Saturday, August 30, 2014

Baking Friday - 5th Friday Bread

We Gotcha Some Focaccia!
Do you know what focaccia is?  Or even how to pronounce it?  The email I sent to my work taste testers was titled "We Gotcha Some Focaccia" to serve as a help in how to pronounce, but apparently some folks were trying to pronounce it in ways that could have gotten them in trouble with HR....or something, but it really is pronounced very similarly to "gotcha".

More importantly, focaccia is a wonderful herby, garlicky Italian bread.  I don't have a wonderful Italian grandmother that has passed down a recipe to me, so I simply use Frugal Gourmet's recipe from over 20 years ago...
Why focaccia?  What holiday are we celebrating?  Well Friday (yesterday) was More Herbs Less Salt Day.  BUT Saturday (today) is National Bacon we are celebrating More Herbs More Bacon!!!

Bacon?  Where's the bacon, Deb?  Here.
And here.
And here.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's get back to making the focaccia.  Here's the recipe again.  The Frug gives instructions about how to mix things together, but I just threw everything into my Kitchen Aid mixer.
And kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes.
And then let it rise right in the bowl - something even the Frugal Gourmet used to do!
How pretty is that?!  I let it rise twice in the bowl before putting it in the pans that I drizzled with olive oil.

The Frugal Gourmet says that his recipe will make two 11"x 17" pans, but I wanted to celebrate National Bacon Day, so I split the dough into 4 round pans - two 10" round pans and two 6" round pans.  After drizzling I spread the olive oil out with a pastry brush.
Then I was ready to separate the dough.  It was a little bit sticky, so I used a floured surface.
And split the dough into four sections - two from about 2/3 of the dough and two from about 1/3 of the dough.
And spread them in the pans to rise.
And rise they did!
While the dough was rising, I prepared about 4 cloves of garlic by mincing them with kosher salt.
And used that to season some olive oil.
I also went out to my herb garden and picked these - basil, rosemary, thyme and parsley.  How pretty!
The basil was for later, but I stripped the rosemary and thyme from the stems and then minced everything.  I mixed the thyme and parsley, but I kept the rosemary separate so that I had more control on how much I used of it since it is more pungent than the thyme and parsley.
Once the dough was risen, I dimpled it a bit with my fingertips and then brushed the season olive oil and herbs on top along with a sprinkling of kosher salt.
Baked it at 425 degrees until done about 30 minutes until golden brown and delicious!
In order to help us celebrate National Bacon Day, I turned 3 of the 4 into sandwiches, one of the 6" rounds Wednesday night for supper for G and I, and then the two 10" rounds to take into work.  The one I made for G & I was an Italian meat and cheese that included ham, pepperoni, salami, pepper jack, mozarella, provolone cheese, some sauteed peppers and onions, basil leaves, sliced tomatoes, kalamata olives and bacon!  I repeated this same mixture the next morning for work!  Yum!!
I spread the bottom with roasted garlic humus and layered on the salami, provolone and sauteed peppers and onions.
Then I layered on ham, pepperjack, basil leaves, olive oil salt and pepper.  Look at those layers of flavor building!
Finally I added the pepperoni, bacon, mozzarella and sliced tomatoes.  I spread a pesto and parmesan dressing mixture on the top of the sandwich that you can see on the right.
I put the top on the bottom, and voila!  Sandwich!
I took the other 10" round and build a chicken and bacon sandwich that I was told was just about perfect!  Folks wanted to know when I was taking sandwich orders!

This loaf wasn't perfect...see the holes?  
Did I let that stop me?  No way!!  I layered on roasted chicken, pepperjack cheese and bacon
Then I added sliced tomatoes, more parsley and thyme and more of that pesto and permesan dressing mixture.  Yummy!
And we had sandwiches!  Happy More Herbs More Bacon Day!
My last step was to wrap each sandwich in foil and warm in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and warm the tomatoes just a tad.  One tester doesn't like raw tomatoes, but he said that I made them "less nasty" by heating them.  Ha-ha!

Another taster said that this was the best focaccia he'd ever eaten...'course it was the ONLY focaccia he'd ever eaten, but it really is good guys!  We have the 4th small loaf that we will eat this weekend as simply bread with pasta or pesto chicken or who knows?  But it will be good!

August is just about over!  Thank you for stopping by!  Hope you've enjoyed reading and enjoy celebrating the end of summer and the beginning of fall!  See you soon!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I am one.  See?

My friend, R, gave this to me at church on Sunday.  How cool is that?!  I made a comment months ago one time about sometimes feeling like an octopus, especially back when I was raising babies.  He remembered that and drew this of me.  I was so excited!  THANK YOU, R!!!

If you are a mother, especially a mother of small children, you might be able to relate to this picture.  Are you an octomultitaskopus, too?

And since a picture is worth a thousand words...

7000 – Aren’t friends just about da best?  Especially thoughtful friends who make things for you?

4000 – I think real juggling would be fun.

6000 – I like cupcakes.  And pancakes.  And big cakes.  And cookies.  And pies.  And breads. 

