Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easter baking: hot cross bun bread

It's frigid here in lovely central Indiana, but I still bought my pansies to plant in my pots at my front door today.  One of those gardening rules:  pansies out for the basketball tournament.  That might just be an Indiana thing and I'm guessing when the Indiana people who follow this rule made it up, they were thinking of the storied single-class high school basketball tournament.  That's going on along with March Madness this weekend so I bought my pansies.  But it's too dang cold to dig in the dirt today, so they'll wait patiently by the sunny window in my garage.  They are joining my herbs and flowers I winter over out there.  When I pull in the garage after yoga, tennis or whatever the day's workout might be if I have water left in my bottle I pour it on the wintering plants.  I have already had my geraniums bloom.  It's a little experiment of mine.  The thyme, oregano, rosemary and parsley are doing great this winter.  But the people of Indiana, well, we're hoping that since it's the second day of spring at some point we can stop pulling out the down jackets and actually pull on a windbreaker.

But, it's great baking weather.  I'm not sure when it's not great baking weather at my house, but it's a good week to heat up the oven.  I posted a recipe for hot cross buns two years ago (!) and this recipe is a fun twist on it.  An equally good yeast dough (all yeast doughs that include butter, milk, eggs and sugar rock) studded with traditional currants and a little orange zest rolled up around a cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and brown sugar filling.  Not a tricky dough and easy to mix, knead and rise without a bread machine if you have a heavy duty stand mixer (KitchenAid type).  Start to finish in less than 3 hours, I had two pretty and very tasty loaves.  I froze one to take to the hungry children at Duke over Easter weekend, so I did not put icing on them and instead did an egg wash and coarse sugar.  Makes great toast if you can resist eating the whole loaf while it's warm and just out of the oven.  The trick to rising dough in a cold kitchen is to turn your oven on for just 2-3 minutes to warm it to about 75-80 degrees (not too hot).  Keep the door closed and then put your dough in there to rise covered with plastic wrap and a tea towel.  The first rise of the dough and the second rise of the loaves each took about 30 minutes to double.   There you go, your handy kitchen tip of the day.

Hot Cross Bun Bread

4 T unsalted butter
1 C milk (I used skim and it was fine, use whatever you have on hand)
1/4 C granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (one package if your's is not bulk like mine)
4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 C dried currants
1 T orange zest

4 T unsalted butter, softened
2/3 C packed light brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
1 egg white, beaten with a T of warm water
2 T coarse, demerara or raw sugar (optional)

icing (optional)
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp milk

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the milk and granulated sugar and warm gently to 110 degrees (test with an instant read thermometer).  Watch that you do not overheat this mixture, if you do you will need to let it cool to 110 degrees or you will kill the yeast when you mix it in.  Pour the warm milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle in the yeast.  Let stand until foamy or about 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and kosher salt.  Add to the yeast mixture along with the eggs, currants and orange zest.  Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead the dough on a medium (or medium low) speed for about 10 minutes.  Shape into a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and drape a tea towel over the wrap.  Let the dough rise in the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled (could be 30 minutes, could be an hour or so).

Meanwhile, make the filling by stirring together the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Punch down risen dough.  Spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.  Divide dough in half.  On a floured surface, roll one half of the dough into an 8 x 12-inch rectangle.  Smear the dough with half of the filling.  Roll up the dough, starting at the 8-inch edge, pinch the seam to seal and place seam side down in one of the prepared pans.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling.  Cover each loaf pan with plastic wrap and drape with a tea towel.  Let rise until puffy and dough is taller than the pan sides in a warm, draft-free spot (again, could be 30 minutes to more than an hour).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle position.  Brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with the coarse sugar if desired.  Bake for about 35 minutes until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pans.  Turn the loaves out onto racks and cool completely.  Well, if you can't resist let it cool about 10 minutes before carefully slicing with a sharp serrated bread knife.

If desired, ice loaves with the icing ingredients blended together until smooth.

