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Archive for March, 2010

Italian bread

I found this recipe on BEB. I needed an easy bread of bread to bring to a dinner, since last week’s baguette took me all day! She linked to a blog called Dawn’s recipes, who linked this bread to Emeril’s Basic Italian Bread recipe on the FN! She made a few changes though. I followed BEB’s recipe exactly.

Since this recipe was supposed to make an enormous loaf, I split it into two loaves. I shaped the loaves using a method I found on this website.

http://www.kneadtobeloaved.com/2009/01/21/homemade-rustic-italian-bread

Mine didn’t turn out that pretty tough…oh well! I thought I slashed the loaves too deeply, but the bread puffed up in the oven and ended up having a nice oval shape. Next time, I shouldn’t use a steak knife, because the ridges made the bread have some little bumps on top. My two loaves cooked for a little less than 30 minutes, and they were almost at 200 degrees when I pulled it out of the oven. They were nicely browned, except for the bottom sides.

It tasted really good, and I really noticed a difference between this bread and my baguette. I can’t describe it exactly though. But it was sweeter and very fluffy. Not dry and rustic, but light and soft and perfect for serving with something with a lot of sauce.

Italian Bread
(Adapted from Dawn’s Recipes)

Makes 1 large ginormous loaf

Ingredients:
2 cups lukewarm water (~100°F)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 5¾ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (Didn’t have, or want)

Directions:
Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.

Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.

Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.

Preheat the oven lined with a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles to 425°F.

Place the dough on a baker’s peel heavily dusted with flour, or alternately on an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Brush the dough with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the dough lengthwise about 1/4-inch deep, keeping the blade at a 45 degree angle.

Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).

Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.

Ratatouille in the the crock pot

There were a lot of differences between this ratatouille and Tyler’s ultimate one, but I can’t decide which one I like better. Tyler’s is in the skillet, and you saute each veggie seperately. It’s supposed to help develop the individual flavors of each vegetable. I don’t think I remember a difference. So, the slow cooker recipe wins in the category of ease of preparation. However, the veggies don’t really get browned in the crockpot. But, I don’t really notice a huge difference.

The slow cooker recipe has a few different ingredients: green bell pepper, a large tomato and tomato paste, dried basil, oregano, and sugar. Tyler’s recipe has anchovy paste, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh thyme, and balsamic vinegar.

I could have left out the green bell pepper, it’s not really my favorite. I preferred using a large tomato and the tomato paste (although I didn’t use the full amount). I wish I had remembered to squirt some anchovy paste in there, but since you don’t stir the ratatouille at all while cooking, I’m kind of glad I didn’t.  I love fresh herbs, but they aren’t practical for the slow cooker. I wish I had something fresh to put on top when serving though. I did sprinkle mine with some pecorino romano. I stirred some balsamic vinegar into half of my portion, and I really liked it. I ate it slightly warm tonight, tomorrow I’ll try it at room temp.

I wonder what the point of layering the vegetables is; I’ll have to look it up. Because you never stir, the veggies on the bottom layer almost disintegrated into the sauce and the ones of top were more intact. I cooked for 8 hours.

Ratatouille in the Crock Pot (RZ)

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Layer half the vegetables in a large crock pot in the following order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes.
  2. Next sprinkle half the basil, oregano, sugar, parsley, salt and pepper on the veggies.
  3. Dot with half of the tomato paste.
  4. Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.
  7. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  8. Refrigerate to store.
  9. May freeze up to 6 weeks.

Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

I saw this recipe on BEB a LONG time ago, and put it on my list. Just recently, I started seeing it on other blogs too! I took that as a sign and made this babies yesterday. I only wanted to use unsweetened cocoa powder in the brownie, because I didn’t want to go buy chocolate. I looked up a lot of brownie recipes, and couldn’t decide between AR’s Best Brownies and KA’s Guaranteed Fudge Brownies. I actually made a chart to compare the two, haha. I almost went with the KA recipe, which called for additional steps to create a shiny top crust. At the last minute, I decided to skip that since I would be topping the brownies with marshmallows and a chocolate peanut butter layer. I made a hybrid of the two recipes. I started with the Best Brownies recipe, and added more cocoa powder because the King Arthur recipe used a lot more cocoa powder.

