Sunday, March 23, 2014

ChezCindy: Not Your Mama's Hash-Browns

Last night's left-over vegetables add freshness to breakfast the next morning.  Instead of tossing out the remnants of last night's dinner veggies, save them to create a new twist on hash browns for breakfast.  Consider adding chopped green beans, carrots or even cauliflower to your hash brown potatoes to create a full meal topped with a fresh egg.  It's not only frugal, but healthy and delicious.

Breakfast Hash Brown Potatoes
3-4 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup left-over steamed vegetables, chopped
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Goya Adobo all-purpose seasoning
turmeric or paprika (optional)
salt and pepper

Clean the potatoes under running water to remove any dirt.  Cut into 1/2-inch chunks, leaving the skin on.  Working with a large skillet, add the butter and oil, swirling to combine over medium high heat.  Add the potatoes so that they are in a single layer such that each piece has a flat side exposed to the bottom of the pan.  This will allow the potatoes to pick up good browned color.  Stir the potatoes to rotate the sides to evenly brown on all sides.  Remove the potatoes to a separate plate.

Add the chopped onions to the same pan, adding more oil if the pan has gotten too dry.  Stir, cooking until golden brown.  Add the halved cherry tomatoes; cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have also picked up some brown color.  Add in the left-over chopped vegetables.  Stir to heat through.  Add the already cooked potatoes.  Stir to combine.  Sprinkle with the thyme leaves removed from the sprigs.  Season with the Goya Adobo seasoning, the turmeric or paprika, (adds great color and flavor), salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to distribute the seasonings.  Serve with eggs if desired. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

ChezCindy: Everyday Whole Wheat Bread: Baking Bread at Home

I have been cooking and baking since I was a very young child.  As a young cook, I never thought to set limitations on what I wanted to cook.  I simply found a recipe and jumped in.  Our local newspaper used to publish recipes and I found one that caught my interest - whole wheat onion dill bread.  I clipped the recipe from the paper and baked that wonderful aromatic bread for years.  After college and out on my own, I continued to make bread from scratch rarely buying bread from the grocery.  As life's priorities changed, I stopped baking bread moving on to new interests. 

Over the last few years, the thought of once again baking my own bread started nagging at my brain. This weekend, I finally got hooked and made this multi-grain bread.  It came out good, except I forgot to add salt.  Bread made without salt is not good.  But I was happy that it rose properly, and the texture was great. 

Making bread from scratch is much easier than yesteryear with the help of the KitchenAid stand mixer.  Every mixer includes a dough hook.  My guess is most home cooks leave that attachment somewhere in the back of the cupboard, as I had for years.  Using the dough hook eliminates most of the kneading by hand and takes less time than the tiresome kneading on the counter. 

Bread Tools

Making bread from scratch is not all that complicated, it just takes a commitment of time.  Plan on being in your house for 3 - 4 hours.  The active time is minimal, but each step takes roughly an hour before proceeding to the next - an hour to proof, an additional hour for the shaped bread to rise, and lastly about an hour to bake.  

Proofed Dough                                                                               Prepared Loaves for Rising
                                                                      Loaves Ready to Bake
 Basic Whole Wheat Bread

3 1/2 cups warm water, 110 degrees
3 tablespoons honey
2 packets of active dry yeast or 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons salt
canola oil
1 egg white
2 tablespoons rolled oats for topping the loaves
Combine the warm water, honey and the yeast in a large liquid measuring cup.  Stir until dissolved.  Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Working with a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, transfer the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl.  In a large separate bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups of bread flour, the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt; whisk to combine.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the bowl with the yeast mixture.  Continue mixing until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and climbs up the dough hook, you may need to increase the speed of the mixer. 
Remove the dough from the hook and bowl, and place onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead in the remaining half cup of bread flour a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Lightly oil a large bowl with canola oil, place the kneaded dough into the bowl; cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in a warm place, and let the dough rise until double in size.  This will take 1 to 1 1/2 hours.    
Turn the now risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.  Working with one piece at a time, flatten the dough by rolling it out into a 7-by-5 inch rectangle.  Roll up the dough by the long-side, flatten each end and fold the flaps under the dough, seam side down.  Repeat with the second piece of dough.  Place each formed loaf into an oiled 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Whisk the egg white with 1 teaspoon of water.  Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg white; sprinkle the rolled oats over the loaf tops.  Cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise again until doubled in size, about an hour. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Once the loaves of dough have doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap and place in the oven.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  If you have an internal temperature probe, the temp should read as 205 degrees.  Transfer the pans to a rack to cool for about 5 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, invert the loaves onto the rack and to cool slightly before slicing.   

