coconut tea cake

I was half-tempted to copy and paste from my coconut cream tart entry – the part about how I used to not like coconut but now see the error of my ways – but I didn’t want to give everyone a case of déjà vu. Suffice to say: I am so glad I am no longer anti-coconut. Heck, forget “no longer anti”; I am officially pro coconut.

I am definitely pro this cake. It gets an initial hit of coconut flavor from coconut milk, more from shredded coconut, and in my case, another layer of coconut from the bottle of coconut extract I’ve had in my pantry for at least five years. Then I decided that an unadorned bundt cake is just sad, so I mixed up a quick glaze of powdered sugar, more coconut milk, and more coconut extract.

Oh. Yes. A few people who made this before me reported that their cakes had been dry, but mine wasn’t the least bit. The texture was soft and fluffy. Best of all, the cake was infused with and covered by coconut flavor.

Carmen chose this cake for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she will post the recipe. I used about ¾ teaspoon salt instead of the mere pinch the Dorie recommends. And I dumped in who-knows-how-much rum instead of the two teaspoons called for.

One year ago: Coconut Butter Thins (Apparently March is coconut month for TWD!)
Two years ago: Gooey Chocolate Cakes

cherry tomato salad

Here are two common pairings that seem impractical to me – bread served with pasta and fries served with burgers. Of course they’re tasty combinations – who doesn’t love more carbs? – but do they make nutritional sense?

Granted, a leafy green salad would be too refined, and roasted or steamed vegetables don’t go with the casual feel of a burger. That’s why I love a non-lettuce based salad to go along with burgers, instead starring something like mushrooms or peppers or tomatoes.

Even though my little desert town has perfect grilling weather nearly year-round, it does not have perfect tomatoes. That’s a nice thing about this salad – you can make it with grape tomatoes, the only decent tomato option at the grocery store for most of the year.

What’s more, the tomato flavor is enhanced by draining the watery juice from the tomatoes and reducing it to use with the dressing. The dressing ends up somewhat sweet, which is nicely balanced by tart red wine vinegar, fresh cucumber (I can’t believe I used to not like cucumber), and salty feta. I’d take this salad over fries any day.

One year ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Waffles
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Beans, Tomatoes, and Garlic Chips

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Greek Cherry Tomato Salad (from Cooks Illustrated)

If in-season cherry tomatoes are unavailable, substitute vine-ripened cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes from the supermarket. Cut grape tomatoes in half along the equator rather than quartering them.

If you don’t have a salad spinner, after the salted tomatoes have stood for 30 minutes, wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and gently shake to remove seeds and excess liquid. Strain the liquid and proceed with the recipe as directed.

The amount of liquid given off by the tomatoes will depend on their ripeness. If you have less than ½ cup of juice after spinning, proceed with the recipe using the entire amount of juice and reduce it to 3 tablespoons as directed.

2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 4 cups) (see note)
table salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into ½-inch dice
½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Toss tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt, and sugar in a medium bowl; let stand for 30 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a salad spinner and spin until the seeds and excess liquid have been removed, 45 to 60 seconds, stirring to redistribute the tomatoes several times during spinning. Return the tomatoes to the bowl and set aside. Strain the tomato liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

2. Bring ½ cup tomato liquid (discard any extra), the garlic, oregano, shallot, and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the mixture is reduced to 3 tablespoons, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the oil and pepper to taste until combined. Taste and season with up to ⅛ teaspoon table salt.

3. Add the cucumber, olives, feta, dressing, and parsley to the bowl with the tomatoes; toss gently and serve.

whole wheat brioche

This recipe cracks me up. Each little brioche roll has 1¼ tablespoons of butter in it, so it doesn’t matter how much whole grain you use – these are not good for you.

They are, however, good. Of course they don’t have much in common with their white flour cousins, which, if we were talking about people, would be one of those unceasingly friendly people who always have something nice to say. The whole wheat version is more akin to a sarcastic friend who always manages to make you laugh, but sometimes at your own expense. Both are good! Just different.

