Decadence defined

Mistakes were made in the creation of this week’s recipe, but because it all turned out to be fine in the end, I’ll parrot the great Bob Ross in saying that it was a happy little accident.

Since my sweetie was out of town for the week, I didn’t want to make any hefty meal that I’d have to eat all on my own. That’s kind of a challenge when it comes to making things in a Dutch oven.

So, I thought a safe thing to make might be bread. Sure, it’d make a lot but it’d be easier to freeze and share. Even better, I found a recipe for dinner rolls in my Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook so I could make mini-sized bites.

But I didn’t need dinner rolls for light solo dinners. Breakfast rolls sounded better.

This is where things went off the rails. I started looking in another cookbook for sweet breads, decided on cinnamon rolls, saw a recipe for bacon maple bread, and then amended my plan to make bacon maple cinnamon rolls.

A quick Google search confirmed that I wasn’t the only one who’d had this idea so there was a good chance my idea wasn’t totally crazy.

I tracked down a cinnamon roll recipe I made a few years ago and then updated it to what I thought would work for my tastes. The Googled recipes also offered some hints but I wanted to do it my way.

It was a little difficult to fit in my Dutch oven, and the center did not hold as it baked, but it hardly mattered once I tasted it.

It turned out to be about the most deliciously decadent thing I’ve made. And totally inappropriate for me to eat all by myself.

Thank goodness my sweetie is back to share them tomorrow.

Bacon maple cinnamon rolls. So decadent.

Here’s how I made the happy little accidents:

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1 c. warm milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (or one package)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 t. salt
  • 4-5 c. all-purpose flour

For the cinnamon center

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3 t. cinnamon
  • 4 T. brown sugar
  • 4-5 T. maple syrup
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked, cooled, and chopped
  • ½ c. chopped pecans (pecan chips, if available)

For (optional) cream cheese topping

  • 4 T. butter, softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 T. maple syrup
  • ½ t. vanilla
  • ¾ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 t. ground cardamom (optional)
  • ½ c. pecans, for topping (optional)

Directions

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the milk. Heat the milk to just warm but not too hot so it doesn’t destroy the yeast. Add the sugar and yeast to the butter and milk mixture. Let activate for about 15 minutes.

Add the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the remaining dough ingredients. Add flour until a dough forms, and then knead for 5 to 10 minutes until springy and smooth, adding flour as necessary.

Shape into a round, place back in bowl and cover. Let rise for about 2 hours. (I opted to do this over two week nights, so I refrigerated the dough after this rise, and then let warm back up for about an hour after getting home the next night; also possible to do once its in roll form in the Dutch oven.)

Meanwhile, mix together the cinnamon center ingredients. In a small bowl, stir together butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Prepare the bacon and pecans, if not already ready. Prepare the Dutch oven by making a foil sling by folding in half to long sheets of aluminum foil, so you have 2 long, roughly 7 inch sheets. Place sheets perpendicular to each other, like a lowercase t, and carefully smooth down into the bowl. Spray with a little bit of oil.

When the dough is ready, roll out into about an 18 inch by 9 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread with the cinnamon mixture, and then place the bacon pieces and pecan pieces on top.

Roll the coated dough along the long end into a log. Cut into about 14 even pieces. Turn and place the pieces in the Dutch oven, starting with the outside adding about 9 to 10 pieces along the edges and then placing the remaining rolls in the center.

Cover and let rise for about an hour to an hour and a half. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Once dough has risen, uncover and place the rolls in the oven, and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes until golden on top.

Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients of the cream cheese topping, if using. Let rolls cool for at least 5 minutes but while still warm, add the frosting, and then cool a little longer before enjoying!

Don’t be a drip, make this beef recipe

I don’t often say this, but thank God for air conditioning. I’m cold-blooded by nature so if I’m just sitting and the A/C is on, I’m under a blanket or wrapped in a cardigan.

