Sunday, April 27, 2008

sun in sweden.

I returned from Poland to a sunny Sweden. Dry with highs in the mid-60's. Long days getting longer. Sunlight from 5am until 8:45pm.

A friend was visiting from Paris for two days, so we made a quick, fresh pasta salad for dinner. It was a simple, colorful, filling, and delicious. We used a mix of regular and spinach pasta with chopped cucumber, tomato, feta, basil, caviar, olive oil, salt 'n pepper. In Sweden caviar is a very accessible food. It comes in a large variety at an attractive price of about $3. It's a subtle flavor. And the mild fish/salty/sweet isn't lost with this light dish. The feta is definitely essential to this bright taste, but mozzarella could be used if you splashed a little balsamic throughout.

An adaptive meal.

In other news: I have been raising a sourdough starter the last few weeks. He (yes, gender defined) is quite easy to take care of and I'm confident enough in his maturity to start using him in recipes. That said, I don't always like recipes. In fact, today I wanted nothing to do with them. So I just mixed things together. Usch. Results were by no means sourdough, excellent, or smile-worthy. I'm convinced the reason I quickly ate half the loaf is due to its affinity for butter. Turns out this bread was just an excuse for eating butter. Butter and carbs. Two things I love. A good excuse, mind you, but unsuccessful nonetheless. I plan on following a recipe soon enough.

lazy, experimental bread.

not quite as yellow in person. white, in fact

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

some time in Poland

Hej alla. Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I just returned from a week-long trip to Poland. Four days at a student conference meeting with students from all around Eastern Europe. Two days relaxing in beautiful Gdansk in Northern Poland. Great times with new friends.
We were treated to plentiful meals at the conference. Bread and butter at every meal. Slices of meat and cheese for breakfast. Rich soups with bread and varieties of slaw for lunch. Potatoes and meat (chicken, pork, varieties of schnitzel) for dinner. Cake and ice cream for dessert. Always coffee and tea. It was delicious. Free, too. Delcious, free, and smiling.

the fancy spread for the closing dinner of the conference:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

simply amazing.

A few days ago while exploring the blogosphere I came across a few posts (closet cooking, genesis of a cook) regarding the peanut butter, banana, honey combo. This is one of my favorite comfort foods. And the simplicity of the ingredients lends itself as a convenient, everyday indulgence. Just great. My goal was to take the flavor combinitaion in a different, more pre-conceived direction. Enter: bread pudding. It's rich, homely, and an extremely flexible base for flavor exploration/exploitation.

::2 c milk
::1/2-2/3 c crunchy peanut butter (the more the better!)
::1/8 c butter
::1/4 c sugar
::2 eggs
::day old bread (like this one)
::hot water
::2 ripe, large bananas
-Bring milk, peanut butter, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring often, and reduce heat until thickened.
-Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm.
-Beat in eggs and add 3/4 of the bread in large chunks.
-Mix some honey with hot water and a table spoon of butter.
-Cut 1/4 of bread into small chunks and cover/saturate with honey mix.
-Cut bananas into large chunks and caramelize with butter in sauté pan.
-In a buttered pan place bananas and honey-soaked bread then cover with custard-bread.
-Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

I have been really eager for this since conceiving it a few days ago. I even baked a bread solely for use in this recipe (prior post). Once I started preparing its components I became even more excited; smililng to myself as I bounced around the korridor. I knew this was going to be really outstanding. With custards/bread pudding it is easy to produce satisfying, but homogeneous flavors. One of my goals was to preserve the individual flavors. I did this successfully by using large pieces of banana and by pre-saturating a portion of the bread with honey. The results were just as I had hoped: rich, distinct bites of honey and banana amidst a sea of peanut-buttery goodness. And using chunky peanut butter gives a needed crunch to the otherwise custardy custard.