The whole wheat brioche is made along the same lines as the rest of Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. What’s fun about this recipe is that the liquid used in one of the pre-doughs is melted butter, and in the other, it’s eggs. The one with the butter had a texture very different from the normal water-hydrated doughs – and not a particularly appetizing one, truth be told, as the best word to describe it would be ‘greasy’. Fortunately, after sitting in the fridge for several hours, the butter hardens and the mixture is more palatable – plus, of course, the liquid has had an opportunity to break down those bran fibers, which is the heart of Reinhart’s whole wheat bread method.

I tried a trick with this bread that was marginally successful. After the final dough is mixed and kneaded, it’s shaped immediately and then needs to rise again – for 3 to 4 hours. We tend to eat breakfast kind of late on weekends, but not that late!

So I reduced the yeast quite a bit, with the goal of extending the rising time to about 8 hours, or overnight. I wanted to wake up, heat the oven and throw the perfectly risen brioche rolls in to bake.

It turns out, though, that I decreased the yeast too much, and the poor little guys didn’t have enough strength to lift up that heavy dough. I still think the method is sound; I just need to use more yeast than I did. (The under-risen after 8 hours brioche were salvageable; I just had to give them an hour or so in a really warm environment before I could bake them.)

Usually my theory is that if food is supposed to be indulgent, then make it indulgent! Why worry about whole grains if you’re mainlining butter? But sometimes it’s just fun to make something weird, and whole wheat brioche is, indeed, weird.

One year ago: Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Two years ago: Chocolate Cream Pie

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Whole Wheat Brioche (rewritten from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)

I reduced the yeast in the final dough to ½ teaspoon, hoping I could stretch the rising time to 8-10 hours, or overnight. This was too little, but I still think the method is worth trying, but with 1 teaspoon yeast.

I froze the brioche rolls after shaping, before rising. I let them defrost in the fridge for a few hours before moving them to room temperature to rise.

The melted butter kept leaking out of its pre-dough. Once the dough had chilled somewhat, I stirred it back in, so that the pre-dough would be homogeneous.

For the final cup of flour, after both pre-doughs are combined, I used white flour. I know that’s cheating, but I’ve had better results with Reinhart’s whole wheat bagels when white flour is used at the end, and I thought it was probably similar here. The rolls are still 80% whole wheat.

Pre-dough 1:
1¾ cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk, scalded and cooled
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Mix all of the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

Pre-dough 2:
1¾ cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
4 large eggs, slightly beaten

Mix all of the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Using a rubber spatula or wet hands, knead the dough in the bowl for a couple minutes; it will be very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

Final dough:
Both pre-doughs
1 cup (4.5 ounces) whole wheat flour (see note)
¾ teaspoon salt
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast (see note)
3 tablespoons sugar

Egg wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt

1. Chop the chilled pre-doughs into to 12 pieces each. Combine the pre-doughs, flour, salt, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Mix on slow speed for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed, (or knead with wet hands) until the pre-doughs are assimilated into each other. Add flour or water, as needed, to form a soft and slightly sticky dough. Knead (either with a mixer or by hand) for 3 to 4 minutes, until the dough is cold, firm, and slightly tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

2. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and round each into a smooth ball. Spray 12 brioche molds or a 12-cup muffin pan with spray oil. To shape the brioche, roll each piece of dough into a cone; poke a hole through the larger end and slip the small end through the hole. (I also sometimes just formed a much smaller round from a small portion of the dough and stuck that on top of the larger round. I didn’t notice a difference in the baked versions of the two shaping methods.) Place the shaped rolls into the prepared pan and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until the dough has grown to about 1½ times its original size.

3. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the risen rolls with egg wash and place them in the oven, lowering the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 17 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the brioche are dark golden brown, measure 195 degrees in the center, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom (after one is removed from its pan).

4. Remove the rolls from their molds; cool on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.

chicken mushroom spinach lasagna

I’m hardcore – I made an Emeril recipe more complicated. I did skip a few of his steps, so maybe I’m not completely ridiculous.

It’s just that if I’m going to go through all the trouble of making lasagna, with cooking chicken, stirring béchamel, layering and baking, I might as well go all the way – homemade pasta and damn good chicken.

