Slowly pour the glaze over each scone in a zigzag pattern.

Allow the glaze to set (about 10 minutes) and serve immediately.

Scones can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

tips for a successful holiday party

‘Tis the season to invite friends, family, and coworkers into your home to celebrate the season.  I did just that this past Saturday and thought it might be helpful for those of you who will be doing the same in the coming weeks to learn from my mistakes via a few helpful tips…

1. You are not Martha Stewart and any attempts to recreate the beautiful and festive scenes that grace the pages of her magazine would be pure folly.  She has teams of people who make it look perfect.  You have a full-time job and limited time and resources.  Furthermore, no one is expecting you to be Martha Stewart so stop expecting it of yourself.

I did well to get the holiday table set early in the day before all of the food was done and long before guests arrived.  Granted, I wasn’t able to buy the adorable vintage Christmas tablecloth I had seen at an antique store before Thanksgiving because by the time I went back someone else with (clearly) impeccable taste had already snagged it.  (Note: when you see something you love in an antique/secondhand/thrift store, buy it right away.  Even if you think $30 is a little steep for an adorable vintage Christmas tablecloth with matching napkins, but are later reminded that even at Target or TJMaxx you will be charged $30 for a cheaply-constructed new tablecloth with an inferior design and then kick yourself for being a cheapskate in the first place.)  So I had to settle for my second favorite antique store tablecloth with giant gaudy poinsettias and pom pom fringe.  It worked.  I also planned to make cute little placecards for all of the food and beverages so guests would know what they were partaking in.  Ran out of time.  It happens to the best of us.

2. If people offer to bring food, let them.

I have a tendency to want to do everything myself.  Bad idea.  Let people bring something!  It’s great because it means less dishes for you to make and also might expose you and your guests to a wonderful type of food you’ve never had before.  Or it just might make your food seem even better in comparison. 🙂

3. Pick places to take shortcuts.  Rather than making all dishes from scratch why not buy a few ready-to-serve options like nice olives, a variety of cheeses for a simple cheese plate, and crackers?  Yes.  Totally do that.

I had visions of making six different appetizers and three desserts.  I realized that wasn’t so much going to happen when it was 1pm and guests were arriving in six hours and I had just gotten home with groceries.  So I wound up making the three desserts, made four of the appetizers, sent my trusty helper out to buy pre-made (gasp!) vegetable dip rather than the carmelized onion variety I had planned to make, and when three guests arrived exactly on time (who does that?) and offered to help I put them to work.  There’s no shame in it!  People like to help!

4.  Have great beverage options, preferably of the booze-variety.

Even my non-alcoholic beverage of the evening (spiced cider) got spiked by the end of the night.  It was a great time for all.

I am sharing the four appetizer recipes I made– bonus post today!  The irony is that three of the four recipes came from Martha Stewart publications… Maybe I was a little closer to channeling her for my party than I thought…

Rosemary Roasted Nuts (recipe found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 2 cups mixed nuts, such as cashews, walnuts, and pecans
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, roast nuts until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat butter, sugar, and rosemary over medium-high. Add nuts; stir until butter mixture is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Spread nuts on prepared baking sheet; season with salt. Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Herbed Flatbread (recipe found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (from one 1/4-ounce envelope)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and hands
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary or thyme (or a combination)

Place water in a medium bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, oil, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and the sugar. Stir until dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead with floured hands until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough stand in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces; cover with plastic wrap. Roll out 1 piece to roughly 4 by 10 inches on a lightly floured surface; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash; sprinkle with sea salt and herbs. Repeat with remaining dough, arranging 4 pieces per sheet.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until crisp and golden, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool on sheets on a wire rack.

Cook’s Note: Crackers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Baked Brie

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, cut into fourths and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • 1 round (15 oz) Brie cheese
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped pistachio nuts, slivered almonds, or walnuts
  • Crackers

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in 10 inch skillet over medium heat.  Cook onion in butter 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in cranberries, brown sugar, and vinegar.  Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened and caramelized.  Lightly brush ovenproof plate with oil.  Place cheese on center of plate.  Bake uncovered 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is soft and partially melted.  Spoon onion topping over cheese.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Serve with crackers.

Pancetta Wrapped Figs (recipe found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, stemmed
  • 12 ounces pancetta, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and cut into      1/2-inch-thick strips

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, and cloves to a boil in a small saucepan. Add figs, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, to bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer figs to a cutting board using a slotted spoon; cut in half. Wrap a pancetta strip around each half. Transfer, seam side down, to a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Bake until pancetta is browned, about 30 minutes. Secure each with a toothpick. Serve warm.