I put in 1/2 cup Special Dark cocoa powder (a mix of regular and dutch), took out 2 tbsp and replaced it with 2 tbsp regular.

After putting the brownies in the oven, I got really nervous. I wasn’t sure what the extra cocoa powder would do to the recipe. I debated my use of mostly Special Dark cocoa powder. And earlier, I ALMOST forgot to add the sugar. I remembered at the last minute right before I added the flour/cocoa powder mixture. I thought that since the sugar didn’t really get a chance to dissolve in the heat (the egg/butter mix had almost cooled), the texture of the brownies would be effected badly.

Luckily, the brownies didn’t seem to suffer. I baked at 325 (because of my dark pans), and after 24 minutes I checked on them. The edges were already pulling away, and my toothpick came out clean. I was expecting moist crumbs because I was looking at the King Arthur page at the time, but my brownies were fudgier and less cake-y than the KA brownies. Their recipe had more flour and more cocoa powder.

I thought the brownies might be overcooked, especially because I had to put them back in to melt the marshmallows. I was expecting the marshmallows to completely melt, but they hold their shape. When I touched them after three minutes, they were soft and gooey, so I took them out.

The topping was really easy and good, but I wish I’d used a little more rice krispies. Maybe a cup instead of 3/4 of a cup. Some bites had more of a crisp than others. I loved the way the milk chocolate/peanut butter/rice krispie topping contrasted with the dark chocolate, chewy brownie.

I really liked the brownie layer, but it’s hard to decide if it’s my ideal brownie. The chocolate taste is perfect, and I like the texture. They were firm enough to hold up to the toppings, and they were nice and chewy. Not cakey at all. I kind of wish I had stuck to the AR recipe completely, just so it would be easier to compare to other recipes in the future. Also, now I can’t give a real opinion of the AR recipe because mine had more cocoa and therefore a different texture. But I’m glad I used the dark cocoa.

They probably need to be kept chilled because the chocolate topping gets a little soft and messy after a while. My little issue with this is that I want to compare these to other brownies, and it’s hard because I want to try the brownie at room temp. I might tear off part of the brownie and let it come to room temp later. It’ll also be hard to compare because my brownies might be a little overcooked – can’t really tell though, haha. I think they’re great, I just wonder if I could make them even better. I’m still looking for a perfect, plain brownie recipe. I really liked the chunky chocolate brownie recipe from MR, I’ll look for something close to that. I don’t know if I want to make the KA ones anymore, it calls for fancy ingredients and I’m afraid they won’t turn out if I make substitutions. I would like to try espresso powder in a brownie one day.

Best Brownies (All Recipes) – I made the entire recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used 1/2 cup cocoa powder. I bet it didn’t make too much of a difference, texture wise)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

The recipe includes a frosting, but I probably won’t ever want to make it.

*I just realized that this is the same recipe that was in BEB’s cookies and cream cheesecake brownies, which I made in the fall. I didn’t make any changes to it that time.

For the Toppings – I cut this in half for my 8×8 pan
1 bag (10½ ounces) miniature marshmallows
1½ cups milk chocolate chips – I used Guittard chips, which maybe melt better than regular ones?
1 cup smooth peanut butter (don’t use natural peanut butter)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (I used salted)
1½ cups Rice Krispies cereal

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. (I used foil)
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook. (My plan was to take them out a little before they were done, but my brownies cooked too fast!)
  4. Remove the brownies from the oven and immediately sprinkle the marshmallows over them. Return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place the milk chocolate chips, peanut butter, and tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly, until completely melted. Remove from heat, add the Rice Krispies and mix well. Allow to cool for 3 minutes.
  6. Spread the mixture evenly over the marshmallow layer. Refrigerate until chilled before cutting.

BEB used a different brownie recipe, which I’ll include here.

For the Brownie Base:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan.

