Taste and see …

Pita bread & lentils April 18, 2011

Filed under: Breads,Dinner — F. Penner @ 11:19 PM
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I’ve been trying for like, 2 years, to get the spices for this one meal I had at my best friend’s house one time, and I finally remembered to ask her a) when I was visiting and b) when I had a pen & paper handy!  I decided that I was going to make it as soon as possible when I got back from vacation, because I remember it just being really really good (I don’t think she’s ever served me anything that wasn’t…).  This is going to be kind of a ‘lazy’ entry, because I didn’t measure any of the spices, I just threw them all in, then added more of whatever I wanted more of!  It’s basically chicken, lentil soup, and a whole bunch of spices.  Since I’m just one person, I made a smaller amount, so just mess around with the amount of chicken & soup, etc., for however many you’re cooking for.  I probably made enough for 3-4 servings…

Chicken with lentil soup

  • 1-2 (depending on size) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
  • olive oil
  • 1 can Progresso Lentil Soup (or your lentil soup of preference)
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • oregano
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • thyme

Cook the chicken pieces until just cooked with a little bit of salt & pepper (and I added some garlic powder too), drain the juices if you want, then add the can of soup and the spices to your taste.  I ended up adding in more cinnamon and coriander because I couldn’t taste them – the garlic and cumin kind of overpowered everything else.  I let this mixture simmer at low heat, covered, while I baked up the pita bread.  You can also serve this over rice, with or without the pita.  The pita just sops up the soup so nicely, though!  And again – since this is a ‘lazy’ entry, I’m just posting the link for the pita bread.

Pita bread from Tasty Kitchen

I was right – this was really tasty, and quite filling (and made me feel all healthy and stuff!).  I realize the picture of the chicken and lentils really doesn’t look appetizing, but it really is yummy…  You can always just buy the pita bread, but I wanted to try making it cuz I’m odd like that (I also really like baking bread – and I don’t have a bread machine, so I get to knead it all myself!  It’s wicked fun – seriously.).



Cheese danish June 5, 2010

Filed under: Breads,Desserts — F. Penner @ 4:41 PM

Several weeks ago now, I finally had the time to make cheese danish – all the way from scratch!  I’d had the recipe sitting around for months – it was in a Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I think possibly one of their Christmas baking issues – and I finally had a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do.  So I got everything I needed and set to work making the danish.  In between letting the danish dough sit in the fridge, I also made a couple loaves of bread, but rest assured that I’m not usually that ambitious – I don’t normally set out to make 2 time-consuming things in the same day, at the same time.  It just happened to work out that while I could go back and forth between the two, so I went for it!  (The bread will not be on here, sadly, although it was pretty tasty 🙂 )

So the danish… time consuming and somewhat frustrating for non-pastry chefs…  You have to blend butter and flour together, then mold it into a 5-inch square.  And the dough… I do not like sticky doughs… I’m never sure how sticky is too sticky, when I need to add that last 1/4 cup of flour, etc.  I think that having to scrape the dough off of the plastic wrap it was wrapped in is an indicator that I should have a) greased the plastic wrap somehow or b) added more flour.  I also think that I really wanted to get to bed at a decent-ish time and I might not have let the dough chill as long as I should have… so consequently I think it was a little heavier/denser than it’s supposed to be… However, it still tasted pretty good, and people seemed to like it, so that’s really all that matters, right? 🙂

Danish dough

  • 1 3/4 (8 3/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz.) sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Butter square
  • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-Tbsp. pieces and kept cold
  • 1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  1. For the dough: Whisk 1 1/2 cups of flour with sugar, yeast, and salt in medium bowl.  Place milk and egg in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.  Add flour mixture and knead at low speed until smooth ball of dough forms, 7-8 minutes. (Dough should be sticky, but if more dough is sticking to sides of bowl than to itself, add remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary.)  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. For the butter square: Mix together butter and flour and mold into even 5-inch square.  Refrigerate butter square until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.
  3. Lightly dust work surface with flour.  Roll dough into 9-inch square.  Place chilled butter square diagonally onto dough.  Fold corners of dough up over butter square so that they meet in middle and pinch ends of dough together to seal.  Using rolling pin, gently tap dough, starting from center of dough and going outward, until square becomes larger and butter begins to soften.  At this point, start gently rolling dough into 11-inch square, checking often to make sure dough is not sticking and dusting with additional flour as necessary.  Do not let butter square break through dough.  Fold square into thirds to form long rectangle, as if folding business letter.  (This method of folding is called a “turn.”)  Starting at narrow ends, fold rectangle in thirds again to form square.  You have now given dough 2 turns.  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  4. Repeat step 3, giving dough 2 additional turns (for a total of 4 turns) and chilling again for at least 4 hours.