But this week’s recipe called for the oven to be on for about 5 hours, and I’m pretty grateful that I did not have to heat an already scorching house.

Even though the drip beef I made (based on a Pioneer Woman recipe my sweetie came across) warmed the house for one day, the best part about it is that we didn’t turn on the oven for the next several days as we made our way through the leftovers.

Drip beef ingredients.

The microwave and toaster took care of reheating our many, many drip beef sandwiches.

The Pioneer Woman recipe gave two different ways to make this but there wasn’t a question in my mind that I’d be making the one with pepperoncinis. Even better that it was with loaded with Italian herbs as well.

I did, however, snag the sliced onions from the other recipe and add them to this one. It was not particularly noticeable but I was still glad for the little bit of onion flavor added.

The recipe was really easy, put together in less than 5 minutes, and checked only occasionally over the hours it sat in the oven. The hardest part was using forks to shred the beef, but with the A/C on, for me, it wasn’t too bad to stick my face over the Dutch oven. Besides, if done right, the meat should shred with very little effort.

I’m not usually a big beef person but this was a treat. We finished the 3 pounds we made in a few short days. Amazing.

I wish there were still some left. 🙁

Here’s what I did, tweaking the recipe slightly:

Ingredients

  • 2.5 to 4 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 onion, halved and thickly sliced
  • 2 c. beef broth
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • ¾ T. dried rosemary
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz. jar pepperoncinis, with juices
  • Deli rolls, toasted (for serving)
  • Cheese slices (provolone worked well), optional (for serving)

Directions

Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Meanwhile, over medium heat, melt the butter on the stove and then add the onion slices. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to brown.

Turn off stovetop. Add the remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven, except the rolls and cheese if using.

Cover and bake in the oven for 5 to 6 hours until the meat is very tender and starting to fall apart. If it’s not yet tender, keep cooking at 30-minute intervals until tender.

Remove from oven and shred meat with two forks, leaving no large chunks. Serve immediately or keep warm on the stovetop until ready to eat, and enjoy as sammies.

It’s summer, time for fruit cobbler

As soon as summer hits, it’s only a matter of time before I start buying up berries (and also often peaches). As much as I love vegetables, I’m not overly fond of fruit. Sure, I like it OK, but most fruit items in my cupboard or refrigerator are as likely to go bad as I am to eat them before they rot.

But I have my favorites.

I love on-sale cherries, too-hard white peaches, and berries in the summertime.

So, I couldn’t help but buy up blackberries when they were on sale and make it into a Dutch oven cobbler.

Blackberry cobbler ingredients.

I consulted no fewer than three recipes to come up with my perfect summer dessert, but none of them were exactly what I was looking for. My sweetie suggested blackberries among the berries, and none of the recipes quite worked. Most were, of course, for peach cobblers, which called for cinnamon and often nutmeg. Betty Crocker wisely suggested skipping that step (hers only called for cinnamon) if one were making blueberry cobbler. I felt the same should be true of blackberries.

But I also thought it needed a little something more. Maybe true, maybe not, but I have to say I quite liked my ultimate addition: a small sprinkling of ground ginger.

I admit this cobbler won’t be for everyone. I skimped on the sweet, leaned into the tartness, and added the spice. But my sweetie and I devoured the whole thing with glee and in record time for us two savory-food lovers. It was a real treat.

*drool*

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 8 T. (1 stick) butter, divided
  • 4 pints (about 5 c.) blackberries
  • 6 T. sugar, divided
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • 1 t. salt, divided
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • ½ to ¾ c. buttermilk

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

On the stovetop, melt 4 T. butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the blackberries, 2 T. sugar, ½ t. salt, and the ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl or large measuring cup. Once the blackberries have started to break down, add the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine. Turn off or remove from heat.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, 2 T. sugar, and remaining ½ t. salt. Cut in the remaining 4 T. of butter using a pastry blender or 2 knives or your fingers, until small chickpea-sized chunks form. Add ½ c. buttermilk and stir with a fork until combined to form a wet shaggy dough, adding more buttermilk as necessary.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough on top of the blackberry mixture (it’s OK if some open spots show through). Sprinkle the remaining 2 T. on top of the mixture, and carefully place the Dutch oven, uncovered, in the oven. Bake for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the cobbler on top is lightly golden brown. Remove from oven, let mostly cool, and enjoy (a la mode, if desired)!

