I love the smell of fresh baked bread, just out of the oven...
A few years ago, I read Jim Lahey's book called "My Bread". It changed the way I made bread-I rarely make bread any other way. It's easy, and produces a loaf of bread that looks artisan-just like you'd buy at an artisan bakery.
No Knead Bread
Makes one loaf
3 1/2 cups of bread flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2-1 3/4 cups water
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until thouroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-16 hours. I know, sounds crazy, but the bread ferments somewhat sitting this long, giving it a fabulous flavor. That's the reason so little yeast is needed. You can mix it up in the evening after dinner and come back to it the next evening (or morning, it's very forgiving).
When you are ready to finish your loaf of bread, dust your countertop with more bread flour. Scrape the bread dough out onto the floured surface using a bench scraper or bowl scraper. Turn the bread dough over a few times (the bread dough will be very loose and seem too wet but it'll be fine). You want to incorporate more flour into the dough but do not need to knead it. Once the bread dough seems a little more firm from "pushing" it around the flour on your counter, shape it into whatever shape you'd like-an oval or round shape or even a long loaf**. Place the bread dough onto the middle of a floured tea towel (do NOT use a terry towel, you will have lint in your bread), loosely fold the ends of the towel over the loaf you've shaped, and let it rise for an hour, hour and a half.
While the dough is rising, set a dutch oven with a lid, in your cold oven. Turn on the oven and set the temperature to 450 degrees F, so that the oven and the dutch oven pot reach temperature at the same time. The reasoning behind this method is that it gives you the same effect of an artisan oven by baking your bread in "an oven within an oven". No wood burning oven needed. Sounds kind of crazy, but trust me, it works! Really well!!
Once your bread has doubled in size after the second rise, take your dutch oven out of the oven (be REALLY careful, it will be burning hot!), take off the lid (using a hot pad), carefully pick up your bread dough in the tea towel and roll it into the hot dutch oven. Place the lid back on the dutch oven and place the dutch oven back into your 450 degree F oven (still using your hot pads!!). Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid from the dutch oven. Bake it for another 15-30 minutes, depending on how brown you like your bread. After that time, take the dutch oven out of the oven and remove the beautiful bread loaf from the dutch oven. Let the bread cool on a wire rack. Once it's cooled (really-let it cool completely before you slice it). Then slice, slather with butter (or your own choice of topping) and enjoy! SO worth it!
**If you decide you want to make a long loaf that looks like french bread, you'll have to bake it on a pizza stone or cookie sheet. If you use a cookie sheet do not place the cookie sheet in the oven to warm when you turn on the oven. If using a pizza stone, heat it in the oven so it heats as the oven heats. Roll the bread dough onto the cookie sheet, place it in the oven, and bake for 30-45 minutes, again, it depends on how brown you like your bread to be.
I can't believe it's already August! The days are cooling (slightly) and are getting shorter. It's putting me in the mood to bake.
One of my favorite cake recipes is from the book "Lunch In Paris: A Love Story with Recipes" by Elizabeth Bard. The book is a memoir of her courtship and subsequent move to Paris. In the book she has scattered recipes. After trying each one, I can honestly say they are all very good! But I especially like the French Yogurt Cake recipe and the background story she gives us about this cake. Bard writes that it is one of the first things French children learn to bake, using the glass yogurt container as a measure, making it easy for them to make.
You can top this cake before baking with any fruit you like, fresh or canned, or none at all. It is great for dessert, breakfast or lovely with a cup of coffee or tea. And it's so moist!
So, without further ado-here is the recipe--
French Yogurt Cake
From Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
A large pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Zest of one lemon
One 16-ounce can apricots, drained and quartered
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly butter a 10-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, salt and vanilla, stirring or whisking until smooth. Add oil in a steady stream, while whisking to combine. Add eggs one by one, whisking to combine after each one.
In smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour mixture little by little to the yogurt mixture, whisking along the way to combine. Stir in lemon zest. Pour cake mixture into prepared cake pan. Top with chopped apricots.
Bake on center rack for 45 minutes, until golden brown and slightly risen; a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Place the cake on wire rack to cool.
This cake is even better the second day -- provided it sticks around that long. It gets more moist as it sits.
Elizabeth Bard points out in her book that this cake is a "blank canvas" that you can make your own based on the fruits you like or have in your fridge at the time. Try fresh raspberries or pears sprinkled with brown sugar, she suggests.
Somewhere along the line I decided I did not want to make mashed potatoes by first peeling the potatoes, cutting them up, boiling them for 30 minutes and then mashing them in the usual fashion. I was cooking for my personal chef client and was looking for shortcuts to ease my workload. One of the dishes I was making was a stuffed baked potato. I also needed a recipe of mashed potatoes. So I threw both potatoes into a 400 degree oven and baked them for about an hour.
I sliced the top off one potato and used a spoon to scoop out the insides. What I found inside the potato was a creamy, already mashed (after scooping that is) potato without having to peel them! So little work to do for great mashed potatoes!!
So I cut the second potato in half, scooped out both sides and finished the mashing process with my large spoon. I mixed in some butter (EVERYTHING is better with butter, and......maybe some bacon as well), cream cheese (makes them so creamy!), a little milk and salt and pepper. A vouz la! Mashed potatoes with little or no effort.
In case you need a recipe, here it is. Serves 4.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Wash you potatoes, pierce the skin with a fork once, then place in the oven to bake for approximately one hour. Go on about your business of making dinner, reading-your choice.
Remove potatoes from the oven when fully baked (the potatoes will feel soft if squeezed). Let them cool for 10 minutes. Slice in half and scoop out the flesh of the potato. The skins can be saved for another purpose if you like but they can be refilled with the potato innards for twice-baked potatoes.
Make sure the potatoes have few if any lumps, then mix in the butter, cream cheese, milk and salt and pepper. Serve immediately or cool, cover then refrigerate and reheat later or another day.
The potatoes can also be baked in a toaster oven or the like if you don't want to heat up the house. Since I cook for a living-not much choice here if the recipe calls for oven baking!
And there you have it-easy peasy.
We are once again offering our Prix Fixe dinners to those of you living the in the Reno-Sparks area. Working in a licensed commercial kitchen, Chef April grocery shops, cooks, and delivers packaged meals---individual or family style---on a weekly basis. Your groceries are hand-selected and purchased the day before your food is prepared, so you can count on fresh, quality ingredients for each meal.
Each meal or serving is $10. Five entrees will be offered each week with sides as appropriate. There will also be at least one salad offered each week at a rate of $5 per serving. You'll even occasionally see desserts offered! If you'd like to see a specific dish on the menu, please email us and let us know us! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All orders must be in by 12 noon on Saturday in order to be able to prepare and deliver them on Monday. Please check out our store at www.aprilcookstonight.com.
Staying home for Valentine's Day but stuck for something for dinner? Here is a recipe for Filet Mignon with Tarragon Mushrooms. It's easy, tasty and a sure way to a man's heart. Sides can be anything from a luscious green salad to mashed potatoes and your favorite veggie.
Pistou -- France's version of pesto -- is usually made from fresh basil. Use frozen spinach instead to make our pantry-friendly version. Keeping your dry pantry stocked with items that have long shelf lives will allow you to put together tempting dishes on a moment's notice.