corniest corn muffins

I hemmed and hawed over these more than muffins probably deserve. The issue is that while I like corn on its own, I struggle to enjoy the crisp kernels in soups, breads, or stews. On the other hand, it’s nice to have some textural contrast in muffins – and what better to provide that in a corn muffin than corn?

In the end, in the spirit of Not Being Picky, I left the corn in (without pureeing it like I’d also considered). And I’ll be darned if one of these, served alongside a small bowl of chili topped with large amounts of Greek yogurt and avocado, wasn’t one of the most satisfying meals I’ve eaten in days.

These muffins were chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Jill, and she will post the recipe. I reduced the sugar to ¼ cup (per Deb’s recommendation), added half a minced jalapeno, and did not increase the salt(!). The cornmeal I used (Arrowhead) was finely ground, which I believe is what leant my muffins such a tender, almost flaky texture.

One year ago: Thumbprints for Us Big Guys
Two years ago: Lemon Cup Custard (my pick)

 

 

sandwich thins

Ah, carbs. They’re the best, aren’t they? They don’t even need to be combined with carb’s best friend, butter, to be a treat. A hunk of airy-crumbed, chewy-crusted bread with a glass of dry red wine is a pleasure all on its own. A few slivers of cheese balance and enhance the flavors of each, but it isn’t necessary. All I need is the carbs.

Remember when the base of the food pyramid was carbs? Those were the good ol’ days. I’ve reversed my own personal food pyramid to be mostly fruits and vegetables, a goodly amount of protein, and a smattering of carbs (on weekdays; all bets are off on Saturday). A giant Kaiser roll, sadly, is more than a smattering.

Sandwich thins, however, are the perfect compromise between wanting carbs and not wanting to overdo it. But just because there’s less bread per sandwich doesn’t mean the bread can be less good. You still want it to be soft and tender, but also sturdy, and if it could be all that and still be whole grain, that would be no bad thing.

I hear you can buy these in the store or some such thing, but I’m not acquainted with the bread aisle at the grocery store, and anyway, what’s the fun in that? Buying things that we could spend hours of our busy schedules making from scratch is not what this blog is about.

One year ago: Mediterranean Pepper Salad
Two years ago: Lemon Cream Cheese Bars
Three years ago: Salmon Cakes, Flaky Biscuits, Hashed Brussels Sprouts

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Sandwich Thins (adapted from food.com via Confections of a Foodie Bride)

Makes 16

I meant to follow the directions when I made this, but I didn’t actually read them before starting. So I mixed it like a regular bread dough, and it worked just fine.

I doubt wheat bran and vital wheat gluten are crucial to this recipe. If you don’t have vital wheat gluten, just use more white flour (or better yet, substitute bread flour, if you have it, for the all-purpose flour). If you don’t have wheat bran, substitute more whole wheat flour. Bread is forgiving.

1 egg
1¼ cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (10 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup wheat bran
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons instant yeast
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons rolled oats

1. Stand mixer: In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the egg; whisk in the water and oil. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the flours, bran, gluten, yeast, sugar, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the liquid ingredients. Continue mixing on medium-low until the dough is elastic and supple, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

By hand: In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the egg; whisk in the water and oil. Mix the flours, bran, gluten, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Stir the mixture until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to a floured board or countertop and knead, incorporating as little flour as possible, for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and supple. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

2. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp dishtowel. Set the dough aside to rise until it has doubled in volume, about 1½ hours.

3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball; then flatten it between your palms. Place it on the baking sheet and press down, working the dough into a thin 5-inch round. Brush the tops with water; sprinkle with rolled oats. Cover with damp kitchen towels and let rise until slightly risen, about 45 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use the blunt end of a wooden skewer to poke 9 holes in each roll. Bake 12-15 minutes, until puffed and dry on top. Cool completely before slicing.

chocolate oatmeal drops

Chocolate cookies, yay! Oatmeal cookies, boo.

No creaming of butter, boo. Brownie mixing method, yay!

