Monday, February 25, 2013

Sullivan St. "No Knead” Bread with Figs, Walnuts and Chocolate

No Knead Bread with Figs, Walnuts and Chocolate
Since I was a young girl, watching my mother work magic with flour, yeast, water and her bread baking skills had always intrigued me. She loved mixing up her own wonderful breads, and experimenting with different flours and ingredients. She was a talented baker! So, when I started my life as an adult,  I decided to give bread baking a try.  How hard could it be?  I must have inherited some of her baking skills!  To my dismay, bread baking skills were not in my DNA. They did not come naturally.  Those skills needed to be nurtured. I remember my first few attempts quite vividly…large white bricks come to mind!  Each one of those attempts started with excitement, followed by disappointment!  However, I have a very stubborn nature, and with some encouragement from my mother, I kept challenging myself.  Then one day, it happened! A perfect loaf of bread!  Through trial and error I finally made a loaf of edible bread! I never looked back…something clicked…I got it!  To this day, I can still hear my mom’s voice telling me "prove your yeast, get to know how your dough feels, don’t be afraid of the dough”.  I learned so much about bread baking from my mom.

The bread I’m sharing with you today is Jim Lahey’s “No Knead” bread; to which I added figs, walnuts, and chocolate. This bread is versatile and delicious! I make it often, with many different additions. It's easy to throw together at night, and finish up in the morning.  In 2006, Mark Bittman wrote about Jim Lahey’s revolutionary and quite unconventional No Knead bread technique, in the New York Times.  In doing so, he enticed a whole new generation of home cooks to bake their own artisanal loaves.  This bread is not my mothers bread but, I know she would approve.  It makes a delightful breakfast bread, served toasted with some butter and homemade fig jam! That’s the way I like it!

Sullivan St. Bakery No Knead Bread with Figs, Walnuts and Chocolate
 Adapted from Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan St Bakery


3 cups (430g) flour
1½ cups (345g or 12oz) water
¼ teaspoon (1g) yeast
1¼ teaspoon (8g) salt
 ½ cup chopped figs 
 ¼ cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts) 
 ¼ cup dark chocolate chips 
 olive oil (for coating) extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)


Two medium mixing bowls
6 to 8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, Le Creuset cast iron, or ceramic)
Wooden Spoon or spatula (optional)
Plastic wrap
Two or three cotton dish towels (not terrycloth)


Mix flour, yeast and salt together in a medium bowl. Add water, figs, nuts and chocolate chips, and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).

Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.

 I mixed all the dry ingredients with the water and then added the figs, nuts and chocolate

Mix the figs, nuts and chocolate into the shaggy batter and let rest covered with plastic wrap overnight 
In the morning the batter will look like this…fold over itself to deflate…then let rest for about 15 minutes
Form a ball with the dough and place on a cotton towel sprinkled with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour.  Cover and let rest for about 2 hours.
This was just out of the oven…the aroma was amazing 
A perfect slice of bread…all it needs is some butter and jam

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cheating-on Winter Pea Soup ~ FFWD

A taste of Spring….Cheating on Winter Pea Soup 

I’m an expert at cheating on winter. It's something we do every year by going to Florida in February. My friends back home have come to expect a big snow storm whenever we head south.  Sorry about that!  Making soup to cheat on winter is a concept that is foreign to me. Soup making is a winter project.  A wonderful pot of comfort, on those very cold days of winter, and pea soup is made with dry peas and a big ham bone. It simmers for hours!  

When I read the ingredients for this soup my thoughts were “this doesn’t sound like something Bill will eat”.  The ingredients included one head of romaine lettuce added to the soup.  Lettuce in soup…Really?  But, as I’ve done many times before, I placed my trust in Dorie.  

This soup is simple to make! It takes about 15 minutes to put together.  First sautéing one chopped onion in a tablespoon of butter, then adding your stock (I used vegetable), but you could use chicken stock or just water. Bring all of this to a boil, then add a 16 oz. bag of frozen peas and your chopped lettuce.  Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  This was easy and going quite well! But, you know when everything seems to be going well &%#@ happens!!  And I still don’t know how this happened!

