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Archive for January, 2014

Several years ago we dined in a lovely bistro in the heart of the financial district downtown Toronto called Forte Bistro and Lounge. JT had read about Chef Greg Argent in one of our foodie magazines and he knew right away we had to experience his cooking! Sadly, the restaurant is no longer around but the delicious memories of Chef Argent’s cuisine still lingers on.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

One such dish was the unique French Onion Soup Dumplings ($11): a tender pasta dumpling filled with braised veal broth and gruyère cheese; what made this tasty dumpling so unusual was the surprise of the explosion of veal glacé that would fill you mouth with flavour after biting into the tender pasta, immediately reminding you of French Onion Soup! I have tried many times to recreate this wonderful dish without success and then Chef Argent revealed his ‘secret’ when I asked how he does it. Today I will share with you the secret of the tasty, unassuming little dumpling, but you must swear never to speak of it again! Although the recipe is laborious, I urge you to make a batch to serve as an amuse bouche or little hors d’œuvres at your next Super Bowl party (you may freeze uncooked dumplings on a parchment lined sheet lightly dusted with flour and then put them into a zip-lock bag), you will not only thank me for the wonderful compliments your lucky guests bestow upon you, you may even wish to send me gifts! 😉

Did you figure out the 'secret'?

Did you figure out the ‘secret’?

French Onion Soup Pillows

makes 60 single bite pillows

Ingredients for the broth:

  • 0.5 kg (about 1 pound) Beef bones or oxtail bones
  • 130 g (about 4.5 oz) sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp merlot salt (from my friend Kristy at Eat, play, love; our family food adventures)
  • 600 mL water, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry
  • 3 g (a scant teaspoon) powdered gelatine (agar agar will not work here)
  • 1 cup caramelized onions (please click here for a great recipe)
  • Home made pasta dough or 60 square won ton wrappers (for a great pasta dough recipe, please check out Chicago John’s kitchen)
  • Gruyère cheese to garnish

Directions for the broth:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F 177°C. Put a 11.5 cm x 21.5 cm (4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) metal loaf pan into the freezer.
  2. Sear the beef bones well on high heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with 1 tbsp cooking sherry or port. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for a minute or so on the residual heat from searing. Spread the onions out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef bones to the pan and nestle into the onions, add the merlot salt, bay leaf and 300 mL water. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated, top up as needed.
  3. Remove pan from oven and remove tin foil. Add an additional 200 mL water and boil on the stove top until liquid is reduced to about 150 mL (about 5 oz). Strain through a fine sieve and press as much liquid out of the cooked onions as possible.
  4. Set aside about 60 mL (1/4 cup) of the stock and cool. Keep the remainder stock on a soft boil.
  5. Stir the gelatine into the cooled stock until melted. Add the boiling stock and stir well. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into the super cooled loaf pan. Refrigerate until set.
FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1960

You can develop a little assembly line to speed up the process!

An unexpected, rich, delicious soup explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

An unexpected, rich, delicious broth explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

Directions for assembling the pillows:

  1. Roll out the pasta dough to #4 thickness on the Kitchenaid Pasta roller (less than 1 mm or 0.125 inch). Using a 6-7cm (2.5″ -2.75″) oval cookie cutter, cut out the ovals to make both sides of the pillows.
  2. Remove the jelled broth from the fridge and cut into 0.5-1cm (0.25″-0.5″) rectangles.
  3. Onto each oval, more or less centred, add one jelled broth rectangle and about 1/4 tsp caramelized onion. Wet your finger and run a wet bead along the outer edge of the pasta oval. Turn up both sides of the oval and squeeze the edges together to bind — you don’t want these pillows to burst open when boiling.
  4. Lightly flour a parchment lined baking sheet and add each finished pillow to it so as not to touch each other. Freeze and bag frozen pillows into a zip lock bag or container. Use as many as needed.
  5. Bring an appropriate  amount of salted water to a boil. Add frozen pillows and boil until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a clean dish cloth to drain off water. Present on a Chinese soup spoon and garnish with a small amount of finely grated gruyère cheese. Brûlée the cheese until it is golden and crispy. Serve immediately.
FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1950

The Brûléed Gruyère cheese taste just like the burnt bits on a French Onion soup bowl.

