Breads

Honey Wheat Oatmeal Bread

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Last week we rented a zipcar and headed into the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.  When we dreamed about moving back to Oregon, this is what we dreamed about.  It took us an entire year, almost to the day, but we finally did it.  We have some special friends who just bought a home, right in the middle of this dreamland.  Behind their home was a gorgeous waterfall to explore, and inside their home was the smell of potato bacon soup and freshly baked bread waiting to be savored.  Our time was short but our souls felt refreshed.

As we drove away a few thoughts danced around in my head.  One, when you don’t use a car often, it can become a romantic form of transportation, like train hoping or sailing. I never thought I would say that!  Two, after a year hiatus of baking my own bread, my bones are aching, and my tummy are longing for it.  It’s time my simple seeking, slow beating, dough kneading heart, come alive again.  Three, I have greatly underestimated the power of choice or lack there of.

When we chose to sell our car almost two years ago we had a long list of reasons why we wanted to do so. That list still remains, but I will admit that with the growing of our family, I’ve held it looser than ever before.  At that time finances felt really tight, but technically we could afford our car, we just had other things we wanted to do with our money.  Getting out from under our student loans, eating good food, and having date nights with not one, but two cocktails, always sounded more attractive than owning a car.  It still does!  However the financial reasons for living car free were never at the top of my list and they were never the motivation that energized my legs in 10 below.

About a year into living car free, and a year ago this week, we moved back to Portland and started over. From scratch.  We were at our rock bottom, with no job, no insurance, no midwife, and no home for our desired home birth.  I was six and a half months pregnant.  I’m sure in five years I will have a very different, perhaps more light hearted tone in my voice when I remember and share stories from the last year.  It was completely nuts, to say the least.  In any case, we spent the last year climbing ourselves up and out of our rock bottom but it has taken time and patience, and we are still climbing.  And so using a car share as much as we would like, or buying a car is not an option in our current situation.  Let it be known that we are not throwing in the towel, and we aren’t planning on buying a car anytime soon.  BUT, what if we did have a change of heart, and what if we did want to buy our own car?  The feelings that come from the reality of that answer have played games with my head and heart this last year.  Most days I really enjoy and believe in our lifestyle, I just never realized how much that enjoyment could be connected to the fact that it was once a choice.

I grew up thinking choice was a birth right and maybe it is when you grow up in white, middle class America.  For the majority of my life the choices I had and made did not leave me without, they just left me with something different.  But there is a difference between choosing not to spend your $5 on a latte and not having the $5 to buy a latte.  There is a difference between choosing to keep your holiday shopping simple and having to keep it simple.  There is a difference between willingly scheduling your C-section and being told you must have a C-section.  There is a difference between taking an hour and a half bus ride at 10 pm because you’re reminding yourself of an awesome date night that saved money allows you to go on, and taking that bus because there is no other option.  You have tangible choices until you hit rock bottom, then you have the choice to make the most of what you have, the choice to be content with your life.

I am content with my life and I can’t remember the last time I was in such a sweet, peaceful place.  I am blessed beyond measure and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wake up believing that.  But behind all this gratefulness has been the wrestling of these thoughts and emotions.  I find it interesting how one year to the next, our lifestyle can look the same on the outside and feel so very different on the inside.  You could assume that the last two years I didn’t own a car because I was a tree hugging hippie but this year I can’t afford one and that could place me under a whole other label.  Which brings up something else on my heart.  I am no longer interested in being defined by labels.  They once felt fun and empowering but quickly they can become divisive and toxic.  I don’t want to be a breastfeeding, baby wearing, organic, car free, bicycle riding mama.  I just want to be a mama who loves her babies, riding her bike and baking bread.  I want to enjoy things and do things, without being defined by them.  In this season, this year of living without a car, I’m learning that contentment is less about the end results and outcomes and more about the story upon arriving.  Our stories will always be more powerful than the text-book labels we try to put ourselves in.  And choice, it is a very powerful thing.

Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Bread

Slightly adapted from Girl vs. Dough

1 cup water

1 cup whole milk

2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

3 tablespoons honey

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

2 cups bread or all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 tablespoon salt

Topping:

Small handful of oats

1 tbsp. butter, melted

1 tbsp. honey

Heat water and milk in a small sauce pan until it is warm to the touch.  Pour into a stand mixer and add honey and yeast.  Let the yeast activate for 10 minutes.  Melt butter and set aside to cool.  After yeast mixture is proofed, pour in the butter.  Attach your dough hook attachment to your stand mixer. Combine all your flours, oats and salt in a medium size bowl and give it a quick mix with a whisk.  While mixer is on a medium speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients.  The dough should start to come together into a large ball.  It should be slightly tacky but you don’t want it to stick to the sides of the bowl.  If the dough appears to wet, you can add a tablespoon of flour at a time.  Knead for 8 minutes.