I decided to use the blender to puree this mixture, as Dorie suggested.  At home I would have used my food processor.  I poured a portion of the soup into the blender, pushed on the lid, and hit the puree button!  OMGosh!! Green pea soup everywhere!! On my pink sweater…on the white cabinets...all over the clean dishes I had just washed...and worst of all, in my hair! It looked like I shampooed with green pea soup!!   Although the soup took just a mere 15 minutes to make, it took me about 30 minutes to clean up the mess. Sorry, no pictures!
If you’re wondering how this 15 minute soup went over...Did it have any flavor...Did Bill eat it? Well, it was actually better than expected! I served mine with a dollop of sour cream and some nice Italian bread. We had a late lunch out so, this was a perfect light supper. Bill enjoyed it almost as much as I did! Surprises never cease! The flavor that was dominate was fresh pea. It tasted like Spring.  However, and you knew there would be a however, he prefers the long, slow, simmered version, with the ham bone!  Happy Friday everyone!!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table”.  It can also be found here at Bon Appetit.  If you would like to see what the other Doristas are up to check it out here.

Creamy and delicious….I would never guess there was lettuce in this soup…tastes like fresh peas from your garden
Vegetable broth mixed with the sautéed onion
 Frozen peas…what can be easier
Chopped romaine lettuce…the surprise ingredient!
Simmering on the stove…smelled yummy
This was really good…a taste of fresh peas and Springtime!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Baking with Julia ~ TWD ~ Boca Negra

The very decadent, very delicious Boca Negra, which literally translates to “black mouth"
This has been a dessert laden week. OK, maybe two weeks! First, we had our valentine cookie exchange for French Fridays.  That meant baking cookies to send to my secret Valentine, and while I was at it,  baking a bunch more to send to my grandchildren. Of course, I put a few aside for my hubby! How could I not? Even though I knew I would be receiving a box of cookies from my secret Valentine! On top of all those cookies, our FFWD recipe for last week was Coure a la Creme. I made it the weekend before Valentine’s day, while I was visiting with my son and his family in Atlanta. It was a big hit!

That brings us to this weeks pick for TWD ~ Baking with Julia, the very decadent Boca Negra, contributed by Lora Brody.  I almost didn’t make it. We have been indulging in way too many sweets.  However, we are staying on the beautiful Gulf coast of Florida, and my cousin and her husband (who live on the east coast) were coming to visit for a few days.  It was Valentine’s Day, and she made a wonderful Shrimp Scampi, with gorgeous fresh shrimp she brought from home. So, dessert just seemed appropriate!

Absolutely luscious…Perfect for Valentine’s day 
Right from the start, I made a big mistake with the batter.  Because my cousin and I were deep in conversation, solving the worlds problems, I didn’t read the part that said make a syrup…OH NO!!!  I added the melted chocolate to the sugar and liquor ( another oh no ) but, by then it was too late to retreat.  I decided to continue, and if it didn’t come out I would start over again.  After all, it was a whole bag of very good chocolate!  I put my mixture over low heat, and heated it until it started to melt and blend.  At that point I added the butter, one piece at a time until fully incorporated.  It didn’t look bad, it was coming together nicely, so I continued. My cousin beat the eggs with the remaining ⅓ cup of sugar, and I whisked them into the batter.  It still looked good to me so, into the oven it went!  Thirty minutes later it was done, with a thin crust, just the way it was described.

Beating in the butter…this was where my cake started to come together
Beating eggs with ⅓ cup of sugar
Mixed together and poured into 9 inch pan to bake
I turned this cake onto a platter immediately after taking it out of oven…it cracked

I turned the cake out onto a platter and it cracked a bit, but still looked good.  It smelled amazing! 
What could be bad?  It’s pretty much pure chocolate mixed with butter, sugar, eggs and rum (I didn’t have rum, so I substituted some chocolate wine).  I also didn’t make the cream. I served mine with vanilla gelato and blueberries! If you love deep chocolatey desserts, this one’s for you!! Simply irresistible!!

OMG…this was amazing….a keeper for sure
So, my Valentine’s day was perfect!! We had a scrumptious dinner with great company, and we had a luscious dessert to follow!! Oh, and my hubby bought me a lovely orchid, my favorite flower! 