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Last fall we had my lovely niece and her beaux for the weekend; Laura recently graduated from Western University with her degree in Law and she is articling in Toronto. I wanted to make a traditional Hungarian dinner because they had never had Hungarian food. I had intended to follow the recipe verbatim, but I just couldn’t help myself and did end up changing it a slight bit. The result was wonderful and JT thought I finally got it right, the way he remembered my dear Mom to make this tasty dish. The original recipe is from Ilona Horváth’s “The Traditional Hungarian Kitchen” cookbook, published originally in 1996.

Although this recipe takes 2-3 days to prepare, there is little kitchen time as most of it is in the marinade. The finishing is relatively easy. The original recipe was made entirely in a dutch oven but I’ve modified it to a slow cooker because I was not able to be at home the day we wanted to have it. The gravy is a tangy, creamy gravy balanced with the addition of caramelized sugar, but it is NOT SWEET. The julienned carrots and parsnips add texture and natural sweetness. The meat comes out fork tender and you really don’t even need a knife to eat it.

HungarianVadasHus_1176

The tangy gravy goes perfectly with the sweet carrots and parsnips. Sorry the photo is so hot, it was night when I shot this.

Vadas Hus; Hungarian Wild Meat revisited

Serves 4-6. This recipe takes 2-3 days to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 800 g (1 3/4lb) eye of round or good stewing beef, whole
  • 50 g  bacon (pancetta works)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil (the Hungarians would use lard here)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 10 g (scant tablespoon) sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3/4 Non-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) julienned carrots
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) julienned parsnips
  • 1-2 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) grated carrots
  • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) grated parsnips
  • 1 small onion chopped roughly
  • 1 L  (about 4 cups) water
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Tidy up the meat by removing any excess fat and membranes. Allow to come to room temperature.
  2. To prepare the marinade, cook the carrots, parsnips and onion in 1 L water with black pepper, bay leaves and salt until half cooked. Add the vinegar and cool to room temperature. Pour over the meat and refrigerate 2-3 days turning every so often. Remove the black peppercorns.
  3. Remove the meat from the marinade and dry completely, bring to room temperature. In a large dutch oven, heat the canola oil and cook the bacon and reserve, add the meat  to the bacon oil and sear each side well.
  4. In the meantime, pre heat the slow cooker on high and add the original marinade, reserved bacon and bay leaves. Once it is warm add the seared beef and cook until beef is tender (3-4 hours) turning often.
  5. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and allow to rest. Discard the bay leaves. Strain the vegetables from the slow cooker (reserve the liquid) and add to the dutch oven, sprinkle with flour and fry to brown lightly. Slowly add the reserved marinade liquid and stir to thicken.
  6. In a small sauce pan, melt the sugar until it is golden in colour (not dark) and then mix with a couple of tablespoons of cold water, pour into the thickened vegetables in the dutch oven. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the remaining 2 tsp vinegar and Dijon mustard. Purée the entire gravy adding the yogurt or sour cream with an immersion blender until very smooth. You can run this through a fine sieve for a very smooth gravy. Keep warm.
  7. Boil the remaining julienned carrots and parsnips until cooked but there is still a slight bite to them. Strain and keep warm.
  8. Slice the meat into 1 cm or 1/2″ slices and plate over the puréed gravy, top with the julienne parsnips and carrots. Garnish with flat leaf parsley.
  9. Serve with Hungarian Bread Dumplings.
HungarianVadasHus_1179

JT loves it when I pan sear the gombocz in butter and it becomes crispy and delicious!

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I have three Indian cookbooks from which I can usually find something I want to make, perhaps with some additional guidance from a cooking site or blog. The one cookbook I bought because every single recipe had a lovely photograph! It’s relatively small 12 cm x 15 cm (5″ x 6″) which makes it even more adorable! It came with a ribbon book mark attached to the spine so you can mark the recipe you are making or the next one since it has lay-flat binding. With all these things going for it, you would think I would love this cookbook, but sadly I don’t. In fact, I have not enjoyed one of the recipes I’ve made from this book without significant changes! I should just chuck the thing but I can’t because I really like the way it looks. I know it’s silly but it is what it is.

This is a recipe I altered after having acquired a Meyer Lemon from a shoot in November and I wanted to make something with it. I puréed the soup to a smooth velvety consistency and I dressed it with a cumin yogurt drizzle with green onion slices, you could also drizzle with a flavour olive oil. The Papadams are from our trip to Chicago when Chgo John took us to his favourite ethnic stores.

