Homemade Baguette

It’s  Spring Break at my school site this week, which means I have more time to spend doing things I haven’t had much time for in the past few weeks, like cooking. It’s not too often that I get a series of not-so-busy days in a row, which is perfect for recipes that take more time, like this one for baguettes (and another one that, fingers crossed, I’ll be starting later this week).

My first authentic baguette experience (yea that sounds kind of silly) occurred during the summer before I started high school. I was traveling around Europe on a three-week educational trip, and spent a few days staying with a host family in a cute little house somewhere near Paris. I believe it was the first night’s dinner that featured the tasty baguette (along with some paté that looked gross but probably tasted wonderful), which was passed around the table so folks could rip off a chunk. This was a new but fun experience for me, and it’s still my favorite way to eat a baguette.

Homemade Baguette

Baguette 1

Ingredients

Starter

  • 1/2 cup cool water
  • 1/16 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 cup bread flour

Dough

  • 1 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • the starter
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. To make the starter: In a medium bowl, mix yeast with water, then add in the flour to make a soft dough. If you’re using instant yeast you can skip the first step and just mix everything together. Cover with a towel and let sit for about 14 hours. The starter should have risen a bit by the time the 14 hours is up.
  2. To make the dough: If using active dry yeast, mix it with the water first, then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. If using instant yeast you can just mix everything together. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it’s somewhat soft and smooth.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise for three hours. Deflate and turn the dough at 1 and 2 hour marks.
  4. After three hours of rise time, turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface (I used a baking sheet) and divide it into three pieces. Shape each piece into a slightly flat oval, cover with a towel, and let sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Take one piece of the dough and fold it in half lengthwise (AKA hot-dog style). Seal the edges with your fingertips, and then fold in half and seal again.
  6. Turn the dough so the seam is on the bottom, then gently roll and pull the dough, forming it into a 15″ log.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the other two pieces of dough. Place all three logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let sit for 1.5 hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 450°F. Grab a sharp knife, hold it at a 45° angle, and make three vertical slashes in each baguette. Spritz the baguettes with warm water – this will help crisp up the crust.
  9. Bake the baguettes for 25-30 minutes, or until they’re as brown and crispy as you’d like them. Remove from oven and place on wire racks to cool.

Try a slice of baguette with one or two slow-roasted tomatoes on top. Yum!

Source:  King Arthur Flour 

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Cabbage Rolls

While perusing the interwebs for a recipe to make for St. Patrick’s Day, I came across one for cabbage rolls. Now, I’m no food expert, but these cabbage rolls didn’t seem to fit into the Irish food category. I did some research (aka Googled “cabbage roll”) and found out that cabbage rolls, according to Wikipedia, are “common to the ethnic cuisines of the Balkans, Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East.”  The Wikipedia page goes on to list and describe several variations of the dish.

Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head green cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp (packed) brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 lb Italian sausage (I used ready-to-eat Italian sausage links and simply peeled off the skin)

Instructions

  1. Place cabbage in freezer overnight. When ready to use remove from freezer and let sit for a few minutes to thaw. Peel off two outermost leaves and discard. Remove next eight leaves,  cutting through thick vein at base if needed. Set cabbage leaves aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add 1 cup onion and saute until it begins to soften. Add the tomatoes, garlic, brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt to the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring as needed.
  3. While sauce is cooking, combine rice, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, remaining onion and salt in a large bowl. Add the ground turkey and sausage and mix well.
  4. Pour about half of the prepared sauce in a large skillet. Place 1/2 cup of the meat mixture in each cabbage leaf and roll like a burrito. Place each roll, seam side down, in the skillet pan. Once all of the rolls are  in the pan pour the rest of the sauce over them.
  5. Cover and cook for about 1 hour over low-medium heat. Stick a meat thermometer in the middle of rolls to check for doneness (temp will depend on what kind of meat you use), and cook a bit longer if needed.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very finicky stove that thinks low means medium and medium means burn everything. Most of the cabbage rolls and the sauce burned onto the bottom of my skillet. I was able to salvage a lot of it, but was left with a very big mess. One good thing to come out of my stove misadventures: I’ve become an expert on how to remove burned-on gunk from pans and stove tops.

Despite the mess and work required to clean the pan, these turned out really yummy. I may try making the next batch in a crockpot.

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home.

Irish Beef Stew

We’re expecting a resurgence of winter this week –  good ol’ Minnesota weather – so I thought it would be a good idea to make something warm and filling.  With St. Patrick’s Day coming up tomorrow, this stew fit the bill.

The first time I made this stew I was living on my own for the first time in an apartment in Minneapolis, and was slightly afraid that the crock pot would burn my building down. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and the end result was delicious.

