Top Chef fans may remember Carrie Baird from season 15. The Colorado chef who won challenges with her ideas and execution with toppings on toasted bread. Her humble nature and kind attitude made you want to root for her and the judges seemed to absolutely love any concoction that she expertly put on toasted bread to the point where it seemed to annoy less successful “chef-testants”.
I love everything bagel flavored anything. I love soft bread and savory versions of my favorite sweet treats. I love toasted bagels with scallion and chive cream cheese smeared all over them. And I absolutely love sharp cheddar cheese.
So, it should come as no surprise that I re-purposed this super easy cinnamon bun dough to make some savory delights. Of course, I made sure to make some of the original recipe*, as well. Because they so delightful slathered with cream cheese frosting. And maybe, just maybe I can keep the kids away from the savory ones that I like to enjoy with a glass of red wine. Continue reading
Yesterday, I was craving fresh, hot pizza. But we had a lot of leftovers to eat for dinner. Since I never like to let anything go to waste, the pizza would have to wait. But I still did not want to let that thought go. So, I compromised. We needed a little bread to go with dinner, anyway. At least that is how I justified making this easy focaccia to jazz up our plates. And, today, there is barely any left. So, I guess I didn’t need to make any justifications, anyway.
When your mother grows butternut squash in her garden and saves most of them for you, it’s time to find a good way to use them up. Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of any type of squash. So, steaming it up and adding salt, pepper and a pat of butter is not my style. I need to fancy it up a bit. Preparing it as a soup along with onions, garlic, ridiculous amounts of fresh ginger and adding coconut milk with some other favorite spices allows the squash to be the perfect backdrop in a warm, comforting meal. I make some croutons to create interest and add some crunch to an otherwise smooth and silky bowl of soup.
Ginger and Spice Butternut Squash Soup
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons grated ginger
2 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons go-chu-jang (Korean chili paste)
zest and juice from one lime
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Sriracha
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cans cocunut milk
1 handful fresh chopped parsley
For serving: Bread Crust Croutons (see recipe)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper. Add ginger and butternut squash. Add chicken stock and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover pot for about 15 minutes until squash is tender. Cool mixture and puree in batches using a blender or immersion blender. Return mixture to pot.
Turn heat to medium low and add go-chu-jang, lime zest and juice, cider vinegar, Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce and coconut milk. Heat until all ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper or hot sauces. Turn off heat and add parsley. Serve with Bread Crust Croutons (recipe below).
I save the heels from sandwich bread and stick them in the freezer until I have so many they tumble out onto the floor everytime I open the freezer door. That’s when I make croutons or serve garlic toast as a side to go with dinner.
Bread Crust Croutons
1-2 sandwich loaf heels
1 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Heat oven to broil or use toaster oven, if you have one. Cut bread into 1″ pieces. Spread bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle olive oil over bread. Toss with your hands to coat. Sprinkle bread with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley. Toast in oven until edges brown and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve on soup, salads or by themselves as a snack.
Along with the soups that I make each week, I also bake up a few loaves of bread. It sounds far more complicated than it really is. The bread is a simple recipe that I adapted from Jim Lahey’s book, My Bread . His recipe is already incredibly easy. The baking involves preheating a Dutch oven to achieve a crispy crust. This makes a delicious and incredibly satisfying loaf. But I wanted to be able to make more than one loaf at a time and in different sizes. The result is bread with a softer crust and one that yeilds a number of small loaves that you can share or hoard for yourself. I call it “Everyday Bread” because I eat it every morning toasted with butter and jam and sometimes for lunch with melted ham and cheese. It’s the perfect vehicle for whatever I can find in my refrigerator.
Timing for bread baking can be tricky when you have a busy schedule. Since the initial rise for this bread is 12-18 hours, I mix this dough around dinner time the night before I plan to bake it. Then I form the loaves super early in the morning, allowing for the next (2 hour) rise and 30 minute bake. If you will not be able to do the second rise and bake in the morning, mix the dough before you go to bed. The next day, after work, form the loaves, let rise for 2 hours and bake. Try to make bread baking work even if you have a crazy busy schedule….it’s worth it.
