Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Bread

I first stumbled upon Ashley Rodriquez's olive oil bread recipe last year, early fall.  I've made countless loaves and I have a hard time saying no to a slice (or two, or three).  Each bite of warm bread deserves a small chunk of cold butter in my opinion. 

Not long before Christmas, I made the mistake (the very delicious mistake) of adding chopped bittersweet chocolate to the dough and it was life changing (and belly expanding).  Preston and I ate a slice every morning for a week straight.  We would lightly toast it and then smear homemade ricotta drizzled with vanilla bean honey on each and every bite (the more the better).  Oh my!  It was perfection!  (We even shared a slice with the washing machine repair man who was fixing our washing machine a couple days before Christmas.  Ugh!)

This afternoon I started planning my mama's birthday breakfast because this Thursday is her birthday.  I'm always looking for an excuse to have my family and friends over to share a meal and a birthday is always a good excuse to gather those I love around my kitchen table.  Not long after I started making plans my mama sent a text to me with a birthday request for homemade ricotta cheese and just like that, dark chocolate olive oil bread (along with a side of the requested ricotta cheese) quickly made its way onto her birthday breakfast menu. 

Happy Birthday Mama!  May this coming year be filled with all kinds of wonderful!  I love you with all of my heart!

Homemade Olive Oil Bread

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup great quality extra virgin olive oil
3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, honey, and water.  Stir to combine and let rest for 5 minutes, or until yeast begins to foam.  Add the olive oil, flour, and salt and stir to combine into a shaggy ball.  Place shaggy dough ball on a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute until dough is smooth and a round ball forms.

Brush a little olive oil inside the empty mixing bowl and place dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Once doubled, place dough on a lightly floured surface and press dough into a rectangle.  Spread half of the chopped chocolate and fold in both sides like you are folding a business letter.  Press gently into a rectangle again and sprinkle with the remaining chopped chocolate.  Fold again as you would a business letter and then tuck sides under, forming dough into a ball.

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush with olive oil and allow to rise again for 30 minutes, lightly draped with plastic wrap to cover.  Just before baking, sprinkle with flake salt.

Bake for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown.  Remove bread from oven and brush loaf of bread with additional olive oil if desired.

Recipe slightly adapted from Live.Love.Lux

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Soft Pretzels

These soft pretzels were pretty much all Preston (I helped with the boiling water part of the recipe).  He had these soft pretzels on an end of the year field trip to Sundance Resort and loved them.  He came home with soft pretzels on the brain and a recipe in hand.  It only took a couple of days before he was in the kitchen using yeast for the very first time.  I love how brave he is in the kitchen. 

The first round of proofing the yeast, the water was too warm and didn't survive.  The second time around a foamy mixture meant success.  Together we rolled the dough into long ropes and Preston skillfully demonstrated the art of twisting a pretzel into the traditional "pretzel" shape for me. 

Moments after they were pulled from the oven and bathed in salty, melted butter, we devoured them.  The cinnamon sugar ones were a hit, but I'm a sucker for a warm, soft, buttery pretzel dipped in a generous amount of mustard. Mmmmm!

After our bellies were filled and our fingers were covered in butter (and cinnamon sugar), Preston conveniently left for a golf tournament leaving me with a sink full of dishes and a counter covered in flour, butter, and empty cookie sheets.  But, the mess was completely worth it.  I love watching him get excited about being in the kitchen (with the added bonus of a warm, soft pretzel of course).

Soft Pretzels

3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
6 cups of water
2/3 cup baking soda
Coarse salt
Melted butter

Place water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer.  Let rest 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the flour and butter and using the dough hook, mix on low speed until well combined.  Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is soft and glossy, about 5 minutes.  Place dough in a greased bowl and let dough sit until doubled in size, about 45-50 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease.

Portion the dough into 4-ounce balls.  Using your hands roll each piece of dough into a long rope.  Take the ends of the rope and form a U-shape.  Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U to form the shape of a pretzel. 

In a large pot combine 6 cups of water and baking soda and bring to a rolling boil.  Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water using a flat spatula and place on baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.  Brush warm pretzels with melted butter.

