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Archive for the ‘Breads and Rolls’ Category

This is pretty much all I got done today.

Some hot sourdough on sourdough action. Can't say this blog isn't tittilating.

That is one happy, spongy lil' sourdough starter.

Let's just pretend that purple manicure is in perfect condition, shall we?

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When you’ve got a head cold to beat the band…

(whatever that means)

And you haven’t left the house in five days…

(so you greet The Boy at The Door like you’re an overly-excitable golden retriever)

And you don’t care if you obstruct half of the finished photo with the lurking shadow of your pasty, mouth-breathing self…

(Sexy.)

Focaccia is there to provide you with a project.

Now I’m not saying you should jump at the chance to bake for loved ones when you’re all sick-like.  But since my ILLLLNESSSSS came from The Boy to begin with so he’d already had and beaten and built up immunity to this OH MY GOD THINNNGG, I felt comfortable with passing the disease around all willy-nilly.

I’m scientific like that.

If you’re looking for uses for your sourdough starter, Your Bad Mama Genny can’t think of a better one.  Probably because I’m stuffed up and can’t think at all.  You might be able to think of better ones.

So what I’m saying is, focaccia is an excellent use for your sourdough starter.  Most excellent, indeed, my precious, precious mofo’s.

If you have access to some greenhouse cherry tomatoes (<raises hand>), even better.  If not, hang onto this recipe until tomato season, or do a variation.  I love red onion, sea salt, and rosemary on focaccia.

Focaccia.

FOCACCIA.

I’m woman enough to admit that I Googled to make sure I was spelling it right.  And now I’m flaunting it.

FOCACCIA!!

Oh, sweet mother, FOCACCIA!

Can you tell that I’m still sick?

Moreso than usual, I mean.

 

Sourdough Polka Dot Foccacia

Go Get:

1 cup PROOFED sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 to 3 cups white flour
1/2 cup olive oil, plus some for the cookie sheet
1/4 cup sliced garlic
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
several sprigs’ worth fresh rosemary leaves
coarse sea salt for sprinkling over the top (approx. 2 teaspoons)
Approx. 2 cups of cherry tomatoes–in varying colors if you can swing that (alternatively, try thin slices of red onion or even leeks)

Go Do:

Mix the sourdough starter with the water.  Gradually add in half the flour and mix until blended.  Toss the salt with the remaining flour and mix into the dough.  Sourdough starters vary in consistency, so be a doll and make sure this holds together in a tacky, but not sticky, dough ball before you go on with the recipe, mmmkaaaay?  Mmmmmkaaaay.

Mix the dough well before transferring to a lightly-floured surface.  Knead that sucker.  Knead it good.  Knead it ’til it’s a wee bit elastic.  Then stop kneading already, Jesus.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Oil a cookie sheet.  Spread the dough out onto the sheet until it’s a roughly half-inch thick rectangle.  Use your finger to make little polka-dot indentations all over the dough.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and garlic over low heat until the garlic is cooked (approximately 5 minutes).  Your house will smell like a freaking dream.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then spoon it evenly over the focaccia dough.  Press the cherry tomatoes into the dough at random (or hell, in an organized pattern.  That’s okay, too.  I just have to wonder why you’re trying for organization when you have a the bubonic plague (OH WAIT YOU DON’T HAVE THE BUBONIC PLAGUE THAT’S JUST ME.)  Now sprinkle the salt and rosemary leaves and walk away, leaving your focaccia in the warm kitchen.

But don’t, like, walk off for good.  Come back and check every so often, ‘kay?

When the dough has doubled and mostly swallowed your cherry tomatoes (so cute!), stick the whole thing in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes (I started checking at 25–I suggest you do the same), or until deeply golden.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle immediately with Pecorino-Romano Cheese.  Let cool until  you can handle it (but it’s still warm), then cut into squares (only as many as you’ll eat that night.  The rest will stay moist longer if it’s in a solid slab).

Enjoy the admiration of your friends, lovers, and associations for which you have positive regard.

Sneeze a lot.

The end.

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Hiya.

Yeah, that’s right.  I’m talking.  Me.  The pretzel.

So how’s it going?

That’s nice.

Enough small talk.  This is just a friendly reminder that if you haven’t made your own soft pretzels yet this year…

What could you possibly be waiting for?  Everyone knows the Germans actually celebrate Oktoberfest in September.