Danish braid

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On large sheet of parchment paper, roll chilled dough into 14-inch square.  Spread filling (recipe below) onto center third of dough and form braid by using a pizza cutter or paring knife to cut the outer thirds into 3/4 inch strips (so that cuts are at an angle to the filling).  Stop cuts 1/4-inch shy of filling.  Alternating sides, fold strips over filling, crisscrossing strips over center and pressing ends to seal, until entire Danish is braided.  Transfer braid, still on parchment, to large baking sheet.  Cover braid loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until puffy (it will not double), about 30 minutes.
  3. Bake until braid is golden brown, 22-26 minutes, turning halfway through baking time.  Place braid on wire rack and brush with glaze (recipe below) while still hot.  Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Using soupspoon, drizzle braid with icing (recipe below).  Slice crosswise and serve.
Cream cheese filling (makes about 1 cup, enough for 2 braids)
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz.) sugar

Using spoon, mix all ingredients together thoroughly in medium bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.

Danish glaze
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 5 tsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Whisk ingredients together in small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until needed.

Danish icing
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. milk

Whisk ingredients together in small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until needed.


Cupcake or muffin? March 23, 2010

Filed under: Breads,Cakes,Desserts — F. Penner @ 7:37 PM
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I’m not really sure what to call what I baked tonight, hence the title…  The original recipe calls it a cake, so I guess they’re cupcakes?  Except that they haven’t got frosting, and they’re maybe a little healthier than your average cupcake, and you could possibly eat one for breakfast.  So maybe they’re muffins?  Regardless, they’re yummy :).

Today was the second rainy day in a row, which normally wouldn’t be too bad, except that we had absolutely gorgeous weather over the weekend.  I was in short sleeves and flip-flops Saturday and Sunday – it was awesome!!  And now it’s back to normal spring weather, including lots of rain.  So after sitting at my desk all day, staring at my computer and wishing it were the weekend again, I decided I need to bake something.  I realized while I was eating my lunch that I had an extra container of vanilla yogurt at home, and got to wondering whether or not I could substitute the vanilla yogurt for plain yogurt in this one recipe I have for banana bread/cake/whatever.  It’s also got chocolate and cinnamon and walnuts in it, at least in the original recipe – I changed a couple of things around…  I thought maybe making cupcakes/muffins would be better than making a whole cake – they’d be easier to freeze, share, etc. – and I’m really not a fan of walnuts (except when they’re in baklava) so I opted for almonds instead.

My revised version of Banana Chocolate Walnut Cake

adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1 6 oz. container vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-ounce) bar bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup almonds (3 ounces), toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.  Line muffin tins with 18 liners.

Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together softened butter (1 stick) and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in eggs 1 at a time until blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, and vanilla (mixture will look curdled).

With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Toss together chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.  Place about 1 good-sized spoonful (just a regular spoon) of batter in each liner – you should go through half of the batter – then half a spoonful or so of the chocolate mixture on top of that (again, going through about half of the mixture).  Divide the rest of the batter evenly on top of the chocolate mixture, smoothing the batter to cover the chocolate in the middle.  Spoon the rest of the chocolate mixture on top of each muffin.

Bake for 24-27 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

*Alternately, you can also pour half of the batter into a buttered 9-inch square pan, sprinkle half of the chocolate mixture over that, pour the remaining batter over than, sprinkle the top with the rest of the chocolate, and bake for 35-40 minutes.

After writing this, eating one, and thinking about it, I’m still not sure whether these should be muffins or cupcakes… although I’m leaning towards muffins, because then if I end up eating one for breakfast, I won’t feel as guilty!  And just FYI – this recipe (cake or cupcake/muffin) tastes better warm – the chocolate gets nice and melty and gooey.