Sunday, March 9, 2014

ChezCindy: Cheese Souffle

With all my years of cooking experience, I had never made a soufflé.  Unusual for me.  As a teenager I made crepes, doughnuts, chicken Kiev, any recipe that seemed interesting to me, without fear of failure.  On a recent visit to the one of the local cookware stores, I found a soufflé dish on clearance, with an extra 50% off.  I paid $3 for a full size soufflé dish.  It was time to make a soufflé. 

As always, I did a little research of various recipes.  The process is not too difficult.  There are a few key tips to learn, but very simple ingredients.  I decided to make a classic cheese soufflé as my first experiment.  Simple ingredients, eggs, cheese, milk, butter and flour, with stunning results. 

A few tips to follow:
You will need to make a foil "collar" to assist with the soufflé rising far above the walls of the soufflé dish.  Pull out a sheet of foil that is 3 times longer than the diameter of the soufflé dish.  Fold it over lengthwise with the dull side folded on the inside.  Rub the shiny side of the foil with softened butter.  Wrap the foil, butter side in, around the soufflé dish pinching it together to stay in place. 

A cheese soufflé is made by folding beaten egg whites into a white bechamel sauce.  When you separate the egg whites from the yolks, it is important to have a clean separation.  The tiniest bit of fat, either in the bowl or the beaters, will prevent the egg whites from fluffing up. 

Bake the soufflé on the bottom rack in the oven so that the heat rises from below.  Preheat the oven, and then turn up the temperature 25 degrees higher once the soufflé goes in the oven.  This gives the soufflé an extra push of heat to get things started. 

Cheese Soufflé
For lining the dish and collar:
2 tablespoons softened butter
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano cheese

For the white béchamel sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
very small pinch of nutmeg
5 large egg yolks

For the final steps:
8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a large 6-8 cup soufflé dish, generously butter the inside.  Butter the inside of the foil collar, attaching the foil collar as described above.  Sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese in the dish and turn the dish around until the cheese and foil collar are covered with a layer of cheese.  Place the dish in the refrigerator until ready to fill.

Make the white béchamel sauce:  Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan; stir in the flour with a whisk until smooth.  Gradually stir in the milk while whisking; bring to a simmer over high heat while continuing to whisk.  Boil for 30 seconds, whisking until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano cheese.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.  Set aside.

Finals steps for folding in the egg whites:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the egg whites into the bowl for whisking.  Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites to stiff peaks starting at slow speed, gradually increasing the speed to high. 
Whisk about 1/4 of the egg whites into egg yolk béchamel, combining to lighten the sauce.  Pour the bechamel sauce down the side of the bowl containing the egg whites.  Fold the sauce and the egg whites with a rubber spatula, while sprinkling the Gruyere cheese over the mixture.  Be sure to reach down into the bottom of the bowl to combine the sauce that may have pooled at the bottom.  Being careful not to over mix the contents, leaving a few bits of egg whites is okay. 

Gently pour the egg/cheese mixture into the prepared soufflé pan.  Place the soufflé dish onto a sheet pan and place into the preheated oven.  Turn the oven temperature up to 375 degrees.  Set your timer for 40 minutes.  There should be no reason to check on the soufflé during this cooking time.  After 40 minutes, open the oven door.  The soufflé should have risen by half of the original size and the center should have minimal movement.  If the center has too much movement, continue cooking for another 10 minutes. 

To serve the soufflé:  Take the sheet pan out of the oven.  Remove the collar.  Scoop out portions, being sure to include some of the bottom "crust" and some of the creamy center.  Serve for breakfast, brunch or dinner.