On Bread Making

Before we get into the best bread ever, I’m going to first admit something – posts will not be as frequent this summer. There. Rather than feel bad about it, I’m just going to embrace it. Fall, on the other hand, will be a different story.

With that out of the way, I wanted to share an amazing bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen which yes, takes a bit of time to make (not a lot of “hands on” time, but a lot of waiting for the dough to do things like rise), but it is absolutely worth it. I made this yesterday for our sandwiches this week and it’s received great reviews so far.

New York Deli Rye Bread (c/o Smitten Kitchen):

I am going to take verbatim Deb’s instructions because a) I didn’t change much and b) they are detailed enough that even a novice bread maker (like myself) can get a successful loaf out of it, if you follow these to a T. The whole process took me about 6 hours (not including the shopping beforehand…a tip: rye flour isn’t sold everywhere. I suggest a bulk food store, like Bulk Barn), but I only had to actively do something for about 30 minutes. The rest was just making sure the dough was rising properly and letting it rest while I ran other errands. All the words are hers, but the photos are mine – just to prove that it can be done!

rye bread!

Sponge
3/4 cup (4 ounces, 117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (3.3 ounces, 95 grams) rye flour
1/2 teaspoon (1.6 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.6 ounces, 18.7 grams) sugar
1/2 tablespoon (4.6 grams) malt powder (or barley malt syrup or honey (10.5 grams), or sugar (6.2 grams)) *I used the sugar version*
1 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces, 354 grams) water, at room temperature

Flour Mixture
2 1/4 cups (12.5 ounces, 351 grams) bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2 grams) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) caraway seeds (you can grind these if you want to avoid the crunch)
1/2 tablespoon (0.3 ounces, 10.5 grams) coarse salt

Dough and Baking
1/2 tablespoon (0.25 ounces, 6.7 grams) vegetable oil
about 2 teaspoons (about 0.5 ounces, 16 grams) cornmeal for sprinkling

and so it begins...

Make the sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in a large or mixer bowl and whisk until very smooth, to intentionally incorporate air — this will yield a thick batter. Set it aside.

Make the flour mixture and cover the sponge: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour mixture and gently scoop it over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places.)

Mix the dough [Either with a mixer – I used the mixer version] Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on low-speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. then raise the speed to medium and mix it for 10 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic, and it should jump back when pressed with a fingertip; if it is sticky, turn it out on a counter and knead in a little extra flour.

dough mixing

[Or by hand] Add the oil and, with a wooden spoon or your hand, stir until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a very lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, after which it might be a little sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. (Resting the dough makes it less sticky and magically easier to work with. Trust me.) Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic and your upper arms are strapless gown-ready.

dough rising

Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a large container or bowl, lightly oiled. Oil the top of the dough as well. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Flip the bowl over and let the dough fall out on to a lightly floured counter, press it down gently, fold or form it back into a square-ish ball and allow it to rise a second time, back in the (re-oiled) bowl covered with plastic wrap for about 45 minutes.

Shape it and wait out the final rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it down again. Round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. (*I wanted to get a loaf out of this, so I lightly oiled a bread pan, sprinkled the base with cornmeal and shaped the dough for the last time in here). Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. [Skim ahead to preheating your oven, which you should do soon.] When it is gently press with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.

Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 450°F as early as you can tolerate. (*I did it about 30 minutes before – the hotter the oven, the more crunchy the crust!) On a shelf at the lowest level, place a baking sheet or bread stone. [If you want to get fancy and bread-oven like: Place a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven to preheat.]

pre and post baking

Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water and quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet (*Or, just put the bread pan in the oven). [If you’ve decided to get fancy and bread oven-like: Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door.] Bake for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (or a thermometer inserted into the center reads 190°F; I prefer this method because you’ve done much too much work to possibly end up with an under- or over-baked loaf of bread).

Cool the bread on a wire rack. And enjoy the deliciousness!

mmm fresh bread

 

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Pimm Pimm Hooray!

