28 May 2011

Dead Bread

This is a slice of my latest attempt to make bread. I've always had success with the family recipe, but lately I've been turning to my new favorite cookbook for some variety. Unfortunately, every time I have tried, the bread has failed to rise. The photo shows my fourth or fifth attempt, and I am just not sure what to do. I know the yeast is good, and this last time I added vital wheat gluten to help it out, but it did no good. I have two theories:

1. My house is too cold. It is usually around the mid to upper 60s indoors, and though I try to create warm spots for the bread to rise, it may not be enough. Perhaps I'll have more success in the summer?

2. Insufficient kneading. Due to a chronic pain issue, my arms get sore pretty quickly, so I usually take a couple of breaks while kneading and give up all together before I should. A stand mixer with a dough hook may solve my problems, but I am too poor for one of those.

So. Has anyone else had bread problems like this? How did you cope? Right now it is making me feel like this:

15 May 2011

Maple Whiskey Pecan Pie

I picked up an old edition of New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant at Goodwill recently, and last night I got to try its take on pecan pie. They call it "Southern Nut Pie Eudora," and it caught my eye because it's the only pecan pie recipe I've ever seen that doesn't use corn syrup. The sweetness is provided with maple syrup instead. Of course, I had to make it my own by adding whiskey. The filling is more like a custard than other pecan pies I've tried, and it is of course very sweet. It's the perfect pie to enjoy on a rainy evening.

Note on the crust: I used my usual vodka pie crust recipe, but replaced one cup of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour. The result was not as tender or buttery as a white flour crust, but the extra heartiness nicely offset the sweetness of this pie.

Note on measurement: The recipe calls for 1 cup of maple syrup. I filled a liquid measuring cup to within a quarter inch of the 1-cup line with syrup, then filled up the rest of the cup with whiskey. I have no idea how much this actually was, but it is obviously not an exact science. You could definitely leave the whiskey out, or use less, or use rum instead. It's your pie, make it the way you want!

What you need:
Dough for a single-crust pie, chilled for at least 30 minutes
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, well beaten
a little less than 1 cup maple syrup
a little whiskey (enough to bring the maple syrup up to a full cup)
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

What you do:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the dough and place in a buttered pie dish. Spread the nuts evenly across the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, vanilla, and flour. Add the salt, eggs, maple syrup, and cream, and mix thoroughly. Pour the liquid mixture over the nuts in the pie shell. The nuts will float. Push them down into the liquid with the back of a spoon to wet them, so they won't burn during baking.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pie cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Eat your decadent sweet pie.

Margarita Meringue Pie

This was my first ever meringue pie! It was surprisingly easy, and the perfect dessert for Tex-Mex night at Seattle Beer Club. I don't have any pictures because it was eaten too quickly!

I used this Food Network recipe for the filling. For the crust I used my usual vodka pie crust, even though that is not the usual type of crust used for meringue pies. Meringue bakes for a shorter time than fruit pies, so you will need to pre-bake your crust. To do this, roll out the dough and put it in a greased pie dish. To prevent air from making the empty crust bubble up while baking, put a layer of wax paper in the dish, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until it is firm but not browned. Or you can just do a graham cracker crust, which is a more traditional choice for this type of pie.

Dough for one single-crust pie

2 egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
Lime zest
4 egg yolks
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

Coarse sea salt (to garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using homemade pie dough, pre-bake as above.

Beat egg whites and sugar together in a bowl until there are soft peaks.

In another bowl, combine tequila, lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. If you want a little extra lime flavor, grate some lime zest into the mix. You might as well, if you've just juiced a bunch of limes! Gently fold in the egg whites.

Pour the filling into your pie crust and bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the sea salt around the edge of the pie and let it cool before serving.

Extra Credit!
While looking for a recipe, I found this gem on the Solde Mexico Tequila website. It calls for 8 eggs, and then an additional 8 egg yolks! I really wanted to try it, but was a little intimidated by a recipe that required more than a dozen eggs. It must be so insanely rich! If you are braver than me, please tell me how it turns out!

