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Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Happy New Year!

We didn’t celebrate late into the night (still recovering from a long flight and a very late arrival home the night before), but before we went to bed we did manage to pull together the batter for a wonderful New Year’s tradition (well, it should be a tradition, anyway), what the Joy of Cooking calls Raised Buckwheat Blini.

Blini are little pancakes, traditionally associated with Lent in Russia and the Ukraine, served with caviar or, in my house, smoked salmon, and creme fraiche.  Raised refers to the fact that they are made with yeast and need to rise for at least an hour before making (I refrigerated the batter overnight after it’s initial rise).  The yeast makes them light and airy, the buckwheat gives them a nutty flavor and a lovely brown color.

They can be made on an ordinary griddle, like any other pancakes, but they are even better when made on a “platar” or “plett” pan.

Here’s the recipe, straight from the pages of the Joy of Cooking (1997 edition).

Raised buckwheat blini

1 ½ cups milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup buckwheat flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and let cook until it is between 105 and 115 degrees F.  Sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until the yeast is dissolved (about 5 minutes).

Whisk together flours, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and pour the wet ingredients over them, whisking until just combined.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the batter has doubled in volume, about one hour.

Once the batter has risen you can make the pancakes right away, or refrigerate the covered bowl for up to 24 hours; let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before proceeding.

Stir to deflate the batter and whisk in the lightly beaten eggs.

Prepare and preheat your platar or griddle.  For the platar, spoon or pour about 2 tablespoons batter into each depression.  Cook until the top of each blini is speckled with bubbles and some of the bubbles have popped, then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned.  (The easiest way to turn blini is to spear them with a thin skewer, nail or knitting needle; you can also slip a narrow icing spatula under the cakes.)  If you are using a griddle, spoon a scant ¼ cup of batter for each pancake, leaving space between cakes for some expansion.  Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you finish cooking the rest.

They are also good with a little jam on top (Marionberry in this case).

Fresh grapefruit as a side,

and everyone is sure to clean their plate.


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Now that berries are finally here I find myself coming home from the farmer’s market loaded down with more fruit than even I can eat.  The solution?  Make jam, and make it right away, before those berries get overripe.

How do I find the time to make jam?  I use my handy dandy bread machine!  Yes, my bread machine (an older version of this one) has a jam setting that makes jam-making easy and fun.

So far I’ve made two batches — strawberry (with amazing Hood strawberries, a particularly flavorful small berry that is only around for a few short weeks in the early part of the strawberry season) and raspberry.  Both were amazing, though if I had to choose, I’d give the raspberry a slight (very slight) edge.

The recipe is really easy and quick (one note — this only works in bread machines with a “jam” cycle).

Bread Machine Berry Jam
(adapted from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensberger)

3 cups fresh strawberries or raspberries
1 cup sugar
¾ package of Sure-Jell (or other powdered pectin)
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice (use more or less to taste)

If using strawberries, crush the berries roughly before adding them to the bread machine.  This step can be skipped with raspberries.

Put all of the ingredients into the pan of the bread machine and let them sit for about 15 minutes or until the the sugar begins to dissolve.

Set the Bread Machine on the JAM setting, push start, and let the machine do the work.

When the jam is ready, spoon it into canning jars, cover and refrigerate.  Your jam may be a bit runny at first; it will thicken as it cools.

These jams will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  You can also spoon jam into plastic bags and freeze if you want to keep it longer.

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The minute I saw this post on David Lebovitz’s wonderful blog, I knew I had to make Chocolate Bread.  I mean, how could I resist?  Chocolate bread?  What a great idea.  Not a new one, even to me, but this recipe was both relatively straight-forward and annotated with lots of notes about each ingredient choice.  I was hooked.

Of course, I had some questions to answer first.  DL recommends using a Dutch process cocoa powder and I wanted to use my current favorite,  Green and Black’s Organic Cocoa.  Was it “Dutched” (aka alkalized)?”  Yes.

DL also calls for bread flour (though he says all-purpose will do in a pinch) so I replenished my supply of King Arthur bread flour (it turned out I had some sitting around, but since I wasn’t sure how old it was, getting fresh flour was a good idea).

DL’s recipe cites toasted nuts as an optional ingredient.  Being a resident of Portland, where I can get freshly roasted hazelnuts at the Farmer’s Market most of the year, I chose to add those incredibly tasty nuts to this batch.

Finally I bought and chopped some Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate.

Ingredients assembled, I waded in.  The dough came together easily in my mixer, looking (as DL mentions) almost like brownie batter when fully mixed — very soft and not at all like most bread dough.

After a couple of rises (2 hours in the bowl, just over an hour in a loaf pan) I slid the bread into the oven.

And, oh! the smell.  Better than bread alone, better even than brownies baking, my whole kitchen was filled with the warm scent of chocolate and the yeasty smell of bread — a combination almost impossible to describe.  The scent alone makes baking this bread worth it.

Of course it tastes pretty darn good, too!

