twd: baking with julia: white loaves

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today is the start of a fun new project for me: tuesdays with dorie. i'm one of more than 300 food bloggers who are going to bake their way through a cookbook: baking with julia by dorie greenspan.

i've been wanting to up my baking game, and this is goign to be a great way to try recipes i never would have picked out myself – sweet and savory.

enter this lovely white loaf.

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despite my brief flirtation with challah, i've been in a serious monogamous relationship with jim lahey's no knead bread for the past year or so. it truly is everything i want in a bread. crisp, chewy crust. a french bread-like crumb, but dense and moist.

i was worried this white load would turn out too much like sandwich bread – soft, soft, soft. but it's more like the farmer's loaves ate my year abroad in england, sitting at the table in the student flat's shared kitchen, hoovering down slice after slice with nutella or honey or jam.

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yes, yes i did gain 15 pounds that year. this would be why i ended up chucking most of this loaf in the freezer. save me from myself. amen.

the jim lahey bread is still my go to – including for a friend's cheese tasting party this weekend. it's just so easy to make.

but these loaves have a nice crust on them, a firm dense crumb. they were nearly as easy to put together (although you need either a very serious kitchenaid mixer or arms of steel for the kneading). the bread was tasty straight up, excellent toasted, and maybe even better a day or two later as french toast when the crust starts getting a bit stale.

i went a bit crazy with the photo shoot. i'm sparing you the process shots of dough magnificently rising to the ceiling, taking over my kitchen like the pillsbury dough boy. there's just something so satisfying about a bowl of dough rising like a muffin in the bowl, isn't there?

manchego got in on the action. you know he likes to be in the mix. also, he's a camera whore.

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pensive kitten contemplates the wonder and joy that is freshly baked bread.

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 kitten decides bread is overrated as it is not roasted chicken, turns to magical january tulips.

although, maybe not so magical given this spring-like winter which has duped the daffodils to poke their sunny yellow heads out months early. lovely, but wrong, wrong, wrong.

good thing there's nothing like a slice of toast with orange marmalade to bring you back to the proper season.

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 for the recipe, or to check out all the other great posts, visit tuesdays with dorie.

spicy turkey chili & bacon zucchini cornbread

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it’s chilly in dc.  time for some chili!

sorry.  couldn’t resist.  but good night, it is cold here today.  completely unacceptable.

this chili would be the opposite of that.  healthy AND tasty.  and if you have a half-eaten can of chipotle from last week’s chicken, you’re in luck.

little known fact – not only was i born in texas, i spent my fair share of time at chili-cook-offs. i’m pretty sure i was wearing gingham, cause my mom knows what’s what.

but really, chili is my dad’s thing.  this is one of two culinary gifts from my father, the mad scientist.  the first is peanut butter on waffles with pancake syrup.  i have yet to be able to convince anyone of the amazingness of that combination, so maybe you have to grow up with it?

anyway.  that man is serious about his chili.  he got his recipe down to a very precise combination of spices.  when i asked him for it a while back, he asserted that the ratios require that you create a very large quantity of chili spice, making it useless for the home cook.  pre-katrina, his local nola restaurant used his crazy spice mix, and i think he used to give baggies of it away to the worthy few.

not screwing around here folks, not screwing around.

anyway, we’re moving ahead without you here, dad, with what i’m sure would be a pretty solid contender for the blue ribbon.

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tomatoes.  green chile and chipotle chilies.  white beans.  freshly ground cumin.  hard to go wrong here.

and hey, look!  i grew those peppers!  last gasp of summer, there you go.

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this chili is seriously good.  it is nicely spicy and smoky from the chipotle and paprika, has a brightness from the green chile and tomatoes.  the ground turkey gives it heft without heaviness.  and the white beans, especially on day two, are just pillowy soft.  i caught the somm fishing them out of the leftovers, the sneak!

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and . . . because i can’t leave well enough alone, i also made cornbread.  the sweetness balances the chili’s spice, and the smoky bacon brings it all together.

the zucchini?  well, i was just intrigued to see if it would turn out as a proper cornbread or more like a quick bread.  happily, this is a true cornbread, maybe just a tad moister, with lots of green goodness tucked inside.

