Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Julia Child French Bread

When I first found that we were doing Julia Child's French Bread, I was astonished! Was it not February, should we not be doing chocolate or strawberries or some sexy dessert? But that was not the challenge, no it was/is bread. Mainly, I was scared.
I'm not really good at yeast. I've killed it many times, usually when making pizza. My first time with yeast was making a King Cake for Mardi Gras. It didn't rise and when cooked it was doughy and raw, making me slightly frightened of the live ingredient. But I also, have been wanting to make bread for forever. Especially, after making my flat bagels that were more like discs. So I accepted the challenge, but I put it off.
Oh I had the time at the beginning of the month to make the bread, but why make bread, when there is no one to bake it for. So I waited until moving back to Austin. I procastinated. But after deciding to take a day off from running and veg, I found it to be the perfect day for French Bread. So I went into the kitchen and got to it.

I accidently boiled the water and had to let it sit until it was cool, of course after burning my pinkie. Mixed in the yeast and started following the instructions. After mixing everything, I let it double in volume. 3 and 1/2 hours later, I punched it down. I started molding them. I didn't understand the forming instructions, so I kind of did my own thing. I molded them into what I thought where to be correct. I let them rest and rise, again.
Then I baked them, forgetting to set the time. Bang head against the wall, 6 hours of work to forget the timer!!! My only disaster. So I guessed the time, and waited. I did it with two batches of bread. Were they bad?
Not really, but there was more hard crust on the first batch than actual bread. Did I not let it rise enough? Did I not do it right? I don't know. I can just assume it didn't rise enough. But I'm not defeated by my bread. I'll do it, again, when I have the time.

For the recipe, visit Bread Chick

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dinner from the heart

Oh where has the time gone? Six months, already?
My boyfriend and I have been together for 6 months and neither of us can believe it. I have turned him from fast food junky to gourmet eater. He likes to say, "I can appreciate fine food, but I can eat McDonald's, too." I cringe at the thought.
Our relationship has always been based on food. We started hanging out because I offered free food to any guy who helped move my tv. He offered, too, and six weeks later another guy friend helped me move it. However, I felt horrible because the next night my now-boyfriend was suppose to move it for me. So I called him up and still offered to cook. That night I did not understand why he ate so little because he eats so much. He says, "I did not want to surprise you with how much I do."
So begun our friendship and steps toward our relationship. Six months later and this love and friendship keeps to grow. To us it is a nightly dinner at home with a glass of wine and a homecooked meal. Numerous trips out to the wine country in the Hills of Texas. It means fancy meals and finger-licking BBQ. It means a guinea pig for the crazy recipe online.
So what do you cook for an anniversary that too many is an over celebration?
At first I thought, I'd cook a three course meal. However, limited counter and kitchen space ruled that one out. So I decided on dinner and dessert. But what to cook?

I decided on a Donna Hay recipe I found for roasted drumsticks with potatoes. It sounded simple and rustic, it could be my engagement chicken. So I bought drumsticks and fingerling potatoes, plus asparagus because it is my boyfriend's favorite vegetable. And I try to get in a lot of veggies to make up for his lack there of. Then came dessert.
No, I've made that a lot lately. Though it is a household favorite.
Ice Cream?
No, ice cream maker is in Dallas.
Then yesterday I came across, Creamy Lemon and Raspberry Tart by Dorie Greenspan. I knew I had a pie crust in the refrigerator so it would be easy to whip up and I wouldn't have to worry about icing and layers. However, I twisted it and used meyer lemons. I made it very tart by using 4 lemons instead of 2. My boyfriend noticed the tartness, but I like tart, I like things really tart. To sweet key lime pie or citrus tart and you lost my interest. The dessert was easy, simple and was quickly gobbled up. With a smile and a hint of boyish charm my boyfriend asked for seconds and I cut another slice.
Now how to top this in 6 months?

Meyer Lemon Raspberry Tart
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan recipe)
1 prepared pie crust
4 meyer lemons
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 pint raspberries

Place pie crust in a 350 degree oven and bake 15-20 mins until beginning to harden. Once done cooking, let cool to room temperature about 45 mins to 1 hr. Change oven temperature to 300 degrees.

