Friday, September 28, 2007

Breads of Champions

Here are the recipes for the two snowgoose breads that ganged up to trounce the competition in Bake Off 2.

Pumpkin Bread (from All New Joy of Cooking)

Preheat the oven to 350 F and Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan

1. Whisk together:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp baking powder

2. Combine in another bowl:

1/3 cup soy milk (alternatively, add 1/3 cup water or milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla

3. In a large bowl, beat until creamy, about 30 seconds

6 tsbs unsalted butter

4. Gradually add and beat on high spead until lightened in color and texture, 3-4 minutes

1 cup sugar plus
1/3 cup brown sugar

5. Beat in 1 at a time:

2 large eggs

6. Add and beat on low speed until just blended:

1 cup pumpkin puree

7. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk milxture on 2 parts, beating on low speed.

8. Fold in:

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup raisins

9. Bake for about 1 hour. Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to cool on the rack


Super Moist Apple Bread (from Secrets of Fat Free Baking)

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup apple juice (I used cherry cider)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped apples
1/4 cup raisins

1. Combine flour, sugar, and baking soda, stirring to mix well.

2. Add the juice and vanilla extract, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened

3. Fold in the apples and raisins

4. Spread the mixture evenly in a greased 8 by 4 inch pan and bake at 325 F for 55 minutes or just until a wooden toothpick inserted in teh center of the loaf comes out clean


These recipes provided some delicious breads and set the stage for the ultimate confrontation. Who is the baking champion? Decide in Bake Off 3: The Reckoning!

Battle of the Breads Part Two: The Loser Bread

I'm sorry to report that despite all my bragging, I lost this round of the bake off. Mr. Snowgoose and his pumpkin bread killed my apple bread. There was no contest. His bread was far more moist and spicy. By the end of my flight my bread was squished and had become more dense.



Here is the loser bread recipe. It's still good.

From Better Homes and Gardens:

Prep 15 minutes Bake 55 minutes Oven at 350.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 cup finely shredded, peeled apple
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

Directions:

1. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of 8x4x2-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In another medium mixing bowl combine sugar , shredded apple, cooking oil, egg, and lemon peel. Mix well. Add dry mixture to apple mixture. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in nuts.

3. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight.

1 loaf makes 16 servings.



This is what winning bread looks like. Recipe to follow soon.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Butternut Squash Soup with apple and bacon

It was a rainy Tuesday in Seattle when Mr. Snowgoose and I decided to warm our bellies after a long run with this squash soup.

Because we only had 5 strips of bacon and a can of chicken stock, we cut the recipe in half.

Note: This is not vegan. I'm sure you could sub in vegetable broth and fakin' bacon, but it wouldn't taste as good.

From Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Makes 6 servings



Ingredients
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (to yield about 6 cups)
1 small granny smith or other tart-sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (to yield about 1 cup)
1 1/2 tbs finely chopped fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth

1. In a 5 qt stock pot over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp and gold, 8-10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

2. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the squash to the bacon fat and cook until slightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.








3. Stir in the apple, sage, 1 tsp. sale, and 1/2 tsp pepper; cook for about 4 minutes.

4. Add the broth, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the squash and apples are very soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cook somewhat.

5. Add about half the bacon to the soup and puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or stand blender. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Reheat the soup and garnish each serving with the remaining bacon.


Notes from the cooks:
1. The soup was a little salty. You could probably omit the salt since the bacon is chock full of sodium. Also, when halving the recipe make sure you halve the spices. Our soup was a tad over spiced.

2. If you don't have sage, you can sub in rosemary or thyme. We used thyme.

3. Our soup was much darker than the photo in the magazine, probably from all the bacon bits.

4. This tasted awesome. I'm totally going to make it again.

5. For such a simple recipe it takes forever to make. You'd think something with 5 ingredients wouldn't take an hour and a half.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Battle of the Breads: Bakeoff Part One

So Mr. Snowgoose and I have been duking it out to see who makes the best bread. After my win in Chicago he demanded a rematch. He wanted to have a bake off in his kitchen, but I didn't want him to have home field advantage, so I am bringing my top secret bread tonight when I fly west.

I will say that I used the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook and that my main ingredient was bought fresh from the farmer's market.

Apparently Snowgoose has made two types of bread, which is cheating. I told him he has to pick one before the taste test. Winner gets bragging rights and a back rub.

All recipes will be posted once the bake off is complete.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Famous Blueberry Zucchini Bread

I know what you're thinking: blueberries and zucchinis? Together in a bread? But zucchinis are a vegetable. I hate vegetables. This sounds totally nasty.

Don't worry my friends. This doesn't taste weird or like vegetables. In fact, aside from a few green specks, most people wouldn't be able to tell there was a vegetable in there. The great thing about zucchinis is that the water content of them is like a zillion, so you can potentially leave the bread on the counter for days and it will still be moist, unlike banana bread which dries out pretty quickly.

