Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bread Glorious Bread!!!

Happy Sunday readers. Yes, it is surely a happy happy weekend. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you are painfully aware of my difficulties with baking bread. It has been my nemesis, Achilles Heal and just plain frustrating...until now.

This weekend I attended a free bread baking class held by the fabulous Stephanie Petersen also known as Chef Tess Bakeresse, at Honeyville Farms in Chandler. They hold many free classes and Chef Tess teaches many of them. She is fun and full of awesome knowledge that she loves to share. Check out her blog when you get a chance. She has lots of fun and fabulous cooking tips.

Stephanie has bread making in her genetic make up. Her mom was a master of the bread and now she is as well. I can attest to this first hand. For decades I have been defeated by loaf after loaf. I never thought I could get a beautiful, normal sized loaf of sandwich bread AND have it taste phenomenal. I wish you could actually feel my excitement through the computer screen. To lift me from my dismal bread making abyss is no small task. With her simple tips and easy to understand method, you can get great loaves too!! Honest!

I have to admit I did break on of her cardinal rules. I did not have super fresh ground flour. I had a bag of whole wheat flour in my pantry. I don't like to waste, so I had to use it up. I used rolled oats as my additional grain. After soaking it was very wet (even after draining), so I did have to add a bit more flour. I can't wait to try freshly ground kamut flour next. I also wanted to make it vegan, so I subbed maple syrup for the honey. Stephanie also suggested using brown rice syrup. Sadly mine had hardened to a candy like consistency, so maple syrup it was. The recipe on her site stated to bake at 425 for the first 15 minutes then 30-35 minutes more at 325. In class she mentioned that the bread should bake at 425 for 10 minutes and then at 325 for 20 minutes. I actually did 10 and then 25.

After suffering for years from flat, hocky puck loaves, I bring you this gorgeous whole grain loaf!!! Behold the tall, normal sized loaf. No short and squatty here. Feast your eyes on the beautiful texture and crumb, the golden crust and the whole grain goodness. It slices like a dream and eats like a fantasy. This perfect dough was made in a bucket, yes, a 3.5 gallon plastic bucket. Unorthodox? Perhaps. But very effective. I may never be able to eat a commercially produced bread again!!!

Here are my babies before hitting the oven. I was so excited that they rose so well and so perfectly. The loaves look a bit uneven, but that was my measuring not the dough.

Look at that beautiful golden crust! Are you drooling yet?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Charity Bake Sale Today at Mulligan's at Scottsdale

Come to Mulligan's in Scottsdale 7381 E Stetson Drive (old town) today between 3 & closing to help us raise money for a wonderful young man that passed away this week, Andrew Waits, leaving behind a young son, Phoenix. A percentage of the sales will go into a trust for him and help and the family with the many expenses as he had no insurance. If you are headed out for a Saturday cocktail or dinner, please make it count for something very special. We will be hosting a bakesale and auction also. I work with his mother and sister and I know how deeply grateful they will be.

There will be a limited number of vegan items including these beauties: Chocolate mint cupcakes!! There will be some vegan cookies and muffins too. Make sure to get there early before they run out!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Food Network Friday - Slow Roasted "Pork" with Coconut Curry Sauce

I have been really struggling with motivation to go out in the flipping heat and grocery shop. I got into my car today and my thermostat said 120!!! Granted the outside temp was ONLY 113, but parking lot temps are much higher. I braved the crazy heat to hit up the Asian/International market to re-create this very flavorful and spicy dish from the Food Network website. 

Like many of my foodie/blogger friends, I don't usually shy away from hunting down specialty ingredients in the name of experimentation. Today's challenge was to try and find Chinese fermented black beans and keffir lime leaves. The leaves are not that hard to find, but this particular store has lots of herbs together. Some of them look very similar and the signs are in an Asian language of some sort. Thankfully there was a young man working in the department that helped me find them. The store is huge with shelves full of all kinds of sauces and other specialty ingredients. So it took me a good hour to get all of my goodies.

I did run across Jackfruit today. Most of the cans were the fruit in syrup. This dish needed some savory action. I was fortunate enough to find one brand that had the young fruit in brine. SCORE!! So I took my goods and headed out to the hellishly hot parking lot and gradually made my way back to the house. 

I got a phone call from Tyler about a bake sale she and her friends are holding tomorrow. I changed gears and baked up some goodies, so this is getting posted late. I'll post tomorrow about that and my baking class with Chef Tess Bakeresse. I've been wanting to check out her classes so badly, so I am super excited there is one tomorrow near my house.

