Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wheat Loaves

This recipe comes from my Williams-Sonoma "BREAD" book.  I always flipped past it thinking it looked boring.  But then last weekend, I wanted to bake bread and didn't want to deal with a TON of rising time.  And I had all the ingredients.  So I went for it.  I am so glad I did!  It was incredibly satisfying and had amazing flavor, texture, density.  A keeper.

Here's how you make it.

You will need:

1 1/2 T active dry yeast
pinch brown sugar
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups tepid buttermilk (90 degrees F)
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup canola oil, plus extra for greasing
1 T salt
3 cups whole-wheat flour
3 1/2 - 4 cups bread flour, plus extra as needed

1.  Sprinkle yeast and brown sugar over water and stir to dissolve.  Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

2.  In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the buttermilk, maple syrup, oil, salt, and 2 cups of the whole-wheat flour.  Beat on medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minute.  Beat in the yeast mixture and remaining whole-wheat flour and beat for 1 minute.

3.  Beat in the bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from the bowl sides. Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low speed, adding bread flour 1 T at a time if the dough sticks, until smooth but slightly sticky when pressed, about 5 minutes.  This takes a bit of mess and some patience...

4.  Transfer dough to an oiled deep bowl and turn the dough once to coat it.  Cover loosly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 

5.  Lightly grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide in half.  Pat each half into a long rectangle.  Fold short sides in like a letter, press to flatten.  Beginning at a narrow end, tightly roll up the dough into a thick log.  Roll back and forth with your palms until it is the length of the pan. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal.  Place the loaf, seam side down, in a prepared pan, tucking ends under to make a neat, snug fit.  Repeat with other half of dough.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until 1 inch above the rim of each pan, about 1 hour.

6.  Bake at 350 degrees F until loaves are golden brown and pull away fromt eh pan sides, about 35-40 minutes.  Turn onto racks and let cool.


Buttermilk Country Biscuits

These are basically AMAZING.  Buttery, flaky, a little sweet, a little salty, a little crispy, very soft, wonderful alone, with honey, with gravy, with jam, with berries and whipped cream.  I think I am in love.  I don't have a picture... I get so caught up in eating them I forget to record what I am doing... sorry.  But here's how you make them. 

You need:

2 cups flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk

NOTE: you could substitute shortening for the butter if you wanted.  Or milk/cream for the buttermilk (if you do, omit the baking soda).  You can also omit the sugar... I like the sweetness but that is a personal preference.

Mix together the dry ingredients.  Then (this is a BRILLIANT tip that I got from a website) use a box grater to grate in the cold butter (i HAVE to try this for pie crust).  Work quickly.  Mix it in with your fingertips.  Add buttermilk and use your hands to mix it all together. 

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it down into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.  Fold in the short sides like you are folding a letter to put into an envelope.  Turn it 1/4 turn and pat it down again.  Repeat folding procedure.  Pat or roll out the dough to be 1/2 - 3/4" thick.  Cut into rounds and put on baking sheets. 

Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Eat warm!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A rushed Sunday night post...

I have been wanting to blog all week... and then all weekend... and now it is almost 8 pm on Sunday night, an hour and a half before I need to go to bed to start another week by hitting the gym at 5 am and somehow this blog post hasn't yet happened!  How to work, garden, bake, cook, grocery shop, run 19 miles, spend time with your husband, clean, fold laundry, read the news, read a novel, talk to your parents, talk to your sister, go to a state fair, sleep (some) and blog all in one weekend?!?  I am working on this... I managed all of this over the weekend, so apologies if this blog post comes a little bit abbreviated...

First, one piece of big news in Voorheesville is Brandon got a jeep!  It is really awesome and much needed... and look he is so happy! :)

And here's what's been happening in the country kitchen since the last post...

I made three (yes... 3) types of bread... this is a lot! First, here is a chocolate coconut bread (sinful) and a basic "no knead" bread.  These are both from Jim Lahey... these are WONDERFUL... I left Brandon to do the actual baking and he survived it... although one kitchen towel appears to have tried to eat the rising bread... these things only happen to Brandon, I swear...

And here is a wheat loaf I made today... it is SOOO good... I am wondering why I have never made basic wheat bread before... It has stolen my heart! It is a different thing entirely than what you buy in loaves from the grocery store, dense but fluffy, soft, substantial and this recipe has honey and buttermilk in it... enough said!... with butter it is heavenly.  It will be great for Brandon's ham and cheese sandwiches... WITH... homemade pickles! (which we tried by the way this weekend and they came out great!)

I also had some fun with thai food this last week!  I made Shrimp Pad Thai last weekend, and summer rolls (no pics for the rolls unfortunately) and then last night I made Thai chicken and basil and a thai-inspired salad... all YUM!

Here is the pad thai... the picture is unfortunately blurry.. but the flavors were sharp and wonderful!  I used this recipe.

... and here is my "thai-inspired" salad... It has papaya, cucumbers, red pepper, cherry tomatoes (from the garden!), green onions, peanuts, shredded lettuce, jalepenos, some fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame sauce, a touch of sugar.. very refreshing!

