How I Failed at CRONUTS (But Made the BEST DAMN DONUTS I’ve Ever Had) Recipes & Reviews

( Is it “DONUT” or “DOUGHNUT”?? Does anyone know for sure? )

cronutplatefull

I’ve gotten a little obsessed with CRONUTS, the half-croissant/half-doughnut creation currently all the rage in New York and London, with lines around block from the wee hours of the morning just for one little Cronut (or two, apparently that’s the limit). The recipe for these astounding creations is very well guarded, and no one but the bakers know for sure. As a result, the craze has spawned many knock-offs and attempts at recreating the recipe. I spent days researching all the recipes online (I told you I was obsessed) and narrowed it down to the two best contenders, and made them both. Here are my reviews, notes and thoughts on how I might make it more “Cronut-y” next time…(though these were truly the best donuts I’ve ever had!)

I wound up making 3 batches from the two recipes I thought would be the closest match. (I had only planned on two, but I kinda screwed up one of them and so came the third). Fair warning, these things are super-time-suckers. (no wonder they are $5 each in NYC!) One recipe came from Food52.com (this recipe was definitely inferior for reasons I’ll explain later.) and a British recipe supposedly right from the baker that makes the famous London Cronuts. (This is the one I screwed up and made twice). Both recipes are infuriatingly vague (as corroborated by the scores of irate comments on their respective pages), I suspect on purpose, leaving us poor DIY’ers in tears, throwing wads of dough out the window. (don’t do that, it sticks to everything.) I did my best to fill in the holes in the recipes, but experience is the best teacher, and so I will continue to try and perfect the Elusive Cronut. I’ll go step by step through what I did, and what I’ll do differently next time.

Step 1: Assemble the Ingredients.

cronutingredients

On the plus side, this recipe is pretty cheap to make, even if you use organic ingredients like I did. (certainly a Hell of a lot cheaper than $5 a C’Nut.)

Step 2: Dough Time.

cronutmix1 cronutdough

The Food52 recipe was pretty straightforward, just mixing up the ingredients without the butter, then chilling the dough. The Britt recipe was more complicated, and had one big fat problem. First, you were to combine the dry ingredients, then cut the butter into the flour (of course they did NOT tell you the butter has to be very COLD) You want decent bits of butter in there. The fatal flaw came when they told you to warm the milk and yeast, then add it to the mix. And guess what? It melted the butter of course, which negates the whole point of the chunky butter bits. Sigh. (this was  the “screw-up” recipe for that reason. I tried it again, this time mixing the milk/yeast mixture, and THEN the cold hard butter. Not much of an improvement but I went with it. What I’ll do Differently Next Time: Next time I’ll try letting the milk/yeast cool to room temp first before adding it to the butter-chunk dough, and quickly blending, mixing as little as possible to form the dough. At this point, all three doughs were treated the same, covered with plastic wrap and stuck in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Step 3: The Rolling.

cronutroll  cronutbuttered  cronutfolding

With both recipes, you are instructed to roll out the dough into a rectangle about 13 x 18, fold it over like a letter into thirds, and put back into the fridge to chill again. The exception is the Food52 Recipe in which you spread your room-temperature butter over the chilled dough. This step was a challenge, as the butter pulled up the dough, even chilled as it was, and I wound up ditching my pastry spatula for fingers. (and yes, I know my rectangles could use some work). At this point you are to put your letter-folded dough back in the fridge and chill again for at least 30 minutes. And take it out and roll and fold again. And then do that one more time. (for 4 total folding/chilling sessions. The final Chill Session is overnight, which I did. I will say the Britt recipe dough was more stiff and tough to roll. Vague-Alert: Neither of these recipes explained this folding and rolling process very well. I suspect there’s something missing… What I’ll do Differently Next Time: I’ll try letting the dough sit for a few minutes before rolling it out so I’m not having to push so hard. After my semi-failure at the end result, I researched how Croissant are made, and discovered that the dough is folded TWO times between chillings (once side to side, then turned 90 degrees, rolled again and folded the other way) This was not mentioned in either recipe, but I will do it next time. I will also try to make a better rectangle. I may also try separating the Britt recipe and doing the separate butter layer, just for comparison.

