Baked Chilaquiles – an amazing breakfast on a beach in Mexico or in your own kitchen

chilaquiles with egg
I remember this one year, my friend Cali, actually paid me to go to Acapulco, Mexico and shoot her wedding.  We had moments like this:IMG_8371bridegroom
It was also the hottest I’ve ever been in my life, so I went ahead and cashed her check. ūüôā ¬†However, there were extremely enjoyable moments, and one of them was having chilaquiles for breakfast, along with various fresh-squeezed juices. ¬†I had never had chilaquiles before (pronounced: chee-lay-quee-les) and it was a bit of a revelation. ¬†Tortilla chips softened with a rich tomato or chili or black bean sauce, mixed with tender bits of chicken and plenty of cheese. ¬†This is actually a pretty typical breakfast for Mexico. ¬†That may be ignorant of me to say, as I’m sure they have cereal, too, but when we got to go back with Cali and Alex to visit ¬†Alex’s home in Mexico City a few years later, (um, yeah, we’re lucky to know them) it was pretty common to see things we’d associate with dinner, served for breakfast. ¬†Like enchiladas or tostadas. ¬†Not everything had to have an egg on it like we feel compelled to do, here. ¬†Case in point: our version of chilaquiles sure enough had eggs on it. ¬†However, it’s a delicious addition! ¬†Matt made us this breakfast and I shot the picture, so once again, this is a true Family Meal kinda post. ¬†We all contribute in different ways throughout the week and I’m always so happy when he has a plan for Saturday breakfast!

chilaquiles topped with scrambled eggs

chilaquiles
Baked Chilaquiles*
serves 6

10 oz thick tortilla chips
1 – 28 oz can whole tomatoes, drained
3 serrano peppers, seeded and roasted
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2  cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt to taste,about 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
5 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded cheese, such as Monterey Jack or Mexican Chihuahua cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Scoop tortilla chips into 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

In the oven, place seeded serrano peppers, cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast until blistered.  We did this under the broiler.  Take out and let cool.
Coarsely puree tomatoes and serrano peppers¬†in a food processor or blender. Heat oil in large saucepan; add onion and saut√© until golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute, then stir in broth, tomato puree and salt. Heat to boil. Stir in cilantro. Set mixture aside. ¬†In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and scramble the eggs and a half teaspoon of salt till they’re almost done. ¬†Remove from heat. ¬†Pour the sauce over the chips; coating them evenly with the sauce. ¬†Layer the almost-done scrambled eggs on top of the sauce. ¬†Sprinkle with cheese and bake until lightly browned on top and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Garnish with extra cilantro and a few extra chips on the side.

*adapted from Rick Bayless’ recipe,¬†Chipotle-Baked Tortilla Casserole

Homemade Banana Meringue Pudding

Banana Meringue Pudding
I’ve had a long-standing love for banana pudding. ¬†Between it and Bananas Foster, I have a hard time choosing my favorite. ¬†At one point, it was my favorite dessert on earth. ¬†I bounce back and forth, now, between Sticky Toffee Pudding or Bananas Foster. ¬†Or anything with lemon. ¬†Or chocolate.

My favorite type of banana pudding, however, is the one that has the sweetened condensed milk and sour cream and extra Nilla wafers and all that awesome goodness, but I’m always up for trying a new version. (Matt made this version pictured, by the way). ¬†I’ve seen pastry chefs putting meringue on more than just pies for a while. ¬†So when we saw a meringue on top of a banana pudding in the latest issue of Bon Appetit, we knew it had to be a winner. ¬†And it was! ¬†However, I immediately knew a few tweaks I wanted to do to it once we tasted it. ¬†First, the base custard just wasn’t banana-y enough. ¬†We always keep a few black bananas in our freezer – when you want banana flavor, nothing beats an over-ripe banana. ¬†It’s so concentrated that just one will do to amp up the flavor in a vanilla pudding to make it burst with sweet banana flavor. ¬†Also, I would use a cooked meringue¬†or a brown sugar meringue instead of the one from this recipe because the meringue wept too much, filling the leftovers up with water. ¬†Ick. ¬†Cooking your egg whites and sugar before whipping takes care of this problem.

