Focaccia Bread

As the weather gets cooler I begin to crave hearty foods, like homemade soups and breads. Awhile back I made Old-Time Beef Stew and with it I served some homemade focaccia bread. Sasha, now 2 1/2 loves to help in the kitchen, and I thought this focaccia would be the perfect opportunity for her to help.

I used Michael Chiarello’s Potato Foccacia recipe for the dough, and instead of topping it with potatoes I used dried thyme, rosemary and cheddar cheese. It was great for dunking into our stew.

For the Dough:

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt, preferably gray salt

Combine the yeast, sugar, and milk in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1/2 cup of the flour. Stir well, cover with a towel, and let rest in a warm place for 25 minutes.

Mix in the olive oil, salt, and 1 cup of flour, until well incorporated. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough adheres to the hook. It should remain soft and slightly sticky. Continue mixing for about 6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove from the bowl, shape the dough into a ball, flatten slightly, and put into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a towel and put in a warm place for about 1 hour, to let the dough rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a baking sheet.

Lightly flour the dough and punch it down. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 10 inches. Brush off any excess flour and transfer to the oiled baking sheet. Brush the dough with olive oil and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

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Dimple the dough by poking your fingers into it. Add dried herbs and cheese.

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Please don’t lick your fingers until you are completely done dimpling the dough!

Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown and the bread is crisp on the bottom. Let cool in the pan to room temperature. Cut into squares, “fingers,” or triangles to serve.

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Here Sasha is enjoying all her hard work.

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Cinnamon Rolls

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Paula Deen. The Queen of all things delicious. I don’t think I have ever made one of her recipes that I did not love, or see her cook something that did not make my mouth water. Well I take that back, the other day on Paula’s Home Cooking she was making Peanut Butter Cheese Fudge, and my stomach did flip-flops.

I recently made Paula’s Cinnamon Rolls for my husband to take to work, they were a huge success, the pan came back empty. This recipe is a MUST TRY! For me it is a WILL MAKE AGAIN!

Click on the cinnamon roll link to get the recipe.

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Lower Fat Banana Nut Bread

Lately I have been reading about substituting applesauce for oil when baking to reduce fat content. I’ve never tried this myself, and decided to try to do it with my banana bread recipe. The bread turned out delicious, a little squatty though.

I realized that I was so focused on reducing fat content that I forgot to add the baking soda. OOPS! The bread did not rise at all and was extremely dense, but still very flavorful.

Banana Nut Bread
1 c flour
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter **I used 1/4c shortening and 1/4c applesauce
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c chopped pecans
3 large bananas mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In your mixer cream sugar and butter **(shortening and applesauce). Add eggs and vanilla. Slowly add flour and soda. Stir nuts and mashed bananas in by hand. Pour into loaf pan. Bake 1 hour, or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool on wire rack before serving.

Homemade Sourdough Bread Bowls and Broccoli Cheese Soup

After our brief heatwave (45 degrees Fahrenheit) we had below zero wind chills. On Tuesday, we had blizzard-like conditions. The snow was falling and the wind was blowing the snow everywhere. It was perfect day for a warm comforting dinner. I read about Nicole’s sourdough starter at PinchMySalt I have never made homemade bread before and was up to the challenge. I needed to start my own sourdough starter, thus making this bread bowl adventure an all day thing. The time and effort I put into this meal was well worth it. My first attempt was a success! My favorite thing to order from Panera Bread is their broccoli cheddar soup in a bread bowl. I do not need Panera anymore, because I can make my own, which is just as tasty!

I found a recipe for sourdough bread starter at the Food Network’s website, I chose Emeril’s recipe to follow. For my broccoli cheese soup, I adapted a recipe from my great grandma Nona. My grandma worked with my great grandma to type all of her recipes into a cookbook, which we received for a Christmas present in 1997. I have referenced it countless times when I need some inspiration for dinner. I am looking forward to getting a cookbook of my great grandma Dorothy’s recipes… hint, hint.

BASIC SOURDOUGH STARTER
from Emeril

3 c warm water (110 degrees F)
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit until the yeast becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the yeast does not foam, discard the mixture and begin again with a new yeast.)
Add the flour and stir vigorously to work air into the mixture. Cover with a towel let rest in a warm, draft-free place (an oven with its pilot light or light bulb turned on works well) for 8 to12 hours. (The mixture should become very bubbly.) Use immediately or cover loosely with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Preserving the Starter: Each time you remove a portion of the starter for a recipe, reserve at least 1/4 cup and replace the amount you have taken out with equal amounts of flour and water.
For example, if you remove 1 cup of starter, you must replace it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk these ingredients into the starter until blended but not completely smooth, cover loosely, and return to the refrigerator.
Also, the starter must be maintained by feeding it every few days. Refresh by removing 1 cup of the starter (give to a friend or discard it) and adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk until blended but not smooth. Cover loosely and return to the refrigerator.
If you plan to be away longer than a week, freeze the starter in a sterilized, airtight freezer container. Thaw the starter 2 days before you plan to bake with it. Refresh as indicated above with 1 cup each of flour and warm water. Cover and leave at room temperature 12 hours or overnight before using.
CAUTION: Never keep your starter tightly closed! The gasses expelled by the yeast will build up pressure and may cause the container (such as a glass jar) to burst!

I left my mixture sit for 8 1/2 hours before I began to work with it.

BASIC SOURDOUGH BREAD
from Emeril

2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter, recipe follows
3/4 teaspoon salt

In an electric mixer with the dough hook, combine the flour, starter and salt, and knead until it no longer sticks to the sides or bottom of the mixing bowl.
Place a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with flour and knead gently, removing any large air bubbles. Knead into a small circle, then shape into a tight ball (for bread bowls, separate dough in half and shape into two tight balls), pinching the seams together underneath. Place on a well-floured board or baking peel, seam-side down. Cover with a kitchen towels and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.


Preheat a baking stone, if available, on the bottom rack of an oven at 400 degrees F. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut a large “X” or cross-hatch pattern into the top of the dough.


Spray lightly with a mister and transfer to the baking stone (or place on a heavy baking sheet lightly dusted with cornmeal) and bake until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, about 60 minutes. (Sourdough should have a darker crust than other breads, so leave in the oven 5 minutes after you think it is done.)
Remove the loaf from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

I brushed my bread bowls with melted butter when they came out of the oven.

BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP
adapted from great grandma Nona’s recipe

1 bunch broccoli -cut up
1 1/2 c boiling water (I used 1 c chicken stock and the hot water I used to rinse out the soup cans. I filled them 1/4 of the way full and swished them around to get the excess soup out)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 c light cream (I had none on hand so I used whole milk)
salt & pepper to taste
8 oz cubed Velveeta
1/2c shredded carrots
1/2 c minced white onion
1 T olive oil

Sautee carrots and onion in olive oil.

Add broccoli, chicken stock, soup(and water), milk, and Velveeta. Simmer on med-lo until broccoli is tender.

Once broccoli is tender, scoop out about 1/2 of the mixture and pulse in a blender a few times. Be careful because the mixture is very hot!

Add back to the pot and stir well. Scoop out the insides of the bread bowl and reserve for dipping. Add the soup to the bread bowl and ENJOY!