I’ve been on a mini (unintended) hiatus. Between day-to-day work, cottages, planning trips and birthdays, and nice, warm evenings where we’re just aching to get on a patio, Toronto summers are pretty amazing (flooding aside), but can get shockingly busy. To make up for my absence, I’m going to share one of the best drink recipes for summer. It’s the best because it tastes great and, more importantly, it’s super quick to make (so…minimal time to wait before you get to enjoy).

pimms cup

 

Pimm’s Cup Recipe:

What You’ll Need…

Pimm’s No. 1

– Lemonade

– Ginger ale or ginger beer (optional)

– Cucumber

– Mint

– Strawberries

– Orange slices

– ice

What You Need To Do…

In a jug, mix one part Pimm’s with one part lemonade and one part ginger ale/beer. Add sliced cucumber, strawberries and orange slices. Add mint. And add as much ice as you’d like. Stir and serve.

See? Simple.

It’s a great British drink with refreshing summer flavours. Bonus? The fruit soaks up the Pimm’s and tastes delicious!

(p.s. Happy Belated Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!)

 

Loving…

There are very few things more terrifying than realizing that half of another year has gone by. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type thing that gets me every time. On the other hand, it’s also pretty indicative of all the great, not-so-great and indifferent things that have happened in the past 6 months.

Listening:

Two Frenchmen rocking it out, 70s style, with Pharrell. It doesn’t really get better than that.

Wanting:

This double-painting from Urban Barn.

bike

Craving:

This super simple and delicious raspberry-rhubarb pie.

pie - strawberry/rhubarb

Fruit pies are one of the best things to “master”, in my opinion. The crust recipe can remain largely the same (my favourite remains the one I referenced here and here – it is dangerously delicious), and you can get creative with the filling. You just need to follow the rule of 3/4 cup sugar + 3/4 cup flour + vanilla extract (1 tsp) + enough fruit to fill the pie and be properly covered by the sugar/flour mixture. In this case, I used a container of strawberries and about 350g of rhubarb. To add a little extra goodness, I like to paint the crust with melted butter and sprinkle sugar over top before putting it in the oven (typically at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and left for about 20 minutes or until the filling starts to bubble).

Using:

PicLab and Snapseed – by far my two favourite iPhone apps for adding font to photos and editing them, respectively.

Relaxing:

This weekend for Canada Day. Extra-long long weekends are the best… Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canucks!

muskoka chairs in muskoka

This Bread is Bananas

Banana bread – one of the easiest things to bake and so delicious. Last night, having an abundance of ripe bananas in our house, I decided to make a loaf for dessert and work snacks. Nothing beats a fresh-out-of-the-oven, still warm, buttered piece of banana bread.

banana bread

 

Blue Ribbon* Banana Bread:

Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat, if you’re looking to get healthy)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

mixing it up

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mash bananas with a wooden spoon in a large bowl. Mix in melted butter.

3. Add vanilla. sugar, egg and baking powder and stir well.

4. Add flour and mix until fully coated and thick.

5. Pour mixture into a buttered loaf pan and place in oven. Let bake for one hour.

There you have it! Super simple and delicious. Plus a good way to use up those bananas that are maybe just a little too brown for anything else.

 

 

*ok so it hasn’t actually won any awards…but the alliteration was too good to pass up.

Sweet Summer Salad (With a Kick!)

I will readily admit that I’m not the cook in my relationship. I can cook and do on occasion, but by and large my boyfriend handles that part. When I do cook, maybe because of the fact that it’s not an everyday occurrence, I like to get as creative as possible. Last night, I made a salad (that I personally think is a keeper). It has some fantastic flavours within it – sweet, caramelized pears juxtaposed with blue cheese, and Dijon chicken breast. It’s the perfect meal for a warm summer night, best enjoyed on a balcony or in a backyard.

sweet summer salad

What You’ll Need (Ingredients):

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

2 large, ripe Bartlett pears (halved, cored and thinly sliced)

Blue cheese (crumbled)

3 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 medium shallot, minced

1 cup olive oil

Honey (to taste)

Baby arugula (or mixed greens or lettuce)

Walnuts, roasted (optional)

What to Do:

For Chicken Breast

1. In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil and half the minced shallot.

minced shallots

2. In a Ziploc bag, place your chicken breasts and the mixture above, close, and shake well to coat.

3. Leave overnight in your fridge, or at least for a few hours to allow for the chicken to marinade.

4. Set oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven heats up, pan sear the chicken breast for about a minute on each side, in an oven-friendly pan. Place the pan with the chicken into the oven and allow to cook for 20 minutes (or until juices run clear).