Place dough in a well buttered large bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Let rest for 1 hour, (or doubled in size,) in a warm draft free place. I like to place my rising dough in the oven with the light on.  After risen, punch down the dough and pull dough from the sides, bringing it into the center, until you have worked all the way around the bowl.  Generously butter your loaf pan then stretch out dough to fit the length of the pan.  Place the dough inside and cover again with a tea towel and let rise in a draft free place for 45 minutes.  While dough is rising a second time preheat oven to 400.

Once dough is risen the second time, pour melted butter and honey on top of the loaf and sprinkle with oats. Bake for 40-50, depending on your climate.  Let cool completely before removing from the pan.  From my impatience and eagerness to try the bread, I have learned the hard way.  LET IT COOL! Slice and serve honey butter.

 

Make Ahead Honey Orange Wheat Rolls

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I turn my back briefly, and then turn back around to find her this way.  It’s probably safe to say that there are few 2 year-old staging photographs of their dinner rolls.  It’s far too precious to disrupt, even if she is moments away from potentially breaking one of my few prized possessions.  I chuckle and grab my phone to take a picture of her, taking a picture.  When we are in the thick of rainy season, with a heavy dose of cabin fever, I find myself saying yes to almost anything that peaks her curiosity, and keeps the peace.  Baking is our go-to, meltdown free, domestic adventure these days.  Especially if I surrender and trade in cleanliness and precision for destruction and independence.

These rolls are the BEST homemade rolls you will ever taste!  They are so close to perfection that I am forgoing sharing a heartfelt story because it’s almost Christmas and you must make these rolls.  The dark circles beneath my eyes are begging for some beauty sleep and my thoughts are too scattered to come together in a timely fashion.  The story can wait, but the rolls cannot.  I have made them three times, first on Thanksgiving, once on a Tuesday and again last night.  They are most definitely worthy of scheduling your life around them, even with two small babes.  Start the dough the night before you want to eat them, and your extra effort will not go unnoticed.  Merry Christmas friends!

Make Ahead Honey Orange Wheat Rolls

Recipe from The Faux Martha

Makes 9 large rolls

3/4 cup whole milk

2 1/2 tsp. yeast

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

3 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 large egg

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup potato starch

Glaze

2 tbsp. butter

2 tsp. honey

Squeeze of orange

*Serve with Orange honey butter.  All three times I forgot to document my ratios.  I suggest you use high quality butter, raw honey and a few squeezes of fresh orange and just go with it, because with these three ingredients you really can’t go wrong.

Directions:

Heat milk on the stove top until it reaches to 110 degrees. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk and set aside to proof for 10 minutes.

Combine all purpose flour, wheat flour, and potato starch in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment beat butter, sugar, egg, salt, and the milk and yeast mixture on medium speed.  Slowly add the flours and potato starch until the dough starts to form into a ball.  The dough should be soft but not sticky and should not stick the sides when mixing.  Mix for 8 minutes to activate the gluten.  Place the ball of dough in a large lightly oiled bowl and cover for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.

After the dough has risen I like to use a butter knife to cut the dough horizontally, vertically and then twice diagonally, making 9 equal pieces, resembling a small pizza.  Use your hands to pull apart and shape into little balls.  I pull the dough from the sides and pinch them into the center until I have gone all the way around the edges.  Place the pinched sides down into a lightly oiled 9 inch pan (I love using cast iron,) but any baking dish will do.

Cover with serran wrap and place in the fridge overnight.  The next day, about an hour or two before you want to eat them, remove them from the fridge and let sit at room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and with a pastry brush or your hands make sure rolls are evenly covered.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.  Enjoy warm with orange honey butter.

Cinnamon Rolls With Cream Cheese Frosting

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I’ve been brewing for weeks, with nothing to say, only much to feel.  Melancholy has always been good for my creative soul, and yet it seems in this season it paralyzes, rather than moves me.  Each day I am lead on a melodramatic voyage, by which I see everything through the impossible lense of the present.  I am left right back where I started, but with nothing tangible to hold, write, or at the very least, eat.  It’s exhausting really, and I am left feeling robbed of the beautiful mundane that I was once so good at savoring, and celebrating.