(by the way, the simply pure milk is really nice
especially the 2% someone bought by mistake)

dry ingredients before whisking

warm butter, milk and sugar with yeast after 10 minute rest

wet and dry together

kneaded and ready to rise

risen dough

ready to roll


rolled up

ready to rise again

rising in the oven

risen and under wraps
ready to bake with egg wash and sugar sprinkle

Sunday, March 17, 2013

bites of happiness: grapefruit olive oil cake

One of my favorite things I've ever hauled home from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor is their Olive Oil Cake.  It's a little bundt cake with amazingly fruity olive oil, zesty lemon, sugared almonds and a very delicate crumb for such a moist cake.  Kelly remembered how much I loved that cake and sent one for my birthday.  You have to read the note.  My girls have stellar writing skills and can be so funny.

and here I have to admit one thing about being 50:
I can no longer tell if something is in focus looking at the screen on my camera
going to have to pony up for a good old-fashioned view-finder
because clearly using readers and a camera is not an option
well, it is an option but not one I care to employ

It took me a week, but piece by piece that cake made each of those seven days a little happier.  I tried baking a version a year or so ago and did not have the right olive oil.  That's very important.  I e-mailed Zingerman's and they recommended one of their beautiful olive oils, but I hedged on buying one more bottle of olive oil. And an expensive one at that.  Right now I have six different olive oils lined up on my counter and in my cupboard and I have my favorites for different uses.  My $21 bottle (and it's not that big) is reserved just for dipping warm crusty artisan bread (Zingerman's bakes some mean artisan loaves if you ever get to Michigan or splurge on a mail order).  Anyway,  in the middle of this debate my lulu friend Amanda and I carpooled after a Saturday morning yoga class to the Indy Winter Market and I bought a yummy bottle of blood orange olive oil from Artisano's Oils.  Purely for baking an olive oil cake.  So when I baked this cake, I had to save one piece for Amanda to enjoy at work.  Greg and I devoured that cake.  

This version is more like the French yogurt cakes and less like the bundt cake from Zingerman's, but the taste is very similar.  It's the crumb.  You have to use butter to get that crumb and I haven't found a recipe that calls for butter and olive oil yet.  But the quest will continue.  For now, taste your olive oil and find one that is full bodied and a little fruity.  You will use zest from two grapefruits and juice from one, so remember to zest your grapefruits before slicing one in half to juice it (much easier to zest a fruit when it is whole).  If grapefruit is not your thing, sub out oranges or lemons and their zest for the grapefruit.  You can also use a lemon flavored olive oil too, blood orange just sounded good to me.  The recipe calls for 1/2 of the sugar to be turbinado sugar (coarse sugar, demerara sugar, sugar in the raw), but you can substitute granulated sugar.  It is fun to have turbinado sugar on hand to sprinkle atop baked goods, however.  So along with your six different olive oils you can have four kinds of sugar.  Next time I bake this I'm keeping the syrup, but trading out the icing for sugared slivered almonds.  I'll post that when I figure it out.  It won't be long.  I still have 6 grapefruits and 2/3 a bottle of blood orange olive oil wanting to be made into cakes!

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake

1 1/2 C flour
2 T freshly grated grapefruit zest (2 large grapefruits)
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C turbinado or raw coarse sugar 
1/2 C olive oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T grapefruit juice 
1/3 C plain yogurt 

2 T granulated sugar
1/3 C grapefruit juice

glaze (optional)
1 C confectioner's sugar
2 T grapefruit juice
pinch of salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.  

In a large bowl, rub the grapefruit zest into the sugars with your fingertips to help release as much grapefruit essence as possible.  Whisk in the oil until the mixture is smooth.  Add the eggs and whisk until well combined, scraping sides of bowl.  In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a liquid measuring cup stir together 2 T of grapefruit juice and the yogurt.  Alternately add the flour and yogurt mixtures to the sugar and oil mixture in the large bowl, stirring to combine.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, or until tester comes out clean.  

Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes.  While cake is cooling, make the syrup.  Stir 2 T sugar into 1/3 cup grapefruit juice in a saucepan over medium low heat until sugar is dissolved.  After 10 minutes, invert cake onto cooling rack over a sheet of waxed paper or parchment.  Poke holes all over the top of the cake with a toothpick or fork.  Slowly drizzle or brush the syrup over the hot cake allowing the syrup to  soak in as much as possible.  Cool cake completely.