Cherry Pie With Almond Crumble Topping

Mmmm, a perfect breakfast of leftover pie!

This is a basic cherry pie, but instead of a top crust I used an almond crumble topping. The topping is from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book, in the recipe for Our Favorite Cherry Pie. I added toasted almonds to the crumble for an extra nutty kick.

Nothing warms my pie heart more than hearing people ask for a second slice! This recipe's definitely a keeper.

What you need:
Dough for a single-crust pie, chilled

5-6 cups fresh or frozen cherries. If using frozen, thaw and drain completely
1 cup sugar (adjust amount depending on how sweet your cherries are!)
2 tsp cornstarch

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
small handful chopped toasted almonds (optional)

What you do:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, toss together the cherries, sugar, and cornstarch. With fruit pies you can add anywhere from 1/2 to 2 cups of sugar, and it really depends on how sweet the fruit is already, and how sweet or tart you like your pies to be. If in doubt, add a smaller amount and taste it. I tend to like my fruit pies on the less-sweet pie, but it's obviously a matter of personal taste.

Combine all the topping ingredients except the butter in a small bowl. Work in the butter with your fingertips until it's nice and crumbly.

Roll out your pie dough and place in a greased pie dish. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the cherries in to the crust. Spread the crumble topping over the whole thing. Bake on the bottom rack for 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly. Let the pie cool for an hour before slicing.

10 May 2011

Chard and Roasted Fennel Quiche

Quiche has become my latest pie-related obsession. There is something so homey and comforting about a warm slice of quiche, and it offers the endless flavor possibilities of pie. There are also many different ways to make a quiche. I have arrived at a simple formula: fill your crust with a layer of vegetables, add a layer of cheese, pour eggs on top, and bake. I couldn't get enough of this particular quiche, so I took care to remember how I did it. Enjoy!

dough for a single-crust pie, chilled
1 1/2 fennel bulbs, sliced (1 or 2 would work fine, but this is what I had)
1 medium onion, sliced
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of chard, stems and leaves separated and chopped up
1 cup grated cheese (I used gouda! Use whatever cheese you like, though I recommend something mild for this quiche)
a little goat cheese (optional)
5 eggs
generous splash of milk
a few shakes each of: nutmeg, paprika, turmeric, white pepper
small amount of grated cheddar to top it off (optional)

Drizzle some olive oil on a baking sheet, and toss the fennel and onion around on it. Sprinkle a little fennel seed over the vegetables if you'd like an extra fennel kick. Wrap the garlic cloves in foil and put it on the baking sheet. Roast the vegetables at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until everything is tender and just starting to brown at the edges. Stir the vegetables after the first 20 minutes to make sure they cook evenly.

Meanwhile, heat a little more olive oil in a sautee pan and add the chard stems - red chard is especially nice, because it adds a really great color. After the stems cook for a few minutes, add the chard leaves and continue cooking until the leaves are wilted but still bright green. Don't overcook your greens! After the greens are done, turn off the heat and add your roasted onions and fennel, tossing everything together.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat the eggs and milk. Add the spices. Remove the now-roasted garlic from the foil and squeeze the tasty innards of each clove into the eggs. Whisk it all together until the eggs are well beaten and the garlic and spices are really mixed in.

Roll out the pie dough and place it in a buttered pie dish. Spoon the veggie mixture into the bottom of the crust. Dot this with a little goat cheese - just a little, though. You want the flavor of the vegetables to stand out on this one! Layer the grated cheese on top. Pour the egg mixture over the whole thing, using your spoon if necessary to make sure the egg goes all the way to the edges. Trim the edges of the crust and make it pretty if you are so inclined.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the eggs are set. If you want a little extra cheese action, sprinkle a little extra grated cheese on top after the first 15 minutes. I used cheddar for that last step, because I ran out of gouda. The combination was fantastic.

