sweet

Easy Peasant Bread

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You don’t need a bread maker. You don’t need any special flour. All you need is some water, a couple of cups of all purpose unbleached, and a packet of yeast.

I generally make a loaf of this each weekend to give my household its bread fix through most of the week.

Depending on what’s planned for lunches, I’ll use the same dough to make rolls as well. This is very versatile and can be used in a number of ways, whether you’re planning on drizzling it with honey, smothering with jam, turning it into chewy garlic knots, or making a Dagwood. I always use King Arthur’s All Purpose Unbleached flour, but really you can use pretty much anything with this. That’s one of the greatest things about bread – mix together roughly the right ingredients and you’ll still wind up with bread.

Easy Peasant Bread

Ingredients

2 cups luke warm water

1 packet yeast (regular or rapid rise, it really doesn’t matter)

1 TBSP sugar or honey (your preference and, yes, the honey flavor will come through)

2 tsp salt

4 1/2 cups flour

1 TBSP Herbs de Provence (optional)

Heat up one cup of the water by either microwaving it for 1 minute or simmering on the stove until bubbles just barely begin to form at the bottom. Remove the water from the heat, pour into a small mixing bowl, and add in the sugar or honey to dissolve. Add the remaining cup of water (room temperature/straight from the tap) to the 1 cup heated water. Ideally, the two cups of sugared water should be between 95-110 degrees once combined. I stick my finger into the bowl and if it’s slightly warmer than room temperature, it’s good to go. You can also use a cup of your favorite beer in lieu of the cup of cold water to add a little more flavor to your bread. Sprinkle the packet of yeast over the top of the warm water and let it proof for 10 minutes are so. It should get a bit bubbly. If it all sinks to the bottom, the water was too warm and you’ve murdered your yeast. My condolences.

While your yeast is proofing, set to work on the dry ingredients. In a large bowl whisk together the salt, flour, and herbs if using. If you want to make garlic knots, now would be the time to swap out the Herbs de Provence with Italian seasoning or basil & oregano, add 1 TBSP garlic powder, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Once the yeast is nice and bubble-tastic pour it over the flour mixture. You can use a mixer with a dough hook attachment if you’d like, but really the best tool for the job is your hands. Using your fingers and palm like a spatula, mix and fold the ingredients together until if forms a ragged dough. It should be fairly wet and sticky. Make sure you run the side of your hand around the edge of the bowl as well as incorporating all the flour at the bottom. Do not over mix the dough with a hook or your palm, otherwise it will get tough. You can still use it to make bread, but it will have a far less pleasing texture.

Once all the ingredients are mixed well and you have a nice, cohesive, albeit sticky dough, let it rest in the bowl, covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap in a warm area for an hour or so. It should puff up quite a bit, if not double in size. Once this happens, the dough is proofed and you have a few options.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

You can spray a pyrex (8″ x8″) with non-stick spray or butter it and turn your dough right into it to rise a second time. That’s what I’ve done in these pictures. Allow the dough to sit about 20-30 minutes or until your oven is heated. It will rise during baking. Before putting the dough into the oven, slice the top about 1/2 inch down with a sharp knife or cut the corners toward the center, make 4 slashes that ultimately look like an X. This is optional, but adds to a golden brown crispy crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

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You can also flour your counter top, turn your dough out, flour the top, and cut into rolls or knots.

If you do rolls, tear off a small ball of dough from the bowl, about 2-3 inches or so in diameter, and pat to the desired shape. Space each roll on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick or with parchment paper about 1 inch apart and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

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These are rolls I made with scallion & red pepper flakes mixed into the dough for banh mí’s.

If you decide to do knots, roll out the dough into logs about 6-8 inches long and about 3/4 inch thick. Loosely tie in a knot, and place on a cookie sheet the same as directed with the rolls. Brush with 2 TBSP melted butter mixed with 3 tsps garlic powder, 2 tsp dried parsley, salt, and pepper or sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 22 minutes or until lightly golden brown. I made the below ones a little crisper than normal this time, but they’re nice and chewy when they’re a little less done.

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Which ever shape you choose, do your best to allow your bread to cool for 20 minutes or so. It’s hard to wait this out, believe me. And your house will smell amazing.

Use you bread to accompany an Italian food feast, eggs in the morning, ham & swiss for lunch, or just with a little butter and drizzle of honey for a snack.

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Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookies

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A rainy day in Austin is like Christmas. To be able to open one’s windows, allow the breeze to come through is a rarity that must be thoroughly appreciated. I celebrate by making cookies. I don’t like to bake sweet crap too often, but when I do, I normally do it on a Sunday so the extras can either be baked into individual servings for lunches throughout the week or just brought into the office and dumped on less fatty coworkers.

