Monday, April 30, 2012

Eggs in jars, part 2: Mini-quiches

Last summer, I discovered eggs in jars: we loved the ease of preparing them in advance and having a nice, easy, healthy, tasty breakfast in the morning. But as the school year progressed, hubby and I went back to making normal scrambled eggs for breakfast. I really enjoyed the flavor of the eggs in jars, but the texture got a little dry after a few days.

A couple of weeks ago, we took the family on a little mini-vaca to a waterpark. I like to bring our breakfasts and lunches so that we're not eating out every meal. The kids' breakfast is easy: they eat yogurt and cereal every morning. But I wanted something with more protein for hubby and me, something that could be made ahead of time and reheated in the microwave. And I thought of the eggs in jars. And then I thought of the quiche we'd had a few days before, and wondered if I could combine the two.

I've played with the recipe a few times, combining this one from the Kitchn, this one from Emeril, and this one from NM's Modern Baker. I make a batch in half-pint mason jars, screw on the lids, and pop them in the freezer. The night before, I put one in the fridge, and the next morning, I just throw it in the microwave for 90 seconds and have a delicious quiche!

Disclaimer: I like that the texture is much lighter and more quiche-like, even after several days. It never gets that rubbery texture of old scrambled eggs. And I really like the flavor from the zucchini, but it does create a little extra liquid at the bottom of the jar; hubby didn't like that part.

Quiche in jars
makes 5 half-pint mini-quiches

2/3 cup 2% milk
2/3 cup cream
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion (or green onions)
2 small zucchini or 1 large, grated
2 slices ham, chopped (or sausage or turkey sausage)
1/4 cup sharp cheddar, grated (or gruyere or pepperjack)

1. Preheat the oven to 375º.
2. Whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large measuring cup.
3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute for a minute. Then add the grated zucchini and cook for 3 - 4 minutes until the veggies begin to soften.
4. Butter the mason jars. Divide the zucchini and onion mixture evenly between the five jars. Then divide the ham and cheese equally. Finally pour in the egg.
5. Bake the jars (I put them all on a sheet pan for ease of moving them) for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the inside registers 160º.
6. Cool and then cover. These can be kept in the fridge and heated for about 60 seconds in the microwave. They also freeze really well. Just pull the (defrosted) jars from the fridge, microwave for 60 - 90 seconds, and enjoy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Austin lives! (part 2)

After a couple of weeks of twice-a-day feedings and doublings, I decided that Austin was ready for a real test-drive.

I've used discards from his feedings in our pretzel dogs and in my almost-no-knead bread, and this morning I used a cup of discarded starter to make KAF's sourdough crumpets for breakfast. I've never had crumpets before, and I wish I'd read Celia's crumpet post first because mine definitely didn't have the holes that she talks about. Still, they were easy and tasty, and a fun way to use starter discard.

So, on to our first real test-drive: I decided to try the basic pure sourdough (not spiked with instant yeast) from Peter Reinhart's ABED. The dough was gorgeous.

Unlike my first (fairly unsuccessful) tries with pure sourdough, I ignored the timings from the recipe and just let it rise for a really long time. It came out of the fridge at 6:00 a.m. I didn't shape it until about 10:00 a.m. and didn't bake it until about 4:30 p.m. (our house was quite cool). Even after all that time, you can see that I still had quite a bit of oven spring.

This bread was great: it had a subtle flavor, a fairly open crumb, a crunchy but not tough crust. And best of all, it was made with 100% pure Austin! =)

Friday, April 27, 2012

At long last: Almost no-knead bread

I've been reading about no-knead bread for a few years, but as someone who was so enamored with all the intricacies of bread baking that she read the first 100 pages of The Bread Baker's Apprentice like a novel not once, but twice, I wasn't that excited by the idea of a bread that essentially makes itself.

But here we are, a couple of years and two bread book challenges later, and sometimes life is just busy: I needed a bread I could make in a flash to go with our cauliflower soup. Happily, browsing my friends' Pinterest bread collections (yes, I've finally been sucked into that time black hole), I found a link to America's Test Kitchen's newest version of their almost no-knead bread, a recipe I've been meaning to make for so long but that always gets lost in the stack of new recipes.