However, for a eat-in-one-sitting recipe, the Bon Appetit version was great (but not banana-y enough, and leftovers got weird). ¬†So as long as you have a crowd, this dessert will impress and satisfy! ¬†(for the recipe below, I’ve included my favorite meringue and I’ve added a super-ripe banana, pureed into the base).

Banana Pudding with Meringue
Banana Meringue Pudding

4 large eggs
‚ÖĒ cup sugar
¬ľ cup cornstarch
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 super ripe (black) banana
Pinch of kosher salt

 

Lightly whisk eggs in a large bowl just to blend. Whisk sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk milk into sugar mixture and heat over medium heat, whisking often, until very warm to the touch. Gradually whisk half of hot milk mixture into eggs, then whisk egg mixture back into milk mixture in saucepan.

Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and whisk leaves a trail in pudding (it should be the consistency of mayonnaise), about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter, vanilla, a super-duper ripe banana and salt and puree with an immersion blender until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.

 

Cover pudding with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the surface. Chill until cool, about 2 hours.
For the meringue:

3 large egg whites (room temp)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Place the brown sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan with high sides (that sugar will boil up and scare the meringue right out of you if you have a small pan), add water to cover, attach a candy thermometer to the pan, and turn the heat on high. When the sugar is at about 240 degrees, start whipping the whites on high speed (they should be foamy and starting to thicken before you add the sugar). When the sugar is at the high soft-ball stage (245 degrees), remove the thermometer from the sugar and, with the mixer still running, carefully avoiding the whip, pour the sugar into the egg whites in a thin stream. When steam starts to come off the whites, add the sugar more quickly. When all sugar has been added, continue whipping until firm but soft peaks form.

For Assembly:

1 box Nilla wafers
3 ripe bananas, sliced

Spread one third of the banana pudding into a casserole dish (9×9 or 9×13 will do fine). ¬†Top with a layer of alternating bananas and cookies, then more pudding and repeat until most or all of your ingredients are used up. ¬†Top with meringue and torch with a blow torch if that’s how you roll, or under a broiler with a very watchful eye (as in, don’t take your eyes off it).

Banana Chiffon Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing

Banana Chiffon Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing
I have a wonderful friend named Katrina. ¬†She is the mother of two, wild at heart, loves all things done from scratch and enjoys nothing more than giving things away for free that she worked hard to produce and for which she should be charging good money. ¬†I try my best to pay her for her amazing pasture-raised, organic eggs, but occasionally she’ll leave a dozen on my porch because “she had too many to use that week.” ¬†Look at these beauties!

free range eggs

free range and all that jazz
So a few weeks ago when I was blessed with an extra dozen eggs on my porch, I decided to sacrifice them to the baking gods and make a chiffon cake. ¬†NOTHING whips up faster than a fresh, room temp egg white. ¬†And when you have fresh eggs (we’re talking hours from the chicken) you do NOT have to keep them in the fridge. ¬†And for baked goods, nearly all recipes will call for a room temp egg. ¬†I was completely shocked the first time I used Katrina’s eggs when making a chocolate mousse and the egg whites beat into stiff peaks in about a MINUTE. ¬†I’m not exaggerating. ¬†Amazing. ¬†This post is really just me bragging that I have a super cool friend who raises really great chickens who lay really amazing eggs.

For the recipe today, I give you a banana chiffon cake with salted caramel icing. ¬†A chiffon cake is kinda like an angel food cake except not so angelic. ¬†It uses both the yolks and whipped egg whites AND has oil. ¬†But the texture is similar to an angel food cake except this cake is super moist. ¬†When I was little, the only cake my grandmother would ever make (to my recollection) was an angel food cake, and I can only imagine that was because it has no added fat. ¬†She was missing out ūüôā

Banana Chiffon Cake

 

Banana Chiffon Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing*

For the cake:

10 1/2 oz sugar
5 1/3 oz plain cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7 large eggs; 2 whole, 5 separated, at room temp
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)

For the icing:

1 recipe salted caramel sauce
1 – 8 oz. package cream cheese at room temp

 

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Whisk the sugar, flour, baking powder, soda and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk in the 2 whole eggs, 5 egg yolks (reserve the whites), water, oil and extract until the batter is just smooth.

