Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)

April 15, 2017

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Happy Easter or since I’m going to go with Greek traditions this year, I should say Kali Anastasi (Happy Resurrection)! This year I’ve got quite a delicious treat to share with you: Tsoureki or Greek Easter Bread. Traditionally served at Easter, its three stranded braid represents the holy trinity and the red egg symbolizes Christ’s blood. This lovely enriched yeast bread is very similar to brioche or challah, but is spiced with Mahlep which is derived from cherry pits. This is what gives it a very distinct cherry/almond flavor. Yup…soft, moist & fluffy with an unforgettable sweet nutty flavor… now that is an Easter brunch winner if ever I’ve heard of one! But truth be told, what really sold the Husband on this recipe was the promise that it would make a superb french toast!

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I’ve done some really tasty Easter recipes over the years. Like this amazing Italian Easter Pie from last year:

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And I don’t want to forget this lovely Slovak Paska from a couple of years ago:

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Keeping up the International Easter theme, remember way back in 2012 I made this Russian Kulich (Easter Bread):

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And then there is that Easter classic Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns:

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There are just so many delicious Easter recipes to choose from. You just can’t go wrong! And this year’s offering is no exception. Now I will say, you do need to plan a bit ahead to make Tsoureki. You need to get ahold of some Mahleb. I have provided you with an amazon link below and I hear that Penzey’s Spices might also carry it. Luckily there is an amazing Greek Deli that we love, located right around the corner from our place in Richmond Virginia: Nick’s International Foods. They had an abundance of Mahleb available as well as some great greek easter egg dye which enabled me to get the loveliest red eggs out there! Nick’s authentic Mediterranean Market has been proudly serving Richmond since the late 1950’s and from its current location at Broad & Monroe since 1980. Not only do the carry your average small grocery store items but they also boast a huge selection of imported cheeses and specialty European ingredients not easily found elsewhere. And don’t even get me going about their deli! Delicious sandwiches and fantastic soups. Not to mention all the folks who work there are so friendly and helpful. You just feel right at home. So if you are in the area, make sure you check it out!

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But let me get back to this Tsoureki. This bread is pretty easy to make, especially since you break it up over the course of two days. On the first day you mix up the starter, make the dough and then you pop it into your fridge overnight so that it can have a long, slow rise. On the second day all you have to do is shape your dough, let it rise once again and then pop it in the oven to bake. Traditionally this bread is decorated with hard-boiled eggs which have been dyed red, symbolizing the blood of Christ. After the hard boiled eggs bake in the oven along with the bread, they are pretty much inedible, so although some folks decorate their Tsoureki with multiple evenly spaced eggs, I chose to only use one egg at the end of the braid. The way the Husband loves eggs, he would have cried if I had sacrificed any more eggs than necessary!

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Also, if you use a dyed egg when you bake the loaf, a bit of that red color will bleed onto the surrounding bread. If you are worried with the appearance, you can simply use an egg which has not been dyed as a sort of place holder. Then once the bread is out of the oven and cooled, simply swap it out for that vibrant red egg. And don’t skip rubbing the eggs with a bit of oil once they’ve been dyed. It really makes them look amazing!

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Once your dough is ready to be shaped, there are several ways to proceed. You can make one long braid as I did in the recipe shown below. Though I will say this makes a huge loaf of bread. I think the next time I make it I will divide it in half and make a couple smaller loaves. You can also shape the braid into a circle and put it into a 9″ cake tin to bake. Or you could make several smaller personal sized circular braids, which would be fun for a smaller Easter brunch. But definitely give this terrific bread a try. I can tell you right now that it is simply heavenly just slathered with butter. I’m sure the french toast we have tomorrow will be nothing short of divine! Happy Easter!