5. Remove from oven, slice, and allow to cool.

For the Salad:

1. In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil and half the minced shallot. Set aside.

2. Heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. While pan heats, carefully coat each pear slice with enough honey to thinly cover both sides.

4. Place the coated pear slices into the heated pan and allow to fry until they are slightly caramelized on both sides.

pears

5. Coat arugula in the olive oil/Dijon/shallot mixture until it is well covered.

6. Plate a handful of arugula with the chicken overtop and the pears on the side. Sprinkle with blue cheese and walnuts to taste.

Poppa-corn

Summer time is movie time. This seems a bit counterintuitive, because it’s the nice time of year where there isn’t snow or blistering cold winds or layers upon layers of clothing that still isn’t warm enough. We should all be outside, enjoying every last morsel of sun, but summertime also happens to be the time for blockbuster movies. While I’m a huge movie fan, I think for me, going to the cinema is mostly about the experience rather than the picture itself. And a large part of that experience is the popcorn.

popcorn

But here’s the deal with cinema popcorn – as amazing as it tastes (especially if you do like I do and double – sometimes triple – layer butter on it), it’s pretty much as far away from a healthy snack as you can get. So knowing that I’m trying to be (a little) healthier and that my metabolism is just nearing that age where it’s about to give up on me completely, I scoured around for some make-it-at-home popcorn recipes that hit the spot without all the badness. These recipes you can take with you, or enjoy when you’re catching up on something from the comfort of your own couch on a rainy Sunday. Also, in the move we gave up having a microwave so I have to find a replacement for the 1 minute, 15 seconds land of popcorn readiness.

– First, the popcorn: if you really want to be a purist and are absolutely dying to make popcorn that isn’t Jiffy Pop, this recipe from Simply Recipes seems to do the trick. Old school, stove-top, deliciously crunchy popcorn.

– Then, the flavour: if you’re going to do it, do it right and don’t just add butter. I love this recipe for spicy caramel popcorn from Smitten Kitchen because you get the flavour as you cook the popcorn. For something a little more savoury, this garlic, thyme and parmesan recipe sounds like it hits the spot – cheesy popcorn is the best. And, of course, there’s the salty popcorn, which takes a twist with this recipe that adds honey to it for a perfect mix of sweet and salty. 

– Finally, have some fun: popcorn’s great and all but it’s even better in ball form. Kind of like rice crispy squares, popcorn balls just make something great that much greater. Here’s a traditional popcorn ball recipe c/o Martha Stewart – but you can add your own twist to it by seasoning the popcorn, adding caramel, chocolate, or anything else your heart desires.

popcorn balls

 

Loving…

You know what’s not fun? Getting sick twice within a month, AND when it’s just starting to get warm out. Total first world problems. On that note, though, I am excited to get this weekend started.

Listening:

I heard this song for the first time in “Pitch Perfect” (a movie I will fully admit to watching more than once), but I have liked whatever I heard from the Naked and the Famous in the past. Their songs remind me of driving in the summertime with the windows down and shades on.

Craving:

A pie…like this

pie

Planning:

A big spring cleaning! I definitely have to do something about my hot-mess of a closet situation (make room for new clothes?), and now’s the perfect time. One thing about cohabitating is that you suddenly have half the clothing storage space you used to have…

should i stay or should i go

Wishing:

All the mommas out there the HAPPIEST Mothers Day! I know it’s said time and time again, but they are amazing and I don’t know how they do what they do. Mine especially – she’s pretty awesome!

Last year's high tea celebration at MoRoCo.

Last year’s high tea celebration at MoRoCo.

Snickerdoodle: Not a Breed of Dog, but a Delicious Cookie

These are the glorious Snickerdoodle Cookies

These are the glorious Snickerdoodle Cookies

Last night, Allison and I had our weekly catch up. This time around, rather than hit up a venue like the Drake, we decided to get our hands dirty and bake something. We both like doing it (and we certainly like eating the end result), so we decided to try a recipe we have both been eyeing for a while: Snickerdoodle Cookies. I found an awesome version at The Kitchn for an easy, quick way to make these cinnamon-y treats. Here are our foolproof steps to cookie greatness:

Step 1: Wear pants in the same colour family and a matching apron (accidentally, of course). This step is optional.