But you can have a free pass this time.  I give you until mid-October.  Frankly, there’s no bad time for pretzels and beer.  (What’s that, Atkins people?  You don’t like carbs?  What are you even DOING at this blog?)

First, the beer.  Whip up a batch of delicious home brew, a la The Boy.  Or find some local brew pubs that may be selling growlers of malty, hoppy, autumnal carryout craft beer near you.

If you’re in the Chicago area, you might try Half Acre, Piece, or the fine offerings on tap for sampling at Brew & Grow.

Well that was easy enough.  Now onto those pretzels.  Here’s one nice recipe I found for your classic, white, soft pretzel.  Craving something different that’ll pass for dinner so you can soothe your conscience?  (” A conscience?  What’s that?”) How do chicken stuffed soft pretzels with homemade honey mustard sound?

Somewhere, Keanu Reeves just went, “Whoah.”

Or, OOOooooooh, Garlic Soft Pretzels.

And if you’re a fan of those big ‘ol pretzels ye can procure from ye olde chaine shoppe in the mall, this should intrigue you: Mall Pretzels. (Because sometimes we just gotta calls ’em as we sees ’em.)

Or, gaaaaaaa, cannot speak because sweet tooth is enlarging, ENLARGING: Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels.

What’s that, you say?  You want the recipe for mine?  The ones in the picture?  The ones that look like…

THIS!?

Well, you can’t have it.  Not because I don’t want to give it to you.  But because there isn’t one.

I couldn’t give you measurements on this one if I tried.  But I can tell you roughly what I did, and those of you who are accustomed to baking bread and working with sourdough and work by feel and instinct, as I do, will be able to follow along.

By feel and instinct.  You can do a lot of things that way. Including making love, raising children, and killing a man.

But I digress.

The FEEL AND INSTINCT METHOD for soft sourdough pretzels is:

Proof some sourdough starter.  A little for a few pretzels.  A lot for lots.  (Told you this would be vague.)  Once it’s ready, toss in some flour.  Some whole wheat.  Some white.  Mix it in.  Add some kosher salt, and some melted butter.  I’m going to say I made a large batch, somewhere around 3 lbs. of dough, and I used about 8 Tablespoons, or 1/2 cup, of melted butter.  Oh, relax.

Now stir that all in, and add more flour.  You know what I’m talking about.  Until it’s…not needing any more flour.  Don’t worry about getting it quite as dry as regular bread dough.  And it doesn’t need to be elastic either.  Just knead in enough flour and work the dough until it could hold a decent shape.  Now stick it in that trusty, oiled bowl and cover it with your favorite heirloom tea towel until it’s doubled…2 hours, wouldja say?

Actually, guys, I don’t feel as if I’ve been honest with you.  I didn’t let it rise for a few hours.  Instead I stuck it in the fridge overnight to rise in there.  What?  You didn’t know you could do that?  Well, you can.  Just let your dough sit at room temp a little while before you work with it.  I know, I know.  I’m brilliant.  I should really charge for all the fascinating things you learn here.  Like how to kill a man by instinct.  Anyway.  Moving on.

Divide the dough into balls and roll ’em into ropes.  I’ll say mine were about 18-20 inches long.  I like my soft pretzels on the small-ish side.  You know that annoying person who always takes, like, two bites of something, and then puts it back in the container for later?  That would be me.  Anyway, small foods give you options, man.  And that’s what I’m all about, dude.  Options.

Do a cool twisty thing where you make a pretzel.  The Girl says some of my pretzels have an extra twist in them.  I say they have just the right number/amount of twist(s).  Decide for yourself, man.  You gotta do what’s right for you, dude.  That’s what it’s all about, bros.  Doing what’s right for you.

Crud, this is going to take all day.

‘Kay, so now you’ve got a bunch of baby pretzels all lined up on some buttered parchment.  Oh, yeah, go back in time and butter some parchment.  Now set a pot of water to boil.  I used 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup baking soda.  Once it’s boiling, slowly tong each pretzel into the water, let it cook for 30 seconds, and take it back out.  Repeat.  As many times as you need.  Until you’re out of pretzels.

Now go back in time again, and preheat the oven to 450.  Thanks.  Take some coarse sea salt and sprinkle it over the pretzels.  Be sorta liberal about it.  Pretzel making is no time for conservatism.  Or limited sodium consumption.  I’m not making a political statement here.  I’m just saying, I think even the GOP could agree that pretzels should be salted liberally.