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Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)

  • Servings: 1 large loaf or 2 -3 smaller ones
  • Difficulty: easy - but you need to plan ahead!
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

Starter:

  • 1 1/2 cups (177 grams) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup (227 grams) lukewarm (95°F) water
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Dough:

  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups (298 grams – 418 grams) Unbleached all-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (18 grams) Baker’s Special Dried Milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground mahlep, or the same amount of vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs — 2 for the dough, 1 to brush over the loaf before baking

Optional Decoration:

  • 1 -6 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, for brushing the hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup halved almond (optional)
  • cinnamon/sugar (for dusting – optional)
  • honey (for glazing – optional)

Directions:

To make the starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. The mixture will initially be the consistency of thick pancake batter; after an hour it should be very bubbly, airy, and doubled in size.

While the starter rests, ready the dough. Melt the butter over low heat and set it aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the sugar, dry milk, salt, mahlep and zest from one orange.

Mix 2 of the eggs into the risen starter. Stir in the cooled melted butter.

If you’re substituting vanilla extract for mahlep, stir it in. Add the flour/sugar mixture and stir until everything is incorporated.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups flour 1 cup at a time, as needed to make dough that’s stiff enough to form a ball but is also soft and slightly sticky.

Knead the dough — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until it springs back when pressed gently with a floured finger. If kneading by hand, try to use only the lightest dusting of flour on the counter and on your hands. The more gently you knead, the less sticky the dough will seem. When done, place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours, or overnight.

The next morning, remove the dough from the fridge and knead it gently a few times, to deflate it.

Decide whether you want to make one braided loaf, two loaves, or a round braid. If you want to make the round braid, liberally butter a 9″ round cake pan. For the braided loaves, line a baking sheet with parchment.

Divide the dough into three pieces for the 9″ round or the single braided loaf. Divide dough into 6 pieces for the two loaves. Set them aside, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap.

If you’re using the dyed eggs, rub each one with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil and set them aside. 

Make three 16″ strands with the dough; pinch the ends together at one end. Braid for 4″ to 5″; tuck an egg into the braid. Continue to braid, placing another egg into the braid at 2″ intervals. 

Cover the shaped loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours; if you’re using the round pan, the top of the loaf should be just barely level with the top rim of the pan. During the last 45 minutes of the rise, preheat your oven to 350°F.

To bake the bread: Lightly beat the remaining egg. Brush it over the loaf. (Alternatively, omit the egg wash if you’d prefer to brush the loaf with honey when it comes out of the oven.) Or brush the loaf with egg wash, sprinkle cinnamon/sugar over the bread and top with halved almond. If you’re baking a round loaf, press the last hard-boiled egg firmly into the center of the risen loaf. 

Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Open the oven door, reach in, and carefully press each egg farther down into the bread.

Continue to bake the bread for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F. Tent the bread with aluminum foil for the last 30 minutes, to prevent over-browning. 

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack. If desired, heat 1/4 cup honey with 1 tablespoon water until warm, and brush over the loaf. Let the bread cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

Tsoureki brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Tsoureki:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Mahlab Spice

Hand Held Zester

Greek Red Easter Egg Dye

Whole Milk Powder or here from King Arthur


Zucchini, Pancetta & Cheddar Frittata

September 27, 2016

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Anybody else still have zucchini hanging around their kitchen? I’m so happy to say we do. The husband and I are way into zucchini these days. Can’t get enough of the stuff. It not only tastes fantastic all on its own, but it also seems to magically enhance any recipe you add it to, like that Zucchini Banana Bread I told you about a couple of weeks ago. The addition of that wonderful summer squash made what was already really good banana bread into absolutely amazing banana bread. So when I came across the recipe for a Zucchini & Cheddar Frittata on Once Upon a Chef‘s blog, I just couldn’t wait to make it.

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Frittatas are just a perfect meal in my house. They’re great because they work for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And lucky for me, the husband is a big fan of the whole “breakfast for dinner” concept. I don’t think he has ever met an egg dish he didn’t like and is happy to eat them anytime of day. So frittatas are perfect. They are also wonderfully versatile and are a great way to use up any leftovers you might have on hand. In fact, I did customize the original recipe a bit. I added leeks to it because we love them nearly as much as zucchini. I also decided to add some crispy pancetta. And I must say I quite pleased with the results! This frittata was so delicate, creamy and delicious! It was great warm from the oven and also delicious cold from the fridge the following day. It was really quick and easy to make. I was able to have this tasty summer supper on the table in a little over 30 minutes. Huge win in my book!