Pour the reserved egg whites into the bowl of a sand mixer; beat at low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. ¬†Add the cream of tartar, gradually increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry (as little as 7 minutes in a stand mixer and as little as 2 minutes if you’re using eggs that are only 5 hours old) ūüôā With a large rubber spatula, fold the banana mush into the batter, then fold the whites into the batter, making sure to not over mix, but being sure you get all the way down to the bottom of the bowl to incorporate whites into all the batter.

Pour the batter into an ungreased large tube pan (9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity).  Rap the pan against the counter a few times to rupture any large air pockets.  If using a pan with a removable bottom, grasp both sides with your hands while firmly pressing down on the tube with your thumbs to keep the batter from seeping from the pan during this process. Wipe off any bbatter that may have dripped or splashed onto the inside walls of the pan with a paper towel.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 65 to 75 minutes. ¬†Immediately turn the cake upside down to cool (I’ll admit, this is scary, but have faith). ¬†If the pan does not have prongs around the rim for elevating the cake, invert the pan onto the neck of a wine bottle or funnel. ¬†Let the cake cool COMPLETELY before inverting.

To unmold, run a thin knife around the pan between the cake and pan wall. ¬†Use a skewer to loosen the cake from the tube. ¬†Loosen the cake from the bottom of the pan with a knife and invert it onto a serving pan. ¬†Hope for the best. ¬†Half of my cake was hollow because I didn’t incorporate the egg whites sufficiently. ¬†This is life.

Spread the icing over the top of the cake and let it drip down the sides.

To make the icing:

After making the salted caramel sauce, leave it in the pan and with a mixer or by hand with a whisk, whip the softened cream cheese until fully incorporated and no tiny lumps remain.  Let it come up to room temp and then beat again before pouring over the cake.

*cake recipe adapted from The New Best Recipe cookbook.  This book is endlessly tested and will never steer you wrong.

 

Triple Layer Coconut Cake

Thomas Keller's Coconut Cake
Amazingly dense, rich, saturated with coconut flavor with a light, fluffy, creamy frosting that only compliments and doesn’t overpower the rich, dense and super-moist cake. ¬†Yes, of course, this was the best coconut cake we’ve ever had. ¬†And why, is that? Because it’s Thomas Keller’s recipe, and as anyone who has ever heard of or seen one of his cookbooks will know, everything he touches is gold. ¬†This recipe, however, is not found in any of his cookbooks, but was featured in an article on Saveur magazine online. ¬†It was a recipe that took him back to his childhood, to¬†having a cake very similar to this in a small town diner. ¬†We had this recipe bookmarked for months and finally gave it a go. ¬†While you can tell from the pictures that my layering techniques leave something to be desired, the flavors were amazing. ¬†Spot on. ¬†I even took it to a picnic in 80 degree weather and it held up (barely). ¬†This cake needs to be chilled the adequate time recommended, for sure. ¬†Even with my missteps and imperfect execution, it was one of the best cakes I’ve had in years.

Go forth! ¬†Be bold! ¬†Make this cake! ¬†We changed nothing – this is just one of those “I made it, so can you” kind of posts, ¬†so I’ll simply copy the recipe for you, here! ¬†Happy Weekend!

Keller's Coconut Cake

Triple Layer Coconut Cake

FOR THE CAKE:
Unsalted butter, for greasing
2 cups flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1¬Ĺ cups¬†sugar
3 eggs, separated
1¬ľ cup¬†mayonnaise
¬ĺ cup¬†coconut milk
¬Ĺ cup, plus 1 tbsp.¬†buttermilk
2 tsp. coconut extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE MERINGUE:
6 egg whites
1‚ÖĒ cups¬†sugar
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the cake: Heat oven to 325¬į. Grease three 9″ cake pans with butter and line with parchment paper; set aside. Whisk flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Place sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix until fluffy. Add mayonnaise, coconut milk, buttermilk, coconut and vanilla extracts; mix until combined. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until batter forms; transfer batter to a bowl and set aside. Clean stand mixer bowl and add egg whites; replace paddle with whisk attachment. Whip whites until soft peaks form; fold into cake batter. Divide batter between prepared pans, smoothing tops with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks and let cool.Make the meringue: Using an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites in a bowl until medium-stiff peaks form, 5‚Äď7 minutes; set aside. Bring sugar and ¬ľ cup water to a boil in a 2-qt. sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer; cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250¬į, 4‚Äď5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle hot syrup into egg whites until combined. Increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks, about 3 minutes more.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread 3 cups meringue over cake; sprinkle with ¬ľ cup coconut. Repeat with second layer. Place remaining layer on top; cover top and sides with remaining meringue and cover outside of cake with remaining coconut, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill cake 30 minutes to firm meringue; serve chilled or at room temperature.