So there was no cooking of boneless skinless chicken breasts in a dry pan – weird, isn’t it, that I’m not a fan of dry tasteless meat. Heck no, I roasted those suckers – bone-in, skin-on, thankyouverymuch. And before that, I brined them – hey, it’s a step that takes about 2 minutes of effort and you ensure fully seasoned, moist meat. Why not do it?

But if I’m going to add homemade pasta and brined, roasted, shredded chicken to an already ambitious recipe, I probably needed to cut some corners somewhere. Since I can’t seem to convince myself to enjoy cooked spinach, I decided to skip the cooking and blanching of the spinach and just add shredded baby spinach directly to the béchamel. I wasn’t able to use quite as much, but that’s okay – it was still a colorful, healthy, easy addition.

Okay, so I guess I only skipped one little step in Emeril’s recipe. Oh wait, I also mixed all the chicken and parmesan into the sauce, so I was really only layering two things – sauce and noodles. That probably saved 30 seconds or so of effort. That’s okay, I had fun making the lasagna, and I was completely confident that the extra bit of work I put into it would give me a perfect result, and, yes, it did.

One year ago: Deli-Style Rye Bread
Two years ago: (Almost) No-Knead Bread

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Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Alfredo Lasagna (adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

This is how I made the lasagna, but there are some things you could do differently. The original recipe keeps the chicken and some of the parmesan separate from the béchamel, laying pasta-béchamel-cheese-chicken instead of just alternating pasta and chickeny parmesany béchamel, like I did.

Also, the type of pasta you use is entirely up to you. You could use the no-cook dry noodles or buy fresh noodles or make your own. And I don’t know for sure that fresh homemade noodles need to be blanched for lasagna, but the one time I skipped that step was a disaster.

One more thing – the original recipes calls for double these ingredients to be layered into a 9- by 13-inch pan, but I was concerned that I’d have overflow. While my lasagna is a little on the short side, I think twice this height would have been too much for my standard 9- by 13-inch pan. But maybe the quantity of ingredients that I used would make an ideal 8- by 8-inch lasagna?

6 to 8 servings

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on, trimmed of excess fat and skin
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3½ cups milk
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces spinach, stemmed, washed, sliced into ¼-inch ribbons
3 ounces (1½ cups) grated Parmesan, divided
fresh lasagna noodles (if homemade, use 1 egg + ⅔ cup (3.2 ounces) flour, kneaded and rolled to the
next-to-thinnest setting on a pasta roller, blanched as described here)

1. (Optional) Stir 2 tablespoons salt into 2 cups cold water until it dissolves. Add the chicken; refrigerate for 30 minutes, then remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle-low position and heat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a small oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan; place the chicken breast in the pan skin-side down. Cook without moving until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and move the pan to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken measures 160ºF or the juices run clear when small cut is made in the chicken. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove and discard the skin (or eat it, because it’s crisp and delicious!) and shred the meat with your fingers or two forks. Decrease the oven temperature to 375ºF.

3. Béchamel: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until their liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are slightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the shallots to the pan and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, to make a light roux, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 minutes. Add ¾ teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, nutmeg, spinach and 2½ ounces (1¼ cups) of the Parmesan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes, then add the shredded chicken. Taste the sauce to decide if it needs more salt. Remove the béchamel from the heat and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface until ready to assemble the lasagna.

4. Spray a 9 by 13-inch pan with nonstick spray, and spread about ¼ cup of the béchamel sauce on the bottom of the dish, avoiding any large chunks of chicken. Arrange a single layer of noodles evenly over the sauce. Then alternate layering béchamel and noodles until you run out of noodles – I was able to make 4 layers, I believe. End with the remaining béchamel and sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan.

5. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for about 20 minutes, until bubbly. Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

dulce de leche duos

There’s a suspicious connection between the recipes I’ve made for Tuesdays with Dorie that stand out as my favorites and how good of a mood I was in when I ate them. The brioche tart – the morning of 4th of July, one of my favorite holidays. Pecan pie – Christmas with my family, during a game of Apples to Apples. I made the thumbprint cookies on a particularly nice Saturday afternoon. The pattern is broken with these cookies, because as weather.com informed me, “THE POLLEN FORECAST FOR [MY] AREA IS VERY HIGH”, and I had the sinus headache to prove it.