Recipe slightly adapted from Sundace Resort

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Our Favorite Buttermilk Pancakes

Growing up I was always more of a French toast kind of girl.  Hot French toast smeared with so much salted butter that it melted in pools.  A heavy dusting (aka spoonful’s) of powdered sugar would melt into those pools and create its own frosting.  I remember it always tasted so much better when my mom would fix it and cut it up into small squares for me.  (The middles squares that were heavy on the butter and powdered sugar were always the very best.)

Today, my 37 year old self still loves French toast (especially when it's made with Kneaders chunky cinnamon bread), but pancakes have won a place in my heart. 

I would say that most often I make whole wheat pancakes.  I love a good whole wheat pancake...a lot.  I have a couple recipes that I really love and are my go to recipes.  But, these buttermilk pancakes from America's Test Kitchen have quickly become a family favorite and are definitely the most requested pancake in our house.  They are perfect for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast and are also perfectly acceptable smack in the middle of the week when you can't seem to get a pancake craving to quit (speaking from experiecne). ;)

I think these pancakes are best served with a mound of sliced bananas and homemade cream syrup (my sister Savannah would agree).  Preston and Noah like theirs with cream syrup or a great deal of butter that begins to melt as soon as it hits the hot pancakes and then is sprinkled with granulated sugar (using a heavy hand).  Stella dots her pancake with blueberry’s once we pour the batter on the griddle and Todd isn't particular. 

These pancakes may not be the healthiest breakfast, but they sure make a delicious one!   

Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (and by sift, I mean whisk because I'm lazy).  In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, and egg.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients: pour in buttermilk mixture and whisk gently until just combined.  The batter should remain lumpy and a few remaining streaks of flour is ok.  Do not over mix.

Heat a cast iron pan or griddle over medium heat.  Using a pastry brush spread a thin layer of vegetable oil over the bottom of the pan or griddle.  Add batter in 1/4 cup mounds to the pan.  Cook until bubbles begin to appear evenly over the surface and the bottoms are golden brown.  Flip pancake and cook until second side is golden brown.  Serve immediately with warm syrup and lots of sliced bananas.  Repeat with remaining batter, using the remaining oil as necessary.  

Recipe from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Banana Crumb Bread

I couldn't decide whether I should toss or save the near black bananas sitting on my kitchen counter.  I finally decided that it was the end of their banana life so into the trash they went (or at least kind of).  I actually placed them in a trash bag, but left the bag sitting on the step in my garage just in case the need arose for the only possible thing a black banana would ever (ever) be good for...some sort of banana baked good.  I figured as long as I didn't have to look at them sitting on my counter any longer, they could live a couple more days of their banana life hanging out in my garage. 
And guess what...those black bananas that only made it halfway to the garbage can came in handy yesterday afternoon when I decided I needed a thick slice of warm banana bread smeared with lots of salty butter.  Todd declared it the best banana bread he's ever had.  So hurray for the black bananas that were taking up residence in my garage!

Banana Crumb Bread
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 cups mashed bananas mixed with 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Crumb Topping
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
To make the crumb topping by combining the butter, sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the butter pieces are pea size.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Butter two loaf pans and set aside.  (I used cooking spray and the loaves came out just fine.)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light in color.  Add the eggs one at a time beating after each addition.  Add the bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix well. 
In a separate bowl whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour.  Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and mix until just combined.
Scrape batter into the prepared loaf pans and top with crumb topping;  pressing crumbs lightly into batter.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaves comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.  
I found this recipe on Instagram @gotorecipes

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Raspberry Cream Biscuits

I use to make month long menu plans.  I think I actually liked making them more than following them.  I would often carry a black bag of printed recipes with me when I knew I would be going somewhere where I'd have a little time to glance through them.  In no time my empty month calendar would begin to fill in with the dinners we would be eating that month.  I laugh because even now, there are times when I go to my mom's house to let my kiddies play and I will tote a bag of recipes along with me (not so much to plan, but to read over and let my mouth water a bit). 

Fast forward a few years to today and my current struggle of making even a weekly menu.  Now, planning a weeks’ worth of dinners gives me a bit of anxiety.  Without fail, during the week I will spy something(s) new I want to try or our nightly dinner schedule changes and then my menu plan gets thrown a bit and that bugs me.  I seem to fly by the seat of my pants a bit more these days (which also has its major drawbacks, one being that I make more trips to the grocery store than should ever be allowed in one week).

