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Entries in Bread (34)

Friday
Feb182011

Experiments in Pizza - Featuring Eataly Dough



A week or so ago, I learned via Twitter that Eataly now sells fresh, uncooked pizza dough. Readers of this blog know that John and I like to make our own pizza dough. But SOMETIMES....just sometimes....you can't. You might not have time, or yeast, or flour because you gave it all to the sourdough starter that is living on the top of your fridge and that you expect has been drinking all your wine because you don't seem to have any left in the apartment...

Clearly, I digress. Sometimes you need to use someone else's dough. I'm not here to judge you. I AM here to judge other people's dough.



And I'm starting with Eataly's, which I picked up in one of their numerous refrigerated sections for $3.20. Not a bad price. While I was there, I also picked up some purple potatoes and fresh rosemary which I was going to use in combination with the fresh ricotta cheese I made to top the pizza.

And one more wild card, because, let's face it people, I'm not here to be normal. I have been wanting to try different methods of baking pizza. I have a pizza stone, which delivers great results. I have also used a cookie sheet with some success. This time, I wanted to use my cast iron pot. I thought that by trapping the heat in a smaller area (the pot) I would achieve a crispier outer crust with a more moist center. This was my hypothesis, anyway.

General Instructions:
I heated up my pot in the oven at 500 degrees for one half hour before placing the dough inside.

Placing the dough in the pot is a little tricky. The pot gets VERY HOT (please remember your oven mitts). And you have to get the dough in there, and then place on all your toppings while the dough is starting to sizzle and cook already. Kind of stressful.

But I did it. And I didn't even burn myself (I did cut myself slicing potatoes though)! I got my dough into the pot, smeared on some ricotta cheese (the truffle salt and olive oil variety), and topped it with sliced potatoes (instructions below), olive oil, a pinch more truffle salt and some rosemary.

Then, I put the lid back on the pot and put the whole device in the oven. And then I checked it 10 minutes later. The crust wasn't really charring, and it was cooking more slowly overall. I baked it for about 20-25 minutes (as compared to the usual 10 minutes on the pizza stone).

The crust did not char, but turned a nice golden brown. The bottom was almost like a thick, crusty bread rather than a pizza crust. This is the result of the cast iron pot. I believe I will be returning to the pizza stone (hypothesis proven WRONG).



BUT! What about the Eataly crust? How did it taste? I have to say, I give Eataly's dough my stamp of approval. It was moist (even in the face of my cast iron pot experiment, and had a nice airy texture combined with a delicate olive oil/salty/yeasty flavor that was just right. My friend Meg ran over to my apartment when I started tweeting that there was pizza in the oven, so she can also attest to the fine flavor of the crust.

And finally, here is the recipe for the Ricotta, Rosemary and Potato Topping:

What You Need:
8 small purple potatoes, sliced thinly
Ricotta cheese (from this recipe)
Fresh rosemary (as many sprigs as you like)
Truffle salt (a few pinches)
1 tablespoon olive oil + extra drizzle for the pizza
1/4 cup water

What To Do:
Slice your potatoes (don't cut yourself like I did).

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Place your sliced potatoes in the pan and and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat with oil and salt, and let the taters heat up. Add 1/4 cup of water to steam them a bit and some fresh chopped rosemary. Simmer until tender (you will be able to easily pierce them with a knife.

Spread the ricotta cheese on your stretched out pizza dough. Top with the potato mixture. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and add some more rosemary if you like.

Bake in the oven at 500 degrees (on a pizza stone, preferably) for about 10 minutes.

Friday
Feb112011

French Toast Bread Pudding with Brioche Leftovers



So, I'm sure you're all planning on making our Heart Shaped Nutella French Toast OR the Heart Shaped Toasts with Honey Butter for  your sweetheart (or for yourself - why not?) this Valentine's Day.

