Friday, March 3, 2017

Alexandra's Mom's No Knead Peasant Bread

It's been two years since I did any posting on this blog... many's the time I had something great to show and tell, but, for whatever reason, it just didn't happen.

But this.......... this is too good not to share.

Alexandra's Kitchen.  I stumbled upon her blog while searching for something... forget exactly what it was now...but then, I noticed this on her sidebar.

Simple Peasant Bread as she calls it.  It's her Mom's recipe from when they were kids...  I'm always on the lookout for easy and tasty breads.  Looks like her Mom was way ahead of the 'modern' no knead breads everybody is always raving about.  So was most of Europe, but don't tell that to everybody who is now ruining their lovely expensive Creuset pots trying to bake no knead bread in a superheated oven.  I've been using several other versions over the years...but, this is the best so far.

A lovely, easy to make, tasty, crunchy-outside-soft-inside loaf, in about 2 hours.  Yes, it only takes a short while and there is no kneading or even touching the dough at all.  Alexandra made it, with videos included, on her blog; even with small children around .. years ago now..but, the 100s of positive comments attest to its' ease, its' flavour and to its' success.  People like me are just discovering her blog and her recipes ...and I will definitely be back to try some of her other goodies.  Like the chocolate cake recipe I also saw while there ....oh, yummmm.....

Anyway....she divides her dough into two blobs and bakes it in two Pyrex bowls...I didn't have two, so used my giant muffin pan for the second half of the dough ... it makes the cutest little loaves for giving quickly to neighbours so you don't eat all of the bread in one sitting... straight out of the oven.... which could happen.......believe it.

Here are some photos of my attempt... which I did exactly as she said to do on her recipe... and it worked perfectly.
Thanks so much Alexandra!!  and, of course, your Mom ...  who did it many times before ............

Dough after the first rise of one hour..

Second rise just sitting on the oven door where it was still warmish... 

After 15 minutes I moved it on top of the stove while I heated the oven.

              It rose to just the tops of the containers by the time I put it in the oven.

It got plenty of oven spring in the first few minutes of baking.

Soooo cute... big muffins of bread.

Good thing there are a few items for perspective...they could be pretty large loaves if you didn't know otherwise.

As you can see I had to cut and taste even if it was good and hot........... mmmmmmmmmm....oh, yeh..........

This is the little bit larger loaf from my 1 quart bowl.

I lost track of the actual baking time for the smaller muffin loaves..but, you can take them out when golden or leave them to brown a bit further ... probably mine were about 25 minutes by the time I decided to take them out and left the larger one for another 5 or so... I like them more blonde than dark.... but, that's just me.....

here is the recipe.. from her blog ...... she gives you plenty of info about how to mix the dough;  lift with the forks etc...  you should watch some of it before attempting it... it makes things so simple once you've seen it done.  Well, it sure did for me anyway.......  I'm what my sister calls "visual"... reading it doesn't always make it totally clear to me.  I like to "see the video" if you know what I mean...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Home made croutons

Many years ago...when I discovered you could buy packaged croutons, I laughed my head off.  Why would you do that?  It is just toasted, flavoured bits of bread.  Most likely, the bits of old broken stuff that they swept off the floor at the bakery.  But, then, people are even buying potatoes wrapped in they don't have to do it themselves.  Are you kidding me?  no.... it's sad, but some folks will pay for anything.  Some folks  ....  just not me.

This is simple and yet so tasty.  I insist on making my own.  I like having them in a container in the 'fridge just for a snack..instead of crackers.

Make them with any of the spices you enjoy... plus a bit of salt and pepper.  Yummy.

A perfect way to use up old bread..even the bits that are getting hard and dry... just perfect.

Cut the bread pieces into chunks the size you like for your own croutons.  Mine always end up about one inch square or so ... cuz I like 'em big enough to be snacks!

Put them in a deep bowl and drizzle on a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and some spices.  I like oregano and sweet basil...sometimes a tiny sprinkle of poultry seasoning .. or some rosemary.  Turn them over and over with a large spoon... then, drizzle on a bit more olive oil.  They won't get all soaked with oil...I just like to make sure most of them get a bit of it on them.
If you have quite a few do them in two batches ...they do tend to jump out of the bowl sometimes when I over fill it.

Spread them on a baking sheet ... turn the oven to 350F and pop them in.  I don't bother wasting time, energy or heat on preheating.  When the oven gets up to temperature I set the timer for about 10 minutes...then turn it down to about 250F when ten minutes has passed.   Another 10 to 15 at that temperature ...or in the interim while the oven is cooling to it... should just about be enough time.  If you like yours browned a bit... leave it up at the 350F...but, keep an eye on things.  They can begin to brown and then all of a sudden they may be more coloured than you want them to be.  You will figure out your own temperatures and times after once or twice making them.

When they are cooled I store them in a container in the 'fridge.

Sometimes they actually make it onto a bowl of soup.... like this yummy veggie soup I made yesterday ....  and, sometimes I just nibble them for snacks......

If you haven't already....try some.  You'll love 'em.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Eons have passed

...yet again....

But I have a fractured rib or I am spending more time in the house and just watched a biscotti making video from 2011 of Nonna Pia, making Almond Biscotti.   Such a sweet little old lady of 89 years. .... using all the mod cons...and showing us how she does it.