But these cookies are sort of perfect. They’re really just chocolate chip cookies with dulce de leche substituting for a portion of the sugar.  Also, of course, without the chocolate, and sans chips is exactly how I prefer my dough. (Yes, the dough is a priority.) The milk caramel gives these a butterscotch flavor that usually takes days of refrigerating the dough to achieve, and the soft dough baked into perfectly chewy tender cookies.

The cookies were so good that they didn’t even need to be topped with more dulce de leche, which is good because I ran out after I made just a few scantily-filled sandwiches. Although I have to admit that the extra decadence of the sandwich cookies was…extra decadent.

Jodie chose these cookies for TWD and has the recipe posted. I strongly recommend using 1 teaspoon salt (which is on par with most chocolate chip cookie recipes) instead of the ¼ teaspoon in the original recipe. The sweet caramely cookies really benefit from the salty balance.

One year ago: French Yogurt Cake

brown soda bread

Epicurious reviewers get a lot of flack for their “I made 8 million changes to the recipe and hated it” habit, but in general, I find them completely awesome. Without their unequivocal positive reviews, I wouldn’t have chosen this recipe at all, or I at least would have modified it.

I started to have doubts about the recipe when I was measuring out the ingredients. It’s a quick bread with just two little tablespoons of fat, plus all sorts of whole grains. I was sorely tempted to add another couple tablespoons of butter, but I put my faith in the reviewers who loved the recipe. Honestly, if I hadn’t already eaten two green velvet cupcakes that day, I’m sure I would have doubled the butter.

But I resisted, and it was the right decision. Why am I always surprised when healthy food tastes good? Not only is half of the flour whole wheat, but the recipe includes some wheat bran, wheat germ, and oats for good measure, not to mention that barely there amount of butter.

Somehow, with only 2 tablespoons of butter and nearly 4 cups of flour, over half of it whole grain, this bread wasn’t dry, dense, bitter, or bland. It was the slightest bit sweet, sturdy but soft, perfect smeared with butter and jam or dipped in the cooking liquid from corned beef and cabbage. Who knew that a low fat, whole grain quick bread could be so great? Fortunately for me, I guess those epicurious reviewers did.

One year ago: Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones
Two years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Brown Soda Bread (adapted slightly from Bon Appetit via epicurious.com)

I toasted the wheat germ, wheat bran, and for good measure, the oats, in a small skillet over medium heat until they smelled nutty, which took just a couple of minutes.

1¾ cups (8.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1¾ cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat bran
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups (about) buttermilk

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, bran, wheat germ, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine meal. Stir in enough buttermilk to form a soft dough. Knead the dough slightly to form a cohesive mass and transfer it to the prepared pan. Shape into a round, then, using a bread knife, cut two 1-inch-deep slashes into the dough, forming a cross.

3. Bake until the loaf is dark brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan to a cooling rack and let it cool about 30 minutes before serving.

honey ginger pork tenderloin

So is the rest of the country grilling yet? Dave and I bought a grill in the middle of January, which, in southern New Mexico, is not at all bad grilling weather. And if you’re feeling jealous about our 70-degree sunshine because you’ve been buried in snow for months, keep in mind that the average high in July is 96 degrees. But it’s a dry heat!

For years, I’ve had to ignore the majority of food magazines in July and August because all of the recipes are designed for grilling. My apartment lifestyle didn’t mesh with my desire to cook outside.

Not anymore! Dave and I have grilled every weekend since we got the grill, and I think that we could possibly be getting the hang of it. Maybe.

After my lifelong grilling drought, I’ve been trying to make as many different recipes as possible – fish, steaks, burgers, boneless skinless chicken, bone-in skin-on chicken, lamb roasts, bacon-wrapped dates, all sorts of vegetables and potatoes, bread, and on and on. We’re grilling machines. This recipe knocked our socks off enough to make it two weekends in a row.

