Happy Things

Hello all! Can you believe that February is already well on its way? Also, it’s only 10 days until my due date. I’m so ready for this kid to arrive!

Here are some things that have brought me joy over the past few weeks.

{2/52} Splash!

My first attempt at a splash photo. It made a huge mess.

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Grapefruit + Avocado salad (spring greens, grapefruit, avocado, sea salt + fresh ground pepper, and a grapefruit juice vinaigrette). See the completed salad HERE.

Sam & Amanda

My sister, Amanda, got engaged. I had the fun of taking the engagement photos. See more HERE.

Flowers From Reuben

Reuben surprised me with flowers one evening.

Wintry Walk

On days when the weather will permit, it’s been fun to take leisurely walks through the woods.

Terrain Order

I decided that with part of my birthday money I should make an order from Terrain. I chose the Weck jelly jars and a wooden spoon.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons. Something new-to-me. So far I’ve made creme brulee with them, but I also want to try my hand at lemon curd.

Honey on Fresh Bread

Honey on fresh baked bread (with butter, of course). Is there anything better?

Hope you all are having a smashing 2013 so far. What has brought you joy lately?

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Best. Bread. Ever.

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So I saw lots of people raving about how awesome no-knead bread is. Super easy and delicious.

“Yeah, right,” I thought. “You have to knead bread for ages to get a good crumb.” Boy, was I wrong.

Faced with having to knead bread by hand (horrors!) since we can’t afford a stand mixer just yet, I decided to give no-knead bread a try. After all, Hannah had made it and loved it. It had to be okay.

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It’s more than okay. WAY more than okay. The crust is crunchy and the inside is soft, light and flavorful. And it takes about 5 minutes to mix up. In all honesty, I would make bread much less often if it weren’t for this recipe. Downside? Well, there’s no more excuse for buying store-bought bread when you can make it so easily.

Think you can’t possibly tackle making bread at home? Give this recipe a try. You’ll be so happy you did.

Notes:

Not only is this bread so quick & easy to throw together (you literally just dump all the ingredients in a bowl & mix it a bit with a big spoon), but it’s also very versatile. I have made this with sour milk in place of water and whole wheat flour in place of some of the white with awesome results.

If you must, you can skip the steaming step. The last couple of times I made this bread I forgot that part with no ill effects. But I highly recommend steaming for the best crust.

I really like shaping the dough into a boule, but you can also shape it into logs or braids.

No Knead French Bread | Printable Page | Makes 2 large loaves

From Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day via Honey & Jam

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

1) Place the water, yeast and salt in a very large mixing bowl. Dump in the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until everything is nice and moist. And you’re done mixing!

2) Cover the bowl loosely and let sit until it has risen and deflated a little. Now your dough is ready to be baked or stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

3) To bake the bread: (If the dough is coming from the refrigerator, let it come to room temp before continuing) Wet your hands with water to prevent your hands from sticking and grab a piece of dough (I usually make half a recipe and use all the dough for one loaf, but you can make smaller loaves if you wish). Form it into a boule by pulling the sides of the dough towards the underside of the dough ball and rotating the dough until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. You can also shape the dough into logs or braids.

4) Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper (recommended) or a cornmeal-dusted cutting board. Let the dough rest and rise for about 40 minutes.

5) About 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, put a cast iron skillet or pizza stone on the center rack of the oven and place a roasting pan (I use a 13×9-inch pan) on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450° F.

6) Dust some flour over the top of your risen loaf and cut a few slashes into the top about 1/4-inch deep. Transfer dough onto the skillet or pizza stone, quickly pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan and shut the oven door to keep the steam inside. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is nice and brown. Cool completely before cutting. You may manage to wait that long…I never have.

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Date Bread

A week or so ago Mom made a trip to our favorite co-op. She brought back many delcious things, including some chopped dates. When she noticed me mixing them into my oatmeal, she protested and expressed a desire for date bread.

I was more than happy to oblige. So I found a recipe from a trusted source and gathered the required ingredients.

Confession: I made two mistakes while preparing this loaf. And it still turned out great! Gotta love Joy of Baking.

1) I added too much flour. Don’t ask me why. I just didn’t trust my usual, fail safe method of weighing the flour. So I had to add 1/4 cup of milk at the end of mixing. Surprisingly the extra mixing didn’t turn the bread into a brick.

2) I completely forgot to add the walnuts. The bread was sitting cozily in the oven when I noticed the walnuts, sitting on the counter, toasted, chopped, and ready to be used. Oh well. I took it in stride. 🙂

This bread was very moist and soft, even though I used all whole wheat flour. If you are leery of 100% whole wheat bread, simply use all-purpose flour in place of all or part of the wheat. Serve plane, with butter, or cream cheese.

And the word from Dad, the date hater: “That’s pretty good date bread.” Wow. It must be good.

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Date and Walnut Bread

Adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1/2 cup Sucanat, demerara, or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1) To prepare the dates: In a large bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and a pinch of salt (1/8 teaspoon). Pour 1 cup of very hot water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (about 1 hour).

2) To make the batter: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.  Set aside.

3) In a food processor place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Process to combine and then add the butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

4) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract.  Fold the flour mixture and beaten egg mixture into the cooled dates (with their water). Stir until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Place on a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Gently slide a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Or, if you will not be using the bread immediately, when the bread has almost completely cooled, wrap well in plastic wrap and place in a zippered bag to store.

Makes one – 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf.

No-Fuss Focaccia

This bread really was extremely simple to make. Just mix all ingredients for 60 seconds, scoop into a pan, let rise, and bake. The taste is excellent as well, even with my changes to the recipe (replacing half of the AP flour with whole wheat)

Confession: I had a bit of a mishap when I was mixing the dough. The recipe instructed me to mix the dough with an electric mixer. My gut told me it would be better to mix it in the stand mixer. But a recipe (especially KAF) doesn’t lie, right?

Wrong. The dough was just too much for our little electric mixer. Bits of dough flew out of the bowl and onto the floor. The mixer made noises it shouldn’t.

Not to worry! I scraped the dough into the bowl of our stand mixer and finished mixing it there.

Lesson: when cooking, listen to your gut. 🙂

The finished product reminded me of the texture of bread sticks: crispy crust, soft crumb. It’s definitely a keeper.

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:: Focaccia ::

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Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) hard white wheat
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder (optional)

1 tablespoon dried chopped onion (optional)
pizza seasoning or dried herbs of choice, optional

Directions:

1) Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan, and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom.

2) In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the ingredients except the optional seasonings. Beat at medium-high speed for 60 seconds.

3) Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan. Cover and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it’s become puffy. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

4) Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with pizza seasoning, and/or the dried herbs of your choice, if desired.

5) Bake the bread till it’s golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.