Step 3: Cutting and frying.

cronutcutting  cronutfry

After a day of rolling and chilling, it’s time for the fun part. Frying! As per the suggestion of a couple commenters on the original recipes, I let the dough rise 1-2 hours out of the fridge before frying. Not sure that was necessary, or even a good idea in hind-sight, but here at a mile-high, I figured a little extra rise-time couldn’t hurt. Next time, I’ll try it without the extra rise-time and see how it goes. Also, I didn’t have a doughnut cutter, so I used a biscuit cutter. Next time I’ll spring for the doughnut cutter, as I suspect they would have come out a bit crispier with open middles, and a sharp edge to the cutter should help a lot, as I suspect I may have squished the edges of my dough too much with my dull biscuit cutter. That being said, they fried up perfectly. I kept a thermometer in the oil to keep it at 350, and I used grapeseed oil, as that is what the head honcho baker in NYC uses on his famous Cronuts. They all fried up very nicely, though I could tell by the weight the Food52 recipe yielded a heavier C’nut.

Step 4: Filling and glazing

I wanted to keep the glaze and filling simple as to better judge the taste and texture of each recipe. I used a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze with no added flavor, and a simple french cream filling. I did not fill all the donuts (again for comparison sake), and some were simply rolled in a cinnamon/sugar mix right out of the fryer. Now for the best part, the taste test…

cronutsugared  cronutplatefull  cronutcut

I cut one from each recipe in half. Right away I knew it was a failure as none of them had the tell-tale crispy layers. The closest one was the Britt recipe (the one I didn’t screw up), which had a little bit. The big winner for taste and texture was also the Britt recipe, hands down. Light, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Seriously the best donut I’ve ever eaten. Whether they were glazed or filled or sugared, they were amazing. It was really really REALLY hard not to eat a ton of them. Everyone who tried them raved. My man must have eaten a half dozen (plus many “holes”). Even after he swore he would eat no more, I caught him sneaking down to the kitchen and pilfering another. The Food 52 recipe is good, just not great. A bit too dense and somehow just not as tasty. I’ll be sticking with the basic Britt Recipe, and experimenting with that one till I get it right. And then I’ll tell you how you can get them perfect, too, but in the meantime, I promise you will not be disappointed with this recipe!

Below is what I used, with a few changes I saw were needed as I made it. I translated the metric for you as well 🙂

The Famous London Cronut Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Yeast (I used active)

10 TBL Butter (COLD)

2 3/4 Cup Flour (a quality bread flour is best)

3 TBL Sugar

3 TBL Milk

3 TBL Water

1 Egg

Gently warm the milk and water on the stove (this only takes a minute, you should still be able to put your finger in it). Remove from the stove, add yeast, stir to dissolve, and set aside to cool. Combine salt, flour and sugar in food processor. Blend quick to mix. Add the COLD butter, cut into chunks, and pulse until the butter is well broken up but still in small bits. Add the egg to  the milk mixture, blend, then add the cooled milk/yeast/egg mixture to the flour/butter and quickly blend till it is just barely mixed in. Place in a bowl or on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge 30-60 minutes. Take it out and move the dough to a well floured flat work surface. Roll out the dough till it is about a 13″ x 18″ rectangle, about 1/4″ thick. Fold in thirds from left to right, like a letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees, and roll out to a rectangle again, and fold in thirds again. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. REPEAT this step 3 more times (four total). After the final folding, refrigerate overnight. Remove from fridge, let rise 1-2 hours*, roll out one last time, and cut out dough with a donut cutter (you should get 12 cuts plus scraps). Let rise again 1-2 hours.* Heat clean grapeseed oil to 350 in a deep cast iron pot or deep fryer, and begin frying in batches, about 3 at a time, until golden brown and crispy, then turn and cook the other side. Carefully remove from oil, let cool a bit, and fill and or glaze however you like.**

* I am still experimenting with the rise times, and will update when I know more.

** I will also be trying out different glazes and fillings, and will report on those as well.

…and finally, don’t forget the best part, the scraps! Fry those up too.

cronutbits

I am just a hobbyist here, by no means a pro baker, so if you see somehting I should be doing differently, please let me know. If you are also working on your Cronuts, I’d love to hear about it! Tell me in the Leave a Reply/Comments section below.

