Ciabatta

Now that our condo has been taken off MLS, I can make huge messes in the kitchen again. My weapon of choice was flour and oh, did I make a mess! I made a ciabatta recipe that was more complicated than I’d bargained for, but it was worth it in the end. It was the perfect morning activity since G woke up to eat at 4am and I couldn’t fall back to sleep. 7 hours and 4 loaves of ciabatta later, I’m exhausted!

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So they aren’t the prettiest loaves you’ve ever seen, but they are really chewy and tasty, especially dipped in a nice olive oil. Thanks to Leites for another fun adventure in the kitchen!

Ciabatta, courtesy of Leites

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 5 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, at room temperature (if using a food processor, use cold water)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 very full cups (17.5 ounces / 500 grams) biga, rested for 12 hours
  • 3 3/4 cups (17.5 ounces / 500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces / 15 grams) salt
  • Cornmeal

1. If making the ciabatta in a stand mixer: Stir the yeast into the milk in a mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the water, oil, and biga and mix with the paddle until blended. Mix the flour and salt, add to the bowl, and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Change to the dough hook and knead for 2 minutes at low speed, then 2 minutes at medium speed. Knead briefly on a well-floured surface, adding as little flour as possible, until the dough is still sticky but beginning to show evidence of being velvety, supple, springy, and moist.

If making the ciabatta in a food processor: Stir the yeast into the milk in a large bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of cold water, the oil, and the biga and mix, squeezing the biga between your fingers to break it up. Place the flour and salt in the food processor fitted with the dough blade and pulse several times to sift the ingredients. With the machine running, pour the biga mixture through the feed tube and process until the dough comes together. Process about 45 seconds longer to knead. Finish kneading on a well-floured surface until the dough is still sticky but beginning to show signs of being velvety, supple, moist, and springy.

This is the biga.

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2. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours. The dough should be full of air bubbles, very supple, elastic, and sticky.

3. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces on a well-floured surface. Roll each piece into a cylinder, then stretch each cylinder into a rectangle, pulling with your fingers to get each piece long and wide enough. It should be approximately 10 by 4 inches.

4. Generously flour 4 pieces of parchment paper placed on peels or upside-down baking sheets. Place each loaf, seam side up, on a piece of parchment. Dimple the loaves vigorously with your fingertips or knuckles so that they won’t rise too much. The dough will look heavily pockmarked, but it is very resilient, so don’t be concerned. Cover the loaves loosely with damp towels and let rise until puffy but not doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The loaves will look flat and definitely unpromising, but don’t give up; they will rise more in the oven.

*So* grateful for the tip not to give up!

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5. Approximately 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC) and slide your baking stones on the center rack to heat.

6. Just before baking the ciabatta, sprinkle the stones with cornmeal. Carefully invert each loaf onto a stone. If the dough sticks a bit to the parchment, just gently work it free from the paper. If you need to, you can leave the paper and remove it 10 minutes later. Bake for a total of 20 to 25 minutes, spraying the oven three times with water in the first 10 minutes. Transfer the ciabatta loaves to wire racks to cool.

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Chili and cornbread muffins

To celebrate our first storm of the season, I made a large pot of chili and cornbread muffins for a dinner party last night. It’s so dreary outside today that I wish I had doubled the recipe for leftovers.

 Chili recipe courtesy of Epicurious

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (Penzeys Chili 3000)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can beef broth
  • 2 medium white potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup chili sauce (I love the Trader Joes chili sauce)
  • 1 15 1/4-ounce can kidney beans (I always used dried heirloom beans from Zursun or Iacopi beans)
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until almost golden, about 8 minutes. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking beef up with fork, about 10 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin and cayenne and continue cooking 3 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, broth, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper and chili sauce. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in beans. Simmer until beans are heated through and vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Serve with diced avocado, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and salsa on the table.

Cornbread Muffins, recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup frozen corn kernels

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg, if you’re using it. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (12 minutes for minis), or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

I also made these beauties with some frozen wild huckleberries from WA but we ate them too fast to take photos. Yum!

