Why I Haven’t Written in a While

I've been offline for a while and I wanted you to know why. I've had a bit of a family crises with my wife being in and out of the hospital this past year. It finally came to a head and she is now 100% fine – thank the lord. However, the last few weeks took everything I had. Every waking moment to take care of her and myself. There was a point where I thought I'd have a nervous breakdown so a lot of quiet time and self care was required.

Unfortunately I had to let my Sourdough Starter go. I will start up my bread baking adventure again soon and I will begin posting regularly soon.

Thank you for following me and thank you for your patience.

Simple Dessert ala Francais 

platedgalette
Last night I made a wonderful dessert inspired by Melissa Clark of The New York Times. It’s called a Galette and is like a pie but so much simpler and more delicious. My mouth is watering as I am anticipating a slice for dessert tonight.

I’ve made pies before but not as successfully. Getting the dough into the pie plate is always a problem. It was so simple to make the Galette that I had a hard time believing that it originated in France. Wow!

First I made a pie crust recipe from – yes – the Betty Crocker Cookbook. I often find that the basic recipes in this book solve my culinary problems. The original recipe is made with Shortening but I find that dividing it into half Butter and half Shortening makes it flakier and the Butter taste adds a richness to it. A nice Butter flavor. If you want the Crust flakier add more butter. If you want it less flakier add more Shortening. If you have access to (and your diet allows) Lard I understand it’s far above Butter and Shortening but I have yet to try it.

After I rolled out the Dough I put it into a sheet pan and rubbed a mixture of Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmeg into the Dough.

For the filling I used Peaches with a touch of Salt and Granulated Sugar. The Peaches were just slightly under ripe so adding the Salt helped to break them down. I used Salt here to help break down the Peaches and to bring out the natural sweetness.  More on Salt in another post.

After I put the Brown Sugar rub onto the Dough I arranged the Peaches on it, I folded the sides of the Dough over the Peaches, leaving a hole in the center. Don’t worry about your Galette being perfect. It’s impossible and, in fact, the more jagged or less perfect it is, the fancier it will look.  Leave it to the French to come up with something like this.

I brushed the Dough that was over the Peaches with an Egg Wash and sprinkled it with Sugar.  The Egg Wash gave it a nice browned look and the Sugar gave it a sparkle.  I wish I had Sanding Sugar in my cabinet – the grains would have been larger and prettier.  Not to worry, it looked amazing anyway.

After the Galette came out of the oven I served it with Butter Pecan Ice Cream.  The Galette must be served with either Whipped Cream – I always make it from scratch – or Ice Cream. I sprinkled the plate with Confectioner’s Sugar to give it something special.  In the restaurant I worked in we always plated desserts with Confectioner’s Sugar or Cocoa Powder or Cinnamon.  It always makes Desserts look professional and impresses guests.

One more note before I share the recipe with you. If I’m making a pie crust for a dessert – as a pose to a Quiche for example – I always add one Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract. It adds flavor to something that would otherwise be bland.

The Galette came out of the oven 40 minutes later perfectly cooked with a nice brown Crust – thanks to the Egg Wash. I plated and served it to rave reviews from my wife. In fact, she said it was THE best dessert she’d ever eaten. Fortunately, Galette can be made with any Fruit you can think of – although Citrus might be weird – so I will be making Galettes for years to come – especially in the Summer.

NOTE: The Pie Crust was made in my Cuisinart Food Processor with the sharp blades.  If you are making this by hand you will need a pastry cutter.  I’m writing it for the Food Processor though.

GALETTE

CRUST
2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 Teaspoon Salt, plus a Pinch for the Peaches

1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Shortening

1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

4 to 6 Tablespoons Water

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmeg (You can add 1/4 Teaspoon Powdered Ginger if you like.  Be careful with the Ginger, it can be spicy).

