Posts Tagged 'french bread'

A Day in the Kitchen

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Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart (from thebakingpan.com)

Saturday was a gray, dull wintery day. I needed an escape. I contemplated driving down to the shore to look at waves, but decided it would be too cold and windy to get out of the car. I thought maybe escaping to the bookstore and finding a good, “real” book would be fun. So I headed to the mall. As I drove I thought that maybe I should have picked pampering instead – maybe I should have gone to the Korean spa and luxuriated in saunas and hot tubs. I was already almost to the mall, though, and didn’t feel like turning back. I remembered that there had been a hair salon for years at the mall. I decided that if it was still there I’d treat myself to having them wash and dry my hair. 🙂 They were indeed still there, and HUGELY busy and bustling. I explained I just wanted a little pampering and they took me right away. Maria trimmed my hair and dried it so that all the waves and curls showed up. She even flipped my part to hide the roots that needed coloring. *grin* I felt ‘human’ enough after that to head over to Sephora and pick up the moisturizers I needed. Fortified with pampering and lotions I headed home to continue indulging myself.

There was a time when the idea of spending a day in the kitchen would have been considered obligation, not indulgence. That was pre-new kitchen. We are still both loving the kitchen. I had 2 recipes I’d wanted to try – one for lentil soup and one for a cranberry apple tart. I’d also been craving more French bread after posting about breads. 🙂 I got home, had a bite to eat and set to baking.

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I started with the French bread. I really like this bread. It’s got substance and is chewy. It’s not all air and crust. I think that a “proper” French bread is SUPPOSED to be airy and crust, but mine does not come out that way and I’m glad. I’m not sure if I’m rolling it too thick, or some other deviation but I don’t care. I like how MY loaves come out. My husband likes them too so this recipe is a keeper for us. I forgot to brush the crusts with egg white before I put it in the oven, so these were not quite as shiny as the last loaves. They still tasted delicious. 🙂

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Next I started on the cranberry apple tart. I’d found this recipe when I was looking for desserts for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it could easily be switched to be sugar free, even gluten free if it turned out that was necessary. Someone else was bringing pies, however, so I put the recipe aside. I’d picked up some Granny Smith apples at the farmers’ market specifically for this tart. I ended up using 3 of those and one stayman (winesap) apple. I used the Sukrin Gold brown sugar substitute. I was a little impatient while making the crust. I knew I was using more ice water than I do usually but it did come out fine. I chilled it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator because I was not going to have a lot of time to let it chill. The dough was a little sticky when I rolled it out for the pan, but it held together and was tasty. One of the tricks I’ve learned recently is to use a grater to add butter to my crusts and biscuits. In the past I’ve cut tablespoons of butter into the flour, and then used a pastry blender to chop it further. Grating the butter saves me so much time and effort! I love this little hack. I tried it on margerine but it doesn’t work – margerine is simply too soft. Maybe it would work better if I froze the margerine first, but that probably has other consequences.

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Once I had the tart in the oven I started on the lentil soup. I’ve learned to read the comments on online recipes. I’ve gotten some helpful tips from other cooks. The first comment on this recipe was quite long and detailed, about doubling ingredients, adding a few things, but saying that the soup came out great. I decided to make the soup by following those comments (after all, anyone who adds port to the soup is cooking on my track, to mix several metaphors *grin*). Of course I modified it, because that’s the whole point of cooking, is it not??? Since I’ve actually made lentil soup before, this was not going to be a case of follow first and then tinker. I knew where I wanted to end up. I didn’t have port but I did have sherry and used that. I only used 3 carrots, not four. I used 1.5 cups green lentils and 1/2 cup red lentils. I used my immersion blender to break up the chunks of carrots and tomatoes (from the canned diced tomatoes – I did not have crushed tomatoes). After all of that, it still seemed just a tad too tame for me. I took a look at my red lentil soup recipe and added some cumin and chili powder for a little heat. Once I did that I was satisfied with the flavor.

I think I made a successful meal. *smile* The tart was half-gone by bedtime. The soup is nearly all gone today, only a day and a half later. The bread – well, there is one hunk of bread left from the 2 loaves. I guess I need to get back in that kitchen soon and indulge again. 🙂

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mmm mmm good.

Two Out of Three’s Not Bad

2 cranberry scones

I’ve been doing a bit of baking over the last several weeks. I’ve been having bread cravings. I tend to limit my intake of carbohydrates but when the calendar moves to fall, my body argues with my resolve. The first deep-seated trigger is the football on TV. For some reason my brain flashes back to the very first apartment with my then-fiance now-husband. I baked a batch of yummy brownies and we sat there munching them as we watched football. Apparently that imprinted me with football-fall-brownies. This year my inner voice is demanding fresh bread, and it doesn’t always want to wait for the weekly grocery shopping.

biscuits ready for baking

gluten free biscuits ready for baking

One quick fix for the bread-craving is to bake biscuits. I have good biscuit recipes. Biscuits are fast and easy and yummy. Back in October I was having a group of friends over for ladies-lunch-in-the-sukkah. One of my guests does not eat gluten. I was serving the red lentil soup and wanted biscuits with that. I did some looking at gluten-free recipes to see if there was any reason I needed to use a gluten-free recipe instead of merely substituting gluten-free flour in my usual recipe. There wasn’t, but I did come across a recipe that sounded delicious – Cauliflower Garlic Bread. It looked fantastic as well. I saved the recipe and one cold weekend day I made the bread. It looked great and smelled terrific. It tasted alright as well, although not quite as wonderful as I’d hoped. I don’t think I got the proportions correct or I did not bake it long enough. The ends of the loaf were okay but the rest was way too moist. We ate some of it that night, but ended up tossing the remainder. 😦 If I were to make it again I would tinker with the seasonings and definitely bake it longer than I did.
cauliflower garlic bread sliced

The next bread event was a yeast bread, not a batter bread. I had some brie in the house as well (another temptation to which I succumbed while shopping) so I looked for a french bread recipe. I remembered that I’d made a yummy french bread a few years ago but didn’t remember what recipe I had used. I found a recipe claiming to be the BEST homemade French bread made in 90 minutes. That convinced me! 🙂 That recipe lived up to its claim. Okay, maybe I did not make the BEST bread ever but it was delicious, fast and easy! Often yeast breads annoy me because they require repeated effort (mix, rise, punch, shape, rise, bake). The first rise/rest for this bread was very short so it was basically ready for the next step by the time I’d finished cleaning up from the mixing.
French bread

This morning I woke up craving scones. I love the combination of cranberry and orange. I mix them in with my apple pies as well. I have a scone recipe that is very tasty for plain scones, and works if I toss in cinnamon and cinnamon chips, but I thought I’d take a look at a recipe tailored for the cranberries. I had a bag of cranberries handy (it IS the cranberry season after all). I found one that included orange zest. I scanned the ingredients and directions, compared it to a few others, and knew this one would work for me. Oh my my my!!! These scones are FANTASTIC!!!!! My only change was using fresh cranberries instead of dried. I chopped them in the grinder with some sugar to absorb the liquid. I don’t actually use sugar anymore. I use a product called Tagatesse, which is a sugar substitute. But that’s a discussion for another post – my search for sugar substitutes for baking. For now – I’m going back to pour another cup of coffee and another scone. (They’re going fast.)
cranberry orange scones


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