Recipe: No Knead Sourdough Bread

I love making bread. There’s something so therapeutic about blooming yeast, watching the dough rise and kneading the bread, and of course, the smell of freshly baked bread is the best. I have two basic bread recipes that have become fool-proof for me: my whole wheat bread, and this no knead sourdough bread, which I adapted from Alton Brown’s Good Eats. I like this recipe because it tastes like the bread we have at home, and it doesn’t require starter.

What You Need:
3 C bread flour, plus extra for shaping
1/4 teaspoon active-dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 C water
Cornmeal (if you have it. If not, you can just use some more flour)
A  4-5 quart Dutch oven or a 9×5 loaf pan, tea towels

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours (18 works best for me.)

2. After the dough has rested, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Punch down the dough and turn it over onto itself a couple of times. Coat hands with flour if needed to prevent sticking. Shape dough into a ball.

– If you’re using a Dutch oven (to get that rustic round shape): sprinkle a tea towel with half of the cornmeal (or flour) and lay the dough on top of it, seam side down. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the other half of the cornmeal and cover with the towel.
– If you’re using a loaf pan: dust the loaf pan with cornmeal (or flour) and carefully place the dough in it. Cover it with a towel sprinkled with more cornmeal. Allow to rise for 2 to 3 hours, until dough has doubled in size (I usually preheat the oven, then turn it off and leave the dough there.)

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with the Dutch oven (if used) in it. Transfer the dough from the towel to the preheated Dutch oven (this is why I like using the loaf pan. You can just skip this step.) Cover and bake for 30 minutes (with tinfoil if you’re using the loaf pan.) Remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes.

4. The hardest part – allow the bread to cool before slicing it and spreading it thick with butter and jam!

“How can you tell how good bread is without tasting it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Listen. Oh, symphony of crackle. Only great bread sound this way.” – Colette (Ratatouille)

I’m happy to say the crust of my bread crackles beautifully.


Recipe: Vietnamese Spring Rolls

After I bragged about my spring rolls, I think I owe it to you guys to post the recipe. Mind you – everything is just estimated here, because my family rarely ever measure when cooking.

The rice papers, cellophane noodles and mushrooms you can find in the Asian aisle at the grocery store. I’ve also seen the mushrooms at the produce aisle.

What You Need:
40-50 rice paper wrappers – mine is about 8-9″ across (if you live in a dry area, also have damp towels and a spray bottle on hands)
Vegetable oil

1 pound of ground pork (you can also use chicken or turkey, but it will make the filling dryer)
A handful of cellophane noodles
5-10 dried woodear mushrooms (depending on how big they are. Mine bloom out like crazy so 5 are more than enough)
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (shallots are better if you have them)
2 shredded carrots (you can also add mung bean sprouts)
3 large eggs (if the filling is too dry you can add another egg)
Salt & pepper

1. Soak the noodles and mushrooms in warm water for 15 – 20 minutes. The shiitake takes only about 5 minutes, so I usually add them last.

2. Drain, then finely chop everything (I just put them in the food processor and give it a few pulses. Works out great.)

3. Add the chopped noodles, mushrooms, carrots, onion and eggs to the pork. Salt & pepper to taste. Mix well.

4. Note on the rice papers: it’s super dry here in LA, so I have to keep the rice papers between two damp towels and spray them with water, otherwise they will curl up and fall to pieces. Put another damp towel on your work surface. Lay a wrapper on top of the towel, spray with more water if it starts to curl, and get ready to roll.

5. Put a tablespoon of filling at the bottom of the wrapper (the side closest to you.) Roll the wrapper up halfway through, then fold the two sides in and keep rolling, tucking it in as you go. Don’t worry if the first few don’t look pretty, you’ll get the hang of it.

6. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet or pot (I use a pot to keep the oil from splattering.) A trick to know when the oil is ready is stick the handle of a wooden spoon into it. If the oil bubbles around the handle, it’s ready. Put your spring rolls into the oil, tuck side down so that it’ll be sealed in and your filling won’t burst out. Fry until golden brown. Put the rolls on some paper towels to absorb excess oil.

