Saturday, January 26, 2013

Easiest No-Knead Peasant Bread

Yes, this loaf of bread is more than halfway eaten. I made it last night...

This is, by far, the easiest bread you will ever make. It is my new favorite bread recipe. I’ve been making it like crazy all winter. And if you take about 5 minutes of hands on time out of your day, you’ll be a convert too. I pretty much guarantee it.

This recipe found its way to me in one of those rare, serendipitous moments on Pinterest, when I was feeling productive enough to actually make something the moment I pinned it (this has happened only two or three times, with amazing results I might add).

Easiest bread ever, you say? Well, we’ll see about that. I mean, I had my fair share of convenient bread recipes. I was a bit skeptical. But it’s true, friends, there is no easier bread out there that I’ve found.

And sweet baby Jesus is it delicious! The first time I made it, my husband and I ate the entire loaf while it was still warm. Lucas may have eaten one piece. But seriously, it’s oh-dear-god-I-just-ate-a-whole-loaf-of-bread good. I don’t think it gets much better than that (and if it does, I’m not sure I want it to…).

Easiest No-Knead Peasant Bread
adapted from Alexandra Cooks

makes one 9x5” loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 ½  teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½  cups lukewarm water
2 ¼ teaspoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons active-dry yeast

In a large mixing bowl whisk the flour and the salt. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl (or your glass measuring cup), dissolve the sugar into the water. Gently stir in the yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes, mixture will be very foamy. Add yeast mixture to the flour bowl. Stir until a sticky dough ball forms. The dough will be very wet.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours. (When I’m making bread in the winter, I like to preheat the oven for 60 seconds then shut it off. With the door closed it retains a nice warm [not hot] temperature for the dough to rise.)

Grease a 9x5” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter (I always use my 1.5qt Pyrex loaf pan. I like to be able to keep an eye on that golden crust through the glass.) Preheat oven to 425°.

Using two forks, punch down your dough, scraping it from the sides of the bowl, which it will be clinging to. You want to loosen the dough entirely from the sides of the bowl, and you want to make sure you’ve released the excess air in the dough. Using the forks, scoop the dough into your prepared baking pan. It’s best to scoop it up fast and plop it in the bowl in one fell swoop. Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes or until it has risen to just above the top of the loaf pan.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425°. Reduce the heat to 375ยบ and bake for 22 to 25 minutes longer, until crust is a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves onto cooling racks. Cool in the loaf pans for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

And eat a piece while it’s still warm with a bit of butter on it. There’s just nothing better.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cinnamon Love Knots

Holy mother of tasty, these rolls are good. I mean, like, next level goodness. Quite possibly the most scrumptious bread/roll recipe I will ever share with you. That good.

Now I'm not going to lie here, these yeast rolls are a labor of love, but I swear to you,  they are worth every bit of effort. And if you aren't an early riser they're just dandy for brunch or an afternoon snack or whenever the mood strikes. And unlike some yeast rolls which can be a bit sub-par after they cool down, these are still great the next day with coffee or tea. There really is no downside to these delectable rolls other than the waiting around for rising times, which is a small price to pay for this much delicious.

Seriously, they are amazing. Go forth, my friends, and make them immediately.

Cinnamon Love Knots
adapted from Taste of Home 2001 Annual Recipes

makes 3 dozen

2 packages (1/4oz. each) active dry yeast or rapid rise yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 - 115F)
1/2 cup warm milk (110 - 115F)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 - 5 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

 Combine cinnamon and sugar for topping in a shallow bowl, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Add milk, butter, sugar, eggs and salt and mix until combined. Stir in enough flour to form a stiff dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 6-8 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down and divide into 3 portions. Cover two portions with plastic wrap. Shape remaining portion into 12 balls; roll balls into 8 inch ropes. Dip ropes in melted butter, roll in cinnamon sugar, and tie into knots, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with remaining portions of dough.

