Cherry Walnut Soda Bread

I come from an Italian and Greek family. We celebrate a lot of things with a lot of food.

But, here comes St. Patrick’s Day. The Dear One is Irish (mostly) and can trace his roots back to Town someplace in the County something. Totally lost in translation for me.

Sadly, this is what I know about being Irish …

Irish Whisky
Guinness (Steak & Guinness Pie)
Uncle Nicky’s Irish Cream
Irish Stew
Beer
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC
LeprechaunS

I’m sure there are other things … but the knowledge is SERIOUSLY limited.

I want to make something special for the Dear One. Celebrate his heritage a wee bit.

I opened the Boston Globe and there was a recipe from Lisa Yockelson of Baking Style Diary for a cherry and walnuts soda bread. This is the ticket.

No blarney, this was fantastic and easy … and gone. Great combination of favorite flavors. This could make even the least Irish amongst us to feel a bit green on St. Patrick’s Day!

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-size chunks
  • 1 egg plus 1 extra yolk
  • ½ cup buttermilk, or more if needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup dried Montmorency cherries
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

NOTE: Didn’t have buttermilk. Didn’t want to buy a gigantic container of buttermilk for a mere 1/2 cup. I do, however, keep a container of buttermilk powder in the fridge for just such emergencies. Worked like a charm! The powder goes in with the dry ingredients and you add water to the wet ingredients. Not sure how it works – magic, I’m sure – but it does!

Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar to blend them.

Scatter the butter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two blunt knives, cut the fat into the flour until it is reduced to pea-size bits. Using your fingertips, lightly crumble the mixture for 1 minute to reduce the butter into small flakes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture. Scatter the cherries and walnuts on top. With a rubber spatula, stir to form a dense but cohesive mixture to bring the dough together. If necessary, add more buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Knead the dough lightly and briefly in the bowl for half a minute.

Turn the dough out onto the counter. Form it into a plump ball about 5½ to 6 inches in diameter. Place the ball on the baking sheet and use a sharp paring knife to slash a shallow “X” in the top.

Bake the round for 45 to 50 minutes, or until set and golden on top. Using two spatulas, carefully transfer the bread from the parchment paper to a wire rack to cool completely.

Use a serrated knife to cut into slices.

https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

Skillet Focaccia

Done

I have a go to bread recipe. It’s easy and versatile. I can make loaves or pizza or focaccia from the dough and they’re all equally good.

But every once in a while I want to change things up. Something with a different flavor. Something with a different cooking method.

When I came across this recipe I knew this was something I needed to have in my arsenal.

It’s faster to put together than my dough, has a nice crumb, and bakes in a cast iron skillet. I’ve played with the topping … different herbs, grapes, olives. The shy’s the limit. Which is cool. Oven to table.

Baked

 

for the dough:

  • 3/4 C warm water
  • 1/2 t granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 t yeast
  • 2 T olive or canola oil
  • 2 C all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1/2 t salt

 

for the topping:

  • 3 T Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 T parmigiano
  • 1 T chopped fresh rosemary

Place water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir until sugar dissolves. Sprinkle yeast over the water and stir few times. Let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes).

With mixer on low speed, add 1 cup of flour and salt. Mix until combined. Add oil and mix well.

Gradually add as much of the remaining cup of flour as you can (it may only be 3/4 of it) and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 220 F. When it’s at 220 turn it off and keep door closed.

Grease the skillet.

Place dough onto a floured surface (use the remaining flour from the second cup) and fold the dough few times until you feel it’s smooth and not sticky anymore. Shape into a ball.

Roll the dough out to the size of your skillet.

Ready to Rise

Place in skillet. Stretch up the sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the skillet out of the oven and increase oven heat to 400 degrees F. Make indentations in the dough with your fingers.

Risen

Mix melted butter, parmesan and rosemary in a small bowl. Brush the dough with half the butter.

Brushing

Place skillet with dough in the preheated oven and bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with remaining butter. Let cool until safe to the touch and slice. Serve.

Bruschetta

Done

Hello, computer, my old friend

It’s nice to type on you again

Brian fixed you, oh, so sweetly

Back on my desk, oh, so neatly …

It’s been a really long slog trying to get my iMac fixed! It just froze and died one day while I was still living in Brooklyn – it’s been dead for over one and a half years!

I tried to have it fixed while I was still living in Brooklyn. Really, I did. Brought it to the Apple store. Sadly, I have only 2 kidneys to give up and the cost would have required 4 kidneys. I found an Apple authorized dealer. HUZZAH! He could fix it for $600. Well worth it, I thought. A new computer would have cost me at least twice much. And then the phone call. Well, you see, says he, there’s far more wrong with the computer than we thought. Aside from the Logic Board, you need to replace the flaggity gimboboo and the lala hosinfeffer. We’ll have to tack another $600 onto the original estimate.

