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Ciabatta


I recently tried to make focaccia bread.  It was delicious so I decided to try to make other sandwich breads too, like ciabatta.  I looked at the recipe for ciabatta and saw that you needed something called a “biga” that you had to prepare a day in advanced.  “Nope, not for me.  Too advanced,” my brain said.  Then Adventurous Holly (who made her appearance after sampling the skittles vodka) impulsively decided to start the biga.  I’m now going to take this moment and thank Adventurous Holly.  This ciabatta was delicious and not as difficult as I thought it would be.  So, thanks, Adventurous Holly.  The lesson I learned is one you can too:  Making ciabatta is like making any other bread, but you start it much earlier than normal.

There are many breads that require starters like the biga for ciabatta.  Sourdough is probably the most well known.  In my searchings about biga, I found that a biga is used to make the bread chewier and add some flavor as well.

Making a biga is really simple.  It only sounds intimidating because it’s a weird word and requires planning.  It’s easy to plan though.  If you have a day off, start the biga the night before.  The biga takes 5 minutes to set up at the most so it isn’t a big deal.  I promise it’s fine.  The bread is so delicious, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort

This bread had the perfect light fluffy interior and a perfect crunchy outside.  I had never had homemade ciabatta and it’s infinitely better than store bought. I think the main difference is the crust.  This crust has a great texture and has that crunching sound you want to hear when you bite into ciabatta.  Perfection in bread.

Recipe: (original here, but I found this to be confusing and I hope I can clarify things here)

Ingredients:

Printable Version

Biga:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup water

1/4 tsp yeast

Dough:

1/4 cup water (plus extra if dough is dry)

2 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp nonfat dry milk

1 tsp yeast

Active time: 25 minutes

Inactive time: 20 hours

Servings: 12 servings

Cooking Instructions:

Start the biga about 12-15 hours before you want to begin making the bread.  In a bread machine or an electric mixer combine the ingredients for the biga.  Mix until fully combined (about 5 minutes).  If using a bread machine, set to dough and then stop once combined.  Allow to rest for 12-15 hours.  It will rise a bit and then start to sink.  This is when you want to use the biga.  The biga will big liquidy and bubbly.

To start the dough, combine the biga and the other dough ingredients into the bread machine pan or the electric mixer bowl.  If using a bread machine, set to dough cycle and start.  If using an electric mixer, use a dough hook and a low setting to mix for 5-8 minutes and then let rise for 1 hour.  The dough should be sticky and tacky.  It should not be liquid, but it should be close.  Add water or flour as necessary.  Whenever you handle the dough, wet your hands with water or oil to prevent it from sticking to you.  Half way through the rising time turn the dough over in the pan or bowl.  This will be tricky because it’s so sticky, but just do your best.

Cover a cutting board in plastic wrap and cover the plastic wrap with oil.  Cover two cookie sheets with oil (I only had one and all my bread baked into each other.  Bad call, use two).  Remove the bread from the bread machine or mixing bowl after the rising cycle is complete or it has risen for 1 hour and place on the cutting board.  Divide the dough into 6 equal parts for large sandwich rounds or 12 for smaller sandwich rounds.  Place half on one cookie sheet and the other half on the other cookie sheet.  Shape the dough by pushing and pulling the edges of the dough until it is shaped how you want.  It won’t be perfect, so don’t try.

Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.  Uncover and (with wet fingers) poke holes gently into the dough.  This will give it a more rustic look.  Recover with freshly oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the baking sheet and turn off the oven.  Place the bread back in the oven and crack the oven open while it cools.  Allowing the bread to bake this way will create a crunchier crust (maybe take one out to munch on while the rest crisp up).  Remove from oven and enjoy.  And don’t forget to go for second helpings!