copied from Saveur 
Coconut Cake

Chicken and Waffles with Molasses Butter

chicken_waffles010
Easter Sunday was a bit low-key for us this year. ¬†I had a wedding to shoot on Saturday so we couldn’t go out of town to be with family and we didn’t have time to prepare the feast we normally do. ¬†We typically like to have brunch-type foods when we know it’s going to be just us because breakfast is usually easy to throw together in less than an hour after church and, well, who doesn’t like breakfast for lunch?!

A few months ago I ran across a wonderful yeast waffle recipe that you mix up the night before and let it sit out on your counter to get all bubbly. ¬†Sounds strange, but it imparts such an amazing sourdough, yeasty flavor to the waffles which helps balance the pure sugar you typically use to drown the waffle. ¬†Matt and I have had a slight obsession with the Southern¬†dish¬†of chicken and waffles and every where we go where it’s on the menu, we always feel the dish falls a little short of the expectations in our mind. ¬†The chicken should be juicy, super crispy, salty and flavorful on its own and the waffle shouldn’t be too heavy – it should be light, airy and buttery with just enough sweetness to give that perfect balance of flavors. ¬†A lot of waffles are too heavy, too bland, too sweet or the chicken is an after-thought – dry or not seasoned. ¬†So, taking matters into our own hands, we used the amazing recipe for Korean fried chicken that we did at the Super Bowl and paired it with a yeast waffle recipe and the combination was juuuuuust right.
chicken_waffles008
I added my own sentimental flair to the dish. ¬†Growing up, I distinctly remember at family gatherings, often at¬†Sunday lunches, my Pappaw would request molasses and then he’d take a large chunk of soft butter and whip the two together into a smooth paste for his biscuits. ¬†I thought it was odd, but as far back as I can remember, there has never been a food strange enough that I wouldn’t try it. ¬†I immediately began to imitate his method and loved the tangy sweetness of the molasses butter on my biscuits, too.

This Sunday as I was thinking about Easter and family, I had my Pappaw on my mind because just a few days ago, he underwent extremely intense cancer surgery and was, up until yesterday, still in pretty critical condition in ICU. ¬†I thought about our family get-togethers when I was young and Pappaw’s love of biscuits, molasses and black coffee and thought for our brunch, what better accompaniment to our waffles, which beg for that salty/sweet balance, than his molasses butter? ¬†It was an amazing addition to the waffles and it may be my new favorite topping instead of maple syrup. ¬†Matt wasn’t convinced, but then again, he doesn’t have the memory to go along with it. ¬†And food is so much more than just ingredients on a plate. ¬†If you have a story or a face or a memory of light streaming in from the window across a little dinette set in your grandparents’ kitchen as you slather biscuits with creamy molasses, it’s bound to become your new favorite thing. ūüôā

chicken_waffles006

Korean Fried Chicken Strips

Kosher salt
3/4 cups corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pounds chicken strip tenders
2 quarts peanut oil or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vodka

Combine 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Add chicken strips and toss until every surface is coated. Transfer chicken to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, shaking vigorously as you go to get rid if excess coating. Transfer to refrigerator and let rest, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.

When ready to fry, preheat oil to 350¬įF in a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer. ¬†We used a wok on the stove.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, flour, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Add water and vodka and whisk until a smooth batter is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water if batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of thin paint and fall off of the whisk in thin ribbons that instantly disappear as they hit the surface of the batter in the bowl.