Eat it up! This is the perfect food for brunch. Or breakfast. Or dinner. Or a late night snack... Mmmm, quiche!

06 May 2011

Cinco de Mayo recipes

I had some people over for cinco de mayo last night for margaritas and nachos. If you know me (which I assume most of you do), you know that I'm a big fan of "everything from scratch." Which isn't to say I don't buy pre-made things. I do. All the time. But when I'm entertaining, I like to show off a little. I whipped up some salsa (which is extremely easy to make if you have a food processor or blender) and margaritas.

For salsa you need:
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/3 large white onion, cut into smallish pieces
1 jalapeno, sliced (keep the seeds!)
5 cloves of garlic
juice of one lime (I prefer to section limes for salsa because you get the most juice that way, but it's fine to just juice it)
3 Tbsp white vinegar (give or take)
handful of cilantro (I remove the leaves from the stems and just use the leaves, but if you're really lazy, you can throw the stems in there too, it'll be fine!)
salt to taste (probably you'll need as much as 1 Tbsp, but add it slowly to be careful!)

Put everything except the vinegar and salt in a food processor. Pulse until it's at the consistency you want. Add the vinegar one tablespoon at a time and the salt one large pinch at a time until you like the flavor. And remember, this is salsa. Everyone likes it different. One jalapeno with seeds gives it a kick but shouldn't send you running for milk. If you want it hotter, add another pepper. If you don't want it hot, remove the seeds and ribs (the RIBS are where most of the heat is, so remember that!). If you like it very sour, add more lime or vinegar, etc.

For margaritas:
4 parts tequila (blanco or reposado)
1 part triple sec
2 parts fresh lime juice
0.5-1 part agave syrup

A good margarita is all about ingredients. First, you need the right tequila. I am against anything that calls itself "gold" because gold tequila isn't actually aged like reposado or anejo tequila, it has extra flavors and colors added. You absolutely want something that is "100% agave" (which "gold" tequilas are not) and use blanco/silver or reposado (anejo is for sipping!) and use a bottle that costs around $20-25 for a fifth. You don't want to spend too much on tequila because a lot of the flavor will be covered anyway. Hornitos, Milagro, and 1800 are good options. You can use cheap triple sec (a fifth costs less than $10) or something fancier like Grand Marnier. You will notice the flavor difference (also Grand Marnier is 80 proof, while most cheap triple secs are around 30 proof) and I think if you're making a small batch, then go for the better stuff. If you're making a big pitcher, cheap triple sec is fine. You want to use fresh lime juice. The amount of juice in a lime varies a lot, but a good, average sized lime will give you about an ounce of juice if you squeeze it all out. Before juicing, roll the lime on the counter to break apart the insides a little. You'll feel it get softer. Finally, you want to use agave syrup instead of simple syrup. Tequila is made from agave so it's natural that the flavors of tequila and agave syrup would complement each other. You can usually find agave syrup next to honey in the grocery store. Truth be told, agave syrup will make your margaritas less pretty. It's brown and and margaritas made with it are not as bright green as you might like. BUT I promise it tastes better!

Proportion wise, you can change things a little. The dominant flavors in a margarita should be tequila and lime. The orange and sweetness should be minor. I strongly recommend that about half of your cocktail should be tequila. You also don't want to lose the sourness of lime by covering it up with too much sweetener. Use 1 part or less sweetener per 2 parts lime. You can even cut it down to about a teaspoon per ounce of lime juice (which is 1 part agave to 6 parts lime juice) but taste it to make sure you like it.

You can make as large or small a batch as you'd like. For a small serving, put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold. For a large batch, pour all ingredients into a pitcher and stir, making sure the agave syrup gets mixed in. Add ice and stir again. You'll want to serve these fairly quickly (like within 30 minutes) so the ice doesn't melt too much and water everything down. If you suspect the pitcher will be around for a while, only add a little ice, and then encourage the drinkers to put lots of ice in their glass. Serve up (my preference) or over ice in a salt-rimmed glass (mandatory).