I made a half-recipe, mixing up the all-purpose flour, salt, a pinch of yeast, water, and a bit of beer. The last ingredient is vinegar, but I'd read that the purpose of the vinegar is to give it a hint of sourdough flavor, so I used my discard from a sourdough feed instead. The ingredients are barely mixed and then left at room temperature for 16ish hours. After school, I rushed home and shaped my little boule and left it in a warm spot in my 6" cake pan. Once it had risen, I baked it in my new small enameled Dutch oven for 25 minutes uncovered and about 10 or 15 minutes uncovered.

The bread was perfect with the soup; in fact (surprisingly) hubby said it was the best bread I'd made in a long time. Who knew?! (Oh, and there was definite hint of sourdough flavor in there: from the sourdough starter? I don't know, but I think Austin is finally ready for a test drive this weekend!!)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pretzels: dinner and dessert!

With two preschoolers and two full-time teachers in the house, life is usually crazy busy around here (except in the summer...I can't wait for summer!). By the end of the school day, we are all tired and discussions about dinner never go very well. So a couple of years ago, I bought a little white board that hangs between the fridge and the stove, and each weekend I plan meals for the week. It makes grocery shopping a lot easier...and a lot cheaper...and a lot less wasteful. And it makes our evenings a lot less stressful.

But the meal on tap for last night was soup, and when hubby and I heard that we were getting one more 75º day before going back into the 50ºs, we decided it wasn't soup weather. But we didn't have any back-up plans, and that's never a good thing.

Luckily, I opened up my Google Reader first thing in the morning and saw this recipe for pretzel dogs from Tracey. Dinner!

I was able to rush home after work and whip up the dough. It was a beautiful dough to work with. (This was also Austin's debut; I used the leftover starter after one of his feedings in the dough in place of some flour and water.) :) Knowing that it would rise for a little bit longer than called for while I went to pick up the kids, I used slightly cool water. When I got home with the kiddos, it was doubled and ready to roll!

I divided the dough into fourteen 65g portions, rolled each into a long snake, and wrapped it around a half-hotdog. I used the leftover dough to make 25 pizza bites. These were all boiled in water and baking soda, brushed with an egg wash, and the dogs were sprinkled with salt. They baked for 15 minutes and were done and cooled by dinner time.

When I popped a pretzel bite into hubby's mouth, he immediately said, "Pretzels!?" I couldn't believe how pretzelly the flavor was; way more than any other pretzel recipe I've ever tried. The rest of the bites were dipped in melted butter and then coated in cinnamon sugar.

Pretzels for dinner and dessert...can't beat that!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Austin lives! Resuscitating a sourdough starter

I first made my sourdough starter in the midst of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, in February of 2010. It was slow-going, which I took personally, but as the warmer weather hit in June, I realized that my starter's slow nature was likely due to our cool house and frigid winter. Austin the Starter has served me well over the past two years.

Since I've been finished with my bread challenges, Austin spends most of his time in the back of my fridge. He's endured many long periods of neglect, but always does fine when I pull him out and give him a few feedings. So imagine my surprise when I pulled him from the fridge a few days ago, and, whether it was because he'd finally been ignored for too long or because the new lid I put on top was too tight, this is what I found:

Mold!!! I'm not going to lie; I almost cried. Austin has been a reliable member of my kitchen staff for so long, and it's such a process to create a sourdough starter...and the longer they're around, the better their flavor, so I really didn't want to start over. :(

And then I remembered that two summers ago, when we were heading West for our summer trip, I followed Paul's advice and dried some of my starter. I frantically started digging through my freezer. No starter. :( (I did get my freezer reorganized in the process of my search, so that was good.) I dug through the deep freeze; no starter. I came back upstairs, again on the verge of tears. And there, in the bottom of the ice bucket, I found this:

Yay! So I pulled up Paul's tutorial on how to revive a dried starter and got to work. I took a teaspoon of starter (saving the rest, just in case it didn't work or this happens again!) and mixed it with a couple of teaspoons of water. I let them sit for a few hours until the starter softened and I could stir it all together. Then I fed it some flour and water and crossed my fingers.

