rustic potato loaves

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would you like some carbs with your carbs? if so, i have the bread for you. not messing around here . . . mashed potatoes, skins and all, are the basis of these hearty and crusty loaves.

good crusty bread is such a weakness of mine. i'm sure i've said it before . . . if it wouldn't put me in a chubby diabetic coma, i'd eat bread for every meal. with honey for breakfast, with cheese for lunch, wrapped around a chunk of dark chocolate with a sprinkle of salt for dessert. 

homemade bread, as i have waxed poetic here before, is both easy and so worth it. 

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this bread turned out a bit denser than i like. it's possible i did not bake it long enough. i get so used to underbaking brownies and cookies, it can be a struggle to let baked goods stay in the oven long enough when you actually want them to bake all the way through.

but no, it did not stop either myself or the somm from enjoying a whole loaf. in less time than i'm willing to disclose.

i think the tuesday's with dorie host for this recipe had the right idea, and swirled baked potato toppings in her bread . . . chedder, bacon and chopped green onions. this bread needs a bit of salt and fat to give it a real oomph.

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For links to the recipe and more, go to Tuesday's with Dorie Baking with Julia.

 

friday night pizza with onion confit

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growing up, fridays were always take-out pizza night. a night to relax the rules, rent a movie, and laze about on the sofa. no vegetables required. the whole of the weekend just stretching out ahead of you, full of promise.

this is a slightly more grown-up pie than the little cesar's extra pepperoni. but it hits all the right notes, salty and sweet toppings, chewy and crispy crust.

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making the pizza yourself is just as easy as ordering take-out – i promise. especially if you ditch the overly complicated dough recipe in the baking with julia cookbook. i tried it – and i tried to be fair.

but, ugh. kneading. rising. if i was faced with that everytime i wanted homemade pizza, i'd just buy the very very good dough from trader joe's.

people. it is so simple. flour. salt. yeast. this recipe uses sugar, but there's really no need. mix in the morning while your coffee is brewing. cover, and it'll be perfect and ready for you when you get home.

add toppings. bake. enjoy. capiche? 

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i won't pretend that onion confit is a friday night activity. it's time intense, but worth it to get the onions simmered down to a jam-like consistency. sweet with a hint of acid from a splash of red wine. a perfect complement to a scattering of blue cheese crumbles.

try that on a sunday, recapture a bit of the beginning of the weekend indulgence. i won't tell.

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Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia's Pizza with Onion Confit

Like I said, there are easy pizza dough recipes that do just as well – or better – than the one in the book and don't require multiple steps. So, I'm just going to link to my favorite. Jim Leahy. The man knows his dough. To read more, go to Tuesdays with Dorie or Boy Can Bake.

Pizza Dough

Notes for the linked recipe – you can use less yeast if you give the dough all day to rise. You don't need to bother with the sugar.

 Onion Confit

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 medium onions (about 2 1/2 pounds total), peeled, halved, and sliced 1/8to 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Fresh thyme sprigs or leaves to taste
  • 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet and stir in the onions.  Season with salt and pepper, stir, cover the pan, and cook the onions over low heat until they are soft, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the sugar over the onions, stir, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the thyme, 1 1/4 cups red wine, the vinegar, and a tablespoon or two of the creme de cassis, if you want to use it.  Stir well and cook the mixture over the lowest possible heat, stirring from time to time, for about 1 hour, until just about all the liquid has evaporated.  If the liquid has cooked off in half an hour or less, add a bit more wine.  Turn the onions out onto a flat plate and let them cool to room temperature.

The onions can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.  They should be brought to room temperature before they’re spread on the pizza.

Pulling it all Together

  • Dough
  • Onion Confit – relatively cool
  • Blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles
  • Any other topping your little heart could desire

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, fit the rack with a baking stone or quarry tiles, leaving a border of at least 1 inch free all around and preheat the oven to 475o F.  Rub a baker’s peel with cornmeal and set aside until needed.

Shaping the Dough  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (snip off a small piece of dough to save for the Mixed-Starter Bread if you want) and divide it into two pieces.  You’ll probably have to bake the pizzas one at a time, so keep one piece covered while you work with the other.  If you do not want to make two pizzas at this time, wrap one piece of dough tightly in plastic and store it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for a day or two, or wrap it airtight and freeze for up to a month.  Thaw frozen dough, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.  Bring the chilled dough to cool room temperature before shaping.  Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten it into a disk.  To form the pizza, you can either turn and stretch the dough, stopping to allow the dough to rest for a few minutes if it springs back readily, or roll it out with a rolling pin.  Either way, work the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick (you can make it a little thinner if you prefer) and transfer it to the peel.