Next time I use plain base, reserving the peanut butter for either a marbled saltiness or as a luxurious whipped topping. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2008

a bread experiment

I've recently baked a slew of quick-breads. But I've also had yeast on hand for the last few weeks with the intent to make kenalbullar (Swedish cinnamon rolls!). Without a rolling pin, canned food, soda or beer cans available as flattening tools, I've had to postpone my cinnamon filled, gooey expectations. After day-dreaming a particularly delicious bread pudding recipe yesterday and determining that I don't want to buy a loaf of bread I figured I might as well bake my own. So, with my limited baking experience (pizza dough and cinnamon rolls) I set out on a path of self discovery. (not as epic as it seems, but quite delicious, hopefully)

I have read many a bread recipe in my life. All sorts of measurements and slight variations that produce drastically different results. I am always drawn to what I call "simple" recipes, such that one measuring cup can do most of the work. So why not try out this principle and cross my fingers for good results?

I figured adding an egg and honey would make it challah-esque. silly, I know.
::1/4 c milk
::1/4 c water
::1/4 c honey
::1 T yeast
::1 egg
::1/4 c butter
::5/4 c flour
::1 T salt
-mix milk, water, and honey and warm in microwave for about 30 seconds or until warm.
-mix in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes
-in the meantime: melt butter in microwave and beat in egg.
-combine egg/butter with yeasty mix
-pour into a bowl of flour and salt.
-mix with wooden spoon adding a little flour if needed
-turn out onto floured surface and knead for 7 (?) minutes
-place in oiled/buttered bowl, cover with moist towel, and let rise for about 45 minutes
-on floured surface, separate dough into 3 pieces.
-gently form into long strands and braid.
-place in baking pan, covered, and let it rise until oven is preheated.
-make an egg wash from yolk and milk
-bake at 375 for 30 minutes

This bread met my expectations. It's fairly plain and moist, like a mellow challah. Delcious with butter and honey or creamcheese, cheese, and cucumbers (that's what the Swedes like). It will be a perfect candidate for bread pudding after some drying.

Leftover dough becomes a mini-round: !

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Apple Yogurt Bread

The other day at the grocer a friend recommended apple cinnamon yogurt and I immediately schemed this bread. I've been wanting to whip together a bread with some yogurt for some time now. It's simple and subtly sweet with gooey granny smiths lining the bottom! I was excited.

Apple Yogurt Bread
::1/4 c softened butter
::1/4 c sugar
::2 eggs
::1/2 c yogurt (I used a sweet, cinnamon/apple variety)
::1 c flour
::1 t baking powder
::1 t baking soda
::2 granny smiths
-cream together butter and sugar
-mix in eggs then yogurt.
-mix flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and a little cinnamon
-combine dry and wet
-wash, core, and slice apples
-toss them in a mix of cinnamon, sugar, and flour until coated
-place apples at bottom of buttered pan
-spread dough on top of apples
-bake at 350 for 45 minutes

Wait until the bread sufficiently cools until slicing and the baked apples will stay intact. The upper bread is very simple but moist. What's special is the combination of bread and apples. They add a needed tangy sweetness. This is great by itself or spread with butter. Maybe consider adding salt roasted walnuts. Or topping it with an brown sugar, oat, egg white glazing? Good times.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ginger Honey Sesame Bread

I was hungry and unmotivated to trek to the grocer at 9pm. Luckily, with my recent acquisition of baking soda, I can satisfy my snacking needs with simple, homemade quick-breads. Also, limited by a small amount of butter, I decided to add sesame oil to dough, and then why not ginger?

served warm with drizzled honey:

...also: darker than expected.

::2 T butter (softened)
::1/4 c sesame oil
::1/4 c sugar
::1/4 c honey
::2 eggs
::1 T ginger (freshly grated/minced/pulverized)
::1 c flour
::1/4 c oats
::2 t baking soda
-cream together butter, sesame oil, sugar, and honey.
-incorporate eggs and ginger.
-mix flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
-combine dry and wet ingredients
-pour into sesameOiled baking pan
-bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.

I am really happy with these results. The ginger is strong, but gives way to the pleasant sesame and honey. A brilliant aftertaste. I would consider adding sesame seeds to the mix or as a topping. Maybe cashews.