Rather than making those heavy super mega chocolate cookies I normally make, I decided I wanted something lighter, fresher, something that would be great with a cup of coffee. I decided to take a usual cookie recipe and tweak by lightening the sugar and adding a little lemon, fruit, and love. Okay, not love, but I did really like the way they turned out. I call them Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookies ’cause I like the alliteration at the end there. I’m sure it should probably be something like the Lemon White Chocolate Craisin is a trademarked name of the Ocean Spray Company Cookies, or the much less exciting Lemon White Chocolate Dried Cranberry Cookies, but who the hell cares?

Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookie

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup backed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP juice of a lemon

1 tsp lemon zest

2 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cups Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. I know, that’s pretentious, but they really are the best for baking.

1/2 cup dried cranberries (Guess which brand I used?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar until delicious creamed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until incorporated. Add the lemon juice (and take the 2 seconds and spend the 30 cents on a reallemon for that) and zest, and whip until it’s all combined.

Now at this point I’m supposed to tell you something like “In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add slowly to the butter mixture…”, but I’m not going to tell you that. I made this recipe a couple of times (that’s what you do when you test and create recipes), once doing the flour and crap whisked in a separate bowl, and once at the end just adding it ingredient by ingredient. I’m going to blow your mind: It made NO difference. None. I bake to make my house smell all warm, fuzzy, and comforting, and to make my fatass fatter. Not for the delicate art of it all.

SO, once you got the butter and everything else mixed, add the flour. I added it a cup first, mixing well, then a cup and a half just so it wouldn’t make a mess. Then the salt, and then the baking soda. Mix until everything is combined. Add the white chocolate and the Craisins last; I have to do this quickly or I find my friends poaching the best ingredients.

Spray a cookie pan with nonp-stick spray and bake heaping tablespoon balls of dough, eight at a time per sheet for 10-12 minutes. I like my cookies chewy, so I did about 11 minutes on these. This recipe makes 24 good-sized cookies, not “fun” size, which is a size I call “small as crap”. I took a picture below of the sized balls of dough versus the final product to give you an idea of size. I don’t have huge man hands or weirdo tiny girl hands like I’m still a child, but I don’t like the way they look in this photo either…

I found these the right sweetness to have with a cup of coffee in lieu of a biscotti. There is a simple glaze, however, that really gives them an extra punch of lemony flavor. When I asked my buds if they “needed” the glaze their response was thus:

“I’m not going to say the need the glaze, because they’re very tasty, but….well, everything’s better with stuff on top.”

My friends loved this glaze like a six year old loves Dunkaroos, but I prefer them without, or with very little glaze.

Simple Lemon Glaze for Anything, but Especially Good with these Cookies

1 cup confectioners sugar

3 TBSP lemon juice

The zest of 1 lemon

Whisk everything together and drizzle lightly over cooled cookies. Or french toast. Or pork chops. Hell, it’s simple and awesome, throw it on anything. But make sure to enjoy the cookies.

Pig & Fig 2: Spicy Fig Glazed Grilled Pork Chops

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I’ve started mixing sweet with savory just for the thrill. It’s taught me a lot about food, made me a bit more adventurous, and aids me in cooking. With a recent bounty of figs I knew I had to come up with a few new creations before the figs went to the great fig tree in the sky, i.e. went bad. Working on something sweet, I originally made a fig sauce for dipping chicken into or pouring over fish, but the moment I tasted it I knew: This sauce was born for charring pork. My buddy tasted it and said “It’s good,” and then proceed to dunk a grilled chicken tenderloin into it. “Mmmm!…Yeah, okay,” he said while still chewing. “It would be best with pork.” Yes, padawan. I know.

Fig Sauce/Glaze:

1 1/4 cup roughly chopped figs

1 1/2 cup water

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 TBSP soy sauce

1 TBSP Ponzu

1 tsp red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup orange juice

Throw everything into a sauce pot and cook down over medium high heat until it’s reduced by at least a third to half. It’s going to be pretty thick. Set it aside to cool.

While the sauce was marrying post simmer, I took two gorgeous, thick-cut bone in pork chops, about 6-8 ounces each, rinsed them, and patted them dry. Once the sauce cooled a bit (you can make this sauce a few days in advance if need be and keep it in the fridge in tupperware for 3-5 days) I blended it with an immersion hand blender, you can also use a potato masher. It’s fine if the sauce is still pretty chunky.

I then slathered the chops with the fully cooled sauce and let them sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. These were thick and needed to come to room temperature before I through them on the grill.