For the optional glaze, whisk together 2 T grapefruit juice and 1 C confectioner's sugar along with a pinch of salt.  Spoon over cake allowing glaze to drip down sides if desired.  


zest, sugars, and olive oil

juicing the grapefruit
finished cake before brushing with syrup
(my camera battery was playing dead, sorry about the gaps in photos)
glazed cake

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cancun travelog: chimichurri sauce and salad

One week post vacation with a little color still on my cheeks and a few rum drinks and birthday desserts still lingering.  Cancun which can easily be confused with Florida once you get out of the beautiful warm blue water and off the beach.  Your dining choices include Margaritaville, Pat O'Brien's and Ruth's Chris.  Ugh.  The food at the JW was actually creative and fresh, but it wouldn't be a vacation if I didn't get to do some research and find somewhere off the beaten path for a little culinary adventure.  Our absolute favorite was a cab ride away to the Centro area of Cancun. An area we decided to attempt by bus 9 years ago with our daughters in tow.  That will forever be one of our most memorable transportation adventures.  We missed our stop and at some point one of the locals asked us where we were going and then recommended we get off the bus and get a cab as the surroundings got a lot more local than we were expecting.  Good times.  So this trip we just had the helpful Marriott staff call up a nice cab driver and got our Pesos ready.  A charming little restaurant tucked into the streets of downtown in what was the owner's home 37 years ago, La Habichuela and it's patio of Mayan sculptures, lush aromatic landscape, twinkle lights and vintage white "peacock"wrought iron chairs was  just delightful.  So good we went twice.  Bob and Tammy joined us the second half of the trip and this was their favorite restaurant too just from the ambiance.  For dessert Bob ordered butterscotch crepes and I ordered crepes Suzette.  Little did we know they would both be prepared with a dramatic tableside flambe station, although we could have guessed with all of the liqueurs involved.  So fun.

This little travelog is leading somewhere.  Our second favorite restaurant was in the dreaded Hotel Zone, although there is something to be said for the convenience (and the exercise) of walking to and from dinner.  Puerto Madero is an Argentinian steak and seafood restaurant and part of a small international chain.  The steak and the souffle potatoes (double puffed potatoes that just really defy description except to say that there is nothing souffle about them except that they are served in a basket made of basically huge ridged potato chips and when it's full of the puffs it has a souffle shape) were amazing.  La Habichuela served an incredible hot but flavorful habanero sauce with the octopus appetizer.  Puerto Madero put something on their steaks, but they are not telling.  The standard accompaniment to all things meat in Argentina is chimichurri sauce.

La Habichuela. Cancun
I've seen recipes for it for years and always thought, "that would be delicious and I should make it sometime" as I dog-eared a page.  So upon our return I added parsley and cilantro to my grocery list for a warm evening when we were grilling very tasty ribeyes from the deep freeze bought on sale this winter at Whole Foods.  And of course I found a new favorite flavor profile and a recipe I'd tweak three more times in the next week because that chimichurri sauce was spectacular.  I'm giving you recipes for the sauce and for a salad adaptation.  Give it your own spin.  Very fresh and sunny.  It snowed here again today and I'll take fresh and sunny however I can get it.

The first time I made this I did not have fresh cilantro in the house and just used 1 tsp of cumin and 1 full cup of parsley instead. Worked liked a charm.

Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 C packed chopped flat-leaf/Italian parsley
1/2 C packed chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 T fresh when it's growing outside my door again)
1 T chopped garlic
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T-1/4 C olive oil (you decide how thin you'd like your sauce)
juice of one-half or one lime, to taste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt

Combine parsley, cilantro, oregano and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Scrape mixture into a bowl and stir in the vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp salt, taste for seasoning.  Store in refrigerator.