Just beautiful!!
Our host for the very decadent, very delicious Boca Negra is Cathy of A Frederick Food Garden.  The recipe is posted on her blog.  To see what the other bakers are doing, check it out on the Tuesdays with Dorie site.  Have a great day everyone!

Friday, February 15, 2013

FFWD~Coeur à la Crème

French Fridays ~ Coeur à la Crème….Oooo La La!
From the first time I saw it pictured in one of Martha Stewart’s cookbooks, Coeur à la Crème is something that has intrigued me!  I loved the pretty molds and, I just had to have one! So, I pulled out my Sur la Table catalogue and ordered one! That was about 8 years ago. I have never used that mold until this week, although I’ve thought about it many times. It seemed to be the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert but, there was always something else on the menu.  Well, last week while visiting my son and his family, I decided to make it!  It was one of our February picks for French Friday. I brought my mold to Georgia with me, knowing I would finally be making my Coeur à la Crème. This was really, really good!! What took me so long? 

This mold is designed to drain the Coeur à la Creme. It has little holes on the bottom, with little feet to lift the mold off the dish while it drains. The mixture of cream cheese, whipped cream, and confectioners sugar are mixed with a few teaspoons of framboise or other liqueur of your choice. Then the mixture is placed into a  cheesecloth lined mold. Allow it to drain and set, at least 12 hours in the refrigerator. Mine sat for closer to 24 hours. When ready to serve, pull back the cheesecloth and un-mold onto a plate. I garnished mine with raspberries and a wonderful chocolate raspberry sauce my son had bought in Napa Valley a few years ago. He opened it for our wonderful Coeur à la Crème!  Everyone loved it!! 

This is a keeper for me! It was easy and had such a nice flavor! It also looked so beautiful and impressive on the plate. It took me 8 years, but I finally got to give that mold a try!!  As Martha would say “It’s A Good Thing”!
  Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table”.  If you would like to see what the other Doristas are up to check it out here.

Pour the Coeur à la Crème mixture into the mold lined with dampened cheesecloth 
Fold the cheesecloth over the mixture and refrigerate for at least 12 hours 
This was a lovely dessert….enjoyed by all
My son had this bottle of Chocolate Raspberry Liqueur Sauce….it was wonderfully decadent!
An absolutely luscious dessert

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Secret Valentine is……Adriana at Greatfood360〫

An absolutely luscious cookie….Panetella de Guayaba…Thank you Andriana!
Being retired is a wonderful thing! Your time is your own. Sleep late, well maybe!  Visit your grandkids, sounds great!  Spur of the moment, so what!  There are no schedules to keep!
When I decided to participate with the Secret Valentine Cookie Exchange, organized by Alice @ A Mama, Baby and Shar-Pei in the Kitchen, I had no plans. I thought I would be home. However,  as it got colder and colder in NJ we thought, why not go south? Our older son and his family, live in Atlanta. We could visit them, then head to Florida. So, in the span of ten minutes we changed our schedule! Oh, but what about my cookies?  I realized I would be leaving on the 6th of February, and the cookies would start arriving that week.  After contemplating what I could do, I e-mailed Alice!! Could she possibly get in touch with my secret valentine, and have her mail my cookies to Atlanta? She said she would try.

We arrived at my son's house on the 7th, around 3 pm. Shortly afterwards, the mail lady came to the door, and asked me to sign for a package.  I thought it was for my son so, I put it on his desk.  When he came home, he told me the package was for me.  I knew right away, it had to be from my Secret Valentine!  I was so excited by the arrival of the cookies!  Up until that point, I wasn't sure if Alice was able to get in touch with my Secret Valentine.  This was such a lovely surprise, and the surprise didn’t end there!  My Secret Valentine was Adriana@ Greatfood360〫.  She not only made the most luscious cookie guava bars, "Panetela de Guayaba", but was gracious enough to send me a container of guava paste so I could make them myself.  Something I am looking forward to doing!! The consensus was, absolutely delicious!  

Thank you Alice, Adriana, and all the participants of the cookie exchange, for making this Valentine’s Day a little more special!  Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

They were such a hit with everyone in my family

Guava paste…I see these cookies in my future
Just plain wonderful!
I wish I could describe the wonderful texture of these cookies
No one could leave them alone….so yummy!
 They arrived on Thursday and three days later this was all that was left!  And my husband ate it!!

