Archive for the ‘Breads’ Category
So in what seems like forever ago, I made a post that featured my favorite cornbread recipe. It’s from Cook’s Illustrated, who describes it as a Northern-style cornbread: there’s a quarter-cup of brown sugar, a stick of butter, and you bake it in a glass dish. When I make it, the thick cake-like squares that we cut out of the dish remind me of my beloved meals growing up when my mom would serve my siblings and I Jiffy cornbread muffins that we cut open and slathered with butter and honey. It’s a good cornbread recipe, or so I thought.
In what also seems like forever ago, I got an email from a reader (or actually more likely someone who stumbled on my blog for a one-time-thing and who will never see it again—Charles, if you’re reading this, let me know!) who told me that I have been doing cornbread all wrong. He’s from the South, and apparently having more flour than cornmeal is blasphemous or something. He referred me to this recipe, and said it was for my own good that I try it.
This recipe is most definitely made with a much higher ratio of cornmeal—and stone-ground, medium-grind cormeal, that is—to flour, and you cook it in a hot cast-iron skillet that’s been coated with some butter. Two notes here: One, as you can tell, I used a cake pan, because I don’t even own a cast-iron skillet (I know, I know, still more blasphemy). And two, although the recipe says you should use unsalted butter, I’m going to go ahead and be a little prissy and say you shouldn’t. The salted butter that coats the pan gives the crust of the cornbread a delicious salty edge to it, much the same way that the salted butter wrapped around the crust of these favorite buttermilk biscuits of mine.
Besides those details though, I think this cornbread follows a similar logic and make-up that most do. Those small changes though produce a very different cornbread, though, and one that I think Charles might be right about. It most definitely tastes…”cornier”… than my previous go-to cornbread, and it’s got a grittier texture. As Charles told me, there’s “just enough” flour to allow the bread to hold together, so what you end up with is more crumbly and less cakey. It feels more rustic to me, and it makes me want to pack up some wedges in a kitchen towel to carry off for a picnic in the sun.
I, of course, haven’t done that but instead have been eating it with some turkey chili that I cooked up (it was not only made with ground turkey but also had beans in it—the blasphemy, I can’t ever escape it!!). The chili itself is nothing to write home about. But this cornbread—yes, this is something. If I were to be honest with you, if I just had to eat a wedge of any type of cornbread by itself, I still prefer my Cook’s cornbread. When it comes to the simple topping of butter and honey, that’s when that strong force of nostalgia takes over and I can’t refuse the cake-like-Jiffy-but-better recipe. Regarding this, I would never admit that I am a self-respecting Southerner, because frankly I’m a Northerner who shamelessly prefers more sugar in everything. However, this Southern-style buttermilk version here is the one I will most likely be making from now on, for everything from chili to soups to turning it into cornbread-crumbs. Charles was right; he did me a favor.
One Year Ago: Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds (oh, that’s a good one)
1 3/4 cup (9 ounces) stone-ground, medium-grind cornmeal
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into a few pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Place a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet or a heavy-duty round metal baking tin on the rack. Let it heat up while the batter is prepared, at least 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups of the cornmeal, the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 up water to a boil. Once at a boil, combine with 1/2 cup of the cornmeal in a large bowl. Stir until the mixture becomes a thick mush. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, add in the buttermilk, sour cream and eggs. Using a whisk, mix to blend.
At this point, if the oven and pan are fully heated, sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet corn mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until just blended; do not overmix.
Remove the hot pan from the oven and add the butter pieces, carefully swirling the butter around as it melts to completely coat the pan. (My butter didn’t brown at all, but if it does, that’s fine.) Immediately pour the melted butter over the batter. Stir briefly just to combine in the butter. Scrape the batter into the hot pan, and smooth out the top.
Bake until the cornbread’s browned edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the bread is golden on top, about 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool briefly for a minute. After loosening the edges, turn the bread out on to a rack to cool for a few minutes. Serve hot, with butter.