Intermittent Fasting (IF), Alternate Day Fasting & T25 Focus: My Experience & Review 10 weeks in…(Hint: It’s Mostly Good)

Empty Plate

Unless you’ve been shacked up somewhere in the Arctic Circle (heck, even they probably have WiFi now), you’ve heard of Intermittent Fasting and Alternate Day Fasting, and have seen those T25 Infomercials whilst polishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on a Friday Night. (We’ve all been guilty of that at least once). Well I’ve jumped on those bandwagons and I’m here to give you my full report.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is NOT an endorsement of any particular diet or fitness program. It is simply my personal experience with these programs. We are all different, every body is different, and you should explore multiple options and decide for yourself what plan is the best fit for your lifestyle. And of course, consult your Doctor, dietitian, psychic, astrologer, are whoever it is you trust for diet and exercise advice. (Note: PLEASE do not fill my comments section with what I should/should not be doing or negative rants. I won’t post them, fyi. Positive comments and questions are always welcome. Thanks!)

A little background on my situation. As I confessed in a previous “Beauty & Fitness” post, the Bod had seen better days. A rough year contributed to falling off the exercise wagon and lots and lots of comfort food. I decided enough was enough, so I started back on near daily work-outs a few months ago, and started researching some of the newly publicized approaches to eating I’d been reading about. (I’ve always been an avid nutrition and exercise researcher). I was looking for an easy and sustainable way to go about this. I have been, like so many of you ladies reading this I’m sure, a life-long dieter. I’m over it. This time I wanted to take the slow and safe road. No more starvation! No more weirdness! (Remember the Cabbage Soup Diet? Yikes!) I love to cook, I love to bake, and I love to eat. I love my coffee with cream and sugar (ok, Agave). I love the occasional tasty cocktail or glass of red wine (or two). The last thing I want to do when I eat out is worry about what I can order. I’m a total foodie and enjoy the Hell out of good food and want to keep enjoying it. And, I want to feel FULL and satisfied after a meal. Is it possible to still have all this and lose fat off the Bod too? I knew there had to be a way. The studies on fasting looked promising, stating fat loss without muscle loss, and better health overall. There are two basic popular approaches making the rounds right now, and I tried them both. (FYI I’ve been walking this planet 45 years, am 5′ 4″, in good health, and have 20-25 pounds of fat yet to shed)

Alternate Day Fasting at first sounded like the answer. The theory is, “Fast” about every other day, eating 500 calories (or 25% of normal) on your fast days, and eat about 125% of your normal daily calories on the eating days. (You can read more about what Alternate Day Fasting is here: http://www.shape.com/blogs/weight-loss-coach/cheaters-guide-fasting or just Google “Alternate-Day Fasting”) I gave this method an honest 2-week go. In short, I hated it. I was a big fat (no pun intended) FAIL at this approach. It may work great for some people, but the fast days were murder for me. By Mid-afternoon I felt weak, fatigued, and jello-legged. I had low energy and could hardly get through my work-outs, let alone put in a strong effort. I also found that I tended to pig out more on my eat days. Then I just felt bloated and gross. After a couple weeks of this torture, I switched to a different method referred to as Intermittent Fasting.

