Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chocolate Chip Muffins

If you haven’t noticed yet, my kids enjoy cooking. Correction, they enjoy baking! Mixing, pouring, snacking on chocolate chips before I’m ready for them, all key to the baking process. One of their favorite things to eat are Chocolate Chip muffins. We tend to make these more in the evening when we have enough leftovers from the night before, but not enough to be full, so the muffins are nice to fill us.
The only problem with kiddie Sous Chefs is sometimes things get broken. Little Boy managed to crack his first egg (not on purpose), and the egg promptly fell on the floor. It would have made a cute picture, but I didn’t want him to know he was cute in breaking an egg, or he might do it again, so we cleaned up and proceeded with a new egg. He didn’t touch the second egg, now that he knows they can break, he was very careful.
Like all good muffins, the secret is in the muffin top, once the muffin batter has been added to the muffin cups, I sprinkle with cane sugar and two chocolate chips each. We use this as a bit of a counting game, the kiddies get 5 chips to eat while we cook, and the rest have to go either in the batter, or on top. If I didn’t ration them, they would eat the entire bag.
What you’ll need:
1 cup AP flour
¼ cup Almond flour (this is key to the texture, in Kroger it can be found in the organic section near the specialty flours and spices, in Whole Foods, it’s in the baking aisle)
1.5 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 TBSP Cane sugar + more for dusting
4 TBSP Brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg
¾ cup milk
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/8 cup olive oil
¼ cup chocolate chips (remove 12, to save for garnishing the top)
Start by mixing your flours, baking powder, salt and sugars together, set aside.
Now, add your vanilla, egg, milk, almond extract and olive oil together, mix.
Now for the hard part (not really), combine the dry and the wet ingredients until mixed, but don’t over mix it.
Stir in the chips. Then put the batter, right here. . .
Use a large cookie scoop to scoop into the muffin pan. I LOVE silicon bakeware, I know a lot of people hate it, but I think it’s the best thing ever. No need to use spray, extra oil or muffin cups, just add the batter, bake and they come out clean every time.
Now, enlist the assistance of your little friends and add two chocolate chips per muffin, that’s ONE, TWO. . .STOP!
Now sprinkle with some extra cane sugar. Make sure it’s the chunky kind, some stores sell only the fine stuff, that doesn’t have the same effect on top, you want the crystallized stuff for a slight sugary crunch.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. I recommend enjoying about 2 minutes after they come out of the oven.
This recipe makes 6 muffins.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pesto Bread

I love bread. Well, correction, I love GOOD bread. There's a big difference. . .boring bread that lacks flavor and needs to be dressed up with toppings in order to be edible don't have a place in my house.
Bread making definitely takes a little practice, following the recipe word for word will NOT always work when working with yeast. If it's raining, or if the humidity is high, the yeast will react differently then on a dry day, cold days with a cold kitchen will take longer to rise bread than hot days in a warm kitchen. You may have a dough hook for your mixer, but unless you physically touch the dough, you can't tell how sticky it is (a sign you need more flour), or if it has been kneaded the right amount.

There are several different types of breads, today, we'll be walking through a pesto yeast bread. While any bread making has a certain level of difficulty associated with it, yeast breads are a safe place to start as the yeast does most of the work.

For today's recipe you'll need

Olive oil
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
3 cups bread flour
1/2 pesto
1/2 cup Parmesan

One jar of pesto typically makes two loaves of bread, so if you're making your second loaf and your pesto has been in the fridge, go ahead and set it out not, bringing it to room temperature will make it easier to spread in a few hours.

Bring your milk to room temperature, add the sugar, stir, then sprinkle the yeast on top evenly dispersing. Let the yeast sit for about 10 minutes and it should proof some, you'll notice it getting foamy on top. If you make the milk too hot, it will kill the yeast, and it will sink to the bottom of the measuring cup. Disregard now! Once you kill the yeast, there is no coming back, before you waste hours trying to make this recipe work, just start over with a new milk, sugar mixture and new yeast.

If your yeast is too cold, it won't proof much in just 10 minutes, for this recipe that is OK, since this recipe rises twice, the yeast will be warmed through the kneading process and it should react fine.