Add half of the chicken strips to the batter. Working one at a time, lift one strip and allow excess batter to drip off, using your finger to get rid of any large pockets or slicks of batter. Carefully lower chicken into hot oil. Repeat with remaining strips in the first batch. Fry, using a metal spider or slotted spatula to rotate and agitate strips as they cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with kosher salt. Keep warm in a 175F oven while you fry the remaining chicken.

Yeast Waffles*

1 3/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more melted butter for the waffle iron
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (from 2 envelopes)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the milk, 1/2 cup melted butter, flour, yeast, eggs, agave and salt and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until the batter is very puffy, about 2 hours at room temperature (or refrigerate overnight, which is what we did since we wouldn’t be using it first thing in the morning).

Preheat the oven to 250¬į. Preheat a waffle iron and brush it with melted butter. Gently stir the batter to deflate it. For each batch, fill the waffle iron about two-thirds full (the batter will spread and rise); brush the waffle iron with melted butter as needed.

Cook the waffles until golden crisp. ¬†Keep the waffles directly on your oven racks to keep warm and crispy until you’re done cooking them. ¬†I find that using a traditional sized waffle iron works best than a Belgian waffle maker because sometimes the Belgian waffle irons are too deep for the batter to rise into every crevice. Also, from the two different yeast waffle recipes we’ve tried, I prefer cooking them from room temp if you leave the batter out on your counter, as opposed to keeping it in the fridge. ¬†The batter seems lighter at room temp than cold, so you may want to test that out for yourself. ¬†Both are delicious, but I felt the batter at room temp was thinner and more of that super crisp, light texture I wanted.

*from Food and Wine magazine¬†but I think I prefer the recipe from Smitten Kitchen better. ¬†They’re almost the same, but she uses a little less flour.

Molasses Butter

Dark Molasses
Unsalted Butter – room temp

Use equal parts butter and molasses and whip together until completely mixed.  Spread on waffles before topping with chicken strips.  I added a drizzle of maple syrup on the chicken and then salted it to make the salt stick better.

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies

The Ultimate Brownie
Just look at them. ¬†Super dense. ¬†Fudgy. ¬†Chewy. ¬†Crisp around the very edges and topped with a square of caramel chocolate so it oozes out when it’s cut. ¬†Simply put: the best brownies you will ever eat.

The Bread Man made these a few years ago when we decided to host a Brownie Battle and invite about 20 of our friends to all bring brownies to taste test and enter into the competition for the Golden Whisk. ¬†Yes, there was a golden whisk trophy. ¬†We are serious about our food battles. ¬†Matt baked these brownies and topped his with dark chocolate toffee bars, which is his favorite combination. ¬†They tied up with another contender for Best¬†Traditional Brownie out of about 20 pans of brownies! ¬†When I went to make them last week, I bought Ghiradelli bars – the individually wrapped ones. ¬†And I bought sea salt caramel (as seen pictured) and sea salt soiree with almonds¬†to place on top of the batter. ¬†Check it out, sinking down into the glossy batter…
Ultimate Brownies
This recipe is super simple and I nearly have it memorized. ¬†We’ve adapted it from a stunning UK recipe and put it in slightly easier steps and terms for everyone. ¬†I hope you make these soon. ¬†If for nothing else than to cry with happiness. ¬†It’ll happen. ¬†And be creative with the type of chocolate bars you put on top! ¬†There’s so many to choose from! ¬†I thought if I were in the mood, a dark chocolate mint bar on top would be good. ¬†Or dark chocolate and strawberry! ¬†The fun thing about going with the individually wrapped bars is that it’s instant perfect portioning for cutting! ¬†Have fun and let me know how you like them!

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownie

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies
makes about 16 depending on how to slice it ūüėČ

8 oz unsalted butter
8 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60%)
10 oz superfine sugar (I used Baker’s Sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
pinch of salt
5 oz cake flour
Your favorite chocolate bars for topping (I used these two kinds)

Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a double boiler (or a medium saucepan over low heat filled a couple inches up with water with a big heatproof glass bowl setting on top) melt the butter and chocolate together and stir with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated. ¬†Gently stream in the sugar and whisk constantly until fully incorporated and smooth. ¬†Whisk in the vanilla. ¬†In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and lightly whip them up with a pinch of salt. ¬†Take the bowl off the double boiler (if you haven’t already) and whisk in the eggs until smooth and then add the flour in two batches, stirring well to smooth out as many lumps as possible.