But what to do with all those left-over pieces of Brioche after you've cut out the heart shapes? Don't be hasty and throw them away! Remember what haste makes. That's right: waste. And who would waste perfectly good Brioche? Not this girl. I did something with mine. I made French Toast Bread Pudding. Who wouldn't? Here's how:

What You Need:
Your leftover Brioche, torn to pieces and thrown into a 9" pie dish
3/4 cup of cranberries (you can use raisins if you like)
2 large whole eggs
1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk (I use milk from Ronnybrook Farm, because it's local, fresh and awesome).
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Confectioner's sugar for dusting and decoration

What To Do:
Place your Brioche pieces in a 9" round pie dish. You can use a rectangular dish if you like as well. Add in your cranberries (or raisins) and toss to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together with a whisk the milk, eggs and all the other ingredients. Pour this mixture over the bread and berries in the pie dish. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour, but overnight works too if you'd like to prepare it ahead of time and forget about it for a while.

When you're ready to bake, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dish and pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes. It should turn golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

Eat it warm, cold, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert....or late night. Leave no Brioche behind!

Monday
Feb072011

Make Breakfast for Your Valentine: Beginner and Advanced Instructions



Hello again. Your weekly Valentine's Day reminder, here. Today we are going to focus on a homemade treat: breakfast.

This Valentine's Day, instead of dashing out the door, hair half-brushed, pants mostly on, with half a Pop Tart clamped between your incisors, sit down at the table. On chairs. And eat. With utensils.

And let's eat French Toast!  For those of you who approach cooking with a fear and anxiety equal to Hunter S. Thompson on a Death Valley escape from Las Vegas, I have also provided a beginner-level option. Make no mistake: BOTH versions involve actually heating something up. Let's start with the beginners:



Heart Shaped Toast with Honey Butter for Beginners

What You Need:
4 thickly cut pieces of a nice fluffy bread. Brioche works nicely. I got mine from Balthazar Bakery
1/2 a stick of salted butter, left out on the counter for a while to get soft (but NOT melted)
2 tablespoons + extra drizzle of your favorite brand and flavor of honey
A toaster or broiler (which is in your oven - it's that drawer at the bottom)
A pinch of sea salt
A large heart-shaped cookie cutter

What To Do:
Once your butter is suitably soft (you should be able to easily mix it with a spoon), place it in a bowl and using a regular spoon, drizzle the 2 Tbsp. honey over it. Mix the honey and butter together so it's all incorporated. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the top. I really like the punch of a sweet-salty flavor mix (like salted caramels). But if you don't, you can skip that part.

Cut thick slices from your Brioche bread loaf (like maybe about 1.5" thick) and toast them up to your desired level of toastiness. I like a nice golden brown, but you're not making this for me, are you? Are you??

Once your toasts are toasted, place them on some nice plates (yes, you do need to use plates) and spread some honey butter on top. Serve with extra honey butter on the side.

If you are more advanced, or feeling adventurous, you can move on to: French Toast Sandwiches with Nutella Mascarpone Filling. Oh yeah.



What You Need:
For the French Toast:
4 thickly cut pieces of a Brioche bread (1.5" thick)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Cinnamon (a dash or two)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of butter to grease the frying pan

For the Filling:
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese
4 ounces of Nutella spread

Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Tools:
A large heart-shaped cookie cutter
A frying pan
A spatula

What To Do:
First make the filling. In a small mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese and the Nutella. Mix until well integrated. Give it a taste and see if you would like to add either more Nutella or more cheese.

Crack the two eggs into a wide bottomed bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of milk and a dash or two of cinnamon and the vanilla extract. Using a fork, mix everything up so that you now have a light yellow mixture with swirls of cinnamon.

Using the heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out hearts from your bread slices.

Heat up a frying pan on medium-low heat and melt the tablespoon of butter in the pan.



Dredge both sides of the heart shaped bread slices in the egg and milk mixture, and then add them to the heated frying pan, cooking about a minute on each side. Place the cooked French Toast slices on plates (here we go again with the plates).

Using a knife, spread the Nutella and mascarpone filling on top of one of the French Toast Hearts. Top with another French Toast Heart to make a sandwich. Repeat with the other two slices.

Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and watch the sparks fly!