I tend to go through phases with things. Oftentimes, these phases are decided by the seasons. I’m not talking about seasonal phases like I only get strawberries in the peak of July or grapefruits in January, as much as I wish that were true. No, I’m referring to general-outlook-on-the-world-and-everything-around-me seasonal phases. My “winter” phase has kicked in late this year, but it’s the same as always: I get a bit anti-social, a little intense, and I get really into abstract things like ideas/music/art/books, etc. I’m not sure how I got in the mindset that the farther away I stay from real humans, the closer I can get to “real” humanity…but no matter! I do not question these phases, silly though they may be, because I honestly really enjoy them.
In the phase I’m in right now, the only things I’ve felt like doing are a.) go for really long walks while listening to music (this song + 90′s seattle grunge + the velvet underground), b.) go to my classes (not kidding), or c.) cook and/or bake. Nice combination of activities, eh? But they all seem to go together, and they all have a kind of serene pensiveness to them.
I made these muffins sometime last week after spending the day walking in the cold with the clear sun (and finding two bags of raw hazelnuts in my freezer). I wasn’t planning to blog about them, but I think they turned out too good not to share. They’re from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, though I originally saw them in an Elle à Table my brother got me around Christmastime (where, curiously, they refer to Kim Boyce’s book as Les Deuze Farines. Language-y things are always so peculiar). I of course could barely a read a thing the recipe was asking for, so I followed the recipe on Lottie and Doof instead. I think you’ll forgive me—the muffins would have hardly turned out so nicely.
In Kim Boyce’s classic style, she uses a combination of whole-grain flours in order to add a bit of nutrition and some very cool flavors without compromising any of the texture or taste. In these hazelnut muffins, she uses all-purpose, whole-wheat, and teff flours. If I were to be completely honest with you, which I’m afraid I must be, I substituted the teff flour for oat flour. I know, I know! But I was at the store and the only teff flour available was in a large $15 bag and I just couldn’t do it! I will say, though, that the muffins were awesome the way I made them, and I can only imagine what they’d be like if I had used teff flour, as Boyce originally calls for.
Anyway, I was compelled to share these with you, in case you hadn’t made them or seen them before on another site, because they are pretty impressive. I really, really liked the hazelnuts in these—Boyce adds roughly chopped ones in the batter but also calls for them sprinkled in with cinnamon-nutmeg sugar to top the muffins with (my absolute favorite part of these muffins). Plus! You don’t have to toast and peel the nuts, which I find very clever and convenient seeing as peeling hazelnuts always sounds much cooler and easier than it actually is. And the crumb, made with butter but also a fair amount of yogurt and buttermilk, is tender, moist, but with structure. They’re a classic muffin to have, in my opinion.
You can find the recipe here (I didn’t make any changes besides the aforementioned shameful flour substitution). Make sure you follow Kim’s tip, mentioned by Tim in his post, of spacing out the batter into every other cup so that there’s plenty room between them. It really does make a difference in how high the domes rise.
One Year Ago: Crunchy, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Coconut and Nuts
When it comes to pizza, I don’t discriminate. I like to pretend I’m a purist, but in the end, if I’m not in Naples, pretty much anything’s open and well-liked by me. That includes anything from bubbly, thin-crust pizza topped modestly with quality tomatoes and buffalo’s milk mozzarella made by an open fire, to the stuff that comes out of a box. Really—I happen to actually like DiGiorno pizza. (I know, quelle horreur!)
But I do, somewhere within me, know there is a hierarchy when it comes to all of this. Though I will eat greasy, delivery pizza, I do know I much prefer pizza made in a quality pizza place or even pizza made from scratch at home. I do have principles of some sort, after all, even if they are the kind driven by peer pressure and social acceptance. But ever since I made this Chicago-style deep dish pizza earlier in the week, that morally-loose hierarchy has been all out of sorts. Where does it fit in? It is homemade, and it is very awesome. But am I supposed to proudly show my love for it, or is it more of the kind you sweep under the metaphorical rug in hopes of hiding some sort of obvious uncontrollable gluttony? Because look at that thing: is it even pizza?
