Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

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Belgian beauties. Yes, they’re worth it. (Have fun, search engines.)

September 15, 2009

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For many years, I claimed to be a strict savory breakfast eater. No pancakes for me. No waffles. No French toast. No funny little Danishes. No, thank you. I’ll take eggs, I’d say. Give me an omelet any day. And more bacon. And sausage.

I stand by my love for the saltier breakfast fare, but I admit that a taste for the sweet has crept in there. And in the case of these Belgian waffles, perhaps more than crept. Maybe more like stormed in with the sound and fury of the first ten minutes of a Michael Bay movie.

It’s important to note that I included the nationality “Belgian” in the description of these waffles. I mean, an ordinary waffle is nothing to stop traffic for. A pancake, unless packed with extra love and ingredients (see the husband’s Orange Ricotta Pancakes), is tasty but not remarkable. French toast is, too often, just some eggy bread. But those Belgians were onto something. They’ve taken an ordinary breakfast bread and, er, waffled it, expanding the possible crispy delectable surface area by multiples. It’s crispy, yet fluffy and soft. It’s caramelly and yet also complex. It’s fragrant and, yes, oh so seductive. Still more fiendishly, it has these generous square cups to hold syrup or trap dainty pieces of fruit or puddles of ice cream in. Is genius too strong a word? I think not.

How did this love affair begin? When we encountered some outstanding Belgian waffles at a local restaurant one evening as a dessert item. Granted, I was nine months pregnant and out for the rare dinner without a two-year-old, so that might have made them extra delicious. But the husband’s reaction was even more mighty (and, let’s face it, predictable). He ran right out and bought himself a Belgian waffle iron (natch) and set to work trying to replicate said waffles. After several batches of subpar waffles – which I managed to force down – this recipe emerged.

Is it worth it? Is it worth wrangling with those yeastie-beasties? Waiting an hour for the batter to “develop flavors”? Worth buying a freakin’ Belgian waffle maker? I can only speak for myself. And the answer is: Yes, indeed, and please pass the waffles.

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And now, the Husband’s take…

I know, you’re thinking, “Waffles are easy.” And if you just whip together commercial pancake mix, then you’re right. These waffles are something else. They’re more like a “gateway drug” to interesting culinary possibilities. You see, these waffles eschew chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder. Instead, they gain their volume and gusto from a combination of whipped egg whites and slower acting yeast.

Wait, wait… I know what you are thinking: Yeast is a microorganism that should be left in the hands of serious bakers. But, think of the potential magic to be unlocked. The yeast provides not only volume, but also delicious taste. It provides the tang of fermentation that makes these waffles serious contenders for glory. While they are a great breakfast/brunch food, they are also great for dessert with a little ice cream or even just nude as a snack.

In addition, if you get hooked on these waffles, you just might find yourself experimenting with other tasty, yeast-oriented projects… like donuts, bagels, country loaves or those crunchy, crusty French baguettes. The possibilities are really endless once you make friends with yeast. You just might become an addict.

Before I go, just a little note. These are not quick-to-make waffles from the back of the box. I typically make them for weekend brunch or as a dessert for a party. The big reason is that you need some time to let the flavor develop. So, either begin the process early in the morning or start the night before, refrigerate the batter and then let it warm back up on the counter an hour or two before you make the waffles. In any case, you will be incredibly well rewarded for a little patience.

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Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk (warm or room temperature)
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. rapid rise yeast
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Let the milk come to room temperature, or warm it. This is important because the yeast will not be getting the classic bloom you see with bread recipes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt (dry ingredients) and whisk to integrate. In another bowl, combine the milk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla and whisk until homogeneous (wet ingredients). Finally, in a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

3. In the larger bowl, combine the dry and wet ingredients until they just come together. The mass should be relatively dense and very sticky.

4. Fold in the egg white in three stages. In the first stage, you can be a tad bit rougher as the moisture of the whites will make the mixture more workable. In the next two installments, simply work the whites in just enough as to bring the mixture together and ensure there are no large portions of whites. You don’t want to overdo this step. We want the air and moisture to integrate well.

5. Let the batter rest covered on the counter for a minimum of 1 hour. If you take more than 3 hours, move the batter to the refrigerator. The batter should expand significantly (double) and may require a stir to keep form overflowing if the bowl is small.

6. Ensure your waffle maker is as hot as possible before pouring on the batter. Cook until the waffles reach a golden brown. Serve as desired.

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Pistachio-date sticky buns everywhere, and not a bite to eat…

February 5, 2007

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Imagine, if you will, the agony of the shipwrecked sailor at sea: Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

That’s nothing, man.

At least, not when you compare it to having to drive 45 minutes to work trapped in a car with the aroma of freshly baked pistachio-date sticky buns filling the confined space (conjure the smell for full effect) and being able to taste nary a bite.

That is my husband’s special torture for me. Yes, me — his seven-months (plus) pregnant wife.

Indeed, I am with child (that misshapen lump is not a disastrous side effect from my husband’s cooking) and under doctor’s orders not to eat “simple sugars.” Like, say, the kind in pistachio-date sticky buns. Does that stop my husband from cooking said sticky buns? I think not. (I expect you to abuse him mercilessly for this in the comments section.)