And here is the chicken basil... i used this recipe, more or less... Thai Chicken with Basil Stir Fry

I also made more fresh pesto with loads of basil from the garden, but this time I used a much lighter recipe which is one my dad uses... it has no cheese or butter, only basil (3 cups packed), walnuts (about 8 Tbs), olive oil (about 2-3 Tbs), garlic (3-4 cloves) and a bit of salt... it was wonderful with pasta tonight and a corn and tomato salad..

In other fun news, we have TONS of green tomatoes, and as of yesterday, finally some ripe cherry tomatoes!  I pickled some green tomatoes last weekend, and today, with inspiration from my trip to South Carolina, I made fried green tomatoes with a Remoulade sauce and some pickled jalepenos.  YUMMMM!  This was lunch...

Well that mostly does it for food!  In store for tomorrow is catfish tacos... and then pizza later in the week...   I know that there are recipes I have promised, and more here I want to post... but time is scarce! I am going to make a real effort to get some up this week...

Phew... well... to leave you, here are some pictures I took of the animals we saw today at the state fair!  Pretty cool :-)


until next time...
-- Anya

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What I have made and am making

Well it has been a busy week!  With 4:45 a.m. mornings at the gym, running club, softball with coworkers, it has been hard to find time to blog!  and after a 17 mile run last Saturday (which was REALLY hard), I took a day off from cooking and it was a great day... we went by some tag sales and I scored some plates, a beautiful old white tablecloth with lace work, a mini muffin tin, and some heart shaped bakeware... fun!  Then we went to my favorite consignment store where I got a cake cutter (Sara if you are reading - i had you in mind!) and some really nice and very affordable work clothes.  Score again.  Then it was batman and yes, my favorite food, popcorn :)

So Sunday I woke up with dreams of baked goods swirling in my head... it was like withdrawal... images of muffins roused me from sleep at the late hour (for me) of 7:30...  I spent the better part of the day in the kitchen... among other things, I made...

blueberry muffins with crumble topping...  these were really good... I took a bunch to work because I had to get them out of the house!  (oh.. and then i had this dream... this IS TOO FUNNY... that someone was attempting to destroy my blueberry muffins... yes, a muffin monster... but in the dream this was like, not funny, but very upsetting... I must get mental help!)

... and pickles!!! With cucumbers from the garden. This was so fun and so easy!

For the brine, I used white vinegar, water, salt, a little sugar, hot pepper flakes, coriander, fresh dill sprigs, whole peeled garlic... I think that's it... they have to sit in the fridge for another week and then I get to eat them! Can't wait to see how they turn out!

... a free form peach tart with local white and yellow peaches.... YUM... 

This is sooo simple to make!  It is just a simple tart crust (I will post the recipe), and the filling is just sliced peaches (1.5 lbs),  2 Tbs. sugar and a pinch of salt.  I cooked it at 425 for about 40-45 minutes on a baking sheet.  Perfect with a scope of vanilla ice cream...

So this morning I ran 15 miles...  and it felt great! (and I maybe burned off some of those blueberry muffins and peach tart!)  I think I am getting closer to being ready to tackle the real thing... still almost 2 months away but I am running a half marathon in 2 weeks, just to get a race under my belt (no one in my running group can believe I've never run a single race and am doing a full marathon!). 

Anyways, I have a full schedule of cooking for the weekend.  Tonight I am making shrimp summer rolls and chicken pad thai... I found an AMAZING Asian grocery store nearby and have pledged to make more Asian food.  I also got a bamboo steamer which I am totally pumped to use...

Tomorrow is fried green tomatoes with some of the MANY giant green tomatoes growing on my COLOSSAL tomato plants.  They are huge!  Followed by shrimp tacos... I also picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the newly opened Trader Joe's here (about which I am very happy) that I must work into the menu somehow...  I will also be baking bread... and probably something sweet!

OH, I also have been on a mission to find the perfect flaky biscuit... and I think I may have found it, or come really close!  I will need to post that recipe.. although I forgot to take pictures (travesty!)...

OK, so there is much food blogging to come... even if it takes me a while to get it up here!  I hope everyone is enjoying the days of summer... even as the days start to get shorter...

until next time...

-- Anya

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  It is from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."  I really just love this recipe, although there are definitely other good ones out there.  I usually add nuts and you can add just about a cup of anything (dried cranberries, coconut, nuts, etc.).

Here is your cast of ingredients:

Here's how you make these buttery sugary little monsters!

Place oven racks at lowest and highest positions.  Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar to your trusty mixer.  Oh and yes, two sticks of softened unsalted butter.

Mix on high until light and fluffy (several minutes... at least 5)... I LOVE this part of making these... it is so luscious!  So creamy!  I can't deal. (OK sorry just had to get that out of my system!)  Oh and then add the eggs and mix those in too.