Somehow, remembering that it’s November magically takes me out of this less than desirable state of mind, if only for the brief moments I reminisce about family tradition.  Every November I bake my first batch of cinnamon rolls in preparation for the big bake on Christmas Eve.  Maybe I like the excuse to eat them twice a year, or maybe my body and mind need to be reminded of this domestic rhythm that helps connect me to the women I never knew, but the blood that is always running through me.  It’s as if these cinnamon rolls are my access to wisdom from my grandmothers.  It’s as if this process of mixing, kneading, rising, baking, cooling, and frosting, whispers truth back into the gray.  This morning I needed to be shaken abruptly, and held fiercely.  I need to walk myself to tears, borrow brown sugar from a neighbor, and bake my way back into bliss.  I needed to smother Octave in kisses, and eat three cinnamon rolls with her.  Sometimes the little things can solve big things.

Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 18 rolls

Dough

1 cup whole milk

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 1/2 tsp. yeast

2 eggs

3 1/2-3/4 cup flour, divided

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. sea salt

Filling

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 tbsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cloves

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

A few squeezes of fresh orange juice, or until you reach your preferred consistency

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add milk and heat until it is slightly hot to the touch.  Transfer butter and milk to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.  Add egg and beat on low until combined.  Add 1 1/2 cup flour, salt, yeast, and sugar.   Beat on medium speed until combined well, scrapping sides of bowl if necessary.  Add the rest of the flour and mix for 3-4 minutes until a ball of dough forms.  It should be soft a pliable but not stick to the bottom or sides of the bowl.  Add flour a tablespoon at a time if it seems necessary.  Place dough in a large oiled bowl and let rise for 2-3 hours or doubled in size.

Rolls dough out into a rectangle the size of a large baking sheet.  Using a knife spread softened butter on top of dough and sprinkle mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves evenly on top.  Using the longer side of the dough, start rolling dough into the sugar and cinnamon and pinch dough as necessary.  Leaving the seam side down, and with a serrated knife, cut dough into 3/4 inch rolls.

Place rolls in a buttered pan, leaving room for them to rise.  Cover with seran wrap and place in the fridge to rise overnight.  My mom always let her rolls rise overnight and I used to think a few hours would do the trick but letting them have a long rise is absolutely key to a perfect fluffy dough.

The morning you are ready to bake preheat oven to 375.  Bake cinnamon rolls for 20-24 minutes.  Make your frosting while the rolls cool for 10-15 minutes.  Frost to your hearts content.

Old Bananas, New Nest

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This week exhaustion finds rest in my bones, for good reason, and with internal excitement.   Reflections and shadows introduce a new story, a new home, and a new life.  Days are documented in numbers of trips to the big girl potty, and dishes washed by hand. Every. Single. One.  Time swells, runs and hides inside our new walls.  It has been this way all along, and yet everything feels brand new.  Creaky floors, natural light, and old smells, tell stories from the lives that once lived here.  Yet, I can still see a blank canvas, and feel plenty of new space for us, and the wildly ambitious unknown.

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Days without the Internet make room for my own real life to surge back through my veins.  I feel collected, and alive.  I have time, and space to rummage, and remember.  I have time to create.

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Dance classes fill my inquiries with complex questions, and translucent, floating answers.  For just one night a week I forget I am a wife, and a mother, yet those identities dwell inside every last breath of my movement.  I pedal home with a backpack and lazy bun, affirming that in just this one instance, place is nothing, while instinct and necessity are everything.  From coast to coast, and even in the middle of nowhere, a life long mover I am, and always will be.  I rest well in this acknowledgment.

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This week in moving I find boxes of old Polaroid’s, love letters, and journals.  I pause, and reflect honestly on the distance between then, and now.  I find the tiny box that held my time capsule ring, from Vienna, and the receipt that says I did in fact, travel thousands of miles back, without an address, only my photographic memory, to exchange my dated ring for another.  The receipt is marked 10.10.08…a date of anticipation, a date of pure magic, a date I wore on my finger for years.

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I realize that if not for moving, this would be my first October 10th, without celebrating, or at least, even just remembering.  How could I ever forget?  I promised I would never forget.  I find a box with no ring, and devastation swells.  I forget that it was lost, ironically the same week I got married, as if to say, I gladly trade in one story, for another.  But now there is nothing tangible to tell that epic story, there are only my memories, and details that I am slowly forgetting.

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Octave sits beside me, and I whisper, June 7th, I can’t believe I never went.  My heart hurts for a few minutes, but life is not a fairytale, it is crazymessybeautiful.  I feel instant relief because I don’t have to use words to make myself feel better.  Truly, I have no regrets.  I married the man I never thought existed, and because of that we made the most curious, spicy, and vivacious little human imaginable.  I have all I could ever want.  And maybe something special is still bound to happen on that day, it may just be a few years late.

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Maybe this June, I will trade in that date for something.  Or perhaps the letting go of that ring, and that return, was indeed a metaphor for choices in life.  Maybe my life became most meaningful when I had to start making choices, and sacrifices that have hardly felt like sacrifices at all.