In Intermittent Fasting, you do all your daily eating within a small window of time. Theories on this vary, but the daily “Eating Window” will generally be between 4-8 hours, then nothing for 20-14 hours, or abstaining from food for a full 24 hour period (say, from 6pm-6pm the next day) a couple times a week. (You can read about Intermittent Fasting here: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/28/intermittent-fasting-health-benefits.aspx or Google “Intermittent Fasting”) This approach made a lot of sense to me for a few reasons, mostly because I’m not hungry in the morning. It never made sense to me that I should force-feed myself a morning meal when my body was saying it didn’t want anything, but I did it anyway as that was the prevailing wisdom. I should have listened to my body instead. I started nice and easy into the intermittent fasting with the largest eating window (8 hours), and was able to pretty quickly go to a 6-hour window comfortably. Note: I am not pigging out in the eating window! I eat pretty darn healthy most of the time, I am a vegetarian and do most of my own cooking. (One of the perks of working at home.) There was an adjustment period to be sure, while my body got used to the program, but I am really digging it now! The best part is, I don’t get hungry. I can eat a big meal if I want, and I feel full. I have noticed my cravings for carbs and sugar have really decreased, and I’m full on less food. I have more energy as well, and have no problem giving it my all during work-outs. And yes, I am losing weight! Almost 10 pounds gone so far (my goal is 3-4 pounds a month, and I’m right on track.) I have made a few adjustments to the basic program that are working really well for me. Here is what I’m doing: 5-6 days a week, I practice Intermittent Fasting. I eat nothing (I do drink a lot of water and have a cup of black coffee in the morning) for 18 hours, then eat about 1200-1400 calories during my 6-hour Eating Window. (For me, that’s Noon-6pm, though it can be any period of time that is convenient, and I don’t beat myself up if I’m a little off). This makes eating easy-peasy. I usually have one good-sized meal, then a smaller meal later. One or two days a week I give myself a break, usually on the weekends. I am a believer in the “Cheat Day” theory, in that if you have a good cheat day once a week or so, your body will not get used to a consistent lower calorie intake and slow down your metabolism. So far this has held true for me, (no plateaus!), and besides, it’s fun 😉 I don’t go totally crazy on the days off, I still eat pretty healthy, but I eat what I want and do have a treat or two. (For example, Saturday Morning Pancakes are a tradition in my house, and I’m still making (and eating) them most every weekend!) I usually consume 2000-2500 calories on these days. In addition, I always work out in a “Fasted State”, meaning I work out during the Fasting Window. This works great for me as I like to work out in the morning. The theory is, the body will burn directly from your fat stores instead of from any food you have in your system. The bottom line is, I feel good, I have energy, I do not feel in any way deprived, and this is totally sustainable for me. Yay! And speaking of working out…

T25 Focus. As of today, I’ve completed 10 weeks of T25. A little background: I’ve worked out on and off most of life, and have pretty much done it all. What I have stuck with through the years is calisthenics and weight-lifting, because they work. I have a pretty good fitness foundation overall, despite falling out of the routine from time to time. Last year (motivated by an upcoming trip to Burning Man) I completed both Insanity and P90X back to back. These are both great programs and really did work for me, but admittedly, it’s a big time commitment. So when Shaun T (Insanity) came out with T25, I was all over it. He promised a great workout in just 25 minutes, and I have to say, he delivers. I sweat more with this program than I have with any other. After 10 weeks, I feel like I’ve got my muscle-mojo back. I did get winded and struggle at first (after a pretty long break in regular work-outs, that’s to be expected) but I’m getting stronger every week and doing very well with it now. You have to put a real effort in, but it does pay off. And it’s only 25 minutes! (plus 3 minutes for the cool-down). The short time has been key for me to stick with it. When the work-outs were over an hour, it was much easier to make excuses and skip a work-out. Now, I have no excuse. I tell myself “it’s only 25 minutes!” And I get it done. I’ve only missed 1 workout in 10 weeks, and was feeling rather ill that day. I plan on repeating “Beta” (I am determined to totally keep up with the videos for every workout, and I’m getting close!) then I will move on to Gamma. (T25 has 3 sections, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, each increasing in intensity). I do plan on integrating more weight-lifting back into my routine after completing Gamma (there is some in T25, but I like more 😉

In the final analysis, it’s all mental. I’ve stopped torturing myself. I’ve stopped beating myself up when I have a bad day. I only weigh myself once or twice a month (read: no more obsessing over the scale! It’s very liberating.) I’m being kind to myself and taking it easy. No one is perfect, we all eat too much, drink too much, or miss a work-out once in a while, and it’s ok. Life is too short to suffer, and I refuse to do it anymore. Maybe a plan like this will work for you, and maybe it won’t. Explore your options, try new things, and be good to yourself, always. It’s your life, and you deserve for it to be Fabulous.

The BEST Cup of Coffee Ever…and YOU Made it! Here’s how. Plus WIN FREE COFFEE FOR A YEAR From Pablo’s Coffee!

Ah Java, that elixir of the Gods. If you’re a fellow devotee of the mighty bean, then you feel me. Life is simply too short for a crappy cup of coffee. But there is hope. You can actually make the best coffee you’ve ever had, yourself, at home, with just a little guidance. Not only does it taste great, but it’s also way cheaper than going to your local Starb#@ks.

Awesome Coffee 101

#1. Toss your automatic coffee maker in the trash, (or rather, recycle it) and get a French Press. I know it may seen drastic, but they are simply incapable of creating a tasty cup of joe. Why? The main reason is the water temperature. Most machines do not get the water hot enough and cannot regulate the temperature as it pours through the grinds. (It is also my humble opinion that the filter alters the taste of the coffee.)