It’s simple too – you mix up a few ingredients, add the pork, and set it in the fridge while you go enjoy your perfect-hiking-weather-in-January. Then you get back from hiking, shower, drink a glass of wine (or take a nap, in Dave’s case), and fire up the grill. While it heats, skewer up some potatoes and vegetables. Spend 20 minutes cooking outside, then sit down to a fantastic, easy, smoky, flavorful meal with some more wine. Toast to the weekend and to winters in the desert.

One year ago: Spinach Bread
Two years ago: Classic Pound Cake (but, I think I’ll stick to this other pound cake from now on, with or without bourbon)

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Honey-Gingered Pork Tenderloins (adapted from Gourmet via epicurious.com)

Serves 4-6

¼ cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh gingerroot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ketchup
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
two ¾-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the pork. Add the pork and the marinade to a gallon-size zipper-top bag and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

2. Prepare a medium-hot grill. (You should be able to hold your hands 5 inches above the grate for 3 to 4 seconds.) Remove the pork from the marinade, reserving the marinade.

3. Grill the pork, basting with the reserved marinade, for 12 minutes, turning a quarter turn every 3 minutes. Discard marinade. Continue to cook pork, turning every minute or so, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin measures 145 degrees or the meat is slightly pink at the center. Let the pork rest 5 minutes before slicing.

soft chocolate and berry tart

Chocolate and raspberry was my favorite flavor combination for a long time. It’s still up there for sure, but I’ve tried so many desserts recently that I’ve found all kinds of other great pairs – orange and vanilla, peaches and amaretto, cream cheese and anything. There’s no need to play favorites, but I was excited about making a chocolate and raspberry tart.

Then I used strawberries instead. Sometimes baking for Tuesdays with Dorie happens to be one item on a long (but manageable!) To Do list, and those times, I make do – and I had strawberries in the freezer. Even though Dorie specifically recommends against using strawberries because they’re too juicy, I went ahead with what I had. I defrosted a few, diced them small, sprinkled them with sugar, and set them aside to give off some liquid, which I drained before using the berries in the recipe. (I had a brief thought of “what should I do with the liquid?” Then – wait a minute! That’s sugary strawberry juice! And I drank it.)

I’d call it a success! My tart was a bit sloppy when I cut into it, but it was still crisp tart crust, rich chocolate, and sweet berries. No one complained about combining chocolate and strawberries around here, that’s for sure.  Rachelle has the original recipe posted on her site.

One year ago: Lemon Cup Custards

masa pancakes with chipotle salsa and poached eggs

After buying four and a half pounds of masa harina for a recipe that used, oh, about a cup of it, I completely messed up the recipe I was making. While I learned quite a bit about the chemistry of cooking beans (hint: don’t add tomatoes at the beginning), I have a feeling I won’t be trying that recipe again. Yes, I know it would be much better if I tried that  following-the-directions idea, but the whole thing left me a bad taste in my mouth. Literally.

It also left me with about 4.45 pounds of masa harina. Fortunately, masa is seriously good stuff. It kind of reminds me of Dave’s jokes – intensely corny. Hey, speaking of intensely corny jokes! Anyway, my point is that it’s good, and I was hoping to find something easier than tamales to make with it. (Although I plan on making tamales as well.)

Fortunately, the internet exists, and epicurious had all sorts of fun masa recipes to choose from, like masa pancakes topped with homemade chipotle salsa, poached eggs, and fresh cheese. I thought the recipe had the potential to be complicated, but it’s really just pancakes, sauce, eggs, and some garnish.

The masa pancakes seemed more like pan-fried cornbread than pancakes, and if there’s anything that sounds better than masa pancakes, well, it’s pan-fried cornbread. No, it’s pan-fried cornbread topped with warm chipotle salsa, eggs, and cheese. Only, let’s see, about 4.40 pounds of masa left to use up! I better get to making more pancakes!

One year ago: Orange Berry Muffins
Two years ago: Rice Pudding

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Masa Pancakes Topped with Poached Eggs and Chipotle Ranchera Salsa (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious.com)

Serves 6

The poached egg directions that I’ve included here are pretty much directly from the original recipe, and they are…shall we say, vague (or I might just call them crap if I wasn’t trying to be diplomatic). I would offer my own set of instructions for poaching eggs, but I have lost my egg-poaching mojo lately. Instead, I will direct you here. Or I would just fry the damn eggs using my foolproof method (add a bit of water to the skillet after the eggs start to set and cover the pan; no flipping and you can get away with using less oil!). I’m also curious to try cooking the salsa in a skillet and then poaching the eggs right in the finished salsa.