You know, pretzels are really the thing that could bring our nation together.

Wait, didn’t George Dubya Bush aspirate on a pretzel or something?

Forget it.  Peace and Harmony plan busted.

Once they’re all salted, bop ’em into the oven.  Now watch ’em.  That’s right, I said “watch ’em.”  I’ll be honest, friends…I don’t use recommended baking times that much.  I find that most of the time, they’re not accurate.  I just know when bread is done.  And if you’re actually able to follow this recipe up to this point, you probably do, too.  But it’s maybe around 15 minutes.  When they’re nice and golden.  My darker batch was more to my liking than my lighter batch.  What can I say?  I like my pretzels like I like my….

Not going there.

Now this is optional.  After you’ve pulled them out of the oven and oohed and aahed over how amazing you find yourself to be and how you don’t know why someone hasn’t made you Princess Pretzel yet, brush them with melted butter.  Oh.  Yeah.  Now stick ’em on a cooling rack to, you know, cool and stuff.

But eat ’em while they’re still warm.

I’m only gonna say this once: pretzels do not keep well.

Actually, this is important, so twice: Pretzels do not keep well.  Only make what you think you’ll eat today.  I hear you whining, being all, “wah wah wah, I don’t wanna do all this again tomorrow.”  Well, tough, Cupcake!

Just kidding, Cupcake.  Please don’t be mad, Cupcake.  I don’t know what’s come over me lately, Cupcake.

You could do what I did.  Just go back in time, now, and don’t boil all your pretzels.  Freeze them after the shaping, and make a solemn promise to pick up where you left off the next time you want pretzels, adding just a few seconds to boiling and a few minutes to baking.  You could also continue to do as I did, and break that solemn promise and end up with an emergency bag of emergency soft pretzels for when you have a soft pretzel emergency…for emergencies.

Totally awesome.

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True story: I hate cornbread.  Really.  I know that merely hearing the word “cornbread” has scores of other people fainting in ecstasy.

Do people faint in ecstasy?

Anyway.  I’ve NEVER liked cornbread.  It’s always so dry and crumbly and seems to require an entire glass and a half of water to choke it down.  I’ve tried to like it, really.  But anything that immediately sucks up my mouth juices and asphyxiates me with its corniness is generally not my thing.  In fact, even hearing the word cornbread makes me want to cough and gag.

COOORNbread ::cough::cough::

COOOOOOOORNbread  ::gag::gag::

See?  You misfits always make Bad Mama Genny prove these things to you.

Anyway.  When I saw this recipe for Custard-Filled Cornbread, I immediately dismissed it, after coughing and gagging for a little while.  No way is the cornbread ::cough cough:: gonna trick me, I said to myself.  No way is this tarted up little cornbread ::gag gag:: going to fool me into trying it so it can suck out my mouth juices and kill me with its corniness.  Soooo not falling for that one.

And then I thought some more about custard, and how delicious it is.  Custard doesn’t make me cough OR gag.  In fact, custard makes me sit up and listen.  Custard makes BMG go, “wow.”

And then I was all, what if this cornbread ::cough gag:: is different because of the custard ::wow!::?  What if custard ::wow:: is enough to make me like cornbread ::gag gag::?  Could I become a cornbread gag fan because of some simple custard wow?

I mean, wow.

Then I got a headache.  All the coughing and gagging and wowing.

Then I decided to try the damn thing.  And friends, it is fabulous.

And easy–the batter took all of five minutes to whip together, and the custard forms from a layer of cream that you pour on top right before baking.

Don’t get me wrong–I still hate cornbread :cough:.  But this is not cornbread ::gag::.  This is an effing cornCAKE, my friends.  A cake that you drizzle maple syrup over and eat for four meals a day, as I’m proceeding to do.  A cake that’s just as good with chili and cheese as it is with honey and cream as it is with maple syrup and banana slices.  A cake that’s good hot or cold.

A cake that would never suck out your mouth juices.

Friends, I would never allow your mouth juices to be sucked out.  I just don’t work that way.

Here is the recipe I used, which appears on the fab food blog, “First Look, Then Cook”.  By the way, thanks to my distracted state while I was baking, we now know that this recipe is extremely forgiving, because I accidentally threw in an extra egg, used whole milk yogurt instead of cream, and clumsily splooshed in a little extra vinegar.

So go ahead and enjoy your regular old dry, mouth-juice sucking cornbread ::cough cough  GAG GAG::.  But then eat this custard WOW.  And remember me, friends.