WHAT? Are you kidding me or what, says I. No way. As the time approached for me to move, I considered throwing the darn thing away. Really, it’s a planter at this point. The Dear One, so much more level headed than I, interjected and said, bring it with you in the move. I’, sure we can find someone in Maine to fix it for far less.

Okay.

And it sat.

And it sat.

And it sat some more.

Sigh …

The girls get together for breakfast quite frequently. Occasionally, the boys join us. One morning my friend Jenn’s husband joined us. I was lamenting about having to use only the Dear One’s laptop and how difficult it’s been to blog on the laptop. One, it’s so TINY. Two, it’s not mine and I wasn’t comfortable. I wanted my lovely, big, pretty iMac back! WAAAAAAHHHHH!

Jenn’s husband, the wizard Brian looked at me and said, Bring it to me. I can fix it.

It took a number of months with the summer and traveling and renting of houses and stents, but one day he calls  … he says to me … it’s done. Come and get it!

Well, I wanted to just fall off my chair!

And here I am. Back at my beloved computer, happily typing away, knowing I have a ton of blog posts to catch up on.

Please, dear followers, if you’re still out there, don’t judge the random out of order, spring, summer and fall posts you’ll read pouring out of here!

Brian, you are a genius and a dear friend. Thank you so much for fixing my computer and getting me back on track!

So, back to the Bruschetta … this may be the most requested recipe in our house. Long day, company  coming, misunderstanding, Bruschetta solves it all. Sadly, the Dear One is a little camera/social media shy. If he weren’t I would add a photo of the ginormous smile that spreads across his face every time he eats this.

It’s so easy to whip up. Even with the sins of off season tomatoes, this is wonderful. The rest of the ingredients sort of hide that flaw.

This Bruschetta was made with tomatoes straight from our garden … oh, so was the onion, garlic, and basil!

  • 1 baguette
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 C diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing baguette
  • 1/2 T balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450. Slice the baguette. brush both sides of each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. In oven until golden.

Mix all other ingredients in a bowl.

To serve, either put a spoonful of the tomato mixture on each toast or the toasts on a platter and the bowl of the tomato mixture beside it and let everyone help themselves.

Enjoy!

Yes, it’s that easy!

 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Sliced

I had the honor … well, no, privilege of starting and maintaining a fabulous cooking forum. I met fabulous women. I even met some of my very best friends through this forum, all of whom I cherish and miss as I sit here in the frozen springtime beauty of Maine.

We traded our cherished recipes, helped each other with ingredients, shared our family trials, tribulations and successes. Sadly, we mourned together at the passing of some of our members.

We decided that our wonderful recipes needed to be in written in book form and we set out to self-publish our own cookbook. What a joy it was to put together! So many fabulous recipes, everyone jumping in to help test recipes and type. 290 pages of food and friendship!

One of my absolute favorite recipes from the book is Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, shared by jerseygirl. It is my go to banana bread recipe and where all of the bananas we don’t get to fast enough end up.

Continued thanks to all of you for sharing your recipes and time. Becky, I still miss you each and every day.

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 C mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 C butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan

Combine all ingredients except chips and nuts in a large bowl. Blend well on medium speed of an electric mixer. Stir in chips and nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 60 to 65 minutes or until toothpick interested in center comes out clean.

Ready to slice

Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Pita Chips

This was written over the summer and then my computer went KA-BLEWY! There will be a few of these, so please be patient!

Ready to eat

I made hummus. Really simple process, and so much better than store bought. But what would homemade hummus be without homemade pita chips? A tragedy I tell you!

So much better tasting and better for you than what you get in a bag in the supermarket. In the time it takes you to open the bag (almost), you can have fresh, crispy pita chips!

I should note, I come from a long line of women who can NEVER put bread of any kind in the oven to crisp or toast without burning it at least twice, so I watched this very carefully, and managed to only have to do it once … even in an electric stove.

  • 3 pita rounds
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 t za’atar
  • 2 t sea salt (I used kosher)
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

NOTE: If you can’t find za’atar at your local grocer, you can buy it on Amazon. You can also leave it out and use garlic powder, or any other herb or seasoning, if you prefer.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil two large baking sheets.

Panorama

Separate the top of each pita from the bottom, so that each is divided into 2 halves. Cut each half into six triangles. First cut in half, then each half into thirds.

Transfer the triangles into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the olive oil, za’atar, salt and pepper. Toss well, but gently, so that each pita triangle is well coated.

Lay the pita triangles on the baking sheets in single layers. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Toasted

NOTE: WATCH! Check after 8 minutes. You don’t want to become a member of the I-burned-the-darn-bread club, do you?

Let the pita chips cool on the baking sheets to room temperature. Use immediately or store in a sealed plastic bag or large lidded container for up to one week.