And now for something completely different

Dutch ovens are — at least to me — known mostly for two things: their ability to go seamlessly from stovetop to oven, and their ability to maintain heat. So, it wasn’t until I got my Dutch oven cookbook that I realized since it can hold heat, it can also hold the cold.

Heading into Memorial weekend and then summertime, that can come in handy.

I gave it a test with my family’s potato salad recipe, and found it survived traveling in a car without a problem.

Potato salad ingredients.

The recipe is not a particularly fancy way of making potato salad, but it’s easy and nothing store-bought is quite like it.

Chalk that up to the Italian dressing. That, and most recipes typically call for removing the potato skins but I like the added texture. Amounts vary widely as well because different people have different tastes, including me depending on the day. Mostly you just want to coat everything to your desired tastes.

That’s the awesome thing about this recipe; you can make it your way, and even add hard-boiled eggs as you desire. But this is the way my mother taught me.

Cold and delectable.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. potatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ to 1 c. Italian dressing
  • ½ to 1 c. mayonnaise
  • ½ c. yellow mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring water (filled about halfway) to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add the potatoes, and simmer, covered, until they’re cooked through, about 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain water, and let the potatoes cool to room temperature.

Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks of your preference. Add the onions and Italian dressing, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours and up to overnight.

About a half-hour before serving, add the mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Enjoy with a hot dog or hamburger, and enjoy your Memorial Day!

Breaking babka

During my year of bread, babka — or the similar povitica — was always on my list but I was too afraid to spend the time needed to make this beautiful treat.

Fate tempted me back when I found a wonderful looking babka recipe in my Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen.

I won’t lie, it’s a multi-day affair. That bothers me less now that I work your standard 9 to 5 with weekends free. But it does take some planning, say, when you’re scheduled to have 3 hours of your afternoon spent at the theater with Avengers: Endgame.

Forgot an ingredients photo but here’s my table with the 18 x 24 dough covered in filling, pre-roll.

Even with that, I found it to be worth the effort. So much so that I made it two weeks in a row. (I may have also seen Endgame two weeks in a row.)

Mostly I just wanted to try to redo the recipe with my favorite filling. I know, I know it’s sacrilege to think there’s something better than chocolate, but I frickin’ love cream cheese filling.

The second time worked slightly better in some ways, but I think that’s mostly just the nature of breads. Sometimes the mix needs some tweaking.

My first attempt had the stand mixer get the dough perfectly concocted in well short of the 10 to 12 minutes recommended, so I stopped it. But that meant that I had to let my dough rise for longer because the yeast didn’t activate as well. The second time it was sticky and slow like it was supposed to so everything rose well.

The second time my filling was softer because I probably could have used a little more cream cheese. (I replaced 12 oz. of chocolate chunks/cocoa with 8 oz. cream cheese, and I think 12 oz. may have made a better, thicker consistency, but it still worked.) The first time it was smooth and just stiff enough to spread and keep a nice firm shape.

Either way, as long as you’ve done a handful of breads before, I think anyone can make this one. It wasn’t even *that* hard to make it look pretty.

The creamy cream cheese one.
The gooey chocolate one.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. yeast (The recipe calls for instant or rapid-rise, which I didn’t use. If you knead well in the stand mixer, it didn’t seem to matter. I had a good rise the second time.)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole milk (I used 2% the second time and didn’t notice any major differences.)
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (16 T.) butter, softened

For Chocolate Filling

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • 6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 to 12 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Finishing

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, with 1 T. water and pinch of salt

Directions

For Dough

Whisk together flour, yeast, and salt, in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl (that holds at least 4 c.), mix together the milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla, until the sugar has dissolved. Use a dough hook attachment on low, and begin to slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and continue to mix until the dough starts to form.

