Turkish dinner

11 Jul

These goat kabobs:

Go really well with this rice:

And these green beans:

And this yogurt sauce:



white mountain bread

21 Apr

As my first serious foray into yeast bread baking, I just made the White Mountain Bread from Beth Hensperger’s Bread Bible. I went into it with low expectations based on my previous yeast bread dalliances, but

I made it with my stand mixer instead of kneading it by hand because I had the kiddo underfoot and I didn’t want to be elbow deep in dough if she decided to, I dunno, try to dive headfirst into the garbage can or something. It did a good job! After the kneading I had to fiddle with the rising times. I don’t think I actually let the dough double for the first rise (it was hard to tell since I had it in a bowl with sloping sides), so the second rise ended up being twice as long as it should have been in order to get enough height in the bread pan. Also I kind of wung it with the loaf shaping. And the knife I used to try to slash the tops of the loaves before baking wasn’t sharp enough and it just kind of dragged the dough around. Oh well.

I still got tasty bread!
homemade bread

The recipe made two loaves but I only had one loaf pan, so I did one as a free form boule instead.

homemade bread

The crumb was pretty tight (I think “crumb” is actually a technical term and I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but it sounds good so I’ll go with it) and it sliced really cleanly. The crust was pleasantly firm, but I wouldn’t describe it as a crusty bread. It was tasty enough just plain and slightly warm from the oven, but it also made sturdy sandwiches and really tasty toast. It was also a hit with the house’s biggest critic, the 18-month-old. She enjoyed hers plain or with some good old pb&j.

So definitely a good learning experience with a delicious outcome!

High five!

great success!

From The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger
Yields 2 9×5 inch Loaves
recipe transcription from The Moonlight Baker

-1/2 C. Warm Water (105-115 degrees F)
-1 Tablespoon (1 Package) Active Dry Yeast
-Pinch of Sugar
-1 ½ C. Milk (at 105-115 degrees F)**
-3 Tbs. Unsalted Butter, Melted (Vegetable Oil can be used in place of the butter)
-3 Tbs. Honey
-1 Tbs. Kosher Salt
-6 C. Unbleached All Purpose Flour, or Bread Flour

**My Note: This probably isn’t a problem for most people, but if by any chance you are using raw milk for your milk, you should scald it first. Otherwise the enzymes present in the raw milk will interfere with the gluten structure in the bread and it won’t rise properly. I am a weirdo and I only drink raw milk so it’s the only milk I had/have in the kitchen – lucky for me I ran across this tidbit of info.

Pour 1/4 cup of the warm water into a small bowl or 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle with yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir gently a few times with the handle of a small spoon or mini whisk to moisten evenly. (Leave the spoon or whisk submerged in the mixture if a lot of yeast has stuck to it.) This mixture is sometimes referred to as a slurry. Let rest at room temperature (75-80 degrees F) for about 10 minutes. Within a few minutes the yeast will begin to bubble into a thick foam and double to triple in volume. If you wish to slow things at this stage of proofing, use a lower temperature water, about 80-100 degrees F. While the yeast is proofing, assemble the rest of the ingredients and equipment on your work surface. Place the flour at the side of the work surface for easy access during kneading.

In a large bowl using a whisk or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining water, milk, butter, honey, salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Beat hard until creamy, about 3 minutes by hand or 1 minute in the mixer. Stir in the yeast mixture. By hand or on low speed in the electric mixture, add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand. The dough will be slightly stiff and sticky.

If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a slightly floured work surface. Using a plastic scraper to begin the first knead, if desired, begin by folding the top edges in halfway toward you. Push away with the heels of the hands and then give the dough a quarter turn to keep the area to be worked directly facing you. As you pull back, use your fingers or the scraper to lift the farthest edge of the dough and fold it back toward you to lay it over itself, and push again, allowing the dough to slide across the work surface where it will absorb the flour it needs. Repeat the pushing, turning, and folding sequence, developing a comfortable pace and rhythm and observing the dough as well as feeling it firm up in your hands. Dust with flour as needed. Knead until smooth and springy, a total of 1-3 minutes for a machine mixed dough or 4-7 minutes for a hand-mixed dough.

If kneading by machine, switch from the paddle to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy and springs back when pressed. If desired, transfer the dough back to a floured surface and knead briefly by hand. Each batch of dough is unique and presents minor variables at the time.

