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Cornbread Waffles

7 Feb

Swamped.

Again.

*Sigh*

I’ve been intrigued by the concept of corn waffles since I heard about them a few months ago. I know they’re a Big Deal in the south, where they’re usually served with fried chicken, but we’re not southern and we don’t eat fried chicken…ever. But still, I was intrigued. We like waffles and we love cornbread, and so when I found myself with a blessed hour last week, I hunkered down and made a double batch of these.

Everyone loved them. The kids declared them the best waffles ever, in fact. DS ate his with butter and DD and I had ours with a touch of maple syrup. They combine the crispy-chewy of a traditional waffle with a little bit of the inside crunch and delicious sweetness of a corn muffin.

They’re not health food. I know. I had one waffle. OK? I blog about food–it’s my duty, really. And if you can’t have a treat every so often, there’s not a lot of point in taste buds–and we are gifted with a lot of those. Don’t let ’em go to waste all the time.

This is pretty much Mark Bittman’s recipe, doubled. Use a very large bowl to mix these up. The beauty of this is that they freeze really really well and heat up nicely in the toaster, and you’ll have a nice big bag to stick in your freezer and pull a few out for breakfast every so often. That has so many advantages over store-bought frozen waffles that I can’t even begin to fit it all in here; let’s just say no chemicals, no preservatives, and no icky additives.

You will need to break out your mixer. It’ll be OK. It takes three minutes, and the results are totally worth it. Give it a try. You need (don’t freak out–like I said, this makes a huge pile o’ waffles and you’ll have a freezer stocked with ’em at the end):

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups cornmeal (I used finely ground)

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp sugar

6 tsp baking powder

3 cups milk

4 eggs, separated

1 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your waffle iron and brush it with oil if yours needs it.

Combine all the dry stuff in a big bowl–I used my huge batter bowl.

Use your electric mixer to beat up your egg whites (you need the yolks in a minute) until they look like clouds–soft and puffy and white.

Stir the milk, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla into your dry mixture. Very gently fold in your egg whites until everything is combined. Bake on your waffle iron as directed (I had mine on a medium-low setting; just keep an eye on yours if it doesn’t have a temperature selector), slightly underbaking the ones you plan to keep for later so they don’t burn when you pop them into a toaster to heat them up.

Enjoy.

My Favorite Cinnamon Bread

24 Jan

You’re thinking I said cinnamon raisin bread. But I didn’t. Raisins, as far as I’m concerned, have no business in baked goods, and especially have no business in something as perfect as this amazing, comforting, perfect loaf of yumminess.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this was a recipe from the old standard Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book that I’ve doctored up. And the doctoring has led to a slightly sweeter, slightly crunchier cinnamon bread that’s reminiscent of a cinnamon roll. Yummy for a snack, divine for breakfast, and y’all, this stuff makes some seriously kick butt French toast.

You should go make some. Right now. Before your kids get home from school, so you can enjoy the first amazing slice all by yourself. And I’m going to stop talking just so you can. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

Another 1/4 cup brown sugar

Another 1 tsp cinnamon

Measure your milk into a Pyrex cup or microwaveable bowl. Add the regular sugar and the butter and nuke it for about a minute, until it’s warmer than body temperature but not hot.

While that’s nuking up, pour your flour, yeast, egg, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon into your bread machine (or into the bowl of your mixer). Add the warm milk mixture and either set your bread machine for the dough cycle and walk away, or gently mix everything together, knead it with your hands or a dough hook for five minutes, put it into a greased bowl, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise until doubled, which will be about 45 minutes.

Once your bread machine is done and/or your dough has risen, heat your oven to 375 degrees and spray a loaf pan with your nonstick goodness of choice. Punch the dough down and set it on a floured countertop, and then spread a little flour on top of it too–it’s going to be sticky. Roll it out into a rectangle about as wide as your loaf pan and maybe 18 inches long.

In a small bowl, combine your 1/4 cup of brown sugar and your teaspoon of cinnamon.

Gently brush your dough with water and spread the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture all over the top of it. It’ll be a very thin layer–do not freak out. Starting with a narrow end, tightly roll the dough up and then lay the roll in your bread pan. Cover it with a clean dishtowel, give it a half-hour to rise, and then bake it for a half-hour, until it’s done.