Eat this custard in memory of me.

<lightning bolt striking Bad Mama Genny, Bad Mama Genny smacking the shit out of the lightning bolt, lightning bolt running away with tail betwixt its legs while whining>

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Have you ever had a day when you just felt lucky?

This happened to me a little over a week ago.  The Boy and I decided to put off work and play while the sun was out, so off we headed to our favorite thrift store, Brown Elephant, for adventure.

To pick through old, dusty stuff indoors.  Hey, I never said we wanted to play IN the sun–just while it was out.  Does your BMG LOOK like the kind of person who can handle UV exposure?!

So while we were there, The Boy and I found an espresso machine, a bread machine, and a pasta/sausage mixer/extruder (come now, you know you want to say it–just put your lips together and coo: “extruuuuuder…”), all in barely-used condition, for a grand total of $10.  You may think us strange for buying previously-owned kitchen appliances.  I say, mayhap we are, but we are also the kind of simple folk who have a worm composting bin and make our own wine.  So there.  Take us or leave us.

But please take us.  We’re very sensitive.

And by the way, such thrift store “luck” is usually the kind you make yourself.  Sometimes you have to play dirty.  By giving the evil eye to that domesticky gay male couple, for example–they look like they’d just loooooove a bread machine.  Sure, the fashionista is over there snooping through a pile of neckties and looking quite absorbed in the silk cravat he just found.  But the other one–with the picnic basket–he could be trouble.

“What’s that over there?” I say a bit too loudly.  “An exquisite ceramic bust of Diana Ross?”  I grab the bread machine fast.  Suckers.

And as I christened my machine that night (bread from a MACHINE? How exotic!  And also, sort of apocalyptic!) while we folded laundry and watched the Chappelle show, I felt completely at peace with everything, cozy in my domestic bliss, my nesting instinct rolling at a continuous, slow burn.  Ah, that Dave Chappelle–always up to some new and hilarious hijinks.  What’s that you say, Dave?  You’re Rick James, bitch?  Oh, Dave, you DO beat all!

This bread is FANTASTIC toasted with a fried egg for breakfast, or as the base for BLT’s–bacon already included!  No bread machine?  Go kill yourself.

Kidding!  You can do this by hand and with a regular ol’ oven.  Or, you know, go kill yourself.

Bacon-Scallion Bread

Go Get:
1 3/4 cups water
1 Tablespoon active, dry yeast
5 3/4 cups flour (I use a mix of white whole wheat and white, but I’ve also done all wheat and all white with good results)
3 Tablespoons creamed honey
1/4 cup butter or oil
1 Tablespoon salt
12 oz. bacon (measured before cooking), cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 Tablespoon dried onion flakes (NOT onion powder!)

Go Do:
Place all ingredients in the bread machine in the following order: liquids on the bottom, dry ingredients on the top, ending with yeast.  Hold the bacon and scallions back for now.  Close the machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting it to basic (for white) or wheat (for wheat and wheat-blended doughs), with light crust color.  Start the machine.  Keep an eye on it during the first knead to make sure it isn’t too sticky or too dry.  Towards the end of the first kneading cycle, add the bacon and onion.  If they’re not mixing in very well, try adding a teaspoon or two of flour to aid the incorporation process.  If it still doesn’t work, remove the dough, knead in the mix-ins by hand, and return it to the machine.  But with a little patience, the machine should do it just fine.

To make this dough by hand, start with warm water, and let the yeast sit in it with the honey for about ten minutes.  Slowly incorporate the butter or oil, then the flour, then the salt (adding salt directly to yeast can sometimes kill it or inhibit the bread’s rise), and then the bacon, scallions, and dried onion.  Knead until smooth, about five minutes, form it into a ball, and place it in an oiled bowl under a light towel to rise until doubled, about an hour.  Punch it down, knead it for another minute, then form it into two small loaves on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Cover it with a towel and let rise until doubled again, about 40 minutes to an hour.  When almost doubled, preheat the oven to 400F.  Right before placing them in the oven, slash the tops maybe a half-deep with a very sharp knife, about two slashes per loaf, and place them in the oven.  Sometimes I bake my loaves with a pan of water on the rack underneath (to keep the top from drying out before the “puffing” is complete), but you could also just spritz the loaves with a bit of water after you slash them.  Bake until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped (usually 25-30 minutes for me).

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