Monday, April 14, 2014

“Everything” Rolls


I have a new best friend. Would you like me to tell you who (actually what) it is?  Because when I do, it will become your new best friend as well. Are you ready? new best friend is Rhodes Frozen Bread Dough. No, they are not paying me to say this. I am saying this because it is absolutely 100% true.

I was introduced to frozen bread dough by the good people at Celebrate Magazine, the only magazine, by the way, that I subscribe to in paper form. I keep each issue, and reread them year after year. The pages are dog-eared and worn, the recipes spattered, but my issues can feel the love.

In the current (March/April) issue I found a recipe for Everything Rolls.  Mr. O-P and I are quite the fans of the Everything Bagel, so this recipe caught my eye. I, as you know, am a fond lover of homemade rolls, so when I saw this called for frozen bread dough I initially balked. What if someone finds out?  I asked myself. Would I lose all credibility?  How will they taste?  Will it be obvious that I cheated and used frozen dough?  Well, let me tell you, no one will know from the look and taste of these delicious rolls that you didn't labor over them yourself. They are fresh, chewy, flavorful, and with a bakery shop texture that will have you hiding the package and bragging to your guests.

In short, both recipe and dough are superb! First of all, look at them.  Are they beautiful, or what?  They also look like work. They aren't. Thaw the dough, flatten, brush with butter, sprinkle with goodness, roll and bake. Then step aside for the stampede. Mr. O-P asked if he could try one. Sure, I told him, as I prepared to photograph them for the blog. By the time I had turned around he had not only tasted them, but he had eaten two rolls!  Yep, this recipe is a keeper.

Here is the recipe as it appears in the magazine (you're going to have to buy the issue for the other great recipes), my alterations follow.

Everything Rolls

4 teaspoons white sesame seeds
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 teaspoons granulated garlic
4 teaspoons yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (1-pound loaf) frozen bread dough, thawed

Spray 18 muffin cups with cooking spray.

In a small bowl combine sesame seeds and next 5 ingredients.  In a separate small bowl, place melted butter.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12" square.  Using a pastry brush, brush dough with half of melted butter. Sprinkle seed mixture over dough.  Roll up dough, jelly-roll style, pressing seam to seal. Cut into 18 slices. Place slices in each prepared muffin cup.  Brush rolls with remaining butter. Let stand in a warm (85 degree) draft-free place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately.

My notes: I didn't have enough sesame seeds so used only a tablespoon. I like Parmesan cheese so used 2 tablespoons.  I used Rhodes brand Frozen Bread Dough.  Only my jumbo muffin tins were handy, so I cut the dough in 2" pieces, pushing them up from the bottom to make them crown, and so my yield was 9 large rolls. It took about 1-1/2 hours for them to raise to the height that I wanted. 


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cookies and Coffee

 If you've ever struggled to come up with a clever sweet to serve at a ladies coffee, how about stamped shortbread cookies?  Your guests will be delighted to see these clever, whimsical, and delicious cookies plated and set with the coffee things. Food is all about taste and fun, and these are guaranteed to please on both counts.
 I have found a kindred spirit in Monique from the La Table de Nana blog. She seems to love cookie stamps as much as I do, the only difference is that she actually does something with hers whereas I generally just smile and admire mine. Encouraged by her continued and successful use, I bought a Chinese Moon Cake mold with the Starbucks logo off of eBay.  I am an avid fan of Starbucks, so much so that when I drive up to the window the barista looks at me and says, Oh, it's you!  I never know quite how to take that, but I'm hoping he means it in a positive way. 
The recipe that I used for the cookies is an adapted version of  Ina Garten's shortbread. It is a personal favorite because it rolls and cuts like a dream, and tastes buttery and delicious. It took a bit of pressure to leave a deep impression, but overall I was very pleased with the results. (The cookies that yielded less than perfect results, we just had to eat. Immediately.)

Ina’s Shortbread

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt; then slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and roll shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and impress design into dough, rocking mold back and forth ever so slightly.  After image has been pressed into the dough to your satisfaction, cut out with a 3 round biscuit cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased sheet.  Freeze for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Boston Brown Bread


This is an old family recipe that has been around for as long as I have, maybe more. I first became acquainted with it while watching my grandmother prepare it in her kitchen one Saturday afternoon. I was fascinated at the prospect of something being baked in a can that once housed vegetables. An impatient six-year-old, the hour of time required for baking seemed like an eternity. I could hardly wait to see them come from the own, wondering just how high they would rise above the can. These are beautiful little loaves, made extra charming, I think, by the impression the can ridges make along the side, almost as if put there intentionally as a guideline for slicing. 

Dense, moist, rich and delicious, this makes for an excellent breakfast treat whether slathered with creamery butter or left plain. Good for the heart, and good for the soul. Give this retro recipe a try. 

Boston Brown Bread

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup 100% All Bran
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins (I used half golden raisins)
1 cup nuts (I used pecans)
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease three 15-ounce, ridge-less cans.  (I used a Chinese vegetable can.  Many vegetable cans, such as green bean cans, shown on the left, have a lip at the top that will prevent the loaf from exiting the can.) 