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Tomato Gorgonzola Soup


Until recently, I didn’t really like soup.  Something about drinking food with chunks in it seemed really weird to me.  That was until I went to this small soup shop in Tacoma, Washington called Infinite Soups.  I had a tomato gorgonzola soup, and it was amazing.  Since then, I have tried other soups and they’ve been good, but they’ve never compared to the tomato gorgonzola I first had at Infinite Soups.  If you ever get the chance to go there, I highly recommend it.  They even have vegan and vegetarian selections and all the soups are made fresh daily.

I’m always worried to try to make my favorite of anything because I’m worried it won’t turn out well.  There’s nothing worse than expecting something awesome and getting something awful.  Luckily, that was not the case this time.

When I realized my boyfriend and I had guests coming over for dinner, I decided soup was an easy option and I should try to make my favorite soup.  I took the risk that it might turn out bad, any it actually turned out really well!  It was creamy and cheesy and tomato-ey.  All of the flavors came out smoothly and none were overpowering.  This is a delicious one-pot meal that makes food that will last for days.  It was a hit with everyone else as well.  This would be a great meal for a potluck as a vegetarian option.

While I was looking around for a decent recipe for a tomato soup, I found out that baking soda will prevent milk from curdling.  I think it must be something about it being basic since it’s sodium bicarbonate, but I don’t know why.  I didn’t search for very long, but I couldn’t find any answer for why this happens.  Does anyone know?  I’ll give you a recipe for tomato gorgonzola soup if you can tell me…oh wait….

Recipe:

Printable version

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 white onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp baking soda (to prevent curdling)

8 oz low fat cream cheese

8 oz gorgonzola cheese

1 cup half and half

3-14.5 oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes, salt free

2 cups low sodium tomato juice

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

Prep time: 30 minutes

Servings: 8 servings, about 1-1/2 cups each

Cooking Instructions:

In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 4 minutes.  Add the baking soda, the gorgonzola cheese, the cream cheese, and the half and half.  Break apart the cream cheese and stir until the cheeses have melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and let the soup heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the canned tomatoes, tomato juice, and spices.  Stir to combine.  Heat for a few minutes until the tomatoes are slightly tender.  Then blend the soup using an immersion blender or by pouring the soup into a regular blender and blending in parts and return to heat.  Stirring frequently, heat to a simmer and let simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.  Garnish with extra oregano or basil.  Enjoy and don’t forget to go for second helpings!

Asiago Bagels (with high altitude adjustments)


Wait!  Don’t panic!  These are actually really easy!  Now to resume with the regularly scheduled blog.

I guess I lied last week when I said I would always post on Wednesday.  With Thanksgiving and my boyfriend’s birthday, things got a little busy.  I’ll try again next week (I got a pasta roller during the sales for Black Friday and I’m very excited to use it).  In other news, I’m back with my family in Colorado!  Things have been great with lots of food, laughs, and overall a good time.  I have a younger brother and sister that were both home too so the whole family is here.  Tomorrow I get to see my brother dive for the first time since I moved to Phoenix.  I here he’s gotten really good.  It’s always fun to watch him flip and twirl in the air; it’s so elegant.  Everything is going really well (except I miss my kitty and my boyfriend!).

AGAIN, I PROMISE THESE ARE EASY.  Sorry, that felt necessary.  Ahem.  Anyway.

Before I moved to Phoenix, I was mildly obsessed with making bread.  So, my brother and sister both requested I make bread, specifically Asiago bagels.  I couldn’t say no.  Below is the recipe and how I made them.  Since I’m near Denver now, I made some adjustments for high altitude (more water).  As always, the nutrition facts are at the bottom of the post.

Recipe

(makes 8- 3″ bagels)

1 cups warm water (plus 2-1/2 tbsp for high altitude)

3 cups flour

1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese  (Next time I’m planning on using 3/4 cups to make them a little cheesier.  Feel free to do whatever you like.  You can even omit the cheese and make plain bagels.)

