Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bread: the best way to spend a lazy day

Oh man I love bread.

Do you think Martha has a version of this bread that is carb-free? Because I have a major addiction.

Honey white bread:

-1/2 c warm water (Lukewarm! I actually killed my yeast when making rolls on Thanksgiving because it was too hot and had to serve hockey puck rolls to my family)
-2 pkgs dry yeast
-1 tsp sugar
-1 1/2 c milk
-6 tbsp butter
-2 tbsp honey
-2 egg yolks, beaten
-About 6 c flour
-1 tbsp salt

Trust me: bread is not as scary as you think it is. But you do have to pay attention to it, or you will end up with hockey pucks. Also, I need to come clean about something: I have no idea how to make bread by hand. I rely on my stand mixer w/ the dough hook.

Turn your oven to "warm" or whatever the lowest setting is. Warm up your mixing bowl for a few minutes before adding the yeast, water and sugar. Yeast loves being warm...just remember not to kill it with too much heat. Stir and leave it alone for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, warm up the milk and butter until the butter has melted and the liquid is about 110 degrees. Fit your yeast bowl into the stand mixer w/ the dough hook. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the milk mixture and honey to the bowl.

With your mixer on low, add the egg yolks, 3 cups of flour and the salt for 5 minutes, then add 2 more cups of flour.

Put the mixer on medium and knead for 8 minutes, adding bits of flour every few minutes so the dough doesn't stick to the bowl. Don't go over 6 cups!

Dump out the dough onto a floured surface, and knead by hand for about a minute. Wash and grease the mixer bowl while the dough rests. Add the dough to the bowl, turn it over a few times so the top gets some of the grease. Turn off the oven (so it stays warm but doesn't get too hot) and cover the bowl with a damp towel. Put the bowl into your oven for about an hour, until the dough doubles in size.

Once your dough has risen, punch it down once and divide in half. Grease two 9x5" loaf pans, shape the dough to fit, add to the pans. Cover with a damp towel and it's back into the oven to rise for another hour.

Remove the loaf pans, preheat the oven to 350. Brush the tops with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a few tablespoons of milk or water), bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Let them cool on a rack, not in the loaf pan.

Yummy variation: Cinnamon swirl bread

Follow the recipe above until you get to the part where you punch down the dough.

Instead, divide it in half and gently roll each half into a small rectangle. Mix together about 3/4 cup of sugar with 4 or 5 tablespoons of cinnamon. Spread soft butter into the center of each rectangle, not quite going to the edges. Sprinkle a healthy dose of the cinnamon sugar onto the butter, then roll your rectangle into a loaf shape. Let rise for an hour and bake according to the instructions above. YUM!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Apple, Pear and Cranberry pie



-1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
-1/3 c shortening
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp salt
-3 c flour
-1/2 c ice water

This is a very easy pie crust, I promise! It's meant to be made in a food processor, but if your bowl isn't large enough you can just divide the ingredients in half.

Dice the butter and shortening and put it in the freezer for several minutes. While it's chilling, add the dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse a few times to mix it all up. Then, add the cold butter/shortening and pulse several times until you see pea-sized chunks all mixed up. Turn the processor on and slowly pour in the water until the dough begins to form a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface (or cheat and use a Silpat, which is so handy), form a ball, divide in half, form that into two discs and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refridgerate for at least 30 minutes to let the dough rest and to keep the butter from melting.


-3 large granny smith apples
-2 large anjou pears
-1/2 c craisins
-1/2 c sugar
-1/4 c flour
-Juice of 1 lemon
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp nutmeg
-1 tsp allspice

Soak the craisins in hot water for a few minutes, until they plump up. Drain off the water. Peel and slice the pears and apples, toss with the lemon juice in a bowl and let it sit for at least ten minutes (that lets the fruit drain off some of the liquid and your pie won't do that weird dome crust thing).

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and spices. Add all of the fruit and the liquid, stir everything together.

Okay now I'm not going to get into the whole pie assembly bit because I doubt I could explain it well, so just assemble your pie as you see fit (remember to vent the top!). Personally, I can't crimp to save my life so I use those cute little leaf cut-outs to decorate the edges.

Whisk together one egg and two tablespoons of milk. Brush the egg wash over the pie and sprinkle the top with sugar (to make it nice and shiny!).