Purple pants + Anthropologie apron and we're ready to roll

Purple pants + Anthropologie apron and we’re ready to roll

Step 2: Gather your ingredients. For this recipe you will need…

baking ingredients

Plus an extra 1/4 cup white sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg for the cinnamon sugar.

Step 3: Get to baking! The instructions provided are very easy to follow:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. While it is heating, melt the butter in a saucepan over the stove or in the microwave.
  2. As the butter cools, mix all the dry ingredients together in one bowl. Once the butter is cool, slowly whisk in the 3 eggs into the butter in a new bowl.
  3. Stir together the wet and dry ingredients until they are well mixed.
  4. In a shallow bowl, mix the ingredients for the cinnamon sugar.
  5. Taking approximately 1″ balls of dough, roll into the cinnamon sugar mix and place on a non-stick, non-greased baking sheet, flattening them lightly.
  6. Place them in the over for approximately 7 minutes, then let cool for 5. And you’re done!

baking awayStep 4: Have a glass of wine and enjoy! These cookies are so delicious and so easy to make – perfect for a gift around the holidays or “just because”.

plate 'o cookies

Happy May, everyone!

A week of brown bags

My enviro-friendly "brown bag", c/o CB2

My enviro-friendly “brown bag”, c/o CB2

I’ve issued myself a challenge this year: try to break (or at least diminish) one of my worst habits of buying lunch every day. In and of itself, it’s not such a bad thing – we have lots of healthy options at work and a ton of variety. But when I did the math, I was spending way too much money on something I could easily do myself at home for a fraction of the cost. With all the expenses coming his year (i.e. a house!), it may be prudent to start saving a little bit more.

So, I’ve started working towards bringing my own lunch to work at least 3 days a week and, so far, I’m succeeding! I don’t want to pat myself on the back quite yet because it’s still only February. But I’m cautiously optimistic.

The one thing I’ve found most exciting about this, is the cooking possibilities – gone are the days of stale PB&J sandwiches and mushy bananas! I’ve found a few recipes that make for a week of exciting (and delicious) lunchtimes…

1) Chicken/Veggie Fried Rice:

Easily delicious veggie fried rice!

Easily delicious veggie fried rice!

The recipe itself is super simple – you take cooked (and cooled) rice, your choice of veggies, add chopped up boiled or grilled chicken breast, crack an egg over it, sautee everything in sesame oil with a splash of teriyaki and…you’re done. What I love about this recipe for lunch is that it gives you a different flavour and also allows for easy portability.

2) Arugula, Apple & Chickpea Salad Wraps

This recipe comes from The Kitchn, and it’s one of my favourite wrap recipes. I like to use a tart apple (like Granny Smith) and add some cheddar cheese to the mix, too. This wrap packs great protein and nutrients, and tastes awesome. It’s also super easy to make during groggy early mornings.

3) Turkey Caesar Sandwich

Martha Stewart's take on a classic

Martha Stewart’s take on a classic

I’m a sucker for caesar salad (even though it’s traditionally got anchovies in the dressing…ugh). I’m also a sucker for sandwiches that involve lettuce and cherry tomatoes, and bread. I do love bread. So this sandwich is kind of the perfect mix. It takes a bit more time to assemble (read: do it when you have some time in the morning), but tastes great and, if stacked properly (i.e. ensure there is a moisture barrier between your bread and lettuce) it really keeps well during the day. I like to also bring the dressing with some baby carrots and celery or cauliflower for a little deli snack.

4) Quinoa Salad

I’ve already sung my praises for quinoa, and provided a quick recipe there. I’ve recently discovered another recipe c/o Martha Stewart that includes more veggies and silvered almonds. It’s a bit more time-intensive (i.e. requires actual cooking), so I make this on nights i have free time, but it’s well worth the effort. I prefer these salads cold the next day, but they also heat up nicely.