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Zucchini Pancetta & Cheddar Frittata

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe slightly adapted from: Once Upon a Chef

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound (12 oz) zucchini (about 2 small zucchini -try to use small zucchini as they contain less water)
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped*
  • 2 leeks, washed and cut into rings – white & light green bits only**
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces (about 1 cup) grated Cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Using a food processor or box grater, grate the zucchini. Place the grated zucchini on top of several layers of paper towels and wring dry. If necessary, repeat 1-2 times to remove any excess moisture.

In an 8 or 10-inch ovenproof, nonstick sauté pan, over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crispy and set aside on paper towels to cool. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the grease from the pan. Add the leeks, zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture evaporates and the zucchini is tender, 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Add the crispy pancetta, cooked zucchini and grated cheese to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour the frittata mixture into the pan (no need to wash it), then place in the oven and bake until just set, 20-23 minutes.

Enjoy!

*Don’t have any pancetta? Substitute bacon – everybody loves bacon! Or just leave it out altogether for Meatless Monday.

**The husband and I are mad for leeks, but if they aren’t really your thing you can substitute in 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots, from 1 – 2 shallots.

Zucchini Pancetta & Cheddar Frittata brought to you by Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Zucchini Banana Bread

September 9, 2016

Zucchini Banana Bread

Well my, my, my! Here it is September. Summer is over and done with (I wish – yet it is still in the upper 90’s around here, a swampy, sweltering mess – Thanks Virginia!) and I have not posted one thing, not one little morsel, since May! Yup – missing in action or at least missing from the kitchen. For shame! Ah well, I’m making my comeback in a big way today. Yup, I have a recipe that has been “wowing” folks all summer long. It has been my go-to baked treat to take to gatherings with me all summer and I kid you not, every single person who tastes it asks for the recipe. The universal clamor was enough to get me off my lazy bum and back to blogging. So without further ado – here you have it – the recipe of the summer….Zucchini Banana Bread.

Zucchini Banana Bread

I know…I just know how skeptical to probably are right now. I was certainly not thinking this would be as amazing as it is when I first set out to make it. I just happened to have a couple suspicious looking bananas as well as a zucchini or two, lying about the kitchen. And then I remembered a recipe that I had seen on Two Peas & Their Pod blog (great blog – if you haven’t taken a peek, what are you waiting for?!) and I got busy. Little did I know the results would be pure magic. Seriously…This is the best banana bread I have ever tasted!

Zucchini Banana Bread

The husband agrees, as do a whole bunch of other lucky folks that have tried it this summer. Truth be told, you can’t taste the zucchini, but it presence in the recipe transforms this banana bread. It is so incredibly moist. Yet it still holds its shape and doesn’t just fall into a pile of crumbs when you go to slather it with butter. But don’t take my word for it. A loaf of this bread comes together easy-peasy. Give a whirl. You’ll be a believer.

Zucchini Banana Bread

Zucchini Banana Bread

  • Servings: one 8x4 inch loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil, cooled to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup shredded zucchini – you can do this with a box grater or make quick work of it with a food processor fitted with a shredding disc.
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×4-inch loaf pan* and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg, coconut oil, and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Add the flour mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until flour is mixed in. Squeeze the zucchini in a paper towel to remove excess liquid. Fold the zucchini into batter.

Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle top with turbinado sugar, if using. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and place on wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy!

*If you would rather make muffins, line a muffin tin with liners or grease each well. Baked for 20 minutes or until a toothpick come out clean. Will yield 12 muffins.

Zucchini Banana Bread brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Zucchini Banana Bread:

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Sugar in the Raw – Turbinado Sugar

 


Italian Easter Pie

March 26, 2016

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Easter preparations are in full swing in the Runcible Kitchen here. And the star of the show is this Italian Easter Pie! Yesterday I made my traditional Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns. Good Friday just wouldn’t be the same without them!

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And as for today, it was time to try out a new recipe. And I think this one will be making frequent reappearances. Behold this fantastic Italian Easter Pie!