¾ cup masa harina (corn tortilla mix)
½ cup (2.4 ounces) all purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons corn oil, plus more for cooking the pancakes
12 large eggs + vinegar + salt
Chipotle Ranchera Salsa (recipe follows)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup crumbled queso fresco or shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Spread masa harina on a heavy baking sheet and bake until fragrant and golden, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Place a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack in the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.

2. Whisk masa, flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, 2 eggs and 3 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl to blend. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk just until blended (the batter will be thick).

3. Lightly coat a griddle or 9-inch nonstick skillet with oil. Heat over medium heat. Working in batches, spoon scant ½ cup batter onto the griddle. Using a spoon, spread the batter to a make 4-inch-diameter pancake. Cook until the bottom is golden, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Repeat to make 6 pancakes total, brushing the griddle with oil as needed.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet of salted vinegary water to a simmer. Working in batches, crack 12 eggs into the skillet. Simmer until the eggs are softly poached, about 3 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water; drain.

5. Divide the pancakes among plates. Top each pancake with salsa and 2 poached eggs and sprinkle with cilantro and cheese. Serve immediately.

Chipotle Ranchera Salsa (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious.com)

2 tablespoons corn oil
1 onion, chopped course
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 chipotle chili in adobo, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the salt, and the chipotle. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes to blend the flavors, stirring occasionally.

2. Puree 1 cup of the salsa in a blender (or blend with an immersion blender). Return to the saucepan and stir in the cilantro. Adjust the salt if necessary. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over medium heat.)

how to adapt any bread recipe to be whole wheat

As much as I love Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads, I’ve only made a few recipes from the book. Instead, I’ve been busy using his techniques to adapt my old favorite bread recipes to whole wheat versions. While you can, in general, simply substitute up to half of the flour in a bread recipe with whole wheat, I guarantee that you’ll have better results if you use Reinhart’s trick.

Reinhart uses the same method for most of the breads in his book – about half of the whole wheat flour is combined with salt and liquid and the other half is combined with yeast and liquid. Both mixtures sit overnight before they’re mixed and kneaded into the dough. The resting time breaks down the long bran molecules, making the bread smoother, lighter, and sweeter – in short, more like a white bread.

The 100% whole wheat breads that I’ve tried from Reinhart’s book are truly exceptional. However, I guess I’m sort of a wimp about whole grains. I do like the flavor and texture of white bread, but of course I prefer the health factor of whole grain bread. Plus, I’m still interested in bread recipes outside of Reinhart’s book.

(the pre-dough before resting)

The solution is to mix up just one of Reinhart’s mixtures with whole wheat flour and let that rest overnight (or for around 8 hours), then continue with the recipe as written, mixing in the pre-dough. I’ve done this with all sorts of bread recipes – English muffins, pain ordinaire, light brioche buns, country crust bread, pizza crust.

(the pre-dough after resting and a bit of kneading)

In all cases, I take half of the flour in the recipe and mix it with ¼ teaspoon salt for every 4 ounces of flour. Then I mix in enough liquid – whatever liquid the recipe calls for – to moisten the flour until it forms a dough. Most bread recipes call for about 16 ounces flour total, so the pre-dough is simply 8 ounces of whole wheat flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¾ cup of water (or whatever liquid the recipe calls for).  When the final dough is mixed, those ingredients are subtracted from the original recipe.

And every time, the result is essentially identical to an all-white version – the dough is smooth, elastic, and easy to work with. The bread is light and flavorful. And, I still get to play with an entire world of bread recipes. Win win win!

One year ago: Roasted Kale
Two years ago: Banana Walnut Pancakes

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Whole Wheat Light Brioche Burger Buns (adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)

Makes 8 buns

Pre-dough:
1¾ cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water

1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.