(Makes 2 round loaves)
3 1/2 cups (450 grams) all-purpose flour, plus about 1/2 cup more for forming the loaves
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups luke warm water
Combine 3 1/2 cups (450 grams) flour, sea salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add water while stirring to create a sticky dough. ( I use a stiff rubber spatula for this job.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a draft free spot in the kitchen. Allow dough to rise for 12 to 18 hours.
After the dough has risen, dust your countertop generously with flour (about 1/2 cup). Using a stiff rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto the floured area. Flip the dough around gently to cover all of it with flour. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Gently cut dough in half with a bench scraper or sharp knife. Form the two halves of dough into loose rounds without overworking the dough. Place a few inches apart on the cookie sheet. Loosely cover with a tea towel and allow to rise again for two hours.
After one and a half hours, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Once the dough has risen for two hours and the oven has preheated for thirty minutes, slash the tops of each loaf two or three times across the top with a sharp knife. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the loaves are golden brown. You can cook them for longer if you like a darker crust and a firmer loaf. Once the bread is cooked, place the loaves on a cooling rack for at least an hour before slicing. After the bread is completely cooled, store in plastic bags and eat within 5 days.
If you are looking for a hearty soup that is not too heavy, this one is the perfect solution to your problem. Browned ground chicken and onions with all the spices you love in a good, stick to your ribs chili. Cannellini beans and Swiss chard give this soup and Italian twist. Top it off with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. An untraditional crostini with green onions, chive, cream cheese and more Parmesan bring it all together into a satisfying meal.
The first time I made this was in 2012 when I saw an episode of Giada De Laurentiiis’ cooking show on the Food Network at that time. She also served it with a crostini but I cannot seem to find that recipe, so I had to riff on it, instead. Everytime I make this easy to put together soup and bread combination, I get rave reviews. I should take this one out more often!
Chicken and White Bean Chili
(serves about 6)
(adapted from White Bean and Chicken Chili by Giada De Laurentiis, 2012)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground chicken or turkey or a combination
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 teaspoons chili powder
3 tablepsoons flour
2 (15 oz. cans) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch (about 1 pound) swiss chard, stems removed, chopped to 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add the ground meat, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, oregano, and chili powder. Cook, stirring frequently until the meat is browned and cooked through about 8-10 minutes. Stir the flour into the meat mixture. Add the beans, Swiss chard, corn and chicken stock. Bring mixture to a simmer, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer for about 50-60 minutes until liquid reduces and the chili is thickened. Add the red pepper flakes, taste for seasoning and simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Green Onion and Parmesan Crostini
1 (8 oz block) cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 green onions, diced
2 tablespoons chopped chives
12 slices baguette, on the diagonal for more surface area
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat boiler in oven. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, salt, pepper, green onions and chives. Spread mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Place bread on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle each slice with Parmesan cheese, making sure it adheres to cream cheese mixture. Broil bread slices for 2-4 minutes until cheese melts and turns brown on edges. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
For the past few weeks, I have been unhappy with the bread that I offer to accompany the soup. It has been far too dense, not rising enough or doubling itself in size. I have to admit, I have been using an inferior flour, rather than King Arthur, as I hoped to cut costs. When I went back to the book (Jim Lahey’s “My Bread”), I learned that not only was I ruining the bread by using a lesser ingredient, but that I was not adding enough water to let the bacteria and yeast do its work.
This week, I not only added extra water (up to 1 2/3 cups) to adequately hydrate the flour and create a loose dough but I also went back to my beloved King Arthur flour. There really is nothing like it. In about 18 hours each bowl full of dough was bubbly with yeasty air pockets and fragrant with the sour sent of active cultures. As I scraped the dough onto my heavily floured board ( I had to keep adding more), I remembered that the stretchy, flarpy, wet dough makes the best soft loaves with just the right amount of chew. Yes! I thought to myself as I weighed the portions of sticky dough and added more and more flour to keep it from adhering to every surface in sight. This is exactly what I was shooting for.
Now that the loaves are baked with golden, crusty exteriors, I actually feel as if the customers who ordered all the preceding soups got a little ripped off especially if they aren’t getting soup this week along with these well risen lovelies. Well, I guess all I can do is hope that they come back again and that the bread will continue to be as good.