easy no-knead loaf bread

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You know what’s annoying? Trying to type a blog post when your cat is grooming herself in front of your keyboard.

You know what’s annoying-er? When said cat decides to stop grooming and instead starts batting at the mouse arrow sweeping across your computer screen. Sigh. Sometimes I think she doesn’t understand that she’s totally blog-blocking me. Other times, I think she knows EXACTLY what she’s doing (“La la la, groom groom groom, you should probably just pet me, since you can’t reach around me to type, la la la…”). Touché, kitty cat. Touché.

Luckily, other than occasionally getting under foot, this cat hasn’t figured out how to slow down my groove in the kitchen. Which is good, since I couldn’t possibly try out (and share with you) AWESOME recipes like Alicia’s No-Knead Bread from Posie Gets Cozy without my uninterrupted kitchen time.

For a long while, I’ve been on the hunt for a quick and easy, no frills but still delicious, loaf bread. The stuff from the store is so blah and thin, and I just knew that there had to be a better way.

Alicia’s bread takes only a few minutes to go from ingredients to dough. It rises for just 50 minutes. And thirty minutes of baking gives you TWO (I split my dough up, since my pans are in the 8″x4.5″ size range) loaves of buttery, flufferly, loverly bread. That’s a huge ROI (Return on Investment, for those of you who don’t speak in office jargon all day).

Make this, eat this, love this. And while you do that, I’m going to try to teach this lazy bum cat to blog.

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Her posts will probably be very fish-focused, but they’ll also be exceptionally cute.

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maple olive oil banana bread

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I’m afraid my doctor thinks I’m a hypochondriac. What’s more, I’m afraid I am a hypochondriac.

Today I went to the doctor. My throat’s been all owie and frowny-face, and I’ve been hating it. Mainly because anything even a hair outside of normal gives me the palpitations. So, I spent part of my day off sitting in a waiting room, listening to Kenny G’s sweet, sweet sax playing on the office’s radio, and sizing up my competition (i.e. the other patients).

Some of them clearly had me beat (like the lady with the walker–i.e. the waiting room trump card). But I still felt like I had some clout, considering I was pretty much positive I had strep throat or some other condition that Web MD assured me could potentially lead to death.

In actuality, I have nothing. I mean, I do have a sore throat that needs some time to heal. But you know it isn’t all that bad when your doctor says, “Gargle with salt water,” and, “Take a Tylenol.”

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The funny thing is, I was kinda bummed out that I didn’t have anything real. Mostly because I had to report my prognosis to Nate, and I knew I could no longer use my “condition” to garner pity. So I decided to baby myself by making a major comfort food favorite of mine, banana bread. But since I’ve made all sorts of “standard” b-breads, I knew it was time to try something new. Something like Shutterbean’s Maple Olive Oil Banana Bread.

This bread is great. It’s delicious. If your standard banana bread is the theme, this is the best variation. It is different, but in a fantastic way. A little less sweet that what you’re used to, it’s a comforting treat and exactly what my battered throat (and ego) needed.

snow day bagels

Bagels!

Today I had a good ol’ fashioned Snow Day. And, if I’m being honest here, it felt GOOD. There were no snowmen or igloos in the front yard (or, in my case, in the street in front of my condo), but it was still pretty awesome.

I slept in. ON A WEDNESDAY. I decided against washing my hair and wore it up instead. PJs weren’t a luxury, they were a must. And I got the chance to try my hand at something I’d been interested in baking for a long, long time. Today, I made bagels.

The first step was choosing a worthy recipe from the hundreds available online. I went with this one from Emeril Lagasse because it didn’t require dough proofing overnight. Also, the reviews were generally glowing, which is always a good sign.

I’m going to be honest with you here, because I like you: I had some difficulties with this recipe. BUT, I don’t think it was the recipe’s fault. You see, though my dough rose beautifully, it just didn’t hold it’s shape all that well in the water bath. My theories are 1) I should’ve added extra flour to the recipe (might have avoided bagels too sticky to hold a “hole”), considering we were having such a humid day here in the DC area, and 2) I shouldn’t have let the bagels rise as long as I did for the second rise (the recipe calls for 20 minutes, but due to cooking times and other factors, some of my bagels got 40 minutes or more…yikes!). But they still tasted great–chewy with that distinct, yummy bagel flavor. That’s why I think you should still try this recipe. I know I’ll be giving it another go! I’m just waiting for the next snow day…

Happy baking!

let’s dish, thanksgiving style

Sour Cream Coffee Cake (Recipe Below!)