7. Enjoy! I just dip these in Sriracha (the Asian hot sauce), but if you want to go really authentic, mix some fish sauce, sugar, fresh chili peppers and lime juice for a dipping sauce – no precise measurement, just mix it to your taste.

Note: Sometimes, when I’m too lazy to mess around with the rice papers, I put the filling in a loaf pan and turn it into a meatloaf. It tastes just as good!

Recipe: Chicken Tagine

Something different from a baking recipe for a change. I adapted this from a slow cooker recipe in Family Circle. I don’t like how the slow cooker makes everything so watery, so I just cook it on the stove now.

What You Need:
2 chicken breast, 3 chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in, it doesn’t matter) – I used 4 leg quarters because I like dark meat
2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 strips of lemon zest
1 1/4 ts paprika
1/2 ts cumin
1/4 each: ground ginger, ground coriander, cinnamon
1/8 ts cayenne (more if you like it spicy)
2 C chicken broth
1 TBS honey
3 carrots, sliced
1/2 C dried apricot, chopped (I never try fresh apricots, but I’m sure it will be yummy too)
1/4 C roasted almond, chopped
A handful of cilantro
Salt & pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Brown the chicken (in batches, don’t make my mistake in thinking that the pot can hold all that chicken, because you’re going to end up with steamed instead of browned chicken.) Set aside.

2. Add the onion, cook until translucent. Add the garlic, lemon zest, spices, and broth. Whisk in the honey.

3. Return chicken to pot. Add carrots (now would be a good time to add salt and pepper too). Reduce heat, let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Add the apricots and cook until the sauce thickens.

5. Sprinkle with almonds and cilantro (I was out of cilantro, so I used scallions for color, but it won’t taste the same.) Serve hot with rice.

Recipe: PB & Chocolate Banana Bread

I’m a banana bread convert. I know there are people who won’t eat bananas unless they’re in baked goods, but I was the opposite: to me the idea of bananas in muffins and things just seemed… wrong. Well, no more. I usually buy more bananas than I can eat, and I hate throwing anything away, so banana breads they become.

I don’t remember where I get this recipe from. The chocolate was my idea, though, it’s a natural addition to peanut butter.

What You Need:
1 9″ loaf pan
3 ripe bananas, mashed (if your bananas are not ripe enough, peel and freeze them. When you thaw them out, they’ll be nice and mushy)
1/2 C creamy peanut butter (you can substitute the same amount of oil)
2/3 C sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 ts baking soda
1/2 ts salt (I omit this and don’t see any difference in taste, since peanut butter has enough salt in them)
1 ts baking soda
Optional: 2 TBs up to 1/4 C cocoa powder, 1/2 C walnuts, 1/2 C chocolate chips (or, you know, all of the above :P)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Beat the mashed bananas, peanut butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, mix until smooth.

2. Shift all the dry ingredients together, along with the cocoa powder (if used). Combine with the wet ingredients until just incorporated.

3. Mix in walnuts and/or chocolate chips, if used.

4. Butter or spray your loaf pan with cooking spray, and pour batter into pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Recipe: Upside-down Cake

For my first recipe post, I decided it would be best if I make it a baking recipe. I like cooking as much as baking, but I cook because I have to eat, whereas I bake because I enjoy it.

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz.

What You Need:
A 9-inch cake pan, or a cast iron skillet
Fruit Layer:

3 Ts butter
3/4 C packed light brown sugar
Sliced fruits enough to cover the bottom of your pan in a thick layer  – anything you like, peaches, apricots, plums, pears, apples, or, the traditional, pineapple (I used 4 small nectarines)
Berries (optional. I added blueberries before, but they’re not on sale now)
Cake Layer:

1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 C sugar
1 ts vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 ts baking powder
1/4 ts salt
1/2 C whole milk, room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in your pan (I do it on the stove. If you’re using cake pan, just stick it in the oven.) Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Once cool, arrange the fruit in a pinwheel design, added berries if used.

3. Beat the 1/2 C of butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla, then one egg at a time, until smooth.

4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

5. Spread the batter over the fruit, then bake for 45 minutes to one hour.

6. Remove from oven, let cool, then place a cake plate on top, and flip the cake out on to the plate. Ta-da!