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What we’ve got here is basically an Easter Calzone or “stuffed pizza” filled with smoked ham, hard-boiled eggs and cheese. Traditionally it is eaten in Italian households the day before Easter, but would certainly be welcome on any Easter Brunch table and would also be a great recipe to keep on hand should you have any extra hard-boiled eggs lingering around after the holiday.

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I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour blog. Rather, I should say I was looking over various Easter bread recipes, trying to pick one to make. Last year I had made Slovak Paska Bread

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and was very happy with the results, so I thought I’d stick with the bread theme. I had pretty much decided on the Polish Babka. But then the Husband happened along and saw the Italian Easter Pie recipe and he was smitten. He loves eggs. Loves them. Could eat them everyday. Prepared anyway. Never gets tired of them. And we had just received an order of King Arthur Italian Style Flour that we were going to try out with a new pizza dough recipe. Sooo….his choice was clear and I got busy making the Italian Easter Pie.  Now I will say, this recipe makes two 12″ Easter Pies. It will serve a whole lot of folks! Apparently there are as many variations on Italian Easter Pie recipes as there are Italian households out there. Everyone has a family favorite. Whilst this pie has fairly mild flavorings (that is why it is important that you use good quality, flavorful ham), I also ran across a recipe that uses a lot of spicier meats, like sausage, pancetta, and salami which looked great. (I’m keeping that one a secret for now to perhaps surprise the Husband with later.)

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I was very happy with how this Easter treat turned out. The crust is light and thin, and I will mention that the Italian Style flour was really easy to work with and roll out.

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The savory filling was perfect, hearty yet not heavy or dense. Italian Easter Pie is generally served warm or at room temperature. And though it is usually enjoyed for brunch or breakfast, I think it would also be great for dinner along with a side salad. Rustic, homey and delicious, this Italian Easter Pie would be perfect for all of your Easter holiday celebrations!

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Italian Easter Pie

  • Servings: 2 - 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • 5 cups (539 grams) King Arthur Italian Style Flour or 4 3/4 cups (566.9 grams) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (43 grams) nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) olive oil
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (255 grams) lukewarm water (90° F – 100°F)*
  • *If you use all-purpose flour, increase the water to 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces)

For the Filling:

  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • 1 pound good-quality, full-flavored ham
  • 2 cups (425 to 454 grams) ricotta cheese, part-skim preferred
  • 1 cup (113 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, lightly packed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme (leaves only)
  • 2 teaspoons Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle (optional – it is a blend of sweet basil, turkish oregano, thyme & garlic)
  • salt, coarsely ground black pepper, and chopped fresh parsley, to taste

For the Glaze:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
  • Maldon Flaky Sea Salt to sprinkle on edge of crust (optional)

Directions:

Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients — by hand, in a mixer, or in a bread machine — until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough. 

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it’s quite puffy, nearly doubled in bulk. While the dough is rising, make the filling.

Hard-boil and peel 6 of the eggs. 

Place the hard-boiled eggs, ham (cut in chunks), and fresh thyme in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until chopped and combined. Don’t over-process; the ham and eggs should still be a bit chunky. You can also simply dice the eggs and ham, and chop the thyme, if you don’t have a food processor.

Combine the ham, boiled eggs, and thyme with the raw eggs, ricotta, and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and about 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Add the Pasta Sprinkle if you are using it.

Deflate the dough, and divide it into four pieces. 

Roll two of the dough pieces into rounds about 13″ in diameter, and place them on lightly greased or parchment-lined 12″ pizza pans. Or roll into ovals about 10″ x 14″, and place on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Note: If you’re using parchment, it’s easiest to roll right on the parchment, then lift the crusts, parchment and all, onto the pans. I actually baked these pies on a pizza stone which I preheated in the oven. So I simply rolled the crusts out and assembled the pies on parchment paper. Then I transferred the pies to the heated stone on a pizza peel or paddle.

Divide the filling evenly between the two crusts, covering them to within 1″ of their edges. You’ll use a generous 3 cups (about 27 ounces) for each crust.

