March 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
If you’ve spent any time here at all you know money is pretty tight for us. We never go hungry or anything, but there is very little cushion at times and for the past week or so, we’ve been scraping: no spending unless it’s gas in the car. That means no new groceries (we eat what’s already in the house plus the eggs from our chickens), no drive through coffees, etc.. It’s not a self-imposed period of no spending. There just isn’t any money until we get paid again, and so we tighten down and make do. This go around hasn’t been horrible (we’ve done it before), but the boxed in feeling is never fun. Thankfully, these periods pass, and on the other side, I feel a little more confident in our ability to live on very little, and far more grateful for the relative luxury in which we live most of the time.
As far as cooking goes, when the money runs low, I’ve noticed I make a lot of two things: bread and beans. Suitable, right? So, today, I’m going to talk about bread and next time we’ll go over the method I use for beans. I know, I know. You’re on the edge of your seat! But these are great standbys to have in your arsenal if ever you need to tighten your belt.
Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread
Note: this makes a pretty large loaf of bread and unless you are feeding a large group, you will have leftovers. This is a great opportunity to make toasts (bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or so and rubbed with a clove of garlic) that you can top with anything you like (cheese, fried egg, wilted greens, all of the above, etc, etc). You can also make fresh breadcrumbs. Or, you can tear them in pieces, toss with olive oil and a bit of salt, bake until crunchy, and have the best croutons you have ever tasted.
3 cups (430g) flour
1½ cups (345g or 12oz) water
¼ teaspoon (1g) yeast
1¼ teaspoon (8g) salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)
special equipment: a 6-8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, cast iron, or ceramic)
Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until the flour is incorporated (not more than a minute). The dough will be pretty shaggy and sticky. Lightly oil another medium-sized bowl or large container with a lid and transfer the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or top and let sit for 12-18 hours at room temperature (about 70 degrees F).
When the time is up (the dough will have bubbles on the surface), use a spatula to remove the dough from the container to a well floured surface. With floured hands, gently fold the dough over on itself once or twice (in half is fine). Let sit for 15-30 minutes more and then shape into a ball. Move dough to one half of a floured towel (not terry cloth, but a smooth kitchen towel). Sprinkle the top with flour and cover with the rest of the towel. Let rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
In the last part of the rise preheat the oven to 450-500 degrees F. Place the container and lid in the oven to preheat, as well. Once the dough has doubled in size, take the hot pot out of oven, take off the lid and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Don’t worry what it looks like at this point. You can transfer the dough to the pot while still on the towel by picking up the towel like a tray with two hands. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pot and let bake for 15-30 more minutes. Remove from the oven and pot and let cool completely on a rack.
February 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Words are failing me at the moment. It’s late and it’s been a long (but good) day. My brain feels fried, though, so I’ll be brief with what I’ve been excited about lately: Tomato Jam Turnovers. There. I said it. Tomato jam turnovers are from Fany Gerson’s book, My Sweet Mexico (a great library loaner) and have been taking up real estate in my head for a while. Needing all the brain space I can get (for things like remembering permission slips, helping with valentines, brushing my teeth, etc) I decided to just take action and see what they were like. I’m so glad I did. What a treat these are from the savory/sweet tomato jam, to the flaky, cream scented dough. We all ate them warm out of the oven, some of us (two of my kids and myself) loving them and others eating them happily until I told them it was tomato jam in the center (I still get the victory in getting them to taste new flavors).
I should tell you up front: this is not a quick and easy recipe. It will take you a couple of hours even if you barrel through. But, to me, it’s worth it to take some time to make something new and have an adventure in the kitchen. It’s like my mini vacation from real life, but with the bonus of having, at the end of the vacation, a wonderful treat for us to eat, in real life. Another thing: you could make these in sessions, making the jam in the first, the dough in the second (then refrigerating) and then rolling out and assembling in the last. Don’t let the time scare you off. Sometimes harder (or more time-consuming) is better and I think this is one of those times.
Tomato Jam Turnovers
from Fany Gerson’s My Sweet Mexico
4 cups grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
1 1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup crema or heavy cream, plus extra for topping
egg yolk and sugar for topping
Filling: Cut clean, dry tomatoes in half and put them in a small, heavy pot with the sugar and salt. Bring it all to a boil and then adjust the heat to keep it going at a constant simmer. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the bottom of the pot is visible (about 50-60 minutes). Blend in a food processor if you like a smooth texture for the filling. Let cool before assembling turnovers.
Dough: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In a food processor, with a pastry cutter, or with your fingertips, combine the cold butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal. Add the cream and mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, with a floured rolling-pin, until 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut out 4 to 5 inch circles. Gather the scraps and re-roll until all the dough is used.