Garlic In the Bread

28 Nov

We’ve talked about my family’s love of all things bread, and my own personal addition to really good garlic bread. Garlic and butter and carbs–I mean, really. What’s not to like?

I started thinking, though, that it’s kind of a pain to have to get bread and slice it and butter it and put seasoning on it and broil it, especially on nights you’re in a hurry or eating leftover pasta. You can zap last night’s dinner in, what, a minute? But making the garlic bread for night 2 of a meal kind of takes the quick-and-easy out of leftover night.

And so, I came up with this–it’s a basic Mark Bittman bread recipe that couldn’t be simpler, doctored up with garlic bread spice baked right into it. You make the bread, wrap it in plastic, and give it a few days (or eat it right away–whatever works). And then, when you get your leftover Italian food out to give it a spin in the food nuker, you just slice off the appropriate amount of this bread and pop it into your toaster. A little bit of butter at the end, and voila. Garlic bread.

Nice, no?

We ate this for two nights and the kids devoured it. Don’t skip the toasting part, though–it’s not nearly as good in its plain-bread state as it is with a little crunch to it. This will freeze nicely, so it’s totally fine to wrap up whatever part you don’t eat right away and save it for your next go-round of spaghetti or whatever. I’m thinking this would also be a great bread to toast, slather with tomato sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan, and lay a poached egg on top of for breakfast. In fact, I may have to try that tomorrow.

Bread with the garlic baked in–it just doesn’t get a whole lot easier. You need:

3 cups of bread flour

2 tsp yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp garlic bread spice (either the recipe I shared a few weeks back or whatever you like)

Combine all of the ingredients in your bread machine and run it through the dough cycle.

If you don’t have a bread machine, combine all the ingredients with your mixer and knead it by hand for about five minutes, and then let it rest and rise for about 45 minutes or so.

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray it with cooking spray.

Punch the dough down. Lay it on your baking sheet and roll and convince it into a log–mine was about 14 inches long by 4 inches wide or so:

Cover that with a clean dish towel and let it rise about a half-hour. Brush it with water and put it into the oven for 15 minutes. Then, lower your temperature to 350 and let it bake about another half-hour, until it’s golden brown and baked through.

Remove it from the oven, let it cool, and slice and toast.

Pumpkin Waffles

21 Nov

“Mom,” said my daughter from the kitchen table. “These are better than in a restaurant.”

Now, to fully appreciate that, you need to know that this child–love of my life, keeper of my heart, fruit of my soul–has complained loudly and with great abandon about every single thing I’ve put on that table for about two weeks now. She went to bed two nights in a row last week having eaten one bite of dinner because rice was so offensive (and she did not starve to death nor become malnourished so stop shaking your heads at me–I’m over the short-order cook thing). Nothing, and I mean nothing, has met with the approval of her rapidly-narrowing palate.

Until Saturday morning. When she declared this breakfast worthy of a “real cook,” and devoured it. I swear, I waited for the earth to open up beneath me right then and there, because surely this was my entrance to everlasting nirvana.

This is the result of my messing around with a few recipes I found online, all of which were either too heavily spiced for our liking (it’s an early morning dish for the love of all that’s holy) or soggy or didn’t crisp up on the outside and get fluffy on the inside like any good waffle is supposed to do. It takes a few steps and a few ingredients, but I promise you–the mess and the extra few minutes are totally worth it, because these pumpkin waffles are crunchy and fluffy and just pumpkiny enough to make them out of this world good with a drizzle of real maple syrup.

The key to the crunchy/fluffy quality of these lies in three tiny things: bread flour, which is high in protein and does crispy/chewy beautifully; a little veggie oil in the batter; and baking powder. There is a lot of baking powder in this–it is going to foam up when you put it on the griddle. Go easy, or you’re going to have a mess on your countertop.