Woah. That was way more than I expected to write about margaritas. Happy Friday!

05 May 2011

Red wine mushrooms

I've made these a couple of times, and think I've got it down. Warning: this is a qualitative, not quantitative recipe, feel free to adjust as you see fit. We like these a lot as a side to some protein, or just as they are. They also reheat well.

I'll estimate the ingredients for 1/2 pound of mushrooms, I've been using portobello, but i think anything but shiitake would work.

Combine all of the following in a pan large enough for the mushrooms. It will almost form a paste.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons Garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
a reasonable amount of pepper

Turn the pan on to heat the oil, then add:

1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
dash or two of worcestershire sauce.
when the ingredients start to sizzle, add

1/2 pound of mushrooms, sliced.

give everything a few tosses (or stirs if you want to be safe and boring), then add

~ 1/4 cup of red wine,

I add enough to get all the mushrooms wet and tinged red. Use your thumb to control a poor strait from the bottle. Then proceed to pour yourself a glass of it. Drink from aforementioned glass as you:

Cook on high, stirring occasionally, until the wine and mushrooms cook down, and the sauce thickens.

Serve on top of some protein or as they are, with of course, the rest of the red wine.

20 March 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Some days you wake up and it's pouring and your roof is leaking and you have a lot of work to do but you left your keys in your office over the weekend and so instead you make a coffee cake and a chipotle bloody mary (or two) and call it a day.

I'm pretty proud of this coffee cake considering I made it up with things I have in my house and I've never made a coffee cake before. Also of note: the bloody mary probably doesn't go well with the coffee cake, but it sure goes down nicely while you're waiting for it to bake.

Coffee Walnut Coffee Cake
1 cup butter
1.5 cup white sugar
.5 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp kahlua
2 Tbsp instant coffee mixed into 1 tsp hot water (or the minimum amount of water you can use to get it to dissolve)
2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350, grease a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar on low until light and airy. Add eggs one at a time. Then add sour cream, yogurt, vanilla, kahlua and coffee.
3. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl, then pour into mixer while still on low speed.
4. Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure it's all mixed in and then mix at medium speed for one minute.
5. In a small bowl, mix the walnuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon with a fork. Mix in melted butter with a fork. The mixture should be clumpy.
6. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the walnut mixture in the middle. Add the rest of the batter and then cover the top with the remaining 2/3 of the walnut mixture.
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chipotle Bloody Mary
6 oz high quality tomato juice
juice of 1.5 limes
1 tsp horseradish
2 tsp adobo sauce from a jar of chipotle peppers
1 tsp chipotle powder
2 tsp Old Bay powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 oz vodka.

1. Mix all ingredients except vodka in a jar and shake thoroughly.
2. Fill a glass with ice cubes and add vodka. Pour tomato juice mix into the cup.
3. Stir and serve with celery!

16 March 2011

Savory Cheese Pie

Yes, cheese pie. Genius, right? It is very close to being a quiche, but instead of being mostly egg it is mostly cheese. I started from this recipe, but I made it better. It's also one of the easiest pies I've ever made!

What you need:
1 single-crust pie dough recipe
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg

I used 3 cheeses in my pie: Beecher's Flagship for the majority, then a gruyere-cheddar blend from Trader Joe's, and a little bit of strong blue cheese. Obviously the only limit here is your cheese imagination!

What you do:
Make your pie crust and put the dough in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, and seasonings. Roll out your dough and put it in a well-greased pie pan. Put your pile of grated cheese into the crust, then pour the cream and egg mixture over the top. Trim the crust edges and bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheesy top is nicely browned. It should poof up real nicely by the time it's done, almost like a souffle.

