Monday, March 30, 2009

Bread Baking Buddies - Pane Francese

Thanks to all the wonderful fabulous gorgeous bloggers who became Bread Baking Buddies with us this month for the Pane Francese. You guys rock!

Caitlin from Engineer Baker.

Jude of Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté.


Jenny from All Things Edible

Yikes, as hard as I try, I just CAN'T get one of Rita's photos of her fantastic bread to upload. My apologies, but please visit her blog!


Elle from Bread Baker's Dog


Cinzia from Cindystar


Natalia from gatti fili e farina


Singing Horse from The Peaceable Kingdom.


Judy from Judy's Gross Eats


Marjoke from Company in my Kitchen


Laura from Tiramisu'

If I have made any errors or missed anyone, please email me at iliketocook AT shaw DOT ca.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Simply the Best - Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

People, I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw what the March challenge for the Daring Bakers. Lasagna. I KNOW! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? How much fun is that???? An absolutely brilliant choice.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

There are 3 parts to the dish - homemade spinach pasta, bechemel sauce, and ragu. Our hosts were kind enough to allow for variations, but I thought the dish sounded so perfect as written, my changes were minimal.

When I was in my early 20's living alone in my teeny Calgary apartment I used to make pasta from scratch on a regular basis. I had forgotten how simple and fun pasta from scratch is. This was my first time making spinach pasta, but it won't be my last. Look at that color!

This was a simple lasagna, and different than any I've made or eaten before. Minimal sauce and cheese. No veggies. No cottage cheese. Just delicious noodles, heavenly bechemel sauce, and decadent ragu with a sprinkle of parmesan. Speaking of heavenly bechemel, this was the easiest part of the recipe.

The meat ragu recipe as provided called for 5 meats. 5! I cut it down to 3 - sausage, proscuitto, and beef we ground at home. There is minimal tomato, which is something new to me, and it also contained milk, another new meat sauce ingredient (to me). The sauce took eleventy billion hours. Ok, 3 or so.

To put it together, we briefly cooked the noodles, then layered them with the 2 sauces and a little cheese. We got 6 layers. Then bake. And fall in loooooove.

Oh my. There are no words to describle how fabulous this lasagna is. Seriously. The end.

A huuuuuuge thank you to Mary, Melinda and Enza for being Daring with their choice of recipe this month. It is so exciting to see a challenge like this for the group, and I hope we'll see more like it!

Please check out the recipe at one our of hosts blogs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Giveaway - Dempsters Healthy Way bread

The lovely PR people associated with the new Dempsters bread were glad to hear that my family and I enjoyed the new Healthy Way with Pro Cardio recipe bread, and have sent me some Free Bread Coupons to give away!

If you'd like to try the new Dempsters Healthy Way products and live in Canada, send me an email with "Healthy Way Giveaway" in the subject line.

Please include your answer to this question - What is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

The deadline for the giveaway is midnight Saturday March 28.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Notebook Seven - Juicy

I titled this one Juicy because - wait for it - this book is FULL of juice and smoothie recipes.

What it doesn't have is a table of contents! I'll have to remedy that next weekend.

Mmmmmm, I'd forgotten all about this pineapple recipe. Must make soon.

I really like cornbread and this book has a Cooking Light recipe for it. And a vegan recipe for it. And 2 other vegetarian ones. I like cornbread. Sweet and sour meatballs. Soba noodle salad. Enchilada casserole.

I had to pick a juice recipe to try. In my kitchen were some apples, grapes and a juicer. Perfect for the Apple and Green Grape Juice from Canadian Living.

Juice 3 granny smith apples, 1 cup of green grapes, and 1 thin wedge of lemon, no rind.

This is supposed to make 4 servings but Scott and I greedily drank it down in minutes. If you did split this into 4 servings, you'd get 64 calories, no fiber, no cholesterol, and 10% of your vitamin C. I love nutritional info with recipes.

And then I found a second recipe in the book that continued on the Juicy theme - Welsh Rarebit. But different from others that I've eaten and made before. This one has no cheese sauce, only melted cheese and also has a luscious layer of mango chutney. Yum!

I made this for weekend breakfast. I upped the mango chutney - 1 teaspoon per bread slice is simply not enough! - and didn't measure the cheese.

This what good, but if you're like me, a dish like this has to be eaten quickly. I hate melted cheddar after it cools, all flabby and greasy. Like some people I know. Hee!

