Dutch Oven · recipe

ITALIAN Crusty Bread in the Dutch Oven

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A few days ago I posted about how to make a basic loaf of white bread in my new Dutch Oven.  Although it was a little bit of heaven eating my own homemade bread, it was still rather “white bread” for me and I needed to improve it somehow.

Before I tell you about the updates I made, I wanted to tell you a something about myself.  I am rather persistent.  Well, okay, I am probably beyond persistent.  Especially when it comes to improving on something I have created.  Yes, I know, no one is perfect.  And, yes, I am trying to embrace my imperfections and all that “wabi sabi” stuff…but still, I will ruminate over how I can make things better for the next time.  Well anyway, in this case, my persistency has paid off with a beautiful (but still simple) update to my Crusty Dutch Oven white bread and I have to share it with you.

Basic recipe is here

All the basics are the same; no crazy new steps.  You still need a big bowl, lots of flour and a Dutch Oven, but you just need to add some ingredients to your flour and yeast mix.

I mixed up a batch of dough last night with the flour and yeast, but I substituted garlic salt for the regular salt.

Then I added about a half a cup of Stella Three Cheese Italian Cheese, which is a combination of Romano, Parmesan and Asiago.  While I like all three cheeses, I have to admit that Romano is my favorite, but it is difficult to find freshly shredded without the other two mixed in.  I like the Stella brand, because the shreds are long and distinct.  As an aside, this cheese is a great staple to have on hand, because it tastes fabulous sprinkled on pasta or soup!

Before adding the water, I also added a pinch of crushed red peppers and a healthy amount of Italian seasonings–Rosemary, Oregano and Basil–all dried.  I was hesitant to add any additional wet ingredients like olive oil or even fresh herbs, because I didn’t know if it would upset this basic bread.

I whisked the flour, yeast and garlic salt with the cheese and herbs BEFORE I added the water.  I proceeded with the recipe as originally detailed in the original recipe by covering it with plastic wrap and a towel and letting it set overnight in a warmish spot in my kitchen.

In the morning I heated my oven and Dutch Oven to 450.  I then made a ball of my dough and put it in the preheated pot, cooking it for 30 minutes covered and then 20 minutes uncovered.  I immediately popped it out onto my counter, so it would remain crusty and allowed it to cool.

While baking I could not believe how heavenly my kitchen smelled.  It’s almost impossible to describe the aroma!  It smelled like the Italian kitchens of my youth and the warmth of the oven was soothing as well!

I tried to wait to allow the loaf to cool, but I could not help myself…I had to see what it looked like…and here it is!

Let me tell you…it TASTES even better than it looks!  I’m in Heaven!

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I do hope you will give the recipe a try and let me know how it goes for you.

P.S. A lot of people were interested in how to make my Open Faced Meatball Sandwiches that I posted on Facebook and Instagram.  I’m not holding out, but everyone here wanted one and I soon ran out of my sister Teresa’s famous meatballs and sauce.

In order for me to post good enough recipe, I have to get Teresa to “guest blog” for me.  She makes the most perfect sauce and meatballs, that I have relinquished the family duty to her from now on.

I am working on her, but she doesn’t understand why anyone would want to post their food and recipes on the internet–she laughs at me all the time!

If I can get her to guest blog, you will NOT be disappointed in her input…so stay tuned!  Until then, here’s a snap of said sandwiches (they were “to die for”) for you to drool over.  Yes, I know, #foodporn

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Happy New Year, my friends!!

 

 

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life

Leftovers

Let’s talk leftovers.

I came from a far away place called the 70’s. During that time, most moms were “stay at home” and many didn’t have cars. Our moms did their marketing once a week and usually purchased enough for breakfast, lunch and supper for the entire family, which usually included a special meal for Sunday after church. Yes, in that far away place, we all went to church on Sunday morning, even if you weren’t feeling like it!