Roll out the other two pieces of dough, and place them atop the filled crusts, gently stretching them, if necessary, to cover the filling. Seal the crust edges by rolling the bottom crust up over the top, and pinching together.

Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors, cut a 1″ hole in the very center of each top crust; this will allow steam to escape.

Make the topping by whisking together the egg and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Paint each crust with some of the topping; this will yield a golden brown, shiny crust with mildly sweet flavor, a perfect foil for the salty ham. Sprinkle flaky sea salt on the rolled edge of the dough.

Allow the pies to rest while you preheat your oven to 350°F, about 15 minutes. They don’t need to be covered.

Bake the pies for about 25 – 35 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and carefully slide them off the pan/parchment and onto on a rack to cool. 

Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Enjoy!

Italian Easter Pie brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Italian Easter Pie:

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Thermoworks Super-Fast Thermapen Cooking Thermometer

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

Cuisinart Food Processor

Norpro Silicone Pastry Mat

SAF Instant Yeast

Emile Henry Flame Top Pizza Stone

14″ x 16″ Aluminum Pizza Peel

King Arthur Flour Italian Style Flour – This is a 00 Flour

Non fat Dry Milk Powder

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes (Fleur de Sel)

Penzey’s Spices Pasta Sprinkle (this is a link to the Penzey’s website)

I should also mention that King Arthur Flour has a wonderful shop full of kitchen essentials as well as their quality ingredients on their website. Definitely worth taking a peek!


The Model Bakery’s English Muffins

February 1, 2016

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Here it is…February already. It seems the Husband and I made it through the recent blizzard event, lovingly dubbed “Snowzilla” relatively unscathed. And tomorrow, my favourite varmint, Punxsutawney Phil, will be stepping out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and letting everyone know if there will be 6 more weeks of winter or if perhaps Spring is on the way. Groundhog Day is nigh!

One extraordinary rodent!

One extraordinary rodent!

Phil & all the folks up in Punxsutawney aren’t the only folks celebrating now. February 1st, which falls half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, also marks the festivals of Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas, all of which are associated with fertility, fire, purification and weather divination. Quite an auspicious time of year! I’m very happy to be marking an event today as well. February 1st just happens to be the 5th year anniversary of  the my cooking blog! Yup… Five years ago today I posted my first recipe. It was for Cream Tea Scones with Currants.

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I’ve posted some tasty “Anniversary Edition” recipes since then as well like Banana Rum Muffins:

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And last year I was able to successfully bake up a genuine Crack Pie!

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I mean who doesn’t love an English Muffin? With all of those delightful nooks and crannies, it’s just the perfect vehicle for lashings of salty butter and sweet fruity jam. Seems I’m not alone in my adoration of the muffin. Folks have been enjoying these for a long, long while. Certainly you’ve heard the traditional English nursery rhyme “The Muffin Man”

Oh Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?

In Victorian England folks were able to have fresh “muffins” delivered right to their door by a fellow known as….you guessed it, The Muffin Man. In 1874, Samuel Bath Thomas moved from Plymouth England to New York City. Once there he set up a bakery and began selling what he called “toaster crumpets”. They were similar to English crumpets but were thinner and pre-sliced. He was the founder of Thomas’s English Muffins which are still sold in many groceries today.41g0DUQLjuL

And whilst I’m thankful to Mr. Thomas, having enjoyed the convenience of easily buying a packet of English Muffins, whenever the mood struck me, I’ve got tell you…those store-bought muffins don’t really hold a candle to these homemade gems! Oh Good Lawd above! Once you taste these big honking, tender, moist & fluffy Homemade Muffins, you’ll be hooked. Sooooo worth the effort. You’ll never be found in the Muffin aisle of your local grocery again. (Sorry Mr. Thomas!)

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Now there are many recipes out there for homemade English Muffins, but this one from the Model Bakery reigns supreme! There is a reason their muffins were featured on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate. The Model Bakery has been open in Napa for over 80 years. Dedicated to authentic artisan baking traditions, they specialize in Artisan Breads but also will tempt you with a complete range of pastry products. And if you’re not planning on visiting Napa anytime soon, they not only mail order some of their delicious baked goods, but have also published a great cookbook: The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery , so that you can bake them at home. I’m telling you these muffins are just heavenly. Larger than your usual English Muffin, they bake up wonderfully fluffy and light as a cloud, yet are substantial enough to hold up to any breakfast sandwich you might send their way.