Topping and Baking  Top with half the cooled onion confit and any or all of the optional ingredients, or the topping of your choice, leaving a 1-inch border around the rim of the pizza, and slide the pizza into the oven.  Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the topping is bubbling and the uncovered rim is puffed and beautifully golden.  Repeat with the remaining dough and topping.


pretty darn good brownies

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we're back to baking with julia this week. i have so much catching up to do.

does this blog need yet another brownie recipe? probably not. but here you go! 

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julia, dorie and rich katz all seem to agree that these are the best-ever brownies. they are good. ridiculously fudgy. impossible to over-bake. 

the texture is light and creamy, in part from the technique, which has you hold back half the eggs and whip them into a fury. the bubbles help give the brownies structure without the weight of too much flour.

i threw in some walnuts at the request of a friend, and they added a nice crunch. 

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we've discussed my freezer issues before. in addition to loving to freeze unbaked cookies and all manner of other things for cooking, i love a good frozen baked good. the somm was the lucky recipient of various delightful thin mint treats for christmas that went straight to the freezer when we got home. there is something about the mint and chocolate combination that tastes right cold.

i really did try not to eat them all.

love you honey!

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anyway, the recipe promised that extreme fudginess would keep the brownies from fully freezing. thus making them supreme ice cream mix-ins. 

the frozen brownies lasted approximately five seconds in my house. so i pass the challenge onto michi, who has the added benefit of having her ice cream maker accessible in her home. rather than locked in storage container in the wild of the suburbs.

someday, dear ice cream maker, someday i will see you again. in the mean time, there is plenty of trouble to be had.

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want more fun tips on the recipe? new york times, to the rescue. in addition, this recipe was hosted by a beautiful mess through the tuesdays with dorie: baking with julia project.

Best-Ever Brownies
from Baking with Julia

1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pot to make certain the chocolate does not scorch.  Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl. 

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into the bowl of a mixer and whisk by hand just to combine.  LIttle by little, pour half the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don't set from the heat.  Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are pale, thick, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.  Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.  When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients. 

Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 9-inch square glass or ceramic pan.  Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry.  Cut into the center at about the 23-minutes mark to see how they are progressing.  They will be perfect if they are just barely set and still gooey.  Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.  Cut into bars and serve.

The brownies will keep, covered, for 2-3 days at room temperature and can be frozen for up to a month!

 

homemade bagels

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there was this great story on npr the other morning about the "ikea effect." conventional wisdom has generally been that people spend time on the things they love. the researchers being the ikea effect posit the thought that spending time on things is it's own active force in building that love and sense of emotional connection. 

the idea that the more effort you put into something, say building a slightly wonky bookcase, the more you care about that object. even if you were slightly overly aggressive with your new power drill and the screws came poking through the decorative finish.

whatevs. that totally didn't happen to me last night.

ps: my cooking magazines finally have a home! hurrah!

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i've been spending a fair amount of my time recently on fairly ridiculous diy projects. like baby quilts. there is no economy of scale to making them at home, friends, but the many many hours i've spent on them has made me pretty happy. and i hope when the new mommas see the puckers and imperfections, they love the quilt all the more for knowing it was made with love. 

my grandmother, as the napkin in the photo below can attest, had way better skillz than i. those are vintage, friends, and still immaculate. 

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turns out, making homemade bagels is pretty akin to other ambitious diy projects. particularly if you, like me, are not overly detail oriented. there are a lot of steps, people. things get both sticky and slippery, if you can believe it. rounds of dough may go flying.  

i tried to go for more of a pretzel bagel, under the somewhat shaky logic that i've previously succeeded in boil-and-bake efforts on that front. plus, i like a bagel with a nice chew, and a good firm skin. so, i added about four times the baking soda to the bagel bath. it gave them this lovely pretzel color.

still can't quite tell if that helped make them look more appealing?

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in any event, they tasted not too shabby in both the poppy seed and kosher salt varieties. slightly underbaked, the way i like them, so nice and moist in the middle even on day two. they ended up being monster sized. i froze some leftover dough that may become reasonably sized bagels for the new, lower carb manchego's kitchen of 2013.

i know. i can't believe i typed that either.

more shocking? i stopped drinking coffee. back in california less than 6 months and i'm already going granola on you. i spared you photos of my blueprint juice experiement, so just be grateful.