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 packet or 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast

water for boiling (about 3 quarts)

3 tbsp sugar to add to boiling water

cornmeal to sprinkle on baking sheet

1 egg white for topping

extra Asiago for topping

Add the first 6 ingredients to the bread machine pan (water, flour, cheese, salt, sugar, yeast) and set to dough or remove after the second kneading.  You can also mix the ingredients yourself by doing a slow knead for 10 minutes,  knead quickly for 20 minutes,  let rise for 1 hour in a warm area.

Remove the dough from the bread pan and separate into 8 equal parts.  I did this by rolling it into a log of approximately uniform length and then cutting it into quarters and then halving the quarters.  They still didn’t end up very equal, but they were all delicious.

Roll each piece into a roll.  Stick your thumb in the center of the roll to make a hole.  Spin the bagel around your finger to widen the hole.  Set the bagels under a wet paper towel for about half an hour.  Bring the water for boiling to a boil and add the sugar.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the bagel into the boiling water for 30 seconds, flip, and let it  boil for an additional 30 seconds.  Pull the bagel out and set it on a dry paper towel.  Do this for all 8 bagels.

Sprinkle the cornmeal onto a baking stone or baking sheet.  Transfer the bagels to the baking stone/sheet.  Check on the bagels at 20 minutes and add an additional 5 minutes until golden brown (as my sister put it “bagel colored”).  I ended up baking mine for 25 minutes

Set on a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.  These taste good warm, but I think they taste even better after they cool for a long time (maybe an hour).  They get that chewy bagel texture that I love.  Enjoy these bagels and do not forget to always go for second helpings!

Twice Baked Butternut Squash


Ok.  New goal:  Put up a post every week on Tuesday evening.  I read somewhere that Wednesday morning is when the most people are on the internet.  I don’t know if it’s true, but it posting before Wednesday seems like a good goal.  Especially since I totally abandoned this blog for about two weeks.  I can’t really expect to gain loyal readers if I abandon them now can I?  For any potentially loyal readers, I apologize.  I won’t do it again.  I don’t even have a good excuse for why I didn’t post.  My family was in town for a week (we went to the Grand Canyon!) and then the other week the things I made were not very good.  I’m going to start making drafts before I post online so that even if I don’t have time that week, I can still post.  I think it’ll work well…I think.

In other news, it’s fall.  This means there are a flurry of pumpkin and butternut squash recipes.  I thought I’d try one to see how it went.  It turned out awesome.  Since butternut squash doesn’t have a low GI, this recipe is not the best for diabetics.  However, this recipe does have very few calories per serving.  You can check it out in the nutrition facts.  Now, on to the recipe!

Recipe:

(Makes 8 side dishes or 4 main courses)

1 medium to large butternut squash

2 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion

1 green pepper (optional)

2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup lowfat cream cheese

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 tbsp melted butter

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1.  The goal of this first part is to end up with butternut squash mash.  I’ll explain how I did it and then how I think it could be done.  First preheat the oven to 425°F.  Next, cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and guts.  Place the squash cut side up on a baking tray and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake until the flesh is soft and you can easily insert a fork (about an hour depending on the size of the squash).  When the squash is done, remove from oven and let cool.  Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scrap out the flesh into a large bowl and mash it up.

I think that a better way to do this would be to peel the squash before placing it in the oven and then cutting it into 1″ cubes.  This would reduce the baking time and also allow you to immediately mash the squash when it comes out of the oven.  Also, I’m impatient and burnt myself because I didn’t let the squash cool enough.  However you want to do it, you want to end up with butternut squash mash.

2.  While the squash is in the oven or while it is cool, heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Once hot, add the chopped red onion, the chopped green pepper, the thyme, and the ginger.  Stir occasionally and cook until the onion and pepper begin to brown.  Add to the large bowl with the butternut squash mash.

3.  Add the cream cheese and the parmesan cheese to the bowl and mix all the ingredients together until uniform.  Spoon the mixture into oven safe dishes.  I made mine in 4-3.5 oz ramekins.  You could also put all of the mixture into one large baking dish (probably a 9×9 glass casserole dish) for a family style dish.  Add the bread crumbs and chopped pecans to the melted butter and mix.  Spoon the mixture over the top of the mixture in the dishes as evenly as you can.