Up until now, I have been giving you good-smelling Valentine's gift options like flowers. Instead, you may want to choose something that smells equally good (or better) and that you can drink: COFFEE! If your honey likes his/her breakfast caffeinated, these options are the cream of the coffee crop in my opinion:

Intelligentsia Coffee (You can only find this in Chicago and Los Angeles, but you can click here to find locations)

Irving Farm Coffee (I recently visited their West Village coffee shop and with thrilled with my smooth latte)

Stumptown Coffee

San'Eustachio

Oh yeah, DON'T throw away the extra bread pieces left over from the heart cut-outs. I've got something you can do with them. Something tasty. More details later in the week...

Thursday
Feb032011

Italian Meatball Sliders for the Super Bowl



A colleague of mine told me a joke yesterday:

"How many Jets does it take to get to the Super Bowl?"

"How many?" I said.

"Two. One for the Packers and one for the Steelers!"  He roared with laughter.

"Funny," I dryly responded.  In appreciation for the joke, I proceeded to fix him a cup of coffee.  Who's smiling now, buddy?

Yes, I'm still bitter from the Pittsburgh loss.  Why were the Jets asleep at the wheel during the first half of an AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME?  Why did they have to lose to a group of degenerates who notoriously rack up fines and suspensions like Charlie Sheen trashes hotel rooms?  Why do I continue to support a franchise which, without fail, leaves me curled up in the fetal position on the morning after each season ending loss with a brutal hangover and an empty Kleenex box, surrounded by a litter of candy bar wrappers and uncapped magic markers?

Well, it's hope I suppose.  Because regardless of how painful your team's season ending loss was, there is always next year. And even sooner to the rescue, is the Super Bowl: an event so commercialized and familiar that even the most left out of football (or non-football) fans feel welcome to participate in. For many, it grants us one more opportunity to watch some quality football.  For everyone, it provides quality entertainment and food.  And what better idea for a Super Sunday snack than a mixture of American and Italian greatness?  Enter, the meatball slider - the perfect handful of a mouthful which teases your brain into thinking that three of these suckers is considerably less damaging than an entire meatball sub.  Well, actually, it is... provided you subscribe to the below mentioned, from-scratch recipe:

What You Need:
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork of veal
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ground pine nuts
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped taragon
3/4 teaspoon salt
a couple shakes of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh basil (about 12 large leaves)
Mini Parker Rolls (or Brioche rolls)

Tomato Sauce: You can use your own recipe, or the one I describe here.

What To Do:
Place your ground (defrosted if it was frozen) meat In a large mixing bowl and mix to combine well.

Add in your breadcrumbs, ground pine nuts (you can grind them in a food processor) and everything else. Mix very well to combine. You really can't over-mix.

Make sure the "meat-dough" is holding together. To do this, grab some with your hands (come on, you can do it!) and form it into balls. Pretend you're making snow balls. With meat. If it's holding together, continue making balls and setting them aside on a platter. If it's not holding together, you can add another egg.

Once you have formed all your meatballs, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Place your raw meatballs in the pan and fry 'em up!

You will need to rotate them a bit, so they brown evenly on all sides. Don't do this with your bare hands. Use some tongs or a spatula at least. I'm begging you. Also the fat from the meat will combine with the oil of the pan and become VERY, VERY HOT. It may just splatter. Yet another use for those safety goggles I like so much.

This whole cooking process should take about 10 minutes. If you made giant meatballs, 15.

Open up your mini rolls like buns and place one meatball inside. Top with 1 large basil leaf. You can hold this whole contraption together with a toothpick if you like. Serve the tomato sauce on the side.

Note: You don't have to use the pine nuts if you can't find them or are allergic to nuts. They did give the meatballs a nice, nutty and slightly sweet flavor, which I liked very much.

Also - is this still not enough to feed your team?  Keep in mind our previous football related posts seen here, here and here.