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And with this dough, you don’t have to fiddle around with any old-fashioned muffin rings. You cook them up on a griddle, completely free form.  If you can resist eating the whole dozen in one sitting, a feat of self-restraint that would definitely be worthy of admiration, I’m glad to say these little darlings freeze well, allowing you to have these awesome muffins on hand at the drop of a hat! So what are you waiting for…

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The Model Bakery's English Muffins

  • Servings: 12 Muffins
  • Difficulty: easy, but several steps and dough rising times to be factored in
  • Print

From: The Model Bakery Cookbook

Special thanks to Steven & Julie, fellow baking enthusiasts, for sharing this killer recipe with me!

Ingredients:

For the Biga:

  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
  • 1/2 cup/ 75g bread flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast

For the Dough:

  • 1 1/3 cups / 315 ml water
  • 3/4 tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 1/2 cups/ 510g unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed

Additional Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup/ 35g yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 6 tablespoons melted Clarified Butter (recipe follows) as needed

Directions:

To make the biga: At least 1 day before cooking the muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl to make a sticky dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The biga will rise slightly.

To make the dough: Combine the biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Affix the bowl to the mixer and fi t with the paddle attachment. Mix on low-speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups/435 g of the flour to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. (To make by hand, combine the water, biga, yeast, oil, and salt in a large bowl and break up the biga with a wooden spoon. Stir until the biga dissolves. Mix in enough flour to make a cohesive but tacky dough. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.)

Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely cleans the mixer bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed (if the dough climbs up the hook, just pull it down) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface to check its texture. It should feel tacky but not stick to the work surface. (To make by hand, knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and feels tacky, about 10 minutes.)

Shape the dough into a ball. Oil a medium bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil, leaving the dough smooth-side up. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (The dough can also be refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.)

Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into twelve equal pieces. Shape each into a 4-in/10-cm round. Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a half-sheet pan. Place the rounds on the cornmeal about 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Turn the rounds to coat both sides with cornmeal. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the rounds have increased in volume by half and a finger pressed into a round leaves an impression for a few seconds before filling up, about 1 hour.

Melt 2 Tbsp of the clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until melted and hot, but not smoking. In batches, add the dough rounds to the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the muffins brown without scorching, adding more clarified butter as needed. The undersides should be nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook until the other sides are browned and the muffins are puffed, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined half-sheet pan and let cool. (It will be tempting to eat these hot off the griddle, but let them stand for at least 20 minutes to complete the cooking with carry-over heat.) Repeat with the remaining muffins, wiping the cornmeal out of the skillet with paper towels and adding more clarified butter as needed.

Split each muffin in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Toast in a broiler or toaster oven (they may be too thick for a standard toaster) until lightly browned. Serve hot. (The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

To make the clarified butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted and boiling. Cook until the butter stops sputtering, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface of the butter.

Line a wire sieve with dampened, wrung-out cheesecloth and place over a medium bowl. Carefully pour the clear, yellow melted butter through the sieve, leaving the milky residue behind in the saucepan. (Discard the residue.) Pour into a small container and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Psssst: If you can’t be bothered making your own clarified butter, you can just go buy some Ghee off the supermarket shelf or order on Amazon!)

Enjoy!

The Model Bakery’s English Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Helpful Links to Kitchen Tools & Ingredients I used in making these English Muffins:

So this is a new feature I’m adding to my blog. Below you will find a list of Amazon Links to some of the Kitchen Tools and Ingredients which may not be found in your local grocery store, that I used in making the above recipe. You certainly don’t have to order them from Amazon if you’d prefer not to, but you can at least take a look at them there and then proceed as you wish. You also might be able to make the recipe perfectly well without any of these tools, but I use them and feel they make things much easier for me.

