Category Archives: bread

Saffron Toasts

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It doesn’t get much easier than a recipe with only four ingredients.  These golden toasts from King Arthur Flour taste like a savory and earthy biscotti.  I love them since they are fast and easy to make. They are good on their own but absolutely delicious when served along side a hearty tomato soup, corn and vegetable chowder or pumpkin soup.  Talk about the ultimate in comfort food.

SAFFRON TOASTS

1 pinch saffron threads soaked in 1 tablespoon of warm water

2 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Soak the saffron threads in the water for 10-15 minutes to soften them for baking.  Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease a 9 inch x 5 inch loaf pan.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until light in color, thickened, and foamy.
  • Stir in the saffron and water.  Lightly sprinkle the flour over the surface of the  mixture and fold it in gently.  The mix will be thick and sponge-like, full of air and deep yellow in color.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 32 minutes.  The edges will be well browned and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Turn the loaf out onto a cutting board and use a sharp serrated knife to slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Lay each slice on a baking sheet making sure that the cut sides are facing up (and down).
  • Place the pan under the broiler until the toasts begin to darken at the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven, carefully flip each slice over and broil the reverse side as well.
  • Allow the toasts to cool completely before serving.  Store in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 3 weeks.

Yield:  16-18 slices

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Artisan Gouda & Prosciutto Bread

Here’s an oldie but goodie that I keep coming back to time and time again. While delicious freshly baked bread is readily available here in Belgium there is really nothing like baking your own. Sure it takes time but it is so worth it.

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One of my culinary goals for 2013 is to bake more bread.  I’m not talking quick breads; rather yeasted doughs that, while they take more time to put together, are worth the effort.  To kick off this year’s effort, I tested a bacon-cheese bread from the Noblepig.com blog.  As the recipe promised, the dough came together quickly and didn’t require any kneading. I didn’t even get to break out my trusty Kitchen Aid dough hook!  As usual, I was not able to find any cheddar cheese, so I swapped it out with an aged Gouda, achieving what I deem are with tasty results.  I also used prosciutto instead of bacon.  I diced it up then fried it until crispy before adding it to the dough along with the cheese.

The recipe produces two good sized loafs.  Because the dough can be refrigerated I baked one over the weekend then the other one later in the week.  It turns out that there is nothing better than a fresh baked loaf of bread on a weeknight (or weekday morning).

ARTISAN GOUDA & PROSCIUTTO BREAD

10 slices thick cut bacon or prosciutto, diced
8 ounces shredded aged Gouda cheese
2 tablespoons granulated yeast
3 cups lukewarm water
5 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • Cook the bacon or prosciutto over medium heat until brown and crunchy. Place on a paper towel-
    lined plate to drain.  Set aside.
  • Add the yeast to a large ceramic bowl.  Pour in the warm water and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.  Add the flour and salt.
  • Mix with the wooden spoon until the flour and salt are fully wet.  Add the cheese and
    bacon/prosciutto to the dough and stir until fully combined.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least 3 hours.  After 3 hours place the dough in the refrigerator overnight.
  • When ready to bake, place a metal baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven.  Fill it with water.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Meanwhile, butter the bottom of an 11 x 17 inch baking tray and sprinkle the cornmeal over the
  • butter to prevent the break from sticking.
  • Divide the dough into two even loaves, shaping each into a ball.
  • Place on the baking tray, several inches apart.  Sprinkle the dough generously with flour.  (You can also bake one at a time, saving the dough in the refrigerator for another day).
  • Let rest on the baking tray for 30 minutes.  Right before placing in the oven, score the top of the bread with an “x” or other decorative mark, cutting right through the dough.9)
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before slicing.

