Category Archives: snack

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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Pretzel Bites w/ Cheddar & Guinness Dipping Sauce

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Who doesn’t love pretzels? One of the best things about visiting Germany cities is the hot pretzels that are sold by street vendors on just about every corner. But since we can’t always visit Germany wen the cravings strike, I’ve taken to making my own homemade hot buttered pretzels. They are so good and disappear in minutes. For a change of pace, or when I want to feed a crowd, I’ve taken to making smaller, pretzel bites which are just as tasty. Also from King Arthur Flour, these little pretzels are almost as good as what you find on German street corners. I like to make mine savory and dip them in a hot beer and cheese sauce. If that isn’t your thing you can skip the salt coating and use a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. And while your at it, make a double batch. They are that good and disappear that quickly.

PRETZEL BITES w/ CHEDDAR & GUINNESS DIPPING SAUCE

For the pretzels:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1 cup warm water

For the topping:

1 cup boiling water

2 tablespoons baking soda

Coarse salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the dipping sauce:

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsps flour

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup Guinness Stout

2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated

  • To make the pretzel dough, place the flour, salt, yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, beat all of the ingredients until well combined.
  • Knead the dough, either by mixer or by hand for about 5 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.
  • Flour the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, combine the boiling water and baking soda in a large shallow dish, mixing until the soda is dissolved.
  • Set aside and cool to at least lukewarm temperature (or cooler).
  • Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide it into six equal pieces.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a 12 to 15 inch rope. Cut each rope crosswise into 12 pieces.
  • Place each piece of dough into the water and baking soda mixture, gently swish them around and allow them to sit for a few minutes.
  • Transfer the dough pieces to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until they are golden brown.
  • Remove the bites from the oven then roll them in the melted butter.
  • Place on a rack to cool slightly while you make the cheese sauce.
  • They taste best when eaten right away but you can also store them in an air tight container at room temperature for a couple of days. Reheat before serving.

To make the cheese sauce:

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat.
  • Add the flour, stir well and cook for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the milk and whisking constantly, cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.
  • Add the beer and stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mustard, nutmeg and salt.
  • Add the grated cheese by the handful, stirring well after each addition.
  • Serve immediately with the pretzel bites.

 

Yields: 6 dozen bites and 2 cups of cheese sauce

Rustic Chocolate Chip Tea Bread

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Think of this as a giant chocolate chip studded scone. With its crispy crust and cake like interior this is a quick bread that is just as nice for dessert as it is for a snack. And it is easy; very easy. The recipe comes from the kitchens of the Washington Post and the first time I baked this recipe the bread got eaten so quickly that I now make two (baked on two separate baking sheets). It is that good. The loaf is free formed so you can experiment with its shape–make two or four smaller loaves, make it round or rectangular–whatever you prefer. Just be sure to adjust the baking time if your loaves are smaller.

And because I am a fan of chocolate I prefer to use miniature chocolate chips since I think they give you more chocolate for your buck. You can also switch out the chocolate chips for diced dried fruit or use a combination of chocolate and fruit (sour cherries are particularly good).

RUSTIC CHOCOLATE CHIP TEA BREAD

3 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt

1/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling

10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-size chunks

1 large egg

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons, if needed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and 1/3 cup of the sugar.
  • Drop in the chunks of butter pulse until pea sized dough balls form. Transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, the 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of buttermilk and the vanilla extract.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture, sprinkle with the chocolate chips. USe a wooden spoon or paddle to stir, forming a rough, cohesive, slightly sticky dough. If the dough seems a little dry, drizzle it with an extra tablespoon or two of buttermilk.
  • Gather the dough into a rough mass with your hands, then knead lightly until it comes together completely, using firm strokes to gather it all cohesively. Form the dough into a 5 1/2-to-6-inch ball.
  • Place the ball of dough at the center baking sheet. Use a sharp paring knife to score an 1/8-inch-deep cross in the top of the ball of dough, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the loaf is set, golden on top and baked through. It should sound hollow when you lightly tap the top or bottom with a wooden spoon.
  • Cool, on the baking sheet, on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  • Slip a metal spatula under the loaf and transfer it to a separate rack to cool completely.
  • Use a serrated knife to cut slices or wedges.