2. For the brownies: In a medium saucepan, melt the unsweetened chocolate, butter and ¾ cup of the semisweet chocolate chips over medium heat. Stir occasionally while melting. Set aside and cool for 5 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl , whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Stir the melted ingredients into the egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in the dry sifted ingredients and mix well. Fold in the remaining ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Pastitsio

I followed the Pastitsio recipe by Evelyn/athens on RZ almost exactly, so I could compare it to my family’s recipe and my additions to my family’s recipe. Here are my impressions:

Pasta: The original recipe doesn’t have milk in the pasta mixture, just eggs and a lot of cheese. Because of this, the coating of the pasta is a lot thicker. The new recipe’s pasta mixture is really wet, and the milk got absorbed into the pasta while baking. I missed the coating but I did like the new way. Maybe I could use a little more egg and a little less milk sometime. I liked using both parmesan and pecorino romano, but the romano was shredded too finely. I prefer the more coarsely grated stuff or grating it by hand, like I did with the parmesan.

Meat sauce: I hate to admit it, but I prefer my pastitsio without cinnamon. Today’s wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t put cinnamon in it again. I liked the addition of garlic and oregano to the meat mixture. I might even add more next time. The combo of beef and pork was good too, but maybe not necessary. I don’t know if I tasted the bay leaf or not. I liked using canned diced tomatoes, but I think a little bit of tomato paste is needed to round out the flavor. I would use red wine again instead of white, and maybe use  a little more. I wouldn’t add any after I start simmering though. I did that last time I made pastitsio and the wine flavor was just a little too strong.  I let the meat sauce simmer for 45 minutes, cooked it uncovered for a few minutes, then let it cool while making the pasta.

Bechemal: This was a winner! Much less time consuming than the original sauce, and really flavorful. By accident, the melted butter started to brown, but there’s nothing wrong with that! It took maybe ten minutes for the sauce to thicken.

Each layer had a layer of cheese, but I think I would prefer to just mix more cheese in with the pasta. The cheese on top is a must though! I baked my 1/2 of the recipe in a big casserole dish for 55 minutes, then let it sit for 20 before eating. I’m excited to try the leftovers tomorrow.

After 2+ days of leftovers, the cinnamon in the beef started to grow on me. But…I still don’t think I’ll put it in next time. I tried the pastitsio once cold, and once heated in the microwave. Both yummy, but the pasta gets way too soft in the microwave. I still think the meat sauce needs a little more tomato flavor, and the pasta needs a little more cheesiness and chewiness.

Here’s the recipe…finally! I halved it.

Pastitsio (evelyn/athens on RZ)

Ingredients

MEAT SAUCE

  • enough olive oil, to just coat the bottom of a large pot
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs lean ground meat (I often use a combo of beef and pork, lamb would be good too, but go heavier on the beef)
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice (concasse)
  • 1/3 cup chopped pitted kalamata olive (optional – left out)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in two (I used 1/2 tsp)

PASTA

  • 1 lb penne or rigatoni pasta
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese (I used a mix of fresh grated parmesan and finely grated romano)

BECHAMEL SAUCE

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 lb grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

  1. For the meat sauce, put some olive oil in a large pot; saute onion until lightly browned; add garlic; add meat and cook until brown, crumbling with a fork; add remaining meat sauce ingredients to skillet; mix well; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until quite thick; let mixture cool; remove and discard cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
  2. Prepare pasta by boiling until al dente in plenty of boiling, salted water; drain and place pasta in a large bowl; add butter, milk, eggs and 1/2 cup cheese; gently stir to coat; set aside.
  3. To prepare bechamel sauce, melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan; stir in flour until smooth, cook, whisking for 2 minutes; gradually add milk, stirring, until thickened; lower heat; add salt, pepper and nutmeg; remove from heat.
  4. In medium-sized bowl, beat 3 eggs; slowly add hot cream sauce to eggs; stir thoroughly so eggs don’t curdle.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F and butter or oil (with olive oil) a large baking pan (my pan is about 18″ x 10″).
  6. Empty 1/2 of the penne mixture over bottom of pan; cover evenly with all of meat sauce; sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over meat sauce; add remaining penne mixture, spreading evenly; sprinkle another 1/3 of the cheese over top; pour bechamel sauce evenly over entire casserole; top with remaining cheese.
  7. Bake until bechamel sauce sets and has golden-brown patches across top, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour; cool at least 20 minutes before cutting into pieces for serving.
  8. Freezer Notes: Once the baked pastitsio has completely cooked, cut serving-size pieces, double-wrap in foil and freeze. Defrost in the usual manner and reheat in microwave (or oven) for a delicious, quick meal, when there’s little time to cook and dinner is ready and waiting in the freezer!

