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Another Sourdough Win!

I’m now two months into this sourdough adventure, and life with Fester is going fairly smoothly. I haven’t forgotten to feed him (yet), although I do have him down to just one meal every week. Three cheers for low-maintenance “pets.” (And this why we don’t have a dog. Or houseplants.) 

So far, I haven’t had to actually “discard” any of the starter when it’s time to feed Fester. Most of it has wound up in cinnamon raisin bread and pizza dough. Last weekend, however, I didn’t have time to make anything with the discard. I couldn’t bring myself to toss out the half cup or so of starter though, so I put it in a container and stuffed it back in the refrigerator. I figured I’d find something to do with it after the weekend, even if that meant eating pizza again. (Not that anyone here complains about pizza.) 

I remembered that Karen had sent me a link for sourdough biscuits with cheese and chives in them, so I went looking for that recipe. While I didn’t find her original link, I stumbled on a recipe for caramelized onion sourdough biscuits from King Arthur Flour. I didn’t have chives on hand, but I figured a scallion would be an acceptable substitute.

The biscuits were pretty easy to put together. I started caramelizing the onions as soon as I got home from work, and while those were hanging out on the stove, I chopped the scallion and mixed up the rest of the ingredients. The recipe said to let the caramelized onions chill for three hours, but that meant we’d be eating biscuits at 9 p.m. So, I did what any short-on-time cook would do: I put them in the freezer for 15 minutes instead.

When I added the starter to the dry ingredients, it didn’t seem to have enough moisture to hold the dough together. So, I added a splash (probably less than a tablespoon) of half-and-half to the dough to bring everything together. If my sourdough starter was thinner, I probably wouldn’t have needed it, but my starter seems to be on the thicker side.

These smelled incredible while they were baking, and they were easily our favorite part of dinner. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have more uses for discarded starter than for “fed” starter!

SourdoughOnionBiscuits

Caramelized Onion Sourdough Biscuits

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 1/4 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
1 scallion, finely chopped
9 ounces (1 cup) unfed sourdough starter
half-and-half, optional

Heat a large skillet (I love my cast iron for this!) over medium-low heat. Place the onion, brown sugar and one tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and caramelized, which should take about 30 minutes. Remove the onions from the skillet and place them in a small bowl. Allow the bowl to cool in the refrigerator or freezer until the onions are thoroughly chilled. (This took about 15 minutes in my freezer.) 

Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

While the onions are cooking / chilling, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Stir the chopped scallions into the mixture, and then add the chilled onions.

Stir the sourdough starter into the bowl and use a rubber spatula to gently work the starter into the flour-butter-onion mixture. (If the mixture is too dry after the starter is fully incorporated, add a tiny splash of half-and-half to help things come together.) Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently pat into a 1″ thick disc.

Use a 2-1/2″ or 3″ biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds. Pat any leftover scraps together to cut out additional biscuits. Place the rounds about 2″ apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Yield: I got nine 3″ biscuits out of the recipe; King Arthur Flour says eight. No one’s complaining about an extra biscuit here.

Note: I haven’t tried this, but I think these would freeze well before baking. I’d make the dough and cut out the biscuits, and then put them in the freezer on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. When they’re frozen solid, transfer them to a Ziploc bag. Then you should be able to just bake them straight from the freezer whenever you need biscuits.  

From King Arthur Flour

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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What We’re Eating: 3/13 – 3/17

Happy Monday! It’s been a while since I shared a meal plan post, so I figured that would be a good way to kick off the week. (Plus, I haven’t had time to finish writing about any of the things I’ve been baking lately.)