Increase the speed on the stand mixer to medium-low, and add the 2 sticks of butter 1 T. at a time, until the butter is fully incorporated, about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue to knead in the stand mixer for another 10 to 12 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and clears the sides of the bowls. (Like I said, this happened within a couple minutes the first time, and I should have kneaded by hand for longer instead of stopping when a clump formed, but the second time it was definitely too sticky to handle until about 10 to 12 minutes, and I even added a titch more flour.)

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for about 30 seconds and form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough, seam side down, in a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise by about half for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Once risen, refrigerate dough until it is firm, at least 1 hour to up to 24 hours (an ideal time to go watch a long action-packed superhero movie). Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes if you refrigerate for much longer than an hour.

For (either) Filling

Microwave the chocolate chunks, cocoa, and butter OR the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl for about 3 minutes at 50 percent power, stirring often, until the mixture has melted and a smooth, soft filling forms. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and then let cool for about 30 minutes. Then, whisk in the egg whites, until fully combined and the mixture looks glossy (less noticeable with the cream cheese filling, so mix well).

To Combine

Press the dough down to deflate, and then transfer to a lightly floured counter (I had to use my whole damn kitchen table so make sure you have space). Roll dough into an 18 inch by 24 inch rectangle, keeping the shorter side parallel to the counter. Once rolled out, spread the filling on the dough, leaving about a ½ inch border around the edge.

Roll the dough away from you into a firm, taut cylinder. Pinch to close the seam. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate (on a large baking sheet if possible but mine weren’t big enough so I just cleared a space on a shelf) for about 30 minutes.

To Finish

Meanwhile, make a foil sling for the Dutch oven by folding in half 2 long sheets of aluminum foil, so you have 2 long, roughly 7 inch sheets. Place sheets perpendicular to each other, like a lowercase t, and carefully smooth down into the Dutch oven bowl. Spray with a little bit of oil.

When dough is ready, transfer the log back to the lightly floured counter with the short end facing you. Carefully cut the dough in half lengthwise so that you will have the swirls of filling facing up to you. Pinch together the two dough halves and then braid end over end, as tightly as possible. Pinch the second end together, and then wrap into a spiral with the ends tucked underneath.

Put the dough in the prepared Dutch oven, and let rise for another 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and brush the egg mixture on top of the dough.

Cover pot, and bake for about 20 minutes. Uncover, rotate pot, and continue to bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden brown.

Lift dough out of pot using the foil overhang, and let cool completely (about 3 hours) on a wire rack, and then finally, enjoy!

Making homemade bread even better

Like Oprah, I love bread.

I love it in all its forms, but one of my favorites is the one I made earlier this year, since it’s so simple and yet so tasty. I also love the store-bought jalapeno-cheddar bread, but I’d never thought to make it myself.

Then, I came across a recipe from 50 Campfires that pretty much combined the two. It basically took the recipe I used earlier this year, and then just added jalapenos and cheddar.

I forgot to snap a pic before I started, but picture the ingredients from my earlier bread recipe and then picture them mostly combined to look like this floury dough ball.

I decided to give it a shot.

My only concern as I was making it was the sheer amount of jalapenos. I like spicy but I have my limits, and this bread includes two in the dough (and rises for nearly 24 hours with them in it) and then one on top.

Mercifully, if you follow the instructions to remove the seeds from the two that go in the dough and just keep them for the one on top, it’s not overly spicy. There’s a little kick from the top slices but otherwise, it’s pretty mild. I’m sure the yeast and cheese help.

It’s more effort than store-bought but even better, and considering how quickly this stuff disappeared, I’ll be making it again (and again).