I operate on one speed: Fast. The also means that I generally cook on one temp: High. I preheated my grill, cleaned the grates, and slathered the pork just a bit more and cracked fresh black pepper over them before putting it on the grill. Now these chops were about 1 1/2 inches thick, so they had to cook a while, and though I wanted a char, I didn’t need dry pork. No one needs that. After 4 minutes on one side my friend gave the chops a quarter turn and left them for another 4 minutes.  We dripped a bit more sauce on the top and topped with black pepper again prior to flipping them and lowered the burners to medium-high. After about 4 minutes, there was a quarter turn and they were done two minutes later. You want your pork to register at 145 degrees – YES, this is safe – and remember that as it rests, it will continue cooking a bit.

This was a lot of pork for 2 people, so I served it with simply an arugula and summer greens salad dressed with olive oil, quartered figs, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, which really intensifies the natural flavor and sweetness of the ripe figs. It was a perfect, protein packed, low fat dinner for a summer evening. This is great for everyone, but it’s also paleo friendly and excellent for South Beach or Atkins

The sauce and char makes ’em!

Austin Gastro Graze 2 UPDATE: MORE Foreign + Domestic Bake Sale

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*Scroll to bottom for Update and new photos of items.

There are 3 things you must know about Foreign and Domestic’s Saturday Bake Sales:

1. You absolutely should go, but go early.

2. It’s CASH ONLY.

3. Be prepared to wait in line, but, for a Foodie, it’s worth it.

This morning marked my second trip to the Foreign + Domestic Saturday Bake Sale. The first time I went was the first day they tried this baked goods masterpiece event. We got there a few minutes before opening and they sold out shortly there after, far before their 2pm closure time. Since that day Pastry Chef and Co-owner Jodi Elliott has streamlined the process, directing traffic in through one door and out through another. And as  there’s always a line, this is very helpful; people walk, bike, jog, and drive from all over the Austin area to score a Ham & Gruyere Croissant or mini buttermilk pie.

Ham & Gruyere croissant

There are always a dozen or more options, which makes choosing – and keeping your pink F&D to-go box from over flowing – rather difficult. Most items are $6, though their Black Pepper & Gruyere popovers, a light and indulgent staple from their dinner menu, are $4 and all are very large and easily shared…if you really want to. These fresh baked offerings are frequently too delicious to warrant nibbles from others. Often they have treats in jars for $6 as well, including a chocolate trifle (rich, velvety, with notes of vanilla, extra dark chocolate, and espresso) , a peach cobbler polka spotted with fresh vanilla bean, and fluffy chocolate mousse.

Black Pepper & Gruyere Popover…1/2 eaten

There is always a good mix of sweet and savory, vegetarian and Ham filled (notice I capitalize the H in Ham the way most people capitalize the G in God), but different pastries rotate each week. Our first visit included a Strawberry and Cream Cheese buttercup and Tomato Mushroom Tarte Tatin, both of which were delicious, though as a lady that prefers items less sweet and more layered, the tomato tartin was complex in flavor as well as being light and a fantastic large snack for any time of day. Today I scored an exceptional Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant; the creamy, aged flavor was carried throughout the flaky pastry without being overwhelming and the onions lent a sweetness that perfectly balanced strong cheese and the buttery and crispy dough. My friend Tania, who first told me about Foreign + Domestic, and can be followed through tasty food exploits at @td_eats, joined me this morning and purchased personal butter milk pie ($6, and could easily feed 3 people), and a cinnamon bun, with icing that flavor-fully complimented the sweetened cinnamon treat rather than overpower it. The buttermilk pie had an excellent texture, much like a fluffy cheesecake with a gooey center, and was very bright and fresh with extra vanilla and a hint of lemon.

Buttermilk Pie

Elliott knows what she’s doing and is exceptionally good at it. This is a fairly cheap brunch even for a Foodie Grazer and Experimenter, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each recipe with every bite. It’s well worth the $20 you’ll through down for a decent tasting of treats and you’ll get more than enough food to feed 2 or 3 people. Highly recommend. It’ll be the the only line worth waiting in for you whole Saturday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant

* 6/23/12 update

Went to the Bake Sale again today with a friend who just had a baby. What better way to get your strength back then to indulge in delicious pastry offerings?! Today was just like the other visits I’ve made to the Bake Sale: Excellent choices, incredible recipes, and cash only. I did notice, however, that after the usual intense burst of early birds, a line that always wraps around the building, the line really wore down to nothing at about 10:45am and there were still plenty offerings left. That being said, they do have a lunch rush so that window of opportunity can be fleeting. I wanted to show the reader, however, exactly what you can get for $20.

Please excuse the bites taken out of a couple of pieces above.

Also, please note that they are not sitting on a regular plate; they are on a platter.