So far, we’ve eaten it plain (yes, I admit, warm from the oven), smeared with this incredible cultured butter from the Monteillet Fromagerie,

and most, recently, toasted and topped with vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries.

My conclusion?  This bread was definitely worth the effort. I recommend you give it a try, too.

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Some time ago, my sister-in-law, K, posted a recipe for Almond Milk on her blog.  The first few times I made it myself I flipped back to her recipe, but after a few batches I found that I was able to remember the simple and delicious recipe without peeking.  Now I keep homemade almond milk in my refrigerator almost all the time.

What makes this recipe so wonderful is the simple list of ingredients and the ease with which they can be combined to make a flavorful and healthy drink.  Almonds, water, a bit of sweetener (I use agave nectar or maple syrup) and vanilla, and a pinch of salt, whirled in the blender and strained through cheesecloth,

and there you are — creamy, smooth, slightly sweet and nutty — the perfect glass of almond milk.

For me, nothing tastes better on homemade (or any other kind) granola.

Here are the details:

Almond Milk

1 cup whole almonds (I use organic)
4 cups water
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (you can add more or less sweetener to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Blend at the highest speed for about 2 minutes, until all of the almonds are pulverized.

Pour through a strainer lined with cheesecloth.  Gather the cheesecloth and squeeze until all of the liquid is extracted.

Pour into a jar and refrigerate.  Almond milk keeps, refrigerated, for about 3 days.

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I may have mentioned this once before (or maybe not) but in our house, S is the official breakfast chef.  On the weekends he is usually up before I am, rifling the pages of his many breakfast cookbooks and searching the pantry and fridge for breakfast supplies.  Before he starts cooking he puts Steal Away by Charlie Haden on the stereo (I know I have told you that before) and the mellow tunes and fragrant smells usually draw me out of bed, ready to eat.

Lately, he’s been even more enthusiastic than usual, excited to put our new stove top and oven through their paces.

This morning he settled on a recipe from one of his favorite breakfast books, The Big Book of Breakfast: Serious Comfort Food for Any Time of the Day, for a Dutch Baby pancake.

That’s one of those airy, puffy baked pancakes that you make in the oven and serve topped with fruit (or whatever else sounds good at the time).

Dutch Baby (German Pancake)
(from The Big Book of Breakfast by Maryana Vollstedt)
Serves 2

3 large eggs
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs.  Add flour slowly and whisk until blended.  Whisk in milk and salt.

In a large oven proof skillet (a black cast iron skillet works well; today S used a big, deep Dutch oven) over medium heat, melt butter.  Pour batter into skillet and place the skillet in the oven.

Bake until the pancake is lightly browned and puffed, about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven.  Loosen edges with a knife and turn out onto a plate.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with powdered sugar, topped with fruit and drizzled with maple syrup.  Or whatever other toppings you like!

Even if you’re not a practiced breakfast maker, I recommend this recipe.  It’s easy, tasty and looks lovely on the plate, too!

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Making granola at home

I have to be honest.  This didn’t begin as a post about granola.  In fact, I was searching for a recipe for healthy, home-made granola bars.  The crunchy kind.

After a long search I found a recipe that looked promising in the Baking Illustrated cookbook, another source that I frequently turn to when looking for baking ideas.  After reading the recipe, of course I felt the need to make some changes.

I started by substituting some Bob’s Red Mill Muesli cereal for some of oats called for in the original recipe.  Mixing this with the oats prior to toasting them added a few more grains and, I hoped, some extra nutrition and flavor.

While the grains were toasting, I heated maple syrup (which I used instead of the honey the original recipe listed) with brown sugar

and chopped some walnuts.

At the last minute, I also added some wheat germ as I mixed the toasted grains with the maple-brown sugar syrup and nuts.  The mixture was nice and sticky as it went into the oven for the final baking.

I’m not sure if the maple syrup-for-honey substitution was the cause, or if I just didn’t press the mixture into the pan firmly enough

but I ended up with wonderful, crunchy, maple-walnut granola instead of granola bars.  Not what I had been aiming for, but incredibly good all the same.  I’ll definitely be making it again soon.

I’m going to get some milk and eat some right now!

Maple-Walnut Granola

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Muesli Cereal
½ cup canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups whole walnuts
¾ cup maple syrup
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup toasted wheat germ

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line an 18 x 12 inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Combine the oats, Muesli cereal, canola oil and salt in a large bowl and mix until oats and cereal are evenly coated.

Spread the mixture into an even layer on the baking sheet (reserve the bowl for later) and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until the oats are pale gold in color and smell toasty, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees F.

While the oats are toasting, place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped (about 10 1 second pulses). Remove ½ of the nuts and continue to process the remaining nuts until finely ground.  Mix the coarse and fine nuts together in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine the maple syrup and the brown sugar in a small sauce pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the brown sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and set aside.

Combine the toasted oats with the nuts, wheat germ and maple syrup mixture and stir until everything is evenly coated.

Pour the mixture into the rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly.

Bake until golden, about 45 – 50 minutes.

Cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

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