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After toiling over what to bake first in our new nest, I choose banana bread.  The bananas are old, but there is so much new.  It seems simple, classic, and a humble way to be introduced to my new kitchen.  It says welcome home, stay a while, eat three pieces of me, (with lots of butter!)  Baked goods speak to me, and so I speak back in foodie love, eating them with the upmost gratitude, and adoration.  So, here is to something classic, in the midst of everything new.

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Browned Butter Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1 ½ cups spelt flour, all purpose works too

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. baking soda

***

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and browned

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1  1/2 cups of very ripe mashed banana (2-3 bananas depending on size)

½ cup whole milk plain greek yogurt

½ cup walnut pieces+ a small handful more for topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt butter until it is crackling and slightly brown. Remove from heat, and stir in brown sugar until it is combined.  It will be really thick and sticky.

In a large bowl combine mashed banana, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, browned butter/sugar and  whisk well.

Slowly add in dry ingredients, and whisk until combined.  Gently fold in the walnuts.

Grease your loaf pan with butter and pour in batter.  Bake for 55-60 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Let cool for at least 15 minutes.  Remove from pan, slice and serve with butter.

Update: The baking time has changed dramatically depending on where I have used this recipe.  I have found being at sea level requires more time, while at high altitude it has needed much less.  Check your oven frequently and know that you may need to place foil over the top of your bread if your climate requires a longer bake time.

Brown Butter Orange Rosemary Cornbread

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I am knee-deep in season induced memories.  Cool fall air does this.  I reminisce with every breeze, and bite, and store those memories in my never ever forget pile.  I harbor these memories in a small space, on the inside of my left forearm.  It humbly holds the stories that make up my life.  My autumns are locked up in limbs and lungs, chili, and cornbread.

Chili, and cornbread capture the best things about home…both the one I came from, and the one I have created.  After three years in the making, my labor of love has come to fruition, in the middle of Wyoming, found in the best cornbread I have ever tasted.

Favorite chili recipe coming soon…

Brown Butter Orange Rosemary Cornbread

Adapted from Joy The Baker

Makes 9 big pieces of perfect cornbread

1 1/4 cups cornmeal

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. baking soda

***

1/4 heaping cup of cane sugar+ 1 tbsp. for garnish

2 tbsp. chopped rosemary

Zest from 1 1/2 oranges, reserve  zest from the 1/2 orange for garnish

***

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 tbsp. raw honey

2 eggs

1 cup whole milk

3 tbsp. orange juice

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Melt butter in a small saucepan until it is golden brown, aromatic and crackling.  Add honey, stir, and set aside to cool.

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar, rosemary and orange zest in a small bowl and using a spoon, thoroughly rub rosemary and zest into the sugar. Combine with other dry ingredients.

Whisk together eggs, milk, orange juice, butter and honey.  Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Grease an 8×8 pan with butter or oil, and pour in the batter.  Combine the reserved tbsp. of sugar and orange zest, and sprinkle on top.

Bake for 24-28 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through the middle. Place a knife or tooth pick in the center to check.

Let cool for 15-20 minutes.  Slice into 9 equal squares.

An Almond Danish Of Some Sort

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Disclaimer: These are not healthy!  Not by the furthest stretch of ones imagination.  However, they make my heart really happy.  So happy that I currently wear my hair in braids, lips in red, and feet in heels, on a casual Saturday morning, while Octave is napping, and Christopher is working.  I woke up cranky and these beauties turned it all around.  I just had to sweep the floors, fold the laundry, wash the dishes,  and eat three beautiful pasty’s first.  I have never been one for instant gratification, so the fact that they were a labor of love, makes every bite sweeter.

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I have been wanting to make my own puff pasty/Danish/almond croissant-ish, type goodness for quite some time.  I have just been intimidated, and convinced this was not a smart baking adventure for Octave and I just yet.  But the intrigue kept growing, and I found myself laying in bed consumed with thoughts of almond croissants (my favorite)…all. night. long.  I imagined myself oceans away, wearing braids, red lips, heels, and my favorite apron, learning from bakers and artists alike.  I know France is home to the best croissants, but there is just something about the Danes.  I deeply identify with the way they bake, ride, design, dress, view childbirth, and child rear.  The most basic and natural things in life seem to be viewed as normal.  I want to learn to bake where natural is normal, not weird.