Serves 12

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

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My recent trips to Germany and Austria have had me craving those hot, soft and chewy pretzels that you can buy from street vendors to sit down restaurants alike.  I’ve lost track of the number of pretzels I’ve actually eaten but I wanted more.  Being back here in Albania, the only real option is making my own so making my own I did.  This recipe from King Arthur Flour is surprisingly easy and the results are pretty close to the the Bavarian styled ones I had been craving.  They tasted much better than they looked and disappeared in a matter of minutes.

HOT BUTTERED SOFT PRETZELS

DOUGH

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

7/8 to 1 cup warm water (adjust accordingly to yield a soft dough)

TOPPING

1 cup boiling water

2 tablespoons baking soda

coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • Place the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with a steel blade.  Process for 5 seconds.
  • Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl.  Process for a further 45 seconds.
  • Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour.  Loosely cover the bowl and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, prepare the topping:  Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally dissolved.  Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm or cooler.
  • Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray or lining it with parchment paper.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces.
  • Allow the pieces to rest uncovered for 5 minutes.  Pour the baking soda/water mixture into a 9 inch square pan.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a long, thing rope (about 28 to 30 inches long) and twist each rope into a pretzel. Working with four pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops.  Leave for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet.  The baking soda “bath” will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.
  • Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle them lightly with the salt.  Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  • Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
  • Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter.  Eat the pretzels warm or reheat them in the oven or microwave.

Yield:  8 large pretzels

Gorgonzola Straws

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I found this recipe in the food section of the Washington Post and was immediately intrigued.  As a fan of blue cheese, and gorgonzola in particular, I was sure that I would love these crispy little crackers.  And as an added bonus, the recipe seemed so simple. I tested the recipe for a party and found myself enjoying them so much that I needed to make a second batch to actually feed our guests.  Yes, they are that good.  Think of them as a Cheez-it for adults.  Yum!

GORGONZOLA STRAWS

4 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling

8 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup flour, plus more for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the butter, salt, gorgonzola cheese, cayenne pepper, and flour in a food processor and pulse until a ball of dough forms.
  • Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour.
  • Divide the dough in half.  Working with one portion at a time, roll out a rectangle to a thickness of 1/4 inch.  Re-dust the rolling pin and work surface as needed.  Fold and roll as many times as needed to form a tidy 6 by 9 inch rectangle.
  • Using a long sharp knife, slice the rectangle of dough to create 18 pieces that are 1/2 inch wide and 6 inches long.
  • Use a thin spatula to transfer them to a heavy baking sheet, arranging them close together but not touching.  Repeat with the remaining dough on another sheet.
  • Sprinkle generously with salt.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 20 to 25 minute or until the straws just begin to brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Yields:  36 straws

Pretzel Bites w/ Cheddar & Guinness Dipping Sauce

IMG_3990

Who doesn’t love pretzels? One of the best things about visiting Germany cities is the hot pretzels that are sold by street vendors on just about every corner. But since we can’t always visit Germany wen the cravings strike, I’ve taken to making my own homemade hot buttered pretzels. They are so good and disappear in minutes. For a change of pace, or when I want to feed a crowd, I’ve taken to making smaller, pretzel bites which are just as tasty. Also from King Arthur Flour, these little pretzels are almost as good as what you find on German street corners. I like to make mine savory and dip them in a hot beer and cheese sauce. If that isn’t your thing you can skip the salt coating and use a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. And while your at it, make a double batch. They are that good and disappear that quickly.