So, because diets are so much easier to follow when the health of your first born is at stake, I was very obedient and did not even sample the delicious-looking — and incredibly fragrant-smelling — sticky buns. Hence, I am unable to describe to you the joy that must have come from eating them. Unfortunately, however, my co-workers were able to report back to me in vivid detail their fabulous sticky, sweet, nutty, fruity taste. I trust you can take their word for it — or, like me, you can settle for licking the photos of the sticky buns on your computer monitor. Bonus: That method of eating is completely calorie-free, though, sadly, tasteless and unsanitary.

Click here to download the recipe for Pistachio-Date Sticky Buns

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You’re French aren’t you?: BLT’s Popovers.

December 13, 2006

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Even the name “popover” sounds like an invitation to eat. And who could refuse, really?

These roly poly, inflated and chewy bread rolls were the conversation starter at a meal my husband and I ate at a swanky French bistro-cum-steakhouse in DC called BLT Steak (for Bistro Laurent Tourondel…. Steak). Comically large and mishapen, with balloon-like tops crusted with baked on cheese, they also came with a meaty salt shaker and — we were told — special European butter that is 98% butter fat. Yes, please!

I liked them well enough in the heady atmosphere of a swanky steakhouse, but would the novel recipe conjure similar culinary magic in our humble abode? Answer: Yes, and then some.

Following Tourondel’s gratis instructions, my husband concocted these beauties in our very own oven. And maybe it’s just my bias talking (he is my husband, after all) but I think they were even more delightful than the restaurant’s. (Sacre bleu!) The popovers weren’t quite as dark brown and crusty, which to my mind is a good thing, and I could eat them with something besides steak. (Because I don’t think popover when I think steak.) Instead, they were properly golden brown and delicious, chewy on the inside and with a more cheesy and less eggy bread interior.

Am I saying that my husband made better popovers than Laurent Tourondel — using the chef’s own recipe? Well, if a wife can’t say it, then who will?

Click here to download the recipe for BLT Popovers.

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Eat this: Char sui bao

October 13, 2006

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I love Char Sui Bao. My wife has already made fun of me recently for my love of bread pudding, and I think she is just waiting to pounce on my obsession with A Southern Season’s Praline Pecans . Char Sui Bao also falls into that same category of “food I can eat even when stuffed.” Thankfully, because we are having a family bonzana fun time with both sets of parents and a good number of siblings here in DC this weekend, I got to put up this post without her lovely intro.

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Bread + pudding = Dessert bliss

October 11, 2006

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It’s puddin’ time.

Yes, it was only a matter of time until my husband concocted the perfect homemade recipe for bread pudding. He loves bread pudding. Even if he’s filled to the brim with food at a restaurant and groaning in his chair, if bread pudding is on the dessert menu he manages to find still more room in his hollow leg. Yes, I’ve no doubt that the extra consumption of puddin’ is probably equally parts pleasure and discomfort. “Ah, bread pudding, eating you is such exquisite torture.”

Me? I like bread pudding very much. But I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. The fabulous thing about making bread pudding at home, though, is:

1) You use up all that stale bread in a manner other than french toast. (Yet another breakfast favorite of hubby’s.)

2) It takes about an hour to cook, giving you time to loosen your belt after dinner and actually enjoy dessert.

Plus, as I always do, I must praise my husband’s excellent and tasty bread pudding. Delicious creamy custard baked into every nook and cranny of now cake-like bread. And let’s not forget the all-important golden brown texture of the top, perfect for ramming your spoon through. This, of course, will send out a puff of steam — that signature of all truly magnificent desserts: It’s hot and fresh, and just for you. Read on for the recipe, puddin’ lovers.

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‘Hail, pizza!’

September 27, 2006

Pizza

Pizza

Pizza. Everybody loves it. Everybody eats it. And while delivery is good, and restaurants are better, homemade pizza is the best. Home cooks everywhere — from the savant pie-dough-maker to the lowly Boboli ready-made crust buyer — have experienced the thrill of concocting some magical pie masterpiece out of that doughy blank canvas. Hail, pizza!

Unlike myself, who errs more toward the Boboli side of homemade pizza, my husband (of course) makes his own pizza dough. Don’t kid yourself. There’s a difference — and his is better. And for novice breadmakers, once you get over the goosebumps that may rise from having to tangle with active yeast (those little beasties), you’ll find this a rewarding dough-making exercise. Your stomach will thank you, and you may never call Dominos again.

And don’t forget the toppings. I’m a traditionalist myself (think DaVinci), when my husband lets me handle the pizza topping portion of the show. My masterpieces include the usual suspects of sauce, cheese, meat, veg. But my husband, wisely, rips away my paintbrush before I’ve overdone it. Too many toppings equals soggy, greasy pizza. So be a beautiful minimalist, and chow down on that gorgeous still life: Pizza.

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Let them eat cake? Yes, please.

September 18, 2006

Asian pear cake
Asian pear cake

I love dessert, yes. But I think I might love rich, bread-y and only slightly sweet breakfast treats even more. Danishes and coffee cakes and fruit breads, oh my!

So this Asian pear cake is perfect for me. It was nominally served as dessert, but in my view, it was a perfectly delicate and sweetly restrained coffee cake. It had this beautiful spice bread that played masterfully with roughly sliced and luxurious Asian pears. To someone who didn’t know they were Asian pears, the fruit might seem like fragile and yet slightly crispy sweet apples.

Serve it for dessert, then eat it for breakfast. I think it would go perfectly with vanilla ice cream or with coffee, and its spicy goodness makes me yearn a bit for the holidays and fireplaces. Go on for more about his Asian pear cake.

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