I came across this recipe last summer, back when I started getting the box of organic produce delivered to me every week. Of course, along with the blueberries and zucchinis in the box, there was a recipe for this fruit bread.

Now I love fruit breads, partially because they can count as breakfast or dessert, depending on the time of day. And I like blueberries. And I like zucchinis. Because of the abundance of said blueberries and zucchinis in the summer and into the fall, this is the perfect harvest-time treat.

Ingredients:

2 eggs, lightly beaten or equivalent egg replacer
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup shredded zucchini (I peeled mine first) Usually 1 medium size is enough.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 pint fresh blueberries (or about 1 1/2 cups frozen)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two mini loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to prepared mini-loaf pans.
3. Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 2 mini loaves, adapted from allrecipes.com.



Chef's notes:

You could probably make this vegan by adding soy yogurt instead of eggs. You could also substitute splenda for baking or applesauce for the sugar to make it healthier. I've used spenda before and it tasted fine. I also once made a whole wheat version of this, which was good, but tasted better 3/4 cup all purpose flour and 3/4 cup wheat.

My blueberries have the tendency to settle closer to the bottom of the bread.

I made this as a thank you for some friends who were hosting Ian and I as house guests in Chicago. Ian decided to make a blueberry-banana bread and we had ourselves a little bake off. His was good, but the moistness of my bread raised the bar. Eating slices of the breads side to side made me realize that they really don't taste all that different from each other.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ian's Yummy Ratatouille

I started making this French vegetable dish after watching the Pixar movie about the rat that cooks. If rodents can cook it, so can I. The recipe is from the Joy of Cooking.

Ingredients:

1/4 olive oil + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound zuchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cup sliced onions
2 large bell peppers, cut into 1 inch squares
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups, chopped seeded peeled fresh tomatoes (3 or so)
2 to 3 sprigs fresh time
1 bay leaf

Directions:

1. Saute the eggplant and zuchini cubes in the 1/4 cup oilive oil in a large skillet over high heat until the vegetables are golden and just tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Remove the vegetables, reduce heat to medium high. In the same pan cook the 2 tablespoons olive oil and the onions until the onions are slightly softened.

3. Add the garlic and red bell peppers to the onions and cook for 8 to 12 minutes. The heat will still be at medium high.

4. Season with salt and ground black pepper to taste.

5. Add to the onion/red pepper mixture the 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf.

6. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook this mixture for five minutes.

7. Add eggplant and zuchini to mixture and cook on low heat for 20 more minutes (I covered the skillet for the 20 minute cook).

8. Add 1/4 chopped fresh basil.

I've cooked this several times and realized that not every ingredient is a necessity. For example, I've got by without adding the onions or bay leaf. The most important thing is to let the ingredients cook slowly so the flavor comes out. Also, make sure that the tomatoes are properly seeded, otherwise the mixture will end up too soupy. Properly cooked, this recipe will create a garden feast fit for both mice (maybe rats) and men.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Via Chicago

I spent last weekend in Chicago visiting friends. Obviously, I didn't cook, but I did eat at some fantastic places. Here are the highlights:

Green Zebra, Vegetarian Cuisine

The whole menu looked delicious. I would have loved to have sampled everything; however, neither my wallet nor my stomach were large enough.

I had the 5 course Tomato Tasting Menu:

We started off with this:


I couldn't tell you what it is called but it involved a spoon full of balsamic vinegar, a piece of watermelon, and a tomato. Surprisingly light and refreshing.

"Caprese": green zebra tomatoes, baslamic, gelee, burrata



This was one of my favorite courses of the night.

Chilled Gazpacho: fried okra, white anchovy



My least favorite course. Ian ate the anchovy.

Roasted Tomato Tart: roasted shallot puree, Parmesan foam



Loved it, except for the foam.

Semolina Gnocchi: heirloom tomatoes, favas, fried sage.



Very filling. I could only eat half.

The last course was Vanilla Bean Cheasecake with cinnamon tomato compote and candied tomatoes. This was so very good. Too bad I ate it before taking a picture.


Ian got:

Shaved artichoke salad with Parmesan, preserved lemons, and red pepper foam



Foam= gross.

Chilled Arugula Soup, tomatoes, sliced black truffles


The truffles were to die for.

Blue Cheese Beignets, roasted mission fig, bearnaise, port wine


Ian loved it. I found it nasty, mostly because I don't like blue cheese.

Prospera Farms Chicken Egg, smoked potato puree, parsley, country sourdough



The potato was so creamy, you could have sworn there was cheese hiding in it.



We also ate at Orange, a brunch place. Most of the food was typical brunch fare like eggs and pancakes and such. But they did have chai french toast, chocolate chip pancakes, green eggs (pesto) and ham, and frushi.

Frushi is fruit sushi: we had watermelon and kiwi/strawberry sushi with orange rice.



It was really sweet. Not so much a breakfast food, but maybe a dessert. The brown stuff is chocolate sauce.



We also got fresh juice blends. Mine was watermelon,pineapple, blueberry.



The watermelon was really overpowering.