give me flour

Cranberry bars

November 19th, 2012

I have a habit that sometimes saves my life. I collect food magazines. Not sure if it is a good or a bad one yet because pretty soon I will have to move back to Brazil and it is going to be a challenge either to leave or take them with me.

For now they are here, by my side, giving me some advice for what I have to do next. I’ve been accumulating them since we moved to the United States, about four years ago. They started as a source for me to learn English and became a strong source of visual stimulation and recipe inspiration.

Looking back and flipping the pages of these “old” magazines, it is kind of curious to notice how the world we see has changed while the one we taste is quite the same.  Not the magazines fault, I guess. We are always looking for new ways to decorate the traditional vanilla cake or to present the same good old friend turkey. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love trying new things and usually I am the first one to order that weird – but delicious – olive oil ice cream on the menu. But on a daily basis, tradition is the word.

I think that’s what made me choose, without much thought, this recipe for cranberry bar from Gourmet Nov, 2007 edition. As a Brazilian, I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving. Turkey is, in my unconscious, a Christmas thing. Cranberries are different; they are, in my mind, the elegant taste of fall.

These bars are quite simple compared to our cranberry cake from last year. No nuts, no almond paste, just cranberries pronounced by the addition of lemon zests (not part of the original recipe). Perfect if you are looking for an easier yet vastly tasty dessert for your Thanksgiving table.

 

Cranberry bars

1½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 cups all purpose flour

½ tsp salt

1 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar, divided

Zests of one lime, divided

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (3/4lb)

1/3 cup water

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350F with rack in middle.

2. Line a 9-inch square or 9 by 8 rectangular baking pan with 2 crisscrossed sheets of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

3. Blend butter, flour, salt, half of lime zests and ½ cup of sugar in a food processor until mixture begins to clump together. Press into bottom of pan. Bake until pale golden and sides begin to pull away from pan, 25 to 30 minutes.

4.While crust is baking, cook cranberries, remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, remaining lime zests and water in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries burst, 6 to 8 minutes.

5.Pour cranberries over crust and bake until edge is golden, about 25 minutes, Sift confectioner’s sugar over top and cool completely in pan over rack. Lift out of pan using parchment paper overhang and cut into 12 squares, then sift more confectioners’ sugar over top.  Enjoy!

 

If you didn’t get the chance to make the simply delightful olive oil-based pain de mie from last week, here goes another reason for giving it a try: this sandwich.

Ok, you don’t have to have homemade bread on hand to start, just use whatever bread – read “good bread” – you like but please, give this recipe a try. It is just that I had my second loaf seated on the counter for a day, watching us coming and go, waiting for a worthy end. And so it had. But after buttering and covering two of its slice in parmesan and sesame seeds everything changed and bread became secondary.

The only problem was, since crust turned out to be that good, I had to find an “as good as” filling combination. After some thoughts classics became my choice: crispy pancetta, sun dried tomatoes spread, fresh mozzarella and water cress. I bet you agree one can’t go wrong with all these ingredients in the same plate, hum?

Usually, there is something about sandwiches that always makes me feel guilty. I suspect it is connected with my Brazilian roots and the idea that good food is the one that sucks all your time up. Not anymore my friends, at least not with this sandwich!

 Oh, and before continuing, if you are looking for a vegetarian version, skip pancetta and replace water cress with arugula for a bolder flavor. Want to take it to work? Crust both sides of your bread, build your sandwich and enjoy it cold without losing all the crunchiness.

Parmesan and sesame seeds-crusted sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

2 thick slices of sandwich bread

1 tbsp butter

4 tbsp grated parmesan

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

4 slices fresh mozzarella

 3 slices pancetta, cooked until crisp

 1 to 2 tbsp sun dried tomato spread

 2/3 cup water cress

1. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat or use a Panini press if you have one.

2. In a small bowl, mix together parmesan and sesame seeds.

3. Butter the outside of each slice of bread and coat them with parmesan and sesame seed mixture.

4. Assemble sandwich: generously spread sun-dried tomato spread in one slice of bread, top with slices of fresh mozzarella, 3 slices of pancetta, water cress – I recommended about 2/3 of a cup but you can use as much as you can fit in your sandwich, it will shrink after grilling. Top with the other slice of bread.

5. Place the sandwich on the hot pan and grill for about 2 minutes or until parmesan cheese is crusted and golden brown. Flip the sandwich and continue to cook until cheese is thoroughly melted and sandwich is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Pain de Mie

November 6th, 2012

Oh boy, November is here and daylight saving time is gone. That means all my beautiful natural light will be vanished around 4:30 from now on and, if I don’t want to unpack all my lighting gear, I better hurry to get the photos I want.

I took my extra hour as a comfort tough.  Sunday morning I was all smiles, making big plans for my long day – as I could cheat on my biological clock, silly me. I went to the kitchen, cooked, baked and even made bread. By the end of the day I was exhausted and falling asleep an hour earlier but at least I had fresh, homemade and beautiful loaves on my table.

I bet I told you several times how I love bread. I even considered getting into this program before photography had taken hold of me. And you know what? I am pretty happy with my choice because now baking is a hobby and, more than ever, a time to relax.