Next week, book 7. A recipe from a blogger, and one from Jamie Oliver.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Mashed" Cauliflower

I can't believe it's been more than 3 years since I was introduced to Mashed Cauliflower (I called it pureed back then but Scott calls it mash now), and it's still a favorite side dish of ours. I got this from a dieting friend who made it because it was better for her than mashed potatos but with a similar taste and texture.

And it really is great. Today I am still as surprised as I was 3 years ago that Scott loves it as much as he does. You are not going to fool anyone into thinking it's potatos, so don't try. Just embrace it for what it is, a fantastic easy side dish.

To make Mashed Cauliflower I use:

a head of cauliflower, sliced up
water reserved from the steamer
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

Core your cauliflower and slice/chop into pieces. Place in a steamer, cover and steam until tender, about 20 minutes.

When the cauliflower is tender, scoop it out of the pot into your food processor. Add some of the reserved water from cooking, some salt and pepper, and puree. You want to make this smooth - no lumps. Turn off the machine, scrape down the sides and add some more water if needed. I used to add olive oil or milk, but now I usually add only water, or sometimes veg broth if I have any leftover. Puree again and when the cauliflower is a good consistency, add a spoon or two of butter and more salt and pepper if you need it. Scoop into a bowl and serve.

Depending on what we are eating with this, sometimes I'll add some cheese on top.

This is so tasty! So easy! So good for you! I know some people say to stay away from "white food" but Cauliflower is low in calories and fat, and high in Vitamin C and fiber. So do as we do and occasionally say NO to mashed potatos and YES to mashed cauliflower!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Weekend Cookbook Challenge RoundUp and Goodbye

Well, here we are for the 37th and last roundup for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. I started the challenge as a solo project back in 2005 as a way to cook out of more books in my cookbook collection. After cooking out of 5 of my previously unused cookbooks the WCC was turned into an event that everyone could take part it. And now 37 months and 37 themes later, this is goodbye.

Let's go!

A sweet post and a lovely plate of Seared Tuna with Lime Crust are sent to the final WCC by the wonderful Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. Thanks Deb!

Judy from Judy's Gross Eats has come by to say so long and with her she brings photos of her gorgeous kitchen and some delicious Macaroni and Cheese.

Ok, everyone stay where you are and don't all go running into the kitchen at once to make Pages, Pucks and Pantry and Mrs. L's Pan Fried Angel Food Cake. Um, yum.

I don't want to alarm anyone, but I think Hell may have frozen over.......Lis sent in a post for WCC! Oh just teasing. But seriously, her Romanian Garlicky Ground Meat Sausages (Carnatzlach) with Sour Pickle Vinaigrette and Roasted Red Peppers looks stunning, and she says nice things about me, she's awesome!

My beautiful friend Mary from The Sour Dough has written a lovely post for the end of WCC. The WCC is actually how Mary and I "met", for which I will forever be grateful. Her Cappuccino White Chocolate Chunk Bread looks good, but is not nearly as sweet as her.

My friend Ruth from Once Upon a Feast has made what she calls her most romantic dinner for the final WCC - Bife a Poruguesa. Thank you Ruth!

Jenny from All Things Edible share these pretty Caramel Dumplings, a recipe from her Grandmother.

I could never thank Michelle from Je Mange la Ville enough for her participation over the 3 years of WCC. Her beautiful Tarte au Citron is a lovely goodbye.

I am working on finding the perfect Bloody Mary. It's a tough job, but I'm up to the challenge.

You are for sure going to want to check out these raw vegan brownies from TriniGourmet! They look great.

Another one from me - Setas Salteadas Con Jamon Y Allioli. If you like mushrooms and ham, you'll want to try this.

This Mexican Chicken and Corn Chowder is well loved by Cynthia and her family at Diary of a Glad Housewife. Mmmmmm, corn.

LadyConcierge sends us this simply lovely Valentine's Day Cheesecake. Thanks LC!

Joanne at Eats Well With Others posted this crazy colorful Caramelized Sweet Potato, Garlic, and Rosemary Macaroni and Cheese and Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan. Yum!

Here's my Pulled Pork from Rachel Ray magazine. I've got a freezer full of shredded pork now. What could be better?


A thousand thank yous to everyone who ever posted for WCC, hosted, suggested ideas, and came by to check out our efforts. I so appreciate all you have done and thanks for joining me over the past few years for Weekend Cookbook Challenge.