Place knots on lined baking sheet; cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F, and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Healthy" Cheez-its

a delicious snack paired with Elmo's World = toddler heaven
Do you ever have one of those days where you're feeling so productive that you find yourself staying up late organizing or cleaning or (my go-to) cooking some new exciting treat? Yesterday was one of those days for me. I did a mountain of housework, tackled some nagging errands and cooked some healthy and delicious quinoa cakes for Rob and I. Then dinner was over, Lucas was sleeping and I was left to my own devices while Rob did his workout.

So I stared at food on the internet, because seriously, it's like the best time-waste ever. Does anyone else out there browse foodgawker for hours pretending it's menu planning? I hope so, because I do it all the time.

But after a few minutes, I found I couldn't sit still. I had all this super productive energy flowing through my body. So I found a recipe that I had all the ingredients for and set out into the kitchen to make some psuedo-healthy copycat cheez-its. Which, despite their rocky start (I have no food processor) still managed to turn out pretty dang delicious and were not as big of a pain as I thought they would be.

Plus they make me feel like one of those granola crunching moms who cloth diapers and does extended breastfeeding and sews/knit all her child's clothing and toys. You know, except for the fact that Lucas is totally watching TV while eating those homemade crackers. Oh well.

"Healthy" Cheez-its
adapted from Perry's Plate

makes about 50-60 crackers

4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbs. milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Combine the cheese, butter, flours, onion powder, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. (I did this by hand with a pastry cutter. It's doable, but not ideal. You'll need to use some real elbow grease to pull it off without a food processor.) Pulse to form a ball, 1 to 2 minutes. If dough does not come together, add additional tablespoon of milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick. Using a pastry wheel or knife, cut the dough into 1-by-1 squares. Prick the center of each cracker with the blunt end of a skewer. Place the crackers on the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1/2 inch between crackers.

Bake until crackers are just slightly brown on the edges, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. The crackers will crisp up as they cool. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Homemade Bagels

Making this blog a priority is not one of my New Year's Resolutions, because I highly doubt I am going to keep up with it, and I hate breaking my resolutions.  However, trying new recipes is on my resolution list (in particular, trying out baked goods that my lactose intolerant husband can eat), as is trying out more adventurous recipes. These bagels I made this morning fit both of those categories and were just too good not to share.

So maybe I'll see you around these parts more as I chronicle all my new adventures in the kitchen (because there will be plenty). I hope you've made some cooking resolutions for yourself too. And if you haven't, it's not too late. Set a goal to try new recipes, to start making meal plans, try making bread from scratch (it's so easy!), master a certain cuisine. The possibilities are endless! Let's have a delicious New Year.

And eat some bagels. For reals.
Homemade Bagels
yields 1 dozen bagels
adapted from teacher-chef
2 cups warm water (100° to 110°)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
28½ ounces bread flour, divided (about 6½ cups)
1 Tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. kosher salt
Cooking spray
12 cups water
¾ cup sugar

Combine 2 cups warm water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook; cover and let stand 5 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface. Weigh 28.13 ounces flour (or lightly spoon about 6¼ cups) in a large bowl. Stir in salt. Add molasses and dry ingredients to yeast mixture. Mix dough at low speed  for 6 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 2 minutes or until smooth and elastic; add enough of remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (I didn't need to use any). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), shape each portion into a ball. Make a hole in the center of each ball using your index finger. Using fingers of both hands, gently pull dough away from center to make a 1½-inch hole. Place bagels on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat bagels with cooking spray; cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 10 minutes (bagels will rise only slightly).

Preheat oven to 450°

Combine 12 cups water and ¾ cup sugar in a Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Gently lower 3 bagels into pan. Cook for 30 seconds. Transfer the bagels to a wire rack lightly coated with cooking spray. Repeat the procedure with remaining bagels, working in batches of 3.

Divide the bagels between two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Add toppings (I made cinnamon-sugar, poppy seed, and sesame seed) if desired. If using seeds, brush with egg wash and press seeds in gently to adhere. Bake at 450° for 7 minutes. Rotate pans, and bake for 7 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
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