Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pita Bread

Haifa's dad makes the best pita. We left Thanksgiving vowing never to buy them again (except from Pita Inn). This recipe is adapted from thefreshloaf.com.

Ingredients (makes 8 pita)
3 cups white flour
0.5 cup wheat flour
1.5 - 2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, about 115 degrees fahrenheit
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the water, sugar and dry yeast. Stir and let sit for about 10 minutes, until it starts to foam a bubble. Mix the yeast mixture with the flour, salt, and olive oil. Work the dough for about 10 minutes in a mixer or with your hands. Lightly coat a bowl with olive oil, place the dough ball inside coating it with some oil, and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise until doubled in size, roughly 90-120 minutes.

Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. This recipe works best with a baking stone. You could also use an inverted cookie sheet. Either way, make sure your baking surface preheats with the oven.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for about 30-60 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it'll be easier to shape.

After the dough has relaxed, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with the other pieces and let rest for another 30 minutes.

Place a few pita on the stone and bake. They should puff up in a couple of minutes. Let them bake 30 - 60 seconds after they have puffed. The steam inside will continue to cook them after you take them out.

Pita can be stored wrapped in a towel inside a plastic bag for several days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Substituting butternut squash for potato in this gnocchi recipe gives it something extra and made this a holiday-themed meal in November. The sweetness of the squash definitely complimented the wine sauce and rosemary. And obviously the melted butter didn't hurt.

butternut squash gnocchi
1 butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed, cubed
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 cup parmesan
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

White wine butter sauce
4 Tbsp butter
1 sprig rosemary
2 Tbsp chardonnay
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Place the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil and salt. Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Transfer to a food processor and pulse.

In a bowl, combine the squash puree, flour, cheese, egg yolks and nutmeg and mix to form a dough. Knead the dough and form into a ball. Break a piece of dough off the ball and roll it into a 1-inch thick rope. Replenishing the flour on your board and hands when necessary, continue to form ropes until you have used up the dough ball. Using a knife, cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Make thumb prints in each piece of gnocchi so they cook evenly.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil.

Next, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the rosemary and wine, cook until the wine has boiled off, but do not allow the sauce to brown.

When the water is at a rolling boiling, add the gnocchi and boil until the gnocchi rise to the surface, about 3 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon, holding them over the pot until they have thoroughly drained (you may have to do this in batches), then add gnocchi directly to the butter sauce. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat with the sauce. Garnish with a bit more cheese and serve.

Soft Pretzels with Sea Salt & Poppy Seeds

These pretzels are so yummy that we made them twice in one week. We'll be making them again for the whole family in Ohio this Christmas. Can't get enough.

homemade soft pretzels
2 c warm water
3 T sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
5-6 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 T salt
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 c baking soda
1 large egg
coarse sea salt
poppy seeds

Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let it sit for 10 minutes until it becomes foamy.

Add 5 cups of flour and salt to the yeast mixture, and mix on low speed (still using the dough hook) until it forms a nice dough (usually takes about 10 minutes). If you find that the dough looks wet and too sticky, slowly add in more flour until the dough doesn’t stick to the mixing bowl.

pretzel dough in mixer
Pour oil into a large bowl and use a paper towel to spread it evenly. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides with oil. Cover with saran wrap or a towel, and let it rise until doubled in size.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Set aside.

Once dough has doubled in size, punch dough down (gently). Divide into 12 even portions, and let this rest for 5 minutes – this makes it easier to roll out and shape the pretzels.

Roll each piece of dough into a foot long strip. Allow each strip to rest again and then twist this into the shape of a pretzel and transfer to the baking sheet.

Once all the pretzels are formed, leave to rise on baking sheets for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 2 inches of water, and bring it to the boil. Add baking soda and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer. NOTE: Do not use a Calphalon non-stick pan to do this!! The baking soda will have a chemical reaction and cause the non-stick to boil away leaving you with poisonous pretzels. Yes, we made this mistake once and probably shaved 10 years off our life.

Transfer two pretzels to the water and poach for 1 minute on each side, and then remove with a slotted spoon. Put pretzels back on baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

Beat egg and brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt & poppy seeds.

Bake pretzels until golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie

apple pie
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup frozen solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3 1/4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For crust:
Mix flour, salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter and shortening; rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms. Mix 3 tablespoons ice water and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Drizzle over flour mixture; stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch; turn edge under and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate while preparing filling and topping.

For filling:
Mix all ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.

For topping:
Blend first 5 ingredients in processor. Add chilled butter cubes; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles wet sand.

Toss filling to redistribute juices; transfer to crust, mounding in center. Pack topping over and around apples. Bake pie on baking sheet until topping is golden, about 40 minutes (cover top with foil if browning too quickly). Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until apples in center are tender when pierced and filling is bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes longer. Cool until warm, about 1 hour. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

vanilla sugar cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 cup flour
1 egg white
sanding sugar, for decorating


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar, cream cheese and vanilla. Once fluffy add the salt and egg yolk. (Reserve egg white in a bowl for later. I stuck mine in the fridge to be safe.)

Add flour to mixer and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to an hour before rolling. The colder the dough the easier it is to roll out because it is extremely soft!

Flour a clean surface and flour your rolling pin. Divide dough into 4 sections (chill sections you are not rolling) and roll each section to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use your favorite cookie cutter.

Dust the flour off the cookies and place on a prepared cookie sheet. Whisk the egg white and brush an egg white glaze on each cookie. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake for 8 minutes and then let cookies cool for 1 minute before moving to a rack.
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