Monday 3/13 – Roasted red pepper penne with sausage and salad
Tuesday 3/14 – Black bean and cheese quesadillas (I know it’s pi day, but we are finally going to see Hidden Figures that night, which means no time for baking.)
Wednesday 3/15 – Salmon, asparagus and couscous with cilantro and carrots
Thursday 3/16 – Chicken bruschetta bake, salad, applesauce and dessert (We’re having some new friends over for dinner, and this is my go-to “first time” meal. It’s easy, and almost everyone loves it.)
Friday 3/17 – Homemade pizza! I have been using my discarded sourdough starter to make pizza crust, and I recently discovered that I can throw the pizza dough in the freezer. Now I have a steady supply of pizza crust on hand, which is perfect for lazy Friday nights. I just have to decide if we’ll have BBQ chicken or pepperoni and sausage pizza.

In other food news, I baked a chocolate stout cake for a friend’s 30th birthday last week, and it was incredible. It was a dark, moist chocolate cake with delicious, stouty (is that even a thing?) undertones. It’s definitely a keeper. Of course, we were too busy having fun to take any pictures of the cake, so it’ll be a while before it appears here.

I’m still enjoying the sourdough adventure. Sourdough pancakes are becoming one of my new favorite things with the starter. King Arthur Flour has become my go-to source for new sourdough ideas, and I haven’t had a recipe fail me yet.

I’m working on cooking from cookbook closet more often as well. I pulled at least one new recipe this week from my Everyday Food archives, and I have a couple more bookmarked for next week.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Balancing Out the Cookies

Raise your hand if your calendar is often crammed with activities. I don’t know about you, but our social calendar seems to revolve around food. In December, for example, I had three separate events centered around cookies. From cookie exchanges to cookie Fridays at the office, I was slightly overloaded on the sugar. Earlier this month, we hosted the dessert portion of a progressive dinner, and then, I decided to bake some cupcakes for our small group just because it had been a while since I’d made some.

I firmly believe that life (as far as food goes, anyway) is all about balance, so when our social life became all about dessert, I started looking for something to offset all the sweetness.

I wanted something that would be easy to put together. Bonus points if I can make it with whatever was in my pantry / fridge. I remembered Annie’s white bean dip, and I thought it’d be perfect for the occasion. Plus, it’s healthy, and it takes all of 5 minutes to make. Cutting the veggies for serving takes longer than making the dip!

And, even better, it’s a dip that Andy truly enjoyed, which is saying something.

garlicwhitebeandip

Garlic Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 15 oz. cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely minced. Add the beans, salt and water to the bowl and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the food processor running, pour the olive oil into the bean mixture and process until it is fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then process another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Taste the dip and season with pepper and salt if needed.

Serve with sliced vegetables and crackers. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From Annie’s Eats, originally from A Couple Cooks

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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Perfect Bread

Like I mentioned earlier, one of my goals for this year is to bake more bread. And thanks to Karen’s generosity, I’m all set to scratch sourdough off my baking bucket list. I started feeding Fester last week, and he’s been a happy part of our family ever since. I even felt some guilt when I moved him from his warm spot next to my KitchenAid mixer to the fridge. (Side note: All credit for the name “Fester” goes to Karen’s husband, Arron.) 

My one hang-up with the sourdough process is the “discard” step. After four days of gradual feeding, the instructions said to reduce the starter down to just 1/2 a cup, feed that portion and then discard the rest. And I have to discard starter whenever I feed Fester from here on out! This goes against my thrifty nature! Not to mention the fact that I’m lovingly feeding him on a regular basis (which is more than I can say about the plant in my office…). Why would I want to throw some of it out?

So I’ve been searching the internet for things to do with “discarded” starter. Thankfully, King Arthur Flour has some great ideas and recipes. After reading several recipes, I decided to start with this cinnamon raisin swirl bread. I had everything on hand for them (unlike these delicious-sounding English muffins).

It took a few hours to make the bread, but most of that was hands-off time while the dough rose. And making the dough couldn’t have been any easier. I literally dumped it into the mixer and let the dough hook do the work. I was a little concerned when that the dough was going to be too soft and sticky to work with, but I rolled it out on a greased pastry mat and didn’t really have a problem.

I’m just a week into this sourdough / bread baking adventure, but if my first experience is any indication, this is going to be a tasty ride.

cinnamonraisinsourdough

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Sourdough Bread

Note: I’ve been loving measuring by weight instead of volume (fewer dishes! improved accuracy!) lately, so I’m giving this recipe in weights. The good people at King Arthur Flour also provide standard volume measurements, so feel free to click over there if you need things in cups. 🙂

For the dough:
4 ounces of sourdough starter, fed or unfed
12 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast (KA calls for instant; I used the active dry that I always have on hand.) 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
2 1/2 ounces softened butter
5 3/8 ounces lukewarm water

For the filling: 
1 3/4 ounces sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
2 5/8 ounces raisins

extra butter for finishing, optional

To make the dough, combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on to medium-low speed and mix until the dough comes together, then increase the speed to medium and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms.

Place the dough in a lightly greased large bowl (I used my 8-cup Pyrex bowl.) and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2  to 2 hours.

While the dough rises, stir the sugar, cinnamon and flour together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Lightly grease your counter (or a pastry mat), and then turn the dough out onto the prepared work surface. Gently deflate the dough, and then roll / pat it into a rectangle that’s about 6″ x 20″.

Brush the surface of the dough with the egg wash, then spread the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the surface of the dough.

Working from one of the short ends of the dough, roll the dough into a log. Pinch the ends closed to seal the log, and make sure the long seam is pinched closed.

Transfer the dough log into a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is about 1″ above the edge of the loaf pan.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°. When the dough is done rising, bake the bread for 40-45 minutes, or until the interior of the loaf measures 190° on a digital thermometer and the top is golden brown. Tent the bread with aluminum foil after the first 20 minutes to prevent the top from becoming too brown.

Remove the bread from the oven and run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the bread. Turn the bread out of the pan and brush the top with extra butter, if desired. (This gives the bread a soft, satiny crust.) Allow bread to cool before slicing.

From King Arthur Flour

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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What We’re Eating: 1/30 – 2/4

January has been unusually busy for me this year. Between a work trip to Florida and a wedding in Ohio, I spent a lot of time NOT cooking this month.

I’ve been trying to make up for lost time over the last week or so though. I finally got the ball rolling with my sourdough starter (which we’re affectionately referring to as “Fester”), and it seems to be growing nicely. Last night was the first time I had to discard some of the starter as part of the feeding process, and I decided to use the discarded portion to make some cinnamon raisin bread. It’s rising now, and I can’t wait to see if it’s a keeper. Andy came home from work, observed the bread-making process and declared this sourdough adventure a “good thing.” 😀

We also celebrated Andy’s birthday this past week, and he wanted to stay in, rather than go out, so we invited Andy, Bethany, Judah and Sadie over for birthday burgers. I made the fried onion burgers from Cook it in Cast Iron, and we finished off the meal with the monkey bread from Bread Illustrated and vanilla bean ice cream. (The monkey bread, by the way, was incredible. I will never make monkey bread any other way again.) 

Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Monday 1/30 – Ham and cheese pie and salad
Tuesday 1/31 – Salmon and root vegetable gratin  (I actually made this in November and froze half of it. I figure now’s as good a time as any to eat the second half!) 
Wednesday 2/1 – Pasta e Fagioli (New recipe for the week!) 
Thursday 2/2 – Chipotle chicken tacos
Friday 2 /3 – Homemade pizza (It’s Friday, after all!) 

It’s safe to say that I’m glad to be back in the kitchen again. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Toast: Not Just for Breakfast

I first tried this recipe in an attempt to use up some ricotta cheese before it went south. I had all of the ingredients on hand, and it seemed better than letting the cheese mold in the back of the fridge. I didn’t know how Andy would feel about them, but I went ahead and served them for dinner anyway. (Yep, my kitchen is a dictatorship. I like to think of it as a benevolent dictatorship though…) Turns out, we both loved them.

I can’t decide what takes these things over the top. Maybe it’s the caramelized onions. Or the cheese. Or the bread. Maybe it’s everything put together. Either way, this is our new favorite appetizer. I may never make soup again. (Just kidding, Andy. Mostly.) 