After a day, I detected a few bubbles. I think at that point, I should have just fed it again and waited a bit, but I was too excited, so I called it good and did an official feeding: 20 g of the starter with 40 g each of flour and water. And then I waited and waited and waited. I'd been thinking that I might need to start over and try again, when I came downstairs to this:

I'm not sure if I got ahead of myself and tried to move it along too fast, or if it was just that our house has been a little cool, but it took a good day for it to double. But double it clearly did! I've been feeding it regularly for two days now, and after each feeding, it takes less time to double again. And it already smells deliciously like sourdough.

My plan is to keep it on the counter and to keep feeding it regularly for another few days to make sure it's really awake, alive, and healthy. And then I'll try baking with it to make sure. But thankfully, we seem to be back in business! Austin lives!

(Thanks, Paul!)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Viennese punch cookies (Modern Baker)

I don't usually do this...when I was browsing the cookie section of The Modern Baker to pick my "official" blogging recipes, I picked this one just for the picture: a beautiful shiny pink top, with a chocolately brown layer in the middle, and a shortbread-looking cookie on the bottom. These Viennese punch cookies are so pretty!

If I'd read more carefully, I probably wouldn't have chosen them; they are not child-friendly, with a significant amount of rum in both the filling and the icing. And the brown layer is not a chocolate filling.

Nevertheless, while mine didn't look as lovely as the ones in the book, these were fun to make!

The bottom cookie layer is delicious, made with butter, confectioner's sugar, ground almonds, and flour. I struggled a bit with the dough, finding it too sticky to roll out, but it was easy to just use my fingers to press it into the appropriate thickness. After cutting out the cookies (I used a 1 1/2" round cutter and got 10 sandwiches from a half-recipe), the remainder of the dough is also baked. These cookie scraps are ground and used with apricot preserves, a tiny bit of chocolate, orange and lemon zests, and rum to create the filling. Finally an icing is applied: warmed confectioner's sugar, rum, water, and food coloring. (If my frosting looks a little runny, it's because I added a little extra water when I was stirring, forgetting that the sugar would melt when the filling was heated.)

I took these to our friends' house for a barbecue this evening, and the adults enjoyed them. (I made TWD Hungarian shortbread for the kiddos; post coming on May 1.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cook's Country Pepperoni Rolls

According to my newest issue of Cook's Country, many groups created easy-to-make portable meals to take down to the mines in their lunch buckets in the late 19th century; for Italians in West Virginia, it was a pepperoni roll. The recipe for this on-the-go lunch clearly became a must-make in our house. When I mentioned these to Kayte, she decided to join in, and then Margaret did, too. Due to my hubby's desire to have these immediately if not sooner, we ended up baking these on different days, but they were a big hit with all three of our families.

According to Cook's Country, this recipe makes 16 rolls. Initially I intended to cut the recipe in half, but then I read the note about how easy these were to freeze. So I made and baked 16, which fed us for a dinner and a picnic lunch at the zoo, and then froze the rest. When we needed a quick, no hassle dinner, I stuck the rolls into the oven, made a batch of Donna Hay's mozzarella and tomato dip, and we had another dinner, just as good as the first!