To form turnovers: Line up circles of dough on the floured surface and place a scant tablespoon of jam in the middle of each one. Fold the dough in half, lightly pressing on the edges to seal (or you can use the back of a fork for this step). Cut two small slits in the tops of the turnovers. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the pastries are in the refrigerator, heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and whisk an egg yolk and some cream in a small bowl. When the 30 minutes is up, brush the turnovers with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown (about 35 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye out as oven temperature varies).
Let cool on a rack and serve warm or cold.
February 11, 2011 § 7 Comments
Round three of our French Fridays with Dorie left me wanting a do-over. I’d never had anything like an orange almond tart, and, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t all that sure I was going to enjoy it. Oranges in a baked dessert just sounded kind of mushy or mealy or something strange on the tongue. I live in Florida. The only way I eat oranges is fresh from the peel, a lot of times off someone’s tree. But, I went with it because I trust DG‘s experience (take a gander at who she has worked with here).
Anyway, Susan (my friend and trusty FFWD cohort) and I made it as written except for one thing: the recipe calls for almond flour. I didn’t have any so we used finely ground almonds. I’m not sure how it affected the recipe since I’ve only made it once, but Sus wondered if we used official “almond flour” if the resulting tart would have been lighter (any pastry people out there know?).
So, why (I know you’re asking) did I want a do over? A couple of things: the crust was overly brown by the end (you have to pre-bake this one) making it mildly unattractive and too hard to eat in some places. Not what you want in a crust (totally my fault, though). Second, the almond flavor dominated. This is great when making an almond cake, and it wasn’t a bad thing here either, but why bother with oranges if you aren’t going to taste them? She suggests poached pear slices as an alternative, and I want to try them next time.
I say “next time” because even though this tart didn’t turn out perfectly, I really liked the way it tasted. The almond cream is nutty and not too sweet and the whole thing has a bit of a salty, caramel flavor that is, just, sorry to do this, YUMMY. (I feel like Rachel Ray saying “YUMMO!!” You’ll have to make it and see what descriptions you can come up with!) It’s perfect with ice cream, It would be dreamy with whipped cream. What more do you need?
** The French Fridays group asks that I don’t print the entire recipe in my posts about the book (trying to SELL books. I get it.), but if you think you want to give this or any of the FF recipes a try, leave me a note in the comments and I’ll email the recipe to you.
***I no longer am monopolizing the local library’s one copy of Around My French Table because my dear childhood friend, Erynn, sent me my very own copy. I’m excited that I’ll get to cook through the whole book and not feel like I have to hurry before my book turns back into a pumpkin. LUXURY! Thank you, friend.
February 4, 2011 § 7 Comments
In another one of my Lakeland Library book-hogging sessions, I possessed, for many weeks, a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (catchy title, huh?). I had read about it a long time ago on other blogs (like this one), and wanted to check it out, but wasn’t going to buy the book. Enter the trusty, if a little behind the times, library.
The premise is that you can make fresh bread every day, but don’t have to go through the mixing, rising, punching down, rising again, craziness that has to happen with traditional bread making. You mix the ingredients for multiple loaves, one time, in a big container, let it sit for a couple of hours, covered, and then put it in your refrigerator (unless you want to bake some at that point). Then you can just let it sit there, waiting for you to take it out, lop off a hunk of dough, and turn it into a fine loaf of bread. You can let it sit in there for almost two weeks if you want. It sounds and looks gross (see below), but it isn’t in the end, I promise.
There is an excellent post on the authors’ page here that gives the recipe and walks you through the basics of the process. Please don’t be intimidated by this! It’s easy, I promise. You can even watch them giving a demo here (I will say, I don’t think you HAVE to have a pizza peel like they recommend. I don’t have one so I just scoop up the bread off the counter with a well floured burger flipper and put it on to the heated baking stone. None of that will make sense if you haven’t clicked those links.)
This basic recipe is the one I’ve been doing so far, but the book has peasant loaves, pita bread, rye, whole wheat, etc., all using this same no-kneading, just-dump-it-in-there method. I highly recommend the book (I even gave it to my dad for Christmas), but see if your library has it (or read that post or watch the video above), and try it out to see if you like it or not.
As you can tell by my proselytizing, I love this stuff. Bread making is really satisfying to me b/c it’s luxurious and dirt cheap at the same time. This method adds ease to an already good thing. I’m hooked. One more thing I love about it: my kids cheer (I’m not lying) when they see it sitting on the counter, ready to go into the oven. They, seriously, jump up and down, clap their hands, and say “Yay! Bread!”. So, it’s not been hard for me to stick with something so pleasing that is at the same time not full of creepy ingredients.* I mean, they cheer for blue slurpees, but their mouths are stained for the rest of the day. That can’t be good, can it? This, I feel good about, AND they cheer. Their aren’t many of those.
p.s. If anyone has tried it or, tries it for the first time after this, I’d love to hear about it.
*Yeast is, actually, a little creepy. Anyone with me?