Easy wheat baguettes

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When I started this post our stuff still hadn’t arrived yet, and I was really feeling the absence of my cookbooks and full range of cooking supplies.  I had all this spare time now, and I wanted to spend some of it baking, but we just had one small rimmed baking sheet and one 9 x 13 baking dish.  Oh, and a borrowed mixing bowl and a partial set of measuring utensils.  It was somewhat limiting, especially for baking.  Not long before we left though, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” app was available for free download, so I at least have that.  It’s a pretty neat app.  I was browsing the other day and came across a recipe for Fast French Bread.  It’s super easy, and luckily, only required things I had (most notably a food processor).  I had to make some, obviously.

This recipe turns out a really nice loaf.  I adapted it just a little by using about half whole wheat flour and half white.  I felt virtuous making wheat bread, and imagine that the whole wheat aspect helps balance out all the butter I smear on.  The logical part of me knows better, but I ignore it, because we already have one philosopher in the house, and it’s not me.

Fast, Wheat, French Bread

3 1/2 cups flour – I use 2 cups white and 1 1/2 whole wheat
1 packet fast action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 – 1 1/4 cups water

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  With the motor running, add 1 cup of water and process until the water is absorbed.  Bittman’s directions say to start with a cup of water and then add more gradually until the dough comes together in a ball.  I find that about 1 1/4 cups of water is usually where this happens.

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Transfer the dough to a bowl, or just remove the blade from the food processor.  Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel.  Allow the bread to rise for at least an hour.  I’ve been giving mine about an hour and a half to two hours.  Then remove the dough and shape it into whatever bread shape tickles you.  I like to make two small baguette shapes.   I shape these by rolling them just like you would if you were making play-doh snakes, and place them side by side on a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet.  Allow the shaped breads to rise again.  I usually give them another hour, or until they seem nice and puffed up.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (gas mark 6).  Use a sharp knife to make slits in the top of the bread.  Place the bread in to the oven and immediately turn town to 375 (gas mark 5).  Bake until the loaves are browned on the outside and sound hollow when you tap them.  I find the 20-25 minutes is just about right for my two smaller loaves.  I also tried one large round loaf.  That takes significantly longer to bake, probably 40-50 minutes.

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Things I’m learning

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This week, I’m (starting) to work on learning my conversions.  Because I should have some idea what people are talking about when they speak of meters or liters, centimeters and grams.

I am also working on learning that just because it looks chilly or windy outside doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go outside.  We’ve had some truly lovely weather since we got to Scotland, but Fall is starting to peek out around the corners.  Here and there you can see the leaves starting to go yellow, and the wind is starting to pick up.  We’ve been told that the winters here are windy and damp, not generally bitterly cold or overly snowy.  But I’ve been spoiled by California and feel a deep reluctance to leave the house if it is anything less than glorious outside.  So this week I am working on breaking that bad habit.  Because it is still lovely in the evenings when the sun finally breaks free from the clouds and lights up the sea, even if I do have to wear a jacket.

In part because of the cooler weather, I finally got around to making a recipe that my friend had sent to me a few years ago.  It’s a kind of fry bread called Bannock that her family makes in Canada.  I never got around to making it in California, but it seems like a pretty perfect Scottish recipe.  It’s super simple, and very adaptable.  Great if you need something warm and comforting on the fly since the ingredients are very run of the mill.  I cut the recipe below in half and had plenty for two people.

Bannock

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk (or water)
Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet on medium.  Form the dough into small pancake shapes.  My dough was very sticky, so I sprinkled a little more flour on top before shaping.  Fry in the hot oil for about 1 minute per side, or until the bread is a nice golden brown.
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For a savory bread you could add a clove of garlic, some small pieces of softened onion, or cheese.  For a sweet treat I like to sprinkle the hot bannock with cinnamon sugar.
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Sister’s Corn Salsa

I’ve been a bad blogger, I know.  It’s been a little busy around here, between the working, and the driving, and a  couple rounds of visitors, and planting my Spring garden.  I’ll try to do better, and I have a thing or two saved up that I can post, but I make now promises.

My sister sent me this recipe, and I made it several weeks ago.  That was approximately two weeks before I went to the Farmer’s Market and saw this –

I will definitely have to make this again now that there is fresh corn, perhaps even grill the corn first.  But when I made this the first time I just used frozen corn and it was easy and still nothing to scoff at in the deliciousness arena.

Corn Salsa
 4 ears of corn, or about half a bag of frozen corn
1 red onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 Jalapeno peppers
4 Roma tomatos
1 Lime
about 1/4 cup Cilantro, really however much you like
2 tablespoons Vinegar ( I used white wine vinegar because that is what I had)
1 avocado
Salt and Pepper to taste


Slice the kernels off the corn into your pan with a little olive oil, and heat until the kernels soften and get a little translucent (or grill the corn and then cook for a shorter time). Dice the onion and pepper and throw it in with the corn. If you like a little more heat you can leave these raw. Dice the tomatoes and avocado, and mince the garlic and cilantro.  Throw it all in the bowl, mix in the corn and onions, and then squeeze the lime over it all. Finish with the vinegar, and then add salt and pepper to taste.

We used this to liven up a fast black bean and rice burrito, and boy was it good.  And its so healthy, just lots of veggies, so you can really pile it high and not even feel bad!  This will definitely be making several more appearances this summer.