Lemon Lentil Soup_1334

The earthy lentils burst with fresh, lively flavour with the lemon

Lemon Lentil Soup

Serves 2 generously (1 cup portions or 250 mL each)

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dahl or yellow lentils
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peel and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-4 cups water (depending on how thick you prefer your soup)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Shopped green onions as garnish
  • papadums

Directions:

  1. Rinse the lentils and cook with the ginger, garlic, chill and turmeric and 2 cups water until soft.
  2. Add the salt, lemon juice and rind and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, adding water to achieve the consistency you prefer.
  3. Press through a fine sieve and set aside.
  4. In a small frying pan add the cumin and toast until fragrant. Cool. Once cool add to the yogurt and mix well. Salt to taste. Transfer to a small plastic squeeze bottle.
  5. Reheat soup and pour into rimmed soup bowls. Begin piping the yogurt from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, then 2 to 7 and finally from 9 to 3. Then using a sharp knife beginning in the centre of the bowl, draw a spiral circle culminating at the outer ring (this will make the pattern). Garnish with the chopped green onions and papadums.

Print

Lemon Lentil Soup_1337

It’s super creamy and super filling

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In our neighbourhood, Bloor West Village we have an abundance (some might even say too many) of specific retailers and services in about 1 km (0.62 mile) length:

  • 36 dentists
  • 11 optometrists/eye glass dispensaries
  • 42 hair/nail salons
  • 6 green grocers
  • 8 Pubs/Gastro Pubs/Sports Bars
  • 5 Japanese/Thai restaurants!

So when Sushi 2Go opened a restaurant in the Village we were surprised! Sushi 2Go is a relatively small chain of Japanese Restaurants all over the GTA, in fact there is another one about a kilometre (0.62 miles) away. There are a few high-end Japanese restaurants in the GTA but most are quick, luncheon-type places and Sushi 2Go is no different. I’m not saying you can’t have a nice dinner there, it’s just pretty simple with typical ambiance. We had lunch there a few weeks before Christmas and even though we’ve been back again, I found it a little expensive for what it was.

The restaurant is contemporarily decorated with a few Japanese touches. The sushi kitchen is toward the back and there are about 10-15 tables, not huge by any stretch. Both times we’ve been there, there were only 2 other people dining in, although there were takeout orders being fulfilled and picked up.

I ordered the Tempura Udon Noodle in hot soup with tempura ($14.95). It was quite flavourful and the tempura was plentiful, I even took most of the tempura home for another meal.

Sushi2GoTempura_1279

Sushi2Go NoodleSoup_1278

JT ordered the Sushi & Tempura Bento Box ($17.95) which was comprised of 7 pieces of nigiri, 3 california roll & tempura. It was also very tasty but $18 for lunch doesn’t sit well with me. Next time we’re going to share the Tempura Udon Soup (JT will have the tempura and I’ll have the Udon!)

Sushi2GoBentoBox_1280

Overall rating of Sushi 2Go (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Sushi 2 Go Bloor West Village

Sushi2Go
2370 Bloor St. West
Tel 416-762-0505

Monday to Thursday 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Monday Closed

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My parent’s home was always filled with the wonderful and delicious aromas of baked goods. My Mom always made bread and these were the days before bread machines! She would start the process shortly after dinner, making the bread for the following days. Mostly she would bake it when we kids had already gone to bed teasing our senses as we drifted off to sleep, but on occasion it would be in the oven while we were still up, the gorgeous aroma of home made-bread wafting throughout the house. Sometimes we could have a warm slice slathered with butter, but most often not. During the holidays my Mom made the most special bread, chocolate brioche! I can’t even begin to describe the incredible aroma that it made throughout the house. Now that bread was always cut into the night it was baked! I’ve not had this type of bread outside our home before but years ago at a Club Med in Mexico — I think the chef must have been French. It was such a delicious surprise when they served the chocolate brioche for breakfast most days.

I baked these brioche braids for New Year’s Day breakfast, it was to be a feast of delicacies, but plans changed and we had it toasted with butter. And now I have a loaf in the freezer taunting me. Against better judgement, it will likely be defrosted and eaten toasted or lightly warmed with sweet butter dripping from its crispy edges…slice after slice until there is no more. But the memory will remain.