 

Battle of the Pumpkin Breads

I decided to put my usual Pumpkin Walnut Bread to the test this morning by comparing it to the Easy Pumpkin Bread recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. 2 recipes 2 loaves.

The verdict? They are both pretty awesome. I changed the flour content in each recipe to be 50% whole wheat. The King Arthur bread (on the right) included about 1/2 cup of chopped Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate and mine had more spices including ginger, nutmeg, and all spice. I can’t say which was actually better because they were so different. Maybe next time I’ll try combining the recipes to make one outstanding whole wheat pumpkin spice chocolate bread!

My newly adapted Whole Wheat Pumpkin Walnut Bread standby (adapted from Art and Soul of Baking)

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup WW flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil like canola
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put the rack in the center. Coat your loaf pan with melted butter and line with parchment (or use a flour/butter cooking spray). In a large bowl, whisk flour, soda, spices, and salt until blended. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and water. Add sugar and blend well. Add pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir well. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingregients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add toasted walnuts and combine. Scrape into loaf pan and level the top. Bake 60-70 minutes (takes a bit longer for me) until bread is firm and toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 2/3 cups flour (1/2 APF 1/2 WW)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.

2) In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and water.

3) Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and vanilla, stirring to combine.

4) Mix in the chips and nuts.

5) Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

6) Bake the bread for 60 to 80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean; and that same tester inserted about 1/2″ into the top of the loaf doesn’t encounter any totally unbaked batter.

7) Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. When it’s completely cool, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and store it overnight before serving.

Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Bread

As soon as I found this Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Bread on the Seven Spoons blog, I added buttermilk to my grocery list. It contains equal amounts of whole wheat and all-purpose flour in addition to four cups of shredded zucchini and a nice pour of olive oil. Healthy, right? Suuuure.

The recipe makes two loaves so it’s nice to give one to a pregnant friend (thanks Kristin for the idea!) so you don’t eat them both yourself. It’s moist, delicious, and addictive. And even two days later, it’s just as dense and fudgy as it was out of the oven.

  • Softened butter, for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups fine-grained turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups shredded zucchini (5 medium sized zucchinis)

Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans with softened butter. Use a length of parchment to line the bottom and long sides of the pan, forming a sling, and lightly butter the parchment as well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chopped walnuts and chocolate. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil and buttermilk. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Stir in the zucchini.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stir until combined, taking care not over mix. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake, rotating once, until a cake tester inserted into the loaf comes out almost clean, which should be around 50 minutes.Cool loaves in their pans on a rack for 20 minutes, then grasp the edges of the parchment to ease the bread out.

Makes 2 loaves.

Carrot Zucchini Bread (or Biscotti) with Candied Ginger

I decided to make Janet Fletcher’s Carrot Zucchini Bread with Candied Ginger yesterday to bring to my seminar class and make the afternoon a little more bearable. (I knew better than to keep it home for myself with Alex out of town.)

What is difficult about the recipe is that you need 2 – 8x4x2 inch loaf pans and I only have one up here in Seattle (the other is at home in SF). I decided to improvise with a much smaller stoneware baking dish that my mom bought me for Valentine’s Day a few years ago. What I failed to remember was that smaller + stoneware = shorter baking time. When I opened the oven after an hour, I had an extremely over-baked loaf of bread along with one that needed additional time in the oven. Ever the optimist, my friend Sharon suggested that I slice the over-baked loaf into small pieces to bake again, transforming them into biscotti. Genius! I did as she suggested and baked them for an additional 10 minutes on each side and voila, 8 carrot zucchini candied ginger biscotti were born. The other loaf came out perfectly. And by perfect, I mean ever so slightly under-baked in the middle.

I’m happy to report that I had a piece of biscotti for breakfast this morning with my coffee and a slice of bread after lunch for dessert. Not only did I get my cake, I got some biscotti too.