We rarely went out to eat as this was reserved for “special occasions”. Furthermore, the idea of “ordering out” was just foreign to those of us that came from the 70’s…and I am being totally serious here! On rare occasions, my dad might suggest getting a pizza–for example, if it was just “too hot to cook”–but, even then, he would drive to the local pizzeria, order and bring it home. Keep in mind microwave ovens were just being introduced in most homes then and they were still strange and possibly dangerous, too. One of my neighbors insisted that we do not stand in front of theirs while it was “in use” because, well, “radiation”.

The 70’s was a strange place, indeed. 😉

But–getting back to my point–when I was growing up, food came from your kitchen and was usually produced by moms. Sometimes you’d be lucky and have a mom that was a really good cook or even a bit inventive. Sometimes not. Sometimes moms would have a rotating schedule, similar to a school lunch menu, but usually without an alternate. Your alternate was “take it or leave it” usually. My point being she would churn it out and we would all sit and eat at the same time…no tv, no devices, just conversation and eating. Isn’t that weird?

Invariably there were leftovers. Sometimes it would be just a tiny amount of food, but it was food and we never threw it out; it would be saved. Maybe it would be a spoonful of peas & carrots. A slice of ham wrapped in tinfoil, perhaps. Occasionally there might be some rice no one could eat.

And we kept it all! What’s weird is we never ate these leftovers the next day, because it was Wednesday and it was spaghetti day. So she would collect all these bits of leftovers in tiny Tupperware or Pyrex fridge containers, which would sit in the fridge for a couple of days. And, on Saturday, she would take all the leftovers and heat everything up to go with our hamburgs (you heard me…that’s what we called them) which were cooked in the broiler on a tinfoil wrapped broiler pan that no one liked to clean. It was a potluck of sorts and, I have to tell you, it was our version of being adventurous.

These days I am hearing and seeing dinner being handled in far different ways and it’s sort of scary and strange. What about the leftovers? Where are those weekly “pot lucks” of days gone by? Do people actually throw food away now? What do you eat with your Saturday night Hamburgs?

As a single mom of one child, I must admit I have struggled with the idea of “family meals”. It seems odd making a full meal that your child won’t eat and I have no desire to eat what he does most of the time. Lately I might cook something big–like a pot of soup–and eat that every night for a week, while–at the same time–being a short order cook for MO. It sort of works for us right now, but it does change my ingrained beliefs about leftovers.

I suppose that’s why I get really excited when Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls around. Suddenly I can have a conversation with an adult! I can show off my culinary skills! I can have…LEFTOVERS!

Dutch Oven · life · recipe

Crusty Bread in a Dutch Oven

I was “gifted” with a Dutch Oven for Christmas, which I am thinking might be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received…and I’m not just saying that because the giver of the Dutch Oven reads my blog…because I’m not sure if she does. Let’s check: “Thank you, Tre, for the fabulous gift!”

Let’s see if she responds…I’ll let you know later.

Anyway you might be asking what a Dutch Oven is and thinking about why you might need one, too, so let me explain. A Dutch Oven is an enamel-coated cast iron pot that, when heated, maintains amazing temperature much like a slow cooker. I’ve been using a crock pot for years and years, which is why I never got myself a Dutch Oven before, but I will be the first to admit this was a silly mistake.

Slow cookers may *do* Everything a Dutch Oven does, but there’s something more “down home” and heart warming about using your oven to bake bread! It amazes your kids, too!

I know, I know…the gluten! But to be totally honest, unless you have a known allergy to gluten (aka celiac disease), I am just not convinced that gluten is a big horror. Perhaps it’s bad in processed/commercial breads, but even then I’m not sure the gluten is the culprit. Yeah, I’m talking to you high fructose corn syrup!

And while I’m on the subject of HFCS, can I just agree now with my European friends that American bread is SO sweet! It’s too sweet! IMHO, we’ve ruined our palates eating these over sweetened commercial breads.

Before you think I am pointing a blame finger, I’m just as guilty as anyone. I could never envision eating the New England classic Fluffernutter without fresh Country Kitchen Canadian White bread. By the way, the idea that there’s a different kind of bread called Canadian White is just a myth; my Canadian friend has confirmed that there is no such thing! (The horror!!)