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So we finally did it!  We attempted a Danish like dough, with coconut milk, and then added our own twist for the topping.  The good news is, it can only get easier and better from here.  For the first try, I was not disappointed.  Octave was there for every roll, pat, and rise, hence why I am using “we.”  However “we” did not eat raw flour and butter, that was all on her lonesome.  The girl has got this baking thing down.  In fact she asks to bake moments upon waking, and is spending her play time teaching her monkey all the things she is learning.  “Hold on.  Let’s see. Pat it. Roll it. Watch me. Turn it. Mince garlic. Ilovegarlic,” are apparently phrases I say often, because I hear her telling all her plush friends these lovely things.  So daily, we bake and daily we ride, and I hope somehow it evens itself out, because like I said earlier pasty’s make my heart really, really happy, and sometimes I just don’t care to make a healthy version of something that has been working for hundreds of years.  I am starting to think that has got to count for something.

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Dough adapted from Oh Lady Cakes

Pastry Dough

3/4 cup full fat coconut milk (in a can)

2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

2 cups unbleached flour, or more as needed

2 tbsp. cane sugar

1 tsp. sea salt

1 cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

Heat coconut milk in a small saucepan.  Use a thermometer if you have one.  You are aiming for 105-110 degrees.  Mix milk and yeast in a small bowl, whisk together and set aside for 15 minutes.  Milk should bubble and be foaming.  If this is not the case, you may want to start over with your yeast, because the end results might not be as good.

Meanwhile in a stand mixer, with the dough hook attachment, combine flour, sugar, salt, and mix on medium speed until combined.  Add in 2 tbsp. of very cold butter, cut into tiny pieces.  I put my butter in the freezer about 15 minutes before I used it.  Mix on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, or until butter has mixed into the flour, resembling tiny little pebbles.  Add in milk and yeast, and mix until just combined.  Dough should just come together.  I only needed 2 cups of flour but you may need up to 1/4 cup more depending on your altitude.  If you do need more, add in 1 tbsp. at a time, as to make sure you don’t use more than you really need.  Form dough into a square, wrap tightly in plastic and let rest in the fridge for 90 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and roll dough into a large rectangle, about 12×24.  Spread the rest of the butter (2 sticks) across 2/3 of the dough.  Fold the third of the unbuttered dough onto the middle third, and fold over once again.  Pinch the sides of the dough together and fold once again, in thirds, only this time the opposite direction.  Dough should now be in the shape of a small rectangle.  Wrap tightly in plastic and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.  On a well floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle.  I was not able to roll it out exactly 12×24 again, but it still worked great.  Repeat the same folding pattern, only this time without the butter.  This is the part I found most challenging.  I had butter coming out on the sides, and was worried I was not doing something right.  Even if you lose some butter and the dough breaks up a little, just work with it the best you can, and keep going.  Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling 2 more times, without butter, and once again wrap tightly in plastic and let the dough rest, only this time, overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 375.  On a floured surface, roll out dough one last time.  Dough should be about 1/3 inch thick.  Use a pizza cutter, cut off the rough edges, and create a new clean, even square.  Discard the edges.  Cut dough into squares, a little bit smaller than the palm of your hand.  I lost a little bit of my dough, because I had a little helper by my side but ideally this recipe will make 16-18 pastry’s.  Place pastry squares on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and stick in the freezer while you prepare your almond paste.  Paste can also be made ahead of time.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out almond paste and press into the center of each pasty  Garnish with fresh berries, pears, peaches, plums, or whatever else suits your fancy.  Bake for 14-16 minutes or until slightly golden and crispy.  Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and garnish with powdered sugar.  These taste best the same day you bake them but can keep in the fridge for a few days.

Almond Paste

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. almond extract

1 egg white

Place almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse for 4-5 minutes until nuts are fine enough to look like flour.  The sugar will prevent it grinding into a paste just yet.  Add egg white and almond extract, and pulse for another 2-3 minutes until it forms a ball of lovely almond paste.  The aroma coming out of the food processor is fantastic!  Store in an air tight container until you are ready to use.  This recipe makes a little more than you will need for the pastries.  You can keep for a week in your fridge and use in other baking or store in the freezer.

Garnish

2 ripe pears or other fruit of choice

Powdered sugar

Fool Proof Hollandaise + Successfully Poached Eggs!

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It turns out I have been using the wrong terminology for poached eggs, and sourdough english muffins, smothered in hollandaise.  Without bacon it really can’t be considered eggs Benedict.  With spinach it is considered eggs Florentine, and eggs Irish, with corn beef hash.  I like mine with avocado and arugula, or smoked salmon, with homemade sourdough english muffins.  I still want to call it eggs Benedict, because I just love the name, but if we are to be technical, it’s not really.  In any case, I have steered away from this breakfast because poached eggs intimidate me and I have never gotten them just right.  My sister and brother in law have nailed this breakfast so many times, that I figured I should just leave it to them.  But since we live a thousand miles away, and last week I had a persistent craving for eggs Benedict, for dinner, I thought I should get serious about learning.  The tips I’ve mentioned below were really helpful.  Hollandaise, while it is super classic, can also be intimidating.  The whisking and heating it just right seems challenging when trying to cook with Octave.  So, I found a hollandaise made with a blender.  Brilliant and fool-proof, without any sacrifice in taste.  Seriously.  Give it a go, and on a lazy weekend morning dine in, and enjoy some killer homemade eggs bene.