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low carb or not, i'm back at the baking with julia challenge. there are muffins and brownies and all sorts of terribly wonderful things headed this way. if you want to head down the bagel bunny hole, visit the tuesdays with dorie blog or heather's bytes.

pumpkin cranberry bread

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this fall felt so long and warm, i thought that winter would never really come to california. when the cold finally began to hit, it came as a bright surprise, a delicious reason to hunt for boot and socks and layers of long sleeves. for a mug of afternoon tea and slice of buttered toast.

you look like you could use a piece of toast too. and not just any piece of toast will do to drive away the now lingering chill in the air.

particularly if your work furnace, like mine, emits any number of lovely knocking sounds but not much actual heat.

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this isn't your typical pumpkin bread, dense and spicy. it's an airy yeast bread. the cranberries burst in your mouth with a tart contrast to the lightly sweet, faintly pumpkin bread and crunchy toasty walnuts.

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this is the perfect antidote to the post-holiday season food slump, offering comfort without excess.  it may not be quite as virtuous as salad with grilled chicken, but it's a far cry from a platter of christmas fudge.  

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i am so sadly off track with tuesdays with dorie. you don't want to know how long these photos have languished in my camera. but find out by going to tuesdays with dorie or this bountiful backyard to find the recipe and lots of blog coverage. 

whole wheat bread

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i took a few months off this year. to move. to breathe. to sleep. 

i learned a couple of things about myself. particularly, the importance of structure.

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for example. without a plan, a day can unspool, like a bobbin of thread running loose across the floor, every tug you give it just sends it further off, spinning, unwinding.

without an outside force to impose structure, you have to impose your own boundaries. some i'm terrible at, like turning the tv off after enjoying a little matt lauer with my morning coffee. some i can handle, like waiting to have that first glorious glass of crisp white wine until after exercising . . . to trying to restrain myself during the week. 

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setting your own boundaries is the real mark of adulthood, the respecting of responsibilities. when we're little, we think adulthood is nothing but eating cocoa puffs for dinner and staying up as late as you want. when you're actually an adult, you long for the self-will to eat broccoli, go to bed with a good book at 8:30.

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whole wheat bread is like that for me.

my desert island food is a loaf of chewy, crusty, fluffy-soft-centered, processed within an inch of itself, bread. crock of butter and jar of jam appreciated, but often optional. 

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i've found a multigrain, seedy loaf that i've enjoyed from time to time. particularly toasted with a smear of avocado, squeeze of lime, sprinkle of sea salt. but i don't crave it. i won't eat a whole loaf in the course of an afternoon, one torn, ragged piece at a time.

whole wheat sandwich bread is a sad stand-in for either type of carbohydrate glory. fresh, it can be seductive, soft and toothsome. but the follow-through is never there. as toast, it is mostly air. crisp and unsatisfyingly inhalable. it is otherwise merely a vehicle for sandwich contents, thick layers of crunchy peanut butter with jam or crystallizing honey soaking through the bread, dripping out the sides. tart dijon, creamy mayonnaise with the firm bite of cheddar and lunch meat. 

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homemade whole wheat comes much closer to being both adult and responsible as well as feeling indulgently out of bounds. baking bread offers lovely structure to the day, with set times for kneading and rising and shaping and baking. coming back to the kitchen to find your dough exploding from the bowl, streching slowly but relentlessly against the plastic wrap, now that is an accomplishment. and the day the loaf comes out of the oven, the crust is crisp and crackly, the interior light and spongy. 

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it's also kitten approved.

and the next day? i'd recommend french toast, giving the slices plenty of time to soak up the egg batter, fried in plenty of butter to give you a crisp exterior and custard-soft interior.

find the recipe and more great photos at tuesdays with dorie.

nectarine upside-down chiffon cake

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summer is almost over. what a summer it has been.

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here in california, the edges of summer linger in lazy, sunny afternoons. autumn is trying to sneak in with its crisp, cool air. it is there in the cloud cover that hangs softly over the mornings, easing us into the day and the rhythm of life starting back up again. in the shortened evenings that make us start to think about cozy stews and apple crumbles.

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there are still heavy red tomatoes and green papery-husked ears of corn at the market, but they sit side by side with rosy apples and bright orange pumpkins. if you're lucky, there's still stone fruit as well.

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this cake nicely bridges the end of summer, with the bright, sweet acid of the nectarines and the warmth of cinnamon streusel.

if summer is already a bit of a memory, apples would substitute nicely, maybe mixed together with a handful of tart cranberries.

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whipped cream in the batter makes the cake light. a hint of lemon keeps it from excessive sweetness with the marbled layer of cinnamon streusel inside and sticky, carameled slices of nectarine on top.

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this is a knock-winner of a cake. beautiful, but not fussy. perfect with a scoop of real whipped cream.

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you can find the recipe over at tuesdays with dorie, and at the double trouble kitchen and the little french bakery.