What I purchased this pat Bake Sale was a strawberry cream cheese danish, made with fresh strawberries and it was HUGE, see below. It was more sweet than savory, but because the strawberries were fresh they weren’t too sweet, and the cheese was more tangy than sugary. I’m not normally a fan of “sweet” nor danishes, but this was created in perfect balance. Rather than eating a bit of dessert for breakfast, the freshness of the berries and creamy cheese counter against the flaky and buttery dough.

There’s also a ham & cheddar turnover that was massive and flavorful with thinly sliced ham and a thin spread of mustard on the inside. The turnovers where new and they offered the classic sweet apple as well as the ham. There were also sour cream donuts, that, like the danish, balanced sugar with intense flavors that made it far more in depth than merely sweet.

I  purchased a sausage breakfast sandwich, which was kept from being messy, by the ingenious method of cooking the eggs. While the sandwich itself is very, very large, it’s easily sharable, cutting in half does not cause the layers to fall apart and, as a Neat Freak as well as a Foodie, this is something I appreciate. The eggs are light and fluffy, and have been baked almost in a Yorkshire Pudding like way. If you notice above, it’s classic biscuit followed by a richly flavored sausage – I’m not normally a fan of sausage, but this was sweet and savory, absolutely delicious – and then another layer prior to the bottom of the biscuit. That layer is the whipped eggs, keeping the sandwich from sliding around on a round egg top and making sure that the eater gets a bite of white and yolk in each nibble. And, and finally, there’s a gruyere and black pepper pop-over.

The above plate cost $20 exactly. It fed myself, my friend (who has quite the Saturday brunch appetite), and we still have plenty of left overs to get us through brunch today. Though, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t stop eating that danish! I had brought friends to F+D with me on this trip and they, too, were blown away, asking before we left that we make sure to visit F+D regularly from now on.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Austin Gastro Graze 2: Foreign + Domestic Bake Sale

Posted on Updated on


There are 3 things you must know about Foreign and Domestic’s Saturday Bake Sales:

1. You absolutely should go, but go early.

2. It’s CASH ONLY.

3. Be prepared to wait in line, but, for a Foodie, it’s worth it.

This morning marked my second trip to the Foreign + Domestic Saturday Bake Sale. The first time I went was the first day they tried this baked goods masterpiece event. We got there a few minutes before opening and they sold out shortly there after, far before their 2pm closure time. Since that day Pastry Chef and Co-owner Jodi Elliott has streamlined the process, directing traffic in through one door and out through another. And as  there’s always a line, this is very helpful; people walk, bike, jog, and drive from all over the Austin area to score a Ham & Gruyere Croissant or mini buttermilk pie.

Ham & Gruyere croissant

There are always a dozen or more options, which makes choosing – and keeping your pink F&D to-go box from over flowing – rather difficult. Most items are $6, though their Black Pepper & Gruyere popovers, a light and indulgent staple from their dinner menu, are $4 and all are very large and easily shared…if you really want to. These fresh baked offerings are frequently too delicious to warrant nibbles from others. Often they have treats in jars for $6 as well, including a chocolate trifle (rich, velvety, with notes of vanilla, extra dark chocolate, and espresso) , a peach cobbler polka spotted with fresh vanilla bean, and fluffy chocolate mousse.

Black Pepper & Gruyere Popover…1/2 eaten

There is always a good mix of sweet and savory, vegetarian and Ham filled (notice I capitalize the H in Ham the way most people capitalize the G in God), but different pastries rotate each week. Our first visit included a Strawberry and Cream Cheese buttercup and Tomato Mushroom Tarte Tatin, both of which were delicious, though as a lady that prefers items less sweet and more layered, the tomato tartin was complex in flavor as well as being light and a fantastic large snack for any time of day. Today I scored an exceptional Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant; the creamy, aged flavor was carried throughout the flaky pastry without being overwhelming and the onions lent a sweetness that perfectly balanced strong cheese and the buttery and crispy dough. My friend Tania, who first told me about Foreign + Domestic, and can be followed through tasty food exploits at @td_eats, joined me this morning and purchased personal butter milk pie ($6, and could easily feed 3 people), and a cinnamon bun, with icing that flavor-fully complimented the sweetened cinnamon treat rather than overpower it. The buttermilk pie had an excellent texture, much like a fluffy cheesecake with a gooey center, and was very bright and fresh with extra vanilla and a hint of lemon.

Buttermilk Pie

Elliott knows what she’s doing and is exceptionally good at it. This is a fairly cheap brunch even for a Foodie Grazer and Experimenter, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each recipe with every bite. It’s well worth the $20 you’ll through down for a decent tasting of treats and you’ll get more than enough food to feed 2 or 3 people. Highly recommend. It’ll be the the only line worth waiting in for you whole Saturday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant