Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lenten Pretzels

(from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz) H.T: Danielle Bean

1 Tablespoon honey or sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 envelope or 1 Tbs. active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
Coarse salt or herbs or poppy seeds
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs. water

Dissolve the honey in the water; sprinkle in the yeast. When the yeast is active, add 1 tsp salt and the first cup of flour. Stir well and blend in the remaining flour. Knead the dough till smooth.

Cut the dough into pieces. Roll them into ropes and twist into pretzels shapes. Place the pretzels on lightly greased cookie sheets and brush them with the beaten egg and sprinkle with salt or herbs. Makes about eight pretzels. Bake at 425 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

We loved these with the honey sweetener and sprinkled with sage.

Friday, February 23, 2007


The bread that is almost a pizza.
(In fact, I made half the dough into a pizza for the boys)

When accompanied by this substantial side dish, even lighter soups or salads can be served as a meal.

For the dough:

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs. sugar
1 packet or tablespoon dry yeast
5 cups flour
1/4 olive oil
1 Tbs. salt

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Add yeast. When the yeast is active, add your first cup of flour. Stir well. Add oil and salt and mix. Add remaining flour one cup at a time until the dough holds together. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until springy adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter or you. Let dough rest while you wash out the bowl. Grease the bottom of the washed bowl and put dough in, turning once so that the top is greased. Let rise in a warm, draft free place for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, set out the toppings...

1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves cut up into small pieces
1 Tbs. minced red onion
1 clove garlic minced
2 plum tomatoes sliced very thin
Generous amounts of fresh grated Parmesan
Cracked pepper to taste

Cut the dough in half and roll, toss and stretch it like a pizza dough. Lay each half on a pizza stone or lightly greased pan. Press dough into desired shape and make indentations one inch apart throughout the dough to create pockets to catch and the flavorings you put on top. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle the rosemary over each. Add the onion and garlic. Top with the tomatoes and cover liberally with Parmesan. Add pepper over all to taste.

Place focaccia in a cold oven and set the temperature to 450 degrees. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the edges are a golden brown and the cheese has that wonderful baked look.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

From the Combox

Re: Hearth Bread

A reader asks, What is "springy" as in "knead until the dough is springy?"

This is a good question. I hope I can give a good answer:

Once the dough begins to be kneaded, the gluten starts to be worked and develop a kind of elastic or "springy" quality to it. When the dough has become this way, it feels more "together" like it is one thing and not just mixed ingredients. When a "springy" dough is stretched and released, it has a tendency to pull itself back together.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Salmon in Muscadet Cream Sauce

This recipe is not only my favorite for fish and salmon, but it is my ultimate favorite main course recipe of all time. It changes the minds of even those who have a distaste for fish! The entree has been a staple in our home for years, and it has turned out beautifully every time. It is imperative that a Muscadet or other very dry white wine be used for this recipe. The chervil, chives and tarragon used in combination here make up a symphony for your palate - you will be sure to use them together in other meals. Bon Appetit!

4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups Muscadet or other dry white wine
1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
6 center-cut salmon fillets, about 1 1/2 lb. total, skin removed
2/3 cup crème fraîche
1 tsp. minced fresh chervil
1 tsp. minced fresh chives
1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, shallots, wine and 1/2 tsp. each of the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by one-third, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When it foams, add the salmon fillets. Sear until golden, about 2 minutes, then turn the fillets and sear the other side until golden and just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes more. Sprinkle the salmon with the remaining 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper and transfer to warmed individual plates.

Strain the tomato mixture through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl, pressing against the pulp to extract all the juice. Stir in the crème fraîche, then taste and adjust the seasonings. Return the sauce to the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens a bit, 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the salmon and sprinkle with the chervil, chives and tarragon.

Recipe courtesy Williams-Sonoma

Mascarpone Farfalle with Cremini, Asparagus and Walnuts

This recipe is quick and simple, which makes it a favorite in our home for weeknights, but it's flavors are delicious enough to be served to special guests. It also makes a wonderful Lenten dinner. The recipe is fine as is, but I increase the mascarpone and nutmeg to my taste and substitute pecans for the walnuts. Enjoy!

1 pound farfalle pasta
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and most of the juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and saute until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the farfalle. Stir in the mascarpone and nutmeg and toss until the cheese coats the pasta, adding the reserved cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time to moisten. Stir in 1/2 cup of walnuts. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mound the pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts. Serve.

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Ten Healthiest Foods

The Mayo clinic's dietitian, Mark Glen, offers his top ten picks for healthiest foods. I was happy to see that eight out of these ten are staples in our house. Also worthy of note, these food items work well with Lenten fasting. Happy Ash Wednesday!
  1. apples
  2. almonds
  3. blueberries
  4. broccoli
  5. red beans
  6. salmon
  7. spinach
  8. sweet potatoes
  9. vegetable juice
  10. wheat germ

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Here's a simple soup that is great for Lent or for dieting. It is high in fiber, essential nutrients and vitamins. It is also very filling and flavorful, but low in calories and contains almost no fat. I make it in a large quantity and keep it in the fridge for lunches.

12 cups of water
4Tbsp. Chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon
3-4 oz. tomato paste
11/2 tsp. dried oregano
fresh cracked pepper to taste

2 leeks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. green beans
1 (10 oz) package frozen Lima beans
1 lb baby carrots
2 medium sized zucchini
2 large, firm tomatoes (or three plum tomatoes)
Olive oil in a spray pump.

For broth, bring the 12 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan and add the Better Than Bouillon. Add 3-4 oz. of tomato paste depending how tomato-y you like your broth. Add the spices and let simmer while you prepare the vegetables.

Spray a fry pan lightly with olive oil and cook the carrots over medium heat until the begin to soften. Toss them in the simmering broth. Rinse and cut the green beans and toss them in, too.

Slice the leeks and cook them over medium heat with the garlic until they soften and turn transparent. Set aside. Cook the sliced zucchini in the same pan until it, too, softens and browns slightly. Dice the tomato and transfer to a new platter, leaving behind any juices or seeds.

When the carrots and beans are al dente, add the Leeks, zucchini, and tomato. Add the frozen Lima beans. When these last are heated through, the soup is done.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Better Than Bouillon...

...lives up to it's name. When it comes to homemade soups and stews, Better Than Bouillon is more affordable than gourmet Demi-glace, less time consumig than home boiled stocks, and it really does enhance the flavor of your broths.

Chambord Drenched Double Chocolate Cake

This recipe is combination of a Williams-Sonoma chocolate cake recipe (cut in half and slightly altered) and my own added raspberry flair. This is the pan I used, and it is absolutely ideal for the recipe. Perhaps another pan would work as well if it had a textured top or if the top could be cut so as to absorb the syrup well.

Double Chocolate Cake

1 and1/4 Cups flour
1/2 Cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
dash of salt
1 stick of butter
3/4 Cup of sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate melted and cooled

Get all ingredients to room temperature. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour decorative pan.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend well. Set aside.

Mix milk with sour cream and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a flat beater, beat butter on medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low and add sugar. Increase speed to high and beat 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time. Beat 1-2 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape down sides on occasion. Beat in vanilla extract.

Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just well blended. Then fold in the melted and cooled chocolate. Spread batter into the greased pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the syrup, dissolve 3/4 cup of sugar in 3/4 cup of water over medium heat. When sugar dissolves turn off heat. Add 1/3 cup Chambord and stir.

Turn cake out onto cooling rack and place wax paper underneath. Pour Chambord syrup evenly over the cake top. It should absorb it completely.

Move to serving tray when cooled and enjoy!

Don't forget to tell me if you make this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Only Pumpkin Pie

This is my mother's recipe. It is simply the best.

1 can pumpkin (1lb.13oz.)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp. cloves
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs beaten

1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Combine first eight ingredients in a large bowl.

Place evaporated milk and heavy cream in a medium sized saucepan and heat to scalding. Let cool slightly and mix into the large bowl with the first eight ingredients. Pour into a prepared 10 inch pie shell and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

New Englanders would say this pie is "wicked good."

Hearth Bread

This hearth bread recipe is from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook. I like to serve it with soup. Fresh baked bread and home made soup is the perfect winter meal.

2 Cups warm water
1TB sugar
1 TB or packet of dry yeast
6 Cups flour
1 TB salt

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and add yeast. When yeast is active add your first cup of flour and the salt. Stir well. Add remaining flour one cup at a time until the dough holds together. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead until it is spingy. Let the dough rest while you wash out the bowl and grease the bottom. Place dough back in bowl and turn once so that the top is greased. Let rise in a warm draft free place until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down. Divide in half and divide each half into three equal parts. Roll each part into a rope one inch in diameter an braid each of the three equal parts so that you end with two braided loaves. Place braids on baking stones sprinkled with corn meal or on a greased cookie sheet. Place loaves in a cold oven. Turn your oven to 400 degrees and bake for fifteen minutes. Wash tops of loaves with and egg white whipped with a tablespoon of water. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes more.

Have the butter ready and enjoy!

By Popular Demand

My father has graciously given me permission to pass this recipe on from our family to yours. He did not write the recipe as I have it here. I had to call him several times and ask questions. Since you do not have the ability to do that, I have taken the liberty of re-writing the recipe and including the information he shared with me over the phone.

Grandpapa's Oatmeal Molasses Bread
(makes four loaves)

3 C. milk
2 C. oats
1/4 C. butter
10 C. flour
4 T. wheat germ
1 T. salt
2 eggs and one egg white
1/2 C. molasses
1 1/2 T. yeast
1 C. warm water
1 T. sugar

Warm milk, oats, and butter over medium low heat until butter melts. Let cool. Meanwhile, mix first five cups of flour with wheat germ, and salt. Once milk mixture has cooled, add the eggs, egg white and molasses to it. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water and add the yeast. Once the yeast is active add the milk, oat and egg mixture. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients. Add the remaining flour one cup at a time, mixing the dough well. Stop adding flour when the dough holds together and is no longer sticky.

Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead until it is springy. Let dough rest while you rinse the bowl and grease the bottom. Place dough back in bowl, turning once so the top is greased. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place for 45 minutes.

Punch dough down, roll out on flat surface and divide evenly into four loaves. Knead each loaf being careful not to overwork the dough and place each into a greased loaf pan. Grease tops with melted butter or crisco and let them rise in the pan in a warm draft free place for 30 minutes.

Slice loaves down the center with a sharp knife cutting deeply and bake at 350 for 38 minutes. Cover with foil after 20 minutes or so. (I did not cover with foil, but brushed an additional egg white on the tops at this point. It stopped the excessive browning and gave that nice shine to the tops.)

Suggestions: Serve warm from the oven with butter. Use for toast at breakfast. Top with butter and honey. Enjoy!

And be sure to let me know if you make it!

Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe is from The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook.

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
11/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars until light. Add the egg and beat until fluffy.

Blend the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together well. Add these dry ingredients to butter mixture. Chill dough slightly.

Roll dough into one inch balls and place an inch apart on a light greased cookie sheet. Press with a fork forming a crisscross pattern.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Pour milk and wait for the oven to beep. Enjoy!

Worth Your Thyme

Herb Garden Loaf

Years ago, a man who was very kind to me mentioned that herb bread was his favorite food in all the world. I found this recipe somewhere (I can't remember where) and I made it for him. I've held on to the recipe--scratched in my own hurried handwriting onto three separate index cards-- and I make this loaf a few times a year. It isn't difficult, especially for the beautiful and delicious results.

4-41/2 C. flour
3 TBs. sugar
2 pkg. rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. each marjoram, thyme, and rosemary
3/4 C. milk
1/2 C. water
1/4 C. butter
1 egg

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 C. flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and herbs. Heat milk, water, and butter on stove top until the butter is just melted. Stir milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix well. Mix in egg. Add just enough or remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth (4-6 minutes). Cover it and let it rest 10 minutes.

Divide dough into three equal pieces. Roll each into a 30 inch rope. Braid the ropes and pinch the ends like so...

Tie a knot in the center of the braid and wrap the ends around the knot in opposite directions to form a roundish loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet. (I use my pizza stones)

Cover and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in size...

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until a beautiful golden brown. Melt extra butter and brush on top. Sprinkle with extra herbs and enjoy. I served this with our first pan-seared steak of the season. The bread is remarkably soft and absorbs the pan sauce beautifully.

And remember, the only thing better than the smell of fresh bread baking is the smell of fresh herb bread baking.