If you discover midway through crust production that your bottle of vodka has all leaked out into your freezer and you have to use whiskey instead, be sure to put some foil around the edges of your pie to keep the crust from browning too much. Whiskey has more sugars than vodka, so the crust will brown much more than it normally would.

This pie is delicious warm, cold, or at room temperature! And if you bring it to any gathering, you will be a champion.

13 March 2011

Grilled Black Bean, Quinoa, Spicy Sweet Potato Wraps

I was inspired by this post, found on foodgawker, but changed the recipe a lot.

Two cups black beans, soaked for a day, then boiled to softness (About forty minutes, usually)
One cup quinoa
One sweet potato
Half an onion, sliced to strips
One green pepper, sliced
One red pepper, sliced
Goat cheese - about half a cup, crumbled
Wraps - large tortillas

Put the beans and quinoa to cook.

Dice the sweet potato into small cubes - about 1-1.5 cm square, and put in a pot of water to boil.

While these all are cooking, slice up the onion and peppers.

The sweet potato should take about ten minutes - once finished, drain and sprinkle with light vegetable oil (or butter), and sprinkle with spices - Old Bay, annato, or some sort of spicy crushed pepper works. Toss and set aside in small bowl.

Sautee the onions until almost clear (15 minutes or so) then throw in the peppers and sautee for a few more minutes.

At this point, everything should be done cooking - drain the beans, and simply toss all the cooked ingredients in a bowl, and mix gently.

Compile the wrap - use as much cheese as you´d like, and the mix of the vegetables and grains.

You can toast the wrap in either a panini press (that sounds very nice!), or in the same pan you sauteed the onions and peppers in.

There will be plenty of leftovers - good for a few more meals, very quickly prepared, now that everything is cooked and in your fridge, ready to go!


NB: I unfortunately got tiny tortillas, so the picture shows more of a toasted tortilla than a wrap, which made it difficult to turn without everything falling!

No Bullshit Bloody Mary Mix

Until about a year ago, I'd never had a Bloody Mary. I thought tomato juice was gross, who wants not sweet juice? But then I ordered one on a whim at a happy hour and I never looked back! I love hot things and this definitely translates to Bloody Marys. When I order them, I usually add more Tabasco. I looked at a lot of recipes and sort of improvised and made it spicier, of course. This mix is spicy and thick. If you don't like it hot, you might want to tone it down a notch. Or maybe you should just order a mimosa, because you are clearly not a bloody mary person!

For a good Bloody Mary, you need good ingredients. Buy expensive, thick, organic tomato juice. Use Tabasco brand hot sauce. It's vinegary and spicy without adding too many other random flavors. Use Old Bay. Other seafood seasonings are imitators! Taste your lime juice to make sure it tastes right. Some limes don't actually give good juice. Keep extras of everything around to adjust your seasonings to make sure it's perfect!

A really good Bloody Mary mix is made the night before (or a few days before). This allows the flavors to blend so when you take a sip, you're tasting everything. If you forget the night before, or if you suddenly have brunch guests, you can still make this last minute. But the earlier the better!

32 oz. jar of tomato juice, the best kind you can buy! spluge, it's worth it!
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (lime is best, but you can use lemon or a mix of lemon and lime juices too)
2 Tbsp horseradish
2 Tbsp Tabasco
1 Tbsp Worcester sauce (Worcester sauce is usually made with anchovies and so is not vegan/vegetarian, I sometimes make it with vegan Worcester sauce but use 1 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp vegan Worcester because the vegan version is a little sweeter)
4 tsp Old Bay
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp brown sugar
vodka or tequila
celery and/or pickled vegetables for serving