OK now, mix your dry ingredients together.  That would be 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. baking soda.  At this point it is good, if you are willing, to stir in the dry ingredients by hand. Yes, I have cheated many times and used the mixer for this, but it is a little more delicate, better, more satisfying, to do it the long way... and it doesn't take that long, really.  so just add a bit of the flour mixture at a time and stir it in.

Then add one tsp of vanilla extract.  Stir that in.  Then add the chocolate chips.  The recipe calls for 2 cups but that is usually a little chocolate heavy for me, but I am weird with this probably... I use 1 cup of choc chips and 1 cup nuts... do what you want OK?  If you love chocolate, add 2 cups.  If you love nuts, add a cup (or more) of those too... once you have the base, you can really just put in anything.

Spoon by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or so, switching cookie sheet positions half way through.   Cool on racks.

Eat warm.  Eat with milk. Eat with tea.  Eat after lunch, after dinner, in bed, in the bathtub, don't leave them out when you are at work and your husband is home! :)


Blender Pesto

Pesto is summer and summer is not summer without pesto.  Pesto and sweet corn.  It reminds me of home, childhood, of warm nights, crickets, open windows.  I made pesto recently by the mortar pestle method and that was REALLY REALLY good, but more work.  There are so many recipes for pesto.  Some have pancetta, some have walnuts, some have butter.  This one is a bit richer than others, but so good.  Although this calls for a blender, I use the food processor, I find it much easier (my blender is old and pretty lame)...


2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with a heavy knife handle and peeled
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. freshly grated Romano pecorino cheese
3 Tbs. butter, softened to room temperature

I used a mix of green and purple basil from the garden (pretty yes?)

You want to tear up all but the smallest leaves into pieces, but use care not to crush the basil. 

Put basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, and salt in the blender or processor and mix at high speed until evenly blended, scraping down sides with spatula as needed.

It will look creamy green olive oily and deliciousssssss!


At this point, pour it into a bowl and gently mix in the grated cheese by hand. 

Then beat in the softened butter.

Before spooking the pesto over pasta, add a tablespoon or so of the hot water in which the pasta has boiled.  My favorite pastas to use with pesto: Rotini, Penne, or Orecchiette.  Especially with the Orecciette, a really nice addition is some toasted pine nuts.  Also, my dad was saying lately he has been adding some potatoes and green beans to the pasta, which he cooks in the same water.  I think this sounds delicious and plan to try it.  Also I used this pesto the other night on homemade pizza, with some fresh colorful tomatoes from a local farm, mozzarella, and topped it with some fresh basil leaves.  This was AMAZING.  YUM. 

Note on mortar pesto: same ingredients.  Use a marble mortar and wooden pestle.  In this order:

1.  Put basil, pine nuts, garlic, and a pinch of coarse salt in and using a rotary movement, grind the ingredients against the side of the mortar, crushing with the pestle (this takes some patience!)

2.  Once ground into a paste, add both grated cheeses and continue to grind until mixture is evenly blended.

3.  Put aside the pestle.  Shir olive oil in, a few drops at a time at first, beating it into the mixture with a wooden spoon.  Then beat in the butter with the spoon.


Cauliflower, Garlic and Oil Pasta

 I promised this recipe to my aunt, Becky weeks ago... Sorry Becks!  Here it is finally.  This dish feels so substantial and meaty even though it is vegetarian (well, except for the anchovies)... I really love this pasta and so does Brandon.  So good and so easy! This is one of Marcella Hazan's recipes.  Here is how it is done!


1.5 pound head of caluiflower
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
6 flat anchovy filets, chopped
1/4 tsp. chopped hot red pepper (I use red pepper flakes)
1 lb. package penne or other macaroni
2 Tbs. chopped parsley


1. Strip cauliflower of all leaves except tender inner ones, rinse in cold water, cut head in 2 and cook in 4 to 5 quarts boiling water until tender but still compact - about 20-30 minutes.  Test with a fork to know when it is done.  Drain and set aside.

2.  Put oil, garlic, and chopped anchovy fillets in a medium saute pan. Turn heat to medium and saute until garlic turns golden brown, stir from time to time with a wooden spoon, mashing anchovies with it. 

(Listen, you should not set it on fire... I am not sure what the reflection in the pan is... not fire, I promise... probably just an effect caused by the flash of the camera. very cool. anyways...)

3.  Add the boiled cauliflower, break it up quickly with a fork, crumbling into pieces no bigger than a peanut (I am not sure why Marcella uses the reference to a peanut but it cracks me up so I kept it!).  Turn it thoroughly in the oil, mashing part of it to a pulp.

4.  Add hot pepper and liberal amount of salt (it takes quite a bit of salt to make it right, do it to taste).  Turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes more, stirring frequently.  Then turn off the heat.

5.  Bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil, salt the water, and when water returns to a boil, put in the pasta.  Cook until al dente, drain well and transfer to a warm serving bowl.

6.  Very briefly reheat cauliflower and poor contents over pasta.  Toss thoroughly, add parsley, and toss again.  Serve at once.