Line a 9×13″ pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. ¬†Pour the brownie batter in the pan and smooth out the surface. ¬†Dot the entire surface with chocolate bars and bake for 20 minutes. ¬†It’s not going to look done, but take that sucker OUT and let it cool COMPLETELY before cutting. ¬†Restrain yourself. ¬†Plan ahead. ¬†Gently lift the foil out of the pan and place the sheet of brownies on a cutting board and cut into squares. ¬†Enjoy your life more than you ever have before. You’re welcome.

Double Dark Chocolate Brownies

 

Homemade Sweet, White Sandwich Bread

Two Loaves of Sweet, White Sandwich Bread Sandwich Bread
This is home. ¬†To smell this bread baking is to realize that everything is going to be alright. One of the blessings of being married to The Bread Man is that he bakes stuff like this. ¬†He started baking this bread a few months ago. The recipe makes two loaves at a time and we can blaze through both in a week. ¬†Perhaps we shouldn’t and in a better world, I’d give a loaf away. ¬†But it makes the perfect toast in the morning, the perfect grilled cheese sandwich at lunch, the perfect cinnamon toast for a snack in the afternoon and the perfect toast with jam for dessert after dinner. ¬†No, we don’t do all those things in one day. ¬†I’m just telling you that you will NEVER tire of this bread. ¬†It stays fresh for so long AND, unlike most homemade breads, this stuff doesn’t get mold for more than a week – on the counter! ¬†It’s perfect. ¬†Sweet, smooth, silky inner texture and a perfectly crisp crust when toasted – not too thick, not too thin. ¬†Your kids won’t even tear off the crust.

Homemade Sandwich Bread
You can see my lack of restraint that in the thirty seconds it took me to cut the slice to put the slices in the toaster, I bit the corner of that cinnamon/sugar slice. ¬†I could NOT help it. ¬†You’ll see why. ¬†This bread is what’s good about being a kid, again. ¬†This bread sings of wholesome goodness and peace and harmony.

1375973_10152292138695169_2128879586_n
I may be going too far. ¬†Just try it out. And start it the night before you want it because I don’t want you to get all fussy when you see that it has to rise in your fridge for 8 hours. ¬†Suck it up – it’s worth it.

Sandwich Loaf

Homemade Sandwich Bread*
makes two, 8″ loaves

9 grams (1 tbs) instant yeast
425 grams (1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tbs) lukewarm whole milk
794 grams (6 1/4 cups) unbleached bread flour
14 grams (2 tsp) salt
78 grams (5 1/2 tbs) sugar
85 grams (6 tbs) vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter
1 egg (50 grams)

Do Ahead:

Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk until dissolved.  Set aside for 1 to 5 minutes.  Combine the flour, salt, sugar, oil, and egg in a mixing bowl, then pour in the milk mixture.  If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes.  If mixing by hand (go you) use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes.  The dough should be coarse and slightly sticky.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky.

Whichever mixing method you use, knead the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. (You can bake the dough in batches over different days if you want and portion the dough into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.)

On Baking Day:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake and divide it in half; each piece should weigh about 25 ounces (709 g) which is perfect for 4 1/2 x 8 inch loaf pans.  For a 5 x 9 inch pan, use 28 to 32 ounces of dough.  Shape into sandwich loaves (read method below), then place them in greased loaf pans to rise. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap or a towel; then let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours or longer, until it domes about 1 inch above the rims of the pans.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.  The bread is done when the top is a rich, golden brown, the sides are firm and the loaf sounds hollow if tapped on the bottom and the internal temperature is at least 185F in the center.

Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. ¬†I DID exercise restraint, here. ¬†If you cut into them too early, you’ll have gummy bread. ¬†Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

* from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day – we love him

 

Shaping the Sandwich Loaves for baking:

To shape a sandwich loaf, flatten the dough into a 5 by 8 inch rectangle. ¬†Working from the 5 inch side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough (like a fat cinnamon roll). ¬†Pinch the final seam closed using your fingertips or the back edge of your hand. ¬†Gently rock the loaf to even it out. ¬†Don’t taper the ends; keep the top surface of the loaf even. ¬†Place the loaf in a greased pan, seam side down, cover, and proof.