All of that said, these don’t stay crispy/chewy for long–get your family around the table as you put the first one on your waffle iron, and let them eat as they come off (you, as chef, get the last one, which means first that the waffle iron is deadly hot and yours will be extra delicious, and second, that your family will likely be finished eating when you start, giving you perfectly perfect peace and quiet as you enjoy your waffle, not that you don’t love them and savor mealtime with them, blah, blah, blah). They do crisp up nicely in the toaster, though, so you can save a few and toast them up later. Just watch that they don’t burn.

I whipped this batter up in my KitchenAid mixer, using the whisk attachment, which incorporated lots of air in there. Air is good in waffles. You can absolutely use a hand mixer or your arm and a whisk. Whatever you have is fantastic.

Enough chit-chat, gang. Gather your ingredients (Thanksgiving morning would be a fantastic time for this breakfast–just saying–and it’s a great recipe to use the night-before tricks from my morning muffin post, too) and give these a shot. You’ll need:

4 tbsp butter, melted

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger (ground)

1/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed

2 eggs

1 cup (1/2 a can) pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup milk

1 tbsp veggie or canola oil

Heat your waffle iron.

In your mixer bowl, beat together your eggs, butter (cool it for a few minutes first or you’ll scramble the eggs), pumpkin, oil, milk, and brown sugar.

Stir in all of your dry ingredients and beat it for a minute to get some air in there.

Pour a half-cup at a time (on a Belgian waffle maker–less on a regular one) into your waffle iron and cook to manufacturer’s directions. Eat immediately or freeze and toast later.

Warm Pumpkin (or any) Breakfast Muffins

15 Nov

I promised my daughter pumpkin bread last night.

Of course, that was before piano lessons and basketball practice, and shuttling everyone through late-for-a-school-night showers and teeth brushing and reading time and bed, and it was definitely before all Hades broke loose with a client project in the late afternoon and dinner had to be made and then the kitchen had to be cleaned. It was also after a full day of work and home-running nuttiness.

All of this is a long way of saying: I made the promise and then I did everything else on my list and then I fell asleep on the couch.

Oops.

Thankfully, I avoided catastrophe (you do not want to break a promise to my daughter. Hell hath no fury, y’all). DH exercises with a neighbor on Tuesday mornings and wakes me up before he goes, which is quite early by normal-people standards. After I came-to and realized I’d forgotten her bread, I poured myself some coffee, mixed the ingredients together (in four minutes–I timed it), doled the bread batter into greased muffin tins, and headed up for my shower. Twenty-five minutes later, the kids were getting up to the scent of hot pumpkin muffins wafting up the stairs, which is not the worst way in the world to awaken.

The pumpkin bread/muffin recipe I love is here–I posted it last year, but it’s worth revisiting because it is so good and keeps so well and takes so few minutes to toss together, and it’s relatively healthy to boot. And the good thing is that you don’t have to completely space on a promise to your kid to also enjoy fresh-from-the-oven yumminess in the morning– I have a few tricks to make that happen even if your brain isn’t slowly leaking out your ears like mine apparently is.

First, find a quick bread recipe you love and can make easily. Pumpkin bread, banana bread, oatmeal bread, blueberry bread, lemon bread–whatever. Convert it to muffin size–a loaf equals a dozenish muffins, depending how large you want them to be.

The night before you want hot baked awesomeness for breakfast, get out two bowls–make one the bowl from your mixer. In the mixer bowl, stir together your dry ingredients–your flour, sugar, salt, spices, etc. In the second bowl, stir together your wet stuff–your eggs, milk, oil, vanilla. Cover both with plastic wrap. Leave the dry on the counter and put the wet in the fridge. (If you don’t do this, it really takes no more than 5 minutes to gather everything together and give it a whir in the mixer in the morning. Don’t sweat it.)

When you wake up, turn your oven on. Get your muffin tins out and butter or spray them with your nonstick goodness of choice (I am partial to Baker’s Joy, but whatever floats your boat). Get your cold bowl out of the fridge, dump it into your dry bowl, mix it up, and dole it into your muffin tins (and by the way, an ice cream scoop works beautifully for this job).

Put your bowls in the dishwasher (or into a sink of hot soapy water), let the oven tell you it’s preheated, slide your muffins in there, and give them a little less than half the time you’d bake a loaf of bread. Enjoy your coffee, take a shower, hit the treadmill. Whatever your morning entails–go ahead and do it. My pumpkin bread recipe takes an hour, so I started checking the muffins after 20 minutes.