Please excuse the winter evening photos, no matter what I do in Photoshop, they just cannot be helped.

ChocolateBread_1766

Baked and now cooling.

it's irresistible, like me ;-)!

it’s irresistible, like me ;-)!

Chocolate Brioche

Makes 3 relatively good sized braids. Original recipe was modified from Baking with Julia.

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup tepid water (80°F to 90°F)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar + a pinch, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 – 6 1/2 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 2 tbsp skim milk powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • non-stick cooking spray or 2 tbsp melted butter

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp cold water or heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Spray two large mixing bowls with non-stick cooking spray, or rub with butter and set aside.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water with a pinch of sugar in a measuring cup and allow to bubble up, about 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the milk with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the cubed butter until warm to touch and the butter has entirely melted. Stir in the salt until melted. Allow this mixture to cool to 110°F.
  4. Pour the milk mixture into the large stand mixer bowl attached with a whisk and add the eggs one at a time, add the milk powder, mixing well to combine. You should have about 4 cups of liquid. Divide into two portions of about 2 cups each and set one portion aside.
  5. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour to the portion at hand and beat on low with your cookie dough paddle for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Now switch to the bread dough paddle and add as much flour as needed (I was able to add another cup), kneading on medium low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to one of the bowls that has been spray with non-stick cooking spray or rubbed with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  6. Sift 2 cups of flour with the unsweetened cocoa and icing sugar. Retrieve the second portion of the liquid and add the sifted flour, cocoa and icing sugar and beat on low for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Add as much flour as needed (I was able to add another cup), kneading on medium low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to the other bowl that has been spray with non-stick cooking spray or rubbed with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  7. When dough has doubled in size (both the chocolate and the plain versions) punch down and deflate them. Cover again and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  8. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Divide the plain, white dough in 4 equal portions (I find a scale very helpful) and roll into approximately 16″ lengths. Divide the chocolate dough into 5 equal portions. For 2 of the 3 loaves, take two chocolate portions and one plain portion, for one of the braids take 2 plain portions and one chocolate portion. Braid from the centre to each end, fixing each end well beneath the braid to make a nice neat end. Place on lined baking sheet and allow to rest for 40 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine the egg and cold water or heavy cream and mix well. Brush each braid with the glaze and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the expansion joints of the braid and return to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. If they brown too quickly, cover browning parts with a little piece of foil.
  10. Cool before slicing. This can be frozen in an air tight plastic bag for about 1 month. Stale slices of this bread makes excellent French toast or Bread Pudding!

ChocolateBread_1763

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I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a recipe developer by a colleague from my previous position and as it turned out they needed a Recipe Tester right away! How serendipitous is that? And cool. The experience is amazing! I know I’ve talked about what it is to be a recipe tester briefly so here is a more detailed synopsis. And no, I won’t be posting any of those recipes here.

You read the recipe thoroughly with a highlighter in hand and highlight any discrepancies or things you need clarified. You ask the Recipe Developer questions re your highlights. The recipe is hashed out. Now switch to a different coloured pen. Start your stop watch, you need to time how long it takes you to prep (mise en place) and cook the ingredients. Follow the recipe to a “T” making notes along the way, there is no “a little this and a little that” when you’re testing! Once you have finished cooking the recipe, stop the stop watch and make a note of the time it took. Baking time is noted separately than the prep and cooking time; there is always a bake time on the recipe but you need to confirm that it’s accurate, one of the recipes I recently tested had to have its bake time doubled!

When the recipe has finished cooking or baking, you review it for appearance, texture and taste (yes, you have to taste the recipe!). Sometimes you are required to take a volume measurement of a product after its cooked for reference. Usually there is more than one recipe tester and the results are accumulated and assessed by the recipe developer. The finished recipes are usually for your consumption but sometimes they are just not your taste so your neighbours get lucky! My recent testing was baking sweets and I divided the bounty up between two friends who were very happy to receive the food!