1. Pour out about a cup (8 oz) of the juice, but don't throw it out or drink it (yet!)
2. Add all of the rest of the ingredients to the jar and shake thoroughly.
3. Taste it. If it's not salty enough, add 1/2 tsp Old Bay at a time until it's salty enough! Same for hot (add tabasco or horseradish!) and sour (lime). I wouldn't add more brown sugar or black pepper.
4. If there is still space in the jar, add some of the juice back. This might dilute it a little bit, so make sure you can add more flavors if you need.
5. Let the jar sit overnight in the fridge. It will last about a week in the fridge.
6. To make a Bloody Mary, fill a tom collins glass (or whatever glass you'd like) about halfway with ice. Pour in 1 part vodka or tequila (Bloody Maria!) to 3 parts bloody mary mix. You can add more or less depending on how alcoholic you want your drinks to be. Garnish (a MUST!) with celery and/or pickled vegetables (green beans, carrots, asparagus are all great!)

26 February 2011

Savory Butternut Squash Pie

Heather is definitely the queen of pie! She alerted me to the National Pie Day which was on January 23. I know, I know, you've missed it for this year, BUT March 14 (aka 3.14 aka the REAL Pi day) is coming up soon, so all these pie recipes are going to come in handy!

This is one of my favorite savory pie recipes. I love squash. I love cheese. Perfect!

single crust pie dough (I like the vodka pie crust recipe that Heather previously wrote about)
2 lb butternut squash (I usually opt to buy two 1lb squashes because I think the smaller ones taste better!)
2 eggs
generous 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tbsp butter, softened (optional, this makes a rich pie even richer, but it's so good!)

1. Preheat your oven to 400. Roll out your pie crust into a 9 inch pie pan.
2. Cook the squash. I prefer to cut it in half, put the cut half down on a large plate and microwave it for 20 minutes. You can also roast the squash in the oven for a richer flavor, but this takes longer! Once the squash is cooked, allow it to cool (if you're using the microwave, it's going to be HOT. You may want to put the plate in the fridge or freezer to speed up the cooling process. Once it's cool, scoop out the flesh into a large bowl and mash it with a fork, this should be easy and you don't want large clumps.
2. Add the eggs and mix well.
3. Add the cheese, salt, nutmeg, cayenne and butter and mix until the filling is homogenous. You don't want to blend this, it should still have a little texture!
4. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes or until the squash juuuust starts to brown a little.
5. Allow the pie to cool for at least an hour before serving, though you may rewarm slices in the oven or microwave before serving.

Beer Bread (aka, how to get rid of old cheap beer in your fridge)

Let me tell you about something called Blanco Basura. Blanco Basura is a special product that my friends discovered that proudly claims how its name is Bad Spanish for "White Trash." So yeah, if you actually speak Spanish, it's not my fault. Anyway, Blanco Basura is a special party pack that comes with five beers, a pint of tequila and a shot glass.

(if you're wondering, yes that's an image of a dog peeing)

What a great idea! We knew it wasn't going to taste good, but $10 for a party? Awesome. But the tequila. is. awful. And I really like tequila. So we do the shots of tequila and chase it with a Blanco Basura beer. Hey! After that urine cleverly disguised as tequila, this beer is pretty good! We should totally buy this again! And again! And again! But really, Blanco Basura beer is not that good. So it sits and sits in my fridge for weeks... months even!

Until I decide enough is enough, I gotta get rid of this beer.

Beer bread is so good and so easy! It's hearty and a little sweet and gets rid of that crappy beer no one wants to drink. I've made beer bread with different kinds of beer, but I think lagers work the best. They give the least flavor. Bread is ok if it's a little yeasty, but you don't want it to be too strong. And you really don't want to waste good beer on bread! So use the cheap stuff leftover from that last party.

This recipe is easy and very basic. You can play around with sweetener, use some wheat flour, add butter, spices, cheese, whatever!