Banana Caramel Cream Pavlova

Bananas Foster Pavlova
This seems like a Sunday afternoon dessert. ¬†Ethereal, light, comforting and sweet. ¬†For many during the season of Lent, Sunday is a break from their chosen 40 day fast. ¬†We had to break our fast this morning as we had family in town and went to church and then they had to get a quick lunch and get on the road. ¬†So we had brunch out at our favorite place, Crafthouse. ¬†Does it count if we didn’t pay for the meal? ūüôā Anyway, we are dedicated to our no-eating-out fast and will continue throughout the weeks and will not plan on breaking the fast on Sundays.

One of my plans for Lent is to plan meals that are more exciting than going out to eat – things we look forward to more than going to a restaurant! ¬†This fancy-schmancy dessert could make anyone feel as if they were at a posh little bistro having dessert and coffee! ¬†I’ve done a pavlova on this blog before, and I love how versatile they can be. ¬†A few weeks ago I bought this yogurt in a moment of weakness. ¬†I always buy plain yogurt and add my own sugar because flavored yogurts have SO MUCH SUGAR. ¬†However, I couldn’t resist the flavor description: honey salted caramel?! After we tasted it, Matt suggested it would be awesome on a pavlova and that we could add bananas and have it be a shockingly all-white dessert. ¬†Cloud like, from the Greek Gods themselves. ¬†I added vanilla bean to my pavlova and torched raw sugar on top of the bananas and with the combination of the salted caramel tanginess of the yogurt, it made an incredible dessert! ¬†It makes me want to try lots of different combinations with various yogurt flavors! ¬†I’ll post my pavlova recipe for you, here, again and you can do whatever toppings you can dream up!

Vanilla Bean Pavlovas
makes 12-15 small meringues

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5-6 (about 6 oz) large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch salt

Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275¬į. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. ¬†Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.

In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt, starting on low, increasing to medium speed until soft peaks start to become visible, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla.  Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Pipe or spoon the meringue into 8-10 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide on the parchment-lined baking sheet.  With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.

Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250¬įF. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white ‚ÄĒ not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.

Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for a week.

Ginger Scallion Sauce and Taking a Fast from Fast Food

Ginger Scallion Sauce
It’s Ash Wednesday and for many, that means a time of choosing to fast from one vice or another in order to devote the time previously taken by the vice to thinking about God or praying for focus or simply remembering Christ’s sacrifice. ¬†It doesn’t even have to be a vice, necessarily, but something that you do or perhaps over indulge on a daily or weekly basis, that if you gave it up, it would create a bit of a hole or an inconvenience in your day and force you to remember why you are fasting from it in the first place. ¬†Many give up certain foods: sugar, coffee, sodas, fried foods. ¬†Some give up distractions like apps on their cell phones or Facebook or watching tv.

Matt suggested that we give up eating out at restaurants for Lent this year. ¬†This obviously involves my participation more than his, as I will be doing the majority of the cooking. ¬†But I know that for both of us, we lean on the ability to go get something fast and easy too often. ¬†I cook a LOT, but I use dining out as a “break” or a “reward” for cooking all week. ¬†I use it when I just “don’t wanna” and sometimes when I just feel plain burned out on thinking up another meal to cook at home. I thought it was a good thing to give up, though, and so I agreed. ¬†He will no doubt cook more often during this time, too. ¬†Today is the first day of Lent and today’s recipe is from our lunch today.

I don’t believe you have to be Catholic to participate in the season of Lent. ¬†I believe any tradition that helps us refocus on the sacrifice and life of Christ is a worthwhile endeavor. ¬†Borrowing from other religious cultures can enhance our own or refresh the way we see things and shed new light on old habits. ¬†Someone questioned how we “do” Lent regarding what we give up and asked if it’s just “another resolution” or if we really pray or do what we’re supposed to do in the absence of the thing we’re giving up. ¬†I have never thought of Lent as “just another resolution” and fully intend on dining out at restaurants once the 40 days are over. ¬†But for these next six weeks, I plan on remembering a few things in the absence of the convenience of dining out and every time I feel tempted:

1. It’s a privilege to eat out – even fast food, not just nice restaurants.
2. Not everyone has the joy of owning a house or a kitchen to cook in.  We do.
3. When I don’t feel like cooking over the next 40 days, I will think of my new friends at Carpenter’s Church who only WISH they had a nice kitchen, but instead have to rely on the kindness of soup kitchens downtown to get a hot meal.
4. Not everyone can afford good produce at the grocery store.  We can and I plan on utilizing that honor.
5. Dining out is a break from reality.  So many people in the world never get a break from their harsh realities.  They have no choice.