The cutest and tastiest little ball of bread ever.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. active dry yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar, divided (I didn’t really measure but this is a good reference amount)
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, divided
  • 1 ½ c. warm water

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add in all but 4 T. of the grated cheddar cheese. Seed and chop two of the jalapenos, and add into the flour mix. Stir to combine all.

Add the water, and stir until a shaggy, sticky dough forms (a dough scraper works really well for this).

Cover the bowl, preferably with plastic wrap (grease it if you expect it to rise to touch the wrap). Let the dough rise in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) for 12 to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the Dutch oven in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the dough to a heavily floured surface and shape it into a rounded loaf, but don’t knead it.

When the Dutch oven is ready, carefully remove from oven and remove lid. Carefully place the dough inside, and cover again. Bake covered for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove from oven, and remove lid. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the remaining cheddar, and the sliced jalapeno (with seeds, if desired) and set slices on top. Bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes until the bread and cheese are golden brown.

Carefully remove loaf from the Dutch oven, place on a rack to cool (for at least an hour before slicing), and enjoy!

There will be bread

I love me a recipe that offers shortcuts and still tastes amazing. So, even though I don’t mind kneading bread, I still eagerly bookmarked the no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey as soon as I came across it.

No-knead bread ingredients. No, the Sodastream water is not bubbly.

Then, I discovered the caveat. There may not be kneading, but it still takes time and a little bit of getting your hands dirty (with sticky dough).

After going through it the first time, I shrugged and said I wasn’t really saving all that much so I wouldn’t make it again. That is, until I tasted it. Readers, it’s worth the time and effort.

And the more I’ve made it, the less the time and minor effort bothers me. I just plan better.

This is also a quintessentially Dutch oven dish.

Part of why the crust crunches so well is you preheat the Dutch oven for long enough that your dough goes into a nice and hot container. (I will admit, however, that I have used this recipe to make a couple of baguettes and it turns out well, just not as crunchy.)

It’s also pretty hard to mess up, since there are so few ingredients. The key is using bread flour, but I have — and I did this time on a whim — thrown in some amount of wheat flour and it’s worked. It’s not quite as fluffy but fiber does a body good.

Now, you can time things out how you want, but with a 12 to 18 hour rise time on the first go, my planning schedule is this:

*Before bed: Mix together the yeast, salt, water, and flour, and stir until blended.

*The next day/evening: When I get home from work, or the afternoon on a weekend, scrape the edges of the mixture and ensure it’s risen; then, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a boule, and wrap in a well-floured or cornmeal-coated towel, and let rise another 1 to 2 hours, before preparing to bake.

If you’re an early morning riser or an insomniac, a different schedule may work for you. But I’d rather get it started before bed and then deal with it later in the day. And a few hours extra rise time, if it’s a work day, hasn’t made a difference.

Again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, even if there is an optimal way to make it that will maximize its awesomeness.

My boule isn’t the prettiest and it didn’t rise as much as I thought it would, but it tastes forking great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ¼ t. active dry yeast
  • 1 ⅓ c. cool water
  • 1 ¼ t. salt (I estimate)
  • 3 c. bread flour (OR, 2 c. bread flour, 1 c. wheat flour — which may require slightly more water)
  • Bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast, and then add the water. Use a wooden spoon, rubber dough scraper, or your hands to mix together until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds. If it’s not wet and sticky, add more water or flour as necessary.

Cover the bowl — either a tea towel or plastic wrap or a loose lid will work. Let rise in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

When small bubbles dot the surface of the dough and it’s at least doubled in size, dust a work surface with additional flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface. Use your hands — lightly floured — to shape the dough into a round.

Dust a (non-terry cloth) tea towel with flour or cornmeal, and then place the dough, seam-side down, in the towel, and then gently wrap together. Let the dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours. (It’s ready when it has almost doubled and/or you can poke it with a finger and it holds the impression.)

About a half-hour before the second rise has finished, heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place the Dutch oven, covered,  in the center of the rack.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven. Uncover it, and add some cornmeal or wheat bran if desired, to the bottom of the pot. Then, unfold the dough and quickly but gently invert it into the pot with the seam-side up. Cover the pot again.