So while I often am on the hunt for new recipes to try, I also have the tried and true favorites in my back pocket that are both familiar and loved by my little family (like these biscuits).

I first found the recipe for these cream biscuits on the blog Orangette.  They come together quickly (bowl and wooden spoon) and are tender and delicious.  I can't count how many times I've made them and my food spattered biscuit recipe that hangs right inside my kitchen cabinet door along with a few other favorites (Ashley Rodriguez's chocolate chip cookies, flatbread pizza dough, and our favorite whole wheat waffle recipe...just to name a few) proves it.  The original recipe doesn't call for raspberries and most often I make them without, but this morning my raspberry studded, sugar crusted biscuit tasted just perfect and will sure to be repeated over and over again.

Raspberry Cream Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups raspberries
Turbinado or other coarse sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar.  Whisk together and then add then add the raspberries and gently stir.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and seeds from the vanilla bean.  Slowly add 1 1/4 cup cream, stirring gently as you pour in the cream.  Add the additional 1/4 cup cream if the dough feels shaggy and pieces are dry.

Dump the dough onto a work surface and shape into a 1/2 inch thick square.  (If you don't mind the raspberries breaking up a bit or if you aren't using raspberries, you could knead the dough briefly if necessary.  You don't want to overwork the dough.)

Cut into 9 squares (or 12 if you want smaller biscuits).  Place each biscuit on prepared baking sheet and brush generously with melted butter so that all sides of the biscuit are coated.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from Orangette

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Loaded Mexican Parsnip Fries

On Thursday I downloaded Food52's new (Not) Recipe app.  This app is being offered as a place to capture and celebrated "the casual, off-the-cuff, cooking that most people do every day."  In the Food52 article that introduces this new app, Amanda and Merrill (Co-Founders of Food52) talk about how "the great majority of the world's cooking doesn't involve recipes:  It's putting together dishes you know, with your own signature touches.

To be honest, I am definitely one who leans toward the recipe side of cooking.  It feels a bit safer to me.  I feel I'm less likely to waste ingredients and time making something from a recipe that comes from a food someone I trust.  I know there's a loss of creativity by doing it this way, but when it comes to creativity it's not my strongest quality.  I often make something once and then add my own touches the next time around (although some recipes are just too good to mess with).

Over the past few years as I've become more comfortable and confident in the kitchen, I've definitely become a bit better at "casual, off-the-cuff cooking", but I still have a long way to go.  I know it will take time and I'm willing to put in the effort to keep learning and growing in the kitchen.

The night I downloaded the app, Preston and I ate dinner together, just the two of us.  I had bought some parsnips the day before and with the (Not) Recipe app in mind I turned those parsnips into loaded Mexican oven fries that we ate on very tiny baking sheets.

So with a little more bravery under my belt and with a greater resolve to be more courageous in the kitchen, today I'm sharing a picture and a simple how-to for loaded Mexican parsnip fries.  Enjoy!

Loaded Mexican Parsnip Fries
Peel and cut parsnips into thin sticks and drizzle with avocado oil.  Dust parsnip fries with kosher salt, cumin, cayenne, coriander, dried oregano, and chili powder.  Toss to combine.  Bake at 450 until cooked through, golden brown, and crispy.  Top fries with warmed pinto beans, salsa, sour cream, avocado, cheese, radishes, cilantro, and a good squeeze of lime juice.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Healthier No-Bake Cookies

My kiddies love no-bake cookies!  They are an afterschool snack favorite. This recipe is awesome because it leans a bit more on the healthy side being that the cookies aren't loaded with refined sugar.  The one trouble with these little bites of chocolatey oatey goodness is that I am capable of consuming far more than would ever be considered "healthy".

Healthier No-Bake Cookies

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
1 cup rolled oats
Crushed peanuts
Flaky salt

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, and cocoa powder until everything is incorporated.  Next, add the vanilla and peanut butter and whisk until smooth.

Remove the mixture from the heat and using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the oats and salt.  Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, drop the mixture by the heaping tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheet and flatten a bit.  Top each cookie with crushed peanuts and a dusting of flaky salt.  Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and chill 15-30 minutes before eating.  Store cookies in the refrigerator or freezer.

Recipe slightly adapted from Oh Ladycakes