Category Archives: In the Kitchen

Applesauce Spice Bread

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The impetus behind this recipe was solving a refrigerator issue. There is nothing so sublime as a pork chop slathered in sweet and tangy applesauce, that sweet and savory combo I’ve come to appreciate so much as I’ve gotten older. However, there is inevitably a half jar of applesauce in the door of the fridge that hangs out longer than it should. Applesauce is a staple in our house, something we like to make in the fall when the apples are cheap and at their best. We have found though, that we don’t eat as much as we put up. That’s where this recipe comes in.

Using up a whole cup of applesauce, this moist bread is a perfect breakfast or an even better mid-morning snack. It can be toasted in a skillet and spread with peanut butter or cream cheese.

The Recipe:

2 Eggs
1 Cup Applesauce
¾ Cup Sugar
¼ Cup Packed Brown Sugar
½ Cup Melted Butter
¼ Cup Sour Cream (Or Greek Yogurt)
2 Teaspoons Vanilla

1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour (Plain whole wheat would work too)
¾ Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Nutmeg
⅛ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
⅛ Teaspoon Allspice

The Process:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray one standard loaf pan. In a large bowl, beat together the first 7 ingredients. In another bowl whisk the dry ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold them together just until the flour disappears. Pour the thick batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before removing it from the loaf pan.

Spatchcock Chicken with Sweet Potato Gnocchi

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So first I’m going to apologize for my camera. This is a photo-heavy post and my camera is a stinker. That being said, I had so much fun making this dinner that I had to share.

I’ve been reading about spatchcocking ever since I heard it proposed as a way to do up Thanksgiving turkey. Alas, our turkey will be much too large to do this way. Anything over 12-15lbs. is unlikely to fit on a standard half sheet pan. I consoled myself by making this chicken that was chilling (hehe) in the freezer.

The core point I want to make is that this was a normal meal, not at all fancy. I think I made it on a Tuesday and it was really easy. Economical too, as I’ll prove in the next photo.

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There you have it. Less than 7 bucks for an 8lb. roasting turkey. It was on a great sale so guess what? We got 2! They’ve been frozen for the past few weeks and ready for a weekday meal. As we get to the bottom of the post you’ll see how far the depths of my cheapskatery goes.

By the way, someday I would love to raise all my own chickens or buy only local happy birds. Unfortunately that is a dream for a deeper pocketed future.

Let’s start with step 1 shall we. I want to give you an idea for the steps as I went through them to show the timing and the whole scope of the meal, so I’m going to skip back and forth between chicken and gnocchi. I’m not going to worry about spelling out the recipe for the gnocchi.  This was what I used.

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I roasted the sweet potatoes until they were nice and soft, let them cool and then scooped out the flesh and put it through a potato ricer. If you don’t have a ricer there are other ways to skin the cat. I set them aside and started on the chicken. (And yes I do have a jar of jelly beans on the counter. Don’t you?)

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With something as icky as raw chicken, it’s worth getting things ready before you start hacking away at it. All you need are a sharp knife and a pair of kitchen shears. And that bag? That’s where I stick the neck and the backbone, which we’ll be removing shortly. See, I really am that cheap. Why not get another few meals of chicken soup with a flavor-packed and free broth?

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Flip the chicken over so that  the breast side is down. Now cut down each side of the backbone with the shears. I even drew some fancy lines.

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It should look like this gruesome murder victim.

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Next, make a cut right at the breastbone where I have the handy little arrow. You should be able to splay the chicken apart now and have it lie flat.

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For flavoring I used the zest of a lemon, some dried pounded rosemary, salt, and butter. Mix them all together and slather the skin with the greasy concoction. Lay the bird on a cooling rack placed on a foil lined baking sheet. I even stuck the slices of the lemon under the rack to add some steam to the underside as the chicken cooked.

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Bake at 475 degrees but be careful, it takes a lot less time to roast than a roasting pan chicken. The large bird I had took about an hour. Most would probably be done in about 45 minutes.

Time to swing back to sweet potato gnocchi.

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Add the egg and cheese to the sweet potatoes. Use enough flour so that it makes a dough that holds together but is still quite soft. The less flour you can get away with, the fluffier the finished product.

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It should look kinda like this.

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Divide the dough into 4 and then roll each piece into a log. Cut into little chunks with a knife or bench scraper. At this point most people tell you to roll them on the back of a fork or something. I was trying to cut down on work and there wasn’t a thick sauce to sop up so I didn’t bother. They still tasted just as good as the fancy looking ones.

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Drop them into boiling salted water and after they float let them cook another 2-3 minutes. I finished mine in a pan with butter and sage. Make sure you let them brown and don’t fuss with them too much. That way you get the crispy bits on the bottom.

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Once the chicken is 155 degrees on the breast and at least 165 on the legs, pull it out and let it rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve with the gnocchi and maybe something green. I wish my final photo did the meal more justice. The chicken was bursting with juice with a crackling skin. The gnocchi were warm, hearty, and mildly sweet. Well worth the time and small amount of money expended.

