Friday, November 27, 2009

BBA Challenge #6 Challah Bread

This was the easiest bread in the BBA Challenge for me so far.  It went together quickly and didn't require much actual preparation time.  It can be totally completed in one day.  This bread is a little plain in flavor, but good for a simple bread and looks really pretty on the table.  I had a little trouble with the written braiding instructions that said to lay strand 3 over strand 2 and then strand 1 over strand 2???  I check Mr. Reinhart's new book, artisan breads every day, and the braiding instructions there cleared up my confusion--strand 3 becomes strand 2 after it crosses over strand 2, so strand 1 is crossed over the new strand 2.  That would have been no problem if I had simply braided the way I know how.  I was just trying to follow the written instruction and found it a little confusing in the way it was worded.  If you simply braid the strips, it's easy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Magazine Mondays - Mushroom & Fontina Quesadillas

What do you do when you have a piece of Fontina cheese and some white and baby bella mushrooms in your fridge? You find your Spring 2008 issue of Fine Cooking magazine and see there's an easy dish to make for Magazine Mondays!  It's Mushroom and Fontina Quesadillas.  The directions are simple, the ingredients are in the fridge and there's fresh thyme in the herb garden. This won't take long!

 But wait!  There on page 101 is a recipe for making your own flour tortillas!  And, if there's a harder way to do something, I'll usually go for it.  Yep, I'm finding myself making my own flour tortillas.  Everything's going great during the mixing and resting.
After making some of Peter Reinhart's breads, this is a cinch.

 Until I get to the part where you have to roll out circles or amoebas.  Mine turned out to be amoebas.  I found that this dough was easy to stretch and roll after it had rested the required amount of time, but when I tried to make a circle by rekneading one of my distorted tortillas and rerolling it, it had become elastic again and was hard to roll back out.  I let the rest of them remain amoebas.  The other problem I had was I don't own an iron griddle or large iron pan so I had to fit my tortillas into  a somewhat smaller pan and my edges tended to bunch up some.  It worked well, otherwise, and they were good.

I chopped the mushrooms (I used some of each white and baby bella) and sauteed them in a pan with the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.  This combination was delicious!  The aroma and flavor of mushrooms with thyme is one of my absolute favorites.

I added some of the Fontina on half of each of the tortillas and topped it with mushroom mixture--then folded them over.  They went into a pan, covered for a few minutes to heat up again, then
 I uncovered them and cooked them a little longer on the other side and served them with salad and a cool Ranch dressing.  This dish was really good.  The only change I would make next time is to use a little less salt.  The Fontina is salty so the 1/2 tsp. kosher salt was almost a little too much.  I'm going to try this again very soon, but with bought tortillas to see if I like it as well.  I think these tortillas would be worth making again if they make a noticeable difference, but I wouldn't try to do it in a smaller pan like mine again.  Below is the recipe with my slight changes.

Mushroom and Fontina Quesadillas
 1 Tblsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. coarsely chopped mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 Tblsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
2 Tblsp. softened unsalted butter (if using bought tortillas)
4 9-10 inch flour tortillas (I used 5 homemade ones)
1/2 lb. Fontina, coarsely grated

Saute mushrooms in oil 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, salt and about 1/4 tsp. pepper.  (Taste and add just a bit more salt, if needed).  If using bought tortillas brush surface very lightly with butter (the homemade ones seemed less dry and probably wouldn't need the butter).  Turn them over and cover half of each with the cheese up to 1 inch of edge.  Add mushroom mixture over the cheese.  Fold each in half to enclose the filling.  Put the quesadillas back into the wiped-out skillet (2 will fit at a time) and cover and heat about 4 minutes.  Uncover and turn over to heat 2 more minutes.  Keep warm in a low oven until all are heated.

If you want to try making the tortillas yourself, here's a link to the recipe at fine cooking. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Magazine Mondays - Creamy Mushroom and Almond Pasta

Magazine Mondays involves digging into your stacks of magazines for recipes you've been planning to try forever (and, when you finally do, you'll keep the good recipes and get rid of the magazines).  You make the recipe and share with readers. This was the idea of creampuffs in venice Check it out.  I've decided to join this effort with something I found in an old issue of donna hay magazine, Issue 38.  I've changed the proportions and instructions a little. 