3 cups white flour
1.5 Tbsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar (if you want to substitute alternative sugars like honey, agave or molasses, I recommend using at least 1 Tbsp dry sugar)
12oz. beer

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and grease and flour a 5x9 inch loaf pan.
2. Whisk together all the dry ingredients.
3. Add the beer slowly while stirring with a wooden spoon. If you're adding a liquid sweetener, add half of the beer, then add the sweetener, then the rest of the beer. Stir the dough for about 2-3 minutes. The dough should be sticky.
4. Pour the dough into the prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top of the loaf begins to brown. The bread will rise quite a bit.
5. Remove from pan immediately and allow it to cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes (better if you can wait 30!) until cutting.
6. Enjoy alone or with butter and honey!

21 February 2011

Devil's Food Bat Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

It may seem like it's all pie, all the time in my kitchen, but that's not the case. Sometimes there's cake!

My birthday was earlier this month, and this clearly called for cake. I wanted to use my Christmas gift, the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. Yes, you read that right: whole grain cake. This book has an entire chapter devoted to whole grain cakes (and other chapters for cookies, and pies, and oh my!), and I was dying to find out how delicious they could be. Don't worry, this cake is not health food!

What you need:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp backing soda
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain low-fat or whole-milk yogurt
3/4 cup water

What you do:
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour your pans (2 9-inch rounds, 3 8-inch rounds, or one 9x13).

Cream together the butter, sugars and salt in a large mixing bowl till fluffy and light, at least 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa and baking soda. Make sure there are no lumps.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well (at least a full minute) after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Add half the flour mixture and mix until evenly combined. Add the yogurt and water, and mix again. Add the remaining flour, mix, and stop to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once more, to make sure the batter is evenly moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes if making a layer cake, or 35-40 minutes if making sheet cake. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Place on a rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting!
I used the frosting from the carrot cake recipe in the same cook book. To make it, let 1 8-oz package of cream cheese and 6 tbs of butter get to room temperature, then cream them together with 1 tsp of vanilla until light and fluffy. Then add (gradually!) 4 cups of confectioner's sugar. To get the intense blue color seen in the picture, add an entire bottle of blue food coloring. Noel (my partner in cake crime!) was not the biggest fan of this frosting, but I thought it was great. More cakes with different frosting are in the future!

The usual response when I mentioned that this cake is whole wheat: "Sweet, I can have another piece!" I can not recommend the KAF cookbooks enough for baking; they are reliable, and prioritize making delicious baked goods above all other considerations. I can't wait to try more whole wheat cakes!

20 February 2011

Orange Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup orange juice (about 2 oranges if using freshly squeezed)
1 tablespoon navel orange zest (about 1 orange)
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, egg, and juice. Add the orange zest, ginger, honey, and vanilla, and whisk until just combined. Add to the flour mixture and stir quickly until well combined. Fold in the pecans. Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 molds.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

02 February 2011

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Bread Salad


1 butternut squash

1 small onion or ½ large onion

½ to 1 bunch spinach

about ¼ a loaf of preferably rustic bread

Asiago cheese



Peel and chop the butternut squash into one-inch cubes. Toss with salt and olive oil and roast at 450 F until tender when pierced by a fork, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Chop onion and sauté on medium for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 5 minutes until onions are tender. You can also cook until onions are caramelized.

Chop day-old (or older, as long as it isn’t moldy) bread into cubes. Toast in a skillet with a bit of olive oil until a bit brown.

Chop spinach into ribbons. Toss all the cooked ingredients and spinach together in a bowl. The heat of the squash will slightly cook the spinach. Add cheese, salt and pepper to your taste.

25 January 2011

Potato Onion Cheese Pie

This picture is from a similar pie I made last summer, but the concept is the same! I wanted a nice savory pie for a pie party, and nothing says "comfort food" like potatoes and cheese. Noel chose the spices for this one, and they were genius. The pie had a beautiful yellow color and a warm, almost mustard-y, flavor. Whip up this pie on a gloomy day; it's the pie equivalent of a cozy blanket!

I used baby yellow potatoes, so the slices were bite-sized. If you use larger potatoes, you might want to cut it up so that it's smaller sliced. Of course, that would be completely up to you!