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Old Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts

Because my wife is awesome and you should all be jealous, I present you with this photo:

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The recipe came from this blog and they were amazing. The really great (and scary) part of these babies, is that they’re just leavened with baking powder. There aren’t any long rise times to keep you from the fried dough awesomeness.  The doughnut front and center is one that we altered by throwing some cinnamon into the glaze, perfect for a chilly fall day.

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread

I know that I usually post pictures of the things that I bake. This time the only pictures would be crumbs. My father-in-law and I made this bread over the weekend and it disappeared like we were a pack of gluten-hungry wolverines. It is based on Jeffrey Hammelman’s bread of the same name, though we made a few tweaks.

I promised my father-in-law that I would print up our process and email it to him. I decided to post it here and kill two birds with one stone (why do those birds always get the shaft?).

Makes 3 loaves

340g Raisins
150g Rolled Oats
567g Warm Water
680g AP Flour
230g Whole Wheat Flour
12g Cinnamon
20g Salt
10g Instant Yeast
68g Honey
68g Vegetable Oil
100g Milk

 

First, soak the raisins in warm water for 30 min. This water will be drained off so the amount doesn’t matter. Next, in a large bowl soak the oats in the 567g warm water and let sit for 30 min.

While the raisins and oats are soaking, mix the flours, salt, cinnamon, and yeast in a medium bowl.

Once the oats are done soaking, add the dry ingredients to them in the large bowl. Add the honey, oil, and milk.

Mix together until you have a shaggy dough. Turn it out onto the counter and knead for five minutes.

Drain the raisins and gradually work them into the dough. This can be a bit tricky as the dough might not want to stay together. Keep at it.

Allow to rise for an hour. I like to rise all my breads in my oven. I put a milk jug filled with hot water in there and it tends to stay between 78-83 degrees for hours. This probably isn’t necessary with instant yeast, but for sourdough it is vital.

After an hour, pull out your dough and give it a few firm folds on the counter to press out some of the gas. Put it back in the bowl and let it rise for another hour.

The dough should be doubled by now, especially if you controlled the temperature. If not, leave it for a while longer.

Divide the dough into three loaves. Shape and place them into greased loaf pans. Brush the tops of the loaves with water and sprinkle on some loaves. This step is pretty but optional. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and rise for another 90 min.

15 min before baking, remove the plastic wrap and preheat your oven  to 450 degrees.

Load the oven with the loaves side by side. Bake for five minutes and then turn the oven down to 375. Bake for 20 min, turn the loaves 180 degrees and bake another 15-20 min.

Cool and enjoy. This bread is great with peanut butter, or toasted with butter and cinnamon sugar.

Tartine Pizza

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Pizza is a staple food in our household – nothing special, just a weeknight meal. As you know, I’ve been working on bread lately, the quality of which has improved in leaps and bounds.

Just the other day, I tried to make pizza with my Tartine style dough. It was a revelation. Puffy, crisp, chewy crust, filled with large irregular holes and a new subtle depth of flavor. I’m thoroughly converted.

It’s not like we were slouches before. With all the time my wife and I spent in Italy, we picked up some decent skills, and an admittedly snobbish view towards great pizza. We have a pizza stone, two peels, and a bunch of other geekery in the kitchen. At the end of the day though, it really comes down to the dough.

I’m not going to go into the whole process just now. I’m still planning on detailing my whole bread process someday soon, but I don’t have the time tonight. I will say though, I think that a big part of the success was abandoning the rolling pin. Stretching the sticky dough by hand conserved the pockets of gas that were trapped during the long bulk rise. I’m still a long way away from tossing dough over my head, but by gently passing it over the back of my hands, I got a nice round pizza with a well defined crust.

As for toppings, we swerved away from our usual classic Italian combos like Margherita, and went for nostalgic ham, green pepper, and fresh pineapple.

Buon Appetito!

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Wicked Easy Italian Flatbreads: Piadine

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Last night was one of those search-the-fridge kinds of dinners. Once all the ingredients were assembled, I needed some sort of wrapper to turn it into a complete meal.

I turned to a favorite of ours: super easy Italian flatbreads, or piadine.

They take almost no time to prepare and use ingredients I always have on hand. My wife found the recipe on the blog thekitchn, although I’ve adapted it a little to make it even simpler.

I use a stand mixer for this recipe, the lazy man’s method, but you could easily mix it by hand. You just need to increase the kneading time to 8-10 minutes.

Piadine:

4 ½ Cups AP Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 ½ Teaspoons Kosher Salt

1/3 Cup Shortening or Lard

1 ½ Cups Water

 

Add all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the mixer. Give it a quick spin with the paddle attachment.

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Add the shortening and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds to a minute. The shortening should be broken up in the flour.

Add the water and mix on low until it forms a shaggy dough.