It was so much fun. I miss it already.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Pane Francese

Yup it's the middle of the month and time for the reveal on the Bread of the Month for the Bread Baking Babes, our flour and yeast loving group of bakers. I volunteered to be Kitchen of the Month for March, our first bread after our First Anniversary Celebration and then panicked to find a suitable (read interesting) bread for the group. Since I only own one book on bread making, The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook, from which I picked the Challah Bread for October, I turned to one of my favorite sites, King Arthur Flour Bakers Banter. I was looking for an interesting bread, one that had some sort of twist to it. I found that in their Pane Francese bread.

What was different and new to me about this bread is that it uses a Chef to leaven the dough. A Chef is a small piece of dough from a previous batch of bread dough, and this is the only source of yeast in the recipe. I had never heard of that before.

There are 3 stages to this bread - creating the Levain (the Chef mixed with flour and water), the Second Stage Levain (the Levain mixed with more flour and water) and then the Dough. The recipe isn't difficult, but you do need some time - at least 20 hours.

We started this bread on a Friday afternoon, so it wouldn't take up our entire weekend. Around 2 Scott dissolved the Chef in the water, then kneaded in the flour. Then he placed the in a bowl and put it in the oven with the light on, as Mary taught me to. We ran into a problem though. Was it the metal bowl Scott put the Levain in, was it the heat from the light in the oven, was it the fact that it was a relatively small amount of dough..... I'm not sure but when I got home and checked on it around hour 4 of the 5 hour rise the bowl was really hot and the dough almost seemed to be cooking. Eek. I was afraid that the yeast had been killed, but decided to keep going. If the dough didn't rise when we made the Second Stage Levain, then we'd have to start again the next weekend with a new Chef. But the dough rose.

The start of my Second Stage Levain.

After the 10 hour rise I divided the dough into 2 boules, and after the last 2 hour rise they went into the oven.

They were absolutely gorgeous, but pretty small. I think we damaged the yeast when we made the First Levain. BUT they tasted lovely. The sourness mentioned in the recipe was very light, lighter than I'd expected, but it was still very nice.

Pane Francese

No, a chef isn't just a guy in a tall white hat; it's a little piece of dough you hold back from your bread dough, which will be added to your next batch of dough to leaven it. It may seem a little European and daunting, but really, nothing could be easier. The piece of dough -- the chef -- simply sits in your fridge, wrapped in plastic, till you're ready to bake bread again.

The following bread is a bit tangy, but not terribly sour -- French bakers scoff at the ultra-sour breads Americans seem to love. Open-holed and chewy, the texture is what distinguishes this rustic European-style bread.

We used our sourdough starter as a chef to get this loaf going. A piece from the resulting dough is now tucked away in the refrigerator, ready to use when we bake this loaf again. We thank Joe Ortiz and his wonderful book, "The Village Baker" for the inspiration that created this recipe.

Creating the Levain
chef (1/4 cup leftover dough, or 1/4 cup sourdough starter, unfed)
1/4 cup warm, chlorine-free water
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

Let the chef soften in the warm water, then whisk out any lumps. Mix in the flour until yo8u've formed a stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes. The chef (now called a levain) should be moist but firm. Place the levain in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place till doubled. This will take 5 to 6 hours.

Second-Stage Levain
All of the levain (from above)
1/2 cup warm, chlorine-free water
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

"Refresh" the levain by placing it in a medium-sized bowl, chopping it into small pieces, and adding the water and 1/2 cup of the flour, stirring till smooth. Add the remaining flour gradually to create a stiff dough. Knead the dough for several minutes, then return it to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 3 to 5 hours, till it doubles in size. Punch down the risen levain, and reserve 1/4 cup as your next chef. (Let the piece ferment at room temperature for 3 hours, then wrap it in plastic and store it in the fridge. It'll develop a hard crust; that's OK.)

all of the second-stage levain (from above)
3/4 cup warm, chlorine-free water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

Chop the levain into small pieces, and mix them with the water, stirring till they begin to dissolve. Add the salt, then 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured or lightly greased work surface, and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny, adding only enough additional flour to keep the dough from sticking unbearably. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for 8 to 10 hours.

Shaping: Cut the dough into 2 pieces, and shape each piece into a round or oval. Transfer the loaves to a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, or to a floured banneton; cover with a heavily floured cloth, and allow them to rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until they're almost doubled in bulk.

Don't slash or glaze the loaves. Bake the bread in a preheated 450°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they're a deep, golden brown. Yield: 2 loaves.

Source: King Arthur Flour

Bread Baking Buddies: I hope you enjoy this bread! Cut off date to post is March 29. Please send me a link to your bread so I can include you in the round up and send you your badge - iliketocook AT shaw DOT ca.