Roasted Red Pepper Bread

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The dough for this bread comes from the Noblepig.com blog.  I first made this recipe with a gouda and prosciutto version of a bread I found on their website.   I loved how easy and quickly the bread dough came together with my only utensil being a wooden spoon to mix the dough.  (No Kitchen Aid stand mixer required).  Loving the texture and flavor of the bread I decided to experiment with other fillings.  After trying several options, roasted red peppers, with their sweet but slightly smoky flavor, is my favorite. The bread is great warm on its own or makes a great accompaniment for a hearty soup.

The recipe produces two good sized loafs.  Because the dough can be refrigerated, you can save half of the dough for a later use. Simply cover tightly and refrigerate for up to four days until ready to use.  If you do this you can have a mid-week loaf of fresh bread without the work.

ROASTED RED PEPPER BREAD
2 tablespoons granulated yeast
3 cups lukewarm water
5 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 large red bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • Add the yeast to a large ceramic bowl.  Pour in the warm water and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.  Add the flour and salt.
  • Mix with the wooden spoon until the flour and salt are fully wet.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least 3 hours.  After 3 hours place the dough in the refrigerator overnight.
  • To roast the peppers:  Preheat a grill to high and place the peppers directly on the grill.  Rotate them as they char until all of their surfaces are blackened.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  When they are cool enough to handle, slice them open, remove the seeds, and cut into thin strips.
  • When ready to bake the bread, place a metal baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven.  Fill it with water.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Meanwhile, butter the bottom of an 11 x 17 inch baking tray and sprinkle the cornmeal over the butter to prevent the break from sticking.
  • Divide the dough into two even loaves, shaping each into a ball then flattening with your hands to form discs.
  • Brush each dish with the olive oil then evenly sprinkle the roasted peppers over the flat surface of each piece of dough.
  • Bring the sides of each disc together enveloping the peppers into the center of the ball.  Pinch the edges together to form a seam and prevent the peppers from escaping their envelope.
  • Place on the baking tray, seam side down, several inches apart.  Sprinkle the dough generously with flour.
  • Let rest on the baking tray for 30 minutes.  Right before placing in the oven, score the top of the
  • bread with an “x” or other decorative mark, cutting right through the dough.9)  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before slicing.
Yields 2 loaves

Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

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Bread pudding is the oh so humble dish that is oh oh so good. I mean, who would think that a dish built around stale bread cubes could end up being so impressive. And bread pudding is just that; crusty bread that has been soaked in a rich egg and milk custard and baked. It can be made as is or you can make it fancy with the addition of fruit, chocolate or even nuts. You really can’t go wrong.

Bread pudding is one of my favorite ways to use up old bread. I am so lucky to have really good bread readily available here in Belgium. It tastes wonderful when it is still warm from the oven (which is how it is most often bought here). The bread is so good that it usually disappears before the end of the day but sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t bread pudding is on the menu for the next day.

I love combining fruit with chocolate so this bread pudding is one of my favorites to make. It can be served as either a dessert or a brunch dish. I’ve served it both ways and it has always been met with great appreciation around the table. Because the chocolate chips and raspberries are evenly distributed throughout the dish, you get a bit of their sweet and tangy goodness in every bite. It is really important to use fresh fruit; if raspberries aren’t in season strawberries or even bananas can be substituted. Just be sure to fold them in right before baking so their keep their texture and color.

RASPBERRY-CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAD PUDDING

1 day-old baguette, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

4 cups milk

1 cup fresh raspberries

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

  • Lightly butter an 10 inch souffle dish. Add the bread cubes and spread them evenly throughout the dish.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended.
  • Pour in the milk and whisk until combined.
  • Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Let stand for at least 1 hour or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  • When you are ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you have refrigerated the bread mixture overnight, allow it to sit for 20 minutes at room temperature before proceeding.
  • Sprinkle the raspberries and chocolate chips over the top of the bread cubes and using a rubber spatula, gently fold them into the bread. You don’t want to break the berries but you do want them to be evenly distributed throughout the pudding.
  • Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with the confectioners’ sugar.