4.  Place the dish(es) in the oven at 425°F for 25 minutes until the tops begin to brown.  Remove from oven.  Let cool and then enjoy and don’t hesitate when going for second helpings!

Nutrition Facts:

Also, here’s a picture with my kitty (Rhombus) in it.  It’s blurry, but I ♥ my kitty so I’m posting it anyway.

Sugar Free Banana Bread (and review of a no calorie sweetener)


Most people have their typical banana bread recipe that they always go to when they want banana bread.  I got this one from my mom.  It’s the banana bread I had growing up.  I was surprised to see that it required 2 cups of sugar to make 2 loaves of the delicious treat.  “I’m never going to be able to have this banana bread!” my mind complained.  I went to the store to get the rest of my groceries and spotted some no calorie sweetener for baking.  Since I was really craving banana bread, I decided to try it out.  It’s just the off brand Kroger kind, so it was cheaper.

So, in addition to the recipe and how to make the bread, I’m going to review the no calorie sweetener I used.  The recipe and nutrition facts are still here and just them is the review.  I won’t lie to you, even with the zero calorie sweetener, this bread should still be thought of as a desert type bread.  It has a lot of oil in it.  It’s super delicious, but not especially healthy.

As a side note, the mini loafs would make a great holiday present for coworkers or other acquaintances.    The mini loafs are very quick to make and come out amazingly delicious.  Minimal effort for maximal reward is the best way to go.

Recipe

1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
6 very ripe (almost all brown) bananas, mashed up.
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/4 cup whole wheat flour (can use regular white flour if you want)
1-1/4 cup white flour
2 tsp salt
2 cups baking sweetener (kroger brand)

Servings: Makes 2 large loafs or 6 mini 3X6″ loafs

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Baking time: 50 for the large loafs, 25-30 for the small loafs.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix the banana mash with the eggs and canola oil and mix well.  I mixed by hand, but using an electric mixer will help ensure that all the bread has no banana chunks in it.  In a separate bowl, combine both types of flour, sweetener, salt, and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix again.  Grease two 9″ x 5″ or 6 mini 3″ x 6″ bread pans with left over oil.  Pour about half of the mixture into each of the pans.  Put in the oven for about 50 minutes for the large loafs or 25 minutes for the mini loafs.  Check with a knife or toothpick to ensure that they are done.  Baking times will vary especially you have very large bananas or one pan didn’t get as much batter as the other, so be sure to watch them carefully after 45 minutes or 20 minutes.  Once the knife comes out clean, let them cool for a little bit.  Enjoy.

This bread was super yummy.  Even my kitty wants to have a bite (I gave him a little bit to see if he liked it and he wouldn’t leave me alone afterwards!).


Nutrition facts:

Servings Per Recipe: 16 (2 loaves of bread with 8 slices)
Amount Per Serving:

Calories – 245.9

Total Fat – 15.4 g

Saturated fat – 1.5g

Cholesterol – 46.3 mg

Sodium – 466.1 mg

Total Carbs – 25.1 g

Dietary Fiber – 2.5 g

Sugar – 5.5 g

Protein – 4.2 g

Review:

The bread was AMAZING!  Complaints I’ve heard about using an artificial sweetener instead of sugar is that baked goods don’t brown as well.  As you can see from the pictures, the bread browned beautifully.  The baking time was a little longer than I expected, but I’m not sure if this was due to the sweetener or being at a different altitude than normal.  Either way, the bread was sweetened perfectly and the texture was fine.  I would use this sweetener all the time if I had to.  One draw back is that it was fairly expensive, especially when compared to regular sugar.  It was about $5 for this small bag which has a little bit more than 4 cups in it.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough


Delicious whole wheat pizza

I love pizza.  I think that pretty much everyone loves pizza.  The major problem with pizza is that it’s too delicious and has about a zillion calories.  I tried to create a pizza dough that you can use with any toppings that’s healthier than a frozen pizza or take out but just as yummy.   At first, I was just using regular flour, but I thought today that I’d try to make it a little healthier by making it whole wheat.  It turned out really well!  It didn’t taste different from the white crust and it’s healthier.