What you need:
Chilled dough for a double-crust pie
3 cups of sliced yellow potatoes
2 medium onions, diced
1 cup of crumbled sharp cheese (I used Gloucester)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

What you do:
Combine all your filling ingredients in a bowl and toss together until everything is evenly distributed.

Roll out the bottom crust and place in a well-greased pie dish. Spoon the filling into the pie. Roll out the top crust and cut a few vents into it, then place on top of the pie. Pinch the edges shut.

Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is golden, the cheese melted, and the potatoes soft - about an hour. Wait at least 15 minutes to slice into this one.

Eat your amazing pie!

21 January 2011

Apple Cranberry Pecan Pie

I did two versions of this pie over the winter holidays, and both were scrumptious cold-weather goodness. The first time I used cranberries and goat cheese; the second time I had to improvise the cranberries, with delicious results!

Here's what you need:
dough for a double-crust pie
4 cups of thinly sliced apples
a big handful of craisins
a big handful of chopped pecans
about 1/2 cup of spreadable cheese - I used a yummy farmer's market cheese, but goat cheese works great, too.
Spices - cinnamon and cloves, or whatever strikes your fancy. Probably about a 1/2 tsp of each.

Here's what you do:
While your dough is chilling, throw the craisins in a saucepan and cover them with brandy. Let them simmer while you chop your apples and get the rest of your ingredients together. They should get plump and soft. Drain them when they're done, but save the brandy for drinking purposes!

Put the apples, brandy-soaked craisins, pecans, cheese, and spices in a big bowl and toss together until everything is evenly distributed.

Roll out half of your dough and lift it into a well-greased pie dish. Fill it up with your apple concoction, then roll out the rest of the dough and cover the top of the pie. Cut some vents in the top crust, or do a nice lattice. Pinch the sides shut and make it look pretty if you're able (I'm not!), and it's ready to bake! Bake at 350 for 45 min. to an hour, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melty and the cranberries all bubbly.

Wait at least half an hour before slicing into your pie, then eat it up!

20 January 2011

Vodka Pie Crust

I keep getting asked about the vodka pie crust I always use to make pie, so here it is. Before discovering this recipe, I always had trouble with pie crusts - they would be too dry and fall apart when I rolled them out, or too wet and end up undercooked. Adding vodka to the dough means you can keep it moist enough to be easy to work with, but still end up with a perfectly light and flaky crust when the alcohol bakes out.

This is a double-crust recipe, which I originally got at Smitten Kitchen. That site has lovely photos and a step-by-step tutorial, but it is rather lengthy and complicated. And the whole point of the vodka crust is that it is easy! Here's how I do it:

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks of cold butter, cut into little pieces
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening (I prefer butter-flavored Crisco)
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup vodka

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then cut in the butter and shortening. If you don't have a pastry cutter, your fingertips are the next best tool for this job. Just combine until the butter is reduced to pea-sized clumps.

Sprinkle the water and vodka over the dough and lightly stir it together just until you can form it into a ball. If the dough seems too dry and crumbly, add another splash of vodka until it seems workable. The butter should not be evenly distributed; the clumps you see in the dough will melt when baked and create those tender flakes that make a good pie crust so tasty. Divide the dough in half and refrigerate it for at least half an hour before rolling it out for a pie. You can leave it in the fridge for a day or so, or in the freezer for... longer. When it is formed into a pie and baked, it will be buttery and flaky and oh so delicious!

Note: For a while I had the recipe memorized incorrectly, and used a whole cup of shortening in stead of 1/2 cup. The crust still turned out fine, with no discernible difference in taste. I went back to 1/2 cup after I realized the mistake, because I suppose I don't really need extra fat in my desserts, but I took two lessons from it.
1. Pie crust is not an exact science, so don't worry about it too much!
2. Extra butter or shortening never hurt anything.

Go forth and make pie!