Friday
Jan212011

Pane Cotto for Aunt Emily



This past Christmas while we were all gathered 'round the dinner table staring in disbelief at the remains of our feast, Aunt Emily began to reminisce about her younger years. Aunt Emily is 96 years old, so those younger years were quite a while ago. While Aunt Emily claims that she has a lot of "happy memories" her strolls down memory lane often leave you searching for a pack of Zoloft or at least another drink.

For those of you unfamiliar, Aunt Emily is The Box's aunt – so a great aunt to John and me. She was married to my dad's Uncle Harry. While they both had their fun-loving moments, their relative amounts of persnickety-ness combined to form a mightily cantankerous duo. They both boycotted Easter one year to protest a phone conversation with my dad that they disliked. They honestly believed this was a punishment for us.



With food, Aunt Emily is equally....particular. I mentioned at Thanksgiving that Marmo must cook her a special dinner as she refuses to eat turkey. She also refuses to go to particular restaurants, eat after 5pm, and claims she has a seafood allergy (even though I have seen her eat shrimp). Consequently, Aunt Emily will only go to one restaurant – Casa Bella in Denville, NJ – which she happens to like, although you would never know it because when we take her there she complains loudly that:

1. She liked the old owner better and she misses him.

2. They don't make her martinis properly (on one occasion the waiter brought her the gin and vermouth and told her to mix her own drink).

These episodes usually leave John wanting to dive under the table from embarrassment, and I admit to staring forlornly at my dinner plate.

However, even though Aunt Emily has strong opinions about food (and just about everything else), she isn't a cook. Her self-admitted culinary claim to fame is being able to open a can of soup.

Yet this past Christmas she began talking about the foods her mother used to make for her. Back when life was simpler. She mentioned something specific: Pane Cotto. I had never heard of it before, being more familiar with the cooked custard dessert Panna Cotta. She even gave me some loosey-goosey cooking instructions involving bread, lard, cheese and water.

Later in the evening, I asked Marmo if she knew what the h%^& Aunt Emily was talking about. "I don't know," Marmo replied, "I'm not sure she was operating on all cylinders."

Fair point. However, in the interest of family history, kitchen experimentation, and just plain ol' curiosity, I decided to look into it a bit.

Turns out, Aunt Emily was operating on all cylinders when she remembered Pane Cotto, as it's a real thing. My initial Google searches turned up a slew of recipes. What follows is my recipe, with inspiration from a few sources and based on the availability of ingredients in my fridge at the time. Here you go, Aunt Emily, here's your Pane Cotto:

What You Need:
Makes 2 servings
1 large bunch of kale - rinsed, stems removed and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 tbsps. olive oil
4 chunky slices of day old Italian bread - I used the Jim Lahey Bread from Wednesday's post
2 - 3 cups of chicken broth
Red pepper (to taste)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese

What To Do:
Heat up a large stock or cast iron pot. Add the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and kale until soft. About 10 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and red pepper to the pot. Bring to boil and reduce to a simmer, let simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper as desired. Pour into a baking dish. Place your bread slices over the top, making sure they sop up the chicken broth mixture. Cover the bread slices with grated Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

You want the tops of the bread with the cheese to get a little brown and toasty. It's surprisingly good.

I also made some Kale, Sage and Butternut Squash muffins to go with it. Here's how:



What You Need:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, roasted, skin removed and cut into chunks.
Salt and pepper
A couple of handfuls of kale, washed and chopped
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup semi-soft cheese, cut into tiny cubes
2 tsp. of whole grain mustard (like a dijon)
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
2 cups regular flour
4 tsp. baking powder
4 leaves of fresh sage, chopped

What To Do:
Heat your oven to 4ooF.

Grease a muffin tin well with oil or butter.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together about two-thirds of the squash, the kale and the semi-soft cheese.  In a small bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, and mustard until well combined.  Pour this into the bowl with the squash and kale.  Sprinkle the flour, baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt onto the squash and wet ingredients mixture.  Stir it all together until just combined.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan.  Sprinkle the tops with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then dive in!  You can also freeze these bad-boys for later use.



This recipe was based on this version from Five and Spice.



• Please note that Aunt Emily would probably hate both these recipes.
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