#2 The Beans. Quality beans are of the utmost importance. Always choose freshly roasted beans. This means you may have to make an extra stop at your local roasters, but it is oh so worth it, trust me. No more stale old bags of grocery store coffee for you! Always get whole bean coffee, and grind it yourself, right before you brew. Buy only a pound at a time (unless you have a huge coffee-swigging family) and store your beautiful beans in an airtight container, no need to freeze them. (Denver-Alert! See below for my favorite source of great beans, and how to get them at a big discount! For you out-of-towners, they ship, too)

#3 The Grind. The most important purchase you can make for great tasting coffee is a burr grinder. Be sure and grind your beans fresh, right before you make your morning cup. Why a burr grinder? Frankly, blade grinders suck. They provide an inconsistent grind, and tend to over-heat and even burn the beans. The more even the grind, the better the coffee. I know, burr grinders are more expensive, but essential. You can find good deals on them used on Ebay, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll find a good one at the thrift store for $7.99…

#4 Good water. Use filtered water, it really does make a difference.

Now that you have the Awesome Coffee Basics, let’s get brewing…

First, gather what you need. French Press, fresh beans, burr grinder, filtered water, tablespoon measure, and a timer. (there are fancy coffee timers out there, but a decent kitchen timer will do the trick)

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Start your water to boil on the stove, then grind your beans in your burr grinder. Be sure and double-check that it is set to the “french press” setting.

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Measure about 8 tablespoons of fresh grounds for a typical 32 oz French Press. (you can adjust this to your taste)

coffeegrounds

When your water starts boiling, turn off the burner and let it sit for just a second. Don’t pour boiling water over the grounds. (and don’t let it sit longer than a few seconds or it will cool off too much). Pour the hot water steady, slow and even to fully saturate the grounds. Don’t fill to the top, but to the bottom of the “ring” on the press. (Otherwise you’ll just make a big mess when it’s time to plunge).

coffeewater  coffeesit

Start your 4-minute timer. After about a minute, stir it gently and put the top on. Don’t push the plunger down just yet, you have 3 minutes to go…

coffeetimer  coffeestir

At four minutes, it’s time to push down the plunger. Move slow and steady until it reaches the bottom.

coffeeplunge

Now it’s time to pour and enjoy your delicious coffee however you like. (I like it with a little agave and half n half, my man drinks it black) Be sure and pour right away, don’t let your coffee sit in the press or it will turn bitter. If you are not planning to drink it all right away, pour the extra into a carafe to keep it warm.

coffeepour  coffeedone

Now it’s time for our DENVER-ALERT! The Best Beans in Town (in my opinion) at the Best Price. PABLO’S. Pablo’s has two Denver locations, one at 6th and Corona, and the newest location at 13th and Pennsylvania. I’ve been getting all my beans there for about 3 years now. Both locations sell their awesome fresh-roasted beans, roasted daily less than a mile away. (www.pabloscoffee.com)

Here’s the Secret to getting a great deal on beans at Pablo’s. Two things. One, Tuesday is 20% off pound o’ beans day. That makes it about $12 instead of the usual $14 for a full pound of bean-y goodness. Two, ask for a bean punch card (you have to ask, they don’t have them out on the counter) When you buy 6 pounds, you get the seventh pound FREE. (they also have cup punch cards, if you just can’t resist getting a brewed cup, or my favorite, the Americano, while you’re there.) If you buy all your beans on Tuesdays (I do!) and use your punch card, it comes out to roughly $10.30 per glorious pound of beans after you average in the freebee. Can’t beat that for fresh roasted beans. They have many great varieties of beans. I’ve tried many of them and have not ever been disappointed, but I do usually go back to the Danger Monkey blend. It’s a good one, I highly recommend it. And speaking of Pablo’s…

WIN FREE COFFEE FOR A YEAR!! (Denver-area Only)

Pablo’s has generously offered an awesome prize. One pound of coffee per month for a year, FREE! (that’s about a $168 value!)

WE HAVE A WINNER!! Congratulations Anna Newell Jones! You’ll be enjoying fabulous Pablo’s Coffee for the next year, gratis! Enjoy, and thank you all who entered the contest!