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this is a hearty bread, between the whole wheat flour, bacon and zucchini.

it also has buttermilk – and i cheated and added a bit of lemon juice to milk for a DIY solution – and browned butter.  yum.

i baked it in a cast-iron skillet coated with the bacon (ok it was pancetta, but how girly girly does zucchini pancetta cornbread sound!!) drippings so it was infused with bacon flavor.

legit.

Spicy Turkey Chili

Adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 canned whole chipotle chilies in adobo, finely chopped or pureed with a little water
  • 2 18-ounce cans tomatoes, whole or diced (you may not use them all)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoky Spanish paprika
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • two 4-ounce cans mild green chilies, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornmeal
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • sour cream
  • Shredded cheese
Warm oil in a large pot.  Add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes until softened and fragrant.  Add cumin and paprika and cook for another minute or so.  Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink.
Add the chipotles, broth, seasonings, and tomatoes.  Let simmer for about an hour.  Add more broth if it gets too thick.  Then add your bell pepper and green chiles and cornmeal and simmer for half an hour.  Then add your beans.  Continue to add more broth or tomatoes to keep the consistency as you like it.
Discard bay leaf.  Serve with cilantro, sour cream and cheese on top.
This keeps well for a few days in the fridge.
Bacon Zucchini Cornbread
Adapted from Epicurious
  • 6 slices (or more!) of bacon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it gets a nutty brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool before adding eggs and buttermilk.

While butter is cooling, you can:

Crisp your bacon in an oven-safe skillet (cast iron will work really well, but you can use any type, or just use a baking pan greased with your bacon drippings).  Remove and roughly chop bacon.  Swirl drippings around to coat pan, discard excess.

Cut a few thin slices from your zucchini and reserve; shred the rest with a grater or cuisinart.  Add to bowl with butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cornmeal into a large bowl.

Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick).

Transfer batter to skillet and decorate with your saved zucchini slices.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30-40 minutes.

Eat with lots of butter and chili!

challah

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life's full of scary stuff, you know? 

changing jobs.  moving cross country.  trying a new yoga instructor.  working late and coming home to ravenous kittens.

know what isn't scary?  yeast bread!  i know!  counterintuitive!

yeast feels complicated.  active dry, instant, proofing.  bread seems so onerous to make.  so much kneading and rising and kneading and rising.

but let me tell you . . . it just ain't that hard.  and the smell of fresh baked bread in your house? 

unparalleled. 

PLUS, a slice of fresh-baked bread?  makes the rest of the scary-ass world that much easier to take on.

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let's talk yeast.  unless you go hard-core baker on me, you're really only going to need to know about two types of yeast: active dry and instant.

as the name might imply, you don't need to do anything to instant yeast to make it work.  you can just add it to your flour, water, etc and be good to go.

active dry yeast requires proofing – that's because the little granules of dried yeast have a coating that needs to be dissolved.  all this means is that it should sit with some warm water and sugar to get nice and foamy before you add it to your flour.

but do you want to know a secret?

i've TOTALLY just added active dry yeast to my water at the SAME time as the flour.  no waiting, no foaming.  and you know what?  my pizza dough turned out just fine.  all 15 hundred million times i did it.

but proofing your yeast can be pretty cool.  check this out:

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right!?!  so foamy!

here's a few other yeast-related tips.  if you're going to bake more than once, don't but the yeast packets.  buy the cute little jar of yeast.  do it!  just store it in the fridge.  because at some point i'm going to introduce you to jim lahey's no knead bread and this book and it will change your life just like it changed mine, and you need way less yeast per loaf than comes in the packet.

got it?  good.  let's move on to why this bread is different than all other breads.

(did you get that reference?  i know jhill should have!)

the short answer is eggs.  eggs and honey.  both inside, and a nice coating of egg wash on the top to make it shiny and brown.  mmm.