Compost Cookies

So these cookies tasted so so good, just one problem…they spread like crazy and the edges almost burnt while the middle barely finished cooking! Most of the edges were pretty caramelized and crispy, while the middles were chewy. I used my ice cream scoop to shape the dough before refrigerating for several hours.

I read that whipping the batter makes cookies spread, so I wonder why it’s a part of the recipe. As cool as it was to do something really different, I’m not sure why it’s a part of the recipe. It made the batter really light and airy (not to mention extremely addicting) but I’m tempted to leave it out.

My add-ins: Zapps kettle original potato chips (these were pretty greasy), nibblers, and bittersweet chocolate chips. Some cookies had rice krispies, which weren’t that noticeable. I added a few crushed goldfish in one of the cookies, and it tasted good too. Suprisingly, this cookie spread the least.

To combat the issue of the edges browning a lot and the middles not cooking, I divided the last 4 cookie dough balls in half and made 8. This helped, but the cookies still got pretty brown. Not burnt, just a little crispy on the edges. This is probably mostly because the cookies were so flat.

If I made these again, I would try having more add-ins, to see if that really helped with the spreading. I baked most of my cookies at 390 because 400 seemed too hot. Next time, I would lower it to 375.

Other add ins I would try: fritos, another type of potato chip, bugles, peanut butter pretzels, rolos

But not butterscotch even though that’s part of the “original” recipe (I’ve seen like 5 “original” recipes though, and they’re all different)

So it seems like almost everyone on the internet had the same problem as me. I followed a tip on Cookie Madness which said to add more flour, but it didn’t help that much.

http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2010/02/momofuku_milk_bars_compost_cookie_recipe.html

http://www.cookiemadness.net/?p=5953

Fluffiest Scrambled Eggs

Dang these were good! They didn’t even take five minutes to cook. Last time I made scrambled eggs, it took like 20 and they weren’t even as good. Kittencal always has great recipes and techniques.

  • 2 teaspoons butter (or to taste, can omit and use vegetable spray, the butter is better)
  • 4 large eggs – I used 5 because Jacob and I were hungry
  • 2 tablespoons milk (low fat milk is okay to use)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder (don’t be shy to add in even 1/4 teaspoon) – I used a little more than 1/8
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated low-fat cheddar cheese (optional) – I didn’t use the full 1/2 cup

Directions

  1. In a bowl whisk the eggs vigorously with milk, baking powder, salt and black pepper until very well combined; let stand at room temperature for 5-7 minutes.
  2. Heat butter until sizzling over medium-high (medium) heat in a large skillet (or spray the skillet with vegetable spray).
  3. Whisk eggs again briefly then mix in the cheese (if using).
  4. Pour into the hot skillet, stirring constantly with a small heat-proof spatula until they have reached desired consistency (DO not overcook the eggs, they will cook more when removed to a plate!).

Brown Sugar Bacon

I don’t know if I can eat bacon the regular way again! This recipe really makes me want to make bacon cookies, haha.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (I didn’t use the pepper)
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, 8 slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (I turned it to 400)

Mix brown sugar, cayenne, and black pepper together in a medium bowl. Add bacon and toss. (I lightly sprinkled the cayenne on one of the slices, because I wasn’t sure I would like it! I did! And so did Jacob. We also tried chili powder on one, but we prefered the cayenne.)

Line a baking sheet with a wire rack and lay bacon on the rack. Pat any remanding spice mixture on the bacon. Put the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving dish and let cool slightly before serving.