NOTES: There are many other ways to make a good coffee, including the Aeropress, Chemex, and of course good ‘ol espresso. If you want to explore these other methods, try the Stumptown website for some great tutorials: http://stumptowncoffee.com/brew-guides/ or ask the folks at Pablo’s or your favorite local roaster for their recommendations. For good notes on methods and equipment, check out : www.home-barista.com and www.coffeegeek.com

Disclaimer: Marie Vlasic and the Year of Living Fabulously are receiving NO COMPENSATION from Pablo’s Coffee for this blog or the contest. (I actually just really love their coffee). Denver has several good coffee roasters, you can check them out here: https://www.google.com/search?q=Denver+coffee+roasters

Easiest. Bread. Ever. Part 2. Rustico Olive Bread Recipe. So good, even you won’t believe you baked it…

olivebreadsliced

Rustico Olive Bread – Baked, Sliced, and Ready to Devour

 

(adapted from the New York Times No-Knead Bread Recipe)

I’ve been making the Simple Bread Recipe for months now, and wanted to try some new versions. I made this Rustic Olive Bread last weekend, and it came out fantastic! Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 Cups Bread Flour, plus extra for dusting
1 Cup Wheat Bread Flour
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast (yes, only 1/4 tsp!)
1/2 cup Sliced Pitted Olives, preferably Greek or Sicilian
1/2 tsp Salt
Cornmeal
A cotton kitchen towel (no terry cloth, or you’ll have a huge mess on your hands!)
(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf)

The actual labor on this bread is about 30 minutes, but here’s the rub: it has to rise 12-18 hours. I usually mix it up in the afternoon, let it rise over night, then finish it the next morning. You just have to plan ahead a tad.

olivebreadolives

Olives Sliced and Ready to go in the Mix

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups tepid water (about 115-120 degrees), 1/2 cup sliced olives, (I used a combination of Greek & Sicilian Olives from the Whole Foods Olive Bar, and sliced them myself) and here’s my big secret, add about a Tablespoon of the oily olive water. (If you choose not to do this, up the water to 1 5/8 cup and the salt to 1 tsp) Mix the ingredients together until the all the dough is incorporated and it looks “shaggy”. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (70 degrees-ish) undisturbed for 12-18 hours.

olivebreadmixed

Mixed and Ready to Rest for 12-18 Hours

olivebreadbubbly

Doubled in Size and Bubbly after Rising

2. When the surface of the dough is all bubbly, you’re ready for the next step. Lightly flour a work surface (I use a large wood cutting board) and roll the dough out onto it, and sprinkle it with more flour. Roll the dough over on itself a couple times, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit about 15 minutes.

3. Using enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, gently roll the dough into a ball (don’t get too crazy, just a ball-ish shape is good enough) Now coat the towel really, really well with the cornmeal (regular flour works as well. I like to use a combination of both flour and cornmeal) Place your dough ball on the towel, coat with some more of the flour and/or cornmeal. Cover with another towel (or if the towel is large, fold it loosely over the dough) and let it rise for 2 more hours. I find it easier to then put the towel full of dough in a large pot, preferably the one you are going to bake in. (you’ll see why in a minute) When the dough has about doubled in size it’s ready to bake.

olivebread2ndrise

After Second Rising, Ready to Bake

olivebreadreadytobake

Going in the Oven…

4. About a half hour before your dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 450. Now here you have two options. Option 1: Place whatever you are going to bake the bread in the oven and heat it up. (use a heavy baking dish or pot. Cast iron. enamel, pyrex or ceramic) When the oven reaches temperature, just slide your hand under the dough and flop it over into the pot. It’s ok if goes in messy, just shake a bit to straighten it out, and it will straighten out the rest of way as it bakes. Option 2: Just pull the towel out and flop the bread gently back into the pot it was rising in. Honestly, I have done this both ways, (pot pre-heated and not) and I see very little difference. Cover the pot with it’s lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until loaf is nicely browned. Remove the loaf from the pot and let cool for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack. (this is the hard part, it smells so good you’ll want to dig right in! But your loaf is still baking on the inside, so let it cool)

olivebreadbaked

Cooling on the Rack – Golden Brown Deliciousness

olivebreadsliced

Rustico Olive Bread – Baked, Sliced, and Ready to Devour

Note: This recipe works great even at altitude, and I find up here at mile-high I do need to bake for the full hour. Things just take a little longer up here.