Place the dough in a lightly greased deep container. Turn the dough once to coat the top so that the plastic wrap does not stick and the surface does not form a crust. Cover completely with a piece of plastic wrap, lying loosely rather than tight around the sides to leave room for expansion. Note the level of dough on the container. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Press a fingertip into the top of the dough to see if the indentation remains. If it needs to rise more, the indentation will fill back in quickly. Do not worry or rush if the dough takes longer. The dough may be refrigerated at this point, covered tightly with a double layer of plastic wrap, for up to 18 hours, if desired.

Turn the dough out onto a slightly floured work surface to deflate. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of 2 9×5 inch loaf pans. Without working the dough further, divide it into 2 equal portions with a metal scraper or a knife. Pat each portion of dough into a long rectangle; it does not need to be exact. Fold the dough into thirds, overlapping the 2 opposite ends in the middle. Beginning at the short edge, tightly roll up the dough jelly-roll style into a log that is about the same length as your pan. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. While placing the loaf in the pan, tuck the ends under to make a neat, snug fit. The log should be of an even thickness and fill the pans about 2/3 full. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again at room temperature until the dough is fully doubled in bulk and about 2 inches over the rims of the pans, about 45 minutes.

Twenty minute before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and, using a serrated knife, with a quick motion of your wrist make a long slash lengthwise, no more than ¼ inch deep, to create a long groove that will spring open, giving the dough room for expansion. Immediately place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown in color and the sides are slightly contract from the pan. If you give it a tap with your fingers, the loaf should sound hollow. Transfer the loaves from the pans immediately. Gently set each loaf on its side or on a wire or wood cooling rack. For proper cooling, air must circulate all around the loaf, so leave plenty of room between the loaves and at least 1 inch of space under the rack to keep the crust from getting soggy. Be sure to let the loaves rest for at least 15 minutes, to allow excess moisture to evaporate so the center will not be doughy and to finish the baking process. Loaves are best slightly warm or at room temperature.

Storage: At room temperature or in the refrigerator, the loaves should keep for up 3 days. Either wrap them in plastic wrap and foil, slice them and put the slices in a zip-top bag, or set them in a bread box. An alternative option is to freeze the loaves; just wrap in plastic wrap and foil once cooled completely, and place in freezer

more baking

18 Apr

I’ve become obsessed with the idea of baking bread. After some insightful commenting on my last post, I realized that instead of my haphazard flitting from recipe to recipe that I should pick one simple all-purpose kind of loaf and practice making it multiple times until I figure out what the heck is going on. I’ve decided on the white mountain bread from Beth Hensperger’s “The Bread Bible.” I got the book out of the library and I’ve been poring over the technique section in the front (well as much as one can pore with an 18-month-old around) and reading and re-reading the recipe itself. My tentative plan is to practice this loaf, which uses all white flour, until I get something edible (maybe even good), then move onto the recipe for Tassajara whole wheat bread, which uses all whole wheat flour.

I am usually an instant gratification kind of person, so waiting until tomorrow morning to start baking is making me itchy.

adventures (failures) in baking

15 Apr

Whenever I want to learn how to do something domestic, I generally try to teach myself. This has yielded good results in the past – eg cooking, knitting. I’ve been trying to tackle bread baking lately and the learning curve has been crazy steep though – or maybe now I’m just an old dog and learning new tricks just doesn’t come as easy as it used to. Anyway, I’m not having a whole lot of success trying to follow along with recipes in books. “Knead until dough is elastic and smooth.” Ok, what does that mean exactly? How do you measure elasticity? How smooth is smooth? And so on and so forth. I have no feel for it yet. I also have not yet developed an eye for reading a recipe and knowing if it sounds “right” or not.

For example, here is a bread I made yesterday, a lightly sweet maple bread:
maple hearth bread

Looks pretty, right? But it’s dense and heavy like a brick and even though I “tapped the bottom to see if it sounds hollow” (which it did, I swear), I underbaked it and the center is gummy.

Or how about these whole wheat sandwich rolls:
whole wheat sandwich rolls, baked

I got the impression they were supposed to be crusty – the name of the recipe was “crusty sandwich rolls” fer chrissake – and kind of like kaiser rolls. Instead they are pitifully flat and un-crusty. I also forgot to add the salt. Turns out that salt is kind of a big deal. They are almost inedible as is.

Luckily the spousal unit had the idea to stuff the bread with salty fillings and then cook it in butter with a weight on top, kind of like a panini, which made a huge difference. We might even be able to eat the whole batch this way.

pseudo cuban sandwich

Cornbread? I got it down. Skillet biscuits? No problem. Cookies? In the bag.

