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.

 

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. 

twd: baking with julia: oasis naan

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sometimes, i feel like fine dining is totally wasted on me when i would be perfectly happy just consuming the bread basket. sometimes (see friday night, to the somm's horror) a loaf of good crusty bread is dinner. add butter, cheese, maybe some honey. call it a day.

since the somm was in town and would prefer not to consume only carbohydrates, i decided to go ahead and try a few new indian recipes to go with the naan.

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there was a half-hearted attempt to find friends to come share the mountain of food, but it ended up just being us.

no complaining here.

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more easy chicken masala, caramelized cumin-roasted carrots, green bean, corn and coconut stir fry and raita for me.

every one of those recipes was easy and super delicious. light, and summery, not what you might think of when you think indian food, and worth sharing … or keeping to yourself.

but back to that naan. this recipe did not turn out the way i expected naan – which is usually soft, and chewy, and little charred. instead, i got a yeasted, crispy flatbread. 

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i tried baking them two ways: on my pizza pan that has lots of little holes that encourage crispness, and on the back of a cookie sheet, as recommended by the cookbook. no real noticable difference. 

the problem was probably too much flour in the dough, which was necessary since the recipe called for TEN WHOLE MINUTES of hand kneading. which i handled like a champ, thanks to my fabulously gay drill sergeant of a weights class instructor. no master courvoisier, i wasn't whining. i just think a traditional naan dough should be wetter. and maybe involve yogurt.

while i don't think these were really naan-enough, and i probably won't make them again because my go-to bread recipe involves no physical exertion whatsoever . . . the bread was tasty and eargerly consumed by both the somm and myself. and just as good smothered in raita as butter. the big crystals of salt made them reminiscent of pretzels.

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which are still so totally on my summer bucket list.

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for links to the recipe, visit tuesdays with dorie.

twd: baking with julia: soda bread

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how was your st. patrick's day? did your neighborhood turn into a green-tinged frat party like mine? the gloriously summer-like weather brought out all kinds of leprechauns.

after downing more than my fair share of a pitcher of strawberry margaritas, i felt old in the best possible way heading home at about 8 pm to continue celebrations on the couch with ryan reynolds, a bottle of bubbles and the yogi.

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this soda bread came together in a snap for lunch the next day. 

never one to leave a perfectly delightful, four ingredient recipe alone, i added cheese.

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gloriously vibrantly orange sharp cheddar. i wish i could say it was of irish origins, but my corner grocery really just doesn't have that type of selection. all their irish cheddar was white.

and as far as we're at it, cheddar isn't really proper cheddar if it's from anywhere other than somerset england.

and their cheddar isn't usually orange anyway. you have to dye it to get it that bright.

but then, traditional soda bread isn't supposed to have cheddar cheese in it.

not even currants and caraway. that's totally american.

kind of like st. patrick's day.

wait, where was i?

non-irish cheddar. at least it lowered the bread's carbon footprint, right?

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anyway, i threw tradition to the winds, added orange cheddar for those lovely streaks and then a bit of caraway for a pop of anise flavor. i'd recommend the combination, but if i made this again i might be tempted to veer even further off the usual soda bread path and add onions and maybe even poppy seeds for crunch.

as an added bonus, i think the fat and moisture of the cheese helped the bread stay fresh a bit longer than advertised by the recipe, which promised the bread would go stale within hours.

i had some for breakfast and dinner the following day and it remained delightfully rich and dense, made even better by toasting to firm up the crumb. and then i finally pitched into the freezer to save myself from eating nothing but soda bread for the remainder of the week.

all in all, a winner of a st. patrick's day weekend.

for the recipe, and to see lots of other lovely blogs featuring this soda bread, visit tuesdays with dorie, my culinary mission, or chocolate moosey.

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.