* Depending where you buy your flour, your olive loaf will cost $1-about $1.50 a loaf. I buy organic flour at Costco in bulk and the biggest yeast I can find, so my loaves are on the cheaper side.

Easiest. Bread. Ever…A Simple Bread Recipe that will make you look like a Hero. Or at least, a baker.

Easiest. Bread. Ever.
(adapted from New York Times No-Knead Bread Recipe)
breadsliced
When I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical. No kneading? Seriously? But it’s true. It’s simple, easy, and delicious. Not to mention, costs about .50 a loaf* The same loaf at Whole Foods would cost you about $4.50. Make it, and you’ll look like a hero.

Ingredients:
3 Cups Bread Flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast (yes, only 1/4 tsp!)
1 1/4 tsp Salt
Cornmeal
A cotton kitchen towel (no terry cloth, or you’ll have a huge mess on your hands!)
(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf)

breadingredients

The actual labor on this bread is about 30 minutes, but here’s the rub: it has to rise 12-18 hours. I usually mix it up in the afternoon, let it rise over night, then finish it the next morning. You just have to plan ahead a tad.

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 5/8 cup tepid water (about 115-120 degrees). Mix the ingredients together until the all the dough is incorporated and it looks “shaggy”. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (70 degrees-ish) undisturbed for 12-18 hours.

breadmix1 breadmix breadcovered

2. When the surface of the dough is all bubbly, you’re ready for the next step. Lightly flour a work surface (I use a large wood cutting board) and roll the dough out onto it, and sprinkle it with more flour. Roll the dough over on itself a couple times, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit about 15 minutes.

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3. Using enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, gently roll the dough into a ball (don’t get too crazy, just a ball-ish shape is good enough) Now coat the towel really, really well with the cornmeal (regular flour works as well. I like to use a combination of both flour and cornmeal) Place your dough ball on the towel, coat with some more of the flour and/or cornmeal. Cover with another towel (or if the towel is large, fold it loosely over the dough) and let it rise for 2 more hours. I find it easier to then put the towel full of dough in a large pot, preferably the one you are going to bake in. (you’ll see why in a minute) When the dough has about doubled in size it’s ready to bake.

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4. About a half hour before your dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 450. Now here you have two options. Option 1: Place whatever you are going to bake the bread in the oven and heat it up. (use a heavy baking dish or pot. Cast iron. enamel, pyrex or ceramic) When the oven reaches temperature, just slide your hand under the dough and flop it over into the pot. It’s ok if goes in messy, just shake a bit to straighten it out, and it will straighten out the rest of way as it bakes. Option 2: Just pull the towel out and flop the bread gently back into the pot it was rising in. Honestly, I have done this both ways, (pot pre-heated and not) and I see very little difference. Cover the pot with it’s lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until loaf is nicely browned. Remove the loaf from the pot and let cool for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack. (this is the hard part, it smells so good you’ll want to dig right in! But your loaf is still baking on the inside, so let it cool)

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Note: This recipe works great even at altitude, and I find up here at mile-high I do need to bake for the full hour. Things just take a little longer up here.

* Depending where you buy your flour, your loaf will cost .50-about $1 a loaf. I buy organic flour at Costco in bulk and the biggest yeast I can find, so my loaves are on the cheaper side.

Happy Cinco De Mayo! It’s Fresh PALOMA Time! Here is my Own Personal Recipe…

Did you know the most popular tequila drink in Mexico is NOT the Margarita but the Paloma? The Paloma (Spanish for “dove”, thank you Wikipedia) is a tequila-based cocktail, usually prepared by mixing tequila with a grapefruit-flavored soda and served on the rocks with a lime wedge. Well, I’m not a soda gal, but I do love fresh grapefruit juice. I was first sold on this cocktail at Pinche Taqueria here in Denver on York & Colfax (they have a killer Happy Hour 3-6pm, and their fresh delicious Palomas are only $3!) and loved it so much I played with the drink at home and came up with my own version (sans soda). I call it La Paloma Fantasía. (the Fancy Paloma)

Note: To Salt or not to SaltSalt is always optional, but if you’re a salty-type, just rub a grapefruit wedge around the rim of your glass and dip the damp rim in margarita or kosher salt. Also, I don’t believe in exact measurements for cocktails, you should always adjust to your taste…

