When it comes to holidays, I don't get into the spirit as much as I could. I start out with reasonably good intentions, but my interest wanes quickly when I realize time and effort are involved.
So, Hallowe'en 2011. I didn't dress up, but I carved a pumpkin, baked spider web cookies and...have a black cat? Given my history, I'm chalking this one up as a win.
* In the words of J-Bo.
Sources: Chocolate Sugar Cookies over at Annie's Eats and my recipe for Royal Icing.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Bread tends to come and go with the seasons around here, all but disappearing during the summer only to return triumphantly in autumn—a bit like a bear in reverse hibernation. A few years ago, I launched my quest for the perfect loaf of homemade bread. After veering off course significantly and often, I concluded (unsurprisingly) that there is no such thing as the perfect loaf, but rather a perfect loaf for every occasion.
Although late to the party, I (like most before me) was a quick devotee of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread. All knobby crust and big air pockets, it's the perfect loaf for dipping in oil and vinegar or scooping up the last bit of chili con carne at the bottom of your bowl. In fact, for about two years, I hadn't looked back.
But after eating so many white-bread jamon y queso sandwiches in Ecuador and Peru (I swear it's the official snack food of the continent), I found myself craving the soft, pillowy sandwiches of my elementary school days: less chew, more stick to the top of your mouth-edness. Clinging to that idea, I reviewed what I knew and set out to make it better.
The result? Ham and cheese sandwiches all week.
Molasses Olive Oil Sandwich Bread
1 cup warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons molasses
2 1/2-3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar + a healthy pinch
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons rolled oats, old-fashioned
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, a pinch of sugar and 3/4 cup of warm water. Let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes).
In a measuring cup, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of warm water and molasses.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt and olive oil and 1 cup of flour. Add the molasses and yeast mixtures, stirring well. Stir in enough of the remaining 1 1/2-2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time, for the mixture to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Let it rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Punch the dough down and let it rise, covered, 45 minutes more.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan and set it aside.
Lightly knead the dough and then shape it into an oval. Transfer the loaf to the pan and let it rise, covered with a kitchen towel, for 45 minutes.
Brush the top of the loaf lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with rolled oats.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until golden brown. Turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool.
Yields 1 loaf.
Source: Adapted from Whole Wheat Bread Hayes at Epicurious.com, originally published in Gourmet, December 1996.
Labels: Yeast breads
Monday, October 10, 2011
"It's like I've never been here before," R. remarked as we headed home after a night of Vancouver International Film Festival documentaries. It wasn't the case, of course. At that precise moment, we were walking down a stretch of street that we've traveled hundreds—maybe even thousands—of times before. The funny thing is I knew exactly what he meant.
When we left for South America in early September, summer had found its groove. After hitting the snooze button one too many times, the sun had finally sat up, stretched her arms, rubbed her eyes and taken a good look around. Life was on the up and up: our tomato plants were pumping out scarlet fruit faster than we could eat it, sandals had claimed their rightful place at the front of the coat closet, and week-night trips to Dairy Queen were a regular occurrence.
When we returned three weeks later, the air was still warm but there were tell-tale signs of a subtle shift in our absence. Umber leaves lined the sidewalk and the pungent smell of earth signaled a recent rain. I left dreaming of juicy peaches eaten over the sink and came back contemplating my first spiced apple crisp.
I can't say I'm sad though. Autumn has always been my favourite. It's like the new year for us Peter Pan types: a time for reinventions and fresh starts, a time to hunker down and sink your teeth into big projects.
Doughnuts seem way more daunting than they actually are, which makes them a great place to start. And, since you're already going to the trouble of deep-frying, why not make two kinds?
Chocolate Cake Doughnuts
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup whole milk, scalded
1 teaspoon vanilla
Peanut oil for frying
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using an electric mixer, blend until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients slowly, mixing as you go. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat for 30 seconds. The batter should be smooth, thick and not too wet. Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes.
Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup sour cream (I used some Greek yogurt I had kicking around)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon butter
Peanut oil for frying
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, sour cream, egg and butter until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for 15-20 minutes.
To fry the doughnuts, heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until the temperature reaches 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out the doughnuts. Fry for 1-2 minutes per side, or until light golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Cool slightly before glazing.
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Measure the icing sugar into a medium bowl. Slowly stir in the milk and vanilla, a little at a time, to make a smooth, pourable glaze.
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
Measure the icing sugar into a medium bowl. Slowly stir in the lemon juice, a little at a time, to make a smooth, pourable glaze.
To frost the doughnuts, either dip them in the glaze or use a silicon brush to lightly coat their tops.
Notes & Source: For even more doughnut recipes—including baked variations—and tips and tricks for making Tim Horton's a distant memory, I highly recommend Lara Ferroni's doughnut-making bible, Doughnuts.