Bit of spreading around the edges, boo. Delicious chewy brownie cookies with bits of oatmeal, yay!

Caroline and Claire chose these cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie, and they have the recipe posted. I increased the salt, replaced the water with vanilla, and left out the cinnamon.

One year ago: Dorie’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two years ago: Devil’s Food White-Out Cake

Okay, now my next extry will be a chocolate frosting comparison. Pinky swear.

great grains muffins

These muffins tasted wonderfully buttery, which was not what I was expecting based on the recipe’s title. There is some whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and cornmeal in there, and based on the nutritious aspects of those whole grains, I considered reducing the butter to make a muffin that was actually on the healthful side.

I’m glad I didn’t. Healthy is good too, but sometimes, you just want a muffin that’s light, fluffy, slightly crisp at the edges, studded with tart dried currants, and best of all – buttery.

Christine chose these for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I doubled the salt and added currants instead of prunes.

One year ago: The Infamous Lobster Cake
Two years ago: World Peace Cookies

whole wheat bagels

It’s possible that bagels are my favorite food. Yes, more so than tomato soup, than macaroni and cheese, even more so than chocolate chip cookie dough! And so I eat one almost everyday. It’s basically my lunch break and it’s a happy little time for me with my bagel, my black tea, and my Google Reader.

But here’s the thing – if I’m going to be eating a bagel every single day, I better make sure it’s healthy. For years, I made bagels with half white and half whole wheat flour, and I felt like that was a nice compromise between delicious and nutritious. Bagels with no white flour would be like hockey pucks, right? And they would taste like whole wheat. The horror!

I know I’m becoming a broken record, but the answer, of course, is in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. All it takes is a little overnight soak, and those whole grains act like refined white flour – they taste sweeter, form supple doughs, and bake into tender, light breads.

Not that it was smooth-sailing from the beginning with this bagel recipe. The problem I was having with this is that it’s too simple. Most bagel recipes need an overnight retardation in the refrigerator before they can be boiled and baked. This recipe doesn’t require that, and in fact, doesn’t need much time for a second rise at all. I’ve had the hardest time getting this through my stubborn head, and so over and over, I was making over-risen, sunken, ugly bagels.

A year after I started using this recipe, I think I’ve finally nailed it. You know what I did? I followed the recipe closer. My happy little bagel break just got a little happier.

One year ago: Pasta with No-Cook Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella
Two years ago: Country Egg Scramble

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Whole Wheat Bagels (adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)

Makes 8 large bagels or 12 small bagels

There are a few shortcuts in this compared to Reinhart’s original recipe. I make it every couple of weeks, so the faster I can get it done, the better!

I’ve played with the timing of this recipe quite a bit. The original results in fresh bagels 5-6 hours after you start (the second day). But I usually want them in the morning. You can refrigerate the dough in two places – either after the bagels are formed (in which case you should decrease the yeast slightly to prevent the bagels from over-rising) or right after kneading. The last time I refrigerated it after kneading, it rose overnight in the fridge, and in the morning, I immediately shaped the bagels and boiled them shortly afterward.

Pre-dough 1:
8 ounces whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
6 ounces (¾ cup) water

Pre-dough 2:
2 tablespoons barley malt syrup
5 ounces water
8 ounces whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt

Final dough:
both pre-doughs
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons yeast
¾ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons flour, plus more if necessary
1 tablespoon baking soda (for boiling)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix all of the ingredients in Pre-dough 1 on medium-low speed until combined. Set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 1-cup measuring cup, stir together the barley malt syrup and the 5 ounces of water in Pre-dough 2. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until the barley malt syrup dissolves into the water. Return to Pre-dough 1 and knead on low speed for 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Refrigerate overnight. Add the flour and salt for Pre-dough 2 to the empty mixer bowl; with the mixer on low speed, pour in the water-syrup mixture. Mix on medium-low just until combined. Cover the mixer bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.