Recipe Serves Two

English Muffins

2 sourdough english muffins.

Recipe here.  If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can check out this recipe, or save time and buy your favorite brand.

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

1 stick of unsalted butter

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Pinch of cayenne

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor mix eggs yolks, lemon juice, Dijon and cayenne.  Blend for 30 seconds.  Very very slowly, while blender is still on, pour butter through the top hole.  Keep blending until the texture becomes thick and creamy and the color changes to a soft yellow.  This should take about 2 minutes.  I did mine a little longer because I had timers going off for the eggs, toast, and blender, while trying to keep little hands from cracking eggs and pushing more blender buttons.  The hollandaise got slightly neglected.  I do not recommend poaching eggs or making hollandaise with a toddler trying to help.  In any case, if you decide to give it a try, I don’t think it hurts to blend a little longer.  The texture was really nice and I preferred it over last weeks, which only got about a minute of blending.  If your eggs and muffins are not ready, you can place sauce in a thermos, or if everything is timed perfectly, transfer to a serving dish or just pour on your eggs straight out of the blender.

Poached Eggs

4 eggs

Bring a saucepan to a low boil and add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar.  Crack your egg in a small bowl to make it easier to transfer to the simmering water.  Whisk water in the center of the saucepan to create a whirlpool in the middle.  Gently tilt egg into the middle of the whirl pool.  Cook for 3 1/2 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer egg to a bowl of ice water, to keep from continuing to cook.  Repeat process with the rest of the eggs.  After all the eggs are cooked, transfer each one back to the simmering water for about 30 seconds.

Toast English muffins, slather with butter and slices of avocado, bacon, greens, salmon, or other ingredients you love.  Place poached eggs on english muffins and generously pour hollandaise sauce on top.  Garnish with paprika, and or fresh herbs.  Ps. Octave garnished the eggs:)

Homemade Pizza Dough

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I never liked pizza growing up.  I know that sounds crazy, but cheap grease and highly processed ingredients never set well with my tummy or my taste buds, even before I was old enough to know what really went in those pizzas.  It wasn’t until I visited Naples, and I ate my very first authentic pizza, a classic Margarita, that I started to warm up to the idea.  I ate so much pizza that first trip that I returned home fluent in pizza and in love with everything Neapolitan.  In fact, I may have cried, heartbroken that I was not born Neapolitan.  I was sixteen, intrigued with Buddhism and convinced that I had to have been a Neapolitan in a past life.  I have always been a seeker, and in Naples I found a piece of myself that I never want to let go.  While my world view has changed dramatically, my love for pizza has not.  Now one of my favorite things in the whole wide world to eat is a good pizza, not too saucy, not too complicated and the kind that is not intended to be shared.  I want a pizza all to my lonesome.

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It has become a weekly dinner, and is usually enjoyed at the end of the week when I am trying to use random vegetables that didn’t get used earlier in the week.  With the right dough, quality olive oil and some roasted garlic, every vegetable tastes fantastic.  There is really nothing you can’t put on pizza.  Lately, little miss Octave has been requesting pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every. Single. Day!  Although she probably won’t be eating pizza as much as she would like, it is really sweet to watch and learn her preferences.

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I found this recipe a few years ago at 101 cookbooks.  I have adapted it slightly, using coarse sea salt and a little more water.  In my experience, the wetter the dough, the better result.  Spelt flour and whole wheat flour work fine here too, however I wouldn’t substitute more than half, otherwise it is pretty heavy.  While those flours work, and I usually just use whatever we have around, I prefer unbleached white bread flour because it creates the perfect consistency for traditional pizza dough.  This recipe makes enough for 3-4  pizzas, depending on the size you prefer, so I usually make 2 at a time and freeze the rest.  If the dough is made ahead of time, a pizza from scratch only takes a few minutes to prepare and 15-20 minutes to bake.  Or on a lazy day, if you have those, you can prepare the entire pizza, toppings and all, place it on a baking sheet with parchment paper and put in the freezer until it is solid.  About 45 minutes.  Transfer to a large ziploc bag, put it back in the freezer, and bake whenever you need a quick meal.