Once they’re done, pull them out. Gently, gently slide a knife around the edges of the muffins you want to eat immediately, slide them out of their tins, and put them on a plate to cool for a few minutes (so they don’t crumble into oblivion or toast your tongue off when you bite into them). You’ll have warm comfort just when you need it the most, and your house will smell awesome all morning.

Let your remaining muffins cool all the way and store them in a plastic container with a tight lid.

Enjoy your warm breakfast muffins, y’all!

Better-Than-The-Restaurant Homemade Pizza

11 Oct

DH came through the door last night just as I was slicing up the pizza I’d made. He dropped his keys, leaned over the counter, and grabbed a slice.

“I swear,” he said. “Your pizza is better than the ones we get out.”

I smiled and said thank-you, but didn’t tell him the truth, which is that the things that make my pizza good are more about technique than recipe. For the most part, crust is crust and sauce is to-taste and the cheese comes out of the grocery store in a bag, and I don’t do much to doctor those up. But I have tricks up my sleeve that came from a lot of thought about the pizza recipes I tried that were so-so, and the way my local pizzeria makes its pies.

Think about what happens when you walk into a pizzeria. You approach the counter and hit a wall of heat, yes? That’s because pizza ovens are screaming, center-of-the-sun hot. And they’ve been that way for hours before you order. Ditto for the pans your pie bakes on–have you ever seen a pizza chef toss dough into the oven on a cold pan? You have not. They prepare the dish on the countertop and use a pizza peel to slide it onto a hot pan.

You do not need a pizza oven or a peel or anything else fancy-schmancy to make restaurant-quality pizza. But you do have to follow a few rules and be willing to chuck the recipes a bit.

The one thing I recommend you buy is a pizza stone, which you can find for about $15 in your local Target or Wal Mart. Fancy is not on the agenda–cheap is your friend. These are unglazed ceramic and they are magic when it comes to crispy-chewy crusts. My stone lives in my oven all the time (it’s also phenomenal for making bread) so it doesn’t take up cabinet space or need any prep. I never wash it (oh stop–it lives in the oven, y’all, and gets sanitized several times a week), but I do take it out after it cools and scrape it down well with a bench scraper (you can grab one of those for a few dollars at Ikea or Target) before returning it to the oven.

I use a rimless cookie sheet as a pizza peel and it works beautifully. You want something dough can slide off. And the secret to that sliding? Cornmeal. You want a good layer of cornmeal on your cookie sheet and on your pizza stone before you bake (right before with the stone–cornmeal smokes up very quickly, so sprinkle it onto the pizza stone seconds before you slide your pie in the oven).

Preheat your oven a good long while before you want to bake–30 minutes at the minimum–with the stone in there, and crank that bad boy up to 450 degrees. You will not burn anything! (Turn on your exhaust fan at the outset if the previous owner of your house was a rocket scientist like the previous owner of mine and installed a hardwired smoke detector in the kitchen. Just trust me on that.)

Make your dough. My recipe is below, but really, you can use any one you like. The trick with this is to use half bread flour and half all-purpose flour. That bread flour gives the crust protein, which gives you that amazing crispy-chewy quality that your local pizzeria features. I wouldn’t go more than half and half on it, though, or your crust will be too soft. And the other trick with this is to prick the crust with a fork after you’ve rolled and stretched it into a circle, which will prevent the under-sauce part from rising in the oven. See?

You want to sprinkle oregano between your sauce and the cheese. And my final trick is to use a blend of cheeses that, at a minimum, includes mozzarella and cheddar.

I said cheddar. Once you try it, you’ll never go back. Promise. I use an Italian blend of cheeses that includes cheddar and can find that even in my sad Soviet-esque market, so I’m sure you’ll see it too.