2. The following day, transfer the refrigerated Pre-dough 1 to room temperature for a couple hours to warm slightly. When you’re ready to make the final dough, stir together the 1 tablespoon water and the yeast. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix both pre-doughs, the water and yeast, and the salt on low speed until combined. While the mixer is running, add in the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s fully absorbed by the dough. Knead on low speed for 5-6 minutes, adding more flour or water if necessary to form a smooth, firm dough. It shouldn’t be sticky.

3. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it increases to about 1½ times its original size, 1-2 hours.

4. Divide the dough into 8-12 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, then roll each piece into a rope about ¾-inch thick (slightly thicker for larger bagels). Bring the ends of the rope together and gently roll them on a flat surface to seal. Set aside for about 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and bring at least three inches of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda, reduce the heat to medium-high and gently drop 2-4 bagels (as many as will fit without crowding) into the water. Boil for 1 minute, flipping the bagels halfway through.

6. Place the boiled bagels on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer the sheet to the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees, and bake until the bagels are browned and feel hard, 13 minutes for small bagels and slightly longer for larger bagels. (The bagels will soften as they cool.) Cool completely before serving. (I can only fit one baking sheet, holding half a batch of bagels, in my oven at once, so I refrigerate the remaining unboiled bagels until the first pan is almost done baking, then boil and bake them.)

oatmeal breakfast bread

I finally admitted defeat this weekend. For the first time this year, I bought bread. I also bought pre-chopped vegetables, hummus, and pre-washed lettuce. Why do I force myself to do all these things from scratch? Preparing my snacks and lunches for the work week has been seriously cutting into my favorite Sunday activity (sitting outside with a margarita and a book, of course). The only things I’m still making from scratch are hard-boiled eggs and muffins for Dave.

I’m lucky that so far the quick bread chapter in the Tuesdays with Dorie cookbook has been seriously overlooked, so I can double task lunch prep and TWD. (The celebration cake chapter is DONE, which, for me, is cause for celebration.) It also helps that muffins are so easy and bake quickly.

These are a perfect example of why I can’t bring myself to buy muffins. These aren’t perfectly healthy, but they’re certainly better for you than anything storebought – not to mention how sweet and tender and soft they are as well. I’m definitely willing to sacrifice a bit of Sunday margarita time to make muffins like this.

Natalie chose this recipe, and she has it posted on her site. I used raisins for the dried fruit, but these were so perfectly spiced for fall that I wish I’d used dried apples instead.

One year ago: Applesauce Spice Bars
Two years ago: Granola Grabbers

whole wheat challah

This is the third or fourth challah recipe I’ve tried and most certainly my favorite. Yes, the whole wheat version is the best challah I’ve made. I’m surprised too.

Maybe challah doesn’t seem like something that would adapt well to whole wheat? Whole wheat bread is often denser and drier than refined flour loaves, and challah should be light and fluffy and tender. Peter Reinhart knows this; you must trust Peter Reinhart.

He uses his standard whole wheat trick of soaking the whole wheat flour overnight to break down the grains. In this case, one of the pre-doughs uses eggs instead of water as the soaking liquid. He uses oil instead of the butter many recipes require. Everyone loves the taste of butter, but I’m becoming more and more enamored with oil in baking, because it makes things so tender and moist.

I really don’t think I like whole wheat bread any more than the average person. I think it’s just that, using Reinhart’s recipes, I can make some exceptionally good whole wheat bread. This is perfect challah whether you’re a white bread or a wheat bread lover.

One year ago: Lemon Meringue Cake
Two years ago: Fried Egg and Sausage Ciabatta Breakfast Pizzas

Printer Friendly Recipe
Whole Wheat Challah (adapted slightly from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)

You can do more complicated braids with this if you prefer. Just do an internet search for instructions for 4-, 5-, and 6-strand braids.

Soaker:
1¾ cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour, preferably fine grind
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water

Biga:
1¾ cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour, preferably fine grind
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
½ cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks

Final dough:
the soaker
the biga
7 tablespoons (2 ounces) whole wheat flour, plus more for adjustments
¾ teaspoon salt
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar or brown sugar, or 1½ tablespoons honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Toppings:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
pinch salt
poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

1. For the soaker: In a medium mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or refrigerate for up to 3 days. If the dough is refrigerated, leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before mixing the final dough.