Pepperoni rolls
from Cook's Country, April/May 2012

4 (7 - 8 oz) sticks pepperoni, 8 in long
1 1/2 c water
1 c whole milk
2 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar
6 2/3 (33 1/3 oz) all-purpose flour, + 1 tbsp
1 tbsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
4 tsp sesame seeds

  1. Cut pepperoni sticks in half crosswise, then cut each in half lengthwise. Slice each quarter lengthwise into 4 4-inch wedges (you should have 64 total). Place pepperoni in a large bowl, microwave until fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Use tongs to transfer pepponi to paper towel-lined plate; reserve 3 tablespoons of pepperoni oil and do not wash bowl. (I couldn't find these thick pepperoni, so I bought 32 thin sticks, which I cut in half. When I microwaved these, I only got 1 tablespoon of oil (maybe because of the decreased surface area?) so I just subbed in melted unsalted butter for the additional oil. I will search harder for the other kind of pepperoni next time; CC recommends Margherita Italian Style Pepperoni.)
  2. Combine water, milk, and sugar in a large measuring cup. Microwave until the temperature is 110º (about 1-2 min). Stir in pepperoni oil.
  3. Mix flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water mixture and stir until incorporated. Knead until smooth. Put in the unwashed pepperoni bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  4. Divide the dough into 3 1/2 oz pieces. Form into balls and let rest 5 minutes.
  5. Toss pepperoni sticks with remaining 1 tablespoon of flour.
  6. Press each dough ball into a 6x4” rectangle. Lay 4 pieces of pepperoni side by side, 1/2 inch apart, and roll into tight cylinder, pinching seam to seal. Leave ends open. (see picture)
  7. Put rolls seam side down on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, end to end, 1/2 inch apart, 4 per row. Cover with plastic and rise until doubled, about an hour.
  8. Brush with eggs and sprinkle with sesame seeds. (I made half without sesame seeds because the kids don't like them.) Bake at 375º until golden brown, about 24 - 28 minutes.
(These freeze really well: wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. To reheat, wrap each roll in foil. Bake directly on the rack at 350º for 35 - 45 min or until heated through.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lemon loaf cake (TWD: BwJ)

Our second April recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie is a lemon loaf cake. This is a pound cake that takes all of five minutes and one bowl to make.

It's made by whisking eggs with sugar (gently), and then lemon zest, and then sifting flour and baking powder, whisking in some heavy cream, and folding in some melted butter. That's it; it took a million times longer to bring the ingredients to room temperature than it did to make the cake.

I used three mini loaf pans (5x2) instead of a 9x5 pan; the loaves baked for 35 minutes. We enjoyed one of the mini cakes with dinner; it was a huge hit. The little guy said, "I would like another piece of that delicious lemon cake!" The hubby and I each took a mini loaf to school to celebrate the start of fourth quarter. It must be spring! :)

Check out the other TWDers' lemon cakes here and, if you'd like the recipe, grab a copy of Baking with Julia or check out this week's hosts: Truc of Treats and Michelle of The Beauty of Life.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pizza rustica (TWD: BwJ)

I'm not sure how it's April already, but here we are: the first Tuesday of the month! Our first April Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is pizza rustica by our very own (Modern Baker Challenge and Bake!) Nick Malgieri!

This recipe (or maybe April itself) sneaked up on me, but luckily it's the kind of recipe where you can realize you need to make it at 8 a.m. at work, send the hubby to the grocery store at 3 p.m. for a couple of key ingredients, and still be eating dinner by 5:30.

Pizza rustica is made with a sweet dough, which is quickly mixed in the food processor and handles like a dream. Into the crust goes a mixture of cheese (ricotta), more cheese (Romano), even more cheese (mozzarella), and meat (prosciutto). I wanted to make the recipe as written the first time, but I know some of the other TWDers experimented with adding veggies, and I would love to do that next time: some onions, spinach, maybe a pepper. Yum! You may be thinking that it doesn't sound like pizza, and you'd be right; it's much more like a quiche. Luckily, some of the TWDers had been talking about that very fact, so I named it "quiche" when describing it to the family and no one was disappointed.

I know the sweet crust-salty/savory filling was weird for some people, but with my big sweet tooth, I thought it was quite tasty! The hubby loved it. In fact, he's pretty sad that I need it for my lunches this week and he won't be able to eat it every day for breakfast. The kids, never fans of foods with ricotta, didn't like the filling, but both ate pieces of the crust like it was a cookie.

For the recipe, buy a copy of Baking with Julia, or check out today's hosts: Emily of Capitol Region Dining and Raelynn of The Place They Call Home.