So. You’ve heated up your oven and stone, made your dough, rolled and stretched it out, pricked it with a fork, transferred it to a cornmeal-coated rimless cookies sheet, covered it with sauce and oregano and cheese and toppings, and slid it into the oven right after sprinkling more cornmeal on your stone. The last thing you need to do is turn on your oven light and keep an eye on your pie without opening the door. You want all that gorgeous super-hot air to stay in there and crisp things up. When your cheese starts to brown–and not before—very carefully use that rimless cookie sheet to slide under the pizza, ease it out of the oven, and enjoy. (Turn off your oven and let it cool several hours before you try and scrape your stone–it takes awhile to reach room temp after this).

So that’s it. You’ll enjoy delicious pizza at a fraction of the price of your local delivery shack, and you won’t believe the results.

I use commercially-prepared pizza sauce (we’re partial to Trader Joe’s) and cheese (I like reduced-fat, which saves me from the pool o’ grease on top of most pizzas). To my my favorite crust, you need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

2 1/2 tsp yeast (one package if you’re using the envelopes)

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the above together in your bread machine on the dough cycle.

If you don’t have a bread machine, mix the ingredients together with a mixer until they’re just blended, then knead by hand for about five minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. Spray a bowl with cooking spray or olive oil, put the dough in there, cover with a clean towel, and let it rise about an hour.

Punch the dough down, stretch and roll it into a pizza circle (make it a bit thinner than you want–it’ll rise again in the oven), prick with a fork, and then follow the directions above to make a pizza.

Super-Fast Friday: Cinnamon Honey Butter

23 Sep

A new outpost of a locally-famous restaurant opened in our favorite getaway spot and we were lucky enough to try it during its first week. Fabulous menu–crab cakes (real ones. Like, with crab. Not a lot of filler. Amen.) and shrimp and scallops and rockfish and all sorts of yummies. Lovely decor–very cabin, adirondack, which was perfect for its new lakeside berth. Outstanding reputation before it even opened its doors.

DH had eaten at the original restaurant and he was telling me all of this before we tried the new one. Know what he was most excited about?

The butter.

They have honey butter, he told me, but it’s the best honey butter you’ve ever had in your life.

Crossed fingers and a few hopeful glimpses toward heaven that afternoon were rewarded with a wooden board of warm bread and a little pot of honey butter at our inaugural dinner at the restaurant, and we scarfed it down (I’ve told y’all we’re a carb-loving family. I wasn’t kidding.). And when the poor server came to clear our table for our real food, DH’s face dropped towards the floor and I had to psst her and point all secret-like and half-whisper that she was breaking the poor man’s heart, and she took pity and brought us even more honey butter and warm bread, and now that’s our favorite restaurant.

I digress.

The honey butter was amazing, and I asked what else was in it besides honey and butter; you all should try this trick, by the way. Restaurants are usually more than willing to share their secrets if you smile and say please and thank you and all the other things your mom tried to teach you along the way. Anyway, the answer was cinnamon. Not enough so you’d recognize it, but enough to give that butter an extra yum at the end.

Last night, being In A Mood and needing comfort, I baked a batch of sweet bread rolls (recipe coming–stay tuned) and then made some cinnamon honey butter of my own. This morning, I was all but canonized by my family. It’s that good. It’s also super easy–less than three minutes start to finish–and will keep beautifully in your refrigerator, just like butter. Take it out a little while before you want to eat some so it softens up or pop it in the microwave for five-second increments until it gets creamy if you’re in a hurry, and enjoy at your whim.

My directions tell you to change your mixer attachments halfway through–this, of course, only applies if you’re using a stand mixer with said attachments. If not, ignore that and keep on going. A hand mixer will absolutely work just as well, without changing anything.

Give this a shot, gang. Your family will flip. In a good way. You need:

1/2 cup of butter at room temperature (that’s a stick and STOP IT with the gasping–you make this and keep it and use it a little at a time)

1/4 cup of honey (spray your mixing cup with nonstick spray before you measure. Trust me.)

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

Using your paddle attachment (if applicable), whip the butter around until it’s fluffy in the bowl. Add your honey and mix that together until it’s well incorporated. Then, switch to your whisk attachment. Slowly (so it doesn’t poof up in your face) add the cinnamon and blend it in, and then crank up your mixer to whip it all together.

Store in your refrigerator in a sealed plastic or glass container. Enjoy your time on the pedestal your family is about to erect in your honor. 😉

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