Are you a big consumer of viral media? Do you know someone who is? I happen to be married to one such consumer and have spent the last WEEK listening to “It’s Thanksgiving.”  You know, the song with the tween singing into a drumstick?

I could go on and on about why this is SO WRONG (What is this world coming to? Why do we have to indulge everyone’s 15 minutes? When will my Boxing Day song go viral???), but instead I’m going to talk turkey. Well, everything that might accompany a turkey. Because it’s almost Thanksgiving and you might need a few suggestions:

APPETIZERS

Caramelized Onion Dip: Sweet Vidalia onions sautéed for half an hour, mixed with sour cream, mayonnaise, and a few other tasty ingredients, and you have the BEST onion dip in all the land.

Marinated Chickpeas: This easy salad is great served with sliced baguette, a block of manchego, some prosciutto, and a bowl of mixed olives.

Spanakopita: Crispy, salty, buttery pastry triangles filled with feta and spinach. Nothing better.

SIDES

Aunt Alex’s Broccoli Salad: Make it the night before! Always a crowd favorite.

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding: Squash, sage, bread, onion, GRUYERE. It’s Thanksgiving in a bowl!

BREAD

Parker House Rolls: So buttery, so fluffy, so perfect for Turkey Day.

Holiday Pumpkin Bread: Pumpkin’s a subtle background flavor in this savory bread. Goes great with that crazy pumpkin spread from Country Crock.

Cheesy Sandwich Loaf: If you like to make turkey sandwiches out of your T-Day bird, then this is your loaf.

DESSERT

Better Than Crack Brownies: A plate of these sitting alone for more than 10 minutes has a mysterious tendency to disappear.

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Pie: This is an absolutely ridiculous dessert. You will be the winner of Thanksgiving if you bring this.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake (see above): If you’re more of a dessert with coffee kind of guy/gal, then this is the cake for you.  The glaze alone smells like maple syrup-covered pancakes. THE GLAZE ALONE.

Cranberry Bliss Bars: They sell these at Starbucks for a couple of bucks a piece.  You could make a whole PAN for yourself for the same price.

Pumpkin Gooey Cake: Last, but certainly not least, this beauty makes an appearance at all of my Thanksgiving Day dessert tables.

BONUS POINTS: HOSTESS GIFT!

Sugar and Spice Candied Pecans: Because you’re the guestess with the mostess.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

parker house rolls

Hi, ladies and gents!

It’s been a while, I know. I’ve missed this space and have been hankering to get back. But sometimes life gets in the way and I’ve actually been keeping myself pretty busy.

I’ve worked on some crocheted hats for babies (um, no, not my own), sewed up some seasonal table runners, spent a lot of time online looking for the BEST Christmas presents, and developed my taste for bourbon (wowza, that stuff is good). I’ve also been reading East of Eden (ridiculously engrossing–read it now! I’ll wait.) and staring out the condo’s office window.

Exhibit A

I’m going to miss those leaves when they’re gone.

I’ve also been doing my usual cooking, baking, etc., but nothing really grabbed me enough to want to share it here with you. Until I tried the Parker House Rolls recipe featured in the November issue of Bon Appetit.

This is a little bit of a finicky recipe, no doubt. First of all, I added a good half-cup more of flour than it called for so that my dough wasn’t one big, gooey mess. Obviously, the stickiness could’ve been the result of something I messed up, but, in my defense, I had followed the recipe to a “T” up to that point. So, I’d recommend using some baker’s logic and, if your dough is too goopy, feel free to add flour until you can actually work with it. The additional gluten didn’t affect the flavor or my rolls whatsoever, and they rose just fine.

In fact, even after having to coax the dough back from the brink, I would absolutely make these again (probably for Thanksgiving!). They were perfectly buttery and fluffy, and nobody I served them to could eat just one. Success!

**Thank you to Bon Appetit for featuring my post on “Bloggers Cook BA”! Check it out (along with lots of other awesome blogs) here.**

dutch oven bread

Today at work, I had an idea. Not just any plain old idea, but a really good one. One that will make me a million bucks. And though I could certainly keep it to myself, it’s just not in my generous nature. So here goes:

Bread Perfume.

Or, Eau de Rising Loaves.

Or, Baked: Pour Homme.

(The little matter of choosing a name clearly hasn’t been ironed out yet.)

You see, to me, nothing in this world smells better than a loaf of bread baking in the oven. I mean, if I met a guy that always smelled like a fresh focaccia or challah bread, I’d have to abandon the Condo to follow Mr. FreshBread. Don’t worry–I’ve already briefed Nate and he told me that he understands. And that he would also probably follow Mr. FreshBread, because seriously, who could resist?