5) Good Ol’ Fashioned Egg Salad Sandwich

It's a classic for a reason

It’s a classic for a reason

There is something very comforting about egg salad sandwiches. Again, I am a fan of anything that has lettuce and tomatoes involves, but I also love the creaminess of this particular lunch. Making egg salad takes almost no time (or skill, as I am a testament to) and you can put just about anything you like in there. The basis is simple: mix hard-boiled eggs (smashed up) + mayo + mustard. To that base, I like to add chives and scallions/shallots. I also am a big fan of adding cucumber to the sandwich assembly. I have egg salad about once a week, usually on days I’m feeling particularly stressed (remember how much I love comfort food).

Do you have any favourite brown-bag recipes or snacks?

Going Vegetarian (only once a week)

Meatless Mondays have really taken off in the last few years. Going vegetarian for one day a week traditionally started during World War I as a means of encouraging rationing  of key staples in order to help the war effort. But 7 decades later, “Meatless Mondays” have become a worldwide movement to encourage healthy and sustainable eating. My office cafeteria has started promoting Meatless Mondays with some unique (and delicious!) vegetarian options; no meat, anywhere in sight.

Since last summer (and despite the name of this blog), I’ve been trying to keep up with weekly Meatless Mondays as a way of cleansing/eating healthy especially after typical overindulgence on weekends (I can’t be the only one). In my quest to learn tasty and healthy vegetarian cooking, I’ve found 2 recipes that I absolutely love and would like to share with you today. You know, in case you too get inspired to save a chicken or cow on Mondays…

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie:

Shepherd's Pie, via Simply Recipes. It's easy to make this vegetarian!

Shepherd’s Pie, via Simply Recipes. It’s easy to make this vegetarian!

Ingredients:

1.5-2lbs potatoes (I like the red skinned ones)

Fresh chives

1 can of peas

1 can of whole corn kernels

2-3 peppers (I prefer yellow and orange)

1 large Spanish onion

2 field tomatoes

Garlic salt

Milk (to taste for mashed potatoes)

2 tbsp butter

Yves Ground Round (available at most major grocery stores, by the tofu)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Peel and dice potatoes (I leave the skins on when I use red potatoes), placing them in a boiling pot of water
  3. While potatoes cook, dice peppers, tomatoes, onion and chives
  4. Once potatoes are cooked, mash together along with the butter and milk (put as much or as little as you like, depending on how mashed you want them to be). Add chives and garlic salt to taste
  5. In a large pan, saute the onions and peppers until they begin to crisp up slightly. Add peas and corn kernels, and continue mixing.
  6. When all veggies are cooked but still crunchy, add the tomatoes and the package of Ground Round. Continue mixing until the Ground Round breaks apart and begins to sizzle
  7. In a casserole dish, evenly add a layer the ground round + veggie mixtures. Add an evenly-distributed layer of the mashed potatoes on top, making peaks throughout using a fork
  8. Place in oven for 25-35 minutes, or until mashed potato peaks begin to brown

And there it is! Easy Shepherd’s pie that tastes great, is home-cooked and healthy, and fills you up like no other. And, there are minimal dishes involved (always a plus)!

Quinoa-stuffed Peppers:

(recipe slightly modified, from Taste of Home)

Quinoa and peppers make for a delicious, meatless dish! Via Taste of Home.

Quinoa and peppers make for a delicious, meatless dish! Via Taste of Home.

Ingredients:

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) vegetable broth
1/4 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
each medium sweet red, yellow and orange peppers
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons sunflower kernels
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the broth, water and bay leaf to a boil. Add quinoa. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Discard bay leaf.
  2. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and discard seeds. In a large kettle, cook peppers in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse in cold water; invert onto paper towels.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, saute the carrots and onions in oil until tender. Add the quinoa, sunflower kernels and seasonings; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until heated through. Spoon into pepper halves. Place in a baking pan coated with cooking spray, ensuring that the peppers don’t touch each other. Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until peppers are tender. 

Delicious and easy, this recipe works very well with a side salad. It’s a light dinner or lunch option that utilizes those spices most recipes don’t call for, and also has quinoa as a main component (remember how much I love quinoa!)