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i could have (slash did) eat this dough with a spoon.  it was, erm, spoon-able, because i was using my iphone for the recipe and apparently i need new glasses cause i put in four cups of flour instead of six.

and then, honest to god, dumped it out onto my silpat and thought about kneading it.  before i realized.  i. am. a. moron.

what is my problem with flour??

after some successful detective work and assistance from my able sous chef, the creeper, i got back on track.  there are few kitchen mishaps you can't solve, folks.

this is what challah dough should look like in your kitchenaid, should you happen to have a kitchenaid.  if you don't, no biggie.  you probably (hopefully?) already have equally effective kitchen tools: a wooden spoon and your hands.

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this is what challah dough should look like after you've kneaded it.  not forever.  just give it a little love.  let it loosen up and get a little smooth.  fold it in half and knead it out with the heels of your hands, maybe 20 times.

why do you knead dough?  you're developing the gluten – the protein that lets the dough get elastic.  you want elastic dough because that will allow the gas bubbles to develop during the baking process, giving you a light fluffy loaf of bread. 

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this is what challah dough will look like after you've gone off to that scary yoga class for a few hours.

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why do we let dough rise?  well, it helps continue to develop the gluten, but it also helps develop flavor in the bread as the yeast gets busy.  it develops gases that stretch and flavor the dough.  which sounds, frankly, disgusting, but let's all just remember how yummy bread is.

nom nom.

now we're going to braid the dough.  this also isn't as scary as you think it is.

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the link below offers easy instructions on how to do this, but i used the smitten kitchen method for a round loaf because it felt more intuitive to me.

are you ready to go conquer some yeast bread?  it's totally worth it.  i made two loaves, and each was eaten straight up by friends and coworkers.  i had enough dignity to at least cover some of my slices in butter and jam.  but if i make it again, this is destined for some top-notch french toast, maybe even like this.

enjoy!

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Ima's Challah Bread

I changed nothing, so find the recipe here.

And I'll give you links to some of Smitten Kitchen's loaves here and here.

leek bread pudding

serving of pudding

what is the difference between savory bread pudding and stuffing?

this is not a trick question.  or maybe it is a trick question?

to start with, savory bread pudding is a delightful treat you make in the middle of a regular old week (not thanksgiving) and serve it to some of your BFFs rather than 40 odd relatives.

plus, you don't stuff it in a bird.  which i think is kind of gross. 

don't get me wrong.  i love stuffing.  thanksgiving isn't thanksgiving without stuffing made from grandma renee's amazing tauzin family recipe.  but i make it in a casserole dish the way FDA inspectors, harold mcgee, and god (in that order) intended.

i'm not going to compare this bread pudding with that stuffing though.  bird of a different feather.  both tasty, neither really need a recipe.  stuffing is more crumbly and scoopable, but this bread pudding is more of a sliceable-custard-based dish.  and i think the brioche and the leeks make it a little more fancy pants.

check out those leeks!  fancy!

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more importantly, check out the new saute pan!  i've made the leap, friends, from nonstick to, well, very sticky.  it resulted in this:

not nonstick

and it resulted in me scrubbing at it for quite a bit of time.  did i not add enough butter?  i'm pretty sure that can't be it. should i have "deglazed" the pan with water?  the learning curve of adult cookware.  sigh.

anyway, i'm getting ahead of myself.

the leeks get a cute little parchment hat while they're gumming up my shiny new pan.  this recipe is from our friend thomas keller and he just has this thing for parchment hats. 

i mean, parchment lids. 

that's what grown-ups would call them.

crispy, golden brown brioche croutons give this bread pudding some serious body. 

bread crumbs

the croutons, plus a nice sprinkling of parmesan cheese give this bread pudding a nice crunchy bite on the top and a lovely chewy border – like the crusty corners that make everything from brownies to kugels to baked pastas so yumtastic. 

top of pudding

this is a seriously satisfying dish.  light, but rich, good warm out of the oven or room temperature.  i served it with pork tenderloin (you're SHOCKED) and asparagus (sorry michael pollan), but i think it would have been really lovely just with a green salad, dressed with something light and lemony.

Leek Bread Pudding

Lightly Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home and Smitten Kitchen

I'll be honest, I didn't really measure anything for this recipe.  So I give you approximations as being exact isn't super important here.