“The Bread” in action. YUM.

Since Mr. FreshBread isn’t in the picture just yet, and neither is my fantastic bottled scent, I had to bite the bullet and go for the real thing this weekend: I made The Bread (yes, that’s what it’s called) by The Pioneer Woman.

I’ve been meaning to try a Dutch Oven bread for FOREVER, but was always turned off by the super-long rise times (I have no patience for that nonsense!). Happily, this dough only takes one to four hours to rise, and just 45 minutes to bake.

When you finally pull this baby out of the oven, you’ll be surprised by its hard crust.  Do not be fooled–the crust is crunchy, but inside it’s super fluffy and moist. Perhaps it has something to do with the entire stick of melted butter in the recipe? Perhaps.

At the suggestion of PW, I added about a tablespoon of fresh thyme that we had leftover from a recipe earlier in the week. It was an awesome addition, though I think my next attempt will be with rosemary (my all-time favorite herb).

Please tell me you’ll give this a try. And please promise to buy my perfume when it inevitably hits the shelves.

Thanks in advance.

champion cheesy sandwich loaf

I love making bread (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit XYZ). But even I can admit that the kneading, and the rising, and the deflating, and the shaping can feel like a lot when all you want is a warm loaf of bread to dip some olive oil in or convey bologna and cheese from your fridge to your mouth. I get it.

Actually, King Arthur Flour gets it. I just follow their lead. Which is why KAF is pretty much my best friend in baking. The kind of BFF that remembers your crazy, complicated order at Starbucks (tall, two-pump sugar-free vanilla, skinny misto, please) and tells you if that sweater you’re trying on is washing you out.

So when I needed a loaf bread for sandwiches and general nomming, and didn’t want to deal with the fuss of your average bread recipe, I reached for my King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and landed on this easy, cheesy sandwich loaf.

How easy is this recipe? Well, you throw all the ingredients in at the same time. And then you let your mixer knead the dough into a ball. Let that rise for an hour, then throw it in a loaf pan to rise a little more.  Then bake it. Too hard? Too complicated? I think not.

I was happy (and Nate was thrilled) with how this loaf turned out.  It’s dense and moist and really good with butter, deli meats, or all by itself. I won’t tell you how to eat it, just that you MUST eat it. And soon. Because if you want KAF to be your bestie too, you’re going to have to show some devotion. And maybe learn how it takes its coffee.

Cheese Bread

King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook

-1 packet instant (rapid rise) yeast
-1/4 cup water
-1 cup milk
-1 and 1/4 tsp salt
-1 TBSP sugar
-3 and 1/2 cups AP flour
-1 cup finely grated cheddar
-1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
-2 TBSP veggie oil

Combine all ingredients in your mixer (or in a bowl) and knead by hand or with a dough hook until a soft, smooth dough forms. The dough should be soft, but not sticky (add water or flour to achieve this consistency).  Cover and let dough rise for one hour, or until puffy.

Lightly grease your work surface and roll out the dough into an 8-inch log. Transfer the log to a lightly greased 8.5″ x 4.5″ loaf pan. Cover and let dough rise until just barely over the rim, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove bread from the oven, take it out of the pan, and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

prosciutto and olive oil flatbread

Sunday is my typical grocery shopping day.  I prefer the morning, but will take the afternoon, if I have to.  Just not the evening–that’s pajama time, and I refuse to subject my neighbors to my oversized sweatshirt (borrowed from Nate) and threadbare flannel pants.  Yikes.  Anywho…

I prefer Sunday shopping because I feel like it’s the only day I can really embrace the “Sunday driver” inside of me.  Not out on the open road, of course.  In the DC-area, you’ll be run off the road if you dawdle or hesitate for even a moment behind the wheel.  You see, my inner “Sunday driver” comes out when I’m behind the four tiny wheels of a shopping cart, wandering lazily down the aisles of our local grocery store.

I love those trips.  Nowhere else to be, nothing else to do, I take my time reading labels, admiring displays, and getting lost in the “seasonal” aisle.  Today I walked away with a pack of pink Peeps, a new nail polish, and a cheese that comes from Norway called Ski Queen (not for fondue, to my surprise).  I also impulse-bought a pack of prosciutto, knowing that I’d find a good use for it back at Casa de Condo.

When I got home, I broke out my trusty Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, hankering to make another loaf of Rosemary Focaccia.  Serendipitously (that’s a word I don’t use nearly enough), just a few pages away from my fav focaccia recipe was a recipe for Prosciutto and Olive Oil Flatbread.  “Self,” I thought, “It would be a crime to not make this bread.”  So I got right to it.