But, who am I kidding. Yes, of course it’s pizza. And yes, of course I should be proud of loving it, and the enormous portion sizes of it that I serve myself. (The original recipe suggested that half of one pie served one. Oh yes, I think I can manage that.) It is a wonder in itself: gooey mozzarella trapped under a rich, flavorful tomato sauce that’s all contained in a crust that reminds me of croissants in its flakiness and butteriness.
The crust is actually something of a hybrid between croissants and breadsticks, so there is some truth to that comparison. Cook’s Illustrated developed the recipe so that once the yeast dough has risen, it is “laminated” with a smearing of softened butter—just as in a croissant dough, though with not quite so much butter. The laminated butter and dough produce a crust that is crispy on the outside but fluffy, buttery, light on the inside, even under the weight of all its fillings. That, in combination with the texture that comes from the addition of cornmeal, makes for a pizza dough that I won’t forget anytime soon. Oh, and once you eat the interior of a piece, the end crust piece happened to make most possibly the most delicious breadstick you’ll ever eat, just so you know.
In terms of the authenticity of this Chicago-style pizza, I’ve absolutely no clue how it compares with Chicago’s actual pizza-pies, seeing as I’ve never really been to Chicago (I don’t count my experiences at that god-forsaken O’Hare airport as being in Chicago). However, the always-impressive Katie actually lives there and recommended this recipe, saying that it’s better than a lot of deep dish pizzas served in Chicago. Good enough for me!
One Year Ago: Thin Mints
Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
From Cook’s Illustrated
Makes two 9-inch Pizzas (Serves about 6)
The recipe for the tomato sauce calls for grated onion. I followed it faithfully, because Cook’s Illustrated usually has a reason for everything. The sauce was pretty amazing, and I’d make it again. However, I suppose the pizza would hardly be altered if you wanted to substitute any good-quality, not-too-pureed tomato sauce you may already have on hand. Also! I forgot to mix the fresh basil directly into the sauce, so I sprinkled mine on top, as you most likely noticed in my photos.
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 cups room-temperature water
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 4 tablespoons, softened
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated onion
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
First, make the dough. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and melted butter and mix with a wooden spoon for a minute or two until fully combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough is glossy and smooth. (You shouldn’t have to add any additional flour in the kneading process; it will becomes less sticky as time goes on.)
Rinse and clean the bowl, and coat it with a teaspoon of olive oil. Place the kneaded dough in the bowl, turning the dough to get its surface coated with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature the dough has nearly doubled in size, about an hour.
While the dough is rising, make the sauce. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, oregano, and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, making sure to stir occasionally, until the onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes and sugar. Once the sauce is brought to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until the sauce reduces by about 1/3; You should be left with about 2 1/2 cups of sauce. Remove from heat; stir in the basil and taste for salt and pepper. Set aside until needed.
Once the dough has risen, turn the dough onto a dry work surface. Roll into a 14 by 12-inch rectangle. Spread the 4 tablespoons softened butter over the surface, making sure to leave a border of about 1/2-inches around the edges. Starting at the short end (left-to-right, not bottom-to-top), roll the dough into a tight, squat cylinder. Placing the seam side down, flatten the cylinder into a 18 by 4-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half, creating two roughly 9 by 4-inch rectangles. Working with one half, fold the dough into thirds inward (like a “business letter”), and pinch the seams together to smooth it out and form a small ball. Repeat with the other half. Return the balls side-by-side to the oiled bowl. Cover tightly and let rise in the fridge until nearly doubled in volume, about 50 minutes to an hour.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons of olive oil each. Once the dough has risen, transfer the rounds to a dry work surface. Working one round at a time, roll out into a 13-inch disk, about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to one of the prepared pans; press the dough into the pan, working it into the corners and about 1-inch up the sides (you may have to fold over the sides to make it all fit within 1-inch up the sides). If dough resists stretching, let it relax for a few minutes before proceeding. Repeat with the reaming dough ball and pan.