2. For the biga: In a medium mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Knead for 2 minutes; the dough will feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. Leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before mixing the final dough.

3. For the final dough: Cut the soaker and biga into about 12 smaller pieces. Put the pieces in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook along with the 7 tablespoons flour, the salt, instant yeast, sugar, and oil. (Or mix by hand in a large bowl.) Mix on slow speed for about 1 minute, until the dough comes together, then increase the speed to medium-high and continue mixing and kneading for 6 minutes, adding flour if necessary, until the dough is soft and tacky, but not sticky. (Or knead by hand for 6-8 minutes.) Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1½ times its original size.

4. Gently transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 6 evenly sized pieces for 2 smaller loaves or 3 evenly sized pieces for 1 large loaf. Roll each portion of dough into a rope about 10 inches long, letting the dough rest for 5 minutes if it’s very elastic. Braid the ropes.

5. Place the braid(s) on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. To make the egg wash, whisk the egg, water, and salt (listed above in Toppings) together. Brush the braids with the egg wash, cover, and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

6. Brush the dough with the egg wash again, then top with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, if using. Leave the dough uncovered and let rise for 15 more minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

7. Place the challah on the middle shelf, reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Check the bread and rotate again if it is baking unevenly. Continue baking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the bread is a rich brown all around, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and registers at least 195 degrees at the center.

8. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

basic pancakes

Every time I want to make pancakes, I have to look up my pumpkin pancake recipe and mentally subtract out the pumpkin and fall spices. It’s about time I made my basic pancake recipe more accessible.

The thing about pancakes is that there are a lot of less-than-perfect recipes. Trust me, I’ve tried a lot of them. I suppose what’s less-than-perfect for me might be perfect for someone else. Maybe. Because if a pancake is not too thin and not too thick, not too sweet and not too bland, plus not too hard to make and not too bad for you, what else could you want?

Did you want adaptability? You can have that too. Add fruit or nuts. Replace the sugar with honey. Replace half (maybe more!) of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour.

Did you want to use something other than buttermilk? I’m becoming a fan of actual buttermilk (or what passes for it in the grocery store today, which is not actually the “milk” leftover after churning cream into butter, but something more similar to yogurt – whatever, I like it). I love having it around. It lasts a while in the fridge and gives me an excuse to make pancakes, waffles, biscuits, coleslaw, cake. If you instead want to do the milk+lemon juice trick, only use ¾ cup of milk along with a tablespoon of lemon juice. If you’re using powdered buttermilk, only use 7 (liquid) ounces of water instead of the cup it recommends. If you have both plain yogurt and milk around, mixing the two together is my favorite buttermilk substitute.

You can top your pancakes with whatever you want too, which probably means syrup. But, consider something different – maybe jam and plain yogurt? It’s healthier, but more important, it tastes great, with a nice balance of sweet and tart, hot (if you heat the jam first) and cool. Or just use syrup. However you prefer your perfect pancakes is fine by me.

One year ago: Brioche
Two years ago: Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese

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Basic Pancakes

Serves 2

There are all kinds of ways to play with this recipe – chunks of fruit or chocolate or nuts, spices, whole wheat pastry flour. The recipe is your oyster. You can even get away with using only 1 tablespoon of butter.

See the blog entry for notes on buttermilk substitutions.

1 cup (5 ounces) flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk
vegetable oil for the pan

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the butter and buttermilk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently until batter is mostly mixed but still contains small lumps. Let the batter rest while the pan heats, at least 5 minutes.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add a few drops of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour the pancake batter onto the hot griddle. When the pancakes are golden brown, after about 2-3 minutes, flip to cook the other side another 2-3 minutes. Keep warm in oven heated to 200 degrees.

raisin swirl bread

Dave has recently encountered an enviable problem. After starting to exercise a few months ago for the first time in years, he started losing weight too fast.