I stuck fairly close to the original recipe. I substituted Jackfruit for the pork. It was my first time using this very interesting fruit. It is native to Southern Asia and is also used in Jamaica and as a substitute for meat in curries in Sri Lanka. If it's good enough for Sri Lanka, its good enough for me! It is an amazing food. It really absorbs the flavor of the spices and has a very meat-like texture and look. It is high in fiber and even contains some B vitamins!! The Jackfruit takes quite a while to cook. I used the cooktop method as I did not do my homework. Next time I think I'd use the slow cooker.

I stayed true to the recipe for the Coconut Curry Sauce. I was even able to find the recommended brand of yellow curry after some searching. I may have been slightly heavy handed on the curry, but not by much. I did use light coconut milk rather than full fat for no other reason than it is what I had in the panty. In hind site, it was nice to cut back on some of the fat. It didn't take away from the dish at all. For the rice I subbed brown jasmine rice for the basmati. I also decided to forgo vegan butter. The salsa was another matter. Because it was so late and I was feeling a bit lazy, I used ground cumin instead of toasting the seeds and grinding. I used 1 teaspoon. I also decided to use some hot hatch green chiles instead of the jalapeno and pablano called for. I had both in the fridge, but the others were already roasted...lazy little short cut. 

This dish had a lot going on both flavor and texture-wise. I love the heat from the curry and the chiles. There were a lot of components to it, but everything was pretty simple. This would really be a good weeknight meal if you use the slow cooker. The salsa can be made while the rice is cooking and there you go. A tasty, spicy, exotic meal in your own home on a weeknight no less!! It's been a while since I've done FNF. It's good to be back!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Al Fresco Spanish Happy Hour

There are so many wonderful moment and memories from our trip. Today I'm going to share an impromptu patio happy hour we had. Our friends invited us the Gijon for dinner one evening. When we arrived at their house, we parked ourselves on their beautiful patio. Laurie and Fred enjoyed a nice cigar and we all enjoyed a beautiful bottle of wine and some quick snacks. One of my new favorite finger foods are these wonderful caper berries and garlic. One of the things that really stood out for me was that the brine was not super acidic as sometimes they can be. The light brine let the true flavor of the caper berries shine. The piquant flavor of the capers combined with the garlic beautifully. I loved them so much, I stowed away a couple of jars in my suitcase to bring home! Move over olives, you have some serious competition!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I have to apologize for my long blogging break. Summer is the busiest time of year around here to begin with. This year we added a 16 day trip to Spain!

The Spain adventure began and ended in Madrid. We spent 3 nights total with out wonderful friends Jose and Nena. After taking us for a tour of Madrid and Segovia, we got to spend some quality time with them in their home. They went out of there way to make sure we had wonderful non-meat laden fare and lots of good wine and company. They also gave us a lovely place to stay. As an added bonus Nena agreed to share some recipes and film a little cooking video. The video will be forthcoming as I need time to edit it for your viewing pleasure. In the mean time, I will share pictures of the delights she made for us.

I have already forgotten the name of this incredible beet-tomato soup. Some of you may remember that beets and I do not always see eye to eye, but in the velvety flavorful cold soup, it was delicioso! The earthy flavor of the beets along with the nicely acidic tomatoes, throw in some fresh flavorful garlic and you've got crimsony perfection in a bowl. Nena recommends serving it on an all white table setting to make it the star that it is. Look at that gorgeous color!

Nena was born in the Canary Islands. She and Jose lived there when they were first married. She shared with me a very traditional Canary Island dish called Mojo Rojo. Mojo Rojo translates to wet red sauce (according to my lovely translator Laurie). So basically it is a wet dip for savory goodies. It is a relatively easy sauce to make. All of the ingredients are raw and pureed in the blender. Perfect for those lazy days where you want flavor but don't want to work long or hard in the kitchen.

I know I've said it many times before, but I am a total potato fiend, so I was thrilled that Nena's dish featured "wrinkled" potatoes. She has a special cooking method that makes the skin shrivel on the potatoes. She added that it is important to use thin skinned yellow potatoes (I'm thinking fingerlings or baby yukon golds are the perfect selection). She used a pressure cooker, so it only took about 10 minutes total to get these babies on the table.

OK kids, cover the eyes of those who are sensitive to language, these are f@$king awesome! No not just run of the mill awesome...way more than that! I could drink the sauce all on its own. It is smokey, piquant, rich with tomato flavor and has just the right balance of flavors. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate like a dog. Poured over the perfectly tender, creamy potatoes these will surely give you back your MOJO! 

 Check back for more Spanish adventures!!