Irish Beef Stew

Irish Beef Stew

Ingredients

Note: Feel free to vary the amount of vegetables you use in this recipe, depending on your preferred meat to vegetable ratio.

  • 3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch-pieces
  • 2 tbsp butter or non-dairy alternative such as Earth Balance
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cup stout beer (I used Furthermore’s Three Feet Deep)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 2 bay leaves

Instructions

  1. Put the potatoes, onion, garlic, and carrots in a crock pot.
  2. Rinse the stew meat and pat dry, then sprinkle with some salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the stew meat and cook until it’s browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the skillet and add it to the crockpot, leaving juices in the pan.
  3. Add the butter or non-dairy alternative to the skillet and let it melt. Add the beef broth, red wine, beer, tomato paste, sugar, soy sauce, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes, and then turn the heat down to low. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes. Add the cornstarch and water mix and let simmer for a minute or two over low heat until the sauce thickens to desired consistency. Add more cornstarch/water mixture if needed.
  4. Pour the sauce into the crockpot and add the bay leaves. Stir the stew so everything is mixed up well. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or on low for 6 to 9 hours.

To really get in the St. Patty’s Day spirit, serve this with Irish soda bread.

Source: Adapted from the little kitchen

Fig Bars

It’s finally starting to feel less winter-y here in Minnesota – wahoo! I can see some of the actual street and go outside without four layers on.  One thing that can be said of Minnesotans – we complain about winter, but we REALLY take advantage of spring and summer.

What does this have to do with fig bars, you ask? Not really anything, though I am thinking of sitting outside and eating one.

Fig Bars

Fig Bars 2

Ingredients

Filling

  • 8 ounces dried figs, stemmed and quartered (I used Mission figs)
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • pinch of table salt
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Crust

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp non-dairy butter substitute (I used Earth Balance)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the filling

  1. In a medium saucepan simmer figs, apple juice, and salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the figs are very soft and sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Let mixture cool slightly before pouring into food processor or blender.
  2. Add lemon juice and process/blend until the fig mixture has the consistency of jam. Set aside.

To make the crust

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with a foil sling and spray the foil with cooking spray.
  2. In medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl beat the non-dairy butter substitute and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  4. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Reserve 3/4 cup of dough for top crust.
  5. Place remaining dough into prepared baking pan and spread with greased spatula. Top with a greased piece of parchment paper and use measuring cup or other flat-bottomed object to smooth out the dough. Be careful not to press down too hard or the dough will squeeze up the sides of the pan (ask me how I know that). Remove the parchment paper and bake crust until it just starts to turn brown, about 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, place the reserved dough between two sheets of greased parchment paper and roll out into an 8-inch square. This turned out to be a lot harder than it looked, at least for me who sucks at eyeballing length measurements. I ended up with about a 12-inch square, which ended up being tricky to work with later on. Place the dough in the freezer to chill while the bottom crust bakes.
  7. When the bottom crust is done, pour the fig mixture on top and spread with a spatula. Place the chilled dough square on top, and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool completely before removing from the pan using sling.

This recipe, while tasty, did not turn out quite how I would have liked. The figs were too liquidy, which is gradually turning the bottom dough into a mushy mess. I like my top crust a little thicker (and my bottom crust a little thinner), so I’ll split the dough more evenly next time. And I’ll be more careful rolling the dough and will chill it longer to increase the chances that it will peel off the parchment paper in one piece next time. Flattening bits of sticky dough on a sticky, figgy topping is not something I want to do again.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, Holiday Baking 2008

Rice Salad with Vegetables and Raisins

What comes to mind when you here the word salad? I typically envision something leafy and green, which is interesting considering that neither of the other salads I’ve posted on this blog fit that profile. I’m starting to think of salads more like casseroles (AKA hot dish here in Minnesota) – it’s a name that you can give a dish that combines a whole bunch of ingredients and falls somewhere between a side dish and a meal. Casseroles are served hot, whereas salads are typically served chilled.

Rice Salad with Vegetables and Raisins

Rice Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/2  cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 to 2 tbsp sweetener of your choice (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, cumin, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir until the mustard seeds start to pop.
  2. Add the water and cinnamon stick. Cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the rice. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered,  for about 35 minutes, or until rice is done. Add more water as needed to finish cooking the rice.
  4. When rice has finished cooking, remove form heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and peanut oil. Pour mixture over the rice. Add the carrots, raisins, onions, and peas and stir well. I thought this tasted far too much like peanut/sesame oil, so I added a bit of sugar and lemon juice to balance out the flavors.

You can serve this chilled or warm, as a salad, side dish, or even as a complete meal by simply adding your favorite protein.

Source: Adapted from How it All Vegan!