Creamy Mushroom and Almond Pasta

8 oz. wide egg noodles
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
30 fresh medium sage leaves
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup light cream
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
About 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions (about 8 minutes).
Saute mushrooms in olive oil until lightly browned.  Add the sage leaves, almonds and garlic and cook about 2 minutes. Add sherry, stock, cream, salt and pepper.  Cook 3-4 minutes until slightly thickened.

Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan.  Mix together, cover with shredded Parmesan and serve. 

This dish was sooo creamy and flavorful that even my hamburger-loving husband really liked it.  I think next time I might add even a bit more sage--my leaves were a little small--and it wouldn't hurt to add a little more mushroom.  This is now one of my favorite pasta dishes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BBA Challenge Bread #5 Casatiello

I made this bread from Peter Reinhart's book using his recommended ingredients of pepperoni and provolone cheese.  I bought sharp provolone for the extra flavor.  I also used buttermilk because Reinhart mentioned that was his preference for the extra tang it gives.  I cut the pepperoni in small cubes and shredded the cheese using the larger holes on my grater.  The pile of pepperoni looked like too much for the fairly small amount of dough I had.  I almost decided to cut the amount in half, but I decided to trust the recipe.  The dough was a pleasure to work with--I had no problems with it.  I wanted to use an 8-inch cake pan, which the recipe gave as one of the choices.  The way I read it, it sounded like I would use only one pan.  When I put the dough in, it looked like it filled the pan even before I proofed it a final time. 

I considered making it in 2 small loaf pans, but I left it in the cake pan.  It puffed up like a mushroom cloud!

We laughed and laughed at it and worried just a little that it might overflow the little pan.  It didn't.  It came out perfectly!

The outside was brown and chewy and the inside was so soft--it pulled apart in rich, tender strands with the tang of buttermilk and cheese and the bites of flavor from pepperoni.  Next time I would add about 1/2 again the amount of pepperoni.  It seemed to have migrated to the crust and was sparse inside the bread.

Notice the big holes where cheese melted.  I love this bread and will definitely make it again with meat and cheese and, another time, with fruits and nuts.  I'm wondering if it would make a good chocolate bread with dried sour cherries. 

Monday, November 9, 2009


These were the main cookies Mama made at home.  She didn't use a recipe.  All I remember is that she used flour, butter, egg, sugar, and, probably, some vanilla.  She made her own currant jelly and always used that as the filling.  After looking at numerous recipes that just don't match what she used, I've put together what I think is closest.  This could be made with other jellies and could be sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, but I wanted the taste of home.


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup currant jelly or other jelly or jam

In mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light.  Beat in egg, vanilla and salt.  Gradually add flour.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill about an hour in the refrigerator.  Roll out 1/2 at a time to about 1/8 inch thick.

Use about a 2-1/2 inch cookie cutter to cut the dough into rounds.  Use a very small cutter and cut the center out of half of the cookies. (I have a doughnut cutter that has a removable center that I use.) The scraps can be rerolled and cut out.  Place the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 deg. for 6 to 8 minutes until they just begin to brown lightly at the edges.  Let them cool a couple minutes on the sheets and remove to racks.  Use about 1/2 tsp. warmed jelly or jam on each solid round and place a cookie with the hole on top to make little cookie sandwiches.  Let the cookies cool until the jelly sets.

How about that new apron the cookies are sitting on??  I picked that up at IKEA this weekend.

Eggs in Purgatory

Sometimes I get a tiny bit of inspiration.  This morning there were two.  I thought of a perfect little breakfast for what I'm attempting to get back to--healthy, delicious eating--emphasis on both!  (I teach and, sometimes, that consumes so many hours and so much mind, that I fall behind on everything else.)  This morning I remembered Eggs in Purgatory.  I had attended Tyler Florence's Wine and Food Pairing in DC this weekend .  At each of our place settings was a gift of La Famiglia DelGrosso Fireworks Sauce.

 I was preparing to make some Christmas cookies and realized I have to let butter  get to room temp first.  Ok--time for breakfast while I wait.  I hit upon using some of this sauce to make Eggs in Purgatory.  I simply simmered a little sauce, slipped in an egg, added s & p, chopped some fresh parsley on top, added a slice of whole wheat toast and a cup of very hot tea and, Voila--the perfect breakfast!  There was the egg for protein, the lycopenes in the tomatoes, the vitamins in the parsley, the whole grains in the bread and the zing from the "fireworks" in the sauce!  It was soo good and healthy and not bad in calories.  The sauce allowed me to cook the egg without any fat.