I started using steps 1-3 from this site (this gets you the basic olive oil dough).  Once your dough has risen for 2 hours, cut off a one-pound piece and shape it into a ball (using a little flour to keep it from sticking to you).  Place this ball on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal.  Roll the ball out to a 1/2 inch thickness using a rolling pin or your hands.

Sprinkle the dough with 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary and layer 2 ounces of sliced prosciutto (cut into 1-inch squares) on top. Roll the dough back into a ball, and roll out again to a thickness of approximately 1 inch.  Allow the dough to rest on the cornmeal-sprinkled pizza peel for 20 minutes (40 minutes, if using refrigerated dough).

Twenty minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a baking stone placed near the middle of the oven (so that it can get nice and hot).  Place an empty broiler tray on a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Just before baking, brush the top of the bread with a cornstarch wash (1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with a few drops of water to form a paste, then incorporated with 1/2 cup of water and boiled for 1 minute in the microwave).  Then slash a cross across the top of the loaf using a serrated bread knife.

Using your pizza peel, slide the loaf onto the preheated baking stone and add 1 cup of hot water to the broiler tray.  Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and firm.

Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

I didn’t know what to expect from this bread, but the prosciutto adds a lovely saltiness to the loaf and the rosemary is its perfect companion.  The result is something amazingly delicious and worth replicating over and over again (maybe next time with some Parmesan thrown into the mix).

Happy Baking!

rosemary focaccia

The “blog-o-sphere” is blowing up with food-related Valentine’s Day ideas.  Cookies that look like love lettersPersonal-sized red velvet cakes adorned with golden chocolatesBread pudding made with DONUTS.  I get a sugar rush just THINKING about these desserts.  A wonderful, blissful sugar rush.

So, like any good sheep that also happens to blog, I cracked open my cookbooks and tried to find a Valentine’s Day-worthy treat to share with you.  I started by perusing fancy cocktails and poring over all sorts of cakes and cookies and bars.  But, for some reason, my tried-and-true Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day kept begging me to flip through its pages and maybe–just maybe–consider a recipe within as a viable competitor in this culinary competition.

It only took a few minutes for me to zero-in on my choice: Rosemary-Onion Focaccia (minus the onion–onion breath is not for Valentine’s Day).  Delicious, fluffy-centered, crusty-outered, rosemary flavor out the ying-yang focaccia.

If you’re doubting my decision to make bread as a Valentine’s Day treat, I submit the following: homemade bread, to me, is a complete luxury.  You can buy bread in the store, at the Farmer’s Market, or even at CVS.  It’s cheap and it’s easy to find.  To make bread, you have to set aside time.  You have to plan in advance.  You have to handle it properly, keep it in a warm, draft-free place, and treat it kindly.  Making homemade bread is all about love.  So, naturally, homemade bread is quintessentially Valentine-y.  Even without it being pink or red.

If you feel so inclined to show someone (including yourself!) some love this February 14th, look no further than this bread.  It’s like a bear-hug for your tummy.

pulled pork sandwiches with homemade buns

I am absolutely head over heels in lurve with Downton Abbey.  I love the dresses, I love the accents, and I LOVE the drama.  So, so, so much drama!

Like, what is with cousin Isobel, stomping around acting like she owns the place? Did Daisy make the right decision by letting William thinks she’s interested?  And what are O’Brien and Thomas up to this time???

Now, while I am a bit of an Anglophile in the TV and lit departments, I’m decidedly less so when it comes to cooking.  It’s nothing personal, of course, and I’ll absolutely devour and enjoy a nice shepherd’s pie or some figgy pudding, but my taste bud allegiance will always lie with good ol’ American fare.  That being said, I chose pulled pork sandwiches (from Real Simple) with homemade buns (courtesy of King Arthur Flour) for our Sunday Downton Abbey viewing  party.  Of two.  (Because there ain’t no party like a Condo party, cuz a Condo party don’t stop.)

I started this dinner around 10 am on Sunday morning, beginning with step 3 of the recipe from Real Simple (I didn’t want the side of broccoli slaw, but if you do, just start with step 1).  After completing the arduous task of throwing a handful of ingredients in the crockpot (read: not arduous at all), I turned it on low and let it do its thing for 8 hours.

In the meantime, I started the burger buns–there is a one to two hour rise involved, so I made sure to build that in to my cooking time.  And after a quick bake, I was absolutely astounded by how dense yet fluffy these were, and how perfectly suited they were to holding my precious pulled pork.

So pip pip cheerio, get this meal going tonight, y’all.  I can’t recommend it enough!