Serves 8

 

Croque Monsieur, Madame & Provencal

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

One sandwich served three different ways. Its a staple of French bistros and makes for the perfect snack, lunch or light dinner. Its a go-to dish that pleases just about everyone. And as such, it has become my own go-to dish to make at home as well as a reliable dish to order from restaurant menus. What it is? It’s a Croque Monsieur–or Madame or Provencal–if you like.

The concept is simple, take good quality ham and cheese, layer it on bread that has been brushed with bechamel sauce and grill it. Add a slice of tomato to make it Provencal or top it with a sunny side up to turn it into a Madam. It’s a sandwich that is meant to be eaten with a knife and fork and tastes perfect when washed down with a cool glass of Rose wine. Its so easy and so good. So go ahead and make yourself one tonight.

CROQUE MONSIEUR (or MADAME or PROVENCAL) 

To make the bechamel sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 bay leaf

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat.
  • Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in the milk, then add the ground nutmeg and bay leaf.
  • Increase the temperature to high and  whisking constantly, boil until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

For the sandwiches:

4 slices white sandwich bread

4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham

4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese

2 slices tomato (optional)

2 eggs, cooked sunny side up (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Spread the bread slices with the bechamel sauce, making sure to extend the sauce all of the way to the edges.
  • Place two slices of bread, bechamel side up, on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Top with the ham and half of the cheese. Add the tomato, if using.
  • Top with the remaining slices of bread, bechamel side up, then top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake the sandwiches until the cheese is brown and bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • If you are making Croque Madams, cook the eggs in a hot skillet coated with non-stick cooking spray.
  • When the sandwiches are toasted, slide the eggs on top of the sandwiches and serve immediately.

Serves 2

 

Asparagus w/ Chorizo & Croutons

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love asparagus for its mild, spring like flavor but in this dish, from the Smitten Kitchen, this wonderful vegetable takes on a whole new persona. The spices of Spanish chorizo sausage combines with crusty croutons, crunchy almonds and tender white beans and the asparagus in a surprisingly flavorful and definitely interesting dish. Trust me on this one, the combination of ingredients might seem a bit odd but the results are out of this world. Plus the dish is fast to make. So fast and easy that it just might be one of my favorite Fast Friday dishes yet. So try it for yourself before the asparagus is gone for the season. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

ASPARAGUS w/ CHORIZO & CROUTONS

1 pound thick asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces Spanish chorizo cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups French bread croutons cut into 3/4 inch peices
1/4 cup whole almonds
1 cup cooked beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Snap off the tough ends of each asparagus stalk and cut into 3 or 4 pieces.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chorizo and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus, croutons, almonds and salt and pepper. Stir well.
  • Cover and sauté over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes (thinner asparagus might be done sooner), tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks on all sides.
  • Add the beans and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Toss and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the beans are heated through.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

 

Fondue Neuchateloise

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Its national cheese fondue day so what better way to celebrate than with a piping hot pot of melted cheese and wine? (Actually, any night is a great one for fondue). Fondue was trendy in America back in the 1970s then seemed to fall out of favor for many years. But we love fondue in our house and are it regularly before it became trendy again. But here in Belgium, where fresh French Bread, crisp German Reisling wine and Swiss cheeses are all readily available, making this dish is a natural.

FONDUE NEUCHATELOISE

1 pound shredded cheese (I use a variety of Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler, and Greuyer)

3 tablespoons flour

1 garlic clove

1 3/4 cups dry Reisling wine

1/4 cup kirsch

salt & pepper to taste

  • Dredge the shredded cheese in flour.  I like to use a large Ziploc bag to combine everything.
  • Rub the inside of a fondue pot with sliced garlic.
  • Slowly heat the Reisling in the pot until small bubbles form.
  • Add the cheese, a handful at a time, until the cheese melts, stirring well after each addition.
  • Keep mixing until the mixture bubbles slightly.
  • Add the kirsch and season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove from heat and keep warm on a table warmer while eating.

 

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