Lemony Risotto

A few weeks back I read a recipe for Meyer Lemon risotto over at the Simply Recipes blog and was intrigued, so I grabbed a couple of lemons off of my Grandpa’s tree last weekend when we went over to visit. I didn’t look back at the original recipe, just sort of proceeded with my own basic risotto recipe, but I’m sure they are quite similar. I love risotto. It’s very warm and satisfying – creamy but still rice like. The lemon keeps this recipe very light. It goes really nicely with some sautéed veggies or some baked salmon.

Lemony Risotto
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot (or small yellow onion), diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups warm liquid (water, veggie broth, or chicken stock)
Zest from one large lemon
Juice from one large lemon
1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the rice and give it a cook stir. Once the rice has absorbed all of the butter, start adding the water, 1/2 cup at a time. Give the risotto a good stir after each addition of liquid. The stirring helps it develop the creamy texture. Add more liquid once the rice grains have absorbed all that is in the pot. Add the salt after the first cup of liquid has been absorbed. Mix well. If you are using a stock with some sodium already in it, you might not need the additional salt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once all the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are soft, remove the risotto from the heat and mix in the lemon zest, lemon juice, parm, and pepper. Let it rest for a minute or two and then serve.

Polenta and Artichoke Tart

I came across this recipe on a blog the other day and was instantly intrigued. I love artichokes, and polenta, and I thought polenta for the crust was such a neat idea. When we invited some friends over for dinner last night, I had the perfect excuse to try it out. The original recipe I found called for goat cheese, which I think would be delicious, but unfortunately Justin does like goat cheese. Obviously he has the wrong preferences, but because I love him I changed this around a bit to use mozzarella instead. It was still delicious, but if you like goat cheese, I think the goat cheese would make it even better.

Polenta Crust
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1/2 parmesan cheese
1 large egg at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon peper

Heat the vegetable stock and water in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the salt when it starts boiling, and then slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly.  Continue to whisk for another 30 seconds, and then turn the heat down to low and cover.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the polenta sit, covered for another 10 minutes, stirring it once or twice while it sits.  Add in the egg, cheese, and pepper.

Grease a 10 inch cake or tart pan with olive oil, and then spoon in the polenta.  Using your hands or a wooden spoon, push the polenta around to cover the bottom of the pan, and push it up the sides a little bit to form a crust.  Wetting your hands or the spoon with a little bit of cold water will help keep the polenta from sticking.

Artichoke Filling
1 cup plain greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot (1 small)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped Thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 ounces artichoke hearts
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Spread the artichoke hearts around the crust and top with the mozzarella.  Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, shallots, herbs, and salt and pepper.  Pour over the artichokes, and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the last 1/2 cup of parmesan over the top of the tart.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, until the cheese on top is nicely browned.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven so that everything can solidify.

Quick Focaccia Bread

I suffered a blogging set back this past week.  My laptop, with my camera memory card in it, was stolen.  Which means all the pictures of things I’ve made in the past are gone.  I had saved up a few things that I hadn’t gotten around to posting yet, but I guess I’ll have to start over now.  I got an I-pad to replace my stolen laptop, and these are the first baking pictures I’ve tried with it.  It’s got a pretty good camera, so maybe my new toy will help motivate me to keep blogging.

For Christmas my mom got me a pretty awesome cookbook called The Bread Bible.  I wanted to try one of the recipes from it for dinner last night, but in my usual fashion, I failed to pay enough attention to the time required to make the focaccia recipe (5 hours!).  So I had to improvise, and used my trusty pizza dough instead of an actual focaccia dough.  Although slightly different than an actual focaccia, it makes a very satisfying bread to go alongside pasta, and does a nice job of soaking up any left over sauce.

Garlicy Focaccia Bread
1 recipe pizza dough
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 5-10 fresh leaves, chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Make the pizza dough and allow it to rise for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, spray a 1/2 sheet pan with cooking spay and set aside.  Once the dough has risen, place it in the pan and push and pull the dough until it is roughly fills the whole pan.  Set the pan in a warm place and let the dough rise again, about 30 minutes, or as long as you feel like waiting.

Preheat the oven to 500.  Brush the bread with one tablespoon of olive and that garlic.  If you are using dry basil, sprinkle it on, as well as 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.  If you are using fresh basil, wait until the last minute or two of baking to put it on.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the bottom is brown and crispy, and the top is light golden.  Once you take it out of the oven, brush with the last tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (omit if you want vegan bread).

Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

As the title suggests, this is my mom’s spaghetti sauce, and it’s delicious.  She makes her’s with meat, but I prefer it without.

I love to make this when I have a crowd coming over for dinner.  The recipe makes a ton of sauce, but it freezes really well, and is a life saver to have on hand. You can either make this on the stove top is a big pot or in the crock pot.

Spaghetti Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 3 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
3 large cans of diced tomatoes (28 ouncces)
2 small cans of tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon brown sugar, or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Dice the onions and the garlic.  Add the onions to the hot oil and cook them, stirring occasionally until they are soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste.  If you want a thinner texture, you can add some water.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and simmer.  Now, you can simmer this for a little while or a long while, depending on how much time you have.  Somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour is probably sufficient.

If you want to make it in the crock pot, just throw everything in the pot, and turn it on low for 8-10 hours.