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, until everything is nice and golden brown. Cool completely before diving in!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Let's talk pie

I need some good pie ideas, please! I have a fairly decent apple, but beyond that I just make stuff up.

Send me pie ideas!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Like going home...

My mom's friend Therese is in town, and we spent the afternoon in my mom's kitchen, making amazing Italian food. It reminded me of hanging out in the kitchens of all of my Italian friends' mothers. We made red sauce with pork, turkey meatballs, and handmade gnocchi with ricotta cheese instead of potato (makes them less mushy). I'm not going to share any recipes on this blog, since they belong to Therese and her family, but I may ask her permission to share the gnocchi recipe at some point, because it was freaking incredible.

The best part? We made so much food that I don't have to cook dinner tonight!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Turkey: not just for Thanksgiving!

I totally baked a turkey on Friday for no reason other than they were on sale at Walmart (so un-Martha and yet she sells like EVERYTHING there).

It was awesome and didn't take too long because it was a small turkey (8 pounds) and I brined - total cook time was about 2 1/2 hours.

BTW: Brining is fantastic, it keeps the turkey moist and cuts down on cooking time. However, the pan drippings can end up being salty and not great for gravy.

Turkey brine:

-1/2 c sea salt
-2 tbsp cracked pepper
-2 tbsp rosemary (dried is fine for all of the herbs in this recipe)
-2 tbsp sage
-2 tbsp thyme
-2 gallons of water

Over medium heat, combine the salt and one gallon of water until the salt it totally dissolved. Pour the warm water into a very large stockpot and add the herbs and one gallon of very cold water.

Rinse your turkey off completely and add to the brine mix - make sure that it's totally submerged. Brine for at least 4 hours in the refridgerator.


-1 large lemon, quartered
-1 or 2 sweet onions, quartered
-5 or 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
-1 stick butter, softened
-2 to 4 tablespoons of herbs de provence

Remove the turkey from the brine mix, rinse very well and pat dry. Stuff with the lemon, garlic and onion.

Mash the butter and herbs together, and generously coat the entire turkey. Try to get it under the skin, which can be tricky but is totally worth it. Truss and put in a roasting pan, then follow whatever turkey roasting rules you go by. I ignore the breast-down method and go straight for a pre-heated oven at 325. Figure out the amount of time needed for the size of your bird, then cut out half an hour (to start) because the brine should cut back on the amount of time it will take. Then, just test for doneness with a meat thermometer until you get the correct temperatures. The breast should be 165 and the leg/thigh 185. Let it rest under tinfoil for several minutes before carving.

Martha Moment: Save the carcass AND the onions/garlic and use it to make stock for turkey soup! We'll be eating turkey for at least another 3 days in my house.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pot roast with red wine, thyme and honey

This was my first ever pot roast, and it wasn't too shabby! The recipe came from the Food Network. I didn't follow it exactly, since I wasn't making a meal for a bunch of people I just cut back on the amount of meat and veggies I used.

-1 bottom round roast (I think mine was a rump roast)
-Salt and pepper
-5 tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil because I didn't read the recipe closely)
-3 small onions, diced (I used 1 large sweet onion but my dice was too small and it got mushy, I would recommend a larger dice)
-10 to 12 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (I used maybe 6 and I really smashed those suckers)
-4-5 carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
-2 c chicken stock
-2 c red wine (MM: Never use anything you wouldn't drink!)
-2 1/2 tbsp honey
-5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
-2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch cubes (I used 4 very large red potatoes and diced them into 1-inch cubes because I was sort of pressed for time and didn't want to eat at 9pm)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season roast with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the meat and brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove and set aside.

Lower heat to medium and saute onions, garlic, and carrots for 5 minutes. Add the broth, wine, honey, and thyme, stir to combine, and then add the roast back to the pot.

Cover pot and transfer to oven. Bake for 2 hours, turning the meat over twice. Add the potatoes to the pot and bake, uncovered, for another 30 to 45 minutes longer until both the potatoes and the meat are fork-tender.

Okay I ignored this last step - I didn't start cooking until 5pm and we were sort of hungry so I cooked for an hour, turned, cooked for 30 minutes, turned, added potatoes, cooked with the lid on for another 30 minutes, done. It came out just fine, but next time I'll be more prepared and follow the rules.