Chimichurri Salad

chimichurri sauce
1/2 pound campari or roma tomatoes cut in big chunks or wedges (it's winter and I use Costco tomatoes, fresh local ones of any variety from the farmer's market will be so good in this come summertime)
sliced sweet onion
avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
romaine hearts, washed, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh ground pepper and crumbled cotija, feta or ricotta salata cheese if desired.


my food processor died and this little bowl on my
immersion blender is struggling, better results with better equipment

one delicious salad

Friday, March 8, 2013

local paper celebrity update: Purple Grits with Roasted Vegetables, Feta and Balsamic Vinegar

I was sunning on a pool lounge chair in Cancun last week when I received word that  The Indianapolis Star was running my recipe for crunchy chopped salad in today's paper.  Did I have a picture of the salad?  Nope, I had my iPad and my iPhone and access to my photo library but somehow I've never photographed that salad.  Did I have a more recent photo of myself than the one where I am talking to the camera carrying my creme brulee cheesecake into dinner club at the home of our dear friends back in the summer of 2011?  Nope, not really.  Solo pics of mothers are not easy to find and good ones are even trickier.  So, a cropped version of the talking cheesecake photo graced the pages of today's living section.  And you've already heard that I was in Cancun this past week kicking off the continuing celebration of the "year of Kristin".   Yep, I turned 50 last week and as luck would have it my husband jetted off to Mexico for business meetings the morning of my birthday.  The only logical thing to do was to cash in some miles and some hotel points and join him when his meetings were over.  

vacation photo

All this is the long way of saying, that as I showed him my recipe in The Star today I realized someone might type in my URL and check on my blog graciously mentioned with my recipe.  They might stop in and see that indeed I write a cooking blog, but I don't seem to write very often.  And really, I'd like for you to stop in again and keep reading so I should possibly make something for dinner and write a little post about it.  

Before work yesterday I had to get in a little detox hot yoga and I had to get some fresh fruits and vegetables.  I needed to do some laundry and go through the mail too, but a girl's got to have her priorities straight.  The laundry and the mail weren't going anywhere.  But the week of excess and the hours of traveling needed to be wrung out on my yoga mat.  And the balance needed to be restored to our diets, so where else do you head when you need a lot of fruits and vegetables?  Costco, of course.  Sure I like Meijer's selection better and some things you just don't need in supersize quantities, but I also wanted a rotisserie chicken and no one's is better than Costco's for $4.79.  I could have gone all organic and beautiful at Whole Foods, but did I mention I had just been on vacation?  There are budgetary restrictions after vacation that contraindicate the purchase of massive quantities of produce at Whole Foods.   

I closed last night and "merched" early this morning (read, I am tired) so dinner needed to be fast and easy.  So I popped two trays of vegetables into the oven to roast while I stirred up some polenta/grits on the stove alongside some Italian chicken sausages browning for a little more substance.  Two weeks ago I went on a little field trip to the Indy Winter Farmer's Market downtown (after yoga and with my lulu friends, very fun) and bought some amazing Purple Grits from the Bridgetown Mill.  The Bridgetown Mill is out in Parke county in covered bridge territory so it may be another field trip next fall.  The purple corn is grown separate from any commercial corn crops so it's a nice pure purple strain with all the original native American goodness and color.  Yum.   The Winter Farmer's Market is a great little field trip too.  Check it out!  

And if you just found me through The Star, welcome!  Keep checking in on me.  It keeps me writing.

yep, purple corn=purple grits or polenta if you're fancy 

Purple Grits with Roasted Vegetables, Feta and Balsamic Vinegar

3 C water
3/4 C purple grits
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T olive oil

onion, chopped
one pound asparagus, chopped
one red pepper, chopped
one pound portabello mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

salad greens, optional
feta cheese, optional
balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Boil the water in a saucepan and stir in the grits, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until grits are thickened about 20-30 minutes.  

Meanwhile, toss onion, asparagus and red pepper with a tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet/pan and roast at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring a few times until roasted and a bit charred.  

Toss mushrooms with a tablespoon of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.  Roast at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes until softened.  Season with salt and pepper after roasting.  

If desired, place salad greens on dinner plate and then serve the roasted vegetables on top and dress with feta and balsamic vinegar.  Or do it my way and serve the polenta with the vegetables on top along with a little feta and balsamic vinegar and lightly dress some greens and serve them on the side.  

Voila.  Dinner is served.  Makes about 4 servings.  

purple grits/polenta and blackberries for a color comparison

roasted vegetables