Just before Christmas my Recipe Developer asked me to participate in a client tasting; I had to shop for the product, prep about 1/2 day on a few recipes and then finish cooking the recipes on the day of the tasting. We had 10 recipes in total. We cooked each recipe to its full volume and then spooned out small portions for tasting, I kept the tasting portions warm while the previous portion was discussed and evaluated. Each recipe was discussed for about 10-20 minutes and the discussion resulted in approved recipes with minor changes or complete revisions. The full portions are prepared to show the size the recipe yields for a family dinner. It’s actually quite an interesting process. Photos of the tested recipes are only used as reference. When the recipes are finally approved, the client will hire a photographer, a prop stylist, a food stylist and hopefully a food stylist assistant ;-)! The food stylist will prepare the final approved recipe and make it pretty for the photo.

I suspect that when you develop a recipe for your blog you work in much the same way that a recipe tester would work. It really needs to be buttoned down otherwise there may be disappointment if someone tries to make the recipe and it doesn’t work out. I really appreciate the detailed photos some bloggers do to show each and every step but I decided at the beginning of my blog that my photos would be only of the final product.

When I started blogging I came to realize how undisciplined I have been cooking, a little of this, a little of that; blogging makes you button down really well, measure, measure, measure and write it down — it has been a great starting point for my recipe testing. I am going to be doing more recipe testing in the new year!

But now, back to what we really eat! I’ve been making a lot of soups lately and this soup came together beautifully; the nutty roasted garlic and the earthy and sweet mushrooms were a great combination. I don’t think I would change a thing but I won’t mind if you do!

RoastedGarlicMushroomSoup_1354

The cognac butter really made the soup

Roasted Garlic Mushroom Soup with Cognac

Ingredients:

Makes 4 servings, about 250 mL each

  • 35 g or 1 1/2 cups of dried mushrooms (I used Chinese Mushrooms with the crackle-like tops and Chinese Black Fungus)
  • 2 cups water
  • About 1/4 cup of puréed roasted garlic (1 head)
  • 3-4 tbsp EVOO
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 85 g or 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 200 g (2 cups) Fresh Cremini and Shitaki Mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 fresh thyme branches
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp cognac
  • 2-4 fresh finely sliced Cremini and Shitaki mushrooms for garnish.

Directions:

  1. Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water (about 2-4 hours). Drain through a fine sieve and reserve the drained liquid. Chop mushrooms finely.
  2. Roast 1 head of garlic in a small ramekin with about 4 tbsp EVOO and sea salt, about 45 minutes at 350°F. Cool and remove the softened cloves and the olive oil and set aside.
  3. Sauté the shallots in the butter until soft. Add the all of fresh mushrooms and rehydrated mushrooms to the shallots and cook until soft.
  4. Add the reserved rehydrating liquid and 2 additional cups of water. Add the thyme and lemon zest and bring to a boil.
  5. Using your immersion blender, blend until very smooth, add the roasted garlic cloves and roasting EVOO. You may wish to press it through a fine sieve so that it is silky smooth. Set aside until you are ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, reheat the velvety smooth soup.
  7. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a frying pan, add the remaining sliced Cremini and Shitaki and sauté until soft. Remove from heat and add the 2 tsp cognac and stir well.
  8. Serve the hot soup in a warmed rimmed soup bowl, garnished with the softened mushrooms and drizzled with the cognac butter.
RoastedGarlicMushroomSoup_1353

There is no cream in this lovely soup

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Pretzel Bread

I’ve noticed lately that most of our grocery stores are now carrying a variety of extraordinary breads, from focaccia made from an authentic Italian recipe that uses an enormous volume of olive oil to various egg, grain and nut breads; recently I’ve also noticed something I hadn’t seen before, a very beautiful Pretzel Bread! Now pretzel bread has a chewy texture and a salty finish on its chewy crust. It’s a lovely dense bread (if you love egg bread than you will love pretzel bread) that works well as hamburger buns and sandwiches! We’re going to use it for a cheese fondu! I’ve also seen this type of boule used as a soup bowl…perhaps another time!

I scanned the internet for a recipe and came across one from Fleischmann’s yeast that I rather liked, so I made it the first time verbatim and then the second time I made a few adjustments because I wasn’t entirely happy with the first result. There just wasn’t enough liquid to soak up the flour they claimed to need no matter how much I kneaded! My first dough was a little stiff. With some minor adjustments I present to you the slightly modified recipe but please pop on over to the original recipe here.

PretzelBread_1825

This is the first batch I made, the bread was not soft enough to open too much. The finished texture was OK though.