  • 2 cups leeks, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut in four pieces
  • 4-6 cups challah or brioche bread, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Nutmeg, salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 3/4 cup (or more!  live large!) grated parmesan or other tangy cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Make your parchment paper hat.  Cut a round of parchment paper the size of your saute pan, then fold it up like you're making a paper snowflake and cut a little hole in the center to let out the steam.  Or, you know, decide that Thomas Keller is too precious for you and skip it.

Warm up your saute pan, and add the leeks.  Saute until they start to soften and throw off some liquid, stirring, for about 5 minutes.  Then add the butter and top with your parchment lid and let it melt down over mediumish heat for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times.

Toast your bread cubes in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring midway so the croutons get more or less evenly toasted. 

Combine the leeks and the croutons.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper. 

Grease your pan.  Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of cheese on the bottom.  Add about half of the leeks and croutons, then a layer of 1/4 cup of cheese, then the rest of the croutons, then the rest of the cheese. 

Here, Thomas Keller recommends adding about 2 cups of the milk mixture, pressing the croutons to get them good and soaked, and letting it rest for 20 minutes before adding the remainder of the milk mixture and then baking for about an hour or until firm.

I skipped this because it was getting late and I was hungry and had promised to feed people on a school night and thought that they would appreciate dinner slightly before midnight.  It turned out ok.  The top layer of croutons were probably a little drier than they otherwise would have been.  So, if you have the patience and the time, soak your croutons.

Enjoy!

strawberry coconut scones

summer means strawberries, right?  check out these bad boys.

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i do have a confession.  i bought these strawberries at the tarjay.  and we are just on the wrong side of strawberry season.  they looked so red and yummy.  but check out the inside:

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yeah.  sadness.   but nothing that can't be solved by sugar and butter.  into scones they go!

scones are one of those baked goods that people have very particular feelings about.  and by that, i mean extreme animosity towards scones sold by certain omnipresent coffee shops with green signage.  i have no such prejudices against dessert masquerading as a breakfast item.  

these scones, however, may also cause some heart burn.  they aren't super flakey or biscuity.  although they have just the right hint of sweetness for proper breakfast food.  and they are profoundly cakey and soft in texture.  this, i think, is because they don't have buttermilk?  i really like me a tangy buttermilk scone.  i know you can make buttermilk out of regular milk.  but i didn't.  i just made these:

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what?  i forgot to mention my last minute brilliant idea to add coconut?  toasted coconut.  makes everything better.  let's get started.  lazy scones for subpar strawberries.  aren't you glad you kept scrolling?

chop your strawberries.  weigh your dry ingredients.

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add cold, cold butter (another victory . . . someday i'll remember to presoften butter, someday).  get your hands in there until it looks like this.

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then eggs, then milk (whole if you've got it!) and STRAWBERRIES.  don't they look so much better all chopped up?

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no, you can still tell.  sigh.

ah, but this is much better.

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and better.  milk wash action shot!

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coconut.  pre-toasted.

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yum.

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what are you talking about a missing scone?  there's no missing scone. just go make these already.

Strawberry Coconut Scones

Largely based on this recipe from Gourmet

  • 2 1/2 cup or 10 5/8 oz all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup or 1 3/4 oz white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, chopped in largish chunks
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, plus a little extra for the wash
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, give or take

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  If you don't have lovely silpat, grease up your baking sheet.

Whisk together your dry ingredients – flour through salt.  Add the butter and mix in with your fingers until it looks like coarse meal.  Stir in eggs and 1/4 cup milk until just combined, then carefully fold in strawberries. 

Flour your work surface.  If you want big scones, dump out all your dough.  If you're taking it to work, like I did, start with half the dough.  Knead lightly and shape into a round.  Use your rolling pin if you like thinner scone.  Cut into slices, like pie.  Or pizza!

Transfer your scones to the baking sheet.  Brush with milk.  Sprinkle with coconut!  Or turbinado sugar!  Whatever your heart desires.

Bake about 10-12 minutes for smaller scones, or closer to 15 for larger.  Eat warm with salted butter straight off the baking sheet.  Best the same day.