Ok, there is no way to be stressed out with this recipe adapted from the book Baking and Pastry – Mastering the Art and Craft. Pain de mie is a kind of French bread sandwich but goes far from been painful as baguettes, croissants or other elaborated French breads. Even shaping is quite forgiving since you have to use a pan to hold the dough. So, let’s get it started.


Pan de Mie

Yields 2 loaves

8 cups (2lb 2oz) unbleached al purpose flour

1 tsp instant dry yeast

1 tbsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

2 2/3 cup water

½ cup olive oil

By Hand:  In a large bowl, combine water, sugar, salt and olive oil. Add flour and yeast, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it’s smooth. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow the dough to rise till puffy or nearly doubled, about 45 minutes (depends on the warmth of your kitchen).

Mixer: Combine flour and yeast. Add salt, sugar, olive oil and water to the mixer and then add the flour and yeast. Mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment for 4 minutes and medium speed for 4 more minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow the dough to rise till puffy or nearly doubled, about 45 minutes (depends on the warmth of your kitchen).
Divide the dough into two pieces, pre-shape into oblongs, cover and let it relax for 15 minutes.

 

 

Lightly grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Pat the dough out, fold it over on itself, and then use the side of your hand to seal the edges. Flip the dough so the sealed edge is on the bottom. Roll the dough under your palms into a cylinder 8in long.

Fit it into the pans, sprinkle some flour on top, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour (again, depending on the warmth of your kitchen it may rise even more slowly).

Preheat your oven to 375°F and bake the bread for 40 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely before serving.

 

Finally, here is my pumpkin soup. With two days of delay but it is here. And I know, you don’t need another recipe for pumpkin soup but still I thought I should give it a try. Believe me, the result is quite interesting.

Base is simple, roasted pumpkin with a touch of nutmeg and sage, blended with chicken stock. It is not light, neither dairy free or vegetarian…what doesn’t keep you from changing or adjusting it according to your preferences and habits.

Actually, for me this recipe is more about garnishing than the soup itself. So, please, if you want to change anything, don’t leave garnishing behind ‘cause that’s what makes the soup to be so…this soup.

Every step can be made ahead, just heat the soup in the microwave and garnish before serving.

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Roasted pumpkin soup with crispy brie, brown butter and sage

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

2 small pumpkins seeded and cut into 1-inch slices (or 4 cups pumpkin pure)
2 small onions, sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 nutmeg
1/8 ground cloves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
about 10 fresh sage leaves
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 cup milk

Garnish

6 oz Brie, sliced
4 tbsp butter
Extra fresh sage leaves

 

1. Preheat oven to 450 F.


2. Toss pumpkin with nutmeg, clove, olive oil, salt, pepper and sage in a large bowl. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet, mixing with onion and garlic cloves. Roast, stirring once, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until very tender.

3. Arrange slices of brie in a parchment-lined sheet pan. Place into the oven (you can place it together with the pumpkin, just keep an eye on it). Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until slightly brown. Let it cool in the pan (it will be crispy and crunchy once it cools down).

4. Prepare butter. Using a small saucepan, melt it over low heat until caramel in color. Add sage leaves and sauté until crisp. Don’t let it burn. Set aside.

5. Prepare the soup. Scrape pumpkin pulp out of its skin. Transfer it to a blender along with roasted onions, garlic and 3 cups of chicken stock (If you have a small blender like me, you may want to do that in two batches). Puree until smooth, adding milk little by little. Transfer to saucepan, adjust salt and heat through over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent splattering.

6. To serve, pour a portion of soup in a plate, garnish with baked brie and finish with drops of brown butter and sage.


Mammoth Brewing

October 30th, 2012

Just stopping to bring some color to this day! It is quite windy here in Chicago, grey sky and a weird felling anticipating Halloween. Nothing compared to NY though. I’d seen frightful scenes and decided not to look anymore. As a victim of a few bad floods, I really hope people are doing alright out there and that recover comes quickly.

 So, at least something good, this unpleasant day brought me back to the kitchen.  I am cooking! Right now I am working in a not- everyday pumpkin soup to cheer you – and me – up.

Meanwhile let me show you something:

No, it is not just a beer, it is THE BEER – with all capital letters it deserves. Mammoth Brewing crossed our way (or we crossed their way…) over the summer, when we stopped and camped at Tuolumne Meadows. Cesar, my husband, brought a bottle to the campground in one of our first nights there and after that the Tuolumne Meadows store became a mandatory stop for us.

Double Nut, as they say, is a Mammoth legend. No nuts are used during the brewing but, still, notes of coffee and dark chocolate revels a roasty and nutty character. And we fell in love with the beer even before knowing it had competed with 42 other entries and received the gold medal in the World Beer Cup for the Brown Porter category.

Of course we didn’t stop there. After leaving Yosemite, we headed to Mammoth Lakes just to visit their Tasting Room. Oh man, what can I say…… I guess they proved to have just the right motto: Beer as big as the Eastern Sierra.

Lucky are all of you who live, are visiting, or planning to go to California ‘cause the beer doesn’t cross its borders – unless you buy it and ship it yourself.  If you have the chance to try, let me know. Meanwhile I will stand here, dreaming I will be able to taste it again someday 😉



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