Moomie’s Buns

Moomie's Buns

What is it about being stuck inside on cold, snowy days that makes you want to bake, and knead, and hibernate, and FEED people? The harder the snow comes down, the more you want to be in the kitchen creating delicious smelling things to fill the home. And nothing fills a home with comforting aromas more than bread.

These are super easy. Next snow storm heads your way, try these!

  • 1 C water
  • 2 T butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/4 C all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T instant yeast

Preheat oven to 375

Add the yeast and a pinch of sugar to 1/4 cup lukewarm water (100-105 degrees). Let this sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved and bubbling.

While you are waiting, melt the butter.

Panorama

In separate bowl, whisk egg lightly, add remaining 3/4 cup water and the melted butter. When yeast mixture has bloomed add to water mixture and stir. Pour mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a dough hook.

Adding flour

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar. With the stand mixer on the lowest setting, start adding flour/sugar mix slowly until it is all  incorporated. Turn mixer up to setting 2 and let it knead for 4-5 minutes. Do this long enough so the dough looks smooth and is clinging to the dough hook. Add 1 tsp of salt during the last minute of kneading.

Kneading

Lightly flour a flat surface, remove dough from mixer and lightly knead by hand for a minute of two.

Rise 1

Shape dough into a ball and place in greased bowl in a warm spot, covered for 1 hour.

Rise 2

Shape into 8 buns and place on cookie sheets, cover and let rise again for 30-40 minutes.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool on wire racks.

NOTE: Letting them cool is SERIOUSLY the hardest part!

Done 2

Bagels

 

Some of you may remember that last summer my friend Lizzy from that Skinny Chick Can Bake and I did a joint baked beans cook along – different recipes, same dish. We had so much fun doing this together we decided to try it again. The baked beans were my idea, so it was Lizzy’s turn to pick. Much to my chagrin, she chose bagels!

I have been dying to try my hand at bagels. Long story – when I was a kid (not just a kid at heart), and we had our house in Westport, the one annoying thing about the town was that every single solitary store (except perhaps Mr. Grubb’s – another story) closed at 6:00. One night my mom had a yen for bagels and none to be found. She pulled out her Joy of Coooking and got going. She didn’t finish until late, children falling asleep with tongues hanging out waiting for bagels, but they were great! Needless to say, gone in minutes!

When Lizzy said bagels, I figured I would follow in Mom’s footsteps – whoa, tooooo many steps! Off I went in search of a simple bagel recipe! As I stood gaping at my ever growing collection of cookbooks, I saw The Brooklyn Cookbook. What could be more Brooklyn than bagels? There must be a recipe for bagels there!

Gloomy, miserable rainy. Can’t go out. After the car fiasco on the Verrazano Bridge, I wasn’t driving ANYWHERE in the rain! (yet another story!) May as well make bagels. I can already hear Ernie sighing and saying “Walk to the corner. Buy them!”

 This bagel recipe was simple and fool (ME being the fool!) proof.

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 C warm water
  • 1 t salt
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 C milk
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little water, for glaze
  • coarse salt, or poppy seeds, or sesame seeds

Sprinkle yeast over the warm water, stir, and let dissolve.

Put the salt, flour, and 4 teaspoons of the sugar into the bowl of a food processor equipped with the dough blade. Pulse the mixture several times to mix it well. This aerates the ingredients.

Combine the yeast mixture and milk in a measuring cup. WIth the motor running, pour the mixture through the feed tube. Knead until the mixture balls together and is no longer sticky, about 60 seconds.

Lightly flour a large plastic bag, place the dough inside, squeeze out the air, and close the end of the bag. Let the dough rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Punch it down.

NOTE: At this point the dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Pull off pieces of dough to form 12 2 inch balls. Poke a finger through the ball, making a hole the size of a golf ball. With your fingers, shape the bagel evenly.

Put the bagels on a cookie sheet, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let them rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 4 quarts of water to the boil in a wide pot. Ad the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar. Poach the bagels, 3 or 4 at a time, for 30 seconds. Turn them over and poach for 30 seconds more.

Remove with a slotted spoon, let them drip briefly on a towel held under the spoon and place them 1 inch apart on a baking sheet.

Brush each with a little of the egg glaze.

Leave them plain or sprinkle with coarse salt, poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or a combo of all three.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Let cool on racks – if you can bear to wait!

THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR NEXT TIME!:

  1. Use whole milk. I only had skim and the dough didn’t come together well. I added a bit more, but from the processor running for far more than 60 seconds, the dough was a little tough.
  2. Bake on parchment paper. When you egg wash them, if the egg wash trickles down onto the baking sheet, the bagels stick and that’s no bueno.

This was simple to pull together and the end result was fabulous, even given the over worked dough. This method is not an overly long process. These are not really big bagels, but not as small as mini-bagels.

And my favorite breakfast on a delicious bagel I MADE MYSELF!