Originally, pretzel bread is boiled in a water and Food Grade Lye solution, but that just seemed a little too dangerous for my taste so I opted to use baking soda instead. Many recipes range for a few tablespoons to 3/4 cup of baking soda which is the most I’ve seen on-line. I’ve even seen some recipes bake the baking soda, but that seemed like too much work! The baking soda or lye creates Maillard reaction which causes the proteins and the sugars react in a certain way that allows the bread to brown at high temperatures much more easily than by just baking; boiling it first gives this bread its signature chewy crust. This bread turned a most beautiful reddish brown colour that normal baking would not have resulted! I was very pleased indeed! The dough comes together very easily and doesn’t take an exorbitant amount of time. Proofing is just 1 hour! Baking is even less! The results are worth the effort. I must warn you though, it’s a good workout if you don’t have a stand mixer, the recipe says to knead for 8-10 minutes and they are not kidding!

PretzelBread_1830

Second attempt: The boules are not huge, so plan on having two on hand for a dinner party.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Proofing Time: 60 minutes
Boiling Time: per loaf, 2 minutes
Baking Time: 25 to 27 minutes

Pretzel Bread 

Original recipe from Fleischmann’s yeast

PretzelBread_1831

This one opened up nicely.

Makes: 2 (18 cm or 7-inch) loaves or 8 rolls (I will make the rolls for soup bowls another time). For slider buns, form 50 g balls of dough to make 19 buns.

Ingredients for Dough:

  • 1 1/2 to 3/4 cups milk (I increased the milk because the original dough was too tough and not soft as indicated in the instructions, but it will change depending on how humid the day is)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp bread machine yeast (I prefer to use this because it dissolves faster)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I found 3 cups in the winter months was enough to produce a soft, sticky dough)

Ingredients for the Boiling Solution:

  • 2.8 L or 3 quarts water
  • 3/4 cup baking soda

Ingredients for the Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

  1. Warm the milk and butter to 37.7°C – 43°C (100°F-110°F); the butter will not completely melt.
  2. In the large mixing bowl of your stand mixer, combine the warm milk with room temperature yeast and brown sugar. Stir in the salt and 2 cups flour and beat for 3 minutes (I used my cookie dough blade on my stand mixer, the first time I tried the whisk attachment and it was too sticky).
  3. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough (I added 1 additional cup, 3 cups in total).
  4. Knead for 8-10 minutes in your stand mixer using the dough hook until smooth and elastic.
  5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 204°C (400°F)
  7. Combine boiling solution and bring to a boil.
  8. Punch the dough down and divide into 2 equal portions.
  9. Form each portion into a tight, smooth ball (this will be the shape of your final bread, so if you want more of an oval roll, shape accordingly).
  10. Boil each portion in the solution for a total of 2 minutes; start with the top side down and then flipping it over after 1 minute, top side up.
  11. Remove the dough portions from the pot using a slotted spoon and place on a greased baking sheet (I lined my sheet with parchment). Allow to dry off for a bit (a minute or so).
  12. Brush with the egg wash and cut a cross in the top, make sure you insert blade about 2 mm (1/8″) into the dough.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes at 204°C (400°F), then reduce the temperature to 177°C (350°F) and bake an additional 8-10 minutes until the loaves are evenly browned, you want a nice dark reddish-brown colour and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
  14. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
PretzelBread_1832

May I cut you a slice or two?

PretzelBread_1828

A delightful chewy texture.

I posted this in January’s Growing Edge group post. Please check it out here.

our-growing-edge-banner

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Happy Monday everyone! I don’t know about you, but despite all of the weather related issues we had at the beginning of the holidays, they turned out to be lovely. And with temperatures plummeting to the high minus teens, it’s rather wonderful to have power back! I believe that now power has been restored to everyone in Toronto, thank goodness!

2013 was a year of change in a good way. I celebrated a benchmark birthday (I still can’t believe I’m THAT old!). My almost ten years of working with my dear friend came to an end and I decided to embark on a new career path in food! Little did I know that way back in 2007 when I began blogging it would eventually redirect my career path! I’m really pumped about 2014 and all of the opportunities it will bring! Happy New Year indeed!