Notice how the edges are starting to get foamy, that's the start of the proofing, and proof that the yeast will work. If you don't have any foaminess after 10 minutes, your yeast may be too old.

While you're yeast is getting to work, pour 2 cups of flour and salt into a large bowl. I like to contain my mess when possible. A lot of recipes call for kneading bread on a floured surface, but kneading within a bowl works just fine.

I have made this recipe with AP flour, and part AP/part WW flour. It cooks best with bread flour, but bread flour has the most amount of gluten, so if you are limiting gluten, I would suggest using AP instead.

Pour your milk mixture into the flour mixture and use a spatula to slowly combine, it should still be sticky, but it is easier to do this first part with some help, your hands will get plenty messy in a minutes.

Before we proceed, there are couple steps we need to do to prepare. If you have a friend around that can assist for a few minutes, call  them into the kitchen, if your sous chefs are napping, then here's what you need to do to minimize a flour explosion in your kitchen.

First, remove all rings or bracelets and make sure your sleeves are pushed up as far as they will go.
Second,  remove the lid to your olive oil.

Next, prep your flour, you will need at least one more cup, but depending on how sticky the dough is, you may need more, so have a scooping utensil ready.

Start kneading the dough, add flour slowly until it is all absorbed and has a smooth consistency. You don't want to over knead it.

Now, knock any extra flour our into the trash, coat the dough with olive oil and cover with a towel.
It's just a little ball at this point, in a big bowl. As you can see, there's some flour stuck to the sides still, but there's not reason to dirty another bowl at this point.

Wait around for an hour to 90 minutes, and your dough should be doubled in size.

Dump the dough out onto a large cutting board and begin to spread. . .

It should be spread out evenly with no holes.

Now for some fun. . .spread the pesto edge to edge

Then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Notice, my chef food critic came to help by taking pictures.

Begin my rolling the dough like a jelly roll.
Just keep rolling. . .
What do you do, but roll, roll (sorry, Finding Nemo on my mind). . .

Pinch the dough edge together.

Cut the roll in half

Turn each side out so the pesto is up.

Now, start to braid the bread together, spreading the pesto out at much as possible so its distributed evenly.

Once it's fully braided,put it in a bread pan and cover with Saran wrap to rise for another hour.

Now would be a good time to sit and rest for a bit, the hard part is done. . .

Ok, the bread should rise enough now, it can go into the oven, heated to 375 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes.

You can tell the bread is done when it sounds hollow when you knock on it.

Once fully cooked, let it rest for a few minutes, but be prepared to slice it open, as it's amazing warm.
See how beautiful that is?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Broccoli Soup

We had a bit of a late start today, well, to be fair, three of us were up early, ate breakfast, dressed, walked the doggie and played outside for a while, the head food critic however, decided to not wake up until 10:30!!! So, collectively, we were unable to get our day started outside the house until around 11, which at that time, most of us were ready for lunch. So we headed to Panera for a quick bite. I ordered a you pick too so I could share some of my soup with Little Girl. She like soup, but she's not always in the mood to eat, some days she eats a ton, other's she nibbles here and there. Unfortunately for me, she had her eyes set on my soup and devoured the whole thing, I only got two bites :( Since I had broccoli and carrots at home, I figured instead of standing in line to order another cup, I would attempt my own version at home.

Things you'll need:

Olive oil
1/3 cup of onion chopped
1/4 cup of AP flour
2 cups of whole milk
3 cups of broth (I opted for beef broth to add more depth)
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 potato, peeled and cubed

1 cup Gouda shredded
1 1/2 cups cheddar shredded

Start by heating a stock pot over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom. Once the oil is heated, add your onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes).

Add the flour to create a roux. Once the flour is mixed into the onion mixture, add the milk and stir until smooth. It will start like this. . .
Then, it will look like this.

Add the broth, bay leaves, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the rest of your vegetables and cook for an additional 20 minutes. You will blend them later, so the broccoli doesn't have to be minuscule.

I would have actually liked more potato in the soup, I made it with one, but if you like potatoes, try two.
The carrots added a nice sweetness to the soup.

Now, use your immersion blender to blend the vegetables until the soup is relatively smooth.

Add the cheeses and cook for a few minutes more until the cheeses are completely melted and mixed.

Now you're ready to serve!