Losing weight. Too fast.

So now we’re trying to come up with ways to get him more healthy calories that don’t create much more work. Hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, protein shakes, and bread. Making a loaf of bread every couple of weeks for him to eat at work does require more effort, but it isn’t work, because I like making bread.

I haven’t bought bread since moving to New Mexico last winter, and I haven’t made pure white bread since discovering I could adapt any recipe to be at least partially whole wheat with no detriment to flavor or texture. It worked just as well with this bread as it has in the past, giving me a light, tender loaf of bread made a little more special with a spiral of raisins and sugar and cocoa. Not that I got to eat more than a slice, since most of this loaf went to He Who is Super Annoying Because He Gets to Eat Twice as Much Food as Me.

Susan chose this bread for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I mixed 2 cups (9.6 ounces) of whole wheat flour with ¾ cup of the milk and ½ teaspoon of the salt and let it sit overnight before combining it with the rest of the ingredients. And for whatever reason, 1 cup of raisins was way too much for me and they all fell out when I cut into the bread. But no one else had this problem, so apparently I’m just a weirdo. Still, next time, ½ cup of raisins.

One year ago: Honey Peach Ice Cream
Two years ago: Cappuccino Cream Puff Rings

quinoa tabbouleh

I have annoying eating habits at work. Carrots – crunchy. Bananas – smelly. Hard-boiled eggs – crunchy (during the peeling) and smelly. My officemate is very tolerant. And on our first day in the office together, she asked me, “So is that how you stay thin? By eating healthy all the time?” Hmm…

  1. Call me thin some more, if you will. I will use it as an excuse to skip my workout this evening.
  2. Define “all the time.” Because…no. Not so much.

She asked me what I normally make for dinner, and I was at a loss for an answer. I’m a food blogger; I repeat dinners maybe once every couple of months. The quickest way I could think to answer that question was to give her the link to my blog. My third day at work, and I already outed myself as Food Obsessed.

She asked me what I was making for dinner that night, and when I answered, she asked what quinoa was. I was reminded: I’m the weird one when it comes to food. And so are you, probably, if you’re reading a food blog. I wonder what percentage of people in my small isolated desert town know what quinoa is?

Which is sad, because, as you know if you are also one of the Food Obsessed, quinoa is what all of the other whole grains (I know, I know, not technically a grain) want to be – hearty and healthy, but fluffy and slightly sweet, the way most grains don’t taste until they’re refined. Mixing it with vegetables, herbs, and feta makes it even healthier, which is perfect because that way I get dessert.  No one can eat healthy all the time, right?

One year ago: Strawberry Lemon Sorbet
Two years ago: Ricotta Spinach Tofu Ravioli

Printer Friendly Recipe
Quinoa Tabbouleh (adapted from Bookcook via the kitchn)

Makes 3-4 main course servings

Some things: I didn’t quite follow this method to mellow the bite of the onions, and my method did not work. The leftovers were particularly intense. Soak the onion in water! You may want to add the garlic too, although I have no evidence that this method would work for garlic. It just seems like it could.

The original recipe includes mint, but I don’t usually like mint with savory food. It also called for olive oil, and I intended to add it but after tasting the salad, the oil didn’t seem necessary. And less oil in dinner means more cookies for dessert.

The standard directions for cooking quinoa seem to be 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water, so I’ve left that as it was in the original recipe. But I’m suspicious: my pot had a lot of water left in it at the end of cooking that had to be drained off. Next time I’m trying 1½ cups water for 1 cup quinoa.

I know traditional tabbouleh is more parsley than grain, but it’s also more side dish than main, which wasn’t what I was going for.

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
½ red onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced ⅛-inch thick
1 bunch parsley (about 2 cups), minced
8 ounces feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Rinse the quinoa well under cold water. Put it in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl to cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover the diced onion and a pinch of salt with water. Let the onion soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Drain the onions; add them to the bowl along with the garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and feta; stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning (more salt? more lemon juice?) and serve.