bread bowls.

I am noticing that I talk about the weather a lot — most people do, I guess. It’s the quintessential ice breaker. I admit I’m one of those people who, when uninspired with anything to say, fills the dead air with talk of the weather. I can’t help it, though. It’s not just that it’s a wonderful conversation filler with a stranger during one of those awkward moments — though that’s nice. It’s that I feel my life revolves around the weather, so it’s often at the forefront of my mind.

semolina.tough, tough dough.
risen dough.mist.
Today, and yesterday (aka all freaking weekend long) it’s been crappy outside. When it’s not pouring rain, it’s misting. When it’s not cloudy, it’s extra cloudy (or nighttime). I feel like we’re living next to Niagara Falls (minus the beautiful view and the roaring sound of the water). And because of this not-so-gorgeous weather, I haven’t been able to ride my bike, like I wanted to. I haven’t been able to stroll through farmers markets and art/craft festivals, or go to the park like I wanted to. I haven’t been able to go to the apple orchard, like I wanted to. It’s made for a pretty cranky me.

propping the oven door.

bread bowls, pre-soup.

But I guess there’s always an upside to rainy days (I’m trying to be optimistic here, so bear with me). Rainy days make it easier for me to stay inside doing laundry or cleaning all day, because I don’t feel that longing to be outside. Rainy days are also perfect for sipping warm tea and catching up on episodes of “Mad Men” (my new obsession) and “Modern Family” (our new obsession). I’ve also had time to paint my nails. It’s also the perfect kind of day for soup, which is why we made this delightful carrot and cilantro soup. And what’s better for a thick, warm soup than a bread bowl, which I also had time to make? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing is better.

view from the top.

Don’t expect much with these bread bowls, at least in the size department. They’re not your gigantic Panera bread bowls. They’re the perfect size for a cup of soup (and I can attest they hold up nicely for refills). But what they lack in size they make up for in taste. The addition of semolina makes the dough soft and flavorful, and if you’re patient enough with the process of hardening the crust, these bowls will reward you with their deliciously crunchy exteriors. You can use the insides for bread crumbs or croutons, or just use them as extra dipping devices (as the husband did… I don’t think he ever used a spoon).

carrot & cilantro soup.

Either way, they make rainy days like yesterday and today a little brighter.

Debrief:
The only difficulty I had in making these bowls was kneading the extremely tough dough (I added a little water to it to make it workable) and shaping each piece into a round ball. In shaping the bowls, I used my hands to pull the sides of the dough down and tuck them under, pinching the ends at the bottom together so the top was tight and round. The underside will eventually flatten and come together through the baking process.

Bread Bowls

Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

Yields 5 bowls

Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (or 2 3/4 tsp active dry yeast, as I used)
1 tbsp non-diastatic malt or 2 tsp sugar (as I used)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Directions:

Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix them together with a dough hook. Once the dough has just come together, pour the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes, or until soft and smooth (the dough will be kind of a pain to mix, and if it’s just too dry, add 1 tsp water to the dough at a time until it’s more manageable). Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Divide the risen dough into five pieces and form each piece into a round (not flattened) ball. Place each ball on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover lightly with greased plastic wrap or a tea towel (something that’s not heavy). Let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Uncover the balls and let them sit for 10-15 minutes to develop a tough skin. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Before placing the balls in the oven, mist them heavily with water. Bake the bread bowls for 18-22 minutes or until they’re a deep, golden brown. Turn off the oven and prop open the door a bit, leaving the bread bowls inside for 15 minutes to develop a thick, tough crust. Remove the bread bowls from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting. Cut off the tops and remove the insides, leaving about a 1/4-inch thickness all around the inside. Fill the bowls with your favorite hearty soup or chili. Enjoy the rain.

5

buttermilk parsley biscuit pie crust.

Nothing like making a confusing title, huh? Sorry about that. I just didn’t want to leave anyone out.

slicing tomatoes.

buttermilk parsley biscuit crust.

This here post is a little different. You see, I was making a tomato pie from this Web site the other day, and thought, “Hey! I like the sound of this pie crust recipe!” As it turns out, the pie crust isn’t naturally a pie crust at all, but Buttermilk Parsley Biscuits masquerading as pie crust.

tomatoes in the pie.

tomato pie, pre-bake.

So really, it’s a bread that served as a pie crust that served as the bottom of our delicious dinner. If that makes sense.

tomato pie.

I have to say, the crust was probably the best part of this whole party of food. (Of course, mayo and cheddar cheese baked to a browned, gooey finish isn’t so bad either. And neither are the homegrown heirloom tomatoes hiding underneath. But even then, the crust steals the show.) It’s thick and fluffy, unlike normal pie crusts that are often thin and crunchy and rather boring. The savoriness of the parsley/oregano/basil mixture combined with flakes of sweet butter made the dough taste even more wonderful. And with juicy, ripe tomatoes from my mother’s now-rampant garden, it was a meal to die for.

slice o' tomato pie.

So long as there’s tomato pie in heaven.