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Switch to the dough hook and mix for 5 minutes on low speed. The dough will be extremely soft and silky.

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Form into a ball and let it sit for 30 minutes.

The recipe I used instructs you to divide into 6 or 8 pieces. I divided mine into 8 and they were huge. They could easily be scaled back by dividing them into 10-12 pieces.

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Form the divided dough into balls and heat a cast iron skillet to medium high.

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Take a ball of dough and roll it out thin. It doesn’t need to be see-through, just thin. I have a nifty little flatbread rolling pin that my parents got for me in Kyrgyzstan.

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Transfer to the skillet and prick with a fork. This prevents air puffing. Cook for about a minute per side.

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Allow to cool or eat warm. The dough for these can also be kept in the fridge and you can make them as you need them.

If you stack them while they cool, they will become more supple and easier to fold.

Fill them with almost anything. We did leftover turkey and capers with a lemony yogurt dressing, baba ganoush, grated carrot, and shredded cabbage. They would also make a great warm PBJ, if you layered two of them with the goodies on the inside and heated them in the skillet… Nutella, peanut butter, and banana… Or… Oh my, the possibilities!

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Doughnuts for the Serious Baker

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Those who know me well, know that I have a thing for doughnuts. I’ve made them a few times before and achieved decent results. My recent foray into bread baking gave me the urge to try to make the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten. By chance, I think I may have done it.

 

The process that follows is not for the baking novice. There are some great recipes out there that are much less involved. I’ve tried them and this one is my favorite. The resulting doughnuts are as light as air, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The natural yeast gives a special depth to the flavor that I’ve never had before in a basic yeast doughnut.

 

The recipe is an amalgam of several other recipes, none of which were meant for doughnuts. Most of the measurements are by weight, the most practical measurement for the serious baker, except for things like butter or eggs, where I thought weighing them was a waste of time, or the glaze, where it doesn’t matter how precise you are.

 

The Recipe:

 

150g Leaven (Saving the remainder to act as your starter)

200g Poolish (Using all of it)

150g Warm Milk

43g Sugar

14g Salt

1 Stick of Melted Butter (Cooled slightly)

2 Eggs

4g Instant Yeast

500g AP Flour

 

The Glaze:

 

3 cups Powdered Sugar

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Vanilla

½ cup Cold Milk

 

Oil for frying

 

It’s okay if some of these ingredients seem like complete Greek. I’ll try to explain them, although this is an advanced recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the dough-making process, as I was making bread the same morning and had to get breakfast on the table.

 

The Leaven:

 

This is the part that makes my method unique. I use a natural yeast leaven (sourdough), along with a commercial yeast poolish. This is the spot where, if you’ve never worked with a leaven, you might want to figure that out before continuing.

 

Onward…

 

The night before I plan to fry, I mix 100g of water(78°F) and 100g of flour that is 50/50 white/whole wheat, to a teaspoon of mature active sourdough starter. Cover with a towel and leave overnight at cool household temperature (64°F). A spoonful of your leaven should float in water when it’s ready.

 

Poolish:

 

Also the night before, mix 100g of water with 100g of flour and 2g of instant yeast. Leave in the fridge overnight. It should also float in water the next morning.

 

Morning of:

 

In a large bowl, mix together the leaven and poolish with the warm milk. It will be gloopy and probably won’t come together well. That’s okay.

 

In a medium bowl, mix the butter, eggs, salt, and sugar. Add this to the ingredients in the big bowl. Add the yeast.

 

Mix it all together until it forms a smooth wet dough. It will look shaggy and will likely still not seem like a very cohesive dough. Again, that’s okay.

 

Plop the dough into a clean container to begin the bulk fermentation. I did this step at room temperature.

 

During the next 2 hours, perform a stretch and fold every 30 minutes. How to stretch and fold can be found here.

 

Cutting:

 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut with a doughnut cutter and place onto a floured parchment-lined cookie sheet. These could also be chopped with a bench knife to make a sort of beignet.

 

Proofing:

 

Cover the doughnuts with plastic wrap and allow to proof 2 hours at room temp. This is where I got started with the photos.

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Frying:

 

Fill a Dutch oven with about 3 inches of light oil like canola. Heat to 375°F.

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Ready a slotted spoon or spider, as well as a set of chopsticks or wooden skewers. These are great for flipping.

 

Set out a stack of paper towel 4 layers thick. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this step. Without the towels, you will have greasy doughnuts.

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Make your glaze by mixing all the ingredients together in a flat-bottomed bowl and whisk with a fork.

 

Fry the doughnuts for about 1-2 minutes on each side, until they’re a deep golden brown.

 

As soon as they can be handled, drop them into the glaze, flipping them once, and then placing them on a wire rack to cool.

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These are best eaten in the first few hours, although the more careful you are to keep your frying temps at 375°, the less oil they will hold and the better they will taste later in the day.

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