While pie is cooling, zest 2 lemons into bowl. Squeeze all 4 lemons in a bowl. add eggs, sugar and cream, whip together. When pie is cool, place raspberries in the bottom of the pie crust and pour lemon mixture over berries. Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes let cool, then top with whipped cream.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Speed Scrabble and Pizza

"Who wants to play speed scrabble?" My friend asked.
Me and another friend look at her quizzically. The main question was how do you play? Easy 7 letters try to make your own grid using those letters, if you can you say pick two until almost all the tiles are gone and you can make a scrabble grid, then you win. I won one and fell in love with the game.
But the night was originally about pizza. I had all the ingredients and no house to throw the celebration. Luckily a friend offered her home and there began our pizza party.
We tried watching the debate, but we all huddled in the kitchen to make the pizza. My friend had made Giada De Laurentiis dough, which was funny cause it's the dough I usually make. I didn't know which dough she had made until she started to say the ingredients and said the recipe. We both had a good laugh.
I sauteed some sausage and had a great aged provolone from Whole Foods. It was spectacular. Perfectly aged. If only I can get some more for under $5. (The Whole Foods in Alabama has a little tray of extra cheeses for under $5, which is perfect if you love cheese or just are a big foodie.) So that went with tomato sauce, red onion, and sausage. It turned out to be the BIG hit of the evening.
The other pizza of course was veggie. I had some sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, which we paired with pesto and spinach to make a really good pizza. Of course, there were leftovers of that.
The main question was what to do with the leftover dough? My two friends sprung to the idea of cinnamon sugar balls. So they rolled the dough into balls, covered in milk, and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. They were the baked until golden brown. They were delicious and quickly devoured by the three of us. I'll keep the idea for my next pizza party.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

V-day weekend

I panic on airplanes, ever since moving to Alabama and flying back to Austin, I started to panic days before the trip, constantly looking at weather maps. My boyfriend tells me to calm down, but I never do.
This last trip was better than most, I could still breath when we landed and I didn't get sick. Then I landed and found my connecting flight was going to be a hour and half late. I paced, I sat constantly moving my leg. I made it to Austin two hours late for my Valentine's date.
But the moment I saw my boyfriend, I knew everything was alright. He was at the airport dressed to impress with irises. (Have I told you how lucky I am?) We get back to the apartment and I am told to relax. My Valentine's present was a home cooked meal. So I sipped my glass of wine and waited, trying to keep my hands off him.
Few minutes later, shrimp and broccoli scampi crosses in front of me. Oh how I wanted to dig in right away. I didn't. I sat patiently waiting for him to make his plate, then after chiming our glasses together I dug in. Boy was I blown away! It was so good. It was better than my shrimp scampi a couple months ago.
His comment, "I followed the recipe this time."
I just laughed, since I taught him to cook, meals often prepared without my presence as chances to go a stray. This means there is no recipe involved. But no matter what happens, I always appreciate him cooking like he appreciates me cooking.
And don't think I didn't cook this weekend. I picked up spare ribs at the farmer's market and made oven roasted ribs, which caused major face messes. But that is the true test to any good recipe, how messy your eater devours it!
My other success this weekend is making Bucantini all’Amatriciana. I've made it twice since the NYT article came out. And when it did I instantly went looking for guanciale (a brined pork herbed with spices, like bacon, but so much better). I instantly went to Mario Batali's deli in Seattle--$21.99 not including shipping. So I googled it, could I find it in Austin?
I found my answer, and soon found guanciale in Austin. I went forwarded and followed the recipe on But I found it odd that I would have to add oil before cooking the guanciale. So this time, I went without it and had crispy guanciale. My boyfriend agreed the change made a difference. So here's my version. Hope your V-day weekend was as spectacular as mine.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana
(adapted from recipe)
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves
3 thick slices guanciale (about 1/3 pound), cut into 1/2-inch squares
4 fresh tomatoes
2 small dried red chile peppers
1 pound dry bucatini or spaghetti
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano for serving

Cook guanciale until crisp or slightly brown, add in onion and garlic, sauteeing until tender.
Add tomatoes and their juice and a generous pinch of salt. Crumble in chile peppers, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer uncovered until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.
While sauce simmers, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook bucatini according to the package directions. Reserve about 1/4 cup pasta cooking water, drain pasta but do not rinse, add to the frying pan, and toss to coat in sauce. Add reserved pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.
Transfer to serving plates, sprinkle with Pecorino Romano, and serve immediately.