Bread? Ahaaahahahaha, hah, ha. No.

marinated vegetable salad

13 Apr

This salad was hatched when I needed to bring a side for Easter and I had no time to cook and a bunch of salad type veggies knocking around the refrigerator. It turned out so well that even the baby was gobbling up broccoli florets and cucumber slices and asking for more. I’m already daydreaming about making it again (yes, my life is boring, shut up).

do you see all the butter on that cornbread MMM YES

serves 4-6

1/3 of an English cucumber, cut into half moons
1/2 of a red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 carrots, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed and patted dry
10 oz bag of frozen broccoli/cauliflower mix, thawed and patted dry*
1 recipe of CITRUS CAPER SALAD DRESSING, recipe below

*note: I used frozen broccoli/cauliflower because it’s already blanched and I don’t particularly care for gnawing on raw crucifers

Toss everything together at least 2 hours before you want to eat. Keeps well in the fridge.


2 T capers, drained and chopped
1/2 garlic clove, finely minced
3 T fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 T prepared mustard (not the neon yellow stuff please)
1 T orange juice
2 T apple cider vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a top and shake it like a polaroid picture.

flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

12 Apr

These are my awesome peanut butter cookies that I push far into the category of excess by also adding chocolate chips. These things have way too much sugar to ever qualify as a health food, but they’re gluten free, so um yay? And they can be dairy free if you use dairy free chocolate chips. Not that I’m gluten or dairy free, but some people are and they deserve cookies too.

flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

makes ~24 cookies

1 cup salted, unsweetened peanut butter (if you use unsalted pb, add a hefty pinch of salt)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips depending on how chippy you’re feeling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line some cookie sheets with parchment paper (or grease them up, I don’t care – parchment paper means less cleanup).

Dump everything in a bowl except the chocolate chips and mix it up real good, then stir in the chips. It’s not important what order you add the ingredients in, but I like to start with the egg and beat it up before I add the other stuff so that I can make sure I obliterate that nasty squiggly white thing that clings to the yolk. Seriously, screw that thing. Once your chips are incorporated, drop the dough by tablespoons onto the cookie sheets, then flatten slightly with a fork or your fingers. If you have any leftover dough, eat it and make this face.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies should look kind of puffy and wiggly and maybe not-quite-done when you take them out of the oven, but that’s ok. Leave them in the pan for a few minutes and they’ll deflate and firm up nicely, at which point you can transfer them to a cooling rack.

Store them in an airtight container on the counter for a day or three. I have no idea if they last longer than that because we always eat them too fast. They get chewier as time goes on (yum).

If you have a toddler about, make sure they smear the melty chocolate chips all over their face, hands, upholstery, etc for the authentic cookie experience.

flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies


celebrating holidays

11 Apr

Now it’s April and many holidays have come and gone since I last blogged. And I didn’t celebrate a single one of them. Crap! I’ve felt like I’ve been kind of in a no-man’s land of holiday celebrations for the last few years where Mike and I are too old for it to be cute anymore and (more recently) the baby is too young to know what’s going on, so we do nothing. But I actually really miss it. I mean, the only holidays we really “do” anymore are Thanksgiving and Christmas, which leaves a whole lotta year with nothing going on.

I got to thinking about it this last weekend (Easter), when once again I hadn’t planned anything at all but one of my friends invited us over for dinner and a plastic egg hunt for the kiddies – and you know what, it was really nice. I think maybe we humans need these periodic celebrations to help focus us on important things to be thankful for like family, friends, and our amazing food supply and to help psychologically mark and honor the passage of time and seasons. Otherwise everything is just the same all the time and the years just kind of blur together. We don’t have harvest celebrations anymore really, but it seems like we’ve retained the want for *something* to celebrate so we do silly things like the weird mainstream co-option of holidays like Groundhog Day and St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.

Well that got a little long winded and brain vomit-y. The short version is that I want to get back in the rhythm of celebrating the passage of the year, being aware and present in each season, savoring the time I’ve been given on this planet, appreciating my family and friends, and teaching my little one. 🙂 I’m going to start planning our May Day right now.

I wanted to write this without sounding like a pretentious asshole and I don’t think I quite succeeded. Oh well.  If I sit on it with the hopes of editing it I know I’ll just never publish it though, so here goes.

And for sticking with me, here’s a picture of the baby dressed up on Easter: