the baker upstairs: July 2012

7.31.2012

a perfect dinner

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It doesn't happen often (sadly), but very occasionally I manage to cook a dinner that satisfies all of us completely. Those days I do a happy dance! Not only did everyone clean their plate, but Abby and Geoff actually thanked me for cooking a good dinner, and asked if we could have it again. That's pretty amazing. Everyone even ate some fruit and vegetables! The best part was that it was a very inexpensive meal (made even more inexpensive because I found some chicken strips on sale for $2, and grapes were on sale for $1.99/pound) so it will be easy to frequently repeat in our dinner rotation. Yum!
Baked Chicken Nuggets
Skinny Taste

16 oz (2 large) skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into even bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp olive oil
6 tbsp whole wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tbsp panko
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Put the olive oil in one bowl and the breadcrumbs, panko and parmesan cheese in another. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then put in the bowl with the olive oil and mix well so the olive oil evenly coats all of the chicken. Put a few chunks of chicken at a time into the breadcrumb mixture to coat, then on the baking sheet. Lightly spray the top with olive oil spray then bake 8 - 10 minutes. Turn over then cook another 4 - 5 minutes or until cooked through.

Zucchini Tots
Skinny Taste

1 cup zucchini, grated
1 large egg
1/4 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Grate the zucchini into a clean dish towel. Wring all of the excess water out of the zucchini. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Fill each muffin section to the top, pushing down on the filling with your spoon so it's nice and compacted so they don't fall apart when you take them out of the tin. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Use a plastic knife or rubber spatula around the edges of each tot to remove them from the muffin tin. Enjoy!!

7.25.2012

birthday treats

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There's an eight day stretch in July in which 5 of our family members have birthdays. Geoff's dad and oldest brother were born on the 17th, his third oldest brother on the 21st, and my brother and sister (twins) on the 25th. Geoff's family usually has a big triple birthday party, and my family usually celebrates the twins on Pioneer Day. On a few occasions, those parties have fallen on the same day, which is of course disastrous. Luckily, this year the Skousen party was on the 22nd, and we celebrated with my family yesterday.

I have a hard time thinking of non-food gifts for people, so food is generally the way to go. I still haven't figured out what to get my siblings, because my sister doesn't eat milk or soy, and baking for her is difficult, but I came up with some pretty awesome gifts for Geoff's family this year!


These caramel brownies were pretty amazing. Usually I'm a fan of quick cocoa powder brownies, but this time I went all out with the ghirardelli chocolate chips, and 5 (!) eggs in the batter. The brownies themselves were pretty amazing, but the addition of the caramel layer made them super amazing. They were really rich, and one brownie was definitely sufficient for me, but they were maybe the best brownies I've ever had. The only change I made was that I only used 11 oz of caramel bits, because that was the size of the bag I bought.
Caramel Brownies
Cooking a la Mode

brownies:
1 cup butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 extra-large eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups all-purpose flour

 caramel filling:
1l oz. Kraft caramel bits
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in chocolate chips, and melt, stirring frequently. When there are no more lumps, remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Fold in cocoa powder, salt, and flour, and mix until barely combined. Pour half the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and bake 20 minutes.

While the brownies are baking, prepare the filling by mixing the caramel bits and whipping cream in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth. After two minutes, remove the brownies from the oven and pour the caramel mixture over the top, spreading to cover the brownies evenly. Pour the remaining brownie mixture on top, spreading to cover the caramel layer. Return to oven and bake 30 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan and slicing.

Next up: nutella fudge! It was really supposed to be nutella and sea salt fudge, but I didn't have any sea salt. And I also wasn't sure that Geoff's family would appreciate salt on top of their fudge. They're very traditional in what they eat... when I told them the fudge had nutella in it, it made them a little wary. They're a big meat and potatoes (and lots of bacon) family, and consider things like enchiladas and thai noodles to be very exotic. The fudge had just a hint of nutella taste (I kind of wished it was stronger) but was delicious nonetheless. And it was a big hit with the Skousens, so I think it was perfect for the occasion.

Nutella Fudge
Two Peas and Their Pod via Tasty Kitchen

1 T butter, for greasing pan
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces, weight high-quality bittersweet (60%) chocolate chips
1 cup Nutella, room temperature
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ teaspoons (approximately) sea salt

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides. In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter. Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours. Once the fudge is chilled, run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.

I love packaging things in cute ways, and have been way too lazy about doing it lately, so this time I made a special effort. I made up some cute labels for them (thank you, high school calligraphy class), scanned and printed three copies of each, cut them out freehand into cute tags, and attached them with baker's twine. I was super impressed with myself. I'm so lazy so much of the time that it's nice when I actually put a little effort into things! I hope everyone loved their treats!

7.21.2012

perfect pancakes

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Lately our family has settled into a routine of getting up early on Saturday mornings, knocking out the dreaded grocery trip, and then having a nice breakfast together at home. I absolutely loathe grocery shopping (mostly because the stores that are closest to me are terrible) and having a yummy breakfast to look forward to makes it feel more worthwhile. We all love pancakes, and I've posted about some here and here, but I've never felt like I found that one perfect recipe. I know everyone acts like pancakes are so easy, but for me they've always been finicky and tricky, and it's been hard to achieve the texture I like. I also hate any pancake recipe that requires I buy unusual ingredients (greek yogurt, buttermilk, etc.) because I think pancakes should be easy to do spur of the moment. So this week when Abby brought home a bag of pancake mix from preschool with instructions on how to make them, I was skeptical. We had them for lunch, and I was blown away! They were completely perfect and delicious, and as good or better than any pancakes I've had at a restaurant. I emailed her teacher immediately for the recipe, and made them again this morning. They're light and fluffy, they brown very nicely (like pancakes in commercials) and they taste amazing. So good! This is definitely our new permanent pancake recipe.
Miss Mary's Perfect Pancakes

2 cups flour
5 tsp baking powder
4 T sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2 cups milk

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and whisk with a fork to combine. Mix eggs, oil, and milk together until well combined. Add to dry ingredients, and mix with a fork until mostly combined, with some small lumps of flour remaining. Cook on a hot griddle. I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to get pancakes that are the size I like.

7.17.2012

chicken and broccoli stir fry

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I would say of all the different kinds of cuisine we eat (Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian, American, etc.) I am the most clueless when it comes to Chinese/Japanese food. I can never quite capture the flavors I like, and I'm a miserable failure when it comes to stir fry. That is, until now! This chicken and broccoli was every bit as delicious as what they serve at my favorite Chinese restaurant, and was easy and quick as well. I left out the hoisin because I didn't have it, and it was still fantastic. I served it over my favorite baked brown rice, and it was a great pairing. So fresh and healthy and wonderful!
Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry
Chef Mommy

1 pound chicken breast (about 2 breasts), cubed
3 scallions, whites only, thinly sliced on an angle
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
About 1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 to 6 cups broccoli florets
3/4 to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, optional
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
toasted sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the scallion whites, about half the garlic and ginger, the soy sauce, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the sesame oil. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Mix the remaining cornstarch with 1/3 cup water. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Then add the remaining garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons of water, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Stir-fry until the broccoli is bright green but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Get the skillet good and hot again, and then heat 2 more tablespoons oil. Add the chicken and chili flakes if using. Stir-fry until the chicken loses its raw color and gets browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add the hoisin sauce, return the broccoli to the pan and toss to heat through. Stir in the reserved cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil to thicken. Add more water if need to thin the sauce, if necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if you like. Mound the stir-fry on a serving platter or divide among 4 plates and garnish with sesame seeds; serve with rice.

7.13.2012

strawberry lemonade scones

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We had these for dessert on the fourth of July, and they were a perfect summer treat! I love the combination of lemon and strawberry! I didn't have any lemon curd, so I just made a simple glaze with lemon juice and powdered sugar to top them, and it was perfect. It was also a great way to use up some strawberries that were teetering on the edge. I followed the recipe fairly closely, except that I substituted fat free half and half for cream (I didn't have any) and left out the freeze dried strawberries. Definitely a good recipe to make again, perhaps with some other fruits like blueberries or even apples and cinnamon.
Strawberry Lemonade Scones
Munchkin Munchies

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (chilled, not softened), cut into cubes
1 cup diced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries
1 generous tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream

Topping:
sugar
sanding sugar
cream
prepared lemon curd

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With pastry blender, cut in butter cubes until mixture has coarse crumbs. Gently add both kinds of strawberries and the lemon zest. Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs and cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Gently stir until moistened. Place dough onto a well floured surface. Gently knead the dough by folding and pressing it about 7 times, turning the dough a quarter turn after each fold. Move dough to a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet (or stoneware baking sheet without parchment). Pat dough into a ¾ inch-thick circle. Cut circle into wedges and separate each slightly. Brush wedges with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 16-20 minutes until golden brown. Drizzle scones with lemon curd and top with sanding sugar.

7.12.2012

gnocchi with fresh basil pesto and sausage

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A few weeks ago I made gnocchi, and it was delicious! I served it with a mushroom sauce, and it was totally tasty. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished product! Luckily, I had put half the recipe in the freezer for another day.



Last week there was a day where I had been working on projects all day and was totally exhausted. I also couldn't find anything in the fridge to make for dinner. After a little rummaging in the freezer, I found a packet of cooked turkey sausage and a bag of gnocchi and got to work. I made a fresh pesto with basil from the garden (like I did here), sautéed a red pepper, and tossed everything together, topped with a little parmesan cheese. The combination of flavors was a little unusual (I think it would have been better with sliced sausage instead of crumbled sausage) but on the whole, it was a tasty, quick meal!
Gnocchi
Smitten Kitchen

2 pounds Russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

 Preheat your oven to 400°F. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, and bake them on a baking sheet for 45 minutes to one hour, or until they are fork-tender. For best results, turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time. Let the potatoes cool slightly. Peel the potatoes, and then pass them through a potato ricer, food mill or grate them over the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg and the salt to the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the flour to the potatoes a little at a time, using only as much as you need so that the dough will not stick to your hands.

When the flour has been incorporated, bring the dough together with your fingertips. Dump the dough and any remaining floury bits onto a slightly floured surface. Knead the dough as you would bread dough. Press down and away with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over, make a quarter turn, and repeat the process. Knead for about three or four minutes. Form the dough into a ball and then divide it into 6 smaller balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the six pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces.

You can cook the gnocchi as it is now, but traditional gnocchi has ridges. To create the ridges, press each piece of dough against the tines of a fork. With your finger, gently roll the pressed dough back off the fork. If you find the dough sticking to the fork, dip the fork in flour before you press the dough against it. Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly floured or parchment-lined dish. If you’d like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray and once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag. To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling and well-salted water. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove and set aside.

7.11.2012

pumpkin pasties

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I'm not sure I've ever admitted it on this blog before, but I am a major Harry Potter nerd. I started reading the books way back as a junior in high school (12 years ago now!) and loved them. My best friend Cort is just as into them as I am, and she throws the best Harry Potter parties in the Universe (like, candles suspended in the air and gold-plated dinnerware and house elves for serving and quidditch in the backyard great parties). Last week her daughter Elinor (whom I adopted as my surrogate daughter before we had kids) turned eight, and we had a big Harry Potter bash to celebrate. Cort asked me to bring something for dessert, and of course I had to make pumpkin pasties!



I've made them before, but this was my first time actually making the pastry myself, and I think it made all the difference. They were like perfect tiny bites of pumpkin pie!



Judging by how few were left after everyone had made the rounds of the food tables, I think they were a hit. The pastry itself was delicious, and I would love to use it for other kinds of pasties. I'm not actually the biggest pumpkin pie fan (I prefer my pumpkin in soup or cookies or scones) but these were pretty tasty little buggers. Harry Potter forever!
Pumpkin Pasties
Brownie Bites

Dough:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar pinch of salt
1 stick of cold, unsalted but­ter, diced
1 pack­age of cold cream cheese, cut into coarse chunks

Filling:
3/4 cup canned or fresh pump­kin puree
1 large egg pinch of ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar

Place dry ingre­di­ents in medium bowl and mix together. Add the cold, diced but­ter and mix it together with flour until you have what looks like coarse bread crumbs. Add in the pieces of cream cheese and mix until the dough is very clumpy. Turn dough out onto a lightly flour dusted sur­face and knead until a smooth dough has formed. Wrap in plas­tic and chill for at least 30 min­utes. Can be made in advance and frozen up to 3 months.

In saucepan, heat pumpkin with dry spices on medium-low heat until warmed. Remove from heat. Mix in egg, salt, and sugar. Set aside while you prepare the dough.

Preheat oven to 350F On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thick­ness and cut with round cookie or biscuit cutter. Place rounds onto a greased cookie sheet. Spoon a small amount of pumpkin filling onto the bottom third of the dough circles. Fold the circles over and seal the edges by either folding over and pinching with your fingers, or crimping with a fork. Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze each pasty with beaten egg mixed with a little milk or water. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

7.09.2012

naan

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Geoff is a huge fan of Indian food. Like, he could eat it for every meal. I like it, but not enough to have it every day, or even every week. Whenever we have a date night, Geoff either wants to go to MacCool's (an awesome Irish pub down the street) or Bombay House, the best Indian restaurant in town. I love their chicken coconut korma and chicken tikka masala, but the best part of the meal is the garlic naan. It's baked in the tandoor (clay oven) and it comes out all hot and fluffy and chewy and delicious. We've tried many times to replicate Bombay House's naan at home, and so far haven't succeeded. This naan, however, is a good substitute. It's a little more like flatbread than naan, in my opinion, but it goes well with Indian food. This time I used the leftovers to make flatbread sandwiches, and they were delicious. Until I find that perfect naan recipe, this one will be my go-to!
Naan
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon sugar 3-4 tablespoons, melted butter

Pour the milk into a liquid measure and heat in the microwave until warm to the touch (about 110 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). If using active dry yeast, mix the sugar and yeast into the milk and let it sit for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is foamy and the yeast has activated. Once the yeast/milk mixture is foamy, pour the mixture into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Mix well to combine. Continue adding flour gradually in small amounts, until a soft dough is formed that cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough by mixer or hand until it is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rest at room temperature, covered lightly with greased plastic wrap, for about 2 hours.

 After the dough has rested, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, rounding each into a ball shape. Cover the pieces with a towel and let them rest for 30 minutes. While the dough rests, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. Once the dough has rested for 30 minutes, one by one, roll each piece into a circle about 6-8 inches wide, depending on how thin or thick you want your naan. Lay the circle of dough on the hot pizza stone and spritz lightly with water. Close the oven and bake the naan for 2-4 minutes, until it is lightly puffed (some pieces will puff more than others) and brown spots begin to appear on the top. Remove the naan from the baking stone and place on a cooling rack. Brush lightly with melted butter. Stack the hot naan on top of each other as it comes out of the oven. Cover with a towel and let the naan cool completely or serve warm.

7.08.2012

broccoli cheese braid

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I'm just going to say it: this recipe was a little weird. I've never made broccoli pesto before, and it's still on my "iffy" list. However, the combination of soft bread with broccoli and cheese tasted fantastic. It was gooey and melty and delicious. I made the huge loaf, thinking it would last us for maybe 2-3 meals, and 2/3 of it was gone within a few minutes. I was surprised how easy it was to braid the bread, and it looked super fancy! The whole thing was a little out of my cooking comfort zone, but it was fun to try something new. I followed the recipe with the exception of adding some grated cheddar cheese on top of the broccoli pesto. I actually made the recipe again about a week later, except that I filled it with pizza toppings (marinara, mozzarella, olives, mushrooms, and green peppers) and it was perfect!
Broccoli Cheese Braid
adapted from The Baker Chick

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white sugar

broccoli pesto:
1 head of broccoli chopped into florets (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves- peeled
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup blanched toasted almond
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine. Knead well until a stiff dough has formed. If dough is too sticky- gradually add the extra half cup of flour. Cover and rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make the broccoli pesto by steaming the broccoli, then draining to remove excess water. Add to food processor with remaining pesto ingredients (except cheddar cheese) and process until desired consistency.

When the dough is proofed, turn it out onto a well floured surface, form dough into an oval shape and roll out. Spread the pesto into the middle of the dough, top with cheese, and cut inch-thick strips onto either side. To "braid" the bread- overlap one over the other- stretching each piece to seal the the beneath it. Once the loaf is braided- brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sea salt. Slide the loaf onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into slices and serve warm dipped into your favorite sauce.

7.07.2012

vegan peanut butter cookies

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Yup, I still have a few recipes left from our little vegan stint to post. These cookies were as good as any peanut butter cookies I've made, even without butter and eggs. They were a perfect late night snack with a glass of vanilla soy milk. I varied from the recipe a little because I didn't have enough maple syrup, so I subbed a little brown sugar to make up the difference. I think I used about 2/3 cup syrup and 1/3 cup brown sugar. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't even notice the whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour). I definitely would make these again!
Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
The Incuisition

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup organic, chunky natural peanut butter
1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Place racks in the top third. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. in a separate larger bowl combine the peanut butter, maple syrup, olive oil, and vanilla. Stir until combined. Pour the flour mixture over the peanut butter mixture and stir until barely combined – still a bit dusty looking. Let sit for five minutes, give one more quick stir, just a stroke or two. Now drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Press down on each one gently with the back of a fork. It’s a loose batter, so if you’re set on doing criss-crosses, go ahead and chill the batter for an hour or so before this step. Bake for 10, maybe 11 minutes – but don’t over bake or they will be dry. Let cool five minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

7.05.2012

crusty artisan bread

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I love bread. I know a lot of girls are into chocolate, but for me bread is where it's at. (Real bread, of course, not that weird homogenous overly processed bread that you buy in bags at the grocery store.) That stuff has its uses, but I could eat freshly baked bread for every meal. I bake some sort of bread product at least once a week (usually 2-3 times a week) and it feels like magic every time. It's weird that you can just throw a few simple ingredients into a bowl, mix, cover it with plastic wrap, and come back in an hour or two to find perfect squishy dough. I love this particular bread recipe because it's so simple and easy, and it makes me feel like a real chef. It's definitely worth it to follow all the steps, in particular adding the water to the oven so it can steam. I've found that often the best breads have the fewest ingredients, and this one is about as minimal as it can be, with just flour, salt, water and yeast. Yum!
Crusty Artisan Bread
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough

In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel but don’t seal the bowl airtight. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours). Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered in an airtight container, for as long as two weeks.

Divide dough in half. Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel or a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down. Let the dough rest for 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it. Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.

After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, dust the dough lightly with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide the dough (with the parchment paper) onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan and shut the oven quickly to trap the steam. Bake the bread until well browned, about 24-28 minutes. Cool completely.
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