Pour bran into a medium mixing bowl and add buttermilk.  Allow to stand for 30-45 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg and sugar.  Stir in soda mixed with water, flour, [soaked] bran mixture, raisins, and nuts.  Blend until combined.  Fill each can 2/3 full.  Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coffee-Chipotle Pork Chops

I love reading books where I feel an instant rapport with the author. Such was the case with Lisa Fain, accomplished food blogger and author of The Homesick Texan Family Table cookbook. According to Fain, if you ask a Texan about their most memorable meal, it will not be one consumed at a fancy restaurant, but rather one enjoyed at the family table. I don't think I ever really thought about my most memorable meal until I read this book. I've dined along the canals in Venice, in the shadow of Notre Dame, had an omelet at 2:00 in the morning at a restaurant on London's Southhampton Row, but my most memorable, and enjoyable meals have been around a big table with family present. This, she says, is what her cookbook is all about, making memories at the table with those whom we love.  What is not to love about a premise like that?

Reading this book is like being at one of those meals. Fain is delightfully chatty and full of stories about family, friends, and great Texas food. My contention is that you can't get a bad meal in Texas, and this book proves it. Fain shares old family recipes from well-used recipe cards, regional specialties, Tex-Mex, coastal, all the varieties of food that encompass Texas cuisine. 

Displaced from Texas, she now makes her home in New York City, living in an apartment with a kitchen so small that, spreading her arms out, she can reach either side. There is one counter, a stove, small sink and refrigerator, but no dishwasher, no pantry, and no space for any utensil that doesn't have use, so has compiled a list of what she considers to be basic kitchen equipment at the beginning of the book to help aid new cooks in their selection. 

Shall we talk about the food?  If the fact that I am salivating as I write this is any indication, clearly I loved this book. I don't think I have ever found so many recipes that I intend to make in just one cookbook. Now I am partial to Texas cuisine, having lived in Austin for a brief time, so I may be a bit prejudiced here, but the variety of offerings, interesting combination of tastes, recipes that are, for the most part, easy to prepare, all had me champing at the bit to get cooking.  Each recipe has its own story and each is written in language that is easy to comprehend and follow. 

Breakfast is often a meal that leaves me stymied. Problem solved!  It turns out that Texans take their breakfasts seriously, and there are, seriously, a lot of wonderful recipes to start out your day.   I made the Dutch Baby pancake, Blueberry Granola, and Cranberry-Gruyere Scones, all winners. There is a recipe that I have yet to try, for homemade sausage, that sounds both easy and splendid. It will be on the breakfast table next week. 

Mouthwatering snacks abound, the zippy Bacon Jalapeño Cheese Ball and I-can't-stop-eating-them Orange-Cinnamon Candied Pecans were two of my favorites. 

The Coffee-Chipotle Pork Chops were on the dinner table this evening. Now, I did brine them for three hours before covering them with the rub (and, as such, cut way back on the called for salt), and I left them in the refrigerator for four hours past the suggested eight, but these were the most moist and flavorful chops that I think I have ever consumed. And easy, you bet!  I love a recipe that takes little effort and a minimum of equipment, yet yields a lot of taste. 

Clearly, Fain knows what she's talking about when it comes to food. I'd tell you much more, but I'm afraid that you're just going to have to buy the book yourself. 

Coffee-Chipotle Pork Chops 

2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon finely ground dark-roasted coffee beans (I used espresso powder)
1 tablespoon paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

4 (5- to 6-ounce) bone-in pork chops, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick (I used boneless, and brined them)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix together the salt, brown sugar, black pepper, ground coffee, paprika, chipotle powder, granulated garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice. Coat each pork chop with the rub, covering both sides generously.  Reserve any leftover rub for another use. Place the pork chops in a plastic food-storage bag, and refrigerate for 8 hours. 

To cook the pork chops, remove them from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-low heat, add the pork chops and cook on each side for 5 minutes. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and cook the pork chops for 15 minutes, uncovered, or until a meat thermometer reads 145°F. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

Serves 4

Disclaimer:  I received a free digital copy of this book, prior to publication, from NetGalley. The opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own. 

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tangerine Sugar

 Up until now, I never gave tangerines much thought. My memory of them stretches way back to my days in grade school where I would, occasionally, find one packed in my lunch bag. I remember them being easy to peel, but rather dry and stringy.  The strings would entwine themselves around my pudgy little fingers making this my least favorite of all the fruits. More often than not, after a few segments were consumed, the remainder went into the trash. 

Oh, Ojai Pixie Tangerines, where have you been all my life?!  I am a slave to these spherical wonders. They are easy-to-peel, with no annoying pith (take note, grade schoolers!), and so shockingly sweet that you won't believe this luscious treat is good for you. This is what I imagine tangerines in the Garden of Eden must have tasted like. Well, I confess, I am in love with them.  

So when I saw this blog post on the Melissa's Produce website, I just knew that I had to give the citrus sugar a try, using the tangerines. It. Is. Heaven!  First of all, the aroma is indescribable. Sometimes I take the lid off of the container and just take a whiff. Clearly there is something to the connection between aromas and emotion because I find myself feeling rather blissful after only one whiff. 
Use it to sweeten tea (and do float some slices of tangerine in your tea pitcher, or glass, and you will feel transported to a tropical paradise where the sand is warm and white, and tangerines can be plucked, at will from the trees overhead).  
For breakfast, set the cinnamon sugar aside and sprinkle this on buttered toast in the morning; it is sunshine on a plate. Use it to top biscuits, scones, or perhaps sprinkle some of top of sugar cookies. Go bold! (And go get some.  NOW!)

Tangerine Sugar

2 tablespoons zest from Ojai Pixie Tangerines (about 3)
1 cup granulated sugar

In a small bowl, mix ingredients together thoroughly until well blended.  Store in an air tight container.