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Last night we ate this pizza with cherry and roma tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced red onions, a killer 25-year-old aged balsamic my mom just sent me, and a healthy amount of mozzarella and basil.  The only thing missing was the pistachio pesto I posted last week.  That smeared underneath all these lovely ingredients is absolutely delicious.  Tonight Octave will be happy to find we are having pizza again.  With the left over dough from last night, it is just too easy not to use again tonight.  Tonight’s pizza is balsamic roasted potatoes, beets, carrots and onions with a lot of feta, and a fried egg or two.  The good news is I have tried absolutely everything you can imagine and ingredients you probably cannot imagine, on top of this dough, and while I have combinations I prefer, I am rarely disappointed.  I cannot compare this dough to the beautiful pizzas that come out of Naples, because every single ingredient down to the city water and cigarette smoke lingering in the pizzeria, plays a crucial role in the taste and experience.  BUT, it is my favorite go-to recipe that I have used thus far.  So, go traditional or get adventurous, and make some homemade pizza!

Pizza Dough

Makes 2 medium-large pizzas

4 ½ cups unbleached bread flour

1 ¾ tsp. coarse sea salt

1 tsp. instant yeast

2 cups scant filtered water, warm to the touch

¼ cup olive oil

Handful of cornmeal

Directions

In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Add water and olive oil and mix on medium speed until the dough starts to come together.  Knead for 5-7 minutes.  If you are mixing by hand use a large wooden spoon to mix together and once the dough starts together, wet your hands and start to knead. Keep wetting your hands so they don’t stick to the dough.  It will take a little longer by hand, maybe 10-12 minutes.  Keep working with the dough until it is smooth and slightly tacky.  It should not almost look silky, and you want your dough to be more on the wet side.  When I use my mixer, this is easier to attain, because you don’t have to worry about the dough sticking to your hands.  Form dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl.  Cover with a towel, and place in warm place to let rise for at least 2 hours, The original recipe does not call for the dough to rise, but I have noticed a big difference when I let it.  I have even let it rise for 4 hours and the results get better.  Split dough into 2 equals portions.

Preheat your oven to 425.  On a well floured surface, roll out your dough as thick or as think as you like.  I change-up the thickness depending on what ingredients I am using.  The less ingredients, the thinner I roll out my dough.  Dust a pizza stone or baking sheet with parchment paper with a generous handful of cornmeal.  Place your dough on top and drizzle 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil before you garnish with your favorite ingredients.  Bake for 18-22 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cutting board.  Slice and serve.

Sourdough English Muffins For The Man I Adore.

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My hands crack and bleed from the dry Wyoming climate combined with the bottomless pile of dishes that stack up in our kitchen sink.  Making every single thing from scratch without a dishwasher is beginning to take its toll.   Dough rises, seeds soak, something roasts, and yet another dish is dirty.  I find meaning in this alone.  However, much motivation comes from a husband who appreciates every single thing these hands make.  He notices the details and finishing touches.  He notices the garnish, the pinch of paprika and love I sprinkle on top.  He thanks me daily for his lunches and snacks and apparently speaks highly of my kitchen endeavors while my hands are at home, in another experiment, another mess, another dirty dish.  Not enough can be said for how much this means to me.  Surely I would chop, whisk, knead, arrange and garnish even if he didn’t find amusement and delight in these tasks but when he does, my joy is doubled.  My heart spills over.  I feel like I need a second heart to help carry this beautiful load.  Like a handwritten letter from a friend or a snow day that keeps us all home together.  Like not one but two cocktails on date night, to accompany appetizers, AND dessert, unexpected happenings mean so much.  A pleasant surprise always makes the moment sweeter.  Without expectations, joy is amplified.

One of my favorite things about Christopher is his lack on entitlement, how he expects nothing.  When I cook or bake for him, I get to see yet another quality I adore so much…his passion for life, his zeal for the mundane, the value he puts on things others take for granted.  I don’t know anyone who can talk about the smell of bacon, the freshness of grapefruit and the perfection of bread, butter and jam, like he can.  He has a gift for finding symbols weaved in and around all that fills up our lives and a gift for the details.  He has a gift for making even an English muffin seem like a feast for Kings.  This means we can eat English muffins for dinner beneath eggs, avocado, jam and cream cheese.  We can eat them on the floor with a cold beer  and be completely content.  This means I receive just as much thanks and honest excitement for English muffins for dinner as pulled pork taco’s or his favorite sun-dried tomato pasta.   With him, English muffins are as good as cargo bikes, windy days, forts and limes.  Almost as satisfying as pizza in Naples or croissants in Paris.   We can eat English muffins for dinner and feel like we have got the whole wide world on our plates and at our fingertips.  We have each other, and so I think we do…

Makes 8 Sourdough English Muffins

1/2 cup sourdough starter

1 cup whole milk

2 cups flour

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1 tbsp. raw honey

This recipe is super easy you just have to plan ahead.  You only knead about 10 minutes to prepare the dough before its long rise, and about 10 minutes  the next day to shape before it has another quick rise.  Then another 15 minutes to cook the muffins.