PRETZEL BITES w/ CHEDDAR & GUINNESS DIPPING SAUCE

For the pretzels:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1 cup warm water

For the topping:

1 cup boiling water

2 tablespoons baking soda

Coarse salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the dipping sauce:

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsps flour

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup Guinness Stout

2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated

  • To make the pretzel dough, place the flour, salt, yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, beat all of the ingredients until well combined.
  • Knead the dough, either by mixer or by hand for about 5 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.
  • Flour the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, combine the boiling water and baking soda in a large shallow dish, mixing until the soda is dissolved.
  • Set aside and cool to at least lukewarm temperature (or cooler).
  • Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide it into six equal pieces.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a 12 to 15 inch rope. Cut each rope crosswise into 12 pieces.
  • Place each piece of dough into the water and baking soda mixture, gently swish them around and allow them to sit for a few minutes.
  • Transfer the dough pieces to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until they are golden brown.
  • Remove the bites from the oven then roll them in the melted butter.
  • Place on a rack to cool slightly while you make the cheese sauce.
  • They taste best when eaten right away but you can also store them in an air tight container at room temperature for a couple of days. Reheat before serving.

To make the cheese sauce:

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat.
  • Add the flour, stir well and cook for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the milk and whisking constantly, cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.
  • Add the beer and stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mustard, nutmeg and salt.
  • Add the grated cheese by the handful, stirring well after each addition.
  • Serve immediately with the pretzel bites.

 

Yields: 6 dozen bites and 2 cups of cheese sauce

Ricotta & Onion-Port Jam Flatbread

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When is pizza not pizza? When it is flatbread of course. Flat bread is one of my favorite go to foods. It can be served as part of a light dinner, as an appetizer or even a mid afternoon snack. All it takes is some flatbread—pre made or my preference of fresh homemade pizza dough– and the toppings of your choice. You can make them sweet, savory or a combination of the two. Top them with meat, cheese, fruits or vegetables. Really, anything can be a topping for flatbread so you can make individual ones to please your entire family or bake up a variety for a smorgasbord.

This flatbread is one of my favorites and is inspired by the Savory Simple food blog. I’ve used my own pizza dough and topped it with fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled bacon and homemade port infused onion jam. The jam is sweet, savory and decadent and the key to its success is cooking the onions slowly so they caramelize. You can make the jam earlier in the day if you prefer then top the flatbread with it when you are ready to cook. So go ahead and try this recipe then let your imagination decide which direction you go next. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

RICOTTA & ONION-PORT JAM FLATBREAD 

For the flatbread:

1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup onion-port jam

1 cup crumbled bacon

1/4 cup green onions, minced

For the Onion-Port Jam:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large yellow onions, peeled, quartered and sliced thin

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup water (more if needed)

1/2  cup port wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • Melt the butter on low heat in a large skillet.
  • Add the onions, sugar and salt.
  • Sweat the onions, stirring, until they begin to caramelize.
  • Turn up the heat to medium-low. Once the onions have begun to brown, pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of water into the pan to deglaze, using a spatula to scrape up the brown bits and stir them into the onions.
  • Repeat this glazing and deglazing process until the onions have been thoroughly caramelized and taste both sweet and bitter, approximately 25-35 minutes.
  • Add the port wine and balsamic vinegar to the onions and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until all of the liquid has reduced and is coating the onions.
  • Taste and add a bit more salt if desired.

When you are ready to build your flatbreads:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. If your oven has a pizza setting, use that.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then set aside.
  • Divide the pizza dough into four even portions and working one at a time on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a long oval.
  • Place each piece of dough on the prepared baking sheet taking care to make sure the edges are not touching.
  • Place 1/4 cup of the ricotta cheese on the top of each piece of dough and use a rubber spatula to evenly distribute it across the entire surface.
  • Divide the onion-port jam amongst the flatbreads, spreading it to cover as much of the surface area as possible.
  • Add the bacon and the green onions to each flatbread, evenly distributing them across the top of each one.
  • Bake flat breads for 15-17 minutes or until the crusts are browned and crisp and the toppings are beginning to bubble.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Yields: 4 flatbreads

 

 

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