Delicious whole wheat pizza

Do you know why whole wheat items are healthier for you than white items?  This is a little bit of biology so if you are scared of science, you can just skip this paragraph and get right to the recipe.  If you want to know, read on.  While they can have the same amount of calories, whole wheat items have a lower glycemic index (GI) than white.  This means that  it takes longer to break down the carbohydrates and release glucose (sugar) into the blood stream.  Then your pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard to make insulin to break down that glucose so you are less likely to get diabetes later.  Basically whole wheat = less diabetes.  Hooray!

Enjoy this pizza, and don’t be worried about going in for second helpings.

Special tips are in italics.  Nutrition facts are at the bottom.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough:

1-1/3 cup lukewarm water (warm to touch, but not too hot)

1/4 cup oil (I used olive oil)

1-3/4 cups all purpose flour

1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour (if you don’t have this, you can use all purpose flour)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tsp salt

3 tsp sugar

3 tsp active dry yeast

Prep time: 30 minutes

Inactive time: 1.5 hours

Servings: Makes 4-12″ pizzas.  1 serving = 1/2 pizza

If you have a bread machine, put all the ingredients in the pan.  Most suggest doing it wet first then dry and yeast last.  You can just dump them in the pan in the order that I listed them above and that should work.  If you don’t have a bread machine then here’s what Bobby Flay has to say about the matter in his pizza dough recipe on foodnetwork.com (this is the recipe I started with).  Or you could just do what my bread machine does: slow knead for 10 minutes,  knead quickly for 20 minutes,  let rise for 1 hour in a warm area.

After your dough has risen remove it from the pan or bowl and knock it back (punch it a little).  Now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 450°F.  Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Roll or pat each part into a ball.  I find that patting by holding it in one hand and hitting it with the other it works better than rolling it.  Maybe I’m a bad ball roller, but patting it works for me.  If your dough is a little dry at this point, moisten your hands with a little water and then work with the dough.  Next, I use a rolling pin and try my hardest to flatten it into a circle.  I always seem to mess this up.  My pizzas are lopsided.  As long as the dough is an even thickness, then it should be fine.  Roll up the ends a little to make a crust if you want.  At this point I recommend putting the extra pizza dough in the freezer.  I separate the crusts with some wax paper so they don’t stick and then put them in a ziplock bag.

Now top the pizza with sauce, cheese, and whatever goodies you want.  If you want part of it to be veggie and part of it to be meat, you can do that since you’re making it yourself!  So convenient, isn’t it?  And you know that no one is going to mess it up.  I did a red sauce I bought from Fresh & Easy, mozzarella cheese, sliced crimini mushrooms, and turkey on half.  If you use mushrooms, you will end up with water on your pizza since the mushrooms dry out and leak a little.  Don’t worry, you can just dab it off.   Sprinkle some more corn meal on a pizza stone or a baking sheet and place your pizza on the stone/sheet.  Place in the oven for 15 minutes.  Let the pizza cool before you cut it.  Seriously.  Pizza burns hurt.

Now you can enjoy your awesome creation.

Pizza slice

Nutrition Facts

8 Servings (1 serving = ½ pizza, crust only)

Amount Per Serving:

Calories  –  282

Total Fat  –  8 g

          Saturated Fat  –  1 g

Cholesterol  –  0 mg

Sodium  –  585 mg

Potassium  –  51 mg

Total Carbohydrate  –  47 g

          Dietary Fiber  –  4.5 g

          Sugars  –  0.6 g

Protein  –  7.4 g

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