The day before you want to eat your english muffins, prepare the dough.  This dough needs to rise for at least 15 hours but can go as long as 24.  The longer you let it sit, the more sour the muffins.  Combine starter, and milk in a stand mixer with the dough hook attatchment(this can also be done by hand, it will just take a little longer.)  Let mix together until combined.  Add honey and salt and continue to mix for another minute.  Add flour and let the mixer knead for 5 minutes.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with a towel and it let rise for 15-24 hours.  I place my mine in the oven with the light on.  After it has risen, generously flour your countertop and add a little more flour on top of your dough if is too wet.  You don’t want it to be stiff, you just want to able to knead without it sticking to the counter.  Knead for a few minutes by hand and separate into 8 equal pieces.  Shape them into the balls and then using a rolling pin to flatten them out a bit.  Sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina flour and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes.  In a well oiled skillet, on medium heat, cook muffins for about 5-7 minutes on each side.  Once they are cooked on the stove, you can also put all the muffins in a oven heated at 350 for 5 minutes to ensure they are cooked all the way through.  It just depends on how hot your skillet was before you stared.  Once they are cooked, let them cool completely.  This step is really important for the inside to resemble and taste like an English muffin.  Wait at least an hour.  Slice open, with a serrated knife, toast and spread on your favorite topping.

Ciabatta Bread

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I am baker because it is in my blood. Both of my grandmothers, although I never knew them, were fantastic bakers.  Or so I am told.  When I bake, specifically bread, I feel like I am connecting with part of my past that I didn’t get the chance to know.  When I watch my Dads face as he describes the beautiful baked treats his mother made, I get a glimpse of her.  My Dad hardly has to say anything, just that look, of childlike enthusiasm for something warm out of the oven speaks right to my heart.  It is like I know her.  I identify with a woman I never met simply by witnessing the look in my Dads eyes.  He remembers her well when he remembers the tastes she created.

This is only the first of reasons why I love to bake.  The muscle it takes to knead, the hours and patience to rise, and having something tangible for my time, are things I cherish about the process.  I have never considered myself patient, in fact far from it.  When I bake bread something in me changes.  I suddenly am the most patient version of myself and then around the last hour of the rising dough I am like a kid on Christmas Eve, squirming with anticipation of what comes next.  That moment when I unveil the towel from the bowl to see how well my dough rose, is like Christmas morning, only much more rewarding.

This ciabatta bread is my favorite recipe for bruschetta and sandwiches.  It tastes great toasted with nut butter, nutella or some avocado and fresh squeezed lemon and sea salt.  It even tastes great all on its own.  Be warned that the taste is not the only thing to savor because the aroma of baking ciabatta makes everything look and feel more beautiful.  It’s true.

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Ciabatta Bread

4 packed level cups+2 tbsp. high quality bread flour

3 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. active dry yeast

2 cups warm filtered water

Olive oil for bowl

Without a scale, flour can be measured so differently by each person, so I want to note that I packed each cup full and leveled it off from there.  I did the same with the tablespoons.  I used filtered water and then warmed it in the kettle on high for about 3 minutes.  Water should be a comfortable bath temperature.

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Slowly pour in warm water while mixer is on low.  Once all the water is incorporated, turn mixer to medium speed and let it knead for about 5 minutes.  Dough should be slightly wet and still stick to the sides.  After 5 minutes the dough will be tacky, smooth and almost have a creamy texture to it.  Use a spatula to take  dough out of the mixer and place in a large, oiled bowl.  Drizzle dough with oil and form into a ball.  Cover with a towel and place in the oven with the light on for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.   With oiled hands start to pull dough away from the bowl.  Continue to pull dough away from itself for a minute or two to create air pockets. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on the counter and knead dough for a few minutes.  Add in more flour if needed.  You don’t want the dough to stick to the counter at this point.  Form into a ball and cover with a towel for 20-30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 500. Using more flour if needed, knead dough one last time for about a minute, and form desired shape of loaf.  If using a dutch oven, I create a round shape and place it right in there.  Make slashes in the dough, cover with lid and bake for 45-50 minutes.  This bread will still work without the dutch oven but it’s definitely best to use it if you have one.  Let the bread cool before slicing. Slather with butter and savor every last bite. Or just eat another slice. And another.