La Paloma Fantasía

A LARGE chilled glass (I don’t fool around with tiny cocktails)

1/3 cup FRESH-squeezed grapefruit juice (this is crucial in my book)

1-2 Tablespoons FRESH Lime juice

1 Tablespoon Agave

2-3 Ounces Quality Tequila*

A splash-1/2 Ounce Grand Mariner (my secret weapon)

1/4-1/2 Cup Club Soda (or your favorite sparkling water to top off the glass)

Combine all the ingredients except the club soda in a cocktail shaker about half full of ice, shake it up, and pour over a little ice in your large chilled glass, and top with the club soda or sparkling water of your choice. Garnish if you like with a lime wedge, a grapefruit wedge, a sprig of mint or cilantro, whatever tickles your fancy. This refreshing, delicious summer cocktail will become one of your favorites! Use caution, this cocktail is so tasty it’s waaay to easy to drink too many of these 😉

*The quality of your tequila matters. Choose a pure agave tequila for the best taste. If Patron (my favorite) is out of your budget, try Sauza. It’s a good one for the price.

Enjoy your Cinco De Mayo! I’m off to make home-made tortillas to go along with my Paloma Fantasía…

 My Fantasy Cocktail Shaker from Nambe’…

Best Bagels Ever, and Yes, YOU Can Make Them! Here’s How

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Click for a downloadable recipe PDF

Make your Own Bagels? Yes You Can!
It’s easier than you think, cheap as hell (about $1 a batch) and tastier than any bagels you can buy. Here’s how:

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Ingredients:

4 Cups Bread Flour*

1 TBLS Sugar

1 1/2 tsps Salt

2 tsps Instant Yeast (1 package)

1-1/4 – 1-1/2 cups Warm Water **

* I use Organic All-Purpose Flour. If you can buy it in bulk at Costco your bagel cost is cut almost in Half!

** Water needs to be 110-115 degrees for yeast to be happy. I use a candy thermometer. Though the recipe does not say you have to “proof” the yeast, I do. I like to make sure the yeast is good, and I think my bagels come out a bit fluffier if I proof the yeast first in the warm water with the sugar, 5-10 minutes)

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. The dough should feel stiff, but add a little water if it is too stiff or you can’t get all the dry flour incorporated. (High-Altitude note: you’ll need to use the full 1 1/2 cups water, sometimes a touch more)

Either plop the dough on your counter and knead for ten minutes, until it is uniform and smooth, or put your dough hook attachment on your mixer and run for about 8 minutes. I’m lazy, I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer.* It works fantastic. This step is important! I’ve tried skimping on the kneading time and the bagel were flat with poor texture. * I’ve had my Kitchenaid stand mixer for ten years and it still runs like a champ. I highly recommend them.

Cut the dough into 8 equal size balls, cover and set aside to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.

This part takes some practice, but you’ll get the hang of it…Take each of the dough balls and roll into a “snake” until it is longer than the width of your hand.
Wrap the “snake” around your dominant hand, overlapping the ends. Now use your palm to squish/roll these two ends together until they fuse, and you’ll have a circular bagel-like shape.

Cover and rest your bagels for another 20 minutes.
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While your bagels are resting, Preheat the oven to 425, get a large heavy pot of water boiling, rub a good splash of oil on a cookie sheet/baking tray, and get your favorite toppings ready.

Use any toppings you like. My favorite is sort of an “everything bagel” mix of kosher salt, cracked pepper, garlic, poppy seeds and sunflower seeds. Note: if you use salt, always use kosher or “large grain” salt, and use it very sparingly!

After 20 minutes your bagels will start looking puffy. It’s time to get boiling. Gently add them to fully boiling water. Do not crowd them! Boil for 1 minute, then flip them over and boil for one more minute. Be sure and time it, too long and the bagels get soggy. If you don’t have a timer, just hum the Jeopardy theme song twice, it’s exactly 30 seconds 😉
Let them dry for a minute, then dip them in your topping and place them on the baking tray.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip them over and bake for 10 more minutes, and they are done! Let them cool for 20 minutes, then grab the cream cheese and dig in. There’s nothing nicer than a hot, fresh bagel. Enjoy!

#bagels #baking

Note: Slice your leftover bagels in half and freeze. For in instant breakfast just pop in the toaster oven or toaster. Bagels also make great sandwiches.

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