I like to tell myself that, as far as appetizers go, this one is relatively healthy. Yes, there’s cheese and bread, but it’s buried underneath a hearty serving of squash and onions. Which meant that cramming several of these in my face on New Year’s Eve was perfectly acceptable.

It’s best on fresh, homemade bread, but it’s not bad on crusty Italian bread from the grocery store bakery. I’ve garnished it with mint (per the recipe) and with parsley (after my mint was done for the year), and we’ve liked it with both. And, as you can see from the picture, it’s just as good if you forget to buy something green.

I’m not sure how Deb figures that four slices of bread is enough for all of the squash. Maybe her bread is bigger than mine, or she heaps the squash more heavily. I’ve also given up measuring the ricotta for the toasts. Instead, I just take a spoon and smear a generous scoop of cheese on the warm toast before piling the delicious squash-onion mixture on top. (Of course, this means my “instructions” will be more like guidelines. Oh well.)

squashtoasts

Squash Toasts with Caramelized Onions and Ricotta Cheese

olive oil
1 loaf of Italian bread
1 2-1/2 to 3 lb. butternut squash
pinch red pepper flakes
coarse salt
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 – 1 cup ricotta cheese
finely chopped parsley or mint, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and the cut each half into slices that are about 1″ thick. Toss the squash with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes. Spread the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender (usually 25-40 minutes, depending on how thick your squash slices were). Remove from the oven and let the squash cool until you can handle it (about 20 minutes).

Scrape the squash from its skin and put the roasted squash into a large mixing bowl. Discard the skin.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. (I use my 12″ Lodge.) Add three tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and then add the onion slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften and turn brown. Reduce the heat and let the onions cook until they are golden brown and delicious. Add the vinegar and maple syrup to the pan and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is jam-like.

Remove the onions from the heat and add them to cooked squash. Use a fork to mix the squash and onions together. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Slice the bread into 1″ thick pieces. Heat a large skillet (again, I use the cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Toast the slices of bread in the skillet until they are golden brown on each side. Depending on how many slices of bread you have, you may need to add more olive oil to the pan. Place the bread on paper towels to drain while you finish cooking the bread.

Spread a generous spoonful of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread, and then top with a scoop of the onion-squash mixture. Garnish with the chopped mint or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers (if you’re lucky enough to have them) in the refrigerator.

Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, via NYTimes Cooking

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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Happy New Year!

Greetings, 2017! It’s good to see you.

Things have been quiet around the blog lately, which explains why my post count is down from the previous year (38 instead of 41, whoops). The year started strong, but when life picks up, my time for writing and taking pictures gets pushed aside.

While I may not have written as much as I’d hoped to last year, I did a halfway decent job of cooking more things from my cookbooks and magazines. In fact, my copy of Cook it in Cast Iron has an almost-permanent spot on the kitchen counter.

I finally got around to sharing some of our very favorite things. The more we like something, the harder it is to get a picture of it!

I was a little disappointed that the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap didn’t happen this year. Maybe that will change in 2017.

Here’s a few observations from 2016:

  1. We like ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

     

  2. Pork roast is my new go-to.
  3. We still like our veggies (even if they come with hitchhikers).

     

  4. Chocolate cake is the best. ChocolateChocolateCake

     

    I’m hoping that 2017 will be the year of bread in my kitchen. Thanks to some not-so-subtle hints (AKA a Christmas list to some wonderful friends), I’m now the proud owner of Bread Illustrated. Plus, my awesome friend Karen gifted me everything I’d need to get going with sourdough. (That’s my late January project. I’m traveling a bunch this month, and since sourdough is essentially a pet, I didn’t want to stick Andy with the hassle of feeding and tending a jar of starter.) Of course, all of these extra carbs mean that I should probably spend a little more time on the bike trainer this winter. Details. 😉

Here’s to another year of adventures, both in and out of the kitchen!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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