1 Egg wisked

FILLING
3 to 4 Peaches Cut into Thin Slices

1/3 Teaspoon Sugar

Pinch of Salt

1. Put the Shortening, Butter, Salt, All Purpose Flour and Vanilla Extract into the Food Processor.  Pulse until it starts to come together.  Add one Tablespoon of Water at a time until the Dough forms little Pea sized Crumbs.  Put a large sheet of plastic wrap on your counter and empty the Food Processor onto it.  With your hands form it into a rough disk.  (Don’t worry if all the Crumbs don’t come together. When you close the plastic wrap it will.)  Put it into the refrigerator for 20-45 minutes.

2. Preheat the Oven to 400º. Roll the Dough out into about an 1/8th of an inch thick. Don’t worry about the edges being perfect.  Rough is better here.  Mix the Brown Sugar and Spices together to create a Rub and rub it into the Dough.

3. Toss the Peach Slices with your hands in a Bowl with the Salt and the Sugar. Place the Peaches in the center of the Dough – try to make a design but again, you don’t have to be perfect here.

4. Fold the edges of the Dough over the Peaches – it should leave a nice hole in the center revealing the Peaches.  Brush with the Egg and Sprinkle more sugar over it.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown and serve with Whipped Cream or Ice Cream.  Enjoy!

NOTE: Feel free to change up the Peaches for other fruits like Strawberries and Rhubarb or Mixed Berries.

 

HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM

1 Pint Heavy Cream

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 Tablespoons Sugar – more to taste

Whip either in a Stand Mixer or with an Electric Hand Mixer until it forms stiff peaks.  Refrigerate for an hour or more – it will last over night.  Serve with Dessert of your choice.

TIP: Did you know that you can freeze Whipped Cream to make a delicious Dessert on it’s own?  You’ll have to eat it right out of the Freezer though. Defrosting it will give you a mushy mess of liquid.

 

White Bread Success!


I’m so excited. Even though I over proofed the dough I had  success with White Bread. I was too tired to wait for it to proof one last time and bake the dough in the oven. So I left it on the counter and went to bed. The rise was already very exciting…


Just as the recipe said. Almost an inch above the pan. Alas I should have put it in the frig for a slower rise. The dough had accumulated too much carbon dioxide which would normally be a good thing – because it is what creates the crumb inside the bread. It had popped through the top and my poor yeast had suffered from an overdose. The gluten had probably separated a bit. 

Not to worry. I took it out of the bread pan and kneaded it back to life, folded and shaped it again and put it back in the pan. I didn’t get as high a rise but I didn’t want to let my efforts go to waste so I baked it. 
It took 45 minutes just to preheat the oven. I put a sheet pan on the bottom and another on a shelf. When it came time to put the bread in the oven it had to be a precise dance. I quickly put the loaves in followed by five cubes of ice. I rushed to close the oven door because the point of the ice is to create steam. 

It came out 50 minute later looking beautiful and almost store bought but slightly better. I waited for it to cool 100% because if I had cut it right away it would have collapsed the crumb. Then I cut it and gave a piece to my wife. She’s my ‘taste tester’ and the look on her face was exciting and it was followed by a huge YUM!! Then a request for a second slice which she ate heartedly with strawberry preserves.    It was indeed “What Wonder Bread always wanted to be.”


I feel great! Like I could do anything, not only in the kitchen but in life. If I could make croissants I’d be home free. 

Sourdough Adventure: Starting the Bread

So I’m finally, finally starting the second phase of making Sourdough Bread which is mixing and fermenting. This should take up to 48 hours.  First I took The Sourdough Starter out of the refrigerator and took out 1/3 cup and put it in a bowl. Then I added more flour and water to feed what was in the jar. Before I can begin the bread the starter has to be at room temperature so I put the 1/3 cup aside. That’s where it is now. This bread, interestingly enough, is baked in a preheated cast iron Dutch Oven. That insures a wonderful crust and a beautiful crumb. (That’s the official name for that wonderfully chewy inside. Perfect for crostini. I can’t wait. 