Okay I hear ya. I’m done preaching, so I’ll get off my soapbox now and back to the subject: making wonderful and easy homemade bread in a Dutch Oven.

This is a great BASE recipe! Which means, you can experiment with variations. I myself am envisioning a nice Italian loaf with rosemary (my fave!), basil, oregano and a nice cheese blend of Romano and Parmesan. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Drool!

Also…Did I mention this is so easy to make? There’s no kneading and only one (overnight) rising! Couldn’t be easier!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 5.5 quart Dutch Oven
  • An oversized bowl
  • Six cups all purpose flour (I always use King Arthur, because it’s unbleached)
  • 3 cups room temperature water
  • 2 tsp. salt (adjust to your taste)
  • 1 tsp. Active dry yeast (this is about half an envelope if you are using the packets)
  • Extra flour for the pan and your hands

Instructions:

  • The night before, combine flour, salt and yeast in a big bowl then add your water and mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a dish towel and let it sit for between 12-18 hours in a warm part of your kitchen
  • In the morning, put your Dutch Oven (with its lid!) in your oven and then preheat both to 450 degrees
  • Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and gently shape the dough with floured hands. Don’t knead the dough, you want the yeast bubbles!
  • Remove your Dutch Oven from the oven, remove the cover, sprinkle a bit of flour in the bottom and place the dough inside
  • Replace the cover and put the entire pot back in the preheated oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake uncovered for 20 minutes more
  • Your loaf will pop right out of the pot. Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing the round loaf in half. Cool completely before slicing the loaf or storing it in plastic, because the steam will make your bread soggy

See how crusty it is outside but fluffy inside? That’s your objective!

That’s all there is to it. REALLY!

Now go on and make yourself some bread! You’ll be glad you did!

P.S.

Teresa: Did you read all the way to the end? Just checking. Thanks again for my beautiful aqua colored Dutch Oven! I love it…obviously!

P.P.S.

My next post will Be how to use your bread to make these Open Faced Meatball Sandwiches, so do come back soon!

Christmas · DIY · recipe

Best Quiche

I make this quiche for my sister only once a year–usually on Christmas Morning–but upon reflection, I feel it needs to be put into rotation as a quick and lovely brunch item or even a nice evening meal. It’s so simple and simply the best quiche I make. Not fancy, but very enjoyable!

Ingredients:

  • Box of pre-made pie shells (I like Pillsbury)
  • Maple-flavored breakfast sausages, uncooked
  • 10 eggs
  • Shredded Mexican style cheese
  • 1/3 cup half and half or whole milk
  • Red bell pepper, chopped
  • Two pie plates (I use my trusty Pyrex ones)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Remove sausages from their casings and brown in frying pan. (This step can be completed the night before)
  2. Unroll the pie crusts and line each pie plate, crimping edges of crust
  3. Divide browned sausage between the two plates, sprinkling evenly
  4. Cover with shredded cheese
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the half and half or milk and season to taste
  6. Divide the egg mixture between the two pie plates, covering sausage and cheese
  7. Sprinkle chopped red bell pepper on top
  8. Bake for 45 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes so filling will set

And that’s it! So simple and yet so yummy!

Let me know what you think!!

Christmas · recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Here’s a quick and easy Christmas treat that won’t break the bank like Scallops Wrapped in Bacon and could possibly be even yummier, too!

So simple!

Four ingredients: soy sauce, water chestnuts (whole), brown sugar and bacon (I like the maple flavored kind)!

Soak the drained water chestnuts in soy sauce for at least an hour. Drain and roll them in brown sugar. Wrap each one in a half slice of bacon. Place in an 8″ x 8″ pan…not touching. Bake for 45 minutes in a 375 degree preheated oven.

If you use maple bacon, it smells terrific!! These are quite addictive, too!

Merry Christmas to all!!