 Then came the next inspiration.  When we were in our favorite vacation spot, Ocracoke Island, NC, I bought a little pottery bowl.  It turns out it's a perfect break-an-egg-into-before-slipping-it-into-something-else bowl.  It has a little handle on the one side and a little pouring spout.  Even better, my garbage can is just to the right of the counter, so I can break my egg into the bowl and drop the shell right into the trash without moving from the spot.  Then I slip the egg into a pan on the stove which is also right there on the left  or into a mixer bowl, etc.  In this picture there is another bowl I bought in Ocracoke, that holds a little flour for when I just need a little in my cooking.  The little Polish spoon was a gift.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BBA Challenge Bread #4 Brioche

Should we make the Rich Man's Brioche??  The Middle-Class Brioche?? Tiny molds?  Larger molds--which we didn't have?  Or should we just use loaf pans, which we both had?  There were some decisions to make with this BBA Challenge.  We decided that Karen would make the Rich Man's Brioche and I would make the Middle-Class and we would compare the two.  I already had one pan that I thought would work for a larger brioche and we ordered more pans.  Mine were 7-inch and hers were 8-inch.  Both sizes seemed to work just fine.  This recipe kept me on  my toes as I kept switching between the quantities for the middle-class version and the general directions on the previous page.  I almost panicked when I noticed I had forgotten the little note on bottom of page 127, "proceed as for Rich Man's Brioche, extending the fermentation for the sponge to 30 to 45 minutes."  I also missed the little note about allowing the dough to rest 5 minutes before adding the butter.  It still all worked out just fine.  The bread rose (Peter Reinhart would be happy) and the outcome was delicious.    Karen's bread seemed impossibly buttery to her when she was working with it but it did what it should do.  She said it made really delicious french toast. 
Today we compared them.  They were quite different from each other.  The Rich Man's Brioche was very rich and buttery and had the most interesting texture.  The Middle-Class Brioche seemed perfect for just bread or little individual rolls.  Karen brought in some fig jam and I had some of my applebutter--both were so good on our brioche.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

WV Apples, Apple Butter and Apple Dumplings

Fall is apple time in our area of WV.  We go to a local Orr's farmer's market and select from huge bins of freshly-picked apples of all kinds.  I asked the lady inside for pie recommendations.  She said she likes a mixture of Golden Delicious, Mountaineer and Stayman.  They were just out of Stayman, so I substituted Romes.  I love Orr's.  They grow peaches, cherries, berries, farm produce, flowers and--in the fall--all kinds of gourds and pumpkins.  It's a pretty place in autumn.  I bought some apples, some cider and mulled cider spices.  I love hot spiced cider on a cool fall evening. 

While riding to town the evening before Halloween, we passed another little farm stand along the road.  This is also one of our favorite stops for tomatoes and other veggies.  This particular evening it was growing dark and we saw a big fire with a pot over it and people standing around, stirring.  "Is it applebutter??" I wondered.  "Are they making applebutter?"  My husband thought it might be a Halloween event.  We passed by again the next day on our way back from helping our son move and we stopped.  Sure enough, they were selling freshly-made applebutter.  I immediately picked up a couple pints.  The lady gave me a taste.  I switched one of the pints for a quart and now plan to go back and buy more.  The applebutter tasted so fresh and spicy without the cloying syrupiness of some I've had.  It was sooo good on toast with a couple slices of my husband's good bacon and a fresh cup of coffee this morning. 

And I finally made some apple dumplings again.  I used a recipe from an old Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook.  The dough was pie pastry.  The apples inside were peeled and cored.  According to the recipe, I made a paste of butter, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and brown sugar and spread it over the outside of each apple before wrapping it with a 6-inch square of pie dough.  The dumplings were baked for 30 minutes at 375 deg. Then I made a simple syrup of 1-1/4 cup sugar and the same amount of water with 3 Tblsp. of pineapple juice, brought to a boil.  I poured that over and around the dumplings and baked for 20 more minutes until they were browned.  The recipe says to baste the dumplings a couple times while baking.  I thought they were very good, hot with vanilla ice cream, except the syrup made them a little sweet for my taste.  Next time I would add less of it.  I wouldn't use real sweet apples for this.