Bake the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to bake until the bread is browned but not burnt, another 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the bread is done, carefully remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, and enjoy with soup, butter, or all by itself!

My favorite mistake

I’m going to say right up front that I forked this one up royally from beginning to end. So, I can’t say that it was a great recipe, but I do think that it’s salvageable, as in, the blame lies with me.

And, to be honest, I still had a lot of fun making it.

It’s been a stressful week, and I came home grumpy. But once I started to make this week’s poppy seed streusel and listening to podcasts about “Doctor Who” (*nerd alert*), I felt immensely better. I didn’t even really care that I was forking up.

Streusel ingredients. Notably not pictured is the milk I should have used.

I have loved my Amy Thielen “The New Midwestern Table” cookbook, so the fact that this recipe didn’t turn out I think is a fluke. I have made a lot of things from it, including hand pies this year.

And, seriously, it has a butt-ton of butter, sugar, and flour, so it should have been perfect.

Also, while her recipe said to bake for a half hour, I knew it looked done about 7 minutes early, and instead of trusting my gut, I let it go for another 5.

So, the fact that it’s hard as a rock, is on me.

Then, the second page of the recipe really spends a lot of time on the importance of grinding the poppy seeds well. This was after I had, uh, not done that. See, I bought a bunch of cream and figured there was not harm in replacing whole milk with cream. Except that, obviously, cream whips quite quickly. So, when I mixed them together in the blender, there was whipped cream well before poppy seed broke and bruised.

I made up for it by adding water instead of more cream later … but the damage (or lack thereof to the poppy seeds) was done.

So, the fact that the poppy seeds are intact and the innards of the streusel didn’t turn out as expected, is also on me.

Again, though, it was an adventure to make, and I’m pretty sure if I follow the recipe, and trust my gut, I’ll nail it next time.

It doesn’t look that bad until you noticed the blackened edges and that that ain’t *lightly* golden.

Here’s what I did. Actually, scratch that, here’s what I should have done:

Ingredients

  • ¾ c. poppy seeds
  • ¾ c. whole milk (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 3 c. sugar, divided
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. sea salt
  • 3 sticks butter (the recipe calls for salted; I used un- so hopefully that didn’t mess things up), and more for coating the pan, all at room temperature

Directions

Combine poppy seeds and MILK in a blender and process on high until the poppy seeds have broken down down. Add the raisins, 1 c. sugar, the cream, and the vinegar. Process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a medium skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir often to prevent it from sticking, and continue reducing heat to keep the mixture at a slow bubble. Keep cooking until the mixture thickens to like jam, about 30 minutes. I’d say a little less but that might just be because I overcooked the thing from top to bottom in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch sheet pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 2 c. sugar, salt, and the butter. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until well combined, and the mixture holds its shape when squeezed together.

Scoop 5 loose cups of the butter mixture onto the sheet pan, and use your hands to spread evenly, and then gently press down. Bake for about 10 minutes, and then let cool for about 10 minutes.

Then, pour the poppy seed mixture on top, and spread until smooth. Then squeeze the remaining butter mixture on top of the poppy seed mix to make decorative nuggets, leaving some space for the filling to show through.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until LIGHTLY golden brown, *checking often*, and then cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Enjoy, if you got this far and succeeded!

 

Beautiful briny bread

The checkout girl at Target told me not to tell anyone that the bread I made this week had anchovies on it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d be telling everyone through this blog post. So, let me get it out of the way at the front.

This bread is not for the faint-hearted.

If you can think of everything flavorful and potentially off-putting, this bread has it. Anchovies. Capers. Kalamata olives. Onions (lots of ‘em). Garlic.

Briny bread* ingredients. *Actually called “pissaladiere.”

It’s also got tomatoes, a butt-load of olive oil, and a no-knead yeasty bread.