While that’s happening I’m making another bread recipe from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Bread Bible. White Bread for toasting and making sandwiches. According to Rose Levy Berenbaum the review was “This is what Wonder Bread always wanted to be.” I can’t wait for it to finish. In addition to yeast and flour it has Honey and Skim Milk in it. The interesting thing is that you have to make a liquid base with Flour, Honey, Milk, Water and Yeast. Into that you add a mixture of more Flour, more Yeast and Salt. Then the dry mixture is gently sprinkled on top of the liquid base and set aside to ferment for one to four hours, kneaded and baked. The oven will be preheated with a baking sheet on the lowest possible rack for forty-five minutes before baking. It will produce a soft bread that is perfect for toasting  and slathering a spread on or making sandwiches. 

Always health conscious, I’m sick of buying and depending on what you can get in the supermarket or bakery. Besides the fact that very often you can’t decipher half the items that are in it, it may have seeds or nuts. My wife has an issue with her kidney and can’t have seeds. So we have to be careful. She loves Cinnamon Raisin Bread and can’t have Raisins. So I will eventually substitute Dried Cranberries for the Raisins. 

Stay tuned for the next few days because I will continue to share my adventure with you. 

Delicious in the Morning

This is a base recipe I’ve been making ever since I can remember. My mother actually found the recipe and it was for Zucchini Bread. I love that but I wanted to change it up. Give myself options. Keep it alive. The recipe can also be used to make muffins. 

The role of the Zucchini is moisture. So if you’re not going to use Zucchini you have to replace the moisture. You can change it up for carrots which I love because I like to make Carrot Ginger Bread with Craisins and Walnuts. The Bread above is a five Berry Bread and I used Buttermilk as a replacement for the moisture. You can also use yogurt. I like to include Buttermilk for the health benefits. It is high in proteins, vitamins B-2 and D, calcium and it helps digestion. It also adds a slight sour note. 

When I use this recipe to make muffins, I like to use a ice cream scoop sprayed with Pam or an olive oil spray – keeps the batter from sticking – to transfer the batter to the muffin tin. I use an extra large muffin tin that I got from a restaurant supply house. (I will espouse on restaurant supply houses vs stores like Bed Bath and Beyond – a pet peeve of mine in another post).

Don’t forget to decorate your breads and muffins. Be creative. I used some of the Strawberries and Walnuts to decorate the top. You can also use oats or a sugar glaze or a crumble – like you would put on a fruit crumble or crisp. 

One more note. This recipe is healthy. Not like the muffins and breads you may get in the store or bakery. It uses Vegetable Oil instead of Butter.  If you prefer not to use All Purpose Flour then you can use Whole Wheat or anything else you want to experiment with. One tip though. Never use all Whole Wheat. Add some White Flour. Your bread will be very heavy and dry if you do. 


Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Morning Quick Bread: makes two loaves

4 Eggs 

1 Cup Vegetable Oil (I prefer Olive Oil for health benefits and the flavor)

2 Cups of Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract 

1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt

1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

4 Cups of Flour

2 Cups Zucchini or Carrots or 1 Cup of Yogurt or Buttermilk

1 Cup of Nuts or more to taste

Berries or other add ins to taste

Spices to taste such as Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger or Cloves. 

Optional: 1 Teaspoon Orange Oil or Orange, Lemon or Lime Zest

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare bread pans or muffin tins. 

2. Combine Vegetable Oil and Sugar and mix thoroughly. Add Eggs, Vanilla (add Zucchini or Carrots here) and other wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly. 

3. Then add dry ingredients – Flour, Salt, Baking Soda and Baking Powder and Spices. Fold in Nuts and Berries. 

4. Turn batter into bread pans or scoop into muffin tins. Bake for 1/2 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes depending on the size of what you’re baking in. Insert a cake tester to be sure it’s done, slice and enjoy. 