I have never made biscotti quite this way and certainly never had soft, almost cake-batter-like dough.  But I tried it and I really like the look of it when it is finished.  Looks so rustic.  All lumpy and a bit browned on the very tops of the bumps of course...

Here are a couple pics so you can see what it looks like.

If you would like to see her video .. just click on this

My Christmas test baking begins....... I am still tweaking this recipe of hers..... and will share when I get it the way I like it....

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti (a reprisal)

This is a recipe from Culinary in the Desert.  I "reprised" it because I had a couple of better photos of the finished cookie.  Make some.  You'll like 'em.

I like my biscotti dough to be a lovely, well behaved lump, that comes away from the bowl easily.... if it is a bit sticky...just dip your hands into the flour container... that should fix it.... ..

I shape it into one long log then cut it in half... and continue forming into two long rather narrow logs....then flatten gently, leaving it a bit rounded along the center......... look at the great colours with the pistachios and cranberries. Surprisingly,with this recipe...even with whole cranberries it doesn't fall apart at the edges when slicing, so I get to use a knife instead of resorting to my trusty "Biscotti Blade" ..(my special kitchen hack saw...which really does a wonderful job on all other recipes) Perhaps because of the soaking and softening of the dried berries.

leaving the logs a bit rounded gives the slices a nice shape later

To dress them a bit......drizzle some dark chocolate over a few ....

or.... dip the tops into some melted chocolate and sprinkle on some chopped pistachios and a few chopped Skor bar bits.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt ( I use salted butter and omit salt)
4 TBSPS. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
4 large eggs, divided (I only used 2 plus egg whites )
2 tsps. vanilla
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

Put cranberries in small bowl and cover with boiling water; set aside until plump...about 15 minutes. Drain well.  You can just use dried cranberries, and,not bother with the water.

In medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt if using.

In large mixing bowl, (or mixer bowl) cream together butter and 1 cup granulated sugar. Add 3 eggs (or 2 and enough whites to equal another egg) at a time, beating well after each and scraping down bowl. Mix in vanilla. Stir in drained cranberries and pistachios.. ...I do this by hand after using mixer for the rest.

Scoop mixture onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a 2" X 16" log and place onto parchment lined baking sheet. Gently flatten each log slightly.

{{Optional::: In small bowl, whisk remaining egg. Evenly brush over surface of each log - sprinkle with additional granulated sugar. ( I never bother with this step....) }}

Place into preheated 350 F to 375 oven. Bake til logs are slightly firm to touch...about 20 - 25 minutes. Watch bottoms ..don't let them become too brown unless you like your biscotti brown like some in this house do.... sigh..... Remove pan, reduce temp... (I usually turn it off til I am ready to bake a second time.)
Let cool for 15 minutes - lightly spritz log with water; let sit for 5 more minutes. (I've never heard of this technique before, but I think it does help with the slicing). Use serrated knife to cut logs into 1/2" slices. Place slices upright (or on sides) on baking sheet and place back into oven at lower temp... about 325 F. ... bake til slices are firm to touch...about 20 - 30 minutes. I put mine on their sides and turn them all over half way through. Remove from oven and transfer slices to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48....depending on how thick you slice them.

TIP ::: Invest in a box of parchment paper. It 's a wonderful thing. Saves tons of time because you don't have to wash baking sheets...and also...saves your hands as well as water too if you don't have to keep filling up the sink.

Make sure you remove cookie logs from parchment as soon as they are cool enough to handle and transfer to cooling rack or they will not be as crisp as we like biscotti.....moisture seems to go back and forth between cookies and paper.....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

I haven't tried it yet...but, here's a dandy!

I'll give it to you straight out of the little booklet put out by Publications International...using brand name products.  It's called Smoothies and Frozen Favourites.

When I make mine...I'll just leave out the chocolate milk... mostly cuz I never have it hanging around..why would I? ...but, it sounds like it would be wonderful just as banana peanut butter.

Here is what they call for:

1 1/2 cups reduced fat (2%) chocolate milk
2  TBSP  creamy peanut butter
1  ripe medium banana
2  cups vanilla nonfat yogurt
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP ground flaxseed

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Says it makes 4 one cup servings ...

My observations:  I don't think I'd bother with any sugar .. 'specially as I'm trying not to overdo the new guidelines of staying under the 100 grams per day ....  there would be a lot of natural sugar already in a banana and the vanilla yogurt.. and, hey...that flax seed sounds a good idea for added fibre to anybody's diet... and, I usually have natural chunky peanut won't be buying any creamy just to try one of these... chunks of peanuts will do nicely I'm sure... although, they may not get pulverized as much as they should to suck through a straw...hahahha.. who cares?  I'll drink it out of the glass.

Maybe later today I will get around to making one of these yummy sounding drinks... it's +24C .... already.....

I'd love to put on a picture but, they didn't have one of this ...if I get around to it..I will take a photo of my own ....

Instead, I give you mango, strawberry, orange smoothie.....with frozen yogurt tossed in...  they are soooooo good you may decide to have one a day as we've been doing in the heat wave we're having..... who needs supper after one of these?