Basically, me and my sweetie thought it would be perfect. And the recipe didn’t let us down. It’s been amazing.

The recipe comes from the cookbook my brother turned me on to about bread: “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. I finally got myself a copy.

Unlike last time, my deviations from the original recipe worked just fine. I mostly stuck to it — including all those delicious toppings — but I have regular yeast, not instant, and I figured there was no harm in swapping. Especially since I spent a year making bread.

To correct, I just upped the amount of yeast and added a little honey to get it kickstarted, but otherwise I stuck close to the original.

My only complaint — and it’s expected — is that it took a long time and dirtied quite a few dishes, including the pain-in-the-ass-to-clean food processor. But I knew all that going in, and a lot of the time is pretty passive and a great time to rewatch this amazing season of “Doctor Who.”

It looks so pretty, and it’s tasty too.

Here’s what I did (with notes to use instant yeast):

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (1 t. If using instant)
  • 2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. honey, optional

For the bread

  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 T. capers (I didn’t measure, I love capers)
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Directions

Make the dough. If using active dry yeast, mix together the yeast, warm water, and honey, and let sit for about 10 minutes before stirring in the flour and salt. If using instant, the recipe says to mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the water (and honey). Either way, use a rubber spatula to stir until the mixture combined and you have a sticky dough that’s sort of ball-shaped. Cover the mixture with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Just before the dough is ready, heat a large pan on high heat. Add 1 T. olive oil, and then add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, mix together the garlic and anchovies with 2 T. olive oil until pureed. Add the capers and pulse till chopped. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper, and pour on the remaining 3 T. olive oil. Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center until you get a rough ball. Lift the dough with the forks or pour it onto the oiled sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in oil to coat it all over, and then let it rest for 20 minutes.

With greased hands, push the dough to stretch it to the edges of the sheet pan, and use fingers to dimple it. When the dough resists stretching, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then stretch again until it fits most of the sheet pan.

To assemble, spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Scatter on the olives, and then the carmelized onions. Top with the tomatoes. Use fingers again to dimple the dough and stretch more if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the underside of the dough is golden and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares, and enjoy!

Meatball mashup

It’s 6 days until Thanksgiving, and so I decided to take it easy this week by going simple and safe. But still delicious.

I’ve already made meatballs this year but they were quite different, and I already made a similar recipe that I turned into individual meatloaves. So, this isn’t a unique recipe to this year; however, it’s a new twist.

Meatball ingredients, minus the garlic I decided to add at the last second. Also, in the background, next week’s recipe and spices!

Mostly, I love this meatball recipe because it’s quick and easy. It takes 5 to 10 minutes of prep, and 15 to 20 in the oven, so it’s quick. And it’s made of things I mostly already have on hand, except the beef, so it’s easy.

But it has the added benefit of being very versatile. It can be made into spaghetti and meatballs, or it can be a meatball hoagie, or just eat them on their own or with a little sauce. My sweetie and I tend to prefer hoagies with cheese and sauce, but I always have spaghetti just in case.

It’s nothing fancy but it’s always a treat.

Many mini meatballs.

Here’s what I did, building off a Betty Crocker recipe:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. lean ground beef
  • ⅔ c. dry bread crumbs
  • ⅓ c. milk
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • ½ t. rosemary chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I used the jarred stuff)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for coating

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a large rimmed sheet pan.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands, until well combined. Shape into about 1-inch balls, and place on the prepared sheet pan. You should get about 24 with this amount.

Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with warmed red sauce of your choice and cooked spaghetti or hoagies with provolone or mozzarella cheese, all to your tastes and liking, and enjoy!

*Programming note: I’ll plan to post early next week for Thanksgiving. If you want to shop in advance so you can have them over the holiday, here’s the ingredients list for pumpkin cookies:

  • ½ c. Crisco
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Libby’s pumpkin
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ¼ t. ground ginger (I’ll probably use more)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips (I’ll use semisweet)