This morning I taught my little cooking class at Carpenter’s and our class ended and we finished cleaning up about 10 till noon. ¬†Typically, I would have called up Matt and said, “We’ll just come pick you up, I don’t feel like cooking again.” ¬†But I called him up instead and said, “I gotta run home and cook – lunch will be a little later today.” ¬†I had been to the store yesterday and bought all the items needed (a privilege) ¬†for one of our favorite garnishes for Asian type dishes, Ginger Scallion Sauce. ¬†We love to put it on just about anything, and today, I tossed it along with some sticky rice and leftover pork we cooked on Sunday, and some pineapple (and a fried egg, of course). ¬†A really fresh, tasty meal and it only took me 30 minutes, start to finish.

You don’t have to give up something for Lent in order to be “good” or “right.” ¬†It’s not about that. ¬†However, in order to be more disciplined in life, there really is no other way than to TRY. ¬†Think you’re not disciplined enough to give something up for 40 days? ¬†Well… have you tried?

Sticky Rice with Broiled Pork and Pineapple

 

Ginger Scallion Sauce
makes about 3 cups

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Sauce
Look how lazy I am. ¬†But there you have it – we don’t alter it so I figured I’d just show you the page out of the book! ¬†Everything in the Momofuku cookbook is good, from what we’ve tried, so far. ¬†David Chang is one of our biggest celebrity chef crushes and we think he can do no wrong. ¬†Pick up this book today! And the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook while you’re at it!

 

Glazed Pork Chops with Home Fries and a Fried Egg – The Ultimate Breakfast for Dinner

brunch-pork chops, home fries and a fried egg
We made this brunch meal a few weeks ago and it has stuck with me as one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had in a long time. ¬†A salty/sweet glazed pork chop with home fries and a fried egg – the perfect brunch! ¬†The pork recipe comes from Serious Eats and we followed it to the letter. ¬†So I will give you my home fries recipe, here, and let you follow the Serious Eats link to make the rest. ¬† This was just as good as any brunch you might get on Sunday at a nicer restaurant and best of all – it only took about 30 minutes! ¬†Serious Eats is one of our favorite sites for recipes. ¬†There are certain, very popular sites (don’t want to drop names but it starts with a M and ends with an artha Stewart dot com) ¬†that don’t have reliable recipes. ¬†You can tell when a recipe has just been thought up but not tested thoroughly. ¬†Not so at Serious Eats. ¬†You can bet that each recipe has been done a few times and you can rely on the promised outcome!

That’s another thing I love about writing this blog and reading most food blogs – the author is posting things she has literally tried at home! ¬†So even if something goes wrong here or there, you can ask questions in the comments and be a part of the unofficial test group in helping to refine the recipe! ¬†And I hope you all who read my blog will tell me when you hit road bumps. ¬†I’m learning every day how to be better at this craft and it’s not helping me one bit if you stay silent when a recipe goes wrong for you!

Happy cooking and when in doubt, fry up some potatoes…

Pork Chops with Home Fries and a Fried Egg

Seasoned Home Fries
makes two servings (plus 1/2 for the little tater tot at your table)

1 large baking potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper

Scrub the potato and dice evenly into 1/2″ square dice. ¬†The more evenly you chop, the more evenly your potatoes will cook! ¬†Heat a large saucepan filled with water over high heat till boiling. ¬†Drop the potatoes and cook until partially cooked – still a little firm, but getting softer on the outside when pierced with a fork. ¬†Remove the potatoes and spread out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels and pat the potatoes dry.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Season the potatoes with season salt and pepper and toss in the skillet.  Let them brown evenly on each side and then remove from heat, adjust seasoning as you wish and serve with pork chops and a fried egg!

brunch