Panetela de Guayaba 
yield = 1 8x8 pan 
1 stick of butter (1/4 pound) melted
2 eggs
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of self rising flour 
guava paste strips- 1/8 to 1/4 thick inch slices
1.  Preheat oven 350º F.  Grease a glass 8x8 inch baking dish with butter
2.  Combine all the wet ingredients. Incorporate the flour slowly, mixing by hand with a wooden spoon.
3.  Pour half of the batter into the pan.  Layer the guava paste strips on top, and add the remaining batter to sandwich it in.
4.  Bake for 30 minutes. It will be done when knife or toothpick comes out clean.
To serve cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TWD ~ Focaccia

TWD ~ Baking with Julia ~ Focaccia….Lopsided, but oh so good!
The smell of bread baking on a cold winters day, permeating my home with warmth and wonderful aromas, is the ultimate feeling of comfort.  So, on this very cold week in NJ ( 8 degrees three mornings in a row ) it was quite pleasurable to be making Focaccia.  This recipe is from Craig Kominiak, contributing baker with "Baking with Julia". The thing I love most about bread baking is, taking very basic ingredients like flour, olive oil, water, salt, yeast, and creating something amazing.

Making the dough was basic. First, mix the yeast with some water and let it rest. Then measure out the dry ingredients, oil, and the rest of the water. Place them all together in your stand mixer,  and mix using a dough hook.  I followed the recipe to the letter but, felt my dough was drier then described. So I added a bit more water. My dough rose beautifully. I folded it down as directed, and let it rise again.  Following the second rise, I divided the dough into thirds, and placed it into oiled plastic zip bags.  Refrigerate and wait…24 to 36 hours before you make your Focaccia.

Since I’ve made Focaccia several times before, I decided to go rogue by making one of my favorites, Grape Focaccia.  I found the recipe several years ago and just love the way it tastes. It’s got that sweet-salty thing going on. The grapes kind of caramelize a bit as they bake.

Friday, February 1, 2013

FFWD ~ Brown-Sugar Squash and Brussels Sprouts en Papillote

The very delicious Brown-Sugar Squash and Brussels Sprouts en Papillote
January is over! It’s time to move on to French Fridays for February!  I don’t mind saying January, with the exception of the Long and Slow Apples, was a bust for me.  The Herb Spaetzle was just good. However, I couldn’t even bring myself to make the Chicken Liver Gateau, and the Shrimp with Cellophane noodles was just so-so! Just so-so was a higher mark than most of the Doristas gave it! So, with new beginnings in mind, let us start anew!
Our recipe for the first friday of February is, Brown Sugar Squash and Brussels Sprouts en Papillote. The term en Papillote is French for "in parchment” and refers to a moist heat cooking method. The food is enclosed in a packet of parchment paper or foil, and then cooked in the oven. It basically steams your food in the packets.  
This dish was easy!  I made only one packet, for my lunch.  First I peeled and cubed the butternut squash, which was the hardest part of this dish. I peeled and chopped the apple, washed a handful of brussels sprouts, and placed them all into the bowl.  Then I tossed them with some olive oil, added salt and pepper and placed them onto a 12 inch square of foil.  I then sprinkled on some brown sugar and closed the packet. Now it’s ready for the oven.  Bake for 25 minutes, until the veggies are tender.
As I said, I made this for my lunch. I knew my husband was not going to eat a packet of steamed veggies, especially when there were no peas, corn or potatoes in the packets.  Since he’s a sandwich kind of guy, and I really don’t do sandwiches, this was a perfect lunch for me. I added a slice of crusty Italian bread with some Labneh (yogurt spread).  The veggies were delicious and cooked perfectly.  A definite “keeper”.  Happy February everyone!!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans book “Around My French Table” or here. To see what the other Doristas are up to, check it out here.   

Squash, brussels sprouts and apple tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper
Veggies placed on the foil and sprinkled with brown sugar
Enclosed in the foil….en Papillote
This was a perfectly delicious way to cook these veggies….welcome February! 
Our grandsons turned 5 in January and last weekend we celebrated….so please excuse me if I didn’t get to your
 blog to comment.