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

Kitchen Aid Artisan Series 5 Qt. Stand Mixer

SAF Instant Yeast

Le Creuset 11 3/4″ Cast Iron Frying Pan

Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 


Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins

November 6, 2015

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Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.

So….did I hear someone say “Indian Summer”? Because that is what we’ve got going on around here! Good grief! Here it is November and tomorrow it is supposed to hit 80°F! Let me tell you it is super bizarre seeing folks running around in shorts with all that lovely Fall foliage as their backdrop. And although most people seemed thrilled with the weather, it kind of makes me a bit uneasy. I’m afraid it portends no Fall whatsoever. One day it will be 80° F and with little notice at all, besides my head exploding as it usually does with big swings in temperature, the mercury will crash down to freezing. I hope I’m wrong. I love autumn and would like to get in a few brisk jacket days and bonfires before I’m buried in layers of wool!

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Luckily these Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins are great no matter what the temp, though the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors do give them a very Fall-type vibe. Though I must confess, no matter what the season, I just can’t get enough of them.

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These little muffins are kind of like a cross between a doughnut and a muffin. The batter is actually a doughnut batter, but then these muffins are baked, not fried. The buttermilk makes them oh so moist and tender. And the cinnamon/sugar coating is not only delicious and crunchy but also adds to the doughnut-ness of this treat. Now you can make these muffins full-sized, but I love to bake them in a mini muffin pan. The mini muffins are just the right size to pop straight into your mouth. You know, like a doughnut hole. And being so pint-sized, you won’t feel as guilty when you have more than one….Oh and believe me you will!

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Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins

  • Servings: 30 mini muffins or 9-11 full-sized muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe from: Williams Sonoma

Ingredients: 

  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a mini muffin or standard muffin tin with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill any unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

To make the muffins, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

To make the topping, in a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Put the melted butter in another small bowl. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tap it to remove excess sugar. Transfer the muffin, right side up, to the rack. Repeat with the remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Corned Beef Hash

March 13, 2015

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Corned Beef and cabbage! What would St. Patrick’s Day be without it? The quintessential Irish dish, or is it? Well, I’m sure all of my Irish friends (the ones that actually live in Ireland, not the Irish American ones to be specific) are saying…”What would it be without it? What would it be with it is a better question!” That’s right folks…Corned Beef and Cabbage is not considered “Irish” by the Irish themselves. They don’t really eat it there on St. Patrick’s Day or likely any other day of the year. “Hey….”I can just hear some of you saying…”I visited there last St. Patrick’s Day and I was served up a big old plate of the stuff”. I don’t doubt that you were. The Irish, being as accommodating as they are, made it up just because they knew hoards of Irish American tourists were going to turn up and be expecting it. It is not traditional for them whatsoever! But, that being said…it IS traditional St. Patrick’s Day fare for all the Irish Americans out there, who are the ones that really got that St. Patrick’s Day party going. And the recipe for today, Corned Beef Hash, doesn’t have so much to do with how to cook that big old hunk of corned beef and vegetables (hint….you boil the bejesus out of it….Just kidding 🙂 You simmer it all day, ever so gently… ), but what you do with the leftovers. I love recipes for leftovers. So much so that I’m giving you the one today and another one tomorrow. (bit of a spoiler, but it is for a corned beef appetizer, so stay tuned!). The husband swears that this Corned Beef Hash is fantastic. Indeed he preferred it to the original Corned Beef Feast we’d had the night before.