TIP: for preparing bread pans. Use Butter or Shortening to grease the pan thoroughly and then dust with flour. I like to put a tablespoon of Flour in the bottom of the pan and tap it around over the sink. Otherwise the Flour might wind up all over the kitchen. For muffins I use muffin papers.  No need for greasing and flouring there. 

Wake up to a beautiful day every day and may it always start with wonderful flavors in your mouth. 

Weekend Special: Brunch

frittatatoserve

What’s a weekend without a good brunch?  Every weekend I make something special to celebrate our making it through the week.  Today I made a Frittata and I have to say it was divine.  This is an example of how chef’s can inspire you.  I never thought of making a Frittata until I saw Lidia Bastianich make one.  She said it was like a Quiche without the crust and she was so right.  I guess I simply never understood it before and now it’s something I make once a month.

A word about eggs.  They’re not the little demons of cholesterol that we once thought they were.  The yolks are full of Folic Acid – particularly good for women – and Omega 3 oils that help lower your cholesterol.  They are also a good source of protein.  I like to eat them for the protein factor but they have so many other benefits.  Don’t eat them every day but I believe in eating them twice a week – especially for women because of the Folic Acid.

Lidia is right. A Frittata is almost like a Quiche without the crust.  (My favorite part of a Quiche is the crust but I’ll forgo it for this).  A Frittata is cooked in the pan first and then transferred to the oven so that it gets a nice crispy bottom.  You can use any kind of ingredients with it.  I used Asparagus, Sweet Red Peppers and Parsley with Jarlsberg Cheese.  You can make a Frittata for any meal of the day.   We like it for Brunch. It reminds us of an omelette. My spouse doesn’t like anything cured, smoked or brined which is too bad because I’d just love to add Prosciutto or Smoked Salmon.

frittatapre
Frittatta Assembled Just Before it Goes in the Oven

So here is my recipe for a Frittata

Frittata with Asparagus, Red Pepper, Parsley and Jarlsberg Cheese

10 Eggs – whisked until the yolks and whites are loosely integrated.

10 to 15 Stalks of Asparagus – cut into thirds

1 Medium Bell Pepper – cut into thin strips

1/2 Cup Curly Parsley – chopped

1/3 Cup Jarlsberg Cheese – grated

3 to 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil – for greasing the pan

1. Turn oven to 350º.  Put the Asparagus and Bell Pepper into a small pan and start cooking. Put the eggs into a larger pan on a low to medium flame and start cooking. (This part should be done on your stove.)

2. When you see that a thick amount (but not all) of the eggs are cooked start assembling.  Put the Parsley in while the Eggs are still mostly wet.  Then add the Asparagus and the Bell Pepper.  Sprinkle the Cheese on top.

3. Transfer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

4. Transfer to a serving plate and cut into 8 slices – assuming everyone will have two slices.  Enjoy!

Frittata Just Out of the Oven
Frittata Just Out of the Oven

We like to serve it with Toast, Homemade Quick Bread or Muffins and a salad of some sort.  Berries are in season now so I made a Four Berry Salad with Mint and Almonds and we got Cranberry Muffins from our local bakery (They were good but mostly disappointing because there were very few Cranberries and a lot of Butter and Sugar).  It was all delicious though.

Frittata on a Plate with Muffins and Mixed Berry, Mint Salad
Frittata Served

Berry Salad Recipe

1/2 Cup each Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries

1/2 Cup Sliced Strawberries

1/4 Cup Mint – cut into a Chiffonade

1/8 Cup Almonds – sliced

1. Clean, Prep and Wash all of the ingredients.

2. Gently mix all of the ingredients.

3. Serve

You can put this into a bowl with a spoon on the table for everyone to take some. I like to give individual bowls on the plate.  Maybe it’s just me but I think it looks prettier and you don’t have to worry about ‘double dipping.’  I even indulge in eating it with my hands, picking the berries up as if they were potato chips.

Tip: You should gently toss the salad with your hands.  The Berries are easily crushed, especially by a utensil. 

I hope that this adds something special to your weekend or at least inspires you to treat yourself well and to relax.

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