2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If it will be more than 24 hours, place the soaker in the refrigerator; it will be good for up to 3 days. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to take off the chill.)

Dough:
8 ounces (about 1⅔ cups) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
pre-dough
¼ cup warm water
3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2½ tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
extra flour or water for adjustments
egg wash: 1 tablespoon milk or 1 egg white or whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds

1. If mixing with a stand mixer: Add the flour and salt to mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low just to combine. Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles crumbs. Cut the pre-dough into about 12 pieces and add them to the flour mixture, tossing the pieces to coat (to keep them from immediately sticking back together). Replace the paddle attachment with the hook. Add the water, milk, yeast, sugar, and egg to the mixer bowl and mix on medium-low until combined, then continue kneading until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. The dough should be just a bit loose and sticky; add flour if necessary.

If mixing by hand: In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Cut the pre-dough into about 12 pieces and add them to the flour mixture, tossing the pieces to coat (to keep them from immediately sticking back together). Add the water, milk, yeast, sugar, and egg and stir with a rubber spatula until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so it can be a bit messy, but keep in mind that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. Try to leave them tackier than you would a round loaf.

2. Spray a bowl with nonstick spray; shape dough into a ball and place it in bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide dough into 8 equal parts. To shape each portion into an even round, gently pull the edges toward a pucker and pinch them together. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange them two to three inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray (or a damp towel) and let buns rise in a warm place for about one hour.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Brush egg wash on buns and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown and an instant-read thermometer reads at least 185 degrees, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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Whole Wheat Pain Ordinaire (adapted from Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno’s Ultimate Bread and Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)

Makes 1 loaf

Pre-dough:
1¾ cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water

1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.

2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If it will be more than 24 hours, place the soaker in the refrigerator; it will be good for up to 3 days. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to take off the chill.)

Dough:
1¾ cups (9½ ounces) all-purpose or bread flour
pre-dough
2 teaspoons instant yeast
⅔ cup water, room temperature
¾ teaspoon salt

1. Add the flour to a mixer bowl fitted with hook attachment (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Cut the pre-dough into about 12 pieces and add them to the flour, tossing the pieces to coat (to keep them from immediately sticking back together). Add the water, yeast, and salt to the mixer bowl and mix on medium-low until combined (or stir with a rubber spatula), then continue kneading until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes (8-10 minutes if by hand). The dough should be soft but not sticky; add flour if necessary.

2. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.

3. Gently pat the dough into a rough rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough, letter style, up to the center and press to seal, creasing surface tension on the outer edge. Fold the remaining dough over the top and use the edge of your hand to seal the seam closed and to increase the surface tension all over. Press evenly with the palms of both hands and roll the dough backward and forward until it is 10 inches in length. Line a pizza peel baking parchment. Place the loaf on the peel and lightly dust with flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel.

4. Proof at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until the loaf has grown to about twice its original size. About half an hour into the second rise, place a baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

5. Using a very sharp knife or a serrated bread knife, cut 5 diagonal slashes, each about ¼ to ½-inch deep, across the top of the loaf. (Alternatively, cut one long slash that extends for the length of the loaf.)

6. Transfer the dough on the parchment to the baking stone. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until golden brown and the temperature is at least 200 degrees at the center. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.

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Whole Wheat Country Crust Bread (adapted from Betty Crocker and Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)

Makes 1 sandwich loaf

Pre-dough:
1¾ cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water

1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.

2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If it will be more than 24 hours, place the soaker in the refrigerator; it will be good for up to 3 days. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to take off the chill.)

Dough:
1¾ cups (9½ ounces) unbleached flour
1 teaspoon table salt
¼ cup water, warm (110 degrees)
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast

1. Add the flour to mixer bowl fitted with hook attachment (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Cut the pre-dough into about 12 pieces and add them to the flour, tossing the pieces to coat (to keep them from immediately sticking back together). Add the salt, water, egg, oil, sugar, and yeast to the mixer bowl and mix on medium-low until combined (or stir with a rubber spatula), then continue kneading until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes (8-10 minutes if by hand). The dough should be soft but not sticky; add flour if necessary.

2. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.

3. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Finally, place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan.

4. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan; place pan in oven. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.