Cheesy Pesto Blitz Bread

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This is a great, super speedy recipe for when you want a focaccia type accompaniment but forgot to plan ahead. King Arthur Flour’s Blitz Bread takes a little over 90 minutes from start to finish. It’s also very easily adaptable. In this version, I mixed about 3/4 cup of cubed Fontina and 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan into the dough after the initial 60 second mixing. Before baking the bread, I dolloped the surface with homemade pesto (made earlier in the season with basil from our CSA) and then dimpled the dough.

The texture of the Blitz Bread isn’t as chewy or toothsome as a traditional focaccia but considering it took comparatively little time to make, it’s quite tasty and worth making!

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King Arthur Flour September Bakealong: Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread

IMG_9025There are so many things I love about fall in New England. For example, I love the changing colors of the foliage, and the cooler nights and shorter days. The spices that seem to go hand and hand with fall baking such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg have always appealed to me more than, say, chocolate. And I love local fall produce such as winter squashes, pumpkins and especially apples.

So I was predictably giddy with excitement when I saw this recipe. Loaves made of enriched yeast dough filled with cinnamon-y apples and pecans? Yes, please!

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This bakealong recipe came together really easily. The results far exceed the effort! Instead of purchasing potato flour or instant mashed potatoes, I substituted 3/4 cup of unseasoned mashed potato (and reduced the milk to 2/3 cup), as suggested in King Arthur Flour’s accompanying blog post. And I opted for cornstarch rather than Instant ClearJel to make my apple-pecan filling.

I cannot stop raving about how much I love this recipe: the mixing, the aromas, the assembly, the baking, the appearance of the finished results, the flavor. This one is a keeper! I do have to work on my glazing though. Apparently I’m not very good at making it look random or rustic, opting instead for the super anal-retentive grid pattern. Not terribly attractive to my eye, but somehow I find it difficult to just let loose. I’ll keep working on it though.

King Arthur Flour August Bakealong: Golden Focaccia

IMG_8790Focaccia is a bread that I make fairly often. Making focaccia is typically pretty hands off, although one does have to remember to make the starter the night before. Aside from that, there’s not too much fiddling or futzing. Shaping is uncomplicated, and the finishes are endlessly adaptable. You can even use the leftovers as flatbread for sandwiches or pizzas, although we’ve never had any lingering around so I really can’t speak to that.

This month’s King Arthur Flour’s Bakealong is this Golden Focaccia. This recipe used a lot less olive oil than many others that I’ve made in the past, which I like; I hate feeling as though I’m drowning my bread in oil. This recipe was pretty solid (figuratively speaking) and is definitely worth making again. I was a little wary that it didn’t suggest lining the pan with parchment but fortunately there were no real issues with sticking (although I did a little loosening with a spatula). This is the first time I’ve topped focaccia with black pepper, in addition to the usual sea salt and herbs. Surprisingly, it didn’t add as much flavor as I would have expected. Next time, I will try the focaccia with roasted garlic or kalamata olives, and maybe some feta as well.

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Chicago Red Hot Poppy Seed Buns

IMG_8677There’s nothing like a great hot dog in the summer. I was thrilled to recently discover that Ball Park Franks makes uncured dogs (as do many other companies, but I love the flavor of Ball Park more than many of those others) since I don’t love the idea of eating lots of unnecessary chemicals (although apparently I’m totally OK with eating unknown parts of cow), so we’ve been having our share of hot dogs this year.

We first fell in love with Chicago Dogs 5 years ago during a family trip to the Windy City, when we enjoyed a hotel room takeout lunch that my guys picked up at Portillo’s. For the uninitiated, a Chicago-style hot dog is a Vienna Beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, bright green relish, chopped onions, tomato wedges, a kosher dill pickle spear, sport peppers, and celery salt. Here in New England, short of ordering a kit online from Vienna Beef (or paying exorbitant prices at Amazon) it’s hard to get one’s hands on the required shade of relish or the sport peppers, but I can make poppy seed  buns. I found my recipe on the King Arthur Flour site.

My hot dog buns didn’t become the golden brown I was hoping for. I didn’t want them to dry out so I decided to choose taste over looks and pulled the pan out after baking them for an additional minute or so. They were beautifully tender inside, but just didn’t look as picture perfect as I would’ve preferred.

I substituted conventionally colored (let’s call it “blah green”) sweet relish for the Chicago lime green variety, and pickled pepperoncini for the sport peppers (I tried to select a jar with smaller pepperoncini to mimic the size of the sport peppers). They weren’t authentic Chicago dogs but they were close enough for us!

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There’s a hot dog somewhere under all that!

King Arthur Flour July Bakealong: Blueberry Hand Pies

IMG_8678My second King Arthur Flour bakealong! And performed in the appropriate month too. This month’s challenge is Blueberry Hand Pies (recipe here).

I made these on one of those hot and humid summer days during which I’m pretty sure you’re never supposed to make pastry. My cold butter went from rock hard to a melting mess pretty quickly; I’m sure my hot hands didn’t help either. My dough made many more trips and spent a lot more time in the fridge than the recipe suggested. I spent all afternoon just popping it in and out of the refrigerator before I even got around to rolling and cutting the little pie squares.

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The results were totally worth it though. I really loved the way these turned out. The pastry was super flaky and had a nice crispness to it. If you love pie crust, and I do, there’s lots of crust. The blueberry filling is just a little sweet and pairs very nicely with pastry. I’m eagerly anticipating having the leftovers with coffee tomorrow morning!

King Arthur Flour June Bakealong: Classic Baguettes

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Yes, I’m a little behind. I fully intended to complete this bakealong during the designated month but I had a lot of “obstacles.” First, I decided that after years of successfully making baguettes without one, now was the time that I absolutely needed a couche to tackle the recipe. And even though I could have easily ordered one online, it somehow was completely logical to make the trip to the King Arthur Flour store in Norwich, Vermont, a hypothetical 3 hours away (really closer to 4 hours each way with real life Boston traffic), to purchase one instead. Which I did. (A big thank you to my darling sons for accompanying me!)

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And then almost as soon as we were back, we were away on vacation for a week. And suddenly it was no longer June. All very much #firstworldproblems.

Several years ago, when my bread baking prowess consisted entirely of firing up a bread machine, I first ventured into baguette baking using recipes from the King Arthur Flour site and cookbook. The resulting baguettes were okay — not stellar, but decent enough. Much to my surprise, I was quite pleased with this newer Classic Baguette recipe. Then again, my success this time may also have a little to do with the fact that I have about 9 years of bread baking and a baking and pastry degree under my belt since those novice baking days.

Remarkably, I gave myself to the spirit of the bakealong and actually followed the instructions to the letter instead of doing what I typically do, which is ignore any instruction which conflicts with my previous training. I mixed and kneaded the dough by hand instead of using my stand mixer, as I was demoing the recipe for Cormac who doesn’t have access to such equipment in his apartment. I found that the shaping instructions actually produced nicer shaped baguettes with less effort (i.e. they’re idiot-proof!) than my usual technique. And the couche worked fabulously.

The crust was a bit less crisp than my usual baguettes but Cormac said he actually preferred the softer crust of the King Arthur Flour version. All in all, a worthwhile experience. Now to complete July’s bakealong before August! 😉