Thursdays are for cooking

I am lucky again this quarter in that I don’t have class on Fridays. Because Thursdays are my Fridays,  I’ve enjoyed spending my “down time” on Thursday afternoons in the kitchen. A couple of weeks ago I made a vegetarian cassoulet to break in my new dutch oven. I’ve also been cooking as much salmon as possible because I know the run is coming to an end. Today I made pumpkin walnut bread and yellow split pea and sweet potato soup. I also made a batch of yogurt and started soaking some chickpeas to make hummus for sandwiches. Oh how I love Thursdays…

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fish

bread

soup

Birthday banana bread

Yesterday was my dear friend Lakshmi’s 30th birthday. We exchange numerous emails back and forth every day about what we’re eating, making for dinner, or dreaming about baking up on weekends. I don’t remember which of us found this coconut pineapple vegan banana bread, but once we did it became the master project for her birthday dinner. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave it in the oven long enough and the middle was still mushy. Let’s hope the toaster can correct for that. Happy Birthday Lakshmi!

2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous pinch of ground ginger
pinch of allspice
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas really well. Add the sugar, pineapple, and oil and whisk briskly to incorporate.

Sift in the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.  Fold in the coconut.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and sprinkle with extra sugar if you’d like.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The top should be lightly browned and a knife inserted through the center should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before transferring out of a pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Putting my CSA box to use

I finally got around to joining a CSA in Seattle and my first box came yesterday. Thanks Mom!

In it was a recipe for Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens from Bon Appetit which I made last night for dinner. It was a super simple and filling meal with tons of veggies. Yum! Then I got it in my head to make some bread to go with the leftovers today. I used a Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread with Flax Seeds and Oats recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs. This might just be my favorite bread yet.

Barley stew:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only, I used one huge leek)
  • 1 8-ounce container sliced crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed (i used three)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (i only had dried and it was fine)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups (or more) vegetable broth (i used chicken for more flavor)
  • 1 bunch kale (about 8 ounces), trimmed, center stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 8 cups packed) (i used spinach because I didn’t have any kale on hand)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until leeks begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until mushrooms soften and begin to brown, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice; stir 1 minute. Add barley and 4 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until barley is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add kale; stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Cover and simmer until kale and barley are tender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed for desired stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

Bread:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt or 3/4 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Whisk flour, steel cut oats, flax seeds, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy, sticky ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Lay 12X18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6-8 quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2 inch-deep slit along top of dough.

Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature before slicing.

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Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe my 2.5 week vacation from school is already over. I had a wonderful time visiting with family and friends and feel lucky to have had such quality time with those I love. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen which was really relaxing. Some of the highlights were making peanut brittle with my friend Heather and experimenting with a no-knead walnut bread (goes nicely with butternut soup) on Christmas Eve. Alex and I met up with my good friends Jessica and Jeff at Hog Island Oyster at the Ferry Building in SF and feasted on oysters, clam chowder, and grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s one of my favorite things to do in San Francisco and we had a blast. My cousins and I had a German-themed feast which included my dad’s boar sausage slowly simmered in beer. Who knew I liked venison! My friend Wei hosted a tasting party where she set out an array of chocolate, olive oil, cheese, red wine, apples, and cola and we had to guess the brand/type of each. I actually wrote, “uninteresting” on the Valhrona piece. Now I know I have cheap taste in chocolate! This last week I made an eggplant parmesan and a lasagna bolognese for 16 people after a gorgeous day skiing. It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked for so many people and it makes me want to start another supper club sometime soon.

Santa brought me a slow-cooker and a new yogurt maker (my old one died last month) so I’ll be trying some stews, soups, and breakfast options in the next few weeks. If you have any recipe ideas, please send them my way!

Bread, Round 2

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LOVE this recipe!

Cook’s Illustrated Almost No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast
1.5 tsp table salt
2 TB honey
3/4 cup + 2 TB room temp water
1/4 cup + 2 TB mild-flavored lager (I used a porter)
1 TB white vinegar

Whisk flours, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Stir honey into water, then add water, beer, and vinegar to the dry ingredients. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.