Debrief: As far as the pie crust/parsley biscuit dough goes, I don’t have much to say. It did its job well. As far as the tomato pie itself, I wasn’t a huge fan of the mayo (and in fact only used 1/2 cup of the 1 1/2 cups it originally calls for). I might use something less overpowering and fattening, like yogurt or low-fat sour cream, in place of the mayo next time I make this bad boy. We also only needed four large tomatoes for the whole pie, not five or even six as the recipe indicates.

Tomato Pie Crust/Buttermilk Parsley Biscuits

Courtesy of Ruth Reichl

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
A “flurry” of chopped parsley (or Italian seasoning, as I used)
3/4 cups buttermilk

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl fixed with the paddle attachment. Add in cold butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas. Add the parsley and buttermilk and mix until dough pulls completely from the sides. Pour dough onto counter and knead for a couple minutes, then press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan.

James Beard’s Tomato Pie

Courtesy of Ruth Reichl

4 to 6 thickly-sliced ripe tomatoes
Sprinkling of salt
Sprinkling of pepper
Sprinkling of shredded basil
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or 1 1/2 cups, as original recipe suggests)

Cover the biscuit dough with tomatoes, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and basil. Mix cheddar and mayo together and spread the mixture on top of the tomatoes. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Stuff into face.

12

parker house rolls.

Gosh, I know, I know, it’s been a while.

I’m sorry.

I have so much to tell you. I could tell you about one of my dearest friend’s weddings I was in a few weeks ago (oh, I already told you about that?). I could also tell you about going to the county fair and seeing the OMG-adorable piglets and yummy funnel cake (or you could just take a gander for yourself). I could also tell you that my wrists have decided to go numb randomly and feel tingly, and how my very sympathetic, physician-assistant-studying husband comforted me by telling me I might. Have. Carpal. Tunnel.

What.

But I won’t tell you about that.

yeast.buttah.
foamy.shaggy dough.

What I will tell you about are these amazing rolls I made last night. Finally, after a long couple of weeks of running to this, that and the other thing (which, unfortunately, is still not done, but I just couldn’t hold out on you any longer!) I was able to find a few hours in my schedule to make these rolls. I found them on Joy The Baker (naturally) the other day and knew they had to be made — mostly because she mentions wearing an apron and “Mad Men,” and I’ve been pining for/watching both lately.

bench scraper, holla!

parker house rolls, pre-oven.

While making these rolls, however, I discovered that I really didn’t have as much flour left in the apartment as I thought, so after scooping out the very last smidgens of bread flour and all-purpose flour and even whole wheat flour I had around, I officially ran out of flour. I would be shocked that I, one who bakes bread often, let my kitchen go without a speck of flour, but then again, it’s been one of those weeks. All this to say that my dough was slightly stickier than I would have liked, but no less workable in the long run.

parker house rolls, close up.

These rolls definitely evoke that 1950s housewife where’s-my-lung-blackening-cigarette-and-old-fashioned-on-the-rocks kind of feeling, and suddenly you think you should be donning pearls and curling your hair and putting on bright red lipstick and walking around in heels in the kitchen. Yeah, that won’t happen. But it sure is a nice thought (minus the cigarette, ick).

Debrief: Um, I don’t know, just that these are insanely easy to make? Be careful when pulling apart the dough into 20 equal pieces — if you keep reworking it, your rolls will turn out bumpy like mine. But they’ll still taste just as good. And just make sure you have enough flour in your kitchen — but, like I said, it worked out anyway.

Parker House Rolls
Courtesy of Joy The Baker

Makes 20 rolls

Ingredients:

3 tbsp warm water
3 tbsp sugar, divided
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup milk
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4-1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together 1 tbsp sugar, yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy.
Melt 3/4 of a stick of butter in a small saucepan. Add milk and heat until lukewarm. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add yeast mixture, remaining sugar, bread flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Add and stir in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, and dump dough onto counter. Knead and keeping adding flour a tablespoon at a time until dough is smooth and just slightly sticky, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Divide dough into 20 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange evenly on a baking sheet and cover with a towel until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
When rolls are risen, use a floured chopstick or edge of a ruler to make a deep crease down the center of each roll. Let rolls rise, covered, about 15 more minutes.
Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and brush the tops of the rolls with the butter. Place rolls in the oven 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool rolls in the pan 5 minutes, then remove and serve warm.

4

cheddar bay biscuits a la red lobster.

As promised, mama’s back on her home turf. And it feels good to be home. No, I didn’t kiss the hypothetical ground of my blog, but I did celebrate. With lard.

holy butter.vegetable shortening. rad.
whoa, a little full!cheddah.

OK, not lard, literally, but essentially its relatives. Shortening, anyone? Cheddar cheese? Butter? You bet, baby — all three in one fluffy biscuit. Butter inside and butter on top. Gooey yellow cheddar and garlicky goodness. I’m not promoting a diet strictly of the biscuit kind, but you may want to cut out whatever else you were planning to eat today once you bite into one of these biscuits. Though you’ve had them before.

cheddar, shortening and buttah.

scoop n' dough.