As you WordPress users are already aware, WP sends us a synopsis of the stats at the end of every year. Even though i see my stats day to day, this synopsis still surprises me! My humble little blog was viewed 51,000 times in 2013, can you believe it! And for whatever reason December 24th garnered a healthy 728 views (I still can’t figure out why!). Here’s a quick review.

The five most popular posts were:

  1. Titanic Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
  2. Quinoa Energy Bars
  3. Best Beef Tenderloin Ever
  4. Super Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
  5. Titanic Dinner Party Invitations

The lovely ladies and gentlemen who were my top five commenters:

  1. Maria at A_Boleyn
  2. Sissi at With a Glass
  3. Norma at Garden to Wok
  4. Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella
  5. Charles at Five Euro Food

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and kind words, without you this blog would be a meaningless collection of recipes floating about in cyberspace. Thank you for you support and encouragement, I can’t express how much it means to me.

May 2014 bring you all joy, health and all the best wishes!

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On Monday you may have noticed two posts went live at the same time; it wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did! Doesn’t matter how many times I checked it! Sigh.
Happy New Year dear readers. I hope you enjoyed bringing in 2014 with gusto and good eats! We entertained long time friends over a quiet trivia-filled evening. We served Tapas style food in the living room in front of our ever-so-quickly drying out Christmas tree and wood fire in the fireplace. This was the menu:
Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Roll-ups
• Lobster Tails with Drawn Garlic Butter
Smoked Salmon Mousse in Cucumber Cups
• California “Sushi” Slice (recipe below)
• Cheese Plate, Cranberry Sauce, Chestnut, Mushrooms & Cognac Pâté
• Fruit plate of grapes, strawberries and chocolate.

In early December we hosted a pot luck dinner party with our Trivial Pursuit Cottage friends. The three couples brought various components for a delicious meal and we thoroughly enjoyed everything; there was a delightful butternut squash soup, our contribution of the Guinness Stew with butter biscuits and last but not least, an enormous and decadent baked raspberry cheesecake! It was totally delicious and gluttonous. The hors d’œuvres was a beautifully presented smoke salmon sushi square with wasabi mayo and capers which really made me want to recreate it for New Years Eve. Because I’m already using smoked salmon for another tapa, I decided to reinvent it. It’s easy to assemble and the presentation has a lot of bang for the buck, and it tastes lovely too!

CaliforniaSushiSlice_1776

The small amount of wasabi really packs a punch in the mayo.

California Sushi Slice

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked sushi rice
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 sheet roasted sushi seaweed
  • 1 avocado (very ripe) (~160 g give or take)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 110 g Flake Style Surimi (crab flavoured pollack) roughly 1/2 package
  • thinly sliced English cucumbers (use a mandolin to get thin even slices, mine worked out to 5 slices and I had cucumber left over)
  • 1 tsp wasabi (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup Mayo
  • 2 tbsp toasted white and black sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Line an 8″ x 8″ (20cm x 20cm) square baking pan with plastic wrap so that two opposing sides come up over the sides of the pan a bit (to be used as handles to lift out of the pan).
  2. Cook the sushi rice according to directions. Add 1 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar and mix well. Allow to cool and then press an even layer of cooked sushi rice into the bottom.
  3. Sprinkle evenly with the sesame seeds.
  4. In a small bowl, add the ripe avocado and I tsp lemon juice (to prevent browning) and mash with a fork. To the mashed avocado add roughly torn surimi and mix well (you don’t want huge chunks, but smallish bite-sized bits) and spread this onto the seaweed layer evenly.
  5. Cut the seaweed into strips about 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide then pile the strips into a neat pile and cut into smallish strips (I did this because it can be difficult to bite cleanly into it) and spread an even layer over the rice.
  6. Top with the thinly sliced cucumber and refrigerate covered with plastic wrap until firm.
  7. Meanwhile mix the wasabi and mayo well, set aside (add to a small plastic squeeze bottle). Arrange the sliced cucs on a couple of folded sheets of paper towel to dry them a bit (~5 minutes).
  8. Once the squares are firm, remove from fridge, lift out of the pan using the plastic wrap and slice into even slices or squares. Remove plastic wrap and plate. Dot with wasabi mayo and serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers, may be kept one day before rice hardens too much or made one day in advance.
CaliforniaSushiSlice_1772

The little bits of seaweed make it easier to eat than if it was a sheet.

CaliforniaSushiSlice_1775

Would you care for one?

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