8000 – I miss the classroom.  Maybe someday…

1000 – When was the last time I wore pearls?

3000 – I don’t like doing laundry.  G is very good at laundry.  I like that about him.

2000 – No shame in asking for help.

1000 – Do any of my babies juggle?

Hope you're smiling!  I know I am!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Baking Friday - Cookie # 8

Mt. Vesuvius Day is Sunday!  And what better way to celebrate than with a mountain of brownies?! 

Ok, so maybe a chocolate lava cake would be more appropriate, but this is cookie week, so cut me some slack here, folks!  This was G's own personal little brownie mountain.  Isn't that cute?

 Those mountains actually represents 3 different base brownie recipes finished up in 5 different ways!  

What?  You say I went a little brownie crazy?  

No such thing.  

Our first recipe is this one from my mother – although I don’t have any memories of ever making this recipe.

The instructions are on the back - but she doesn't tell us when to add the corn syrup so I just lived on the edge and added it with the powdered milk, cause I'm crazy like that.

This recipe is rather unique, and if you like a mildly flavored cake-like brownie, you might want to try it.  If you are a fudgy brownie person, no need to bother no matter how much you may have loved my mother.  Mother liked her chocolate on the mild side and her brownies on the cake-like side, so this was just about a perfect recipe for her.  You can even tell from the batter that these are mild and cake-like.

I actually rather failed on baking these, because I forgot to set the timer plus I had doubled the recipe, so I was really guessing on the how-much-longer-do-I-bake-these question…and I did get a bit overdone on the edges as you can see.
Sigh.  Oh well, we’ll just cut off those edges and still redeem the middle!  (G gave the overdone edges about a 6, so they weren’t altogether inedible, but a fail nonetheless.)

So what to do with the middle?  How about this?
That there is a browned butter icing (my first attempt at such a thing) with an almond chocolate crunch on top.  I used this recipe from KAF for the icing and the crunch, and you know what?  These turned out pretty good!  One taster said that he could simply eat that crunch from a bowl with a spoon.  And others said that the crunchy stuff with the icing was sort of like a heath bar – pretty much my mother’s favorite candy bar, so I am pretty sure that she would have liked these!  Happy Mt. Vesuvius Day, Mother!

I will share the pics of making the icing and the crunch farther down, but let's talk about the other 2 brownie base recipes.

This one uses a melted chocolate bar – pretty standard and a solid contender, no doubt.  G asked for some Mississippi Mud Brownies when I asked him for his most favorite brownie of all time, so I had to include a MMB in the mix!  
Just look at that luscious mixture of marshmallows and pecans and chocolate glaze over a fudgy brownie!  

And then we have this recipe humbly referred to as The Best Brownies of Your Life.  No oversell there, right?  I did white chocolate, dark chocolate and caramel chips on one side and chopped toasted pecans on the other half.
And then I went even crazier after they were baked by added icing in the middle half, leaving the outsides on each end naked cause one of my tasters says that he likes his brownies plain, that he is a bit of a purest like that.

That icing pattern is sort of my stand by for brownies - regular buttercream icing and then drizzle chocolate sauce and/or caramel sauce in lines across.  I finish it with a quick drag in both directions with a spatula to give it that flow look.  Super easy for a quick fancy!

What is unique about this recipe is that it uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate.  And the method takes a bit longer.  I got a pot of water simmering...
...while I combined the butter, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a metal bowl.
Then I set that bowl over the water and mixed until the butter melted.
It probably took me a good 7 - 10 minutes for the butter to melt, but I was so busy trying not to overcook the first batch of brownies (my mother's recipe) that I really don't know how long it took.  Once that was done, the rest of the steps came together quickly.  

The jury may still be out, but I think I liked these the best.  Are they the best brownies of my life?  Not sure about that, but I definitely want to play with this recipe a bit more.

I had fun with these brownies, but I still haven't satisfied my brownie spot yet.  I may need to make a few more before Sunday!  Especially if I stop and drool over this pic....anybody else with me here?

So now for that browned butter icing.  I was afraid that I would burn the butter so I probably didn't brown it as much as I could, but I simply melted the butter...
...and then stirred it until the milk solids started to turn brown and the butter was golden or nuttier if that makes any sense.
Then I added the brown sugar and boiled it for 2 minutes.
Here is how it looked when I removed it from the heat and was ready to let it cool a bit before mixing in the powdered sugar.  
I forgot to take a pic of the finished icing, but will this do instead?
And finally for that almond chocolate crunch.  This couldn't be easier.  Slivered almonds added to melted chocolate chips...
Stir until the almonds are well coated.
And then spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Now for the feast de resistance!  Sprinkle this with a bit of Demerara sugar and just a touch of sea salt.  The recipe says to use Maldon Smoked Sea Salt, but I just used regular everyday sea salt.
I let that harden (slipped in the freezer to speed up the process!) and then pulverized it in the food processor.  Simple!

Happy Mt. Vesuvius Day!  I hope this Sunday's celebration is your best Mt. Vesuvius Day celebration EVER!!