“What do you mean, I’ve had them before?” you ask. Ever been to Red Lobster (if not, get thee out from under that rock!)? If you have, you’ve undoubtedly scarfed down a Cheddar Bay Biscuit (or two, or three… my my, save some room for your Admiral’s Feast!). I was planning to make a side dish to lasagna for a co-worker who’s recovering from surgery, and after sifting through the pages of my heap of Food Network magazines, I found this little copycat, gasped, and thought, “These must be made.” And the rest is history (as seen below).

biscuits pre-oven.

mmm. garlic butter and parsley.

The saddest part about this whole operation is, I don’t know what these taste like, as I was infantile enough to buy only enough ingredients for one batch. Which goes to said family. Leaving none for me. I guess that’s the point of doing someone a favor. Sigh. But not to worry, I’ll be making these for myself in no time, as they certainly smell and look delicious. And maybe you can let me know how they taste, too? Here’s hoping I don’t send off these pretty little numbers only to find they taste like lard. And only lard. What a pity that would be.

cheddar biscuits.

Debrief: Though I decided to keep it simple for the sake of sparing my co-worker and his family my crazy experimental adaptations of this recipe, I wouldn’t doubt switching out the parsley and cheddar for blue cheese and scallions tastes great (as shown in this variation). Also, as I am a sucker for whole-wheat flour, replacing half of the all-purpose flour for it might not be such a bad idea either.

Cheddar Biscuits
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Yields 12 to 14 biscuits

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable shortening, room temperature
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (plus more for greasing baking sheet)
1 1/4 cups grated yellow cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk (they suggest whole, I used 2 percent)

For the garlic butter:

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet with butter.
Make the biscuits: In a large food processor or stand mixer (as you can see my food processor wasn’t big enough, thus the switch to the stand mixer), pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and pulse until combined. Add the butter; pulse 4 or 5 times, or until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the cheese and pulse 2 or 3 times. Pour in the milk and pulse just until the mixture is moistened and forms a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently knead until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough.
Drop the dough onto the baking sheet in scant 1/4-cup portions (I used an ice cream scoop for this), 2 inches apart, and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the garlic butter: Melt the butter with the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Brush the biscuits with the garlic butter and serve warm.

Extra punches: Watch the biscuits carefully, checking every few minutes after 10 minutes in the oven to ensure they don’t burn. They can very easily go from golden brown to burnt in a short amount of time.

3

wheat naan.

I know, I know, I swore I would never eat Indian food again after my month-long trip there over a year ago. But I must admit, this recipe really warmed me up again to the idea of Indian cuisine (I even had a rice and potato curry dish with it for dinner last night — egads, I am risky!).

Anywho, enough about me. It’s time for you to read my next post on Tablespoon! This time, Wheat Naan. Want some bread? I have naan left because I ate it all. Get it? Ha. ha.

Ha.

Oh dear. A happy Monday to you all.

1

blue cheese & walnut wheat crackers

Dear Ina Garten,

If ever you feel the need to invite a big fan of yours to your lovely abode in the Hamptons and fill her up with fine cheeses and wine, I wouldn’t be opposed to accepting your invitation. Just saying.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

P.S. Tell Jeffrey I said hello.
butter and blue cheesefreshly ground pepper
cracker doughwalnuts
Though I truly love the Midwest and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else for the rest of my existence, I sometimes get wanderlust to places like Greece, or Australia, or even the Hamptons. Kelly Ripa talks about it all the time; I’m pretty sure there’s some version of “Real Housewives” set there; and I wouldn’t complain about wearing the obligatory over-sized floppy hat. And, of course, Ina Garten lives there (I think — I haven’t stalked her enough yet to know for sure, but wherever she lives is magical). Plus, if I lived in the Hamptons, I would get to eat fancy-schmancy crackers like these all day long, complete with a glass of wine (which I hear, in the Hamptons, is perfectly acceptable to drink at 11 o’ clock in the morning).

slices of wheat crackers

But for now, I’m stuck here, with a cornfield instead of a coastline. But at least I can still have the crackers.

blue cheese and walnut crackers

I don’t know what inspired me to bake crackers this time. Maybe it was the wall of cheese at the co-op that fascinates me so (What a bounty of cheese! Such variety!). Maybe it was the practicality of making crackers as opposed to stollen or lebkuchen. Whatever the reason, the result has left me and my husband happily full in the hours between meals.

closeup of crackers

And, as my friends well know, a full Steph is a happy Steph.

Debrief: These crackers are very versatile. If you don’t like the strength of blue cheese, try cheddar and chives. Or parmesan and thyme. Or rosemary and… manchego, perhaps?

Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers
Adapted from Food Network

Yields: 30 crackers

Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
5-8 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (Ina recommends Stilton, but Maytag worked just fine for me), at room temperature
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and blue cheese together for 1 minute, or until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it’s in large crumbles, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until combined.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 12-inch long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the walnuts in a square on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing lightly, and distributing them evenly on the outside of the log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the log 3/8ths-inch thick with a small, sharp knife and place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Extra punches: I’d suggest chopping the walnuts really well before coating the crackers. As you can see with mine, the pieces were a little big and had trouble sticking to the sides of the crackers. They still basically stuck, but I think a coating of finely-chopping walnuts would not only look prettier, but would also save you the headache of trying to keep them stuck to the edges.

5