Spread 2 cups shredded mozzarella evenly over the surface of each pizza. Divide the tomato sauce between both pizzas to evenly cover the mozzarella. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons parmesan over the top of each pizza. Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
The past couple years, I’ve tried to usher a new tradition in with my family’s usual habits around the holidays. Now that the rest of my three siblings and I don’t wake up before 7 am on Christmas morning anymore, I’ve taken to waking up about twenty minutes earlier than everyone else to make a quick batch of cream biscuits. Once they are freshly baked, we spread the biscuits out on the coffee table along with butter and some jam, and spend a happy Christmas moment in front of the tree and presents and stuffed stockings. Only after we feel we’ve had our fill of breakfast indulgence do we then proceed to calmly exchange gifts with one another. It’s funny how as we’ve grown older it’s not really about the presents anymore.
I don’t feel any longing to go back to the days where all I anticipated were the mounds of presents on Christmas morning, but I do have a sort of nostalgia for the days during Christmas break back in that era of elementary and middle school where I would wake up early in the cold morning and find my sisters and brother already playing Zelda (ocarina of time, of course) of Sims or some such other video game of my generation. Feeling a little disappointed that they beat me to the game, I would cry that they would have to let me play in approximately one hour—that was the time limit my mom forced us to abide by when we all wanted to play the same game.
Luckily enough, I came out into the kitchen a couple of days before Christmas this year to find my now 24-year-old brother (who is an engineer) installing and playing SimCoaster on an old laptop. (I guess now would be an okay time to admit that just last night I spent a good hour or two on that SimCoaster thing. What? I’m graduating college in a semester?) Maybe the good things about family and being together never change—we’re all kids when we’re home, whether we’re not crazy about presents anymore or not. Still kids, with more mature tastes and an appetite for cream biscuits and jam over hungerly grabbing for our weighty stockings. I’ll take it.
Anyway, these biscuits are pretty perfect. They are as simple as can be: you add cream to a flour mixture, roll it out, cut out little biscuit shapes, brush a little butter on them, and bake them. They are most definitely simple enough to make Christmas morning, or really any morning at all. My poor brother has a birthday only three days after Christmas, and that morning I woke up just before him and, at the urging of my mother, made an impromptu batch of them to serve as his birthday breakfast (he really, really likes these biscuits). If you’ve got cream in the fridge, you’re good to go.
It’s important to draw a distinction about these biscuits, though. As Deb clearly states, these are not the sturdy buttermilk kind that you slather with pork sausage gravy or use to eat alongside some hearty stew or chili, but rather the kind you delicately eat with butter and jam. If I were being honest with you, this is my favorite type of biscuit, but I can so confidently assert that only because my sweet tooth tends to have more influence over my will than, say, my … savory tooth. (Really, why do we get a sweet tooth but not a savory one?) But I am that sure anyone would love to wake up to these, any morning of the year, but especially during the holidays.
I’ve made these using cutter-rounds ranging from a little less than 2 inches to almost 3 1/2. I like the smaller size, but I think that’s a personal preference. Whatever size you use, trust your instincts on taking them out rather than relying on a set time. If they’re about 2 inches, they might need no more than 9 or 10 minutes. If larger than 3 inches, they might take as long as 14 minutes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium-large bowl to combine. Add the cream and gently fold it in until it’s a cohesive mass. Do not over-stir; if the mixture is looking dry or unmanageable add a tablespoon or two more of cream.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, using your hands, begin pressing it together and out to form a thick rectangle. Gently fold over one half of the dough onto itself—this will create the layer in the middle of the biscuits. Re-pat it down to the thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Using about a 2 1/2-inch diameter cutter, cut out the dough into rounds. Gently gather up remaining scraps to make more rounds. Brush the tops of the biscuits liberally with the melted butter, and before putting them on the prepared baking sheet, brush a bit of butter directly on the parchment where the biscuits will be set down.
Bake until the tops of the biscuits are just golden, about 10 to 13 minutes. Serve warm, with butter and jam.