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But I’m sure some of you folks are still reeling from me letting the old “Corned Beef isn’t really Irish” cat out of the bag. So let me explain a little bit. Corned Beef, as I’m sure ya’ll know, has nothing to do with corn. The “corn” part of the title refers to the fact that large grain rock salt (salt kind of the same size as a grain of corn) was traditionally used to cure it. Back in the day, before reliable refrigeration, this “corning” was done to preserve meat. That vibrant pink color that corned beef is sporting is due to the pink salt that was used to cure it. Now this isn’t the fancy pants pink Himalayan salt that you may have read about, nope this is salt with good old sodium nitrate mixed in, which has been dyed a bright pink so that it is easily distinguishable from regular salt. It is the same reason why hot dogs have that rosy pink hue. Saltpetre, or potassium nitrate has also been used to preserve meat since the Middle Ages. Interestingly enough, it is also one of the main ingredients in gun powder. Saltpetre inhibits the germination of C. botulinum endospores as well as softens tough meat. Seventeenth century Ireland was the largest supplier of corned beef  in the world. That was because beef was very plentiful in the country and the salt tax in Ireland was 1/ 10 of what is was in England which meant the Anglo-Irish could import high quality salt at a lower price, cure that plentiful beef that they had in abundance and ready it for export. Which they did so much so that Irish Corned Beef was regarded as the best on the market from the 1600’s until about 1825.  However, although the Irish were exporting a lot of beef, they were not eating it. The Irish traditionally ate pork and beef was too expensive. After the potato famine in the mid 1800’s, many Irish immigrated to the United States. Once they arrived, many settling in New York, and living next to the many other immigrants of that time, they found that pork was very expensive, but that beef , which had previously been unaffordable, was plentiful. Their fellow immigrant Jewish butcher neighbors often sold an inexpensive cut of cured or corned beef brisket, which had started out quite tough but had been transformed by the curing process into a tender flavourful cut of beef. The Irish, being very adaptable, substituted this Jewish Corned Beef for the more expensive joint of bacon in their familiar boiled cabbage and potato recipe, thereby transforming and reinterpreting  the dish.

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So there you have it, not an Irish dish per se, but an exceedingly Irish American dish. I hope this recipe will inspire you to cast your eye not only to the big St. Patrick’s Day feast, but also to the days after. The leftovers days. St. Patrick’s Day is only four days away, so plan ahead! Buy that bigger cut of brisket and cook up a bit extra, so that you’ll have plenty of leftovers to work with. I promise you, you won’t regret it. This Corned Beef Hash is phenomenal. Just what the doctor called for to perk you up the day after the many St. Patrick’s Day parades, festivities and undoubtedly excessive green beer guzzling.

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Corned Beef Hash

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: BonAppetit

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups leftover shredded Corned Beef
  • 1 medium onion, left over from Corned Beef feast
  • 1 large russet potato, left over from Corned Beef feast
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup Irish Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 4 large eggs
  • Chopped fresh chives (for serving)

Directions:

This recipe assumes that you’ve already made your St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef Feast and have managed to set aside a few leftovers, namely 2 cups of shredded corned beef, 1 medium onion and one large russet potato. I had used baby red potatoes when I made my corned beef dinner, so I just used a big handful of those.

Preheat oven to 200° F. Thinly slice cooked onion and potato into 1/2″ pieces; toss in a large bowl with corned beef, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1 cup Irish Cheddar. Moisten with some reserved cooking liquid if mixture seems dry. If you don’t have cooking liquid, just use a splash or two of Guinness; season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 of the corned beef mixture and press down to form a pancake. Cook undisturbed until the underside is golden brown and crisp, about 6 – 8 minutes. Set a plate over the pan and carefully invert the pancake onto it; then slide it back into the pan, uncooked side down. Press it back into pancake shape again and then once again…do not touch it! Let it cook for 6 – 8 minutes again. Then carefully transfer it to a baking sheet, tent with foil and pace in the oven to keep warm until you are ready to serve. Repeat with the remaining butter and corned beef mixture.

Meanwhile, bring 2″ of water to boil in a large saucepan or frying pan. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and add vinegar.

Crack an egg into a small bowl and once the water has reached a temperature of 190°F, slide the egg into the water. Repeat with the remaining eggs, waiting until the egg whites are opaque before adding the next egg. Poach for about 4 minutes to 4 1/2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a paper towel. Trim away any whispy egg whites if you desire. Eggs can be poached 2 hours ahead of time; place in a bowl of ice water and chill. If you are planning on doing eggs ahead and will need to reheat, you may want to reduce initial cooking time to 3 – 3 1/2 minutes so that they are not overdone after reheating. Reheat in simmering water for 1 minute prior to serving.

Serve eggs over hash, seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with chives, more cheddar and more parsley.

Enjoy!

Corned Beef Hash brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


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